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Fran Lebowitz

I figure you have the same chance of winning the lottery whether you play or not.

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Patrick White

I Wish Everyone In The World Were As Mad As You Are

I wish everyone in the world were as mad as you are.
I wish everyone in the world talked the same nonsense you do
and meant as much.
Stop crying.
I wish everyone in the world were as good as you are
and didn't lie to anyone else
other than themselves
about what the truth is.
You shape chaos to your mind
like light to space
to make a habitable planet you can live on
and if it isn't round sometimes
and O doesn't always cast the same shadow
that the others mimic with theirs
I wish everyone could put on your kind of airs
and be as good to life as the kind of atmosphere you are.
Come on now.
Here.
Dry your tears with this.
All those constellations you made up
out of the stars in your eyes
are your own private myths and mandalas
and you're free to change them as you will
and I wish everyone made as much
of the light they were given to go by
as you have.
I'm too much of a thorn
to paint the delicate iridescent watercolours
I see smeared on your tender bubbles
like original pictures of the universe
from a thousand spaced-out Hubbles
but I wish everyone in the world
had your kind of genius for vulnerability.
You hold up a single feather of light
like a candle among stars
like a green leaf in the middle of winter
and the world that is inured to three dimensions
for infinitely tedious reasons
would rather put its eyes out
and gape like blackholes
than see as you do
that there are countless seasons to the soul
that burn like a phoenix
and there's nowhere you can point to in the darkness
that isn't an equinox of love and understanding
when the sun shines at midnight
and spring harvests what the autumn sows.
Having a deep cosmic insight
like a stranger beyond lucidity
into the windows of the houses of your own zodiac
might make you look like a maniac to the neighbours
who keep watch in their asylum
against any kind of freedom
that might release them from their lighthouse
like a geni from a lamp
that doesn't conform to anyone's wishs but her own
but I wish everyone had the courage
you have not to be them.
Life isn't fair or unfair.
Life isn't kind or cruel.
It isn't half-Buddha and half-fool.
Neither impersonal
nor sentimental
life isn't a kind of obedience
to its own rules
as if it were bound like God to keep its word.
Or what?
Who else is there to answer to?
All the taboos want to be thresholds
and all the thresholds
want to run away from home.
Could be a curse.
Could be a blessing.
Could be just more idle words.
But you're not like that.
You're not a fountain mouth
that mistakes alphabets for birds
and holds them to the letter of the law
in a world full of music.
It's enlightenment to sing to a window.
It's ignorance to sing to a mirror.
But you don't sing to either
and your song is clear as running water
all the way down the mountain.
The picture-music
of your eyes and your ears
can already hear the ocean from here
that gathers to receive the flowing
like the heart receives blood
like the mind receives your thoughts.
Look out at the world.
You're the host.
Look inward.
You're the guest.
You can break bread with the dead
without being a ghost.
You can drink wine with the living
and it's the wine that gets high on you
flowing into a seabed of shadows on the moon
that hasn't touched a dropp for years.
Don't believe what the cynics say about innocence.
They have the sensibilities of blackflies
trying to draw blood from the Mona Lisa.
Don't grieve if you're a butterfly
that can't follow the flightplans of the maggots.
There's only a slight difference in wingspan
between a waterbird and a phoenix
but it would take lightyears
to measure a single feather of yours.
There's no cult of the rose
that insists it fall upon its own thorns first
or the moon draw first blood
on the blades of its own crescents.
You don't have to scar
your own deathmask with experience
just to prove you knew
how to eat the pain and bleed.
You don't have to wear your face in public
as if it were something you kept up your sleeve.
Dice might be the foundation-stones of the lost
but that doesn't mean
you have to go pearl-diving
for the moon in quicksand
or change your song like a jukebox
playing the slots
when you're a mermaid on the rocks.
I wish everyone had the same chance
to risk it all as you do
and win back their lives
like eleven come of seven
insteading of seeing everything
as if they were jinxed by inasuspicious birds
turning the wrong way on a prayer-wheel
that keeps coming up snake-eyes
with every roll of their skulls.
You can't heal the luck
of a wounded Nazi
by turning his swastika the other way.
You can't teach snakes to bite other people.
And you don't know enough
if there's anything left to say or understand
and even then there's a silence
that still longs to be heard
like a humming bird sipping honey from your ears
or deep in a telescopic wishing well of stars
burning in a dream of mirrors
they walk across
like fire on the water
or the distant blue notes
of the hidden nightbird
that echoes your tears
as if it were crying out in the darkness
from the safety of a secret place
for the same reasons you are.
As if it were trying to befriend its own sorrow
and weep for tomorrow as you do
for all the things of the past
it won't even know it's missing.
I wish everyone in the world
could live the future as you do
as something that is already happening now.
Even when you're crying
because you don't think you're brave enough
not to.
You're not a lame princess
that anyone needs to rescue.
You're a dragon bringing rain.
And if the snakepit hisses at you
like a social structure
and calls you insane sometimes
because you have wings
and they still hug the earth
all tied up in knots
taking their poisons out on each other
to keep from feeling anything
it's just their way of defining sanity
by the standards of the numbest.
It's not you that's crazy.
It's not you that's the dumbest.
I wish everyone in the world
were as warm-blooded and wise as you are.
When the serpent fire at the base of your spine
has passed through the doors
of all your chakras like vertebrae
and you're already a circumpolar constellation j
just a little off true north
shining like Draco
why worry if you're no good
at the game of snakes and ladders
they play like politics and religion back here on earth
to see who gets to be the pillar
and who the quicksand.
You understand way more than that.
I can tell by the fire in your eyes
that you're a phoenix among stars
and you've transcended the eagles and the houseflies
that can't even begin to imagine
the kind of heights you can reach to
or the depth of the view below you
when you're riding your own thermals
like beautiful helices in the mindstream
for the sheer joy of being only you.
Even now.
These tears
that run all the way down to your lips
as if water had fingertips
what are they
but the way you cry for things
that everyone else didn't?
I wish everyone in the world could be like you.
I wish you could teach us all
to stop living a spiritual lie
on the deathbed of an earthly truth
as if that were the only way
to foolproof ourselves
against reality
like a stranger looking through our windows at night
who doesn't recognize herself in us
because most of us aren't as brave and free as you are
to leave the door ajar
and let whatever wants to come in
come in.
Some track in mud.
Some.
Stars.
And the mud flowers in light.
And the stars bloom in fire.
And one looks up
and the other looks down
on each other's likeness
reflected in the other
as if they were engendered by the same being.
Sight is a kind of love
and I wish everyone in the world
were inspired by the mystic dimensions
and intimate clarity of your kind of seeing
that even through these tears
that I'm not having much luck in wiping away
can comprehend a world
that's more wonderful than it thinks it is.

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Qualified by experience for M 'lady Tara

The university of life
does not award fancy degrees.
Nor does it charge tuition fees.

Enrols you automatically
at birth involuntarily.
Provides the opportunity.

To learn by hard experience.
The lessons that you need to know.
The trials you must undergo.

The challenges you have to face.
Determine if you pass or fail.
What matters is that you prevail.

Pursue your dreams relentlessly.
Success or failure’s up to you
You will receive what you are due.

No more no less than what you’ve earned.
With life experience as your guide
you face the future qualified.

To over come the obstacles
which are imposed by circumstance.
At least you have a fighting chance.

Paper degrees don’t guarantee
that you can face adversity.
And win hands down defiantly.

Unlike life’s university.
Which teaches you what you can do
to overcome what troubles you.

06/08/2009
http: // blog.myspace.com/poeticpiers.

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Hermann And Dorothea - VII. Erato

DOROTHEA.

As the man on a journey, who, just at the moment of sunset,
Fixes his gaze once more on the rapidly vanishing planet,
Then on the side of the rocks and in the dark thicket still sees he
Hov'ring its image; wherever he turns his looks, on in front still
Runs it, and glitters and wavers before him in colours all splendid,
So before Hermanns eyes did the beautiful form of the maiden
Softly move, and appear'd to follow the path through the cornfields.

But he roused himself up from his startling dream, and then slowly
Turn'd tow'rd the village his steps, and once more started,--for once more
Saw he the noble maiden's stately figure approaching.
Fixedly gazed he; it was no phantom in truth; she herself 'twas
In her hands by the handle she carried two pitchers,--one larger,
One of a smaller size, and nimbly walk'd to the fountain.
And he joyfully went to meet her; the sight of her gave him
Courage and strength, and so he address'd the surprised one as follows:--
'Do I find you again, brave maiden, engaged in assisting
Others so soon, and in giving refreshment to those who may need it?
Tell me why you have come all alone to the spring so far distant,
Whilst the rest are content with the water that's found in the village?
This one, indeed, special virtue possesses, and pleasant to drink is.
Is't for the sake of that sick one you come, whom you saved with such courage?'

Then the good maiden the youth in friendly fashion saluted,
Saying:--'Already my walk to the fountain is fully rewarded,
Since I have found the kind person who gave us so many good presents;
For the sight of a giver, like that of a gift, is refreshing.
Come and see for yourself the persons who tasted your kindness,
And receive the tranquil thanks of all you have aided.
But that you may know the reason why I have come here,
Water to draw at a spot where the spring is both pure and unceasing,
I must inform you that thoughtless men have disturb'd all the water
Found in the village, by carelessly letting the horses and oxen
Wade about in the spring which give the inhabitants water.
In the same manner, with all their washing and cleaning they've dirtied
All the troughs of the village, and all the fountains have sullied.
For each one of them only thinks how quickly and soon he
May supply his own wants, and cares not for those who come after.'

Thus she spoke, and soon she arrived at the foot of the broad steps
With her companion, and both of them sat themselves down on the low wall
Round the spring. She bent herself over, to draw out the water,
He the other pitcher took up, and bent himself over,
And in the blue of the heavens they saw their figures reflected,
Waving, and nodding, and in the mirror their greetings exchanging.
'Now let me drink,' exclaim'd the youth in accents of gladness.
And she gave him the pitcher. They then, like old friends, sat together,
Leaning against the vessels, when she address'd him as follows
'Say, why find I you here without your carriage and horses,
Far from the place where first I saw you. Pray how came you hither?'

Hermann thoughtfully gazed on the ground, but presently lifted
Calmly towards her his glances, and gazed on her face in kind fashion,
Feeling quite calm and composed. And yet with love to address her
Found he quite out of the question; for love from her eyes was not beaming,
But an intellect clear, which bade him use sensible language.
Soon he collected his thoughts, and quietly said to the maiden:--
'Let me speak, my child, and let me answer your questions.
''Tis for your sake alone I have come,--why seek to conceal it?
For I happily live with two affectionate parents,
Whom I faithfully help to look after our house and possessions,
Being an only son, while numerous are our employments.
I look after the field work; the house is carefully managed
By my father; my mother the hostelry cheers and enlivens.
But you also have doubtless found out how greatly the servants,
Sometimes by fraud, and sometimes by levity, worry their mistress,
Constantly making her change them, and barter one fault for another.
Long has my mother, therefore, been wanting a girl in the household,
Who, not only with hand, but also with heart might assist her,
In the place of the daughter she lost, alas, prematurely.
Now when I saw you to-day near the carriage, so active and sprightly,
Saw the strength of your arm and the perfect health of your members,
When I heard your sensible words, I was struck with amazement,
And I hasten'd back home, deservedly praising the stranger
Both to my parents and friends. And now I come to inform you
What they desire, as I do. Forgive my stammering language!'

'Do not hesitate,' said she, 'to tell me the rest of your story
I have with gratitude felt that you have not sought to insult me.
Speak on boldly, I pray; your words shall never alarm me;
You would fain hire me now as maid to your father and mother,
To look after the house, which now is in excellent order.
And you think that in me you have found a qualified maiden,
One that is able to work, and not of a quarrelsome nature.
Your proposal was short, and short shall my answer be also
Yes! with you I will go, and the voice of my destiny follow.
I have fulfill'd my duty, and brought the lying-in woman
Back to her friends again, who all rejoice at her rescue.
Most of them now are together, the rest will presently join them.
All expect that they, in a few short days, will be able
Homewards to go; 'tis thus that exiles themselves love to flatter.
But I cannot deceive myself with hopes so delusive
In these sad days which promise still sadder days in the future
For all the bonds of the world are loosen'd, and nought can rejoin them,
Save that supreme necessity over our future impending.
If in the house of so worthy a man I can earn my own living,
Serving under the eye of his excellent wife, I will do so;
For a wandering girl bears not the best reputation.
Yes! with you I will go, as soon as I've taken the pitcher
Back to my friends, and received the blessing of those worthy people.
Come! you needs must see them, and from their hands shall receive me.'

Joyfully heard the youth the willing maiden's decision,
Doubting whether he now had not better tell her the whole truth;
But it appear'd to him best to let her remain in her error,
First to take her home, and then for her love to entreat her.
Ah! but now he espied a golden ring on her finger,
And so let her speak, while he attentively listen'd:--

'Let us now return,' she continued, 'the custom is always
To admonish the maidens who tarry too long at the fountain,
Yet how delightful it is by the fast-flowing water to chatter!'
Then they both arose, and once more directed their glances
Into the fountain, and then a blissful longing came o'er them.

So from the ground by the handles she silently lifted the pitchers,
Mounted the steps of the well, and Hermann follow'd the loved one.
One of the pitchers he ask'd her to give him, thus sharing the burden.
'Leave it,' she said, 'the weight feels less when thus they are balanced;
And the master I've soon to obey, should not be my servant.
Gaze not so earnestly at me, as if my fate were still doubtfull!
Women should learn betimes to serve, according to station,
For by serving alone she attains at last to the mast'ry,
To the due influence which she ought to possess in the household.
Early the sister must learn to serve her brothers and parents,
And her life is ever a ceaseless going and coming,
Or a lifting and carrying, working and doing for others.
Well for her, if she finds no manner of life too offensive,
And if to her the hours of night and of day all the same are,
So that her work never seems too mean, her needle too pointed,
So that herself she forgets, and liveth only for others!
For as a mother in truth she needs the whole of the virtues,
When the suckling awakens the sick one, and nourishment calls for
From the exhausted parent, heaping cares upon suff'ring.
Twenty men together could not endure such a burden,
And they ought not,--and yet they gratefully ought to behold it.'

Thus she spoke, and with her silent companion advanced she
Through the garden, until the floor of the granary reach'd they,
Where the sick woman lay, whom she left by her daughters attended,
Those dear rescued maidens, the types of innocent beauty.
Both of them enter'd the room, and from the other direction,
Holding a child in each hand, her friend, the magistrate, enter'd.
These had lately been lost for some time by the sorrowing mother,
But the old man had now found them out in the crowd of the people.
And they sprang in with joy, to greet their dearly-loved mother,
To rejoice in a brother, the playmate now seen for the first time!

Then on Dorothea they sprang, and greeted her warmly,
Asking for bread and fruit, but asking for drink before all things.
And they handed the water all round. The children first drank some,
Then the sick woman drank, with her daughters, the magistrate also.
All were refresh'd, and sounded the praise of the excellent water;
Mineral was it, and very reviving, and wholesome for drinking.

Then with a serious look continued the maiden, and spoke thus
Friends, to your mouths for the last time in truth I have lifted the pitcher,
And for the last time, alas, have moisten'd your lips with pure water.
But whenever in scorching heat your drink may refresh you,
And in the shade you enjoy repose and a fountain unsullied,
Then remember me, and all my friendly assistance,
Which I from love, and not from relationship merely have render'd.
All your kindness to me, as long as life lasts, I'll remember,
I unwillingly leave you; but each one is now to each other
Rather a burden than comfort. We all must shortly be scatter'd
Over a foreign land, unless to return we are able.
See, here stands the youth to whom for those gifts we're indebted,
All those clothes for the child, and all those acceptable viands.
Well, he has come, and is anxious that I to his house should go with him,
There as a servant to act to his rich and excellent parents,
And I have not refused him, for serving appears my vocation,
And to be served by others at home would seem like a burden.
So I'll go willingly with him; the youth appears to be prudent,
Thus will his parents be properly cared for, as rich people should be.
Therefore, now, farewell, my much-loved friend, and be joyful
In your living infant, who looks so healthily at you.
When you press him against your bosom, wrapp'd up in those colourd
Swaddling-clothes, then remember the youth who so kindly bestow'd them,
And who in future will feed and clothe me also, your loved friend.
You too, excellent man,' to the magistrate turning, she added
'Warmly I thank for so often acting the part of a father.'

Then she knelt herself down before the lying-in patient,
Kiss'd the weeping woman, her whisper'd blessing receiving.
Meanwhile the worthy magistrate spoke to Hermann as follows
'You deserve, my friend to be counted amongst the good landlords
Who are anxious to manage their house through qualified people.
For I have often observed how cautiously men are accustom'd
Sheep and cattle and horses to watch, when buying or bart'ring
But a man, who's so useful, provided he's good and efficient,
And who does so much harm and mischief by treacherous dealings,
Him will people admit to their houses by chance and haphazard,
And too late find reason to rue an o'erhasty decision.
This you appear to understand, for a girl you have chosen
As your servant, and that of your parents, who thoroughly good is.
Treat her well, and as long as she finds the business suit her,
You will not miss your sister, your parents will miss not their daughter.'

Other persons now enter'd, the patient's nearest relations,
Many articles bringing, and better lodgings announcing.
All were inform'd of the maiden's decision, and warmly bless'd Hermann,
Both with significant looks, and also with grateful expressions,
And one secretly whispered into the ear of another
'If the master should turn to a bridegroom, her home is provided.'
Hermann then presently took her hand, and address'd her as follows
'Let us be going; the day is declining, and far off the village.'
Then the women, with lively expressions, embraced Dorothea;
Hermann drew her away; they still continued to greet her.
Next the children, with screams and terrible crying attack'd her,
Pulling her clothes, their second mother refusing to part from.
But first one of the women, and then another rebuked them
'Children, hush! to the town she is going, intending to bring you
Plenty of gingerbread back, which your brother already had order'd,
From the confectioner, when the stork was passing there lately,
And she'll soon return, with papers prettily gilded.'

So at length the children released her; but scarcely could Hermann
Tear her from their embraces and distant-signalling kerchiefs.

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Upon Appleton House, to My Lord Fairfax

Within this sober Frame expect
Work of no Forrain Architect;
That unto Caves the Quarries drew,
And Forrests did to Pastures hew;
Who of his great Design in pain
Did for a Model vault his Brain,
Whose Columnes should so high be rais'd
To arch the Brows that on them gaz'd.

Why should of all things Man unrul'd
Such unproportion'd dwellings build?
The Beasts are by their Denns exprest:
And Birds contrive an equal Nest;
The low roof'd Tortoises do dwell
In cases fit of Tortoise-shell:
No Creature loves an empty space;
Their Bodies measure out their Place.

But He, superfluously spread,
Demands more room alive then dead.
And in his hollow Palace goes
Where Winds as he themselves may lose.
What need of all this Marble Crust
T'impark the wanton Mose of Dust,
That thinks by Breadth the World t'unite
Though the first Builders fail'd in Height?

But all things are composed here
Like Nature, orderly and near:
In which we the Dimensions find
Of that more sober Age and Mind,
When larger sized Men did stoop
To enter at a narrow loop;
As practising, in doors so strait,
To strain themselves through Heavens Gate.

And surely when the after Age
Shall hither come in Pilgrimage,
These sacred Places to adore,
By Vere and Fairfax trod before,
Men will dispute how their Extent
Within such dwarfish Confines went:
And some will smile at this, as well
As Romulus his Bee-like Cell.

Humility alone designs
Those short but admirable Lines,
By which, ungirt and unconstrain'd,
Things greater are in less contain'd.
Let others vainly strive t'immure
The Circle in the Quadrature!
These holy Mathematics can
In ev'ry Figure equal Man.

Yet thus the laden House does sweat,
And scarce indures the Master great:
But where he comes the swelling Hall
Stirs, and the Square grows Spherical;
More by his Magnitude distrest,
Then he is by its straitness prest:
And too officiously it slights
That in it self which him delights.

So Honour better Lowness bears,
Then That unwonted Greatness wears
Height with a certain Grace does bend,
But low Things clownishly ascend.
And yet what needs there here Excuse,
Where ev'ry Thing does answer Use?
Where neatness nothing can condemn,
Nor Pride invent what to contemn?

A Stately Frontispice Of Poor
Adorns without the open Door:
Nor less the Rooms within commends
Daily new Furniture Of Friends.
The House was built upon the Place
Only as for a Mark Of Grace;
And for an Inn to entertain
Its Lord a while, but not remain.

Him Bishops-Hill, or Denton may,
Or Bilbrough, better hold then they:
But Nature here hath been so free
As if she said leave this to me.
Art would more neatly have defac'd
What she had laid so sweetly wast;
In fragrant Gardens, shaddy Woods,
Deep Meadows, and transparent Floods.

While with slow Eyes we these survey,
And on each pleasant footstep stay,
We opportunly may relate
The progress of this Houses Fate.
A Nunnery first gave it birth.
For Virgin Buildings oft brought forth.
And all that Neighbour-Ruine shows
The Quarries whence this dwelling rose.

Near to this gloomy Cloysters Gates
There dwelt the blooming Virgin Thwates,
Fair beyond Measure, and an Heir
Which might Deformity make fair.
And oft She spent the Summer Suns
Discoursing with the Suttle Nuns.
Whence in these Words one to her weav'd,
(As 'twere by Chance) Thoughts long conceiv'd.

"Within this holy leisure we
"Live innocently as you see.
"these Walls restrain the World without,
"But hedge our Liberty about.
"These Bars inclose the wider Den
"Of those wild Creatures, called Men.
"The Cloyster outward shuts its Gates,
"And, from us, locks on them the Grates.

"Here we, in shining Armour white,
"Like Virgin Amazons do fight.
"And our chast Lamps we hourly trim,
"Lest the great Bridegroom find them dim.
"Our Orient Breaths perfumed are
"With insense of incessant Pray'r.
"And Holy-water of our Tears
"Most strangly our complexion clears.

"Not Tears of Grief; but such as those
"With which calm Pleasure overflows;
"Or Pity, when we look on you
"That live without this happy Vow.
"How should we grieve that must be seen
"Each one a Spouse, and each a Queen;
"And can in Heaven hence behold
"Our brighter Robes and Crowns of Gold?

"When we have prayed all our Beads,
"Some One the holy Legend reads;
"While all the rest with Needles paint
"The Face and Graces of the Saint.
"But what the Linnen can't receive
"They in their Lives do interweave
"This work the Saints best represents;
"That serves for Altar's Ornaments.

"But much it to our work would add
"If here your hand, your Face we had:
"By it we would our Lady touch;
"Yet thus She you resembles much.
"Some of your Features, as we sow'd,
"Through ev'ry Shrine should be bestow'd.
"And in one Beauty we would take
"Enough a thousand Saints to make.

"And (for I dare not quench the Fire
"That me does for your good inspire)
"'Twere Sacriledge a Mant t'admit
"To holy things, for Heaven fit.
"I see the Angels in a Crown
"On you the Lillies show'ring down:
"And round about you Glory breaks,
"That something more then humane speaks.

"All Beauty, when at such a height,
"Is so already consecrate.
"Fairfax I know; and long ere this
"Have mark'd the Youth, and what he is.
"But can he such a Rival seem
"For whom you Heav'n should disesteem?
"Ah, no! and 'twould more Honour prove
"He your Devoto were, then Love.

Here live beloved, and obey'd:
Each one your Sister, each your Maid.
"And, if our Rule seem strictly pend,
"The Rule it self to you shall bend.
"Our Abbess too, now far in Age,
"Doth your succession near presage.
"How soft the yoke on us would lye,
"Might such fair Hands as yours it tye!

"Your voice, the sweetest of the Quire,
"Shall draw Heav'n nearer, raise us higher.
"And your Example, if our Head,
"Will soon us to perfection lead.
"Those Virtues to us all so dear,
"Will straight grow Sanctity when here:
"And that, once sprung, increase so fast
"Till Miracles it work at last.

"Nor is our Order yet so nice,
"Delight to banish as a Vice.
"Here Pleasure Piety doth meet;
"One perfecting the other Sweet.
"So through the mortal fruit we boyl
"The Sugars uncorrupting Oyl:
"And that which perisht while we pull,
"Is thus preserved clear and full.

"For such indeed are all our Arts;
"Still handling Natures finest Parts.
"Flow'rs dress the Altars; for the Clothes,
"The Sea-born Amber we compose;
"Balms for the griv'd we draw; and pasts
"We mold, as Baits for curious tasts.
"What need is here of Man? unless
"These as sweet Sins we should confess.

"Each Night among us to your side
"Appoint a fresh and Virgin Bride;
"Whom if Our Lord at midnight find,
"Yet Neither should be left behind.
"Where you may lye as chast in Bed,
"As Pearls together billeted.
"All Night embracing Arm in Arm,
"Like Chrystal pure with Cotton warm.

"But what is this to all the store
"Of Joys you see, and may make more!
"Try but a while, if you be wise:
"The Tryal neither Costs, nor Tyes.
Now Fairfax seek her promis'd faith:
Religion that dispensed hath;
Which She hence forward does begin;
The Nuns smooth Tongue has suckt her in.

Oft, though he knew it was in vain,
Yet would he valiantly complain.
"Is this that Sanctity so great,
"An Art by which you finly'r cheat
"Hypocrite Witches, hence Avant,
"Who though in prison yet inchant!
"Death only can such Theeves make fast,
"As rob though in the Dungeon cast.

"Were there but, when this House was made,
"One Stone that a just Hand had laid,
"It must have fall'n upon her Head
"Who first Thee from thy Faith misled.
"And yet, how well soever ment,
"With them 'twould soon grow fraudulent
"For like themselves they alter all,
"And vice infects the very Wall.

"But sure those Buildings last not long,
"Founded by Folly, kept by Wrong.
"I know what Fruit their Gardens yield,
"When they it think by Night conceal'd.
"Fly from their Vices. 'Tis thy state,
"Not Thee, that they would consecrate.
"Fly from their Ruine. How I fear
"Though guiltless lest thou perish there.

What should he do? He would respect
Religion, but not Right neglect:
For first Religion taught him Right,
And dazled not but clear'd his sight.
Sometimes resolv'd his Sword he draws,
But reverenceth then the Laws:
"For Justice still that Courage led;
First from a Judge, then Souldier bred.

Small Honour would be in the Storm.
The Court him grants the lawful Form;
Which licens'd either Peace or Force,
To hinder the unjust Divorce.
Yet still the Nuns his Right debar'd,
Standing upon their holy Guard.
Ill-counsell'd Women, do you know
Whom you resist, or what you do?

Is not this he whose Offspring fierce
Shall fight through all the Universe;
And with successive Valour try
France, Poland, either Germany;
Till one, as long since prophecy'd,
His Horse through conquer'd Britain ride?
Yet, against Fate, his Spouse they kept;
And the great Race would intercept.

Some to the Breach against their Foes
Their Wooden Saints in vain oppose
Another bolder stands at push
With their old Holy-Water Brush.
While the disjointed Abbess threads
The gingling Chain-shot of her Beads.
But their lowd'st Cannon were their Lungs;
And sharpest Weapons were their Tongues.

But, waving these aside like Flyes,
Young Fairfax through the Wall does rise.
Then th' unfrequented Vault appear'd,
And superstitions vainly fear'd.
The Relicks False were set to view;
Only the Jewels there were true.
But truly bright and holy Thwaites
That weeping at the Altar waites.

But the glad Youth away her bears,
And to the Nuns bequeaths her Tears:
Who guiltily their Prize bemoan,
Like Gipsies that a Child hath stoln.
Thenceforth (as when th' Inchantment ends
The Castle vanishes or rends)
The wasting Cloister with the rest
Was in one instant dispossest.

At the demolishing, this Seat
To Fairfax fell as by Escheat.
And what both Nuns and Founders will'd
'Tis likely better thus fulfill'd,
For if the Virgin prov'd not theirs,
The Cloyster yet remained hers.
Though many a Nun there made her vow,
'Twas no Religious-House till now.

From that blest Bed the Heroe came,
Whom France and Poland yet does fame:
Who, when retired here to Peace,
His warlike Studies could not cease;
But laid these Gardens out in sport
In the just Figure of a Fort;
And with five Bastions it did fence,
As aiming one for ev'ry Sense.

When in the East the Morning Ray
Hangs out the Colours of the Day,
The Bee through these known Allies hums,
Beating the Dian with its Drumms.
Then Flow'rs their drowsie Eylids raise,
Their Silken Ensigns each displayes,
And dries its Pan yet dank with Dew,
And fills its Flask with Odours new.

These, as their Governour goes by,
In fragrant Vollyes they let fly;
And to salute their Governess
Again as great a charge they press:
None for the Virgin Nymph; for She
Seems with the Flow'rs a Flow'r to be.
And think so still! though not compare
With Breath so sweet, or Cheek so faire.

Well shot ye Fireman! Oh how sweet,
And round your equal Fires do meet;
Whose shrill report no Ear can tell,
But Ecchoes to the Eye and smell.
See how the Flow'rs, as at Parade,
Under their Colours stand displaid:
Each Regiment in order grows,
That of the Tulip Pinke and Rose.

But when the vigilant Patroul
Of Stars walks round about the Pole,
Their Leaves, that to the stalks are curl'd,
Seem to their Staves the Ensigns furl'd.
Then in some Flow'rs beloved Hut
Each Bee as Sentinel is shut;
And sleeps so too: but, if once stir'd,
She runs you through, or askes The Word.

Oh Thou, that dear and happy Isle
The Garden of the World ere while,
Thou Paradise of four Seas,
Which Heaven planted us to please,
But, to exclude the World, did guard
With watry if not flaming Sword;
What luckless Apple did we tast,
To make us Mortal, and The Wast.

Unhappy! shall we never more
That sweet Milltia restore,
When Gardens only had their Towrs,
And all the Garrisons were Flow'rs,
When Roses only Arms might bear,
And Men did rosie Garlands wear?
Tulips, in several Colours barr'd,
Were then the Switzers of our Guard.

The Gardiner had the Souldiers place,
And his more gentle Forts did trace.
The Nursery of all things green
Was then the only Magazeen.
The Winter Quarters were the Stoves,
Where he the tender Plants removes.
But War all this doth overgrow:
We Ord'nance Plant and Powder sow.

And yet their walks one on the Sod
Who, had it pleased him and God,
Might once have made our Gardens spring
Fresh as his own and flourishing.
But he preferr'd to the Cinque Ports
These five imaginary Forts:
And, in those half-dry Trenches, spann'd
Pow'r which the Ocean might command.

For he did, with his utmost Skill,
Ambition weed, but Conscience till.
Conscience, that Heaven-nursed Plant,
Which most our Earthly Gardens want.
A prickling leaf it bears, and such
As that which shrinks at ev'ry touch;
But Flow'rs eternal, and divine,
That in the Crowns of Saints do shine.

The sight does from these Bastions ply,
Th' invisible Artilery;
And at proud Cawood Castle seems
To point the Battery of its Beams.
As if it quarrell'd in the Seat
Th' Ambition of its Prelate great.
But ore the Meads below it plays,
Or innocently seems to gaze.

And now to the Abbyss I pass
Of that unfathomable Grass,
Where Men like Grashoppers appear,
But Grashoppers are Gyants there:
They, in there squeking Laugh, contemn
Us as we walk more low then them:
And, from the Precipices tall
Of the green spir's, to us do call.

To see Men through this Meadow Dive,
We wonder how they rise alive.
As, under Water, none does know
Whether he fall through it or go.
But, as the Marriners that sound,
And show upon their Lead the Ground,
They bring up Flow'rs so to be seen,
And prove they've at the Bottom been.

No Scene that turns with Engines strange
Does oftner then these Meadows change,
For when the Sun the Grass hath vext,
The tawny Mowers enter next;
Who seem like Israaliies to be,
Walking on foot through a green Sea.
To them the Grassy Deeps divide,
And crowd a Lane to either Side.

With whistling Sithe, and Elbow strong,
These Massacre the Grass along:
While one, unknowing, carves the Rail,
Whose yet unfeather'd Quils her fail.
The Edge all bloody from its Breast
He draws, and does his stroke detest;
Fearing the Flesh untimely mow'd
To him a Fate as black forebode.

But bloody Thestylis, that waites
To bring the mowing Camp their Cates,
Greedy as Kites has trust it up,
And forthwith means on it to sup:
When on another quick She lights,
And cryes, he call'd us Israelites;
But now, to make his saying true,
Rails rain for Quails, for Manna Dew.

Unhappy Birds! what does it boot
To build below the Grasses Root;
When Lowness is unsafe as Hight,
And Chance o'retakes what scapeth spight?
And now your Orphan Parents Call
Sounds your untimely Funeral.
Death-Trumpets creak in such a Note,
And 'tis the Sourdine in their Throat.

Or sooner hatch or higher build:
The Mower now commands the Field;
In whose new Traverse seemeth wrought
A Camp of Battail newly fought:
Where, as the Meads with Hay, the Plain
Lyes quilted ore with Bodies slain:
The Women that with forks it filing,
Do represent the Pillaging.

And now the careless Victors play,
Dancing the Triumphs of the Hay;
Where every Mowers wholesome Heat
Smells like an Alexanders Sweat.
Their Females fragrant as the Mead
Which they in Fairy Circles tread:
When at their Dances End they kiss,
Their new-made Hay not sweeter is.

When after this 'tis pil'd in Cocks,
Like a calm Sea it shews the Rocks:
We wondring in the River near
How Boats among them safely steer.
Or, like the Desert Memphis Sand,
Short Pyramids of Hay do stand.
And such the Roman Camps do rise
In Hills for Soldiers Obsequies.

This Scene again withdrawing brings
A new and empty Face of things;
A levell'd space, as smooth and plain,
As Clothes for Lilly strecht to stain.
The World when first created sure
Was such a Table rase and pure.
Or rather such is the Toril
Ere the Bulls enter at Madril.

For to this naked equal Flat,
Which Levellers take Pattern at,
The Villagers in common chase
Their Cattle, which it closer rase;
And what below the Sith increast
Is pincht yet nearer by the Breast.
Such, in the painted World, appear'd
Davenant with th'Universal Heard.

They seem within the polisht Grass
A landskip drawen in Looking-Glass.
And shrunk in the huge Pasture show
As spots, so shap'd, on Faces do.
Such Fleas, ere they approach the Eye,
In Multiplyiug Glasses lye.
They feed so wide, so slowly move,
As Constellatious do above.

Then, to conclude these pleasant Acts,
Denton sets ope its Cataracts;
And makes the Meadow truly be
(What it but seem'd before) a Sea.
For, jealous of its Lords long stay,
It try's t'invite him thus away.
The River in it self is drown'd,
And Isl's th' astonish Cattle round.

Let others tell the Paradox,
How Eels now bellow in the Ox;
How Horses at their Tails do kick,
Turn'd as they hang to Leeches quick;
How Boats can over Bridges sail;
And Fishes do the Stables scale.
How Salmons trespassing are found;
And Pikes are taken in the Pound.

But I, retiring from the Flood,
Take Sanctuary in the Wood;
And, while it lasts, my self imbark
In this yet green, yet growing Ark;
Where the first Carpenter might best
Fit Timber for his Keel have Prest.
And where all Creatures might have shares,
Although in Armies, not in Paires.

The double Wood of ancient Stocks
Link'd in so thick, an Union locks,
It like two Pedigrees appears,
On one hand Fairfax, th' other Veres:
Of whom though many fell in War,
Yet more to Heaven shooting are:
And, as they Natures Cradle deckt,
Will in green Age her Hearse expect.

When first the Eye this Forrest sees
It seems indeed as Wood not Trees:
As if their Neighbourhood so old
To one great Trunk them all did mold.
There the huge Bulk takes place, as ment
To thrust up a Fifth Element;
And stretches still so closely wedg'd
As if the Night within were hedg'd.

Dark all without it knits; within
It opens passable and thin;
And in as loose an order grows,
As the Corinthean Porticoes.
The Arching Boughs unite between
The Columnes of the Temple green;
And underneath the winged Quires
Echo about their tuned Fires.

The Nightingale does here make choice
To sing the Tryals of her Voice.
Low Shrubs she sits in, and adorns
With Musick high the squatted Thorns.
But highest Oakes stoop down to hear,
And listning Elders prick the Ear.
The Thorn, lest it should hurt her, draws
Within the Skin its shrunken claws.

But I have for my Musick found
A Sadder, yet more pleasing Sound:
The Stock-doves whose fair necks are grac'd
With Nuptial Rings their Ensigns chast;
Yet always, for some Cause unknown,
Sad pair unto the Elms they moan.
O why should such a Couple mourn,
That in so equal Flames do burn!

Then as I carless on the Bed
Of gelid Straw-berryes do tread,
And through the Hazles thick espy
The hatching Thrastles shining Eye,
The Heron from the Ashes top,
The eldest of its young lets drop,
As if it Stork-like did pretend
That Tribute to its Lord to send.

But most the Hewel's wonders are,
Who here has the Holt-felsters care.
He walks still upright from the Root,
Meas'ring the Timber with his Foot;
And all the way, to keep it clean,
Doth from the Bark the Wood-moths glean.
He, with his Beak, examines well
Which fit to stand and which to fell.

The good he numbers up, and hacks;
As if he mark'd them with the Ax.
But where he, tinkling with his Beak,
Does find the hollow Oak to speak,
That for his building he designs,
And through the tainted Side he mines.
Who could have thought the tallest Oak
Should fall by such a feeble Strok'!

Nor would it, had the Tree not fed
A Traitor-worm, within it bred.
(As first our Flesh corrupt within
Tempts impotent and bashful Sin.
And yet that Worm triumphs not long,
But serves to feed the Hewels young.
While the Oake seems to fall content,
Viewing the Treason's Punishment.

Thus I, easie Philosopher,
Among the Birds and Trees confer:
And little now to make me, wants
Or of the Fowles, or of the Plants.
Give me but Wings as they, and I
Streight floting on the Air shall fly:
Or turn me but, and you shall see
I was but an inverted Tree.

Already I begin to call
In their most-learned Original:
And where I Language want,my Signs
The Bird upon the Bough divines;
And more attentive there doth sit
Then if She were with Lime-twigs knit.
No Leaf does tremble in the Wind
Which I returning cannot find.

Out of these scatter'd Sibyls Leaves
Strange Prophecies my Phancy weaves:
And in one History consumes,
Like Mexique Paintings, all the Plumes.
What Rome, Greece, Palestine, ere said
I in this light Mosaick read.
Thrice happy he who, not mistook,
Hath read in Natures mystick Book.

And see how Chance's better Wit
Could with a Mask my studies hit!
The Oak-Leaves me embroyder all,
Between which Caterpillars crawl:
And Ivy, with familiar trails,
Me licks, and clasps, and curles, and hales.
Under this antick Cope I move
Like some great Prelate of the Grove,

Then, languishing with ease, I toss
On Pallets swoln of Velvet Moss;
While the Wind, cooling through the Boughs,
Flatters with Air my panting Brows.
Thanks for my Rest ye Mossy Banks,
And unto you cool Zephyr's Thanks,
Who, as my Hair, my Thoughts too shed,
And winnow from the Chaff my Head.

How safe, methinks, and strong, behind
These Trees have I incamp'd my Mind;
Where Beauty, aiming at the Heart,
Bends in some Tree its useless Dart;
And where the World no certain Shot
Can make, or me it toucheth not.
But I on it securely play,
And gaul its Horsemen all the Day.

Bind me ye Woodbines in your 'twines,
Curle me about ye gadding Vines,
And Oh so close your Circles lace,
That I may never leave this Place:
But, lest your Fetters prove too weak,
Ere I your Silken Bondage break,
Do you, O Brambles, chain me too,
And courteous Briars nail me though.

Here in the Morning tye my Chain,
Where the two Woods have made a Lane;
While, like a Guard on either side,
The Trees before their Lord divide;
This, like a long and equal Thread,
Betwixt two Labyrinths does lead.
But, where the Floods did lately drown,
There at the Ev'ning stake me down.

For now the Waves are fal'n and dry'd,
And now the Meadows fresher dy'd;
Whose Grass, with moister colour dasht,
Seems as green Silks but newly washt.
No Serpent new nor Crocodile
Remains behind our little Nile;
Unless it self you will mistake,
Among these Meads the only Snake.

See in what wanton harmless folds
It ev'ry where the Meadow holds;
And its yet muddy back doth lick,
Till as a Chrystal Mirrour slick;
Where all things gaze themselves, and doubt
If they be in it or without.
And for his shade which therein shines,
Narcissus like, the Sun too pines.

Oh what a Pleasure 'tis to hedge
My Temples here with heavy sedge;
Abandoning my lazy Side,
Stretcht as a Bank unto the Tide;
Or to suspend my sliding Foot
On the Osiers undermined Root,
And in its Branches tough to hang,
While at my Lines the Fishes twang!

But now away my Hooks, my Quills,
And Angles, idle Utensils.
The Young Maria walks to night:
Hide trifling Youth thy Pleasures slight.
'Twere shame that such judicious Eyes
Should with such Toyes a Man surprize;
She that already is the Law
Of all her Sex, her Ages Aw.

See how loose Nature, in respect
To her, it self doth recollect;
And every thing so whisht and fine,
Starts forth with to its Bonne Mine.
The Sun himself, of Her aware,
Seems to descend with greater Care,
And lest She see him go to Bed,
In blushing Clouds conceales his Head.

So when the Shadows laid asleep
From underneath these Banks do creep,
And on the River as it flows
With Eben Shuts begin to close;
The modest Halcyon comes in sight,
Flying betwixt the Day and Night;
And such an horror calm and dumb,
Admiring Nature does benum.

The viscous Air, wheres'ere She fly,
Follows and sucks her Azure dy;
The gellying Stream compacts below,
If it might fix her shadow so;
The Stupid Fishes hang, as plain
As Flies in Chrystal overt'ane,
And Men the silent Scene assist,
Charm'd with the saphir-winged Mist.

Maria such, and so doth hush
The World, and through the Ev'ning rush.
No new-born Comet such a Train
Draws through the Skie, nor Star new-slain.
For streight those giddy Rockets fail,
Which from the putrid Earth exhale,
But by her Flames, in Heaven try'd,
Nature is wholly Vitrifi'd.

'Tis She that to these Gardens gave
That wondrous Beauty which they have;
She streightness on the Woods bestows;
To Her the Meadow sweetness owes;
Nothing could make the River be
So Chrystal-pure but only She;
She yet more Pure, Sweet, Streight, and Fair,
Then Gardens, Woods, Meads, Rivers are.

Therefore what first She on them spent,
They gratefully again present.
The Meadow Carpets where to tread;
The Garden Flow'rs to Crown Her Head;
And for a Glass the limpid Brook,
Where She may all her Beautyes look;
But, since She would not have them seen,
The Wood about her draws a Skreen.

For She, to higher Beauties rais'd,
Disdains to be for lesser prais'd.
She counts her Beauty to converse
In all the Languages as hers;
Not yet in those her self imployes
But for the Wisdome, not the Noyse;
Nor yet that Wisdome would affect,
But as 'tis Heavens Dialect.

Blest Nymph! that couldst so soon prevent
Those Trains by Youth against thee meant;
Tears (watry Shot that pierce the Mind;)
And Sighs (Loves Cannon charg'd with Wind;)
True Praise (That breaks through all defence;)
And feign'd complying Innocence;
But knowing where this Ambush lay,
She scap'd the safe, but roughest Way.

This 'tis to have been from the first
In a Domestick Heaven nurst,
Under the Discipline severe
Of Fairfax, and the starry Vere;
Where not one object can come nigh
But pure, and spotless as the Eye;
And Goodness doth it self intail
On Females, if there want a Male.

Go now fond Sex that on your Face
Do all your useless Study place,
Nor once at Vice your Brows dare knit
Lest the smooth Forehead wrinkled sit
Yet your own Face shall at you grin,
Thorough the Black-bag of your Skin;
When knowledge only could have fill'd
And Virtue all those Furows till'd.

Hence She with Graces more divine
Supplies beyond her Sex the Line;
And, like a sprig of Misleto,
On the Fairfacian Oak does grow;
Whence, for some universal good,
The Priest shall cut the sacred Bud;
While her glad Parents most rejoice,
And make their Destiny their Choice.

Mean time ye Fields, Springs, Bushes, Flow'rs,
Where yet She leads her studious Hours,
(Till Fate her worthily translates,
And find a Fairfax for our Thwaites)
Employ the means you have by Her,
And in your kind your selves preferr;
That, as all Virgins She preceds,
So you all Woods, Streams, Gardens, Meads.

For you Thessalian Tempe's Seat
Shall now be scorn'd as obsolete;
Aranjeuz, as less, disdain'd;
The Bel-Retiro as constrain'd;
But name not the Idalian Grove,
For 'twas the Seat of wanton Love;
Much less the Dead's Elysian Fields,
Yet nor to them your Beauty yields.

'Tis not, what once it was, the World;
But a rude heap together hurl'd;
All negligently overthrown,
Gulfes, Deserts, Precipices, Stone.
Your lesser World contains the same.
But in more decent Order tame;
You Heaven's Center, Nature's Lap.
And Paradice's only Map.

But now the Salmon-Fishers moist
Their Leathern Boats begin to hoist;
And, like Antipodes in Shoes,
Have shod their Heads in their Canoos.
How Tortoise like, but not so slow,
These rational Amphibii go?
Let's in: for the dark Hemisphere
Does now like one of them appear.

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Byron

Don Juan: Canto The Ninth

Oh, Wellington! (or 'Villainton'--for Fame
Sounds the heroic syllables both ways;
France could not even conquer your great name,
But punn'd it down to this facetious phrase-
Beating or beaten she will laugh the same),
You have obtain'd great pensions and much praise:
Glory like yours should any dare gainsay,
Humanity would rise, and thunder 'Nay!'

I don't think that you used Kinnaird quite well
In Marinet's affair--in fact, 'twas shabby,
And like some other things won't do to tell
Upon your tomb in Westminster's old abbey.
Upon the rest 'tis not worth while to dwell,
Such tales being for the tea-hours of some tabby;
But though your years as man tend fast to zero,
In fact your grace is still but a young hero.

Though Britain owes (and pays you too) so much,
Yet Europe doubtless owes you greatly more:
You have repair'd Legitimacy's crutch,
A prop not quite so certain as before:
The Spanish, and the French, as well as Dutch,
Have seen, and felt, how strongly you restore;
And Waterloo has made the world your debtor
(I wish your bards would sing it rather better).

You are 'the best of cut-throats:'--do not start;
The phrase is Shakspeare's, and not misapplied:
War's a brain-spattering, windpipe-slitting art,
Unless her cause by right be sanctified.
If you have acted once a generous part,
The world, not the world's masters, will decide,
And I shall be delighted to learn who,
Save you and yours, have gain'd by Waterloo?

I am no flatterer- you 've supp'd full of flattery:
They say you like it too- 't is no great wonder.
He whose whole life has been assault and battery,
At last may get a little tired of thunder;
And swallowing eulogy much more than satire, he
May like being praised for every lucky blunder,
Call'd 'Saviour of the Nations'--not yet saved,
And 'Europe's Liberator'--still enslaved.

I've done. Now go and dine from off the plate
Presented by the Prince of the Brazils,
And send the sentinel before your gate
A slice or two from your luxurious meals:
He fought, but has not fed so well of late.
Some hunger, too, they say the people feels:--
There is no doubt that you deserve your ration,
But pray give back a little to the nation.

I don't mean to reflect--a man so great as
You, my lord duke! is far above reflection:
The high Roman fashion, too, of Cincinnatus,
With modern history has but small connection:
Though as an Irishman you love potatoes,
You need not take them under your direction;
And half a million for your Sabine farm
Is rather dear!--I'm sure I mean no harm.

Great men have always scorn'd great recompenses:
Epaminondas saved his Thebes, and died,
Not leaving even his funeral expenses:
George Washington had thanks and nought beside,
Except the all-cloudless glory (which few men's is
To free his country: Pitt too had his pride,
And as a high-soul'd minister of state is
Renown'd for ruining Great Britain gratis.

Never had mortal man such opportunity,
Except Napoleon, or abused it more:
You might have freed fallen Europe from the unity
Of tyrants, and been blest from shore to shore:
And now--what is your fame? Shall the Muse tune it ye?
Now--that the rabble's first vain shouts are o'er?
Go! hear it in your famish'd country's cries!
Behold the world! and curse your victories!

As these new cantos touch on warlike feats,
To you the unflattering Muse deigns to inscribe
Truths, that you will not read in the Gazettes,
But which 'tis time to teach the hireling tribe
Who fatten on their country's gore, and debts,
Must be recited, and- without a bribe.
You did great things; but not being great in mind,
Have left undone the greatest- and mankind.

Death laughs--Go ponder o'er the skeleton
With which men image out the unknown thing
That hides the past world, like to a set sun
Which still elsewhere may rouse a brighter spring--
Death laughs at all you weep for:--look upon
This hourly dread of all! whose threaten'd sting
Turns life to terror, even though in its sheath:
Mark how its lipless mouth grins without breath!

Mark how it laughs and scorns at all you are!
And yet was what you are: from ear to ear
It laughs not--there is now no fleshy bar
So call'd; the Antic long hath ceased to hear,
But still he smiles; and whether near or far,
He strips from man that mantle (far more dear
Than even the tailor's), his incarnate skin,
White, black, or copper--the dead bones will grin.

And thus Death laughs,--it is sad merriment,
But still it is so; and with such example
Why should not Life be equally content
With his superior, in a smile to trample
Upon the nothings which are daily spent
Like bubbles on an ocean much less ample
Than the eternal deluge, which devours
Suns as rays--worlds like atoms--years like hours?

'To be, or not to be? that is the question,'
Says Shakspeare, who just now is much in fashion.
I am neither Alexander nor Hephaestion,
Nor ever had for abstract fame much passion;
But would much rather have a sound digestion
Than Buonaparte's cancer: could I dash on
Through fifty victories to shame or fame-
Without a stomach what were a good name?

'O dura ilia messorum!'--'Oh
Ye rigid guts of reapers!' I translate
For the great benefit of those who know
What indigestion is--that inward fate
Which makes all Styx through one small liver flow.
A peasant's sweat is worth his lord's estate:
Let this one toil for bread- that rack for rent,
He who sleeps best may be the most content.

'To be, or not to be?'--Ere I decide,
I should be glad to know that which is being?
'T is true we speculate both far and wide,
And deem, because we see, we are all-seeing:
For my part, I 'll enlist on neither side,
Until I see both sides for once agreeing.
For me, I sometimes think that life is death,
Rather than life a mere affair of breath.

'Que scais-je?' was the motto of Montaigne,
As also of the first academicians:
That all is dubious which man may attain,
Was one of their most favourite positions.
There's no such thing as certainty, that's plain
As any of Mortality's conditions;
So little do we know what we're about in
This world, I doubt if doubt itself be doubting.

It is a pleasant voyage perhaps to float,
Like Pyrrho, on a sea of speculation;
But what if carrying sail capsize the boat?
Your wise men don't know much of navigation;
And swimming long in the abyss of thought
Is apt to tire: a calm and shallow station
Well nigh the shore, where one stoops down and gathers
Some pretty shell, is best for moderate bathers.

'But heaven,' as Cassio says, 'is above all--
No more of this, then,--let us pray!' We have
Souls to save, since Eve's slip and Adam's fall,
Which tumbled all mankind into the grave,
Besides fish, beasts, and birds. 'The sparrow's fall
Is special providence,' though how it gave
Offence, we know not; probably it perch'd
Upon the tree which Eve so fondly search'd.

Oh, ye immortal gods! what is theogony?
Oh, thou too, mortal man! what is philanthropy?
Oh, world! which was and is, what is cosmogony?
Some people have accused me of misanthropy;
And yet I know no more than the mahogany
That forms this desk, of what they mean; lykanthropy
I comprehend, for without transformation
Men become wolves on any slight occasion.

But I, the mildest, meekest of mankind,
Like Moses, or Melancthon, who have ne'er
Done anything exceedingly unkind,--
And (though I could not now and then forbear
Following the bent of body or of mind)
Have always had a tendency to spare,--
Why do they call me misanthrope? Because
They hate me, not I them.--and here we'll pause.

'Tis time we should proceed with our good poem,--
For I maintain that it is really good,
Not only in the body but the proem,
However little both are understood
Just now,--but by and by the Truth will show 'em
Herself in her sublimest attitude:
And till she doth, I fain must be content
To share her beauty and her banishment.

Our hero (and, I trust, kind reader, yours)
Was left upon his way to the chief city
Of the immortal Peter's polish'd boors
Who still have shown themselves more brave than witty.
I know its mighty empire now allures
Much flattery--even Voltaire's, and that's a pity.
For me, I deem an absolute autocrat
Not a barbarian, but much worse than that.

And I will war, at least in words (and--should
My chance so happen--deeds), with all who war
With Thought;--and of Thought's foes by far most rude,
Tyrants and sycophants have been and are.
I know not who may conquer: if I could
Have such a prescience, it should be no bar
To this my plain, sworn, downright detestation
Of every depotism in every nation.

It is not that I adulate the people:
Without me, there are demagogues enough,
And infidels, to pull down every steeple,
And set up in their stead some proper stuff.
Whether they may sow scepticism to reap hell,
As is the Christian dogma rather rough,
I do not know;--I wish men to be free
As much from mobs as kings- from you as me.

The consequence is, being of no party,
I shall offend all parties: never mind!
My words, at least, are more sincere and hearty
Than if I sought to sail before the wind.
He who has nought to gain can have small art: he
Who neither wishes to be bound nor bind,
May still expatiate freely, as will I,
Nor give my voice to slavery's jackal cry.

That's an appropriate simile, that jackal;--
I 've heard them in the Ephesian ruins howl
By night, as do that mercenary pack all,
Power's base purveyors, who for pickings prowl,
And scent the prey their masters would attack all.
However, the poor jackals are less foul
(As being the brave lions' keen providers)
Than human insects, catering for spiders.

Raise but an arm! 'twill brush their web away,
And without that, their poison and their claws
Are useless. Mind, good people! what I say
(Or rather peoples)--go on without pause!
The web of these tarantulas each day
Increases, till you shall make common cause:
None, save the Spanish fly and Attic bee,
As yet are strongly stinging to be free.

Don Juan, who had shone in the late slaughter,
Was left upon his way with the despatch,
Where blood was talk'd of as we would of water;
And carcasses that lay as thick as thatch
O'er silenced cities, merely served to flatter
Fair Catherine's pastime--who look'd on the match
Between these nations as a main of cocks,
Wherein she liked her own to stand like rocks.

And there in a kibitka he roll'd on
(A cursed sort of carriage without springs,
Which on rough roads leaves scarcely a whole bone),
Pondering on glory, chivalry, and kings,
And orders, and on all that he had done--
And wishing that post-horses had the wings
Of Pegasus, or at the least post-chaises
Had feathers, when a traveller on deep ways is.

At every jolt--and they were many--still
He turn'd his eyes upon his little charge,
As if he wish'd that she should fare less ill
Than he, in these sad highways left at large
To ruts, and flints, and lovely Nature's skill,
Who is no paviour, nor admits a barge
On her canals, where God takes sea and land,
Fishery and farm, both into his own hand.

At least he pays no rent, and has best right
To be the first of what we used to call
'Gentlemen farmer'--a race worn out quite,
Since lately there have been no rents at all,
And 'gentlemen' are in a piteous plight,
And 'farmers' can't raise Ceres from her fall:
She fell with Buonaparte--What strange thoughts
Arise, when we see emperors fall with oats!

But Juan turn'd his eyes on the sweet child
Whom he had saved from slaughter--what a trophy
Oh! ye who build up monuments, defiled
With gore, like Nadir Shah, that costive sophy,
Who, after leaving Hindostan a wild,
And scarce to the Mogul a cup of coffee
To soothe his woes withal, was slain, the sinner!
Because he could no more digest his dinner;--

Oh ye! or we! or he! or she! reflect,
That one life saved, especially if young
Or pretty, is a thing to recollect
Far sweeter than the greenest laurels sprung
From the manure of human clay, though deck'd
With all the praises ever said or sung:
Though hymn'd by every harp, unless within
Your heart joins chorus, Fame is but a din.

