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

As I stand here today and tell you about these, I am heavy with an awareness of the fact that I am in more than one sense a product of both the Chinese and Western cultures, in harmony and in conflict.

quote by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Related quotes

Let me tell you about my Journey

I sat beside a beautiful young woman,
The feeling i knew it was treason,
Yet with my instincts, i tried to reason,
The wind so vivid, yes a cold season,
Loving her without a reason,
Kissing her bacame my mission,
I waited upon the vision,
My heart figuring out an ignition,
Let me tell you about my Journey

With me, she was safe as a dove
And i knew it was love,
Me and her, a hand in glove,
Pure and perfect, never rough,
The moments we smiled and laugh,
Let me tell you about my Journey

Me and her before the sunset,
Will you ever be my soulmate?
Sun so jealousy, it became late,
I saw love, it was never hate,
Me and her after the sunset,
Falling in love so tight,
Making love under the moonlight,
Her lips and mine they met,
Hear me my innocent shadow,
It was dark you were not there,
Let me tell you about my Journey

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

Share

Let Me Tell You About Her

I wasn't very indiscreet and yet
That is a notion that I might as well forget
Friends look at me these days with fond surprise
But when I start to speak they roll their eyes
Let me tell you about her
Hush now, I've said too much
There's something indescribable I can't quite catch
Let me tell you about her
The way that she makes me feel
Then draw a curtain on this scene I shan't reveal
Some things are too personal
Too intimate to spill
And gentlemen don't speak of them
And this one never will
I wasn't very conversational
Accept to say that, "You're sensational"
Friends now regard me with indulgent smiles
But when I start to sing they run for miles
Let me tell you about her
Hush now, I've said too much
There's something indescribable I can't quite catch
Let me tell you about her
The way that she makes me feel
Then draw a curtain on this scene I shan't reveal

song performed by Elvis CostelloReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Here Today & Gone Tomorrow

Philip bailey, m. sharron & g. ballard
Wanting you, and watching every move
Turns me all over
Like a first time lovers woo
My hearts, your heart,
And every time you hit that door
Theres a chance in a million
I wont see you anymore
Though I never want to leave your side
But weve got to realize were
(chorus)
Here today and gone tomorrow
Nothing lasts forever and a day
(nothing ever lasts forever)
Here today, and gone tomorrow
This is too good to be real, and I never
Want to say good-bye
I reminisce and savor every kiss
Every moment
For in a moment we are gone
Cherish you, and when the night
Is through
Starting all over,
Spending it with you
Its so precious in the time we spend
cause when it all comes to an end were
(chorus)
Here today and gone tomorrow
Nothing lasts forever and a day
Here today, and gone tomorrow
Your love is too good to be true and i
Never want to say good-bye
And when I look into your eyes
I thank God that Im alive
I can never say Ive missed
All of the reasons were
Here today and gone tomorrow
(repeat chorus)

song performed by Earth Wind And FireReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Here Today

It starts with just a little glance now
Right away youre thinkin bout romance now
You know you ought to take it slower
But you just cant wait to get to know her
A brand new love affair is such a beautiful thing
But if youre not careful think about the pain it can bring
It makes you feel so bad
It makes your heart feel sad
It makes your days go wrong
It makes your nights so long
Youve got to keep in mind love is here today
And its gone tomorrow
Its here and gone so fast
Right now you think that shes perfection
This time is really an exception
Well you know I hate to be a downer
But Im the guy she left before you found her
Well Im not saying you wont have a good love with her
But I keep on remembering things like they were
She made me feel so bad
She made my heart feel sad
She made my days go wrong
And made my nights so long
Youve got to keep in mind love is here today
And its gone tomorrow
Its here and gone so fast
Keep in mind love is here today
And its gone tomorrow
Its here and gone so fast
Love is here today
And its gone tomorrow
Its here and gone so fast

song performed by Beach BoysReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share
Patrick White

When Imagination And Reality Are One

When imagination and reality are one
and there's no recourse for civilization
to distinguish between them by usage and consensus,
and the light of the stars isn't condemned
to a life of hard labour as a torch in a coal mine
looking for diamonds you can drink by the grailful
until you're as satiate as oblivion, there's no doubt
the mind is an artist riffing on the new strings of the rain
or painting it in picture-music like a poet or a scientist
who look deranged to those who've averaged out
the crucials of the mindscape like the odds of a lottery,
convinced as they are like pilgrims walking
from one end of their sacred asphalt driveways
to the other, that one size fits all, and that these
enlightened journeys without destinations
are just circles that haven't been squared yet.

But if you're off on your own,
making roads with your walking you're the first
to set foot on like the moon of a spaced-out planet
you're trying to turn into something habitable,
remember it's an act of compassion not to lock the door
to the available dimensions of the future when you leave.
Remember that all six of your senses
live in the world you creatively visualize
like the aura of the life that surrounds you
like an ongoing masterpiece of incompletion.
Without them you might be a master of making trees,
but, hey, man, where are the birds?
I don't hear anything singing.
There's nothing to taste or touch or listen to.
No appearances to deceive your consciousness with.

When your eye's got an idea of the kind of star
it wants to be, before it's learned to see, it never shines.
Wondering what flora to root where in the expanding abyss
of the night before you, scatter the stars across the firmament
as if you were sowing the unknown seeds of the wildflowers
that scuttled themselves like arks
in the cracked creekbeds of your neocortical starmud
and waited patiently like hibernating frogs
for the conditioned chaos of the rain
to come like a flashflood of life-nourishing insight.

And when you're annihilated
by the mystic terror of your own freedom
jimmying with the G-spot on your prison locks
to get them to open up like a coven of doves
that want to release their omens like feathers on the wind
that can scry and fly where they want,
don't linger in the doorway of your liberation.
Hesitation is the flypaper of light.
Stare straight into the eyes of the Medusa
until she's the one that blinks first in the savage snake pit
and the stone bird of your heart thaws like a volcano
potting islands in the draconian heat of its bloodstream
and the Gorgons start dancing to the music of their classical hair-dos
as if they could hear the wavelengths
of a pan flute lapping nearby like water.

Kiss the serpent fire on the head
if you want to honour the shapeshifter
that sets your dark energy free to assume the form
of the world that moults the chrysalis of your imagination
that reassembles the rubble of the last gasp
into a house of transformation that fits you
like a bubble of supple skin where you alone
are the myth and physics of its origination.
And whatever world provides you with the mindscape
of your exploration, you recognize by the style
it's painted in as everywhere a work of your own
signed by the wind in the left hand bottom corner of the sky.

Hard to tell the wells from the fountains
in the mingling mindstream that flows like life lines
into the frayed deltas of your palm. And what madness
hasn't always alloyed its backbone to the swords of the sane
defending their indigenous traditions of soft metal?
Don't stare into your cauldron as if you were trying
to read the future by the lint in your belly-button.
Actualize your magic and stir the womb a bit like a master of departures
with an intuitive genius for unitive metaphors.
Mix the paint on the palette into necromantic shades
of new underworlds weeping jewels on the roots
of the fireflowers bearing forbidden fruits
they'll carry by the armful with them out of the garden
like refugees running from an abandoned embassy
that used to give them shelter from themselves with impunity.

No limit. You can live in as many worlds as there are
grains of dust and pollen, where you're not allergic
to the stars, and the constellations come like the empty baggage
of a book that hasn't written a word to anyone,
nor appointed an alpha like the book end of a beginning
to balance the long vowel of omega at the other extreme
to let you know when it's all been said, and it's time
to lay the cornerstone of a myth of origin of your own,
a pebble in the random tide of providential events,
that doesn't need more than one leg to stand on
like a heron hunting fish in the bestiaries of the moon
that's finally given up its dead like a graveyard of Orphic skulls.

Imagine your way like smoke through the eye of a keyhole
into spaces you create by your very being there
to summon them from the abyss, a carillon of dragons
on a holy day of reptiles when the lowest are blessed with wings,
or wall yourself into an aesthetically sealed garden
where the rain perennially washes the blood of the children
who finger-painted the flowers on your thin skin off,
and luxuriate in your fastidious appetite for insignificant details.
Mind is an artist. Able to paint the worlds as a sin of omission,
a sum of destructions, or the negative space of a hand
breaching stone with a spiritual tattoo on its palm,
indelibly invisible as nothing for whom nothing is out of reach.
Make heaven. Make hell. Who you are is where you live.
Nest in a bell like a bird under the roof of your mouth
or root like lightning in a cloud you left unweeded.

Out of the random ignitions and annihilations of dark matter
bombarding your senses like anti-photonic fireflies
emerges a world of shadows into the light
of your imagination like the rising of a new moon
engendered out of you restoring yourself to it
like a lost atmosphere that got carried away by wings.
You can say things into existence word by word
or you can talk them to death in the silence
that follows the ghost of ideas like darkness follows us.
Or you can let the night bird deep
in the solitude of your heart sing
your fervent yearning for a companionable world
into being sweeter than the immensity of your creative freedom
to long for it as if what were missing
would always seem somehow more real than what was not.

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

Share

Here today&Gone tomorrow

As i look at my surrounding's,
I realized i could be here today and gone tomorrow,
My mom's said to live my life and enjoy it,
Because i could be here today and gone tomorrow,
I always thought that life was a fairytale & i would always be a princess,
But i didn't realize i could be here today & gone tomorrow,
People always say the world would end in 2012,
But the world could be here today & gone tomorrow,
As i continued to walk down the streets & look at my surrounding's,
I realized that i'm no longer on earth,
I realized this pathway instantly when the gates appeared,
I realized that i was there yesterday but gone today,
No more suffering
No more pain
I'm gone today

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

Share

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Love is not a game with me
Played with inconsistency
Though my love turned out to be
Here today and gone tomorrow
Love is like a candlelight
Sometimes flickering sometimes bright
Sometimes burning up the night
Here today and gone tomorrow
Live is something of a rover
Comes to town and takes a lover
Packs his bag and then its over
Here today and gone tomorrow
Loves a field of sugar cane
Sunshine smiles and teardrop rain
Feed it till its cut again
Here today and gone tomorrow
Loves a rainbow in the sky
None can reach it, still they try
Rainbow chasing fool am i
Here today and gone tomorrow
Love must be the birds in spring
Only lovers hear them sing
All too soon theyre on the wing
Here today and gone tomorrow
No love is not a game with me
Played with inconsistency
Though my love turned out to be
Here today and gone tomorrow

song performed by Joni MitchellReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

You Will Have to Manifest More Than a Passing Interest

It's been quite sometime since I've breast fed.
Or had my running mucoused nose wiped.
Or had my tears dried because of a neighborhood fight,
With a bully that had one time frightened me!

Soon after my eighteenth birthday,
I voluntered and 'joined' the military.
Feeling patriotic and hypnotized by war,
And doing my part to defend a country we all live in!
While others I knew...
Went on to colleges to pursue a certain greed.
That ego wasn't there for me to feed.
And two weeks after my high school graduation...
I was stripped from my childhood,
Dramatically.

Homesickness?
I've seen some guys try to walk home from bootcamp!
And I did stupid stuff...
Wanting my training instructor to find ways to punish me!
Walking to Connecticut from Texas,
Somehow was not a priority or an appetizer.

Today...
After broken marriages and mucho heartbreak.
Death of loved ones I 'knew' I could not endure.
And having ignorance thrown in my face...
By those who 'still' had no idea of the emotions felt,
I alone had to replace by a craze I successfully kept hidden.
And doing that with the grace from God?
Just to have judgements passed upon me...
Like someone was assigned to do that as if it was their job?
I forgave,
Before I even ate in those days!

I know I have been blessed to have survived much 'mess'.

I'll confess this to anyone who wishes to listen...
You have no idea of those things I've could have said,
But kept them to myself.
And have only 'selected' a few of those experiences,
To share to keep an interest flowing.
Isn't that what writers should do?
To give readers like you an insight?
Something to 'touch' the inside of a mind like mine?

And I will not totally embrace anyone 'inside'.
Not for a tour.
To rate the degree of my sufferings.
I don't keep that on exhibit anyway!
What would be the point?

My writings will hint with vivid 'suggestions'.
That's it!
Anything more than that?
You will have to manifest more than a passing interest.
But don't worry.
There is enough here to keep it coming to you,
For as long as you live!
Because in just this one life I've been given...
I feel I have lived many lifetimes.
None of which I wish to forget!
Making my happiness much more appreciated.

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

Share

Simple Observation #55 - There are more things in heaven and earth..............

There are more things in heaven and earth than what can be read about in any book
and there are certain things in this world that deserve or require more than one look.

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

Share

What can I tell you?

What can I tell you
about what happened
after your death?

Of how many times
I have dreamt about you
and our happy times together

that after some years
I haven’t found a perfect match
like you,

but then every person is different
in several ways
and I had loved again
and lost her and my heart was broken
and are still looking
for the right girl.

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

Share

What Women Want

Hello, my name is "Dr." Rebecca Pinson.
I am here today to tell you what women want.
For the most part, women want a man that will
actually love them for who they are!
It is hard to find men that will truly do that.
Next, women need money.
As a result, the loving man must have
no problem handing over his money!
Women act as though they hate this, but after
it is over, they really love this.
Women love children.
Well, that is all we have time for today,
good night and good bye for now.

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

Share

I Wanted To Tell You The Truth

i wanted to tell you the truth
i have long wanted to tell all these to you
years and years
i agonize on the sealing of my lips
my tongue likes to kick out my teeth
rubbing itself on the sides of the gum
my throat is dry
saliva is useless
i have long desired to tell you
about the unwanted departure
my sickness on the sea
the long hours listening to the
engine of the ship
i spoke to myself alone
on that long journey
i arrived at the port with no one meeting me
on that strange land
on that planks of indifference

i have long wished to have the last dialogue with you
but you are no longer there

you wrote a poem
about the naughty boy who shouted 'Fox! fox! fox! '

i've read it.
I gave up.

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

Share

0412 Their World

It's a sepia photograph, taken, I'm guessing,
1900,1910? The whole of it is taken up by
a crowd on the move, passing the photographer,
who could be, say, clinging to a lamp-post, or on a balcony.
Going to? Leaving? Impossible to tell.
Who's rich? Who's poor? No clue.
What's it got to tell you about - life?
Why go on looking at it? No reason

except that you're human; they were human; and
today, you wish, with increasing intensity,
to connect. In some way. Somewhere at the back of
uncomfortable mind, maybe, lurks the thought that one fine day,
you'll be that anonymous one in that anonymous crowd,
forever recorded - dead on the page;
by the irony of history, photographed
when you were sure that you were alive forever...

There's one chap in the crowd looking at the camera;
as the artist, in some Renaissance adoration, and
slightly aloof from the crowd's concern,
looks out of history at you the spectator - as if to say
I'm there; I'm here; and what of you?

But he's no artist; he's looking boldly at the camera,
a cigarette between his lips at 45 degrees from the vertical -
a cheeky angle you never see today; the equivalent, I guess,
of the V-sign at the camera, as some meaningless, cocky, lively,
spontaneous act of defiance -at what?

Now you can 't put the photo down.
It's like picking at a scab or
a joyless masturbation. It threatens - you threaten -
your sense of security; whatever that might be.
Every one of that crowd lived a valid life.
You'd like to be one of them - or would you?
Why aren't you filled with a joyous sense
of identity and compassion?
A selfish greed, perhaps, to know more than you ever can?

Maybe, one day, you'll pick up that photo once again
and greet them like old friends.

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

Share

To You Whom I Love More Than Myself (Sonnet Redoublé)

I

You to whom my feelings are obvious,
may God guide you
(even if I am being presumptuous)
through every day, keeping you true,

in everything grant all that’s good,
make you sure
in every day, temper every mood
great and pure

and may He be in everything
that you put your hand to,
giving His greatest blessing,
may you be excelling in all that you do;

once I saw you jolly and free,
I saw you long-legged wading into the sea

II

I saw you long-legged wading into the sea
the epitome of youthfulness,
with no frivolity
and you were deadly serious without meekness

entering as if approaching a holy living thing
leaving the shallows you were going in deep
and it was if you were searching for something,
something from the deep beyond that you could keep

and not going to plunder, but were hunting for a holy relic
something with great wonder,
not to hang around your neck like a charm or some garlic
not made by man, or from the elements like thunder:

I watched you searching for something beyond man’s affairs,
from our lounge chairs.

