The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.
The Child Of The Islands - Spring
WHAT shalt THOU know of Spring? A verdant crown
Of young boughs waving o'er thy blooming head:
White tufted Guelder-roses, showering down
A fairy snow-path where thy footsteps tread:
Fragrance and balm,--which purple violets shed:
Wild-birds,--sweet warbling in commingled song:
Brooklets,--thin murmuring down their pebbly bed;
Or more abundant rivers,--swept along
With shoals of tiny fish, in many a silver throng!
To THEE shall be unknown that weary pain,
The feverish thirsting for a breath of air,--
Which chokes the heart of those who sigh in vain
For respite, in their round of toil and care:
Who never gaze on Nature fresh and fair,
Nor in sweet leisure wile an hour away;
But, like caged creatures, sullenly despair,
As day monotonously follows day,
Till youth wears on to age, and strength to faint decay.
A feeble girl sits working all alone!
A ruined Farmer's orphan; pale and weak;
Her early home to wealthier strangers gone,
No rural beauty lingers on her cheek;
Her woe-worn looks a woeful heart bespeak;
Though in her dull, and rarely lifted eye,
(Whose glances nothing hope, and nothing seek,)
Those who have time for pity, might descry
A thousand shattered gleams of merriment gone by!
Her window-sill some sickly plants adorn,
(Poor links to memories sweet of Nature's green!)
There to the City's smoke-polluted morn
The primrose lifts its leaves, with buds between,
'Minished and faint, as though their life had been
Nipped by long pining and obscure regret;
Torn from the sunny bank where erst were seen
Lovely and meek companions, thickly set,--
The cowslip, rich in scent, and humble violet!
Too fanciful! the plant but pines, like her,
For purer air; for sunbeams warm and kind;
Th' enlivening joy of nature's busy stir,
The rural freedom, long since left behind!
For the fresh woodlands,--for the summer wind,--
The open fields with perfumed clover spread;--
The hazel copse,--whose branches intertwined
Made natural bow'rs and arches overhead,
With many a narrow path, where only two could tread.
Never, oh! never more, shall these afford
Her stifled heart their innocent delight!
Never, oh! never more, the rich accord
Of feathered songsters make her morning bright!
Earning scant bread, that finds no appetite,
The sapless life she toils for, lingers on;
And when at length it sinks in dreary night,
A shallow, careless grave is dug,--where none
Come round to bless her rest, whose ceaseless tasks are done!
And now, the devious threads her simple skill
Wove in a quaint device and flowery line,
Adorn some happier maid, whose wayward will
Was struck with wishing for the fair design:
Some 'curléd darling' of a lordly line,
Whose blooming cheek, through veils of texture rare,
Mantling with youth's warm blood is seen to shine;
While her light garments, draped with modest care,
Soft as a dove's white wings, float on the breezy air.
Oh, there is need for permanent belief
In the All-Equal World of Joy to come!
Need for such solace to the restless grief
And heavy troubles of our earthly home!
Else might our wandering reason blindly roam,
And ask, with all a heathen's discontent,
Why Joy's bright cup for some should sparkling foam,
While others, not less worthy, still lament,
And find the cup of tears the only portion sent!
But for the Christian's hope, how hard, how cold,
How bitterly unjust, our lot would seem!
How purposeless and sad, to young and old!
How like the struggles of a torturing dream,
When ghastly midnight bids us strive and scream!
All fades--all fleets--of which our hearts grow fond;
Pain presses on us to the last extreme,--
When lo! the dawn upriseth, clear beyond,
And, radiant from the East, forbids us to despond.
And many a crippled child, and aged man,
And withered crone, who once saw 'better days,'
With just enough of intellect to scan
This gracious truth; uncheered by human praise,
Patient plods through the thorn-encumbered ways:
Oh, trust God counts the hours through which they sigh,
While His green Spring eludes their suffering gaze,
And flowers along Earth's spangled bosom lie,
Whose barren bloom, for them, must unenjoyed pass by!
So lives the little Trapper underground;
No glittering sunshine streaks the oozy wall;
Not e'en a lamp's cold glimmer shineth round
Where he must sit (through summer days and all,
While in warm upper air the cuckoos call,)
For ever listening at the weary gate
Where echoes of the unseen footsteps fall.
Early he comes, and lingers long and late,
With savage men, whose blows his misery aggravate.
Yet sometimes, (for the heart of childhood is
A thing so pregnant with joy's blessed sun,
That all the dismal gloom that round him lies
Can scarce suffice to bid its rays begone)
In lieu of vain complaint, or peevish moan,
A feeble SONG the passing hour will mark!
Poor little nightingale! that sing'st alone,
Thy cage is very low, and bitter dark;
But God hears thee, who hears the glad upsoaring lark.
God seeth thee, who sees the prosperous proud
Into the sunshine of their joy go forth:
God marks thee, weak one, in the human crowd,
And judgeth all thy grief, (as all their mirth,)
Bird with the broken wing that trails on earth!
His angels watch thee, if none watch beside,
As faithfully--despite thy lowly birth--
As the child-royal of the queenly bride,
Or our belief is vain in Christ the Crucified!
In Christ! who made young children's guileless lives
The cherished objects of His love and care;
Who bade each sinner that for pardon strives,
Low, at Heaven's feet, a child-like heart lay bare;
Opening the world's great universal prayer
With these meek words: 'Our Father!' Strange, that we
The common blessings of His earth and air
Deny to those who, circling round His knee,
Embraced, in mortal life, His immortality!
Those 'common blessings!' In this chequered scene
How scant the gratitude we shew to God!
Is it, in truth, a privilege so mean
To wander with free footsteps o'er the sod,
See various blossoms paint the valley clod,
And all things into teeming beauty burst?
A miracle as great as Aaron's rod,
But that our senses, into dulness nurst,
Recurring Custom still with Apathy hath curst.
They who have rarest joy, know Joy's true measure;
They who most suffer, value Suffering's pause;
They who but seldom taste the simplest pleasure,
Kneel oftenest to the Giver and the Cause.
Heavy the curtains feasting Luxury draws,
To hide the sunset and the silver night;
While humbler hearts, when Care no longer gnaws,
And some rare holiday permits delight,
Lingering, with love would watch that earth-enchanting sight.
So sits the pallid weaver at his loom,
Copying the wreaths the artist-pencil drew;
In the dull confines of his cheerless room
Glisten those tints of rich and living hue.
The air is sweet, the grass is fresh with dew,
And feverish aches are throbbing in his veins,
But his are work-day Springs, and Summers too;
And if he quit his loom, he leaves his gains--
That gorgeous, glistering silk, designed with so much pains!
It shall be purchased as a robe of state
By some great lady, when his toil is done;
While on her will obsequious shopmen wait,
To shift its radiance in the flattering sun:
And as she, listless, eyes its beauty, none
Her brow shall darken, or her smile shall shade,
By a strange story--yet a common one--
Of tears that fell (but not on her brocade,)
And misery weakly borne while it was slowly made.
For while that silk the weaver's time beguiled,
His wife lay groaning on her narrow bed,
The suffering mother of a new-born child,
Without a cradle for its weakly head,
Or future certainty of coarsest bread;
Not, in that hour of Nature's sore affright,
A fire, or meal that either might be fed;
So, through the pauses of the dreadful night,
Patient they lay, and longed for morning's blessed light.
Not patient--no; I over-rate his strength
Who listened to the infant's wailing cry,
And mother's weary moan, until at length
He gave them echo with a broken sigh!
Daylight was dawning, and the loom stood nigh:
He looked on it, as though he would discern
If there was light enough to labour by.
What made his heart's-blood leap, and sink, in turn?
What, in that cold gloom caused his pallid cheek to burn?
What made him rise, with wild and sudden start?
Alas! the poor are weak, when they are tried!
(Can the rich say, that they, with steadfast heart,
Have all temptations constantly defied?)
He counts the value of that robe of pride;
And while the dawn clears up, that ushers in
His child's first morn on life's uncertain tide,
He keeps its birthday with a deed of sin,
And pawns his master's silk, bread for his wife to win.
Let none excuse the deed, for it was wrong:--
And since 'twas ruin to the wretch employed,
No doubt the hour's despair was wild and strong
Which left that loom of silken splendours void:
Let Virtue trust their meal was unenjoyed,
Eaten in trembling, drenched with bitterness,--
And that the faint uncertain hope which buoyed
His heart awhile, to hide his guilt's excess,
And get that silk redeemed, was vain, from his distress:
So that true Justice might pursue her course;
And the silk, finished by 'a different hand,'
Might in good time (delayed awhile perforce)
Be brought to clothe that lady of the land
Whom I behold as in a vision stand.
Lo! in my vision, on its folds are laid
The turquoise-circled fingers of her hand;
While by herself, and her attendant maid,
Its texture, soft and rich, is smiled on and surveyed.
Indifferent to her, the heavy cost
Of that rich robe, first pawned for one poor meal;
She that now wears it, and her lord, may boast
No payment made,--yet none dare say THEY steal!
No, not if future reckoning-hours reveal
Debts the encumbered heir can never pay;
But whose dishonest weight his heart shall feel
Through many a restless night and bitter day,
Hearing what cheated men of the bad dead will say.
Onward she moves, in Fashion's magic glass,
Half-strut, half-swim, she slowly saunters by:
A self-delighting, delicate, pampered mass
Of flesh indulged in every luxury
Folly can crave, or riches can supply:
Spangled with diamonds--head, and breast, and zone,
Scorn lighting up her else most vacant eye,
Careless of all conditions but her own,
She sweeps that stuff along, to curtsey to the throne.
That dumb woof tells no story! Silent droops
The gorgeous train, voluminously wide;
And while the lady's knee a moment stoops
(Mocking her secret heart, which swells with pride,)
No ragged shadow follows at her side
Into that royal presence, where her claim
To be admitted, is to be allied
To wealth, and station, and a titled name,--
No warning voice is heard to supplicate or blame.
Nor,--since by giving working hands employ,
Her very vanity must help their need
Whom, in her life of cold ungenerous joy,
She never learned to pity or to heed,--
Would sentence harsh from thoughtful minds proceed;
But that the poor man, dazzled, sees encroach
False lights upon his pathway, which mislead
Those who the subject of his wrongs would broach,
Till Rank a bye-word seems,--and Riches a reproach.
How oft some friendly voice shall vainly speak
The sound true lessons of Life's holier school;--
How much of wholesome influence prove weak,
Because one tinselled, gaudy, selfish fool,
Hath made the exception seem the practiced rule!
In Luxury, so prodigal of show,--
In Charity, so wary and so cool,--
That wealth appeared the poor man's open foe,
And all, of high estate, this language to avow:--
'A life of self-indulgence is for Us,
'A life of self-denial is for them;
'For Us the streets, broad-built and populous,
'For them, unhealthy corners, garrets dim,
'And cellars where the water-rat may swim!
'For Us, green paths refreshed by frequent rain,
'For them, dark alleys where the dust lies grim!
'Not doomed by Us to this appointed pain,--
'God made us, Rich and Poor--of what do these complain?'
Of what? Oh! not of Heaven's great law of old,
That brightest light must fall by deepest shade;
Not that they wander hungry, gaunt, and cold,
While others in smooth splendours are arrayed;
Not that from gardens where they would have strayed
You shut them out, as though a miser's gem
Lay in the crystal stream or emerald glade,
Which they would filch from Nature's diadem;
But that you keep no thought, no memory of THEM.
That, being gleaners in the world's large field
(And knowing well they never can be more,)
Those unto whom the fertile earth must yield
Her increase, will not stand like him of yore,
Large-hearted Boaz, on his threshing-floor,
Watching that weak ones starve not on their ground.
How many sills might frame a beggar's door,
For any love, or help, or pity found,
In rich men's hearts and homes, to help the needy round!
Meanwhile, enjoy your Walks, your Parks, your Drives,
Heirs of Creation's fruits, this world's select!
Bask in the sunshine of your idle lives,
And teach your poorer brother to expect
Nor share, nor help! Rouse up the fierce-toned sect
To grudge him e'en the breeze that once a-week
Might make him feel less weary and deject;
And stand, untouched, to see how thankful-meek
He walks that day, his child close nestling at his cheek.
Compel him to your creed; force him to think;
Cut down his Sabbath to a day of rest
Such as the beasts enjoy,--to eat, and drink,
And drone away his time, by sleep opprest:--
But let 'My lady' send, at her behest,
A dozen different servants to prepare,
Grooms, coachmen, footmen, in her livery drest,
And shining horses, fed with punctual care,
To whirl her to Hyde Park, that she may 'take the air.'
Yet, even with her, we well might moralise;
(No place too gay, if so the heart incline!)
For dark the Seal of Death and Judgment lies
Upon thy rippling waters, Serpentine!
Day after day, drawn up in linkèd line,
Your lounging beauties smile on idle men,
Where Suicides have braved the Will Divine,
Watched the calm flood that lay beneath their ken,
Dashed into seeming peace, and never rose again!
There, on the pathway where the well-groomed steed
Restlessly paws the earth, alarmed and shy;
While his enamoured rider nought can heed
Save the soft glance of some love-lighted eye;
There, they dragged out the wretch who came to die
There was he laid--stiff, stark, and motionless,
And searched for written signs to notify
What pang had driv'n him to such sore excess,
And who should weep his loss, and pity his distress!
Cross from that death-pond to the farther side,
Where fewer loiterers wander to and fro,
There,--buried under London's modern pride,
And ranges of white buildings,--long ago
Stood Tyburn Gate and gallows! Scenes of woe,
Bitter, heart-rending, have been acted here;
While, as he swung in stifling horrid throe,
Hoarse echoes smote the dying felon's ear,
Of yells from fellow-men, triumphant in his fear!
Not always thus. At times a Mother knelt,
And blest the wretch who perished for his crime;
Or a young wife bowed down her head, and felt
Her little son an orphan from that time;
Or some poor frantic girl, whose love sublime
In the coarse highway robber could but see
Her heart's ideal, heard Death's sullen chime
Shivering and weeping on her fainting knee,
And mourned for him who hung high on the gallows-tree.
Nowhere more deeply stamped the trace of gloom
Than in this light haunt of the herding town;
Marks of the world's Forgotten Ones, on whom
The eye of God for ever looketh down,
Still pitiful, above the human frown,
As Glory o'er the Dark! Earth's mercy tires!
But Heaven hath stored a mercy of its own,
Watching the feet that tread among the briars,
And guiding fearful eyes, when fainter light expires.
Yet no such serious thoughts their minds employ,
Who lounge and wander 'neath the sunshine bright,
But how to turn their idleness to joy,
Their weariness to pleasure and delight;
How best with the ennui of life to fight
With operas, plays, assemblies, routs, and balls--
The morning passed in planning for the night
Feastings and dancings in their lighted halls;
And still, as old ones fade, some newer pleasure calls.
Betwixt the deathly stream and Tyburn Gate
Stand withered trees, whose sapless boughs have seen
Beauties whose memory now is out of date,
And lovers, on whose graves the moss is green!
While Spring, for ever fresh, with smile serene,
Woke up grey Time, and drest his scythe with flowers,
And flashed sweet light the tender leaves between,
And bid the wild-bird carol in the bowers,
Year after year the same, with glad returning hours.
Oh, those old trees! what see they when the beam
Falls on blue waters from the bluer sky?
When young Hope whispers low, with smiles that seem
Too joyous to be answered with a sigh?
The scene is then of prosperous gaiety,
Thick-swarming crowds on summer pleasure bent,
And equipages formed for luxury;
While rosy children, young and innocent,
Dance in the onward path, and frolic with content.
But when the scattered leaves on those wan boughs
Quiver beneath the night wind's rustling breath;
When jocund merriment, and whispered vows,
And children's shouts, are hushed; and still as Death
Lies all in heaven above and earth beneath;
When clear and distant shine the steadfast stars
O'er lake and river, mountain, brake, and heath,--
And smile, unconscious of the woe that mars
The beauty of earth's face, deformed by Misery's scars;
What see the old trees THEN? Gaunt, pallid forms
Come, creeping sadly to their hollow hearts,
Seeking frail shelter from the winds and storms,
In broken rest, disturbed by fitful starts;
There, when the chill rain falls, or lightning darts,
Or balmy summer nights are stealing on,
Houseless they slumber, close to wealthy marts
And gilded homes:--there, where the morning sun
That tide of wasteful joy and splendour looked upon!
There the man hides, whose 'better days' are dropped
Round his starvation, like a veil of shame;
Who, till the fluttering pulse of life hath stopped,
Suffers in silence, and conceals his name:--
There the lost victim, on whose tarnished fame
A double taint of Death and Sin must rest,
Dreams of her village home and Parents' blame,
And in her sleep by pain and cold opprest,
Draws close her tattered shawl across her shivering breast.
Her history is written in her face;
The bloom hath left her cheek, but not from age;
Youth, without innocence, or love, or grace,
Blotted with tears, still lingers on that page!
Smooth brow, soft hair, dark eyelash, seem to wage
With furrowed lines a contradiction strong;
Till the wild witchcraft stories, which engage
Our childish thoughts, of magic change and wrong,
Seem realised in her--so old, and yet so young!
And many a wretch forlorn, and huddled group
Of strangers met in brotherhood of woe,
Heads that beneath their burden weakly stoop,--
Youth's tangled curls, and Age's locks of snow,--
Rest on those wooden pillows, till the glow
Of morning o'er the brightening earth shall pass,
And these depart, none asking where they go;
Lost in the World's confused and gathering mass,--
While a new slide fills up Life's magic-lantern glass.
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! in thy royal bowers,
Calm THOU shalt slumber, set apart from pain;
Thy spring-day spent in weaving pendent flowers,
Or watching sun-bows glitter through the rain,
Spanning with glorious arch the distant plain;
Or listening to the wood-bird's merry call;
Or gathering sea-shells by the surging main;
And, wheresoe'er thy joyous glances fall,
The wise shall train thy mind, to glean delight from all.
But most thou'lt love all young and tender things,
And open wide and bright, in pleased surprise,
When the soft nestling spreads its half-fledged wings,
Thy innocent and wonder-loving eyes,
To see him thus attempt the sunny skies!
Thou shalt enjoy the kitten's frolic mood,
Pursue in vain gay-painted butterflies,
Watch the sleek puppy lap its milky food,
And fright the clucking hen, with all her restless brood.
Eager thou'lt gaze, where, down the river's tide,
The proud swan glides, and guards its lonely nest;
Or where the white lambs spot the mountain's side,
Where late the lingering sunshine loves to rest;
Midst whom, in frock of blue and coloured vest,
Lies the young shepherd boy, who little heeds
(The livelong day by drowsy dreams opprest)
The nibbling, bleating flock that round him feeds,
But to his faithful dog leaves all the care it needs.
In time, less simple sights and sounds of Earth
Shall yield thy mind a pleasure not less pure:
Mighty beginnings--schemes of glorious birth--
In which th' Enthusiast deems he may secure,
By rapid labour, Fame that shall endure;
Complex machines to lessen human toil,
Fair artist-dreams, which Beauty's forms allure,
New methods planned to till the fertile soil,
And marble graven works, which time forbears to spoil.
For, like the Spring, Man's heart hath buds and leaves,
Which, sunned upon, put forth immortal bloom;
Gifts, that from Heaven his nascent soul receives,
Which, being heavenly, shall survive the tomb.
In its blank silence, in its narrow gloom,
The clay may rest which wrapped his human birth;
But, all unconquered by that bounded doom,
The Spirit of his Thought shall walk the earth,
In glory and in light, midst life, and joy, and mirth.
Thou'rt dead, oh, Sculptor--dead! but not the less
(Wrapped in pale glory from th' illumined shrine)
Thy sweet St. Mary stands in her recess,
Worshipped and wept to, as a thing divine:
Thou'rt dead, oh, Poet!--dead, oh, brother mine!
But not the less the curbèd hearts stoop low
Beneath the passion of thy fervent line:
And thou art dead, oh, Painter! but not so
Thy Inspiration's work, still fresh in living glow.
These are the rulers of the earth! to them
The better spirits due allegiance own;
Vain is the might of rank's proud diadem,
The golden sceptre, or the jewelled crown;
Beyond the shadow of a mortal frown
Lofty they soar! O'er these, pre-eminent,
God only, Sovran regnant, looketh down,
God! who to their intense perception lent
All that is chiefest good and fairest excellent.
Wilt thou take measure of such minds as these,
Or sound, with plummet-line, the Artist-Heart?
Look where he meditates among the trees--
His eyelids full of love, his lips apart
With restless smiles; while keen his glances dart,
Above--around--below--as though to seek
Some dear companion, whom, with eager start,
He will advance to welcome, and then speak
The burning thoughts for which all eloquence is weak.
How glad he looks! Whom goeth he to meet?
Whom? God:--there is no solitude for him.
Lies the earth lonely round his wandering feet?
The birds are singing in the branches dim,
The water ripples to the fountains' brim,
The young lambs in the distant meadows bleat;
And he himself beguiles fatigue of limb
With broken lines, and snatches various sweet,
Of ballads old, quaint hymns for Nature's beauty meet!
Love is too earthly-sensual for his dream;
He looks beyond it, with his spirit-eyes!
His passionate gaze is for the sunset-beam,
And to that fainting glory, as it dies,
Belongs the echo of his swelling sighs.
Pale wingèd Thoughts, the children of his Mind,
Hover around him as he onward hies;
They murmur to him 'Hope!' with every wind,
Though to their lovely Shapes our grosser sight is blind.
But who shall tell, when want and pain have crost
The clouded light of some forsaken day,
What germs of Beauty have been crushed and lost,
What flashing thoughts have gleamed to fade away?
Oh! since rare flowers must yet take root in clay,
And perish if due culture be denied;
Let it be held a Royal boast to say,
For lack of aid, no heaven-born genius died;
Nor dwindled withering down, in desert-sands of Pride!
The lily-wand is theirs! the Angel-gift!
And, if the Earthly one with failing hand
Hold the high glory, do Thou gently lift,
And give him room in better light to stand.
For round THEE, like a garden, lies the land
His pilgrim feet must tread through choking dust;
And Thou wert born to this world's high command,
And he was born to keep a Heavenly Trust;
And both account to ONE, the Merciful and Just.
Youth is the spring-time of untarnished life!
Spring, the green youth of the unfaded year!
We watch their promise, midst the changeful strife
Of storms that threaten and of skies that clear,
And wait, until the harvest-time appear.
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS, may those springs which shed
Their blossoms round thee, give no cause for fear;
And may'st thou gently bend, and meekly tread,
Thy garlanded glad path, till summer light be fled!
- quotes about poverty
- quotes about sheep
- quotes about intellect
- quotes about drawing
- quotes about paying
- quotes about birth
- quotes about worry
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about sadness
The Growth of Love
They that in play can do the thing they would,
Having an instinct throned in reason's place,
--And every perfect action hath the grace
Of indolence or thoughtless hardihood--
These are the best: yet be there workmen good
Who lose in earnestness control of face,
Or reckon means, and rapt in effort base
Reach to their end by steps well understood.
Me whom thou sawest of late strive with the pains
Of one who spends his strength to rule his nerve,
--Even as a painter breathlessly who stains
His scarcely moving hand lest it should swerve--
Behold me, now that I have cast my chains,
Master of the art which for thy sake I serve.
For thou art mine: and now I am ashamed
To have uséd means to win so pure acquist,
And of my trembling fear that might have misst
Thro' very care the gold at which I aim'd;
And am as happy but to hear thee named,
As are those gentle souls by angels kisst
In pictures seen leaving their marble cist
To go before the throne of grace unblamed.
Nor surer am I water hath the skill
To quench my thirst, or that my strength is freed
In delicate ordination as I will,
Than that to be myself is all I need
For thee to be most mine: so I stand still,
And save to taste my joy no more take heed.
The whole world now is but the minister
Of thee to me: I see no other scheme
But universal love, from timeless dream
Waking to thee his joy's interpreter.
I walk around and in the fields confer
Of love at large with tree and flower and stream,
And list the lark descant upon my theme,
Heaven's musical accepted worshipper.
Thy smile outfaceth ill: and that old feud
'Twixt things and me is quash'd in our new truce;
And nature now dearly with thee endued
No more in shame ponders her old excuse,
But quite forgets her frowns and antics rude,
So kindly hath she grown to her new use.
The very names of things belov'd are dear,
And sounds will gather beauty from their sense,
As many a face thro' love's long residence
Groweth to fair instead of plain and sere:
But when I say thy name it hath no peer,
And I suppose fortune determined thence
Her dower, that such beauty's excellence
Should have a perfect title for the ear.
Thus may I think the adopting Muses chose
Their sons by name, knowing none would be heard
Or writ so oft in all the world as those,--
Dan Chaucer, mighty Shakespeare, then for third
The classic Milton, and to us arose
Shelley with liquid music in the world.
The poets were good teachers, for they taught
Earth had this joy; but that 'twould ever be
That fortune should be perfected in me,
My heart of hope dared not engage the thought.
So I stood low, and now but to be caught
By any self-styled lords of the age with thee
Vexes my modesty, lest they should see
I hold them owls and peacocks, things of nought.
And when we sit alone, and as I please
I taste thy love's full smile, and can enstate
The pleasure of my kingly heart at ease,
My thought swims like a ship, that with the weight
Of her rich burden sleeps on the infinite seas
Becalm'd, and cannot stir her golden freight.
While yet we wait for spring, and from the dry
And blackening east that so embitters March,
Well-housed must watch grey fields and meadows parch,
And driven dust and withering snowflake fly;
Already in glimpses of the tarnish'd sky
The sun is warm and beckons to the larch,
And where the covert hazels interarch
Their tassell'd twigs, fair beds of primrose lie.
Beneath the crisp and wintry carpet hid
A million buds but stay their blossoming;
And trustful birds have built their nests amid
The shuddering boughs, and only wait to sing
Till one soft shower from the south shall bid,
And hither tempt the pilgrim steps of spring.
In thee my spring of life hath bid the while
A rose unfold beyond the summer's best,
The mystery of joy made manifest
In love's self-answering and awakening smile;
Whereby the lips in wonder reconcile
Passion with peace, and show desire at rest,--
A grace of silence by the Greek unguesst,
That bloom'd to immortalize the Tuscan style
When first the angel-song that faith hath ken'd
Fancy pourtray'd, above recorded oath
Of Israel's God, or light of poem pen'd;
The very countenance of plighted troth
'Twixt heaven and earth, where in one moment blend
The hope of one and happiness of both.
For beauty being the best of all we know
Sums up the unsearchable and secret aims
Of nature, and on joys whose earthly names
Were never told can form and sense bestow;
And man hath sped his instinct to outgo
The step of science; and against her shames
Imagination stakes out heavenly claims,
Building a tower above the head of woe.
Nor is there fairer work for beauty found
Than that she win in nature her release
From all the woes that in the world abound:
Nay with his sorrow may his love increase,
If from man's greater need beauty redound,
And claim his tears for homage of his peace.
Thus to thy beauty doth my fond heart look,
That late dismay'd her faithless faith forbore;
And wins again her love lost in the lore
Of schools and script of many a learned book:
For thou what ruthless death untimely took
Shalt now in better brotherhood restore,
And save my batter'd ship that far from shore
High on the dismal deep in tempest shook.
So in despite of sorrow lately learn'd
I still hold true to truth since thou art true,
Nor wail the woe which thou to joy hast turn'd
Nor come the heavenly sun and bathing blue
To my life's need more splendid and unearn'd
Than hath thy gift outmatch'd desire and due.
Winter was not unkind because uncouth;
His prison'd time made me a closer guest,
And gave thy graciousness a warmer zest,
Biting all else with keen and angry tooth
And bravelier the triumphant blood of youth
Mantling thy cheek its happy home possest,
And sterner sport by day put strength to test,
And custom's feast at night gave tongue to truth
Or say hath flaunting summer a device
To match our midnight revelry, that rang
With steel and flame along the snow-girt ice?
Or when we hark't to nightingales that sang
On dewy eves in spring, did they entice
To gentler love than winter's icy fang?
There's many a would-be poet at this hour,
Rhymes of a love that he hath never woo'd,
And o'er his lamplit desk in solitude
Deems that he sitteth in the Muses' bower:
And some the flames of earthly love devour,
Who have taken no kiss of Nature, nor renew'd
In the world's wilderness with heavenly food
The sickly body of their perishing power.
So none of all our company, I boast,
But now would mock my penning, could they see
How down the right it maps a jagged coast;
Seeing they hold the manlier praise to be
Strong hand and will, and the heart best when most
'Tis sober, simple, true, and fancy-free.
How could I quarrel or blame you, most dear,
Who all thy virtues gavest and kept back none;
Kindness and gentleness, truth without peer,
And beauty that my fancy fed upon?
Now not my life's contrition for my fault
Can blot that day, nor work me recompence,
Tho' I might worthily thy worth exalt,
Making thee long amends for short offence.
For surely nowhere, love, if not in thee
Are grace and truth and beauty to be found;
And all my praise of these can only be
A praise of thee, howe'er by thee disown'd:
While still thou must be mine tho' far removed,
And I for one offence no more beloved.
Now since to me altho' by thee refused
The world is left, I shall find pleasure still;
The art that most I have loved but little used
Will yield a world of fancies at my will:
And tho' where'er thou goest it is from me,
I where I go thee in my heart must bear;
And what thou wert that wilt thou ever be,
My choice, my best, my loved, and only fair.
Farewell, yet think not such farewell a change
From tenderness, tho' once to meet or part
But on short absence so could sense derange
That tears have graced the greeting of my heart;
They were proud drops and had my leave to fall,
Not on thy pity for my pain to call.
When sometimes in an ancient house where state
From noble ancestry is handed on,
We see but desolation thro' the gate,
And richest heirlooms all to ruin gone;
Because maybe some fancied shame or fear,
Bred of disease or melancholy fate,
Hath driven the owner from his rightful sphere
To wander nameless save to pity or hate:
What is the wreck of all he hath in fief
When he that hath is wrecking? nought is fine
Unto the sick, nor doth it burden grief
That the house perish when the soul doth pine.
Thus I my state despise, slain by a sting
So slight 'twould not have hurt a meaner thing.
Who builds a ship must first lay down the keel
Of health, whereto the ribs of mirth are wed:
And knit, with beams and knees of strength, a bed
For decks of purity, her floor and ceil.
Upon her masts, Adventure, Pride, and Zeal,
To fortune's wind the sails of purpose spread:
And at the prow make figured maidenhead
O'erride the seas and answer to the wheel.
And let him deep in memory's hold have stor'd
Water of Helicon: and let him fit
The needle that doth true with heaven accord:
Then bid her crew, love, diligence and wit
With justice, courage, temperance come aboard,
And at her helm the master reason sit.
This world is unto God a work of art,
Of which the unaccomplish'd heavenly plan
Is hid in life within the creature's heart,
And for perfection looketh unto man.
Ah me! those thousand ages: with what slow
Pains and persistence were his idols made,
Destroy'd and made, ere ever he could know
The mighty mother must be so obey'd.
For lack of knowledge and thro' little skill
His childish mimicry outwent his aim;
His effort shaped the genius of his will;
Till thro' distinction and revolt he came,
True to his simple terms of good and ill,
Seeking the face of Beauty without blame.
Say who be these light-bearded, sunburnt faces
In negligent and travel-stain'd array,
That in the city of Dante come to-day,
Haughtily visiting her holy places?
O these be noble men that hide their graces,
True England's blood, her ancient glory's stay,
By tales of fame diverted on their way
Home from the rule of oriental races.
Life-trifling lions these, of gentle eyes
And motion delicate, but swift to fire
For honour, passionate where duty lies,
Most loved and loving: and they quickly tire
Of Florence, that she one day more denies
The embrace of wife and son, of sister or sire.
Where San Miniato's convent from the sun
At forenoon overlooks the city of flowers
I sat, and gazing on her domes and towers
Call'd up her famous children one by one:
And three who all the rest had far outdone,
Mild Giotto first, who stole the morning hours,
I saw, and god-like Buonarroti's powers,
And Dante, gravest poet, her much-wrong'd son.
Is all this glory, I said, another's praise?
Are these heroic triumphs things of old,
And do I dead upon the living gaze?
Or rather doth the mind, that can behold
The wondrous beauty of the works and days,
Create the image that her thoughts enfold?
Rejoice, ye dead, where'er your spirits dwell,
Rejoice that yet on earth your fame is bright;
And that your names, remember'd day and night,
Live on the lips of those that love you well.
'Tis ye that conquer'd have the powers of hell,
Each with the special grace of your delight:
Ye are the world's creators, and thro' might
Of everlasting love ye did excel.
Now ye are starry names, above the storm
And war of Time and nature's endless wrong
Ye flit, in pictured truth and peaceful form,
Wing'd with bright music and melodious song,--
The flaming flowers of heaven, making May-dance
In dear Imagination's rich pleasance.
The world still goeth about to shew and hide,
Befool'd of all opinion, fond of fame:
But he that can do well taketh no pride,
And see'th his error, undisturb'd by shame:
So poor's the best that longest life can do,
The most so little, diligently done;
So mighty is the beauty that doth woo,
So vast the joy that love from love hath won.
God's love to win is easy, for He loveth
Desire's fair attitude, nor strictly weighs
The broken thing, but all alike approveth
Which love hath aim'd at Him: that is heaven's praise:
And if we look for any praise on earth,
'Tis in man's love: all else is nothing worth.
O flesh and blood, comrade to tragic pain
And clownish merriment whose sense could wake
Sermons in stones, and count death but an ache,
All things as vanity, yet nothing vain:
The world, set in thy heart, thy passionate strain
Reveal'd anew; but thou for man didst make
Nature twice natural, only to shake
Her kingdom with the creatures of thy brain.
Lo, Shakespeare, since thy time nature is loth
To yield to art her fair supremacy;
In conquering one thou hast so enrichèd both.
What shall I say? for God--whose wise decree
Confirmeth all He did by all He doth--
Doubled His whole creation making thee.
I would be a bird, and straight on wings I arise,
And carry purpose up to the ends of the air
In calm and storm my sails I feather, and where
By freezing cliffs the unransom'd wreckage lies:
Or, strutting on hot meridian banks, surprise
The silence: over plains in the moonlight bare
I chase my shadow, and perch where no bird dare
In treetops torn by fiercest winds of the skies.
Poor simple birds, foolish birds! then I cry,
Ye pretty pictures of delight, unstir'd
By the only joy of knowing that ye fly;
Ye are not what ye are, but rather, sum'd in a word,
The alphabet of a god's idea, and I
Who master it, I am the only bird.
O weary pilgrims, chanting of your woe,
That turn your eyes to all the peaks that shine,
Hailing in each the citadel divine
The which ye thought to have enter'd long ago;
Until at length your feeble steps and slow
Falter upon the threshold of the shrine,
And your hearts overhurden'd doubt in fine
Whether it be Jerusalem or no:
Dishearten'd pilgrims, I am one of you;
For, having worshipp'd many a barren face,
I scarce now greet the goal I journey'd to:
I stand a pagan in the holy place;
Beneath the lamp of truth I am found untrue,
And question with the God that I embrace.
Spring hath her own bright days of calm and peace;
Her melting air, at every breath we draw,
Floods heart with love to praise God's gracious law:
But suddenly--so short is pleasure's lease--
The cold returns, the buds from growing cease,
And nature's conquer'd face is full of awe;
As now the trait'rous north with icy flaw
Freezes the dew upon the sick lamb's fleece,
And 'neath the mock sun searching everywhere
Rattles the crispèd leaves with shivering din:
So that the birds are silent with despair
Within the thickets; nor their armour thin
Will gaudy flies adventure in the air,
Nor any lizard sun his spotted skin.
Nothing is joy without thee: I can find
No rapture in the first relays of spring,
In songs of birds, in young buds opening,
Nothing inspiriting and nothing kind;
For lack of thee, who once wert throned behind
All beauty, like a strength where graces cling,--
The jewel and heart of light, which everything
Wrestled in rivalry to hold enshrined.
Ah! since thou'rt fled, and I in each fair sight
The sweet occasion of my joy deplore,
Where shall I seek thee best, or whom invite
Within thy sacred temples and adore?
Who shall fill thought and truth with old delight,
And lead my soul in life as heretofore?
The work is done, and from the fingers fall
The bloodwarm tools that brought the labour thro':
The tasking eye that overrunneth all
Rests, and affirms there is no more to do.
Now the third joy of making, the sweet flower
Of blessed work, bloometh in godlike spirit;
Which whoso plucketh holdeth for an hour
The shrivelling vanity of mortal merit.
And thou, my perfect work, thou'rt of to-day;
To-morrow a poor and alien thing wilt be,
True only should the swift life stand at stay:
Therefore farewell, nor look to bide with me.
Go find thy friends, if there be one to love thee:
Casting thee forth, my child, I rise above thee.
The fabled sea-snake, old Leviathan,
Or else what grisly beast of scaly chine
That champ'd the ocean-wrack and swash'd the brine,
Before the new and milder days of man,
Had never rib nor bray nor swindging fan
Like his iron swimmer of the Clyde or Tyne,
Late-born of golden seed to breed a line
Of offspring swifter and more huge of plan.
Straight is her going, for upon the sun
When once she hath look'd, her path and place are plain;
With tireless speed she smiteth one by one
The shuddering seas and foams along the main;
And her eased breath, when her wild race is run,
Roars thro' her nostrils like a hurricane.
A thousand times hath in my heart's behoof
My tongue been set his passion to impart;
A thousand times hath my too coward heart
My mouth reclosed and fix'd it to the roof;
Then with such cunning hath it held aloof,
A thousand times kept silence with such art
That words could do no more: yet on thy part
Hath silence given a thousand times reproof.
I should be bolder, seeing I commend
Love, that my dilatory purpose primes,
But fear lest with my fears my hope should end:
Nay, I would truth deny and burn my rhymes,
Renew my sorrows rather than offend,
A thousand times, and yet a thousand times.
I travel to thee with the sun's first rays,
That lift the dark west and unwrap the night;
I dwell beside thee when he walks the height,
And fondly toward thee at his setting gaze.
I wait upon thy coming, but always--
Dancing to meet my thoughts if they invite--
Thou hast outrun their longing with delight,
And in my solitude dost mock my praise.
Now doth my drop of time transcend the whole:
I see no fame in Khufu's pyramid,
No history where loveless Nile doth roll.
--This is eternal life, which doth forbid
Mortal detraction to the exalted soul,
And from her inward eye all fate hath hid.
My lady pleases me and I please her;
This know we both, and I besides know well
Wherefore I love her, and I love to tell
My love, as all my loving songs aver.
But what on her part could the passion stir,
Tho' 'tis more difficult for love to spell,
Yet can I dare divine how this befel,
Nor will her lips deny it if I err.
She loves me first because I love her, then
Loves me for knowing why she should be loved,
And that I love to praise her, loves again.
So from her beauty both our loves are moved,
And by her beauty are sustain'd; nor when
The earth falls from the sun is this disproved.
In all things beautiful, I cannot see
Her sit or stand, but love is stir'd anew:
'Tis joy to watch the folds fall as they do,
And all that comes is past expectancy.
If she be silent, silence let it be;
He who would bid her speak might sit and sue
The deep-brow'd Phidian Jove to be untrue
To his two thousand years' solemnity.
Ah, but her launchèd passion, when she sings,
Wins on the hearing like a shapen prow
Borne by the mastery of its urgent wings:
Or if she deign her wisdom, she doth show
She hath the intelligence of heavenly things,
Unsullied by man's mortal overthrow.
Thus to be humbled: 'tis that ranging pride
No refuge hath; that in his castle strong
Brave reason sits beleaguer'd, who so long
Kept field, but now must starve where he doth hide;
That industry, who once the foe defied,
Lies slaughter'd in the trenches; that the throng
Of idle fancies pipe their foolish song,
Where late the puissant captains fought and died.
Thus to be humbled: 'tis to be undone;
A forest fell'd; a city razed to ground;
A cloak unsewn, unwoven and unspun
Till not a thread remains that can be wound.
And yet, O lover, thee, the ruin'd one,
Love who hath humbled thus hath also crown'd.
I care not if I live, tho' life and breath
Have never been to me so dear and sweet.
I care not if I die, for I could meet--
Being so happy--happily my death.
I care not if I love; to-day she saith
She loveth, and love's history is complete.
Nor care I if she love me; at her feet
My spirit bows entranced and worshippeth.
I have no care for what was most my care,
But all around me see fresh beauty born,
And common sights grown lovelier than they were:
I dream of love, and in the light of morn
Tremble, beholding all things very fair
And strong with strength that puts my strength to scorn.
O my goddess divine sometimes I say
Now let this word for ever and all suffice;
Thou art insatiable, and yet not twice
Can even thy lover give his soul away:
And for my acts, that at thy feet I lay;
For never any other, by device
Of wisdom, love or beauty, could entice
My homage to the measure of this day.
I have no more to give thee: lo, I have sold
My life, have emptied out my heart, and spent
Whate'er I had; till like a beggar, bold
With nought to lose, I laugh and am content.
A beggar kisses thee; nay, love, behold,
I fear not: thou too art in beggarment.
All earthly beauty hath one cause and proof,
To lead the pilgrim soul to beauty above:
Yet lieth the greater bliss so far aloof,
That few there be are wean'd from earthly love.
Joy's ladder it is, reaching from home to home,
The best of all the work that all was good;
Whereof 'twas writ the angels aye upclomb,
Down sped, and at the top the Lord God stood.
But I my time abuse, my eyes by day
Center'd on thee, by night my heart on fire--
Letting my number'd moments run away--
Nor e'en 'twixt night and day to heaven aspire:
So true it is that what the eye seeth not
But slow is loved, and loved is soon forgot.
O my life's mischief, once my love's delight,
That drew'st a mortgage on my heart's estate,
Whose baneful clause is never out of date,
Nor can avenging time restore my right:
Whom first to lose sounded that note of spite,
Whereto my doleful days were tuned by fate:
That art the well-loved cause of all my hate,
The sun whose wandering makes my hopeless night:
Thou being in all my lacking all I lack,
It is thy goodness turns my grace to crime,
Thy fleetness from my goal which holds me back;
Wherefore my feet go out of step with time,
My very grasp of life is old and slack,
And even my passion falters in my rhyme.
At times with hurried hoofs and scattering dust
I race by field or highway, and my horse
Spare not, but urge direct in headlong course
Unto some fair far hill that gain I must:
But near arrived the vision soon mistrust,
Rein in, and stand as one who sees the source
Of strong illusion, shaming thought to force
From off his mind the soil of passion's gust.
My brow I bare then, and with slacken'd speed
Can view the country pleasant on all sides,
And to kind salutation give good heed:
I ride as one who for his pleasure rides,
And stroke the neck of my delighted steed,
And seek what cheer the village inn provides.
An idle June day on the sunny Thames,
Floating or rowing as our fancy led,
Now in the high beams basking as we sped,
Now in green shade gliding by mirror'd stems;
By lock and weir and isle, and many a spot
Of memoried pleasure, glad with strength and skill,
Friendship, good wine, and mirth, that serve not ill
The heavenly Muse, tho' she requite them not:
I would have life--thou saidst--all as this day,
Simple enjoyment calm in its excess,
With not a grief to cloud, and not a ray
Of passion overhot my peace to oppress;
With no ambition to reproach delay,
Nor rapture to disturb its happiness.
A man that sees by chance his picture, made
As once a child he was, handling some toy,
Will gaze to find his spirit within the boy,
Yet hath no secret with the soul pourtray'd:
He cannot think the simple thought which play'd
Upon those features then so frank and coy;
'Tis his, yet oh! not his: and o'er the joy
His fatherly pity bends in tears dismay'd.
Proud of his prime maybe he stand at best,
And lightly wear his strength, or aim it high,
In knowledge, skill and courage self-possest:--
Yet in the pictured face a charm doth lie,
The one thing lost more worth than all the rest,
Which seeing, he fears to say This child was I.
Tears of love, tears of joy and tears of care,
Comforting tears that fell uncomforted,
Tears o'er the new-born, tears beside the dead,
Tears of hope, pride and pity, trust and prayer,
Tears of contrition; all tears whatsoe'er
Of tenderness or kindness had she shed
Who here is pictured, ere upon her head
The fine gold might be turn'd to silver there.
The smile that charm'd the father hath given place
Unto the furrow'd care wrought by the son;
But virtue hath transform'd all change to grace:
So that I praise the artist, who hath done
A portrait, for my worship, of the face
Won by the heart my father's heart that won.
If I could but forget and not recall
So well my time of pleasure and of play,
When ancient nature was all new and gay,
Light as the fashion that doth last enthrall,--
Ah mighty nature, when my heart was small,
Nor dream'd what fearful searchings underlay
The flowers and leafy ecstasy of May,
The breathing summer sloth, the scented fall:
Could I forget, then were the fight not hard,
Press'd in the mêlée of accursed things,
Having such help in love and such reward:
But that 'tis I who once--'tis this that stings--
Once dwelt within the gate that angels guard,
Where yet I'd be had I but heavenly wings.
When I see childhood on the threshold seize
The prize of life from age and likelihood,
I mourn time's change that will not be withstood,
Thinking how Christ said Be like one of these.
For in the forest among many trees
Scarce one in all is found that hath made good
The virgin pattern of its slender wood,
That courtesied in joy to every breeze;
But scath'd, but knotted trunks that raise on high
Their arms in stiff contortion, strain'd and bare
Whose patriarchal crowns in sorrow sigh.
So, little children, ye--nay nay, ye ne'er
From me shall learn how sure the change and nigh,
When ye shall share our strength and mourn to share.
When parch'd with thirst, astray on sultry sand
The traveller faints, upon his closing ear
Steals a fantastic music: he may hear
The babbling fountain of his native land.
Before his eyes the vision seems to stand,
Where at its terraced brink the maids appear,
Who fill their deep urns at its waters clear,
And not refuse the help of lover's hand.
O cruel jest--he cries, as some one flings
The sparkling drops in sport or shew of ire--
O shameless, O contempt of holy things.
But never of their wanton play they tire,
As not athirst they sit beside the springs,
While he must quench in death his lost desire.
The image of thy love, rising on dark
And desperate days over my sullen sea,
Wakens again fresh hope and peace in me,
Gleaming above upon my groaning bark.
Whate'er my sorrow be, I then may hark
A loving voice: whate'er my terror be,
This heavenly comfort still I win from thee,
To shine my lodestar that wert once my mark.
Prodigal nature makes us but to taste
One perfect joy, which given she niggard grows;
And lest her precious gift should run to waste,
Adds to its loss a thousand lesser woes:
So to the memory of the gift that graced
Her hand, her graceless hand more grace bestows.
In this neglected, ruin'd edifice
Of works unperfected and broken schemes,
Where is the promise of my early dreams,
The smile of beauty and the pearl of price?
No charm is left now that could once entice
Wind-wavering fortune from her golden streams,
And full in flight decrepit purpose seems,
Trailing the banner of his old device.
Within the house a frore and numbing air
Has chill'd endeavour: sickly memories reign
In every room, and ghosts are on the stair:
And hope behind the dusty window-pane
Watches the days go by, and bow'd with care
Forecasts her last reproach and mortal stain.
Once I would say, before thy vision came,
My joy, my life, my love, and with some kind
Of knowledge speak, and think I knew my mind
Of heaven and hope, and each word hit its aim.
Whate'er their sounds be, now all mean the same,
Denoting each the fair that none can find;
Or if I say them, 'tis as one long blind
Forgets the sights that he was used to name.
Now if men speak of love, 'tis not my love;
Nor are their hopes nor joys mine, nor their life
Of praise the life that I think honour of:
Nay tho' they turn from house and child and wife
And self, and in the thought of heaven above
Hold, as do I, all mortal things at strife.
Since then 'tis only pity looking back,
Fear looking forward, and the busy mind
Will in one woeful moment more upwind
Than lifelong years unroll of bitter or black;
What is man's privilege, his hoarding knack
Of memory with foreboding so combined,
Whereby he comes to dream he hath of kind
The perpetuity which all things lack?
Which but to hope is doubtful joy, to have
Being a continuance of what, alas,
We mourn, and scarcely hear with to the grave;
Or something so unknown that it o'erpass
The thought of comfort, and the sense that gave
Cannot consider it thro' any glass.