Oh! ye great authors luminous, voluminous!
Ye twice ten hundred thousand daily scribes!
Whose pamphlets, volumes, newspapers, illumine us!
Whether you're paid by government in bribes,
To prove the public debt is not consuming us--
Or, roughly treading on the 'courtier's kibes'
With clownish heel, your popular circulation
Feeds you by printing half the realm's starvation;--

Oh, ye great authors!--'Apropos des bottes,'--
I have forgotten what I meant to say,
As sometimes have been greater sages' lots;
'Twas something calculated to allay
All wrath in barracks, palaces, or cots:
Certes it would have been but thrown away,
And that's one comfort for my lost advice,
Although no doubt it was beyond all price.

But let it go:--it will one day be found
With other relics of 'a former world,'
When this world shall be former, underground,
Thrown topsy-turvy, twisted, crisp'd, and curl'd,
Baked, fried, or burnt, turn'd inside-out, or drown'd,
Like all the worlds before, which have been hurl'd
First out of, and then back again to chaos,
The superstratum which will overlay us.

So Cuvier says;--and then shall come again
Unto the new creation, rising out
From our old crash, some mystic, ancient strain
Of things destroy'd and left in airy doubt:
Like to the notions we now entertain
Of Titans, giants, fellows of about
Some hundred feet in height, not to say miles,
And mammoths, and your winged crocodiles.

Think if then George the Fourth should be dug up!
How the new worldlings of the then new East
Will wonder where such animals could sup!
(For they themselves will be but of the least:
Even worlds miscarry, when too oft they pup,
And every new creation hath decreased
In size, from overworking the material--
Men are but maggots of some huge Earth's burial.)

How will--to these young people, just thrust out
From some fresh Paradise, and set to plough,
And dig, and sweat, and turn themselves about,
And plant, and reap, and spin, and grind, and sow,
Till all the arts at length are brought about,
Especially of war and taxing,--how,
I say, will these great relics, when they see 'em,
Look like the monsters of a new museum?

But I am apt to grow too metaphysical:
'The time is out of joint,'--and so am I;
I quite forget this poem's merely quizzical,
And deviate into matters rather dry.
I ne'er decide what I shall say, and this I cal
Much too poetical: men should know why
They write, and for what end; but, note or text,
I never know the word which will come next.

So on I ramble, now and then narrating,
Now pondering:--it is time we should narrate.
I left Don Juan with his horses baiting--
Now we 'll get o'er the ground at a great rate.
I shall not be particular in stating
His journey, we 've so many tours of late:
Suppose him then at Petersburgh; suppose
That pleasant capital of painted snows;

Suppose him in a handsome uniform,--
A scarlet coat, black facings, a long plume,
Waving, like sails new shiver'd in a storm,
Over a cock'd hat in a crowded room,
And brilliant breeches, bright as a Cairn Gorme,
Of yellow casimere we may presume,
White stocking drawn uncurdled as new milk
O'er limbs whose symmetry set off the silk;

Suppose him sword by side, and hat in hand,
Made up by youth, fame, and an army tailor-
That great enchanter, at whose rod's command
Beauty springs forth, and Nature's self turns paler,
Seeing how Art can make her work more grand
(When she don't pin men's limbs in like a gaoler),--
Behold him placed as if upon a pillar! He
Seems Love turn'd a lieutenant of artillery:--

His bandage slipp'd down into a cravat;
His wings subdued to epaulettes; his quiver
Shrunk to a scabbard, with his arrows at
His side as a small sword, but sharp as ever;
His bow converted into a cock'd hat;
But still so like, that Psyche were more clever
Than some wives (who make blunders no less stupid),
If she had not mistaken him for Cupid.

The courtiers stared, the ladies whisper'd, and
The empress smiled: the reigning favourite frown'd--
I quite forget which of them was in hand
Just then; as they are rather numerous found,
Who took by turns that difficult command
Since first her majesty was singly crown'd:
But they were mostly nervous six-foot fellows,
All fit to make a Patagonian jealous.

Juan was none of these, but slight and slim,
Blushing and beardless; and yet ne'ertheless
There was a something in his turn of limb,
And still more in his eye, which seem'd to express,
That though he look'd one of the seraphim,
There lurk'd a man beneath the spirit's dress.
Besides, the empress sometimes liked a boy,
And had just buried the fair-faced Lanskoi.

No wonder then that Yermoloff, or Momonoff,
Or Scherbatoff, or any other off
Or on, might dread her majesty had not room enough
Within her bosom (which was not too tough)
For a new flame; a thought to cast of gloom enough
Along the aspect, whether smooth or rough,
Of him who, in the language of his station,
Then held that 'high official situation.'

O, gentle ladies! should you seek to know
The import of this diplomatic phrase,
Bid Ireland's Londonderry's Marquess show
His parts of speech; and in the strange displays
Of that odd string of words, all in a row,
Which none divine, and every one obeys,
Perhaps you may pick out some queer no meaning,
Of that weak wordy harvest the sole gleaning.

I think I can explain myself without
That sad inexplicable beast of prey--
That Sphinx, whose words would ever be a doubt,
Did not his deeds unriddle them each day--
That monstrous hieroglyphic--that long spout
Of blood and water, leaden Castlereagh!
And here I must an anecdote relate,
But luckily of no great length or weight.

An English lady ask'd of an Italian,
What were the actual and official duties
Of the strange thing some women set a value on,
Which hovers oft about some married beauties,
Called 'Cavalier servente?'--a Pygmalion
Whose statues warm (I fear, alas! too true 'tis)
Beneath his art. The dame, press'd to disclose them,
Said--'Lady, I beseech you to suppose them.'

And thus I supplicate your supposition,
And mildest, matron-like interpretation,
Of the imperial favourite's condition.
'T was a high place, the highest in the nation
In fact, if not in rank; and the suspicion
Of any one's attaining to his station,
No doubt gave pain, where each new pair of shoulders,
If rather broad, made stocks rise and their holders.

Juan, I said, was a most beauteous boy,
And had retain'd his boyish look beyond
The usual hirsute seasons which destroy,
With beards and whiskers, and the like, the fond
Parisian aspect which upset old Troy
And founded Doctors' Commons:--I have conn'd
The history of divorces, which, though chequer'd,
Calls Ilion's the first damages on record.

And Catherine, who loved all things (save her lord,
Who was gone to his place), and pass'd for much
Admiring those (by dainty dames abhorr'd)
Gigantic gentlemen, yet had a touch
Of sentiment; and he she most adored
Was the lamented Lanskoi, who was such
A lover as had cost her many a tear,
And yet but made a middling grenadier.

Oh thou 'teterrima causa' of all 'belli'--
Thou gate of life and death--thou nondescript!
Whence is our exit and our entrance,--well I
May pause in pondering how all souls are dipt
In thy perennial fountain:--how man fell I
Know not, since knowledge saw her branches stript
Of her first fruit; but how he falls and rises
Since, thou hast settled beyond all surmises.

Some call thee 'the worst cause of war,' but I
Maintain thou art the best: for after all
From thee we come, to thee we go, and why
To get at thee not batter down a wall,
Or waste a world? since no one can deny
Thou dost replenish worlds both great and small:
With, or without thee, all things at a stand
Are, or would be, thou sea of life's dry land!

Catherine, who was the grand epitome
Of that great cause of war, or peace, or what
You please (it causes all the things which be,
So you may take your choice of this or that)--
Catherine, I say. was very glad to see
The handsome herald, on whose plumage sat
Victory; and pausing as she saw him kneel
With his despatch, forgot to break the seal.

Then recollecting the whole empress, nor
forgetting quite the woman (which composed
At least three parts of this great whole), she tore
The letter open with an air which posed
The court, that watch'd each look her visage wore,
Until a royal smile at length disclosed
Fair weather for the day. Though rather spacious,
Her face was noble, her eyes fine, mouth gracious.

Great joy was hers, or rather joys: the first
Was a ta'en city, thirty thousand slain.
Glory and triumph o'er her aspect burst,
As an East Indian sunrise on the main.
These quench'd a moment her ambition's thirst--
So Arab deserts drink in summer's rain:
In vain!- As fall the dews on quenchless sands,
Blood only serves to wash Ambition's hands!

Her next amusement was more fanciful;
She smiled at mad Suwarrow's rhymes, who threw
Into a Russian couplet rather dull
The whole gazette of thousands whom he slew.
Her third was feminine enough to annul
The shudder which runs naturally through
Our veins, when things call'd sovereigns think it best
To kill, and generals turn it into jest.

The two first feelings ran their course complete,
And lighted first her eye, and then her mouth:
The whole court look'd immediately most sweet,
Like flowers well water'd after a long drouth.
But when on the lieutenant at her feet
Her majesty, who liked to gaze on youth
Almost as much as on a new despatch,
Glanced mildly, all the world was on the watch.

Though somewhat large, exuberant, and truculent,
When wroth- while pleased, she was as fine a figure
As those who like things rosy, ripe, and succulent,
Would wish to look on, while they are in vigour.
She could repay each amatory look you lent
With interest, and in turn was wont with rigour
To exact of Cupid's bills the full amount
At sight, nor would permit you to discount.

With her the latter, though at times convenient,
Was not so necessary; for they tell
That she was handsome, and though fierce look'd lenient,
And always used her favourites too well.
If once beyond her boudoir's precincts in ye went,
Your 'fortune' was in a fair way 'to swell
A man' (as Giles says); for though she would widow all
Nations, she liked man as an individual.

What a strange thing is man? and what a stranger
Is woman! What a whirlwind is her head,
And what a whirlpool full of depth and danger
Is all the rest about her! Whether wed
Or widow, maid or mother, she can change her
Mind like the wind: whatever she has said
Or done, is light to what she'll say or do;--
The oldest thing on record, and yet new!

Oh Catherine! (for of all interjections,
To thee both oh! and ah! belong of right
In love and war) how odd are the connections
Of human thoughts, which jostle in their flight!
Just now yours were cut out in different sections:
First Ismail's capture caught your fancy quite;
Next of new knights, the fresh and glorious batch;
And thirdly he who brought you the despatch!

Shakspeare talks of 'the herald Mercury
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;'
And some such visions cross'd her majesty,
While her young herald knelt before her still.
'Tis very true the hill seem'd rather high,
For a lieutenant to climb up; but skill
Smooth'd even the Simplon's steep, and by God's blessing
With youth and health all kisses are 'heaven-kissing.'

Her majesty look'd down, the youth look'd up--
And so they fell in love;--she with his face,
His grace, his God-knows-what: for Cupid's cup
With the first draught intoxicates apace,
A quintessential laudanum or 'black drop,'
Which makes one drunk at once, without the base
Expedient of full bumpers; for the eye
In love drinks all life's fountains (save tears) dry.

He, on the other hand, if not in love,
Fell into that no less imperious passion,
Self-love- which, when some sort of thing above
Ourselves, a singer, dancer, much in fashion,
Or duchess, princess, empress, 'deigns to prove'
('Tis Pope's phrase) a great longing, though a rash one,
For one especial person out of many,
Makes us believe ourselves as good as any.

Besides, he was of that delighted age
Which makes all female ages equal--when
We don't much care with whom we may engage,
As bold as Daniel in the lion's den,
So that we can our native sun assuage
In the next ocean, which may flow just then,
To make a twilight in, just as Sol's heat is
Quench'd in the lap of the salt sea, or Thetis.

And Catherine (we must say thus much for Catherine),
Though bold and bloody, was the kind of thing
Whose temporary passion was quite flattering,
Because each lover look'd a sort of king,
Made up upon an amatory pattern,
A royal husband in all save the ring--
Which, being the damn'dest part of matrimony,
Seem'd taking out the sting to leave the honey.

And when you add to this, her womanhood
In its meridian, her blue eyes or gray
(The last, if they have soul, are quite as good,
Or better, as the best examples say:
Napoleon's, Mary's (queen of Scotland), should
Lend to that colour a transcendent ray;
And Pallas also sanctions the same hue,
Too wise to look through optics black or blue)--

Her sweet smile, and her then majestic figure,
Her plumpness, her imperial condescension,
Her preference of a boy to men much bigger
(Fellows whom Messalina's self would pension),
Her prime of life, just now in juicy vigour,
With other extras, which we need not mention,--
All these, or any one of these, explain
Enough to make a stripling very vain.

And that's enough, for love is vanity,
Selfish in its beginning as its end,
Except where 't is a mere insanity,
A maddening spirit which would strive to blend
Itself with beauty's frail inanity,
On which the passion's self seems to depend:
And hence some heathenish philosophers
Make love the main spring of the universe.

Besides Platonic love, besides the love
Of God, the love of sentiment, the loving
Of faithful pairs (I needs must rhyme with dove,
That good old steam-boat which keeps verses moving
'Gainst reason--Reason ne'er was hand-and-glove
With rhyme, but always leant less to improving
The sound than sense)--beside all these pretences
To love, there are those things which words name senses;

Those movements, those improvements in our bodies
Which make all bodies anxious to get out
Of their own sand-pits, to mix with a goddess,
For such all women are at first no doubt.
How beautiful that moment! and how odd is
That fever which precedes the languid rout
Of our sensations! What a curious way
The whole thing is of clothing souls in clay!

The noblest kind of love is love Platonical,
To end or to begin with; the next grand
Is that which may be christen'd love canonical,
Because the clergy take the thing in hand;
The third sort to be noted in our chronicle
As flourishing in every Christian land,
Is when chaste matrons to their other ties
Add what may be call'd marriage in disguise.

Well, we won't analyse--our story must
Tell for itself: the sovereign was smitten,
Juan much flatter'd by her love, or lust;-
I cannot stop to alter words once written,
And the two are so mix'd with human dust,
That he who names one, both perchance may hit on:
But in such matters Russia's mighty empress
Behaved no better than a common sempstress.

The whole court melted into one wide whisper,
And all lips were applied unto all ears!
The elder ladies' wrinkles curl'd much crisper
As they beheld; the younger cast some leers
On one another, and each lovely lisper
Smiled as she talk'd the matter o'er; but tears
Of rivalship rose in each clouded eye
Of all the standing army who stood by.

All the ambassadors of all the powers
Enquired, Who was this very new young man,
Who promised to be great in some few hours?
Which is full soon--though life is but a span.
Already they beheld the silver showers
Of rubles rain, as fast as specie can,
Upon his cabinet, besides the presents
Of several ribands, and some thousand peasants.

Catherine was generous,--all such ladies are:
Love, that great opener of the heart and all
The ways that lead there, be they near or far,
Above, below, by turnpikes great or small,--
Love (though she had a cursed taste for war,
And was not the best wife, unless we call
Such Clytemnestra, though perhaps 't is better
That one should die, than two drag on the fetter)--

Love had made Catherine make each lover's fortune,
Unlike our own half-chaste Elizabeth,
Whose avarice all disbursements did importune,
If history, the grand liar, ever saith
The truth; and though grief her old age might shorten,
Because she put a favourite to death,
Her vile, ambiguous method of flirtation,
And stinginess, disgrace her sex and station.

But when the levee rose, and all was bustle
In the dissolving circle, all the nations'
Ambassadors began as 'twere to hustle
Round the young man with their congratulations.
Also the softer silks were heard to rustle
Of gentle dames, among whose recreations
It is to speculate on handsome faces,
Especially when such lead to high places.

Juan, who found himself, he knew not how,
A general object of attention, made
His answers with a very graceful bow,
As if born for the ministerial trade.
Though modest, on his unembarrass'd brow
Nature had written 'gentleman.' He said
Little, but to the purpose; and his manner
Flung hovering graces o'er him like a banner.

An order from her majesty consign'd
Our young lieutenant to the genial care
Of those in office: all the world look'd kind
(As it will look sometimes with the first stare,
Which youth would not act ill to keep in mind),
As also did Miss Protasoff then there,
Named from her mystic office 'l'Eprouveuse,'
A term inexplicable to the Muse.

With her then, as in humble duty bound,
Juan retired,--and so will I, until
My Pegasus shall tire of touching ground.
We have just lit on a 'heaven-kissing hill,'
So lofty that I feel my brain turn round,
And all my fancies whirling like a mill;
Which is a signal to my nerves and brain,
To take a quiet ride in some green Lane.

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Canto the Ninth

I
Oh, Wellington! (or "Villainton" -- for Fame
Sounds the heroic syllables both ways;
France could not even conquer your great name,
But punn'd it down to this facetious phrase --
Beating or beaten she will laugh the same),
You have obtain'd great pensions and much praise:
Glory like yours should any dare gainsay,
Humanity would rise, and thunder "Nay!"

II
I don't think that you used Kinnaird quite well
In Marinet's affair -- in fact, 't was shabby,
And like some other things won't do to tell
Upon your tomb in Westminster's old abbey.
Upon the rest 't is not worth while to dwell,
Such tales being for the tea-hours of some tabby;
But though your years as man tend fast to zero,
In fact your grace is still but a young hero.

III
Though Britain owes (and pays you too) so much,
Yet Europe doubtless owes you greatly more:
You have repair'd Legitimacy's crutch,
A prop not quite so certain as before:
The Spanish, and the French, as well as Dutch,
Have seen, and felt, how strongly you restore;
And Waterloo has made the world your debtor
(I wish your bards would sing it rather better).

IV
You are "the best of cut-throats:" -- do not start;
The phrase is Shakspeare's, and not misapplied:
War's a brain-spattering, windpipe-slitting art,
Unless her cause by right be sanctified.
If you have acted once a generous part,
The world, not the world's masters, will decide,
And I shall be delighted to learn who,
Save you and yours, have gain'd by Waterloo?

V
I am no flatterer -- you've supp'd full of flattery:
They say you like it too -- 't is no great wonder.
He whose whole life has been assault and battery,
At last may get a little tired of thunder;
And swallowing eulogy much more than satire, he
May like being praised for every lucky blunder,
Call'd "Saviour of the Nations" -- not yet saved,
And "Europe's Liberator" -- still enslaved.

VI
I've done. Now go and dine from off the plate
Presented by the Prince of the Brazils,
And send the sentinel before your gate
A slice or two from your luxurious meals:
He fought, but has not fed so well of late.
Some hunger, too, they say the people feels: --
There is no doubt that you deserve your ration,
But pray give back a little to the nation.

VII
I don't mean to reflect -- a man so great as
You, my lord duke! is far above reflection:
The high Roman fashion, too, of Cincinnatus,
With modern history has but small connection:
Though as an Irishman you love potatoes,
You need not take them under your direction;
And half a million for your Sabine farm
Is rather dear! -- I'm sure I mean no harm.

VIII
Great men have always scorn'd great recompenses:
Epaminondas saved his Thebes, and died,
Not leaving even his funeral expenses:
George Washington had thanks and nought beside,
Except the all-cloudless glory (which few men's is)
To free his country: Pitt too had his pride,
And as a high-soul'd minister of state is
Renown'd for ruining Great Britain gratis.

IX
Never had mortal man such opportunity,
Except Napoleon, or abused it more:
You might have freed fallen Europe from the unity
Of tyrants, and been blest from shore to shore:
And now -- what is your fame? Shall the Muse tune it ye?
Now -- that the rabble's first vain shouts are o'er?
Go! hear it in your famish'd country's cries!
Behold the world! and curse your victories!

X
As these new cantos touch on warlike feats,
To you the unflattering Muse deigns to inscribe
Truths, that you will not read in the Gazettes,
But which 't is time to teach the hireling tribe
Who fatten on their country's gore, and debts,
Must be recited, and -- without a bribe.
You did great things; but not being great in mind,
Have left undone the greatest -- and mankind.

XI
Death laughs -- Go ponder o'er the skeleton
With which men image out the unknown thing
That hides the past world, like to a set sun
Which still elsewhere may rouse a brighter spring --
Death laughs at all you weep for: -- look upon
This hourly dread of all! whose threaten'd sting
Turns life to terror, even though in its sheath:
Mark how its lipless mouth grins without breath!

XII
Mark how it laughs and scorns at all you are!
And yet was what you are: from ear to ear
It laughs not -- there is now no fleshy bar
So call'd; the Antic long hath ceased to hear,
But still he smiles; and whether near or far,
He strips from man that mantle (far more dear
Than even the tailor's), his incarnate skin,
White, black, or copper -- the dead bones will grin.

XIII
And thus Death laughs, -- it is sad merriment,
But still it is so; and with such example
Why should not Life be equally content
With his superior, in a smile to trample
Upon the nothings which are daily spent
Like bubbles on an ocean much less ample
Than the eternal deluge, which devours
Suns as rays -- worlds like atoms -- years like hours?

XIV
"To be, or not to be? that is the question,"
Says Shakspeare, who just now is much in fashion.
I am neither Alexander nor Hephæstion,
Nor ever had for abstract fame much passion;
But would much rather have a sound digestion
Than Buonaparte's cancer: could I dash on
Through fifty victories to shame or fame --
Without a stomach what were a good name?

XV
"O dura ilia messorum!" -- "Oh
Ye rigid guts of reapers!" I translate
For the great benefit of those who know
What indigestion is -- that inward fate
Which makes all Styx through one small liver flow.
A peasant's sweat is worth his lord's estate:
Let this one toil for bread -- that rack for rent,
He who sleeps best may be the most content.

XVI
"To be, or not to be?" -- Ere I decide,
I should be glad to know that which is being?
'T is true we speculate both far and wide,
And deem, because we see, we are all-seeing:
For my part, I'll enlist on neither side,
Until I see both sides for once agreeing.
For me, I sometimes think that life is death,
Rather than life a mere affair of breath.

XVII
"Que scais-je?" was the motto of Montaigne,
As also of the first academicians:
That all is dubious which man may attain,
Was one of their most favourite positions.
There's no such thing as certainty, that's plain
As any of Mortality's conditions;
So little do we know what we're about in
This world, I doubt if doubt itself be doubting.

XVIII
It is a pleasant voyage perhaps to float,
Like Pyrrho, on a sea of speculation;
But what if carrying sail capsize the boat?
Your wise men don't know much of navigation;
And swimming long in the abyss of thought
Is apt to tire: a calm and shallow station
Well nigh the shore, where one stoops down and gathers
Some pretty shell, is best for moderate bathers.

XIX
"But heaven," as Cassio says, "is above all --
No more of this, then, -- let us pray!" We have
Souls to save, since Eve's slip and Adam's fall,
Which tumbled all mankind into the grave,
Besides fish, beasts, and birds. "The sparrow's fall
Is special providence," though how it gave
Offence, we know not; probably it perch'd
Upon the tree which Eve so fondly search'd.

XX
Oh, ye immortal gods! what is theogony?
Oh, thou too, mortal man! what is philanthropy?
Oh, world! which was and is, what is cosmogony?
Some people have accused me of misanthropy;
And yet I know no more than the mahogany
That forms this desk, of what they mean; Lykanthropy
I comprehend, for without transformation
Men become wolves on any slight occasion.

XXI
But I, the mildest, meekest of mankind,
Like Moses, or Melancthon, who have ne'er
Done anything exceedingly unkind, --
And (though I could not now and then forbear
Following the bent of body or of mind)
Have always had a tendency to spare, --
Why do they call me misanthrope? Because
They hate me, not I them. -- and here we'll pause.

XXII
'T is time we should proceed with our good poem, --
For I maintain that it is really good,
Not only in the body but the proem,
However little both are understood
Just now, -- but by and by the Truth will show 'em
Herself in her sublimest attitude:
And till she doth, I fain must be content
To share her beauty and her banishment.

XXIII
Our hero (and, I trust, kind reader, yours)
Was left upon his way to the chief city
Of the immortal Peter's polish'd boors
Who still have shown themselves more brave than witty.
I know its mighty empire now allures
Much flattery -- even Voltaire's, and that's a pity.
For me, I deem an absolute autocrat
Not a barbarian, but much worse than that.

XXIV
And I will war, at least in words (and -- should
My chance so happen -- deeds), with all who war
With Thought; -- and of Thought's foes by far most rude,
Tyrants and sycophants have been and are.
I know not who may conquer: if I could
Have such a prescience, it should be no bar
To this my plain, sworn, downright detestation
Of every depotism in every nation.

XXV
It is not that I adulate the people:
Without me, there are demagogues enough,
And infidels, to pull down every steeple,
And set up in their stead some proper stuff.
Whether they may sow scepticism to reap hell,
As is the Christian dogma rather rough,
I do not know; -- I wish men to be free
As much from mobs as kings -- from you as me.

XXVI
The consequence is, being of no party,
I shall offend all parties: never mind!
My words, at least, are more sincere and hearty
Than if I sought to sail before the wind.
He who has nought to gain can have small art: he
Who neither wishes to be bound nor bind,
May still expatiate freely, as will I,
Nor give my voice to slavery's jackal cry.

XXVII
That's an appropriate simile, that jackal; --
I've heard them in the Ephesian ruins howl
By night, as do that mercenary pack all,
Power's base purveyors, who for pickings prowl,
And scent the prey their masters would attack all.
However, the poor jackals are less foul
(As being the brave lions' keen providers)
Than human insects, catering for spiders.

XXVIII
Raise but an arm! 't will brush their web away,
And without that, their poison and their claws
Are useless. Mind, good people! what I say
(Or rather peoples) -- go on without pause!
The web of these tarantulas each day
Increases, till you shall make common cause:
None, save the Spanish fly and Attic bee,
As yet are strongly stinging to be free.

XXIX
Don Juan, who had shone in the late slaughter,
Was left upon his way with the despatch,
Where blood was talk'd of as we would of water;
And carcasses that lay as thick as thatch
O'er silenced cities, merely served to flatter
Fair Catherine's pastime -- who look'd on the match
Between these nations as a main of cocks,
Wherein she liked her own to stand like rocks.

XXX
And there in a kibitka he roll'd on
(A curséd sort of carriage without springs,
Which on rough roads leaves scarcely a whole bone),
Pondering on glory, chivalry, and kings,
And orders, and on all that he had done --
And wishing that post-horses had the wings
Of Pegasus, or at the least post-chaises
Had feathers, when a traveller on deep ways is.

XXXI
At every jolt -- and they were many -- still
He turn'd his eyes upon his little charge,
As if he wish'd that she should fare less ill
Than he, in these sad highways left at large
To ruts, and flints, and lovely Nature's skill,
Who is no paviour, nor admits a barge
On her canals, where God takes sea and land,
Fishery and farm, both into his own hand.

XXXII
At least he pays no rent, and has best right
To be the first of what we used to call
"Gentlemen farmer" -- a race worn out quite,
Since lately there have been no rents at all,
And "gentlemen" are in a piteous plight,
And "farmers" can't raise Ceres from her fall:
She fell with Buonaparte -- What strange thoughts
Arise, when we see emperors fall with oats!

XXXIII
But Juan turn'd his eyes on the sweet child
Whom he had saved from slaughter -- what a trophy!
Oh! ye who build up monuments, defiled
With gore, like Nadir Shah, that costive sophy,
Who, after leaving Hindostan a wild,
And scarce to the Mogul a cup of coffee
To soothe his woes withal, was slain, the sinner!
Because he could no more digest his dinner; --

XXXIV
Oh ye! or we! or he! or she! reflect,
That one life saved, especially if young
Or pretty, is a thing to recollect
Far sweeter than the greenest laurels sprung
From the manure of human clay, though deck'd
With all the praises ever said or sung:
Though hymn'd by every harp, unless within
Your heart joins chorus, Fame is but a din.

XXXV
Oh! ye great authors luminous, voluminous!
Ye twice ten hundred thousand daily scribes!
Whose pamphlets, volumes, newspapers, illumine us!
Whether you're paid by government in bribes,
To prove the public debt is not consuming us --
Or, roughly treading on the "courtier's kibes"
With clownish heel, your popular circulation
Feeds you by printing half the realm's starvation; --

XXXVI
Oh, ye great authors! -- "Apropos des bottes," --
I have forgotten what I meant to say,
As sometimes have been greater sages' lots; --
'T was something calculated to allay
All wrath in barracks, palaces, or cots:
Certes it would have been but thrown away,
And that's one comfort for my lost advice,
Although no doubt it was beyond all price.

XXXVII
But let it go: -- it will one day be found
With other relics of "a former world,"
When this world shall be former, underground,
Thrown topsy-turvy, twisted, crisp'd, and curl'd,
Baked, fried, or burnt, turn'd inside-out, or drown'd,
Like all the worlds before, which have been hurl'd
First out of, and then back again to chaos,
The superstratum which will overlay us.

XXXVIII
So Cuvier says; -- and then shall come again
Unto the new creation, rising out
From our old crash, some mystic, ancient strain
Of things destroy'd and left in airy doubt:
Like to the notions we now entertain
Of Titans, giants, fellows of about
Some hundred feet in height, not to say miles,
And mammoths, and your wingéd crocodiles.

XXXIX
Think if then George the Fourth should be dug up!
How the new worldlings of the then new East
Will wonder where such animals could sup!
(For they themselves will be but of the least:
Even worlds miscarry, when too oft they pup,
And every new creation hath decreased
In size, from overworking the material --
Men are but maggots of some huge Earth's burial.)

XL
How will -- to these young people, just thrust out
From some fresh Paradise, and set to plough,
And dig, and sweat, and turn themselves about,
And plant, and reap, and spin, and grind, and sow,
Till all the arts at length are brought about,
Especially of war and taxing, -- how,
I say, will these great relics, when they see 'em,
Look like the monsters of a new museum?

XLI
But I am apt to grow too metaphysical:
"The time is out of joint," -- and so am I;
I quite forget this poem's merely quizzical,
And deviate into matters rather dry.
I ne'er decide what I shall say, and this I call
Much too poetical: men should know why
They write, and for what end; but, note or text,
I never know the word which will come next.

XLII
So on I ramble, now and then narrating,
Now pondering: -- it is time we should narrate.
I left Don Juan with his horses baiting --
Now we'll get o'er the ground at a great rate.
I shall not be particular in stating
His journey, we've so many tours of late:
Suppose him then at Petersburgh; suppose
That pleasant capital of painted snows;

XLIII
Suppose him in a handsome uniform, --
A scarlet coat, black facings, a long plume,
Waving, like sails new shiver'd in a storm,
Over a cock'd hat in a crowded room,
And brilliant breeches, bright as a Cairn Gorme,
Of yellow casimere we may presume,
White stocking drawn uncurdled as new milk
O'er limbs whose symmetry set off the silk;

XLIV
Suppose him sword by side, and hat in hand,
Made up by youth, fame, and an army tailor --
That great enchanter, at whose rod's command
Beauty springs forth, and Nature's self turns paler,
Seeing how Art can make her work more grand
(When she don't pin men's limbs in like a gaoler), --
Behold him placed as if upon a pillar! He
Seems Love turn'd a lieutenant of artillery: --

XLV
His bandage slipp'd down into a cravat;
His wings subdued to epaulettes; his quiver
Shrunk to a scabbard, with his arrows at
His side as a small sword, but sharp as ever;
His bow converted into a cock'd hat;
But still so like, that Psyche were more clever
Than some wives (who make blunders no less stupid),
If she had not mistaken him for Cupid.

XLVI
The courtiers stared, the ladies whisper'd, and
The empress smiled: the reigning favourite frown'd --
I quite forget which of them was in hand
Just then; as they are rather numerous found,
Who took by turns that difficult command
Since first her majesty was singly crown'd:
But they were mostly nervous six-foot fellows,
All fit to make a Patagonian jealous.

XLVII
Juan was none of these, but slight and slim,
Blushing and beardless; and yet ne'ertheless
There was a something in his turn of limb,
And still more in his eye, which seem'd to express,
That though he look'd one of the seraphim,
There lurk'd a man beneath the spirit's dress.
Besides, the empress sometimes liked a boy,
And had just buried the fair-faced Lanskoi.

XLVIII
No wonder then that Yermoloff, or Momonoff,
Or Scherbatoff, or any other off
Or on, might dread her majesty had not room enough
Within her bosom (which was not too tough)
For a new flame; a thought to cast of gloom enough
Along the aspect, whether smooth or rough,
Of him who, in the language of his station,
Then held that "high official situation."

XLIX
O, gentle ladies! should you seek to know
The import of this diplomatic phrase,
Bid Ireland's Londonderry's Marquess show
His parts of speech; and in the strange displays
Of that odd string of words, all in a row,
Which none divine, and every one obeys,
Perhaps you may pick out some queer no meaning,
Of that weak wordy harvest the sole gleaning.

L
I think I can explain myself without
That sad inexplicable beast of prey --
That Sphinx, whose words would ever be a doubt,
Did not his deeds unriddle them each day --
That monstrous hieroglyphic -- that long spout
Of blood and water, leaden Castlereagh!
And here I must an anecdote relate,
But luckily of no great length or weight.

LI
An English lady ask'd of an Italian,
What were the actual and official duties
Of the strange thing some women set a value on,
Which hovers oft about some married beauties,
Called "Cavalier servente?" -- a Pygmalion
Whose statues warm (I fear, alas! too true 't is)
Beneath his art. The dame, press'd to disclose them,
Said -- "Lady, I beseech you to suppose them."

LII
And thus I supplicate your supposition,
And mildest, matron-like interpretation,
Of the imperial favourite's condition.
'T was a high place, the highest in the nation
In fact, if not in rank; and the suspicion
Of any one's attaining to his station,
No doubt gave pain, where each new pair of shoulders,
If rather broad, made stocks rise and their holders.

LIII
Juan, I said, was a most beauteous boy,
And had retain'd his boyish look beyond
The usual hirsute seasons which destroy,
With beards and whiskers, and the like, the fond
Parisian aspect which upset old Troy
And founded Doctors' Commons: -- I have conn'd
The history of divorces, which, though chequer'd,
Calls Ilion's the first damages on record.

LIV
And Catherine, who loved all things (save her lord,
Who was gone to his place), and pass'd for much
Admiring those (by dainty dames abhorr'd)
Gigantic gentlemen, yet had a touch
Of sentiment; and he she most adored
Was the lamented Lanskoi, who was such
A lover as had cost her many a tear,
And yet but made a middling grenadier.

LV
Oh thou "teterrima causa" of all "belli" --
Thou gate of life and death -- thou nondescript!
Whence is our exit and our entrance, -- well I
May pause in pondering how all souls are dipt
In thy perennial fountain: -- how man fell I
Know not, since knowledge saw her branches stript
Of her first fruit; but how he falls and rises
Since, thou hast settled beyond all surmises.

LVI
Some call thee "the worst cause of war," but I
Maintain thou art the best: for after all
From thee we come, to thee we go, and why
To get at thee not batter down a wall,
Or waste a world? since no one can deny
Thou dost replenish worlds both great and small:
With, or without thee, all things at a stand
Are, or would be, thou sea of life's dry land!

LVII
Catherine, who was the grand Epitome
Of that great cause of war, or peace, or what
You please (it causes all the things which be,
So you may take your choice of this or that) --
Catherine, I say. was very glad to see
The handsome herald, on whose plumage sat
Victory; and pausing as she saw him kneel
With his despatch, forgot to break the seal.

LVIII
Then recollecting the whole empress, nor
Forgetting quite the woman (which composed
At least three parts of this great whole), she tore
The letter open with an air which posed
The court, that watch'd each look her visage wore,
Until a royal smile at length disclosed
Fair weather for the day. Though rather spacious,
Her face was noble, her eyes fine, mouth gracious.

LIX
Great joy was hers, or rather joys: the first
Was a ta'en city, thirty thousand slain.
Glory and triumph o'er her aspect burst,
As an East Indian sunrise on the main.
These quench'd a moment her ambition's thirst --
So Arab deserts drink in summer's rain:
In vain! -- As fall the dews on quenchless sands,
Blood only serves to wash Ambition's hands!

LX
Her next amusement was more fanciful;
She smiled at mad Suwarrow's rhymes, who threw
Into a Russian couplet rather dull
The whole gazette of thousands whom he slew.
Her third was feminine enough to annul
The shudder which runs naturally through
Our veins, when things call'd sovereigns think it best
To kill, and generals turn it into jest.

LXI
The two first feelings ran their course complete,
And lighted first her eye, and then her mouth:
The whole court look'd immediately most sweet,
Like flowers well water'd after a long drouth.
But when on the lieutenant at her feet
Her majesty, who liked to gaze on youth
Almost as much as on a new despatch,
Glanced mildly, all the world was on the watch.

LXII
Though somewhat large, exuberant, and truculent,
When wroth -- while pleased, she was as fine a figure
As those who like things rosy, ripe, and succulent,
Would wish to look on, while they are in vigour.
She could repay each amatory look you lent
With interest, and in turn was wont with rigour
To exact of Cupid's bills the full amount
At sight, nor would permit you to discount.

LXIII
With her the latter, though at times convenient,
Was not so necessary; for they tell
That she was handsome, and though fierce look'd lenient,
And always used her favourites too well.
If once beyond her boudoir's precincts in ye went,
Your "fortune" was in a fair way "to swell
A man" (as Giles says); for though she would widow all
Nations, she liked man as an individual.

LXIV
What a strange thing is man? and what a stranger
Is woman! What a whirlwind is her head,
And what a whirlpool full of depth and danger
Is all the rest about her! Whether wed
Or widow, maid or mother, she can change her
Mind like the wind: whatever she has said
Or done, is light to what she'll say or do; --
The oldest thing on record, and yet new!

LXV
Oh Catherine! (for of all interjections,
To thee both oh! and ah! belong of right
In love and war) how odd are the connections
Of human thoughts, which jostle in their flight!
Just now yours were cut out in different sections:
First Ismail's capture caught your fancy quite;
Next of new knights, the fresh and glorious batch;
And thirdly he who brought you the despatch!

LXVI
Shakspeare talks of "the herald Mercury
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;"
And some such visions cross'd her majesty,
While her young herald knelt before her still.
'T is very true the hill seem'd rather high,
For a lieutenant to climb up; but skill
Smooth'd even the Simplon's steep, and by God's blessing
With youth and health all kisses are "heaven-kissing."

LXVII
Her majesty look'd down, the youth look'd up --
And so they fell in love; -- she with his face,
His grace, his God-knows-what: for Cupid's cup
With the first draught intoxicates apace,
A quintessential laudanum or "black drop,"
Which makes one drunk at once, without the base
Expedient of full bumpers; for the eye
In love drinks all life's fountains (save tears) dry.

LXVIII
He, on the other hand, if not in love,
Fell into that no less imperious passion,
Self-love -- which, when some sort of thing above
Ourselves, a singer, dancer, much in fashion,
Or duchess, princess, empress, "deigns to prove"
('T is Pope's phrase) a great longing, though a rash one,
For one especial person out of many,
Makes us believe ourselves as good as any.

LXIX
Besides, he was of that delighted age
Which makes all female ages equal -- when
We don't much care with whom we may engage,
As bold as Daniel in the lion's den,
So that we can our native sun assuage
In the next ocean, which may flow just then,
To make a twilight in, just as Sol's heat is
Quench'd in the lap of the salt sea, or Thetis.

LXX
And Catherine (we must say thus much for Catherine),
Though bold and bloody, was the kind of thing
Whose temporary passion was quite flattering,
Because each lover look'd a sort of king,
Made up upon an amatory pattern,
A royal husband in all save the ring --
Which, being the damn'dest part of matrimony,
Seem'd taking out the sting to leave the honey.

LXXI
And when you add to this, her womanhood
In its meridian, her blue eyes or gray
(The last, if they have soul, are quite as good,
Or better, as the best examples say:
Napoleon's, Mary's (queen of Scotland), should
Lend to that colour a transcendent ray;
And Pallas also sanctions the same hue,
Too wise to look through optics black or blue) --

LXXII
Her sweet smile, and her then majestic figure,
Her plumpness, her imperial condescension,
Her preference of a boy to men much bigger
(Fellows whom Messalina's self would pension),
Her prime of life, just now in juicy vigour,
With other extras, which we need not mention, --
All these, or any one of these, explain
Enough to make a stripling very vain.

LXXIII
And that's enough, for love is vanity,
Selfish in its beginning as its end,
Except where 't is a mere insanity,
A maddening spirit which would strive to blend
Itself with beauty's frail inanity,
On which the passion's self seems to depend:
And hence some heathenish philosophers
Make love the main spring of the universe.

LXXIV
Besides Platonic love, besides the love
Of God, the love of sentiment, the loving
Of faithful pairs (I needs must rhyme with dove,
That good old steam-boat which keeps verses moving
'Gainst reason -- Reason ne'er was hand-and-glove
With rhyme, but always leant less to improving
The sound than sense) -- beside all these pretences
To love, there are those things which words name senses;

LXXV
Those movements, those improvements in our bodies
Which make all bodies anxious to get out
Of their own sand-pits, to mix with a goddess,
For such all women are at first no doubt.
How beautiful that moment! and how odd is
That fever which precedes the languid rout
Of our sensations! What a curious way
The whole thing is of clothing souls in clay!

LXXVI
The noblest kind of love is love Platonical,
To end or to begin with; the next grand
Is that which may be christen'd love canonical,
Because the clergy take the thing in hand;
The third sort to be noted in our chronicle
As flourishing in every Christian land,
Is when chaste matrons to their other ties
Add what may be call'd marriage in disguise.

LXXVII
Well, we won't analyse -- our story must
Tell for itself: the sovereign was smitten,
Juan much flatter'd by her love, or lust; --
I cannot stop to alter words once written,
And the two are so mix'd with human dust,
That he who names one, both perchance may hit on:
But in such matters Russia's mighty empress
Behaved no better than a common sempstress.

LXXVIII
The whole court melted into one wide whisper,
And all lips were applied unto all ears!
The elder ladies' wrinkles curl'd much crisper
As they beheld; the younger cast some leers
On one another, and each lovely lisper
Smiled as she talk'd the matter o'er; but tears
Of rivalship rose in each clouded eye
Of all the standing army who stood by.

LXXIX
All the ambassadors of all the powers
Enquired, Who was this very new young man,
Who promised to be great in some few hours?
Which is full soon -- though life is but a span.
Already they beheld the silver showers
Of rubles rain, as fast as specie can,
Upon his cabinet, besides the presents
Of several ribands, and some thousand peasants.

LXXX
Catherine was generous, -- all such ladies are:
Love, that great opener of the heart and all
The ways that lead there, be they near or far,
Above, below, by turnpikes great or small, --
Love (though she had a curséd taste for war,
And was not the best wife, unless we call
Such Clytemnestra, though perhaps 't is better
That one should die, than two drag on the fetter) --

LXXXI
Love had made Catherine make each lover's fortune,
Unlike our own half-chaste Elizabeth,
Whose avarice all disbursements did importune,
If history, the grand liar, ever saith
The truth; and though grief her old age might shorten,
Because she put a favourite to death,
Her vile, ambiguous method of flirtation,
And stinginess, disgrace her sex and station.

LXXXII
But when the levée rose, and all was bustle
In the dissolving circle, all the nations'
Ambassadors began as 't were to hustle
Round the young man with their congratulations.
Also the softer silks were heard to rustle
Of gentle dames, among whose recreations
It is to speculate on handsome faces,
Especially when such lead to high places.

LXXXIII
Juan, who found himself, he knew not how,
A general object of attention, made
His answers with a very graceful bow,
As if born for the ministerial trade.
Though modest, on his unembarrass'd brow
Nature had written "gentleman." He said
Little, but to the purpose; and his manner
Flung hovering graces o'er him like a banner.

LXXXIV
An order from her majesty consign'd
Our young lieutenant to the genial care
Of those in office: all the world look'd kind
(As it will look sometimes with the first stare,
Which youth would not act ill to keep in mind),
As also did Miss Protasoff then there,
Named from her mystic office "l'Eprouveuse,"
A term inexplicable to the Muse.

LXXXV
With her then, as in humble duty bound,
Juan retired, -- and so will I, until
My Pegasus shall tire of touching ground.
We have just lit on a "heaven-kissing hill,"
So lofty that I feel my brain turn round,
And all my fancies whirling like a mill;
Which is a signal to my nerves and brain,
To take a quiet ride in some green Lane.

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Orlando Furioso Canto 5

ARGUMENT
Lurcanio, by a false report abused,
Deemed by Geneura's fault his brother dead,
Weening the faithless duke, whom she refused,
Was taken by the damsel to her bed;
And her before the king and peers accused:
But to the session Ariodantes led,
Strives with his brother in disguise. In season
Rinaldo comes to venge the secret treason.

I
Among all other animals who prey
On earth, or who unite in friendly wise,
Whether they mix in peace or moody fray,
No male offends his mate. In safety hies
The she bear, matched with hers, through forest gray:
The lioness beside the lion lies:
Wolves, male and female, live in loving cheer;
Nor gentle heifer dreads the wilful steer.

II
What Fury, what abominable Pest
Such poison in the human heart has shed,
That still 'twixt man and wife, with rage possessed,
Injurious words and foul reproach are said?
And blows and outrage hase their peace molest,
And bitter tears still wash the genial bed;
Not only watered by the tearful flood,
But often bathed by senseless ire with blood?

III
Not simply a rank sinner, he appears
To outrage nature, and his God to dare,
Who his foul hand against a woman rears,
Or of her head would harm a single hair.
But who what drug the burning entrail sears,
Or who for her would knife or noose prepare,
No man appears to me, though such to sight
He seem, but rather some infernal sprite.

IV
Such, and no other were those ruffians two,
Whom good Rinaldo from the damsel scared,
Conducted to these valleys out of view,
That none might wot of her so foully snared.
I ended where the damsel, fair of hue,
To tell the occasion of her scathe prepared,
To the good Paladin, who brought release;
And in conclusion thus my story piece.

V
'Of direr deed than ever yet was done,'
The gentle dame began, 'Sir cavalier,
In Thebes, Mycene, Argos, or upon
Other more savage soil, prepare to hear;
And I believe, that if the circling sun
To these our Scottish shores approach less near
Than other land, 'tis that he would eschew
A foul ferocious race that shocks his view.

VI
'All times have shown that man has still pursued
With hair, in every clime, his natural foe;
But to deal death to those who seek our good
Does from too ill and foul a nature flow.
Now, that the truth be better understood,
I shall from first to last the occasion show,
Why in my tender years, against all right,
Those caitiffs would have dome me foul despite.

VII
' 'Tis fitting you should know, that in the spring
Of life, I to the palace made resort;
There served long time the daughter of the king,
And grew with her in growth, well placed in court.
When cruel love, my fortune envying,
Willed I should be his follower and his sport;
And made, beyond each Scottish lord and knight,
Albany's duke find favour in my sight.

VIII
'And for he seemed to cherish me above
All mean; his love a love as ardent bred.
We hear, indeed, and see, but do not prove
Man's faith, nor is his bosom's purpose read.
Believing still, and yielding to my love,
I ceased not till I took him to my bed;
Nor, of all chambers, in that evil hour,
Marked I was in Geneura's priviest bower.

IX
'Where, hoarded, she with careful privacy
Preserved whatever she esteemed most rare;
There many times she slept. A gallery
From thence projected into the open air.
Here oft I made my lover climb to me,
And (what he was to mount) a hempen stair,
When him I to my longing arms would call,
From the projecting balcony let fall.

X
'For here my passion I as often fed
As good Geneura's absence made me bold;
Who with the varying season changed her bed,
To shun the burning heat or pinching cold,
And Albany, unseen and safely sped;
For, fronting a dismantled street, and old,
Was built that portion of the palace bright;
Nor any went that way by day or night.

XI
'So was for many days and months maintained
By us, in secrecy, the amorous game;
Still grew by love, and such new vigour gained,
I in my inmost bosom felt the flame;
And that he little loved, and deeply feigned
Weened not, so was I blinded to my shame:
Though, in a thousand certain signs betrayed,
The faithless knight his base deceit bewrayed.

XII
'After some days, of fair Geneura he
A suitor showed himself; I cannot say
If this began before he sighed for me,
Or, after, of this love he made assay:
But judge, alas! with what supremacy
He ruled my heart, how absolute his sway!
Since this he owned, and thought no shame to move
Me to assist him in his second love.

XIII
'Unlike what he bore me, he said, indeed,
That was not true which he for her displayed;
But so pretending love, he hoped to speed,
And celebrate due spousals with the maid.
He with her royal sire might well succeed,
Were she consenting to the boon he prayed;
For after our good king, for wealth and birth
In all the realm, was none of equal worth.

XIV
'Me he persuades, if through my ministry
He the king's son-in-law elected were,
For I must know he next the king would be
Advanced as high, as subject could repair,
The merit should be mine, and ever he
So great a benefit in mind would bear;
And he would cherish me above his bride,
And more than every other dame beside.

XV
'I, who to please him was entirely bent,
Who never could or would gainsay his will,
Upon those days alone enjoy content,
When I find means his wishes to fulfil:
And snatch at all occasions which present
A mode, his praise and merits to instil:
And for my lover with all labour strain,
And industry, Geneura's love to gain.

XVI
'With all my heart, in furtherance of his suit,
I wrought what could be done, God truly knows;
But with Geneura this produced no friut,
Nor her to grace my duke could I dispose.
For that another love had taken root
In her, whose every fond affection flows
Towards a gentle knight of courteous lore,
Who sought our Scotland from a distant shore:

XVII
'And with a brother, then right young, to stay
In our king's court, came out of Italy:
And there of knightly arms made such assay,
Was none in Britain more approved than he;
Prized by the king, who (no ignoble pay),
Rewarding him like his nobility,
Bestowed upon the youth, with liberal hand,
Burghs, baronies, and castles, woods and land.

XVIII
'Dear to the monarch, to the daughter still
This lord was dearer, Ariodantes hight.
Her with affection might his valour fill;
But knowledge of his love brought more delight.
Nor old Vesuvius, nor Sicilia's hill,
Nor Troy-town, ever, with a blaze so bright,
Flamed, as with all his heart, the damsel learned,
For love of her young Ariodantes burned.

XIX
'The passion which she bore the lord, preferred
And loved with perfect truth and all her heart,
Was the occassion I was still unheard;
Nor hopeful answer would she e'er impart:
And still the more my lover's suit I stirred,
And to obtain his guerdon strove with art,
Him she would censure still, and ever more
Was strengthened in the hate she nursed before.

XX
'My wayward lover often I excite
So vain and bootless an emprize to quit;
Nor idly hope to turn her stedfast sprite,
Too deeply with another passion smit;
And make apparent to the Scottish knight,
Ariodantes such a flame had lit
In the young damsel's breast, that seas in flood
Would not have cooled one whit her boiling blood.

XXI
'This Polinesso many times had heard
From me (for such the Scottish baron's name)
Well warranted by sight as well as word,
How ill his love was cherished by the dame.
To see another to himself preferred
Not only quenched the haughty warrior's flame,
But the fond love, which in his bosom burned
Into despiteful rage and hatred turned.

XXII
'Between Geneura and her faithful knight
Such discord and ill will he schemed to shed,
And put betwixt the pair such foul despite.
No time should heal the quarrel he had bred;
Bringing such scandal on that damsel bright,
The stain should cleave to her, alive or dead:
Nor, bent to wreck her on this fatal shelf,
Counselled with me, or other but himself.

XXIII
' `Dalinda mine,' he said, his project brewed,
(Dalinda is my name) `you needs must know,
That from the root although the trunk be hewed,
Successive suckers many times will grow.
Thus my unhappy passion is renewed,
Tenacious still of life, and buds; although
Cut off by ill success, with new increase:
Nor, till I compass my desire, will cease.

XXIV
' `Nor hope of pleasure this so much has wrought,
As that to compass my design would please;
And, if not in effect, at least in thought
To thrive, would interpose some little ease.
Then every time your bower by me is sought,
When in her bed Geneura slumbers, seize
What she puts off, and be it still your care
To dress yourself in all her daily wear.

XXV
' `Dispose your locks and deck yourself as she
Goes decked; and, as you can, with cunning heed,
Imitate her; then to the gallery
You, furnished with the corded stair, shall speed:
I shall ascend it in the phantasy
That you are she, of whom you wear the weed:
And hope, that putting on myself this cheat,
I in short time shall quench my amorous heat.'

XXVI
'So said the knight; and I, who was distraught,
And all beside myself, was not aware
That the design, in which he help besought,
Was manifestly but too foul a snare;
And in Geneura's clothes disguised, as taught,
Let down (so oft I used) the corded stair.
Nor I the traitor's foul deceit perceived,
Until the deadly mischief was achieved.

XXVII
'The duke, this while, to Ariodantes' ears
Had these, or other words like these, addressed;
(For leagued in friendship were the cavaliers,
Till, rivals, they pursued this common quest)
'I marvel, since you are of all my peers
He, whom I must have honoured and caressed,
And held in high regard, and cherished still,
You should my benefits repay so ill.

XXVIII
' `I am assured you comprehend and know
Mine and Geneura's love, and old accord;
And, in legitimate espousal, how
I am about to claim her from my lord:
Then why disturb my suit, and why bestow
Your heart on her who offers no reward?
By Heaven, I should respect your claim and place,
Were your condition mine, and mine your case.'

XXIX
' `And I,' cried Ariodantes, `marvel more'
(In answer to the Scottish lord) `at you,
Since I of her enamoured was, before
That gentle damsel ever met your view;
And know, you are assured how evermore
We two have loved; - was never love more true -
Are certain she alone would share my lot;
And are as well assured she loves you not.

XXX
' `Why have not I from you the same respect,
To which, for friendship past, you would pretend
From me; and I should bear you in effect,
If your hope stood more fair to gain its end?
No less than you, to wed her I expect;
And if your fortunes here my wealth transcend,
As favoured of the king, as you, above
You, am I happy in his daughter's love.'

XXXI
' `Of what a strange mistake,' (to him replied
The duke) `your foolish passion is the root!
You think yourself beloved; I, on my side,
Believe the same; this try we by the fruit.
You of your own proceeding nothing hide,
And I will tell the secrets of my suit:
And let the man who proves least favoured, yield,
Provide himself elsewhere, and quit the field.

XXXII
' `I am prepared, if such your wish, to swear
Nothing of what is told me to reveal;
And will that you assure me, for your share,
You shall what I recount as well conceal.'
Uniting in the pact, the rival pair
Their solemn vows upon the Bible seal:
And when they had the mutual promise plighted,
Ariodantes first his tale recited.

XXXIII
'Then plainly, and by simple facts averred,
How with Geneura stood his suit, avows;
And how, engaged by writing and by word,
She swore she would not be another's spouse.
How, if to him the Scottish king demurred,
Virgin austerity she ever vows;
And other bridal bond for aye eschewed,
To pass her days in barren solitude.

XXXIV
'Then added, how he hoped by worth, which he
Had more than once avouched, with knightly brand,
And yet might vouch, to the prosperity
And honour of the king, and of his land,
To please so well that monarch, as to be
By him accounted worthy of the hand
Of his fair child, espoused with his consent:
Since he in this her wishes would content.

XXXV
'Then so concludes - `I stand upon this ground,
Nor I intruder fear, encroaching nigh;
Nor seek I more; 'tis here my hopes I bound;
Nor, striving for Geneura's love, would I
Seek surer sign of it than what is found,
By God allowed, in wedlock's lawful tie;
And other suit were hopeless, am I sure,
So excellent she is, and passing pure.'

XXXVI
'When Ariodantes had, with honest mind,
Told what reward he hoped should quit his pain,
False Polinesso, who before designed
To make Geneura hateful to her swain,
Began - `Alas! you yet are far behind
My hopes, and shall confess your own are vain;
And say, as I the root shall manifest
Of my good fortune, I alone am blest.

XXXVII
' `With you Geneura feigns, nor pays nor prizes
Your passion, which with hopes and words is fed;
And, more than this, your foolish love despises:
And this to me the damsel oft has said,
Of hers I am assured; of no surmises,
Vain, worthless words, or idle promise bred.
And I to you the fact in trust reveal,
Though this I should in better faith conceal.

XXXVIII
' `There passes not a month, but in that space
Three nights, four, six, and often ten, the fair
Receives me with that joy in her embrace,
Which seems to second so the warmth we share.
This you may witness, and shall judge the case;
If empty hopes can with my bliss compare.
Then since my happier fortune is above
Your wishes, yield, and seek another love.'