III

From our lounge chairs
across from the fireplace
there was passion on your face
and it was sweet sincerity without putting on airs

where we were living out our lives, our own affairs
with depth and sweetness in every embrace
with love and true grace
in the presence of the One from upstairs

and the firelight sparkled in your hair
while outside it sieved down rain
with a crimson glare and you thought we were being stalked,
with something reflecting against the windowpane
and on the other side something was there;
we went out and we walked.

IV

We went out and we walked
along the lane from oak tree to oak tree
and holding hands we talked
and as far as we could see

the lane ran right into town,
on the little knoll, were only you and I
and we walked down,
were in love and free and above us the sky

and that spring
you had blossoms in your hair,
everything was flowering
and you were past beautiful fair

we were looking at some freshly painted art,
at the restaurant where we greeted to part

V

At the restaurant we greeted to part
and there was something weird, something touching
as again to you, I had lost my heart
and it was totally amazing

and I am still trying to think
what had happened with our goodbyes?
At what had happened with our last drink?
With your burning, aching-bright sea green eyes.

Still love slumbers on and you have been gone
for more than twenty years
as the true one
and I have cried so many tears

when you broke my heart,
you were my first sweetheart.

VI

You were my first sweetheart
astonishing beautiful and gay,
I had feelings that we would never part
that we had something that could not pass away,

while we walked up into the hill
on a small track meandering,
you following out of love and freewill
and a gentle breeze was whispering

through the trees in the wood
and the forest had a great smell
and life was great, far better than good
and everything was far better than well

while you loved me gaily,
there was sweet serenity.

VII

There was sweet serenity,
at a rock ledge
the feeling of being totally free
and we were almost right on the edge

and passion flared up between you and me.
When I found a disa, a wild orchid,
you were utterly pretty
and the flower’s beauty was quite vivid

being deeply blue hued
and I gave the flower to you and we were together
your eyes glimmered true
and that moment could have lasted forever,

we waited until late saw a white dove;
there was a golden moon in the sky, my love.

VIII

There was a golden moon in the sky, my love
and the wind was blowing again
with sparkling stars in the sky above
and later there might have been some rain.

We are far apart, my love,
with more than a thousand miles in between
but in my heart’s alcove
like you another has never been.

I do not know how the night looks, my love,
in the place that you call home
if you also hear the cooing of a dove,
as tonight we are both alone

and somehow my heart is full of pain,
I am wondering if I could do it all again?

IX

I am wondering if I could do it all again
visit you like I did then,
motorbike to you in the rain,
bringing you flowers from a glen?

Through other relationships
that has brought an own meaning
my life have gone with rises and dips
like it did from the very beginning.

Now it’s somewhat strange
to know you and not to know you at all
and our lives are different as if rearranged,
in things big and small

but we can make it up in many ways,
even if we are absent for days.


X

Even if we are absent for days,
for weeks or months without end
and your loving rays
that folds over me becomes spend,

even if destiny twist our lives
or even a demon’s rage
is all that nature gives
and destruction be our wage

then still in faith, truth and trust
our love can conquer time and space,
past this world of stone and dust,
past the abilities of the human race

with feelings finding a way to pave,
taking a honeymoon, being brave.

XI

Taking a honeymoon, being brave
driving somewhere up through the hills,
while for each other we still crave
experiencing new things and many thrills

might turn things between us back
to what it was supposed to be
if to our lives we find a new track
where you share your life with me.

Time have swept past much too fast
while between us remain great memories
and I know we cannot relive the past,
turn back time, which feels almost like centuries

and maybe your feelings are somewhat wavering,
what’s in the remembering?


XII

What’s in the remembering,
about the first passionate kiss,
about the first time in bliss,
about every single thing

that we were doing
about feelings that we could not dismiss,
that the university tried to make their business
looking eye to eye in the wooing,

but then we were aflame
with something much more
than passion something with sincerity
that hit to the heart, went to the centre core
made us explore the intricacies of love,
but at a time I thought you did not like me.


XIII

But at a time I thought you did not like me
while you looked at me in a strange way
and I was more in love than it suited me to say,
to myself I promised to let you be

when at your car we met and you set you long hair free
and I wanted to walk out of your life and away
on that particular day
but sparks in your eyes I did see

and I realised how much I had misread you
before your lips met mine
when I was totally charmed
and the bliss was remarkable and true,
while lips were touching with something divine,
never was I so overwhelmed.


XIV

Never was I so overwhelmed
with love so sincere, so complete
and my eyes, body, heart confirmed
my feelings when we did meet

and your face did glow
as if you had experienced the same thing
and then I did not know
if it was a curse or a blessing

and when I lost you the sheer pain
of how much I missed you, wanted to kiss you
made me think that I would not love again,
turned my whole world to being blue

but here we are again the two of us,
you to whom my feelings are obvious.

XV

You to whom my feelings are obvious,
I saw you long-legged wading into the sea,
from our lounge chairs
we went out and we walked.

At the restaurant we greeted to part,
you were my first sweetheart,
there was sweet serenity,
there was a golden moon in the sky, my love.

I am wondering if I could do it all again,
even if we are absent for days,
taking a honeymoon, being brave,
what’s in the remembering?

But at a time I thought you did not like me,
never was I so overwhelmed.

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

Share

Amours de Voyage, Canto I

Over the great windy waters, and over the clear-crested summits,
Unto the sun and the sky, and unto the perfecter earth,
Come, let us go,--to a land wherein gods of the old time wandered,
Where every breath even now changes to ether divine.
Come, let us go; though withal a voice whisper, 'The world that we live in,
Whithersoever we turn, still is the same narrow crib;
'Tis but to prove limitation, and measure a cord, that we travel;
Let who would 'scape and be free go to his chamber and think;
'Tis but to change idle fancies for memories wilfully falser;
'Tis but to go and have been.'--Come, little bark! let us go.

I. Claude to Eustace.

Dear Eustatio, I write that you may write me an answer,
Or at the least to put us again en rapport with each other.
Rome disappoints me much,--St Peter's, perhaps, in especial;
Only the Arch of Titus and view from the Lateran please me:
This, however, perhaps is the weather, which truly is horrid.
Greece must be better, surely; and yet I am feeling so spiteful,
That I could travel to Athens, to Delphi, and Troy, and Mount Sinai,
Though but to see with my eyes that these are vanity also.
Rome disappoints me much; I hardly as yet understand it, but
Rubbishy seems the word that most exactly would suit it.
All the foolish destructions, and all the sillier savings,
All the incongruous things of past incompatible ages,
Seem to be treasured up here to make fools of present and future.
Would to Heaven the old Goths had made a cleaner sweep of it!
Would to Heaven some new ones would come and destroy these churches!
However, one can live in Rome as also in London.*
It is a blessing, no doubt, to be rid, at least for a time, of
All one's friends and relations,--yourself (forgive me!) included,--
All the assujettissement of having been what one has been,
What one thinks one is, or thinks that others suppose one;
Yet, in despite of all, we turn like fools to the English.
Vernon has been my fate; who is here the same that you knew him,--
Making the tour, it seems, with friends of the name of Trevellyn.
* The 1968 Oxford Edition, edited by A.L.P. Norrington,
includes a line immediately following this:
Rome is better than London, because it is other than London.

II. Claude to Eustace.

Rome disappoints me still; but I shrink and adapt myself to it.
Somehow a tyrannous sense of a superincumbent oppression
Still, wherever I go, accompanies ever, and makes me
Feel like a tree (shall I say?) buried under a ruin of brickwork.
Rome, believe me, my friend, is like its own Monte Testaceo,
Merely a marvellous mass of broken and castaway wine-pots.
Ye gods! what do I want with this rubbish of ages departed,
Things that Nature abhors, the experiments that she has failed in?
What do I find in the Forum? An archway and two or three pillars.
Well, but St. Peter's? Alas, Bernini has filled it with sculpture!
No one can cavil, I grant, at the size of the great Coliseum.
Doubtless the notion of grand and capacious and massive amusement,
This the old Romans had; but tell me, is this an idea?
Yet of solidity much, but of splendour little is extant:
'Brickwork I found thee, and marble I left thee!' their Emperor vaunted;
'Marble I thought thee, and brickwork I find thee!' the Tourist may answer.

III. Georgina Trevellyn to Louisa ----.

At last, dearest Louisa, I take up my pen to address you.
Here we are, you see, with the seven-and-seventy boxes,
Courier, Papa and Mamma, the children, and Mary and Susan:
Here we all are at Rome, and delighted of course with St. Peter's,
And very pleasantly lodged in the famous Piazza di Spagna.
Rome is a wonderful place, but Mary shall tell you about it;
Not very gay, however; the English are mostly at Naples;
There are the A.'s, we hear, and most of the W. party.
George, however, is come; did I tell you about his mustachios?
Dear, I must really stop, for the carriage, they tell me, is waiting;
Mary will finish; and Susan is writing, they say, to Sophia.
Adieu, dearest Louise,--evermore your faithful Georgina.
Who can a Mr. Claude be whom George has taken to be with?
Very stupid, I think, but George says so very clever.

IV. Claude to Eustace.

No, the Christian faith, as at any rate I understood it,
With its humiliations and exaltations combining,
Exaltations sublime, and yet diviner abasements,
Aspirations from something most shameful here upon earth and
In our poor selves to something most perfect above in the heavens,--
No, the Christian faith, as I, at least, understood it,
Is not here, O Rome, in any of these thy churches;
Is not here, but in Freiburg, or Rheims, or Westminster Abbey.
What in thy Dome I find, in all thy recenter efforts,
Is a something, I think, more rational far, more earthly,
Actual, less ideal, devout not in scorn and refusal,
But in a positive, calm, Stoic-Epicurean acceptance.
This I begin to detect in St. Peter's and some of the churches,
Mostly in all that I see of the sixteenth-century masters;
Overlaid of course with infinite gauds and gewgaws,
Innocent, playful follies, the toys and trinkets of childhood,
Forced on maturer years, as the serious one thing needful,
By the barbarian will of the rigid and ignorant Spaniard.
Curious work, meantime, re-entering society: how we
Walk a livelong day, great Heaven, and watch our shadows!
What our shadows seem, forsooth, we will ourselves be.
Do I look like that? you think me that: then I am that.

V. Claude to Eustace.

Luther, they say, was unwise; like a half-taught German, he could not
See that old follies were passing most tranquilly out of remembrance;
Leo the Tenth was employing all efforts to clear out abuses;
Jupiter, Juno, and Venus, Fine Arts, and Fine Letters, the Poets,
Scholars, and Sculptors, and Painters, were quietly clearing away the
Martyrs, and Virgins, and Saints, or at any rate Thomas Aquinas:
He must forsooth make a fuss and distend his huge Wittenberg lungs, and
Bring back Theology once yet again in a flood upon Europe:
Lo you, for forty days from the windows of heaven it fell; the
Waters prevail on the earth yet more for a hundred and fifty;
Are they abating at last? the doves that are sent to explore are
Wearily fain to return, at the best with a leaflet of promise,--
Fain to return, as they went, to the wandering wave-tost vessel,--
Fain to re-enter the roof which covers the clean and the unclean,--
Luther, they say, was unwise; he didn't see how things were going;
Luther was foolish,--but, O great God! what call you Ignatius?
O my tolerant soul, be still! but you talk of barbarians,
Alaric, Attila, Genseric;--why, they came, they killed, they
Ravaged, and went on their way; but these vile, tyrannous Spaniards,
These are here still,--how long, O ye heavens, in the country of Dante?
These, that fanaticized Europe, which now can forget them, release not
This, their choicest of prey, this Italy; here you see them,--
Here, with emasculate pupils and gimcrack churches of Gesu,
Pseudo-learning and lies, confessional-boxes and postures,--
Here, with metallic beliefs and regimental devotions,--
Here, overcrusting with slime, perverting, defacing, debasing,
Michael Angelo's Dome, that had hung the Pantheon in heaven,
Raphael's Joys and Graces, and thy clear stars, Galileo!

VI. Claude to Eustace.

Which of three Misses Trevellyn it is that Vernon shall marry
Is not a thing to be known; for our friend is one of those natures
Which have their perfect delight in the general tender-domestic,
So that he trifles with Mary's shawl, ties Susan's bonnet,
Dances with all, but at home is most, they say, with Georgina,
Who is, however, too silly in my apprehension for Vernon.
I, as before when I wrote, continue to see them a little;
Not that I like them much or care a bajocco for Vernon,
But I am slow at Italian, have not many English acquaintance,
And I am asked, in short, and am not good at excuses.
Middle-class people these, bankers very likely, not wholly
Pure of the taint of the shop; will at table d'hôte and restaurant
Have their shilling's worth, their penny's pennyworth even:
Neither man's aristocracy this, nor God's, God knoweth!
Yet they are fairly descended, they give you to know, well connected;
Doubtless somewhere in some neighbourhood have, and are careful to keep, some
Threadbare-genteel relations, who in their turn are enchanted
Grandly among county people to introduce at assemblies
To the unpennied cadets our cousins with excellent fortunes.
Neither man's aristocracy this, nor God's, God knoweth!

VII. Claude to Eustace.

Ah, what a shame, indeed, to abuse these most worthy people!
Ah, what a sin to have sneered at their innocent rustic pretensions!
Is it not laudable really, this reverent worship of station?
Is it not fitting that wealth should tender this homage to culture?
Is it not touching to witness these efforts, if little availing,
Painfully made, to perform the old ritual service of manners?
Shall not devotion atone for the absence of knowledge? and fervour
Palliate, cover, the fault of a superstitious observance?
Dear, dear, what do I say? but, alas! just now, like Iago,
I can be nothing at all, if it is not critical wholly;
So in fantastic height, in coxcomb exaltation,
Here in the garden I walk, can freely concede to the Maker
That the works of His hand are all very good: His creatures,
Beast of the field and fowl, He brings them before me; I name them;
That which I name them, they are,--the bird, the beast, and the cattle.
But for Adam,--alas, poor critical coxcomb Adam!
But for Adam there is not found an help-meet for him.

VIII. Claude to Eustace.

No, great Dome of Agrippa, thou art not Christian! canst not,
Strip and replaster and daub and do what they will with thee, be so!
Here underneath the great porch of colossal Corinthian columns,
Here as I walk, do I dream of the Christian belfries above them?
Or, on a bench as I sit and abide for long hours, till thy whole vast
Round grows dim as in dreams to my eyes, I repeople thy niches,
Not with the Martyrs, and Saints, and Confessors, and Virgins, and children,
But with the mightier forms of an older, austerer worship;
And I recite to myself, how
Eager for battle here
Stood Vulcan, here matronal Juno,
And with the bow to his shoulder faithful
He who with pure dew laveth of Castaly
His flowing locks, who holdeth of Lycia
The oak forest and the wood that bore him,
Delos' and Patara's own Apollo.*

* Hic avidus stetit
Vulcanus, hic matrona Juno, et
Nunquam humeris positurus arcum;
Qui rore puro Castaliae lavit
Crines solutos, qui Lyciae tenet
Dumeta natalemque silvam,
Delius et Patareus Apollo.

IX. Claude to Eustace.

Yet it is pleasant, I own it, to be in their company; pleasant,
Whatever else it may be, to abide in the feminine presence.
Pleasant, but wrong, will you say? But this happy, serene coexistence
Is to some poor soft souls, I fear, a necessity simple,
Meat and drink and life, and music, filling with sweetness,
Thrilling with melody sweet, with harmonies strange overwhelming,
All the long-silent strings of an awkward, meaningless fabric.
Yet as for that, I could live, I believe, with children; to have those
Pure and delicate forms encompassing, moving about you,
This were enough, I could think; and truly with glad resignation
Could from the dream of Romance, from the fever of flushed adolescence,
Look to escape and subside into peaceful avuncular functions.
Nephews and nieces! alas, for as yet I have none! and, moreover,
Mothers are jealous, I fear me, too often, too rightfully; fathers
Think they have title exclusive to spoiling their own little darlings;
And by the law of the land, in despite of Malthusian doctrine,
No sort of proper provision is made for that most patriotic,
Most meritorious subject, the childless and bachelor uncle.