Come gentle sleep, I woo thee: come and take
Not now the child into thine arms, from fright
Composed by drowsy tune and shaded light,
Whom ignorant of thee thou didst nurse and make;
Nor now the boy, who scorn'd thee for the sake
Of growing knowledge or mysterious night,
Tho' with fatigue thou didst his limbs invite,
And heavily weigh the eyes that would not wake;
No, nor the man severe, who from his best
Failing, alert fled to thee, that his breath,
Blood, force and fire should come at morn redrest;
But me; from whom thy comfort tarrieth,
For all my wakeful prayer sent without rest
To thee, O shew and shadow of my death.
The spirit's eager sense for sad or gay
Filleth with what he will our vessel full:
Be joy his bent, he waiteth not joy's day
But like a child at any toy will pull:
If sorrow, he will weep for fancy's sake,
And spoil heaven's plenty with forbidden care.
What fortune most denies we slave to take;
Nor can fate load us more than we can bear.
Since pleasure with the having disappeareth,
He who hath least in hand hath most at heart,
While he keep hope: as he who alway feareth
A grief that never comes hath yet the smart;
And heavier far is our self-wrought distress,
For when God sendeth sorrow, it doth bless.
The world comes not to an end: her city-hives
Swarm with the tokens of a changeless trade,
With rolling wheel, driver and flagging jade,
Rich men and beggars, children, priests and wives.
New homes on old are set, as lives on lives;
Invention with invention overlaid:
But still or tool or toy or book or blade
Shaped for the hand, that holds and toils and strives.
The men to-day toil as their fathers taught,
With little better'd means; for works depend
On works and overlap, and thought on thought:
And thro' all change the smiles of hope amend
The weariest face, the same love changed in nought:
In this thing too the world comes not to an end.
O my uncared-for songs, what are ye worth,
That in my secret book with so much care
I write you, this one here and that one there,
Marking the time and order of your birth?
How, with a fancy so unkind to mirth,
A sense so hard, a style so worn and bare,
Look ye for any welcome anywhere
From any shelf or heart-home on the earth?
Should others ask you this, say then I yearn'd
To write you such as once, when I was young,
Finding I should have loved and thereto turn'd.
'Twere something yet to live again among
The gentle youth beloved, and where I learn'd
My art, be there remember'd for my song.
Who takes the census of the living dead,
Ere the day come when memory shall o'ercrowd
The kingdom of their fame, and for that proud
And airy people find no room nor stead?
Ere hoarding Time, that ever thrusteth back
The fairest treasures of his ancient store,
Better with best confound, so he may pack
His greedy gatherings closer, more and more?
Let the true Muse rewrite her sullied page,
And purge her story of the men of hate,
That they go dirgeless down to Satan's rage
With all else foul, deform'd and miscreate:
She hath full toil to keep the names of love
Honour'd on earth, as they are bright above.
I heard great Hector sounding war's alarms,
Where thro' the listless ghosts chiding he strode,
As tho' the Greeks besieged his last abode,
And he his Troy's hope still, her king-at-arms.
But on those gentle meads, which Lethe charms
With weary oblivion, his passion glow'd
Like the cold night-worm's candle, and only show'd
Such mimic flame as neither heats nor harms.
'Twas plain to read, even by those shadows quaint,
How rude catastrophe had dim'd his day,
And blighted all his cheer with stern complaint:
To arms! to arms! what more the voice would say
Was swallow'd in the valleys, and grew faint
Upon the thin air, as he pass'd away.
Since not the enamour'd sun with glance more fond
Kisses the foliage of his sacred tree,
Than doth my waking thought arise on thee,
Loving none near thee, like thee nor beyond;
Nay, since I am sworn thy slave, and in the bond
Is writ my promise of eternity
Since to such high hope thou'st encouraged me,
That if thou look but from me I despond;
Since thou'rt my all in all, O think of this:
Think of the dedication of my youth:
Think of my loyalty, my joy, my bliss:
Think of my sorrow, my despair and ruth,
My sheer annihilation if I miss:
Think--if thou shouldst be false--think of thy truth.
These meagre rhymes, which a returning mood
Sometimes o'errateth, I as oft despise;
And knowing them illnatured, stiff and rude,
See them as others with contemptuous eyes.
Nay, and I wonder less at God's respect
For man, a minim jot in time and space,
Than at the soaring faith of His elect,
That gift of gifts, the comfort of His grace.
O truth unsearchable, O heavenly love,
Most infinitely tender, so to touch
The work that we can meanly reckon of:
Surely--I say--we are favour'd overmuch.
But of this wonder, what doth most amaze
Is that we know our love is held for praise.
Beauty sat with me all the summer day,
Awaiting the sure triumph of her eye;
Nor mark'd I till we parted, how, hard by,
Love in her train stood ready for his prey.
She, as too proud to join herself the fray,
Trusting too much to her divine ally,
When she saw victory tarry, chid him--"Why
Dost thou not at one stroke this rebel slay?"
Then generous Love, who holds my heart in fee,
Told of our ancient truce: so from the fight
We straight withdrew our forces, all the three.
Baffled but not dishearten'd she took flight
Scheming new tactics: Love came home with me,
And prompts my measured verses as I write.
In autumn moonlight, when the white air wan
Is fragrant in the wake of summer hence,
'Tis sweet to sit entranced, and muse thereon
In melancholy and godlike indolence:
When the proud spirit, lull'd by mortal prime
To fond pretence of immortality,
Vieweth all moments from the birth of time,
All things whate'er have been or yet shall be.
And like the garden, where the year is spent,
The ruin of old life is full of yearning,
Mingling poetic rapture of lament
With flowers and sunshine of spring's sure returning;
Only in visions of the white air wan
By godlike fancy seized and dwelt upon.
When first I saw thee, dearest, if I say
The spells that conjure back the hour and place,
And evermore I look upon thy face,
As in the spring of years long pass'd away;
No fading of thy beauty's rich array,
No detriment of age on thee I trace,
But time's defeat written in spoils of grace,
From rivals robb'd, whom thou didst pity and slay.
So hath thy growth been, thus thy faith is true,
Unchanged in change, still to my growing sense,
To life's desire the same, and nothing new:
But as thou wert in dream and prescience
At love's arising, now thou stand'st to view
In the broad noon of his magnificence.
'Twas on the very day winter took leave
Of those fair fields I love, when to the skies
The fragrant Earth was smiling in surprise
At that her heaven-descended, quick reprieve,
I wander'd forth my sorrow to relieve
Yet walk'd amid sweet pleasure in such wise
As Adam went alone in Paradise,
Before God of His pity fashion'd Eve.
And out of tune with all the joy around
I laid me down beneath a flowering tree,
And o'er my senses crept a sleep profound;
In which it seem'd that thou wert given to me,
Rending my body, where with hurried sound
I feel my heart beat, when I think of thee.
Love that I know, love I am wise in, love,
My strength, my pride, my grace, my skill untaught,
My faith here upon earth, my hope above,
My contemplation and perpetual thought:
The pleasure of my fancy, my heart's fire,
My joy, my peace, my praise, my happy theme,
The aim of all my doing, my desire
Of being, my life by day, by night my dream:
Love, my sweet melancholy, my distress,
My pain, my doubt, my trouble, my despair,
My only folly and unhappiness,
And in my careless moments still my care:
O love, sweet love, earthly love, love difvine,
Say'st thou to-day, O love, that thou art mine?
The dark and serious angel, who so long
Vex'd his immortal strength in charge of me,
Hath smiled for joy and fled in liberty
To take his pastime with the peerless throng.
Oft had I done his noble keeping wrong,
Wounding his heart to wonder what might be
God's purpose in a soul of such degree;
And there he had left me but for mandate strong.
But seeing thee with me now, his task at close
He knoweth, and wherefore he was bid to stay,
And work confusion of so many foes:
The thanks that he doth look for, here I pay,
Yet fear some heavenly envy, as he goes
Unto what great reward I cannot say.
I will be what God made me, nor protest
Against the bent of genius in my time,
That science of my friends robs all the best,
While I love beauty, and was born to rhyme.
Be they our mighty men, and let me dwell
In shadow among the mighty shades of old,
With love's forsaken palace for my cell;
Whence I look forth and all the world behold,
And say, These better days, in best things worse,
This bastardy of time's magnificence,
Will mend in fashion and throw off the curse,
To crown new love with higher excellence.
Curs'd tho' I be to live my life alone,
My toil is for man's joy, his joy my own.
I live on hope and that I think do all
Who come into this world, and since I see
Myself in swim with such good company,
I take my comfort whatsoe'er befall.
I abide and abide, as if more stout and tall
My spirit would grow by waiting like a tree
And, clear of others' toil, it pleaseth me
In dreams their quick ambition to forestall
And if thro' careless eagerness I slide
To some accomplishment, I give my voice
Still to desire, and in desire abide.
I have no stake abroad; if I rejoice
In what is done or doing, I confide
Neither to friend nor foe my secret choice.
Ye blessed saints, that now in heaven enjoy
The purchase of those tears, the world's disdain,
Doth Love still with his war your peace annoy,
Or hath Death freed you from his ancient pain?
Have ye no springtide, and no burst of May
In flowers and leafy trees, when solemn night
Pants with love-music, and the holy day
Breaks on the ear with songs of heavenly light?
What make ye and what strive for? keep ye thought
Of us, or in new excellence divine
Is old forgot? or do ye count for nought
What the Greek did and what the Florentine?
We keep your memories well : O in your store
Live not our best joys treasured evermore?
Ah heavenly joy But who hath ever heard,
Who hath seen joy, or who shall ever find
Joy's language? There is neither speech nor word
Nought but itself to teach it to mankind.
Scarce in our twenty thousand painful days
We may touch something: but there lives--beyond
The best of art, or nature's kindest phase--
The hope whereof our spirit is fain and fond:
The cause of beauty given to man's desires
Writ in the expectancy of starry skies,
The faith which gloweth in our fleeting fires,
The aim of all the good that here we prize;
Which but to love, pursue and pray for well
Maketh earth heaven, and to forget it, hell.
My wearied heart, whenever, after all,
Its loves and yearnings shall be told complete,
When gentle death shall bid it cease to beat,
And from all dear illusions disenthrall:
However then thou shalt appear to call
My fearful heart, since down at others' feet
It bade me kneel so oft, I'll not retreat
From thee, nor fear before thy feet to fall.
And I shall say, "Receive this loving heart
Which err'd in sorrow only; and in sin
Took no delight; but being forced apart
From thee, without thee hoping thee to win,
Most prized what most thou madest as thou art
On earth, till heaven were open to enter in."
Dreary was winter, wet with changeful sting
Of clinging snowfall and fast-flying frost;
And bitterer northwinds then withheld the spring,
That dallied with her promise till 'twas lost.
A sunless and half-hearted summer drown'd
The flowers in needful and unwelcom'd rain;
And Autumn with a sad smile fled uncrown'd
From fruitless orchards and unripen'd grain.
But could the skies of this most desolate year
In its last month learn with our love to glow,
Men yet should rank its cloudless atmosphere
Above the sunsets of five years ago:
Of my great praise too part should be its own,
Now reckon'd peerless for thy love alone
Away now, lovely Muse, roam and be free:
Our commerce ends for aye, thy task is done:
Tho' to win thee I left all else unwon,
Thou, whom I most have won, art not for me.
My first desire, thou too forgone must be,
Thou too, O much lamented now, tho' none
Will turn to pity thy forsaken son,
Nor thy divine sisters will weep for thee.
None will weep for thee : thou return, O Muse,
To thy Sicilian fields I once have been
On thy loved hills, and where thou first didst use
Thy sweetly balanced rhyme, O thankless queen,
Have pluck'd and wreath'd thy flowers; but do thou choose
Some happier brow to wear thy garlands green.
Eternal Father, who didst all create,
In whom we live, and to whose bosom move,
To all men be Thy name known, which is Love,
Till its loud praises sound at heaven's high gate.
Perfect Thy kingdom in our passing state,
That here on earth Thou may'st as well approve
Our service, as Thou ownest theirs above,
Whose joy we echo and in pain await.
Grant body and soul each day their daily bread
And should in spite of grace fresh woe begin,
Even as our anger soon is past and dead
Be Thy remembrance mortal of our sin:
By Thee in paths of peace Thy sheep be led,
And in the vale of terror comforted.
- quotes about Thanksgiving
- quotes about speed
- quotes about nature
- quotes about swimming
- quotes about snow
- quotes about pharaohs
- quotes about birds
- quotes about Greece
- quotes about perfection
The Last Walk In Autumn
O'er the bare woods, whose outstretched hands
Plead with the leaden heavens in vain,
I see, beyond the valley lands,
The sea's long level dim with rain.
Around me all things, stark and dumb,
Seem praying for the snows to come,
And, for the summer bloom and greenness gone,
With winter's sunset lights and dazzling morn atone.
Along the river's summer walk,
The withered tufts of asters nod;
And trembles on its arid stalk
The boar plume of the golden-rod.
And on a ground of sombre fir,
And azure-studded juniper,
The silver birch its buds of purple shows,
And scarlet berries tell where bloomed the sweet wild-rose!
With mingled sound of horns and bells,
A far-heard clang, the wild geese fly,
Storm-sent, from Arctic moors and fells,
Like a great arrow through the sky,
Two dusky lines converged in one,
Chasing the southward-flying sun;
While the brave snow-bird and the hardy jay
Call to them from the pines, as if to bid them stay.
I passed this way a year ago
The wind blew south; the noon of day
Was warm as June's; and save that snow
Flecked the low mountains far away,
And that the vernal-seeming breeze
Mocked faded grass and leafless trees,
I might have dreamed of summer as I lay,
Watching the fallen leaves with the soft wind at play.
Since then, the winter blasts have piled
The white pagodas of the snow
On these rough slopes, and, strong and wild,
Yon river, in its overflow
Of spring-time rain and sun, set free,
Crashed with its ices to the sea;
And over these gray fields, then green and gold,
The summer corn has waved, the thunder's organ rolled.
Rich gift of God! A year of time
What pomp of rise and shut of day,
What hues wherewith our Northern clime
Makes autumn's dropping woodlands gay,
What airs outblown from ferny dells,
And clover-bloom and sweetbrier smells,
What songs of brooks and birds, what fruits and flowers,
Green woods and moonlit snows, have in its round been ours!
I know not how, in other lands,
The changing seasons come and go;
What splendors fall on Syrian sands,
What purple lights on Alpine snow!
Nor how the pomp of sunrise waits
On Venice at her watery gates;
A dream alone to me is Arno's vale,
And the Alhambra's halls are but a traveller's tale.
Yet, on life's current, he who drifts
Is one with him who rows or sails
And he who wanders widest lifts
No more of beauty's jealous veils
Than he who from his doorway sees
The miracle of flowers and trees,
Feels the warm Orient in the noonday air,
And from cloud minarets hears the sunset call to prayer!
The eye may well be glad that looks
Where Pharpar's fountains rise and fall;
But he who sees his native brooks
Laugh in the sun, has seen them all.
The marble palaces of Ind
Rise round him in the snow and wind;
From his lone sweetbrier Persian Hafiz smiles,
And Rome's cathedral awe is in his woodland aisles.
And thus it is my fancy blends
The near at hand and far and rare;
And while the same horizon bends
Above the silver-sprinkled hair
Which flashed the light of morning skies
On childhood's wonder-lifted eyes,
Within its round of sea and sky and field,
Earth wheels with all her zones, the Kosmos stands revealed.
And thus the sick man on his bed,
The toiler to his task-work bound,
Behold their prison-walls outspread,
Their clipped horizon widen round!
While freedom-giving fancy waits,
Like Peter's angel at the gates,
The power is theirs to baffle care and pain,
To bring the lost world back, and make it theirs again!
What lack of goodly company,
When masters of the ancient lyre
Obey my call, and trace for me
Their words of mingled tears and fire!
I talk with Bacon, grave and wise,
I read the world with Pascal's eyes;
And priest and sage, with solemn brows austere,
And poets, garland-bound, the Lords of Thought, draw near.
Methinks, O friend, I hear thee say,
'In vain the human heart we mock;
Bring living guests who love the day,
Not ghosts who fly at crow of cock!
The herbs we share with flesh and blood
Are better than ambrosial food
With laurelled shades.' I grant it, nothing loath,
But doubly blest is he who can partake of both.
He who might Plato's banquet grace,
Have I not seen before me sit,
And watched his puritanic face,
With more than Eastern wisdom lit?
Shrewd mystic! who, upon the back
Of his Poor Richard's Almanac,
Writing the Sufi's song, the Gentoo's dream,
Links Manu's age of thought to Fulton's age of steam!
Here too, of answering love secure,
Have I not welcomed to my hearth
The gentle pilgrim troubadour,
Whose songs have girdled half the earth;
Whose pages, like the magic mat
Whereon the Eastern lover sat,
Have borne me over Rhine-land's purple vines,
And Nubia's tawny sands, and Phrygia's mountain pines!
And he, who to the lettered wealth
Of ages adds the lore unpriced,
The wisdom and the moral health,
The ethics of the school of Christ;
The statesman to his holy trust,
As the Athenian archon, just,
Struck down, exiled like him for truth alone,
Has he not graced my home with beauty all his own?
What greetings smile, what farewells wave,
What loved ones enter and depart!
The good, the beautiful, the brave,
The Heaven-lent treasures of the heart!
How conscious seems the frozen sod
And beechen slope whereon they trod
The oak-leaves rustle, and the dry grass bends
Beneath the shadowy feet of lost or absent friends.
Then ask not why to these bleak hills
I cling, as clings the tufted moss,
To bear the winter's lingering chills,
The mocking spring's perpetual loss.
I dream of lands where summer smiles,
And soft winds blow from spicy isles,
But scarce would Ceylon's breath of flowers be sweet,
Could I not feel thy soil, New England, at my feet!
At times I long for gentler skies,
And bathe in dreams of softer air,
But homesick tears would fill the eyes
That saw the Cross without the Bear.
The pine must whisper to the palm,
The north-wind break the tropic calm;
And with the dreamy languor of the Line,
The North's keen virtue blend, and strength to beauty join.
Better to stem with heart and hand
The roaring tide of life, than lie,
Unmindful, on its flowery strand,
Of God's occasions drifting by
Better with naked nerve to bear
The needles of this goading air,
Than, in the lap of sensual ease, forego
The godlike power to do, the godlike aim to know.
Home of my heart! to me more fair
Than gay Versailles or Windsor's halls,
The painted, shingly town-house where
The freeman's vote for Freedom falls!
The simple roof where prayer is made,
Than Gothic groin and colonnade;
The living temple of the heart of man,
Than Rome's sky-mocking vault, or many-spired Milan!
More dear thy equal village schools,
Where rich and poor the Bible read,
Than classic halls where Priestcraft rules,
And Learning wears the chains of Creed;
Thy glad Thanksgiving, gathering in
The scattered sheaves of home and kin,
Than the mad license ushering Lenten pains,
Or holidays of slaves who laugh and dance in chains.
And sweet homes nestle in these dales,
And perch along these wooded swells;
And, blest beyond Arcadian vales,
They hear the sound of Sabbath bells!
Here dwells no perfect man sublime,
Nor woman winged before her time,
But with the faults and follies of the race,
Old home-bred virtues hold their not unhonored place.
Here manhood struggles for the sake
Of mother, sister, daughter, wife,
The graces and the loves which make
The music of the march of life;
And woman, in her daily round
Of duty, walks on holy ground.
No unpaid menial tills the soil, nor here
Is the bad lesson learned at human rights to sneer.
Then let the icy north-wind blow
The trumpets of the coming storm,
To arrowy sleet and blinding snow
Yon slanting lines of rain transform.
Young hearts shall hail the drifted cold,
As gayly as I did of old;
And I, who watch them through the frosty pane,
Unenvious, live in them my boyhood o'er again.
And I will trust that He who heeds
The life that hides in mead and wold,
Who hangs yon alder's crimson beads,
And stains these mosses green and gold,
Will still, as He hath done, incline
His gracious care to me and mine;
Grant what we ask aright, from wrong debar,
And, as the earth grows dark, make brighter every star!
I have not seen, I may not see,
My hopes for man take form in fact,
But God will give the victory
In due time; in that faith I act.
And lie who sees the future sure,
The baffling present may endure,
And bless, meanwhile, the unseen Hand that leads
The heart's desires beyond the halting step of deeds.
And thou, my song, I send thee forth,
Where harsher songs of mine have flown;
Go, find a place at home and hearth
Where'er thy singer's name is known;
Revive for him the kindly thought
Of friends; and they who love him not,
Touched by some strain of thine, perchance may take
The hand he proffers all, and thank him for thy sake.
The Monks Of Catalonia
TO you, my friends, allow me to detail,
The feats of monks in Catalonia's vale,
Where oft the holy fathers pow'rs displayed,
And showed such charity to wife and maid,
That o'er their minds sweet fascination reigned,
And made them think, they Paradise had gained.
SUCH characters oft preciously advise,
And youthful easy female minds surprise,
The beauteous FAIR encircle with their net,
And, of the feeling heart, possession get:
Work in the holy vineyard, you may guess,
And, as our tale will show, with full success.
IN times of old, when learning 'mong the FAIR,
Enough to read the testament, was rare,
(Times howsoe'er thought difficult to quote,)
A swarm of monks of gormandizing note,
Arrived and fixed themselves within a town,
For young and beauteous belles of great renown,
While, of gallants, there seemed but very few,
Though num'rous aged husbands you might view.
A NOBLE chapel soon the fathers raised,
To which the females ran and highly praised,
Surveyed it o'er and confidently thought,
'Twas there, of course, salvation should be sought.
And when their faith had thoroughly been proved,
To gain their point the monks the veil removed.--
Good father Andrew scorned to use finesse,
And in discourse the sex would thus address.
IF any thing prevent your sov'reign bliss,
And Paradise incautiously you miss,
Most certainly the evil will arise,
From keeping for your husbands large supplies,
Of what a surplus you have clearly got,
And more than requisite to them allot,
Without bestowing on your trusty friends,
The saving that to no one blessings lends.
PERHAPS you'll tell me, marriage boons we shun;
'Tis true, and Heav'n be praised enough is done,
Without those duties to require our share
You know from direful sin we guard the FAIR.
Ingratitude 's declared the height of crimes,
And God pronounced it such in early times;
For this eternally was Satan curst;
Howe'er you err, be careful of the worst.
Return to Heav'n your thanks for bounteous care,
And then to us a tithe of surplus spare,
Which costs you nothing worth a moment's thought;
And marks the zeal with which our faith is taught,
A claim legitimate our order opes,
Bestowed, for holy offices, by popes,
No charitable gift, but lawful right:
Priests well supported are a glorious sight.
Four times a year, exactly to a day,
Each wife this tithe should personally pay
Our holy saint requires that you submit:
'Tis founded on decrees of holy writ.
All Nature carefully the law reveres,
That gratitude and fealty endears.
NOW marriage works we rank as an estate,
And tithe is due for that at any rate.
We'll take it patiently, whate'er the toil:
Nor be o'er nice about the justful spoil.
Our order have not, you must surely know,
By many comforts, what we wish below.
'TIS right, however, that I now suggest,
Whatever passes must not be expressed;
But naught to husbands, parents, friends, reveal;
From ev'ry one the mysterious conceal.
Three words th' apostle taught: be these your care;
FAITH, CHARITY, and PRUDENCE learn to share.
THE holy father, by his fine discourse,
Delivered with the most impressive force,
Gave wonderous satisfaction and surprise,
And passed with all for Solomon the wise;
Few slept while Andrew preached, and ev'ry wife,
His precepts guarded as she would her life;
And these not solely treasured in the mind,
But showed to practise them the heart inclined,
Each hastened tithe to bring without delay,
And quarrelled who should be the first to pay;
Loud murmurs rang, and many city dames,
Were forced to keep till morn the friar's claims,
And HOLY CHURCH, not knowing what to do,
Such numbers seemed to be in paying cue,
At length was forced, without restraint, to say,
The Lord commands that, till a future day,
You give us time to breathe:--so large the lot,
To serve for present we enough have got;
Too much the whole at once, but by degrees,
Your tithe we'll take and all contrive to please.
With us arrange the hour you would be here,
And some to-day:--to-morrow more we'll cheer;
The whole in order, and you'll clearly see,
That SOFTLY with FAIRLY best agree.
THE sex inclined to follow this advice;
About receipts however they were not nice;
The entertainment greatly was admired,
And pure devotion all their bosoms fired,
A glass of cordial some apart received;
Good cheer was given, may be well believed;
Ten youthful dames brisk friar Fripart took,
Gay, airy, and engaging ev'ry look,
Who paid with pleasure all the monk could wish;
Some had fifteen:--some twelve to taste their dish;
Good friar Rock had twenty for his share,
And gave such satisfaction to the FAIR,
That some, to show they never grudged the price,
And proved their punctuality,--paid twice.
So much indeed, that satiated with ways,
That six long months engaged their nights and days:
They gladly credit would have given now,
But found the ladies would not this allow,
Believing it most positively wrong,
To keep whate'er might to the church belong.
No tithe arrears were any where around,
So zealous were the dames in duty found,
They often in advance paid holy dues,
How pure the monks!--how just the ladies views!
The friars used despatch alone with those,
That for their fascinating charms they chose,
And sent the sempiternals to bestow,
The tribute they had brought on those below,
For in the refuse tithes that were their lot,
The laicks oft pleasant pickings got.
In short 'twas difficult to say,
What charity was shown from day to day.
IT happened that one night a married dame,
Desirous to convey the monks their claim,
And walking with her spouse just by the spot,
Where dwelled the arch contrivers of the plot,
Good Heavens! said she, I well remember now,
I've business with a friar here, I vow;
'Twill presently be done if you'll but wait;
Religious duties we must ne'er abate.
What duties? cried the husband with surprise;
You're surely mad:--'tis midnight I surmise;
Confess yourself to-morrow if required;
The holy fathers are to bed retired.
That makes no difference, the lady cried.--
I think it does, the husband straight replied,
And thither I'll not let you go to-night:--
What heinous sins so terribly affright,
That in such haste the mind you wish to ease?
To-morrow morn repair whene'er you please:
YOU do me wrong, rejoined the charming fair;
I neither want confession nor a prayer,
But anxiously desire what is due to pay;
For if incautiously I should delay,
Long time 'would be ere I the monk should see,
With other matters he'll so busy be.
But what can you the holy fathers owe?
To which the lady said:--what don't you know?
A tithe, my dear, the friars always claim.--
What tithe? cried he; it surely has a name.
Not know! astonishingly, replied the wife.--
To which the husband answered:--On my life,
That women friars pay is very strange;
Will you particulars with me arrange?
How cunningly, said she, you seem to act;
Why clearly you're acquainted with the fact?
'Tis Hymeneal works:--What works? cried he--
Lord! said the dame, assuredly you see,
Why I had paid an hour ago or more
And you've prevented me when at the door;
I'm sure, of those who owe, I'm not the worst,
For I, in paying, always was the first.
THE husband quite astonished now appeared;
At once a hundred diff'rent ills he feared;
But questioning his wife howe'er, he found,
That many other dames who lived around,
Like her; in paying tithes, the monks obeyed,
Which consolation to his breast conveyed.
Poor innocent! she nothing wished to hide;
Said she, not one but tithe they make provide;
Good friar Aubrey takes your sister's dues;
To father Fabry Mrs. B's accrues;
The mayoress friar William likes to greet,
A monk more handsome scarcely you will meet;
And I to friar Gerard always go;
I wished this night to pay him all I owe.
ALAS! when tongues unbridled drop disguise,
What direful ills, what discords oft arise!
The cunning husband having thus obtained,
Particulars of what the fathers gained,
At first designed in secret to disclose,
Those scenes of fraud and matrimonial woes:
The mayor and citizens should know, he thought;
What dues were paid: what tithes the friars sought;
But since 'twas rather difficult to place,
Full credence, at the first, in such a case,
He judged it best to make the fellow speak,
To whom his wife had shown herself so weak.
FOR father Gerard in the morn he sent,
Who, unsuspecting, to the husband went,
When, in the presence of the injured wife,
He drew his sword and swore he'd take his life,
Unless the mystery he would disclose,
Which he reluctantly through terror chose.
Then having bound the friar hand and foot,
And in another room his lady put,
He sallied forth his hapless lot to tell,
And to the mayor exposed the wily spell;
The corporation next; then up and down,
The secret he divulged throughout the town.
A CRY for vengeance presently was heard;
The whole at once to slaughter, some preferred
While others would the place with fire surround,
And burn the house with those within it found.
Some wished to drown them, bound within their dress;
With various other projects you may guess;
But all agreed that death should be their lot,
And those for burning had most voices got.
WITHOUT delay they to the convent flew;
But when the holy mansion came in view,
Respect, the place of execution changed;
A citizen his barn for this arranged;
The crafty crew together were confined,
And in the blaze their wretched lives resigned,
While round the husbands danced at sound of drum,
And burnt whatever to their hands had come;
Naught 'scaped their fury, monks of all degrees,
Robes, mantles, capuchins, and mock decrees:
All perished properly within the flames;
But nothing more I find about the dames;
And friar Gerard, in another place,
Had met apart his merited disgrace.
Hymns Of The Marshes.
In my sleep I was fain of their fellowship, fain
Of the live-oak, the marsh, and the main.
The little green leaves would not let me alone in my sleep;
Up-breathed from the marshes, a message of range and of sweep,
Interwoven with waftures of wild sea-liberties, drifting,
Came through the lapped leaves sifting, sifting,
Came to the gates of sleep.
Then my thoughts, in the dark of the dungeon-keep
Of the Castle of Captives hid in the City of Sleep,
Upstarted, by twos and by threes assembling:
The gates of sleep fell a-trembling
Like as the lips of a lady that forth falter `Yes,'
Shaken with happiness:
The gates of sleep stood wide.
I have waked, I have come, my beloved! I might not abide:
I have come ere the dawn, O beloved, my live-oaks, to hide
In your gospelling glooms, -- to be
As a lover in heaven, the marsh my marsh and the sea my sea.
Tell me, sweet burly-bark'd, man-bodied Tree
That mine arms in the dark are embracing, dost know
From what fount are these tears at thy feet which flow?
They rise not from reason, but deeper inconsequent deeps.
Reason's not one that weeps.
What logic of greeting lies
Betwixt dear over-beautiful trees and the rain of the eyes?
O cunning green leaves, little masters! like as ye gloss
All the dull-tissued dark with your luminous darks that emboss
The vague blackness of night into pattern and plan,
(But would I could know, but would I could know,)
With your question embroid'ring the dark of the question of man, --
So, with your silences purfling this silence of man
While his cry to the dead for some knowledge is under the ban,
Under the ban, --
So, ye have wrought me
Designs on the night of our knowledge, -- yea, ye have taught me,
That haply we know somewhat more than we know.
Ye lispers, whisperers, singers in storms,
Ye consciences murmuring faiths under forms,
Ye ministers meet for each passion that grieves,
Friendly, sisterly, sweetheart leaves,
Oh, rain me down from your darks that contain me
Wisdoms ye winnow from winds that pain me, --
Sift down tremors of sweet-within-sweet
That advise me of more than they bring, -- repeat
Me the woods-smell that swiftly but now brought breath
From the heaven-side bank of the river of death, --
Teach me the terms of silence, -- preach me
The passion of patience, -- sift me, -- impeach me, --
And there, oh there
As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air,
Pray me a myriad prayer.
My gossip, the owl, -- is it thou
That out of the leaves of the low-hanging bough,
As I pass to the beach, art stirred?
Dumb woods, have ye uttered a bird?
* * * * *
Reverend Marsh, low-couched along the sea,
Old chemist, rapt in alchemy,
Distilling silence, -- lo,
That which our father-age had died to know --
The menstruum that dissolves all matter -- thou
Hast found it: for this silence, filling now
The globed clarity of receiving space,
This solves us all: man, matter, doubt, disgrace,
Death, love, sin, sanity,
Must in yon silence' clear solution lie.
Too clear! That crystal nothing who'll peruse?
The blackest night could bring us brighter news.
Yet precious qualities of silence haunt
Round these vast margins, ministrant.
Oh, if thy soul's at latter gasp for space,
With trying to breathe no bigger than thy race
Just to be fellow'd, when that thou hast found
No man with room, or grace enough of bound
To entertain that New thou tell'st, thou art, --
'Tis here, 'tis here thou canst unhand thy heart
And breathe it free, and breathe it free,
By rangy marsh, in lone sea-liberty.
The tide's at full: the marsh with flooded streams
Glimmers, a limpid labyrinth of dreams.
Each winding creek in grave entrancement lies
A rhapsody of morning-stars. The skies
Shine scant with one forked galaxy, --
The marsh brags ten: looped on his breast they lie.
Oh, what if a sound should be made!
Oh, what if a bound should be laid
To this bow-and-string tension of beauty and silence a-spring, --
To the bend of beauty the bow, or the hold of silence the string!
I fear me, I fear me yon dome of diaphanous gleam
Will break as a bubble o'er-blown in a dream, --
Yon dome of too-tenuous tissues of space and of night,
Over-weighted with stars, over-freighted with light,
Over-sated with beauty and silence, will seem
But a bubble that broke in a dream,
If a bound of degree to this grace be laid,
Or a sound or a motion made.
But no: it is made: list! somewhere, -- mystery, where?
In the leaves? in the air?
In my heart? is a motion made:
'Tis a motion of dawn, like a flicker of shade on shade.
In the leaves 'tis palpable: low multitudinous stirring
Upwinds through the woods; the little ones, softly conferring,
Have settled my lord's to be looked for; so; they are still;
But the air and my heart and the earth are a-thrill, --
And look where the wild duck sails round the bend of the river, --
And look where a passionate shiver
Expectant is bending the blades
Of the marsh-grass in serial shimmers and shades, --
And invisible wings, fast fleeting, fast fleeting,
The dark overhead as my heart beats, -- and steady and free
Is the ebb-tide flowing from marsh to sea --
(Run home, little streams,
With your lapfulls of stars and dreams), --
And a sailor unseen is hoisting a-peak,
For list, down the inshore curve of the creek
How merrily flutters the sail, --
And lo, in the East! Will the East unveil?
The East is unveiled, the East hath confessed
A flush: 'tis dead; 'tis alive: 'tis dead, ere the West
Was aware of it: nay, 'tis abiding, 'tis unwithdrawn:
Have a care, sweet Heaven! 'Tis Dawn.
Now a dream of a flame through that dream of a flush is uprolled:
To the zenith ascending, a dome of undazzling gold
Is builded, in shape as a bee-hive, from out of the sea:
The hive is of gold undazzling, but oh, the Bee,
The star-fed Bee, the build-fire Bee,
Of dazzling gold is the great Sun-Bee
That shall flash from the hive-hole over the sea.
Yet now the dew-drop, now the morning gray,
Shall live their little lucid sober day
Ere with the sun their souls exhale away.
Now in each pettiest personal sphere of dew
The summ'd morn shines complete as in the blue
Big dew-drop of all heaven: with these lit shrines
O'er-silvered to the farthest sea-confines,
The sacramental marsh one pious plain
Of worship lies. Peace to the ante-reign
Of Mary Morning, blissful mother mild,
Minded of nought but peace, and of a child.
Not slower than Majesty moves, for a mean and a measure
Of motion, -- not faster than dateless Olympian leisure
Might pace with unblown ample garments from pleasure to pleasure, --
The wave-serrate sea-rim sinks unjarring, unreeling,
Forever revealing, revealing, revealing,
Edgewise, bladewise, halfwise, wholewise, -- 'tis done!
Good-morrow, lord Sun!
With several voice, with ascription one,
The woods and the marsh and the sea and my soul
Unto thee, whence the glittering stream of all morrows doth roll,
Cry good and past-good and most heavenly morrow, lord Sun.
O Artisan born in the purple, -- Workman Heat, --
Parter of passionate atoms that travail to meet
And be mixed in the death-cold oneness, -- innermost Guest
At the marriage of elements, -- fellow of publicans, -- blest
King in the blouse of flame, that loiterest o'er
The idle skies yet laborest fast evermore, --
Thou, in the fine forge-thunder, thou, in the beat
Of the heart of a man, thou Motive, -- Laborer Heat:
Yea, Artist, thou, of whose art yon sea's all news,
With his inshore greens and manifold mid-sea blues,
Pearl-glint, shell-tint, ancientest perfectest hues
Ever shaming the maidens, -- lily and rose
Confess thee, and each mild flame that glows
In the clarified virginal bosoms of stones that shine,
It is thine, it is thine:
Thou chemist of storms, whether driving the winds a-swirl
Or a-flicker the subtiler essences polar that whirl
In the magnet earth, -- yea, thou with a storm for a heart,
Rent with debate, many-spotted with question, part
From part oft sundered, yet ever a globed light,
Yet ever the artist, ever more large and bright
Than the eye of a man may avail of: -- manifold One,
I must pass from thy face, I must pass from the face of the Sun:
Old Want is awake and agog, every wrinkle a-frown;
The worker must pass to his work in the terrible town:
But I fear not, nay, and I fear not the thing to be done;
I am strong with the strength of my lord the Sun:
How dark, how dark soever the race that must needs be run,
I am lit with the Sun.
Oh, never the mast-high run of the seas
Of traffic shall hide thee,
Never the hell-colored smoke of the factories
Never the reek of the time's fen-politics
And ever my heart through the night shall with knowledge abide thee,
And ever by day shall my spirit, as one that hath tried thee,
Labor, at leisure, in art, -- till yonder beside thee
My soul shall float, friend Sun,
The day being done.
Baltimore, December, 1880.
Sail on, sail on, fair cousin Cloud:
Oh loiter hither from the sea.
Still-eyed and shadow-brow'd,
Steal off from yon far-drifting crowd,
And come and brood upon the marsh with me.
Yon laboring low horizon-smoke,
Yon stringent sail, toil not for thee
Nor me; did heaven's stroke
The whole deep with drown'd commerce choke,
No pitiless tease of risk or bottomry
Would to thy rainy office close
Thy will, or lock mine eyes from tears,
Part wept for traders'-woes,
Part for that ventures mean as those
In issue bind such sovereign hopes and fears.
-- Lo, Cloud, thy downward countenance stares
Blank on the blank-faced marsh, and thou
Mindest of dark affairs;
Thy substance seems a warp of cares;
Like late wounds run the wrinkles on thy brow.
Well may'st thou pause, and gloom, and stare,
A visible conscience: I arraign
Thee, criminal Cloud, of rare
Contempts on Mercy, Right, and Prayer, --
Of murders, arsons, thefts, -- of nameless stain.
(Yet though life's logic grow as gray
As thou, my soul's not in eclipse.)
Cold Cloud, but yesterday
Thy lightning slew a child at play,
And then a priest with prayers upon his lips
For his enemies, and then a bright
Lady that did but ope the door
Upon the storming night
To let a beggar in, -- strange spite, --
And then thy sulky rain refused to pour
Till thy quick torch a barn had burned
Where twelve months' store of victual lay,
A widow's sons had earned;
Which done, thy floods with winds returned, --
The river raped their little herd away.
What myriad righteous errands high
Thy flames MIGHT run on! In that hour
Thou slewest the child, oh why
Not rather slay Calamity,
Breeder of Pain and Doubt, infernal Power?
Or why not plunge thy blades about
Some maggot politician throng
Swarming to parcel out
The body of a land, and rout
The maw-conventicle, and ungorge Wrong?
What the cloud doeth
The Lord knoweth,
The cloud knoweth not.
What the artist doeth,
The Lord knoweth;
Knoweth the artist not?
Well-answered! -- O dear artists, ye
-- Whether in forms of curve or hue
Or tone your gospels be --
Say wrong `This work is not of me,
But God:' it is not true, it is not true.
Awful is Art because 'tis free.
The artist trembles o'er his plan
Where men his Self must see.
Who made a song or picture, he
Did it, and not another, God nor man.
My Lord is large, my Lord is strong:
Giving, He gave: my me is mine.
How poor, how strange, how wrong,
To dream He wrote the little song
I made to Him with love's unforced design!
Oh, not as clouds dim laws have plann'd
To strike down Good and fight for Ill, --
Oh, not as harps that stand
In the wind and sound the wind's command:
Each artist -- gift of terror! -- owns his will.
For thee, Cloud, -- if thou spend thine all
Upon the South's o'er-brimming sea
That needs thee not; or crawl
To the dry provinces, and fall
Till every convert clod shall give to thee
Green worship; if thou grow or fade,
Bring on delight or misery,
Fly east or west, be made
Snow, hail, rain, wind, grass, rose, light, shade;
What matters it to thee? There is no thee.
Pass, kinsman Cloud, now fair and mild:
Discharge the will that's not thine own.
I work in freedom wild,
But work, as plays a little child,
Sure of the Father, Self, and Love, alone.
III. Marsh Song -- At Sunset.
Over the monstrous shambling sea,
Over the Caliban sea,
Bright Ariel-cloud, thou lingerest:
Oh wait, oh wait, in the warm red West, --
Thy Prospero I'll be.
Over the humped and fishy sea,
Over the Caliban sea
O cloud in the West, like a thought in the heart
Of pardon, loose thy wing, and start,
And do a grace for me.
Over the huge and huddling sea,
Over the Caliban sea,
Bring hither my brother Antonio, -- Man, --
My injurer: night breaks the ban;
Brother, I pardon thee.
IV. The Marshes of Glynn.
Glooms of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven
With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven
Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs, --
Emerald twilights, --
Virginal shy lights,
Wrought of the leaves to allure to the whisper of vows,
When lovers pace timidly down through the green colonnades
Of the dim sweet woods, of the dear dark woods,
Of the heavenly woods and glades,
That run to the radiant marginal sand-beach within
The wide sea-marshes of Glynn; --
Beautiful glooms, soft dusks in the noon-day fire, --
Wildwood privacies, closets of lone desire,
Chamber from chamber parted with wavering arras of leaves, --
Cells for the passionate pleasure of prayer to the soul that grieves,
Pure with a sense of the passing of saints through the wood,
Cool for the dutiful weighing of ill with good; --
O braided dusks of the oak and woven shades of the vine,
While the riotous noon-day sun of the June-day long did shine
Ye held me fast in your heart and I held you fast in mine;
But now when the noon is no more, and riot is rest,
And the sun is a-wait at the ponderous gate of the West,
And the slant yellow beam down the wood-aisle doth seem
Like a lane into heaven that leads from a dream, --
Ay, now, when my soul all day hath drunken the soul of the oak,
And my heart is at ease from men, and the wearisome sound of the stroke
Of the scythe of time and the trowel of trade is low,
And belief overmasters doubt, and I know that I know,
And my spirit is grown to a lordly great compass within,
That the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn
Will work me no fear like the fear they have wrought me of yore
When length was fatigue, and when breadth was but bitterness sore,
And when terror and shrinking and dreary unnamable pain
Drew over me out of the merciless miles of the plain, --
Oh, now, unafraid, I am fain to face
The vast sweet visage of space.
To the edge of the wood I am drawn, I am drawn,
Where the gray beach glimmering runs, as a belt of the dawn,
For a mete and a mark
To the forest-dark: --
Affable live-oak, leaning low, --
Thus -- with your favor -- soft, with a reverent hand,
(Not lightly touching your person, Lord of the land!)
Bending your beauty aside, with a step I stand
On the firm-packed sand,
By a world of marsh that borders a world of sea.
Sinuous southward and sinuous northward the shimmering band
Of the sand-beach fastens the fringe of the marsh to the folds of the land.
Inward and outward to northward and southward the beach-lines linger and curl
As a silver-wrought garment that clings to and follows
the firm sweet limbs of a girl.
Vanishing, swerving, evermore curving again into sight,
Softly the sand-beach wavers away to a dim gray looping of light.
And what if behind me to westward the wall of the woods stands high?
The world lies east: how ample, the marsh and the sea and the sky!
A league and a league of marsh-grass, waist-high, broad in the blade,
Green, and all of a height, and unflecked with a light or a shade,
Stretch leisurely off, in a pleasant plain,
To the terminal blue of the main.
Oh, what is abroad in the marsh and the terminal sea?
Somehow my soul seems suddenly free
From the weighing of fate and the sad discussion of sin,
By the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn.
Ye marshes, how candid and simple and nothing-withholding and free
Ye publish yourselves to the sky and offer yourselves to the sea!
Tolerant plains, that suffer the sea and the rains and the sun,
Ye spread and span like the catholic man who hath mightily won
God out of knowledge and good out of infinite pain
And sight out of blindness and purity out of a stain.
As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
In the freedom that fills all the space 'twixt the marsh and the skies:
By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God:
Oh, like to the greatness of God is the greatness within
The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.
And the sea lends large, as the marsh: lo, out of his plenty the sea
Pours fast: full soon the time of the flood-tide must be:
Look how the grace of the sea doth go
About and about through the intricate channels that flow
Here and there,
Till his waters have flooded the uttermost creeks and the low-lying lanes,
And the marsh is meshed with a million veins,
That like as with rosy and silvery essences flow
In the rose-and-silver evening glow.
Farewell, my lord Sun!
The creeks overflow: a thousand rivulets run
'Twixt the roots of the sod; the blades of the marsh-grass stir;
Passeth a hurrying sound of wings that westward whirr;
Passeth, and all is still; and the currents cease to run;
And the sea and the marsh are one.
How still the plains of the waters be!
The tide is in his ecstasy.
The tide is at his highest height:
And it is night.
And now from the Vast of the Lord will the waters of sleep
Roll in on the souls of men,
But who will reveal to our waking ken
The forms that swim and the shapes that creep
Under the waters of sleep?
And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in
On the length and the breadth of the marvellous marshes of Glynn.
Alma; or, The Progress of the Mind. In Three Cantos. - Canto I.
Matthew met Richard, when or where
From story is not mighty clear:
Of many knotty points they spoke,
And pro and con by turns they took:
Rats half the manuscript have ate;
Dire hunger! which we still regret;
O! may they ne'er again digest
The horrors of so sad a feast;
Yet less our grief, if what remains,
Dear Jacob, by thy care and pains
Shall be to future times convey'd:
It thus begins:
** Here Matthew said,
Alma in verse, in prose, the mind,
By Aristotle's pen defined,
Throughout the body squat or tall,
, all in all;
And yet, slapdash, is all again
In every sinew, nerve, and vein;
Runs here and there, like Hamlet's ghost,
While every where she rules the roast.
This system, Richard, we are told
The men of Oxford firmly hold:
The Cambridge wits, you know, deny
They say (for in good truth they speak
With small respect of that old Greek)
That, putting all his words together,
'Tis three blue beans in one blue bladder.
Alma, they strenuously maintain,
Sits cock-horse on her throne, the brain,
And from that seat of thought dispenses,
Her sovereign pleasure to the senses.
Two optic nerves, they say, she ties,
Like spectacle across the eyes,
By which the spirits bring her word
Whene'er the balls are fix'd or stirr'd;
How quick at Park and play they strike;
The duke they court; the toast they like;
And at St. James's turn their grace
From former friends, now out of place.
Without these aids, to be more serious,
Her power they hold had been precarious;
The eyes might have conspired her ruin,
And she not known what they were doing.
Foolish it had been and unkind
That they should see and she be blind.
Wise Nature, likewise, they suppose,
Has drawn two conduits down our nose:
Could Alma else with judgement tell
When cabbage stinks or roses smell?
Or who would ask for her opinion
Between an oyster and an onion?
For from most bodies, Dick, you know,
Some little bits ask leave to flow,
And as through these canals they roll,
Bring up a sample of the whole;
Like footmen running before coaches,
To tell the inn what lord approaches.
By nerves about our palate placed,
She likewise judges of the taste;
Else (dismal thought!) our warlike men
Might drink thick Port for fine Champaign,
And our ill-judging wives and daughters,
Mistake small-beer for citron-waters.
Hence, too, that she might better hear,
She sets a drum at either ear,
And loud or gentle, harsh or sweet,
Are but the alarums which they beat.
Last, to enjoy her sense of feeling,
(A thing she much delights to deal in)
A thousand little nerves she sends
Quite to our toes and fingers' ends,
And these, in gratitude, again
Return their spirits to the brain,
In which their figure being printed,
(As just before I think I hinted)
Alma inform'd can try the case,
As she had been upon the place.
Thus while the judge gives different journeys
To country counsel and attorneys,
He on the bench in quiet sits,
Deciding as they bring the writs.
