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A man with his belly full of the classics is an enemy of the human race.

in Tropic of Cancer (1934)Report problemRelated quotes
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The big man with his rusted keys

The big man with his rusted keys,
kicks his own family in the balls,
for this is my blood,
and this is my bread,
and if you cross this line, ill make
you wish you werent born, or even
thought of.
This mistranslated love is muddled
in fatigue, and garbed in hate, and
the big man with the rusted keys,
just smiles , and spits on his own
family,
for this is my blood,
and this is my bread,
and if you cross this line, ill make
you wish you werent born, or even
thought of.
The big man with the rusted keys,
finds his family gone, and the house
in perfect shape, and a note from his
so called family, that read,
have a nice life, you mean fu ck, and
dont forget to take out the trash...and
those rusted keys, you can shove them
up your...........

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An Old Man With His Hat

There Little Robbie found him in an old yellow album
A blurred picture of a half old man with his hat
Standing in front of the coffin
He smiles shy but wide with his teeth gone making a hole like Little Robbie when he lose his baby teeth
Little Robbie doesn’t recognize him and he wonder where he is now
Maybe he is one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families
So he asks to his big sister
But his sister doesn’t recognize him and she wonder who he is
Maybe he is one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families
So he asks to his mother
But his mother doesn’t recognize him and she wonder how he was there
Maybe he is one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families
So he asks to his father
But his father doesn’t recognize him and he wonder what he did there
Maybe he is one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families
So he asks to his uncle
But his uncle doesn’t recognize him and he wonder when the picture taken
Maybe he is one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families
So he asks hopelessly to his grandfather
His grandfather takes a deep look to that picture and wonders why Little Robbie asks
Little Robbie says, “I want to meet him! I want to know about him! I want to play with him! ”
Maybe he is one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families
But his grandfather shakes his head, “No, he is not.”
He is not one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families
He is just an old man with his hat
“He accompanied your great grandfather when he sick until his death. This picture is taken in a burial of your great grandfather.”
His grandfather stares at little Robbie
“Now, are you disappointed? ”
He is not one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families
He is just an old man with his hat
Little Robbie shakes his head, “No, I am not.”
Though he is not one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families
Though he is just an old man with his hat
“But I still want to meet him, I want to know about him, and I want to play with him! ”
And then he could be one of his grandfathers, one of his great uncles, one of his old families

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An Apology on Behalf of the Human Race

As the dignity of the human spirit never waned
In the forlorn look on the Jewish face and their race
As endured thru decades of the slime of degradation
By Gestapo secret police who had no secrets of their damned intent
To build camps on foundations deep in the abyss of hell
Clogged with a dismal cast of human expiration
The devils cloud desecrates the sky of star witness
Above the dead end train stop of Auschwitz
The Fuehrer’s anti -semenistic breath bred life into his monster web
And the tribe followed.
To dwell on the horror which is well documented I decline
But

I Apologise on Behalf of the Human Race

I apologise from the bottom of my heart
I apologise for all those lies
I apologise for closed doors
I apologise for closed eyes
How on earth could the Holocaust happen?

Lest We Forget

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Disgracing the Human Race!

Their images are on monies exchanged.
Their images are on TV screens.
And magazines read...
Everywhere they are seen.
The media and entertainment industries,
They control.
Is there a sport not judged,
By rules they impose?

What jobs are not obtained,
Through nepotism whims?
And 'who' is hired last...
To fulfill a window dressing,
Just to say, 'We have some of 'them''!

And these folks try to pretend,
There is no racism felt!
Or none within them?
Known that is dealt.
Or expressed to suppress,
The happiness of someone else!

And then try to accuse others...
For racist tactics they've been known to begin!
To compare themselves,
As if they have something to prove OR win!

If truth is going to be faced...
Let's eliminate the masquerades.
And all of the charades that have taken place...
Much longer than the proclaimed decades,
This disgracing of the human race has played!

'I'm looking at the Man In the Mirror.
I'm asking him to change his ways...! '


Note:
'Man In the Mirror'
Song introduced and performed by...
Michael Joseph Jackson.
Savant

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The Human Race!

to overthrow the yoke
of oppression, we have to
first come to an honest
assessment of where we are!
not only where we are,
but how we got here...

we cannot put off the blame
on other people, governments,
or even corporations! where
we are is where we've allowed
ourselves to be!

when we sit silently by and
watch our human rights be taken;
when we allow profit at the expense
of people to become the norm....
when we allow the rape of the
environment to pad the pockets
of convenience... when we go to
war, blindly following, with our
heads stuck in the sand... we are
responsible.

apathy is the unpardonable sin!
to be free, to fully realize freedom,
we have to work at it... both as
individuals, and in community!
we are one family, often dysfunctional,
but always one family... one family,
one race, THE HUMAN RACE!

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Take the human race to new heights of sophistication

Nature blessed me with
Great many things

The one gift I rate quite high is
That
You came in my life as an offspring

You gave me
All those pleasures
Unknown to me
Prior to your arrival

Your each movement was a marvel
Your each stage of growth was a milestone
Your each progress was an ecstasy
The first clear word spelt out by you
Was no less cheering than
What all great musicians would have done
In a soothing harmony
Your first independent step
Made me feel that I landed on the moon
Your first declaration that
You felt hungry
Made me feel
That a most sensitive kid is getting groomed
On your first day in the school
I was rehearsing
To welcome a genius back home
Your first flawless recitation of a rhyme
Elated me to that high
That I was creating a great actor
When you first located the
Lost-for-long key bunch
I saw in you a world class detective

Each first of your progressive step
Made me more and more proud
And wonder more and more

You continue to remain a pride
And you will ever be my pride

Even your dismissal and disapproval of my
Age-experience-biased views
Leave me to wonder how
Smart you are proving
I get amazed at each step of yours
And you remain a pride

The one thing I would pray the almighty
Is that
Let the admiration at the progress
Of my genetic down stream
Remain ever till that time I depart
Giving way for
A better carved genetic order
To step in
And take the human race
To new heights of sophistication

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I admire the human race

i admire the human race
though god is way beyond
comprehension
beyond their time, intelligence
yet they persevere
to find him, get close to him
i admire the human race
though god is such a
hard subject to swallow
yet they persevere
trying all means to get close to him
some inspired, some misled,
some fall, some brush him aside
yet the whole human race
never gives him up
i admire the human race
who could hang on to something
they could never even see

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Let's Get Rid of the Human Race! !

Let's get rid of the Human Race!
The world would be a better place
Without it, devoid of any trace
Of the so-called 'Homo Sapiens' disgrace,

It's done a lot of harm, let's face
It! Let's get rid of people now!
I'd like to take a holy vow
To liberate the Earth at last
And make Mankind a thing of the past!

If only Nature could be free,
Unspoilt by either you or me,
Each bird, each mammal, and each tree
Unsullied by machinery.

No global warming and pollution
Changing the course of evolution,
No oil-spills to defile the sea,
That's right! No nuclear energy!

I'd like disease to win the day
And sweep the Human Race away.
Before the rivers all run dry
The Scientific Ape must die! !

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The Human Race Is Falling

the human race is falling
oh it is falling
too much lies
too much atrocities
too much propaganda
too much ignorant
why are you ignorant of the truth
oh the human race is falling
it is falling
there is no equity and justice
no free and fairness
there is no kindness
we need transparency
crying humanity
oh it is falling
too much suffering
instead of happiness
too much pain
it wickedness
instead of joy
it is shame
why not glory
feel sorry
we destroy one another
instead of helping each other
whiles i live
i saw oppression
i saw affliction
and i saw tyranny
too much hypocrisy
where is your love
oh it is falling
i saw men trying to be Superior
and powerful
but there was no savior
no one was merciful
oh the human race is falling
it is falling

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The Human Race (feat. Vern Gosdin)

we've flown to the moon but have we missed the boat along the way?
we reached for the stars but are we that far removed from the cave?
we've got radios and codaphones, computers
we found satellites in space
now everybody's talking
so tell me why we can't communicate
are we losing the human race?
do we ever really learn from our mistakes?
who's ahead, who's behind?
will there be a finish line?
are we losing the human race?
nations are starving while we pay our farmers not to grow their grain
fossil fuel is going up in smoke and coming down in acid rain
the more that we progress it seems
the farther we keep slipping down that drain
its a no-win situation
so tell me why we have to play the game
are we losing the human race?
do we ever really learn from our mistakes?
who's ahead, who's behind?
will there be a finish line?
are we losing the human race?
who's ahead, who's behind?
will there be a finish line?
are we losing the human race?

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The blind man and his dog

Excuse me, excuse me
Make way, he heard a voice say

The blind man and his dog
walked along his way
His one and only companion
for friends he had none

The blind man spoke
When I think about life
I like to slice it with a knife

We hold on to it tight
for this thing called life, right!

We battle and fight
for this thing called life, right!

behold I'm a man without sight
deprived of the colour of daylight
I have no anger, I have no right
As I live free of fright
Treasuring the fact I'm alive

I have no vision of black or white
Do not stress over my plight
I am the blind man with his dog
At night I sleep like a log
The earth is my rug
The air is my drug
with or without the nightly fog

I have a vision of beauty
of love and thruth
I have perfect immunity
of material wealth
I have appreciation
of good health

I am the blind man with his dog
I am thankful of all simple things
What joy they do bring!

Copyright 2005 - Sylvia Chidi

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The old man and his wife

The old man and his wife,
Lived at the end of the old street,
At the intersection of colour and life,
The intersection where smile and laughter would meet.

Theirs was the most lovely couplet,
And oldest indeed the street had ever know,
But their love was as new as the water droplet,
Seen at the dawn….on grass fully grown.

Often…..he would fight with her,
So that she`d get angry with him,
So that he`d get to pamper her,
And then she`d blush and smile back at him….

Everything went on fine until,
That day………when everything changed,
The day his wife went motionless and still….
The day when…….it just rained…..

From then the old man was on his own,
Trying to get in terms with the loss…
Of the most beloved…..for long he`d know,
His life had now gone for a toss….

With red and water….filled eyes…..
He keeps looking here and there,
He keeps searching for his wife…..
In vain….he finds her no where...

What……..will now suffice? ?
For the loss of his true love knot?
He keeps…..missing his wife…
His wife…..whom he loved a lot….

The slot of silence……now he has brought….
Endlessly he stands…..and weeps at her grave…
And also the next plot he has bought….
For besides her…he wishes to be laid…

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The Old Man with the Broken Arm

At Hsin-fëng—an old man—four-score and eight;
The hair on his head and the hair of his eyebrows—white as the new snow.
Leaning on the shoulders of his great-grandchildren, he walks in front of the Inn;
With his left arm he leans on their shoulders; his right arm is broken.
I asked the old man how many years had passed since he broke his arm;
I also asked the cause of the injury, how and why it happened.
The old man said he was born and reared in the District of Hsin-fëng;
At the time of his birth—a wise reign; no wars or discords.
“Often I listened in the Pear-Tree Garden to the sound of flute and song;
Naught I knew of banner and lance; nothing of arrow or bow.
Then came the wars of T’ien-pao and the great levy of men;
Of three men in each house—one man was taken.
And those to whom the lot fell, where were they taken to?
Five months’ journey, a thousand miles—away to Yiin-nan.
We heard it said that in Yiin-nan there flows the Lu River;
As the flowers fall from the pepper-trees, poisonous vapors rise.
When the great army waded across, the water seethed like a cauldron;
When barely ten had entered the water, two or three were dead.
To the north of my village, to the south of my village the sound of weeping and wailing,
Children parting from fathers and mothers; husbands parting from wives.
Everyone says that in expeditions against the Min tribes
Of a million men who are sent out, not one returns.

