Latest quotes | Random quotes | Vote! | Latest comments | Add quote

The Lawyer’s First Tale: Primitiæ or Third Cousins

I

‘Dearest of boys, please come to-day,
Papa and mama have bid me say,
They hope you’ll dine with us at three;
They will be out till then, you see,
But you will start at once, you know,
And come as fast as you can go.
Next week they hope you’ll come and stay
Some time before you go away.
Dear boy, how pleasant it will be,
Ever your dearest Emily!’
Twelve years of age was I, and she
Fourteen, when thus she wrote to me,
A schoolboy, with an uncle spending
My holidays, then nearly ending.
My uncle lived the mountain o’er,
A rector, and a bachelor;
The vicarage was by the sea,
That was the home of Emily:
The windows to the front looked down
Across a single-streeted town,
Far as to where Worms-head was seen,
Dim with ten watery miles between;
The Carnedd mountains on the right
With stony masses filled the sight;
To left the open sea; the bay
In a blue plain before you lay.
A garden, full of fruit, extends,
Stone-walled, above the house, and ends
With a locked door, that by a porch
Admits to churchyard and to church;
Farm-buildings nearer on one side,
And glebe, and then the countrywide.
I and my cousin Emily
Were cousins in the third degree;
My mother near of kin was reckoned
To hers, who was my mother’s second:
My cousinship I held from her.
Such an amount of girls there were,
At first one really was perplexed:
’Twas Patty first, and Lydia next,
And Emily the third, and then,
Philippa, Phoebe, Mary Gwen.
Six were they, you perceive, in all;
And portraits fading on the wall,
Grandmothers, heroines of old,
And aunts of aunts, with scrolls that told
Their names and dates, were there to show
Why these had all been christened so.
The crowd of blooming daughters fair
Scarce let you see the mother there,
And by her husband, large and tall,
She looked a little shrunk and small;
Although my mother used to tell
That once she was a county belle:
Busied she seemed, and half-distress’d
For him and them to do the best.
The vicar was of bulk and thewes.
Six feet he stood within his shoes,
And every inch of all a man;
Ecclesiast on the ancient plan,
Unforced by any party rule
His native character to school;
In ancient learning not unread,
But had few doctrines in his head;
Dissenters truly he abhorr’d,
They never had his gracious word.
He ne’er was bitter or unkind,
But positively spoke his mind.
Their piety he could not bear,
A sneaking snivelling set they were:
Their tricks and meanness fired his blood;
Up for his Church he stoutly stood.
No worldly aim had he in life
To set him with himself at strife;
A spade a spade he freely named,
And of his joke was not ashamed,
Made it and laughed at it, be sure,
With young and old, and rich and poor.
His sermons frequently he took
Out of some standard reverend book;
They seemed a little strange, indeed,
But were not likely to mislead.
Others he gave that were his own,
The difference could be quickly known.
Though sorry not to have a boy,
His daughters were his perfect joy;
He plagued them, oft drew tears from each,
Was bold and hasty in his speech;
All through the house you heard him call,
He had his vocatives for all:
Patty Patina, Pat became,
Lydia took Languish with her name,
Philippa was the Gentle Queen,
And Phoebe, Madam Proserpine;
The pseudonyms for Mary Gwen
Varied with every week again;
But Emily, of all the set,
Emilia called, was most the pet.
Soon as her messenger had come,
I started from my uncle’s home,
On an old pony scrambling down
Over the mountain to the town.
My cousins met me at the door,
And some behind, and some before,
Kissed me all round and kissed again,
The happy custom there and then,
From Patty down to Mary Gwen.
Three hours we had, and spent in play
About the garden and the hay;
We sat upon the half-built stack;
And when ’twas time for hurrying back,
Slyly away the others hied,
And took the ladder from the side;
Emily there, alone with me,
Was left in close captivity;
But down the stack at last I slid,
And found the ladder they had hid.
I left at six; again I went
Soon after and a fortnight spent:
Drawing, by Patty I was taught,
But could not be to music brought;
I showed them how to play at chess,
I argued with the governess;
I called them stupid; why, to me
’Twas evident as A B C;
Were not the reasons such and such?
Helston, my schoolfellow, but much
My senior, in a yacht came o’er,
His uncle with him, from the shore
Under Worms-head: to take a sail
He pressed them, but could not prevail;
Mania was timid, durst not go,
Papa was rather gruff with no.
Helston. no sooner was afloat,
We made a party in a boat,
And rowed to Sea-Mew Island out,
And landed there and roved about:
And I and Emily out of reach,
Strayed from the rest along the beach.
Turning to look into a cave
She stood, when suddenly a wave
Ran up; I caught her by the. frock,
And pulled her out, and o’er a rock,
So doing, stumbled, rolled, and fell.
She knelt down, I remember well,
Bid me where I was hurt to tell,
And kissed me three times as I lay;
But I jumped up and limped away.
The next was my departing day.
Patty arranged it all with me
To send next year to Emily
A valentine. I wrote and sent;
For the fourteenth it duly went.
On the fourteenth what should there be
But one from Emily to me;
The postmark left it plain to see.
Mine, though they praised it at the time,
Was but a formal piece of rhyme.
She sent me one that she had bought;
’Twas stupid of her, as I thought:
Why not have written one? She wrote,
However, soon, this little note.
‘Dearest of boys, of course ’twas you;
You printed, but your hand I knew,
And verses too, how did you learn?
I can’t send any in return.
Papa declares they are not bad
That’s praise from him and I’m so glad,
Because you know no one can be
I’d rather have to write to me.
‘Our governess is going away,
We’re so distressed she cannot stay:
Mama had made it quite a rule
We none of us should go to school.
But what to do they do not know,
Papa protests it must be so.
Lydia and I may have to go;
Patty will try to teach the rest,
Mama agrees it will be best.
Dear boy, good-bye, I am, you see,
Ever your dearest Emily.
We want to know, so write and tell,
If you’d a valentine as well’

II

Five tardy years were fully spent
Ere next my cousins’ way I went;
With Christmas then I came to see
My uncle in his rectory:
But they the town had left; no more
Were in the vicarage of yore.
When time his sixtieth year had brought,
An easier cure the vicar sought:
A country parsonage was made
Sufficient, amply, with the aid
Of mortar here and there, and bricks,
For him and wife and children six.
Though neighbours now, there scarce was light
To see them and return ere night.
Emily wrote: how glad they were
To hear of my arrival there;
Mama had bid her say that all
The house was crowded for the ball
Till Tuesday, but if I would come,
She thought that they could find me room;
The week with them I then should spend,
But really must the ball attend;
‘Dear cousin, you have been away
For such an age, pray don’t delay,
But come and do not lose a day.’
A schoolboy still, but now, indeed,
About to college to proceed,
Dancing was, let it be confess’d,
To me no pleasure at the best:
Of girls and of their lovely looks
I thought not, busy with my books.
Still, though a little ill-content,
Upon the Monday morn I went:
My cousins, each and all, I found
Wondrously grown! They kissed me round,
And so affectionate and good
They were, it could not be withstood.
Emily, I was so surprised,
At first I hardly recognised;
Her face so formed and rounded now,
Such knowledge in her eyes and brow;
For all I read and thought I knew,
She could divine me through and through.
Where had she been, and what had done,
I asked, such victory to have won?
She had not studied, had not read,
Seemed to have little in her head,
Yet of herself the right and true,
As of her own experience knew.
Straight from her eyes her judgments flew,
Like absolute decrees they ran,
From mine on such a different plan.
A simple county country ball
It was to be, not grand at all;
And cousins four with me would dance,
And keep me well in countenance.
And there were people there to be
Who knew of old my family,
Friends of my friends I heard and knew,
And tried; but no, it would not do.
Somehow it seemed a sort of thing
To which my strength I could not bring;
The music scarcely touched my ears,
The figures fluttered me with fears.
I talked, but had not aught to say,
Danced, my instructions to obey;
E’en when with beautiful good-will
Emilia through the long quadrille
Conducted me, alas the day,
Ten times I wished myself away.
But she, invested with a dower
Of conscious, scarce-exerted power,
Emilia, so, I know not why,
They called her now, not Emily,
Amid the living, heaving throng,
Sedately, somewhat, moved along
Serenely, somewhat, in the dance
Mingled, divining at a glance,
And reading every countenance;
Not stately she, nor grand nor tall,
Yet looked as if controlling all
The fluctuations of the ball;
Her subjects ready at her call
All others, she a queen, her throne
Preparing, and her title known,
Though not yet taken as her own.
O wonderful! I still can see,
And twice she came and danced with me.
She asked me of my school, and what
Those prizes were that I had got,
And what we learnt, and ‘oh,’ she said,
‘How much to carry in one’s head,’
And I must be upon my guard,
And really must not work too hard:
Who were my friends I and did I go
Ever to balls? I told her no:
She said, ‘I really like them so;
But then I am a girl; and dear,
You like your friends at school, I fear,
Better than anybody here.’
How long had she left school, I asked,
Two years, she told me, and I tasked
My faltering speech to learn about
Her life, but could not bring it out:
This while the dancers round us flew.
Helston, whom formerly I knew,
My schoolfellow, was at the ball,
A man full-statured, fair and tall,
Helston of Helston now they said,
Heir to his uncle, who was dead;
In the army, too: he danced with three
Of the four sisters. Emily
Refused him once, to dance with me.
How long it seemed! and yet at one
We left, before ’twas nearly done:
How thankful I! the journey through
I talked to them with spirits new;
And the brief sleep of closing night
Brought a sensation of delight,
Which, when I woke, was exquisite.
The music moving in my brain
I felt; in the gay crowd again
Half felt, half saw the girlish bands,
On their white skirts their white-gloved hands,
Advance, retreat, and yet advance,
And mingle in the mingling dance.
The impulse had arrived at last,
When the opportunity was past.
Breakfast my soft sensations first
With livelier passages dispersed.
Reposing in his country home,
Which half luxurious had become,
Gay was their father, loudly flung
His guests and blushing girls among,
His jokes; and she, their mother, too,
Less anxious seemed, with less to do,
Her daughters aiding. As the day
Advanced, the others went away,
But I must absolutely stay,
The girls cried out: I stayed and let
Myself be once more half their pet,
Although a little on the fret.
How ill our boyhood understands
Incipient manhood’s strong demands!
Boys have such troubles of their own,
As none, they fancy, e’er have known,
Such as to speak of, or to tell,
They hold, were unendurable:
Religious, social, of all kinds,
That tear and agitate their minds.
A thousand thoughts within me stirred,
Of which I could not speak a word;
Strange efforts after something new,
Which I was wretched not to do;
Passions, ambitions lay and lurked,
Wants, counter-wants, obscurely worked
Without their names, and unexplained.
And where had Emily obtained
Assurance, and had ascertained?
How strange, how far behind was I,
And how it came, I asked, and why?
How was it, and how could it be,
And what was all that worked in me?
They used to scold me when I read,
And bade me talk to them instead;
When I absconded to my room,
To fetch me out they used to come;
Oft by myself I went to walk,
But, by degrees, was got to talk.
The year had cheerfully begun,
With more than winter’s wonted sun,
Mountains, in the green garden ways,
Gleamed through the laurel and the bays.
I well remember letting out
One day, as there I looked about,
While they of girls discoursing sat,
This one how sweet, how lovely that,
That I could greater pleasure take
In looking on Llynidwil lake
Than on the fairest female face:
They could not understand: a place!
Incomprehensible it seemed;
Philippa looked as if she dreamed,
Patty and Lydia loud exclaimed,
And I already was ashamed,
When Emily asked, half apart,
If to the lake I’d given my heart;
And did the lake, she wished to learn,
My tender sentiment return.
For music, too, I would not care,
Which was an infinite despair:
When Lydia took her seat to play,
I read a book, or walked away.
I was not quite composed, I own,
Except when with the girls alone;
Looked to their father still with fear
Of how to him I must appear;
And was entirely put to shame,
When once some rough he-cousins came.
Yet Emily from all distress
Could reinstate me, more or less;
How pleasant by her side to walk,
How beautiful to let her talk,
How charming I yet, by slow degrees
I got impatient, ill at ease;
Half glad, half wretched, when at last
The visit ended, and ’t was past.

III

Next year I went and spent a week,
And certainly had learnt to speak;
My chains I forcibly had broke,
And now too much indeed I spoke.
A mother sick and seldom seen
A grief for many months had been,
Their father too was feebler, years
Were heavy, and there had been fears
Some months ago; and he was vexed
With party heats and all perplexed
With an upheaving modern change
To him and his old wisdom strange.
The daughters all were there, not one
Had yet to other duties run,
Their father, people used to say,
Frightened the wooers all away;
As vines around an ancient stem,
They clung and clustered upon him,
Him loved and tended; above all,
Emilia, ever at his call.
But I was intellectual;
I talked in high superior tone
Of things the girls had never known,
Far wiser to have let alone;
Things which the father knew in short
By country clerical report;
I talked of much I thought I knew,
Used all my college wit anew,
A little on my fancy drew;
Religion, politics, O me!
No subject great enough could be.
In vain, more weak in spirit grown,
At times he tried to put me down.
I own it was the want, in part,
Of any discipline of heart.
It was, now hard at work again,
The busy argufying brain
Of the prize schoolboy; but, indeed,
Much more, if right the thing I read,
It was the instinctive wish to try
And, above all things, not be shy.
Alas! it did not do at all;
Ill went the visit, ill the ball;
Each hour I felt myself grow worse,
With every effort more perverse.
I tried to change; too hard, indeed,
I tried, and never could succeed.
Out of sheer spite an extra day
I stayed; but when I went away,
Alas, the farewells were not warm,
The kissing was the merest form;
Emilia was distraite and sad,
And everything was bad as bad.

O had some happy chance fall’n out,
To turn the thing just round about,
In time at least to give anew
The old affectionate adieu!
A little thing, a word, a jest,
A laugh, had set us all at rest;
But nothing came. I went away,
And could have really cried that day,
So vexed, for I had meant so well,
Yet everything so ill befell,
And why and how I could not tell.

Our wounds in youth soon close and heal,
Or seem to close; young people feel,
And suffer greatly, I believe,
But then they can’t profess to grieve:
Their pleasures occupy them more,
And they have so much time before.
At twenty life appeared to me
A sort of vague infinity;
And though of changes still I heard,
Real changes had not yet occurred
And all things were, or would be, well,
And nothing irremediable.
The youth for his degrees that reads
Beyond it nothing knows or needs;
Nor till ’tis over wakes to see
The busy world’s reality.

One visit brief I made again
In autumn next but one, and then
All better found. With Mary Gwen
I talked, a schoolgirl just about
To leave this winter and come out.
Patty and Lydia were away,
And a strange sort of distance lay
Betwixt me and Emilia.
She sought me less, and I was shy.
And yet this time I think that I
More subtly felt, more saw, more knew
The beauty into which she grew;
More understood the meanings now
Of the still eyes and rounded brow,
And could, perhaps, have told you how
The intellect that crowns our race
To more than beauty in her face
Was changed. But I confuse from hence
The later and the earlier sense.

IV

Have you the Giesbach seen? a fall
In Switzerland you say, that’s all;
That, and an inn, from which proceeds
A path that to the Faulhorn leads,
From whence you see the world of snows.
Few see how perfect in repose,
White green, the lake lies deeply set,
Where, slowly purifying yet,
The icy river-floods retain
A something of the glacier stain.
Steep cliffs arise the waters o’er,
The Giesbach leads you to a shore,
And to one still sequestered bay
I found elsewhere a scrambling way.
Above, the loftier heights ascend,
And level platforms here extend
The mountains and the cliffs between,
With firs and grassy spaces green,
And little dips and knolls to show
In part or whole the lake below;
And all exactly at the height
To make the pictures exquisite.
Most exquisite they seemed to me,
When, a year after my degree,
Passing upon my journey home
From Greece, and Sicily, and Rome,
I stayed at that minute hotel
Six days, or eight, I cannot tell.
Twelve months had led me fairly through
The old world surviving in the new.
From Rome with joy I passed to Greece,
To Athens and the Peloponnese;
Saluted with supreme delight
The Parthenon-surmounted height;
In huts at Delphi made abode,
And in Arcadian valleys rode;
Counted the towns that lie like slain
Upon the wide Bœotian plain;
With wonder in the spacious gloom
Stood of the Mycenæan tomb;
From the Acrocorinth watched the day
Light the eastern and the western bay.
Constantinople then had seen,
Where, by her cypresses, the queen
Of the East sees flow through portals wide
The steady streaming Scythian tide;
And after, from Scamander’s mouth,
Went up to Troy, and to the South,
To Lycia, Caria, pressed, atwhiles
Outvoyaging to Egean isles.
To see the things, which, sick with doubt.
And comment, one had learnt about,
Was like clear morning after night,.
Or raising of the blind to sight.
Aware it might be first and last,
I did it eagerly and fast,
And took unsparingly my fill.
The impetus of travel still
Urged me, but laden, half oppress’d,
Here lighting on a place of rest,
I yielded, asked not if ’twere best.
Pleasant it was, reposing here,
To sum the experience of the year,
And let the accumulated gain
Assort itself upon the brain.
Travel’s a miniature life,
Travel is evermore a strife,
Where he must run who would obtain.
’Tis a perpetual loss and gain;
For sloth and error dear we pay,
By luck and effort win our way,
And both have need of every day.
Each day has got its sight to see,
Each day must put to profit be;
Pleasant, when seen are all the sights,
To let them think themselves to rights.
I on the Giesbach turf reclined,
Half watched this process in my mind;
Watched the stream purifying slow,
In me and in the lake below:
And then began to think of home,
And possibilities to come.

Brienz, on our Brienzer See
From Interlaken every day
A steamer seeks, and at our pier
Lets out a crowd to see things here;
Up a steep path they pant and strive;
When to the level they arrive,
Dispersing, hither, thither, run,
For all must rapidly be done,
And seek, with questioning and din,
Some the cascade, and some the inn,
The waterfall, for if you look,
You find it printed in the book
That man or woman, so inclined,
May pass the very fall behind;
So many feet there intervene
The rock and flying jet between;
The inn, ’tis also in the plan
(For tourist is a hungry man),
And a small salle repeats by rote,
A daily task of table d’hôte,
Where broth and meat, and country wine,
Assure the strangers that they dine;
Do it they must, while they have power,
For in three-quarters of an hour
Back comes the steamer from Brienz,
And with one clear departure hence
The quietude is more intense.
It was my custom at the top
To stand and see them clambering up,
Then take advantage of the start,
And pass into the woods apart:
It happened, and I know not why,
I once returned too speedily;
And, seeing women still and men,
Was swerving to the woods again,
But for a moment stopped to seize
A glance at some one near the trees;
A figure full, but full of grace,
Its movement beautified the place.
It turns, advances, comes my way;
What do I see, what do I say I
Yet, to a statelier beauty grown,
It is, it can be, she alone!
O mountains round! O heaven above!
It is Emilia, whom I love;
‘Emilia, whom I love,’ the word
Rose to my lips, as yet unheard,
When she, whose colour flushed, to red,
In a soft voice, ‘My husband,’ said;
And Helston came up with his hand,
And both of them took mine; but stand
And talk they could not, they must go;
The steamer rang her bell below;
How curious that I did not know!
They were to go and stay at Thun,
Could I come there and see them soon?
And shortly were returning home,
And when would I to Helston come?
Thus down we went, I put them in;
Off went the steamer with a din,
And on the pier I stood and eyed
The bridegroom, seated by the bride,
Emilia closing to his side.

V

She wrote from Helston; begged I’d come
And see her in her husband’s home.
I went, and bound by double vow,
Not only wife, but mother now,
I found her, lovely as of old,
O, rather, lovelier manifold.

Her wifely sweet reserve unbroke,
Still frankly, tenderly, she spoke;
Asked me about myself, would hear
What I proposed to do this year;
At college why was I detained,
Was it the fellowship I’d gained?
I told her that I was not tied
Henceforward further to reside,
Yet very likely might stay on,
And lapse into a college don;
My fellowship itself would give
A competence on which to live,
And if I waited, who could tell,
I might be tutor too, as well.
Oh, but, she said, I must not stay,
College and school were only play;
I might be sick, perhaps, of praise,
But must not therefore waste my days!
Fellows grow indolent, and then
They may not do as other men,
And for your happiness in life,
Sometime you’ll wish to have a wife.

Languidly by her chair I sat,
But my eyes rather flashed at that.
I said, ‘Emilia, people change,
But yet, I own, I find it strange
To hear this common talk from you:
You speak, and some believe it true,
Just as if any wife would do;
Whoe’er one takes, ’tis much the same,
And love and so forth, but a name.’
She coloured. ‘What can I have said,
Or what could put it in your head?
Indeed, I had not in my mind
The faintest notion of the kind.’
I told her that I did not know
Her tone appeared to mean it so.
‘Emilia, when I’ve heard,’ I said,
‘How people match themselves and wed,
I’ve sometimes wished that both were dead.’
She turned a little pale. I woke
Some thought; what thought? but soft she spoke:
‘I’m sure that what you meant was good,
But, really, you misunderstood.
From point to point so quick you fly,
And are so vehement, and I,
As you remember, long ago,
Am stupid, certainly am slow.
And yet some things I seem to know;
I know it will be just a crime,
If you should waste your powers and time.
There is so much, I think, that you,
And no one equally, can do.’
‘It does not matter much,’ said I,
‘The things I thought of are gone by;
I’m quite content to wait to die.’

A sort of beauteous anger spread
Over her face. ‘O me!’ she said,
‘That you should sit and trifle so,
And you so utterly don’t know
How greatly you have yet to grow,
How wide your objects have to expand,
How much is yet an unknown land!
You’re twenty-three, I’m twenty-five,
And I am so much more alive.’
My eyes I shaded with my hand,
And almost lost my self-command,
I muttered something: ‘Yes, I see;
Two years have severed you from me.
O, Emily, was it ever told,’
I asked, ‘that souls are young and old?’
But she, continuing, ‘All the day
Were I to speak, I could but say
The one same thing the one same way.
Sometimes, indeed, I think, you know,’
And her tone suddenly was low,
That in a day we yet shall see,
You of my sisters and of me,
And of the things that used to be,
Will think, as you look back again,
With something not unlike disdain;.
So you your rightful place obtain,
That will to me be joy, not pain.’
Her voice still lower, lower fell,
I heard, just heard, each syllable.
‘But,’ in the tone she used before,
‘Don’t stay at college any more:
For others it perhaps may do,
I’m sure it will be bad for you.’

She softened me. The following day
We parted. As I went away
Her infant on her bosom lay,
And, as a mother might her boy,
I think she would with loving joy
Have kissed me; but I turned to go,
’Twas better not to have it so.
Next year achieved me some amends,
And once we met, and met as friends.
Friends, yet apart; I had not much
Valued her judgment, though to touch
Her words had power; yet, strangely still,
It had been cogent on my will.
As she had counselled, I had done,
And a new effort was begun.
Forth to the war of life I went,
Courageous, and not ill content.
‘Yours is the fault I opened thus again
A youthful, ancient, sentimental vein,’
He said, ‘and like Munchausen’s horn o’erflow
With liquefying tunes of long ago.
My wiser friend, who knows for what we live,
And what should seek, will his correction give.’

We all made thanks. ‘My tale were quickly told,’
The other said, ‘but the turned heavens behold;
The night two watches of the night is old,
The sinking stars their suasions urge for sleep,
My story for to-morrow night will keep.’

The evening after, when the day was stilled,
His promise thus the clergyman fulfilled.

poem by from Mari Magno or Tales on BoardReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Veronica Serbanoiu
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Related quotes

Marmion: Canto IV. - The Camp

I.

Eustace, I said, did blithely mark
The first notes of the merry lark.
The lark sang shrill, the cock he crew,
And loudly Marmion's bugles blew,
And with their light and lively call,
Brought groom and yeoman to the stall.
Whistling they came, and free of heart,
But soon their mood was changed;
Complaint was heard on every part,
Of something disarranged.
Some clamoured loud for armour lost;
Some brawled and wrangled with the host;
'By Becket's bones,' cried one, 'I fear
That some false Scot has stol'n my spear!'
Young Blount, Lord Marmion's second squire,
Found his steed wet with sweat and mire;
Although the rated horse-boy sware,
Last night he dressed him sleek and fair.
While chafed the impatient squire like thunder,
Old Hubert shouts, in fear and wonder,
'Help, gentle Blount! help, comrades all!
Bevis lies dying in his stall:
To Marmion who the plight dare tell,
Of the good steed he loves so well?'
Gaping for fear and ruth, they saw
The charger panting on his straw;
Till one who would seem wisest, cried,
'What else but evil could betide,
With that cursed Palmer for our guide?
Better we had through mire and bush
Been lantern-led by Friar Rush.'

II.

Fitz-Eustace, who the cause but guessed,
Nor wholly understood,
His comrades' clamorous plaints suppressed;
He knew Lord Marmion's mood.
Him, ere he issued forth, he sought,
And found deep plunged in gloomy thought,
And did his tale display
Simply, as if he knew of nought
To cause such disarray.
Lord Marmion gave attention cold,
Nor marvelled at the wonders told -
Passed them as accidents of course,
And bade his clarions sound to horse.

III.

Young Henry Blount, meanwhile, the cost
Had reckoned with their Scottish host;
And, as the charge he cast and paid,
'Ill thou deserv'st thy hire,' he said;
'Dost see, thou knave, my horse's plight?
Fairies have ridden him all the night,
And left him in a foam!
I trust that soon a conjuring band,
With English cross, and blazing brand,
Shall drive the devils from this land,
To their infernal home:
For in this haunted den, I trow,
All night they trampled to and fro.'
The laughing host looked on the hire -
'Gramercy, gentle southern squire,
And if thou com'st among the rest,
With Scottish broadsword to be blest,
Sharp be the brand, and sure the blow,
And short the pang to undergo.'
Here stayed their talk; for Marmion
Gave now the signal to set on.
The Palmer showing forth the way,
They journeyed all the morning day.

IV.

The greensward way was smooth and good,
Through Humbie's and through Saltoun's wood;
A forest glade, which, varying still,
Here gave a view of dale and hill,
There narrower closed, till overhead
A vaulted screen the branches made.
'A pleasant path,' Fitz-Eustace said,
'Such as where errant-knights might see
Adventures of high chivalry;
Might meet some damsel flying fast,
With hair unbound, and looks aghast;
And smooth and level course were here,
In her defence to break a spear.
Here, too, are twilight nooks and dells;
And oft, in such, the story tells,
The damsel kind, from danger freed,
Did grateful pay her champion's meed.'
He spoke to cheer Lord Marmion's mind;
Perchance to show his lore designed;
For Eustace much had pored
Upon a huge romantic tome,
In the hall-window of his home,
Imprinted at the antique dome
Of Caxton, or De Worde,
Therefore he spoke-but spoke in vain,
For Marmion answered nought again.

V.

Now sudden, distant trumpets shrill,
In notes prolonged by wood and hill,
Were heard to echo far:
Each ready archer grasped his bow,
But by the flourish soon they know,
They breathed no point of war.
Yet cautious, as in foeman's land,
Lord Marmion's order speeds the band,
Some opener ground to gain;
And scarce a furlong had they rode,
When thinner trees, receding, showed
A little woodland plain.
Just in that advantageous glade,
The halting troop a line had made,
As forth from the opposing shade
Issued a gallant train.

VI.

First came the trumpets, at whose clang
So late the forest echoes rang;
On prancing steeds they forward pressed,
With scarlet mantle, azure vest;
Each at his trump a banner wore,
Which Scotland's royal scutcheon bore:
Heralds and pursuivants, by name
Bute, Islay, Marchmount, Rothsay, came,
In painted tabards, proudly showing
Gules, argent, or, and azure glowing,
Attendant on a king-at-arms,
Whose hand the armorial truncheon held,
That feudal strife had often quelled,
When wildest its alarms.

VII.

He was a man of middle age;
In aspect manly, grave, and sage,
As on king's errand come;
But in the glances of his eye,
A penetrating, keen, and sly
Expression found its home;
The flash of that satiric rage,
Which, bursting on the early stage,
Branded the vices of the age,
And broke the keys of Rome.
On milk-white palfrey forth he paced;
His cap of maintenance was graced
With the proud heron-plume.
From his steed's shoulder, loin, and breast,
Silk housings swept the ground,
With Scotland's arms, device, and crest,
Embroidered round and round.
The double tressure might you see,
First by Achaius borne,
The thistle and the fleur-de-lis,
And gallant unicorn.
So bright the king's armorial coat,
That scarce the dazzled eye could note,
In living colours, blazoned brave,
The lion, which his title gave;
A train, which well beseemed his state,
But all unarmed, around him wait.
Still is thy name in high account,
And still thy verse has charms,
Sir David Lindesay of the Mount,
Lord Lion King-at-Arms!

VIII.

Down from his horse did Marmion spring,
Soon as he saw the Lion-King;
For well the stately baron knew
To him such courtesy was due,
Whom royal James himself had crowned,
And on his temples placed the round
Of Scotland's ancient diadem;
And wet his brow with hallowed wine,
And on his finger given to shine
The emblematic gem.
Their mutual greetings duly made,
The Lion thus his message said:-
'Though Scotland's king hath deeply swore
Ne'er to knit faith with Henry more,
And strictly hath forbid resort
From England to his royal court;
Yet, for he knows Lord Marmion's name,
And honours much his warlike fame,
My liege hath deemed it shame, and lack
Of courtesy, to turn him back:
And, by his order, I, your guide,
Must lodging fit and fair provide,
Till finds King James meet time to see
The flower of English chivalry.'

IX.

Though inly chafed at this delay,
Lord Marmion bears it as he may.
The Palmer, his mysterious guide,
Beholding thus his place supplied,
Sought to take leave in vain:
Strict was the Lion-King's command,
That none, who rode in Marmion's band
Should sever from the train:
'England has here enow of spies
In Lady Heron's witching eyes:'
To Marchmount thus, apart, he said,
But fair pretext to Marmion made.
The right hand path they now decline,
And trace against the stream the Tyne.

X.

At length up that wild dale they wind,
Where Crichtoun Castle crowns the bank;
For there the Lion's care assigned
A lodging meet for Marmion's rank.
That castle rises on the steep
Of the green vale of Tyne:
And far beneath, where slow they creep,
From pool to eddy, dark and deep,
Where alders moist, and willows weep,
You hear her streams repine.
The towers in different ages rose;
Their various architecture shows
The builders' various hands:
A mighty mass, that could oppose,
When deadliest hatred fired its foes,
The vengeful Douglas bands.

XI.

Crichtoun! though now thy miry court
But pens the lazy steer and sheep,
Thy turrets rude and tottered keep,
Have been the minstrel's loved resort.
Oft have I traced within thy fort,
Of mouldering shields the mystic sense,
Scutcheons of honour or pretence,
Quartered in old armorial sort,
Remains of rude magnificence.
Nor wholly yet had time defaced
Thy lordly gallery fair;
Nor yet the stony cord unbraced,
Whose twisted knots, with roses laced,
Adorn thy ruined stair.
Still rises unimpaired below,
The courtyard's graceful portico;
Above its cornice, row and row
Of fair hewn facets richly show
Their pointed diamond form,
Though there but houseless cattle go
To shield them from the storm.
And, shuddering, still may we explore,
Where oft whilom were captives pent,
The darkness of thy massy-more;
Or, from thy grass-grown battlement,
May trace, in undulating line,
The sluggish mazes of the Tyne.

XII.

Another aspect Crichtoun showed,
As through its portal Marmion rode;
But yet 'twas melancholy state
Received him at the outer gate;
For none were in the castle then,
But women, boys, or aged men.
With eyes scarce dried, the sorrowing dame,
To welcome noble Marmion came;
Her son, a stripling twelve years old,
Proffered the baron's rein to hold;
For each man that could draw a sword
Had marched that morning with their lord,
Earl Adam Hepburn-he who died
On Flodden, by his sovereign's side
Long may his lady look in vain!
She ne'er shall see his gallant train
Come sweeping back through Crichtoun Dean.
'Twas a brave race, before the name
Of hated Bothwell stained their fame.

XIII.

And here two days did Marmion rest,
With every rite that honour claims,
Attended as the king's own guest; -
Such the command of royal James,
Who marshalled then his land's array,
Upon the Borough Moor that lay.
Perchance he would not foeman's eye
Upon his gathering host should pry,
Till full prepared was every band
To march against the English land.
Here while they dwelt, did Lindesay's wit
Oft cheer the baron's moodier fit;
And, in his turn, he knew to prize
Lord Marmion's powerful mind, and wise -
Trained in the lore of Rome and Greece,
And policies of war and peace.

XIV.

It chanced, as fell the second night,
That on the battlements they walked,
And, by the slowly fading night,
Of varying topics talked;
And, unaware, the herald-bard
Said, Marmion might his toil have spared,
In travelling so far;
For that a messenger from heaven
In vain to James had counsel given
Against the English war:
And, closer questioned, thus he told
A tale, which chronicles of old
In Scottish story have enrolled: -

XV.

SIR DAVID LINDESAY'S TALE.

'Of all the palaces so fair,
Built for the royal dwelling,
In Scotland far beyond compare,
Linlithgow is excelling;
And in its park, in jovial June,
How sweet the merry linnet's tune,
How blithe the blackbird's lay;
The wild-buck bells from ferny brake,
The coot dives merry on the lake;
The saddest heart might pleasure take
To see all nature gay.
But June is, to our sovereign dear,
The heaviest month in all the year:
Too well his cause of grief you know,
June saw his father's overthrow,
Woe to the traitors, who could bring
The princely boy against his king!
Still in his conscience burns the sting.
In offices as strict as Lent,
King James's June is ever spent.

XVI.

'When last this ruthful .month was come,
And in Linlithgow's holy dome
The King, as wont, was praying;
While, for his royal father's soul,
The chanters sung, the bells did toll,
The bishop mass was saying -
For now the year brought round again
The day the luckless king was slain -
In Katharine's aisle the monarch knelt,
With sackcloth-shirt and iron belt,
And eyes with sorrow streaming;
Around him, in their stalls of state,
The Thistle's knight-companions sate,
Their banners o'er them beaming.
I too was there, and, sooth to tell,
Bedeafened with the jangling knell,
Was watching where the sunbeams fell,
Through the stained casement gleaming;
But, while I marked what next befell,
It seemed as I were dreaming.
Stepped from the crowd a ghostly wight,
In azure gown, with cincture white;
His forehead bald, his head was bare,
Down hung at length his yellow hair.
Now, mock me not, when, good my lord,
I pledged to you my knightly word,
That, when I saw his placid grace.
His simple majesty of face,
His solemn bearing, and his pace
So stately gliding on,
Seemed to me ne'er did limner paint
So just an image of the Saint,
Who propped the Virgin in her faint -
The loved Apostle John!

XVII.

'He stepped before the monarch's chair,
And stood with rustic plainness there,
And little reverence made:
Nor head, nor body, bowed nor bent,
But on the desk his arm he leant,
And words like these he said,
In a low voice-but never tone
So thrilled through vein, and nerve, and bone:-
'My mother sent me from afar,
Sir King, to warn thee not to war -
Woe waits on thine array;
If war thou wilt, of woman fair,
Her witching wiles and wanton snare,
James Stuart, doubly warned, beware:
God keep thee as he may!'
The wondering monarch seemed to seek
For answer, and found none;
And when he raised his head to speak,
The monitor was gone.
The marshal and myself had cast
To stop him as he outward passed:
But, lighter than the whirlwind's blast,
He vanished from our eyes,
Like sunbeam on the billow cast,
That glances but, and dies.'

XVIII.

While Lindesay told his marvel strange,
The twilight was so pale,
He marked not Marmion's colour change,
While listening to the tale;
But, after a suspended pause,
The baron spoke:- 'Of Nature's laws
So strong I held the force,
That never superhuman cause
Could e'er control their course;
And, three days since, had judged your aim
Was but to make your guest your game.
But I have seen, since passed the Tweed,
What much has changed my sceptic creed,
And made me credit aught.' He stayed,
And seemed to wish his words unsaid:
But, by that strong emotion pressed,
Which prompts us to unload our breast,
E'en when discovery's pain,
To Lindesay did at length unfold
The tale his village host had told,
At Gifford, to his train.
Nought of the Palmer says he there,
And nought of Constance, or of Clare:
The thoughts which broke his sleep, he seems
To mention but as feverish dreams.

XIX.

'In vain,' said he, 'to rest I spread
My burning limbs, and couched my head:
Fantastic thoughts returned;
And, by their wild dominion led,
My heart within me burned.
So sore was the delirious goad,
I took my steed, and forth I rode,
And, as the moon shone bright and cold,
Soon reached the camp upon the wold.
The southern entrance I passed through,
And halted, and my bugle blew.
Methought an answer met my ear -
Yet was the blast so low and drear,
So hollow, and so faintly blown,
It might be echo of my own.

XX.

'Thus judging, for a little space
I listened, ere I left the place;
But scarce could trust my eyes,
Nor yet can think they served me true,
When sudden in the ring I view,
In form distinct of shape and hue,
A mounted champion rise.
I've fought, Lord-Lion, many a day,
In single fight, and mixed affray,
And ever, I myself may say,
Have borne me as a knight;
But when this unexpected foe
Seemed starting from the gulf below,
I care not though the truth I show,
I trembled with affright;
And as I placed in rest my spear,
My hand so shook for very fear,
I scarce could couch it right.

XXI.

'Why need my tongue the issue tell?
We ran our course-my charger fell;
What could he 'gainst the shock of hell?
I rolled upon the plain.
High o'er my head, with threatening hand,
The spectre took his naked brand -
Yet did the worst remain:
My dazzled eyes I upward cast -
Not opening hell itself could blast
Their sight, like what I saw!
Full on his face the moonbeam strook -
A face could never be mistook!
I knew the stern vindictive look,
And held my breath for awe.
I saw the face of one who, fled
To foreign climes, has long been dead -
I well believe the last;
For ne'er, from vizor raised, did stare
A human warrior, with a glare
So grimly and so ghast.
Thrice o'er my head he shook the blade;
But when to good Saint George I prayed,
The first time e'er I asked his aid,
He plunged it in the sheath;
And, on his courser mounting light,
He seemed to vanish from my sight;
The moonbeam drooped, and deepest night
Sunk down upon the heath.
'Twere long to tell what cause I have
To know his face, that met me there,
Called by his hatred from the grave,
To cumber upper air;
Dead or alive, good cause had he
To be my mortal enemy.'

XXII.

Marvelled Sir David of the Mount;
Then, learned in story, 'gan recount
Such chance had happed of old,
When once, near Norham, there did fight
A spectre fell of fiendish might,
In likeness of a Scottish knight,
With Brian Bulmer bold,
And trained him nigh to disallow
The aid of his baptismal vow.
'And such a phantom, too, 'tis said,
With Highland broadsword, targe, and plaid,
And fingers red with gore,
Is seen in Rothiemurcus glade,
Or where the sable pine-trees shade
Dark Tomantoul, and Auchnaslaid,
Dromunchty, or Glenmore.
And yet whate'er such legends say,
Of warlike demon, ghost, or fay,
On mountain, moor, or plain,
Spotless in faith, in bosom bold,
True son of chivalry should hold
These midnight terrors vain;
For seldom hath such spirit power
To harm, save in the evil hour,
When guilt we meditate within,
Or harbour unrepented sin.'
Lord Marmion turned him half aside,
And twice to clear his voice he tried,
Then pressed Sir David's hand -
But nought at length in answer said,
And here their farther converse stayed,
Each ordering that his band
Should bowne them with the rising day,
To Scotland's camp to take their way -
Such was the King's command.

XXIII.

Early they took Dunedin's road,
And I could trace each step they trode;
Hill, brook, nor dell, nor rock, nor stone,
Lies on the path to me unknown.
Much might it boast of storied lore;
But, passing such digression o'er,
Suffice it that their route was laid
Across the furzy hills of Braid,
They passed the glen and scanty rill,
And climbed the opposing bank, until
They gained the top of Blackford Hill.

XXIV.

Blackford! on whose uncultured breast,
Among the broom, and thorn, and whin,
A truant-boy, I sought the nest,
Or listed, as I lay at rest,
While rose on breezes thin,
The murmur of the city crowd,
And, from his steeple jangling loud,
Saint Giles's mingling din.
Now, from the summit to the plain,
Waves all the hill with yellow grain
And o'er the landscape as I look,
Nought do I see unchanged remain,
Save the rude cliffs and chiming brook.
To me they make a heavy moan,
Of early friendships past and gone.

XXV.

But different far the change has been,
Since Marmion, from the crown
Of Blackford, saw that martial scene
Upon the bent so brown:
Thousand pavilions, white as snow,
Spread all the Borough Moor below,
Upland, and dale, and down:-
A thousand, did I say? I ween,
Thousands on thousands there were seen,
That chequered all the heath between
The streamlet and the town;
In crossing ranks extending far,
Forming a camp irregular;
Oft giving way, where still there stood
Some relics of the old oak wood,
That darkly huge did intervene,
And tamed the glaring white with green:
In these extended lines there lay
A martial kingdom's vast array.

XXVI.

For from Hebudes, dark with rain,
To eastern Lodon's fertile plain,
And from the southern Redswire edge,
To farthest Rosse's rocky ledge;
From west to east, from south to north.
Scotland sent all her warriors forth.
Marmion might hear the mingled hum
Of myriads up the mountain come;
The horses' tramp, and tingling clank,
Where chiefs reviewed their vassal rank,
And charger's shrilling neigh;
And see the shifting lines advance
While frequent flashed, from shield and lance,
The sun's reflected ray.

XXVII.

Thin curling in the morning air,
The wreaths of failing smoke declare,
To embers now the brands decayed,
Where the night-watch their fires had made.
They saw, slow rolling on the plain,
Full many a baggage-cart and wain,
And dire artillery's clumsy car,
By sluggish oxen tugged to war;
And there were Borthwick's Sisters Seven,
And culverins which France had given.
Ill-omened gift! the guns remain
The conqueror's spoil on Flodden plain.

XXVIII.

Nor marked they less, where in the air
A thousand streamers flaunted fair;
Various in shape, device, and hue,
Green, sanguine, purple, red, and blue,
Broad, narrow, swallow-tailed, and square,
Scroll, pennon, pensil, bandrol, there
O'er the pavilions flew.
Highest and midmost, was descried
The royal banner floating wide;
The staff, a pine-tree strong and straight,
Pitched deeply in a massive stone -
Which still in memory is shown -
Yet bent beneath the standard's weight
Whene'er the western wind unrolled,
With toil, the huge and cumbrous fold,
And gave to view the dazzling field,
Where, in proud Scotland's royal shield,
The ruddy lion ramped in gold.

XXIX.

Lord Marmion viewed the landscape bright -
He viewed it with a chief's delight -
Until within him burned his heart
And lightning from his eye did part,
As on the battle-day;
Such glance did falcon never dart,
When stooping on his prey.
'Oh! well, Lord Lion, hast thou said,
Thy king from warfare to dissuade
Were but a vain essay:
For, by Saint George, were that host mine,
Not power infernal, nor divine.
Should once to peace my soul incline,
Till I had dimmed their armour's shine
In glorious battle-fray!'
Answered the bard, of milder mood -
'Fair is the sight-and yet 'twere good
That kings would think withal,
When peace and wealth their land has blessed,
'Tis better to sit still at rest,
Than rise, perchance to fall.'

XXX.

Still on the spot Lord Marmion stayed,
For fairer scene he ne'er surveyed.
When sated with the martial show
That peopled all the plain below,
The wandering eye could o'er it go,
And mark the distant city glow
With gloomy splendour red;
For on the smoke-wreaths, huge and slow,
That round her sable turrets flow,
The morning beams were shed,
And tinged them with a lustre proud,
Like that which streaks a thunder-cloud.
Such dusky grandeur clothed the height,
Where the huge castle holds its state,
And all the steep slope down,
Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,
Piled deep and massy, close and high,
Mine own romantic town!
But northward far, with purer blaze,
On Ochil mountains fell the rays,
And as each heathy top they kissed,
It gleamed a purple amethyst.
Yonder the shores of Fife you saw;
Here Preston Bay and Berwick Law:
And, broad between them rolled,
The gallant Frith the eye might note,
Whose islands on its bosom float,
Like emeralds chased in gold.
Fitz Eustace' heart felt closely pent;
As if to give his rapture vent,
The spur he to his charger lent,
And raised his bridle hand,
And making demivolte in air,
Cried, 'Where's the coward that would not dare
To fight for such a land!'
The Lindesay smiled his joy to see;
Nor Marmion's frown repressed his glee.

XXXI.

Thus while they looked, a flourish proud,
Where mingled trump and clarion loud,
And fife and kettle-drum,
And sackbut deep, and psaltery,
And war-pipe with discordant cry,
And cymbal clattering to the sky,
Making wild music bold and high,
Did up the mountain come;
The whilst the bells, with distant chime,
Merrily tolled the hour of prime,
And thus the Lindesay spoke:
'Thus clamour still the war-notes when
The King to mass his way has ta'en,
Or to St. Katharine's of Sienne,
Or chapel of Saint Rocque.
To you they speak of martial fame;
But me remind of peaceful game,
When blither was their cheer,
Thrilling in Falkland woods the air,
In signal none his steed should spare,
But strive which foremost might repair
To the downfall of the deer.

XXXII.

'Nor less,' he said, 'when looking forth,
I view yon empress of the North
Sit on her hilly throne;
Her palace's imperial bowers,
Her castle, proof to hostile powers,
Her stately halls and holy towers -
Nor less,' he said, 'I moan,
To think what woe mischance may bring,
And how these merry bells may ring
The death-dirge of our gallant king;
Or with the 'larum call
The burghers forth to watch and ward,
'Gainst Southern sack and fires to guard
Dunedin's leaguered wall.
But not for my presaging thought,
Dream conquest sure, or cheaply bought!
Lord Marmion, I say nay:
God is the guider of the field,
He breaks the champion's spear and shield -
But thou thyself shalt say,
When joins yon host in deadly stowre,
That England's dames must weep in bower,
Her monks the death-mass sing;
For never saw'st thou such a power
Led on by such a king.'
And now, down winding to the plain,
The barriers of the camp they gain,
And there they made a stay.
There stays the minstrel, till he fling
His hand o'er every Border string,
And fit his harp the pomp to sing,
Of Scotland's ancient court and king,
In the succeeding lay.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Promise Of Surprise (Revised)

The weather in my heart is a sunless,
cold, cloudy day, I fill up the emotional
chasm with dates and nuts, how can I
do French revision when the sun cannot
break through to say hello

So people like me who have prescribed books
still in bookcases instead of the new money
races created by brilliant young writers like
him has this author's revulsion for us
audibly expressed

Wonder why he must hate so much, sighing
I see life as a spiral ascending but I've no
dream for myself, embedded in my own
tininess, used to love thinking of dramatic
dénouements, people in dispute

One cathartic explosion - all enriched with
new insight, listening to music while typing
- music the theme threading scenes of my
life in one - wherever I go it is music
that makes me feel at home

A voice singing stories to accompaniment
- suddenly the scenario is changed - I am
just returned from riding my son's new
bike for the first time, feeling as if I am
twelve years old again

Brilliant sunlight appeared with bright
white clouds against a clear blue sky while
the wind made me feel at home as I sped
along - that delight will enable me to finish
French revision -

Music playing softly in the background
at low volume for more enticing sound
rejoicing because life still holds
the promise of surprise…

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

My dear friend happy birthday

My dear friend happy birthday
i may not have the best rhymes today
but few words i'll like to say
i wish you happiness on this special day
my dear friend happy birthday

God has made it this way
guarding you by night and by day
for boyhood to roll away
and men stage to come and stay
my dear friend happy birthday

sweet memories are here to stay
smiles, hugs and gifts on display
many talk about old time and rough play
my dear i'm on my way
seraphic voices singing happy birthday

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Lay Here

laying in the grass
the grass that quitely speaks
speaks to me
about LIFE

life is real
life is fake
life is everything
life is hard to explain
you live then you die


the grass lays and brakes to the wind
the WIND
the wind is soft
the wind is hard
the wind is everywhere
can you follow the wind?
can you be everywhere?

i lay and remember
remember my PAST
the past is mine
the past is yours
i share the past with you
so can i remember 'my' past?

as i talked to the grass
i realized that the
that befor the day i die
i will not see and know everything
i will not have been everywhere
but i will have a shared past with 'her'
a life, a life to tell others
to past down my wisdom

MY LIFE IN MY MIND IS MINE

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Losing Your Love

Stars are falling from your eyes
You dont feel what I feel inside
Your hand is warm but your heart is cold
If youre hurtin you dont let it show
How much longer can we go on
Actin like theres nothin wrong
How much farther can we drift apart
Before all the feeling is gone
Chorus:
Im losing your love
Its slippin away
Minute by minute
Day by day
Losing your love
Dont you think I know
Its a matter of time
til you let go
I see the moon shinin up above
Reminded me how good it was
Theres a chill comin over me
Why cant it be like it used to be
I feel so helpless, I cant make you stay
No matter how hard I try
I cant deny that look in your eyes
Tryin to tell me goodbye
Chorus
Dont let go
Dont let go
Dont let go
Dont let go

song performed by Vince GillReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share
Ralph Waldo Emerson

May-Day

Daughter of Heaven and Earth, coy Spring,
With sudden passion languishing,
Maketh all things softly smile,
Painteth pictures mile on mile,
Holds a cup with cowslip-wreaths,
Whence a smokeless incense breathes.
Girls are peeling the sweet willow,
Poplar white, and Gilead-tree,
And troops of boys
Shouting with whoop and hilloa,
And hip, hip three times three.
The air is full of whistlings bland;
What was that I heard
Out of the hazy land?
Harp of the wind, or song of bird,
Or clapping of shepherd's hands,
Or vagrant booming of the air,
Voice of a meteor lost in day?
Such tidings of the starry sphere
Can this elastic air convey.
Or haply 't was the cannonade
Of the pent and darkened lake,
Cooled by the pendent mountain's shade,
Whose deeps, till beams of noonday break,
Afflicted moan, and latest hold
Even unto May the iceberg cold.
Was it a squirrel's pettish bark,
Or clarionet of jay? or hark,
Where yon wedged line the Nestor leads,
Steering north with raucous cry
Through tracts and provinces of sky,
Every night alighting down
In new landscapes of romance,
Where darkling feed the clamorous clans
By lonely lakes to men unknown.
Come the tumult whence it will,
Voice of sport, or rush of wings,
It is a sound, it is a token
That the marble sleep is broken,
And a change has passed on things.

Beneath the calm, within the light,
A hid unruly appetite
Of swifter life, a surer hope,
Strains every sense to larger scope,
Impatient to anticipate
The halting steps of aged Fate.
Slow grows the palm, too slow the pearl:
When Nature falters, fain would zeal
Grasp the felloes of her wheel,
And grasping give the orbs another whirl.
Turn swiftlier round, O tardy ball!
And sun this frozen side,
Bring hither back the robin's call,
Bring back the tulip's pride.

Why chidest thou the tardy Spring?
The hardy bunting does not chide;
The blackbirds make the maples ring
With social cheer and jubilee;
The redwing flutes his o-ka-lee,
The robins know the melting snow;
The sparrow meek, prophetic-eyed,
Her nest beside the snow-drift weaves,
Secure the osier yet will hide
Her callow brood in mantling leaves;
And thou, by science all undone,
Why only must thy reason fail
To see the southing of the sun?

As we thaw frozen flesh with snow,
So Spring will not, foolish fond,
Mix polar night with tropic glow,
Nor cloy us with unshaded sun,
Nor wanton skip with bacchic dance,
But she has the temperance
Of the gods, whereof she is one,--
Masks her treasury of heat
Under east-winds crossed with sleet.
Plants and birds and humble creatures
Well accept her rule austere;
Titan-born, to hardy natures
Cold is genial and dear.
As Southern wrath to Northern right
Is but straw to anthracite;
As in the day of sacrifice,
When heroes piled the pyre,
The dismal Massachusetts ice
Burned more than others' fire,
So Spring guards with surface cold
The garnered heat of ages old:
Hers to sow the seed of bread,
That man and all the kinds be fed;
And, when the sunlight fills the hours,
Dissolves the crust, displays the flowers.

The world rolls round,--mistrust it not,--
Befalls again what once befell;
All things return, both sphere and mote,
And I shall hear my bluebird's note,
And dream the dream of Auburn dell.

When late I walked, in earlier days,
All was stiff and stark;
Knee-deep snows choked all the ways,
In the sky no spark;
Firm-braced I sought my ancient woods,
Struggling through the drifted roads;
The whited desert knew me not,
Snow-ridges masked each darling spot;
The summer dells, by genius haunted,
One arctic moon had disenchanted.
All the sweet secrets therein hid
By Fancy, ghastly spells undid.
Eldest mason, Frost, had piled,
With wicked ingenuity,
Swift cathedrals in the wild;
The piny hosts were sheeted ghosts
In the star-lit minster aisled.
I found no joy: the icy wind
Might rule the forest to his mind.
Who would freeze in frozen brakes?
Back to books and sheltered home,
And wood-fire flickering on the walls,
To hear, when, 'mid our talk and games,
Without the baffled north-wind calls.
But soft! a sultry morning breaks;
The cowslips make the brown brook gay;
A happier hour, a longer day.
Now the sun leads in the May,
Now desire of action wakes,
And the wish to roam.

The caged linnet in the Spring
Hearkens for the choral glee,
When his fellows on the wing
Migrate from the Southern Sea;
When trellised grapes their flowers unmask,
And the new-born tendrils twine,
The old wine darkling in the cask
Feels the bloom on the living vine,
And bursts the hoops at hint of Spring:
And so, perchance, in Adam's race,
Of Eden's bower some dream-like trace
Survived the Flight, and swam the Flood,
And wakes the wish in youngest blood
To tread the forfeit Paradise,
And feed once more the exile's eyes;
And ever when the happy child
In May beholds the blooming wild,
And hears in heaven the bluebird sing,
'Onward,' he cries, 'your baskets bring,--
In the next field is air more mild,
And o'er yon hazy crest is Eden's balmier Spring.'

Not for a regiment's parade,
Nor evil laws or rulers made,
Blue Walden rolls its cannonade,
But for a lofty sign
Which the Zodiac threw,
That the bondage-days are told,
And waters free as winds shall flow.
Lo! how all the tribes combine
To rout the flying foe.
See, every patriot oak-leaf throws
His elfin length upon the snows,
Not idle, since the leaf all day
Draws to the spot the solar ray,
Ere sunset quarrying inches down,
And half-way to the mosses brown;
While the grass beneath the rime
Has hints of the propitious time,
And upward pries and perforates
Through the cold slab a thousand gates,
Till green lances peering through
Bend happy in the welkin blue.

April cold with dropping rain
Willows and lilacs brings again,
The whistle of returning birds,
And trumpet-lowing of the herds.
The scarlet maple-keys betray
What potent blood hath modest May;
What fiery force the earth renews,
The wealth of forms, the flush of hues;
Joy shed in rosy waves abroad
Flows from the heart of Love, the Lord.

Hither rolls the storm of heat;
I feel its finer billows beat
Like a sea which me infolds;
Heat with viewless fingers moulds,
Swells, and mellows, and matures,
Paints, and flavours, and allures,
Bird and brier inly warms,
Still enriches and transforms,
Gives the reed and lily length,
Adds to oak and oxen strength,
Boils the world in tepid lakes,
Burns the world, yet burnt remakes;
Enveloping heat, enchanted robe,
Wraps the daisy and the globe,
Transforming what it doth infold,
Life out of death, new out of old,
Painting fawns' and leopards' fells,
Seethes the gulf-encrimsoning shells,
Fires garden with a joyful blaze
Of tulips in the morning's rays.
The dead log touched bursts into leaf,
The wheat-blade whispers of the sheaf.
What god is this imperial Heat,
Earth's prime secret, sculpture's seat?
Doth it bear hidden in its heart
Water-line patterns of all art,
All figures, organs, hues, and graces?
Is it Daedalus? is it Love?
Or walks in mask almighty Jove,
And drops from Power's redundant horn
All seeds of beauty to be born?

Where shall we keep the holiday,
And duly greet the entering May?
Too strait and low our cottage doors,
And all unmeet our carpet floors;
Nor spacious court, nor monarch's hall,
Suffice to hold the festival.
Up and away! where haughty woods
Front the liberated floods:
We will climb the broad-backed hills,
Hear the uproar of their joy;
We will mark the leaps and gleams
Of the new-delivered streams,
And the murmuring rivers of sap
Mount in the pipes of the trees,
Giddy with day, to the topmost spire,
Which for a spike of tender green
Bartered its powdery cap;
And the colours of joy in the bird,
And the love in its carol heard,
Frog and lizard in holiday coats,
And turtle brave in his golden spots;
We will hear the tiny roar
Of the insects evermore,
While cheerful cries of crag and plain
Reply to the thunder of river and main.

As poured the flood of the ancient sea
Spilling over mountain chains,
Bending forests as bends the sedge,
Faster flowing o'er the plains,--
A world-wide wave with a foaming edge
That rims the running silver sheet,--
So pours the deluge of the heat
Broad northward o'er the land,
Painting artless paradises,
Drugging herbs with Syrian spices,
Fanning secret fires which glow
In columbine and clover-blow,
Climbing the northern zones,
Where a thousand pallid towns
Lie like cockles by the main,
Or tented armies on a plain.
The million-handed sculptor moulds
Quaintest bud and blossom folds,
The million-handed painter pours
Opal hues and purple dye;
Azaleas flush the island floors,
And the tints of heaven reply.

Wreaths for the May! for happy Spring
To-day shall all her dowry bring,
The love of kind, the joy, the grace,
Hymen of element and race,
Knowing well to celebrate
With song and hue and star and state,
With tender light and youthful cheer,
The spousals of the new-born year.
Lo Love's inundation poured
Over space and race abroad!

Spring is strong and virtuous,
Broad-sowing, cheerful, plenteous,
Quickening underneath the mould
Grains beyond the price of gold.
So deep and large her bounties are,
That one broad, long midsummer day
Shall to the planet overpay
The ravage of a year of war.

Drug the cup, thou butler sweet,
And send the nectar round;
The feet that slid so long on sleet
Are glad to feel the ground.
Fill and saturate each kind
With good according to its mind,
Fill each kind and saturate
With good agreeing with its fate,
Willow and violet, maiden and man.

The bitter-sweet, the haunting air,
Creepeth, bloweth everywhere;
It preys on all, all prey on it,
Blooms in beauty, thinks in wit,
Stings the strong with enterprise,
Makes travellers long for Indian skies,
And where it comes this courier fleet
Fans in all hearts expectance sweet,
As if to-morrow should redeem
The vanished rose of evening's dream.
By houses lies a fresher green,
On men and maids a ruddier mien,
As if time brought a new relay
Of shining virgins every May,
And Summer came to ripen maids
To a beauty that not fades.

The ground-pines wash their rusty green,
The maple-tops their crimson tint,
On the soft path each track is seen,
The girl's foot leaves its neater print.
The pebble loosened from the frost
Asks of the urchin to be tost.
In flint and marble beats a heart,
The kind Earth takes her children's part,
The green lane is the school-boy's friend,
Low leaves his quarrel apprehend,
The fresh ground loves his top and ball,
The air rings jocund to his call,
The brimming brook invites a leap,
He dives the hollow, climbs the steep.
The youth reads omens where he goes,
And speaks all languages the rose.
The wood-fly mocks with tiny noise
The far halloo of human voice;
The perfumed berry on the spray
Smacks of faint memories far away.
A subtle chain of countless rings
The next unto the farthest brings,
And, striving to be man, the worm
Mounts through all the spires of form.

I saw the bud-crowned Spring go forth,
Stepping daily onward north
To greet staid ancient cavaliers
Filing single in stately train.
And who, and who are the travellers?
They were Night and Day, and Day and Night,
Pilgrims wight with step forthright.
I saw the Days deformed and low,
Short and bent by cold and snow;
The merry Spring threw wreaths on them,
Flower-wreaths gay with bud and bell;
Many a flower and many a gem,
They were refreshed by the smell,
They shook the snow from hats and shoon,
They put their April raiment on;
And those eternal forms,
Unhurt by a thousand storms,
Shot up to the height of the sky again,
And danced as merrily as young men.
I saw them mask their awful glance
Sidewise meek in gossamer lids;
And to speak my thought if none forbids.
It was as if the eternal gods,
Tired of their starry periods,
Hid their majesty in cloth
Woven of tulips and painted moth.
On carpets green the maskers march
Below May's well-appointed arch,
Each star, each god, each grace amain,
Every joy and virtue speed,
Marching duly in her train,
And fainting Nature at her need
Is made whole again.

'T was the vintage-day of field and wood,
When magic wine for bards is brewed;
Every tree and stem and chink
Gushed with syrup to the brink.
The air stole into the streets of towns,
And betrayed the fund of joy
To the high-school and medalled boy:
On from hall to chamber ran,
From youth to maid, from boy to man,
To babes, and to old eyes as well.
'Once more,' the old man cried, 'ye clouds,
Airy turrets purple-piled,
Which once my infancy beguiled,
Beguile me with the wonted spell.
I know ye skilful to convoy
The total freight of hope and joy
Into rude and homely nooks,
Shed mocking lustres on shelf of books,
On farmer's byre, on meadow-pipes,
Or on a pool of dancing chips.
I care not if the pomps you show
Be what they soothfast appear,
Or if yon realms in sunset glow
Be bubbles of the atmosphere.
And if it be to you allowed
To fool me with a shining cloud,
So only new griefs are consoled
By new delights, as old by old,
Frankly I will be your guest,
Count your change and cheer the best.
The world hath overmuch of pain,--
If Nature give me joy again,
Of such deceit I'll not complain.'

Ah! well I mind the calendar,
Faithful through a thousand years,
Of the painted race of flowers,
Exact to days, exact to hours,
Counted on the spacious dial
Yon broidered zodiac girds.
I know the pretty almanac
Of the punctual coming-back,
On their due days, of the birds.
I marked them yestermorn,
A flock of finches darting
Beneath the crystal arch,
Piping, as they flew, a march,--
Belike the one they used in parting
Last year from yon oak or larch;
Dusky sparrows in a crowd,
Diving, darting northward free,
Suddenly betook them all,
Every one to his hole in the wall,
Or to his niche in the apple-tree.
I greet with joy the choral trains
Fresh from palms and Cuba's canes.
Best gems of Nature's cabinet,
With dews of tropic morning wet,
Beloved of children, bards, and Spring,
O birds, your perfect virtues bring,
Your song, your forms, your rhythmic flight,
Your manners for the heart's delight,
Nestle in hedge, or barn, or roof,
Here weave your chamber weather-proof,
Forgive our harms, and condescend
To man, as to a lubber friend,
And, generous, teach his awkward race
Courage, and probity, and grace!

Poets praise that hidden wine
Hid in milk we drew
At the barrier of Time,
When our life was new.
We had eaten fairy fruit,
We were quick from head to foot,
All the forms we look on shone
As with diamond dews thereon.
What cared we for costly joys,
The Museum's far-fetched toys?
Gleam of sunshine on the wall
Poured a deeper cheer than all
The revels of the Carnival.
We a pine-grove did prefer
To a marble theatre,
Could with gods on mallows dine,
Nor cared for spices or for wine.
Wreaths of mist and rainbow spanned,
Arch on arch, the grimmest land;
Whistle of a woodland bird
Made the pulses dance,
Note of horn in valleys heard
Filled the region with romance.

None can tell how sweet,
How virtuous, the morning air;
Every accent vibrates well;
Not alone the wood-bird's call,
Or shouting boys that chase their ball,
Pass the height of minstrel skill,
But the ploughman's thoughtless cry,
Lowing oxen, sheep that bleat,
And the joiner's hammer-beat,
Softened are above their will.
All grating discords melt,
No dissonant note is dealt,
And though thy voice be shrill
Like rasping file on steel,
Such is the temper of the air,
Echo waits with art and care,
And will the faults of song repair.

So by remote Superior Lake,
And by resounding Mackinac,
When northern storms and forests shake,
And billows on the long beach break,
The artful Air doth separate
Note by note all sounds that grate,
Smothering in her ample breast
All but godlike words,
Reporting to the happy ear
Only purified accords.
Strangely wrought from barking waves,
Soft music daunts the Indian braves,--
Convent-chanting which the child
Hears pealing from the panther's cave
And the impenetrable wild.

One musician is sure,
His wisdom will not fail,
He has not tasted wine impure,
Nor bent to passion frail.
Age cannot cloud his memory,
Nor grief untune his voice,
Ranging down the ruled scale
From tone of joy to inward wail,
Tempering the pitch of all
In his windy cave.
He all the fables knows,
And in their causes tells,--
Knows Nature's rarest moods,
Ever on her secret broods.
The Muse of men is coy,
Oft courted will not come;
In palaces and market squares
Entreated, she is dumb;
But my minstrel knows and tells
The counsel of the gods,
Knows of Holy Book the spells,
Knows the law of Night and Day,
And the heart of girl and boy,
The tragic and the gay,
And what is writ on Table Round
Of Arthur and his peers,
What sea and land discoursing say
In sidereal years.
He renders all his lore
In numbers wild as dreams,
Modulating all extremes,--
What the spangled meadow saith
To the children who have faith;
Only to children children sing,
Only to youth will spring be spring.

Who is the Bard thus magnified?
When did he sing, and where abide?

Chief of song where poets feast
Is the wind-harp which thou seest
In the casement at my side.

AEolian harp,
How strangely wise thy strain!
Gay for youth, gay for youth,
(Sweet is art, but sweeter truth,)
In the hall at summer eve
Fate and Beauty skilled to weave.
From the eager opening strings
Rung loud and bold the song.
Who but loved the wind-harp's note?
How should not the poet doat
On its mystic tongue,
With its primeval memory,
Reporting what old minstrels said
Of Merlin locked the harp within,--
Merlin paying the pain of sin,
Pent in a dungeon made of air,--
And some attain his voice to hear,
Words of pain and cries of fear,
But pillowed all on melody,
As fits the griefs of bards to be.
And what if that all-echoing shell,
Which thus the buried Past can tell,
Should rive the Future, and reveal
What his dread folds would fain conceal?
It shares the secret of the earth,
And of the kinds that owe her birth.
Speaks not of self that mystic tone,
But of the Overgods alone:
It trembles to the cosmic breath,--
As it heareth, so it saith;
Obeying meek the primal Cause,
It is the tongue of mundane laws:
And this, at least, I dare affirm,
Since genius too has bound and term,
There is no bard in all the choir,
Not Homer's self, the poet sire,
Wise Milton's odes of pensive pleasure,
Or Shakspeare, whom no mind can measure,
Nor Collins' verse of tender pain,
Nor Byron's clarion of disdain,
Scott, the delight of generous boys,
Or Wordsworth, Pan's recording voice,--
Not one of all can put in verse,
Or to this presence could rehearse,
The sights and voices ravishing
The boy knew on the hills in Spring,
When pacing through the oaks he heard
Sharp queries of the sentry-bird,
The heavy grouse's sudden whirr,
The rattle of the kingfisher;
Saw bonfires of the harlot flies
In the lowland, when day dies;
Or marked, benighted and forlorn,
The first far signal-fire of morn.
These syllables that Nature spoke,
And the thoughts that in him woke,
Can adequately utter none
Save to his ear the wind-harp lone.
And best can teach its Delphian chord
How Nature to the soul is moored,
If once again that silent string,
As erst it wont, would thrill and ring.

Not long ago, at eventide,
It seemed, so listening, at my side
A window rose, and, to say sooth,
I looked forth on the fields of youth:
I saw fair boys bestriding steeds,
I knew their forms in fancy weeds,
Long, long concealed by sundering fates,
Mates of my youth,--yet not my mates,
Stronger and bolder far than I,
With grace, with genius, well attired,
And then as now from far admired,
Followed with love
They knew not of,
With passion cold and shy.
O joy, for what recoveries rare!
Renewed, I breathe Elysian air,
See youth's glad mates in earliest bloom,--
Break not my dream, obtrusive tomb!
Or teach thou, Spring! the grand recoil
Of life resurgent from the soil
Wherein was dropped the mortal spoil.

Soft on the south-wind sleeps the haze!
So on thy broad mystic van
Lie the opal-coloured days,
And waft the miracle to man.
Soothsayer of the eldest gods,
Repairer of what harms betide,
Revealer of the inmost powers
Prometheus proffered, Jove denied;
Disclosing treasures more than true,
Or in what far to-morrow due;
Speaking by the tongues of flowers,
By the ten-tongued laurel speaking,
Singing by the oriole songs,
Heart of bird the man's heart seeking;
Whispering hints of treasure hid
Under Morn's unlifted lid,
Islands looming just beyond
The dim horizon's utmost bound;--
Who can, like thee, our rags upbraid,
Or taunt us with our hope decayed?
Or who like thee persuade,
Making the splendour of the air,
The morn and sparkling dew, a snare?
Or who resent
Thy genius, wiles, and blandishment?

There is no orator prevails
To beckon or persuade
Like thee the youth or maid:
Thy birds, thy songs, thy brooks, thy gales,
Thy blooms, thy kinds,
Thy echoes in the wilderness,
Soothe pain, and age, and love's distress,
Fire fainting will, and build heroic minds.

For thou, O Spring! canst renovate
All that high God did first create.
Be still his arm and architect,
Rebuild the ruin, mend defect;
Chemist to vamp old worlds with new,
Coat sea and sky with heavenlier blue,
New-tint the plumage of the birds,
And slough decay from grazing herds,
Sweep ruins from the scarped mountain,
Cleanse the torrent at the fountain,
Purge alpine air by towns defiled,
Bring to fair mother fairer child,
Not less renew the heart and brain,
Scatter the sloth, wash out the stain,
Make the aged eye sun-clear,
To parting soul bring grandeur near.
Under gentle types, my Spring
Masks the might of Nature's king,
An energy that searches thorough
From Chaos to the dawning morrow;
Into all our human plight,
The soul's pilgrimage and flight;
In city or in solitude,
Step by step, lifts bad to good,
Without halting, without rest,
Lifting Better up to Best;
Planting seeds of knowledge pure,
Through earth to ripen, through heaven endure.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Old-Home Folks

Such was the Child-World of the long-ago--
The little world these children used to know:--
Johnty, the oldest, and the best, perhaps,
Of the five happy little Hoosier chaps
Inhabiting this wee world all their own.--
Johnty, the leader, with his native tone
Of grave command--a general on parade
Whose each punctilious order was obeyed
By his proud followers.