The Pope thus prays and sleeps at Rome,
And very seldom stirs from home,
Yet sending forth his holy spies,
And having heard what they advise,
He rules the church's bless'd dominions,
And sets men's faith by his opinions.
The scholars of the Stagyrite,
Who for the old opinion fight,
Would make their modern friends confess
The difference but from more or less:
The Mind, say they, while you sustain
To hold her station in the brain,
You grant, at least, she is extended,
, the whole dispute is ended:
For till to-morrow should you plead,
From form and structure of the head,
The Mind as visibly is seen
Extended through the whole machine.
Why should all honour then be ta'en
From lower parts to load the brain,
When other limbs we plainly see
Each in his way as brisk as he?
For music, grant the head receives it,
It is the artist's hand that gives it:
And though the skull may wear the laurel,
The soldier's arm sustains the quarrel.
Besides, the nostrils, ears, and eyes,
Are not his parts, but his allies:
E'en what you here the tongue proclaim,
What could the head perform alone
If all their friendly aids were gone?
A foolish figure we must make,
Do nothing else but sleep and ake.
Nor matters it that you can show
How to the head the spirits go;
Those spirits started from some goal
Before they through the veins could roll;
Nor we should hold them much to blame
If they went back before they came.
If, therefore, as we must suppose,
They came from fingers and from toes,
Or toes or fingers, in this case,
Of numskull's self should take the place;
Disputing fair you grant this much,
That all sensation is but touch.
Dip but your toes into cold water,
Their correspondent teeth will chatter;
And strike the bottom of your feet,
You set your head into a heat.
The bully beat, and happy lover,
Confess that feeling lies all over.
Not here, Lucretius dares to teach
(As all our youth may learn from Creech)
That eyes were made, but could not view,
Nor bands embrace, not feet pursue,
But heedless Nature did produce
The members first, and then the use:
What each must act was yet unknown,
Till all is moved by Chance alone.
A man first builds a country-seat,
Then finds the walls not good to eat.
Another plants, and wondering, sees
Nor books nor medals on his trees.
Yet poet and philosopher
Was he who durst such whims aver.
Bless'd for his sake be human reason,
That came at all, though late, in season.
But no man sure e'er left his house,
And saddled Ball, with thoughts so wild
To bring a midwife to his spouse
Before he knew she was with child:
And no man ever reapt his corn,
Or from the oven drew his bread,
Ere hinds and bakers yet were born,
That taught them both to sow and knead.
Before they're ask'd can maids refuse?
Can - Pray, says Dick, hold in your Muse,
While you Pindaric truths rehearse,
She hobbles in alternate verse.
Verse! Matt. replied; is that my care?
Go on, quoth Richard, soft and fair.
This looks, friend Dick, as Nature had
But exercised the salesman's trade;
As if she haply had sat down
And cut out clothes for all the Town,
Then sent them out to Monmouth street
To try what persons they would fit;
But every free and licensed tailor
Would in this thesis find a failure.
Should whims like these his head perplex,
How could he work for either sex!
His clothes as atoms might prevail,
Might fit a pismire or a whale.
No, no: he views with studious pleasure
Your shape before he takes your measure
For real Kate he made the bodice,
And not for an ideal goddess.
No error near his shopboard lurk'd;
He knew the folks for whom he work'd:
Still to their size he aim'd his skill,
Else pray thee who would pay his bill?
Next, Dick, if Chance herself should vary,
Observe how matter would miscarry:
Across your eyes, Friend, place your shoes,
Your spectacles upon your toes,
Then you and Memmius shall agree
How nicely men would walk or see.
But wisdom, peevish, and cross-gain'd
Must be opposed to be sustain'd;
And still your knowledge will increase,
As your make other people's less.
In arms and science 'tis the same;
Our rival's hurts create our fame.
At Faubert's, if disputes arise
Among the champions for the prize,
To prove who gave the fairer butt,
John shows the chalk on Robert's coat.
So for the honour of your book,
It tells where other folks mistook,
And as their notions you confound,
Those you invent get farther ground.
The commentators on old Ari-
Stotle ('tis urged) in judgement vary:
They to their own conceits have brought
The image of his general thought,
Just as the melancholic eye
Sees fleets and armies in the sky,
And to the poor apprentice ear
The bells sound Whittington Lord Mayor.
The conjurer thus explains his scheme;
Thus spirits walk and prophets dream;
North Britons thus have second sight,
And Germans free from gunshot fight.
Theodoret and Origen,
And fifty other learned men,
Attest that if their comments find
The traces of their master's mind,
Alma can ne'er decay nor die:
This flatly th' other sect deny,
Simplicius, Theophrast, Durand,
Great names, but hard in verse to stand
They wonder men should have mistook
The tenets of their master's book,
And hold that Alma yields her breath,
O'ercome by age and seized by death.
Now which were wise, and which were fools?
Poor Alma sits between two stools;
The more she reads the more perplex'd,
The comment ruining the text:
Now fears, now hopes her doubtful fate.
But, Richard, let her look to that -
Whilst we our own affairs pursue.
These different systems old or new,
A man with half an eye may see
Were only form'd to disagree.
Now to bring things to fair conclusion,
And save much Christian ink's effusion,
Let me propose a healing scheme,
And sail along the middle stream;
For, Dick, if we could reconcile
Old Aristotle with Gassendus,
How many would admire our toil,
And yet how few would comprehend us?
Here, Richard, let my scheme commence:
Oh! may my words be lost in sense,
While pleased Thalia deigns to write
The slips and bounds of Alma's flight.
My simple system shall suppose
That Alma enters at the toes;
That then she mounts, by just degrees,
Up to the ancles, legs, and knees:
Next as the sap of life does rise,
She lends her vigour to the thighs:
And, all these under regions past,
She nestles somewhere near the waist;
Gives pain or pleasure, grief or laughter,
As we shall show at large hereafter:
Mature, if not improved by time,
Up to the heart she loves to climb:
From thence, compell'd by craft and age,
She makes the head her latest stage.
From the feet upward to the head,
Pithy, and short, says Dick, proceed.
Dick, this is not an idle notion;
Observe the progress of the motion:
First, I demonstratively prove
That feet were only made to move,
And legs desire to come and go,
For they have nothing else to do.
Hence, long before the child can crawl,
He learns to kick, and wince, and sprawl,
To hinder which, your midwife knows
To bind those parts extremely close,
Lest Alma, newly enter'd in,
And stunn'd at her own christ'ning's din,
Fearful of future grief and pain,
Should silently sneak out again.
Full piteous seems young Alma's case,
As in a luckless gamester's place,
She would not play, yet must not pass.
Again, as she grows something stronger,
And master's feet are swath'd no longer,
If in the night too oft he kicks,
Or shows his
These first assaults fat Kate repays him,
When halt-asleep she overlays him.
Now mark, dear Richard, from the age
That children tread this worldly stage,
Broomstaff or poker they bestride,
And round the parlour love to ride,
Till thoughtful father's pious care
Provides his brood, next Smithfield fair,
With supplemental hobby-horses,
And happy be their infant courses!
Hence for some years they ne'er stand still;
Their legs you see direct their will;
From opening morn till setting sun
Around the fields and woods they run,
They frisk, and dance, and leap, and play,
Nor heed what Friend or Snape can say.
To her next stage as Alma flies,
And likes, as I have said, the thighs,
With sympathetic power she warms
Their good allies and friends the arms;
White Betty dances on the green,
And Susan is at stoolball seen:
While John for ninepins does declare,
And Roger loves to pitch the bar,
Both legs and arms spontaneous move,
Which was the thing I meant to prove.
Another motion now she makes:
O need I name the seat she takes?
His thought quite changes the stripling finds;
The sport and race no more he minds;
Neglected Tray and Pointer lie,
And covies unmolested fly:
Sudden the jocund plain he leaves,
And for the nymph in secret grieves:
In dying accents he complains
Of cruel fires and raging pains.
The nymph, too, longs to be alone,
Leaves all the swains and sighs for one:
The nymph is warm'd with young desire,
And feels, and dies to quench his fire.
They meet each evening in the grove;
Their parley but augments their love:
So to the priest their case they tell;
He toes the knot, and all goes well.
But, O my Muse, just distance keep,
Thou art a maid, and must not peep.
In nine months time the bodice loose,
And petticoats too short, disclose
That at this age the active mind
About the waist lies most confined,
And that young life, and quickening sense
Spring from his influence darted thence:
So from the middle of the world
The sun's prolific rays are hurl'd;
'Tis from that seat he darts those beams
Which quicken earth with genial flames.
Dick, who thus long had passive sat,
Here stroked his chin and cock'd his hat,
Then slapp'd his hand upon the board,
And thus the youth put in his word.
Love's advocates, sweet Sir, would find him
A higher place than you assign'd him.
Love's advocates, Dick, who are those? -
The poets, you may well suppose.
I'm sorry, Sir, you have discarded
The men with whom till now you herded.
Prosemen alone, for private ends,
I thought forsook their ancient friends,
In cor stillavit,
If he may be allow'd to teach us.
The selfsame thing soft Ovid says,
(A proper judge in such a case.)
Horace his phrase is
And happy was that curious speaker.
Here Virgil too has placed this passion;
What signifies too long quotation?
In ode and epic plain the case is,
That Love holds one of these two places.
Dick, without passion or reflection,
I'll straight demolish this objection.
First, poets, all the world agrees,
Write half to profit half to please;
Matter and figure they produce,
For garnish this, and that for use;
And, in the structure of their feasts,
They seek to feed and please their guests:
But one may baulk this good intent,
And take things otherwise than meant.
Thus, if you dine with my Lord Mayor,
Roast beef and venison is your fare,
Thence you proceed to swan and bustard,
And persevere in tart and custard:
But tulip-leaves and lemon-peel
Help only to adorn the meal,
And painted flags, superb and neat,
Proclaim you welcome to the treat.
The man of sense his meat devours,
But only smells the peel and flowers;
And he must be an idle dreamer
Who leaves the pie and gnaws the streamer.
That Cupid goes with bow and arrows,
And Venus keeps her coach and sparrows,
Is all but emblem, to acquaint one
The son is sharp, the mother wanton.
Such images have sometimes shown
A mystic sense, but oftener none;
For who conceives what bards devise,
That heaven is placed in Celia's eyes?
Or where's the sense, direct and moral,
That teeth are pearl, or lips are coral?
Your Horace owns he various writ,
As wild or sober maggots bit;
And where too much the poet ranted,
The sage philosopher recanted.
His grave Epistles may disprove
The wanton Odes he made to love.
Lucretius keeps a mighty pother
With Cupid and his fancied mother;
Calls her great Queen of earth and air,
Declares that winds and seas obey her.
And, while her honour he rehearses,
Implores her to inspire his verses.
Yet, free from this poetic madness,
Next page he says, in sober sadness,
That she and all her fellow-gods
Sit idling in their high abodes,
Regardless of this world below,
Our health or hanging, weal or wo,
Nor once disturb their heavenly spirits
With Scapin's cheats, or Caesar's merits.
Nor e'er can Latin poets prove
Where lies the real seat of Love.
they burn, and
As either best supplies their verse;
And if folks ask the reason for't,
Say one was long the other short.
Thus I presume the British Muse
In prose our property is greater,
Why should it then be less in metre?
If Cupid throws a single dart,
We make him wound the lover's heart
But if he takes his bow and quiver,
'Tis sure he must transfix the liver:
For rhyme with reason may dispense,
And sound has right to govern sense.
But let your friends in verse suppose,
What ne'er shall be allow'd in prose,
Anatomists can make it clear
The liver minds his own affair,
Kindly supplies our public uses,
And parts and strains the vital juices,
Still lays some useful bile aside
To tinge the chyle's insipid tide,
Else we should want both gibe and satire,
And all be burst with pure good-nature:
Now gall is bitter with a witness,
And love is all delight and sweetness:
My logic then has lost its aim
If sweet and bitter be the same:
And he methinks is no great scholar
Who can mistake is desire for choler.
The like may of the heart be said;
Courage and terror there are bred.
All those whose hearts are loose and low
Start if they hear but the tattoo;
And mighty physical their fear is,
Their heart, descending to their breeches,
Must give their stomach cruel twitches:
But heroes who o'ercome or die
Have their hearts hung extremely high,
The string of which, in battle's heat,
Against their very corslets beat,
Keep time with their own trumpet's measure,
And yield them most excessive pleasure.
Now, if 'tis chiefly in the heart
That courage does itself exert,
That this is eke the throne of Love.
Would nature make one place the seat
Of fond desire and fell debate?
Must people only take delight in
Those hours when they are tired with fighting?
And has no man but who has kill'd
A father, right to get a child?
These notions, then, I think but idle,
And love shall still possess the middle.
This truth more plainly to discover,
Suppose your hero were a lover;
Though he before had gall and rage,
Which death or conquest must assuage,
He grows dispirited and low,
He hates the fight and shuns the foe.
In scornful sloth Achilles slept,
And for his wench, like Tallboy, wept,
Nor would return to war and slaughter,
Till they brought back the parson's daughter.
Antonius fled from Actium's coast,
Augustus pressing Asia lost.
His sails by Cupid's hand unfurl'd,
To keep the fair he gave the world.
Edward our Fourth, revered and crown'd,
Vigorous in youth, in arms renown'd,
While England's voice and Warwick's care
Design'd him Gallia's beauteous heir,
Changed peace and power for rage and wars,
Only to dry one widow's tears.
France's Fourth Henry we may see
A servant to the fair d'Estree;
When quitting Coutras' prosperous field,
And Fortune taught at length to yield,
He, from his guards and midnight tent,
Disguis'd, o'er hills and valleys went,
To wanton with the sprightly dame,
And in his pleasure lost his fame.
Bold is the critic who dares prove
These heroes were no friends to love;
And bolder he who dares aver
That they were enemies to war;
Yet when their thought should, now or never,
Have raise their heart or fired their liver,
Fond Alma to those parts was gone
Which Love more justly calls his own.
Examples I could cite you more,
But he contented with these four;
For when one's proofs are aptly chosen,
Four are as valid as four dozen.
One came from Greece, and one from Rome
The other two grew nearer home,
For some in ancient books delight,
Others prefer what moderns write;
Now I should be extremely loath
Not to be thought expert in both.
The Witch Of Atlas
Before those cruel twins whom at one birth
Incestuous Change bore to her father Time,
Error and Truth, had hunted from the earth
All those bright natures which adorned its prime,
And left us nothing to believe in, worth
The pains of putting into learn?d rhyme,
A Lady Witch there lived on Atlas mountain
Within a cavern by a secret fountain.
Her mother was one of the Atlantides.
The all-beholding Sun had ne'er beholden
In his wide voyage o'er continents and seas
So fair a creature, as she lay enfolden
In the warm shadow of her loveliness;
He kissed her with his beams, and made all golden
The chamber of gray rock in which she lay.
She, in that dream of joy, dissolved away.
'Tis said she first was changed into a vapor;
And then into a cloud,--such clouds as flit
(Like splendor-winged moths about a taper)
Round the red west when the Sun dies in it;
And then into a meteor, such as caper
On hill-tops when the Moon is in a fit;
Then into one of those mysterious stars
Which hide themselves between the Earth and Mars.
Ten times the Mother of the Months had ben
Her bow beside the folding-star, and bidden
With that bright sign the billows to indent
The sea-deserted sand--(like children chidden,
At her command they ever came and went)--
Since in that cave a dewy splendor hidden
Took shape and motion. With the living form
Of this embodied Power the cave grew warm.
A lovely Lady garmented in light
From her own beauty: deep her eyes as are
Two openings of unfathomable night
Seen through a temple's cloven roof; her hair
Dark; the dim brain whirls dizzy with delight,
Picturing her form. Her soft smiles shone afar;
And her low voice was heard like love, and drew
All living things towards this wonder new.
And first the spotted cameleopard came;
And then the wise and fearless elephant;
Then the sly serpent, in the golden flame
Of his own volumes intervolved. All gaunt
And sanguine beasts her gentle looks made tame,--
They drank before her at her sacred fount;
And every beast of beating heart grew bold,
Such gentleness and power even to behold.
The brinded lioness led forth her young,
That she might teach them how they should forego
Their inborn thirst of death; the pard unstrung
His sinews at her feet, and sought to know,
With looks whose motions spoke without a tongue,
How he might be as gentle as the doe.
The magic circle of her voice and eyes
All savage natures did imparadise.
And old Silenus, shaking a green stick
Of lilies, and the Wood-gods in a crew,
Came blithe as in the olive-copses thick
Cicade are, drunk with the noonday dew;
And Dryope and Faunus followed quick,
Teazing the God to sing them something new;
Till in this cave they found the Lady lone,
Sitting upon a seat of emerald stone.
And universal Pan, 'tis said, was there.
And, though none saw him,--through the adamant
Of the deep mountains, through the trackless air,
And through those living spirits like a want,--
He passed out of his everlasting lair
Where the quick heart of the great world doth pant,
And felt that wondrous Lady all alone,--
And she felt him upon her emerald throne.
And every Nymph of stream and spreading tree,
And every Shepherdess of Ocean's flocks
Who drives her white waves over the green sea,
And Ocean with the brine on his grey locks,
And quaint Priapus with his company,--
All came, much wondering how the enwombed rocks
Could have brought forth so beautiful a birth:
Her love subdued their wonder and their mirth.
The herdsmen and the mountain-maidens came,
And the rude kings of pastoral Garamant--
Their spirits shook within them, as a flame
Stirred by the air under a cavern gaunt:
Pygmies and Polyphemes, by many a name,
Centaurs and Satyrs, and such shapes as haunt
Wet clefts,--and lumps neither alive nor dead,
Dog-headed, bosom-eyed, and bird-footed.
For she was beautiful. Her beauty made
The bright world dim, and everything beside
Seemed like the fleeting image of a shade.
No thought of living spirit could abide
(Which to her looks had ever been betrayed)
On any object in the world so wide,
On any hope within the circling skies,--
But on her form, and in her inmost eyes.
Which when the Lady knew; she took her spindle,
And twined three threads of fleecy mist, and three
Long lines of light, such as the dawn may kindle
The clouds and waves and mountains with, and she
As many starbeams, ere their lamps could dwindle
In the belated moon, wound skilfully;
And with these threads a subtle veil she wove--
A shadow for the splendour of her love.
The deep recesses of her odorous dwelling
Were stored with magic treasures:--sounds of air
Which had the power all spirits of compelling,
Folded in cells of crystal silence there;
Such as we hear in youth, and think the feeling
will never die--yet, ere we are aware,
The feeling and the sound are fled and gone
And the regret they leave remains alone.
And there lay Visions swift and sweet and quaint,
Each in its thin sheath like a chrysalis;--
Some eager to burst forth; some weak and faint
With the soft burden of intensest bliss
It is their work to bear to many a saint
Whose heart adores the shrine which holiest is,
Even Love's; and others, white, green, grey, and black,
And of all shapes:--and each was at her beck.
And odours in a kind of aviary
Of ever-blooming Eden-trees she kept,
Clipped in a floating net a love-sick Fairy
Had woven from dew-beams while the moon yet slept.
As bats at the wired window of a dairy,
They beat their vans; and each was an adept--
When loosed and missioned, making wings of winds--
To stir sweet thoughts or sad in destined minds.
And liquors clear and sweet, whose healthful might
Could medicine the sick soul to happy sleep,
And change eternal death into a night
Of glorious dreams--or, if eyes needs must weep,
Could make their tears all wonder and delight--
She in her crystal phials did closely keep:
If men could drink of those clear phials, 'tis said
The living were not envied of the dead.
Her cave was stored with scrolls of strange device,
The works of some Saturnian Archimage,
Which taught the expiations at whose price
Men from the Gods might win that happy age
Too lightly lost, redeeming native vice,--
And which might quench the earth-consuming rage
Of gold and blood, till men should live and move
Harmonious as the sacred stars above:--
And how all things that seem untameable,
Not to be checked and not to be confined,
Obey the spells of Wisdom's wizard skill;
Time, earth, and fire, the ocean and the wind,
And all their shapes, and man's imperial will;--
And other scrolls whose writings did unbind
The inmost lore of love--let the profane
Tremble to ask what secrets they contain.
And wondrous works of substances unknown,
To which the enchantment of her Father's power
Had changed those ragged blocks of savage stone,
Were heaped in the recesses of her bower;
Carved lamps and chalices, and phials which shone
In their own golden beams--each like a flower
Out of whose depth a firefly shakes his light
Under a cypress in a starless night.
At first she lived alone in this wild home,
And her own thoughts were each a minister,
Clothing themselves or with the ocean-foam,
Or with the wind, or with the speed of fire,
To work whatever purposes might come
Into her mind: such power her mighty Sire
Had girt them with, whether to fly or run
Through all the regions which he shines upon.
The Ocean-nymphs and Hamadryades,
Oreads, and Naiads with long weedy locks,
Offered to do her bidding through the seas,
Under the earth, and in the hollow rocks,
And far beneath the matted roots of trees,
And in the gnarled heart of stubborn oaks;
So they might live for ever in the light
Of her sweet presence--each a satellite.
"This may not be," the Wizard Maid replied.
"The fountains where the Naiades bedew
Their shining hair at length are drained and dried;
The solid oaks forget their strength, and strew
Their latest leaf upon the mountains wide;
The boundless ocean like a drop of dew
Will be consumed; the stubborn centre must
Be scattered like a cloud of summer dust.
"And ye, with them, will perish one by one.
If I must sigh to think that this shall be,
If I must weep when the surviving Sun
Shall smile on your decay--oh ask not me
To love you till your little race is run;
I cannot die as ye must.--Over me
Your leaves shall glance--the streams in which ye dwell
Shall be my paths henceforth; and so farewell."
She spoke and wept. The dark and azure well
Sparkled beneath the shower of her bright tears,
And every little circlet where they fell
Flung to the cavern-roof inconstant spheres
And intertangled lines of light. A knell
Of sobbing voices came upon her ears
From those departing forms, o'er the serene
Of the white streams and of the forest green.
All day the Wizard Lady sat aloof;
Spelling out scrolls of dread antiquity
Under the cavern's fountain-lighted roof;
Or broidering the pictured poesy
Of some high tale upon her growing woof,
Which the sweet splendor of her smiles could dye
In hues outshining heaven--and ever she
Added some grace to the wrought poesy:--
While on her hearth lay blazing many a piece
Of sandal-wood, rare gums, and cinnamon.
Men scarcely know how beautiful fire is;
Each flame of it is as a precious stone
Dissolved in ever-moving light, and this
Belongs to each and all who gaze thereon.'
The Witch beheld it not, for in her hand
She held a woof that dimmed the burning brand.
This Lady never slept, but lay in trance
All night within the fountain--as in sleep.
Its emerald crags glowed in her beauty's glance:
Through the green splendour of the water deep
She saw the constellations reel and dance
Like fireflies--and withal did ever keep
The tenor of her contemplations calm,
With open eyes, closed feet, and folded palm.
And, when the whirlwinds and the clouds descended
From the white pinnacles of that cold hill,
She passed at dewfall to a space extended,
Where, in a lawn of flowering asphodel
Amid a wood of pines and cedars blended,
There yawned an inextinguishable well
Of crimson fire, full even to the brim,
And overflowing all the margin trim:--
Within the which she lay when the fierce war
Of wintry winds shook that innocuous liquor,
In many a mimic moon and bearded star,
O'er woods and lawns. The serpent heard it flicker
In sleep, and, dreaming still, he crept afar.
And, when the windless snow descended thicker
Than autumn-leaves, she watched it as it came
Melt on the surface of the level flame.
She had a boat which some say Vulcan wrought
For Venus, as the chariot of her star;
But it was found too feeble to be fraught
With all the ardours in that sphere which are,
And so she sold it, and Apollo bought
And gave it to this daughter: from a car,
Changed to the fairest and the lightest boat
Which ever upon mortal stream did float.
And others say that, when but three hours old,
The firstborn Love out of his cradle leapt,
And clove dun chaos with his wings of gold,
And, like a horticultural adept,
Stole a strange seed, and wrapped it up in mould,
And sowed it in his mother's star, and kept
Watering it all the summer with sweet dew,
And with his wings fanning it as it grew.
The plant grew strong and green--the snowy flower
Fell, and the long and gourd-like fruit began
To turn the light and dew by inward power
To its own substance: woven tracery ran
Of light firm texture, ribbed and branching, o'er
The solid rind, like a leaf's veined fan,--
Of which Love scooped this boat, and with soft motion
Piloted it round the circumfluous ocean.
This boat she moored upon her fount, and lit
A living spirit within all its frame,
Breathing the soul of swiftness into it.
Couched on the fountain--like a panther tame
(One of the twain at Evan's feet that sit,
Or as on Vesta's sceptre a swift flame,
Or on blind Homer's heart a winged thought--
In joyous expectation lay the boat.
Then by strange art she kneaded fire and snow
Together, tempering the repugnant mass
With liquid love--all things together grow
Through which the harmony of love can pass;
And a fair Shape out of her hands did flow--
A living image which did far surpass
In beauty that bright shape of vital stone
Which drew the heart out of Pygmalion.
A sexless thing it was, and in its growth
It seemed to have developed no defect
Of either sex, yet all the grace of both.
In gentleness and strength its limbs were decked;
The bosom lightly swelled with its full youth;
The countenance was such as might select
Some artist that his skill should never die,
lmaging forth such perfect purity.
From its smooth shoulders hung two rapid wings
Fit to have borne it to the seventh sphere,
Tipped with the speed of liquid lightenings,
Dyed in the ardours of the atmosphere.
She led her creature to the boiling springs
Where the light boat was moored, and said "Sit here,"
And pointed to the prow, and took her seat
Beside the rudder with opposing feet.
And down the streams which clove those mountains vast,
Around their inland islets, and amid
The panther-peopled forests (whose shade cast
Darkness and odors, and a pleasure hid
In melancholy gloom) the pinnace passed;
By many a star-surrounded pyramid
Of icy crag cleaving the purple sky,
And caverns yawning round unfathomably.
The silver noon into that winding dell,
With slanted gleam athwart the forest-tops,
Tempered like golden evening, feebly fell;
A green and glowing light, like that which drops
From folded lilies in which glow-worms dwell
When Earth over her face Night's mantle wraps;
Between the severed mountains lay on high,
Over the stream, a narrow rift of sky.
And, ever as she went, the Image lay
With folded wings and unawakened eyes;
And o'er its gentle countenance did play
The busy dreams, as thick as summer flies,
Chasing the rapid smiles that would not stay,
And drinking the warm tears, and the sweet sighs
Inhaling, which with busy murmur vain
They has aroused from that full heart and brain.
And ever down the prone vale, like a cloud
Upon a stream of wind, the pinnace went:
Now lingering on the pools, in which abode
The calm and darkness of the deep content
In which they paused; now o'er the shallow road
Of white and dancing waters, all besprent
With sand and polished pebbles:--mortal boat
In such a shallow rapid could not float.
And down the earthquaking cataracts, which shivcr
Their snow-like waters into golden air,
Or under chasms unfathomable ever
Sepulchre them, till in their rage they tear
A subterranean portal for the river,
It fled. The circling sunbows did upbear
Its fall down the hoar precipice of spray,
Lighting it far upon its lampless way.
And, when the Wizard Lady would ascend
The labyrinths of some many-winding vale
Which to the inmost mountain upward tend,
She called "Hermaphroditus!"--and the pale
And heavy hue which slumber could extend
Over its lips and eyes, as on the gale
A rapid shadow from a slope of grass,
Into the darkness of the stream did pass
And it unfurled its heaven-coloured pinions;
With stars of fire spotting the stream below,
And from above into the Sun's dominions
Flinging a glory like the golden glow
In which Spring clothes her emerald-winged minions,
All interwoven with fine feathery snow,
And moonlight splendour of intensest rime
With which frost paints the pines in winter-time.
And then it winnowed the elysian air
Which ever hung about that Lady bright,
With its etherial vans: and, speeding there,
Like a star up the torrent of the night,
Or a swift eagle in the morning glare
Breasting the whirlwind with impetuous flight,
The pinnace, oared by those enchanted wings,
Clove the fierce streams towards their upper springs.
The water flashed,--like sunlight, by the prow
Of a noon-wandering meteor flung to heaven;
The still air seemed as if its waves did flow
In tempest down the mountains; loosely driven,
The Lady's radiant hair streamed to and fro;
Beneath, the billows, having vainly striven
Indignant and impetuous, roared to feel
The swift and steady motion of the keel.
Or, when the weary moon was in the wane,
Or in the noon of interlunar night,
The Lady Witch in visions could not chain
Her spirit; but sailed forth under the light
Of shooting stars, and bade extend amain
Its storm-outspeeding wings the Hermaphrodite;
She to the austral waters took her way,
Beyond the fabulous Thamondocana.
Where, like a meadow which no scythe has shaven,
Which rain could never bend or whirlblast shake,
With the antarctic constellations paven,
Canopus and his crew, lay the austral lake--
There she would build herself a windless haven
Out of the clouds whose moving turrets make
The bastions of the storm, when through the sky
The spirits of the tempest thundered by:--
A haven beneath whose translucent floor
The tremulous stars sparkled unfathomably;
And around which the solid vapours hoar,
Based on the level waters, to the sky
Lifted their dreadful crags, and, like a shore
Of wintry mountains, inaccessibly
Hemmed-in with rifts and precipices grey,
And hanging crags, many a cove and bay.
And, whilst the outer lake beneath the lash
Of the wind's scourge foamed like a wounded thing
And the incessant hail with stony clash
Ploughed up the waters, and the flagging wing
Of the roused cormorant in the lightningflash
Looked like the wreck of some wind-wandering
Fragment of inky thunder-smoke--this haven
Was as a gem to copy heaven engraven.
On which that Lady played her many pranks,
Circling the image of a shooting star
(Even as a tiger on Hydaspes' banks
Outspeeds the antelopes which speediest are)
In her light boat; and many quips and cranks
She played upon the water; till the car
Of the late moon, like a sick matron wan,
To journey from the misty east began.
And then she called out of the hollow turrets
Of those high clouds, white, golden, and vermilion,
The armies of her ministering spirits.
In mighty legions million after million
They came, each troop emblazoning its merits
On meteor flags; and many a proud pavilion
Of the intertexture of the atmosphere
They pitched upon the plain of the calm mere.
They framed the imperial tent of their great Queen
Of woven exhalations, underlaid
With lambent lightning-fire, as may be seen
A dome of thin and open ivory inlaid
With crimson silk. Cressets from the serene
Hung there, and on the water for her tread
A tapestry of fleece-like mist was strewn,
Dyed in the beams of the ascending moon.
And on a throne o'erlaid with starlight, caught
Upon those wandering isles of aery dew
Which highest shoals of mountain shipwreck not,
She sate, and heard all that had happened new
Between the earth and moon since they had brought
The last intelligence: and now she grew
Pale as that moon lost in the watery night,
And now she wept, and now she laughed outright.
These were tame pleasures.--She would often climb
The steepest ladder of the crudded rack
Up to some beaked cape of cloud sublime,
And like Arion on the dolphin's back
Ride singing through the shoreless air. Oft-time,
Following the serpent lightning's winding track,
She ran upon the platforms of the wind,
And laughed to hear the fireballs roar behid.
And sometimes to those streams of upper air
Which whirl the earth in its diurnal round
She would ascend, and win the Spirits there
To let her join their chorus. Mortals found
That on those days the sky was calm and fair,
And mystic snatches of harmonious sound
Wandered upon the earth where'er she passed,
And happy thoughts of hope, too sweet to last.
But her choice sport was, in the hours of sleep,
To glide adown old Nilus, where he threads
Egypt and Ethiopia from the steep
Of utmost Axume until he spreads,
Like a calm flock of silver-fleeced sheep,
His waters on the plain,--and crested heads
Of cities and proud temples gleam amid,
And many a vapour-belted pyramid:--
By MÏris and the Mareotid lakes,
Strewn with faint blooms like bridal-chamber floors,
Where naked boys bridling tame water-snakes,
Or charioteering ghastly alligators,
Had left on the sweet waters mighty wakes
Of those huge forms;--within the brazen doors
Of the Great Labyrinth slept both boy and beast,
Tired with the pomp of their Osirian feast.
And where within the surface of the river
The shadows of the massy temples lie,
And never are erased, but tremble ever
Like things which every cloud can doom to die,--
Through lotus-paven canals, and wheresoever
The works of man pierced that serenest sky
With tombs and towers and fanes,--'twas her delight
To wander in the shadow of the night.
With motion like the spirit of that wind
Whose soft step deepens slumber, her light feet
Passed through the peopled haunts of humankind,
Scattering sweet visions from her presence sweet,--
Through fane and palace-court, and labyrinth mined
With many a dark and subterranean street
Under the Nile; through chambers high and deep
She passed, observing mortals in their sleep.
A pleasure sweet doubtless it was to see
Mortals subdued in all the shapes of sleep.
Here lay two sister-twins in infancy;
There a lone youth who in his dreams did weep;
Within, two lovers linked innocently
In their loose locks which over both did creep
Like ivy from one stem; and there lay calm
Old age with snow-bright hair and folded palm.
But other troubled forms of sleep she saw,
Not to be mirrored in a holy song,--
Distortions foul of supernatural awe,
And pale imaginings of visioned wrong,
And all the code of Custom's lawless law
Written upon the brows of old and young.
"This," said the Wizard Maiden, "is the strife
Which stirs the liquid surface of man's life."
And little did the sight disturb her soul.
We, the weak mariners of that wide lake,
Where'er its shores extend or billows roll,
Our course unpiloted and starless make
O'er its wild surface to an unknown goal;
But she in the calm depths her way could take,
Where in bright bowers immortal forms abide
Beneath the weltering of the restless tide.
And she saw princes couched under the glow
Of sunlike gems; and round each temple-court
In dormitories ranged, row after row,
She saw the priests asleep,--all of one sort,
For all were educated to be so.
The peasants in their huts, and in the port
The sailors she saw cradled on the waves,
And the dead lulled within their dreamless graves.
And all the forms in which those spirits lay
Were to her sight like the diaphanous
Veils in which those sweet ladies oft array
Their delicate limbs who would conceal from us
Only their scorn of all concealment: they
Move in the light of their own beauty thus.
But these and all now lay with sleep upon them,
And little thought a Witch was looking on them.
She all those human figures breathing there
Beheld as living spirits. To her eyes
The naked beauty of the soul lay bare,
And often through a rude and worn disguise
She saw the inner form most bright and fair:
And then she had a charm of strange device,
Which, murmured on mute lips with tender tone,
Could make that spirit mingle with her own.
Alas! Aurora, what wouldst thou have given
For such a charm, when Tithon became grey--
Or how much, Venus, of thy silver heaven
Wouldst thou have yielded, ere Proserpina
Had half (oh why not all?) the debt forgiven
Which dear Adonis had been doomed to pay--
To any witch who would have taught you it
The Heliad doth not know its value yet.
'Tis said in after times her spirit free
Knew what love was, and felt itself alone.
But holy Dian could not chaster be
Before she stooped to kiss Endymion
Than now this Lady,--like a sexless bee,
Tasting all blossoms and confined to none:
Among those mortal forms the Wizard Maiden
Passed with an eye serene and heart unladen.
To those she saw most beautiful she gave
Strange panacea in a crystal bowl.
They drank in their deep sleep of that sweet wave,
And lived thenceforward as if some control,
Mightier than life, were in them; and the grave
Of such, when death oppressed the weary soul,
Was as a green and overarching bower
Lit by the gems of many a starry flower.
For, on the night when they were buried, she
Restored the embalmer's ruining, and shook
The light out of the funeral-lamps, to be
A mimic day within that deathy nook;
And she unwound the woven imagery
Of second childhood's swaddling-bands, and took
The coffin, its last cradle, from its niche,
And threw it with contempt into a ditch,
And there the body lay, age after age,
Mute, breathing, beating, warm, and undecaying,
Like one asleep in a green hermitage,--
With gentle smiles about its eyelids playing,
And living in its dreams beyond the rage
Of death or life; while they were still arraying
In liveries ever new the rapid, blind,
And fleeting generations of mankind.
And she would write strange dreams upon the brain
Of those who were less beautiful, and make
All harsh and crooked purposes more vain
Than in the desert is the serpent's wake
Which the sand covers. All his evil gain
The miser, in such dreams, would rise and shake
Into a beggar's lap; the lying scribe
Would his own lies betray without a bribe.
The priests would write an explanation full,
Translating hieroglyphics into Greek,
How the God Apis really was a bull,
And nothing more; and bid the herald stick
The same against the temple-doors, and pull
The old cant down: they licensed all to speak
Whate'er they thought of hawks and cats and geese,
By pastoral letters to each diocese.
The king would dress an ape up in his crown
And robes, and seat him on his glorious seat,
And on the right hand of the sunlike throne
Would place a gaudy mock-bird to repeat
The chatterings of the monkey. Every one
Of the prone courtiers crawled to kiss the feet
Of their great emperor when the morning came;
And kissed--alas, how many kiss the same!
The soldiers dreamed that they were blacksmiths, and
Walked out of quarters in somnambulism;
Round the red anvils you might see them stand
Like Cyclopses in Vulcan's sooty abysm,
Beating their swords to ploughshares:--in a band
The jailors sent those of the liberal schism
Free through the streets of Memphis--much, I wis,
To the annoyance of king Amasis.
And timid lovers, who had been so coy
They hardly knew whether they loved or not,
Would rise out of their rest, and take sweet joy,
To the fulfilment of their inmost thought;
And, when next day the maiden and the boy
Met one another, both, like sinners caught,
Blushed at the thing which each believed was done
Only in fancy--till the tenth moon shone;
And then the Witch would let them take no ill;
Of many thousand schemes which lovers find,
The Witch found one,--and so they took their fill
Of happiness in marriage warm and kind.
Friends who, by practice of some envious skill,
Were torn apart (a wide wound, mind from mind)
She did unite again with visions clear
Of deep affection and of truth sincere.
These were the pranks she played among the cities
Of mortal men. And what she did to Sprites
And Gods, entangling them in her sweet ditties,
To do her will, and show their subtle sleights,
I will declare another time; for it is
A tale more fit for the weird winter-nights
Than for these garish summer-days, when we
Scarcely believe much more than we can see.
The Odyssey: Book 24
Then Mercury of Cyllene summoned the ghosts of the suitors, and in
his hand he held the fair golden wand with which he seals men's eyes
in sleep or wakes them just as he pleases; with this he roused the
ghosts and led them, while they followed whining and gibbering
behind him. As bats fly squealing in the hollow of some great cave,
when one of them has fallen out of the cluster in which they hang,
even so did the ghosts whine and squeal as Mercury the healer of
sorrow led them down into the dark abode of death. When they had
passed the waters of Oceanus and the rock Leucas, they came to the
gates of the sun and the land of dreams, whereon they reached the
meadow of asphodel where dwell the souls and shadows of them that
can labour no more.
Here they found the ghost of Achilles son of Peleus, with those of
Patroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax, who was the finest and handsomest man
of all the Danaans after the son of Peleus himself.
They gathered round the ghost of the son of Peleus, and the ghost of
Agamemnon joined them, sorrowing bitterly. Round him were gathered
also the ghosts of those who had perished with him in the house of
Aeisthus; and the ghost of Achilles spoke first.
"Son of Atreus," it said, "we used to say that Jove had loved you
better from first to last than any other hero, for you were captain
over many and brave men, when we were all fighting together before
Troy; yet the hand of death, which no mortal can escape, was laid upon
you all too early. Better for you had you fallen at Troy in the
hey-day of your renown, for the Achaeans would have built a mound over
your ashes, and your son would have been heir to your good name,
whereas it has now been your lot to come to a most miserable end."
"Happy son of Peleus," answered the ghost of Agamemnon, "for
having died at Troy far from Argos, while the bravest of the Trojans
and the Achaeans fell round you fighting for your body. There you
lay in the whirling clouds of dust, all huge and hugely, heedless
now of your chivalry. We fought the whole of the livelong day, nor
should we ever have left off if Jove had not sent a hurricane to
stay us. Then, when we had borne you to the ships out of the fray,
we laid you on your bed and cleansed your fair skin with warm water
and with ointments. The Danaans tore their hair and wept bitterly
round about you. Your mother, when she heard, came with her immortal
nymphs from out of the sea, and the sound of a great wailing went
forth over the waters so that the Achaeans quaked for fear. They would
have fled panic-stricken to their ships had not wise old Nestor
whose counsel was ever truest checked them saying, 'Hold, Argives, fly
not sons of the Achaeans, this is his mother coming from the sea
with her immortal nymphs to view the body of her son.'
"Thus he spoke, and the Achaeans feared no more. The daughters of
the old man of the sea stood round you weeping bitterly, and clothed
you in immortal raiment. The nine muses also came and lifted up
their sweet voices in lament- calling and answering one another; there
was not an Argive but wept for pity of the dirge they chaunted. Days
and nights seven and ten we mourned you, mortals and immortals, but on
the eighteenth day we gave you to the flames, and many a fat sheep
with many an ox did we slay in sacrifice around you. You were burnt in
raiment of the gods, with rich resins and with honey, while heroes,
horse and foot, clashed their armour round the pile as you were
burning, with the tramp as of a great multitude. But when the flames
of heaven had done their work, we gathered your white bones at
daybreak and laid them in ointments and in pure wine. Your mother
brought us a golden vase to hold them- gift of Bacchus, and work of
Vulcan himself; in this we mingled your bleached bones with those of
Patroclus who had gone before you, and separate we enclosed also those
of Antilochus, who had been closer to you than any other of your
comrades now that Patroclus was no more.
"Over these the host of the Argives built a noble tomb, on a point
jutting out over the open Hellespont, that it might be seen from far
out upon the sea by those now living and by them that shall be born
hereafter. Your mother begged prizes from the gods, and offered them
to be contended for by the noblest of the Achaeans. You must have been
present at the funeral of many a hero, when the young men gird
themselves and make ready to contend for prizes on the death of some
great chieftain, but you never saw such prizes as silver-footed Thetis
offered in your honour; for the gods loved you well. Thus even in
death your fame, Achilles, has not been lost, and your name lives
evermore among all mankind. But as for me, what solace had I when
the days of my fighting were done? For Jove willed my destruction on
my return, by the hands of Aegisthus and those of my wicked wife."
Thus did they converse, and presently Mercury came up to them with
the ghosts of the suitors who had been killed by Ulysses. The ghosts
of Agamemnon and Achilles were astonished at seeing them, and went
up to them at once. The ghost of Agamemnon recognized Amphimedon son
of Melaneus, who lived in Ithaca and had been his host, so it began to
talk to him.
"Amphimedon," it said, "what has happened to all you fine young men-
all of an age too- that you are come down here under the ground? One
could pick no finer body of men from any city. Did Neptune raise his
winds and waves against you when you were at sea, or did your
enemies make an end of you on the mainland when you were
cattle-lifting or sheep-stealing, or while fighting in defence of
their wives and city? Answer my question, for I have been your
guest. Do you not remember how I came to your house with Menelaus,
to persuade Ulysses to join us with his ships against Troy? It was a
whole month ere we could resume our voyage, for we had hard work to
persuade Ulysses to come with us."
And the ghost of Amphimedon answered, "Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
king of men, I remember everything that you have said, and will tell
you fully and accurately about the way in which our end was brought
about. Ulysses had been long gone, and we were courting his wife,
who did not say point blank that she would not marry, nor yet bring
matters to an end, for she meant to compass our destruction: this,
then, was the trick she played us. She set up a great tambour frame in
her room and began to work on an enormous piece of fine needlework.
'Sweethearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed dead, still, do not
press me to marry again immediately; wait- for I would not have my
skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have completed a pall
for the hero Laertes, against the time when death shall take him. He
is very rich, and the women of the place will talk if he is laid out
without a pall.' This is what she said, and we assented; whereupon
we could see her working upon her great web all day long, but at night
she would unpick the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in
this way for three years without our finding it out, but as time
wore on and she was now in her fourth year, in the waning of moons and
many days had been accomplished, one of her maids who knew what she
was doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work,
so she had to finish it whether she would or no; and when she showed
us the robe she had made, after she had had it washed, its splendour
was as that of the sun or moon.
"Then some malicious god conveyed Ulysses to the upland farm where
his swineherd lives. Thither presently came also his son, returning
from a voyage to Pylos, and the two came to the town when they had
hatched their plot for our destruction. Telemachus came first, and
then after him, accompanied by the swineherd, came Ulysses, clad in
rags and leaning on a staff as though he were some miserable old
beggar. He came so unexpectedly that none of us knew him, not even the
older ones among us, and we reviled him and threw things at him. He
endured both being struck and insulted without a word, though he was
in his own house; but when the will of Aegis-bearing Jove inspired
him, he and Telemachus took the armour and hid it in an inner chamber,
bolting the doors behind them. Then he cunningly made his wife offer
his bow and a quantity of iron to be contended for by us ill-fated
suitors; and this was the beginning of our end, for not one of us
could string the bow- nor nearly do so. When it was about to reach the
hands of Ulysses, we all of us shouted out that it should not be given
him, no matter what he might say, but Telemachus insisted on his
having it. When he had got it in his hands he strung it with ease
and sent his arrow through the iron. Then he stood on the floor of the
cloister and poured his arrows on the ground, glaring fiercely about
him. First he killed Antinous, and then, aiming straight before him,
he let fly his deadly darts and they fell thick on one another. It was
plain that some one of the gods was helping them, for they fell upon
us with might and main throughout the cloisters, and there was a
hideous sound of groaning as our brains were being battered in, and
the ground seethed with our blood. This, Agamemnon, is how we came
by our end, and our bodies are lying still un-cared for in the house
of Ulysses, for our friends at home do not yet know what has happened,
so that they cannot lay us out and wash the black blood from our
wounds, making moan over us according to the offices due to the
"Happy Ulysses, son of Laertes," replied the ghost of Agamemnon,
"you are indeed blessed in the possession of a wife endowed with
such rare excellence of understanding, and so faithful to her wedded
lord as Penelope the daughter of Icarius. The fame, therefore, of
her virtue shall never die, and the immortals shall compose a song
that shall be welcome to all mankind in honour of the constancy of
Penelope. How far otherwise was the wickedness of the daughter of
Tyndareus who killed her lawful husband; her song shall be hateful
among men, for she has brought disgrace on all womankind even on the
Thus did they converse in the house of Hades deep down within the
bowels of the earth. Meanwhile Ulysses and the others passed out of
the town and soon reached the fair and well-tilled farm of Laertes,
which he had reclaimed with infinite labour. Here was his house,
with a lean-to running all round it, where the slaves who worked for
him slept and sat and ate, while inside the house there was an old
Sicel woman, who looked after him in this his country-farm. When
Ulysses got there, he said to his son and to the other two:
"Go to the house, and kill the best pig that you can find for
dinner. Meanwhile I want to see whether my father will know me, or
fail to recognize me after so long an absence."
He then took off his armour and gave it to Eumaeus and Philoetius,
who went straight on to the house, while he turned off into the
vineyard to make trial of his father. As he went down into the great
orchard, he did not see Dolius, nor any of his sons nor of the other
bondsmen, for they were all gathering thorns to make a fence for the
vineyard, at the place where the old man had told them; he therefore
found his father alone, hoeing a vine. He had on a dirty old shirt,
patched and very shabby; his legs were bound round with thongs of
oxhide to save him from the brambles, and he also wore sleeves of
leather; he had a goat skin cap on his head, and was looking very
woe-begone. When Ulysses saw him so worn, so old and full of sorrow,
he stood still under a tall pear tree and began to weep. He doubted
whether to embrace him, kiss him, and tell him all about his having
come home, or whether he should first question him and see what he
would say. In the end he deemed it best to be crafty with him, so in
this mind he went up to his father, who was bending down and digging
about a plant.
"I see, sir," said Ulysses, "that you are an excellent gardener-
what pains you take with it, to be sure. There is not a single
plant, not a fig tree, vine, olive, pear, nor flower bed, but bears
the trace of your attention. I trust, however, that you will not be
offended if I say that you take better care of your garden than of
yourself. You are old, unsavoury, and very meanly clad. It cannot be
because you are idle that your master takes such poor care of you,
indeed your face and figure have nothing of the slave about them,
and proclaim you of noble birth. I should have said that you were
one of those who should wash well, eat well, and lie soft at night
as old men have a right to do; but tell me, and tell me true, whose
bondman are you, and in whose garden are you working? Tell me also
about another matter. Is this place that I have come to really Ithaca?