XXXIX
' `This will I not believe,' in answer cried
Ariodantes, `well assured you lie,
And that you have this string of falsehoods tied,
To scare me from the dear emprize I try.
But charge, so passing foul, you shall abide,
And vouch what you have said in arms; for I
Not only on your tale place no reliance;
But as a traitor hurl you my defiance.'

XL
'To him rejoined the duke, 'I ween 'twere ill
To take the battle upon either part,
Since surer mean our purpose may fulfill;
And if it please, my proof I can impart.'
Ariodantes trembled, and a chill
Went through his inmost bones; and sick at heart,
Had he in full believed his rival's boast,
Would on the spot have yielded up the ghost.

XLI
'With wounded heart, and faltering voice, pale face,
And mouth of gall, he answered, 'When I see
Proofs of thy rare adventure, and the grace
With which the fair Geneura honours thee,
I promise to forego the fruitless chase
Of one, to thee so kind, so cold to me.
But think not that thy story shall avail,
Unless my very eyes confirm the tale.'

XLII
' `To warn in due time shall be my care.'
(Said Polinesso) and so went his way.
Two nights were scarecly passed, ere his repair
To the known bower was fixed for the assay.
And, ready now to spring his secret snare,
He sought his rival on the appointed day,
And him to hide, the night ensuing, prayed
I' the street, which none their habitation made.

XLIII
'And to the youth a station over-right
The balcony, to which he clambered, shows.
Ariodantes weened, this while, the knight
Would him to seek that hidden place dispose,
As one well suited to his fell despite,
And, bent to take his life, this ambush chose,
Under the false pretence to make him see
What seemed a sheer impossibility.

XLIV
'To go the peer resolved, but in such guise,
He should not be with vantage overlaid;
And should he be assaulted by surprise,
He need not be by fear of death dismay'd.
He had a noble brother, bold and wise,
First of the court in arms; and on his aid,
Lurcanio hight, relied with better heart
Than if ten others fought upon his part.

XLV
'He called him to his side, and willed him take
His arms; and to the place at evening led:
Yet not his secret purpose would be break;
Nor this to him, or other would have read:
Him a stone's throw removed he placed, and spake:
` - Come if thou hearest he cry,' the warrior said;
`But as thou lovest me (whatsoe'er befall)
Come not and move not, brother, till I call.'

XLVI
' `Doubt not' (the valiant brother said) `but go';
And thither went that baron silently,
And hid within the lonely house, and low,
Over against my secret gallery.
On the other side approached the fraudful foe,
So pleased to work Geneura's infamy;
And, while I nothing of the cheat divine,
Beneath my bower renews the wonted sign.

XLVII
'And I in costly robe, in which were set
Fair stripes of gold upon a snowy ground,
My tresses gathered in a golden net,
Shaded with tassels of vermillion round,
Mimicking fashions, which were only met
In fair Geneura, at the accustomed sound,
The gallery mount, constructed in such mode,
As upon every side my person showed.

XLVIII
'This while Lurcanio, either with a view
To snares which might beset his brother's feet,
Or with the common passion to pursue,
And play the spy on other, where the street
Was darkest, and its deepest shadows threw,
Followed him softly to his dim retreat:
And not ten paces from the knight aloof,
Bestowed himself beneath the self same roof.

XLIX
'Suspecting nought, I seek the balcony,
In the same habits which I mentioned, dressed;
As more than once or twice (still happily)
I did before; meanwhile the goodly vest
Was in the moonlight clearly seen, and I,
In aspect not unlike her, in the rest
Resembling much Geneura's shape and cheer,
One visage well another might appear.

L
'So much the more, that there was ample space
Between the palace and the ruined row:
Hence the two brothers, posted in that place,
Were lightly cheated by the lying show.
Now put yourself in his unhappy case,
And figure what the wretched lover's woe,
When Polinesso climbed the stair, which I
Cast down to him, and scaled the gallery.

LI
'Arrived, my arms about his neck I throw,
Weening that we unseen of others meet,
And kiss his lips and face with loving show,
As him I hitherto was wont to greet;
And he assayed, with more than wonted glow,
Me to caress, to mask his hollow cheat.
Led to the shameful spectacle, aghast,
That other, from afar, viewed all that passed,

LII
'And fell into such fit of deep despair,
He there resolved to die; and, to that end,
Planted the pommel of his falchion bare
I' the ground, its point against his breast to bend.
Lurcanio, who with marvel by that stair,
Saw Polinesso to my bower ascend,
But knew not who the wight, with ready speed
Sprang forward, when he saw his brother's deed.

LIII
'And hindered him in that fell agony
From turning his own hand against his breast.
Had the good youth been later, or less nigh,
To his assistance he had vainly pressed.
Then, `Wretched brother, what insanity.'
(He cried) `your better sense has dispossessed?
Die for a woman! rather let her kind
Be scattered like the mist before the wind!

LIV
' `Compass her death! 'tis well deserved; your own
Reserve, as due to more illustrious fate.
'Twas well to love, before her fraud was shown,
But she, once loved, now more deserves your hate:
Since, witnessed by your eyes, to you is known
A wanton of what sort you worshipped late.
Her fault before the Scottish king to attest,
Reserve those arms you turn against your breast.'

LV
'Ariodantes, so surprised, forewent,
Joined by his brother, the design in show;
But resolute to die, in his intent
Was little shaken: Rising thence to go,
He bears away a heart not simply rent,
But dead and withered with excess of woe:
Yet better comfort to Lurcanio feigns,
As if the rage were spent which fired his veins.

LVI
'The morn ensuing, without further say
To his good brother, or to man beside,
He from the city took his reckless way
With deadly desperation for his guide;
Nor, save the duke and knight, for many a day
Was there who knew what moved the youth to ride:
And in the palace, touching this event,
And in the realm, was various sentiment.

LVII
'But eight days past or more, to Scotland's court
A traveller came, and to Geneura he
Related tidings of disastrous sort;
That Ariodantes perished in the sea:
Drowned of his own free will was the report,
No wind to blame for the calamity!
Since from a rock, which over ocean hung,
Into the raging waves he headlong sprung;

LVIII
' `Who said, before he reached that frowning crest,
To me, whom he encountered by the way,
Come with me, that your tongue may manifest,
And what betides me to Geneura say;
And tell her, too, the occasion of the rest,
Which you shall witness without more delay;
In having seen too much, the occasion lies;
Happy had I been born without these eyes!'

LIX
' `By chance, upon a promontory we
Were standing, overright the Irish shore;
When, speaking thus on that high headland, he
Plunged from a rock amid the watery roar.
I saw him leap, and left him in the sea;
And, hurrying thence, to you the tidings bore.'
Geneura stood amazed, her colour fled,
And, at the fearful tale, remained half dead.

LX
'O God! what said, what did she, when alone,
She on her faithful pillow layed her head!
She beat her bosom, and she tore her gown,
And in despite her golden tresses shed;
Repeating often, in bewildered tone,
The last sad words which Ariodantes said; -
That the sole source of such despair, and such
Disaster, was that he had seen too much.

LXI
'Wide was the rumour scattered that the peer
Had slain himself for grief; nor was the cry
By courtly dame, or courtly cavalier,
Or by the monarch, heard with tearless eye.
But, above all the rest, his brother dear
Was whelmed with sorrow of so deep a dye,
That, bent to follow him, he well nigh turned
His hand against himself, like him he mourned.

LXII
'And many times repeating in his thought,
It was Geneura who his brother slew,
Who was to self-destruction moved by nought
But her ill deed, which he was doomed to view,
So on his mind the thirst of vengeance wrought,
And so his grief his season overthrew;
That he thought little, graced of each estate,
To encounter king and people's common hate;

LXIII
'And, when the throng was fullest in the hall,
Stood up before the Scottish king, and said,
`Of having marred my brother's wits withal,
Sir king, and him to his destruction led,
Your daughter only can I guilty call:
For in his inmost soul such sorrow bred
The having seen her little chastity,
He loathed existence, and preferred to die.

LXIV
' `He was her lover; and for his intent
Was honest, this I seek not, I, to veil;
And to deserve her by his valour meant
Of thee, if faithful service might avail;
But while he stood aloof, and dared but scent
The blossoms, he beheld another scale,
Scale the forbidden tree with happier boot,
And bear away from him the wished-for fruit.'

LXV
'Then added, how into the gallery came
Geneura, and how dropped the corded stair;
And how into the chamber of the dame
Had climbed a leman of that lady fair;
Who, for disguise (he knew not hence his name),
Had changed his habits, and concealed his hair;
And, in conclusion, vowed that every word
So said, he would avouch with lance and sword.

LXVI
'You may divine how grieves the sire, distraught
With woe, when he the accusation hears:
As well that what he never could have thought,
He of his daughter learns with wondering ears,
As that he knows, if succour be not brought
By cavalier, that in her cause appears,
Who may upon Lurcanio prove the lie,
He cannot choose, but doom the maid to die.

LXVII
'I do not think our Scottish law to you
Is yet unknown, which sentences to fire
The miserable dame, or damsel, who
Grants other than her wedded lord's desire.
She dies, unless a champion, good and true,
Arm on her side before a month expire;
And her against the accuser base maintain
Unmeriting such death, and free from stain.

LXVIII
'The king has made proclaim by town and tower,
(For he believes her wronged, his child to free)
Her he shall have to wife, with ample dower,
Who saves the royal maid from infamy.
But each to the other looks, and to this hour
No champion yet, 'tis said, appears: for he,
Lurcanio, is esteemed so fierce in fight,
It seems as he were feared of every knight.

'And evil Fate has willed her brother dear,
Zerbino, is not here the foe to face;
Since many months has roved the cavalier,
Proving his matchless worth with spear and mace;
For if the valiant champion were more near,
(Such is his courage) or in any place,
Whither in time the news might be conveyed,
He would not fail to bear his sister aid.

LXX
'The king, mean time, who would the quest pursue,
And by more certain proof than combat, try
If the accuser's tale be false or true,
And she deserve, or merit not, to die,
Arrests some ladies of her retinue,
That, as he weens, the fact can verify.
Whence I foresaw, that if I taken were,
Too certain risque the duke and I must share.

LXXI
'That very night I from the palace flee,
And to the duke repair, escaped from court;
And, were I taken, make him plainly see
How much it either's safety would import:
He praised, and bade me of good courage be,
And, for his comfort, prayed me to resort
To a strong castle which he held hard by;
And gave me two to bear me company.

LXXII
'With what full proofs, sir stranger, you have heard,
I of my love assured the Scottish peer;
And clearly can discern, if so preferred,
That lord was justly bound to hold me dear.
Mark, in conclusion, what was my reward;
The glorious meed of my great merit hear!
And say if woman can expect to earn,
However well she love, her love's return.

LXXIII
'For this perfidious, foul, ungrateful man,
At length suspicious of my faith and zeal,
And apprehending that his wily plan,
In course of time, I haply might reveal,
Feigned that meanwhile the monarch's anger ran
Too high, he would withdraw me, and conceal
Within a fortress of his own, where I
(Such was his real end) was doomed to die.

LXXIV
'For secretly the duke enjoined the guide,
Who with me through the gloomy forest went,
The worthy guerdon of a faith so tried,
To slay me; and had compassed his intent,
But for your ready succour, when I cried.
Behold! what wages love's poor slaves content.'
Thus to Rinaldo did Dalinda say,
As they together still pursued their way.

LXXV
Above all other fortune, to the knight
Was welcome to have found the gentle maid,
Who the whole story of Geneura bright,
And her unblemished innocence displayed;
And, if he hoped, although accused with right,
To furnish the afflicted damsel aid,
Persuaded of the calumny's disproof,
He with more courage warred in her behoof.

LXXVI
And for St. Andrew's town, with eager speed,
Where was the king with all his family,
And where the single fight, in listed mead,
Upon his daughter's quarrel, was to be,
The good Rinaldo pricked, nor spared his steed,
Until, within an easy distance, he
Now near the city, met a squire who brought
More recent tidings than the damsel taught:

LXXVII
That thither had repaired a stranger knight,
To combat in Geneura's quarrel bent,
With ensigns strange, not known of living wight,
Since ever close concealed the warrior went;
Not, since he had been there, had bared to sight
His visage, aye within his helmet pent:
And that the very squire who with him came,
Swore that he knew not what the stranger's name.

LXXVIII
Not far they ride before the walls appear,
And now before the gate their coursers stand.
To advance the sad Dalinda was in fear,
Yet followed, trusting in Rinaldo's brand.
The gate was shut, and to the porter near,
What this implies Rinaldo makes demand:
To him was said, the people, one and all,
Were trooped to see a fight without the wall:

LXXIX
Beyond the city, fought upon accord,
Between Lurcanio and a stranger knight;
Where, on a spacious meadow's level sward,
The pair already had begun the fight.
The porter opened to Mount Alban's lord,
And straight behind the peer the portal hight.
Rinaldo through the empty city rode,
But in a hostel first the dame bestowed:

LXXX
And will that she (he will not long delay
To seek her there) till his return repose;
And quickly to the lists pursued his way,
Where the two made that fell exchange of blows,
And strove and struggled yet in bloody fray.
Lurcanio's heart with vengeful hatred glows
Against Geneura; while that other knight
As well maintains the quarrel for her right.

LXXXI
Six knights on foot within the palisade
Stand covered with the corslet's iron case;
Beneath the Duke of Albany arrayed,
Borne on a puissant steed of noble race:
Who there, as lord high-constable obeyed,
Was keeper of the field and of the place,
And joyed Geneura's peril to espy
With swelling bosom and exulting eye.

LXXXII
Rinaldo pierces through the parted swarm,
(So wide is felt the good Bayardo's sway,)
And he who hears the courser come in storm,
Halts not, in his desire to make him way:
Above is seen Rinaldo's lofty form,
The flower of those who mix in martial fray.
He stops his horse before the monarch's chair,
While all to hear the paladin repair.

LXXXIII
'Dread sir,' to him the good Rinaldo said,
'Let not the pair this combat longer ply;
Since whichsoever of the two falls dead,
Know, that you let him perish wrongfully:
This thinks that he is right, and is misled,
Vouches the false, and knows not 'tis a lie:
Since that which brought his brother to his end,
Moves him in causeless battle contend.

LXXXIV
'That, in pure gentleness, with little care
If what he here maintains be wrong or right,
Because he would preserve a maid so fair,
Perils his person in the furious fight.
To injured innocence I safety bear,
And to the evil man its opposite.
But first, for love of God, the battle stay;
Then list, sir king, to what I shall display.'

LXXXV
So moved the king the grave authority
Of one who seemed so worthy, by his cheer,
That he made sign the battle should not be
Further continued then with sword or spear:
To whom, together with his chivalry,
And barons of the realm and others near
Rinaldo all the treacherous plot displayed,
Which Polinesso for Geneura layed.

LXXXVI
Next that he there in arms would testify
The truth of what he vouched, the warrior cried.
False Polinesso, called, with troubled eye,
Stood forth, but daringly the tale denied.
To him the good Rinaldo in reply;
'By deeds be now the doubtful quarrel tried.'
The field was cleared, and, ready armed, the foes,
Without more let, in deadly duel close.

LXXXVII
How was the hope to king and people dear,
The proof might show Geneura innocent!
All trust that God will make the treason clear,
And show she was accused with foul intent:
For Polinesso, greedy and severe,
And proud was held, and false and fraudulent.
So that none there, of all assembled, deemed
It marvel, if the knight such fraud had schemed.

LXXXVIII
False Polinesso, with a mien distressed,
A pallid cheek, and heart which thickly beat,
At the third trumpet, laid his lance in rest;
As well Rinaldo spurred the knight to meet,
And levelled at his evil foeman's breast,
Eager to finish at a single heat.
Nor counter to his wish was the event;
Since through the warrior half his weapon went.

LXXXIX
Him, through his breast, impaled upon the spear,
More than six yards beyond his horse he bore.
With speed alighted Mount Albano's peer,
And, ere he rose, unlaced the helm he wore:
But he for mercy prayed with humble cheer,
Unfit to strive in joust or warfare more:
And, before king and court, with faltering breath,
Confessed the fraud which brought him to his death.

XC
He brings not his confession to a close,
And pangs of death the failing accents drown:
The prince, who ended saw his daughter's woes,
Redeemed from death and scorn, her virtue shown,
With more delight and rapture overflows,
Than if he, having lost his kingly crown,
Then saw it first upon his head replaced;
So that he good Rinaldo singly graced.

XCI
And when, through his uplifted casque displaid,
Features, well known before, the king descried,
His thanks to God with lifted hands he paid,
That he had deigned such succour to provide.
That other cavalier, who bared his blade,
Unknown of all, upon Geneura's side,
And thither came from far, his aid to impart,
Looked upon all that passed, and stood apart.

XCII
Him the good king entreated to declare
His name, or, at the least, his visage shew;
That he might grace him with such guerdon fair,
As to his good intent was justly due.
The stranger, after long and earnest prayer,
Lifted to covering casque, and bared to view
What in the ensuing canto will appear,
If you are fain the history to hear.

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Beppo, A Venetian Story

I.
'Tis known, at least it should be, that throughout
All countries of the Catholic persuasion,
Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about,
The People take their fill of recreation,
And buy repentance, ere they grow devout,
However high their rank, or low their station,
With fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masking,
And other things which may be had for asking.

II.
The moment Night with dusky mantle covers
The skies (and the more duskily the better),
The Time--less liked by husbands than by lovers--
Begins, and Prudery flings aside her fetter,
And Gaiety on restless tiptoe hovers,
Giggling with all the Gallants who beset her;
And there are Songs and quavers, roaring, humming,
Guitars, and every other sort of strumming.

III.
And there are dresses, splendid but fantastical,
Masks of all times and nations, Turks and Jews,
And Harlequins and Clowns, with feats gymnastical,
Greeks, Romans, Yankee-doodles, and Hindoos;
All kinds of dress, except the ecclesiastical,
All people, as their fancies hit, may choose,
But no one in these parts may quiz the Clergy,--
Therefore take heed, ye Freethinkers! I charge ye.

IV.
You'd better walk about begirt with briars,
Instead of Coat and smallclothes, than put on
A single stitch reflecting upon Friars,
Although you swore it only was in fun;
They'd haul you o'er the coals, and stir the fires
Of Phlegethon with every mother's son,
Nor say one Mass to cool the Caldron's bubble
That boil'd your bones--unless you paid them double.

V.
But saving this, you may put on whate'er
You like by way of doublet, cape, or cloak,
Such as in Monmouth Street, or in Rag Fair,
Would rig you out in Seriousness or Joke;
And even in Italy such places are
With prettier name in softer accents spoke,
For, bating Covent Garden, I can hit on
No place that's called 'Piazza' in Great Britain.

VI.
This feast is named the Carnival, which being
Interpreted implies 'Farewell to Flesh':
So call'd, because the name and thing agreeing,
Through Lent they live on fish, both salt and fresh.
But why they usher Lent with so much glee in
Is more than I can tell, although I guess
'Tis as we take a glass with friends at parting
In the Stage-Coach or Packet, just at starting.

VII.
And thus they bid farewell to Carnal dishes,
And solid meats, and highly spiced ragouts,
To live for forty days on ill-dress’d fishes,
Because they have no sauces to their stews--
A thing which causes many 'poohs' and 'pishes,'
And several oaths (which would not suit the Muse)
From travellers accustom'd from a boy
To eat their Salmon, at the least, with Soy;

VIII.
And therefore humbly I would recommend
'The Curious in Fish-Sauce,' before they cross
The Sea, to bid their Cook, or wife, or friend,
Walk or ride to the Strand, and buy in gross
(Or if set out beforehand these may send
By any means least liable to loss)
Ketchup, Soy, Chili-Vinegar, and Harvey,
Or, by the Lord! a Lent will well nigh starve ye.

IX.
That is to say, if your Religion's Roman,
And you at Rome would do as Romans do,
According to the proverb,--although No man
If foreign is obliged to fast, and you--
If Protestant, or sickly--or a woman--
Would rather dine in sin on a ragout--
Dine and be d____d! I don't mean to be coarse,
But that's the penalty, to say no worse.

X.
Of all the places where the Carnival
Was most facetious in the days of yore,
For dance, and song, and serenade, and ball,
And Masque, and Mime, and Mystery, and more
Than I have time to tell now, or at all,
Venice the bell from every city bore,
And at the moment when I fix my story,
That Sea-born City was in all her Glory.

XI.
They've pretty faces yet, those same Venetians,
Black eyes, arch'd brows, and sweet expressions still,
Such as of old were copied from the Grecians,
In ancient Arts by Moderns mimick'd ill;
And like so many Venuses of Titian's
(The best's at Florence--see it, if ye will),
They look when leaning over the Balcony;
Or stepp'd from out a picture by Giorgione,--

XII.
Whose tints are Truth and Beauty at their best;
And when you to Manfrini's palace go,
That Picture (howsoever fine the rest)
Is loveliest to my mind of all the show;
It may perhaps be also to your Zest,
And that's the cause I rhyme upon it so:
'Tis but a portrait of his Son and Wife
And Self; but such a Woman! Love in life!

XIII.
Love in full life and length, not Love ideal,
No, nor ideal Beauty, that fine name,
But something better still, so very real,
That the sweet Model must have been the same;
A thing that you would purchase, beg, or steal,
Were't not impossible, besides a shame;
The face recalls some face, as 'twere with pain,
You once have seen, but ne'er will see again.

XIV.
One of those forms which flit by us, when we
Are young, and fix our eyes on every face;
And, oh! the Loveliness at times we see
In momentary gliding, the soft grace,
The Youth, the Bloom, the Beauty which agree
In many a nameless being we retrace,
Whose course and home we knew not, nor shall know,
Like the lost Pleiad seen no more below.

XV.
I said that like a picture by Giorgione
Venetian women were, and so they are,
Particularly seen from a balcony
(For Beauty's sometimes best set off afar)
And there, just like a heroine of Goldoni,
They peep from out the blind, or o'er the bar;
And truth to say they're mostly very pretty,
And rather like to show it, more's the Pity!

XVI.
For glances beget ogles, ogles sighs,
Sighs wishes, wishes words, and words a letter,
Which flies on wings of light-heel'd Mercuries,
Who do such things because they know no better;
And then, God knows! what Mischief may arise,
When Love links two young people in one fetter:
Vile assignations, and adulterous beds,
Elopements, broken vows, and hearts, and heads.

XVII.
Shakespeare described the Sex in Desdemona
As very fair, but yet suspect in fame,
And to this day from Venice to Verona
Such matters may be probably the same,
Except that since those times was never known a
Husband whom mere Suspicion could inflame
To suffocate a wife no more than twenty,
Because she had a 'Cavalier Servente.'

XVIII.
Their jealousy (if they are ever jealous)
Is of a fair complexion altogether,
Not like that sooty devil of Othello's,
Which smothers women in a bed of feather,
But worthier of these much more jolly fellows,
When weary of the matrimonial tether
His head for such a wife no mortal bothers,
But takes at once another, or another's.

XIX.
Didst ever see a Gondola? For fear
You should not, I'll describe it you exactly:
'Tis a long cover'd boat that's common here,
Carved at the prow, built lightly, but compactly,
Row'd by two rowers, each call'd 'Gondolier,'
It glides along the water looking blackly,
Just like a Coffin clapt in a Canoe,
Where none can make out what you say or do.

XX.
And up and down the long Canals they go,
And under the Rialto shoot along
By night and day, all paces, swift or slow,
And round the theatres, a sable throng,
They wait in their dusk livery of woe,--
But not to them do woeful things belong,
For sometimes they contain a deal of fun,
Like Mourning Coaches when the funeral’s done.

XXI.
But to my story.--'Twas some years ago,
It may be thirty, forty, more or less,
The Carnival was at its height, and so
Were all kinds of Buffoonery and dress;
A Certain Lady went to see the show,
Her real name I know not, nor can guess,
And so we'll call her Laura, if you please,
Because it slips into my verse with ease.

XXII.
She was not old, nor young, nor at the years
Which certain people call a 'certain Age,'
Which yet the most uncertain age appears,
Because I never heard, nor could engage
A person yet by prayers, or bribes, or tears,
To name, define by speech, or write on page,
The period meant precisely by that word,--
Which surely is exceedingly absurd.

XXIII.
Laura was blooming still, had made the best
Of Time, and Time return'd the compliment,
And treated her genteelly, so that, 'drest,
She look'd extremely well where'er she went;
A pretty woman is a welcome guest,
And Laura's brow a frown had rarely bent;
Indeed, she shone all Smiles, and seem'd to flatter
Mankind with her black eyes for looking at her.

XXIV.
She was a married woman; 'tis convenient,
Because in Christian countries 'tis a rule
To view their little slips with eyes more lenient;
Whereas if single ladies play the fool
(Unless within the period intervenient
A well-timed wedding makes the scandal cool),
I don't know how they ever can get over it,
Except they manage never to discover it.

XXV.
Her husband sail'd upon the Adriatic,
And made some voyages, too, in other seas,
And when he lay in Quarantine for Pratique
(A forty days' precaution 'gainst disease),
His wife would mount, at times, her highest attic,
For thence she could discern the ship with ease;
He was a Merchant trading to Aleppo,
His name Giuseppe--call'd more briefly, Beppo.

XXVI.
He was a man as dusky as a Spaniard,
Sunburnt with travel, yet a portly figure;
Though colour'd, as it were, within a tan-yard,
He was a person both of sense and vigour--
A better Seaman never yet did man yard;
And She, although her manners show'd no rigour,
Was deem'd a woman of the strictest principle,
So much as to be thought almost invincible.

XXVII.
But several years elapsed since they had met;
Some people thought the ship was lost, and some
That he had somehow blunder'd into debt,
And did not like the thought of steering home;
And there were several offer'd any bet,
Or that he would, or that he would not come,
For Most Men (till by losing render'd sager)
Will back their own opinions with a wager.

XXVIII.
'Tis said that their last parting was pathetic,
As partings often are, or ought to be,
And their presentiment was quite prophetic,
That they should never more each other see,
(A sort of morbid feeling, half poetic,
Which I have known occur in two or three)
When kneeling on the shore upon her sad knee
He left this Adriatic Ariadne.

XXIX.
And Laura waited long, and wept a little,
And thought of wearing weeds, as well she might;
She almost lost all appetite for victual,
And could not sleep with ease along at night;
She deem'd the window-frames and shutters brittle
Against a daring House-breaker or Sprite,
And so She thought it prudent to connect her.
With a Vice-husband, chiefly to protect her.

XXX.
She chose, (and what is there they will not choose,
If only you will but oppose their choice?)
Till Beppo should return from his long cruise,
And bid once more her faithful heart rejoice,
A Man some women like, and yet abuse--
A Coxcomb was he by the public voice;
A Count of wealth, they said, as well as quality,
And (in his pleasures) of great liberality.

XXXI.
And then he was A Count, and then he knew
Music, and dancing, fiddling, French and Tuscan;
The last not easy, be it known to you.
For few Italians speak the right Etruscan.
He was a Critic upon Operas, too,
And knew all niceties of the sock and buskin;
And no Venetian audience could endure a
Song, scene, or air, when he cried 'Seccatura!'

XXXII.
His 'Bravo' was decisive—for that sound
Hush'd 'Academie' sigh'd in silent awe;
The fiddlers trembled as he look'd around,
For fear of some false note's detected flaw;
The 'Prima Donna's' tuneful heart would bound,
Dreading the deep damnation of his 'Bah!'
Soprano, Basso, even the Contra-Alto,
Wish'd him five fathom under the Rialto.

XXXIII.
He patronised the Improvisatori,
Nay, could himself extemporise some stanzas;
Wrote rhymes, sang songs, could also tell a story,
Sold pictures, and was skilful in the dance as
Italians can be--though in this their glory
Must surely yield the palm to that which France has;
In short, he was a perfect Cavaliero,
And to his very Valet seem'd a Hero.

XXXIV.
Then he was faithful too, as well as amorous;
So that no sort of female could complain--
Although they're now and then a little clamourous,
He never put the pretty souls in pain;
His heart was one of those which most enamour us,
Wax to receive, and Marble to retain:
He was a lover of the good old School,
Who still become more constant as they cool.

XXXV.
No wonder such accomplishments should turn
A female head, however sage and steady--
With scarce a hope that Beppo could return,
In law he was almost as good as dead, he
Nor sent, nor wrote, nor show'd the least concern,
And she had waited several years already;
And really if a Man won't let us know
That he's alive, he's dead, or should be so.

XXXVI.
Besides, within the Alps, to every woman,
(Although, God knows! it is a grievous sin)
'Tis, I may say, permitted to have two men;
I can't tell who first brought the custom in,
But 'Cavalier Serventes' are quite common,
And no one notices nor cares a pin;
And we may call this (not to say the worst)
A Second Marriage which corrupts the First.

XXXVII.
The word was formerly a 'Cicisbeo,'
But that is now grown vulgar and indecent;
The Spaniards call the person a 'Cortejo,'
For the same Mode subsists in Spain, though recent;
In short, it reaches from the Po to Teio,
And may perhaps at last be o'er the Sea sent;
But Heaven preserve Old England from such courses!
Or what becomes of damage and divorces?

XXXVIII.
However, I still think, with all due deference
To the fair single part of the Creation,
That married ladies should preserve the preference
In tête-à-tête or general conversation--
And this I say without peculiar reference
To England, France, or any other nation--
Because they know the world, and are at ease,
And being natural, naturally please.

XXXIX.
'Tis true, your budding Miss is very charming,
But shy and awkward at first coming out,
So much alarm'd, that she is quite alarming,
All Giggle, Blush--half Pertness, and half-Pout--
And glancing at Mamma, for fear there's harm in
What you, she, it, or they, may be about;
The nursery still lisps out in all they utter--
Besides, they always smell of Bread and Butter.

XL.
But 'Cavalier Servente' is the phrase
Used in politest circles to express
This supernumary slave, who stays
Close to the lady as a part of dress--
Her word the only law which he obeys.
His is no Sinecure, as you may guess;
Coach, Servants, Gondola, he goes to call,
And carries fan and tippet, gloves and shawl.

XLI.
With all its sinful doings, I must say,
That Italy's a pleasant place to me,
Who love to see the Sun shine every day,
And vines (not nail’d to walls) from tree to tree
Festoon'd, much like the back Scene of a play,
Or Melodrame, which people flock to see
When the first act is ended by a dance
In Vineyards copied from the South of France.

XLII.
I like on Autumn evenings to ride out,
Without being forced to bid my Groom be sure
My Cloak is round his middle strapp'd about,
Because the skies are not the most secure;
I know too that, if stopp'd upon my route
Where the green alleys windingly allure,
Reeling with grapes red waggons choke the way--
In England 'twould be dung, dust, or a dray.

XLIII.
I also like to dine on Becaficas,
To see the Sun set, sure he'll rise tomorrow,
Not through a misty morning twinkling weak as
A drunken man's dead eye in maudlin sorrow,
But with all Heaven t' himself; the Day will break as
Beauteous as cloudless, nor be forced to borrow
That sort of farthing candlelight which glimmers
Where reeking London's smoky Caldron simmers.

XLIV.
I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,
Which melts like kisses from a female mouth,
And sounds as if it should be writ on satin,
With syllables which breathe of the sweet South,
And gentle liquids gliding all so pat in
That not a single accent seems uncouth--
Like our harsh Northern whistling, grunting guttural,
Which we're obliged to hiss, and spit, and sputter all.

XLV.
I like the women too (Forgive my folly!)
From the rich peasant cheek of ruddy bronze,
And large black eyes that flash on you a volley
Of rays that say a thousand things at once,
To the high Dama's brow, more melancholy,
But clear, and with a wild and liquid Glance,
Heart on her lips, and Soul within her eyes,
Soft as her clime, and Sunny as her skies.

XLVI.
Eve of the land which still is Paradise!
Italian Beauty! didst thou not inspire
Raphael, who died in thy embrace, and vies
With all we know of Heaven, or can desire
In what he hath bequeath'd us?--in what guise,
Though flashing from the fervour of the Lyre,
Would Words describe thy past and present Glow,
While yet Canova can create below?

XLVII.
'England! with all thy faults I love thee still!'
I said at Calais, and have not forgot it;
I like to speak and lucubrate my fill;
I like the Government (but that is not it);
I like the freedom of the press and quill;
I like the Hapeas Corpus (when we've got it);
I like a parliamentary debate,
Particularly when 'tis not too late;

XLVIII.
I like the taxes, when they're not too many;
I like a sea-coal fire, when not too dear;
I like a beef-steak, too, as well as any;
Have no objection to a pot of beer;
I like the weather--when it is not rainy--
That is, I like two months of every Year;
And so God save the Regent, Church, and King!
Which means that I like all and every thing.

XLIX.
Our standing Army, and disbanded Seamen,
Poor's rate, Reform, my own, the nation's debt,
Our little Riots just to show we're free men,
Our trifling Bankruptcies in the Gazette,
Our cloudy Climate, and our chilly Women;
All these I can forgive, and those forget,
And greatly venerate our recent glories,
And wish they were not owing to the Tories.

L.
But to my tale of Laura--for I find
Digression is a sin, that by degrees
Becomes exceeding tedious to my mind,
And, therefore, may the reader too displease--
The gentle reader--who may wax unkind,
And caring little for the Author’s ease,
Insist on knowing what he means, a hard
And hapless situation for a Bard.

LI.
Oh that I had the art of easy writing
What should be easy reading! could I scale
Parnassus, where the Muses sit inditing
Those pretty poems never known to fail!
How quickly would I print (the world delighting)
A Grecian, Syrian, or Assyrian tale;
And sell you, mix'd with Western sentimentalism,
Some samples of the finest Orientalism.

LII.
But I am but a nameless sort of person
(A broken Dandy lately on my travels)
And take for Rhyme, to hook my rambling Verse on,
The first that Walker's Lexicon unravels,
And when I can't find that, I put a worse on,
Not caring as I ought for Critics' cavils;
I've half a mind to tumble down to prose,
But Verse is more in fashion--so here goes!

LIII.
The Count and Laura made their new arrangement,
Which lasted, as Arrangements sometimes do,
For half a dozen years without estrangement;
They had their little differences, too;
Those jealous whiffs, which never any change meant;
In such affairs there probably are few
Who have not had this pouting sort of squabble,
From Sinners of high station to the Rabble.

LIV.
But, on the whole, they were a happy pair,
As happy as unlawful love could make them;
The Gentleman was fond, the Lady fair,
Their chains so slight 'twas not worth while to break them;
The World beheld them with indulgent air;
The Pious only wish'd 'the Devil take them!'
He took them not; he very often waits,
And leaves old Sinners to be young ones’ baits.

LV.
But they were young; Oh! what without our youth
Would Love be! What would youth be without love!
Youth lends it joy, and sweetness, vigour, truth,
Heart, soul, and all that seems as from above;
But, languishing with years, it grows uncouth--
One of few things Experience don't improve,
Which is perhaps the reason why old fellows
Are always so preposterously jealous.

LVI.
It was the Carnival, as I have said
Some six and thirty stanzas back, and so
Laura the usual preparations made,
Which you do when your mind's made up to go
To-night to Mrs. Boehm's Masquerade,
Spectator, or Partaker in the show;
The only difference known between the cases
Is here, we have six weeks of 'varnish'd faces.'

LVII.
Laura, when dress'd, was (as I sang before)
A pretty woman as was ever seen,
Fresh as the Angel o'er a new Inn door,
Or frontispiece of a new Magazine,
With all the Fashions which the last month wore,
Colour'd, and silver paper leaved between
That and the title-page, for fear the Press
Should soil with parts of speech the parts of dress.

LVIII.
They went to the Ridotto;--'tis a hall
Where people dance, and sup, and dance again--
Its proper name perhaps were a masqued Ball,
But that’s of no importance to my strain;
'Tis (on a smaller scale) like our Vauxhall,
Excepting that it can't be spoilt by Rain;
The company is 'mix'd' (the phrase I quote is
As much as saying they're below your Notice).

LIX.
For a 'mix'd company' implies that, save
Yourself and friends and half a hundred more
Whom you may bow to without looking grave,
The rest are but a vulgar set--the Bore
Of public places, where they basely brave
The fashionable stare of twenty score
Of well-bred persons call'd 'The World'--but I,
Although I know them, really don't know why.

LX.
This is the case in England, at least was
During the dynasty of Dandies, now
Perchance succeeded by some other class
Of imitated Imitators :-- how
Irreparably soon decline, alas!
The Demagogues of fashion; all below
Is frail; how easily the World is lost
By Love, or War, and now and then by Frost!

LXI.
Crush'd was Napoleon by the northern Thor,
Who knock’d his army down with icy hammer,
Stopp'd by the Elements, like a Whaler, or
A blundering Novice in his new French grammar;
Good cause had he to doubt the chance of War,
And as for Fortune--but I dare not d___n her,
Because, were I to ponder to Infinity,
The more I should believe in her Divinity.

LXII.
She rules the present, past, and all to be yet;
She gives us luck in lotteries, love, and marriage;
I cannot say that she’s done much for me yet,
Not that I mean her bounties to disparage--
We've not yet closed accounts--and we shall see yet
How much she'll make amends for past miscarriage.
Meantime the Goddess I'll no more importune,
Unless to thank her when she's made my fortune.

LXIII.
To turn--and to return, the Devil take it!
This Story slips for ever through my fingers,
Because, just as the Stanza likes to make it,
It needs must be, and so it rather lingers:
This form of verse began, I can't well break it,
But must keep time and tune like public Singers;
But if I once get through my present measure,
I'll take another when I'm at leisure.

LXIV.
They went to the Ridotto ('tis a place
To which I mean to go myself to-morrow,
Just to divert my thoughts a little space,
Because I’m rather hippish, and may borrow
Some spirits, guessing at what kind of face
May lurk beneath each mask; and as my sorrow
Slackens its pace sometimes, I'll make or find
Something shall leave it half an hour behind).

LXV.
Now Laura moves along the joyous crowd--
Smiles in her eyes, and simpers on her lips--
To some she whispers, others speaks aloud;
To some she curtsies, and to some she dips,
Complains of warmth and, this complaint avow'd,
Her lover brings the Lemonade she sips;
She then surveys, condemns, but pities still
Her dearest friends for being dress'd so ill.

LXVI.
One has false curls, another too much paint,
A third--where did She buy that frightful turban?
A fourth's so pale she fears she's going to faint,
A fifth's look's vulgar, dowdyish, and suburban,
A sixth's white silk has got a yellow taint,
A seventh's thin Muslin surely will be her bane,
And lo! an eighth appears--'I'll see no more!'
For fear, like Banquo's kings, they reach a score.

LXVII.
Meantime, while she was thus at others gazing,
Others were leveling their looks at her;
She heard the Men's half-whisper'd mode of praising,
And, till ’twas done, determined not to stir;
The women only thought it quite amazing
That, at her time of Life, so many were
Admirers still--but Men are so debased,
Those brazen creatures always suit their taste.

LXVIII.
For my part now, I ne'er could understand
Why naughty Women--but I won’t discuss
A thing which is a Scandal to the land;
I only don't see why it should be thus;
And if I were but in a gown and band--
Just to entitle me to make a fuss--
I'd preach on this till Wilberforce and Romilly
Should quote in their next speeches from my homily.

LXIX.
While Laura thus was seen, and seeing, smiling,
Talking, she knew not why, and cared not what,
So that her female friends, with envy broiling,
Beheld her airs and triumph, and all that,
And well-dress'd males still kept before her filing,
And passing bow'd and mingled with her chat;
More than the rest, one person seem'd to stare
With pertinacity that's rather rare.

LXX.
He was a Turk, the colour of mahogany;
And Laura saw him, and at first was glad,
Because the Turks so much admire Phylogyny,
Although their usage of their wives is sad;
'Tis said they use no better than a dog any
Poor woman, whom they purchase like a pad;
They have a number, though they ne'er exhibit 'em,
Four Wives by law, and Concubines 'ad libitum.'

LXXI.
They lock them up, and veil and guard them daily;
They scarcely can behold their male relations,
So that their moments do not pass so gaily
As is supposed the case with Northern nations;
Confinement, too, must make them look quite palely;
And as the Turks abhor long conversations,
Their days are either pass'd in doing nothing,
Or bathing, nursing, making love, and clothing.

LXXII.
They cannot read--and so don't lisp in Criticism;
Nor write--and so they don't affect the Muse;
Were never caught in epigram or witticism,
Have no romances, sermons, plays, reviews--
In harams Learning soon would make a pretty schism!
But luckily these beauties are no 'Blues;'
No bustling Botherbys have they to show 'em
'That charming passage in the last new poem!'

LXXIII.
No solemn Antique gentleman of rhyme,
Who, having angled all his life for Fame
And getting but a nibble at a time,
Still fussily keeps fishing on, the same
Small 'Triton of the Minnows,' the sublime
Of mediocrity, the furious tame,
The echo’s Echo, usher of the School
Of female Wits, boy bards--in short, a fool!

LXXIV.
A stalking Oracle of awful phrase,
The approving 'Good!' (By no means GOOD in law)
Humming like flies around the newest blaze,
The bluest of Bluebottles you e'er saw,
Teasing with blame, excruciating with praise,
Gorging the little fame he gets all raw,
Translating tongues he knows not even by letter,
And sweating plays so middling, bad were better.

LXXV.
One hates an Author that's all Author, fellows
In foolscap uniforms turn'd up with ink,
So very anxious, clever, fine, and jealous,
One don't know what to say to them, or think,
Unless to puff them with a pair of Bellows;
Of Coxcombry's worst Coxcombs e'en the pink
Are preferable to these shreds of paper,
These unquench'd snufflings of the midnight taper.

LXXVI.
Of these same we see several, and of others,
Men of the World, who know the world like men,
Scott, Rogers, Moore, and all the better brothers
Who think of something else besides the pen;
But for the Children of the 'Mighty Mother's'--
The would-be Wits, and can’t-be Gentlemen--
I leave them to their daily 'Tea is ready,'
Smug Coterie, and Literary Lady.

LXXVII.
The poor dear Mussulwomen whom I mention
Have none of these instructive, pleasant people,
And One would seem to them a new Invention,
Unknown as bells within a Turkish steeple;
I think 'twould almost be worth while to pension
(Though best-sown projects very often reap ill)
A Missionary Author, just to preach
Our Christian usage of the parts of Speech.

LXXVIII.
No Chemistry for them unfolds her gases,
No Metaphysics are let loose in lectures,
No Circulating Library amasses
Religious novels, moral tales, and strictures
Upon the living manners, as they pass us;
No Exhibition glares with annual pictures;
They stare not on the Stars from out their Attics,
Nor deal (thank God for that!) in Mathematics.

LXXIX.
Why I thank God for that is no great matter;
I have my reasons, you no doubt suppose,
And as perhaps they would not highly flatter,
I'll keep them for my life (to come) in prose;
I fear I have a little turn for Satire,
And yet, methinks, the older that one grows
Inclines us more to laugh than scold, though Laughter
Leaves us no doubly serious shortly after.

LXXX.
Oh, mirth and innocence! Oh, milk and water!
Ye happy mixtures of more happy days!
In these sad centuries of sin and slaughter,
Abominable Man no more allays
His thirst with such pure beverage. No matter,
I love you both, and both shall have my praise;
Oh, for old Saturn's reign of sugar-candy!
Meantime I drink to your return in Brandy.

LXXXI.
Our Laura's Turk still kept his eyes upon her,
Less in the Mussulman than Christian way,
Which seems to say, 'Madam, I do you honour,
And while I please to stare, you'll please to stay!'
Could staring win a woman, this had won her,
But Laura could not thus be led astray;
She had stood fire too long and well, is boggle
Even at this Stranger's most outlandish Ogle.

LXXXII.
The Morning now was on the point of breaking,
A turn of time at which I would advise
Ladies who have been dancing, or partaking
In any other kind of Exercise,
To make their preparations for forsaking
The Ball-room ere the Sun begins to rise,
Because when once the lamps and candles fail,
His Blushes make them look a little pale.

LXXXIII.
I've seen some balls and revels in my time,
And stay'd them over for some silly reason;
And then I look'd (I hope it was no crime)
To see what lady best stood out the Season;
And though I've seen some thousands in their prime,
Lovely and pleasing, and who still may please on,
I never saw but One (the stars withdrawn)
Whose bloom could, after dancing, dare the dawn.

LXXXIV.
The name of this Aurora I'll not mention,
Although I might, for She was nought to me
More than that patent work of God's invention,
A charming woman, whom we like to see;
But writing names would merit reprehension,
Yet if you like to find out this fair She,
At the next London or Parisian ball
You still may mark her cheek, out-blooming all.

LXXXV.
Laura, who knew it would not do at all
To meet the daylight after seven hours' sitting
Among three thousand people at a ball,
To make her curtsy thought it right and fitting;
The Count was at her elbow with her shawl,
And they the room were on the point of quitting,
When lo! those cursed gondoliers had got
Just in the very place where they should not.

LXXXVI.
In this they're like our Coachmen, and the cause
Is much the same--the Crowd, and pulling, hauling--
With blasphemies enough to break their jaws--
They make a never-intermitted bawling.
At home, our Bow Street Gem'men keep the laws,
And here a Sentry stands within your calling;
But for all that, there is a deal of swearing,
And nauseous words past mentioning or bearing.

LXXXVII.
The Count and Laura found their boat at last,
And homeward floated o'er the silent tied,
Discussing all the dances gone and past;
The Dancers and their dresses, too, beside.
Some little Scandals eke; but all aghast
(As to their palace-stairs the rowers glide)
Sate Laura by the side of her Adorer,
When lo! the Mussulman was there before her!

LXXXVIII.
'Sir!' said the Count, with brow exceeding grave,
'Your unexpected presence here will make
It necessary for myself to crave
Its import--but perhaps 'tis a mistake.
I hope it is so, and at once to waive
All compliment--I hope so for your sake;
You understand my meaning, or you shall.'
'Sir' (quoth the Turk), ''tis no mistake at all:

LXXXIX.
'That Lady is my Wife!' Much wonder paints
The Lady's changing cheek, as well it might,
But where an Englishwoman sometimes faints,
Italian females don't do so outright;
They only call a little on their Saints,
And then come to themselves, almost or quite,
Which saves much hartshorn, salts, and sprinkling faces,
And cutting stays, as usual in such cases.

XC.
She said—what could she say? why, not a word:
But the Count courteously invited in
The Stranger, much appeased by what he heard;
'Such things perhaps we'd best discuss within,'
Said he, 'don't let us make ourselves absurd
In public, by a Scene, nor raise a din,
For then the chief and only satisfaction
Will be much quizzing on the whole transaction.'

XCI.
They enter'd, and for coffee call'd; it came,
A beverage for Turks and Christians both,
Although the way they make it's not the same.
Now Laura, much recover'd, or less loth
To speak, cries 'Beppo! what's your Pagan name?
Bless me! your beard is of amazing growth!
And how came you to keep away so long?
Are you not sensible 'twas very wrong?

XCII.
'And are you really, truly, now a Turk?
With any other women did you wive?
Is't true they use their fingers for a fork?
Well, that's the prettiest Shawl--as I'm alive!
You'll give it me? They say you eat no pork.
And how so many years did you contrive
To--Bless me! did I ever? No, I never
Saw a man grown so yellow! How’s your liver?

XCIII.
'Beppo! that beard of yours becomes you not;
It shall be shaved before you're a day older;
Why do you wear it? Oh! I had forgot--
Pray don't you think the weather here is colder?
How do I look? You shan't stir from this spot
In that queer dress, for fear that some beholder
Should find you out, and make the story known.
How short your hair is! Lord! how grey it’s grown!'

XCIV.
What answer Beppo made to these demands
Is more than I know. He was cast away
About where Troy stood once, and Nothing stands;
Became a Slave of course, and for his pay
Had bread and bastinadoes, till some bands
Of pirates landing in a neighbouring bay,
He join'd the rogues and prosper’d, and became
A Renegado of indifferent fame.

XCV.
But he grew rich, and with his riches grew so
Keen the desire to see his home again,
He thought himself in duty bound to do so,
And not be always thieving on the Main;
Lonely he felt at times as Robin Crusoe,
And so he hired a vessel come from Spain,
Bound for Corfu: she was a fine polacca,
Mann'd with twelve hands, and laden with tobacco.

XCVI.
Himself, and much (Heaven knows how gotten!) Cash,
He then embark'd, with risk of life and limb,
And got clear off, although the attempt was rash.
He said that Providence protected him;
For my part, I say nothing--lest we clash
In our opinions--well, the Ship was trim,
Set sail, and kept her reckoning fairly on,
Except three days of calm when off Cape Bonn.

XCVII.
They reach'd the Island, he transferr'd his lading
And self and live stock to another bottom,
And pass'd for a true Turkey-Merchant, trading
With goods of various names--but I've forgot 'em.
However, he got off by this evading,
Or else the people would perhaps have shot him;
And thus at Venice landed to reclaim
His wife, religion, house, and Christian name.

XCVIII.
His Wife received, the Patriarch re-baptised him
(He made the Church a present, by the way);
He then threw off the Garments which disguised him
And borrow'd the Count's small clothes for a day:
His friends the more for his long absence prized him,
Finding he'd wherewithal to make them gay,
With dinners--where he oft became the laugh of them;
For stories--but I don’t believe the half of them.

XCIX.
Whate'er his Youth had suffer'd, his old Age
With wealth and talking made him some amends;
Though Laura sometimes put him in a rage,
I've heard the Count and He were always friends.
My pen is at the bottom of a page,
Which being finish'd, here the story ends;
'Tis to be wish'd it had been sooner done,
But Stories somehow lengthen when begun.

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Beppo

I.
'Tis known, at least it should be, that throughout
All countries of the Catholic persuasion,
Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about,
The people take their fill of recreation,
And buy repentance, ere they grow devout,
However high their rank, or low their station,
With fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masking,
And other things which may be had for asking.

II.
The moment night with dusky mantle covers
The skies (and the more duskily the better),
The time less liked by husbands than by lovers
Begins, and prudery flings aside her fetter;
And gaiety on restless tiptoe hovers,
Giggling with all the gallants who beset her;
And there are songs and quavers, roaring, humming,
Guitars, and every other sort of strumming.

III.
And there are dresses splendid, but fantastical,
Masks of all times and nations, Turks and Jews,
And harlequins and clowns, with feats gymnastical,
Greeks, Romans, Yankee-doodles, and Hindoos;
All kinds of dress, except the ecclesiastical,
All people, as their fancies hit, may choose,
But no one in these parts may quiz the clergy, —
Therefore take heed, ye Freethinkers! I charge ye.

IV.
You'd better walk about begirt with briars,
Instead of coat and smallclothes, than put on
A single stitch reflecting upon friars,
Although you swore it only was in fun;
They'd haul you o'er the coals, and stir the fires
Of Phlegethon with every mother's son,
Nor say one mass to cool the caldron's bubble
That boil'd your bones, unless you paid them double.

V.
But saving this, you may put on whate'er
You like by way of doublet, cape, or cloak.
Such as in Monmouth-street, or in Rag Fair,
Would rig you out in seriousness or joke;
And even in Italy such places are,
With prettier name in softer accents spoke,
For, bating Covent Garden, I can hit on
No place that's called "Piazza" in Great Britain.

VI.
This feast is named the Carnival, which being
Interpreted, implies "farewell to flesh:"
So call'd, because the name and thing agreeing,
Through Lent they live on fish, both salt and fresh.
But why they usher Lent with so much glee in,
Is more than I can tell, although I guess
'Tis as we take a glass with friends at parting,
In the stage-coach or packet, just at starting,

VII.
And thus they bid farewell to carnal dishes,
And solid meats, and highly spiced ragouts,
To live for forty days on ill-dress'd fishes,
Because they have no sauces to their stews;
A thing which causes many "poohs" and "pishes,"
And several oaths (which would not suit the Muse),
From travellers accustom'd from a boy
To eat their salmon, at the least, with soy;

VIII.
And therefore humbly I would recommend
"The curious in fish-sauce," before they cross
The sea, to bid their cook, or wife, or friend,
Walk or ride to the Strand, and buy in gross
(Or if set out beforehand, these may send
By any means least liable to loss)
Ketchup, Soy, Chili-vinegar, and Harvey,
Or by the Lord! a Lent will well nigh starve ye;

IX.
That is to say, if your religion's Roman,
And you at Rome would do as Romans do,
According to the proverb, — although no man
If foreign, is obliged to fast; and you
If Protestant, or sickly, or a woman,
Would rather dine in sin on a ragout —
Dine and be d—d! I don't mean to be coarse,
But that's the penalty, to say no worse.

X.
Of all the places where the Carnival
Was most facetious in the days of yore,
For dance, and song, and serenade, and ball,
And masque, and mime, and mystery, and more
Than I have time to tell now, or at all,
Venice the bell from every city bore, —
And at the moment when I fix my story,
That sea-born city was in all her glory.

XI.
They've pretty faces yet, those same Venetians,
Black-eyes, arch'd brows, and sweet expressions still;
Such as of old were copied from the Grecians,
In ancient arts by moderns mimick'd ill;
And like so many Venuses of Titian's
(The best's at Florence — see it, if ye will),
They look when leaning over the balcony,
Or stepp'd from out a picture by Giorgione,

XII.
Whose tints are truth and beauty at their best;
And when you to Manfrini's palace go,
That picture (howsoever fine the rest)
Is loveliest to my mind of all the show;
It may perhaps be also to your zest,
And that's the cause I rhyme upon it so:
'Tis but a portrait of his son, and wife,
And self; but such a woman! love in life!

XIII.
Love in full life and length, not love ideal,
No, nor ideal beauty, that fine name,
But something better still, so very real,
That the sweet model must have been the same;
A thing that you would purchase, beg, or steal,
Were 't not impossible, besides a shame:
The face recalls some face, as't were with pain,
You once have seen, but ne'er will see again.

XIV.
One of those forms which flit by us, when we
Are young, and fix our eyes on every face;
And, oh! the loveliness at times we see
In momentary gliding, the soft grace,
The youth, the bloom, the beauty which agree,
In many a nameless being we retrace,
whose course, and home we knew not, nor shall know,
Like the lost Pleiad seen no more below.

XV.
I said that like a picture by Giorgione
Venetian women were, and so they are,
Particularly seen from a balcony
(For beauty's sometimes best set off afar),
And there, just like a heroine of Goldoni,
They peep from out the blind, or o'er the bar;
And truth to say, they're mostly very pretty,
And rather like to show it, more's the pity!

XVI.
For glances beget ogles, ogles sighs,
Sighs wishes, wishes words, and words a letter,
Which flies on wings of light-heel'd Mercuries,
Who do such things because they know no better;
And then, God knows what mischief may arise,
When love links two young people in one fetter,
Vile assignations, and adulterous beds,
Elopements, broken vows, and hearts, and heads.

XVII.
Shakespeare described the sex in Desdemona
As very fair, but yet suspect in fame,
And to this day from Venice to Verona
Such matters may be probably the same,
Except that since those times was never known a
Husband whom mere suspicion could inflame
To suffocate a wife no more than twenty,
Because she had a "cavalier servente."

XVIII.
Their jealousy (if they are ever jealous)
Is of a fair complexion altogether,
Not like that sooty devil of Othello's,
Which smothers women in a bed of feather,
But worthier of these much more jolly fellows,
When weary of the matrimonial tether
His head for such a wife no mortal bothers,
But takes at once another, or another's.

XIX.
Didst ever see a Gondola? For fear
You should not, I'll describe it you exactly:
"Tis a long cover'd boat that's common here,
Carved at the prow, build lightly, but compactly,
Row'd by two rowers, each call'd "Gondolier,"
It glides along the water looking blackly,
Just like a coffin clapt in a canoe,
Where none can make out what you say or do.

XX.
And up and down the long canals they go,
And under the Rialto shoot along,
By night and day, all paces, swift or slow,
And round the theatres, a sable throng,
They wait in their dusk livery of woe, —
But not to them do woeful things belong,
For sometimes they contain a deal of fun,
Like mourning coaches when the funeral's done.

