A tree is known by its fruit a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
As the tree is known by its fruit, so is the wicked man by his deeds.
A fruit-bearing tree is known by its flowers.
Roots, Trees, and Fruits
A tree is known by its root
The source of its first life
A fruit is known by the tree
As a man is known through strife.
The root of a man is his family
The tree is the man that has grown-
The words that he writes in poetry
Show the rearing he has known.
Copyright Cynthia Buhain -Baello
July 6,2009 Tarlac City Philippines
'No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.
Each tree is recognized by own fruit.'
Luke 6: 43
The Sour Lemon Tree
A sour lemon tree flower attracts the bee
While its fruit is bitter not so its flower
White is its flower sweet and very pretty
Only the fruit is bitter and that's just a pity
As the beauty of its flower resist not a bee
It's the simple truth
Or see the sour lemon tree
With fruit that is bitter bears a lemon tree
But useful is its fruit good for everyday use
Once said a bee... your flower is very sweet
It carries fragrance scented out in the street
Yet bears you fruit bitter no one wants to eat
It's partly the truth
Or see the sour lemon tree
A citrus tree with fruit no other tree bears
Then out of the tree came a nice neat voice
'Twas like a voice of one who's very wise
This is what it said trees are not so free
One made a decree for every bearing tree
It's partly the truth
Or see the sour lemon tree
The Creator decides the fruit a tree bears
Whether it be bitter or whether it be sweet
The Creator decrees for every bearing tree
To bring forth fruit ordained for it to bear
Then sweet or bitter bears a tree its fruit
It's the simple truth
Or see the sour lemon tree.
May not prove right
Sometimes what you think may not prove right
Instead of left you may chose wrong and go out of sight
You are adamant and sticking with wrong judgment
It lands you in maximum trouble with embarrassment
How can sea turn from blue to white?
How can you get any thing without putting up fight?
It has its own deep depth to make you wonder
The nature has its own secrets for all the time to ponder
The mango tree may not ripen its fruit of its own
You have your own tendency and are well-known
You want it to dropp in your mouth with no efforts
No one may provide you such blessings with comforts
Merely hoping may do no wonder
Rain may shower with heavy thunder
This all may take place in its own way
You can not hope it in leisure time and run away
Life is same as it was before
Your thinking is erroneous and is flawed therefore
It is ridiculous to think about reaching safely at shore
You are lost on the way and may reach no where
Any person is worth penniless unless tries very hard
He may fear before it begins with good starts
He may think of leaving it in between
And loose the hope of getting clear win
Life may seem dull and useless
You may be lost simply in race
There will be nothing more left to trace
It will be really delicate and bad phase
He may within himself generate dejection
Life may look worth for simple rejection
There is nerd for powerful thrust with injection
It may them improve altogether with some indication
Thank God, in day time the stars are not seen
Otherwise time will be spent sky and its scene
The moon will not surface and cool the mind
The wishes and desires may never be on hand to find
Well some hopes can be revived
It is only means to remain survived
Life hinges on the thin ray of hope
The show can never go flop
We are gifted with untiring energy and strength
It may loose some thing on way and not match wave length
Yet it has powerful beacon to trace the location
There is lot more to wait for happiness and elation
So loose no sight or blame the fate
We are to be blamed for if anything comes late
Either we have failed to realize the situation
Or failed to match with it and had no continuation
I Like The Feel
I like the feel of the new heels on my cowboy boots.
I like the feel of breathing in joy like oxygen,
of moving from one small joy to another
without pomp or pageantry
like the constellation of a black swan
on a midnight mindstream
drifting through the small torches of the stars
that won't go out in any kind of water.
And I don't know why I'm wounded
deeper than tears by joy
whenever I witness any undoubted example
of human excellence
and penumbrally share in the triumph
remembering how truly astonishing
a human being can be
when compassion and insight
are the fruit and roots of the tree.
So much in the world I abhor,
horrors and sorrows and atrocities
that violate the elemental dignity of life
as it expresses itself in a human so deeply
even the silence cuts out its tongue
as an offence against
the unspeakable decency of the darkest abyss
when it stands before evil.
Like a golden fish in a polluted stream
slurried by a nuclear reactor
into a cancerous elixir
I have ingested every toxic meme
of a sick society in a feverish dream
and I cannot help but think and feel and live
whatever's written on the water
to soil the stars
that thought they were out of reach
and make manic depressives
of the waves that spoil the beach.
A child of my times, the Zeitgeist, the Holy Ghost,
and the jinn at every well
like the forbidden fires of holy explosives
wrapped in folds of smoke,
I see through the glass darkly
like everyone else
who paints the eye of their telescope
with the shepherd moons
of despair and hope
and reports their observations as the truth
to whomever might be listening.
I can humble the night with my darkness
when the light goes out
and I have fought for years
with the child that I am
not to feel guilty or vulnerable
whenever I was taken unawares
by some happiness
that spilled over the rim of the black hole
that indelibly kept my cup full.
Now I rejoice in the emptiness of things
as useless as rocks and people
and feel a great tenderness for anyone
who needs to feel anything more.
I like the way your gate is hanging by a hinge.
I like the dead bee on the pyre
of the late-blooming fire
that consumes it like a last kiss.
I like the way my portrait's turned toward the wall
like a delinquent outside the principal's office
listening for footsteps down the long, empty hall.
Lightning in the lighthouse
or fireflies on the moon
I like the way my Zippo snaps shut
like the beak of a turtle at the feather of the flame
it rose like an ancient moon from the muddy depths
to pull under.
I find joy in the slightest,
in the cast away and the spurned,
in the tiny birds that have learned
to glean the dragonflies
off the car radiators
and the way people like to be found
like hubcaps at the side of the road
holding up a mirror to the beauty
of the wild irises
like a new logo
they hope will catch on.
When you haven't been saved from anything
there isn't much left to save you from
or any point in trying
to save the ashes from the fire
after everything's gone up in smoke
so why ox yourself
to the unbearable yoke of a cross
trying to grind bread out of starwheat
when the children you labour to save like seed
have already died for the night
with nothing to eat?
Who needs to turn themselves into a broom
when they've drunk their mirages dry
to sweep the deserts off the stairs
of an afterlife in an empty asylum
that talks to itself like the moon?
I don't care what kind of bars
silver, gold, iron or bone,
spiritual or corruptly marrowed
by the tainted terrestrial
you want to put on the window
to keep the stars out like thieves at the gate,
I'm already in.
And you're way too late.
I like to live my life
as if I were getting away with something.
I like being weeded out like a key
to a door that time forgot to close
like the coffin lid of the nightwatchman
who kept an eye on things like a flashlight
looking for his flashlight,
his mind for his mind.
I like being less and less of me
like a rogue sunset that sheds its roses
like a watercolour of its eyes in the void
to see more clearly into the emptiness
there's nothing to be in this nothingness
that isn't a last lifeboat without oars
and no one in it to rescue
jumping ship in a turbulent dream.
Illusory cures for illusory diseases.
And once you're restored to clarity
does it really matter
what the medicine means?
I like the tear in my wounded blue jeans.
I like the autumn dyes that set your hair on fire
like the Gatineau Hills
as you squander your leaves like rain-cheques
in the overly salubrious poker-faced casinos of Quebec.
I like the day I was let out of school
with eternity for a recess.
Why spend your life
panning your own mindstream
for the fool's gold of the iron pyrite rule:
Do unto others before they do unto you,
when you know as well as Wall Street
things aren't what they seem?
Look how an apple tree lives.
It gives. And it thrives
by just expressing itself
like a bouquet in the hand of a bride
that walks like a bridge to the altar
and marries herself in her own eyes
to the earth she's rooted in
holding her green arms up
to the orchards of the Hesperides
that blossom among the stars
like holy ancestors.
I like the way the comets stray
like hair across her face
and the way she twists her mouth
like driftwood in the sun
to blow them away.
And I like the blaze
of the supernovae of enlightenment
who give it all back to the night
like a blood transfusion,
a hemorrhage of light,
and even more,
these small illuminations
that arrive through the night and day
like anonymous stars and flowers
beside a death bed in a private room
where only the dying know what to say.
Stars above the mountain.
Flowers in the valley.
I like the way the moon's punked out in the alley
between the church and the funeral home.
I like the way I refuse to assume I know where I'm going
like a newly-hatched garden snake in the spring
or a stream setting out on its own
with nothing for a creekbed
but its own flowing
and how I always catch myself like a fish
rising to the hook and allure of a new direction
as if that were the truth north of not having one.
But let the goldfish nibble at the moon as they will
and swim through the tops of the trees
even as these fire-birds are flying through my roots.
I like the feel of the new heels on my cowboy boots.
I like playing the fool with my own molecules
as if I were madder than plutonium
at having to break my balls like a kick in the nuts
with my own pool cue
everytime I give the game away
hoping somehow that will make me
as sane as lead in the table of things.
I see hell. I live in hell. I breathe hell.
And this pillar of I enshrines and embodies it
like the corpse of a murdered river
flowing through darkness
without any recourse or redemption
for its suffering.
No elixir. No grail. No lapis philosophorum.
No celestial gold to climb the ladders of fire
out of the dungeons of hydrogen
or missing link that breaks the chains
of the slaves in the hold
that labour in vain to endure.
Life isn't fair or unfair.
Pure or compounded.
Civilized or savage.
Eternal or brief.
Loving or hateful
nor all of these together.
The sky isn't just
the daily news of the weather
and the sea isn't just
the tragic rage of co-conspirators
doing their worst to fall on their own swords
as if they could be turned
like waves against one another
and though it is immaculately kind of us to say so
the earth really isn't our mother
if you go back far enough.
The earth is more of a nurse these days
trying to suckle
a hydra-headed wound
in a nightshift emergency ward
at the full moon
with plastic udders of blood
hanging from a cruclfix on wheels.
For every demon that jumps from heaven
an angel rises from hell
and I like the way
I'm learning to fall toward paradise
without a parachute
like a one-winged samara trying to angel on
with these seeds of loaded dice
riding the luck of the wind
like a wounded albatross
looking for new ground
at the foot of an empty cross.
As much has been gained as was lost.
I like the way time weaves the manes
of the sheepish dandelions
into the emergency ghosts
of a thousand scattered parachutes.
I like the way every conclusion about life
rights itself with its opposite
like a compass or a keel
and there are addictions
so intensely beyond the obvious dark mirrors
and shared needles of true north
trying to snort the stars
to light up the room like a legend
on a neon movie marquee,
unschooled states of mind
so powerfully clear and whole
your being is shot up like a tree in the lightning
that God wants to use for a voice-box
so that the tree is known by its fruits,
the taste of its words,
the joy of its birds,
the blossom of the moon on the dead branch
the butterfly on the green
like the whole notes and stops on the flute
of a snake-charmer
collaborating with the muse of a cobra
on a new song
two minutes long with a hook.
I like the way life goes on in the dark
beyond the painted eyelids of the billboards
running for re-election as a theme park
to improve the fibre-optics of their umbilical cords.
Even as the truth turns out
to be more of a lock than a key
that can be turned in your mouth like a word
to set you free of yourself
like a long thought-chain
that plugs the world into your navel;
and beauty is a pimped-out carnival
of surgical exaggerations and defects
that wear the look of lost luggage
under the sagging circus tents
that taxi down the runways of the rejects;
and the evil that is done in the world
cloaks the oceanic eye of awareness
with the cataract of an oilslick
that giftwraps everyone like water
in the same starless snake-skin
they tattoo their corporate logos on
like a new translation of the Rosetta Stone
in the demotic tongues
of the illiterate mobs of PsychoBabylon.
Even in this deepest eclipse of hell
that swallows us whole
like the eggs of the moon in a nest
and is running out of eyes to darken,
even here there are still small lighthouses of joy
that shine through the cracked skulls of these coasts
and haloes of fireflies
that still iris the eyes of the black holes
that are too deep for anyone to put down roots
or go witching for water with lightning
screwed into the eyesockets
of their spineless lightbulbs
in their see-through birthday suits.
Let evil offend or amend its own statutes.
I like the feel of the new heels on my cowboy boots.
- quotes about parachuting
- quotes about emergency
- quotes about Quebec
- quotes about literacy
- quotes about lifeboats
- quotes about comets
- quotes about telescope
- quotes about taxi
- quotes about translation
Occupied by the elm; and, as its shade
Has crept clock-hand-wise till it ticks at fern
Five inches further to the South,—the door
Opens abruptly, someone enters sharp,
The elder man returned to wait the youth—
Never observes the room's new occupant,
Throws hat on table, stoops quick, elbow-propped
Over the Album wide there, bends down brow
A cogitative minute, whistles shrill,
Then,—with a cheery-hopeless laugh-and-lose
Air of defiance to fate visibly
Casting the toils about him,—mouths once more
"Hail, calm acclivity, salubrious spot!"
Then clasps-to cover, sends book spinning off
T'other side table, looks up, starts erect
Full-face with her who,—roused from that abstruse
Question, "Will next tick tip the fern or no?",—
Fronts him as fully.
All her languor breaks,
Away withers at once the weariness
From the black-blooded brow, anger and hate
Convulse. Speech follows slowlier, but at last—
"You here! I felt, I knew it would befall!
Knew, by some subtle undivinable
Trick of the trickster, I should, silly-sooth,
Late of soon, somehow be allured to leave
Safe hiding and come take of him arrears,
My torment due on four years' respite! Time
To pluck the bird's healed breast of down o'er wound!
Have your success! Be satisfied this sole
Seeing you has undone all heaven could do
These four years, puts me back to you and hell!
What will next trick be, next success? No doubt
When I shall think to glide into the grave,
There will you wait disguised as beckoning Death,
And catch and capture me for evermore!
But, God, though I am nothing, be thou all!
Contest him for me! Strive, for he is strong!"
Already his surprise dies palely out
In laugh of acquiescing impotence.
He neither gasps nor hisses: calm and plain—
"I also felt and knew—but otherwise!
You out of hand and sight and care of me
These four years, whom I felt, knew, all the while ...
Oh, it's no superstition! It's a gift
O' the gamester that he snuffs the unseen powers
Which help or harm him! Well I knew what lurked,
Lay perdue paralysing me,—drugged, drowsed
And damnified my soul and body both!
Down and down, see where you have dragged me to,
You and your malice! I was, four years since,
—Well, a poor creature! I become a knave.
I squandered my own pence: I plump my purse
With other people's pounds. I practised play
Because I liked it: play turns labour now
Because there's profit also in the sport.
I gamed with men of equal age and craft:
I steal here with a boy as green as grass
Whom I have tightened hold on slow and sure
This long while, just to bring about to-day
When the boy beats me hollow, buries me
In ruin who was sure to beggar him.
O time indeed I should look up and laugh
'Surely she closes on me!' Here you stand!"
And stand she does: while volubility,
With him, keeps on the increase, for his tongue
After long locking-up is loosed for once.
"Certain the taunt is happy!" he resumes:
"So, I it was allured you—only I
— I, and none other—to this spectacle—
Your triumph, my despair—you woman-fiend
That front me! Well, I have my wish, then! See
The low wide brow oppressed by sweeps of hair
Darker and darker as they coil and swathe
The crowned corpse-wanness whence the eyes burn black
Not asleep now! not pin-points dwarfed beneath
Either great bridging eyebrow—poor blank beads—
Babies, I've pleased to pity in my time:
How they protrude and glow immense with hate!
The long triumphant nose attains—retains
Just the perfection; and there's scarlet-skein
My ancient enemy, her lip and lip,
Sense-free, sense-frighting lips clenched cold and bold
Because of chin, that based resolve beneath!
Then the columnar neck completes the whole
Greek-sculpture-baffling body! Do I see?
Can I observe? You wait next word to come?
Well, wait and want! since no one blight I bid
Consume one least perfection. Each and all,
As they are rightly shocking now to me,
So may they still continue! Value them?
Ay, as the vendor knows the money-worth
Of his Greek statue, fools aspire to buy,
And he to see the back of! Let us laugh!
You have absolved me from my sin at least!
You stand stout, strong, in the rude health of hate,
No touch of the tame timid nullity
My cowardice, forsooth, has practised on!
Ay, while you seemed to hint some fine fifth act
Of tragedy should freeze blood, end the farce,
I never doubted all was joke. I kept,
May be, an eye alert on paragraphs,
Newspaper-notice,—let no inquest slip,
Accident, disappearance: sound and safe
Were you, my victim, not of mind to die!
So, my worst fancy that could spoil the smooth
Of pillow, and arrest descent of sleep
Was 'Into what dim hole can she have dived,
She and her wrongs, her woe that's wearing flesh
And blood away?' Whereas, see, sorrow swells!
Or, fattened, fulsome, have you fed on me,
Sucked out my substance? How much gloss, I pray,
O'erbloomed those hair-swathes when there crept from you
To me that craze, else unaccountable,
Which urged me to contest our county-seat
With whom but my own brother's nominee?
Did that mouth's pulp glow ruby from carmine
While I misused my moment, pushed,—one word,—
One hair's breadth more of gesture,—idiot-like
Past passion, floundered on to the grotesque,
And lost the heiress in a grin? At least,
You made no such mistake! You tickled fish,
Landed your prize the true artistic way!
How did the smug young curate rise to tune
Of 'Friend, a fatal fact divides us! Love
Suits me no longer! I have suffered shame,
Betrayal: past is past; the future—yours—
Shall never be contaminate by mine!
I might have spared me this confession, not
—O, never by some hideousest of lies,
Easy, impenetrable! No! but say,
By just the quiet answer—"I am cold."
Falsehood avaunt, each shadow of thee, hence!
Had happier fortune willed ... but dreams are vain!
Now, leave me—yes, for pity's sake!' Aha,
Who fails to see the curate as his face
Reddened and whitened, wanted handkerchief
At wrinkling brow and twinkling eye, until
Out burst the proper 'Angel, whom the fiend
Has thought to smirch,—thy whiteness, at one wipe
Of holy cambric, shall disgrace the swan!
Mine be the task' ... and so forth! Fool? not he!
Cunning in flavours, rather! What but sour
Suspected makes the sweetness doubly sweet?
And what stings love from faint to flamboyant
But the fear-sprinkle? Even horror helps—
'Love's flame in me by such recited wrong
Drenched, quenched, indeed? It burns the fiercelier thence!'
Why, I have known men never love their wives
Till somebody—myself, suppose—had 'drenched
And quenched love,' so the blockheads whined: as if
The fluid fire that lifts the torpid limb
Were a wrong done to palsy. But I thrilled
No palsied person: half my age, or less
The curate was, I'll wager: o'er young blood
Your beauty triumphed! Eh, but—was it he?
Then, it was he, I heard of! None beside!
How frank you were about the audacious boy
Who fell upon you like a thunderbolt—
Passion and protestation! He it was
Reserved in petto! Ay, and 'rich' beside
'Rich'—how supremely did disdain curl nose!
All that I heard was—'wedded to a priest;'
Informants sunk youth, riches and the rest.
And so my lawless love disparted loves,
That loves might come together with a rush!
Surely this last achievement sucked me dry:
Indeed, that way my wits went! Mistress-queen,
Be merciful and let your subject slink
Into dark safety! He's a beggar, see—
Do not turn back his ship, Australia-bound,
And bid her land him right amid some crowd
Of creditors, assembled by your curse!
Don't cause the very rope to crack (you can!)
Whereon he spends his last (friend's) sixpence, just
The moment when he hoped to hang himself!
Be satisfied you beat him!"
She replies —
"Beat him! I do. To all that you confess
Of abject failure, I extend belief.
Your very face confirms it: God is just!
Let my face—fix your eyes!—in turn confirm
What I shall say. All-abject's but half truth;
Add to all-abject knave as perfect fool!
So is it you probed human nature, so
Prognosticated of me? Lay these words
To heart then, or where God meant heart should lurk!
That moment when you first revealed yourself,
My simple impulse prompted—end forthwith
The ruin of a life uprooted thus
To surely perish! How should such a tree
Henceforward baulk the wind of its worst sport,
Fail to go falling deeper, falling down
From sin to sin until some depth were reached
Doomed to the weakest by the wickedest
Of weak and wicked human kind? But when,
That self-display made absolute,—behold
A new revealment!—round you pleased to veer,
Propose me what should prompt annul the past,
Make me 'amends by marriage'—in your phrase,
Incorporate me henceforth, body and soul,
With soul and body which mere brushing past
Brought leprosy upon me—'marry' these!
Why, then despair broke, re-assurance dawned,
Clear-sighted was I that who hurled contempt
As I—thank God!—at the contemptible,
Was scarce an utter weakling. Rent away
By treason from my rightful pride of place,
I was not destined to the shame below.
A cleft had caught me: I might perish there,
But thence to be dislodged and whirled at last
Where the black torrent sweeps the sewage—no!
'Bare breast be on hard rock,' laughed out my soul
In gratitude, 'howe'er rock's grip may grind!
The plain, rough, wretched holdfast shall suffice
This wreck of me!' The wind,—I broke in bloom
At passage of,—which stripped me bole and branch,
Twisted me up and tossed me here,—turns back
And, playful ever, would replant the spoil?
Be satisfied, not one least leaf that's mine
Shall henceforth help wind's sport to exercise!
Rather I give such remnant to the rock
Which never dreamed a straw would settle there.
Rock may not thank me, may not feel my breast,
Even: enough that I feel, hard and cold,
Its safety my salvation. Safe and saved,
I lived, live. When the tempter shall persuade
His prey to slip down, slide off, trust the wind,—
Now that I know if God or Satan be
Prince of the Power of the Air,—then, then, indeed,
Let my life end and degradation too!"
"Good!" he smiles, "true Lord Byron! 'Tree and rock:'
'Rock'—there's advancement! He's at first a youth,
Rich, worthless therefore; next he grows a priest:
Youth, riches prove a notable resource,
When to leave me for their possessor gluts
Malice abundantly; and now, last change,
The young rich parson represents a rock
—Bloodstone, no doubt. He's Evangelical?
Your Ritualists prefer the Church for spouse!"
"I have a story to relate.
There was a parish-priest, my father knew,
Elderly, poor: I used to pity him
Before I learned what woes are pity-worth.
Elderly was grown old now, scanty means
Were straitening fast to poverty, beside
The ailments which await in such a case.
Limited every way, a perfect man
Within the bounds built up and up since birth
Breast-high about him till the outside world
Was blank save overhead one blue bit of sky—
Faith: he had faith in dogma, small or great,
As in the fact that if he clave his skull
He'd find a brain there: such a fact who proves
No falsehood by experiment at price
Of soul and body? The one rule of life
Delivered him in childhood was 'Obey!
Labour!' He had obeyed and laboured—tame,
True to the mill-track blinked on from above.
Some scholarship he may have gained in youth:
Gone—dropt or flung behind. Some blossom-flake,
Spring's boon, descends on every vernal head,
I used to think; but January joins
December, as his year had known no May
Trouble its snow-deposit,—cold and old!
I heard it was his will to take a wife,
A helpmate. Duty bade him tend and teach—
How? with experience null, nor sympathy
Abundant,—while himself worked dogma dead,
Who would play ministrant to sickness, age,
Womankind, childhood? These demand a wife.
Supply the want, then! theirs the wife; for him—
No coarsest sample of the proper sex
But would have served his purpose equally
With God's own angel,—let but knowledge match
Her coarseness: zeal does only half the work.
I saw this—knew the purblind honest drudge
Was wearing out his simple blameless life,
And wanted help beneath a burthen—borne
To treasure-house or dust-heap, what cared I?
Partner he needed: I proposed myself,
Nor much surprised him—duty was so clear!
Gratitude? What for? Gain of Paradise—
Escape, perhaps, from the dire penalty
Of who hides talent in a napkin! No,
His scruple was—should I be strong enough
—In body? since of weakness in the mind,
Weariness in the heart—no fear of these!
He took me as these Arctic voyagers
Take an aspirant to their toil and pain:
Can he endure them?—that's the point, and not
—Will he? Who would not, rather! Whereupon,
I pleaded far more earnestly for leave
To give myself away, than you to gain
What you called priceless till you gained the heart
And soul and body! which, as beggars serve
Extorted alms, you straightway spat upon.
Not so my husband,—for I gained my suit,
And had my value put at once to proof.
Ask him! These four years I have died away
In village-life. The village? Ugliness
At best and filthiness at worst, inside.
Outside, sterility—earth sown with salt
Or what keeps even grass from growing fresh.
The life? I teach the poor and learn, myself,
That commonplace to such stupidity
Is all-recondite. Being brutalized
Their true need is brute-language, cheery grunts
And kindly cluckings, no articulate
Nonsense that's elsewhere knowledge. Tend the sick,
Sickened myself at pig-perversity,
Cat-craft, dog-snarling,—may be, snapping ..."
You eat that root of bitterness called Man
—Raw: I prefer it cooked, with social sauce!
So, he was not the rich youth after all!
Well, I mistook. But somewhere needs must be
The compensation. If not young nor rich ..."
"Because you've daubed enough
Bistre for background. Play the artist now,
Produce your figure well-relieved in front!
The contrast—do not I anticipate?
Though neither rich nor young—what then? 'Tis all
Forgotten, all this ignobility,
In the dear home, the darling word, the smile,
The something sweeter ..."
"Yes, you interrupt.
I have my purpose and proceed. Who lives
With beasts assumes beast-nature, look and voice,
And, much more, thought,—for beasts think. Selfishness
In us met selfishness in them, deserved
Such answer as it gained. My husband, bent
On saving his own soul by saving theirs,—
They, bent on being saved if saving soul
Included body's getting bread and cheese
Somehow in life and somehow after death,—
Both parties were alike in the same boat,
One danger, therefore one equality.
Safety induces culture: culture seeks
To institute, extend and multiply
The difference between safe man and man,
Able to live alone now; progress means
What but abandonment of fellowship?
We were in common danger, still stuck close.
No new books,—were the old ones mastered yet?
No pictures and no music: these divert
—What from? the staving danger off! You paint
The waterspout above, you set to words
The roaring of the tempest round you? Thanks!
Amusement? Talk at end of the tired day
Of the more tiresome morrow! I transcribed
The page on page of sermon-scrawlings—stopped
My intellectual eye to sense and sound—
Vainly: the sound and sense would penetrate
To brain and plague there in despite of me
Maddened to know more moral good were done
Had we two simply sallied forth and preached
I' the 'Green' they call their grimy,—I with twang
Of long-disused guitar,—with cut and slash
Of much misvalued horsewhip he,—to bid
The peaceable come dance, the peace-breaker
Pay in his person! Whereas—Heaven and Hell,
Excite with that, restrain with this!— so dealt
His drugs my husband; as he dosed himself,
He drenched his cattle: and, for all my part
Was just to dub the mortar, never fear
But drugs, hand pestled at, have poisoned nose!
Heaven he let pass, left wisely undescribed:
As applicable therefore to the sleep
I want, that knows no waking—as to what's
Conceived of as the proper prize to tempt
Souls less world-weary: there, no fault to find!
But Hell he made explicit. After death,
Life: man created new, ingeniously
Perfect for a vindictive purpose now
That man, first fashioned in beneficence,
Was proved a failure; intellect at length
Replacing old obtuseness, memory
Made mindful of delinquent's bygone deeds
Now that remorse was vain, which life-long lay
Dormant when lesson might be laid to heart;
New gift of observation up and down
And round man's self, new power to apprehend
Each necessary consequence of act
In man for well or ill—things obsolete—
Just granted to supplant the idiocy
Man's only guide while act was yet to choose,
And ill or well momentously its fruit;
A faculty of immense suffering
Conferred on mind and body,—mind, erewhile
Unvisited by one compunctious dream
During sin's drunken slumber, startled up,
Stung through and through by sin's significance
Now that the holy was abolished—just
As body which, alive, broke down beneath
Knowledge, lay helpless in the path to good,
Failed to accomplish aught legitimate,
Achieve aught worthy,—which grew old in youth,
And at its longest fell a cut-down flower,—
Dying, this too revived by miracle
To bear no end of burthen now that back
Supported torture to no use at all,
And live imperishably potent—since
Life's potency was impotent to ward
One plague off which made earth a hell before.
This doctrine, which one healthy view of things,
One sane sight of the general ordinance—
Nature,—and its particular object,—man,—
Which one mere eye-cast at the character
Of Who made these and gave man sense to boot,
Had dissipated once and evermore,—
This doctrine I have dosed our flock withal.
Why? Because none believed it. They desire
Such Heaven and dread such Hell, whom everyday
The alehouse tempts from one, a dog-fight bids
Defy the other? All the harm is done
Ourselves—done my poor husband who in youth
Perhaps read Dickens, done myself who still
Could play both Bach and Brahms. Such life I lead—
Thanks to you, knave! You learn its quality—
Thanks to me, fool!"
He eyes her earnestly,
But she continues.
"—Life which, thanks once more
To you, arch-knave as exquisitest fool,
I acquiescingly—I gratefully
Take back again to heart! and hence this speech
Which yesterday had spared you. Four years long
Life—I began to find intolerable,
Only this moment. Ere your entry just,
The leap of heart which answered, spite of me,
A friend's first summons, first provocative
Authoritative, nay, compulsive call
To quit—though for a single day—my house
Of bondage—made return seem horrible.
I heard again a human lucid laugh
All trust, no fear; again saw earth pursue
Its narrow busy way amid small cares,
Smaller contentments, much weeds, some few flowers,—
Never suspicious of a thunderbolt
Avenging presently each daisy's death.
I recognized the beech-tree, knew the thrush
Repeated his old music-phrase,—all right,
How wrong was I, then! But your entry broke
Illusion, bade me back to bounds at once.
I honestly submit my soul: which sprang
At love, and losing love lies signed and sealed
'Failure.' No love more? then, no beauty more
Which tends to breed love! Purify my powers,
Effortless till some other world procure
Some other chance of prize! or, if none be,—
Nor second world nor chance,—undesecrate
Die then this aftergrowth of heart, surmised
Where May's precipitation left June blank!
Better have failed in the high aim, as I,
Than vulgarly in the low aim succeed
As, God be thanked, I do not! Ugliness
Had I called beauty, falsehood—truth, and you
My lover! No—this earth's unchanged for me,
By his enchantment whom God made the Prince
O' the Power o' the Air, into a Heaven: there is
Heaven, since there is Heaven's simulation—earth;
I sit possessed in patience; prison-roof
Shall break one day and Heaven beam overhead!"
His smile is done with; he speaks bitterly.
"Take my congratulations, and permit
I wish myself had proved as teachable!
—Or, no! until you taught me, could I learn
A lesson from experience ne'er till now
Conceded? Please you listen while I show
How thoroughly you estimate my worth
And yours—the immeasurably superior! I
Believed at least in one thing, first to last,—
Your love to me: I was the vile and you
The precious; I abused you, I betrayed,
But doubted—never! Why else go my way
Judas-like plodding to this Potter's Field
Where fate now finds me? What has dinned my ear
And dogged my step? The spectre with the shriek
'Such she was, such were you, whose punishment
Is just!' And such she was not, all the while!
She never owned a love to outrage, faith
To pay with falsehood! For, myself know this—
Love once and you love always. Why, it's down
Here in the Album: every lover knows
Love may use hate but—turn to hate, itself—
Turn even to indifference—no, indeed!
Well, I have been spell-bound, deluded like
The witless negro by the Obeah-man
Who bids him wither: so, his eye grows dim,
His arm slack, arrow misses aim and spear
Goes wandering wide,—and all the woe because
He proved untrue to Fetish, who, he finds,
Was just a feather-phantom! I wronged love,
Am ruined,—and there was no love to wrong!"
"No love? Ah, dead love! I invoke thy ghost
To show the murderer where thy heart poured life
At summons of the stroke he doubts was dealt
On pasteboard and pretence! Not love, my love!
I changed for you the very laws of life:
Made you the standard of all right, all fair.
No genius but you could have been, no sage,
No sufferer—which is grandest—for the truth!
My hero—where the heroic only hid
To burst from hiding, brighten earth one day!
Age and decline were man's maturity;
Face, form were nature's type: more grace, more strength,
What had they been but just superfluous gauds,
Lawless divergence? I have danced through day
On tiptoe at the music of a word,
Have wondered where was darkness gone as night
Burst out in stars at brilliance of a smile!
Lonely, I placed the chair to help me seat
Your fancied presence; in companionship,
I kept my finger constant to your glove
Glued to my breast; then—where was all the world?
I schemed—not dreamed—how I might die some death
Should save your finger aching! Who creates
Destroys, he only: I had laughed to scorn
Whatever angel tried to shake my faith
And make you seem unworthy: you yourself
Only could do that! With a touch 'twas done.
'Give me all, trust me wholly!' At the word,
I did give, I did trust—and thereupon
The touch did follow. Ah, the quiet smile,
The masterfully folded arm in arm,
As trick obtained its triumph one time more!
In turn, my soul too triumphs in defeat:
Treason like faith moves mountains: love is gone!"
He paces to and fro, stops, stands quite close
And calls her by her name. Then—
Forgive you, delegate of God, brought near
As never priests could bring him to this soul
That prays you both—forgive me! I abase—
Know myself mad and monstrous utterly
In all I did that moment; but as God
Gives me this knowledge—heart to feel and tongue
To testify—so be you gracious too!
Judge no man by the solitary work
Of—well, they do say and I can believe—
The devil in him: his, the moment,—mine
The life—your life!"
He names her name again.
"You were just—merciful as just, you were
In giving me no respite: punishment
Followed offending. Sane and sound once more,
The patient thanks decision, promptitude,
Which flung him prone and fastened him from hurt
Haply to others, surely to himself.
I wake and would not you had spared one pang.
All's well that ends well!"
Yet again her name.
"Had you no fault? Why must you change, forsooth,
Parts, why reverse positions, spoil the play?
Why did your nobleness look up to me,
Not down on the ignoble thing confessed?
Was it your part to stoop, or lift the low?
Wherefore did God exalt you? Who would teach
The brute man's tameness and intelligence
Must never drop the dominating eye:
Wink—and what wonder if the mad fit break,
Followed by stripes and fasting? Sound and sane,
My life, chastised now, couches at your foot.
Accept, redeem me! Do your eyes ask 'How?'
I stand here penniless, a beggar; talk
What idle trash I may, this final blow
Of fortune fells me. I disburse, indeed,
This boy his winnings? when each bubble-scheme
That danced athwart my brain, a minute since,
The worse the better,—of repairing straight
My misadventure by fresh enterprise,
Capture of other boys in foolishness
His fellows,—when these fancies fade away
At first sight of the lost so long, the found
So late, the lady of my life, before
Whose presence I, the lost, am also found
Incapable of one least touch of mean
Expedient, I who teemed with plot and wile—
That family of snakes your eye bids flee!
Listen! Our troublesomest dreams die off
In daylight: I awake and dream is—where?
I rouse up from the past: one touch dispels
England and all here. I secured long since
A certain refuge, solitary home
To hide in, should the head strike work one day,
The hand forget its cunning, or perhaps
Society grow savage,—there to end
My life's remainder, which, say what fools will,
Is or should be the best of life,—its fruit,
All tends to, root and stem and leaf and flower.
Come with me, love, loved once, loved only, come,
Blend loves there! Let this parenthetic doubt
Of love, in me, have been the trial test
Appointed to all flesh at some one stage
Of soul's achievement,—when the strong man doubts
His strength, the good man whether goodness be,
The artist in the dark seeks, fails to find
Vocation, and the saint forswears his shrine.
What if the lover may elude, no more
Than these, probative dark, must search the sky
Vainly for love, his soul's star? But the orb
Breaks from eclipse: I breathe again: I love!
Tempted, I fell; but fallen—fallen lie
Here at your feet, see! Leave this poor pretence
Of union with a nature and its needs
Repugnant to your needs and nature! Nay,
False, beyond falsity you reprehend
In me, is such mock marriage with such mere
Man-mask as—whom you witless wrong, beside,
By that expenditure of heart and brain
He recks no more of than would yonder tree
If watered with your life-blood: rains and dews
Answer its ends sufficiently, while me
One drop saves—sends to flower and fruit at last
The laggard virtue in the soul wh'ch else
Cumbers the ground! Quicken me! Call me yours—
Yours and the world's—yours and the world's and God's!
Yes, for you can, you only! Think! Confirm
Your instinct! Say, a minute since, I seemed
The castaway you count me,—all the more
Apparent shall the angelic potency
Lift me from out perdition's deep of deeps
To light and life and love!—that's love for you—
Love that already dares match might with yours.
You loved one worthy,—in your estimate,—
When time was; you descried the unworthy taint,
And where was love then? No such test could e'er
Try my love: but you hate me and revile;
Hatred, revilement—had you these to bear,
Would you, as I do, nor revile, nor hate,
But simply love on, love the more, perchance?