X. Claude to Eustace.

Ye, too, marvellous Twain, that erect on the Monte Cavallo
Stand by your rearing steeds in the grace of your motionless movement,
Stand with your upstretched arms and tranquil regardant faces,
Stand as instinct with life in the might of immutable manhood,--
O ye mighty and strange, ye ancient divine ones of Hellas.
Are ye Christian too? to convert and redeem and renew you,
Will the brief form have sufficed, that a Pope has set up on the apex
Of the Egyptian stone that o'ertops you, the Christian symbol?
And ye, silent, supreme in serene and victorious marble,
Ye that encircle the walls of the stately Vatican chambers,
Juno and Ceres, Minerva, Apollo, the Muses and Bacchus,
Ye unto whom far and near come posting the Christian pilgrims,
Ye that are ranged in the halls of the mystic Christian Pontiff,
Are ye also baptized? are ye of the kingdom of Heaven?
Utter, O some one, the word that shall reconcile Ancient and Modern!
Am I to turn me from this unto thee, great Chapel of Sixtus?

XI. Claude to Eustace.

These are the facts. The uncle, the elder brother, the squire (a
Little embarrassed, I fancy), resides in the family place in
Cornwall, of course; 'Papa is in business,' Mary informs me;
He's a good sensible man, whatever his trade is. The mother
Is--shall I call it fine?--herself she would tell you refined, and
Greatly, I fear me, looks down on my bookish and maladroit manners;
Somewhat affecteth the blue; would talk to me often of poets;
Quotes, which I hate, Childe Harold; but also appreciates Wordsworth;
Sometimes adventures on Schiller; and then to religion diverges;
Questions me much about Oxford; and yet, in her loftiest flights still
Grates the fastidious ear with the slightly mercantile accent.

Is it contemptible, Eustace--I'm perfectly ready to think so,--
Is it,--the horrible pleasure of pleasing inferior people?
I am ashamed of my own self; and yet true it is, if disgraceful,
That for the first time in life I am living and moving with freedom.
I, who never could talk to the people I meet with my uncle,--
I, who have always failed,--I, trust me, can suit the Trevellyns;
I, believe me,--great conquest, am liked by the country bankers.
And I am glad to be liked, and like in return very kindly.
So it proceeds; Laissez faire, laissez aller,--such is the watchword.
Well, I know there are thousands as pretty and hundreds as pleasant,
Girls by the dozen as good, and girls in abundance with polish
Higher and manners more perfect than Susan or Mary Trevellyn.
Well, I know, after all, it is only juxtaposition,--
Juxtaposition, in short; and what is juxtaposition?

XII. Claude to Eustace.


But I am in for it now,--laissez faire, of a truth, laissez aller.
Yes, I am going,--I feel it, I feel and cannot recall it,--
Fusing with this thing and that, entering into all sorts of relations,
Tying I know not what ties, which, whatever they are, I know one thing,
Will, and must, woe is me, be one day painfully broken,--
Broken with painful remorses, with shrinkings of soul, and relentings,
Foolish delays, more foolish evasions, most foolish renewals.
But I have made the step, have quitted the ship of Ulysses;
Quitted the sea and the shore, passed into the magical island;
Yet on my lips is the moly, medicinal, offered of Hermes.
I have come into the precinct, the labyrinth closes around me,
Path into path rounding slyly; I pace slowly on, and the fancy,
Struggling awhile to sustain the long sequences, weary, bewildered,
Fain must collapse in despair; I yield, I am lost, and know nothing;
Yet in my bosom unbroken remaineth the clue; I shall use it.
Lo, with the rope on my loins I descend through the fissure; I sink, yet
Inly secure in the strength of invisible arms up above me;
Still, wheresoever I swing, wherever to shore, or to shelf, or
Floor of cavern untrodden, shell sprinkled, enchanting, I know I
Yet shall one time feel the strong cord tighten about me,--
Feel it, relentless, upbear me from spots I would rest in; and though the
Rope sway wildly, I faint, crags wound me, from crag unto crag re-
Bounding, or, wide in the void, I die ten deaths, ere the end I
Yet shall plant firm foot on the broad lofty spaces I quit, shall
Feel underneath me again the great massy strengths of abstraction,
Look yet abroad from the height o'er the sea whose salt wave I have tasted.

XIII. Georgina Trevellyn to Louisa ----.

Dearest Louisa,--Inquire, if you please, about Mr. Claude ----.
He has been once at R., and remembers meeting the H.'s.
Harriet L., perhaps, may be able to tell you about him.
It is an awkward youth, but still with very good manners;
Not without prospects, we hear; and, George says, highly connected.
Georgy declares it absurd, but Mamma is alarmed, and insists he has
Taken up strange opinions, and may be turning a Papist.
Certainly once he spoke of a daily service he went to.
'Where?' we asked, and he laughed and answered, 'At the Pantheon.'
This was a temple, you know, and now is a Catholic church; and
Though it is said that Mazzini has sold it for Protestant service,
Yet I suppose this change can hardly as yet be effected.
Adieu again,--evermore, my dearest, your loving Georgina.


P.S. by Mary Trevellyn.

I am to tell you, you say, what I think of our last new acquaintance.
Well, then, I think that George has a very fair right to be jealous.
I do not like him much, though I do not dislike being with him.
He is what people call, I suppose, a superior man, and
Certainly seems so to me; but I think he is terribly selfish.


------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------

Alba, thou findest me still, and, Alba, thou findest me ever,
Now from the Capitol steps, now over Titus's Arch,
Here from the large grassy spaces that spread from the Lateran portal,
Towering o'er aqueduct lines lost in perspective between,
Or from a Vatican window, or bridge, or the high Coliseum,
Clear by the garlanded line cut of the Flavian ring.
Beautiful can I not call thee, and yet thou hast power to o'ermaster,
Power of mere beauty; in dreams, Alba, thou hauntest me still.
Is it religion? I ask me; or is it a vain superstition?
Slavery abject and gross? service, too feeble, of truth?
Is it an idol I bow to, or is it a god that I worship?
Do I sink back on the old, or do I soar from the mean?
So through the city I wander and question, unsatisfied ever,
Reverent so I accept, doubtful because I revere.

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

Share

Secretly Thinking of You

Here’s not-so-quick a poem
To help give you a clue
That right now there is someone
That’s thinking fondly of you.

We work incredibly close
And yet so very far
It’s truly sad, that our only interactions
Have been on the way to our cars.

From discussions that we’ve had
Although they’ve been very few
I think that I’ve become
Quite enamored with you.

Not to make you self-conscious
Or make you want to hide
But I find myself smiling
Whenever you arrive.

For only a quick glimpse
Is all that I may see
But ‘tis that small glimpse
That brings sweet joy to me.

You may not be single
And that’s quite alright
I’m not looking to mingle
Or even party all night.

Just give me a moment
To see this limerick to the end
‘Cause I’m hoping by the finish
To be considered your friend.

I want you to know
Just what it is that I see
That through these two eyes
You’re quite adorable to me.

On the days we cross paths
And I watch you walk by
My heart sighs with feelings
Unfortunately I must hide

I’d like to say more
Than just hello or hi
But my courage escapes me
For around you, I am shy.

I would love to sit down
Or even take you to lunch
I think you might like me
Just call it a hunch

We could chat about life
And our dreams to come true
Or the fun things in life
That would be better as two.

Now, If you are not interested...
Well, then that’s alright
Just take this as a compliment
As I say goodnight :)

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

Share

The Ballad of the Elder Son

A son of elder sons I am,
Whose boyhood days were cramped and scant,
Through ages of domestic sham
And family lies and family cant.
Come, elder brothers mine, and bring
Dull loads of care that you have won,
And gather round me while I sing
The ballad of the elder son.

’Twas Christ who spake in parables—
To picture man was his intent;
A simple tale He simply tells,
And He Himself makes no comment.
A morbid sympathy is felt
For prodigals—the selfish ones—
The crooked world has ever dealt
Unjustly by the elder sons.

The elder son on barren soil,
Where life is crude and lands are new,
Must share the father’s hardest toil,
And share the father’s troubles too.
With no child-thoughts to meet his own
His childhood is a lonely one:
The youth his father might have known
Is seldom for the eldest son.

It seems so strange, but fate is grim,
And Heaven’s ways are hard to track,
Though ten young scamps come after him
The rod falls heaviest on his back.
And, well I’ll say it might be caused
By a half-sense of injustice done—
That vague resentment parents feel
So oft towards the eldest son.

He, too, must bear the father’s name,
He loves his younger brother, too,
And feels the younger brother’s shame
As keenly as his parents do.
The mother’s prayers, the father’s curse,
The sister’s tears have all been done—
We seldom see in prose or verse
The prayers of the elder son.

But let me to the parable
With eyes on facts but fancy free;
And don’t belie me if I tell
The story as it seems to me—
For, mind, I do not mean to sneer
(I was religious when a child),
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear
That Christ himself had sometimes smiled.

A certain squatter had two sons
Up Canaan way some years ago.
The graft was hard on those old runs,
And it was hot and life was slow.
The younger brother coolly claimed
The portion that he hadn’t earned,
And sought the ‘life’ for which untamed
And high young spirits always yearned.

A year or so he knocked about,
And spent his cheques on girls and wine,
And, getting stony in the drought,
He took a job at herding swine,
And though he is a hog that swigs
And fools with girls till all is blue—
’Twas rather rough to shepherd pigs
And have to eat their tucker too.

“When he came to himself,” he said
(I take my Bible from the shelf:
There’s nothing like a feed of husks
To bring a young man to himself.
And when you’re done with wine and girls—
Right here a moral seems to shine—
And are hard up, you’ll find no pearls
Are cast by friends before your swine)—

When he came to himself, he said—
He reckoned pretty shrewdly, too—
The rousers in my father’s shed
‘Have got more grub than they can chew;
I’ve been a fool, but such is fate—
I guess I’ll talk the guv’nor round:
‘“I’ve acted cronk,” I’ll tell him straight;
‘(He’s had his time too, I’ll be bound).

I’ll tell him straight I’ve had my fling,
I’ll tell him “I’ve been on the beer,
‘“But put me on at anything,
‘“I’ll graft with any bounder here.”’
He rolled his swag and struck for home—
He was by this time pretty slim
And, when the old man saw him come—
Well, you know how he welcomed him.

They’ve brought the best robe in the house,
The ring, and killed the fatted calf,
And now they hold a grand carouse,
And eat and drink and dance and laugh:
And from the field the elder son—
Whose character is not admired—
Comes plodding home when work is done,
And very hot and very tired.

He asked the meaning of the sound
Of such unwonted revelry,
They said his brother had been ‘found’
(He’d found himself it seemed to me);
’Twas natural in the elder son
To take the thing a little hard
And brood on what was past and done
While standing outside in the yard.

Now he was hungry and knocked out
And would, if they had let him be,
Have rested and cooled down, no doubt,
And hugged his brother after tea,
And welcomed him and hugged his dad
And filled the wine cup to the brim—
But, just when he was feeling bad
The old man came and tackled him.

He well might say with bitter tears
While music swelled and flowed the wine—
‘Lo, I have served thee many years
‘Nor caused thee one grey hair of thine.
‘Whate’er thou bad’st me do I did
And for my brother made amends;
‘Thou never gavest me a kid
That I might make merry with my friends.’

(He was no honest clod and glum
Who could not trespass, sing nor dance—
He could be merry with a chum,
It seemed, if he had half a chance;
Perhaps, if further light we seek,
He knew—and herein lay the sting—
His brother would clear out next week
And promptly pop the robe and ring).

The father said, ‘The wandering one,
The lost is found, this son of mine,
‘But thou art always with me, son—
‘Thou knowest all I have is thine.’
(It seemed the best robe and the ring,
The love and fatted calf were not;
But this was just a little thing
The old man in his joy forgot.)

The father’s blindness in the house,
The mother’s fond and foolish way
Have caused no end of ancient rows
Right back to Cain and Abel’s day.
The world will blame the eldest born—
But—well, when all is said and done,
No coat has ever yet been worn
That had no colour more than one.

Oh! if I had the power to teach—
The strength for which my spirit craves—
The cant of parents I would preach
Who slave and make their children slaves.
For greed of gain, and that alone
Their youth they steal, their hearts they break
And then, the wretched misers moan—
‘We did it for our children’s sake.’

And all I have’—the paltry bribe
That he might slave contented yet
While envied by his selfish tribe
The birthright he might never get:
The worked-out farm and endless graft,
The mortgaged home, the barren run—
The heavy, hopeless overdraft—
The portion of the elder son.

He keeps his parents when they’re old,
He keeps a sister in distress,
His wife must work and care for them
And bear with all their pettishness.
The mother’s moan is ever heard,
And, whining for the worthless one,
She seldom has a kindly word
To say about her eldest son.

’Tis he, in spite of sneer and jibe,
Who stands the friend when others fail:
He bears the burdens of his tribe
And keeps his brother out of jail.
He lends the quid and pays the fine,
And for the family pride he smarts—
For reasons I cannot divine
They hate him in their heart of hearts.

A satire on this world of sin—
Where parents seldom understand—
That night the angels gathered in
The firstborn of that ancient land.
Perhaps they thought, in those old camps,
While suffering for the blow that fell,
They might have better spared the scamps
And Josephs that they loved so well.

Sometimes the Eldest takes the track
When things at home have got too bad—
He comes not crawling, canting back
To seek the blind side of his dad.
He always finds a knife and fork
And meat between on which to dine,
And, though he sometimes deals in pork,
You’ll never catch him herding swine.

The happy home, the overdraft,
His birthright and his prospects gay,
And likewise his share of the graft,
He leaves the rest to grab. And they—
Who’d always do the thing by halves,
If anything for him was done—
Would kill a score of fatted calves
To welcome home the eldest son.

