I've a Friend, over the sea;
I like him, but he loves me.
It all grew out of the books I write;
They find such favour in his sight
That he slaughters you with savage looks
Because you don't admire my books.
He does himself though,--and if some vein
Were to snap tonight in this heavy brain,
To-morrow month, if I lived to try,
Round should I just turn quietly,
Or out of the bedclothes stretch my hand
Till I found him, come from his foreign land
To be my nurse in this poor place,
And make my broth and wash my face
And light my fire and, all the while,
Bear with his old good-humoured smile
That I told him "Better have kept away
Than come and kill me, night and day,
With, worse than fever throbs and shoots,
The creaking of his clumsy boots."
I am as sure that this he would do,
As that Saint Paul's is striking two.
And I think I rather . . . woe is me!
--Yes, rather would see him than not see,
If lifting a hand could seat him there
Before me in the empty chair
To-night, when my head aches indeed,
And I can neither think nor read
Nor make these purple fingers hold
The pen; this garret's freezing cold!
And I've a Lady--there he wakes,
The laughing fiend and prince of snakes
Within me, at her name, to pray
Fate send some creature in the way
Of my love for her, to be down-torn,
Upthrust and outward-borne,
So I might prove myself that sea
Of passion which I needs must be!
Call my thoughts false and my fancies quaint
And my style infirm and its figures faint,
All the critics say, and more blame yet,
And not one angry word you get.
But, please you, wonder I would put
My cheek beneath that lady's foot
Rather than trample under mine
That laurels of the Florentine,
And you shall see how the devil spends
A fire God gave for other ends!
I tell you, I stride up and down
This garret, crowned with love's best crown,
And feasted with love's perfect feast,
To think I kill for her, at least,
Body and soul and peace and fame,
Alike youth's end and manhood's aim,
--So is my spirit, as flesh with sin,
Filled full, eaten out and in
With the face of her, the eyes of her,
The lips, the little chin, the stir
Of shadow round her mouth; and she
--I'll tell you,--calmly would decree
That I should roast at a slow fire,
If that would compass her desire
And make her one whom they invite
To the famous ball to-morrow night.
There may be heaven; there must be hell;
Meantime, there is our earth here--well!
- quotes about frost
- quotes about books
- quotes about pain
- quotes about men
- quotes about women
- quotes about nurses
- quotes about time
- quotes about fire
- quotes about saint
The Earthly Paradise: The Lady of the Land
The ArgumentA certain man having landed on an island in the Greek sea, found there a beautifuldamsel, whom he would fain have delivered from a strange & dreadful doom, butfailing herein, he died soon afterwards.
It happened once, some men of Italy
Midst the Greek Islands went a sea-roving,
And much good fortune had they on the sea:
Of many a man they had the ransoming,
And many a chain they gat and goodly thing;
And midst their voyage to an isle they came,
Whereof my story keepeth not the name.
Now though but little was there left to gain,
Because the richer folk had gone away,
Yet since by this of water they were fain
They came to anchor in a land-locked bay,
Whence in a while some went ashore to play,
Going but lightly armed in twos or threes,
For midst that folk they feared no enemies.
And of these fellows that thus went ashore,
One was there who left all his friends behind;
Who going inland ever more and more,
And being left quite alone, at last did find
A lonely valley sheltered from the wind,
Wherein, amidst an ancient cypress wood,
A long-deserted ruined castle stood.
The wood, once ordered in fair grove and glade,
With gardens overlooked by terraces,
And marble-pavèd pools for pleasure made,
Was tangled now and choked with fallen trees;
And he who went there, with but little ease
Must stumble by the stream's side, once made meet
For tender women's dainty wandering feet.
The raven's croak, the low wind choked and drear,
The baffled stream, the grey wolf's doleful cry,
Were all the sounds that mariner could hear,
As through the wood he wandered painfully;
But as unto the house he drew anigh,
The pillars of a ruined shrine he saw,
The once fair temple of a fallen law.
No image was there left behind to tell
Before whose face the knees of men had bowed;
An altar of black stone, of old wrought well,
Alone beneath a ruined roof now showed
The goal whereto the folk were wont to crowd,
Seeking for things forgotten long ago,
Praying for heads long ages laid a-low.
Close to the temple was the castle-gate,
Doorless and crumbling; there our fellow turned,
Trembling indeed at what might chance to wait
The prey entrapped, yet with a heart that burned
To know the most of what might there be learned,
And hoping somewhat too, amid his fear,
To light on such things as all men hold dear.
Noble the house was, nor seemed built for war,
But rather like the work of other days,
When men, in better peace than now they are,
Had leisure on the world around to gaze,
And noted well the past times' changing ways;
And fair with sculptured stories it was wrought,
By lapse of time unto dim ruin brought.
Now as he looked about on all these things
And strove to read the mouldering histories,
Above the door an image with wide wings,
Whose unclad limbs a serpent seemed to seize,
He dimly saw, although the western breeze
And years of biting frost and washing rain
Had made the carver's lab our well-nigh vain.
But this, though perished sore and worn away,
He noted well, because it seemed to be,
After the fashion of another day,
Some great man's badge of war or armoury;
And round it a carved wreath he seemed to see:
But taking note of these things, at the last
The mariner beneath the gateway passed.
And there a lovely cloistered court he found,
A fountain in the mist o'erthrown and dry,
And in the cloister briers twining round
The slender shafts; the wondrous imagery
Outworn by more than many years gone by;
Because the country people, in their fear
Of wizardry, had wrought destruction here,
And piteously these fair things had been maimed;
There stood great Jove, lacking his head of might;
Here was the archer, swift Apollo, lamed;
The shapely limbs of Venus hid from sight
By weeds and shards; Diana's ankles light
Bound with the cable of some coasting ship;
And rusty nails through Helen's maddening lip.
Therefrom unto the chambers did he pass,
And found them fair still, midst of their decay,
Though in them now no sign of man there was,
And everything but stone had passed away
That made them lovely in that vanished day;
Nay, the mere walls themselves would soon be gone
And nought be left but heaps of mouldering stone.
But he, when all the place he had gone o'er,
And with much trouble clomb the broken stair,
And from the topmost turret seen the shore
And his good ship drawn up at anchor there,
Came down again, and found a crypt most fair
Built wonderfully beneath the greatest hall,
And there he saw a door within the wall,
Well-hinged, close shut; nor was there in that place
Another on its hinges, therefore he
Stood there and pondered for a little space
And thought: "Perchance some marvel I shall see,
For surely here some dweller there must be,
Because this door seems whole and new and sound,
While nought but ruin I can see around."
So with that word, moved by a strong desire,
He tried the hasp, that yielded to his hand,
And in a strange place, lit as by a fire
Unseen but near, he presently did stand;
And by an odorous breeze his face was fanned,
As though in some Arabian plain he stood,
Anigh the border of a spice-tree wood.
He moved not for awhile, but looking round,
He wondered much to see the place so fair,
Because, unlike the castle above ground,
No pillager or wrecker had been there;
It seemed that time had passed on otherwhere,
Nor laid a finger on this hidden place
Rich with the wealth of some forgotten race.
With hangings, fresh as when they left the loom,
The walls were hung a space above the head,
Slim ivory chairs were set about the room,
And in one corner was a dainty bed
That seemed for some fair queen apparellèd;
And marble was the worst stone on the floor,
That with rich Indian webs was covered o'er.
The wanderer trembled when he saw all this,
Because he deemed by magic it was wrought;
Yet in his heart a longing for some bliss
Whereof the hard and changing world knows nought,
Arose and urged him on, and dimmed the thought
That there perchance some devil lurked to slay
The heedless wanderer from the light of day.
Over against him was another door
Set in the wall, so casting fear aside,
With hurried steps he crossed the varied floor,
And there again the silver latch he tried
And with no pain the door he opened wide,
And entering the new chamber cautiously
The glory of great heaps of gold could see.
Upon the floor uncounted medals lay
Like things of little value; here and there
Stood golden caldrons, that might well outweigh
The biggest midst an emperor's copper-ware,
And golden cups were set on tables fair,
Themselves of gold; and in all hollow things
Were stored great gems, worthy the crowns of kings.
The walls and roof with gold were overlaid,
And precious raiment from the wall hung down;
The fall of kings that treasure might have stayed,
Or gained some longing conqueror great renown,
Or built again some God-destroyed old town;
What wonder if this plunderer of the sea
Stood gazing at it long and dizzily?
But at the last his troubled eyes and dazed
He lifted from the glory of that gold,
And then the image, that well-nigh erased
Over the castle-gate he did behold,
Above a door well wrought in coloured gold
Again he saw; a naked girl with wings
Enfolded in a serpent's scaly rings.
And even as his eyes were fixed on it
A woman's voice came from the other side,
And through his heart strange hopes began to flit
That in some wondrous land he might abide
Not dying, master of a deathless bride,
So o'er the gold which now he scarce could see
He went, and passed this last door eagerly.
Then in a room he stood wherein there was
A marble bath, whose brimming water yet
Was scarcely still; a vessel of green glass
Half full of odorous ointment was there set
Upon the topmost step that still was wet,
And jewelled shoes and women's dainty gear,
Lay cast upon the varied pavement near.
In one quick glance these things his eyes did see,
But speedily they turned round to behold
Another sight, for throned on ivory
There sat a woman, whose wet tresses rolled
On to the floor in waves of gleaming gold,
Cast back from such a form as, erewhile shown
To one poor shepherd, lighted up Troy town.
Naked she was, the kisses of her feet
Upon the floor a dying path had made
From the full bath unto her ivory seat;
In her right hand, upon her bosom laid,
She held a golden comb, a mirror weighed
Her left hand down, aback her fair head lay
Dreaming awake of some long vanished day.
Her eyes were shut but she seemed not to sleep,
Her lips were murmuring things unheard and low,
Or sometimes twitched as though she needs must weep,
Though from her eyes the tears refused to flow,
And oft with heavenly red her cheek did glow,
As if remembrance of some half-sweet shame
Across the web of many memories came.
There stood the man, scarce daring to draw breath
For fear the lovely sight should fade away;
Forgetting heaven, forgetting life and death,
Trembling for fear lest something he should say
Unwitting, lest some sob should yet betray
His presence there, for to his eager eyes
Already did the tears begin to rise.
But as he gazed she moved, and with a sigh
Bent forward, dropping down her golden head:
"Alas, alas! another day gone by,
Another day and no soul come," she said;
"Another year, and still I am not dead!"
And with that word once more her head she raised,
And on the trembling man with great eyes gazed.
Then he imploring hands to her did reach,
And toward her very slowly 'gan to move
And with wet eyes her pity did beseech,
And seeing her about to speak he strove
From trembling lips to utter words of love;
But with a look she stayed his doubtful feet,
And made sweet music as their eyes did meet.
For now she spoke in gentle voice and clear,
Using the Greek tongue that he knew full well:
"What man art thou that thus hast wandered here,
And found this lonely chamber where I dwell?
Beware, beware! for I have many a spell;
If greed of power and gold have led thee on,
Not lightly shall this untold wealth be won.
"But if thou com'st here knowing of my tale,
In hope to bear away my body fair,
Stout must thine heart be, nor shall that avail
If thou a wicked soul in thee dost bear;
So once again I bid thee to beware,
Because no base man things like this may see,
And live thereafter long and happily."
"Lady," he said, "in Florence is my home,
And in my city noble is my name;
Neither on peddling voyage am I come,
But, like my fathers, bent to gather fame;
And though thy face has set my heart a-flame
Yet of thy story nothing do I know
But here have wandered heedlessly enow.
"But since the sight of thee mine eyes did bless,
What can I be but thine? what would'st thou have?
From those thy words, I deem from some distress
By deeds of mine thy dear life I might save;
O then, delay not! if one ever gave
His life to any, mine I give to thee;
Come, tell me what the price of love must be?
"Swift death, to be with thee a day and night
And with the earliest dawning to be slain?
Or better, a long year of great delight,
And many years of misery and pain?
Or worse, and this poor hour for all my gain?
A sorry merchant am I on this day,
E'en as thou willest so must I obey."
She said, "What brave words! nought divine am I,
But an unhappy and unheard-of maid
Compelled by evil fate and destiny
To live, who long ago should have been laid
Under the earth within the cypress shade.
Hearken awhile, and quickly shalt thou know
What deed I pray thee to accomplish now.
"God grant indeed thy words are not for nought!
Then shalt thou save me, since for many a day
To such a dreadful life I have been brought:
Nor will I spare with all my heart to pay
What man soever takes my grief away;
Ah! I will love thee, if thou lovest me
But well enough my saviour now to be.
"My father lived a many years agone
Lord of this land, master of all cunning,
Who ruddy gold could draw from out grey stone
And gather wealth from many an uncouth thing;
He made the wilderness rejoice and sing,
And such a leech he was that none could say
Without his word what soul should pass away.
"Unto Diana such a gift he gave,
Goddess above, below and on the earth,
That I should be her virgin and her slave
From the first hour of my most wretched birth;
Therefore my life had known but little mirth
When I had come unto my twentieth year
And the last time of hallowing drew anear.
"So in her temple had I lived and died
And all would long ago have passed away,
But ere that time came, did strange things betide,
Whereby I am alive unto this day;
Alas, the bitter words that I must say!
Ah! can I bring my wretched tongue to tell
How I was brought unto this fearful hell.
"A queen I was, what Gods I knew I loved,
And nothing evil was there in my thought,
And yet by love my wretched heart was moved
Until to utter ruin I was brought!
Alas! thou sayest our gods were vain and nought,
Wait, wait, till thou hast heard this tale of mine,
Then shalt thou think them devilish or divine.
"Hearken! in spite of father and of vow
I loved a man; but for that sin I think
Men had forgiven me--yea, yea, even thou;
But from the Gods the full cup must I drink
And into misery unheard-of sink,
Tormented when their own names are forgot,
And men must doubt e'er if they lived or not.
"Glorious my lover was unto my sight,
Most beautiful; of love we grew so fain
That we at last agreed, that on a night
We should be happy, but that he were slain
Or shut in hold; and neither joy nor pain
Should else forbid that hoped-for time to be;
So came the night that made a wretch of me.
"Ah! well do I remember all that night,
When through the window shone the orb of June,
And by the bed flickered the taper's light,
Whereby I trembled, gazing at the moon:
Ah me! the meeting that we had, when soon
Into his strong, well-trusted arms I fell
And many a sorrow we began to tell.
"Ah me! what parting on that night we had!
I think the story of my great despair
A little while might merry folk make sad;
For, as he swept away my yellow hair
To make my shoulder and my bosom bare,
I raised mine eyes, and shuddering could behold
A shadow cast upon the bed of gold:
"Then suddenly was quenched my hot desire
And he untwined his arms; the moon so pale
A while ago, seemed changed to blood and fire,
And yet my limbs beneath me did not fail,
And neither had I strength to cry or wail,
But stood there helpless, bare and shivering,
With staring eyes still fixed upon the thing.
"Because the shade that on the bed of gold
The changed and dreadful moon was throwing down
Was of Diana, whom I did behold
With knotted hair and shining girt-up gown,
And on the high white brow a deadly frown
Bent upon us, who stood scarce drawing breath,
Striving to meet the horrible sure death.
"No word at all the dreadful Goddess said,
But soon across my feet my lover lay,
And well indeed I knew that he was dead;
And would that I had died on that same day!
For in a while the image turned away,
And without words my doom I understood,
And felt a horror change my human blood.
"And there I fell, and on the floor I lay
By the dead man, till daylight came on me,
And not a word thenceforward could I say
For three years; till of grief and misery,
The lingering pest, the cruel enemy,
My father and his folk were dead and gone,
And in this castle I was left alone:
"And then the doom foreseen upon me fell,
For Queen Diana did my body change
Into a fork-tongued dragon flesh and fell,
And through the island nightly do I range,
Or in the green sea mate with monsters strange,
When in the middle of the moonlit night
The sleepy mariner I do affright.
"But all day long upon this gold I lie
Within this place, where never mason's hand
Smote trowel on the marble noisily;
Drowsy I lie, no folk at my command,
Who once was called the Lady of the Land;
Who might have bought a kingdom with a kiss,
Yea, half the world with such a sight as this."
And therewithal, with rosy fingers light,
Backward her heavy-hanging hair she threw,
To give her naked beauty more to sight;
But when, forgetting all the things he knew,
Maddened with love unto the prize he drew,
She cried: "Nay, wait! for wherefore wilt thou die,
Why should we not be happy, thou and I?
"Wilt thou not save me? once in every year
This rightful form of mine that thou dost see
By favour of the Goddess have I here
From sunrise unto sunset given me,
That some brave man may end my misery.
And thou--art thou not brave? can thy heart fail,
Whose eyes e'en now are weeping at my tale?
"Then listen! when this day is overpast,
A fearful monster shall I be again,
And thou mayst be my saviour at the last,
Unless, once more, thy words are nought and vain.
If thou of love and sovereignty art fain,
Come thou next morn, and when thou seest here
A hideous dragon, have thereof no fear,
"But take the loathsome head up in thine hands
And kiss it, and be master presently
Of twice the wealth that is in all the lands
From Cathay to the head of Italy;
And master also, if it pleaseth thee,
Of all thou praisest as so fresh and bright,
Of what thou callest crown of all delight.
"Ah! with what joy then shall I see again
The sunlight on the green grass and the trees,
And hear the clatter of the summer rain,
And see the joyous folk beyond the seas.
Ah, me! to hold my child upon my knees
After the weeping of unkindly tears
And all the wrongs of these four hundred years.
"Go now, go quick! leave this grey heap of stone;
And from thy glad heart think upon thy way,
How I shall love thee--yea, love thee alone,
That bringest me from dark death unto day;
For this shall be thy wages and thy pay;
Unheard-of wealth, unheard-of love is near,
If thou hast heart a little dread to bear."
Therewith she turned to go; but he cried out:
"Ah! wilt thou leave me then without one kiss,
To slay the very seeds of fear and doubt,
That glad to-morrow may bring certain bliss?
Hast thou forgotten how love lives by this,
The memory of some hopeful close embrace,
Low whispered words within some lonely place?"
But she, when his bright glittering eyes she saw
And burning cheeks, cried out: "Alas, alas!
Must I be quite undone, and wilt thou draw
A worse fate on me than the first one was?
O haste thee from this fatal place to pass!
Yet, ere thou goest, take this, lest thou shouldst deem
Thou hast been fooled by some strange midday dream."
So saying, blushing like a new-kissed maid,
From off her neck a little gem she drew,
That 'twixt those snowy rose-tinged hillocks laid,
The secrets of her glorious beauty knew;
And ere he well perceived what she would do,
She touched his hand, the gem within it lay,
And, turning, from his sight she fled away.
Then at the doorway where her rosy heel
Had glanced and vanished, he awhile did stare,
And still upon his hand he seemed to feel
The varying kisses of her fingers fair;
Then turned he toward the dreary crypt and bare,
And dizzily throughout the castle passed
Till by the ruined fane he stood at last.
Then weighing still the gem within his hand,
He stumbled backward through the cypress wood,
Thinking the while of some strange lovely land
Where all his life should be most fair and good;
Till on the valley's wall of hills he stood,
And slowly thence passed down unto the bay
Red with the death of that bewildering day.
The next day came, and he, who all the night
Had ceaselessly been turning in his bed,
Arose and clad himself in armour bright,
And many a danger he rememberèd;
Storming of towns, lone sieges full of dread,
That with renown his heart had borne him through,
And this thing seemed a little thing to do.
So on he went, and on the way he thought
Of all the glorious things of yesterday,
Nought of the price whereat they must be bought,
But ever to himself did softly say
"No roaming now, my wars are passed away,
No long dull days devoid of happiness,
When such a love my yearning heart shall bless."
Thus to the castle did he come at last,
But when unto the gateway he drew near,
And underneath its ruined archway passed
Into the court, a strange noise did he hear,
And through his heart there shot a pang of fear;
Trembling, he gat his sword into his hand,
And midmost of the cloisters took his stand.
But for a while that unknown noise increased,
A rattling, that with strident roars did blend
And whining moans; but suddenly it ceased,
A fearful thing stood at the cloister's end
And eyed him for a while, then 'gan to wend
Adown the cloisters, and began again
That rattling, and the moan like fiends in pain.
And as it came on towards him, with its teeth
The body of a slain goat did it tear,
The blood whereof in its hot jaws did seethe,
And on its tongue he saw the smoking hair;
Then his heart sank, and standing trembling there,
Throughout his mind wild thoughts and fearful ran:
"Some fiend she was," he said, "the bane of man."
Yet he abode her still, although his blood
Curdled within him: the thing dropped the goat,
And creeping on, came close to where he stood,
And raised its head to him and wrinkled throat.
Then he cried out and wildly at her smote,
Shutting his eyes, and turned and from the place
Ran swiftly, with a white and ghastly face.
But little things rough stones and tree-trunks seemed,
And if he fell, he rose and ran on still;
No more he felt his hurts than if he dreamed,
He made no stay for valley or steep hill,
Heedless he dashed through many a foaming rill,
Until he came unto the ship at last
And with no word into the deep hold passed.
Meanwhile the dragon, seeing him clean gone,
Followed him not, but crying horribly,
Caught up within her jaws a block of stone
And ground it into powder, then turned she,
With cries that folk could hear far out at sea,
And reached the treasure set apart of old,
To brood above the hidden heaps of gold.
Yet was she seen again on many a day
By some half-waking mariner or herd,
Playing amid the ripples of the bay,
Or on the hills making all things afeard,
Or in the wood that did that castle gird,
But never any man again durst go
To seek her woman 's form, and end her woe.
As for the man, who knows what things he bore?
What mournful faces peopled the sad night,
What wailings vexed him with reproaches sore,
What images of that nigh-gained delight!
What dreamed caresses from soft hands and white,
Turning to horrors ere they reached the best;
What struggles vain, what shame, what huge unrest?
No man he knew, three days he lay and raved
And cried for death, until a lethargy
Fell on him, and his fellows thought him saved;
But on the third night he awoke to die;
And at Byzantium doth his body lie
Between two blossoming pomegranate trees,
Within the churchyard of the Genoese.
- quotes about drawing
- quotes about worry
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about fate
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about words
- quotes about walls
- quotes about kiss
- quotes about Greece
The Rape of the Lock
WHAT dire Offence from am'rous Causes springs,
What mighty Contests rise from trivial Things,
I sing -- This Verse to C---, Muse! is due;
This, ev'n Belinda may vouchfafe to view:
Slight is the Subject, but not so the Praise,
If She inspire, and He approve my Lays.
Say what strange Motive, Goddess! cou'd compel
A well-bred Lord t'assault a gentle Belle?
Oh say what stranger Cause, yet unexplor'd,
Cou'd make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?
And dwells such Rage in softest Bosoms then?
And lodge such daring Souls in Little Men?
Sol thro' white Curtains shot a tim'rous Ray,
And op'd those Eyes that must eclipse the Day;
Now Lapdogs give themselves the rowzing Shake,
And sleepless Lovers, just at Twelve, awake:
Thrice rung the Bell, the Slipper knock'd the Ground,
And the press'd Watch return'd a silver Sound.
Belinda still her downy Pillow prest,
Her Guardian Sylph prolong'd the balmy Rest.
'Twas he had summon'd to her silent Bed
The Morning-Dream that hover'd o'er her Head.
A Youth more glitt'ring than a Birth-night Beau,
(That ev'n in Slumber caus'd her Cheek to glow)
Seem'd to her Ear his winning Lips to lay,
And thus in Whispers said, or seem'd to say.
Fairest of Mortals, thou distinguish'd Care
Of thousand bright Inhabitants of Air!
If e'er one Vision touch'd thy infant Thought,
Of all the Nurse and all the Priest have taught,
Of airy Elves by Moonlight Shadows seen,
The silver Token, and the circled Green,
Or Virgins visited by Angel-Pow'rs,
With Golden Crowns and Wreaths of heav'nly Flowers,
Hear and believe! thy own Importance know,
Nor bound thy narrow Views to Things below.
Some secret Truths from Learned Pride conceal'd,
To Maids alone and Children are reveal'd:
What tho' no Credit doubting Wits may give?
The Fair and Innocent shall still believe.
Know then, unnumbered Spirits round thee fly,
The light Militia of the lower Sky;
These, tho' unseen, are ever on the Wing,
Hang o'er the Box, and hover round the Ring.
Think what an Equipage thou hast in Air,
And view with scorn Two Pages and a Chair.
As now your own, our Beings were of old,
And once inclos'd in Woman's beauteous Mold;
Thence, by a soft Transition, we repair
From earthly Vehicles to these of Air.
Think not, when Woman's transient Breath is fled,
That all her Vanities at once are dead:
Succeeding Vanities she still regards,
And tho' she plays no more, o'erlooks the Cards.
Her Joy in gilded Chariots, when alive,
And Love of Ombre, after Death survive.
For when the Fair in all their Pride expire,
To their first Elements the Souls retire:
The Sprights of fiery Termagants in Flame
Mount up, and take a Salamander's Name.
Soft yielding Minds to Water glide away,
And sip with Nymphs, their Elemental Tea.
The graver Prude sinks downward to a Gnome,
In search of Mischief still on Earth to roam.
The light Coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair,
And sport and flutter in the Fields of Air.
Know farther yet; Whoever fair and chaste
Rejects Mankind, is by some Sylph embrac'd:
For Spirits, freed from mortal Laws, with ease
Assume what Sexes and what Shapes they please.
What guards the Purity of melting Maids,
In Courtly Balls, and Midnight Masquerades,
Safe from the treach'rous Friend, and daring Spark,
The Glance by Day, the Whisper in the Dark;
When kind Occasion prompts their warm Desires,
When Musick softens, and when Dancing fires?
'Tis but their Sylph, the wise Celestials know,
Tho' Honour is the Word with Men below.
Some Nymphs there are, too conscious of their Face,
For Life predestin'd to the Gnomes Embrace.
These swell their Prospects and exalt their Pride,
When Offers are disdain'd, and Love deny'd.
Then gay Ideas crowd the vacant Brain;
While Peers and Dukes, and all their sweeping Train,
And Garters, Stars, and Coronets appear,
And in soft Sounds, Your Grace salutes their Ear.
'Tis these that early taint the Female Soul,
Instruct the Eyes of young Coquettes to roll,
Teach Infants Cheeks a bidden Blush to know,
And little Hearts to flutter at a Beau.
Oft when the World imagine Women stray,
The Sylphs thro' mystick Mazes guide their Way,
Thro' all the giddy Circle they pursue,
And old Impertinence expel by new.
What tender Maid but must a Victim fall
To one Man's Treat, but for another's Ball?
When Florio speaks, what Virgin could withstand,
If gentle Damon did not squeeze her Hand?
With varying Vanities, from ev'ry Part,
They shift the moving Toyshop of their Heart;
Where Wigs with Wigs, with Sword-knots Sword-knots strive,
Beaus banish Beaus, and Coaches Coaches drive.
This erring Mortals Levity may call,
Oh blind to Truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.
Of these am I, who thy Protection claim,
A watchful Sprite, and Ariel is my Name.
Late, as I rang'd the Crystal Wilds of Air,
In the clear Mirror of thy ruling Star
I saw, alas! some dread Event impend,
E're to the Main this Morning Sun descend.
But Heav'n reveals not what, or how, or where:
Warn'd by thy Sylph, oh Pious Maid beware!
This to disclose is all thy Guardian can.
Beware of all, but most beware of Man!
He said; when Shock, who thought she slept too long,
Leapt up, and wak'd his Mistress with his Tongue.
'Twas then Belinda, if Report say true,
Thy Eyes first open'd on a Billet-doux.
Wounds, Charms, and Ardors, were no sooner read,
But all the Vision vanish'd from thy Head.
And now, unveil'd, the Toilet stands display'd,
Each Silver Vase in mystic Order laid.
First, rob'd in White, the Nymph intent adores
With Head uncover'd, the cosmetic Pow'rs.
A heav'nly Image in the Glass appears,
To that she bends, to that her Eyes she rears;
Th' inferior Priestess, at her Altar's side,
Trembling, begins the sacred Rites of Pride.
Unnumber'd Treasures ope at once, and here
The various Off'rings of the World appear;
From each she nicely culls with curious Toil,
And decks the Goddess with the glitt'ring Spoil.
This Casket India's glowing Gems unlocks,
And all Arabia breathes from yonder Box.
The Tortoise here and Elephant unite,
Transform'd to Combs, the speckled and the white.
Here Files of Pins extend their shining Rows,
Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.
Now awful Beauty puts on all its Arms;
The Fair each moment rises in her Charms,
Repairs her Smiles, awakens ev'ry Grace,
And calls forth all the Wonders of her Face;
Sees by Degrees a purer Blush arise,
And keener Lightnings quicken in her Eyes.
The busy Sylphs surround their darling Care;
These set the Head, and those divide the Hair,
Some fold the Sleeve, while others plait the Gown;
And Betty's prais'd for Labours not her own.
NOT with more Glories, in th' Etherial Plain,
The Sun first rises o'er the purpled Main,
Than issuing forth, the Rival of his Beams
Lanch'd on the Bosom of the Silver Thames.
Fair Nymphs, and well-drest Youths around her shone,
But ev'ry Eye was fix'd on her alone.
On her white Breast a sparkling Cross she wore,
Which Jews might kiss, and Infidels adore.
Her lively Looks a sprightly Mind disclose,
Quick as her Eyes, and as unfix'd as those:
Favours to none, to all she Smiles extends,
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
Bright as the Sun, her Eyes the Gazers strike,
And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
Yet graceful Ease, and Sweetness void of Pride,
Might hide her Faults, if Belles had faults to hide:
If to her share some Female Errors fall,
Look on her Face, and you'll forget 'em all.
This Nymph, to the Destruction of Mankind,
Nourish'd two Locks, which graceful hung behind
In equal Curls, and well conspir'd to deck
With shining Ringlets her smooth Iv'ry Neck.
Love in these Labyrinths his Slaves detains,
And mighty Hearts are held in slender Chains.
With hairy Sprindges we the Birds betray,
Slight Lines of Hair surprize the Finny Prey,
Fair Tresses Man's Imperial Race insnare,
And Beauty draws us with a single Hair.
Th' Adventrous Baron the bright Locks admir'd,
He saw, he wish'd, and to the Prize aspir'd:
Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way,
By Force to ravish, or by Fraud betray;
For when Success a Lover's Toil attends,
Few ask, if Fraud or Force attain'd his Ends.
For this, e're Phoebus rose, he had implor'd
Propitious Heav'n, and ev'ry Pow'r ador'd,
But chiefly Love--to Love an Altar built,
Of twelve vast French Romances, neatly gilt.
There lay three Garters, half a Pair of Gloves;
And all the Trophies of his former Loves.
With tender Billet-doux he lights the Pyre,
And breathes three am'rous Sighs to raise the Fire.
Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent Eyes
Soon to obtain, and long possess the Prize:
The Pow'rs gave Ear, and granted half his Pray'r,
The rest, the Winds dispers'd in empty Air.
But now secure the painted Vessel glides,
The Sun-beams trembling on the floating Tydes,
While melting Musick steals upon the Sky,
And soften'd Sounds along the Waters die.
Smooth flow the Waves, the Zephyrs gently play
Belinda smil'd, and all the World was gay.
All but the Sylph---With careful Thoughts opprest,
Th' impending Woe sate heavy on his Breast.
He summons strait his Denizens of Air;
The lucid Squadrons round the Sails repair:
Soft o'er the Shrouds Aerial Whispers breathe,
That seem'd but Zephyrs to the Train beneath.
Some to the Sun their Insect-Wings unfold,
Waft on the Breeze, or sink in Clouds of Gold.
Transparent Forms, too fine for mortal Sight,
Their fluid Bodies half dissolv'd in Light.
Loose to the Wind their airy Garments flew,
Thin glitt'ring Textures of the filmy Dew;
Dipt in the richest Tincture of the Skies,
Where Light disports in ever-mingling Dies,
While ev'ry Beam new transient Colours flings,
Colours that change whene'er they wave their Wings.
Amid the Circle, on the gilded Mast,
Superior by the Head, was Ariel plac'd;
His Purple Pinions opening to the Sun,
He rais'd his Azure Wand, and thus begun.
Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your Chief give Ear,
Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Daemons hear!
Ye know the Spheres and various Tasks assign'd,
By Laws Eternal, to th' Aerial Kind.
Some in the Fields of purest AEther play,
And bask and whiten in the Blaze of Day.
Some guide the Course of wandring Orbs on high,
Or roll the Planets thro' the boundless Sky.
Some less refin'd, beneath the Moon's pale Light
Hover, and catch the shooting stars by Night;
Or suck the Mists in grosser Air below,
Or dip their Pinions in the painted Bow,
Or brew fierce Tempests on the wintry Main,
Or o'er the Glebe distill the kindly Rain.
Others on Earth o'er human Race preside,
Watch all their Ways, and all their Actions guide:
Of these the Chief the Care of Nations own,
And guard with Arms Divine the British Throne.
Our humbler Province is to tend the Fair,
Not a less pleasing, tho' less glorious Care.
To save the Powder from too rude a Gale,
Nor let th' imprison'd Essences exhale,
To draw fresh Colours from the vernal Flow'rs,
To steal from Rainbows ere they drop in Show'rs
A brighter Wash; to curl their waving Hairs,
Assist their Blushes, and inspire their Airs;
Nay oft, in Dreams, Invention we bestow,
To change a Flounce, or add a Furbelo.
This Day, black Omens threat the brightest Fair
That e'er deserv'd a watchful Spirit's Care;
Some dire Disaster, or by Force, or Slight,
But what, or where, the Fates have wrapt in Night.
Whether the Nymph shall break Diana's Law,
Or some frail China Jar receive a Flaw,
Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade,
Forget her Pray'rs, or miss a Masquerade,
Or lose her Heart, or Necklace, at a Ball;
Or whether Heav'n has doom'd that Shock must fall.
Haste then ye Spirits! to your Charge repair;
The flutt'ring Fan be Zephyretta's Care;
The Drops to thee, Brillante, we consign;
And Momentilla, let the Watch be thine;
Do thou, Crispissa, tend her fav'rite Lock;
Ariel himself shall be the Guard of Shock.
To Fifty chosen Sylphs, of special Note,
We trust th' important Charge, the Petticoat.
Oft have we known that sev'nfold Fence to fail;
Tho' stiff with Hoops, and arm'd with Ribs of Whale.
Form a strong Line about the Silver Bound,
And guard the wide Circumference around.
Whatever spirit, careless of his Charge,
His Post neglects, or leaves the Fair at large,
Shall feel sharp Vengeance soon o'ertake his Sins,
Be stopt in Vials, or transfixt with Pins.
Or plung'd in Lakes of bitter Washes lie,
Or wedg'd whole Ages in a Bodkin's Eye:
Gums and Pomatums shall his Flight restrain,
While clog'd he beats his silken Wings in vain;
Or Alom-Stypticks with contracting Power
Shrink his thin Essence like a rivell'd Flower.
Or as Ixion fix'd, the Wretch shall feel
The giddy Motion of the whirling Mill,
In Fumes of burning Chocolate shall glow,
And tremble at the Sea that froaths below!
He spoke; the Spirits from the Sails descend;
Some, Orb in Orb, around the Nymph extend,
Some thrid the mazy Ringlets of her Hair,
Some hang upon the Pendants of her Ear;
With beating Hearts the dire Event they wait,
Anxious, and trembling for the Birth of Fate.
CLOSE by those Meads for ever crown'd with Flow'rs,
Where Thames with Pride surveys his rising Tow'rs,
There stands a Structure of Majestick Frame,
Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its Name.
Here Britain's Statesmen oft the Fall foredoom
Of Foreign Tyrants, and of Nymphs at home;
Here Thou, great Anna! whom three Realms obey,
Dost sometimes Counsel take--and sometimes Tea.
Hither the Heroes and the Nymphs resort,
To taste awhile the Pleasures of a Court;
In various Talk th' instructive hours they past,
Who gave the Ball, or paid the Visit last:
One speaks the Glory of the British Queen,
And one describes a charming Indian Screen.
A third interprets Motions, Looks, and Eyes;
At ev'ry Word a Reputation dies.
Snuff, or the Fan, supply each Pause of Chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.
Mean while declining from the Noon of Day,
The Sun obliquely shoots his burning Ray;
The hungry Judges soon the Sentence sign,
And Wretches hang that Jury-men may Dine;
The Merchant from th'exchange returns in Peace,
And the long Labours of the Toilette cease ----
Belinda now, whom Thirst of Fame invites,
Burns to encounter two adventrous Knights,
At Ombre singly to decide their Doom;
And swells her Breast with Conquests yet to come.
Strait the three Bands prepare in Arms to join,
Each Band the number of the Sacred Nine.
Soon as she spreads her Hand, th' Aerial Guard
Descend, and sit on each important Card,
First Ariel perch'd upon a Matadore,
Then each, according to the Rank they bore;
For Sylphs, yet mindful of their ancient Race,
Are, as when Women, wondrous fond of place.
Behold, four Kings in Majesty rever'd,
With hoary Whiskers and a forky Beard;
And four fair Queens whose hands sustain a Flow'r,
Th' expressive Emblem of their softer Pow'r;
Four Knaves in Garbs succinct, a trusty Band,
Caps on their heads, and Halberds in their hand;
And Particolour'd Troops, a shining Train,
Draw forth to Combat on the Velvet Plain.
The skilful Nymph reviews her Force with Care;
Let Spades be Trumps, she said, and Trumps they were.
Now move to War her Sable Matadores,
In Show like Leaders of the swarthy Moors.
Spadillio first, unconquerable Lord!