Abide by your own proof! 'Your love was love:
Its ghost knows no forgetting!' Heart of mine,
Would that I dared remember! Too unwise
Were he who lost a treasure, did himself
Enlarge upon the sparkling catalogue
Of gems to her his queen who trusted late
The keeper of her caskets! Can it be
That I, custodian of such relic still
As your contempt permits me to retain,
All I dare hug to breast is—'How your glove
Burst and displayed the long thin lily-streak!'
What may have followed—that is forfeit now!
I hope the proud man has grown humble! True—
One grace of humbleness absents itself—
Silence! yet love lies deeper than all words,
And not the spoken but the speechless love
Waits answer ere I rise and go my way."
Whereupon, yet one other time the name.
To end she looks the large deliberate look,
Even prolongs it somewhat; then the soul
Bursts forth in a clear laugh that lengthens on,
On, till—thinned, softened, silvered, one might say
The bitter runnel hides itself in sand,
Moistens the hard grey grimly comic speech.
"Ay—give the baffled angler even yet
His supreme triumph as he hales to shore
A second time the fish once 'scaped from hook—
So artfully has new bait hidden old
Blood-imbrued iron! Ay, no barb's beneath
The gilded minnow here! You bid break trust,
This time, with who trusts me,—not simply bid
Me trust you, me who ruined but myself,
In trusting but myself! Since, thanks to you,
I know the feel of sin and shame,—be sure,
I shall obey you and impose them both
On one who happens to be ignorant
Although my husband—for the lure is love,
Your love! Try other tackle, fisher-friend!
Repentance, expiation, hopes and fears,
What you had been, may yet be, would I but
Prove helpmate to my hero—one and all
These silks and worsteds round the hook, seduce
Hardly the late torn throat and mangled tongue.
Pack up, I pray, the whole assortment prompt!
Who wonders at variety of wile
In the Arch-cheat? You are the Adversary!
Your fate is of your choosing: have your choice!
Wander the world,—God has some end to serve,
Ere he suppress you! He waits: I endure,
But interpose no finger-tip, forsooth,
To stop your passage to the pit. Enough
That I am stable, uninvolved by you
In the rush downwards: free I gaze and fixed;
Your smiles, your tears, prayers, curses move alike
My crowned contempt. You kneel? Prostrate yourself!
To earth, and would the whole world saw you there!"
Whereupon—"All right!" carelessly begins
Somebody from outside, who mounts the stair,
And sends his voice for herald of approach:
Half in half out the doorway as the door
Gives way to push.
"Old fellow, all's no good!
The train's your portion! Lay the blame on me
I'm no diplomatist, and Bismarck's self
Had hardly braved the awful Aunt at broach
Of proposition—so has world-repute
Preceded the illustrious stranger! Ah!—"
Quick the voice changes to astonishment,
Then horror, as the youth stops, sees, and knows.
The man who knelt starts up from kneeling, stands
Moving no muscle, and confronts the stare.
One great red outbreak—throat and brow—
The lady's proud pale queenliness of scorn:
Then her great eyes that turned so quick, become
Intenser: quail at gaze, not they indeed!
- quotes about old age
- quotes about victory
- quotes about diplomacy
- quotes about perfection
- quotes about nose
- quotes about equality
- quotes about seduction
- quotes about compensations
- quotes about Byron
Quatrains Of Life
What has my youth been that I love it thus,
Sad youth, to all but one grown tedious,
Stale as the news which last week wearied us,
Or a tired actor's tale told to an empty house?
What did it bring me that I loved it, even
With joy before it and that dream of Heaven,
Boyhood's first rapture of requited bliss,
What did it give? What ever has it given?
'Let me recount the value of my days,
Call up each witness, mete out blame and praise,
Set life itself before me as it was,
And--for I love it--list to what it says.
Oh, I will judge it fairly. Each old pleasure
Shared with dead lips shall stand a separate treasure.
Each untold grief, which now seems lesser pain,
Shall here be weighed and argued of at leisure.
I will not mark mere follies. These would make
The count too large and in the telling take
More tears than I can spare from seemlier themes
To cure its laughter when my heart should ache.
Only the griefs which are essential things,
The bitter fruit which all experience brings;
Nor only of crossed pleasures, but the creed
Men learn who deal with nations and with kings.
All shall be counted fairly, griefs and joys,
Solely distinguishing 'twixt mirth and noise,
The thing which was and that which falsely seemed,
Pleasure and vanity, man's bliss and boy's.
So I shall learn the reason of my trust
In this poor life, these particles of dust
Made sentient for a little while with tears,
Till the great ``may--be'' ends for me in ``must.''
My childhood? Ah, my childhood! What of it
Stripped of all fancy, bare of all conceit?
Where is the infancy the poets sang?
Which was the true and which the counterfeit?
I see it now, alas, with eyes unsealed,
That age of innocence too well revealed.
The flowers I gathered--for I gathered flowers--
Were not more vain than I in that far field.
Self was my god, the self I most despise,
Blind in its joys and swine--like gluttonies,
The rule of the brute beast that in us is,
Its heaven a kitchen and a gorge its prize.
No other pleasures knew I but of sense,
No other loves but lusts without pretence.
Oh, childhood is but Nature unredeemed,
Blind in desire, unshamed in ignorance.
I was all vanity and greed, my hand
Uncaring, as a panther's, whom it pained,
My nurse, my sisters, the young birds my prey.
I saw them grieve nor stopped to understand.
My mother loved me. Did I love her? Yes,
When I had need of her to soothe distress
Or serve my wants. But when the need was by,
Others were there more dear in idleness.
These coaxed and flattered me. Their wit afforded
Edge to my wit, and I would strut and lord it
Among them a young god--for god I seemed--
Or goose--for goose I was--they still encored it.
Alas, poor mother! What a love was yours!
How little profit of it all endures!
What wasted vigils, what ill--omened prayers;
What thankless thanks for what disastrous cures!
Why did you bind yourself in such harsh fetter,
To serve a heart so hard? It had been better
Surely to take your rest through those long nights,
Than watching on to leave me thus your debtor.
I heard but heeded not her warning voice;
I grudged her face its sadness in my joys,
And when she looked at me I did not guess
The secret of her sorrow and my loss.
They told me she was dying, but my eyes
Brimmed not with tears. I hardly felt surprise,
Nay, rather anger at their trouble when
I asked them ``what it was one does who dies.''
She threw her weak arms round me, and my face
Pressed to her own in one supreme embrace;
I felt her tears upon my cheeks all wet,
And I was carried frightened from the place.
I lost her thus who was indeed my all,
Lost her with scarce a pang whom now I call
Aloud to in the night a grieving man,
Hoar in his sins, and only clasp the wall.
This the beginning. Next my boyhood came,
Childhood embittered, its brute joys the same,
Only in place of kindness cruelty,
For courage fear, and for vain--glory shame.
Here now was none to flatter or to sue.
My lords were of the many, I the few;
These gave command nor heeded my vain prayers.
It was their will, not mine, my hands must do.
I was their slave. My body was the prey
Of their rude sports, more savage still than they,
My every sense the pastime of their whim,
My soul a hunted thing by night and day.
Pain was my portion, hunger, wakefulness,
And cold more bitter still, and that distress
Which is unnamed of tears that dare not fall,
When the weak body grieves and none may guess.
There was no place where I might lay my head,
No refuge from the world which was my dread,
No shrine inviolate for me from my foes,
No corner quite my own, not even my bed.
I would have changed then with the meanest thing
Which has its home in the free fields in Spring,
And makes its lair in the Earth's secret dells,
Or hides in her dark womb by burrowing.
I used to gaze into the depths of Earth,
And watch the worms and beetles that have birth
Under the stones secure from outer ills,
And envy them their loneliness in mirth.
One treasure had I, one thing that I loved,
A snail with shell most delicately grooved,
And a mute patient face which seemed to see,
And horns which moved towards me as I moved.
It was like me a creature full of fear,
But happier far for its strong household gear,
The living fortress on its back wherein
Its griefs could shrink away and disappear.
I kept it in a nest, the hollow bole
Of a dead elm, and for its daily dole,
And my own comfort in its luckier state,
Brought it a lettuce I in secret stole.
It waited for my coming each new noon,
When from my fellows I could steal so soon,
And there I fed it and arranged its cell,
All through a single happy month of June.
And then--ah, then--who even now shall tell,
The terror of that moment, when with yell
Of triumph on their prize they broke and me,
And crushed it 'neath their heels, those hounds of Hell!
Even yet the thought of it makes my blood rush
Back to my temples with an angry flush;
And for an instant, if Man's race could be
Crushed with it, God forgive me, I would crush.
Ay, God forgive me! 'Tis an evil thought,
And thus it is that wrong on wrong is wrought,
Vengeance on vengeance by a single deed
Of violent ill or idleness untaught.
Nay, rather let me love. I will not be
Partner with Man even thus in cruelty
For one least instant, though the prize should stand,
Hate slain for ever and the Nations free.
Thus for four years I lived of slaves the slave,
Too weak to fight, too beaten to be brave.
Who mocks at impotence and coward fear
Knows little of the pangs mute creatures have.
Yet wherefore grieve? Perhaps of all my days
This is the thing I mostly need to praise,
My chiefest treasure to have suffered wrong,
For God is cunning in His works and ways.
The sense of justice which He gives to Man
Is his own suffering, and His pity's plan
Man's own great need of pity which brims o'er
In alms to Africa and Hindostan.
And he who has not suffered nothing knows;
Therefore I chide not at these ancient woes,
But keep them as a lesson to my pride,
Lest I should smite the meanest of my foes.
And it is ended. Kindly Death drew near
And warned them from me with his face of fear.
I did not fear him, but the rest stood awed,
As at the frown of some dread minister.
I passed out of their sight, one living still,
But dead to sense who knows not good or ill,
Their blessings were the last thing that I heard
In that dark house. I wish them only well.
What next befell me was as some have found,
Peace to their wounds upon a battle ground,
Who sleep through days of pain and nights of fear,
Conscious of nothing but their dream profound.
My dream was of a convent with smooth floors,
And whitewashed walls, a place of corridors,
Where the wind blew in summer all day long,
And a shut garden filled with altar flowers.
Here lived in piety a score of men,
Who, having found the world a place of pain,
Or fearing it ere yet they knew it well,
Sought in God's service their eternal gain.
With these it was my privilege to be
The pensioner of their great pity's fee,
Nor favoured less for my dim soul's dark ways,
Awhile 'twixt boyhood and maturity.
My sorrow to their zeal was fruitful soil,
My wounds their pride as needing wine and oil;
All knowledge had they to redeem and save,
Mirth, silence, prayer, and that best opiate, toil.
The garden was my task. I learned to dig,
To nail the fruit--trees, pear, and peach, and fig;
To trim the grass plots and the box make good,
And keep the gravel smooth from leaf or twig.
Dear blessed garden! In this night of days
I see it still with its fair formal face,
Where even the flowers looked prim, as who should ask
Pardon for beauty in so pure a place.
This for the summer. But when winter fell,
A gentler service called me from my cell,
As suited to the frailty of my needs,
To serve the mass and ring the chapel bell.
Mine was the sacristy, the care of copes,
Albs, censers, pyxes, gifts of kings and popes,
Of lace and linen and the lamps which hung
For ever lit with oil of human hopes.
There on the altar steps, as one at home,
I hourly knelt the servant of old Rome,
And learned her ritual, and assuaged my soul
With the high lessons of her martyrdom.
Not seldom in those hours the dream was mine
Of voices speaking and a call divine.
God in all ages thus has shown to men
His secret will, and I too sought a sign.
The voice that called me was a voice of good.
It spoke of feasts less vain than the world's food,
And showed me my place set a guest for aye
Of heavenly things in that calm brotherhood.
Why did I shrink? What profit to my soul
Has the world proved that I must yield it toll?
What its ambitions that for these my zeal
Turned backward then from its eternal goal?
Yet thus it is. Our fallen human blood
Is ever a mixed stream 'twixt bad and good;
And mine, perhaps, worse mingled than the rest,
Flowed in a baser, a more prurient flood.
And so it might not be. There came a day
When I must grasp my fate and choose my way,
And when my will was weaker than a child's,
And pride stood in rebellion and said nay.
There in the garden, while the thrushes sang,
I listened to his prayer with a mute pang.
That man of God who argued with my soul,
And still the vesper chorus rang and rang.
Below us a pool lay with depths profound,
And in its face I gazed as if to sound
His reason's meaning, while the rain of grace
Was shed on all things but my heart around.
``For lo,'' he said, ``thus near us lies the end;
A step--no more--may mar our lives or mend.
This side a little, and Hell gapes for us;
On that side Heaven holds out strong hands, a friend.
``And he who fears is wise. Oh look,'' he cried,
``Here in this pool lies Death with its arms wide.
Speak. Shall I buy you life at cost of mine?
Nay; I would drown, though in my sin I died.''
Thus Moses argued with his people, these
Than I less stubborn and less hard to please.
God on that night spoke loudly to my soul,
And I refused Him--weeping--on my knees.
Here my dream ended. From that hidden life
I went out hungry to a world of strife,
The world of pleasure, and with heart keen set
For human joy as having felt the knife.
What is the root of pleasure in Man's heart?
The need to know made practical in part,
The shaping of the thing the soul has dreamed,
In gold or clay, with art or little art.
Youth knows not how to fashion its own pleasure;
It deals with Fortune without scale or measure.
And so is cheated of the gold life holds,
A treasure house of hope without the treasure.
The need is there, as swallows need to fly,
The strength of wing which longs for liberty;
The courage of the soul which upward tends,
And the eye's light, a truth which is no lie.
Behind us the past sinks, too tedious night,
Whose shadows brighter show the world of light.
And who shall say that laughter is not good,
When the blood pulses in the veins aright?
An April morning with the birds awake;
The sound of waters lapping by a lake;
The scent of flowers, the rhyme of dancing feet;
The breath of midnight with the heart aquake.
These are the moods of pleasure. And no less
The soul itself has need of wantonness.
The thirst of knowledge fired not only Eve,
And youth grieves still to guess and only guess.
We ask for wisdom. Knowledge first of all
Demands our vows from her high pedestal.
We wish ourselves in act as wise as gods,
Nor even in age dare quite our oath recall.
The truth !--to hold the actual thing and be
Bound by no law but hers and liberty.
Such was my youth's ambition, the fruit fair
And good for food of the forbidden tree.
Two things I was resolved my soul should know;
The physical meaning of the Earth below,
With its dumb forces armed for good and ill,
And its blind fires which in their cycles go;
This, and the power of Love. Here doubly set,
The riddle stood which holds life's alphabet.
What of a very truth were God and Man?
I dared not die till I had answered it.
And first of God. What Quixote on what steed
Of foundered folly urged to headlong speed,
Ere chose his path more madly, or fell down
Proner on life's least lenient stones to bleed?
Striding my horse of reason with loose rein,
I tilted at all shadows in disdain.
To each eternal I my question put,
``What art thou, for Man's pleasure or his pain?''
The Maker I had worshipped, where was He,
In the Earth's fields, or the circumfluent sea?
The footsteps of His presence on the wind,
How should I trace them through infinity?
The huge world in its naked shape unclad,
Mocked me with silence, as a thing gone mad.
A brainless virgin, passionless and blind,
Reeling through space, unsentient--yet how sad!
The stars of heaven! Their voices once went out
Through all a firmament in psalm and shout.
What word have they to--night? Nay, Jesse's son
Had only mocked in our new world of doubt.
I searched them, and I numbered, and I came
To numbers only, flame evolved of flame,
Orb wheeled on orb, a meaningless machine,
A handless clock without the maker's name.
Where was my God the Father? Not in space,
Which needs no god for glory or disgrace,
Being itself eternal. He I sought
Knew not the stars but smiled with human face.
Darkly the night looked at me; darker still
The inner Earth with its tumultuous will,
Its legion of destroyers and destroyed,
Its law of hunger and the need to kill.
In this too was no god, or--monstrous thought--
A god of endless wrong, of treason wrought
Through countless ages still against the weak.
Out on such truth if this be all it taught!
Out on such reason! From that cave of dread
Like one despoiled of thieves I naked fled,
My thirst for knowledge slaked in bitterness,
And Earth's blank riddle all too sternly read.
What has my youth been that I love it thus?
The love of Woman? Ah, thou virtuous
Dear face of wisdom which first filled my heaven,
How art thou fled from life's deserted house!
I see thee pure and noble as a vision,
Rapt in the joy of thy sublime derision
Of all things base, yet tender to the pain
Of him that loved thee spite of love's misprision.
Joyous thou wert as a Spring morning filled
With mirth of birds which strive and wive and build,
A presence of all pleasure on the Earth
Transformed through thee and with thy laughter thrilled.
True were thy eyes and pitiful thy voice,
The colour of thy cheeks how rare a choice,
The smiling of thy lips how strangely dear
When thy wit moved and made our souls rejoice!
Few years thou countedst to thy wisdom's score,
But more than mine and than thy pleasure more
I deemed thee roof and crown of womanhood,
Framed for all fame to blazon and adore.
Why wert thou fashioned thus for Earth and Man,
If only Heaven was to possess thy plan?
Why wert thou beautiful as God to me,
If only God should see thee and should scan?
Oh, thou wert cruel in thy ignorance,
Thou first beloved of my time's romance.
The love within thee was a light of death,
Set for a snare and luring to mischance.
What didst thou think of him, the boy untried,
To whom thou spakest of Heaven as speaks a bride?
The love of Heaven! Alas, thou couldst not guess
The fires he nursed or surely thou hadst lied.
His secret springs of passion had no art,
Nor loosed his tongue to any counterpart
Of mastering words. You neither feared nor knew
The rage of cursing hidden in his heart.
If thou hadst seen it, wouldst thou not have said
A soul by Satan tortured and misled?
Thou didst not guess the truth, that in thy hand
The scourges lay, the pincers, and the lead.
Or haply didst thou love me? Not so heaven
Possessed thee then but sometimes there were given
Glimpses which, to my later eyes of light,
Have shown new worlds as if by lightnings riven.
How had it been if I had ventured quite
That first enchanted, unforgotten night,
When I surprised thee weeping and in fear
Forbore the wrong that should have proved me right?
How had it been if youth had been less weak,
And love's mute hand had found the wit to speak.
If thou hadst been less valiant in thy tears,
And I had touched the heaven which was thy cheek?
Would life have been to me what now it is,
A thing of dreams half wise and half unwise,
A web unpatterned where each idler's hand
Has woven his thoughts, flowers, scrolls, and butterflies?
Or rather, had it not, redeemed of bliss,
Grasped at new worlds less impotent than this,
And made of love a heaven? for depths of fate
Lie in the issue of a woman's kiss.
Alas, it was not, and it may not be
Now, though the sun were melted in the sea,
And though thou livedst, and though I still should live,
Searching thy soul through all Eternity.
The ideal love, how fondly it gives place
To loves all real--alas, and flavourless.
The heart in hunger needs its meat to live,
And takes what dole it finds of happiness.
Then are strange spectacles of treason seen,
Earthquakes and tempests and the wars of men,
Shipwrecks of faith, ungodly interludes
And pagan rites to Moloch on the green.
Lust travestied as love goes nightly forth,
Preaching its creed unclean from South to North,
Using the very gestures of true love,
Its words, its prayers, its vows--how little worth!
Where are ye now, ye poor unfortunates,
Who once my partners were in these mad gaits,
Sad souls of women half unsexed by shame,
In what dire clutches of what felon fates?
Dark--eyed I see her, her who caused my fall,
Nay, caused it not who knew it not at all.
I hear her babble her fool's creed of bliss,
While I lie mute, a swine--like prodigal.
Her chamber redolent of unctuous glooms
Prisons me yet with its profane perfumes,
A cell of follies used and cast aside,
Painted in pleasure's likeness--and a tomb's.
Oh, those dead flowers upon her table set,
How loud they preach to me of wisdom yet,
Poor slaughtered innocents there parched in Hell,
Which Heaven had seen at dawn with dewdrops wet!
Littered they lay, those maidenheads of saints,
Mid pots of fard and powder--puffs and paints,
Egregious relics of lost purity
Tortured on wires with all that mars and taints.
Beneath, upon the floor her slippers lay
Who was the queen of all that disarray,
Left where she dropped them when she fled the room
To speed her latest gallant on his way.
The pictures on the wall--by what strange chance--
Showed sacred scenes of Biblical romance;
Among them Pilate on his judgment--seat
Washing before the multitude his hands.
Smiling he sat while in reproachful mood
He they led forth to crucifixion stood.
``Innocent am I,'' thus the legend ran
Inscribed beneath it, ``of this just One's blood.''
Innocent! Ah, the sad forgotten thought
Of that mute face my convent dreams had sought.
And while I sighed, behold the arms of sin
In my own arms enlatticed and enwrought.
A life of pleasure is a misnamed thing,
Soulless at best, an insect on the wing,
But mostly sad with its unconquered griefs,
The noise that frets, the vanities that sting.
The weapons of youth's armoury are these--
The chase, the dance, the gambler's ecstasies.
Each in its turn I handled with the rest,
And drained my cup of folly to the lees.
What days I murdered thus without design,
What nights deflowered in madness and lewd wine!
The ghosts of those lost hours are with me still,
Crying, ``Give back my life, and mine, and mine!''
Yet was it glorious on the scented morn
To wake the woods with clamouring hound and horn,
To ride red--coated where the red fox ran,
And shout with those who laughed to see him torn.
Glorious to lie 'neath the tall reeds in wait
For the swift fowl at flight returning late,
And pull them from their path with lightning shot,
The bolt of Jove less certain in its fate.
Glorious to battle with the crested wave
For the full nets engulphed in the sea's grave,
And see the fishes flash entangled there,
With only courage and strong arms to save.
And glorious more, with sword high--poised and still,
To meet the bull's rush with o'ermastering skill,
And watch the stricken mass in anger die,
Tamed by the potency of human will.
All glorious and vain--glorious and most sad,
Because of the dark death their doing made,
And of the nothingness that swept the track,
Leaving no footprint or of good or bad.
The light--heeled love of laughter and the dance
Held me, yet held not, in its transient trance.
The hours were few when, fired with love and wine,
I trod the Bacchanalian maze of France.
Yet do I mind me of one afternoon
In Meudon wood, when night came all too soon;
And then again the morning, and unstayed
We pranced our measure out from noon to noon.
That day of dancing in my memory stands
A thing apart and almost of romance,
A day of pleasure physical and strong,
Unwearied and unwearying, feet, lips, hands.
The ``Coq de Bruyère'' was the fortunate sign
Of the lone inn where we had met to dine,
And found a score companions light as we
To turn our rustic hostel to a shrine.
If it still stands, how strangely it must view
This older world with hopes of paler hue!
Or was it youth so painted the grass green,
The apple--blossoms pink, the heavens blue?
Alas! I know not, nor remember yet
Her name with whom those foolish hours seemed sweet,
Only that she laughed on and danced with me,
And that my fingers just could span her feet.
How far away! And Meudon, too, how far!
And all those souls of women lost in care,
And even fair France herself how merged in pain!
It was the Spring before the Prussian war.
One day, one only day, and then the light
Waned in the place and hid our faces white,
And, our score paid, we left the empty room
And met no more on this side of the night.
Who speaks of play speaks treason to youth's state.
Youth is the heir to passion, love and hate,
The passion of the body in its strength,
The passion of the soul commensurate.
Nought needs it in its force of whip or goad,
Say rather a strong bridle for the road.
He who would spur it to a fiercer heat
Is an ill rider whom no fortunes bode.
Shame is it that the glory of youth's eyes
Should be lack--lustred with the grape's disguise,
And doubly shame its vast desires should swoon
In maniac clutchings at a vagrant prize.
Gold is the last least noble stake of life,
When all is gone, friends, fashion, fame, love's strife,
The thing men still can chase when dotage stings
And joy is dead and gout is as the knife.
Youth, seeking gold at Fortune's hand, goes bare
Of its best weapons with the humblest there,
As impotent to win a smile from fate
As the least valiant, the most cursed with care.
Watch well the doors of Fortune. Who goes in?
The prince, the peasant, the gay child of sin,
The red--cheeked soldier, the mad crook--backed crone,
Which shall prevail with Fortune? Which shall win?
Nay, who shall tell? Luck levels all pretence,
Manhood's high pride, youth's first concupiscence.
The arbiter of fame it stands and wit,
The judge supreme of sense and lack of sense.
The gambler's heaven is Youth's untimely Hell.
And I, who dwelt there as lost spirits dwell,
There touched the bottom of the pit. Even yet
I dare not nakedly its secrets tell.
What saved me from the gulf? All ye who preach
Art the physician and consoling leech
Of fallen souls, if but a single spark
Of genius lives, behold the text you teach.
In Art's high hall for whoso holds the key
Honour does service on a suppliant knee,
Virtue his handmaid is, to work his will,
And beauty crowns him, be he bond or free.
His sad soul's raiment from his shoulders fall,
Light pure is given, and he is clothed withal,
His eye grows single and his madness parts
As once in song the raging mood of Saul.
What saved me from the gulf? Thrice generous hand,
A king's in gifts, a prophet's in command,
All potent intellect designed to guide,
Transforming grief as with a master's wand!
This life, if it be worthy grown, is thine;
These tears made sweet once bitter with such brine,
This impotence of will to purpose fired,
This death fenced out with mine and countermine.
For I insensate had resolved to fly
From life's despairs and sick pride's misery,
A craven braggart to the arms of death,
And die dishonoured as the wretched die.
Thou stoodst, how oft, between me and my fate,
Bidding me cheer, or, if I dared not, wait,
From morn to night and then from night to morn
Pointing to Fame as to an open gate;
Till Time, the healer, had half closed the wound,
And Spring in the year's mercy came back crowned
With leaves and blossoms, and I could not choose
To lie unknown forgotten underground.
If there be aught of pleasure worth the living
'Tis to be loved when trouble has done grieving,
And the sick soul, resigned to her mute state,
Forgets the pain forgiven and forgiving.
With wan eyes set upon life's door ajar
She waits half conscious of the rising star,
And lo! 'tis Happiness on tip--toe comes
With fruits and flowers and incense from afar.
Scarcely she heeds him as he stops and smiles.
She does not doubt his innocent lips' wiles.
She lies in weakness wondering and half won,
While beauty cunningly her sense beguiles.
Then at her feet he sets his stores unrolled
Of spice and gums and treasure manifold.
All kingdoms of the Earth have tribute paid
To heap the myrrh and frankincense and gold.
These are his gifts, and tenderly he stands
With eyes of reverence and mute folded hands,
Pleading her grace, and lo! her heaven is filled
With music as of archangelic bands.
What saved me from the gulf? A woman's prayer
Sublimely venturing all a soul might dare,
A saint's high constancy outwitting Fate
And dowered with love supreme in its despair.
I had done naught to merit such high lot,
Given naught in hostage and adventured naught.
The gift was free as heaven's own copious rains,
And came like these unseeking and unsought.
O noble heart of woman! On life's sea
Thou sailedst bravely, a proud argosy,
Freighted with wisdom's wealth and ordered well,
Defiant of all storms--since storms must be.
On thy high way thou passedst pursuant only
Of Virtue's purpose and Truth's instinct thronely.
Strength's symbol wert thou, self--contained and free,
Lone in thy path of good but never lonely.
What glory of the morning lit thy shrouds!
What pure thought limned thee white on thunder--clouds!
I from my shattered raft afar in pain
Kneeled to thy form and prayed across the floods.
In godlike patience, to my soul's surprise,
Thou paused and parleyed wise with me unwise.
Ah, dearest soul seraphic! Who shall paint
The heaven revealed of pity in thine eyes?
She took me to her riches. All the gladness
Of her great joy she gave to cure my sadness,
All her soul's garment of unearthly hopes
To ease the ache which fructified to madness.
She took me to her pleasure, wealth long stored
Of silent thought and fancy in full hoard,
Treasures of wisdom and discerning wit,
And dreams of beauty chaste and unexplored.
She took me to her heart,--and what a heart,
Vast as all heaven and love itself and art!
She gave it royally as monarchs give
Who hold back nothing when they give a part.
A king I rose who had knelt down a slave,
A soul new born who only sought a grave,
A victor from the fight whence I had fled,
A hero crowned with bays who was not brave.
Blest transformation! Circe's ancient curse
See here interpreted in plain reverse.
Love, generous love, in me devised a spell
Ennobling all and subtler far than hers.
Thus was I saved. Yet, mark how hardly Fate
Deals with its victors vanquished soon or late.
The ransomed captive of his chains goes free.
She pines in durance who has paid the debt.
Behold this woman of all joy the heir,
Robed in high virtue and worth's worthiest wear,
A saint by saints esteemed, a matron wise
As Rome's Cornelia chastely debonnaire.
Behold her touched with my own soul's disease,
Grieving in joy and easeless still in ease,
The gall of sorrow and the thorn of shame
Twined ever in the wreaths love framed to please.
Behold her languishing for honour's loss,
Her pride nailed daily to a nameless cross,
Her vesture sullied with the dust of sin,
Her gold of purity transfused with dross.
The echo of her voice has tones that thrill:
I hear her weeping with a blind wild will.
A name she speaks to the dim night, his name
Her virtue spared not yet remembered still.
``Say, shall I comfort thee?'' ``O soul of mine,
Thy comfort slays me with its joys like wine.
Thy love is dear to me--then let me go.
Bid me fare forth for aye from thee and thine.''
``Is there no pleasure?'' ``Pleasure is not sweet
When doors are shut and veiled Man's mercy--seat.
My heaven thou wert, but heaven itself is pain
When God is dumb and angels turn their feet.''
``Is there no beauty? See, the sun is fair
And the world laughs because the Spring is there.
Hast thou no laughter?'' ``Ay, I laugh as Eve
Laughed with her lord the night of their despair.''
``The past is passed.'' ``Nay, 'tis a ghost that lives.''
``Grief dies.'' ``We slew it truly and it thrives.
Pain walks behind us like a murdered man
Asking an alms of joy which vainly gives.
``Give me thy tears: their bitterness is true.
Give me thy patience: it is all my due.
Give me thy silence, if thou wilt thy scorn,
But spare thy kisses, for they pierce me through.''
I saw her perish, not at once by death,
Which has an edge of mercy in its sheath.
No bodily pleadings heralded decay;
No violence of pity stopped her breath.
Only the eternal part which was her mind
Had withered there as by a breath unkind.
Only the reason of her eyes was mute;
Their meaning vanished, leaving naught behind.
``No bells shall ring my burial hour,'' she said.
``No prayers be sung, no requiem for the dead.
Only the wind shall chaunt in its wild way,
And be thou there to lay flowers on my head.''
I laid them on her grave. Alas! dear heart,
What love can follow thee where now thou art?
Sleep on. My youth sleeps with thee--and the rest
Would but disturb. We are too far apart.
What has my life been? What life has the wind
Wandering for ever on in change of mind
Winter and summer, chasing hopes as vain
And seeking still the rest it may not find?
When she was dead I rose up in my place,
Like Israel's king, and smiled and washed my face.
My grief had died in me with her long tears,
And I was changed and maimed and passionless.
I said, ``There are griefs wider than this grief,
Hopes broader harvested, of ampler sheaf.
Man may not live the caged bird of his pride,
And he who wends afar shall win relief.''
The world of sea and mountain shape high browed
Lured me to dreams of nobler solitude,
Fair plains beyond the limits of the dawn,
And desert places lawless and untrod.
Beyond youth's lamp of bitter--sweet desires
And manhood's kindling of less lawful fires
A star I sought should lead me to my dream
Of a new Bethlehem and angelic choirs.
This passionate England with its wild unrest,
How has it straitened us to needs unblest!
Need is that somewhere in the world there be
A better wisdom, seek it East or West.
I sought it first on that great Continent
Which is the eldest born of man's intent.
All that the race of Japhet has devised
Of wit to live lives there pre--eminent.
The record of the ages proudly stand
Revealed in constancy and close at hand,
Man's march triumphant against natural foes,
His conquest of the air and sea and land,
From that far day when, wielding shafts of stone,
He drove the bear back from the banks of Rhone,
And built his dwelling on the fair lake's shore
He earliest learned to love and call his own,
On thro' the generations of wild men,
The skin--clad hunters of the field and fen,
At war with life, all life than theirs less strong
Less fenced with cunning in its lawless den,
Until the dawn broke of a larger age,
With milder fortunes and designs more sage,
And men raised cities on the naked plains
With wine and corn and oil for heritage.
Etruscan Italy! Pelasgic Greece!
How did they labour in the arts of peace!
If strong men were before the time of Troy,
What of the wise who planned their palaces?
The men of cunning who, ere letters came
To hand their learning down from fame to fame,
Dealt with Titanic square and basalt slab
And found the law of parallelogram?
Unnamed discoverers, or of those who gave
Its rule to beauty, line and curve and wave,
Smelters of bronze, artificers in gold,
Painters of tear--cups for the hero's grave?
Or those, the last, who of Man's social state
Devised the code his lusts to mitigate,
Who set a bridle on his jaws of pride,
And manacled with law his limbs of hate,
Till each fair town its separate polity
Enjoyed in its own walls well--fenced and free,
With king and court and poet and buffoon
And burgess roll inscribed of chivalry?
This was the old world's golden age renowned
Shown thro' dim glimpses of a past spell--bound.
Some shadow of it lives in Homer's story.
In vain we search. Its like shall not be found.
It vanished in the impatient march of Man
When Empires rose, with Cyrus in the van,
The Assyrian tyranny, the Persian scourge,
And his the all--conquering boy of Macedon.
Then were the little freedoms swept aside,
The household industries for fields more wide.
With heavy hand Rome weighed upon the world
A blind Colossus, order classified.
And what of the new world, the world that is?
Ah, Europe! What a tragedy there lies!
Thy faiths forgotten and thy laws made void,
Hunger and toil thy sole known destinies.
The sombre livery of thy bastard races
Proclaims thee slave and their ignoble faces,
Gaul, Teuton, Serb, all fortunes merged in one,
All bloods commingled in thy frail embraces.
No type, no image of the God in thee,
No form survives of nobler ancestry,
No mark is on thy brow, even that of Cain,
By which to learn thy soul's lost pedigree.
Thou toilest blindly in thy central hive
Of the world's hopes impatient and alive,
Waiting the reason which shall light thy years
To a new gospel of initiative,
Rueful, unconscious, to thy labour bound
And dumb to love, above or underground.
He were the Sage of the new discipline
Who first should wake thy silence into sound.
Where is the poet who shall sing of Man
In his new world, a better Caliban,
And show him Heaven? What nobler Prospero
To cure his ache on an Eternal plan?
The voice that should arouse that slumbering clod
Must echo boldly as to steps unshod
Of angels heralding the advent day
Of a new Saviour and a latest God.
But whose the voice? And where the listeners?
I sought and found not. Rather in my ears
The discord grew of that ungodly host
Whose laughter mocks the music of the Spheres.
``Glory of glories!'' Thus it was they chaunted,
But not to Heaven for which men blindly panted,
Rather to that Hell's master who hath held
Their backs to pain in labour covenanted.
To him the honour and obedience due
Of their lost Moab where the bluebells blew,
Now the sad washpot of his engines' slime,
Their childhood's Edom darkened by his shoe.
Through that dim murk no glimpse of the Divine
Shall pierce with song where the sun dares not shine,
No praise of beauty in a land all bleared
With poison--smoke and waters aniline?
Better they died unchronicled. Their room
Would then be for each weed that wreathed their tomb,
More beautiful than they with all their love
It is not worth a spray of butcher's broom.
All this I read as in an open book
Wandering in bye paths with my pilgrim's crook,
Through Alp and Apennine and Eastward on
To where the Balkans on the Danube look.
On Trajan's wall I lay in the tall grass
And watched the Tartar shepherds wandering pass.
A boy was blowing in his flute below;
Afar the river shone, a sea of glass.
This was the world's once boundary; and beyond
What terrors reigned for fearful hearts and fond,
The Scythian wilderness, where were--wolves were
And night for ever lay in frozen bond!
The subtle wonder of the desert came
And touched my longing with its breath of flame.
I too, methought, sad child of a new age,
Would learn its mystery and inscribe my name,
Clothed in the garments of its ancient past,
My race forgotten and my creed outcast,
On some lone pile whence centuries look down
On days unchanged the earliest with the last.
As Abraham was at Mamre on the leas,
I too would be, or Ur of the Chaldees,
Feeding my flocks in patience at God's hand,
Guided by signs and girt with mysteries.
With staff in hand and wallet for all need,
Footing the goat--tracks or with ass for steed,
Clad in mean raiment, with attendants none,
And fed on locusts as the prophets feed.
Climbing the dunes each morning to behold
The world's last miracle of light enfold
The Eastern heaven, and see the victor sun
Press back the darkness with his spears of gold.
The fair Earth, pure in her sweet nakedness,
Should smile for me each day with a new face,
Her only lover; and her virgin sands
Should be my daily sacrilege to press.
The deep blue shadows of the rocks at noon
My tent should be from a burnt world in swoon,
Rocks scored with what dead names of worshippers,
Of Gods as dead, the sun and stars and moon.