But Johnty yet--
After all serious duties--could forget
The gravity of life to the extent,
At times, of kindling much astonishment
About him: With a quick, observant eye,
And mind and memory, he could supply
The tamest incident with liveliest mirth;
And at the most unlooked-for times on earth
Was wont to break into some travesty
On those around him--feats of mimicry
Of this one's trick of gesture--that one's walk--
Or this one's laugh--or that one's funny talk,--
The way 'the watermelon-man' would try
His humor on town-folks that wouldn't buy;--
How he drove into town at morning--then
At dusk (alas!) how he drove out again.

Though these divertisements of Johnty's were
Hailed with a hearty glee and relish, there
Appeared a sense, on his part, of regret--
A spirit of remorse that would not let
Him rest for days thereafter.--Such times he,
As some boy said, 'jist got too overly
Blame good fer common boys like us, you know,
To '_so_ciate with--less'n we 'ud go
And jine his church!'

Next after Johnty came
His little tow-head brother, Bud by name.--
And O how white his hair was--and how thick
His face with freckles,--and his ears, how quick
And curious and intrusive!--And how pale
The blue of his big eyes;--and how a tale
Of Giants, Trolls or Fairies, bulged them still
Bigger and bigger!--and when 'Jack' would kill
The old 'Four-headed Giant,' Bud's big eyes
Were swollen truly into giant-size.
And Bud was apt in make-believes--would hear
His Grandma talk or read, with such an ear
And memory of both subject and big words,
That he would take the book up afterwards
And feign to 'read aloud,' with such success
As caused his truthful elders real distress.
But he _must_ have _big words_--they seemed to give
Extremer range to the superlative--
That was his passion. 'My Gran'ma,' he said,
One evening, after listening as she read
Some heavy old historical review--
With copious explanations thereunto
Drawn out by his inquiring turn of mind,--
'My Gran'ma she's read _all_ books--ever' kind
They is, 'at tells all 'bout the land an' sea
An' Nations of the Earth!--An' she is the
Historicul-est woman ever wuz!'
(Forgive the verse's chuckling as it does
In its erratic current.--Oftentimes
The little willowy waterbrook of rhymes
Must falter in its music, listening to
The children laughing as they used to do.)

Who shall sing a simple ditty all about the Willow,
Dainty-fine and delicate as any bending spray
That dandles high the happy bird that flutters there to trill a
Tremulously tender song of greeting to the May.

Ah, my lovely Willow!--Let the Waters lilt your graces,--
They alone with limpid kisses lave your leaves above,
Flashing back your sylvan beauty, and in shady places
Peering up with glimmering pebbles, like the eyes of love.

Next, Maymie, with her hazy cloud of hair,
And the blue skies of eyes beneath it there.
Her dignified and 'little lady' airs
Of never either romping up the stairs
Or falling down them; thoughtful everyway
Of others first--The kind of child at play
That 'gave up,' for the rest, the ripest pear
Or peach or apple in the garden there
Beneath the trees where swooped the airy swing--
She pushing it, too glad for anything!
Or, in the character of hostess, she
Would entertain her friends delightfully
In her play-house,--with strips of carpet laid
Along the garden-fence within the shade
Of the old apple-trees--where from next yard
Came the two dearest friends in her regard,
The little Crawford girls, Ella and Lu--
As shy and lovely as the lilies grew
In their idyllic home,--yet sometimes they
Admitted Bud and Alex to their play,
Who did their heavier work and helped them fix
To have a 'Festibul'--and brought the bricks
And built the 'stove,' with a real fire and all,
And stovepipe-joint for chimney, looming tall
And wonderfully smoky--even to
Their childish aspirations, as it blew
And swooped and swirled about them till their sight
Was feverish even as their high delight.
Then Alex, with his freckles, and his freaks
Of temper, and the peach-bloom of his cheeks,
And '_amber-colored_ hair'--his mother said
'Twas that, when others laughed and called it '_red_'
And Alex threw things at them--till they'd call
A truce, agreeing ''t'uz n't red _ut-tall_!'

But Alex was affectionate beyond
The average child, and was extremely fond
Of the paternal relatives of his
Of whom he once made estimate like this:--
'_I'm_ only got _two_ brothers,--but my _Pa_
He's got most brothers'n you ever saw!--
He's got _seben_ brothers!--Yes, an' they're all my
Seben Uncles!--Uncle John, an' Jim,--an' I'
Got Uncle George, an' Uncle Andy, too,
An' Uncle Frank, an' Uncle Joe.--An' you
_Know_ Uncle _Mart_.--An', all but _him_, they're great
Big mens!--An' nen s Aunt Sarah--she makes eight!--
I'm got _eight_ uncles!--'cept Aunt Sarah _can't_
Be ist my _uncle_ 'cause she's ist my _aunt_!'

Then, next to Alex--and the last indeed
Of these five little ones of whom you read--
Was baby Lizzie, with her velvet lisp,--
As though her Elfin lips had caught some wisp
Of floss between them as they strove with speech,
Which ever seemed just in yet out of reach--
Though what her lips missed, her dark eyes could say
With looks that made her meaning clear as day.

And, knowing now the children, you must know
The father and the mother they loved so:--
The father was a swarthy man, black-eyed,
Black-haired, and high of forehead; and, beside
The slender little mother, seemed in truth
A very king of men--since, from his youth,
To his hale manhood _now_--(worthy as then,--
A lawyer and a leading citizen
Of the proud little town and county-seat--
His hopes his neighbors', and their fealty sweet)--
He had known outdoor labor--rain and shine--
Bleak Winter, and bland Summer--foul and fine.
So Nature had ennobled him and set
Her symbol on him like a coronet:
His lifted brow, and frank, reliant face.--
Superior of stature as of grace,
Even the children by the spell were wrought
Up to heroics of their simple thought,
And saw him, trim of build, and lithe and straight
And tall, almost, as at the pasture-gate
The towering ironweed the scythe had spared
For their sakes, when The Hired Man declared
It would grow on till it became a _tree_,
With cocoanuts and monkeys in--maybe!

Yet, though the children, in their pride and awe
And admiration of the father, saw
A being so exalted--even more
Like adoration was the love they bore
The gentle mother.--Her mild, plaintive face
Was purely fair, and haloed with a grace
And sweetness luminous when joy made glad
Her features with a smile; or saintly sad
As twilight, fell the sympathetic gloom
Of any childish grief, or as a room
Were darkened suddenly, the curtain drawn
Across the window and the sunshine gone.
Her brow, below her fair hair's glimmering strands,
Seemed meetest resting-place for blessing hands
Or holiest touches of soft finger-tips
And little roseleaf-cheeks and dewy lips.

Though heavy household tasks were pitiless,
No little waist or coat or checkered dress
But knew her needle's deftness; and no skill
Matched hers in shaping pleat or flounce or frill;
Or fashioning, in complicate design,
All rich embroideries of leaf and vine,
With tiniest twining tendril,--bud and bloom
And fruit, so like, one's fancy caught perfume
And dainty touch and taste of them, to see
Their semblance wrought in such rare verity.

Shrined in her sanctity of home and love,
And love's fond service and reward thereof,
Restore her thus, O blessed Memory!--
Throned in her rocking-chair, and on her knee
Her sewing--her workbasket on the floor
Beside her,--Springtime through the open door
Balmily stealing in and all about
The room; the bees' dim hum, and the far shout
And laughter of the children at their play,
And neighbor-children from across the way
Calling in gleeful challenge--save alone
One boy whose voice sends back no answering tone--
The boy, prone on the floor, above a book
Of pictures, with a rapt, ecstatic look--
Even as the mother's, by the selfsame spell,
Is lifted, with a light ineffable--
As though her senses caught no mortal cry,
But heard, instead, some poem going by.

The Child-heart is so strange a little thing--
So mild--so timorously shy and small.--
When _grown-up_ hearts throb, it goes scampering
Behind the wall, nor dares peer out at all!--
It is the veriest mouse
That hides in any house--
So wild a little thing is any Child-heart!

_Child-heart!--mild heart!--
Ho, my little wild heart!--
Come up here to me out o' the dark,
Or let me come to you!_

So lorn at times the Child-heart needs must be.
With never one maturer heart for friend
And comrade, whose tear-ripened sympathy
And love might lend it comfort to the end,--
Whose yearnings, aches and stings.
Over poor little things
Were pitiful as ever any Child-heart.

_Child-heart!--mild heart!--
Ho, my little wild heart!--
Come up here to me out o' the dark,
Or let me come to you!_

Times, too, the little Child-heart must be glad--
Being so young, nor knowing, as _we_ know.
The fact from fantasy, the good from bad,
The joy from woe, the--_all_ that hurts us so!
What wonder then that thus
It hides away from us?--
So weak a little thing is any Child-heart!

_Child-heart!--mild heart!--
Ho, my little wild heart!--
Come up here to me out o' the dark,
Or let me come to you!_

Nay, little Child-heart, you have never need
To fear _us_,--we are weaker far than you--
Tis _we_ who should be fearful--we indeed
Should hide us, too, as darkly as you do,--
Safe, as yourself, withdrawn,
Hearing the World roar on
Too willful, woful, awful for the Child-heart!

_Child-heart!--mild heart!--
Ho, my little wild heart!--
Come up here to me out o' the dark,
Or let me come to you!_

The clock chats on confidingly; a rose
Taps at the window, as the sunlight throws
A brilliant, jostling checkerwork of shine
And shadow, like a Persian-loom design,
Across the homemade carpet--fades,--and then
The dear old colors are themselves again.
Sounds drop in visiting from everywhere--
The bluebird's and the robin's trill are there,
Their sweet liquidity diluted some
By dewy orchard spaces they have come:
Sounds of the town, too, and the great highway--
The Mover-wagons' rumble, and the neigh
Of overtraveled horses, and the bleat
Of sheep and low of cattle through the street--
A Nation's thoroughfare of hopes and fears,
First blazed by the heroic pioneers
Who gave up old-home idols and set face
Toward the unbroken West, to found a race
And tame a wilderness now mightier than
All peoples and all tracts American.
Blent with all outer sounds, the sounds within:--
In mild remoteness falls the household din
Of porch and kitchen: the dull jar and thump
Of churning; and the 'glung-glung' of the pump,
With sudden pad and skurry of bare feet
Of little outlaws, in from field or street:
The clang of kettle,--rasp of damper-ring
And bang of cookstove-door--and everything
That jingles in a busy kitchen lifts
Its individual wrangling voice and drifts
In sweetest tinny, coppery, pewtery tone
Of music hungry ear has ever known
In wildest famished yearning and conceit
Of youth, to just cut loose and eat and eat!--
The zest of hunger still incited on
To childish desperation by long-drawn
Breaths of hot, steaming, wholesome things that stew
And blubber, and up-tilt the pot-lids, too,
Filling the sense with zestful rumors of
The dear old-fashioned dinners children love:
Redolent savorings of home-cured meats,
Potatoes, beans, and cabbage; turnips, beets
And parsnips--rarest composite entire
That ever pushed a mortal child's desire
To madness by new-grated fresh, keen, sharp
Horseradish--tang that sets the lips awarp
And watery, anticipating all
The cloyed sweets of the glorious festival.--
Still add the cinnamony, spicy scents
Of clove, nutmeg, and myriad condiments
In like-alluring whiffs that prophesy
Of sweltering pudding, cake, and custard pie--
The swooning-sweet aroma haunting all
The house--upstairs and down--porch, parlor, hall
And sitting-room--invading even where
The Hired Man sniffs it in the orchard-air,
And pauses in his pruning of the trees
To note the sun minutely and to--sneeze.

Then Cousin Rufus comes--the children hear
His hale voice in the old hall, ringing clear
As any bell. Always he came with song
Upon his lips and all the happy throng
Of echoes following him, even as the crowd
Of his admiring little kinsmen--proud
To have a cousin _grown_--and yet as young
Of soul and cheery as the songs he sung.

He was a student of the law--intent
Soundly to win success, with all it meant;
And so he studied--even as he played,--
With all his heart: And so it was he made
His gallant fight for fortune--through all stress
Of battle bearing him with cheeriness
And wholesome valor.

And the children had
Another relative who kept them glad
And joyous by his very merry ways--
As blithe and sunny as the summer days,--
Their father's youngest brother--Uncle Mart.
The old 'Arabian Nights' he knew by heart--
'Baron Munchausen,' too; and likewise 'The
Swiss Family Robinson.'--And when these three
Gave out, as he rehearsed them, he could go
Straight on in the same line--a steady flow
Of arabesque invention that his good
Old mother never clearly understood.
He _was_ to be a _printer_--wanted, though,
To be an _actor_.--But the world was 'show'
Enough for _him_,--theatric, airy, gay,--
Each day to him was jolly as a play.
And some poetic symptoms, too, in sooth,
Were certain.--And, from his apprentice youth,
He joyed in verse-quotations--which he took
Out of the old 'Type Foundry Specimen Book.'
He craved and courted most the favor of
The children.--They were foremost in his love;
And pleasing _them_, he pleased his own boy-heart
And kept it young and fresh in every part.
So was it he devised for them and wrought
To life his quaintest, most romantic thought:--
Like some lone castaway in alien seas,
He built a house up in the apple-trees,
Out in the corner of the garden, where
No man-devouring native, prowling there,
Might pounce upon them in the dead o' night--
For lo, their little ladder, slim and light,
They drew up after them. And it was known
That Uncle Mart slipped up sometimes alone
And drew the ladder in, to lie and moon
Over some novel all the afternoon.
And one time Johnty, from the crowd below,--
Outraged to find themselves deserted so--
Threw bodily their old black cat up in
The airy fastness, with much yowl and din.
Resulting, while a wild periphery
Of cat went circling to another tree,
And, in impassioned outburst, Uncle Mart
Loomed up, and thus relieved his tragic heart:

''_Hence, long-tailed, ebon-eyed, nocturnal ranger!
What led thee hither 'mongst the types and cases?
Didst thou not know that running midnight races
O'er standing types was fraught with imminent danger?
Did hunger lead thee--didst thou think to find
Some rich old cheese to fill thy hungry maw?
Vain hope! for none but literary jaw
Can masticate our cookery for the mind!_''

So likewise when, with lordly air and grace,
He strode to dinner, with a tragic face
With ink-spots on it from the office, he
Would aptly quote more 'Specimen-poetry--'
Perchance like ''Labor's bread is sweet to eat,
(_Ahem!_) And toothsome is the toiler's meat.''

Ah, could you see them _all_, at lull of noon!--
A sort of _boisterous_ lull, with clink of spoon
And clatter of deflecting knife, and plate
Dropped saggingly, with its all-bounteous weight,
And dragged in place voraciously; and then
Pent exclamations, and the lull again.--
The garland of glad faces 'round the board--
Each member of the family restored
To his or her place, with an extra chair
Or two for the chance guests so often there.--
The father's farmer-client, brought home from
The courtroom, though he 'didn't _want_ to come
Tel he jist saw he _hat_ to!' he'd explain,
Invariably, time and time again,
To the pleased wife and hostess, as she pressed
Another cup of coffee on the guest.--
Or there was Johnty's special chum, perchance,
Or Bud's, or both--each childish countenance
Lit with a higher glow of youthful glee,
To be together thus unbrokenly,--
Jim Offutt, or Eck Skinner, or George Carr--
The very nearest chums of Bud's these are,--
So, very probably, _one_ of the three,
At least, is there with Bud, or _ought_ to be.
Like interchange the town-boys each had known--
His playmate's dinner better than his own--
_Yet_ blest that he was ever made to stay
At _Almon Keefer's, any_ blessed day,
For _any_ meal!... Visions of biscuits, hot
And flaky-perfect, with the golden blot
Of molten butter for the center, clear,
Through pools of clover-honey--_dear-o-dear!_--
With creamy milk for its divine 'farewell':
And then, if any one delectable
Might yet exceed in sweetness, O restore
The cherry-cobbler of the days of yore
Made only by Al Keefer's mother!--Why,
The very thought of it ignites the eye
Of memory with rapture--cloys the lip
Of longing, till it seems to ooze and drip
With veriest juice and stain and overwaste
Of that most sweet delirium of taste
That ever visited the childish tongue,
Or proved, as now, the sweetest thing unsung.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

A Day At Tivoli - Prologue

Fair blows the breeze—depart—depart—
And tread with me th' Italian shore;
And feed thy soul with glorious art;
And drink again of classic lore.
Nor sometime shalt thou deem it wrong,
When not in mood too gravely wise,
At idle length to lie along,
And quaff a bliss from bluest skies.

Or, pleased more pensive joy to woo,
At twilight eve, by ruin grey,
Muse o'er the generations, who
Have passed, as we must pass, away.
Or mark o'er olive tree and vine
Steep towns uphung; to win from them
Some thought of Southern Palestine;
Some dream of old Jerusalem.

Come, Pilgrim-Friend! At last our sun outbreaks,
And chases, one by one, dawn's lingering flakes.
Come, Pilgrim-Friend! and downward let us rove
(Thy long-vow'd vow) this old Tiburtian grove.
See where, beneath, the jocund runnels play,
All cheerly brighten'd in the brightening day.
E'en in the far-off years when Flaccus wrote,
('Tis here, I ween, no pedantry to quote,)
Thus led, they gurgled thro' those orchard-bowers
To feed the herb—the fruitage—and the flowers.

Come, then, and snatch Occasion; transient boon!
And sliding into Future all too soon.
That Future's self possession just as brief,
And stolen, soon as given, by Timethe Thief.
Well! if such filching knave we needs must meet,
Let us, as best we may, the Cheater cheat;
And, since the Then, the Now, will flit so fast,
Look back, and lengthen life into the Past.

That Past is here; where old Tiburtus found
Mere mountain-brow, and fenc'd with walls around;
And for his wearied Argives reared a home
Long ere yon seven proud hills had dream'd of Rome.
'Tis here, amid these patriarch olive trees,
Which Flaccus saw, or ancestry of these;
Oft musing, as he slowly strayed him past,
How here his quiet age should close at last.

And here behold them, still! Like ancient seers
They stand; the dwellers of a thousand years.
Deep-furrow'd, strangely crook'd, and ashy-grey,
As ghost might gleam beneath the touch of day.
All strangely perforate too; with rounded eyes,
That ever scan the traveller as he hies:
Fit guardians of the spot they seem to be,
With centuries seen, and centuries yet to see.

Who treads this pallid grove, by moonlight pale,
Might half believe the peasant's spectre tale
Of Latian heroes old, that come to glide
Along these silent paths at even-tide;
Or Sibyl, wan with ghastly prophecy,
From her near fane, as whilom, wandering by.
But Morning, now, and sunny vines are here,
From tree to tree gay-gadding without fear;

Or else in verdant rope their fibres string,
As if to tempt the little Loves to swing;
Or, tricking silvery head and wrinkled stem
With tendril-curl, or leafy diadem;
A sportive war of graceful contrast wage,
The Grave and Gaygreen Youth and hoary Age.
Hence we may feel Resounding Anio's shock,
As his full river thunders from his rock.
Yet mark! meanwhile adown its own small dell
How falls or winds each little cascatelle.

With no rude sound—with no impetuous rush;
But blandly—fondly—or by bank or bush.
Or floats in air; as when mild mermaid frees
(Or so they feign) her tresses to the breeze;
And careless, for a while, of coral bower,
Basks on the sunny sands till noontide's scorching hour.
How sweet! to have such gentle waters near;
Just soothing, ne'er disturbing eye nor ear.
Nor deem I those unblest, whom choice—or fate—
Leads to prefer the Lesser to the Great.

'Repose, thou better privilege than fame.'—
So felt, we know, the great historic name,
Mecænas; he who owned those villa-halls,
All stately once, tho' now but rifted walls.
And hither, wisely truant, oft would come,
Forth from the smokes, the toils, the strifes of Rome.
For, tho' defaced, discolour'd, broken, bow'd,
Yet were they then of gold and ivory proud.
Or far beyond what proudest wealth might do,
From thoughtful art a nobler triumph drew.

There, dark-hued urns, with mythic picture fraught,
Time's treasures! stood, from old Etruria brought;
Which even then had claim'd uncounted date,
When you great Rome was yet a struggling state.
Or marble vases there, in white array,
Beam'd back an added lustre to the day.
Or, better, when the gladly-welcom'd guest
Came to the banquet, rich with every zest,
From lamp of chisell'd bronze, adjusted light
Threw out some Phidian marvel on the night;
Evoking, heightening thus, in form or face,
Each subtler beauty or diviner grace.

Nor yet, when hours of feast had found their close,
Or jaded statesman sighed for short repose,
Was wanting, there, some well-befitting room,
Nor all-too bright, nor quite subdued to gloom,
Whose odoriferous cedar-shelves along
Fair scrolls were ranged; philosophy or song.
There, all our Lost might be. All Livy told,
(Where now?) and all Menander limned of old,
Fresh from the life; with sweet Simonides;
And glorious Sappho, —greater yet than These.

And then, perchance, you small and sinuous rill,
In open day now glittering down the hill,
Slid underground its tube-directed path,
To feed or sculptured fount or perfumed bath.
Their graceful rites, their gorgeous prides are gone;
Their proudest monument a crumbled stone!
Yet if the marble and the bronze decay,
Their storied memories fade not thus away;
But cluster still, tho' dying centuries toll,
Beadrolls for thought, and relics for the soul.

Hence here have bowed, thro' farthest tracts of time,
Genius and Lore, from every cultured clime.
And hence, no less, thro' many a countless year,
Like us, shall unborn pilgrims worship here.
And how may pilgrim stand on spot like this,
Nor feel what flitting wayfarer he is?
Here, where the joys, the griefs, the hopes, the fears,
The busy doings of three thousand years,
Since first Tiburtus made these hills his hold,
Have dreamed their dream, and mingle with the mould.
Men pass like cloud, or wave, or morning dew:
A thought nor very deep, nor very new.
Yet who, as here, shall find him, face to face,
In presence of that Mighty Commonplace,
And not imbibe the moral of the spot,
Accept the general doom—and murmur not?

Yet, if All die, there are who die not All;
(So Flaccus hoped), and half escape the pall.
The Sacred Few! whom love of glory binds,
'That last infirmity of noble minds,
'To scorn delights, and live laborious days,'

And win thro' lofty toil undying praise.
What if for These, now verging to the tomb,
As yet, nor laurels spread nor myrtles bloom;
Proud mortgagees they stand of Fame's estate,
And for the brave reversion bear to wait.
Nay, what tho' never from th' ungrateful soil
Green chaplets spring, for guerdon of the toil;
In calm content their avarice sublime
May well forego those unpaid debts of Time;
Who, e'en while clutching at the generous pelf,
Priz'd ever, most, the virtue for itself.

So go we musing on. But, as we go,
Just glimpse yon lizard frisking to and fro.
Now herenow therenow straightly fixed he lies;
Then turns him sudden in a mock surprise.
Give him this southern wall, this sprightly sun,
And Past and Future are to him as One.
Tell him of either, (for he loves to talk
With loiterer, pausing on his easy walk,)
Tell him of either, and, with eyes that glisten,
And head aslant, awhile he seems to listen,
Then jerks him merry off, as if to say,
'Good Sirs! for me sufficient is the day.'
So, should grave memories ever come to press
Life's present hour with thought of past distress;
Or future years o'erhang us, vague or dim,
Why, we may come and take a hint from him.
And who not thus delights him, who or what,
In such a clime, or animate or not?

These hill-side vines; this wide expanding plain;
These fields—of pasture, here; and there, of grain;
These twisted chesnuts, with their cheery green;
Yon darker cypress, spired above them seen;
Which, many a century, land-mark, there, hath stood,
Self-lifted obelisk, immortal wood;
Those aloes, that with sworded panoply
Still warn the pilgrim, who would dare too nigh;
Yon steeply climbing town; that rocky height;
Seem they not living in the living light?
For each grey flake hath faded from the view,
And all around is one Ausonian Blue.
Not the fresh dawn, not evening's tenderest hour,
Speak to the spirit with a deeper power.
As eye and heart strain up that azure air,
What lightwhat lovewhat fixedness is there!
Transient—we know—Eternal—let it seem!
With such blue sky we only ask to dream.

E'en he, (behold! him in that shaggy coat)—
Yon goat-herd, with his only browsing goat,
On the hill-slope; beside that humming stream;
This heaven above; how can he help but dream!
He ne'er was train'd in thronging city vast,
For some huge deck to shape the mighty mast;
To face, in ship, the deadly Afran breeze;

Or drop the anchor deep in Arctic seas,
Like our stern sons. Yet not for this despise,
Albeit in seeming vacancy he lies.
Not idle they the most, who idlest seem;
Nor lost are all the hours in which we dream.
In trade's dim workshops all unused to moil,
Small share is his of luxuries won by toil.
But luxuries he hath not unrefin'd,
That please, perchance, yet more his southern mind.

Mere idlesse pleases; as supine he lies,
And gazing upward thro' the blazing skies,
Wins shifting colours to his dazzl'd eyes;
Or red or azure. And delights to see
The brilliant mockeries as they come and flee;
And wonders, why? Or makes of each a gem,
Such as might grace a pontiff's diadem;
Ruby or sapphire. Strange to meor you;
But, here, All love this dreamy 'Nought-to-do.'
Or by tradition's tongue, or ruin old,
Of his own land's great deeds hath he been told;
And asks himself, erewhile, with wishful pain,
Why may not those brave days return again?
And tho' still mingling in confusion quaint
Profane and Sacred; Warrior and Saint;
Yet each in turn hath taught him, if need were,
Like This, to sufferor, like That, to dare.

Think too that These were they, whose flags, unfurl'd
Beneath Rome's eagle crest, once shook the world.
Yon peasant-girl, —you mark'd her where she stood,
In her just pride of conscious womanhood—
(Against yon column now she leans awhile,
Graceful, you'll own, as milkmaid by a stile.)
Behold her in her country's old costume;
Is lady statelier in a palace room?
Too poor, we know; perchance, too inly great,
The town's last mode to wish to imitate.
Barefooted—but with no submissive mien;
In beauty's regal righta lawful queen.
Such type to Michael's chisel had given a law;
And Raphael's self but painted what he saw.
In region, where not oft the Dryad charms
Town-loving Signor to his woods and farms;

And palaces, within proud city shut,
But rarely neighbour on the peasant's hut;
(He'privileg'dor doom'dby lot of birth
To see, but seldom, these the Lords of earth
'Mid equals rear'd, what other should he be
But equal tooa freeman 'mid the free?
Our nobler civil rights to him unknown,
Yet all his social freedom—all his own.
But where wealth's stringent or out-doling hand
From point to point wide stretches o'er a land;
In power or bounty ever seen or felt,
Like lictor's fasces or an almsman's belt;
Tho' order hence, with all its blessings, flow, —
As fertilizing waters guided go
Yet as, henceforth, we lose the stream that played
Thro' its own runnels, free and not afraid;

So there, by wealth or purchased or controlled,
Word—gesture—lookin native frankness bold
Are quelled, like sprite, beneath the Wand of Gold.
Again—(prolix beyond the thing I ought,
You kindly bear, and let me speak my thought)
In landwhere from the plough men rushed to arms,
Just saved a state, and then re-sought their farms—
I love these breathings free; these heads erect;
I love, in look and speech, this brave neglect.
With ancient memories they better suit
Than balanced phrases or observance mute.
Nay, for a spot like this seem least unmeet,
As in high natures Grand and Simple greet.
Is this the race down-dwindled to a weed?
A rotted trunk? or but a buried seed?

Which, if the storm should rise and floods up-tear
The shrouding soil, and give it back to air,
Shall sprout again; no longer matter brute;
But gladden'd with green leaves and its own glorious fruit.
Oh Italy! if fallen (as some delight
To say thou art), yet fallen from what vast height;
Oh Italy! thou land of memories dear,
Yet not for these alone we prize thee here;
But gladly take thee, with acceptive heart,
Not for thy 'hast been,' but for what thou art.
For who that knows thy seas of brightest wave,
Their shelving shores or rocky steeps that lave;
Thy lakes, 'mid mountains laid, in soft blue length,
Like Beauty guarded at the feet of Strength;
Thy landscape, seen at morn or evening hour,
Town—village—cresting chapel—arch or tower;

Rich art—rich nature—each on each that press,
Till the sense aches with very loveliness;
Thy corn with fruitage mixed; thy realms of vine,
For ever beauteousif they droop, or twine;
Thy balmiest clime, which daily tasks can leaven
With bliss, from out the common air of heaven;
Man's natural bearing; woman's easy grace;
From very rags—in gesture and in face;
Thy dark-eyed childhood's ever-ready smile
Of playful innocence or playful wile;
Or knows thy human nature's better part,
Swift thought, swift feeling, and the kindly heart;
And knows, beside, what thousand pulses beat
To win thy glories back, with generous heat;
Who but for thee must fervent vows forecast,
And hope thy Future, while he dreams thy Past?
But now 'tis Mid-day! and the deep retreat
Of Anio's grot must shield us from the heat.

'Twas in such deep recess Salvator's touch
Won its dark truth, and Gaspar fed on such.
Lo! the rapt river along its channel'd ledge
Precipitous hurrying to that dizzy edge.
Now, for one breathless moment, high uphung,
Like curled sea-wave; thenforth, as foamy, flung.
Herein long lance-like flakes—straight down; while, there
As if were all uncoiled Medusa's hair,
The serpent-waters twirl and hiss in air.
Or else, in black and rocky cauldron bound,
For ever eddy round and round and round;
Wakening the thought, or sadden'd or sublime,
Of endless toil, or never-ending time.
All types from clashing watersall are here;
All types and all emotions; sound and fear;

Pent agonies, that struggle for relief;
Free gushing tears; dishevelled locks of grief;
Mad angers; sullen pause; re-bursting ire;
With flood still swifter than pursuing fire.

Yet beauty too. But such as poets shed
Round the great vision of that snake-tress'd head,
Perplexing beautybeauty wreathed with dread.
'Tis a great scene! Yet, not by it opprest,
We feel its greatness in a buoyant breast.
For (not as when some wild Helvetian flood
Dives down its sombre depth of piny wood)
Here, all around, hath Gladness flung her braid
Of green festoons, and scattered light and shade.

Or ratherif the word were fitlier won
Not shade, but shadow—playmate of the sun.
Gloom glorified! as suits a southern clime;
And (bear the phrase) a Cheerfuller Sublime.
E'en far within the grot Light sports with Dark;
Herea long arrowy streak; and therea spark.
If disappearing, soon to re-illume;
Like festive fire-fly, glancing thro' the gloom;
Or old Venetian masquer, richly dight,
Who, 'neath his waxen torches' orange light,
With gems and spangles glitters on the night.
Who, Anio! that hath come, or soon or late,
To this thy shrine, but deems the daya date;
Whence to recal at will, his whole life's length,
Thy voice—thy speed—thy beauty and thy strength?

Whether thou tinklest from some mountain-rest,—
Thy birth-placewhere the eagle builds his nest;
Or cruel bandit plants him; thence to strain

His greedy vision o'er the cowering plain;
Or whether, wandered from thy native hills,
(As strong and stronger grown from clustering rills)
Thou pausest for a while in silent lake,

Where that she-wolf her passing thirst might slake,
Who (prowled to Tiber down and destined thus)
Suckled great Rome in infant Romulus;
Or holdest on by feudal tower, or hall
From Cæsars named, or nameless ruined wall;
Or by quaint villa; such as after days
For Este's princely line made pride to raise;
Where, many a time, thy rushing wave would roll
Intenser power o'er Ariosto's soul;
Brightening, thro' secret sympathies, the lay,
Which here he loved to weave (or so they say);

And which for aye—like thee—shall flow along
As wild—as smooth—as playful and as strong;
Whether thou speak of simple Sabine farms,
Or call, as now, to song—or art—or arms;
Be welcome every dream thou waftest down,
And every tale; but most of old renown.
Tell us of statesman—warrior—bard—or sage—
Wonder or love of many a famous age
What time, by seas shut in and rocky strand,

And all-undreaming of the Roman brand,
Our Britain lay, a yet unhistoried land.
Hail and Farewell! Resounding Anio!
And now, Fair Stream! with milder current flow
On 'mid thy vines and pasture; till thou come
'Neath the proud walls of twice Imperial Rome.

Thence, with old Tiber, soon to sport thee free
'Mid the blue waters of the Tyrrhene sea.
Thou, Pilgrim-Friend! (we know) wert never one,
Mere idle praiser of the days foregone;

Nor striving still to shroud with poor pretence
Of classic feeling gap of week-day sense;
But ever, in thy wisdom, taking heed
That worthy life is made of daily deed.
And tho' (by shrewd Saint Stephen stolen, of late,
From converse of thy friendsto serve the state)
It thee befits to pay thy studious vow
To Hansard rather than to Livy—now;
Yet hence, methinks, 'tis joyance doubly sweet
In this, the dream-land of our youth to meet;
Together turn again the classic page,
And win us back our boyhood's loftier age;
And church and state for some brief weeks eschew;
And make again this Ancient World our New.
But, here, far back the scroll must be unroll'd;
Here, where ten centuries do not make the Old.

Where old they deem in antiquarian thought
Some work by Ancus or by Tarquin wrought.
That tunnel huge, or prison Mammertine;
Or old may grant the Fabian—Julian—line;
But half a Modern make our Constantine;
And, as they pass his structures, on their way,
Scarce note themas but things of yesterday.
Small matter! Old or new, we'll list the while,
As Ciceroni teach usor beguile.
And, if some tales for question seem to call,
In sifting Niebuhr's spite, accept them all.
Where Curtius leapt, believe the very spot;
Or muse with Numa in th' Egerian grot.
Yea—sweet for him, by parent doomed to court—
Unwilling suitor—ancient law-report;
Awhile to snatch him from the hated thrall
Of pleader's desk, or point-contesting hall;
And sweet, not less, for thee, who legislate,
To 'scape committee-room and dull debate;
Corn question—currency—and funded debt;
French marriage—and the treaty of Utretcht;
And leaving—not too longour own dear land,
To hail—as we of late—the Belgic strand;
Thence, o'er their ill-laid rail, right glad to roll,—
Tho' shaken sore—to this Ausonian Goal.
Not stately Bruges might detain us, now,
Nor Meuse, soft-gliding 'neath her fortress'd brow;

More pleased some while to thrust from off the scene
Battles and sieges, Marlborough and Eugene.
Nay, prizing thee, old Legendary Rhine!
Less for thy legends than thy climbing vine.
Nor yet in famed Helvetia tarrying long,
Tho' there green vales and glittering mountains throng;
And We aye pleased to feel the bosom swell,
By Uris rock, at thought of William Tell.
But onward still our purposed way we take
O'er tall Gothard and by Locarno's lake;
Or climbing slow, or if in full career,
With Rome! Rome! Rome! in heart and eye and ear.
Still thirsting; till at last we came to stand,
Glad Exodites! in itour Promised Land.

And what our Pisgah view? Crushed piles of state
The walls within; and dun and desolate
Campagna round; with bridge and tower destruct
By age or war; and ruined aqueduct
Athwart the fading twilight. And is this
A Forum? or a vast Necropolis?
Temples—for tombs; a nation's dust beneath;
With silence round, that fears almost to breathe;
And city-solitude, so strangely drear,
The Living seem to have no business—here.
If in some vineyard ground our step be stayed,
Awhile, beside the peasant's delving spade;
(Now—vineyard; once—Patrician's client court,
When that near Forum was a world's resort)
As up and up the rank black mould is cast,
The very earth seems odorous of the Past.

Each after each, behold in turn out-thrown
Tile—faded stucco—scrap of sculptured stone.
Anon—some shattered urn, or broken frieze;
Powerturned to skeleton! His fragments—These.
Ruins and fragments! Is it these that Ye
From your own thriving land come forth to see?
We answer, 'Yea;' these are the things that We
From our own thriving land come forth to see.
We come to see how ancient power may die,
And ponder on a realm's mortality.
Yet, seeing how survive the Goodthe Just;
In goodness and in justice learn to trust.
We come, as in fond youth, to sympathize,
Thro' backward ages, with the Great and Wise;

And feelas thensome throb thro' inner heart,
Where life's low interests claim no smallest part.
We come from restless plan and restless deed,
Ambition's instrument, or habit's need,
To find the Calm which generous leisures give,
And less in act than meditation live.
We come from wit's and jest's enlivening strife,
And all the dearer bliss of household life,
To feed on pensive thoughts; yet not the less
To win a pleasure from our pensiveness.
And if those grave and pensive thoughts (and such
Our case may be) should press the heart too much;
'Twere not so very far to find our way
Mid glorious art, that tells of no decay.
Where beams each high conception just the same
As when from Grecian chisel first it came.

Tho' mortal-born, of beauty that might mate
With archetype celestial increate.
Nay, beauteous more than in their glittering prime,
Tinged softly by the sun-set hues of Time.
Then, if some friend should come, with best intent,
To warn of hours all uselessly misspent;
He too may learn (nor is the lore abstruse)
That uselessness, like this, is noblest use.
That while the busy serfs of wealth and power
Fawn only on the Present's sordid hour,
(No lofty thought or backor forward—cast)
We pluck our nobler Present from the Past.
Nor pause we there, but, starting forth anew,
From thence shape out a nobler Future too.
This long discourse hath led us far away
'Mid other themes from our Tiburtian day,

But now again, with renovated grace,
We bow before the Genius of the Place,
Full of the scene around; and all-intent,
As slow we travel up this steep ascent,
To win the passing pictures, as they rise
From present hour, or ancient memories.
For here, glance where eye may, or footstep fall,
Or new or old, 'tis picture—picture—All.
This structure near, mere peasant's dwelling-place,
Is not itself without some claim of grace.
Its terraced roof, square tower, and arching gate
To Art, long since, thro' picture consecrate.
For Creed of Art hath not alone to do
With reason'd faith, but with tradition too;
And Beauty's self we hold for most divine,
When Memory stands Priestess at her shrine.

Behold! its sunward wall. How all-ablaze
With one full glow of ripest, yellowest maize;
Whose rich-ribbed cylinders, in order strung,
Seem tassels, for some festal rite uphung.
Or each might be fit cresting ornament
For regal canopy, or warrior-tent.
No brighter hues hath Ceres in her horn;
No cheerier ever broke from saffron morn.
More golden—ne'er from furnace-fires were rolled
Than these, sun-wrought in vegetable gold.
Which almost might requite his absent ray,
Themselves a sun-shine for each clouded day.
While yon ripe gourds, that strew the court-yard floor,
Beam upward, each a mass of glittering ore.
But now, with these our rural splendours done,
And we, like them, full-saturate with sun;
How fresh it is, as, step by step, we mount,
To watch the gushings of that marble fount.

Its cistern—some antique sarcophagus;
(Here, Old and New for ever minglethus)
While its raised cup, whenceforth the Naiads toss
O'erbrimming wave, is fringed with greenest moss.
(For, in these lands comes oft from mere neglect,
What art long while might ponder to effect.)
Each pendent tuft, with sparkling spray bedript,
Seems it not emerald, with diamond tipt?
And then those female forms, with braided hair,
And heads erect, that classic urns up-bear;
(From forth whose shapely rims dewed vine-leaves drop;—
Thrust partly in, escaping lymph to stop.)
These, as around the cistern's edge they throng,
Say, might not These to Grecian Art belong?

Whoe'er from life's mere prose awhile would flee,
Should roam with us this land of reverie.
Where museful fancy needeth not the aid
Of cloister dim, or silent colonnade,
Or solitary shore, or moonlight glen,
But meets her visions 'mid the haunts of men;
And feels in broadest sun-light round her stream
From every waking fact some answering dream.
And how that lofty Past exalts the Now!
That churl—a Cincinnatus at the plough!
Yon kite, slow circling up the Blue—afar—
An augury! or be it peace or war.
Those very geese, out clamouring, one and all,
The Sacred Birds that saved the Capitol!
And lo! thro' yonder arch those oxen twain;
On slowly swaying that grape-loaded wain.

Right goodly creatures, beautiful to view!
Dark-hoofed—dark-maned—the rest of creamy hue;
With large soft eyes. All soft as Here's were,
('Tis Homer's simile, so we may dare)—
When their pride slept, and love alone was there.
Now, thro' the spacious court behold they go;
Now, pause beside the pillared portico.
With foliage drest, and that rich ruby freight,
Nay—draw they not, in sacrificial state,
A Bacchic offering to some temple's gate?
Mark the broad wheels—but two! That yoking bar,
Just as of old! No wain—but ancient car!
And they, above the piled up grapes who ride,
Their naked limbs with purpling vintage dyed,
The Fauns! And here, ere long, the rest shall be:
Look with poetic eyes and thou shalt see

Bacchante lithe; and jesting Satyr near;
With broad Silenus, staggering in the rear,
Tho' doubly propped; while gay goat-footed Pan
'Mid pipe and cymbal triumphs in the van.
Then that old Crone, with lifted tambourine,
Which still she smites; and some strange rhythm between,
Or, rather, mixed; while to the double sound
A dark-tress'd girl is dancing round and round,
That Crone, with hair unkempt, yet scarce uncouth,
(So well it suits) and that fore-thrusting tooth,
Keen—almost prescient—tooth of prophetess;
(A flitting fancy, which I may not press)
That Crone shall be our Sibyl! And that Girl,
Still hurried round and round in dizzier whirl;
With her wild eye almost to frenzy fired,
(Such look in Delphi had been held inspired)

And flashing locks, and every flashing limb,
She shall be Priestess! and that Song—the Hymn!
And wherefore, 'No?' Why may not this be chaunt
From Pythian tripod or Dodona's haunt?
For, as some stream, by ancient fragments hid,
From earthquake—flung; or mighty hill—down slid;
(That cumber, many a league, the valleys round

With huge grey rock or grass-grown earthy mound
Still holds its silent way 'neath all that hides,
Then at some far-off point once more outglides,
Another stream; another, yet the same;
E'en those, who quaff, may guess not whence it came;
No otherwise this mystic rhythm may flow,
Far winding on, from ages long ago;
Some Grecian chaunt, its secret course unknown,
And heard, at last, in region not its own.

Old customs die not, but sprout forth again;
The names distorted, while the things remain.
Fane, 'Church' baptized, sees new-named votaries vow,
And old Chief Augur is Prime Pontiff, now.
E'en Jove himself, Great Jove Capitoline,

Rules in strange semblance o'er a later shrine.
His twice-fused bronze transformed, by pious feint,
From Pagan Deity to Christian Saint.
At this you smile; and who would smile refuse?
But when the smile is o'er, 'twere well to muse.
Olympian Zeus, upon his golden throne;
Calm Pallas, glorious in her Parthenon;
Or rudest Sibyl, from her rocky cave,
Mid spiky aloes, issued forth to rave;
Or curling smokes, o'er Judah wont to rise
From bull or goat, in barbarous sacrifice;

These, for rank falsehoods, while the most eschew,
In stern contempt for Gentile and for Jew;
These, for imperfect truths, let us accept;
Instalments of the universal debt;
Acknowledgment, we know, far off and dim;
Yet, not the less, acknowledgment of Him,
'In every age, in every clime adored;
(So sang the bard,) Jehovah—Jove—or Lord.'
This preachment o'er, (which yet you mildly bear,
Of preachments all-impatient as you are),
Yon church, whence now intones the holy mass,
If so you please, we'll enter as we pass.
For churches here (with reverence be it said)
Are not too holy held for week-day tread.
But each, at will and unrebuked for wrong,
May come and muse their column'd aisles along:

And some high influence win, or grave delight
From picture, incense, or the chaunted rite;
Or find fit hour, as every passing day
Its joy or sorrow brings—to praise or pray.
But now with festal silks the shafts are bound,
And glittering fringes edge the arches round.
Of granites red, or cippolino grey,
Or carvings quaint, small sight for usto-day.
We quarrel not. There are, we know, who hate,
Or half unchristian deem such pious fête.
Yet silvered Saints, and Virgin fancy-drest
For peasant-worshipper may be the best.
Rare entrance his, or none, thro' palace gate;
Be this his palace hall—his room of state.
Or let him bring his humble sorrows here,
Secure, at least, of one Great Listener's ear.

These types, so falsified, from earliest youth
Have been to him the very types of truth;
And his own toil hath helped the monthly dole
That gilds the shrine, and bids the organ roll.
Worships—like tastes—have each their power and tone;
Church ne'er was meant for Dilletant' alone.
And Christians, such as would all rites confine
To their own forms, are Christians none of mine.
Then spare him, Critic! as he kneels in this
His ill-drest fane, and loves for God'sand his.
'Of all the ills unhappy mortals know,
A life of wandering is the greatest woe.'
So thought Ulysses; but we think not so.
And blest it is, with pilgrim-staff in hand,
At our own will to roam each ancient land,

(Of which in school-boy volume first we read,
Yet never dared to hope our feet should tread)
And test with manhood's sense the dreams of youth,
Nor lose the vision, and yet win the truth.
If nature-led; to track with pleasant pains
Their mountain-wilds and cultivated plains.
If student; in some shy monastic crypt,
To try old text by new found manuscript.
If vowed to art; its each attempt explore,
From primal Ægypt, or the Xanthian shore,
To where in Greece it triumphed; deified
And deifying; then like mortal died.
In this bright land again to spring to life,
And strive again; scarce conquered in the strife.
But he who to the land, that sent him forth,
Brings back but this, brings product little worth.
Huge virtuoso—true! But driveller blind

Beside the larger soul—the deeper mind
Which, learning man, hath learnt to love mankind.
Our hostel hold us now; not undistrest
By pleasant toil; for pleasures must have rest.
Here, sitor sleepor scrawl the pane—your fill;
Or rhymelike me, (against Minerva's will!)
Who for sublimer flight nor bold nor strong,
May just achieve to journalize in song.
Yet for brief space. For now, it seems, we dine:
Lo! here, wild boar—and, here, Falernian wine;
With figs—ripe grapes—and rarest wheaten bread.
And who may tell but here the board was spread
For genial Flaccus and for Maro—thus
Two thousand years ago, as now for us?
Just fancy! when they sat, as here we sit,
The frolic—and the wisdomand the wit.

And here came he, the blood of ancient kings,
To find the joyance equal converse brings.
With them gay chatting, as the whim might be,
Of one's arch Phillis, one's sweet Lalage.
Or last year's visit to Bandusia's fount;
Or journey planned to yon Soractes' mount.
Or laughing back, with still-recurring glee,
Those sparkling days from Rome to Brindisi.
Here too the Cæsar might consort with them;—
His Purple laid aside and Diadem—
Well-pleased, amid their talk and easy cheer,
To glimpse his own great Romeyet feel it not too near.
What glimpse (had glimpse been given) of years to come!
The conquering Goth; and that twice pillaged Rome.

Gone! eagles—banners—lances—lictors' rods;
The temples crumbling o'er their crumbled Gods.
All steadfast as they seemed, his ancient stock
Uprooted from their Capitolian rock.
The far-off realms, they swayed but with the sword,
Crouched at a swordless pontiff's slightest word.
Their mighty palace (of each glory reft,
Nor marble frieze, nor porphyry pillar left;
Nor floor, as once, with rich mosaic spread;
Nor hues cerulean arching overhead)
Roofless and void; and only, now, renowned
As larger ruin 'mid the ruins round.
The baths with rubbish choked; the fountains dry;
The green acanthus, as in mockery,
(And wild, as when by chance in wicker sown,
It gave, of old, its graceful hint to stone)
Wandering, at will, amid those very halls,
Where once 'twas carved for golden capitals.

Some lingering terrace but a loftier spot,
Whence to discern that his own Rome was not.
Thee, Flaccus! the self-promised not to die,
A kindlier star hath sped thy prophecy.
Or song itself fulfils its own desire;
Realms fade away, and dynasties expire;
Yet on from age to age sounds thine—with Maro's lyre.
But here, by rightful and peculiar lot,
Ye hover most, the Genii of the spot.
Of memory—vision—feeling—thoughta part;
Heard from each lip, or borne in every heart.
Brave bliss! What braver may to bard belong?
Save its own joy from self-requiting song.
Diverse the strains. Yet would we figure how
Together oft ye trod this favorite brow.

Not now in jocund converse, as of late,
But each his inner theme to meditate.
Thou, it might be, some polished lyric verse;
Now, fondly dallying; now, brightly terse.
Or precept, each with its own wisdom rife,
That models—herea poem; therea life.
Or else wouldst hie thee to the busy street,
To sketch some silly pride or grave conceit.
Then round to us the playful picture turn,
And bid us in that glass ourselves re-learn.
Meanwhile (so dream we on) the Mantuan Bard
To yon tall peak hath paced the silent sward.
Thenceforth to scan, in prospect calm and free,
The various plain, from hill to circling sea.

Pale region, now; with culture ill be-sped;
Then, one wide Georgic, bright beneath him spread.
Or, not unprompted by that far sea-line,
Would ponder o'er th' Eneian tale divine;
Till clear before him, and in perfect plan,
The Heroic Vision stood — 'Arms and the Man.'
Once more I move you (our third flask is done,
And lo! the shadows lengthen in the sun)
To view yon time-hued fane, at this soft hour,
When eye and spirit best may feel its power.
Laud we the Gods! No connoisseur is near,
With his clipp'd talk our frank delight to sear.
Who, while a thousand admirations crave,
Still harps and harps on arch and architrave;
And, vowed to his five orders, fain would school
Our kindling spirits with his three-foot rule.

Scarce more, if we might choose our time and place,
Here would we wish that nobler critic race,
Esthetical; who stand on tiptoe still,
And see far less with eyesight than with will.
Would-be discoverers, on vague voyage bent;
Interpreters 'of meanings never meant;'

Of the true creed, but whose ecstatic faith
O'erpasseth ever what the Gospel saith;
These, while the smaller critics tease or vex,
With their dim dreams disturb usor perplex;
Or, if such comment sound not civil quite,
Daze out our clearness with their too much light.

Digressive thus, ere passing thoughts be gone,
I crave your leave, and idly ramble on,
(You still indulging) till I bring you near
Our famous temple—and behold it!—here.

Amid these varying tales of ruin old,—
Some, scantly gathered up; some, falsely told
Sibyl's or Vesta's we may hardly tell:
But he, who first devised, devised it well,
Here, where it stands, with circling columns bound,
And placed—how calm! above the gulf profound,
To tame these rugged rocks—this torrent's stress—
With power of Beauty and of Gentleness.
So might we feign, some fair high-lineaged queen
Rules o'er a raging crowd with look serene.
So too, when some great Master hath designed
To paint in human form th' Eternal Mind;
And humbly dares essay that lofty brow,
Which holds the Pastthe Future—and the Now;
Awhile we pause before his art severe;
Then, reverent bend; yet less in love than fear.

But when, ere long, around those awful brows
In graceful curve his cherub-group he throws;
Each with its little arms—beneath—above
Outstretch'd to clasp, and childhood's look of love;
Behold! those awful brows no longer lower,
But Sense of Love hath soothed the Sense of Power.
So—Pilgrim-Friend! our pleasant day is sped:
'To-morrow, to fresh woods;' to-night, to bed.
Yet from these heights throw one more glance abroad,
And some few moments dream with dreamy Claude.
Beneath—are field and stream and lake and wood,
And site, where ancient city stands—or stood.
Aroundthe hills. Thatherein bay recede,
As if for nestling culture taking heed;
Or boldly—there—indent the level plain,
Like promontory pronged into the main.

As parts for other clime th' unwilling day,
See! how that far Campagna sinks away.
A sea of purpled land, now, seems to be;
Now, scarce distinguished from the purple sea.
E'en while we gaze, how vanish on the view
Each bright—each faireach fading—faded—hue!
A pensive light, while aught of light remains;
Then—pensive veil for these Deserted Plains!

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share
Byron

Don Juan: Canto The Third

Hail, Muse! et cetera.--We left Juan sleeping,
Pillow'd upon a fair and happy breast,
And watch'd by eyes that never yet knew weeping,
And loved by a young heart, too deeply blest
To feel the poison through her spirit creeping,
Or know who rested there, a foe to rest,
Had soil'd the current of her sinless years,
And turn'd her pure heart's purest blood to tears!

Oh, Love! what is it in this world of ours
Which makes it fatal to be loved? Ah, why
With cypress branches hast thou Wreathed thy bowers,
And made thy best interpreter a sigh?
As those who dote on odours pluck the flowers,
And place them on their breast- but place to die-
Thus the frail beings we would fondly cherish
Are laid within our bosoms but to perish.

In her first passion woman loves her lover,
In all the others all she loves is love,
Which grows a habit she can ne'er get over,
And fits her loosely- like an easy glove,
As you may find, whene'er you like to prove her:
One man alone at first her heart can move;
She then prefers him in the plural number,
Not finding that the additions much encumber.

I know not if the fault be men's or theirs;
But one thing 's pretty sure; a woman planted
(Unless at once she plunge for life in prayers)
After a decent time must be gallanted;
Although, no doubt, her first of love affairs
Is that to which her heart is wholly granted;
Yet there are some, they say, who have had none,
But those who have ne'er end with only one.

'T is melancholy, and a fearful sign
Of human frailty, folly, also crime,
That love and marriage rarely can combine,
Although they both are born in the same clime;
Marriage from love, like vinegar from wine-
A sad, sour, sober beverage- by time
Is sharpen'd from its high celestial flavour
Down to a very homely household savour.

There 's something of antipathy, as 't were,
Between their present and their future state;
A kind of flattery that 's hardly fair
Is used until the truth arrives too late-
Yet what can people do, except despair?
The same things change their names at such a rate;
For instance- passion in a lover 's glorious,
But in a husband is pronounced uxorious.

Men grow ashamed of being so very fond;
They sometimes also get a little tired
(But that, of course, is rare), and then despond:
The same things cannot always be admired,
Yet 't is 'so nominated in the bond,'
That both are tied till one shall have expired.
Sad thought! to lose the spouse that was adorning
Our days, and put one's servants into mourning.

There 's doubtless something in domestic doings
Which forms, in fact, true love's antithesis;
Romances paint at full length people's wooings,
But only give a bust of marriages;
For no one cares for matrimonial cooings,
There 's nothing wrong in a connubial kiss:
Think you, if Laura had been Petrarch's wife,
He would have written sonnets all his life?

All tragedies are finish'd by a death,
All comedies are ended by a marriage;
The future states of both are left to faith,
For authors fear description might disparage
The worlds to come of both, or fall beneath,
And then both worlds would punish their miscarriage;
So leaving each their priest and prayer-book ready,
They say no more of Death or of the Lady.

The only two that in my recollection
Have sung of heaven and hell, or marriage, are
Dante and Milton, and of both the affection
Was hapless in their nuptials, for some bar
Of fault or temper ruin'd the connection
(Such things, in fact, it don't ask much to mar):
But Dante's Beatrice and Milton's Eve
Were not drawn from their spouses, you conceive.

Some persons say that Dante meant theology
By Beatrice, and not a mistress- I,
Although my opinion may require apology,
Deem this a commentator's fantasy,
Unless indeed it was from his own knowledge he
Decided thus, and show'd good reason why;
I think that Dante's more abstruse ecstatics
Meant to personify the mathematics.

Haidee and Juan were not married, but
The fault was theirs, not mine; it is not fair,
Chaste reader, then, in any way to put
The blame on me, unless you wish they were;
Then if you 'd have them wedded, please to shut
The book which treats of this erroneous pair,
Before the consequences grow too awful;
'T is dangerous to read of loves unlawful.

Yet they were happy,- happy in the illicit
Indulgence of their innocent desires;
But more imprudent grown with every visit,
Haidee forgot the island was her sire's;
When we have what we like, 't is hard to miss it,
At least in the beginning, ere one tires;
Thus she came often, not a moment losing,
Whilst her piratical papa was cruising.

Let not his mode of raising cash seem strange,
Although he fleeced the flags of every nation,
For into a prime minister but change
His title, and 't is nothing but taxation;
But he, more modest, took an humbler range
Of life, and in an honester vocation
Pursued o'er the high seas his watery journey,
And merely practised as a sea-attorney.

The good old gentleman had been detain'd
By winds and waves, and some important captures;
And, in the hope of more, at sea remain'd,
Although a squall or two had damp'd his raptures,
By swamping one of the prizes; he had chain'd
His prisoners, dividing them like chapters
In number'd lots; they all had cuffs and collars,
And averaged each from ten to a hundred dollars.

Some he disposed of off Cape Matapan,
Among his friends the Mainots; some he sold
To his Tunis correspondents, save one man
Toss'd overboard unsaleable (being old);
The rest- save here and there some richer one,
Reserved for future ransom- in the hold
Were link'd alike, as for the common people he
Had a large order from the Dey of Tripoli.

The merchandise was served in the same way,
Pieced out for different marts in the Levant;
Except some certain portions of the prey,
Light classic articles of female want,
French stuffs, lace, tweezers, toothpicks, teapot, tray,
Guitars and castanets from Alicant,
All which selected from the spoil he gathers,
Robb'd for his daughter by the best of fathers.

A monkey, a Dutch mastiff, a mackaw,
Two parrots, with a Persian cat and kittens,
He chose from several animals he saw-
A terrier, too, which once had been a Briton's,
Who dying on the coast of Ithaca,
The peasants gave the poor dumb thing a pittance;
These to secure in this strong blowing weather,
He caged in one huge hamper altogether.

Then having settled his marine affairs,
Despatching single cruisers here and there,
His vessel having need of some repairs,
He shaped his course to where his daughter fair
Continued still her hospitable cares;
But that part of the coast being shoal and bare,
And rough with reefs which ran out many a mile,
His port lay on the other side o' the isle.

And there he went ashore without delay,
Having no custom-house nor quarantine
To ask him awkward questions on the way
About the time and place where he had been:
He left his ship to be hove down next day,
With orders to the people to careen;
So that all hands were busy beyond measure,
In getting out goods, ballast, guns, and treasure.

Arriving at the summit of a hill
Which overlook'd the white walls of his home,
He stopp'd.- What singular emotions fill
Their bosoms who have been induced to roam!
With fluttering doubts if all be well or ill-
With love for many, and with fears for some;
All feelings which o'erleap the years long lost,
And bring our hearts back to their starting-post.

The approach of home to husbands and to sires,
After long travelling by land or water,
Most naturally some small doubt inspires-
A female family 's a serious matter
(None trusts the sex more, or so much admires-
But they hate flattery, so I never flatter);
Wives in their husbands' absences grow subtler,
And daughters sometimes run off with the butler.

An honest gentleman at his return
May not have the good fortune of Ulysses;
Not all lone matrons for their husbands mourn,
Or show the same dislike to suitors' kisses;
The odds are that he finds a handsome urn
To his memory- and two or three young misses
Born to some friend, who holds his wife and riches,-
And that his Argus- bites him by the breeches.

If single, probably his plighted fair
Has in his absence wedded some rich miser;
But all the better, for the happy pair
May quarrel, and the lady growing wiser,
He may resume his amatory care
As cavalier servente, or despise her;
And that his sorrow may not be a dumb one,
Write odes on the Inconstancy of Woman.

And oh! ye gentlemen who have already
Some chaste liaison of the kind- I mean
An honest friendship with a married lady-
The only thing of this sort ever seen
To last- of all connections the most steady,
And the true Hymen (the first 's but a screen)-
Yet for all that keep not too long away,
I 've known the absent wrong'd four times a day.

Lambro, our sea-solicitor, who had
Much less experience of dry land than ocean,
On seeing his own chimney-smoke, felt glad;
But not knowing metaphysics, had no notion
Of the true reason of his not being sad,
Or that of any other strong emotion;
He loved his child, and would have wept the loss of her,
But knew the cause no more than a philosopher.

He saw his white walls shining in the sun,
His garden trees all shadowy and green;
He heard his rivulet's light bubbling run,
The distant dog-bark; and perceived between
The umbrage of the wood so cool and dun
The moving figures, and the sparkling sheen
Of arms (in the East all arm)- and various dyes
Of colour'd garbs, as bright as butterflies.

And as the spot where they appear he nears,
Surprised at these unwonted signs of idling,
He hears- alas! no music of the spheres,
But an unhallow'd, earthly sound of fiddling!
A melody which made him doubt his ears,
The cause being past his guessing or unriddling;
A pipe, too, and a drum, and shortly after,
A most unoriental roar of laughter.

And still more nearly to the place advancing,
Descending rather quickly the declivity,
Through the waved branches o'er the greensward glancing,
'Midst other indications of festivity,
Seeing a troop of his domestics dancing
Like dervises, who turn as on a pivot, he
Perceived it was the Pyrrhic dance so martial,
To which the Levantines are very partial.

And further on a group of Grecian girls,
The first and tallest her white kerchief waving,
Were strung together like a row of pearls,
Link'd hand in hand, and dancing; each too having
Down her white neck long floating auburn curls
(The least of which would set ten poets raving);
Their leader sang- and bounded to her song,
With choral step and voice, the virgin throng.

And here, assembled cross-legg'd round their trays,
Small social parties just begun to dine;
Pilaus and meats of all sorts met the gaze,
And flasks of Samian and of Chian wine,
And sherbet cooling in the porous vase;
Above them their dessert grew on its vine,
The orange and pomegranate nodding o'er
Dropp'd in their laps, scarce pluck'd, their mellow store.

A band of children, round a snow-white ram,
There wreathe his venerable horns with flowers;
While peaceful as if still an unwean'd lamb,
The patriarch of the flock all gently cowers
His sober head, majestically tame,
Or eats from out the palm, or playful lowers
His brow, as if in act to butt, and then
Yielding to their small hands, draws back again.

Their classical profiles, and glittering dresses,
Their large black eyes, and soft seraphic cheeks,
Crimson as cleft pomegranates, their long tresses,
The gesture which enchants, the eye that speaks,
The innocence which happy childhood blesses,
Made quite a picture of these little Greeks;
So that the philosophical beholder
Sigh'd for their sakes- that they should e'er grow older.

Afar, a dwarf buffoon stood telling tales
To a sedate grey circle of old smokers,
Of secret treasures found in hidden vales,
Of wonderful replies from Arab jokers,
Of charms to make good gold and cure bad ails,
Of rocks bewitch'd that open to the knockers,
Of magic ladies who, by one sole act,
Transform'd their lords to beasts (but that 's a fact).

Here was no lack of innocent diversion
For the imagination or the senses,
Song, dance, wine, music, stories from the Persian,
All pretty pastimes in which no offence is;
But Lambro saw all these things with aversion,
Perceiving in his absence such expenses,
Dreading that climax of all human ills,
The inflammation of his weekly bills.

Ah! what is man? what perils still environ
The happiest mortals even after dinner-
A day of gold from out an age of iron
Is all that life allows the luckiest sinner;
Pleasure (whene'er she sings, at least) 's a siren,
That lures, to flay alive, the young beginner;
Lambro's reception at his people's banquet
Was such as fire accords to a wet blanket.

He- being a man who seldom used a word
Too much, and wishing gladly to surprise
(In general he surprised men with the sword)
His daughter- had not sent before to advise
Of his arrival, so that no one stirr'd;
And long he paused to re-assure his eyes
In fact much more astonish'd than delighted,
To find so much good company invited.

He did not know (alas! how men will lie)
That a report (especially the Greeks)
Avouch'd his death (such people never die),
And put his house in mourning several weeks,-
But now their eyes and also lips were dry;
The bloom, too, had return'd to Haidee's cheeks,
Her tears, too, being return'd into their fount,
She now kept house upon her own account.

Hence all this rice, meat, dancing, wine, and fiddling,
Which turn'd the isle into a place of pleasure;
The servants all were getting drunk or idling,
A life which made them happy beyond measure.
Her father's hospitality seem'd middling,
Compared with what Haidee did with his treasure;
'T was wonderful how things went on improving,
While she had not one hour to spare from loving.

Perhaps you think in stumbling on this feast
He flew into a passion, and in fact
There was no mighty reason to be pleased;
Perhaps you prophesy some sudden act,
The whip, the rack, or dungeon at the least,
To teach his people to be more exact,
And that, proceeding at a very high rate,
He show'd the royal penchants of a pirate.

You 're wrong.- He was the mildest manner'd man
That ever scuttled ship or cut a throat:
With such true breeding of a gentleman,
You never could divine his real thought;
No courtier could, and scarcely woman can
Gird more deceit within a petticoat;
Pity he loved adventurous life's variety,
He was so great a loss to good society.

Advancing to the nearest dinner tray,
Tapping the shoulder of the nighest guest,
With a peculiar smile, which, by the way,
Boded no good, whatever it express'd,
He ask'd the meaning of this holiday;
The vinous Greek to whom he had address'd
His question, much too merry to divine
The questioner, fill'd up a glass of wine,

And without turning his facetious head,
Over his shoulder, with a Bacchant air,
Presented the o'erflowing cup, and said,
'Talking 's dry work, I have no time to spare.'
A second hiccup'd, 'Our old master 's dead,
You 'd better ask our mistress who 's his heir.'
'Our mistress!' quoth a third: 'Our mistress!- pooh!-
You mean our master- not the old, but new.'

These rascals, being new comers, knew not whom
They thus address'd- and Lambro's visage fell-
And o'er his eye a momentary gloom
Pass'd, but he strove quite courteously to quell
The expression, and endeavouring to resume
His smile, requested one of them to tell
The name and quality of his new patron,
Who seem'd to have turn'd Haidee into a matron.

'I know not,' quoth the fellow, 'who or what
He is, nor whence he came- and little care;
But this I know, that this roast capon 's fat,
And that good wine ne'er wash'd down better fare;
And if you are not satisfied with that,
Direct your questions to my neighbour there;
He 'll answer all for better or for worse,
For none likes more to hear himself converse.'

I said that Lambro was a man of patience,
And certainly he show'd the best of breeding,
Which scarce even France, the paragon of nations,
E'er saw her most polite of sons exceeding;
He bore these sneers against his near relations,
His own anxiety, his heart, too, bleeding,
The insults, too, of every servile glutton,
Who all the time was eating up his mutton.

Now in a person used to much command-
To bid men come, and go, and come again-
To see his orders done, too, out of hand-
Whether the word was death, or but the chain-
It may seem strange to find his manners bland;
Yet such things are, which I can not explain,
Though doubtless he who can command himself
Is good to govern- almost as a Guelf.

Not that he was not sometimes rash or so,
But never in his real and serious mood;
Then calm, concentrated, and still, and slow,
He lay coil'd like the boa in the wood;
With him it never was a word and blow,
His angry word once o'er, he shed no blood,
But in his silence there was much to rue,
And his one blow left little work for two.

He ask'd no further questions, and proceeded
On to the house, but by a private way,
So that the few who met him hardly heeded,
So little they expected him that day;
If love paternal in his bosom pleaded
For Haidee's sake, is more than I can say,
But certainly to one deem'd dead, returning,
This revel seem'd a curious mode of mourning.

If all the dead could now return to life
(Which God forbid!) or some, or a great many,
For instance, if a husband or his wife
(Nuptial examples are as good as any),
No doubt whate'er might be their former strife,
The present weather would be much more rainy-
Tears shed into the grave of the connection
Would share most probably its resurrection.

He enter'd in the house no more his home,
A thing to human feelings the most trying,
And harder for the heart to overcome,
Perhaps, than even the mental pangs of dying;
To find our hearthstone turn'd into a tomb,
And round its once warm precincts palely lying
The ashes of our hopes, is a deep grief,
Beyond a single gentleman's belief.

He enter'd in the house- his home no more,
For without hearts there is no home; and felt
The solitude of passing his own door
Without a welcome; there he long had dwelt,
There his few peaceful days Time had swept o'er,
There his worn bosom and keen eye would melt
Over the innocence of that sweet child,
His only shrine of feelings undefiled.

He was a man of a strange temperament,
Of mild demeanour though of savage mood,
Moderate in all his habits, and content
With temperance in pleasure, as in food,
Quick to perceive, and strong to bear, and meant
For something better, if not wholly good;
His country's wrongs and his despair to save her
Had stung him from a slave to an enslaver.

The love of power, and rapid gain of gold,
The hardness by long habitude produced,
The dangerous life in which he had grown old,
The mercy he had granted oft abused,
The sights he was accustom'd to behold,
The wild seas, and wild men with whom he cruised,
Had cost his enemies a long repentance,
And made him a good friend, but bad acquaintance.

But something of the spirit of old Greece
Flash'd o'er his soul a few heroic rays,
Such as lit onward to the Golden Fleece
His predecessors in the Colchian days;
T is true he had no ardent love for peace-
Alas! his country show'd no path to praise:
Hate to the world and war with every nation
He waged, in vengeance of her degradation.

Still o'er his mind the influence of the clime
Shed its Ionian elegance, which show'd
Its power unconsciously full many a time,-
A taste seen in the choice of his abode,
A love of music and of scenes sublime,
A pleasure in the gentle stream that flow'd
Past him in crystal, and a joy in flowers,
Bedew'd his spirit in his calmer hours.

But whatsoe'er he had of love reposed
On that beloved daughter; she had been
The only thing which kept his heart unclosed
Amidst the savage deeds he had done and seen;
A lonely pure affection unopposed:
There wanted but the loss of this to wean
His feelings from all milk of human kindness,
And turn him like the Cyclops mad with blindness.

The cubless tigress in her jungle raging
Is dreadful to the shepherd and the flock;
The ocean when its yeasty war is waging
Is awful to the vessel near the rock;
But violent things will sooner bear assuaging,
Their fury being spent by its own shock,
Than the stern, single, deep, and wordless ire
Of a strong human heart, and in a sire.

It is a hard although a common case
To find our children running restive- they
In whom our brightest days we would retrace,
Our little selves re-form'd in finer clay,
Just as old age is creeping on apace,
And clouds come o'er the sunset of our day,
They kindly leave us, though not quite alone,
But in good company- the gout or stone.