Led off two captive Trumps, and swept the Board.
As many more Manillio forc'd to yield,
And march'd a Victor from the verdant Field.
Him Basto follow'd, but his Fate more hard
Gain'd but one Trump and one Plebeian Card.
With his broad Sabre next, a Chief in Years,
The hoary Majesty of Spades appears;
Puts forth one manly Leg, to sight reveal'd;
The rest his many-colour'd Robe conceal'd.
The Rebel-Knave, who dares his Prince engage,
Proves the just Victim of his Royal Rage.
Ev'n mighty Pam that Kings and Queens o'erthrow,
And mow'd down Armies in the Fights of Lu,
Sad Chance of War! now, destitute of Aid,
Falls undistinguish'd by the Victor Spade.
Thus far both Armies to Belinda yield;
Now to the Baron Fate inclines the Field.
His warlike Amazon her Host invades,
Th' Imperial Consort of the Crown of Spades.
The Club's black Tyrant first her Victim dy'd,
Spite of his haughty Mien, and barb'rous Pride:
What boots the Regal Circle on his Head,
His Giant Limbs in State unwieldy spread?
That long behind he trails his pompous Robe,
And of all Monarchs only grasps the Globe?
The Baron now his Diamonds pours apace;
Th' embroider'd King who shows but half his Face,
And his refulgent Queen, with Pow'rs combin'd,
Of broken Troops an easie Conquest find.
Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, in wild Disorder seen,
With Throngs promiscuous strow the level Green.
Thus when dispers'd a routed Army runs,
Of Asia's Troops, and Africk's Sable Sons,
With like Confusion different Nations fly,
In various habits and of various Dye,
The pierc'd Battalions dis-united fall,
In Heaps on Heaps; one Fate o'erwhelms them all.
The Knave of Diamonds now tries his wily Arts,
And wins (oh shameful Chance!) the Queen of Hearts.
At this, the Blood the Virgin's Cheek forsook,
A livid Paleness spreads o'er all her Look;
She sees, and trembles at th' approaching Ill,
Just in the Jaws of Ruin, and Codille.
And now, (as oft in some distemper'd State)
On one nice Trick depends the gen'ral Fate.
An Ace of Hearts steps forth: The King unseen
Lurk'd in her Hand, and mourn'd his captive Queen.
He springs to Vengeance with an eager pace,
And falls like Thunder on the prostrate Ace.
The Nymph exulting fills with Shouts the Sky,
The Walls, the Woods, and long Canals reply.
Oh thoughtless Mortals! ever blind to Fate,
Too soon dejected, and too soon elate!
Sudden these Honours shall be snatch'd away,
And curs'd for ever this Victorious Day.
For lo! the Board with Cups and Spoons is crown'd,
The Berries crackle, and the Mill turns round.
On shining Altars of Japan they raise
The silver Lamp; the fiery Spirits blaze.
From silver Spouts the grateful Liquors glide,
And China's Earth receives the smoking Tyde.
At once they gratify their Scent and Taste,
While frequent Cups prolong the rich Repast.
Strait hover round the Fair her Airy Band;
Some, as she sip'd, the fuming Liquor fann'd,
Some o'er her Lap their careful Plumes display'd,
Trembling, and conscious of the rich Brocade.
Coffee, (which makes the Politician wise,
And see thro' all things with his half shut Eyes)
Sent up in Vapours to the Baron's Brain
New Stratagems, the radiant Lock to gain.
Ah cease rash Youth! desist e'er 'tis too late,
Fear the just Gods, and think of Scylla's Fate!
Chang'd to a Bird, and sent to flit in Air,
She dearly pays for Nisus' injur'd Hair!
But when to Mischief Mortals bend their Will,
How soon they find fit Instruments of Ill!
Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting Grace
A two-edg'd Weapon from her shining Case;
So Ladies in Romance assist their Knight,
Present the Spear, and arm him for the Fight.
He takes the Gift with rev'rence, and extends
The little Engine on his Finger's Ends:
This just behind Belinda's Neck he spread,
As o'er the fragrant Steams she bends her Head:
Swift to the Lock a thousand Sprights repair,
A thousand Wings, by turns, blow back the Hair,
And thrice they twitch'd the Diamond in her Ear,
Thrice she look'd back, and thrice the Foe drew near.
Just in that instant, anxious Ariel sought
The close Recesses of the Virgin's Thought;
As on the Nosegay in her Breast reclin'd,
He watch'd th' Ideas rising in her Mind,
Sudden he view'd, in spite of all her Art,
An Earthly Lover lurking at her Heart.
Amaz'd, confus'd, he found his Pow'r expir'd,
Resign'd to Fate, and with a Sigh retir'd.
The Peer now spreads the glitt'ring Forfex wide,
T'inclose the Lock; now joins it, to divide.
Ev'n then, before the fatal Engine clos'd,
A wretched Sylph too fondly interpos'd;
Fate urg'd the Sheers, and cut the Sylph in twain,
(But Airy Substance soon unites again)
The meeting Points that sacred Hair dissever
From the fair Head, for ever and for ever!
Then flash'd the living Lightnings from her Eyes,
And Screams of Horror rend th' affrighted Skies.
Not louder Shrieks to pitying Heav'n are cast,
When Husbands or when Lap-dogs breath their last,
Or when rich China Vessels, fal'n from high,
In glittring Dust and painted Fragments lie!
Let Wreaths of Triumph now my Temples twine,
(The Victor cry'd) the glorious Prize is mine!
While Fish in Streams, or Birds delight in Air,
Or in a Coach and Six the British Fair,
As long as Atalantis shall be read,
Or the small Pillow grace a Lady's Bed,
While Visits shall be paid on solemn Days,
When numerous Wax-lights in bright Order blaze,
While Nymphs take Treats, or Assignations give,
So long my Honour, Name, and Praise shall live!
What Time wou'd spare, from Steel receives its date,
And Monuments, like Men, submit to Fate!
Steel cou'd the Labour of the Gods destroy,
And strike to Dust th' Imperial Tow'rs of Troy.
Steel cou'd the Works of mortal Pride confound,
And hew Triumphal Arches to the Ground.
What Wonder then, fair Nymph! thy Hairs shou'd feel
The conqu'ring Force of unresisted Steel?
BUT anxious Cares the pensive Nymph opprest,
And secret Passions labour'd in her Breast.
Not youthful Kings in Battel seiz'd alive,
Not scornful Virgins who their Charms survive,
Not ardent Lovers robb'd of all their Bliss,
Not ancient Ladies when refus'd a Kiss,
Not Tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
Not Cynthia when her Manteau's pinn'd awry,
E'er felt such Rage, Resentment and Despair,
As Thou, sad Virgin! for thy ravish'd Hair.
For, that sad moment, when the Sylphs withdrew,
And Ariel weeping from Belinda flew,
Umbriel, a dusky melancholy Spright,
As ever sully'd the fair face of Light,
Down to the Central Earth, his proper Scene,
Repairs to search the gloomy Cave of Spleen.
Swift on his sooty Pinions flitts the Gnome,
And in a Vapour reach'd the dismal Dome.
No cheerful Breeze this sullen Region knows,
The dreaded East is all the Wind that blows.
Here, in a Grotto, sheltred close from Air,
And screen'd in Shades from Day's detested Glare,
She sighs for ever on her pensive Bed,
Pain at her side, and Megrim at her Head.
Two Handmaids wait the Throne: Alike in Place,
But diff'ring far in Figure and in Face.
Here stood Ill-nature like an ancient Maid,
Her wrinkled Form in Black and White array'd;
With store of Pray'rs, for Mornings, Nights, and Noons,
Her Hand is fill'd; her Bosom with Lampoons.
There Affectation with a sickly Mien
Shows in her Cheek the Roses of Eighteen,
Practis'd to Lisp, and hang the Head aside,
Faints into Airs, and languishes with Pride;
On the rich Quilt sinks with becoming Woe,
Wrapt in a Gown, for Sickness, and for Show.
The Fair ones feel such Maladies as these,
When each new Night-Dress gives a new Disease.
A constant Vapour o'er the Palace flies;
Strange Phantoms rising as the Mists arise;
Dreadful, as Hermit's Dreams in haunted Shades,
Or bright as Visions of expiring Maids.
Now glaring Fiends, and Snakes on rolling Spires,
Pale Spectres, gaping Tombs, and Purple Fires:
Now Lakes of liquid Gold, Elysian Scenes,
And Crystal Domes, and Angels in Machines.
Unnumber'd Throngs on ev'ry side are seen
Of Bodies chang'd to various Forms by Spleen.
Here living Teapots stand, one Arm held out,
One bent; the Handle this, and that the Spout:
A Pipkin there like Homer's Tripod walks;
Here sighs a Jar, and there a Goose Pie talks;
Men prove with Child, as pow'rful Fancy works,
And Maids turn'd Bottels, call aloud for Corks.
Safe past the Gnome thro' this fantastick Band,
A Branch of healing Spleenwort in his hand.
Then thus addrest the Pow'r--Hail wayward Queen!
Who rule the Sex to Fifty from Fifteen,
Parent of Vapors and of Female Wit,
Who give th' Hysteric or Poetic Fit,
On various Tempers act by various ways,
Make some take Physick, others scribble Plays;
Who cause the Proud their Visits to delay,
And send the Godly in a Pett, to pray.
A Nymph there is, that all thy Pow'r disdains,
And thousands more in equal Mirth maintains.
But oh! if e'er thy Gnome could spoil a Grace,
Or raise a Pimple on a beauteous Face,
Like Citron-Waters Matron's Cheeks inflame,
Or change Complexions at a losing Game;
If e'er with airy Horns I planted Heads,
Or rumpled Petticoats, or tumbled Beds,
Or caus'd Suspicion when no Soul was rude,
Or discompos'd the Head-dress of a Prude,
Or e'er to costive Lap-Dog gave Disease,
Which not the Tears of brightest Eyes could ease:
Hear me, and touch Belinda with Chagrin;
That single Act gives half the World the Spleen.
The Goddess with a discontented Air
Seems to reject him, tho' she grants his Pray'r.
A wondrous Bag with both her Hands she binds,
Like that where once Ulysses held the Winds;
There she collects the Force of Female Lungs,
Sighs, Sobs, and Passions, and the War of Tongues.
A Vial next she fills with fainting Fears,
Soft Sorrows, melting Griefs, and flowing Tears.
The Gnome rejoicing bears her Gift away,
Spreads his black Wings, and slowly mounts to Day.
Sunk in Thalestris' Arms the Nymph he found,
Her Eyes dejected and her Hair unbound.
Full o'er their Heads the swelling Bag he rent,
And all the Furies issued at the Vent.
Belinda burns with more than mortal Ire,
And fierce Thalestris fans the rising Fire.
O wretched Maid! she spread her hands, and cry'd,
(While Hampton's Ecchos, wretched Maid reply'd)
Was it for this you took such constant Care
The Bodkin, Comb, and Essence to prepare;
For this your Locks in Paper-Durance bound,
For this with tort'ring Irons wreath'd around?
For this with Fillets strain'd your tender Head,
And bravely bore the double Loads of Lead?
Gods! shall the Ravisher display your Hair,
While the Fops envy, and the Ladies stare!
Honour forbid! at whose unrival'd Shrine
Ease, Pleasure, Virtue, All, our Sex resign.
Methinks already I your Tears survey,
Already hear the horrid things they say,
Already see you a degraded Toast,
And all your Honour in a Whisper lost!
How shall I, then, your helpless Fame defend?
'Twill then be Infamy to seem your Friend!
And shall this Prize, th' inestimable Prize,
Expos'd thro' Crystal to the gazing Eyes,
And heighten'd by the Diamond's circling Rays,
On that Rapacious Hand for ever blaze?
Sooner shall Grass in Hide Park Circus grow,
And Wits take Lodgings in the Sound of Bow;
Sooner let Earth, Air, Sea, to Chaos fall,
Men, Monkies, Lap-dogs, Parrots, perish all!
She said; then raging to Sir Plume repairs,
And bids her Beau demand the precious Hairs:
(Sir Plume, of Amber Snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice Conduct of a clouded Cane)
With earnest Eyes, and round unthinking Face,
He first the Snuff-box open'd, then the Case,
And thus broke out--- "My Lord, why, what the Devil?
"Z---ds! damn the Lock! 'fore Gad, you must be civil!
"Plague on't! 'tis past a Jest---nay prithee, Pox!
"Give her the Hair---he spoke, and rapp'd his Box.
It grieves me much (reply'd the Peer again)
Who speaks so well shou'd ever speak in vain.
But by this Lock, this sacred Lock I swear,
(Which never more shall join its parted Hair,
Which never more its Honours shall renew,
Clipt from the lovely Head where late it grew)
That while my Nostrils draw the vital Air,
This Hand, which won it, shall for ever wear.
He spoke, and speaking, in proud Triumph spread
The long-contended Honours of her Head.
But Umbriel, hateful Gnome! forbears not so;
He breaks the Vial whence the Sorrows flow.
Then see! the Nymph in beauteous Grief appears,
Her Eyes half languishing, half drown'd in Tears;
On her heav'd Bosom hung her drooping Head,
Which, with a Sigh, she rais'd; and thus she said.
For ever curs'd be this detested Day,
Which snatch'd my best, my fav'rite Curl away!
Happy! ah ten times happy, had I been,
If Hampton-Court these Eyes had never seen!
Yet am not I the first mistaken Maid,
By Love of Courts to num'rous Ills betray'd.
Oh had I rather un-admir'd remain'd
In some lone Isle, or distant Northern Land;
Where the gilt Chariot never marks the way,
Where none learn Ombre, none e'er taste Bohea!
There kept my Charms conceal'd from mortal Eye,
Like Roses that in Desarts bloom and die.
What mov'd my Mind with youthful Lords to rome?
O had I stay'd, and said my Pray'rs at home!
'Twas this, the Morning Omens seem'd to tell;
Thrice from my trembling hand the Patch-box fell;
The tott'ring China shook without a Wind,
Nay, Poll sate mute, and Shock was most Unkind!
A Sylph too warn'd me of the Threats of Fate,
In mystic Visions, now believ'd too late!
See the poor Remnants of these slighted Hairs!
My hands shall rend what ev'n thy Rapine spares:
These, in two sable Ringlets taught to break,
Once gave new Beauties to the snowie Neck.
The Sister-Lock now sits uncouth, alone,
And in its Fellow's Fate foresees its own;
Uncurl'd it hangs, the fatal Sheers demands;
And tempts once more thy sacrilegious Hands.
Oh hadst thou, Cruel! been content to seize
Hairs less in sight, or any Hairs but these!
SHE said: the pitying Audience melt in Tears,
But Fate and Jove had stopp'd the Baron's Ears.
In vain Thalestris with Reproach assails,
For who can move when fair Belinda fails?
Not half to fixt the Trojan cou'd remain,
While Anna begg'd and Dido rag'd in vain.
Then grave Clarissa graceful wav'd her Fan;
Silence ensu'd, and thus the Nymph began.
Say, why are Beauties prais'd and honour'd most,
The wise Man's Passion, and the vain Man's Toast?
Why deck'd with all that Land and Sea afford,
Why Angels call'd, and Angel-like ador'd?
Why round our Coaches crowd the white-glov'd Beaus,
Why bows the Side-box from its inmost Rows?
How vain are all these Glories, all our Pains,
Unless good Sense preserve what Beauty gains:
That Men may say, when we the Front-box grace,
Behold the first in Virtue, as in Face!
Oh! if to dance all Night, and dress all Day,
Charm'd the Small-pox, or chas'd old Age away;
Who would not scorn what Huswife's Cares produce,
Or who would learn one earthly Thing of Use?
To patch, nay ogle, might become a Saint,
Nor could it sure be such a Sin to paint.
But since, alas! frail Beauty must decay,
Curl'd or uncurl'd, since Locks will turn to grey,
Since paint'd, or not paint'd, all shall fade,
And she who scorns a Man, must die a Maid;
What then remains, but well our Pow'r to use,
And keep good Humour still whate'er we lose?
And trust me, Dear! good Humour can prevail,
When Airs, and Flights, and Screams, and Scolding fail.
Beauties in vain their pretty Eyes may roll;
Charms strike the Sight, but Merit wins the Soul.
So spake the Dame, but no Applause ensu'd;
Belinda frown'd, Thalestris call'd her Prude.
To Arms, to Arms! the fierce Virago cries,
And swift as Lightning to the Combate flies.
All side in Parties, and begin th' Attack;
Fans clap, Silks russle, and tough Whalebones crack;
Heroes and Heroins Shouts confus'dly rise,
And base, and treble Voices strike the Skies.
No common Weapons in their Hands are found,
Like Gods they fight, nor dread a mortal Wound.
So when bold Homer makes the Gods engage,
And heav'nly Breasts with human Passions rage;
'Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms;
And all Olympus rings with loud Alarms.
Jove's Thunder roars, Heav'n trembles all around;
Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing Deeps resound;
Earth shakes her nodding Tow'rs, the Ground gives way;
And the pale Ghosts start at the Flash of Day!
Triumphant Umbriel on a Sconce's Height
Clapt his glad Wings, and sate to view the Fight,
Propt on their Bodkin Spears, the Sprights survey
The growing Combat, or assist the Fray.
While thro' the Press enrag'd Thalestris flies,
And scatters Deaths around from both her Eyes,
A Beau and Witling perish'd in the Throng,
One dy'd in Metaphor, and one in Song.
O cruel Nymph! a living Death I bear,
Cry'd Dapperwit, and sunk beside his Chair.
A mournful Glance Sir Fopling upwards cast,
Those Eyes are made so killing---was his last:
Thus on Meander's flow'ry Margin lies
Th' expiring Swan, and as he sings he dies.
When bold Sir Plume had drawn Clarissa down,
Chloe stept in, and kill'd him with a Frown;
She smil'd to see the doughty Hero slain,
But at her Smile, the Beau reviv'd again.
Now Jove suspends his golden Scales in Air,
Weighs the Mens Wits against the Lady's Hair;
The doubtful Beam long nods from side to side;
At length the Wits mount up, the Hairs subside.
See fierce Belinda on the Baron flies,
With more than usual Lightning in her Eyes;
Nor fear'd the Chief th' unequal Fight to try,
Who sought no more than on his Foe to die.
But this bold Lord, with manly Strength indu'd,
She with one Finger and a Thumb subdu'd,
Just where the Breath of Life his Nostrils drew,
A Charge of Snuff the wily Virgin threw;
The Gnomes direct, to ev'ry Atome just,
The pungent Grains of titillating Dust.
Sudden, with starting Tears each Eye o'erflows,
And the high Dome re-ecchoes to his Nose.
Now meet thy Fate, incens'd Belinda cry'd,
And drew a deadly Bodkin from her Side.
(The same, his ancient Personage to deck,
Her great great Grandsire wore about his Neck
In three Seal-Rings which after, melted down,
Form'd a vast Buckle for his Widow's Gown:
Her infant Grandame's Whistle next it grew,
The Bells she gingled, and the Whistle blew;
Then in a Bodkin grac'd her Mother's Hairs,
Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.)
Boast not my Fall (he cry'd) insulting Foe!
Thou by some other shalt be laid as low.
Nor think, to die dejects my lofty Mind;
All that I dread, is leaving you behind!
Rather than so, ah let me still survive,
And burn in Cupid's Flames,---but burn alive.
Restore the Lock! she cries; and all around
Restore the Lock! the vaulted Roofs rebound.
Not fierce Othello in so loud a Strain
Roar'd for the Handkerchief that caus'd his Pain.
But see how oft Ambitious Aims are cross'd,
And Chiefs contend 'till all the Prize is lost!
The Lock, obtain'd with Guilt, and kept with Pain,
In ev'ry place is sought, but sought in vain:
With such a Prize no Mortal must be blest,
So Heav'n decrees! with Heav'n who can contest?
Some thought it mounted to the Lunar Sphere,
Since all things lost on Earth, are treasur'd there.
There Heroe's Wits are kept in pondrous Vases,
And Beau's in Snuff-boxes and Tweezer-Cases.
There broken Vows, and Death-bed Alms are found,
And Lovers Hearts with Ends of Riband bound;
The Courtiers Promises, and Sick Man's Pray'rs,
The Smiles of Harlots, and the Tears of Heirs,
Cages for Gnats, and Chains to Yoak a Flea;
Dry'd Butterflies, and Tomes of Casuistry.
But trust the Muse---she saw it upward rise,
Tho' mark'd by none but quick Poetic Eyes:
(So Rome's great Founder to the Heav'ns withdrew,
To Proculus alone confess'd in view.)
A sudden Star, it shot thro' liquid Air,
And drew behind a radiant Trail of Hair.
Not Berenice's Locks first rose so bright,
The heav'ns bespangling with dishevel'd light.
The Sylphs behold it kindling as it flies,
And pleas'd pursue its Progress thro' the Skies.
This the Beau-monde shall from the Mall survey,
And hail with Musick its propitious Ray.
This, the blest Lover shall for Venus take,
And send up Vows from Rosamonda's Lake.
This Partridge soon shall view in cloudless Skies,
When next he looks thro' Galilaeo's Eyes;
And hence th' Egregious Wizard shall foredoom
The Fate of Louis, and the Fall of Rome.
Then cease, bright Nymph! to mourn the ravish'd Hair
Which adds new Glory to the shining Sphere!
Not all the Tresses that fair Head can boast
Shall draw such Envy as the Lock you lost.
For, after all the Murders of your Eye,
When, after Millions slain, your self shall die;
When those fair Suns shall sett, as sett they must,
And all those Tresses shall be laid in Dust;
This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to Fame,
And mid'st the Stars inscribe Belinda's Name!
The Noble Moringer
O, will you hear a knightly tale of old Bohemian day,
It was the noble Moringer in wedlock bed he lay;
He halsed and kiss'd his dearest dame, that was as sweet as May,
And said, 'Now, lady of my heart, attend the words I say.
''Tis I have vow'd a pilgrimage unto a distant shrine,
And I must seek Saint Thomas-land, and leave the land that's mine;
Here shalt thou dwell the while in state, so thou wilt pledge thy fay,
That thou for my return wilt wait seven twelvemonths and a day.'
Then out and spoke that Lady bright, sore troubled in her cheer,
'Now tell me true, thou noble knight, what order takest thou here:
And who shall lead thy vassal band, and hold thy lordly sway,
And be thy lady's guardian true when thou art far away?'
Out spoke the noble Moringer, 'Of that have thou no care,
There's many a valiant gentleman of me holds living fair;
The trustiest shall rule my land, my vassals and my state,
And be a guardian tried and true to thee, my lovely mate.
'As Christian-man, I needs must keep the vow which I have plight,
When I am far in foreign land, remember thy true knight;
And cease, my dearest dame, to grieve, for vain were sorrow now,
But grant thy Moringer his leave, since God hath heard his vow.'
It was the noble Moringer from bed he made him boune,
And met him there his Chamberlain, with ewer and with gown:
He flung the mantle on his back, 'twas furr'd with miniver,
He dipp'd his hand in water cold, and bathed his forehead fair.
'Now hear,' he said, 'Sir Chamberlain, true vassal art thou mine,
And such the trust that I repose in that proved worth of thine,
For seven years shalt thou rule my towers, and lead my vassal train,
And pledge thee for my Lady's faith till I return again.'
The Chamberlain was blunt and true, and sturdily said he,
'Abide, my lord, and rule your own, and take this rede from me;
That woman's faith's a brittle trust - Seven twelve-months didst thou say?
I'll pledge me for no lady's truth beyond the seventh fair day.'
The noble Baron turn'd him round, his heart was full of care,
His gallant Esquire stood him nigh, he was Marstetten's heir,
To whom he spoke right anxiously, 'Thou trusty squire to me,
Wilt thou receive this weighty trust when I am o'er the sea?
'To watch and ward my castle strong, and to protect my land,
And to the hunting or the host to lead my vassal band;
And pledge thee for my Lady's faith till seven long years are gone,
And guard her as Our Lady dear was guarded by Saint John.'
Marstetten's heir was kind and true, but fiery, hot, and young,
And readily he answer made with too presumptuous tongue;
'My noble lord, cast care away, and on your journey wend,
And trust this charge to me until your pilgrimage have end.
'Rely upon my plighted faith, which shall be truly tried,
To guard your lands, and ward your towers, and with your vassals ride;
And for your lovely Lady's faith, so virtuous and so dear,
I'll gage my head it knows no change, be absent thirty year.'
The noble Moringer took cheer when thus he heard him speak,
And doubt forsook his troubled brow, and sorrow left his cheek;
A long adieu he bids to all - hoists topsails, and away,
And wanders in Saint Thomas-land seven twelve-months and a day.
It was the noble Moringer within an orchard slept,
When on the Baron's slumbering sense a boding vision crept;
And whisper'd in his ear a voice, ''Tis time, Sir Knight, to wake,
Thy lady and thy heritage another master take.
'Thy tower another banner knows, thy steeds another rein,
And stoop them to another's will thy gallant vassal train;
And she, the Lady of thy love, so faithful once and fair,
This night within thy fathers' hall she weds Marstetten's heir.'
It is the noble Moringer starts up and tears his beard,
'Oh would that I had ne'er been born! what tidings have I heard!
To lose my lordship and my lands the less would be my care,
But, God! that e'er a squire untrue should wed my Lady fair.
'O good Saint Thomas, hear,' he pray'd, 'my patron Saint art thou,
A traitor robs me of my land even while I pay my vow!
My wife he brings to infamy that was so pure of name,
And I am far in foreign land, and must endure the shame.'
It was the good Saint Thomas, then, who heard his pilgrim's prayer,
And sent a sleep so deep and dead that it o'erpower'd his care;
He waked in fair Bohemian land outstretch'd beside a rill,
High on the right a castle stood, low on the left a mill.
The Moringer he started up as one from spell unbound,
And dizzy with surprise and joy gazed wildly all around;
'I know my fathers' ancient towers, the mill, the stream I know,
Now blessed be my patron Saint who cheer'd his pilgrim's woe!'
He leant upon his pilgrim staff, and to the mill he drew,
So alter'd was his goodly form that none their master knew;
The Baron to the miller said, 'Good friend, for charity,
Tell a poor palmer in your land what tidings may there be?'
The miller answered him again, 'He knew of little news,
Save that the Lady of the land did a new bridegroom choose;
Her husband died in distant land, such is the constant word,
His death sits heavy on our souls, he was a worthy Lord.
'Of him I held the little mill which wins we living free,
God rest the Baron in his grave, he still was kind to me!
And when Saint Martin's tide comes round, and millers take their toll,
The priest that prays for Moringer shall have both cope and stole.'
It was the noble Moringer to climb the hill began,
And stood before the bolted gate a woe and weary man;
'Now help me, every saint in heaven that can compassion take,
To gain the entrance of my hall this woeful match to break.'
His very knock it sounded sad, his call was sad and slow,
For heart and head, and voice and hand, were heavy all with woe;
And to the warder thus he spoke; 'Friend, to thy Lady say,
A pilgrim from Saint Thomas-land craves harbour for a day.
'I've wander'd many a weary step, my strength is wellnigh done,
And if she turn me from her gate I'll see no morrow's sun;
I pray, for sweet Saint Thomas' sake, a pilgrim's bed and dole,
And for the sake of Moringer's, her once-beloved husband's soul.'
It was the stalwart warder then he came his dame before,
'A pilgrim, worn and travel-toil'd, stands at the castle-door;
And prays, for sweet Saint Thomas' sake, for harbour and for dole,
And for the sake of Moringer, thy noble husband's soul.'
The Lady's gentle heart was moved, 'Do up the gate,' she said,
'And bid the wanderer welcome be to banquet and to bed;
And since he names my husband's name, so that he lists to stay,
These towers shall be his harbourage a twelvemonth and a day.'
It was the stalwart warder then undid the portal broad,
It was the noble Moringer that o'er the threshold strode;
'And have thou thanks, kind heaven,' he said, 'though from a man of sin,
That the true lord stands here once more his castle gate within.'
Then up the halls paced Moringer, his step was sad and slow;
It sat full heavy on his heart, none seem'd their Lord to know;
He sat him on a lowly bench, oppress'd with woe and wrong,
Short space he sat, but ne'er to him seem'd little space so long.
Now spent was day, and feasting o'er, and come was evening hour,
The time was nigh when new-made brides retire to nuptial bower;
'Our castle's wont,' a brides-man said, 'hath been both firm and long,
No guest to harbour in our halls till he shall chant a song.'
Then spoke the youthful bridegroom there as he sat by the bride,
'My merry minstrel folk,' quoth he, 'lay shalm and harp aside;
Our pilgrim guest must sing a lay, the castle's rule to hold,
And well his guerdon will I pay with garment and with gold.'-
'Chill flows the lay of frozen age,' 'twas thus the pilgrim sung,
'Nor golden meed nor garment gay, unlocks his heavy tongue;
Once did I sit, thou bridegroom gay, at board as rich as thine,
And by my side as fair a bride with all her charms was mine.
'But time traced furrows on my face, and I grew silver-hair'd,
For locks of brown, and cheeks of youth, she left this brow and beard;
One rich, but now a palmer poor, I tread life's latest stage,
And mingle with your bridal mirth the lay of frozen age.'
It was the noble Lady there this woful lay that hears,
And for the aged pilgrim's grief her eye was dimm'd with tears;
She bade her gallant cupbearer a golden beaker take,
And bear it to the palmer poor to quaff it for her sake.
It was the noble Moringer that dropp'd amid the wine
A bridal ring of burning gold so costly and so fine:
Now listen, gentles, to my song, it tells you but the sooth,
'Twas with that very ring of gold he pledged his bridal truth.
Then to the cupbearer he said, 'Do me one kindly deed,
And should my better days return, full rich shall be thy meed;
Bear back the golden cup again to yonder bride so gay,
And crave her of her courtesy to pledge the palmer grey.'
The cupbearer was courtly bred, nor was the boon denied,
The golden cup he took again, and bore it to the bride;
'Lady,' he said, 'your reverend guest sends this, and bids me pray,
That, in thy noble courtesy, thou pledge the palmer grey.'
The ring hath caught the Lady's eye, she views it close and near,
Then might you hear her shriek aloud, 'The Moringer is here!'
Then might you see her start from seat, while tears in torrents fell,
But whether 'twas for joy or woe, the ladies best can tell.
But loud she utter'd thanks to Heaven, and every saintly power,
That had return'd the Moringer before the midnight hour;
And loud she utter'd vow on vow, that never was there bride,
That had like her preserved her troth, or been so sorely tried.
'Yes, here I claim the praise,' she said, 'to constant matrons due,
Who keep the troth that they have plight, so steadfastly and true;
For count the term howe'er you will, so that you count aright,
Seven twelve-months and a day are out when bells toll twelve to-night.'
It was Marstetten then rose up, his falchion there he drew,
He kneel'd before the Moringer, and down his weapon threw;
'My oath and knightly faith are broke,' these were the words he said,
'Then take, my liege, thy vassal's sword, and take thy vassal's head.'
The noble Moringer he smiled, and then aloud did say,
'He gathers wisdom that hath roam'd seven twelve-months and a day;
My daughter now hath fifteen years, fame speaks her sweet and fair,
I give her for the bride you lose, and name her for my heir.
'The young bridegroom hath youthful bride, the old bridegroom the old,
Whose faith was kept till term and tide so punctually were told;
But blessings on the warder kind that oped my castle gate,
For had I come at morrow tide, I came a day too late.'
The King of the Vasse
A LEGEND OF THE BUSH.
MY tale which I have brought is of a time
Ere that fair Southern land was stained with crime,
Brought thitherward in reeking ships and cast
Like blight upon the coast, or like a blast
From angry levin on a fair young tree,
That stands thenceforth a piteous sight to see.
So lives this land to-day beneath the sun,—
A weltering plague-spot, where the hot tears run,
And hearts to ashes turn, and souls are dried
Like empty kilns where hopes have parched and died.
Woe's cloak is round her,—she the fairest shore
In all the Southern Ocean o'er and o'er.
Poor Cinderella! she must bide her woe,
Because an elder sister wills it so.
Ah! could that sister see the future day
When her own wealth and strength are shorn away,
A.nd she, lone mother then, puts forth her hand
To rest on kindred blood in that far land;
Could she but see that kin deny her claim
Because of nothing owing her but shame,—
Then might she learn 'tis building but to fall,
If carted rubble be the basement-wall.
But this my tale, if tale it be, begins
Before the young land saw the old land's sins
Sail up the orient ocean, like a cloud
Far-blown, and widening as it neared,—a shroud
Fate-sent to wrap the bier of all things pure,
And mark the leper-land while stains endure.
In the far days, the few who sought the West
Were men all guileless, in adventurous quest
Of lands to feed their flocks and raise their grain,
And help them live their lives with less of pain
Than crowded Europe lets her children know.
From their old homesteads did they seaward go,
As if in Nature's order men must flee
As flow the streams,—from inlands to the sea.
In that far time, from out a Northern land,
With home-ties severed, went a numerous band
Of men and wives and children, white-haired folk:
Whose humble hope of rest at home had broke,
As year was piled on year, and still their toil
Had wrung poor fee from -Sweden's rugged soil.
One day there gathered from the neighboring steads,
In Jacob Eibsen's, five strong household heads,—
Five men large-limbed and sinewed, Jacob's sons,
Though he was hale, as one whose current runs
In stony channels, that the streamlet rend,
But keep it clear and full unto the end.
Eight sons had Jacob Eibsen,—three still boys,
And these five men, who owned of griefs and joys
The common lot; and three tall girls beside,
Of whom the eldest was a blushing bride
One year before. Old-fashioned times and men,
And wives and maidens, were in Sweden then.
These five came there for counsel: they were tired
Of hoping on for all the heart desired;
And Jacob, old but mighty-thewed as youth,
In all their words did sadly own the truth,
And said unto them, 'Wealth cannot be found
In Sweden now by men who till the ground.
I've thought at times of leaving this bare place,
And holding seaward with a seeking face
For those new lands they speak of, where men thrive.
Alone .I've thought of this-; but now you five—
Five brother men of Eibsen blood—shall say
If our old stock from here must wend their way,
And seek a home where anxious sires can give
To every child enough whereon to live.'
Then each took thought in silence. Jacob gazed
Across them at the pastures worn and grazed
By ill-fed herds; his glance to corn-fields passed,
Where stunted oats, worse each year than the last,
And blighted barley, grew amongst the stones,
That showed ungainly, like earth's fleshless bones.
He sighed, and turned away. 'Sons, let me know
What think you?'
Each one answered firm, 'We go.'
And then they said, 'We want no northern wind
To chill us more, or driving hail to blind.
But let us sail where south winds fan the sea,
And happier we and all our race shall be.'
And so in time there started for the coast,
With farm and household gear, this Eibsen host;
And there, with others, to a good ship passed,
Which soon of Sweden's hills beheld the last.
I know not of their voyage, nor how they
Did wonder-stricken sit, as day by day,
'Neath tropic rays, they saw the smooth sea swell
And heave; while night by night the north-star fell,
Till last they watched him burning on the sea;
Nor how they saw, and wondered it could be,
Strange beacons rise before them as they gazed:
Nor how their hearts grew light when southward blazed
Five stars in blessed shape,—the Cross! whose flame
Seemed shining welcome as the wanderers came.
My story presses from this star-born hope
To where on young New Holland's western slope
These Northern-farming folk found homes at last,
And all their thankless toil seemed now long past.
Nine fruitful years chased over, and nigh all
Of life was sweet. But one dark dropp of gall
Had come when first they landed, like a sign
Of some black woe; and deep in Eibsen's wine
Of life it hid, till in the sweetest cup
The old man saw its shape come shuddering up.
And first it came in this wise: when their ship
Had made the promised land, and every lip
Was pouring praise for what the eye did meet,—
For all the air was yellow as with heat
Above the peaceful sea and dazzling sand
That wooed each other round the beauteous land,
Where inward stretched the slumbering forest's green,—
When first these sights from off the deck were seen,
There rose a wailing stern wards, and the men
Who dreamt of heaven turned to earth agen,
And heard the direful cause with bated breath,—
The land's first gleam had brought the blight of death!
The wife of Eibsen held her six-years' son,
Her youngest, and in secret best-loved one,
Close to her lifeless: his had been the cry
That first horizonwards bent every eye;
And from that opening sight of sand and tree
Like one deep spell-bound did he seem to be,
And moved by some strange phantasy; his eyes
Were wide distended as in glad surprise
At something there he saw; his arms reached o'er
The vessel's side as if to greet the shore,
And sounds came from his lips like sobs of joy.
A brief time so; and then the blue-eyed boy
Sank down convulsed, as if to him appeared
Strange sights that they saw not; and all afeard
Grew the late joyous people with vague dread;
And loud the mother wailed above her dead.
The ship steered in and found a bay, and then
The anchor plunged aweary-like: the men
Breathed breaths of rest at treading land agen.
Upon the beach by Christian men untrod
The wanderers kneeling offered up to God
The land's first-fruits; and nigh the kneeling band
The burdened mother sat upon the sand,
And still she wailed, not praying.
'Neath the wood
That lined the beach a crowd of watchers stood:
Tall men spear-armed, with skins like dusky night,
And aspect blended of deep awe and fright.
The ship that morn they saw, like some vast bird,
Come sailing toward their country; and they heard
The voices now of those strange men whose eyes
Were turned aloft, who spake unto the skies!
They heard and feared, not knowing, that first prayer,
But feared not when the wail arose, for there
Was some familiar thing did not appall,—
Grief, common heritage and lot of all.
They moved and breathed more freely at the cry,
And slowly from the wood, and timorously,
They one by one emerged upon the beach.