There would I stand in prayer, with unshod feet
And folded arms, at Time's true mercy seat,
Making my vows to the one God of gods
Whose praise the Nations of the East repeat.
Haply some wonder of prophetic kind
My eyes should see to the world's reason blind,
Some ladder to the Heaven, or a face
Speaking in thunder to me from the wind.
I lay in the tall grass, and overhead
The ravens called who once Elisha fed.
It was a message meet for my desires,
And I arose and followed where they led,
Arose and followed;--and behold, at hand,
With tinkling bells and tread as if on sand,
Toward me spectral from the Orient came
The pilgrim camels of that holy Land.
The rock of Horeb is the holiest place
Of all Earth's holies. In the wilderness
It stands with its gaunt head bare to the heaven
As when God spake with Moses face to face.
Red in the eternal sunset of the years,
Crowned with a glory the world's evening wears,
Where evening is with morning a first day
Unchanged in the mute music of the Spheres.
From base to top the boulder crags high thrown
Fortress the plain which Israel camped upon,
A living presence in the unliving waste,
A couchant lion with a mane of stone.
Aloft in the dread shadow of his brows
And shut from summer suns and winter snows,
When snows there be in the parched wilderness,
A cell I found and of it made my house.
A single hewn stone chamber, carved of old
By hermits' hands, of rocks with labour rolled,
Undoored, unwindowed, with the earth for floor,
Within, an altar where their beads they told.
Without, a rood of soil and a scant spring,
Their garden once, where deep in the vast ring
Of those grave granite domes they delved and prayed,
One thorn tree its sole life left blossoming.
There laid I down the burden of my care
And dwelt a space in the clean upper air.
I dwelt, how many days or months or years
I know not, for I owned no calendar;
Only the rising of the winter's sun
Daily more northward as the months moved on,
Only the sun's return along his ways
When summer slackened his first rage outrun;
Only the bee--birds passing overhead
With their Spring twitter and eyes crimson red,
The storks and pelicans in soldier bands,
The purple doves that stayed to coo and wed;
These and the shepherds of the waste, the few
Poor Bedouin clansmen, with their weak flocks, who
Strayed through the valleys at appointed days,
As water failed them or the herbage grew,
Lean hungry--eyed wild sons of Ishmael
Who climbed the rocks and sought me in my cell
With their poor wares of butter, dates and corn
And almond--cake in skins and hydromel,
Unwise in the world's learning, yet with gleams
Of subtler instinct than the vain world deems,
Glimpses of faiths transmitted from afar
In signs and wonders and revealed in dreams.
They taught me their strange knowledge, how to read
The forms celestial ordered to Man's need,
To count on sand the arrow heads of fate
And mark the bird's flight and the grey hare's speed.
The empty waste informed with their keen eyes
Became a scroll close writ with mysteries
Unknown to reason yet compelling awe
With that brave folly which confounds the wise.
Nor less the faith was there of the revealed
God of their fathers, Ishmael's sword and shield,
Their own, the Merciful, the Compassionate,
By martyrs witnessed in the stricken field.
His name was on their lips, a living name.
His law was in their hearts, their pride in shame.
His will their fortitude in hours of ill
When the skies rained not and the locusts came.
I learned their creed in this as in the rest,
Making submission to God's ways as best.
What matter if in truth the ways were His,
So I should abdicate my own unblest!
And thus I might have lived--and died, who knows,
A Moslem saint, on those high mountain brows,
Prayed to by alien lips in alien prayer
As intercessor for their mortal woes,
Lived, died, and been remembered for some good
In the world's chronicle of brotherhood,
Nor yet through strife with his own Bedlam kind,
The Hydra--headed Saxon multitude.
But for the clamour of untimely war,
The sound of Nations marching from afar.
Their voice was on the tongue of winds and men,
Their presaging in sun and moon and star.
I dreamed a dream of our fair mother Earth
In her first beauty, ere mankind had birth,
Peopled with forms how perfect in design,
How rich in purpose, of what varied worth,
Birds, four--foot beasts and fishes of the Sea
Each in its kind and order and degree
Holding their place unchid, her children all,
And none with right to strain her liberty.
Her deep green garment of the forest glade
Held monsters grim, but none was there afraid.
The lion and the antelope lay down
In the same thicket for their noon--day shade.
The tyranny of strength was powerless all
To break her order with unseemly brawl.
No single kind, how stout soe'er of limb,
Might drive her weakest further than the wall.
All was in harmony and all was true
On the green Earth beneath her tent of blue.
When lo, the advent of her first born lie,
The beast with mind from which her bondage grew.
O woeful apparition! what a shape
To set the world's expectancy agape,
To crown its wonders! what lewd naked thing
To wreck its Paradise! The human ape!
Among the forms of dignity and awe
It moved a ribald in the world of law,
In the world's cleanness it alone unclean,
With hairless buttocks and prognathous jaw.
Behold it in that Eden once so fair,
Pirate and wanton, a blind pillager,
With axe and fire and spade among the trees
Blackening a league to build itself a lair.
Behold it marshalling its court,--soft kine,
And foolish sheep and belly--lorded swine,
Striding the horse anon, high--mettled fool,
And fawned on by the dog as one divine.
Outrage on sense and decent Nature's pride!
Feast high of reason--nay of Barmecide,
Where every guest goes hungry but this one,
The Harpy--clawed, too foul to be denied!
I saw it, and I blushed for my Man's race,
And once again when in the foremost place
Of human tyranny its latest born
Stood threatening conquest with an English face.
Chief of the sons of Japhet he, with hand
Hard on the nations of the sea and land,
Intolerant of all, tongues, customs, creeds,
Too dull to spare, too proud to understand.
I saw them shrink abashed before his might,
Like tropic birds before the sparrow's flight.
The world was poorer when they fled. But he
Deemed he had done ``God'' service and ``his right.''
I saw it and I heard it and I rose
With the clear vision of a seer that knows.
I had a message to the powers of wrong
And counted not the number of my foes.
I stood forth in the strength of my soul's rage
And spoke my word of truth to a lewd age.
It was the first blow struck in that mad war,
My last farewell to my fair hermitage.
O God of many battles! Thou that art
Strong to withstand when warriors close and part,
That art or wast the Lord of the right cause!
How has thy hand grown feeble in its smart!
How are the vassals of thy power to--day
Set in rebellion mastering the fray!
Blaspheming Thee they smite with tongues obscene,
While these Thy saints lie slaughtered where they pray.
How is the cauldron of thy wrath the deepest,
Cold on its stones? No fire for it thou heapest.
Thou in the old time wert a jealous God.
Thieves have dishonoured Thee. And lo, Thou sleepest!
Between the camps I passed in the still night,
The breath of heaven how pure, the stars how bright.
On either hand the life impetuous flowed
Waiting the morrow which should crown the fight.
How did they greet it? With what voice, what word,
What mood of preparation for the sword?
On this side and on that a chaunt was borne
Faint on the night--wind from each hostile horde.
Here lay the camps. The sound from one rose clear,
A single voice through the thrilled listening air.
``There is no God but God,'' it cried aloud.
``Arise, ye faithful, 'tis your hour of prayer.''
And from the other? Hark the ignoble chorus,
Strains of the music halls, the slums before us.
Let our last thought be as our lives were there,
Drink and debauchery! The drabs adore us.
And these were proved the victors on that morrow,
And those the vanquished, fools, beneath war's harrow.
And the world laughed applauding what was done,
And if the angels wept none heard their sorrow.
What has my life been in its last best scene
Stripped of Time's violence, its one serene
Experience of things fair without a flaw,
Its grasp of Heaven's own paradisal green?
After the storm the clouds white laughters fly;
After the battle hark the children's cry!
After the stress of pain, if God so will,
We too may taste our honey ere we die.
What little secret 'tis we need discover!
How small a drop to make the cup brim over!
A single word half spoken between two,
And Heaven is there, the loved one and the lover.
Tell me not, thou, of youth as Time's last glory.
Tell not of manhood when it strikes its quarry.
The prime of years is not the prime of pleasure.
Give me life's later love when locks are hoary,
Love, when the hurry and the rush are past,
Love when the soul knows what will fade what last,
The worth of simple joys youth trampled on,
Its pearl of price upon the dunghill cast.
Time was, I mocked, I too, at life's plain blisses,
The rustic treasure of connubial kisses,
The bourgeois wealth of amorous maid and man
Made man and wife in legal tendernesses.
Time was, but is not, since the scales of pride
Fell from my eyes and left me glorified.
Now 'tis the world's turn. Let it laugh at me,
Who care not, having Love's self on my side.
How came I by this jewel, this sweet friend,
This best companion of my lone life's end?
So young she was, so fair, of soul so gay,
And I with only wisdom to commend.
I looked into her eyes and saw them seek
My own with questions, roses on her cheek.
One sign there is of love no words belie,
The soul's wide windows watching where lips speak.
What wouldst thou with me, thou dear wise one, say?
My face is withered, my few locks are grey.
Time has dealt with me like a dolorous Jew.
My gold he holds; in silver now I pay.
How shall I serve thee? Shall I be thy priest,
To read thy dear sins to the last and least?
I have some knowledge of the ways of men,
Some too of women. Wilt thou be confessed?
Nay, but thou lovest? A gay youth and fair?
Is he less kind to thee than lovers are?
Shall I chastise him for his backward ways,
Teach him thy whole worth and his own despair?
Thou dost deny? Thou lovest none? To thee
Youth, sayest thou, is void, mere vanity.
Yet how to build up life and leave out love,
The corner stone of all its joys to be?
Thou wouldst be wise. Thou swearest to me this.
Know then, all wisdom is but happiness.
So thou art happy, there is none more sage
Than thou of the wise seven famed of Greece.
She did not answer me, but heaved a sigh
And raised her eyes, where tears stood, silently.
I kissed her hands, the outside and the in,
``Child, dost thou love me?'' And she whispered ``Ay.''
Thus the thing happened. And between us two
Was now a secret beautiful and new.
We hid it from all eyes as fearing ill,
And cherished it in wonder, and it grew.
Some say that Heaven is but to be with God,
Hell--but without God--the same blest abode.
How wide the difference only those may know
Whose eyes have seen the glory and the cloud.
We two beheld the glory. Every morn
We rose to greet it with the day new born;
No laggards we when Love was in the fields
Waiting to walk there with us in the corn.
O those first hours of the yet folded day,
While Man still sleeps and Nature has its play,
When beast and bird secure from death and him
Wander and wanton in their own wild way.
These were our prize untroubled by the whim
Of slugging fools still wrapped in dreamings dim.
In these we lived a whole life ere their day
And heard the birds chaunt and the seraphim.
How good it was to see her through the grass,
Pressing to meet me with her morning face
Wreathed in new smiles by the sweet thought within
Triumphant o'er the world and worldlings base!
How good to mark her beauty decked anew
With leaf and blossom, crimson, white and blue!
The beechen spray fresh gathered in her hand
Was her queen's sceptre diamonded with dew.
I heard her young voice long ere she was near,
Calling her call--note of the wood dove clear.
It was our signal. And I answered low
In the same note, ``Beloved, I am here.''
And then the meeting. Who shall count the bliss
Of sweet words said and sweeter silences.
It was agreed between us we should wed
Some happy day nor yet forestall a kiss.
Sublime convention by true lovers made
To try their joy more nearly in the shade.
``Not yet, dear love! Thy mad lips take from mine,
Lest thou shouldst harm me and the world upbraid.''
Who says a wedding day is not all white
From dawn to dusk, nay far into the night?
The man who makes not that one day divine
Dullard is he and dastard in Love's sight.
First day of the new month, the honeymoon,
Last of the old life naked and alone.
The apparent heirship come to actual reign,
The entrance in possession of a throne.
Why grudge rejoicings? The vain world is there.
It sees the feast spread that it may not share.
God's angels envy thee; then why not these?
Let them make merry with thy wealth to spare.
Nay, join it thou. The foolish old life waits,
A slave discharged, to see thee to the gates.
Give it thy bounty, though it claim thy all,
Thy clothes, thy bed, thy empty cups and plates.
The world hath loved thee, or it loved thee not,
What matter now! Thou needest raise no doubt.
All smile on thee to--day, the false, the true.
The new king pardons. Shout then with their shout.
Thy friends surround thee, sceptics of thy reason.
They ply thee gaily in and out of season.
Thou in thy heart the while art far away
True to thy god. Thou heedest not their treason.
Proud in the face of all thou vowest thy vow,
Love in thine eyes and glory on thy brow,
Thou hast sworn to cherish her, to have, to hold,
``Till death us twain do part.'' Ah she! Ah thou!
What has my life been? Nay, my life is good.
Dear life, I love thee, now thou art subdued.
Thou hast fled the battle, cast thine arms away,
And so art victor of the multitude.
Thou art forgotten wholly of thy foes,
Of thy friends wholly, these alike with those.
One garden of the world thy kingdom is
Walled from the wicked, and there blooms thy rose.
She that I love lives there and lives with me.
Enough, kind heaven, I make my terms with thee.
Worth, wealth, renown, power, honour--shadows all!
This is the substance, this reality.
O world that I have known! how well, things, men,
Glories of vanity, the sword, the pen!
Fair praise of kings, applause of crowds--nay more,
Saints' pure approval of the loss and gain!
High deeds of fame which made the eyelids brim
With tears of pride grief's anguish could not dim,
The day of triumph crowning all the days,
The harvest of the years brought home by Time!
What are you to Man's heart, his soul, his sense
Prouder than this, more robed in incidence?
The cry of the first babe, his own, and hers,
Thrilling to joy? Ah matchless eloquence!
The wisdom of all Time is in that cry,
The knowledge of Life's whence, at last, and why,
The root of Love new grafted in the tree,
Even as it falls, which shall not wholly die.
To rest in a new being! Here it stands
The science of all ages in all lands,
The joy which makes us kin with the Earth's life,
And knits us with all Nature joining hands,
Till we forget our heritage of gloom,
Our dark humanity how near its doom.
Away! Man's soul was a disease. 'Tis fled
Scared by this infant face of perfect bloom.
And so, farewell, poor passionate Life, the past.
I close thy record with this word, ``Thou wast.''
Why wait upon the Future? Lo To--day
Smiles on our tears, Time's toy, his best and last.
OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII (Entire)
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.
Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou:
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.
We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.
Forgive what seem’d my sin in me;
What seem’d my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.
Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro’ time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?
Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,
Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,
Than that the victor Hours should scorn
The long result of love, and boast,
‘Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn.’
Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.
The seasons bring the flower again,
And bring the firstling to the flock;
And in the dusk of thee, the clock
Beats out the little lives of men.
O not for thee the glow, the bloom,
Who changest not in any gale,
Nor branding summer suns avail
To touch thy thousand years of gloom:
And gazing on thee, sullen tree,
Sick for thy stubborn hardihood,
I seem to fail from out my blood
And grow incorporate into thee.
O Sorrow, cruel fellowship,
O Priestess in the vaults of Death,
O sweet and bitter in a breath,
What whispers from thy lying lip?
‘The stars,’ she whispers, ‘blindly run;
A web is wov’n across the sky;
From out waste places comes a cry,
And murmurs from the dying sun:
‘And all the phantom, Nature, stands–
With all the music in her tone,
A hollow echo of my own,–
A hollow form with empty hands.’
And shall I take a thing so blind,
Embrace her as my natural good;
Or crush her, like a vice of blood,
Upon the threshold of the mind?
To Sleep I give my powers away;
My will is bondsman to the dark;
I sit within a helmless bark,
And with my heart I muse and say:
O heart, how fares it with thee now,
That thou should’st fail from thy desire,
Who scarcely darest to inquire,
‘What is it makes me beat so low?’
Something it is which thou hast lost,
Some pleasure from thine early years.
Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!
Such clouds of nameless trouble cross
All night below the darken’d eyes;
With morning wakes the will, and cries,
‘Thou shalt not be the fool of loss.’
I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.
But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.
One writes, that ‘Other friends remain,’
That ‘Loss is common to the race’–
And common is the commonplace,
And vacant chaff well meant for grain.
That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.
O father, wheresoe’er thou be,
Who pledgest now thy gallant son;
A shot, ere half thy draught be done,
Hath still’d the life that beat from thee.
O mother, praying God will save
Thy sailor,–while thy head is bow’d,
His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud
Drops in his vast and wandering grave.
Ye know no more than I who wrought
At that last hour to please him well;
Who mused on all I had to tell,
And something written, something thought;
Expecting still his advent home;
And ever met him on his way
With wishes, thinking, ‘here to-day,’
Or ‘here to-morrow will he come.’
O somewhere, meek, unconscious dove,
That sittest ranging golden hair;
And glad to find thyself so fair,
Poor child, that waitest for thy love!
For now her father’s chimney glows
In expectation of a guest;
And thinking ‘this will please him best,’
She takes a riband or a rose;
For he will see them on to-night;
And with the thought her colour burns;
And, having left the glass, she turns
Once more to set a ringlet right;
And, even when she turn’d, the curse
Had fallen, and her future Lord
Was drown’d in passing thro’ the ford,
Or kill’d in falling from his horse.
O what to her shall be the end?
And what to me remains of good?
To her, perpetual maidenhood,
And unto me no second friend.
Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,
A hand that can be clasp’d no more–
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.
He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.
A happy lover who has come
To look on her that loves him well,
Who ’lights and rings the gateway bell,
And learns her gone and far from home;
He saddens, all the magic light
Dies off at once from bower and hall,
And all the place is dark, and all
The chambers emptied of delight:
So find I every pleasant spot
In which we two were wont to meet,
The field, the chamber and the street,
For all is dark where thou art not.
Yet as that other, wandering there
In those deserted walks, may find
A flower beat with rain and wind,
Which once she foster'd up with care;
So seems it in my deep regret,
O my forsaken heart, with thee
And this poor flower of poesy
Which little cared for fades not yet.
But since it pleased a vanish’d eye,
I go to plant it on his tomb,
That if it can it there may bloom,
Or dying, there at least may die.
Fair ship, that from the Italian shore
Sailest the placid ocean-plains
With my lost Arthur’s loved remains,
Spread thy full wings, and waft him o’er.
So draw him home to those that mourn
In vain; a favourable speed
Ruffle thy mirror’d mast, and lead
Thro’ prosperous floods his holy urn.
All night no ruder air perplex
Thy sliding keel, till Phosphor, bright
As our pure love, thro’ early light
Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.
Sphere all your lights around, above;
Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;
Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,
My friend, the brother of my love;
My Arthur, whom I shall not see
Till all my widow’d race be run;
Dear as the mother to the son,
More than my brothers are to me.
I hear the noise about thy keel;
I hear the bell struck in the night:
I see the cabin-window bright;
I see the sailor at the wheel.
Thou bring’st the sailor to his wife,
And travell’d men from foreign lands;
And letters unto trembling hands;
And, thy dark freight, a vanish’d life.
So bring him: we have idle dreams:
This look of quiet flatters thus
Our home-bred fancies: O to us,
The fools of habit, sweeter seems
To rest beneath the clover sod,
That takes the sunshine and the rains,
Or where the kneeling hamlet drains
The chalice of the grapes of God;
Than if with thee the roaring wells
Should gulf him fathom-deep in brine;
And hands so often clasp’d in mine,
Should toss with tangle and with shells.
Calm is the morn without a sound,
Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
And only thro’ the faded leaf
The chestnut pattering to the ground:
Calm and deep peace on this high wold,
And on these dews that drench the furze,
And all the silvery gossamers
That twinkle into green and gold:
Calm and still light on yon great plain
That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
And crowded farms and lessening towers,
To mingle with the bounding main:
Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
These leaves that redden to the fall;
And in my heart, if calm at all,
If any calm, a calm despair:
Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
And waves that sway themselves in rest,
And dead calm in that noble breast
Which heaves but with the heaving deep.
Lo, as a dove when up she springs
To bear thro’ Heaven a tale of woe,
Some dolorous message knit below
The wild pulsation of her wings;
Like her I go; I cannot stay;
I leave this mortal ark behind,
A weight of nerves without a mind,
And leave the cliffs, and haste away
O’er ocean-mirrors rounded large,
And reach the glow of southern skies,
And see the sails at distance rise,
And linger weeping on the marge,
And saying; ‘Comes he thus, my friend?
Is this the end of all my care?’
And circle moaning in the air:
‘Is this the end? Is this the end?’
And forward dart again, and play
About the prow, and back return
To where the body sits, and learn
That I have been an hour away.
Tears of the widower, when he sees
A late-lost form that sleep reveals,
And moves his doubtful arms, and feels
Her place is empty, fall like these;
Which weep a loss for ever new,
A void where heart on heart reposed;
And, where warm hands have prest and closed,
Silence, till I be silent too.
Which weeps the comrade of my choice,
An awful thought, a life removed,
The human-hearted man I loved,
A Spirit, not a breathing voice.
Come Time, and teach me, many years,
I do not suffer in a dream;
For now so strange do these things seem,
Mine eyes have leisure for their tears;
My fancies time to rise on wing,
And glance about the approaching sails,
As tho’ they brought but merchants’ bales,
And not the burthen that they bring.
If one should bring me this report,
That thou hadst touch’d the land to-day,
And I went down unto the quay,
And found thee lying in the port;
And standing, muffled round with woe,
Should see thy passengers in rank
Come stepping lightly down the plank,
And beckoning unto those they know;
And if along with these should come
The man I held as half-divine;
Should strike a sudden hand in mine,
And ask a thousand things of home;
And I should tell him all my pain,
And how my life had droop’d of late,
And he should sorrow o’er my state
And marvel what possess’d my brain;
And I perceived no touch of change,
No hint of death in all his frame,
But found him all in all the same,
I should not feel it to be strange.
To-night the winds begin to rise
And roar from yonder dropping day:
The last red leaf is whirl’d away,
The rooks are blown about the skies;
The forest crack’d, the waters curl’d,
The cattle huddled on the lea;
And wildly dash’d on tower and tree
The sunbeam strikes along the world:
And but for fancies, which aver
That all thy motions gently pass
Athwart a plane of molten glass,
I scarce could brook the strain and stir
That makes the barren branches loud;
And but for fear it is not so,
The wild unrest that lives in woe
Would dote and pore on yonder cloud
That rises upward always higher,
And onward drags a labouring breast,
And topples round the dreary west,
A looming bastion fringed with fire.
What words are these have fall’n from me?
Can calm despair and wild unrest
Be tenants of a single breast,
Or sorrow such a changeling be?
Or doth she only seem to take
The touch of change in calm or storm;
But knows no more of transient form
In her deep self, than some dead lake
That holds the shadow of a lark
Hung in the shadow of a heaven?
Or has the shock, so harshly given,
Confused me like the unhappy bark
That strikes by night a craggy shelf,
And staggers blindly ere she sink?
And stunn’d me from my power to think
And all my knowledge of myself;
And made me that delirious man
Whose fancy fuses old and new,
And flashes into false and true,
And mingles all without a plan?
Thou comest, much wept for: such a breeze
Compell’d thy canvas, and my prayer
Was as the whisper of an air
To breathe thee over lonely seas.
For I in spirit saw thee move
Thro’ circles of the bounding sky,
Week after week: the days go by:
Come quick, thou bringest all I love.
Henceforth, wherever thou may’st roam,
My blessing, like a line of light,
Is on the waters day and night,
And like a beacon guards thee home.
So may whatever tempest mars
Mid-ocean, spare thee, sacred bark;
And balmy drops in summer dark
Slide from the bosom of the stars.
So kind an office hath been done,
Such precious relics brought by thee;
The dust of him I shall not see
Till all my widow’d race be run.
’Tis well; ’tis something; we may stand
Where he in English earth is laid,
And from his ashes may be made
The violet of his native land.
’Tis little; but it looks in truth
As if the quiet bones were blest
Among familiar names to rest
And in the places of his youth.
Come then, pure hands, and bear the head
That sleeps or wears the mask of sleep,
And come, whatever loves to weep,
And hear the ritual of the dead.
Ah yet, ev’n yet, if this might be,
I, falling on his faithful heart,
Would breathing thro’ his lips impart
The life that almost dies in me;
That dies not, but endures with pain,
And slowly forms the the firmer mind,
Treasuring the look it cannot find,
The words that are not heard again.
The Danube to the Severn gave
The darken’d heart that beat no more;
They laid him by the pleasant shore,
And in the hearing of the wave.
There twice a day the Severn fills;
That salt sea-water passes by,
And hushes half the babbling Wye,
And makes a silence in the hills.
The Wye is hush’d nor moved along,
And hush’d my deepest grief of all,
When fill’d with tears that cannot fall,
I brim with sorrow drowning song.
The tide flows down, the wave again
Is vocal in its wooded walls;
My deeper anguish also falls,
And I can speak a little then.
The lesser griefs that may be said,
That breathe a thousand tender vows,
Are but as servants in a house
Where lies the master newly dead;
Who speak their feeling as it is,
And weep the fulness from the mind:
‘It will be hard,’ they say, ‘to find
Another service such as this.’
My lighter moods are like to these,
That out of words a comfort win;
But there are other griefs within,
And tears that at their fountain freeze;
For by the hearth the children sit
Cold in that atmosphere of Death,
And scarce endure to draw the breath,
Or like to noiseless phantoms flit:
But open converse is there none,
So much the vital spirits sink
To see the vacant chair, and think,
‘How good! how kind! and he is gone.’
I sing to him that rests below,
And, since the grasses round me wave,
I take the grasses of the grave,
And make them pipes whereon to blow.
The traveller hears me now and then,
And sometimes harshly will he speak:
‘This fellow would make weakness weak,
And melt the waxen hearts of men.’
Another answers, ‘Let him be,
He loves to make parade of pain,
That with his piping he may gain
The praise that comes to constancy.’
A third is wroth: ‘Is this an hour
For private sorrow’s barren song,
When more and more the people throng
The chairs and thrones of civil power?
‘A time to sicken and to swoon,
When Science reaches forth her arms
To feel from world to world, and charms
Her secret from the latest moon?’
Behold, ye speak an idle thing:
Ye never knew the sacred dust:
I do but sing because I must,
And pipe but as the linnets sing:
And one is glad; her note is gay,
For now her little ones have ranged;
And one is sad; her note is changed,
Because her brood is stol’n away.
The path by which we twain did go,
Which led by tracts that pleased us well,
Thro’ four sweet years arose and fell,
From flower to flower, from snow to snow:
And we with singing cheer’d the way,
And, crown’d with all the season lent,
From April on to April went,
And glad at heart from May to May:
But where the path we walk’d began
To slant the fifth autumnal slope,
As we descended following Hope,
There sat the Shadow fear’d of man;
Who broke our fair companionship,
And spread his mantle dark and cold,
And wrapt thee formless in the fold,
And dull’d the murmur on thy lip,
And bore thee where I could not see
Nor follow, tho’ I walk in haste,
And think, that somewhere in the waste
The Shadow sits and waits for me.
Now, sometimes in my sorrow shut,
Or breaking into song by fits,
Alone, alone, to where he sits,
The Shadow cloak’d from head to foot,
Who keeps the keys of all the creeds,
I wander, often falling lame,
And looking back to whence I came,
Or on to where the pathway leads;
And crying, How changed from where it ran
Thro’ lands where not a leaf was dumb;
But all the lavish hills would hum
The murmur of a happy Pan:
When each by turns was guide to each,
And Fancy light from Fancy caught,
And Thought leapt out to wed with Thought
Ere Thought could wed itself with Speech;
And all we met was fair and good,
And all was good that Time could bring,
And all the secret of the Spring
Moved in the chambers of the blood;
And many an old philosophy
On Argive heights divinely sang,
And round us all the thicket rang
To many a flute of Arcady.
And was the day of my delight
As pure and perfect as I say?
The very source and fount of Day
Is dash’d with wandering isles of night.
If all was good and fair we met,
This earth had been the Paradise
It never look’d to human eyes
Since our first Sun arose and set.
And is it that the haze of grief
Makes former gladness loom so great?
The lowness of the present state,
That sets the past in this relief?
Or that the past will always win
A glory from its being far;
And orb into the perfect star
We saw not, when we moved therein?
I know that this was Life,–the track
Whereon with equal feet we fared;
And then, as now, the day prepared
The daily burden for the back.
But this it was that made me move
As light as carrier-birds in air;
I loved the weight I had to bear,
Because it needed help of Love:
Nor could I weary, heart or limb,
When mighty Love would cleave in twain
The lading of a single pain,
And part it, giving half to him.
Still onward winds the dreary way;
I with it; for I long to prove
No lapse of moons can canker Love,
Whatever fickle tongues may say.
And if that eye which watches guilt
And goodness, and hath power to see
Within the green the moulder’d tree,
And towers fall’n as soon as built–
Oh, if indeed that eye foresee
Or see (in Him is no before)
In more of life true life no more
And Love the indifference to be,
Then might I find, ere yet the morn
Breaks hither over Indian seas,
That Shadow waiting with the keys,
To shroud me from my proper scorn.
I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:
I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;
Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
’Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
The time draws near the birth of Christ:
The moon is hid; the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.
Four voices of four hamlets round,
From far and near, on mead and moor,
Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound:
Each voice four changes on the wind,
That now dilate, and now decrease,
Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace,
Peace and goodwill, to all mankind.
This year I slept and woke with pain,
I almost wish’d no more to wake,
And that my hold on life would break
Before I heard those bells again:
But they my troubled spirit rule,
For they controll’d me when a boy;
They bring me sorrow touch’d with joy,
The merry merry bells of Yule.
With such compelling cause to grieve
As daily vexes household peace,
And chains regret to his decease,
How dare we keep our Christmas-eve;
Which brings no more a welcome guest
To enrich the threshold of the night
With shower’d largess of delight
In dance and song and game and jest?
Yet go, and while the holly boughs
Entwine the cold baptismal font,
Make one wreath more for Use and Wont,
That guard the portals of the house;
Old sisters of a day gone by,
Gray nurses, loving nothing new;
Why should they miss their yearly due
Before their time? They too will die.
With trembling fingers did we weave
The holly round the Christmas hearth;
A rainy cloud possess’d the earth,
And sadly fell our Christmas-eve.
At our old pastimes in the hall
We gambol’d, making vain pretence
Of gladness, with an awful sense
Of one mute Shadow watching all.
We paused: the winds were in the beech:
We heard them sweep the winter land;
And in a circle hand-in-hand
Sat silent, looking each at each.
Then echo-like our voices rang;
We sung, tho’ every eye was dim,
A merry song we sang with him
Last year: impetuously we sang:
We ceased: a gentler feeling crept
Upon us: surely rest is meet:
‘They rest,’ we said, ‘their sleep is sweet,’
And silence follow’d, and we wept.
Our voices took a higher range;
Once more we sang: ‘They do not die
Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
Nor change to us, although they change;
‘Rapt from the fickle and the frail
With gather’d power, yet the same,
Pierces the keen seraphic flame
From orb to orb, from veil to veil.’
Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn,
Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
O Father, touch the east, and light
The light that shone when Hope was born.
When Lazarus left his charnel-cave,
And home to Mary’s house return’d,
Was this demanded–if he yearn’d
To hear her weeping by his grave?
‘Where wert thou, brother, those four days?’
There lives no record of reply,
Which telling what it is to die
Had surely added praise to praise.
From every house the neighbours met,
The streets were fill’d with joyful sound,
A solemn gladness even crown’d
The purple brows of Olivet.
Behold a man raised up by Christ!
The rest remaineth unreveal’d;
He told it not; or something seal’d
The lips of that Evangelist.
Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits
But, he was dead, and there he sits,
And he that brought him back is there.
Then one deep love doth supersede
All other, when her ardent gaze
Roves from the living brother’s face,
And rests upon the Life indeed.
All subtle thought, all curious fears,
Borne down by gladness so complete,
She bows, she bathes the Saviour’s feet
With costly spikenard and with tears.
Thrice blest whose lives are faithful prayers,
Whose loves in higher love endure;
What souls possess themselves so pure,
Or is there blessedness like theirs?
O thou that after toil and storm
Mayst seem to have reach’d a purer air,
Whose faith has centre everywhere,
Nor cares to fix itself to form,
Leave thou thy sister when she prays,
Her early Heaven, her happy views;
Nor thou with shadow’d hint confuse
A life that leads melodious days.
Her faith thro’ form is pure as thine,
Her hands are quicker unto good:
Oh, sacred be the flesh and blood
To which she links a truth divine!
See thou, that countest reason ripe
In holding by the law within,
Thou fail not in a world of sin,
And ev’n for want of such a type.
My own dim life should teach me this,
That life shall live for evermore,
Else earth is darkness at the core,
And dust and ashes all that is;
This round of green, this orb of flame,
Fantastic beauty; such as lurks
In some wild Poet, when he works
Without a conscience or an aim.
What then were God to such as I?
’Twere hardly worth my while to choose
Of things all mortal, or to use
A little patience ere I die;
’Twere best at once to sink to peace,
Like birds the charming serpent draws,
To drop head-foremost in the jaws
Of vacant darkness and to cease.
Yet if some voice that man could trust
Should murmur from the narrow house,
‘The cheeks drop in; the body bows;
Man dies: nor is there hope in dust:’
Might I not say? ‘Yet even here,
But for one hour, O Love, I strive
To keep so sweet a thing alive:’
But I should turn mine ears and hear
The moanings of the homeless sea,
The sound of streams that swift or slow
Draw down Æonian hills, and sow
The dust of continents to be;
And Love would answer with a sigh,
‘The sound of that forgetful shore
Will change my sweetness more and more,
Half-dead to know that I shall die.’
O me, what profits it to put
And idle case? If Death were seen
At first as Death, Love had not been,
Or been in narrowest working shut,
Mere fellowship of sluggish moods,
Or in his coarsest Satyr-shape
Had bruised the herb and crush’d the grape,
And bask’d and batten’d in the woods.
Tho’ truths in manhood darkly join,
Deep-seated in our mystic frame,
We yield all blessing to the name
Of Him that made them current coin;
For Wisdom dealt with mortal powers,
Where truth in closest words shall fail,
When truth embodied in a tale
Shall enter in at lowly doors.
And so the Word had breath, and wrought
With human hands the creed of creeds
In loveliness of perfect deeds,
More strong than all poetic thought;
Which he may read that binds the sheaf,
Or builds the house, or digs the grave,
And those wild eyes that watch the wave
In roarings round the coral reef.
Urania speaks with darken’d brow:
‘Thou pratest here where thou art least;
This faith has many a purer priest,
And many an abler voice than thou.
‘Go down beside thy native rill,
On thy Parnassus set thy feet,
And hear thy laurel whisper sweet
About the ledges of the hill.’
And my Melpomene replies,
A touch of shame upon her cheek:
‘I am not worthy ev’n to speak
Of thy prevailing mysteries;
‘For I am but an earthly Muse,
And owning but a little art
To lull with song an aching heart,
And render human love his dues;
‘But brooding on the dear one dead,
And all he said of things divine,
(And dear to me as sacred wine
To dying lips is all he said),
‘I murmur’d, as I came along,
Of comfort clasp’d in truth reveal’d;
And loiter’d in the master’s field,
And darken’d sanctities with song.’
With weary steps I loiter on,
Tho’ always under alter’d skies
The purple from the distance dies,
My prospect and horizon gone.
No joy the blowing season gives,
The herald melodies of spring,
But in the songs I love to sing
A doubtful gleam of solace lives.
If any care for what is here
Survive in spirits render’d free,
Then are these songs I sing of thee
Not all ungrateful to thine ear.
Old warder of these buried bones,
And answering now my random stroke
With fruitful cloud and living smoke,
Dark yew, that graspest at the stones
And dippest toward the dreamless head,
To thee too comes the golden hour
When flower is feeling after flower;
But Sorrow–fixt upon the dead,
And darkening the dark graves of men,–
What whisper’d from her lying lips?
Thy gloom is kindled at the tips,
And passes into gloom again.
Could we forget the widow’d hour
And look on Spirits breathed away,
As on a maiden in the day
When first she wears her orange-flower!
When crown’d with blessing she doth rise
To take her latest leave of home,
And hopes and light regrets that come
Make April of her tender eyes;
And doubtful joys the father move,
And tears are on the mother’s face,
As parting with a long embrace
She enters other realms of love;
Her office there to rear, to teach,
Becoming as is meet and fit
A link among the days, to knit
The generations each with each;
And, doubtless, unto thee is given
A life that bears immortal fruit
In those great offices that suit
The full-grown energies of heaven.
Ay me, the difference I discern!
How often shall her old fireside
Be cheer’d with tidings of the bride,
How often she herself return,
And tell them all they would have told,
And bring her babe, and make her boast,
Till even those that miss’d her most
Shall count new things as dear as old:
But thou and I have shaken hands,
Till growing winters lay me low;
My paths are in the fields I know,
And thine in undiscover’d lands.
The spirit ere our fatal loss
Did ever rise from high to higher;
As mounts the heavenward altar-fire,
As flies the lighter thro’ the gross.