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

Share
Patrick White

Making Peace With My Father

You could be dead by now.
How would I know?
Last time I saw you
was fifty-five years ago.
My first day of school.
Your last with us.
You’re the little man now, Paddy,
you said
then got on a greyhound bus
in front of Tang’s Pagoda
as I watched the door close
on that fuselage without wings
as if the whale had just swallowed Jonah whole.
The last time I noticed we had the same eyes.
The end of your reign of terror.
As I remember you fifty-five years later
you were brutal, violent, cruel,
a con-man and a drunk.
You hurt people then laughed at their pain.
You were the lethal meltdown of a radioactive brain
that made the grass glow at night
from thousands of miles away
and poisoned the rain.
I went to jail with my mother to bail you out
more often than I was pushed into going to church.
And when you got out
you were always as angry as a killer bee
in the soggy autumn orchard of your hangover.
Life for you as it is for any coward
was one long complaint you took out on us.
My first seven years
I watched as many ambulances
take my shattered mother away for months
as many cop cars washing up on our doorstep
with all those messages in a bottle
that had your name on them
like a federal warrant for your arrest
as I recall the clinking horse-drawn milkwagons
with their coloured cardboard bottle caps
or the tinkling neighbourhood ice-cream trucks.
Remembering you now at this late date
is like fingering the fossils of a Tyrannosaurus Rex
and feeling the faint resonance
of your ferocity even yet
through my fingertips
like a warm-blooded mammal
in the menacing shadow of a reptilian law
whose last judgment was always a jugular in a jaw.
If you’re dead,
if you’re truly dead,
did you die alone?
Did anyone grieve?
Did you change over the years
and become a good man
as righteous as the stroke of midnight
and atone for anything
before you boarded the next bus for the abyss?
Was your last flashback of life
the sunami you drowned in
after your psychological fault lines
flintknapped an earthquake
that brought the whole planet down on us
everytime you barged through the door
back from the bar
and turned a home into an avalanche?
Did you remember your children?
Did you remember me?
Did you ever wonder
how I turned out without you?
Who knows?
Maybe I’m way too late for your funeral
and this wreath of blood and thorns I bring
to lay on your grave
like the bitter irony you fathered in me
is not a fitting obsequy for either of us
because maybe, possibly, improbably
as you aged like an acid
time defanged your thunder
like a white cottonmouth
and the moon took back its crescents
and the lightning began to make crutches of the trees
it used to split like cedar shakes
with double-bladed bolts of light
that scorched so much more
than they ever illuminated in the darkness they returned to.
As if the whole of the little earth I knew then,
my mother, me, my brother, my sisters
sported the wounds you gashed
on everyone’s heart and a skull
like chopping blocks
under your bloodied blunted war-ax.
For longer than autumn’s been keeping time now
with rosaries of geese in passage
like the secret names
of God on the run
for bouncing rubber cheques,
I have carried you around inside of me
like a chromosome in a coffin.
It’s a kind of genetic locket
I sometimes open
to remember you by
when I’m mythologizing my scars
like blackholes among the stars
or the empty eyesockets
on the wailing walls of the dice
you loaded like the prophetic skulls of a bad choice.
And I still don’t know if I’ve come
like an eviction notice
to this dismal place
to condemn you
or exorcise your ghost
I have despised you for so long within me
like the sloughed skin of a snakey oilslick,
the black blood of a haemorrhaging eclipse
that covers everything like an executioner’s hood,
the birds, the sun, the sea,
every tarnished cell of me
in a darkness that won’t wash off.
Or maybe I’ve just shown up again
like Empedocles on Aetna
to jump into the collapsed caldera of your grave
like the last flower.
Ambiguous homage with seven kinds of meaning
to a spent volcano
buried in itself
that once knew how to preserve the dead
in all the twisted shapes of prolonged agony
that has characterized the living ever since.
Every day of my life
I have wanted to give you back your name
like a white cross on a black plague door
that isn’t me anymore
and never was.
Or maybe I should
jump down into your grave and say
Hey, Dad, isn’t this sad for you and me
this is the way we take leave of each other for good
like chainsaws snarling through the heartwood of the family tree?
Isn’t it just so incomparably sad
that a son being honest as a deathbed
with his father as he dies
over and over again in his imagination
as I do now here beside you
should lean over and whisper into his father’s ear
with a heavy heart that regrets it was ever born to mean it
Hey, Dad, I want you to know
when it’s my time to go
and I get to the other side
of all that was
and can be abandoned
time will heal everything
you did and didn’t do
and all these severed bloodlines
reach their final watershed,
all the weak threads
of what was unbound
like rain in the river
fall into the flowing
and be made whole as strong rope again,
and the eye that offended be plucked out
and an old fist be opened up like the new palm
of a better afterlife than the one we had here,
and reunited families everywhere
break bread together in love and laughter
and every father be a strong rafter
and every mother be a lamp in a tent
and a cool night wind
as intimate and near
as stars in a desert,
and every son
say farewell to his father
as I do now here beside you
on this re-useable illusion of a death bed
where I am trying so hard to listen
to the voices in my heart
instead of the wise-guys in my head:
Father, farewell.
You gave me these empty eyes.
My mother filled them with compassion.
May peace marrow your troubled bones at last
and God soften the stone
upon which you lay your head.
What has passed has passed
like a storm out over open water.
You were my father at noon.
I was your son at midnight.
You withdrew like a shadow
that dreaded the light.
May God grant you a deeper insight
into these lives
we pass along to one another
like candles in the doorway of a dark night
and the courage to see
when they’re blown out
and death comes to sever even this little thread
of earthbound lucidity
that exists like blood between you and me
why even if these eyes of yours you gave me
were washed up like the survivors of a shipwreck
on the eyelids of the same shores
we started out from together,
asked whose son I might be
and who among all the generations
of the unborn and unperishing gathered there
was the road that fathered my journey,
I would answer
my life was a river with only one bank
that flowed from a sea of shadows on the moon.
I would embrace my mother in tears
if I saw her standing there
for all the long, hard, humiliating years
she always sat on the edge of the bed
the last thing at night
before we fell asleep under her eyes
and quietly lowered herself down
like a ladder into a snakepit
so we could climb out
without getting bit by the same viper
that had struck her like black lightning
in the heel in an orchard in spring.
About you I wouldn’t say anything.
I’d swallow my voice like a sword.
I wouldn’t sacrifice a word
on the altar of the silence
that waited like a god
to hear himself named.
I’d shake my head.
I wouldn’t look for you among the dead.

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

Share

The Brus Book III

The lord of Lorn attacks the king's men]


The lord off Lorne wonnyt thar-by
That wes capitale ennymy
To the king for his emys sak
Jhon Comyn, and thocht for to tak
5 Vengeance apon cruell maner.
Quhen he the king wyst wes sa ner
He assemblyt his men in hy,
And had intill his cumpany
The barounys off Argyle alsua.
10 Thai war a thousand weill or ma
And come for to suppris the king
That weill wes war of thar cummyng.
Bot all to few with him he had
The-quhethir he bauldly thaim abaid,
15 And weill ost at thar fryst metyng
War layd at erd but recoveryng.
The kingis folk full weill thaim bar
And slew and fellyt and woundyt sar,
Bot the folk off the tother party
20 Faucht with axys sa fellyly,
For thai on fute war everilkane,
That thai feile off thar hors has slayne,
And till sum gaiff thai woundis wid.
James off Douglas wes hurt that tyd
25 And als Schyr Gilbert de le Hay.
The king his men saw in affray
And his ensenye can he cry
And amang thaim rycht hardyly
He rad that he thaim ruschyt all
30 And fele off thaim thar gert he fall.
Bot quhen he saw thai war sa feill
And saw thaim swa gret dyntis deill
He dred to tyne his folk, forthi
His men till him he gan rely
35 And said, 'Lordyngis, foly it war
Tyll us for till assembill mar,
For thai fele off our hors has slayn,
And giff yhe fecht with thaim agayn
We sall tyne off our small mengye
40 And our selff sall in perill be.
Tharfor me thynk maist avenand
To withdraw us us defendand
Till we cum out off thar daunger,
For our strenth at our hand is ner.'
45 Then thai withdrew thaim halely
Bot that wes nocht full cowartly
For samyn intill a sop held thai
And the king him abandonyt ay
To defend behind his mengye,
50 And throu his worschip sa wrouch he
That he reskewyt all the flearis
And styntyt swagat the chassaris
That nane durst out off batall chas,
For alwayis at thar hand he was.
55 Sa weile defendyt he his men
That quha-sa-ever had seyne him then
Prove sa worthely vasselage
And turn sa oft-sythis the visage
He suld say he aucht weill to be
60 A king off a gret reawté.

[Comparisons from Celtic and classical legends with the king's
defence of his men]

Quhen that the lord off Lorne saw
His men stand off him ane sik aw
That thai durst nocht folow the chase
Rycht angry in his hart he was,
65 And for wondyr that he suld swa
Stot thaim him ane but ma
He said, 'Me think Marthokys sone
Rycht as Golmakmorn was wone
To haiff fra Fyn all his mengne,
70 Rycht swa all his fra us has he.'
He set ensample thus mydlike,
The-quhethir he mycht mar manerlik
Lyknyt hym to Gaudifer de Larys
Quhen that the mychty Duk Betys
75 Assailyeit in Gadyrris the forrayours,
And quhen the king thaim maid rescours
Duk Betys tuk on him the flycht
That wald ne mar abid to fycht.
Bot Gaudifer the worthi
80 Abandonyt him so worthyly
For to reskew all the fleieris
And for to stonay the chasseris
That Alysander to erth he bar
And alsua did he Tholimar
85 And gud Coneus alsua
Danklyne alsua and othir ma,
Bot at the last thar slayne he wes.
In that failyeit the liklynes,
For the king full chevalrusly
90 Defendyt all his cumpany
And wes set in full gret danger
And yeit eschapyt haile and fer.

[The king kills the two Mac na Dorsair brothers and their fellow]

Twa brethir war in that land
That war the hardiest off hand
95 That war intill all that cuntre,
And thai had sworn iff thai mycht se
The Bruys quhar thai mycht him our-ta
That thai suld dey or then hym sla.
Thar surname wes Makyne Drosser,
100 That is al-so mekill to say her
As the Durwarth sonnys perfay.
Off thar covyne the thrid had thai
That wes rycht stout ill and feloune.
Quhen thai the king off gud renoune
105 Saw sua behind his mengne rid
And saw him torne sa mony tid,
Thai abaid till that he was
Entryt in ane narow place
Betwix a louch-sid and a bra
110 That wes sa strait Ik underta
That he mycht nocht weill turn in his sted.
Then with a will till him thai yede
And ane him by the bridill hynt,
Bot he raucht till him sic a dynt
115 That arme and schuldyr flaw him fra.
With that ane other gan him ta
Be the lege and his hand gan schute
Betwix the sterap and his fute,
And quhen the king feld thar his hand
120 In his sterapys stythly gan he stand
And strak with spuris the stede in hy,
And he lansyt furth delyverly
Swa that the tother failyeit fete,
And nocht-for-thi his hand wes yeit
125 Undyr the sterap magré his.
The thrid with full gret hy with this
Rycht till the bra-syd he yeid
And stert behynd hym on his sted.
The king wes then in full gret pres,
130 The-quhether he thocht as he that wes
In all hys dedys avisé
To do ane outrageous bounte,
And syne hyme that behynd him was
All magré his will him gan he ras
135 Fra behynd him, thocht he had sworn,
He laid hym evyn him beforn,
Syne with the swerd sic dynt hym gave
That he the heid till the harnys clave.
He rouschit doun off blud all rede
140 As he that stound feld off dede.
And then the king in full gret hy
Strak at the tothir vigorusly
That he efter his sterap drew
That at the fyrst strak he him slew.
145 On this wis him delyverit he
Off all thai felloun fayis thre.

[Mac Nachtan praises the king]

Quhen thai of Lorne has sene the king
Set in hym selff sa gret helping
And defendyt him sa manlely,
150 Wes nane amang thaim sa hardy
That durst assailye him mar in fycht,
Sa dred thai for his mekill mycht.
Thar wes a baroune Maknauchtan
That in his hart gret kep has tane
155 To the kingis chevalry
And prisyt him in hert gretly,
And to the lord off Lorne said he,
'Sekyrly now may ye se
Be tane the starkest pundelan
160 That evyr your lyfftyme ye saw tane,
For yone knycht throu his douchti deid
And thro his outrageous manheid
Has fellyt intill litill tyd
Thre men off mekill prid,
165 And stonayit all our mengye swa
That eftyr him dar na man ga,
And tournys sa mony tyme his stede
That semys off us he had na dred.'
Then gane the lord off Lorn say,
170 'It semys it likis ye perfay
That he slayis yongat our mengye.'
'Schyr,' said he, 'sa Our Lord me se,
To sauff your presence it is nocht swa,
Bot quhether-sa he be freynd or fa
175 That wynnys prys off chevalry
Men suld spek tharoff lelyly,
And sekyrly in all my tyme
Ik hard never in sang na ryme
Tell off a man that swa smertly
180 Eschevyt swa gret chevalry.'
Sic speking off the king thai maid,
And he eftyr his mengye raid
And intill saufte thaim led
Quhar he his fayis na-thing dred,
185 And thai off Lorne agayn ar gayn
Menand the scaith that thai haiff tayn.

[The king comforts his men with the example
of the recovery of Rome from Hannibal]

The king that nycht his wachis set
And gert ordayne that thai mycht et,
And bad conford to thaim tak
190 And at thar mychtis mery mak.
For disconford, as then said he,
Is the werst thing that may be,
For throu mekill disconforting
Men fallis oft into disparing,
195 And fra a man disparyt be
Then utraly vencusyt is he,
And fra the hart be discumfyt
The body is nocht worth a myt.
'Tharfor,' he said, 'atour all thing
200 Kepys you fra disparyng,
And think thouch we now harmys fele
That God may yeit releve us weill.
Men redys off mony men that war
Fer harder stad then we yhet ar
205 And syne Our Lord sic grace thaim lent
That thai come weill till thar entent.
For Rome quhilum sa hard wes stad
Quhen Hanniball thaim vencusyt had
That off ryngis with rich stane
210 That war off knychtis fyngeris tane
He send thre bollis to Cartage,
And syne to Rome tuk his viage
Thar to distroye the cite all.
And thai within bath gret and small
215 Had fled quhen thai saw his cummyng
Had nocht bene Scipio the king,
That or thai fled wald thaim haiff slayn,
And swagat turnyt he thaim agayn.
Syne for to defend the cite
220 Bath servandis and threllis mad he fre,
And maid thaim knychtis everilkane,
And syne has off the templis tane
The armys that thar eldrys bar,
In name off victory offeryt thar.
225 And quhen thai armyt war and dycht
That stalwart karlis war and wycht
And saw that thai war fre alsua,
Thaim thocht that thai had lever ta
The dede na lat the toun be tane,
230 And with commoune assent as ane
Thai ischit off the toune to fycht
Quhar Hannyball his mekill mycht
Aganys thaim arayit was.
Bot throu mycht off Goddis grace
235 It ranyt sa hard and hevyly
That thar wes nane sa hardy
That durst into that place abid,
Bot sped thaim intill hy to rid,
The ta part to thar pailyounys,
240 The tother part went in the toune is.
The rayne thus lettyt the fechtyn,
Sa did it twys tharefter syne.
Quhen Hanibal saw this ferly
With all his gret chevalry
245 He left the toune and held his way,
And syne wes put to sik assay
Throu the power off that cite
That his lyff and his land tynt he.
Be thir quheyne that sa worthily
250 Wane sik a king and sa mychty,
Ye may weill be ensampill se
That na man suld disparyt be,
Na lat his hart be vencusyt all
For na myscheiff that ever may fall,
255 For nane wate in how litill space
That God umquhile will send grace.
Had thai fled and thar wayis gane
Thar fayis swith the toune had tane.
Tharfor men that werrayand war
260 Suld set thar etlyng ever-mar
To stand agayne thar fayis mycht
Umquhile with strenth and quhile with slycht,
And ay thynk to cum to purpos,
And giff that thaim war set in chos
265 To dey or to leyff cowartly,
Thai suld erar dey chevalrusly.

[The king cites the example of Caesar]

Thusgat thaim comfort the king
And to comfort thaim gan inbryng
Auld storys off men that wer
270 Set intyll hard assayis ser
And that fortoun contraryit fast,
And come to purpos at the last.
Tharfor he said that thai that wald
Thar hartis undiscumfyt hald
275 Suld ay thynk ententily to bryng
All thar enpres to gud ending,
As quhile did Cesar the worthy
That traveillyt ay so besyly
With all his mycht folowing to mak
280 To end the purpos that he wald tak,
That hym thocht he had doyne rycht nocht
Ay quhill to do him levyt ocht.
Forthi gret thingis eschevyt he
As men may in his story se.
285 Men may se be his ythen will,
And it suld als accord to skill
That quha tais purpos sekyrly
And folowis it syne ententily
Forout fayntice or yheit faynding,
290 With-thi it be conabill thing,
Bot he the mar be unhappy
He sall eschev it in party,
And haiff he lyff-dayis weill may fall
That he sall eschev it all.
295 For-thi suld nane haff disparing
For till eschev a full gret thing,
For giff it fall he tharoff failye
The fawt may be in his travailye.