I, that am old, was then twenty-four;
My name and fore-name were written down in the rolls of the Board of War.
In the depth of the night not daring to let any one know
I secretly took a huge stone and dashed it against my arm.
For drawing the bow and waving the banner now wholly unfit;
I knew henceforward I should not be sent to fight in Yün-nan.
Bones broken and sinews wounded could not fail to hurt;
I was ready enough to bear pain, if only I got back home.
My arm—broken ever since; it was sixty years ago.
One limb, although destroyed—whole body safe!
But even now on winter nights when the wind and rain blow
From evening on till day’s dawn I cannot sleep for pain.
Not sleeping for pain
Is a small thing to bear,
Compared with the joy of being alive when all the rest are dead.
For otherwise, years ago, at the ford of Lu River
My body would have died and my soul hovered by the bones that no one gathered.
A ghost, I’d have wandered in Yiin-nan, always looking for home.
Over the graves of ten thousand soldiers, mournfully hovering.’’
So the old man spoke,
And I bid you listen to his words.
Have you not heard
That the Prime Minister of K’ai-yüan, Sung K’ai-fu,
Did not reward frontier exploits, lest a spirit of aggression should prevail?
And have you not heard
That the Prime Minster of T’ien-Pao, Yang Kuo-chung
Desiring to win imperial favour, started a frontier war?
But long before he could win the war, people had lost their temper;
Ask the man with thy broken arm in the village of Hsin-fëng!

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God blessed man with a gun

God blessed man with a gun
with a bullet and a yellow sun
and all seemed well:
there was abundant light
land for the people to dwell
until God brought night

God couldn't give
the ability for them to live
under the same yellow sun

Man blessed man with his gun
with a bullet and a red sun
and all seemed ill
there was abundant night
cattle for the people to kill
until no one was left to fight

God couldn't resolve
the question of how to live
under the same yellow sun

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Pocket Full Of Gold

He slipped the ring off his finger
When he walked in the room
And he found him some stranger
And promised her the moon
How many lies you must have told
You think youre a rich man
With your pocket full of gold
For another mans treasure
Youd say anything
But is one night of pleasure
Worth the trouble youll bring
Dont look so surprised
cause son I should know
I once was a rich man
With my pocket full of gold
Some night youre gonna wind up
On the wrong end of a gun
Some jealous guys gonna show up
And youll pay for what youve done
What will it say on your tombstone
Here lies a rich man
With his pocket full of gold
Yeah, here lies a rich man
With his pocket full of gold

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The Ginestra,

OR THE FLOWER OF THE WILDERNESS.


Here, on the arid ridge
Of dead Vesuvius,
Exterminator terrible,
That by no other tree or flower is cheered,
Thou scatterest thy lonely leaves around,
O fragrant flower,
With desert wastes content. Thy graceful stems
I in the solitary paths have found,
The city that surround,
That once was mistress of the world;
And of her fallen power,
They seemed with silent eloquence to speak
Unto the thoughtful wanderer.
And now again I see thee on this soil,
Of wretched, world-abandoned spots the friend,
Of ruined fortunes the companion, still.
These fields with barren ashes strown,
And lava, hardened into stone,
Beneath the pilgrim's feet, that hollow sound,
Where by their nests the serpents coiled,
Lie basking in the sun,
And where the conies timidly
To their familiar burrows run,
Were cheerful villages and towns,
With waving fields of golden grain,
And musical with lowing herds;
Were gardens, and were palaces,
That to the leisure of the rich
A grateful shelter gave;
Were famous cities, which the mountain fierce,
Forth-darting torrents from his mouth of flame,
Destroyed, with their inhabitants.
Now all around, one ruin lies,
Where thou dost dwell, O gentle flower,
And, as in pity of another's woe,
A perfume sweet thou dost exhale,
To heaven an offering,
And consolation to the desert bring.
Here let him come, who hath been used
To chant the praises of our mortal state,
And see the care,
That loving Nature of her children takes!
Here may he justly estimate
The power of mortals, whom
The cruel nurse, when least they fear,
With motion light can in a moment crush
In part, and afterwards, when in the mood,
With motion not so light, can suddenly,
And utterly annihilate.
Here, on these blighted coasts,
May he distinctly trace
'The princely progress of the human race!'

Here look, and in a mirror see thyself,
O proud and foolish age!
That turn'st thy back upon the path,
That thought revived
So clearly indicates to all,
And this, thy movement retrograde,
Dost _Progress_ call.
Thy foolish prattle all the minds,
Whose cruel fate thee for a father gave,
Besmear with flattery,
Although, among themselves, at times,
They laugh at thee.
But I will not to such low arts descend,
Though envy it would be for me,
The rest to imitate,
And, raving, wilfully,
To make my song more pleasing to thy ears:
But I will sooner far reveal,
As clearly as I can, the deep disdain
That I for thee within my bosom feel;
Although I know, oblivion
Awaits the man who holds his age in scorn:
But this misfortune, which I share with thee,
My laughter only moves.
Thou dream'st of liberty,
And yet thou wouldst anew that thought enslave,
By which alone we are redeemed, in part,
From barbarism; by which alone
True progress is obtained,
And states are guided to a nobler end.
And so the truth of our hard lot,
And of the humble place
Which Nature gave us, pleased thee not;
And like a coward, thou hast turned thy back
Upon the light, which made it evident;
Reviling him who does that light pursue,
And praising him alone
Who, in his folly, or from motives base,
Above the stars exalts the human race.

A man of poor estate, and weak of limb,
But of a generous, truthful soul,
Nor calls, nor deems himself
A Croesus, or a Hercules,
Nor makes himself ridiculous
Before the world with vain pretence
Of vigor or of opulence;
But his infirmities and needs
He lets appear, and without shame,
And speaking frankly, calls each thing
By its right name.
I deem not _him_ magnanimous,
But simply, a great fool,
Who, born to perish, reared in suffering,
Proclaims his lot a happy one,
And with offensive pride
His pages fills, exalted destinies
And joys, unknown in heaven, much less
On earth, absurdly promising to those
Who by a wave of angry sea,
Or breath of tainted air,
Or shaking of the earth beneath,
Are ruined, crushed so utterly,
As scarce to be recalled by memory.
But truly noble, wise is _he_,
Who bids his brethren boldly look
Upon our common misery;
Who frankly tells the naked truth,
Acknowledging our frail and wretched state,
And all the ills decreed to us by Fate;
Who shows himself in suffering brave and strong,
Nor adds unto his miseries
Fraternal jealousies and strifes,
The hardest things to bear of all,
Reproaching man with his own grief,
But the true culprit
Who, in our birth, a mother is,
A fierce step-mother in her will.
_Her_ he proclaims the enemy,
And thinking all the human race
Against her armed, as is the case,
E'en from the first, united and arrayed,
All men esteems confederates,
And with true love embraces all,
Prompt and efficient aid bestowing, and
Expecting it, in all the pains
And perils of the common war.
And to resent with arms all injuries,
Or snares and pit-falls for a neighbor lay,
Absurd he deems, as it would be, upon
The field, surrounded by the enemy,
The foe forgetting, bitter war
With one's own friends to wage,
And in the hottest of the fight,
With cruel and misguided sword,
One's fellow soldiers put to flight.
When truths like these are rendered clear,
As once they were, unto the multitude,
And when that fear, which from the first,
All mortals in a social band
Against inhuman Nature joined
Anew shall guided be, in part,
By knowledge true, then social intercourse,
And faith, and hope, and charity
Will a far different foundation have
From that which silly fables give,
By which supported, public truth and good
Must still proceed with an unstable foot,
As all things that in error have their root.
Oft, on these hills, so desolate,
Which by the hardened flood,
That seems in waves to rise,
Are clad in mourning, do I sit at night,
And o'er the dreary plain behold
The stars above in purest azure shine,
And in the ocean mirrored from afar,
And all the world in brilliant sparks arrayed,
Revolving through the vault serene.
And when my eyes I fasten on those lights,
Which seem to them a point,
And yet are so immense,
That earth and sea, with them compared,
Are but a point indeed;
To whom, not only man,
But this our globe, where man is nothing, is
Unknown; and when I farther gaze upon
Those clustered stars, at distance infinite,
That seem to us like mist, to whom
Not only man and earth, but all our stars
At once, so vast in numbers and in bulk,
The golden sun himself included, are
Unknown, or else appear, as they to earth,
A point of nebulous light, what, then,
Dost _thou_ unto my thought appear,
O race of men?
Remembering thy wretched state below,
Of which the soil I tread, the token bears;
And, on the other hand,
That thou thyself hast deemed
The Lord and end of all the Universe;
How oft thou hast been pleased
The idle tale to tell,
That to this little grain of sand, obscure,
The name of earth that bears,
The Authors of that Universe
Have, at thy call, descended oft,
And pleasant converse with thy children had;
And how, these foolish dreams reviving, e'en
This age its insults heaps upon the wise,
Although it seems all others to excel
In learning, and in arts polite;
What can I think of thee
Thou wretched race of men?
What thoughts discordant then my heart assail,
In doubt, if scorn or pity should prevail!

As a small apple, falling from a tree
In autumn, by the force
Of its own ripeness, to the ground,
The pleasant homes of a community
Of ants, in the soft clod
With careful labor built,
And all their works, and all the wealth,
Which the industrious citizens
Had in the summer providently stored,
Lays waste, destroys, and in an instant hides;
So, falling from on high,
To heaven forth-darted from
The mountain's groaning womb,
A dark destructive mass
Of ashes, pumice, and of stones,
With boiling streams of lava mixed,
Or, down the mountain's side
Descending, furious, o'er the grass,
A fearful flood
Of melted metals, mixed with burning sand,
Laid waste, destroyed, and in short time concealed
The cities on yon shore, washed by the sea,
Where now the goats
On this side browse, and cities new
Upon the other stand, whose foot-stools are
The buried ones, whose prostrate walls
The lofty mountain tramples under foot.
Nature no more esteems or cares for man,
Than for the ant; and if the race
Is not so oft destroyed,
The reason we may plainly see;
Because the ants more fruitful are than we.
Full eighteen hundred years have passed,
Since, by the force of fire laid waste,
These thriving cities disappeared;
And now, the husbandman,
His vineyards tending, that the arid clod,
With ashes clogged, with difficulty feeds,
Still raises a suspicious eye
Unto that fatal crest,
That, with a fierceness not to be controlled,
Still stands tremendous, threatens still
Destruction to himself, his children, and
Their little property.
And oft upon the roof
Of his small cottage, the poor man
All night lies sleepless, often springing up,
The course to watch of the dread stream of fire
That from the inexhausted womb doth pour
Along the sandy ridge,
Its lurid light reflected in the bay,
From Mergellina unto Capri's shore.
And if he sees it drawing near,
Or in his well
He hears the boiling water gurgle, wakes
His sons, in haste his wife awakes,
And, with such things as they can snatch,
Escaping, sees from far
His little nest, and the small field,
His sole resource against sharp hunger's pangs,
A prey unto the burning flood,
That crackling comes, and with its hardening crust,
Inexorable, covers all.
Unto the light of day returns,
After its long oblivion,
Pompeii, dead, an unearthed skeleton,
Which avarice or piety
Hath from its grave unto the air restored;
And from its forum desolate,
And through the formal rows
Of mutilated colonnades,
The stranger looks upon the distant, severed peaks,
And on the smoking crest,
That threatens still the ruins scattered round.
And in the horror of the secret night,
Along the empty theatres,
The broken temples, shattered houses, where
The bat her young conceals,
Like flitting torch, that smoking sheds
A gloom through the deserted halls
Of palaces, the baleful lava glides,
That through the shadows, distant, glares,
And tinges every object round.
Thus, paying unto man no heed,
Or to the ages that he calls antique,
Or to the generations as they pass,
Nature forever young remains,
Or at a pace so slow proceeds,
She stationary seems.
Empires, meanwhile, decline and fall,
And nations pass away, and languages:
She sees it not, or _will_ not see;
And yet man boasts of immortality!

And thou, submissive flower,
That with thy fragrant foliage dost adorn
These desolated plains,
Thou, too, must fall before the cruel power
Of subterranean fire,
Which, to its well-known haunts returning, will
Its fatal border spread
O'er thy soft leaves and branches fine.
And thou wilt bow thy gentle head,
Without a struggle, yielding to thy fate:
But not with vain and abject cowardice,
Wilt thy destroyer supplicate;
Nor wilt, erect with senseless haughtiness,
Look up unto the stars,
Or o'er the wilderness,
Where, not from choice, but Fortune's will,
Thy birthplace thou, and home didst find;
But wiser, far, than man,
And far less weak;
For thou didst ne'er, from Fate, or power of thine,
Immortal life for thy frail children seek.

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John Dryden

Palamon And Arcite; Or The Knight's Tale. From Chaucer. In Three Books. Book II.