But thou art turn’d to something strange,
And I have lost the links that bound
Thy changes; here upon the ground,
No more partaker of thy change.
Deep folly! yet that this could be–
That I could wing my will with might
To leap the grades of life and light,
And flash at once, my friend, to thee.
For tho’ my nature rarely yields
To that vague fear implied in death;
Nor shudders at the gulfs beneath,
The howlings from forgotten fields;
Yet oft when sundown skirts the moor
An inner trouble I behold,
A spectral doubt which makes me cold,
That I shall be thy mate no more,
Tho’ following with an upward mind
The wonders that have come to thee,
Thro’ all the secular to-be,
But evermore a life behind.
I vex my heart with fancies dim:
He still outstript me in the race;
It was but unity of place
That made me dream I rank’d with him.
And so may Place retain us still,
And he the much-beloved again,
A lord of large experience, train
To riper growth the mind and will:
And what delights can equal those
That stir the spirit’s inner deeps,
When one that loves but knows not, reaps
A truth from one that loves and knows?
If Sleep and Death be truly one,
And every spirit’s folded bloom
Thro’ all its intervital gloom
In some long trance should slumber on;
Unconscious of the sliding hour,
Bare of the body, might it last,
And silent traces of the past
Be all the colour of the flower:
So then were nothing lost to man;
So that still garden of the souls
In many a figured leaf enrolls
The total world since life began;
And love will last as pure and whole
As when he loved me here in Time,
And at the spiritual prime
Rewaken with the dawning soul.
How fares it with the happy dead?
For here the man is more and more;
But he forgets the days before
God shut the doorways of his head.
The days have vanish’d, tone and tint,
And yet perhaps the hoarding sense
Gives out at times (he knows not whence)
A little flash, a mystic hint;
And in the long harmonious years
(If Death so taste Lethean springs),
May some dim touch of earthly things
Surprise thee ranging with thy peers.
If such a dreamy touch should fall,
O turn thee round, resolve the doubt;
My guardian angel will speak out
In that high place, and tell thee all.
The baby new to earth and sky,
What time his tender palm is prest
Against the circle of the breast,
Has never thought that ‘this is I:’
But as he grows he gathers much,
And learns the use of ‘I,’ and ‘me,’
And finds ‘I am not what I see,
And other than the things I touch.’
So rounds he to a separate mind
From whence clear memory may begin,
As thro’ the frame that binds him in
His isolation grows defined.
This use may lie in blood and breath,
Which else were fruitless of their due,
Had man to learn himself anew
Beyond the second birth of Death.
We ranging down this lower track,
The path we came by, thorn and flower,
Is shadow’d by the growing hour,
Lest life should fail in looking back.
So be it: there no shade can last
In that deep dawn behind the tomb,
But clear from marge to marge shall bloom
The eternal landscape of the past;
A lifelong tract of time reveal’d;
The fruitful hours of still increase;
Days order’d in a wealthy peace,
And those five years its richest field.
O Love, thy province were not large,
A bounded field, nor stretching far;
Look also, Love, a brooding star,
A rosy warmth from marge to marge.
That each, who seems a separate whole,
Should move his rounds, and fusing all
The skirts of self again, should fall
Remerging in the general Soul,
Is faith as vague as all unsweet:
Eternal form shall still divide
The eternal soul from all beside;
And I shall know him when we meet:
And we shall sit at endless feast,
Enjoying each the other’s good:
What vaster dream can hit the mood
Of Love on earth? He seeks at least
Upon the last and sharpest height,
Before the spirits fade away,
Some landing-place, to clasp and say,
‘Farewell! We lose ourselves in light.’
If these brief lays, of Sorrow born,
Were taken to be such as closed
Grave doubts and answers here proposed,
Then these were such as men might scorn:
Her care is not to part and prove;
She takes, when harsher moods remit,
What slender shade of doubt may flit,
And makes it vassal unto love:
And hence, indeed, she sports with words,
But better serves a wholesome law,
And holds it sin and shame to draw
The deepest measure from the chords:
Nor dare she trust a larger lay,
But rather loosens from the lip
Short swallow-flights of song, that dip
Their wings in tears, and skim away.
From art, from nature, from the schools,
Let random influences glance,
Like light in many a shiver’d lance
That breaks about the dappled pools:
The lightest wave of thought shall lisp,
The fancy’s tenderest eddy wreathe,
The slightest air of song shall breathe
To make the sullen surface crisp.
And look thy look, and go thy way,
But blame not thou the winds that make
The seeming-wanton ripple break,
The tender-pencil’d shadow play.
Beneath all fancied hopes and fears
Ay me, the sorrow deepens down,
Whose muffled motions blindly drown
The bases of my life in tears.
Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.
Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack’d with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.
Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.
Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.
Do we indeed desire the dead
Should still be near us at our side?
Is there no baseness we would hide?
No inner vileness that we dread?
Shall he for whose applause I strove,
I had such reverence for his blame,
See with clear eye some hidden shame
And I be lessen’d in his love?
I wrong the grave with fears untrue:
Shall love be blamed for want of faith?
There must be wisdom with great Death:
The dead shall look me thro’ and thro’.
Be near us when we climb or fall:
Ye watch, like God, the rolling hours
With larger other eyes than ours,
To make allowance for us all.
I cannot love thee as I ought,
For love reflects the thing beloved;
My words are only words, and moved
Upon the topmost froth of thought.
‘Yet blame not thou thy plaintive song,’
The Spirit of true love replied;
‘Thou canst not move me from thy side,
Nor human frailty do me wrong.
‘What keeps a spirit wholly true
To that ideal which he bears?
What record? not the sinless years
That breathed beneath the Syrian blue:
‘So fret not, like an idle girl,
That life is dash’d with flecks of sin.
Abide: thy wealth is gather’d in,
When Time hath sunder’d shell from pearl.’
How many a father have I seen,
A sober man, among his boys,
Whose youth was full of foolish noise,
Who wears his manhood hale and green:
And dare we to this fancy give,
That had the wild oat not been sown,
The soil, left barren, scarce had grown
The grain by which a man may live?
Or, if we held the doctrine sound
For life outliving heats of youth,
Yet who would preach it as a truth
To those that eddy round and round?
Hold thou the good: define it well:
For fear divine Philosophy
Should push beyond her mark, and be
Procuress to the Lords of Hell.
Oh yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;
That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy’d,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;
That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell’d in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another’s gain.
Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last–far off–at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.
So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
The wish, that of the living whole
No life may fail beyond the grave,
Derives it not from what we have
The likest God within the soul?
Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;
That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,
I falter where I firmly trod,
And falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world’s altar-stairs
That slope thro’ darkness up to God,
I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope.
‘So careful of the type?’ but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, ‘A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go.
‘Thou makest thine appeal to me:
I bring to life, I bring to death:
The spirit does but mean the breath:
I know no more.’ And he, shall he,
Man, her last work, who seem’d so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law–
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed–
Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,
Who battled for the True, the Just,
Be blown about the desert dust,
Or seal’d within the iron hills?
No more? A monster then, a dream,
A discord. Dragons of the prime,
That tare each other in their slime,
Were mellow music match’d with him.
O life as futile, then, as frail!
O for thy voice to soothe and bless!
What hope of answer, or redress?
Behind the veil, behind the veil.
Peace; come away: the song of woe
Is after all an earthly song:
Peace; come away: we do him wrong
To sing so wildly: let us go.
Come; let us go: your cheeks are pale;
But half my life I leave behind:
Methinks my friend is richly shrined;
But I shall pass; my work will fail.
Yet in these ears, till hearing dies,
One set slow bell will seem to toll
The passing of the sweetest soul
That ever look’d with human eyes.
I hear it now, and o’er and o’er,
Eternal greetings to the dead;
And ‘Ave, Ave, Ave,’ said,
‘Adieu, adieu’ for evermore.
In those sad words I took farewell:
Like echoes in sepulchral halls,
As drop by drop the water falls
In vaults and catacombs, they fell;
And, falling, idly broke the peace
Of hearts that beat from day to day,
Half-conscious of their dying clay,
And those cold crypts where they shall cease.
The high Muse answer’d: ‘Wherefore grieve
Thy brethren with a fruitless tear?
Abide a little longer here,
And thou shalt take a nobler leave.’
O Sorrow, wilt thou live with me
No casual mistress, but a wife,
My bosom-friend and half of life;
As I confess it needs must be;
O Sorrow, wilt thou rule my blood,
Be sometimes lovely like a bride,
And put thy harsher moods aside,
If thou wilt have me wise and good.
My centred passion cannot move,
Nor will it lessen from to-day;
But I’ll have leave at times to play
As with the creature of my love;
And set thee forth, for thou art mine,
With so much hope for years to come,
That, howsoe’er I know thee, some
Could hardly tell what name were thine.
He past; a soul of nobler tone:
My spirit loved and loves him yet,
Like some poor girl whose heart is set
On one whose rank exceeds her own.
He mixing with his proper sphere,
She finds the baseness of her lot,
Half jealous of she knows not what,
And envying all that meet him there.
The little village looks forlorn;
She sighs amid her narrow days,
Moving about the household ways,
In that dark house where she was born.
The foolish neighbours come and go,
And tease her till the day draws by:
At night she weeps, ‘How vain am I!
How should he love a thing so low?’
If, in thy second state sublime,
Thy ransom’d reason change replies
With all the circle of the wise,
The perfect flower of human time;
And if thou cast thine eyes below,
How dimly character’d and slight,
How dwarf’d a growth of cold and night,
How blanch'd with darkness must I grow!
Yet turn thee to the doubtful shore,
Where thy first form was made a man:
I loved thee, Spirit, and love, nor can
The soul of Shakespeare love thee more.
Tho’ if an eye that’s downward cast
Could make thee somewhat blench or fail,
Then be my love an idle tale,
And fading legend of the past;
And thou, as one that once declined,
When he was little more than boy,
On some unworthy heart with joy,
But lives to wed an equal mind;
And breathes a novel world, the while
His other passion wholly dies,
Or in the light of deeper eyes
Is matter for a flying smile.
Yet pity for a horse o’er-driven,
And love in which my hound has part,
Can hang no weight upon my heart
In its assumptions up to heaven;
And I am so much more than these,
As thou, perchance, art more than I,
And yet I spare them sympathy,
And I would set their pains at ease.
So mayst thou watch me where I weep,
As, unto vaster motions bound,
The circuits of thine orbit round
A higher height, a deeper deep.
Dost thou look back on what hath been,
As some divinely gifted man,
Whose life in low estate began
And on a simple village green;
Who breaks his birth’s invidious bar,
And grasps the skirts of happy chance,
And breasts the blows of circumstance,
And grapples with his evil star;
Who makes by force his merit known
And lives to clutch the golden keys,
To mould a mighty state’s decrees,
And shape the whisper of the throne;
And moving up from high to higher,
Becomes on Fortune’s crowning slope
The pillar of a people’s hope,
The centre of a world’s desire;
Yet feels, as in a pensive dream,
When all his active powers are still,
A distant dearness in the hill,
A secret sweetness in the stream,
The limit of his narrower fate,
While yet beside its vocal springs
He play’d at counsellors and kings,
With one that was his earliest mate;
Who ploughs with pain his native lea
And reaps the labour of his hands,
Or in the furrow musing stands;
‘Does my old friend remember me?’
Sweet soul, do with me as thou wilt;
I lull a fancy trouble-tost
With ‘Love’s too precious to be lost,
A little grain shall not be spilt.’
And in that solace can I sing,
Till out of painful phases wrought
There flutters up a happy thought,
Self-balanced on a lightsome wing:
Since we deserved the name of friends,
And thine effect so lives in me,
A part of mine may live in thee
And move thee on to noble ends.
You thought my heart too far diseased;
You wonder when my fancies play
To find me gay among the gay,
Like one with any trifle pleased.
The shade by which my life was crost,
Which makes a desert in the mind,
Has made me kindly with my kind,
And like to him whose sight is lost;
Whose feet are guided thro’ the land,
Whose jest among his friends is free,
Who takes the children on his knee,
And winds their curls about his hand:
He plays with threads, he beats his chair
For pastime, dreaming of the sky;
His inner day can never die,
His night of loss is always there.
When on my bed the moonlight falls,
I know that in thy place of rest
By that broad water of the west,
There comes a glory on the walls:
Thy marble bright in dark appears,
As slowly steals a silver flame
Along the letters of thy name,
And o’er the number of thy years.
The mystic glory swims away;
From off my bed the moonlight dies;
And closing eaves of wearied eyes
I sleep till dusk is dipt in gray:
And then I know the mist is drawn
A lucid veil from coast to coast,
And in the dark church like a ghost
Thy tablet glimmers to the dawn.
When in the down I sink my head,
Sleep, Death’s twin-brother, times my breath;
Sleep, Death’s twin-brother, knows not Death,
Nor can I dream of thee as dead:
I walk as ere I walk’d forlorn,
When all our path was fresh with dew,
And all the bugle breezes blew
Reveillée to the breaking morn.
But what is this? I turn about,
I find a trouble in thine eye,
Which makes me sad I know not why,
Nor can my dream resolve the doubt:
But ere the lark hath left the lea
I wake, and I discern the truth;
It is the trouble of my youth
That foolish sleep transfers to thee.
I dream’d there would be Spring no more,
That Nature’s ancient power was lost:
The streets were black with smoke and frost,
They chatter’d trifles at the door:
I wander’d from the noisy town,
I found a wood with thorny boughs:
I took the thorns to bind my brows,
I wore them like a civic crown:
I met with scoffs, I met with scorns
From youth and babe and hoary hairs:
They call’d me in the public squares
The fool that wears a crown of thorns:
They call’d me fool, they call’d me child:
I found an angel of the night;
The voice was low, the look was bright;
He look’d upon my crown and smiled:
He reach’d the glory of a hand,
That seem’d to touch it into leaf:
The voice was not the voice of grief,
The words were hard to understand.
I cannot see the features right,
When on the gloom I strive to paint
The face I know; the hues are faint
And mix with hollow masks of night;
Cloud-towers by ghostly masons wrought,
A gulf that ever shuts and gapes,
A hand that points, and palled shapes
In shadowy thoroughfares of thought;
And crowds that stream from yawning doors,
And shoals of pucker’d faces drive;
Dark bulks that tumble half alive,
And lazy lengths on boundless shores;
Till all at once beyond the will
I hear a wizard music roll,
And thro’ a lattice on the soul
Looks thy fair face and makes it still.
Sleep, kinsman thou to death and trance
And madness, thou hast forged at last
A night-long Present of the Past
In which we went thro’ summer France.
Hadst thou such credit with the soul?
Then bring an opiate trebly strong,
Drug down the blindfold sense of wrong
That so my pleasure may be whole;
While now we talk as once we talk’d
Of men and minds, the dust of change,
The days that grow to something strange,
In walking as of old we walk’d
Beside the river’s wooded reach,
The fortress, and the mountain ridge,
The cataract flashing from the bridge,
The breaker breaking on the beach.
Risest thou thus, dim dawn, again,
And howlest, issuing out of night,
With blasts that blow the poplar white,
And lash with storm the streaming pane?
Day, when my crown’d estate begun
To pine in that reverse of doom,
Which sicken’d every living bloom,
And blurr’d the splendour of the sun;
Who usherest in the dolorous hour
With thy quick tears that make the rose
Pull sideways, and the daisy close
Her crimson fringes to the shower;
Who might’st have heaved a windless flame
Up the deep East, or, whispering, play’d
A chequer-work of beam and shade
Along the hills, yet look’d the same.
As wan, as chill, as wild as now;
Day, mark’d as with some hideous crime,
When the dark hand struck down thro’ time,
And cancell’d nature’s best: but thou,
Lift as thou may’st thy burthen’d brows
Thro’ clouds that drench the morning star,
And whirl the ungarner’d sheaf afar,
And sow the sky with flying boughs,
And up thy vault with roaring sound
Climb thy thick noon, disastrous day;
Touch thy dull goal of joyless gray,
And hide thy shame beneath the ground.
So many worlds, so much to do,
So little done, such things to be,
How know I what had need of thee,
For thou wert strong as thou wert true?
The fame is quench’d that I foresaw,
The head hath miss’d an earthly wreath:
I curse not nature, no, nor death;
For nothing is that errs from law.
We pass; the path that each man trod
Is dim, or will be dim, with weeds:
What fame is left for human deeds
In endless age? It rests with God.
O hollow wraith of dying fame,
Fade wholly, while the soul exults,
And self-infolds the large results
Of force that would have forged a name.
As sometimes in a dead man’s face,
To those that watch it more and more,
A likeness, hardly seen before,
Comes out–to some one of his race:
So, dearest, now thy brows are cold,
I see thee what thou art, and know
Thy likeness to the wise below,
Thy kindred with the great of old.
But there is more than I can see,
And what I see I leave unsaid,
Nor speak it, knowing Death has made
His darkness beautiful with thee.
I leave thy praises unexpress’d
In verse that brings myself relief,
And by the measure of my grief
I leave thy greatness to be guess’d;
What practice howsoe’er expert
In fitting aptest words to things,
Or voice the richest-toned that sings,
Hath power to give thee as thou wert?
I care not in these fading days
To raise a cry that lasts not long,
And round thee with the breeze of song
To stir a little dust of praise.
Thy leaf has perish’d in the green,
And, while we breathe beneath the sun,
The world which credits what is done
Is cold to all that might have been.
So here shall silence guard thy fame;
But somewhere, out of human view,
Whate’er thy hands are set to do
Is wrought with tumult of acclaim.
Take wings of fancy, and ascend,
And in a moment set thy face
Where all the starry heavens of space
Are sharpen’d to a needle’s end;
Take wings of foresight; lighten thro’
The secular abyss to come,
And lo, thy deepest lays are dumb
Before the mouldering of a yew;
And if the matin songs, that woke
The darkness of our planet, last,
Thine own shall wither in the vast,
Ere half the lifetime of an oak.
Ere these have clothed their branchy bowers
With fifty Mays, thy songs are vain;
And what are they when these remain
The ruin’d shells of hollow towers?
What hope is here for modern rhyme
To him, who turns a musing eye
On songs, and deeds, and lives, that lie
Foreshorten’d in the tract of time?
These mortal lullabies of pain
May bind a book, may line a box,
May serve to curl a maiden’s locks;
Or when a thousand moons shall wane
A man upon a stall may find,
And, passing, turn the page that tells
A grief, then changed to something else,
Sung by a long-forgotten mind.
But what of that? My darken’d ways
Shall ring with music all the same;
To breathe my loss is more than fame,
To utter love more sweet than praise.
Again at Christmas did we weave
The holly round the Christmas hearth;
The silent snow possess’d the earth,
And calmly fell our Christmas-eve:
The yule-clog sparkled keen with frost,
No wing of wind the region swept,
But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.
As in the winters left behind,
Again our ancient games had place,
The mimic picture’s breathing grace,
And dance and song and hoodman-blind.
Who show’d a token of distress?
No single tear, no mark of pain:
O sorrow, then can sorrow wane?
O grief, can grief be changed to less?
O last regret, regret can die!
No–mixt with all this mystic frame,
Her deep relations are the same,
But with long use her tears are dry.
‘More than my brothers are to me,’–
Let this not vex thee, noble heart!
I know thee of what force thou art
To hold the costliest love in fee.
But thou and I are one in kind,
As moulded like in Nature’s mint;
And hill and wood and field did print
The same sweet forms in either mind.
For us the same cold streamlet curl’d
Thro’ all his eddying coves; the same
All winds that roam the twilight came
In whispers of the beauteous world.
At one dear knee we proffer’d vows,
One lesson from one book we learn’d,
Ere childhood’s flaxen ringlet turn’d
To black and brown
Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society
Υδραν φονεύσας, μυρίων τ᾽ ἄλλων πόνων
διῆλθον ἀγέλας . . .
τὸ λοίσθιον δὲ τόνδ᾽ ἔτλην τάλας πόνον,
. . . δῶμα θριγκῶσαι κακοῖς.
I slew the Hydra, and from labour pass'd
To labour — tribes of labours! Till, at last,
Attempting one more labour, in a trice,
Alack, with ills I crowned the edifice.
You have seen better days, dear? So have I —
And worse too, for they brought no such bud-mouth
As yours to lisp "You wish you knew me!" Well,
Wise men, 't is said, have sometimes wished the same,
And wished and had their trouble for their pains.
Suppose my Œdipus should lurk at last
Under a pork-pie hat and crinoline,
And, latish, pounce on Sphynx in Leicester Square?
Or likelier, what if Sphynx in wise old age,
Grown sick of snapping foolish people's heads,
And jealous for her riddle's proper rede, —
Jealous that the good trick which served the turn
Have justice rendered it, nor class one day
With friend Home's stilts and tongs and medium-ware,—
What if the once redoubted Sphynx, I say,
(Because night draws on, and the sands increase,
And desert-whispers grow a prophecy)
Tell all to Corinth of her own accord.
Bright Corinth, not dull Thebes, for Lais' sake,
Who finds me hardly grey, and likes my nose,
And thinks a man of sixty at the prime?
Good! It shall be! Revealment of myself!
But listen, for we must co-operate;
I don't drink tea: permit me the cigar!
First, how to make the matter plain, of course —
What was the law by which I lived. Let 's see:
Ay, we must take one instant of my life
Spent sitting by your side in this neat room:
Watch well the way I use it, and don't laugh!
Here's paper on the table, pen and ink:
Give me the soiled bit — not the pretty rose!
See! having sat an hour, I'm rested now,
Therefore want work: and spy no better work
For eye and hand and mind that guides them both,
During this instant, than to draw my pen
From blot One — thus — up, up to blot Two — thus —
Which I at last reach, thus, and here's my line
Five inches long and tolerably straight:
Better to draw than leave undrawn, I think.
Fitter to do than let alone, I hold,
Though better, fitter, by but one degree.
Therefore it was that, rather than sit still
Simply, my right-hand drew it while my left
Pulled smooth and pinched the moustache to a point.
Now I permit your plump lips to unpurse:
So far, one possibly may understand
"Without recourse to witchcraft!" True, my dear.
Thus folks begin with Euclid, — finish, how?
Trying to square the circle! — at any rate,
Solving abstruser problems than this first
"How find the nearest way 'twixt point and point."
Deal but with moral mathematics so —
Master one merest moment's work of mine,
Even this practising with pen and ink, —
Demonstrate why I rather plied the quill
Than left the space a blank, — you gain a fact,
And God knows what a fact's worth! So proceed
By inference from just this moral fact
— I don't say, to that plaguy quadrature
"What the whole man meant, whom you wish you knew,"
But, what meant certain things he did of old,
Which puzzled Europe, — why, you'll find them plain,
This way, not otherwise: I guarantee.
Understand one, you comprehend the rest.
Rays from all round converge to any point:
Study the point then ere you track the rays!
The size o' the circle's nothing; subdivide
Earth, and earth's smallest grain of mustard-seed,
You count as many parts, small matching large,
If you can use the mind's eye: otherwise,
Material optics, being gross at best,
Prefer the large and leave our mind the small —
And pray how many folks have minds can see?
Certainly you — and somebody in Thrace
Whose name escapes me at the moment. You —
Lend me your mind then! Analyse with me
This instance of the line 'twixt blot and blot
I rather chose to draw than leave a blank.
Things else being equal. You are taught thereby
That 't is my nature, when I am at ease,
Rather than idle out my life too long,
To want to do a thing — to put a thought,
Whether a great thought or a little one,
Into an act, as nearly as may be.
Make what is absolutely new — I can't,
Mar what is made already well enough —
I won't: but turn to best account the thing
That 's half-made — that I can. Two blots, you saw
I knew how to extend into a line
Symmetric on the sheet they blurred before —
Such little act sufficed, this time, such thought.
Now, we'll extend rays, widen out the verge,
Describe a larger circle; leave this first
Clod of an instance we began with, rise
To the complete world many clods effect.
Only continue patient while I throw,
Delver-like, spadeful after spadeful up,
Just as truths come, the subsoil of me, mould
Whence spring my moods: your object, — just to find,
Alike from handlift and from barrow-load, 100
What salts and silts may constitute the earth —
If it be proper stuff to blow man glass,
Or bake him pottery, bear him oaks or wheat —
What's born of me, in brief; which found, all's known.
If it were genius did the digging-job,
Logic would speedily sift its product smooth
And leave the crude truths bare for poetry;
But I'm no poet, and am stiff i' the back.
What one spread fails to bring, another may.
In goes the shovel and out comes scoop — as here!
I live to please myself. I recognize
Power passing mine, immeasurable, God —
Above me, whom He made, as heaven beyond
Earth — to use figures which assist our sense.
I know that He is there as I am here.
By the same proof, which seems no proof at all,
It so exceeds familiar forms of proof.
Why "there," not "here"? Because, when I say "there,"
I treat the feeling with distincter shape
That space exists between us: I, — not He, —
Live, think, do human work here — no machine.
His will moves, but a being by myself,
His, and not He who made me for a work,
Watches my working, judges its effect,
But does not interpose. He did so once,
And probably will again some time — not now,
Life being the minute of mankind, not God's,
In a certain sense, like time before and time
After man's earthly life, so far as man
Needs apprehend the matter. Am I clear?
Suppose I bid a courier take to-night
(. . . Once for all, let me talk as if I smoked
Yet in the Residenz, a personage:
I must still represent the thing I was,
Galvanically make dead muscle play.
Or how shall I illustrate muscle's use?)
I could then, last July, bid courier take
Message for me, post-haste, a thousand miles.
I bid him, since I have the right to bid,
And, my part done so far, his part begins;
He starts with due equipment, will and power,
Means he may use, misuse, not use at all.
At his discretion, at his peril too.
I leave him to himself: but, journey done,
I count the minutes, call for the result
In quickness and the courier quality.
Weigh its worth, and then punish or reward
According to proved service; not before.
Meantime, he sleeps through noontide, rides till dawn.
Sticks to the straight road, tries the crooked path,
Measures and manages resource, trusts, doubts
Advisers by the wayside, does his best
At his discretion, lags or launches forth,
(He knows and I know) at his peril too.
You see? Exactly thus men stand to God:
I with my courier, God with me. Just so
I have His bidding to perform; but mind
And body, all of me, though made and meant
For that sole service, must consult, concert
With my own self and nobody beside,
How to effect the same: God helps not else.
'T is I who, with my stock of craft and strength,
Choose the directer cut across the hedge,
Or keep the foot-track that respects a crop.
Lie down and rest, rise up and run, — live spare,
Feed free, — all that 's my business: but, arrive,
Deliver message, bring the answer back,
And make my bow, I must: then God will speak,
Praise me or haply blame as service proves.
To other men, to each and everyone,
Another law! what likelier? God, perchance,
Grants each new man, by some as new a mode.
Intercommunication with Himself,
Wreaking on finiteness infinitude;
By such a series of effects, gives each
Last His own imprint: old yet ever new
The process: 't is the way of Deity.
How it succeeds, He knows: I only know
That varied modes of creatureship abound,
Implying just as varied intercourse
For each with the creator of them all.
Each has his own mind and no other's mode.
What mode may yours be? I shall sympathize!
No doubt, you, good young lady that you are,
Despite a natural naughtiness or two,
Turn eyes up like a Pradier Magdalen
And see an outspread providential hand
Above the owl's-wing aigrette — guard and guide —
Visibly o'er your path, about your bed,
Through all your practisings with London-town.
It points, you go; it stays fixed, and you stop;
You quicken its procedure by a word
Spoken, a thought in silence, prayer and praise.
Well, I believe that such a hand may stoop,
And such appeals to it may stave off harm,
Pacify the grim guardian of this Square,
And stand you in good stead on quarter-day:
Quite possible in your case; not in mine.
"Ah, but I choose to make the difference,
Find the emancipation?" No, I hope!
If I deceive myself, take noon for night,
Please to become determinedly blind
To the true ordinance of human life.
Through mere presumption — that is my affair.
And truly a grave one; but as grave I think
Your affair, yours, the specially observed, —
Each favoured person that perceives his path
Pointed him, inch by inch, and looks above
For guidance, through the mazes of this world,
In what we call its meanest life-career
— Not how to manage Europe properly.
But how keep open shop, and yet pay rent.
Rear household, and make both ends meet, the same.
I say, such man is no less tasked than I
To duly take the path appointed him
By whatsoever sign he recognize.
Our insincerity on both our heads!
No matter what the object of a life,
Small work or large, — the making thrive a shop,
Or seeing that an empire take no harm, —
There are known fruits to judge obedience by.
You've read a ton's weight, now, of newspaper —
Lives of me, gabble about the kind of prince —
You know my work i' the rough; I ask you, then.
Do I appear subordinated less
To hand-impulsion, one prime push for all.
Than little lives of men, the multitude
That cried out, every quarter of an hour,
For fresh instructions, did or did not work,
And praised in the odd minutes?
Eh, my dear?
Such is the reason why I acquiesced
In doing what seemed best for me to do,
So as to please myself on the great scale,
Having regard to immortality
No less than life — did that which head and heart
Prescribed my hand, in measure with its means
Of doing — used my special stock of power —
Not from the aforesaid head and heart alone,
But every sort of helpful circumstance.
Some problematic and some nondescript:
All regulated by the single care
I' the last resort — that I made thoroughly serve
The when and how, toiled where was need, reposed
As resolutely to the proper point.
Braved sorrow, courted joy, to just one end:
Namely, that just the creature I was bound
To be, I should become, nor thwart at all
God's purpose in creation. I conceive
No other duty possible to man, —
Highest mind, lowest mind, — no other law
By which to judge life failure or success:
What folks call being saved or cast away.
Such was my rule of life; I worked my best
Subject to ultimate judgment, God's not man's.
Well then, this settled, — take your tea, I beg.
And meditate the fact, 'twixt sip and sip, —
This settled — why I pleased myself, you saw,
By turning blot and blot into a line,
O' the little scale, — we'll try now (as your tongue
Tries the concluding sugar-drop) what's meant
To please me most o' the great scale. Why, just now,
With nothing else to do within my reach.
Did I prefer making two blots one line
To making yet another separate
Third blot, and leaving those I found unlinked?
It meant, I like to use the thing I find.
Rather than strive at unfound novelty:
I make the best of the old, nor try for new.
Such will to act, such choice of action's way.
Constitute — when at work on the great scale,
Driven to their farthest natural consequence
By all the help from all the means — my own
Particular faculty of serving God,
Instinct for putting power to exercise
Upon some wish and want o' the time, I prove
Possible to mankind as best I may.
This constitutes my mission, — grant the phrase, —
Namely, to rule men — men within my reach,
To order, influence and dispose them so
As render solid and stabilify
Mankind in particles, the light and loose,
For their good and my pleasure in the act.
Such good accomplished proves twice good to me —
Good for its own sake, as the just and right.
And, in the effecting also, good again
To me its agent, tasked as suits my taste.
Is this much easy to be understood
At first glance? Now begin the steady gaze!
My rank — (if I must tell you simple truth —
Telling were else not worth the whiff o' the weed
I lose for the tale's sake) — dear, my rank i' the world
Is hard to know and name precisely: err
I may, but scarcely over-estimate
My style and title. Do I class with men
Most useful to their fellows? Possibly, —
Therefore, in some sort, best; but, greatest mind
And rarest nature? Evidently no.
A conservator, call me, if you please,
Not a creator nor destroyer: one
Who keeps the world safe. I profess to trace
The broken circle of society,
Dim actual order, I can redescribe
Not only where some segment silver-true
Stays clear, but where the breaks of black commence
Baffling you all who want the eye to probe —
As I make out yon problematic thin
White paring of your thumb-nail outside there,
Above the plaster-monarch on his steed —
See an inch, name an ell, and prophecy
O' the rest that ought to follow, the round moon
Now hiding in the night of things: that round,
I labour to demonstrate moon enough
For the month's purpose, — that society,
Render efficient for the age's need:
Preserving you in either case the old,
Nor aiming at a new and greater thing,
A sun for moon, a future to be made
By first abolishing the present law:
No such proud task for me by any means!
History shows you men whose master-touch
Not so much modifies as makes anew:
Minds that transmute nor need restore at all.
A breath of God made manifest in flesh
Subjects the world to change, from time to time,
Alters the whole conditions of our race
Abruptly, not by unperceived degrees
Nor play of elements already there,
But quite new leaven, leavening the lump,
And liker, so, the natural process. See!
Where winter reigned for ages — by a turn
I' the time, some star-change, (ask geologists)
The ice-tracts split, clash, splinter and disperse.
And there's an end of immobility,
Silence, and all that tinted pageant, base
To pinnacle, one flush from fairy-land
Dead-asleep and deserted somewhere, — see! —
As a fresh sun, wave, spring and joy outburst.
Or else the earth it is, time starts from trance.
Her mountains tremble into fire, her plains
Heave blinded by confusion: what result?
New teeming growth, surprises of strange life
Impossible before, a world broke up
And re-made, order gained by law destroyed.
Not otherwise, in our society
Follow like portents, all as absolute
Regenerations: they have birth at rare
Uncertain unexpected intervals
O' the world, by ministry impossible
Before and after fulness of the days:
Some dervish desert-spectre, swordsman, saint,
Law-giver, lyrist, — Oh, we know the names!
Quite other these than I. Our time requires
No such strange potentate, — who else would dawn, —
No fresh force till the old have spent itself.
Such seems the natural economy.
To shoot a beam into the dark, assists:
To make that beam do fuller service, spread
And utilize such bounty to the height,
That assists also, — and that work is mine.
I recognize, contemplate, and approve
The general compact of society.
Not simply as I see effected good.
But good i' the germ, each chance that's possible
I' the plan traced so far: all results, in short,
For better or worse of the operation due
To those exceptional natures, unlike mine,
Who, helping, thwarting, conscious, unaware.
Did somehow manage to so far describe
This diagram left ready to my hand.
Waiting my turn of trial. I see success.
See failure, see what makes or mars throughout.
How shall I else but help complete this plan
Of which I know the purpose and approve,
By letting stay therein what seems to stand,
And adding good thereto of easier reach
To-day than yesterday?
So much, no more!
Whereon, "No more than that?" — inquire aggrieved
Half of my critics: "nothing new at all?
The old plan saved, instead of a sponged slate
And fresh-drawn figure?" — while, "So much as that?"
Object their fellows of the other faith:
"Leave uneffaced the crazy labyrinth
Of alteration and amendment, lines
Which every dabster felt in duty bound
To signalize his power of pen and ink
By adding to a plan once plain enough?
Why keep each fool's bequeathment, scratch and blurr
Which overscrawl and underscore the piece —
Nay, strengthen them by touches of your own?"
Well, that 's my mission, so I serve the world,
Figure as man o' the moment, — in default
Of somebody inspired to strike such change
Into society — from round to square.
The ellipsis to the rhomboid, how you please,
As suits the size and shape o' the world he finds.
But this I can, — and nobody my peer, —
Do the best with the least change possible:
Carry the incompleteness on, a stage,
Make what was crooked straight, and roughness smooth.
And weakness strong: wherein if I succeed,
It will not prove the worst achievement, sure.
In the eyes at least of one man, one I look
Nowise to catch in critic company:
To-wit, the man inspired, the genius' self
Destined to come and change things thoroughly.
He, at least, finds his business simplified.
Distinguishes the done from undone, reads
Plainly what meant and did not mean this time
We live in, and I work on, and transmit
To such successor: he will operate
On good hard substance, not mere shade and shine.
Let all my critics, born to idleness
And impotency, get their good, and have
Their hooting at the giver: I am deaf —
Who find great good in this society,
Great gain, the purchase of great labour. Touch
The work I may and must, but — reverent
In every fall o' the finger-tip, no doubt.
Perhaps I find all good there's warrant for
I' the world as yet: nay, to the end of time, —
Since evil never means part company
With mankind, only shift side and change shape.
I find advance i' the main, and notably
The Present an improvement on the Past,
And promise for the Future — which shall prove
Only the Present with its rough made smooth,
Its indistinctness emphasized; I hope
No better, nothing newer for mankind,
But something equably smoothed everywhere,
Good, reconciled with hardly-quite-as-good,
Instead of good and bad each jostling each.
"And that's all?" Ay, and quite enough for me!
We have toiled so long to gain what gain I find
I' the Present, — let us keep it! We shall toil
So long before we gain — if gain God grant —
A Future with one touch of difference
I' the heart of things, and not their outside face, —
Let us not risk the whiff of my cigar
For Fourier, Comte and all that ends in smoke!
This I see clearest probably of men
With power to act and influence, now alive:
Juster than they to the true state of things;
In consequence, more tolerant that, side
By side, shall co-exist and thrive alike
In the age, the various sorts of happiness
jNIoral, mark! — not material — moods o' the mind
Suited to man and man his opposite:
Say, minor modes of movement — hence to there,
Or thence to here, or simply round about —
So long as each toe spares its neighbour's kibe,
Nor spoils the major march and main advance.