The white men saw, and like to friends did reach
Their hands unarmed; and soon the dusky crowd
Drew nigh and stood where wailed the mother loud.
They claimed her kindred, they could understand
That woe was hers and theirs; whereas the band
Of white-skinned men did not as brethren seem.
But now, behold! a man, whom one would deem
From eye and mien, wherever met, a King,
Did stand beside the woman. No youth's spring
Was in the foot that naked pressed the sand;
No warrior's might was in the long dark hand
That waved his people backward; no bright gold.
Of lace or armor glittered; gaunt and old,—
A belt, half apron, made of emu-down,
Upon his loins; upon his head no crown
Save only that which eighty years did trace
In whitened hair above his furrowed face.
Nigh nude he was: a short fur boka hung
In toga-folds upon his back, but flung
From his right arm and shoulder,—ever there
The spear-arm of the warrior is bare.
So stood he nigh the woman, gaunt and wild
But king-like, spearless, looking on the child
That lay with livid face upon her knees.
Thus long and fixed he gazed, as one who sees
A symbol hidden in a simple thing,
And trembles at its meaning: so the King
Fell trembling there, and from his breast there broke
A cry, part joy, part fear; then to his folk
With upraised hands he spoke one guttural word,
And said it over thrice; and when they heard,
They, too, were stricken with strange fear and joy.
The white-haired King then to the breathless boy
Drew closer still, while all the dusky crowd
In weird abasement to the earth were bowed.
Across his breast the aged ruler wore
A leathern thong or belt; whate'er it bore
Was hidden 'neath the boka. As he drew
Anigh the mother, from his side he threw
Far back the skin that made his rich-furred robe,
And showed upon the belt a small red globe
Of carven wood, bright-polished, as with years:
When this they saw, deep grew his people's fears,
And to the white sand were their foreheads pressed.
The King then raised his arms, as if he blest
The youth who lay there seeming dead and cold;
Then took the globe and oped it, and behold!
Within it, bedded in the carven case,
There lay a precious thing for that rude race
To hold, though it as God they seemed to prize, —
A Pearl of purest hue and wondrous size!
And as the sunbeams kissed it, from the dead
The dusk King looked, and o'er his snowy head
With both long hands he raised the enthroned gem,
And turned him toward the strangers: e'en on them
Before the lovely Thing, an awe did fall
To see that worship deep and mystical,
That King with upraised god, like rev' rent priest
With elevated Host at Christian feast.
Then to the mother turning slow, the King
Took out the Pearl, and laid the beauteous Thing
Upon the dead boy's mouth and brow and breast,
And as it touched him, lo! the awful rest
Of death was broken, and the youth uprose!
* * * * * * *
Nine years passed over since on that fair shore
The wanderers knelt,—but wanderers they no more.
With hopeful hearts they bore the promise-pain
Of early labor, and soon bending grain
And herds and homesteads and a teeming soil
A thousand-fold repaid their patient toil.
Nine times the sun's high glory glared above,
As if his might set naught on human love,
But yearned to scorn and scorch the things that grew
On man's poor home, till all the forest's hue
Of blessed green was burned to dusty brown;
And still the ruthless rays rained fiercely down,
Till insects, reptiles, shriveled as they lay,
And piteous cracks, like lips, in parching clay
Sent silent pleadings skyward,—as if she,
The fruitful, generous mother, plaintively
Did wail for water. Lo! her cry is heard,
And swift, obedient to the Ruler's word,
From Southern Iceland sweeps the cool sea breeze,
To fan the earth and bless the suffering trees,
And bear dense clouds with bursting weight of rain
To soothe with moisture all the parching pain.
Oh, Mercy's sweetest symbol! only they
Who see the earth agape in burning day,
Who watch its living things thirst-stricken lie,
And turn from brazen heaven as they die,—
Their hearts alone, the shadowy cloud can prize
That veils the sun,—as to poor earth-dimmed eyes
The sorrow comes to veil our joy's dear face,
All rich-in mercy and in God's sweet grace!
Thrice welcome, clouds from seaward, settling down
O'er thirsting nature! Now the trees' dull brown
Is washed away, and leaflet buds appear,
And youngling undergrowth, and far and near
The bush is whispering in her pent-up glee,
As myriad roots bestir them to be free,
And drink the soaking moisture; while bright heaven
Shows clear, as inland are the spent clouds driven;
And oh! that arch, that sky's intensate hue!
That deep, God-painted, unimagined blue
Through which the golden sun now smiling sails,
And sends his love to fructify the vales
That late he seemed to curse! Earth throbs and heaves
With pregnant prescience of life and leaves;
The shadows darken 'neath the tall trees' screen,
While round their stems the rank and velvet green
Of undergrowth is deeper still; and there,
Within the double shade and steaming air,
The scarlet palm has fixed its noxious root,
And hangs the glorious poison of its fruit;
And there, 'mid shaded green and shaded light,
The steel-blue silent birds take rapid flight
From earth to tree and tree to earth; and there
The crimson-plumaged parrot cleaves the air
Like flying fire, and huge brown owls awake
To watch, far down, the stealing carpet snake,
Fresh-skinned and glowing in his changing dyes,
With evil wisdom in the cruel eyes
That glint like gems as o'er his head flits by
The blue-black armor of the emperor-fly;
And all the humid earth displays its powers
Of prayer, with incense from the hearts of flowers
That load the air with beauty and with wine
Of mingled color, as with one design
Of making there a carpet to be trod,
In woven splendor, by the feet of God!
And high o'erhead is color: round and round
The towering gums and tuads, closely wound
Like cables, creep the climbers to the sun,
And over all the reaching branches run
And hang, and still send shoots that climb and wind
Till every arm and spray and leaf is twined,
And miles of trees, like brethren joined in love,
Are drawn and laced; while round them and above,
When all is knit, the creeper rests for days
As gathering might, and then one blinding blaze
Of very glory sends, in wealth and strength,
Of scarlet flowers o'er the forest's length!
Such scenes as these have subtile power to trace
Their clear-lined impress on the mind and face;
And these strange simple folk, not knowing why,
Grew more and more to silence; and the eye,
The quiet eye of Swedish gray, grew deep
With listening to the solemn rustling sweep
From wings of Silence, and the earth's great psalm
Intoned forever by the forest's calm.
But most of all was younger Jacob changed:
From morn till night, alone, the woods he ranged,
To kindred, pastime, sympathy estranged.
Since that first day of landing from the ship
When with the Pearl on brow and breast and lip
The aged King had touched him and he rose,
His former life had left him, and he chose
The woods as home, the wild, uncultured men
As friends and comrades. It were better then,
His brethren said, the boy had truly died
Than they should live to be by him denied,
As now they were. He lived in somber mood,
He spoke no word to them, he broke no food
That they did eat: his former life was dead,—
The soul brought back was not the soul that fled!
'Twas Jacob's form and feature, but the light
Within his eyes was strange unto their sight.
His mother's grief was piteous to see;
Unloving was he to the rest, but she
Held undespairing hope that deep within
Her son's changed heart was love that she might win
By patient tenderness; and so she strove
For nine long years, but won no look of love!
At last his brethren gazed on him with awe,
And knew untold that from the form they saw
Their brother's gentle mind was sure dispelled,
And now a gloomy savage soul it held.
From that first day, close intercourse he had
With those who raised him up,—fierce men, unclad,
Spear-armed and wild, in all their ways uncouth,
And strange to every habit of his youth.
His food they brought, his will they seemed to crave,
The wildest bushman tended like a slave;
He worked their charms, their hideous chants he sung;
Though dumb to all his own, their guttural tongue
He often spoke in tones of curt command,
And kinged it proudly o'er the dusky band.
And once each year there gathered from afar
A swarming host, as if a sudden war
Had called them forth, and with them did they bring
In solemn, savage pomp the white-haired King,
Who year by year more withered was and weak;
And he would lead the youth apart and speak
Some occult words, and from the carven case
Would take the Pearl and touch the young man's face,
And hold it o'er him blessing; while the crowd,
As on the shore, in dumb abasement bowed.
And when the King had closed the formal rite,
The rest held savage revelry by night,
Round blazing fires, with dance and orgies base,
That roused the sleeping echoes of the place,
Which down the forest vistas moaned the din,
Like spirits pure beholding impious sin.
Nine times they gathered thus; but on the last
The old king's waning life seemed well-nigh past.
His feeble strength had failed: he walked no more,
But on a woven spear-wood couch they bore
With careful tread the form that barely gasped,
As if the door of death now hung unhasped,
Awaiting but a breath to swing, and show
The dim eternal plain that stretched below.
The tenth year waned: the cloistered bush was stilled,
The earth lay sleeping, while the clouds distilled
In ghostly veil their blessing. Thin and white,
Through opening trees the moonbeams cleft the night,
And showed the somber arches, taller far
Than grandest aisles of built cathedrals are.
And up those dim-lit aisles in silence streamed
Tall men with trailing spears, until it seemed,
So many lines converged of endless length,
A nation there was gathered in its strength.
Around one spot was kept a spacious ring,
Where lay the body of the white-haired King,
Which all the spearmen gathered to behold
Upon its spear-wood litter, stiff and cold.
All naked, there the dusky corse was laid
Beneath a royal tuad's mourning shade;
Upon the breast was placed the carven case
That held the symbol of their ancient race,
And eyes awe-stricken saw the mystic Thing
That soon would clothe another as their King!
The midnight moon was high and white o'erhead,
And threw a ghastly pallor round the dead
That heightened still the savage pomp and state
In which they stood expectant, as for Fate
To move and mark with undisputed hand
The one amongst them to the high command.
And long they stood unanswered; each on each
Had looked in vain for motion or for speech:
Unmoved as ebon statues, grand and tall,
They ringed the shadowy circle, silent all.
Then came a creeping tremor, as a breeze
With cooling rustle moves the summer trees
Before the thunder crashes on the ear;
The dense ranks turn expectant, as they hear
A sound, at first afar, but nearing fast;
The outer crowd divides, as waves are cast
On either side a tall ship's cleaving bow,
Or mold is parted by the fearless plow
That leaves behind a passage clear and broad:
So through the murmuring multitude a road
Was cleft with power, up which in haughty swing
A figure stalking broke the sacred ring.
And stood beside the body of the King!
'Twas Jacob Eibsen, sad and gloomy-browed,
Who bared his neck and breast, one moment bowed
Above the corse, and then stood proud and tall,
And held the carven case before them all!
A breath went upward like a smothered fright
From every heart, to see that face, so white,
So foreign to their own, but marked with might
From source unquestioned, and to them divine;
Whilst he, the master of the mystic sign,
Then oped the case and took the Pearl and raised,
As erst the King had done, and upward gazed,
As swearing fealty to God on high!
But ere the oath took form, there thrilled a cry
Of shivering horror through the hush of night;
And there before him, blinded by the sight
Of all his impious purpose, brave with love,
His mother stood, and stretched her arms above
To tear the idol from her darling's hand;
But one fierce look, and rang a harsh command
In Jacob's voice, that smote her like a sword.
A thousand men sprang forward at the word,
To tear the mother from the form of stone,
And cast her forth; but, as he stood alone,
The keen, heart-broken wail that cut the air
Went two-edged through him, half reproach, half prayer.
But all unheeding, he nor marked her cry
By sign or look within the gloomy eye;
But round his body bound the carven case,
And swore the fealty with marble face.
As fades a dream before slow-waking sense,
The shadowy host, that late stood fixed and dense,
Began to melt; and as they came erewhile,
The streams flowed backward through each moonlit aisle;
And soon he stood alone within the place,
Their new-made king,—their king with pallid face,
Their king with strange foreboding and unrest,
And half-formed thoughts, like dreams, within his breast.
Like Moses' rod, that mother's cry of woe
Had struck for water; but the fitful flow
That weakly welled and streamed did seem to mock
Before it died forever on the rock.
The sun rose o'er the forest, and his light
Made still more dreamlike all the evil night.
Day streamed his glory down the aisles' dim arch,
All hushed and shadowy like a pillared church;
And through the lonely bush no living thing
Was seen, save now and then a garish wing
Of bird low-flying on its silent way.
But woeful searchers spent the weary day
In anxious dread, and found not what they sought,—
Their mother and their brother: evening brought
A son and father to the lonesome place
That saw the last night's scene; and there, her face
Laid earthward, speaking dumbly to her heart,
They found her, as the hands that tore apart
The son and mother flung her from their chief,
And with one cry her heart had spent its grief.
They bore the cold earth that so late did move
In household happiness and works of love,
Unto their rude home, lonely now; and he
Who laid her there, from present misery
Did turn away, half-blinded by his tears,
To see with inward eye the far-off years
When Swedish toil was light and hedgerows sweet;
Where, when the toil was o'er, he used to meet
A simple gray-eyed girl, with sun-browned face,
Whose love had won his heart, and whose sweet grace
Had blessed for threescore years his humble life.
So Jacob Eibsen mourned his faithful wife,
And found the world no home when she was gone.
The days that seemed of old to hurry on
Now dragged their course, and marred the wish that grew,
When first he saw her grave, to sleep there too.
But though to him, whose yearning hope outran
The steady motion of the seasons' plan,
The years were slow in coming, still their pace
With awful sureness left a solemn trace,
Like dust that settles on an open page,
On Jacob Eibsen's head, bent down with age;
And ere twice more the soothing rains had come,
The old man had his wish, and to his home,
Beneath the strange trees' shadow where she lay,
They bore the rude-made bier; and from that day,
When round the parent graves the brethren stood,
Their new-made homesteads were no longer good,
But marked they seemed by some o'erhanging dread
That linked the living with the dreamless dead.
Grown silent with the woods the men were all,
But words were needed not to note the pall
That each one knew hung o'er them. Duties now,
With straying herds or swinging scythe, or plow,
Were cheerless tasks: like men they were who wrought
A weary toil that no repayment brought.
And when the seasons came and went, and still
The pall was hanging o'er them, with one will
They yoked their oxen teams and piled the loads
Of gear selected for the aimless roads
That nature opens through the bush; and when
The train was ready, women-folk and men
Went over to the graves and wept and prayed,
Then rose and turned away, but still delayed
Ere leaving there forever those poor mounds.
The next bright sunrise heard the teamsters' sounds
Of voice and whip a long day's march away;
And wider still the space grew day by day
From their old resting-place: the trackless wood
Still led them on with promises of good,
As when the mirage leads a thirsty band
With palm-tree visions o'er the arid sand.
I Snow not where they settled down at last:
Their lives and homes from out my tale have passed,
And left me naught, or seeming naught, to trace
But cheerless record of the empty place,
Where long unseen the palm-thatched cabins stood,
And made more lonely still the lonesome wood.
Long lives of men passed over; but the years
That line men's faces with hard cares and tears,
Pass lightly o'er a forest, leaving there
No wreck of young disease or old despair;
For trees are mightier than men, and Time,
When left by cunning Sin and dark-browed Crime
To work alone, hath ever gentle mood.
Unchanged the pillars and the arches stood,
But shadowed taller vistas; and the earth,
That takes and gives the ceaseless death and birth,
Was blooming still, as once it bloomed before
When sea-tired eyes beheld the beauteous shore.
But man's best work is weak, nor stands nor grows
Like Nature's simplest. Every breeze that blows,
Health-bearing to the forest, plays its part
In hasting graveward all his humble art.
Beneath the trees the cabins still remained,
By all the changing seasons seared and stained;
Grown old and weirdlike, as the folk might grow
In such a place, who left them long ago.
Men came, and wondering found the work of men
Where they had deemed them first. The savage then
Heard through the wood the axe's death watch stroke
For him and all his people: odorous smoke
Of burning sandal rose where white men dwelt,
Around the huts; but they had shuddering felt
The weird, forbidden aspect of the spot,
And left the place untouched to mold and rot.
The woods grew blithe with labor: all around,
From point to point, was heard the hollow sound,
The solemn, far-off clicking on the ear
That marks the presence of the pioneer.
And children came like flowers to bless the toil
That reaped rich fruitage from the virgin soil;
And through, the woods they wandered fresh and fair,
To feast on all the beauties blooming there.
But always did they shun the spot where grew,
From earth once tilled, the flowers of rarest hue.
There wheat grown wild in rank luxuriance spread,
And fruits grown native; but a sudden tread
Or bramble's fall would foul goanos wake,
Or start the chilling rustle of the snake;
And diamond eyes of these and thousand more
Gleamed out from ruined roof and wall and floor.
The new-come people, they whose axes rung
Throughout the forest, spoke the English tongue,
And never knew that men of other race
From Europe's fields had settled in the place;
But deemed these huts were built some long-past day
By lonely seamen who were cast away
And thrown upon the coast, who there had built
Their homes, and lived until some woe or guilt
Was bred among them, and they fled the sight
Of scenes that held a horror to the light.
But while they thought such things, the spell that hung,
And cast its shadow o'er the place, was strung
To utmost tension that a breath would break,
And show between the rifts the deep blue lake
Of blessed peace,—as next to sorrow lies
A stretch of rest, rewarding hopeful eyes.
And while such things bethought this 'new-come folk,
That breath was breathed, the olden spell was broke:
From far away within the unknown land,
O'er belts of forest and o'er wastes of sand,
A cry came thrilling, like a cry of pain
From suffering heart and half-awakened brain;
As one thought dead who wakes within the tomb,
And, reaching, cries for sunshine in the gloom.
In that strange country's heart, whence comes the breath
Of hot disease and pestilential death,
Lie leagues of wooded swamp, that from the hills
Seem stretching meadows; but the flood that fills
Those valley-basins has the hue of ink,
And dismal doorways open on the brink,
Beneath the gnarled arms of trees that grow
All leafless to the top, from roots below
The Lethe flood; and he who enters there
Beneath their screen sees rising, ghastly-bare,
Like mammoth bones within a charnel dark,
The white and ragged stems of paper-bark,
That drip down moisture with a ceaseless drip,
From lines that run like cordage of a ship;
For myriad creepers struggle to the light,
And twine and mat o'erhead in murderous fight
For life and sunshine, like another race
That wars on brethren for the highest place.
Between the water and the matted screen,
The baldhead vultures, two and two, are seen
In dismal grandeur, with revolting face
Of foul grotesque, like spirits of the place;
And now and then a spear-shaped wave goes by,
Its apex glittering with an evil eye
That sets above its enemy and prey,
As from the wave in treacherous, slimy way
The black snake winds, and strikes the bestial bird,
Whose shriek-like wailing on the hills is heard.
Beyond this circling swamp, a circling waste
Of baked and barren desert land is placed,—
A land of awful grayness, wild and stark,
Where man will never leave a deeper mark,
On leagues of fissured clay and scorching stones,
Than may be printed there by bleaching bones.
Within this belt, that keeps a savage guard,
As round a treasure sleeps a dragon ward,
A forest stretches far of precious trees;
Whence came, one day, an odor-laden breeze
Of jam-wood bruised, and sandal sweet in smoke.
For there long dwelt a numerous native folk
In that heart-garden of the continent,—
There human lives with aims and fears were spent,
And marked by love and hate and peace and pain,
And hearts well-filled and hearts athirst for gain,
And lips that clung, and faces bowed in shame;
For, wild or polished, man is still the same,
And loves and hates and envies in the wood,
With spear and boka and with manners rude,
As loves and hates his brother shorn and sleek,
Who learns by lifelong practice how to speak
With oily tongue, while in his heart below
Lies rankling poison that he dare not show.
Afar from all new ways this people dwelt,
And knew no books, and to no God had knelt,
And had no codes to rule them writ in blood;
But savage, selfish, nomad-lived and rude,
With human passions fierce from unrestraint,
And free as their loose limbs; with every taint
That earth can give to that which God has given;
Their nearest glimpse of Him, o'er-arching heaven,
Where dwelt the giver and preserver,—Light,
Who daily slew and still was slain by Night.
A savage people they, and prone to strife;
Yet men grown weak with years had spent a life
Of peace unbroken, and their sires, long dead,
Had equal lives of peace unbroken led.
It was no statute's bond or coward fear
Of retribution kept the shivering spear
In all those years from fratricidal sheath;
But one it was who ruled them,—one whom Death
Had passed as if he saw not,—one whose word
Through all that lovely central land was heard
And bowed to, as of yore the people bent,
In desert wanderings, to a leader sent
To guide and guard them to a promised land.
O'er all the Austral tribes he held command,—
A man unlike them and not of their race,
A man of flowing hair and pallid face,
A man who strove by no deft juggler's art
To keep his kingdom in the people's heart,
Nor held his place by feats of brutal might
Or showy skill, to please the savage sight;
But one who ruled them as a King of kings,
A man above, not of them,—one who brings,
To prove his kingship to the low and high,
The inborn power of the regal eye.
Like him of Sinai with the stones of law,
Whose people almost worshiped when they saw
The veiled face whereon God's glory burned;
But yet who, mutable as water, turned
From that veiled ruler who had talked with God,
To make themselves an idol from a clod:
So turned one day this savage Austral race
Against their monarch with the pallid face.
The young men knew him not, the old had heard
In far-off days, from men grown old, a word
That dimly lighted up the mystic choice
Of this their alien King,—how once a voice
Was heard by their own monarch calling clear,
And leading onward, where as on a bier
A dead child lay upon a woman's knees;
Whom when the old King saw, like one who sees
Far through the mist of common life, he spoke
And touched him with the Pearl, and he awoke,
And from that day the people owned his right
To wear the Pearl and rule them, when the light
Had left their old King's eyes. But now, they said,
The men who owned that right were too long dead;
And they were young and strong and held their spears
In idle resting through this white King's fears,
Who still would live to rule them till they changed
Their men to puling women, and estranged
To Austral hands the spear and coila grew.
And so they rose against him, and they slew
The white-haired men who raised their hands to warn,
And true to ancient trust in warning fell,
While o'er them rang the fierce revolters' yell.
Then midst the dead uprose the King in scorn,
Like some strong, hunted thing that stands at bay
To win a brief but desperate delay.
A moment thus, and those within the ring
'Gan backward press from their unarmed King,
Who swept his hand as though he bade them fly,
And brave no more the anger of his eye.
The heaving crowd grew still before that face,
And watched him take the ancient carven case,
And ope it there, and take the Pearl and stand
As once before he stood, with upraised hand
And upturned eyes of inward worshiping.
Awe-struck and dumb, once more they owned him King,
And humbly crouched before him; when a sound,
A whirring sound that thrilled them, passed o'erhead,
And with a spring they rose. a spear had sped
With aim unerring and with deathful might,
And split the awful center of their sight,—
The upraised Pearl! A moment there it shone
Before the spear-point,—then forever gone!
* * * * * * *
The spell that long the ruined huts did shroud
Was rent and scattered, as a hanging cloud
In moveless air is torn and blown away
By sudden gust uprising; and one day
When evening's lengthened shadows came to hush
The children's voices, and the awful bush
Was lapt in somber stillness, and on high
Above the arches stretched the frescoed sky,—
When all the scene such chilling aspect wore
As marked one other night long years before,
When through the reaching trees the moonlight shone
Upon a prostrate form, and o'er it one
With kingly gesture. Now the light is shed
No more on youthful brow and daring head,
But on a man grown weirdly old, whose face
Keeps turning ever to some new-found place
That rises up before him like a dream;
And not unlike a dreamer does he seem,
Who might have slept, unheeding time's sure flow,
And woke to find a world he does not know.
His long white hair flows o'er a form low bowed
By wondrous weight of years: he speaks aloud
In garbled Swedish words, with piteous wist,
As long-lost objects rise through memory's mist.
Again and once again his pace he stays,
As crowding images of other days
Loom up before him dimly, and he sees
A vague, forgotten friendship in the trees
That reach their arms in welcome; but agen
These olden glimpses vanish, and dark men
Are round him, dumb and crouching, and he stands
With guttural sentences and upraised hands,
That hold a carven case,—but empty now,
Which makes more pitiful the aged brow
Full-turned to those tall tuads that did hear
A son's fierce mandate and a mother's prayer.
Ah, God! what memories can live of these,
Save only with the half-immortal trees
That saw the death of one, the other lost!
The weird-like figure now the bush has crost
And stands within the ring, and turns and moans,
With arms out-reaching and heart-piercing tones,
And groping hands, as one a long time blind
Who sees a glimmering light on eye and mind.
From tree to sky he turns, from sky to earth,
And gasps as one to whom a second birth
Of wondrous meaning is an instant shown.
Who is this wreck of years, who all alone,
In savage raiment and with words unknown,
Bows down like some poor penitent who fears
The wrath of God provoked?—this man who hears
Around him now, wide circling through the wood,
The breathing stillness of a multitude?
Who catches dimly through his straining sight
The misty vision of an impious rite?
Who hears from one a cry that rends his heart,
And feels that loving arms are torn apart,
And by his mandate fiercely thrust aside?
Who is this one who crouches where she died,
With face laid earthward as her face was laid,
And prays for her as she for him once prayed?
'Tis Jacob Eibsen, Jacob Eibsen's son,
Whose occult life and mystic rule are done,
And passed away the memory from his brain.
'Tis Jacob Eibsen, who has come again
To roam the woods, and see the mournful gleams
That flash and linger of his old-time dreams.
The morning found him where he sank to rest
Within the mystic circle: on his breast
With withered hands, as to the dearest place,
He held and pressed the empty carven case.
That day he sought the dwellings of his folk;
And when he found them, once again there broke
The far-off light upon him, and he cried
From that wrecked cabin threshold for a guide
To lead him, old and weary, to his own.
And surely some kind spirit heard his moan,
And led him to the graves where they were laid.
The evening found him in the tuads' shade,
And like a child at work upon the spot
Where they were sleeping, though he knew it not.
Next day the children found him, and they gazed
In fear at first, for they were sore amazed
To see a man so old they never knew,
Whose garb was savage, and whose white hair grew
And flowed upon his shoulders; but their awe
Was changed to love and pity when they saw
The simple work he wrought at; and they came
And gathered flowers for him, and asked his name,
And laughed at his strange language; and he smiled
To hear them laugh, as though himself a child.
Ere that brief day was o'er, from far and near
The children gathered, wondering; and though fear
Of scenes a long time shunned at first restrained,
The spell was broken, and soon naught remained
But gladsome features,, where of old was dearth
Of happy things and cheery sounds of mirth.
The lizards fled, the snakes and bright-eyed things
Found other homes, where childhood never sings;
And all because poor Jacob, old and wild,
White-haired and fur-clad, was himself a child.
Each day he lived amid these scenes, his ear
Heard far-off voices growing still more clear;
And that dim light that first he saw in gleams
Now left him only in his troubled dreams.
From far away the children loved to come
And play and work with Jacob at his home.
He learned their simple words with childish lip,
And told them often of a white-sailed ship
That sailed across a mighty sea, and found
A beauteous harbor, all encircled round
With flowers and tall green trees; but when they asked
What did the shipmen then, his mind was tasked
Beyond its strength, and Jacob shook his head,
And with them laughed, for all he knew was said.
The brawny sawyers often ceased their toil,
As Jacob with the children passed, to smile
With rugged pity on their simple play;
Then, gazing after the glad group, would say
How strange it was to see that snowy hair
And time-worn figure with the children fair.
So Jacob Eibsen lived through years of joy,—
A patriarch in age, in heart a boy.
Unto the last he told them of the sea
And white-sailed ship; and ever lovingly,
Unto the end, the garden he had made
He tended daily, 'neath the tuads' shade.
But one bright morning, when the children came
And roused the echoes calling Jacob's name,
The echoes only answered back the sound.
They sought within the huts, but nothing found
Save loneliness and shadow, falling chill
On every sunny searcher: boding ill,
They tried each well-known haunt, and every throat
Sent far abroad the bush man's cooing note.
But all in vain their searching: twilight fell,
And sent them home their sorrowing tale to tell.
That night their elders formed a torch-lit chain
To sweep the gloomy bush; and not in vain,—
For when the moon at midnight hung o'erhead,
The weary searchers found poor Jacob—dead!
He lay within the tuad ring, his face
Laid earthward on his hands; and all the place
Was dim with shadow where the people stood.
And as they gathered there, the circling wood
Seemed filled with awful whisperings, and stirred
By things unseen; and every bushman heard,
From where the corse lay plain within their sight,
A woman's heart-wail rising on the night.
For over all the darkness and the fear
That marked his life from childhood, shining clear,
An arch, like God's bright rainbow, stretched above,
And joined the first and last,—his mother's love.
They dug a grave beneath the tuads' shade,
Where all unknown to them the bones were laid
Of Jacob's kindred; and a prayer was said
In earnest sorrow for the unknown dead,
Hound which the children grouped.
Upon the breast
The hands were folded in eternal rest;
But still they held, as dearest to that place
Where life last throbbed, the empty carven case.
In our lives, there are many little pleasures;
Little moments which we love to treasure.
Things which, on your face, put a smile,
Even if only for the very briefest while.
Sleeping between freshly laundered cotton sheets.
Breakfast in bed is an experience, which can’t be beat.
Discovering that you’ve at last lost a few pounds in weight.
Going to the cinema to see the latest film with a good mate.
Browsing around a second hand bookshop.
Making the bubbles on bubble-wrap pop!
Sitting, browsing through your old photos.
Playing about in the freshly fallen snow.
Singing your heart out to your favourite song in your car.
Meeting up for a drink with your friends at a local bar.
Curling up on the sofa with a hot drink and a good book.
Someone paying you a compliment on the way you look.
Waking up, thinking it’s a workday, and then discovering it’s the weekend.
Having a relaxing, girly night in, with your all of your close girlfriends.
When you make someone’s face light up with a big smile.
Catching up with old friends, you haven’t seen for a while.
Discovering a tenner in you pocket, which you forgot was there.
The odour of freshly cut grass filling the summer air.
Finding yourself in the quickest supermarket queue.
Having a relaxing massage or getting a new hair-do.
Getting all dressed up for a great, fun night out.
Eating your Mum’s Sunday roast, without a doubt.
Reading a good book on holiday by the pool.
The side of the pillow, which is lovely and cool.
When a random person smiles at you in the street,
Or when a person on a bus or train, gives you their seat.
Excitedly watching the very first snowfall of the year.
After work, sitting relaxing, sipping a nice, ice-cold beer.
Seeing a small baby clap their hands and joyfully laugh.
Lying back and relaxing in a luxurious, warm bubble bath.
When, from a friend, you receive a colourful, news filled letter.
When something happens, which makes everything feel better.
Different things bring different people pleasure,
So it can be difficult to calculate the exact measure.
But I suspect that at least one of the above,
Describes something which you really love.
The War Of Caros
Caros is probably the noted usurper Carausius, by birth a Menapran, who assumed the purple in the year 284; and, seizing on Britain, defeated the emperor Maximinian Herculius in several naval engagements, which gives propriety to his being called in this poem "the king of ships." He repaired Agricola's wall, in order to obstruct the incursions of the Caledonians, and when he was employed in that work, it appears he was attacked by a party under the command of Oscar the son of' Ossian. This battle is the foundation of the present poem, which is addressed to Malvina, the daughter of Toscar.
Bring, daughter of Toscar, bring the harp! the light of the song rises in Ossian's soul! It is like the field, when darkness covers the hills around, and the shadow grows slowly on the plain of the sun. I behold my son, O Malvina! near the mossy rock of Crona. But it is the mist of the desert, tinged with the beam of the west! Lovely is the mist that assumes the form of Oscar! turn from it, ye winds, when ye roar on the side of Ardven!
Who comes towards my son, with the murmur of a song? His staff is in his hand, his gray hair loose on the wind. Surly joy lightens his face. He often looks back to Caros. It is Ryno of songs, he that went to view the foe. "What does Caros, king of ships?" said the son of the now mournful Ossian: "spreads he the wings of his pride, bard of the times of old?" "He spreads them, Oscar," replied the bard," but it is behind his gathered heap. He looks over his stones with fear. He beholds thee terrible, as the ghost of night, that rolls the waves to his ships!"
"Go, thou first of my bards!" says Oscar, "take the spear of Fingal. Fix a flame on its point. Shake it to the winds of heaven. Bid him in songs, to advance, and leave the rolling of his wave. Tell to Caros that I long for battle; that my bow is weary of the chase of Cona. Tell him the mighty are not here; and that my arm is young."
He went with the murmur of songs. Oscar reared his voice on high. It reached his heroes on Ardven, like the noise of a cave, when the sea of Togorma rolls before it, and its trees meet the roaring winds. They gather round my son like the streams of the hill; when, after rain, they roll in the pride of their course. Ryno came to the mighty Caros. He struck his flaming spear. Come to the battle of Oscar. O thou that sittest on the rolling waves! Fingal is distant far; he hears the songs of bards in Morven: the wind of his hall is in his hair. His terrible spear is at his side; his shield that is like the darkened moon Come to the battle of Oscar; the hero is alone.
He came not over the streamy Carun. The bard returned with his song. Gray night grows dim on Crona. The feast of shells is spread. A hundred oaks burn to the wind; faint light gleams over the heath. The ghosts of Ardven pass through the beam, and show their dim and distant forms. Comala is half unseen on her meteor; Hidallan is sullen and dim, like the darkened moon behind the mist of night.
" Why art thou sad?" said Ryno; for he alone beheld the chief. "Why art thou sad, Hidallan! hast thou not received thy fame? The songs of Ossian have been heard , thy ghost has brightened in wind, when thou didst bend from thy cloud to hear the song of Morven's bard!"—-" And do thine eyes," said Oscar, " behold the chief, like the dim meteor of night? Say, Ryno, say, how fell Hidallan, the renowned in the days of my fathers! His name remains on the rocks of Cona. I have often seen the streams of his hills!"
Fingal, replied the bard, drove Hidallan from his wars. The king's soul was sad for Comala, and his eyes could not behold the chief. Lonely, sad, along the heath he slowly moved, with silent steps. His arms hung disordered on his side. His hair flies loose from his brow. The tear is in his downcast eyes; a sigh half silent in his breast! Three days he strayed unseen, alone, before he came to Lamor's halls: the mossy halls of his fathers, at the stream of Balva. There Lamor sat alone beneath a tree; for he had sent his people with Hidallan to war. The stream ran at his feet; his gray head rested on his staff. Sightless are his aged eyes. He hums the song of other times. The noise of Hidallan's feet came to his ear: he knew the tread of his son.
"Is the son of Lamor returned; or is it the sound of his ghost? Hast thou fallen on the banks of Carun, son of the aged Lamor? Or, if I hear the sound of Hidallan's feet, where are the mighty in the war? where are my people, Hidallan! that were wont to return with their echoing shields? Have they fallen on the banks of Carun?"
"No," replied the sighing youth, "the people of Lamor live. They are renowned in war, my father! but Hidallan is renowned no more. I must sit alone on the banks of Balva, when the roar of the battle grows."
" But thy fathers never sat alone," replied the rising pride of Lamor. "They never sat alone on the banks of Balva, when the roar of battle rose. Dost thou not behold that tomb? My eyes discern it not; there rests the noble Garmállon, who never fled from war! Come, thou renowned in battle, he says, come to thy father's tomb. How am I renowned, Garmállon? my son has fled from war!"
"King of the streamy Balva!" said Hidallan with a sigh, "why dost thou torment my soul? Lamor, I never fled. Fingal was sad for Comala; he denied his wars to Hidallan. Go to the gray streams of thy land, he said; moulder like a leafless oak, which the winds have bent over Balva, never more to grow."
"And must I hear," Lamor replied, "the lonely tread of Hidallan's feet? When thousands are renowned in battle, shall he bend over my gray streams? Spirit of the noble Garmállon! carry Lamor to his place; his eyes are dark, his soul is sad, his son has lost his fame."
"Where," said the youth, " shall I search for fames to gladden the soul of Lamor? From whence shall return with renown, that the sound of my arms may be pleasant in his ear? If I go to the chase of hinds, my name will not be heard. Lamor will not feel my dogs with his hands, glad at my arrival from the hill. He will not inquire of his mountains, or of the dark-brown deer of his deserts!"
"I must fall," said Lamor, "like a leafless oak: it grew on a rock! it was overturned by the winds! My ghost will be seen on my hills, mournful for my young Hidallan. Will not ye, ye mists, as ye rise, hide him from my sight! My son, go to Lamor's ball: there the arms of our fathers hang. Bring the sword of Garmállon: he took it from a foe!"
He went and brought the sword with all its studded thongs. He gave it to his father. The gray-haired hero felt the point with his hand.
"My son, lead me to Garmállon's tomb: it rises beside that rustling tree. The long grass is withered; I hear the breezes whistling there. A little fountain murmurs near, and sends its waters to Balva. There let me rest; it is noon: the sun is on our fields!"
He led him to Garmállon's tomb. Lamor pierced the side of his son. They sleep together: their ancient halls moulder away. Ghosts are seen there at noon: the valley is silent, and the people shun the place of Lamor.
"Mournful is thy tale," said Oscar, "son of the times of old! My soul sighs for Hidallan; he fell in the days of his youth. He flies on the blast of the desert: his wandering is in a foreign land. Sons of the echoing Morven! draw near to the foes of Fingal. Send the night away in songs; watch the strength of Caros. Oscar goes to the people of other times; to the shades of silent Ardven, where his fathers sit dim in their clouds, and behold the future war. And art thou there, Hidallan, like a half-extinguished meteor? Come to my sight, in thy sorrow, chief of the winding Balva!"
The heroes move with their songs. Oscar slowly ascends the hill. The meteors of night set on the heath before him. A distant torrent faintly roars. Unfrequent blasts rush through aged oaks. The half enlightened moon sinks dim and red behind her hill. Feeble Voices are heard on the heath. Oscar drew his sword! " Come," said the hero, " O ye ghosts of my fathers! ye that fought against the kings of the world! Tell the deeds of future times; and your converse in our caves, when you talk together, and behold your sons in the fields of the brave!"