XXI.
But to my story. — 'Twas some years ago,
It may be thirty, forty, more or less,
The Carnival was at its height, and so
Were all kinds of buffoonery and dress;
A certain lady went to see the show,
Her real name I know not, nor can guess,
And so we'll call her Laura, if you please,
Because it slips into my verse with ease.

XXII.
She was not old, nor young, nor at the years
Which certain people call a "certain age,"
Which yet the most uncertain age appears,
Because I never heard, nor could engage
A person yet by prayers, or bribes, or tears,
To name, define by speech, or write on page,
The period meant precisely by that word, —
Which surely is exceedingly absurd.

XXIII.
Laura was blooming still, had made the best
Of time, and time return'd the compliment,
She look'd extremely well where'er she went;
A pretty woman is a welcome guest,
And Laura's brow a frown had rarely bent;
Indeed, she shone all smiles, and seem'd to flatter
Mankind with her black eyes for looking at her.

XXIV.
She was a married woman; 'tis convenient,
Because in Christian countries 'tis a rule
To view their little slips with eyes more lenient;
Whereas if single ladies play the fool
(Unless within the period intervenient
A well-times wedding makes the scandal cool),
I don't know how they ever can get over it,
Except they manage never to discover it.

XXV.
Her husband sail'd upon the Adriatic,
And made some voyages, too, in other seas,
And when he lay in quarantine for pratique
(A forty days' precaution 'gainst disease),
His wife would mount, at times, her highest attic,
For thence she could discern the ship with ease;
He was a merchant trading to Aleppo,
His name Giuseppe, call'd more briefly, Beppo.

XXVI.
He was a man as dusky as a Spaniard,
Sunburnt with travel, yet a portly figure;
Though colour'd, as it were, within a tan-yard,
He was a person both of sense and vigour —
A better seaman never yet did man yard;
And she, although her manners show'd no rigour,
Was deem'd a woman of the strictest principle,
So much as to be thought almost invincible.

XXVII.
But several years elapsed since they had met;
Some people thought the ship was lost, and some
That he had somehow blunder'd into debt,
And did not like the thought of steering home;
And there were several offer'd any bet,
Or that he would, or that he would not come;
For most men (till by losing render'd sager)
Will back their own opinions with a wager.

XXVIII.
'Tis said that their last parting was pathetic,
As partings often are, or ought to be,
And their presentiment was quite prophetic,
That they should never more each other see,
(A sort of morbid feeling, half poetic,
Which I have known occur in two or three,)
When kneeling on the shore upon her sad knee
He left this Adriatic Ariadne.

XXIX.
And Laura waited long, and wept a little,
And thought of wearing weeds, as well she might;
She almost lost all appetite for victual,
And could not sleep with ease along at night;
She deem'd the window-frames and shutters brittle
Against a daring housebreaker or sprite,
And so she thought it prudent to connect her.
With a vice-husband, chiefly to protect her.

XXX.
She chose, (and what is there they will not choose,
If only you will but oppose their choice?)
Till Beppo should return from his long cruise,
And bid once more her faithful heart rejoice,
A man some women like, and yet abuse —
A coxcomb was he by the public voice;
A Count of wealth, they said, as well as quality,
And in his pleasures of great liberality.

XXXI.
And then he was A Count, and then he knew
Music, and dancing, fiddling, French and Tuscan;
The last not easy, be it known to you.
For few Italians speak the right Etruscan.
He was a critic upon operas, too,
And knew all niceties of the sock and buskin;
And no Venetian audience could endure a
Song, scene, or air, when he cried "seccatura!"

XXXII.
His "bravo" was decisive, for that sound
Hush'd "Academie" sigh'd in silent awe;
The fiddlers trembled as he look'd around,
For fear of some false note's detected flaw;
The "prima donna's" tuneful heart would bound,
Dreading the deep damnation of his "bah!"
Soprano, basso, even the contra-alto,
Wish'd him five fathom under the Rialto.

XXXIII.
He patronised the Improvisatori,
Nay, could himself extemporise some stanzas,
Wrote rhymes, sang songs, could also tell a story,
Sold pictures, and was skilful in the dance as
Italians can be, though in this their glory
Must surely yield the palm to that which France has;
In short, he was a perfect cavaliero,
And to his very valet seem'd a hero.

XXIV.
Then he was faithful too, as well as amorous;
So that no sort of female could complain,
Although they're now and then a little clamourous,
He never put the pretty souls in pain;
His heart was one of those which most enamour us,
Wax to receive, and marble to retain:
He was a lover of the good old school,
Who still become more constant as they cool.

XXXV.
No wonder such accomplishments should turn
A female head, however sage and steady —
With scarce a hope that Beppo could return,
In law he was almost as good as dead, he
Nor sent, nor wrote, nor show'd the least concern,
And she had waited several years already;
And really if a man won't let us know
That he's alive, he's dead, or should be so.

XXXVI.
Besides, within the Alps, to every woman,
(Although, God knows, it is a grievous sin,)
'Tis, I may say, permitted to have two men;
I can't tell who first brought the custom in,
But "Cavalier Serventes" are quite common,
And no one notices nor cares a pin;
And we may call this (not to say the worst)
A second marriage which corrupts the first.

XXXVII.
The word was formerly a "Cicisbeo,"
But that is now grown vulgar and indecent;
The Spaniards call the person a "Cortejo,"
For the same mode subsists in Spain, though recent;
In short, it reaches from the Po to Teio,
And may perhaps at last be o'er the sea sent:
But Heaven preserve Old England from such courses!
Or what becomes of damage and divorces?

XXXVIII.
However, I still think, with all due deference
To the fair single part of the creation,
That married ladies should preserve the preference
In tête-à-tête or general conversation —
And this I say without peculiar reference
To England, France, or any other nation —
Because they know the world, and are at ease,
And being natural, naturally please.

XXXIX.
"Tis true, your budding Miss is very charming,
But shy and awkward at first coming out,
So much alarm'd, that she is quite alarming,
All Giggle, Blush; half Pertness, and half-Pout;
And glancing at Mamma, for fear there's harm in
What you, she, it, or they, may be about,
The nursery still lisps out in all they utter —
Besides, they always smell of bread and butter.

XL.
But "Cavalier Servente" is the phrase
Used in politest circles to express
This supernumerary slave, who stays
Close to the lady as a part of dress,
Her word the only law which he obeys.
His is no sinecure, as you may guess;
Coach, servants, gondola, he goes to call,
And carries fan and tippet, gloves and shawl.

XLI.
With all its sinful doings, I must say,
That Italy's a pleasant place to me,
Who love to see the Sun shine every day,
And vines (not nail'd to walls) from tree to tree
Festoon'd, much like the back scene of a play,
Or melodrame, which people flock to see,
When the first act is ended by a dance
In vineyards copied from the south of France.

XLII.
I like on Autumn evenings to ride out,
Without being forced to bid my groom be sure
My cloak is round his middle strapp'd about,
Because the skies are not the most secure;
I know too that, if stopp'd upon my route,
Where the green alleys windingly allure,
Reeling with grapes red waggons choke the way, —
In England 't would be dung, dust, or a dray.

XLIII.
I also like to dine on becaficas,
To see the Sun set, sure he'll rise tomorrow,
Not through a misty morning twinkling weak as
A drunken man's dead eye in maudlin sorrow,
But with all Heaven t'himself; the day will break as
Beauteous as cloudless, nor be forced to borrow
That sort of farthing candlelight which glimmers
Where reeking London's smoky caldron simmers.

XLIV.
I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,
Which melts like kisses from a female mouth,
And sounds as if it should be writ on satin,
With syllables which breathe of the sweet South,
And gentle liquids gliding all so pat in,
That not a single accent seems uncouth,
Like our harsh northern whistling, grunting guttural,
Which we're obliged to hiss, and spit, and sputter all.

XLV.
I like the women too (forgive my folly),
From the rich peasant cheek of ruddy bronze,
And large black eyes that flash on you a volley
Of rays that say a thousand things at once,
To the high dama's brow, more melancholy,
But clear, and with a wild and liquid glance,
Heart on her lips, and soul within her eyes,
Soft as her clime, and sunny as her skies.

XLVI.
Eve of the land which still is Paradise!
Italian beauty! didst thou not inspire
Raphael, who died in thy embrace, and vies
With all we know of Heaven, or can desire,
In what he hath bequeath'd us? — in what guise,
Though flashing from the fervour of the lyre,
Would words describe thy past and present glow,
While yet Canova can create below?

XLVII.
"England! with all thy faults I love thee still,"
I said at Calais, and have not forgot it;
I like to speak and lucubrate my fill;
I like the government (but that is not it);
I like the freedom of the press and quill;
I like the Hapeas Corpus (when we've got it);
I like a parliamentary debate,
Particularly when 'tis not too late;

XLVIII.
I like the taxes, when they're not too many;
I like a seacoal fire, when not too dear;
I like a beef-steak, too, as well as any;
Have no objection to a pot of beer;
I like the weather, when it is not rainy,
That is, I like two months of every year,
And so God save the Regent, Church, and King!
Which means that I like all and everything.

XLIX.
Our standing army, and disbanded seamen,
Poor's rate, Reform, my own, the nation's debt,
Our little riots just to show we are free men,
Our trifling bankruptcies in the Gazette,
Our cloudy climate, and our chilly women,
All these I can forgive, and those forget,
And greatly venerate our recent glories,
And wish they were not owing to the Tories.

L.
But to my tale of Laura, — for I find
Digression is a sin, that by degrees
Becomes exceeding tedious to my mind,
And, therefore, may the reader too displease —
The gentle reader, who may wax unkind,
And caring little for the author's ease,
Insist on knowing what he means, a hard
And hapless situation for a bard.

LI.
Oh that I had the art of easy writing
What should be easy reading! could I scale
Parnassus, where the Muses sit inditing
Those pretty poems never known to fail,
How quickly would I print (the world delighting)
A Grecian, Syrian, or Assyrian tale;
And sell you, mix'd with western sentimentalism,
Some samples of the finest Orientalism!

LII.
But I am but a nameless sort of person,
(A broken Dandy lately on my travels)
And take for rhyme, to hook my rambling verse on,
The first that Walker's Lexicon unravels,
And when I can't find that, I put a worse on,
Not caring as I ought for critics' cavils;
I've half a mind to tumble down to prose,
But verse is more in fashion — so here goes.

LIII.
The Count and Laura made their new arrangement,
Which lasted, as arrangements sometimes do,
For half a dozen years without estrangement;
They had their little differences, too;
Those jealous whiffs, which never any change meant;
In such affairs there probably are few
Who have not had this pouting sort of squabble,
From sinners of high station to the rabble.

LIV.
But on the whole, they were a happy pair,
As happy as unlawful love could make them;
The gentleman was fond, the lady fair,
Their chains so slight, 'twas not worth while to break them;
The world beheld them with indulgent air;
The pious only wish'd "the devil take them!"
He took them not; he very often waits,
And leaves old sinners to be young ones' baits.

LV.
But they were young: Oh! what without our youth
Would love be! What would youth be without love!
Youth lends it joy, and sweetness, vigour, truth,
Heart, soul, and all that seems as from above;
But, languishing with years, it grows uncouth —
One of few things experience don't improve,
Which is, perhaps, the reason why old fellows
Are always so preposterously jealous.

LVI.
It was the Carnival, as I have said
Some six and thirty stanzas back, and so
Laura the usual preparations made,
Which you do when your mind's made up to go
To-night to Mrs. Boehm's masquerade,
Spectator, or partaker in the show;
The only difference known between the cases
Is — here, we have six weeks of "varnish'd faces."

LVII.
Laura, when dress'd, was (as I sang before)
A pretty woman as was ever seen,
Fresh as the Angel o'er a new inn door,
Or frontispiece of a new Magazine,
With all the fashions which the last month wore,
Colour'd, and silver paper leaved between
That and the title-page, for fear the press
Should soil with parts of speech the parts of dress.

LVIII.
They went to the Ridotto; — 'tis a hall
Where people dance, and sup, and dance again;
Its proper name, perhaps, were a masqued ball,
But that's of no importance to my strain;
'Tis (on a smaller scale) like our Vauxhall,
Excepting that it can't be spoilt by rain;
The company is "mix'd" (the phrase I quote is
As much as saying they're below your notice);

LIX.
For a "mix'd company" implies that, save
Yourself and friends, and half a hundred more,
Whom you may bow to without looking grave,
The rest are but a vulgar set, the bore
Of public places, where they basely brave
The fashionable stare of twenty score
Of well-bred persons, call'd "The World;" but I,
Although I know them, really don't know why.

LX.
This is the case in England; at least was
During the dynasty of Dandies, now
Perchance succeeded by some other class
Of imitated imitators: — how
Irreparably soon decline, alas!
The demagogues of fashion: all below
Is frail; how easily the world is lost
By love, or war, and now and then by frost!

LXI.
Crush'd was Napoleon by the northern Thor,
Who knock'd his army down with icy hammer,
Stopp'd by the elements, like a whaler, or
A blundering novice in his new French grammar;
Good cause had he to doubt the chance of war,
And as for Fortune — but I dare not d—n her,
Because, were I to ponder to infinity,
The more I should believe in her divinity.

LXII.
She rules the present, past, and all to be yet,
She gives us luck in lotteries, love, and marriage;
I cannot say that she's done much for me yet;
Not that I mean her bounties to disparage,
We've not yet closed accounts, and we shall see yet;
How much she'll make amends for past miscarriage.
Meantime the Goddess I'll no more importune,
Unless to thank her when she's made my fortune.

LXIII.
To turn, — and return; — the devil take it!
This story slips for ever through my fingers,
Because, just as the stanza likes to make it,
It needs must be, and so it rather lingers:
This form of verse began, I can't well break it,
But must keep time and tune like public singers;
But if I once get through my present measure,
I'll take another when I'm at leisure.

LXIV.
They went to the Ridotto ('tis a place
To which I mean to go myself to-morrow,
Just to divert my thoughts a little space,
Because I'm rather hippish, and may borrow,
Some spirits, guessing at what kind of face
May lurk beneath each mask; and as my sorrow
Slackens its pace sometimes, I'll make, or find,
Something shall leave it half an hour behind).

LXV.
Now Laura moves along the joyous crowd,
Smiles in her eyes, and simpers on her lips;
To some she whispers, others speaks aloud;
To some she curtsies, and to some she dips,
Complains of warmth, and this complaint avow'd,
Her lover brings the lemonade, she sips;
She then surveys, condemns, but pities still
Her dearest friends for being dress'd so ill.

LXVI.
One has false curls, another too much paint,
A third — where did she buy that frightful turban?
A fourth's so pale she fears she's going to faint,
A fifth's look's vulgar, dowdyish, and suburban,
A sixth's white silk has got a yellow taint,
A seventh's thin muslin surely will be her bane,
And lo! an eighth appears, — "I'll see no more!"
For fear, like Banquo's kings, they reach a score.

LXVII.
Meantime, while she was thus at others gazing,
Others were leveling their looks at her;
She heard the men's half-whisper'd mode of praising,
And, till 'twas done, determined not to stir;
The women only thought it quite amazing
That, at her time of life, so many were
Admirers still, — but men are so debased,
Those brazen creatures always suit their taste.

LXVIII.
For my part, now, I ne'er could understand
Why naughty women — but I won't discuss
A thing which is a scandal to the land,
I only don't see why it should be thus;
And if I were but in a gown and band,
Just to entitle me to make a fuss,
I'd preach on this till Wilberforce and Romilly
Should quote in their next speeches from my homily.

LXIX.
While Laura thus was seen, and seeing, smiling,
Talking, she knew not why, and cared not what,
So that her female friends, with envy broiling,
Beheld her airs and triumph, and all that;
And well-dress'd males still kept before her filing,
And passing bow'd and mingled with her chat;
More than the rest one person seem'd to stare
With pertinacity that's rather rare.

LXX.
He was a Turk, the colour of mahogany;
And Laura saw him, and at first was glad,
Because the Turks so much admire phylogyny,
Although their usage of their wives is sad;
'Tis said they use no better than a dog any
Poor woman, whom they purchase like a pad;
They have a number, though the ne'er exhibit 'em,
Four wives by law, and concubines: ad libitum."

LXXI.
They lock them up, and veil, and guard them daily,
They scarcely can behold their male relations,
So that their moments do not pass so gaily
As is supposed the case with northern nations;
Confinement, too, must make them look quite palely;
And as the Turks abhor long conversations,
Their days are either pass'd in doing nothing,
Or bathing, nursing, making love, and clothing.

LXXII.
They cannot read, and so don't lisp in criticism;
Nor write, and so they don't affect the muse;
Were never caught in epigram or witticism,
Have no romances, sermons, plays, reviews, —
In harams learning soon would make a pretty schism,
But luckily these beauties are no "Blues;"
No bustling Botherbys have they to show 'em
"That charming passage in the last new poem;"

LXXIII.
No solemn, antique gentleman of rhyme,
Who having angled all his life for fame,
And getting but a nibble at a time,
Still fussily keeps fishing on, the same
Small "Triton of the minnows," the sublime
Of mediocrity, the furious tame,
The echo's echo, usher of the school
Of female wits, boy bards — in short, a fool!

LXXIV.
A stalking oracle of awful phrase
The approving "Good!" (By no means good in law,)
Humming like flies around the newest blaze,
The bluest of bluebottles you e'er saw,
Teasing with blame, excruciating with praise,
Gorging the little fame he gets all raw,
Translating tongues he knows not even by letter,
And sweating plays so middling, bad were better.

LXXV.
One hates an author that's all author, fellows
In foolscap uniforms turn'd up with ink,
So very anxious, clever, fine, and jealous,
One do'nt know what to say to them, or think,
Unless to puff them with a pair of bellows;
Of coxcombry's worst coxcombs e'en the pink
Are preferable to these shreds of paper,
These unquench'd snufflings of the midnight taper.

LXXVI.
Of these same we see several, and of others,
Men of the world, who know the world like men,
Scott, Rogers, Moore, and all the better brothers,
Who think of something else besides the pen;
But for the children of the "mighty mother's,"
The would-be wits, and can't-be gentlemen,
I leave them to their daily "tea is ready,"
Smug coterie, and literary lady.

LXXVII.
The poor dear Mussulwomen whom I mention
Have none of these instructive pleasant people,
And one would seem to them a new invention,
Unknown as bells within a Turkish steeple;
I think 't would almost be worth while to pension
(though best-sown projects ver often reap ill)
A missionary author, just to preach
Our Christian usage of the parts of speech.

LXXVIII.
No chemistry for them unfolds her gases,
No metaphysics are let loose in lectures,
No circulating library amasses
Religious novels, moral tales, and strictures
Upon the living manners, as they pass us;
No exhibition glares with annual pictures;
They stare not on the stars from out their attics,
Nor deal (thank God for that!) in mathematics.

LXXIX.
Why I thank God for that is no great matter,
I have my reasons, you no doubt suppose,
And as, perhaps, they would not highly flatter,
I'll keep them for my life (to come) in prose;
I fear I have a little turn for satire,
And yet methinks the older that one grows
Inclines us more to laugh than scold, though laughter
Leaves us no doubly serious shortly after.

LXXX.
Oh, mirth and innocence! Oh, milk and water!
Ye happy mixtures of more happy days!
In these sad centuries of sin and slaughter,
Abominable Man no more allays
His thirst with such pure beverage. No matter,
I love you both, and both shall have my praise;
Oh, for old Saturn's reign of sugar-candy! —
Meantime I drink to your return in brandy.

LXXXI.
Our Laura's Turk still kept his eyes upon her,
Less in the Mussulman than Christian way,
Which seems to say, "Madam, I do you honour,
And while I please to stare, you'll please to stay!"
Could staring win a woman, this had won her,
But Laura could not thus be led astray;
She had stood fire too long and well, is boggle
Even at this stranger's most outlandish ogle.

LXXXII.
The morning now was on the point of breaking
A turn of time at which I would advise
Ladies who have been dancing, or partaking
In any other kind of exercise,
To make their preparations for forsaking
The ball-room ere the sun begins to rise,
Because when once the lamps and candles fail,
His blushes make them look a little pale.

LXXXIII.
I've seen some balls and revels in my time,
And stay'd them over for some silly reason,
And then I look'd (I hope it was no crime)
To see what lady best stood out the season,
And though I've seen some thousands in their prime,
Lovely and pleasing, and who still may please on,
I never saw but one (the stars withdrawn)
Whose bloom could after dancing dare the dawn.

LXXXIV.
The name of this Aurora I'll not mention,
Although I might, for she was nought to me
More than that patent work of God's invention,
A charming woman, whom we like to see;
But writing names would merit reprehension,
Yet if you like to find out this fair she,
At the next London or Parisian ball
You still may mark her cheek out-blooming all.

LXXXV.
Laura, who knew it would not do at all
To meet the daylight after seven hours' sitting
Among three thousand people at a ball,
To make her curtsy thought it right and fitting;
The Count was at her elbow with her shawl,
And they the room were on the point of quitting,
When lo! those cursed gondoliers had got
Just in the very place where they should not.

LXXXVI.
In this they're like our coachmen, and the cause
Is much the samethe crowd, and pulling, hauling,
With blasphemies enough to break their jaws,
They make a never intermitted bawling.
At home, our Bow-street gemmen keep the laws,
And here a sentry stands within your calling;
But for all that, there is a deal of swearing,
And nauseous words past mentioning or bearing.

LXXXVII.
The Count and Laura found their boat at last,
And homeward floated o'er the silent tied,
Discussing all the dances gone and past;
The dancers and their dresses, too, beside;
Some little scandals eke; but all aghast
(As to their palace-stairs the rowers glide)
Sate Laura by the side of her Adorer,
When lo! the Mussulman was there before her.

LXXXVIII.
"Sir," said the Count, with brow exceeding grave,
"Your unexpected presence here will make
It necessary for myself to crave
Its import? But perhaps 'tis a mistake;
I hope it is so; and, at once to waive
All compliment, I hope so for your sake;
You understand my meaning, or you shall,"
"Sir" (quoth the Turk), "'tis no mistake at all:

LXXXIX.
"That lady is my wife!" Much wonder paints
The lady's changing cheek, as well it might;
But where an Englishwoman sometimes faints,
Italian females don't do so outright;
They only call a little on their saints,
And then come to themselves, almost or quite;
Which saves much hartshorn, salts, and sprinkling faces,
And cutting stays, as usual in such cases.

XC.
She said, — what could she say? Why, not a word:
But the Count courteously invited in
The stranger, much appeased by what he heard:
"Such things, perhaps, we'd best discuss within,"
Said he; "don't let us make ourselves absurd
In public, by a scene, nor raise a din,
For then the chief and only satisfaction
Will be much quizzing on the whole transaction."

XCI.
They enter'd, and for coffee call'd — it came,
A beverage for Turks and Christians both,
Although the way they make it's not the same.
Now Laura, much recover'd, or less loth
To speak, cries "Beppo! what's your pagan name?
Bless me! your beard is of amazing growth!
And how came you to keep away so long?
Are you not sensible 't was very wrong?

XCII.
"And are you really, truly, now a Turk?
With any other women did you wive?
Is 't true they use their fingers for a fork?
Well, that's the prettiest shawl — as I'm alive!
You'll give it me? They say you eat no pork.
And how so many years did you contrive
To — Bless me! did I ever? No, I never
Saw a man grown so yellow! How's your liver?

XCIII.
"Beppo! that beard of yours becomes you not;
It shall be shaved before you're a day older:
Why do you wear it? Oh! I had forgot —
Pray don't you think the weather here is colder?
How do I look? You shan't stir from this spot
In that queer dress, for fear that some beholder
Should find you out, and make the story known.
How short your hair is! Lord! how grey it's grown!"

XCIV.
What answer Beppo made to these demands
Is more than I know. He was cast away
About where Troy stood once, and nothing stands;
Became a slave of course, and for his pay
Had bread and bastinadoes, till some bands
Of pirates landing in a neighbouring bay,
He join'd the rogues and prosper'd, and became
A renegado of indifferent fame.

XCV.
But he grew rich, and with his riches grew so
Keen the desire to see his home again,
He thought himself in duty bound to do so,
And not be always thieving on the main;
Lonely he felt, at times, as Robin Crusoe,
And so he hired a vessel come from Spain,
Bound for Corfu: she was a fine polacca,
Mann'd with twelve hands, and laden with tobacco.

XCVI.
Himself, and much (Heaven knows how gotten!) cash,
He then embark'd, with risk of life and limb
And got clear off, although the attempt was rash;
He said that Providence protected him —
For my part, I say nothing — lest we clash
In our opinions: — well, the ship was trim,
Set sail, and kept her reckoning fairly on,
Except three days of calm when off Cape Bonn.

XCVII.
They reach'd the island, he transferr'd his lading
And self and live stock to another bottom,
And pass'd for a true Turkey-merchant, trading
With goods of various names, but I've forgot'em.
However, he got off by this evading,
Or else the people would perhaps have shot him;
And thus at Venice landed to reclaim
His wife, religion, house, and Christian name.

XCVIII.
His wife received, the patriarch re-baptised him
(He made the church a present, by the way);
He then threw off the garments which disguised him,
And borrow'd the Count's small clothes for a day:
His friends the more for his long absence prized him,
Finding he'd wherewithal to make them gay,
With dinners, where he oft became the laugh of them,
For stories — but I don't believe the half of them.

XCIX.
Whate'er his youth had suffer'd, his old age
With wealth and talking made him some amends;
Though Laura sometimes put him in a rage,
I've heard the Count and he were always friends.
My pen is at the bottom of a page,
Which being finish'd, here the story ends;
'Tis to be wish'd it had been sooner done,
But stories somehow lengthen when begun.

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Avon's Harvest

Fear, like a living fire that only death
Might one day cool, had now in Avon’s eyes
Been witness for so long of an invasion
That made of a gay friend whom we had known
Almost a memory, wore no other name
As yet for us than fear. Another man
Than Avon might have given to us at least
A futile opportunity for words
We might regret. But Avon, since it happened,
Fed with his unrevealing reticence
The fire of death we saw that horribly
Consumed him while he crumbled and said nothing.

So many a time had I been on the edge,
And off again, of a foremeasured fall
Into the darkness and discomfiture
Of his oblique rebuff, that finally
My silence honored his, holding itself
Away from a gratuitous intrusion
That likely would have widened a new distance
Already wide enough, if not so new.
But there are seeming parallels in space
That may converge in time; and so it was
I walked with Avon, fought and pondered with him,
While he made out a case for So-and-so,
Or slaughtered What’s-his-name in his old way,
With a new difference. Nothing in Avon lately
Was, or was ever again to be for us,
Like him that we remembered; and all the while
We saw that fire at work within his eyes
And had no glimpse of what was burning there.

So for a year it went; and so it went
For half another year—when, all at once,
At someone’s tinkling afternoon at home
I saw that in the eyes of Avon’s wife
The fire that I had met the day before
In his had found another living fuel.
To look at her and then to think of him,
And thereupon to contemplate the fall
Of a dim curtain over the dark end
Of a dark play, required of me no more
Clairvoyance than a man who cannot swim
Will exercise in seeing that his friend
Off shore will drown except he save himself.
To her I could say nothing, and to him
No more than tallied with a long belief
That I should only have it back again
For my chagrin to ruminate upon,
Ingloriously, for the still time it starved;
And that would be for me as long a time
As I remembered Avon—who is yet
Not quite forgotten. On the other hand,
For saying nothing I might have with me always
An injured and recriminating ghost
Of a dead friend. The more I pondered it
The more I knew there was not much to lose,
Albeit for one whose delving hitherto
Had been a forage of his own affairs,
The quest, however golden the reward,
Was irksome—and as Avon suddenly
And soon was driven to let me see, was needless.
It seemed an age ago that we were there
One evening in the room that in the days
When they could laugh he called the Library.
“He calls it that, you understand,” she said,
“Because the dictionary always lives here.
He’s not a man of books, yet he can read,
And write. He learned it all at school.”—He smiled,
And answered with a fervor that rang then
Superfluous: “Had I learned a little more
At school, it might have been as well for me.”
And I remember now that he paused then,
Leaving a silence that one had to break.
But this was long ago, and there was now
No laughing in that house. We were alone
This time, and it was Avon’s time to talk.

I waited, and anon became aware
That I was looking less at Avon’s eyes
Than at the dictionary, like one asking
Already why we make so much of words
That have so little weight in the true balance.
“Your name is Resignation for an hour,”
He said; “and I’m a little sorry for you.
So be resigned. I shall not praise your work,
Or strive in any way to make you happy.
My purpose only is to make you know
How clearly I have known that you have known
There was a reason waited on your coming,
And, if it’s in me to see clear enough,
To fish the reason out of a black well
Where you see only a dim sort of glimmer
That has for you no light.”

I see the well,”
I said, “but there’s a doubt about the glimmer—
Say nothing of the light. I’m at your service;
And though you say that I shall not be happy,
I shall be if in some way I may serve.
To tell you fairly now that I know nothing
Is nothing more than fair.”—“You know as much
As any man alive—save only one man,
If he’s alive. Whether he lives or not
Is rather for time to answer than for me;
And that’s a reason, or a part of one,
For your appearance here. You do not know him,
And even if you should pass him in the street
He might go by without your feeling him
Between you and the world. I cannot say
Whether he would, but I suppose he might.”

“And I suppose you might, if urged,” I said,
“Say in what water it is that we are fishing.
You that have reasons hidden in a well,
Not mentioning all your nameless friends that walk
The streets and are not either dead or living
For company, are surely, one would say
To be forgiven if you may seem distraught—
I mean distrait. I don’t know what I mean.
I only know that I am at your service,
Always, yet with a special reservation
That you may deem eccentric. All the same
Unless your living dead man comes to life,
Or is less indiscriminately dead,
I shall go home.”

“No, you will not go home,”
Said Avon; “or I beg that you will not.”
So saying, he went slowly to the door
And turned the key. “Forgive me and my manners,
But I would be alone with you this evening.
The key, as you observe, is in the lock;
And you may sit between me and the door,
Or where you will. You have my word of honor
That I would spare you the least injury
That might attend your presence here this evening.”

I thank you for your soothing introduction,
Avon,” I said. “Go on. The Lord giveth,
The Lord taketh away. I trust myself
Always to you and to your courtesy.
Only remember that I cling somewhat
Affectionately to the old tradition.”—
I understand you and your part,” said Avon;
“And I dare say it’s well enough, tonight,
We play around the circumstance a little.
I’ve read of men that half way to the stake
Would have their little joke. It’s well enough;
Rather a waste of time, but well enough.”

I listened as I waited, and heard steps
Outside of one who paused and then went on;
And, having heard, I might as well have seen
The fear in his wife’s eyes. He gazed away,
As I could see, in helpless thought of her,
And said to me: “Well, then, it was like this.
Some tales will have a deal of going back .
In them before they are begun. But this one
Begins in the beginning—when he came.
I was a boy at school, sixteen years old,
And on my way, in all appearances,
To mark an even-tempered average
Among the major mediocrities
Who serve and earn with no especial noise
Or vast reward. I saw myself, even then,
A light for no high shining; and I feared
No boy or man—having, in truth, no cause.
I was enough a leader to be free,
And not enough a hero to be jealous.
Having eyes and ears, I knew that I was envied,
And as a proper sort of compensation
Had envy of my own for two or three—
But never felt, and surely never gave,
The wound of any more malevolence
Than decent youth, defeated for a day,
May take to bed with him and kill with sleep.
So, and so far, my days were going well,
And would have gone so, but for the black tiger
That many of us fancy is in waiting,
But waits for most of us in fancy only.
For me there was no fancy in his coming,
Though God knows I had never summoned him,
Or thought of him. To this day I’m adrift
And in the dark, out of all reckoning,
To find a reason why he ever was,
Or what was ailing Fate when he was born
On this alleged God-ordered earth of ours.
Now and again there comes one of his kind—
By chance, we say. I leave all that to you.
Whether it was an evil chance alone,
Or some invidious juggling of the stars,
Or some accrued arrears of ancestors
Who throve on debts that I was here to pay,
Or sins within me that I knew not of,
Or just a foretaste of what waits in hell
For those of us who cannot love a worm,—
Whatever it was, or whence or why it was,
One day there came a stranger to the school.
And having had one mordacious glimpse of him
That filled my eyes and was to fill my life,
I have known Peace only as one more word
Among the many others we say over
That have an airy credit of no meaning.
One of these days, if I were seeing many
To live, I might erect a cenotaph
To Job’s wife. I assume that you remember;
If you forget, she’s extant in your Bible.”

Now this was not the language of a man
Whom I had known as Avon, and I winced
Hearing it—though I knew that in my heart
There was no visitation of surprise.
Unwelcome as it was, and off the key
Calamitously, it overlived a silence
That was itself a story and affirmed
A savage emphasis of honesty
That I would only gladly have attuned
If possible, to vinous innovation.
But his indifferent wassailing was always
Too far within the measure of excess
For that; and then there were those eyes of his.
Avon indeed had kept his word with me,
And there was not much yet to make me happy.

“So there we were,” he said, “we two together,
Breathing one air. And how shall I go on
To say by what machinery the slow net
Of my fantastic and increasing hate
Was ever woven as it was around us?
I cannot answer; and you need not ask
What undulating reptile he was like,
For such a worm as I discerned in him
Was never yet on earth or in the ocean,
Or anywhere else than in my sense of him.
Had all I made of him been tangible,
The Lord must have invented long ago
Some private and unspeakable new monster
Equipped for such a thing’s extermination;
Whereon the monster, seeing no other monster
Worth biting, would have died with his work done.
There’s a humiliation in it now,
As there was then, and worse than there was then;
For then there was the boy to shoulder it
Without the sickening weight of added years
Galling him to the grave. Beware of hate
That has no other boundary than the grave
Made for it, or for ourselves. Beware, I say;
And I’m a sorry one, I fear, to say it,
Though for the moment we may let that go
And while I’m interrupting my own story
I’ll ask of you the favor of a look
Into the street. I like it when it’s empty.
There’s only one man walking? Let him walk.
I wish to God that all men might walk always,
And so, being busy, love one another more.”

“Avon,” I said, now in my chair again,
“Although I may not be here to be happy,
If you are careless, I may have to laugh.
I have disliked a few men in my life,
But never to the scope of wishing them
To this particular pedestrian hell
Of your affection. I should not like that.
Forgive me, for this time it was your fault.”

He drummed with all his fingers on his chair,
And, after a made smile of acquiescence,
Took up again the theme of his aversion,
Which now had flown along with him alone
For twenty years, like Io’s evil insect,
To sting him when it would. The decencies
Forbade that I should look at him for ever,
Yet many a time I found myself ashamed
Of a long staring at him, and as often
Essayed the dictionary on the table,
Wondering if in its interior
There was an uncompanionable word
To say just what was creeping in my hair,
At which my scalp would shrink,—at which, again,
I would arouse myself with a vain scorn,
Remembering that all this was in New York—
As if that were somehow the banishing
For ever of all unseemly presences—
And listen to the story of my friend,
Who, as I feared, was not for me to save,
And, as I knew, knew also that I feared it.

“Humiliation,” he began again,
“May be or not the best of all bad names
I might employ; and if you scent remorse,
There may be growing such a flower as that
In the unsightly garden where I planted,
Not knowing the seed or what was coming of it.
I’ve done much wondering if I planted it;
But our poor wonder, when it comes too late,
Fights with a lath, and one that solid fact
Breaks while it yawns and looks another way
For a less negligible adversary.
Away with wonder, then; though I’m at odds
With conscience, even tonight, for good assurance
That it was I, or chance and I together,
Did all that sowing. If I seem to you
To be a little bitten by the question,
Without a miracle it might be true;
The miracle is to me that I’m not eaten
Long since to death of it, and that you sit
With nothing more agreeable than a ghost.
If you had thought a while of that, you might,
Unhappily, not have come; and your not coming
Would have been desolation—not for you,
God save the mark!—for I would have you here.
I shall not be alone with you to listen;
And I should be far less alone tonight
With you away, make what you will of that.

I said that we were going back to school,
And we may say that we are there—with him.
This fellow had no friend, and, as for that,
No sign of an apparent need of one,
Save always and alone—myself. He fixed
His heart and eyes on me, insufferably,—
And in a sort of Nemesis-like way,
Invincibly. Others who might have given
A welcome even to him, or I’ll suppose so—
Adorning an unfortified assumption
With gold that might come off with afterthought—
Got never, if anything, more out of him
Than a word flung like refuse in their faces,
And rarely that. For God knows what good reason,
He lavished his whole altered arrogance
On me; and with an overweening skill,
Which had sometimes almost a cringing in it,
Found a few flaws in my tight mail of hate
And slowly pricked a poison into me
In which at first I failed at recognizing
An unfamiliar subtle sort of pity.
But so it was, and I believe he knew it;
Though even to dream it would have been absurd—
Until I knew it, and there was no need
Of dreaming. For the fellow’s indolence,
And his malignant oily swarthiness
Housing a reptile blood that I could see
Beneath it, like hereditary venom
Out of old human swamps, hardly revealed
Itself the proper spawning-ground of pity.
But so it was. Pity, or something like it,
Was in the poison of his proximity;
For nothing else that I have any name for
Could have invaded and so mastered me
With a slow tolerance that eventually
Assumed a blind ascendency of custom
That saw not even itself. When I came in,
Often I’d find him strewn along my couch
Like an amorphous lizard with its clothes on,
Reading a book and waiting for its dinner.
His clothes were always odiously in order,
Yet I should not have thought of him as clean—
Not even if he had washed himself to death
Proving it. There was nothing right about him.
Then he would search, never quite satisfied,
Though always in a measure confident,
My eyes to find a welcome waiting in them,
Unwilling, as I see him now, to know
That it would never be there. Looking back,
I am not sure that he would not have died
For me, if I were drowning or on fire,
Or that I would not rather have let myself
Die twice than owe the debt of my survival
To him, though he had lost not even his clothes.
No, there was nothing right about that fellow;
And after twenty years to think of him
I should be quite as helpless now to serve him
As I was then. I mean—without my story.
Be patient, and you’ll see just what I mean—
Which is to say, you won’t. But you can listen,
And that’s itself a large accomplishment
Uncrowned; and may be, at a time like this,
A mighty charity. It was in January
This evil genius came into our school,
And it was June when he went out of it—
If I may say that he was wholly out
Of any place that I was in thereafter.
But he was not yet gone. When we are told
By Fate to bear what we may never bear,
Fate waits a little while to see what happens;
And this time it was only for the season
Between the swift midwinter holidays
And the long progress into weeks and months
Of all the days that followed—with him there
To make them longer. I would have given an eye,
Before the summer came, to know for certain
That I should never be condemned again
To see him with the other; and all the while
There was a battle going on within me
Of hate that fought remorse—if you must have it—
Never to win,… never to win but once,
And having won, to lose disastrously,
And as it was to prove, interminably—
Or till an end of living may annul,
If so it be, the nameless obligation
That I have not the Christian revenue
In me to pay. A man who has no gold,
Or an equivalent, shall pay no gold
Until by chance or labor or contrivance
He makes it his to pay; and he that has
No kindlier commodity than hate,
Glossed with a pity that belies itself
In its negation and lacks alchemy
To fuse itself to—love, would you have me say?
I don’t believe it. No, there is no such word.
If I say tolerance, there’s no more to say.
And he who sickens even in saying that—
What coin of God has he to pay the toll
To peace on earth? Good will to men—oh, yes!
That’s easy; and it means no more than sap,
Until we boil the water out of it
Over the fire of sacrifice. I’ll do it;
And in a measurable way I’ve done it—
But not for him. What are you smiling at?
Well, so it went until a day in June.
We were together under an old elm,
Which now, I hope, is gone—though it’s a crime
In me that I should have to wish the death
Of such a tree as that. There were no trees
Like those that grew at school—until he came.
We stood together under it that day,
When he, by some ungovernable chance,
All foreign to the former crafty care
That he had used never to cross my favor,
Told of a lie that stained a friend of mine
With a false blot that a few days washed off.
A trifle now, but a boy’s honor then—
Which then was everything. There were some words
Between us, but I don’t remember them.
All I remember is a bursting flood
Of half a year’s accumulated hate,
And his incredulous eyes before I struck him.
He had gone once too far; and when he knew it,
He knew it was all over; and I struck him.
Pound for pound, he was the better brute;
But bulking in the way then of my fist
And all there was alive in me to drive it,
Three of him misbegotten into one
Would have gone down like him—and being larger,
Might have bled more, if that were necessary.
He came up soon; and if I live for ever,
The vengeance in his eyes, and a weird gleam
Of desolation—it I make you see it—
Will be before me as it is tonight.
I shall not ever know how long it was
I waited his attack that never came;
It might have been an instant or an hour
That I stood ready there, watching his eyes,
And the tears running out of them. They made
Me sick, those tears; for I knew, miserably,
They were not there for any pain he felt.
I do not think he felt the pain at all.
He felt the blow.… Oh, the whole thing was bad—
So bad that even the bleaching suns and rains
Of years that wash away to faded lines,
Or blot out wholly, the sharp wrongs and ills
Of youth, have had no cleansing agent in them
To dim the picture. I still see him going
Away from where I stood; and I shall see him
Longer, sometime, than I shall see the face
Of whosoever watches by the bed
On which I die—given I die that way.
I doubt if he could reason his advantage
In living any longer after that
Among the rest of us. The lad he slandered,
Or gave a negative immunity
No better than a stone he might have thrown
Behind him at his head, was of the few
I might have envied; and for that being known,
My fury became sudden history,
And I a sudden hero. But the crown
I wore was hot; and I would happily
Have hurled it, if I could, so far away
That over my last hissing glimpse of it
There might have closed an ocean. He went home
The next day, and the same unhappy chance
That first had fettered me and my aversion
To his unprofitable need of me
Brought us abruptly face to face again
Beside the carriage that had come for him.
We met, and for a moment we were still—
Together. But I was reading in his eyes
More than I read at college or at law
In years that followed. There was blankly nothing
For me to say, if not that I was sorry;
And that was more than hate would let me say—
Whatever the truth might be. At last he spoke,
And I could see the vengeance in his eyes,
And a cold sorrow—which, if I had seen
Much more of it, might yet have mastered me.
But I would see no more of it. ‘Well, then,’
He said, ‘have you thought yet of anything
Worth saying? If so, there’s time. If you are silent,
I shall know where you are until you die.’
I can still hear him saying those words to me
Again, without a loss or an addition;
I know, for I have heard them ever since.
And there was in me not an answer for them
Save a new roiling silence. Once again
I met his look, and on his face I saw
There was a twisting in the swarthiness
That I had often sworn to be the cast
Of his ophidian mind. He had no soul.
There was to be no more of him—not then.
The carriage rolled away with him inside,
Leaving the two of us alive together
In the same hemisphere to hate each other.
I don’t know now whether he’s here alive,
Or whether he’s here dead. But that, of course,
As you would say, is only a tired man’s fancy.
You know that I have driven the wheels too fast
Of late, and all for gold I do not need.
When are we mortals to be sensible,
Paying no more for life than life is worth?
Better for us, no doubt, we do not know
How much we pay or what it is we buy.”
He waited, gazing at me as if asking
The worth of what the universe had for sale
For one confessed remorse. Avon, I knew,
Had driven the wheels too fast, and not for gold.

“If you had given him then your hand,” I said,
“And spoken, though it strangled you, the truth,
I should not have the melancholy honor
Of sitting here alone with you this evening.
If only you had shaken hands with him,
And said the truth, he would have gone his way.
And you your way. He might have wished you dead,
But he would not have made you miserable.
At least,” I added, indefensibly,
“That’s what I hope is true.”

He pitied me,
But had the magnanimity not to say so.
“If only we had shaken hands,” he said,
“And I had said the truth, we might have been
In half a moment rolling on the gravel.
If I had said the truth, I should have said
That never at any moment on the clock
Above us in the tower since his arrival
Had I been in a more proficient mood
To throttle him. If you had seen his eyes
As I did, and if you had seen his face
At work as I did, you might understand.
I was ashamed of it, as I am now,
But that’s the prelude to another theme;
For now I’m saying only what had happened
If I had taken his hand and said the truth.
The wise have cautioned us that where there’s hate
There’s also fear. The wise are right sometimes.
There may be now, but there was no fear then.
There was just hatred, hauled up out of hell
For me to writhe in; and I writhed in it.”

I saw that he was writhing in it still;
But having a magnanimity myself,
I waited. There was nothing else to do
But wait, and to remember that his tale,
Though well along, as I divined it was,
Yet hovered among shadows and regrets
Of twenty years ago. When he began
Again to speak, I felt them coming nearer.

“Whenever your poet or your philosopher
Has nothing richer for us,” he resumed,
“He burrows among remnants, like a mouse
In a waste-basket, and with much dry noise
Comes up again, having found Time at the bottom
And filled himself with its futility.
‘Time is at once,’ he says, to startle us,
‘A poison for us, if we make it so,
And, if we make it so, an antidote
For the same poison that afflicted us.’
I’m witness to the poison, but the cure
Of my complaint is not, for me, in Time.
There may be doctors in eternity
To deal with it, but they are not here now.
There’s no specific for my three diseases
That I could swallow, even if I should find it,
And I shall never find it here on earth.”

“Mightn’t it be as well, my friend,” I said,
“For you to contemplate the uncompleted
With not such an infernal certainty?”

“And mightn’t it be as well for you, my friend,”
Said Avon, “to be quiet while I go on?
When I am done, then you may talk all night—
Like a physician who can do no good,
But knows how soon another would have his fee
Were he to tell the truth. Your fee for this
Is in my gratitude and my affection;
And I’m not eager to be calling in
Another to take yours away from you,
Whatever it’s worth. I like to think I know.
Well then, again. The carriage rolled away
With him inside; and so it might have gone
For ten years rolling on, with him still in it,
For all it was I saw of him. Sometimes
I heard of him, but only as one hears
Of leprosy in Boston or New York
And wishes it were somewhere else. He faded
Out of my scene—yet never quite out of it:
I shall know where you are until you die,’
Were his last words; and they are the same words
That I received thereafter once a year,
Infallibly on my birthday, with no name;
Only a card, and the words printed on it.
No, I was never rid of him—not quite;
Although on shipboard, on my way from here
To Hamburg, I believe that I forgot him.
But once ashore, I should have been half ready
To meet him there, risen up out of the ground,
With hoofs and horns and tail and everything.
Believe me, there was nothing right about him,
Though it was not in Hamburg that I found him.
Later, in Rome, it was we found each other,
For the first time since we had been at school.
There was the same slow vengeance in his eyes
When he saw mine, and there was a vicious twist
On his amphibious face that might have been
On anything else a smile—rather like one
We look for on the stage than in the street.
I must have been a yard away from him
Yet as we passed I felt the touch of him
Like that of something soft in a dark room.
There’s hardly need of saying that we said nothing,
Or that we gave each other an occasion
For more than our eyes uttered. He was gone
Before I knew it, like a solid phantom;
And his reality was for me some time
In its achievement—given that one’s to be
Convinced that such an incubus at large
Was ever quite real. The season was upon us
When there are fitter regions in the world—
Though God knows he would have been safe enough—
Than Rome for strayed Americans to live in,
And when the whips of their itineraries
Hurry them north again. I took my time,
Since I was paying for it, and leisurely
Went where I would—though never again to move
Without him at my elbow or behind me.
My shadow of him, wherever I found myself,
Might horribly as well have been the man—
Although I should have been afraid of him
No more than of a large worm in a salad.
I should omit the salad, certainly,
And wish the worm elsewhere. And so he was,
In fact; yet as I go on to grow older,
I question if there’s anywhere a fact
That isn’t the malevolent existence
Of one man who is dead, or is not dead,
Or what the devil it is that he may be.
There must be, I suppose, a fact somewhere,
But I don’t know it. I can only tell you
That later, when to all appearances
I stood outside a music-hall in London,
I felt him and then saw that he was there.
Yes, he was there, and had with him a woman
Who looked as if she didn’t know. I’m sorry
To this day for that woman—who, no doubt,
Is doing well. Yes, there he was again;
There were his eyes and the same vengeance in them
That I had seen in Rome and twice before—
Not mentioning all the time, or most of it,
Between the day I struck him and that evening.
That was the worst show that I ever saw,
But you had better see it for yourself
Before you say so too. I went away,
Though not for any fear that I could feel
Of him or of his worst manipulations,
But only to be out of the same air
That made him stay alive in the same world
With all the gentlemen that were in irons
For uncommendable extravagances
That I should reckon slight compared with his
Offence of being. Distance would have made him
A moving fly-speck on the map of life,—
But he would not be distant, though his flesh
And bone might have been climbing Fujiyama
Or Chimborazo—with me there in London,
Or sitting here. My doom it was to see him,
Be where I might. That was ten years ago;
And having waited season after season
His always imminent evil recrudescence,
And all for nothing, I was waiting still,
When the Titanic touched a piece of ice
And we were for a moment where we are,
With nature laughing at us. When the noise
Had spent itself to names, his was among them;
And I will not insult you or myself
With a vain perjury. I was far from cold.
It seemed as for the first time in my life
I knew the blessedness of being warm;
And I remember that I had a drink,
Having assuredly no need of it.
Pity a fool for his credulity,
If so you must. But when I found his name
Among the dead, I trusted once the news;
And after that there were no messages
In ambush waiting for me on my birthday.
There was no vestige yet of any fear,
You understand—if that’s why you are smiling.”

I said that I had not so much as whispered
The name aloud of any fear soever,
And that I smiled at his unwonted plunge
Into the perilous pool of Dionysus.
“Well, if you are so easily diverted
As that,” he said, drumming his chair again,
You will be pleased, I think, with what is coming;
And though there be divisions and departures,
Imminent from now on, for your diversion
I’ll do the best I can. More to the point,
I know a man who if his friends were like him
Would live in the woods all summer and all winter,
Leaving the town and its iniquities
To die of their own dust. But having his wits,
Henceforth he may conceivably avoid
The adventure unattended. Last October
He took me with him into the Maine woods,
Where, by the shore of a primeval lake,
With woods all round it, and a voyage away
From anything wearing clothes, he had reared somehow
A lodge, or camp, with a stone chimney in it,
And a wide fireplace to make men forget
Their sins who sat before it in the evening,
Hearing the wind outside among the trees
And the black water washing on the shore.
I never knew the meaning of October
Until I went with Asher to that place,
Which I shall not investigate again
Till I be taken there by other forces
Than are innate in my economy.
You may not like it,’ Asher said, ‘but Asher
Knows what is good. So put your faith in Asher,
And come along with him. He’s an odd bird,
Yet I could wish for the world’s decency
There might be more of him. And so it was
I found myself, at first incredulous,
Down there with Asher in the wilderness,
Alive at last with a new liberty
And with no sore to fester. He perceived
In me an altered favor of God’s works,
And promptly took upon himself the credit,
Which, in a fashion, was as accurate
As one’s interpretation of another
Is like to be. So for a frosty fortnight
We had the sunlight with us on the lake,
And the moon with us when the sun was down.
‘God gave his adjutants a holiday,’
Asher assured me, ‘when He made this place’;
And I agreed with him that it was heaven,—
Till it was hell for me for then and after.

“There was a village miles away from us
Where now and then we paddled for the mail
And incidental small commodities
That perfect exile might require, and stayed
The night after the voyage with an antique
Survival of a broader world than ours
Whom Asher called The Admiral. This time,
A little out of sorts and out of tune
With paddling, I let Asher go alone,
Sure that his heart was happy. Then it was
That hell came. I sat gazing over there
Across the water, watching the sun’s last fire
Above those gloomy and indifferent trees
That might have been a wall around the world,
When suddenly, like faces over the lake,
Out of the silence of that other shore
I was aware of hidden presences
That soon, no matter how many of them there were,
Would all be one. I could not look behind me,
Where I could hear that one of them was breathing,
For, if I did, those others over there
Might all see that at last I was afraid;
And I might hear them without seeing them,
Seeing that other one. You were not there;
And it is well for you that you don’t know
What they are like when they should not be there.
And there were chilly doubts of whether or not
I should be seeing the rest that I should see
With eyes, or otherwise. I could not be sure;
And as for going over to find out,
All I may tell you now is that my fear
Was not the fear of dying, though I knew soon
That all the gold in all the sunken ships
That have gone down since Tyre would not have paid
For me the ferriage of myself alone
To that infernal shore. I was in hell,
Remember; and if you have never been there
You may as well not say how easy it is
To find the best way out. There may not be one.
Well, I was there; and I was there alone—
Alone for the first time since I was born;
And I was not alone. That’s what it is
To be in hell. I hope you will not go there.
All through that slow, long, desolating twilight
Of incoherent certainties, I waited;
Never alone—never to be alone;
And while the night grew down upon me there,
I thought of old Prometheus in the story
That I had read at school, and saw mankind
All huddled into clusters in the dark,
Calling to God for light. There was a light
Coming for them, but there was none for me
Until a shapeless remnant of a moon
Rose after midnight over the black trees
Behind me. I should hardly have confessed
The heritage then of my identity
To my own shadow; for I was powerless there,
As I am here. Say what you like to say
To silence, but say none of it to me
Tonight. To say it now would do no good,
And you are here to listen. Beware of hate,
And listen. Beware of hate, remorse, and fear,
And listen. You are staring at the damned,
But yet you are no more the one than he
To say that it was he alone who planted
The flower of death now growing in his garden.
Was it enough, I wonder, that I struck him?
I shall say nothing. I shall have to wait
Until I see what’s coming, if it comes,
When I’m a delver in another garden—
If such an one there be. If there be none,
All’s well—and over. Rather a vain expense,
One might affirm—yet there is nothing lost.
Science be praised that there is nothing lost.”

I’m glad the venom that was on his tongue
May not go down on paper; and I’m glad
No friend of mine alive, far as I know,
Has a tale waiting for me with an end
Like Avon’s. There was here an interruption,
Though not a long one—only while we heard,
As we had heard before, the ghost of steps
Faintly outside. We knew that she was there
Again; and though it was a kindly folly,
I wished that Avon’s wife would go to sleep.

I was afraid, this time, but not of man—
Or man as you may figure him,” he said.
“It was not anything my eyes had seen
That I could feel around me in the night,
There by that lake. If I had been alone,
There would have been the joy of being free,
Which in imagination I had won
With unimaginable expiation—
But I was not alone. If you had seen me,
Waiting there for the dark and looking off
Over the gloom of that relentless water,
Which had the stillness of the end of things
That evening on it, I might well have made
For you the picture of the last man left
Where God, in his extinction of the rest,
Had overlooked him and forgotten him.
Yet I was not alone. Interminably
The minutes crawled along and over me,
Slow, cold, intangible, and invisible,
As if they had come up out of that water.
How long I sat there I shall never know,
For time was hidden out there in the black lake,
Which now I could see only as a glimpse
Of black light by the shore. There were no stars
To mention, and the moon was hours away
Behind me. There was nothing but myself,
And what was coming. On my breast I felt
The touch of death, and I should have died then.
I ruined good Asher’s autumn as it was,
For he will never again go there alone,
If ever he goes at all. Nature did ill
To darken such a faith in her as his,
Though he will have it that I had the worst
Of her defection, and will hear no more
Apologies. If it had to be for someone,
I think it well for me it was for Asher.
I dwell on him, meaning that you may know him
Before your last horn blows. He has a name
That’s like a tree, and therefore like himself—
By which I mean you find him where you leave him.
I saw him and The Admiral together
While I was in the dark, but they were far—
Far as around the world from where I was;
And they knew nothing of what I saw not
While I knew only I was not alone.
I made a fire to make the place alive,
And locked the door. But even the fire was dead,
And all the life there was was in the shadow
It made of me. My shadow was all of me;
The rest had had its day, and there was night
Remaining—only night, that’s made for shadows,
Shadows and sleep and dreams, or dreams without it.
The fire went slowly down, and now the moon,
Or that late wreck of it, was coming up;
And though it was a martyr’s work to move,
I must obey my shadow, and I did.
There were two beds built low against the wall,
And down on one of them, with all my clothes on,
Like a man getting into his own grave,
I lay—and waited. As the firelight sank,
The moonlight, which had partly been consumed
By the black trees, framed on the other wall
A glimmering window not far from the ground.
The coals were going, and only a few sparks
Were there to tell of them; and as they died
The window lightened, and I saw the trees.
They moved a little, but I could not move,
More than to turn my face the other way;
And then, if you must have it so, I slept.
We’ll call it so—if sleep is your best name
For a sort of conscious, frozen catalepsy
Wherein a man sees all there is around him
As if it were not real, and he were not
Alive. You may call it anything you please
That made me powerless to move hand or foot,
Or to make any other living motion
Than after a long horror, without hope,
To turn my face again the other way.
Some force that was not mine opened my eyes,
And, as I knew it must be,—it was there.”