While Arcite lives in bliss, the story turns
Where hopeless Palamon in prison mourns.
For six long years immured, the captive knight
Had dragged his chains, and scarcely seen the light:
Lost liberty and love at once he bore;
His prison pained him much, his passion more:
Nor dares he hope his fetters to remove,
Nor ever wishes to be free from love.
But when the sixth revolving year was run,
And May within the Twins received the sun,
Were it by Chance, or forceful Destiny,
Which forms in causes first whate'er shall be,
Assisted by a friend one moonless night,
This Palamon from prison took his flight:
A pleasant beverage he prepared before
Of wine and honey mixed, with added store
Of opium; to his keeper this he brought,
Who swallowed unaware the sleepy draught,
And snored secure till morn, his senses bound
In slumber, and in long oblivion drowned.
Short was the night, and careful Palamon
Sought the next covert ere the rising sun.
A thick-spread forest near the city lay,
To this with lengthened strides he took his way,
(For far he could not fly, and feared the day.)

Safe from pursuit, he meant to shun the light,
Till the brown shadows of the friendly night
To Thebes might favour his intended flight.
When to his country come, his next design
Was all the Theban race in arms to join,
And war on Theseus, till he lost his life,
Or won the beauteous Emily to wife.
Thus while his thoughts the lingering day beguile,
To gentle Arcite let us turn our style;
Who little dreamt how nigh he was to care,
Till treacherous fortune caught him in the snare.
The morning-lark, the messenger of day,
Saluted in her song the morning gray;
And soon the sun arose with beams so bright,
That all the horizon laughed to see the joyous sight;
He with his tepid rays the rose renews,
And licks the dropping leaves, and dries the dews;
When Arcite left his bed, resolved to pay
Observance to the month of merry May,
Forth on his fiery steed betimes he rode,
That scarcely prints the turf on which he trod:
At ease he seemed, and prancing o'er the plains,
Turned only to the grove his horse's reins,
The grove I named before, and, lighting there,
A woodbind garland sought to crown his hair;
Then turned his face against the rising day,
And raised his voice to welcome in the May:
“For thee, sweet month, the groves green liveries wear,
If not the first, the fairest of the year:
For thee the Graces lead the dancing hours,
And Nature's ready pencil paints the flowers:
When thy short reign is past, the feverish sun
The sultry tropic fears, and moves more slowly on.
So may thy tender blossoms fear no blight,
Nor goats with venomed teeth thy tendrils bite,
As thou shalt guide my wandering feet to find
The fragrant greens I seek, my brows to bind.”
His vows addressed, within the grove he strayed,
Till Fate or Fortune near the place conveyed
His steps where secret Palamon was laid.
Full little thought of him the gentle knight,
Who flying death had there concealed his flight,
In brakes and brambles hid, and shunning mortal sight;
And less he knew him for his hated foe,
But feared him as a man he did not know.
But as it has been said of ancient years,
That fields are full of eyes and woods have ears,
For this the wise are ever on their guard,
For unforeseen, they say, is unprepared.
Uncautious Arcite thought himself alone,
And less than all suspected Palamon,
Who, listening, heard him, while he searched the grove,
And loudly sung his roundelay of love:
But on the sudden stopped, and silent stood,
(As lovers often muse, and change their mood
Now high as heaven, and then as low as hell,
Now up, now down, as buckets in a well:
For Venus, like her day, will change her cheer,
And seldom shall we see a Friday clear.
Thus Arcite, having sung, with altered hue
Sunk on the ground, and from his bosom drew
A desperate sigh, accusing Heaven and Fate,
And angry Juno's unrelenting hate:
“Cursed be the day when first I did appear;
Let it be blotted from the calendar,
Lest it pollute the month, and poison all the year.
Still will the jealous Queen pursue our race?
Cadmus is dead, the Theban city was:
Yet ceases not her hate; for all who come
From Cadmus are involved in Cadmus' doom.
I suffer for my blood: unjust decree,
That punishes another's crime on me.
In mean estate I serve my mortal foe,
The man who caused my country's overthrow.
This is not all; for Juno, to my shame,
Has forced me to forsake my former name;
Arcite I was, Philostratus I am.
That side of heaven is all my enemy:
Mars ruined Thebes; his mother ruined me.
Of all the royal race remains but one
Besides myself, the unhappy Palamon,
Whom Theseus holds in bonds and will not free;
Without a crime, except his kin to me.
Yet these and all the rest I could endure;
But love's a malady without a cure:
Fierce Love has pierced me with his fiery dart,
He fires within, and hisses at my heart.
Your eyes, fair Emily, my fate pursue;
I suffer for the rest, I die for you.
Of such a goddess no time leaves record,
Who burned the temple where she was adored:
And let it burn, I never will complain,
Pleased with my sufferings, if you knew my pain.”
At this a sickly qualm his heart assailed,
His ears ring inward, and his senses failed.
No word missed Palamon of all he spoke;
But soon to deadly pale he changed his look:
He trembled every limb, and felt a smart,
As if cold steel had glided through his heart;
Nor longer stayed, but starting from his place,
Discovered stood, and showed his hostile face:
“False traitor, Arcite, traitor to thy blood,
Bound by thy sacred oath to seek my good,
Now art thou found forsworn for Emily,
And darest attempt her love, for whom I die.
So hast thou cheated Theseus with a wile,
Against thy vow, returning to beguile
Under a borrowed name: as false to me,
So false thou art to him who set thee free.
But rest assured, that either thou shalt die,
Or else renounce thy claim in Emily;
For, though unarmed I am, and freed by chance,
Am here without my sword or pointed lance,
Hope not, base man, unquestioned hence to go,
For I am Palamon, thy mortal foe.”
Arcite, who heard his tale and knew the man,
His sword unsheathed, and fiercely thus began:
“Now, by the gods who govern heaven above,
Wert thou not weak with hunger, mad with love,
That word had been thy last; or in this grove
This hand should force thee to renounce thy love;
The surety which I gave thee I defy:
Fool, not to know that love endures no tie,
And Jove but laughs at lovers' perjury.
Know, I will serve the fair in thy despite:
But since thou art my kinsman and a knight,
Here, have my faith, to-morrow in this grove
Our arms shall plead the titles of our love:
And Heaven so help my right, as I alone
Will come, and keep the cause and quarrel both unknown,
With arms of proof both for myself and thee;
Choose thou the best, and leave the worst to me.
And, that at better ease thou mayest abide,
Bedding and clothes I will this night provide,
And needful sustenance, that thou mayest be
A conquest better won, and worthy me.”

His promise Palamon accepts; but prayed,
To keep it better than the first he made.
Thus fair they parted till the morrow's dawn;
For each had laid his plighted faith to pawn;
Oh Love! thou sternly dost thy power maintain,
And wilt not bear a rival in thy reign!
Tyrants and thou all fellowship disdain.
This was in Arcite proved and Palamon:
Both in despair, yet each would love alone.
Arcite returned, and, as in honour tied,
His foe with bedding and with food supplied;
Then, ere the day, two suits of armour sought,
Which borne before him on his steed he brought:
Both were of shining steel, and wrought so pure
As might the strokes of two such arms endure.
Now, at the time, and in the appointed place,
The challenger and challenged, face to face,
Approach; each other from afar they knew,
And from afar their hatred changed their hue.
So stands the Thracian herdsman with his spear,
Full in the gap, and hopes the hunted bear,
And hears him rustling in the wood, and sees
His course at distance by the bending trees:
And thinks, Here comes my mortal enemy,
And either he must fall in fight, or I:
This while he thinks, he lifts aloft his dart;
A generous chillness seizes every part,
The veins pour back the blood, and fortify the heart.

Thus pale they meet; their eyes with fury burn;
None greets, for none the greeting will return;
But in dumb surliness each armed with care
His foe professed, as brother of the war;
Then both, no moment lost, at once advance
Against each other, armed with sword and lance:
They lash, they foin, they pass, they strive to bore
Their corslets, and the thinnest parts explore.
Thus two long hours in equal arms they stood,
And wounded wound, till both are bathed in blood
And not a foot of ground had either got,
As if the world depended on the spot.
Fell Arcite like an angry tiger fared,
And like a lion Palamon appeared:
Or, as two boars whom love to battle draws,
With rising bristles and with frothy jaws,
Their adverse breasts with tusks oblique they wound
With grunts and groans the forest rings around.
So fought the knights, and fighting must abide,
Till Fate an umpire sends their difference to decide.
The power that ministers to God's decrees,
And executes on earth what Heaven foresees,
Called Providence, or Chance, or Fatal sway,
Comes with resistless force, and finds or makes her way.
Nor kings, nor nations, nor united power
One moment can retard the appointed hour,
And some one day, some wondrous chance appears,
Which happened not in centuries of years:
For sure, whate'er we mortals hate or love
Or hope or fear depends on powers above:
They move our appetites to good or ill,
And by foresight necessitate the will.
In Theseus this appears, whose youthful joy
Was beasts of chase in forests to destroy;
This gentle knight, inspired by jolly May,
Forsook his easy couch at early day,
And to the wood and wilds pursued his way.
Beside him rode Hippolita the queen,
And Emily attired in lively green,
With horns and hounds and all the tuneful cry,
To hunt a royal hart within the covert nigh:
And, as he followed Mars before, so now
He serves the goddess of the silver bow.
The way that Theseus took was to the wood,
Where the two knights in cruel battle stood:
The laund on which they fought, the appointed place
In which the uncoupled hounds began the chase.
Thither forth-right he rode to rouse the prey,
That shaded by the fern in harbour lay;
And thence dislodged, was wont to leave the wood
For open fields, and cross the crystal flood.
Approached, and looking underneath the sun,
He saw proud Arcite and fierce Palamon,
In mortal battle doubling blow on blow;
Like lightning flamed their fauchions to and fro,
And shot a dreadful gleam; so strong they strook,
There seemed less force required to fell an oak.
He gazed with wonder on their equal might,
Looked eager on, but knew not either knight.
Resolved to learn, he spurred his fiery steed
With goring rowels to provoke his speed.
The minute ended that began the race,
So soon he was betwixt them on the place;
And with his sword unsheathed, on pain of life
Commands both combatants to cease their strife;
Then with imperious tone pursues his threat:
“What are you? why in arms together met?
How dares your pride presume against my laws,
As in a listed field to fight your cause,
Unasked the royal grant; no marshal by,
As knightly rites require, nor judge to try?”
Then Palamon, with scarce recovered breath,
Thus hasty spoke: “We both deserve the death,
And both would die; for look the world around,
And pity soonest runs in gentle minds;
Then reasons with himself; and first he finds
His passion cast a mist before his sense,
And either made or magnified the offence.
Offence? Of what? To whom? Who judged the cause?
The prisoner freed himself by Nature's laws;
Born free, he sought his right; the man he freed
Was perjured, but his love excused the deed:
Thus pondering, he looked under with his eyes,
And saw the women's tears, and heard their cries,
Which moved compassion more; he shook his head,
And softly sighing to himself he said:

Curse on the unpardoning prince, whom tears can draw
“To no remorse, who rules by lion's law;
And deaf to prayers, by no submission bowed,
Rends all alike, the penitent and proud!”
At this with look serene he raised his head;
Reason resumed her place, and passion fled:
Then thus aloud he spoke:—” The power of Love,
“In earth, and seas, and air, and heaven above,
Rules, unresisted, with an awful nod,
By daily miracles declared a god;
He blinds the wise, gives eye-sight to the blind;
And moulds and stamps anew the lover's mind.
Behold that Arcite, and this Palamon,
Freed from my fetters, and in safety gone,
What hindered either in their native soil
At ease to reap the harvest of their toil?
But Love, their lord, did otherwise ordain,
And brought them, in their own despite again,
To suffer death deserved; for well they know
'Tis in my power, and I their deadly foe.
The proverb holds, that to be wise and love,
Is hardly granted to the gods above.
See how the madmen bleed! behold the gains
With which their master, Love, rewards their pains!
For seven long years, on duty every day,
Lo! their obedience, and their monarch's pay!
Yet, as in duty bound, they serve him on;
And ask the fools, they think it wisely done;
Nor ease nor wealth nor life it self regard,
For 'tis their maxim, love is love's reward.
This is not all; the fair, for whom they strove,
Nor knew before, nor could suspect their love,
Nor thought, when she beheld the fight from far,
Her beauty was the occasion of the war.
But sure a general doom on man is past,
And all are fools and lovers, first or last:
This both by others and my self I know,
For I have served their sovereign long ago;
Oft have been caught within the winding train
Of female snares, and felt the lover's pain,
And learned how far the god can human hearts constrain.
To this remembrance, and the prayers of those
Who for the offending warriors interpose,
I give their forfeit lives, on this accord,
To do me homage as their sovereign lord;
And as my vassals, to their utmost might,
Assist my person and assert my right.”
This freely sworn, the knights their grace obtained;
Then thus the King his secret thought explained:
“If wealth or honour or a royal race,
Or each or all, may win a lady's grace,
Then either of you knights may well deserve
A princess born; and such is she you serve:
For Emily is sister to the crown,
And but too well to both her beauty known:
But should you combat till you both were dead,
Two lovers cannot share a single bed
As, therefore, both are equal in degree,
The lot of both be left to destiny.
Now hear the award, and happy may it prove
To her, and him who best deserves her love.
Depart from hence in peace, and free as air,
Search the wide world, and where you please repair;
But on the day when this returning sun
To the same point through every sign has run,
Then each of you his hundred knights shall bring
In royal lists, to fight before the king;
And then the knight, whom Fate or happy Chance
Shall with his friends to victory advance,
And grace his arms so far in equal fight,
From out the bars to force his opposite,
Or kill, or make him recreant on the plain,
The prize of valour and of love shall gain;
The vanquished party shall their claim release,
And the long jars conclude in lasting peace.
The charge be mine to adorn the chosen ground,
The theatre of war, for champions so renowned;
And take the patron's place of either knight,
With eyes impartial to behold the fight;
And Heaven of me so judge as I shall judge aright.
If both are satisfied with this accord,
Swear by the laws of knighthood on my sword.”