Yet a fine family is a fine thing
(Provided they don't come in after dinner);
'T is beautiful to see a matron bring
Her children up (if nursing them don't thin her);
Like cherubs round an altar-piece they cling
To the fire-side (a sight to touch a sinner).
A lady with her daughters or her nieces
Shines like a guinea and seven-shilling pieces.

Old Lambro pass'd unseen a private gate,
And stood within his hall at eventide;
Meantime the lady and her lover sate
At wassail in their beauty and their pride:
An ivory inlaid table spread with state
Before them, and fair slaves on every side;
Gems, gold, and silver, form'd the service mostly,
Mother of pearl and coral the less costly.

The dinner made about a hundred dishes;
Lamb and pistachio nuts- in short, all meats,
And saffron soups, and sweetbreads; and the fishes
Were of the finest that e'er flounced in nets,
Drest to a Sybarite's most pamper'd wishes;
The beverage was various sherbets
Of raisin, orange, and pomegranate juice,
Squeezed through the rind, which makes it best for use.

These were ranged round, each in its crystal ewer,
And fruits, and date-bread loaves closed the repast,
And Mocha's berry, from Arabia pure,
In small fine China cups, came in at last;
Gold cups of filigree made to secure
The hand from burning underneath them placed,
Cloves, cinnamon, and saffron too were boil'd
Up with the coffee, which (I think) they spoil'd.

The hangings of the room were tapestry, made
Of velvet panels, each of different hue,
And thick with damask flowers of silk inlaid;
And round them ran a yellow border too;
The upper border, richly wrought, display'd,
Embroider'd delicately o'er with blue,
Soft Persian sentences, in lilac letters,
From poets, or the moralists their betters.

These Oriental writings on the wall,
Quite common in those countries, are a kind
Of monitors adapted to recall,
Like skulls at Memphian banquets, to the mind
The words which shook Belshazzar in his hall,
And took his kingdom from him: You will find,
Though sages may pour out their wisdom's treasure,
There is no sterner moralist than Pleasure.

A beauty at the season's close grown hectic,
A genius who has drunk himself to death,
A rake turn'd methodistic, or Eclectic
(For that 's the name they like to pray beneath)-
But most, an alderman struck apoplectic,
Are things that really take away the breath,-
And show that late hours, wine, and love are able
To do not much less damage than the table.

Haidee and Juan carpeted their feet
On crimson satin, border'd with pale blue;
Their sofa occupied three parts complete
Of the apartment- and appear'd quite new;
The velvet cushions (for a throne more meet)
Were scarlet, from whose glowing centre grew
A sun emboss'd in gold, whose rays of tissue,
Meridian-like, were seen all light to issue.

Crystal and marble, plate and porcelain,
Had done their work of splendour; Indian mats
And Persian carpets, which the heart bled to stain,
Over the floors were spread; gazelles and cats,
And dwarfs and blacks, and such like things, that gain
Their bread as ministers and favourites (that 's
To say, by degradation) mingled there
As plentiful as in a court, or fair.

There was no want of lofty mirrors, and
The tables, most of ebony inlaid
With mother of pearl or ivory, stood at hand,
Or were of tortoise-shell or rare woods made,
Fretted with gold or silver:- by command,
The greater part of these were ready spread
With viands and sherbets in ice- and wine-
Kept for all comers at all hours to dine.

Of all the dresses I select Haidee's:
She wore two jelicks- one was of pale yellow;
Of azure, pink, and white was her chemise-
'Neath which her breast heaved like a little billow;
With buttons form'd of pearls as large as peas,
All gold and crimson shone her jelick's fellow,
And the striped white gauze baracan that bound her,
Like fleecy clouds about the moon, flow'd round her.

One large gold bracelet clasp'd each lovely arm,
Lockless- so pliable from the pure gold
That the hand stretch'd and shut it without harm,
The limb which it adorn'd its only mould;
So beautiful- its very shape would charm;
And, clinging as if loath to lose its hold,
The purest ore enclosed the whitest skin
That e'er by precious metal was held in.

Around, as princess of her father's land,
A like gold bar above her instep roll'd
Announced her rank; twelve rings were on her hand;
Her hair was starr'd with gems; her veil's fine fold
Below her breast was fasten'd with a band
Of lavish pearls, whose worth could scarce be told;
Her orange silk full Turkish trousers furl'd
About the prettiest ankle in the world.

Her hair's long auburn waves down to her heel
Flow'd like an Alpine torrent which the sun
Dyes with his morning light,- and would conceal
Her person if allow'd at large to run,
And still they seem resentfully to feel
The silken fillet's curb, and sought to shun
Their bonds whene'er some Zephyr caught began
To offer his young pinion as her fan.

Round her she made an atmosphere of life,
The very air seem'd lighter from her eyes,
They were so soft and beautiful, and rife
With all we can imagine of the skies,
And pure as Psyche ere she grew a wife-
Too pure even for the purest human ties;
Her overpowering presence made you feel
It would not be idolatry to kneel.

Her eyelashes, though dark as night, were tinged
(It is the country's custom), but in vain;
For those large black eyes were so blackly fringed,
The glossy rebels mock'd the jetty stain,
And in their native beauty stood avenged:
Her nails were touch'd with henna; but again
The power of art was turn'd to nothing, for
They could not look more rosy than before.

The henna should be deeply dyed to make
The skin relieved appear more fairly fair;
She had no need of this, day ne'er will break
On mountain tops more heavenly white than her:
The eye might doubt if it were well awake,
She was so like a vision; I might err,
But Shakspeare also says, 't is very silly
'To gild refined gold, or paint the lily'

Juan had on a shawl of black and gold,
But a white baracan, and so transparent
The sparkling gems beneath you might behold,
Like small stars through the milky way apparent;
His turban, furl'd in many a graceful fold,
An emerald aigrette with Haidee's hair in 't
Surmounted as its clasp- a glowing crescent,
Whose rays shone ever trembling, but incessant.

And now they were diverted by their suite,
Dwarfs, dancing girls, black eunuchs, and a poet,
Which made their new establishment complete;
The last was of great fame, and liked to show it:
His verses rarely wanted their due feet;
And for his theme- he seldom sung below it,
He being paid to satirize or flatter,
As the psalm says, 'inditing a good matter.'

He praised the present, and abused the past,
Reversing the good custom of old days,
An Eastern anti-jacobin at last
He turn'd, preferring pudding to no praise-
For some few years his lot had been o'ercast
By his seeming independent in his lays,
But now he sung the Sultan and the Pacha
With truth like Southey, and with verse like Crashaw.

He was a man who had seen many changes,
And always changed as true as any needle;
His polar star being one which rather ranges,
And not the fix'd- he knew the way to wheedle:
So vile he 'scaped the doom which oft avenges;
And being fluent (save indeed when fee'd ill),
He lied with such a fervour of intention-
There was no doubt he earn'd his laureate pension.

But he had genius,- when a turncoat has it,
The 'Vates irritabilis' takes care
That without notice few full moons shall pass it;
Even good men like to make the public stare:-
But to my subject- let me see- what was it?-
Oh!- the third canto- and the pretty pair-
Their loves, and feasts, and house, and dress, and mode
Of living in their insular abode.

Their poet, a sad trimmer, but no less
In company a very pleasant fellow,
Had been the favourite of full many a mess
Of men, and made them speeches when half mellow;
And though his meaning they could rarely guess,
Yet still they deign'd to hiccup or to bellow
The glorious meed of popular applause,
Of which the first ne'er knows the second cause.

But now being lifted into high society,
And having pick'd up several odds and ends
Of free thoughts in his travels for variety,
He deem'd, being in a lone isle, among friends,
That, without any danger of a riot, he
Might for long lying make himself amends;
And, singing as he sung in his warm youth,
Agree to a short armistice with truth.

He had travell'd 'mongst the Arabs, Turks, and Franks,
And knew the self-loves of the different nations;
And having lived with people of all ranks,
Had something ready upon most occasions-
Which got him a few presents and some thanks.
He varied with some skill his adulations;
To 'do at Rome as Romans do,' a piece
Of conduct was which he observed in Greece.

Thus, usually, when he was ask'd to sing,
He gave the different nations something national;
'T was all the same to him- 'God save the king,'
Or 'Ca ira,' according to the fashion all:
His muse made increment of any thing,
From the high lyric down to the low rational:
If Pindar sang horse-races, what should hinder
Himself from being as pliable as Pindar?

In France, for instance, he would write a chanson;
In England a six canto quarto tale;
In Spain, he'd make a ballad or romance on
The last war- much the same in Portugal;
In Germany, the Pegasus he 'd prance on
Would be old Goethe's (see what says De Stael);
In Italy he 'd ape the 'Trecentisti;'
In Greece, he sing some sort of hymn like this t' ye:

THE ISLES OF GREECE.

The isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.

The Scian and the Teian muse,
The hero's harp, the lover's lute,
Have found the fame your shores refuse;
Their place of birth alone is mute
To sounds which echo further west
Than your sires' 'Islands of the Blest.'

The mountains look on Marathon-
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream'd that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians' grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.

A king sate on the rocky brow
Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis;
And ships, by thousands, lay below,
And men in nations;- all were his!
He counted them at break of day-
And when the sun set where were they?

And where are they? and where art thou,
My country? On thy voiceless shore
The heroic lay is tuneless now-
The heroic bosom beats no more!
And must thy lyre, so long divine,
Degenerate into hands like mine?

'T is something, in the dearth of fame,
Though link'd among a fetter'd race,
To feel at least a patriot's shame,
Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
For what is left the poet here?
For Greeks a blush- for Greece a tear.

Must we but weep o'er days more blest?
Must we but blush?- Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae!

What, silent still? and silent all?
Ah! no;- the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent's fall,
And answer, 'Let one living head,
But one arise,- we come, we come!'
'T is but the living who are dumb.

In vain- in vain: strike other chords;
Fill high the cup with Samian wine!
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,
And shed the blood of Scio's vine!
Hark! rising to the ignoble call-
How answers each bold Bacchanal!

You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet,
Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
Of two such lessons, why forget
The nobler and the manlier one?
You have the letters Cadmus gave-
Think ye he meant them for a slave?

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
We will not think of themes like these!
It made Anacreon's song divine:
He served- but served Polycrates-
A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.

The tyrant of the Chersonese
Was freedom's best and bravest friend;
That tyrant was Miltiades!
Oh! that the present hour would lend
Another despot of the kind!
Such chains as his were sure to bind.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
On Suli's rock, and Parga's shore,
Exists the remnant of a line
Such as the Doric mothers bore;
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown,
The Heracleidan blood might own.

Trust not for freedom to the Franks-
They have a king who buys and sells;
In native swords, and native ranks,
The only hope of courage dwells;
But Turkish force, and Latin fraud,
Would break your shield, however broad.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
Our virgins dance beneath the shade-
I see their glorious black eyes shine;
But gazing on each glowing maid,
My own the burning tear-drop laves,
To think such breasts must suckle slaves

Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
There, swan-like, let me sing and die:
A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine-
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

Thus sung, or would, or could, or should have sung,
The modern Greek, in tolerable verse;
If not like Orpheus quite, when Greece was young,
Yet in these times he might have done much worse:
His strain display'd some feeling- right or wrong;
And feeling, in a poet, is the source
Of others' feeling; but they are such liars,
And take all colours- like the hands of dyers.

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
'T is strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper- even a rag like this,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that 's his.

And when his bones are dust, his grave a blank,
His station, generation, even his nation,
Become a thing, or nothing, save to rank
In chronological commemoration,
Some dull MS. oblivion long has sank,
Or graven stone found in a barrack's station
In digging the foundation of a closet,
May turn his name up, as a rare deposit.

And glory long has made the sages smile;
'T is something, nothing, words, illusion, wind-
Depending more upon the historian's style
Than on the name a person leaves behind:
Troy owes to Homer what whist owes to Hoyle:
The present century was growing blind
To the great Marlborough's skill in giving knocks,
Until his late life by Archdeacon Coxe.

Milton 's the prince of poets- so we say;
A little heavy, but no less divine:
An independent being in his day-
Learn'd, pious, temperate in love and wine;
But, his life falling into Johnson's way,
We 're told this great high priest of all the Nine
Was whipt at college- a harsh sire- odd spouse,
For the first Mrs. Milton left his house.

All these are, certes, entertaining facts,
Like Shakspeare's stealing deer, Lord Bacon's bribes;
Like Titus' youth, and Caesar's earliest acts;
Like Burns (whom Doctor Currie well describes);
Like Cromwell's pranks;- but although truth exacts
These amiable descriptions from the scribes,
As most essential to their hero's story,
They do not much contribute to his glory.

All are not moralists, like Southey, when
He prated to the world of 'Pantisocracy;'
Or Wordsworth unexcised, unhired, who then
Season'd his pedlar poems with democracy;
Or Coleridge, long before his flighty pen
Let to the Morning Post its aristocracy;
When he and Southey, following the same path,
Espoused two partners (milliners of Bath).

Such names at present cut a convict figure,
The very Botany Bay in moral geography;
Their loyal treason, renegado rigour,
Are good manure for their more bare biography.
Wordsworth's last quarto, by the way, is bigger
Than any since the birthday of typography;
A drowsy frowzy poem, call'd the 'Excursion.'
Writ in a manner which is my aversion.

He there builds up a formidable dyke
Between his own and others' intellect;
But Wordsworth's poem, and his followers, like
Joanna Southcote's Shiloh, and her sect,
Are things which in this century don't strike
The public mind,- so few are the elect;
And the new births of both their stale virginities
Have proved but dropsies, taken for divinities.

But let me to my story: I must own,
If I have any fault, it is digression-
Leaving my people to proceed alone,
While I soliloquize beyond expression;
But these are my addresses from the throne,
Which put off business to the ensuing session:
Forgetting each omission is a loss to
The world, not quite so great as Ariosto.

I know that what our neighbours call 'longueurs'
(We 've not so good a word, but have the thing
In that complete perfection which ensures
An epic from Bob Southey every spring),
Form not the true temptation which allures
The reader; but 't would not be hard to bring
Some fine examples of the epopee,
To prove its grand ingredient is ennui.

We learn from Horace, 'Homer sometimes sleeps;'
We feel without him, Wordsworth sometimes wakes,-
To show with what complacency he creeps,
With his dear 'Waggoners,' around his lakes.
He wishes for 'a boat' to sail the deeps-
Of ocean?- No, of air; and then he makes
Another outcry for 'a little boat,'
And drivels seas to set it well afloat.

If he must fain sweep o'er the ethereal plain,
And Pegasus runs restive in his 'Waggon,'
Could he not beg the loan of Charles's Wain?
Or pray Medea for a single dragon?
Or if, too classic for his vulgar brain,
He fear'd his neck to venture such a nag on,
And he must needs mount nearer to the moon,
Could not the blockhead ask for a balloon?

'Pedlars,' and 'Boats,' and 'Waggons!' Oh! ye shades
Of Pope and Dryden, are we come to this?
That trash of such sort not alone evades
Contempt, but from the bathos' vast abyss
Floats scumlike uppermost, and these Jack Cades
Of sense and song above your graves may hiss-
The 'little boatman' and his 'Peter Bell'
Can sneer at him who drew 'Achitophel'!

T' our tale.- The feast was over, the slaves gone,
The dwarfs and dancing girls had all retired;
The Arab lore and poet's song were done,
And every sound of revelry expired;
The lady and her lover, left alone,
The rosy flood of twilight's sky admired;-
Ave Maria! o'er the earth and sea,
That heavenliest hour of Heaven is worthiest thee!

Ave Maria! blessed be the hour!
The time, the clime, the spot, where I so oft
Have felt that moment in its fullest power
Sink o'er the earth so beautiful and soft,
While swung the deep bell in the distant tower,
Or the faint dying day-hymn stole aloft,
And not a breath crept through the rosy air,
And yet the forest leaves seem'd stirr'd with prayer.

Ave Maria! 't is the hour of prayer!
Ave Maria! 't is the hour of love!
Ave Maria! may our spirits dare
Look up to thine and to thy Son's above!
Ave Maria! oh that face so fair!
Those downcast eyes beneath the Almighty dove-
What though 't is but a pictured image?- strike-
That painting is no idol,- 't is too like.

Some kinder casuists are pleased to say,
In nameless print- that I have no devotion;
But set those persons down with me to pray,
And you shall see who has the properest notion
Of getting into heaven the shortest way;
My altars are the mountains and the ocean,
Earth, air, stars,- all that springs from the great Whole,
Who hath produced, and will receive the soul.

Sweet hour of twilight!- in the solitude
Of the pine forest, and the silent shore
Which bounds Ravenna's immemorial wood,
Rooted where once the Adrian wave flow'd o'er,
To where the last Caesarean fortress stood,
Evergreen forest! which Boccaccio's lore
And Dryden's lay made haunted ground to me,
How have I loved the twilight hour and thee!

The shrill cicadas, people of the pine,
Making their summer lives one ceaseless song,
Were the sole echoes, save my steed's and mine,
And vesper bell's that rose the boughs along;
The spectre huntsman of Onesti's line,
His hell-dogs, and their chase, and the fair throng
Which learn'd from this example not to fly
From a true lover,- shadow'd my mind's eye.

Oh, Hesperus! thou bringest all good things-
Home to the weary, to the hungry cheer,
To the young bird the parent's brooding wings,
The welcome stall to the o'erlabour'd steer;
Whate'er of peace about our hearthstone clings,
Whate'er our household gods protect of dear,
Are gather'd round us by thy look of rest;
Thou bring'st the child, too, to the mother's breast.

Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart
Of those who sail the seas, on the first day
When they from their sweet friends are torn apart;
Or fills with love the pilgrim on his way
As the far bell of vesper makes him start,
Seeming to weep the dying day's decay;
Is this a fancy which our reason scorns?
Ah! surely nothing dies but something mourns!

When Nero perish'd by the justest doom
Which ever the destroyer yet destroy'd,
Amidst the roar of liberated Rome,
Of nations freed, and the world overjoy'd,
Some hands unseen strew'd flowers upon his tomb:
Perhaps the weakness of a heart not void
Of feeling for some kindness done, when power
Had left the wretch an uncorrupted hour.

But I 'm digressing; what on earth has Nero,
Or any such like sovereign buffoons,
To do with the transactions of my hero,
More than such madmen's fellow man- the moon's?
Sure my invention must be down at zero,
And I grown one of many 'wooden spoons'
Of verse (the name with which we Cantabs please
To dub the last of honours in degrees).

I feel this tediousness will never do-
'T is being too epic, and I must cut down
(In copying) this long canto into two;
They 'll never find it out, unless I own
The fact, excepting some experienced few;
And then as an improvement 't will be shown:
I 'll prove that such the opinion of the critic is
From Aristotle passim.--See poietikes.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Golden Age

Long ere the Muse the strenuous chords had swept,
And the first lay as yet in silence slept,
A Time there was which since has stirred the lyre
To notes of wail and accents warm with fire;
Moved the soft Mantuan to his silvery strain,
And him who sobbed in pentametric pain;
To which the World, waxed desolate and old,
Fondly reverts, and calls the Age of Gold.

Then, without toil, by vale and mountain side,
Men found their few and simple wants supplied;
Plenty, like dew, dropped subtle from the air,
And Earth's fair gifts rose prodigal as prayer.
Love, with no charms except its own to lure,
Was swiftly answered by a love as pure.
No need for wealth; each glittering fruit and flower,
Each star, each streamlet, made the maiden's dower.
Far in the future lurked maternal throes,
And children blossomed painless as the rose.
No harrowing question `why,' no torturing `how,'
Bent the lithe frame or knit the youthful brow.
The growing mind had naught to seek or shun;
Like the plump fig it ripened in the sun.
From dawn to dark Man's life was steeped in joy,
And the gray sire was happy as the boy.
Nature with Man yet waged no troublous strife,
And Death was almost easier than Life.
Safe on its native mountains throve the oak,
Nor ever groaned 'neath greed's relentless stroke.
No fear of loss, no restlessness for more,
Drove the poor mariner from shore to shore.
No distant mines, by penury divined,
Made him the sport of fickle wave or wind.
Rich for secure, he checked each wish to roam,
And hugged the safe felicity of home.

Those days are long gone by; but who shall say
Why, like a dream, passed Saturn's Reign away?
Over its rise, its ruin, hangs a veil,
And naught remains except a Golden Tale.
Whether 'twas sin or hazard that dissolved
That happy scheme by kindly Gods evolved;
Whether Man fell by lucklessness or pride,-
Let jarring sects, and not the Muse, decide.
But when that cruel Fiat smote the earth,
Primeval Joy was poisoned at its birth.
In sorrow stole the infant from the womb,
The agëd crept in sorrow to the tomb.
The ground, so bounteous once, refused to bear
More than was wrung by sower, seed, and share.
Ofttimes would ruthless winds or torrents raze
The ripening fruit of toilsome nights and days.
Each one in turn grew jealous of his own,
And fenced his patch with ditch and churlish stone.
As greed uprose, and greed engendered strife,
Contention raged coincident with life.
Man against man, maid against maiden turned,
And the soft breast with envious passions burned.
The loss of one was hailed as others' gain,
And pleasure took unnatural birth from pain.
Goaded by woe, and through tradition's lore
Mindful of all the blissfulness of yore,
The Human Race, its sorrows to assuage,
Dreamed afar off a second Golden Age;
Not in the dim irrevocable Past,
But in a Future just as vague and vast.
The prophet's lips, the poet's flattering pen,
Revelled in forecasts of that golden Then.
The days should come when grief would be no more,
And Peace and Plenty rule from shore to shore;
All men alike enjoy what none did earn,
And even more than Saturn's Reign return.

As years rolled on, as centuries went by,
And still that Promised Time seemed no more nigh,
Mankind at length, outwearied with delays,
Gave up all hope of those seductive days.
Then other prophets, other scribes arose,
A nearer, surer Eden to disclose.
`O, long-befooled!' they said, `awake, and deem
The Past a tale, the Future but a dream.
Here, in the living Present, act your part,
Straining its vulgar blessings to your heart.
Let hand with hand and brain with brain contend,
And each one labour to some selfish end.
In wealth and riot, luxury and power,
Baffle the mockery of the transient hour.
If thousands fall, if tens of thousands bleed,
Will not a hundred, or a score, succeed?
Let those who cannot yield to those who can-
Fate has its piles of victims; why not Man?
Better a furious fight where some one wins,
Than sluggish life which ends as it begins.
Vain was the bard who, whilst the World was new,
'Twixt men and beasts the fond distinction drew,
That these confine their downward gaze to earth,
Whilst man looks up, enamoured of his birth.
Not in the skies, but deep beneath the soil,
There will you find your happiness and spoil.
Enough for brutes its simple face to know,
But godlike man must pierce and delve below.
Deep in its bowels seek the shining ore,
And at its touch shall Saturn reign once more.
For him whose thews are sound, whose vision clear,
Whose purpose firm, the Golden Age is here.'

Never from cave or tripod, mount or glade,
Issued a voice so welcomed, so obeyed.
From zone to zone the Golden Gospel flew,
And in its train mankind obedient drew.
See from their seats the ancient Gods dethroned,
Altars upset, and oracles disown'd.
The Muses, scared, conceal the smothered lyre;
No longer prized, the Graces swift retire;
Virtue, a butt for ribalds, seeks her shroud,
And even Venus veils herself in cloud.
Religion, Ethics, all men erst adored,
Hymned on the harp, or fought for with the sword,
All lofty scopes, all ends esteemed of old,
Dissolve like mist before the rage for gold.
The priest for gold makes traffic of his robe;
For gold the soldier desolates the globe;
The poet shapes for gold his venal lays;
Through gold Vice stalks caparisoned with praise.
Tempted by gold, the virgin sells her charms,
Though no Immortal slips into her arms.
Saddled with gold, the adventurer can buy
Titles, precedence, place, and dignity.
High, middle, low, the young, the ripe, the old,
Man, woman, child, live, die, are damned for Gold.

Soon as the youthful mind begins to ope,
It searches Life's significance and scope;
And, fed by generous impulse year by year,
Dreams for itself some glorious career.
Its shall it be, instructed by the Muse,
Truth to abet, and beauty to diffuse;
With full-blown sail, and genius at the helm,
To steer men's thoughts to a serener realm.
Perhaps the ingenuous boy would fain recall
Tintoret's canvas, Memmi's fresco'd wall;
With godlike pencil purify the mart,
And life ennoble with the breath of Art.
Maybe he burns, by Plato's failure fired,
To scale the heights which every wing have tired,
Seize first each part, then comprehend the whole,
And solve the eternal problem of the Soul.
Be these his aims, or, nobler still, to train
His kind to mutiny till Virtue reign,
Soon doth he learn to count his lovely schemes
A host of bubbles in a world of dreams.
Experience whispers early, Have a care!
Who with the Muse would live must live on air.
The tempting maid is but a poet's lie,
`Who gave to song what gold could never buy.'
Confront the world, take counsel with the throng;
Their verdict what? `The thing's not worth a song.'
Are you content you now have learnt your price?
Come, sink the Muse, and don't be quite so nice.
Start a new Company, and float the shares,
Then lunch with Ministers and dine with Mayors.
Pimp for a Party, praise a Premier's heart,
Head a subscription, and then shine-a Bart.
Return your income fifty thousand clear-
The devil's in it, or you'll die a peer.
Success so great is never done by halves-
'Tis only virtue, when 'tis greatest, starves.

Perhaps his breast, untutored yet to serve,
Spurns the base counsel with a proud reserve;
For Youth is stubborn, and when Nature draws,
In vain a parent's warning, wisdom's saws.
Let cravens straight their impotence confess,
And sell their birthright for a filthy mess;
In flowers see, bee-like, nought but stuff for hives,
And for foul lucre prostitute their lives;
They have not failed who never once have tried,
Or, if they failed, they failed for want of pride.
He, he at least his soul will ne'er demean,
But 'mong the foul will keep his honour clean.

O touching sight, to witness day by day
His splendid generous day-dreams fade away!
His sire reproaches, and his brothers scoff,
His mother doubts, his sisters e'en fall off.
The neighbours pity, strangers deem him mad;
Girls, smiling, whisper, What a foolish lad!
Meanwhile his compeers, started in the race,
Are swiftly marching on to power and place.
One makes a coup, and weds a wife of rank;
Another's junior partner in a bank.
A third in sugar with unscriptural hand,
Traffics, and builds a lasting house on sand.
A fourth, for beer and piety renowned,
Owns all the publics in the country round;
Its drink adulterates with face demure,
But burns with zeal to keep opinion pure;
Cares not one jot for bodies drunk or sick,
But scans your soul like a new Dominick.
The fifth, the patron of a new balloon,
Projects a Company to reach the moon;
Baits his prospectus with a batch of peers,
And vows nought pays like money in the Spheres.
Shares in the moon advanced-advancing still.
Then comes a crash-stock guaranteed at nil.
But sure, the man is ruined? Not at all;
He scarce can tumble who has sense to crawl.
Your modern Icarus is much too wise
On his own pinions to attempt the skies-
On others' soaring follies doth he rise.
Long ere the bubble burst his shares were sold;
Just at that moment he had need of gold.
Singed wings, you know, are but for simple folk;
He, with his peers, 'scapes safe from flame and smoke,
And buys a borough with the happy stroke.

Few are the souls who die for Cato's creed:
To fail seems base, when all around succeed.
Foiled in his purpose, both by foe and friend,
Through noble means to reach a noble end,
The baffled boy forswears his cherished dream,
And learns to swim, like others, with the stream.
Keen to recover precious moments lost,
And taught by bitter tasks what Virtue cost,
He midst the rush, whilst others rise and fall,
Swims on, the most unscrupulous of all.
Let others chouse with care, he cheats with pluck,
And millions stake their all upon his luck.
His daring overawes the small, the great,
And whilst he plunders they but peculate.
He lures the easy, makes the fat his spoil,
Pares the lean wage of proletarian toil;
Swindles the widow of her hoarded mite,
Drags the poor pensioner once more to fight;
Robs age of rest, and youth of prospects fair,
Plunges the sanguine bridegroom in despair;
Severs the ties made sacred long by home,
And sends the son from sire across the foam;
Dashes the faith of plighted swain and maid,
And helps alone the cynic sexton's spade:
Does all that well beseems a Fallen Star-
It needs a Lucifer to fall so far!

Sometimes will Fortune on the traitor scowl,
And e'en with gold not pay a deed so foul.
He who was born a glittering child of light,
Trenchant as Raphael, as Ithuriel bright,
Yet sells his soul a vulgar prize to reap,
And for brute guerdons holds his honour cheap,
Too often finds that he who, grovelling, flies
From unrewarded reverie in the skies,
And seeks in venal efforts to employ
The gifts God formed for beauty and for joy,
Makes but a barren barter of his birth,
And Heaven foregoes, without securing earth.
See how he sinks! The more he strains to clutch
Terrestrial spoil, unworthy of his touch,
It seems, for him, to take elusive shapes,
And like a shadow from his grasp escapes.
As baser wax his aims, more mean his scope,
More and still more he sprawls-the sport of Hope.
Still as he tries to suffocate his soul,
Farther beyond him seems the carnal goal.
In vain he turns to catch the favouring gale;
Becalmed he lies-he labours but to fail.
Poor and despised, he now would fain retrace
His erring steps to his first dwelling-place,
But finds, alas! baseness hath borne its fruit;
Wings long unused have withered at the root.
He who in vain has crawled in vain would fly,
And rots abandoned both by earth and sky.
Meaner his end than that poor tradesman's doom,
Who, asked what words of honour on his tomb
His friends should place, with cynic touch replied,
`Here lies who, born a man, a grocer died!'

Whom doth this foe of human virtue spare?
Look round! More sweet its victims, the more fair.
Its natural slaves, who, spawned from wealth, are born
To Traffic's tricks they lack the soul to scorn,
Whose lust for lucre is their proper lot,
It just as oft impoverishes as not.
'Tis those in whom the Unseen God inspires
The restless leaven of divine desires;
Who, from the moment that they lisp, betray
An alien spirit housed within their clay;
Whose fretful youth life's narrow limits chafe,
And yearns for worlds more spacious, if less safe;
Striving to reach, despite its fleshly thrall,
That larger Something which surrounds us all;-
These, these the souls-and not that baser band-
To whom Gold loves to stretch a helping hand;
With early smiles their generous aims to bless,
And lead them, blind, to ruinous success.
When Lelius chanted first his fragrant lays,
Men praised, and he was amply paid with praise.
Not salons' sycophant, nor Fashion's bard,
No glittering heaps did his sweet notes reward.
He was content with audience fit, though few,
When to his side the cunning demon drew.
`Your pen's worth gold; you need but blunt its point;
Come, cut the Muse; the times are out of joint.
Fame's well enough, but comfort has its laws;
You'll make a damned poor supper off applause.
Sing, be select, and starve. Prose is the thing-
The thing that pays. The Million now is King.
Write gossip, scandal, slander-what you will;
A well-filled purse awaits a ready quill.'
The curst insidious demon has his way,
And Grub-street swallows Lelius for aye.

Turn from the pen, and for a while survey
The wide domains which brush and canvas sway.
Enter those realms, and what do we behold?
Art, heavenly Art, the slave and pimp of gold!
Time was when its poor votaries were too proud
To sate the itch of a vain-glorious crowd,
Serve the mean aims of narrow personal pelf,
And swell the ignoble retinue of Self.
Only the State, which merges private ends,
Or sacred Church, which lifts them and extends,
Might then presume the artist's craft to claim,
And paid him, happy, with immortal Fame.
Here, Friendship's guest, where fairest Florence lies,
A dream in stone, stretched out before mine eyes,
I think of all the treasures there enshrined,
And what small dole nurtured each master mind;
Or led by memory o'er the classic chain
Which Umbrian slope divides from Tuscan plain,
I all the priceless unbought gems recall
That link with heaven Assisi's frescoed wall;
Then, borne on wings of weakness, I repair
To mine own land, and groan to think that there,
Debased by Fashion to a venal trade,
Art counts its triumphs by its fortunes made;
Spurned by the State, and by the Church unsought,
Works but for wealth, and by the base is bought;
Stranger to altars, palaces, or domes,
Pampers the pomp of ostentatious homes.
How changed the days since Duccio's hand of old
On Saints and Virgins lavished costly gold;
But for himself asked but a few poor crowns,
Less than we give to harlequins and clowns.
Now do our mercenary tricksters grudge
Almost the very canvas that they smudge;
Yet scan with greedy eyes the glittering heap
That opulent folly holds, for once, so cheap.
See, too, how Genius, when its touch was true,
On humble walls its lasting fancies drew;
Whose modern apes, ridiculously bold,
Hang their ephemeral daubs in frames of gold.

In vain doth Heaven, while Gold thus rules the earth,
With generous instincts sow the soul at birth.
Swift in the genial soil the seed takes root,
Then seeks the sun with many a venturous shoot.
But, ah, how soon the cruel outer air
Checks the brave growth and nips its promise fair!
Warmed by the glow of Tasso's splendid lay,
Or borne by Dante to the gates of Day;
Softly seduced by Scott's romantic strain
To deem all ends, excepting honour, vain;
Or nobly trained by Shelley's burning song
To cherish an eternal feud with wrong,-
The simple girl constructs a future fair,
Rears a whole world of castles in the air,
And nowhere warned, or deaf to warning, deems
That life will clothe and justify her dreams.
As year by year the maiden grows apace,
And half the woman mantles in her face,
With sickening sense, sad eye, and sinking heart,
She sees her forecasts one by one depart.
Slowly, but, ah, too surely doth she find
That poets' tales no longer rule mankind;
That Peace is homeless as the hunted hare,
And Love far less a shelter than a snare;
That godlike Valour meets a demon's doom,
Whilst Prudence prospers even from the tomb;
That Youth, save schooled in Mammon's miry ways,
Groans o'er the lapse of unrequited days;
That Beauty, Genius, all are vain and cold,
Till foully touched and fertilised by Gold.

Soon as the time so dear to mother's vows
Draws nigh, to find the maid some fitting spouse,
Then most of all she learns what leading part
Is played by Gold in dramas of the heart.
Chance to young Hylas, beautiful as Dawn,
And sweet as fair, she feels her fancy drawn.
Are you a nymph? one whispers. Let him pass.
He doth but gather daisies in the grass.
Where your cool wave, hidden from human eyes,
In which to lure and love him till he dies?
Bid him rejoin his Hercules, and seize
The golden apples of the Hesperides;
And then perchance, should none more rich than he
Engage your love, you may his Hera be.
Alas, poor Hylas! worse than Mysian fate
Doth his meandering flowery feet await.
If that a Solon, versed in every art
Of song and science, touch the maiden's heart,
The neighbours softly whisper, Have a care;
Can Erudition keep a chaise and pair?
Pundits, alas, like fools, must pay their bills,
And Knowledge figures sorrily in wills.
For single life learning is well enough,
But marriage should be made of sterner stuff.
Should Cato's fame her pious soul attract,
The whole world cries, The woman must be cracked.
What! wed with Virtue! Is the girl awake?
Sure, she confounds the altar with the stake.
Send for the doctor. Try a change of air.
Swear Cato drinks. In war and love all's fair.
Bring Croesus to the front. At four he's free-
There's no one left to swindle after three.
In one brief hour behold him curled and drest,
And borne on wings of fashion to the West!
What though to regions fondly deemed refined,
He brings his City manners, City mind,
And cynics titter?-he laughs best who wins,-
A Greenwhich dinner covers many sins.
What! dine with Croesus? Surely. Is a feast
One jot the worse because the host's a beast?
He's worse than that-a snob-a cad. Agreed;
But then his goblets smack of Ganymede?
Do some strange freaks his conversation mar?
He stops your censure with a prime cigar.
A Norway stream, a shooting-lodge in Perth,
In practice look uncommonly like worth.
The Town to hear some new soprano flocks.
You long to go? Well, Croesus has a box.
How at this hour are tickets to be got
For the Regatta? Croesus has a yacht.
Goodwood is here. Your hopes begin to flag.
One chance awaits you: Croesus has a drag.
You doat on Flower-shows: Croesus has a bone.
Be friends with Croesus, and the World's your own.
Who could resist seductions such as these?
Or what could charm, if Croesus failed to please?
Blinded and bribed, the critical are cured,
And loud extol whom late they scarce endured.
Caressed and courted, Croesus grows the rage,
The type and glory of our Golden Age;
And Cato, Hylas, Solon, shoved aside,
Our heavenly maid is hailed as Croesus' bride.

Shade of Lucretius! if thy lyre waxed wild
With sacred rage for Clytemnestra's child,
And nought could hold thee as thy soul surveyed
The cursëd ills Religion can persuade,
How would thy verse impetuously shower
Sonorous scorn on Gold's atrocious power;
Embalm its victims with a touch divine,
And damn the monster in one sounding line!

Can honeyed forms or stereotyped applause
Alter the scope of Heaven's eternal laws?
What though with gifts should massive sideboards groan,
And every heart be glad except her own,
And troops of blooming girls behold with pride,
Perchance with envy, this resplendent bride;
Though vieing voices hail her Fashion's queen,
And even a Bishop's blessing crown the scene,
No rites, no rings, no altars, can avail
To make a sacred contract of a sale,
Stir the far depths of the reluctant mind,
Or join the hearts which love hath failed to bind.
If soul stands passive whilst the flesh is sold,
Is there no foul aroma in the gold?
Is the base barter covered by the price,
And do huge figures make the nasty nice?
The nameless outcast, prowling for her prey,
Renews her filthy bargain day by day;
Let Croesus give her what he gave his wife,
She's virtuous too-at least, she's his for life.
Croesus-but hold! Let Charity presume
That Croesus' wife but dimly knew her doom.

The luckless maid, since knowledge comes too late,
In splendour seeks oblivion of her fate;
Of every tender pious aim bereft,
Hugs in despair the only idol left;
In alien worship seeks to be consoled,
And builds her hopes of happiness on Gold.
Gold rules her steps, determines her desires-
Mere puppet she, whilst Mammon jerks the wires.
Futile to ask if London suits her health-
Would you consult her doctor, not her wealth?
You soon are answered: Whether ill or well,
A house in Town is indispensable.
Where shall it be? On gravel or on clay?
Wherever tenants have the most to pay.
Price is the thing, not soil. If Fashion's camp
Be pitched just here, what matter dry or damp?
But, health apart, 'tis known that Croesus' wife,
If left to choose, prefers a country life.
Well, she shall have it when the Parks are brown,
And Fashion, wearied, hath dispersed the Town.
But whilst the woods are leafy, and the lanes
With lush wild-flowers rob life of half its pains;
While sweetest scents and softest sounds combine
To make existence, did they last, divine;
Not for the world must Croesus' wife be missed
From fetid streets, foul rooms, and Fashion's list;
And only thence to rural refuge flies
As, self-exhausted, pleasant Summer dies.

Say, shall we marvel, amid scenes like these,
With all to dazzle, but with nought to please,
If links of simple gold should fail to cleave,
And tempters prompt their webs not vainly weave?
See, Plutus, first in each ignoble strife,
Battered and bored, bethinks him of a wife.
The happy tidings, spreading through the West,
Fires each maternal mercenary breast.
The soaring dames parade their daughters' charms,
To lure the hug of Plutus' palsied arms;
And as brave Eld for one fair woman fought,
For one foul man our world to rage is wrought.
At last, opining he might chance do worse,
Plutus to proud Olympia flings his purse.
Olympia lifts it with triumphant smile,
Whilst round her crowds congratulating guile,
Escorts her to the altar, decks her brows
With orange-buds, then leaves her with her spouse,
Who, though his suit by golden showers throve,
Can grasp his Danaë with no thews of Jove.
O, who shall tell Olympia's tale aright,
Each splendid day, each miserable night;
Her thirst divine by human draughts but slaked,
Her smiling face whilst the heart sorely ached,
Or note the edge whence one we loved so well
To sweet, seductive, base perdition fell?
I cast no stone, but half by rage consoled,
I snatch the lyre and curse this fiendish Gold.

Though Beauty's fame oft spreads through all the land,
Splendour is far more curiously scanned;
And they who once upon Olympia threw
A passing glance, since she was fair to view,
Now gilded pomp and Ostentation's choir
Attend her path, of gazing never tire;
Suck up her speech, translate her silent eyes,
Each movement, look, and posture scrutinise,
Stalk all her steps, as matron, friend, and wife,
And feed in greedy gossip on her life.
Not mine to follow to the noisome den
Where woman's frailty stands the gaze of men,
And well-coached menials, limed with gold, detail
The piteous scenes that pass behind the veil.
Enough to know that, thanks to wealth, once more
Plutus can woo, e'en richer than before.
The tottering cuckold leaves the court consoled;
Considerate juries tip his horns with Gold!

Sure some malicious demon in the brain
It needs must be, drives men reputed sane
To spurn the joys adjacent to their feet,
In the fond chase of this receding cheat?
Say, when the Stoic on his tranquil height,
And swinish crowd, sweating in miry fight,
In every age a like conclusion reach,
And sage and simple one same sermon preach-
That whether Heaven hath made one serf or king,
Reason alone true happiness can bring-
Can we but stand astounded as we scan
This race untaught, unteachable, called Man?
Would you be truly rich, how small the heap
Your aims require, the price how passing cheap!
A modest house, from urban jars removed,
By thrist selected, yet by taste approved;
Whose walls are gay with every sweet that blows,
Whose windows scented by the blushing rose;
Whose chambers few to no fine airs pretend,
Yet never are too full to greet a friend;
A garden plot, whither unbidden come
Bird's idle pipe and bee's laborious hum;
Smooth-shaven lawn, whereon in pastime's hours
The mallet rings within a belt of flowers;
A leafy nook where to enjoy at will
Gibbon's rich prose or Shakespeare's wizard quill;
A neighbouring copse wherein the stock-doves coo,
And a wild stream unchecked sings all day through;
Two clean bright stalls, where midday, night, and morn,
Two good stout roadsters champ their well-earned corn;
A few learned shelves from modern rubbish free,
Yet always, Mill, with just a place for Thee;
Head ne'er at dawn by clownish bouts obscured,
And limbs by temperate exercise inured;
A few firm friendships made in early life,
Yet doubly fastened by a pleasant wife;
A wholesome board, a draught of honest wine;-
This is true wealth; and this, thank Heaven, is mine!
And though you ransacked worlds from shore to shore,
From sea to sky, you could not give me more.
And if, all these beyond, I still should crave
Something impossible this side the grave,
Let humbler souls my soaring hopes forgive-
After my life still in my verse to live.

Well would it be if Mammon's feverish rage
Did but the vulgar and the base engage;
If those alone whose undistinguished name,
Haply if fouled, would shed no slur on Fame,
Sought in this sordid, despicable strife,
To find the good and snatch the crown of life.
But in the mire of venal fight embroiled,
Have we not seen the noblest scutcheons soiled?
Not the proud thought that many a splendid fray,
When crowns obeyed the fortunes of the day,
To stalwart arms its pregnant issue owed,
Whose glorious blood in their own body flowed;
Not the remembrance that their sires did share
The toils that made this England great and fair;
Not their resplendent pedigree, nor all
The line of haught fierce faces on the wall,
That tells the tale of their ancestral hall,
Have yet availed, in days like these, to hold
Men, thus seduced, from the coarse race for Gold.
Have we not seen the generous beast, whose sires
Once bore their fathers into battle's fires,
By titled gamblers' mercenary taste
His once stout loins to nimble flanks debased,
Made for curst gold to sweat through all his pores,
The panting pet of blacklegs, lords, and whores?

On such a course what dismal woes await,
Let the world learn by young Lucullus' fate.
Whilst yet the bloom of boyhood matched his cheek,
And all his duty was to master Greek.
Make a long score, bound o'er the running brook,
Cleave the clear wave, Lucullus had a book.
No glorious volume was't, whose subtle page
The wisdom breathed of many a studious age.
No wealth of wit, no Learning's garnered sheaves
Lay, like a treasure, lurking in its leaves.
But, in their place, crabbed Calculation scrawled
Symbols which shocked and figures that appalled.
Not for sweet Fancy, nor the simple stake
Of generous sports, did he his tasks forsake.
Ere sentiment could move, or sense control,
Adventurous Greed had swallowed up his soul.
If Gold Acrisius' Tower of Brass could flout,
How will the playground shut the monster out?
Thus by his own base instincts first betrayed,
The race of harpies lend their shameful aid,
With evil eye his smiling lands behold,
And smooth his path to infamy with gold.

At length behold him grown to man's estate,
Rich, noble, noted, lord of his own fate.
Here Duty beckons, Honour there incites,
And Love entices to its saving rites.
He heeds them not; he joins the madding crowd,
King of the base, the vulgar, and the loud;
Builds his most precious friendships on a bet,
And through the gutter trails his coronet.
Vain fool! inflamed by flattery and conceit,
He marks no pitfalls yawning at his feet;
But, winning, deems the cunning snare his luck,
And losing, pays, to plume him on his pluck;
Accepts each challenge, doubles every stake,
While tipsy plaudits follow in his wake.
But what avails, if Fortune quits his side?
Curse on the jade, he cries, she always lied!
Well, now's an end! . . . A comrade plucks his gown:
An end as yet, man! cut the timber down.
The luck will turn; you lost for want of skill;
Come, play again-you'll win. . . . By G-, I will!
Done soon as said. The swift sure axe resounds
Through the green stretch of his ancestral grounds.
The soaring elm, whose topmost boughs defied
The scaling valour of his boyish pride;
The umbrageous beech, beneath whose courtly shade
The loves that issued in his life were made;
The lordly oak, young when his line was young,
To which with pride inherited had clung
His sires and they from whom his sires were sprung;
Behold them now, around the naked hall,
One after one in fell succession fall.
Lo, the wide woods which centuries had seen
By frosts unmoved, mid thunder-fugues serene,
By thousand suns, by tens of thousand showers,
Fostered and fed, one greedy day devours.
And all in vain! Lured by the severed spoil,
The foul fierce harpies fasten on the soil.
`My lands on luck.' We take you. Clear the course;
Twenty to one upon Lucullus' horse!
One minute more, and poor Lucullus flies,
The beggared heir of all the centuries.

Then scoffed, and scourged, and stripped of all his wealth,
His last friends leave him-energy and health.
Anxiety and fierce Excitement's flame
Have scorched his blood and shrivelled up his frame.
`Plum to a pony!' hear the cripple call;
`Ere six months pass, the grave will end it all.'
Lucky at last, he wins his bootless bet,
And dies of drink, debauchery, and debt.

Gone are the times indeed when savage Might
Usurped the throne and claimed the wage of Right.
No longer now the tiller of the soil
Sees his fair fields the lusty robber's spoil;
No timid burgher now grows rich by stealth,
Lest some rude noble swoop upon his wealth;
The quiet citizen no longer fears
A raid upon his money or his ears,
That local turmoil or imperial strife
Will wreck his home or leave him bare for life.
But say, is Force the only fearful foe,
Or the keen Sword worst source of human woe?
Wielding base weapons Violence disdained,
Cunning prevails where once Compulsion reigned.
The tyrant's lance, Oppression's piercing shaft,
Torment no more, but abdicate to Craft.
Could feudal despot swooping on his prey,
Could bandit burning for the unequal fray,
Could fire, sword, famine, spread more wreck abroad,
Than marks the path of Greed allied with Fraud;
Or waits on life, where no rude signs portend
When the dread bolt of Ruin will descend?

See the poor father, who for years has toiled,
At one fell stroke of all his store despoiled.
His was the pious wish, by daily care
And safe degrees to make his hearth more fair;
His the ambition-far too meek to roam-
To swell the simple luxuries of home;
By loving thrift to deck his comely spouse
With some poor gem, the summit of her vows;
To instruct his boys in every generous art
Which trains the man to act a shining part;
By culture's aid to see his daughters armed
With each fair grace that in their mother charmed;
Year after year, as strength and vigour waned,
To find his fondest forecasts all attained;
And then, since faithful to the final stage,
Doff the hard harness from the back of age.
But watchful Greed with jealous eye beheld
Day after day his little earnings swelled;
Studied the tender workings of his mind,
Marked the fond aims to which his heart inclined;
With specious lips his trusting senses stole,
And with false visions fired his prudent soul.
Poor wretch! but yesterday in modest state
He lived, secure from every bolt of Fate.
To-day, he wanders feverish and depressed,
As though whole Andes weighed upon his breast.
To-morrow, back unto his home he crawls,
A beggared man, and at the threshold falls.
Now will no more his trustful wife behold
The gladsome face returning as of old,
And read in sparkling eye and smiling cheek
The day's good tidings e'en before he speak;
Never again in hastening footsteps guess
Some pretty love-gift, token of success.
Their blooming boys, for whom parental hope
So oft had cast the fairest horoscope,
And seen with fond anticipating eyes
Each proud successive civic honour rise,
Torn from their noble studies, have to crave
From base pursuits the pittance of a slave,
Pour the soul's wine into the body's sieve,
And grand life lose in mean attempts to live.
Perchance, at home their humble wants denied,
Gaunt Hunger drives them from their mother's side;
Leaves her to weep alone o'er what hath been,
And places ocean, pitiless, between.
The tender girls, their father's pride and joy,
Whose dreams a fiend had scrupled to destroy;
From childhood's earliest days whose only care
Was to be gracious, virtuous, and fair,
And who from Heaven could nothing else implore
Save to be all their mother was before;
Who pictured as their perfect scheme of life
A clinging daughter and a helpful wife,-
At one rude flash behold the world enlarge,
And stand, pale victims, trembling on the marge.
Little, alas, now boots it where they roam,
Since they must leave the tranquil shores of home.
Whether, poor slaves, they crawl with aching feet
Hour after hour from dreary street to street,
Or, as in mockery of home, alas!
Beneath the stranger's icy portal pass,
And thankless task and miserable wage
Their exiled cheerless energies engage,
Their youth, their life, is blasted at the core,
And Hope's sweet sap will mount their veins no more.
Should every door their humble prayers repel,
Scorning to buy what Hunger kneels to sell,
And they, half thankful that the strangers spurn,
To their own roof be driven to return,
How strange the scene that meets their wearied gaze!
How changed the hearth, the home, of other days!
Contracting Care usurps the mother's face,
Whose smiles of old spread sunshine through the place.
Alone she weeps; but should she chance to hear
Her husband's steps, she hides the furtive tear;
Follows his movements with an anxious dread,
Studies his brow, and scans his restless tread;
Assails his woe with every female wile,
Prattles of hope, and simulates a smile.
He, broken man, wrapt in perpetual gloom,
Wanders anon from vacant room to room;
Then, creeping back, the image of despair,
With a deep sigh he sinks into his chair.

He seldom speaks; and when his voice is heard,
Peevish its tone, and querulous his word;
And vain laments and childish tears attest
The lamp of life is dying in his breast.
Perhaps his death some timely pittance frees,
Secured by prudence in their days of ease;
And, O the pity! posthumous relief
Stanches love's wounds, and blunts the edge of grief.
Unless, indeed-for this too hath been known-
All-grasping Greed hath made that mite its own,
Filched from the widow her last hopes of bread,
And whom it ruined living, plunders dead!

These are thy triumphs, Gold! thy trophies these,
To nurture fraud, and rob the world of ease,
Faith to befool, young genius to seduce,
And blight at once its beauty and its use.
Thine is the bait, as loveless hearths avouch,
Which drags fresh victims to the venal couch;
Thine the foul traps wherewith our ways are rife,
That lure them first, then close upon their life;
Thine, thine the springes, set in regions fair,
Whose unseen nooses strangle whom they snare;
The cynic glory thine to lie in wait
To make men little who had else been great,
Frustrate our plenty, aggravate our dearth,
And keep eternal feud 'twixt Heaven and Earth!

Lo, where huge London, huger day by day,
O'er six fair counties spreads its hideous sway,
A tract there lies by Fortune's favours blest,
And at Fame's font yclept the happy West.
There, as by wizard touch, for miles on miles,
Rise squares, streets, crescents of palatial piles.
In the brave days when England's trusty voice
Made grappling rivals tremble or rejoice;
When, foremost shield of Weakness or of Right,
She scorned to warn unless resolved to smite;
When, few but firm, her stalwart children bore
The terror of her Flag from shore to shore,
Purged Christ's dear tomb from sacrilege and shame,
And made the Moslem quake at Richard's name;
Taught the vain Gaul, though gallant, still to kneel,
And Spain's proud sons the weight of northern steel;-
Then were her best in no such splendour nursed
As now awaits her basest and her worst.
No kingly Harry glittering with renown,
No Edward radiant in a peaceful crown,
Was housed as now, at turn of Fortune's wrist,
Some lucky navvy turned capitalist,
Some convict's bastard who a-sudden shines
In the bright splendour of Australian mines,
Or subtle Greek, who, skilled in Eastern ways,
Exposes all Golconda to our gaze.
These, as to Pomp's pretentious peaks they rush,
Heed not the crowds their sordid conquests crush:
Secure in glaring opulence, they scan
With placid eyes the miseries of man;
Fat units, watch the leanness of the whole,
And gag remonstrance with a paltry dole:
Mid harrowing want, with conscience unafraid,
Die on the golden dirt-heaps they have made.
Here Plenty gorges gifts from every zone,
There thankful Hunger gnaws its meagre bone;
Profusion here melts more than pearls in wine,
There craves gaunt Penury some shucks from swine;
And whilst rich rogues quaff deep round roaring fires,
At Dives' portal Lazarus expires!

Betwixt these fierce extremes of wealth and woe,
A crowd of strugglers hustles to and fro,
Whose one sole aim and only hope in life
Are just to wrench subsistence from the strife.
To what base shifts these hideous straits compel
The straining wretches, let our records tell.
Victims of greedy Competition's craft,
We drain cheap poison in each sparkling draught,
Purchase a lie in every vaunted ware,
And swallow filth in the most frugal fare.
Building a refuge for our age, we find
The crumbling mortar lets in wet and wind;
Face the rude waves, by science freed from awe,
To sink, poor dupes, on life-belts made of straw!

Nor this the worst! When ripened Shame would hide
Fruits of that hour when Passion conquered Pride,
There are not wanting in this Christian land
The breast remorseless and the Thuggish hand,
To advertise the dens where Death is sold,
And quench the breath of baby-life for gold!

Nor man alone, case-hardened man, surveys
These shocking contrasts with a careless gaze.
Fair melting woman of the tender breast
Here finds no room for pity as her guest.
Unsexed, she strains to Ostentation's goal,
While Splendour's dreams demoralise her soul;
Drains, like a goddess, hecatombs of lives,
Nor heeds who lags, provided she arrives.
See Claribel, by every gift designed
Mid anguish keen to be an angel kind,
Once plunged in rival factions' golden fight,
Turned to a demon in her own despite.
Behold, to-morrow in the Royal smile
Will bask the birth and wealth of all the Isle.
She, long abroad, received the summons late.
What's to be done? Nor time nor tide will wait.
She turns her wardrobe over, racks her brain;
Nothing will do. She wants a dress and train.
Drive to the modiste's. Not a finger free.
There's only Clara. Clara let it be.
But Clara's sick and sorry. Give her gold;
Her aches will cease, her sorrows be consoled.
It must be done. Sure Lilian there will glow
In gorgeous newness decked from top to toe;
Shall it be said that Claribel did less?
To-morrow, then, in time the train and dress.

So Clara drags her weary limbs from bed,
O'er the brave finery hangs her throbbing head;
Still as her senses swim sews on and on,
Till day dies out and twilight pale is gone.
Then, by the taper's soft and silent light,
Like a pale flower that opens most by night,
Her pace she quickens, and the needle moves
Subtler and swifter through the gauzy grooves;
But as the dawn on guttering sockets gains,
Her tired lids drop, and sleep arrests her pains.
But sleep how short! She feels her shoulder clutched:
`Clara, awake! the train's not even touched!
Day strides apace. See, there's the morning sun,
And ere again he sinks, 't must all be done.'
Again, again, the shooting thread she plies,
In silent agony of smothered sighs.
She seems to breathe her breath into the gown,
To give it life the while she lays hers down.
Fast as the task advances set by pride,
So fast within her ebbs the vital tide.
The daylight goes, and softly comes the moon's,
And then poor Clara over the last stitch swoons.

Meanwhile, the panting Claribel awaits
The precious gown within her golden gates.
It comes-it comes. Now who shall shine her down?
Not Lilian, surely? No, not the entire Town.
She not for worlds had lost this courtly chance;
And Clara dies that Claribel may dance!

If private worth, thus languishing, expires,
Will public Virtue keep alive her fires?
The slaves of wealth, in Britain as in Rome,
Bring to the Forum vices formed at home.
First the community, and then the State,
Falls to their fangs, which naught can satiate.
Not born nor bred to rule, of culture void,
And by no wave of young ambition buoyed,
Anxious on heights conspicuous to flaunt
Nought but the tawdry trophies they can vaunt,
They woo the grasping crowd with golden guile,
And spread Corruption's canker through the Isle.
You want a seat? Then boldly sate your itch.
Be very radical, and very rich.
Sell your opinions first to please the pure,
Then buy the sordid, and your triumph's sure.
Do all, in brief, that honest men abhor,
And England hails another Senator.

See the vain Tribune who, in lust of power,
Bows to the base exactions of the hour,
And, fooled by sycophants, stands forth at last
A devotee turned sworn iconoclast!
Behind him sit dense rows of golden mutes,
Deaf to whate'er demonstrates or refutes,
Ready to vote, rescind, obey in all
The whip demands, as hounds the huntsman's call.
They neither know nor reck what helpful deeds
In this grave hour their perilled Country needs.
They want to see their daughters nobly wed,
Their wives at Court, their own names trumpeted,
Their private Bills advanced another stage,
Their schemes of plunder foisted on the age.
Leave them but these, the gamblers come to call,
Nor heed an Empire nodding to its fall!

When Power is built on props like these, how vain
The hope that Law the giddy will restrain!
Spoilt by twin sops, servility and gold,
The headstrong crowd is then but ill controlled.
In vain they now would sway who lately served,
And Riot cows Authority unnerved.
Better that such base compromise should end,
And the dread bolt of Anarchy descend!
Goths of the gutter, Vandals of the slum,
Thieves and Reformers, come! Barbarians, come!
Before your might let rails and rules be hurled,
And sweep Civilisation from the world!

Nor now, alas, do Commoners alone
To private ends the public weal postpone.
Those too, whom worth ancestral plants on seats
High above where all vulgar Clamour beats,
With paltry fear to their clipped ermine cling,
And shrink from right, lest right should ruin bring.
The Peers stand firm; the Commons disagree.
The Peers be-well, it now is close on three.
By five, a world of reasons will be found.
Throw Jonas over, or the ship's aground.
You know the fury of the hand that steers;
And what were Britain with no House of Peers?
Would Primogeniture its fall survive,
Or even Property be kept alive?
Let Herbert fume, or frantic Cecil chafe,
Better a deal to choose the side that's safe;
Bow to the will of Finlen and his hordes,
And still thank Heavën for a House of Lords!
Thus may the British breast exult to think.
That noble names can sell ignoble ink;
That ill-got gains, if deftly spent, unlock
Birth's choicest circles to the ambitious smock;
That Dives foul mounts fine Aristo's stairs,
If but Aristo Dives' plunder shares;
And half Debrett urbanely flocks to White's,
To back the boor who saves them from the kites.
His son succeeds him. `Make the son a Peer.
Why not? His income's eighty thousand clear.
New blood is wanted. Here's the very stuff.
Besides, he wields the county vote.' Enough.
But hold! there's Cato. `Cato! are you sane?
Why, Cato's means but one small hearth sustain.
Ennoble Cato, you'll have Peers for life,
Or else forbid the man to take a wife.
He can't maintain the necessary state,
And would you have a poor name legislate?
No, Dives' son's the very man we need.
What says the Crown?' The Crown! Of course, Agreed.
And the young fool, enriched by parent knaves,
From Ruin's jaws our Constitution saves!

Is there no path of honour for the great,
No sound and clean salvation for the State?
Must we for ever fly to shifts like this,
And trust to Gold to save us from the abyss?
Must honours old by new-got wealth be vamped,
And Valour's stock by plutocrats be swamped?
Back to your lands, base sons of splendid sires!
From spendthrift squares back to your native shires!
Back, back from Baden, and leave Homburg's shades
To dazzling Jews and mercenary jades.
Leave London's round of vulgar joys to those
Who seek in such from base pursuits repose.
Cease to contend with upstart Wealth's parade,
To wring your lands to vie with tricks of trade;
And, proudly spurning Glitter's transient lies,
At least be honest, if you can't be wise!
Worship your household gods, and spend at home
The solid earnings of the generous loam.
Delve, fence, and drain; the dripping waste reclaim;
With spreading woodlands multiply your fame.
Yours let it be to screen the reverent hind,
Who loves your presence, 'gainst the frost and wind;
Scorning to count the profit, raise his lot;
Lure the shy Graces to his lowly cot;
Be, one and all, acknowledged, far and wide,
Patriarchs and patterns of the country side.
And whether demagogues shall rise or fall,
A Cleon mount, or Boänerges bawl,
True to yourselves and native duty, thus
Save this poor England by being virtuous!

And you, Sir, hope of this once famous isle,
Round whom its halo plays, its favours smile,
Hark to the Muse, which, poised on Candour's wings,
Flouts the base crowd, but scorns to flatter kings.
Hark, while she tells you, nor her counsel spurn,
From giddy Pleasure's gilded toys to turn;
That not from minions opulent or coarse
Do Princes gain their lustre and their force;
That Reverence anchors not in deep carouse,
And that a Crown fits only kingly brows!
Fired by each bright example, shun the shade,
Where Scandal best can ply her noxious trade.
Learn from your pious Father how to share
With hands, too lonely now, a Kingdom's care.
Be by your fair loved Consort's pattern moved,
And like your virtuous Mother, stand approved;
Do for this England all the Sceptre can,
And be at least a stainless gentleman.
Be this too much, you well may live to find
That firmest Thrones can fail the weak and blind,
And, though no Samson, sharing half his fate,
Pull down the pillars of a mighty State!

Whilst our domestic fortunes thus obey
All-searching Gold's demoralising sway,
We hug the limits of our puny shore,
And Glory knows our once great name no more.
First are we still in every bloodless fray,
Where piles of gold adventurous prows repay;
But when flushed Honour sets the world on fire,
We furl our sails and to our coasts retire;
And, basely calm whilst outraged nations bleed,
Invent new doctrines to excuse our greed.
When gallant Denmark, now the spoiler's prey,
Flashed her bright blade, and faced the unequal fray,
And, all abandoned both by men and gods,
Fell, faint with wounds, before accursèd odds,-
Where, where was England's vindicating sword,
Her promised arm, to stay the invading horde;
Bid the rude German drop his half-clutched spoil,
And scare the robber from ancestral soil?
The fair young Dane, beloved by every Grace,
And all the Virtues shining in her face,
Who, more an angel than a princess deemed,
Withal was even sweeter than she seemed,
With noisy throats we summoned o'er the foam,
And with cheap cheers escorted to her home.
But when with streaming eye and throbbing breast
She, pious child, her loving fears confessed,
And, leagued with Honour's voice and Valour's ire,
Prayed us to save her country and her sire,
We turned away, and opulently cold,
Put back our swords of steel in sheaths of gold!

And yet what sandy base doth Gold afford,
Though crowned by Law, and fenced round by the Sword,
Learn from that Empire which, a scorn for aye,
Grew in a night and perished in a day!
Helped by a magic name and doubtful hour,
See the Adventurer scale the steeps of Power.
Upon him groups of desperate gamesters wait,
To snatch their profit from a sinking State.
Folly, and Fate which Folly still attends,
Conspire to shape and expedite their ends.
The Hour, the Man are here! No pulse? No breath?
Wake, Freedom, wake! In vain! She sleeps like Death.
The impious hands, emboldened by her swoon,
Choke in the night, and slay her in the noon!
Then, when vain crowds with dilatory glaive
Rush to avenge the life they would not save,
The prompt conspirators with lavish hand
Fling their last pieces to a pampered band,
Bribe cut-throat blades Vengeance' choked ways to hold,
And bar the avenues of rage with gold!

Then mark how soon, amid triumphant hymns,
The Imperial purple girds the blood-stained limbs.
The perjured hands a golden sceptre gain,
A crown of gold screens the seared brow of Cain,
And golden eagles, erst of simpler ore,
Assert the Caesar, and his rod restore.
See round his throne Pomp's servile tributes swell,
Not Nero knew, e'er Rome to ruin fell,
Far from his feet the lust of glitter spread,
And the vain herd on Splendour's follies fed!
Nor they alone, the shallow, base, and gay,
Bend to this Idol with the feet of clay:
Statesmen and soldiers kneel with flattering suit,
Kings are his guests, e'en queens his cheeks salute;
Senates extol him, supple priests caress,
And even thou, O Pius, stoop'st to bless!
And the World's verdict, ever blind as base,
Welcomes the `Second Saviour' of the race!

And yet how weak this Empire girt with gold
Did prove to save when Battle's torrents rolled,
Have we not seen in ruin, rout, and shame,
Burnt deep in Gaul's for ever broken fame?
What then availed her courts of pomp and pride,
What her bright camps with glittering shows allied?
What, in that hour, the luxury which passed
To soldiers' lips the sybarite repast?
Did all her gold suffice, when steel withstood
Her stride, to make her rash, vain challenge good?
Behold her Chief, in comfort longwhile slung,
By War's rough couch and random fare unstrung
His vaunted Leaders, who to Power had mown
Their path with swords that propped a venal Throne,
Brandishing rival blades, his brain confound,
While still, but sure, the solid foe press round.
See her soft sons, whom arms enervate lead,
Spurn the long marches which to victory speed,
And, fondly deeming Science served by Wealth
Will snatch the fight at distance and by stealth,
Smitten with fear at Valour's downright face,
And taught swift limbs in Flight's ignoble chase!
See one, see all, before the Victor fleet,
Then lay their swords, submissive, at his feet!

O hapless France! e'en then insurgent ire
Had your soiled scutcheon lifted from the mire,
Placed the bright helm on Honour's front once more,
And laurels reaped more lasting than of yore,
Had not rich ease your manhood's marrow stole,
And gold emollient softened all your soul.
O, what a sight-a sight these eyes beheld-
Her fair green woods by the invader felled;
Her fields and vineyards by the Teuton trod,
Those she once smote encamped upon her sod;
Her homes, in dread, abandoned to the foe,
Or saved from rapine by obsequience low;
Her cities ransomed, provinces o'erawed,
Her iron strongholds wrenched by force or fraud;
Her once proud Paris grovelling in the dust,
And-crowning irony, if lesson just-
The grasping victor, loth to quit his hold,
Coaxed slowly homewards o'er a bridge of gold!

Is there no warning, England, here, for thee?
Or are Heaven's laws balked by a strip of sea?
Are thy foundations, Albion, so approved,
Thou canst behold such downfall all unmoved?
Have we not marked how this Briarean Gold
Doth all our life and energies enfold?
And as our practice, so our doctrines too-
We shape new ethics for our vices new;
Our sires forswear, our splendid Past defame,
And in high places glory in our shame!
Hear our loud-tinkling Tribunes all declare
Once lavish England hath no blood to spare,
No gold to spend; within her watery wall
She needs to roll and wallow in it all.
Doth towering Might some poor faint Cause oppress,
They bid her turn, impartial, from distress;
Indulge her tears, but hide her ire from sight,
Lest a like doom her angry front invite.
And when this craven caution fails to save
Her peaceful fortunes from the braggart glaive,
They bid her still be moral and be meek,
Hug tight her gold, and turn the other cheek.
Her very sons, sprung from her mighty loins,
We aliens make, to save some paltry coins;
With our own hands destroy our Empire old,
And stutter, `All is lost, except our gold!'
With languid limbs, by comfortable fire,
We see our glories, one by one, expire;
A Nelson's flag, a Churchill's flashing blade,
Debased to menials of rapacious Trade;
Lost by a Cardwell what a Wellesley won,
And by a Gladstone Chatham's world undone!
Pale, gibbering spectres fumbling at the helm,
Whilst dark winds howl, and billowy seas o'erwhelm.
Yet deem you, England, that you thus will save,
Even your wealth from rapine or the grave?
Will your one chain of safety always hold,
Or `silver streak' for ever guard your gold?
If through long slumbrous years the ignoble rust
Of selfish ease your erst bright steel encrust,
When Storm impends, you vainly will implore
The Gods of Ocean to protect your shore.
Bribed by the foe, behold Britannia stand
At Freedom's portals with a traitress hand,
Help the Barbarian to its sacred hold,
Then, like Tarpeia, sink oppressed with Gold!

Perish the thought! O, rather let me see
Conspiring myriads bristling on the sea,
Our tranquil coasts bewildered by alarms,
And Britain, singly, face a World in arms!
What if a treacherous Heaven befriend our foes?
Let us go down in glory, as we rose!
And if that doom-the best that could betide-
Be to our Fame by envious Fate denied,
Then come, primeval clouds and seasons frore,
And wrap in gloom our luckless land once more!
Come, every wind of Heaven that rudely blows,
Plunge back our Isle in never-ending snows!
Rage, Eurus, rage! fierce Boreas, descend!
With glacial mists lost Albion befriend!
E'en of its name be every trace destroyed,
And Dark sit brooding o'er the formless Void!

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Ballad of the White Horse

DEDICATION

Of great limbs gone to chaos,
A great face turned to night--
Why bend above a shapeless shroud
Seeking in such archaic cloud
Sight of strong lords and light?

Where seven sunken Englands
Lie buried one by one,
Why should one idle spade, I wonder,
Shake up the dust of thanes like thunder
To smoke and choke the sun?

In cloud of clay so cast to heaven
What shape shall man discern?
These lords may light the mystery
Of mastery or victory,
And these ride high in history,
But these shall not return.

Gored on the Norman gonfalon
The Golden Dragon died:
We shall not wake with ballad strings
The good time of the smaller things,
We shall not see the holy kings
Ride down by Severn side.

Stiff, strange, and quaintly coloured
As the broidery of Bayeux
The England of that dawn remains,
And this of Alfred and the Danes
Seems like the tales a whole tribe feigns
Too English to be true.