Trenmo came from his hill at the voice of his mighty son. A cloud, like the steed of the stranger, supported his airy limbs. His robe is of the mist of Lano, that brings death to the people. His sword is a green meteor, half-extinguished. His face is without form, and dark. He sighed thrice over the hero; thrice the winds of night roared around! Many were his words to Oscar; but they only came by halves to our ears; they were dark as the tales of other times, before the light of the song arose. He slowly vanished, like a mist that melts on the sunny hill. it was then, O daughter of Toscar! my son began first to be sad. He foresaw the fall of his race. At times he was thoughtful and dark, like the sun when he carries a cloud on his face, but again he looks forth from his darkness on the green hills of Cona.
Oscar passed the night among his fathers: gray morning met him on Carun's banks. A green vale surrounded a tomb which arose in the times of old. Little hills lift their heads at a distance, and stretch their old trees to the wind. The warriors of Caros sat there, for they had passed the stream by night. They appeared like the trunks of aged pines, to the pale light of the morning. Oscar stood at the tomb, and raised thrice his terrible voice. The rocking hills echoed around; the starting roes bounded away: and the trembling ghosts of the dead fled, shrieking on their clouds. So terrible was the voice of my son, when he called his friends!
A thousand spears arose around; the people of Caros rose. Why, daughter of Toscar, why that tear? My son, though alone, is brave. Oscar is like a beam of the sky; he turns around, and the people fall. his hand is the arm of a ghost, when he stretches it from a cloud; the rest of his thin form is unseen; but the people die in the vale! My son beheld the approach of the foe; he stood in the silent darkness of his strength. " Am I alone," said Oscar, " in the midst of a thousand foes? Many a spear is there! many a darkly-rolling eye. Shall I fly to Ardven? But did my fathers ever fly? The mark of their arm is in a thousand battles. Oscar too shall be renowned. Come, ye dim ghosts of my fathers, and behold my deeds in war! I may fall; but I will be renowned like the race of the echoing Morven." He stood, growing in his place, like a flood in a narrow vale! The battle came, but they fell: bloody was the sword of Oscar!
The noise reached his people at Crona; they came like a hundred streams. The warriors of Caros fled; Oscar remained like a rock left by the ebbing sea. Now dark and deep, with all his steeds, Caros rolled his might along: the little streams are lost in his course: the earth is rocking round. Battle spreads from wing to wing; ten thousand swords gleam at once in the sky. But why should Ossian sing of battles? For never more shall my steel shine in war. I remember the days of my youth with grief, when I feel the weakness of my arm. Happy are they who fell in their youth, in the midst of their renown! They have not beheld the tombs of their friends, or failed to bend the bow of their strength. Happy art thou, O Oscar, in the midst of thy rushing blast! Thou often goest to the fields of thy fame, where Caros fled from thy lifted sword!
Darkness comes on my soul, O fair daughter of Toscar! I behold not the form of my son at Carun, nor the figure of Oscar on Crona. The rustling winds have carried him far away, and the heart of his father is sad. But lead me, O Malvina! to the sound of my woods, to the roar of my mountain streams. Let the chase be heard on Cona: let me think on the days of other years. And bring me the harp, O maid! that I may touch it when the light of my soul shall arise. Be thou near to learn the song; future times shall hear of me! The sons of the feeble hereafter will lift the voice of Cona; and looking up to the rocks, say, "Here Ossian dwelt." They shall admire the chiefs of old, the race that are no more, while we ride on our clouds, Malvina! on the wings of the roaring winds. Our voices shall be heard at times in the desert; we shall sing on the breeze of the rock!
I sit at my machine,
Hour long beside me Vera aged nineteen,
Babbles her sweet and innocent tale of sex.
Her boy, she hopes, will prove
Unlike his father in the act of love,
Twelve children are too many for her taste.
She looks sidelong, blue-eyed
And tells a girlish story of a bride
With the sweet licence of Arabian queens.
Her child, she says, saw light
Minute for minute, nine months from the night
The mother first lay in her lover’s arms.
She says a friend of hers
Is a man’s mistress who gives jewels and furs
But will not have her soft limbs cased in stays.
Tsunami In Japan,2011
My daughter’s hand had slipped away!
My hand was empty in a trice;
Sea-water took her in a flash;
It happened all so suddenly!
There was no time to think or act;
The water toppled houses, roads;
Cars, ships and planes were found afloat;
Nothing could stop the sea invade!
I woke to find that I’m alive!
No more was my daughter with me;
Oh, what terrible tragedy!
Was living thus, worthy for me?
All land was under sea-water!
Most houses were mere planks of wood;
The muddy rubble filled the place;
Just corpses, carcasses met us.
Was it a dream of horror then?
No, it was all reality!
The sea ravaged the coastal land;
The city was erased from the map!
A Tsunami had struck Japan!
It was the worst over decades;
The toll of lives was rising high!
Did God forsake and abandon?
I had been saved by miracle;
The Tsunami came despite God?
Why Nature’s fury hit mankind?
Yes, none can tell and none will ev’r!
‘May all souls lost, rest in peace!
May the quake and Tsunami cease! ’
Copyright by Dr John Celes 14-03-11
At Deaths Door
When they have a short time to live
And you’ve given all you can give.
When there s nothing more you can do.
Then you make the last days of their lives
Seem like it’s been paradise.
Show all the love that you’ve had locked up inside
This is something that you should not hide.
Bring up happy memories of times
gone by, and of moments shared.
These are things in their mind that last.
Make their lives as comfortable as can be
For this is the last thing that they will see.
For some it is not easy to pass to the other side
Because fear makes them blind.
But it is a place of love and light
They will not see the darkness of night.
Don’t show your love when they are dead
Show your love while they’re lying in that bed.
They need to be loved while they’re here on earth
This is what we crave from our birth.
If the brain still functions on its own
Then so does the heart.
And from you they do not wish to part.
They are thinking the same as you
When they’re gone, what are you going to do.
Any bills that may be left behind
On your shoulders they will climb.
these same thoughts may race through
Your head, and it’s something that you both do dread.
But these are the first thoughts that
Should be put into that grave
Give them happy memories that they can save.
Let them go to the other side comfortably
And on their face- that smile you’ll see.
We’ll all be going to that other side
And will need someone to welcome us there
And the love that you showed on earth
Will now be shared.
The Golden Yesterday
AFTER a spell of chill, grey weather,
(Green, O green, are the feet of Spring!)
The heaven is here of flower and feather,
Of wild red blossom and flashing wing.
Hither of old queer flotsam drifted,
Borne on the breast of an age-old stream —
Men and women, with hope uplifted,
Spurred and stirred by a splendid dream.
Hither they quested, the young and eager,
The social misfit, the aged, the banned;
Friends were lacking and fortune meagre,
And here was promise — the Promised Land.
Each had a goal, a star, a beacon —
A good-bye smile, or a soft love-trees —
To urge his feet lest his feet should weaken,
Drag and falter with weariness.
Love and honour, and mirth and pity —
The joy that brightens, the gloom that chills —
Dwelt at once in the tented city,
Set of old in these watching hills.
The birds aroused them with matin numbers;
The air was scented with waking flowers;
They woke renewed from their starlit slumbers,
They toiled, dream-warmed, through the sunlit hours.
They had their triumphs, their gains, their losses,
Their noons of laughter, their nights of care.
Back on the hills are some rough crosses —
A name . . .a date . . .and, perchance, a prayer.
It seems like a dream that flashed and flitted,
That reigned a moment and passed away,
And only the earth — its kind face pitted —
Tells the tale of that old, dead day.
They dug the clay, and they broke the boulders;
They turned the creek, and they washed the mould;
But vain as makers, and vain as moulders,
They lived and wrought in the age of Gold.
They worked and worried, their labour blotching
The land's green surface with scar and pit;
Yet, all around them the hills were watching
Flower-crowned, tree-crested and glory-lit.
Like time-worn sages the green hills waited —
Clouds round their foreheads, their hips in grass;
They knew that the man at their feet was fated,
That he and the work of his hands would pass.
A breeze comes down from the highlands, smoothing
The green young wheat, and a bird makes mirth,
And Spring is here, with her soft hands soothing
The ruined rocks and the wounded earth.
The diggers passed: and the last red embers
Of their night-fires they are ashen grey;
But, while hearts beat and the mind remembers,
They shall not fade as a dream away.
Love Steals Us From Loneliness
Every step takes a beat of your heart
Through a city that's falling apart
On a night that rises and clears
In a sky that's clouded by years
My anger is a form of madness
So I'd rather have hope than sadness
And you said something
You said something stupid like
Love steals us from loneliness
Are you lonely yet?
I misplaced your face in the shape of a smile
On a night that could never surprise me
Don't tell me you're afraid of the past
It's only the future that didn't last
You're kidding yourself, kidding yourself
You're going nowhere and you're going there fast
And you said something
You said something stupid like
Love steals us from loneliness
Are you lonely yet?
You said something
You said something stupid like
Love won't steal us from loneliness
You said something
You said something stupid like
Love won't steal us from loneliness
Are you lonely yet?
Are you lonely yet?
Are you lonely yet?
Are you lonely yet?
Said he: "I'll dive deep in the Past,
And write a book of direful days
When summer skies were overcast
With smoke of humble hearths ablaze;
When War was rampant in the land,
And poor folk cowered in the night,
While ruin gaped on every hand -
of ravishing and wrath I'll write."
Ten years he toiled to write his book,
Yet he was happy all the while;
The world he willingly forsook
T live alone in hermit style.
In garden sanctuaried sweet,
Full favoured by the steadfast sun,
plunged in the Past, a life complete
He lived. . . . At last his work was done.
A worthy book that few would read
Yet all would praise - each precious page
Starred with some truth the rare would heed,
The vivid images of an age,
Then blinking, to the world again
He came a sage, remote, austere . . .
When lo! his eyes were smote with flame,
The wail of war was in his ear.
He shrank and sighed: "Oh can it be
These old iniquities prevail!
That sons of men are still unfree
And time repeats her sorry tale!"
So with a long sad gaze and last,
Seeking his secret garden nook,
He slipped again into the Past
To live - and write another book.
The Song of the Shirt
The Song of the Shirt
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread--
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the "Song of the Shirt."
"Work! work! work!
While the cock is crowing aloof!
And work — work — work,
Till the stars shine through the roof!
It's Oh! to be a slave
Along with the barbarous Turk,
Where woman has never a soul to save,
If this is Christian work!
"Work — work — work
Till the brain begins to swim;
Work — work — work
Till the eyes are heavy and dim!
Seam, and gusset, and band,
Band, and gusset, and seam,
Till over the buttons I fall asleep,
And sew them on in a dream!
"Oh, Men, with Sisters dear!
Oh, Men, with Mothers and Wives!
It is not linen you're wearing out,
But human creatures' lives!
Stitch — stitch — stitch,
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
Sewing at once with a double thread,
A Shroud as well as a Shirt.
But why do I talk of Death?
That Phantom of grisly bone,
I hardly fear its terrible shape,
It seems so like my own —
It seems so like my own,
Because of the fasts I keep;
Oh, God! that bread should be so dear,
And flesh and blood so cheap!
"Work — work — work!
My Labour never flags;
And what are its wages? A bed of straw,
A crust of bread — and rags.
That shatter'd roof — and this naked floor —
A table — a broken chair —
And a wall so blank, my shadow I thank
For sometimes falling there!
"Work — work — work!
From weary chime to chime,
Work — work — work!
As prisoners work for crime!
Band, and gusset, and seam,
Seam, and gusset, and band,
Till the heart is sick, and the brain benumb'd,
As well as the weary hand.
"Work — work — work,
In the dull December light,
And work — work — work,
When the weather is warm and bright —
While underneath the eaves
The brooding swallows cling
As if to show me their sunny backs
And twit me with the spring.
Oh! but to breathe the breath
Of the cowslip and primrose sweet —
With the sky above my head,
And the grass beneath my feet
For only one short hour
To feel as I used to feel,
Before I knew the woes of want
And the walk that costs a meal!
Oh! but for one short hour!
A respite however brief!
No blessed leisure for Love or Hope,
But only time for Grief!
A little weeping would ease my heart,
But in their briny bed
My tears must stop, for every drop
Hinders needle and thread!"
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread —
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch, —
Would that its tone could reach the Rich! —
She sang this "Song of the Shirt!"
Pharsalia - Book IV: Caesar In Spain. War In The Adriatic Sea. Death Of Curio.
But in the distant regions of the earth
Fierce Caesar warring, though in fight he dealt
No baneful slaughter, hastened on the doom
To swift fulfillment. There on Magnus' side
Afranius and Petreius held command,
Who ruled alternate, and the rampart guard
Obeyed the standard of each chief in turn.
There with the Romans in the camp were joined
Asturians swift, and Vettons lightly armed,
And Celts who, exiled from their ancient home,
Had joined 'Iberus' to their former name.
Where the rich soil in gentle slope ascends
And forms a modest hill, Ilerda stands,
Founded in ancient days; beside her glides
Not least of western rivers, Sicoris
Of placid current, by a mighty arch
Of stone o'erspanned, which not the winter floods
Shall overwhelm. Upon a rock hard by
Was Magnus' camp; but Caesar's on a hill,
Rivalling the first; and in the midst a stream.
Here boundless plains are spread beyond the range
Of human vision; Cinga girds them in
With greedy waves; forbidden to contend
With tides of ocean; for that larger flood
Who names the land, Iberus, sweeps along
The lesser stream commingled with his own.
Guiltless of war, the first day saw the hosts
In long array confronted; standard rose
Opposing standard, numberless; yet none
Essayed attack, in shame of impious strife.
One day they gave their country and her laws.
But Caesar, when from heaven fell the night,
Drew round a hasty trench; his foremost rank
With close array concealing those who wrought.
Then with the morn he bids them seize the hill
Which parted from the camp Ilerda's walls,
And gave them safety. But in fear and shame
On rushed the foe and seized the vantage ground,
First in the onset. From the height they held
Their hopes of conquest; but to Caesar's men
Their hearts by courage stirred, and their good swords
Promised the victory. Burdened up the ridge
The soldier climbed, and from the opposing steep
But for his comrade's shield had fallen back;
None had the space to hurl the quivering lance
Upon the foeman: spear and pike made sure
The failing foothold, and the falchion's edge
Hewed out their upward path. But Caesar saw
Ruin impending, and he bade his horse
By circuit to the left, with shielded flank,
Hold back the foe. Thus gained his troops retreat,
For none pressed on them; and the victor chiefs,
Forced to withdrawal, gained the day in vain.
Henceforth the fitful changes of the year
Governed the fates and fashioned out the war.
For stubborn frost still lay upon the land,
And northern winds, controlling all the sky,
Prisoned the rain in clouds; the hills were nipped
With snow unmelted, and the lower plains
By frosts that fled before the rising sun;
And all the lands that stretched towards the sky
Which whelms the sinking stars, 'neath wintry heavens
Were parched and arid. But when Titan neared
The Ram, who, backward gazing on the stars,
Bore perished Helle, and the hours were held
In juster balance, and the day prevailed,
The earliest faded moon which in the vault
Hung with uncertain horn, from eastern winds
Received a fiery radiance; whose blasts
Forced Boreas back: and breaking on the mists
Within his regions, to the Occident
Drave all that shroud Arabia and the land
Of Ganges; all that or by Caurus borne
Bedim the Orient sky, or rising suns
Permit to gather; pitiless flamed the day
Behind them, while in front the wide expanse
Was driven; nor on mid earth sank the clouds
Though weighed with vapour. North and south alike
Were showerless, for on Calpe's rock alone
All moisture gathered; here at last, forbidden
To pass that sea by Zephyr's bounds contained,
And by the furthest belt of heaven, they pause,
In masses huge convolved; the widest breadth
Of murky air scarce holds them, which divides
Earth from the heavens; till pressed by weight of sky
In densest volume to the earth they pour
Their cataracts; no lightning could endure
Such storm unquenched: though oft athwart the gloom
Gleamed its pale fire. Meanwhile a watery arch
Scarce touched with colour, in imperfect shape
Embraced the sky and drank the ocean waves,
So rendering to the clouds their flood outpoured.
And now were thawed the Pyrenaean snows
Which Titan had not conquered; all the rocks
Were wet with melting ice; accustomed springs
Found not discharge; and from the very banks
Each stream received a torrent. Caesar's arms
Are shipwrecked on the field, his tottering camp
Swims on the rising flood; the trench is filled
With whirling waters; and the plain no more
Yields corn or kine; for those who forage seek,
Err from the hidden furrow. Famine knocks
(First herald of o'erwhelming ills to come),
Fierce at the door; and while no foe blockades
The soldier hungers; fortunes buy not now
The meanest measure; yet, alas! is found
The fasting peasant, who, in gain of gold,
Will sell his little all! And now the hills
Are seen no more; and rivers whelmed in one;
Beasts with their homes sweep downwards; and the tide
Repels the foaming torrent. Nor did night
Acknowledge Phoebus' rise, for all the sky
Felt her dominion and obscured its face,
And darkness joined with darkness. Thus doth lie
The lowest earth beneath the snowy zone
And never-ending winters, where the sky
Is starless ever, and no growth of herb
Sprouts from the frozen earth; but standing ice
Tempers the stars which in the middle zone
Kindle their flames. Thus, Father of the world,
And thou, trident-god who rul'st the sea
Second in place, Neptunus, load the air
With clouds continual; forbid the tide,
Once risen, to return: forced by thy waves
Let rivers backward run in different course,
Thy shores no longer reaching; and the earth,
Shaken, make way for floods. Let Rhine o'erflow
And Rhone their banks; let torrents spread afield
Unmeasured waters: melt Rhipaean snows:
Spread lakes upon the land, and seas profound,
And snatch the groaning world from civil war.
Thus for a little moment Fortune tried
Her darling son; then smiling to his part
Returned; and gained her pardon for the past
By greater gifts to come. For now the air
Had grown more clear, and Phoebus' warmer rays
Coped with the flood and scattered all the clouds
In fleecy masses; and the reddening east
Proclaimed the coming day; the land resumed
Its ancient marks; no more in middle air
The moisture hung, but from about the stars
Sank to the depths; the forest glad upreared
Its foliage; hills again emerged to view
And 'neath the warmth of day the plains grew firm.
When Sicoris kept his banks, the shallop light
Of hoary willow bark they build, which bent
On hides of oxen, bore the weight of man
And swam the torrent. Thus on sluggish Po
Venetians float; and on th' encircling sea
Are borne Britannia's nations; and when Nile
Fills all the land, are Memphis' thirsty reeds
Shaped into fragile boats that swim his waves.
The further bank thus gained, they haste to curve
The fallen forest, and to form the arch
By which imperious Sicoris shall be spanned.
Yet fearing he might rise in wrath anew,
Not on the nearest marge they placed the beams,
But in mid-field. Thus the presumptuous stream
They tame with chastisement, parting his flood
In devious channels out; and curb his pride.
Petreius, when he saw that Caesar's fates
Swept all before them, left Ilerda's steep,
His trust no longer in the Roman world;
And sought for strength amid those distant tribes,
Who, loving death, rush in upon the foe,
And win their conquests at the point of sword.
But in the dawn, when Caesar saw the camp
Stand empty on the hill, 'To arms!' he cried:
'Seek not the bridge nor ford: plunge in the stream
And breast the foaming torrent.' Then did hope
Of coming battle find for them a way
Which they had shunned in flight.
Their arms regained,
Their streaming limbs they cherished till the blood
Coursed in their veins; until the shadows fell
Short on the sward, and day was at the height.
Then dashed the horsemen on, and held the foe
'Twixt flight and battle. In the plain arose
Two rocky heights: from each a loftier ridge
Of hills ranged onwards, sheltering in their midst
A hollow vale, whose deep and winding paths
Were safe from warfare; which, when Caesar saw:
That if Petreius held, the war must pass
To lands remote by savage tribes possessed;
'Speed on,' he cried, 'and meet their flight in front;
Fierce be your frown and battle in your glance:
No coward's death be theirs; but as they flee
Plunge in their breasts the sword.' They seize the pass
And place their camp. Short was the span between
Th' opposing sentinels; with eager eyes
Undimmed by space, they gazed on brothers, sons,
Or friends and fathers; and within their souls
They grasped the impious horror of the war.
Yet for a little while no voice was heard,
For fear restrained; by waving blade alone
Or gesture, spake they; but their passion grew,
And broke all discipline; and soon they leaped
The hostile rampart; every hand outstretched
Embraced the hand of foeman, palm in palm;
One calls by name his neighhour, one his host,
Another with his schoolmate talks again
Of olden studies: he who in the camp
Found not a comrade, was no son of Rome.
Wet are their arms with tears, and sobs break in
Upon their kisses; each, unstained by blood,
Dreads what he might have done. Why beat thy breast?
Why, madman, weep? The guilt is thine alone
To do or to abstain. Dost fear the man
Who takes his title to be feared from thee?
When Caesar's trumpets sound the call to arms
Heed not the summons; when thou seest advance
His standards, halt. The civil Fury thus
Shall fold her wings; and in a private robe
Caesar shall love his kinsman.
That sway'st the world; thou whose eternal bands
Sustain the order of material things,
Come, gentle Concord! these our times do now
For good or evil destiny control
The coming centuries! Ah, cruel fate!
Now have the people lost their cloak for crime:
Their hope of pardon. They have known their kin.
Woe for the respite given by the gods
Making more black the hideous guilt to come!
Now all was peaceful, and in either camp
Sweet converse held the soldiers; on the grass
They place the meal; on altars built of turf
Pour out libations from the mingled cup;
On mutual couch with stories of their fights,
They wile the sleepless hours in talk away;
'Where stood the ranks arrayed, from whose right hand
The quivering lance was sped:' and while they boast
Or challenge, deeds of prowess in the war,
Faith was renewed and trust. Thus made the fates
Their doom complete, and all the crimes to be;
Grew with their love.
For when Petreius knew
The treaties made; himself and all his camp
Sold to the foe; he stirs his guard to work
An impious slaughter: the defenceless foe
Flings headlong forth: and parts the fond embrace
By stroke of weapon and in streams of blood.
And thus in words of wrath, to stir the war:
'Of Rome forgetful, to your faith forsworn!
And could ye not with victory gained return,
Restorers of her liberty, to Rome?
Lose then! but losing call not Caesar lord.
While still your swords are yours, with blood to shed
In doubtful battle, while the fates are hid,
Will you like cravens to your master bear
Doomed eagles? Will you ask upon your knees
That Caesar deign to treat his slaves alike,
And spare, forsooth, like yours, your leaders' lives?
Nay! never shall our safety be the price
Of base betrayal! Not for boon of life
We wage a civil war. This name of peace
Drags us to slavery. Ne'er from depths of earth,
Fain to withdraw her wealth, should toiling men
Draw store of iron; ne'er entrench a town;
Ne'er should the war-horse dash into the fray
Nor fleet with turret bulwarks breast the main,
If freedom for dishonourable peace
Could thus be bought. The foe are pledged to fight
By their own guilt. But you, who still might hope
For pardon if defeated -- what can match
Your deep dishonour? Shame upon your peace.
Thou callest, Magnus, ignorant of fate,
From all the world thy powers, and dost entreat
Monarchs of distant realms, while haply here
We in our treaties bargain for thy life!'
Thus did he stir their minds and rouse anew
The love of impious battle. So when beasts
Grown strange to forests, long confined in dens,
Their fierceness lose, and learn to bear with man;
Once should they taste of blood, their thirsty jaws
Swell at the touch, and all the ancient rage
Comes back upon them till they hardly spare
Their keeper. Thus they rush on every crime:
And blows which dealt at chance, and in the night
Of battle, had brought hatred on the gods,
Though blindly struck, their recent vows of love
Made monstrous, horrid. Where they lately spread
The mutual couch and banquet, and embraced
Some new-found friend, now falls the fatal blow
Upon the self-same breast; and though at first
Groaning at the fell chance, they drew the sword;
Hate rises as they strike, the murderous arm
Confirms the doubtful will: with monstrous joy
Through the wild camp they smite their kinsmen down;
And carnage raged unchecked; and each man strove,
Proud of his crime, before his leader's face
To prove his shamelessness of guilt.
Caesar, though losing of thy best, dost know
The gods do favour thee. Thessalian fields
Gave thee no better fortune, nor the waves
That lave Massilia; nor on Pharos' main
Didst thou so triumph. By this crime alone
Thou from this moment of the better cause
Shalt be the Captain.
Since the troops were stained
With foulest slaughter thus, their leaders shunned
All camps with Caesar's joined, and sought again
Ilerda's lofty walls; but Caesar's horse
Seized on the plain and forced them to the hills
Reluctant. There by steepest trench shut in,
He cuts them from the river, nor permits
Their circling ramparts to enclose a spring.
By this dread path Death trapped his captive prey.
Which when they knew, fierce anger filled their souls,
And took the place of fear. They slew the steeds
Now useless grown, and rushed upon their fate;
Hopeless of life and flight. But Caesar cried:
'Hold back your weapons, soldiers, from the foe,
Strike not the breast advancing; let the war
Cost me no blood; he falls not without price
Who with his life-blood challenges the fray.
Scorning their own base lives and hating light,
To Caesar's loss they rush upon their death,
Nor heed our blows. But let this frenzy pass,
This madman onset; let the wish for death
Die in their souls.' Thus to its embers shrank
The fire within when battle was denied,
And fainter grew their rage until the night
Drew down her starry veil and sank the sun.
Thus keener fights the gladiator whose wound
Is recent, while the blood within the veins
Still gives the sinews motion, ere the skin
Shrinks on the bones: but as the victor stands
His fatal thrust achieved, and points the blade
Unfaltering, watching for the end, there creeps
Torpor upon the limbs, the blood congeals
About the gash, more faintly throbs the heart,
And slowly fading, ebbs the life away.
Raving for water now they dig the plains
Seeking for hidden fountains, not with spade
And mattock only searching out the depths,
But with the sword; they hack the stony heights,
In shafts that reach the level of the plain.
No further flees from light the pallid wretch
Who tears the bowels of the earth for gold.
Yet neither riven stones revealed a spring,
Nor streamlet whispered from its hidden source;
To water trickled on the gravel bed,
Nor dripped within the cavern. Worn at length
With labour huge, they crawl to light again,
After such toil to fall to thirst and heat
The readier victims: this was all they won.
All food they loathe; and 'gainst their deadly thirst
Call famine to their aid. Damp clods of earth
They squeeze upon their mouths with straining hands.
Where'er on foulest mud some stagnant slime
Or moisture lies, though doomed to die they lap
With greedy tongues the draught their lips had loathed
Had life been theirs to choose. Beast-like they drain
The swollen udder, and where milk was not,
They sucked the life-blood forth. From herbs and boughs
Dripping with dew, from tender shoots they pressed,
Say, from the pith of trees, the juice within.
Happy the host that onward marching finds
Its savage enemy has fouled the wells
With murderous venom; had'st thou, Caesar, cast
The reeking filth of shambles in the stream,
And henbane dire and all the poisonous herbs
That lurk on Cretan slopes, still had they drunk
The fatal waters, rather than endure
Such lingering agony. Their bowels racked
With torments as of flame; the swollen tongue
And jaws now parched and rigid, and the veins;
Each laboured breath with anguish from the lungs
Enfeebled, moistureless, was scarcely drawn,
And scarce again returned; and yet agape,
Their panting mouths sucked in the nightly dew;
They watch for showers from heaven, and in despair
Gaze on the clouds, whence lately poured a flood.
Nor were their tortures less that Meroe
Saw not their sufferings, nor Cancer's zone,
Nor where the Garamantian turns the soil;
But Sicoris and Iberus at their feet,
Two mighty floods, but far beyond their reach,
Rolled down in measureless volume to the main.
But now their leaders yield; Afranius,
Vanquished, throws down his arms, and leads his troops,
Now hardly living, to the hostile camp
Before the victor's feet, and sues for peace.
Proud was his bearing, and despite of ills,
His mien majestic, of his triumphs past
Still mindful in disaster -- thus he stood,
Though suppliant for grace, a leader yet;
From fearless heart thus speaking: 'Had the fates
Thrown me before some base ignoble foe,
Not, Caesar, thee; still had this arm fought on
And snatched my death. Now if I suppliant ask,
'Tis that I value still the boon of life
Given by a worthy hand. No party ties
Roused us to arms against thee; when the war,
This civil war, broke out, it found us chiefs;
And with our former cause we kept the faith,
So long as brave men should. The fates' decree
No longer we withstand. Unto thy will
We yield the western tribes: the east is thine
And all the world lies open to thy march.
Be generous! blood nor sword nor wearied arm
Thy conquests bought. Thou hast not to forgive
Aught but thy victory won. Nor ask we much.
Give us repose; to lead in peace the life
Thou shalt bestow; suppose these armed lines
Are corpses prostrate on the field of war
Ne'er were it meet that thy victorious ranks
Should mix with ours, the vanquished. Destiny
Has run for us its course: one boon I beg;
Bid not the conquered conquer in thy train.'
Such were his words, and Caesar's gracious smile
Granted his prayer, remitting rights that war
Gives to the victor. To th' unguarded stream
The soldiers speed: prone on the bank they lie
And lap the flood or foul the crowded waves.
In many a burning throat the sudden draught
Poured in too copious, filled the empty veins
And choked the breath within: yet left unquenched
The burning pest which though their frames were full
Craved water for itself. Then, nerved once more,
Their strength returned. Oh, lavish luxury,
Contented never with the frugal meal!
Oh greed that searchest over land and sea
To furnish forth the banquet! Pride that joy'st
In sumptuous tables! learn what life requires,
How little nature needs! No ruddy juice
Pressed from the vintage in some famous year,
Whose consuls are forgotten, served in cups
With gold and jewels wrought restores the spark,
The failing spark, of life; but water pure
And simplest fruits of earth. The flood, the field
Suffice for nature. Ah! the weary lot
Of those who war! But these, their amour laid
Low at the victor's feet, with lightened breast,
Secure themselves, no longer dealing death,
Beset by care no more, seek out their homes.
What priceless gift in peace had they secured!
How grieved it now their souls to have poised the dart
With arm outstretched; to have felt their raving thirst;
And prayed the gods for victory in vain!
Nay, hard they think the victor's lot, for whom
A thousand risks and battles still remain;
If fortune never is to leave his side,
How often must he triumph! and how oft
Pour out his blood where'er great Caesar leads!
Happy, thrice happy, he who, when the world
Is nodding to its ruin, knows the spot
Where he himself shall, though in ruin, lie!
No trumpet call shall break his sleep again:
But in his humble home with faithful spouse
And sons unlettered Fortune leaves him free
From rage of party; for if life he owes
To Caesar, Magnus sometime was his lord.
Thus happy they alone live on apart,
Nor hope nor dread the event of civil war.
Not thus did Fortune upon Caesar smile
In all the parts of earth; but 'gainst his arms
Dared somewhat, where Salona's lengthy waste
Opposes Hadria, and Iadar warm
Meets with his waves the breezes of the west.
There brave Curectae dwell, whose island home
Is girded by the main; on whom relied
Antonius; and beleaguered by the foe,
Upon the furthest margin of the shore,
(Safe from all ills but famine) placed his camp.
But for his steeds the earth no forage gave,
Nor golden Ceres harvest; but his troops
Gnawed the dry herbage of the scanty turf
Within their rampart lines. But when they knew
That Baslus was on th' opposing shore
With friendly force, by novel mode of flight
They aim to reach him. Not the accustomed keel
They lay, nor build the ship, but shapeless rafts
Of timbers knit together, strong to bear
All ponderous weight; on empty casks beneath
By tightened chains made firm, in double rows
Supported; nor upon the deck were placed
The oarsmen, to the hostile dart exposed,
But in a hidden space, by beams concealed.
And thus the eye amazed beheld the mass
Move silent on its path across the sea,
By neither sail nor stalwart arm propelled.
They watch the main until the refluent waves
Ebb from the growing sands; then, on the tide
Receding, launch their vessel; thus she floats
With twin companions: over each uprose
With quivering battlements a lofty tower.
Octavius, guardian of Illyrian seas,
Restrained his swifter keels, and left the rafts
Free from attack, in hope of larger spoil
From fresh adventures; for the peaceful sea
May tempt them, and their goal in safety reached,
To dare a second voyage. Round the stag
Thus will the cunning hunter draw a line
Of tainted feathers poisoning the air;
Or spread the mesh, and muzzle in his grasp
The straining jaws of the Molossian hound,
And leash the Spartan pack; nor is the brake
Trusted to any dog but such as tracks
The scent with lowered nostrils, and refrains
From giving tongue the while; content to mark
By shaking leash the covert of the prey.
Ere long they manned the rafts in eager wish
To quit the island, when the latest glow
Still parted day from night. But Magnus' troops,
Cilician once, taught by their ancient art,
In fraudulent deceit had left the sea
To view unguarded; but with chains unseen
Fast to Illyrian shores, and hanging loose,
They blocked the outlet in the waves beneath.
The leading rafts passed safely, but the third
Hung in mid passage, and by ropes was hauled
Below o'ershadowing rocks. These hollowed out
In ponderous masses overhung the main,
And nodding seemed to fall: shadowed by trees
Dark lay the waves beneath. Hither the tide
Brings wreck and corpse, and, burying with the flow,
Restores them with the ebb: and when the caves
Belch forth the ocean, swirling billows fall
In boisterous surges back, as boils the tide
In that famed whirlpool on Sicilian shores.
Here, with Venetian settlers for its load,
Stood motionless the raft. Octavius' ships
Gathered around, while foemen on the land
Filled all the shore. But well the captain knew,
Volteius, how the secret fraud was planned,
And tried in vain with sword and steel to burst
The bands that held them; without hope he fights,
Uncertain where to avoid or front the foe.
Caught in this strait they strove as brave men should
Against opposing hosts; nor long the fight,
For fallen darkness brought a truce to arms.
Then to his men disheartened and in fear
Of coming fate Volteius, great of soul,
Thus spake in tones commanding: 'Free no more,
Save for this little night, consult ye now
In this last moment, soldiers, how to face
Your final fortunes. No man's life is short
Who can take thought for death, nor is your fame
Less than a conqueror's, if with breast advanced
Ye meet your destined doom. None know how long
The life that waits them. Summon your own fate,
And equal is your praise, whether the hand
Quench the last flicker of departing light,
Or shear the hope of years. But choice to die
Is thrust not on the mind -- we cannot flee;
See at our throats, e'en now, our kinsmen's swords.
Then choose for death; desire what fate decrees.
At least in war's blind cloud we shall not fall;
Nor when the flying weapons hide the day,
And slaughtered heaps of foemen load the field,
And death is common, and the brave man sinks
Unknown, inglorious. Us within this ship,
Seen of both friends and foes, the gods have placed;
Both land and sea and island cliffs shall bear,
From either shore, their witness to our death,
In which some great and memorable fame
Thou, Fortune, dost prepare. What glorious deeds
Of warlike heroism, of noble faith,
Time's annals show! All these shall we surpass.
True, Caesar, that to fall upon our swords
For thee is little; yet beleaguered thus,
With neither sons nor parents at our sides,
Shorn of the glory that we might have earned,
We give thee here the only pledge we may.
Yet let these hostile thousands fear the souls
That rage for battle and that welcome death,
And know us for invincible, and joy
That no more rafts were stayed. They'll offer terms
And tempt us with a base unhonoured life.
Would that, to give that death which shall be ours
The greater glory, they may bid us hope
For pardon and for life! lest when our swords
Are reeking with our hearts'-blood, they may say
This was despair of living. Great must be
The prowess of our end, if in the hosts
That fight his battles, Caesar is to mourn
This little handful lost. For me, should fate
Grant us retreat, -- myself would scorn to shun
The coming onset. Life I cast away,
The frenzy of the death that comes apace
Controls my being. Those alone whose end
Inspires them, know the happiness of death,
Which the high gods, that men may bear to live,
Keep hid from others.' Thus his noble words
Warmed his brave comrades' hearts; and who with fear
And tearful eyes had looked upon the Wain,
Turning his nightly course, now hoped for day,
Such precepts deep within them. Nor delayed
The sky to dip the stars below the main;
For Phoebus in the Twins his chariot drave
At noon near Cancer; and the hours of night
Were shortened by the Archer.
When day broke,
Lo! on the rocks the Istrians; while the sea
Swarmed with the galleys and their Grecian fleet
All armed for fight: but first the war was stayed
And terms proposed: life to the foe they thought
Would seem the sweeter, by delay of death
Thus granted. But the band devoted stood,
Proud of their promised end, and life forsworn,
And careless of the battle: no debate
Could shake their high resolve. In numbers few
'Gainst foemen numberless by land and sea,
They wage the desperate fight; then satiate
Turn from the foe. And first demanding death
Volteius bared his throat. 'What youth,' he cries,
'Dares strike me down, and through his captain's wounds
Attest his love for death?' Then through his side
Plunge blades uncounted on the moment drawn.
He praises all: but him who struck the first
Grateful, with dying strength, he does to death.
They rush together, and without a foe
Work all the guilt of battle. Thus of yore,
Rose up the glittering Dircaean band
From seed by Cadmus sown, and fought and died,
Dire omen for the brother kings of Thebes.