Who now but Palamon exults with joy?
And ravished Arcite seems to touch the sky.
The whole assembled troop was pleased as well,
Extolled the award, and on their knees they fell
To bless the gracious King. The knights, with leave
Departing from the place, his last commands receive;
On Emily with equal ardour look,
And from her eyes their inspiration took:
From thence to Thebes' old walls pursue their way,
Each to provide his champions for the day.

It might be deemed, on our historian's part,
Or too much negligence or want of art,
If he forgot the vast magnificence
Of royal Theseus, and his large expense.
He first enclosed for lists a level ground,
The whole circumference a mile around;
The form was circular; and all without
A trench was sunk, to moat the place about.
Within, an amphitheatre appeared,
Raised in degrees, to sixty paces reared:
That when a man was placed in one degree,
Height was allowed for him above to see.

Eastward was built a gate of marble white;
The like adorned the western opposite.
A nobler object than this fabric was
Rome never saw, nor of so vast a space:
For, rich with spoils of many a conquered land,
All arts and artists Theseus could command,
Who sold for hire, or wrought for better fame;
The master-painters and the carvers came.
So rose within the compass of the year
An age's work, a glorious theatre.
Then o'er its eastern gate was raised above
A temple, sacred to the Queen of Love;
An altar stood below; on either hand
A priest with roses crowned, who held a myrtle wand.

The dome of Mars was on the gate opposed,
And on the north a turret was enclosed
Within the wall of alabaster white
And crimson coral, for the Queen of Night,
Who takes in sylvan sports her chaste delight.

Within those oratories might you see
Rich carvings, portraitures, and imagery;
Where every figure to the life expressed
The godhead's power to whom it was addressed.
In Venus' temple on the sides were seen
The broken slumbers of enamoured men;
Prayers that even spoke, and pity seemed to call,
And issuing sighs that smoked along the wall;
Complaints and hot desires, the lover's hell,
And scalding tears that wore a channel where they fell;
And all around were nuptial bonds, the ties
Of love's assurance, and a train of lies,
That, made in lust, conclude in perjuries;
Beauty, and Youth, and Wealth, and Luxury,
And sprightly Hope and short-enduring Joy,
And Sorceries, to raise the infernal powers,
And Sigils framed in planetary hours;
Expense, and After-thought, and idle Care,
And Doubts of motley hue, and dark Despair;
Suspicions and fantastical Surmise,
And Jealousy suffused, with jaundice in her eyes,
Discolouring all she viewed, in tawny dressed,
Down-looked, and with a cuckow on her fist.
Opposed to her, on the other side advance
The costly feast, the carol, and the dance,
Minstrels and music, poetry and play,
And balls by night, and turnaments by day.
All these were painted on the wall, and more;
With acts and monuments of times before;
And others added by prophetic doom,
And lovers yet unborn, and loves to come:
For there the Idalian mount, and Citheron,
The court of Venus, was in colours drawn;
Before the palace gate, in careless dress
And loose array, sat portress Idleness;
There by the fount Narcissus pined alone;
There Samson was; with wiser Solomon,
And all the mighty names by love undone.
Medea's charms were there; Circean feasts,
With bowls that turned enamoured youths to beasts.
Here might be seen, that beauty, wealth, and wit,
And prowess to the power of love submit;
The spreading snare for all mankind is laid,
And lovers all betray, and are betrayed.
The Goddess' self some noble hand had wrought;
Smiling she seemed, and full of pleasing thought;
From ocean as she first began to rise,
And smoothed the ruffled seas, and cleared the skies,
She trod the brine, all bare below the breast,
And the green waves but ill-concealed the rest:
A lute she held; and on her head was seen
A wreath of roses red and myrtles green;
Her turtles fanned the buxom air above;
And by his mother stood an infant Love,
With wings unfledged; his eyes were banded o'er,
His hands a bow, his back, a quiver bore,
Supplied with arrows bright and keen, a deadly store.

But in the dome of mighty Mars the red
With different figures all the sides were spread;
This temple, less in form, with equal grace,
Was imitative of the first in Thrace;
For that cold region was the loved abode
And sovereign mansion of the warrior god.
The landscape was a forest wide and bare,
Where neither beast nor human kind repair,
The fowl that scent afar the borders fly,
And shun the bitter blast, and wheel about the sky.
A cake of scurf lies baking on the ground,
And prickly stubs, instead of trees, are found;
Or woods with knots and knares deformed and old,
Headless the most, and hideous to behold;
A rattling tempest through the branches went,
That stripped them bare, and one sole way they bent.
Heaven froze above severe, the clouds congeal,
And through the crystal vault appeared the standing hail.
Such was the face without: a mountain stood
Threatening from high, and overlooked the wood:
Beneath the lowering brow, and on a bent,
The temple stood of Mars armipotent;
The frame of burnished steel, that cast a glare
From far, and seemed to thaw the freezing air.
A straight long entry to the temple led,
Blind with high walls, and horror over head;
Thence issued such a blast, and hollow roar,
As threatened from the hinge to heave the door;
In through that door a northern light there shone;
'Twas all it had, for windows there were none.
The gate was adamant; eternal frame,
Which, hewed by Mars himself, from Indian quarries came,
The labour of a God; and all along
Tough iron plates were clenched to make it strong.
A tun about was every pillar there;
A polished mirror shone not half so clear.
There saw I how the secret felon wrought,
And treason labouring in the traitor's thought,
And midwife Time the ripened plot to murder brought.
There the red Anger dared the pallid Fear;
Next stood Hypocrisy, with holy leer,
Soft, smiling, and demurely looking down,
But hid the dagger underneath the gown;
The assassinating wife, the household fiend;
And far the blackest there, the traitor-friend.
On the other side there stood Destruction bare,
Unpunished Rapine, and a waste of war;
Contest with sharpened knives in cloisters drawn,
And all with blood bespread the holy lawn.
Loud menaces were heard, and foul disgrace,
And bawling infamy, in language base;
Till sense was lost in sound, and silence fled the place.
The slayer of himself yet saw I there,
The gore congealed was clotted in his hair;
With eyes half closed and gaping mouth he lay,
And grim as when he breathed his sullen soul away.
In midst of all the dome, Misfortune sate,
And gloomy Discontent, and fell Debate,
And Madness laughing in his ireful mood;
And armed Complaint on theft; and cries of blood.
There was the murdered corps, in covert laid,
And violent death in thousand shapes displayed:
The city to the soldier's rage resigned;
Successless wars, and poverty behind:
Ships burnt in fight, or forced on rocky shores,
And the rash hunter strangled by the boars:
The new-born babe by nurses overlaid;
And the cook caught within the raging fire he made.
All ills of Mars' his nature, flame and steel;
The gasping charioteer beneath the wheel
Of his own car; the ruined house that falls
And intercepts her lord betwixt the walls:
The whole division that to Mars pertains,
All trades of death that deal in steel for gains
Were there: the butcher, armourer, and smith,
Who forges sharpened fauchions, or the scythe.
The scarlet conquest on a tower was placed,
With shouts and soldiers' acclamations graced:
A pointed sword hung threatening o'er his head,
Sustained but by a slender twine of thread.
There saw I Mars his ides, the Capitol,
The seer in vain foretelling Caesar's fall;
The last Triumvirs, and the wars they move,
And Antony, who lost the world for love.
These, and a thousand more, the fane adorn;
Their fates were painted ere the men were born,
All copied from the heavens, and ruling force
Of the red star, in his revolving course.
The form of Mars high on a chariot stood,
All sheathed in arms, and gruffly looked the god;
Two geomantic figures were displayed
Above his head, a warrior and a maid,
One when direct, and one when retrograde.

Tired with deformities of death, I haste
To the third temple of Diana chaste.
A sylvan scene with various greens was drawn,
Shades on the sides, and on the midst a lawn;
The silver Cynthia, with her nymphs around,
Pursued the flying deer, the woods with horns resound:
Calisto there stood manifest of shame,
And, turned a bear, the northern star became:
Her son was next, and, by peculiar grace,
In the cold circle held the second place;
The stag Actson in the stream had spied
The naked huntress, and for seeing died;
His hounds, unknowing of his change, pursue
The chase, and their mistaken master slew.
Peneian Daphne too, was there to see,
Apollo's love before, and now his tree.
The adjoining fane the assembled Greeks expressed,
And hunting of the Calydonian beast.
OEnides' valour, and his envied prize;
The fatal power of Atalanta's eyes;
Diana's vengeance on the victor shown,
The murderess mother, and consuming son;
The Volscian queen extended on the plain,
The treason punished, and the traitor slain.
The rest were various huntings, well designed,
And savage beasts destroyed, of every kind.
The graceful goddess was arrayed in green;
About her feet were little beagles seen,
That watched with upward eyes the motions of their Queen.
Her legs were buskined, and the left before,
In act to shoot; a silver bow she bore,
And at her back a painted quiver wore.
She trod a wexing moon, that soon would wane,
And, drinking borrowed light, be filled again;
With downcast eyes, as seeming to survey
The dark dominions, her alternate sway.
Before her stood a woman in her throes,
And called Lucina's aid, her burden to disclose.
All these the painter drew with such command,
That Nature snatched the pencil from his hand,
Ashamed and angry that his art could feign,
And mend the tortures of a mother's pain.
Theseus beheld the fanes of every god,
And thought his mighty cost was well bestowed.
So princes now their poets should regard;
But few can write, and fewer can reward.

The theatre thus raised, the lists enclosed,
And all with vast magnificence disposed,
We leave the monarch pleased, and haste to bring
The knights to combat, and their arms to sing.