I met a man just now who said so, but he was a dull fellow, and had
not the patience to hear my story out when I was asking him about an
old friend of mine, whether he was still living, or was already dead
and in the house of Hades. Believe me when I tell you that this man
came to my house once when I was in my own country and never yet did
any stranger come to me whom I liked better. He said that his family
came from Ithaca and that his father was Laertes, son of Arceisius.
I received him hospitably, making him welcome to all the abundance
of my house, and when he went away I gave him all customary
presents. I gave him seven talents of fine gold, and a cup of solid
silver with flowers chased upon it. I gave him twelve light cloaks,
and as many pieces of tapestry; I also gave him twelve cloaks of
single fold, twelve rugs, twelve fair mantles, and an equal number
of shirts. To all this I added four good looking women skilled in
all useful arts, and I let him take his choice."
His father shed tears and answered, "Sir, you have indeed come to
the country that you have named, but it is fallen into the hands of
wicked people. All this wealth of presents has been given to no
purpose. If you could have found your friend here alive in Ithaca,
he would have entertained you hospitably and would have required
your presents amply when you left him- as would have been only right
considering what you have already given him. But tell me, and tell
me true, how many years is it since you entertained this guest- my
unhappy son, as ever was? Alas! He has perished far from his own
country; the fishes of the sea have eaten him, or he has fallen a prey
to the birds and wild beasts of some continent. Neither his mother,
nor I his father, who were his parents, could throw our arms about him
and wrap him in his shroud, nor could his excellent and richly dowered
wife Penelope bewail her husband as was natural upon his death bed,
and close his eyes according to the offices due to the departed. But
now, tell me truly for I want to know. Who and whence are you- tell me
of your town and parents? Where is the ship lying that has brought you
and your men to Ithaca? Or were you a passenger on some other man's
ship, and those who brought you here have gone on their way and left
"I will tell you everything," answered Ulysses, "quite truly. I come
from Alybas, where I have a fine house. I am son of king Apheidas, who
is the son of Polypemon. My own name is Eperitus; heaven drove me
off my course as I was leaving Sicania, and I have been carried here
against my will. As for my ship it is lying over yonder, off the
open country outside the town, and this is the fifth year since
Ulysses left my country. Poor fellow, yet the omens were good for
him when he left me. The birds all flew on our right hands, and both
he and I rejoiced to see them as we parted, for we had every hope that
we should have another friendly meeting and exchange presents."
A dark cloud of sorrow fell upon Laertes as he listened. He filled
both hands with the dust from off the ground and poured it over his
grey head, groaning heavily as he did so. The heart of Ulysses was
touched, and his nostrils quivered as he looked upon his father;
then he sprang towards him, flung his arms about him and kissed him,
saying, "I am he, father, about whom you are asking- I have returned
after having been away for twenty years. But cease your sighing and
lamentation- we have no time to lose, for I should tell you that I
have been killing the suitors in my house, to punish them for their
insolence and crimes."
"If you really are my son Ulysses," replied Laertes, "and have
come back again, you must give me such manifest proof of your identity
as shall convince me."
"First observe this scar," answered Ulysses, "which I got from a
boar's tusk when I was hunting on Mount Parnassus. You and my mother
had sent me to Autolycus, my mother's father, to receive the
presents which when he was over here he had promised to give me.
Furthermore I will point out to you the trees in the vineyard which
you gave me, and I asked you all about them as I followed you round
the garden. We went over them all, and you told me their names and
what they all were. You gave me thirteen pear trees, ten apple
trees, and forty fig trees; you also said you would give me fifty rows
of vines; there was corn planted between each row, and they yield
grapes of every kind when the heat of heaven has been laid heavy
Laertes' strength failed him when he heard the convincing proofs
which his son had given him. He threw his arms about him, and
Ulysses had to support him, or he would have gone off into a swoon;
but as soon as he came to, and was beginning to recover his senses, he
said, "O father Jove, then you gods are still in Olympus after all, if
the suitors have really been punished for their insolence and folly.
Nevertheless, I am much afraid that I shall have all the townspeople
of Ithaca up here directly, and they will be sending messengers
everywhere throughout the cities of the Cephallenians."
Ulysses answered, "Take heart and do not trouble yourself about
that, but let us go into the house hard by your garden. I have already
told Telemachus, Philoetius, and Eumaeus to go on there and get dinner
ready as soon as possible."
Thus conversing the two made their way towards the house. When
they got there they found Telemachus with the stockman and the
swineherd cutting up meat and mixing wine with water. Then the old
Sicel woman took Laertes inside and washed him and anointed him with
oil. She put him on a good cloak, and Minerva came up to him and
gave him a more imposing presence, making him taller and stouter
than before. When he came back his son was surprised to see him
looking so like an immortal, and said to him, "My dear father, some
one of the gods has been making you much taller and better-looking."
Laertes answered, "Would, by Father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo,
that I were the man I was when I ruled among the Cephallenians, and
took Nericum, that strong fortress on the foreland. If I were still
what I then was and had been in our house yesterday with my armour on,
I should have been able to stand by you and help you against the
suitors. I should have killed a great many of them, and you would have
rejoiced to see it."
Thus did they converse; but the others, when they had finished their
work and the feast was ready, left off working, and took each his
proper place on the benches and seats. Then they began eating; by
and by old Dolius and his sons left their work and came up, for
their mother, the Sicel woman who looked after Laertes now that he was
growing old, had been to fetch them. When they saw Ulysses and were
certain it was he, they stood there lost in astonishment; but
Ulysses scolded them good-naturedly and said, "Sit down to your
dinner, old man, and never mind about your surprise; we have been
wanting to begin for some time and have been waiting for you."
Then Dolius put out both his hands and went up to Ulysses. "Sir,"
said he, seizing his master's hand and kissing it at the wrist, "we
have long been wishing you home: and now heaven has restored you to us
after we had given up hoping. All hail, therefore, and may the gods
prosper you. But tell me, does Penelope already know of your return,
or shall we send some one to tell her?"
"Old man," answered Ulysses, "she knows already, so you need not
trouble about that." On this he took his seat, and the sons of
Dolius gathered round Ulysses to give him greeting and embrace him one
after the other; then they took their seats in due order near Dolius
While they were thus busy getting their dinner ready, Rumour went
round the town, and noised abroad the terrible fate that had
befallen the suitors; as soon, therefore, as the people heard of it
they gathered from every quarter, groaning and hooting before the
house of Ulysses. They took the dead away, buried every man his own,
and put the bodies of those who came from elsewhere on board the
fishing vessels, for the fishermen to take each of them to his own
place. They then met angrily in the place of assembly, and when they
were got together Eupeithes rose to speak. He was overwhelmed with
grief for the death of his son Antinous, who had been the first man
killed by Ulysses, so he said, weeping bitterly, "My friend, this
man has done the Achaeans great wrong. He took many of our best men
away with him in his fleet, and he has lost both ships and men; now,
moreover, on his return he has been killing all the foremost men among
the Cephallenians. Let us be up and doing before he can get away to
Pylos or to Elis where the Epeans rule, or we shall be ashamed of
ourselves for ever afterwards. It will be an everlasting disgrace to
us if we do not avenge the murder of our sons and brothers. For my own
part I should have no mote pleasure in life, but had rather die at
once. Let us be up, then, and after them, before they can cross over
to the mainland."
He wept as he spoke and every one pitied him. But Medon and the bard
Phemius had now woke up, and came to them from the house of Ulysses.
Every one was astonished at seeing them, but they stood in the
middle of the assembly, and Medon said, "Hear me, men of Ithaca.
Ulysses did not do these things against the will of heaven. I myself
saw an immortal god take the form of Mentor and stand beside him. This
god appeared, now in front of him encouraging him, and now going
furiously about the court and attacking the suitors whereon they
fell thick on one another."
On this pale fear laid hold of them, and old Halitherses, son of
Mastor, rose to speak, for he was the only man among them who knew
both past and future; so he spoke to them plainly and in all
"Men of Ithaca, it is all your own fault that things have turned out
as they have; you would not listen to me, nor yet to Mentor, when we
bade you check the folly of your sons who were doing much wrong in the
wantonness of their hearts- wasting the substance and dishonouring the
wife of a chieftain who they thought would not return. Now, however,
let it be as I say, and do as I tell you. Do not go out against
Ulysses, or you may find that you have been drawing down evil on
your own heads."
This was what he said, and more than half raised a loud shout, and
at once left the assembly. But the rest stayed where they were, for
the speech of Halitherses displeased them, and they sided with
Eupeithes; they therefore hurried off for their armour, and when
they had armed themselves, they met together in front of the city, and
Eupeithes led them on in their folly. He thought he was going to
avenge the murder of his son, whereas in truth he was never to return,
but was himself to perish in his attempt.
Then Minerva said to Jove, "Father, son of Saturn, king of kings,
answer me this question- What do you propose to do? Will you set
them fighting still further, or will you make peace between them?"
And Jove answered, "My child, why should you ask me? Was it not by
your own arrangement that Ulysses came home and took his revenge
upon the suitors? Do whatever you like, but I will tell you what I
think will be most reasonable arrangement. Now that Ulysses is
revenged, let them swear to a solemn covenant, in virtue of which he
shall continue to rule, while we cause the others to forgive and
forget the massacre of their sons and brothers. Let them then all
become friends as heretofore, and let peace and plenty reign."
This was what Minerva was already eager to bring about, so down
she darted from off the topmost summits of Olympus.
Now when Laertes and the others had done dinner, Ulysses began by
saying, "Some of you go out and see if they are not getting close up
to us." So one of Dolius's sons went as he was bid. Standing on the
threshold he could see them all quite near, and said to Ulysses, "Here
they are, let us put on our armour at once."
They put on their armour as fast as they could- that is to say
Ulysses, his three men, and the six sons of Dolius. Laertes also and
Dolius did the same- warriors by necessity in spite of their grey
hair. When they had all put on their armour, they opened the gate
and sallied forth, Ulysses leading the way.
Then Jove's daughter Minerva came up to them, having assumed the
form and voice of Mentor. Ulysses was glad when he saw her, and said
to his son Telemachus, "Telemachus, now that are about to fight in
an engagement, which will show every man's mettle, be sure not to
disgrace your ancestors, who were eminent for their strength and
courage all the world over."
"You say truly, my dear father," answered Telemachus, "and you shall
see, if you will, that I am in no mind to disgrace your family."
Laertes was delighted when he heard this. "Good heavens, he
exclaimed, "what a day I am enjoying: I do indeed rejoice at it. My
son and grandson are vying with one another in the matter of valour."
On this Minerva came close up to him and said, "Son of Arceisius-
best friend I have in the world- pray to the blue-eyed damsel, and
to Jove her father; then poise your spear and hurl it."
As she spoke she infused fresh vigour into him, and when he had
prayed to her he poised his spear and hurled it. He hit Eupeithes'
helmet, and the spear went right through it, for the helmet stayed
it not, and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily to
the ground. Meantime Ulysses and his son fell the front line of the
foe and smote them with their swords and spears; indeed, they would
have killed every one of them, and prevented them from ever getting
home again, only Minerva raised her voice aloud, and made every one
pause. "Men of Ithaca," she cried, cease this dreadful war, and settle
the matter at once without further bloodshed."
On this pale fear seized every one; they were so frightened that
their arms dropped from their hands and fell upon the ground at the
sound of the goddess's voice, and they fled back to the city for their
lives. But Ulysses gave a great cry, and gathering himself together
swooped down like a soaring eagle. Then the son of Saturn sent a
thunderbolt of fire that fell just in front of Minerva, so she said to
Ulysses, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, stop this warful strife, or
Jove will be angry with you."
Thus spoke Minerva, and Ulysses obeyed her gladly. Then Minerva
assumed the form and voice of Mentor, and presently made a covenant of
peace between the two contending parties.
The Troubadour. Canto 4
IT was a wild and untrain'd bower,
Enough to screen from April shower,
Or shelter from June's hotter hour,
Tapestried with starry jessamines,
The summer's gold and silver mines;
With a moss seat, and its turf set
With crowds of the white violet.
And close beside a fountain play'd,
Dim, cool, from its encircling shade;
And lemon trees grew round, as pale
As never yet to them the gale
Had brought a message from the sun
To say their summer task was done.
It was a very solitude
For love in its despairing mood,
With just enough of breath and bloom,
With just enough of calm and gloom,
To suit a heart where love has wrought
His wasting work, with saddest thought;
Where all its sickly fantasies
May call up suiting images:
With flowers like hopes that spring and fade
As only for a mockery made,
And shadows of the boughs that fall
Like sorrow drooping over all.
And LEILA , loveliest! can it be
Such destiny is made for thee?
Yes, it is written on thy brow
The all thy lip may not avow,--
All that in woman's heart can dwell,
Save by a blush unutterable.
Alas! that ever RAYMOND came
To light thy cheek and heart to flame,--
A hidden fire, but not the less
Consuming in its dark recess.
She had leant by his couch of pain,
When throbbing pulse and bursting vein
Fierce spoke the fever, when fate near
Rode on the tainted atmosphere;
And though that parch'd lip spoke alone
Of other love, in fondest tone,
And though the maiden knew that death
Might be upon his lightest breath,
Yet never by her lover's side
More fondly watch'd affianced bride,--
With pain or fear more anxious strove,
Than LEILA watch'd another's love.
But he was safe!--that very day
Farewell, it had been her's to say;
And he was gone to his own land,
To seek another maiden's hand.
Who that had look'd on her that morn,
Could dream of all her heart had borne;
Her cheek was red, but who could know
'Twas flushing with the strife below;--
Her eye was bright, but who could tell
It shone with tears she strove to quell;--
Her voice was gay, her step was light;
And, beaming, beautiful, and bright,
It was as if life could confer
Nothing but happiness on her.
Ah! who could think that all so fair
Was semblance, and but misery there.
'Tis strange with how much power and pride
The softness is of love allied;
How much of power to force the breast
To be in outward show at rest,--
How much of pride that never eye
May look upon its agony!
Ah! little will the lip reveal
Of all the burning heart can feel.
But this was past, and she was now
With clasped hands prest to her brow,
And head bow'd down upon her knee,
And heart-pulse throbbing audibly,
And tears that gush'd like autumn rain,
The more for that they gush'd in vain.
Oh! why should woman ever love,
Trusting to one false star above;
And fling her little chance away
Of sunshine for its treacherous ray.
At first ELVIRA had not sought
To break upon her lonely thought.
But it was now the vesper time,
And she return'd not at the chime
Of holy bells,--she knew the hour:--
At last they search'd her favourite bower;
Beside the fount they found the maid
On head bow'd down, as if she pray'd;
Her long black hair fell like a veil,
Making her pale brow yet more pale.
'Twas strange to look upon her face,
Then turn and see its shadowy trace
Within the fountain; one like stone,
So cold, so colourless, so lone,--
A statue nymph, placed there to show
How far the sculptor's art could go.
The other, and that too the shade,
In light and crimson warmth array'd;
For the red glow of day declining,
Was now upon the fountain shining,
And the shape in its mirror bright
Of sparkling waves caught warmth and light.
ELVIRA spoke not, though so near,
Her words lay mute in their own fear:
At last she whisper'd LEILA'S name,--
No answer from the maiden came.
She took one cold hand in her own,
Started, and it dropp'd lifeless down!
She gazed upon the fixed eye,
And read in it mortality.
And lingers yet that maiden's tale
A legend of the lemon vale:
They say that never from that hour
Has flourish'd there a single flower,--
The jasmine droop'd, the violets died,
Nothing grew by that fountain side,
Save the pale pining lemon trees,
And the dark weeping cypresses.--
And now when to the twilight star
The lover wakes his lone guitar,
Or maiden bids a song impart
All that is veil'd in her own heart,
The wild and mournful tale they tell
Of her who loved, alas! too well.--
And where was RAYMOND , where was he?
Borne homeward o'er the rapid sea,
While sunny days and favouring gales
Brought welcome speed to the white sails,--
With bended knee, and upraised hand,
He stood upon his native land,
With all that happiness can be
When resting on futurity.
On, on he went, and o'er the plain
He rode an armed knight again;
He urged his steed with hand and heel,
It bounded concious of the steel,
And never yet to RAYMOND'S eye
Spread such an earth, shone such a sky,
Blew such sweet breezes o'er his brow,
As those his native land had now.
He thought upon young EVA'S name,
And felt that she was still the same;
He thought on AMIRALD , his child
Had surely his dark cares beguiled;
He thought upon the welcome sweet
It would be his so soon to meet:
And never had the star of hope
Shone on a lovelier horoscope.
And evening shades were on the hour
When RAYMOND rode beneath the tower
Remember'd well, for ADELINE
Had there been his heart's summer queen.
Could this be it?--he knew the heath
Which, lake-like, spread its walls beneath,--
He saw the dark old chesnut wood
Which had for ages by it stood;
And but for these the place had been
As one that he had never seen.
The walls were rent, the gates were gone,
No red light from the watch tower shone.
He enter'd, and the hall was bare,
It show'd the spoiler had been there;
Even upon the very hearth
The green grass found a place of birth.
Oh, vanity! that the stone wall
May sooner than a blossom fall;
The tower in its strength may be
Laid low before the willow tree.
There stood the wood, subject to all
The autumn wind, the winter fall,--
There stood the castle which the rain
And wind had buffetted in vain,--
But one in ruins stood beside
The other green in its spring pride.
And RAYMOND paced the lonely hall
As if he feared his own footfall.
It is the very worst, the gloom
Of a deserted banquet-room,
To see the spider's web outvie
The torn and faded tapestry,--
To shudder at the cold damp air,
Then think how once were burning there
The incense vase with odour glowing,
The silver lamp its softness throwing
O'er cheeks as beautiful and bright
As roses bathed in summer light,--
How through the portals sweeping came
Proud cavalier and high-born dame,
With gems like stars 'mid raven curls,
And snow-white plumes and wreathed pearls--
Gold cups, whose lighted flames made dim
The sparkling stones around the brim;--
Soft voices answering to the lute,
The swelling harp, the sigh-waked flute,--
The glancing lightness of the dance,--
Then, starting sudden from thy trance,
Gaze round the lonely place and see
Its silence and obscurity:
Then commune with thine heart, and say
These are the foot-prints of decay,--
And I, even thus shall pass away.
And RAYMOND turn'd him to depart,
With darken'd brow and heavy heart.
Can outrage or can time remove
The sting, the scar of slighted love?
He could not look upon the scene
And not remember ADELINE ,
Fair queen of gone festivity,--
Oh, where was it, and where was she!
At distance short a village lay,
And thither RAYMOND took his way,
And in its hostel shelter found,
While the dark night was closing round.
It was a cheerful scene, the hearth
Was bright with wood-fire and with mirth,
And in the midst a harper bent
O'er his companion instrument:
'Twas an old man, his hair was grey,--
For winter tracks in snow its way,--
But yet his dark, keen eye was bright,
With somewhat of its youthful light;
Like one whose path of life had made
Its course through mingled sheen and shade,
But one whose buoyant spirit still
Pass'd lightly on through good or ill,--
One reckless if borne o'er the sea
In storm or in tranquillity;
The same to him, as if content
Were his peculiar element.
'Tis strange how the heart can create
Or colour from itself its fate;
We make ourselves our own distress,
We are ourselves our happiness.
And many a song and many a lay,
Had pass'd the cheerful hour away,
When one pray'd that he would relate,
His tale of the proud ladye's fate,--
The lady ADELINE ;--the name
Like lightning upon RAYMOND came!
And swept the harper o'er his chords
As that he paused for minstrel words,
Or stay'd till silence should prevail,
When thus the old man told the tale.
THE PROUD LADYE.
OH , what could the ladye's beauty match,
An it were not the ladye's pride;
An hundred knights from far and near
Woo'd at that ladye's side.
The rose of the summer slept on her cheek,
Its lily upon her breast,
And her eye shone forth like the glorious star
That rises the first in the west.
There were some that woo'd for her land and gold,
And some for her noble name,
And more that woo'd for her loveliness;
But her answer was still the same.
'There is a steep and lofty wall,
Where my warders trembling stand,
He who at speed shall ride round its height,
For him shall be my hand.'
Many turn'd away from the deed,
The hope of their wooing o'er;
But many a young knight mounted the steed
He never mounted more.
At last there came a youthful knight,
From a strange and far countrie,
The steed that he rode was white as the foam
Upon a stormy sea.
And she who had scorn'd the name of love,
Now bow'd before its might,
And the ladye grew meek as if disdain
Were not made for that stranger knight.
She sought at first to steal his soul
By dance, song, and festival;
At length on bended knee she pray'd
He would not ride the wall.
But gaily the young knight laugh'd at her fears,
And flung him on his steed,--
There was not a saint in the calendar
That she pray'd not to in her need.
She dared not raise her eyes to see
If heaven had granted her prayer,
Till she heard a light step bound to her side,--
The gallant knight stood there!
And took the ladye ADELINE
From her hair a jewell'd band,
But the knight repell'd the offer'd gift,
And turn'd from the offer'd hand.
And deemest thou that I dared this deed,
Ladye, for love of thee;
The honour that guides the soldier's lance
Is mistress enough for me.
Enough for me to ride the ring,
The victor's crown to wear;
But not in honour of the eyes
Of any ladye there.
I had a brother whom I lost
Through thy proud crueltie,
And far more was to me his love,
Than woman's love can be.
I came to triumph o'er the pride
Through which that brother fell,
I laugh to scorn thy love and thee,
And now, proud dame, farewell!
And from that hour the ladye pined,
For love was in her heart,
And on her slumber there came dreams
She could not bid depart.
Her eye lost all its starry light,
Her cheek grew wan and pale,
Till she hid her faded loveliness
Beneath the sacred veil.
And she cut off her long dark hair,
And bade the world farewell,
And she now dwells a veiled nun
In Saint Marie's cell.
AND what were RAYMOND'S dreams that night?
The morning's gift of crimson light
Waked not his sleep, for his pale cheek
Did not of aught like slumber speak;
Though not upon a morn like this
Should RAYMOND turn to aught but bliss.
To-day, when EVA will be prest,
Ere evening, to his throbbing breast,--
To-day, when all his own will be
That cheer'd his long captivity.
Care to the wind of heaven was flung
As the young knight to stirrup sprung.
He reach'd the castle; save one, all
Rush'd to his welcome in the hall.
He gazed, but there no EVA came,
Scarce his low voice named EVA'S name!
'Our EVA , she is far away
Amid the young, the fair, the gay.
At Thoulouse, now the bright resort
Of beauty and the Minstrel Court;
For this time it is hers to set
The victor's brow with violet.
Her father,--but you're worn and pale,--
Come, the wine cup will aid my tale.'
The greeting of the elder knight,
The cheerful board, the vintage bright,
Not all could chase from RAYMOND'S soul,
The cloud that o'er its gladness stole;
And soon, pretending toil, he sought
A solitude for lonely thought.--
'Tis strange how much of vanity
Almost unconciously will be
With our best feelings mix'd, and now
But that, what shadows RAYMOND'S brow.
He had deem'd a declining flower,
Pining in solitary bower,
He should find EVA , sad and lone,--
He sought the cage, the bird had flown,
With burnish'd plume, and careless wing,
A follower of the sunny Spring.
He pictured her the first of all
In masque, and dance, and festival,--
With cheek at its own praises burning,
And eyes but on adorers turning,
The lady of the tournament,
For whose bright sake the lance was sent;
While minstrels borrow'd from her name
The beauty which they paid by fame:
Beloved! not even his hot brain
Dared whisper,--loving too again.
But the next morn, and RAYMOND bent
His steps to that fair Parliament,
While pride and hasty anger strove
Against his memory and his love.
But leave we him awhile to rave
Against the faith which, like the wave,
By every grain of sand can be
Moved from its own tranquillity,
Till settled he that woman's mind
Was but a leaf before the wind,--
Left to remain, retreat, advance,
Without a destiny but chance.--
And where is EVA ? on her cheek
Is there aught that of love may speak?
Amid the music and perfume
That, mingling, fill yon stately room
A maiden sits, around her chair
Stand others who, with graceful care,
Bind Indian jewels in her hair.
'Tis EVA ! on one side a stand
Of dark wood from the Ethiop's land
Is cover'd with all gems that deck
A maiden's arm, or maiden's neck:
The diamond with its veins of light,
The sapphire like a summer night,
The ruby rich as it had won
A red gift from the setting sun,
And white pearls, such as might have been
A bridal offering for a queen.
On the side opposite were thrown,
Rainbow-like mix'd, a sparkling zone,
A snow-white veil, a purple vest
Embroider'd with a golden crest.
Before, the silver mirror's trace
Is the sweet shadow of her face,
Placed as appealing to her eyes
For the truth of the flatteries,
With which her gay attendants seek
To drive all sadness from her cheek.--
She heard them not; she reck'd not how
They wreath'd the bright hair o'er her brow,
Whate'er its sunny grace might be
There was an eye that would not see.
They told of words of royal praise,
They told of minstrel's moonlight lays,
Of youthful knights who swore to die
For her least smile, her lightest sigh.
But he was gone, her young, her brave,
Her heart was with him in the grave.
Wearied, for ill the heart may bear
Light words in which it has no share,
She turn'd to a pale maid, who, mute,
Dreaming of song leant o'er her lute;
And at her sign, that maiden's words
Came echo-like to its sweet chords,--
It was a low and silver tone,
And very sad, like sorrow's own;
She sang of love as it will be,
And has been in reality,--
Of fond hearts broken and betray'd,
Of roses opening but to fade,
Of wither'd hope, and wasted bloom,
Of the young warrior's early tomb;
And the while her dark mournful eye
Held with her words deep sympathy.
And EVA listen'd;--music's power
Is little felt in sunlit hour;
But hear its voice when hopes depart,
Like swallows, flying from the heart
On which the summer's late decline
Has set a sadness and a sign;
When friends whose commune once we sought
For every bosom wish and thought,
Have given in our hour of need
Such a support as gives the reed,--
When we have seen the green grass grow
Over what once was life below;
How deeply will the spirit feel
The lute, the song's sweet-voiced appeal;
And how the heart drink in their sighs
As echoes they from Paradise.
'Tis done: the last bright gem is set
In EVA'S sparkling coronet;
A soil on her rich veil appears,--
Unsuiting here--and is it tears!
Her father met her, he was proud
To lead his daughter through the crowd,
And see the many eyes that gazed,
Then mark the blush their gazing raised;
And for his sake, she forced away
The clouds that on her forehead lay,
The sob rose in her throat, 'twas all,
The tears swam, but they dared not fall;
And the pale lip put on a smile,
Alas it was too sad for guile!
A beautiful and festal day
Shone summer bright o'er the array,
And purple banners work'd in gold,
And azure pennons spread their fold,
O'er the rich awnings which were round
The galleries that hemm'd in the ground,
The green and open space, where met
The Minstrels of the Violet;
And two or three old stately trees
Soften'd the sun, skreen'd from the breeze.
And there came many a lovely dame,
With cheek of rose, and eye of flame;
And many a radiant arm was raised,
Whose rubies in the sunshine blazed;
And many a white veil swept the air
Only than what they hid less fair;
And placed at his own beauty's feet
Found many a youthful knight his seat,
And flung his jewell'd cap aside,
And wore his scarf with gayer pride,
And whisper'd soft and gallant things,
And bade the bards' imaginings
Whenever love awoke the tone,
With their sweet passion plead his own.
Beneath an azure canopy,
Blue as the sweep of April's sky,
Upon a snowy couch reclined
Like a white cloud before the wind,
Leant EVA :--there was many a tent
More royal, more magnificent,
With purple, gold, and crimson swelling,
But none so like a fairy dwelling:
One curtain bore her father's crest,
But summer flowers confined the rest;
And, at her feet, the ground was strew'd
With the June's rainbow multitude:
Beside her knelt a page, who bore
A vase with jewels sparkling o'er,
And in that shining vase was set
The prize,--THE GOLDEN VIOLET.
Alas for her whom ev'ry eye
Worshipp'd like a divinity!
Alas for her whose ear was fill'd
With flatteries like sweet woods distill'd!
Alas for EVA ! bloom and beam,
Music and mirth, came like a dream,
In which she mingled not,--apart
From all in heaviness of heart.
There were soft tales pour'd in her ear,
She look'd on many a cavalier,
Wander'd her eye round the glad scene,
It was as if they had not been;--
To ear, eye, heart, there only came
Her RAYMOND'S image, RAYMOND'S name!
There is a flower, a snow-white flower,
Fragile as if a morning shower
Would end its being, and the earth
Forget to what it gave a birth;
And it looks innocent and pale,
Slight as the least force could avail
To pluck it from its bed, and yet
Its root in depth and strength is set.
The July sun, the autumn rain,
Beat on its slender stalk in vain;--
Around it spreads, despite of care,
Till the whole garden is its share;
And other plants must fade and fall
Beneath its deep and deadly thrall.
This is love's emblem; it is nurst
In all unconciousness at first,
Too slight, too fair, to wake distrust;
No sign how that an after hour
Will rue and weep its fatal power.
'Twas thus with EVA ; she had dream'd
Of love as his first likeness seem'd,
A sweet thought o'er which she might brood,
The treasure of her solitude;
But tidings of young RAYMOND'S fate
Waken'd her from her dream too late,
Even her timid love could be
The ruling star of destiny.
And when a calmer mood prevail'd
O'er that whose joy her father hail'd,
Too well he saw how day by day
Some other emblem of decay
Came on her lip, and o'er her brow,
Which only she would disallow;
The cheek the lightest word could flush
Not with health's rose, but the heart's gush
Of feverish anxiousness; he caught
At the least hope, and vainly sought
By change, by pleasure, to dispell
Her sorrow from its secret cell.
In vain;--what can reanimate
A heart too early desolate?
It had been his, it could not save,
But it could follow to his grave.
The trumpets peal'd their latest round,
Stole from the flutes a softer sound,
Swell'd the harp to each master's hand,
As onward came the minstrel band!
And many a bright cheek grew more bright,
And many a dark eye flash'd with light,
As bent the minstrel o'er his lute,
And urged the lover's plaining suit,
Or swept a louder chord, and gave
Some glorious history of the brave.
At last from 'mid the crowd one came,
Unknown himself, unknown his name,
Both knight and bard,--the stranger wore
The garb of a young Troubadour;
His dark green mantle loosely flung,
Conceal'd the form o'er which it hung;
And his cap, with its shadowy plume,
Hid his face by its raven gloom.
Little did EVA'S careless eye
Dream that it wander'd RAYMOND by,
Though his first tone thrill'd every vein,
It only made her turn again,
Forget the scene, the song, and dwell
But on what memory felt too well.
THE SONG OF THE TROUBADOUR.
IN some valley low and lone,
Where I was the only one
Of the human dwellers there,
Would I dream away my care:
I'd forget how in the world
Snakes lay amid roses curl'd,
I'd forget my once distress
For young Love's insidiousness.
False foes, and yet falser friends,
Seeming but for their own ends;
Pleasures known but by their wings,
Yet remember'd by their stings;
Gold's decrease, and health's decay,
I will fly like these away,
To some lovely solitude,
Where the nightingale's young brood
Lives amid the shrine of leaves,
Which the wild rose round them weaves,
And my dwelling shall be made
Underneath the beech-tree's shade.
Twining ivy for the walls
Over which the jasmine falls,
Like a tapestry work'd with gold
And pearls around each emerald fold:
And my couches shall be set
With the purple violet,
And the white ones too, inside
Each a blush to suit a bride.
That flower which of all that live,
Lovers, should be those who give,
Primroses, for each appears
Pale and wet with many tears.
Alas tears and pallid check
All too often love bespeak!
There the gilderose should fling
Silver treasures to the spring,
And the bright laburnum's tresess
Seeking the young wind's caresses;
In the midst an azure lake,
Where no oar e'er dips to break
The clear bed of its blue rest,
Where the halcyon builds her nest;
And amid the sedges green,
And the water-flag's thick screen,
The solitary swan resides;
And the bright kingfisher hides,
With its colours rich like those
Which the bird of India shows.--
Once I thought that I would seek
Some fair creature, young and meek,
Whose most gentle smile would bless
My too utter loneliness;
But I then remember'd all
I had suffer'd from Love's thrall,
And I thought I 'd not again
Enter in the lion's den;
But, with my wrung heart now free,
So I thought I still will be.
Love is like a kingly dome,
Yet too often sorrow's home;
Sometimes smiles, but oftener tears,
Jealousies, and hopes, and fears,
A sweet liquor sparkling up,
But drank from a poison'd cup.
Would you guard your heart from care
Love must never enter there.
I will dwell with summer flowers,
Fit friends for the summer hours,
My companions honey-bees,
And birds, and buds, and leaves, and trees,
And the dew of the twilight,
And the thousand stars of night:
I will cherish that sweet gift,
The least earthly one now left
Of the gems of Paradise,
Poesy's delicious sighs.
Ill may that soft spirit bear
Crowds' or cities' healthless air;
Was not her sweet breathing meant
To echo the low murmur sent
By the flowers, and by the rill,
When all save the wind is still?
As if to tell of those fair things
High thoughts, pure imaginings,
That recall how bright, how fair,
In our other state we were.
And at last, when I have spent
A calm life in mild content,
May my spirit pass away
As the early leaves decay:
Spring shakes her gay coronal,
One sweet breath, and then they fall.
Only let the red-breast bring
Moss to strew me with, and sing,
One low mournful dirge to tell
I have bid the world farewell.
AND praise rang forth, the prize is won,
Young minstrel, thou hast equal none!
They led him to the lady's seat,
And knelt he down at EVA'S feet;
She bent his victor brow to deck,
And, fainting, sunk upon his neck!
The cap and plume aside were thrown,
'Twas as the grave restored its own,
And sent its victim forth to share
Light, life, and hope, and sun, and air.
That day the feast spread gay and bright
In honour of the youthful knight,
And it was EVA'S fairy hand
Met RAYMOND'S in the saraband,
And it was EVA'S ear that heard
Many a low and love-tuned word.--
And life seem'd as a sunny stream,
And hope awaked as from a dream;
But what has minstrel left to tell
When love has not an obstacle?
My lute is hush'd, and mute its chords,
The heart and happiness have no words!
MY tale is told, the glad sunshine
Fell over its commencing line,--
It was a morn in June, the sun
Was blessing all it shone upon,
The sky was clear as not a cloud
Were ever on its face allow'd;
The hill whereon I stood was made
A pleasant place of summer shade
By the green elms which seem'd as meant
To make the noon a shadowy tent.
I had been bent half sleep, half wake,
Dreaming those rainbow dreams that take
The spirit prisoner in their chain,
Too beautiful to be quite vain,--
Enough if they can soothe or cheer
One moment's pain or sorrow here.
And I was happy; hope and fame
Together on my visions came,
For memory had just dipp'd her wings
In honey dews, and sunlit springs,--
My brow burnt with its early wreath,
My soul had drank its first sweet breath
Of praise, and yet my cheek was flushing,
My heart with the full torrent gushing
Of feelings whose delighted mood
Was mingling joy and gratitude.
Scarce possible it seem'd to be
That such praise could be meant for me.--
Enured to coldness and neglect,
My spirit chill'd, my breathing check'd,
All that can crowd and crush the mind,
Friends even more than fate unkind,
And fortunes stamp'd with the pale sign
That marks and makes autumn's decline.
How could I stand in the sunshine,
And marvel not that it was mine?
One word, if ever happiness
In its most passionate excess
Offer'd its wine to human lip,
It has been mine that cup to sip.
I may not say with what deep dread
The words of my first song were said,
I may not say how much delight
Has been upon my minstrel flight.--
'Tis vain, and yet my heart would say
Somewhat to those who made my way
A path of light, with power to kill,
To check, to crush, but not the will.
Thanks for the gentleness that lent
My young lute such encouragement,
When scorn had turn'd my heart to stone,
Oh, their's be thanks and benison!
Back to the summer hill again,
When first I thought upon this strain,
And music rose upon the air,
I look'd below, and, gather'd there,
Rode soldiers with their breast-plates glancing,
Helmets and snow-white feathers dancing,
And trumpets at whose martial sound
Prouder the war horse trod the ground,
And waved their flag with many a name
Of battles and each battle fame.
And as I mark'd the gallant line
Pass through the green lane's serpentine,
And as I saw the boughs give way
Before the crimson pennons' play;
To other days my fancy went,
Call'd up the stirring tournament,
The dark-eyed maiden who for years
Kept the vows seal'd by parting tears,
While he who own'd her plighted hand
Was fighting in the Holy Land.
The youthful knight with his gay crest,
His ladye's scarf upon a breast
Whose truth was kept, come life, come death,--
Alas! has modern love such faith?
I thought how in the moon-lit hour
The minstrel hymn'd his maiden's bower,
His helm and sword changed for the lute
And one sweet song to urge his suit.
Floated around me moated hall,
And donjon keep, and frowning wall;
I saw the marshall'd hosts advance,
I gazed on banner, brand, and lance;
The murmur of a low song came
Bearing one only worshipp'd name;
And my next song, I said, should be
A tale of gone-by chivalry.
My task is done, the tale is told,
The lute drops from my wearied hold;
Spreads no green earth, no summer sky
To raise fresh visions for my eye,
The hour is dark, the winter rain
Beats cold and harsh against the pane,
Where, spendthrift like, the branches twine,
Worn, knotted, of a leafless vine;
And the wind howls in gusts around,
As omens were in each drear sound,--
Omens that bear upon their breath
Tidings of sorrow, pain, and death.
Thus should it be,--I could not bear
The breath of flowers, the sunny air
Upon that ending page should be
Which ONE will never, never see.
Yet who will love it like that one,
Who cherish as he would have done,
My father! albeit but in vain
This clasping of a broken chain,
And albeit of all vainest things
That haunt with sad imaginings,
None has the sting of memory;
Yet still my spirit turns to thee,
Despite of long and lone regret,
Rejoicing it cannot forget.
I would not lose the lightest thought
With one remembrance of thine fraught,--
And my heart said no name, but thine
Should be on this last page of mine.
My father, though no more, thine ear
Censure or praise of mine can hear,
It soothes me to embalm thy name
With all my hope, my pride, my fame,
Treasures of Fancy's fairy hall,--
Thy name most precious far of all.
My page is wet with bitter tears,--
I cannot but think of those years
When happiness and I would wait
On summer evenings by the gate,
And keep o'er the green fields our watch
The first sound of thy step to catch,
Then run for the first kiss, and word,--
An unkind one I never heard.
But these are pleasant memories,
And later years have none like these:
They came with griefs, and pains, and cares,
All that the heart breaks while it bears;
Desolate as I feel alone
I should not weep that thou art gone.
Alas! the tears that still will fall
Are selfish in their fond recall;--
If ever tears could win from Heaven
A loved one, and yet be forgiven,
Mine surely might; I may not tell
The agony of my farewell!
A single tear I had not shed,--
'Twas the first time I mourn'd the dead:--
It was my heaviest loss, my worst,--
My father!--and was thine the first!
Farewell! in my heart is a spot
Where other griefs and cares come not,
Hallow'd by love, by memory kept,
And deeply honour'd, deeply wept.
My own dead father, time may bring
Chance, change, upon his rainbow-wing,
But never will thy name depart
The household god of thy child's heart,
Until thy orphan girl may share
The grave where her best feelings are.
Never, dear father, love can be,
Like the dear love I had for thee!
the Source of ‘Crab Nebula'
'The greats molder in their graves
Their words collect as dust upon their spines
Their hearts do not beat in time with today
and yet, the Spirit calls & you answer
What more can a ‘writer' do'?
(poetic writers are compelled to write
& seldom know why)
There is a cold water'd house
On a bleak winter'd street
With stale musty stink
Of unwashed sock and sheet
Dirty dishes left still
Standing there in the sink.
Memories drenched in scent
Of kerosene and coal
Christmases without trees
Colored paper or ribbon bows.
Yet ___ there was laughter, warm
and yes ___ love
Her making toast over-done
and coffee too thin for him.
Poverty of wage and things
Cannot suppress the hope
Of loves gentle kiss
Became a foggy mist
Of what could have been
Instead of what is.
(Genetic Memory of Life before I was)
(I did not ask to be born)
Knowing why, doesn't make the search go away
Knowing how, doesn't mean you can stop
There are alternative ways, different days
No one gets to stay forever
There are traps
There are walls
People trip and people fall
and some never get up and walk again
The world continues to change
Nothing stays the same
Tomorrow is not always better
Bad things happen to good people
Good things happen to bad
and no one knows, why the wind blows
The water rises and why everything must die
Wishing will not make the pain of life go away
Life, is what it is.
Son... this is Karma calling ___
I did not hear him as he called out
As if I could have comforted him
Or kept him from slipping away
Perhaps he was waiting to say goodbye
Or to hear how sorry I was to see him go
I did not hear him as he called out
I was young and caught up in living my life
Of squander, waste and dark skinned girls
With eyes of fire and ice
I admit I was not very nice
I did not hear him as he called out
Now fear grips my stony heart
Holds me tight as I call out
and there is no one there
In the middle of the night.
Decadent Dreams ___
Every day I am borne anew
Through the mud and sludge
Of decadent dreams
And some vague remembrance
That I'm connected to my past
I stare at a mirrored reflection
I do not recognize
My cold pinching shoes feel too far away to tie
As I try to remember, where I'm going and why
I try to capture that which is lost
The world that was meant for me
Is not the world in which I live
My face feels the sting of one hand clapping
My eyes focus on the world outside of my self
The colors change from ‘Dali-esque vibrancy
To being all sooty and smelling of sweat
Ahhh, ... it must be Monday and time to go back to work.
I found center and faced South
(thinking to my self)
‘Might as well start walking my ass some more'
I had gone back home, it wasn't there anymore
I had no future ‘cept my next step
Hungries forced asleep
Dead-air feed's on my innards
And yet, never have I felt so alive
I felt the wind push me further along the highway
Pushed by the driving force of Peterbilts and Reo's
Death a dark lonely step just to the left of shoulder
the Sign read
‘Watch Out For Falling Rocks'
Impact on the endless lostness
Despair unworthy of the energy required
Step impact, step, step
Taillights stop, door open
Light on friendly face
Jump in as a grateful alley-cat seeking shelter from the rain,
Sot, footsoak, water-blister, blood wet, of another years-end drizzle
Feel the warm fragrant above my own Zen-stench
Cross the Line___
I've been to the other side
you know, Crossed the line
Where the juke joints live and people die
Where the rhythms have a hitch and some jive
And the words flow as a sudden snow
Where the rules ain't as important
As the fire and ice, going through my veins
and the sound of underground trains
Made me feel gritty in my B-flat' strains
The city makes me crazy
Air I breathed, kinda hazy
& I couldn't take it anymore
So, I poured all my feelings onto the page
Bounced off the ceilings with all of my rage,
To see if it would fit, into the message I had writ
I have been, to the other side.
Just Relax ___
We are all just passing through
If we decide to stay a while, sit a spell
We may be able to rent or lease some place
As we ride this rock through space
We can't own it, even if we pay for it
The tax man will take it back
Come with bricks and bats
We own nothing, that we can take with us
As we build our towers and bridges
We can't even take the smell of flowers
They leave at our grave
Or the sweat we gave to make this place ours
So just relax
Don't get too attached, It ain't ours
We just use it for hours, to do what They' want us to do.
One Way Ticket___
Another day of the dead as I stare at my empty bed
I see shadows of the Moon as time falls behind
Love had grown old and turned to dust
The papers of Divorce have finally been signed
Disappointment has replaced my once young lust
Words can no longer describe what is left of my mind
As once held hopes and dreams
Now slowly unravel and unwind
The Sun turns dim and grows small upon the western sky
Clouds from the East, join with clouds from the North
And grayness comes into my world
The ecstatic colors of Autumn leaves silently fall to ground
The ‘Dog Winds of Winter' called forth their biting
Knowing she was no longer there to warm me with her smile.
No one knows why some choices made are unwise / certainly not I
Or why some are out of step with the universal mind / as is mine
All I know for sure ___ is, I know nothing' for sure
There are those that believe with all their heart / I know not why
They see things that are not here or there / that I cannot
All I know for sure ___ is, I know nothing' for sure
While others are willing to kill or die
For an idea that I cannot comprehend
Or bring about a final end
Without trying to mend a broken fence
To me / makes no sense
All I know for sure ___ is, I know nothing' for sure.
I opened the bag *, that I had carried a lifetime
There was a lot of dark empty space
Some memories, smiles and tears
That never found my face
Knowledge without wisdom
Experiences never intended
Pain I could not erase
Many failures and disappointed others,
I had met along the way
Many books unread, many games not played
In my search for what? I'm still not sure
My motives, though well intended, my thoughts often impure
I could have been / should have been
Meant to be so much more
I barely managed to carry that dusty bag
Now empty, lying there on the floor
I hadn't wanted it, to end like this
Shuffling, dragging one foot
Elbow pressed to my waist
Holding up my rumpled trousers
Whimpering with each painful step
Some times life' just be like that.
(* I had stood up too quickly and passed out, an ‘out of body experience,
revealed my ‘self from above, as my body appeared as an empty bag) .
El Gatos ___
Padded feet on deserted streets
After-hours as others sleep
With half Moon hidden
Behind clouds and trees stripped of leaves.
Familiar walks of solitude and classic etude's
Whispering in tall Fall grasses
Fences blending shadows into the night.
As Life's fabric of mystery weft and weaves.
There are gardens of purple hush
With no access for trespasses
No stone pillows for the restless and the lost
That wander the forever in dirty sleeves.
The air smells of dogs of war
Avoiding the whore of death
That tempts my contempt of the pleasures
Society so eagerly receives.
Being alone is my preference in life
Not the cackle of woman and bleating sheep
Or those that would lie in wait
To destroy dreams and dawns of precious sleep.
(the night belongs to stray cats & homeless old men)
Grandfather Clock / tick tick ___
Blustery she is...
The wind that crosses the River East
Shaking the remaining leaves from their wresting
Never resting she does not cease her hoary breath.
Others, stronger than I ignore her warnings
But I, hear her curse.
She is coming for the weary and infirm
She is searching for me in shudders and shakes
This is all it takes to confirm
That this year I am willing to go without a whimper.
I am ready for the kiss that takes my breath away.
As a child I saw the gathering of suits
and dresses of somber smells.
Murmurs and the whispering of flowers
Sickly surrounding wooden chairs,
And guilt, because I did not feel anything.
'He is just a child, he does not know'.
I knew I did not like this Death thing.
Why is Uncle asleep there?
Why does she cry?
Why won't they say, so I understand?
Why can't I play?
'Shhhh, He's gone away'.
As leaves are beaten down from their homes of trees
and drops of rain rush fast towards the street corners drains
My words written in messy script on paper scraps
Are soon forgotten and do not last. I wonder...,
Was there a glimpse of gold in words unspoken?
A reflection of celebrity missed by me,
Crumpled and tossed into the waste in haste?
Probably not. But still I thought ___ maybe.
Maybe I am as among the undiscovered stars,
That flicker and shine but briefly, then burn away,
That no one sees and no one will ever know existed.
(Life is like that.)
I dreamt dreams as a child
And it was with fresh eyes when I woke
That I saw and remembered
What had been written in previous sleeps
Another world / the other world
That runs parallel to my own
Perhaps a step ahead or behind,
but... always, just out of reach.
A Catch of Breath___
Soon the falling will begin
Sunlight will weave in and out of leaves of trees
Changing the once dull and dusty green
Into complex tapestries
Closer to the ground
The grasses are cool and mute
Death will again dance to the tune
Of a seasons changing door
I have heard this melody before.
I consider my existence and
Truth is only in the now
Everything past is muddled
Covered with a widows veil
Distorted by pride and fear
That future thing is never
What we suppose, hope or fantasize
Only the now, this moment
That eternal space between breaths
Means anything at all
Empathy with my self is all
That allows me to believe
That I deserve to exist
& gives me the will to go on.