And so in Phasis' fields the sons of earth,
Born of the sleepless dragon, all inflamed
By magic incantations, with their blood
Deluged the monstrous furrow, while the Queen
Feared at the spells she wrought. Devoted thus
To death, they fall, yet in their death itself
Less valour show than in the fatal wounds
They take and give; for e'en the dying hand
Missed not a blow -- nor did the stroke alone
Inflict the wound, but rushing on the sword
Their throat or breast received it to the hilt;
And when by fatal chance or sire with son,
Or brothers met, yet with unfaltering weight
Down flashed the pitiless sword: this proved their love,
To give no second blow. Half living now
They dragged their mangled bodies to the side,
Whence flowed into the sea a crimson stream
Of slaughter. 'Twas their pleasure yet to see
The light they scorned; with haughty looks to scan
The faces of their victors, and to feel
The death approaching. But the raft was now
Piled up with dead; which, when the foemen saw,
Wondering at such a chief and such a deed,
They gave them burial. Never through the world
Of any brave achievement was the fame
More widely blazed. Yet meaner men, untaught
By such examples, see not that the hand
Which frees from slavery needs no valiant mind
To guide the stroke. But tyranny is feared
As dealing death; and Freedom's self is galled
By ruthless arms; and knows not that the sword
Was given for this, that none need live a slave.
Ah Death! would'st thou but let the coward live
And grant the brave alone the prize to die!
Nor less were Libyan fields ablaze with war.
For Curio rash from Lilybaean coast
Sailed with his fleet, and borne by gentle winds
Betwixt half-ruined Carthage, mighty once,
And Clupea's cliff, upon the well-known shore
His anchors dropped. First from the hoary sea
Remote, where Bagra slowly ploughs the sand,
He placed his camp: then sought the further hills
And mazy passages of cavernous rocks,
Antaeus' kingdom called. From ancient days
This name was given; and thus a swain retold
The story handed down from sire to son:
'Not yet exhausted by the giant brood,
Earth still another monster brought to birth,
In Libya's caverns: huger far was he,
More justly far her pride, than Briareus
With all his hundred hands, or Typhon fierce,
Or Tityos: 'twas in mercy to the gods
That not in Phlegra's fields Antaeus grew,
But here in Libya; to her offspring's strength,
Unmeasured, vast, she added yet this boon,
That when in weariness and labour spent
He touched his parent, fresh from her embrace
Renewed in rigour he should rise again.
In yonder cave he dwelt, 'neath yonder rock
He made his feast on lions slain in chase:
There slept he; not on skins of beasts, or leaves,
But fed his strength upon the naked earth.
Perished the Libyan hinds and those who came,
Brought here in ships, until he scorned at length
The earth that gave him strength, and on his feet
Invincible and with unaided might
Made all his victims. Last to Afric shores,
Drawn by the rumour of such carnage, came
Magnanimous Alcides, he who freed
Both land and sea of monsters. Down on earth
He threw his mantle of the lion's skin
Slain in Cleone; nor Antaeus less
Cast down the hide he wore. With shining oil,
As one who wrestles at Olympia's feast,
The hero rubs his limbs: the giant feared
Lest standing only on his parent earth
His strength might fail; and cast o'er all his bulk
Hot sand in handfuls. Thus with arms entwined
And grappling hands each seizes on his foe;
With hardened muscles straining at the neck
Long time in vain; for firm the sinewy throat
Stood column-like, nor yielded; so that each
Wondered to find his peer. Nor at the first
Divine Alcides put forth all his strength,
By lengthy struggle wearing out his foe,
Till chilly drops stood on Antaeas' limbs,
And toppled to its fall the stately throat,
And smitten by the hero's blows, the legs
Began to totter. Breast to breast they strive
To gain the vantage, till the victor's arms
Gird in the giant's yielding back and sides,
And squeeze his middle part: next 'twixt the thighs
He puts his feet, and forcing them apart,
Lays low the mighty monster limb by limb.
The dry earth drank his sweat, while in his veins
Warm ran the life-blood, and with strength refreshed,
The muscle swelled and all the joints grew firm,
And with his might restored, he breaks his bonds
And rives the arms of Hercules away.
Amazed the hero stood at such a strength.
Not thus he feared, though then unused to war,
That hydra fierce, which smitten in the marsh
Of Inachus, renewed its severed heads.
Again they join in fight, one with the powers
Which earth bestowed, the other with his own:
Nor did the hatred of his step-dame find
In all his conflicts greater room for hope.
She sees bedewed in sweat the neck and limbs
Which once had borne the mountain of the gods
Nor knew the toil: and when Antaeus felt
His foeman's arms close round him once again,
He flung his wearying limbs upon the sand
To rise with strength renewed; all that the earth,
Though labouring sore, could breathe into her son
She gave his frame. But Hercules at last
Saw how his parent gave the giant strength.
`Stand thou,' he cried; `no more upon the ground
Thou liest at thy will -- here must thou stay
Within mine arms constrained; against this breast,
Antaeus, shalt thou fall.' He lifted up
And held by middle girth the giant form,
Still struggling for the earth: but she no more
Could give her offspring rigour. Slowly came
The chill of death upon him, and 'twas long
Before the hero, of his victory sure,
Trusted the earth and laid the giant down.
Hence hoar antiquity that loves to prate
And wonders at herself, this region called
Antaeus' kingdom. But a greater name
It gained from Scipio, when he recalled
From Roman citadels the Punic chief.
Here was his camp; here can'st thou see the trace
Of that most famous rampart whence at length
Issued the Eagles of triumphant Rome.'
But Curio rejoiced, as though for him
The fortunes of the spot must hold in store
The fates of former chiefs: and on the place
Of happy augury placed his tents ill-starred,
Took from the hills their omens; and with force
Unequal, challenged his barbarian foe.
All Africa that bore the Roman yoke
Then lay 'neath Varus. He, though placing first
Trust in his Latian troops, from every side
And furthest regions, summons to his aid
The nations who confessed King Juba's rule.
Not any monarch over wider tracts
Held the dominion. From the western belt
Near Gades, Atlas parts their furthest bounds;
But from the southern, Hammon girds them in
Hard by the whirlpools; and their burning plains
Stretch forth unending 'neath the torrid zone,
In breadth its equal, till they reach at length
The shore of ocean upon either hand.
From all these regions tribes unnumbered flock
To Juba's standard: Moors of swarthy hue
As though from Ind; Numidian nomads there
And Nasamon's needy hordes; and those whose darts
Equal the flying arrows of the Mede:
Dark Garamantians leave their fervid home;
And those whose coursers unrestrained by bit
Or saddle, yet obey the rider's hand
Which wields the guiding switch: the hunter, too,
Who wanders forth, his home a fragile hut,
And blinds with flowing robe (if spear should fail)
The angry lion, monarch of the steppe.
Not eagerness alone to save the state
Stirred Juba's spirit: private hatred too
Roused him to war. For in the former year,
When Curio all things human and the gods
Polluted, he by tribune law essayed
To ravish Libya from the tyrant's sway,
And drive the monarch from his father's throne,
While giving Rome a king. To Juba thus,
Still smarting at the insult, came the war,
A welcome harvest for his crown retained.
These rumours Curio feared: nor had his troops
(Ta'en in Corfinium's hold) in waves of Rhine
Been tested, nor to Caesar in the wars
Had learned devotion: wavering in their faith,
Their second chief they doubt, their first betrayed.
Yet when the general saw the spirit of fear
Creep through his camp, and discipline to fail,
And sentinels desert their guard at night,
Thus in his fear he spake: 'By daring much
Fear is disguised; let me be first in arms,
And bid my soldiers to the plain descend,
While still my soldiers. Idle days breed doubt.
By fight forestall the plot. Soon as the thirst
Of bloodshed fills the mind, and eager hands
Grip firm the sword, and pressed upon the brow
The helm brings valour to the failing heart --
Who cares to measure leaders' merits then?
Who weighs the cause? With whom the soldier stands,
For him he fights; as at the fatal show
No ancient grudge the gladiator's arm
Nerves for the combat, yet as he shall strike
He hates his rival.' Thinking thus he leads
His troops in battle order to the plain.
Then victory on his arms deceptive shone
Hiding the ills to come: for from the field
Driving the hostile host with sword and spear,
He smote them till their camp opposed his way.
But after Varus' rout, unseen till then,
All eager for the glory to be his,
By stealth came Juba: silent was his march;
His only fear lest rumour should forestall
His coming victory. In pretended war
He sends Sabura forth with scanty force
To tempt the enemy, while in hollow vale
He holds the armies of his realm unseen.
Thus doth the sly ichneumon with his tail
Waving, allure the serpent of the Nile
Drawn to the moving shadow: he, with head
Turned sideways, watches till the victim glides
Within his reach, then seizes by the throat
Behind the deadly fangs: forth from its seat
Balked of its purpose, through the brimming jaws
Gushes a tide of poison. Fortune smiled
On Juba's stratagem; for Curio
(The hidden forces of the foe unknown)
Sent forth his horse by night without the camp
To scour more distant regions. He himself
At earliest peep of dawn bids carry forth
His standards; heeding not his captains' prayer
Urged on his ears: 'Beware of Punic fraud,
The craft that taints a Carthaginian war.'
Hung over him the doom of coming death
And gave the youth to fate; and civil strife
Dragged down its author.
On the lofty tops
Where broke the hills abruptly to their fall
He ranks his troops and sees the foe afar:
Who still deceiving, simulated flight,
Till from the height in loose unordered lines
The Roman forces streamed upon the plain,
In thought that Juba fled. Then first was known
The treacherous fraud: for swift Numidian horse
On every side surround them: leader, men --
All see their fate in one dread moment come.
No coward flees, no warrior bravely strides
To meet the battle: nay, the trumpet call
Stirs not the charger with resounding hoof
To spurn the rock, nor galling bit compels
To champ in eagerness; nor toss his mane
And prick the ear, nor prancing with his feet
To claim his share of combat. Tired, the neck
Droops downwards: smoking sweat bedews the limbs:
Dry from the squalid mouth protrudes the tongue,
Hoarse, raucous panting issues from their chests;
Their flanks distend: and every curb is dry
With bloody foam; the ruthless sword alone
Could move them onward, powerless even then
To charge; but giving to the hostile dart
A nearer victim. But when the Afric horse
First made their onset, loud beneath their hoofs
Rang the wide plain, and rose the dust in air
As by some Thracian whirlwind stirred; and veiled
The heavens in darkness. When on Curio's host
The tempest burst, each footman in the rank
Stood there to meet his fate -- no doubtful end
Hung in the balance: destiny proclaimed
Death to them all. No conflict hand to hand
Was granted them, by lances thrown from far
And sidelong sword-thrusts slain: nor wounds alone,
But clouds of weapons falling from the air
By weight of iron o'erwhelmed them. Still drew in
The straightening circle, for the first pressed back
On those behind; did any shun the foe,
Seeking the inner safety of the ring,
He needs must perish by his comrades' swords.
And as the front rank fell, still narrower grew
The close crushed phalanx, till to raise their swords
Space was denied. Still close and closer forced
The armed breasts against each other driven
Pressed out the life. Thus not upon a scene
Such as their fortune promised, gazed the foe.
No tide of blood was there to glut their eyes,
No members lopped asunder, though the earth so
Was piled with corpses; for each Roman stood
In death upright against his comrade dead.
Let cruel Carthage rouse her hated ghosts
By this fell offering; let the Punic shades,
And bloody Hannibal, from this defeat
Receive atonement: yet 'twas shame, ye gods,
That Libya gained not for herself the day;
And that our Romans on that field should die
To save Pompeius and the Senate's cause.
Now was the dust laid low by streams of blood,
And Curio, knowing that his host was slain.
Chose not to live; and, as a brave man should.
He rushed upon the heap, and fighting fell.
In vain with turbid speech hast thou profaned
The pulpit of the forum: waved in vain
From that proud citadel the tribune flag:
And armed the people, and the Senate's rights
Betraying, hast compelled this impious war
Betwixt the rival kinsmen. Low thou liest
Before Pharsalus' fight, and from thine eyes
Is hid the war. 'Tis thus to suffering Rome,
For arms seditious and for civil strife
Ye mighty make atonement with your blood.
Happy were Rome and all her sons indeed,
Did but the gods as rigidly protect
As they avenge, her violated laws!
There Curio lies; untombed his noble corpse,
Torn by the vultures of the Libyan wastes.
Yet shall we, since such merit, though unsung,
Lives by its own imperishable fame,
Give thee thy meed of praise. Rome never bore
Another son, who, had he right pursued,
Had so adorned her laws; but soon the times,
Their luxury, corruption, and the curse
Of too abundant wealth, in transverse stream
Swept o'er his wavering mind: and Curio changed,
Turned with his change the scale of human things.
True, mighty Sulla, cruel Marius,
And bloody Cinna, and the long descent
Of Caesar and of Caesar's house became
Lords of our lives. But who had power like him?
All others bought the state: he sold alone.
Solomon on the Vanity of the World, A Poem. In Three Books. - Pleasure. Book II.
Solomon, again seeking happiness, inquires if wealth and greatness can produce it: begins with the magnificence of gardens and buildings; the luxury of music and feasting; and proceeds to the hopes and desires of love. In two episodes are shown the follies and troubles of that passion. Solomon, still disappointed, falls under the temptations of libertinism and idolatry; recovers his thought; reasons aright; and concludes that, as to the pursuit of pleasure and sensual delight, All Is Vanity and Vexation of Spirit.
Try then, O man, the moments to deceive
That from the womb attend thee to the grave:
For wearied Nature find some apter scheme;
Health be thy hope, and pleasure be thy theme;
From the perplexing and unequal ways
Where Study brings thee from the endless maze
Which Doubt persuades o run, forewarn'd, recede
To the gay field, and flowery path, that lead
To jocund mirth, soft joy, and careless ease:
Forsake what my instruct for what may please:
Essay amusing art and proud expense,
And make thy reason subject to thy sense.
I communed thus: the power of wealth I tried,
And all the various luxe of costly pride;
Artists and plans relieved my solemn hours:
I founded palaces and planted bowers,
Birds, fishes, beasts, of exotic kind
I to the limits of my court confined,
To trees transferr'd I gave a second birth,
And bade a foreign shade grace Judah's earth.
Fish-ponds were made where former forests grew
And hills were levell'd to extend the view.
Rivers, diverted from their native course,
And bound with chains of artificial force,
From large cascades in pleasing tumult roll'd,
Or rose through figured stone or breathing gold.
From furthest Africa's tormented womb
The marble brought, erects the spacious dome,
Or forms the pillars' long-extended rows,
On which the planted grove and pensile garden grows.
The workmen here obey the master's call,
To gild the turret and to paint the wall;
To mark the pavement there with various stone,
And on the jasper steps to rear the throne:
The spreading cedar, that an age had stood,
Supreme of trees, and mistress of the wood,
Cut down and carved, my shining roof adorns,
And Lebanon his ruin'd honour mourns.
A thousand artists show their cunning powers
To raise the wonders of the ivory towers:
A thousand maidens ply the purple loom
To weave the bed and deck the regal room;
Till Tyre confesses her exhausted store,
That on her coast the murex is no more;
Till from the Paian isle and Liby's coast
The mountains grieve their hopes of marble lost
And India's woods return their just complaint,
Their brood decay'd, and want of elephant.
My full design with vast expense achieved,
I came, beheld, admired, reflected, grieved:
I chid the folly of my thoughtless haste,
For, the work perfected, the joy was past.
To my new courts sad Thought did still repair,
And round my gilded roofs hung hovering Care.
In vain on silken beds I sought repose,
And Restless oft from purple couches rose;
Vexatious Thought still found my flying mind,
Nor bound by limits nor to place confined:
Haunted my nights, and terrified my days,
Stalk'd through my gardens, and pursued my ways,
Nor shut from artful bower, nor lost in winding maze.
Yet take thy bent, my soul; another sense
Indulge: add music to magnificence:
Essay if harmony may grief control,
Or power of sound prevail upon the soul.
Often our seers and poets have confess'd
That music's force can tame the furious beast;
Can make the wolf or foaming boar restrain
His rage, the lion drop his crested main,
Attentive to the song; the lynx forget
His wrath to man, and lick the minstrel's feet.
Are we, alas! less savage yet than these?
Else music sure may human cares appease.
I spake my purpose, and the cheerful choir
Parted their shares of harmony: the lyre
Soften'd the timbrel's noise; the trumpet's sound
Provoked the Dorian flute, (both sweeter found
When mix'd) the fife the viol's notes refined,
And every strength with every grace was join'd:
Each morn they waked me with a sprightly lay;
Each evening their repeated skill express'd
Scenes of repose and images of rest;
Yet still in vain; for music gather'd thought;
But how unequal the effects it brought?
The soft ideas of the cheerful note,
Lightly received, were easily forgot;
The solemn violence of the graver sound
Knew to strike deep, and leave a lasting wound.
And now reflecting, I with grief descry
The sickly lust of the fantastic eye;
How the weak organ is with seeing cloy'd,
Flying ere night what it at noon enjoy'd.
And now (unhappy search of thought!) I found
The fickle ear soon glutted with the sound,
Condemn'd eternal changes to pursue,
Tired with the last and eager of the new.
I bade the virgins and the youth advance,
To temper music with the sprightly dance.
In vain! too low the mimic motions seem;
What takes our heart must merit our esteem.
Nature, I thought, perform'd too mean a part,
Forming her movements to the rules of art;
And vex'd I found that the musician's hand
Had o'er the dancer's mind too great command.
I drank; I liked it not: 'twas rage, 'twas noise;
An airy scene of transitory joys,
In vain I trusted that the flowing bowl
Would banish sorrow and enlarge the soul.
To the late revel and protracted feast
Wild dreams succeeded and disorder'd rest;
And as at dawn of morn fair reason's light
Broke through the fumes and phantoms of the night,
What had been said, I ask'd my soul, what done?
How flow'd our mirth, and whence the source begun?
Perhaps the jest that charm'd the sprightly crowd,
And made the jovial table laugh so loud,
To some false notion owed its poor pretence,
To an ambiguous word's percerted sense,
To a wild sonnet, or a wanton air,
Offence and torture to the sober ear,
Perhaps, alas! the pleasing stream was brought
From this man's error, from another's fault;
From topics which good-nature would forget,
And prudence mention with the last regret.
Add yet unnumber'd ills that lie unseen
In the pernicious draught; the word obscene
Or harsh, which once elanced must ever fly
Irrevocable: the too prompt reply,
Seed of severe distrust and fierce debate,
What we should shun, and what we ought to hate.
Add, too, the blood impoverish'd, and the course
Of health suppress'd by wine's continued course.
Unhappy man! whom sorrow thus and rage
To different ills alternately engage;
Who drinks, alas! but to forget; nor sees
That melancholy sloth, severe disease,
Memory confused, and interrupted thought,
Death's harbingers, lie latent in the draught;
And in the flowers that wreath the sparkling bowl
Fell adders hiss, and poisonous serpents roll.
Remains there ought untried that may remove
Sickness of mind, and heal the bosom? - Love!
Love yet remains; indulge his genial fire,
Cherish fair Hope, solicit young Desire,
And boldly bid thy anxious soul explore
This last great remedy's mysterious power.
Why, therefore, hesitates my doubtful breast?
Why ceases it one moment to be bless'd?
Fly swift, my Friends; my Servants fly; employ
Your instant pains to bring our master joy.
Let all my wives and concubines be dress'd;
Let them to-night attend the royal feast;
All Israel's beauty, all the foreign fair,
The gifts of princes, or the spoils of war:
Before their monarch they shall singly pass,
And the most worthy shall obtain the grace.
I said: the feast was served; the bowl was crown'd;
To the King's pleasure went the mirthful round.
The women came: as custom wills they pass'd:
On one (O that distinguish'd one!) I cast
The favourite glance? O! yet my mind retains
That fond beginning of my infant pains.
Mature the virgin was, of Egypt's race,
Grace shaped her limbs and beauty deck'd her face:
Easy her motion seem'd, serene her air;
Full, though unzoned, her bosom rose; her hair
Untied, and, ignorant of artful aid,
Adown her shoulders loosely lay display'd,
And in the jetty curls ten thousand cupids play'd.
Fix'd on her charms, and pleased that I could love,
Aid me, my Friends, contribute to improve
Your monarch's bliss, I said: fresh roses bring
To strew my bed, till the impoverish'd Spring
Confess her want: around my amorous head
Be dropping myrrh and liquid amber shed
Till Arab has no more; from the soft lyre,
Sweet flute, and ten-string'd instrument require
Sounds of delight: and thou, fair Nymph, draw nigh,
Thou in whose graceful form and potent eye,
Thy master's joy, long sought, at length is found,
And, as thy brow, let my desires be crown'd.
O favourite virgin, that hast warm'd the breast,
Whose sovereign dictates subjugate the East!
I said: and sudden from the golden throne,
With a submissive step, I hasted down.
The glowing garland from my hair I took,
Love in my heart, obedience in my look,
Prepared to place it on her comely head,
O favourite Virgin! (yet again I said)
Receive the honours destined to thy brow;
And O, above thy fellows, happy thou!
Their duty must thy sovereign word obey.
Rise up, my love, my fair one, come away.
What pang, alas! what ecstasy of smart
Tore up my senses and transfix'd my heart,
When she with modest scorn the wreath return'd,
Reclined her beauteous neck, and inward mourn'd!
Forced by my pride, I my concern suppress'd,
Pretended drowsiness and wish of rest;
And sullen, I forsook th' imperfect feast:
Ordering the eunuchs, to whose proper care
Our Eastern gradneur gives th' imprison'd fair,
To lead her forth to a distinuish'd bower,
And nid her dress the bed, and wait the hour.
Restless I follow'd this obdurate maid,
(Swift are the steps that Love and Anger tread)
Approach'd her person, courted her embrace,
Renew'd my flame, repeated my disgrace:
By turns put on the suppliant and the lord:
Threaten'd this moment, and the next implored,
Offer'd again the unaccepted wreath,
And choice of happy love, or instant death.
Averse to all her amorous King desired,
Far as she might she decently retired,
And darting scorn and sorrow from her eyes,
What means, said she, King Solomon the wise?
This wretched body trembles at your power;
Thus far could Fortune, but she can no more.
Free to herself my potent mind remains,
Nor fears the victor's rage, nor feels his chains.
'Tis said that thou canst plausibly dispute,
Supreme of seers, of angel, man, and brute:
Canst plead, with subtle wit and fair discourse,
Of passion's folly and of reason's force;
That to the tribes attentive, thou canst know
Whence their misfortunes or their blessings flow:
That thou in science as in power art great,
And truth and honour on thy edicts wait.
Where is that knowledge now, that regal thought,
With just advice and timely counsel fraught?
Where now, O Judge of Israel, does it rove? -
What in one moment dost thou offer? - Love!
Love? why, 'tis joy or sorrow, peace or strife;
'Tis all the colour of remaining life,
And human misery must begin or end
As he becomes a tyrant or a friend.
Would David's son, religious, just, and grave,
To the first bride-bed of the world receive
A foreigner, a Heathen, and a slave?
Or grant thy passion has these names destroy'd,
That Love, like Death, makes all distinction void,
Yet in his empire o'er thy abject breast
His flames and torments only are exprest,
His rage can in my smiles alone relent,
And all his joys solicit my consent.
Soft love, spontaneous tree, its parted root
Must from two hearts with equal vigour shoot,
Whilst each delighted, and delighting, gives
The pleasing ecstasy which each receives:
Cherish'd with hope, and fed with joy, it grows,
Its cheerful buds their opening bloom disclose,
And round the happy soul diffusive odour flows.
If angry fate that mutual care denies,
The fading plant bewails its due supplies;
Wild with despair, or sick with grief, it dies.
By force beasts act, and are by force restrain'd;
The human mind by gentle means is gain'd.
Thy useless strength mistaken King employ:
Sated with rage, and ignorant of joy,
Thou shalt not gain what I deny to yield,
Nor reap the harvest, though thou spoil'st the field.
Know, Solomon, thy poor extent of sway;
Contract thy brow, and Israel shall obey;
But wilful Love thou must with smiles appease,
Approach his awful throne by just degrees,
And if thou wouldst be happy, learn to please.
Not that those arts can here successful prove,
For I am destined to another's love.
Beyond the cruel bounds of thy command,
To my dear equal, in my native land,
My plighted vow I gave; I his received:
Each swore with truth, with pleasure each believed
The mutual contract was to heaven convey'd;
In equal scales thy busy angels weigh'd
Its solemn force, and clapp'd their wings, and spread
The lasting roll, recording what we said.
Now in my heart behold thy poniard stain'd;
Take the sad life which I have long disdain'd;
End, in a dying virgin's wretched fate,
Thy ill-starr'd passion and my steadfast hate:
For long as blood informs these circling veins,
Or fleeting breath its latest power retains,
Hear me to Egypt's vengeful gods declare
Hate is my part; be thine O King despair.
Now strike, she said, and open'd bare her breast,
Stand it in Judah's Chronicles confest
That David's son, by impious passion moved,
Smote a she-slave, and murder'd what he loved.
Ashamed, confused, I started from the bed,
And to my soul, yet uncollected, said,
Into thyself fond Solomon return;
Reflect again, and thou again shalt mourn.
When I through number'd years have pleasure sought,
And in vain hope the wanton phantom caught,
To mock my sense and mortify my pride,
'Tis in another's power and is denied.
Am I a king, great Heaven? does life or death
Hang on the wrath or mercy of my breath,
While kneeling I my servant's smiles implore,
And one mad damsel dares dispute my power?
To ravish her? that thought was soon depress'd,
Which must debase the monarch to the beast.
To send her back? O whither, and to whom?
To lands where Solomon must never come?
To that insulting rival's happy arms
For whom, disdaining me, she keeps her charms?
Fantastic tyrant of the amorous heart,
How hard thy yoke! how cruel is thy dart?
Those 'scape thy anger who refuse thy sway,
And those are punish'd most who most obey,
See Judah's king revere thy greater power;
What canst thou covet, or how triumph more;
Why, then, O Love, with an obdurate ear,
Does this proud nymph reject a monarch's prayer?
Why to some simple shepherd does she run
Where wealth and pleasure may thy reign support,
To some poor cottage on the mountain's brow,
Now bleak with winds, and cover'd now with snow,
And household cares suppress thy genial fires!
Too aptly the afflicted Heathens prove
The force, while they erect the shrines of Love.
His mystic form the artisans of Greece
In wounded stone or molten gold express;
And Cyprus to his godhead pays her vow,
Fast in his hand the idol holds his bow;
A quiver by his side sustains his store
Of pointed darts, sad emblems of his power;
A pair of wings he has, which he extends
Now to be gone, which now again he bends,
Prone to return, as best may serve his wanton ends.
Entirely thus I find the fiend portray'd,
Since first, alas! I saw the beauteous maid;
I felt him strike, and now I see him fly:
Cursed daemon! O! for ever broken lie
Those fatal shafts by which I inward bleed!
O! can my wishes yet o'ertake thy speed!
Tired mayst thou turn'st thy course, resolved to bring
Except thou turn'st thy course, resolved to bring
The damsel back, and save the love-sick king.
My soul thus struggling in the fatal net,
Unable to enjoy or to forget,
I reason'd much, alas! but more I loved,
Sent and recall'd, ordain'd and disapproved,
Till hopeless plunged in an abyss of grief,
I from necessity received relief;
Time gently aided to assuage my pain
And wisdom took once more the slacken'd rein.
But O how short my interval of wo!
Our griefs how swift, our remedies how slow!
Another nymph, (for so did Heaven ordain,
To change the manner but renew the pain)
Another nymph, amongst the many fair
That made my softer hours their solemn care,
Before the rest affected still to stand,
And watch'd my eye, preventing my command,
Abra, she so was call'd, did sooner haste
To grace my presence; Abra went the last;
Abra was ready ere I call'd her name,
And though I call'd another, Abra came.
Her equals first observed her growing zeal,
And laughing gloss'd, that Abra served so well.
To me her actions did unheeded die,
Or were remark'd but with a common eye,
Till more apprized of what the rumour said,
More I observed peculiar in the maid.
The sun declined had shot his western ray,
When, tired with business of the solemn day,
I purposed to unbend the evening hours,
And banquet private in the women's bowers.
I call'd before I sat to wash my hands,
for so the precept of the law commands;
Love had ordain'd that it was Abra's turn
To mix the sweets, and minister the urn.
With awful homage and submissive dread
The maid approach'd, on my declining head
To pour the oils: she trembled as she pour'd:
With an unguarded look she now devour'd
My nearer face; and now recall'd her eye,
And heaved, and strove to hide a sudden sigh.
And whence, said I, canst thou have dread or pain?
What can thy imag'ry of sorrow mean?
Secluded from the world and all its care,
Hast thou to grieve or joy, to hope or fear?
For sure, I added, sure thy little heart
Ne'er felt Love's anger or received his dart.
Abash'd she blush'd, and with disorder spoke;
Her rising shame adorn'd the words it broke.
If the great master will descend to hear
The humble series of his handmaid's care,
O! while she tells it, let him not put on
The look that awes the nations from the throne;
O! let not death severe in glory lie
In the king's frown and terror of his eye.
Mine to obey, thy part is to ordain:
And though to mention be to suffer pain,
If the king smiles whilst I my wo recite
If weeping I find favour in his sight,
Flow fast my tears, full rising his delight.
O! witness earth beneath and heaven above,
For can I hide it? I am sick of love!
If madness may the name of passion bear,
Or love be call'd what is indeed despair.
Thou sovereign Power, whose secret will controls
The inward bent and motion of our souls!
Why hast thou placed such infinite degrees
Between the cause and cure of my disease?
The mighty object of that raging fire
In which unpitied Abra must expire,
Had he born some simple shepherd's heir,
The lowing herd or fleecy sheep his care,
At morn with him I o'er the hills had run,
Scornful of winter's frost and summer's run,
Still asking here he made his flock to rest at noon.
For him at night, the dear expected guest,
Had with hasty joy prepared the feast,
And from the cottage, o'er the distant plain,
Sent forth my longing eye to meet the swain,
Wavering, impatient, toss'd by hope and fear,
Till he and joy together should appear,
And the loved dog declare his master near.
On my declining neck and open breast
I should have lull'd the lovely youth to rest,
And from beneath is head at dawning day,
With softest care, have stolen my arm away,
To rise, and from the fold release the sheep,
Fond of his flock, indulgent to his sleep.
Or if kind Heaven, propitious to my flame,
(For sure from Heaven the faithful ardour came)
Had blest my life, and deck'd my natal hour
With height of title and extent of power,
Without a crime my passion had aspired,
Found the loved prince, and told what I desired
Then I had come, preventing Sheba's queen,
To see the comeliest of the sons of men:
To hear the charming poet's amorous song,
And gather honey falling from his tongue;
To take the fragrant kisses of his mouth,
Sweeter than breezes of her native south,
Likening his grace, his person, and his mien,
To all that great or beauteous I had seen.
Serene and bright his eyes, as solar beams,
Reflecting temper'd light from crystal streams;
Ruddy as gold his cheek; his bosom fair
As silve;r the curled ringlets of his hair
Black as the raven's wing; his lips more red
Than eastern coral or the scarlet thread;
Even his teeth, and white like a young flock,
Coeval, newly shorn, from the clear brook
Recent, and blanching on the sunny rock.
Ivory with sapphires interspersed, explains
How white his hands, how blue the manly veins;
Columns of polish'd marble, firmly set
On golden bases, are his legs and feet:
His stature all majestic, all divine,
Strait as the palm tree, strong as is the pine;
Saffron and myrrh are on his garments shed,
And everlasting sweets bloom round his head,
What utter I! where am I! wretched maid!
Die, Abra, die; too plainly thou hast said
Thy soul's desire to meet his high embrace,
And blessing stamp'd upon thy future race;
To bid attentive nations bless thy womb,
With unborn monarchs charged, and Solomon to come.
Here o'er her speech her flowing eyes prevail.
O foulish maid! and O unhappy tale!
My suffering heart for ever shall defy
New wounds and danger from a future eye.
O! yet my tortured senses deep retain
The wretched memory of my former pain,
The dire affront, and my Egyptian chain.
As time, I said, may happily efface
That cruel image of the King's disgrace,
Imperial Reason shall resume her seat,
And Solomon, once fall'n again be great.
Betray'd by passion, as subdued in war,
We wisely should exert a double care,
Nor ever ought a second time to err.
This Abra then -------
I saw her; 'twas humanity; it gave
Some respite to the sorrows of my slave.
Her fond excess proclaim'd her passion true,
And generous pity to that truth was due.
Well I entreated her who well deserved;
I call'd her often, for she always served:
Use made her person easy to my sight,
And ease insensibly produced delight.
Whene'er I revell'd in the women's bowers
(For first I sought her but at looser hours)
The apples she had gather'd smelt most sweet,
The cake she kneaded was the savoury meat;
But fruits their odour lost, and meats their taste,
If gentle Abra had not deck'd the feast:
Dishonour'd did the sparkling goblet stand,
Unless received from gentle Abra's hand;
And when the virgins form'd the evening choir,
Raising their voices to the master-lyre,
Too that I thought this voice, and that too shrill;
One show'd too much, and one too little skill;
Nor could my soul approve the music's tone,
Till all was hush'd, and Abra sung alone.
Fairer she seem'd distinguish'd from the rest,
And better mien disclosed, as better drest:
A bright tiara round her forehead tied,
To juster bounds confined its rising pride:
The blushing ruby on her snowy breast
Render'd its panting whiteness more confest;
Bracelets of pearl gave roundness to her arm,
And every gem augmented every charm:
Her senses pleased, her beauty still improved,
And she more lovely grew as more beloved.
And now I could behold, avow, and blame,
The several follies of my former flame,
Willing my heart for recompence to prove
The certain joys that lie in prosperous love.
For what, said I, from Abra can I fear,
Too humble to insult, too soft to be severe?
The damsel's sole ambition is to please;
With freedom I may like, and quit with ease;
She soothes, but never can enthral my mind:
Why may not peace and love for once be join'd?
Great Heaven! how frail thy creature man is made!
How by himself insensibly betray'd!
In our own strength unhappily secure,
Too little cautious of the adverse power,
And by the blast of self-opinion moved,
We wish to charm, and seek to be beloved.
On pleasure's flowing brink we idly stray,
Masters as yet of our returning way;
Seeing no danger we disarm our mind,
And give our conduct to the waves and wind;
Then in the flowery mead or verdant shade
To wanton dalliance negligently laid,
We weave the chaplet and we crown the bowl,
And smiling see the nearer waters roll,
Till the strong gusts of raging passion rise,
Till the dire tempest mingles earth and skies,
And swift into the boundless ocean borne,
Our foolish confidence too late we mourn;
Round our devoted heads the billows beat,
And from our troubled view the lessen'd lands retreat.
O mighty Love! from thy unbounded power
How shall the human bosom rest secure?
How shall our thought avoid the various snare,
Or wisdom to our caution'd soul declare
The different shapes thou pleasest to employ
When bent to hurt, and certain to destroy;
The haughty nymph, in open beauty drest,
To-day encounters our unguarded breast;
She looks with majesty, and moves with state:
Unbent her soul, and in misfortune great,
She scorns the world, and dares the rage of Fate.
Here whilst we take stern manhood for our guide,
And guard our conduct with becoming pride,
Charm'd with the courage in her action shown,
We praise her mind, the image of our own,
She that can please is certain to persuade;
To-day beloved, to-morrow is obey'd.
We think we see through Reason's optics right,
Nor find how Beauty's rays elude our sight:
Struck with her eye whilst we applaud her mind,
And when we speak her great we wish her kind.
To-morrow, cruel Power! thou arm'st the fair
With flowing sorrow and dishevell'd hair.
Sad her complaint, and humble is her tale,
Her sighs explaining where her accents fail;
Here generous softness warms the honest breast;
We raise the sad, and succour the distrest,
And whilst our wish prepares the kind relief,
Whilst pity mitigates her rising grief,
We sicken soon from her contagious care,
Grieve for her sorrows, groan for her despair,
And against love, too late, those bosoms arm,
Which tears can soften, and which sighs can warm.
Against this nearest, cruelest of foes,
What shall wit meditate, or force oppose?
Whence, feeble Nature, shall we summon aid,
If by our pity and our pride betray'd?
External remedy shall we hope to find,
When the close fiend has gain'd our treacherous mind,
Insulting there does Reason's power deride,
And, blind himself, conducts the dazzled guide?
My conqueror now, my lovely Abra, held
My freedom in her chains; my heart was fill'd
With her, with her alone, in her alone
It sought its peace and joy: while she was gone
It sigh'd, and grieved, impatient of her stay:
Return'd she chased those sighs, that grief, away;
Her absence made the night, her presence brought the day.
The ball, the play, the mask, by turns succeed:
For her I make the song; the dance with her I lead:
I court her, various, in each shape and dress
That luxury may form or thought express.
To-day beneath the palm-tree, on the plains,
In Deborah's arms and habit Abra reigns:
The wreath, denoting conquest, guides her brow,
And low, like Barak, at her feet I bow.
The mimic Chorus sings her prosperous hand,
As she had slain the foe and saved the land.
To-morrow she approves a softer air,
Forsakes the pomp and pageantry of war,
The form peaceful Abigail assumes,
And from the village with the present comes:
The youthful band depose their glittering arms,
Receive her bounties and recite her charms,
Whilst I assume my father's step and mien,
To meet with due regard my future queen.
If hap'ly Abra's will be now inclined
To range the woods or chase the flying hind,
Soon as the sun awakes, the sprightly court
Leave their repose, and hasten to the sport.
In lessen'd royalty, and humble state,
Thy king, Jerusalem! descends to wait
Till Abra comes. She comes; a milk-white steed
Mixture of Persia's and Arabia's breed,
Sustains the nymph: her garments flying loose,
(As the Sidonian maids or Thracian use)
And half her knee and half her breast appear
By art, like negligence disclosed and nare.