The love of peace, care for the family,
Contentment with what's bad but might be worse —
Good movements these! and good, too, discontent,
So long as that spurs good, which might be best,
Into becoming better, anyhow:
Good — pride of country, putting hearth and home
I' the back-ground, out of undue prominence:
Good — yearning after change, strife, victory,
And triumph. Each shall have its orbit marked,
But no more, — none impede the other's path
In this wide world, — though each and all alike,
Save for me, fain would spread itself through space
And leave its fellow not an inch of way.
I rule and regulate the course, excite,
Restrain: because the whole machine should march
Impelled by those diversely-moving parts,
Each blind to aught beside its little bent.
Out of the turnings round and round inside,
Comes that straightforward world-advance, I want,
And none of them supposes God wants too
And gets through just their hindrance and my help.
I think that to have held the balance straight
For twenty years, say, weighing claim and claim,
And giving each its due, no less no more,
This was good service to humanity,
Right usage of my power in head and heart,
And reasonable piety beside.
Keep those three points in mind while judging me!
You stand, perhaps, for some one man, not men, —
Represent this or the other interest,
Nor mind the general welfare, — so, impugn
My practice and dispute my value: why?
You man of faith, I did not tread the world
Into a paste, and thereof make a smooth
Uniform mound whereon to plant your flag,
The lily-white, above the blood and brains!
Nor yet did I, you man of faithlessness,
So roll things to the level which you love,
That you could stand at ease there and survey
The universal Nothing undisgraced
By pert obtrusion of some old church-spire
I' the distance! Neither friend would I content,
Nor, as the world were simply meant for him.
Thrust out his fellow and mend God's mistake.
Why, you two fools, — my dear friends all the same, —
Is it some change o' the world and nothing else
Contents you? Should whatever was, not be?
How thanklessly you view things! There 's the root
Of the evil, source of the entire mistake:
You see no worth i' the world, nature and life,
Unless we change what is to what may be.
Which means, — may be, i' the brain of one of you!
"Reject what is?" — all capabilities —
Nay, you may style them chances if you choose —
All chances, then, of happiness that lie
Open to anybody that is born,
Tumbles into this life and out again, —
All that may happen, good and evil too,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
"O grandeur of the visible universe
Our human littleness contrasts withal!
O sun, O moon, ye mountains and thou sea,
Thou emblem of immensity, thou this,
That and the other, — what impertinence
In man to eat and drink and walk about
And have his little notions of his own,
The while some wave sheds foam upon the shore!"
First of all, 't is a lie some three-times thick:
The bard, — this sort of speech being poetry, —
The bard puts mankind well outside himself
And then begins instructing them: "This way
I and my friend the sea conceive of you!
What would you give to think such thoughts as ours
Of you and the sea together? "Down they go
On the humbled knees of them: at once they draw
Distinction, recognize no mate of theirs
In one, despite his mock humility,
So plain a match for what he plays with. Next,
The turn of the great ocean-play-fellow,
When the bard, leaving Bond Street very far
From ear-shot, cares not to ventriloquize,
But tells the sea its home-truths: "You, my match?
You, all this terror and inmiensity
And what not? Shall I tell you what you are?
Just fit to hitch into a stanza, so
Wake up and set in motion who's asleep
O' the other side of you, in England, else
Unaware, as folk pace their Bond Street now,
Somebody here despises them so much!
Between us, — they are the ultimate! to them
And their perception go these lordly thoughts:
Since what were ocean — mane and tail, to boot —
Mused I not here, how make thoughts thinkable?
Start forth my stanza and astound the world!
Back, billows, to your insignificance!
Deep, you are done with!"
Learn, my gifted friend,
There are two things i' the world, still wiser folk
Accept — intelligence and sympathy.
You pant about unutterable power
I' the ocean, all you feel but cannot speak?
Why, that's the plainest speech about it all.
You did not feel what was not to be felt.
Well, then, all else but what man feels is naught —
The wash o' the liquor that o'erbrims the cup
Called man, and runs to waste adown his side,
Perhaps to feed a cataract, — who cares?
I'll tell you: all the more I know mankind,
The more I thank God, like my grandmother,
For making me a little lower than
The angels, honour-clothed and glory-crowned:
This is the honour, — that no thing I know,
Feel or conceive, but I can make my own
Somehow, by use of hand or head or heart:
This is the glory, — that in all conceived.
Or felt or known, I recognize a mind
Not mine but like mine, — for the double joy, —
Making all things for me and me for Him.
There's folly for you at this time of day!
So think it! and enjoy your ignorance
Of what — no matter for the worthy's name —
Wisdom set working in a noble heart,
When he, who was earth's best geometer
Up to that time of day, consigned his life
With its results into one matchless book,
The triumph of the human mind so far.
All in geometry man yet could do:
And then wrote on the dedication-page
In place of name the universe applauds,
"But, God, what a geometer art Thou!"
I suppose Heaven is, through Eternity,
The equalizing, ever and anon,
In momentary rapture, great with small,
Omniscience with intelligency, God
With man, — the thunder-glow from pole to pole
Abolishing, a blissful moment-space,
Great cloud alike and small cloud, in one fire —
As sure to ebb as sure again to flow
When the new receptivity deserves
The new completion. There's the Heaven for me.
And I say, therefore, to live out one's life
I' the world here, with the chance, — whether by pain
Or pleasure be the process, long or short
The time, august or mean the circumstance
To human eye, — of learning how set foot
Decidedly on some one path to Heaven,
Touch segment in the circle whence all lines
Lead to the centre equally, red lines
Or black lines, so they but produce themselves —
This, I do say, — and here my sermon ends, —
This makes it worth our while to tenderly
Handle a state of things which mend we might.
Mar we may, but which meanwhile helps so far.
Therefore my end is — save society!
"And that's all?" twangs the never-failing taunt
O' the foe — "No novelty, creativeness,
Mark of the master that renews the age?"
"Nay, all that?" rather will demur my judge
I look to hear some day, nor friend nor foe —
"Did you attain, then, to perceive that God
Knew what He undertook when He made things?"
Ay: that my task was to co-operate
Rather than play the rival, chop and change
The order whence comes all the good we know,
With this, — good's last expression to our sense, —
That there's a further good conceivable
Beyond the utmost earth can realize:
And, therefore, that to change the agency,
The evil whereby good is brought about —
Try to make good do good as evil does —
Were just as if a chemist, wanting white.
And knowing black ingredients bred the dye.
Insisted these too should be white forsooth!
Correct the evil, mitigate your best,
Blend mild with harsh, and soften black to gray
If gray may follow with no detriment
To the eventual perfect purity!
But as for hazarding the main result
By hoping to anticipate one half
In the intermediate process, — no, my friends!
This bad world, I experience and approve;
Your good world, — with no pity, courage, hope.
Fear, sorrow, joy, — devotedness, in short,
Which I account the ultimate of man,
Of which there's not one day nor hour but brings
In flower or fruit, some sample of success,
Out of this same society I save —
None of it for me! That I might have none,
I rapped your tampering knuckles twenty years.
Such was the task imposed me, such my end.
Now for the means thereto. Ah, confidence —
Keep we together or part company?
This is the critical minute! "Such my end?"
Certainly; how could it be otherwise?
Can there be question which was the right task —
To save or to destroy society?
Why, even prove that, by some miracle,
Destruction were the proper work to choose,
And that a torch best remedies what's wrong
I' the temple, whence the long procession wound
Of powers and beauties, earth's achievements all.
The human strength that strove and overthrew, —
The human love that, weak itself, crowned strength,—
The instinct crying "God is whence I came!" —
The reason laying down the law "And such
His will i' the world must be! " — the leap and shout
Of genius "For I hold His very thoughts,
The meaning of the mind of Him!" — nay, more
The ingenuities, each active force
That turning in a circle on itselt
Looks neither up nor down but keeps the spot.
Mere creature-like and, for religion, works,
Works only and works ever, makes and shapes
And changes, still wrings more of good from less,
Still stamps some bad out, where was worst before.
So leaves the handiwork, the act and deed.
Were it but house and land and wealth, to show
Here was a creature perfect in the kind —
Whether as bee, beaver, or behemoth,
What's the importance? he has done his work
For work's sake, worked well, earned a creature's praise; —
I say, concede that same fane, whence deploys
Age after age, all this humanity,
Diverse but ever dear, out of the dark
Behind the altar into the broad day
By the portal — enter, and, concede there mocks
Each lover of free motion and much space
A perplexed length of apse and aisle and nave, —
Pillared roof and carved screen, and what care I?
That irk the movement and impede the march, —
Nay, possibly, bring flat upon his nose
At some odd break-neck angle, by some freak
Of old-world artistry, that personage
Who, could he but have kept his skirts from grief
And catching at the hooks and crooks about,
Had stepped out on the daylight of our time
Plainly the man of the age, — still, still, I bar
Excessive conflagration in the case.
"Shake the flame freely!" shout the multitude:
The architect approves I stuck my torch
Inside a good stout lantern, hung its light
Above the hooks and crooks, and ended so.
To save society was well: the means
Whereby to save it, — there begins the doubt
Permitted you, imperative on me;
Were mine the best means? Did I work aright
With powers appointed me? — since powers denied
Concern me nothing.
Well, my work reviewed
Fairly, leaves more hope than discouragement.
First, there's the deed done: what I found, I leave,-
What tottered, I kept stable: if it stand
One month, without sustainment, still thank me
The twenty years' sustainer! Now, observe,
Sustaining is no brilliant self-display
Like knocking down or even setting up:
Much bustle these necessitate; and still
To vulgar eye, the mightier of the myth
Is Hercules, who substitutes his own
For Atlas' shoulder and supports the globe
A whole day, — not the passive and obscure
Atlas who bore, ere Hercules was born,
And is to go on bearing that same load
When Hercules turns ash on OEta's top.
'T is the transition-stage, the tug and strain.
That strike men: standing still is stupid-like.
My pressure was too constant on the whole
For any part's eruption into space
Mid sparkles, crackling, and much praise of me.
I saw that, in the ordinary life,
Many of the little make a mass of men
Important beyond greatness here and there;
As certainly as, in life exceptional,
When old things terminate and new commence,
A solitary great man's worth the world.
God takes the business into His own hands
At such time: who creates the novel flower
Contrives to guard and give it breathing-room:
I merely tend the corn-field, care for crop,
And weed no acre thin to let emerge
What prodigy may stifle there perchance,
— No, though my eye have noted where he lurks.
Oh those mute myriads that spoke loud to me —
The eyes that craved to see the light, the mouths
That sought the daily bread and nothing more,
The hands that supplicated exercise,
Men that had wives, and women that had babes,
And all these making suit to only live!
Was I to turn aside from husbandry,
Leave hope of harvest for the corn, my care,
To play at horticulture, rear some rose
Or poppy into perfect leaf and bloom
When, mid the furrows, up was pleased to sprout
Some man, cause, system, special interest
I ought to study, stop the world meanwhile?
"But I am Liberty, Philanthropy,
Enhghtenment, or Patriotism, the power
Whereby you are to stand or fall!" cries each:
"Mine and mine only be the flag you flaunt!"
And, when I venture to object "Meantime,
What of yon myriads with no flag at all —
My crop which, who flaunts flag must tread across?"
"Now, this it is to have a puny mind!"
Admire my mental prodigies: "down — down —
Ever at home o' the level and the low.
There bides he brooding! Could he look above,
With less of the owl and more of the eagle eye,
He'd see there's no way helps the little cause
Like the attainment of the great. Dare first
The chief emprise; dispel yon cloud between
The sun and us; nor fear that, though our heads
Find earlier warmth and comfort from his ray,
What Hes about our feet, the multitude,
Will fail of benefaction presently.
Come now, let each of us awhile cry truce
To special interests, make common cause
Against the adversary — or perchance
Mere dullard to his own plain interest!
Which of us will you choose? — since needs must be
Some one o' the warring causes you incline
To hold, i' the main, has right and should prevail;
Why not adopt and give it prevalence?
Choose strict Faith or lax Incredulity, —
King, Caste and Cultus — or the Rights of Man,
Sovereignty of each Proudhon o'er himself,
And all that follows in just consequence!
Go free the stranger from a foreign yoke;
Or stay, concentrate energy at home;
Succeed! — when he deserves, the stranger will.
Comply with the Great Nation's impulse, print
By force of arms, — since reason pleads in vain,
And, mid the sweet compulsion, pity weeps, —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau on the universe!
Snub the Great Nation, cure the impulsive itch
With smartest fillip on a restless nose
Was ever launched by thumb and finger! Bid
Hohenstiel-Schwangau first repeal the tax
On pig-tails and pomatum and then mind
Abstruser matters for next century!
Is your choice made? Why then, act up to choice!
Leave the illogical touch now here now there
I' the way of work, the tantalizing help
First to this then the other opposite:
The blowing hot and cold, sham policy,
Sure ague of the mind and nothing more,
Disease of the perception or the Will,
That fain would hide in a fine name! Your choice,
Speak it out and condemn yourself thereby!"
Well, Leicester-square is not the Residenz:
Instead of shrugging shoulder, turning friend
The deaf ear, with a wink to the police —
I'll answer — by a question, wisdom's mode.
How many years, o' the average, do men
Live in this world? Some score, say computists.
Quintuple me that term and give mankind
The likely hundred, and with all my heart
I'll take your task upon me, work your way,
Concentrate energy on some one cause:
Since, counseller, I also have my cause,
My flag, my faith in its effect, my hope
In its eventual triumph for the good
O' the world. And once upon a time, when I
Was like all you, mere voice and nothing more,
Myself took wings, soared sun-ward, and thence sang
"Look where I live i' the loft, come up to me,
Groundlings, nor grovel longer I gain this height.
And prove you breathe here better than below!
Why, what emancipation far and wide
Will follow in a trice! They too can soar,
Each tenant of the earth's circumference
Claiming to elevate humanity,
They also must attain such altitude,
Live in the luminous circle that surrounds
The planet, not the leaden orb itself.
Press out, each point, from surface to yon verge
Which one has gained and guaranteed your realm!"
Ay, still my fragments wander, music-fraught,
Sighs of the soul, mine once, mine now, and mine
For ever! Crumbled arch, crushed aqueduct,
Alive with tremors in the shaggy growth
Of wild-wood, crevice-sown, that triumphs there
Imparting exultation to the hills!
Sweep of the swathe when only the winds walk
And waft my words above the grassy sea
Under the blinding blue that basks o'er Rome, —
Hear ye not still — "Be Italy again?"
And ye, what strikes the panic to your heart?
Decrepit council-chambers, — where some lamp
Drives the unbroken black three paces off
From where the greybeards huddle in debate,
Dim cowls and capes, and midmost glimmers one
Like tarnished gold, and what they say is doubt.
And what they think is fear, and what suspends
The breath in them is not the plaster-patch
Time disengages from the painted wall
Where Rafael moulderingly bids adieu,
Nor tick of the insect turning tapestry
To dust, which a queen's finger traced of old;
But some word, resonant, redoubtable.
Of who once felt upon his head a hand
Whereof the head now apprehends his foot.
"Light in Rome, Law in Rome, and Liberty
O' the soul in Rome — the free Church, the free State!
Stamp out the nature that's best typified
By its embodiment in Peter's Dome,
The scorpion-body with the greedy pair
Of outstretched nippers, either colonnade
Agape for the advance of heads and hearts!"
There's one cause for you! one and only one.
For I am vocal through the universe,
I' the work-shop, manufactory, exchange
And market-place, sea-port and custom-house
O' the frontier: listen if the echoes die —
"Unfettered commerce! Power to speak and hear,
And print and read! The universal vote!
Its rights for labour!" This, with much beside,
I spoke when I was voice and nothing more,
But altogether such an one as you
My censors. "Voice, and nothing more, indeed!"
Re-echoes round me: "that's the censure, there's
Involved the ruin of you soon or late!
Voice, — when its promise beat the empty air:
And nothing more, — when solid earth's your stage.
And we desiderate performance, deed
For word, the realizing all you dreamed
In the old days: now, for deed, we find at door
O' the council-chamber posted, mute as mouse,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, sentry and safeguard
O' the greybeards all a-chuckle, cowl to cape.
Who challenge Judas, — that 's endearment's style, —
To stop their mouths or let escape grimace,
While they keep cursing Italy and him.
The power to speak, hear, print and read is ours?
Ay, we learn where and how, when clapped inside
A convict-transport bound for cool Cayenne!
The universal vote we have: its urn,
We also have where votes drop, fingered-o'er
By the universal Prefect. Say, Trade's free
And Toil turned master out o' the slave it was:
What then? These feed man's stomach, but his soul
Craves finer fare, nor lives by bread alone.
As somebody says somewhere. Hence you stand
Proved and recorded either false or weak,
Faulty in promise or performance: which?"
Neither, I hope. Once pedestalled on earth,
To act not speak, I found earth was not air.
I saw that multitude of mine, and not
The nakedness and nullity of air
Fit only for a voice to float in free.
Such eyes I saw that craved the light alone.
Such mouths that wanted bread and nothing else,
Such hands that supplicated handiwork,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes,
Yet all these pleading just to live, not die!
Did I believe one whit less in belief.
Take truth for falsehood, wish the voice revoked
That told the truth to heaven for earth to hear?
No, this should be, and shall; but when and how?
At what expense to these who average
Your twenty years of life, my computists?
"Not bread alone" but bread before all else
For these: the bodily want serve first, said I;
If earth-space and the life-time help not here,
Where is the good of body having been?
But, helping body, if we somewhat baulk
The soul of finer fare, such food's to find
Elsewhere and afterward — all indicates.
Even this self-same fact that soul can starve
Yet body still exist its twenty years:
While, stint the body, there's an end at once
O' the revel in the fancy that Rome's free.
And superstition's fettered, and one prints
Whate'er one pleases and who pleases reads
The same, and speaks out and is spoken to.
And divers hundred thousand fools may vote
A vote untampered with by one wise man,
And so elect Barabbas deputy
In lieu of his concurrent. I who trace
The purpose written on the face of things,
For my behoof and guidance — (whoso needs
No such sustainment, sees beneath my signs,
Proves, what I take for writing, penmanship,
Scribble and flourish with no sense for me
O' the sort I solemnly go spelling out, —
Let him! there 's certain work of mine to show
Alongside his work: which gives warranty
Of shrewder vision in the workman — judge!)
I who trace Providence without a break
I' the plan of things, drop plumb on this plain print
Of an intention with a view to good,
That man is made in sympathy with man
At outset of existence, so to speak;
But in dissociation, more and more,
Man from his fellow, as their lives advance
In culture; still humanity, that's born
A mass, keeps flying off, fining away
Ever into a multitude of points,
And ends in isolation, each from each:
Peerless above i' the sky, the pinnacle, —
Absolute contact, fusion, all below
At the base of being. How comes this about?
This stamp of God characterizing man
And nothing else but man in the universe —
That, while he feels with man (to use man's speech)
I' the little things of life, its fleshly wants
Of food and rest and health and happiness,
Its simplest spirit-motions, loves and hates,
Hopes, fears, soul-cravings on the ignoblest scale,
O' the fellow-creature, — owns the bond at base, —
He tends to freedom and divergency
In the upward progress, plays the pinnacle
When life's at greatest (grant again the phrase!
Because there's neither great nor small in life.)
"Consult thou for thy kind that have the eyes
To see, the mouths to eat, the hands to work,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes!"
Prompts Nature. "Care thou for thyself alone
I' the conduct of the mind God made thee with!
Think, as if man had never thought before!
Act, as if all creation hung attent
On the acting of such faculty as thine,
To take prime pattern from thy masterpiece!"
Nature prompts also: neither law obeyed
To the uttermost by any heart and soul
We know or have in record: both of them
Acknowledged blindly by whatever man
We ever knew or heard of in this world.
"Will you have why and wherefore, and the fact
Made plain as pikestaff?" modern Science asks.
"That mass man sprung from was a jelly-lump
Once on a time; he kept an after course
Through fish and insect, reptile, bird and beast,
Till he attained to be an ape at last
Or last but one. And if this doctrine shock
In aught the natural pride" . . . Friend, banish fear,
The natural humility replies!
Do you suppose, even I, poor potentate,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, who once ruled the roast, —
I was born able at all points to ply
My tools? or did I have to learn my trade,
Practise as exile ere perform as prince?
The world knows something of my ups and downs:
But grant me time, give me the management
And manufacture of a model me.
Me fifty-fold, a prince without a flaw, —
Why, there's no social grade, the sordidest,
My embryo potentate should blink and scape.
King, all the better he was cobbler once,
He should know, sitting on the throne, how tastes
Life to who sweeps the doorway. But life's hard,
Occasion rare; you cut probation short,
And, being half-instructed, on the stage
You shuffle through your part as best you may,
And bless your stars, as I do. God takes time.
I like the thought He should have lodged me once
I' the hole, the cave, the hut, the tenement.
The mansion and the palace; made me learn
The feel o' the first, before I found myself
Loftier i' the last, not more emancipate
From first to last of lodging, I was I,
And not at all the place that harboured me.
Do I refuse to follow farther yet
I' the backwardness, repine if tree and flower,
Mountain or streamlet were my dwelling-place
Before I gained enlargement, grew mollusc?
As well account that way for many a thrill
Of kinship, I confess to, with the powers
Called Nature: animate, inanimate.
In parts or in the whole, there's something there
Man-like that somehow meets the man in me.
My pulse goes altogether with the heart
O' the Persian, that old Xerxes, when he stayed
His march to conquest of the world, a day
I' the desert, for the sake of one superb
Plane-tree which queened it there in solitude:
Giving her neck its necklace, and each arm
Its armlet, suiting soft waist, snowy side.
With cincture and apparel. Yes, I lodged
In those successive tenements; perchance
Taste yet the straitness of them while I stretch
Limb and enjoy new liberty the more.
And some abodes are lost or ruinous;
Some, patched-up and pieced out, and so transformed
They still accommodate the traveller
His day of life-time. O you count the links,
Descry no bar of the unbroken man?
Yes, — and who welds a lump of ore, suppose
He likes to make a chain and not a bar.
And reach by link on link, link small, link large,
Out to the due length — why, there's forethought still
Outside o' the series, forging at one end.
While at the other there's — no matter what
The kind of critical intelligence
Believing that last link had last but one
For parent, and no link was, first of all,
Fitted to anvil, hammered into shape.
Else, I accept the doctrine, and deduce
This duty, that I recognize mankind,
In all its height and depth and length and breadth.
Mankind i' the main have little wants, not large:
I, being of will and power to help, i' the main,
Mankind, must help the least wants first. My friend,
That is, my foe, without such power and will,
May plausibly concentrate all he wields,
And do his best at helping some large want,
Exceptionally noble cause, that's seen
Subordinate enough from where I stand.
As he helps, I helped once, when like himself.
Unable to help better, work more wide;
And so would work with heart and hand to-day,
Did only computists confess a fault,
And multiply the single score by five,
Five only, give man's life its hundred years.
Change life, in me shall follow change to match!
Time were then, to work here, there, everywhere,
By turns and try experiment at ease!
Full time to mend as well as mar: why wait
The slow and sober uprise all around
O' the building? Let us run up, right to roof.
Some sudden marvel, piece of perfectness,
And testify what we intend the whole!
Is the world losing patience? "Wait!" say we:
"There's time: no generation needs to die
Unsolaced; you Ve a century in store!"
But, no: I sadly let the voices wing
Their way i' the upper vacancy, nor test
Truth on this solid as I promised once.
Well, and what is there to be sad about?
The world's the world, life's life, and nothing else.
'T is part of life, a property to prize.
That those o' the higher sort engaged i' the world,
Should fancy they can change its ill to good.
Wrong to right, ugliness to beauty: find
Enough success in fancy turning fact.
To keep the sanguine kind in countenance
And justify the hope that busies them:
Failure enough, — to who can follow change
Beyond their vision, see new good prove ill
I' the consequence, see blacks and whites of life
Shift square indeed, but leave the chequered face
Unchanged i' the main, — failure enough for such.
To bid ambition keep the whole from change,
As their best service. I hope naught beside.
No, my brave thinkers, whom I recognize,
Gladly, myself the first, as, in a sense,
All that our world's worth, flower and fruit of man!
Such minds myself award supremacy
Over the common insignificance,
When only Mind's in question, — Body bows
To quite another government, you know.
Be Kant crowned king o' the castle in the air!
Hans Slouch, — his own, and children's mouths to feed
I' the hovel on the ground, — wants meat, nor chews
"The Critique of Pure Reason" in exchange.
But, now, — suppose I could allow your claims
And quite change life to please you, — would it please?
Would life comport with change and still be life?
Ask, now, a doctor for a remedy:
There's his prescription. Bid him point you out
Which of the five or six ingredients saves
The sick man. "Such the efficacity?
Then why not dare and do things in one dose
Simple and pure, all virtue, no alloy
Of the idle drop and powder?" What's his word?
The efficacity, neat, were neutralized:
It wants dispersing and retarding, — nay
Is put upon its mettle, plays its part
Precisely through such hindrance everywhere,
Finds some mysterious give and take i' the case,
Some gain by opposition, he foregoes
Should he unfetter the medicament.
So with this thought of yours that fain would work
Free in the world: it wants just what it finds —
The ignorance, stupidity, the hate,
Envy and malice and uncharitableness
That bar your passage, break the flow of you
Down from those happy heights where many a cloud
Combined to give you birth and bid you be
The royalest of rivers: on you glide
Silverly till you reach the summit-edge,
Then over, on to all that ignorance.
Stupidity, hate, envy, bluffs and blocks.
Posted to fret you into foam and noise.
What of it? Up you mount in minute mist,
And bridge the chasm that crushed your quietude,
A spirit-rainbow, earthborn jewelry
Outsparkling the insipid firmament
Blue above Terni and its orange-trees.
Do not mistake me! You, too, have your rights!
Hans must not burn Kant's house above his head,
Because he cannot understand Kant's book:
And still less must Hans' pastor bum Kant's self
Because Kant understands some books too well.
But, justice seen to on this little point,
Answer me, is it manly, is it sage
To stop and struggle with arrangements here
It took so many lives, so much of toil,
To tinker up into efficiency?
Can't you contrive to operate at once, —
Since time is short and art is long, — to show
Your quality i' the world, whatever you boast,
Without this fractious call on folks to crush
The world together just to set you free,
Admire the capers you will cut perchance,
Nor mind the mischief to your neighbours?
Age and experience bring discouragement,"
You taunt me: I maintain the opposite.
Am I discouraged who, — perceiving health.
Strength, beauty, as they tempt the eye of soul,
Are uncombinable with flesh and blood, —
Resolve to let my body live its best,
And leave my soul what better yet may be
Or not be, in this life or afterward?
— In either fortune, wiser than who waits
Till magic art procure a miracle.
In virtue of my very confidence
Mankind ought to outgrow its babyhood,
I prescribe rocking, deprecate rough hands,
While thus the cradle holds it past mistake.
Indeed, my task's the harder — equable
Sustainment everywhere, all strain, no push —
Whereby friends credit me with indolence,
Apathy, hesitation. "Stand stock-still
If able to move briskly? 'All a-strain' —
So must we compliment your passiveness?
Sound asleep, rather!"
Just the judgment passed
Upon a statue, luckless like myself,
I saw at Rome once! 'T was some artist's whim
To cover all the accessories close
I' the group, and leave you only Laocoön
With neither sons nor serpents to denote
The purpose of his gesture. Then a crowd
Was called to try the question, criticize
Wherefore such energy of legs and arms.
Nay, eyeballs, starting from the socket. One —
I give him leave to write my history —
Only one said "I think the gesture strives
Against some obstacle we cannot see."
All the rest made their minds up. "'T is a yawn
Of sheer fatigue subsiding to repose:
The Statue's 'Somnolency' clear enough!"
There, my arch stranger-friend, my audience both
And arbitress, you have one half your wish,
At least: you know the thing I tried to do!
All, so far, to my praise and glory — all
Told as befits the self-apologist, —
Who ever promises a candid sweep
And clearance of those errors miscalled crimes
None knows more, none laments so much as he,
And ever rises from confession, proved
A god whose fault was — trying to be man.
Just so, fair judge, — if I read smile aright —
I condescend to figure in your eyes
As biggest heart and best of Europe's friends,
And hence my failure. God will estimate
Success one day; and, in the mean time — you!
I daresay there's some fancy of the sort
Frolicking round this final puff I send
To die up yonder in the ceiling-rose, —
Some consolation-stakes, we losers win!
A plague of the return to "I — I — I
Did this, meant that, hoped, feared the other thing!"
Autobiography, adieu! The rest
Shall make amends, be pure blame, history
And falsehood: not the ineffective truth,
But Thiers-and-Victor-Hugo exercise.
Hear what I never was, but might have been
I' the better world where goes tobacco-smoke!
Here lie the dozen volumes of my life:
(Did I say "lie?" the pregnant word will serve.)
Cut on to the concluding chapter, though!
Because the little hours begin to strike.
Hurry Thiers-Hugo to the labour's end!
Something like this the unwritten chapter reads.
Exemplify the situation thus!
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, being, no dispute,
Absolute mistress, chose the Assembly, first,
To serve her: chose this man, its President
Afterward, to serve also, — specially
To see that they did service one and all.
And now the proper term of years was out.
When the Head-servant must vacate his place;
And nothing lay so patent to the world
As that his fellow-servants one and all
Were — mildly make we mention — knaves or fools,
Each of them with his purpose flourished full
I' the face of you by word and impudence,
Or filtered slyly out by nod and wink
And nudge upon your sympathetic rib —
That not one minute more did knave or fool
Mean to keep faith and serve as he had sworn
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, once that Head away.
Why did such swear except to get the chance,
When time should ripen and confusion bloom,
Of putting Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
To the true use of human property?
Restoring souls and bodies, this to Pope,
And that to King, that other to his planned
Perfection of a Share-and-share-alike,
That other still, to Empire absolute
In shape of the Head-servant's very self
Transformed to master whole and sole: each scheme
Discussible, concede one circumstance —
That each scheme's parent were, beside himself,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, not her serving-man
Sworn to do service in the way she chose
Rather than his way: way superlative,
Only, — by some infatuation, — his
And his and his and everyone's but hers
Who stuck to just the Assembly and the Head.
I niake no doubt the Head, too, had his dream
Of doing sudden duty swift and sure
On all that heap of untrustworthiness —
Catching each vaunter of the villany
He meant to perpetrate when time was ripe,
Once the Head-servant fairly out of doors, —
And, caging here a knave and there a fool,
Cry "Mistress of the servants, these and me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! I, their trusty Head,
Pounce on a pretty scheme concocting here
That's stopped, extinguished by my vigilance.
Your property is safe again: but mark!
Safe in these hands, not yours, who lavish trust
Too lightly. Leave my hands their charge awhile!
I know your business better than yourself:
Let me alone about it! Some fine day,
Once we are rid of the embarrassment,
You shall look up and see your longings crowned!"
Such fancy may have tempted to be false,
But this man chose truth and was wiser so.
He recognized that for great minds i' the world
There is no trial like the appropriate one
Of leaving little minds their liberty
Of littleness to blunder on through life,
Now, aiming at right end by foolish means.
Now, at absurd achievement through the aid
Of good and wise means: trial to acquiesce
In folly's life-long privilege — though with power
To do the little minds the good they need,
Despite themselves, by just abolishing
Their right to play the part and fill the place
I' the scheme of things He schemed who made alike
Great minds and little minds, saw use for each.
Could the orb sweep those puny particles
It just half-lights at distance, hardly leads
I' the leash — sweep out each speck of them from space
They anticize in with their days and nights
And whirlings round and dancings off, forsooth,
And all that fruitless individual life
One cannot lend a beam to but they spoil —
Sweep them into itself and so, one star,
Preponderate henceforth i' the heritage
Of heaven! No! in less senatorial phrase.
The man endured to help, not save outright
The multitude by substituting him
For them, his knowledge, will and way, for God's:
Not change the world, such as it is, and was
And will be, for some other, suiting all
Except the purpose of the maker. No!
He saw that weakness, wickedness will be,
And therefore should be: that the perfect man
As we account perfection — at most pure
0' the special gold, whate'er the form it take,
Head-work or heart-work, fined and thrice-refined
I' the crucible of life, whereto the powers
Of the refiner, one and all, were flung
To feed the flame their utmost, — e'en that block.
He holds out breathlessly triumphant, — breaks
Into some poisonous ore, its opposite.
At the very purest, so compensating
The Adversary — what if we believe?
For earlier stern exclusion of his stuff.
See the sage, with the hunger for the truth,
And see his system that's all true, except
The one weak place that's stanchioned by a lie!
The moralist, that walks with head erect
I' the crystal clarity of air so long.
Until a stumble, and the man's one mire!
Philanthropy undoes the social knot
With axe-edge, makes love room 'twixt head and trunk!
Religion — but, enough, the thing's too clear!
Well, if these sparks break out i' the greenest tree.
Our topmost of performance, yours and mine,
AVhat will be done i' the dry ineptitude
Of ordinary mankind, Ipark and bole.
All seems ashamed of but their mother-earth?
Therefore throughout his term of servitude
He did the appointed service, and forbore
Extraneous action that were duty else,
Done by some other servant, idle now
Or mischievous: no matter, each his own —
Own task, and, in the end, own praise or blame!
He suffered them strut, prate and brag their best.
Squabble at odds on every point save one,
And there shake hands, — agree to trifle time,
Obstruct advance with, each, his cricket-cry
"Wait till the Head be off the shoulders here!
Then comes my King, my Pope, my Autocrat,
My Socialist Republic to her own —
To-wit, that property of only me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau who conceits herself
Free, forsooth, and expects I keep her so!"
— Nay, suffered when, perceiving with dismay
His silence paid no tribute to their noise,
They turned on him. "Dumb menace in that mouth,
Malice in that unstridulosity!
He cannot but intend some stroke of state
Shall signalize his passage into peace
Out of the creaking, — hinder transference
O' the Hohenstielers-Schwangauese to king.
Pope, autocrat, or socialist republic! That's
Exact the cause his lips unlocked would cry!
Therefore be stirring: brave, beard, bully him!
Dock, by the million, of its friendly joints,
The electoral body short at once! who did,
May do again, and undo us beside.
Wrest from his hands the sword for self-defence,
The right to parry any thrust in play
We peradventure please to meditate!"
And so forth; creak, creak, creak: and ne'er a line
His locked mouth oped the wider, till at last
O' the long degraded and insulting day,
Sudden the clock told it was judgment-time.
Then he addressed himself to speak indeed
To the fools, not knaves: they saw him walk straight down
Each step of the eminence, as he first engaged,
And stand at last o' the level, — all he swore.
"People, and not the people's varletry,
This is the task you set myself and these!
Thus I performed my part of it, and thus
They thwarted me throughout, here, here, and here:
Study each instance! yours the loss, not mine.
What they intend now is demonstrable
As plainly: here's such man, and here's such mode
Of making you some other than the thing
You, wisely or unwisely, choose to be,
And only set him up to keep you so.
Do you approve this? Yours the loss, not mine.
Do you condemn it? There's a remedy.
Take me — who know your mind, and mean your good,
With clearer head and stouter arm than they,
Or you, or haply anybody else —
And make me master for the moment! Choose
What time, what power you trust me with: I too
Will choose as frankly ere I trust myself
With time and power: they must be adequate
To the end and aim, since mine the loss, with yours
If means be wanting; once their worth approved,
Grant them, and I shall forthwith operate —
Ponder it well! — to the extremest stretch
0' the power you trust me: if with unsuccess,
God wills it, and there's nobody to blame."
Whereon the people answered with a shout
"The trusty one! no tricksters any more!"
How could they other? He was in his place.
What followed? Just what he foresaw, what proved
The soundness of both judgments, — his, o' the knaves
And fools, each trickster with his dupe, — and theirs
The people, in what head and arm should help.
There was uprising, masks dropped, flags unfurled,
Weapons outflourished in the wind, my faith!
Heavily did he let his fist fall plumb
On each perturber of the public peace,
No matter whose the wagging head it broke —
From bald-pate craft and greed and impudence
Of night-hawk at first cliance to prowl and prey
For glory and a little gain beside,
Passing for eagle in the dusk of the age, —
To florid head-top, foamy patriotism
And tribunitial daring, breast laid bare
Thro' confidence in rectitude, with hand
On private pistol in the pocket: these
And all the dupes of these, who lent themselves
As dust and feather do, to help offence
O' the wind that whirls them at you, then subsides
In safety somewhere, leaving filth afloat,
Annoyance you may brush from eyes and beard, —
These he stopped: bade the wind's spite howl or whine
Its worst outside the building, wind conceives
Meant to be pulled together and become
Its natural playground so. What foolishness
Of dust or feather proved importunate
And fell 'twixt thumb and finger, found them gripe
To detriment of bulk and buoyancy.
Then followed silence and submission. Next,
The inevitable comment came on work
And work's cost; he was censured as profuse
Of human life and liberty: too swift
And thorough his procedure, who had lagged
At the outset, lost the opportunity
Through timid scruples as to right and wrong.