Of a good king on an island
That ruled once on a time;
And as he walked by an apple tree
There came green devils out of the sea
With sea-plants trailing heavily
And tracks of opal slime.

Yet Alfred is no fairy tale;
His days as our days ran,
He also looked forth for an hour
On peopled plains and skies that lower,
From those few windows in the tower
That is the head of a man.

But who shall look from Alfred's hood
Or breathe his breath alive?
His century like a small dark cloud
Drifts far; it is an eyeless crowd,
Where the tortured trumpets scream aloud
And the dense arrows drive.

Lady, by one light only
We look from Alfred's eyes,
We know he saw athwart the wreck
The sign that hangs about your neck,
Where One more than Melchizedek
Is dead and never dies.

Therefore I bring these rhymes to you
Who brought the cross to me,
Since on you flaming without flaw
I saw the sign that Guthrum saw
When he let break his ships of awe,
And laid peace on the sea.

Do you remember when we went
Under a dragon moon,
And `mid volcanic tints of night
Walked where they fought the unknown fight
And saw black trees on the battle-height,
Black thorn on Ethandune?
And I thought, "I will go with you,
As man with God has gone,
And wander with a wandering star,
The wandering heart of things that are,
The fiery cross of love and war
That like yourself, goes on."

O go you onward; where you are
Shall honour and laughter be,
Past purpled forest and pearled foam,
God's winged pavilion free to roam,
Your face, that is a wandering home,
A flying home for me.

Ride through the silent earthquake lands,
Wide as a waste is wide,
Across these days like deserts, when
Pride and a little scratching pen
Have dried and split the hearts of men,
Heart of the heroes, ride.

Up through an empty house of stars,
Being what heart you are,
Up the inhuman steeps of space
As on a staircase go in grace,
Carrying the firelight on your face
Beyond the loneliest star.

Take these; in memory of the hour
We strayed a space from home
And saw the smoke-hued hamlets, quaint
With Westland king and Westland saint,
And watched the western glory faint
Along the road to Frome.


BOOK I THE VISION OF THE KING


Before the gods that made the gods
Had seen their sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was cut out of the grass.

Before the gods that made the gods
Had drunk at dawn their fill,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was hoary on the hill.

Age beyond age on British land,
Aeons on aeons gone,
Was peace and war in western hills,
And the White Horse looked on.

For the White Horse knew England
When there was none to know;
He saw the first oar break or bend,
He saw heaven fall and the world end,
O God, how long ago.

For the end of the world was long ago,
And all we dwell to-day
As children of some second birth,
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.

For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.

When Caesar's sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.

When the ends of the earth came marching in
To torch and cresset gleam.
And the roads of the world that lead to Rome
Were filled with faces that moved like foam,
Like faces in a dream.

And men rode out of the eastern lands,
Broad river and burning plain;
Trees that are Titan flowers to see,
And tiger skies, striped horribly,
With tints of tropic rain.

Where Ind's enamelled peaks arise
Around that inmost one,
Where ancient eagles on its brink,
Vast as archangels, gather and drink
The sacrament of the sun.

And men brake out of the northern lands,
Enormous lands alone,
Where a spell is laid upon life and lust
And the rain is changed to a silver dust
And the sea to a great green stone.

And a Shape that moveth murkily
In mirrors of ice and night,
Hath blanched with fear all beasts and birds,
As death and a shock of evil words
Blast a man's hair with white.

And the cry of the palms and the purple moons,
Or the cry of the frost and foam,
Swept ever around an inmost place,
And the din of distant race on race
Cried and replied round Rome.

And there was death on the Emperor
And night upon the Pope:
And Alfred, hiding in deep grass,
Hardened his heart with hope.

A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare
And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.

He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield
And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.

He broke them with a broken sword
A little towards the sea,
And for one hour of panting peace,
Ringed with a roar that would not cease,
With golden crown and girded fleece
Made laws under a tree.


The Northmen came about our land
A Christless chivalry:
Who knew not of the arch or pen,
Great, beautiful half-witted men
From the sunrise and the sea.

Misshapen ships stood on the deep
Full of strange gold and fire,
And hairy men, as huge as sin
With horned heads, came wading in
Through the long, low sea-mire.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

Their souls were drifting as the sea,
And all good towns and lands
They only saw with heavy eyes,
And broke with heavy hands,

Their gods were sadder than the sea,
Gods of a wandering will,
Who cried for blood like beasts at night,
Sadly, from hill to hill.

They seemed as trees walking the earth,
As witless and as tall,
Yet they took hold upon the heavens
And no help came at all.

They bred like birds in English woods,
They rooted like the rose,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To hide him from their bows

There was not English armour left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

And the great kings of Wessex
Wearied and sank in gore,
And even their ghosts in that great stress
Grew greyer and greyer, less and less,
With the lords that died in Lyonesse
And the king that comes no more.

And the God of the Golden Dragon
Was dumb upon his throne,
And the lord of the Golden Dragon
Ran in the woods alone.

And if ever he climbed the crest of luck
And set the flag before,
Returning as a wheel returns,
Came ruin and the rain that burns,
And all began once more.

And naught was left King Alfred
But shameful tears of rage,
In the island in the river
In the end of all his age.

In the island in the river
He was broken to his knee:
And he read, writ with an iron pen,
That God had wearied of Wessex men
And given their country, field and fen,
To the devils of the sea.

And he saw in a little picture,
Tiny and far away,
His mother sitting in Egbert's hall,
And a book she showed him, very small,
Where a sapphire Mary sat in stall
With a golden Christ at play.

It was wrought in the monk's slow manner,
From silver and sanguine shell,
Where the scenes are little and terrible,
Keyholes of heaven and hell.

In the river island of Athelney,
With the river running past,
In colours of such simple creed
All things sprang at him, sun and weed,
Till the grass grew to be grass indeed
And the tree was a tree at last.

Fearfully plain the flowers grew,
Like the child's book to read,
Or like a friend's face seen in a glass;
He looked; and there Our Lady was,
She stood and stroked the tall live grass
As a man strokes his steed.

Her face was like an open word
When brave men speak and choose,
The very colours of her coat
Were better than good news.

She spoke not, nor turned not,
Nor any sign she cast,
Only she stood up straight and free,
Between the flowers in Athelney,
And the river running past.

One dim ancestral jewel hung
On his ruined armour grey,
He rent and cast it at her feet:
Where, after centuries, with slow feet,
Men came from hall and school and street
And found it where it lay.

"Mother of God," the wanderer said,
"I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.

"The gates of heaven are fearful gates
Worse than the gates of hell;
Not I would break the splendours barred
Or seek to know the thing they guard,
Which is too good to tell.

"But for this earth most pitiful,
This little land I know,
If that which is for ever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss,
Seeing the stranger go?

"When our last bow is broken, Queen,
And our last javelin cast,
Under some sad, green evening sky,
Holding a ruined cross on high,
Under warm westland grass to lie,
Shall we come home at last?"

And a voice came human but high up,
Like a cottage climbed among
The clouds; or a serf of hut and croft
That sits by his hovel fire as oft,
But hears on his old bare roof aloft
A belfry burst in song.

"The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
We do not guard our gain,
The heaviest hind may easily
Come silently and suddenly
Upon me in a lane.

"And any little maid that walks
In good thoughts apart,
May break the guard of the Three Kings
And see the dear and dreadful things
I hid within my heart.

"The meanest man in grey fields gone
Behind the set of sun,
Heareth between star and other star,
Through the door of the darkness fallen ajar,
The council, eldest of things that are,
The talk of the Three in One.

"The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
We do not guard our gold,
Men may uproot where worlds begin,
Or read the name of the nameless sin;
But if he fail or if he win
To no good man is told.

"The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.

"The men of the East may search the scrolls
For sure fates and fame,
But the men that drink the blood of God
Go singing to their shame.

"The wise men know what wicked things
Are written on the sky,
They trim sad lamps, they touch sad strings,
Hearing the heavy purple wings,
Where the forgotten seraph kings
Still plot how God shall die.

"The wise men know all evil things
Under the twisted trees,
Where the perverse in pleasure pine
And men are weary of green wine
And sick of crimson seas.

"But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

"I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

"Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?"

Even as she spoke she was not,
Nor any word said he,
He only heard, still as he stood
Under the old night's nodding hood,
The sea-folk breaking down the wood
Like a high tide from sea.

He only heard the heathen men,
Whose eyes are blue and bleak,
Singing about some cruel thing
Done by a great and smiling king
In daylight on a deck.

He only heard the heathen men,
Whose eyes are blue and blind,
Singing what shameful things are done
Between the sunlit sea and the sun
When the land is left behind.


BOOK II THE GATHERING OF THE CHIEFS


Up across windy wastes and up
Went Alfred over the shaws,
Shaken of the joy of giants,
The joy without a cause.

In the slopes away to the western bays,
Where blows not ever a tree,
He washed his soul in the west wind
And his body in the sea.

And he set to rhyme his ale-measures,
And he sang aloud his laws,
Because of the joy of the giants,
The joy without a cause.

The King went gathering Wessex men,
As grain out of the chaff
The few that were alive to die,
Laughing, as littered skulls that lie
After lost battles turn to the sky
An everlasting laugh.

The King went gathering Christian men,
As wheat out of the husk;
Eldred, the Franklin by the sea,
And Mark, the man from Italy,
And Colan of the Sacred Tree,
From the old tribe on Usk.

The rook croaked homeward heavily,
The west was clear and warm,
The smoke of evening food and ease
Rose like a blue tree in the trees
When he came to Eldred's farm.

But Eldred's farm was fallen awry,
Like an old cripple's bones,
And Eldred's tools were red with rust,
And on his well was a green crust,
And purple thistles upward thrust,
Between the kitchen stones.

But smoke of some good feasting
Went upwards evermore,
And Eldred's doors stood wide apart
For loitering foot or labouring cart,
And Eldred's great and foolish heart
Stood open like his door.

A mighty man was Eldred,
A bulk for casks to fill,
His face a dreaming furnace,
His body a walking hill.

In the old wars of Wessex
His sword had sunken deep,
But all his friends, he signed and said,
Were broken about Ethelred;
And between the deep drink and the dead
He had fallen upon sleep.

"Come not to me, King Alfred, Save always for the ale:
Why should my harmless hinds be slain
Because the chiefs cry once again,
As in all fights, that we shall gain,
And in all fights we fail?

"Your scalds still thunder and prophesy
That crown that never comes;
Friend, I will watch the certain things,
Swine, and slow moons like silver rings,
And the ripening of the plums."

And Alfred answered, drinking,
And gravely, without blame,
"Nor bear I boast of scald or king,
The thing I bear is a lesser thing,
But comes in a better name.

"Out of the mouth of the Mother of God,
More than the doors of doom,
I call the muster of Wessex men
From grassy hamlet or ditch or den,
To break and be broken, God knows when,
But I have seen for whom.

Out of the mouth of the Mother of God
Like a little word come I;
For I go gathering Christian men
From sunken paving and ford and fen,
To die in a battle, God knows when,
By God, but I know why.

"And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world's desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.' "

Then silence sank. And slowly
Arose the sea-land lord,
Like some vast beast for mystery,
He filled the room and porch and sky,
And from a cobwebbed nail on high
Unhooked his heavy sword.

Up on the shrill sea-downs and up
Went Alfred all alone,
Turning but once e'er the door was shut,
Shouting to Eldred over his butt,
That he bring all spears to the woodman's hut
Hewn under Egbert's Stone.

And he turned his back and broke the fern,
And fought the moths of dusk,
And went on his way for other friends
Friends fallen of all the wide world's ends,
From Rome that wrath and pardon sends
And the grey tribes on Usk.

He saw gigantic tracks of death
And many a shape of doom,
Good steadings to grey ashes gone
And a monk's house white like a skeleton
In the green crypt of the combe.

And in many a Roman villa
Earth and her ivies eat,
Saw coloured pavements sink and fade
In flowers, and the windy colonnade
Like the spectre of a street.

But the cold stars clustered
Among the cold pines
Ere he was half on his pilgrimage
Over the western lines.

And the white dawn widened
Ere he came to the last pine,
Where Mark, the man from Italy,
Still made the Christian sign.

The long farm lay on the large hill-side,
Flat like a painted plan,
And by the side the low white house,
Where dwelt the southland man.

A bronzed man, with a bird's bright eye,
And a strong bird's beak and brow,
His skin was brown like buried gold,
And of certain of his sires was told
That they came in the shining ship of old,
With Caesar in the prow.

His fruit trees stood like soldiers
Drilled in a straight line,
His strange, stiff olives did not fail,
And all the kings of the earth drank ale,
But he drank wine.

Wide over wasted British plains
Stood never an arch or dome,
Only the trees to toss and reel,
The tribes to bicker, the beasts to squeal;
But the eyes in his head were strong like steel,
And his soul remembered Rome.

Then Alfred of the lonely spear
Lifted his lion head;
And fronted with the Italian's eye,
Asking him of his whence and why,
King Alfred stood and said:

"I am that oft-defeated King
Whose failure fills the land,
Who fled before the Danes of old,
Who chaffered with the Danes with gold,
Who now upon the Wessex wold
Hardly has feet to stand.

"But out of the mouth of the Mother of God
I have seen the truth like fire,
This--that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher."

Long looked the Roman on the land;
The trees as golden crowns
Blazed, drenched with dawn and dew-empearled
While faintlier coloured, freshlier curled,
The clouds from underneath the world
Stood up over the downs.

"These vines be ropes that drag me hard,"
He said. "I go not far;
Where would you meet? For you must hold
Half Wiltshire and the White Horse wold,
And the Thames bank to Owsenfold,
If Wessex goes to war.

"Guthrum sits strong on either bank
And you must press his lines
Inwards, and eastward drive him down;
I doubt if you shall take the crown
Till you have taken London town.
For me, I have the vines."

"If each man on the Judgment Day
Meet God on a plain alone,"
Said Alfred, "I will speak for you
As for myself, and call it true
That you brought all fighting folk you knew
Lined under Egbert's Stone.

"Though I be in the dust ere then,
I know where you will be."
And shouldering suddenly his spear
He faded like some elfin fear,
Where the tall pines ran up, tier on tier
Tree overtoppling tree.

He shouldered his spear at morning
And laughed to lay it on,
But he leaned on his spear as on a staff,
With might and little mood to laugh,
Or ever he sighted chick or calf
Of Colan of Caerleon.

For the man dwelt in a lost land
Of boulders and broken men,
In a great grey cave far off to the south
Where a thick green forest stopped the mouth,
Giving darkness in his den.

And the man was come like a shadow,
From the shadow of Druid trees,
Where Usk, with mighty murmurings,
Past Caerleon of the fallen kings,
Goes out to ghostly seas.

Last of a race in ruin--
He spoke the speech of the Gaels;
His kin were in holy Ireland,
Or up in the crags of Wales.

But his soul stood with his mother's folk,
That were of the rain-wrapped isle,
Where Patrick and Brandan westerly
Looked out at last on a landless sea
And the sun's last smile.

His harp was carved and cunning,
As the Celtic craftsman makes,
Graven all over with twisting shapes
Like many headless snakes.

His harp was carved and cunning,
His sword prompt and sharp,
And he was gay when he held the sword,
Sad when he held the harp.

For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.

He kept the Roman order,
He made the Christian sign;
But his eyes grew often blind and bright,
And the sea that rose in the rocks at night
Rose to his head like wine.

He made the sign of the cross of God,
He knew the Roman prayer,
But he had unreason in his heart
Because of the gods that were.

Even they that walked on the high cliffs,
High as the clouds were then,
Gods of unbearable beauty,
That broke the hearts of men.

And whether in seat or saddle,
Whether with frown or smile,
Whether at feast or fight was he,
He heard the noise of a nameless sea
On an undiscovered isle.

Lifting the great green ivy
And the great spear lowering,
One said, "I am Alfred of Wessex,
And I am a conquered king."

And the man of the cave made answer,
And his eyes were stars of scorn,
"And better kings were conquered
Or ever your sires were born.

"What goddess was your mother,
What fay your breed begot,
That you should not die with Uther
And Arthur and Lancelot?

"But when you win you brag and blow,
And when you lose you rail,
Army of eastland yokels
Not strong enough to fail."

"I bring not boast or railing,"
Spake Alfred not in ire,
"I bring of Our Lady a lesson set,
This--that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher."

Then Colan of the Sacred Tree
Tossed his black mane on high,
And cried, as rigidly he rose,
"And if the sea and sky be foes,
We will tame the sea and sky."

Smiled Alfred, "Seek ye a fable
More dizzy and more dread
Than all your mad barbarian tales
Where the sky stands on its head ?

"A tale where a man looks down on the sky
That has long looked down on him;
A tale where a man can swallow a sea
That might swallow the seraphim.

"Bring to the hut by Egbert's Stone
All bills and bows ye have."
And Alfred strode off rapidly,
And Colan of the Sacred Tree
Went slowly to his cave.


BOOK III THE HARP OF ALFRED


In a tree that yawned and twisted
The King's few goods were flung,
A mass-book mildewed, line by line,
And weapons and a skin of wine,
And an old harp unstrung.

By the yawning tree in the twilight
The King unbound his sword,
Severed the harp of all his goods,
And there in the cool and soundless woods
Sounded a single chord.

Then laughed; and watched the finches flash,
The sullen flies in swarm,
And went unarmed over the hills,
With the harp upon his arm,


Until he came to the White Horse Vale
And saw across the plains,
In the twilight high and far and fell,
Like the fiery terraces of hell,
The camp fires of the Danes--

The fires of the Great Army
That was made of iron men,
Whose lights of sacrilege and scorn
Ran around England red as morn,
Fires over Glastonbury Thorn--
Fires out on Ely Fen.

And as he went by White Horse Vale
He saw lie wan and wide
The old horse graven, God knows when,
By gods or beasts or what things then
Walked a new world instead of men
And scrawled on the hill-side.

And when he came to White Horse Down
The great White Horse was grey,
For it was ill scoured of the weed,
And lichen and thorn could crawl and feed,
Since the foes of settled house and creed
Had swept old works away.

King Alfred gazed all sorrowful
At thistle and mosses grey,
Then laughed; and watched the finches flash,
Till a rally of Danes with shield and bill
Rolled drunk over the dome of the hill,
And, hearing of his harp and skill,
They dragged him to their play.

And as they went through the high green grass
They roared like the great green sea;
But when they came to the red camp fire
They were silent suddenly.

And as they went up the wastes away
They went reeling to and fro;
But when they came to the red camp fire
They stood all in a row.

For golden in the firelight,
With a smile carved on his lips,
And a beard curled right cunningly,
Was Guthrum of the Northern Sea,
The emperor of the ships--

With three great earls King Guthrum
Went the rounds from fire to fire,
With Harold, nephew of the King,
And Ogier of the Stone and Sling,
And Elf, whose gold lute had a string
That sighed like all desire.

The Earls of the Great Army
That no men born could tire,
Whose flames anear him or aloof
Took hold of towers or walls of proof,
Fire over Glastonbury roof
And out on Ely, fire.

And Guthrum heard the soldiers' tale
And bade the stranger play;
Not harshly, but as one on high,
On a marble pillar in the sky,
Who sees all folk that live and die--
Pigmy and far away.

And Alfred, King of Wessex,
Looked on his conqueror--
And his hands hardened; but he played,
And leaving all later hates unsaid,
He sang of some old British raid
On the wild west march of yore.

He sang of war in the warm wet shires,
Where rain nor fruitage fails,
Where England of the motley states
Deepens like a garden to the gates
In the purple walls of Wales.

He sang of the seas of savage heads
And the seas and seas of spears,
Boiling all over Offa's Dyke,
What time a Wessex club could strike
The kings of the mountaineers.

Till Harold laughed and snatched the harp,
The kinsman of the King,
A big youth, beardless like a child,
Whom the new wine of war sent wild,
Smote, and began to sing--

And he cried of the ships as eagles
That circle fiercely and fly,
And sweep the seas and strike the towns
From Cyprus round to Skye.

How swiftly and with peril
They gather all good things,
The high horns of the forest beasts,
Or the secret stones of kings.

"For Rome was given to rule the world,
And gat of it little joy--
But we, but we shall enjoy the world,
The whole huge world a toy.

"Great wine like blood from Burgundy,
Cloaks like the clouds from Tyre,
And marble like solid moonlight,
And gold like frozen fire.

"Smells that a man might swill in a cup,
Stones that a man might eat,
And the great smooth women like ivory
That the Turks sell in the street."

He sang the song of the thief of the world,
And the gods that love the thief;
And he yelled aloud at the cloister-yards,
Where men go gathering grief.

"Well have you sung, O stranger,
Of death on the dyke in Wales,
Your chief was a bracelet-giver;
But the red unbroken river
Of a race runs not for ever,
But suddenly it fails.

"Doubtless your sires were sword-swingers
When they waded fresh from foam,
Before they were turned to women
By the god of the nails from Rome;

"But since you bent to the shaven men,
Who neither lust nor smite,
Thunder of Thor, we hunt you
A hare on the mountain height."

King Guthrum smiled a little,
And said, "It is enough,
Nephew, let Elf retune the string;
A boy must needs like bellowing,
But the old ears of a careful king
Are glad of songs less rough."

Blue-eyed was Elf the minstrel,
With womanish hair and ring,
Yet heavy was his hand on sword,
Though light upon the string.

And as he stirred the strings of the harp
To notes but four or five,
The heart of each man moved in him
Like a babe buried alive.

And they felt the land of the folk-songs
Spread southward of the Dane,
And they heard the good Rhine flowing
In the heart of all Allemagne.

They felt the land of the folk-songs,
Where the gifts hang on the tree,
Where the girls give ale at morning
And the tears come easily.

The mighty people, womanlike,
That have pleasure in their pain
As he sang of Balder beautiful,
Whom the heavens loved in vain.

As he sang of Balder beautiful,
Whom the heavens could not save,
Till the world was like a sea of tears
And every soul a wave.

"There is always a thing forgotten
When all the world goes well;
A thing forgotten, as long ago,
When the gods forgot the mistletoe,
And soundless as an arrow of snow
The arrow of anguish fell.

"The thing on the blind side of the heart,
On the wrong side of the door,
The green plant groweth, menacing
Almighty lovers in the spring;
There is always a forgotten thing,
And love is not secure."

And all that sat by the fire were sad,
Save Ogier, who was stern,
And his eyes hardened, even to stones,
As he took the harp in turn;

Earl Ogier of the Stone and Sling
Was odd to ear and sight,
Old he was, but his locks were red,
And jests were all the words he said
Yet he was sad at board and bed
And savage in the fight.

"You sing of the young gods easily
In the days when you are young;
But I go smelling yew and sods,
And I know there are gods behind the gods,
Gods that are best unsung.

"And a man grows ugly for women,
And a man grows dull with ale,
Well if he find in his soul at last
Fury, that does not fail.

"The wrath of the gods behind the gods
Who would rend all gods and men,
Well if the old man's heart hath still
Wheels sped of rage and roaring will,
Like cataracts to break down and kill,
Well for the old man then--

"While there is one tall shrine to shake,
Or one live man to rend;
For the wrath of the gods behind the gods
Who are weary to make an end.

"There lives one moment for a man
When the door at his shoulder shakes,
When the taut rope parts under the pull,
And the barest branch is beautiful
One moment, while it breaks.

"So rides my soul upon the sea
That drinks the howling ships,
Though in black jest it bows and nods
Under the moons with silver rods,
I know it is roaring at the gods,
Waiting the last eclipse.

"And in the last eclipse the sea
Shall stand up like a tower,
Above all moons made dark and riven,
Hold up its foaming head in heaven,
And laugh, knowing its hour.

"And the high ones in the happy town
Propped of the planets seven,
Shall know a new light in the mind,
A noise about them and behind,
Shall hear an awful voice, and find
Foam in the courts of heaven.

"And you that sit by the fire are young,
And true love waits for you;
But the king and I grow old, grow old,
And hate alone is true."

And Guthrum shook his head but smiled,
For he was a mighty clerk,
And had read lines in the Latin books
When all the north was dark.

He said, "I am older than you, Ogier;
Not all things would I rend,
For whether life be bad or good
It is best to abide the end."

He took the great harp wearily,
Even Guthrum of the Danes,
With wide eyes bright as the one long day
On the long polar plains.

For he sang of a wheel returning,
And the mire trod back to mire,
And how red hells and golden heavens
Are castles in the fire.

"It is good to sit where the good tales go,
To sit as our fathers sat;
But the hour shall come after his youth,
When a man shall know not tales but truth,
And his heart fail thereat.

"When he shall read what is written
So plain in clouds and clods,
When he shall hunger without hope
Even for evil gods.

"For this is a heavy matter,
And the truth is cold to tell;
Do we not know, have we not heard,
The soul is like a lost bird,
The body a broken shell.

"And a man hopes, being ignorant,
Till in white woods apart
He finds at last the lost bird dead:
And a man may still lift up his head
But never more his heart.

"There comes no noise but weeping
Out of the ancient sky,
And a tear is in the tiniest flower
Because the gods must die.

"The little brooks are very sweet,
Like a girl's ribbons curled,
But the great sea is bitter
That washes all the world.

"Strong are the Roman roses,
Or the free flowers of the heath,
But every flower, like a flower of the sea,
Smelleth with the salt of death.

"And the heart of the locked battle
Is the happiest place for men;
When shrieking souls as shafts go by
And many have died and all may die;
Though this word be a mystery,
Death is most distant then.

"Death blazes bright above the cup,
And clear above the crown;
But in that dream of battle
We seem to tread it down.

"Wherefore I am a great king,
And waste the world in vain,
Because man hath not other power,
Save that in dealing death for dower,
He may forget it for an hour
To remember it again."

And slowly his hands and thoughtfully
Fell from the lifted lyre,
And the owls moaned from the mighty trees
Till Alfred caught it to his knees
And smote it as in ire.

He heaved the head of the harp on high
And swept the framework barred,
And his stroke had all the rattle and spark
Of horses flying hard.

"When God put man in a garden
He girt him with a sword,
And sent him forth a free knight
That might betray his lord;

"He brake Him and betrayed Him,
And fast and far he fell,
Till you and I may stretch our necks
And burn our beards in hell.

"But though I lie on the floor of the world,
With the seven sins for rods,
I would rather fall with Adam
Than rise with all your gods.

"What have the strong gods given?
Where have the glad gods led?
When Guthrum sits on a hero's throne
And asks if he is dead?

"Sirs, I am but a nameless man,
A rhymester without home,
Yet since I come of the Wessex clay
And carry the cross of Rome,

"I will even answer the mighty earl
That asked of Wessex men
Why they be meek and monkish folk,
And bow to the White Lord's broken yoke;
What sign have we save blood and smoke?
Here is my answer then.

"That on you is fallen the shadow,
And not upon the Name;
That though we scatter and though we fly,
And you hang over us like the sky,
You are more tired of victory,
Than we are tired of shame.

"That though you hunt the Christian man
Like a hare on the hill-side,
The hare has still more heart to run
Than you have heart to ride.

"That though all lances split on you,
All swords be heaved in vain,
We have more lust again to lose
Than you to win again.

"Your lord sits high in the saddle,
A broken-hearted king,
But our king Alfred, lost from fame,
Fallen among foes or bonds of shame,
In I know not what mean trade or name,
Has still some song to sing;

"Our monks go robed in rain and snow,
But the heart of flame therein,
But you go clothed in feasts and flames,
When all is ice within;

"Nor shall all iron dooms make dumb
Men wondering ceaselessly,
If it be not better to fast for joy
Than feast for misery.

"Nor monkish order only
Slides down, as field to fen,
All things achieved and chosen pass,
As the White Horse fades in the grass,
No work of Christian men.

"Ere the sad gods that made your gods
Saw their sad sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale,
That you have left to darken and fail,
Was cut out of the grass.

"Therefore your end is on you,
Is on you and your kings,
Not for a fire in Ely fen,
Not that your gods are nine or ten,
But because it is only Christian men
Guard even heathen things.

"For our God hath blessed creation,
Calling it good. I know
What spirit with whom you blindly band
Hath blessed destruction with his hand;
Yet by God's death the stars shall stand
And the small apples grow."

And the King, with harp on shoulder,
Stood up and ceased his song;
And the owls moaned from the mighty trees,
And the Danes laughed loud and long.


BOOK IV THE WOMAN IN THE FOREST


Thick thunder of the snorting swine,
Enormous in the gloam,
Rending among all roots that cling,
And the wild horses whinnying,
Were the night's noises when the King
Shouldering his harp, went home.

With eyes of owl and feet of fox,
Full of all thoughts he went;
He marked the tilt of the pagan camp,
The paling of pine, the sentries' tramp,
And the one great stolen altar-lamp
Over Guthrum in his tent.

By scrub and thorn in Ethandune
That night the foe had lain;
Whence ran across the heather grey
The old stones of a Roman way;
And in a wood not far away
The pale road split in twain.

He marked the wood and the cloven ways
With an old captain's eyes,
And he thought how many a time had he
Sought to see Doom he could not see;
How ruin had come and victory,
And both were a surprise.

Even so he had watched and wondered
Under Ashdown from the plains;
With Ethelred praying in his tent,
Till the white hawthorn swung and bent,
As Alfred rushed his spears and rent
The shield-wall of the Danes.

Even so he had watched and wondered,
Knowing neither less nor more,
Till all his lords lay dying,
And axes on axes plying,
Flung him, and drove him flying
Like a pirate to the shore.

Wise he had been before defeat,
And wise before success;
Wise in both hours and ignorant,
Knowing neither more nor less.

As he went down to the river-hut
He knew a night-shade scent,
Owls did as evil cherubs rise,
With little wings and lantern eyes,
As though he sank through the under-skies;
But down and down he went.

As he went down to the river-hut
He went as one that fell;
Seeing the high forest domes and spars.
Dim green or torn with golden scars,
As the proud look up at the evil stars,
In the red heavens of hell.

For he must meet by the river-hut
Them he had bidden to arm,
Mark from the towers of Italy,
And Colan of the Sacred Tree,
And Eldred who beside the sea
Held heavily his farm.

The roof leaned gaping to the grass,
As a monstrous mushroom lies;
Echoing and empty seemed the place;
But opened in a little space
A great grey woman with scarred face
And strong and humbled eyes.

King Alfred was but a meagre man,
Bright eyed, but lean and pale:
And swordless, with his harp and rags,
He seemed a beggar, such as lags
Looking for crusts and ale.

And the woman, with a woman's eyes
Of pity at once and ire,
Said, when that she had glared a span,
"There is a cake for any man
If he will watch the fire."

And Alfred, bowing heavily,
Sat down the fire to stir,
And even as the woman pitied him
So did he pity her.

Saying, "O great heart in the night,
O best cast forth for worst,
Twilight shall melt and morning stir,
And no kind thing shall come to her,
Till God shall turn the world over
And all the last are first.

"And well may God with the serving-folk
Cast in His dreadful lot;
Is not He too a servant,
And is not He forgot ?

"For was not God my gardener
And silent like a slave;
That opened oaks on the uplands
Or thicket in graveyard gave?

"And was not God my armourer,
All patient and unpaid,
That sealed my skull as a helmet,
And ribs for hauberk made?

"Did not a great grey servant
Of all my sires and me,
Build this pavilion of the pines,
And herd the fowls and fill the vines,
And labour and pass and leave no signs
Save mercy and mystery?

"For God is a great servant,
And rose before the day,
From some primordial slumber torn;
But all we living later born
Sleep on, and rise after the morn,
And the Lord has gone away.

"On things half sprung from sleeping,
All sleepy suns have shone,
They stretch stiff arms, the yawning trees,
The beasts blink upon hands and knees,
Man is awake and does and sees--
But Heaven has done and gone.

For who shall guess the good riddle
Or speak of the Holiest,
Save in faint figures and failing words,
Who loves, yet laughs among the swords,
Labours, and is at rest?

"But some see God like Guthrum,
Crowned, with a great beard curled,
But I see God like a good giant,
That, labouring, lifts the world.

"Wherefore was God in Golgotha,
Slain as a serf is slain;
And hate He had of prince and peer,
And love He had and made good cheer,
Of them that, like this woman here,
Go powerfully in pain.

"But in this grey morn of man's life,
Cometh sometime to the mind
A little light that leaps and flies,
Like a star blown on the wind.

"A star of nowhere, a nameless star,
A light that spins and swirls,
And cries that even in hedge and hill,
Even on earth, it may go ill
At last with the evil earls.

"A dancing sparkle, a doubtful star,
On the waste wind whirled and driven;
But it seems to sing of a wilder worth,
A time discrowned of doom and birth,
And the kingdom of the poor on earth
Come, as it is in heaven.

"But even though such days endure,
How shall it profit her?
Who shall go groaning to the grave,
With many a meek and mighty slave,
Field-breaker and fisher on the wave,
And woodman and waggoner.

"Bake ye the big world all again
A cake with kinder leaven;
Yet these are sorry evermore--
Unless there be a little door,
A little door in heaven."

And as he wept for the woman
He let her business be,
And like his royal oath and rash
The good food fell upon the ash
And blackened instantly.

Screaming, the woman caught a cake
Yet burning from the bar,
And struck him suddenly on the face,
Leaving a scarlet scar.

King Alfred stood up wordless,
A man dead with surprise,
And torture stood and the evil things
That are in the childish hearts of kings
An instant in his eyes.

And even as he stood and stared
Drew round him in the dusk
Those friends creeping from far-off farms,
Marcus with all his slaves in arms,
And the strange spears hung with ancient charms
Of Colan of the Usk.

With one whole farm marching afoot
The trampled road resounds,
Farm-hands and farm-beasts blundering by
And jars of mead and stores of rye,
Where Eldred strode above his high
And thunder-throated hounds.

And grey cattle and silver lowed
Against the unlifted morn,
And straw clung to the spear-shafts tall.
And a boy went before them all
Blowing a ram's horn.

As mocking such rude revelry,
The dim clan of the Gael
Came like a bad king's burial-end,
With dismal robes that drop and rend
And demon pipes that wail--

In long, outlandish garments,
Torn, though of antique worth,
With Druid beards and Druid spears,
As a resurrected race appears
Out of an elder earth.

And though the King had called them forth
And knew them for his own,
So still each eye stood like a gem,
So spectral hung each broidered hem,
Grey carven men he fancied them,
Hewn in an age of stone.

And the two wild peoples of the north
Stood fronting in the gloam,
And heard and knew each in its mind
The third great thunder on the wind,
The living walls that hedge mankind,
The walking walls of Rome.

Mark's were the mixed tribes of the west,
Of many a hue and strain,
Gurth, with rank hair like yellow grass,
And the Cornish fisher, Gorlias,
And Halmer, come from his first mass,
Lately baptized, a Dane.

But like one man in armour
Those hundreds trod the field,
From red Arabia to the Tyne
The earth had heard that marching-line,
Since the cry on the hill Capitoline,
And the fall of the golden shield.

And the earth shook and the King stood still
Under the greenwood bough,
And the smoking cake lay at his feet
And the blow was on his brow.

Then Alfred laughed out suddenly,
Like thunder in the spring,
Till shook aloud the lintel-beams,
And the squirrels stirred in dusty dreams,
And the startled birds went up in streams,
For the laughter of the King.

And the beasts of the earth and the birds looked down,
In a wild solemnity,
On a stranger sight than a sylph or elf,
On one man laughing at himself
Under the greenwood tree--

The giant laughter of Christian men
That roars through a thousand tales,
Where greed is an ape and pride is an ass,
And Jack's away with his master's lass,
And the miser is banged with all his brass,
The farmer with all his flails;

Tales that tumble and tales that trick,
Yet end not all in scorning--
Of kings and clowns in a merry plight,
And the clock gone wrong and the world gone right,
That the mummers sing upon Christmas night
And Christmas Day in the morning.

"Now here is a good warrant,"
Cried Alfred, "by my sword;
For he that is struck for an ill servant
Should be a kind lord.

"He that has been a servant
Knows more than priests and kings,
But he that has been an ill servant,
He knows all earthly things.

"Pride flings frail palaces at the sky,
As a man flings up sand,
But the firm feet of humility
Take hold of heavy land.

"Pride juggles with her toppling towers,
They strike the sun and cease,
But the firm feet of humility
They grip the ground like trees.

"He that hath failed in a little thing
Hath a sign upon the brow;
And the Earls of the Great Army
Have no such seal to show.

"The red print on my forehead,
Small flame for a red star,
In the van of the violent marching, then
When the sky is torn of the trumpets ten,
And the hands of the happy howling men
Fling wide the gates of war.

"This blow that I return not
Ten times will I return
On kings and earls of all degree,
And armies wide as empires be
Shall slide like landslips to the sea
If the red star burn.

"One man shall drive a hundred,
As the dead kings drave;
Before me rocking hosts be riven,
And battering cohorts backwards driven,
For I am the first king known of Heaven
That has been struck like a slave.

"Up on the old white road, brothers,
Up on the Roman walls!
For this is the night of the drawing of swords,
And the tainted tower of the heathen hordes
Leans to our hammers, fires and cords,
Leans a little and falls.

"Follow the star that lives and leaps,
Follow the sword that sings,
For we go gathering heathen men,
A terrible harvest, ten by ten,
As the wrath of the last red autumn--then
When Christ reaps down the kings.

"Follow a light that leaps and spins,
Follow the fire unfurled!
For riseth up against realm and rod,
A thing forgotten, a thing downtrod,
The last lost giant, even God,
Is risen against the world."

Roaring they went o'er the Roman wall,
And roaring up the lane,
Their torches tossed a ladder of fire,
Higher their hymn was heard and higher,
More sweet for hate and for heart's desire,
And up in the northern scrub and brier,
They fell upon the Dane.


BOOK V ETHANDUNE: THE FIRST STROKE


King Guthrum was a dread king,
Like death out of the north;
Shrines without name or number
He rent and rolled as lumber,
From Chester to the Humber
He drove his foemen forth.

The Roman villas heard him
In the valley of the Thames,
Come over the hills roaring
Above their roofs, and pouring
On spire and stair and flooring
Brimstone and pitch and flames.

Sheer o'er the great chalk uplands
And the hill of the Horse went he,
Till high on Hampshire beacons
He saw the southern sea.

High on the heights of Wessex
He saw the southern brine,
And turned him to a conquered land,
And where the northern thornwoods stand,
And the road parts on either hand,
There came to him a sign.

King Guthrum was a war-chief,
A wise man in the field,
And though he prospered well, and knew
How Alfred's folk were sad and few,
Not less with weighty care he drew
Long lines for pike and shield.

King Guthrum lay on the upper land,
On a single road at gaze,
And his foe must come with lean array,
Up the left arm of the cloven way,
To the meeting of the ways.

And long ere the noise of armour,
An hour ere the break of light,
The woods awoke with crash and cry,
And the birds sprang clamouring harsh and high,
And the rabbits ran like an elves' army
Ere Alfred came in sight.

The live wood came at Guthrum,
On foot and claw and wing,
The nests were noisy overhead,
For Alfred and the star of red,
All life went forth, and the forest fled
Before the face of the King.

But halted in the woodways
Christ's few were grim and grey,
And each with a small, far, bird-like sight
Saw the high folly of the fight;
And though strange joys had grown in the night,
Despair grew with the day.

And when white dawn crawled through the wood,
Like cold foam of a flood,
Then weakened every warrior's mood,
In hope, though not in hardihood;
And each man sorrowed as he stood
In the fashion of his blood.

For the Saxon Franklin sorrowed
For the things that had been fair;
For the dear dead woman, crimson-clad,
And the great feasts and the friends he had;
But the Celtic prince's soul was sad
For the things that never were.

In the eyes Italian all things
But a black laughter died;
And Alfred flung his shield to earth
And smote his breast and cried--

"I wronged a man to his slaying,
And a woman to her shame,
And once I looked on a sworn maid
That was wed to the Holy Name.

"And once I took my neighbour's wife,
That was bound to an eastland man,
In the starkness of my evil youth,
Before my griefs began.

"People, if you have any prayers,
Say prayers for me:
And lay me under a Christian stone
In that lost land I thought my own,
To wait till the holy horn is blown,
And all poor men are free."

Then Eldred of the idle farm
Leaned on his ancient sword,
As fell his heavy words and few;
And his eyes were of such alien blue
As gleams where the Northman saileth new
Into an unknown fiord.

"I was a fool and wasted ale--
My slaves found it sweet;
I was a fool and wasted bread,
And the birds had bread to eat.

"The kings go up and the kings go down,
And who knows who shall rule;
Next night a king may starve or sleep,
But men and birds and beasts shall weep
At the burial of a fool.

"O, drunkards in my cellar,
Boys in my apple tree,
The world grows stern and strange and new,
And wise men shall govern you,
And you shall weep for me.

"But yoke me my own oxen,
Down to my own farm;
My own dog will whine for me,
My own friends will bend the knee,
And the foes I slew openly
Have never wished me harm."

And all were moved a little,
But Colan stood apart,
Having first pity, and after
Hearing, like rat in rafter,
That little worm of laughter
That eats the Irish heart.

And his grey-green eyes were cruel,
And the smile of his mouth waxed hard,
And he said, "And when did Britain
Become your burying-yard?

"Before the Romans lit the land,
When schools and monks were none,
We reared such stones to the sun-god
As might put out the sun.

"The tall trees of Britain
We worshipped and were wise,
But you shall raid the whole land through
And never a tree shall talk to you,
Though every leaf is a tongue taught true
And the forest is full of eyes.

"On one round hill to the seaward
The trees grow tall and grey
And the trees talk together
When all men are away.

"O'er a few round hills forgotten
The trees grow tall in rings,
And the trees talk together
Of many pagan things.

"Yet I could lie and listen
With a cross upon my clay,
And hear unhurt for ever
What the trees of Britain say."

A proud man was the Roman,
His speech a single one,
But his eyes were like an eagle's eyes
That is staring at the sun.

"Dig for me where I die," he said,
"If first or last I fall--
Dead on the fell at the first charge,
Or dead by Wantage wall;

"Lift not my head from bloody ground,
Bear not my body home,
For all the earth is Roman earth
And I shall die in Rome."

Then Alfred, King of England,
Bade blow the horns of war,
And fling the Golden Dragon out,
With crackle and acclaim and shout,
Scrolled and aflame and far.

And under the Golden Dragon
Went Wessex all along,
Past the sharp point of the cloven ways,
Out from the black wood into the blaze
Of sun and steel and song.

And when they came to the open land
They wheeled, deployed and stood;
Midmost were Marcus and the King,
And Eldred on the right-hand wing,
And leftwards Colan darkling,
In the last shade of the wood.

But the Earls of the Great Army
Lay like a long half moon,
Ten poles before their palisades,
With wide-winged helms and runic blades
Red giants of an age of raids,
In the thornland of Ethandune.

Midmost the saddles rose and swayed,
And a stir of horses' manes,
Where Guthrum and a few rode high
On horses seized in victory;
But Ogier went on foot to die,
In the old way of the Danes.

Far to the King's left Elf the bard
Led on the eastern wing
With songs and spells that change the blood;
And on the King's right Harold stood,
The kinsman of the King.

Young Harold, coarse, with colours gay,
Smoking with oil and musk,
And the pleasant violence of the young,
Pushed through his people, giving tongue
Foewards, where, grey as cobwebs hung,
The banners of the Usk.

But as he came before his line
A little space along,
His beardless face broke into mirth,
And he cried: "What broken bits of earth
Are here? For what their clothes are worth
I would sell them for a song."

For Colan was hung with raiment
Tattered like autumn leaves,
And his men were all as thin as saints,
And all as poor as thieves.

No bows nor slings nor bolts they bore,
But bills and pikes ill-made;
And none but Colan bore a sword,
And rusty was its blade.

And Colan's eyes with mystery
And iron laughter stirred,
And he spoke aloud, but lightly
Not labouring to be heard.

"Oh, truly we be broken hearts,
For that cause, it is said,
We light our candles to that Lord
That broke Himself for bread.

"But though we hold but bitterly
What land the Saxon leaves,
Though Ireland be but a land of saints,
And Wales a land of thieves,

"I say you yet shall weary
Of the working of your word,
That stricken spirits never strike
Nor lean hands hold a sword.

"And if ever ye ride in Ireland,
The jest may yet be said,
There is the land of broken hearts,
And the land of broken heads."

Not less barbarian laughter
Choked Harold like a flood,
"And shall I fight with scarecrows
That am of Guthrum's blood?

"Meeting may be of war-men,
Where the best war-man wins;
But all this carrion a man shoots
Before the fight begins."

And stopping in his onward strides,
He snatched a bow in scorn
From some mean slave, and bent it on
Colan, whose doom grew dark; and shone
Stars evil over Caerleon,
In the place where he was born.

For Colan had not bow nor sling,
On a lonely sword leaned he,
Like Arthur on Excalibur
In the battle by the sea.

To his great gold ear-ring Harold
Tugged back the feathered tail,
And swift had sprung the arrow,
But swifter sprang the Gael.

Whirling the one sword round his head,
A great wheel in the sun,
He sent it splendid through the sky,
Flying before the shaft could fly--
It smote Earl Harold over the eye,
And blood began to run.

Colan stood bare and weaponless,
Earl Harold, as in pain,
Strove for a smile, put hand to head,
Stumbled and suddenly fell dead;
And the small white daisies all waxed red
With blood out of his brain.

And all at that marvel of the sword,
Cast like a stone to slay,
Cried out. Said Alfred: "Who would see
Signs, must give all things. Verily
Man shall not taste of victory
Till he throws his sword away."

Then Alfred, prince of England,
And all the Christian earls,
Unhooked their swords and held them up,
Each offered to Colan, like a cup
Of chrysolite and pearls.

And the King said, "Do thou take my sword
Who have done this deed of fire,
For this is the manner of Christian men,
Whether of steel or priestly pen,
That they cast their hearts out of their ken
To get their heart's desire.

"And whether ye swear a hive of monks,
Or one fair wife to friend,
This is the manner of Christian men,
That their oath endures the end.

"For love, our Lord, at the end of the world,
Sits a red horse like a throne,
With a brazen helm and an iron bow,
But one arrow alone.

"Love with the shield of the Broken Heart
Ever his bow doth bend,
With a single shaft for a single prize,
And the ultimate bolt that parts and flies
Comes with a thunder of split skies,
And a sound of souls that rend.

"So shall you earn a king's sword,
Who cast your sword away."
And the King took, with a random eye,
A rude axe from a hind hard by
And turned him to the fray.

For the swords of the Earls of Daneland
Flamed round the fallen lord.
The first blood woke the trumpet-tune,
As in monk's rhyme or wizard's rune,
Beginneth the battle of Ethandune
With the throwing of the sword.


BOOK VI ETHANDUNE: THE SLAYING OF THE CHIEFS


As the sea flooding the flat sands
Flew on the sea-born horde,
The two hosts shocked with dust and din,
Left of the Latian paladin,
Clanged all Prince Harold's howling kin
On Colan and the sword.

Crashed in the midst on Marcus,
Ogier with Guthrum by,
And eastward of such central stir,
Far to the right and faintlier,
The house of Elf the harp-player,
Struck Eldred's with a cry.

The centre swat for weariness,
Stemming the scream

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Victories Of Love. Book II

I
From Jane To Her Mother

Thank Heaven, the burthens on the heart
Are not half known till they depart!
Although I long'd, for many a year,
To love with love that casts out fear,
My Frederick's kindness frighten'd me,
And heaven seem'd less far off than he;
And in my fancy I would trace
A lady with an angel's face,
That made devotion simply debt,
Till sick with envy and regret,
And wicked grief that God should e'er
Make women, and not make them fair.
That he might love me more because
Another in his memory was,
And that my indigence might be
To him what Baby's was to me,
The chief of charms, who could have thought?
But God's wise way is to give nought
Till we with asking it are tired;
And when, indeed, the change desired
Comes, lest we give ourselves the praise,
It comes by Providence, not Grace;
And mostly our thanks for granted pray'rs
Are groans at unexpected cares.
First Baby went to heaven, you know,
And, five weeks after, Grace went, too.
Then he became more talkative,
And, stooping to my heart, would give
Signs of his love, which pleased me more
Than all the proofs he gave before;
And, in that time of our great grief,
We talk'd religion for relief;
For, though we very seldom name
Religion, we now think the same!
Oh, what a bar is thus removed
To loving and to being loved!
For no agreement really is
In anything when none's in this.
Why, Mother, once, if Frederick press'd
His wife against his hearty breast,
The interior difference seem'd to tear
My own, until I could not bear
The trouble. 'Twas a dreadful strife,
And show'd, indeed, that faith is life.
He never felt this. If he did,
I'm sure it could not have been hid;
For wives, I need not say to you,
Can feel just what their husbands do,
Without a word or look; but then
It is not so, you know, with men.

From that time many a Scripture text
Help'd me, which had, before, perplex'd.
Oh, what a wond'rous word seem'd this:
He is my head, as Christ is his!
None ever could have dared to see
In marriage such a dignity
For man, and for his wife, still less,
Such happy, happy lowliness,
Had God Himself not made it plain!
This revelation lays the rein—

If I may speak soon the neck
Of a wife's love, takes thence the check
Of conscience, and forbids to doubt
Its measure is to be without
All measure, and a fond excess
Is here her rule of godliness.

I took him not for love but fright;
He did but ask a dreadful right.
In this was love, that he loved me
The first, who was mere poverty.
All that I know of love he taught;
And love is all I know of aught.
My merit is so small by his,
That my demerit is my bliss.
My life is hid with him in Christ,
Never thencefrom to be enticed;
And in his strength have I such rest
As when the baby on my breast
Finds what it knows not how to seek,
And, very happy, very weak,
Lies, only knowing all is well,
Pillow'd on kindness palpable.


II
From Lady Clitheroe To Mary Churchill

Dear Saint, I'm still at High-Hurst Park.
The house is fill'd with folks of mark.
Honoria suits a good estate
Much better than I hoped. How fate
Loads her with happiness and pride!
And such a loving lord, beside!
But between us, Sweet, everything
Has limits, and to build a wing
To this old house, when Courtholm stands
Empty upon his Berkshire lands,
And all that Honor might be near
Papa, was buying love too dear.

With twenty others, there are two
Guests here, whose names will startle you:
Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Graham!
I thought he stay'd away for shame.
He and his wife were ask'd, you know,
And would not come, four years ago.
You recollect Miss Smythe found out
Who she had been, and all about
Her people at the Powder-mill;
And how the fine Aunt tried to instil
Haut ton, and how, at last poor Jane
Had got so shy and gauche that, when
The Dockyard gentry came to sup,
She always had to be lock'd up;
And some one wrote to us and said
Her mother was a kitchen-maid.
Dear Mary, you'll be charm'd to know
It must be all a fib. But, oh,
She is the oddest little Pet
On which my eyes were ever set!
She's so outrée and natural
That, when she first arrived, we all
Wonder'd, as when a robin comes
In through the window to eat crumbs
At breakfast with us. She has sense,
Humility, and confidence;
And, save in dressing just a thought
Gayer in colours than she ought,
(To-day she looks a cross between
Gipsy and Fairy, red and green,)
She always happens to do well.
And yet one never quite can tell
What she might do or utter next.
Lord Clitheroe is much perplex'd.
Her husband, every now and then,
Looks nervous; all the other men
Are charm'd. Yet she has neither grace,
Nor one good feature in her face.
Her eyes, indeed, flame in her head,
Like very altar-fires to Fred,
Whose steps she follows everywhere
Like a tame duck, to the despair
Of Colonel Holmes, who does his part
To break her funny little heart.
Honor's enchanted. 'Tis her view
That people, if they're good and true,
And treated well, and let alone,
Will kindly take to what's their own,
And always be original,
Like children. Honor's just like all
The rest of us! But, thinking so,
'Tis well she miss'd Lord Clitheroe,
Who hates originality,
Though he puts up with it in me.

Poor Mrs. Graham has never been
To the Opera! You should have seen
The innocent way she told the Earl
She thought Plays sinful when a girl,
And now she never had a chance!
Frederick's complacent smile and glance
Towards her, show'd me, past a doubt,
Honoria had been quite cut out.
'Tis very strange; for Mrs. Graham,
Though Frederick's fancy none can blame,
Seems the last woman you'd have thought
Her lover would have ever sought.
She never reads, I find, nor goes
Anywhere; so that I suppose
She got at all she ever knew
By growing up, as kittens do.

Talking of kittens, by-the-bye,
You have more influence than I
With dear Honoria. Get her, Dear,
To be a little more severe
With those sweet Children. They've the run
Of all the place. When school was done,
Maud burst in, while the Earl was there,
WithOh, Mama, do be a bear!’

Do you know, Dear, this odd wife of Fred
Adores his old Love in his stead!
She is so nice, yet, I should say,
Not quite the thing for every day.
Wonders are wearying! Felix goes
Next Sunday with her to the Close,
And you will judge.

Honoria asks
All Wiltshire Belles here; Felix basks
Like Puss in fire-shine, when the room
Is thus aflame with female bloom.
But then she smiles when most would pout;
And so his lawless loves go out
With the last brocade. 'Tis not the same,
I fear, with Mrs. Frederick Graham.
Honoria should not have her here,—
And this you might just hint, my Dear,—
For Felix says he never saw
Such proof of what he holds for law,
Thatbeauty is love which can be seen.’
Whatever he by this may mean,
Were it not dreadful if he fell
In love with her on principle!


III
From Jane To Mrs. Graham

Mother, I told you how, at first,
I fear'd this visit to the Hurst.
Fred must, I felt, be so distress'd
By aught in me unlike the rest
Who come here. But I find the place
Delightful; there's such ease, and grace,
And kindness, and all seem to be
On such a high equality.
They have not got to think, you know,
How far to make the money go.
But Frederick says it's less the expense
Of money, than of sound good-sense,
Quickness to care what others feel,
And thoughts with nothing to conceal;
Which I'll teach Johnny. Mrs. Vaughan
Was waiting for us on the Lawn,
And kiss'd and call'd meCousin.’ Fred
Neglected his old friends, she said.
He laugh'd, and colour'd up at this.
She was, you know, a flame of his;
But I'm not jealous! Luncheon done,
I left him, who had just begun
To talk about the Russian War
With an old Lady, Lady Carr,—
A Countess, but I'm more afraid,
A great deal, of the Lady's Maid,—
And went with Mrs. Vaughan to see
The pictures, which appear'd to be
Of sorts of horses, clowns, and cows
Call'd Wouvermans and Cuyps and Dows.
And then she took me up, to show
Her bedroom, where, long years ago,
A Queen slept. 'Tis all tapestries
Of Cupids, Gods, and Goddesses,
And black, carved oak. A curtain'd door
Leads thence into her soft Boudoir,
Where even her husband may but come
By favour. He, too, has his room,
Kept sacred to his solitude.
Did I not think the plan was good?
She ask'd me; but I said how small
Our house was, and that, after all,
Though Frederick would not say his prayers
At night till I was safe upstairs,
I thought it wrong to be so shy
Of being good when I was by.
Oh, you should humour him!’ she said,
With her sweet voice and smile; and led
The way to where the children ate
Their dinner, and Miss Williams sate.
She's only Nursery-Governess,
Yet they consider her no less
Than Lord or Lady Carr, or me.
Just think how happy she must be!
The Ball-Room, with its painted sky
Where heavy angels seem to fly,
Is a dull place; its size and gloom
Make them prefer, for drawing-room,
The Library, all done up new
And comfortable, with a view
Of Salisbury Spire between the boughs.

When she had shown me through the house,
(I wish I could have let her know
That she herself was half the show;
She is so handsome, and so kind!)
She fetch'd the children, who had dined;
And, taking one in either hand,
Show'd me how all the grounds were plann'd.
The lovely garden gently slopes
To where a curious bridge of ropes
Crosses the Avon to the Park.
We rested by the stream, to mark
The brown backs of the hovering trout.
Frank tickled one, and took it out
From under a stone. We saw his owls,
And awkward Cochin-China fowls,
And shaggy pony in the croft;
And then he dragg'd us to a loft,
Where pigeons, as he push'd the door,
Fann'd clear a breadth of dusty floor,
And set us coughing. I confess
I trembled for my nice silk dress.
I cannot think how Mrs. Vaughan
Ventured with that which she had on,—
A mere white wrapper, with a few
Plain trimmings of a quiet blue,
But, oh, so pretty! Then the bell
For dinner rang. I look'd quite well
(‘Quite charming,’ were the words Fred said,)
With the new gown that I've had made.

I am so proud of Frederick.
He's so high-bred and lordly-like
With Mrs. Vaughan! He's not quite so
At home with me; but that, you know,
I can't expect, or wish. 'Twould hurt,
And seem to mock at my desert.
Not but that I'm a duteous wife
To Fred; but, in another life,
Where all are fair that have been true
I hope I shall be graceful too,
Like Mrs. Vaughan. And, now, good-bye!
That happy thought has made me cry,
And feel half sorry that my cough,
In this fine air, is leaving off.


IV
From Frederick To Mrs. Graham

Honoria, trebly fair and mild
With added loves of lord and child,
Is else unalter'd. Years, which wrong
The rest, touch not her beauty, young
With youth which rather seems her clime,
Than aught that's relative to time.
How beyond hope was heard the prayer
I offer'd in my love's despair!
Could any, whilst there's any woe,
Be wholly blest, then she were so.
She is, and is aware of it,
Her husband's endless benefit;
But, though their daily ways reveal
The depth of private joy they feel,
'Tis not their bearing each to each
That does abroad their secret preach,
But such a lovely good-intent
To all within their government
And friendship as, 'tis well discern'd,
Each of the other must have learn'd;
For no mere dues of neighbourhood
Ever begot so blest a mood.

And fair, indeed, should be the few
God dowers with nothing else to do,
And liberal of their light, and free
To show themselves, that all may see!
For alms let poor men poorly give
The meat whereby men's bodies live;
But they of wealth are stewards wise
Whose graces are their charities.

The sunny charm about this home
Makes all to shine who thither come.
My own dear Jane has caught its grace,
And, honour'd, honours too the place.
Across the lawn I lately walk'd
Alone, and watch'd where mov'd and talk'd,
Gentle and goddess-like of air,
Honoria and some Stranger fair.
I chose a path unblest by these;
When one of the two Goddesses,
With my Wife's voice, but softer, said,
Will you not walk with us, dear Fred?’

She moves, indeed, the modest peer
Of all the proudest ladies here.
Unawed she talks with men who stand
Among the leaders of the land,
And women beautiful and wise,
With England's greatness in their eyes.
To high, traditional good-sense,
And knowledge ripe without pretence,
And human truth exactly hit
By quiet and conclusive wit,
Listens my little, homely Dove,
Mistakes the points and laughs for love;
And, after, stands and combs her hair,
And calls me much the wittiest there!

With reckless loyalty, dear Wife,
She lays herself about my life!
The joy I might have had of yore
I have not; for 'tis now no more,
With me, the lyric time of youth,
And sweet sensation of the truth.
Yet, past my hope or purpose bless'd,
In my chance choice let be confess'd
The tenderer Providence that rules
The fates of children and of fools!

I kiss'd the kind, warm neck that slept,
And from her side this morning stepp'd,
To bathe my brain from drowsy night
In the sharp air and golden light.
The dew, like frost, was on the pane.
The year begins, though fair, to wane.
There is a fragrance in its breath
Which is not of the flowers, but death;
And green above the ground appear
The lilies of another year.
I wander'd forth, and took my path
Among the bloomless aftermath;
And heard the steadfast robin sing
As if his own warm heart were Spring,
And watch'd him feed where, on the yew,
Hung honey'd drops of crimson dew;
And then return'd, by walls of peach,
And pear-trees bending to my reach,
And rose-beds with the roses gone,
To bright-laid breakfast. Mrs. Vaughan
Was there, none with her. I confess
I love her than of yore no less!
But she alone was loved of old;
Now love is twain, nay, manifold;
For, somehow, he whose daily life
Adjusts itself to one true wife,
Grows to a nuptial, near degree
With all that's fair and womanly.
Therefore, as more than friends, we met,
Without constraint, without regret;
The wedded yoke that each had donn'd
Seeming a sanction, not a bond.


V
From Mrs. Graham

Your love lacks joy, your letter says.
Yes; love requires the focal space
Of recollection or of hope,
Ere it can measure its own scope.
Too soon, too soon comes Death to show
We love more deeply than we know!
The rain, that fell upon the height
Too gently to be call'd delight,
Within the dark vale reappears
As a wild cataract of tears;
And love in life should strive to see
Sometimes what love in death would be!
Easier to love, we so should find,
It is than to be just and kind.

She's gone: shut close the coffin-lid:
What distance for another did
That death has done for her! The good,
Once gazed upon with heedless mood,
Now fills with tears the famish'd eye,
And turns all else to vanity.
'Tis sad to see, with death between,
The good we have pass'd and have not seen!
How strange appear the words of all!
The looks of those that live appal.
They are the ghosts, and check the breath:
There's no reality but death,
And hunger for some signal given
That we shall have our own in heaven.
But this the God of love lets be
A horrible uncertainty.

How great her smallest virtue seems,
How small her greatest fault! Ill dreams
Were those that foil'd with loftier grace
The homely kindness of her face.
'Twas here she sat and work'd, and there
She comb'd and kiss'd the children's hair;
Or, with one baby at her breast,
Another taught, or hush'd to rest.
Praise does the heart no more refuse
To the chief loveliness of use.
Her humblest good is hence most high
In the heavens of fond memory;
And Love says Amen to the word,
A prudent wife is from the Lord.
Her worst gown's kept, ('tis now the best,
As that in which she oftenest dress'd,)
For memory's sake more precious grown
Than she herself was for her own.
Poor child! foolish it seem'd to fly
To sobs instead of dignity,
When she was hurt. Now, more than all,
Heart-rending and angelical
That ignorance of what to do,
Bewilder'd still by wrong from you:
For what man ever yet had grace
Ne'er to abuse his power and place?

No magic of her voice or smile
Suddenly raised a fairy isle,
But fondness for her underwent
An unregarded increment,
Like that which lifts, through centuries,
The coral-reef within the seas,
Till, lo! the land where was the wave,
Alas! 'tis everywhere her grave.


VI
From Jane To Mrs. Graham

Dear Mother, I can surely tell,
Now, that I never shall get well.
Besides the warning in my mind,
All suddenly are grown so kind.
Fred stopp'd the Doctor, yesterday,
Downstairs, and, when he went away,
Came smiling back, and sat with me,
Pale, and conversing cheerfully
About the Spring, and how my cough,
In finer weather, would leave off.
I saw it all, and told him plain
I felt no hope of Spring again.
Then he, after a word of jest,
Burst into tears upon my breast,
And own'd, when he could speak, he knew
There was a little danger, too.
This made me very weak and ill,
And while, last night, I lay quite still,
And, as he fancied, in the deep,
Exhausted rest of my short sleep,
I heard, or dream'd I heard him pray:
Oh, Father, take her not away!
Let not life's dear assurance lapse
Into death's agonised 'Perhaps,'

A hope without Thy promise, where
Less than assurance is despair!
Give me some sign, if go she must,
That death's not worse than dust to dust,
Not heaven, on whose oblivious shore
Joy I may have, but her no more!
The bitterest cross, it seems to me,
Of all is infidelity;
And so, if I may choose, I'll miss
The kind of heaven which comes to this.
If doom'd, indeed, this fever ceased,
To die out wholly, like a beast,
‘Forgetting all life's ill success
In dark and peaceful nothingness,
I could but say, Thy will be done;
For, dying thus, I were but one
Of seed innumerable which ne'er
In all the worlds shall bloom or bear.
I've put life past to so poor use
Well may'st Thou life to come refuse;
And justice, which the spirit contents,
Shall still in me all vain laments;
‘Nay, pleased, I will, while yet I live,
Think Thou my forfeit joy may'st give
To some fresh life, else unelect,
And heaven not feel my poor defect!
Only let not Thy method be
To make that life, and call it me;
Still less to sever mine in twain,
And tell each half to live again,
And count itself the whole! To die,
Is it love's disintegrity?
‘Answer me, 'No,' and I, with grace,
Will life's brief desolation face,
My ways, as native to the clime,
‘Adjusting to the wintry time,
‘Ev'n with a patient cheer thereof—’

He started up, hearing me cough.
Oh, Mother, now my last doubt's gone!
He likes me more than Mrs. Vaughan;
And death, which takes me from his side,
Shows me, in very deed, his bride!


VII
From Jane To Frederick

I leave this, Dear, for you to read,
For strength and hope, when I am dead.
When Grace died, I was so perplex'd,
I could not find one helpful text;
And when, a little while before,
I saw her sobbing on the floor,
Because I told her that in heaven
She would be as the angels even,
And would not want her doll, 'tis true
A horrible fear within me grew,
That, since the preciousness of love
Went thus for nothing, mine might prove
To be no more, and heaven's bliss
Some dreadful good which is not this.

But being about to die makes clear
Many dark things. I have no fear,
Now, that my love, my grief, my joy
Is but a passion for a toy.
I cannot speak at all, I find,
The shining something in my mind,
That shows so much that, if I took
My thoughts all down, 'twould make a book.
God's Word, which lately seem'd above
The simpleness of human love,
To my death-sharpen'd hearing tells
Of little or of nothing else;
And many things I hoped were true,
When first they came, like songs, from you,
Now rise with witness past the reach
Of doubt, and I to you can teach,
As if with felt authority
And as things seen, what you taught me.

Yet how? I have no words but those
Which every one already knows:
As, ‘No man hath at any time
Seen God, but 'tis the love of Him
Made perfect, and He dwells in us,
If we each other love.’ Or thus,
My goodness misseth in extent
Of Thee, Lord! In the excellent
I know Thee; and the Saints on Earth
Make all my love and holy mirth.’
And further, ‘Inasmuch as ye
Did it to one of these, to Me
‘Ye did it, though ye nothing thought
Nor knew of Me, in that ye wrought.’

What shall I dread? Will God undo
Our bond, which is all others too?
And when I meet you will you say
To my reclaiming looks, ‘Away!
A dearer love my bosom warms
With higher rights and holier charms.
The children, whom thou here may'st see,
Neighbours that mingle thee and me,
And gaily on impartial lyres
‘Renounce the foolish filial fires
They felt, with 'Praise to God on high,
‘'Goodwill to all else equally;'

The trials, duties, service, tears;
The many fond, confiding years
Of nearness sweet with thee apart;
The joy of body, mind, and heart;
The love that grew a reckless growth,
‘Unmindful that the marriage-oath
To love in an eternal style
Meantonly for a little while:
‘Sever'd are now those bonds earth-wrought:
All love, not new, stands here for nought!’

Why, it seems almost wicked, Dear,
Even to utter such a fear!
Are we not ‘heirs,’ as man and wife,
‘Together of eternal life?’
Was Paradise e'er meant to fade,
To make which marriage first was made?
Neither beneath him nor above
Could man in Eden find his Love;
Yet with him in the garden walk'd
His God, and with Him mildly talk'd!
Shall the humble preference offend
In heaven, which God did there commend?
Are ‘honourable and undefiled’
The names of aught from heaven exiled?
And are we not forbid to grieve
As without hope? Does God deceive,
And call that hope which is despair,
Namely, the heaven we should not share?
Image and glory of the man,
As he of God, is woman. Can
This holy, sweet proportion die
Into a dull equality?
Are we not one flesh, yea, so far
More than the babe and mother are,
That sons are bid mothers to leave
And to their wives alone to cleave,
For they two are one flesh?’ But 'tis
In the flesh we rise. Our union is,
You know 'tis said, ‘great mystery.’
Great mockery, it appears to me;
Poor image of the spousal bond
Of Christ and Church, if loosed beyond
This life!—'Gainst which, and much more yet,
There's not a single word to set.
The speech to the scoffing Sadducee
Is not in point to you and me;
For how could Christ have taught such clods
That Cæsar's things are also God's?
The sort of Wife the Law could make
Might well be ‘hated’ for Love's sake,
And left, like money, land, or house;
For out of Christ is no true spouse.

I used to think it strange of Him
To make love's after-life so dim,
Or only clear by inference:
But God trusts much to common sense,
And only tells us what, without
His Word, we could not have found out.
On fleshly tables of the heart
He penn'd truth's feeling counterpart
In hopes that come to all: so, Dear,
Trust these, and be of happy cheer,
Nor think that he who has loved well
Is of all men most miserable.

There's much more yet I want to say,
But cannot now. You know my way
Of feeling strong from Twelve till Two
After my wine. I'll write to you
Daily some words, which you shall have
To break the silence of the grave.


VIII
From Jane To Frederick

You think, perhaps, ‘Ah, could she know
How much I loved her!’ Dear, I do!
And you may say, ‘Of this new awe
Of heart which makes her fancies law,
These watchful duties of despair,
She does not dream, she cannot care!’
Frederick, you see how false that is,
Or how could I have written this?
And, should it ever cross your mind
That, now and then, you were unkind,
You never, never were at all!
Remember that! It's natural
For one like Mr. Vaughan to come,
From a morning's useful pastime, home,
And greet, with such a courteous zest,
His handsome wife, still newly dress'd,
As if the Bird of Paradise
Should daily change her plumage thrice.
He's always well, she's always gay.
Of course! But he who toils all day,
And comes home hungry, tired, or cold,
And feels 'twould do him good to scold
His wife a little, let him trust
Her love, and say the things he must,
Till sooth'd in mind by meat and rest.
If, after that, she's well caress'd,
And told how good she is, to bear
His humour, fortune makes it fair.
Women like men to be like men;
That is, at least, just now and then.
Thus, I have nothing to forgive,
But those first years, (how could I live!)
When, though I really did behave
So stupidly, you never gave
One unkind word or look at all:
As if I was some animal
You pitied! Now, in later life,
You used me like a proper Wife.

You feel, Dear, in your present mood,
Your Jane, since she was kind and good,
A child of God, a living soul,
Was not so different, on the whole,
From Her who had a little more
Of God's best gifts: but, oh, be sure,
My dear, dear Love, to take no blame
Because you could not feel the same
Towards me, living, as when dead.
A hungry man must needs think bread
So sweet! and, only at their rise
And setting, blessings, to the eyes,
Like the sun's course, grow visible.
If you are sad, remember well,
Against delusions of despair,
That memory sees things as they were,
And not as they were misenjoy'd,
And would be still, if ought destroy'd
The glory of their hopelessness:
So that, in truth, you had me less
In days when necessary zeal
For my perfection made you feel
My faults the most, than now your love
Forgets but where it can approve.
You gain by loss, if that seem'd small
Possess'd, which, being gone, turns all
Surviving good to vanity.
Oh, Fred, this makes it sweet to die!