[Atholl asks to be left; the king sends him,
Neil Bruce and the ladies to Kildrummy]

He prechyt thaim on this maner
300 And fenyeit to mak better cher
Then he had mater to be fer,
For his caus yeid fra ill to wer,
Thai war ay in sa hard travaill,
Till the ladyis began to fayle
305 That mycht the travaill drey na mar,
Sa did other als that thar war.
The Erle Jhone wes ane off tha
Off Athole that quhen he saw sua
The king be discumfyt twys,
310 And sa feile folk agayne him rys,
And lyff in sic travaill and dout,
His hart begane to faile all-out
And to the king apon a day
He said, 'Gyff I durst you say,
315 We lyff into sa mekill dreid,
And haffis oftsys off met sic ned,
And is ay in sic travailling
With cauld and hunger and waking,
That I am sad off my selvyn sua
320 That I count nocht my liff a stra.
Thir angrys may I ne mar drey,
For thoucht me tharfor worthit dey
I mon sojourne, quharever it be.
Levys me tharfor par cheryte.'
325 The king saw that he sa wes failyt
And that he ik wes for-travaillyt.
He said, 'Schyr erle, we sall sone se
And ordayne how it best may be.
Quharever ye be, Our Lord you send
330 Grace fra your fais you to defend.'
With that in hy to him callyt he
Thaim that till him war mast preve.
Then amang thaim thai thocht it best
And ordanyt for the liklyest
335 That the queyne and the erle alsua
And the ladyis in hy suld ga
With Nele the Bruce till Kildromy,
For thaim thocht thai mycht sekyrly
Dwell thar quhill thai war vittaillit weile,
340 For swa stalwart wes the castell
That it with strenth war hard to get
Quhill that tharin war men and mete.
As thai ordanyt thai did in hy,
The queyne and all hyr cumpany
345 Lap on thar hors and furth thai far.
Men mycht haiff sene quha had bene thar
At leve-takyng the ladyis gret
And mak thar face with teris wet,
And knychtis for thar luffis sak
350 Bath bsich and wep and murnyng mak,
Thai kyssyt thar luffis at thar partyng.
The king umbethocht him off a thing,
That he fra thine on fute wald ga
And tak on fute bath weill and wa,
355 And wald na hors-men with him haiff,
Tharfor his hors all haile he gaiff
To the ladyis that myster had.
The queyn furth on hyr wayis rade
And sawffly come to the castell
360 Quhar hyr folk war ressavyt weill
And esyt weill with meyt and drynk,
Bot mycht nane eys let hyr to think
On the king that wes sa sar stad
That bot twa hunder with him had,
365 The-quhethir thaim weill comfortyt he ay.
God help him that all mychtis may.

[The king plans to go to Kintyre; Neil Campbell sent to find ships;
the king and his men cross Loch Lomond; he reads a romance to them]

The queyne dwelt thus in Kyldromy,
And the king and his cumpany
That war twa hunder and na ma
370 Fra thai had send thar hors thaim fra
Wandryt emang the hey montanys,
Quhar he and his oft tholyt paynys,
For it wes to the wynter ner,
And sa feile fayis about him wer
375 That all the countre thaim werrayit.
Sa hard anoy thaim then assayit
Off hunger cauld with schowris snell
That nane that levys can weill it tell.
The king saw how his folk wes stad
380 And quhat anoyis that thai had,
And saw wynter wes cummand ner,
And that he mycht on na maner
Dre in the hillys the cauld lying
Na the long nychtis waking.
385 He thocht he to Kyntyr wald ga
And swa lang sojournyng thar ma
Till wynter wedder war away,
And then he thocht but mar delay
Into the manland till aryve
390 And till the end his werdis dryv.
And for Kyntyr lyis in the se
Schyr Nele Cambel befor send he
For to get him navyn and meite,
And certane tyme till him he sete
395 Quhen he suld meite him at the se.
Schir Nele Cambell with his mengye
Went his way but mar letting
And left his brother with the king,
And in twelf dayis sua traveillit he
400 That he gat schippyne gud plente
And vittalis in gret aboundance.
Sa maid he nobill chevisance
For his sibmen wonnyt tharby
That helpyt him full wilfully.
405 The king efter that he wes gane
To Louch Lomond the way has tane
And come on the thrid day,
Bot tharabout na bait fand thai
That mycht thaim our the water ber.
410 Than war thai wa on gret maner
For it wes fer about to ga,
And thai war into dout alsua
To meyt thar fayis that spred war wyd.
Tharfor endlang the louchhis syd
415 Sa besyly thai socht and fast
Tyll James of Douglas at the last
Fand a litill sonkyn bate
And to the land it drew fut-hate,
Bot it sa litill wes that it
420 Mycht our the watter but a thresum flyt.
Thai send tharoff word to the king
That wes joyfull off that fynding
And fyrst into the bate is gane,
With him Douglas, the thrid wes ane
425 That rowyt thaim our deliverly
And set thaim on the land all dry,
And rowyt sa oftsys to and fra
Fechand ay our twa and twa
That in a nycht and in a day
430 Cummyn out-our the louch ar thai,
For sum off thaim couth swome full weill
And on his bak ber a fardele.
Swa with swymmyng and with rowyng
Thai brocht thaim our and all thar thing.
435 The king the quhilis meryly
Red to thaim that war him by
Romanys off worthi Ferambrace
That worthily our-cummyn was
Throu the rycht douchty Olyver,
440 And how the duk-peris wer
Assegyt intill Egrymor
Quhar King Lavyne lay thaim befor
With may thousandis then I can say,
And bot ellevyn within war thai
445 And a woman, and war sa stad
That thai na mete thar-within had
Bot as thai fra thar fayis wan.
Yheyte sua contenyt thai thaim than
That thai the tour held manlily
450 Till that Rychard off Normandy
Magré his fayis warnyt the king
That wes joyfull off this tithing,
For he wend thai had all beyne slayne.
Tharfor he turnyt in hy agayne
455 And wan Mantrybill and passit Flagot,
And syne Lavyne and all his flot
Dispitusly discumfyt he,
And deliveryt his men all fre
And wan the naylis and the sper
460 And the crowne that Jhesu couth ber,
And off the croice a gret party
He wan throu his chevalry.
The gud king apon this maner
Comfort thaim that war him ner
465 And maid thaim gamyn and solace
Till that his folk all passyt was.

[Lennox joins the king; a reflection on weeping]

Quhen thai war passit the water brad
Suppos thai fele off fayis had
Thai maid thaim mery and war blyth.
470 Nocht-for-thi full fele syth
Thai had full gret defaut of mete,
And tharfor venesoun to get
In twa partys ar thai gayne.
The king himselff wes intill ane
475 And Schyr James off Douglas
Into the tother party was.
Then to the hycht thai held thar way
And huntyt lang quhill off the day
And soucht schawys and setis set
480 Bot thai gat litill for till ete.
Then hapnyt at that tyme percas
That the erle of the Levenax was
Amang the hillis ner tharby,
And quhen he hard sa blaw and cry
485 He had wonder quhat it mycht be,
And on sic maner spyryt he
That he knew that it wes the king,
And then foroutyn mar duelling
With all thaim off his cumpany
490 He went rycht till the king in hy,
Sa blyth and sa joyfull that he
Mycht on na maner blyther be
For he the king wend had bene ded,
And he wes alsua will off red
495 That he durst nocht rest into na place,
Na sen the king discumfyt was
At Meffan he herd never thing
That ever wes certane off the king.
Tharfor into full gret daynte
500 The king full humyly haylist he,
And he him welcummyt rycht blythly
And askyt him full tenderly,
And all the lordis that war thar
Rycht joyfull off thar meting war,
505 And kyssyt him in gret daynte.
It wes gret pite for til se
How thai for joy and pite gret
Quhen that thai with thar falow met
That thai wend had bene dede, forthi
510 Thai welcummyt him mar hartfully,
And he for pite gret agayne
That never off metyng wes sa fayne.
Thocht I say that thai gret sothly
It wes na greting propyrly,
515 For I trow traistly that gretyng
Cummys to men for mysliking,
And that nane may but angyr gret
Bot it be wemen, that can wet
Thair chekys quhenever thaim list with teris,
520 The-quhethir weill oft thaim na thing deris,
But I wate weill but lesyng
Quhatever men say off sic greting
That mekill joy or yeit pete
May ger men sua amovyt be
525 That water fra the hart will rys
And weyt the eyne on sic a wys
That is lik to be greting,
Thocht it be nocht sua in all thing,
For quhen men gretis enkrely
530 The hart is sorowful or angry,
Bot for pite I trow gretyng
Be na thing bot ane opynnyng
Off hart that schawis the tendernys
Off rewth that in it closyt is.
535 The barounys apon this maner
Throu Goddis grace assemblyt wer.
The erle had mete and that plente
And with glad hart it thaim gaiff he,
And thai eyt it with full gud will
540 That soucht na nother sals thar-till
Bot appetyt, that oft men takys,
For rycht weill scowryt war thar stomakys.
Thai eit and drank sic as thai had
And till Our Lord syne lovyng maid,
545 And thankit him with full gud cher
That thai war mete on that maner.
The king then at thaim speryt yarne
How thai sen he thaim seyne had farne,
And thai full petwysly gan tell
550 Aventuris that thaim befell
And gret anoyis and poverte.
The king tharat had gret pite
And tauld thaim petwisly agayne
The noy, the travaill and the payne
555 That he had tholyt sen he thaim saw.
Wes nane amang thaim hey na law
That he ne had pite and plesaunce
Quhen that he herd mak remembrance
Off the perellys that passyt war,
560 Bot quhen men oucht at liking ar
To tell off paynys passyt by
Plesys to heryng petuisly,
And to rehers thar auld disese
Dois thaim oftsys comfort and ese,
565 With-thi tharto folow na blame
Dishonour wikytnes na schame.

[They row past Bute; Lennox's boat escapes pursuers]

Efter the mete sone rais the king
Quhen he had levyt hys speryng,
And buskyt him with his mengye
570 And went in hy towart the se
Quhar Schyr Nele Cambell thaim mete
Bath with schippis and with meyte
Saylys ayris and other thing
That wes spedfull to thar passyng.
575 Then schippyt thai foroutyn mar
Sum went till ster and sum till ar,
And rowyt be the ile of But.
Men mycht se mony frely fute
About the cost, thar lukand
580 As thai on ayris rais rowand,
And nevys that stalwart war and squar,
That wont to spayn gret speris war,
Swa spaynyt aris that men mycht se
Full oft the hyde leve on the tre.
585 For all war doand, knycht and knave,
Wes nane that ever disport mycht have
Fra steryng and fra rowyng
To furthyr thaim off thar fleting.
Bot in the samyn tyme at thai
590 War in schipping, as ye hard me say,
The erle off the Levenax was,
I can nocht tell you throu quhat cas
Levyt behynd with his galay
Till the king wes fer on his way.
595 Quhen that thai off his cuntre
Wyst that so duelt behynd wes he
Be se with schippys thai him socht,
And he that saw that he wes nocht
Off pith to fecht with thai traytouris
600 And that he had na ner socouris
Then the kingis flote, forthi
He sped him efter thaim in hy,
Bot the tratouris hym folowyt sua
That thai weill ner hym gan ourta
605 For all the mycht that he mycht do.
Ay ner and ner thai come him to,
And quhen he saw thai war sa ner
That he mycht weill thar manance her
And saw thaim ner and ner cum ay,
610 Then till his mengye gan he say,
'Bot giff we fynd sum sutelte
Ourtane all sone sall we be.
Tharfor I rede but mar letting
That outakyn our armyng
615 We kast our thing all in the se,
And fra our schip swa lychtyt be
We sall row and speid us sua
That we sall weill eschaip thaim fra,
With that thai sall mak duelling
620 Apon the se to tak our thing
And we sall row but resting ay
Till we eschapyt be away.'
As he divisyt thai have done
And thar schip thai lychtyt sone
625 And rowyt syne with all thar mycht,
And scho that swa wes maid lycht
Raykyt slidand throu the se.
And quhen thar fayis gan thaim se
Forouth thaim alwayis mar and mar,
630 The thingis that thar fletand war
Thai tuk and turnyt syne agayne,
And leyt thai lesyt all thar payne.

[Arrival in Kintyre; Angus of Islay submits at Dunaverty;
they sail for Rathlin]

Quhen that the erle on this maner
And his mengye eschapyt wer,
635 Eftyr the king he gan him hy
That then with all his cumpany
Into Kyntyr aryvyt was.
The erle tauld him all his cas,
How he wes chasyt on the se
640 With thaim that suld his awyn be,
And how he had bene tane but dout
Na war it that he warpyt out
All that he had him lycht to ma
And swa eschapyt thaim fra.
645 'Schyr erle,' said the king, 'perfay,
Syn thou eschapyt is away
Off the tynsell is na plenyeing.
Bot I will say the weile a thing,
That thar will fall the gret foly
650 To pas oft fra my cumpany,
For fele sys quhen thou art away
Thou art set intill hard assay,
Tharfor me thynk best to the
To hald the alwayis ner by me.'
655 'Schyr,' said the erle, 'it sall be swa.
I sall na wys pas fer you fra
Till God giff grace we be off mycht
Agayne our fayis to hald our stycht.'
Angus off Ile that tyme wes syr
660 And lord and ledar off Kyntyr,
The king rycht weill resavyt he
And undertuk his man to be,
And him and his on mony wys
He abandounyt till his service,
665 And for mar sekyrnes gaiff him syne
His castell off Donavardyne
To duell tharin at his liking.
Full gretumly thankyt him the king
And resavyt his service.
670 Nocht-forthi on mony wys
He wes dredand for tresoun ay,
And tharfor, as Ik hard men say,
He traistyt in nane sekyrly
Till that he knew him utraly.
675 Boy quhatkin dred that ever he had
Fayr contenance to thaim he maid,
And in Donavardyne dayis thre
Foroutyne mar then duellyt he.
Syne gert he his mengye mak thaim yar
680 Towart Rauchryne be se to far
That is ane ile in the se,
And may weill in mydwart be
Betuix Kyntyr and Irland,
Quhar als gret stremys ar rynnand
685 And als peralous and mar
Till our-saile thaim into schipfair
As is the rais of Bretangye
Or Strait off Marrok into Spanye.

[The stormy crossing; the panic and the submission of Rathlin]
Thair schippys to the se thai set,
690 And maid redy but langer let
Ankyrs rapys bath saile and ar
And all that nedyt to schipfar.
Quhen thai war boune to saile thai went,
The wynd wes wele to thar talent.
695 Thai raysyt saile and furth thai far,
And by the Mole thai passyt yar
And entryt sone into the rase
Quhar that the stremys sa sturdy was
That wavys wyd wycht brakand war
700 Weltryt as hillys her and thar.
The schippys our the wavys slayd
For wynd at poynt blawand thai had,
Bot nocht-forthi quha had thar bene
A gret stertling he mycht haiff seyne
705 Off schippys, for quhilum sum wald be
Rycht on the wavys as on a mounté
And sum wald slyd fra heycht to law
Rycht as thai doune till hell wald draw,
Syne on the wav stert sodanly,
710 And other schippys that war tharby
Deliverly drew to the depe.
It wes gret cunnanes to kep
Thar takill intill sic a thrang
And wyth sic wavis, for ay amang
715 The wavys reft thar sycht of land
Quhen thai the land wes rycht ner-hand,
And quhen schippys war sailand ner
The se wald rys on sic maner
That off the wavys the weltrand hycht
720 Wald refe thaim oft off thar sycht.
Bot into Rauchryne nocht-forthi
Thai aryvyt ilkane sawffly,
Blyth and glaid that thai war sua
Eschapyt thai hidwys wavis fra.
725 In Rauchryne thai aryvyt ar
And to the land thai went but mar
Armyt apon thar best maner.
Quhen the folk that thar wonnand wer
Saw men off armys in that cuntre
730 Aryve into sic quantite
Thai fled in hy with thar catell
Towart a rycht stalwart castell
That in the land wes tharby.
Men mycht her wemen hely cry
735 And fle with cataill her and thar.
Bot the kingis folk that war
Deliver of fute thaim gan our-hy
And thaim arestyt hastely
And brocht thaim to the king agayne
740 Swa that nane off thaim all wes slayne.
Then with thaim tretyt swa the king
That thai to fulfill his yarnyng
Become his men everilkane,
And has him trewly undertane
745 That thai and tharis loud and still
Suld be in all thing at his will,
And quhill him likit thar to leynd
Everilk day thai suld him send
Vittalis for thre hunder men,
750 And thai as lord suld him ken,
Bot at thar possessioune suld be
For all his men thar awyn fre.
The cunnand on this wys was maid,
And on the morn but langer baid
755 Off all Rauchryne bath man and page
Knelyt and maid the king homage,
And tharwith swour him fewté
To serve him ay in lawté,
And held him rycht weill cunnand,
760 For quhill he duelt into the land
Thai fand meit till his cumpany
And servyt him full humely.