Homeless Dust Dancer *____
Dressed in the rags of time and places
Signifying in loud incoherent phrases
With bluff and blunder
He talks a storm
Sings as thunder
Scaring tourists and their children
From tame towns that have no Zen
With once dull eyes they come
To see just another homeless bum
Believing their lives are the only way
They lie to self wishing they
Could also speak the magic of dirt and dust
And do what the dust dancer must.
* (Mike, a homeless person, lived on the sidewalk across the street) .
The Autumn clouds gather &
Roll slowly across the small town quiet
Oak leaves tense in anticipation
Of the wrenching winds to come
The Birch trees tighten their iron grip
And brace their bark against the chilling
All things joined in Sighs
Breathing in the last long warmth of Sun
October's celebration colors emerge
For their frantic dance of dying
Spent, then drained
The cold shadows fell into their nocturnal slumber
Memories fall away in swirls
Mere dreams of another time
The world slips to sleep
As man once again, prepares for war.
Epiphany of the backward child ___
Sitting at the table of empty chairs
His world so small inside
Wishing he knew how to pray
How to dance
Laugh out loud
Wishing didn't work, so he stopped.
Dreamt in threes
Wept without tears
Love got lost on Monday
Never knew how much he missed
His Mothers kiss
Wishing didn't work, so he stopped.
Turned his back on the streets and roads
Never climbed the tree
Played in Clouds
Left the Porch
Splashed in puddles
Or kicked the can
Wishing didn't work, so he stopped.
(If you wish in one hand and spit in the other hand,
which hand gets filled first?)
On the Wall / a soldier's lament___
Amid the dark of night when drunks
Cease their raucous noise
Murky dews come once again
Upon the wall of stone
Standing in doorways shadow
Hearing Earth in its turning
and aging timbers in their moan
I sense the rose petal hue of dawn
Peek its eye on the edge of a mourning sky
I will to survive another night so that my bones
Might embrace again the warm before I die
The watching having been worth the while
My tour of duty over, I could then go home.
(' They also serve, who stand and wait.'.)
Nautilus Shell ___
Night under a Summer's warm
I left the shell of me to see
How my sojourn thus far had come.
The breeze breathed a sigh
As I raised my eyes to see the polar star.
Through the night sky and summer trees
Transfixed and entranced, I held my gaze
and saw the universe as under an upturned bowl
the numberless days, slowly turning, yet,
Holding within my entire life.
Whether my journeys tonight end
Or the turnings cease and suspend
I am now no further than I have ever been.
I know not WHO, has thrust me thus or why
As I stand and watch the universe unfold on
The night time sky.
There are those that seem to understand and know
Though for me it is enough,
That I have lived to see
This wondrous thing called life.
(Inspired by, Omar Khyyam)
Nautilus - Living fossil
The Nautilus (in Greek 'sailor') has survived relatively unchanged for 450 million years and is one of the only shells to survive from the Dinosaurs era. This is why the Nautilus is sometimes referred to as a 'living fossil'. The Nautilus is a nocturnal creature and spends most of its time in the great depths of the ocean. The Nautilus shell, lined with mother-of-pearl, grows into increasingly larger chambers throughout its life and so has become a symbol for expansion and renewal.)
Red Dirt Road ___
Respectfully bowing at the waist, I acknowledged his presence.
'Where do you know me from? ' he asked.
‘From the land of Shu', I said.
His green drab field jJacket showed no rank.
It was his character that showed through the dirt and stank.
'I thank you for the respect you have shown... and more,
Although we were adversaries on opposing sides in the Great War.
Now, we are equal in both status and intellect'.
‘Isn't that the truth? , I said
Come share some tea and a piece of old bread.
There is nothing else left, so let us be friends.'
'We, at least both succeeded, in bringing the world to its end'.
('WAR! What's is it good for? NOTHING ')
Night Shift ___
Each of us has an image of paradise,
A destinations resting reward, and yet
I am troubled as my own view is dim.
Deep down many levels beneath the sun
Where hand hewn roots of Sequoia support
the Marble hall of others, I am sweeping
the dust gatherings and collecting into piles
The cardboard refuse of gifts not meant for me.
Toiling the forever among vague others I never knew
While I was sleepwalking somewhere up there.
I go on, in the certainty that eventually
I too will rise to the Alabaster Porticos
Washed by brief sweet showers of rain.
Till then I accept my role
As Janitor, this side of the Gate.
Loss of Memory ___
Presenting masks wherever we go.
Mere representations that we give the world to see.
However, hidden deep down within and behind the eyes,
the (i) hides, wearing a mask that we expect others to recognize.
All who play the game of Life are afraid to strip away the facade
and show our true nature known only to God.
We have forgotten what we once were, before we learned
To speak lies and subterfuge
Before we stared at a dusty glass mirror,
As if that which is there, is forever.
After years of empty laughter turns to a dry sardonic grin,
Will we remember, what still lies within.
Pawned Guitar ___
Once we were as two strings on the instrument of Life's vibration.
Each different in composition and position,
Resonating one to the other in sympathetic harmonics.
A simple and pleasant chord of quiet discretion,
Far from the cacophonies of dissonance
That filled the chaos surrounding us.
Now it appears to our tone deaf ear,
That we too, have taken up noise as our chosen song.
Our once lullaby of love can no longer be heard.
'I no longer believe'!
Barely had the air escaped my lips
That my life turned left, veered into chaos & the magic left me.
The protection ripped from above my head,
As the wind rips the ribs of an umbrella,
Turning it, uselessly inside out.
The Earth continues to turn slowly,
Rolling towards the Sun.
Warming one side, then the other.
Day was done.
Night has come.
Once upon a long ago
A Slitherwhumping to and fro
I'e clumb the chimmney brim
To find what I'e might know
The world had run amok and fallen to the Runes
(Runes be seen as a future already been
buried beneath the sandy dunes)
At present the air is not a gift
All thicky gloob and gone far adrift
The rain she burn the snigglebum
Once rivers flowed as crystal lead
Now filled with green and yallow scum
The fishees floating wide eyed ded
Ahhh da world
She be a' cryin
She be such a' mess
Wimmens wearing mustache
Mens be wearing dress
What kin I do?
What kin I do
To fix this globe of ‘Foam?
I will rite a pome'
‘Bout the starrries shine
An a' Moon
A' hanging on a cloud
and happy Willow trees
Instead of crying shrouds
I'd never take a bath
Never get dirty knees
As I'e go crawling in the grass
With Ziggy Bumblebees
Spread joy an happiness
But ___ alas
Sittin on this chimney brim
I jus' be a boy
With a heart of glass.
(Respects & Apologies to; Lewis Carrol's 'Jabberwocky')
Novembers Embers ___
I felt the winds turning and the chilling
Come forth as Sun rays crept past
Shadowed peaks, angling rise to the north
Reflecting on the glass of panels new sleek buildings
Setting the leaves aglow in gold
Surely the seasons end went as a friend
Leaving memories to times gone by
It was Indians Summer's wave goodbye
That which was priceless began to die
Death was close at hand and winter's slow trod
According to the will of god
The cycle began its turning and
Trampled hearts in ember's burning
From dust to dust again.
Burnt Canvases ___
I tried not to let it happen
It happened all the same
I was stuck unhappily in my own time
Trapped in my own within.
Not a time others were in
(I was still back in the ‘Fifties)
When Jazz was King
When oil paints on canvas
and being ‘Cool, was my everything.
I suspect... I now look sad
Being old and still trying to act as if I am still like that
I never had that much, but it was all that I had.
So I leaned on it, as one leans on a cane
It's too late to change, so I can't & never will.
Expiration Date ___
When did I get as old as this carton of warm milk?
Yesterday I was laughing with fellow soldiers
On a sandy beach
This morning I was being helped
To cross the busy street
The curb seemed farther than I could reach
I realize I had forgot to zip my fly
The first indication that I, was losing my youth
My trousers have lost its press
I feel to be an wrinkled mess
Do I really care?
I hope I don't have that old man smell of unwashed hair
As I slowly walk in front of others in a hurry
I worry I have become a burden & no longer of any use
Its not fair
I was so good looking just yesterday
Or maybe not
Perhaps I just forgot all those other days in between.
Gypsy Recital ___
Opening her case with the edges frayed
Burnished in carved leather dyed black
She laid her strange stringed instrument
Upon its polished rosewood back
Proceeding to press her fingers
Between the inlaid ivory frets
As if it were a piano keyboard
Playing strange sounding couplets
I thought her face rather plain
Until I heard the music that came
Emanating from deep down within
That changed her olive skin
Into a Regal face in classic profile
My hand fell from the one that I was with
I clutched my heart and began to drift
Sensing her spirit, I then became aware
That I could not tear myself away
From what she had become
The music stopped
And then too, my empty heart
Her hungry eyes became almost primitive
As I was left just barely breathing
Quietly, she said,
'Take that, you heartless Aristocrat'
It was then that I finally recognized
That in my youthful arrogance
I had casually abandoned.
Revenge of the Leaves of Autumn ___
They all came together in one place
Each with each and all with all
They said their piece
From early Spring to almost Fall.
They listened intent to understand
What was to become of the rest of Man
After assimilation's of the great debate
A conclusion was decided on their fate.
After man had raked, pillaged & burned their kin
Destroying memories of those within
The great leaves of trees would finally take revenge.
'Let US no longer give air for them to breathe
No longer the beauty of our Majesty
Never again provide shade from the Sun
Let them burn, as our Fathers had been done.'
From that day forward till the end
Trees and leaves held their breath
Until all the ‘Rakers had died
The most boring of deaths.
... and for any that may come long after,
That sound you hear
Of breeze in the trees
Is the leaves in their laughter.
The Olde Poet ___
My body has turned to Winter now
Though I still think it's Spring.
The wisdom I have acquired now
Has become a dusty thing.
Memories no longer found when trying now
They come and go on Raven's wings.
My passions are all brash and bravado now
Having lost my bite and lost my sting.
But that which bothers me most now,
Is the inability to balance and rhyme this darned poem.
Heavy reed tones of the tenor Sax
Soft & gentle chords of the flat string guitar
& yes, the shush of brush on snare skin drum
Cut down the lights
Let the blue cool glow seep into the soul
Gin on the rocks makes the day go away
It's Jazz night at the Hotel Bar
Drifting in and out
Stranger and regular alike
Mixing murmurs of smoke and whispers
'got's to show PROPS to the band'
The tempo slides down a notch
Clumsily, I try to look urbane as I dance with my date
True I'm glued to who I just met
Mostly jus' tryin to be cool
Cool as the night I hope never ends
Now, as I look in the misty bathroom mirror
the old man I no longer recognize, says:
'Everything for me has changed on Saturday nights'.
A New York Fall ___
Blown dusty and dry
& painted iron gates
No one smiles
& no one knows their neighbors name
and yet the Sun shines on those with money
& those with none at all.
Alzheimer Images ___
The lips pursed
Not for kiss, but for curse
Pressed then held
Lest come forth
The yellowing of antique white upon the walls.
Dusty lies withheld / Silence is spilled
Truth mistaken as understood
All is hidden beneath dreams
As faces formed in a carpet of themes.
Staring up from the abyss
There is no respect found there
Only spittle and drools
& staring eyes unseeing
Blinded by memories of never was.
Such are the ways of the melting of aging
All is medical now
Furrows are re-visited upon the brow
Trips & stumbles now
Stands alone amused
Lost in thought
Refused it all
Stranger to my Self ___
In my need to lose my past,
I've forgotten all I know,
Cep't Yesterdays never last,
Though lined up in a row.
Now I have lost the way.
Cannot find my home.
A stranger to those, that say:
' We know You and your Poem'.
Stripped of all I had acquired,
Penniless and getting old.
Viewed through eyes very tired,
My World has turned gray and cold.
The spark that lit the flame
Is damped and worn away
Only I am left to blame
For this always empty day.
If only I knew Now
What I knew back then.
I would never have allowed
This inevitable end.
If you have to explain your Poems,
Describe your Paintings,
Justify the existence of your Sculpture,
Then you have Failed.
If you have to receive affirmation from others,
To affirm your Self,
Then you have Failed.
If your center is self and the creative process,
Instead of others and the alleviation of pain and injustice,
Then you have failed.
the Outsider ___
In dreams as in waking I am nearly naked
Seeing and seen by people I do not know.
Though streets seem familiar of places been
I am and have always been alone.
Approaching encampments I smile my name
Extend my empty hand in peace
Shuffle and shly stand
Waiting for solitude's release
I will fight to be accepted, to prove my worth.
I will stand down to show my intent
I will not accept label as slave
I will not serve the corrupters Tent.
If I must remain or go alone
Bags or belongings be damned
All I ask from those within
Is - that I keep that which I am.
Never Learned to Laugh___
Lifetimes have passed,
The lips stay dry pressed.
I have heard ' mirth upon the path.
Jealous have leaned forward,
Eager to see this marvelous thing.
Always some unfortunate soul was in pain.
Laughter of small minds,
Gleefully sarcastic at the
Imposed shortcomings of another.
At seeing me they would stop and stare,
Looking for any caricature of difference.
Any blemish or distortion.
A shade of color not before seen.
Then the stabbings would begin.
Insults thrown javelin.
Hoping to rise a tear.
To them'___ that was funny,
To enjoy the susceptibilities
Of the soft unprotected underbelly.
I have always looked beyond
The mis shapen shell God has given us,
Hiding the beauty hidden within.
Looked deep down, past
The shallow Freudian mask.
Amazed at the lovliness.
Still I have never learned to laugh.
Hope I never will.
Invitation to Reality ___
Embossed, Elegant and Proper
With White Glove upon Silver Tray
(___‘He imagined) the invitation
Would surely come
To announce his required presence to attend.
His Fellow wordsmith's and other known
Notorious Poets of the Dusky Café',
would say, 'Come Speak and Bend your phrase
and entertain us, on this, your sixty-first Birthday'.
A celebration that would envy, Cyrano, Don Quixote'
and those other guys
Wine, laughter and Raucous noise
Out on the town with the boys.
With this a gentle tear did shyly slip
Past cheek, M'stache and hidden laugh.'
My life is proven to be all that I have dreamed '
(and With that___)
A crack of burn'n wood and steam
Did rise to wake from within that Barrel of fire
To warm the homeless and dispossessed,
Quaked! Don Booda,
In cold damp shoe and common cloth,
Of yesterday's still dressed.
Breath of kerosene, and hunger now asleep,
Did creep 'round to avoid the shift of wind
That hawkish did bite the face.
Covered in smoke and ash and forgotten sins
For which, he must now pay for his mistake
Of pride, rebellion and anti-social ways.
' Ahhh ___ but those were the days
Those were the days. '
So he wanders in whatever direction
The wind blows his back
Across the tracks through the brush
Of once garden's pruned and manicured
‘Til bloom of fragrant wafting airs turned to sickly smell
Of graves now frozen gates to hell.
Leaning against granite reality...
Scrapes his knuckles and barely bleeds
Feels the need to rest
Exhausted, crumples and collapses
The stars remain fixed
His world spins in ellipse
Of forever turning
Churning through the airless void.
His Belly flutters
Eyelids squint against the light
Wind whoosh chases night
Summer and being seven follow him
Down the path to a porch well worn
An unlocked door
His Mother's scolding scorn,
' Your hands are dirty and you're late for Dinner '
(About: Old homeless Man wanders into neglected cemetery,
Dies, and spends eternity in memories of Thanksgivings past.)
Stone in the stream ___
As I tried to continue my meaningless life
Grumbling, assigning all negativity to that which my eyes beheld
My spirit damped and soggy with the ‘clay of life's drudgeries
I came upon a narrowing of the way
The hall of doors closed.
Attempting to turn and return from whence I had come
The girth of my consuming, weakened by excess,
I could not.
Stifled, by the smalling enclousures
My gaze went floorward and as my chin touched my chest,
My windpipe bent, the scent of my failures filled my lungs.
As a wounded naked child in the chill of the long night
I pondered my decisions in life and could find no fault
with any... other than my self.
I had rejected the wisdom of experience
Going my own way in arrogant delusional defiance.
With too much pride and too late in the game to change,
I accepted my fate and was slowly erased from the book of life.
There are other unread books still flapping their pages in the dust.
Soon their words too, will be bleached by the Sun
and the ink washed away by Spring rains.
They usually appear darkly on the street corners of cities,
Staring vacantly... as the rush of Life moves around them,
As a Salmon swimming upstream past a wet rock
In a fast moving stream.
All just nameless poets, left behind.
Old Man with Stick ___
They have left me now
My childhood heroes.
My Loves long hair and dark eyes.
As wild horses chasing sunsets.
Now come the Specters of the dark unknown.
No longer warmed of the sun.
The nights of unresolved memories and unwise choices.
I chose to be & do, no other than I am.
Malcontents Epilogue ____
No matter where I am
I would rather be somewhere else
No matter who I am with
I would rather be with someone else
Or better yet ___ be alone
For me, it is better to reject the world
Than give the world the opportunity
To reject who I have decided I should be
I am a malcontent
A label I am content to live with
Have you ever seen a stand of birch
Braced against the snow?
A field untouched by buildings
Sleeping under nights blue white glow?
Or how a country road unpaved
Weaves among the barren brush?
Can you hear winter's gentle breath
Beneath full moons hush?
Then you know the peace,
That comes with an old mans death.
This poem was written in , on occasion of the contest between the
Earls of Hardwicke and Sandwich for the High-stewardship of the
University of Cambridge, vacant by the death of the Lord Chancellor
Hardwicke. The spirit of party ran high in the University, and no
means were left untried by either candidate to obtain a majority. The
election was fixed for the th of March, when, after much
altercation, the votes appearing equal, a scrutiny was demanded;
whereupon the Vice-Chancellor adjourned the senate _sine die_. On
appeal to the Lord High-Chancellor, he determined in favour of the
Earl of Hardwicke, and a mandamus issued accordingly.
Enough of Actors--let them play the player,
And, free from censure, fret, sweat, strut, and stare;
Garrick abroad, what motives can engage
To waste one couplet on a barren stage?
Ungrateful Garrick! when these tasty days,
In justice to themselves, allow'd thee praise;
When, at thy bidding, Sense, for twenty years,
Indulged in laughter, or dissolved in tears;
When in return for labour, time, and health,
The town had given some little share of wealth,
Couldst thou repine at being still a slave?
Darest thou presume to enjoy that wealth she gave?
Couldst thou repine at laws ordain'd by those
Whom nothing but thy merit made thy foes?
Whom, too refined for honesty and trade,
By need made tradesmen, Pride had bankrupts made;
Whom Fear made drunkards, and, by modern rules,
Whom Drink made wits, though Nature made them fools;
With such, beyond all pardon is thy crime,
In such a manner, and at such a time,
To quit the stage; but men of real sense,
Who neither lightly give, nor take offence,
Shall own thee clear, or pass an act of grace,
Since thou hast left a Powell in thy place.
Enough of Authors--why, when scribblers fail,
Must other scribblers spread the hateful tale?
Why must they pity, why contempt express,
And why insult a brother in distress?
Let those, who boast the uncommon gift of brains
The laurel pluck, and wear it for their pains;
Fresh on their brows for ages let it bloom,
And, ages past, still flourish round their tomb.
Let those who without genius write, and write,
Versemen or prosemen, all in Nature's spite,
The pen laid down, their course of folly run
In peace, unread, unmention'd, be undone.
Why should I tell, to cross the will of Fate,
That Francis once endeavour'd to translate?
Why, sweet oblivion winding round his head,
Should I recall poor Murphy from the dead?
Why may not Langhorne, simple in his lay,
Effusion on effusion pour away;
With friendship and with fancy trifle here,
Or sleep in pastoral at Belvidere?
Sleep let them all, with Dulness on her throne,
Secure from any malice but their own.
Enough of Critics--let them, if they please,
Fond of new pomp, each month pass new decrees;
Wide and extensive be their infant state,
Their subjects many, and those subjects great,
Whilst all their mandates as sound law succeed,
With fools who write, and greater fools who read.
What though they lay the realms of Genius waste,
Fetter the fancy and debauch the taste;
Though they, like doctors, to approve their skill,
Consult not how to cure, but how to kill;
Though by whim, envy, or resentment led,
They damn those authors whom they never read;
Though, other rules unknown, one rule they hold,
To deal out so much praise for so much gold:
Though Scot with Scot, in damned close intrigues,
Against the commonwealth of letters leagues;
Uncensured let them pilot at the helm,
And rule in letters, as they ruled the realm:
Ours be the curse, the mean tame coward's curse,
(Nor could ingenious Malice make a worse,
To do our sense and honour deep despite)
To credit what they say, read what they write.
Enough of Scotland--let her rest in peace;
The cause removed, effects of course should cease;
Why should I tell, how Tweed, too mighty grown,
And proudly swell'd with waters not his own,
Burst o'er his banks, and, by Destruction led,
O'er our fair England desolation spread,
Whilst, riding on his waves, Ambition, plumed
In tenfold pride, the port of Bute assumed,
Now that the river god, convinced, though late,
And yielding, though reluctantly, to Fate,
Holds his fair course, and with more humble tides,
In tribute to the sea, as usual, glides?
Enough of States, and such like trifling things;
Enough of kinglings, and enough of kings;
Henceforth, secure, let ambush'd statesmen lie,
Spread the court web, and catch the patriot fly;
Henceforth, unwhipt of Justice, uncontroll'd
By fear or shame, let Vice, secure and bold,
Lord it with all her sons, whilst Virtue's groan
Meets with compassion only from the throne.
Enough of Patriots--all I ask of man
Is only to be honest as he can:
Some have deceived, and some may still deceive;
'Tis the fool's curse at random to believe.
Would those, who, by opinion placed on high,
Stand fair and perfect in their country's eye,
Maintain that honour, let me in their ear
Hint this essential doctrine--Persevere.
Should they (which Heaven forbid) to win the grace
Of some proud courtier, or to gain a place,
Their king and country sell, with endless shame
The avenging Muse shall mark each traitorous name;
But if, to Honour true, they scorn to bend,
And, proudly honest, hold out to the end,
Their grateful country shall their fame record,
And I myself descend to praise a lord.
Enough of Wilkes--with good and honest men
His actions speak much stronger than my pen,
And future ages shall his name adore,
When he can act and I can write no more.
England may prove ungrateful and unjust,
But fostering France shall ne'er betray her trust:
'Tis a brave debt which gods on men impose,
To pay with praise the merit e'en of foes.
When the great warrior of Amilcar's race
Made Rome's wide empire tremble to her base,
To prove her virtue, though it gall'd her pride,
Rome gave that fame which Carthage had denied.
Enough of Self--that darling luscious theme,
O'er which philosophers in raptures dream;
Of which with seeming disregard they write,
Then prizing most, when most they seem to slight;
Vain proof of folly tinctured strong with pride!
What man can from himself, himself divide?
For me,(nor dare I lie) my leading aim
(Conscience first satisfied) is love of fame;
Some little fame derived from some brave few,
Who, prizing Honour, prize her votaries too.
Let all (nor shall resentment flush my cheek)
Who know me well, what they know, freely speak,
So those (the greatest curse I meet below)
Who know me not, may not pretend to know.
Let none of those whom, bless'd with parts above
My feeble genius, still I dare to love,
Doing more mischief than a thousand foes,
Posthumous nonsense to the world expose,
And call it mine; for mine though never known,
Or which, if mine, I living blush'd to own.
Know all the world, no greedy heir shall find,
Die when I will, one couplet left behind.
Let none of those, whom I despise, though great,
Pretending friendship to give malice weight,
Publish my life; let no false sneaking peer,
(Some such there are) to win the public ear,
Hand me to shame with some vile anecdote.
Nor soul-gall'd bishop damn me with a note.
Let one poor sprig of bay around my head
Bloom whilst I live, and point me out when dead;
Let it (may Heaven, indulgent, grant that prayer!)
Be planted on my grave, nor wither there;
And when, on travel bound, some rhyming guest
Roams through the churchyard, whilst his dinner's dress'd,
Let it hold up this comment to his eyes--
'Life to the last enjoy'd, here Churchill lies;'
Whilst (oh, what joy that pleasing flattery gives!)
Reading my works, he cries--'Here Churchill lives.'
Enough of Satire--in less harden'd times
Great was her force, and mighty were her rhymes.
I've read of men, beyond man's daring brave,
Who yet have trembled at the strokes she gave;
Whose souls have felt more terrible alarms
From her one line, than from a world in arms.
When in her faithful and immortal page
They saw transmitted down from age to age
Recorded villains, and each spotted name
Branded with marks of everlasting shame,
Succeeding villains sought her as a friend,
And, if not really mended, feign'd to mend;
But in an age, when actions are allow'd
Which strike all honour dead, and crimes avow'd
Too terrible to suffer the report,
Avow'd and praised by men who stain a court,
Propp'd by the arm of Power; when Vice, high born,
High-bred, high-station'd, holds rebuke in scorn;
When she is lost to every thought of fame,
And, to all virtue dead, is dead to shame;
When Prudence a much easier task must hold
To make a new world, than reform the old,
Satire throws by her arrows on the ground,
And if she cannot cure, she will not wound.
Come, Panegyric--though the Muse disdains,
Founded on truth, to prostitute her strains
At the base instance of those men, who hold
No argument but power, no god but gold,
Yet, mindful that from Heaven she drew her birth,
She scorns the narrow maxims of this earth;
Virtuous herself, brings Virtue forth to view,
And loves to praise, where praise is justly due.
Come, Panegyric--in a former hour,
My soul with pleasure yielding to thy power,
Thy shrine I sought, I pray'd--but wanton air,
Before it reach'd thy ears, dispersed my prayer;
E'en at thy altars whilst I took my stand,
The pen of Truth and Honour in my hand,
Fate, meditating wrath 'gainst me and mine,
Chid my fond zeal, and thwarted my design,
Whilst, Hayter brought too quickly to his end,
I lost a subject and mankind a friend.
Come, Panegyric--bending at thy throne,
Thee and thy power my soul is proud to own
Be thou my kind protector, thou my guide,
And lead me safe through passes yet untried.
Broad is the road, nor difficult to find,
Which to the house of Satire leads mankind;
Narrow and unfrequented are the ways,
Scarce found out in an age, which lead to praise.
What though no theme I choose of vulgar note,
Nor wish to write as brother bards have wrote,
So mild, so meek in praising, that they seem
Afraid to wake their patrons from a dream;
What though a theme I choose, which might demand
The nicest touches of a master's hand;
Yet, if the inward workings of my soul
Deceive me not, I shall attain the goal,
And Envy shall behold, in triumph raised,
The poet praising, and the patron praised.
What patron shall I choose? Shall public voice,
Or private knowledge, influence my choice?
Shall I prefer the grand retreat of Stowe,
Or, seeking patriots, to friend Wildman's go?
'To Wildman's!' cried Discretion, (who had heard,
Close standing at my elbow, every word)
'To Wildman's! Art thou mad? Canst thou be sure
One moment there to have thy head secure?
Are they not all, (let observation tell)
All mark'd in characters as black as Hell,
In Doomsday book, by ministers set down,
Who style their pride the honour of the crown?
Make no reply--let Reason stand aloof--
Presumptions here must pass as solemn proof.
That settled faith, that love which ever springs
In the best subjects, for the best of kings,
Must not be measured now by what men think,
Or say, or do;--by what they eat and drink,
Where, and with whom, that question's to be tried,
And statesmen are the judges to decide;
No juries call'd, or, if call'd, kept in awe;
They, facts confess'd, in themselves vest the law.
Each dish at Wildman's of sedition smacks;
Blasphemy may be gospel at Almacks.'
Peace, good Discretion! peace--thy fears are vain;
Ne'er will I herd with Wildman's factious train;
Never the vengeance of the great incur,
Nor, without might, against the mighty stir.
If, from long proof, my temper you distrust,
Weigh my profession, to my gown be just;
Dost thou one parson know so void of grace
To pay his court to patrons out of place?
If still you doubt (though scarce a doubt remains)
Search through my alter'd heart, and try my reins;
There, searching, find, nor deem me now in sport,
A convert made by Sandwich to the court.
Let madmen follow error to the end,
I, of mistakes convinced, and proud to mend,
Strive to act better, being better taught,
Nor blush to own that change which Reason wrought:
For such a change as this, must Justice speak;
My heart was honest, but my head was weak.
Bigot to no one man, or set of men,
Without one selfish view, I drew my pen;
My country ask'd, or seem'd to ask, my aid,
Obedient to that call, I left off trade;
A side I chose, and on that side was strong,
Till time hath fairly proved me in the wrong:
Convinced, I change, (can any man do more?)
And have not greater patriots changed before?
Changed, I at once, (can any man do less?)
Without a single blush, that change confess;
Confess it with a manly kind of pride,
And quit the losing for the winning side,
Granting, whilst virtuous Sandwich holds the rein,
What Bute for ages might have sought in vain.
Hail, Sandwich!--nor shall Wilkes resentment show,
Hearing the praises of so brave a foe--
Hail, Sandwich!--nor, through pride, shalt thou refuse
The grateful tribute of so mean a Muse--
Sandwich, all hail!--when Bute with foreign hand,
Grown wanton with ambition, scourged the land;
When Scots, or slaves to Scotsmen, steer'd the helm;
When peace, inglorious peace, disgraced the realm,
Distrust, and general discontent prevail'd;
But when, (he best knows why) his spirits fail'd;
When, with a sudden panic struck, he fled,
Sneak'd out of power, and hid his recreant head;
When, like a Mars, (Fear order'd to retreat)
We saw thee nimbly vault into his seat,
Into the seat of power, at one bold leap,
A perfect connoisseur in statesmanship;
When, like another Machiavel, we saw
Thy fingers twisting, and untwisting law,
Straining, where godlike Reason bade, and where
She warranted thy mercy, pleased to spare;
Saw thee resolved, and fix'd (come what, come might)
To do thy God, thy king, thy country right;
All things were changed, suspense remain'd no more,
Certainty reign'd where Doubt had reign'd before:
All felt thy virtues, and all knew their use,
What virtues such as thine must needs produce.
Thy foes (for Honour ever meets with foes)
Too mean to praise, too fearful to oppose,
In sullen silence sit; thy friends (some few,
Who, friends to thee, are friends to Honour too)
Plaud thy brave bearing, and the Commonweal
Expects her safety from thy stubborn zeal.
A place amongst the rest the Muses claim,
And bring this freewill-offering to thy fame;
To prove their virtue, make thy virtues known,
And, holding up thy fame, secure their own.
From his youth upwards to the present day,
When vices, more than years, have mark'd him gray;
When riotous Excess, with wasteful hand,
Shakes life's frail glass, and hastes each ebbing sand,
Unmindful from what stock he drew his birth,
Untainted with one deed of real worth,
Lothario, holding honour at no price,
Folly to folly added, vice to vice,
Wrought sin with greediness, and sought for shame
With greater zeal than good men seek for fame.
Where (Reason left without the least defence)
Laughter was mirth, obscenity was sense:
Where Impudence made Decency submit;
Where noise was humour, and where whim was wit;
Where rude, untemper'd license had the merit
Of liberty, and lunacy was spirit;
Where the best things were ever held the worst,
Lothario was, with justice, always first.
To whip a top, to knuckle down at taw,
To swing upon a gate, to ride a straw,
To play at push-pin with dull brother peers,
To belch out catches in a porter's ears,
To reign the monarch of a midnight cell,
To be the gaping chairman's oracle;
Whilst, in most blessed union, rogue and whore
Clap hands, huzza, and hiccup out, 'Encore;'
Whilst gray Authority, who slumbers there
In robes of watchman's fur, gives up his chair;
With midnight howl to bay the affrighted moon,
To walk with torches through the streets at noon;
To force plain Nature from her usual way,
Each night a vigil, and a blank each day;
To match for speed one feather 'gainst another,
To make one leg run races with his brother;
'Gainst all the rest to take the northern wind,
Bute to ride first, and he to ride behind;
To coin newfangled wagers, and to lay 'em,
Laying to lose, and losing not to pay 'em;
Lothario, on that stock which Nature gives,
Without a rival stands, though March yet lives.
When Folly, (at that name, in duty bound,
Let subject myriads kneel, and kiss the ground,
Whilst they who, in the presence, upright stand,
Are held as rebels through the loyal land)
Queen every where, but most a queen in courts,
Sent forth her heralds, and proclaim'd her sports;
Bade fool with fool on her behalf engage,
And prove her right to reign from age to age,
Lothario, great above the common size,
With all engaged, and won from all the prize;
Her cap he wears, which from his youth he wore,
And every day deserves it more and more.
Nor in such limits rests his soul confined;
Folly may share but can't engross his mind;
Vice, bold substantial Vice, puts in her claim,
And stamps him perfect in the books of Shame.
Observe his follies well, and you would swear
Folly had been his first, his only care;
Observe his vices, you'll that oath disown,
And swear that he was born for vice alone.
Is the soft nature of some hapless maid,
Fond, easy, full of faith, to be betray'd?
Must she, to virtue lost, be lost to fame,
And he who wrought her guilt declare her shame?
Is some brave friend, who, men but little known,
Deems every heart as honest as his own,
And, free himself, in others fears no guile,
To be ensnared, and ruin'd with a smile?
Is Law to be perverted from her course?
Is abject fraud to league with brutal force?
Is Freedom to be crush'd, and every son
Who dares maintain her cause, to be undone?
Is base Corruption, creeping through the land,
To plan, and work her ruin, underhand,
With regular approaches, sure, though slow?
Or must she perish by a single blow?
Are kings, who trust to servants, and depend
In servants (fond, vain thought!) to find a friend,
To be abused, and made to draw their breath
In darkness thicker than the shades of death?
Is God's most holy name to be profaned,
His word rejected, and his laws arraign'd,
His servants scorn'd, as men who idly dream'd,
His service laugh'd at, and his Son blasphemed?
Are debauchees in morals to preside?
Is Faith to take an Atheist for her guide?
Is Science by a blockhead to be led?
Are States to totter on a drunkard's head?
To answer all these purposes, and more,
More black than ever villain plann'd before,
Search earth, search hell, the Devil cannot find
An agent like Lothario to his mind.
Is this nobility, which, sprung from kings,
Was meant to swell the power from whence it springs;
Is this the glorious produce, this the fruit,
Which Nature hoped for from so rich a root?
Were there but two, (search all the world around)
Were there but two such nobles to be found,
The very name would sink into a term
Of scorn, and man would rather be a worm
Than be a lord: but Nature, full of grace,
Nor meaning birth and titles to be base,
Made only one, and having made him, swore,
In mercy to mankind, to make no more:
Nor stopp'd she there, but, like a generous friend,
The ills which Error caused, she strove to mend,
And having brought Lothario forth to view,
To save her credit, brought forth Sandwich too.
Gods! with what joy, what honest joy of heart,
Blunt as I am, and void of every art,
Of every art which great ones in the state
Practise on knaves they fear, and fools they hate,
To titles with reluctance taught to bend,
Nor prone to think that virtues can descend,
Do I behold (a sight, alas! more rare
Than Honesty could wish) the noble wear
His father's honours, when his life makes known
They're his by virtue, not by birth alone;
When he recalls his father from the grave,
And pays with interest back that fame he gave:
Cured of her splenetic and sullen fits,
To such a peer my willing soul submits,
And to such virtue is more proud to yield
Than 'gainst ten titled rogues to keep the field.
Such, (for that truth e'en Envy shall allow)
Such Wyndham was, and such is Sandwich now.
O gentle Montague! in blessed hour
Didst thou start up, and climb the stairs of power;
England of all her fears at once was eased,
Nor, 'mongst her many foes, was one displeased:
France heard the news, and told it cousin Spain;
Spain heard, and told it cousin France again;
The Hollander relinquished his design
Of adding spice to spice, and mine to mine;
Of Indian villanies he thought no more,
Content to rob us on our native shore:
Awed by thy fame, (which winds with open mouth
Shall blow from east to west, from north to south)
The western world shall yield us her increase,
And her wild sons be soften'd into peace;
Rich eastern monarchs shall exhaust their stores,
And pour unbounded wealth on Albion's shores;
Unbounded wealth, which from those golden scenes,
And all acquired by honourable means,
Some honourable chief shall hither steer,
To pay our debts, and set the nation clear.
Nabobs themselves, allured by thy renown,
Shall pay due homage to the English crown;
Shall freely as their king our king receive--
Provided the Directors give them leave.
Union at home shall mark each rising year,
Nor taxes be complain'd of, though severe;
Envy her own destroyer shall become,
And Faction with her thousand mouths be dumb:
With the meek man thy meekness shall prevail,
Nor with the spirited thy spirit fail:
Some to thy force of reason shall submit,
And some be converts to thy princely wit:
Reverence for thee shall still a nation's cries,
A grand concurrence crown a grand excise;
And unbelievers of the first degree,
Who have no faith in God, have faith in thee.
When a strange jumble, whimsical and vain,
Possess'd the region of each heated brain;
When some were fools to censure, some to praise,
And all were mad, but mad in different ways;
When commonwealthsmen, starting at the shade
Which in their own wild fancy had been made,
Of tyrants dream'd, who wore a thorny crown,
And with state bloodhounds hunted Freedom down;
When others, struck with fancies not less vain,
Saw mighty kings by their own subjects slain,
And, in each friend of Liberty and Law,
With horror big, a future Cromwell saw,
Thy manly zeal stept forth, bade discord cease,
And sung each jarring atom into peace;
Liberty, cheer'd by thy all-cheering eye,
Shall, waking from her trance, live and not die;
And, patronised by thee, Prerogative
Shall, striding forth at large, not die, but live;
Whilst Privilege, hung betwixt earth and sky,
Shall not well know whether to live or die.
When on a rock which overhung the flood,
And seem'd to totter, Commerce shivering stood;
When Credit, building on a sandy shore,
Saw the sea swell, and heard the tempest roar,
Heard death in every blast, and in each wave
Or saw, or fancied that she saw her grave;
When Property, transferr'd from hand to band,
Weaken'd by change, crawl'd sickly through the land;
When mutual confidence was at an end,
And man no longer could on man depend;
Oppress'd with debts of more than common weight,
When all men fear'd a bankruptcy of state;
When, certain death to honour, and to trade,
A sponge was talk'd of as our only aid;
That to be saved we must be more undone,
And pay off all our debts, by paying none;
Like England's better genius, born to bless,
And snatch his sinking country from distress,
Didst thou step forth, and, without sail or oar,
Pilot the shatter'd vessel safe to shore:
Nor shalt thou quit, till, anchor'd firm and fast,
She rides secure, and mocks the threatening blast!
Born in thy house, and in thy service bred,
Nursed in thy arms, and at thy table fed,
By thy sage counsels to reflection brought,
Yet more by pattern than by precept taught,
Economy her needful aid shall join
To forward and complete thy grand design,
And, warm to save, but yet with spirit warm,
Shall her own conduct from thy conduct form.
Let friends of prodigals say what they will,
Spendthrifts at home, abroad are spendthrifts still.
In vain have sly and subtle sophists tried
Private from public justice to divide;
For credit on each other they rely,
They live together, and together die,
'Gainst all experience 'tis a rank offence,
High treason in the eye of Common-sense,
To think a statesman ever can be known
To pay our debts, who will not pay his own:
But now, though late, now may we hope to see
Our debts discharged, our credit fair and free,
Since rigid Honesty (fair fall that hour!)
Sits at the helm, and Sandwich is in power.
With what delight I view thee, wondrous man,
With what delight survey thy sterling plan,
That plan which all with wonder must behold,
And stamp thy age the only age of Gold.
Nor rest thy triumphs here--that Discord fled,
And sought with grief the hell where she was bred;
That Faction, 'gainst her nature forced to yield,
Saw her rude rabble scatter'd o'er the field,
Saw her best friends a standing jest become,
Her fools turn'd speakers, and her wits struck dumb;
That our most bitter foes (so much depends
On men of name) are turn'd to cordial friends;
That our offended friends (such terror flows
From men of name) dare not appear our foes;
That Credit, gasping in the jaws of Death,
And ready to expire with every breath,
Grows stronger from disease; that thou hast saved
Thy drooping country; that thy name, engraved
On plates of brass, defies the rage of Time;
Than plates of brass more firm, that sacred rhyme
Embalms thy memory, bids thy glories live,
And gives thee what the Muse alone can give:--
These heights of Virtue, these rewards of Fame,
With thee in common other patriots claim.
But, that poor sickly Science, who had laid
And droop'd for years beneath Neglect's cold shade,
By those who knew her purposely forgot,
And made the jest of those who knew her not:
Whilst Ignorance in power, and pamper'd pride,
'Clad like a priest, pass'd by on t'other side,'
Recover'd from her wretched state, at length
Puts on new health, and clothes herself with strength,
To thee we owe, and to thy friendly hand
Which raised, and gave her to possess the land:
This praise, though in a court, and near a throne,
This praise is thine, and thine, alas! alone.
With what fond rapture did the goddess smile,
What blessings did she promise to this isle,
What honour to herself, and length of reign,
Soon as she heard that thou didst not disdain
To be her steward; but what grief, what shame,
What rage, what disappointment, shook her frame,
When her proud children dared her will dispute,
When Youth was insolent, and Age was mute!
That young men should be fools, and some wild few,
To Wisdom deaf, be deaf to Interest too,
Moved not her wonder; but that men, grown gray
In search of wisdom; men who own'd the sway
Of Reason; men who stubbornly kept down
Each rising passion; men who wore the gown;
That they should cross her will, that they should dare
Against the cause of Interest to declare;
That they should be so abject and unwise,
Having no fear of loss before their eyes,
Nor hopes of gain; scorning the ready means
Of being vicars, rectors, canons, deans,
With all those honours which on mitres wait,
And mark the virtuous favourites of state;
That they should dare a Hardwicke to support,
And talk, within the hearing of a court,
Of that vile beggar, Conscience, who, undone,
And starved herself, starves every wretched son;
This turn'd her blood to gall, this made her swear
No more to throw away her time and care
On wayward sons who scorn'd her love, no more
To hold her courts on Cam's ungrateful shore.
Rather than bear such insults, which disgrace
Her royalty of nature, birth, and place,
Though Dulness there unrivall'd state doth keep,
Would she at Winchester with Burton sleep;
Or, to exchange the mortifying scene
For something still more dull, and still more mean,
Rather than bear such insults, she would fly
Far, far beyond the search of English eye,
And reign amongst the Scots: to be a queen
Is worth ambition, though in Aberdeen.
Oh, stay thy flight, fair Science! what though some,
Some base-born children, rebels are become?
All are not rebels; some are duteous still,
Attend thy precepts, and obey thy will;
Thy interest is opposed by those alone
Who either know not, or oppose their own.
Of stubborn virtue, marching to thy aid,
Behold in black, the livery of their trade,
Marshall'd by Form, and by Discretion led,
A grave, grave troop, and Smith is at their head,
Black Smith of Trinity; on Christian ground
For faith in mysteries none more renown'd.
Next, (for the best of causes now and then
Must beg assistance from the worst of men)
Next (if old story lies not) sprung from Greece,
Comes Pandarus, but comes without his niece:
Her, wretched maid! committed to his trust,
To a rank letcher's coarse and bloated lust
The arch, old, hoary hypocrite had sold,
And thought himself and her well damn'd for gold.
But (to wipe off such traces from the mind,
And make us in good humour with mankind)
Leading on men, who, in a college bred,
No woman knew, but those which made their bed;
Who, planted virgins on Cam's virtuous shore,
Continued still male virgins at threescore,
Comes Sumner, wise, and chaste as chaste can be,
With Long, as wise, and not less chaste than he.
Are there not friends, too, enter'd in thy cause
Who, for thy sake, defying penal laws,
Were, to support thy honourable plan,
Smuggled from Jersey, and the Isle of Man?
Are there not Philomaths of high degree
Who, always dumb before, shall speak for thee?
Are there not Proctors, faithful to thy will,
One of full growth, others in embryo still,
Who may, perhaps, in some ten years, or more,
Be ascertain'd that two and two make four,
Or may a still more happy method find,
And, taking one from two, leave none behind?
With such a mighty power on foot, to yield
Were death to manhood; better in the field
To leave our carcases, and die with fame,
Than fly, and purchase life on terms of shame.
Sackvilles alone anticipate defeat,
And ere they dare the battle, sound retreat.
But if persuasions ineffectual prove,
If arguments are vain, nor prayers can move,
Yet in thy bitterness of frantic woe
Why talk of Burton? why to Scotland go?
Is there not Oxford? she, with open arms,
Shall meet thy wish, and yield up all her charms:
Shall for thy love her former loves resign,
And jilt the banish'd Stuarts to be thine.
Bow'd to the yoke, and, soon as she could read,
Tutor'd to get by heart the despot's creed,
She, of subjection proud, shall knee thy throne,
And have no principles but thine alone;
She shall thy will implicitly receive,
Nor act, nor speak, nor think, without thy leave.
Where is the glory of imperial sway
If subjects none but just commands obey?
Then, and then only, is obedience seen,
When by command they dare do all that's mean:
Hither, then, wing thy flight, here fix thy stand,
Nor fail to bring thy Sandwich in thy hand.
Gods! with what joy, (for Fancy now supplies,
And lays the future open to my eyes)
Gods! with what joy I see the worthies meet,
And Brother Litchfield Brother Sandwich greet!
Blest be your greetings, blest each dear embrace;
Blest to yourselves, and to the human race.
Sickening at virtues, which she cannot reach,
Which seem her baser nature to impeach,
Let Envy, in a whirlwind's bosom hurl'd,
Outrageous, search the corners of the world,
Ransack the present times, look back to past,
Rip up the future, and confess at last,
No times, past, present, or to come, could e'er
Produce, and bless the world with such a pair.
Phillips, the good old Phillips, out of breath,
Escaped from Monmouth, and escaped from death,
Shall hail his Sandwich with that virtuous zeal,
That glorious ardour for the commonweal,
Which warm'd his loyal heart and bless'd his tongue,
When on his lips the cause of rebels hung;
Whilst Womanhood, in habit of a nun,
At Medenham lies, by backward monks undone;
A nation's reckoning, like an alehouse score,
Whilst Paul, the aged, chalks behind a door,
Compell'd to hire a foe to cast it up,
Dashwood shall pour, from a communion cup,
Libations to the goddess without eyes,
And hob or nob in cider and excise.
From those deep shades, where Vanity, unknown,
Doth penance for her pride, and pines alone,
Cursed in herself, by her own thoughts undone,
Where she sees all, but can be seen by none;
Where she, no longer mistress of the schools,
Hears praise loud pealing from the mouths of fools,
Or hears it at a distance, in despair
To join the crowd, and put in for a share,
Twisting each thought a thousand different ways,
For his new friends new-modelling old praise;
Where frugal sense so very fine is spun,
It serves twelve hours, though not enough for one,
King shall arise, and, bursting from the dead,
Shall hurl his piebald Latin at thy head.
Burton (whilst awkward affectation hung
In quaint and labour'd accents on his tongue,
Who 'gainst their will makes junior blockheads speak,
Ignorant of both, new Latin and new Greek,
Not such as was in Greece and Latium known,
But of a modern cut, and all his own;
Who threads, like beads, loose thoughts on such a string,
They're praise and censure; nothing, every thing;
Pantomime thoughts, and style so full of trick,
They even make a Merry Andrew sick;
Thoughts all so dull, so pliant in their growth,
They're verse, they're prose, they're neither, and they're both)
Shall (though by nature ever both to praise)
Thy curious worth set forth in curious phrase;
Obscurely stiff, shall press poor Sense to death,
Or in long periods run her out of breath;
Shall make a babe, for which, with all his fame,
Adam could not have found a proper name,
Whilst, beating out his features to a smile,
He hugs the bastard brat, and calls it Style.
Hush'd be all Nature as the land of Death;
Let each stream sleep, and each wind hold his breath;
Be the bells muffled, nor one sound of Care,
Pressing for audience, wake the slumbering air;
Browne comes--behold how cautiously he creeps--
How slow he walks, and yet how fast he sleeps--
But to thy praise in sleep he shall agree;
He cannot wake, but he shall dream of thee.
Physic, her head with opiate poppies crown'd,
Her loins by the chaste matron Camphire bound;
Physic, obtaining succour from the pen
Of her soft son, her gentle Heberden,
If there are men who can thy virtue know,
Yet spite of virtue treat thee as a foe,
Shall, like a scholar, stop their rebel breath,
And in each recipe send classic death.