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Man With A Hat

early night
man with a buri hat
by the sea
boating whistling

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Second Book

TIMES followed one another. Came a morn
I stood upon the brink of twenty years,
And looked before and after, as I stood
Woman and artist,–either incomplete,
Both credulous of completion. There I held
The whole creation in my little cup,
And smiled with thirsty lips before I drank,
'Good health to you and me, sweet neighbour mine
And all these peoples.'
I was glad, that day;
The June was in me, with its multitudes
Of nightingales all singing in the dark,
And rosebuds reddening where the calyx split.
I felt so young, so strong, so sure of God!
So glad, I could not choose be very wise!
And, old at twenty, was inclined to pull
My childhood backward in a childish jest
To see the face of't once more, and farewell!
In which fantastic mood I bounded forth
At early morning,–would not wait so long
As even to snatch my bonnet by the strings,
But, brushing a green trail across the lawn
With my gown in the dew, took will and way
Among the acacias of the shrubberies,
To fly my fancies in the open air
And keep my birthday, till my aunt awoke
To stop good dreams. Meanwhile I murmured on,
As honeyed bees keep humming to themselves;
'The worthiest poets have remained uncrowned
Till death has bleached their foreheads to the bone,
And so with me it must be, unless I prove
Unworthy of the grand adversity,–
And certainly I would not fail so much.
What, therefore, if I crown myself to-day
In sport, not pride, to learn the feel of it,
Before my brows be numb as Dante's own
To all the tender pricking of such leaves?
Such leaves? what leaves?'
I pulled the branches down,
To choose from.
'Not the bay! I choose no bay;
The fates deny us if we are overbold:
Nor myrtle–which means chiefly love; and love
Is something awful which one dare not touch
So early o' mornings. This verbena strains
The point of passionate fragrance; and hard by,
This guelder rose, at far too slight a beck
Of the wind, will toss about her flower-apples.
Ah–there's my choice,–that ivy on the wall,
That headlong ivy! not a leaf will grow
But thinking of a wreath. Large leaves, smooth leaves,
Serrated like my vines, and half as green.
I like such ivy; bold to leap a height
'Twas strong to climb! as good to grow on graves
As twist about a thyrsus; pretty too,
(And that's not ill) when twisted round a comb.'
Thus speaking to myself, half singing it,
Because some thoughts are fashioned like a bell
To ring with once being touched, I drew a wreath
Drenched, blinding me with dew, across my brow,
And fastening it behind so, . . turning faced
. . My public!–Cousin Romney–with a mouth
Twice graver than his eyes.
I stood there fixed–
My arms up, like the caryatid, sole
Of some abolished temple, helplessly
Persistent in a gesture which derides
A former purpose. Yet my blush was flame,
As if from flax, not stone.
'Aurora Leigh,
The earliest of Aurora's!'
Hand stretched out
I clasped, as shipwrecked men will clasp a hand,
Indifferent to the sort of palm. The tide
Had caught me at my pastime, writing down
My foolish name too near upon the sea
Which drowned me with a blush as foolish. 'You,
My cousin!'
The smile died out in his eyes
And dropped upon his lips, a cold dead weight,
For just a moment . . 'Here's a book, I found!
No name writ on it–poems, by the form;
Some Greek upon the margin,–lady's Greek,
Without the accents. Read it? Not a word.
I saw at once the thing had witchcraft in't,
Whereof the reading calls up dangerous spirits;
I rather bring it to the witch.'
'My book!
You found it.' . .
'In the hollow by the stream,
That beach leans down into–of which you said,
The Oread in it has a Naiad's heart
And pines for waters.'
'Thank you.'
'Rather you,
My cousin! that I have seen you not too much
A witch, a poet, scholar, and the rest,
To be a woman also.'
With a glance
The smile rose in his eyes again, and touched
The ivy on my forehead, light as air.
I answered gravely, 'Poets needs must be
Or men or women–more's the pity.'
'Ah,
But men, and still less women, happily,
Scarce need be poets. Keep to the green wreath,
Since even dreaming of the stone and bronze
Brings headaches, pretty cousin, and defiles
The clean white morning dresses.'
'So you judge!
Because I love the beautiful, I must
Love pleasure chiefly, and be overcharged
For ease and whiteness! Well–you know the world.
And only miss your cousin; 'tis not much!–
But learn this: I would rather take my part
With God's Dead, who afford to walk in white
Yet spread His glory, than keep quiet here,
And gather up my feet from even a step,
For fear to soil my gown in so much dust.
I choose to walk at all risks.–Here, if heads
That hold a rhythmic thought, must ache perforce,
For my part, I choose headaches,–and to-day's
My birthday.'
'Dear Aurora, choose instead
To cure such. You have balsams.'
'I perceive!–
The headache is too noble for my sex.
You think the heartache would sound decenter,
Since that's the woman's special, proper ache,
And altogether tolerable, except
To a woman.'
Saying which, I loosed my wreath.
And, swinging it beside me as I walked,
Half petulant, half playful, as we walked,
I sent a sidelong look to find his thought,–
As falcon set on falconer's finger may,
With sidelong head, and startled, braving eye,
Which means, 'You'll see–you'll see! I'll soon take flight–
You shall not hinder.' He, as shaking out
His hand and answering 'Fly then,' did not speak,
Except by such a gesture. Silently
We paced, until, just coming into sight
Of the house-windows, he abruptly caught
At one end of the swinging wreath, and said
'Aurora!' There I stopped short, breath and all.

'Aurora, let's be serious, and throw by
This game of head and heart. Life means, be sure,
Both heart and head,–both active, both complete,
And both in earnest. Men and women make
The world, as head and heart make human life.
Work man, work woman, since there's work to do
In this beleaguered earth, for head and heart,
And thought can never do the work of love!
But work for ends, I mean for uses; not
For such sleek fringes (do you call them ends?
Still less God's glory) as we sew ourselves
Upon the velvet of those baldaquins
Held 'twixt us and the sun. That book of yours,
I have not read a page of; but I toss
A rose up–it falls calyx down, you see! . .
The chances are that, being a woman, young,
And pure, with such a pair of large, calm eyes, . .
You write as well . . and ill . . upon the whole,
As other women. If as well, what then?
If even a little better, . . still what then?
We want the Best in art now, or no art.
The time is done for facile settings up
Of minnow gods, nymphs here, and tritons there;
The polytheists have gone out in God,
That unity of Bests. No best, no God!–
And so with art, we say. Give art's divine,
Direct, indubitable, real as grief,–
Or leave us to the grief we grow ourselves
Divine by overcoming with mere hope
And most prosaic patience. You, you are young
As Eve with nature's daybreak on her face;
But this same world you are come to, dearest coz,
Has done with keeping birthdays, saves her wreaths
To hang upon her ruins,–and forgets
To rhyme the cry with which she still beats back
Those savage, hungry dogs that hunt her down
To the empty grave of Christ. The world's hard pressed;
The sweat of labour in the early curse
Has (turning acrid in six thousand years)
Become the sweat of torture. Who has time,
An hour's time . . think! . . to sit upon a bank
And hear the cymbal tinkle in white hands!
When Egypt's slain, I say, let Miriam sing!–
Before . . where's Moses?'
'Ah–exactly that
Where's Moses?–is a Moses to be found?–
You'll sink him vainly in the bulrushes,
While I in vain touch cymbals. Yet, concede,
Such sounding brass has done some actual good,
(The application in a woman's hand,
If that were credible, being scarcely spoilt,)
In colonising beehives.'
'There it is!–
You play beside a death-bed like a child,
Yet measure to yourself a prophet's place
To teach the living. None of all these things,
Can women understand. You generalise,
Oh, nothing!–not even grief! Your quick-breathed hearts,
So sympathetic to the personal pang,
Close on each separate knife-stroke, yielding up
A whole life at each wound; incapable
Of deepening, widening a large lap of life
To hold the world-full woe. The human race
To you means, such a child, or such a man,
You saw one morning waiting in the cold,
Beside that gate, perhaps. You gather up
A few such cases, and, when strong, sometimes
Will write of factories and of slaves, as if
Your father were a negro, and your son
A spinner in the mills. All's yours and you,–
All, coloured with your blood, or otherwise
Just nothing to you. Why, I call you hard
To general suffering. Here's the world half blind
With intellectual light, half brutalised
With civilization, having caught the plague
In silks from Tarsus, shrieking east and west
Along a thousand railroads, mad with pain
And sin too! . . does one woman of you all,
(You who weep easily) grow pale to see
This tiger shake his cage?–does one of you
Stand still from dancing, stop from stringing pearls
And pine and die, because of the great sum
Of universal anguish?–Show me a tear
Wet as Cordelia's, in eyes bright as yours,
Because the world is mad? You cannot count,
That you should weep for this account, not you!
You weep for what you know. A red-haired child
Sick in a fever, if you touch him once,
Though but so little as with a finger-tip,
Will set you weeping! but a million sick . .
You could as soon weep for the rule of three,
Or compound fractions. Therefore, this same world
Uncomprehended by you must remain
Uninfluenced by you. Women as you are,
Mere women, personal and passionate,
You give us doating mothers, and chaste wives.
Sublime Madonnas, and enduring saints!
We get no Christ from you,–and verily
We shall not get a poet, in my mind.'

'With which conclusion you conclude' . .
'But this–
That you, Aurora, with the large live brow
And steady eyelids, cannot condescend
To play at art, as children play at swords,
To show a pretty spirit, chiefly admired
Because true action is impossible.
You never can be satisfied with praise
Which men give women when they judge a book
Not as mere work, but as mere woman's work,
Expressing the comparative respect
Which means the absolute scorn. 'Oh, excellent!
'What grace! what facile turns! what fluent sweeps!
'What delicate discernment . . almost thought!
'The book does honour to the sex, we hold.
'Among our female authors we make room
'For this fair writer, and congratulate
'The country that produces in these times
'Such women, competent to . . spell.
'Stop there!'
I answered–burning through his thread of talk
With a quick flame of emotion,–'You have read
My soul, if not my book, and argue well
I would not condescend . . we will not say
To such a kind of praise, (a worthless end
Is praise of all kinds) but to such a use
Of holy art and golden life. I am young,
And peradventure weak–you tell me so–
Through being a woman. And, for all the rest,
Take thanks for justice. I would rather dance
At fairs on tight-rope, till the babies dropped
Their gingerbread for joy,–than shift the types
For tolerable verse, intolerable
To men who act and suffer. Better far,
Pursue a frivolous trade by serious means,
Than a sublime art frivolously.'
'You,
Choose nobler work than either, O moist eyes,
And hurrying lips, and heaving heart! We are young
Aurora, you and I. The world . . look round . .
The world, we're come to late, is swollen hard
With perished generations and their sins:
The civiliser's spade grinds horribly
On dead men's bones, and cannot turn up soil
That's otherwise than fetid. All success
Proves partial failure; all advance implies
What's left behind; all triumph, something crushed
At the chariot-wheels; all government, some wrong:
And rich men make the poor, who curse the rich,
Who agonise together, rich and poor,
Under and over, in the social spasm
And crisis of the ages. Here's an age,
That makes its own vocation! here, we have stepped
Across the bounds of time! here's nought to see,
But just the rich man and just Lazarus,
And both in torments; with a mediate gulph,
Though not a hint of Abraham's bosom. Who,
Being man and human, can stand calmly by
And view these things, and never tease his soul
For some great cure? No physic for this grief,
In all the earth and heavens too?'
'You believe
In God, for your part?–ay? That He who makes,
Can make good things from ill things, best from worst,
As men plant tulips upon dunghills when
They wish them finest?'
'True. A death-heat is
The same as life-heat, to be accurate;
And in all nature is no death at all,
As men account of death, as long as God
Stands witnessing for life perpetually,'
By being just God. That's abstract truth, I know,
Philosophy, or sympathy with God:
But I, I sympathise with man, not God,
I think I was a man for chiefly this;
And when I stand beside a dying bed,
It's death to me. Observe,–it had not much
Consoled the race of mastodons to know
Before they went to fossil, that anon
Their place should quicken with the elephant
They were not elephants but mastodons:
And I, a man, as men are now, and not
As men may be hereafter, feel with men
In the agonising present.'
'Is it so,'
I said, 'my cousin? is the world so bad,
While I hear nothing of it through the trees?
The world was always evil,–but so bad?'

'So bad, Aurora. Dear, my soul is grey
With poring over the long sum of ill;
So much for vice, so much for discontent,
So much for the necessities of power,
So much for the connivances of fear,–
Coherent in statistical despairs
With such a total of distracted life, . .
To see it down in figures on a page,
Plain, silent, clear . . as God sees through the earth
The sense of all the graves! . . . that's terrible
For one who is not God, and cannot right
The wrong he looks on. May I choose indeed
But vow away my years, my means, my aims,
Among the helpers, if there's any help
In such a social strait? The common blood
That swings along my veins, is strong enough
To draw me to this duty.'
Then I spoke.
'I have not stood long on the strand of life,
And these salt waters have had scarcely time
To creep so high up as to wet my feet.
I cannot judge these tides–I shall, perhaps.
A woman's always younger than a man
At equal years, because she is disallowed
Maturing by the outdoor sun and air,
And kept in long-clothes past the age to walk.
Ah well, I know you men judge otherwise!
You think a woman ripens as a peach,–
In the cheeks, chiefly. Pass it to me now;
I'm young in age, and younger still, I think,
As a woman. But a child may say amen
To a bishop's prayer and see the way it goes;
And I, incapable to loose the knot
Of social questions, can approve, applaud
August compassion, christian thoughts that shoot
Beyond the vulgar white of personal aims.
Accept my reverence.'
There he glowed on me
With all his face and eyes. 'No other help?'
Said he–'no more than so?'
'What help?' I asked.
'You'd scorn my help,–as Nature's self, you say,
Has scorned to put her music in my mouth,
Because a woman's. Do you now turn round
And ask for what a woman cannot give?'