Say to yourself: ‘'Tis comfort yet
I made her that which I regret;
And parting might have come to pass
In a worse season; as it was,
Love an eternal temper took,
‘Dipp'd, glowing, in Death's icy brook!’
Or say, ‘On her poor feeble head
This might have fallen: 'tis mine instead!
And so great evil sets me free
Henceforward from calamity.
And, in her little children, too,
How much for her I yet can do!’
And grieve not for these orphans even;
For central to the love of Heaven
Is each child as each star to space.
This truth my dying love has grace
To trust with a so sure content,
I fear I seem indifferent.

You must not think a child's small heart
Cold, because it and grief soon part.
Fanny will keep them all away,
Lest you should hear them laugh and play,
Before the funeral's over. Then
I hope you'll be yourself again,
And glad, with all your soul, to find
How God thus to the sharpest wind
Suits the shorn lambs. Instruct them, Dear,
For my sake, in His love and fear.
And show how, till their journey's done,
Not to be weary they must run.

Strive not to dissipate your grief
By any lightness. True relief
Of sorrow is by sorrow brought.
And yet for sorrow's sake, you ought
To grieve with measure. Do not spend
So good a power to no good end!
Would you, indeed, have memory stay
In the heart, lock up and put away
Relics and likenesses and all
Musings, which waste what they recall.
True comfort, and the only thing
To soothe without diminishing
A prized regret, is to match here,
By a strict life, God's love severe.
Yet, after all, by nature's course,
Feeling must lose its edge and force.
Again you'll reach the desert tracts
Where only sin or duty acts.
But, if love always lit our path,
Where were the trial of our faith?

Oh, should the mournful honeymoon
Of death be over strangely soon,
And life-long resolutions, made
In grievous haste, as quickly fade,
Seeming the truth of grief to mock,
Think, Dearest, 'tis not by the clock
That sorrow goes! A month of tears
Is more than many, many years
Of common time. Shun, if you can,
However, any passionate plan.
Grieve with the heart; let not the head
Grieve on, when grief of heart is dead;
For all the powers of life defy
A superstitious constancy.

The only bond I hold you to
Is that which nothing can undo.
A man is not a young man twice;
And if, of his young years, he lies
A faithful score in one wife's breast,
She need not mind who has the rest.
In this do what you will, dear Love,
And feel quite sure that I approve.
And, should it chance as it may be,
Give her my wedding-ring from me;
And never dream that you can err
T'wards me by being good to her;
Nor let remorseful thoughts destroy
In you the kindly flowering joy
And pleasure of the natural life.

But don't forget your fond, dead Wife.
And, Frederick, should you ever be
Tempted to think your love of me
All fancy, since it drew its breath
So much more sweetly after death,
Remember that I never did
A single thing you once forbid;
All poor folk liked me; and, at the end,
Your Cousin call'd meDearest Friend!’

And, now, 'twill calm your grief to know,—
You, who once loved Honoria so,—
There's kindness, that's look'd kindly on,
Between her Emily and John.
Thus, in your children, you will wed!
And John seems so much comforted,
(Like Isaac when his mother died
And fair Rebekah was his bride),
By his new hope, for losing me!
So all is happiness, you see.
And that reminds me how, last night,
I dreamt of heaven, with great delight.
A strange, kind Lady watch'd my face,
Kiss'd me, and cried, ‘His hope found grace!’
She bade me then, in the crystal floor,
Look at myself, myself no more;
And bright within the mirror shone
Honoria's smile, and yet my own!
And, when you talk, I hear,’ she sigh'd,
How much he loved her! Many a bride
In heaven such countersemblance wears
Through what Love deem'd rejected prayers.’
She would have spoken still; but, lo,
One of a glorious troop, aglow
From some great work, towards her came,
And she so laugh'd, 'twas such a flame,
Aaron's twelve jewels seem'd to mix
With the lights of the Seven Candlesticks.


IX
From Lady Clitheroe To Mrs. Graham

My dearest Aunt, the Wedding-day,
But for Jane's loss, and you away,
Was all a Bride from heaven could beg!
Skies bluer than the sparrow's egg,
And clearer than the cuckoo's call;
And such a sun! the flowers all
With double ardour seem'd to blow!
The very daisies were a show,
Expanded with uncommon pride,
Like little pictures of the Bride.

Your Great-Niece and your Grandson were
Perfection of a pretty pair.
How well Honoria's girls turn out,
Although they never go about!
Dear me, what trouble and expense
It took to teach mine confidence!
Hers greet mankind as I've heard say
That wild things do, where beasts of prey
Were never known, nor any men
Have met their fearless eyes till then.
Their grave, inquiring trust to find
All creatures of their simple kind
Quite disconcerts bold coxcombry,
And makes less perfect candour shy.
Ah, Mrs. Graham! people may scoff,
But how your home-kept girls go off!
How Hymen hastens to unband
The waist that ne'er felt waltzer's hand!
At last I see my Sister's right,
And I've told Maud this very night,
(But, oh, my daughters have such wills!)
To knit, and only dance quadrilles.

You say Fred never writes to you
Frankly, as once he used to do,
About himself; and you complain
He shared with none his grief for Jane.
It all comes of the foolish fright
Men feel at the word, hypocrite.
Although, when first in love, sometimes
They rave in letters, talk, and rhymes,
When once they find, as find they must.
How hard 'tis to be hourly just
To those they love, they are dumb for shame,
Where we, you see, talk on the same.

Honoria, to whose heart alone
He seems to open all his own,
At times has tears in her kind eyes,
After their private colloquies.
He's her most favour'd guest, and moves
My spleen by his impartial loves.
His pleasure has some inner spring
Depending not on anything.
Petting our Polly, none e'er smiled
More fondly on his favourite child;
Yet, playing with his own, it is
Somehow as if it were not his.
He means to go again to sea,
Now that the wedding's over. He
Will leave to Emily and John
The little ones to practise on;
And Major-domo, Mrs. Rouse,
A deal old soul from Wilton House,
Will scold the housemaids and the cook,
Till Emily has learn'd to look
A little braver than a lamb
Surprised by dogs without its dam!

Do, dear Aunt, use your influence,
And try to teach some plain good sense
To Mary. 'Tis not yet too late
To make her change her chosen state
Of single silliness. In truth,
I fancy that, with fading youth,
Her will now wavers. Yesterday,
Though, till the Bride was gone away,
Joy shone from Mary's loving heart,
I found her afterwards apart,
Hysterically sobbing. I
Knew much too well to ask her why.
This marrying of Nieces daunts
The bravest souls of maiden Aunts.
Though Sisters' children often blend
Sweetly the bonds of child and friend,
They are but reeds to rest upon.
When Emily comes back with John,
Her right to go downstairs before
Aunt Mary will but be the more
Observed if kindly waived, and how
Shall these be as they were, when now
Niece has her John, and Aunt the sense
Of her superior innocence?
Somehow, all loves, however fond,
Prove lieges of the nuptial bond;
And she who dares at this to scoff,
Finds all the rest in time drop off;
While marriage, like a mushroom-ring,
Spreads its sure circle every Spring.

She twice refused George Vane, you know;
Yet, when he died three years ago
In the Indian war, she put on gray,
And wears no colours to this day.
And she it is who charges me,
Dear Aunt, with ‘inconsistency!’


X
From Frederick To Honoria

Cousin, my thoughts no longer try
To cast the fashion of the sky.
Imagination can extend
Scarcely in part to comprehend
The sweetness of our common food
Ambrosial, which ingratitude
And impious inadvertence waste,
Studious to eat but not to taste.
And who can tell what's yet in store
There, but that earthly things have more
Of all that makes their inmost bliss,
And life's an image still of this,
But haply such a glorious one
As is the rainbow of the sun?
Sweet are your words, but, after all
Their mere reversal may befall
The partners of His glories who
Daily is crucified anew:
Splendid privations, martyrdoms
To which no weak remission comes,
Perpetual passion for the good
Of them that feel no gratitude,
Far circlings, as of planets' fires,
Round never-to-be-reach'd desires,
Whatever rapturously sighs
That life is love, love sacrifice.
All I am sure of heaven is this:
Howe'er the mode, I shall not miss
One true delight which I have known.
Not on the changeful earth alone
Shall loyalty remain unmoved
T'wards everything I ever loved.
So Heaven's voice calls, like Rachel's voice
To Jacob in the field, ‘Rejoice!
‘Serve on some seven more sordid years,
Too short for weariness or tears;
‘Serve on; then, oh, Beloved, well-tried,
Take me for ever as thy Bride!’


XI
From Mary Churchill To The Dean

Charles does me honour, but 'twere vain
To reconsider now again,
And so to doubt the clear-shown truth
I sought for, and received, when youth,
Being fair, and woo'd by one whose love
Was lovely, fail'd my mind to move.
God bids them by their own will go,
Who ask again the things they know!
I grieve for my infirmity,
And ignorance of how to be
Faithful, at once, to the heavenly life,
And the fond duties of a wife.
Narrow am I and want the art
To love two things with all my heart.
Occupied singly in His search,
Who, in the Mysteries of the Church,
Returns, and calls them Clouds of Heaven,
I tread a road, straight, hard, and even;
But fear to wander all confused,
By two-fold fealty abused.
Either should I the one forget,
Or scantly pay the other's debt.

You bid me, Father, count the cost.
I have; and all that must be lost
I feel as only woman can.
To make the heart's wealth of some man,
And through the untender world to move,
Wrapt safe in his superior love,
How sweet! How sweet the household round
Of duties, and their narrow bound,
So plain, that to transgress were hard,
Yet full of manifest reward!
The charities not marr'd, like mine,
With chance of thwarting laws divine;
The world's regards and just delight
In one that's clearly, kindly right,
How sweet! Dear Father, I endure,
Not without sharp regret, be sure,
To give up such glad certainty,
For what, perhaps, may never be.
For nothing of my state I know,
But that t'ward heaven I seem to go,
As one who fondly landward hies
Along a deck that seaward flies.
With every year, meantime, some grace
Of earthly happiness gives place
To humbling ills, the very charms
Of youth being counted, henceforth, harms:
To blush already seems absurd;
Nor know I whether I should herd
With girls or wives, or sadlier balk
Maids' merriment or matrons' talk.

But strait's the gate of life! O'er late,
Besides, 'twere now to change my fate:
For flowers and fruit of love to form,
It must be Spring as well as warm.
The world's delight my soul dejects,
Revenging all my disrespects
Of old, with incapacity
To chime with even its harmless glee,
Which sounds, from fields beyond my range,
Like fairies' music, thin and strange.
With something like remorse, I grant
The world has beauty which I want;
And if, instead of judging it,
I at its Council chance to sit,
Or at its gay and order'd Feast,
My place seems lower than the least.
The conscience of the life to be
Smites me with inefficiency,
And makes me all unfit to bless
With comfortable earthliness
The rest-desiring brain of man.
Finally, then, I fix my plan
To dwell with Him that dwells apart
In the highest heaven and lowliest heart;
Nor will I, to my utter loss,
Look to pluck roses from the Cross.
As for the good of human love,
'Twere countercheck almost enough
To think that one must die before
The other; and perhaps 'tis more
In love's last interest to do
Nought the least contrary thereto,
Than to be blest, and be unjust,
Or suffer injustice; as they must,
Without a miracle, whose pact
Compels to mutual life and act,
Whether love shines, or darkness sleeps
Cold on the spirit's changeful deeps.

Enough if, to my earthly share,
Fall gleams that keep me from despair.
Happy the things we here discern;
More happy those for which we yearn;
But measurelessly happy above
All else are those we guess not of!


XII
From Felix To Honoria

Dearest, my Love and Wife, 'tis long
Ago I closed the unfinish'd song
Which never could be finish'd; nor
Will ever Poet utter more
Of love than I did, watching well
To lure to speech the unspeakable!
Why, having won her, do I woo?’
That final strain to the last height flew
Of written joy, which wants the smile
And voice that are, indeed, the while
They last, the very things you speak,
Honoria, who mak'st music weak
With ways that say, ‘Shall I not be
As kind to all as Heaven to me?’
And yet, ah, twenty-fold my Bride!
Rising, this twentieth festal-tide,
You still soft sleeping, on this day
Of days, some words I long to say,
Some words superfluously sweet
Of fresh assurance, thus to greet
Your waking eyes, which never grow
Weary of telling what I know
So well, yet only well enough
To wish for further news thereof.

Here, in this early autumn dawn,
By windows opening on the lawn,
Where sunshine seems asleep, though bright,
And shadows yet are sharp with night,
And, further on, the wealthy wheat
Bends in a golden drowse, how sweet
To sit and cast my careless looks
Around my walls of well-read books,
Wherein is all that stands redeem'd
From time's huge wreck, all men have dream'd
Of truth, and all by poets known
Of feeling, and in weak sort shown,
And, turning to my heart again,
To find I have what makes them vain,
The thanksgiving mind, which wisdom sums,
And you, whereby it freshly comes
As on that morning, (can there be
Twenty-two years 'twixt it and me?)
When, thrill'd with hopeful love I rose
And came in haste to Sarum Close,
Past many a homestead slumbering white
In lonely and pathetic light,
Merely to fancy which drawn blind
Of thirteen had my Love behind,
And in her sacred neighbourhood
To feel that sweet scorn of all good
But her, which let the wise forfend
When wisdom learns to comprehend!

Dearest, as each returning May
I see the season new and gay
With new joy and astonishment,
And Nature's infinite ostent
Of lovely flowers in wood and mead,
That weet not whether any heed,
So see I, daily wondering, you,
And worship with a passion new
The Heaven that visibly allows
Its grace to go about my house,
The partial Heaven, that, though I err
And mortal am, gave all to her
Who gave herself to me. Yet I
Boldly thank Heaven, (and so defy
The beggarly soul'd humbleness
Which fears God's bounty to confess,)
That I was fashion'd with a mind
Seeming for this great gift design'd,
So naturally it moved above
All sordid contraries of love,
Strengthen'd in youth with discipline
Of light, to follow the divine
Vision, (which ever to the dark
Is such a plague as was the ark
In Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron,) still
Discerning with the docile will
Which comes of full persuaded thought,
That intimacy in love is nought
Without pure reverence, whereas this,
In tearfullest banishment, is bliss.

And so, dearest Honoria, I
Have never learn'd the weary sigh
Of those that to their love-feasts went,
Fed, and forgot the Sacrament;
And not a trifle now occurs
But sweet initiation stirs
Of new-discover'd joy, and lends
To feeling change that never ends;
And duties, which the many irk,
Are made all wages and no work.

How sing of such things save to her,
Love's self, so love's interpreter?
How the supreme rewards confess
Which crown the austere voluptuousness
Of heart, that earns, in midst of wealth,
The appetite of want and health,
Relinquishes the pomp of life
And beauty to the pleasant Wife
At home, and does all joy despise
As out of place but in her eyes?
How praise the years and gravity
That make each favour seem to be
A lovelier weakness for her lord?
And, ah, how find the tender word
To tell aright of love that glows
The fairer for the fading rose?
Of frailty which can weight the arm
To lean with thrice its girlish charm?
Of grace which, like this autumn day,
Is not the sad one of decay,
Yet one whose pale brow pondereth
The far-off majesty of death?
How tell the crowd, whom passion rends,
That love grows mild as it ascends?
That joy's most high and distant mood
Is lost, not found in dancing blood;
Albeit kind acts and smiling eyes,
And all those fond realities
Which are love's words, in us mean more
Delight than twenty years before?

How, Dearest, finish, without wrong
To the speechless heart, the unfinish'd song,
Its high, eventful passages
Consisting, say, of things like these:—

One morning, contrary to law,
Which, for the most, we held in awe,
Commanding either not to intrude
On the other's place of solitude
Or solitary mind, for fear
Of coming there when God was near,
And finding so what should be known
To Him who is merciful alone,
And views the working ferment base
Of waking flesh and sleeping grace,
Not as we view, our kindness check'd
By likeness of our own defect,
I, venturing to her room, because
(Mark the excuse!) my Birthday 'twas,
Saw, here across a careless chair,
A ball-dress flung, as light as air,
And, here, beside a silken couch,
Pillows which did the pressure vouch
Of pious knees, (sweet piety!
Of goodness made and charity,
If gay looks told the heart's glad sense,
Much rather than of penitence,)
And, on the couch, an open book,
And written list—I did not look,
Yet just in her clear writing caught:—
‘Habitual faults of life and thought
Which most I need deliverance from.’
I turn'd aside, and saw her come
Adown the filbert-shaded way,
Beautified with her usual gay
Hypocrisy of perfectness,
Which made her heart, and mine no less,
So happy! And she cried to me,
You lose by breaking rules, you see!
Your Birthday treat is now half-gone
Of seeing my new ball-dress on.’
And, meeting so my lovely Wife,
A passing pang, to think that life
Was mortal, when I saw her laugh,
Shaped in my mind this epitaph:
‘Faults had she, child of Adam's stem,
But only Heaven knew of them.’

Or thus:

For many a dreadful day,
In sea-side lodgings sick she lay,
Noteless of love, nor seem'd to hear
The sea, on one side, thundering near,
Nor, on the other, the loud Ball
Held nightly in the public hall;
Nor vex'd they my short slumbers, though
I woke up if she breathed too low.
Thus, for three months, with terrors rife,
The pending of her precious life
I watch'd o'er; and the danger, at last,
The kind Physician said, was past.
Howbeit, for seven harsh weeks the East
Breathed witheringly, and Spring's growth ceased,
And so she only did not die;
Until the bright and blighting sky
Changed into cloud, and the sick flowers
Remember'd their perfumes, and showers
Of warm, small rain refreshing flew
Before the South, and the Park grew,
In three nights, thick with green. Then she
Revived, no less than flower and tree,
In the mild air, and, the fourth day,
Look'd supernaturally gay
With large, thanksgiving eyes, that shone,
The while I tied her bonnet on,
So that I led her to the glass,
And bade her see how fair she was,
And how love visibly could shine.
Profuse of hers, desiring mine,
And mindful I had loved her most
When beauty seem'd a vanish'd boast,
She laugh'd. I press'd her then to me,
Nothing but soft humility;
Nor e'er enhanced she with such charms
Her acquiescence in my arms.
And, by her sweet love-weakness made
Courageous, powerful, and glad,
In a clear illustration high
Of heavenly affection, I
Perceived that utter love is all
The same as to be rational,
And that the mind and heart of love,
Which think they cannot do enough,
Are truly the everlasting doors
Wherethrough, all unpetition'd, pours
The eternal pleasance. Wherefore we
Had innermost tranquillity,
And breathed one life with such a sense
Of friendship and of confidence,
That, recollecting the sure word:
If two of you are in accord,
On earth, as touching any boon
Which ye shall ask, it shall be done
In heaven,’ we ask'd that heaven's bliss
Might ne'er be any less than this;
And, for that hour, we seem'd to have
The secret of the joy we gave.

How sing of such things, save to her,
Love's self, so love's interpreter?
How read from such a homely page
In the ear of this unhomely age?
'Tis now as when the Prophet cried:
The nation hast Thou multiplied,
But Thou hast not increased the joy!’
And yet, ere wrath or rot destroy
Of England's state the ruin fair,
Oh, might I so its charm declare,
That, in new Lands, in far-off years,
Delighted he should cry that hears:
Great is the Land that somewhat best
‘Works, to the wonder of the rest!
We, in our day, have better done
This thing or that than any one;
And who but, still admiring, sees
How excellent for images
Was Greece, for laws how wise was Rome;
But read this Poet, and say if home
And private love did e'er so smile
As in that ancient English isle!’


XIII
From Lady Clitheroe To Emily Graham

My dearest Niece, I'm charm'd to hear
The scenery's fine at Windermere,
And glad a six-weeks' wife defers
In the least to wisdom not yet hers.
But, Child, I've no advice to give!
Rules only make it hard to live.
And where's the good of having been
Well taught from seven to seventeen,
If, married, you may not leave off,
And say, at last, ‘I'm good enough!’
Weeding out folly, still leave some.
It gives both lightness and aplomb.
We know, however wise by rule,
Woman is still by nature fool;
And men have sense to like her all
The more when she is natural.
'Tis true that, if we choose, we can
Mock to a miracle the man;
But iron in the fire red hot,
Though 'tis the heat, the fire 'tis not:
And who, for such a feint, would pledge
The babe's and woman's privilege,
No duties and a thousand rights?
Besides, defect love's flow incites,
As water in a well will run
Only the while 'tis drawn upon.

Point de culte sans mystère,’ you say,
And what if that should die away?’
Child, never fear that either could
Pull from Saint Cupid's face the hood.
The follies natural to each
Surpass the other's moral reach.
Just think how men, with sword and gun,
Will really fight, and never run;
And all in sport: they would have died,
For sixpence more, on the other side!
A woman's heart must ever warm
At such odd ways: and so we charm
By strangeness which, the more they mark,
The more men get into the dark.
The marvel, by familiar life,
Grows, and attaches to the wife
By whom it grows. Thus, silly Girl,
To John you'll always be the pearl
In the oyster of the universe;
And, though in time he'll treat you worse,
He'll love you more, you need not doubt,
And never, never find you out!

My Dear, I know that dreadful thought
That you've been kinder than you ought.
It almost makes you hate him! Yet
'Tis wonderful how men forget,
And how a merciful Providence
Deprives our husbands of all sense
Of kindness past, and makes them deem
We always were what now we seem.
For their own good we must, you know,
However plain the way we go,
Still make it strange with stratagem;
And instinct tells us that, to them,
'Tis always right to bate their price.
Yet I must say they're rather nice,
And, oh, so easily taken in
To cheat them almost seems a sin!
And, Dearest, 'twould be most unfair
To John your feelings to compare
With his, or any man's; for she
Who loves at all loves always; he,
Who loves far more, loves yet by fits,
And when the wayward wind remits
To blow, his feelings faint and drop
Like forge-flames when the bellows stop.
Such things don't trouble you at all
When once you know they're natural.

My love to John; and, pray, my Dear,
Don't let me see you for a year;
Unless, indeed, ere then you've learn'd
That Beauties wed are blossoms turn'd
To unripe codlings, meant to dwell
In modest shadow hidden well,
Till this green stage again permute
To glow of flowers with good of fruit.
I will not have my patience tried
By your absurd new-married pride,
That scorns the world's slow-gather'd sense,
Ties up the hands of Providence,
Rules babes, before there's hope of one,
Better than mothers e'er have done,
And, for your poor particular,
Neglects delights and graces far
Beyond your crude and thin conceit.
Age has romance almost as sweet
And much more generous than this
Of yours and John's. With all the bliss
Of the evenings when you coo'd with him,
And upset home for your sole whim,
You might have envied, were you wise,
The tears within your Mother's eyes,
Which, I dare say, you did not see.
But let that pass! Yours yet will be,
I hope, as happy, kind, and true
As lives which now seem void to you.
Have you not seen shop-painters paste
Their gold in sheets, then rub to waste
Full half, and, lo, you read the name?
Well, Time, my Dear, does much the same
With this unmeaning glare of love.

But, though you yet may much improve,
In marriage, be it still confess'd,
There's little merit at the best.
Some half-a-dozen lives, indeed,
Which else would not have had the need,
Get food and nurture, as the price
Of antedated Paradise;
But what's that to the varied want
Succour'd by Mary, your dear Aunt,
Who put the bridal crown thrice by,
For that of which virginity,
So used, has hope? She sends her love,
As usual with a proof thereof—
Papa's discourse, which you, no doubt,
Heard none of, neatly copied out
Whilst we were dancing. All are well,
Adieu, for there's the Luncheon Bell.


The Wedding Sermon

I
The truths of Love are like the sea
For clearness and for mystery.
Of that sweet love which, startling, wakes
Maiden and Youth, and mostly breaks
The word of promise to the ear,
But keeps it, after many a year,
To the full spirit, how shall I speak?
My memory with age is weak,
And I for hopes do oft suspect
The things I seem to recollect.
Yet who but must remember well
'Twas this made heaven intelligible
As motive, though 'twas small the power
The heart might have, for even an hour,
To hold possession of the height
Of nameless pathos and delight!


II
In Godhead rise, thither flow back
All loves, which, as they keep or lack,
In their return, the course assign'd,
Are virtue or sin. Love's every kind,
Lofty or low, of spirit or sense,
Desire is, or benevolence.
He who is fairer, better, higher
Than all His works, claims all desire,
And in His Poor, His Proxies, asks
Our whole benevolence: He tasks,
Howbeit, His People by their powers;
And if, my Children, you, for hours,
Daily, untortur'd in the heart,
Can worship, and time's other part
Give, without rough recoils of sense,
To the claims ingrate of indigence,
Happy are you, and fit to be
Wrought to rare heights of sanctity,
For the humble to grow humbler at.
But if the flying spirit falls flat,
After the modest spell of prayer
That saves the day from sin and care,
And the upward eye a void descries,
And praises are hypocrisies,
And, in the soul, o'erstrain'd for grace,
A godless anguish grows apace;
Or, if impartial charity
Seems, in the act, a sordid lie,
Do not infer you cannot please
God, or that He His promises
Postpones, but be content to love
No more than He accounts enough.
Account them poor enough who want
Any good thing which you can grant;
And fathom well the depths of life
In loves of Husband and of Wife,
Child, Mother, Father; simple keys
To what cold faith calls mysteries.

III
The love of marriage claims, above
All other kinds, the name of love,
As perfectest, though not so high
As love which Heaven with single eye
Considers. Equal and entire,
Therein benevolence, desire,
Elsewhere ill-join'd or found apart,
Become the pulses of one heart,
Which now contracts, and now dilates,
And, both to the height exalting, mates
Self-seeking to self-sacrifice.
Nay, in its subtle paradise
(When purest) this one love unites
All modes of these two opposites,
All balanced in accord so rich
Who may determine which is which?
Chiefly God's Love does in it live,
And nowhere else so sensitive;
For each is all that the other's eye,
In the vague vast of Deity,
Can comprehend and so contain
As still to touch and ne'er to strain
The fragile nerves of joy. And then
'Tis such a wise goodwill to men
And politic economy
As in a prosperous State we see,
Where every plot of common land
Is yielded to some private hand
To fence about and cultivate.
Does narrowness its praise abate?
Nay, the infinite of man is found
But in the beating of its bound,
And, if a brook its banks o'erpass,
'Tis not a sea, but a morass.

IV
No giddiest hope, no wildest guess
Of Love's most innocent loftiness
Had dared to dream of its own worth,
Till Heaven's bold sun-gleam lit the earth.
Christ's marriage with the Church is more,
My Children, than a metaphor.
The heaven of heavens is symbol'd where
The torch of Psyche flash'd despair.

But here I speak of heights, and heights
Are hardly scaled. The best delights
Of even this homeliest passion, are
In the most perfect souls so rare,
That they who feel them are as men
Sailing the Southern ocean, when,
At midnight, they look up, and eye
The starry Cross, and a strange sky
Of brighter stars; and sad thoughts come
To each how far he is from home.

V
Love's inmost nuptial sweetness see
In the doctrine of virginity!
Could lovers, at their dear wish, blend,
'Twould kill the bliss which they intend;
For joy is love's obedience
Against the law of natural sense;
And those perpetual yearnings sweet
Of lives which dream that they can meet
Are given that lovers never may
Be without sacrifice to lay
On the high altar of true love,
With tears of vestal joy. To move
Frantic, like comets to our bliss,
Forgetting that we always miss,
And so to seek and fly the sun,
By turns, around which love should run,
Perverts the ineffable delight
Of service guerdon'd with full sight
And pathos of a hopeless want,
To an unreal victory's vaunt,
And plaint of an unreal defeat.
Yet no less dangerous misconceit
May also be of the virgin will,
Whose goal is nuptial blessing still,
And whose true being doth subsist,
There where the outward forms are miss'd,
In those who learn and keep the sense
Divine of ‘due benevolence,’
Seeking for aye, without alloy
Of selfish thought, another's joy,
And finding in degrees unknown
That which in act they shunn'd, their own.
For all delights of earthly love
Are shadows of the heavens, and move
As other shadows do; they flee
From him that follows them; and he
Who flies, for ever finds his feet
Embraced by their pursuings sweet.

VI
Then, even in love humane, do I
Not counsel aspirations high,
So much as sweet and regular
Use of the good in which we are.
As when a man along the ways
Walks, and a sudden music plays,
His step unchanged, he steps in time,
So let your Grace with Nature chime.
Her primal forces burst, like straws,
The bonds of uncongenial laws.
Right life is glad as well as just,
And, rooted strong inThis I must,’
It bears aloft the blossom gay
And zephyr-toss'd, ofThis I may;’
Whereby the complex heavens rejoice
In fruits of uncommanded cho

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Tower Beyond Tragedy

I
You'd never have thought the Queen was Helen's sister- Troy's
burning-flower from Sparta, the beautiful sea-flower
Cut in clear stone, crowned with the fragrant golden mane, she
the ageless, the uncontaminable-
This Clytemnestra was her sister, low-statured, fierce-lipped, not
dark nor blonde, greenish-gray-eyed,
Sinewed with strength, you saw, under the purple folds of the
queen-cloak, but craftier than queenly,
Standing between the gilded wooden porch-pillars, great steps of
stone above the steep street,
Awaiting the King.
Most of his men were quartered on the town;
he, clanking bronze, with fifty
And certain captives, came to the stair. The Queen's men were
a hundred in the street and a hundred
Lining the ramp, eighty on the great flags of the porch; she
raising her white arms the spear-butts
Thundered on the stone, and the shields clashed; eight shining
clarions
Let fly from the wide window over the entrance the wildbirds of
their metal throats, air-cleaving
Over the King come home. He raised his thick burnt-colored
beard and smiled; then Clytemnestra,
Gathering the robe, setting the golden-sandaled feet carefully,
stone by stone, descended
One half the stair. But one of the captives marred the comeliness
of that embrace with a cry
Gull-shrill, blade-sharp, cutting between the purple cloak and
the bronze plates, then Clytemnestra:
Who was it? The King answered: A piece of our goods out of
the snatch of Asia, a daughter of the king,
So treat her kindly and she may come into her wits again. Eh,
you keep state here my queen.
You've not been the poorer for me.- In heart, in the widowed
chamber, dear, she pale replied, though the slaves
Toiled, the spearmen were faithful. What's her name, the slavegirl's?
AGAMEMNON Come up the stair. They tell me my kinsman's
Lodged himself on you.
CLYTEMNESTRA Your cousin Aegisthus? He was out of refuge,
flits between here and Tiryns.
Dear: the girl's name?
AGAMEMNON Cassandra. We've a hundred or so other
captives; besides two hundred
Rotted in the hulls, they tell odd stories about you and your
guest: eh? no matter: the ships
Ooze pitch and the August road smokes dirt, I smell like an
old shepherd's goatskin, you'll have bath-water?
CLYTEMNESTRA
They're making it hot. Come, my lord. My hands will pour it.
(They enter the palace.)
CASSANDRA
In the holy city,
In Troy, when the stone was standing walls and the ash
Was painted and carved wood and pictured curtains,
And those lived that are dead, they had caged a den
Of wolves out of the mountain, and I a maiden
Was led to see them: it stank and snarled,
The smell was the smell here, the eyes were the eyes
Of steep Mycenae: O God guardian of wanderers
Let me die easily.
So cried Cassandra the daughter of King Priam, treading the steps
of the palace at Mycenae.
Swaying like a drunken woman, drunk with the rolling of the
ship, and with tears, and with prophecy.
The stair may yet be seen, among the old stones that are Mycenae;
tall dark Cassandra, the prophetess,
The beautiful girl with whom a God bargained for love, high-nurtured,
captive, shamefully stained
With the ship's filth and the sea's, rolled her dark head upon her
shoulders like a drunken woman
And trod the great stones of the stair. The captives, she among
them, were ranked into a file
On the flagged porch, between the parapet and the spearmen.
The people below shouted for the King,
King Agamemnon, returned conqueror, after the ten years of
battle and death in Asia.
Then cried Cassandra:
Good spearmen you did not kill my father, not you
Violated my mother with the piercing
That makes no life in the womb, not you defiled
My tall blond brothers with the masculine lust
That strikes its loved one standing,
And leaves him what no man again nor a girl
Ever will gaze upon with the eyes of desire:
Therefore you'll tell me
Whether it's an old custom in the Greek country
The cow goring the bull, break the inner door back
And see in what red water how cloaked your King
Bathes, and my brothers are avenged a little.
One said: Captive be quiet. And she: What have I to be quiet for,
you will not believe me.
Such wings my heart spreads when the red runs out of any
Greek, I must let the bird fly. O soldiers
He that mishandled me dies! The first, one of your two brute
Aj axes, that threw me backward
On the temple flagstones, a hard bride-bed, I enduring him
heard the roofs of my city breaking,
The roar of flames and spearmen: what came to Ajax? Out of a
cloud the loud-winged falcon lightning
Came on him shipwrecked, clapped its wings about him, clung
to him, the violent flesh burned and the bones
Broke from each other in that passion; and now this one, returned
safe, the Queen is his lightning.
While she yet spoke a slave with haggard eyes darted from the
door; there were hushed cries and motions
In the inner dark of the great hall. Then the Queen Clytemnestra
issued, smiling. She drew
Her cloak up, for the brooch on the left shoulder was broken; the
fillet of her hair had come unbound;
Yet now she was queenly at length; and standing at the stair-head
spoke: Men of Mycenae, I have made
Sacrifice for the joy this day has brought to us, the King come
home, the enemy fallen, fallen,
In the ashes of Asia. I have made sacrifice. I made the prayer
with my own lips, and struck the bullock
With my own hand. The people murmured together, She's not
a priestess, the Queen is not a priestess,
What has she done there, what wild sayings
Make wing in the Queen's throat?
CLYTEMNESTRA I have something to tell you.
Too much joy is a message-bearer of misery.
A little is good; but come too much and it devours us. Therefore
we give of a great harvest
Sheaves to the smiling Gods; and therefore out of a full cup we
pour the quarter. No man
Dare take all that God sends him, whom God favors, or destruction
Rides into the house in the last basket. I have been twelve years
your shepherdess, I the Queen have ruled you
And I am accountable for you.
CASSANDRA
Why should a man kill his own mother?
The cub of the lion being grown
Will fight with the lion, but neither lion nor wolf
Nor the unclean jackal
Bares tooth against the womb that he dropped out of:
Yet I have seen
CLYTEMNESTRA
Strike that captive woman with your hand, spearman; and then
if the spirit
Of the she-wolf in her will not quiet, with the butt of the spear.
CASSANDRA -the blade in the child's hand
Enter the breast that the child sucked-that woman's-
The left breast that the robe has dropped from, for the brooch is
broken,
That very hillock of whiteness, and she crying, she kneeling
(The spearman 'who is nearest CASSANDRA covers her mouth
twith his hand.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
My sister's beauty entered Troy with too much gladness. They
forgot to make sacrifice.
Therefore destruction entered; therefore the daughters of Troy
cry out in strange dispersals, and this one
Grief has turned mad. I will not have that horror march under
the Lion-gate of Mycenae
That split the citadel of Priam. Therefore I say I have made
sacrifice; I have subtracted
A fraction from immoderate joy. For consider, my people,
How unaccountably God has favored the city and brought home
the army. King Agamemnon,
My dear, my husband, my lord and yours,
Is yet not such a man as the Gods love; but insolent, fierce, overbearing,
whose folly
Brought many times many great evils
On all the heads and fighting hopes of the Greek force. Why,
even before the fleet made sail,
While yet it gathered on Boeotian Aulis, this man offended. He
slew one of the deer
Of the sacred herd of Artemis, out of pure impudence, hunter's
pride that froths in a young boy
Laying nock to string of his first bow: this man, grown, a grave
king, leader of the Greeks.
The angry Goddess
Blew therefore from the horn of the Trojan shore storm without
end, no slackening, no turn, no slumber
Of the eagle bound to break the oars of the fleet and split the
hulls venturing: you know what answer
Calchas the priest gave: his flesh must pay whose hand did the
evil-his flesh! mine also. His? My daughter.
They knew that of my three there was one that I loved.
Blameless white maid, my Iphigenia, whose throat the knife,
Whose delicate soft throat the thing that cuts sheep open was
drawn across by a priest's hand
And the soft-colored lips drained bloodless
That had clung here-here- Oh!
(Drawing the robe from her breasts.)
These feel soft, townsmen; these are red at the tips, they have
neither blackened nor turned marble.
King Agamemnon hoped to pillow his black-haired breast upon
them, my husband, that mighty conqueror,
Come home with glory. He thought they were still a woman's,
they appear a woman's. I'll tell you something.
Since fawn slaughtered for slaughtered fawn evened the debt
these that feel soft and warm are wounding ice,
They ache with their hardness . . .
Shall I go on and count the other follies of the King? The
insolences to God and man
That brought down plague, and brought Achilles' anger against
the army? Yet God brought home a remnant
Against all hope: therefore rejoice.
But lest too much rejoicing slay us I have made sacrifice. A little
girl's brought you over the sea.
What could be great enough for safe return? A sheep's death?
A bull's? What thank-offering?
All these captives, battered from the ships, bruised with captivity,
damaged flesh and forlorn minds?
God requires wholeness in the victim. You dare not think what
he demands. I dared. I, I,
Dared.
Men of the Argolis, you that went over the sea and you that
guarded the home coasts
And high stone war-belts of the cities: remember how many
spearmen these twelve years have called me
Queen, and have loved me, and been faithful, and remain faithful.
What I bring you is accomplished.
VOICES
King Agamemnon. The King. We will hear the King.
CLYTEMNESTRA What I bring you is accomplished.
Accept it, the cities are at peace, the ways are safe between
them, the Gods favor us. Refuse it ...
You will not refuse it ...
VOICES The King. We will hear the King. Let
us see the King.
CLYTEMNESTRA
You will not refuse it; I have my faithful They would run, the
red rivers,
From the gate and by the graves through every crooked street
of the great city, they would run in the pasture
Outside the walls: and on this stair: stemmed at this entrance-
CASSANDRA
Ah, sister, do you also behold visions? I was watching red
water-
CLYTEMNESTRA
Be wise, townsmen. As for the King: slaves will bring him to you
when he has bathed; you will see him.
The slaves will carry him on a litter, he has learned Asian ways in
Asia, too great a ruler
To walk, like common spearmen.
CASSANDRA Who is that, standing behind
you, Clytemnestra? What God
Dark in the doorway?
CLYTEMNESTRA Deal you with your own demons. You
know what I have done, captive. You know
I am holding lions with my two eyes: if I turn and loose
them . . .
CASSANDRA It is . . . the King. There! There! Ah!
CLYTEMNESTRA
Or of I should make any move to increase confusion. If I should
say for example, Spearman
Kill that woman. I cannot say it this moment; so little as from
one spear wound in your body
A trickle would loose them on us.
CASSANDRA Yet he stands behind you.
A-ah! I can bear it. I have seen much lately
Worse.
A CAPTAIN (down the stair; standing forward from his men)
O Queen, there is no man in the world, but one (if that one
lives), may ask you to speak
Otherwise than you will. You have spoken in riddles to the
people . . .
CASSANDRA Not me! Why will you choose
Me! I submitted to you living, I was forced, you entered me . . .
THE CAPTAIN Also there was a slave here,
Whose eyes stood out from his chalk face, came buzzing from
the palace postern gate, whimpering
A horrible thing. I killed him. But the men have heard it.
CASSANDRA You were the king, I was your slave.
Here you see, here, I took the black-haired breast of the bull,
I endured it, I opened my thighs, I suffered
The other thing besides death that you Greeks have to give
us ...
THE CAPTAIN Though this one raves and you are silent,
Queen, terrible-eyed . . .
CASSANDRA That was the slave's part: but this
time . . . dead King . . .
I ... will . . . not submit. Ah! Ah! No!
If you will steal the body of someone living take your wife's,
take that soldier's there
THE CAPTAIN
I pray you Queen command the captive woman be quieted in a
stone chamber; she increases confusion,
The soldiers cannot know some terrible thing may not have
happened; you men and the King's grin
Like wolves over the kill, the whole city totters on a swordedge
over sudden
CASSANDRA (screaming)
Drive him off me! Pity, pity!
I have no power; I thought when he was dead another man would
use me, your Greek custom,
Not he, he, newly slain.
He is driving me out, he enters, he possesses, this is my last defilement.
Ah . . . Greeks . . .
Pity Cassandra!
With the voice the spirit seemed to fly out.
She upflung her shining
Arms with the dreadful and sweet gesture of a woman surrendering
utterly to force and love,
She in the eyes of the people, like a shameless woman, and fell
writhing, and the dead King's soul
Entered her body. In that respite the Queen:
Captain: and you,
soldiers, that shift unsoldierly
The weapons that should be upright, at attention, like stiff
grass-blades: and you, people of Mycenae:
While this one maddened, and you muttered, echoing together,
and you, soldier, with anxious questions
Increased confusion: who was it that stood firm, who was it that
stood silent, who was it that held
With her two eyes the whole city from splitting wide asunder?
Your Queen was it? I am your Queen,
And now I will answer what you asked. ... It is true. . . . He
has died. ... I am the Queen.
My little son Orestes will grow up and govern you.
While she
spoke the body of Cassandra
Arose among the shaken spears, taller than the spears, and stood
among the waving spears
Stone-quiet, like a high war-tower in a windy pinewood, but
deadly to look at, with blind and tyrannous
Eyes; and the Queen: All is accomplished; and if you are wise,
people of Mycenae: quietness is wisdom.
No tumult will call home a dead man out of judgment. The end
is the end. Ah, soldiers! Down spears!
What, now Troy's fallen you think there's not a foreigner in
the world bronze may quench thirst on? Lion-cubs,
If you will tear each other in the lair happy the wolves, happy
the hook-nose vultures.
Call the eaters of carrion? I am your Queen, I am speaking to
you, you will hear me out before you whistle
The foul beaks from the mountain nest. I tell you I will forget
mercy if one man moves now.
I rule you, I.
The Gods have satisfied themselves in this man's death; there
shall not one drop of the blood of the city
Be shed further. I say the high Gods are content; as for the
lower,
And the great ghost of the King: my slaves will bring out the
King's body decently before you
And set it here, in the eyes of the city: spices the ships bring from
the south will comfort his spirit;
Mycenae and Tiryns and the shores will mourn him aloud; sheep
will be slain for him; a hundred beeves
Spill their thick blood into the trenches; captives and slaves go
down to serve him, yes all these captives
Burn in the ten-day fire with him, unmeasured wine quench it,
urned in pure gold the gathered ashes
Rest forever in the sacred rock; honored; a conqueror. . . .
Slaves, bring the King out of the house.
Alas my husband! she cried, clutching the brown strands of her
hair in both her hands, you have left me
A woman among lions! Ah, the King's power, ah the King's
victories! Weep for me, Mycenae!
Widowed of the King!
The people stood amazed, like sheep that
snuff at their dead shepherd, some hunter's
Ill-handled arrow having struck him from the covert, all by
mischance; he is fallen on the hillside
Between the oak-shadow and the stream; the sun burns his dead
face, his staff lies by him, his dog
Licks his hand, whining. So, like sheep, the people
Regarded that dead majesty whom the slaves brought out of the
house on a gold bed, and set it
Between the pillars of the porch. His royal robe covered his
wounds, there was no stain
Nor discomposure.
Then that captain who had spoken before:
O Queen, before the mourning
The punishment: tell us who has done this. She raised her head,
and not a woman but a lioness
Blazed at him from her eyes: Dog, she answered, dog of the
army,
Who said Speak dog, and you dared speak? Justice is mine.
Then he was silent; but Cassandra's
Body standing tall among the spears, over the parapet, her body
but not her spirit
Cried with a man's voice: Shall not even the stones of the stair,
shall not the stones under the columns
Speak, and the towers of the great wall of my city come down
against the murderess? O Mycenae
I yearned to night and day under the tents by Troy, O Tiryns,
O Mycenae, the door
Of death, and the gate before the door!
CLYTEMNESTRA That woman lies, or the
spirit of a lie cries from her. Spearman,
Kill that woman!
But Cassandra's body set its back against the
parapet, its face
Terribly fronting the raised knife; and called the soldier by his
name, in the King's voice, saying
Sheathe it; and the knife lowered, and the soldier
Fell on his knees before the King in the woman's body; and the
body of Cassandra cried from the parapet:
Horrible things, horrible things this house has witnessed: but here
is the most vile, that hundreds
Of spears are idle while the murderess, Clytemnestra the murderess,
the snake that came upon me
Naked and bathing, the death that lay with me in bed, the death
that has borne children to me,
Stands there unslain.
CLYTEMNESTRA Cowards, if the bawling of that bewildered
heifer from Troy fields has frightened you
How did you bear the horns of her brothers? Bring her to me.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
Let no man doubt, men of Mycenae,
She has yet the knife hid in her clothes, the very blade that
stabbed her husband and the blood is on it.
Look, she handles it now. Look, fellows. The hand under the
robe. Slay her not easily, that she-wolf.
Do her no honor with a spear! Ah! If I could find the word, if
I could find it,
The name of her, to say husband-slayer and bed-defiler, bitch
and wolf-bitch, king's assassin
And beast, beast, beast, all in one breath, in one word: spearmen
You would heap your shields over this woman and crush her
slowly, slowly, while she choked and screamed,
No, you would peel her bare and on the pavement for a bridebed
with a spear-butt for husband
Dig the lewd womb until it burst: this for Agamemnon, this for
Aegisthus Agh, cowards of the city
Do you stand quiet?
CLYTEMNESTRA Truly, soldiers,
I think it is he verily. No one could invent the abominable voice,
the unspeakable gesture,
The actual raging insolence of the tyrant. I am the hand ridded
the Argolis of him.
I here, I killed him, I, justly.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA You have heard her, you have
heard her, she has made confession.
Now if she'll show you the knife too
CLYTEMNESTRA Here. I kept it for safety.
And, as that beast said, his blood's yet on it.
Look at it, with so little a key I unlocked the kingdom of destruction.
Stand firm, till a God
Lead home this ghost to the dark country
So many Greeks have peopled, through his crimes, his violence,
his insolence, stand firm till that moment
And through the act of this hand and of this point no man shall
suffer anything again forever
Of Agamemnon.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
I say if you let this woman live, this crime go
unpunished, what man among you
Will be safe in his bed? The woman ever envies the man, his
strength, his freedom, his loves.
Her envy is like a snake beside him, all his life through, her envy
and hatred: law tames that viper:
Law dies if the Queen die not: the viper is free then.
It will be poison in your meat or a knife to bleed you sleeping.
They fawn and slaver over us
And then we are slain.
CLYTEMNESTRA (to one of the slaves that carried the King’s
body)
Is my lord Aegisthus
Slain on the way? How long? How long?
(To the people) He
came, fat with his crimes.
Greek valor broke down Troy, your valor, soldiers, and the brain
of Odysseus, the battle-fury of Achilles,
The stubborn strength of Menelaus, the excellence of you all:
this dead man here, his pride
Ruined you a hundred times: he helped nowise, he brought bitter
destruction: but he gathered your glory
For the cloak of his shoulders. I saw him come up the stair, I saw
my child Iphigenia
Killed for his crime; I saw his harlot, the captive woman there,
crying out behind him, I saw . . .
I saw ... I saw . . . how can I speak what crowd of the dead
faces of the faithful Greeks,
Your brothers, dead of his crimes; those that perished of plague
and those that died in the lost battles
After he had soured the help of Achilles for another harlot
those dead faces of your brothers,
Some black with the death-blood, many trampled under the
hooves of horses, many spotted with pestilence,
Flew all about him, all lamenting, all crying out against him,
horrible horrible I gave them
Vengeance; and you freedom.
(To the slave) Go up and look,
for God's sake, go up to the parapets,
Look toward the mountain. Bring me word quickly, my strength
breaks,
How can I hold all the Argolis with my eyes forever? I alone?
Hell cannot hold her dead men,
Keep watch there-send me word by others-go, go!
(To the people) He
came triumphing.
Magnificent, abominable, all in bronze.
I brought him to the bath; my hands undid the armor;
My hands poured out the water;
Dead faces like flies buzzed all about us;
He stripped himself before me, loathsome, unclean, with laughter;
The labors of the Greeks had made him fat, the deaths of the
faithful had swelled his belly;
I threw a cloak over him for a net and struck, struck, struck,
Blindly, in the steam of the bath; he bellowed, netted,
And bubbled in the water;
All the stone vault asweat with steam bellowed;
And I undid the net and the beast was dead, and the broad vessel
Stank with his blood.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
The word! The word! O burning mind of Godr
If ever I gave you bulls teach me that word, the name for her,
the name for her!
A SLAVE (running from the door; to CLYTEMNESTRA)
My lord. Aegisthus has come down the mountain, Queen, he
approaches the Lion-gate.
CLYTEMNESTRA It is time. I am tired now.
Meet him and tell him to come in the postern doorway.
THE CAPTAIN (on the stair: addressing the soldiers and the people
below)
Companions: before God, hating the smell of crimes, crushes the
city into gray ashes
We must make haste. Judge now and act. For the husband-slayer
I say she must die, let her pay forfeit. And for the great ghost
of the King, let all these captives,
But chiefly the woman Cassandra, the crier in a man's voice there,
be slain upon his pyre to quiet him.
He will go down to his dark place and God will spare the city.
(To the soldiers above, on the ramp and the porch)
Comrades: Mycenae is greater
Than the Queen of Mycenae. The King is dead: let the Queen
die: let the city live. Comrades,
We suffered something in Asia, on the stranger's coast, laboring
for you. We dreamed of home there
In the bleak wind and drift of battle; we continued ten years,
laboring and dying; we accomplished
The task set us; we gathered what will make all the Greek cities
glorious, a name forever;
We shared the spoil, taking our share to enrich Mycenae. O but
our hearts burned then, O comrades
But our hearts melted when the great oars moved the ships, the
water carried us, the blue sea-waves
Slid under the black keel; I could not see them, I was blind with
tears, thinking of Mycenae.
We have come home. Behold the dear streets of our longing,
The stones that we desired, the steep ways of the city and the
sacred doorsteps
Reek and steam with pollution, the accursed vessel
Spills a red flood over the floors.
The fountain of it stands there and calls herself the Queen. No
Queen, no Queen, that husband-slayer,
A common murderess. Comrades join us
We will make clean the city and sweeten it before God. We
will mourn together at the King's burying,
And a good year will come, we will rejoice together.
CLYTEMNESTRA Dog, you dare
something. Fling no spear, soldiers,
He has a few fools back of him would attempt the stair if the
dog were slain: I will have no one
Killed out of need.
ONE OF HER MEN ON THE PORCH (flinging his spear)
Not at him: at you
Murderess!
But some God, no lover of justice, turned it; the
great bronze tip grazing her shoulder
Clanged on the stones behind: the gong of a change in the dance:
now Clytemnestra, none to help her,
One against all, swayed raging by the King's corpse, over the
golden bed: it is said that a fire
Stood visibly over her head, mixed in the hair, pale flames and
radiance.
CLYTEMNESTRA Here am I, thieves, thieves,
Drunkards, here is my breast, a deep white mark for cowards to
aim at: kings have lain on it.
No spear yet, heroes, heroes?
See, I have no blemish: the arms are white, the breasts are deep
and white, the whole body is blemishless:
You are tired of your brown wives, draw lots for me, rabble,
thieves, there is loot here, shake the dice, thieves, a game yet!
One of you will take the bronze and one the silver,
One the gold, and one me,
Me Clytemnestra a spoil worth having:
Kings have kissed me, this dead dog was a king, there is another
King at the gate: thieves, thieves, would not this shining
Breast brighten a sad thief's hut, roll in his bed's filth
Shiningly? You could teach me to draw water at the fountain,
A dirty child on the other hip: where are the dice? Let me
throw first, if I throw sixes
I choose my masters: closer you rabble, let me smell you.
Don't fear the knife, it has king's blood on it, I keep it for an
ornament,
It has shot its sting.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Fools, fools, Strike!
Are your hands dead?
CLYTEMNESTRA You Would see all of me
Before you choose whether to kill or dirtily cherish? If what
the King's used needs commending
To the eyes of thieves for thieves' use: give me room, give me
room, fellows, you'll see it is faultless.
The dress . . . there . . .
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Fools this wide whore played wife
When she was going about to murder me the King; you, will
you let her trip you
With the harlot's trick? Strike! Make an end!
CLYTEMNESTRA I have not my
sister's, Troy's flame's beauty, but I have something.
This arm, round, firm, skin without hair, polished like marble:
the supple-jointed shoulders:
Men have praised the smooth neck, too,
The strong clear throat over the deep wide breasts . . .
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA She is
buying an hour: sheep: it may be Aegisthus
Is at the Lion-gate.
CLYTEMNESTRA If he were here, Aegisthus,
Id not be the pedlar of what trifling charms I have for an
hour of life yet. You have wolves' eyes:
Yet there is something kindly about the blue ones there yours,
young soldier, young soldier. . . . The last,
The under-garment? You won't buy me yet? This dead dog,
The King here, never saw me naked: I had the night for nurse:
turn his head sideways, the eyes
Are only half shut. If I should touch him, and the blood came,
you'd say I had killed him. Nobody, nobody,
Killed him: his pride burst.
Ah, no one has pity!
I can serve well, I have always envied your women, the public ones.
Who takes me first? Tip that burnt log onto the flagstones,
This will be in a king's bed then. Your eyes are wolves' eyes:
So many, so many, so famishing
I will undo it, handle me not yet, I can undo it ...
Or I will tear it.
And when it is off me then I will be delivered to you beasts . . .
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
Then strip her and use her to the bones, wear her through, kill
her with it.
CLYTEMNESTRA
When it is torn
You'll say I am lovely: no one has seen before . . .
It won't tear: I'll slit it with this knife
(Aegisthus, with many spearmen, issues from the great door.
CLYTEMNESTRA stabs right and left with the knife; the
men are too close to strike her with their long spears.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
It's time. Cowards, goats, goats. Here! Aegisthus!
Aegisthus
I am here. What have they done?
CLYTEMNESTRA
Nothing: clear the porch: I have done something. Drive them
on the stair!
Three of them I've scarred for life: a rough bridegroom, the
rabble, met a fierce bride.
(She catches up her robe.)
I held them with my eyes, hours, hours. I am not tired. . . .
My lord, my lover:
I have killed a twelve-point stag for a present for you: with my
own hands: look, on the golden litter.
You arrive timely.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
Tricked, stabbed, shamed, mocked at, the spoil of a lewd woman,
despised
I lie there ready for her back-stairs darling to spit on. Tricked,
stabbed, sunk in the drain
And gutter of time. I that thundered the assault, I that mustered
the Achaeans. Cast out of my kingdom,
Cast out of time, out of the light.
CLYTEMNESTRA One of the captives, dear.
It left its poor wits
Over the sea. If it annoys you I'll quiet it. But post your sentinels.
All's not safe yet, though I am burning with joy now.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA O single-eyed
glare of the sky
Flying southwest to the mountain: sun, through a slave's eyes,
My own broken, I see you this last day; my own darkened, no
dawn forever; the adulterers
Will swim in your warm gold, day after day; the eyes of the
murderess will possess you;
And I have gone away down: knowing that no God in the earth
nor sky loves justice; and having tasted
The toad that serves women for heart. From now on may all
bridegrooms
Marry them with swords. Those that have borne children
Their sons rape them with spears.
CLYTEMNESTRA More yet, more, more, more,
while my hand's in? It's not a little
You easily living lords of the sky require of who'd be like you,
who'd take time in the triumph,
Build joy solid. Do we have to do everything? I have killed
what I hated:
Kill what I love? The prophetess said it, this dead man says it:
my little son, the small soft image
That squirmed in my arms be an avenger? Love, from your loins
Seed: I begin new, I will be childless for you. The child my son,
the child my daughter!
Though I cry I feel nothing.
AEGISTHUS O strongest spirit in the world.
We have dared enough, there is an end to it.
We may pass nature a little, an arrow-flight,
But two shots over the wall you come in a cloud upon the feasting
Gods, lightning and madness.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Dear: make them safe. They may try to run away, the children.
Set spears to watch them: no harm, no harm,
But stab the nurse if they go near a door. Watch them, keep the
gates, order the sentinels,
While I make myself Queen over this people again. I can do it.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA The sun's gone; that glimmer's
The moon of the dead. The dark God calls me. Yes, God,
I'll come in a moment.
CLYTEMNESTRA (at the head of the great stairs)
Soldiers: townsmen: it seems
I am not at the end delivered to you: dogs, for the lion came:
the poor brown and spotted women
Will have to suffice you. But is it nothing to have come within
handling distance of the clear heaven
This dead man knew when he was young and God endured him?
Is it nothing to you?
It is something to me to have felt the fury
And concentration of you: I will not say I am grateful: I am
not angry: to be desired
Is wine even to a queen. You bathed me in it, from brow to foot-sole,
I had nearly enough.
But now remember that the dream is over. I am the Queen:
Mycenae is my city. If you grin at me
I have spears: also Tiryns and all the country people of the
Argolis will come against you and swallow you,
Empty out these ways and walls, stock them with better subjects.
A rock nest for new birds here, townsfolk:
You are not essential.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA. I hear him calling through the shewolf's
noise, Agamemnon, Agamemnon,
The dark God calls. Some old king in a fable is it?
CLYTEMNESTRA So choose.
What choices? To reenter my service
Unpunished, no thought of things past, free of conditions . . .
Or dine at this man's table, have new mouths made in you to
eat bronze with.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Who is Agamemnon?
CLYTEMNESTRA
You letting go of the sun: is it dark the land you are running
away to?
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA It is dark.
CLYTEMNESTRA IS it Sorrowful?
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
There is nothing but misery.
CLYTEMNESTRA Has any man ever come back thence?
Hear me, not the dark God.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA No man has ever.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Go then, go, go down. You will not choose to follow him, people
of the rock-city? No one
Will choose to follow him. I have killed: it is easy: it may be
I shall kill nearer than this yet:
But not you, townsfolk, you will give me no cause; I want
security; I want service, not blood.
I have been desired of the whole city, publicly; I want service,
not lust. You will make no sign
Of your submission; you will not give up your weapons; neither
shall your leaders be slain;
And he that flung the spear, I have forgotten his face.
AEGISTHUS (entering) Dearest,
they have gone, the nurse and the children,
No one knows where.
CLYTEMNESTRA I am taming this people: send men after
them. If any harm comes to the children
Bring me tokens. I will not be in doubt, I will not have the arch
fall on us. I dare
What no one dares. I envy a little the dirty mothers of the city.
O, O!
Nothing in me hurts. I have animal waters in my eyes, but the
spirit is not wounded. Electra and Orestes
Are not to live when they are caught. Bring me sure tokens.
CASSANDRA Who is this woman like a beacon
Lit on the stair, who are these men with dogs' heads?
I have ranged time and seen no sight like this one.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Have you returned, Cassandra? . . . The dead king has gone
down to his place, we may bury his leavings.
CASSANDRA
I have witnessed all the wars to be; I am not sorrowful
For one drop from the pail of desolation
Spilt on my father's city; they were carrying it forward
To water the world under the latter starlight.
CLYTEMNESTRA (to her slaves)
Take up the poles of the bed; reverently; careful on the stair;
give him to the people. (To the people) O soldiers
This was your leader; lay him with honor in the burial-chapel;
guard him with the spears of victory;
Mourn him until to-morrow, when the pyre shall be built.
Ah, King of men, sleep, sleep, sleep!
. . . But when shall I? ... They are after their corpse, like
dogs after the butcher's cart. Cleomenes, that captain
With the big voice: Neobulus was the boy who flung the spear
and missed. I shall not miss
When spear-flinging-time comes. . . . Captive woman, you have
seen the future, tell me my fortune.
(Aegisthus comes from the doorway.)
Aegisthus,
Have your hounds got them?
AEGISTHUS I've covered every escape with men,
they'll not slip through me. But commanded
To bring them here living.
CLYTEMNESTRA That's hard: tigresses don't do it: I
have some strength yet: don't speak of it
And I shall do it.
AEGISTHUS It is a thing not to be done: we'll guard them
closely: but mere madness
Lies over the wall of too-much.
CLYTEMNESTRA King of Mycenae, new-crowned
king, who was your mother?
AEGISTHUS Pelopia.
What mark do you aim at?
CLYTEMNESTRA And your father?
AEGISTHUS Thyestes.
CLYTEMNESTRA And her father?
AEGISTHUS The
same man, Thyestes.
CLYTEMNESTRA
See, dearest, dearest? They love what men call crime, they have
taken her crime to be the king of Mycenae.
Here is the stone garden of the plants that pass nature: there is
no too-much here: the monstrous
Old rocks want monstrous roots to serpent among them. I will
have security. I'd burn the standing world
Up to this hour and begin new. You think I am too much used
for a new brood? Ah, lover,
I have fountains in me. I had a fondness for the brown cheek
of that boy, the curl of his
lip,
The widening blue of the doomed eyes ... I will be spared
nothing. Come in, come in, they'll have news for us.
no
CASSANDRA
If anywhere in the world
Were a tower with foundations, or a treasure-chamber
With a firm vault, or a walled fortress
That stood on the years, not staggering, not moving
As the mortar were mixed with wine for water
And poppy for lime: they reel, they are all drunkards,
The piled strengths of the world: no pyramid
In bitter Egypt in the desert
But skips at moonrise; no mountain
Over the Black Sea in awful Caucasus
But whirls like a young kid, like a bud of the herd,
Under the hundredth star: I am sick after steadfastness
Watching the world cataractlike
Pour screaming onto steep ruins: for the wings of prophecy
God once my lover give me stone sandals
Planted on stone: he hates me, the God, he will never
Take home the gift of the bridleless horse
The stallion, the unbitted stallion: the bed
Naked to the sky on Mount Ida,
The soft clear grass there,
Be blackened forever, may vipers and Greeks
In that glen breed
Twisting together, where the God
Come golden from the sun
Gave me for a bride-gift prophecy and I took it for a treasure:
I a fool, I a maiden,
I would not let him touch me though love of him maddened me
Till he fed me that poison, till he planted that fire in me,
The girdle flew loose then.