So deep in knowledge, that few lines can sound
And plumb the bottom of that vast profound,
Few grave ones with such gravity can think,
Or follow half so fast as he can sink;
With nice distinctions glossing o'er the text,
Obscure with meaning, and in words perplex'd,
With subtleties on subtleties refined,
Meant to divide and subdivide the mind,
Keeping the forwardness of youth in awe,
The scowling Blackstone bears the train of law.
Divinity, enrobed in college fur,
In her right hand a new Court Calendar,
Bound like a book of prayer, thy coming waits
With all her pack, to hymn thee in the gates.
Loyalty, fix'd on Isis' alter'd shore,
A stranger long, but stranger now no more,
Shall pitch her tabernacle, and, with eyes
Brimful of rapture, view her new allies;
Shall, with much pleasure and more wonder, view
Men great at court, and great at Oxford too.
O sacred Loyalty! accursed be those
Who, seeming friends, turn out thy deadliest foes,
Who prostitute to kings thy honour'd name,
And soothe their passions to betray their fame;
Nor praised be those, to whose proud nature clings
Contempt of government, and hate of kings,
Who, willing to be free, not knowing how,
A strange intemperance of zeal avow,
And start at Loyalty, as at a word
Which without danger Freedom never heard.
Vain errors of vain men--wild both extremes,
And to the state not wholesome, like the dreams,
Children of night, of Indigestion bred,
Which, Reason clouded, seize and turn the head;
Loyalty without Freedom is a chain
Which men of liberal notice can't sustain;
And Freedom without Loyalty, a name
Which nothing means, or means licentious shame.
Thine be the art, my Sandwich, thine the toil,
In Oxford's stubborn and untoward soil
To rear this plant of union, till at length,
Rooted by time, and foster'd into strength,
Shooting aloft, all danger it defies,
And proudly lifts its branches to the skies;
Whilst, Wisdom's happy son but not her slave,
Gay with the gay, and with the grave ones grave,
Free from the dull impertinence of thought,
Beneath that shade, which thy own labours wrought
And fashion'd into strength, shalt thou repose,
Secure of liberal praise, since Isis flows,
True to her Tame, as duty hath decreed,
Nor longer, like a harlot, lust for Tweed,
And those old wreaths, which Oxford once dared twine
To grace a Stuart brow, she plants on thine.
I. The Ring and the Book
Do you see this Ring?
'T is Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani's imitative craft)
Etrurian circlets found, some happy morn,
After a dropping April; found alive
Spark-like 'mid unearthed slope-side figtree-roots
That roof old tombs at Chiusi: soft, you see,
Yet crisp as jewel-cutting. There's one trick,
(Craftsmen instruct me) one approved device
And but one, fits such slivers of pure gold
As this was,—such mere oozings from the mine,
Virgin as oval tawny pendent tear
At beehive-edge when ripened combs o'erflow,—
To bear the file's tooth and the hammer's tap:
Since hammer needs must widen out the round,
And file emboss it fine with lily-flowers,
Ere the stuff grow a ring-thing right to wear.
That trick is, the artificer melts up wax
With honey, so to speak; he mingles gold
With gold's alloy, and, duly tempering both,
Effects a manageable mass, then works:
But his work ended, once the thing a ring,
Oh, there's repristination! Just a spirt
O' the proper fiery acid o'er its face,
And forth the alloy unfastened flies in fume;
While, self-sufficient now, the shape remains,
The rondure brave, the lilied loveliness,
Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry—
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.
Do you see this square old yellow Book, I toss
I' the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers,—pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since?
Examine it yourselves! I found this book,
Gave a lira for it, eightpence English just,
(Mark the predestination!) when a Hand,
Always above my shoulder, pushed me once,
One day still fierce 'mid many a day struck calm,
Across a Square in Florence, crammed with booths,
Buzzing and blaze, noontide and market-time,
Toward Baccio's marble,—ay, the basement-ledge
O' the pedestal where sits and menaces
John of the Black Bands with the upright spear,
'Twixt palace and church,—Riccardi where they lived,
His race, and San Lorenzo where they lie.
This book,—precisely on that palace-step
Which, meant for lounging knaves o' the Medici,
Now serves re-venders to display their ware,—
Mongst odds and ends of ravage, picture-frames
White through the worn gilt, mirror-sconces chipped,
Bronze angel-heads once knobs attached to chests,
(Handled when ancient dames chose forth brocade)
Modern chalk drawings, studies from the nude,
Samples of stone, jet, breccia, porphyry
Polished and rough, sundry amazing busts
In baked earth, (broken, Providence be praised!)
A wreck of tapestry, proudly-purposed web
When reds and blues were indeed red and blue,
Now offered as a mat to save bare feet
(Since carpets constitute a cruel cost)
Treading the chill scagliola bedward: then
A pile of brown-etched prints, two crazie each,
Stopped by a conch a-top from fluttering forth
—Sowing the Square with works of one and the same
Master, the imaginative Sienese
Great in the scenic backgrounds—(name and fame
None of you know, nor does he fare the worse:)
From these … Oh, with a Lionard going cheap
If it should prove, as promised, that Joconde
Whereof a copy contents the Louvre!—these
I picked this book from. Five compeers in flank
Stood left and right of it as tempting more—
A dogseared Spicilegium, the fond tale
O' the Frail One of the Flower, by young Dumas,
Vulgarized Horace for the use of schools,
The Life, Death, Miracles of Saint Somebody,
Saint Somebody Else, his Miracles, Death and Life,—
With this, one glance at the lettered back of which,
And "Stall!" cried I: a lira made it mine.
Here it is, this I toss and take again;
Small-quarto size, part print part manuscript:
A book in shape but, really, pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since.
Give it me back! The thing's restorative
I'the touch and sight.
That memorable day,
(June was the month, Lorenzo named the Square)
I leaned a little and overlooked my prize
By the low railing round the fountain-source
Close to the statue, where a step descends:
While clinked the cans of copper, as stooped and rose
Thick-ankled girls who brimmed them, and made place
For marketmen glad to pitch basket down,
Dip a broad melon-leaf that holds the wet,
And whisk their faded fresh. And on I read
Presently, though my path grew perilous
Between the outspread straw-work, piles of plait
Soon to be flapping, each o'er two black eyes
And swathe of Tuscan hair, on festas fine:
Through fire-irons, tribes of tongs, shovels in sheaves,
Skeleton bedsteads, wardrobe-drawers agape,
Rows of tall slim brass lamps with dangling gear,—
And worse, cast clothes a-sweetening in the sun:
None of them took my eye from off my prize.
Still read I on, from written title-page
To written index, on, through street and street,
At the Strozzi, at the Pillar, at the Bridge;
Till, by the time I stood at home again
In Casa Guidi by Felice Church,
Under the doorway where the black begins
With the first stone-slab of the staircase cold,
I had mastered the contents, knew the whole truth
Gathered together, bound up in this book,
Print three-fifths, written supplement the rest.
Better translate—"A Roman murder-case:
"Position of the entire criminal cause
"Of Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
"With certain Four the cutthroats in his pay,
"Tried, all five, and found guilty and put to death
"By heading or hanging as befitted ranks,
"At Rome on February Twenty Two,
"Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight:
"Wherein it is disputed if, and when,
"Husbands may kill adulterous wives, yet 'scape
"The customary forfeit."
Word for word,
So ran the title-page: murder, or else
Legitimate punishment of the other crime,
Accounted murder by mistake,—just that
And no more, in a Latin cramp enough
When the law had her eloquence to launch,
But interfilleted with Italian streaks
When testimony stooped to mother-tongue,—
That, was this old square yellow book about.
Now, as the ingot, ere the ring was forged,
Lay gold, (beseech you, hold that figure fast!)
So, in this book lay absolutely truth,
Fanciless fact, the documents indeed,
Primary lawyer-pleadings for, against,
The aforesaid Five; real summed-up circumstance
Adduced in proof of these on either side,
Put forth and printed, as the practice was,
At Rome, in the Apostolic Chamber's type,
And so submitted to the eye o' the Court
Presided over by His Reverence
Rome's Governor and Criminal Judge,—the trial
Itself, to all intents, being then as now
Here in the book and nowise out of it;
Seeing, there properly was no judgment-bar,
No bringing of accuser and accused,
And whoso judged both parties, face to face
Before some court, as we conceive of courts.
There was a Hall of Justice; that came last:
For Justice had a chamber by the hall
Where she took evidence first, summed up the same,
Then sent accuser and accused alike,
In person of the advocate of each,
To weigh its worth, thereby arrange, array
The battle. 'T was the so-styled Fisc began,
Pleaded (and since he only spoke in print
The printed voice of him lives now as then)
The public Prosecutor—"Murder's proved;
"With five … what we call qualities of bad,
"Worse, worst, and yet worse still, and still worse yet;
"Crest over crest crowning the cockatrice,
"That beggar hell's regalia to enrich
"Count Guido Franceschini: punish him!"
Thus was the paper put before the court
In the next stage, (no noisy work at all,)
To study at ease. In due time like reply
Came from the so-styled Patron of the Poor,
Official mouthpiece of the five accused
Too poor to fee a better,—Guido's luck
Or else his fellows',—which, I hardly know,—
An outbreak as of wonder at the world,
A fury-fit of outraged innocence,
A passion of betrayed simplicity:
"Punish Count Guido? For what crime, what hint
"O' the colour of a crime, inform us first!
"Reward him rather! Recognize, we say,
"In the deed done, a righteous judgment dealt!
"All conscience and all courage,—there's our Count
"Charactered in a word; and, what's more strange,
"He had companionship in privilege,
"Found four courageous conscientious friends:
"Absolve, applaud all five, as props of law,
"Sustainers of society!—perchance
"A trifle over-hasty with the hand
"To hold her tottering ark, had tumbled else;
"But that's a splendid fault whereat we wink,
"Wishing your cold correctness sparkled so!"
Thus paper second followed paper first,
Thus did the two join issue—nay, the four,
Each pleader having an adjunct. "True, he killed
"—So to speak—in a certain sort—his wife,
"But laudably, since thus it happed!" quoth one:
Whereat, more witness and the case postponed.
"Thus it happed not, since thus he did the deed,
"And proved himself thereby portentousest
"Of cutthroats and a prodigy of crime,
"As the woman that he slaughtered was a saint,
"Martyr and miracle!" quoth the other to match:
Again, more witness, and the case postponed.
"A miracle, ay—of lust and impudence;
"Hear my new reasons!" interposed the first:
"—Coupled with more of mine!" pursued his peer.
"Beside, the precedents, the authorities!"
From both at once a cry with an echo, that!
That was a firebrand at each fox's tail
Unleashed in a cornfield: soon spread flare enough,
As hurtled thither and there heaped themselves
From earth's four corners, all authority
And precedent for putting wives to death,
Or letting wives live, sinful as they seem.
How legislated, now, in this respect,
Solon and his Athenians? Quote the code
Of Romulus and Rome! Justinian speak!
Nor modern Baldo, Bartolo be dumb!
The Roman voice was potent, plentiful;
Cornelia de Sicariis hurried to help
Pompeia de Parricidiis; Julia de
Something-or-other jostled Lex this-and-that;
King Solomon confirmed Apostle Paul:
That nice decision of Dolabella, eh?
That pregnant instance of Theodoric, oh!
Down to that choice example Ælian gives
(An instance I find much insisted on)
Of the elephant who, brute-beast though he were,
Yet understood and punished on the spot
His master's naughty spouse and faithless friend;
A true tale which has edified each child,
Much more shall flourish favoured by our court!
Pages of proof this way, and that way proof,
And always—once again the case postponed.
Thus wrangled, brangled, jangled they a month,
—Only on paper, pleadings all in print,
Nor ever was, except i' the brains of men,
More noise by word of mouth than you hear now—
Till the court cut all short with "Judged, your cause.
"Receive our sentence! Praise God! We pronounce
"Count Guido devilish and damnable:
"His wife Pompilia in thought, word and deed,
"Was perfect pure, he murdered her for that:
"As for the Four who helped the One, all Five—
"Why, let employer and hirelings share alike
"In guilt and guilt's reward, the death their due!"
So was the trial at end, do you suppose?
"Guilty you find him, death you doom him to?
"Ay, were not Guido, more than needs, a priest,
"Priest and to spare!"—this was a shot reserved;
I learn this from epistles which begin
Here where the print ends,—see the pen and ink
Of the advocate, the ready at a pinch!—
"My client boasts the clerkly privilege,
"Has taken minor orders many enough,
"Shows still sufficient chrism upon his pate
"To neutralize a blood-stain: presbyter,
"Primæ tonsuræ, subdiaconus,
"Sacerdos, so he slips from underneath
"Your power, the temporal, slides inside the robe
"Of mother Church: to her we make appeal
"By the Pope, the Church's head!"
A parlous plea,
Put in with noticeable effect, it seems;
"Since straight,"—resumes the zealous orator,
Making a friend acquainted with the facts,—
"Once the word 'clericality' let fall,
"Procedure stopped and freer breath was drawn
"By all considerate and responsible Rome."
Quality took the decent part, of course;
Held by the husband, who was noble too:
Or, for the matter of that, a churl would side
With too-refined susceptibility,
And honour which, tender in the extreme,
Stung to the quick, must roughly right itself
At all risks, not sit still and whine for law
As a Jew would, if you squeezed him to the wall,
Brisk-trotting through the Ghetto. Nay, it seems,
Even the Emperor's Envoy had his say
To say on the subject; might not see, unmoved,
Civility menaced throughout Christendom
By too harsh measure dealt her champion here.
Lastly, what made all safe, the Pope was kind,
From his youth up, reluctant to take life,
If mercy might be just and yet show grace;
Much more unlikely then, in extreme age,
To take a life the general sense bade spare.
'T was plain that Guido would go scatheless yet.
But human promise, oh, how short of shine!
How topple down the piles of hope we rear!
How history proves … nay, read Herodotus!
Suddenly starting from a nap, as it were,
A dog-sleep with one shut, one open orb,
Cried the Pope's great self,—Innocent by name
And nature too, and eighty-six years old,
Antonio Pignatelli of Naples, Pope
Who had trod many lands, known many deeds,
Probed many hearts, beginning with his own,
And now was far in readiness for God,—
'T was he who first bade leave those souls in peace,
Those Jansenists, re-nicknamed Molinists,
('Gainst whom the cry went, like a frowsy tune,
Tickling men's ears—the sect for a quarter of an hour
I' the teeth of the world which, clown-like, loves to chew
Be it but a straw 'twixt work and whistling-while,
Taste some vituperation, bite away,
Whether at marjoram-sprig or garlic-clove,
Aught it may sport with, spoil, and then spit forth)
"Leave them alone," bade he, "those Molinists!
"Who may have other light than we perceive,
"Or why is it the whole world hates them thus?"
Also he peeled off that last scandal-rag
Of Nepotism; and so observed the poor
That men would merrily say, "Halt, deaf and blind,
"Who feed on fat things, leave the master's self
"To gather up the fragments of his feast,
'These be the nephews of Pope Innocent!—
"His own meal costs but five carlines a day,
"Poor-priest's allowance, for he claims no more."
—He cried of a sudden, this great good old Pope,
When they appealed in last resort to him,
"I have mastered the whole matter: I nothing doubt.
"Though Guido stood forth priest from head to heel,
"Instead of, as alleged, a piece of one,—
"And further, were he, from the tonsured scalp
"To the sandaled sole of him, my son and Christ's,
"Instead of touching us by finger-tip
"As you assert, and pressing up so close
"Only to set a blood-smutch on our robe,—
"I and Christ would renounce all right in him.
"Am I not Pope, and presently to die,
"And busied how to render my account,
"And shall I wait a day ere I decide
"On doing or not doing justice here?
"Cut off his head to-morrow by this time,
"Hang up his four mates, two on either hand,
"And end one business more!"
So said, so done—
Rather so writ, for the old Pope bade this,
I find, with his particular chirograph,
His own no such infirm hand, Friday night;
And next day, February Twenty Two,
Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight,
—Not at the proper head-and-hanging-place
On bridge-foot close by Castle Angelo,
Where custom somewhat staled the spectacle,
('T was not so well i' the way of Rome, beside,
The noble Rome, the Rome of Guido's rank)
But at the city's newer gayer end,—
The cavalcading promenading place
Beside the gate and opposite the church
Under the Pincian gardens green with Spring,
'Neath the obelisk 'twixt the fountains in the Square,
Did Guido and his fellows find their fate,
All Rome for witness, and—my writer adds—
Remonstrant in its universal grief,
Since Guido had the suffrage of all Rome.
This is the bookful; thus far take the truth,
The untempered gold, the fact untampered with,
The mere ring-metal ere the ring be made!
And what has hitherto come of it? Who preserves
The memory of this Guido, and his wife
Pompilia, more than Ademollo's name,
The etcher of those prints, two crazie each,
Saved by a stone from snowing broad the Square
With scenic backgrounds? Was this truth of force?
Able to take its own part as truth should,
Sufficient, self-sustaining? Why, if so—
Yonder's a fire, into it goes my book,
As who shall say me nay, and what the loss?
You know the tale already: I may ask,
Rather than think to tell you, more thereof,—
Ask you not merely who were he and she,
Husband and wife, what manner of mankind,
But how you hold concerning this and that
Other yet-unnamed actor in the piece.
The young frank handsome courtly Canon, now,
The priest, declared the lover of the wife,
He who, no question, did elope with her,
For certain bring the tragedy about,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi;—his strange course
I' the matter, was it right or wrong or both?
Then the old couple, slaughtered with the wife
By the husband as accomplices in crime,
Those Comparini, Pietro and his spouse,—
What say you to the right or wrong of that,
When, at a known name whispered through the door
Of a lone villa on a Christmas night,
It opened that the joyous hearts inside
Might welcome as it were an angel-guest
Come in Christ's name to knock and enter, sup
And satisfy the loving ones he saved;
And so did welcome devils and their death?
I have been silent on that circumstance
Although the couple passed for close of kin
To wife and husband, were by some accounts
Pompilia's very parents: you know best.
Also that infant the great joy was for,
That Gaetano, the wife's two-weeks' babe,
The husband's first-born child, his son and heir,
Whose birth and being turned his night to day—
Why must the father kill the mother thus
Because she bore his son and saved himself?
Well, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!) and will have your proper laugh
At the dark question, laugh it! I laugh first.
Truth must prevail, the proverb vows; and truth
—Here is it all i' the book at last, as first
There it was all i' the heads and hearts of Rome
Gentle and simple, never to fall nor fade
Nor be forgotten. Yet, a little while,
The passage of a century or so,
Decads thrice five, and here's time paid his tax,
Oblivion gone home with her harvesting,
And all left smooth again as scythe could shave.
Far from beginning with you London folk,
I took my book to Rome first, tried truth's power
On likely people. "Have you met such names?
"Is a tradition extant of such facts?
"Your law-courts stand, your records frown a-row:
"What if I rove and rummage?" "—Why, you'll waste
"Your pains and end as wise as you began!"
Everyone snickered: "names and facts thus old
"Are newer much than Europe news we find
"Down in to-day's Diario. Records, quotha?
"Why, the French burned them, what else do the French?
"The rap-and-rending nation! And it tells
"Against the Church, no doubt,—another gird
"At the Temporality, your Trial, of course?"
"—Quite otherwise this time," submitted I;
"Clean for the Church and dead against the world,
"The flesh and the devil, does it tell for once."
"—The rarer and the happier! All the same,
"Content you with your treasure of a book,
"And waive what's wanting! Take a friend's advice!
"It's not the custom of the country. Mend
"Your ways indeed and we may stretch a point:
"Go get you manned by Manning and new-manned
"By Newman and, mayhap, wise-manned to boot
"By Wiseman, and we'll see or else we won't!
"Thanks meantime for the story, long and strong,
"A pretty piece of narrative enough,
"Which scarce ought so to drop out, one would think,
"From the more curious annals of our kind.
"Do you tell the story, now, in off-hand style,
"Straight from the book? Or simply here and there,
"(The while you vault it through the loose and large)
"Hang to a hint? Or is there book at all,
"And don't you deal in poetry, make-believe,
"And the white lies it sounds like?"
Yes and no!
From the book, yes; thence bit by bit I dug
The lingot truth, that memorable day,
Assayed and knew my piecemeal gain was gold,—
Yes; but from something else surpassing that,
Something of mine which, mixed up with the mass,
Made it bear hammer and be firm to file.
Fancy with fact is just one fact the more;
To-wit, that fancy has informed, transpierced,
Thridded and so thrown fast the facts else free,
As right through ring and ring runs the djereed
And binds the loose, one bar without a break.
I fused my live soul and that inert stuff,
Before attempting smithcraft, on the night
After the day when,—truth thus grasped and gained,—
The book was shut and done with and laid by
On the cream-coloured massive agate, broad
'Neath the twin cherubs in the tarnished frame
O' the mirror, tall thence to the ceiling-top.
And from the reading, and that slab I leant
My elbow on, the while I read and read,
I turned, to free myself and find the world,
And stepped out on the narrow terrace, built
Over the street and opposite the church,
And paced its lozenge-brickwork sprinkled cool;
Because Felice-church-side stretched, a-glow
Through each square window fringed for festival,
Whence came the clear voice of the cloistered ones
Chanting a chant made for midsummer nights—
I know not what particular praise of God,
It always came and went with June. Beneath
I' the street, quick shown by openings of the sky
When flame fell silently from cloud to cloud,
Richer than that gold snow Jove rained on Rhodes,
The townsmen walked by twos and threes, and talked,
Drinking the blackness in default of air—
A busy human sense beneath my feet:
While in and out the terrace-plants, and round
One branch of tall datura, waxed and waned
The lamp-fly lured there, wanting the white flower.
Over the roof o' the lighted church I looked
A bowshot to the street's end, north away
Out of the Roman gate to the Roman road
By the river, till I felt the Apennine.
And there would lie Arezzo, the man's town,
The woman's trap and cage and torture-place,
Also the stage where the priest played his part,
A spectacle for angels,—ay, indeed,
There lay Arezzo! Farther then I fared,
Feeling my way on through the hot and dense,
Romeward, until I found the wayside inn
By Castelnuovo's few mean hut-like homes
Huddled together on the hill-foot bleak,
Bare, broken only by that tree or two
Against the sudden bloody splendour poured
Cursewise in day's departure by the sun
O'er the low house-roof of that squalid inn
Where they three, for the first time and the last,
Husband and wife and priest, met face to face.
Whence I went on again, the end was near,
Step by step, missing none and marking all,
Till Rome itself, the ghastly goal, I reached.
Why, all the while,—how could it otherwise?—
The life in me abolished the death of things,
Deep calling unto deep: as then and there
Acted itself over again once more
The tragic piece. I saw with my own eyes
In Florence as I trod the terrace, breathed
The beauty and the fearfulness of night,
How it had run, this round from Rome to Rome—
Because, you are to know, they lived at Rome,
Pompilia's parents, as they thought themselves,
Two poor ignoble hearts who did their best
Part God's way, part the other way than God's,
To somehow make a shift and scramble through
The world's mud, careless if it splashed and spoiled,
Provided they might so hold high, keep clean
Their child's soul, one soul white enough for three,
And lift it to whatever star should stoop,
What possible sphere of purer life than theirs
Should come in aid of whiteness hard to save.
I saw the star stoop, that they strained to touch,
And did touch and depose their treasure on,
As Guido Franceschini took away
Pompilia to be his for evermore,
While they sang "Now let us depart in peace,
"Having beheld thy glory, Guido's wife!"
I saw the star supposed, but fog o' the fen,
Gilded star-fashion by a glint from hell;
Having been heaved up, haled on its gross way,
By hands unguessed before, invisible help
From a dark brotherhood, and specially
Two obscure goblin creatures, fox-faced this,
Cat-clawed the other, called his next of kin
By Guido the main monster,—cloaked and caped,
Making as they were priests, to mock God more,—
Abate Paul, Canon Girolamo.
These who had rolled the starlike pest to Rome
And stationed it to suck up and absorb
The sweetness of Pompilia, rolled again
That bloated bubble, with her soul inside,
Back to Arezzo and a palace there—
Or say, a fissure in the honest earth
Whence long ago had curled the vapour first,
Blown big by nether firs to appal day:
It touched home, broke, and blasted far and wide.
I saw the cheated couple find the cheat
And guess what foul rite they were captured for,—
Too fain to follow over hill and dale
That child of theirs caught up thus in the cloud
And carried by the Prince o' the Power of the Air
Whither he would, to wilderness or sea.
I saw them, in the potency of fear,
Break somehow through the satyr-family
(For a grey mother with a monkey-mien,
Mopping and mowing, was apparent too,
As, confident of capture, all took hands
And danced about the captives in a ring)
—Saw them break through, breathe safe, at Rome again,
Saved by the selfish instinct, losing so
Their loved one left with haters. These I saw,
In recrudescency of baffled hate,
Prepare to wring the uttermost revenge
From body and soul thus left them: all was sure,
Fire laid and cauldron set, the obscene ring traced,
The victim stripped and prostrate: what of God?
The cleaving of a cloud, a cry, a crash,
Quenched lay their cauldron, cowered i' the dust the crew,
As, in a glory of armour like Saint George,
Out again sprang the young good beauteous priest
Bearing away the lady in his arms,
Saved for a splendid minute and no more.
For, whom i' the path did that priest come upon,
He and the poor lost lady borne so brave,
—Checking the song of praise in me, had else
Swelled to the full for God's will done on earth—
Whom but a dusk misfeatured messenger,
No other than the angel of this life,
Whose care is lest men see too much at once.
He made the sign, such God-glimpse must suffice,
Nor prejudice the Prince o' the Power of the Air,
Whose ministration piles us overhead
What we call, first, earth's roof and, last, heaven's floor,
Now grate o' the trap, then outlet of the cage:
So took the lady, left the priest alone,
And once more canopied the world with black.
But through the blackness I saw Rome again,
And where a solitary villa stood
In a lone garden-quarter: it was eve,
The second of the year, and oh so cold!
Ever and anon there flittered through the air
A snow-flake, and a scanty couch of snow
Crusted the grass-walk and the garden-mould.
All was grave, silent, sinister,—when, ha?
Glimmeringly did a pack of were-wolves pad
The snow, those flames were Guido's eyes in front,
And all five found and footed it, the track,
To where a threshold-streak of warmth and light
Betrayed the villa-door with life inside,
While an inch outside were those blood-bright eyes,
And black lips wrinkling o'er the flash of teeth,
And tongues that lolled—Oh God that madest man!
They parleyed in their language. Then one whined—
That was the policy and master-stroke—
Deep in his throat whispered what seemed a name—
"Open to Caponsacchi!" Guido cried:
"Gabriel!" cried Lucifer at Eden-gate.
Wide as a heart, opened the door at once,
Showing the joyous couple, and their child
The two-weeks' mother, to the wolves, the wolves
To them. Close eyes! And when the corpses lay
Stark-stretched, and those the wolves, their wolf-work done,
Were safe-embosomed by the night again,
I knew a necessary change in things;
As when the worst watch of the night gives way,
And there comes duly, to take cognizance,
The scrutinizing eye-point of some star—
And who despairs of a new daybreak now?
Lo, the first ray protruded on those five!
It reached them, and each felon writhed transfixed.
Awhile they palpitated on the spear
Motionless over Tophet: stand or fall?
"I say, the spear should fall—should stand, I say!"
Cried the world come to judgment, granting grace
Or dealing doom according to world's wont,
Those world's-bystanders grouped on Rome's crossroad
At prick and summons of the primal curse
Which bids man love as well as make a lie.
There prattled they, discoursed the right and wrong,
Turned wrong to right, proved wolves sheep and sheep wolves,
So that you scarce distinguished fell from fleece;
Till out spoke a great guardian of the fold,
Stood up, put forth his hand that held the crook,
And motioned that the arrested point decline:
Horribly off, the wriggling dead-weight reeled,
Rushed to the bottom and lay ruined there.
Though still at the pit's mouth, despite the smoke
O' the burning, tarriers turned again to talk
And trim the balance, and detect at least
A touch of wolf in what showed whitest sheep,
A cross of sheep redeeming the whole wolf,—
Vex truth a little longer:—less and less,
Because years came and went, and more and more
Brought new lies with them to be loved in turn.
Till all at once the memory of the thing,—
The fact that, wolves or sheep, such creatures were,—
Which hitherto, however men supposed,
Had somehow plain and pillar-like prevailed
I' the midst of them, indisputably fact,
Granite, time's tooth should grate against, not graze,—
Why, this proved sandstone, friable, fast to fly
And give its grain away at wish o' the wind.
Ever and ever more diminutive,
Base gone, shaft lost, only entablature,
Dwindled into no bigger than a book,
Lay of the column; and that little, left
By the roadside 'mid the ordure, shards and weeds.
Until I haply, wandering that lone way,
Kicked it up, turned it over, and recognized,
For all the crumblement, this abacus,
This square old yellow book,—could calculate
By this the lost proportions of the style.
This was it from, my fancy with those facts,
I used to tell the tale, turned gay to grave,
But lacked a listener seldom; such alloy,
Such substance of me interfused the gold
Which, wrought into a shapely ring therewith,
Hammered and filed, fingered and favoured, last
Lay ready for the renovating wash
O' the water. "How much of the tale was true?"
I disappeared; the book grew all in all;
The lawyers' pleadings swelled back to their size,—
Doubled in two, the crease upon them yet,
For more commodity of carriage, see!—
And these are letters, veritable sheets
That brought posthaste the news to Florence, writ
At Rome the day Count Guido died, we find,
To stay the craving of a client there,
Who bound the same and so produced my book.
Lovers of dead truth, did ye fare the worse?
Lovers of live truth, found ye false my tale?
Well, now; there's nothing in nor out o' the world
Good except truth: yet this, the something else,
What's this then, which proves good yet seems untrue?
This that I mixed with truth, motions of mine
That quickened, made the inertness malleolable
O'the gold was not mine,—what's your name for this?
Are means to the end, themselves in part the end?
Is fiction which makes fact alive, fact too?
The somehow may be thishow.
I find first
Writ down for very A B C of fact,
"In the beginning God made heaven and earth;"
From which, no matter with what lisp, I spell
And speak you out a consequence—that man,
Man,—as befits the made, the inferior thing,—
Purposed, since made, to grow, not make in turn,
Yet forced to try and make, else fail to grow,—
Formed to rise, reach at, if not grasp and gain
The good beyond him,—which attempt is growth,—
Repeats God's process in man's due degree,
Attaining man's proportionate result,—
Creates, no, but resuscitates, perhaps.
Inalienable, the arch-prerogative
Which turns thought, act—conceives, expresses too!
No less, man, bounded, yearning to be free,
May so proiect his surplusage of soul
In search of body, so add self to self
By owning what lay ownerless before,—
So find, so fill full, so appropriate forms—
That, although nothing which had never life
Shall get life from him, be, not having been,
Yet, something dead may get to live again,
Something with too much life or not enough,
Which, either way imperfect, ended once:
An end whereat man's impulse intervenes,
Makes new beginning, starts the dead alive,
Completes the incomplete and saves the thing.
Man's breath were vain to light a virgin wick,—
Half-burned-out, all but quite-quenched wicks o' the lamp
Stationed for temple-service on this earth,
These indeed let him breathe on and relume!
For such man's feat is, in the due degree,
—Mimic creation, galvanism for life,
But still a glory portioned in the scale.
Why did the mage say,—feeling as we are wont
For truth, and stopping midway short of truth,
And resting on a lie,—"I raise a ghost"?
"Because," he taught adepts, "man makes not man.
"Yet by a special gift, an art of arts,
"More insight and more outsight and much more
"Will to use both of these than boast my mates,
"I can detach from me, commission forth
"Half of my soul; which in its pilgrimage
"O'er old unwandered waste ways of the world,
"May chance upon some fragment of a whole,
"Rag of flesh, scrap of bone in dim disuse,
"Smoking flax that fed fire once: prompt therein
"I enter, spark-like, put old powers to play,
"Push lines out to the limit, lead forth last
"(By a moonrise through a ruin of a crypt)
"What shall be mistily seen, murmuringly heard,
"Mistakenly felt: then write my name with Faust's!"
Oh, Faust, why Faust? Was not Elisha once?—
Who bade them lay his staff on a corpse-face.
There was no voice, no hearing: he went in
Therefore, and shut the door upon them twain,
And prayed unto the Lord: and he went up
And lay upon the corpse, dead on the couch,
And put his mouth upon its mouth, his eyes
Upon its eyes, his hands upon its hands,
And stretched him on the flesh; the flesh waxed warm:
And he returned, walked to and fro the house,
And went up, stretched him on the flesh again,
And the eyes opened. 'T is a credible feat
With the right man and way.
Enough of me!
The Book! I turn its medicinable leaves
In London now till, as in Florence erst,
A spirit laughs and leaps through every limb,
And lights my eye, and lifts me by the hair,
Letting me have my will again with these
—How title I the dead alive once more?
Count Guido Franceschini the Aretine,
Descended of an ancient house, though poor,
A beak-nosed bushy-bearded black-haired lord,
Lean, pallid, low of stature yet robust,
Fifty years old,—having four years ago
Married Pompilia Comparini, young,
Good, beautiful, at Rome, where she was born,
And brought her to Arezzo, where they lived
Unhappy lives, whatever curse the cause,—
This husband, taking four accomplices,
Followed this wife to Rome, where she was fled
From their Arezzo to find peace again,
In convoy, eight months earlier, of a priest,
Aretine also, of still nobler birth,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi,—caught her there
Quiet in a villa on a Christmas night,
With only Pietro and Violante by,
Both her putative parents; killed the three,
Aged, they, seventy each, and she, seventeen,
And, two weeks since, the mother of his babe
First-born and heir to what the style was worth
O' the Guido who determined, dared and did
This deed just as he purposed point by point.
Then, bent upon escape, but hotly pressed,
And captured with his co-mates that same night,
He, brought to trial, stood on this defence—
Injury to his honour caused the act;
And since his wife was false, (as manifest
By flight from home in such companionship,)
Death, punishment deserved of the false wife
And faithless parents who abetted her
I' the flight aforesaid, wronged nor God nor man.
"Nor false she, nor yet faithless they," replied
The accuser; "cloaked and masked this murder glooms;
"True was Pompilia, loyal too the pair;
"Out of the man's own heart a monster curled
"Which crime coiled with connivancy at crime—
"His victim's breast, he tells you, hatched and reared;
"Uncoil we and stretch stark the worm of hell!"
A month the trial swayed this way and that
Ere judgment settled down on Guido's guilt;
Then was the Pope, that good Twelfth Innocent,
Appealed to: who well weighed what went before,
Affirmed the guilt and gave the guilty doom.
Let this old woe step on the stage again!
Act itself o'er anew for men to judge,
Not by the very sense and sight indeed—
(Which take at best imperfect cognizance,
Since, how heart moves brain, and how both move hand,
What mortal ever in entirety saw?)
—No dose of purer truth than man digests,
But truth with falsehood, milk that feeds him now,
Not strong meat he may get to bear some day—
To-wit, by voices we call evidence,
Uproar in the echo, live fact deadened down,
Talked over, bruited abroad, whispered away,
Yet helping us to all we seem to hear:
For how else know we save by worth of word?
Here are the voices presently shall sound
In due succession. First, the world's outcry
Around the rush and ripple of any fact
Fallen stonewise, plumb on the smooth face of things;
The world's guess, as it crowds the bank o' the pool,
At what were figure and substance, by their splash:
Then, by vibrations in the general mind,
At depth of deed already out of reach.
This threefold murder of the day before,—
Say, Half-Rome's feel after the vanished truth;
Honest enough, as the way is: all the same,
Harbouring in the centre of its sense
A hidden germ of failure, shy but sure,
To neutralize that honesty and leave
That feel for truth at fault, as the way is too.
Some prepossession such as starts amiss,
By but a hair's breadth at the shoulder-blade,
The arm o' the feeler, dip he ne'er so bold;
So leads arm waveringly, lets fall wide
O' the mark its finger, sent to find and fix
Truth at the bottom, that deceptive speck.
With this Half-Rome,—the source of swerving, call
Over-belief in Guido's right and wrong
Rather than in Pompilia's wrong and right:
Who shall say how, who shall say why? 'T is there—
The instinctive theorizing whence a fact
Looks to the eye as the eye likes the look.
Gossip in a public place, a sample-speech.
Some worthy, with his previous hint to find
A husband's side the safer, and no whit
Aware he is not Æacus the while,—
How such an one supposes and states fact
To whosoever of a multitude
Will listen, and perhaps prolong thereby
The not-unpleasant flutter at the breast,
Born of a certain spectacle shut in
By the church Lorenzo opposite. So, they lounge
Midway the mouth o'the street, on Corso side,
'Twixt palace Fiano and palace Ruspoli,
Linger and listen; keeping clear o' the crowd,
Yet wishful one could lend that crowd one's eyes,
(So universal is its plague of squint)
And make hearts beat our time that flutter false:
—All for the truth's sake, mere truth, nothing else!
How Half-Rome found for Guido much excuse.
Next, from Rome's other half, the opposite feel
For truth with a like swerve, like unsuccess,—
Or if success, by no skill but more luck
This time, through siding rather with the wife,
Because a fancy-fit inclined that way,
Than with the husband. One wears drab, one pink;
Who wears pink, ask him "Which shall win the race,
"Of coupled runners like as egg and egg?"
"—Why, if I must choose, he with the pink scarf."
Doubtless for some such reason choice fell here.
A piece of public talk to correspond
At the next stage of the story; just a day
Let pass and new day brings the proper change.
Another sample-speech i' the market-place
O' the Barberini by the Capucins;
Where the old Triton, at his fountain-sport,
Bernini's creature plated to the paps,
Puffs up steel sleet which breaks to diamond dust,
A spray of sparkles snorted from his conch,
High over the caritellas, out o' the way
O' the motley merchandizing multitude.
Our murder has been done three days ago,
The frost is over and gone, the south wind laughs,
And, to the very tiles of each red roof
A-smoke i' the sunshine, Rome lies gold and glad:
So, listen how, to the other half of Rome,
Pompilia seemed a saint and martyr both!
Then, yet another day let come and go,
With pause prelusive still of novelty,
Hear a fresh speaker!—neither this nor that
Half-Rome aforesaid; something bred of both:
One and one breed the inevitable three.
Such is the personage harangues you next;
The elaborated product, tertium quid:
Rome's first commotion in subsidence gives
The curd o'the cream, flower o' the wheat, as it were,
And finer sense o' the city. Is this plain?
You get a reasoned statement of the case,
Eventual verdict of the curious few
Who care to sift a business to the bran
Nor coarsely bolt it like the simpler sort.
Here, after ignorance, instruction speaks;
Here, clarity of candour, history's soul,
The critical mind, in short: no gossip-guess.
What the superior social section thinks,
In person of some man of quality
Who,—breathing musk from lace-work and brocade,
His solitaire amid the flow of frill,
Powdered peruke on nose, and bag at back,
And cane dependent from the ruffled wrist,—
Harangues in silvery and selectest phrase
'Neath waxlight in a glorified saloon
Where mirrors multiply the girandole:
Courting the approbation of no mob,
But Eminence This and All-Illustrious That
Who take snuff softly, range in well-bred ring,
Card-table-quitters for observance' sake,
Around the argument, the rational word—
Still, spite its weight and worth, a sample-speech.
How Quality dissertated on the case.
So much for Rome and rumour; smoke comes first:
Once let smoke rise untroubled, we descry
Clearlier what tongues of flame may spire and spit
To eye and ear, each with appropriate tinge
According to its food, or pure or foul.
The actors, no mere rumours of the act,
Intervene. First you hear Count Guido's voice,
In a small chamber that adjoins the court,
Where Governor and Judges, summoned thence,
Tommati, Venturini and the rest,
Find the accused ripe for declaring truth.
Soft-cushioned sits he; yet shifts seat, shirks touch,
As, with a twitchy brow and wincing lip
And cheek that changes to all kinds of white,
He proffers his defence, in tones subdued
Near to mock-mildness now, so mournful seems
The obtuser sense truth fails to satisfy;
Now, moved, from pathos at the wrong endured,
To passion; for the natural man is roused
At fools who first do wrong then pour the blame
Of their wrong-doing, Satan-like, on Job.
Also his tongue at times is hard to curb;
Incisive, nigh satiric bites the phrase,
Rough-raw, yet somehow claiming privilege
—It is so hard for shrewdness to admit
Folly means no harm when she calls black white!
—Eruption momentary at the most,
Modified forthwith by a fall o' the fire,
Sage acquiescence; for the world's the world,
And, what it errs in, Judges rectify:
He feels he has a fist, then folds his arms
Crosswise and makes his mind up to be meek.
And never once does he detach his eye
From those ranged there to slay him or to save,
But does his best man's-service for himself,
Despite,—what twitches brow and makes lip wince,—
His limbs' late taste of what was called the Cord,
Or Vigil-torture more facetiously.
Even so; they were wont to tease the truth
Out of loth witness (toying, trifling time)
By torture: 't was a trick, a vice of the age,
Here, there and everywhere, what would you have?
Religion used to tell Humanity
She gave him warrant or denied him course.
And since the course was much to his own mind,
Of pinching flesh and pulling bone from bone
To unhusk truth a-hiding in its hulls,
Nor whisper of a warning stopped the way,
He, in their joint behalf, the burly slave,
Bestirred him, mauled and maimed all recusants,
While, prim in place, Religion overlooked;
And so had done till doomsday, never a sign
Nor sound of interference from her mouth,
But that at last the burly slave wiped brow,
Let eye give notice as if soul were there,
Muttered "'T is a vile trick, foolish more than vile,
"Should have been counted sin; I make it so:
"At any rate no more of it for me—
"Nay, for I break the torture-engine thus!"
Then did Religion start up, stare amain,
Look round for help and see none, smile and say
"What, broken is the rack? Well done of thee!
"Did I forget to abrogate its use?
"Be the mistake in common with us both!
"—One more fault our blind age shall answer for,
"Down in my book denounced though it must be
"Somewhere. Henceforth find truth by milder means!"
Ah but, Religion, did we wait for thee
To ope the book, that serves to sit upon,
And pick such place out, we should wait indeed!
That is all history: and what is not now,
Was then, defendants found it to their cost.
How Guido, after being tortured, spoke.
Also hear Caponsacchi who comes next,
Man and priest—could you comprehend the coil!—
In days when that was rife which now is rare.
How, mingling each its multifarious wires,
Now heaven, now earth, now heaven and earth at once,
Had plucked at and perplexed their puppet here,
Played off the young frank personable priest;
Sworn fast and tonsured plain heaven's celibate,
And yet earth's clear-accepted servitor,
A courtly spiritual Cupid, squire of dames
By law of love and mandate of the mode.
The Church's own, or why parade her seal,
Wherefore that chrism and consecrative work?
Yet verily the world's, or why go badged
A prince of sonneteers and lutanists,
Show colour of each vanity in vogue
Borne with decorum due on blameless breast?
All that is changed now, as he tells the court
How he had played the part excepted at;
Tells it, moreover, now the second time:
Since, for his cause of scandal, his own share
I' the flight from home and husband of the wife,
He has been censured, punished in a sort
By relegation,—exile, we should say,
To a short distance for a little time,—
Whence he is summoned on a sudden now,
Informed that she, he thought to save, is lost,
And, in a breath, bidden re-tell his tale,
Since the first telling somehow missed effect,
And then advise in the matter. There stands he,
While the same grim black-panelled chamber blinks
As though rubbed shiny with the sins of Rome
Told the same oak for ages—wave-washed wall
Against which sets a sea of wickedness.
There, where you yesterday heard Guido speak,
Speaks Caponsacchi; and there face him too
Tommati, Venturini and the rest
Who, eight months earlier, scarce repressed the smile,
Forewent the wink; waived recognition so
Of peccadillos incident to youth,
Especially youth high-born; for youth means love,
Vows can't change nature, priests are only men,
And love likes stratagem and subterfuge
Which age, that once was youth, should recognize,
May blame, but needs not press too hard upon.
Here sit the old Judges then, but with no grace
Of reverend carriage, magisterial port:
For why? The accused of eight months since,—the same
Who cut the conscious figure of a fool,
Changed countenance, dropped bashful gaze to ground,
While hesitating for an answer then,—
Now is grown judge himself, terrifies now
This, now the other culprit called a judge,
Whose turn it is to stammer and look strange,
As he speaks rapidly, angrily, speech that smites:
And they keep silence, bear blow after blow,
Because the seeming-solitary man,
Speaking for God, may have an audience too,
Invisible, no discreet judge provokes.
How the priest Caponsacchi said his say.
Then a soul sighs its lowest and its last
After the loud ones,—so much breath remains
Unused by the four-days'-dying; for she lived
Thus long, miraculously long, 't was thought,
Just that Pompilia might defend herself.
How, while the hireling and the alien stoop,
Comfort, yet question,—since the time is brief,
And folk, allowably inquisitive,
Encircle the low pallet where she lies
In the good house that helps the poor to die,—
Pompilia tells the story of her life.
For friend and lover,—leech and man of law
Do service; busy helpful ministrants
As varied in their calling as their mind,
Temper and age: and yet from all of these,
About the white bed under the arched roof,
Is somehow, as it were, evolved a one,—
Small separate sympathies combined and large,
Nothings that were, grown something very much:
As if the bystanders gave each his straw,
All he had, though a trifle in itself,
Which, plaited all together, made a Cross
Fit to die looking on and praying with,
Just as well as if ivory or gold.
So, to the common kindliness she speaks,
There being scarce more privacy at the last
For mind than body: but she is used to bear,
And only unused to the brotherly look.
How she endeavoured to explain her life.
Then, since a Trial ensued, a touch o' the same
To sober us, flustered with frothy talk,
And teach our common sense its helplessness.
For why deal simply with divining-rod,
Scrape where we fancy secret sources flow,
And ignore law, the recognized machine,
Elaborate display of pipe and wheel
Framed to unchoke, pump up and pour apace
Truth till a flowery foam shall wash the world?
The patent truth-extracting process,—ha?
Let us make that grave mystery turn one wheel,
Give you a single grind of law at least!
One orator, of two on either side,
Shall teach us the puissance of the tongue
—That is, o' the pen which simulated tongue
On paper and saved all except the sound
Which never was. Law's speech beside law's thought?
That were too stunning, too immense an odds:
That point of vantage law lets nobly pass.
One lawyer shall admit us to behold
The manner of the making out a case,
First fashion of a speech; the chick in egg,
The masterpiece law's bosom incubates.
How Don Giacinto of the Arcangeli,
Called Procurator of the Poor at Rome,
Now advocate for Guido and his mates,—
The jolly learned man of middle age,
Cheek and jowl all in laps with fat and law,
Mirthful as mighty, yet, as great hearts use,
Despite the name and fame that tempt our flesh,
Constant to that devotion of the hearth,
Still captive in those dear domestic ties!—
How he,—having a cause to triumph with,
All kind of interests to keep intact,
More than one efficacious personage
To tranquillize, conciliate and secure,
And above all, public anxiety
To quiet, show its Guido in good hands,—
Also, as if such burdens were too light,
A certain family-feast to claim his care,
The birthday-banquet for the only son—
Paternity at smiling strife with law—
How he brings both to buckle in one bond;
And, thick at throat, with waterish under-eye,
Turns to his task and settles in his seat
And puts his utmost means in practice now:
Wheezes out law-phrase, whiffles Latin forth,
And, just as though roast lamb would never be,
Makes logic levigate the big crime small:
Rubs palm on palm, rakes foot with itchy foot,
Conceives and inchoates the argument,
Sprinkling each flower appropriate to the time,
—Ovidian quip or Ciceronian crank,
A-bubble in the larynx while he laughs,
As he had fritters deep down frying there.
How he turns, twists, and tries the oily thing
Shall be—first speech for Guido 'gainst the Fisc.
Then with a skip as it were from heel to head,
Leaving yourselves fill up the middle bulk
O' the Trial, reconstruct its shape august,
From such exordium clap we to the close;
Give you, if we dare wing to such a height,
The absolute glory in some full-grown speech
On the other side, some finished butterfly,
Some breathing diamond-flake with leaf-gold fans,
That takes the air, no trace of worm it was,
Or cabbage-bed it had production from.
Giovambattista o' the Bottini, Fisc,
Pompilia's patron by the chance of the hour,
To-morrow her persecutor,—composite, he,
As becomes who must meet such various calls—
Odds of age joined in him with ends of youth.