'For what she only can, I turn and ask,'
He answered, catching up my hands in his,
And dropping on me from his high-eaved brow
The full weight of his soul,–'I ask for love,
And that, she can; for life in fellowship
Through bitter duties–that, I know she can;
For wifehood . . will she?'
'Now,' I said, 'may God
Be witness 'twixt us two!' and with the word,
Meseemed I floated into a sudden light
Above his stature,–'am I proved too weak
To stand alone, yet strong enough to bear
Such leaners on my shoulder? poor to think,
Yet rich enough to sympathise with thought?
Incompetent to sing, as blackbirds can,
Yet competent to love, like HIM?'
I paused:
Perhaps I darkened, as the lighthouse will
That turns upon the sea. 'It's always so!
Anything does for a wife.'
'Aurora, dear,
And dearly honoured' . . he pressed in at once
With eager utterance,–'you translate me ill.
I do not contradict my thought of you
Which is most reverent, with another thought
Found less so. If your sex is weak for art,
(And I who said so, did but honour you
By using truth in courtship) it is strong
For life and duty. Place your fecund heart
In mine, and let us blossom for the world
That wants love's colour in the grey of time.
With all my talk I can but set you where
You look down coldly on the arena-heaps
Of headless bodies, shapeless, indistinct!
The Judgment-Angel scarce would find his way
Through such a heap of generalised distress,
To the individual man with lips and eyes–
Much less Aurora. Ah, my sweet, come down,
And, hand in hand, we'll go where yours shall touch
These victims, one by one! till one by one,
The formless, nameless trunk of every man
Shall seem to wear a head, with hair you know,
And every woman catch your mother's face
To melt you into passion.'
'I am a girl,'
I answered slowly; 'you do well to name
My mother's face. Though far too early, alas,
God's hand did interpose 'twixt it and me,
I know so much of love, as used to shine
In that face and another. Just so much;
No more indeed at all. I have not seen
So much love since, I pray you pardon me,
As answers even to make a marriage with,
In this cold land of England. What you love,
Is not a woman, Romney, but a cause:
You want a helpmate, not a mistress, sir,–
A wife to help your ends . . in her no end!
Your cause is noble, your ends excellent,
But I, being most unworthy of these and that,
Do otherwise conceive of love. Farewell.'

'Farewell, Aurora, you reject me thus?'
He said.
'Why, sir, you are married long ago.
You have a wife already whom you love,
Your social theory. Bless you both, I say.
For my part, I am scarcely meek enough
To be the handmaid of a lawful spouse.
Do I look a Hagar, think you?'
'So, you jest!'

'Nay so, I speak in earnest,' I replied.
'You treat of marriage too much like, at least,
A chief apostle; you would bear with you
A wife . . a sister . . shall we speak it out?
A sister of charity.'
'Then, must it be
Indeed farewell? And was I so far wrong
In hope and in illusion, when I took
The woman to be nobler than the man,
Yourself the noblest woman,–in the use
And comprehension of what love is,–love,
That generates the likeness of itself
Through all heroic duties? so far wrong
In saying bluntly, venturing truth on love,
'Come, human creature, love and work with me,'–
Instead of, 'Lady, thou art wondrous fair,
'And, where the Graces walk before, the Muse
'Will follow at the lighting of the eyes,
'And where the Muse walks, lovers need to creep
'Turn round and love me, or I die of love.

With quiet indignation I broke in.
'You misconceive the question like a man,
Who sees a woman as the complement
Of his sex merely. You forget too much
That every creature, female as the male,
Stands single in responsible act and thought
As also in birth and death. Whoever says
To a loyal woman, 'Love and work with me,'
Will get fair answers, if the work and love
Being good themselves, are good for her–the best
She was born for. Women of a softer mood,
Surprised by men when scarcely awake to life,
Will sometimes only hear the first word, love,
And catch up with it any kind of work,
Indifferent, so that dear love go with it:
I do not blame such women, though, for love,
They pick much oakum; earth's fanatics make
Too frequently heaven's saints. But me, your work
Is not the best for,–nor your love the best,
Nor able to commend the kind of work
For love's sake merely. Ah, you force me, sir,
To be over-bold in speaking of myself,–
I, too, have my vocation,–work to do,
The heavens and earth have set me, since I changed
My father's face for theirs,–and though your world
Were twice as wretched as you represent
Most serious work, most necessary work,
As any of the economists'. Reform,
Make trade a Christian possibility,
And individual right no general wrong;
Wipe out earth's furrows of the Thine and Mine,
And leave one green, for men to play at bowls;
With innings for them all! . . what then, indeed,
If mortals were not greater by the head
Than any of their prosperities? what then,
Unless the artist keep up open roads
Betwixt the seen and unseen,–bursting through
The best of your conventions with his best
The unspeakable, imaginable best
God bids him speak, to prove what lies beyond
Both speech and imagination? A starved man
Exceeds a fat beast: we'll not barter, sir,
The beautiful for barley.–And, even so,
I hold you will not compass your poor ends
Of barley-feeding and material ease,
Without a poet's individualism
To work your universal. It takes a soul,
To move a body: it takes a high-souled man,
To move the masses . . even to a cleaner stye:
It takes the ideal, to blow a hair's breadth off
The dust of the actual.–ah, your Fouriers failed,
Because not poets enough to understand
That life develops from within.–For me,
Perhaps I am not worthy, as you say,
Of work like this! . . perhaps a woman's soul
Aspires, and not creates! yet we aspire,
And yet I'll try out your perhapses, sir;
And if I fail . . why, burn me up my straw
Like other false works–I'll not ask for grace,
Your scorn is better, cousin Romney. I
Who love my art, would never wish it lower
To suit my stature. I may love my art,
You'll grant that even a woman may love art,
Seeing that to waste true love on anything,
Is womanly, past question.'
I retain
The very last word which I said, that day,
As you the creaking of the door, years past,
Which let upon you such disabling news
You ever after have been graver. He,
His eyes, the motions in his silent mouth,
Were fiery points on which my words were caught,
Transfixed for ever in my memory
For his sake, not their own. And yet I know
I did not love him . . nor he me . . that's sure . .
And what I said, is unrepented of,
As truth is always. Yet . . a princely man!–
If hard to me, heroic for himself!
He bears down on me through the slanting years,
The stronger for the distance. If he had loved,
Ay, loved me, with that retributive face, . .
I might have been a common woman now,
And happier, less known and less left alone;
Perhaps a better woman after all,–
With chubby children hanging on my neck
To keep me low and wise. Ah me, the vines
That bear such fruit are proud to stoop with it.
The palm stands upright in a realm of sand.

And I, who spoke the truth then, stand upright,
Still worthy of having spoken out the truth,
By being content I spoke it, though it set
Him there, me here.–O woman's vile remorse,
To hanker after a mere name, a show,
A supposition, a potential love!
Does every man who names love in our lives,
Become a power for that? is love's true thing
So much best to us, that what personates love
Is next best? A potential love, forsooth!
We are not so vile. No, no–he cleaves, I think,
This man, this image, . . chiefly for the wrong
And shock he gave my life, in finding me
Precisely where the devil of my youth
Had set me, on those mountain-peaks of hope
All glittering with the dawn-dew, all erect
And famished for the morning,–saying, while
I looked for empire and much tribute, 'Come,
I have some worthy work for thee below.
Come, sweep my barns, and keep my hospitals,–
And I will pay thee with a current coin
Which men give women.'
As we spoke, the grass
Was trod in haste beside us, and my aunt,
With smile distorted by the sun,–face, voice,
As much at issue with the summer-day
As if you brought a candle out of doors,–
Broke in with, 'Romney, here!–My child, entreat
Your cousin to the house, and have your talk,
If girls must talk upon their birthdays. Come.'

He answered for me calmly, with pale lips
That seemed to motion for a smile in vain.
'The talk is ended, madam, where we stand.
Your brother's daughter has dismissed me here;
And all my answer can be better said
Beneath the trees, than wrong by such a word
Your house's hospitalities. Farewell.'

With that he vanished. I could hear his heel
Ring bluntly in the lane, as down he leapt
The short way, from us.–Then, a measured speech
Withdrew me. 'What means this, Aurora Leigh?
My brother's daughter has dismissed my guests?'

The lion in me felt the keeper's voice,
Through all its quivering dewlaps: I was quelled
Before her,–meekened to the child she knew:
I prayed her pardon, said, 'I had little thought
To give dismissal to a guest of hers,
In letting go a friend of mine, who came
To take me into service as a wife,–
No more than that, indeed.'
'No more, no more?
Pray heaven,' she answered, 'that I was not mad.
I could not mean to tell her to her face
That Romney Leigh had asked me for a wife,
And I refused him?'
'Did he ask?' I said;
'I think he rather stooped to take me up
For certain uses which he found to do
For something called a wife. He never asked.'

'What stuff!' she answered; 'are they queens, these girls?
They must have mantles, stitched with twenty silks,
Spread out upon the ground, before they'll step
One footstep for the noblest lover born.'

'But I am born,' I said with firmness, 'I,
To walk another way than his, dear aunt.'

'You walk, you walk! A babe at thirteen months
Will walk as well as you,' she cried in haste,
'Without a steadying finger. Why, you child,
God help you, you are groping in the dark,
For all this sunlight. You suppose, perhaps,
That you, sole offspring of an opulent man,
Are rich and free to choose a way to walk?
You think, and it's a reasonable thought,
That I besides, being well to do in life,
Will leave my handful in my niece's hand
When death shall paralyse these fingers? Pray,
Pray, child,–albeit I know you love me not,–
As if you loved me, that I may not die!
For when I die and leave you, out you go,
(Unless I make room for you in my grave)
Unhoused, unfed, my dear, poor brother's lamb,
(Ah heaven,–that pains!)–without a right to crop
A single blade of grass beneath these trees,
Or cast a lamb's small shadow on the lawn,
Unfed, unfolded! Ah, my brother, here's
The fruit you planted in your foreign loves!–
Ay, there's the fruit he planted! never look
Astonished at me with your mother's eyes,
For it was they, who set you where you are,
An undowered orphan. Child, your father's choice
Of that said mother, disinherited
His daughter, his and hers. Men do not think
Of sons and daughters, when they fall in love,
So much more than of sisters; otherwise,
He would have paused to ponder what he did,
And shrunk before that clause in the entail
Excluding offspring by a foreign wife
(The clause set up a hundred years ago
By a Leigh who wedded a French dancing-girl
And had his heart danced over in return)
But this man shrunk at nothing, never thought
Of you, Aurora, any more than me–
Your mother must have been a pretty thing,
For all the coarse Italian blacks and browns,
To make a good man, which my brother was,
Unchary of the duties to his house;
But so it fell indeed. Our cousin Vane,
Vane Leigh, the father of this Romney, wrote
Directly on your birth, to Italy,
'I ask your baby daughter for my son
In whom the entail now merges by the law.
Betroth her to us out of love, instead
Of colder reasons, and she shall not lose
By love or law from henceforth'–so he wrote;
A generous cousin, was my cousin Vane.
Remember how he drew you to his knee
The year you came here, just before he died,
And hollowed out his hands to hold your cheeks,
And wished them redder,–you remember Vane?
And now his son who represents our house
And holds the fiefs and manors in his place,
To whom reverts my pittance when I die,
(Except a few books and a pair of shawls)
The boy is generous like him, and prepared
To carry out his kindest word and thought
To you, Aurora. Yes, a fine young man
Is Romney Leigh; although the sun of youth
Has shone too straight upon his brain, I know,
And fevered him with dreams of doing good
To good-for-nothing people. But a wife
Will put all right, and stroke his temples cool
With healthy touches' . .
I broke in at that.
I could not lift my heavy heart to breathe
Till then, but then I raised it, and it fell
In broken words like these–'No need to wait.
The dream of doing good to . . me, at least,
Is ended, without waiting for a wife
To cool the fever for him. We've escaped
That danger . . thank Heaven for it.'
You,' she cried,
'Have got a fever. What, I talk and talk
An hour long to you,–I instruct you how
You cannot eat or drink or stand or sit
Or even die, like any decent wretch
In all this unroofed and unfurnished world,
Without your cousin,–and you still maintain
There's room 'twixt him and you, for flirting fans
And running knots in eyebrows! You must have
A pattern lover sighing on his knee:
You do not count enough a noble heart,
Above book-patterns, which this very morn
Unclosed itself, in two dear fathers' names,
To embrace your orphaned life! fie, fie! But stay
I write a word, and counteract this sin.'