The Queen considered this rock, she gazed on the great stone
blocks of Mycenae's acropolis;
Monstrous they seemed to her, solid they appeared to her, safe
rootage for monstrous deeds: Ah fierce one
Who knows who laid them for a snare? What people in the
world's dawn breathed on chill air and the vapor
Of their breath seemed stone and has stood and you dream it is
established? These also are a foam on the stream
Of the falling of the world: there is nothing to lay hold on:
No crime is a crime, the slaying of the King was a meeting of
two bubbles on the lip of the cataract,
One winked . . . and the killing of your children would be
nothing: I tell you for a marvel that the earth is a dancer,
The grave dark earth is less quiet than a fool's fingers,
That old one, spinning in the emptiness, blown by no wind in
vain circles, light-witted and a dancer.
CLYTEMNESTRA (entering)
You are prophesying: prophesy to a purpose, captive woman.
My children, the boy and the girl,
Have wandered astray, no one can find them.
CASSANDRA Shall I tell the lioness
Where meat is, or the she-wolf where the lambs wander astray?
CLYTEMNESTRA But look into the darkness
And foam of the world: the boy has great tender blue eyes,
brown hair, disdainful lips, you'll know him
By the gold stripe bordering his garments; the girl's eyes are
my color, white her clothing
CASSANDRA Millions
Of shining bubbles burst and wander
On the stream of the world falling . . .
CLYTEMNESTRA These are my children!
CASSANDRA I see
mountains, I see no faces.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Tell me and I make you free; conceal it from me and a soldier's
spear finishes the matter.
CASSANDRA
I am the spear's bride, I have been waiting, waiting for that
ecstasy
CLYTEMNESTRA (striking her) Live then. It will not be unpainful.
(CLYTEMNESTRA goes in.)
CASSANDRA
O fair roads north where the land narrows
Over the mountains between the great gulfs,
that I too with the King's children
Might wander northward hand in hand.
Mine are worse wanderings:
They will shelter on Mount Parnassus,
For me there is no mountain firm enough,
The storms of light beating on the headlands,
The storms of music undermine the mountains, they stumble
and fall inward,
Such music the stars
Make in their courses, the vast vibration
Plucks the iron heart of the earth like a harp-string.
Iron and stone core, O stubborn axle of the earth, you also
Dissolving in a little time like salt in water,
What does it matter that I have seen Macedon
Roll all the Greek cities into one billow and strand in Asia
The anthers and bracts of the flower of the world?
That I have seen Egypt and Nineveh
Crumble, and a Latian village
Plant the earth with javelins? It made laws for all men, it dissolved
like a cloud.
I have also stood watching a storm of wild swans
Rise from one river-mouth . . . O force of the earth rising,
O fallings of the earth: forever no rest, not forever
From the wave and the trough, from the stream and the slack,
from growth and decay: O vulture-
Pinioned, my spirit, one flight yet, last, longest, unguided,
Try into the gulf,
Over Greece, over Rome, you have space O my spirit for the
years

II
Are not few of captivity: how many have I stood here
Among the great stones, while the Queen's people
Go in and out of the gate, wearing light linen
For summer and the wet spoils of wild beasts
In the season of storms: and the stars have changed, I have
watched
The grievous and unprayed-to constellations
Pile steaming spring and patient autumn
Over the enduring walls: but you over the walls of the world,
Over the unquieted centuries, over the darkness-hearted
Millenniums wailing thinly to be born, O vulture-pinioned
Try into the dark,
Watch the north spawn white bodies and red-gold hair,
Race after race of beastlike warriors; and the cities
Burn, and the cities build, and new lands be uncovered
In the way of the sun to his setting ... go on farther, what
profit
In the wars and the toils? but I say
Where are prosperous people my enemies are, as you pass them
O my spirit
Curse Athens for the joy and the marble, curse Corinth
For the wine and the purple, and Syracuse
For the gold and the ships; but Rome, Rome,
With many destructions for the corn and the laws and the javelins,
the insolence, the threefold
Abominable power: pass the humble
And the lordships of darkness, but far down
Smite Spain for the blood on the sunset gold, curse France
For the fields abounding and the running rivers, the lights in the
cities, the laughter, curse England
For the meat on the tables and the terrible gray ships, for old
laws, far dominions, there remains
A mightier to be cursed and a higher for malediction
When America has eaten Europe and takes tribute of Asia, when
the ends of the world grow aware of each other
And are dogs in one kennel, they will tear
The master of the hunt with the mouths of the pack: new fallings,
new risings, O winged one
No end of the fallings and risings? An end shall be surely,
Though unnatural things are accomplished, they breathe in the
sea's depth,
They swim in the air, they bridle the cloud-leaper lightning to
carry their messages:
Though the eagles of the east and the west and the falcons of
the north were not quieted, you have seen a white cloth
Cover the lands from the north and the eyes of the lands and the
claws of the hunters,
The mouths of the hungry with snow
Were filled, and their claws
Took hold upon ice in the pasture, a morsel of ice was their
catch in the rivers,
That pure white quietness
Waits on the heads of the mountains, not sleep but death, will
the fire
Of burnt cities and ships in that year warm you my enemies?
The frost, the old frost,
Like a cat with a broken-winged bird it will play with you,
It will nip and let go; you will say it is gone, but the next
Season it increases: O clean, clean,
White and most clean, colorless quietness,
Without trace, without trail, without stain in the garment, drawn
down
From the poles to the girdle. ... I have known one Godhead
To my sore hurt: I am growing to come to another: O grave
and kindly
Last of the lords of the earth, I pray you lead my substance
Speedily into another shape, make me grass, Death, make me
stone,
Make me air to wander free between the stars and the peaks;
but cut humanity
Out of my being, that is the wound that festers in me,
Not captivity, not my enemies: you will heal the earth also,
Death, in your time; but speedily Cassandra.
You rock-fleas hopping in the clefts of Mycenae,
Suckers of blood, you carrying the scepter farther, Persian,
Emathian,
Roman and Mongol and American, and you half-gods
Indian and Syrian and the third, emperors of peace, I have seen
on what stage
You sing the little tragedy; the column of the ice that was before
on one side flanks it,
The column of the ice to come closes it up on the other: audience
nor author
I have never seen yet: I have heard the silence: it is I Cassandra,
Eight years the bitter watchdog of these doors,
Have watched a vision
And now approach to my end. Eight years I have seen the
phantoms
Walk up and down this stair; and the rocks groan in the night,
the great stones move when no man sees them.
And I have forgotten the fine ashlar masonry of the courts of my
father. I am not Cassandra
But a counter of sunrises, permitted to live because I am crying
to die; three thousand,
Pale and red, have flowed over the towers in the wall since I was
here watching; the deep east widens,
The cold wind blows, the deep earth sighs, the dim gray finger
of light crooks at the morning star.
The palace feasted late and sleeps with its locked doors; the last
drunkard from the alleys of the city
Long has reeled home. Whose foot is this then, what phantom
Toils on the stair?
A VOICE BELOW Is someone watching above? Good sentinel I
am only a girl beggar.
I would sit on the stair and hold my bowl.
CASSANDRA I here eight years have
begged for a thing and not received it.
THE VOICE
You are not a sentinel? You have been asking some great boon,
out of all reason.
CASSANDRA No: what the meanest
Beggar disdains to take.
THE GIRL BEGGAR Beggars disdain nothing: what is it that
they refuse you?
CASSANDRA What's given
Even to the sheep and to the bullock.
THE GIRL Men give them salt, grass
they find out for themselves.
CASSANDRA Men give them
The gift that you though a beggar have brought down from the
north to give my mistress.
THE GIRL You speak riddles.
I am starving, a crust is my desire.
CASSANDRA Your voice is young though
winds have hoarsened it, your body appears
Flexible under the rags: have you some hidden sickness, the
young men will not give you silver?
THE GIRL
I have a sickness: I will hide it until I am cured. You are not
a Greek woman?
CASSANDRA But you
Born in Mycenae return home. And you bring gifts from Phocis:
for my once master who's dead
Vengeance; and for my mistress peace, for my master the King
peace, and, by-shot of the doom's day,
Peace for me also. But I have prayed for it.
THE GIRL I know you, I knew
you before you spoke to me, captive woman,
And I unarmed will kill you with my hands if you babble
prophecies.
That peace you have prayed for, I will bring it to you
If you utter warnings.
CASSANDRA To-day I shall have peace, you cannot
tempt me, daughter of the Queen, Electra.
Eight years ago I watched you and your brother going north
to Phocis: the Queen saw knowledge of you
Move in my eyes: I would not tell her where you were when
she commanded me: I will not betray you
To-day either: it is not doleful to me
To see before I die generations of destruction enter the doors
of Agamemnon.
Where is your brother?
ELECTRA Prophetess: you see all: I will tell you
nothing.
CASSANDRA He has well chosen his ambush,
It is true Aegisthus passes under that house to-day, to hunt in
the mountain.
ELECTRA Now I remember
Your name. Cassandra.
CASSANDRA Hush: the gray has turned yellow, the
standing beacons
Stream up from the east; they stir there in the palace; strange,
is it not, the dawn of one's last day's
Like all the others? Your brother would be fortunate if to-day
were also
The last of his.
ELECTRA He will endure his destinies; and Cassandra hers;
and Electra mine.
He has been for years like one tortured with fire: this day will
quench it.
CASSANDRA They are opening the gates: beg now.
To your trade, beggar-woman.
THE PORTER (coming out) Eh, pillar of miseries,
You still on guard there? Like a mare in a tight stall, never lying
down. What's this then?
A second ragged one? This at least can bend in the middle and
sit on a stone.
ELECTRA Dear gentleman
I am not used to it, my father is dead and hunger forces me to
beg, a crust or a penny.
THE PORTER
This tall one's licensed in a manner. I think they'll not let two
bundles of rag
Camp on the stair: but if you'd come to the back door and please
me nicely: with a little washing
It'd do for pastime.
ELECTRA I was reared gently: I will sit here, the King
will see me,
And none mishandle me.
THE PORTER I bear no blame for you.
I have not seen you: you came after the gates were opened.
(He goes in.)
CASSANDRA
O blossom of fire, bitter to men,
Watchdog of the woeful days,
How many sleepers
Bathing in peace, dreaming themselves delight,
All over the city, all over the Argolid plain, all over the dark
earth,
(Not me, a deeper draught of peace
And darker waters alone may wash me)
Do you, terrible star, star without pity,
Wolf of the east, waken to misery.
To the wants unaccomplished, to the eating desires,
To unanswered love, to hunger, to the hard edges
And mold of reality, to the whips of their masters.
They had flown away home to the happy darkness,
They were safe until sunrise.
(King Aegisthus, with his retinue, comes from the great
door.)
AEGISTHUS
Even here, in the midst of the city, the early day
Has a clear savor. (To ELECTRA) What, are you miserable, holding
the bowl out?
We'll hear the lark to-day in the wide hills and smell the mountain.
I'd share happiness with you.
What's your best wish, girl beggar?
ELECTRA It is covered, my lord, how
should a beggar
Know what to wish for beyond a crust and a dark corner and a
little kindness?
AEGISTHUS Why do you tremble?
ELECTRA
I was reared gently; my father is dead.
AEGISTHUS Stand up: will you take
service here in the house? What country
Bred you gently and proved ungentle to you?
ELECTRA I have wandered
north from the Eurotas, my lord,
Begging at farmsteads.
AEGISTHUS The Queen's countrywoman then, she'll
use you kindly. She'll be coming
In a moment, then I'll speak for you. -Did you bid them yoke
the roans into my chariot, Menalcas,
The two from Orchomenus?
ONE OF THE RETINUE Yesterday evening, my lord,
I sent to the stable.
AEGISTHUS They cost a pretty penny, we'll see how they
carry it. She's coming: hold up your head, girl.
(CLYTEMNESTRA, with two serving-women, comes from
the door.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
Good hunt, dearest. Here's a long idle day for me to look to.
Kill early, come home early.
AEGISTHUS
There's a poor creature on the step who's been reared nicely
and slipped into misery. I said you'd feed her,
And maybe find her a service. Farewell, sweet one.
CLYTEMNESTRA Where did she come from? How long have you
been here?
AEGISTHUS She says she has begged her way up from Sparta.
The horses are stamping on the cobbles, good-by, good-by.
(He goes down the stair with his huntsmen.)
CLYTEMNESTRA Good-by, dearest. Well. Let me see your face.
ELECTRA It is filthy to look at. I am ashamed.
CLYTEMNESTRA (to one of her serving-women) Leucippe do
you think this is a gayety of my lord's, he's not used to be
so kindly to beggars?
-Let me see your face.
LEUCIPPE She is very dirty, my lady. It is possible one of the
house-boys . . .
CLYTEMNESTRA I say draw that rag back, let me see your face.
I'd have him whipped then.
ELECTRA It was only in hope that someone would put a crust
in the bowl, your majesty, for I am starving. I didn't think
your majesty would see me.
CLYTEMNESTRA Draw back the rag.
ELECTRA I am very faint and starving but I will go down; I am
ashamed.
CLYTEMNESTRA Stop her, Corinna. Fetch the porter, Leucippe.
You will not go so easily. (ELECTRA sinks down on the steps
and lies prone, her head covered.) I am aging out of queenship
indeed, when even the beggars refuse my bidding.
(LEUCIPPE comes in 'with the porter.) You have a dirty stair,
porter. How long has this been here?
THE PORTER O my lady it has crept up since I opened the doors,
it was not here when I opened the doors.
CLYTEMNESTRA Lift it up and uncover its face. What is that
cry in the city? Stop: silent: I heard a cry . . .
Prophetess, your nostrils move like a dog's, what is that shouting?
. . .
I have grown weak, I am exhausted, things frighten me ...
Tell her to be gone, Leucippe, I don't wish to see her, I don't
wish to see her.
(ELECTRA rises.)
ELECTRA Ah, Queen, I will show you my face.
CLYTEMNESTRA No ... no ... be gone.
ELECTRA (uncovering her face)
Mother: I have come home: I am humbled. This house keeps
a dark welcome
For those coming home out of far countries.
CLYTEMNESTRA I Won't look: how
could I know anyone? I am old and shaking.
He said, Over the wall beyond nature
Lightning, and the laughter of the Gods. I did not cross it,
I will not kill what I gave life to.
Whoever you are, go, go, let me grow downward to the grave
quietly now.
ELECTRA I cannot
Go: I have no other refuge. Mother! Will you not kiss me, will
you not take me into the house,
Your child once, long a wanderer? Electra my name. I have
begged my way from Phocis, my brother is dead there,
Who used to care for me.
CLYTEMNESTRA Who is dead, who?
ELECTRA My brother Orestes,
Killed in a court quarrel
CLYTEMNESTRA (weeping) Oh, you lie! The widening blue
blue eyes,
The little voice of the child . . . Liar.
ELECTRA It is true. I have wept
long, on every mountain. You, mother,
Have only begun weeping. Far off, in a far country, no fit
burial . . .
CLYTEMNESTRA And do you bringing
Bitterness ... or lies . . . look for a welcome? I have only
loved two:
The priest
killed my daughter for a lamb on a stone and now
you say the boy too . . . dead, dead?
The world's full of it, a shoreless lake of lies and floating rumors
. . . pack up your wares, peddler,
Too false for a queen. Why, no, if I believed you . . . Beast,
treacherous beast, that shouting comes nearer,
What's in the city?
ELECTRA I am a stranger, I know nothing of the city,
I know only
My mother hates me, and Orestes my brother
Died pitifully, far off.
CLYTEMNESTRA Too many things, too many things call
me, what shall I do? Electra,
Electra help me. This comes of living softly, I had a lion's
strength
Once.
ELECTRA Me for help? I am utterly helpless, I had help in my
brother and he is dead in Phocis.
Give me refuge: but each of us two must weep for herself, one
sorrow. An end of the world were on us
What would it matter to us weeping? Do you remember him,
Mother, mother?
CLYTEMNESTRA I have dared too much: never dare anything,
Electra, the ache is afterward,
At the hour it hurts nothing. Prophetess, you lied.
You said he would come with vengeance on me: but now he is
dead, this girl says: and because he was lovely, blue-eyed,
And born in a most unhappy house I will believe it. But the
world's fogged with the breath of liars,
And if she has laid a net for me . . .
I'll call up the old lioness lives yet in my body, I have dared,
I have dared, and tooth and talon
Carve a way through. Lie to me?
ELECTRA Have I endured for months,
with feet bleeding, among the mountains,
Between the great gulfs alone and starving, to bring you a lie
now? I know the worst of you, I looked for the worst,
Mother, mother, and have expected nothing but to die of this
home-coming: but Orestes
Has entered the cave before; he is gathered up in a lonely mountain
quietness, he is guarded from angers
In the tough cloud that spears fall back from.
CLYTEMNESTRA Was he still beautiful?
The brown mothers down in the city
Keep their brats about them; what it is to live high! Oh!
Tell them down there, tell them in Tiryns,
Tell them in Sparta,
That water drips through the Queen's fingers and trickles down
her wrists, for the boy, for the boy
Born of her body, whom she, fool, fool, fool,
Drove out of the world. Electra,
Make peace with me.
Oh, Oh, Oh!
I have labored violently all the days of my life for nothing--
nothing-worse than anything- this death
Was a thing I wished. See how they make fools of us.
Amusement for them, to watch us labor after the thing that will
tear us in
pieces. . . . Well, strength's good.
I am the Queen; I will gather up my fragments
And not go mad now.
ELECTRA Mother, what are the men
With spears gathering at the stair's foot? Not of Mycenae by
their armor, have you mercenaries
Wanting pay? Do they serve . . . Aegisthus?
CLYTEMNESTRA What men? I seem
not to know . . .
Who has laid a net for me, what fool
For me, me? Porter, by me.
Leucippe, my guards; into the house, rouse them. I am sorry
for him,
I am best in storm. You, Electra?
The death you'll die, my daughter. Guards, out! Was it a lie?
No matter, no matter, no matter,
Here's peace. Spears, out, out! They bungled the job making
me a woman. Here's youth come back to me,
And all the days of gladness.
LEUCIPPE (running back from the door) O, Queen, strangers ...
ORESTES (a sword in his hand, 'with spearmen following, comes
from the door) Where is that woman
The Gods utterly hate?
ELECTRA Brother: let her not speak, kill quickly.
Is the other one safe now?
ORESTES That dog
Fell under his chariot, we made sure of him between the wheels
and the hooves, squealing. Now for this one.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Wait. I was weeping, Electra will tell you, my hands are wet
still,
For your blue eyes that death had closed she said away up in
Phocis. I die now, justly or not
Is out of the story, before I die I'd tell you wait, child, wait.
Did I quiver
Or pale at the blade? I say, caught in a net, netted in by my
enemies, my husband murdered,
Myself to die, I am joyful knowing she lied, you live, the only
creature
Under all the spread and arch of daylight
That I love, lives.
ELECTRA The great fangs drawn fear craftiness now,
kill quickly.
CLYTEMNESTRA As for her, the wife of a shepherd
Suckled her, but you
These very breasts nourished: rather one of your northern
spearmen do what's needful; not you
Draw blood where you drew milk. The Gods endure much, but
beware them.
ORESTES This, a God in his temple
Openly commanded.
CLYTEMNESTRA Ah, child, child, who has mistaught you and
who has betrayed you? What voice had the God?
How was it different from a man's and did you see him? Who
sent the priest presents? They fool us,
And the Gods let them. No doubt also the envious King of
Phocis has lent you counsel as he lent you
Men: let one of them do it. Life's not jewel enough
That I should plead for it: this much I pray, for your sake, not
with your hand, not with your hand, or the memory
Will so mother you, so glue to you, so embracing you,
Not the deep sea's green day, no cleft of a rock in the bed of
the deep sea, no ocean of darkness
Outside the stars, will hide nor wash you. What is it to me that
I have rejoiced knowing you alive,
child, O precious to me, O alone loved, if now dying by my
manner of death
I make nightmare the heir, nightmare, horror, in all I have of
you;
And you haunted forever, never to sleep dreamless again, never
to see blue cloth
But the red runs over it; fugitive of dreams, madman at length,
the memory of a scream following you houndlike,
Inherit Mycenae? Child, for this has not been done before, there
is no old fable, no whisper
Out of the foundation, among the people that were before our
people, no echo has ever
Moved among these most ancient stones, the monsters here, nor
stirred under any mountain, nor fluttered
Under any sky, of a man slaying his mother. Sons have kil

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

VII. Pompilia

I am just seventeen years and five months old,
And, if I lived one day more, three full weeks;
'T is writ so in the church's register,
Lorenzo in Lucina, all my names
At length, so many names for one poor child,
—Francesca Camilla Vittoria Angela
Pompilia Comparini,—laughable!
Also 't is writ that I was married there
Four years ago: and they will add, I hope,
When they insert my death, a word or two,—
Omitting all about the mode of death,—
This, in its place, this which one cares to know,
That I had been a mother of a son
Exactly two weeks. It will be through grace
O' the Curate, not through any claim I have;
Because the boy was born at, so baptized
Close to, the Villa, in the proper church:
A pretty church, I say no word against,
Yet stranger-like,—while this Lorenzo seems
My own particular place, I always say.
I used to wonder, when I stood scarce high
As the bed here, what the marble lion meant,
With half his body rushing from the wall,
Eating the figure of a prostrate man
(To the right, it is, of entry by the door)
An ominous sign to one baptized like me,
Married, and to be buried there, I hope.
And they should add, to have my life complete,
He is a boy and Gaetan by name
Gaetano, for a reason,—if the friar
Don Celestine will ask this grace for me
Of Curate Ottoboni: he it was
Baptized me: he remembers my whole life
As I do his grey hair.

All these few things
I know are true,—will you remember them?
Because time flies. The surgeon cared for me,
To count my wounds,—twenty-two dagger-wounds,
Five deadly, but I do not suffer much
Or too much pain,—and am to die to-night.

Oh how good God is that my babe was born,
Better than born, baptized and hid away
Before this happened, safe from being hurt!
That had been sin God could not well forgive:
He was too young to smile and save himself.
When they took two days after he was born,
My babe away from me to be baptized
And hidden awhile, for fear his foe should find,—
The country-woman, used to nursing babes,
Said "Why take on so? where is the great loss?
"These next three weeks he will but sleep and feed,
"Only begin to smile at the month's end;
"He would not know you, if you kept him here,
"Sooner than that; so, spend three merry weeks
"Snug in the Villa, getting strong and stout,
"And then I bring him back to be your own,
"And both of you may steal towe know where!"
The month—there wants of it two weeks this day!
Still, I half fancied when I heard the knock
At the Villa in the dusk, it might prove she
Come to say "Since he smiles before the time,
"Why should I cheat you out of one good hour?
"Back I have brought him; speak to him and judge!"
Now I shall never see him; what is worse,
When he grows up and gets to be my age,
He will seem hardly more than a great boy;
And if he asks "What was my mother like?"
People may answer "Like girls of seventeen"—
And how can he but think of this and that,
Lucias, Marias, Sofias, who titter or blush
When he regards them as such boys may do?
Therefore I wish someone will please to say
I looked already old though I was young;
Do I notsay, if you are by to speak
Look nearer twenty? No more like, at least,
Girls who look arch or redden when boys laugh,
Than the poor Virgin that I used to know
At our street-corner in a lonely niche,—
The babe, that sat upon her knees, broke off,—
Thin white glazed clay, you pitied her the more:
She, not the gay ones, always got my rose.

How happy those are who know how to write!
Such could write what their son should read in time,
Had they a whole day to live out like me.
Also my name is not a common name,
"Pompilia," and may help to keep apart
A little the thing I am from what girls are.
But then how far away, how hard to find
Will anything about me have become,
Even if the boy bethink himself and ask!
No father that he ever knew at all,
Nor ever hadno, never had, I say!
That is the truth,—nor any mother left,
Out of the little two weeks that she lived,
Fit for such memory as might assist:
As good to as no family, no name,
Not even poor old Pietro's name, nor hers,
Poor kind unwise Violante, since it seems
They must not be my parents any more.
That is why something put it in my head
To call the boy "Gaetano"—no old name
For sorrow's sake; I looked up to the sky
And took a new saint to begin anew.
One who has only been made saint—how long?
Twenty-five years: so, carefuller, perhaps,
To guard a namesake than those old saints grow,
Tired out by this time,—see my own five saints!

On second thoughts, I hope he will regard
The history of me as what someone dreamed,
And get to disbelieve it at the last:
Since to myself it dwindles fast to that,
Sheer dreaming and impossibility,—
Just in four days too! All the seventeen years,
Not once did a suspicion visit me
How very different a lot is mine
From any other woman's in the world.
The reason must be, 't was by step and step
It got to grow so terrible and strange.
These strange woes stole on tiptoe, as it were,
Into my neighbourhood and privacy,
Sat down where I sat, laid them where I lay;
And I was found familiarised with fear,
When friends broke in, held up a torch and cried
"Why, you Pompilia in the cavern thus,
"How comes that arm of yours about a wolf?
"And the soft length,—lies in and out your feet
"And laps you round the knee,—a snake it is!"
And so on.

Well, and they are right enough,
By the torch they hold up now: for first, observe,
I never had a father,—no, nor yet
A mother: my own boy can say at least
"I had a mother whom I kept two weeks!"
Not I, who little used to doubtI doubt
Good Pietro, kind Violante, gave me birth?
They loved me always as I love my babe
(—Nearly so, that isquite so could not be—)
Did for me all I meant to do for him,
Till one surprising day, three years ago,
They both declared, at Rome, before some judge
In some Court where the people flocked to hear,
That really I had never been their child,
Was a mere castaway, the careless crime
Of an unknown man, the crime and care too much
Of a woman known too well,—little to these,
Therefore, of whom I was the flesh and blood:
What then to Pietro and Violante, both
No more my relatives than you or you?
Nothing to them! You know what they declared.

So with my husband,—just such a surprise,
Such a mistake, in that relationship!
Everyone says that husbands love their wives,
Guard them and guide them, give them happiness;
'T is duty, law, pleasure, religion: well,
You see how much of this comes true in mine!
People indeed would fain have somehow proved
He was no husband: but he did not hear,
Or would not wait, and so has killed us all.
Then there isonly let me name one more!
There is the friend,—men will not ask about,
But tell untruths of, and give nicknames to,
And think my lover, most surprise of all!
Do only hear, it is the priest they mean,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi: a priest—love,
And love me! Well, yet people think he did.
I am married, he has taken priestly vows,
They know that, and yet go on, say, the same,
"Yes, how he loves you!" "That was love"—they say,
When anything is answered that they ask:
Or else "No wonder you love him"—they say.
Then they shake heads, pity much, scarcely blame—
As if we neither of us lacked excuse,
And anyhow are punished to the full,
And downright love atones for everything!
Nay, I heard read out in the public Court
Before the judge, in presence of my friends,
Letters't was said the priest had sent to me,
And other letters sent him by myself,
We being lovers!

Listen what this is like!
When I was a mere child, my motherthat's
Violante, you must let me call her so
Nor waste time, trying to unlearn the word
She brought a neighbour's child of my own age
To play with me of rainy afternoons;
And, since there hung a tapestry on the wall,
We two agreed to find each other out
Among the figures. "Tisbe, that is you,
"With half-moon on your hair-knot, spear in hand,
"Flying, but no wings, only the great scarf
"Blown to a bluish rainbow at your back:
"Call off your hound and leave the stag alone!"
"—And there are you, Pompilia, such green leaves
"Flourishing out of your five finger-ends,
"And all the rest of you so brown and rough:
"Why is it you are turned a sort of tree?"
You know the figures never were ourselves
Though we nicknamed them so. Thus, all my life,—
As well what was, as what, like this, was not,—
Looks old, fantastic and impossible:
I touch a fairy thing that fades and fades.
—Even to my babe! I thought, when he was born,
Something began for once that would not end,
Nor change into a laugh at me, but stay
For evermore, eternally quite mine.
Well, so he is,—but yet they bore him off,
The third day, lest my husband should lay traps
And catch him, and by means of him catch me.
Since they have saved him so, it was well done:
Yet thence comes such confusion of what was
With what will be,—that late seems long ago,
And, what years should bring round, already come,
Till even he withdraws into a dream
As the rest do: I fancy him grown great,
Strong, stern, a tall young man who tutors me,
Frowns with the others "Poor imprudent child!
"Why did you venture out of the safe street?
"Why go so far from help to that lone house?
"Why open at the whisper and the knock?"
Six days ago when it was New Year's-day,
We bent above the fire and talked of him,
What he should do when he was grown and great.
Violante, Pietro, each had given the arm
I leant on, to walk by, from couch to chair
And fireside,—laughed, as I lay safe at last,
"Pompilia's march from bed to board is made,
"Pompilia back again and with a babe,
"Shall one day lend his arm and help her walk!"
Then we all wished each other more New Years.
Pietro began to scheme—"Our cause is gained;
"The law is stronger than a wicked man:
"Let him henceforth go his way, leave us ours!
"We will avoid the city, tempt no more
"The greedy ones by feasting and parade,—
"Live at the other villa, we know where,
"Still farther off, and we can watch the babe
"Grow fast in the good air; and wood is cheap
"And wine sincere outside the city gate.
"I still have two or three old friends will grope
"Their way along the mere half-mile of road,
"With staff and lantern on a moonless night
"When one needs talk: they'll find me, never fear,
"And I'll find them a flask of the old sort yet!"
Violante said "You chatter like a crow:
"Pompilia tires o' the tattle, and shall to bed:
"Do not too much the first day,—somewhat more
"To-morrow, and, the next, begin the cape
"And hood and coat! I have spun wool enough."
Oh what a happy friendly eve was that!

And, next day, about noon, out Pietro went
He was so happy and would talk so much,
Until Violante pushed and laughed him forth
Sight-seeing in the cold,—"So much to see
"I' the churches! Swathe your throat three times!" she cried,
"And, above all, beware the slippery ways,
"And bring us all the news by supper-time!"
He came back late, laid by cloak, staff and hat,
Powdered so thick with snow it made us laugh,
Rolled a great log upon the ash o' the hearth,
And bade Violante treat us to a flask,
Because he had obeyed her faithfully,
Gone sight-see through the seven, and found no church
To his mind like San Giovanni—"There's the fold,
"And all the sheep together, big as cats!
"And such a shepherd, half the size of life,
"Starts up and hears the angel"—when, at the door,
A tap: we started up: you know the rest.

Pietro at least had done no harm, I know;
Nor even Violante, so much harm as makes
Such revenge lawful. Certainly she erred—
Did wrong, how shall I dare say otherwise?—
In telling that first falsehood, buying me
From my poor faulty mother at a price,
To pass off upon Pietro as his child.
If one should take my babe, give him a name,
Say he was not Gaetano and my own,
But that some other woman made his mouth
And hands and feet,—how very false were that!
No good could come of that; and all harm did.
Yet if a stranger were to represent
"Needs must you either give your babe to me
"And let me call him mine for evermore,
"Or let your husband get him"—ah, my God,
That were a trial I refuse to face!
Well, just so here: it proved wrong but seemed right
To poor Violante—for there lay, she said,
My poor real dying mother in her rags,
Who put me from her with the life and all,
Poverty, pain, shame and disease at once,
To die the easier by what price I fetched—
Also (I hope) because I should be spared
Sorrow and sin,—why may not that have helped?
My father,—he was no one, any one,—
The worse, the likelier,—call himhe who came,
Was wicked for his pleasure, went his way,
And left no trace to track by; there remained
Nothing but me, the unnecessary life,
To catch up or let fall,—and yet a thing
She could make happy, be made happy with,
This poor Violante,—who would frown thereat?

Well, God, you see! God plants us where we grow.
It is not that because a bud is born
At a wild briar's end, full i' the wild beast's way,
We ought to pluck and put it out of reach
On the oak-tree top,—say "There the bud belongs!"
She thought, moreover, real lies were lies told
For harm's sake; whereas this had good at heart,
Good for my mother, good for me, and good
For Pietro who was meant to love a babe,
And needed one to make his life of use,
Receive his house and land when he should die.
Wrong, wrong and always wrong! how plainly wrong:
For see, this fault kept pricking, as faults do,
All the same at her heart: this falsehood hatched,
She could not let it go nor keep it fast.
She told me so,—the first time I was found
Locked in her arms once more after the pain,
When the nuns let me leave them and go home,
And both of us cried all the cares away,—
This it was set her on to make amends,
This brought about the marriage—simply this!
Do let me speak for her you blame so much!
When Paul, my husband's brother, found me out,
Heard there was wealth for who should marry me,
So, came and made a speech to ask my hand
For Guido,—she, instead of piercing straight
Through the pretence to the ignoble truth,
Fancied she saw God's very finger point,
Designate just the time for planting me
(The wild-briar slip she plucked to love and wear)
In soil where I could strike real root, and grow,
And get to be the thing I called myself:
For, wife and husband are one flesh, God says,
And I, whose parents seemed such and were none,
Should in a husband have a husband now,
Find nothing, this time, but was what it seemed,
All truth and no confusion any more.
I know she meant all good to me, all pain
To herself,—since how could it be aught but pain,
To give me up, so, from her very breast,
The wilding flower-tree-branch that, all those years,
She had got used to feel for and find fixed?
She meant well: has it been so ill i' the main?
That is but fair to ask: one cannot judge
Of what has been the ill or well of life,
The day that one is dying,—sorrows change
Into not altogether sorrow-like;
I do see strangeness but scarce misery,
Now it is over, and no danger more.
My child is safe; there seems not so much pain.
It comes, most like, that I am just absolved,
Purged of the past, the foul in me, washed fair,—
One cannot both have and not have, you know,—
Being right now, I am happy and colour things.
Yes, everybody that leaves life sees all
Softened and bettered: so with other sights:
To me at least was never evening yet
But seemed far beautifuller than its day,
For past is past.

There was a fancy came,
When somewhere, in the journey with my friend,
We stepped into a hovel to get food;
And there began a yelp here, a bark there,—
Misunderstanding creatures that were wroth
And vexed themselves and us till we retired.
The hovel is life: no matter what dogs bit
Or cats scratched in the hovel I break from,
All outside is lone field, moon and such peace—
Flowing in, filling up as with a sea
Whereon comes Someone, walks fast on the white,
Jesus Christ's self, Don Celestine declares,
To meet me and calm all things back again.

Beside, up to my marriage, thirteen years
Were, each day, happy as the day was long:
This may have made the change too terrible.
I know that when Violante told me first
The cavalier—she meant to bring next morn,
Whom I must also let take, kiss my hand
Would be at San Lorenzo the same eve
And marry me,—which over, we should go
Home both of us without him as before,
And, till she bade speak, I must hold my tongue,
Such being the correct way with girl-brides,
From whom one word would make a father blush,—
I know, I say, that when she told me this,
Well, I no more saw sense in what she said
Than a lamb does in people clipping wool;
Only lay down and let myself be clipped.
And when next day the cavalier who came
(Tisbe had told me that the slim young man
With wings at head, and wings at feet, and sword
Threatening a monster, in our tapestry,
Would eat a girl else,—was a cavalier)
When he proved Guido Franceschini,—old
And nothing like so tall as I myself
Hook-nosed and yellow in a bush of beard,
Much like a thing I saw on a boy's wrist,
He called an owl and used for catching birds,—
And when he took my hand and made a smile—
Why, the uncomfortableness of it all
Seemed hardly more important in the case
Than,—when one gives you, say, a coin to spend,—
Its newness or its oldness; if the piece
Weigh properly and buy you what you wish,
No matter whether you get grime or glare!
Men take the coin, return you grapes and figs.
Here, marriage was the coin, a dirty piece
Would purchase me the praise of those I loved:
About what else should I concern myself?

So, hardly knowing what a husband meant,
I supposed this or any man would serve,
No whit the worse for being so uncouth:
For I was ill once and a doctor came
With a great ugly hat, no plume thereto,
Black jerkin and black buckles and black sword,
And white sharp beard over the ruff in front,
And oh so lean, so sour-faced and austere!—
Who felt my pulse, made me put out my tongue,
Then oped a phial, dripped a drop or two
Of a black bitter something,—I was cured!
What mattered the fierce beard or the grim face?
It was the physic beautified the man,
Master Malpichi,—never met his match
In Rome, they said,—so ugly all the same!

However, I was hurried through a storm,
Next dark eve of December's deadest day
How it rained!—through our street and the Lion's-mouth
And the bit of Corso,—cloaked round, covered close,
I was like something strange or contraband,—
Into blank San Lorenzo, up the aisle,
My mother keeping hold of me so tight,
I fancied we were come to see a corpse
Before the altar which she pulled me toward.
There we found waiting an unpleasant priest
Who proved the brother, not our parish friend,
But one with mischief-making mouth and eye,
Paul, whom I know since to my cost. And then
I heard the heavy church-door lock out help
Behind us: for the customary warmth,
Two tapers shivered on the altar. "Quick
"Lose no time!" cried the priest. And straightway down
Fromwhat's behind the altar where he hid
Hawk-nose and yellowness and bush and all,
Stepped Guido, caught my hand, and there was I
O' the chancel, and the priest had opened book,
Read here and there, made me say that and this,
And after, told me I was now a wife,
Honoured indeed, since Christ thus weds the Church,
And therefore turned he water into wine,
To show I should obey my spouse like Christ.
Then the two slipped aside and talked apart,
And I, silent and scared, got down again
And joined my mother who was weeping now.
Nobody seemed to mind us any more,
And both of us on tiptoe found our way
To the door which was unlocked by this, and wide.
When we were in the street, the rain had stopped,
All things looked better. At out own house-door,
Violante whispered "No one syllable
"To Pietro! Girl-brides never breathe a word!"
"—Well treated to a wetting, draggle-tails!"
Laughed Pietro as he opened—"Very near
"You made me brave the gutter's roaring sea
"To carry off from roost old dove and young,
"Trussed up in church, the cote, by me, the kite!
"What do these priests mean, praying folk to death
"On stormy afternoons, with Christmas close
"To wash our sins off nor require the rain?"
Violante gave my hand a timely squeeze,
Madonna saved me from immodest speech,
I kissed him and was quiet, being a bride.
When I saw nothing more, the next three weeks,
Of Guido—"Nor the Church sees Christ" thought I:
"Nothing is changed however, wine is wine
"And water only water in our house.
"Nor did I see that ugly doctor since
"That cure of the illness: just as I was cured,
"I am married,—neither scarecrow will return."

Three weeks, I chuckled—"How would Giulia stare,
"And Tecla smile and Tisbe laugh outright,
"Were it not impudent for brides to talk!"—
Until one morning, as I sat and sang
At the broidery-frame alone i' the chamber,—loud
Voices, two, three together, sobbings too,
And my name, "Guido," "Paolo," flung like stones
From each to the other! In I ran to see.
There stood the very Guido and the priest
With sly face,—formal but nowise afraid,—
While Pietro seemed all red and angry, scarce
Able to stutter out his wrath in words;
And this it was that made my mother sob,
As he reproached her—"You have murdered us,
"Me and yourself and this our child beside!"
Then Guido interposed "Murdered or not,
"Be it enough your child is now my wife!
"I claim and come to take her." Paul put in,
"Consider—kinsman, dare I term you so?—
"What is the good of your sagacity
"Except to counsel in a strait like this?
"I guarantee the parties man and wife
"Whether you like or loathe it, bless or ban.
"May spilt milk be put back within the bowl—
"The done thing, undone? You, it is, we look
"For counsel to, you fitliest will advise!
"Since milk, though spilt and spoilt, does marble good,
"Better we down on knees and scrub the floor,
"Than sigh, 'the waste would make a syllabub!'
"Help us so turn disaster to account,
"So predispose the groom, he needs shall grace
"The bride with favour from the very first,
"Not begin marriage an embittered man!"
He smiled,—the game so wholly in his hands!
While fast and faster sobbed Violante—"Ay,
"All of us murdered, past averting now!
"O my sin, O my secret!" and such like.

Then I began to half surmise the truth;
Something had happened, low, mean, underhand,
False, and my mother was to blame, and I
To pity, whom all spoke of, none addressed:
I was the chattel that had caused a crime.
I stood mute,—those who tangled must untie
The embroilment. Pietro cried "Withdraw, my child!
"She is not helpful to the sacrifice
"At this stage,—do you want the victim by
"While you discuss the value of her blood?
"For her sake, I consent to hear you talk:
"Go, child, and pray God help the innocent!

I did go and was praying God, when came
Violante, with eyes swollen and red enough,
But movement on her mouth for make-believe
Matters were somehow getting right again.
She bade me sit down by her side and hear.
"You are too young and cannot understand,
"Nor did your father understand at first.
"I wished to benefit all three of us,
"And when he failed to take my meaning,—why,
"I tried to have my way at unaware—
"Obtained him the advantage he refused.
"As if I put before him wholesome food
"Instead of broken victual,—he finds change
"I' the viands, never cares to reason why,
"But falls to blaming me, would fling the plate
"From window, scandalize the neighbourhood,
"Even while he smacks his lips,—men's way, my child!
"But either you have prayed him unperverse
"Or I have talked him back into his wits:
"And Paolo was a help in time of need,—
"Guido, not muchmy child, the way of men!
"A priest is more a woman than a man,
"And Paul did wonders to persuade. In short,
"Yes, he was wrong, your father sees and says;
"My scheme was worth attempting: and bears fruit,
"Gives you a husband and a noble name,
"A palace and no end of pleasant things.
"What do you care about a handsome youth?
"They are so volatile, and tease their wives!
"This is the kind of man to keep the house.
"We lose no daughter,—gain a son, that's all:
"For 't is arranged we never separate,
"Nor miss, in our grey time of life, the tints
"Of you that colour eve to match with morn.
"In good or ill, we share and share alike,
"And cast our lots into a common lap,
"And all three die together as we lived!
"Only, at Arezzo,—that's a Tuscan town,
"Not so large as this noisy Rome, no doubt,
"But older far and finer much, say folk,—
"In a great palace where you will be queen,
"Know the Archbishop and the Governor,
"And we see homage done you ere we die.
"Therefore, be good and pardon!"—"Pardon what?
"You know things, I am very ignorant:
"All is right if you only will not cry!"

And so an end! Because a blank begins
From when, at the word, she kissed me hard and hot,
And took me back to where my father leaned
Opposite Guido—who stood eyeing him,
As eyes the butcher the cast panting ox
That feels his fate is come, nor struggles more,—
While Paul looked archly on, pricked brow at whiles
With the pen-point as to punish triumph there,—
And said "Count Guido, take your lawful wife
"Until death part you!"

All since is one blank,
Over and ended; a terrific dream.
It is the good of dreams—so soon they go!
Wake in a horror of heart-beats, you may
Cry "The dread thing will never from my thoughts!"
Still, a few daylight doses of plain life,
Cock-crow and sparrow-chirp, or bleat and bell
Of goats that trot by, tinkling, to be milked;
And when you rub your eyes awake and wide,
Where is the harm o' the horror? Gone! So here.
I know I wake,—but from what? Blank, I say!
This is the note of evil: for good lasts.
Even when Don Celestine bade "Search and find!
"For your soul's sake, remember what is past,
"The better to forgive it,"—all in vain!
What was fast getting indistinct before,
Vanished outright. By special grace perhaps,
Between that first calm and this last, four years
Vanish,—one quarter of my life, you know.
I am held up, amid the nothingness,
By one or two truths only—thence I hang,
And there I live,—the rest is death or dream,
All but those points of my support. I think
Of what I saw at Rome once in the Square
O' the Spaniards, opposite the Spanish House:
There was a foreigner had trained a goat,
A shuddering white woman of a beast,
To climb up, stand straight on a pile of sticks
Put close, which gave the creature room enough:
When she was settled there he, one by one,
Took away all the sticks, left just the four
Whereon the little hoofs did really rest,
There she kept firm, all underneath was air.
So, what I hold by, are my prayer to God,
My hope, that came in answer to the prayer,
Some hand would interpose and save mehand
Which proved to be my friend's hand: and,—blest bliss,—
That fancy which began so faint at first,
That thrill of dawn's suffusion through my dark,
Which I perceive was promise of my child,
The light his unborn face sent long before,—
God's way of breaking the good news to flesh.
That is all left now of those four bad years.
Don Celestine urged "But remember more!
"Other men's faults may help me find your own.
"I need the cruelty exposed, explained,
"Or how can I advise you to forgive?"
He thought I could not properly forgive
Unless I ceased forgetting,—which is true:
For, bringing back reluctantly to mind
My husband's treatment of me,—by a light
That's later than my life-time, I review
And comprehend much and imagine more,
And have but little to forgive at last.
For now,—be fair and say,—is it not true
He was ill-used and cheated of his hope
To get enriched by marriage? Marriage gave
Me and no money, broke the compact so:
He had a right to ask me on those terms,
As Pietro and Violante to declare
They would not give me: so the bargain stood:
They broke it, and he felt himself aggrieved,
Became unkind with me to punish them.
They said 't was he began deception first,
Nor, in one point whereto he pledged himself,
Kept promise: what of that, suppose it were?
Echoes die off, scarcely reverberate
For ever,—why should ill keep echoing ill,
And never let our ears have done with noise?
Then my poor parents took the violent way
To thwart him,—he must needs retaliate,—wrong,
Wrong, and all wrong,—better say, all blind!
As I myself was, that is sure, who else
Had understood the mystery: for his wife
Was bound in some sort to help somehow there.
It seems as if I might have interposed,
Blunted the edge of their resentment so,
Since he vexed me because they first vexed him;
"I will entreat them to desist, submit,
"Give him the money and be poor in peace,—
"Certainly not go tell the world: perhaps
"He will grow quiet with his gains."

Yes, say
Something to this effect and you do well!
But then you have to see first: I was blind.
That is the fruit of all such wormy ways,
The indirect, the unapproved of God:
You cannot find their author's end and aim,
Not even to substitute your good for bad,
Your straight for the irregular; you stand
Stupefied, profitless, as cow or sheep
That miss a man's mind, anger him just twice
By trial at repairing the first fault.
Thus, when he blamed me, "You are a coquette,
"A lure-owl posturing to attract birds,
"You look love-lures at theatre and church,
"In walk, at window!"—that, I knew, was false:
But why he charged me falsely, whither sought
To drive me by such charge,—how could I know?
So, unaware, I only made things worse.
I tried to soothe him by abjuring walk,
Window, church, theatre, for good and all,
As if he had been in earnest: that, you know,
Was nothing like the object of his charge.
Yes, when I got my maid to supplicate
The priest, whose name she read when she would read
Those feigned false letters I was forced to hear
Though I could read no word of,—he should cease
Writing,—nay, if he minded prayer of mine,
Cease from so much as even pass the street
Whereon our house looked,—in my ignorance
I was just thwarting Guido's true intent;
Which was, to bring about a wicked change
Of sport to earnest, tempt a thoughtless man
To write indeed, and pass the house, and more,
Till both of us were taken in a crime.
He ought not to have wished me thus act lies,
Simulate folly: but,—wrong or right, the wish,—
I failed to apprehend its drift. How plain
It follows,—if I fell into such fault,
He also may have overreached the mark,
Made mistake, by perversity of brain,
I' the whole sad strange plot, the grotesque intrigue
To make me and my friend unself ourselves,
Be other man and woman than we were!
Think it out, you who have the time! for me,—
I cannot say less; more I will not say.
Leave it to God to cover and undo!
Only, my dulness should not prove too much!
Not prove that in a certain other point
Wherein my husband blamed me,—and you blame,
If I interpret smiles and shakes of head,—
I was dull too. Oh, if I dared but speak!
Must I speak? I am blamed that I forwent
A way to make my husband's favour come.
That is true: I was firm, withstood, refused
Women as you are, how can I find the words?

I felt there was just one thing Guido claimed
I had no right to give nor he to take;
We being in estrangement, soul from soul:
Till, when I sought help, the Archbishop smiled,
Inquiring into privacies of life,
Said I was blameable—(he stands for God)
Nowise entitled to exemption there.
Then I obeyed,—as surely had obeyed
Were the injunction "Since your husband bids,
"Swallow the burning coal he proffers you!"
But I did wrong, and he gave wrong advice
Though he were thrice Archbishop,—that, I know!—
Now I have got to die and see things clear.
Remember I was barely twelve years old
A child at marriage: I was let alone
For weeks, I told you, lived my child-life still
Even at Arezzo, when I woke and found
Firstbut I need not think of that again
Over and ended! Try and take the sense
Of what I signify, if it must be so.
After the first, my husband, for hate's sake,
Said one eve, when the simpler cruelty
Seemed somewhat dull at edge and fit to bear,
"We have been man and wife six months almost:
"How long is this your comedy to last?
"Go this night to my chamber, not your own!"
At which word, I did rush—most true the charge—
And gain the Archbishop's househe stands for God—
And fall upon my knees and clasp his feet,
Praying him hinder what my estranged soul
Refused to bear, though patient of the rest:
"Place me within a convent," I implored—
"Let me henceforward lead the virgin life
"You praise in Her you bid me imitate!"
What did he answer? "Folly of ignorance!
"Know, daughter, circumstances make or mar
"Virginity,—'t is virtue or 't is vice.
"That which was glory in the Mother of God
"Had been, for instance, damnable in Eve
"Created to be mother of mankind.
"Had Eve, in answer to her Maker's speech
"'Be fruitful, multiply, replenish earth'—
"Pouted 'But I choose rather to remain
"'Single'—why, she had spared herself forthwith
"Further probation by the apple and snake,
"Been pushed straight out of Paradise! For see
"If motherhood be qualified impure,
"I catch you making God command Eve sin!
"—A blasphemy so like these Molinists',
"I must suspect you dip into their books."
Then he pursued "'T was in your covenant!"

No! There my husband never used deceit.
He never did by speech nor act imply
"Because of our souls' yearning that we meet
"And mix in soul through flesh, which yours and mine
"Wear and impress, and make their visible selves,
"—All which means, for the love of you and me,
"Let us become one flesh, being one soul!"
He only stipulated for the wealth;
Honest so far. But when he spoke as plain
Dreadfully honest also—"Since our souls
"Stand each from each, a whole world's width between,
"Give me the fleshly vesture I can reach
"And rend and leave just fit for hell to burn!"—
Why, in God's name, for Guido's soul's own sake
Imperilled by polluting mine,—I say,
I did resist; would I had overcome!

My heart died out at the Archbishop's smile;
It seemed so stale and worn a way o' the world,
As though 't were nature frowning—"Here is Spring,
"The sun shines as he shone at Adam's fall,
"The earth requires that warmth reach everywhere:
"What, must your patch of snow be saved forsooth
"Because you rather fancy snow than flowers?"
Something in this style he began with me.
Last he said, savagely for a good man,
"This explains why you call your husband harsh,
"Harsh to you, harsh to whom you love. God's Bread!
"The poor Count has to manage a mere child
"Whose parents leave untaught the simplest things
"Their duty was and privilege to teach,—
"Good wives' instruction, gossips' lore: they laugh
"And leave the Count the task,—or leave it me!"
Then I resolved to tell a frightful thing.
"I am not ignorant,—know what I say,
"Declaring this is sought for hate, not love.
"Sir, you may hear things like almighty God.
"I tell you that my housemate, yesthe priest
"My husband's brother, Canon Girolamo—
"Has taught me what depraved and misnamed love
"Means, and what outward signs denote the sin,
"For he solicits me and says he loves,
"The idle young priest with nought else to do.
"My husband sees this, knows this, and lets be.
"Is it your counsel I bear this beside?"
"—More scandal, and against a priest this time!
"What, 't is the Canon now?"—less snappishly—
"Rise up, my child, for such a child you are,
"The rod were too advanced a punishment!
"Let's try the honeyed cake. A parable!
"'Without a parable spake He not to them.'
"There was a ripe round long black toothsome fruit,
"Even a flower-fig, the prime boast of May:
"And, to the tree, said … either the spirit o' the fig,
"Or, if we bring in men, the gardener,
"Archbishop of the orchard—had I time
"To try o' the two which fits in best: indeed
"It might be the Creator's self, but then
"The tree should bear an apple, I suppose,—
"Well, anyhow, one with authority said
"'Ripe fig, burst skin, regale the fig-pecker—
"'The bird whereof thou art a perquisite!'
"'Nay,' with a flounce, replied the restif fig,
"'I much prefer to keep my pulp myself:
"'He may go breakfastless and dinnerless,
"'Supperless of one crimson seed, for me!'
"So, back she flopped into her bunch of leaves.
"He flew off, left her,—did the natural lord,—
"And lo, three hundred thousand bees and wasps
"Found her out, feasted on her to the shuck:
"Such gain the fig's that gave its bird no bite!
"The moral,—fools elude their proper lot,
"Tempt other fools, get ruined all alike.
"Therefore go home, embrace your husband quick!
"Which if his Canon brother chance to see,
"He will the sooner back to book again."

So, home I did go; so, the worst befell:
So, I had proof the Archbishop was just man,
And hardly that, and certainly no more.
For, miserable consequence to me,
My husband's hatred waxed nor waned at all,
His brother's boldness grew effrontery soon,
And my last stay and comfort in myself
Was forced from me: henceforth I looked to God
Only, nor cared my desecrated soul
Should have fair walls, gay windows for the world.
God's glimmer, that came through the ruin-top,
Was witness why all lights were quenched inside:
Henceforth I asked God counsel, not mankind.

So, when I made the effort, freed myself,
They said—"No care to save appearance here!
"How cynic,—when, how wanton, were enough!"
—Adding, it all came of my mother's life
My own real mother, whom I never knew,
Who did wrong (if she needs must have done wrong)
Through being all her life, not my four years,
At mercy of the hateful: every beast
O' the field was wont to break that fountain-fence,
Trample the silver into mud so murk
Heaven could not find itself reflected there.
Now they cry "Out on her, who, plashy pool,
"Bequeathed turbidity and bitterness
"To the daughter-stream where Guido dipt and drank!"
Well, since she had to bear this brand—let me!
The rather do I understand her now,
From my experience of what hate calls love,—
Much love might be in what their love called hate.
If she sold … what they call, sold … me her child—
I shall believe she hoped in her poor heart
That I at least might try be good and pure,
Begin to live untempted, not go doomed
And done with ere once found in fault, as she.
Oh and, my mother, it all came to this?
Why should I trust those that speak ill of you,
When I mistrust who speaks even well of them?
Why, since all bound to do me good, did harm,
May not you, seeming as you harmed me most,
Have meant to do most goodand feed your child
From bramble-bush, whom not one orchard-tree
But drew bough back from, nor let one fruit fall?
This it was for you sacrificed your babe?
Gained just this, giving your heart's hope away
As I might give mine, loving it as you,
Ifbut that never could be asked of me!

There, enough! I have my support again,
Again the knowledge that my babe was, is,
Will be mine only. Him, by death, I give
Outright to God, without a further care,—
But not to any parent in the world,—
So to be safe: why is it we repine?
What guardianship were safer could we choose?
All human plans and projects come to nought:
My life, and what I know of other lives,
Prove that: no plan nor project! God shall care!

And now you are not tired? How patient then
All of you,—Oh yes, patient this long while
Listening, and understanding, I am sure!
Four days ago, when I was sound and well
And like to live, no one would understand.
People were kind, but smiled "And what of him,
"Your friend, whose tonsure the rich dark-brown hides?
"There, there!—your lover, do we dream he was?
"A priest toonever were such naughtiness!
"Still, he thinks many a long think, never fear,
"After the shy pale lady,—lay so light
"For a moment in his arms, the lucky one!"
And so on: wherefore should I blame you much?
So we are made, such difference in minds,
Such difference too in eyes that see the minds!
That man, you misinterpret and misprise—
The glory of his nature, I had thought,
Shot itself out in white light, blazed the truth
Through every atom of his act with me:
Yet where I point you, through the crystal shrine,
Purity in quintessence, one dew-drop,
You all descry a spider in the midst.
One says "The head of it is plain to see,"
And one, "They are the feet by which I judge,"
All say, "Those films were spun by nothing else."

Then, I must lay my babe away with God,
Nor think of him again, for gratitude.
Yes, my last breath shall wholly spend itself
In one attempt more to disperse the stain,
The mist from other breath fond mouths have made,
About a lustrous and pellucid soul:
So that, when I am gone but sorrow stays,
And people need assurance in their doubt
If God yet have a servant, man a friend,
The weak a saviour and the vile a foe,—
Let him be present, by the name invoked,
Giuseppe-Maria Caponsacchi!

There,
Strength comes already with the utterance!
I will remember once more for his sake
The sorrow: for he lives and is belied.
Could he be here, how he would speak for me!
I had been miserable three drear years
In that dread palace and lay passive now,
When I first learned there could be such a man.
Thus it fell: I was at a public play,
In the last days of Carnival last March,
Brought there I knew not why, but now know well.
My husband put me where I sat, in front;
Then crouched down, breathed cold through me from behind,
Stationed i' the shadow,—none in front could see,—
I, it was, faced the stranger-throng beneath,
The crowd with upturned faces, eyes one stare,
Voices one buzz. I looked but to the stage,
Whereon two lovers sang and interchanged
"True life is only love, love only bliss:
"I love thee—thee I love!" then they embraced.
I looked thence to the ceiling and the walls,—
Over the crowd, those voices and those eyes,—
My thoughts went through the roof and out, to Rome
On wings of music, waft of measured words,—
Set me down there, a happy child again
Sure that to-morrow would be festa-day,
Hearing my parents praise past festas more,
And seeing they were old if I was young,
Yet wondering why they still would end discourse
With "We must soon go, you abide your time,
"And,—might we haply see the proper friend
"Throw his arm over you and make you safe!"

Sudden I saw him; into my lap there fell
A foolish twist of comfits, broke my dream
And brought me from the air and laid me low,
As ruined as the soaring bee that's reached
(So Pietro told me at the Villa once)
By the dust-handful. There the comfits lay:
I looked to see who flung them, and I faced
This Caponsacchi, looking up in turn.
Ere I could reason out why, I felt sure,
Whoever flung them, his was not the hand,—
Up rose the round face and good-natured grin
Of one who, in effect, had played the prank,
From covert close beside the earnest face,—
Fat waggish Conti, friend of all the world.
He was my husband's cousin, privileged
To throw the thing: the other, silent, grave,
Solemn almost, saw me, as I saw him.

There is a psalm Don Celestine recites,
"Had I a dove's wings, how I fain would flee!"
The psalm runs not "I hope, I pray for wings,"—
Not "If wings fall from heaven, I fix them fast,"—
Simply "How good it were to fly and rest,
"Have hope now, and one day expect content!
"How well to do what I shall never do!"
So I said "Had there been a man like that,
"To lift me with his strength out of all strife
"Into the calm, how I could fly and rest!
"I have a keeper in the garden here
"Whose sole employment is to strike me low
"If ever I, for solace, seek the sun.
"Life means with me successful feigning death,
"Lying stone-like, eluding notice so,
"Forgoing here the turf and there the sky.
"Suppose that man had been instead of this!"

Presently Conti laughed into my ear,
Had tripped up to the raised place where I sat
"Cousin, I flung them brutishly and hard!
"Because you must be hurt, to look austere
"As Caponsacchi yonder, my tall friend
"A-gazing now. Ah, Guido, you so close?
"Keep on your knees, do! Beg her to forgive!
"My cornet battered like a cannon-ball.
"Good-bye, I'm gone!"—nor waited the reply.

That night at supper, out my husband broke,
"Why was that throwing, that buffoonery?
"Do you think I am your dupe? What man would dare
"Throw comfits in a stranger lady's lap?
"'T was knowledge of you bred such insolence
"In Caponsacchi; he dared shoot the bolt,
"Using that Conti for his stalking-horse.
"How could you see him this once and no more,
"When he is always haunting hereabout
"At the street-corner or the palace-side,
"Publishing my shame and your impudence?
"You are a wanton,—I a dupe, you think?
"O Christ, what hinders that I kill her quick?"
Whereat he drew his sword and feigned a thrust.

All this, now,—being not so strange to me,
Used to such misconception day by day
And broken-in to bear,—I bore, this time,
More quietly than woman should perhaps;
Repeated the mere truth and held my tongue.

Then he said, "Since you play the ignorant,
"I shall instruct you. This amour,—commenced
"Or finished or midway in act, all's one,—
"'T is the town-talk; so my revenge shall be.
"Does he presume because he is a priest?
"I warn him that the sword I wear shall pink
"His lily-scented cassock through and through,
"Next time I catch him underneath your eaves!"
But he had threatened with the sword so oft
And, after all, not kept his promise. All
I said was "Let God save the innocent!
"Moreover death is far from a bad fate.
"I shall go pray for you and me, not him;
"And then I look to sleep, come death or, worse,
"Life." So, I slept.

There may have elapsed a week,
When Margherita,—called my waiting-maid,
Whom it is said my husband found too fair
Who stood and heard the charge and the reply,
Who never once would let the matter rest
From that night forward, but rang changes still
On this the thrust and that the shame, and how
Good cause for jealousy cures jealous fools,
And what a paragon was this same priest
She talked about until I stopped my ears,—
She said, "A week is gone; you comb your hair,
"Then go mope in a corner, cheek on palm,
"Till night comes round again,—so, waste a week
"As if your husband menaced you in sport.
"Have not I some acquaintance with his tricks?
"Oh no, he did not stab the serving-man
"Who made and sang the rhymes about me once!
"For why? They sent him to the wars next day.
"Nor poisoned he the foreigner, my friend
"Who wagered on the whiteness of my breast,—
"The swarth skins of our city in dispute:
"For, though he paid me proper compliment,
"The Count well knew he was besotted with
"Somebody else, a skin as black as ink,
"(As all the town knew save my foreigner)
"He found and wedded presently,—'Why need
"'Better revenge?'—the Count asked. But what's here?
"A priest that does not fight, and cannot wed,
"Yet must be dealt with! If the Count took fire
"For the poor pastime of a minute,—me
"What were the conflagration for yourself,
"Countess and lady-wife and all the rest?
"The priest will perish; you will grieve too late:
"So shall the city-ladies' handsomest
"Frankest and liberalest gentleman
"Die for you, to appease a scurvy dog
"Hanging's too good for. Is there no escape?
"Were it not simple Christian charity
"To warn the priest be on his guard,—save him
"Assured death, save yourself from causing it?
"I meet him in the street. Give me a glove,
"A ring to show for token! Mum's the word!"

I answered "If you were, as styled, my maid,
"I would command you: as you are, you say,
"My husband's intimate,—assist his wife
"Who can do nothing but entreat 'Be still!'
"Even if you speak truth and a crime is planned,
"Leave help to God as I am forced to do!
"There is no other help, or we should craze,
"Seeing such evil with no human cure.
"Reflect that God, who makes the storm desist,
"Can make an angry violent heart subside.
"Why should we venture teach Him governance?
"Never address me on this subject more!"

Next night she said "But I went, all the same,
"—Ay, saw your Caponsacchi in his house,
"And come back stuffed with news I must outpour.
"I told him 'Sir, my mistress is a stone:
"'Why should you harm her for no good you get?
"'For you do harm her—prowl about our place
"'With the Count never distant half the street,
"'Lurking at every corner, would you look!
"T is certain she has witched you with a spell.
"'Are there not other beauties at your beck?
"'We all know, Donna This and Monna That
"'Die for a glance of yours, yet here you gaze!
"'Go make them grateful, leave the stone its cold!'
"And heoh, he turned first white and then red,
"And then—'To her behest I bow myself,
"'Whom I love with my body and my soul:
"'Only a word i' the bowing! See, I write
"'One little word, no harm to see or hear!
"'Then, fear no further!' This is what he wrote.
"I know you cannot read,—therefore, let me!
"'My idol!'" …

But I took it from her hand
And tore it into shreds. "Why, join the rest
"Who harm me? Have I ever done you wrong?
"People have told me 't is you wrong myself:
"Let it suffice I either feel no wrong
"Or else forgive it,—yet you turn my foe!
"The others hunt me and you throw a noose!"

She muttered "Have your wilful way!" I slept.

Whereupon … no, I leave my husband out
It is not to do him more hurt, I speak.
Let it suffice, when misery was most,
One day, I swooned and got a respite so.
She stooped as I was slowly coming to,
This Margherita, ever on my trace,
And whispered—"Caponsacchi!"

If I drowned,
But woke afloat i' the wave with upturned eyes,
And found their first sight was a star! I turned
For the first time, I let her have her will,
Heard passively,—"The imposthume at such head,
"One touch, one lancet-puncture would relieve,—
"And still no glance the good physician's way
"Who rids you of the torment in a trice!
"Still he writes letters you refuse to hear.
"He may prevent your husband, kill himself,
"So desperate and all fordone is he!
"Just hear the pretty verse he made to-day!
"A sonnet from Mirtillo. 'Peerless fair …'
"All poetry is difficult to read,
"—The sense of it is, anyhow, he seeks
"Leave to contrive you an escape from hell,
"And for that purpose asks an interview.
"I can write, I can grant it in your name,
"Or, what is better, lead you to his house.
"Your husband dashes you against the stones;
"This man would place each fragment in a shrine:
"You hate him, love your husband!"

I returned
"It is not true I love my husband,—no,
"Nor hate this man. I listen while you speak,
"—Assured that what you say is false, the same:
"Much as when once, to me a little child,
"A rough gaunt man in rags, with eyes on fire,
"A crowd of boys and idlers at his heels,
"Rushed as I crossed the Square, and held my head
"In his two hands, 'Here's she will let me speak!
"'You little girl, whose eyes do good to mine,
"'I am the Pope, am Sextus, now the Sixth;
"'And that Twelfth Innocent, proclaimed to-day,
"'Is Lucifer disguised in human flesh!
"'The angels, met in conclave, crowned me!'—thus
"He gibbered and I listened; but I knew
"All was delusion, ere folk interposed
"'Unfasten him, the maniac!' Thus I know
"All your report of Caponsacchi false,
"Folly or dreaming; I have seen so much
"By that adventure at the spectacle,
"The face I fronted that one first, last time:
"He would belie it by such words and thoughts.
"Therefore while you profess to show him me,
"I ever see his own face. Get you gone!"

"—That will I, nor once open mouth again,—
"No, by Saint Joseph and the Holy Ghost!
"On your head be the damage, so adieu!"
And so more days, more deeds I must forget,
Tillwhat a strange thing now is to declare!
Since I say anything, say all if true!
And how my life seems lengthened as to serve!
It may be idle or inopportune,
But, true?—why, what was all I said but truth,
Even when I found that such as are untrue
Could only take the truth in through a lie?
NowI am speaking truth to the Truth's self:
God will lend credit to my words this time.

It had got half through April. I arose
One vivid daybreak,—who had gone to bed
In the old way my wont those last three years,
Careless until, the cup drained, I should die.
The last sound in my ear, the over-night,
Had been a something let drop on the sly
In prattle by Margherita, "Soon enough
"Gaieties end, now Easter's past: a week,
"And the Archbishop gets him back to Rome,—
"Everyone leaves the town for Rome, this Spring,—
"Even Caponsacchi, out of heart and hope,
"Resigns himself and follows with the flock."
I heard this drop and drop like rain outside
Fast-falling through the darkness while she spoke:
So had I heard with like indifference,
"And Michael's pair of wings will arrive first
"At Rome, to introduce the company,
"And bear him from our picture where he fights
"Satan,—expect to have that dragon loose
"And never a defender!"—my sole thought
Being still, as night came, "Done, another day!
"How good to sleep and so get nearer death!"—
When, what, first thing at daybreak, pierced the sleep
With a summons to me? Up I sprang alive,
Light in me, light without me, everywhere
Change! A broad yellow sunbeam was let fall
From heaven to earth,—a sudden drawbridge lay,
Along which marched a myriad merry motes,
Mocking the flies that crossed them and recrossed
In rival dance, companions new-born too.
On the house-eaves, a dripping shag of weed
Shook diamonds on each dull grey lattice-square,
As first one, then another bird leapt by,
And light was off, and lo was back again,
Always with one voice,—where are two such joys?—
The blessed building-sparrow! I stepped forth,
Stood on the terrace,—o'er the roofs, such sky!
My heart sang, "I too am to go away,
"I too have something I must care about,
"Carry away with me to Rome, to Rome!
"The bird brings hither sticks and hairs and wool,
"And nowhere else i' the world; what fly breaks rank,
"Falls out of the procession that befits,
"From window here to window there, with all
"The world to choose,—so well he knows his course?
"I have my purpose and my motive too,
"My march to Rome, like any bird or fly!
"Had I been dead! How right to be alive!
"Last night I almost prayed for leave to die,
"Wished Guido all his pleasure with the sword
"Or the poison,—poison, sword, was but a trick,
"Harmless, may God forgive him the poor jest!
"My life is charmed, will last till I reach Rome!
"Yesterday, but for the sin,—ah, nameless be
"The deed I could have dared against myself!
"Nowsee if I will touch an unripe fruit,
"And risk the health I want to have and use!
"Not to live, now, would be the wickedness,—
"For life means to make haste and go to Rome
"And leave Arezzo, leave all woes at once!"

Now, understand here, by no means mistake!
Long ago had I tried to leave that house
When it seemed such procedure would stop sin;
And still failed more the more I triedat first
The Archbishop, as I told you,—next, our lord
The Governor,—indeed I found my way,
I went to the great palace where he rules,
Though I knew well 't was he who,—when I gave
A jewel or two, themselves had given me,
Back to my parents,—since they wanted bread,
They who had never let me want a nosegay,—he
Spoke of the jail for felons, if they kept
What was first theirs, then mine, so doubly theirs,
Though all the while my husband's most of all!
I knew well who had spoke the word wrought this:
Yet, being in extremity, I fled
To the Governor, as I say,—scarce opened lip
Whenthe cold cruel snicker close behind
Guido was on my trace, already there,
Exchanging nod and wink for shrug and smile,
And I—pushed back to him and, for my pains
Paid withbut why remember what is past?
I sought out a poor friar the people call
The Roman, and confessed my sin which came
Of their sin,—that fact could not be repressed,—
The frightfulness of my despair in God:
And, feeling, through the grate, his horror shake,
Implored him, "Write for me who cannot write,
"Apprise my parents, make them rescue me!
"You bid me be courageous and trust God:
"Do you in turn dare somewhat, trust and write
"'Dear friends, who used to be my parents once,
"'And now declare you have no part in me,
"'This is some riddle I want wit to solve,
"'Since you must love me with no difference.
"'Even suppose you altered,—there's your hate,
"'To ask for: hate of you two dearest ones
"'I shall find liker love than love found here,
"'If husbands love their wives. Take me away
"'And hate me as you do the gnats and fleas,
"'Even the scorpions! How I shall rejoice!'
"Write that and save me!" And he promised—wrote
Or did not write; things never changed at all:
He was not like the Augustinian here!
Last, in a desperation I appealed
To friends, whoever wished me better days,
To Guillichini, that's of kin,—"What, I
"Travel to Rome with you? A flying gout
"Bids me deny my heart and mind my leg!"
Then I tried Conti, used to brave—laugh back
The louring thunder when his cousin scowled
At me protected by his presence: "You
"Who well know what you cannot save me from,—
"Carry me off! What frightens you, a priest?"
He shook his head, looked grave—"Above my strength!
"Guido has claws that scratch, shows feline teeth;
"A formidabler foe than I dare fret:
"Give me a dog to deal with, twice the size!
"Of course I am a priest and Canon too,
"But . . by the bye . . though both, not quite so bold
"As he, my fellow-Canon, brother-priest,
"The personage in such ill odour here
"Because of the reports—pure birth o' the brain!
"Our Caponsacchi, he's your true Saint George
"To slay the monster, set the Princess free,
"And have the whole High-Altar to himself:
'I always think so when I see that piece
"I' the Pieve, that's his church and mine, you know:
"Though you drop eyes at mention of his name!"

That name had got to take a half-grotesque
Half-ominous, wholly enigmatic sense,
Like any by-word, broken bit of song
Born with a meaning, changed by mouth and mouth
That mix it in a sneer or smile, as chance
Bids, till it now means nought but ugliness
And perhaps shame.

All this intends to say,
That, over-night, the notion of escape
Had seemed distemper, dreaming; and the name,—
Not the man, but the name of him, thus made
Into a mockery and disgrace,—why, she
Who uttered it persistently, had laughed,
"I name his name, and there you start and wince
"As criminal from the red tongs' touch!"—yet now,
Now, as I stood letting morn bathe me bright,
Choosing which butterfly should bear my news,—
The white, the brown one, or that tinier blue,—
The Margherita, I detested so,
In she came—"The fine day, the good Spring time!
"What, up and out at window? That is best.
"No thought of Caponsacchi?—who stood there
"All night on one leg, like the sentry crane,
"Under the pelting of your water-spout—
"Looked last look at your lattice ere he leave
"Our city, bury his dead hope at Rome.
"Ay, go to looking-glass and make you fine,
"While he may die ere touch one least loose hair
"You drag at with the comb in such a rage!"

I turned—"Tell Caponsacchi he may come!"

"Tell him to come? Ah, but, for charity,
"A truce to fooling! Come? What,—come this eve?
"Peter and Paul! But I see through the trick!
"Yes, come, and take a flower-pot on his head,
"Flung from your terrace! No joke, sincere truth?"

How plainly I perceived hell flash and fade
O' the face of her,—the doubt that first paled joy,
Then, final reassurance I indeed
Was caught now, never to be free again!
What did I care?—who felt myself of force
To play with silk, and spurn the horsehair-springe.

"Butdo you know that I have bade him come,
"And in your own name? I presumed so much,
"Knowing the thing you needed in your heart.
"But somehowwhat had I to show in proof?
"He would not come: half-promised, that was all,
"And wrote the letters you refused to read.
"What is the message that shall move him now?"

"After the Ave Maria, at first dark,
"I will be standing on the terrace, say!"

"I would I had a good long lock of hair
"Should prove I was not lying! Never mind!"

Off she went—"May he not refuse, that's all
"Fearing a trick!"

I answered, "He will come."
And, all day, I sent prayer like incense up
To God the strong, God the beneficent,
God ever mindful in all strife and strait,
Who, for our own good, makes the need extreme,
Till at the last He puts forth might and saves.
An old rhyme came into my head and rang
Of how a virgin, for the faith of God,
Hid herself, from the Paynims that pursued,
In a cave's heart; until a thunderstone,
Wrapped in a flame, revealed the couch and prey
And they laughed—"Thanks to lightning, ours at last!"
And she cried "Wrath of God, assert His love!
"Servant of God, thou fire, befriend His child!"
And lo, the fire she grasped at, fixed its flash,
Lay in her hand a calm cold dreadful sword
She brandished till pursuers strewed the ground,
So did the souls within them die away,
As o'er the prostrate bodies, sworded, safe,
She walked forth to the solitudes and Christ:
So should I grasp the lightning and be saved!

And still, as the day wore, the trouble grew
Whereby I guessed there would be born a star,
Until at an intense throe of the dusk,
I started up, was pushed, I dare to say,
Out on the terrace, leaned and looked at last
Where the deliverer waited me: the same
Silent and solemn face, I first descried
At the spectacle, confronted mine once more.

So was that minute twice vouchsafed me, so
The manhood, wasted then, was still at watch
To save me yet a second time: no change
Here, though all else changed in the changing world!

I spoke on the instant, as my duty bade,
In some such sense as this, whatever the phrase.

"Friend, foolish words were borne from you to me;
"Your soul behind them is the pure strong wind,
"Not dust and feathers which its breath may bear:
"These to the witless seem the wind itself,
"Since proving thus the first of it they feel.
"If by mischance you blew offence my way,
"The straws are dropt, the wind desists no whit,
"And how such strays were caught up in the street
"And took a motion from you, why inquire?
"I speak to the strong soul, no weak disguise.
"If it be truth,—why should I doubt it truth?—
"You serve God specially, as priests are bound,
"And care about me, stranger as I am,
"So far as wish my good,—that miracle
"I take to intimate He wills you serve
"By saving me,—what else can He direct?
"Here is the service. Since a long while now,
"I am in course of being put to death:
"While death concerned nothing but me, I bowed
"The head and bade, in heart, my husband strike.
"Now I imperil something more, it seems,
"Something that's truelier me than this myself,
"Something I trust in God and you to save.
"You go to Rome, they tell me: take me there,
"Put me back with my people!"

He replied—
The first word I heard ever from his lips,
All himself in it,—an eternity
Of speech, to match the immeasurable depth
O' the soul that then broke silence—"I am yours."

So did the star rise, soon to lead my step,
Lead on, nor pause before it should stand still
Above the House o' the Babe,—my babe to be,
That knew me first and thus made me know him,
That had his right of life and claim on mine,
And would not let me die till he was born,
But pricked me at the heart to save us both,
Saying "Have you the will? Leave God the way!"
And the way was Caponsacchi—"mine," thank God!
He was mine, he is mine, he will be mine.

No pause i' the leading and the light! I know,
Next night there was a cloud came, and not he:
But I prayed through the darkness till it broke
And let him shine. The second night, he came.

"The plan is rash; the project desperate:
"In such a flight needs must I risk your life,
"Give food for falsehood, folly or mistake,
"Ground for your husband's rancour and revenge"—
So he began again, with the same face.
I felt that, the same loyalty—one star
Turning now red that was so white before
One service apprehended newly: just
A word of mine and there the white was back!

"No, friend, for you will take me! 'T is yourself
"Risk all, not I,—who let you, for I trust
"In the compensating great God: enough!
"I know you: when is it that you will come?"

"To-morrow at the day's dawn." Then I heard
What I should do: how to prepare for flight
And where to fly.

That night my husband bade
"—You, whom I loathe, beware you break my sleep
"This whole night! Couch beside me like the corpse
"I would you were!" The rest you know, I think
How I found Caponsacchi and escaped.