Her left hand guides the hunting courser's flight,
A silver bow she carries in her right,
And from the golden quiver at her side
Rustles the ebon arrow's feather'd pride;
Sapphires and diamonds on her front display
An artificial moon's increasing ray.
Diana, huntress, mistress of the groves,
The favourite Abra speaks, and looks, and moves.
Her as the present goddess, I obey,
Beneath her feet the captive game I lay;
The mingled Chorus sing Diana's fame,
Clarions and horns in louder peals proclaim
Her mystic praise, the vocal triumphs bound
Against the hills; the hills reflect the sound.
If tired this evening with the hunted woods,
To the large fish-pools or the glassy floods
Her mind to-morrow points a thousand hands
To-night employ'd obey the king's commands;
Upon the wat'ry beach an artful pile
Of planks is join'd, and forms a moving isle;
A golden chariot in the midst is set,
And silver cygnets seem to feel its weight.
Abra, bright queen, ascends her gaudy throne,
In semblance of the Grecian Venus knows;
Tritons and sea-green naiads round her move,
And sing in moving strains the force of love;
Whilst, as th' approaching pageant does appear,
And echoing crowds speak mighty Venus near,
I, her adorer, too devoutly stand
Fast on the utmost margin of the land,
With arms and hopes extended, to receive
The fancied goddess rising from the wave.
O subject Reason! O imperious Love!
Whither yet further would my folly rove?
Is it enough that Abra should be great
In the wall'd palace or the rural seat;
That masking habits and a borrow'd name
Contrive to hide my plenitude of shame?
No, no: Jerusalem combined must see
My open fault and regal infamy.
Solemn a month is destined for the feast;
Abra invites; the nation is the guest.
To have the honour of each day sustain'd
The woods are travers'd, and the lakes are drain'd:
Arabia's wilds and Egypt's are explored;
The edible creation decks the board:
Hardly the phenix 'scapes ---------
The men their lyres, the maids their voices raise,
To sing my happiness and Abra's praise,
And slavish bards our mutual loves rehearse
In lying strains and ignominious verse;
While from the banquet leading forth the bride,
Whom prudent love from public eyes should hide,
I show her to the world, confess'd and known
Queen of my heart, and partner of my throne.
And now her friends and flatterers fill the court;
From Dan and from Beersheba they resort;
They barter places and dispose of grants,
Whole provinces unequal to their wants;
They teach her to recede or to debate;
With toys of love to mix affairs of state;
By practised rules her empire to secure,
And in my pleasure make my ruin sure.
They gave and she transferr'd the cursed advice,
That monarchs should their inward soul disguise,
Dissemble and command, be false and wise;
By ignominious arts, for servile ends,
Should compliment their foes and shun their friends.
And now I leave the true and just supports
Of legal princes and of honest courts,
Barzillai's and the fierce Benaiah's heirs,
Whose sires, great partners in my father's cares,
Saluted their young king, at Hebron crown'd,
Great by their toil, and glorious by their wound:
And now unhappy counsel, I prefer
Those whom my follies only made me fear,
Old Corah's brood and taunting Shimei's race,
Miscreants who owed their lives to David's grace,
Though they had spurn'd his rule and cursed him to his face.
Still Abra's power, my scandal, still increased;
Justice submitted to what Abra pleased:
Her will alone could settle or revoke,
And law was fixt by what she latest spoke.
Israel neglected, Abra was my care;
I only acted, thought, and lived for her,
I durst not reason with my wounded heart;
Abra possess'd; she was its better part.
O! had I now review'd the famous cause
Which gave my righteous youth so just applause,
In vain on the dissembled mother's tongue
Had cunning art and sly persuasion hung,
And real care in vain, and native love,
And real care in vain, and native love,
In the true parent's panting breast had strove,
While both deceived had seen the destined child
Or slain, or saved, as Abra frown'd or smiled.
Uknowing to command, proud to obey,
A lifeless king, a royal shade I lay.
Unheard the injured orphans now complain;
The widow's cries address the throne in vain.
Causes unjudged disgrace the loaded file,
And sleeping laws the king's neglect revile.
No more the Elders throng'd around my throne
To hear my maxims, and reform their own;
No more the young nobility were taught
How Moses govern'd and how David fought.
Loose and undisciplined the soldier lay,
Or lost in drink and game the solid day;
Porches and schools, design'd for public good,
Uncover'd, and with scaffolds cumber'd stood,
Or nodded, threatening ruin --
Half pillars wanted their expected height,
And roofs imperfect prejudiced the sight.
The artists grieve; the labouring people droop;
My father's legacy, my country's hope,
God's temples, lie unfinish'd -
The wise and grave deplored their monarch's fate,
And future mischiefs of a sinking state.
In this the serious said, is this the man,
Whose active soul through every science ran?
Who by just rule and elevated skill
Prescribed the dubious bounds of good and ill?
Whose golden sayings and immortal wit
On large phylacteries expressive writ,
Were to the forehead of the Rabbins tied,
Our youth's instruction and our age's pride?
Could not the wise his wild desires restrain?
Then was our hearing and his preaching vain!
What from his life and letters were we taught
But that his knowledge aggravates his fault?
In lighter mood, the humorous and the gay
(As crown'd with roses at their feasts they lay)
Sent the full goblet charged with Abra's name,
And charms superior to the master's fame.
Laughing, some praise the king, who let them see
How aptly luxe and empire might agree:
Some gloss'd how love and wisdom were at strife,
And brought my proverbs to confront my life.
However, friend, here's to the king, one cries
To him who was the king, the friend replies.
The king, for Judah's and for wisdom's curse
To Abra yields; could I or thou do worse?
Our looser lives let Chance or Folly steer,
If thus the prudent and determined err.
Let Dinah bind with flowers her flowing hair,
And touch the lute and sound the wanton air,
Let us the bliss without the sting receive,
Free as we will or to enjoy or leave.
Pleasures on levity's smooth surface flow;
Thought brings the weight that sinks the soul to wo.
Now be this maxim to the king convey'd,
And added to the thousand he has made.
Sadly, O Reason, is thy power express'd,
Thou gloomy tyrant of the frighted beast!
And harsh the rules which we fom thee receive,
If for our wisdom we our pleasure give,
And more to think be only more to grieve:
If Judah's king, at thy tribunal tried,
Forsakes his joy to vindicate his pride,
And, changing sorrows, I am only found
Loosed from the chains of love, in thine more strictly bound.
But do I call thee tyrant, or complain
How hard thy laws, how absolute thy reign?
While thou, alas! art but an empty name,
To no two men who e'er discoursed the same;
The idle product of a troubled thought,
In borrow'd shapes and airy colours wrought,
A fancied line, and a reflected shade;
A chain which man to fetter man has made,
By artifice imposed, by fear obey'd.
Yet, wretched name, or arbitrary thing,
Whence-ever I thy cruel essence bring,
I own thy influence, for I feel thy sting.
Reluctant I perceive thee in my soul,
Form'd to command, and destind to control,
Yes, thy insulting dictates shall be heard;
Virtue for once shall be her own reward:
Yes, rebel Israel, this unhappy maid
Shall be dismiss'd; the crowd shall be obey'd:
The king his passion and his rule shall leave,
No longer Abra's but the people's slave:
My coward soul shall bear its wayward fate;
I will, alas! be wretched to be great,
And sigh in royalty, and grieve in state.
I said, resolved to plunge into my grief
At once, so far as to expect relief
From my despair alone --
To her I loved, toher I must forsake.
How inconsistent majesty and love.
I always should, it said, esteem her well,
But never see her more: it bid her feel
No future pain for me; but instant wed
A lover more proportion'd to her bed,
And quiet dedicate her remnant life
To the just duties of an humble wife.
She read, and forth to me she wildly ran,
To me, the ease of all her former pain.
She kneel'd, entreated, struggled, threaten'd, cried,
And with alternate passion lived and died;
Till now denied the liberty to mourn,
And by rude fury from my presence torn,
This only object of my real care
Cut off from hope, abandon'd to despair,
In some few posting fatal hours is hurl'd
From wealth, from power, from love, and from the world.
Here tell me, if thou darest, my conscious soul,
What different sorrows did within thee roll?
What pangs, what fires, what racks, did thou sustain?
What sad vicissitudes of smarting pain?
How oft from pomp and state did I remove,
To feed despair, and cherish hopeless love?
How oft all day recall'd I Abra's charms,
Her beauties press'd, and panting in my arms?
How oft with sighs view'd every female face
Where mimic Fancy might her likeness trace?
How oft desired to fly from Isreal's throne,
And live in shades with her and love alone?
How oft all night pursued her in my dreams,
O'er flowery valleys and through crystal streams,
And waking, view'd with grief the rising sun,
And fondly mourn'd the dear delusion gone?
When thus the gather'd storms of wretched love
In my swollen bosom with long war had strove,
At length they broke their bounds; at length their force
Bore down whatever met its stronger course;
Laid all the civil bonds of manhood waste,
And scatter'd ruin as the torrent pass'd.
So from the hills, whose hollow caves contain
The congregated snow and swelling rain,
Till the full stores their ancient bounds disdain,
Precipitate the furious torrent flows:
In vain would speed avoid or strength oppose:
Towns, forests, herds, and men, promiscuous drown'd,
With one great death deform the dreary ground;
The echoed woes from distant rocks resound.
And now what impious ways, my wishes took,
How they the monarch and the man forsook,
And how I follow'd an abandon'd will
Through crooked paths and sad retreats of ill;
By turns my prostituted bed receives,
Through tribes of women how I loosely ranged
Impatient, liked to-night, to-morrow changed,
And by the instinct of capricious lust
Enjoy'd, disdain'd, was grateful or unjust;
O, be these scenes from human eyes conceal'd,
In clouds of decent silence justly veil'd!
O, be the wanton images convey'd
To black oblivion and eternal shade!
Or let their sad epitome alone
And outward lines to future ages be known,
Enough to propagate the sure belief
That vice engenders shame, and folly broods o'er grief.
Buried in sloth and lost in ease I lay;
The night I revell'd, and I slept the day.
New heaps of fuel damp'd my kindling fires,
And daily change extinguish'd young desires,
By its own force destroy'd, fruition ceased;
And always wearied, I was never pleased.
No longer now does my neglected mind
Its wonted stores and old ideas find.
Fix'd judgement there no longer does abide
To take the true or set the false aside,
No longer does swift Memory trace the cells
Where springing Wit or young Invention dwells,
Frequent debauch to habitude prevails;
Patience of toil and love of virtue fails.
By sad degrees impair'd my vigour dies,
Till I command no longer e'en in vice.
The women on my dotage build their sway:
In regal garments now I gravely stride,
Awed by the Persian damsels' haughty pride;
Now with the looser Syrian dance and sing,
In robes tuck'd up, opprobrious to the king.
Charm'd by their eyes, their manners I acquire,
And shape my foolishness to their desire;
Seduced and awed by the Philistine dame,
At Dagon's shrine I kindle impious flame.
With the Chaldean's charms her rites prevail,
And curling frankincense ascends to Baal.
To each new harlot I new altars dress,
And serve her god whose person I caress.
Where, my deluded sense, was reason flown?
Where the high majesty of David's throne?
Where all the maxims of eternal truth,
With which the living God inform'd my youth,
When with the lewd Egyptian I adore
Vain idols, deities that ne'er before
In Isreal's land had fix'd their dire abodes,
Beastly divinities, and droves of gods;
Osiris, Apis, powers that chew the cud,
And dog Anubis, flatterer for his food?
When in the woody hill's forbidden shade
I carved the marble and invoked its aid:
When in the fens to snake and flies, with zeal
Unworthy human thought, I prostrate fell;
To shrubs and plants my vile devotion paid,
And set the bearded leek to which I pray'd;
When to all beings sacred rites were given,
forgot the Arbiter of earth and heaven?
Through these sad shades, this chaos in my soul,
Some seeds of light at length began to roll:
The rising motion of an infant ray
Shot glimmering through the cloud, and promised day.
And now one moment able to reflect,
I found the king abandon'd to neglect,
Seen without awe, and served without respect.
I found my subjects amicably join
To lessen their defects by citing mine.
The priest with pity prays for David's race,
And left his text to dwell on my disgrace.
The father, whilst he warn'd his erring son,
The sad examples which he ought to shun,
Described, and only named not, Solomon.
Each bard, each sire, did to his pupil sing,
A wise child better than a foolish king.
Into myself my reason's eye I turn'd,
And as I much reflected much I mourn'd.
A mighty king I am, an earthly god;
Nations obey my word and wait my nod:
I raise or sink, imprison or set free,
And life or death, depends on my decree.
Fond of the idea, and the thought is vain;
O'er Judah's king ten thousand tyrants reign,
Legions of lust and various powers of ill
Insult the master's tributary will;
And he from whom the nations should receive
Justice and freedom, lies himself a slave,
Tortured by cruel change of wild desires,
Lash'd by mad rage, and scorch'd by brutal fires.
O Reason! once again to thee I call;
Accept my sorrow and retrieve my fall.
Wisdom, thou say'st, from heaven received her birth,
Her beams transmitted to the subject earth:
Yet thi great empress of the human soul
Does only with the imagined power control,
If restless passion, by rebellious sway,
Compels the weak usurper to obey.
O troubled, weak, and coward, as thou art,
Without thy poor advice the labouring heart
To worse extremes with swifter steps would run,
Not saved by virtue, yet vice undone.
Oft have I said, the praise of doing well
Is to the ear as ointment to the smell.
Now if some flies perchance, however small,
Into the alabaster urn should fall,
The odours of the sweets enclosed would die,
And stench corrupt (sad change) their place supply:
So the least faults, if mixed with fairest deed,
Of future ill become the fatal seed;
Into the balm of purest virtue cast,
Annoy all life with one contagious blast.
Lost Solomon! pursue this thought no more;
Of thy past errors recollect the store;
And silent weep, that while the deathless Muse
Shall sing the just, shall o'er their head diffuse
Perfumes with lavish hand, she shall proclaim
Thy crimes alone, and to thy evil fame
Impartial, scatter damps and poisons on thy name.
Awaking therefore, as who long had dream'd,
Much of my women and their gods ashamed,
From this abyss of exemplary vice
Resolved, as time might aid my thought, to rise,
Again I bid the mournful goddess write
Of human hope by cross event destroy'd,
Of useless wealth and greatness enjoy'd;
Of lust and love, with their fantastic train,
Their wishes, smiles, and looks, deceitful all and vain.
Palamon And Arcite; Or, The Knight's Tale. From Chaucer. In Three Books. Book III.
The day approached when Fortune should decide
The important enterprise, and give the bride;
For now the rivals round the world had sought,
And each his number, well appointed, brought.
The nations far and near contend in choice,
And send the flower of war by public voice;
That after or before were never known
Such chiefs, as each an army seemed alone:
Beside the champions, all of high degree,
Who knighthood loved, and deeds of chivalry,
Thronged to the lists, and envied to behold
The names of others, not their own, enrolled.
Nor seems it strange; for every noble knight
Who loves the fair, and is endued with might,
In such a quarrel would be proud to fight.
There breathes not scarce a man on British ground
(An isle for love and arms of old renowned)
But would have sold his life to purchase fame,
To Palamon or Arcite sent his name;
And had the land selected of the best,
Half had come hence, and let the world provide the rest.
A hundred knights with Palamon there came,
Approved in fight, and men of mighty name;
Their arms were several, as their nations were,
But furnished all alike with sword and spear.
Some wore coat armour, imitating scale,
And next their skins were stubborn shirts of mail;
Some wore a breastplate and a light juppon,
Their horses clothed with rich caparison;
Some for defence would leathern bucklers use
Of folded hides, and others shields of Pruce.
One hung a pole-axe at his saddle-bow,
And one a heavy mace to stun the foe;
One for his legs and knees provided well,
With jambeux armed, and double plates of steel;
This on his helmet wore a lady's glove,
And that a sleeve embroidered by his love.
With Palamon above the rest in place,
Lycurgus came, the surly king of Thrace;
Black was his beard, and manly was his face
The balls of his broad eyes rolled in his head,
And glared betwixt a yellow and a red;
He looked a lion with a gloomy stare,
And o'er his eyebrows hung his matted hair;
Big-boned and large of limbs, with sinews strong,
Broad-shouldered, and his arms were round and long.
Four milk-white bulls (the Thracian use of old)
Were yoked to draw his car of burnished gold.
Upright he stood, and bore aloft his shield,
Conspicuous from afar, and overlooked the field.
His surcoat was a bear-skin on his back;
His hair hung long behind, and glossy raven-black.
His ample forehead bore a coronet,
With sparkling diamonds and with rubies set.
Ten brace, and more, of greyhounds, snowy fair,
And tall as stags, ran loose, and coursed around his chair,
A match for pards in flight, in grappling for the bear;
With golden muzzles all their mouths were bound,
And collars of the same their necks surround.
Thus through the fields Lycurgus took his way;
His hundred knights attend in pomp and proud array.
To match this monarch, with strong Arcite came
Emetrius, king of Inde, a mighty name,
On a bay courser, goodly to behold,
The trappings of his horse embossed with barbarous gold.
Not Mars bestrode a steed with greater grace;
His surcoat o'er his arms was cloth of Thrace,
Adorned with pearls, all orient, round, and great;
His saddle was of gold, with emeralds set;
His shoulders large a mantle did attire,
With rubies thick, and sparkling as the fire;
His amber-coloured locks in ringlets run,
With graceful negligence, and shone against the sun.
His nose was aquiline, his eyes were blue,
Ruddy his lips, and fresh and fair his hue;
Some sprinkled freckles on his face were seen,
Whose dusk set off the whiteness of the skin.
His awful presence did the crowd surprise,
Nor durst the rash spectator meet his eyes;
Eyes that confessed him born for kingly sway,
So fierce, they flashed intolerable day.
His age in nature's youthful prime appeared,
And just began to bloom his yellow beard.
Whene'er he spoke, his voice was heard around,
Loud as a trumpet, with a silver sound;
A laurel wreathed his temples, fresh, and green,
And myrtle sprigs, the marks of love, were mixed between.
Upon his fist he bore, for his delight,
An eagle well reclaimed, and lily white.
His hundred knights attend him to the war,
All armed for battle; save their heads were bare.
Words and devices blazed on every shield,
And pleasing was the terror of the field.
For kings, and dukes, and barons you might see,
Like sparkling stars, though different in degree,
All for the increase of arms, and love of chivalry.
Before the king tame leopards led the way,
And troops of lions innocently play.
So Bacchus through the conquered Indies rode,
And beasts in gambols frisked before their honest god.
In this array the war of either side
Through Athens passed with military pride.
At prime, they entered on the Sunday morn;
Rich tapestry spread the streets, and flowers the posts adorn.
The town was all a jubilee of feasts;
So Theseus willed in honour of his guests;
Himself with open arms the kings embraced,
Then all the rest in their degrees were graced.
No harbinger was needful for the night,
For every house was proud to lodge a knight.
I pass the royal treat, nor must relate
The gifts bestowed, nor how the champions sate;
Who first, who last, or how the knights addressed
Their vows, or who was fairest at the feast;
Whose voice, whose graceful dance did most surprise,
Soft amorous sighs, and silent love of eyes.
The rivals call my Muse another way,
To sing their vigils for the ensuing day.
'Twas ebbing darkness, past the noon of night:
And Phosphor, on the confines of the light,
Promised the sun; ere day began to spring,
The tuneful lark already stretched her wing,
And flickering on her nest, made short essays to sing.
When wakeful Palamon, preventing day,
Took to the royal lists his early way,
To Venus at her fane, in her own house, to pray.
There, falling on his knees before her shrine,
He thus implored with prayers her power divine:
“Creator Venus, genial power of love,
The bliss of men below, and gods above!
Beneath the sliding sun thou runst thy race,
Dost fairest shine, and best become thy place.
For thee the winds their eastern blasts forbear,
Thy month reveals the spring, and opens all the year.
Thee, Goddess, thee the storms of winter fly;
Earth smiles with flowers renewing, laughs the sky,
And birds to lays of love their tuneful notes apply.
For thee the lion loathes the taste of blood,
And roaring hunts his female through the wood;
For thee the bulls rebellow through the groves,
And tempt the stream, and snuff their absent loves.
'Tis thine, whate'er is pleasant, good, or fair;
All nature is thy province, life thy care;
Thou madest the world, and dost the world repair.
Thou gladder of the mount of Cytheron,
Increase of Jove, companion of the Sun,
If e'er Adonis touched thy tender heart,
Have pity, Goddess, for thou knowest the smart!
Alas! I have not words to tell my grief;
To vent my sorrow would be some relief;
Light sufferings give us leisure to complain;
We groan, but cannot speak, in greater pain.
O Goddess, tell thyself what I would say!
Thou knowest it, and I feel too much to pray.
So grant my suit, as I enforce my might,
In love to be thy champion and thy knight,
A servant to thy sex, a slave to thee,
A foe professed to barren chastity:
Nor ask I fame or honour of the field,
Nor choose I more to vanquish than to yield:
In my divine Emilia make me blest,
Let Fate or partial Chance dispose the rest:
Find thou the manner, and the means prepare;
Possession, more than conquest, is my care.
Mars is the warrior's god; in him it lies
On whom he favours to confer the prize;
With smiling aspect you serenely move
In your fifth orb, and rule the realm of love.
The Fates but only spin the coarser clue,
The finest of the wool is left for you:
Spare me but one small portion of the twine,
And let the Sisters cut below your line:
The rest among the rubbish may they sweep,
Or add it to the yarn of some old miser's heap.
But if you this ambitious prayer deny,
(A wish, I grant; beyond mortality,)
Then let me sink beneath proud Arcite's arms,
And, I once dead, let him possess her charms.”
Thus ended he; then, with observance due,
The sacred incense on her altar threw:
The curling smoke mounts heavy from the fires;
At length it catches flame, and in a blaze expires;
At once the gracious Goddess gave the sign,
Her statue shook, and trembled all the shrine:
Pleased Palamon the tardy omen took;
For since the flames pursued the trailing smoke,
He knew his boon was granted, but the day
To distance driven, and joy adjourned with long delay.
Now morn with rosy light had streaked the sky,
Up rose the sun, and up rose Emily;
Addressed her early steps to Cynthia's fane,
In state attended by her maiden train,
Who bore the vests that holy rites require,
Incense, and odorous gums, and covered fire.
The plenteous horns with pleasant mead they crown
Nor wanted aught besides in honour of the Moon.
Now, while the temple smoked with hallowed steam,
They wash the virgin in a living stream;
The secret ceremonies I conceal,
Uncouth, perhaps unlawful to reveal:
But such they were as pagan use required,
Performed by women when the men retired,
Whose eyes profane their chaste mysterious rites
Might turn to scandal or obscene delights.
Well-meaners think no harm; but for the rest,
Things sacred they pervert, and silence is the best.
Her shining hair, uncombed, was loosely spread,
A crown of mastless oak adorned her head:
When to the shrine approached, the spotless maid
Had kindling fires on either altar laid;
(The rites were such as were observed of old,
By Statius in his Theban story told.)
Then kneeling with her hands across her breast,
Thus lowly she preferred her chaste request.
“O Goddess, haunter of the woodland green,
To whom both heaven and earth and seas are seen;
Queen of the nether skies, where half the year
Thy silver beams descend, and light the gloomy sphere;
Goddess of maids, and conscious of our hearts,
So keep me from the vengeance of thy darts,
(Which Niobe's devoted issue felt,
When hissing through the skies the feathered deaths
“As I desire to live a virgin life,
Nor know the name of mother or of wife.
Thy votress from my tender years I am,
And love, like thee, the woods and sylvan game.
Like death, thou knowest, I loathe the nuptial state,
And man, the tyrant of our sex, I hate,
A lowly servant, but a lofty mate;
Where love is duty on the female side,
On theirs mere sensual gust, and sought with surly pride.
Now by thy triple shape, as thou art seen
In heaven, earth, hell, and everywhere a queen,
Grant this my first desire; let discord cease,
And make betwixt the rivals lasting peace:
Quench their hot fire, or far from me remove
The flame, and turn it on some other love;
Or if my frowning stars have so decreed,
That one must be rejected, one succeed,
Make him my lord, within whose faithful breast
Is fixed my image, and who loves me best.
But oh! even that avert! I choose it not,
But take it as the least unhappy lot.
A maid I am, and of thy virgin train;
Oh, let me still that spotless name retain!
Frequent the forests, thy chaste will obey,
And only make the beasts of chase my prey!”
The flames ascend on either altar clear,
While thus the blameless maid addressed her prayer.
When lo! the burning fire that shone so bright
Flew off, all sudden, with extinguished light,
And left one altar dark, a little space,
Which turned self-kindled, and renewed the blaze;
That other victor-flame a moment stood,
Then fell, and lifeless. left the extinguished wood;
For ever lost, the irrevocable light
Forsook the blackening coals, and sunk to night:
At either end it whistled as it flew,
And as the brands were green, so dropped the dew,
Infected as it fell with sweat of sanguine hue.
The maid from that ill omen turned her eyes,
And with loud shrieks and clamours rent the skies;
Nor knew what signified the boding sign,
But found the powers displeased, and feared the wrath divine.
Then shook the sacred shrine, and sudden light
Sprung through the vaulted roof, and made the temple bright.
The Power, behold! the Power in glory shone,
By her bent bow and her keen arrows known;
The rest, a huntress issuing from the wood,
Reclining on her cornel spear she stood.
Then gracious thus began: “Dismiss thy fear,
And Heaven's unchanged decrees attentive hear:
More powerful gods have torn thee from my side,
Unwilling to resign, and doomed a bride;
The two contending knights are weighed above;
One Mars protects, and one the Queen of Love:
But which the man is in the Thunderer's breast;
This he pronounced, 'Tis he who loves thee best.'
The fire that, once extinct, revived again
Foreshows the love allotted to remain.
Farewell!” she said, and vanished from the place;
The sheaf of arrows shook, and rattled in the case.
Aghast at this, the royal virgin stood,
Disclaimed, and now no more a sister of the wood:
But to the parting Goddess thus she prayed:
“Propitious still, be present to my aid,
Nor quite abandon your once favoured maid.”
Then sighing she returned; but smiled betwixt,
With hopes, and fears, and joys with sorrows mixt.
The next returning planetary hour
of Mars, who shared the heptarchy of power,
His steps bold Arcite to the temple bent,
To adorn with pagan rites the power armipotent:
Then prostrate, low before his altar lay,
And raised his manly voice, and thus began, to pray:
“Strong God of Arms, whose iron sceptre sways
The freezing North, and Hyperborean seas,
And Scythian colds, and Thracia's wintry coast,
Where stand thy steeds, and thou art honoured most:
There most, but everywhere thy power is known,
The fortune of the fight is all thy own:
Terror is thine, and wild amazement, flung
From out thy chariot, withers even the strong;
And disarray and shameful rout ensue,
And force is added to the fainting crew.
Acknowledged as thou art, accept my prayer!
If aught I have achieved deserve thy care,
If to my utmost power with sword and shield
I dared the death, unknowing how to yield,
And falling in my rank, still kept the field;
Then let my arms prevail, by thee sustained,
That Emily by conquest may be gained.
Have pity on my pains; nor those unknown
To Mars, which, when a lover, were his own.
Venus, the public care of all above,
Thy stubborn heart has softened into love:
Now, by her blandishments and powerful charms,
When yielded she lay curling in thy arms,
Even by thy shame, if shame it may be called,
When Vulcan had thee in his net enthralled;
O envied ignominy, sweet disgrace,
When every god that saw thee wished thy place!
By those dear pleasures, aid my arms in fight,
And make me conquer in my patron's right:
For I am young, a novice in the trade,
The fool of love, unpractised to persuade,
And want the soothing arts that catch the fair,
But, caught my self, lie struggling in the snare;
And she I love or laughs at all my pain
Or knows her worth too well, and pays me with disdain.
For sure I am, unless I win in arms,
To stand excluded from Emilia's charms:
Nor can my strength avail, unless by thee
Endued with force I gain the victory;
Then for the fire which warmed thy generous heart,
Pity thy subject's pains and equal smart.
So be the morrow's sweat and labour mine,
The palm and honour of the conquest thine:
Then shall the war, and stern debate, and strife
Immortal be the business of my life;
And in thy fane, the dusty spoils among,
High on the burnished roof, my banner shall be hung,
Ranked with my champion's bucklers; and below,
With arms reversed, the achievements of my foe;
And while these limbs the vital spirit feeds,
While day to night and night to day succeeds,
Thy smoking altar shall be fat with food
Of incense and the grateful steam of blood;
Burnt-offerings morn and evening shall be thine,
And fires eternal in thy temple shine.
The bush of yellow beard, this length of hair,
Which from my birth inviolate I bear,
Guiltless of steel, and from the razor free,
Shall fall a plenteous crop, reserved for thee.
So may my arms with victory be blest,
I ask no more; let Fate dispose the rest.”
The champion ceased; there followed in the close
A hollow groan; a murmuring wind arose;
The rings of iron, that on the doors were hung,
Sent out a jarring sound, and harshly rung:
The bolted gates blew open at the blast,
The storm rushed in, and Arcite stood aghast:
The flames were blown aside, yet shone they bright,
Fanned by the wind, and gave a ruffled light.
Then from the ground a scent began to rise,
Sweet smelling as accepted sacrifice:
This omen pleased, and as the flames aspire,
With odorous incense Arcite heaps the fire:
Nor wanted hymns to Mars or heathen charms:
At length the nodding statue clashed his arms,
And with a sullen sound and feeble cry,
Half sunk and half pronounced the word of Victory.
For this, with soul devout, he thanked the God,
And, of success secure, returned to his abode.
These vows, thus granted, raised a strife above
Betwixt the God of War and Queen of Love.
She, granting first, had right of time to plead;
But he had granted too, nor would recede.
Jove was for Venus, but he feared his wife,
And seemed unwilling to decide the strife:
Till Saturn from his leaden throne arose,
And found a way the difference to compose:
Though sparing of his grace, to mischief bent,
He seldom does a good with good intent.
Wayward, but wise; by long experience taught,
To please both parties, for ill ends, he sought:
For this advantage age from youth has won,
As not to be outridden, though outrun.
By fortune he was now to Venus trined,
And with stern Mars in Capricorn was joined:
Of him disposing in his own abode,
He soothed the Goddess, while he gulled the God:
“Cease, daughter, to complain, and stint the strife;
Thy Palamon shall have his promised wife:
And Mars, the lord of conquest, in the fight
With palm and laurel shall adorn his knight.
Wide is my course, nor turn I to my place,
Till length of time, and move with tardy pace.
Man feels me when I press the etherial plains;
My hand is heavy, and the wound remains.
Mine is the shipwreck in a watery sign;
And in an earthy the dark dungeon mine.
Cold shivering agues, melancholy care,
And bitter blasting winds, and poisoned air,
Are mine, and wilful death, resulting from despair.
The throttling quinsey 'tis my star appoints,
And rheumatisms I send to rack the joints:
When churls rebel against their native prince,
I arm their hands, and furnish the pretence;
And housing in the lion's hateful sign,
Bought senates and deserting troops are mine.
Mine is the privy poisoning; I command
Unkindly seasons and ungrateful land.
By me kings' palaces are pushed to ground,
And miners crushed beneath their mines are found.
'Twas I slew Samson, when the pillared hall
Fell down, and crushed the many with the fall.
My looking is the sire of pestilence,
That sweeps at once the people and the prince.
Now weep no more, but trust thy grandsire's art,
Mars shall be pleased, and thou perform thy part.
'Tis ill, though different your complexions are,
The family of Heaven for men should war.”
The expedient pleased, where neither lost his right;
Mars had the day, and Venus had the night.
The management they left to Chronos' care.
Now turn we to the effect, and sing the war.
In Athens all was pleasure, mirth, and play,
All proper to the spring and sprightly May:
Which every soul inspired with such delight,
'Twas justing all the day, and love at night.
Heaven smiled, and gladded was the heart of man;
And Venus had the world as when it first began.
At length in sleep their bodies they compose,
And dreamt the future fight, and early rose.
Now scarce the dawning day began to spring,
As at a signal given, the streets with clamours ring:
At once the crowd arose; confused and high,
Even from the heaven was heard a shouting cry,
For Mars was early up, and roused the sky.
The gods came downward to behold the wars,
Sharpening their sights, and leaning from their stars.
The neighing of the generous horse was heard,
For battle by the busy groom prepared:
Rustling of harness, rattling of the shield,
Clattering of armour, furbished for the field.
Crowds to the castle mounted up the street;
Battering the pavement with their coursers' feet:
The greedy sight might there devour the gold
Of glittering arms, too dazzling to behold:
And polished steel that cast the view aside,
And crested morions, with their plumy pride.
Knights, with a long retinue of their squires,
In gaudy liveries march, and quaint attires.
One laced the helm, another held the lance;
A third the shining buckler did advance.
The courser pawed the ground with restless feet,
And snorting foamed, and champed the golden bit.
The smiths and armourers on palfreys ride,
Files in their hands, and hammers at their side,
And nails for loosened spears and thongs for shields provide.
The yeomen guard the streets in seemly bands;
And clowns come crowding on, with cudgels in their hands.
The trumpets, next the gate, in order placed,
Attend the sign to sound the martial blast:
The palace yard is filled with floating tides,
And the last comers bear the former to the sides.
The throng is in the midst; the common crew
Shut out, the hall admits the better few.
In knots they stand, or in a rank they walk,
Serious in aspect, earnest in their talk;
Factious, and favouring this or t'other side,
As their strong fancies and weak reason guide;
Their wagers back their wishes; numbers hold
With the fair freckled king, and beard of gold:
So vigorous are his eyes, such rays they cast,
So prominent his eagle's beak is placed.
But most their looks on the black monarch bend;
His rising muscles and his brawn commend;
His double-biting axe, and beamy spear,
Each asking a gigantic force to rear.
All spoke as partial favour moved the mind;
And, safe themselves, at others' cost divined.
Waked by the cries, the Athenian chief arose,
The knightly forms of combat to dispose;
And passing through the obsequious guards, he sate
Conspicuous on a throne, sublime in state;
There, for the two contending knights he sent;
Armed cap-a-pie, with reverence low they bent;
He smiled on both, and with superior look
Alike their offered adoration took.
The people press on every side to see
Their awful Prince, and hear his high decree.
Then signing to their heralds with his hand,
They gave his orders from their lofty stand.
Silence is thrice enjoined; then thus aloud
The king-at-arms bespeaks the knights and listening crowd:
“Our sovereign lord has pondered in his mind
The means to spare the blood of gentle kind;
And of his grace and inborn clemency
He modifies his first severe decree,
The keener edge of battle to rebate,
The troops for honour fighting, not for hate.
He wills, not death should terminate their strife,
And wounds, if wounds ensue, be short of life;
But issues, ere the fight, his dread command,
That slings afar, and poniards hand to hand,
Be banished from the field; that none shall dare
With shortened sword to stab in closer war;
But in fair combat fight with manly strength,
Nor push with biting point, but strike at length.
The turney is allowed but one career
Of the tough ash, with the sharp-grinded spear;
But knights unhorsed may rise from off the plain,
And fight on foot their honour to regain;
Nor, if at mischief taken, on the ground
Be slain, but prisoners to the pillar bound,
At either barrier placed; nor, captives made,
Be freed, or armed anew the fight invade:
The chief of either side, bereft of life,
Or yielded to his foe, concludes the strife.
Thus dooms the lord: now valiant knights and young,
Fight each his fill, with swords and maces long.”
The herald ends: the vaulted firmament
With loud acclaims and vast applause is rent:
Heaven guard a Prince so gracious and so good,
So just, and yet so provident of blood!
This was the general cry. The trumpets sound,
And warlike symphony is heard around.
The marching troops through Athens take their way,
The great Earl-marshal orders their array.
The fair from high the passing pomp behold;
A rain of flowers is from the window rolled.
The casements are with golden tissue spread,
And horses' hoofs, for earth, on silken tapestry tread.
The King goes midmost, and the rivals ride
In equal rank, and close his either side.
Next after these there rode the royal wife,
With Emily, the cause and the reward of strife.
The following cavalcade, by three and three,
Proceed by titles marshalled in degree.
Thus through the southern gate they take their way,
And at the list arrived ere prime of day.
There, parting from the King, the chiefs divide,
And wheeling east and west, before their many ride.
The Athenian monarch mounts his throne on high,
And after him the Queen and Emily:
Next these, the kindred of the crown are graced
With nearer seats, and lords by ladies placed.
Scarce were they seated, when with clamours loud
In rushed at once a rude promiscuous crowd,
The guards, and then each other overbare,
And in a moment throng the spacious theatre.
Now changed the jarring noise to whispers low,
As winds forsaking seas more softly blow,
When at the western gate, on which the car
Is placed aloft that bears the God of War,
Proud Arcite entering armed before his train
Stops at the barrier, and divides the plain.
Red was his banner, and displayed abroad
The bloody colours of his patron god.
At that self moment enters Palamon
The gate of Venus, and the rising Sun;
Waved by the wanton winds, his banner flies,
All maiden white, and shares the people's eyes.
From east to west, look all the world around,
Two troops so matched were never to be found;
Such bodies built for strength, of equal age,
In stature sized; so proud an equipage:
The nicest eye could no distinction make,
Where lay the advantage, or what side to take.
Thus ranged, the herald for the last proclaims
A silence, while they answered to their names:
For so the king decreed, to shun with care
The fraud of musters false, the common bane of war.
The tale was just, and then the gates were closed;
And chief to chief, and troop to troop opposed.
The heralds last retired, and loudly cried,
“The fortune of the field be fairly tried!”