She would have turned to leave me, but I clung.
'O sweet my father's sister, hear my word
Before you write yours. Cousin Vane did well,
And Romney well,–and I well too,
In casting back with all my strength and will
The good they meant me. O my God, my God!
God meant me good, too, when he hindered me
From saying 'yes' this morning. If you write
A word, it shall be 'no.' I say no, no!
I tie up 'no' upon His altar-horns
Quite out of reach of perjury! At least
My soul is not a pauper; I can live
At least my soul's life, without alms from men,
And if it must be in heaven instead of earth,
Let heaven look to it,–I am not afraid.'

She seized my hands with both hers, strained them fast
And drew her probing and unscrupulous eyes
Right through me, body and heart. 'Yet, foolish Sweet,
You love this man. I have watched you when he came
And when he went, and when we've talked of him:
I am not old for nothing; I can tell
The weather-signs of love–you love this man.'

Girls blush, sometimes, because they are alive,
Half wishing they were dead to save the shame.
The sudden blush devours them, neck and brow;
They have drawn too near the fire of life, like gnats,
And flare up bodily, wings and all. What then?
Who's sorry for a gnat . . or girl?
I blushed.
I feel the brand upon my forehead now
Strike hot, sear deep, as guiltless men may feel
The felon's iron, say, and scorn the mark
Of what they are not. Most illogical
Irrational nature of our womanhood,
That blushes one way, feels another way,
And prays, perhaps, another! After all,
We cannot be the equal of the male,
Who rules his blood a little.
For although
I blushed indeed, as if I loved the man,
And her incisive smile, accrediting
That treason of false witness in my blush,
Did bow me downward like a swathe of grass
Below its level that struck me,–I attest
The conscious skies and all their daily suns,
I think I loved him not . . nor then, nor since . .
Nor ever. Do we love the schoolmaster,
Being busy in the woods? much less, being poor,
The overseer of the parish? Do we keep
Our love, to pay our debts with?
White and cold
I grew next moment. As my blood recoiled
From that imputed ignominy, I made
My heart great with it. Then, at last I spoke,–
Spoke veritable words, but passionate,
Too passionate perhaps . . ground up with sobs
To shapeless endings. She let fall my hands,
And took her smile off, in sedate disgust,
As peradventure she had touched a snake,–
A dead snake, mind!–and, turning round, replied
'We'll leave Italian manners, if you please.
I think you had an English father, child,
And ought to find it possible to speak
A quiet 'yes' or 'no,' like English girls,
Without convulsions. In another month
We'll take another answer . . no, or yes.'
With that she left me in the garden-walk.

I had a father! yes, but long ago–
How long it seemed that moment!–Oh, how far,
How far and safe, God, dost thou keep thy saints
When once gone from us! We may call against
The lighted windows of thy fair June-heaven
Where all the souls are happy,–and not one,
Not even my father, look from work or play
To ask, 'Who is it that cries after us,
Below there, in the dusk?' Yet formerly
He turned his face upon me quick enough,
If I said 'father.' Now I might cry loud;
The little lark reached higher with his song
Than I with crying. Oh, alone, alone,–
Not troubling any in heaven, nor any on earth,
I stood there in the garden, and looked up
The deaf blue sky that brings the roses out
On such June mornings.
You who keep account
Of crisis and transition in this life,
Set down the first time Nature says plain 'no'
To some 'yes' in you, and walks over you
In gorgeous sweeps of scorn. We all begin
By singing with the birds, and running fast
With June-days, hand in hand: but once, for all,
The birds must sing against us, and the sun
Strike down upon us like a friend's sword caught
By an enemy to slay us, while we read
The dear name on the blade which bites at us!–
That's bitter and convincing: after that
We seldom doubt that something in the large
Smooth order of creation, though no more
Than haply a man's footstep, has gone wrong.

Some tears fell down my cheeks, and then I smiled,
As those smile who have no face in the world
To smile back to them. I had lost a friend
In Romney Leigh; the thing was sure–a friend,
Who had looked at me most gently now and then,
And spoken of my favourite books . . 'our books' . .
With such a voice! Well, voice and look were now
More utterly shut out from me, I felt,
Than even my father's. Romney now was turned
To a benefactor, to a generous man,
Who had tied himself to marry . . me, instead
Of such a woman, with low timorous lids
He lifted with a sudden word one day,
And left, perhaps, for my sake.–Ah, self-tied
By a contract,–male Iphigenia, bound
At a fatal Aulis, for the winds to change,
(But loose him–they'll not change;) he well might seem
A little cold and dominant in love!
He had a right to be dogmatical,
This poor, good Romney. Love, to him, was made
A simple law-clause. If I married him,
I would not dare to call my soul my own,
Which so he had bought and paid for: every thought
And every heart-beat down there in the bill,–
Not one found honestly deductible
From any use that pleased him! He might cut
My body into coins to give away
Among his other paupers; change my sons,
While I stood dumb as Griseld, for black babes
Or piteous foundlings; might unquestioned set
My right hand teaching in the Ragged Schools,
My left hand washing in the Public Baths,
What time my angel of the Ideal stretched
Both his to me in vain! I could not claim
The poor right of a mouse in a trap, to squeal.
And take so much as pity, from myself.

Farewell, good Romney! if I loved you even,
I could but ill afford to let you be
So generous to me. Farewell, friend, since friend
Betwixt us two, forsooth, must be a word
So heavily overladen. And, since help
Must come to me from those who love me not,
Farewell, all helpers–I must help myself,
And am alone from henceforth.–Then I stooped,
And lifted the soiled garland from the ground,
And set it on my head as bitterly
As when the Spanish king did crown the bones
Of his dead love. So be it. I preserve
That crown still,–in the drawer there! 'twas the first;
The rest are like it;–those Olympian crowns,
We run for, till we lose sight of the sun
In the dust of the racing chariots!
After that,
Before the evening fell, I had a note
Which ran,–'Aurora, sweet Chaldean, you read
My meaning backward like your eastern books,
While I am from the west, dear. Read me now
A little plainer. Did you hate me quite
But yesterday? I loved you for my part;
I love you. If I spoke untenderly
This morning, my beloved, pardon it;
And comprehend me that I loved you so,
I set you on the level of my soul,
And overwashed you with the bitter brine
Of some habitual thoughts. Henceforth, my flower,
Be planted out of reach of any such,
And lean the side you please, with all your leaves!
Write woman's verses and dream woman's dreams;
But let me feel your perfume in my home,
To make my sabbath after working-days;
Bloom out your youth beside me,–be my wife.'

I wrote in answer–'We, Chaldeans, discern
Still farther than we read. I know your heart
And shut it like the holy book it is,
Reserved for mild-eyed saints to pore upon
Betwixt their prayers at vespers. Well, you're right,
I did not surely hate you yesterday;
And yet I do not love you enough to-day
To wed you, cousin Romney. Take this word,
And let it stop you as a generous man
From speaking farther. You may tease, indeed,
And blow about my feelings, or my leaves,–
And here's my aunt will help you with east winds,
And break a stalk, perhaps, tormenting me;
But certain flowers grow near as deep as trees,
And, cousin, you'll not move my root, not you,
With all your confluent storms. Then let me grow
Within my wayside hedge, and pass your way!
This flower has never as much to say to you
As the antique tomb which said to travellers, 'Pause,
'Siste, viator. Ending thus, I signed.

The next week passed in silence, so the next,
And several after: Romney did not come,
Nor my aunt chide me. I lived on and on,
As if my heart were kept beneath a glass,
And everybody stood, all eyes and ears,
To see and hear it tick. I could not sit,
Nor walk, nor take a book, nor lay it down,
Nor sew on steadily, nor drop a stitch
And a sigh with it, but I felt her looks
Still cleaving to me, like the sucking asp
To Cleopatra's breast, persistently
Through the intermittent pantings. Being observed,
When observation is not sympathy,
Is just being tortured. If she said a word,
A 'thank you,' or an 'if it please you, dear.'
She meant a commination, or, at best,
An exorcism against the devildom
Which plainly held me. So with all the house.
Susannah could not stand and twist my hair,
Without such glancing at the looking-glass
To see my face there, that she missed the plait:
And John,–I never sent my plate for soup,
Or did not send it, but the foolish John
Resolved the problem, 'twixt his napkined thumbs,
Of what was signified by taking soup
Or choosing mackerel. Neighbours, who dropped in
On morning visits, feeling a joint wrong,
Smiled admonition, sate uneasily,
And talked with measured, emphasised reserve,
Of parish news, like doctors to the sick,
When not called in,–as if, with leave to speak,
They might say something. Nay, the very dog
Would watch me from his sun-patch on the floor,
In alternation with the large black fly
Not yet in reach of snapping. So I lived.

A Roman died so: smeared with honey, teased
By insects, stared to torture by the noon:
And many patient souls 'neath English roofs
Have died like Romans. I, in looking back,
Wish only, now, I had borne the plague of all
With meeker spirits than were rife in Rome.

For, on the sixth week, the dead sea broke up,
Dashed suddenly through beneath the heel of Him
Who stands upon the sea and earth, and swears
Time shall be nevermore. The clock struck nine
That morning, too,–no lark was out of tune;
The hidden farms among the hills, breathed straight
Their smoke toward heaven; the lime-trees scarcely stirred
Beneath the blue weight of the cloudless sky,
Though still the July air came floating through
The woodbine at my window, in and out,
With touches of the out-door country-news
For a bending forehead. There I sate, and wished
That morning-truce of God would last till eve,
Or longer. 'Sleep,' I thought, 'late sleepers,–sleep,
And spare me yet the burden of your eyes.'

Then, suddenly, a single ghastly shriek
Tore upwards from the bottom of the house.
Like one who wakens in a grave and shrieks,
The still house seemed to shriek itself alive,
And shudder through its passages and stairs
With slam of doors and clash of bells.–I sprang,
I stood up in the middle of the room,
And there confronted at my chamber-door,
A white face,–shivering, ineffectual lips.

'Come, come,' they tried to utter, and I went;
As if a ghost had drawn me at the point
Of a fiery finger through the uneven dark,
I went with reeling footsteps down the stair.
Nor asked a question.

There she sate, my aunt,–
Bolt upright in the chair beside her bed,
Whose pillow had no dint! she had used no bed
For that night's sleeping . . yet slept well. My God
The dumb derision of that grey, peaked face
Concluded something grave against the sun,
Which filled the chamber with its July burst
When Susan drew the curtains, ignorant
Of who sate open-eyed behind her. There,
She sate . . it sate . . we said 'she' yesterday . .
And held a letter with unbroken seal,
As Susan gave it to her hand last night:
All night she had held it. If its news referred
To duchies or to dunghills, not an inch
She'd budge, 'twas obvious, for such worthless odds:
Nor, though the stars were suns, and overburned
Their spheric limitations, swallowing up
Like wax the azure spaces, could they force
Those open eyes to wink once. What last sight
Had left them blank and flat so,–drawing out
The faculty of vision from the roots,
As nothing more, worth seeing, remained behind?