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

Share

The Witch of Hebron

A Rabbinical Legend


Part I.
From morn until the setting of the sun
The rabbi Joseph on his knees had prayed,
And, as he rose with spirit meek and strong,
An Indian page his presence sought, and bowed
Before him, saying that a lady lay
Sick unto death, tormented grievously,
Who begged the comfort of his holy prayers.
The rabbi, ever to the call of grief
Open as day, arose; and girding straight
His robe about him, with the page went forth;
Who swiftly led him deep into the woods
That hung, heap over heap, like broken clouds
On Hebron’s southern terraces; when lo!
Across a glade a stately pile he saw,
With gleaming front, and many-pillared porch
Fretted with sculptured vinage, flowers and fruit,
And carven figures wrought with wondrous art
As by some Phidian hand.

But interposed
For a wide space in front, and belting all
The splendid structure with a finer grace,
A glowing garden smiled; its breezes bore
Airs as from paradise, so rich the scent
That breathed from shrubs and flowers; and fair the growths
Of higher verdure, gemm’d with silver blooms,
Which glassed themselves in fountains gleaming light
Each like a shield of pearl.

Within the halls
Strange splendour met the rabbi’s careless eyes,
Halls wonderful in their magnificance,
With pictured walls, and columns gleaming white
Like Carmel’s snow, or blue-veined as with life;
Through corridors he passed with tissues hung
Inwrought with threaded gold by Sidon’s art,
Or rich as sunset clouds with Tyrian dye;
Past lofty chambers, where the gorgeous gleam
Of jewels, and the stainèd radiance

Of golden lamps, showed many a treasure rare
Of Indian and Armenian workmanship
Which might have seemed a wonder of the world:
And trains of servitors of every clime,
Greeks, Persians, Indians, Ethiopians,
In richest raiment thronged the spacious halls.

The page led on, the rabbi following close,
And reached a still and distant chamber, where
In more than orient pomp, and dazzling all
The else-unrivalled splendour of the rest,
A queenly woman lay; so beautiful,
That though upon her moon-bright visage, pain
And langour like eclipsing shadows gloomed,
The rabbi’s aged heart with tremor thrilled;
Then o’er her face a hectic colour passed,
Only to leave that pallor which portends
The nearness of the tomb.

From youth to age
The rabbi Joseph still had sought in herbs
And minerals the virtues they possess,
And now of his medicaments he chose
What seemed most needful in her sore estate;
“Alas, not these,” the dying woman said,
A malady like mine thou canst not cure,
’Tis fatal as the funeral march of Time!
But that I might at length discharge my mind
Of a dread secret, that hath been to me
An ever-haunting and most ghostly fear,
Darkening my whole life like an ominous cloud
And which must end it ere the morning come,
Therefore did I entreat thy presence here.”

The rabbi answered, “If indeed it stand
Within my power to serve thee, speak at once
All that thy heart would say. But if ’tis vain,
If this thy sin hath any mortal taint,
Forbear, O woman, to acquaint my soul
With aught that could thenceforth with horror chase
The memory of a man of Israel.”

I am,” she said “the daughter of thy friend
Rabbi Ben Bachai—be his memory blest!
Once at thy side a laughing child I played;
I married with an Arab Prince, a man
Of lofty lineage, one of Ishmael’s race;
Not great in gear. Behold’st thou this abode?
Did ever yet the tent-born Arab build
Thus for his pride or pleasure? See’st thou
These riches? An no! Such were ne’er amassed
By the grey desert’s wild and wandering son;
Deadly the game by which I won them all!
And with a burning bitterness at best
Have I enjoyed them! And how gladly now
Would I, too late, forego them all, to mend
My broken peace with a repentant heed
In abject poverty!”

She ceased, and lay
Calm in her loveliness, with dreamy looks
Roaming, perhaps, in thought the fateful past;
Then suddenly her beauteous countenance grew
Bedimm’d and drear, then dark with mortal pangs,
While fierce convulsions shook her tortured frame,
And from her foaming lips such words o’erran,
That rabbi Joseph sank upon his knees,
And bowed his head a space in horror down
While ardent, pitying prayers for her great woe
Rose from his soul; when, lo! The woman’s face
Was cloudless as a summer heaven! The late
Dark brow was bright, the late pale cheek suffused
With roseate bloom; and, wondrous more than all,
Here weary eyes were changed to splendours now
That shot electric influence, and her lips
Were full and crimson, curled with stormy pride.
The doubting rabbi stood in wild amaze
To see the dying woman bold and fierce
In bright audacity of passion’s power.
These are the common changes,” then she said,
Of the fell ailment, that with torments strange,
Which search my deepest life, is tearing up
The dark foundations of my mortal state,
And sinking all its structures, hour by hour,
Into the dust of death. For nothing now
Is left me but to meet my nearing doom
As best I may in silent suffering.”

Then as he heard her words and saw her face,
The rabbi in his wisdom knew some strong
Indwelling evil spirit troubled her,
And straighway for an unction sent, wherewith
The famous ancestor whose name he bore,
Herod the Great’s chief hakim, had expelled
The daemon haunter of the dying king.
With this he touched her forehead and her eyes
And all her finger-tips. Forthwith he made
Within a consecrated crucible
A fire of citron-wood and cinnamon;
Then splashed the flames with incense, mingling all
With the strong influence of fervent prayer;
And, as the smoke arose, he bowed her head
Into its coils, that so she might inhale
Its salutary odour—till the fiend
That dwelt within her should be exorcised.

Her face once more grew pale with pain; she writhed
In burning torment, uttering many words
Of most unhallowed meaning! Yet her eyes
Were fixed the while, and motionless her lips!
Whereby the rabbi certainly perceived
’Twas not the woman of herself that spake,
But the dread spirit that possessed her soul,
And thus it cried aloud.

--------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------


Part II.
“WHY am I here, in this my last resort,
Perturbed with incense and anointings? Why
Compelled to listen to the sound of prayers
That smite me through as with the fire of God?
O pain, pain, pain! Is not this chamber full
Of the implacable stern punishers?
Full of avenging angels, holding each
A scourge of thunder in his potent hand,
Ready to lighten forth! And then, thus armed,
For ever chase and wound us as we fly!
Nor end with this—but, in each wound they make,
Pour venom sweltered from that tree As-gard,
Whose deadly shadow in its blackness falls
Over the lake of everlasting doom!
“Five hundred years ago, I, who thus speak,
Was an Egyptian of the splendid court
Of Ptolemy Philadelphus. To the top
Of mountainous power, though roughened with unrest,
And girt with dangers as with thunder-clouds,
Had I resolved by all resorts to climb;
By truth and falsehood, right and wrong alike;
And I did climb! Then firmly built in power
Second alone to my imperial lord’s,
I crowned with its impunity my lust
Of beauty, sowing broadcast everywhere
Such sensual baits wide round me, as should lure
Through pleasure, or through interest entrap,
The fairest daughters of the land, and lo!
Their lustrous eyes surcharged with passionate light
The chambers of my harem! But at length
Wearied of these, though sweet, I set my heart
On riches, heaped to such a fabulous sum
As never one man’s hoard in all the world
Might match; and to acquire them, steeped my life
In every public, every private wrong,
In lies, frauds, secret murders; till at last
A favoured minion I had trusted most,
And highest raised, unveiled before the king
The dark abysmal badness of my life;
But dearly did he rue it; nor till then
Guessed I how deadly grateful was revenge!
I stole into his chamber as he slept,
And with a sword, whose double edge for hours
I had whetted for the purpose of the deed,
There staked him through the midriff to his bed.
I fled; but first I sent, as oft before,
A present to the household of the man
Who had in secret my betrayer bribed.
Twas scented wine, and rich Damascus cakes;
On these he feasted, and fell sudden down,
Rolling and panting in his dying pangs,
A poisoned desert dog!

“But I had fled.
A swift ship bore me, which my forecast long
Had kept prepared against such need as this.
Over the waves three days she proudly rode;
Then came a mighty storm, and trampled all
Her masted bravery flat, and still drove on
The wave-swept ruin towards a reefy shore!
Meanwhile amongst the terror-stricken crew
An ominous murmur went from mouth to mouth;
They grouped themselves in councils, and, ere long,
Grew loud and furious with surmises wild,
And maniac menaces, all aimed at me!
My fugitive head it was at which so loud
The thunder bellowed! The wild-shrieking winds
And roaring waters held in vengeful chase
Me only! Me! Whose signal crimes alone
Had brought on us this anger of the gods!
And thus reproaching me with glaring eyes,
They would have seized and slain me, but I sprang
Back from amongst them, and, outstriking, stabbed
With sudden blow their leader to the heart;
Then, with my poniard scaring off the rest,
Leaped from the deck, and swimming reached the shore,
From which, in savage triumph, I beheld
The battered ship, with all her howling crew,
Heel, and go down, amid the whelming waves.

“Inland my course now lay for many days,
O’er barren hills and glens, whose herbless scopes
Never grew luminous with a water gleam,
Or heard the pleasant bubble of a brook,
For vast around the Afric desert stretched.
Starving and sun-scorched and afire with thirst,
I wandered ever on, until I came
To where, amid the dun and level waste,
In frightful loneliness, a mouldered group
Of ancient tombs stood ghostly. Here at last,
Utterly spent, in my despair I lay
Down on the burning sand, to gasp and die!
When from among the stones a withered man,
Old-seeming as the desert where he lived,
Came and stood by me, saying ‘get thee up!
Not much have I to give, but these at least
I offer to thy need, water and bread.’

“Then I arose and followed to his cell,—
A dismal cell, that seemed itself a tomb,
So lightless was it, and so foul with damp,
And at its entrance there were skulls and bones.
Long and deep drank I of the hermit’s draught,
And munched full greedily the hermit’s bread;
But with the strength which thence my frame derived,
Fierce rage devoured me, and I cursed my fate!
Whereat the withered creature laughed in scorn,
And mocked me with the malice of his eyes,
That sometimes, like a snake’s, shrank small, and then
Enlarging blazed as with infernal fire!
Then, on a sudden, with an oath that seemed
To wake a stir in the grey musty tombs,
As if their silence shuddered, he averred
That he could life me once more to the height
Of all my wishes—nay, even higher, but
On one condition only. Dared I swear,
By the dread angel of the second death,
I would be wholly his, both body and soul,
After a hundred years?

“Why should I not?
I answered, quivering with a stormy haste,
A rampart unreluctance! For so great
Was still my fury against all mankind,
And my desire of pomp and riches yet
So monstrous, that I felt I could have drunk
Blood, fire, or worse, to wear again the power
That fortune, working through my enemies’ hands,
Had stript away from me. So, word by word,
I swore the oath as he repeated it;
Nor much it moved me, in my eagerness,
To feel a damp and earthy odour break
Out of each tomb, from which there darkling rose
At every word a hissing as of snakes;
And yet the fell of hair upon my scalp
Rose bristling under a cold creeping thrill:
But I failed not, I swore the dread oath through,
And then the tombs grew silent as their dead.
But through my veins a feeling of strong youth
Coursed bold along, and summered in my heart,
Till there before him in my pride I stood
In stately strength, and swift as is the wind,
Magnificant as a desert-nurtured steed
Of princeliest pedigree, with nostrils wide
Dilated, and with eyes effusing flame.
‘Begone,’ he said, ’and live thy hundred years
Of splendour, power, pleasure, ease.’ His voice
Sighed off into the distance. He was gone:
Only a single raven, far aloft,
Was beating outwards with its sable wings;
The tombs had vanished, and the desert grey
Merged its whole circle with the bending sky.

--------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------


Part III.
“OUT of these wilds to Egypt I returned:
Men thought that I had perished with the ship,
And no one knew me now, because my face
And form were greatly changed,—from passing fair
To fairer yet; from manly, to a pile
So nobly built, that in all eyes I seemed
Beauteous as Thammuz! And my heart was changed;
Ambition wilder than a leopard’s thirst
For blood of roe, or flying hart, possessed
My spirit, like the madness of a god!
But this I yet even in its fiercest strain
Could curb and guide with sovereign strength of will.
From small beginnings onward still I worked,
Stepping as up a stair from rival head
To rival head,—from high to higher still,
Unto the loftiest post that might be held
Under the Ptolemies; and meantime paid
Each old unsettled score, defeating those
Who erst had worked against me, sweeping them
Out of all posts, all places; for though time
And change had wide dispersed them through the land,
The sleuth-hounds of my vengeance found them out!
Which things not being in a corner done,
What wonder was it that all Egypt now,
From end to end, even like a shaken hive,
Buzzed as disturbed with my portentous fame?
And what to me were secret enemies?
Had I not also spies, who could pin down
A whisper in the dark and keep it there?
Could dash a covert frown by the same means
An open charge had challenged? Hence my name
Became a sound that struck through every heart
Ineffable dismay! And yet behold
There more I trampled on mankind, the more
Did fawning flatterers praise me as I swept
Like a magnificant meteor through the land!
The more I hurled the mighty from their seats,
And triumphed o’er them prostrate in the dust,
The human hounds that licked my master hand
But multiplied the more! And still I strode
From bad to worse, corrupting as I went,
Making the lowly ones more abject yet;
Awing as with a thunder-bearing hand
The high and affluent; while I bound the strong
To basest service, even with chains of gold.
All hated, cursed and feared me, for in vain
Daggers were levelled at my brazen heart—
They glanced, and slew some minion at my side
Poison was harmless as a heifer’s milk
When I had sipped it with my lips of scorn;
All that paraded pomp and smiling power
Could draw against me from the envious hearts
Of men in will as wicked as myself
I challenged, I encountered, and o’erthrew!

“But, after many years, exhaustion sere
Spread through the branches of my tree of life;
My forces flagged, my senses more and more
Were blunted, and incapable of joy;
The splendours of my rank availed me not;
A poverty as naked as a slave’s
Peered from them mockingly. The pride of power
That glowed so strong within me in my youth
Was now like something dying at my heart.
To cheat or stimulate my jaded taste,
Feasts, choice or sumptuous, were devised in vain;
there was disfavour, there was fraud within,
Like that which filled the fair-appearing rind
Of those delusive apples that of old
Grew on the Dead Sea shore.

And yet, though thus
All that gave pleasure to my younger life
Was withering from my path like summer grass,
I still had one intense sensation, which
Grew ever keener as my years increased—
A hatred of mankind; to pamper which
I gloated, with a burning in my soul,
Over their degradation; and like one
Merry with wine, I revelled day by day
In scattering baits that should corrupt them more:
The covetous I sharpened into thieves,
Urged the vindictive, hardened the malign,
Whetted the ruffian with self-interest,
And flung him then, a burning brand, abroad.
And the decadence of the state in which
My fortunes had recast me, served me well.
Excess reeled shameless in the court itself,
Or, staggering thence, was rivalled by the wild
Mad looseness of the crowd. Down to its death
The old Greek dynasty was sinking fast;
Waste and pale want, extortion, meanness, fraud—
These, welling outwards from the throne itself,
Spread through the land.

“But now there seized my soul
A new ambition—from his feeble throne
To hurl the king, and mount thereon myself!
To this end still I lured him into ill,
And daily wove around him cunning snares,
That reached and trammelled too his fawning court;
And all went well, the end at last was near,
But in my triumph one thing I forgot—
My name was measured. At a banquet held
In the king’s chamber, lo! A guest appeared,
Chief of a Bactrian tribe, who tendered gold
To pay for some great wrong his desert horde
Had done our caravans; his age, men said,
Was wonderful; his craft more wondrous still;
For this his fame had spread through many lands,
And the dark seekers of forbidden lore
Knew his decrepit wretch to be their lord.