Avon covered his eyes—whether to shut
The memory and the sight of it away,
Or to be sure that mine were for the moment
Not searching his with pity, is now no matter.
My glance at him was brief, turning itself
To the familiar pattern of his rug,
Wherein I may have sought a consolation—
As one may gaze in sorrow on a shell,
Or a small apple. So it had come, I thought;
And heard, no longer with a wonderment,
The faint recurring footsteps of his wife,
Who, knowing less than I knew, yet knew more.
Now I could read, I fancied, through the fear
That latterly was living in her eyes,
To the sure source of its authority.
But he went on, and I was there to listen:

“And though I saw it only as a blot
Between me and my life, it was enough
To make me know that he was watching there—
Waiting for me to move, or not to move,
Before he moved. Sick as I was with hate
Reborn, and chained with fear that was more than fear,
I would have gambled all there was to gain
Or lose in rising there from where I lay
And going out after it. ‘Before the dawn,’
I reasoned, ‘there will be a difference here.
Therefore it may as well be done outside.’
And then I found I was immovable,
As I had been before; and a dead sweat
Rolled out of me as I remembered him
When I had seen him leaving me at school.
I shall know where you are until you die,’
Were the last words that I had heard him say;
And there he was. Now I could see his face,
And all the sad, malignant desperation
That was drawn on it after I had struck him,
And on my memory since that afternoon.
But all there was left now for me to do
Was to lie there and see him while he squeezed
His unclean outlines into the dim room,
And half erect inside, like a still beast
With a face partly man’s, came slowly on
Along the floor to the bed where I lay,
And waited. There had been so much of waiting,
Through all those evil years before my respite—
Which now I knew and recognized at last
As only his more venomous preparation
For the vile end of a deceiving peace—
That I began to fancy there was on me
The stupor that explorers have alleged
As evidence of nature’s final mercy
When tigers have them down upon the earth
And wild hot breath is heavy on their faces.
I could not feel his breath, but I could hear it;
Though fear had made an anvil of my heart
Where demons, for the joy of doing it,
Were sledging death down on it. And I saw
His eyes now, as they were, for the first time—
Aflame as they had never been before
With all their gathered vengeance gleaming in them,
And always that unconscionable sorrow
That would not die behind it. Then I caught
The shadowy glimpse of an uplifted arm,
And a moon-flash of metal. That was all.…

“When I believed I was alive again
I was with Asher and The Admiral,
Whom Asher had brought with him for a day
With nature. They had found me when they came;
And there was not much left of me to find.
I had not moved or known that I was there
Since I had seen his eyes and felt his breath;
And it was not for some uncertain hours
After they came that either would say how long
That might have been. It should have been much longer.
All you may add will be your own invention,
For I have told you all there is to tell.
Tomorrow I shall have another birthday,
And with it there may come another message—
Although I cannot see the need of it,
Or much more need of drowning, if that’s all
Men drown for—when they drown. You know as much
As I know about that, though I’ve a right,
If not a reason, to be on my guard;
And only God knows what good that will do.
Now you may get some air. Good night!—and thank you.”
He smiled, but I would rather he had not.

I wished that Avon’s wife would go to sleep,
But whether she found sleep that night or not
I do not know. I was awake for hours,
Toiling in vain to let myself believe
That Avon’s apparition was a dream,
And that he might have added, for romance,
The part that I had taken home with me
For reasons not in Avon’s dictionary.
But each recurrent memory of his eyes,
And of the man himself that I had known
So long and well, made soon of all my toil
An evanescent and a vain evasion;
And it was half as in expectancy
That I obeyed the summons of his wife
A little before dawn, and was again
With Avon in the room where I had left him,
But not with the same Avon I had left.
The doctor, an august authority,
With eminence abroad as well as here,
Looked hard at me as if I were the doctor
And he the friend. “I have had eyes on Avon
For more than half a year,” he said to me,
“And I have wondered often what it was
That I could see that I was not to see.
Though he was in the chair where you are looking,
I told his wife—I had to tell her something—
It was a nightmare and an aneurism;
And so, or partly so, I’ll say it was.
The last without the first will be enough
For the newspapers and the undertaker;
Yet if we doctors were not all immune
From death, disease, and curiosity,
My diagnosis would be sorry for me.
He died, you know, because he was afraid—
And he had been afraid for a long time;
And we who knew him well would all agree
To fancy there was rather more than fear.
The door was locked inside—they broke it in
To find him—but she heard him when it came.
There are no signs of any visitors,
Or need of them. If I were not a child
Of science, I should say it was the devil.
I don’t believe it was another woman,
And surely it was not another man.”

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The City of Dreadful Night

Per me si va nella citta dolente.

--Dante

Poi di tanto adoprar, di tanti moti
D'ogni celeste, ogni terrena cosa,
Girando senza posa,
Per tornar sempre la donde son mosse;
Uso alcuno, alcun frutto
Indovinar non so.

Sola nel mondo eterna, a cui si volve
Ogni creata cosa,
In te, morte, si posa
Nostra ignuda natura;
Lieta no, ma sicura
Dell' antico dolor . . .
Pero ch' esser beato
Nega ai mortali e nega a' morti il fato.

--Leopardi

PROEM

Lo, thus, as prostrate, "In the dust I write
My heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears."
Yet why evoke the spectres of black night
To blot the sunshine of exultant years?
Why disinter dead faith from mouldering hidden?
Why break the seals of mute despair unbidden,
And wail life's discords into careless ears?

Because a cold rage seizes one at whiles
To show the bitter old and wrinkled truth
Stripped naked of all vesture that beguiles,
False dreams, false hopes, false masks and modes of youth;
Because it gives some sense of power and passion
In helpless innocence to try to fashion
Our woe in living words howe'er uncouth.

Surely I write not for the hopeful young,
Or those who deem their happiness of worth,
Or such as pasture and grow fat among
The shows of life and feel nor doubt nor dearth,
Or pious spirits with a God above them
To sanctify and glorify and love them,
Or sages who foresee a heaven on earth.

For none of these I write, and none of these
Could read the writing if they deigned to try;
So may they flourish in their due degrees,
On our sweet earth and in their unplaced sky.
If any cares for the weak words here written,
It must be some one desolate, Fate-smitten,
Whose faith and hopes are dead, and who would die.

Yes, here and there some weary wanderer
In that same city of tremendous night,
Will understand the speech and feel a stir
Of fellowship in all-disastrous fight;
"I suffer mute and lonely, yet another
Uplifts his voice to let me know a brother
Travels the same wild paths though out of sight."

O sad Fraternity, do I unfold
Your dolorous mysteries shrouded from of yore?
Nay, be assured; no secret can be told
To any who divined it not before:
None uninitiate by many a presage
Will comprehend the language of the message,
Although proclaimed aloud for evermore.

I

The City is of Night; perchance of Death
But certainly of Night; for never there
Can come the lucid morning's fragrant breath
After the dewy dawning's cold grey air:
The moon and stars may shine with scorn or pity
The sun has never visited that city,
For it dissolveth in the daylight fair.

Dissolveth like a dream of night away;
Though present in distempered gloom of thought
And deadly weariness of heart all day.
But when a dream night after night is brought
Throughout a week, and such weeks few or many
Recur each year for several years, can any
Discern that dream from real life in aught?

For life is but a dream whose shapes return,
Some frequently, some seldom, some by night
And some by day, some night and day: we learn,
The while all change and many vanish quite,
In their recurrence with recurrent changes
A certain seeming order; where this ranges
We count things real; such is memory's might.

A river girds the city west and south,
The main north channel of a broad lagoon,
Regurging with the salt tides from the mouth;
Waste marshes shine and glister to the moon
For leagues, then moorland black, then stony ridges;
Great piers and causeways, many noble bridges,
Connect the town and islet suburbs strewn.

Upon an easy slope it lies at large
And scarcely overlaps the long curved crest
Which swells out two leagues from the river marge.
A trackless wilderness rolls north and west,
Savannahs, savage woods, enormous mountains,
Bleak uplands, black ravines with torrent fountains;
And eastward rolls the shipless sea's unrest.

The city is not ruinous, although
Great ruins of an unremembered past,
With others of a few short years ago
More sad, are found within its precincts vast.
The street-lamps always burn; but scarce a casement
In house or palace front from roof to basement
Doth glow or gleam athwart the mirk air cast.

The street-lamps burn amid the baleful glooms,
Amidst the soundless solitudes immense
Of ranged mansions dark and still as tombs.
The silence which benumbs or strains the sense
Fulfils with awe the soul's despair unweeping:
Myriads of habitants are ever sleeping,
Or dead, or fled from nameless pestilence!

Yet as in some necropolis you find
Perchance one mourner to a thousand dead,
So there: worn faces that look deaf and blind
Like tragic masks of stone. With weary tread,
Each wrapt in his own doom, they wander, wander,
Or sit foredone and desolately ponder
Through sleepless hours with heavy drooping head.

Mature men chiefly, few in age or youth,
A woman rarely, now and then a child:
A child! If here the heart turns sick with ruth
To see a little one from birth defiled,
Or lame or blind, as preordained to languish
Through youthless life, think how it bleeds with anguish
To meet one erring in that homeless wild.

They often murmur to themselves, they speak
To one another seldom, for their woe
Broods maddening inwardly and scorns to wreak
Itself abroad; and if at whiles it grow
To frenzy which must rave, none heeds the clamour,
Unless there waits some victim of like glamour,
To rave in turn, who lends attentive show.

The City is of Night, but not of Sleep;
There sweet sleep is not for the weary brain;
The pitiless hours like years and ages creep,
A night seems termless hell. This dreadful strain
Of thought and consciousness which never ceases,
Or which some moments' stupor but increases,
This, worse than woe, makes wretches there insane.

They leave all hope behind who enter there:
One certitude while sane they cannot leave,
One anodyne for torture and despair;
The certitude of Death, which no reprieve
Can put off long; and which, divinely tender,
But waits the outstretched hand to promptly render
That draught whose slumber nothing can bereave

II

Because he seemed to walk with an intent
I followed him; who, shadowlike and frail,
Unswervingly though slowly onward went,
Regardless, wrapt in thought as in a veil:
Thus step for step with lonely sounding feet
We travelled many a long dim silent street.

At length he paused: a black mass in the gloom,
A tower that merged into the heavy sky;
Around, the huddled stones of grave and tomb:
Some old God's-acre now corruption's sty:
He murmured to himself with dull despair,
Here Faith died, poisoned by this charnel air.

Then turning to the right went on once more
And travelled weary roads without suspense;
And reached at last a low wall's open door,
Whose villa gleamed beyond the foliage dense:
He gazed, and muttered with a hard despair,
Here Love died, stabbed by its own worshipped pair.

Then turning to the right resumed his march,
And travelled street and lanes with wondrous strength,
Until on stooping through a narrow arch
We stood before a squalid house at length:
He gazed, and whispered with a cold despair,
Here Hope died, starved out in its utmost lair.

When he had spoken thus, before he stirred,
I spoke, perplexed by something in the signs
Of desolation I had seen and heard
In this drear pilgrimage to ruined shrines:
Where Faith and Love and Hope are dead indeed,
Can Life still live? By what doth it proceed?

As whom his one intense thought overpowers,
He answered coldly, Take a watch, erase
The signs and figures of the circling hours,
Detach the hands, remove the dial-face;
The works proceed until run down; although
Bereft of purpose, void of use, still go.

Then turning to the right paced on again,
And traversed squares and travelled streets whose glooms
Seemed more and more familiar to my ken;
And reached that sullen temple of the tombs;
And paused to murmur with the old despair,
Here Faith died, poisoned by this charnel air.

I ceased to follow, for the knot of doubt
Was severed sharply with a cruel knife:
He circled thus forever tracing out
The series of the fraction left of Life;
Perpetual recurrence in the scope
Of but three terms, dead Faith, dead Love, dead Hope. [ 1]

LXX

[1] Life divided by that persistent three = --- = .210.

333

III
Although lamps burn along the silent streets,
Even when moonlight silvers empty squares
The dark holds countless lanes and close retreats;
But when the night its sphereless mantle wears
The open spaces yawn with gloom abysmal,
The sombre mansions loom immense and dismal,
The lanes are black as subterranean lairs.

And soon the eye a strange new vision learns:
The night remains for it as dark and dense,
Yet clearly in this darkness it discerns
As in the daylight with its natural sense;
Perceives a shade in shadow not obscurely,
Pursues a stir of black in blackness surely,
Sees spectres also in the gloom intense.

The ear, too, with the silence vast and deep
Becomes familiar though unreconciled;
Hears breathings as of hidden life asleep,
And muffled throbs as of pent passions wild,
Far murmurs, speech of pity or derision;
but all more dubious than the things of vision,
So that it knows not when it is beguiled.

No time abates the first despair and awe,
But wonder ceases soon; the weirdest thing
Is felt least strange beneath the lawless law
Where Death-in-Life is the eternal king;
Crushed impotent beneath this reign of terror,
Dazed with mysteries of woe and error,
The soul is too outworn for wondering.

IV

He stood alone within the spacious square
Declaiming from the central grassy mound,
With head uncovered and with streaming hair,
As if large multitudes were gathered round:
A stalwart shape, the gestures full of might,
The glances burning with unnatural light:--

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: All was black,
In heaven no single star, on earth no track;
A brooding hush without a stir or note,
The air so thick it clotted in my throat;
And thus for hours; then some enormous things
Swooped past with savage cries and clanking wings:
But I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Eyes of fire
Glared at me throbbing with a starved desire;
The hoarse and heavy and carnivorous breath
Was hot upon me from deep jaws of death;
Sharp claws, swift talons, fleshless fingers cold
Plucked at me from the bushes, tried to hold:
But I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Lo you, there,
That hillock burning with a brazen glare;
Those myriad dusky flames with points a-glow
Which writhed and hissed and darted to and fro;
A Sabbath of the Serpents, heaped pell-mell
For Devil's roll-call and some fete of Hell:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Meteors ran
And crossed their javelins on the black sky-span;
The zenith opened to a gulf of flame,
The dreadful thunderbolts jarred earth's fixed frame;
The ground all heaved in waves of fire that surged
And weltered round me sole there unsubmerged:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Air once more,
And I was close upon a wild sea-shore;
Enormous cliffs arose on either hand,
The deep tide thundered up a league-broad strand;
White foambelts seethed there, wan spray swept and flew;
The sky broke, moon and stars and clouds and blue:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: On the left
The sun arose and crowned a broad crag-cleft;
There stopped and burned out black, except a rim,
A bleeding eyeless socket, red and dim;
Whereon the moon fell suddenly south-west,
And stood above the right-hand cliffs at rest:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: From the right
A shape came slowly with a ruddy light;
A woman with a red lamp in her hand,
Bareheaded and barefooted on that strand;
O desolation moving with such grace!
O anguish with such beauty in thy face!
I fell as on my bier,
Hope travailed with such fear.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: I was twain,
Two selves distinct that cannot join again;
One stood apart and knew but could not stir,
And watched the other stark in swoon and her;
And she came on, and never turned aside,
Between such sun and moon and roaring tide:
And as she came more near
My soul grew mad with fear.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Hell is mild
And piteous matched with that accursed wild;
A large black sign was on her breast that bowed,
A broad black band ran down her snow-white shroud;
That lamp she held was her own burning heart,
Whose blood-drops trickled step by step apart:
The mystery was clear;
Mad rage had swallowed fear.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: By the sea
She knelt and bent above that senseless me;
Those lamp-drops fell upon my white brow there,
She tried to cleanse them with her tears and hair;
She murmured words of pity, love, and woe,
Shee heeded not the level rushing flow:
And mad with rage and fear,
I stood stonebound so near.

As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: When the tide
Swept up to her there kneeling by my side,
She clasped that corpse-like me, and they were borne
Away, and this vile me was left forlorn;
I know the whole sea cannot quench that heart,
Or cleanse that brow, or wash those two apart:
They love; their doom is drear,
Yet they nor hope nor fear;
But I, what do I here?

V

How he arrives there none can clearly know;
Athwart the mountains and immense wild tracts,
Or flung a waif upon that vast sea-flow,
Or down the river's boiling cataracts:
To reach it is as dying fever-stricken
To leave it, slow faint birth intense pangs quicken;
And memory swoons in both the tragic acts.

But being there one feels a citizen;
Escape seems hopeless to the heart forlorn:
Can Death-in-Life be brought to life again?
And yet release does come; there comes a morn
When he awakes from slumbering so sweetly
That all the world is changed for him completely,
And he is verily as if new-born.

He scarcely can believe the blissful change,
He weeps perchance who wept not while accurst;
Never again will he approach the range
Infected by that evil spell now burst:
Poor wretch! who once hath paced that dolent city
Shall pace it often, doomed beyond all pity,
With horror ever deepening from the first.

Though he possess sweet babes and loving wife,
A home of peace by loyal friendships cheered,
And love them more than death or happy life,
They shall avail not; he must dree his weird;
Renounce all blessings for that imprecation,
Steal forth and haunt that builded desolation,
Of woe and terrors and thick darkness reared.

VI

I sat forlornly by the river-side,
And watched the bridge-lamps glow like golden stars
Above the blackness of the swelling tide,
Down which they struck rough gold in ruddier bars;
And heard the heave and plashing of the flow
Against the wall a dozen feet below.

Large elm-trees stood along that river-walk;
And under one, a few steps from my seat,
I heard strange voices join in stranger talk,
Although I had not heard approaching feet:
These bodiless voices in my waking dream
Flowed dark words blending with sombre stream:--

And you have after all come back; come back.
I was about to follow on your track.
And you have failed: our spark of hope is black.

That I have failed is proved by my return:
The spark is quenched, nor ever more will burn,
But listen; and the story you shall learn.

I reached the portal common spirits fear,
And read the words above it, dark yet clear,
"Leave hope behind, all ye who enter here:"

And would have passed in, gratified to gain
That positive eternity of pain
Instead of this insufferable inane.

A demon warder clutched me, Not so fast;
First leave your hopes behind!--But years have passed
Since I left all behind me, to the last:

You cannot count for hope, with all your wit,
This bleak despair that drives me to the Pit:
How could I seek to enter void of it?

He snarled, What thing is this which apes a soul,
And would find entrance to our gulf of dole
Without the payment of the settled toll?

Outside the gate he showed an open chest:
Here pay their entrance fees the souls unblest;
Cast in some hope, you enter with the rest.

This is Pandora's box; whose lid shall shut,
And Hell-gate too, when hopes have filled it; but
They are so thin that it will never glut.

I stood a few steps backwards, desolate;
And watched the spirits pass me to their fate,
And fling off hope, and enter at the gate.

When one casts off a load he springs upright,
Squares back his shoulders, breathes will all his might,
And briskly paces forward strong and light:

But these, as if they took some burden, bowed;
The whole frame sank; however strong and proud
Before, they crept in quite infirm and cowed.

And as they passed me, earnestly from each
A morsel of his hope I did beseech,
To pay my entrance; but all mocked my speech.

No one would cede a little of his store,
Though knowing that in instants three or four
He must resign the whole for evermore.

So I returned. Our destiny is fell;
For in this Limbo we must ever dwell,
Shut out alike from heaven and Earth and Hell.

The other sighed back, Yea; but if we grope
With care through all this Limbo's dreary scope,
We yet may pick up some minute lost hope;

And sharing it between us, entrance win,
In spite of fiends so jealous for gross sin:
Let us without delay our search begin.

VII

Some say that phantoms haunt those shadowy streets,
And mingle freely there with sparse mankind;
And tell of ancient woes and black defeats,
And murmur mysteries in the grave enshrined:
But others think them visions of illusion,
Or even men gone far in self-confusion;
No man there being wholly sane in mind.

And yet a man who raves, however mad,
Who bares his heart and tells of his own fall,
Reserves some inmost secret good or bad:
The phantoms have no reticence at all:
The nudity of flesh will blush though tameless
The extreme nudity of bone grins shameless,
The unsexed skeleton mocks shroud and pall.

I have seen phantoms there that were as men
And men that were as phantoms flit and roam;
Marked shapes that were not living to my ken,
Caught breathings acrid as with Dead Sea foam:
The City rests for man so weird and awful,
That his intrusion there might seem unlawful,
And phantoms there may have their proper home.

VIII

While I still lingered on that river-walk,
And watched the tide as black as our black doom,
I heard another couple join in talk,
And saw them to the left hand in the gloom
Seated against an elm bole on the ground,
Their eyes intent upon the stream profound.

"I never knew another man on earth
But had some joy and solace in his life,
Some chance of triumph in the dreadful strife:
My doom has been unmitigated dearth."

"We gaze upon the river, and we note
The various vessels large and small that float,
Ignoring every wrecked and sunken boat."

"And yet I asked no splendid dower, no spoil
Of sway or fame or rank or even wealth;
But homely love with common food and health,
And nightly sleep to balance daily toil."

"This all-too-humble soul would arrogate
Unto itself some signalising hate
From the supreme indifference of Fate!"

"Who is most wretched in this dolorous place?
I think myself; yet I would rather be
My miserable self than He, than He
Who formed such creatures to His own disgrace.

"The vilest thing must be less vile than Thou
From whom it had its being, God and Lord!
Creator of all woe and sin! abhorred
Malignant and implacable! I vow

"That not for all Thy power furled and unfurled,
For all the temples to Thy glory built,
Would I assume the ignominious guilt
Of having made such men in such a world."

"As if a Being, God or Fiend, could reign,
At once so wicked, foolish and insane,
As to produce men when He might refrain!

"The world rolls round for ever like a mill;
It grinds out death and life and good and ill;
It has no purpose, heart or mind or will.

"While air of Space and Time's full river flow
The mill must blindly whirl unresting so:
It may be wearing out, but who can know?

"Man might know one thing were his sight less dim;
That it whirls not to suit his petty whim,
That it is quite indifferent to him.

"Nay, does it treat him harshly as he saith?
It grinds him some slow years of bitter breath,
Then grinds him back into eternal death."

IX

It is full strange to him who hears and feels,
When wandering there in some deserted street,
The booming and the jar of ponderous wheels,
The trampling clash of heavy ironshod feet:
Who in this Venice of the Black Sea rideth?
Who in this city of the stars abideth
To buy or sell as those in daylight sweet?

The rolling thunder seems to fill the sky
As it comes on; the horses snort and strain,
The harness jingles, as it passes by;
The hugeness of an overburthened wain:
A man sits nodding on the shaft or trudges
Three parts asleep beside his fellow-drudges:
And so it rolls into the night again.

What merchandise? whence, whither, and for whom?
Perchance it is a Fate-appointed hearse,
Bearing away to some mysterious tomb
Or Limbo of the scornful universe
The joy, the peace, the life-hope, the abortions
Of all things good which should have been our portions,
But have been strangled by that City's curse.

X

The mansion stood apart in its own ground;
In front thereof a fragrant garden-lawn,
High trees about it, and the whole walled round:
The massy iron gates were both withdrawn;
And every window of its front shed light,
Portentous in that City of the Night.

But though thus lighted it was deadly still
As all the countless bulks of solid gloom;
Perchance a congregation to fulfil
Solemnities of silence in this doom,
Mysterious rites of dolour and despair
Permitting not a breath or chant of prayer?

Broad steps ascended to a terrace broad
Whereon lay still light from the open door;
The hall was noble, and its aspect awed,
Hung round with heavy black from dome to floor;
And ample stairways rose to left and right
Whose balustrades were also draped with night.

I paced from room to room, from hall to hall,
Nor any life throughout the maze discerned;
But each was hung with its funereal pall,
And held a shrine, around which tapers burned,
With picture or with statue or with bust,
all copied from the same fair form of dust:

A woman very young and very fair;
Beloved by bounteous life and joy and youth,
And loving these sweet lovers, so that care
And age and death seemed not for her in sooth:
Alike as stars, all beautiful and bright,
these shapes lit up that mausolean night.

At length I heard a murmur as of lips,
And reached an open oratory hung
With heaviest blackness of the whole eclipse;
Beneath the dome a fuming censer swung;
And one lay there upon a low white bed,
With tapers burning at the foot and head:

The Lady of the images, supine,
Deathstill, lifesweet, with folded palms she lay:
And kneeling there as at a sacred shrine
A young man wan and worn who seemed to pray:
A crucifix of dim and ghostly white
Surmounted the large altar left in night:--

The chambers of the mansion of my heart,
In every one whereof thine image dwells,
Are black with grief eternal for thy sake.

The inmost oratory of my soul,
Wherein thou ever dwellest quick or dead,
Is black with grief eternal for thy sake.

I kneel beside thee and I clasp the cross,
With eyes forever fixed upon that face,
So beautiful and dreadful in its calm.

I kneel here patient as thou liest there;
As patient as a statue carved in stone,
Of adoration and eternal grief.

While thou dost not awake I cannot move;
And something tells me thou wilt never wake,
And I alive feel turning into stone.

Most beautiful were Death to end my grief,
Most hateful to destroy the sight of thee,
Dear vision better than all death or life.

But I renounce all choice of life or death,
For either shall be ever at thy side,
And thus in bliss or woe be ever well.--

He murmured thus and thus in monotone,
Intent upon that uncorrupted face,
Entranced except his moving lips alone:
I glided with hushed footsteps from the place.
This was the festival that filled with light
That palace in the City of the Night.

XI

What men are they who haunt these fatal glooms,
And fill their living mouths with dust of death,
And make their habitations in the tombs,
And breathe eternal sighs with mortal breath,
And pierce life's pleasant veil of various error
To reach that void of darkness and old terror
Wherein expire the lamps of hope and faith?

They have much wisdom yet they are not wise,
They have much goodness yet they do not well,
(The fools we know have their own paradise,
The wicked also have their proper Hell);
They have much strength but still their doom is stronger,
Much patience but their time endureth longer,
Much valour but life mocks it with some spell.

They are most rational and yet insane:
And outward madness not to be controlled;
A perfect reason in the central brain,
Which has no power, but sitteth wan and cold,
And sees the madness, and foresees as plainly
The ruin in its path, and trieth vainly
To cheat itself refusing to behold.

And some are great in rank and wealth and power,
And some renowned for genius and for worth;
And some are poor and mean, who brood and cower
And shrink from notice, and accept all dearth
Of body, heart and soul, and leave to others
All boons of life: yet these and those are brothers,
The saddest and the weariest men on earth.

XII

Our isolated units could be brought
To act together for some common end?
For one by one, each silent with his thought,
I marked a long loose line approach and wend
Athwart the great cathedral's cloistered square,
And slowly vanish from the moonlit air.

Then I would follow in among the last:
And in the porch a shrouded figure stood,
Who challenged each one pausing ere he passed,
With deep eyes burning through a blank white hood:
Whence come you in the world of life and light
To this our City of Tremendous Night?--

From pleading in a senate of rich lords
For some scant justice to our countless hordes
Who toil half-starved with scarce a human right:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

From wandering through many a solemn scene
Of opium visions, with a heart serene
And intellect miraculously bright:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

From making hundreds laugh and roar with glee
By my transcendent feats of mimicry,
And humour wanton as an elvish sprite:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

From prayer and fasting in a lonely cell,
Which brought an ecstasy ineffable
Of love and adoration and delight:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

From ruling on a splendid kingly throne
A nation which beneath my rule has grown
Year after year in wealth and arts and might:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

From preaching to an audience fired with faith
The Lamb who died to save our souls from death,
Whose blood hath washed our scarlet sins wool-white:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

From drinking fiery poison in a den
Crowded with tawdry girls and squalid men,
Who hoarsely laugh and curse and brawl and fight:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

From picturing with all beauty and all grace
First Eden and the parents of our race,
A luminous rapture unto all men's sight:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

From writing a great work with patient plan
To justify the ways of God to man,
And show how ill must fade and perish quite:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

From desperate fighting with a little band
Against the powerful tyrants of our land,
To free our brethren in their own despite:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.

Thus, challenged by that warder sad and stern,
Each one responded with his countersign,
Then entered the cathedral; and in turn
I entered also, having given mine;
But lingered near until I heard no more,
And marked the closing of the massive door.

XIII

Of all things human which are strange and wild
This is perchance the wildest and most strange,
And showeth man most utterly beguiled,
To those who haunt that sunless City's range;
That he bemoans himself for aye, repeating
How Time is deadly swift, how life is fleeting,
How naught is constant on the earth but change.

The hours are heavy on him and the days;
The burden of the months he scarce can bear;
And often in his secret soul he prays
To sleep through barren periods unaware,
Arousing at some longed-for date of pleasure;
Which having passed and yielded him small treasure,
He would outsleep another term of care.

Yet in his marvellous fancy he must make
Quick wings for Time, and see it fly from us;
This Time which crawleth like a monstrous snake,
Wounded and slow and very venomous;
Which creeps blindwormlike round the earth and ocean,
Distilling poison at each painful motion,
And seems condemned to circle ever thus.

And since he cannot spend and use aright
The little time here given him in trust,
But wasteth it in weary undelight
Of foolish toil and trouble, strife and lust,
He naturally claimeth to inherit
The everlasting Future, that his merit
May have full scope; as surely is most just.

O length of the intolerable hours,
O nights that are as aeons of slow pain,
O Time, too ample for our vital powers,
O Life, whose woeful vanities remain
Immutable for all of all our legions
Through all the centuries and in all the regions,
Not of your speed and variance WE complain.

WE do not ask a longer term of strife,
Weakness and weariness and nameless woes;
We do not claim renewed and endless life
When this which is our torment here shall close,
An everlasting conscious inanition!
We yearn for speedy death in full fruition,
Dateless oblivion and divine repose.

XIV

Large glooms were gathered in the mighty fane,
With tinted moongleams slanting here and there;
And all was hush: no swelling organ-strain,
No chant, no voice or murmuring of prayer;
No priests came forth, no tinkling censers fumed,
And the high altar space was unillumed.

Around the pillars and against the walls
Leaned men and shadows; others seemed to brood
Bent or recumbent in secluded stalls.
Perchance they were not a great multitude
Save in that city of so lonely streets
Where one may count up every face he meets.

All patiently awaited the event
Without a stir or sound, as if no less
Self-occupied, doomstricken while attent.
And then we heard a voice of solemn stress
From the dark pulpit, and our gaze there met
Two eyes which burned as never eyes burned yet:

Two steadfast and intolerable eyes
Burning beneath a broad and rugged brow;
The head behind it of enormous size.
And as black fir-groves in a large wind bow,
Our rooted congregation, gloom-arrayed,
By that great sad voice deep and full were swayed:--

O melancholy Brothers, dark, dark, dark!
O battling in black floods without an ark!
O spectral wanderers of unholy Night!
My soul hath bled for you these sunless years,
With bitter blood-drops running down like tears:
Oh dark, dark, dark, withdrawn from joy and light!

My heart is sick with anguish for your bale;
Your woe hath been my anguish; yea, I quail
And perish in your perishing unblest.
And I have searched the highths and depths, the scope
Of all our universe, with desperate hope
To find some solace for your wild unrest.

And now at last authentic word I bring,
Witnessed by every dead and living thing;
Good tidings of great joy for you, for all:
There is no God; no Fiend with names divine
Made us and tortures us; if we must pine,
It is to satiate no Being's gall.

It was the dark delusion of a dream,
That living Person conscious and supreme,
Whom we must curse for cursing us with life;
Whom we must curse because the life he gave
Could not be buried in the quiet grave,
Could not be killed by poison or the knife.

This little life is all we must endure,
The grave's most holy peace is ever sure,
We fall asleep and never wake again;
Nothing is of us but the mouldering flesh,
Whose elements dissolve and merge afresh
In earth, air, water, plants, and other men.

We finish thus; and all our wretched race
Shall finish with its cycle, and give place
To other beings with their own time-doom:
Infinite aeons ere our kind began;
Infinite aeons after the last man
Has joined the mammoth in earth's tomb and womb.

We bow down to the universal laws,
Which never had for man a special clause
Of cruelty or kindness, love or hate:
If toads and vultures are obscene to sight,
If tigers burn with beauty and with might,
Is it by favour or by wrath of Fate?

All substance lives and struggles evermore
Through countless shapes continually at war,
By countless interactions interknit:
If one is born a certain day on earth,
All times and forces tended to that birth,
Not all the world could change or hinder it.

I find no hint throughout the Universe
Of good or ill, of blessing or of curse;
I find alone Necessity Supreme;
With infinite Mystery, abysmal, dark,
Unlighted ever by the faintest spark
For us the flitting shadows of a dream.

O Brothers of sad lives! they are so brief;
A few short years must bring us all relief:
Can we not bear these years of laboring breath?
But if you would not this poor life fulfil,
Lo, you are free to end it when you will,
Without the fear of waking after death.--

The organ-like vibrations of his voice
Thrilled through the vaulted aisles and died away;
The yearning of the tones which bade rejoice
Was sad and tender as a requiem lay:
Our shadowy congregation rested still
As brooding on that "End it when you will."

XV

Wherever men are gathered, all the air
Is charged with human feeling, human thought;
Each shout and cry and laugh, each curse and prayer,
Are into its vibrations surely wrought;
Unspoken passion, wordless meditation,
Are breathed into it with our respiration
It is with our life fraught and overfraught.

So that no man there breathes earth's simple breath,
As if alone on mountains or wide seas;
But nourishes warm life or hastens death
With joys and sorrows, health and foul disease,
Wisdom and folly, good and evil labours,
Incessant of his multitudinous neighbors;
He in his turn affecting all of these.

That City's atmosphere is dark and dense,
Although not many exiles wander there,
With many a potent evil influence,
Each adding poison to the poisoned air;
Infections of unutterable sadness,
Infections of incalculable madness,
Infections of incurable despair.

XVI

Our shadowy congregation rested still,
As musing on that message we had heard
And brooding on that "End it when you will;"
Perchance awaiting yet some other word;
When keen as lightning through a muffled sky
Sprang forth a shrill and lamentable cry:--

The man speaks sooth, alas! the man speaks sooth:
We have no personal life beyond the grave;
There is no God; Fate knows nor wrath nor ruth:
Can I find here the comfort which I crave?

In all eternity I had one chance,
One few years' term of gracious human life:
The splendours of the intellect's advance,
The sweetness of the home with babes and wife;

The social pleasures with their genial wit:
The fascination of the worlds of art,
The glories of the worlds of nature, lit
By large imagination's glowing heart;

The rapture of mere being, full of health;
The careless childhood and the ardent youth,
The strenuous manhood winning various wealth,
The reverend age serene with life's long truth:

All the sublime prerogatives of Man;
The storied memories of the times of old,
The patient tracking of the world's great plan
Through sequences and changes myriadfold.

This chance was never offered me before;
For me this infinite Past is blank and dumb:
This chance recurreth never, nevermore;
Blank, blank for me the infinite To-come.

And this sole chance was frustrate from my birth,
A mockery, a delusion; and my breath
Of noble human life upon this earth
So racks me that I sigh for senseless death.

My wine of life is poison mixed with gall,
My noonday passes in a nightmare dream,
I worse than lose the years which are my all:
What can console me for the loss supreme?

Speak not of comfort where no comfort is,
Speak not at all: can words make foul things fair?
Our life's a cheat, our death a black abyss:
Hush and be mute envisaging despair.--

This vehement voice came from the northern aisle
Rapid and shrill to its abrupt harsh close;
And none gave answer for a certain while,
For words must shrink from these most wordless woes;
At last the pulpit speaker simply said,
With humid eyes and thoughtful drooping head:--

My Brother, my poor Brothers, it is thus;
This life itself holds nothing good for us,
But ends soon and nevermore can be;
And we knew nothing of it ere our birth,
And shall know nothing when consigned to earth:
I ponder these thoughts and they comfort me.

XVII

How the moon triumphs through the endless nights!
How the stars throb and glitter as they wheel
Their thick processions of supernal lights
Around the blue vault obdurate as steel!
And men regard with passionate awe and yearning
The mighty marching and the golden burning,
And think the heavens respond to what they feel.

Boats gliding like dark shadows of a dream
Are glorified from vision as they pass
The quivering moonbridge on the deep black stream;
Cold windows kindle their dead glooms of glass
To restless crystals; cornice dome and column
Emerge from chaos in the splendour solemn;
Like faery lakes gleam lawns of dewy grass.

With such a living light these dead eyes shine,
These eyes of sightless heaven, that as we gaze
We read a pity, tremulous, divine,
Or cold majestic scorn in their pure rays:
Fond man! they are not haughty, are not tender;
There is no heart or mind in all their splendour,
They thread mere puppets all their marvellous maze.

If we could near them with the flight unflown,
We should but find them worlds as sad as this,
Or suns all self-consuming like our own
Enringed by planet worlds as much amiss:
They wax and wane through fusion and confusion;
The spheres eternal are a grand illusion,
The empyrean is a void abyss.

XVIII

I wandered in a suburb of the north,
And reached a spot whence three close lanes led down,
Beneath thick trees and hedgerows winding forth
Like deep brook channels, deep and dark and lown:
The air above was wan with misty light,
The dull grey south showed one vague blur of white.

I took the left-hand path and slowly trod
Its earthen footpath, brushing as I went
The humid leafage; and my feet were shod
With heavy languor, and my frame downbent,
With infinite sleepless weariness outworn,
So many nights I thus had paced forlorn.

After a hundred steps I grew aware
Of something crawling in the lane below;
It seemed a wounded creature prostrate there
That sobbed with pangs in making progress slow,
The hind limbs stretched to push, the fore limbs then
To drag; for it would die in its own den.

But coming level with it I discerned
That it had been a man; for at my tread
It stopped in its sore travail and half-turned,
Leaning upon its right, and raised its head,
And with the left hand twitched back as in ire
Long grey unreverend locks befouled with mire.

A haggard filthy face with bloodshot eyes,
An infamy for manhood to behold.
He gasped all trembling, What, you want my prize?
You leave, to rob me, wine and lust and gold
And all that men go mad upon, since you
Have traced my sacred secret of the clue?

You think that I am weak and must submit
Yet I but scratch you with this poisoned blade,
And you are dead as if I clove with it
That false fierce greedy heart. Betrayed! betrayed!
I fling this phial if you seek to pass,
And you are forthwith shrivelled up like grass.

And then with sudden change, Take thought! take thought!
Have pity on me! it is mine alone.
If you could find, it would avail you naught;
Seek elsewhere on the pathway of your own:
For who of mortal or immortal race
The lifetrack of another can retrace?

Did you but know my agony and toil!
Two lanes diverge up yonder from this lane;
My thin blood marks the long length of their soil;
Such clue I left, who sought my clue in vain:
My hands and knees are worn both flesh and bone;
I cannot move but with continual moan.

But I am in the very way at last
To find the long-lost broken golden thread
Which unites my present with my past,
If you but go your own way. And I said,
I will retire as soon as you have told
Whereunto leadeth this lost thread of gold.

And so you know it not! he hissed with scorn;
I feared you, imbecile! It leads me back
From this accursed night without a morn,
And through the deserts which have else no track,
And through vast wastes of horror-haunted time,
To Eden innocence in Eden's clime:

And I become a nursling soft and pure,
An infant cradled on its mother's knee,
Without a past, love-cherished and secure;
Which if it saw this loathsome present Me,
Would plunge its face into the pillowing breast,
And scream abhorrence hard to lull to rest.

He turned to grope; and I retiring brushed
Thin shreds of gossamer from off my face,
And mused, His life would grow, the germ uncrushed;
He should to antenatal night retrace,
And hide his elements in that large womb
Beyond the reach of man-evolving Doom.

And even thus, what weary way were planned,
To seek oblivion through the far-off gate
Of birth, when that of death is close at hand!
For this is law, if law there be in Fate:
What never has been, yet may have its when;
The thing which has been, never is again.

XIX

The mighty river flowing dark and deep,
With ebb and flood from the remote sea-tides
Vague-sounding through the City's sleepless sleep,
Is named the River of the Suicides;
For night by night some lorn wretch overweary,
And shuddering from the future yet more dreary,
Within its cold secure oblivion hides.

One plunges from a bridge's parapet,
As if by some blind and sudden frenzy hurled;
Another wades in slow with purpose set
Until the waters are above him furled;
Another in a boat with dreamlike motion
Glides drifting down into the desert ocean,
To starve or sink from out the desert world.

They perish from their suffering surely thus,
For none beholding them attempts to save,
The while thinks how soon, solicitous,
He may seek refuge in the self-same wave;
Some hour when tired of ever-vain endurance
Impatience will forerun the sweet assurance
Of perfect peace eventual in the grave.

When this poor tragic-farce has palled us long,
Why actors and spectators do we stay?--
To fill our so-short roles out right or wrong;
To see what shifts are yet in the dull play
For our illusion; to refrain from grieving
Dear foolish friends by our untimely leaving:
But those asleep at home, how blest are they!

Yet it is but for one night after all:
What matters one brief night of dreary pain?
When after it the weary eyelids fall
Upon the weary eyes and wasted brain;
And all sad scenes and thoughts and feelings vanish
In that sweet sleep no power can ever banish,
That one best sleep which never wakes again.

XX

I sat me weary on a pillar's base,
And leaned against the shaft; for broad moonlight
O'erflowed the peacefulness of cloistered space,
A shore of shadow slanting from the right:
The great cathedral's western front stood there,
A wave-worn rock in that calm sea of air.

Before it, opposite my place of rest,
Two figures faced each other, large, austere;
A couchant sphinx in shadow to the breast,
An angel standing in the moonlight clear;
So mighty by magnificence of form,
They were not dwarfed beneath that mass enorm.

Upon the cross-hilt of the naked sword
The angel's hands, as prompt to smite, were held;
His vigilant intense regard was poured
Upon the creature placidly unquelled,
Whose front was set at level gaze which took
No heed of aught, a solemn trance-like look.

And as I pondered these opposed shapes
My eyelids sank in stupor, that dull swoon
Which drugs and with a leaden mantle drapes
The outworn to worse weariness. But soon
A sharp and clashing noise the stillness broke,
And from the evil lethargy I woke.

The angel's wings had fallen, stone on stone,
And lay there shattered; hence the sudden sound:
A warrior leaning on his sword alone
Now watched the sphinx with that regard profound;
The sphinx unchanged looked forthright, as aware
Of nothing in the vast abyss of air.

Again I sank in that repose unsweet,
Again a clashing noise my slumber rent;
The warrior's sword lay broken at his feet:
An unarmed man with raised hands impotent
Now stood before the sphinx, which ever kept
Such mien as if open eyes it slept.

My eyelids sank in spite of wonder grown;
A louder crash upstartled me in dread:
The man had fallen forward, stone on stone,
And lay there shattered, with his trunkless head
Between the monster's large quiescent paws,
Beneath its grand front changeless as life's laws.

The moon had circled westward full and bright,
And made the temple-front a mystic dream,
And bathed the whole enclosure with its light,
The sworded angel's wrecks, the sphinx supreme:
I pondered long that cold majestic face
Whose vision seemed of infinite void space.

XXI

Anear the centre of that northern crest
Stands out a level upland bleak and bare,
From which the city east and south and west
Sinks gently in long waves; and throned there
An Image sits, stupendous, superhuman,
The bronze colossus of a winged Woman,
Upon a graded granite base foursquare.

Low-seated she leans forward massively,
With cheek on clenched left hand, the forearm's might
Erect, its elbow on her rounded knee;
Across a clasped book in her lap the right
Upholds a pair of compasses; she gazes
With full set eyes, but wandering in thick mazes
Of sombre thought beholds no outward sight.

Words cannot picture her; but all men know
That solemn sketch the pure sad artist wrought
Three centuries and threescore years ago,
With phantasies of his peculiar thought:
The instruments of carpentry and science
Scattered about her feet, in strange alliance
With the keen wolf-hound sleeping undistraught;

Scales, hour-glass, bell, and magic-square above;
The grave and solid infant perched beside,
With open winglets that might bear a dove,
Intent upon its tablets, heavy-eyed;
Her folded wings as of a mighty eagle,
But all too impotent to lift the regal
Robustness of her earth-born strength and pride;

And with those wings, and that light wreath which seems
To mock her grand head and the knotted frown
Of forehead charged with baleful thoughts and dreams,
The household bunch of keys, the housewife's gown
Voluminous, indented, and yet rigid
As if a shell of burnished metal frigid,
The feet thick-shod to tread all weakness down;

The comet hanging o'er the waste dark seas,
The massy rainbow curved in front of it
Beyond the village with the masts and trees;
The snaky imp, dog-headed, from the Pit,
Bearing upon its batlike leathern pinions
Her name unfolded in the sun's dominions,
The "MELENCOLIA" that transcends all wit.

Thus has the artist copied her, and thus
Surrounded to expound her form sublime,
Her fate heroic and calamitous;
Fronting the dreadful mysteries of Time,
Unvanquished in defeat and desolation,
Undaunted in the hopeless conflagration
Of the day setting on her baffled prime.

Baffled and beaten back she works on still,
Weary and sick of soul she works the more,
Sustained by her indomitable will:
The hands shall fashion and the brain shall pore,
And all her sorrow shall be turned to labour,
Till Death the friend-foe piercing with his sabre
That mighty heart of hearts ends bitter war.

But as if blacker night could dawn on night,
With tenfold gloom on moonless night unstarred,
A sense more tragic than defeat and blight,
More desperate than strife with hope debarred,
More fatal than the adamantine Never
Encompassing her passionate endeavour,
Dawns glooming in her tenebrous regard:

To sense that every struggle brings defeat
Because Fate holds no prize to crown success;
That all the oracles are dumb or cheat
Because they have no secret to express;
That none can pierce the vast black veil uncertain
Because there is no light beyond the curtain;
That all is vanity and nothingness.

Titanic from her high throne in the north,
That City's sombre Patroness and Queen,
In bronze sublimity she gazes forth
Over her Capital of teen and threne,
Over the river with its isles and bridges,
The marsh and moorland, to the stern rock-ridges,
Confronting them with a coeval mien.

The moving moon and stars from east to west
Circle before her in the sea of air;
Shadows and gleams glide round her solemn rest.
Her subjects often gaze up to her there:
The strong to drink new strength of iron endurance,
The weak new terrors; all, renewed assurance
And confirmation of the old despair.

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Tannhauser

The Landgrave Hermann held a gathering
Of minstrels, minnesingers, troubadours,
At Wartburg in his palace, and the knight,
Sir Tannhauser of France, the greatest bard,
Inspired with heavenly visions, and endowed
With apprehension and rare utterance
Of noble music, fared in thoughtful wise
Across the Horsel meadows. Full of light,
And large repose, the peaceful valley lay,
In the late splendor of the afternoon,
And level sunbeams lit the serious face
Of the young knight, who journeyed to the west,
Towards the precipitous and rugged cliffs,
Scarred, grim, and torn with savage rifts and chasms,
That in the distance loomed as soft and fair
And purple as their shadows on the grass.
The tinkling chimes ran out athwart the air,
Proclaiming sunset, ushering evening in,
Although the sky yet glowed with yellow light.
The ploughboy, ere he led his cattle home,
In the near meadow, reverently knelt,
And doffed his cap, and duly crossed his breast,
Whispering his 'Ave Mary,' as he heard
The pealing vesper-bell. But still the knight,
Unmindful of the sacred hour announced,
Disdainful or unconscious, held his course.
'Would that I also, like yon stupid wight,
Could kneel and hail the Virgin and believe!'
He murmured bitterly beneath his breath.
'Were I a pagan, riding to contend
For the Olympic wreath, O with what zeal,
What fire of inspiration, would I sing
The praises of the gods! How may my lyre
Glorify these whose very life I doubt?
The world is governed by one cruel God,
Who brings a sword, not peace. A pallid Christ,
Unnatural, perfect, and a virgin cold,
They give us for a heaven of living gods,
Beautiful, loving, whose mere names were song;
A creed of suffering and despair, walled in
On every side by brazen boundaries,
That limit the soul's vision and her hope
To a red hell or and unpeopled heaven.
Yea, I am lost already,-even now
Am doomed to flaming torture for my thoughts.
O gods! O gods! where shall my soul find peace?'
He raised his wan face to the faded skies,
Now shadowing into twilight; no response
Came from their sunless heights; no miracle,
As in the ancient days of answering gods.
With a long, shuddering sigh he glanced to earth,
Finding himself among the Horsel cliffs.
Gray, sullen, gaunt, they towered on either side;
Scant shrubs sucked meagre life between the rifts
Of their huge crags, and made small darker spots
Upon their wrinkled sides; the jaded horse
Stumbled upon loose, rattling, fallen stones,
Amidst the gathering dusk, and blindly fared
Through the weird, perilous pass. As darkness waxed,
And an oppressive mystery enwrapped
The roadstead and the rocks, Sir Tannhauser
Fancied he saw upon the mountain-side
The fluttering of white raiment. With a sense
Of wild joy and horror, he gave pause,
For his sagacious horse that reeked of sweat,
Trembling in every limb, confirmed his thought,
That nothing human scaled that haunted cliff.
The white thing seemed descending,-now a cloud
It looked, and now a rag of drifted mist,
Torn in the jagged gorge precipitous,
And now an apparition clad in white,
Shapely and real,-then he lost it quite,
Gazing on nothing with blank, foolish face.
As with wide eyes he stood, he was aware
Of a strange splendor at his very side,
A presence and a majesty so great,
That ere he saw, he felt it was divine.
He turned, and, leaping from his horse, fell prone,
In speechless adoration, on the earth,
Before the matchless goddess, who appeared
With no less freshness of immortal youth
Than when first risen from foam of Paphian seas.
He heard delicious strains of melody,
Such as his highest muse had ne'er attained,
Float in the air, while in the distance rang,
Harsh and discordant, jarring with those tones,
The gallop of his frightened horse's hoofs,
Clattering in sudden freedom down the pass.
A voice that made all music dissonance
Then thrilled through heart and flesh of that prone knight,
Triumphantly: 'The gods need but appear,
And their usurped thrones are theirs again!'
Then tenderly: 'Sweet knight, I pray thee, rise;
Worship me not, for I desire thy love.
Look on me, follow me, for I am fain
Of thy fair, human face.' He rose and looked,
Stirred by that heavenly flattery to the soul.
Her hair, unbraided and unfilleted,
Rained in a glittering shower to the ground,
And cast forth lustre. Round her zone was clasped
The scintillant cestus, stiff with flaming gold,
Thicker with restless gems than heaven with stars.
She might have flung the enchanted wonder forth;
Her eyes, her slightest gesture would suffice
To bind all men in blissful slavery.
She sprang upon the mountain's dangerous side,
With feet that left their print in flowers divine,-
Flushed amaryllis and blue hyacinth,
Impurpled amaranth and asphodel,
Dewy with nectar, and exhaling scents
Richer than all the roses of mid-June.
The knight sped after her, with wild eyes fixed
Upon her brightness, as she lightly leapt
From crag to crag, with flying auburn hair,
Like a gold cloud, that lured him ever on,
Higher and higher up the haunted cliff.
At last amidst a grove of pines she paused,
Until he reached her, breathing hard with haste,
Delight, and wonder. Then upon his hand
She placed her own, and all his blood at once
Tingled and hotly rushed to brow and cheek,
At the supreme caress; but the mere touch
Infused fresh life, and when she looked at him
With gracious tenderness, he felt himself
Strong suddenly to bear the blinding light
Of those great eyes. 'Dear knight,' she murmured low,
'For love of me, wilt thou accord this boon,-
To grace my weary home in banishment?'
His hungry eyes gave answer ere he spoke,
In tones abrupt that startled his own ears
With their strange harshness; but with thanks profuse
She guided him, still holding his cold hand
In her warm, dainty palm, unto a cave,
Whence a rare glory issued, and a smell
Of spice and roses, frankincense and balm.
They entering stood within a marble hall,
With straight, slim pillars, at whose farther end
The goddess led him to a spiral flight
Of stairs, descending always 'midst black gloom
Into the very bowels of the earth.
Down these, with fearful swiftness, they made way,
The knight's feet touching not the solid stair,
But sliding down as in a vexing dream,
Blind, feeling but that hand divine that still
Empowered him to walk on empty air.
Then he was dazzled by a sudden blaze,
In vast palace filled with reveling folk.
Cunningly pictured on the ivory walls
Were rolling hills, cool lakes, and boscage green,
And all the summer landscape's various pomp.
The precious canopy aloft was carved
In semblance of the pleached forest trees,
Enameled with the liveliest green, wherethrough
A light pierced, more resplendent than the day.
O'er the pale, polished jasper of the floor
Of burnished metal, fretted and embossed
With all the marvelous story of her birth
Painted in prodigal splendor of rich tincts,
And carved by heavenly artists,-crystal seas,
And long-haired Nereids in their pearly shells,
And all the wonder of her lucent limbs
Sphered in a vermeil mist. Upon the throne
She took her seat, the knight beside her still,
Singing on couches of fresh asphodel,
And the dance ceased, and the flushed revelers came
In glittering phalanx to adore their queen.
Beautiful girls, with shining delicate heads,
Crested with living jewels, fanned the air
With flickering wings from naked shoulders soft.
Then with preluding low, a thousand harps,
And citherns, and strange nameless instruments,
Sent through the fragrant air sweet symphonies,
And the winged dancers waved in mazy rounds,
With changing lustres like a summer sea.
Fair boys, with charming yellow hair crisp-curled,
And frail, effeminate beauty, the knight saw,
But of strong, stalwart men like him were none.
He gazed thereon bewitched, until the hand
Of Venus, erst withdrawn, now fell again
Upon his own, and roused him from his trance.
He looked on her, and as he looked, a cloud
Auroral, flaming as at sunrising,
Arose from nothing, floating over them
In luminous folds, like that vermilion mist
Penciled upon the throne, and as it waxed
In density and brightness, all the throng
Of festal dancers, less and less distinct,
Grew like pale spirits in a vague, dim dream,
And vanished altogether; and these twain,
Shut from the world in that ambrosial cloud,
Now with a glory inconceivable,
Vivid and conflagrant, looked each on each.