A man of ready smile and facile tear,
Improvised hopes, despairs at nod and beck,
And language—ah, the gift of eloquence!
Language that goes, goes, easy as a glove,
O'er good and evil, smoothens both to one.
Rashness helps caution with him, fires the straw,
In free enthusiastic careless fit,
On the first proper pinnacle of rock
Which offers, as reward for all that zeal,
To lure some bark to founder and bring gain:
While calm sits Caution, rapt with heavenward eye,
A true confessor's gaze, amid the glare
Beaconing to the breaker, death and hell.
"Well done, thou good and faithful" she approves:
"Hadst thou let slip a faggot to the beach,
"The crew might surely spy thy precipice
"And save their boat; the simple and the slow
"Might so, forsooth, forestall the wrecker's fee!
"Let the next crew be wise and hail in time!"
Just so compounded is the outside man,
Blue juvenile pure eye and pippin cheek,
And brow all prematurely soiled and seamed
With sudden age, bright devastated hair.
Ah, but you miss the very tones o' the voice,
The scrannel pipe that screams in heights of head,
As, in his modest studio, all alone,
The tall wight stands a-tiptoe, strives and strains,
Both eyes shut, like the cockerel that would crow,
Tries to his own self amorously o'er
What never will be uttered else than so—
Since to the four walls, Forum and Mars' Hill,
Speaks out the poesy which, penned, turns prose.
Clavecinist debarred his instrument,
He yet thrums—shirking neither turn nor trill,
With desperate finger on dumb table-edge—
The sovereign rondo, shall conclude his Suite,
Charm an imaginary audience there,
From old Corelli to young Haendel, both
I' the flesh at Rome, ere he perforce go print
The cold black score, mere music for the mind—
The last speech against Guido and his gang,
With special end to prove Pompilia pure.
How the Fisc vindicates Pompilia's fame.
Then comes the all but end, the ultimate
Judgment save yours. Pope Innocent the Twelfth,
Simple, sagacious, mild yet resolute,
With prudence, probity and—what beside
From the other world he feels impress at times,
Having attained to fourscore years and six,—
How, when the court found Guido and the rest
Guilty, but law supplied a subterfuge
And passed the final sentence to the Pope,
He, bringing his intelligence to bear
This last time on what ball behoves him drop
In the urn, or white or black, does drop a black,
Send five souls more to just precede his own,
Stand him in stead and witness, if need were,
How he is wont to do God's work on earth.
The manner of his sitting out the dim
Droop of a sombre February day
In the plain closet where he does such work,
With, from all Peter's treasury, one stool,
One table and one lathen crucifix.
There sits the Pope, his thoughts for company;
Grave but not sad,—nay, something like a cheer
Leaves the lips free to be benevolent,
Which, all day long, did duty firm and fast.
A cherishing there is of foot and knee,
A chafing loose-skinned large-veined hand with hand,—
What steward but knows when stewardship earns its wage,
May levy praise, anticipate the lord?
He reads, notes, lays the papers down at last,
Muses, then takes a turn about the room;
Unclasps a huge tome in an antique guise,
Primitive print and tongue half obsolete,
That stands him in diurnal stead; opes page,
Finds place where falls the passage to be conned
According to an order long in use:
And, as he comes upon the evening's chance,
Starts somewhat, solemnizes straight his smile,
Then reads aloud that portion first to last,
And at the end lets flow his own thoughts forth
Likewise aloud, for respite and relief,
Till by the dreary relics of the west
Wan through the half-moon window, all his light,
He bows the head while the lips move in prayer,
Writes some three brief lines, signs and seals the same,
Tinkles a hand-bell, bids the obsequious Sir
Who puts foot presently o' the closet-sill
He watched outside of, bear as superscribed
That mandate to the Governor forthwith:
Then heaves abroad his cares in one good sigh,
Traverses corridor with no arm's help,
And so to sup as a clear conscience should.
The manner of the judgment of the Pope.
Then must speak Guido yet a second time,
Satan's old saw being apt here—skin for skin,
All a man hath that will he give for life.
While life was graspable and gainable,
And bird-like buzzed her wings round Guido's brow,
Not much truth stiffened out the web of words
He wove to catch her: when away she flew
And death came, death's breath rivelled up the lies,
Left bare the metal thread, the fibre fine
Of truth, i' the spinning: the true words shone last.
How Guido, to another purpose quite,
Speaks and despairs, the last night of his life,
In that New Prison by Castle Angelo
At the bridge foot: the same man, another voice.
On a stone bench in a close fetid cell,
Where the hot vapour of an agony,
Struck into drops on the cold wall, runs down—
Horrible worms made out of sweat and tears—
There crouch, well nigh to the knees in dungeon-straw,
Lit by the sole lamp suffered for their sake,
Two awe-struck figures, this a Cardinal,
That an Abate, both of old styled friends
O' the thing part man part monster in the midst,
So changed is Franceschini's gentle blood.
The tiger-cat screams now, that whined before,
That pried and tried and trod so gingerly,
Till in its silkiness the trap-teeth joined;
Then you know how the bristling fury foams.
They listen, this wrapped in his folds of red,
While his feet fumble for the filth below;
The other, as beseems a stouter heart,
Working his best with beads and cross to ban
The enemy that comes in like a flood
Spite of the standard set up, verily
And in no trope at all, against him there
For at the prison-gate, just a few steps
Outside, already, in the doubtful dawn,
Thither, from this side and from that, slow sweep
And settle down in silence solidly,
Crow-wise, the frightful Brotherhood of Death.
Black-hatted and black-hooded huddle they,
Black rosaries a-dangling from each waist;
So take they their grim station at the door,
Torches lit, skull-and-cross-bones-banner spread,
And that gigantic Christ with open arms,
Grounded. Nor lacks there aught but that the group
Break forth, intone the lamentable psalm,
"Out of the deeps, Lord, have I cried to thee!"—
When inside, from the true profound, a sign
Shall bear intelligence that the foe is foiled,
Count Guido Franceschini has confessed,
And is absolved and reconciled with God.
Then they, intoning, may begin their march,
Make by the longest way for the People's Square,
Carry the criminal to his crime's award:
A mob to cleave, a scaffolding to reach,
Two gallows and Mannaia crowning all.
How Guido made defence a second time.
Finally, even as thus by step and step
I led you from the level of to-day
Up to the summit of so long ago,
Here, whence I point you the wide prospect round—
Let me, by like steps, slope you back to smooth,
Land you on mother-earth, no whit the worse,
To feed o' the fat o' the furrow: free to dwell,
Taste our time's better things profusely spread
For all who love the level, corn and wine,
Much cattle and the many-folded fleece.
Shall not my friends go feast again on sward,
Though cognizant of country in the clouds
Higher than wistful eagle's horny eye
Ever unclosed for, 'mid ancestral crags,
When morning broke and Spring was back once more,
And he died, heaven, save by his heart, unreached?
Yet heaven my fancy lifts to, ladder-like,—
As Jack reached, holpen of his beanstalk-rungs!
A novel country: I might make it mine
By choosing which one aspect of the year
Suited mood best, and putting solely that
On panel somewhere in the House of Fame,
Landscaping what I saved, not what I saw:
—Might fix you, whether frost in goblin-time
Startled the moon with his abrupt bright laugh,
Or, August's hair afloat in filmy fire,
She fell, arms wide, face foremost on the world,
Swooned there and so singed out the strength of things.
Thus were abolished Spring and Autumn both,
The land dwarfed to one likeness of the land,
Life cramped corpse-fashion. Rather learn and love
Each facet-flash of the revolving year!—
Red, green and blue that whirl into a white,
The variance now, the eventual unity,
Which make the miracle. See it for yourselves,
This man's act, changeable because alive!
Action now shrouds, nor shows the informing thought;
Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top,
Out of the magic fire that lurks inside,
Shows one tint at a time to take the eye:
Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep,
Shifted a hair's-breadth shoots you dark for bright,
Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so
Your sentence absolute for shine or shade.
Once set such orbs,—white styled, black stigmatized,—
A-rolling, see them once on the other side
Your good men and your bad men every one
From Guido Franceschini to Guy Faux,
Oft would you rub your eyes and change your names
Such, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!)—whom I yet have laboured for,
Perchance more careful whoso runs may read
Than erst when all, it seemed, could read who ran,—
Perchance more careless whoso reads may praise
Than late when he who praised and read and wrote
Was apt to find himself the self-same me,—
Such labour had such issue, so I wrought
This arc, by furtherance of such alloy,
And so, by one spirt, take away its trace
Till, justifiably golden, rounds my ring.
A ring without a posy, and that ring mine?
O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire,—
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
And sang a kindred soul out to his face,—
Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart—
When the first summons from the darkling earth
Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
And bared them of the glory—to drop down,
To toil for man, to suffer or to die,—
This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!
Never may I commence my song, my due
To God who best taught song by gift of thee,
Except with bent head and beseeching hand—
That still, despite the distance and the dark,
What was, again may be; some interchange
Of grace, some splendour once thy very thought,
Some benediction anciently thy smile:
—Never conclude, but raising hand and head
Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn
For all hope, all sustainment, all reward,
Their utmost up and on,—so blessing back
In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home,
Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud,
Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!
III. The Other Half-Rome
Another day that finds her living yet,
Little Pompilia, with the patient brow
And lamentable smile on those poor lips,
And, under the white hospital-array,
A flower-like body, to frighten at a bruise
You'd think, yet now, stabbed through and through again,
Alive i' the ruins. 'T is a miracle.
It seems that, when her husband struck her first,
She prayed Madonna just that she might live
So long as to confess and be absolved;
And whether it was that, all her sad life long
Never before successful in a prayer,
This prayer rose with authority too dread,—
Or whether, because earth was hell to her,
By compensation, when the blackness broke
She got one glimpse of quiet and the cool blue,
To show her for a moment such things were,—
Or else,—as the Augustinian Brother thinks,
The friar who took confession from her lip,—
When a probationary soul that moved
From nobleness to nobleness, as she,
Over the rough way of the world, succumbs,
Bloodies its last thorn with unflinching foot,
The angels love to do their work betimes,
Staunch some wounds here nor leave so much for God.
Who knows? However it be, confessed, absolved,
She lies, with overplus of life beside
To speak and right herself from first to last,
Right the friend also, lamb-pure, lion-brave,
Care for the boy's concerns, to save the son
From the sire, her two-weeks' infant orphaned thus,
And—with best smile of all reserved for him—
Pardon that sire and husband from the heart.
A miracle, so tell your Molinists!
There she lies in the long white lazar-house.
Rome has besieged, these two days, never doubt,
Saint Anna's where she waits her death, to hear
Though but the chink o' the bell, turn o' the hinge
When the reluctant wicket opes at last,
Lets in, on now this and now that pretence,
Too many by half,—complain the men of art,—
For a patient in such plight. The lawyers first
Paid the due visit—justice must be done;
They took her witness, why the murder was.
Then the priests followed properly,—a soul
To shrive; 't was Brother Celestine's own right,
The same who noises thus her gifts abroad.
But many more, who found they were old friends,
Pushed in to have their stare and take their talk
And go forth boasting of it and to boast.
Old Monna Baldi chatters like a jay,
Swears—but that, prematurely trundled out
Just as she felt the benefit begin,
The miracle was snapped up by somebody,—
Her palsied limb 'gan prick and promise life
At touch o' the bedclothes merely,—how much more
Had she but brushed the body as she tried!
Cavalier Carlo—well, there's some excuse
For him—Maratta who paints Virgins so—
He too must fee the porter and slip by
With pencil cut and paper squared, and straight
There was he figuring away at face:
"A lovelier face is not in Rome," cried he,
"Shaped like a peacock's egg, the pure as pearl,
"That hatches you anon a snow-white chick."
Then, oh that pair of eyes, that pendent hair,
Black this and black the other! Mighty fine—
But nobody cared ask to paint the same,
Nor grew a poet over hair and eyes
Four little years ago when, ask and have,
The woman who wakes all this rapture leaned
Flower-like from out her window long enough,
As much uncomplimented as uncropped
By comers and goers in Via Vittoria: eh?
'T is just a flower's fate: past parterre we trip,
Till peradventure someone plucks our sleeve—
"Yon blossom at the briar's end, that's the rose
"Two jealous people fought for yesterday
"And killed each other: see, there's undisturbed
"A pretty pool at the root, of rival red!"
Then cry we "Ah, the perfect paragon!"
Then crave we "Just one keepsake-leaf for us!"
Truth lies between: there's anyhow a child
Of seventeen years, whether a flower or weed,
Ruined: who did it shall account to Christ—
Having no pity on the harmless life
And gentle face and girlish form he found,
And thus flings back. Go practise if you please
With men and women: leave a child alone
For Christ's particular love's sake!—so I say.
Somebody, at the bedside, said much more,
Took on him to explain the secret cause
O' the crime: quoth he, "Such crimes are very rife,
"Explode nor make us wonder now-a-days,
"Seeing that Antichrist disseminates
"That doctrine of the Philosophic Sin:
"Molinos' sect will soon make earth too hot!"
"Nay," groaned the Augustinian, "what's there new?
"Crime will not fail to flare up from men's hearts
"While hearts are men's and so born criminal;
"Which one fact, always old yet ever new,
"Accounts for so much crime that, for my part,
"Molinos may go whistle to the wind
"That waits outside a certain church, you know!"
Though really it does seem as if she here,
Pompilia, living so and dying thus,
Has had undue experience how much crime
A heart can hatch. Why was she made to learn
—Not you, not I, not even Molinos' self—
What Guido Franceschini's heart could hold?
Thus saintship is effected probably;
No sparing saints the process!—which the more
Tends to the reconciling us, no saints,
To sinnership, immunity and all.
For see now: Pietro and Violante's life
Till seventeen years ago, all Rome might note
And quote for happy—see the signs distinct
Of happiness as we yon Triton's trump.
What could they be but happy?—balanced so,
Nor low i' the social scale nor yet too high,
Nor poor nor richer than comports with ease,
Nor bright and envied, nor obscure and scorned,
Nor so young that their pleasures fell too thick,
Nor old past catching pleasure when it fell,
Nothing above, below the just degree,
All at the mean where joy's components mix.
So again, in the couple's very souls
You saw the adequate half with half to match,
Each having and each lacking somewhat, both
Making a whole that had all and lacked nought.
The round and sound, in whose composure just
The acquiescent and recipient side
Was Pietro's, and the stirring striving one
Violante's: both in union gave the due
Quietude, enterprise, craving and content,
Which go to bodily health and peace of mind.
But, as 't is said a body, rightly mixed,
Each element in equipoise, would last
Too long and live for ever,—accordingly
Holds a germ—sand-grain weight too much i' the scale—
Ordained to get predominance one day
And so bring all to ruin and release,—
Not otherwise a fatal germ lurked here:
"With mortals much must go, but something stays;
"Nothing will stay of our so happy selves."
Out of the very ripeness of life's core
A worm was bred—"Our life shall leave no fruit."
Enough of bliss, they thought, could bliss bear seed,
Yield its like, propagate a bliss in turn
And keep the kind up; not supplant themselves
But put in evidence, record they were,
Show them, when done with, i' the shape of a child.
"'T is in a child, man and wife grow complete,
"One flesh: God says so: let him do his work!"
Now, one reminder of this gnawing want,
One special prick o' the maggot at the core,
Always befell when, as the day came round,
A certain yearly sum,—our Pietro being,
As the long name runs, an usufructuary,—
Dropped in the common bag as interest
Of money, his till death, not afterward,
Failing an heir: an heir would take and take,
A child of theirs be wealthy in their place
To nobody's hurt—the stranger else seized all.
Prosperity rolled river-like and stopped,
Making their mill go; but when wheel wore out,
The wave would find a space and sweep on free
And, half-a-mile off, grind some neighbour's corn.
Adam-like, Pietro sighed and said no more:
Eve saw the apple was fair and good to taste,
So, plucked it, having asked the snake advice.
She told her husband God was merciful,
And his and her prayer granted at the last:
Let the old mill-stone moulder,—wheel unworn,
Quartz from the quarry, shot into the stream
Adroitly, as before should go bring grist—
Their house continued to them by an heir,
Their vacant heart replenished with a child.
We have her own confession at full length
Made in the first remorse: 't was Jubilee
Pealed in the ear o' the conscience and it woke.
She found she had offended God no doubt,
So much was plain from what had happened since,
Misfortune on misfortune; but she harmed
No one i' the world, so far as she could see.
The act had gladdened Pietro to the height,
Her spouse whom God himself must gladden so
Or not at all: thus much seems probable
From the implicit faith, or rather say
Stupid credulity of the foolish man
Who swallowed such a tale nor strained a whit
Even at his wife's far-over-fifty years
Matching his sixty-and-under. Him she blessed;
And as for doing any detriment
To the veritable heir,—why, tell her first
Who was he? Which of all the hands held up
I' the crowd, one day would gather round their gate,
Did she so wrong by intercepting thus
The ducat, spendthrift fortune thought to fling
For a scramble just to make the mob break shins?
She kept it, saved them kicks and cuffs thereby.
While at the least one good work had she wrought,
Good, clearly and incontestably! Her cheat—
What was it to its subject, the child's self,
But charity and religion? See the girl!
A body most like—a soul too probably—
Doomed to death, such a double death as waits
The illicit offspring of a common trull,
Sure to resent and forthwith rid herself
Of a mere interruption to sin's trade,
In the efficacious way old Tiber knows.
Was not so much proved by the ready sale
O' the child, glad transfer of this irksome chance?
Well then, she had caught up this castaway:
This fragile egg, some careless wild bird dropped,
She had picked from where it waited the foot-fall,
And put in her own breast till forth broke finch
Able to sing God praise on mornings now.
What so excessive harm was done?—she asked.
To which demand the dreadful answer comes—
For that same deed, now at Lorenzo's church,
Both agents, conscious and inconscious, lie;
While she, the deed was done to benefit,
Lies also, the most lamentable of things,
Yonder where curious people count her breaths,
Calculate how long yet the little life
Unspilt may serve their turn nor spoil the show,
Give them their story, then the church its group.
Well, having gained Pompilia, the girl grew
I' the midst of Pietro here, Violante there,
Each, like a semicircle with stretched arms,
Joining the other round her preciousness—
Two walls that go about a garden-plot
Where a chance sliver, branchlet slipt from bole
Of some tongue-leaved eye-figured Eden tree,
Filched by two exiles and borne far away.
Patiently glorifies their solitude,—
Year by year mounting, grade by grade surmount
The builded brick-work, yet is compassed still,
Still hidden happily and shielded safe,—
Else why should miracle have graced the ground?
But on the twelfth sun that brought April there
What meant that laugh? The coping-stone was reached;
Nay, above towered a light tuft of bloom
To be toyed with by butterfly or bee,
Done good to or else harm to from outside:
Pompilia's root, stalk and a branch or two
Home enclosed still, the rest would be the world's.
All which was taught our couple though obtuse,
Since walls have ears, when one day brought a priest,
Smooth-mannered soft-speeched sleek-cheeked visitor,
The notable Abate Paolo—known
As younger brother of a Tuscan house
Whereof the actual representative,
Count Guido, had employed his youth and age
In culture of Rome's most productive plant—
A cardinal: but years pass and change comes,
In token of which, here was our Paolo brought
To broach a weighty business. Might he speak?
Yes—to Violante somehow caught alone
While Pietro took his after-dinner doze,
And the young maiden, busily as befits,
Minded her broider-frame three chambers off.
So—giving now his great flap-hat a gloss
With flat o' the hand between-whiles, soothing now
The silk from out its creases o'er the calf,
Setting the stocking clerical again,
But never disengaging, once engaged,
The thin clear grey hold of his eyes on her—
He dissertated on that Tuscan house,
Those Franceschini,—very old they were—
Not rich however—oh, not rich, at least,
As people look to be who, low i' the scale
One way, have reason, rising all they can
By favour of the money-bag! 't is fair—
Do all gifts go together? But don't suppose
That being not so rich means all so poor!
Say rather, well enough—i' the way, indeed,
Ha, ha, to fortune better than the best:
Since if his brother's patron-friend kept faith,
Put into promised play the Cardinalate,
Their house might wear the red cloth that keeps warm,
Would but the Count have patience—there's the point!
For he was slipping into years apace,
And years make men restless—they needs must spy
Some certainty, some sort of end assured,
Some sparkle, tho' from topmost beacon-tip,
That warrants life a harbour through the haze.
In short, call him fantastic as you choose,
Guido was home-sick, yearned for the old sights
And usual faces,—fain would settle himself
And have the patron's bounty when it fell
Irrigate far rather than deluge near,
Go fertilize Arezzo, not flood Rome.
Sooth to say, 't was the wiser wish: the Count
Proved wanting in ambition,—let us avouch,
Since truth is best,—in callousness of heart,
And winced at pin-pricks whereby honours hang
A ribbon o'er each puncture: his—no soul
Ecclesiastic (here the hat was brushed)
Humble but self-sustaining, calm and cold,
Having, as one who puts his hand to the plough,
Renounced the over-vivid family-feel—
Poor brother Guido! All too plain, he pined
Amid Rome's pomp and glare for dinginess
And that dilapidated palace-shell
Vast as a quarry and, very like, as bare—
Since to this comes old grandeur now-a-days—
Or that absurd wild villa in the waste
O' the hill side, breezy though, for who likes air,
Vittiano, nor unpleasant with its vines,
Outside the city and the summer heats.
And now his harping on this one tense chord
The villa and the palace, palace this
And villa the other, all day and all night
Creaked like the implacable cicala's cry
And made one's ear drum ache: nought else would serve
But that, to light his mother's visage up
With second youth, hope, gaiety again,
He must find straightway, woo and haply win
And bear away triumphant back, some wife.
Well now, the man was rational in his way:
He, the Abate,—ought he to interpose?
Unless by straining still his tutelage
(Priesthood leaps over elder-brothership)
Across this difficulty: then let go,
Leave the poor fellow in peace! Would that be wrong?
There was no making Guido great, it seems,
Spite of himself: then happy be his dole!
Indeed, the Abate's little interest
Was somewhat nearly touched i' the case, they saw:
Since if his simple kinsman so were bent,
Began his rounds in Rome to catch a wife,
Full soon would such unworldliness surprise
The rare bird, sprinkle salt on phoenix' tail,
And so secure the nest a sparrow-hawk.
No lack of mothers here in Rome,—no dread
Of daughters lured as larks by looking-glass!
The first name-pecking credit-scratching fowl
Would drop her unfledged cuckoo in our nest
To gather greyness there, give voice at length
And shame the brood … but it was long ago
When crusades were, and we sent eagles forth!
No, that at least the Abate could forestall.
He read the thought within his brother's word,
Knew what he purposed better than himself.
We want no name and fame—having our own:
No worldly aggrandizement—such we fly:
But if some wonder of a woman's-heart
Were yet untainted on this grimy earth,
Tender and true—tradition tells of such—
Prepared to pant in time and tune with ours—
If some good girl (a girl, since she must take
The new bent, live new life, adopt new modes)
Not wealthy (Guido for his rank was poor)
But with whatever dowry came to hand,—
There were the lady-love predestinate!
And somehow the Abate's guardian eye—
Scintillant, rutilant, fraternal fire,—
Roving round every way had seized the prize
—The instinct of us, we, the spiritualty!
Come, cards on table; was it true or false
That here—here in this very tenement—
Yea, Via Vittoria did a marvel hide,
Lily of a maiden, white with intact leaf
Guessed thro' the sheath that saved it from the sun?
A daughter with the mother's hands still clasped
Over her head for fillet virginal,
A wife worth Guido's house and hand and heart?
He came to see; had spoken, he could no less—
(A final cherish of the stockinged calf)
If harm were,—well, the matter was off his mind.
Then with the great air did he kiss, devout,
Violante's hand, and rise up his whole height
(A certain purple gleam about the black)
And go forth grandly,—as if the Pope came next.
And so Violante rubbed her eyes awhile,
Got up too, walked to wake her Pietro soon
And pour into his ear the mighty news
How somebody had somehow somewhere seen
Their tree-top-tuft of bloom above the wall,
And came now to apprize them the tree's self
Was no such crab-sort as should go feed swine,
But veritable gold, the Hesperian ball
Ordained for Hercules to haste and pluck,
And bear and give the Gods to banquet with—
Hercules standing ready at the door.
Whereon did Pietro rub his eyes in turn,
Look very wise, a little woeful too,
Then, periwig on head, and cane in hand,
Sally forth dignifiedly into the Square
Of Spain across Babbuino the six steps,
Toward the Boat-fountain where our idlers lounge,—
Ask, for form's sake, who Hercules might be,
And have congratulation from the world.
Heartily laughed the world in his fool's-face
And told him Hercules was just the heir
To the stubble once a corn-field, and brick-heap
Where used to be a dwelling-place now burned.
Guido and Franceschini; a Count,—ay:
But a cross i' the poke to bless the Countship? No!
All gone except sloth, pride, rapacity,
Humours of the imposthume incident
To rich blood that runs thin,—nursed to a head
By the rankly-salted soil—a cardinal's court
Where, parasite and picker-up of crumbs,
He had hung on long, and now, let go, said some,
Shaken off, said others,—but in any case
Tired of the trade and something worse for wear,
Was wanting to change town for country quick,
Go home again: let Pietro help him home!
The brother, Abate Paolo, shrewder mouse,
Had pricked for comfortable quarters, inched
Into the core of Rome, and fattened so;
But Guido, over-burly for rat's hole
Suited to clerical slimness, starved outside,
Must shift for himself: and so the shift was this!
What, was the snug retreat of Pietro tracked,
The little provision for his old age snuffed?
"Oh, make your girl a lady, an you list,
"But have more mercy on our wit than vaunt
"Your bargain as we burgesses who brag!
"Why, Goodman Dullard, if a friend must speak,
"Would the Count, think you, stoop to you and yours
"Were there the value of one penny-piece
"To rattle 'twixt his palms—or likelier laugh,
"Bid your Pompilia help you black his shoe?"
Home again, shaking oft the puzzled pate,
Went Pietro to announce a change indeed,
Yet point Violante where some solace lay
Of a rueful sort,—the taper, quenched so soon,
Had ended merely in a snuff, not stink—
Congratulate there was one hope the less
Not misery the more: and so an end.
The marriage thus impossible, the rest
Followed: our spokesman, Paolo, heard his fate,
Resignedly Count Guido bore the blow:
Violante wiped away the transient tear,
Renounced the playing Danae to gold dreams,
Praised much her Pietro's prompt sagaciousness,
Found neighbours' envy natural, lightly laughed
At gossips' malice, fairly wrapped herself
In her integrity three folds about,
And, letting pass a little day or two,
Threw, even over that integrity,
Another wrappage, namely one thick veil
That hid her, matron-wise, from head to foot,
And, by the hand holding a girl veiled too,
Stood, one dim end of a December day,
In Saint Lorenzo on the altar-step—
Just where she lies now and that girl will lie—
Only with fifty candles' company
Now, in the place of the poor winking one
Which saw,—doors shut and sacristan made sure,—
A priest—perhaps Abate Paolo—wed
Guido clandestinely, irrevocably
To his Pompilia aged thirteen years
And five months,—witness the church register,—
Pompilia, (thus become Count Guido's wife
Clandestinely, irrevocably his,)
Who all the while had borne, from first to last,
As brisk a part i' the bargain, as yon lamb,
Brought forth from basket and set out for sale,
Bears while they chaffer, wary market-man
And voluble housewife, o'er it,—each in turn
Patting the curly calm inconscious head,
With the shambles ready round the corner there,
When the talk's talked out and a bargain struck.
Transfer complete, why, Pietro was apprised.
Violante sobbed the sobs and prayed the prayers
And said the serpent tempted so she fell,
Till Pietro had to clear his brow apace
And make the best of matters: wrath at first,—
How else? pacification presently,
Why not?—could flesh withstand the impurpled one,
The very Cardinal, Paolo's patron-friend?
Who, justifiably surnamed "a hinge,"
Knew where the mollifying oil should drop
To cure the creak o' the valve,—considerate
For frailty, patient in a naughty world.
He even volunteered to supervise
The rough draught of those marriage-articles
Signed in a hurry by Pietro, since revoked:
Trust's politic, suspicion does the harm,
There is but one way to brow-beat this world,
Dumb-founder doubt, and repay scorn in kind,—
To go on trusting, namely, till faith move
And faith here made the mountains move.
Why, friends whose zeal cried "Caution ere too late!"—
Bade "Pause ere jump, with both feet joined, on slough!"—
Counselled "If rashness then, now temperance!"—
Heard for their pains that Pietro had closed eyes,
Jumped and was in the middle of the mire,
Money and all, just what should sink a man.
By the mere marriage, Guido gained forthwith
Dowry, his wife's right; no rescinding there:
But Pietro, why must he needs ratify
One gift Violante gave, pay down one doit
Promised in first fool's-flurry? Grasp the bag
Lest the son's service flag,—is reason and rhyme,
Above all when the son's a son-in-law.
Words to the wind! The parents cast their lot
Into the lap o' the daughter: and the son
Now with a right to lie there, took what fell,
Pietro's whole having and holding, house and field,
Goods, chattels and effects, his worldly worth
Present and in perspective, all renounced
In favour of Guido. As for the usufruct—
The interest now, the principal anon,
Would Guido please to wait, at Pietro's death:
Till when, he must support the couple's charge,
Bear with them, housemates, pensionaries, pawned
To an alien for fulfilment of their pact.
Guido should at discretion deal them orts,
Bread-bounty in Arezzo the strange place,—
They who had lived deliciously and rolled
Rome's choicest comfit 'neath the tongue before.
Into this quag, "jump" bade the Cardinal!
And neck-deep in a minute there flounced they.
But they touched bottom at Arezzo: there—
Four months' experience of how craft and greed
Quickened by penury and pretentious hate
Of plain truth, brutify and bestialize,—
Four months' taste of apportioned insolence,
Cruelty graduated, dose by dose
Of ruffianism dealt out at bed and board,
And lo, the work was done, success clapped hands.
The starved, stripped, beaten brace of stupid dupes
Broke at last in their desperation loose,
Fled away for their lives, and lucky so;
Found their account in casting coat afar
And bearing off a shred of skin at least:
Left Guido lord o' the prey, as the lion is,
And, careless what came after, carried their wrongs
To Rome,—I nothing doubt, with such remorse
As folly feels, since pain can make it wise,
But crime, past wisdom, which is innocence,
Needs not be plagued with till a later day.
Pietro went back to beg from door to door,
In hope that memory not quite extinct
Of cheery days and festive nights would move
Friends and acquaintance—after the natural laugh,
And tributary "Just as we foretold—"
To show some bowels, give the dregs o' the cup,
Scraps of the trencher, to their host that was,
Or let him share the mat with the mastiff, he
Who lived large and kept open house so long.
Not so Violante: ever a-head i' the march,
Quick at the bye-road and the cut-across,
She went first to the best adviser, God—
Whose finger unmistakably was felt
In all this retribution of the past.
Here was the prize of sin, luck of a lie!
But here too was what Holy Year would help,
Bound to rid sinners of sin vulgar, sin
Abnormal, sin prodigious, up to sin
Impossible and supposed for Jubilee' sake:
To lift the leadenest of lies, let soar
The soul unhampered by a feather-weight.
"I will" said she "go burn out this bad hole
"That breeds the scorpion, baulk the plague at least
"Of hope to further plague by progeny:
"I will confess my fault, be punished, yes,
"But pardoned too: Saint Peter pays for all."
So, with the crowd she mixed, made for the dome,
Through the great door new-broken for the nonce
Marched, muffled more than ever matron-wise,
Up the left nave to the formidable throne,
Fell into file with this the poisoner
And that the parricide, and reached in turn
The poor repugnant Penitentiary
Set at this gully-hole o' the world's discharge
To help the frightfullest of filth have vent,
And then knelt down and whispered in his ear
How she had bought Pompilia, palmed the babe
On Pietro, passed the girl off as their child
To Guido, and defrauded of his due
This one and that one,—more than she could name,
Until her solid piece of wickedness
Happened to split and spread woe far and wide:
Contritely now she brought the case for cure.
Replied the throne—"Ere God forgive the guilt,
"Make man some restitution! Do your part!
"The owners of your husband's heritage,
"Barred thence by this pretended birth and heir,—
"Tell them, the bar came so, is broken so,
"Theirs be the due reversion as before!
"Your husband who, no partner in the guilt,
"Suffers the penalty, led blindfold thus
"By love of what he thought his flesh and blood
"To alienate his all in her behalf,—
"Tell him too such contract is null and void!
"Last, he who personates your son-in-law,
"Who with sealed eyes and stopped ears, tame and mute,
"Took at your hand that bastard of a whore
"You called your daughter and he calls his wife,—
"Tell him, and bear the anger which is just!
"Then, penance so performed, may pardon be!"
Who could gainsay this just and right award?
Nobody in the world: but, out o' the world,
Who knows?—might timid intervention be
From any makeshift of an angel-guide,
Substitute for celestial guardianship,
Pretending to take care of the girl's self:
"Woman, confessing crime is healthy work,
"And telling truth relieves a liar like you,
"But how of my quite unconsidered charge?
"No thought if, while this good befalls yourself,
"Aught in the way of harm may find out her?"
No least thought, I assure you: truth being truth,
Tell it and shame the devil!
Said and done:
Home went Violante, disbosomed all:
And Pietro who, six months before, had borne
Word after word of such a piece of news
Like so much cold steel inched through his breastblade,
Now at its entry gave a leap for joy
As who—what did I say of one in a quag?—
Should catch a hand from heaven and spring thereby
Out of the mud, on ten toes stand once more.
"What? All that used to be, may be again?
"My money mine again, my house, my land,
"My chairs and tables, all mine evermore?
"What, the girl's dowry never was the girl's,
"And, unpaid yet, is never now to pay?
"Then the girl's self, my pale Pompilia child
"That used to be my own with her great eyes—
"He who drove us forth, why should he keep her
"When proved as very a pauper as himself?
"Will she come back, with nothing changed at all,
"And laugh 'But how you dreamed uneasily!
"'I saw the great drops stand here on your brow—
"'Did I do wrong to wake you with a kiss?'
"No, indeed, darling! No, for wide awake
"I see another outburst of surprise:
"The lout-lord, bully-beggar, braggart-sneak,
"Who not content with cutting purse, crops ear—
"Assuredly it shall be salve to mine
"When this great news red-letters him, the rogue!
"Ay, let him taste the teeth o' the trap, this fox,
"Give us our lamb back, golden fleece and all,
"Let her creep in and warm our breasts again!
"Why care for the past? We three are our old selves,
"And know now what the outside world is worth."
And so, he carried case before the courts;
And there Violante, blushing to the bone,
Made public declaration of her fault,
Renounced her motherhood, and prayed the law
To interpose, frustrate of its effect
Her folly, and redress the injury done.
Whereof was the disastrous consequence,
That though indisputably clear the case
(For thirteen years are not so large a lapse,
And still six witnesses survived in Rome
To prove the truth o' the tale)—yet, patent wrong
Seemed Guido's; the first cheat had chanced on him:
Here was the pity that, deciding right,
Those who began the wrong would gain the prize.
Guido pronounced the story one long lie
Lied to do robbery and take revenge:
Or say it were no lie at all but truth,
Then, it both robbed the right heirs and shamed him
Without revenge to humanize the deed:
What had he done when first they shamed him thus?
But that were too fantastic: losels they,
And leasing this world's-wonder of a lie,
They lied to blot him though it brand themselves.
So answered Guido through the Abate's mouth.
Wherefore the court, its customary way,
Inclined to the middle course the sage affect.
They held the child to be a changeling,—good:
But, lest the husband got no good thereby,
They willed the dowry, though not hers at all,
Should yet be his, if not by right then grace—
Part-payment for the plain injustice done.
As for that other contract, Pietro's work,
Renunciation of his own estate,
That must be cancelled—give him back his gifts,
He was no party to the cheat at least!
So ran the judgment:—whence a prompt appeal
On both sides, seeing right is absolute.
Cried Pietro "Is the child no child of mine?
"Why give her a child's dowry?"—"Have I right
"To the dowry, why not to the rest as well?"
Cried Guido, or cried Paolo in his name:
Till law said "Reinvestigate the case!"
And so the matter pends, to this same day.
Hence new disaster—here no outlet seemed;
Whatever the fortune of the battle-field,
No path whereby the fatal man might march
Victorious, wreath on head and spoils in hand,
And back turned full upon the baffled foe,—
Nor cranny whence, desperate and disgraced,
Stripped to the skin, he might be fain to crawl
Worm-like, and so away with his defeat
To other fortune and a novel prey.
No, he was pinned to the place there, left alone
With his immense hate and, the solitary
Subject to satisfy that hate, his wife.
"Cast her off? Turn her naked out of doors?
"Easily said! But still the action pends,
"Still dowry, principal and interest,
"Pietro's possessions, all I bargained for,—
"Any good day, be but my friends alert,
"May give them me if she continue mine.
"Yet, keep her? Keep the puppet of my foes—
"Her voice that lisps me back their curse—her eye
"They lend their leer of triumph to—her lip
"I touch and taste their very filth upon?"
In short, he also took the middle course
Rome taught him—did at last excogitate
How he might keep the good and leave the bad
Twined in revenge, yet extricable,—nay
Make the very hate's eruption, very rush
Of the unpent sluice of cruelty relieve
His heart first, then go fertilize his field.
What if the girl-wife, tortured with due care,
Should take, as though spontaneously, the road
It were impolitic to thrust her on?
If, goaded, she broke out in full revolt,
Followed her parents i' the face o' the world,
Branded as runaway not castaway,
Self-sentenced and self-punished in the act?
So should the loathed form and detested face
Launch themselves into hell and there be lost
While he looked o'er the brink with folded arms;
So should the heaped-up shames go shuddering back
O' the head o' the heapers, Pietro and his wife,
And bury in the breakage three at once:
While Guido, left free, no one right renounced,
Gain present, gain prospective, all the gain,
None of the wife except her rights absorbed,
Should ask law what it was law paused about—
If law were dubious still whose word to take,
The husband's—dignified and derelict,
Or the wife's—the … what I tell you. It should be.
Guido's first step was to take pen, indite
A letter to the Abate,—not his own,
His wife's,—she should re-write, sign, seal and send.
She liberally told the household-news,
Rejoiced her vile progenitors were gone,
Revealed their malice—how they even laid
A last injunction on her, when they fled,
That she should forthwith find a paramour,
Complot with him to gather spoil enough,
Then burn the house down,—taking previous care
To poison all its inmates overnight,—
And so companioned, so provisioned too,
Follow to Rome and there join fortunes gay.
This letter, traced in pencil-characters,
Guido as easily got re-traced in ink
By his wife's pen, guided from end to end,
As if it had been just so much Chinese.
For why? That wife could broider, sing perhaps,
Pray certainly, but no more read than write
This letter "which yet write she must," he said,
"Being half courtesy and compliment,
"Half sisterliness: take the thing on trust!"
She had as readily re-traced the words
Of her own death-warrant,—in some sort 't was so.
This letter the Abate in due course
Communicated to such curious souls
In Rome as needs must pry into the cause
Of quarrel, why the Comparini fled
The Franceschini, whence the grievance grew,
What the hubbub meant: "Nay,—see the wife's own word,
"Authentic answer! Tell detractors too
"There's a plan formed, a programme figured here
"—Pray God no after-practice put to proof,
"This letter cast no light upon, one day!"
So much for what should work in Rome: back now
To Arezzo, follow up the project there,
Forward the next step with as bold a foot,
And plague Pompilia to the height, you see!
Accordingly did Guido set himself
To worry up and down, across, around,
The woman, hemmed in by her household-bars,—
Chase her about the coop of daily life,
Having first stopped each outlet thence save one
Which, like bird with a ferret in her haunt,
She needs must seize as sole way of escape
Though there was tied and twittering a decoy
To seem as if it tempted,—just the plume
O' the popinjay, not a real respite there
From tooth and claw of something in the dark,—
The tenebrific passage of the tale:
How hold a light, display the cavern's gorge?
How, in this phase of the affair, show truth?
Here is the dying wife who smiles and says
"So it was,—so it was not,—how it was,
"I never knew nor ever care to know—"
Till they all weep, physician, man of law,
Even that poor old bit of battered brass
Beaten out of all shape by the world's sins,
Common utensil of the lazar-house—
Confessor Celestino groans "'T is truth,
"All truth and only truth: there's something here,
"Some presence in the room beside us all,
"Something that every lie expires before:
"No question she was pure from first to last."
So far is well and helps us to believe:
But beyond, she the helpless, simple-sweet
Or silly-sooth, unskilled to break one blow
At her good fame by putting finger forth,—
How can she render service to the truth?
The bird says "So I fluttered where a springe
"Caught me: the springe did not contrive itself,
"That I know: who contrived it, God forgive!"
But we, who hear no voice and have dry eyes,
Must ask,—we cannot else, absolving her,—
How of the part played by that same decoy
I' the catching, caging? Was himself caught first?
We deal here with no innocent at least,
No witless victim,—he's a man of the age
And priest beside,—persuade the mocking world
Mere charity boiled over in this sort!
He whose own safety too,—(the Pope's apprised—
Good-natured with the secular offence,
The Pope looks grave on priesthood in a scrape)
Our priest's own safety therefore, may-be life,
Hangs on the issue! You will find it hard.
Guido is here to meet you with fixed foot,
Stiff like a statue—"Leave what went before!
"My wife fled i' the company of a priest,
"Spent two days and two nights alone with him:
"Leave what came after!" He stands hard to throw
Moreover priests are merely flesh and blood;
When we get weakness, and no guilt beside,
'Tis no such great ill-fortune: finding grey,
We gladly call that white which might be black,
Too used to the double-dye. So, if the priest
Moved by Pompilia's youth and beauty, gave
Way to the natural weakness… . Anyhow
Here be facts, charactery; what they spell
Determine, and thence pick what sense you may!
There was a certain young bold handsome priest
Popular in the city, far and wide
Famed, since Arezzo's but a little place,
As the best of good companions, gay and grave
At the decent minute; settled in his stall,
Or sidling, lute on lap, by lady's couch,
Ever the courtly Canon; see in him
A proper star to climb and culminate,
Have its due handbreadth of the heaven at Rome,
Though meanwhile pausing on Arezzo's edge,
As modest candle does 'mid mountain fog,
To rub off redness and rusticity
Ere it sweep chastened, gain the silver-sphere!
Whether through Guido's absence or what else,
This Caponsacchi, favourite of the town,
Was yet no friend of his nor free o' the house,
Though both moved in the regular magnates' march:
Each must observe the other's tread and halt
At church, saloon, theatre, house of play.
Who could help noticing the husband's slouch,
The black of his brow—or miss the news that buzzed
Of how the little solitary wife
Wept and looked out of window all day long?
What need of minute search into such springs
As start men, set o' the move?—machinery
Old as earth, obvious as the noonday sun.
Why, take men as they come,—an instance now,—
Of all those who have simply gone to see
Pompilia on her deathbed since four days,
Half at the least are, call it how you please,
In love with her—I don't except the priests
Nor even the old confessor whose eyes run
Over at what he styles his sister's voice
Who died so early and weaned him from the world.
Well, had they viewed her ere the paleness pushed
The last o' the red o' the rose away, while yet
Some hand, adventurous 'twixt the wind and her,
Might let shy life run back and raise the flower
Rich with reward up to the guardian's face,—
Would they have kept that hand employed all day
At fumbling on with prayer-book pages? No!
Men are men: why then need I say one word
More than that our mere man the Canon here
Saw, pitied, loved Pompilia?
This is why;
This startling why: that Caponsacchi's self—
Whom foes and friends alike avouch, for good
Or ill, a man of truth whate'er betide,
Intrepid altogether, reckless too
How his own fame and fortune, tossed to the winds,
Suffer by any turn the adventure take,
Nay, more—not thrusting, like a badge to hide,
'Twixt shirt and skin a joy which shown is shame—
But flirting flag-like i' the face o' the world
This tell-tale kerchief, this conspicuous love
For the lady,—oh, called innocent love, I know!
Only, such scarlet fiery innocence
As most folk would try muffle up in shade,—
—'T is strange then that this else abashless mouth
Should yet maintain, for truth's sake which is God's,
That it was not he made the first advance,
That, even ere word had passed between the two,
Pompilia penned him letters, passionate prayers,
If not love, then so simulating love
That he, no novice to the taste of thyme,
Turned from such over-luscious honey-clot
At end o' the flower, and would not lend his lip
Till … but the tale here frankly outsoars faith:
There must be falsehood somewhere. For her part,
Pompilia quietly constantly avers
She never penned a letter in her life
Nor to the Canon nor any other man,
Being incompetent to write and read:
Nor had she ever uttered word to him, nor he
To her till that same evening when they met,
She on her window-terrace, he beneath
I' the public street, as was their fateful chance,
And she adjured him in the name of God
To find out, bring to pass where, when and how
Escape with him to Rome might be contrived.
Means were found, plan laid, time fixed, she avers,
And heart assured to heart in loyalty,
All at an impulse! All extemporized
As in romance-books! Is that credible?
Well, yes: as she avers this with calm mouth
Dying, I do think "Credible!" you'd cry—
Did not the priest's voice come to break the spell.
They questioned him apart, as the custom is,
When first the matter made a noise at Rome,
And he, calm, constant then as she is now,
For truth's sake did assert and re-assert
Those letters called him to her and he came,
—Which damns the story credible otherwise.
Why should this man,—mad to devote himself,
Careless what comes of his own fame, the first,—
Be studious thus to publish and declare
Just what the lightest nature loves to hide,
So screening lady from the byword's laugh
"First spoke the lady, last the cavalier!"
—I say,—why should the man tell truth just now
When graceful lying meets such ready shrift?
Or is there a first moment for a priest
As for a woman, when invaded shame
Must have its first and last excuse to show?
Do both contrive love's entry in the mind
Shall look, i' the manner of it, a surprise,—
That after, once the flag o' the fort hauled down,
Effrontery may sink drawbridge, open gate,
Welcome and entertain the conqueror?
Or what do you say to a touch of the devil's worst?
Can it be that the husband, he who wrote
The letter to his brother I told you of,
I' the name of her it meant to criminate,—
What if he wrote those letters to the priest?
Further the priest says, when it first befell,
This folly o' the letters, that he checked the flow,
Put them back lightly each with its reply.
Here again vexes new discrepancy:
There never reached her eye a word from him:
He did write but she could not read—could just
Burn the offence to wifehood, womanhood,
So did burn: never bade him come to her,
Yet when it proved he must come, let him come,
And when he did come though uncalled,—why, spoke
Prompt by an inspiration: thus it chanced.
Will you go somewhat back to understand?
When first, pursuant to his plan, there sprang,
Like an uncaged beast, Guido's cruelty
On soul and body of his wife, she cried
To those whom law appoints resource for such,
The secular guardian,—that's the Governor,
And the Archbishop,—that's the spiritual guide,
And prayed them take the claws from out her flesh.
Now, this is ever the ill consequence
Of being noble, poor and difficult,
Ungainly, yet too great to disregard,—
This—that born peers and friends hereditary,—
Though disinclined to help from their own store
The opprobrious wight, put penny in his poke
From private purse or leave the door ajar
When he goes wistful by at dinner-time,—
Yet, if his needs conduct him where they sit
Smugly in office, judge this, bishop that,
Dispensers of the shine and shade o' the place—
And if, friend's door shut and friend's purse undrawn,
Still potentates may find the office-seat
Do as good service at no cost—give help
By-the-bye, pay up traditional dues at once
Just through a feather-weight too much i' the scale,
Or finger-tip forgot at the balance-tongue,—
Why, only churls refuse, or Molinists.
Thus when, in the first roughness of surprise
At Guido's wolf-face whence the sheepskin fell,
The frightened couple, all bewilderment,
Rushed to the Governor,—who else rights wrong?
Told him their tale of wrong and craved redress—
Why, then the Governor woke up to the fact
That Guido was a friend of old, poor Count!—
So, promptly paid his tribute, promised the pair,
Wholesome chastisement should soon cure their qualms
Next time they came, wept, prated and told lies:
So stopped all prating, sent them dumb to Rome.