And this man, men call sinner? Jesus Christ!
Of whom men said, with mouths Thyself mad'st once,
"He hath a devil"—say he was Thy saint,
My Caponsacchi! Shield and show—unshroud
In Thine own time the glory of the soul
If aught obscure,—if ink-spot, from vile pens
Scribbling a charge against him—(I was glad
Then, for the first time, that I could not write)—
Flirted his way, have flecked the blaze!

For me,
'T is otherwise: let men take, sift my thoughts
Thoughts I throw like the flax for sun to bleach!
I did pray, do pray, in the prayer shall die,
"Oh, to have Caponsacchi for my guide!"
Ever the face upturned to mine, the hand
Holding my hand across the world,—a sense
That reads, as only such can read, the mark
God sets on woman, signifying so
She shouldshall peradventure—be divine;
Yet 'ware, the while, how weakness mars the print
And makes confusion, leaves the thing men see,
Not this man sees,—who from his soul, re-writes
The obliterated charter,—love and strength
Mending what's marred. "So kneels a votarist,
"Weeds some poor waste traditionary plot
"Where shrine once was, where temple yet may be,
"Purging the place but worshipping the while,
"By faith and not by sight, sight clearest so,—
"Such way the saints work,"—says Don Celestine.
But I, not privileged to see a saint
Of old when such walked earth with crown and palm,
If I call "saint" what saints call something else—
The saints must bear with me, impute the fault
To a soul i' the bud, so starved by ignorance,
Stinted of warmth, it will not blow this year
Nor recognize the orb which Spring-flowers know.
But if meanwhile some insect with a heart
Worth floods of lazy music, spendthrift joy
Some fire-fly renounced Spring for my dwarfed cup,
Crept close to me, brought lustre for the dark,
Comfort against the cold,—what though excess
Of comfort should miscall the creature—sun?
What did the sun to hinder while harsh hands
Petal by petal, crude and colourless,
Tore me? This one heart gave me all the Spring!
Is all told? There's the journey: and where's time
To tell you how that heart burst out in shine?
Yet certain points do press on me too hard.
Each place must have a name, though I forget:
How strange it wasthere where the plain begins
And the small river mitigates its flow
When eve was fading fast, and my soul sank,
And he divined what surge of bitterness,
In overtaking me, would float me back
Whence I was carried by the striding day
So,—"This grey place was famous once," said he
And he began that legend of the place
As if in answer to the unspoken fear,
And told me all about a brave man dead,
Which lifted me and let my soul go on!
How did he know too,—at that town's approach
By the rock-side,—that in coming near the signs
Of life, the house-roofs and the church and tower,
I saw the old boundary and wall o' the world
Rise plain as ever round me, hard and cold,
As if the broken circlet joined again,
Tightened itself about me with no break,—
As if the town would turn Arezzo's self,—
The husband there,—the friends my enemies,
All ranged against me, not an avenue
To try, but would be blocked and drive me back
On him,—this other, … oh the heart in that!
Did not he find, bring, put into my arms
A new-born babe?—and I saw faces beam
Of the young mother proud to teach me joy,
And gossips round expecting my surprise
At the sudden hole through earth that lets in heaven.
I could believe himself by his strong will
Had woven around me what I thought the world
We went along in, every circumstance,
Towns, flowers and faces, all things helped so well!
For, through the journey, was it natural
Such comfort should arise from first to last?
As I look back, all is one milky way;
Still bettered more, the more remembered, so
Do new stars bud while I but search for old,
And fill all gaps i' the glory, and grow him
Him I now see make the shine everywhere.
Even at the last when the bewildered flesh,
The cloud of weariness about my soul
Clogging too heavily, sucked down all sense,—
Still its last voice was, "He will watch and care;
"Let the strength go, I am content: he stays!"
I doubt not he did stay and care for all
From that sick minute when the head swam round,
And the eyes looked their last and died on him,
As in his arms he caught me, and, you say,
Carried me in, that tragical red eve,
And laid me where I next returned to life
In the other red of morning, two red plates
That crushed together, crushed the time between,
And are since then a solid fire to me,—
When in, my dreadful husband and the world
Broke,—and I saw him, master, by hell's right,
And saw my angel helplessly held back
By guards that helped the malice—the lamb prone,
The serpent towering and triumphant—then
Came all the strength back in a sudden swell,
I did for once see right, do right, give tongue
The adequate protest: for a worm must turn
If it would have its wrong observed by God.
I did spring up, attempt to thrust aside
That ice-block 'twixt the sun and me, lay low
The neutralizer of all good and truth.
If I sinned so,—never obey voice more
O' the Just and Terrible, who bids us—"Bear!"
Not—"Stand by, bear to see my angels bear!"
I am clear it was on impulse to serve God
Not save myself,—nonor my child unborn!
Had I else waited patiently till now?—
Who saw my old kind parents, silly-sooth
And too much trustful, for their worst of faults,
Cheated, brow-beaten, stripped and starved, cast out
Into the kennel: I remonstrated,
Then sank to silence, for,—their woes at end,
Themselves gone,—only I was left to plague.
If only I was threatened and belied,
What matter? I could bear it and did bear;
It was a comfort, still one lot for all:
They were not persecuted for my sake
And I, estranged, the single happy one.
But when at last, all by myself I stood
Obeying the clear voice which bade me rise,
Not for my own sake but my babe unborn,
And take the angel's hand was sent to help—
And found the old adversary athwart the path
Not my hand simply struck from the angel's, but
The very angel's self made foul i' the face
By the fiend who struck there,—that I would not bear,
That only I resisted! So, my first
And last resistance was invincible.
Prayers move God; threats, and nothing else, move men!
I must have prayed a man as he were God
When I implored the Governor to right
My parents' wrongs: the answer was a smile.
The Archbishop,—did I clasp his feet enough,
Hide my face hotly on them, while I told
More than I dared make my own mother know?
The profit was—compassion and a jest.
This time, the foolish prayers were done with, right
Used might, and solemnized the sport at once.
All was against the combat: vantage, mine?
The runaway avowed, the accomplice-wife,
In company with the plan-contriving priest?
Yet, shame thus rank and patent, I struck, bare,
At foe from head to foot in magic mail,
And off it withered, cobweb-armoury
Against the lightning! 'T was truth singed the lies
And saved me, not the vain sword nor weak speech!

You see, I will not have the service fail!
I say, the angel saved me: I am safe!
Others may want and wish, I wish nor want
One point o' the circle plainer, where I stand
Traced round about with white to front the world.
What of the calumny I came across,
What o' the way to the end?—the end crowns all.
The judges judged aright i' the main, gave me
The uttermost of my heart's desire, a truce
From torture and Arezzo, balm for hurt,
With the quiet nuns,—God recompense the good!
Who said and sang away the ugly past.
And, when my final fortune was revealed,
What safety while, amid my parents' arms,
My babe was given me! Yes, he saved my babe:
It would not have peeped forth, the bird-like thing,
Through that Arezzo noise and trouble: back
Had it returned nor ever let me see!
But the sweet peace cured all, and let me live
And give my bird the life among the leaves
God meant him! Weeks and months of quietude,
I could lie in such peace and learn so much
Begin the task, I see how needful now,
Of understanding somewhat of my past,—
Know life a little, I should leave so soon.
Therefore, because this man restored my soul,
All has been right; I have gained my gain, enjoyed
As well as suffered,—nay, got foretaste too
Of better life beginning where this ends
All through the breathing-while allowed me thus,
Which let good premonitions reach my soul
Unthwarted, and benignant influence flow
And interpenetrate and change my heart,
Uncrossed by what was wicked,—nay, unkind.
For, as the weakness of my time drew nigh,
Nobody did me one disservice more,
Spoke coldly or looked strangely, broke the love
I lay in the arms of, till my boy was born,
Born all in love, with nought to spoil the bliss
A whole long fortnight: in a life like mine
A fortnight filled with bliss is long and much.
All women are not mothers of a boy,
Though they live twice the length of my whole life,
And, as they fancy, happily all the same.
There I lay, then, all my great fortnight long,
As if it would continue, broaden out
Happily more and more, and lead to heaven:
Christmas before me,—was not that a chance?
I never realized God's birth before
How He grew likest God in being born.
This time I felt like Mary, had my babe
Lying a little on my breast like hers.
So all went on till, just four days ago
The night and the tap.

Oh it shall be success
To the whole of our poor family! My friends
… Nay, father and mother,—give me back my word!
They have been rudely stripped of life, disgraced
Like children who must needs go clothed too fine,
Carry the garb of Carnival in Lent.
If they too much affected frippery,
They have been punished and submit themselves,
Say no word: all is over, they see God
Who will not be extreme to mark their fault
Or He had granted respite: they are safe.
For that most woeful man my husband once,
Who, needing respite, still draws vital breath,
I—pardon him? So far as lies in me,
I give him for his good the life he takes,
Praying the world will therefore acquiesce.
Let him make God amends,—none, none to me
Who thank him rather that, whereas strange fate
Mockingly styled him husband and me wife,
Himself this way at least pronounced divorce,
Blotted the marriage-bond: this blood of mine
Flies forth exultingly at any door,
Washes the parchment white, and thanks the blow.
We shall not meet in this world nor the next,
But where will God be absent? In His face
Is light, but in His shadow healing too:
Let Guido touch the shadow and be healed!
And as my presence was importunate,—
My earthly good, temptation and a snare,—
Nothing about me but drew somehow down
His hate upon me,—somewhat so excused
Therefore, since hate was thus the truth of him,—
May my evanishment for evermore
Help further to relieve the heart that cast
Such object of its natural loathing forth!
So he was made; he nowise made himself:
I could not love him, but his mother did.
His soul has never lain beside my soul
But for the unresisting body.—thanks!
He burned that garment spotted by the flesh.
Whatever he touched is rightly ruined: plague
It caught, and disinfection it had craved
Still but for Guido; I am saved through him
So as by fire; to himthanks and farewell!

Even for my babe, my boy, there's safety thence—
From the sudden death of me, I mean: we poor
Weak souls, how we endeavour to be strong!
I was already using up my life,—
This portion, now, should do him such a good,
This other go to keep off such an ill!
The great life; see, a breath and it is gone!
So is detached, so left all by itself
The little life, the fact which means so much.
Shall not God stoop the kindlier to His work,
His marvel of creation, foot would crush,
Now that the hand He trusted to receive
And hold it, lets the treasure fall perforce?
The better; He shall have in orphanage
His own way all the clearlier: if my babe
Outlived the hourand he has lived two weeks—
It is through God who knows I am not by.
Who is it makes the soft gold hair turn black,
And sets the tongue, might lie so long at rest,
Trying to talk? Let us leave God alone!
Why should I doubt He will explain in time
What I feel now, but fail to find the words?
My babe nor was, nor is, nor yet shall be
Count Guido Franceschini's child at all
Only his mother's, born of love not hate!
So shall I have my rights in after-time.
It seems absurd, impossible to-day;
So seems so much else, not explained but known!

Ah! Friends, I thank and bless you every one!
No more now: I withdraw from earth and man
To my own soul, compose myself for God.

Well, and there is more! Yes, my end of breath
Shall bear away my soul in being true!
He is still here, not outside with the world,
Here, here, I have him in his rightful place!
'T is now, when I am most upon the move,
I feel for what I verily findagain
The face, again the eyes, again, through all,
The heart and its immeasurable love
Of my one friend, my only, all my own,
Who put his breast between the spears and me.
Ever with Caponsacchi! Otherwise
Here alone would be failure, loss to me
How much more loss to him, with life debarred
From giving life, love locked from love's display,
The day-star stopped its task that makes night morn!
O lover of my life, O soldier-saint,
No work begun shall ever pause for death!
Love will be helpful to me more and more
I' the coming course, the new path I must tread—
My weak hand in thy strong hand, strong for that!
Tell him that if I seem without him now,
That's the world's insight! Oh, he understands!
He is at Civita—do I once doubt
The world again is holding us apart?
He had been here, displayed in my behalf
The broad brow that reverberates the truth,
And flashed the word God gave him, back to man!
I know where the free soul is flown! My fate
Will have been hard for even him to bear:
Let it confirm him in the trust of God,
Showing how holily he dared the deed!
And, for the rest,—say, from the deed, no touch
Of harm came, but all good, all happiness,
Not one faint fleck of failure! Why explain?
What I see, oh, he sees and how much more!
Tell him,—I know not wherefore the true word
Should fade and fall unuttered at the last
It was the name of him I sprang to meet
When came the knock, the summons and the end.
"My great heart, my strong hand are back again!"
I would have sprung to these, beckoning across
Murder and hell gigantic and distinct
O' the threshold, posted to exclude me heaven:
He is ordained to call and I to come!
Do not the dead wear flowers when dressed for God?
Say,—I am all in flowers from head to foot!
Say,—not one flower of all he said and did,
Might seem to flit unnoticed, fade unknown,
But dropped a seed, has grown a balsam-tree
Whereof the blossoming perfumes the place
At this supreme of moments! He is a priest;
He cannot marry therefore, which is right:
I think he would not marry if he could.
Marriage on earth seems such a counterfeit,
Mere imitation of the inimitable:
In heaven we have the real and true and sure.
'T is there they neither marry nor are given
In marriage but are as the angels: right,
Oh how right that is, how like Jesus Christ
To say that! Marriage-making for the earth,
With gold so much,—birth, power, repute so much,
Or beauty, youth so much, in lack of these!
Be as the angels rather, who, apart,
Know themselves into one, are found at length
Married, but marry never, no, nor give
In marriage; they are man and wife at once
When the true time is: here we have to wait
Not so long neither! Could we by a wish
Have what we will and get the future now,
Would we wish aught done undone in the past?
So, let him wait God's instant men call years;
Meantime hold hard by truth and his great soul,
Do out the duty! Through such souls alone
God stooping shows sufficient of His light
For us i' the dark to rise by. And I rise.

poem by from The Ring and the BookReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Veronica Serbanoiu
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

XI. Guido

You are the Cardinal Acciaiuoli, and you,
Abate Panciatichi—two good Tuscan names:
Acciaiuoli—ah, your ancestor it was
Built the huge battlemented convent-block
Over the little forky flashing Greve
That takes the quick turn at the foot o' the hill
Just as one first sees Florence: oh those days!
'T is Ema, though, the other rivulet,
The one-arched brown brick bridge yawns over,—yes,
Gallop and go five minutes, and you gain
The Roman Gate from where the Ema's bridged:
Kingfishers fly there: how I see the bend
O'erturreted by Certosa which he built,
That Senescal (we styled him) of your House!
I do adjure you, help me, Sirs! My blood
Comes from as far a source: ought it to end
This way, by leakage through their scaffold-planks
Into Rome's sink where her red refuse runs?
Sirs, I beseech you by blood-sympathy,
If there be any vile experiment
In the air,—if this your visit simply prove,
When all's done, just a well-intentioned trick,
That tries for truth truer than truth itself,
By startling up a man, ere break of day,
To tell him he must die at sunset,—pshaw!
That man's a Franceschini; feel his pulse,
Laugh at your folly, and let's all go sleep!
You have my last word,—innocent am I
As Innocent my Pope and murderer,
Innocent as a babe, as Mary's own,
As Mary's self,—I said, say and repeat,—
And why, then, should I die twelve hours hence? I
Whom, not twelve hours ago, the gaoler bade
Turn to my straw-truss, settle and sleep sound
That I might wake the sooner, promptlier pay
His due of meat-and-drink-indulgence, cross
His palm with fee of the good-hand, beside,
As gallants use who go at large again!
For why? All honest Rome approved my part;
Whoever owned wife, sister, daughter,—nay,
Mistress,—had any shadow of any right
That looks like right, and, all the more resolved,
Held it with tooth and nail,—these manly men
Approved! I being for Rome, Rome was for me.
Then, there's the point reserved, the subterfuge
My lawyers held by, kept for last resource,
Firm should all else,—the impossible fancy!—fail,
And sneaking burgess-spirit win the day.
The knaves! One plea at least would hold,—they laughed,—
One grappling-iron scratch the bottom-rock
Even should the middle mud let anchor go!
I hooked my cause on to the Clergy's,—plea
Which, even if law tipped off my hat and plume,
Revealed my priestly tonsure, saved me so.
The Pope moreover, this old Innocent,
Being so meek and mild and merciful,
So fond o' the poor and so fatigued of earth,
So … fifty thousand devils in deepest hell!
Why must he cure us of our strange conceit
Of the angel in man's likeness, that we loved
And looked should help us at a pinch? He help?
He pardon? Here's his mind and message—death!
Thank the good Pope! Now, is he good in this,
Never mind, Christian,—no such stuff's extant,—
But will my death do credit to his reign,
Show he both lived and let live, so was good?
Cannot I live if he but like? "The law!"
Why, just the law gives him the very chance,
The precise leave to let my life alone,
Which the archangelic soul of him (he says)
Yearns after! Here they drop it in his palm,
My lawyers, capital o' the cursed kind,—
Drop life to take and hold and keep: but no!
He sighs, shakes head, refuses to shut hand,
Motions away the gift they bid him grasp,
And of the coyness comesthat off I run
And down I go, he best knows whither! mind,
He knows, who sets me rolling all the same!
Disinterested Vicar of our Lord,
This way he abrogates and disallows,
Nullifies and ignores,—reverts in fine
To the good and right, in detriment of me!
Talk away! Will you have the naked truth?
He's sick of his life's supper,—swallowed lies:
So, hobbling bedward, needs must ease his maw
Just where I sit o' the door-sill. Sir Abate,
Can you do nothing? Friends, we used to frisk:
What of this sudden slash in a friend's face,
This cut across our good companionship
That showed its front so gay when both were young?
Were not we put into a beaten path,
Bid pace the world, we nobles born and bred,
We body of friends with each his scutcheon full
Of old achievement and impunity,—
Taking the laugh of morn and Sol's salute
As forth we fared, pricked on to breathe our steeds
And take equestrian sport over the green
Under the blue, across the crop,—what care?
If we went prancing up hill and down dale,
In and out of the level and the straight,
By the bit of pleasant byeway, where was harm?
Still Sol salutes me and the morning laughs:
I see my grandsire's hoof-prints,—point the spot
Where he drew rein, slipped saddle, and stabbed knave
For daring throw gibe—much less, stonefrom pale:
Then back, and on, and up with the cavalcade.
Just so wend we, now canter, now converse,
Till, 'mid the jauncing pride and jaunty port,
Something of a sudden jerks at somebody—
A dagger is out, a flashing cut and thrust,
Because I play some prank my grandsire played,
And here I sprawl: where is the company? Gone!
A trot and a trample! only I lie trapped,
Writhe in a certain novel springe just set
By the good old Pope: I'm first prize. Warn me? Why?
Apprise me that the law o' the game is changed?
Enough that I'm a warning, as I writhe,
To all and each my fellows of the file,
And make law plain henceforward past mistake,
"For such a prank, death is the penalty!"
Pope the Five Hundredth (what do I know or care?)
Deputes your Eminency and Abateship
To announce that, twelve hours from this time, he needs
I just essay upon my body and soul
The virtue of his brand-new engine, prove
Represser of the pranksome! I'm the first!
Thanks. Do you know what teeth you mean to try
The sharpness of, on this soft neck and throat?
I know it,—I have seen and hate it,—ay,
As you shall, while I tell you! Let me talk,
Or leave me, at your pleasure! talk I must:
What is your visit but my lure to talk?
Nay, you have something to disclose?—a smile,
At end of the forced sternness, means to mock
The heart-beats here? I call your two hearts stone!
Is your charge to stay with me till I die?
Be tacit as your bench, then! Use your ears,
I use my tongue: how glibly yours will run
At pleasant supper-time … God's curse! … to-night
When all the guests jump up, begin so brisk
"Welcome, his Eminence who shrived the wretch!
"Now we shall have the Abate's story!"

Life!
How I could spill this overplus of mine
Among those hoar-haired, shrunk-shanked odds and ends
Of body and soul old age is chewing dry!
Those windlestraws that stare while purblind death
Mows here, mows there, makes hay of juicy me,
And misses just the bunch of withered weed
Would brighten hell and streak its smoke with flame!
How the life I could shed yet never shrink,
Would drench their stalks with sap like grass in May!
Is it not terrible, I entreat you, Sirs?—
With manifold and plenitudinous life,
Prompt at death's menace to give blow for threat,
Answer his "Be thou not!" by "Thus I am!"—
Terrible so to be alive yet die?

How I live, how I see! so,—how I speak!
Lucidity of soul unlocks the lips:
I never had the words at will before.
How I see all my folly at a glance!
"A man requires a woman and a wife:"
There was my folly; I believed the saw.
I knew that just myself concerned myself,
Yet needs must look for what I seemed to lack,
In a woman,—why, the woman's in the man!
Fools we are, how we learn things when too late!
Overmuch life turns round my woman-side:
The male and female in me, mixed before,
Settle of a sudden: I'm my wife outright
In this unmanly appetite for truth,
This careless courage as to consequence,
This instantaneous sight through things and through,
This voluble rhetoric, if you please,—'t is she!
Here you have that Pompilia whom I slew,
Also the folly for which I slew her!

Fool!
And, fool-like, what is it I wander from?
What did I say of your sharp iron tooth?
Ah,—that I know the hateful thing! this way.
I chanced to stroll forth, many a good year gone,
One warm Spring eve in Rome, and unaware
Looking, mayhap, to count what stars were out,
Came on your fine axe in a frame, that fails
And so cuts off a man's head underneath,
Mannaia,—thus we made acquaintance first:
Out of the way, in a by-part o' the town,
At the Mouth-of-Truth o' the river-side, you know:
One goes by the Capitol: and wherefore coy,
Retiring out of crowded noisy Rome?
Because a very little time ago
It had done service, chopped off head from trunk
Belonging to a fellow whose poor house
The thing must make a point to stand before
Felice Whatsoever-was-the-name
Who stabled buffaloes and so gained bread,
(Our clowns unyoke them in the ground hard by)
And, after use of much improper speech,
Had struck at Duke Some-title-or-other's face,
Because he kidnapped, carried away and kept
Felice's sister who would sit and sing
I' the filthy doorway while she plaited fringe
To deck the brutes with,—on their gear it goes,—
The good girl with the velvet in her voice.
So did the Duke, so did Felice, so
Did Justice, intervening with her axe.
There the man-mutilating engine stood
At ease, both gay and grim, like a Swiss guard
Off duty,—purified itself as well,
Getting dry, sweet and proper for next week,—
And doing incidental good, 't was hoped
To the rough lesson-lacking populace
Who now and then, forsooth, must right their wrongs!
There stood the twelve-foot-square of scaffold, railed
Considerately round to elbow-height,
For fear an officer should tumble thence
And sprain his ankle and be lame a month,
Through starting when the axe fell and head too!
Railed likewise were the steps whereby 't was reached.
All of it painted red: red, in the midst,
Ran up two narrow tall beams barred across,
Since from the summit, some twelve feet to reach,
The iron plate with the sharp shearing edge
Had slammed, jerked, shot, slid,—I shall soon find which!—
And so lay quiet, fast in its fit place,
The wooden half-moon collar, now eclipsed
By the blade which blocked its curvature: apart,
The other half,—the under half-moon board
Which, helped by this, completes a neck's embrace,—
Joined to a sort of desk that wheels aside
Out of the way when done with,—down you kneel,
In you're pushed, over you the other drops,
Tight you're clipped, whiz, there's the blade cleaves its best,
Out trundles body, down flops head on floor,
And where's your soul gone? That, too, I shall find!
This kneeling place was red, red, never fear!
But only slimy-like with paint, not blood,
For why? a decent pitcher stood at hand,
A broad dish to hold sawdust, and a broom
By some unnamed utensil,—scraper-rake,—
Each with a conscious air of duty done.
Underneath, loungers,—boys and some few men,—
Discoursed this platter, named the other tool,
Just as, when grooms tie up and dress a steed,
Boys lounge and look on, and elucubrate
What the round brush is used for, what the square,—
So was explained—to me the skill-less then
The manner of the grooming for next world
Undergone by Felice What's-his-name.
There's no such lovely month in Rome as May
May's crescent is no half-moon of red plank,
And came now tilting o'er the wave i' the west,
One greenish-golden sea, right 'twixt those bars
Of the engine—I began acquaintance with,
Understood, hated, hurried from before,
To have it out of sight and cleanse my soul!
Here it is all again, conserved for use:
Twelve hours hence, I may know more, not hate worse.

That young May-moon-month! Devils of the deep!
Was not a Pope then Pope as much as now?
Used not he chirrup o'er the Merry Tales,
Chuckle,—his nephew so exact the wag
To play a jealous cullion such a trick
As wins the wife i' the pleasant story! Well?
Why do things change? Wherefore is Rome un-Romed?
I tell you, ere Felice's corpse was cold,
The Duke, that night, threw wide his palace-doors,
Received the compliments o' the quality
For justice done him,—bowed and smirked his best,
And in return passed round a pretty thing,
A portrait of Felice's sister's self,
Florid old rogue Albano's masterpiece,
Asbetter than virginity in rags—
Bouncing Europa on the back o' the bull:
They laughed and took their road the safelier home.
Ah, but times change, there's quite another Pope,
I do the Duke's deed, take Felice's place,
And, being no Felice, lout and clout,
Stomach but ill the phrase "I lost my head!"
How euphemistic! Lose what? Lose your ring,
Your snuff-box, tablets, kerchief!—but, your head?
I learnt the process at an early age;
'T was useful knowledge, in those same old days,
To know the way a head is set on neck.
My fencing-master urged "Would you excel?
"Rest not content with mere bold give-and-guard,
"Nor pink the antagonist somehow-anyhow!
"See me dissect a little, and know your game!
"Only anatomy makes a thrust the thing."
Oh Cardinal, those lithe live necks of ours!
Here go the vertebræ, here's Atlas, here
Axis, and here the symphyses stop short,
So wisely and well,—as, o'er a corpse, we cant,—
And here's the silver cord whichwhat's our word?
Depends from the gold bowl, which loosed (not "lost")
Lets us from heaven to hell,—one chop, we're loose!
"And not much pain i' the process," quoth a sage:
Who told him? Not Felice's ghost, I think!
Such "losing" is scarce Mother Nature's mode.
She fain would have cord ease itself away,
Worn to a thread by threescore years and ten,
Snap while we slumber: that seems bearable.
I'm told one clot of blood extravasate
Ends one as certainly as Roland's sword,—
One drop of lymph suffused proves Oliver's mace,—
Intruding, either of the pleasant pair,
On the arachnoid tunic of my brain.
That's Nature's way of loosing cord!—but Art,
How of Art's process with the engine here,
When bowl and cord alike are crushed across,
Bored between, bruised through? Why, if Fagon's self,
The French Court's pride, that famed practitioner,
Would pass his cold pale lightning of a knife,
Pistoja-ware, adroit 'twixt joint and joint,
With just a "See how facile, gentlefolk!"—
The thing were not so bad to bear! Brute force
Cuts as he comes, breaks in, breaks on, breaks out
O' the hard and soft of you: is that the same?
A lithe snake thrids the hedge, makes throb no leaf:
A heavy ox sets chest to brier and branch,
Bursts somehow through, and leaves one hideous hole
Behind him!

And why, why must this needs be?
Oh, if men were but good! They are not good,
Nowise like Peter: people called him rough,
But if, as I left Rome, I spoke the Saint,
—"Petrus, quo vadis?"—doubtless, I should hear,
"To free the prisoner and forgive his fault!
"I plucked the absolute dead from God's own bar,
"And raised up Dorcas,—why not rescue thee?"
What would cost one such nullifying word?
If Innocent succeeds to Peter's place,
Let him think Peter's thought, speak Peter's speech!
I say, he is bound to it: friends, how say you?
Concede I be all one bloodguiltiness
And mystery of murder in the flesh,
Why should that fact keep the Pope's mouth shut fast?
He execrates my crime,—good!—sees hell yawn
One inch from the red plank's end which I press,—
Nothing is better! What's the consequence?
How should a Pope proceed that knows his cue?
Why, leave me linger out my minute here,
Since close on death comes judgment and comes doom,
Not crib at dawn its pittance from a sheep
Destined ere dewfall to be butcher's-meat!
Think, Sirs, if I have done you any harm,
And you require the natural revenge,
Suppose, and so intend to poison me,
Just as you take and slip into my draught
The paperful of powder that clears scores,
You notice on my brow a certain blue:
How you both overset the wine at once!
How you both smile! "Our enemy has the plague!
"Twelve hours hence he'll be scraping his bones bare
"Of that intolerable flesh, and die,
"Frenzied with pain: no need for poison here!
"Step aside and enjoy the spectacle!"
Tender for souls are you, Pope Innocent!
Christ's maxim isone soul outweighs the world:
Respite me, save a soul, then, curse the world!
"No," venerable sire, I hear you smirk,
"No: for Christ's gospel changes names, not things,
"Renews the obsolete, does nothing more!
"Our fire-new gospel is re-tinkered law,
"Our mercy, justice,—Jove's rechristened God,—
"Nay, whereas, in the popular conceit,
"'T is pity that old harsh Law somehow limps,
"Lingers on earth, although Law's day be done,
"Else would benignant Gospel interpose,
"Not furtively as now, but bold and frank
"O'erflutter us with healing in her wings,
"Law being harshness, Gospel only love
"We tell the people, on the contrary,
"Gospel takes up the rod which Law lets fall;
"Mercy is vigilant when justice sleeps!
"Does Law permit a taste of Gospel-grace?
"The secular arm allow the spiritual power
"To act for once?—no compliment so fine
"As that our Gospel handsomely turn harsh,
"Thrust victim back on Law the nice and coy!"
Yes, you do say so, else you would forgive
Me whom Law does not touch but tosses you!
Don't think to put on the professional face!
You know what I know: casuists as you are,
Each nerve must creep, each hair start, sting and stand,
At such illogical inconsequence!
Dear my friends, do but see! A murder's tried,
There are two parties to the cause: I'm one,
—Defend myself, as somebody must do:
I have the best o' the battle: that's a fact,
Simple fact,—fancies find no place just now.
What though half Rome condemned me? Half approved:
And, none disputes, the luck is mine at last,
All Rome, i' the main, acquitting me: whereon,
What has the Pope to ask but "How finds Law?"
"I find," replies Law, "I have erred this while:
"Guilty or guiltless, Guido proves a priest,
"No layman: he is therefore yours, not mine:
"I bound him: loose him, you whose will is Christ's!"
And now what does this Vicar of our Lord,
Shepherd o' the flock,—one of whose charge bleats sore
For crook's help from the quag wherein it drowns?
Law suffers him employ the crumpled end:
His pleasure is to turn staff, use the point,
And thrust the shuddering sheep, he calls a wolf,
Back and back, down and down to where hell gapes!
"Guiltless," cries Law—"Guilty" corrects the Pope!
"Guilty," for the whim's sake! "Guilty," he somehow thinks,
And anyhow says: 't is truth; he dares not lie!

Others should do the lying. That's the cause
Brings you both here: I ought in decency
Confess to you that I deserve my fate,
Am guilty, as the Pope thinks,—ay, to the end,
Keep up the jest, lie on, lie ever, lie
I' the latest gasp of me! What reason, Sirs?
Because to-morrow will succeed to-day
For you, though not for me: and if I stick
Still to the truth, declare with my last breath,
I die an innocent and murdered man,—
Why, there's the tongue of Rome will wag apace
This time to-morrow: don't I hear the talk!
"So, to the last he proved impenitent?
"Pagans have said as much of martyred saints!
"Law demurred, washed her hands of the whole case.
"Prince Somebody said this, Duke Something, that,
"Doubtless the man's dead, dead enough, don't fear!
"But, hang it, what if there have been a spice,
"A touch of … eh? You see, the Pope's so old,
"Some of us add, obtuse: age never slips
"The chance of shoving youth to face death first!"
And so on. Therefore to suppress such talk
You two come here, entreat I tell you lies,
And end, the edifying way. I end,
Telling the truth! Your self-styled shepherd thieves!
A thief—and how thieves hate the wolves we know:
Damage to theft, damage to thrift, all's one!
The red hand is sworn foe of the black jaw.
That's only natural, that's right enough:
But why the wolf should compliment the thief
With shepherd's title, bark out life in thanks,
And, spiteless, lick the prong that spits him,—eh,
Cardinal? My Abate, scarcely thus!
There, let my sheepskin-garb, a curse on't, go
Leave my teeth free if I must show my shag!
Repent? What good shall follow? If I pass
Twelve hours repenting, will that fact hold fast
The thirteenth at the horrid dozen's end?
If I fall forthwith at your feet, gnash, tear,
Foam, rave, to give your story the due grace,
Will that assist the engine half-way back
Into its hiding-house?—boards, shaking now,
Bone against bone, like some old skeleton bat
That wants, at winter's end, to wake and prey!
Will howling put the spectre back to sleep?
Ah, but I misconceive your object, Sirs!
Since I want new life like the creature,—life
Being done with here, begins i' the world away:
I shall next have "Come, mortals, and be judged!"
There's but a minute betwixt this and then:
So, quick, be sorry since it saves my soul!
Sirs, truth shall save it, since no lies assist!
Hear the truth, you, whatever you style yourselves,
Civilization and society!
Come, one good grapple, I with all the world!
Dying in cold blood is the desperate thing;
The angry heart explodes, bears off in blaze
The indignant soul, and I'm combustion-ripe.
Why, you intend to do your worst with me!
That's in your eyes! You dare no more than death,
And mean no less. I must make up my mind.
So Pietro,—when I chased him here and there,
Morsel by morsel cut away the life
I loathed,—cried for just respite to confess
And save his soul: much respite did I grant!
Why grant me respite who deserve my doom?
Mewho engaged to play a prize, fight you,
Knowing your arms, and foil you, trick for trick,
At rapier-fence, your match and, maybe, more.
I knew that if I chose sin certain sins,
Solace my lusts out of the regular way
Prescribed me, I should find you in the path,
Have to try skill with a redoubted foe;
You would lunge, I would parry, and make end.
At last, occasion of a murder comes:
We cross blades, I, for all my brag, break guard,
And in goes the cold iron at my breast,
Out at my back, and end is made of me.
You stand confessed the adroiter swordsman,—ay,
But on your triumph you increase, it seems,
Want more of me than lying flat on face:
I ought to raise my ruined head, allege
Not simply I pushed worse blade o' the pair,
But my antagonist dispensed with steel!
There was no passage of arms, you looked me low,
With brow and eye abolished cut and thrust
Nor used the vulgar weapon! This chance scratch,
This incidental hurt, this sort of hole
I' the heart of me? I stumbled, got it so!
Fell on my own sword as a bungler may!
Yourself proscribe such heathen tools, and trust
To the naked virtue: it was virtue stood
Unarmed and awed me,—on my brow there burned
Crime out so plainly intolerably red,
That I was fain to cry—"Down to the dust
"With me, and bury there brow, brand and all!"
Law had essayed the adventure,—but what's Law?
Morality exposed the Gorgon shield!
Morality and Religion conquer me.
If Law sufficed would you come here, entreat
I supplement law, and confess forsooth?
Did not the Trial show things plain enough?
"Ah, but a word of the man's very self
"Would somehow put the keystone in its place
"And crown the arch!" Then take the word you want!

I say that, long ago, when things began,
All the world made agreement, such and such
Were pleasure-giving profit-bearing acts,
But henceforth extra-legal, nor to be:
You must not kill the man whose death would please
And profit you, unless his life stop yours
Plainly, and need so be put aside:
Get the thing by a public course, by law,
Only no private bloodshed as of old!
All of us, for the good of every one,
Renounced such licence and conformed to law:
Who breaks law, breaks pact therefore, helps himself
To pleasure and profit over and above the due,
And must pay forfeit,—pain beyond his share:
For, pleasure being the sole good in the world,
Anyone's pleasure turns to someone's pain,
So, law must watch for everyone,—say we,
Who call things wicked that give too much joy,
And nickname mere reprisal, envy makes,
Punishment: quite right! thus the world goes round.
I, being well aware such pact there was,
I, in my time who found advantage come
Of law's observance and crime's penalty,—
Who, but for wholesome fear law bred in friends,
Had doubtless given example long ago,
Furnished forth some friend's pleasure with my pain,
And, by my death, pieced out his scanty life,—
I could not, for that foolish life of me,
Help risking law's infringement,—I broke bond,
And needs must pay price,—wherefore, here's my head,
Flung with a flourish! But, repentance too?
But pure and simple sorrow for law's breach
Rather than blunderer's-ineptitude?
Cardinal, no! Abate, scarcely thus!
'T is the fault, not that I dared try a fall
With Law and straightway am found undermost,
But that I failed to see, above man's law,
God's precept you, the Christians, recognize?
Colly my cow! Don't fidget, Cardinal!
Abate, cross your breast and count your beads
And exorcize the devil, for here he stands
And stiffens in the bristly nape of neck,
Daring you drive him hence! You, Christians both?
I say, if ever was such faith at all
Born in the world, by your community
Suffered to live its little tick of time,
'T is dead of age, now, ludicrously dead;
Honour its ashes, if you be discreet,
In epitaph only! For, concede its death,
Allow extinction, you may boast unchecked
What feats the thing did in a crazy land
At a fabulous epoch,—treat your faith, that way,
Just as you treat your relics: "Here's a shred
"Of saintly flesh, a scrap of blessed bone,
"Raised King Cophetua, who was dead, to life
"In Mesopotamy twelve centuries since,
"Such was its virtue!"—twangs the Sacristan,
Holding the shrine-box up, with hands like feet
Because of gout in every finger joint:
Does he bethink him to reduce one knob,
Allay one twinge by touching what he vaunts?
I think he half uncrooks fist to catch fee,
But, for the grace, the quality of cure,—
Cophetua was the man put that to proof!
Not otherwise, your faith is shrined and shown
And shamed at once: you banter while you bow!
Do you dispute this? Come, a monster-laugh,
A madman's laugh, allowed his Carnival
Later ten days than when all Rome, but he,
Laughed at the candle-contest: mine's alight,
'T is just it sputter till the puff o' the Pope
End it to-morrow and the world turn Ash.
Come, thus I wave a wand and bring to pass
In a moment, in the twinkle of an eye,
What but that—feigning everywhere grows fact,
Professors turn possessors, realize
The faith they play with as a fancy now,
And bid it operate, have full effect
On every circumstance of life, to-day,
In Rome,—faith's flow set free at fountain-head!
Now, you'll own, at this present, when I speak,
Before I work the wonder, there's no man
Woman or child in Rome, faith's fountain-head,
But might, if each were minded, realize
Conversely unbelief, faith's opposite—
Set it to work on life unflinchingly,
Yet give no symptom of an outward change:
Why should things change because men disbelieve
What's incompatible, in the whited tomb,
With bones and rottenness one inch below?
What saintly act is done in Rome to-day
But might be prompted by the devil,—"is"
I say not,—"has been, and again may be,—"
I do say, full i' the face o' the crucifix
You try to stop my mouth with! Off with it!
Look in your own heart, if your soul have eyes!
You shall see reason why, though faith were fled,
Unbelief still might work the wires and move
Man, the machine, to play a faithful part.
Preside your college, Cardinal, in your cape,
Or,—having got above his head, grown Pope,—
Abate, gird your loins and wash my feet!
Do you suppose I am at loss at all
Why you crook, why you cringe, why fast or feast?
Praise, blame, sit, stand, lie or go!—all of it,
In each of you, purest unbelief may prompt,
And wit explain to who has eyes to see.
But, lo, I wave wand, made the false the true!
Here's Rome believes in Christianity!
What an explosion, how the fragments fly
Of what was surface, mask and make-believe!
Begin now,—look at this Pope's-halberdier
In wasp-like black and yellow foolery!
He, doing duty at the corridor,
Wakes from a muse and stands convinced of sin!
Down he flings halbert, leaps the passage-length,
Pushes into the presence, pantingly
Submits the extreme peril of the case
To the Pope's self,—whom in the world beside?—
And the Pope breaks talk with ambassador,
Bids aside bishop, wills the whole world wait
Till he secure that prize, outweighs the world,
A soul, relieve the sentry of his qualm!
His Altitude the Referendary,—
Robed right, and ready for the usher's word
To pay devoir,—is, of all times, just then
'Ware of a master-stroke of argument
Will cut the spinal cord … ugh, ugh! … I mean,
Paralyse Molinism for evermore!
Straight he leaves lobby, trundles, two and two,
Down steps to reach home, write, if but a word
Shall end the impudence: he leaves who likes
Go pacify the Pope: there's Christ to serve!
How otherwise would men display their zeal?
If the same sentry had the least surmise
A powder-barrel 'neath the pavement lay
In neighbourhood with what might prove a match,
Meant to blow sky-high Pope and presence both
Would he not break through courtiers, rank and file,
Bundle up, bear off and save body so,
The Pope, no matter for his priceless soul?
There's no fool's-freak here, nought to soundly swinge,
Only a man in earnest, you'll so praise
And pay and prate about, that earth shall ring!
Had thought possessed the Referendary
His jewel-case at home was left ajar,
What would be wrong in running, robes awry,
To be beforehand with the pilferer?
What talk then of indecent haste? Which means,
That both these, each in his degree, would do
Just that,—for a comparative nothing's sake,
And thereby gain approval and reward,—
Which, done for what Christ says is worth the world,
Procures the doer curses, cuffs and kicks.
I call such difference 'twixt act and act,
Sheer lunacy unless your truth on lip
Be recognized a lie in heart of you!
How do you all act, promptly or in doubt,
When there's a guest poisoned at supper-time
And he sits chatting on with spot on cheek?
"Pluck him by the skirt, and round him in the ears,
"Have at him by the beard, warn anyhow!"
Good, and this other friend that's cheat and thief
And dissolute,—go stop the devil's feast,
Withdraw him from the imminent hell-fire!
Why, for your life, you dare not tell your friend
"You lie, and I admonish you for Christ!"
Who yet dare seek that same man at the Mass
To warn himon his knees, and tinkle near,—
He left a cask a-tilt, a tap unturned,
The Trebbian running: what a grateful jump
Out of the Church rewards your vigilance!
Perform that self-same service just a thought
More maladroitly,—since a bishop sits
At function!—and he budges not, bites lip,—
"You see my case: how can I quit my post?
"He has an eye to any such default.
"See to it, neighbour, I beseech your love!"
He and you know the relative worth of things,
What is permissible or inopportune.
Contort your brows! You know I speak the truth:
Gold is called gold, and dross called dross, i' the Book:
Gold you let lie and dross pick up and prize!
—Despite your muster of some fifty monks
And nuns a-maundering here and mumping there,
Who could, and on occasion would, spurn dross,
Clutch gold, and prove their faith a fact so far,—
I grant you! Fifty times the number squeak
And gibber in the madhouse—firm of faith,
This fellow, that his nose supports the moon;
The other, that his straw hat crowns him Pope:
Does that prove all the world outside insane?
Do fifty miracle-mongers match the mob
That acts on the frank faithless principle,
Born-baptized-and-bred Christian-atheists, each
With just as much a right to judge as you,—
As many senses in his soul, and nerves
I' neck of him as I,—whom, soul and sense,
Neck and nerve, you abolish presently,—
I being the unit in creation now
Who pay the Maker, in this speech of mine,
A creature's duty, spend my last of breath
In bearing witness, even by my worst fault,
To the creature's obligation, absolute,
Perpetual: my worst fault protests, "The faith
"Claims all of me: I would give all she claims,
"But for a spice of doubt: the risk's too rash:
"Double or quits, I play, but, all or nought,
"Exceeds my courage: therefore, I descend
"To the next faith with no dubiety—
"Faith in the present life, made last as long
"And prove as full of pleasure as may hap,
"Whatever pain it cause the world." I'm wrong?
I've had my life, whate'er I lose: I'm right?
I've got the single good there was to gain.
Entire faith, or else complete unbelief!
Aught between has my loathing and contempt,
Mine and God's also, doubtless: ask yourself,
Cardinal, where and how you like a man!
Why, either with your feet upon his head,
Confessed your caudatory, or, at large,
The stranger in the crowd who caps to you
But keeps his distance,—why should he presume?
You want no hanger-on and dropper-off,
Now yours, and now not yours but quite his own,
According as the sky looks black or bright.
Just so I capped to and kept off from faith—
You promised trudge behind through fair and foul,
Yet leave i' the lurch at the first spit of rain.
Who holds to faith whenever rain begins?
What does the father when his son lies dead,
The merchant when his money-bags take wing,
The politician whom a rival ousts?
No case but has its conduct, faith prescribes:
Where's the obedience that shall edify?
Why, they laugh frankly in the face of faith
And take the natural course,—this rends his hair
Because his child is taken to God's breast.
That gnashes teeth and raves at loss of trash
Which rust corrupts and thieves break through and steal,
And this, enabled to inherit earth
Through meekness, curses till your blood runs cold!
Down they all drop to my low level, rest
Heart upon dungy earth that's warm and soft,
And let who please attempt the altitudes.
Each playing prodigal son of heavenly sire,
Turning his nose up at the fatted calf,
Fain to fill belly with the husks, we swine
Did eat by born depravity of taste!

Enough of the hypocrites. But you, Sirs, you
Who never budged from litter where I lay,
And buried snout i' the draff-box while I fed,
Cried amen to my creed's one article—
"Get pleasure, 'scape pain,—give your preference
"To the immediate good, for time is brief,
"And death ends good and ill and everything!
"What's got is gained, what's gained soon is gained twice,
"And,—inasmuch as faith gains most,—feign faith!"
So did we brother-like pass word about:
You, now,—like bloody drunkards but half-drunk,
Who fool men yet perceive men find them fools,—
Vexed that a titter gains the gravest mouth,—
O' the sudden you must needs re-introduce
Solemnity, straight sober undue mirth
By a blow dealt me your boon companion here
Who, using the old licence, dreamed of harm
No more than snow in harvest: yet it falls!
You check the merriment effectually
By pushing your abrupt machine i' the midst,
Making me Rome's example: blood for wine!
The general good needs that you chop and change!
I may dislike the hocus-pocus,—Rome,
The laughter-loving people, won't they stare
Chap-fallen!—while serious natures sermonize
"The magistrate, he beareth not the sword
"In vain; who sins may taste its edge, we see!"
Why my sin, drunkards? Where have I abused
Liberty, scandalized you all so much?
Who called me, who crooked finger till I came,
Fool that I was, to join companionship?
I knew my own mind, meant to live my life,
Elude your envy, or else make a stand,
Take my own part and sell you my life dear.
But it was "Fie! No prejudice in the world
"To the proper manly instinct! Cast your lot
"Into our lap, one genius ruled our births,
"We'll compass joy by concert; take with us
"The regular irregular way i' the wood;
"You'll miss no game through riding breast by breast,
"In this preserve, the Church's park and pale,
"Rather than outside where the world lies waste!"
Come, if you said not that, did you say this?
Give plain and terrible warning, "Live, enjoy?
"Such life begins in death and ends in hell!
"Dare you bid us assist your sins, us priests
"Who hurry sin and sinners from the earth?
"No such delight for us, why then for you?
"Leave earth, seek heaven or find its opposite!"
Had you so warned me, not in lying words
But veritable deeds with tongues of flame,
That had been fair, that might have struck a man,
Silenced the squabble between soul and sense,
Compelled him to make mind up, take one course
Or the other, peradventure!—wrong or right,
Foolish or wise, you would have been at least
Sincere, no question,—forced me choose, indulge
Or else renounce my instincts, still play wolf
Or find my way submissive to your fold,
Be red-crossed on my fleece, one sheep the more.
But you as good as bade me wear sheep's wool
Over wolf's skin, suck blood and hide the noise
By mimicry of something like a bleat,—
Whence it comes that because, despite my care,
Because I smack my tongue too loud for once,
Drop baaing, here's the village up in arms!
Have at the wolfs throat, you who hate the breed!
Oh, were it only open yet to choose—
One little time more—whether I'd be free
Your foe, or subsidized your friend forsooth!
Should not you get a growl through the white fangs
In answer to your beckoning! Cardinal,
Abate, managers o' the multitude,
I'd turn your gloved hands to account, be sure!
You should manipulate the coarse rough mob:
'T is you I'd deal directly with, not them,—
Using your fears: why touch the thing myself
When I could see you hunt, and then cry "Shares!
"Quarter the carcase or we quarrel; come,
"Here's the world ready to see justice done!"
Oh, it had been a desperate game, but game
Wherein the winner's chance were worth the pains!
We'd try conclusions!—at the worst, what worse
Than this Mannaia-machine, each minute's talk
Helps push an inch the nearer me? Fool, fool!

You understand me and forgive, sweet Sirs?
I blame you, tear my hair and tell my woe—
All's but a flourish, figure of rhetoric!
One must try each expedient to save life.
One makes fools look foolisher fifty-fold
By putting in their place men wise like you,
To take the full force of an argument
Would buffet their stolidity in vain.
If you should feel aggrieved by the mere wind
O' the blow that means to miss you and maul them,
That's my success! Is it not folly, now,
To say with folk, "A plausible defence—
"We see through notwithstanding, and reject?"
Reject the plausible they do, these fools,
Who never even make pretence to show
One point beyond its plausibility
In favour of the best belief they hold!
"Saint Somebody-or-other raised the dead:"
Did he? How do you come to know as much?
"Know it, what need? The story's plausible,
"Avouched for by a martyrologist,
"And why should good men sup on cheese and leeks
"On such a saint's day, if there were no saint?"
I praise the wisdom of these fools, and straight
Tell them my story—"plausible, but false!"
False, to be sure! What else can story be
That runs—a young wife tired of an old spouse,
Found a priest whom she fled away with,—both
Took their full pleasure in the two-days' flight,
Which a grey-headed greyer-hearted pair,
(Whose best boast was, their life had been a lie)
Helped for the love they bore all liars. Oh,
Here incredulity begins! Indeed?
Allow then, were no one point strictly true,
There's that i' the tale might seem like truth at least
To the unlucky husband,—jaundiced patch—
Jealousy maddens people, why not him?
Say, he was maddened, so forgivable!
Humanity pleads that though the wife were true,
The priest true, and the pair of liars true,
They might seem false to one man in the world!
A thousand gnats make up a serpent's sting,
And many sly soft stimulants to wrath
Compose a formidable wrong at last
That gets called easily by some one name
Not applicable to the single parts,
And so draws down a general revenge,
Excessive if you take crime, fault by fault.
Jealousy! I have known a score of plays,
Were listened to and laughed at in my time
As like the everyday-life on all sides,
Wherein the husband, mad as a March hare,
Suspected all the world contrived his shame.
What did the wife? The wife kissed both eyes blind,
Explained away ambiguous circumstance,
And while she held him captive by the hand,
Crowned his head,—you know what's the mockery,—
By half her body behind the curtain. That's
Nature now! That's the subject of a piece
I saw in Vallombrosa Convent, made
Expressly to teach men what marriage was!
But say "Just so did I misapprehend,
"Imagine she deceived me to my face,"
And that's pretence too easily seen through!
All those eyes of all husbands in all plays,
At stare like one expanded peacock-tail,
Are laughed at for pretending to be keen
While horn-blind: but the moment I step forth
Oh, I must needs o' the sudden prove a lynx
And look the heart, that stone-wall, through and through!
Such an eye, God's may be,—not yours nor mine.

Yes, presently . . what hour is fleeting now?
When you cut earth away from under me,
I shall be left alone with, pushed beneath
Some such an apparitional dread orb
As the eye of God, since such an eye there glares:
I fancy it go filling up the void
Above my mote-self it devours, or what
Proves—wrath, immensity wreaks on nothingness.
Just how I felt once, couching through the dark,
Hard by Vittiano; young I was, and gay,
And wanting to trap fieldfares: first a spark
Tipped a bent, as a mere dew-globule might
Any stiff grass-stalk on the meadow,—this
Grew fiercer, flamed out full, and proved the sun.
What do I want with proverbs, precepts here?
Away with man! What shall I say to God?
This, if I find the tongue and keep the mind
"Do Thou wipe out the being of me, and smear
"This soul from off Thy white of things, I blot!
"I am one huge and sheer mistake,—whose fault?
"Not mine at least, who did not make myself!"
Someone declares my wife excused me so!
Perhaps she knew what argument to use.
Grind your teeth, Cardinal: Abate, writhe!
What else am I to cry out in my rage,
Unable to repent one particle
O' the past? Oh, how I wish some cold wise man
Would dig beneath the surface which you scrape,
Deal with the depths, pronounce on my desert
Groundedly! I want simple sober sense,
That asks, before it finishes with a dog,
Who taught the dog that trick you hang him for?
You both persist to call that act a crime,
Which sense would call ... yes, I maintain it, Sirs,...
A blunder! At the worst, I stood in doubt
On cross-road, took one path of many paths:
It leads to the red thing, we all see now,
But nobody saw at first: one primrose-patch
In bank, one singing-bird in bush, the less,
Had warned me from such wayfare: let me prove!
Put me back to the cross-road, start afresh!
Advise me when I take the first false step!
Give me my wife: how should I use my wife,
Love her or hate her? Prompt my action now!
There she is, there she stands alive and pale,
The thirteen-years' old child, with milk for blood,
Pompilia Comparini, as at first,
Which first is only four brief years ago!
I stand too in the little ground-floor room
O' the father's house at Via Vittoria: see!
Her so-called mother,—one arm round the waist
O' the child to keep her from the toys, let fall
At wonder I can live yet look so grim,—
Ushers her in, with deprecating wave
Of the other,—and she fronts me loose at last,
Held only by the mother's finger-tip.
Struck dumb,—for she was white enough before!—
She eyes me with those frightened balls of black,
As heifer—the old simile comes pat
Eyes tremblingly the altar and the priest.
The amazed look, all one insuppressive prayer,—
Might she but breathe, set free as heretofore,
Have this cup leave her lips unblistered, bear
Any cross anywhither anyhow,
So but alone, so but apart from me!
You are touched? So am I, quite otherwise,
If 't is with pity. I resent my wrong,
Being a man: I only show man's soul
Through man's flesh: she sees mine, it strikes her thus!
Is that attractive? To a youth perhaps
Calf-creature, one-part boy to three-parts girl,
To whom it is a flattering novelty
That he, men use to motion from their path,
Can thus impose, thus terrify in turn
A chit whose terror shall be changed apace
To bliss unbearable when grace and glow,
Prowess and pride descend the throne and touch
Esther in all that pretty tremble, cured
By the dove o' the sceptre! But myself am old,
O' the wane at least, in all things: what do you say
To her who frankly thus confirms my doubt?
I am past the prime, I scare the woman-world,
Done-with that way: you like this piece of news?
A little saucy rose-bud minx can strike
Death-damp into the breast of doughty king
Though 't were French Louis,—soul I understand,—
Saying, by gesture of repugnance, just
"Sire, you are regal, puissant and so forth,
"Butyoung you have been, are not, nor will be!"
In vain the mother nods, winks, bustles up,
"Count, girls incline to mature worth like you!
"As for Pompilia, what's flesh, fish, or fowl
"To one who apprehends no difference,
"And would accept you even were you old
"As you are … youngish by her father's side?
"Trim but your beard a little, thin your bush
"Of eyebrow; and for presence, portliness,
"And decent gravity, you beat a boy!"
Deceive yourself one minute, if you may,
In presence of the child that so loves age,
Whose neck writhes, cords itself against your kiss,
Whose hand you wring stark, rigid with despair!
Well, I resent this; I am young in soul,
Nor old in body,—thews and sinews here,—
Though the vile surface be not smooth as once,—
Far beyond that first wheelwork which went wrong
Through the untempered iron ere 't was proof:
I am the wrought man worth ten times the crude,
Would woman see what this declines to see,
Declines to say "I see,"—the officious word
That makes the thing, pricks on the soul to shoot
New fire into the half-used cinder, flesh!
Therefore 't is she begins with wronging me,
Who cannot but begin with hating her.
Our marriage follows: there she stands again!
Why do I laugh? Why, in the very gripe
O' the jaws of death's gigantic skull, do I
Grin back his grin, make sport of my own pangs?
Why from each clashing of his molars, ground
To make the devil bread from out my grist,
Leaps out a spark of mirth, a hellish toy?
Take notice we are lovers in a church,
Waiting the sacrament to make us one
And happy! Just as bid, she bears herself,
Comes and kneels, rises, speaks, is silent,—goes:
So have I brought my horse, by word and blow,
To stand stock-still and front the fire he dreads.
How can I other than remember this,
Resent the very obedience? Gain thereby?
Yes, I do gain my end and have my will,—
Thanks to whom? When the mother speaks the word,
She obeys it—even to enduring me!
There had been compensation in revolt—
Revolt's to quell: but martyrdom rehearsed,
But predetermined saintship for the sake
O' the mother?—"Go!" thought I, "we meet again!"
Pass the next weeks of dumb contented death,
She lives,—wakes up, installed in house and home,
Is mine, mine all day-long, all night-long mine.
Good folk begin at me with open mouth
"Now, at least, reconcile the child to life!
"Study and make her lovethat is, endure
"The … hem! theall of you though somewhat old,
"Till it amount to something, in her eye,
"As good as love, better a thousand times,—
"Since nature helps the woman in such strait,
"Makes passiveness her pleasure: failing which,
"What if you give up boy-and-girl-fools'-play
"And go on to wise friendship all at once?
"Those boys and girls kiss themselves cold, you know,
"Toy themselves tired and slink aside full soon
"To friendship, as they name satiety:
"Thither go you and wait their coming!" Thanks,
Considerate advisers,—but, fair play!
Had you and I, friends, started fair at first
We, keeping fair, might reach it, neck by neck,
This blessed goal, whenever fate so please:
But why am I to miss the daisied mile
The course begins with, why obtain the dust
Of the end precisely at the starting-point?
Why quaff life's cup blown free of all the beads,
The bright red froth wherein our beard should steep
Before our mouth essay the black o' the wine?
Foolish, the love-fit? Let me prove it such
Like you, before like you I puff things clear!
"The best's to come, no rapture but content!
"Not love's first glory but a sober glow,
"Not a spontaneous outburst in pure boon,
"So much as, gained by patience, care and toil,
"Proper appreciation and esteem!"
Go preach that to your nephews, not to me
Who, tired i' the midway of my life, would stop
And take my first refreshment, pluck a rose:
What's this coarse woolly hip, worn smooth of leaf,
You counsel I go plant in garden-plot,
Water with tears, manure with sweat and blood,
In confidence the seed shall germinate
And, for its very best, some far-off day,
Grow big, and blow me out a dog-rose bell?
Why must your nephews begin breathing spice
O' the hundred-petalled Provence prodigy?
Nay, more and worse,—would such my root bear rose
Prove really flower and favourite, not the kind
That's queen, but those three leaves that make one cup
And hold the hedge-bird's breakfast,—then indeed
The prize though poor would pay the care and toil!
Respect we Nature that makes least as most,
Marvellous in the minim! But this bud,
Bit through and burned black by the tempter's tooth,
This bloom whose best grace was the slug outside
And the wasp inside its bosom,—call you "rose"?
Claim no immunity from a weed's fate
For the horrible present! What you call my wife
I call a nullity in female shape,
Vapid disgust, soon to be pungent plague,
When mixed with, made confusion and a curse
By two abominable nondescripts,
That father and that mother: think you see
The dreadful bronze our boast, we Aretines,
The Etruscan monster, the three-headed thing,
Bellerophon's foe! How name you the whole beast?
You choose to name the body from one head,
That of the simple kid which droops the eye,
Hangs the neck and dies tenderly enough:
I rather see the griesly lion belch
Flame out i' the midst, the serpent writhe her rings,
Grafted into the common stock for tail,
And name the brute, Chimæra which I slew!
How was there ever more to be—(concede
My wife's insipid harmless nullity)—
Dissociation from that pair of plagues—
That mother with her cunning and her cant—
The eyes with first their twinkle of conceit,
Then, dropped to earth in mock-demureness,—now,
The smile self-satisfied from ear to ear,
Now, the prim pursed-up mouth's protruded lips,
With deferential duck, slow swing of head,
Tempting the sudden fist of man too much,—
That owl-like screw of lid and rock of ruff!
As for the father,—Cardinal, you know,
The kind of idiot!—such are rife in Rome,
But they wear velvet commonly; good fools,
At the end of life, to furnish forth young folk
Who grin and bear with imbecility:
Since the stalled ass, the joker, sheds from jaw
Corn, in the joke, for those who laugh or starve.
But what say we to the same solemn beast
Wagging his ears and wishful of our pat,
When turned, with holes in hide and bones laid bare,
To forage for himself i' the waste o' the world,
Sir Dignity i' the dumps? Pat him? We drub
Self-knowledge, rather, into frowzy pate,
Teach Pietro to get trappings or go hang!
Fancy this quondam oracle in vogue
At Via Vittoria, this personified
Authority when time was,—Pantaloon
Flaunting his tom-fool tawdry just the same
As if Ash-Wednesday were mid-Carnival!
That's the extreme and unforgiveable
Of sins, as I account such. Have you stooped
For your own ends to bestialize yourself
By flattery of a fellow of this stamp?
The ends obtained or else shown out of reach,
He goes on, takes the flattery for pure truth,—
"You love, and honour me, of course: what next?"
What, but the trifle of the stabbing, friend?—
Which taught you how one worships when the shrine
Has lost the relic that we bent before.
Angry! And how could I be otherwise?
'T is plain: this pair of old pretentious fools
Meant to fool me: it happens, I fooled them.
Why could not these who sought to buy and sell
Me,—when they found themselves were bought and sold,
Make up their mind to the proved rule of right,
Be chattel and not chapman any more?
Miscalculation has its consequence;
But when the shepherd crooks a sheep-like thing
And meaning to get wool, dislodges fleece
And finds the veritable wolf beneath,
(How that staunch image serves at every turn!)
Does he, by way of being politic,
Pluck the first whisker grimly visible?
Or rather grow in a trice all gratitude,
Protest this sort-of-what-one-might-name sheep
Beats the old other curly-coated kind,
And shall share board and bed, if so it deign,
With its discoverer, like a royal ram?
Ay, thus, with chattering teeth and knocking knees,
Would wisdom treat the adventure! these, forsooth,
Tried whisker-plucking, and so found what trap
The whisker kept perdue, two rows of teeth—
Sharp, as too late the prying fingers felt.
What would you have? The fools transgress, the fools
Forthwith receive appropriate punishment:
They first insult me, I return the blow,
There follows noise enough: four hubbub months,
Now hue and cry, now whimpering and wail—
A perfect goose-yard cackle of complaint
Because I do not gild the geese their oats,—
I have enough of noise, ope wicket wide,
Sweep out the couple to go whine elsewhere,
Frightened a little, hurt in no respect,
And am just taking thought to breathe again,
Taste the sweet sudden silence all about,
When, there they raise it, the old noise I know,
At Rome i' the distance! "What, begun once more?
"Whine on, wail ever, 't is the loser's right!"
But eh, what sort of voice grows on the wind?
Triumph it sounds and no complaint at all!
And triumph it is. My boast was premature:
The creatures, I turned forth, clapped wing and crew
Fighting-cock-fashion,—they had filched a pearl
From dung-heap, and might boast with cause enough!
I was defrauded of all bargained for:
You know, the Pope knows, not a soul but knows
My dowry was derision, my gain—muck,
My wife, (the Church declared my flesh and blood)
The nameless bastard of a common whore:
My old name turned henceforth toshall I say
"He that received the ordure in his face?"
And they who planned this wrong, performed this wrong,
And then revealed this wrong to the wide world,
Rounded myself in the ears with my own wrong,—
Why, these were (note hell's lucky malice, now!)
These were just they who, they alone, could act
And publish and proclaim their infamy,
Secure that men would in a breath believe
Compassionate and pardon them,—for why?
They plainly were too stupid to invent,
Too simple to distinguish wrong from right,—
Inconscious agents they, the silly-sooth,
Of heaven's retributive justice on the strong
Proud cunning violent oppressor—me!
Follow them to their fate and help your best,
You Rome, Arezzo, foes called friends of me,
They gave the good long laugh to, at my cost!
Defray your share o' the cost, since you partook
The entertainment! Do!—assured the while,
That not one stab, I dealt to right and left,
But went the deeper for a fancythis
That each might do me two-fold service, find
A friend's face at the bottom of each wound,
And scratch its smirk a little!

Panciatichi!
There's a report at Florence,—is it true?—
That when your relative the Cardinal
Built, only the other day, that barrack-bulk,
The palace in Via Larga, someone picked
From out the street a saucy quip enough
That fell there from its day's flight through the town,
About the flat front and the windows wide
And bulging heap of cornice,—hitched the joke
Into a sonnet, signed his name thereto,
And forthwith pinned on post the pleasantry:
For which he's at the galleys, rowing now
Up to his waist in water,—just because
Panciatic and lymphatic rhymed so pat!
I hope, Sir, those who passed this joke on me
Were not unduly punished? What say you,
Prince of the Church, my patron? Nay, indeed,
I shall not dare insult your wits so much
As think this problem difficult to solve.
This Pietro and Violante then, I say,
These two ambiguous insects, changing name
And nature with the season's warmth or chill,—
Now, grovelled, grubbing toiling moiling ants,
A very synonym of thrift and peace,—
Anon, with lusty June to prick their heart,
Soared i' the air, winged flies for more offence,
Circled me, buzzed me deaf and stung me blind,
And stunk me dead with fetor in the face
Until I stopped the nuisance: there's my crime!
Pity I did not suffer them subside
Into some further shape and final form
Of execrable life? My masters, no!
I, by one blow, wisely cut short at once
Them and their transformations of disgust,
In the snug little Villa out of hand.
"Grant me confession, give bare time for that!"—
Shouted the sinner till his mouth was stopped.
His life confessed!—that was enough for me,
Who came to see that he did penance. 'S death!
Here's a coil raised, a pother and for what?
Because strength, being provoked by weakness, fought
And conquered,—the world never heard the like!
Pah, how I spend my breath on them, as if
'T was their fate troubled me, too hard to range
Among the right and fit and proper things!

Ay, but Pompilia,—I await your word,—
She, unimpeached of crime, unimplicate
In folly, one of alien blood to these
I punish, why extend my claim, exact
Her portion of the penalty? Yes, friends,
I go too fast: the orator's at fault:
Yes, ere I lay her, with your leave, by them
As she was laid at San Lorenzo late,
I ought to step back, lead you by degrees,
Recounting at each step some fresh offence,
Up to the red bed,—never fear, I will!
Gaze at her, where I place her, to begin,
Confound me with her gentleness and worth!
The horrible pair have fled and left her now,
She has her husband for her sole concern:
His wife, the woman fashioned for his help,
Flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, the bride
To groom as is the Church and Spouse to Christ:
There she stands in his presence: "Thy desire
"Shall be to the husband, o'er thee shall he rule!"
—"Pompilia, who declare that you love God,
"You know who said that: then, desire my love,
"Yield me contentment and be ruled aright!"
She sits up, she lies down, she comes and goes,
Kneels at the couch-side, overleans the sill
O' the window, cold and pale and mute as stone,
Strong as stone also. "Well, are they not fled?
"Am I not left, am I not one for all?
"Speak a word, drop a tear, detach a glance,
"Bless me or curse me of your own accord!
"Is it the ceiling only wants your soul,
"Is worth your eyes?" And then the eyes descend,
And do look at me. Is it at the meal?
"Speak!" she obeys, "Be silent!" she obeys,
Counting the minutes till I cry "Depart,"
As brood-bird when you saunter past her eggs.
Departs she? just the same through door and wall
I see the same stone strength of white despair.
And all this will be never otherwise!
Before, the parents' presence lent her life:
She could play off her sex's armoury,
Entreat, reproach, be female to my male,
Try all the shrieking doubles of the hare,
Go clamour to the Commissary, bid
The Archbishop hold my hands and stop my tongue,
And yield fair sport so: but the tactics change,
The hare stands stock-still to enrage the hound!
Since that day when she learned she was no child
Of those she thought her parents,—that their trick
Had tricked me whom she thought sole trickster late,—
Why, I suppose she said within herself
"Then, no more struggle for my parents' sake!
"And, for my own sake, why needs struggle be?"
But is there no third party to the pact?
What of her husband's relish or dislike
For this new game of giving up the game,
This worst offence of not offending more?
I'll not believe but instinct wrought in this,
Set her on to conceive and execute
The preferable plague: how sure they probe—
These jades, the sensitivest soft of man!
The long black hair was wound now in a wisp,
Crowned sorrow better than the wild web late:
No more soiled dress, 't is trimness triumphs now,
For how should malice go with negligence?
The frayed silk looked the fresher for her spite!
There was an end to springing out of bed,
Praying me, with face buried on my feet,
Be hindered of my pastime,—so an end
To my rejoinder, "What, on the ground at last?
'Vanquished in fight, a supplicant for life?
"What if I raise you? 'Ware the casting down
"When next you fight me!" Then, she lay there, mine:
Now, mine she is if I please wring her neck,—
A moment of disquiet, working eyes,
Protruding tongue, a long sigh, then no more,—
As if one killed the horse one could not ride!
Had I enjoined "Cut off the hair!"—why, snap
The scissors, and at once a yard or so
Had fluttered in black serpents to the floor:
But till I did enjoin it, how she combs,
Uncurls and draws out to the complete length,
Plaits, places the insulting rope on head
To be an eyesore past dishevelment!
Is all done? Then sit still again and stare!
I advise—no one think to bear that look
Of steady wrong, endured as steadily
Through what sustainment of deluding hope?
Who is the friend i' the background that notes all?
Who may come presently and close accounts?
This self-possession to the uttermost,
How does it differ in aught, save degree,
From the terrible patience of God?