"There's no such certain mark of a small mind"
(So did Sagacity explain the fault)
"As when it needs must square away and sink
To its own small dimensions, private scale
Of right and wrong, — humanity i' the large,
The right and wrong of the universe, forsooth!
This man addressed himself to guard and guide
Hohenstiel-Schwangau. When the case demands
He frustrate villany in the egg, unhatched,
With easy stamp and minimum of pang
E'en to the punished reptile, 'There's my oath
Restrains my foot,' objects our guide and guard,
'I must leave guardianship and guidance now:
Rather than stretch one handbreadth of the law,
I am bound to see it break from end to end.
First show me death i' the body politic:
Then prescribe pill and potion, what may please
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! all is for her sake:
'T was she ordained my service should be so.
What if the event demonstrate her unwise,
If she unwill the thing she willed before?
I hold to the letter and obey the bond
And leave her to perdition loyally.'
Whence followed thrice the expenditure we blame
Of human life and liberty: for want
O' the by-blow, came deliberate butcher's-work!"
"Elsewhere go carry your complaint!" bade he.
"Least, largest, there's one law for all the minds,
Here or above: be true at any price!
'T is just o' the great scale, that such happy stroke
Of falsehood would be found a failure. Truth
Still stands unshaken at her base by me,
Reigns paramount i' the world, for the large good
O' the long late generations, — I and you
Forgotten like this buried foohshness!
Not so the good I rooted in its grave."
This is why he refused to break his oath,
Rather appealed to the people, gained the power
To act as he thought best, then used it, once
For all, no matter what the consequence
To knaves and fools. As thus began his sway,
So, through its twenty years, one rule of right
Sufficed him: govern for the many first,
The poor mean multitude, all mouths and eyes:
Bid the few, better favoured in the brain,
Be patient, nor presume on privilege.
Help him, or else be quiet, — never crave
That he help them, — increase, forsooth, the gulf
Yawning so terribly 'twixt mind and mind
I' the world here, which his purpose was to block
At bottom, were it by an inch, and bridge,
If by a filament, no more, at top,
Equalize things a little! And the way
He took to work that purpose out, was plain
Enough to intellect and honesty
And — superstition, style it if you please,
So long as you allow there was no lack
O' the quality imperative in man —
Reverence. You see deeper? thus saw he,
And by the light he saw, must walk: how else
Was he to do his part? the man's, with might
And main, and not a faintest touch of fear
Sure he was in the hand of God who comes
Before and after, with a work to do
Which no man helps nor hinders. Thus the man,
So timid when the business was to touch
The uncertain order of humanity,
Imperil, for a problematic cure
Of grievance on the surface, any good
I' the deep of things, dim yet discernible —
This same man, so irresolute before,
Show him a true excrescence to cut sheer,
A devil's-graft on God's foundation-stone,
Then — no complaint of indecision more!
He wrenched out the whole canker, root and branch,
Deaf to who cried the world would tumble in
At its four corners if he touched a twig.
Witness that lie of lies, arch-infamy.
When the Republic, with all life involved
In just this law — "Each people rules itself
Its own way, not as any stranger please" —
Turned, and for first proof she was living, bade
Hohenstiel-Schwangau fasten on the throat
Of the first neighbour that claimed benefit
O' the law herself established: "Hohenstiel
For Hohenstielers! Rome, by parity
Of reasoning, for Romans? That 's a jest
Wants proper treatment, — lancet-puncture suits
The proud flesh: Rome ape Hohenstiel forsooth!"
And so the siege and slaughter and success
Whereof we nothing doubt that Hohenstiel
Will have to pay the price, in God's good time,
Which does not always fall on Saturday
When the world looks for wages. Any how.
He found this infamy triumphant. Well, —
Sagacity suggested, make this speech!
"The work was none of mine: suppose wrong wait,
Stand over for redressing? Mine for me,
My predecessors' work on their own head!
Meantime, there's plain advantage, should we leave
Things as we find them. Keep Rome manacled
Hand and foot: no fear of unruliness!
Her foes consent to even seem our friends
So long, no longer. Then, there's glory got
I' the boldness and bravado to the world.
The disconcerted world must grin and bear
The old saucy writing, — 'Grunt thereat who may,
So shall things be, for such my pleasure is —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau.' How that reads in Rome
I' the Capitol where Brennus broke his pate!
And what a flourish for our journalists!"
Only, it was nor read nor flourished of,
Since, not a moment did such glory stay
Excision of the canker! Out it came,
Root and branch, with much roaring, and some blood,
And plentiful abuse of him from friend
And foe. Who cared? Not Nature, that assuaged
The pain and set the patient on his legs
Promptly: the better! had it been the worse,
'T is Nature you must try conclusions with,
Not he, since nursing canker kills the sick
For certain, while to cut may cure, at least.
"Ah," groaned a second time Sagacity,
"Again the little mind, precipitate,
Rash, rude, when even in the right, as here!
The great mind knows the power of gentleness,
Only tries force because persuasion fails.
Had this man, by prelusive trumpet-blast,
Signified 'Truth and Justice mean to come.
Nay, fast approach your threshold! Ere they knock,
See that the house be set in order, swept
And garnished, windows shut, and doors thrown wide!
The free State comes to visit the free Church:
Receive her! or . . or . . never mind what else!'
Thus moral suasion heralding brute force,
How had he seen the old abuses die,
And new life kindle here, there, everywhere.
Roused simply by that mild yet potent spell —
Beyond or beat of drum or stroke of sword —
"How, indeed?" he asked,
"When all to see, after some twenty years,
Were your own fool-face waiting for the sight.
Faced by as wide a grin from ear to ear
O' the knaves that, while the fools were waiting, worked —
Broke yet another generation's heart —
Twenty years' respite helping! Teach your nurse
'Compliance with, before you suck, the teat!'
Find what that means, and meanwhile hold your tongue!"
Whereof the war came which he knew must be.
Now, this had proved the dry-rot of the race
He ruled o'er, that, in the old day, when was need
They fought for their own liberty and life,
Well did they fight, none better: whence, such love
Of fighting somehow still for fighting's sake
Against no matter whose the liberty
And life, so long as self-conceit should crow
And clap the wing, while justice sheathed her claw, —
That what had been the glory of the world
When thereby came the world's good, grew its plague
Now that the champion-armour, donned to dare
The dragon once, was clattered up and down
Highway and by-path of the world at peace,
Merely to mask marauding, or for sake
O' the shine and rattle that apprized the fields
Hohenstiel-Schwangau was a fighter yet.
And would be, till the weary world suppressed
A peccant humour out of fashion now.
Accordingly the world spoke plain at last.
Promised to punish who next played with fire.
So, at his advent, such discomfiture
Taking its true shape of beneficence,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, half-sad and part-wise,
Sat: if with wistful eye reverting oft
To each pet weapon rusty on its peg,
Yet, with a sigh of satisfaction too
That, peacefulness become the law, herself
Got the due share of godsends in its train,
Cried shame and took advantage quietly.
Still, so the dry-rot had been nursed into
Blood, bones and marrow, that, from worst to best,
All, — clearest brains and soundest hearts, save here, —
All had this lie acceptable for law
Plain as the sun at noonday — "War is best,
Peace is worst; peace we only tolerate
As needful preparation for new war:
War may be for whatever end we will —
Peace only as the proper help thereto.
Such is the law of right and wrong for us
Hohenstiel-Schwangau: for the other world,
As naturally, quite another law.
Are we content? The world is satisfied.
Discontent? Then the world must give us leave
Strike right and left to exercise our arm
Torpid of late through overmuch repose,
And show its strength is still superlative
At somebody's expense in life or limb:
Which done, — let peace succeed and last a year!"
Such devil's-doctrine was so judged God's law,
We say, when this man stepped upon the stage,
That it had seemed a venial fault at most
Had he once more obeyed Sagacity.
"You come i' the happy interval of peace,
The favourable weariness from war:
Prolong it! — artfully, as if intent
On ending peace as soon as possible.
Quietly so increase the sweets of ease
And safety, so employ the multitude.
Put hod and trowel so in idle hands.
So stuff and stop the wagging jaws with bread.
That selfishness shall surreptitiously
Do wisdom's office, whisper in the ear
Of Hohenstiel-Schwangau, there's a pleasant feel
In being gently forced down, pinioned fast
To the easy arm-chair by the pleading arms
O' the world beseeching her to there abide
Content with all the harm done hitherto,
And let herself be petted in return,
Free to re-wage, in speech and prose and verse,
The old unjust wars, nay — in verse and prose
And speech, — to vaunt new victories, as vile
A plague o' the future, — so that words suffice
For present comfort, and no deeds denote
That, — tired of illimitable line on line
Of boulevard-building, tired o' the theatre
With the tuneful thousand in their thrones above.
For glory of the male intelligence.
And Nakedness in her due niche below,
For illustration of the female use —
She, 'twixt a yawn and sigh, prepares to slip
Out of the arm-chair, wants some blood again
From over the boundary, to colour-up
The sheeny sameness, keep the world aware
Hohenstiel-Schwangau must have exercise
Despite the petting of the universe!
Come, you're a city-builder: what's the way
Wisdom takes when time needs that she entice
Some fierce tribe, castled on the mountain-peak,
Into the quiet and amenity
O' the meadow-land below? By crying 'Done
With fight now, down with fortress?' Rather — 'Dare
On, dare ever, not a stone displaced!'
Cries Wisdom, 'Cradle of our ancestors.
Be bulwark, give our children safety still!
Who of our children please, may stoop and taste
O' the valley-fatness, unafraid, — for why?
At first alarm, they have thy mother-ribs
To run upon for refuge; foes forget
Scarcely what Terror on her vantage-coigne,
Couchant supreme among the powers of air,
Watches — prepared to pounce — the country wide!
Meanwhile the encouraged valley holds its own,
From the first hut's adventure in descent.
Half home, half hiding place, — to dome and spire
Befitting the assured metropolis:
Nor means offence to the fort which caps the crag,
All undismantled of a turret-stone,
And bears the banner-pole that creaks at times
Embarrassed by the old emblazonment,
When festal days are to commemorate.
Otherwise left untenanted, no doubt,
Since, never fear, our myriads from below
Would rush, if needs were, man the walls once more.
Renew the exploits of the earlier time
At moment's notice! But till notice sound,
Inhabit we in ease and opulence!'
And so, till one day thus a notice sounds,
Not trumpeted, but in a whisper-gust
Fitfully playing through mute city streets
At midnight weary of day's feast and game —
'Friends, your famed fort's a ruin past repair!
Its use is — to proclaim it had a use
Stolen away long since. Climb to study there
How to paint barbican and battlement
I' the scenes of our new theatre! We fight
Now — by forbidding neighbours to sell steel
Or buy wine, not by blowing out their brains!
Moreover, while we let time sap the strength
O' the walls omnipotent in menace once,
Neighbours would seem to have prepared surprise —
Run up defences in a mushroom-growth,
For all the world like what we boasted: brief —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau's policy is peace!' "
Ay, so Sagacity advised him filch
Folly from fools: handsomely substitute
The dagger o' lath, while gay they sang and danced
For that long dangerous sword they liked to feel,
Even at feast-time, clink and make friends start.
No! he said "Hear the truth, and bear the truth,
And bring the truth to bear on all you are
And do, assured that only good comes thence
Whate'er the shape good take! While I have rule.
Understand! — war for war's sake, war for the sake
O' the good war gets you as war's sole excuse,
Is damnable and damned shall be. You want
Glory? Why so do I, and so does God.
Where is it found, — in this paraded shame, —
One particle of glory? Once you warred
For liberty against the world, and won:
There was the glory. Now, you fain would war
Because the neighbour prospers overmuch, —
Because there has been silence half-an-hour,
Like Heaven on earth, without a cannon-shot
Are minded to disturb the jubilee, —
Because the loud tradition echoes faint,
And who knows but posterity may doubt
If the great deeds were ever done at all,
Much less believe, were such to do again,
So the event would follow: therefore, prove
The old power, at the expense of somebody!
Oh, Glory, — gilded bubble, bard and sage
So nickname rightly, — would thy dance endure
One moment, would thy mocking make believe
Only one upturned eye thy ball was gold,
Had'st thou less breath to buoy thy vacancy
Than a whole multitude expends in praise,
Less range for roaming than from head to head
Of a whole people? Flit, fall, fly again,
Only, fix never where the resolute hand
May prick thee, prove the lie thou art, at once!
Give me real intellect to reason with,
No multitude, no entity that apes
One wise man, being but a million fools!
How and whence wishest glory, thou wise one?
Would'st get it, — did'st thyself guide Providence, —
By stinting of his due each neighbour round
In strength and knowledge and dexterity
So as to have thy littleness grow large
By all those somethings, once, turned nothings, now,
As children make a molehill mountainous
By scooping out the plain into a trench
And saving so their favourite from approach?
Quite otherwise the cheery game of life.
True yet mimetic warfare, whereby man
Does his best with his utmost, and so ends
The victor most of all in fair defeat.
Who thinks, — would he have no one think beside?
Who knows, who does, — must other learning die
And action perish? Why, our giant proves
No better than a dwarf, with rivalry
Prostrate around him. 'Let the whole race stand
And try conclusions fairly!' he cries first.
Show me the great man would engage his peer
Rather by grinning 'Cheat, thy gold is brass!'
Than granting 'Perfect piece of purest ore!
Still, is it less good mintage, this of mine?'
Well, and these right and sound results of soul
I' the strong and healthy one wise man, — shall such
Be vainly sought for, scornfully renounced
I' the multitude that make the entity —
The people? — to what purpose, if no less.
In power and purity of soul, below
The reach of the unit than, in multiplied
Might of the body, vulgarized the more,
Above, in thick and threefold brutishness?
See! you accept such one wise man, myself:
Wiser or less wise, still I operate
From my own stock of wisdom, nor exact
Of other sort of natures you admire.
That whoso rhymes a sonnet pays a tax,
Who paints a landscape dips brush at his cost,
Who scores a septett true for strings and wind
Mulcted must be — else how should I impose
Properly, attitudinize aright,
Did such conflicting claims as these divert
Hohenstiel-Schwangau from observing me?
Therefore, what I find facile, you be sure,
With effort or without it, you shall dare —
You, I aspire to make my better self
And truly the Great Nation. No more war
For war's sake, then! and, — seeing, wickedness
Springs out of folly, — no more foolish dread
O' the neighbour waxing too inordinate
A rival, through his gain of wealth and ease!
What? — keep me patient, Powers! — the people here,
Earth presses to her heart, nor owns a pride
Above her pride i' the race all flame and air
And aspiration to the boundless Great,
The incommensurably Beautiful —
Whose very faulterings groundward come of flight
Urged by a pinion all too passionate
For heaven and what it holds of gloom and glow:
Bravest of thinkers, bravest of the brave
Doers, exalt in Science, rapturous
In Art, the — more than all — magnetic race
To fascinate their fellows, mould mankind
Hohenstiel-Schwangau-fashion, — these, what? — these
Will have to abdicate their primacy
Should such a nation sell them steel untaxed,
And such another take itself, on hire
For the natural sen'night, somebody for lord
Unpatronized by me whose back was turned?
Or such another yet would fain build bridge,
Lay rail, drive tunnel, busy its poor self
With its appropriate fancy: so there's — flash —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau up in arms at once!
Genius has somewhat of the infantine:
But of the childish, not a touch nor taint
Except through self-will, which, being foolishness,
Is certain, soon or late, of punishment.
Which Providence avert! — and that it may
Avert what both of us would so deserve.
No foolish dread o' the neighbour, I enjoin!
By consequence, no wicked war with him,
While I rule!
Does that mean — no war at all
When just the wickedness I here proscribe
Comes, haply, from the neighbour? Does my speech
Precede the praying that you beat the sword
To plough-share, and the spear to pruning-hook.
And sit down henceforth under your own vine
And fig-tree through the sleepy summer month,
Letting what hurly-burly please explode
On the other side the mountain-frontier? No,
Beloved! I foresee and I announce
Necessity of warfare in one case,
For one cause: one way, I bid broach the blood
O' the world. For truth and right, and only right
And truth, — right, truth, on the absolute scale of God,
No pettiness of man's admeasurement, —
In such case only, and for such one cause,
Fight your hearts out, whatever fate betide
Hands energetic to the uttermost!
Lie not! Endure no lie which needs your heart
And hand to push it out of mankind's path —
No lie that lets the natural forces work
Too long ere lay it plain and pulverized —
Seeing man's life lasts only twenty years!
And such a lie, before both man and God,
Being, at this time present, Austria's rule
O'er Italy, — for Austria's sake the first,
Italy's next, and our sake last of all.
Come with me and deliver Italy!
Smite hip and thigh until the oppressor leave
Free from the Adriatic to the Alps
The oppressed one! We were they who laid her low
In the old bad day when Villany braved Truth
And Right, and laughed 'Henceforward, God deposed,
The Devil is to rule for evermore
I' the world!' — whereof to stop the consequence,
And for atonement of false glory there
Gaped at and gabbled over by the world,
We purpose to get God enthroned again
For what the world will gird at as sheer shame
I' the cost of blood and treasure. 'All for naught —
Not even, say, some patch of province, splice
O' the frontier? — some snug honorarium-fee
Shut into glove and pocketed apace?'
(Questions Sagacity) 'in deference
To the natural susceptibility
Of folks at home, unwitting of that pitch
You soar to, and misdoubting if Truth, Right
And the other such augustnesses repay
Expenditure in coin o' the realm, — but prompt
To recognize the cession of Savoy
And Nice as marketable value!' No,
Sagacity, go preach to Metternich,
And, sermon ended, stay where he resides I
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, you and I must march
The other road! war for the hate of war,
Not love, this once!" So Italy was free.
What else noteworthy and commendable
I' the man's career? — that he was resolute
No trepidation, much less treachery
On his part, should imperil from its poise
The ball o' the world, heaved up at such expense
Of pains so far, and ready to rebound,
Let but a finger maladroitly fall,
Under pretence of making fast and sure
The inch gained by late volubility,
And run itself back to the ancient rest
At foot o' the mountain. Thus he ruled, gave proof
The world had gained a point, progressive so,
By choice, this time, as will and power concurred,
0' the fittest man to rule; not chance of birth,
Or such-like dice-throw. Oft Sagacity
Was at his ear: "Confirm this clear advance,
Support this wise procedure! You, elect
O' the people, mean to justify their choice
And out-king all the kingly imbeciles;
But that's just half the enterprise: remains
You find them a successor like yourself,
In head and heart and eye and hand and aim,
Or all done's undone; and whom hope to mould
So like you as the pupil Nature sends,
The son and heir's completeness which you lack?
Lack it no longer! Wed the pick o' the world,
Where'er you think you find it. Should she be
A queen, — tell Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
'So do the old enthroned decrepitudes
Acknowledge, in the rotten hearts of them,
Their knell is knolled, they hasten to make peace
With the new order, recognize in me
Your right to constitute what king you will.
Cringe therefore crown in hand and bride on arm,
To both of us: we triumph, I suppose!'
Is it the other sort of rank? — bright eye,
Soft smile, and so forth, all her queenly boast?
Undaunted the exordium — 'I, the man
O' the people, with the people mate myself:
So stand, so fall. Kings, keep your crowns and brides!
Our progeny (if Providence agree)
Shall live to tread the baubles underfoot
And bid the scarecrows consort with their kin.
For son, as for his sire, be the free wife
In the free state!' "
That is. Sagacity
Would prop up one more lie, the most of all
Pernicious fancy that the son and heir
Receives the genius from the sire, himself
Transmits as surely, — ask experience else!
Which answers, — never was so plain a truth
As that God drops his seed of heavenly flame
Just where He wills on earth: sometimes where man
Seems to tempt — such the accumulated store
Of faculties — one spark to fire the heap;
Sometimes where, fire-ball-like, it falls upon
The naked unpreparedness of rock,
Burns, beaconing the nations through their night.
Faculties, fuel for the flame? All helps
Come, ought to come, or come not, crossed by chance,
From culture and transmission. What's your want
I' the son and heir? Sympathy, aptitude.
Teachableness, the fuel for the flame?
You'll have them for your pains: but the flame's self,
The novel thought of God shall light the world?
No, poet, though your offspring rhyme and chime
I' the cradle, — painter, no, for all your pet
Draws his first eye, beats Salvatore's boy, —
And thrice no, statesman, should your progeny
Tie bib and tucker with no tape but red,
And make a foolscap-kite of protocols!
Critic and copyist and bureaucrat
To heart's content! The seed o' the apple-tree
Brings forth another tree which bears a crab:
'T is the great gardener grafts the excellence
On wildings where he will.
"How plain I view,
Across those misty years 'twixt me and Rome " —
(Such the man's answer to Sagacity)
The little wayside temple, halfway down
To a mild river that makes oxen white
Miraculously, un-mouse-colours hide,
Or so the Roman country people dream!
I view that sweet small shrub-embedded shrine
On the declivity, was sacred once
To a transmuting Genius of the land,
Could touch and turn its dunnest natures bright,
— Since Italy means the Land of the Ox, we know.
Well, how was it the due succession fell
From priest to priest who ministered i' the cool
Calm fane o' the Clitumnian god? The sire
Brought forth a son and sacerdotal sprout,
Endowed instinctively with good and grace
To suit the gliding gentleness below —
Did he? Tradition tells another tale.
Each priest obtained his predecessor's staff,
Robe, fillet and insignia, blamelessly.
By springing out of ambush, soon or late.
And slaying him: the initiative rite
Simply was murder, save that murder took,
I' the case, another and religious name.
So it was once, is now, shall ever be
With genius and its priesthood in this world:
The new power slays the old — but handsomely.
There he lies, not diminished by an inch
Of stature that he graced the altar with.
Though somebody of other bulk and build
Cries 'What a goodly personage lies here
Reddening the water where the bulrush roots!
May I conduct the service in his place.
Decently and in order, as did he,
And, as he did not, keep a wary watch
When meditating 'neath a willow shade!'
Find out your best man, sure the son of him,
Will prove best man again, and, better still
Somehow than best, the grandson-prodigy!
You think the world would last another day
Did we so make us masters of the trick
Whereby the works go, we could pre-arrange
Their play and reach perfection when we please?
Depend on it, the change and the surprise
Are part o' the plan: 't is we wish steadiness;
Nature prefers a motion by unrest,
Advancement through this force that jostles that.
And so, since much remains i' the world to see.
Here is it still, affording God the sight."
Thus did the man refute Sagacity,
Ever at this one whisper in his ear:
"Here are you picked out, by a miracle,
And placed conspicuously enough, folks say
And you believe, by Providence outright
Taking a new way — nor without success —
To put the world upon its mettle: good!
But Fortune alternates with Providence;
Resource is soon exhausted. Never count
On such a happy hit occurring twice!
Try the old method next time!"
(At whisper in his ear, the laugh outbroke)
"And most discredited of all the modes
By just the men and women who make boast
They are kings and queens thereby! Mere self-defence
Should teach them, on one chapter of the law
Must be no sort of trifling — chastity:
They stand or fall, as their progenitors
Were chaste or unchaste. Now, run eye around
My crowned acquaintance, give each life its look
And no more, — why, you'd think each life was led
Purposely for example of what pains
Who leads it took to cure the prejudice.
And prove there's nothing so unproveable
As who is who, what son of what a sire,
And, — inferentially, — how faint the chance
That the next generation needs to fear
Another fool o' the selfsame type as he
Happily regnant now by right divine
And luck o' the pillow! No: select your lord
By the direct employment of your brains
As best you may, — bad as the blunder prove,
A far worse evil stank beneath the sun
When some legitimate blockhead managed so
Matters that high time was to interfere,
Though interference came from hell itself
And not the blind mad miserable mob
Happily ruled so long by pillow-luck
And divine right, — by lies in short, not truth.
And meanwhile use the allotted minute . . . "
Two, three, four, five — yes, five the pendule warns!
Eh? Why, this wild work wanders past all bound
And bearing! Exile, Leicester-square, the life
I' the old gay miserable time, rehearsed,
Tried on again like cast clothes, still to serve
At a pinch, perhaps? "Who's who?" was aptly asked,
Since certainly I am not I! since when?
Where is the bud-mouthed arbitress? A nod
Out-Homering Homer! Stay — there flits the clue
I fain would find the end of! Yes, — "Meanwhile,
Use the allotted minute!" Well, you see,
(Veracious and imaginary Thiers,
Who map out thus the life I might have led,
But did not, — all the worse for earth and me —
Doff spectacles, wipe pen, shut book, decamp!)
You see 't is easy in heroics! Plain
Pedestrian speech shall help me perorate.
Ah, if one had no need to use the tongue!
How obvious and how easy 't is to talk
Inside the soul, a ghostly dialogue —
Instincts with guesses, — instinct, guess, again
With dubious knowledge, half-experience: each
And all the interlocutors alike
Subordinating, — as decorum bids,
Oh, never fear! but still decisively, —
Claims from without that take too high a tone,
— ("God wills this, man wants that, the dignity
Prescribed a prince would wish the other thing") —
Putting them back to insignificance
Beside one intimatest fact — myself
Am first to be considered, since I live
Twenty years longer and then end, perhaps!
But, where one ceases to soliloquize,
Somehow the motives, that did well enough
I' the darkness, when you bring them into light
Are found, like those famed cave-fish, to lack eye
And organ for the upper magnitudes.
The other common creatures, of less fine
Existence, that acknowledge earth and heaven,
Have it their own way in the argument.
Yes, forced to speak, one stoops to say — one's aim
Was — what it peradventure should have been; —
To renovate a people, mend or end
That bane come of a blessing meant the world —
Inordinate culture of the sense made quick
By soul, — the lust o' the flesh, lust of the eye,
And pride of life, — and, consequent on these,
The worship of that prince o' the power o' the air
Who paints the cloud and fills the emptiness
And bids his votaries, famishing for truth.
Feed on a lie.
Alack, one lies oneself
Even in the stating that one's end was truth,
Truth only, if one states as much in words!
Give me the inner chamber of the soul
For obvious easy argument! 't is there
One pits the silent truth against a lie —
Truth which breaks shell a careless simple bird,
Nor wants a gorget nor a beak filed fine,
Steel spurs and the whole armoury o' the tongue,
To equalize the odds. But, do your best,
Words have to come: and somehow words deflect
As the best cannon ever rifled will.
"Deflect" indeed! nor merely words from thoughts
But names from facts: "Clitumnus" did I say?
As if it had been his ox-whitening wave
Whereby folk practised that grim cult of old —
The murder of their temple's priest by who
Would qualify for his succession. Sure —
Nemi was the true lake's style. Dream had need
Of the ox-whitening piece of prettiness
And so confused names, well known once awake.
So, i' the Residenz yet, not Leicester-square,
Alone, — no such congenial intercourse! —
My reverie concludes, as dreaming should,
With daybreak: nothing done and over yet,
Except cigars! The adventure thus may be,
Or never needs to be at all: who knows?
My Cousin-Duke, perhaps, at whose hard head
— Is it, now — is this letter to be launched,
The sight of whose grey oblong, whose grim seal,
Set all these fancies floating for an hour?
Twenty years are good gain, come what come will!
Double or quits! The letter goes! Or stays?
Canto the Fourth
I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying glory smiles
O’er the far times when many a subject land
Looked to the wingèd Lion’s marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!
She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers
At airy distance, with majestic motion,
A ruler of the waters and their powers:
And such she was; her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Poured in her lap all gems in sparkling showers.
In purple was she robed, and of her feast
Monarchs partook, and deemed their dignity increased.
In Venice, Tasso’s echoes are no more,
And silent rows the songless gondolier;
Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
And music meets not always now the ear:
Those days are gone - but beauty still is here.
States fall, arts fade - but Nature doth not die,
Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!
But unto us she hath a spell beyond
Her name in story, and her long array
Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond
Above the dogeless city’s vanished sway;
Ours is a trophy which will not decay
With the Rialto; Shylock and the Moor,
And Pierre, cannot be swept or worn away -
The keystones of the arch! though all were o’er,
For us repeopled were the solitary shore.
The beings of the mind are not of clay;
Essentially immortal, they create
And multiply in us a brighter ray
And more beloved existence: that which Fate
Prohibits to dull life, in this our state
Of mortal bondage, by these spirits supplied,
First exiles, then replaces what we hate;
Watering the heart whose early flowers have died,
And with a fresher growth replenishing the void.
Such is the refuge of our youth and age,
The first from Hope, the last from Vacancy;
And this worn feeling peoples many a page,
And, may be, that which grows beneath mine eye:
Yet there are things whose strong reality
Outshines our fairy-land; in shape and hues
More beautiful than our fantastic sky,
And the strange constellations which the Muse
O’er her wild universe is skilful to diffuse:
I saw or dreamed of such, - but let them go -
They came like truth, and disappeared like dreams;
And whatsoe’er they were - are now but so;
I could replace them if I would: still teems
My mind with many a form which aptly seems
Such as I sought for, and at moments found;
Let these too go - for waking reason deems
Such overweening phantasies unsound,
And other voices speak, and other sights surround.
I’ve taught me other tongues, and in strange eyes
Have made me not a stranger; to the mind
Which is itself, no changes bring surprise;
Nor is it harsh to make, nor hard to find
A country with - ay, or without mankind;
Yet was I born where men are proud to be,
Not without cause; and should I leave behind
The inviolate island of the sage and free,
And seek me out a home by a remoter sea,
Perhaps I loved it well: and should I lay
My ashes in a soil which is not mine,
My spirit shall resume it - if we may
Unbodied choose a sanctuary. I twine
My hopes of being remembered in my line
With my land’s language: if too fond and far
These aspirations in their scope incline, -
If my fame should be, as my fortunes are,
Of hasty growth and blight, and dull Oblivion bar.
My name from out the temple where the dead
Are honoured by the nations - let it be -
And light the laurels on a loftier head!
And be the Spartan’s epitaph on me -
‘Sparta hath many a worthier son than he.’
Meantime I seek no sympathies, nor need;
The thorns which I have reaped are of the tree
I planted, - they have torn me, and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
The spouseless Adriatic mourns her lord;
And, annual marriage now no more renewed,
The Bucentaur lies rotting unrestored,
Neglected garment of her widowhood!
St. Mark yet sees his lion where he stood
Stand, but in mockery of his withered power,
Over the proud place where an Emperor sued,
And monarchs gazed and envied in the hour
When Venice was a queen with an unequalled dower.
The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns -
An Emperor tramples where an Emperor knelt;
Kingdoms are shrunk to provinces, and chains
Clank over sceptred cities; nations melt
From power’s high pinnacle, when they have felt
The sunshine for a while, and downward go
Like lauwine loosened from the mountain’s belt:
Oh for one hour of blind old Dandolo!
The octogenarian chief, Byzantium’s conquering foe.
Before St. Mark still glow his steeds of brass,
Their gilded collars glittering in the sun;
But is not Doria’s menace come to pass?
Are they not bridled? - Venice, lost and won,
Her thirteen hundred years of freedom done,
Sinks, like a seaweed, into whence she rose!
Better be whelmed beneath the waves, and shun,
Even in Destruction’s depth, her foreign foes,
From whom submission wrings an infamous repose.
In youth she was all glory, - a new Tyre, -
Her very byword sprung from victory,
The ‘Planter of the Lion,’ which through fire
And blood she bore o’er subject earth and sea;
Though making many slaves, herself still free
And Europe’s bulwark ’gainst the Ottomite:
Witness Troy’s rival, Candia! Vouch it, ye
Immortal waves that saw Lepanto’s fight!
For ye are names no time nor tyranny can blight.
Statues of glass - all shivered - the long file
Of her dead doges are declined to dust;
But where they dwelt, the vast and sumptuous pile
Bespeaks the pageant of their splendid trust;
Their sceptre broken, and their sword in rust,
Have yielded to the stranger: empty halls,
Thin streets, and foreign aspects, such as must
Too oft remind her who and what enthrals,
Have flung a desolate cloud o’er Venice’ lovely walls.
When Athens’ armies fell at Syracuse,
And fettered thousands bore the yoke of war,
Redemption rose up in the Attic Muse,
Her voice their only ransom from afar:
See! as they chant the tragic hymn, the car
Of the o’ermastered victor stops, the reins
Fall from his hands - his idle scimitar
Starts from its belt - he rends his captive’s chains,
And bids him thank the bard for freedom and his strains.
Thus, Venice, if no stronger claim were thine,
Were all thy proud historic deeds forgot,
Thy choral memory of the bard divine,
Thy love of Tasso, should have cut the knot
Which ties thee to thy tyrants; and thy lot
Is shameful to the nations, - most of all,
Albion! to thee: the Ocean Queen should not
Abandon Ocean’s children; in the fall
Of Venice think of thine, despite thy watery wall.
I loved her from my boyhood: she to me
Was as a fairy city of the heart,
Rising like water-columns from the sea,
Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart
And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakspeare’s art,
Had stamped her image in me, and e’en so,
Although I found her thus, we did not part,
Perchance e’en dearer in her day of woe,
Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.
I can repeople with the past - and of
The present there is still for eye and thought,
And meditation chastened down, enough;
And more, it may be, than I hoped or sought;
And of the happiest moments which were wrought
Within the web of my existence, some
From thee, fair Venice! have their colours caught:
There are some feelings Time cannot benumb,
Nor torture shake, or mine would now be cold and dumb.
But from their nature will the tannen grow
Loftiest on loftiest and least sheltered rocks,
Rooted in barrenness, where nought below
Of soil supports them ’gainst the Alpine shocks
Of eddying storms; yet springs the trunk, and mocks
The howling tempest, till its height and frame
Are worthy of the mountains from whose blocks
Of bleak, grey granite, into life it came,
And grew a giant tree; - the mind may grow the same.
Existence may be borne, and the deep root
Of life and sufferance make its firm abode
In bare and desolate bosoms: mute
The camel labours with the heaviest load,
And the wolf dies in silence. Not bestowed
In vain should such examples be; if they,
Things of ignoble or of savage mood,
Endure and shrink not, we of nobler clay
May temper it to bear, - it is but for a day.
All suffering doth destroy, or is destroyed,
Even by the sufferer; and, in each event,
Ends: - Some, with hope replenished and rebuoyed,
Return to whence they came - with like intent,
And weave their web again; some, bowed and bent,
Wax grey and ghastly, withering ere their time,
And perish with the reed on which they leant;
Some seek devotion, toil, war, good or crime,
According as their souls were formed to sink or climb.
But ever and anon of griefs subdued
There comes a token like a scorpion’s sting,
Scarce seen, but with fresh bitterness imbued;
And slight withal may be the things which bring
Back on the heart the weight which it would fling
Aside for ever: it may be a sound -
A tone of music - summer’s eve - or spring -
A flower - the wind - the ocean - which shall wound,
Striking the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound.
And how and why we know not, nor can trace
Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind,
But feel the shock renewed, nor can efface
The blight and blackening which it leaves behind,
Which out of things familiar, undesigned,
When least we deem of such, calls up to view
The spectres whom no exorcism can bind, -
The cold - the changed - perchance the dead - anew,
The mourned, the loved, the lost - too many! - yet how few!
But my soul wanders; I demand it back
To meditate amongst decay, and stand
A ruin amidst ruins; there to track
Fall’n states and buried greatness, o’er a land
Which was the mightiest in its old command,
And is the loveliest, and must ever be
The master-mould of Nature’s heavenly hand,
Wherein were cast the heroic and the free,
The beautiful, the brave - the lords of earth and sea.
The commonwealth of kings, the men of Rome!
And even since, and now, fair Italy!
Thou art the garden of the world, the home
Of all Art yields, and Nature can decree;
Even in thy desert, what is like to thee?
Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste
More rich than other climes’ fertility;
Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced
With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced.
The moon is up, and yet it is not night -
Sunset divides the sky with her - a sea
Of glory streams along the Alpine height
Of blue Friuli’s mountains; Heaven is free
From clouds, but of all colours seems to be -
Melted to one vast Iris of the West,
Where the day joins the past eternity;
While, on the other hand, meek Dian’s crest
Floats through the azure air - an island of the blest!
A single star is at her side, and reigns
With her o’er half the lovely heaven; but still
Yon sunny sea heaves brightly, and remains
Rolled o’er the peak of the far Rhætian hill,
As Day and Night contending were, until
Nature reclaimed her order: - gently flows
The deep-dyed Brenta, where their hues instil
The odorous purple of a new-born rose,
Which streams upon her stream, and glassed within it glows,
Filled with the face of heaven, which, from afar,
Comes down upon the waters; all its hues,
From the rich sunset to the rising star,
Their magical variety diffuse:
And now they change; a paler shadow strews
Its mantle o’er the mountains; parting day
Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
With a new colour as it gasps away,
The last still loveliest, till - ’tis gone - and all is grey.