Well, now it was Pompilia's turn to try:
The troubles pressing on her, as I said,
Three times she rushed, maddened by misery,
To the other mighty man, sobbed out her prayer
At footstool of the Archbishop—fast the friend
Of her husband also! Oh, good friends of yore!
So, the Archbishop, not to be outdone
By the Governor, break custom more than he,
Thrice bade the foolish woman stop her tongue,
Unloosed her hands from harassing his gout,
Coached her and carried her to the Count again,
—His old friend should be master in his house,
Rule his wife and correct her faults at need!
Well, driven from post to pillar in this wise,
She, as a last resource, betook herself
To one, should be no family-friend at least,
A simple friar o' the city; confessed to him,
Then told how fierce temptation of release
By self-dealt death was busy with her soul,
And urged that he put this in words, write plain
For one who could not write, set down her prayer
That Pietro and Violante, parent-like
If somehow not her parents, should for love
Come save her, pluck from out the flame the brand
Themselves had thoughtlessly thrust in so deep
To send gay-coloured sparkles up and cheer
Their seat at the chimney-corner. The good friar
Promised as much at the moment; but, alack,
Night brings discretion: he was no one's friend,
Yet presently found he could not turn about
Nor take a step i' the case and fail to tread
On someone's toe who either was a friend,
Or a friend's friend, or friend's friend thrice-removed,
And woe to friar by whom offences come!
So, the course being plain,—with a general sigh
At matrimony the profound mistake,—
He threw reluctantly the business up,
Having his other penitents to mind.
If then, all outlets thus secured save one,
At last she took to the open, stood and stared
With her wan face to see where God might wait—
And there found Caponsacchi wait as well
For the precious something at perdition's edge,
He only was predestinate to save,—
And if they recognized in a critical flash
From the zenith, each the other, her need of him,
His need of … say, a woman to perish for,
The regular way o' the world, yet break no vow,
Do no harm save to himself,—if this were thus?
How do you say? It were improbable;
So is the legend of my patron-saint.
Anyhow, whether, as Guido states the case,
Pompilia,—like a starving wretch i' the street
Who stops and rifles the first passenger
In the great right of an excessive wrong,—
Did somehow call this stranger and he came,—
Or whether the strange sudden interview
Blazed as when star and star must needs go close
Till each hurts each and there is loss in heaven—
Whatever way in this strange world it was,—
Pompilia and Caponsacchi met, in fine,
She at her window, he i' the street beneath,
And understood each other at first look.
All was determined and performed at once.
And on a certain April evening, late
I' the month, this girl of sixteen, bride and wife
Three years and over,—she who hitherto
Had never taken twenty steps in Rome
Beyond the church, pinned to her mother's gown,
Nor, in Arezzo, knew her way through street
Except what led to the Archbishop's door,—
Such an one rose up in the dark, laid hand
On what came first, clothes and a trinket or two,
Belongings of her own in the old day,—
Stole from the side o' the sleeping spouse—who knows?
Sleeping perhaps, silent for certain,—slid
Ghost-like from great dark room to great dark room
In through the tapestries and out again
And onward, unembarrassed as a fate,
Descended staircase, gained last door of all,
Sent it wide open at first push of palm,
And there stood, first time, last and only time,
At liberty, alone in the open street,—
Unquestioned, unmolested found herself
At the city gate, by Caponsacchi's side,
Hope there, joy there, life and all good again,
The carriage there, the convoy there, light there
Broadening ever into blaze at Rome
And breaking small what long miles lay between;
Up she sprang, in he followed, they were safe.
The husband quotes this for incredible,
All of the story from first word to last:
Sees the priest's hand throughout upholding hers,
Traces his foot to the alcove, that night,
Whither and whence blindfold he knew the way,
Proficient in all craft and stealthiness;
And cites for proof a servant, eye that watched
And ear that opened to purse secrets up,
A woman-spy,—suborned to give and take
Letters and tokens, do the work of shame
The more adroitly that herself, who helped
Communion thus between a tainted pair,
Had long since been a leper thick in spot,
A common trull o' the town: she witnessed all,
Helped many meetings, partings, took her wage
And then told Guido the whole matter. Lies!
The woman's life confutes her word,—her word
Confutes itself: "Thus, thus and thus I lied."
"And thus, no question, still you lie," we say.
"Ay but at last, e'en have it how you will,
"Whatever the means, whatever the way, explodes
"The consummation"—the accusers shriek:
"Here is the wife avowedly found in flight,
"And the companion of her flight, a priest;
"She flies her husband, he the church his spouse:
"What is this?"
Wife and priest alike reply
"This is the simple thing it claims to be,
"A course we took for life and honour's sake,
"Very strange, very justifiable."
She says, "God put it in my head to fly,
"As when the martin migrates: autumn claps
"Her hands, cries 'Winter's coming, will be here,
"'Off with you ere the white teeth overtake!
"'Flee!' So I fled: this friend was the warm day,
"The south wind and whatever favours flight;
"I took the favour, had the help, how else?
"And so we did fly rapidly all night,
"All day, all night—a longer night—again,
"And then another day, longest of days,
"And all the while, whether we fled or stopped,
"I scarce know how or why, one thought filled both,
"'Fly and arrive!' So long as I found strength
"I talked with my companion, told him much,
"Knowing that he knew more, knew me, knew God
"And God's disposal of me,—but the sense
"O' the blessed flight absorbed me in the main,
"And speech became mere talking through a sleep,
"Till at the end of that last longest night
"In a red daybreak, when we reached an inn
"And my companion whispered 'Next stage—Rome!'
"Sudden the weak flesh fell like piled-up cards,
"All the frail fabric at a finger's touch,
"And prostrate the poor soul too, and I said
"'But though Count Guido were a furlong off,
"'Just on me, I must stop and rest awhile!'
"Then something like a huge white wave o' the sea
"Broke o'er my brain and buried me in sleep
"Blessedly, till it ebbed and left me loose,
"And where was I found but on a strange bed
"In a strange room like hell, roaring with noise,
"Ruddy with flame, and filled with men, in front
"Who but the man you call my husband? ay—
"Count Guido once more between heaven and me,
"For there my heaven stood, my salvation, yes—
"That Caponsacchi all my heaven of help,
"Helpless himself, held prisoner in the hands
"Of men who looked up in my husband's face
"To take the fate thence he should signify,
"Just as the way was at Arezzo. Then,
"Not for my sake but his who had helped me—
"I sprang up, reached him with one bound, and seized
"The sword o' the felon, trembling at his side,
"Fit creature of a coward, unsheathed the thing
"And would have pinned him through the poison-bag
"To the wall and left him there to palpitate,
"As you serve scorpions, but men interposed—
"Disarmed me, gave his life to him again
"That he might take mine and the other lives,
"And he has done so. I submit myself!"
The priest says—oh, and in the main result
The facts asseverate, he truly says.
As to the very act and deed of him,
However you mistrust the mind o' the man—
The flight was just for flight's sake, no pretext
For aught except to set Pompilia free.
He says "I cite the husband's self's worst charge
"In proof of my best word for both of us.
"Be it conceded that so many times
"We took our pleasure in his palace: then,
"What need to fly at all?—or flying no less,
"What need to outrage the lips sick and white
"Of a woman, and bring ruin down beside,
"By halting when Rome lay one stage beyond?"
So does he vindicate Pompilia's fame,
Confirm her story in all points but one—
This; that, so fleeing and so breathing forth
Her last strength in the prayer to halt awhile,
She makes confusion of the reddening white
Which was the sunset when her strength gave way,
And the next sunrise and its whitening red
Which she revived in when her husband came:
She mixes both times, morn and eve, in one,
Having lived through a blank of night 'twixt each
Though dead-asleep, unaware as a corpse,
She on the bed above; her friend below
Watched in the doorway of the inn the while,
Stood i' the red o' the morn, that she mistakes,
In act to rouse and quicken the tardy crew
And hurry out the horses, have the stage
Over, the last league, reach Rome and be safe:
When up came Guido.
Guido's tale begins—
How he and his whole household, drunk to death
By some enchanted potion, poppied drugs
Plied by the wife, lay powerless in gross sleep
And left the spoilers unimpeded way,
Could not shake off their poison and pursue,
Till noontide, then made shift to get on horse
And did pursue: which means he took his time,
Pressed on no more than lingered after, step
By step, just making sure o' the fugitives,
Till at the nick of time, he saw his chance,
Seized it, came up with and surprised the pair.
How he must needs have gnawn lip and gnashed teeth,
Taking successively at tower and town,
Village and roadside, still the same report
"Yes, such a pair arrived an hour ago,
"Sat in the carriage just where now you stand,
"While we got horses ready,—turned deaf ear
"To all entreaty they would even alight;
"Counted the minutes and resumed their course."
Would they indeed escape, arrive at Rome,
Leave no least loop-hole to let murder through,
But foil him of his captured infamy,
Prize of guilt proved and perfect? So it seemed.
Till, oh the happy chance, at last stage, Rome
But two short hours off, Castelnuovo reached,
The guardian angel gave reluctant place,
Satan stepped forward with alacrity,
Pompilia's flesh and blood succumbed, perforce
A halt was, and her husband had his will.
Perdue he couched, counted out hour by hour
Till he should spy in the east a signal-streak—
Night had been, morrow was, triumph would be.
Do you see the plan deliciously complete?
The rush upon the unsuspecting sleep,
The easy execution, the outcry
Over the deed "Take notice all the world!
"These two dead bodies, locked still in embrace,—
"The man is Caponsacchi and a priest,
"The woman is my wife: they fled me late,
"Thus have I found and you behold them thus,
"And may judge me: do you approve or no?"
Success did seem not so improbable,
But that already Satan's laugh was heard,
His black back turned on Guido—left i' the lurch
Or rather, baulked of suit and service now,
Left to improve on both by one deed more,
Burn up the better at no distant day,
Body and soul one holocaust to hell.
Anyhow, of this natural consequence
Did just the last link of the long chain snap:
For an eruption was o' the priest, alive
And alert, calm, resolute and formidable,
Not the least look of fear in that broad brow—
One not to be disposed of by surprise,
And armed moreover—who had guessed as much?
Yes, there stood he in secular costume
Complete from head to heel, with sword at side,
He seemed to know the trick of perfectly.
There was no prompt suppression of the man
As he said calmly "I have saved your wife
"From death; there was no other way but this;
"Of what do I defraud you except death?
"Charge any wrong beyond, I answer it."
Guido, the valorous, had met his match,
Was forced to demand help instead of fight,
Bid the authorities o' the place lend aid
And make the best of a broken matter so.
They soon obeyed the summons—I suppose,
Apprised and ready, or not far to seek—
Laid hands on Caponsacchi, found in fault,
A priest yet flagrantly accoutred thus,—
Then, to make good Count Guido's further charge,
Proceeded, prisoner made lead the way,
In a crowd, upstairs to the chamber-door
Where wax-white, dead asleep, deep beyond dream,
As the priest laid her, lay Pompilia yet.
And as he mounted step and step with the crowd
How I see Guido taking heart again!
He knew his wife so well and the way of her—
How at the outbreak she would shroud her shame
In hell's heart, would it mercifully yawn—
How, failing that, her forehead to his foot,
She would crouch silent till the great doom fell,
Leave him triumphant with the crowd to see
Guilt motionless or writhing like a worm!
No! Second misadventure, this worm turned,
I told you: would have slain him on the spot
With his own weapon, but they seized her hands:
Leaving her tongue free, as it tolled the knell
Of Guido's hope so lively late. The past
Took quite another shape now. She who shrieked
"At least and for ever I am mine and God's,
"Thanks to his liberating angel Death—
"Never again degraded to be yours
"The ignoble noble, the unmanly man,
"The beast below the beast in brutishness!"—
This was the froward child, "the restif lamb
"Used to be cherished in his breast," he groaned—
"Eat from his hand and drink from out his cup,
"The while his fingers pushed their loving way
"Through curl on curl of that soft coat—alas,
"And she all silverly baaed gratitude
"While meditating mischief!"—and so forth.
He must invent another story now!
The ins and outs o' the rooms were searched: he found
Or showed for found the abominable prize—
Love-letters from his wife who cannot write,
Love-letters in reply o' the priest—thank God!—
Who can write and confront his character
With this, and prove the false thing forged throughout:
Spitting whereat, he needs must spatter whom
But Guido's self?—that forged and falsified
One letter called Pompilia's, past dispute:
Then why not these to make sure still more sure?
So was the case concluded then and there:
Guido preferred his charges in due form,
Called on the law to adjudicate, consigned
The accused ones to the Prefect of the place,
(Oh mouse-birth of that mountain-like revenge!)
And so to his own place betook himself
After the spring that failed,—the wildcat's way.
The captured parties were conveyed to Rome;
Investigation followed here i' the court—
Soon to review the fruit of its own work,
From then to now being eight months and no more.
Guido kept out of sight and safe at home:
The Abate, brother Paolo, helped most
At words when deeds were out of question, pushed
Nearest the purple, best played deputy,
So, pleaded, Guido's representative
At the court shall soon try Guido's self,—what's more,
The court that also took—I told you, Sir—
That statement of the couple, how a cheat
Had been i' the birth of the babe, no child of theirs.
That was the prelude; this, the play's first act:
Whereof we wait what comes, crown, close of all.
Well, the result was something of a shade
On the parties thus accused,—how otherwise?
Shade, but with shine as unmistakable.
Each had a prompt defence: Pompilia first—
"Earth was made hell to me who did no harm:
"I only could emerge one way from hell
"By catching at the one hand held me, so
"I caught at it and thereby stepped to heaven:
"If that be wrong, do with me what you will!"
Then Caponsacchi with a grave grand sweep
O' the arm as though his soul warned baseness off—
"If as a man, then much more as a priest
"I hold me bound to help weak innocence:
"If so my worldly reputation burst,
"Being the bubble it is, why, burst it may:
"Blame I can bear though not blameworthiness.
"But use your sense first, see if the miscreant proved,
"The man who tortured thus the woman, thus
"Have not both laid the trap and fixed the lure
"Over the pit should bury body and soul!
"His facts are lies: his letters are the fact—
"An infiltration flavoured with himself!
"As for the fancies—whether … what is it you say?
"The lady loves me, whether I love her
"In the forbidden sense of your surmise,—
"If, with the midday blaze of truth above,
"The unlidded eye of God awake, aware,
"You needs must pry about and trace the birth
"Of each stray beam of light may traverse night,
"To the night's sun that's Lucifer himself,
"Do so, at other time, in other place,
"Not now nor here! Enough that first to last
"I never touched her lip nor she my hand
"Nor either of us thought a thought, much less
"Spoke a word which the Virgin might not hear.
"Be such your question, thus I answer it."
Then the court had to make its mind up, spoke.
"It is a thorny question, yea, a tale
"Hard to believe, but not impossible:
"Who can be absolute for either side?
"A middle course is happily open yet.
"Here has a blot surprised the social blank,—
"Whether through favour, feebleness or fault,
"No matter, leprosy has touched our robe
"And we unclean must needs be purified.
"Here is a wife makes holiday from home,
"A priest caught playing truant to his church,
"In masquerade moreover: both allege
"Enough excuse to stop our lifted scourge
"Which else would heavily fall. On the other hand,
"Here is a husband, ay and man of mark,
"Who comes complaining here, demands redress
"As if he were the pattern of desert—
"The while those plaguy allegations frown,
"Forbid we grant him the redress he seeks.
"To all men be our moderation known!
"Rewarding none while compensating each,
"Hurting all round though harming nobody,
"Husband, wife, priest, scot-free not one shall 'scape,
"Yet priest, wife, husband, boast the unbroken head
"From application of our excellent oil:
"So that, whatever be the fact, in fine,
"We make no miss of justice in a sort.
"First, let the husband stomach as he may,
"His wife shall neither be returned him, no—
"Nor branded, whipped and caged, but just consigned
"To a convent and the quietude she craves;
"So is he rid of his domestic plague:
"What better thing can happen to a man?
"Next, let the priest retire—unshent, unshamed,
"Unpunished as for perpetrating crime,
"But relegated (not imprisoned, Sirs!)
"Sent for three years to clarify his youth
"At Civita, a rest by the way to Rome:
"There let his life skim off its last of lees
"Nor keep this dubious colour. Judged the cause:
"All parties may retire, content, we hope."
That's Rome's way, the traditional road of law;
Whither it leads is what remains to tell.
The priest went to his relegation-place,
The wife to her convent, brother Paolo
To the arms of brother Guido with the news
And this beside—his charge was countercharged;
The Comparini, his old brace of hates,
Were breathed and vigilant and venomous now—
Had shot a second bolt where the first stuck,
And followed up the pending dowry-suit
By a procedure should release the wife
From so much of the marriage-bond as barred
Escape when Guido turned the screw too much
On his wife's flesh and blood, as husband may.
No more defence, she turned and made attack,
Claimed now divorce from bed and board, in short:
Pleaded such subtle strokes of cruelty,
Such slow sure siege laid to her body and soul,
As, proved,—and proofs seemed coming thick and fast,—
Would gain both freedom and the dowry back
Even should the first suit leave them in his grasp:
So urged the Comparini for the wife.
Guido had gained not one of the good things
He grasped at by his creditable plan
O' the flight and following and the rest: the suit
That smouldered late was fanned to fury new,
This adjunct came to help with fiercer fire,
While he had got himself a quite new plague—
Found the world's face an universal grin
At this last best of the Hundred Merry Tales
Of how a young and spritely clerk devised
To carry off a spouse that moped too much,
And cured her of the vapours in a trice:
And how the husband, playing Vulcan's part,
Told by the Sun, started in hot pursuit
To catch the lovers, and came halting up,
Cast his net and then called the Gods to see
The convicts in their rosy impudence—
Whereat said Mercury "Would that I were Mars!"
Oh it was rare, and naughty all the same!
Brief, the wife's courage and cunning,—the priest's show
Of chivalry and adroitness,—last not least,
The husband—how he ne'er showed teeth at all,
Whose bark had promised biting; but just sneaked
Back to his kennel, tail 'twixt legs, as 't were,—
All this was hard to gulp down and digest.
So pays the devil his liegeman, brass for gold.
But this was at Arezzo: here in Rome
Brave Paolo bore up against it all—
Battled it out, nor wanting to himself
Nor Guido nor the House whose weight he bore
Pillar-like, by no force of arm but brain.
He knew his Rome, what wheels to set to work;
Plied influential folk, pressed to the ear
Of the efficacious purple, pushed his way
To the old Pope's self,—past decency indeed,—
Praying him take the matter in his hands
Out of the regular court's incompetence.
But times are changed and nephews out of date
And favouritism unfashionable: the Pope
Said "Render Cæsar what is Cæsar's due!"
As for the Comparini's counter-plea,
He met that by a counter-plea again,
Made Guido claim divorce—with help so far
By the trial's issue: for, why punishment
However slight unless for guiltiness
However slender?—and a molehill serves
Much as a mountain of offence this way.
So was he gathering strength on every side
And growing more and more to menace—when
All of a terrible moment came the blow
That beat down Paolo's fence, ended the play
O' the foil and brought mannaia on the stage.
Five months had passed now since Pompilia's flight,
Months spent in peace among the Convert nuns.
This,—being, as it seemed, for Guido's sake
Solely, what pride might call imprisonment
And quote as something gained, to friends at home,—
This naturally was at Guido's charge:
Grudge it he might, but penitential fare,
Prayers, preachings, who but he defrayed the cost?
So, Paolo dropped, as proxy, doit by doit
Like heart's blood, till—what's here? What notice comes?
The convent's self makes application bland
That, since Pompilia's health is fast o' the wane,
She may have leave to go combine her cure
Of soul with cure of body, mend her mind
Together with her thin arms and sunk eyes
That want fresh air outside the convent-wall,
Say in a friendly house,—and which so fit
As a certain villa in the Pauline way,
That happens to hold Pietro and his wife,
The natural guardians? "Oh, and shift the care
"You shift the cost, too; Pietro pays in turn,
"And lightens Guido of a load! And then,
"Villa or convent, two names for one thing,
"Always the sojourn means imprisonment,
"Domus pro carcere—nowise we relax,
"Nothing abate: how answers Paolo?"
What would you answer? All so smooth and fair,
Even Paul's astuteness sniffed no harm i' the world.
He authorized the transfer, saw it made
And, two months after, reaped the fruit of the same,
Having to sit down, rack his brain and find
What phrase should serve him best to notify
Our Guido that by happy providence
A son and heir, a babe was born to him
I' the villa,—go tell sympathizing friends!
Yes, such had been Pompilia's privilege:
She, when she fled, was one month gone with child,
Known to herself or unknown, either way
Availing to explain (say men of art)
The strange and passionate precipitance
Of maiden startled into motherhood
Which changes body and soul by nature's law.
So when the she-dove breeds, strange yearnings come
For the unknown shelter by undreamed-of shores,
And there is born a blood-pulse in her heart
To fight if needs be, though with flap of wing,
For the wool-flock or the fur-tuft, though a hawk
Contest the prize,—wherefore, she knows not yet.
Anyhow, thus to Guido came the news.
"I shall have quitted Rome ere you arrive
"To take the one step left,"—wrote Paolo.
Then did the winch o' the winepress of all hate,
Vanity, disappointment, grudge and greed,
Take the last turn that screws out pure revenge
With a bright bubble at the brim beside—
By an heir's birth he was assured at once
O' the main prize, all the money in dispute:
Pompilia's dowry might revert to her
Or stay with him as law's caprice should point,—
But now—now—what was Pietro's shall be hers,
What was hers shall remain her own,—if hers,
Why then,—oh, not her husband's but—her heir's!
That heir being his too, all grew his at last
By this road or by that road, since they join.
Before, why, push he Pietro out o' the world,—
The current of the money stopped, you see,
Pompilia being proved no Pietro's child:
Or let it be Pompilia's life he quenched,
Again the current of the money stopped,—
Guido debarred his rights as husband soon,
So the new process threatened;—now, the chance,
Now, the resplendent minute! Clear the earth,
Cleanse the house, let the three but disappear
A child remains, depositary of all,
That Guido may enjoy his own again,
Repair all losses by a master-stroke,
Wipe out the past, all done all left undone,
Swell the good present to best evermore,
Die into new life, which let blood baptize!
So, i' the blue of a sudden sulphur-blaze,
Both why there was one step to take at Rome,
And why he should not meet with Paolo there,
He saw—the ins and outs to the heart of hell—
And took the straight line thither swift and sure.
He rushed to Vittiano, found four sons o' the soil,
Brutes of his breeding, with one spark i' the clod
That served for a soul, the looking up to him
Or aught called Franceschini as life, death,
Heaven, hell,—lord paramount, assembled these,
Harangued, equipped, instructed, pressed each clod
With his will's imprint; then took horse, plied spur,
And so arrived, all five of them, at Rome
On Christmas-Eve, and forthwith found themselves
Installed i' the vacancy and solitude
Left them by Paolo, the considerate man
Who, good as his word, had disappeared at once
As if to leave the stage free. A whole week
Did Guido spend in study of his part,
Then played it fearless of a failure. One,
Struck the year's clock whereof the hours are days,
And off was rung o' the little wheels the chime
"Good will on earth and peace to man:" but, two,
Proceeded the same bell and, evening come,
The dreadful five felt finger-wise their way
Across the town by blind cuts and black turns
To the little lone suburban villa; knocked—
"Who may be outside?" called a well-known voice.
"A friend of Caponsacchi's bringing friends
That's a test, the excusers say:
Ay, and a test conclusive, I return.
What? Had that name brought touch of guilt or taste
Of fear with it, aught to dash the present joy
With memory of the sorrow just at end,—
She, happy in her parents' arms at length
With the new blessing of the two weeks' babe,—
How had that name's announcement moved the wife?
Or, as the other slanders circulate,
Were Caponsacchi no rare visitant
On nights and days whither safe harbour lured,
What bait had been i' the name to ope the door?
The promise of a letter? Stealthy guests
Have secret watchwords, private entrances:
The man's own self might have been found inside
And all the scheme made frustrate by a word.
No: but since Guido knew, none knew so well,
The man had never since returned to Rome
Nor seen the wife's face more than villa's front,
So, could not be at hand to warn or save,-
For that, he took this sure way to the end.
"Come in," bade poor Violante cheerfully,
Drawing the door-bolt: that death was the first,
Stabbed through and through. Pietro, close on her heels,
Set up a cry—"Let me confess myself!
"Grant but confession!" Cold steel was the grant.
Then came Pompilia's turn.
Then they escaped.
The noise o' the slaughter roused the neighbourhood.
They had forgotten just the one thing more
Which saves i' the circumstance, the ticket to-wit
Which puts post-horses at a traveller's use:
So, all on foot, desperate through the dark
Reeled they like drunkards along open road,
Accomplished a prodigious twenty miles
Homeward, and gained Baccano very near,
Stumbled at last, deaf, dumb, blind through the feat,
Into a grange and, one dead heap, slept there
Till the pursuers hard upon their trace
Reached them and took them, red from head to heel,
And brought them to the prison where they lie.
The couple were laid i' the church two days ago,
And the wife lives yet by miracle.
All is told.
You hardly need ask what Count Guido says,
Since something he must say. "I own the deed—"
(He cannot choose,—but—) "I declare the same
"Just and inevitable,—since no way else
"Was left me, but by this of taking life,
"To save my honour which is more than life.
"I exercised a husband's rights." To which
The answer is as prompt—"There was no fault
"In any one o' the three to punish thus:
"Neither i' the wife, who kept all faith to you,
"Nor in the parents, whom yourself first duped,
"Robbed and maltreated, then turned out of doors.
"You wronged and they endured wrong; yours the fault.
"Next, had endurance overpassed the mark
"And turned resentment needing remedy,—
"Nay, put the absurd impossible case, for once—
"You were all blameless of the blame alleged
"And they blameworthy where you fix all blame,
"Still, why this violation of the law?
"Yourself elected law should take its course,
"Avenge wrong, or show vengeance not your right;
"Why, only when the balance in law's hand
"Trembles against you and inclines the way
"O' the other party, do you make protest,
"Renounce arbitrament, flying out of court,
"And crying 'Honour's hurt the sword must cure'?
"Aha, and so i' the middle of each suit
"Trying i' the courts,—and you had three in play
"With an appeal to the Pope's self beside,—
"What, you may chop and change and right your wrongs
"Leaving the law to lag as she thinks fit?"
That were too temptingly commodious, Count!
One would have still a remedy in reserve
Should reach the safest oldest sinner, you see!
One's honour forsooth? Does that take hurt alone
From the extreme outrage? I who have no wife,
Being yet sensitive in my degree
As Guido,—must discover hurt elsewhere
Which, half compounded-for in days gone by,
May profitably break out now afresh,
Need cure from my own expeditious hands.
The lie that was, as it were, imputed me
When you objected to my contract's clause,—
The theft as good as, one may say, alleged,
When you, co-heir in a will, excepted, Sir,
To my administration of effects,
—Aha, do you think law disposed of these?
My honour's touched and shall deal death around!
Count, that were too commodious, I repeat!
If any law be imperative on us all,
Of all are you the enemy: out with you
From the common light and air and life of man!
The little Kid
The little kid
Unaware of the social rules
Does whatever he likes
For him nothing is a rise and nothing is a fall
He does all
- The little kid -
Has an open mind
Lives with the rules of his own kind
Whenever he needs help
Does not ask but demand
If request does not work then with command
- The little kid -
Eating and sleeping are his foes
Mama and Papa are the friends of his foes
Papa diverts his mind
Mama makes him feed
Eating or sleeping is over
He forgives the mother and the father
- The little kid -
He gets up in the morning
Says to all 'good morning'
Looks at the toys that Mama cares and he plays
Looks at the shelves that Mama arranges
Remembers they were spread all over the floor last night
Brings back to the same orientation without wasting a minute
- The little Kid -
Its time for his play school
Mama struggles to get him ready
School dresses are bad
Forced dress up is sad
Somehow puts on the school shoes
Gets ready and goes
- The little Kid -
Comes back from school
Holds his toy gun and doll
Mama wants him to eat
Mama's success comes after a fight
- The little Kid -
Little away the little kid
All are concerned
All are bored
Struggle and fight gives happiness
Away the kid proves
- Thats the power of The little Kid -
From Paris To Brussels (11 P.M. 15 October To Half-Past 1 P.M. 16) Proem At The Paris Station
In France (to baffle thieves and murderers)
A journey takes two days of passport work
At least. The plan's sometimes a tedious one,
But bears its fruit. Because, the other day,
In passing by the Morgue, we saw a man
(The thing is common, and we never should
Have known of it, only we passed that way)
Who had been stabbed and tumbled in the Seine,
Where he had stayed some days. The face was black,
And, like a negro's, swollen; all the flesh
Had furred, and broken into a green mould.
Now, very likely, he who did the job
Was standing among those who stood with us,
To look upon the corpse. You fancy him—
Smoking an early pipe, and watching, as
An artist, the effect of his last work.
This always if it had not struck him that
'Twere best to leave while yet the body took
Its crust of rot beneath the Seine. It may:
But, if it did not, he can now remain
Without much fear. Only, if he should want
To travel, and have not his passport yet,
(Deep dogs these French police!) he may be caught.
Therefore you see (lest, being murderers,
We should not have the sense to go before
The thing were known, or to stay afterwards)
There is good reason why—having resolved
To start for Belgium—we were kept three days
To learn about the passports first, then do
As we had learned. This notwithstanding, in
The fullness of the time 'tis come to pass.
The Silence Inside
The Silence Inside
It's amazing how easily silence can disperse laughter. As joyful smiles to outrageous videos play deep into the night, the loudest silence nobody ever hears coming let's everyone feel it's presence.
For once, in too long, there is a connection between heartbeats, not through laughter, nor music, but in distorted silence. Distorted silence that followed a telephone ring and a playful joke. The one with the last laugh is the first to lose his voice.
Smiles fade and sweaty palmed statues appear where there once stood living beings. Then, cold, like a shockwave that deadens the cells, and makes light work of the ears as the brain shuts off connection to what seems to be a miscommunication, or a bad translation between mediums. And without those
ears; silence. Doesn't even matter because even with those ears, there's still silence, as your entire world stops spinning for just a moment. one moment, that seems like years.
Then one speaks, in hopes for a false alarm perhaps? But the reply in silence is the loudest alarm you'll never hear. Then you're brain goes dead with nothing but replayed memories; what were you doing? How long ago was that? I can't believe I said that! You know, I never did........ And silence. Then the clock starts ticking, and the crowd disperses, much like laughter, only leaving, in it's wake, an earth still spinning in silence.
For The Want Of Time
I never excuse for the want of time
Even though it may very important and prime
I love some of my friends and relatives
As they are close and very subjective
I may never find time in whole life
As husband has no spare time for wife
Yet something is to be talked about
Else you face the possible rout
How can I say you keep off?
How can I that rude and rough?
Everybody is built of some fine stuff
No amount of arguments can help not even bluff
I know only mortals may remain
I may prefer to be excluded in my domain
But at what cost I enjoy the fame?
What is there good in the name?
Do we thing work may end so soon?
The sun may not have afternoon
The evening may not set in
The birds may not return and sing
I am apologetic to those friends
Do not take it to illogical end
It may be ridicule to end in clever manner
Yet the fact may be known sooner
I would love rather to hear you gently
Those words not heard before silently
How long I may have to face dry spell?
Nothing at present seems going well
I would never question brilliant face off
I have no strength to argue or scoff
Yet it pains from within not to press
Instead prefer isolation and dearly miss
No one may have time to care for
No one may even prefer to be very sure
As it will not take them to reality
Because they want to maintain good quality
I would love to talk at length
With any one who cares and match with strength
It is not the intelligence that matters most
The relation is pushed aside and remains frost
It is very hard to go on for sentiments
You may have sugar coated comments
That may not cut much deep with the ice
As it does not really match with the promises
I hope relations are weighed in any terms
It adds to some worry and concerns
Nothing goes off well with nice duration
It gives room for deterioration with some indication
I end up by saying welcome all
I regret saying it without any standard fall
I love all despite my tight schedule
I want it to be durable and ideal module
I may perish along with my brethren
It may then be smooth and happy turn
I shall bid good bye despite having no time
I shall regret only “No time” but as no crime
Notes About The Situation In Our Country
(in answer to Johan Steyn)
I. In the times that we live
In the times that we live
darkness sometimes gets the upper hand,
with tragic things happing in this country
while we still strive for a better place
we go into a life
where innocence is missing and we are off guard
stripped from opportunities and halfway beached
where we have to live in the bustle
where people are killed, tortured and robbed,
where the ruling party is singing inciting songs,
where we cannot decide on a plan of action
and even being humane is curtailed
while the harsh reality penetrates
that alone we cannot stop the overwhelming enemies.
II. During the night we hide in yards that are wired with electricity
During the night we hide in yards that are wired with electricity,
behind walls and steel palisades,
taking notice of the neighbourhood,
making daily adjustments to our lives
and when car hijackers strike at us on the road
we pray and hope to survive,
we let them just go on
while we are dumfounded by fear
and some of our family members and friends are tortured to death,
are raped and robbed while the police cannot stop these crimes,
but we encourage each other and tell one another
that every thing is all right and things are totally out of control,
but Satanists behead people
and there are criminals walk away from raping children.
III. People of our friends and family with qualifications are without work
People of our friends and family with qualifications are without work,
while it is now almost impossible to find something,
with jobs being restricted to black people by affirmative action
and so time passes, years pass
while impoverishment sneak in among white people,
with people begging and looking after cars on the street,
with hundreds of uneducated people getting jobs
and somewhere everything honourable
has been lost with time
while misfortune and decline is appearing everywhere,
we hear about the wretched lives of others,
people come with a confession
that life has caught them off guard,
with their existence only hanging on a thin thread.
IV. When we laugh it only hides bitterness
When we laugh it only hides bitterness
the blue sky, flowers in our gardens pass us,
we hear of some more Afrikaners dying on farms
and in towns and slowly but certainly the destruction spreads.
Out of despair husbands kill their whole families and themselves
(shot after shot resounds)
from them who still have firearms,
after the new laws.
The black government is afraid, that we will resist them
and arrests people left, right and centre
who they see as terrorists
and hold them forever and a day
while the planters of bombs
sit blessed in parliament.
V. There are some people that lay their hands on liquor
There are some people that lay their hands on liquor
and live as if everything is just for today,
they fornicate with the wives of others,
trampling their own people into the ground,
walk over each other to get somewhere in life
or to chase after money
and we live in times of great darkness
where love for the fellow man, awe and respect are missing
where children bear false witness against their parents,
(when they themselves do criminal deeds) ,
turning against their own culture, people and even religion,
using drugs, are fornicating while at school
and overnight our world has changed
to a place where crime and darkness has the upper hand.
VI. Even God is on sale
Even God is on sale
and people jump up and down in churches,
trying to feel the presence of God
in a experience religion
where everyone places his own things in the trolley
as it fits him,
grouping around somewhat in darkness
forgetting to consult the Holy Bible,
Jesus Christ is declared to be only human
and a relationship with him
by some is seen as absurdity
that only people with superstition do
and some wants to trample Satan himself under their shoes
while he is walking free next to them.
VII. Now we wonder from where this decay comes?
Now we wonder form where this decay comes,
while our world suddenly is turned upside down?
With the new government the school structure has been changed,
the cane has disappeared from the classroom, respect has walked out
and religion, the trust in an almighty God,
an own culture, the urge to follow own values,
to speak our own language and to retain a own identity
and the commandments of God has been systematically substituted
by human rights, children’s rights and the following
of a science where humans through theosophy
and new age doctrines are seen as equal to God
where man becomes a god in himself
and now suddenly we see darkness
when the darkness and decay is everywhere.
VIII. We cannot exist in darkness
We cannot exist in darkness,
we have the witness of our fathers, from a time when escape was impossible,
where God in a covenant Himself stood with them
and still everyone is protected by the mighty hand of God,
He draws His laager around everyone that fears Him,
who faithfully keep to the words of His holy word
and still we have got to be brave
in this time where we witness the destruction of our brothers
as God Himself stays true,
His kingdom cannot waver or crumble,
even when the thickest darkness folds around us,
nothing can wheedle us away
from the salvation that God is going to bring,
even if it looks as if darkness is stretching wider and wider.
[Reference: Kanttekeninge by ‘n vers van Brecht (Marginal notes at a verse of Brecht) by Johan Steyn.]
Voyage around the Square Root of Minus One
I often heard
that while the sciences concern themselves
with objective truths
the arts deal with subjective phenomena.
Many years ago I held the same view,
but later came to the conclusion
that this is just a well-combed popular myth.
It is an untenable credo
because the sharp separation
of the arts and sciences is a rigid
and arbitrary mandate, full of holes.
Although all subjects have their specificities,
at the same time they also share
many common traits with each other.
There is art in science and science in art.
Artists, for example,
apply geometry to represent
a three dimensional scene in a painting,
which is a two dimensional surface.
By using ‘objective' geometrical perspective,
Renaissance artists, among them Alberti,
Brunelleschi, Uccello, Leonardo and Dürer,
developed in Europe the ‘subjective' illusion
of perceptual realism.
Later, in the Dutch Republic of the 17th century,
Johannes Vermeer applied expensive pigments
to the canvas and conducted
pioneering research in optics that enhanced
the supreme quality of his work,
imbuing his paintings with sublime,
In the 19th century
the Romantic painter John Constable
prepared detailed studies
of the landscape and weather conditions
of England, before transcribing them
into images of stunning accuracy and grace.
Following the closing of the Weimar Bauhaus
by the Nazis in 1933, the artist Josef Albers
moved to the USA, where he worked at
Black Mountain College and at Yale University.
Albers is credited with the discovery of
the gravitational laws of color interaction,
which he expressed in his minimalist paintings
of "Homage to the Square".
Yet painters are not the only artists
who use science in their work.
Writers and poets often incorporate
scientific themes into their novels and verse,
making more than once
to the development of science.
A giant of German literature,
the poet, novelist and artist
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was also
a pioneer of scientific phenomenology.
His myriad accomplishments encompassed
explorations in the metamorphosis of plants
and insects. Besides, his research interests
extended to geology and meteorology.
Moreover, in 1810 Goethe published
his "Theory of Colors", an influential opus
that inspired the painter J.M.W. Turner,
the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein,
as well as many others.
In many ways Goethe's color theory
remains valid even in the 21st century.
Shakespeare's work, too, may serve
to illustrate the links between art and science.
His plays are sprinkled with profound insights
regarding the psychodynamic processes
of the human mind and soul.
In the role of an early neuroscientist,
the bard can teach modern day physicians
a great deal about the mind-body connection,
about physical symptoms originating
in emotional disturbances.
Or take William Wordsworth.
This great Romantic English poet wrote
about nature and nurture,
"The child is father of the Man", he said,
a century before Freud formulated
his psychoanalytic theories.
And then, in a long prose poem,
titled "Eureka" and published in New York
in 1848, Edgar Allan Poe's gave expression
to his intuitive vision of the universe.
His work anticipated
of the twentieth century.
Packed with bold conjectures,
the poet describes in "Eureka"
the concept that astronomers today call
Cosmological Black Hole.
Poe envisions here a pulsating universe,
evolving in an endless series
of Big Bangs and Big Crunches.
Now, let's bear in mind that
while science promises to provide us
thoroughly objective research products,
in the end it fails to deliver them.
Consider, for instance, the Queen of Sciences,
our most exact subject: Mathematics.
This powerful and noble discipline serves
as an indispensible tool for every branch
of science, as well as for common errands
that we carry out in all walks of life.
However, the astonishing success
of mathematics remains a baffling enigma.
For, how we can accomplish so much with it,
despite its inherent inconsistencies
and its uncertain relation to nature,
defies rational explanation.
Mathematical equations are embedded
with mysterious forces
and their uncanny power transcends
the cognitive faculties of the human mind.
A case in point concerns
a highly effective but bizarre
mathematical concept, the imaginary number
of the square root of minus one,
marked with the humble symbol, "i".
This number is a precise mathematical idea,
and at the same time a poetic celebration
of absurdity, because it hails from
a genderless state of an outlandish kingdom.
"i" is neither positive nor negative.
It exists in spite of itself,
percolating through the faulty filters
of remote stars of another galaxy.
And then there is the bizarre case of zero.
A central pillar of arithmetic, the naught
is a stringent figment of the imagination,
a number used as a symbol
of both nothing and infinity,
by which you can multiply,
however, never allowed to divide.
Now, a careful examination
of the pivotal hard core sciences
of physics and chemistry reveals
that their cardinal notions, such as:
space, time and matter, numbers,
molecules, atoms and particles,
with their quantum probabilities,
are actually elusive figures of speech,
sophisticated abstract metaphors.
Consequently, physicists and chemists
don't really understand their subject matter,
although many of them pretend
that they do.
the sciences are not superior
to music, poetry or painting.
Their epistemological status is equal.
For, the creative genius of Archimedes
does not surpass that of Homer;
nor do the swings of Galileo's pendulum
controvert the rhythm of iambic pentameters
on Dante's keyboard.
Similarly, the shining jewels of
Euler's magnificent mathematical equations
are not more brilliant, or more meaningful
than the triumphant melodies
of Vivaldi's masterpiece, "The Four Seasons".
Nor does the aesthetic splendor
of Cantor's transfinite sets
eclipse the majestic beauty
of Mozart's symphonies.
The earth revolves around the sun
surrounded by inexhaustible mysteries.
Still, Newton's infinite abstract space
is no closer to reality
than the adjacent concrete sky of Rembrandt.
And thus, in the final analysis,
Einstein's glorious Theory of Relativity
does not reveal more ultimate truths
about the transcendental cosmos
than the paintings of Picasso's universe.
The Western Light
The western light
comes right in through my windows
and glows in a golden haze on the dirty panes.
It slashs geometric shadows on my landscapes
like some mad abstractionist
who took them way too personally.
And all they said
was moon tree star light stone flower river sun
as if that were enough of a vocabulary
to say the whole of creation
quietly under your breath
like a secret that’s shared by everyone.
Guess I’m not enough of an ideologue
to comb the swamp for my own skeleton
like the ancestor of modern art.
I’ve gazed too long and hard
at the waterlilies in the Fall River
as if I were meditating on koans
that effortlessly open by themselves
not to waste my mind on anything
that didn’t include my heart
like a work in progress
like a river on its way to the ocean.
The night sheds petals of insight
like moonlight making waves
on the shoreless seas of enhanced awareness
where I stand like a human candle
with my little standard of flame
trying to light up the universe
so I can see what I am in the depths
of my own eyes.
If I’m the tragicomic clown of my own catastrophe
or if there’s something more profound
going on around me
than time and light
glancing off the mindstream
like birds against the delusive skies
that lie like the windows of insight
until you break through them
like the sun at midnight
shining its light
on a conspiracy of mirrors
against the moon.
I must have been mad before I was born
to see things the way I do now.
Everything is inconceivably probable somehow
like a fortune-cookie
that’s had its tongue cut out
for telling lies to the emperor
or the lack of a sign
for the thirteenth house of the misbegotten
in the neighbourhood watch of the zodiac.
Even when you lose your purpose in life
like a passport in a borderless country
you can still hang on to your identity
like a willess work engendered out of nothing.
You can still firewalk the ghost road of smoke
like stars under the feet of the dead
or follow your own breath
like a dancer that no one is leading.
It’s a surprise when you first come to see
that the greatest liberty of all isn’t death
but to cry as if you were bleeding
from a wound
so much sharper and deeper
than the poignancy of the knife that opened it
like a posthumous loveletter from the gods
reading your own fate
in the silence between their voices
as if forever hereafter
you could only be killed into life
and that every rafter of delusion
you ever sought shelter under
were the overturned hull of an empty lifeboat.
Sometimes I look at my life
like one of the splendid ambiguities
of a subtly nuanced godsend.
I try to befriend the way I feel
like the generous host
of a dangerous stranger
too cold and aloof
to introduce himself
as my shadow
my potential assassin.
I have tried to stay true to the lies
that led to the myth of my lucidity
like a mirage in a desperate desert of stars
I could drown in like an island
up to to the neck of an hourglass
in tidal waves of quicksand
laying my life down
like the foundation stone
of an inverted pyramid
that yearns for the state of mind
he enjoyed before life
more than that that won’t come after.
I have refused to put the torch out in its own reflection.
I have not tried to uproot
the beauty of the waterlilies
opening their eyes like stars
from the decay and the lies
and the scars that sustain them.
I have put to good use
the dysfunction of delusion
to make a credible raft
to get me to the other side
of this river of shadows
swollen like a flashflood
in a lunar seabed.
I have danced with ghosts
like a lonely shaman
around the unappeasable fires
of desire and death
entreating the nightsky
to rain on my flowerless roots
and sweeten the severity
of the dragon’s eyes
I have lived in such a way
to actualize the nameless reality
of a few common words
like love and understanding
I’ve kept alight like fireflies on the wind
and cherished them
as if the seeds of insight
were the perennial beginning
of enlightened orchards
that taste like the fruit of compassion.
I have lived in such a way
like a thief of keys
to relieve the locks
on the nightwatch
of their tunnel vision
that it’s not safe
to give my new address
to my old mailbox.
But even in a black out
I have not kept the light out
by plastering my windows with starmaps
or gone underground
like a blind star-nosed mole
that put its eyes out
to share something
in common with the dead
who would never have dreamed
they would all end up sleeping with their mothers.
I open them to receive the sun.
I close them to remember the stars
I’ve been dancing under
against the gathering storm
like a poor man’s chandeliers.
I have celebrated my defiance
of hitching a winged horse
to a hearse
by expressing the joy I take
in the revolutionary spontaneity
of my unself-reliance.
But of all the things
I’ve ever outgrown
like a sword from a bridge
I gave back to the sacred waters of life
the last to fall
was the ghostship in the mirage
of the image I had of me.
I poured myself out
like imaginary water
from a fountainmouth
in a real drought
to green the secret Edens
at the sacred crossroads
of the four rivers
that might come of it
as if X marked the spot
where I was standing
as the best place to start a garden
on the waterwheel of the mindstreams
that radiated out of its stillness like spokes.
Sometimes you end up stealing fire
when all along
you thought you were meant
to invent the wheel
or make up a new language
out of the echoes of dolphins
breaking into birdsong
as if they had turned in their feet
to go back to the sea
but had not forgotten
that their fins
could fly as easily
as the wings they once wore on their heels.
Many rivers flow into the one sea
and the sea returns to transcendence
back the way it came
without stepping into the same mindstream twice.
And I prefer to think
that the same thing is true of the multiverse.
Everything that shines in the night
or in the mind
down to the smallest spark of insight
locked like a firefly
in a lighthouse of ice
on the same omnidirectional course.
And true north
just the magnetic attraction
of a voodoo doll
in a haystack of needles
trying to get a bearing on things
like the right ascension
and correct declination
of a lost soul
summoned like a deranged galaxy
to the singularity
at the bottom of a blackhole
to exchange the light it goes by
by upgrading its eyesight
to search for itself in the night
on the higher frequencies
of X-ray vision
on board an experimental satellite.
And yet for all the myriad universes
that bubble up in hyperspace
like the last breath of the drowning
I have refused to live
like a diving bell in a wishing well
trying to understand
why nothing came true but the coins.
If you’ve never resolved anything in your whole life
maybe you were meant
to keep the mystery alive.
The medium is not the message
when the message is the mystery.
A meaningful medium
is nothing but meaningless words.
The sky doesn’t intend to say birds.
The water doesn’t mean fish
anymore than an infinite number of other things.
Nothing lives like a machine
for something as small as a purpose.
You don’t have to live like a lens
to keep the sun in focus.
And maybe one of the greatest blessings
of being on the nightshift
is that when the universe is out of work
it has no use for us.
We’re free to be when and whatever we want.
Or thoroughly protean.
Or nothing at all.
A full eclipse of the clock on the wall
or a chromatically aberrant nightlight
like a colour crazy star
low on the horizon of the hall.
As for me and my house
I’ve lost track of the number of times
I’ve brought my starmud to enlightenment
like a horse you can lead to water
but you can’t make drink.
The words crawl.
The words swim.
The words take to their wings
like eagles and dragonflies
and startled waterbirds.
Half a sliced pear
looks like a short-necked Spanish guitar.
Looking for the meaning of this
isn’t the same
as listening to the music.