At this the challenger, with fierce defy,
His trumpet sounds; the challenged makes reply:
With clangour rings the field, resounds the vaulted sky.
Their vizors closed, their lances in the rest,
Or at the helmet pointed or the crest,
They vanish from the barrier, speed the race,
And spurring see decrease the middle space.
A cloud of smoke envelopes either host,
And all at once the combatants are lost:
Darkling they join adverse, and shock unseen,
Coursers with coursers justling, men with men:
As labouring in eclipse, a while they stay,
Till the next blast of wind restores the day.
They look anew: the beauteous form of fight
Is changed, and war appears a grisly sight.
Two troops in fair array one moment showed,
The next, a field with fallen bodies strowed:
Not half the number in their seats are found;
But men and steeds lie grovelling on the ground.
The points of spears are stuck within the shield,
The steeds without their riders scour the field.
The knights unhorsed, on foot renew the fight;
The glittering fauchions cast a gleaming light;
Hauberks and helms are hewed with many a wound,
Out spins the streaming blood, and dyes the ground.
The mighty maces with such haste descend,
They break the bones, and make the solid armour bend.
This thrusts amid the throng with furious force;
Down goes, at once, the horseman and the horse:
That courser stumbles on the fallen steed,
And, floundering, throws the rider o'er his head.
One rolls along, a football to his foes;
One with a broken truncheon deals his blows.
This halting, this disabled with his wound,
In triumph led, is to the pillar bound,
Where by the king's award he must abide:
There goes a captive led on t'other side.
By fits they cease, and leaning on the lance,
Take breath a while, and to new fight advance.
Full oft the rivals met, and neither spared
His utmost force, and each forgot to ward:
The head of this was to the saddle bent,
The other backward to the crupper sent:
Both were by turns unhorsed; the jealous blows
Fall thick and heavy, when on foot they close.
So deep their fauchions bite, that every stroke
Pierced to the quick; and equal wounds they gave and took.
Borne far asunder by the tides of men,
Like adamant and steel they met agen.
So when a tiger sucks the bullock's blood,
A famished lion issuing from the wood
Roars lordly fierce, and challenges the food.
Each claims possession, neither will obey,
But both their paws are fastened on the prey;
They bite, they tear; and while in vain they strive,
The swains come armed between, and both to distance drive.
At length, as Fate foredoomed, and all things tend
By course of time to their appointed end;
So when the sun to west was far declined,
And both afresh in mortal battle joined,
The strong Emetrius came in Arcite's aid,
And Palamon with odds was overlaid:
For, turning short, he struck with all his might
Full on the helmet of the unwary knight.
Deep was the wound; he staggered with the blow,
And turned him to his unexpected foe;
Whom with such force he struck, he felled him down,
And cleft the circle of his golden crown.
But Arcite's men, who now prevailed in fight,
Twice ten at once surround the single knight:
O'erpowered at length, they force him to the ground,
Unyielded as he was, and to the pillar bound;
And king Lycurgus, while he fought in vain
His friend to free, was tumbled on the plain.
Who now laments but Palamon, compelled
No more to try the fortune of the field,
And, worse than death, to view with hateful eyes
His rival's conquest, and renounce the prize!
The royal judge on his tribunal placed,
Who had beheld the fight from first to last,
Bade cease the war; pronouncing from on high,
Arcite of Thebes had won the beauteous Emily.
The sound of trumpets to the voice replied,
And round the royal lists the heralds cried,
“Arcite of Thebes has won the beauteous bride!”
The people rend the skies with vast applause;
All own the chief, when Fortune owns the cause.
Arcite is owned even by the gods above,
And conquering Mars insults the Queen of Love.
So laughed he when the rightful Titan failed,
And Jove's usurping arms in heaven prevailed.
Laughed all the powers who favour tyranny,
And all the standing army of the sky.
But Venus with dejected eyes appears.
And weeping on the lists distilled her tears;
Her will refused, which grieves a woman most,
And, in her champion foiled, the cause of Love is lost.
Till Saturn said:—“Fair daughter, now be still,
“The blustering fool has satisfied his will;
His boon is given; his knight has gained the day,
But lost the prize; the arrears are yet to pay.
Thy hour is come, and mine the care shall be
To please thy knight, and set thy promise free.”
Now while the heralds run the lists around,
And Arcite! Arcite! heaven and earth resound,
A miracle (nor less it could be called)
Their joy with unexpected sorrow palled.
The victor knight had laid his helm aside,
Part for his ease, the greater part for pride:
Bareheaded, popularly low he bowed,
And paid the salutations of the crowd;
Then spurring, at full speed, ran headlong on
Where Theseus sat on his imperial throne;
Furious he drove, and upward cast his eye,
Where, next the Queen, was placed his Emily;
Then passing, to the saddle-bow he bent;
A sweet regard the gracious virgin lent;
(For women, to the brave an easy prey,
Still follow Fortune, where she leads the way
Just then from earth sprung out a flashing fire,
By Pluto sent, at Saturn's bad desire:
The startling steed was seized with sudden fright,
And, bounding, o'er the pummel cast the knight;
Forward he flew, and pitching on his head,
He quivered with his feet, and lay for dead.
Black was his countenance in a little space,
For all the blood was gathered in his face.
Help was at hand: they reared him from the ground,
And from his cumbrous arms his limbs unbound;
Then lanced a vein, and watched returning breath;
It came, but clogged with symptoms of his death.
The saddle-bow the noble parts had prest,
All bruised and mortified his manly breast.
Him still entranced, and in a litter laid,
They bore from field, and to his bed conveyed.
At length he waked; and, with a feeble cry,
The word he first pronounced was Emily.
Mean time the King, though inwardly he mourned,
In pomp triumphant to the town returned,
Attended by the chiefs who fought the field,
(Now friendly mixed, and in one troop compelled
Composed his looks to counterfeited cheer,
And bade them not for Arcite's life to fear.
But that which gladded all the warrior train,
Though most were sorely wounded, none were slain.
The surgeons soon despoiled them of their arms,
And some with salves they cure, and some with charms;
Foment the bruises, and the pains assuage,
And heal their inward hurts with sovereign draughts of sage.
The King in person visits all around,
Comforts the sick, congratulates the sound;
Honours the princely chiefs, rewards the rest,
And holds for thrice three days a royal feast.
None was disgraced; for falling is no shame,
And cowardice alone is loss of fame.
The venturous knight is from the saddle thrown,
But 'tis the fault of fortune, not his own;
If crowds and palms the conquering side adorn,
The victor under better stars was born:
The brave man seeks not popular applause,
Nor, overpowered with arms, deserts his canse;
Unshamed, though foiled, he does the best he can:
Force is of brutes, but honour is of man.
Thus Theseus smiled on all with equal grace,
And each was set according to his place;
With ease were reconciled the differing parts,
For envy never dwells in noble hearts.
At length they took their leave, the time expired,
Well pleased, and to their several homes retired.
Mean while, the health of Arcite still impairs;
From bad proceeds to worse, and mocks the leech's cares;
Swoln is his breast; his inward pains increase;
All means are used, and all without success.
The clottered blood lies heavy on his heart,
Corrupts, and there remains in spite of art;
Nor breathing veins nor cupping will prevail;
All outward remedies and inward fail.
The mould of nature's fabric is destroyed,
Her vessels discomposed, her virtue void:
The bellows of his lungs begins to swell;
All out of frame is every secret cell,
Nor can the good receive, nor bad expel.
Those breathing organs, thus within opprest,
With venom soon distend the sinews of his breast.
Nought profits him to save abandoned life,
Nor vomit's upward aid, nor downward laxative.
The midmost region battered and destroyed,
When nature cannot work, the effect of art is void:
For physic can but mend our crazy state,
Patch an old building, not a new create.
Arcite is doomed to die in all his pride,
Must leave his youth, and yield his beauteous bride,
Gained hardly against right, and unenjoyed.
When 'twas declared all hope of life was past,
Conscience, that of all physic works the last,
Caused him to send for Emily in haste.
With her, at his desire, came Palamon;
Then, on his pillow raised, he thus begun:
“No language can express the smallest part
Of what I feel, and suffer in my heart,
For you, whom best I love and value most;
But to your service I bequeath my ghost;
Which, from this mortal body when untied,
Unseen, unheard, shall hover at your side;
Nor fright you waking, nor your sleep offend,
But wait officious, and your steps attend.
How I have loved, excuse my faltering tongue,
My spirit's feeble, and my pains are strong:
This I may say, I only grieve to die,
Because I lose my charming Emily.
To die, when Heaven had put you in my power!
Fate could not choose a more malicious hour.
What greater curse could envious Fortune give,
Than just to die when I began to live!
Vain men! how vanishing a bliss we crave;
Now warm in love, now withering in the grave!
Never, O never more to see the sun!
Still dark, in a damp vault, and still alone!
This fate is common; but I lose my breath
Near bliss, and yet not blessed before my death.
Farewell! but take me dying in your arms;
'Tis all I can enjoy of all your charms:
This hand I cannot but in death resign;
Ah, could I live! but while I live 'tis mine.
I feel my end approach, and thus embraced
Am pleased to die; but hear me speak my last:
Ah, my sweet foe! for you, and you alone,
I broke my faith with injured Palamon.
But love the sense of right and wrong confounds;
Strong love and proud ambition have no bounds.
And much I doubt, should Heaven my life prolong,
I should return to justify my wrong;
For while my former flames remain within,
Repentance is but want of power to sin.
With mortal hatred I pursued his life,
Nor he nor you were guilty of the strife;
Nor I, but as I loved; yet all combined,
Your beauty and my impotence of mind,
And his concurrent flame that blew my fire,
For still our kindred souls had one desire.
He had a moment's right in point of time;
Had I seen first, then his had been the crime.
Fate made it mine, and justified his right;
Nor holds this earth a more deserving knight
For virtue, valour, and for noble blood,
Truth, honour, all that is comprised in good;
So help me Heaven, in all the world is none
So worthy to be loved as Palamon.
He loves you too, with such a holy fire,
As will not, cannot, but with life expire:
Our vowed affections both have often tried,
Nor any love but yours could ours divide.
Then, by my love's inviolable band,
By my long suffering and my short command,
If e'er you plight your vows when I am gone,
Have pity on the faithful Palamon.”
This was his last; for Death came on amain,
And exercised below his iron reign;
Then upward to the seat of life he goes;
Sense fled before him, what he touched he froze:
Yet could he not his closing eyes withdraw,
Though less and less of Emily he saw;
So, speechless, for a little space he lay;
Then grasped the hand he held, and sighed his soul away.
But whither went his soul? let such relate
Who search the secrets of the future state:
Divines can say but what themselves believe;
Strong proofs they have, but not demonstrative;
For, were all plain, then all sides must agree,
And faith itself be lost in certainty.
To live uprightly then is sure the best;
To save ourselves, and not to damn the rest.
The soul of Arcite went where heathens go,
Who better live than we, though less they know.
In Palamon a manly grief appears;
Silent he wept, ashamed to show his tears.
Emilia shrieked but once; and then, opprest
With sorrow, sunk upon her lover's breast:
Till Theseus in his arms conveyed with care
Far from so sad a sight the swooning fair.
'Twere loss of time her sorrow to relate;
Ill bears the sex a youthful lover's fate,
When just approaching to the nuptial state:
But, like a low-hung cloud, it rains so fast,
That all at once it falls, and cannot last.
The face of things is changed, and Athens now
That laughed so late, becomes the scene of woe.
Matrons and maids, both sexes, every state,
With tears lament the knight's untimely fate.
Not greater grief in falling Troy was seen
For Hector's death; but Hector was not then.
Old men with dust deformed their hoary hair;
The women beat their breasts, their cheeks they tear.
“Why wouldst thou go,” with one consent they cry,
When thou hadst gold enough, and Emily?”
Theseus himself, who should have cheered the grief
Of others, wanted now the same relief:
Old Ageus only could revive his son,
Who various changes of the world had known,
And strange vicissitudes of human fate,
Still altering, never in a steady state:
Good after ill and after pain delight,
Alternate, like the scenes of day and night.
Since every man who lives is born to die,
And none can boast sincere felicity,
With equal mind, what happens, let us bear,
Nor joy, nor grieve too much for things beyond our care.
Like pilgrims to the appointed place we tend;
The world's an inn, and death the journey's end.
Even kings but play, and when their part is done,
Some other, worse or better, mount the throne.
With words like these the crowd was satisfied;
And so they would have been, had Theseus died.
But he, their King, was labouring in his mind
A fitting place for funeral pomps to find,
Which were in honour of the dead designed.
And, after long debate, at last he found
(As Love itself had marked the spot of ground,)
That grove for ever green, that conscious laund,
Where he with Palamon fought hand to hand;
That, where he fed his amorous desires
With soft complaints, and felt his hottest fires,
There other flames might waste his earthly part,
And burn his limbs, where love had burned his heart.
This once resolved, the peasants were enjoined
Sere-wood, and firs, and doddered oaks to find.
With sounding axes to the grove they go,
Fell, split, and lay the fuel in a row;
Vulcanian food: a bier is next prepared,
On which the lifeless body should be reared,
Covered with cloth of gold; on which was laid
The corps of Arcite, in like robes arrayed.
White gloves were on his hands, and on his head
A wreath of laurel, mixed with myrtle, spread.
A sword keen-edged within his right he held,
The warlike emblem of the conquered field:
Bare was his manly visage on the bier;
Menaced his countenance, even in death severe.
Then to the palace-hall they bore the knight,
To lie in solemn state, a public sight:
Groans, cries, and bowlings fill the crowded place,
And unaffected sorrow sat on every face.
Sad Palamon above the rest appears,
In sable garments, dewed with gushing tears;
His auburn locks on either shoulder flowed,
Which to the funeral of his friend he vowed;
But Emily, as chief, was next his side,
A virgin-widow and a mourning bride.
And, that the princely obsequies might be
Performed according to his high degree,
The steed, that bore him living to the fight,
Was trapped with polished steel, all shining bright,
And covered with the atchievements of the knight.
The riders rode abreast; and one his shield,
His lance of cornel-wood another held;
The third his bow, and, glorious to behold,
The costly quiver, all of burnished gold.
The noblest of the Grecians next appear,
And weeping on their shoulders bore the bier;
With sober pace they marched, and often stayed,
And through the master-street the corps conveyed.
The houses to their tops with black were spread,
And even the pavements were with mourning hid.
The right side of the pall old Ageus kept,
And on the left the royal Theseus wept;
Each bore a golden bowl of work divine,
With honey filled, and milk, and mixed with ruddy wine.
Then Palamon, the kinsman of the slain,
And after him appeared the illustrious train.
To grace the pomp came Emily the bright,
With covered fire, the funeral pile to light.
With high devotion was the service made,
And all the rites of pagan honour paid:
So lofty was the pile, a Parthian bow,
With vigour drawn, must send the shaft below.
The bottom was full twenty fathom broad,
With crackling straw, beneath in due proportion strowed.
The fabric seemed a wood of rising green,
With sulphur and bitumen cast between
To feed the flames: the trees were unctuous fir,
And mountain-ash, the mother of the spear;
The mourner-yew and builder-oak were there,
The beech, the swimming alder, and the plane,
Hard box, and linden of a softer grain,
And laurels, which the gods for conquering chiefs ordain.
How they were ranked shall rest untold by me,
With nameless Nymphs that lived in every tree;
Nor how the Dryads and the woodland train,
Disherited, ran howling o'er the plain:
Nor how the birds to foreign seats repaired,
Or beasts that bolted out and saw the forests bared:
Nor how the ground now cleared with ghastly fright
Beheld the sudden sun, a stranger to the light.
The straw, as first I said, was laid below:
Of chips and sere-wood was the second row;
The third of greens, and timber newly felled;
The fourth high stage the fragrant odours held,
And pearls, and precious stones, and rich array;
In midst of which, embalmed, the body lay.
The service sung, the maid with mourning eyes
The stubble fired; the smouldering flames arise:
This office done, she sunk upon the ground;
But what she spoke, recovered from her swound,
I want the wit in moving words to dress;
But by themselves the tender sex may guess.
While the devouring fire was burning fast,
Rich jewels in the flame the wealthy cast;
And some their shields, and some their lances threw,
And gave the warrior's ghost a warrior's due.
Full bowls of wine, of honey, milk and blood
Were poured upon the pile of burning wood,
And hissing flames receive, and hungry lick the food.
Then thrice the mounted squadrons ride around
The fire, and Arcite's name they thrice resound:
“Hail and farewell!” they shouted thrice amain,
Thrice facing to the left, and thrice they turned again:
Still, as they turned, they beat their clattering shields;
The women mix their cries, and clamour fills the fields.
The warlike wakes continued all the night,
And funeral games were played at new returning light:
Who naked wrestled best, besmeared with oil,
Or who with gauntlets gave or took the foil,
I will not tell you, nor would you attend;
But briefly haste to my long story's end.
I pass the rest; the year was fully mourned,
And Palamon long since to Thebes returned:
When, by the Grecians' general consent,
At Athens Theseus held his parliament;
Among the laws that passed, it was decreed,
That conquered Thebes from bondage should be freed;
Reserving homage to the Athenian throne,
To which the sovereign summoned Palamon.
Unknowing of the cause, he took his way,
Mournful in mind, and still in black array.
The monarch mounts the throne, and, placed on high,
Commands into the court the beauteous Emily.
So called, she came; the senate rose, and paid
Becoming reverence to the royal maid.
And first, soft whispers through the assembly went;
With silent wonder then they watched the event;
All hushed, the King arose with awful grace;
Deep thought was in his breast, and counsel in his face:
At length he sighed, and having first prepared
The attentive audience, thus his will declared:
“The Cause and Spring of motion from above
Hung down on earth the golden chain of Love;
Great was the effect, and high was his intent,
When peace among the jarring seeds he sent;
Fire, flood, and earth and air by this were bound,
And Love, the common link, the new creation crowned.
The chain still holds; for though the forms decay,
Eternal matter never wears away:
The same first mover certain bounds has placed,
How long those perishable forms shall last;
Nor can they last beyond the time assigned
By that all-seeing and all-making Mind:
Shorten their hours they may, for will is free,
But never pass the appointed destiny.
So men oppressed, when weary of their breath,
Throw off the burden, and suborn their death.
Then, since those forms begin, and have their end,
On some unaltered cause they sure depend:
Parts of the whole are we, but God the whole,
Who gives us life, and animating soul.
For Nature cannot from a part derive
“That being which the whole can only give:
He perfect, stable; but imperfect we,
Subject to change, and different in degree;
Plants, beasts, and man; and, as our organs are,
We more or less of his perfection share.
But, by a long descent, the etherial fire
Corrupts; and forms, the mortal part, expire.
As he withdraws his virtue, so they pass,
And the same matter makes another mass:
This law the omniscient Power was pleased to give,
That every kind should by succession live;
That individuals die, his will ordains;
The propagated species still remains.
The monarch oak, the patriarch of the trees,
Shoots rising up, and spreads by slow degrees;
Three centuries he grows, and three he stays,
Supreme in state, and in three more decays:
So wears the paving pebble in the street,
And towns and towers their fatal periods meet:
So rivers, rapid once, now naked lie,
Forsaken of their springs, and leave their channels dry.
So man, at first a drop, dilates with heat,
Then, formed, the little heart begins to beat;
Secret he feeds, unknowing, in the cell;
At length, for hatching ripe, he breaks the shell,
And struggles into breath, and cries for aid;
Then helpless in his mother's lap is laid.
He creeps, he walks, and, issuing into man,
Grudges their life from whence his own began;
Reckless of laws, affects to rule alone,
Anxious to reign, and restless on the throne;
First vegetive, then feels, and reasons last;
Rich of three souls, and lives all three to waste.
Some thus; but thousands more in flower of age,
For few arrive to run the latter stage.
Sunk in the first, in battle some are slain,
And others whelmed beneath the stormy main.
What makes all this, but Jupiter the king,
At whose command we perish, and we spring?
Then 'tis our best, since thus ordained to die,
To make a virtue of necessity;
Take what he gives, since to rebel is vain;
The bad grows better, which we well sustain;
And could we choose the time, and choose aright,
'Tis best to die, our honour at the height.
When we have done our ancestors no shame,
But served our friends, and well secured our fame;
Then should we wish our happy life to close,
And leave no more for fortune to dispose;
So should we make our death a glad relief
From future shame, from sickness, and from grief;
Enjoying while we live the present hour,
And dying in our excellence and flower.
Then round our death-bed every friend should run,
And joy us of our conquest early won;
While the malicious world, with envious tears,
Should grudge our happy end, and wish it theirs.
Since then our Arcite is with honour dead,
Why should we mourn, that he so soon is freed,
Or call untimely what the gods decreed?
With grief as just a friend may be deplored,
From a foul prison to free air restored.
Ought he to thank his kinsman or his wife,
Could tears recall him into wretched life?
Their sorrow hurts themselves; on him is lost,
And worse than both, offends his happy ghost.
What then remains, but after past annoy
To take the good vicissitude of joy;
To thank the gracious gods for what they give,
Possess our souls, and, while we live, to live?
Ordain we then two sorrows to combine,
And in one point the extremes of grief to join;
That thence resulting joy may be renewed,
As jarring notes in harmony conclude.
Then I propose that Palamon shall be
In marriage joined with beauteous Emily;
For which already I have gained the assent
Of my free people in full parliament.
Long love to her has borne the faithful knight,
And well deserved, had Fortune done him right:
'Tis time to mend her fault, since Emily
By Arcite's death from former vows is free;
If you, fair sister, ratify the accord,
And take him for your husband and your lord,
'Tis no dishonour to confer your grace
On one descended from a royal race;
And were he less, yet years of service past
From grateful souls exact reward at last.
Pity is Heaven's and yours; nor can she find
A throne so soft as in a woman's mind.”
He said; she blushed; and as o'erawed by might,
Seemed to give Theseus what she gave the knight.
Then, turning to the Theban, thus he said:
“Small arguments are needful to persuade
Your temper to comply with my command:”
And speaking thus, he gave Emilia's hand.
Smiled Venus, to behold her own true knight.
Obtain the conquest, though he lost the fight;
And blessed with nuptial bliss the sweet laborious night.
Eros and Anteros on either side,
One fired the bridegroom, and one warmed the bride;
And long-attending Hymen from above
Showered on the bed the whole Idalian grove.
All of a tenor was their after-life,
No day discoloured with domestic strife;
No jealousy, but mutual truth believed,
Secure repose, and kindness undeceived.
Thus Heaven, beyond the compass of his thought,
Sent him the blessing he so dearly bought.
So may the Queen of Love long duty bless,
And all true lovers find the same success.
Things I Would Say To My Daughter If She Were Here
The important thing
is to stay ahead of the pain
like a debt you'll pay tomorrow with your life
they're calling for today.
Tips for survival:
Luck has nothing to do with intelligence.
Stupid will get you killed faster than evil.
The most dangerous assassins
conceal themselves under the eyelids
of those who say they love you best.
And as any bruised heart knows
there's more power in an open palm
than there is in a fist
and the best way to get someone
to taste their own effluvia
is not to point to it.
A lot of opinions
is the frenzy of gnats in the sunset.
Silence walks like a tiger on soft paws.
Take a hint from the moon
who only bares her crescents twice a month
to show what's she's got up her sleeve
at the beginning and the end.
Keep your claws retracted
like laws you haven't enacted yet.
And never pass judgment on a friend.
A free mind is a godsend
but don't measure your liberty in chains.
And if you feel the need
to attach yourself to someone
attach yourself to them
like the full moon to water when it rains.
Think with your heart.
Feel with your brains.
And don't expect the Red Sea to part
into a thousand miraculous pirate-swept sea-lanes
just to let you get away because you're special.
You turn a legend into a farce
the minute you start to believe in it.
You can't make a commercial for one
of the light that falls on everything alike
so don't abuse your shining
like a fire eclipsed by its own soot.
Greenwood blows the most smoke
and gives the least heat.
Stay a jump ahead of yourself like a real star.
People might point to you and say your name
and write your story into the Pleiades
thinking they're only a finger's length away
from where you are
but cherish your darkness
like a secret you keep to yourself.
And remember when you transit zenith
everything you see in the sentient mirror
isn't having an illicit affair with your eyes.
You should receive your life in every moment
like a constant surprise
if you want to stop aging,
if you want to grow up like the wise
who are always the first born of time
to inherit eternity
like a bloodline without a beginning
that leads to everyone as if they all bore
the creative likeness
of your closest ancestor
like Castor and Pollux in Gemini
like the history of your breath
in every gust of wind
that sows the dust
of countless generations
in the features of your face
as if everyone's story were told by the same voice
in the same spontaneous tone
of all things passing away into fruition.
Don't track a hovel of impoverished thought
into a palace of thoughtless intuition
and expect to be invited back.
Thirty chiefs of autumn
sit around every fireleaf
that's ever fallen
telling stories about things that last
no one believes anymore.
All the reasons for yesterday
turn into today's folklore
and if you're trying to look into the future
from anywhere other than now
trying to separate the light from the darkness
like gold from its ore,
trying to anticipate the harvest before it's sown,
you're only prying the petals of flowers open
before they're ready to bloom.
You're just peeking under the eyelids
of the embryo of a new moon
as if you could crawl into the womb with it
to see what's it's dreaming
before it comes to light
as if you could get an angle on life
to take the shot
without sinking the table
or load the dice in your favour
with the third eyes of prophetic snakes.
Insolent with disobedience
you turn yourself into a slave,
but bound by duty
the great sea of awareness
is mastered by the sloppy salute
of any green recruit
passing in review like a wave.
The stars don't need to convince anybody
and the flowers aren't trying to be beautiful.
Live as if your death were already achieved
and lost in the shadows behind you.
Life flowers in the valleys of death
and if our beginnings weren't
our ends are equal
and there's an eternity of a chance
more than not
there's a sequel
but live your afterlife now like water.
You can't pour the universe out of the universe
anymore than your mindstream
can flow out of the sea of awareness
like blood from an irreparable wound
or a theme of unrequited love out of its music.
In what space you don't already occupy
can you bury the corpse of all things
as if you could fit your boundless mind into anything
as if you could dig a blackhole deep enough
to bury God
as if there were ever anywhere to go in the first place
that wasn't already in your face?
The delusions of a coward cast longer shadows
than the things they're the images of.
There are dragons that know more about love
than the doves we send out looking for land
and who among sphinxes knows more than the sand
they come to in time like wisdom?
The mysteries are the mysteries.
They're not looking for answers.
The meaning of life
is the life of meaning
as waves are the life of the sea
or even in late autumn
leaves are the life of the tree.
Let go of things as they do.
Blossom bear fruit and fall.
It's not such a long way down to your roots.
Not long at all.
No further than the boots you're walking in.
And if someone should ask you your name
say it like a constellation
that doesn't shine its light on fame
though everyone sees it rising in the west,
not an inert all night marquee
with letters missing
that burned out like candles
that gazed too long
at their tiny tongue-tied celebrity
as if they were on a visionquest.
Sophocles said never to have been born is best
but he was just trying
to get the world off his chest through denial.
He was a bad guest with tragic manners at a great feast
who had forgotten
because he was born Greek
that life's negation is its oldest affirmation
and what is lost in life is lost solely to those who seek.
Gratitude is the truest measure of wealth.
Squander yourself lavishly like an orchard in spring
knowing generosity is the spontaneous sign
of a spiritual being in good health
that doesn't need money to prove she's rich.
Let life adorn you in its robes and ashes
as if they were just so many cloaks of the moon
slipping from your shoulders
like petals in the starfields of space.
And don't heed the blind fool
who calls for chandeliers
when she's already got tears in her eyes
she's been dancing to for years.
And remember this for the rest of your life
long after my tongue is a leaf
and my eyes are clouds on the wind:
once long before you were born
I asked how I could best return my life to the water
as clean as the reflection of the waterbird
that had just left it
and when the stars of Cancer
granted me you as my daughter
since then I've never needed to look
any further than their light in your eyes
for the answer.
The Borough. Letter XII: Players
These are monarchs none respect,
Heroes, yet an humbled crew,
Nobles, whom the crowd correct,
Wealthy men, whom duns pursue;
Beauties shrinking from the view
Of the day's detecting eye;
Lovers, who with much ado
Long-forsaken damsels woo,
And heave the ill-feign'd sigh.
These are misers, craving means
Of existence through the day,
Famous scholars, conning scenes
Of a dull bewildering play;
Ragged beaux and misses gray,
Whom the rabble praise and blame,
Proud and mean, and sad and gay,
Toiling after ease, are they,
Infamous, and boasting fame.
DRAWN by the annual call, we now behold
Our Troop Dramatic, heroes known of old,
And those, since last they march'd, enlisted and
Mounted on hacks or borne in waggons some,
The rest on foot (the humbler brethren) come.
Three favour'd places, an unequal time,
Join to support this company sublime:
Ours for the longer period--see how light
Yon parties move, their former friends in sight,
Whose claims are all allow'd, and friendship glads
Now public rooms shall sound with words divine,
And private lodgings hear how heroes shine;
No talk of pay shall yet on pleasure steal,
But kindest welcome bless the friendly meal;
While o'er the social jug and decent cheer,
Shall be described the fortunes of the year.
Peruse these bills, and see what each can do, -
Behold! the prince, the slave, the monk, the Jew;
Change but the garment, and they'll all engage
To take each part, and act in every age:
Cull'd from all houses, what a house are they!
Swept from all barns, our Borough-critics say;
But with some portion of a critic's ire,
We all endure them; there are some admire:
They might have praise, confined to farce alone;
Full well they grin, they should not try to groan;
But then our servants' and our seamen's wives
Love all that rant and rapture as their lives;
He who 'Squire Richard's part could well sustain,
Finds as King Richard he must roar amain -
'My horse! my horse!'--Lo! now to their abodes,
Come lords and lovers, empresses and gods.
The master-mover of these scenes has made
No trifling gain in this adventurous trade;
Trade we may term it, for he duly buys
Arms out of use and undirected eyes:
These he instructs, and guides them as he can,
And vends each night the manufactured man:
Long as our custom lasts they gladly stay,
Then strike their tents, like Tartars! and away!
The place grows bare where they too long remain,
But grass will rise ere they return again.
Children of Thespes, welcome; knights and
Counts! barons! beauties! when before your scenes,
And mighty monarchs thund'ring from your throne;
Then step behind, and all your glory's gone:
Of crown and palace, throne and guards bereft,
The pomp is vanish'd and the care is left.
Yet strong and lively is the joy they feel,
When the full house secures the plenteous meal;
Flatt'ring and flatter'd, each attempts to raise
A brother's merits for a brother's praise:
For never hero shows a prouder heart,
Than he who proudly acts a hero's part;
Nor without cause; the boards, we know, can yield
Place for fierce contest, like the tented field.
Graceful to tread the stage, to be in turn
The prince we honour, and the knave we spurn;
Bravely to bear the tumult of the crowd,
The hiss tremendous, and the censure loud:
These are their parts,--and he who these sustains,
Deserves some praise and profit for his pains.
Heroes at least of gentler kind are they,
Against whose swords no weeping widows pray,
No blood their fury sheds, nor havoc marks their
Sad happy race! soon raised and soon depress'd,
Your days all pass'd in jeopardy and jest;
Poor without prudence, with afflictions vain,
Not warn'd by misery, not enrich'd by gain;
Whom Justice, pitying, chides from place to place,
A wandering, careless, wretched, merry race,
Whose cheerful looks assume, and play the parts
Of happy rovers with repining hearts;
Then cast off care, and in the mimic pain
Of tragic woe feel spirits light and vain,
Distress and hope--the mind's the body's wear,
The man's affliction, and the actor's tear:
Alternate times of fasting and excess
Are yours, ye smiling children of distress.
Slaves though ye be, your wandering freedom
And with your varying views and restless schemes,
Your griefs are transient, as your joys are dreams.
Yet keen those griefs--ah! what avail thy
Fair Juliet! what that infant in thine arms;
What those heroic lines thy patience learns,
What all the aid thy present Romeo earns,
Whilst thou art crowded in that lumbering wain
With all thy plaintive sisters to complain?
Nor is there lack of labour--To rehearse,
Day after day, poor scraps of prose and verse;
To bear each other's spirit, pride, and spite;
To hide in rant the heart ache of the night;
To dress in gaudy patchwork, and to force
The mind to think on the appointed course; -
This is laborious, and may be defined
The bootless labour of the thriftless mind.
There is a veteran Dame: I see her stand
Intent and pensive with her book in hand;
Awhile her thoughts she forces on her part,
Then dwells on objects nearer to the heart;
Across the room she paces, gets her tone,
And fits her features for the Danish throne;
To-night a queen--I mark her motion slow,
I hear her speech, and Hamlet's mother know.
Methinks 'tis pitiful to see her try
For strength of arms and energy of eye;
With vigour lost, and spirits worn away,
Her pomp and pride she labours to display;
And when awhile she's tried her part to act,
To find her thoughts arrested by some fact;
When struggles more and more severe are seen,
In the plain actress than the Danish queen, -
At length she feels her part, she finds delight,
And fancies all the plaudits of the night;
Old as she is, she smiles at every speech,
And thinks no youthful part beyond her reach,
But as the mist of vanity again
Is blown away, by press of present pain,
Sad and in doubt she to her purse applies
For cause of comfort, where no comfort lies;
Then to her task she sighing turns again -
'Oh! Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain!'
And who that poor, consumptive, wither'd thing,
Who strains her slender throat and strives to sing?
Panting for breath and forced her voice to drop,
And far unlike the inmate of the shop,
Where she, in youth and health, alert and gay,
Laugh'd off at night the labours of the day;
With novels, verses, fancy's fertile powers,
And sister-converse pass'd the evening hours:
But Cynthia's soul was soft, her wishes strong,
Her judgment weak, and her conclusions wrong;
The morning-call and counter were her dread,
And her contempt the needle and the thread:
But when she read a gentle damsel's part,
Her woe, her wish! she had them all by heart.
At length the hero of the boards drew nigh,
Who spake of love till sigh re-echo'd sigh;
He told in honey'd words his deathless flame,
And she his own by tender vows became;
Nor ring nor licence needed souls so fond,
Alfonso's passion was his Cynthia's bond:
And thus the simple girl, to shame betray'd,
Sinks to the grave forsaken and dismay'd.
Sick without pity, sorrowing without hope,
See her! the grief and scandal of the troop;
A wretched martyr to a childish pride,
Her woe insulted, and her praise denied:
Her humble talents, though derided, used,
Her prospects lost, her confidence abused;
All that remains--for she not long can brave
Increase of evils--is an early grave.
Ye gentle Cynthias of the shop, take heed
What dreams you cherish, and what books ye read!
A decent sum had Peter Nottage made,
By joining bricks--to him a thriving trade:
Of his employment master and his wife,
This humble tradesman led a lordly life;
The house of kings and heroes lack'd repairs,
And Peter, though reluctant, served the Players:
Connected thus, he heard in way polite, -
'Come, Master Nottage, see us play to night,'
At first 'twas folly, nonsense, idle stuff,
But seen for nothing it grew well enough;
And better now--now best, and every night,
In this fool's paradise he drank delight;
And as he felt the bliss, he wish'd to know
Whence all this rapture and these joys could flow;
For if the seeing could such pleasure bring,
What must the feeling?--feeling like a king?
In vain his wife, his uncle, and his friend,
Cried--'Peter! Peter! let such follies end;
'Tis well enough these vagabonds to see,
But would you partner with a showman be?'
'Showman!' said Peter, 'did not Quin and Clive,
And Roscius-Garrick, by the science thrive?
Showman!--'tis scandal; I'm by genius led
To join a class who've Shakspeare at their head.'
Poor Peter thus by easy steps became
A dreaming candidate for scenic fame,
And, after years consumed, infirm and poor,
He sits and takes the tickets at the door.
Of various men these marching troops are made, -
Pen-spurning clerks, and lads contemning trade;
Waiters and servants by confinement teased,
And youths of wealth by dissipation eased;
With feeling nymphs, who, such resource at hand,
Scorn to obey the rigour of command;
Some, who from higher views by vice are won,
And some of either sex by love undone;
The greater part lamenting as their fall,
What some an honour and advancement call.
There are who names in shame or fear assume,
And hence our Bevilles and our Savilles come;
It honours him, from tailor's board kick'd down,
As Mister Dormer to amuse the town;
Falling, he rises: but a kind there are
Who dwell on former prospects, and despair;
Justly but vainly they their fate deplore,
And mourn their fall, who fell to rise no more.
Our merchant Thompson, with his sons around,
Most mind and talent in his Frederick found:
He was so lively, that his mother knew,
If he were taught, that honour must ensue;
The father's views were in a different line, -
But if at college he were sure to shine.
Then should he go--to prosper who could doubt?
When schoolboy stigmas would be all wash'd out,
For there were marks upon his youthful face,
'Twixt vice and error--a neglected case -
These would submit to skill; a little time,
And none could trace the error or the crime;
Then let him go, and once at college, he
Might choose his station--what would Frederick be.
'Twas soon determined--He could not descend
To pedant-laws and lectures without end;
And then the chapel--night and morn to pray,
Or mulct and threaten'd if he kept away;
No! not to be a bishop--so he swore,
And at his college he was seen no more.
His debts all paid, the father, with a sigh,
Placed him in office--'Do, my Frederick, try:
Confine thyself a few short months and then -'
He tried a fortnight, and threw down the pen.
Again demands were hush'd: 'My son, you're free,
But you're unsettled; take your chance at sea:'
So in few days the midshipman, equipp'd
Received the mother's blessing, and was shipp'd.
Hard was her fortune! soon compell'd to meet
The wretched stripling staggering through the
For, rash, impetuous, insolent, and vain,
The Captain sent him to his friends again:
About the Borough roved th' unnappy boy,
And ate the bread of every chance-employ!