There is a tomb in Arqua; - reared in air,
Pillared in their sarcophagus, repose
The bones of Laura’s lover: here repair
Many familiar with his well-sung woes,
The pilgrims of his genius. He arose
To raise a language, and his land reclaim
From the dull yoke of her barbaric foes:
Watering the tree which bears his lady’s name
With his melodious tears, he gave himself to fame.
They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died;
The mountain-village where his latter days
Went down the vale of years; and ’tis their pride -
An honest pride - and let it be their praise,
To offer to the passing stranger’s gaze
His mansion and his sepulchre; both plain
And venerably simple, such as raise
A feeling more accordant with his strain,
Than if a pyramid formed his monumental fane.
And the soft quiet hamlet where he dwelt
Is one of that complexion which seems made
For those who their mortality have felt,
And sought a refuge from their hopes decayed
In the deep umbrage of a green hill’s shade,
Which shows a distant prospect far away
Of busy cities, now in vain displayed,
For they can lure no further; and the ray
Of a bright sun can make sufficient holiday.
Developing the mountains, leaves, and flowers
And shining in the brawling brook, where-by,
Clear as its current, glide the sauntering hours
With a calm languor, which, though to the eye
Idlesse it seem, hath its morality,
If from society we learn to live,
’Tis solitude should teach us how to die;
It hath no flatterers; vanity can give
No hollow aid; alone - man with his God must strive:
Or, it may be, with demons, who impair
The strength of better thoughts, and seek their prey
In melancholy bosoms, such as were
Of moody texture from their earliest day,
And loved to dwell in darkness and dismay,
Deeming themselves predestined to a doom
Which is not of the pangs that pass away;
Making the sun like blood, the earth a tomb,
The tomb a hell, and hell itself a murkier gloom.
Ferrara! in thy wide and grass-grown streets,
Whose symmetry was not for solitude,
There seems as ’twere a curse upon the seat’s
Of former sovereigns, and the antique brood
Of Este, which for many an age made good
Its strength within thy walls, and was of yore
Patron or tyrant, as the changing mood
Of petty power impelled, of those who wore
The wreath which Dante’s brow alone had worn before.
And Tasso is their glory and their shame.
Hark to his strain! and then survey his cell!
And see how dearly earned Torquato’s fame,
And where Alfonso bade his poet dwell.
The miserable despot could not quell
The insulted mind he sought to quench, and blend
With the surrounding maniacs, in the hell
Where he had plunged it. Glory without end
Scattered the clouds away - and on that name attend
The tears and praises of all time, while thine
Would rot in its oblivion - in the sink
Of worthless dust, which from thy boasted line
Is shaken into nothing; but the link
Thou formest in his fortunes bids us think
Of thy poor malice, naming thee with scorn -
Alfonso! how thy ducal pageants shrink
From thee! if in another station born,
Scarce fit to be the slave of him thou mad’st to mourn:
Thou! formed to eat, and be despised, and die,
Even as the beasts that perish, save that thou
Hadst a more splendid trough, and wider sty:
He! with a glory round his furrowed brow,
Which emanated then, and dazzles now
In face of all his foes, the Cruscan quire,
And Boileau, whose rash envy could allow
No strain which shamed his country’s creaking lyre,
That whetstone of the teeth - monotony in wire!
Peace to Torquato’s injured shade! ’twas his
In life and death to be the mark where Wrong
Aimed with their poisoned arrows - but to miss.
Oh, victor unsurpassed in modern song!
Each year brings forth its millions; but how long
The tide of generations shall roll on,
And not the whole combined and countless throng
Compose a mind like thine? Though all in one
Condensed their scattered rays, they would not form a sun.
Great as thou art, yet paralleled by those
Thy countrymen, before thee born to shine,
The bards of Hell and Chivalry: first rose
The Tuscan father’s comedy divine;
Then, not unequal to the Florentine,
The Southern Scott, the minstrel who called forth
A new creation with his magic line,
And, like the Ariosto of the North,
Sang ladye-love and war, romance and knightly worth.
The lightning rent from Ariosto’s bust
The iron crown of laurel’s mimicked leaves;
Nor was the ominous element unjust,
For the true laurel-wreath which Glory weaves
Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves,
And the false semblance but disgraced his brow;
Yet still, if fondly Superstition grieves,
Know that the lightning sanctifies below
Whate’er it strikes; - yon head is doubly sacred now.
Italia! O Italia! thou who hast
The fatal gift of beauty, which became
A funeral dower of present woes and past,
On thy sweet brow is sorrow ploughed by shame,
And annals graved in characters of flame.
Oh God! that thou wert in thy nakedness
Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim
Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press
To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress;
Then mightst thou more appal; or, less desired,
Be homely and be peaceful, undeplored
For thy destructive charms; then, still untired,
Would not be seen the armèd torrents poured
Down the deep Alps; nor would the hostile horde
Of many-nationed spoilers from the Po
Quaff blood and water; nor the stranger’s sword
Be thy sad weapon of defence, and so,
Victor or vanquished, thou the slave of friend or foe.
Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him,
The Roman friend of Rome’s least mortal mind,
The friend of Tully: as my bark did skim
The bright blue waters with a fanning wind,
Came Megara before me, and behind
Ægina lay, Piræus on the right,
And Corinth on the left; I lay reclined
Along the prow, and saw all these unite
In ruin, even as he had seen the desolate sight;
For time hath not rebuilt them, but upreared
Barbaric dwellings on their shattered site,
Which only make more mourned and more endeared
The few last rays of their far-scattered light,
And the crushed relics of their vanished might.
The Roman saw these tombs in his own age,
These sepulchres of cities, which excite
Sad wonder, and his yet surviving page
The moral lesson bears, drawn from such pilgrimage.
That page is now before me, and on mine
His country’s ruin added to the mass
Of perished states he mourned in their decline,
And I in desolation: all that was
Of then destruction is; and now, alas!
Rome - Rome imperial, bows her to the storm,
In the same dust and blackness, and we pass
The skeleton of her Titanic form,
Wrecks of another world, whose ashes still are warm.
Yet, Italy! through every other land
Thy wrongs should ring, and shall, from side to side;
Mother of Arts! as once of Arms; thy hand
Was then our Guardian, and is still our guide;
Parent of our religion! whom the wide
Nations have knelt to for the keys of heaven!
Europe, repentant of her parricide,
Shall yet redeem thee, and, all backward driven,
Roll the barbarian tide, and sue to be forgiven.
But Arno wins us to the fair white walls,
Where the Etrurian Athens claims and keeps
A softer feeling for her fairy halls.
Girt by her theatre of hills, she reaps
Her corn, and wine, and oil, and Plenty leaps
To laughing life, with her redundant horn.
Along the banks where smiling Arno sweeps,
Was modern Luxury of Commerce born,
And buried Learning rose, redeemed to a new morn.
There, too, the goddess loves in stone, and fills
The air around with beauty; we inhale
The ambrosial aspect, which, beheld, instils
Part of its immortality; the veil
Of heaven is half undrawn; within the pale
We stand, and in that form and face behold
What Mind can make, when Nature’s self would fail;
And to the fond idolaters of old
Envy the innate flash which such a soul could mould:
We gaze and turn away, and know not where,
Dazzled and drunk with beauty, till the heart
Reels with its fulness; there - for ever there -
Chained to the chariot of triumphal Art,
We stand as captives, and would not depart.
Away! - there need no words, nor terms precise,
The paltry jargon of the marble mart,
Where Pedantry gulls Folly - we have eyes:
Blood, pulse, and breast, confirm the Dardan Shepherd’s prize.
Appearedst thou not to Paris in this guise?
Or to more deeply blest Anchises? or,
In all thy perfect goddess-ship, when lies
Before thee thy own vanquished Lord of War?
And gazing in thy face as toward a star,
Laid on thy lap, his eyes to thee upturn,
Feeding on thy sweet cheek! while thy lips are
With lava kisses melting while they burn,
Showered on his eyelids, brow, and mouth, as from an urn!
Glowing, and circumfused in speechless love,
Their full divinity inadequate
That feeling to express, or to improve,
The gods become as mortals, and man’s fate
Has moments like their brightest! but the weight
Of earth recoils upon us; - let it go!
We can recall such visions, and create
From what has been, or might be, things which grow,
Into thy statue’s form, and look like gods below.
I leave to learnèd fingers, and wise hands,
The artist and his ape, to teach and tell
How well his connoisseurship understands
The graceful bend, and the voluptuous swell:
Let these describe the undescribable:
I would not their vile breath should crisp the stream
Wherein that image shall for ever dwell;
The unruffled mirror of the loveliest dream
That ever left the sky on the deep soul to beam.
In Santa Croce’s holy precincts lie
Ashes which make it holier, dust which is
E’en in itself an immortality,
Though there were nothing save the past, and this
The particle of those sublimities
Which have relapsed to chaos: - here repose
Angelo’s, Alfieri’s bones, and his,
The starry Galileo, with his woes;
Here Machiavelli’s earth returned to whence it rose.
These are four minds, which, like the elements,
Might furnish forth creation: - Italy!
Time, which hath wronged thee with ten thousand rents
Of thine imperial garment, shall deny,
And hath denied, to every other sky,
Spirits which soar from ruin: - thy decay
Is still impregnate with divinity,
Which gilds it with revivifying ray;
Such as the great of yore, Canova is to-day.
But where repose the all Etruscan three -
Dante, and Petrarch, and, scarce less than they,
The Bard of Prose, creative spirit! he
Of the Hundred Tales of love - where did they lay
Their bones, distinguished from our common clay
In death as life? Are they resolved to dust,
And have their country’s marbles nought to say?
Could not her quarries furnish forth one bust?
Did they not to her breast their filial earth entrust?
Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar,
Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore;
Thy factions, in their worse than civil war,
Proscribed the bard whose name for evermore
Their children’s children would in vain adore
With the remorse of ages; and the crown
Which Petrarch’s laureate brow supremely wore,
Upon a far and foreign soil had grown,
His life, his fame, his grave, though rifled - not thine own.
Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeathed
His dust, - and lies it not her great among,
With many a sweet and solemn requiem breathed
O’er him who formed the Tuscan’s siren tongue?
That music in itself, whose sounds are song,
The poetry of speech? No; - even his tomb
Uptorn, must bear the hyæna bigots’ wrong,
No more amidst the meaner dead find room,
Nor claim a passing sigh, because it told for whom?
And Santa Croce wants their mighty dust;
Yet for this want more noted, as of yore
The Cæsar’s pageant, shorn of Brutus’ bust,
Did but of Rome’s best son remind her more:
Happier Ravenna! on thy hoary shore,
Fortress of falling empire! honoured sleeps
The immortal exile; - Arqua, too, her store
Of tuneful relics proudly claims and keeps,
While Florence vainly begs her banished dead, and weeps.
What is her pyramid of precious stones?
Of porphyry, jasper, agate, and all hues
Of gem and marble, to encrust the bones
Of merchant-dukes? the momentary dews
Which, sparkling to the twilight stars, infuse
Freshness in the green turf that wraps the dead,
Whose names are mausoleums of the Muse,
Are gently prest with far more reverent tread
Than ever paced the slab which paves the princely head.
There be more things to greet the heart and eyes
In Arno’s dome of Art’s most princely shrine,
Where Sculpture with her rainbow sister vies;
There be more marvels yet - but not for mine;
For I have been accustomed to entwine
My thoughts with Nature rather in the fields
Than Art in galleries: though a work divine
Calls for my spirit’s homage, yet it yields
Less than it feels, because the weapon which it wields
Is of another temper, and I roam
By Thrasimene’s lake, in the defiles
Fatal to Roman rashness, more at home;
For there the Carthaginian’s warlike wiles
Come back before me, as his skill beguiles
The host between the mountains and the shore,
Where Courage falls in her despairing files,
And torrents, swoll’n to rivers with their gore,
Reek through the sultry plain, with legions scattered o’er,
Like to a forest felled by mountain winds;
And such the storm of battle on this day,
And such the frenzy, whose convulsion blinds
To all save carnage, that, beneath the fray,
An earthquake reeled unheededly away!
None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet,
And yawning forth a grave for those who lay
Upon their bucklers for a winding-sheet;
Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet.
The Earth to them was as a rolling bark
Which bore them to Eternity; they saw
The Ocean round, but had no time to mark
The motions of their vessel: Nature’s law,
In them suspended, recked not of the awe
Which reigns when mountains tremble, and the birds
Plunge in the clouds for refuge, and withdraw
From their down-toppling nests; and bellowing herds
Stumble o’er heaving plains, and man’s dread hath no words.
Far other scene is Thrasimene now;
Her lake a sheet of silver, and her plain
Rent by no ravage save the gentle plough;
Her aged trees rise thick as once the slain
Lay where their roots are; but a brook hath ta’en -
A little rill of scanty stream and bed -
A name of blood from that day’s sanguine rain;
And Sanguinetto tells ye where the dead
Made the earth wet, and turned the unwilling waters red.
But thou, Clitumnus! in thy sweetest wave
Of the most living crystal that was e’er
The haunt of river nymph, to gaze and lave
Her limbs where nothing hid them, thou dost rear
Thy grassy banks whereon the milk-white steer
Grazes; the purest god of gentle waters!
And most serene of aspect, and most clear:
Surely that stream was unprofaned by slaughters,
A mirror and a bath for Beauty’s youngest daughters!
And on thy happy shore a temple still,
Of small and delicate proportion, keeps,
Upon a mild declivity of hill,
Its memory of thee; beneath it sweeps
Thy current’s calmness; oft from out it leaps
The finny darter with the glittering scales,
Who dwells and revels in thy glassy deeps;
While, chance, some scattered water-lily sails
Down where the shallower wave still tells its bubbling tales.
Pass not unblest the genius of the place!
If through the air a zephyr more serene
Win to the brow, ’tis his; and if ye trace
Along his margin a more eloquent green,
If on the heart the freshness of the scene
Sprinkle its coolness, and from the dry dust
Of weary life a moment lave it clean
With Nature’s baptism, - ’tis to him ye must
Pay orisons for this suspension of disgust.
The roar of waters! - from the headlong height
Velino cleaves the wave-worn precipice;
The fall of waters! rapid as the light
The flashing mass foams shaking the abyss;
The hell of waters! where they howl and hiss,
And boil in endless torture; while the sweat
Of their great agony, wrung out from this
Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocks of jet
That gird the gulf around, in pitiless horror set,
And mounts in spray the skies, and thence again
Returns in an unceasing shower, which round,
With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain,
Is an eternal April to the ground,
Making it all one emerald. How profound
The gulf! and how the giant element
From rock to rock leaps with delirious bound,
Crushing the cliffs, which, downward worn and rent
With his fierce footsteps, yield in chasms a fearful vent
To the broad column which rolls on, and shows
More like the fountain of an infant sea
Torn from the womb of mountains by the throes
Of a new world, than only thus to be
Parent of rivers, which flow gushingly,
With many windings through the vale: - Look back!
Lo! where it comes like an eternity,
As if to sweep down all things in its track,
Charming the eye with dread, - a matchless cataract,
Horribly beautiful! but on the verge,
From side to side, beneath the glittering morn,
An Iris sits, amidst the infernal surge,
Like Hope upon a deathbed, and, unworn
Its steady dyes, while all around is torn
By the distracted waters, bears serene
Its brilliant hues with all their beams unshorn:
Resembling, mid the torture of the scene,
Love watching Madness with unalterable mien.
Once more upon the woody Apennine,
The infant Alps, which - had I not before
Gazed on their mightier parents, where the pine
Sits on more shaggy summits, and where roar
The thundering lauwine - might be worshipped more;
But I have seen the soaring Jungfrau rear
Her never-trodden snow, and seen the hoar
Glaciers of bleak Mont Blanc both far and near,
And in Chimari heard the thunder-hills of fear,
The Acroceraunian mountains of old name;
And on Parnassus seen the eagles fly
Like spirits of the spot, as ’twere for fame,
For still they soared unutterably high:
I’ve looked on Ida with a Trojan’s eye;
Athos, Olympus, Ætna, Atlas, made
These hills seem things of lesser dignity,
All, save the lone Soracte’s height displayed,
Not now in snow, which asks the lyric Roman’s aid
For our remembrance, and from out the plain
Heaves like a long-swept wave about to break,
And on the curl hangs pausing: not in vain
May he who will his recollections rake,
And quote in classic raptures, and awake
The hills with Latian echoes; I abhorred
Too much, to conquer for the poet’s sake,
The drilled dull lesson, forced down word by word
In my repugnant youth, with pleasure to record
Aught that recalls the daily drug which turned
My sickening memory; and, though Time hath taught
My mind to meditate what then it learned,
Yet such the fixed inveteracy wrought
By the impatience of my early thought,
That, with the freshness wearing out before
My mind could relish what it might have sought,
If free to choose, I cannot now restore
Its health; but what it then detested, still abhor.
Then farewell, Horace; whom I hated so,
Not for thy faults, but mine; it is a curse
To understand, not feel, thy lyric flow,
To comprehend, but never love thy verse,
Although no deeper moralist rehearse
Our little life, nor bard prescribe his art,
Nor livelier satirist the conscience pierce,
Awakening without wounding the touched heart,
Yet fare thee well - upon Soracte’s ridge we part.
O Rome! my country! city of the soul!
The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
Lone mother of dead empires! and control
In their shut breasts their petty misery.
What are our woes and sufferance? Come and see
The cypress, hear the owl, and plod your way
O’er steps of broken thrones and temples, Ye!
Whose agonies are evils of a day -
A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay.
The Niobe of nations! there she stands,
Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe;
An empty urn within her withered hands,
Whose holy dust was scattered long ago;
The Scipios’ tomb contains no ashes now;
The very sepulchres lie tenantless
Of their heroic dwellers: dost thou flow,
Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness?
Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress!
The Goth, the Christian, Time, War, Flood, and Fire,
Have dwelt upon the seven-hilled city’s pride:
She saw her glories star by star expire,
And up the steep barbarian monarchs ride,
Where the car climbed the Capitol; far and wide
Temple and tower went down, nor left a site; -
Chaos of ruins! who shall trace the void,
O’er the dim fragments cast a lunar light,
And say, ‘Here was, or is,’ where all is doubly night?
The double night of ages, and of her,
Night’s daughter, Ignorance, hath wrapt, and wrap
All round us; we but feel our way to err:
The ocean hath its chart, the stars their map;
And knowledge spreads them on her ample lap;
But Rome is as the desert, where we steer
Stumbling o’er recollections: now we clap
Our hands, and cry, ‘Eureka!’ it is clear -
When but some false mirage of ruin rises near.
Alas, the lofty city! and alas
The trebly hundred triumphs! and the day
When Brutus made the dagger’s edge surpass
The conqueror’s sword in bearing fame away!
Alas for Tully’s voice, and Virgil’s lay,
And Livy’s pictured page! But these shall be
Her resurrection; all beside - decay.
Alas for Earth, for never shall we see
That brightness in her eye she bore when Rome was free!
O thou, whose chariot rolled on Fortune’s wheel,
Triumphant Sylla! Thou, who didst subdue
Thy country’s foes ere thou wouldst pause to feel
The wrath of thy own wrongs, or reap the due
Of hoarded vengeance till thine eagles flew
O’er prostrate Asia; - thou, who with thy frown
Annihilated senates - Roman, too,
With all thy vices, for thou didst lay down
With an atoning smile a more than earthly crown -
The dictatorial wreath, - couldst thou divine
To what would one day dwindle that which made
Thee more than mortal? and that so supine
By aught than Romans Rome should thus be laid?
She who was named eternal, and arrayed
Her warriors but to conquer - she who veiled
Earth with her haughty shadow, and displayed
Until the o’er-canopied horizon failed,
Her rushing wings - Oh! she who was almighty hailed!
Sylla was first of victors; but our own,
The sagest of usurpers, Cromwell! - he
Too swept off senates while he hewed the throne
Down to a block - immortal rebel! See
What crimes it costs to be a moment free
And famous through all ages! But beneath
His fate the moral lurks of destiny;
His day of double victory and death
Beheld him win two realms, and, happier, yield his breath.
The third of the same moon whose former course
Had all but crowned him, on the self-same day
Deposed him gently from his throne of force,
And laid him with the earth’s preceding clay.
And showed not Fortune thus how fame and sway,
And all we deem delightful, and consume
Our souls to compass through each arduous way,
Are in her eyes less happy than the tomb?
Were they but so in man’s, how different were his doom!
And thou, dread statue! yet existent in
The austerest form of naked majesty,
Thou who beheldest, mid the assassins’ din,
At thy bathed base the bloody Cæsar lie,
Folding his robe in dying dignity,
An offering to thine altar from the queen
Of gods and men, great Nemesis! did he die,
And thou, too, perish, Pompey? have ye been
Victors of countless kings, or puppets of a scene?
And thou, the thunder-stricken nurse of Rome!
She-wolf! whose brazen-imaged dugs impart
The milk of conquest yet within the dome
Where, as a monument of antique art,
Thou standest: - Mother of the mighty heart,
Which the great founder sucked from thy wild teat,
Scorched by the Roman Jove’s ethereal dart,
And thy limbs blacked with lightning - dost thou yet
Guard thine immortal cubs, nor thy fond charge forget?
Thou dost; - but all thy foster-babes are dead -
The men of iron; and the world hath reared
Cities from out their sepulchres: men bled
In imitation of the things they feared,
And fought and conquered, and the same course steered,
At apish distance; but as yet none have,
Nor could, the same supremacy have neared,
Save one vain man, who is not in the grave,
But, vanquished by himself, to his own slaves a slave,
The fool of false dominion - and a kind
Of bastard Cæsar, following him of old
With steps unequal; for the Roman’s mind
Was modelled in a less terrestrial mould,
With passions fiercer, yet a judgment cold,
And an immortal instinct which redeemed
The frailties of a heart so soft, yet bold.
Alcides with the distaff now he seemed
At Cleopatra’s feet, and now himself he beamed.
And came, and saw, and conquered. But the man
Who would have tamed his eagles down to flee,
Like a trained falcon, in the Gallic van,
Which he, in sooth, long led to victory,
With a deaf heart which never seemed to be
A listener to itself, was strangely framed;
With but one weakest weakness - vanity:
Coquettish in ambition, still he aimed
At what? Can he avouch, or answer what he claimed?
And would be all or nothing - nor could wait
For the sure grave to level him; few years
Had fixed him with the Cæsars in his fate,
On whom we tread: For this the conqueror rears
The arch of triumph! and for this the tears
And blood of earth flow on as they have flowed,
An universal deluge, which appears
Without an ark for wretched man’s abode,
And ebbs but to reflow! - Renew thy rainbow, God!
What from this barren being do we reap?
Our senses narrow, and our reason frail,
Life short, and truth a gem which loves the deep,
And all things weighed in custom’s falsest scale;
Opinion an omnipotence, whose veil
Mantles the earth with darkness, until right
And wrong are accidents, and men grow pale
Lest their own judgments should become too bright,
And their free thoughts be crimes, and earth have too much light.
And thus they plod in sluggish misery,
Rotting from sire to son, and age to age,
Proud of their trampled nature, and so die,
Bequeathing their hereditary rage
To the new race of inborn slaves, who wage
War for their chains, and rather than be free,
Bleed gladiator-like, and still engage
Within the same arena where they see
Their fellows fall before, like leaves of the same tree.
I speak not of men’s creeds - they rest between
Man and his Maker - but of things allowed,
Averred, and known, - and daily, hourly seen -
The yoke that is upon us doubly bowed,
And the intent of tyranny avowed,
The edict of Earth’s rulers, who are grown
The apes of him who humbled once the proud,
And shook them from their slumbers on the throne;
Too glorious, were this all his mighty arm had done.
Can tyrants but by tyrants conquered be,
And Freedom find no champion and no child
Such as Columbia saw arise when she
Sprung forth a Pallas, armed and undefiled?
Or must such minds be nourished in the wild,
Deep in the unpruned forest, midst the roar
Of cataracts, where nursing nature smiled
On infant Washington? Has Earth no more
Such seeds within her breast, or Europe no such shore?
But France got drunk with blood to vomit crime,
And fatal have her Saturnalia been
To Freedom’s cause, in every age and clime;
Because the deadly days which we have seen,
And vile Ambition, that built up between
Man and his hopes an adamantine wall,
And the base pageant last upon the scene,
Are grown the pretext for the eternal thrall
Which nips Life’s tree, and dooms man’s worst - his second fall.
Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying,
Streams like the thunder-storm against the wind;
Thy trumpet-voice, though broken now and dying,
The loudest still the tempest leaves behind;
Thy tree hath lost its blossoms, and the rind,
Chopped by the axe, looks rough and little worth,
But the sap lasts, - and still the seed we find
Sown deep, even in the bosom of the North;
So shall a better spring less bitter fruit bring forth.
There is a stern round tower of other days,
Firm as a fortress, with its fence of stone,
Such as an army’s baffled strength delays,
Standing with half its battlements alone,
And with two thousand years of ivy grown,
The garland of eternity, where wave
The green leaves over all by time o’erthrown:
What was this tower of strength? within its cave
What treasure lay so locked, so hid? - A woman’s grave.
But who was she, the lady of the dead,
Tombed in a palace? Was she chaste and fair?
Worthy a king’s - or more - a Roman’s bed?
What race of chiefs and heroes did she bear?
What daughter of her beauties was the heir?
How lived - how loved - how died she? Was she not
So honoured - and conspicuously there,
Where meaner relics must not dare to rot,
Placed to commemorate a more than mortal lot?
Was she as those who love their lords, or they
Who love the lords of others? such have been
Even in the olden time, Rome’s annals say.
Was she a matron of Cornelia’s mien,
Or the light air of Egypt’s graceful queen,
Profuse of joy; or ’gainst it did she war,
Inveterate in virtue? Did she lean
To the soft side of the heart, or wisely bar
Love from amongst her griefs? - for such the affections are.
Perchance she died in youth: it may be, bowed
With woes far heavier than the ponderous tomb
That weighed upon her gentle dust, a cloud
Might gather o’er her beauty, and a gloom
In her dark eye, prophetic of the doom
Heaven gives its favourites - early death; yet shed
A sunset charm around her, and illume
With hectic light, the Hesperus of the dead,
Of her consuming cheek the autumnal leaf-like red.
Perchance she died in age - surviving all,
Charms, kindred, children - with the silver grey
On her long tresses, which might yet recall,
It may be, still a something of the day
When they were braided, and her proud array
And lovely form were envied, praised, and eyed
By Rome - But whither would Conjecture stray?
Thus much alone we know - Metella died,
The wealthiest Roman’s wife: Behold his love or pride!
I know not why - but standing thus by thee
It seems as if I had thine inmate known,
Thou Tomb! and other days come back on me
With recollected music, though the tone
Is changed and solemn, like the cloudy groan
Of dying thunder on the distant wind;
Yet could I seat me by this ivied stone
Till I had bodied forth the heated mind,
Forms from the floating wreck which ruin leaves behind;
And from the planks, far shattered o’er the rocks,
Built me a little bark of hope, once more
To battle with the ocean and the shocks
Of the loud breakers, and the ceaseless roar
Which rushes on the solitary shore
Where all lies foundered that was ever dear:
But could I gather from the wave-worn store
Enough for my rude boat, where should I steer?
There woos no home, nor hope, nor life, save what is here.
Then let the winds howl on! their harmony
Shall henceforth be my music, and the night
The sound shall temper with the owlet’s cry,
As I now hear them, in the fading light
Dim o’er the bird of darkness’ native site,
Answer each other on the Palatine,
With their large eyes, all glistening grey and bright,
And sailing pinions. - Upon such a shrine
What are our petty griefs? - let me not number mine.
Cypress and ivy, weed and wallflower grown
Matted and massed together, hillocks heaped
On what were chambers, arch crushed, column strown
In fragments, choked-up vaults, and frescoes steeped
In subterranean damps, where the owl peeped,
Deeming it midnight: - Temples, baths, or halls?
Pronounce who can; for all that Learning reaped
From her research hath been, that these are walls -
Behold the Imperial Mount! ’tis thus the mighty falls.
There is the moral of all human tales:
’Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory - when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption - barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page, - ’tis better written here,
Where gorgeous Tyranny hath thus amassed
All treasures, all delights, that eye or ear,
Heart, soul could seek, tongue ask - Away with words! draw near,
Admire, exult - despise - laugh, weep - for here
There is such matter for all feeling: - Man!
Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear,
Ages and realms are crowded in this span,
This mountain, whose obliterated plan
The pyramid of empires pinnacled,
Of Glory’s gewgaws shining in the van
Till the sun’s rays with added flame were filled!
Where are its golden roofs? where those who dared to build?
Tully was not so eloquent as thou,
Thou nameless column with the buried base!
What are the laurels of the Cæsar’s brow?
Crown me with ivy from his dwelling-place.
Whose arch or pillar meets me in the face,
Titus or Trajan’s? No; ’tis that of Time:
Triumph, arch, pillar, all he doth displace,
Scoffing; and apostolic statues climb
To crush the imperial urn, whose ashes slept sublime,
Buried in air, the deep blue sky of Rome,
And looking to the stars; they had contained
A spirit which with these would find a home,
The last of those who o’er the whole earth reigned,
The Roman globe, for after none sustained
But yielded back his conquests: - he was more
Than a mere Alexander, and unstained
With household blood and wine, serenely wore
His sovereign virtues - still we Trajan’s name adore.
Where is the rock of Triumph, the high place
Where Rome embraced her heroes? where the steep
Tarpeian - fittest goal of Treason’s race,
The promontory whence the traitor’s leap
Cured all ambition? Did the Conquerors heap
Their spoils here? Yes; and in yon field below,
A thousand years of silenced factions sleep -
The Forum, where the immortal accents glow,
And still the eloquent air breathes - burns with Cicero!
The field of freedom, faction, fame, and blood:
Here a proud people’s passions were exhaled,
From the first hour of empire in the bud
To that when further worlds to conquer failed;
But long before had Freedom’s face been veiled,
And Anarchy assumed her attributes:
Till every lawless soldier who assailed
Trod on the trembling Senate’s slavish mutes,
Or raised the venal voice of baser prostitutes.
Then turn we to our latest tribune’s name,
From her ten thousand tyrants turn to thee,
Redeemer of dark centuries of shame -
The friend of Petrarch - hope of Italy -
Rienzi! last of Romans! While the tree
Of freedom’s withered trunk puts forth a leaf,
Even for thy tomb a garland let it be -
The forum’s champion, and the people’s chief -
Her new-born Numa thou, with reign, alas! too brief.
Egeria! sweet creation of some heart
Which found no mortal resting-place so fair
As thine ideal breast; whate’er thou art
Or wert, - a young Aurora of the air,
The nympholepsy of some fond despair;
Or, it might be, a beauty of the earth,
Who found a more than common votary there
Too much adoring; whatsoe’er thy birth,
Thou wert a beautiful thought, and softly bodied forth.
The mosses of thy fountain still are sprinkled
With thine Elysian water-drops; the face
Of thy cave-guarded spring, with years unwrinkled,
Reflects the meek-eyed genius of the place,
Whose green wild margin now no more erase
Art’s works; nor must the delicate waters sleep,
Prisoned in marble, bubbling from the base
Of the cleft statue, with a gentle leap
The rill runs o’er, and round, fern, flowers, and ivy creep,
Fantastically tangled; the green hills
Are clothed with early blossoms, through the grass
The quick-eyed lizard rustles, and the bills
Of summer birds sing welcome as ye pass;
Flowers fresh in hue, and many in their class,
Implore the pausing step, and with their dyes
Dance in the soft breeze in a fairy mass;
The sweetness of the violet’s deep blue eyes,
Kissed by the breath of heaven, seems coloured by its skies.
Here didst thou dwell, in this enchanted cover,
Egeria! thy all heavenly bosom beating
For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
The purple Midnight veiled that mystic meeting
With her most starry canopy, and seating
Thyself by thine adorer, what befell?
This cave was surely shaped out for the greeting
Of an enamoured Goddess, and the cell
Haunted by holy Love - the earliest oracle!
And didst thou not, thy breast to his replying,
Blend a celestial with a human heart;
And Love, which dies as it was born, in sighing,
Share with immortal transports? could thine art
Make them indeed immortal, and impart
The purity of heaven to earthly joys,
Expel the venom and not blunt the dart -
The dull satiety which all destroys -
And root from out the soul the deadly weed which cloys?
Alas! our young affections run to waste,
Or water but the desert: whence arise
But weeds of dark luxuriance, tares of haste,
Rank at the core, though tempting to the eyes,
Flowers whose wild odours breathe but agonies,
And trees whose gums are poison; such the plants
Which spring beneath her steps as Passion flies
O’er the world’s wilderness, and vainly pants
For some celestial fruit forbidden to our wants.
O Love! no habitant of earth thou art -
An unseen seraph, we believe in thee, -
A faith whose martyrs are the broken heart,
But never yet hath seen, nor e’er shall see,
The naked eye, thy form, as it should be;
The mind hath made thee, as it peopled heaven,
Even with its own desiring phantasy,
And to a thought such shape and image given,
As haunts the unquenched soul - parched - wearied - wrung - and riven.
Of its own beauty is the mind diseased,
And fevers into false creation; - where,
Where are the forms the sculptor’s soul hath seized?
In him alone. Can Nature show so fair?
Where are the charms and virtues which we dare
Conceive in boyhood and pursue as men,
The unreached Paradise of our despair,
Which o’er-informs the pencil and the pen,
And overpowers the page where it would bloom again.
Who loves, raves - ’tis youth’s frenzy - but the cure
Is bitterer still; as charm by charm unwinds
Which robed our idols, and we see too sure
Nor worth nor beauty dwells from out the mind’s
Ideal shape of such; yet still it binds
The fatal spell, and still it draws us on,
Reaping the whirlwind from the oft-sown winds;
The stubborn heart, its alchemy begun,
Seems ever near the prize - wealthiest when most undone.
We wither from our youth, we gasp away -
Sick - sick; unfound the boon, unslaked the thirst,
Though to the last, in verge of our decay,
Some phantom lures, such as we sought at first -
But all too late, - so are we doubly curst.
Love, fame, ambition, avarice - ’tis the same -
Each idle, and all ill, and none the worst -
For all are meteors with a different name,
And death the sable smoke where vanishes the flame.
Few - none - find what they love or could have loved:
Though accident, blind contact, and the strong
Necessity of loving, have removed
Antipathies - but to recur, ere long,
Envenomed with irrevocable wrong;
And Circumstance, that unspiritual god
And miscreator, makes and helps along
Our coming evils with a crutch-like rod,
Whose touch turns hope to dust - the dust we all have trod.
Our life is a false nature - ’tis not in
The harmony of things, - this hard decree,
This uneradicable taint of sin,
This boundless upas, this all-blasting tree,
Whose root is earth, whose leaves and branches be
The skies which rain their plagues on men like dew -
Disease, death, bondage, all the woes we see -
And worse, the woes we see not - which throb through
The immedicable soul, with heart-aches ever new.
Yet let us ponder boldly - ’tis a base
Abandonment of reason to resign
Our right of thought - our last and only place
Of refuge; this, at least, shall still be mine:
Though from our birth the faculty divine
Is chained and tortured - cabined, cribbed, confined,
And bred in darkness, lest the truth should shine
Too brightly on the unpreparèd mind,
The beam pours in, for time and skill will couch the blind.
Arches on arches! as it were that Rome,
Collecting the chief trophies of her line,
Would build up all her triumphs in one dome,
Her Coliseum stands; the moonbeams shine
As ’twere its natural torches, for divine
Should be the light which streams here, to illume
This long explored but still exhaustless mine
Of contemplation; and the azure gloom
Of an Italian night, where the deep skies assume
Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven,
Floats o’er this vast and wondrous monument,
And shadows forth its glory. There is given
Unto the things of earth, which Time hath bent,
A spirit’s feeling, and where he hath leant
His hand, but broke his scythe, there is a power
And magic in the ruined battlement,
For which the palace of the present hour
Must yield its pomp, and wait till ages are its dower.
O Time! the beautifier of the dead,
Adorner of the ruin, comforter
And only healer when the heart hath bled -
Time! the corrector where our judgments err,
The test of truth, love, - sole philosopher,
For all beside are sophists, from thy thrift,
Which never loses though it doth defer -
Time, the avenger! unto thee I lift
My hands, and eyes, and heart, and crave of thee a gift:
Amidst this wreck, where thou hast made a shrine
And temple more divinely desolate,
Among thy mightier offerings here are mine,
Ruins of years - though few, yet full of fate:
If thou hast ever seen me too elate,
Hear me not; but if calmly I have borne
Good, and reserved my pride against the hate
Which shall not whelm me, let me not have worn
This iron in my soul in vain - shall they not mourn?
And thou, who never yet of human wrong
Left the unbalanced scale, great Nemesis!
Here, where the ancients paid thee homage long -
Thou, who didst call the Furies from the abyss,
And round Orestes bade them howl and hiss
For that unnatural retribution - just,
Had it but been from hands less near - in this
Thy former realm, I call thee from the dust!