All hours came laden with their own delights
In that enchanted place, wherein Time
Knew no divisions harsh of night and day,
But light was always, and desire of sleep
Was satisfied at once with slumber soft,
Desire of food with magical repast,
By unseen hands on golden tables spread.
But these the knight accepted like a god,
All less was lost in that excess of joy,
The crowning marvel of her love for him,
Assuring him of his divinity.
Meanwhile remembrance of the earth appeared
Like the vague trouble of a transient dream,-
The doubt, the scruples, the remorse for thoughts
Beyond his own control, the constant thirst
For something fairer than his life, more real
Than airy revelations of his Muse.
Here was his soul's desire satisfied.
All nobler passions died; his lyre he flung
Recklessly forth, with vows to dedicate
His being to herself. She knew and seized
The moment of her mastery, and conveyed
The lyre beyond his sight and memory.
With blandishment divine she changed for him,
Each hour, her mood; a very woman now,
Fantastic, voluble, affectionate,
And jealous of the vague, unbodied air,
Exacting, penitent, and pacified,
All in a breath. And often she appeared
Majestic with celestial wrath, with eyes
That shot forth fire, and a heavy brow,
Portentous as the lowering front of heaven,
When the reverberant, sullen thunder rolls
Among the echoing clouds. Thus she denounced
Her ancient, fickle worshippers, who left
Her altars desecrate, her fires unfed,
Her name forgotten. 'But I reign, I reign!'
She would shrill forth, triumphant; 'yea, I reign.
Men name me not, but worship me unnamed,
Beauty and Love within their heart of hearts;
Not with bent knees and empty breath of words,
But with devoted sacrifice of lives.'
Then melting in a moment, she would weep
Ambrosial tears, pathetic, full of guile,
Accusing her own base ingratitude,
In craving worship, when she had his heart,
Her priceless knight, her peerless paladin,
Her Tannhauser; then, with an artful glance
Of lovely helplessness, entreated him
Not to desert her, like the faithless world,
For these unbeautiful and barbarous gods,
Or she would never cease her prayers to Jove,
Until he took from her the heavy curse
Of immortality. With closer vows,
The knight then sealed his worship and forswore
All other aims and deeds to serve her cause.
Thus passed unnoted seven barren years
Of reckless passion and voluptuous sloth,
Undignified by any lofty thought
In his degraded mind, that sometime was
Endowed with noble capability.
From revelry to revelry he passed,
Craving more pungent pleasure momently,
And new intoxications, and each hour
The siren goddess answered his desires.
Once when she left him with a weary sense
Of utter lassitude, he sat alone,
And, raising listless eyes, he saw himself
In a great burnished mirror, wrought about
With cunning imagery of twisted vines.
He scarcely knew those sunken, red-rimmed eyes,
For his who in the flush of manhood rode
Among the cliffs, and followed up the crags
The flying temptress; and there fell on him
A horror of her beauty, a disgust
For his degenerate and corrupted life,
With irresistible, intense desire,
To feel the breath of heaven on his face.
Then as Fate willed, who rules above the gods,
He saw, within the glass, behind him glide
The form of Venus. Certain of her power,
She had laid by, in fond security,
The enchanted cestus, and Sir Tannhauser,
With surfeited regard, beheld her now,
No fairer than the women of the earth,
Whom with serenity and health he left,
Duped by a lovely witch. Before he moved,
She knew her destiny; and when he turned,
He seemed to drop a mask, disclosing thus
An alien face, and eyes with vision true,
That for long time with glamour had been blind.
Hiding the hideous rage within her breast,
With girlish simpleness of folded hands,
Auroral blushes, and sweet, shamefast mien,
She spoke: 'Behold, my love, I have cast forth
All magic, blandishments and sorcery,
For I have dreamed a dream so terrible,
That I awoke to find my pillow stained
With tears as of real woe. I thought my belt,
By Vulcan wrought with matchless skill and power,
Was the sole bond between us; this being doffed,
I seemed to thee an old, unlovely crone,
Wrinkled by every year that I have seen.
Thou turnedst from me with a brutal sneer,
So that I woke with weeping. Then I rose,
And drew the glittering girdle from my zone,
Jealous thereof, yet full of fears, and said,
'If it be this he loves, then let him go!
I have no solace as a mortal hath,
No hope of change or death to comfort me
Through all eternity; yet he is free,
Though I could hold him fast with heavy chains,
Bound in perpetual imprisonment.'
Tell me my vision was a baseless dream;
See, I am kneeling, and kiss thy hands,-
In pity, look on me, before thy word
Condemns me to immortal misery!'
As she looked down, the infernal influence
Worked on his soul again; for she was fair
Beyond imagination, and her brow
Seemed luminous with high self-sacrifice.
He bent and kissed her head, warm, shining, soft,
With its close-curling gold, and love revived.

But ere he spoke, he heard the distant sound
Of one sweet, smitten lyre, and a gleam
Of violent anger flashed across the face
Upraised to his in feigned simplicity
And singleness of purpose. Then he sprang,
Well-nigh a god himself, with sudden strength
to vanquish and resist, beyond her reach,
Crying, 'My old Muse calls me, and I hear!
Thy fateful vision is no baseless dream;
I will be gone from this accursed hall!'
Then she, too, rose, dilating over him,
And sullen clouds veiled all her rosy limbs,
Unto her girdle, and her head appeared
Refulgent, and her voice rang wrathfully:
'Have I cajoled and flattered thee till now,
To lose thee thus! How wilt thou make escape?
ONCE BEING MINE THOU ART FOREVER MINE:
Yea, not my love, but my poor slave and fool.'
But he, with both hands pressed upon his eyes,
Against that blinding lustre, heeded not
Her thundered words, and cried in sharp despair,
'Help me, O Virgin Mary! and thereat,
The very bases of the hall gave way,
The roof was rived, the goddess disappeared,
And Tannhauser stood free upon the cliff,
Amidst the morning sunshine and fresh air.

Around him were the tumbled blocks and crags,
Huge ridges and sharp juts of flinty peaks,
Black caves, and masses of the grim, bald rock.
The ethereal, unfathomable sky,
Hung over him, the valley lay beneath,
Dotted with yellow hayricks, that exhaled
Sweet, healthy odors to the mountain-top.
He breathed intoxicate the infinite air,
And plucked the heather blossoms where they blew,
Reckless with light and dew, in crannies green,
And scarcely saw their darling bells for tears.
No sounds of labor reached him from the farms
And hamlets trim, nor from the furrowed glebe;
But a serene and sabbath stillness reigned,
Till broken by the faint, melodious chimes
Of the small village church that called to prayer.
He hurried down the rugged, scarped cliff,
And swung himself from shelving granite slopes
To narrow foot-holds, near wide-throated chasms,
Tearing against the sharp stones his bleeding hands,
With long hair flying from his dripping brow,
Uncovered head, and white, exalted face.
No memory had he of his smooth ascent,
No thought of fear upon those dreadful hills;
He only heard the bell, inviting him
To satisfy the craving of his heart,
For worship 'midst his fellow men. He reached
The beaten, dusty road, and passed thereon
The pious peasants faring towards the church,
And scarce refrained from greeting them like friends
Dearly beloved, after long absence met.
How more than fair the sunburnt wenches looked,
In their rough, homespun gowns and coifs demure,
After the beauty of bare, rosy limbs,
And odorous, loose hair! He noted not
Suspicious glances on his garb uncouth,
His air extravagant and face distraught,
With bursts of laughter from the red-cheeked boys,
And prudent crossings of the women's breasts.
He passed the flowering close about the church,
And trod the well worn-path, with throbbing heart,
The little heather-bell between his lips,
And his eyes fastened on the good green grass.
Thus entered he the sanctuary, lit
With frequent tapers, and with sunbeams stained
Through painted glass. How pure and innocent
The waiting congregation seemed to him,
Kneeling, or seated with calm brows upraised!
With faltering strength, he cowered down alone,
And held sincere communion with the Lord,
For one brief moment, in a sudden gush
Of blessed tears. The minister of God
Rose to invoke a blessing on his flock,
And then began the service,-not in words
To raise the lowly, and to heal the sick,
But an alien tongue, with phrases formed,
And meaningless observances. The knight,
Unmoved, yet thirsting for the simple word
That might have moved him, held his bitter thoughts,
But when in his own speech a new priest spake,
Looked up with hope revived, and heard the text:
'Go, preach the Gospel unto all the world.
He that believes and is baptized, is saved.
He that believeth not, is damned in hell!'
He sat with neck thrust forth and staring eyes;
The crowded congregation disappeared;
He felt alone in some black sea of hell,
While a great light smote one exalted face,
Vivid already with prophetic fire,
Whose fatal mouth now thundered forth his doom.
He longed in that void circle to cry out,
With one clear shriek, but sense and voice seemed bound,
And his parched tongue clave useless to his mouth.
As the last words resounded through the church,
And once again the pastor blessed his flock,
Who, serious and subdued, passed slowly down
The arrow aisle, none noted, near the wall,
A fallen man with face upon his knees,
A heap of huddled garments and loose hair,
Unconscious 'mid the rustling, murmurous stir,
'Midst light and rural smell of grass and flowers,
Let in athwart the doorway. One lone priest,
Darkening the altar lights, moved noiselessly,
Now with the yellow glow upon his face,
Now a black shadow gliding farther on,
Amidst the smooth, slim pillars of hewn ash.
But from the vacant aisles he heard at once
A hollow sigh, heaved from a depth profound.
Upholding his last light above his head,
And peering eagerly amidst the stalls,
He cried, 'Be blest who cometh in God's name.'
Then the gaunt form of Tannhauser arose.
'Father, I am a sinner, and I seek
Forgiveness and help, by whatso means
I can regain the joy of peace with God.'
'The Lord hath mercy on the penitent.
'Although thy sins be scarlet,' He hath said,
'Will I not make them white as wool?' Confess,
And I will shrive you.' Thus the good priest moved
Towards the remorseful knight and pressed his hand.
But shrinking down, he drew his fingers back
From the kind palm, and kissed the friar's feet.
'Thy pure hand is anointed, and can heal.
The cool, calm pressure brings back sanity,
And what serene, past joys! yet touch me not,
My contact is pollution,-hear, O hear,
While I disburden my charged soul.' He lay,
Casting about for words and strength to speak.
'O father, is there help for such a one,'
In tones of deep abasement he began,
'Who hath rebelled against the laws of God,
With pride no less presumptuous than his
Who lost thereby his rank in heaven?' 'My son,
There is atonement for all sins,-or slight
Or difficult, proportioned to the crime.
Though this may be the staining of thy hands
With blood of kinsmen or of fellow-men.'
'My hands are white,-my crime hath found no name,
This side of hell; yet though my heart-strings snap
To live it over, let me make the attempt.
I was a knight and bard, with such a gift
Of revelation that no hour of life
Lacked beauty and adornment, in myself
The seat and centre of all happiness.
What inspiration could my lofty Muse
Draw from those common and familiar themes,
Painted upon the windows and the walls
Of every church,-the mother and her child,
The miracle and mystery of the birth,
The death, the resurrection? Fool and blind!
That saw not symbols of eternal truth
In that grand tragedy and victory,
Significant and infinite as life.
What tortures did my skeptic soul endure,
At war against herself and all mankind!
The restless nights of feverish sleeplessness,
With balancing of reasons nicely weighed;
The dawn that brought no hope nor energy,
The blasphemous arraignment of the Lord,
Taxing His glorious divinity
With all the grief and folly of the world.
Then came relapses into abject fear,
And hollow prayer and praise from craven heart.
Before a sculptured Venus I would kneel,
Crown her with flowers, worship her, and cry,
'O large and noble type of our ideal,
At least my heart and prayer return to thee,
Amidst a faithless world of proselytes.
Madonna Mary, with her virgin lips,
And eyes that look perpetual reproach,
Insults and is a blasphemy on youth.
Is she to claim the worship of a man
Hot with the first rich flush of ripened life?'
Realities, like phantoms, glided by,
Unnoted 'midst the torment and delights
Of my conflicting spirit, and I doffed
the modest Christian weeds of charity
And fit humility, and steeled myself
In pagan panoply of stoicism
And self-sufficing pride. Yet constantly
I gained men's charmed attention and applause,
With the wild strains I smote from out my lyre,
To me the native language of my soul,
To them attractive and miraculous,
As all things whose solution and whose source
Remain a mystery. Then came suddenly
The summons to attend the gathering
Of minstrels at the Landgrave Hermann's court.
Resolved to publish there my pagan creed
In harmonies so high and beautiful
That all the world would share my zeal and faith,
I journeyed towards the haunted Horsel cliffs.
O God! how may I tell you how SHE came,
The temptress of a hundred centuries,
Yet fresh as April? She bewitched my sense,
Poisoned my judgment with sweet flatteries,
And for I may not guess how many years
Held me a captive in degrading bonds.
There is no sin of lust so lewd and foul,
Which I learned not in that alluring hell,
Until this morn, I snapped the ignoble tie,
By calling on the Mother of our Lord.
O for the power to stand again erect,
And look men in the eyes! What penitence,
What scourging of the flesh, what rigid fasts,
What terrible privations may suffice
To cleanse me in the sight of God and man?'
Ill-omened silence followed his appeal.
Patient and motionless he lay awhile,
Then sprang unto his feet with sudden force,
Confronting in his breathless vehemence,
With palpitating heart, the timid priest.
'Answer me, as you hope for a response,
One day, at the great judgment seat yourself.'
'I cannot answer,' said the timid priest,
'I have not understood.' 'Just God! is this
The curse Thou layest upon me? I outstrip
The sympathy and brotherhood of men,
So far removed is my experience
From their clean innocence. Inspire me,
Prompt me to words that bring me near to them!
Father,' in gentler accents he resumed,
'Thank Heaven at your every orison
That sin like mine you cannot apprehend.
More than the truth perchance I have confessed,
But I have sinned, and darkly,-this is true;
And I have suffered, and am suffering now.
Is there no help in your great Christian creed
Of liberal charity, for such a one?'
'My son,' the priest replied, 'your speech distraught
Hath quite bewildered me. I fain would hope
That Christ's large charity can reach your sin,
But I know naught. I cannot but believe
That the enchantress who first tempted you
Must be the Evil one,-your early doubt
Was the possession of your soul by him.
Travel across the mountain to the town,
The first cathedral town upon the road
That leads to Rome,-a sage and reverend priest,
The Bishop Adrian, bides there. Say you have come
From his leal servant, Friar Lodovick;
He hath vast lore and great authority,
And may absolve you freely of your sin.'

Over the rolling hills, through summer fields,
By noisy villages and lonely lanes,
Through glowing days, when all the landscape stretched
Shimmering in the heat, a pilgrim fared
Towards the cathedral town. Sir Tannhauser
Had donned the mournful sackcloth, girt his loins
With a coarse rope that ate into his flesh,
Muffled a cowl about his shaven head,
Hung a great leaden cross around his neck;
And bearing in his hands a knotty staff,
With swollen, sandaled feet he held his course.
He snatched scant rest at twilight or at dawn,
When his forced travel was least difficult.
But most he journeyed when the sky, o'ercast,
Uprolled its threatening clouds of dusky blue,
And angry thunder grumbled through the hills,
And earth grew dark at noonday, till the flash
Of the thin lightning through the wide sky leapt.
And tumbling showers scoured along the plain.
Then folk who saw the pilgrim penitent,
Drenched, weird, and hastening as as to some strange doom,
Swore that the wandering Jew had crossed their land,
And the Lord Christ had sent the deadly bolt
Harmless upon his cursed, immortal head.
At length the hill-side city's spires and roofs,
With all its western windows smitten red
By a rich sunset, and with massive towers
Of its cathedral overtopping all,
greeted his sight. Some weary paces more,
And as the twilight deepened in the streets,
He stood within the minster. How serene,
In sculptured calm of centuries, it seemed!
How cool and spacious all the dim-lit aisles,
Still hazy with fumes of frankincense!
The vesper had been said, yet here and there
A wrinkled beldam, or mourner veiled,
Or burly burgher on the cold floor knelt,
And still the organist, with wandering hands,
Drew from the keys mysterious melodies,
And filled the church with flying waifs of song,
That with ethereal beauty moved the soul
To a more tender prayer and gentler faith
Than choral anthems and the solemn mass.
A thousand memories, sweet to bitterness,
Rushed on the knight and filled his eyes with tears;
Youth's blamelessness and faith forever lost,
The love of his neglected lyre, his art,
Revived by these aerial harmonies.
He was unworthy now to touch the strings,
Too base to stir men's soul to ecstasy
And high resolves, as in the days agone;
And yet, with all his spirit's earnestness,
He yearned to feel the lyre between his hands,
To utter all the trouble of his life
Unto the Muse who understands and helps.
Outworn with travel, soothed to drowsiness
By dying music and sweet-scented air,
His limbs relaxed, and sleep possessed his frame.
Auroral light the eastern oriels touched,
When with delicious sense of rest he woke,
Amidst the cast and silent empty aisles.
'God's peace hath fallen upon me in this place;
This is my Bethel; here I feel again
A holy calm, if not of innocence,
Yet purest after that, the calm serene
Of expiation and forgiveness.'
He spake, and passed with staff and wallet forth
Through the tall portal to the open square,
And turning, paused to look upon the pile.
The northern front against the crystal sky
Loomed dark and heavy, full of sombre shade,
With each projecting buttress, carven cross,
Gable and mullion, tipped with laughing light
By the slant sunbeams of the risen morn.
The noisy swallows wheeled above their nests,
Builded in hidden nooks about the porch.
No human life was stirring in the square,
Save now and then a rumbling market-team,
Fresh from the fields and farms without the town.
He knelt upon the broad cathedral steps,
And kissed the moistened stone, while overhead
The circling swallows sang, and all around
The mighty city lay asleep and still.

To stranger's ears must yet again be made
The terrible confession; yet again
A deathly chill, with something worse than fear,
Seized the knight's heart, who knew his every word
Widened the gulf between his kind and him.
The Bishop sat with pomp of mitred head,
In pride of proven virtue, hearkening to all
With cold, official apathy, nor made
A sign of pity nor encouragement.
The friar understood the pilgrim's grief,
The language of his eyes; his speech alone
Was alien to these kind, untutored ears.
But this was truly to be misconstrued,
To tear each palpitating word alive
From out the depths of his remorseful soul,
And have it weighed with the precision cool
And the nice logic of a reasoning mind.
This spiritual Father judged his crime
As the mad mischief of a reckless boy,
That call for strict, immediate punishment.
But Tannhauser, who felt himself a man,
Though base, yet fallen through passions and rare gifts
Of an exuberant nature rankly rich,
And knew his weary head was growing gray
With a life's terrible experience,
Found his old sense of proper worth revive;
But modestly he ended: 'Yet I felt,
O holy Father, in the church, this morn,
A strange security, a peace serene,
As though e'en yet the Lord regarded me
With merciful compassion; yea, as though
Even so vile a worm as I might work
Mine own salvation, through repentant prayers.'
'Presumptuous man, it is no easy task
To expiate such sin; a space of prayer
That deprecates the anger of the Lord,
A pilgrimage through pleasant summer lands,
May not atone for years of impious lust;
Thy heart hath lied to thee in offering hope.'
'Is there no hope on earth?' the pilgrim sighed.
'None through thy penance,' said the saintly man.
'Yet there may be through mediation, help.
There is a man who by a blameless life
Hath won the right to intercede with God.
No sins of his own flesh hath he to purge,-
The Cardinal Filippo,-he abides,
Within the Holy City. Seek him out;
This is my only counsel,-through thyself
Can be no help and no forgiveness.'

How different from the buoyant joy of morn
Was this discouraged sense of lassitude,
The Bishop's words were ringing in his ears,
Measured and pitiless, and blent with these,
The memory of the goddess' last wild cry,-
'ONCE BEING MINE, THOU ART FOREVER MINE.'
Was it the truth, despite his penitence,
And the dedication of his thought to God,
That still some portion of himself was hers,
Some lust survived, some criminal regret,
For her corrupted love? He searched his heart:
All was remorse, religious and sincere,
And yet her dreadful curse still haunted him;
For all men shunned him, and denied him help,
Knowing at once in looking on his face,
Ploughed with deep lines and prematurely old,
That he had struggled with some deadly fiend,
And that he was no longer kin to them.
Just past the outskirts of the town, he stopped,
To strengthen will and courage to proceed.
The storm had broken o'er the sultry streets,
But now the lessening clouds were flying east,
And though the gentle shower still wet his face,
The west was cloudless while the sun went down,
And the bright seven-colored arch stood forth,
Against the opposite dull gray. There was
A beauty in the mingled storm and peace,
Beyond clear sunshine, as the vast, green fields
Basked in soft light, though glistening yet with rain.
The roar of all the town was now a buzz
Less than the insects' drowsy murmuring
That whirred their gauzy wings around his head.
The breeze that follows on the sunsetting
Was blowing whiffs of bruised and dripping grass
Into the heated city. But he stood,
Disconsolate with thoughts of fate and sin,
Still wrestling with his soul to win it back
From her who claimed it to eternity.
Then on the delicate air there came to him
The intonation of the minster bells,
Chiming the vespers, musical and faint.
He knew not what of dear and beautiful
There was in those familiar peals, that spake
Of his first boyhood and his innocence,
Leading him back, with gracious influence,
To pleasant thoughts and tender memories,
And last, recalling the fair hour of hope
He passed that morning in the church. Again,
The glad assurance of God's boundless love
Filled all his being, and he rose serene,
And journeyed forward with a calm content.

Southward he wended, and the landscape took
A warmer tone, the sky a richer light.
The gardens of the graceful, festooned with hops,
With their slight tendrils binding pole to pole,
Gave place to orchards and the trellised grape,
The hedges were enwreathed with trailing vines,
With clustering, shapely bunches, 'midst the growth
Of tangled greenery. The elm and ash
Less frequent grew than cactus, cypresses,
And golden-fruited or large-blossomed trees.
The far hills took the hue of the dove's breast,
Veiled in gray mist of olive groves. No more
He passed dark, moated strongholds of grim knights,
But terraces with marble-paven steps,
With fountains leaping in the sunny air,
And hanging gardens full of sumptuous bloom.
Then cloisters guarded by their dead gray walls,
Where now and then a golden globe of fruit
Or full-flushed flower peered out upon the road,
Nodding against the stone, and where he heard
Sometimes the voices of the chanting monks,
Sometimes the laugh of children at their play,
Amidst the quaint, old gardens. But these sights
Were in the suburbs of the wealthy towns.
For many a day through wildernesses rank,
Or marshy, feverous meadow-lands he fared,
The fierce sun smiting his close-muffled head;
Or 'midst the Alpine gorges faced the storm,
That drave adown the gullies melted snow
And clattering boulders from the mountain-tops.
At times, between the mountains and the sea
Fair prospects opened, with the boundless stretch
Of restless, tideless water by his side,
And their long wash upon the yellow sand.
Beneath this generous sky the country-folk
Could lead a freer life,-the fat, green fields
Offered rich pasturage, athwart the air
Rang tinkling cow-bells and the shepherds' pipes.
The knight met many a strolling troubadour,
Bearing his cithern, flute, or dulcimer;
And oft beneath some castle's balcony,
At night, he heard their mellow voices rise,
Blent with stringed instruments or tambourines,
Chanting some lay as natural as a bird's.
Then Nature stole with healthy influence
Into his thoughts; his love of beauty woke,
His Muse inspired dreams as in the past.
But after this came crueler remorse,
And he would tighten round his loins the rope,
And lie for hours beside some wayside cross,
And feel himself unworthy to enjoy
The splendid gift and privilege of life.
Then forth he hurried, spurred by his desire
To reach the City of the Seven Hills,
And gain his absolution. Some leagues more
Would bring him to the vast Campagna land,
When by a roadside well he paused to rest.
'T was noon, and reapers in the field hard by
Lay neath the trees upon the sun-scorched grass.
But from their midst one came towards the well,
Not trudging like a man forespent with toil,
But frisking like a child at holiday,
With light steps. The pilgrim watched him come,
And found him scarcely older than a child,
A large-mouthed earthen pitcher in his hand,
And a guitar upon his shoulder slung.
A wide straw hat threw all his face in shade,
But doffing this, to catch whatever breeze
Might stir among the branches, he disclosed
A charming head of rippled, auburn hair,
A frank, fair face, as lovely as a girls,
With great, soft eyes, as mild and grave as kine's.
Above his head he slipped the instrument,
And laid it with his hat upon the turf,
Lowered his pitcher down the well-head cool,
And drew it dripping upward, ere he saw
The watchful pilgrim, craving (as he thought)
The precious draught. 'Your pardon, holy sir,
Drink first,' he cried, 'before I take the jar
Unto my father in the reaping-field.'
Touched by the cordial kindness of the lad,
The pilgrim answered,-'Thanks, my thirst is quenched
From mine own palm.' The stranger deftly poised
The brimming pitcher on his head, and turned
Back to the reaping-folk, while Tannhauser
Looked after him across the sunny fields,
Clasping each hand about his waist to bear
The balanced pitcher; then, down glancing, found
The lad's guitar near by, and fell at once
To striking its tuned string with wandering hands,
And pensive eyes filled full of tender dreams.
'Yea, holy sir, it is a worthless thing,
And yet I love it, for I make it speak.'
The boy again stood by him and dispelled
His train of fantasies half sweet, half sad.
'That was not in my thought,' the knight replied.
'Its worth is more than rubies; whoso hath
The art to make this speak is raised thereby
Above all loneliness or grief or fear.'
More to himself than to the lad he spake,
Who, understanding not, stood doubtfully
At a loss for answer; but the knight went on:
'How came it in your hands, and who hath tuned
your voice to follow it.' 'I am unskilled,
Good father, but my mother smote its strings
To music rare.' Diverted from one theme,
Pleased with the winsome candor of the boy,
The knight encouraged him to confidence;
Then his own gift of minstrelsy revealed,
And told bright tales of his first wanderings,
When in lords' castles and kings' palaces
Men still made place for him, for in his land
The gift was rare and valued at its worth,
And brought great victory and sounding fame.
Thus, in retracing all his pleasant youth,
His suffering passed as though it had not been.
Wide-eyed and open-mouthed the boy gave ear,
His fair face flushing with the sudden thoughts
That went and came,-then, as the pilgrim ceased,
Drew breath and spake: 'And where now is your lyre?'
The knight with both hands hid his changed, white face,
Crying aloud, 'Lost! lost! forever lost!'
Then, gathering strength, he bared his face again
Unto the frightened, wondering boy, and rose
With hasty fear. 'Ah, child, you bring me back
Unwitting to remembrance of my grief,
For which I donned eternal garb of woe;
And yet I owe you thanks for one sweet hour
Of healthy human intercourse and peace.
'T is not for me to tarry by the way.
Farewell!' The impetuous, remorseful boy,
Seeing sharp pain on that kind countenance,
Fell at his feet and cried, 'Forgive my words,
Witless but innocent, and leave me not
Without a blessing.' Moved unutterably,
The pilgrim kissed with trembling lips his head,
And muttered, 'At this moment would to God
That I were worthy!' Then waved wasted hands
Over the youth in act of blessing him,
But faltered, 'Cleanse me through his innocence,
O heavenly Father!' and with quickening steps
Hastened away upon the road to Rome.
The noon was past, the reapers drew broad swaths
With scythes sun-smitten 'midst the ripened crop.
Thin shadows of the afternoon slept soft
On the green meadows as the knight passed forth.

He trudged amidst the sea of poisonous flowers
On the Campagna's undulating plain,
With Rome, the many-steepled, many-towered,
Before him regnant on her throne of hills.
A thick blue cloud of haze o'erhung the town,
But the fast-sinking sun struck fiery light
From shining crosses, roofs, and flashing domes.
Across his path an arching bridge of stone
Was raised above a shrunken yellow stream,
Hurrying with the light on every wave
Towards the great town and outward to the sea.
Upon the bridge's crest he paused, and leaned
Against the barrier, throwing back his cowl,
And gazed upon the dull, unlovely flood
That was the Tiber. Quaggy banks lay bare,
Muddy and miry, glittering in the sun,
And myriad insects hovered o'er the reeds,
Whose lithe, moist tips by listless airs were stirred.
When the low sun had dropped behind the hills,
He found himself within the streets of Rome,
Walking as in a sleep, where naught seemed real.
The chattering hubbub of the market-place
Was over now; but voices smote his ear
Of garrulous citizens who jostled past.
Loud cries, gay laughter, snatches of sweet song,
The tinkling fountains set in gardens cool
About the pillared palaces, and blent
With trickling of the conduits in the squares,
The noisy teams within the narrow streets,-
All these the stranger heard and did not hear,
While ringing bells pealed out above the town,
And calm gray twilight skies stretched over it.
Wide open stood the doors of every church,
And through the porches pressed a streaming throng.
Vague wonderment perplexed him, at the sight
Of broken columns raised to Jupiter
Beside the cross, immense cathedrals reared
Upon a dead faith's ruins; all the whirl
And eager bustle of the living town
Filling the storied streets, whose very stones
Were solemn monuments, and spake of death.
Although he wrestled with himself, the thought
Of that poor, past religion smote his heart
With a huge pity and deep sympathy,
Beyond the fervor which the Church inspired.
Where was the noble race who ruled the world,
Moulded of purest elements, and stuffed
With sternest virtues, every man a king,
Wearing the purple native in his heart?
These lounging beggars, stealthy monks and priests,
And womanish patricians filled their place.
Thus Tannhauser, still half an infidel,
Pagan through mind and Christian through the heart,
Fared thoughtfully with wandering, aimless steps,
Till in the dying glimmer of the day
He raised his eyes and found himself alone
Amid the ruined arches, broken shafts,
And huge arena of the Coliseum.
He did not see it as it was, dim-lit
By something less than day and more than night,
With wan reflections of the rising moon
Rather divined than seen on ivied walls,
And crumbled battlements, and topless columns-
But by the light of all the ancient days,
Ringed with keen eager faces, living eyes,
Fixed on the circus with a savage joy,
Where brandished swords flashed white, and human blood
Streamed o'er the thirsty dust, and Death was king.
He started, shuddering, and drew breath to see
The foul pit choked with weeds and tumbled stones,
The cross raised midmost, and the peaceful moon
Shining o'er all; and fell upon his knees,
Restored to faith in one wise, loving God.
Day followed day, and still he bode in Rome,
Waiting his audience with the Cardinal,
And from the gates, on pretext frivolous,
Passed daily forth,-his Eminency slept,-
Again, his Eminency was fatigued
By tedious sessions of the Papal court,
And thus the patient pilgrim was referred
Unto a later hour. At last the page
Bore him a missive with Filippo's seal,
That in his name commended Tannhauser
Unto the Pope. The worn, discouraged knight
Read the brief scroll, then sadly forth again,
Along the bosky alleys of the park,
Passed to the glare and noise of summer streets.
'Good God!' he muttered, 'Thou hast ears for all,
And sendest help and comfort; yet these men,
Thy saintly ministers, must deck themselves
With arrogance, and from their large delight
In all the beauty of the beauteous earth,
And peace of indolent, untempted souls,
Deny the hungry outcast a bare word.'
Yet even as he nourished bitter thoughts,
He felt a depth of clear serenity,
Unruffled in his heart beneath it all.
No outward object now had farther power
To wound him there, for the brooding o'er those deeps
Of vast contrition was boundless hope.

Yet not to leave a human chance untried,
He sought the absolution of the Pope.
In a great hall with airy galleries,
Thronged with high dignitaries of the Church,
He took his seat amidst the humblest friars.
Through open windows came sweet garden smells,
Bright morning light, and twittered song of birds.
Around the hall flashed gold and sunlit gems,
And splendid wealth of color,-white-stoled priests,
And scarlet cardinals, and bishops clad
In violet vestments,-while beneath the shade
Of the high gallery huddled dusky shapes,
With faded, travel-tattered, sombre smocks,
And shaven heads, and girdles of coarse hemp;
Some, pilgrims penitent like Tannhauser;
Some, devotees to kiss the sacred feet.
The brassy blare of trumpets smote the air,
Shrill pipes and horns with swelling clamor came,
And through the doorway's wide-stretched tapestries
Passed the Pope's trumpeters and mace-bearers,
His vergers bearing slender silver wands,
Then mitred bishops, red-clad cardinals,
The stalwart Papal Guard with halberds raised,
And then, with white head crowned with gold ingemmed,
The vicar of the lowly Galilean,
Holding his pastoral rod of smooth-hewn wood,
With censer swung before and peacock fans
Waved constantly by pages, either side.
Attended thus, they bore him to his throne,
And priests and laymen fell upon their knees.
Then, after pause of brief and silent prayer,
The pilgrims singly through the hall defiled,
To kiss the borders of the papal skirts,
Smiting their foreheads on the paven stone;
Some silent, abject, some accusing them
Of venial sins in accents of remorse,
Craving his grace, and passing pardoned forth.
Sir Tannhauser came last, no need for him
To cry 'Peccavi,' and crook suppliant knees.
His gray head rather crushed than bowed, his face
Livid and wasted, his deep thoughtful eyes,
His tall gaunt form in those unseemly weeds,
Spake more than eloquence. His hollow voice
Brake silence, saying, 'I am Tannhauser.
For seven years I lived apart from men,
Within the Venusberg.' A horror seized
The assembled folk; some turbulently rose;
Some clamored, 'From the presence cast him forth!'
But the knight never ceased his steady gaze
Upon the Pope. At last,-'I have not spoken
To be condemned,' he said, 'by such as these.
Thou, spiritual Father, answer me.
Look thou upon me with the eyes of Christ.
Can I through expiation gain my shrift,
And work mine own redemption?' 'Insolent man!'
Thundered the outraged Pope, 'is this the tone
Wherewith thou dost parade thy loathsome sin?
Down on thy knees, and wallow on the earth!
Nay, rather go! there is no ray of hope,
No gleam, through cycles of eternity,
For the redemption of a soul like thine.
Yea, sooner shall my pastoral rod branch forth
In leaf and blossom, and green shoots of spring,
Than Christ will pardon thee.' And as he spoke,
He struck the rod upon the floor with force
That gave it entrance 'twixt two loosened tiles,
So that it stood, fast-rooted and alone.
The knight saw naught, he only heard his judge
Ring forth his curses, and the court cry out
'Anathema!' and loud, and blent therewith,
Derisive laughter in the very hall,
And a wild voice that thrilled through flesh and heart:
'ONCE BEING MINE, THOU ART FOREVER MINE!'
Half-mad he clasped both hands upon his brow,
Amidst the storm of voices, till they died,
And all was silence, save the reckless song
Of a young bird upon a twig without.
Then a defiant, ghastly face he raised,
And shrieked, ''T is false! I am no longer thine!'
And through the windows open to the park,
Rushed forth, beyond the sight and sound of men.

By church nor palace paused he, till he passed
All squares and streets, and crossed the bridge of stone,
And stood alone amidst the broad expanse
Of the Campagna, twinkling in the heat.
He knelt upon a knoll of turf, and snapped
The cord that held the cross about his neck,
And far from him the leaden burden flung.
'O God! I thank Thee, that my faith in Thee
Subsists at last, through all discouragements.
Between us must no type nor symbol stand,
No mediator, were he more divine
Than the incarnate Christ. All forms, all priests,
I part aside, and hold communion free
Beneath the empty sky of noon, with naught
Between my nothingness and thy high heavens-
Spirit with spirit. O, have mercy, God!
Cleanse me from lust and bitterness and pride,
Have mercy in accordance with my faith.'
Long time he lay upon the scorching grass,
With his face buried in the tangled weeds.
Ah! who can tell the struggles of his soul
Against its demons in that sacred hour,
The solitude, the anguish, the remorse?
When shadows long and thin lay on the ground,
Shivering with fever, helpless he arose,
But with a face divine, ineffable,
Such as we dream the face of Israel,
When the Lord's wrestling angel, at gray dawn,
Blessed him, and disappeared.
Upon the marsh,
All night, he wandered, striving to emerge
From the wild, pathless plain,-now limitless
And colorless beneath the risen moon;
Outstretching like a sea, with landmarks none,
Save broken aqueducts and parapets,
And ruined columns glinting 'neath the moon.
His dress was dank and clinging with the dew;
A thousand insects fluttered o'er his head,
With buzz and drone; unseen cicadas chirped
Among the long, rank grass, and far and near
The fire-flies flickered through the summer air.
Vague thoughts and gleams prophetic filled his brain.
'Ah, fool!' he mused, 'to look for help from men.
Had they the will to aid, they lack the power.
In mine own flesh and soul the sin had birth,
Through mine own anguish it must be atoned.
Our saviours are not saints and ministers,
But tear-strung women, children soft of heart,
Or fellow-sufferers, who, by some chance word,
Some glance of comfort, save us from despair.
These I have found, thank heaven! to strengthen trust
In mine own kind, when all the world grew dark.
Make me not proud in spirit, O my God!
Yea, in thy sight I am one mass of sin,
One black and foul corruption, yet I know
My frailty is exceeded by thy love.
Neither is this the slender straw of hope,
Whereto I, drowning, cling, but firm belief,
That fills my inmost soul with vast content.
As surely as the hollow faiths of old
Shriveled to dust before one ray of Truth,
So will these modern temples pass away,
Piled upon rotten doctrines, baseless forms,
And man will look in his own breast for help,
Yea, search for comfort his own inward reins,
Revere himself, and find the God within.
Patience and patience!' Through the sleepless night
He held such thoughts; at times before his eyes
Flashed glimpses of the Church that was to be,
Sublimely simple in the light serene
Of future ages; then the vision changed
To the Pope's hall, thronged with high priests, who hurled
Their curses on him. Staggering, he awoke
Unto the truth, and found himself alone,
Beneath the awful stars. When dawn's first chill
Crept though the shivering grass and heavy leaves,
Giddy and overcome, he fell and slept
Upon the dripping weeds, nor dreamed nor stirred,
Until the wide plain basked in noon's broad light.
He dragged his weary frame some paces more,
Unto a solitary herdsman's hut,
Which, in the vagueness of the moonlit night,
Was touched with lines of beauty, till it grew
Fair as the ruined works of ancient art,
Now squat and hideous with its wattled roof,
Decaying timbers, and loose door wide oped,
Half-fallen from the hinge. A drowsy man,
Bearded and burnt, in shepherd habit lay,
Stretched on the floor, slow-munching, half asleep,
His frugal fare; for thus, at blaze of noon,
The shepherds sought a shelter from the sun,
Leaving their vigilant dogs beside their flock.
The knight craved drink and bread, and with respect
For pilgrim weeds, the Roman herdsman stirred
His lazy length, and shared with him his meal.
Refreshed and calm, Sir Tannhauser passed forth,
Yearning with morbid fancy once again
To see the kind face of the minstrel boy
He met beside the well. At set of sun
He reached the place; the reaping-folk were gone,
The day's toil over, yet he took his seat.
A milking-girl with laden buckets full,
Came slowly from the pasture, paused and drank.
From a near cottage ran a ragged boy,
And filled his wooden pail, and to his home
Returned across the fields. A herdsman came,
And drank and gave his dog to drink, and passed,
Greeting the holy man who sat there still,
Awaiting. But his feeble pulse beat high
When he descried at last a youthful form,
Crossing the field, a pitcher on his head,
Advancing towards the well. Yea, this was he,
The same grave eyes, and open, girlish face.
But he saw not, amidst the landscape brown,
The knight's brown figure, who, to win his ear,
Asked the lad's name. 'My name is Salvator,
To serve you, sir,' he carelessly replied,
With eyes and hands intent upon his jar,
Brimming and bubbling. Then he cast one glance
Upon his questioner, and left the well,
Crying with keen and sudden sympathy,
'Good Father, pardon me, I knew you not.
Ah! you have travelled overmuch: your feet
Are grimed with mud and wet, your face is changed,
Your hands are dry with fever.' But the knight:
'Nay, as I look on thee, I think the Lord
Wills not that I should suffer any more.'
'Then you have suffered much,' sighed Salvator,
With wondering pity. 'You must come with me;
My father knows of you, I told him all.
A knight and minstrel who cast by his lyre,
His health and fame, to give himself to God,-
Yours is a life indeed to be desired!
If you will lie with us this night, our home
Will verily be blessed.' By kindness crushed,
Wandering in sense and words, the broken knight
Resisted naught, and let himself be led
To the boy's home. The outcast and accursed
Was welcomed now by kindly human hands;
Once more his blighted spirit was revived
By contact with refreshing innocence.
There, when the morning broke upon the world,
The humble hosts no longer knew their guest.
His fleshly weeds of sin forever doffed,
Tannhauser lay and smiled, for in the night
The angel came who brings eternal peace.
__________

Far into Wartburg, through all Italy,
In every town the Pope sent messengers,
Riding in furious haste; among them, one
Who bore a branch of dry wood burst in bloom;
The pastoral rod had borne green shoots of spring,
And leaf and blossom. God is merciful.

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Don Juan: Canto The Fifth

When amatory poets sing their loves
In liquid lines mellifluously bland,
And pair their rhymes as Venus yokes her doves,
They little think what mischief is in hand;
The greater their success the worse it proves,
As Ovid's verse may give to understand;
Even Petrarch's self, if judged with due severity,
Is the Platonic pimp of all posterity.

I therefore do denounce all amorous writing,
Except in such a way as not to attract;
Plain- simple- short, and by no means inviting,
But with a moral to each error tack'd,
Form'd rather for instructing than delighting,
And with all passions in their turn attack'd;
Now, if my Pegasus should not be shod ill,
This poem will become a moral model.

The European with the Asian shore
Sprinkled with palaces; the ocean stream
Here and there studded with a seventy-four;
Sophia's cupola with golden gleam;
The cypress groves; Olympus high and hoar;
The twelve isles, and the more than I could dream,
Far less describe, present the very view
Which charm'd the charming Mary Montagu.

I have a passion for the name of 'Mary,'
For once it was a magic sound to me;
And still it half calls up the realms of fairy,
Where I beheld what never was to be;
All feelings changed, but this was last to vary,
A spell from which even yet I am not quite free:
But I grow sad- and let a tale grow cold,
Which must not be pathetically told.

The wind swept down the Euxine, and the wave
Broke foaming o'er the blue Symplegades;
'T is a grand sight from off 'the Giant's Grave
To watch the progress of those rolling seas
Between the Bosphorus, as they lash and lave
Europe and Asia, you being quite at ease;
There 's not a sea the passenger e'er pukes in,
Turns up more dangerous breakers than the Euxine.

'T was a raw day of Autumn's bleak beginning,
When nights are equal, but not so the days;
The Parcae then cut short the further spinning
Of seamen's fates, and the loud tempests raise
The waters, and repentance for past sinning
In all, who o'er the great deep take their ways:
They vow to amend their lives, and yet they don't;
Because if drown'd, they can't- if spared, they won't.

A crowd of shivering slaves of every nation,
And age, and sex, were in the market ranged;
Each bevy with the merchant in his station:
Poor creatures! their good looks were sadly changed.
All save the blacks seem'd jaded with vexation,
From friends, and home, and freedom far estranged;
The negroes more philosophy display'd,-
Used to it, no doubt, as eels are to be flay'd.

Juan was juvenile, and thus was full,
As most at his age are, of hope and health;
Yet I must own he looked a little dull,
And now and then a tear stole down by stealth;
Perhaps his recent loss of blood might pull
His spirit down; and then the loss of wealth,
A mistress, and such comfortable quarters,
To be put up for auction amongst Tartars,

Were things to shake a stoic; ne'ertheless,
Upon the whole his carriage was serene:
His figure, and the splendour of his dress,
Of which some gilded remnants still were seen,
Drew all eyes on him, giving them to guess
He was above the vulgar by his mien;
And then, though pale, he was so very handsome;
And then- they calculated on his ransom.

Like a backgammon board the place was dotted
With whites and blacks, in groups on show for sale,
Though rather more irregularly spotted:
Some bought the jet, while others chose the pale.
It chanced amongst the other people lotted,
A man of thirty rather stout and hale,
With resolution in his dark grey eye,
Next Juan stood, till some might choose to buy.

He had an English look; that is, was square
In make, of a complexion white and ruddy,
Good teeth, with curling rather dark brown hair,
And, it might be from thought or toil or study,
An open brow a little mark'd with care:
One arm had on a bandage rather bloody;
And there he stood with such sang-froid, that greater
Could scarce be shown even by a mere spectator.

But seeing at his elbow a mere lad,
Of a high spirit evidently, though
At present weigh'd down by a doom which had
O'erthrown even men, he soon began to show
A kind of blunt compassion for the sad
Lot of so young a partner in the woe,
Which for himself he seem'd to deem no worse
Than any other scrape, a thing of course.

'My boy!' said he, 'amidst this motley crew
Of Georgians, Russians, Nubians, and what not,
All ragamuffins differing but in hue,
With whom it is our luck to cast our lot,
The only gentlemen seem I and you;
So let us be acquainted, as we ought:
If I could yield you any consolation,
'T would give me pleasure.- Pray, what is your nation?'

When Juan answer'd- 'Spanish!' he replied,
'I thought, in fact, you could not be a Greek;
Those servile dogs are not so proudly eyed:
Fortune has play'd you here a pretty freak,
But that 's her way with all men, till they 're tried;
But never mind,- she 'll turn, perhaps, next week;
She has served me also much the same as you,
Except that I have found it nothing new.'

'Pray, sir,' said Juan, 'if I may presume,
What brought you here?'- 'Oh! nothing very rare-
Six Tartars and a drag-chain.'- 'To this doom
But what conducted, if the question's fair,
Is that which I would learn.'- 'I served for some
Months with the Russian army here and there,
And taking lately, by Suwarrow's bidding,
A town, was ta'en myself instead of Widdin.'

'Have you no friends?'- 'I had- but, by God's blessing,
Have not been troubled with them lately. Now
I have answer'd all your questions without pressing,
And you an equal courtesy should show.'
'Alas!' said Juan, ''t were a tale distressing,
And long besides.'- 'Oh! if 't is really so,
You 're right on both accounts to hold your tongue;
A sad tale saddens doubly, when 't is long.

'But droop not: Fortune at your time of life,
Although a female moderately fickle,
Will hardly leave you (as she 's not your wife)
For any length of days in such a pickle.
To strive, too, with our fate were such a strife
As if the corn-sheaf should oppose the sickle:
Men are the sport of circumstances, when
The circumstances seem the sport of men.'

''T is not,' said Juan, 'for my present doom
I mourn, but for the past;- I loved a maid:'-
He paused, and his dark eye grew full of gloom;
A single tear upon his eyelash staid
A moment, and then dropp'd; 'but to resume,
'T is not my present lot, as I have said,
Which I deplore so much; for I have borne
Hardships which have the hardiest overworn,

'On the rough deep. But this last blow-' and here
He stopp'd again, and turn'd away his face.
'Ay,' quoth his friend, 'I thought it would appear
That there had been a lady in the case;
And these are things which ask a tender tear,
Such as I, too, would shed if in your place:
I cried upon my first wife's dying day,
And also when my second ran away:

'My third-'- 'Your third!' quoth Juan, turning round;
'You scarcely can be thirty: have you three?'
'No- only two at present above ground:
Surely 't is nothing wonderful to see
One person thrice in holy wedlock bound!'
'Well, then, your third,' said Juan; 'what did she?
She did not run away, too,- did she, sir?'
'No, faith.'- 'What then?'- 'I ran away from her.'

'You take things coolly, sir,' said Juan. 'Why,'
Replied the other, 'what can a man do?
There still are many rainbows in your sky,
But mine have vanish'd. All, when life is new,
Commence with feelings warm, and prospects high;
But time strips our illusions of their hue,
And one by one in turn, some grand mistake
Casts off its bright skin yearly like the snake.

''T is true, it gets another bright and fresh,
Or fresher, brighter; but the year gone through,
This skin must go the way, too, of all flesh,
Or sometimes only wear a week or two;-
Love 's the first net which spreads its deadly mesh;
Ambition, Avarice, Vengeance, Glory, glue
The glittering lime-twigs of our latter days,
Where still we flutter on for pence or praise.'

'All this is very fine, and may be true,'
Said Juan; 'but I really don't see how
It betters present times with me or you.'
'No?' quoth the other; 'yet you will allow
By setting things in their right point of view,
Knowledge, at least, is gain'd; for instance, now,
We know what slavery is, and our disasters
May teach us better to behave when masters.'

'Would we were masters now, if but to try
Their present lessons on our Pagan friends here,'
Said Juan,- swallowing a heart-burning sigh:
'Heaven help the scholar whom his fortune sends here!'
'Perhaps we shall be one day, by and by,'
Rejoin'd the other, when our bad luck mends here;
Meantime (yon old black eunuch seems to eye us)

'But after all, what is our present state?
'T is bad, and may be better- all men's lot:
Most men are slaves, none more so than the great,
To their own whims and passions, and what not;
Society itself, which should create
Kindness, destroys what little we had got:
To feel for none is the true social art
Of the world's stoics- men without a heart.'

Just now a black old neutral personage
Of the third sex stept up, and peering over
The captives, seem'd to mark their looks and age,
And capabilities, as to discover
If they were fitted for the purposed cage:
No lady e'er is ogled by a lover,
Horse by a blackleg, broadcloth by a tailor,
Fee by a counsel, felon by a jailor,

As is a slave by his intended bidder.
'T is pleasant purchasing our fellow-creatures;
And all are to be sold, if you consider
Their passions, and are dext'rous; some by features
Are bought up, others by a warlike leader,
Some by a place- as tend their years or natures;
The most by ready cash- but all have prices,
From crowns to kicks, according to their vices.

The eunuch, having eyed them o'er with care,
Turn'd to the merchant, and begun to bid
First but for one, and after for the pair;
They haggled, wrangled, swore, too- so they did!
As though they were in a mere Christian fair
Cheapening an ox, an ass, a lamb, or kid;
So that their bargain sounded like a battle
For this superior yoke of human cattle.

At last they settled into simple grumbling,
And pulling out reluctant purses, and
Turning each piece of silver o'er, and tumbling
Some down, and weighing others in their hand,
And by mistake sequins with paras jumbling,
Until the sum was accurately scann'd,
And then the merchant giving change, and signing
Receipts in full, began to think of dining.

I wonder if his appetite was good?
Or, if it were, if also his digestion?
Methinks at meals some odd thoughts might intrude,
And conscience ask a curious sort of question,
About the right divine how far we should
Sell flesh and blood. When dinner has opprest one,
I think it is perhaps the gloomiest hour
Which turns up out of the sad twenty-four.

Voltaire says 'No:' he tells you that Candide
Found life most tolerable after meals;
He 's wrong- unless man were a pig, indeed,
Repletion rather adds to what he feels,
Unless he 's drunk, and then no doubt he 's freed
From his own brain's oppression while it reels.
Of food I think with Philip's son, or rather
Ammon's (ill pleased with one world and one father);

I think with Alexander, that the act
Of eating, with another act or two,
Makes us feel our mortality in fact
Redoubled; when a roast and a ragout,
And fish, and soup, by some side dishes back'd,
Can give us either pain or pleasure, who
Would pique himself on intellects, whose use
Depends so much upon the gastric juice?

The other evening ('t was on Friday last)-
This is a fact and no poetic fable-
Just as my great coat was about me cast,
My hat and gloves still lying on the table,
I heard a shot- 't was eight o'clock scarce past-
And, running out as fast as I was able,
I found the military commandant
Stretch'd in the street, and able scarce to pant.

Poor fellow! for some reason, surely bad,
They had slain him with five slugs; and left him there
To perish on the pavement: so I had
Him borne into the house and up the stair,
And stripp'd and look'd to- But why should I ad
More circumstances? vain was every care;
The man was gone: in some Italian quarrel
Kill'd by five bullets from an old gun-barrel.

I gazed upon him, for I knew him well;
And though I have seen many corpses, never
Saw one, whom such an accident befell,
So calm; though pierced through stomach, heart, and liver,
He seem'd to sleep,- for you could scarcely tell
(As he bled inwardly, no hideous river
Of gore divulged the cause) that he was dead:
So as I gazed on him, I thought or said-

'Can this be death? then what is life or death?
Speak!' but he spoke not: 'Wake!' but still he slept:-
'But yesterday and who had mightier breath?
A thousand warriors by his word were kept
In awe: he said, as the centurion saith,
'Go,' and he goeth; 'come,' and forth he stepp'd.
The trump and bugle till he spake were dumb-
And now nought left him but the muffled drum.'

And they who waited once and worshipp'd- they
With their rough faces throng'd about the bed
To gaze once more on the commanding clay
Which for the last, though not the first, time bled:
And such an end! that he who many a day
Had faced Napoleon's foes until they fled,-
The foremost in the charge or in the sally,
Should now be butcher'd in a civic alley.

The scars of his old wounds were near his new,
Those honourable scars which brought him fame;
And horrid was the contrast to the view-
But let me quit the theme; as such things claim
Perhaps even more attention than is due
From me: I gazed (as oft I have gazed the same)
To try if I could wrench aught out of death
Which should confirm, or shake, or make a faith;

But it was all a mystery. Here we are,
And there we go:- but where? five bits of lead,
Or three, or two, or one, send very far!
And is this blood, then, form'd but to be shed?
Can every element our elements mar?
And air- earth- water- fire live- and we dead?
We whose minds comprehend all things? No more;
But let us to the story as before.

The purchaser of Juan and acquaintance
Bore off his bargains to a gilded boat,
Embark'd himself and them, and off they went thence
As fast as oars could pull and water float;
They look'd like persons being led to sentence,
Wondering what next, till the caique was brought
Up in a little creek below a wall
O'ertopp'd with cypresses, dark-green and tall.

Here their conductor tapping at the wicket
Of a small iron door, 't was open'd, and
He led them onward, first through a low thicket
Flank'd by large groves, which tower'd on either hand:
They almost lost their way, and had to pick it-
For night was dosing ere they came to land.
The eunuch made a sign to those on board,
Who row'd off, leaving them without a word.

As they were plodding on their winding way
Through orange bowers, and jasmine, and so forth
(Of which I might have a good deal to say,
There being no such profusion in the North
Of oriental plants, 'et cetera,'
But that of late your scribblers think it worth
Their while to rear whole hotbeds in their works
Because one poet travell'd 'mongst the Turks)-

As they were threading on their way, there came
Into Don Juan's head a thought, which he
Whisper'd to his companion:- 't was the same
Which might have then occurr'd to you or me.
'Methinks,' said he, 'it would be no great shame
If we should strike a stroke to set us free;
Let 's knock that old black fellow on the head,
And march away- 't were easier done than said.'

'Yes,' said the other, 'and when done, what then?
How get out? how the devil got we in?
And when we once were fairly out, and when
From Saint Bartholomew we have saved our skin,
To-morrow 'd see us in some other den,
And worse off than we hitherto have been;
Besides, I 'm hungry, and just now would take,
Like Esau, for my birthright a beef-steak.

'We must be near some place of man's abode;-
For the old negro's confidence in creeping,
With his two captives, by so queer a road,
Shows that he thinks his friends have not been sleeping;
A single cry would bring them all abroad:
'T is therefore better looking before leaping-
And there, you see, this turn has brought us through,
By Jove, a noble palace!- lighted too.'

It was indeed a wide extensive building
Which open'd on their view, and o'er the front
There seem'd to be besprent a deal of gilding
And various hues, as is the Turkish wont,-
A gaudy taste; for they are little skill'd in
The arts of which these lands were once the font:
Each villa on the Bosphorus looks a screen
New painted, or a pretty opera-scene.

And nearer as they came, a genial savour
Of certain stews, and roast-meats, and pilaus,
Things which in hungry mortals' eyes find favour,
Made Juan in his harsh intentions pause,
And put himself upon his good behaviour:
His friend, too, adding a new saving clause,
Said, 'In Heaven's name let's get some supper now,
And then I 'm with you, if you 're for a row.'

Some talk of an appeal unto some passion,
Some to men's feelings, others to their reason;
The last of these was never much the fashion,
For reason thinks all reasoning out of season.
Some speakers whine, and others lay the lash on,
But more or less continue still to tease on,
With arguments according to their 'forte;'
But no one dreams of ever being short.-

But I digress: of all appeals,- although
I grant the power of pathos, and of gold,
Of beauty, flattery, threats, a shilling,- no
Method 's more sure at moments to take hold
Of the best feelings of mankind, which grow
More tender, as we every day behold,
Than that all-softening, overpowering knell,
The tocsin of the soul- the dinner-bell.

Turkey contains no bells, and yet men dine;
And Juan and his friend, albeit they heard
No Christian knoll to table, saw no line
Of lackeys usher to the feast prepared,
Yet smelt roast-meat, beheld a huge fire shine,
And cooks in motion with their clean arms bared,
And gazed around them to the left and right
With the prophetic eye of appetite.

And giving up all notions of resistance,
They follow'd close behind their sable guide,
Who little thought that his own crack'd existence
Was on the point of being set aside:
He motion'd them to stop at some small distance,
And knocking at the gate, 't was open'd wide,
And a magnificent large hall display'd
The Asian pomp of Ottoman parade.

I won't describe; description is my forte,
But every fool describes in these bright days
His wondrous journey to some foreign court,
And spawns his quarto, and demands your praise-
Death to his publisher, to him 't is sport;
While Nature, tortured twenty thousand ways,
Resigns herself with exemplary patience
To guide-books, rhymes, tours, sketches, illustrations.

Along this hall, and up and down, some, squatted
Upon their hams, were occupied at chess;
Others in monosyllable talk chatted,
And some seem'd much in love with their own dress.
And divers smoked superb pipes decorated
With amber mouths of greater price or less;
And several strutted, others slept, and some
Prepared for supper with a glass of rum.