Were those the eyes that watched me, worried me?
That dogged me up and down the hours and days,
A beaten, breathless, miserable soul?
And did I pray, a half hour back, but so,
To escape the burden of those eyes . . those eyes?
'Sleep late' I said.–
Why now, indeed, they sleep.
God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers,
And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face,
A gauntlet with a gift in't. Every wish
Is like a prayer . . With God.
I had my wish,–
To read and meditate the thing I would,
To fashion all my life upon my thought,
And marry, or not marry. Henceforth, none
Could disapprove me, vex me, hamper me.
Full ground-room, in this desert newly made,
For Babylon or Balbec,–when the breath,
Just choked with sand, returns, for building towns!

The heir came over on the funeral day,
And we two cousins met before the dead,
With two pale faces. Was it death or life
That moved us? When the will was read and done,
The official guest and witnesses withdrawn,
We rose up in a silence almost hard,
And looked at one another. Then I said,
'Farewell, my cousin.'
But he touched, just touched
My hatstrings tied for going, (at the door
The carriage stood to take me) and said low,
His voice a little unsteady through his smile,
'Siste, viator.'
'Is there time,' I asked,
'In these last days of railroads, to stop short
Like Cæsar's chariot (weighing half a ton)
On the Appian road for morals?'
'There is time,'
He answered grave, 'for necessary words,
Inclusive, trust me, of no epitaph
On man or act, my cousin. We have read
A will, which gives you all the personal goods
And funded monies of your aunt.'
'I thank
Her memory for it. With three hundred pounds
We buy in England even, clear standing-room
To stand and work in. Only two hours since,
I fancied I was poor.'
'And cousin, still
You're richer than you fancy. The will says,
Three hundred pounds, and any other sum
Of which the said testatrix dies possessed.
I say she died possessed of other sums.'

'Dear Romney, need we chronicle the pence?
I'm richer than I thought–that's evident.
Enough so.'
'Listen rather. You've to do
With business and a cousin,' he resumed,
'And both, I fear, need patience. Here's the fact.
The other sum (there is another sum,
Unspecified in any will which dates
After possession, yet bequeathed as much
And clearly as those said three hundred pounds)
Is thirty thousand. You will have it paid
When? . . where? My duty troubles you with words.'

He struck the iron when the bar was hot;
No wonder if my eyes sent out some sparks.
'Pause there! I thank you. You are delicate
In glosing gifts;–but I, who share your blood,
Am rather made for giving, like yourself,
Than taking, like your pensioners. Farewell.'

He stopped me with a gesture of calm pride.
'A Leigh,' he said, 'gives largesse and gives love,
But gloses neither: if a Leigh could glose,
He would not do it, moreover, to a Leigh,
With blood trained up along nine centuries
To hound and hate a lie, from eyes like yours.
And now we'll make the rest as clear; your aunt
Possessed these monies.'
'You'll make it clear,
My cousin, as the honour of us both,
Or one of us speaks vainly–that's not I.
My aunt possessed this sum,–inherited
From whom, and when? bring documents, prove dates.'

'Why now indeed you throw your bonnet off.
As if you had time left for a logarithm!
The faith's the want. Dear cousin, give me faith,
And you shall walk this road with silken shoes,
As clean as any lady of our house
Supposed the proudest. Oh, I comprehend
The whole position from your point of sight.
I oust you from your father's halls and lands,
And make you poor by getting rich–that's law;
Considering which, in common circumstance,
You would not scruple to accept from me
Some compensation, some sufficiency
Of income–that were justice; but, alas,
I love you . . that's mere nature!–you reject
My love . . that's nature also;–and at once,
You cannot, from a suitor disallowed,
A hand thrown back as mine is, into yours
Receive a doit, a farthing, . . not for the world!
That's etiquette with women, obviously
Exceeding claim of nature, law, and right,
Unanswerable to all. I grant, you see,
The case as you conceive it,–leave you room
To sweep your ample skirts of womanhood;
While, standing humbly squeezed against the wall,
I own myself excluded from being just,
Restrained from paying indubitable debts,
Because denied from giving you my soul–
That's my fortune!–I submit to it
As if, in some more reasonable age,
'Twould not be less inevitable. Enough.
You'll trust me, cousin, as a gentleman,
To keep your honour, as you count it, pure,–
Your scruples (just as if I thought them wise)
Safe and inviolate from gifts of mine.'

I answered mild but earnest. 'I believe
In no one's honour which another keeps,
Nor man's nor woman's. As I keep, myself,
My truth and my religion, I depute
No father, though I had one this side death,
Nor brother, though I had twenty, much less you,
Though twice my cousin, and once Romney Leigh,
To keep my honour pure. You face, today,
A man who wants instruction, mark me, not
A woman who wants protection. As to a man,
Show manhood, speak out plainly, be precise
With facts and dates. My aunt inherited
This sum, you say–'
'I said she died possessed
Of this, dear cousin.'
'Not by heritage.
Thank you: we're getting to the facts at last.
Perhaps she played at commerce with a ship
Which came in heavy with Australian gold?
Or touched a lottery with her finger-end,
Which tumbled on a sudden into her lap
Some old Rhine tower or principality?
Perhaps she had to do with a marine
Sub-transatlantic railroad, which pre-pays
As well as pre-supposes? or perhaps
Some stale ancestral debt was after-paid
By a hundred years, and took her by surprise?–
You shake your head my cousin; I guess ill.'

'You need not guess, Aurora, nor deride,
The truth is not afraid of hurting you.
You'll find no cause, in all your scruples, why
Your aunt should cavil at a deed of gift
'Twixt her and me.'
'I thought so–ah! a gift.'

'You naturally thought so,' he resumed.
'A very natural gift.'
'A gift, a gift!
Her individual life being stranded high
Above all want, approaching opulence,
Too haughty was she to accept a gift
Without some ultimate aim: ah, ah, I see,–
A gift intended plainly for her heirs,
And so accepted . . if accepted . . ah,
Indeed that might be; I am snared perhaps,
Just so. But, cousin, shall I pardon you,
If thus you have caught me with a cruel springe?'

He answered gently, 'Need you tremble and pant
Like a netted lioness? is't my fault, mine,
That you're a grand wild creature of the woods,
And hate the stall built for you? Any way,
Though triply netted, need you glare at me?
I do not hold the cords of such a net,
You're free from me, Aurora!'
'Now may God
Deliver me from this strait! This gift of yours
Was tendered . . when? accepted . . when?' I asked.
'A month . . a fortnight since? Six weeks ago
It was not tendered. By a word she dropped,
I know it was not tendered nor received.
When was it? bring your dates.'
'What matters when?
A half-hour ere she died, or a half-year,
Secured the gift, maintains the heritage
Inviolable with law. As easy pluck
The golden stars from heaven's embroidered stole,
To pin them on the grey side of this earth,
As make you poor again, thank God.'
'Not poor
Nor clean again from henceforth, you thank God?
Well, sir–I ask you . . I insist at need . .
Vouchsafe the special date, the special date.'

'The day before her death-day,' he replied,
'The gift was in her hands. We'll find that deed,
And certify that date to you.'
As one
Who has climbed a mountain-height and carried up
His own heart climbing, panting in his throat
With the toil of the ascent, takes breath at last,
Looks back in triumph–so I stood and looked:
'Dear cousin Romney, we have reached the top
Of this steep question, and may rest, I think.
But first, I pray you pardon, that the shock
And surge of natural feeling and event
Had made me oblivious of acquainting you
That this, this letter . . unread, mark,–still sealed,
Was found enfolded in the poor dead hand:
That spirit of hers had gone beyond the address,
Which could not find her though you wrote it clear.–
I know your writing, Romney,–recognise
The open-hearted A, the liberal sweep
Of the G. Now listen,–let us understand;
You will not find that famous deed of gift,
Unless you find it in the letter here,
Which, not being mine, I give you back.–Refuse
To take the letter? well then–you and I,
As writer and as heiress, open it
Together, by your leave.–Exactly so:
The words in which the noble offering's made,
Are nobler still, my cousin; and, I own,
The proudest and most delicate heart alive,
Distracted from the measure of the gift
By such a grace in giving, might accept
Your largesse without thinking any more
Of the burthen of it, than King Solomon
Considered, when he wore his holy ring
Charactered over with the ineffable spell,
How many carats of fine gold made up
Its money-value. So, Leigh gives to Leigh–
Or rather, might have given, observe!–for that's
The point we come to. Here's a proof of gift,
But here's no proof, sir, of acceptancy,
But rather, disproof. Death's black dust, being blown,
Infiltrated through every secret fold
Of this sealed letter by a puff of fate,
Dried up for ever the fresh-written ink,
Annulled the gift, disutilised the grace,
And left these fragments.'
As I spoke, I tore
The paper up and down, and down and up
And crosswise, till it fluttered from my hands,
As forest-leaves, stripped suddenly and rapt
By a whirlwind on Valdarno, drop again,
Drop slow, and strew the melancholy ground
Before the amazed hills . . why, so, indeed,
I'm writing like a poet, somewhat large
In the type of the image,–and exaggerate
A small thing with a great thing, topping it!–
But then I'm thinking how his eyes looked . . his
With what despondent and surprised reproach!
I think the tears were in them as he looked–
I think the manly mouth just trembled. Then
He broke the silence.
'I may ask, perhaps,
Although no stranger . . only Romney Leigh,
Which means still less . . than Vincent Carrington . .
Your plans in going hence, and where you go.
This cannot be a secret.'
'All my life
Is open to you, cousin. I go hence
To London, to the gathering-place of souls,
To live mine straight out, vocally, in books;
Harmoniously for others, if indeed
A woman's soul, like man's, be wide enough
To carry the whole octave (that's to prove)
Or, if I fail, still, purely for myself.
Pray God be with me, Romney.'
'Ah, poor child,
Who fight against the mother's 'tiring hand,
And choose the headsman's! May God change his world
For your sake, sweet, and make it mild as heaven,
And juster than I have found you!'
But I paused.
'And you, my cousin?'–
'I,' he said,–'you ask?
You care to ask? Well, girls have curious minds,
And fain would know the end of everything,
Of cousins, therefore, with the rest.
For me, Aurora, I've my work; you know my work;
And having missed this year some personal hope,
I must beware the rather that I miss
No reasonable duty. While you sing
Your happy pastorals of the meads and trees,
Bethink you that I go to impress and prove
On stifled brains and deafened ears, stunned deaf,
Crushed dull with grief, that nature sings itself,
And needs no mediate poet, lute or voice,
To make it vocal. While you ask of men
Your audience, I may get their leave perhaps
For hungry orphans to say audibly
'We're hungry, see,'–for beaten and bullied wives
To hold their unweaned babies up in sight,
Whom orphanage would better; and for all
To speak and claim their portion . . by no means
Of the soil, . . but of the sweat in tilling it,–
Since this is now-a-days turned privilege,
To have only God's curse on us, and not man's
Such work I have for doing, elbow-deep
In social problems,–as you tie your rhymes,
To draw my uses to cohere with needs,
And bring the uneven world back to its round;
Or, failing so much, fill up, bridge at least
To smoother issues, some abysmal cracks
And feuds of earth, intestine heats have made
To keep men separate,–using sorry shifts
Of hospitals, almshouses, infant schools,
And other practical stuff of partial good,
You lovers of the beautiful and whole,
Despise by system.'
'I despise? The scorn
Is yours, my cousin. Poets become such,
Through scorning nothing. You decry them for
The good of beauty, sung and taught by them,
While they respect your practical partial good
As being a part of beauty's self. Adieu!
When God helps all the workers for his world,
The singers shall have help of Him, not last.'

He smiled as men smile when they will not speak
Because of something bitter in the thought;
And still I feel his melancholy eyes
Look judgment on me. It is seven years since:
I know not if 'twas pity or 'twas scorn
Has made them so far-reaching: judge it ye
Who have had to do with pity more than love,
And scorn than hatred. I am used, since then,
To other ways, from equal men. But so,
Even so, we let go hands, my cousin and I,
And, in between us, rushed the torrent-world
To blanch our faces like divided rocks,
And bar for ever mutual sight and touch
Except through swirl of spray and all that roar.

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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Hawkers

Dust, dust, dust and a dog –
Oh! The sheep-dog won’t be last.
When the long, long, shadow of the old bay horse
With the shadow of his mate is cast.
A brick-brown woman with the brick-brown kids,
And a man with his head half-mast,
The feed-bags hung and the bedding slung,
And the blackened bucket made fast
Where the tailboard clings to the tucker and things –
So the hawker’s van goes past.

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