Of friends he borrow'd, and the parents yet
In secret fondness authorized the debt;
The younger sister, still a child, was taught
To give with feign'd affright the pittance sought;
For now the father cried--'It is too late
For trial more--I leave him to his fate,' -
Yet left him not: and with a kind of joy,
The mother heard of her desponding boy;
At length he sicken'd, and he found, when sick,
All aid was ready, all attendance quick;
A fever seized him, and at once was lost
The thought of trespass, error, crime, and cost:
Th' indulgent parents, knelt beside the youth,
They heard his promise and believed his truth;
And when the danger lessen'd on their view,
They cast off doubt, and hope assurance grew; -
Nursed by his sisters, cherish'd by his sire,
Begg'd to be glad, encouraged to aspire,
His life, they said, would now all care repay,
And he might date his prospects from that day;
A son, a brother to his home received,
They hoped for all things, and in all believed.
And now will pardon, comfort, kindness draw
The youth from vice? will honour, duty, law?
Alas! not all: the more the trials lent,
The less he seem'd to ponder and repent;
Headstrong, determined in his own career,
He thought reproof unjust and truth severe;
The soul's disease was to its crisis come,
He first abused and then abjured his home;
And when he chose a vagabond to be,
He made his shame his glory--'I'll be free.'
Friends, parents, relatives, hope, reason, love,
With anxious ardour for that empire strove;
In vain their strife, in vain the means applied,
They had no comfort, but that all were tried;
One strong vain trial made, the mind to move,
Was the last effort of parental love.
E'en then he watch'd his father from his home,
And to his mother would for pity come,
Where, as he made her tender terrors rise,
He talk'd of death, and threaten'd for supplies.
Against a youth so vicious and undone,
All hearts were closed, and every door but one:
The Players received him; they with open heart
Gave him his portion and assign'd his part;
And ere three days were added to his life,
He found a home, a duty, and a wife.
His present friends, though they were nothing
Nor ask'd how vicious he, or what his vice,
Still they expected he should now attend
To the joint duty as a useful friend;
The leader too declared, with frown severe,
That none should pawn a robe that kings might wear;
And much it moved him, when he Hamlet play'd,
To see his Father's Ghost so drunken made:
Then too the temper, the unbending pride
Of this ally, would no reproof abide: -
So leaving these, he march'd away and join'd
Another troop, and other goods purloin'd;
And other characters, both gay and sage,
Sober and sad, made stagger on the stage.
Then to rebuke with arrogant disdain,
He gave abuse, and sought a home again.
Thus changing scenes, but with unchanging vice,
Engaged by many, but with no one twice:
Of this, a last and poor resource, bereft,
He to himself, unhappy guide! was left -
And who shall say where guided? to what seats
Of starving villany? of thieves and cheats?
In that sad time of many a dismal scene
Had he a witness, not inactive, been;
Had leagued with petty pilferers, and had crept
Where of each sex degraded numbers slept:
With such associates he was long allied,
Where his capacity for ill was tried,
And that once lost, the wretch was cast aside,
For now, though willing with the worst to act,
He wanted powers for an important fact;
And while he felt as lawless spirits feel,
His hand was palsied, and he couldn't steal.
By these rejected, is their lot so strange,
So low! that he could suffer by the change?
Yes! the new station as a fall we judge, -
He now became the harlots' humble drudge,
Their drudge in common; they combined to save
Awhile from starving their submissive slave;
For now his spirit left him, and his pride,
His scorn, his rancour, and resentment died;
Few were his feelings--but the keenest these,
The rage of hunger, and the sigh for ease;
He who abused indulgence, now became
By want subservient, and by misery tame;
A slave, he begg'd forbearance; bent with pain,
He shunn'd the blow,--'Ah! strike me not again,'
Thus was he found: the master of a hoy
Saw the sad wretch whom he had known a boy;
At first in doubt, but Frederick laid aside
All shame, and humbly for his aid applied:
He, tamed and smitten with the storms gone by,
Look'd for compassion through one living eye,
And stretch'd th' unpalsied hand: the seaman felt
His honest heart with gentle pity melt,
And his small boon with cheerful frankness dealt;
Then made inquiries of th' unhappy youth,
Who told, nor shame forbade him, all the truth.
'Young Frederick Thompson, to a chandler's shop
By harlots order'd, and afraid to stop! -
What! our good merchant's favourite to be seen
In state so loathsome and in dress so mean?' -
So thought the seaman as he bade adieu,
And, when in port, related all he knew.
But time was lost, inquiry came too late,
Those whom he served knew nothing of his fate;
No! they had seized on what the sailor gave,
Nor bore resistance from their abject slave.
The spoil obtain'd they cast him from the door,
Robb'd, beaten, hungry, pain'd, diseas'd, and poor.
Then nature, pointing to the only spot
Which still had comfort for so dire a lot,
Although so feeble, led him on the way,
And hope look'd forward to a happier day:
He thought, poor prodigal! a father yet
His woes would pity and his crimes forget;
Nor had he brother who with speech severe
Would check the pity or refrain the tear:
A lighter spirit in his bosom rose,
As near the road he sought an hour's repose.
And there he found it: he had left the town,
But buildings yet were scatter'd up and down;
To one of these, half-ruin'd and half-built,
Was traced this child of wretchedness and guilt;
There, on the remnant of a beggar's vest,
Thrown by in scorn, the sufferer sought for rest;
There was this scene of vice and woe to close,
And there the wretched body found repose.
The Borough. Letter X: Clubs And Social Meetings
YOU say you envy in your calm retreat
Our social Meetings;--'tis with joy we meet.
In these our parties you are pleased to find
Good sense and wit, with intercourse of mind;
Composed of men who read, reflect, and write,
Who, when they meet, must yield and share delight.
To you our Book-club has peculiar charm,
For which you sicken in your quiet farm;
Here you suppose us at our leisure placed,
Enjoying freedom, and displaying taste:
With wisdom cheerful, temperately gay,
Pleased to enjoy, and willing to display.
If thus your envy gives your ease its gloom,
Give wings to fancy, and among us come.
We're now assembled; you may soon attend -
I'll introduce you--'Gentlemen, my friend.'
'Now are you happy? you have pass'd a night
In gay discourse, and rational delight.'
'Alas! not so: for how can mortals think,
Or thoughts exchange, if thus they eat and drink?
No! I confess when we had fairly dined,
That was no time for intercourse of mind;
There was each dish prepared with skill t'invite,
And to detain the struggling appetite;
On such occasions minds with one consent
Are to the comforts of the body lent;
There was no pause--the wine went quickly round,
Till struggling Fancy was by Bacchus bound;
Wine is to wit as water thrown on fire,
By duly sprinkling both are raised the higher;
Thus largely dealt, the vivid blaze they choke,
And all the genial flame goes off in smoke.'
'But when no more your boards these loads
When wine no more o'erwhelms the labouring brain,
But serves, a gentle stimulus; we know
How wit must sparkle, and how fancy flow.'
It might be so, but no such club-days come;
We always find these dampers in the room:
If to converse were all that brought us here,
A few odd members would in turn appear;
Who, dwelling nigh, would saunter in and out,
O'erlook the list, and toss the books about;
Or yawning read them, walking up and down,
Just as the loungers in the shops in town;
Till fancying nothing would their minds amuse,
They'd push them by, and go in search of news.
But our attractions are a stronger sort,
The earliest dainties and the oldest port;
All enter then with glee in every look,
And not a member thinks about a book.
Still, let me own, there are some vacant hours,
When minds might work, and men exert their powers:
Ere wine to folly spurs the giddy guest,
But gives to wit its vigour and its zest;
Then might we reason, might in turn display
Our several talents, and be wisely gay;
We might--but who a tame discourse regards,
When Whist is named, and we behold the Cards?
We from that time are neither grave nor gay;
Our thought, our care, our business is to play:
Fix'd on these spots and figures, each attends
Much to his partners, nothing to his friends.
Our public cares, the long, the warm debate,
That kept our patriots from their beds so late;
War, peace, invasion, all we hope or dread,
Vanish like dreams when men forsake their bed;
And groaning nations and contending kings
Are all forgotten for these painted things;
Paper and paste, vile figures and poor spots,
Level all minds, philosophers and sots;
And give an equal spirit, pause, and force,
Join'd with peculiar diction, to discourse:
'Who deals?--you led--we're three by cards--had you
Honour in hand?'--'Upon my honour, two.'
Hour after hour, men thus contending sit,
Grave without sense, and pointed without wit.
Thus it appears these envied Clubs possess
No certain means of social happiness;
Yet there's a good that flows from scenes like
Man meets with man at leisure and at ease;
We to our neighbours and our equals come,
And rub off pride that man. contracts at home;
For there, admitted master, he is prone
To claim attention and to talk alone:
But here he meets with neither son nor spouse;
No humble cousin to his bidding bows;
To his raised voice his neighbours' voices rise,
To his high look as lofty look replies;
When much he speaks, he finds that ears are closed,
And certain signs inform him when he's prosed;
Here all the value of a listener know,
And claim, in turn, the favour they bestow.
No pleasure gives the speech, when all would
And all in vain a civil hearer seek.
To chance alone we owe the free discourse,
In vain you purpose what you cannot force;
'Tis when the favourite themes unbidden spring,
That fancy soars with such unwearied wing;
Then may you call in aid the moderate glass,
But let it slowly and unprompted pass;
So shall there all things for the end unite,
And give that hour of rational delight.
Men to their Clubs repair, themselves to please,
To care for nothing, and to take their ease;
In fact, for play, for wine, for news they come:
Discourse is shared with friends or found at home.
But Cards with Books are incidental things;
We've nights devoted to these queens and kings:
Then if we choose the social game, we may;
Now 'tis a duty, and we're bound to play;
Nor ever meeting of the social kind
Was more engaging, yet had less of mind.
Our eager parties, when the lunar light
Throws its full radiance on the festive night,
Of either sex, with punctual hurry come,
And fill, with one accord, an ample room;
Pleased, the fresh packs on cloth of green they
And seizing, handle with preluding glee;
They draw, they sit, they shuffle, cut, and deal;
Like friends assembled, but like foes to feel:
But yet not all,--a happier few have joys
Of mere amusement, and their cards are toys;
No skill nor art, nor fretful hopes have they,
But while their friends are gaming, laugh and play.
Others there are, the veterans of the game,
Who owe their pleasure to their envied fame;
Through many a year with hard-contested strife,
Have they attain'd this glory of their life:
Such is that ancient burgess, whom in vain
Would gout and fever on his couch detain;
And that large lady, who resolves to come,
Though a first fit has warn'd her of her doom!
These are as oracles: in every cause
They settle doubts, and their decrees are laws;
But all are troubled, when, with dubious look,
Diana questions what Apollo spoke.
Here avarice first, the keen desire of gain,
Rules in each heart, and works in every brain:
Alike the veteran-dames and virgins feel,
Nor care what graybeards or what striplings deal;
Sex, age, and station, vanish from their view,
And gold, their sov'reign good, the mingled crowd
Hence they are jealous, and as rivals, keep
A watchful eye on the beloved heap;
Meantime discretion bids the tongue be still,
And mild good-humour strives with strong ill-will
Till prudence fails; when, all impatient grown,
They make their grief by their suspicions known,
'Sir, I protest, were Job himself at play,
He'd rave to see you throw your cards away;
Not that I care a button--not a pin
For what I lose; but we had cards to win:
A saint in heaven would grieve to see such hand
Cut up by one who will not understand.'
'Complain of me! and so you might indeed
If I had ventured on that foolish lead,
That fatal heart--but I forgot your play -
Some folk have ever thrown their hearts away.'
'Yes, and their diamonds; I have heard of one
Who made a beggar of an only son.'
'Better a beggar, than to see him tied
To art and spite, to insolence and pride.'
'Sir, were I you, I'd strive to be polite,
Against my nature, for a single night.'
'So did you strive, and, madam! with success;
I knew no being we could censure less!'
Is this too much? Alas! my peaceful Muse
Cannot with half their virulence abuse.
And hark! at other tables discord reigns,
With feign'd contempt for losses and for gains;
Passions awhile are bridled: then they rage,
In waspish youth, and in resentful age;
With scraps of insult--'Sir, when next you play,
Reflect whose money 'tis you throw away.
No one on earth can less such things regard,
But when one's partner doesn't know a card -
I scorn suspicion, ma'am, but while you stand
Behind that lady, pray keep down your hand.'
'Good heav'n, revoke: remember, if the set
Be lost, in honour you should pay the debt.'
'There, there's your money; but, while I have
I'll never more sit down with man and wife;
They snap and snarl indeed, but in the heat
Of all their spleen, their understandings meet;
They are Freemasons, and have many a sign,
That we, poor devils! never can divine:
May it be told, do ye divide th' amount,
Or goes it all to family account?'
Next is the Club, where to their friends in town
Our country neighbours once a month come down;
We term it Free-and-Easy, and yet we
Find it no easy matter to be free:
E'en in our small assembly, friends among,
Are minds perverse, there's something will be
Men are not equal; some will claim a right
To be the kings and heroes of the night;
Will their own favourite themes and notions start,
And you must hear, offend them, or depart.
There comes Sir Thomas from his village-seat,
Happy, he tells us, all his friends to meet;
He brings the ruin'd brother of his wife,
Whom he supports, and makes him sick of life;
A ready witness whom he can produce
Of all his deeds--a butt for his abuse;
Soon as he enters, has the guests espied,
Drawn to the fire, and to the glass applied -
'Well, what's the subject?--what are you about?
The news, I take it--come, I'll help you out:' -
And then, without one answer he bestows
Freely upon us all he hears and knows;
Gives us opinions, tells us how he votes,
Recites the speeches, adds to them his notes;
And gives old ill-told tales for new-born
Yet cares he nothing what we judge or think,
Our only duty's to attend and drink:
At length, admonish'd by his gout he ends
The various speech, and leaves at peace his
But now, alas! we've lost the pleasant hour,
And wisdom flies from wine's superior power.
Wine like the rising sun, possession gains,
And drives the mist of dulness from the brains;
The gloomy vapour from the spirit flies,
And views of gaiety and gladness rise:
Still it proceeds; till from the glowing heat,
The prudent calmly to their shades retreat: -
Then is the mind o'ercast--in wordy rage
And loud contention angry men engage;
Then spleen and pique, like fireworks thrown in
To mischief turn the pleasures of the night;
Anger abuses, Malice loudly rails,
Revenge awakes, and Anarchy prevails;
Till wine, that raised the tempest, makes its
And maudlin Love insists on instant peace;
He, noisy mirth and roaring song commands,
Gives idle toasts, and joins unfriendly bands:
Till fuddled Friendship vows esteem and weeps,
And jovial Folly drinks and sings and sleeps.
A Club there is of Smokers--Dare you come
To that close, clouded, hot, narcotic room?
When, midnight past, the very candles seem
Dying for air, and give a ghastly gleam;
When curling fumes in lazy wreaths arise,
And prosing topers rub their winking eyes;
When the long tale, renew'd when last they met,
Is spliced anew, and is unfinish'd yet;
When but a few are left the house to tire,
And they half sleeping by the sleepy fire;
E'en the poor ventilating vane that flew
Of late so fast, is now grown drowsy too;
When sweet, cold, clammy punch its aid bestows,
Then thus the midnight conversation flows: -
'Then, as I said, and--mind me--as I say,
At our last meeting--you remember'--'Ay?'
'Well, very well--then freely as I drink
I spoke my thought--you take me--what I think.
And, sir, said I, if I a Freeman be,
It is my bounden duty to be free.'
'Ay, there you posed him: I respect the Chair,
But man is man, although the man's a mayor;
If Muggins live--no, no!--if Muggins die,
He'll quit his office--neighbour, shall I try?'
'I'll speak my mind, for here are none but
They're all contending for their private ends;
No public spirit--once a vote would bring,
I say a vote--was then a pretty thing;
It made a man to serve his country and his king:
But for that place, that Muggins must resign,
You've my advice--'tis no affair of mine.'
The Poor Man has his Club: he comes and spends
His hoarded pittance with his chosen friends;
Nor this alone,--a monthly dole he pays,
To be assisted when his health decays;
Some part his prudence, from the day's supply,
For cares and troubles in his age, lays by;
The printed rules he guards with painted frame,
And shows his children where to read his name;
Those simple words his honest nature move,
That bond of union tied by laws of love;
This is his pride, it gives to his employ
New value, to his home another joy;
While a religious hope its balm applies
For all his fate inflicts, and all his state
Much would it please you, sometimes to explore
The peaceful dwellings of our Borough poor:
To view a sailor just return'd from sea,
His wife beside; a child on either knee,
And others crowding near, that none may lose
The smallest portions of the welcome news;
What dangers pass'd, 'When seas ran mountains high,
When tempest raved, and horrors veil'd the sky;
When prudence fail'd, when courage grew dismay'd,
When the strong fainted, and the wicked pray'd, -
Then in the yawning gulf far down we drove,
And gazed upon the billowy mount above;
Till up that mountain, swinging with the gale,
We view'd the horrors of the watery vale.'
The trembling children look with steadfast eyes,
And, panting, sob involuntary sighs:
Soft sleep awhile his torpid touch delays,
And all is joy and piety and praise.
Masons are ours, Freemasons--but, alas!
To their own bards I leave the mystic class;
In vain shall one, and not a gifted man,
Attempt to sing of this enlightened clan:
I know no Word, boast no directing Sign,
And not one Token of the race is mine;
Whether with Hiram, that wise widow's son,
They came from Tyre to royal Solomon,
Two pillars raising by their skill profound,
Boaz and Jachin through the east renown'd:
Whether the sacred Books their rise express,
Or books profane, 'tis vain for me guess:
It may be lost in date remote and high,
They know not what their own antiquity:
It may be, too, derived from cause so low,
They have no wish their origin to show:
If, as Crusaders, they combine to wrest
From heathen lords the land they long possess'd;
Or were at first some harmless club, who made
Their idle meetings solemn by parade;
Is but conjecture--for the task unfit,
Awe-struck and mute, the puzzling theme I quit:
Yet, if such blessings from their Order flow,
We should be glad their moral code to know;
Trowels of silver are but simple things,
And Aprons worthless as their apron-strings;
But if indeed you have the skill to teach
A social spirit, now beyond our reach;
If man's warm passions you can guide and bind,
And plant the virtues in the wayward mind;
If you can wake to Christian love the heart, -
In mercy, something of your powers impart.
But, as it seems, we Masons must become
To know the Secret, and must then be dumb;
And as we venture for uncertain gains,
Perhaps the profit is not worth the pains.
When Bruce, that dauntless traveller, thought he
On Nile's first rise, the fountain of the flood,
And drank exulting in the sacred spring,
The critics told him it was no such thing;
That springs unnumber'd round the country ran,
But none could show him where the first began:
So might we feel, should we our time bestow,
To gain these Secrets and these Signs to know;
Might question still if all the truth we found,
And firmly stood upon the certain ground;
We might our title to the Mystery dread,
And fear we drank not at the river-head.
G riggs and Gregorians here their meeting hold,
Convivial Sects, and Bucks alert and bold;
A kind of Masons, but without their sign;
The bonds of union--pleasure, song, and wine.
Man, a gregarious creature, loves to fly
Where he the trackings of the herd can spy;
Still to be one with many he desires,
Although it leads him through the thorns and
A few! but few there are, who in the mind
Perpetual source of consolation find:
The weaker many to the world will come,
For comforts seldom to be found from home.
When the faint hands no more a brimmer hold,
When flannel-wreaths the useless limbs infold,
The breath impeded, and the bosom cold;
When half the pillow'd man the palsy chains,
And the blood falters in the bloated veins, -
Then, as our friends no further aid supply
Than hope's cold phrase and courtesy's soft sigh,
We should that comfort for ourselves ensure,
Which friends could not, if we could friends
Early in life, when we can laugh aloud,
There's something pleasant in a social crowd,
Who laugh with us--but will such joy remain
When we lie struggling on the bed of pain?
When our physician tells us with a sigh,
No more on hope and science to rely,
Life's staff is useless then; with labouring breath
We pray for Hope divine--the staff of Death; -
This is a scene which few companions grace,
And where the heart's first favourites yield their
Here all the aid of man to man must end,
Here mounts the soul to her eternal Friend:
The tenderest love must here its tie resign,
And give th' aspiring heart to love divine.
Men feel their weakness, and to numbers run,
Themselves to strengthen, or themselves to shun;
But though to this our weakness may be prone,
Let's learn to live, for we must die, alone.
Asleep or waking is it? for her neck,
Kissed over close, wears yet a purple speck
Wherein the pained blood falters and goes out;
Soft, and stung softly — fairer for a fleck.
But though my lips shut sucking on the place,
There is no vein at work upon her face;
Her eyelids are so peaceable, no doubt
Deep sleep has warmed her blood through all its ways.
Lo, this is she that was the world's delight;
The old grey years were parcels of her might;
The strewings of the ways wherein she trod
Were the twain seasons of the day and night.
Lo, she was thus when her clear limbs enticed
All lips that now grow sad with kissing Christ,
Stained with blood fallen from the feet of God,
The feet and hands whereat our souls were priced.
Alas, Lord, surely thou art great and fair.
But lo her wonderfully woven hair!
And thou didst heal us with thy piteous kiss;
But see now, Lord; her mouth is lovelier.
She is right fair; what hath she done to thee?
Nay, fair Lord Christ, lift up thine eyes and see;
Had now thy mother such a lip — like this?
Thou knowest how sweet a thing it is to me.
Inside the Horsel here the air is hot;
Right little peace one hath for it, God wot;
The scented dusty daylight burns the air,
And my heart chokes me till I hear it not.
Behold, my Venus, my soul's body, lies
With my love laid upon her garment-wise,
Feeling my love in all her limbs and hair
And shed between her eyelids through her eyes.
She holds my heart in her sweet open hands
Hanging asleep; hard by her head there stands,
Crowned with gilt thorns and clothed with flesh like fire,
Love, wan as foam blown up the salt burnt sands —
Hot as the brackish waifs of yellow spume
That shift and steam — loose clots of arid fume
From the sea's panting mouth of dry desire;
There stands he, like one labouring at a loom.
The warp holds fast across; and every thread
That makes the woof up has dry specks of red;
Always the shuttle cleaves clean through, and he
Weaves with the hair of many a ruined head.
Love is not glad nor sorry, as I deem;
Labouring he dreams, and labours in the dream,
Till when the spool is finished, lo I see
His web, reeled off, curls and goes out like steam.
Night falls like fire; the heavy lights run low,
And as they drop, my blood and body so
Shake as the flame shakes, full of days and hours
That sleep not neither weep they as they go.
Ah yet would God this flesh of mine might be
Where air might wash and long leaves cover me,
Where tides of grass break into foam of flowers,
Or where the wind's feet shine along the sea.
Ah yet would God that stems and roots were bred
Out of my weary body and my head,
That sleep were sealed upon me with a seal,
And I were as the least of all his dead.
Would God my blood were dew to feed the grass,
Mine ears made deaf and mine eyes blind as glass,
My body broken as a turning wheel,
And my mouth stricken ere it saith Alas!
Ah God, that love were as a flower or flame,
That life were as the naming of a name,
That death were not more pitiful than desire,
That these things were not one thing and the same!
Behold now, surely somewhere there is death:
For each man hath some space of years, he saith,
A little space of time ere time expire,
A little day, a little way of breath.
And lo, between the sundawn and the sun,
His day's work and his night's work are undone;
And lo, between the nightfall and the light,
He is not, and none knoweth of such an one.
Ah God, that I were as all souls that be,
As any herb or leaf of any tree,
As men that toil through hours of labouring night,
As bones of men under the deep sharp sea.
Outside it must be winter among men;
For at the gold bars of the gates again
I heard all night and all the hours of it
The wind's wet wings and fingers drip with rain.
Knights gather, riding sharp for cold; I know
The ways and woods are strangled with the snow;
And with short song the maidens spin and sit
Until Christ's birthnight, lily-like, arow.
The scent and shadow shed about me make
The very soul in all my senses ache;
The hot hard night is fed upon my breath,
And sleep beholds me from afar awake.
Alas, but surely where the hills grow deep,
Or where the wild ways of the sea are steep,
Or in strange places somewhere there is death,
And on death's face the scattered hair of sleep.
There lover-like with lips and limbs that meet
They lie, they pluck sweet fruit of life and eat;
But me the hot and hungry days devour,
And in my mouth no fruit of theirs is sweet.
No fruit of theirs, but fruit of my desire,
For her love's sake whose lips through mine respire;
Her eyelids on her eyes like flower on flower,
Mine eyelids on mine eyes like fire on fire.
So lie we, not as sleep that lies by death,
With heavy kisses and with happy breath;
Not as man lies by woman, when the bride
Laughs low for love's sake and the words he saith.
For she lies, laughing low with love; she lies
And turns his kisses on her lips to sighs,
To sighing sound of lips unsatisfied,
And the sweet tears are tender with her eyes.
Ah, not as they, but as the souls that were
Slain in the old time, having found her fair;
Who, sleeping with her lips upon their eyes,
Heard sudden serpents hiss across her hair.
Their blood runs round the roots of time like rain:
She casts them forth and gathers them again;
With nerve and bone she weaves and multiplies
Exceeding pleasure out of extreme pain.
Her little chambers drip with flower-like red,
Her girdles, and the chaplets of her head,
Her armlets and her anklets; with her feet
She tramples all that winepress of the dead.
Her gateways smoke with fume of flowers and fires,
With loves burnt out and unassuaged desires;
Between her lips the steam of them is sweet,
The languor in her ears of many lyres.
Her beds are full of perfume and sad sound,
Her doors are made with music, and barred round
With sighing and with laughter and with tears,
With tears whereby strong souls of men are bound.
There is the knight Adonis that was slain;
With flesh and blood she chains him for a chain;
The body and the spirit in her ears
Cry, for her lips divide him vein by vein.
Yea, all she slayeth; yea, every man save me;
Me, love, thy lover that must cleave to thee
Till the ending of the days and ways of earth,
The shaking of the sources of the sea.
Me, most forsaken of all souls that fell;
Me, satiated with things insatiable;
Me, for whose sake the extreme hell makes mirth,
Yea, laughter kindles at the heart of hell.
Alas thy beauty! for thy mouth's sweet sake
My soul is bitter to me, my limbs quake
As water, as the flesh of men that weep,
As their heart's vein whose heart goes nigh to break.
Ah God, that sleep with flower-sweet finger-tips
Would crush the fruit of death upon my lips;
Ah God, that death would tread the grapes of sleep
And wring their juice upon me as it drips.
There is no change of cheer for many days,
But change of chimes high up in the air, that sways
Rung by the running fingers of the wind;
And singing sorrows heard on hidden ways.
Day smiteth day in twain, night sundereth night,
And on mine eyes the dark sits as the light;
Yea, Lord, thou knowest I know not, having sinned,
If heaven be clean or unclean in thy sight.
Yea, as if earth were sprinkled over me,
Such chafed harsh earth as chokes a sandy sea,
Each pore doth yearn, and the dried blood thereof
Gasps by sick fits, my heart swims heavily,
There is a feverish famine in my veins;
Below her bosom, where a crushed grape stains
The white and blue, there my lips caught and clove
An hour since, and what mark of me remains?
I dare not always touch her, lest the kiss
Leave my lips charred. Yea, Lord, a little bliss,
Brief bitter bliss, one hath for a great sin;
Nathless thou knowest how sweet a thing it is.
Sin, is it sin whereby men's souls are thrust
Into the pit? yet had I a good trust
To save my soul before it slipped therein,
Trod under by the fire-shod feet of lust.
For if mine eyes fail and my soul takes breath,
I look between the iron sides of death
Into sad hell where all sweet love hath end,
All but the pain that never finisheth.
There are the naked faces of great kings,
The singing folk with all their lute-playings;
There when one cometh he shall have to friend
The grave that covets and the worm that clings.
There sit the knights that were so great of hand,
The ladies that were queens of fair green land,
Grown grey and black now, brought unto the dust,
Soiled, without raiment, clad about with sand.
There is one end for all of them; they sit
Naked and sad, they drink the dregs of it,
Trodden as grapes in the wine-press of lust,
Trampled and trodden by the fiery feet.
I see the marvellous mouth whereby there fell
Cities and people whom the gods loved well,
Yet for her sake on them the fire gat hold,
And for their sakes on her the fire of hell.
And softer than the Egyptian lote-leaf is,
The queen whose face was worth the world to kiss,
Wearing at breast a suckling snake of gold;
And large pale lips of strong Semiramis,
Curled like a tiger's that curl back to feed;
Red only where the last kiss made them bleed;
Her hair most thick with many a carven gem,
Deep in the mane, great-chested, like a steed.
Yea, with red sin the faces of them shine;
But in all these there was no sin like mine;
No, not in all the strange great sins of them
That made the wine-press froth and foam with wine.
For I was of Christ's choosing, I God's knight,
No blinkard heathen stumbling for scant light;
I can well see, for all the dusty days
Gone past, the clean great time of goodly fight.
I smell the breathing battle sharp with blows,
With shriek of shafts and snapping short of bows;
The fair pure sword smites out in subtle ways,
Sounds and long lights are shed between the rows
Of beautiful mailed men; the edged light slips,
Most like a snake that takes short breath and dips
Sharp from the beautifully bending head,
With all its gracious body lithe as lips
That curl in touching you; right in this wise
My sword doth, seeming fire in mine own eyes,
Leaving all colours in them brown and red
And flecked with death; then the keen breaths like sighs,
The caught-up choked dry laughters following them,
When all the fighting face is grown a flame
For pleasure, and the pulse that stuns the ears,
And the heart's gladness of the goodly game.
Let me think yet a little; I do know
These things were sweet, but sweet such years ago,
Their savour is all turned now into tears;
Yea, ten years since, where the blue ripples blow,
The blue curled eddies of the blowing Rhine,
I felt the sharp wind shaking grass and vine
Touch my blood too, and sting me with delight
Through all this waste and weary body of mine
That never feels clear air; right gladly then
I rode alone, a great way off my men,
And heard the chiming bridle smite and smite,
And gave each rhyme thereof some rhyme again,
Till my song shifted to that iron one;
Seeing there rode up between me and the sun
Some certain of my foe's men, for his three
White wolves across their painted coats did run.
The first red-bearded, with square cheeks — alack,
I made my knave's blood turn his beard to black;
The slaying of him was a joy to see:
Perchance too, when at night he came not back,
Some woman fell a-weeping, whom this thief
Would beat when he had drunken; yet small grief
Hath any for the ridding of such knaves;
Yea, if one wept, I doubt her teen was brief.
This bitter love is sorrow in all lands,
Draining of eyelids, wringing of drenched hands,
Sighing of hearts and filling up of graves;
A sign across the head of the world he stands,
An one that hath a plague-mark on his brows;
Dust and spilt blood do track him to his house
Down under earth; sweet smells of lip and cheek,
Like a sweet snake's breath made more poisonous
With chewing of some perfumed deadly grass,
Are shed all round his passage if he pass,
And their quenched savour leaves the whole soul weak,
Sick with keen guessing whence the perfume was.
As one who hidden in deep sedge and reeds
Smells the rare scent made where a panther feeds,
And tracking ever slotwise the warm smell
Is snapped upon by the sweet mouth and bleeds,
His head far down the hot sweet throat of her —
So one tracks love, whose breath is deadlier,
And lo, one springe and you are fast in hell,
Fast as the gin's grip of a wayfarer.
I think now, as the heavy hours decease
One after one, and bitter thoughts increase
One upon one, of all sweet finished things;
The breaking of the battle; the long peace
Wherein we sat clothed softly, each man's hair
Crowned with green leaves beneath white hoods of vair;
The sounds of sharp spears at great tourneyings,
And noise of singing in the late sweet air.
I sang of love too, knowing nought thereof;
'Sweeter,' I said, 'the little laugh of love
Than tears out of the eyes of Magdalen,
Or any fallen feather of the Dove.
'The broken little laugh that spoils a kiss,
The ache of purple pulses, and the bliss
Of blinded eyelids that expand again —
Love draws them open with those lips of his,
'Lips that cling hard till the kissed face has grown
Of one same fire and colour with their own;
Then ere one sleep, appeased with sacrifice,
Where his lips wounded, there his lips atone.'
I sang these things long since and knew them not;
'Lo, here is love, or there is love, God wot,
This man and that finds favour in his eyes,'
I said, 'but I, what guerdon have I got?
'The dust of praise that is blown everywhere
In all men's faces with the common air;
The bay-leaf that wants chafing to be sweet
Before they wind it in a singer's hair.'
So that one dawn I rode forth sorrowing;
I had no hope but of some evil thing,
And so rode slowly past the windy wheat
And past the vineyard and the water-spring,
Up to the Horsel. A great elder-tree
Held back its heaps of flowers to let me see
The ripe tall grass, and one that walked therein,
Naked, with hair shed over to the knee.
She walked between the blossom and the grass;
I knew the beauty of her, what she was,
The beauty of her body and her sin,
And in my flesh the sin of hers, alas!
Alas! for sorrow is all the end of this.
O sad kissed mouth, how sorrowful it is!
O breast whereat some suckling sorrow clings,
Red with the bitter blossom of a kiss!
Ah, with blind lips I felt for you, and found
About my neck your hands and hair enwound,
The hands that stifle and the hair that stings,
I felt them fasten sharply without sound.
Yea, for my sin I had great store of bliss:
Rise up, make answer for me, let thy kiss
Seal my lips hard from speaking of my sin,
Lest one go mad to hear how sweet it is.
Yet I waxed faint with fume of barren bowers,
And murmuring of the heavy-headed hours;
And let the dove's beak fret and peck within
My lips in vain, and Love shed fruitless flowers.
So that God looked upon me when your hands
Were hot about me; yea, God brake my bands
To save my soul alive, and I came forth
Like a man blind and naked in strange lands
That hears men laugh and weep, and knows not whence
Nor wherefore, but is broken in his sense;
Howbeit I met folk riding from the north
Towards Rome, to purge them of their souls' offence,
And rode with them, and spake to none; the day
Stunned me like lights upon some wizard way,
And ate like fire mine eyes and mine eyesight;
So rode I, hearing all these chant and pray,
And marvelled; till before us rose and fell
White cursed hills, like outer skirts of hell
Seen where men's eyes look through the day to night,
Like a jagged shell's lips, harsh, untunable,
Blown in between by devils' wrangling breath;
Nathless we won well past that hell and death,
Down to the sweet land where all airs are good,
Even unto Rome where God's grace tarrieth.
Then came each man and worshipped at his knees
Who in the Lord God's likeness bears the keys
To bind or loose, and called on Christ's shed blood,
And so the sweet-souled father gave him ease.
But when I came I fell down at his feet,
Saying, 'Father, though the Lord's blood be right sweet,
The spot it takes not off the panther's skin,
Nor shall an Ethiop's stain be bleached with it.
'Lo, I have sinned and have spat out at God,
Wherefore his hand is heavier and his rod
More sharp because of mine exceeding sin,
And all his raiment redder than bright blood
'Before mine eyes; yea, for my sake I wot
The heat of hell is waxen seven times hot
Through my great sin.' Then spake he some sweet word,
Giving me cheer; which thing availed me not;
Yea, scarce I wist if such indeed were said;
For when I ceased — lo, as one newly dead
Who hears a great cry out of hell, I heard
The crying of his voice across my head.
'Until this dry shred staff, that hath no whit
Of leaf nor bark, bear blossom and smell sweet,
Seek thou not any mercy in God's sight,
For so long shalt thou be cast out from it.'
Yea, what if dried-up stems wax red and green,
Shall that thing be which is not nor has been?
Yea, what if sapless bark wax green and white,
Shall any good fruit grow upon my sin?
Nay, though sweet fruit were plucked of a dry tree,
And though men drew sweet waters of the sea,
There should not grow sweet leaves on this dead stem,
This waste wan body and shaken soul of me.
Yea, though God search it warily enough,
There is not one sound thing in all thereof;
Though he search all my veins through, searching them
He shall find nothing whole therein but love.
For I came home right heavy, with small cheer,
And lo my love, mine own soul's heart, more dear
Than mine own soul, more beautiful than God,
Who hath my being between the hands of her —
Fair still, but fair for no man saving me,
As when she came out of the naked sea
Making the foam as fire whereon she trod,
And as the inner flower of fire was she.
Yea, she laid hold upon me, and her mouth
Clove unto mine as soul to body doth,
And, laughing, made her lips luxurious;
Her hair had smells of all the sunburnt south,
Strange spice and flower, strange savour of crushed fruit,
And perfume the swart kings tread underfoot
For pleasure when their minds wax amorous,
Charred frankincense and grated sandal-root.
And I forgot fear and all weary things,
All ended prayers and perished thanksgivings,
Feeling her face with all her eager hair
Cleave to me, clinging as a fire that clings
To the body and to the raiment, burning them;
As after death I know that such-like flame
Shall cleave to me for ever; yea, what care,
Albeit I burn then, having felt the same?
Ah love, there is no better life than this;
To have known love, how bitter a thing it is,
And afterward be cast out of God's sight;
Yea, these that know not, shall they have such bliss
High up in barren heaven before his face
As we twain in the heavy-hearted place,
Remembering love and all the dead delight,
And all that time was sweet with for a space?
For till the thunder in the trumpet be,
Soul may divide from body, but not we
One from another; I hold thee with my hand,
I let mine eyes have all their will of thee,
I seal myself upon thee with my might,
Abiding alway out of all men's sight
Until God loosen over sea and land
The thunder of the trumpets of the night.