Dost thou not hear my heart? - Awake! thou shalt, and must.
It is not that I may not have incurred
For my ancestral faults or mine the wound
I bleed withal, and had it been conferred
With a just weapon, it had flowed unbound.
But now my blood shall not sink in the ground;
To thee I do devote it - thou shalt take
The vengeance, which shall yet be sought and found,
Which if I have not taken for the sake -
But let that pass - I sleep, but thou shalt yet awake.
And if my voice break forth, ’tis not that now
I shrink from what is suffered: let him speak
Who hath beheld decline upon my brow,
Or seen my mind’s convulsion leave it weak;
But in this page a record will I seek.
Not in the air shall these my words disperse,
Though I be ashes; a far hour shall wreak
The deep prophetic fulness of this verse,
And pile on human heads the mountain of my curse!
That curse shall be forgiveness. - Have I not -
Hear me, my mother Earth! behold it, Heaven! -
Have I not had to wrestle with my lot?
Have I not suffered things to be forgiven?
Have I not had my brain seared, my heart riven,
Hopes sapped, name blighted, Life’s life lied away?
And only not to desperation driven,
Because not altogether of such clay
As rots into the souls of those whom I survey.
From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy
Have I not seen what human things could do?
From the loud roar of foaming calumny
To the small whisper of the as paltry few
And subtler venom of the reptile crew,
The Janus glance of whose significant eye,
Learning to lie with silence, would seem true,
And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh,
Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy.
But I have lived, and have not lived in vain:
My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
And my frame perish even in conquering pain,
But there is that within me which shall tire
Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire:
Something unearthly, which they deem not of,
Like the remembered tone of a mute lyre,
Shall on their softened spirits sink, and move
In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.
The seal is set. - Now welcome, thou dread Power
Nameless, yet thus omnipotent, which here
Walk’st in the shadow of the midnight hour
With a deep awe, yet all distinct from fear:
Thy haunts are ever where the dead walls rear
Their ivy mantles, and the solemn scene
Derives from thee a sense so deep and clear
That we become a part of what has been,
And grow unto the spot, all-seeing but unseen.
And here the buzz of eager nations ran,
In murmured pity, or loud-roared applause,
As man was slaughtered by his fellow-man.
And wherefore slaughtered? wherefore, but because
Such were the bloody circus’ genial laws,
And the imperial pleasure. - Wherefore not?
What matters where we fall to fill the maws
Of worms - on battle-plains or listed spot?
Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.
I see before me the Gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand - his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low -
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now
The arena swims around him: he is gone,
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed the wretch who won.
He heard it, but he heeded not - his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
He recked not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother - he, their sire,
Butchered to make a Roman holiday -
All this rushed with his blood - Shall he expire,
And unavenged? - Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!
But here, where murder breathed her bloody steam;
And here, where buzzing nations choked the ways,
And roared or murmured like a mountain-stream
Dashing or winding as its torrent strays;
Here, where the Roman million’s blame or praise
Was death or life, the playthings of a crowd,
My voice sounds much - and fall the stars’ faint rays
On the arena void - seats crushed, walls bowed,
And galleries, where my steps seem echoes strangely loud.
A ruin - yet what ruin! from its mass
Walls, palaces, half-cities, have been reared;
Yet oft the enormous skeleton ye pass,
And marvel where the spoil could have appeared.
Hath it indeed been plundered, or but cleared?
Alas! developed, opens the decay,
When the colossal fabric’s form is neared:
It will not bear the brightness of the day,
Which streams too much on all, years, man, have reft away.
But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there;
When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,
And the low night-breeze waves along the air,
The garland-forest, which the grey walls wear,
Like laurels on the bald first Cæsar’s head;
When the light shines serene, but doth not glare,
Then in this magic circle raise the dead:
Heroes have trod this spot - ’tis on their dust ye tread.
‘While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
And when Rome falls - the World.’ From our own land
Thus spake the pilgrims o’er this mighty wall
In Saxon times, which we are wont to call
Ancient; and these three mortal things are still
On their foundations, and unaltered all;
Rome and her Ruin past Redemption’s skill,
The World, the same wide den - of thieves, or what ye will.
Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime -
Shrine of all saints and temple of all gods,
From Jove to Jesus - spared and blest by time;
Looking tranquillity, while falls or nods
Arch, empire, each thing round thee, and man plods
His way through thorns to ashes - glorious dome!
Shalt thou not last? - Time’s scythe and tyrants’ rods
Shiver upon thee - sanctuary and home
Of art and piety - Pantheon! - pride of Rome!
Relic of nobler days, and noblest arts!
Despoiled yet perfect, with thy circle spreads
A holiness appealing to all hearts -
To art a model; and to him who treads
Rome for the sake of ages, Glory sheds
Her light through thy sole aperture; to those
Who worship, here are altars for their beads;
And they who feel for genius may repose
Their eyes on honoured forms, whose busts around them close.
There is a dungeon, in whose dim drear light
What do I gaze on? Nothing: Look again!
Two forms are slowly shadowed on my sight -
Two insulated phantoms of the brain:
It is not so: I see them full and plain -
An old man, and a female young and fair,
Fresh as a nursing mother, in whose vein
The blood is nectar: - but what doth she there,
With her unmantled neck, and bosom white and bare?
Full swells the deep pure fountain of young life,
Where on the heart and from the heart we took
Our first and sweetest nurture, when the wife,
Blest into mother, in the innocent look,
Or even the piping cry of lips that brook
No pain and small suspense, a joy perceives
Man knows not, when from out its cradled nook
She sees her little bud put forth its leaves -
What may the fruit be yet? - I know not - Cain was Eve’s.
But here youth offers to old age the food,
The milk of his own gift: - it is her sire
To whom she renders back the debt of blood
Born with her birth. No; he shall not expire
While in those warm and lovely veins the fire
Of health and holy feeling can provide
Great Nature’s Nile, whose deep stream rises higher
Than Egypt’s river: - from that gentle side
Drink, drink and live, old man! heaven’s realm holds no such tide.
The starry fable of the milky way
Has not thy story’s purity; it is
A constellation of a sweeter ray,
And sacred Nature triumphs more in this
Reverse of her decree, than in the abyss
Where sparkle distant worlds: - Oh, holiest nurse!
No drop of that clear stream its way shall miss
To thy sire’s heart, replenishing its source
With life, as our freed souls rejoin the universe.
Turn to the mole which Hadrian reared on high,
Imperial mimic of old Egypt’s piles,
Colossal copyist of deformity,
Whose travelled phantasy from the far Nile’s
Enormous model, doomed the artist’s toils
To build for giants, and for his vain earth,
His shrunken ashes, raise this dome: How smiles
The gazer’s eye with philosophic mirth,
To view the huge design which sprung from such a birth!
But lo! the dome - the vast and wondrous dome,
To which Diana’s marvel was a cell -
Christ’s mighty shrine above his martyr’s tomb!
I have beheld the Ephesian’s miracle -
Its columns strew the wilderness, and dwell
The hyæna and the jackal in their shade;
I have beheld Sophia’s bright roofs swell
Their glittering mass i’ the sun, and have surveyed
Its sanctuary the while the usurping Moslem prayed;
But thou, of temples old, or altars new,
Standest alone - with nothing like to thee -
Worthiest of God, the holy and the true,
Since Zion’s desolation, when that he
Forsook his former city, what could be,
Of earthly structures, in his honour piled,
Of a sublimer aspect? Majesty,
Power, Glory, Strength, and Beauty, all are aisled
In this eternal ark of worship undefiled.
Enter: its grandeur overwhelms thee not;
And why? it is not lessened; but thy mind,
Expanded by the genius of the spot,
Has grown colossal, and can only find
A fit abode wherein appear enshrined
Thy hopes of immortality; and thou
Shalt one day, if found worthy, so defined,
See thy God face to face, as thou dost now
His Holy of Holies, nor be blasted by his brow.
Thou movest - but increasing with th’ advance,
Like climbing some great Alp, which still doth rise,
Deceived by its gigantic elegance;
Vastness which grows - but grows to harmonise -
All musical in its immensities;
Rich marbles - richer painting - shrines where flame
The lamps of gold - and haughty dome which vies
In air with Earth’s chief structures, though their frame
Sits on the firm-set ground - and this the clouds must claim.
Thou seest not all; but piecemeal thou must break
To separate contemplation, the great whole;
And as the ocean many bays will make,
That ask the eye - so here condense thy soul
To more immediate objects, and control
Thy thoughts until thy mind hath got by heart
Its eloquent proportions, and unroll
In mighty graduations, part by part,
The glory which at once upon thee did not dart.
Not by its fault - but thine: Our outward sense
Is but of gradual grasp - and as it is
That what we have of feeling most intense
Outstrips our faint expression; e’en so this
Outshining and o’erwhelming edifice
Fools our fond gaze, and greatest of the great
Defies at first our nature’s littleness,
Till, growing with its growth, we thus dilate
Our spirits to the size of that they contemplate.
Then pause and be enlightened; there is more
In such a survey than the sating gaze
Of wonder pleased, or awe which would adore
The worship of the place, or the mere praise
Of art and its great masters, who could raise
What former time, nor skill, nor thought could plan;
The fountain of sublimity displays
Its depth, and thence may draw the mind of man
Its golden sands, and learn what great conceptions can.
Or, turning to the Vatican, go see
Laocoön’s torture dignifying pain -
A father’s love and mortal’s agony
With an immortal’s patience blending: - Vain
The struggle; vain, against the coiling strain
And gripe, and deepening of the dragon’s grasp,
The old man’s clench; the long envenomed chain
Rivets the living links, - the enormous asp
Enforces pang on pang, and stifles gasp on gasp.
Or view the Lord of the unerring bow,
The God of life, and poesy, and light -
The Sun in human limbs arrayed, and brow
All radiant from his triumph in the fight;
The shaft hath just been shot - the arrow bright
With an immortal’s vengeance; in his eye
And nostril beautiful disdain, and might
And majesty, flash their full lightnings by,
Developing in that one glance the Deity.
But in his delicate form - a dream of Love,
Shaped by some solitary nymph, whose breast
Longed for a deathless lover from above,
And maddened in that vision - are expressed
All that ideal beauty ever blessed
The mind within its most unearthly mood,
When each conception was a heavenly guest -
A ray of immortality - and stood
Starlike, around, until they gathered to a god?
And if it be Prometheus stole from heaven
The fire which we endure, it was repaid
By him to whom the energy was given
Which this poetic marble hath arrayed
With an eternal glory - which, if made
By human hands, is not of human thought
And Time himself hath hallowed it, nor laid
One ringlet in the dust - nor hath it caught
A tinge of years, but breathes the flame with which ’twas wrought.
But where is he, the pilgrim of my song,
The being who upheld it through the past?
Methinks he cometh late and tarries long.
He is no more - these breathings are his last;
His wanderings done, his visions ebbing fast,
And he himself as nothing: - if he was
Aught but a phantasy, and could be classed
With forms which live and suffer - let that pass -
His shadow fades away into Destruction’s mass,
Which gathers shadow, substance, life, and all
That we inherit in its mortal shroud,
And spreads the dim and universal pall
Thro’ which all things grow phantoms; and the cloud
Between us sinks and all which ever glowed,
Till Glory’s self is twilight, and displays
A melancholy halo scarce allowed
To hover on the verge of darkness; rays
Sadder than saddest night, for they distract the gaze,
And send us prying into the abyss,
To gather what we shall be when the frame
Shall be resolved to something less than this
Its wretched essence; and to dream of fame,
And wipe the dust from off the idle name
We never more shall hear, - but never more,
Oh, happier thought! can we be made the same:
It is enough, in sooth, that once we bore
These fardels of the heart - the heart whose sweat was gore.
Hark! forth from the abyss a voice proceeds,
A long, low distant murmur of dread sound,
Such as arises when a nation bleeds
With some deep and immedicable wound;
Through storm and darkness yawns the rending ground.
The gulf is thick with phantoms, but the chief
Seems royal still, though with her head discrowned,
And pale, but lovely, with maternal grief
She clasps a babe, to whom her breast yields no relief.
Scion of chiefs and monarchs, where art thou?
Fond hope of many nations, art thou dead?
Could not the grave forget thee, and lay low
Some less majestic, less beloved head?
In the sad midnight, while thy heart still bled,
The mother of a moment, o’er thy boy,
Death hushed that pang for ever: with thee fled
The present happiness and promised joy
Which filled the imperial isles so full it seemed to cloy.
Peasants bring forth in safety. - Can it be,
O thou that wert so happy, so adored!
Those who weep not for kings shall weep for thee,
And Freedom’s heart, grown heavy, cease to hoard
Her many griefs for One; for she had poured
Her orisons for thee, and o’er thy head
Beheld her Iris. - Thou, too, lonely lord,
And desolate consort - vainly wert thou wed!
The husband of a year! the father of the dead!
Of sackcloth was thy wedding garment made:
Thy bridal’s fruit is ashes; in the dust
The fair-haired Daughter of the Isles is laid,
The love of millions! How we did entrust
Futurity to her! and, though it must
Darken above our bones, yet fondly deemed
Our children should obey her child, and blessed
Her and her hoped-for seed, whose promise seemed
Like star to shepherd’s eyes; ’twas but a meteor beamed.
Woe unto us, not her; for she sleeps well:
The fickle reek of popular breath, the tongue
Of hollow counsel, the false oracle,
Which from the birth of monarchy hath rung
Its knell in princely ears, till the o’erstrung
Nations have armed in madness, the strange fate
Which tumbles mightiest sovereigns, and hath flung
Against their blind omnipotence a weight
Within the opposing scale, which crushes soon or late, -
These might have been her destiny; but no,
Our hearts deny it: and so young, so fair,
Good without effort, great without a foe;
But now a bride and mother - and now there!
How many ties did that stern moment tear!
From thy Sire’s to his humblest subject’s breast
Is linked the electric chain of that despair,
Whose shock was as an earthquake’s, and oppressed
The land which loved thee so, that none could love thee best.
Lo, Nemi! navelled in the woody hills
So far, that the uprooting wind which tears
The oak from his foundation, and which spills
The ocean o’er its boundary, and bears
Its foam against the skies, reluctant spares
The oval mirror of thy glassy lake;
And, calm as cherished hate, its surface wears
A deep cold settled aspect nought can shake,
All coiled into itself and round, as sleeps the snake.
And near Albano’s scarce divided waves
Shine from a sister valley; - and afar
The Tiber winds, and the broad ocean laves
The Latian coast where sprung the Epic war,
‘Arms and the Man,’ whose reascending star
Rose o’er an empire, - but beneath thy right
Tully reposed from Rome; - and where yon bar
Of girdling mountains intercepts the sight,
The Sabine farm was tilled, the weary bard’s delight.
But I forget. - My pilgrim’s shrine is won,
And he and I must part, - so let it be, -
His task and mine alike are nearly done;
Yet once more let us look upon the sea:
The midland ocean breaks on him and me,
And from the Alban mount we now behold
Our friend of youth, that ocean, which when we
Beheld it last by Calpe’s rock unfold
Those waves, we followed on till the dark Euxine rolled
Upon the blue Symplegades: long years -
Long, though not very many - since have done
Their work on both; some suffering and some tears
Have left us nearly where we had begun:
Yet not in vain our mortal race hath run,
We have had our reward - and it is here;
That we can yet feel gladdened by the sun,
And reap from earth, sea, joy almost as dear
As if there were no man to trouble what is clear.
Oh! that the Desert were my dwelling-place,
With one fair Spirit for my minister,
That I might all forget the human race,
And, hating no one, love but only her!
Ye Elements! - in whose ennobling stir
I feel myself exalted - can ye not
Accord me such a being? Do I err
In deeming such inhabit many a spot?
Though with them to converse can rarely be our lot.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean - roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin - his control
Stops with the shore; - upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.
His steps are not upon thy paths, - thy fields
Are not a spoil for him, - thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth: - there let him lay.
The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,
And monarchs tremble in their capitals.
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armada’s pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee -
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters washed them power while they were free
And many a tyrant since: their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou,
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play -
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow -
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsed - in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; - boundless, endless, and sublime -
The image of Eternity - the throne
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee: thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wantoned with thy breakers - they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror - ’twas a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane - as I do here.
My task is done - my song hath ceased - my theme
Has died into an echo; it is fit
The spell should break of this protracted dream.
The torch shall be extinguished which hath lit
My midnight lamp - and what is writ, is writ -
Would it were worthier! but I am not now
That which I have been - and my visions flit
Less palpably before me - and the glow
Which in my spirit dwelt is fluttering, faint, and low.
Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been -
A sound which makes us linger; yet, farewell!
Ye, who have traced the Pilgrim to the scene
Which is his last, if in your memories dwell
A thought which once was his, if on ye swell
A single recollection, not in vain
He wore his sandal-shoon and scallop shell;
Farewell! with him alone may rest the pain,
If such there were - with you, the moral of his strain.
Looking at a tree see its fruit; looking at a man see his deeds.
Genesis BK V
(ll. 235-236) "...Eat freely of the fruit of every other tree.
From that one tree refrain. Beware of its fruit. And ye shall
know no dearth of pleasant things."
(ll. 237-245) Eagerly they bowed them down before the King of
heaven, and gave Him thanks for all, for His teachings and
counsels. And He gave them that land to dwell in. Then the Holy
Lord, the Steadfast King, departed into heaven. And the
creatures of His hand abode together on the earth. They had no
whit of care to grieve them, but only to do the will of God for
ever. Dear were they unto God as long as they would keep His
Success comes to those who dare and act,
Love comes to those who wait and care,
But my mind to you is like the wind blowing behind you;
For true-love is never bought with money.
It only comes straight from the heart,
And i am like one in the belly of the fish;
And out of the abundance of my lovely heart to love you.
The mouth truly speak out words,
And a tree is known by its fruits;
And you are the only lover i know.
That which fell down from the table had been eaten by the dogs,
But let the trees of the forest clap their hands!
For you are called Deaver and your lovely muse is in the bush,
But the heavens are higher than the earth;
And my love will rest on you always.
The Fields Of Flanders
Last year the fields were all glad and gay
With silver daisies and silver may;
There were kingcups gold by the river's edge
And primrose stars under every hedge.
This year the fields are trampled and brown,
The hedges are broken and beaten down,
And where the primroses used to grow
Are little black crosses set in a row.
And the flower of hopes, and the flowers of dreams,
The noble, fruitful, beautiful schemes,
The tree of life with its fruit and bud,
Are trampled down in the mud and the blood.
The changing seasons will bring again
The magic of Spring to our wood and plain;
Though the Spring be so green as never was seen
The crosses will still be black in the green.
The God of battles shall judge the foe
Who trampled our country and laid her low. . . .
God! hold our hands on the reckoning day,
Lest all we owe them we should repay
Spots On A Paint Rag
Spots on a paint rag trying to figure out
if they're part of a larger picture.
Daubs and smudges and smears of black and red.
Topographies of dry thick ridges of blue acrylic,
peach-coloured mesas bruised
by the encroaching violets of dusk in a painted desert.
Are these the wanna-be windows of life
who failed to achieve a whole and harmonious view
of what they're doing here swiping off knives
thick with the gore of cadmium red,
cleaning off brushes that get to go out
on the field to caress and poke
stars and trees into being? Waterboys, not players.
I say the word, life, and I feel tonight like
the heaviness of a bell that's supplanted my heart.
The right root, but the wrong blossom.
Even though I'd melt that bell
back down into raucous cannon
to defend the concept to my very last breath.
But tonight I'm tunnelling under the foundations
of the cornerstones of life to bring
the walls down on top of my head,
like an avalanche of prophetic skulls
to just get a peek inside the grand paradigm,
the white light of the gessoed underpainting.
The secret garden with low-hanging fruit
on easy street with the sacred whores of Babylon.
An existential sadness, deep as a death-wound,
as if I'd just been stabbed in the heart
by the hands of a clock that mistook me for an intruder,
undermines me from below, a pyramid built on quicksand.
As if all those who had drowned in life
like fish up over their gills in water
were swimming in the watershed of every tear
that almost makes it up over the top of the dam
I try to throw up like a manly front to what
I know I won't be able to hold back for long.
And there go the villages in the flooded valley
I tried to live among like a neighbourly mountain
come to Muhammad on the way up and down.
It's cold and lonely and the air is thin
at the peaks of experience, with only
a star and a cloud for company.
The hard diamond in the rough I used to be
has grown mushy over the years. Tears.
Imagine that. Warm, salt seas with undulant tides
of emotion coursing in and out,
the way we breathe, the way we live and die,
unite and separate, pour our shining
down an inexhaustible black hole
like Parthian gold into Crassus' mouth
in the hope of efflorescing like the bird fountain
of a better world on the other side of hyperspace.
Armed with some decent human attitudes,
and a few that are wholly out of bounds,
no reason my mind can catalyse out of chaos
that I should feel the sorrows of the discarded colours
on a paint rag like the afterbirth of the universe
that's gone on to greater things than road kill.
I feel the deep grief of widowed eclipses
and the creeping shame of sunspots
that were born into a maculate caste
of estranged birthmarks on the forehead of a lighthouse.
Space is warped like water by some unknown
disturbance in the pond. And I can't discern from here
whether it's a crack in the dam
or a birth sac ripe enough for its waters to break
and wash me out to sea like
the flotsam and jetsam of a shipwrecked lifeboat.
I hear the lilac whispering into blossom.
I see the starlings building their nests
in the corners of my third eye and the spiders
weaving mandalas between the witching wands
of the aspen saplings trying to transcend their roots.
Still, time seems studiously impersonal
and more matter-of-fact about suffering
than perhaps it really is. The mind is an artist.
Able to paint the worlds. As they say in Zen.
And I can see so clearly even through this cloud of unknowing
the kind of world I'd love to live in,
giving it my full assent in peace and contentment,
as long as I never lost the hunger that desires these things
and no one else had to live like a ratty old towel
abused as a paint rag by the shroud of Tourin.
Yet I can't help feeling I've spent
my whole life trying to piece a lost constellation
back together again from leftover stars
that don't have a clue what they're shining amounts to.
In the stained, marked for life, castaway things of the world,
in the eyeless dreams of aborted inspirations,
in the twenty million dollars an hour we waste on war,
in the eyes of the twenty-five million children a year
who are starving to death globally in civilizations
based upon agriculture, I'm looking
for the trashed masterpiece of a paint rag
soaked in the blood of hemorrhaging roses
that might have parted our eyelids like the Red Sea
or a gallery on opening night to a vision
of what they might have done had they lived
to do things differently and their genius and beauty
not been squandered like blood for oil
or the waters of life learned to mingle more olaceously
with oil slicks in the womb of the dark mother
like an alternate medium of creative expression
that wasn't shunned like the evil skin of a shedding rat snake.
There's an expanding emptiness in my heart,
a vacuum nature abhors like a miscarriage
of what I hoped to wake up to the day after tomorrow
like the smile of an enigmatic Mona Lisa
that didn't die in childbirth married to a banker.
What faces reside in a paint rag
I might have fallen in love with at first sight,
what mind, moon, sea, sky and landscapes
might have sat on my easel like windows in space
that might have shown me a way out of here
like the eye of a hurricane at the end of a telescope
that made things at a great distance appear
larger and more astronomically intimate than they seem
when no one's trying to paint the other end of the lens
by wiping their glass slippers off on the grass
as if the princess just stepped into a mess of Hooker's green.
Disoriented hues of colour blind rainbows, who knows
how many faces have been wiped off on a towel
with the big, sad, musing eyes of luminous gazelles?
How many cardinals nesting in red cedar trees
were wiped off the canvas like lipstick on the moon
when the sun went Puritan, midnight at noon,
and scourged the scarlet letter of the kissing stone
until nothing was left of humanity
but the purged shadows of an abstract divinity
that burned a hundred thousand women
foxed out like witch hunts in the seventeenth century
at the stake of a principle that stood up to the flames
like the backbone of a heretic
with a streak of Payne's Grey in her nature
slashing at the orange sunset
with a painting knife in her hands
at those who resented the concupiscence
and dark innocence of her sacred body and soul
and saw her go up in flames
like a bouquet of sable paintbrushes
stacked at her feet like the pyre of the phoenix to come.
Sooner transform the emptiness into something
as absurd as it is meaningful, than ponder the waste
of a good mirage trying to look
for real water down a wishing well.
Sooner try to patch the tear in the sky
that rips me open under full sail running before the wind
and lets all the stars come pouring out
I was saving for a rainy day, with a paint rag,
a discarded face towel sadder
than viridian pine trees in the distance
with an aerial perspective of pthalo blue
gentled and blanched by the intervening atmosphere.
That said and done until the sky drys
I'd rather wear the patches of a compassionate clown
like paint rags on the Sufi blue of my cerulean robes.
I'd rather walk in a pauper's clothes to show
my solidarity with the cast offs of creation,
not just finished canvases with artsy attitudes
in stiff upper collars and colours
that match the wallpaper like seasonal mood swings.
Sometimes it breaks my heart from the inside out,
it guts me like a tube of alizarin crimson
to see all these fledglings strewn at the foot of my easel,
my tree, my loom, my lean to, like the paint rags
of crumpled, ruined, leftover lives
that couldn't quite make it as flying carpets.
But I'm not going to forget the ashen sorrows
and habitable earth-tones of starmud
under the winged heels of inspiration.
As for me and my zodiacal house of ill-repute,
my renegade observatory on the wrong side of the tracks,
I'm going to ride this wavelength of light out to the very end
where the wildflowers open
like the complementary loveletters
of a colour wheel, a rainbow come full circle,
unbroken just for them.
The donkey looks into the well.
The well looks back at the donkey.
Art. Life. Zen.
When the line turns round
the donkey at the end is in the lead.
Yesterday's bleeding paint rag.
Tomorrow's aesthetic creed.
We look for her that sunlike stood
Upon the forehead of our day,
An orb of nations, radiating food
For body and for mind alway.
Where is the Shape of glad array;
The nervous hands, the front of steel,
The clarion tongue? Where is the bold proud face?
We see a vacant place;
We hear an iron heel.
O she that made the brave appeal
For manhood when our time was dark,
And from our fetters drove the spark
Which was as lightning to reveal
New seasons, with the swifter play
Of pulses, and benigner day;
She that divinely shook the dead
From living man; that stretched ahead
Her resolute forefinger straight,
And marched toward the gloomy gate
Of earth's Untried, gave note, and in
The good name of Humanity
Called forth the daring vision! she,
She likewise half corrupt of sin,
Angel and Wanton! can it be?
Her star has foundered in eclipse,
The shriek of madness on her lips;
Shreds of her, and no more, we see.
There is horrible convulsion, smothered din,
As of one that in a grave-cloth struggles to be free.
Look not for spreading boughs
On the riven forest tree.
Look down where deep in blood and mire
Black thunder plants his feet and ploughs
The soil for ruin: that is France:
Still thrilling like a lyre,
Amazed to shivering discord from a fall
Sudden as that the lurid hosts recall
Who met in heaven the irreparable mischance.
O that is France!
The brilliant eyes to kindle bliss,
The shrewd quick lips to laugh and kiss,
Breasts that a sighing world inspire,
And laughter-dimpled countenance
Where soul and senses caught desire!
Ever invoking fire from heaven, the fire
Has grasped her, unconsumable, but framed
For all the ecstasies of suffering dire.
Mother of Pride, her sanctuary shamed:
Mother of Delicacy, and made a mark
For outrage: Mother of Luxury, stripped stark:
Mother of Heroes, bondsmen: thro' the rains,
Across her boundaries, lo the league-long chains!
Fond Mother of her martial youth; they pass,
Are spectres in her sight, are mown as grass!
Mother of Honour, and dishonoured: Mother
Of Glory, she condemned to crown with bays
Her victor, and be fountain of his praise.
Is there another curse? There is another:
Compassionate her madness: is she not
Mother of Reason? she that sees them mown
Like grass, her young ones! Yea, in the low groan
And under the fixed thunder of this hour
Which holds the animate world in one foul blot
Tranced circumambient while relentless Power
Beaks at her heart and claws her limbs down-thrown,
She, with the plungeing lightnings overshot,
With madness for an armour against pain,
With milkless breasts for little ones athirst,
And round her all her noblest dying in vain,
Mother of Reason is she, trebly cursed,
To feel, to see, to justify the blow;
Chamber to chamber of her sequent brain
Gives answer of the cause of her great woe,
Inexorably echoing thro' the vaults,
''Tis thus they reap in blood, in blood who sow:
'This is the sum of self-absolved faults.'
Doubt not that thro' her grief, with sight supreme,
Thro' her delirium and despair's last dream,
Thro' pride, thro' bright illusion and the brood
Bewildering of her various Motherhood,
The high strong light within her, tho' she bleeds,
Traces the letters of returned misdeeds.
She sees what seed long sown, ripened of late,
Bears this fierce crop; and she discerns her fate
From origin to agony, and on
As far as the wave washes long and wan
Off one disastrous impulse: for of waves
Our life is, and our deeds are pregnant graves
Blown rolling to the sunset from the dawn.
Ah, what a dawn of splendour, when her sowers
Went forth and bent the necks of populations
And of their terrors and humiliations
Wove her the starry wreath that earthward lowers
Now in the figure of a burning yoke!
Her legions traversed North and South and East,
Of triumph they enjoyed the glutton's feast:
They grafted the green sprig, they lopped the oak.
They caught by the beard the tempests, by the scalp
The icy precipices, and clove sheer through
The heart of horror of the pinnacled Alp,
Emerging not as men whom mortals knew.
They were the earthquake and the hurricane,
The lightnings and the locusts, plagues of blight,
Plagues of the revel: they were Deluge rain,
And dreaded Conflagration; lawless Might.
Death writes a reeling line along the snows,
Where under frozen mists they may be tracked,
Who men and elements provoked to foes,
And Gods: they were of god and beast compact:
Abhorred of all. Yet, how they sucked the teats
Of Carnage, thirsty issue of their dam,
Whose eagles, angrier than their oriflamme,
Flushed the vext earth with blood, green earth forgets.
The gay young generations mask her grief;
Where bled her children hangs the loaded sheaf.
Forgetful is green earth; the Gods alone
Remember everlastingly: they strike
Remorselessly, and ever like for like.
By their great memories the Gods are known.
They are with her now, and in her ears, and known.
'Tis they that cast her to the dust for Strength,
Their slave, to feed on her fair body's length,
That once the sweetest and the proudest shone;
Scoring for hideous dismemberment
Her limbs, as were the anguish-taking breath
Gone out of her in the insufferable descent
From her high chieftainship; as were she death,
Who hears a voice of justice, feels the knife
Of torture, drinks all ignominy of life.
They are with her, and the painful Gods might weep,
If ever rain of tears came out of heaven
To flatter Weakness and bid conscience sleep,
Viewing the woe of this Immortal, driven
For the soul's life to drain the maddening cup
Of her own children's blood implacably:
Unsparing even as they to furrow up
The yellow land to likeness of a sea:
The bountiful fair land of vine and grain,
Of wit and grace and ardour, and strong roots,
Fruits perishable, imperishable fruits;
Furrowed to likeness of the dim grey main
Behind the black obliterating cyclone.
Behold, the Gods are with her, and are known.
Whom they abandon misery persecutes
No more: them half-eyed apathy may loan
The happiness of pitiable brutes.
Whom the just Gods abandon have no light,
No ruthless light of introspective eyes
That in the midst of misery scrutinize
The heart and its iniquities outright.
They rest, they smile and rest; have earned perchance
Of ancient service quiet for a term;
Quiet of old men dropping to the worm;
And so goes out the soul. But not of France.
She cries for grief, and to the Gods she cries,
For fearfully their loosened hands chastize,
And icily they watch the rod's caress
Ravage her flesh from scourges merciless,
But she, inveterate of brain, discerns
That Pity has as little place as Joy
Among their roll of gifts; for Strength she yearns.
For Strength, her idol once, too long her toy.
Lo, Strength is of the plain root-Virtues born:
Strength shall ye gain by service, prove in scorn,
Train by endurance, by devotion shape.
Strength is not won by miracle or rape.
It is the offspring of the modest years,
The gift of sire to son, thro' those firm laws
Which we name Gods; which are the righteous cause,
The cause of man, and manhood's ministers.
Could France accept the fables of her priests,
Who blest her banners in this game of beasts,
And now bid hope that heaven will intercede
To violate its laws in her sore need,
She would find comfort in their opiates:
Mother of Reason! can she cheat the Fates?
Would she, the champion of the open mind,
The Omnipotent's prime gift--the gift of growth -
Consent even for a night-time to be blind,
And sink her soul on the delusive sloth,
For fruits ethereal and material, both,
In peril of her place among mankind?
The Mother of the many Laughters might
Call one poor shade of laughter in the light
Of her unwavering lamp to mark what things
The world puts faith in, careless of the truth:
What silly puppet-bodies danced on strings,
Attached by credence, we appear in sooth,
Demanding intercession, direct aid,
When the whole tragic tale hangs on a broken blade!
She swung the sword for centuries; in a day
It slipped her, like a stream cut off from source.
She struck a feeble hand, and tried to pray,
Clamoured of treachery, and had recourse
To drunken outcries in her dream that Force
Needed but hear her shouting to obey.
Was she not formed to conquer? The bright plumes
Of crested vanity shed graceful nods:
Transcendent in her foundries, Arts and looms,
Had France to fear the vengeance of the Gods?
Her faith was on her battle-roll of names
Sheathed in the records of old war; with dance
And song she thrilled her warriors and her dames,
Embracing her Dishonour: gave him France
From head to foot, France present and to come,
So she might hear the trumpet and the drum -
Bellona and Bacchante! rushing forth
On yon stout marching Schoolmen of the North.
Inveterate of brain, well knows she why
Strength failed her, faithful to himself the first:
Her dream is done, and she can read the sky,
And she can take into her heart the worst
Calamity to drug the shameful thought
Of days that made her as the man she served
A name of terror, but a thing unnerved:
Buying the trickster, by the trickster bought,
She for dominion, he to patch a throne.
Henceforth of her the Gods are known,
Open to them her breast is laid.
Inveterate of brain, heart-valiant,
Never did fairer creature pant
Before the altar and the blade!
Swift fall the blows, and men upbraid,
And friends give echo blunt and cold,
The echo of the forest to the axe.
Within her are the fires that wax
For resurrection from the mould.
She snatched at heaven's flame of old,
And kindled nations: she was weak:
Frail sister of her heroic prototype,
The Man; for sacrifice unripe,
She too must fill a Vulture's beak.
Deride the vanquished, and acclaim
The conqueror, who stains her fame,
Still the Gods love her, for that of high aim
Is this good France, the bleeding thing they stripe.
She shall rise worthier of her prototype
Thro' her abasement deep; the pain that runs
From nerve to nerve some victory achieves.
They lie like circle-strewn soaked Autumn-leaves
Which stain the forest scarlet, her fair sons!
And of their death her life is: of their blood
From many streams now urging to a flood,
No more divided, France shall rise afresh.
Of them she learns the lesson of the flesh:-
The lesson writ in red since first Time ran,
A hunter hunting down the beast in man:
That till the chasing out of its last vice,
The flesh was fashioned but for sacrifice.
Immortal Mother of a mortal host!
Thou suffering of the wounds that will not slay,
Wounds that bring death but take not life away! -
Stand fast and hearken while thy victors boast:
Hearken, and loathe that music evermore.
Slip loose thy garments woven of pride and shame:
The torture lurks in them, with them the blame
Shall pass to leave thee purer than before.
Undo thy jewels, thinking whence they came,
For what, and of the abominable name
Of her who in imperial beauty wore.
O Mother of a fated fleeting host
Conceived in the past days of sin, and born
Heirs of disease and arrogance and scorn,
Surrender, yield the weight of thy great ghost,
Like wings on air, to what the heavens proclaim
With trumpets from the multitudinous mounds
Where peace has filled the hearing of thy sons:
Albeit a pang of dissolution rounds
Each new discernment of the undying ones,
Do thou stoop to these graves here scattered wide
Along thy fields, as sunless billows roll;
These ashes have the lesson for the soul.
'Die to thy Vanity, and strain thy Pride,
Strip off thy Luxury: that thou may'st live,
Die to thyself,' they say, 'as we have died
From dear existence and the foe forgive,
Nor pray for aught save in our little space
To warn good seed to greet the fair earth's face.'
O Mother! take their counsel, and so shall
The broader world breathe in on this thy home,
Light clear for thee the counter-changing dome,
Strength give thee, like an ocean's vast expanse
Off mountain cliffs, the generations all,
Not whirling in their narrow rings of foam,
But as a river forward. Soaring France!
Now is Humanity on trial in thee:
Now may'st thou gather humankind in fee:
Now prove that Reason is a quenchless scroll;
Make of calamity thine aureole,
And bleeding head us thro' the troubles of the sea.