"All which just means,
"She did not love you!" Again the word is launched
And the fact fronts me! What, you try the wards
With the true key and the dead lock flies ope?
No, it sticks fast and leaves you fumbling still!
You have some fifty servants, Cardinal,—
Which of them loves you? Which subordinate
But makes parade of such officiousness
That,—if there's no love prompts it,—love, the sham,
Does twice the service done by love, the true.
God bless us liars, where's one touch of truth
In what we tell the world, or world tells us,
Of how we love each other? All the same,
We calculate on word and deed, nor err,—
Bid such a man do such a loving act,
Sure of effect and negligent of cause,
Just as we bid a horse, with cluck of tongue,
Stretch his legs arch-wise, crouch his saddled back
To foot-reach of the stirrup—all for love,
And some for memory of the smart of switch
On the inside of the foreleg—what care we?
Yet where's the bond obliges horse to man
Like that which binds fast wife to husband? God
Laid down the law: gave man the brawny arm
And ball of fist—woman the beardless cheek
And proper place to suffer in the side:
Since it is he can strike, let her obey!
Can she feel no love? Let her show the more,
Sham the worse, damn herself praiseworthily!
Who's that soprano, Rome went mad about
Last week while I lay rotting in my straw?
The very jailer gossiped in his praise
How,—dressed up like Armida, though a man;
And painted to look pretty, though a fright,—
He still made love so that the ladies swooned,
Being an eunuch. "Ah, Rinaldo mine!
"But to breathe by thee while Jove slays us both!
All the poor bloodless creature never felt,
Si, do, re, mi, fa, squeak and squall—for what?
Two gold zecchines the evening. Here's my slave,
Whose body and soul depend upon my nod,
Can't falter out the first note in the scale
For her life! Why blame me if I take the life?
All women cannot give men love, forsooth!
No, nor all pullets lay the henwife eggs—
Whereat she bids them remedy the fault,
Brood on a chalk-ball: soon the nest is stocked—
Otherwise, to the plucking and the spit!
This wife of mine was of another mood—
Would not begin the lie that ends with truth,
Nor feign the love that brings real love about:
Wherefore I judged, sentenced and punished her
But why particularize, defend the deed?
Say that I hated her for no one cause
Beyond my pleasure so to do,—what then?
Just on as much incitement acts the world,
All of you! Look and like! You favour one
Browbeat another, leave alone a third,—
Why should you master natural caprice?
Pure nature Try: plant elm by ash in file;
Both unexceptionable trees enough,
They ought to overlean each other, pair
At top, and arch across the avenue
The whole path to the pleasaunce: do they so
Or loathe, lie off abhorrent each from each?
Lay the fault elsewhere: since we must have faults,
Mine shall have been,—seeing there's ill in the end
Come of my course,—that I fare somehow worse
For the way I took: my faultas God's my judge,
I see not where my fault lies, that's the truth!
I ought … oh, ought in my own interest
Have let the whole adventure go untried,
This chance by marriage: or else, trying it,
Ought to have turned it to account, some one
O' the hundred otherwises? Ay, my friend,
Easy to say, easy to do: step right
Now you've stepped left and stumbled on the thing,
The red thing! Doubt I any more than you
That practice makes man perfect? Give again
The chance,—same marriage and no other wife,
Be sure I'll edify you! That's because
I'm practised, grown fit guide for Guido's self.
You proffered guidance,—I know, none so well,—
You laid down law and rolled decorum out,
From pulpit-corner on the gospel-side,—
Wanted to make your great experience mine,
Save me the personal search and pains so: thanks!
Take your word on life's use? When I take his
The muzzled ox that treadeth out the corn,
Gone blind in padding round and round one path,—
As to the taste of green grass in the field!
What do you know o' the world that's trodden flat
And salted sterile with your daily dung,
Leavened into a lump of loathsomeness?
Take your opinion of the modes of life,
The aims of life, life's triumph or defeat,
How to feel, how to scheme, and how to do
Or else leave undone? You preached long and loud
On high-days, "Take our doctrine upon trust!
"Into the mill-house with you! Grind our corn,
"Relish our chaff, and let the green grass grow!"
I tried chaff, found I famished on such fare,
So made this mad rush at the mill-house-door,
Buried my head up to the ears in dew,
Browsed on the best: for which you brain me, Sirs!
Be it so. I conceived of life that way,
And still declare—life, without absolute use
Of the actual sweet therein, is death, not life.
Give me,—pay down,—not promise, which is air,—
Something that's out of life and better still,
Make sure reward, make certain punishment,
Entice me, scare me,—I'll forgo this life;
Otherwise, no!—the less that words, mere wind,
Would cheat me of some minutes while they plague,
Baulk fulness of revenge here,—blame yourselves
For this eruption of the pent-up soul
You prisoned first and played with afterward
"Deny myself" meant simply pleasure you,
The sacred and superior, save the mark!
You,—whose stupidity and insolence
I must defer to, soothe at every turn,—
Whose swine-like snuffling greed and grunting lust
I had to wink at or help gratify,—
While the same passions,—dared they perk in me,
Me, the immeasurably marked, by God,
Master of the whole world of such as you,—
I, boast such passions? 'T was "Suppress them straight!
"Or stay, we'll pick and choose before destroy.
"Here's wrath in you, a serviceable sword,—
"Beat it into a ploughshare! What's this long
"Lance-like ambition? Forge a pruning-hook,
"May be of service when our vines grow tall!
"But—sword use swordwise, spear thrust out as spear?
"Anathema! Suppression is the word!"
My nature, when the outrage was too gross,
Widened itself an outlet over-wide
By way of answer, sought its own relief
With more of fire and brimstone than you wished.
All your own doing: preachers, blame yourselves!

'T is I preach while the hour-glass runs and runs!
God keep me patient! All I say just means—
My wife proved, whether by her fault or mine,—
That's immaterial,—a true stumbling-block
I' the way of me her husband. I but plied
The hatchet yourselves use to clear a path,
Was politic, played the game you warrant wins,
Plucked at law's robe a-rustle through the courts,
Bowed down to kiss divinity's buckled shoe
Cushioned i' the church: efforts all wide the aim!
Procedures to no purpose! Then flashed truth.
The letter kills, the spirit keeps alive
In law and gospel: there be nods and winks
Instruct a wise man to assist himself
In certain matters, nor seek aid at all.
"Ask money of me,"—quoth the clownish saw,—
"And take my purse! But,—speaking with respect,—
"Need you a solace for the troubled nose?
"Let everybody wipe his own himself!"
Sirs, tell me free and fair! Had things gone well
At the wayside inn: had I surprised asleep
The runaways, as was so probable,
And pinned them each to other partridge-wise,
Through back and breast to breast and back, then bade
Bystanders witness if the spit, my sword,
Were loaded with unlawful game for once
Would you have interposed to damp the glow
Applauding me on every husband's cheek?
Would you have checked the cry "A judgment, see!
"A warning, note! Be henceforth chaste, ye wives,
"Nor stray beyond your proper precinct, priests!"
If you had, then your house against itself
Divides, nor stands your kingdom any more.
Oh why, why was it not ordained just so?
Why fell not things out so nor otherwise?
Ask that particular devil whose task it is
To trip the all-but-at perfection,—slur
The line o' the painter just where paint leaves off
And life begins,—put ice into the ode
O' the poet while he cries "Next stanza—fire!"
Inscribe all human effort with one word,
Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete!
Being incomplete, my act escaped success.
Easy to blame now! Every fool can swear
To hole in net that held and slipped the fish.
But, treat my act with fair unjaundiced eye,
What was there wanting to a masterpiece
Except the luck that lies beyond a man?
My way with the woman, now proved grossly wrong,
Just missed of being gravely grandly right
And making mouths laugh on the other side.
Do, for the poor obstructed artist's sake,
Go with him over that spoiled work once more!
Take only its first flower, the ended act
Now in the dusty pod, dry and defunct!
I march to the Villa, and my men with me,
That evening, and we reach the door and stand.
I sayno, it shoots through me lightning-like
While I pause, breathe, my hand upon the latch,
"Let me forebode! Thus far, too much success:
"I want the natural failure—find it where?
"Which thread will have to break and leave a loop
"I' the meshy combination, my brain's loom
"Wove this long while, and now next minute tests?
"Of three that are to catch, two should go free,
"One must: all three surprised,—impossible!
"Beside, I seek three and may chance on six,—
"This neighbour, t' other gossip,—the babe's birth
"Brings such to fireside, and folks give them wine,—
"'T is late: but when I break in presently
"One will be found outlingering the rest
"For promise of a posset,—one whose shout
"Would raise the dead down in the catacombs,
"Much more the city-watch that goes its round.
"When did I ever turn adroitly up
"To sun some brick embedded in the soil,
"And with one blow crush all three scorpions there?
"Or Pietro or Violante shambles off
"It cannot be but I surprise my wife
"If only she is stopped and stamped on, good!
"That shall suffice: more is improbable.
"Now I may knock!" And this once for my sake
The impossible was effected: I called king,
Queen and knave in a sequence, and cards came,
All three, three only! So, I had my way,
Did my deed: so, unbrokenly lay bare
Each tænia that had sucked me dry of juice,
At last outside me, not an inch of ring
Left now to writhe about and root itself
I' the heart all powerless for revenge! Henceforth
I might thrive: these were drawn and dead and damned
Oh Cardinal, the deep long sigh you heave
When the load's off you, ringing as it runs
All the way down the serpent-stair to hell!
No doubt the fine delirium flustered me,
Turned my brain with the influx of success
As if the sole need now were to wave wand
And find doors fly wide,—wish and have my will,—
The rest o' the scheme would care for itself: escape
Easy enough were that, and poor beside!
It all but proved so,—ought to quite have proved,
Since, half the chances had sufficed, set free
Anyone, with his senses at command,
From thrice the danger of my flight. But, drunk,
Redundantly triumphant,—some reverse
Was sure to follow! There's no other way
Accounts for such prompt perfect failure then
And there on the instant. Any day o' the week,
A ducat slid discreetly into palm
O' the mute post-master, while you whisper him
How you the Count and certain four your knaves,
Have just been mauling who was malapert,
Suspect the kindred may prove troublesome,
Therefore, want horses in a hurry,—that
And nothing more secures you any day
The pick o' the stable! Yet I try the trick,
Double the bribe, call myself Duke for Count,
And say the dead man only was a Jew,
And for my pains find I am dealing just
With the one scrupulous fellow in all Rome
Just this immaculate official stares,
Sees I want hat on head and sword in sheath,
Am splashed with other sort of wet than wine,
Shrugs shoulder, puts my hand by, gold and all,
Stands on the strictness of the rule o' the road!
"Where's the Permission?" Where's the wretched rag
With the due seal and sign of Rome's Police,
To be had for asking, half-an-hour ago?
"Gone? Get another, or no horses hence!"
He dares not stop me, we five glare too grim,
But hinders,—hacks and hamstrings sure enough,
Gives me some twenty miles of miry road
More to march in the middle of that night
Whereof the rough beginning taxed the strength
O' the youngsters, much more mine, both soul and flesh,
Who had to think as well as act: dead-beat,
We gave in ere we reached the boundary
And safe spot out of this irrational Rome,—
Where, on dismounting from our steeds next day,
We had snapped our fingers at you, safe and sound,
Tuscans once more in blessed Tuscany,
Where laws make wise allowance, understand
Civilized life and do its champions right!
Witness the sentence of the Rota there,
Arezzo uttered, the Granduke confirmed,
One week before I acted on its hint,—
Giving friend Guillichini, for his love,
The galleys, and my wife your saint, Rome's saint,—
Rome manufactures saints enough to know,—
Seclusion at the Stinche for her life.
All this, that all but was, might all have been,
Yet was not! baulked by just a scrupulous knave
Whose palm was horn through handling horses' hoofs
And could not close upon my proffered gold!
What say you to the spite of fortune? Well,
The worst's in store: thus hindered, haled this way
To Rome again by hangdogs, whom find I
Here, still to fight with, but my pale frail wife?
—Riddled with wounds by one not like to waste
The blows he dealt,—knowing anatomy,—
(I think I told you) bound to pick and choose
The vital parts! 'T was learning all in vain!
She too must shimmer through the gloom o' the grave,
Come and confront menot at judgment-seat
Where I could twist her soul, as erst her flesh,
And turn her truth into a lie,—but there,
O' the death-bed, with God's hand between us both,
Striking me dumb, and helping her to speak,
Tell her own story her own way, and turn
My plausibility to nothingness!
Four whole days did Pompilia keep alive,
With the best surgery of Rome agape
At the miracle,—this cut, the other slash,
And yet the life refusing to dislodge,
Four whole extravagant impossible days,
Till she had time to finish and persuade
Every man, every woman, every child
In Rome, of what she would: the selfsame she
Who, but a year ago, had wrung her hands,
Reddened her eyes and beat her breasts, rehearsed
The whole game at Arezzo, nor availed
Thereby to move one heart or raise one hand!
When destiny intends you cards like these,
What good of skill and preconcerted play?
Had she been found dead, as I left her dead,
I should have told a tale brooked no reply:
You scarcely will suppose me found at fault
With that advantage! "What brings me to Rome?
"Necessity to claim and take my wife:
"Better, to claim and take my new born babe,—
"Strong in paternity a fortnight old,
"When't is at strongest: warily I work,
"Knowing the machinations of my foe;
"I have companionship and use the night:
"I seek my wife and child,—I findno child
"But wife, in the embraces of that priest
"Who caused her to elope from me. These two,
"Backed by the pander-pair who watch the while,
"Spring on me like so many tiger-cats,
"Glad of the chance to end the intruder. I
"What should I do but stand on my defence,
"Strike right, strike left, strike thick and threefold, slay,
"Not all-because the coward priest escapes.
"Last, I escape, in fear of evil tongues,
"And having had my taste of Roman law."
What's disputable, refutable here?—
Save by just this one ghost-thing half on earth,
Half out of it,—as if she held God's hand
While she leant back and looked her last at me,
Forgiving me (here monks begin to weep)
Oh, from her very soul, commending mine
To heavenly mercies which are infinite,—
While fixing fast my head beneath your knife!
'T is fate not fortune. All is of a piece!
When was it chance informed me of my youths?
My rustic four o' the family, soft swains,
What sweet surprise had they in store for me,
Those of my very household,—what did Law
Twist with her rack-and-cord-contrivance late
From out their bones and marrow? What but this
Had no one of these several stumbling-blocks
Stopped me, they yet were cherishing a scheme,
All of their honest country homespun wit,
To quietly next day at crow of cock
Cut my own throat too, for their own behoof,
Seeing I had forgot to clear accounts
O' the instant, nowise slackened speed for that,—
And somehow never might find memory,
Once safe back in Arezzo, where things change,
And a court-lord needs mind no country lout.
Well, being the arch-offender, I die last,—
May, ere my head falls, have my eyesight free,
Nor miss them dangling high on either hand,
Like scarecrows in a hemp-field, for their pains!

And then my Trial,—'t is my Trial that bites
Like a corrosive, so the cards are packed,
Dice loaded, and my life-stake tricked away!
Look at my lawyers, lacked they grace of law,
Latin or logic? Were not they fools to the height,
Fools to the depth, fools to the level between,
O' the foolishness set to decide the case?
They feign, they flatter; nowise does it skill,
Everything goes against me: deal each judge
His dole of flattery and feigning,—why,
He turns and tries and snuffs and savours it,
As some old fly the sugar-grain, your gift;
Then eyes your thumb and finger, brushes clean
The absurd old head of him, and whisks away,
Leaving your thumb and finger dirty. Faugh!

And finally, after this long-drawn range
Of affront and failure, failure and affront,—
This path, 'twixt crosses leading to a skull,
Paced by me barefoot, bloodied by my palms
From the entry to the end,—there's light at length,
A cranny of escape: appeal may be
To the old man, to the father, to the Pope,
For a little lifefrom one whose life is spent,
A little pity—from pity's source and seat,
A little indulgence to rank, privilege,
From one who is the thing personified,
Rank, privilege, indulgence, grown beyond
Earth's bearing, even, ask Jansenius else!
Still the same answer, still no other tune
From the cicala perched at the tree-top
Than crickets noisy round the root: 't is "Die!"
Bids Law—"Be damned!" adds Gospel,—nay,
No word so frank,—'t is rather, "Save yourself!"
The Pope subjoins—"Confess and be absolved!
"So shall my credit countervail your shame,
"And the world see I have not lost the knack
"Of trying all the spirits: yours, my son,
"Wants but a fiery washing to emerge
"In clarity! Come, cleanse you, ease the ache
"Of these old bones, refresh our bowels, boy!"
Do I mistake your mission from the Pope?
Then, bear his Holiness the mind of me!
I do get strength from being thrust to wall,
Successively wrenched from pillar and from post
By this tenacious hate of fortune, hate
Of all things in, under, and above earth.
Warfare, begun this mean unmanly mode,
Does best to end so,—gives earth spectacle
Of a brave fighter who succumbs to odds
That turn defeat to victory. Stab, I fold
My mantle round me! Rome approves my act:
Applauds the blow which costs me life but keeps
My honour spotless: Rome would praise no more
Had I fallen, say, some fifteen years ago,
Helping Vienna when our Aretines
Flocked to Duke Charles and fought Turk Mustafa;
Nor would you two be trembling o'er my corpse
With all this exquisite solicitude.
Why is it that I make such suit to live?
The popular sympathy that's round me now
Would break like bubble that o'er-domes a fly:
Solid enough while he lies quiet there,
But let him want the air and ply the wing,
Why, it breaks and bespatters him, what else?
Cardinal, if the Pope had pardoned me,
And I walked out of prison through the crowd,
It would not be your arm I should dare press!
Then, if I got safe to my place again,
How sad and sapless were the years to come!
I go my old ways and find things grown grey;
You priests leer at me, old friends look askance
The mob's in love, I'll wager, to a man,
With my poor young good beauteous murdered wife:
For hearts require instruction how to beat,
And eyes, on warrant of the story, wax
Wanton at portraiture in white and black
Of dead Pompilia gracing ballad-sheet,
Which eyes, lived she unmurdered and unsung,
Would never turn though she paced street as bare
As the mad penitent ladies do in France.
My brothers quietly would edge me out
Of use and management of things called mine;
Do I command? "You stretched command before!
Show anger? "Anger little helped you once!"
Advise? "How managed you affairs of old?"
My very mother, all the while they gird,
Turns eye up, gives confirmatory groan;
For unsuccess, explain it how you will,
Disqualifies you, makes you doubt yourself,
Much more, is found decisive by your friends.
Beside, am I not fifty years of age?
What new leap would a life take, checked like mine
I' the spring at outset? Where's my second chance?
Ay, but the babe … I had forgot my son,
My heir! Now for a burst of gratitude!
There's some appropriate service to intone,
Some gaudeamus and thanksgiving psalm!
Old, I renew my youth in him, and poor
Possess a treasure,—is not that the phrase?
Only I must wait patient twenty years
Nourishing all the while, as father ought,
The excrescence with my daily blood of life.
Does it respond to hope, such sacrifice,—
Grows the wen plump while I myself grow lean?
Why, here's my son and heir in evidence,
Who stronger, wiser, handsomer than I
By fifty years, relieves me of each load,—
Tames my hot horse, carries my heavy gun,
Courts my coy mistress,—has his apt advice
On house-economy, expenditure,
And what not? All which good gifts and great growth
Because of my decline, he brings to bear
On Guido, but half apprehensive how
He cumbers earth, crosses the brisk young Count,
Who civilly would thrust him from the scene.
Contrariwise, does the blood-offering fail?
There's an ineptitude, one blank the more
Added to earth in semblance of my child?
Then, this has been a costly piece of work,
My life exchanged for his!—why he, not I,
Enjoy the world, if no more grace accrue?
Dwarf me, what giant have you made of him?
I do not dread the disobedient son:
I know how to suppress rebellion there,
Being not quite the fool my father was.
But grant the medium measure of a man,
The usual compromise 'twixt fool and sage,
You knowthe tolerably-obstinate,
The not-so-much-perverse but you may train,
The true son-servant that, when parent bids
"Go work, son, in my vineyard!" makes reply
"I go, Sir!"—Why, what profit in your son
Beyond the drudges you might subsidize,
Have the same work from, at a paul the head?
Look at those four young precious olive-plants
Reared at Vittiano,—not on flesh and blood,
These twenty years, but black bread and sour wine!
I bade them put forth tender branch, hook, hold,
And hurt three enemies I had in Rome:
They did my hest as unreluctantly,
At promise of a dollar, as a son
Adjured by mumping memories of the past.
No, nothing repays youth expended so
Youth, I say, who am young still: grant but leave
To live my life out, to the last I'd live
And die conceding age no right of youth!
It is the will runs the renewing nerve
Through flaccid flesh that faints before the time.
Therefore no sort of use for son have I
Sick, not of life's feast but of steps to climb
To the house where life prepares her feast,—of means
To the end: for make the end attainable
Without the means,—my relish were like yours.
A man may have an appetite enough
For a whole dish of robins ready cooked,
And yet lack courage to face sleet, pad snow,
And snare sufficiently for supper.

Thus
The time's arrived when, ancient Roman-like,
I am bound to fall on my own sword: why not
Say—Tuscan-like, more ancient, better still?
Will you hear truth can do no harm nor good?
I think I never was at any time
A Christian, as you nickname all the world,
Me among others: truce to nonsense now!
Name me, a primitive religionist—
As should the aboriginary be
I boast myself, Etruscan, Aretine,
One sprung,—your frigid Virgil's fieriest word,—
From fauns and nymphs, trunks and the heart of oak,
With,—for a visible divinity,—
The portent of a Jove Ægiochus
Descried 'mid clouds, lightning and thunder, couched
On topmost crag of your Capitoline:
'T is in the Seventh Æneid,—what, the Eighth?
Right,—thanks, Abate,—though the Christian's dumb,
The Latinist's vivacious in you yet!
I know my grandsire had our tapestry
Marked with the motto, 'neath a certain shield,
Whereto his grandson presently will give gules
To vary azure. First we fight for faiths,
But get to shake hands at the last of all:
Mine's your faith too,—in Jove Ægiochus!
Nor do Greek gods, that serve as supplement,
Jar with the simpler scheme, if understood.
We want such intermediary race
To make communication possible;
The real thing were too lofty, we too low,
Midway hang these: we feel their use so plain
In linking height to depth, that we doff hat
And put no question nor pry narrowly
Into the nature hid behind the names.
We grudge no rite the fancy may demand;
But never, more than needs, invent, refine,
Improve upon requirement, idly wise
Beyond the letter, teaching gods their trade,
Which is to teach us: we'll obey when taught.
Why should we do our duty past the need?
When the sky darkens, Jove is wroth,—say prayer!
When the sun shines and Jove is glad,—sing psalm!
But wherefore pass prescription and devise
Blood-offering for sweat-service, lend the rod
A pungency through pickle of our own?
Learned Abate,—no one teaches you
What Venus means and who's Apollo here!
I spare you, Cardinal,—but, though you wince,
You know me, I know you, and both know that!
So, if Apollo bids us fast, we fast:
But where does Venus order we stop sense
When Master Pietro rhymes a pleasantry?
Give alms prescribed on Friday: but, hold hand
Because your foe lies prostrate,—where's the word
Explicit in the book debars revenge?
The rationale of your scheme is just
"Pay toll here, there pursue your pleasure free!"
So do you turn to use the medium-powers,
Mars and Minerva, Bacchus and the rest,
And so are saved propitiating—whom?
What all-good, all-wise and all-potent Jove
Vexed by the very sins in man, himself
Made life's necessity when man he made?
Irrational bunglers! So, the living truth
Revealed to strike Pan dead, ducks low at last,
Prays leave to hold its own and live good days
Provided it go masque grotesquely, called
Christian not Pagan. Oh, you purged the sky
Of all gods save the One, the great and good,
Clapped hands and triumphed! But the change came fast:
The inexorable need in man for life
(Life, you may mulct and minish to a grain
Out of the lump, so that the grain but live)
Laughed at your substituting death for life,
And bade you do your worst: which worst was done
In just that age styled primitive and pure
When Saint this, Saint that, dutifully starved,
Froze, fought with beasts, was beaten and abused
And finally ridded of his flesh by fire:
He kept life-long unspotted from the world!
Next age, how goes the game, what mortal gives
His life and emulates Saint that, Saint this?
Men mutter, make excuse or mutiny,
In fine are minded all to leave the new,
Stick to the old,—enjoy old liberty,
No prejudice in enjoyment, if you please,
To the new profession: sin o' the sly, henceforth!
The law stands though the letter kills: what then?
The spirit saves as unmistakeably.
Omniscience sees, Omnipotence could stop,
Omnibenevolence pardons: it must be,
Frown law its fiercest, there's a wink somewhere!

Such was the logic in this head of mine:
I, like the rest, wrote "poison" on my bread,
But broke and ate:—said "Those that use the sword
"Shall perish by the same;" then stabbed my foe.
I stand on solid earth, not empty air:
Dislodge me, let your Pope's crook hale me hence!
Not he, nor you! And I so pity both,
I'll make the true charge you want wit to make:
"Count Guido, who reveal our mystery,
"And trace all issues to the love of life.
"We having life to love and guard, like you,
"Why did you put us upon self-defence?
"You well knew what prompt pass-word would appease
"The sentry's ire when folk infringed his bounds,
"And yet kept mouth shut: do you wonder then
"If, in mere decency, he shot you dead?
"He can't have people play such pranks as yours
"Beneath his nose at noonday: you disdained
"To give him an excuse before the world
"By crying 'I break rule to save our camp!'
"Under the old rule, such offence were death;
"And you had heard the Pontifex pronounce
"'Since you slay foe and violate the form,
"'Slaying turns murder, which were sacrifice
"'Had you, while, say, law-suiting foe to death,
"'But raised an altar to the Unknown God
"'Or else the Genius of the Vatican.'
"Why then this pother?—all because the Pope,
"Doing his duty, cried 'A foreigner,
"'You scandalize the natives: here at Rome
"'Romano vivitur more: wise men, here,
"'Put the Church forward and efface themselves.
"'The fit defence had been,—you stamped on wheat,
"'Intending all the time to trample tares,—
"'Were fain extirpate, then, the heretic,
"'You now find, in your haste was slain a fool:
"'Nor Pietro, nor Violante, nor your wife
"'Meant to breed up your babe a Molinist!
"'Whence you are duly contrite. Not one word
"'Of all this wisdom did you urge: which slip
"'Death must atone for.'"

So, let death atone!
So ends mistake, so end mistakers!—end
Perhaps to recommence,—how should I know?
Only, be sure, no punishment, no pain
Childish, preposterous, impossible,
But some such fate as Ovid could foresee,—
Byblis in fluvium, let the weak soul end
In water, sed Lycaon in lupum, but
The strong become a wolf for evermore!
Change that Pompilia to a puny stream
Fit to reflect the daisies on its bank!
Let me turn wolf, be whole, and sate, for once,—
Wallow in what is now a wolfishness
Coerced too much by the humanity
That's half of me as well! Grow out of man,
Glut the wolf-nature,—what remains but grow
Into the man again, be man indeed
And all man? Do I ring the changes right?
Deformed, transformed, reformed, informed, conformed!
The honest instinct, pent and crossed through life,
Let surge by death into a visible flow
Of rapture: as the strangled thread of flame
Painfully winds, annoying and annoyed,
Malignant and maligned, thro' stone and ore,
Till earth exclude the stranger: vented once,
It finds full play, is recognized a-top
Some mountain as no such abnormal birth
Fire for the mount, the streamlet for the vale!
Ay, of the water was that wife of mine
Be it for good, be it for ill, no run
O' the red thread through that insignificance!
Again, how she is at me with those eyes!
Away with the empty stare! Be holy still,
And stupid ever! Occupy your patch
Of private snow that's somewhere in what world
May now be growing icy round your head,
And aguish at your foot-print,—freeze not me,
Dare follow not another step I take,
Not with so much as those detested eyes,
No, though they follow but to pray me pause
On the incline, earth's edge that's next to hell!
None of your abnegation of revenge!
Fly at me frank, tug while I tear again!
There's God, go tell Him, testify your worst!
Not she! There was no touch in her of hate:
And it would prove her hell, if I reached mine!
To know I suffered, would still sadden her,
Do what the angels might to make amends!
Therefore there's either no such place as hell,
Or thence shall I be thrust forth, for her sake,
And thereby undergo three hells, not one
I who, with outlet for escape to heaven,
Would tarry if such flight allowed my foe
To raise his head, relieved of that firm foot
Had pinned him to the fiery pavement else!
So am I made, "who did not make myself:"
(How dared she rob my own lip of the word?)
Beware me in what other world may be!—
Pompilia, who have brought me to this pass!
All I know here, will I say there, and go
Beyond the saying with the deed. Some use
There cannot but be for a mood like mine,
Implacable, persistent in revenge.
She maundered "All is over and at end:
"I go my own road, go you where God will!
"Forgive you? I forget you!" There's the saint
That takes your taste, you other kind of men!
How you had loved her! Guido wanted skill
To value such a woman at her worth!
Properly the instructed criticize
"What's here, you simpleton have tossed to take
"Its chance i' the gutter? This a daub, indeed?
"Why, 't is a Rafael that you kicked to rags!"
Perhaps so: some prefer the pure design:
Give me my gorge of colour, glut of gold
In a glory round the Virgin made for me!
Titian 's the man, not Monk Angelico
Who traces you some timid chalky ghost
That turns the church into a charnel: ay,
Just such a pencil might depict my wife!
She,—since she, also, would not change herself,—
Why could not she come in some heart-shaped cloud,
Rainbowed about with riches, royalty
Rimming her round, as round the tintless lawn
Guardingly runs the selvage cloth of gold?
I would have left the faint fine gauze untouched,
Needle-worked over with its lily and rose,
Let her bleach unmolested in the midst
Chill that selected solitary spot
Of quietude she pleased to think was life.
Purity, pallor grace the lawn no doubt
When there's the costly bordure to unthread
And make again an ingot: but what's grace
When you want meat and drink and clothes and fire?
A tale comes to my mind that's apposite—
Possibly true, probably false, a truth
Such as all truths we live by, Cardinal!
'T is said, a certain ancestor of mine
Followed—whoever was the potentate,
To Paynimrie, and in some battle, broke
Through more than due allowance of the foe,
And, risking much his own life, saved the lord's.
Battered and bruised, the Emperor scrambles up,
Rubs his eyes and looks round and sees my sire,
Picks a furze-sprig from out his hauberk-joint,
(Token how near the ground went majesty)
And says "Take this, and if thou get safe home,
"Plant the same in thy garden-ground to grow:
"Run thence an hour in a straight line, and stop:
"Describe a circle round (for central point)
"The furze aforesaid, reaching every way
"The length of that hour's run: I give it thee,—
"The central point, to build a castle there,
"The space circumjacent, for fit demesne,
"The whole to be thy children's heritage,—
"Whom, for thy sake, bid thou wear furze on cap!"
Those are my arms: we turned the furze a tree
To show more, and the greyhound tied thereto,
Straining to start, means swift and greedy both;
He stands upon a triple mount of gold—
By Jove, then, he's escaping from true gold
And trying to arrive at empty air!
Aha! the fancy never crossed my mind!
My father used to tell me, and subjoin
"As for the castle, that took wings and flew:
"The broad lands,—why, to traverse them to day
"Scarce tasks my gouty feet, and in my prime
"I doubt not I could stand and spit so far:
"But for the furze, boy, fear no lack of that,
"So long as fortune leaves one field to grub!
"Wherefore, hurra for furze and loyalty!"
What may I mean, where may the lesson lurk?
"Do not bestow on man, by way of gift,
"Furze without land for framework,—vaunt no grace
"Of purity, no furze-sprig of a wife,
"To me, i' the thick of battle for my bread,
"Without some better dowry,—gold will do!"
No better gift than sordid muck? Yes, Sirs!
Many more gifts much better. Give them me!
O those Olimpias bold, those Biancas brave,
That brought a husband power worth Ormuz' wealth!
Cried "Thou being mine, why, what but thine am I?
"Be thou to me law, right, wrong, heaven and hell!
"Let us blend souls, blent, thou in me, to bid
"Two bodies work one pleasure! What are these
"Called king, priest, father, mother, stranger, friend?
"They fret thee or they frustrate? Give the word
"Be certain they shall frustrate nothing more!
"And who is this young florid foolishness
"That holds thy ortune in his pigmy clutch,
"—Being a prince and potency, forsooth!—
"He hesitates to let the trifle go?
"Let me but seal up eye, sing ear to sleep
"Sounder than Samson,—pounce thou on the prize
"Shall slip from off my breast, and down couchside,
"And on to floor, and far as my lord's feet
"Where he stands in the shadow with the knife,
"Waiting to see what Delilah dares do!
"Is the youth fair? What is a man to me
"Who am thy call-bird? Twist his neck—my dupe's,—
"Then take the breast shall turn a breast indeed!"
Such women are there; and they marry whom?
Why, when a man has gone and hanged himself
Because of what he calls a wicked wife,—
See, if the very turpitude bemoaned
Prove not mere excellence the fool ignores!
His monster is perfection,—Circe, sent
Straight from the sun, with wand the idiot blames
As not an honest distaff to spin wool!
O thou Lucrezia, is it long to wait
Yonder where all the gloom is in a glow
With thy suspected presence?—virgin yet,
Virtuous again, in face of what's to teach
Sin unimagined, unimaginable,—
I come to claim my bride,—thy Borgia's self
Not half the burning bridegroom I shall be!
Cardinal, take away your crucifix!
Abate, leave my lips alone,—they bite!
Vainly you try to change what should not change,
And shall not. I have bared, you bathe my heart
It grows the stonier for your saving dew!
You steep the substance, you would lubricate,
In waters that but touch to petrify!

You too are petrifactions of a kind:
Move not a muscle that shows mercy. Rave
Another twelve hours, every word were waste!
I thought you would not slay impenitence,
But teased, from men you slew, contrition first,—
I thought you had a conscience. Cardinal,
You know I am wronged!—wronged, say, and wronged, maintain.
Was this strict inquisition made for blood
When first you showed us scarlet on your back,
Called to the College? Your straightforward way
To your legitimate end,—I think it passed
Over a scantling of heads brained, hearts broke,
Lives trodden into dust! How otherwise?
Such was the way o' the world, and so you walked.
Does memory haunt your pillow? Not a whit.
God wills you never pace your garden-path,
One appetizing hour ere dinner-time,
But your intrusion there treads out of life
A universe of happy innocent things:
Feel you remorse about that damsel-fly
Which buzzed so near your mouth and flapped your face?
You blotted it from being at a blow:
It was a fly, you were a man, and more,
Lord of created things, so took your course.
Manliness, mind,—these are things fit to save,
Fit to brush fly from: why, because I take
My course, must needs the Pope kill me?—kill you!
You! for this instrument, he throws away,
Is strong to serve a master, and were yours
To have and hold and get much good from out!
The Pope who dooms me needs must die next year;
I'll tell you how the chances are supposed
For his successor: first the Chamberlain,
Old San Cesario,—Colloredo, next,—
Then, one, two, three, four, I refuse to name;
After these, comes Altieri; then come you
Seventh on the list you come, unless … ha, ha,
How can a dead hand give a friend a lift?
Are you the person to despise the help
O' the head shall drop in pannier presently?
So a child seesaws on or kicks away
The fulcrum-stone that's all the sage requires
To fit his lever to and move the world.
Cardinal, I adjure you in God's name,
Save my life, fall at the Pope's feet, set forth
Things your own fashion, not in words like these
Made for a sense like yours who apprehend!
Translate into the Court-conventional
Count Guido must not die, is innocent!
"Fair, be assured! But what an he were foul,
"Blood-drenched and murder-crusted head to foot?
"Spare one whose death insults the Emperor,
"Nay, outrages the Louis you so love!
"He has friends who will avenge him; enemies
"Who will hate God now with impunity,
"Missing the old coercive: would you send
"A soul straight to perdition, dying frank
"An atheist?" Go and say this, for God's sake!
Why, you don't think I hope you'll say one word?
Neither shall I persuade you from your stand
Nor you persuade me from my station: take
Your crucifix away, I tell you twice!

Come, I am tired of silence! Pause enough!
You have prayed: I have gone inside my soul
And shut its door behind me: 't is your torch
Makes the place dark: the darkness let alone
Grows tolerable twilight: one may grope
And get to guess at length and breadth and depth.
What is this fact I feel persuaded of
This something like a foothold in the sea,
Although Saint Peter's bark scuds, billow-borne,
Leaves me to founder where it flung me first?
Spite of your splashing, I am high and dry!
God takes his own part in each thing He made;
Made for a reason, He conserves his work,
Gives each its proper instinct of defence.
My lamblike wife could neither bark nor bite,
She bleated, bleated, till for pity pure
The village roused up, ran with pole and prong
To the rescue, and behold the wolf's at bay!
Shall he try bleating?—or take turn or two,
Since the wolf owns some kinship with the fox,
And, failing to escape the foe by craft,
Give up attempt, die fighting quietly?
The last bad blow that strikes fire in at eye
And on to brain, and so out, life and all,
How can it but be cheated of a pang
If, fighting quietly, the jaws enjoy
One re-embrace in mid back-bone they break,
After their weary work thro' the foe's flesh?
That's the wolf-nature. Don't mistake my trope!
A Cardinal so qualmish? Eminence,
My fight is figurative, blows i' the air,
Brain-war with powers and principalities,
Spirit-bravado, no real fisticuffs!
I shall not presently, when the knock comes,
Cling to this bench nor claw the hangman's face,
No, trust me! I conceive worse lots than mine.
Whether it be, the old contagious fit
And plague o' the prison have surprised me too,
The appropriate drunkenness of the death-hour
Crept on my sense, kind work o' the wine and myrrh,—
I know not,—I begin to taste my strength,
Careless, gay even. What's the worth of life?
The Pope's dead now, my murderous old man,
For Tozzi told me so: and you, forsooth—
Why, you don't think, Abate, do your best,
You'll live a year more with that hacking cough
And blotch of crimson where the cheek's a pit?
Tozzi has got you also down in book!
Cardinal, only seventh of seventy near,
Is not one called Albano in the lot?
Go eat your heart, you'll never be a Pope!
Inform me, is it true you left your love,
A Pucci, for promotion in the church?
She's more than in the church,—in the churchyard!
Plautilla Pucci, your affianced bride,
Has dust now in the eyes that held the love,—
And Martinez, suppose they make you Pope,
Stops that with veto,—so, enjoy yourself!
I see you all reel to the rock, you waves—
Some forthright, some describe a sinuous track,
Some, crested brilliantly, with heads above,
Some in a strangled swirl sunk who knows how,
But all bound whither the main-current sets,
Rockward, an end in foam for all of you!
What if I be o'ertaken, pushed to the front
By all you crowding smoother souls behind,
And reach, a minute sooner than was meant,
The boundary whereon I break to mist?
Go to! the smoothest safest of you all,
Most perfect and compact wave in my train,
Spite of the blue tranquillity above,
Spite of the breadth before of lapsing peace,
Where broods the halcyon and the fish leaps free,
Will presently begin to feel the prick
At lazy heart, the push at torpid brain,
Will rock vertiginously in turn, and reel,
And, emulative, rush to death like me.
Later or sooner by a minute then,
So much for the untimeliness of death!
And, as regards the manner that offends,
The rude and rough, I count the same for gain.
Be the act harsh and quick! Undoubtedly
The soul's condensed and, twice itself, expands
To burst thro' life, by alternation due,
Into the other state whate'er it prove.
You never know what life means till you die:
Even throughout life, 't is death that makes life live,
Gives it whatever the significance.
For see, on your own ground and argument,
Suppose life had no death to fear, how find
A possibility of nobleness
In man, prevented daring any more?
What's love, what's faith without a worst to dread?
Lack-lustre jewelry! but faith and love
With death behind them bidding do or die
Put such a foil at back, the sparkle's born!
From out myself how the strange colours come!
Is there a new rule in another world?
Be sure I shall resign myself: as here
I recognized no law I could not see,
There, what I see, I shall acknowledge too:
On earth I never took the Pope for God,
In heaven I shall scarce take God for the Pope.
Unmanned, remanned: I hold it probable—
With something changeless at the heart of me
To know me by, some nucleus that's myself:
Accretions did it wrong? Away with them
You soon shall see the use of fire!

Till when,
All that was, is; and must forever be.
Nor is it in me to unhate my hates,—
I use up my last strength to strike once more
Old Pietro in the wine-house-gossip-face,
To trample underfoot the whine and wile
Of beast Violante,—and I grow one gorge
To loathingly reject Pompilia's pale
Poison my hasty hunger took for food.
A strong tree wants no wreaths about its trunk,
No cloying cups, no sickly sweet of scent,
But sustenance at root, a bucketful.
How else lived that Athenian who died so,
Drinking hot bull's blood, fit for men like me?
I lived and died a man, and take man's chance,
Honest and bold: right will be done to such.

Who are these you have let descend my stair?
Ha, their accursed psalm! Lights at the sill!
Is it "Open" they dare bid you? Treachery!
Sirs, have I spoken one word all this while
Out of the world of words I had to say?
Not one word! All was folly—I laughed and mocked!
Sirs, my first true word, all truth and no lie,
Is—save me notwithstanding! Life is all!
I was just stark mad,—let the madman live
Pressed by as many chains as you please pile!
Don't open! Hold me from them! I am yours,
I am the Granduke'sno, I am the Pope's!
Abate,—Cardinal,—Christ,—Maria,—God, …
Pompilia, will you let them murder me?

poem by from The Ring and the BookReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Veronica Serbanoiu
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Friday Afternoon

To William Morris Pierson
[1868-1870]

Of the wealth of facts and fancies
That our memories may recall,
The old school-day romances
Are the dearest, after all!--.
When some sweet thought revises
The half-forgotten tune
That opened 'Exercises'
On 'Friday Afternoon.'

We seem to hear the clicking
Of the pencil and the pen,
And the solemn, ceaseless ticking
Of the timepiece ticking then;
And we note the watchful master,
As he waves the warning rod,
With our own heart beating faster
Than the boy's who threw the wad.

Some little hand uplifted,
And the creaking of a shoe:--
A problem left unsifted
For the teacher's hand to do:
The murmured hum of learning--
And the flutter of a book;
The smell of something burning,
And the school's inquiring look.

The bashful boy in blushes;
And the girl, with glancing eyes,
Who hides her smiles, and hushes
The laugh about to rise,--
Then, with a quick invention,
Assumes a serious face,
To meet the words, 'Attention!
Every scholar in his place!'

The opening song, page 20.--
Ah! dear old 'Golden Wreath,'
You willed your sweets in plenty;
And some who look beneath
The leaves of Time will linger,
And loving tears will start,
As Fancy trails her finger
O'er the index of the heart.

'Good News from Home'--We hear it
Welling tremulous, yet clear
And holy as the spirit
Of the song we used to hear--
'Good news for me' (A throbbing
And an aching melody)--
'Has come across the'--(sobbing,
Yea, and salty) 'dark blue sea!'

Or the paean 'Scotland's burning!'
With its mighty surge and swell
Of chorus, still returning
To its universal yell--
Till we're almost glad to drop to
Something sad and full of pain--
And 'Skip verse three,' and stop, too,
Ere our hearts are broke again.

Then 'the big girls'' compositions,
With their doubt, and hope, and glow
Of heart and face,--conditions
Of 'the big boys'--even so,--
When themes of 'Spring,' and 'Summer'
And of 'Fall,' and 'Winter-time'
Droop our heads and hold us dumber
Than the sleigh-bell's fancied chime.

Elocutionary science--
(Still in changeless infancy!)--
With its 'Cataline's Defiance,'
And 'The Banner of the Free':
Or, lured from Grandma's attic,
A ramshackle 'rocker' there,
Adds a skreek of the dramatic
To the poet's 'Old Arm-Chair.'

Or the 'Speech of Logan' shifts us
From the pathos, to the fire;
And Tell (with Gessler) lifts us
Many noble notches higher.--
Till a youngster, far from sunny,
With sad eyes of watery blue,
Winds up with something 'funny,'
Like 'Cock-a-doodle-do!'

Then a dialogue--selected
For its realistic worth:--
The Cruel Boy detected
With a turtle turned to earth
Back downward; and, in pleading,
The Good Boy--strangely gay
At such a sad proceeding--
Says, 'Turn him over, pray!'

So the exercises taper
Through gradations of delight
To the reading of 'The Paper,'
Which is entertaining--quite!
For it goes ahead and mentions
'If a certain Mr. O.
Has serious intentions
That he ought to tell her so.'

It also 'Asks permission
To intimate to 'John'
The dubious condition
Of the ground he's standing on';
And, dropping the suggestion
To 'mind what he's about,'
It stuns him with the question:
'Does his mother know he's out?'

And among the contributions
To this 'Academic Press'
Are 'Versified Effusions'
By--'Our lady editress'--
Which fact is proudly stated
By the CHIEF of the concern,--
'Though the verse communicated
Bears the pen-name 'Fanny Fern.' '

. . . . . .
When all has been recited,
And the teacher's bell is heard,
And visitors, invited,
Have dropped a kindly word,
A hush of holy feeling
Falls down upon us there,
As though the day were kneeling,
With the twilight for the prayer.

. . . . . .
Midst the wealth of facts and fancies
That our memories may recall,
Thus the old school-day romances
Are the dearest, after all!--
When some sweet thought revises
The half-forgotten tune
That opened 'Exercises,'
On 'Friday Afternoon.'

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Mountain Pictures

I.
FRANCONIA FROM THE PEMIGEWASSET

Once more, O Mountains of the North, unveil
Your brows, and lay your cloudy mantles by
And once more, ere the eyes that seek ye fail,
Uplift against the blue walls of the sky
Your mighty shapes, and let the sunshine weave
Its golden net-work in your belting woods,
Smile down in rainbows from your falling floods,
And on your kingly brows at morn and eve
Set crowns of fire! So shall my soul receive
Haply the secret of your calm and strength,
Your unforgotten beauty interfuse
My common life, your glorious shapes and hues
And sun-dropped splendors at my bidding come,
Loom vast through dreams, and stretch in billowy length
From the sea-level of my lowland home!

They rise before me! Last night's thunder-gust
Roared not in vain: for where its lightnings thrust
Their tongues of fire, the great peaks seem so near,
Burned clean of mist, so starkly bold and clear,
I almost pause the wind in the pines to hear,
The loose rock's fall, the steps of browsing deer.
The clouds that shattered on yon slide-worn walls
And splintered on the rocks their spears of rain
Have set in play a thousand waterfalls,
Making the dusk and silence of the woods
Glad with the laughter of the chasing floods,
And luminous with blown spray and silver gleams,
While, in the vales below, the dry-lipped streams
Sing to the freshened meadow-lands again.
So, let me hope, the battle-storm that beats
The land with hail and fire may pass away
With its spent thunders at the break of day,
Like last night's clouds, and leave, as it retreats,
A greener earth and fairer sky behind,
Blown crystal-clear by Freedom's Northern wind!

II.
MONADNOCK FROM WACHUSET.

I would I were a painter, for the sake
Of a sweet picture, and of her who led,
A fitting guide, with reverential tread,
Into that mountain mystery. First a lake
Tinted with sunset; next the wavy lines
Of far receding hills; and yet more far,
Monadnock lifting from his night of pines
His rosy forehead to the evening star.
Beside us, purple-zoned, Wachuset laid
His head against the West, whose warm light made
His aureole; and o'er him, sharp and clear,
Like a shaft of lightning in mid-launching stayed,
A single level cloud-line, shone upon
By the fierce glances of the sunken sun,
Menaced the darkness with its golden spear!

So twilight deepened round us. Still and black
The great woods climbed the mountain at our back;
And on their skirts, where yet the lingering day
On the shorn greenness of the clearing lay,
The brown old farm-house like a bird's-nest hung.
With home-life sounds the desert air was stirred
The bleat of sheep along the hill we heard,
The bucket plashing in the cool, sweet well,
The pasture-bars that clattered as they fell;
Dogs barked, fowls fluttered, cattle lowed; the gate
Of the barn-yard creaked beneath the merry weight
Of sun-brown children, listening, while they swung,
The welcome sound of supper-call to hear;
And down the shadowy lane, in tinklings clear,
The pastoral curfew of the cow-bell rung.
Thus soothed and pleased, our backward path we took,
Praising the farmer's home. He only spake,
Looking into the sunset o'er the lake,
Like one to whom the far-off is most near:
'Yes, most folks think it has a pleasant look;
I love it for my good old mother's sake,
Who lived and died here in the peace of God!'
The lesson of his words we pondered o'er,
As silently we turned the eastern flank
Of the mountain, where its shadow deepest sank,
Doubling the night along our rugged road:
We felt that man was more than his abode,--
The inward life than Nature's raiment more;
And the warm sky, the sundown-tinted hill,
The forest and the lake, seemed dwarfed and dim
Before the saintly soul, whose human will
Meekly in the Eternal footsteps trod,
Making her homely toil and household ways
An earthly echo of the song of praise
Swelling from angel lips and harps of seraphim.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Angel In The House. Book I. Canto V.

Preludes.

I The Comparison
Where she succeeds with cloudless brow,
In common and in holy course,
He fails, in spite of prayer and vow
And agonies of faith and force;
Or, if his suit with Heaven prevails
To righteous life, his virtuous deeds
Lack beauty, virtue's badge; she fails
More graciously than he succeeds.
Her spirit, compact of gentleness,
If Heaven postpones or grants her pray'r,
Conceives no pride in its success,
And in its failure no despair;
But his, enamour'd of its hurt,
Baffled, blasphemes, or, not denied,
Crows from the dunghill of desert,
And wags its ugly wings for pride.
He's never young nor ripe; she grows
More infantine, auroral, mild,
And still the more she lives and knows
The lovelier she's express'd a child.
Say that she wants the will of man
To conquer fame, not check'd by cross,
Nor moved when others bless or ban;
She wants but what to have were loss.
Or say she wants the patient brain
To track shy truth; her facile wit
At that which he hunts down with pain
Flies straight, and does exactly hit.
Were she but half of what she is,
He twice himself, mere love alone,
Her special crown, as truth is his,
Gives title to the worthier throne;
For love is substance, truth the form;
Truth without love were less than nought;
But blindest love is sweet and warm,
And full of truth not shaped by thought;
And therefore in herself she stands
Adorn'd with undeficient grace,
Her happy virtues taking hands,
Each smiling in another's face.
So, dancing round the Tree of Life,
They make an Eden in her breast,
While his, disjointed and at strife,
Proud-thoughted, do not bring him rest.

II Love in Tears
If fate Love's dear ambition mar,
And load his breast with hopeless pain,
And seem to blot out sun and star,
Love, won or lost, is countless gain;
His sorrow boasts a secret bliss
Which sorrow of itself beguiles,
And Love in tears too noble is
For pity, save of Love in smiles.
But, looking backward through his tears,
With vision of maturer scope,
How often one dead joy appears
The platform of some better hope!
And, let us own, the sharpest smart
Which human patience may endure
Pays light for that which leaves the heart
More generous, dignified, and pure.

III Prospective Faith
They safely walk in darkest ways
Whose youth is lighted from above,
Where, through the senses' silvery haze,
Dawns the veil'd moon of nuptial love.
Who is the happy husband? He
Who, scanning his unwedded life,
Thanks Heaven, with a conscience free,
'Twas faithful to his future wife.

IV Venus Victrix
Fatal in force, yet gentle in will,
Defeats, from her, are tender pacts,
For, like the kindly lodestone, still
She's drawn herself by what she attracts.


The Violets.

I
I went not to the Dean's unbid:
I would not have my mystery,
From her so delicately hid,
The guess of gossips at their tea.
A long, long week, and not once there,
Had made my spirit sick and faint,
And lack-love, foul as love is fair,
Perverted all things to complaint.
How vain the world had grown to be!
How mean all people and their ways,
How ignorant their sympathy,
And how impertinent their praise;
What they for virtuousness esteem'd,
How far removed from heavenly right;
What pettiness their trouble seem'd,
How undelightful their delight;
To my necessity how strange
The sunshine and the song of birds;
How dull the clouds' continual change,
How foolishly content the herds;
How unaccountable the law
Which bade me sit in blindness here,
While she, the sun by which I saw,
Shed splendour in an idle sphere!
And then I kiss'd her stolen glove,
And sigh'd to reckon and define
The modes of martyrdom in love,
And how far each one might be mine.
I thought how love, whose vast estate
Is earth and air and sun and sea,
Encounters oft the beggar's fate,
Despised on score of poverty;
How Heaven, inscrutable in this,
Lets the gross general make or mar
The destiny of love, which is
So tender and particular;
How nature, as unnatural
And contradicting nature's source,
Which is but love, seems most of all
Well-pleased to harry true love's course;
How, many times, it comes to pass
That trifling shades of temperament,
Affecting only one, alas,
Not love, but love's success prevent;
How manners often falsely paint
The man; how passionate respect,
Hid by itself, may bear the taint
Of coldness and a dull neglect;
And how a little outward dust
Can a clear merit quite o'ercloud,
And make her fatally unjust,
And him desire a darker shroud;
How senseless opportunity
Gives baser men the better chance;
How powers, adverse else, agree
To cheat her in her ignorance;
How Heaven its very self conspires
With man and nature against love,
As pleased to couple cross desires,
And cross where they themselves approve.
Wretched were life, if the end were now!
But this gives tears to dry despair,
Faith shall be blest, we know not how,
And love fulfilled, we know not where.


II
While thus I grieved, and kiss'd her glove,
My man brought in her note to say,
Papa had bid her send his love,
And would I dine with them next day?
They had learn'd and practised Purcell's glee,
To sing it by to-morrow night.
The Postscript was: Her sisters and she
Inclosed some violets, blue and white;
She and her sisters found them where
I wager'd once no violets grew;
So they had won the gloves. And there
The violets lay, two white, one blue.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Glen of Arrawatta

A SKY of wind! And while these fitful gusts
Are beating round the windows in the cold,
With sullen sobs of rain, behold I shape
A settler’s story of the wild old times:
One told by camp-fires when the station drays
Were housed and hidden, forty years ago;
While swarthy drivers smoked their pipes, and drew,
And crowded round the friendly gleaming flame
That lured the dingo, howling, from his caves,
And brought sharp sudden feet about the brakes.

A tale of Love and Death. And shall I say
A tale of love in death—for all the patient eyes
That gathered darkness, watching for a son
And brother, never dreaming of the fate—
The fearful fate he met alone, unknown,
Within the ruthless Australasian wastes?

For in a far-off, sultry summer, rimmed
With thundercloud and red with forest fires,
All day, by ways uncouth and ledges rude,
The wild men held upon a stranger’s trail,
Which ran against the rivers and athwart
The gorges of the deep blue western hills.

And when a cloudy sunset, like the flame
In windy evenings on the Plains of Thirst
Beyond the dead banks of the far Barcoo,
Lay heavy down the topmost peaks, they came,
With pent-in breath and stealthy steps, and crouched,
Like snakes, amongst the grasses, till the night
Had covered face from face, and thrown the gloom
Of many shadows on the front of things.

There, in the shelter of a nameless glen,
Fenced round by cedars and the tangled growths
Of blackwood, stained with brown and shot with grey,
The jaded white man built his fire, and turned
His horse adrift amongst the water-pools
That trickled underneath the yellow leaves
And made a pleasant murmur, like the brooks
Of England through the sweet autumnal noons.

Then, after he had slaked his thirst and used
The forest fare, for which a healthful day
Of mountain life had brought a zest, he took
His axe, and shaped with boughs and wattle-forks
A wurley, fashioned like a bushman’s roof:
The door brought out athwart the strenuous flame
The back thatched in against a rising wind.

And while the sturdy hatchet filled the clifts
With sounds unknown, the immemorial haunts
Of echoes sent their lonely dwellers forth,
Who lived a life of wonder: flying round
And round the glen—what time the kangaroo
Leapt from his lair and huddled with the bats—
Far scattering down the wildly startled fells.
Then came the doleful owl; and evermore
The bleak morass gave out the bittern’s call,
The plover’s cry, and many a fitful wail
Of chilly omen, falling on the ear
Like those cold flaws of wind that come and go
An hour before the break of day.

Anon
The stranger held from toil, and, settling down,
He drew rough solace from his well-filled pipe,
And smoked into the night, revolving there
The primal questions of a squatter’s life;
For in the flats, a short days journey past
His present camp, his station yards were kept,
With many a lodge and paddock jutting forth
Across the heart of unnamed prairie-lands,
Now loud with bleating and the cattle bells,
And misty with the hut-fire’s daily smoke.

Wide spreading flats, and western spurs of hills
That dipped to plains of dim perpetual blue;
Bold summits set against the thunder heaps;
And slopes behacked and crushed by battling kine,
Where now the furious tumult of their feet
Gives back the dust, and up from glen and brake
Evokes fierce clamour, and becomes indeed
A token of the squatter’s daring life,
Which, growing inland—growing year by year
Doth set us thinking in these latter days,
And makes one ponder of the lonely lands
Beyond the lonely tracks of Burke and Wills,
Where, when the wandering Stuart fixed his camps
In central wastes, afar from any home
Or haunt of man, and in the changeless midst
Of sullen deserts and the footless miles
Of sultry silence, all the ways about
Grew strangely vocal, and a marvellous noise
Became the wonder of the waxing glooms.

Now, after darkness, like a mighty spell
Amongst the hills and dim, dispeopled dells,
Had brought a stillness to the soul of things,
It came to pass that, from the secret depths
Of dripping gorges, many a runnel-voice
Came, mellowed with the silence, and remained
About the caves, a sweet though alien sound;
Now rising ever, like a fervent flute
In moony evenings, when the theme is love;
Now falling, as ye hear the Sunday bells
While hastening fieldward from the gleaming town.

Then fell a softer mood, and memory paused
With faithful love, amidst the sainted shrines
Of youth and passion in the valleys past
Of dear delights which never grow again.
And if the stranger (who had left behind
Far anxious homesteads in a wave-swept isle,
To face a fierce sea-circle day by day,
And hear at night the dark Atlantic’s moan)
Now took a hope and planned a swift return,
With wealth and health and with a youth unspent,
To those sweet ones that stayed with want at home,
Say who shall blame himthough the years are long,
And life is hard, and waiting makes the heart grow old?

Thus passed the time, until the moon serene
Stood over high dominion like a dream
Of peace: within the white, transfigured woods;
And oer the vast dew-dripping wilderness
Of slopes illumined with her silent fires.

Then, far beyond the home of pale red leaves
And silver sluices, and the shining stems
Of runnel blooms, the dreamy wanderer saw,
The wilder for the vision of the moon,
Stark desolations and a waste of plain,
All smit by flame and broken with the storms;
Black ghosts of trees, and sapless trunks that stood
Harsh hollow channels of the fiery noise,
Which ran from bole to bole a year before,
And grew with ruin, and was like, indeed,
The roar of mighty winds with wintering streams
That foam about the limits of the land
And mix their swiftness with the flying seas.

Now, when the man had turned his face about
To take his rest, behold the gem-like eyes
Of ambushed wild things stared from bole and brake
With dumb amaze and faint-recurring glance,
And fear anon that drove them down the brush;
While from his den the dingo, like a scout
In sheltered ways, crept out and cowered near
To sniff the tokens of the stranger’s feast
And marvel at the shadows of the flame.

Thereafter grew the wind; and chafing depths
In distant waters sent a troubled cry
Across the slumb’rous forest; and the chill
Of coming rain was on the sleeper’s brow,
When, flat as reptiles hutted in the scrub,
A deadly crescent crawled to where he lay
A band of fierce, fantastic savages
That, starting naked round the faded fire,
With sudden spears and swift terrific yells,
Came bounding wildly at the white mans head,
And faced him, staring like a dream of Hell!

Here let me pass! I would not stay to tell
Of hopeless struggles under crushing blows;
Of how the surging fiends, with thickening strokes,
Howled round the stranger till they drained his strength;
How Love and Life stood face to face with Hate
And Death; and then how Death was left alone
With Night and Silence in the sobbing rains.

So, after many moons, the searchers found
The body mouldering in the mouldering dell
Amidst the fungi and the bleaching leaves,
And buried it, and raised a stony mound
Which took the mosses. Then the place became
The haunt of fearful legends and the lair
Of bats and adders.

There he lies and sleeps
From year to yearin soft Australian nights,
And through the furnaced noons, and in the times
Of wind and wet! Yet never mourner comes
To drop upon that grave the Christian’s tear
Or pluck the foul, dank weeds of death away.

But while the English autumn filled her lap
With faded gold, and while the reapers cooled
Their flame-red faces in the clover grass,
They looked for him at home: and when the frost
Had made a silence in the mourning lanes
And cooped the farmers by December fires,
They looked for him at home: and through the days
Which brought about the million-coloured Spring,
With moon-like splendours, in the garden plots,
They looked for him at home: while Summer danced,
A shining singer, through the tasselled corn,
They looked for him at home. From sun to sun
They waited. Season after season went,
And Memory wept upon the lonely moors,
And hope grew voiceless, and the watchers passed,
Like shadows, one by one away.

And he
Whose fate was hidden under forest leaves
And in the darkness of untrodden dells
Became a marvel. Often by the hearths
In winter nights, and when the wind was wild
Outside the casements, children heard the tale
Of how he left their native vales behind
(Where he had been a child himself) to shape
New fortunes for his fathers fallen house;
Of how he struggled—how his name became,
By fine devotion and unselfish zeal,
A name of beauty in a selfish land;
And then of how the aching hours went by,
With patient listeners praying for the step
Which never crossed the floor again. So passed
The tale to children; but the bitter end
Remained a wonder, like the unknown grave,
Alone with God and Silence in the hills.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share
Patrick White

I Am A Dragon

I am a dragon,
but Ive got cloudy teeth.
You are a vase among jars,
a feather among scales.
Obviously you are the sea
and I am the seabed.
In the darkness you are the shining.
I come to you
like lead to an alchemist,
base metal to gold.
Already I am transformed
by your mirrors of fire.
There is a light, a glow,
invisible but more illuminating,
not of the moon, or sun, or a star,
but of the heart and mind,
the light of life itself
when its the only candle in the room
dancing behind its veil of shadows,
and in the least filament
of the down upon your thighs,
there are suffusions of fireflies and galaxies,
mystic lanterns
ripening like apricots
over the open doors of worlds within,
over eyes that bloom like wild asters
rooted in the earthly fields of the heart.
I have been a ghost
trying to say itself into existence;
and my bread and my blood
have been the whisper and breath of you.
Not the mountains, not
the mothering floors of the wheat seas,
not the forests or the hills or the rivers,
not the ladders or roads or miles between us,
nor the seasons of the threshing clock,
have kept us one eyelash apart;
we have been wings to each other;
we have been the secret tides of the rose
in a bay of blood to one another;
we have been the substance of a dream
that lingers like the impression in cool grass
of where the deer slept the night before.
In the flights of winter birds,
on moist winter days,
I have rehearsed endless summers to come,
when the sky whispered your eyes
in bells of sidereal fragrance
into the abyss of my longing for you
and love seemed a petal of light on the wind,
and you were that petal,
and I was that wind.
And though I have stood for eras
on this bridge of night alone
waiting for you like a letter, an afterlife,
a voice of fire in a well urgent with stars
I want to live with you,
we have always embraced, not two,
arrow and bow,
pilgrim and shrine,
release and enlightenment
reflected in these visions
the insistent palettes of the heart
paint on the impassioned waters
of the deepening lifestream.
I have been a storm of blood and stars;
I have drowned in the crypts of my own tears
and learned to breathe through a new medium,
set the crown of my fin on a rose of gills,
and bloom in a mythically enhanced
immensity of sorrows,
and the shadows under my eyes
have mourned for me
like black bells in a tower of thorns,
two horses of night chained to a heart
that dragged itself around like a hearse
looking for a lost grave.
I buried myself in women
who were torn like the satin lining
out of a coffin just
when they were about to give birth.
Their pain always tasted of an afterlife
that danced like lightning on the tip of my tongue
until my blood caught fire
like a rose with a voice of wine.
Black, apostate, madonnas
of body, heart, and mystery,
even the moon a bead of devotion
on a thread of their blood,
a dream vow under the eyelid of an eclipse.
I never knew what to say
that wasn’t a life shy
of an inadequate skeleton
trying to reflesh itself with the ashes
of its last sidereal cremation.
I was born again and again
like a sword drawn out of a stone
to hurl my humanity
like a sparrow
against the windows and eyes of the gods.
They knew I was right
to live the prophecy
written in the book of my wings by the wind,
but their tears fell like glass rice
on the stairwells of the bridal mirrors
that wept like silver serpents
at the heels of the moon
and whatever road I walked,
whatever direction I wandered in
like a drunken river
I passed through my own ribs
like an opening gate
to a sealess exile on the moon,
a lighthouse to the sail of a ghost in a desert.
Events of the spirit,
and the imported executioners
of tormented ecstasies
that made our bodies shudder with oblivion
until even our shadows glowed
like feathers of light
that glutted the abyss we pillowed like stone
to lay our heads down upon and dream,
every emotion,
keyed like a highwire
over the infinite emptiness
of a guitar in the corner of a tomb
eating the dust of a blackboard
that schooled the scrawl of the angels
into the writing on the wall.
How many lovers have perished in me
like the rings and eras of a tree,
and what enormities of childhood it takes
to sweeten a single ruby of fruit,
what tides of blood and light
collapsing like eyelids on the mystic circus
that pulled off miracles
under the sheets and skies and skin
of our lascivious tents:
now I am a dunce in a wizard’s hat,
a cone of light,
the pillar of a fallen shadow,
freeing the wings of wounded birds
from the nets and mesh of the stars.
I am a dragon
with the soul of a bridge to here and now,
a weed on the stairs of an unknown temple
to a god that sweeps me away like ashes
with the broom of my shadow,
and my face is the footprint of the wind
as flowers are the footprints of the light,
and my heart is a pebble
I keep dropping down a well
to listen for an echo from the depths,
for a whisper of fire on the water,
to deliver me like a burning dove
with a leaf of the moon in its beak,
a letter from you,
to say there is a south of the heart
that can thaw this arctic desolation
that overtakes me like an ageless night
as my thoughts fall away
like the flames of descending matches,
like angels and demons
tilted from heaven,
from the plane of their orbital hearts,
toppled like towers and lighthouses
by an urge to kiss their own reflections.
I am a dragon
chained to the nightrain
that inks the roots of the locust tree
with thorns and stars and flowers,
and my blood is a dusky mess of dawns and ancient sunsets.
My heart was scaled like the moon
by the phases of an empty cup,
my eyes were birdless skies
and nothing flew higher
than the feathered shadows of the trees
that roosted in the grass like water,
and there were no tears left
in the wineskin of the heart
withered like a lily that bloomed for a day,
the soft clarion of a bruised trumpet.
Now I think of you
so many nights and miles away,
and I walk like a bridge toward you,
and my wings are spread out
like the pages of ample skies
that have yet to be written on by the stars,
and I must blow on my longing to be with you
like a spoonful of hot diamonds
just to keep the deserts of my thought
from etherealizing the tropics of my blood,
my eyes evaporating like crucial oases
in the heat of these visions
that burn the air
with fountains of fire
in this tavern of mystic passions
where I drink alone to you,
the furnace of my blood
silked like a black poppy
when I reach out,
a tree in winter,
the afterlife of lightning,
to touch your face like the moon.
I have been a lonely crusade of one
fighting for the gravestone of a dead god
enthroned in the leaf-fire of his falling,
lost in his dream like salt in the sea of the world,
stars in the seed of the apple,
a shadow devoted to the cause of the wind.
I am an era of scars
inspired by the talons of the moon
seizing my heart like a rag of meat
in these elevated bone-bowls of birth and death.
I have been a poet among humans,
an indignant warrior of the heart
with an army of seasoned candles
reconnoitering distant fires in the night
that bloomed like the breath
of insurmountable divinities
gathering like birds
in the border hills of the darkness
that always took the form of a luminous woman
bathing naked in a sea of eyeless windows.
Crowned like an apple star
for the brilliance of my defeats,
I fall like a key of crazy sugar,
a mysterious elixir of midnight orchids,
a squall of renegade stars
into the transformative valleys and bays
of your forbidden paradise,
happier than a fireproof heretic in the flames,
singing into the abyss of an unknown god
that has robed my heart like a wounded boat,
a solitary on his island,
in these auroral tides
that play my blood like the pulse
of this keyboard of light
where I drown like a stone messiah
true to the excruciations of his faith
in these delinquent oceans of you.
All my poems, chalk-dust,
all my mystic nightbirds iron weathervanes
bent by the lightning toward earth
like the forlorn hope of a battered metal,
all my paintings a bleeding and bruising of snow,
and the sincerity of the ways I got lost
in this labyrinth of mirrors
unspooling like a thread of blood
from an immortally wounded star,
an agony of human fire
rooted in the voice of the wind like a bird
the abyss of a night without bounds
squanders on the supremacy
of the oldest silence
time ever distilled from the eyes of the dead,
the perjury of a perishing light,
if I did not love your ashes and orchards more,
the way you tear your constellations
on the thorns of the moon
and bleed like black silk
for an innocence that never found its way home.
I can taste the dark prophecies
and oracles of infernal delight
written in scars on the dangerous mushroom
of your nuclear body,
and flow like the silt of stars,
white mountain gold and night honey,
through the hives and deltas
that enshrine the ore of the rose.
I can prolong the dawn like the wishbone of a note
broken like a harp
in the throats of the singing masters of the flesh.
I can blood the night with a fever of poppies
and scoop weeping diamonds
from the black fountain
in the furnace-heart of an electric glacier.
I can wield ecstasy
like a blade of the moon bewitched by its wound.
I can untie the knots and nooses
in the spinal cord of the butterfly
pinned like a calendar of eclipses,
a quarantined blossom,
to a dead branch under a bell of glass
and wire Eden back
to the infernal nerve of the lightning
that severed the afterbirth of the moon
from the dark mother in the garden
like an angel with a slash of fire at the gate.
I know how to make love
like an embassy of shadows
to the most distant longings of a woman in exile.
I can pour the oil of winged serpents
into the lamp
and entice a ghost of snow
to dance naked in the fire.
I can lead the lost cloud
out of the mountains of the key
to the doorway of candles and stars
enshrined in the skulls of seeing.
And even when I turn my back
on the darkest flowers of fire in my roots
to rise up like rain
into the immeasurable wingspan
of these desert clarities
that bead me like a caravan
of nomadic moons,
no more than a breath of light
in a gust of stars,
Im still only a ladder of thresholds away
from stealing you away
from the refugees and shadows
that crowd your room
like the night sky
through the astounded vowel of an open window.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share
 

Search


Recent searches | Top searches