As the black eunuch enter'd with his brace
Of purchased Infidels, some raised their eyes
A moment without slackening from their pace;
But those who sate ne'er stirr'd in anywise:
One or two stared the captives in the face,
Just as one views a horse to guess his price;
Some nodded to the negro from their station,
But no one troubled him with conversation.

He leads them through the hall, and, without stopping,
On through a farther range of goodly rooms,
Splendid but silent, save in one, where, dropping,
A marble fountain echoes through the glooms
Of night which robe the chamber, or where popping
Some female head most curiously presumes
To thrust its black eyes through the door or lattice,
As wondering what the devil a noise that is.

Some faint lamps gleaming from the lofty walls
Gave light enough to hint their farther way,
But not enough to show the imperial halls,
In all the flashing of their full array;
Perhaps there 's nothing- I 'll not say appals,
But saddens more by night as well as day,
Than an enormous room without a soul
To break the lifeless splendour of the whole.

Two or three seem so little, one seems nothing:
In deserts, forests, crowds, or by the shore,
There solitude, we know, has her full growth in
The spots which were her realms for evermore;
But in a mighty hall or gallery, both in
More modern buildings and those built of yore,
A kind of death comes o'er us all alone,
Seeing what 's meant for many with but one.

A neat, snug study on a winter's night,
A book, friend, single lady, or a glass
Of claret, sandwich, and an appetite,
Are things which make an English evening pass;
Though certes by no means so grand a sight
As is a theatre lit up by gas.
I pass my evenings in long galleries solely,
And that 's the reason I 'm so melancholy.

Alas! man makes that great which makes him little:
I grant you in a church 't is very well:
What speaks of Heaven should by no means be brittle,
But strong and lasting, till no tongue can tell
Their names who rear'd it; but huge houses fit ill-
And huge tombs worse- mankind, since Adam fell:
Methinks the story of the tower of Babel
Might teach them this much better than I 'm able.

Babel was Nimrod's hunting-box, and then
A town of gardens, walls, and wealth amazing,
Where Nabuchadonosor, king of men,
Reign'd, till one summer's day he took to grazing,
And Daniel tamed the lions in their den,
The people's awe and admiration raising;
'T was famous, too, for Thisbe and for Pyramus,
And the calumniated queen Semiramis.

That injured Queen by chroniclers so coarse
Has been accused (I doubt not by conspiracy)
Of an improper friendship for her horse
(Love, like religion, sometimes runs to heresy):
This monstrous tale had probably its source
(For such exaggerations here and there I see)
In writing 'Courser' by mistake for 'Courier:'
I wish the case could come before a jury here.

But to resume,- should there be (what may not
Be in these days?) some infidels, who don't,
Because they can't find out the very spot
Of that same Babel, or because they won't
(Though Claudius Rich, Esquire, some bricks has got,
And written lately two memoirs upon't),
Believe the Jews, those unbelievers, who
Must be believed, though they believe not you,

Yet let them think that Horace has exprest
Shortly and sweetly the masonic folly
Of those, forgetting the great place of rest,
Who give themselves to architecture wholly;
We know where things and men must end at best:
A moral (like all morals) melancholy,
And 'Et sepulchri immemor struis domos'
Shows that we build when we should but entomb us.

At last they reach'd a quarter most retired,
Where echo woke as if from a long slumber;
Though full of all things which could be desired,
One wonder'd what to do with such a number
Of articles which nobody required;
Here wealth had done its utmost to encumber
With furniture an exquisite apartment,
Which puzzled Nature much to know what Art meant.

It seem'd, however, but to open on
A range or suite of further chambers, which
Might lead to heaven knows where; but in this one
The movables were prodigally rich:
Sofas 't was half a sin to sit upon,
So costly were they; carpets every stitch
Of workmanship so rare, they made you wish
You could glide o'er them like a golden fish.

The black, however, without hardly deigning
A glance at that which wrapt the slaves in wonder,
Trampled what they scarce trod for fear of staining,
As if the milky way their feet was under
With all its stars; and with a stretch attaining
A certain press or cupboard niched in yonder-
In that remote recess which you may see-
Or if you don't the fault is not in me,-

I wish to be perspicuous; and the black,
I say, unlocking the recess, pull'd forth
A quantity of clothes fit for the back
Of any Mussulman, whate'er his worth;
And of variety there was no lack-
And yet, though I have said there was no dearth,
He chose himself to point out what he thought
Most proper for the Christians he had bought.

The suit he thought most suitable to each
Was, for the elder and the stouter, first
A Candiote cloak, which to the knee might reach,
And trousers not so tight that they would burst,
But such as fit an Asiatic breech;
A shawl, whose folds in Cashmire had been nurst,
Slippers of saffron, dagger rich and handy;
In short, all things which form a Turkish Dandy.

While he was dressing, Baba, their black friend,
Hinted the vast advantages which they
Might probably attain both in the end,
If they would but pursue the proper way
Which fortune plainly seem'd to recommend;
And then he added, that he needs must say,
''T would greatly tend to better their condition,
If they would condescend to circumcision.

'For his own part, he really should rejoice
To see them true believers, but no less
Would leave his proposition to their choice.'
The other, thanking him for this excess
Of goodness, in thus leaving them a voice
In such a trifle, scarcely could express
'Sufficiently' (he said) 'his approbation
Of all the customs of this polish'd nation.

'For his own share- he saw but small objection
To so respectable an ancient rite;
And, after swallowing down a slight refection,
For which he own'd a present appetite,
He doubted not a few hours of reflection
Would reconcile him to the business quite.'
'Will it?' said Juan, sharply: 'Strike me dead,
But they as soon shall circumcise my head!

'Cut off a thousand heads, before-'- 'Now, pray,'
Replied the other, 'do not interrupt:
You put me out in what I had to say.
Sir!- as I said, as soon as I have supt,
I shall perpend if your proposal may
Be such as I can properly accept;
Provided always your great goodness still
Remits the matter to our own free-will.'

Baba eyed Juan, and said, 'Be so good
As dress yourself-' and pointed out a suit
In which a Princess with great pleasure would
Array her limbs; but Juan standing mute,
As not being in a masquerading mood,
Gave it a slight kick with his Christian foot;
And when the old negro told him to 'Get ready,'
Replied, 'Old gentleman, I 'm not a lady.'

'What you may be, I neither know nor care,'
Said Baba; 'but pray do as I desire:
I have no more time nor many words to spare.'
'At least,' said Juan, 'sure I may enquire
The cause of this odd travesty?'- 'Forbear,'
Said Baba, 'to be curious; 't will transpire,
No doubt, in proper place, and time, and season:
I have no authority to tell the reason.'

'Then if I do,' said Juan, 'I 'll be-'- 'Hold!'
Rejoin'd the negro, 'pray be not provoking;
This spirit 's well, but it may wax too bold,
And you will find us not top fond of joking.'
'What, sir!' said Juan, 'shall it e'er be told
That I unsex'd my dress?' But Baba, stroking
The things down, said, 'Incense me, and I call
Those who will leave you of no sex at all.

'I offer you a handsome suit of clothes:
A woman's, true; but then there is a cause
Why you should wear them.'- 'What, though my soul loathes
The effeminate garb?'- thus, after a short pause,
Sigh'd Juan, muttering also some slight oaths,
'What the devil shall I do with all this gauze?'
Thus he profanely term'd the finest lace
Which e'er set off a marriage-morning face.

And then he swore; and, sighing, on he slipp'd
A pair of trousers of flesh-colour'd silk;
Next with a virgin zone he was equipp'd,
Which girt a slight chemise as white as milk;
But tugging on his petticoat, he tripp'd,
Which- as we say- or, as the Scotch say, whilk
(The rhyme obliges me to this; sometimes
Monarchs are less imperative than rhymes)-

Whilk, which (or what you please), was owing to
His garment's novelty, and his being awkward:
And yet at last he managed to get through
His toilet, though no doubt a little backward:
The negro Baba help'd a little too,
When some untoward part of raiment stuck hard;
And, wrestling both his arms into a gown,
He paused, and took a survey up and down.

One difficulty still remain'd- his hair
Was hardly long enough; but Baba found
So many false long tresses all to spare,
That soon his head was most completely crown'd,
After the manner then in fashion there;
And this addition with such gems was bound
As suited the ensemble of his toilet,
While Baba made him comb his head and oil it.

And now being femininely all array'd,
With some small aid from scissors, paint, and tweezers,
He look'd in almost all respects a maid,
And Baba smilingly exclaim'd, 'You see, sirs,
A perfect transformation here display'd;
And now, then, you must come along with me, sirs,
That is- the Lady:' clapping his hands twice,
Four blacks were at his elbow in a trice.

'You, sir,' said Baba, nodding to the one,
'Will please to accompany those gentlemen
To supper; but you, worthy Christian nun,
Will follow me: no trifling, sir; for when
I say a thing, it must at once be done.
What fear you? think you this a lion's den?
Why, 't is a palace; where the truly wise
Anticipate the Prophet's paradise.

'You fool! I tell you no one means you harm.'
'So much the better,' Juan said, 'for them;
Else they shall feel the weight of this my arm,
Which is not quite so light as you may deem.
I yield thus far; but soon will break the charm
If any take me for that which I seem:
So that I trust for everybody's sake,
That this disguise may lead to no mistake.'

'Blockhead! come on, and see,' quoth Baba; while
Don Juan, turning to his comrade, who
Though somewhat grieved, could scarce forbear a smile
Upon the metamorphosis in view,-
'Farewell!' they mutually exclaim'd: 'this soil
Seems fertile in adventures strange and new;
One 's turn'd half Mussulman, and one a maid,
By this old black enchanter's unsought aid.'

'Farewell!' said Juan: 'should we meet no more,
I wish you a good appetite.'- 'Farewell!'
Replied the other; 'though it grieves me sore;
When we next meet we 'll have a tale to tell:
We needs must follow when Fate puts from shore.
Keep your good name; though Eve herself once fell.'
'Nay,' quoth the maid, 'the Sultan's self shan't carry me,
Unless his highness promises to marry me.

And thus they parted, each by separate doors;
Baba led Juan onward room by room
Through glittering galleries and o'er marble floors,
Till a gigantic portal through the gloom,
Haughty and huge, along the distance lowers;
And wafted far arose a rich perfume:
It seem'd as though they came upon a shrine,
For all was vast, still, fragrant, and divine.

The giant door was broad, and bright, and high,
Of gilded bronze, and carved in curious guise;
Warriors thereon were battling furiously;
Here stalks the victor, there the vanquish'd lies;
There captives led in triumph droop the eye,
And in perspective many a squadron flies:
It seems the work of times before the line
Of Rome transplanted fell with Constantine.

This massy portal stood at the wide close
Of a huge hall, and on its either side
Two little dwarfs, the least you could suppose,
Were sate, like ugly imps, as if allied
In mockery to the enormous gate which rose
O'er them in almost pyramidic pride:
The gate so splendid was in all its features,
You never thought about those little creatures,

Until you nearly trod on them, and then
You started back in horror to survey
The wondrous hideousness of those small men,
Whose colour was not black, nor white, nor grey,
But an extraneous mixture, which no pen
Can trace, although perhaps the pencil may;
They were mis-shapen pigmies, deaf and dumb-
Monsters, who cost a no less monstrous sum.

Their duty was- for they were strong, and though
They look'd so little, did strong things at times-
To ope this door, which they could really do,
The hinges being as smooth as Rogers' rhymes;
And now and then, with tough strings of the bow,
As is the custom of those Eastern climes,
To give some rebel Pacha a cravat;
For mutes are generally used for that.

They spoke by signs- that is, not spoke at all;
And looking like two incubi, they glared
As Baba with his fingers made them fall
To heaving back the portal folds: it scared
Juan a moment, as this pair so small
With shrinking serpent optics on him stared;
It was as if their little looks could poison
Or fascinate whome'er they fix'd their eyes on.

Before they enter'd, Baba paused to hint
To Juan some slight lessons as his guide:
'If you could just contrive,' he said, 'to stint
That somewhat manly majesty of stride,
'T would be as well, and (though there 's not much in 't)
To swing a little less from side to side,
Which has at times an aspect of the oddest;-
And also could you look a little modest,

''T would be convenient; for these mutes have eyes
Like needles, which may pierce those petticoats;
And if they should discover your disguise,
You know how near us the deep Bosphorus floats;
And you and I may chance, ere morning rise,
To find our way to Marmora without boats,
Stitch'd up in sacks- a mode of navigation
A good deal practised here upon occasion.'

With this encouragement, he led the way
Into a room still nobler than the last;
A rich confusion form'd a disarray
In such sort, that the eye along it cast
Could hardly carry anything away,
Object on object flash'd so bright and fast;
A dazzling mass of gems, and gold, and glitter,
Magnificently mingled in a litter.

Wealth had done wonders- taste not much; such things
Occur in Orient palaces, and even
In the more chasten'd domes of Western kings
(Of which I have also seen some six or seven),
Where I can't say or gold or diamond flings
Great lustre, there is much to be forgiven;
Groups of bad statues, tables, chairs, and pictures,
On which I cannot pause to make my strictures.

In this imperial hall, at distance lay
Under a canopy, and there reclined
Quite in a confidential queenly way,
A lady; Baba stopp'd, and kneeling sign'd
To Juan, who though not much used to pray,
Knelt down by instinct, wondering in his mind,
What all this meant: while Baba bow'd and bended
His head, until the ceremony ended.

The lady rising up with such an air
As Venus rose with from the wave, on them
Bent like an antelope a Paphian pair
Of eyes, which put out each surrounding gem;
And raising up an arm as moonlight fair,
She sign'd to Baba, who first kiss'd the hem
Of her deep purple robe, and speaking low,
Pointed to Juan who remain'd below.

Her presence was as lofty as her state;
Her beauty of that overpowering kind,
Whose force description only would abate:
I 'd rather leave it much to your own mind,
Than lessen it by what I could relate
Of forms and features; it would strike you blind
Could I do justice to the full detail;
So, luckily for both, my phrases fail.

Thus much however I may add,- her years
Were ripe, they might make six-and-twenty springs;
But there are forms which Time to touch forbears,
And turns aside his scythe to vulgar things,
Such as was Mary's Queen of Scots; true- tears
And love destroy; and sapping sorrow wrings
Charms from the charmer, yet some never grow
Ugly; for instance- Ninon de l'Enclos.

She spake some words to her attendants, who
Composed a choir of girls, ten or a dozen,
And were all clad alike; like Juan, too,
Who wore their uniform, by Baba chosen;
They form'd a very nymph-like looking crew,
Which might have call'd Diana's chorus 'cousin,'
As far as outward show may correspond;
I won't be bail for anything beyond.

They bow'd obeisance and withdrew, retiring,
But not by the same door through which came in
Baba and Juan, which last stood admiring,
At some small distance, all he saw within
This strange saloon, much fitted for inspiring
Marvel and praise; for both or none things win;
And I must say, I ne'er could see the very
Great happiness of the 'Nil Admirari.'

'Not to admire is all the art I know
(Plain truth, dear Murray, needs few flowers of speech)
To make men happy, or to keep them so'
(So take it in the very words of Creech)-
Thus Horace wrote we all know long ago;
And thus Pope quotes the precept to re-teach
From his translation; but had none admired,
Would Pope have sung, or Horace been inspired?

Baba, when all the damsels were withdrawn,
Motion'd to Juan to approach, and then
A second time desired him to kneel down,
And kiss the lady's foot; which maxim when
He heard repeated, Juan with a frown
Drew himself up to his full height again,
And said, 'It grieved him, but he could not stoop
To any shoe, unless it shod the Pope.'

Baba, indignant at this ill-timed pride,
Made fierce remonstrances, and then a threat
He mutter'd (but the last was given aside)
About a bow-string- quite in vain; not yet
Would Juan bend, though 't were to Mahomet's bride:
There 's nothing in the world like etiquette
In kingly chambers or imperial halls,
As also at the race and county balls.

He stood like Atlas, with a world of words
About his ears, and nathless would not bend:
The blood of all his line 's Castilian lords
Boil'd in his veins, and rather than descend
To stain his pedigree a thousand swords
A thousand times of him had made an end;
At length perceiving the 'foot' could not stand,
Baba proposed that he should kiss the hand.

Here was an honourable compromise,
A half-way house of diplomatic rest,
Where they might meet in much more peaceful guise;
And Juan now his willingness exprest
To use all fit and proper courtesies,
Adding, that this was commonest and best,
For through the South the custom still commands
The gentleman to kiss the lady's hands.

And he advanced, though with but a bad grace,
Though on more thorough-bred or fairer fingers
No lips e'er left their transitory trace;
On such as these the lip too fondly lingers,
And for one kiss would fain imprint a brace,
As you will see, if she you love shall bring hers
In contact; and sometimes even a fair stranger's
An almost twelvemonth's constancy endangers.

The lady eyed him o'er and o'er, and bade
Baba retire, which he obey'd in style,
As if well used to the retreating trade;
And taking hints in good part all the while,
He whisper'd Juan not to be afraid,
And looking on him with a sort of smile,
Took leave, with such a face of satisfaction
As good men wear who have done a virtuous action.

When he was gone, there was a sudden change:
I know not what might be the lady's thought,
But o'er her bright brow flash'd a tumult strange,
And into her dear cheek the blood was brought,
Blood-red as sunset summer clouds which range
The verge of Heaven; and in her large eyes wrought,
A mixture of sensations might be scann'd,
Of half voluptuousness and half command.

Her form had all the softness of her sex,
Her features all the sweetness of the devil,
When he put on the cherub to perplex
Eve, and paved (God knows how) the road to evil;
The sun himself was scarce more free from specks
Than she from aught at which the eye could cavil;
Yet, somehow, there was something somewhere wanting,
As if she rather order'd than was granting.

Something imperial, or imperious, threw
A chain o'er all she did; that is, a chain
Was thrown as 't were about the neck of you,-
And rapture's self will seem almost a pain
With aught which looks like despotism in view:
Our souls at least are free, and 't is in vain
We would against them make the flesh obey-
The spirit in the end will have its way.

Her very smile was haughty, though so sweet;
Her very nod was not an inclination;
There was a self-will even in her small feet,
As though they were quite conscious of her station-
They trod as upon necks; and to complete
Her state (it is the custom of her nation),
A poniard deck'd her girdle, as the sign
She was a sultan's bride (thank Heaven, not mine!).

'To hear and to obey' had been from birth
The law of all around her; to fulfill
All phantasies which yielded joy or mirth,
Had been her slaves' chief pleasure, as her will;
Her blood was high, her beauty scarce of earth:
Judge, then, if her caprices e'er stood still;
Had she but been a Christian, I 've a notion
We should have found out the 'perpetual motion.'

Whate'er she saw and coveted was brought;
Whate'er she did not see, if she supposed
It might be seen, with diligence was sought,
And when 't was found straightway the bargain closed;
There was no end unto the things she bought,
Nor to the trouble which her fancies caused;
Yet even her tyranny had such a grace,
The women pardon'd all except her face.

Juan, the latest of her whims, had caught
Her eye in passing on his way to sale;
She order'd him directly to be bought,
And Baba, who had ne'er been known to fail
In any kind of mischief to be wrought,
At all such auctions knew how to prevail:
She had no prudence, but he had; and this
Explains the garb which Juan took amiss.

His youth and features favour'd the disguise,
And, should you ask how she, a sultan's bride,
Could risk or compass such strange phantasies,
This I must leave sultanas to decide:
Emperors are only husbands in wives' eyes,
And kings and consorts oft are mystified,
As we may ascertain with due precision,
Some by experience, others by tradition.

But to the main point, where we have been tending:-
She now conceived all difficulties past,
And deem'd herself extremely condescending
When, being made her property at last,
Without more preface, in her blue eyes blending
Passion and power, a glance on him she cast,
And merely saying, 'Christian, canst thou love?'
Conceived that phrase was quite enough to move

And so it was, in proper time and place;
But Juan, who had still his mind o'erflowing
With Haidee's isle and soft Ionian face,
Felt the warm blood, which in his face was glowing,
Rush back upon his heart, which fill'd apace,
And left his cheeks as pale as snowdrops blowing;
These words went through his soul like Arab-spears,
So that he spoke not, but burst into tears.

She was a good deal shock'd; not shock'd at tears,
For women shed and use them at their liking;
But there is something when man's eye appears
Wet, still more disagreeable and striking;
A woman's tear-drop melts, a man's half sears,
Like molten lead, as if you thrust a pike in
His heart to force it out, for (to be shorter)
To them 't is a relief, to us a torture.

And she would have consoled, but knew not how:
Having no equals, nothing which had e'er
Infected her with sympathy till now,
And never having dreamt what 't was to bear
Aught of a serious, sorrowing kind, although
There might arise some pouting petty care
To cross her brow, she wonder'd how so near
Her eyes another's eye could shed a tear.

But nature teaches more than power can spoil,
And, when a strong although a strange sensation
Moves- female hearts are such a genial soil
For kinder feelings, whatsoe'er their nation,
They naturally pour the 'wine and oil,'
Samaritans in every situation;
And thus Gulbeyaz, though she knew not why,
Felt an odd glistening moisture in her eye.

But tears must stop like all things else; and soon
Juan, who for an instant had been moved
To such a sorrow by the intrusive tone
Of one who dared to ask if 'he had loved,'
Call'd back the stoic to his eyes, which shone
Bright with the very weakness he reproved;
And although sensitive to beauty, he
Felt most indignant still at not being free.

Gulbeyaz, for the first time in her days,
Was much embarrass'd, never having met
In all her life with aught save prayers and praise;
And as she also risk'd her life to get
Him whom she meant to tutor in love's ways
Into a comfortable tete-a-tete,
To lose the hour would make her quite a martyr,
And they had wasted now almost a quarter.

I also would suggest the fitting time
To gentlemen in any such like case,
That is to say in a meridian clime-
With us there is more law given to the chase,
But here a small delay forms a great crime:
So recollect that the extremest grace
Is just two minutes for your declaration-
A moment more would hurt your reputation.

Juan's was good; and might have been still better,
But he had got Haidee into his head:
However strange, he could not yet forget her,
Which made him seem exceedingly ill-bred.
Gulbeyaz, who look'd on him as her debtor
For having had him to her palace led,
Began to blush up to the eyes, and then
Grow deadly pale, and then blush back again.

At length, in an imperial way, she laid
Her hand on his, and bending on him eyes
Which needed not an empire to persuade,
Look'd into his for love, where none replies:
Her brow grew black, but she would not upbraid,
That being the last thing a proud woman tries;
She rose, and pausing one chaste moment, threw
Herself upon his breast, and there she grew.

This was an awkward test, as Juan found,
But he was steel'd by sorrow, wrath, and pride:
With gentle force her white arms he unwound,
And seated her all drooping by his side,
Then rising haughtily he glanced around,
And looking coldly in her face, he cried,
'The prison'd eagle will not pair, nor
Serve a Sultana's sensual phantasy.

'Thou ask'st if I can love? be this the proof
How much I have loved- that I love not thee!
In this vile garb, the distaff, web, and woof,
Were fitter for me: Love is for the free!
I am not dazzled by this splendid roof,
Whate'er thy power, and great it seems to be;
Heads bow, knees bend, eyes watch around a throne,
And hands obey- our hearts are still our own.'

This was a truth to us extremely trite;
Not so to her, who ne'er had heard such things:
She deem'd her least command must yield delight,
Earth being only made for queens and kings.
If hearts lay on the left side or the right
She hardly knew, to such perfection brings
Legitimacy its born votaries, when
Aware of their due royal rights o'er men.

Besides, as has been said, she was so fair
As even in a much humbler lot had made
A kingdom or confusion anywhere,
And also, as may be presumed, she laid
Some stress on charms, which seldom are, if e'er,
By their possessors thrown into the shade:
She thought hers gave a double 'right divine;'
And half of that opinion 's also mine.

Remember, or (if you can not) imagine,
Ye, who have kept your chastity when young,
While some more desperate dowager has been waging
Love with you, and been in the dog-days stung
By your refusal, recollect her raging!
Or recollect all that was said or sung
On such a subject; then suppose the face
Of a young downright beauty in this case.

Suppose,- but you already have supposed,
The spouse of Potiphar, the Lady Booby,
Phaedra, and all which story has disclosed
Of good examples; pity that so few by
Poets and private tutors are exposed,
To educate- ye youth of Europe- you by!
But when you have supposed the few we know,
You can't suppose Gulbeyaz' angry brow.

A tigress robb'd of young, a lioness,
Or any interesting beast of prey,
Are similes at hand for the distress
Of ladies who can not have their own way;
But though my turn will not be served with less,
These don't express one half what I should say:
For what is stealing young ones, few or many,
To cutting short their hopes of having any?

The love of offspring 's nature's general law,
From tigresses and cubs to ducks and ducklings;
There 's nothing whets the beak, or arms the claw
Like an invasion of their babes and sucklings;
And all who have seen a human nursery, saw
How mothers love their children's squalls and chucklings;
This strong extreme effect (to tire no longer
Your patience) shows the cause must still be stronger.

If I said fire flash'd from Gulbeyaz' eyes,
'T were nothing- for her eyes flash'd always fire;
Or said her cheeks assumed the deepest dyes,
I should but bring disgrace upon the dyer,
So supernatural was her passion's rise;
For ne'er till now she knew a check'd desire:
Even ye who know what a check'd woman is
(Enough, God knows!) would much fall short of this.

Her rage was but a minute's, and 't was well-
A moment's more had slain her; but the while
It lasted 't was like a short glimpse of hell:
Nought 's more sublime than energetic bile,
Though horrible to see yet grand to tell,
Like ocean warring 'gainst a rocky isle;
And the deep passions flashing through her form
Made her a beautiful embodied storm.

A vulgar tempest 't were to a typhoon
To match a common fury with her rage,
And yet she did not want to reach the moon,
Like moderate Hotspur on the immortal page;
Her anger pitch'd into a lower tune,
Perhaps the fault of her soft sex and age-
Her wish was but to 'kill, kill, kill,' like Lear's,
And then her thirst of blood was quench'd in tears.

A storm it raged, and like the storm it pass'd,
Pass'd without words- in fact she could not speak;
And then her sex's shame broke in at last,
A sentiment till then in her but weak,
But now it flow'd in natural and fast,
As water through an unexpected leak;
For she felt humbled- and humiliation
Is sometimes good for people in her station

It teaches them that they are flesh and blood,
It also gently hints to them that others,
Although of clay, are yet not quite of mud;
That urns and pipkins are but fragile brothers,
And works of the same pottery, bad or good,
Though not all born of the same sires and mothers:
It teaches- Heaven knows only what it teaches,
But sometimes it may mend, and often reaches.

Her first thought was to cut off Juan's head;
Her second, to cut only his- acquaintance;
Her third, to ask him where he had been bred;
Her fourth, to rally him into repentance;
Her fifth, to call her maids and go to bed;
Her sixth, to stab herself; her seventh, to sentence
The lash to Baba:- but her grand resource
Was to sit down again, and cry of course.

She thought to stab herself, but then she had
The dagger close at hand, which made it awkward;
For Eastern stays are little made to pad,
So that a poniard pierces if 't is stuck hard:
She thought of killing Juan- but, poor lad!
Though he deserved it well for being so backward,
The cutting off his head was not the art
Most likely to attain her aim- his heart.

Juan was moved; he had made up his mind
To be impaled, or quarter'd as a dish
For dogs, or to be slain with pangs refined,
Or thrown to lions, or made baits for fish,
And thus heroically stood resign'd,
Rather than sin- except to his own wish:
But all his great preparatives for dying
Dissolved like snow before a woman crying.

As through his palms Bob Acres' valour oozed,
So Juan's virtue ebb'd, I know not how;
And first he wonder'd why he had refused;
And then, if matters could be made up now;
And next his savage virtue he accused,
Just as a friar may accuse his vow,
Or as a dame repents her of her oath,
Which mostly ends in some small breach of both.

So he began to stammer some excuses;
But words are not enough in such a matter,
Although you borrow'd all that e'er the muses
Have sung, or even a Dandy's dandiest chatter,
Or all the figures Castlereagh abuses;
Just as a languid smile began to flatter
His peace was making, but before he ventured
Further, old Baba rather briskly enter'd.

'Bride of the Sun! and Sister of the Moon!'
('T was thus he spake) 'and Empress of the Earth!
Whose frown would put the spheres all out of tune,
Whose smile makes all the planets dance with mirth,
Your slave brings tidings- he hopes not too soon-
Which your sublime attention may be worth:
The Sun himself has sent me like a ray,
To hint that he is coming up this way.'

'Is it,' exclaim'd Gulbeyaz, 'as you say?
I wish to heaven he would not shine till morning!
But bid my women form the milky way.
Hence, my old comet! give the stars due warning-
And, Christian! mingle with them as you may,
And as you 'd have me pardon your past scorning-'
Here they were interrupted by a humming
Sound, and then by a cry, 'The Sultan 's coming!'

First came her damsels, a decorous file,
And then his Highness' eunuchs, black and white;
The train might reach a quarter of a mile:
His majesty was always so polite
As to announce his visits a long while
Before he came, especially at night;
For being the last wife of the Emperour,
She was of course the favorite of the four.

His Highness was a man of solemn port,
Shawl'd to the nose, and bearded to the eyes,
Snatch'd from a prison to preside at court,
His lately bowstrung brother caused his rise;
He was as good a sovereign of the sort
As any mention'd in the histories
Of Cantemir, or Knolles, where few shine
Save Solyman, the glory of their line.

He went to mosque in state, and said his prayers
With more than 'Oriental scrupulosity;'
He left to his vizier all state affairs,
And show'd but little royal curiosity:
I know not if he had domestic cares-
No process proved connubial animosity;
Four wives and twice five hundred maids, unseen,
Were ruled as calmly as a Christian queen.

If now and then there happen'd a slight slip,
Little was heard of criminal or crime;
The story scarcely pass'd a single lip-
The sack and sea had settled all in time,
From which the secret nobody could rip:
The Public knew no more than does this rhyme;
No scandals made the daily press a curse-
Morals were better, and the fish no worse.

He saw with his own eyes the moon was round,
Was also certain that the earth was square,
Because he had journey'd fifty miles, and found
No sign that it was circular anywhere;
His empire also was without a bound:
'T is true, a little troubled here and there,
By rebel pachas, and encroaching giaours,
But then they never came to 'the Seven Towers;'

Except in shape of envoys, who were sent
To lodge there when a war broke out, according
To the true law of nations, which ne'er meant
Those scoundrels, who have never had a sword in
Their dirty diplomatic hands, to vent
Their spleen in making strife, and safely wording
Their lies, yclep'd despatches, without risk or
The singeing of a single inky whisker.

He had fifty daughters and four dozen sons,
Of whom all such as came of age were stow'd,
The former in a palace, where like nuns
They lived till some Bashaw was sent abroad,
When she, whose turn it was, was wed at once,
Sometimes at six years old- though it seems odd,
'T is true; the reason is, that the Bashaw
Must make a present to his sire in law.

His sons were kept in prison, till they grew
Of years to fill a bowstring or the throne,
One or the other, but which of the two
Could yet be known unto the fates alone;
Meantime the education they went through
Was princely, as the proofs have always shown:
So that the heir apparent still was found
No less deserving to be hang'd than crown'd.

His majesty saluted his fourth spouse
With all the ceremonies of his rank,
Who clear'd her sparkling eyes and smooth'd her brows,
As suits a matron who has play'd a prank;
These must seem doubly mindful of their vows,
To save the credit of their breaking bank:
To no men are such cordial greetings given
As those whose wives have made them fit for heaven.

His Highness cast around his great black eyes,
And looking, as he always look'd, perceived
Juan amongst the damsels in disguise,
At which he seem'd no whit surprised nor grieved,
But just remark'd with air sedate and wise,
While still a fluttering sigh Gulbeyaz heaved,
'I see you 've bought another girl; 't is pity
That a mere Christian should be half so pretty.'

This compliment, which drew all eyes upon
The new-bought virgin, made her blush and shake.
Her comrades, also, thought themselves undone:
Oh! Mahomet! that his majesty should take
Such notice of a giaour, while scarce to one
Of them his lips imperial ever spake!
There was a general whisper, toss, and wriggle,
But etiquette forbade them all to giggle.

The Turks do well to shut- at least, sometimes-
The women up, because, in sad reality,
Their chastity in these unhappy climes
Is not a thing of that astringent quality
Which in the North prevents precocious crimes,
And makes our snow less pure than our morality;
The sun, which yearly melts the polar ice,
Has quite the contrary effect on vice.

Thus in the East they are extremely strict,
And Wedlock and a Padlock mean the same;
Excepting only when the former 's pick'd
It ne'er can be replaced in proper frame;
Spoilt, as a pipe of claret is when prick'd:
But then their own Polygamy 's to blame;
Why don't they knead two virtuous souls for life
Into that moral centaur, man and wife?

Thus far our chronicle; and now we pause,
Though not for want of matter; but 't is time
According to the ancient epic laws,
To slacken sail, and anchor with our rhyme.
Let this fifth canto meet with due applause,
The sixth shall have a touch of the sublime;
Meanwhile, as Homer sometimes sleeps, perhaps
You 'll pardon to my muse a few short naps.

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Confessio Amantis. Explicit Liber Quintus

Incipit Liber Sextus

Est gula, que nostrum maculavit prima parentem
Ex vetito pomo, quo dolet omnis homo
Hec agit, ut corpus anime contraria spirat,
Quo caro fit crassa, spiritus atque macer.
Intus et exterius si que virtutis habentur,
Potibus ebrietas conviciata ruit.
Mersa sopore labis, que Bachus inebriat hospes,
Indignata Venus oscula raro premit.