The first glance that I met of his weird eye
Had sent into my soul a fearful doubt
That I had seen that cramp-shrunk withered form
And strange bright eye in some forgotten past.
But at the dry croak of his raven voice
Remembrance wok; I knew that I beheld
The old man of the tombs: I saw, and fell
Into the outer darkness of despair.
The day that was to close my dread account
Was come at last. The long triumphant feast
Of life had ended in a funeral treat.
I was to die—to suffer with the damned
The hideous torments of the second death!
The days, weeks, months of a whole hundred years
Seemed crushed into a thought, and burning out
In that brief period which was left me now.

“Stung with fierce horror, shame, and hate I fled;
I seized my sword, to plunge its ready point
Into my maddened heart, but on my arm
I felt a strong forbidding grasp! I turned;
The withered visage of the Bactrian met
My loathing eyes; I struggled to be free
From the shrunk wretch in vain; his spidery hands
Were strong as fetters of Ephesian brass,
And all my strength, though now with madness strung,
Was as a child’s to his. He calmly smiled:
‘Forbear, thou fool! Am I not Sammael?
Whom to resist is vain, and from whom yet
Has never mercy flowed; for what to me
Are feelings which thou knowest even in men
Are found the most in fools. But wide around
A prince of lies I reign. ’Tis I that fill
the Persian palaces with lust and wrong,
Till like the darkling heads of sewers they flow
With a corruption that in fretting thence
Taints all the region round with rankest ill;
’Tis I that clot the Bactrian sand with blood;
And now I come to fling the brands of war
Through all this people, this most ill-mixed mob,
Where Afric’s savage hordes meet treacherous Greeks,
And swarming Asia’s luxury-wasted sons.
This land throughout shall be a deluge soon
Of blood and fire, till ruin stalk alone,
A grisly spectre, in its grass-grown marts.’

The fiery eyes within his withered face
Glowed like live coals, as he triumphant spake,
And his strange voice, erewhile so thin and dry,
Came as if bellowed from the vaults of doom.
Prone fell I, powerless to move or speak;
And now he was about to plunge me down
Ten thousand times ten thousand fathoms deep
Through the earth’s crust, and through the slimy beds
Of nether ocean—down! Still down, below
The darkling roots of all this upper world
Into the regions of the courts of hell!

“To stamp me downward to the convict dead
His heel was raised, when suddenly I heard
Him heave a groan of superhuman pain,
So deep twas drawn! And as he groaned, I saw
A mighty downburst of celestial light
Enwrap his shrivelled form from head to foot,
As with a robe within whose venomous folds
He writhed in torment. Then above him stood
A shining shape, unspeakably sublime,
And gazed upon him! One of the high sons
Of Paradise, who still keep watch and ward
O’er Israel’s progeny, where’er dispersed;
And now they fought for me with arms that filled
The air wide round with flashes and swift gleams
Of dazzling light; full soon the Evil One
Fell conquered. Then forth sprang he from the ground
And with dark curses wrapped him in a cloud
That moved aloft, low thundering as it went.

And then the shining son of paradise
Came where I lay and spoke, his glorious face
Severe with wrath, and yet divinely fair—
‘O Child of Guilt! Should vengeance not be wrought
On thee as well? On Sammael’s willing slave?’
I clasped his radiant knees—I wept—I groaned—
I beat my bosom in my wild distress.
At last the sacred Presence, who had held
The blow suspended still, spoke thus: ‘Thou’rt spared;
From no weak pity, but because thou art
Descended from the line of Israel:
For that cause spared;—yet must thou at my hand
Find some meet punishment.’ And as he spake,
He laid his hand with a life-crushing weight
Upon my forehead—and I fell, as dead!

--------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------


Part IV.
“AWAKING as from sleep, I bounded up,
Stung with a feeling of enormous strength,
Though yet half wild with horror. Onward then
Ramping I went, out through the palace gates,
Down the long streets, and into the highways,
Forth to the wilds, amazed at my own speed!
And now afar, in long-drawn line appeared
A caravan upon its outward way
Over the desert of Pentapolis.
And strange the instinct seemed that urged me then
to rush amongst them—and devour: for I
Was fierce with hunger, and inflamed with thirst.
“Amidst a laggard company I leaped
That rested yet beside a cooling spring;
One of those clear springs that, like giant pearls,
Inlay the burning borders of the grey
Enormous desert. All at once they rose!
Some fled, some threw themselves amongst the brakes,
Some seized their swords and lances; this to see
Filled me at once with a mysterious rage
And savage joy! The sternness of their looks,
Their fearful cries, the gleaming of their spears
Seemed to insult me, and I rushed on them.
Then sudden spasms of pain searched deep my side,
Wherein a fell lance quivered. On I rushed;
I roared a roar that startled e’en myself,
So loud and hoarse and terrible its tone,
Then bounding, irresistible it seemed
As some huge fragment from a crag dislodged,
Against the puny wretch that sent the lance,
Instantly tore him, as he were a kid,
All into gory shreds! The others fled
At sight of this, nor would I chase them then,
All wearied by my flight. Besides, the well
Was gleaming in its coolness by me there.

And as I stooped to quench my parching thirst,
Behold, reversed within the water clear,
The semblance of a monstrous lion stood!
I saw his shaggy mane, I saw his red
And glaring eyeballs rolling in amaze,
His rough and grinning lips, his long sharp fangs
All foul with gore and hung with strings of flesh!
I shrank away in horrible dismay.
But as the sun each moment fiercer grew,
I soon returned to stoop and slake my thirst.
Again was that tremendous presence there
Standing reversed, as erewhile, in the clear
And gleaming mirror of the smiling well!
The horrid truth smote like a rush of fire
Upon my brain! The dreadful thing I saw
Was my own shadow! I was a wild beast.”

“They did not fable, then, who held that oft
The guilty dead are punished in the shapes
Of beasts, if brutal were their lives as men.”

“Long lapped I the cool lymph, while still my tongue
Made drip for drip against the monstrous one,
Which, as in ugly mockery, from below
Seemed to lap up against it. But though thirst
Was quenched at length, what was there might appease
The baffled misery of my fated soul?
The thought that I no more was human, ran
Like scorpion venom through my mighty frame;
Fiercely I bounded, tearing up the sands,
That, like a drab mist, coursed me as I went
Out on my homeless track. I made my fangs
Meet in my flesh, trusting to find in pain
Some respite from the anguish of regret.
From morn to night, from night to morn, I fled,
Chased by the memory of my lost estate;
Then, worn and bleeding, in the burning sands
I lay down, as to die. In vain!—in vain!
The savage vigour of my lion-life
Might yield alone to the long tract of time.

“From hill to valley rushing after prey,
With whirlwind speed, was now my daily wont,
For all things fled before me—all things shrank
In mortal terror at my shaggy front.
Sometimes I sought those close-fenced villages,
Wherein the desert-dwellers hide their swart
And naked bodies from the scorching heats,
Hoping that I might perish by their shafts.
And often was I wounded—often bore
Their poisoned arrows in my burning flesh—
But still I lived.

The tenor of my life
Was always this—the solitary state
Of a wild beast of prey, that hunted down
The antelope, the boar, the goat, the gorged
Their quivering flesh, and lapped their steaming blood;
Then slept till hunger, or the hunter’s cry,
Roused him again to battle or to slay,
To flight, pursuit, blood, stratagem, and wounds.
And to make this rude life more hideous yet,
I still retained a consciousness of all
The nobler habits of my eariler time,
And had a keen sense of what most had moved
My nature as a man, and knew besides
That this my punishment was fixed by One
Too mighty to be questioned, and too just
One tittle of its measure to remit.

“How long this haggard course of life went on
I might not even guess, for I had lost
The human faculty that measures time.
But still from night to night I found myself
Roaming the desert, howling at the moon,
Whose cold light always, as she poured it down,
Awoke a drear distemper in my brain:
But much I shunned the sunblaze, which at once
Inflamed me, and revealed my dread approach.

“Homelessly roaming thus for evermore,
The tempests beat on my unsheltered bulk,
In those bleak seasons when the drenching rains
Drove into covert all those gentler beasts
That were my natural prey. I swinkt beneath
The furnace heats of the midsummer sun,
When even the palm of the oasis stood
All withered, like a weed: and for how long,
Yet knew not.

“Thus the sun and moon arose
Through an interminable tract of time,
And yet though sense was dim, the view of all
My human life was ever at my beck,
Nay, opened out before me of itself
Plain as the pictures in a wizard’s glass!
I saw again the trains that round my car
Streamed countless, saw its pageants and its pomps,
Its faces fair and passionate, and felt
Lie’s eager pleasures, even its noble pangs!
Then in the anguish of my goaded heart
Would I roll howling in the burning sand.

“At length this life of horror seemed to near
Its fated bourn. The slow but sure approach
Of old decay was felt in every limb
And every function of my lion frame.
My massive strength seemed spent, my speed was gone,
The antelope escaped me! Wearily
I sought a mountain cavern, shut from day
By savage draperies of tangled briers,
And only dragged my tardy bulk abroad
When hunger urged. It chanced on such a day
I sprange amid a herd of buffaloes
And tore their leader down, who bellowing fell.
When, lo! The chief of those that drove them came
Against me, and I turned my rage on him:
But though the long lapse of so many years
Of ever-grinding wretchedness had dulled
My memory, I felt that I had seen
His withered visage twice before; and straight
A shuddering awe subdued me, and I crouched
Beneath him in the dust. My lust of blood,
My ruthless joy at sight of mortal pain,
Within me died, and if in human speech
I might have told the wild desire that filled
My being, I had prayed him once for all
To crush me out of life, and to consign
My misery to the pit of final death!
But when, all hopeless, I again looked up,
The tawney presence of the desert chief
Was gone, and I beheld the shining son
Of paradise, from whose majestic brow
There flashed the lightings of a wrath divine.
Yea, twas the angel that with Sammael
Had fought for me in Egypt; and once more
He laid his crushing had upon my front;
And earth and sky, and all that in them is,
Became to me a darkness, swimming blank
In the Eternal, round that point where now
My body lay, stretched dead upon the sand.

--------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------


Part V.
“AGAIN I lived—again I felt. But now
The winds of heaven seemed under me, and I
Was sweeping, like the spirit of a storm
That bellowed round me, in its murky glooms,
All heaving with a motion wide and swift
That seemed yet mightier than the darkling swells
Of ocean, wrestling with a midnight gale!
The wild winds tossed me; I was drenched throughout
With heavy moisture, and at intervals
Amid the ragged gaps of moving cloud,
Methought I caught dim glimpses of the sun
Hanging aloft, as if in drear eclipse;
But as my senses cleared, I saw my limbs
Were clothed with plumage; and long-taloned claws
Were closing eagerly with fierce desire
And sudden hunger after blood and prey!
An impulse to pursue and to destroy
Both on the earth and in the air, ran quick
Out from my heart and shivered in my wings;
And as a thing more central yet, I felt
Pregnant within me, throned o’er all, a lone
And sullen, yet majestic, glow of pride.
“’Twas plain that I, who had aforetime been
Crushed out of human being into that
Of a wild beast, had thence again passed on
Into the nature of some mighty thing
That now swept sailing on wide van-like wings,
Amid the whirls of an aërial gloom,
That out extending in one mighty cope
Hung heaving, like a black tent-roof, o’er all
The floor of Africa.

“Still on I swept,
And still as far as my keen vision went,
That now was gifted with a power that seemed
To pierce all space, I saw the vapours roll
In dreadful continuous of black
And shapeless masses, by the winds convulsed;
But soon in the remotest distance came
A change: the clouds were touched with sunny light,
And, as I nearer drew, I saw them dash,
Like the wild surges of an uproused sea
Of molten gold, against the marble sides
Of lofty mountains, which, though far below
My flight, yet pierced up through them all, and stood
With splintered cones and monster-snouted crags,
Immovable as fate. Beneath me, lo!
The grandeur of the kingdom of the air
Was circling in its magnitude! It was
A dread magnificence of which before
I might not even dream. I saw its quick
And subtle interchange of forms and hues,
Saw its black reservoirs of densest rain,
Its awful forges of the thunderstorm.

“At last, as onward still I swept, above
A milky mass of vapour far outspread,
Behold, reflected in its quiet gleam,
I saw an image that swept on with me,
Reversed as was the lion’s in the well,
With van-like wings, with eyeballs seething fire,
With taloned claws, and cruel down-bent beak,—
The mightiest eagle that had ever sailed
The seas of space since Adam named the first!

“My fated soul had passed into the form
Of that huge eagle which swept shadowed there.
Cold horror thrilled me! I was once again
Imprisoned in the being of a brute,
In the base being of a nature yet
Inferior by what infinite descent
To that poor remnant of intelligence
Which still kept with me,—like a put-back soul
Burningly conscious of its powers foregone,
Its inborn sovreignty of kind, and yet
So latent, self-less; once again to live
A life of carnage, and to sail abroad
A terror to all birds and gentle beasts
That heard the stormy rushings of my wings!
A royal bird indeed, who lived alone
In the great stillness of the mighty hills,
Or in the highest heavens.

“But in truth
Not much for many seasons had I need
To search for prey, for countless hosts of men,
Forth mustering over all the face of earth,
Cast the quick gleam of arms o’er trampled leagues
Of golden corn, and as they onward marched
They left behind them seas of raging fire,
In whose red surges cities thronged with men
And happy hamlets, homes of health and peace,
That rang erewhile with rural thankfulness,
Were whelmed in one wide doom; or in their strength
Confronted upon some set field of fight,
Their sullen masses charged with dreadful roar
That far out-yelled the fiercest yells of beasts,
And with brute madness rushed on wounds and death;
Or else about fenced cities they would pitch
Their crowded camps, and leaguer them for years,
Sowing the fields about them with a slime
Of carnage, till their growths were plagues alone.
What is the ravage made by brutes on brutes
To that man makes on man?

With mingled pain
And joy I saw the wondrous ways of men,
(For ever when I hungered, close at hand,
Some fresh slain man lay smoking in his gore)
And though the instincts of the eagle’s life
Were fierce within me, yet I felt myself
Cast in a lot more capable of joy;
Safe from pursuit, from famine, and from wounds.
Some solaces, though few and far between,
Were added to me; and I argued thence,
In the dark musings of my eagle heart,
That not for ever was my soul condemned
To suffer in the body of a brute;
For though remembrance of the towering crimes
And matchless lusts, that filled my whole career
Of human life, worked in me evermore,
No longer did they shed about my life
So venomous a blight. Nay, I could think
How often I had looked with longing eyes
Up at the clear Egyptian heavens, and watched
The wings that cleft them, envying every bird
That, soaring in the sunshine, seemed to be
Exempt from all the grovelling cares of men.
I thought how once, when with my hunting train
I pierced that region round the cataracts,
I watched an eagle as it rose aloft
Into the lovely blue, and wished to change
My being with it as it floated on,
So inaccessible to hate or hurt,
So peaceful, at a height in heaven so safe;
And then it passed away through gorgeous clouds
Against the sunset, through the feathered flags
Of royal purple edged with burning gold.

These fields of space were my dominion now;
Motion alone within a world so rich
Was something noble: but to move at will,
Upward or forward, or in circles vast,
Through boundless spaces with a rushing speed
No living thing might rival, and to see
The glory of the everlasting hills
Beneath me, and the myriad-peopled plains,
Broad rivers, and the towery towns that sate
Beside their spacious mouths, with out beyond
The lonely strength of the resounding seas—
This liberty began to move my sense
As something godlike; and in moving made
A sure impression that kept graining still
Into the texture of my brute estate—
Yea, graining in through all its fleshy lusts
And savage wonts.

“Hence ever more and more
The temper of a better spirit grew
Within me, as from inkling roots, and moved
E’en like an embryon in its moist recess:
A sensibility to beauteous things
As now I saw them in the heavens displayed,
And in the bright luxuriance of the earth;
Some power of just comparison, some sense
Of how a man would rank them, could he see
Those earthly grandeurs from the sovreign height
Whence I beheld them. And with this a wish
To commune even with the human race,
And pour the loftier wonders of my life
Into their ears, through a rich-worded song
Whose golden periods in mellow flow
Should witch all ears that heard them—ev’n old men s,
Ev’n jaded monarchs; not to speak of theirs,
Those spirit-lovely ones—yea, moons of love,
That rise at first in the Circassian hills—
And they should tingle all like tiny shells
Of roseate whiteness to its perfect chords.

One day amid the mountains of the moon,
Behold a sudden storm had gatherd up
Out of my view, hid by a neighbouring height,
But which, thence wheeling with terrific force,
Wide tossed me with its gusts—aloft, and then
Downward as far; then whirlingly about,
Ev’n like a withered leaf. My strength of wing
Availed me nought, so mightily it raged;
Then suddenly, in the dim distance, lo!
I saw, as from the storm’s Plutonian heart,
A mass of white-hot light come writing forth,
And then the figure of a withered man
Seemed dropping headlong through the lurid clouds;
While full within the radiant light, again
The conquering son of paradise appeared,
Upon whose brow divine I yet might trace
Some sing of wrath. Onward the vision rushed,
Orbed in white light. I felt a stifling heat,
One cruel blasting pang, and headlong then
Fell earthward—dead; a plumb descending mass.

--------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------


Part VI.
“WITHIN a rustic chamber, dark and low,
Thronged with wild-looking men and women strange,
I seemed to waken. Inwardly I felt
No briskness of existence, but a sense
Of languor rather, or revival slow:
And evermore the men and women came
And gazed upon me, shouting in amaze,
Then would they whirl about the room in dance,
Abandoned to their barbarous delight.
I turned mine eyes about the low-roofed room,
Half fearing and half hoping I might see
The mighty angel that now ruled my life;
They thought I needed air, and I was borne
to a low casement. Like a picture lay
The world without. On all sides wide around
Nothing but mountains, feathered to their tops
With a dense growth of pines, and valleys filled
With a cold darkness that was lit alone
By the broad flashes of the furious streams
That leaped in thunder our of marble gaps!
Dull vapours, like a canopy of smoke,
Did so obscure the sun, that I had thought
The scene that now I saw was not of earth,
But for a golden flush that now and then
Would touch the highest ranges. What I was
I knew not, but I felt my former wants,
And oft I made vain efforts to expand
The wings I had no longer, and sail off,
And through those sullen vapours—up, and up—
Into the mighty silence of the blue.

The day was fading, and a blare of horns,
With many voices and much trampling noise,
Heard from without, aroused me; and, ere long,
Women rushed in, each bearing some rich robe
Or some gay bauble, wherewithal they next
Arrayed me to their taste; and then they held
A mirror up before me, and I saw
My soul had this time passed into the form
Of a fair damsel. She, whose form I now
Re-animated, was—so learned I soon—
The only child of a Circassian chief,
Who had been long regarded by her house
As its chief treasure, for her beauty rare;
Reserved for him, no matter whence he came,
Whose hand could dip into the longest purse.
But envy lurks in the Circassian hills
As elsewhere, and a dose of opium,
Administered by one who had been long
The rival beauty of a neighbouring tribe,
Had served to quash a bargain quite complete
Save in the final payment of the gold,
Which had been even offered and told down,
And only not accepted, through some old
Delaying ceremony of the tribe;
And in this luckless circumstances, twas plain
That both my admirable parents saw
The unkindest turn of all.

“On all hands forth
Had scouts been sent to summon the whole tribe
To attend my obsequies, and then forthwith
Exterminate our ancient enemies
Through all their tents—such was the fierce resolve.
But while these things were pending, lo! The light
Had broken like a new morn from the eyes
Of the dead beauty; on her cheeks had dawned
A roseate colour; from her moistening lips
Low murmurs, too, had broken; whereupon
My parents in exulting hope transformed
The funeral to a general tribal feast,
And loaded me with all the ancient gauds
And ornaments they held. The Persian, too,
Had been invited to renew his suit,
And carry me at once beyond the reach
Of future opium doses.

“Soon he came
Galloping back to bear me to the arms
Of his long-bearded lord. He paid the price;
My worthy parents took a fond farewell
Of me, with tears declaring me to be
The life-light of their eyes, their rose of joy,—
Then stretched their palms out for the stranger’s gold,
And hurried off to count it o’er again—
The dear recovered treasure they so late
Had mourned as lost for ever. On that night
I was packed neatly on a camel’s back
Beside a precious case of porcelain pipes,
And carried Persia-ward, by stages safe,
From the Circassian mountains.

“At the court
I soon became the favourite of the king;
Lived sumptuously, but in perpetual fear:
For all my luxury and gold and gems,
I envied the poor slaves who swept the floors.
I was the favourite of my Persian lord
For one whole month, perhaps a little more,
And then I learned my place was to be filled;
And though I loathed him, as we loathe some cold
And reptile creature, yet I could not bear
To see a newer rival take my place,
For I was beautiful, and therefore vain:
So, that I might regain his favour past,
I now arrayed myself in airy robes,
While scarfs of purple like an orient queen’s
Barred them with brilliant tints, and gold and pearls
Confined the wavelets of my sunny hair.

The harem all applauded, and there seemed
Even in his own dull eyes almost a flash
As of extorted joy, but this became
At the next moment a malignant scowl,
Which had its dark cause in such thoughts as these:
‘What! Did so soft and ignorant a thing
Hope to enchant again a man so wise
As he was—he! The paragon of kings!
By floating in before him like a swan,
A little better feathered than before?’
And then he waved the harem ladies forth,
And with him kept only a Nubian girl,
Whom he thought dull, and altogether his:
A conclave of those strange demoniac dwarfs
Who from their secret dens and crypts would come
On given signals forth, was summoned in:
Wizard-like beings, with enormous heads,
Splay-feet, and monstrous spider-fingered hands.
Nor was the council long; I on that night
Was to be poisoned with a pomegranate.
Then stole the Nubian girl away, and brought
Me word of all; yet her news moved me not,
So sure I felt that this was not my doom;
Or moved me only to prepare for flight
With the poor Nubian girl. Unseen I came
To my own chamber, where I packed my goods;
And whence, unseen by all, we swiftly fled.

’Twas plain and patent to my inmost self
That in this last change I had always been
Regenerating more and more; for though
I had a love of mischief in my head,
At heart I was not bad, and they who knew
Me closely, or at least the woman sort,
Loved me,—nay, served me, as the Nubian did.
And now, as no one else might sell me,—lo!
I sold myself, and found myself installed
Queen of a rude baboon-like Afric king.

“Then I was captive to a Bedouin sheik,
Was sold in the slave-mart of Astrachan,
And carried thence to India, to be crowned
A rajahpoot’s sultana; from which state
Flying at length, I fell into a worse,
Being pounced on by a Turkoman horse-stealer.
At Alexandra I became the slave
Of a harsh Roman matron, who was wont
To flog and famish me to make me good,
And when I owned myself converted, then
She flogged and famished me the more, to make
My goodness lasting; and I finally
Fell stabbed in Cairo—slaughtered by a slave.

--------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------


Part VII.
“AFTER some short and intermediate terms
Of transmigration, all in female forms,
In which, through kindly offices performed,
It seemed the temper of my spirit much
Had humanized, and in the last of which
Twas mine to die for once a natural death,
Again I had some deep-down hold on being,
Dim as an oyster’s in its ocean-bed;
Then came a sense of light and air, of space,
Of hunger, comfort, warmth, of sight and sound
I caught at length the drift of speech, and knew
That all who came to see me and admire
Called me Ben Bachai’s daughter.
“Dark indeed,
But lovely as a starry night I grew,
A maid, the glory of her father’s house,
Her mother’s dovelet, filling all her wonts
With tenderness and joy. Still as I grew,
By strange degrees the memory of all
That I had been came back upon my mind
To fill it with wild sorrow and dismay;
To know I was a cheat, nor wholly what
I seemed to my fond parents—that I was
But half their daughter, and the rest a fiend,
With a fiend’s destiny,—ah! This, I say,
Would smite me even in dreams with icy pangs
Or wordless woe, yea, even while I slept
So innocently as it seemed, and so
Securely happy in the arms of love!”

As this was said, the Rabbi looked, and saw
That now again the woman seemed to speak
As of herself, and not as heretofore
With moveless lips, and prisoned voice, that came
As from some dark duality within.
Her looks had changed, too, with the voice, and now
Again she lay, a queen-like creature, racked
With mortal sufferings, who, when these grew less,
Or for a time remitted, even thus
Took up her tale again.

“At length upgrown
To womanhood, by some mysterious pact
Existing twixt my father’s house and that
Of an Arabian prince time out of mind,
I was now wedded ere I wished, and he,
My husband, finally had come to claim
And bear me from my home, that happiest home
Which I should know no more: a man most fair
To look upon, but void of force, in truth
The weakling of a worn-out line, who yet
(What merit in a prince!) Was not depraved,
Not wicked, not the mendicant of lust,
But mild, and even affectionate and just.
My dowry was immense, and flushed with this
The prince had summoned from his vassal tribe
Five hundred horse, all spearmen, to escort
And guard us desert-ward. And as we went
These ever and anon, at signal given,
Would whirl around us like a thunder-cloud
Wind-torn, and shooting instant shafts of fire!
And thus we roamed about the Arabian wastes,
Pitching our camp amid the fairest spots.
Beneath an awning oft I lay, and gazed
Out at the cloudless ether, where it wrapt
The silent hills, like to a conscious power
Big with the soul of an eternal past.

“But long this life might last not, for the prince
Sickened and died;—died poor, his wealth and mine
Having been squandered on the hungry horde
That wont to prance about us; who ere long,
Divining my extremity, grew loud
And urgent for rewards, till on a day,
By concert as it seemed, the tribe entire
Came fiercely round me, all demanding gifts,
Gifts that I had not; as they nearer pressed,
Wearing his way among them, lo! I saw
The old man of the tombs! The Bactrian sage!
With signs of awe they made him room to pass;
He fixed me with his shrunk and serpent eyes,
Waved off the abject Arabs, and then asked
‘Why art thou poor? With needs so great upon thee?
I offer thee long life and wealth and power.’

I turned to him and said: ‘Should I not know,
By all the past, the nature of thy gifts?
Shows and delusions, evil, sin-stained all,
And terminating in eternal loss.’
‘Well, take it as thou wilt,’ he said; ‘my gifts
Are not so weighed by all.’ And saying this
He went his way, while I retired within
My lonely tent to weep.

“Next day the tribes
Again assembled, and with threats and cries,
And insults loud, they raised a passion in me.
My blood arose: I chid them angrily,
Called them all things but men, till they, alarmed,
Fell back in sullen silence for a while,
Crouching like tigers ready for a spring.
Humbled, perplexed, and frightened, I returned
Into my tent, and there within its folds
Stood the weird Bactrian with his snaky eyes,
And wiry voice that questioned as before:
‘Why art thou poor? Why dost thou suffer wrong,
With all this petty baseness brattling round?
Am I not here to help thee? I, thy one
Sole friend—not empty, but with ample means.
Behold the secrets of the inner earth!
There, down among the rock-roots of the hills,
What seest thou there? Look, as I point, even those
Strange miscreations, as they seem to thee,
Are demoniac moilers that obey
Such arts as I possess; the gnomish brood
Of Demogorgon. See them how they moil
Amid those diamonds shafts and reefs of gold
Embedded in the oldest drifts of time,
And in the mire that was the first crude floor
And blind extension of the infant earth:
Why art thou poor, then, when such slaves as they
Might work for thee, and glut thy need with all
The matchless values which are there enwombed,
Serving thee always as they now serve me?
Nor these alone: turn thou thy looks aloft,
And watch the stars as they go swimming past.
Behold their vastness, each a world,’ he said;
The secrets of all these, too, thou shalt know,
The spirits of all these shall be thy slaves,
If thou wilt swear as erst amid the tombs.’

The woe of desolation wrapped me round,
The joy to know all mysteries tempted me,
And with a shudder that shook me to the soul
I swore, as erst I swore amid the tombs.

As on my hand he placed a signet-ring,
Suddenly loud the desert winds arose,
And blew with mighty stress among the tents;
And instantly aloft the thunder ran,
A mighty issue of miraculous light
Burst shaft-like forward, smiting him in twain,
Or so it seemed, down through the solid earth.
In vain I shrunk into a dim recess;
Before me stood the son of paradise.
Then leapt the soul to life within my heart—
Leapt into life with fear, and pain, and woe—
Anger and sadness both were on his brow.

“‘Could’st thou no trial bear—all but redeemed;
Could’st thou not rest content? A rabbi’s child!
Enjoy as best thou may this ill-won power
Over the darker agencies of time,
And bide the end, which end is punishment
But the more terrible, the more delayed;
Yet know this also, thou shalt thus no more
Be punished in a body built of clay.’
He vanished, leaving me to sharp remorse,
And harrowed with the thought of his grieved look.
And yet no power in heaven or hell,’ I said,
‘May now annul my deed.’

And not one day
Of joy has brought to me my ‘ill-won power.’
I built vast palaces in quiet view
Of ancient cities, or by famous streams;
I filled my halls with men and women fair,
And with these pages of a beauty rare
Like striplings kidnapped from some skirt of heaven;
Yet sorrowful of countenance withal,
As knowing that their mortal doom is joined
With mine irrevocably, that with me
’Tis theirs to own these shows of time, with me
To live—with me to die. And as, ’tis said,
A hunted roe will evermore beat round
Towards whence he started first, I felt at length
An ardent longing for my native place;
That spot in all the earth where only I,
In tasting of it, had divined the worth
And Sabbath quality of household peace.
Then coming hither, thus constrained, I pitched
My dwelling here, even this thou seest; built fair,
And filled with splendours such as never yet
Under one roof-tree on this earth were stored.
See yon surpassing lustres! Could this orb
Show such? From Mars came that; from Venus this;
And yonder mass of sun-bright glory, that
From Mercury came, whence came these viols, too,
Instinct with fervent music such as ne’er
From earthly instruments might thrill abroad.”

Then seizing one of them, even as she spake,
Over its chords she moved her ivory hand,
And instantly the palace domes throughout
Rang resonant, as every hall and crypt
Were pulsing music from a thousand shells
That still ran confluent with a mellow slide
And intercourse of cadence: sweet, and yet
Most mournful and most weird, and oft intoned
With a wild wilfulness of power that worked
For madness more than joy. “Even such, ” she said
“Are the delights with which I most converse
In the dark loneness of my fated soul,
For all is show, not substance. All I hold
But darkens more the certainty I have
Of wrath to come, from which no change of place,
No earthly power, no power of heaven nor hell,
May shield me now. I see it shadowing forth
Even like a coming night, in whose dark folds
My soul would ask to hide itself in vain.
And now I go to meet the angel’s face;
I will not claim my hundred years of pride,
I trample underneath my feet the gift
For which I sold my soul; I will not touch
The ring of Sammael, nor use his power
To stay the torments that devour my life;
Misery, shame, remorse, and dread are mine;
Yet shall the angel see repentent eyes,
And know at last I could one trial bear;
Too late, too late.”

As thus the woman spake,
Her brow grew dark, and suddenly she shrieked
In her great agony. “Oh pray for me!
Pray, rabbi! For the daughter of thy friend!
The hour is coming, nay, the hour is come!”

There was a rustle as of wings aloft,
A sudden flicker in the lights below,
And she, who until now seemed speaking, sank
Back on her pillow and in silence lay
Beautiful in the marble calm of death.
The rabbi gazed on her, and thought the while
Of those far times, when, as a child, her grace
Had filled with pleasantness her father’s house.
Then to her servants gave in charge the corpse,
And forth he paced, much musing as he went.
At length he turned to gaze once more upon
The silent house of death. Can such things be?
All had evanished like a morning mist!
Only the woods that hung like clouds about
The steeps of Hebron, in the whitening dawn
Lay dark against the sky! Only a pool
Gleamed flat before him, where it seemed erewhile
The splendid palace had adorned the view!
Perplexed in mind, the rabbi turned again
And hurried homeward, muttering as he went:
Was it a vision? Can such marvels be?
But what in truth are all things, even those
That seem most solid—dust and air at last


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

Share
 

Search


Recent searches | Top searches