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The grete Senne original,
Which every man in general
Upon his berthe hath envenymed,
In Paradis it was mystymed:
Whan Adam of thilke Appel bot,
His swete morscel was to hot,
Which dedly made the mankinde.
And in the bokes as I finde,
This vice, which so out of rule
Hath sette ous alle, is cleped Gule;
Of which the branches ben so grete,
That of hem alle I wol noght trete,
Bot only as touchende of tuo
I thenke speke and of no mo;
Wherof the ferste is Dronkeschipe,
Which berth the cuppe felaschipe.
Ful many a wonder doth this vice,
He can make of a wisman nyce,
And of a fool, that him schal seme
That he can al the lawe deme,
And yiven every juggement
Which longeth to the firmament
Bothe of the sterre and of the mone;
And thus he makth a gret clerk sone
Of him that is a lewed man.
Ther is nothing which he ne can,
Whil he hath Dronkeschipe on honde,
He knowth the See, he knowth the stronde,
He is a noble man of armes,
And yit no strengthe is in his armes:
Ther he was strong ynouh tofore,
With Dronkeschipe it is forlore,
And al is changed his astat,
And wext anon so fieble and mat,
That he mai nouther go ne come,
Bot al togedre him is benome
The pouer bothe of hond and fot,
So that algate abide he mot.
And alle hise wittes he foryet,
The which is to him such a let,
That he wot nevere what he doth,
Ne which is fals, ne which is soth,
Ne which is dai, ne which is nyht,
And for the time he knowth no wyht,
That he ne wot so moche as this,
What maner thing himselven is,
Or he be man, or he be beste.
That holde I riht a sori feste,
Whan he that reson understod
So soudeinliche is woxe wod,
Or elles lich the dede man,
Which nouther go ne speke can.
Thus ofte he is to bedde broght,
Bot where he lith yit wot he noght,
Til he arise upon the morwe;
And thanne he seith, 'O, which a sorwe
It is a man be drinkeles!'
So that halfdrunke in such a res
With dreie mouth he sterte him uppe,
And seith, 'Nou baillez a the cuppe.'
That made him lese his wit at eve
Is thanne a morwe al his beleve;
The cuppe is al that evere him pleseth,
And also that him most deseseth;
It is the cuppe whom he serveth,
Which alle cares fro him kerveth
And alle bales to him bringeth:
In joie he wepth, in sorwe he singeth,
For Dronkeschipe is so divers,
It may no whyle stonde in vers.
He drinkth the wyn, bot ate laste
The wyn drynkth him and bint him faste,
And leith him drunke be the wal,
As him which is his bonde thral
And al in his subjeccion.
And lich to such condicion,
As forto speke it other wise,
It falleth that the moste wise
Ben otherwhile of love adoted,
And so bewhaped and assoted,
Of drunke men that nevere yit
Was non, which half so loste his wit
Of drinke, as thei of such thing do
Which cleped is the jolif wo;
And waxen of here oghne thoght
So drunke, that thei knowe noght
What reson is, or more or lesse.
Such is the kinde of that sieknesse,
And that is noght for lacke of brain,
Bot love is of so gret a main,
That where he takth an herte on honde,
Ther mai nothing his miht withstonde:
The wise Salomon was nome,
And stronge Sampson overcome,
The knihtli David him ne mihte
Rescoue, that he with the sihte
Of Bersabee ne was bestad,
Virgile also was overlad,
And Aristotle was put under.
Forthi, mi Sone, it is no wonder
If thou be drunke of love among,
Which is above alle othre strong:
And if so is that thou so be,
Tell me thi Schrifte in privite;
It is no schame of such a thew
A yong man to be dronkelew.
Of such Phisique I can a part,
And as me semeth be that art,
Thou scholdest be Phisonomie
Be schapen to that maladie
Of lovedrunke, and that is routhe.
Ha, holi fader, al is trouthe
That ye me telle: I am beknowe
That I with love am so bethrowe,
And al myn herte is so thurgh sunke,
That I am verrailiche drunke,
And yit I mai bothe speke and go.
Bot I am overcome so,
And torned fro miself so clene,
That ofte I wot noght what I mene;
So that excusen I ne mai
Min herte, fro the ferste day
That I cam to mi ladi kiththe,
I was yit sobre nevere siththe.
Wher I hire se or se hire noght,
With musinge of min oghne thoght,
Of love, which min herte assaileth,
So drunke I am, that mi wit faileth
And al mi brain is overtorned,
And mi manere so mistorned,
That I foryete al that I can
And stonde lich a mased man;
That ofte, whanne I scholde pleie,
It makth me drawe out of the weie
In soulein place be miselve,
As doth a labourer to delve,
Which can no gentil mannes chere;
Or elles as a lewed Frere,
Whan he is put to his penance,
Riht so lese I mi contienance.
And if it nedes to betyde,
That I in compainie abyde,
Wher as I moste daunce and singe
The hovedance and carolinge,
Or forto go the newefot,
I mai noght wel heve up mi fot,
If that sche be noght in the weie;
For thanne is al mi merthe aweie,
And waxe anon of thoght so full,
Wherof mi limes ben so dull,
I mai unethes gon the pas.
For thus it is and evere was,
Whanne I on suche thoghtes muse,
The lust and merthe that men use,
Whan I se noght mi ladi byme,
Al is foryete for the time
So ferforth that mi wittes changen
And alle lustes fro me strangen,
That thei seie alle trewely,
And swere, that it am noght I.
For as the man which ofte drinketh,
With win that in his stomac sinketh
Wext drunke and witles for a throwe,
Riht so mi lust is overthrowe,
And of myn oghne thoght so mat
I wexe, that to myn astat
Ther is no lime wol me serve,
Bot as a drunke man I swerve,
And suffre such a Passion,
That men have gret compassion,
And everich be himself merveilleth
What thing it is that me so eilleth.
Such is the manere of mi wo
Which time that I am hire fro,
Til eft ayein that I hire se.
Bot thanne it were a nycete
To telle you hou that I fare:
For whanne I mai upon hire stare,
Hire wommanhede, hire gentilesse,
Myn herte is full of such gladnesse,
That overpasseth so mi wit,
That I wot nevere where it sit,
Bot am so drunken of that sihte,
Me thenkth that for the time I mihte
Riht sterte thurgh the hole wall;
And thanne I mai wel, if I schal,
Bothe singe and daunce and lepe aboute,
And holde forth the lusti route.
Bot natheles it falleth so
Fulofte, that I fro hire go
Ne mai, bot as it were a stake,
I stonde avisement to take
And loke upon hire faire face;
That for the while out of the place
For al the world ne myhte I wende.
Such lust comth thanne unto mi mende,
So that withoute mete or drinke,
Of lusti thoughtes whiche I thinke
Me thenkth I mihte stonden evere;
And so it were to me levere
Than such a sihte forto leve,
If that sche wolde yif me leve
To have so mochel of mi wille.
And thus thenkende I stonde stille
Withoute blenchinge of myn yhe,
Riht as me thoghte that I syhe
Of Paradis the moste joie:
And so therwhile I me rejoie,
Into myn herte a gret desir,
The which is hotere than the fyr,
Al soudeinliche upon me renneth,
That al mi thoght withinne brenneth,
And am so ferforth overcome,
That I not where I am become;
So that among the hetes stronge
In stede of drinke I underfonge
A thoght so swete in mi corage,
That nevere Pyment ne vernage
Was half so swete forto drinke.
For as I wolde, thanne I thinke
As thogh I were at myn above,
For so thurgh drunke I am of love,
That al that mi sotye demeth
Is soth, as thanne it to me semeth.
And whyle I mai tho thoghtes kepe,
Me thenkth as thogh I were aslepe
And that I were in goddes barm;
Bot whanne I se myn oghne harm,
And that I soudeinliche awake
Out of my thought, and hiede take
Hou that the sothe stant in dede,
Thanne is mi sekernesse in drede
And joie torned into wo,
So that the hete is al ago
Of such sotie as I was inne.
And thanne ayeinward I beginne
To take of love a newe thorst,
The which me grieveth altherworst,
For thanne comth the blanche fievere,
With chele and makth me so to chievere,
And so it coldeth at myn herte,
That wonder is hou I asterte,
In such a point that I ne deie:
For certes ther was nevere keie
Ne frosen ys upon the wal
More inly cold that I am al.
And thus soffre I the hote chele,
Which passeth othre peines fele;
In cold I brenne and frese in hete:
And thanne I drinke a biter swete
With dreie lippe and yhen wete.
Lo, thus I tempre mi diete,
And take a drauhte of such reles,
That al mi wit is herteles,
And al myn herte, ther it sit,
Is, as who seith, withoute wit;
So that to prove it be reson
In makinge of comparison
Ther mai no difference be
Betwen a drunke man and me.
Bot al the worste of everychon
Is evere that I thurste in on;
The more that myn herte drinketh,
The more I may; so that me thinketh,
My thurst schal nevere ben aqueint.
God schilde that I be noght dreint
Of such a superfluite:
For wel I fiele in mi degre
That al mi wit is overcast,
Wherof I am the more agast,
That in defaulte of ladischipe
Per chance in such a drunkeschipe
I mai be ded er I be war.
For certes, fader, this I dar
Beknowe and in mi schrifte telle:
Bot I a drauhte have of that welle,
In which mi deth is and mi lif,
Mi joie is torned into strif,
That sobre schal I nevere worthe,
Bot as a drunke man forworthe;
So that in londe where I fare
The lust is lore of mi welfare,
As he that mai no bote finde.
Bot this me thenkth a wonder kinde,
As I am drunke of that I drinke,
So am I ek for falte of drinke;
Of which I finde no reles:
Bot if I myhte natheles
Of such a drinke as I coveite,
So as me liste, have o receite,
I scholde assobre and fare wel.
Bot so fortune upon hire whiel
On hih me deigneth noght to sette,
For everemore I finde a lette:
The boteler is noght mi frend,
Which hath the keie be the bend;
I mai wel wisshe and that is wast,
For wel I wot, so freissh a tast,
Bot if mi grace be the more,
I schal assaie neveremore.
Thus am I drunke of that I se,
For tastinge is defended me,
And I can noght miselven stanche:
So that, mi fader, of this branche
I am gultif, to telle trouthe.
Mi Sone, that me thenketh routhe;
For lovedrunke is the meschief
Above alle othre the most chief,
If he no lusti thoght assaie,
Which mai his sori thurst allaie:
As for the time yit it lisseth
To him which other joie misseth.
Forthi, mi Sone, aboven alle
Thenk wel, hou so it the befalle,
And kep thi wittes that thou hast,
And let hem noght be drunke in wast:
Bot natheles ther is no wyht
That mai withstonde loves miht.
Bot why the cause is, as I finde,
Of that ther is diverse kinde
Of lovedrunke, why men pleigneth
After the court which al ordeigneth,
I wol the tellen the manere;
Nou lest, mi Sone, and thou schalt hiere.
For the fortune of every chance
After the goddes pourveance
To man it groweth from above,
So that the sped of every love
Is schape there, er it befalle.
For Jupiter aboven alle,
Which is of goddes soverein,
Hath in his celier, as men sein,
Tuo tonnes fulle of love drinke,
That maken many an herte sinke
And many an herte also to flete,
Or of the soure or of the swete.
That on is full of such piment,
Which passeth all entendement
Of mannes witt, if he it taste,
And makth a jolif herte in haste:
That other biter as the galle,
Which makth a mannes herte palle,
Whos drunkeschipe is a sieknesse
Thurgh fielinge of the biternesse.
Cupide is boteler of bothe,
Which to the lieve and to the lothe
Yifth of the swete and of the soure,
That some lawhe, and some loure.
Bot for so moche as he blind is,
Fulofte time he goth amis
And takth the badde for the goode,
Which hindreth many a mannes fode
Withoute cause, and forthreth eke.
So be ther some of love seke,
Whiche oghte of reson to ben hole,
And some comen to the dole
In happ and as hemselve leste
Drinke undeserved of the beste.
And thus this blinde Boteler
Yifth of the trouble in stede of cler
And ek the cler in stede of trouble:
Lo, hou he can the hertes trouble,
And makth men drunke al upon chaunce
Withoute lawe of governance.
If he drawe of the swete tonne,
Thanne is the sorwe al overronne
Of lovedrunke, and schalt noght greven
So to be drunken every even,
For al is thanne bot a game.
Bot whanne it is noght of the same,
And he the biter tonne draweth,
Such drunkeschipe an herte gnaweth
And fiebleth al a mannes thoght,
That betre him were have drunke noght
And al his bred have eten dreie;
For thanne he lest his lusti weie
With drunkeschipe, and wot noght whider
To go, the weies ben so slider,
In which he mai per cas so falle,
That he schal breke his wittes alle.
And in this wise men be drunke
After the drink that thei have drunke:
Bot alle drinken noght alike,
For som schal singe and som schal syke,
So that it me nothing merveilleth,
Mi Sone, of love that thee eilleth;
For wel I knowe be thi tale,
That thou hast drunken of the duale,
Which biter is, til god the sende
Such grace that thou miht amende.
Bot, Sone, thou schalt bidde and preie
In such a wise as I schal seie,
That thou the lusti welle atteigne
Thi wofull thurstes to restreigne
Of love, and taste the swetnesse;
As Bachus dede in his distresse,
Whan bodiliche thurst him hente
In strange londes where he wente.
This Bachus Sone of Jupiter
Was hote, and as he wente fer
Be his fadres assignement
To make a werre in Orient,
And gret pouer with him he ladde,
So that the heiere hond he hadde
And victoire of his enemys,
And torneth homward with his pris,
In such a contre which was dreie
A meschief fell upon the weie.
As he rod with his compainie
Nyh to the strondes of Lubie,
Ther myhte thei no drinke finde
Of water nor of other kinde,
So that himself and al his host
Were of defalte of drinke almost
Destruid, and thanne Bachus preide
To Jupiter, and thus he seide:
'O hihe fader, that sest al,
To whom is reson that I schal
Beseche and preie in every nede,
Behold, mi fader, and tak hiede
This wofull thurst that we ben inne
To staunche, and grante ous forto winne,
And sauf unto the contre fare,
Wher that oure lusti loves are
Waitende upon oure hom cominge.'
And with the vois of his preiynge,
Which herd was to the goddes hihe,
He syh anon tofore his yhe
A wether, which the ground hath sporned;
And wher he hath it overtorned,
Ther sprang a welle freissh and cler,
Wherof his oghne boteler
After the lustes of his wille
Was every man to drinke his fille.
And for this ilke grete grace
Bachus upon the same place
A riche temple let arere,
Which evere scholde stonde there
To thursti men in remembrance.
Forthi, mi Sone, after this chance
It sit thee wel to taken hiede
So forto preie upon thi nede,
As Bachus preide for the welle;
And thenk, as thou hast herd me telle,
Hou grace he gradde and grace he hadde.
He was no fol that ferst so radde,
For selden get a domb man lond:
Tak that proverbe, and understond
That wordes ben of vertu grete.
Forthi to speke thou ne lete,
And axe and prei erli and late
Thi thurst to quenche, and thenk algate,
The boteler which berth the keie
Is blind, as thou hast herd me seie;
And if it mihte so betyde,
That he upon the blinde side
Per cas the swete tonne arauhte,
Than schalt thou have a lusti drauhte
And waxe of lovedrunke sobre.
And thus I rede thou assobre
Thin herte in hope of such a grace;
For drunkeschipe in every place,
To whether side that it torne,
Doth harm and makth a man to sporne
And ofte falle in such a wise,
Wher he per cas mai noght arise.
And forto loke in evidence
Upon the sothe experience,
So as it hath befalle er this,
In every mannes mouth it is
Hou Tristram was of love drunke
With Bele Ysolde, whan thei drunke
The drink which Brangwein hem betok,
Er that king Marc his Eem hire tok
To wyve, as it was after knowe.
And ek, mi Sone, if thou wolt knowe,
As it hath fallen overmore
In loves cause, and what is more
Of drunkeschipe forto drede,
As it whilom befell in dede,
Wherof thou miht the betre eschuie
Of drunke men that thou ne suie
The compaignie in no manere,
A gret ensample thou schalt hiere.
This finde I write in Poesie
Of thilke faire Ipotacie,
Of whos beaute ther as sche was
Spak every man, - and fell per cas,
That Pirotos so him spedde,
That he to wyve hire scholde wedde,
Wherof that he gret joie made.
And for he wolde his love glade,
Ayein the day of mariage
Be mouthe bothe and be message
Hise frendes to the feste he preide,
With gret worschipe and, as men seide,
He hath this yonge ladi spoused.
And whan that thei were alle housed,
And set and served ate mete,
Ther was no wyn which mai be gete,
That ther ne was plente ynouh:
Bot Bachus thilke tonne drouh,
Wherof be weie of drunkeschipe
The greteste of the felaschipe
Were oute of reson overtake;
And Venus, which hath also take
The cause most in special,
Hath yove hem drinke forth withal
Of thilke cuppe which exciteth
The lust wherinne a man deliteth:
And thus be double weie drunke,
Of lust that ilke fyri funke
Hath mad hem, as who seith, halfwode,
That thei no reson understode,
Ne to non other thing thei syhen,
Bot hire, which tofore here yhen
Was wedded thilke same day,
That freisshe wif, that lusti May,
On hire it was al that thei thoghten.
And so ferforth here lustes soghten,
That thei the whiche named were
Centauri, ate feste there
Of on assent, of an acord
This yonge wif malgre hire lord
In such a rage awei forth ladden,
As thei whiche non insihte hadden
Bot only to her drunke fare,
Which many a man hath mad misfare
In love als wel as other weie.
Wherof, if I schal more seie
Upon the nature of the vice,
Of custume and of exercice
The mannes grace hou it fordoth,
A tale, which was whilom soth,
Of fooles that so drunken were,
I schal reherce unto thine Ere.
I rede in a Cronique thus
Of Galba and of Vitellus,
The whiche of Spaigne bothe were
The greteste of alle othre there,
And bothe of o condicion
After the disposicion
Of glotonie and drunkeschipe.
That was a sori felaschipe:
For this thou miht wel understonde,
That man mai wel noght longe stonde
Which is wyndrunke of comun us;
For he hath lore the vertus,
Wherof reson him scholde clothe;
And that was seene upon hem bothe.
Men sein ther is non evidence,
Wherof to knowe a difference
Betwen the drunken and the wode,
For thei be nevere nouther goode;
For wher that wyn doth wit aweie,
Wisdom hath lost the rihte weie,
That he no maner vice dredeth;
Nomore than a blind man thredeth
His nedle be the Sonnes lyht,
Nomore is reson thanne of myht,
Whan he with drunkeschipe is blent.
And in this point thei weren schent,
This Galba bothe and ek Vitelle,
Upon the cause as I schal telle,
Wherof good is to taken hiede.
For thei tuo thurgh her drunkenhiede
Of witles excitacioun
Oppressede al the nacion
Of Spaigne; for of fool usance,
Which don was of continuance
Of hem, whiche alday drunken were,
Ther was no wif ne maiden there,
What so thei were, or faire or foule,
Whom thei ne token to defoule,
Wherof the lond was often wo:
And ek in othre thinges mo
Thei wroghten many a sondri wrong.
Bot hou so that the dai be long,
The derke nyht comth ate laste:
God wolde noght thei scholden laste,
And schop the lawe in such a wise,
That thei thurgh dom to the juise
Be dampned forto be forlore.
Bot thei, that hadden ben tofore
Enclin to alle drunkenesse,-
Here ende thanne bar witnesse;
For thei in hope to assuage
The peine of deth, upon the rage
That thei the lasse scholden fiele,
Of wyn let fille full a Miele,
And dronken til so was befalle
That thei her strengthes losten alle
Withouten wit of eny brain;
And thus thei ben halfdede slain,
That hem ne grieveth bot a lyte.
Mi Sone, if thou be forto wyte
In eny point which I have seid,
Wherof thi wittes ben unteid,
I rede clepe hem hom ayein.
I schal do, fader, as ye sein,
Als ferforth as I mai suffise:
Bot wel I wot that in no wise
The drunkeschipe of love aweie
I mai remue be no weie,
It stant noght upon my fortune.
Bot if you liste to comune
Of the seconde Glotonie,
Which cleped is Delicacie,
Wherof ye spieken hier tofore,
Beseche I wolde you therfore.
Mi Sone, as of that ilke vice,
Which of alle othre is the Norrice,
And stant upon the retenue
Of Venus, so as it is due,
The proprete hou that it fareth
The bok hierafter nou declareth.
Of this chapitre in which we trete
There is yit on of such diete,
To which no povere mai atteigne;
For al is Past of paindemeine
And sondri wyn and sondri drinke,
Wherof that he wole ete and drinke:
Hise cokes ben for him affaited,
So that his body is awaited,
That him schal lacke no delit,
Als ferforth as his appetit
Sufficeth to the metes hote.
Wherof this lusti vice is hote
Of Gule the Delicacie,
Which al the hole progenie
Of lusti folk hath undertake
To feede, whil that he mai take
Richesses wherof to be founde:
Of Abstinence he wot no bounde,
To what profit it scholde serve.
And yit phisique of his conserve
Makth many a restauracioun
Unto his recreacioun,
Which wolde be to Venus lief.
Thus for the point of his relief
The coc which schal his mete arraie,
Bot he the betre his mouth assaie,
His lordes thonk schal ofte lese,
Er he be served to the chese:
For ther mai lacke noght so lyte,
That he ne fint anon a wyte;
For bot his lust be fully served,
Ther hath no wiht his thonk deserved.
And yit for mannes sustenance,
To kepe and holde in governance,
To him that wole his hele gete
Is non so good as comun mete:
For who that loketh on the bokes,
It seith, confeccion of cokes,
A man him scholde wel avise
Hou he it toke and in what wise.
For who that useth that he knoweth,
Ful selden seknesse on him groweth,
And who that useth metes strange,
Though his nature empeire and change
It is no wonder, lieve Sone,
Whan that he doth ayein his wone;
For in Phisique this I finde,
Usage is the seconde kinde.
And riht so changeth his astat
He that of love is delicat:
For though he hadde to his hond
The beste wif of al the lond,
Or the faireste love of alle,
Yit wolde his herte on othre falle
And thenke hem mor delicious
Than he hath in his oghne hous:
Men sein it is nou ofte so;
Avise hem wel, thei that so do.
And forto speke in other weie,
Fulofte time I have herd seie,
That he which hath no love achieved,
Him thenkth that he is noght relieved,
Thogh that his ladi make him chiere,
So as sche mai in good manere
Hir honour and hir name save,
Bot he the surplus mihte have.
Nothing withstondende hire astat,
Of love more delicat
He set hire chiere at no delit,
Bot he have al his appetit.
Mi Sone, if it be with thee so,
Tell me. Myn holi fader, no:
For delicat in such a wise
Of love, as ye to me devise,
Ne was I nevere yit gultif;
For if I hadde such a wif
As ye speke of, what scholde I more?
For thanne I wolde neveremore
For lust of eny wommanhiede
Myn herte upon non other fiede:
And if I dede, it were a wast.
Bot al withoute such repast
Of lust, as ye me tolde above,
Of wif, or yit of other love,
I faste, and mai no fode gete;
So that for lacke of deinte mete,
Of which an herte mai be fedd,
I go fastende to my bedd.
Bot myhte I geten, as ye tolde,
So mochel that mi ladi wolde
Me fede with hir glad semblant,
Though me lacke al the remenant,
Yit scholde I somdel ben abeched
And for the time wel refreched.
Bot certes, fader, sche ne doth;
For in good feith, to telle soth,
I trowe, thogh I scholde sterve,
Sche wolde noght hire yhe swerve,
Min herte with o goodly lok
To fede, and thus for such a cok
I mai go fastinge everemo:
Bot if so is that eny wo
Mai fede a mannes herte wel,
Therof I have at every meel
Of plente more than ynowh;
Bot that is of himself so towh,
Mi stomac mai it noght defie.
Lo, such is the delicacie
Of love, which myn herte fedeth;
Thus have I lacke of that me nedeth.
Bot for al this yit natheles
I seie noght I am gylteles,
That I somdel am delicat:
For elles were I fulli mat,
Bot if that I som lusti stounde
Of confort and of ese founde,
To take of love som repast;
For thogh I with the fulle tast
The lust of love mai noght fiele,
Min hunger otherwise I kiele
Of smale lustes whiche I pike,
And for a time yit thei like;
If that ye wisten what I mene.
Nou, goode Sone, schrif thee clene
Of suche deyntes as ben goode,
Wherof thou takst thin hertes fode.
Mi fader, I you schal reherce,
Hou that mi fodes ben diverse,
So as thei fallen in degre.
O fiedinge is of that I se,
An other is of that I here,
The thridde, as I schal tellen here,
It groweth of min oghne thoght:
And elles scholde I live noght;
For whom that failleth fode of herte,
He mai noght wel the deth asterte.
Of sihte is al mi ferste fode,
Thurgh which myn yhe of alle goode
Hath that to him is acordant,
A lusti fode sufficant.
Whan that I go toward the place
Wher I schal se my ladi face,
Min yhe, which is loth to faste,
Beginth to hungre anon so faste,
That him thenkth of on houre thre,
Til I ther come and he hire se:
And thanne after his appetit
He takth a fode of such delit,
That him non other deynte nedeth.
Of sondri sihtes he him fedeth:
He seth hire face of such colour,
That freisshere is than eny flour,
He seth hire front is large and plein
Withoute fronce of eny grein,
He seth hire yhen lich an hevene,
He seth hire nase strauht and evene,
He seth hire rode upon the cheke,
He seth hire rede lippes eke,
Hire chyn acordeth to the face,
Al that he seth is full of grace,
He seth hire necke round and clene,
Therinne mai no bon be sene,
He seth hire handes faire and whyte;
For al this thing withoute wyte
He mai se naked ate leste,
So is it wel the more feste
And wel the mor Delicacie
Unto the fiedinge of myn yhe.
He seth hire schapthe forth withal,
Hire bodi round, hire middel smal,
So wel begon with good array,
Which passeth al the lust of Maii,
Whan he is most with softe schoures
Ful clothed in his lusti floures.
With suche sihtes by and by
Min yhe is fed; bot finaly,
Whan he the port and the manere
Seth of hire wommanysshe chere,
Than hath he such delice on honde,
Him thenkth he mihte stille stonde,
And that he hath ful sufficance
Of liflode and of sustienance
As to his part for everemo.
And if it thoghte alle othre so,
Fro thenne wolde he nevere wende,
Bot there unto the worldes ende
He wolde abyde, if that he mihte,
And fieden him upon the syhte.
For thogh I mihte stonden ay
Into the time of domesday
And loke upon hire evere in on,
Yit whanne I scholde fro hire gon,
Min yhe wolde, as thogh he faste,
Ben hungerstorven al so faste,
Til efte ayein that he hire syhe.
Such is the nature of myn yhe:
Ther is no lust so deintefull,
Of which a man schal noght be full,
Of that the stomac underfongeth,
Bot evere in on myn yhe longeth:
For loke hou that a goshauk tireth,
Riht so doth he, whan that he pireth
And toteth on hire wommanhiede;
For he mai nevere fulli fiede
His lust, bot evere aliche sore
Him hungreth, so that he the more
Desireth to be fed algate:
And thus myn yhe is mad the gate,
Thurgh which the deyntes of my thoght
Of lust ben to myn herte broght.
Riht as myn yhe with his lok
Is to myn herte a lusti coc
Of loves fode delicat,
Riht so myn Ere in his astat,
Wher as myn yhe mai noght serve,
Can wel myn hertes thonk deserve
And fieden him fro day to day
With suche deyntes as he may.
For thus it is, that overal,
Wher as I come in special,
I mai hiere of mi ladi pris;
I hiere on seith that sche is wys,
An other seith that sche is good,
And som men sein, of worthi blod
That sche is come, and is also
So fair, that nawher is non so;
And som men preise hire goodli chiere:
Thus every thing that I mai hiere,
Which souneth to mi ladi goode,
Is to myn Ere a lusti foode.
And ek min Ere hath over this
A deynte feste, whan so is
That I mai hiere hirselve speke;
For thanne anon mi faste I breke
On suche wordes as sche seith,
That full of trouthe and full of feith
Thei ben, and of so good desport,
That to myn Ere gret confort
Thei don, as thei that ben delices.
For al the metes and the spices,
That eny Lombard couthe make,
Ne be so lusti forto take
Ne so ferforth restauratif,
I seie as for myn oghne lif,
As ben the wordes of hire mouth:
For as the wyndes of the South
Ben most of alle debonaire,
So whan hir list to speke faire,
The vertu of hire goodly speche
Is verraily myn hertes leche.
And if it so befalle among,
That sche carole upon a song,
Whan I it hiere I am so fedd,
That I am fro miself so ledd,
As thogh I were in paradis;
For certes, as to myn avis,
Whan I here of hir vois the stevene,
Me thenkth it is a blisse of hevene.
And ek in other wise also
Fulofte time it falleth so,
Min Ere with a good pitance
Is fedd of redinge of romance
Of Ydoine and of Amadas,
That whilom weren in mi cas,
And eke of othre many a score,
That loveden longe er I was bore.
For whan I of here loves rede,
Min Ere with the tale I fede;
And with the lust of here histoire
Somtime I drawe into memoire
Hou sorwe mai noght evere laste;
And so comth hope in ate laste,
Whan I non other fode knowe.
And that endureth bot a throwe,
Riht as it were a cherie feste;
Bot forto compten ate leste,
As for the while yit it eseth
And somdel of myn herte appeseth:
For what thing to myn Ere spreedeth,
Which is plesant, somdel it feedeth
With wordes suche as he mai gete
Mi lust, in stede of other mete.
Lo thus, mi fader, as I seie,
Of lust the which myn yhe hath seie,
And ek of that myn Ere hath herd,
Fulofte I have the betre ferd.
And tho tuo bringen in the thridde,
The which hath in myn herte amidde
His place take, to arraie
The lusti fode, which assaie
I mot; and nameliche on nyhtes,
Whan that me lacketh alle sihtes,
And that myn heringe is aweie,
Thanne is he redy in the weie
Mi reresouper forto make,
Of which myn hertes fode I take.
This lusti cokes name is hote
Thoght, which hath evere hise pottes hote
Of love buillende on the fyr
With fantasie and with desir,
Of whiche er this fulofte he fedde
Min herte, whanne I was abedde;
And thanne he set upon my bord
Bothe every syhte and every word
Of lust, which I have herd or sein.
Bot yit is noght mi feste al plein,
Bot al of woldes and of wisshes,
Therof have I my fulle disshes,
Bot as of fielinge and of tast,
Yit mihte I nevere have o repast.
And thus, as I have seid aforn,
I licke hony on the thorn,
And as who seith, upon the bridel
I chiewe, so that al is ydel
As in effect the fode I have.
Bot as a man that wolde him save,
Whan he is seck, be medicine,
Riht so of love the famine
I fonde in al that evere I mai
To fiede and dryve forth the day,
Til I mai have the grete feste,
Which al myn hunger myhte areste.
Lo suche ben mi lustes thre;
Of that I thenke and hiere and se
I take of love my fiedinge
Withoute tastinge or fielinge:
And as the Plover doth of Eir
I live, and am in good espeir
That for no such delicacie
I trowe I do no glotonie.
And natheles to youre avis,
Min holi fader, that be wis,
I recomande myn astat
Of that I have be delicat.
Mi Sone, I understonde wel
That thou hast told hier everydel,
And as me thenketh be thi tale,
It ben delices wonder smale,
Wherof thou takst thi loves fode.
Bot, Sone, if that thou understode
What is to ben delicious,
Thou woldest noght be curious
Upon the lust of thin astat
To ben to sore delicat,
Wherof that thou reson excede:
For in the bokes thou myht rede,
If mannes wisdom schal be suied,
It oghte wel to ben eschuied
In love als wel as other weie;
For, as these holi bokes seie,
The bodely delices alle
In every point, hou so thei falle,
Unto the Soule don grievance.
And forto take in remembrance,
A tale acordant unto this,
Which of gret understondinge is
To mannes soule resonable,
I thenke telle, and is no fable.
Of Cristes word, who wole it rede,
Hou that this vice is forto drede
In thevangile it telleth plein,
Which mot algate be certein,
For Crist himself it berth witnesse.
And thogh the clerk and the clergesse
In latin tunge it rede and singe,
Yit for the more knoulechinge
Of trouthe, which is good to wite,
I schal declare as it is write
In Engleissh, for thus it began.
Crist seith: 'Ther was a riche man,
A mihti lord of gret astat,
And he was ek so delicat
Of his clothing, that everyday
Of pourpre and bisse he made him gay,
And eet and drank therto his fille
After the lustes of his wille,
As he which al stod in delice
And tok non hiede of thilke vice.
And as it scholde so betyde,
A povere lazre upon a tyde
Cam to the gate and axed mete:
Bot there mihte he nothing gete
His dedly hunger forto stanche;
For he, which hadde his fulle panche
Of alle lustes ate bord,
Ne deigneth noght to speke a word,
Onliche a Crumme forto yive,
Wherof the povere myhte live
Upon the yifte of his almesse.
Thus lai this povere in gret destresse
Acold and hungred ate gate,
Fro which he mihte go no gate,
So was he wofulli besein.
And as these holi bokes sein,
The houndes comen fro the halle,
Wher that this sike man was falle,
And as he lay ther forto die,
The woundes of his maladie
Thei licken forto don him ese.
Bot he was full of such desese,
That he mai noght the deth eschape;
Bot as it was that time schape,
The Soule fro the bodi passeth,
And he whom nothing overpasseth,
The hihe god, up to the hevene
Him tok, wher he hath set him evene
In Habrahammes barm on hyh,
Wher he the hevene joie syh
And hadde al that he have wolde.
And fell, as it befalle scholde,
This riche man the same throwe
With soudein deth was overthrowe,
And forth withouten eny wente
Into the helle straght he wente;
The fend into the fyr him drouh,
Wher that he hadde peine ynouh
Of flamme which that evere brenneth.
And as his yhe aboute renneth,
Toward the hevene he cast his lok,
Wher that he syh and hiede tok
Hou Lazar set was in his Se
Als ferr as evere he mihte se
With Habraham; and thanne he preide
Unto the Patriarch and seide:
'Send Lazar doun fro thilke Sete,
And do that he his finger wete
In water, so that he mai droppe
Upon my tunge, forto stoppe
The grete hete in which I brenne.'
Bot Habraham answerde thenne
And seide to him in this wise:
'Mi Sone, thou thee miht avise
And take into thi remembrance,
Hou Lazar hadde gret penance,
Whyl he was in that other lif,
Bot thou in al thi lust jolif
The bodily delices soghtest:
Forthi, so as thou thanne wroghtest,
Nou schalt thou take thi reward
Of dedly peine hierafterward
In helle, which schal evere laste;
And this Lazar nou ate laste
The worldes peine is overronne,
In hevene and hath his lif begonne
Of joie, which is endeles.
Bot that thou preidest natheles,
That I schal Lazar to the sende
With water on his finger ende,
Thin hote tunge forto kiele,
Thou schalt no such graces fiele;
For to that foule place of Sinne,
For evere in which thou schalt ben inne,
Comth non out of this place thider,
Ne non of you mai comen hider;
Thus be yee parted nou atuo.'
The riche ayeinward cride tho:
'O Habraham, sithe it so is,
That Lazar mai noght do me this
Which I have axed in this place,
I wolde preie an other grace.
For I have yit of brethren fyve,
That with mi fader ben alyve
Togedre duellende in on hous;
To whom, as thou art gracious,
I preie that thou woldest sende
Lazar, so that he mihte wende
To warne hem hou the world is went,
That afterward thei be noght schent
Of suche peines as I drye.
Lo, this I preie and this I crie,
Now I may noght miself amende.'
The Patriarch anon suiende
To his preiere ansuerde nay;
And seide him hou that everyday
His brethren mihten knowe and hiere
Of Moises on Erthe hiere
And of prophetes othre mo,
What hem was best. And he seith no;
Bot if ther mihte a man aryse
Fro deth to lyve in such a wise,
To tellen hem hou that it were,
He seide hou thanne of pure fere
Thei scholden wel be war therby.
Quod Habraham: 'Nay sikerly;
For if thei nou wol noght obeie
To suche as techen hem the weie,
And alday preche and alday telle
Hou that it stant of hevene and helle,
Thei wol noght thanne taken hiede,
Thogh it befelle so in dede
That eny ded man were arered,
To ben of him no betre lered
Than of an other man alyve.'
If thou, mi Sone, canst descryve
This tale, as Crist himself it tolde,
Thou schalt have cause to beholde,
To se so gret an evidence,
Wherof the sothe experience
Hath schewed openliche at ije,
That bodili delicacie
Of him which yeveth non almesse
Schal after falle in gret destresse.
And that was sene upon the riche:
For he ne wolde unto his liche
A Crumme yiven of his bred,
Thanne afterward, whan he was ded,
A drope of water him was werned.
Thus mai a mannes wit be lerned
Of hem that so delices taken;
Whan thei with deth ben overtaken,
That erst was swete is thanne sour.
Bot he that is a governour
Of worldes good, if he be wys,
Withinne his herte he set no pris
Of al the world, and yit he useth
The good, that he nothing refuseth,
As he which lord is of the thinges.
The Nouches and the riche ringes,
The cloth of gold and the Perrie
He takth, and yit delicacie
He leveth, thogh he were al this.
The beste mete that ther is
He ett, and drinkth the beste drinke;
Bot hou that evere he ete or drinke,
Delicacie he put aweie,
As he which goth the rihte weie
Noght only forto fiede and clothe
His bodi, bot his soule bothe.
Bot thei that taken otherwise
Here lustes, ben none of the wise;
And that whilom was schewed eke,
If thou these olde bokes seke,
Als wel be reson as be kinde,
Of olde ensample as men mai finde.
What man that wolde him wel avise,
Delicacie is to despise,
Whan kinde acordeth noght withal;
Wherof ensample in special
Of Nero whilom mai be told,
Which ayein kinde manyfold
Hise lustes tok, til ate laste
That god him wolde al overcaste;
Of whom the Cronique is so plein,
Me list nomore of him to sein.
And natheles for glotonie
Of bodili Delicacie,
To knowe his stomak hou it ferde,
Of that noman tofore herde,
Which he withinne himself bethoghte,
A wonder soubtil thing he wroghte.
Thre men upon eleccioun
Of age and of complexioun
Lich to himself be alle weie
He tok towardes him to pleie,
And ete and drinke als wel as he.
Therof was no diversite;
For every day whan that thei eete,
Tofore his oghne bord thei seete,
And of such mete as he was served,
Althogh thei hadde it noght deserved,
Thei token service of the same.
Bot afterward al thilke game
Was into wofull ernest torned;
For whan thei weren thus sojorned,
Withinne a time at after mete
Nero, which hadde noght foryete
The lustes of his frele astat,
As he which al was delicat,
To knowe thilke experience,
The men let come in his presence:
And to that on the same tyde,
A courser that he scholde ryde
Into the feld, anon he bad;
Wherof this man was wonder glad,
And goth to prike and prance aboute.
That other, whil that he was oute,
He leide upon his bedd to slepe:
The thridde, which he wolde kepe
Withinne his chambre, faire and softe
He goth now doun nou up fulofte,
Walkende a pass, that he ne slepte,
Til he which on the courser lepte
Was come fro the field ayein.
Nero thanne, as the bokes sein,
These men doth taken alle thre
And slouh hem, for he wolde se
The whos stomak was best defied:
And whanne he hath the sothe tryed,
He fond that he which goth the pass
Defyed best of alle was,
Which afterward he usede ay.
And thus what thing unto his pay
Was most plesant, he lefte non:
With every lust he was begon,
Wherof the bodi myhte glade,
For he non abstinence made;
Bot most above alle erthli thinges
Of wommen unto the likinges
Nero sette al his hole herte,
For that lust scholde him noght asterte.
Whan that the thurst of love him cawhte,
Wher that him list he tok a drauhte,
He spareth nouther wif ne maide,
That such an other, as men saide,
In al this world was nevere yit.
He was so drunke in al his wit
Thurgh sondri lustes whiche he tok,
That evere, whil ther is a bok,
Of Nero men schul rede and singe
Unto the worldes knowlechinge,
Mi goode Sone, as thou hast herd.
For evere yit it hath so ferd,
Delicacie in loves cas
Withoute reson is and was;
For wher that love his herte set,
Him thenkth it myhte be no bet;
And thogh it be noght fulli mete,
The lust of love is evere swete.
Lo, thus togedre of felaschipe
Delicacie and drunkeschipe,
Wherof reson stant out of herre,
Have mad full many a wisman erre
In loves cause most of alle:
For thanne hou so that evere it falle,
Wit can no reson understonde,
Bot let the governance stonde
To Will, which thanne wext so wylde,
That he can noght himselve schylde
Fro no peril, bot out of feere
The weie he secheth hiere and there,
Him recheth noght upon what syde:
For oftetime he goth beside,
And doth such thing withoute drede,
Wherof him oghte wel to drede.
Bot whan that love assoteth sore,
It passeth alle mennes lore;
What lust it is that he ordeigneth,
Ther is no mannes miht restreigneth,
And of the godd takth he non hiede:
Bot laweles withoute drede,
His pourpos for he wolde achieve
Ayeins the pointz of the believe,
He tempteth hevene and erthe and helle,
Hierafterward as I schall telle.
Who dar do thing which love ne dar?
To love is every lawe unwar,
Bot to the lawes of his heste
The fissch, the foul, the man, the beste
Of al the worldes kinde louteth.
For love is he which nothing douteth:
In mannes herte where he sit,
He compteth noght toward his wit
The wo nomore than the wele,
No mor the hete than the chele,
No mor the wete than the dreie,
No mor to live than to deie,
So that tofore ne behinde
He seth nothing, bot as the blinde
Withoute insyhte of his corage
He doth merveilles in his rage.
To what thing that he wole him drawe,
Ther is no god, ther is no lawe,
Of whom that he takth eny hiede;
Bot as Baiard the blinde stede,
Til he falle in the dich amidde,
He goth ther noman wole him bidde;
He stant so ferforth out of reule,
Ther is no wit that mai him reule.
And thus to telle of him in soth,
Ful many a wonder thing he doth,
That were betre to be laft,
Among the whiche is wicchecraft,
That som men clepen Sorcerie,
Which forto winne his druerie
With many a circumstance he useth,
Ther is no point which he refuseth.
The craft which that Saturnus fond,
To make prickes in the Sond,
That Geomance cleped is,
Fulofte he useth it amis;
And of the flod his Ydromance,
And of the fyr the Piromance,
With questions echon of tho
He tempteth ofte, and ek also
Aeremance in juggement
To love he bringth of his assent:
For these craftes, as I finde,
A man mai do be weie of kinde,
Be so it be to good entente.
Bot he goth al an other wente;
For rathere er he scholde faile,
With Nigromance he wole assaile
To make his incantacioun
With hot subfumigacioun.
Thilke art which Spatula is hote,
And used is of comun rote
Among Paiens, with that craft ek
Of which is Auctor Thosz the Grek,
He worcheth on and on be rowe:
Razel is noght to him unknowe,
Ne Salomones Candarie,
His Ydeac, his Eutonye;
The figure and the bok withal
Of Balamuz, and of Ghenbal
The Seal, and therupon thymage
Of Thebith, for his avantage
He takth, and somwhat of Gibiere,
Which helplich is to this matiere.
Babilla with hire Sones sevene,
Which hath renonced to the hevene,
With Cernes bothe square and rounde,
He traceth ofte upon the grounde,
Makende his invocacioun;
And for full enformacioun
The Scole which Honorius
Wrot, he poursuieth: and lo, thus
Magique he useth forto winne
His love, and spareth for no Sinne.
And over that of his Sotie,
Riht as he secheth Sorcerie
Of hem that ben Magiciens,
Riht so of the Naturiens
Upon the Sterres from above
His weie he secheth unto love,
Als fer as he hem understondeth.
In many a sondry wise he fondeth:
He makth ymage, he makth sculpture,
He makth writinge, he makth figure,
He makth his calculacions,
He makth his demonstracions;
His houres of Astronomie
He kepeth as for that partie
Which longeth to thinspeccion
Of love and his affeccion;
He wolde into the helle seche
The devel himselve to beseche,
If that he wiste forto spede,
To gete of love his lusti mede:
Wher that he hath his herte set,
He bede nevere fare bet
Ne wite of other hevene more.
Mi Sone, if thou of such a lore
Hast ben er this, I red thee leve.
Min holi fader, be youre leve
Of al that ye have spoken hiere
Which toucheth unto this matiere,
To telle soth riht as I wene,
I wot noght o word what ye mene.
I wol noght seie, if that I couthe,
That I nolde in mi lusti youthe
Benethe in helle and ek above
To winne with mi ladi love
Don al that evere that I mihte;
For therof have I non insihte
Wher afterward that I become,
To that I wonne and overcome
Hire love, which I most coveite.
Mi Sone, that goth wonder streite:
For this I mai wel telle soth,
Ther is noman the which so doth,
For al the craft that he can caste,
That he nabeith it ate laste.
For often he that wol beguile
Is guiled with the same guile,
And thus the guilour is beguiled;
As I finde in a bok compiled
To this matiere an old histoire,
The which comth nou to mi memoire,
And is of gret essamplerie
Ayein the vice of Sorcerie,
Wherof non ende mai be good.
Bot hou whilom therof it stod,
A tale which is good to knowe
To thee, mi Sone, I schal beknowe.
Among hem whiche at Troie were,
Uluxes ate Siege there
Was on be name in special;
Of whom yit the memorial
Abit, for whyl ther is a mouth,
For evere his name schal be couth.
He was a worthi knyht and king
And clerk knowende of every thing;
He was a gret rethorien,
He was a gret magicien;
Of Tullius the rethorique,
Of king Zorastes the magique,
Of Tholome thastronomie,
Of Plato the Philosophie,
Of Daniel the slepi dremes,
Of Neptune ek the water stremes,
Of Salomon and the proverbes,
Of Macer al the strengthe of herbes,
And the Phisique of Ypocras,
And lich unto Pictagoras
Of Surgerie he knew the cures.
Bot somwhat of his aventures,
Which schal to mi matiere acorde,
To thee, mi Sone, I wol recorde.
This king, of which thou hast herd sein,
Fro Troie as he goth hom ayein
Be Schipe, he fond the See divers,
With many a wyndi storm revers.
Bot he thurgh wisdom that he schapeth
Ful many a gret peril ascapeth,
Of whiche I thenke tellen on,
Hou that malgre the nedle and ston
Wynddrive he was al soudeinly
Upon the strondes of Cilly,
Wher that he moste abyde a whyle.
Tuo queenes weren in that yle
Calipsa named and Circes;
And whan they herde hou Uluxes
Is londed ther upon the ryve,
For him thei senden als so blive.
With him suche as he wolde he nam
And to the court to hem he cam.
Thes queenes were as tuo goddesses
Of Art magique Sorceresses,
That what lord comth to that rivage,
Thei make him love in such a rage
And upon hem assote so,
That thei wol have, er that he go,
Al that he hath of worldes good.
Uluxes wel this understod,
Thei couthe moche, he couthe more;
Thei schape and caste ayein him sore
And wroghte many a soutil wyle,
Bot yit thei mihte him noght beguile.
Bot of the men of his navie
Thei tuo forschope a gret partie,
Mai non of hem withstonde here hestes;
Som part thei schopen into bestes,
Som part thei schopen into foules,
To beres, tigres, Apes, oules,
Or elles be som other weie;
Ther myhte hem nothing desobeie,
Such craft thei hadde above kinde.
Bot that Art couthe thei noght finde,
Of which Uluxes was deceived,
That he ne hath hem alle weyved,
And broght hem into such a rote,
That upon him thei bothe assote;
And thurgh the science of his art
He tok of hem so wel his part,
That he begat Circes with childe.
He kepte him sobre and made hem wilde,
He sette himselve so above,
That with here good and with here love,
Who that therof be lief or loth,
Al quit into his Schip he goth.
Circes toswolle bothe sides
He lefte, and waiteth on the tydes,
And straght thurghout the salte fom
He takth his cours and comth him hom,
Where as he fond Penolope;
A betre wif ther mai non be,
And yit ther ben ynowhe of goode.
Bot who hir goodschipe understode
Fro ferst that sche wifhode tok,
Hou many loves sche forsok
And hou sche bar hire al aboute,
Ther whiles that hire lord was oute,
He mihte make a gret avant
Amonges al the remenant
That sche was on of al the beste.
Wel myhte he sette his herte in reste,
This king, whan he hir fond in hele;
For as he couthe in wisdom dele,
So couthe sche in wommanhiede:
And whan sche syh withoute drede
Hire lord upon his oghne ground,
That he was come sauf and sound,
In al this world ne mihte be
A gladdere womman than was sche.
The fame, which mai noght ben hidd,
Thurghout the lond is sone kidd,
Here king is come hom ayein:
Ther mai noman the fulle sein,
Hou that thei weren alle glade,
So mochel joie of him thei made.
The presens every day be newed,
He was with yiftes al besnewed;
The poeple was of him so glad,
That thogh non other man hem bad,
Taillage upon hemself thei sette,
And as it were of pure dette
Thei yeve here goodes to the king:
This was a glad hom welcomyng.
Thus hath Uluxes what he wolde,
His wif was such as sche be scholde,
His poeple was to him sougit,
Him lacketh nothing of delit.
Bot fortune is of such a sleyhte,
That whan a man is most on heyhte,
Sche makth him rathest forto falle:
Ther wot noman what schal befalle,
The happes over mannes hed
Ben honged with a tendre thred.
That proved was on Uluxes;
For whan he was most in his pes,
Fortune gan to make him werre
And sette his welthe al out of herre.
Upon a dai as he was merie,
As thogh ther mihte him nothing derie,
Whan nyht was come, he goth to bedde,
With slep and bothe his yhen fedde.
And while he slepte, he mette a swevene:
Him thoghte he syh a stature evene,
Which brihtere than the sonne schon;
A man it semeth was it non,
Bot yit it was as in figure
Most lich to mannyssh creature,
Bot as of beaute hevenelich
It was most to an Angel lich:
And thus betwen angel and man
Beholden it this king began,
And such a lust tok of the sihte,
That fain he wolde, if that he mihte,
The forme of that figure embrace;
And goth him forth toward the place,
Wher he sih that ymage tho,
And takth it in his Armes tuo,
And it embraceth him ayein
And to the king thus gan it sein:
'Uluxes, understond wel this,
The tokne of oure aqueintance is
Hierafterward to mochel tene:
The love that is ous betuene,
Of that we nou such joie make,
That on of ous the deth schal take,
Whan time comth of destine;
It may non other wise be.'
Uluxes tho began to preie
That this figure wolde him seie
What wyht he is that seith him so.
This wyht upon a spere tho
A pensel which was wel begon,
Embrouded, scheweth him anon:
Thre fisshes alle of o colour
In manere as it were a tour
Upon the pensel were wroght.
Uluxes kneu this tokne noght,
And preith to wite in som partie
What thing it myhte signefie,
'A signe it is,' the wyht ansuerde,
'Of an Empire:' and forth he ferde
Al sodeinly, whan he that seide.
Uluxes out of slep abreide,
And that was riht ayein the day,
That lengere slepen he ne may.
Men sein, a man hath knowleching
Save of himself of alle thing;
His oghne chance noman knoweth,
Bot as fortune it on him throweth:
Was nevere yit so wys a clerk,
Which mihte knowe al goddes werk,
Ne the secret which god hath set
Ayein a man mai noght be let.
Uluxes, thogh that he be wys,
With al his wit in his avis,
The mor that he his swevene acompteth,
The lasse he wot what it amonteth:
For al his calculacion,
He seth no demonstracion
Al pleinly forto knowe an ende;
Bot natheles hou so it wende,
He dradde him of his oghne Sone.
That makth him wel the more astone,
And schop therfore anon withal,
So that withinne castel wall
Thelamachum his Sone he schette,
And upon him strong warde he sette.
The sothe furthere he ne knew,
Til that fortune him overthreu;
Bot natheles for sikernesse,
Wher that he mihte wite and gesse
A place strengest in his lond,
Ther let he make of lym and sond
A strengthe where he wolde duelle;
Was nevere man yit herde telle
Of such an other as it was.
And forto strengthe him in that cas,
Of al his lond the sekereste
Of servantz and the worthieste,
To kepen him withinne warde,
He sette his bodi forto warde;
And made such an ordinance,
For love ne for aqueintance,
That were it erly, were it late,
Thei scholde lete in ate gate
No maner man, what so betydde,
Bot if so were himself it bidde.
Bot al that myhte him noght availe,
For whom fortune wole assaile,
Ther mai be non such resistence,
Which mihte make a man defence;
Al that schal be mot falle algate.
This Circes, which I spak of late,
On whom Uluxes hath begete
A child, thogh he it have foryete,
Whan time com, as it was wone,
Sche was delivered of a Sone,
Which cleped is Thelogonus.
This child, whan he was bore thus,
Aboute his moder to ful age,
That he can reson and langage,
In good astat was drawe forth:
And whan he was so mochel worth
To stonden in a mannes stede,
Circes his moder hath him bede
That he schal to his fader go,
And tolde him al togedre tho
What man he was that him begat.
And whan Thelogonus of that
Was war and hath ful knowleching
Hou that his fader was a king,
He preith his moder faire this,
To go wher that his fader is;
And sche him granteth that he schal,
And made him redi forth withal.
It was that time such usance,
That every man the conoiscance
Of his contre bar in his hond,
Whan he wente into strange lond;
And thus was every man therfore
Wel knowe, wher that he was bore:
For espiaile and mistrowinges
They dede thanne suche thinges,
That every man mai other knowe.
So it befell that ilke throwe
Thelogonus as in this cas;
Of his contre the signe was
Thre fisshes, whiche he scholde bere
Upon the penon of a spere:
And whan that he was thus arraied
And hath his harneis al assaied,
That he was redy everydel,
His moder bad him farewel,
And seide him that he scholde swithe
His fader griete a thousand sithe.
Thelogonus his moder kiste
And tok his leve, and wher he wiste
His fader was, the weie nam,
Til he unto Nachaie cam,
Which of that lond the chief Cite
Was cleped, and ther axeth he
Wher was the king and hou he ferde.
And whan that he the sothe herde,
Wher that the king Uluxes was,
Al one upon his hors gret pas
He rod him forth, and in his hond
He bar the signal of his lond
With fisshes thre, as I have told;
And thus he wente unto that hold,
Wher that his oghne fader duelleth.
The cause why he comth he telleth
Unto the kepers of the gate,
And wolde have comen in therate,
Bot schortli thei him seide nay:
And he als faire as evere he may
Besoghte and tolde hem ofte this,
Hou that the king his fader is;
Bot they with proude wordes grete
Begunne to manace and threte,
Bot he go fro the gate faste,
Thei wolde him take and sette faste.
Fro wordes unto strokes thus
Thei felle, and so Thelogonus
Was sore hurt and welnyh ded;
Bot with his scharpe speres hed
He makth defence, hou so it falle,
And wan the gate upon hem alle,
And hath slain of the beste fyve;
And thei ascriden als so blyve
Thurghout the castell al aboute.
On every syde men come oute,
Wherof the kinges herte afflihte,
And he with al the haste he mihte
A spere cauhte and out he goth,
As he that was nyh wod for wroth.
He sih the gates ful of blod,
Thelogonus and wher he stod
He sih also, bot he ne knew
What man it was, and to him threw
His Spere, and he sterte out asyde.
Bot destine, which schal betide,
Befell that ilke time so,
Thelogonus knew nothing tho
What man it was that to him caste,
And while his oghne spere laste,
With al the signe therupon
He caste unto the king anon,
And smot him with a dedly wounde.
Uluxes fell anon to grounde;
Tho every man, 'The king! the king!'
Began to crie, and of this thing
Thelogonus, which sih the cas,
On knes he fell and seide, 'Helas!
I have min oghne fader slain:
Nou wolde I deie wonder fain,
Nou sle me who that evere wile,
For certes it is right good skile.'
He crith, he wepth, he seith therfore,
'Helas, that evere was I bore,
That this unhappi destine
So wofulli comth in be me!'
This king, which yit hath lif ynouh,
His herte ayein to him he drouh,
And to that vois an Ere he leide
And understod al that he seide,
And gan to speke, and seide on hih,
'Bring me this man.' And whan he sih
Thelogonus, his thoght he sette
Upon the swevene which he mette,
And axeth that he myhte se
His spere, on which the fisshes thre
He sih upon a pensel wroght.
Tho wiste he wel it faileth noght,
And badd him that he telle scholde
Fro whenne he cam and what he wolde.
Thelogonus in sorghe and wo
So as he mihte tolde tho
Unto Uluxes al the cas,
Hou that Circes his moder was,
And so forth seide him everydel,
Hou that his moder gret him wel,
And in what wise sche him sente.
Tho wiste Uluxes what it mente,
And tok him in hise Armes softe,
And al bledende he kest him ofte,
And seide, 'Sone, whil I live,
This infortune I thee foryive.'
After his other Sone in haste
He sende, and he began him haste
And cam unto his fader tyt.
Bot whan he sih him in such plit,
He wolde have ronne upon that other
Anon, and slain his oghne brother,
Ne hadde be that Uluxes
Betwen hem made acord and pes,
And to his heir Thelamachus
He bad that he Thelogonus
With al his pouer scholde kepe,
Til he were of his woundes depe
Al hol, and thanne he scholde him yive
Lond wher upon he mihte live.
Thelamachus, whan he this herde,
Unto his fader he ansuerde
And seide he wol

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sixth Book

THE English have a scornful insular way
Of calling the French light. The levity
Is in the judgment only, which yet stands;
For say a foolish thing but oft enough,
(And here's the secret of a hundred creeds,–
Men get opinions as boys learn to spell,
By re-iteration chiefly) the same thing
Shall pass at least for absolutely wise,
And not with fools exclusively. And so,
We say the French are light, as if we said
The cat mews, or the milch-cow gives us milk:
Say rather, cats are milked, and milch cows mew,
For what is lightness but inconsequence,
Vague fluctuation 'twixt effect and cause,
Compelled by neither? Is a bullet light,
That dashes from the gun-mouth, while the eye
Winks, and the heart beats one, to flatten itself
To a wafer on the white speck on a wall
A hundred paces off? Even so direct,
So sternly undivertible of aim,
Is this French people.
All idealists
Too absolute and earnest, with them all
The idea of a knife cuts real flesh;
And still, devouring the safe interval
Which Nature placed between the thought and act,
They threaten conflagration to the world
And rush with most unscrupulous logic on
Impossible practice. Set your orators
To blow upon them with loud windy mouths
Through watchword phrases, jest or sentiment,
Which drive our burley brutal English mobs
Like so much chaff, whichever way they blow,–
This light French people will not thus be driven.
They turn indeed; but then they turn upon
Some central pivot of their thought and choice,
And veer out by the force of holding fast.
–That's hard to understand, for Englishmen
Unused to abstract questions, and untrained
To trace the involutions, valve by valve,
In each orbed bulb-root of a general truth,
And mark what subtly fine integument
Divides opposed compartments. Freedom's self
Comes concrete to us, to be understood,
Fixed in a feudal form incarnately
To suit our ways of thought and reverence,
The special form, with us, being still the thing.
With us, I say, though I'm of Italy
My mother's birth and grave, by father's grave
And memory; let it be,–a poet's heart
Can swell to a pair of nationalities,
However ill-lodged in a woman's breast.

And so I am strong to love this noble France,
This poet of the nations, who dream on
And wails on (while the household goes to wreck)
For ever, after some ideal good,–
Some equal poise of sex, some unvowed love
Inviolate, some spontaneous brotherhood,
Some wealth, that leaves none poor and finds none tired,
Some freedom of the many, that respects
The wisdom of the few. Heroic dreams!
Sublime, to dream so; natural, to wake:
And sad, to use such lofty scaffoldings,
Erected for the building of a church,
To build instead, a brothel . . or a prison–
May God save France!
However she have sighed
Her great soul up into a great man's face,
To flush his temples out so gloriously
That few dare carp at Cæsar for being bald,
What then?–this Cæsar represents, not reigns,
And is not despot, though twice absolute;
This Head has all the people for a heart;
This purple's lined with the democracy,–
Now let him see to it! for a rent within
Must leave irreparable rags without.

A serious riddle: find such anywhere
Except in France; and when it's found in France,
Be sure to read it rightly. So, I mused
Up and down, up and down, the terraced streets,
The glittering Boulevards, the white colonnades
Of fair fantastic Paris who wears boughs
Like plumes, as if a man made them,–tossing up
Her fountains in the sunshine from the squares,
As dice i' the game of beauty, sure to win;
Or as she blew the down-balls of her dreams,
And only waited for their falling back,
To breathe up more, and count her festive hours.

The city swims in verdure, beautiful
As Venice on the waters, the sea-swan.
What bosky gardens, dropped in close-walled courts,
As plums in ladies' laps, who start and laugh:
What miles of streets that run on after trees,
Still carrying the necessary shops,
Those open caskets, with the jewels seen!
And trade is art, and art's philosophy,
In Paris. There's a silk, for instance, there,
As worth an artist's study for the folds,
As that bronze opposite! nay, the bronze has faults;
Art's here too artful,–conscious as a maid,
Who leans to mark her shadow on the wall
Until she lose a 'vantage in her step.
Yet Art walks forward, and knows where to walk:
The artists also, are idealists,
Too absolute for nature, logical
To austerity in the application of
The special theory; not a soul content
To paint a crooked pollard and an ass,
As the English will, because they find it so,
And like it somehow.–Ah, the old Tuileries
Is pulling its high cap down on its eyes,
Confounded, conscience-stricken, and amazed
By the apparition of a new fair face
In those devouring mirrors. Through the grate,
Within the gardens, what a heap of babes,
Swept up like leaves beneath the chestnut-trees,
From every street and alley of the town,
By the ghosts perhaps that blow too bleak this way
A-looking for their heads! Dear pretty babes,
I'll wish them luck to have their ball-play out
Before the next change comes.–And further on,
What statues, posed upon their columns fine,
As if to stand a moment were a feat,
Against that blue! What squares! what breathing-room
For a nation that funs fast,–ay, runs against
The dentist's teeth at the corner, in pale rows,
Which grin at progress in an epigram.

I walked the day out, listening to the chink
Of the first Napoleon's dry bones, as they lay
In his second grave beneath the golden dome
That caps all Paris like a bubble. 'Shall
These dry bones live,' thought Louis Philippe once,
And lived to know. Herein is argument
For kings and politicians, but still more
For poets, who bear buckets to the well,
Of ampler draught.
These crowds are very good
For meditation, (when we are very strong)
Though love of beauty makes us timorous,
And draws us backward from the coarse town-sights
To count the daisies upon dappled fields,
And hear the streams bleat on among the hills
In innocent and indolent repose;
While still with silken elegiac thoughts
We wind out from us the distracting world,
And die into the chrysalis of a man,
And leave the best that may, to come of us
In some brown moth. Be, rather, bold, and bear
To look into the swarthiest face of things,
For God's sake who has made them.

Seven days' work;
The last day shutting 'twixt its dawn and eve,
The whole work bettered, of the previous six!
Since God collected and resumed in man
The firmaments, the strata, and the lights,
Fish, fowl, and beast, and insect,–all their trains
Of various life caught back upon His arm,
Reorganised, and constituted MAN,
The microcosm, the adding up of works;
Within whose fluttering nostrils, then at last,
Consummating Himself, the Maker sighed,
As some strong winner at the foot race sighs
Touching the goal.
Humanity is great;
And, if I would not rather pore upon
An ounce of common, ugly, human dust,
An artisan's palm, or a peasant's brow,
Unsmooth, ignoble, save to me and God,
Than track old Nilus to his silver roots,
And wait on all the changes of the moon
Among the mountain-peaks of Thessaly,
(Until her magic crystal round itself
For many a witch to see in)–set it down
As weakness,–strength by no means. How is this
That men of science, osteologists
And surgeons, beat some poets, in respect
For nature,–count nought common or unclean,
Spend raptures upon perfect specimens
Of indurated veins, distorted joints,
Or beautiful new cases of curved spine:
While we, we are shocked at nature's falling off,
We dare to shrink back from her warts and blains,
We will not, when she sneezes, look at her,
Not even to say 'God bless her'? That's our wrong;
For that, she will not trust us often with
Her larger sense of beauty and desire,
But tethers us to a lily or a rose
And bids us diet on the dew inside,–
Left ignorant that the hungry beggar-boy
(Who stares unseen against our absent eyes,
And wonders at the gods that we must be,
To pass so careless for the oranges!)
Bears yet a breastful of a fellow-world
To this world, undisparaged, undespoiled,
And (while we scorn him for a flower or two,
As being, Heaven help us, less poetical)
Contains, himself, both flowers and firmaments
And surging seas and aspectable stars,
And all that we would push him out of sight
In order to see nearer. Let us pray
God's grace to keep God's image in repute;
That so, the poet and philanthropist
(Even I and Romney) may stand side by side,
Because we both stand face to face with men
Contemplating the people in the rough,–
Yet each so follow a vocation,–his
And mine.
I walked on, musing with myself
On life and art, and whether, after all,
A larger metaphysics might not help
Our physics, a completer poetry
Adjust our daily life and vulgar wants,
More fully than the special outside plans,
Phalansteries, material institutes
The civil conscriptions and lay monasteries
Preferred by modern thinkers, as they thought
The bread of man indeed made all his life,
And washing seven times in the 'People's Baths'
Were sovereign for a people's leprosy,–
Still leaving out the essential prophet's word
That comes in power. On which, we thunder down,
We prophets, poets,–Virtue's in the word!
The maker burnt the darkness up with His,
To inaugurate the use of vocal life;
And, plant a poet's word even, deep enough
In any man's breast, looking presently
For offshoots, you have done more for the man,
Than if you dressed him in a broad-cloth coat
And warmed his Sunday potage at your fire.
Yet Romney leaves me . . .
God! what face is that?
O Romney, O Marian!
Walking on the quays
And pulling thoughts to pieces leisurely,
As if I caught at grasses in a field,
And bit them slow between my absent lips,
And shred them with my hands . .
What face is that?
What a face, what a look, what a likeness! Full on mine
The sudden blow of it came down, till all
My blood swam, my eyes dazzled. Then I sprang–

If was as if a meditative man
Were dreaming out a summer afternoon
And watching gnats a-prick upon a pond,
When something floats up suddenly, out there,
Turns over . . a dead face, known once alive–
So old, so new! It would be dreadful now
To lose the sight and keep the doubt of this.
He plunges–ha! he has lost it in the splash.

I plunged–I tore the crowd up, either side,
And rushed on,–forward, forward . . after her.
Her? whom?
A woman sauntered slow, in front,
Munching an apple,–she left off amazed
As if I had snatched it: that's not she, at least.
A man walked arm-linked with a lady veiled,
Both heads dropped closer than the need of talk:
They started; he forgot her with his face,
And she, herself,–and clung to him as if
My look were fatal. Such a stream of folk,
All with cares and business of their own!
I ran the whole quay down against their eyes;
No Marian; nowhere Marian. Almost, now,
I could call Marian, Marian, with the shriek
Of desperate creatures calling for the Dead.
Where is she, was she? was she anywhere?
I stood still, breathless, gazing, straining out
In every uncertain distance, till, at last,
A gentleman abstracted as myself
Came full against me, then resolved the clash
In voluble excuses,–obviously
Some learned member of the Institute
Upon his way there, walking, for his health,
While meditating on the last 'Discourse;'
Pinching the empty air 'twixt finger and thumb,
From which the snuff being ousted by that shock,
Defiled his snow-white waistcoat, duly pricked
At the button-hole with honourable red;
'Madame, your pardon,'–there, he swerved from me
A metre, as confounded as he had heard
That Dumas would be chosen to fill up
The next chair vacant, by his 'men in us,'
Since when was genius found respectable?
It passes in its place, indeed,–which means
The seventh floor back, or else the hospital;
Revolving pistols are ingenious things,
But prudent men (Academicians are)
Scare keep them in the cupboard, next the prunes.

And so, abandoned to a bitter mirth,
I loitered to my inn. O world, O world,
O jurists, rhymers, dreamers, what you please,
We play a weary game of hide and seek!
We shape a figure of our fantasy,
Call nothing something, and run after it
And lose it, lose ourselves too in the search,
Till clash against us, comes a somebody
Who also has lost something and is lost,
Philosopher against philanthropist,
Academician against poet, man
Against woman, against the living, the dead,–
Then home, with a bad headache and worse jest!

To change the water for my heliotropes
And yellow roses. Paris has such flowers,
But England, also. 'Twas a yellow rose,
By that south window of the little house,
My cousin Romney gathered with his hand
On all my birthdays for me, save the last;
And then I shook the tree too rough, too rough,
For roses to stay after.
Now, my maps
I must not linger here from Italy
Till the last nightingale is tired of song,
And the last fire-fly dies off in the maize.
My soul's in haste to leap into the sun
And scorch and seethe itself to a finer mood,
Which here, in this chill north, is apt to stand
Too stiffly in former moulds.
That face persists.
It floats up, it turns over in my mind,
As like to Marian, as one dead is like
That same alive. In very deed a face
And not a fancy, though it vanished so;
The small fair face between the darks of hair,
I used to liken, when I saw her first,
To a point of moonlit water down a well:
The low brow, the frank space between the eyes,
Which always had the brown pathetic look
Of a dumb creature who had been beaten once,
And never since was easy with the world.
Ah, ah–now I remember perfectly
Those eyes to-day,–how overlarge they seemed
As if some patient passionate despair
(Like a coal dropt and forgot on tapestry,
Which slowly burns a widening circle out)
Had burnt them larger, larger. And those eyes,
To-day, I do remember, saw me too,
As I saw them, with conscious lids astrain
In recognition. Now, a fantasy,
A simple shade or image of the brain,
Is merely passive, does not retro-act,
Is seen, but sees not.
'Twas a real face,
Perhaps a real Marian.
Which being so,
I ought to write to Romney, 'Marian's here.
Be comforted for Marian.'
My pen fell,
My hands struck sharp together, as hands do
Which hold at nothing. Can I write to him
A half truth? can I keep my own soul blind
To the other half, . . the worse? What are our souls,
If still, to run on straight a sober pace
Nor start at every pebble or dead leaf,
They must wear blinkers, ignore facts, suppress
Six-tenths of the road? Confront the truth, my soul!
And oh, as truly as that was Marian's face,
The arms of the same Marian clasped a thing
. . Not hid so well beneath the scanty shawl,
I cannot name it now for what it was.

A child. Small business has a cast-away
Like Marian, with that crown of prosperous wives
At which the gentlest she grows arrogant
And says, 'my child.' Who'll find an emerald ring
On a beggar's middle finger, and require
More testimony to convict a thief?
A child's too costly for so mere a wretch;
She filched it somewhere; and it means, with her,
Instead of honour, blessing, . . merely shame.
I cannot write to Romney, 'Here she is,
Here's Marian found! I'll set you on her track:
I saw her here, in Paris, . . and her child.
She put away your love two years ago,
But, plainly, not to starve. You suffered then;
And, now that you've forgot her utterly
As any lost year's annual in whose place
You've planted a thick flowering evergreen,
I choose, being kind, to write and tell you this
To make you wholly easy–she's not dead,
But only . . damned.'
Stop there: I go too fast;
I'm cruel like the rest,–in haste to take
The first stir in the arras for a rat,
And set my barking, biting thoughts upon't.
–A child! what then? Suppose a neighbour's sick
And asked her, 'Marian, carry out my child
In this spring air,'–I punish her for that?
Or say, the child should hold her round the neck
For good child-reasons, that he liked it so
And would not leave her–she had winning ways–
I brand her therefore, that she took the child?
Not so.
I will not write to Romney Leigh.
For now he's happy,–and she may indeed
Be guilty,–and the knowledeg of her fault
Would draggle his smooth time. But I, whose days
Are not so fine they cannot bear the rain,
And who, moreover, having seen her face,
Must see it again, . . will see it, by my hopes
Of one day seeing heaven too. The police
Shall track her, hound her, ferret their own soil;
We'll dig this Paris to its catacombs
But certainly we'll find her, have her out,
And save her, if she will or will not–child
Or no child,–if a child, then one to save!

The long weeks passed on without consequence.
As easy find a footstep on the sand
The morning after spring-tied, as the trace
Of Marian's feet between the incessant surfs
Of this live flood. She may have moved this way,–
But so the star-fish does, and crosses out
The dent of her small shoe. The foiled police
Renounced me; 'Could they find a girl and child,
No other signalment but girl and child?
No data shown, but noticeable eyes
And hair in masses, low upon the brow,
As if it were an iron crown and pressed?
Friends heighten, and suppose they specify:
Why, girls with hair and eyes are everywhere
In Paris; they had turned me up in vain
No Marian Erle indeed, but certainly
Mathildes, Justines, Victoires, . . or, if I sought
The English, Betsis, Saras, by the score.
They might as well go out into the fields
To find a speckled bean, that's somehow specked,
And somewhere in the pod.'–They left me so.
Shall I leave Marian? have I dreamed a dream?
I thank God I have found her! I must say
'Thank, God,' for finding her, although 'tis true
I find the world more sad and wicked for't.
But she–
I'll write about her, presently;
My hand's a-tremble as I had just caught up
My heart to write with, in the place of it.
At least you'd take these letters to be writ
At sea, in storm!–wait now . .
A simple chance
Did all. I could not sleep last night, and tired
Of turning on my pillow and harder thoughts
Went out at early morning, when the air
Is delicate with some last starry touch,
To wander through the Market-place of Flowers
(The prettiest haunt in Paris), and make sure
At worst, that there were roses in the world.
So wandering, musing with the artist's eye,
That keeps the shade-side of the thing it loves,
Half-absent, whole-observing, while the crowd
Of young vivacioius and black-braided heads
Dipped, quick as finches in a blossomed tree,
Among the nosegays, cheapening this and that
In such a cheerful twitter of rapid speech,–
My heart leapt in me, startled by a voice
That slowly, faintly, with long breaths that marked
The interval between the wish and word,
Inquired in stranger's French, 'Would that be much,
That branch of flowering mountain-gorse?'–'So much?
Too much for me, then!' turning the face round
So close upon me, that I felt the sigh
It turned with.
'Marian, Marian!'–face to face–
'Marian! I find you. Shall I let you go?'
I held her two slight wrists with both my hands;
'Ah, Marian, Marian, can I let you go?'
–She fluttered from me like a cyclamen,
As white, which, taken in a sudden wind,
Beats on against the palisade.–'Let pass,'
She said at last. 'I will not,' I replied;
'I lost my sister Marian many days,
And sought her ever in my walks and prayers,
And now I find her . . . do we thrown away
The bread we worked and prayed for,–crumble it
And drop it, . . to do even so by thee
Whom still I've hungered after more than bread,
My sister Marian?–can I hurt thee, dear?
Then why distrust me? Never tremble so.
Come with me rather, where we'll talk and live,
And none shall vex us. I've a home for you
And me and no one else' . . .
She shook her head.
'A home for you and me and no one else
Ill-suits one of us: I prefer to such,
A roof of grass on which a flower might spring,
Less costly to me than the cheapest here;
And yet I could not, at this hour, afford
A like home, even. That you offer yours,
I thank you. You are good as heaven itself–
As good as one I knew before . . Farewell.'
I loosed her hands. 'In his name, no farewell!'
(She stood as if I held her,) 'for his sake,
For his sake, Romney's! by the good he meant,
Ay, always! by the love he pressed for once,–
And by the grief, reproach, abandonment,
He took in change' . .
'He, Romney! who grieved him?
Who had the heart for't? what reproach touch'd him?
Be merciful,–speak quickly.'
'Therefore come.
I answered with authority,–'I think
We dare to speak such things, and name such names,
In the open squares of Paris!'
Not a word
She said, but, in a gentle humbled way,
(As one who had forgot herself in grief)
Turned round and followed closely where I went.
As if I led her by a narrow plank
Across devouring waters, step by step,–
And so in silence we walked on a mile.

And then she stopped: her face was white as wax.
'We go much further?'
'You are ill,' I asked,
'Or tired?'
She looked the whiter for her smile.
'There's one at home,' she said, 'has need of me
By this time,–and I must not let him wait.'

'Not even,' I asked, 'to hear of Romney Leigh?'
'Not even,' she said, 'to hear of Mister Leigh.'

'In that case,' I resumed, 'I go with you,
And we can talk the same thing there as here.
None waits for me: I have my day to spend.'

Her lips moved in a spasm without a sound,–
But then she spoke. 'It shall be as you please;
And better so,–'tis shorter seen than told.
And though you will not find me worth your pains,
That even, may be worth some pains to know,
For one as good as you are.'
Then she led
The way, and I, as by a narrow plank
Across devouring waters, followed her,
Stepping by her footsteps, breathing by her breath,
And holding her with eyes that would not slip;
And so, without a word, we walked a mile,
And so, another mile, without a word.

Until the peopled streets being all dismissed,
House-rows and groups all scattered like a flock,
The market-gardens thickened, and the long
White walls beyond, like spiders' outside threads,
Stretched, feeling blindly toward the country-fields
Through half-built habitations and half-dug
Foundations,–intervals of trenchant chalk,
That bite betwixt the grassy uneven turfs
Where goats (vine tendrils trailing from their mouths)
Stood perched on edges of the cellarage
Which should be, staring as about to leap
To find their coming Bacchus. All the place
Seemed less a cultivation than a waste:
Men work here, only,–scarce begin to live:
All's sad, the country struggling with the town,
Like an untamed hawk upon a strong man's fist,
That beats its wings and tries to get away,
And cannot choose be satisfied so soon
To hop through court-yards with its right foot tied,
The vintage plains and pastoral hills in sight!

We stopped beside a house too high and slim
To stand there by itself, but waiting till
Five others, two on this side, three on that,
Should grow up from the sullen second floor
They pause at now, to build it to a row.
The upper windows partly were unglazed
Meantime,–a meagre, unripe house: a line
Of rigid poplars elbowed it behind,
And just in front, beyond the lime and bricks
That wronged the grass between it and the road,
A great acacia, with its slender trunk
And overpoise of multitudinous leaves,
(In which a hundred fields might spill their dew
And intense verdure, yet find room enough)
Stood reconciling all the place with green.

I follwoed up the stair upon her step.
She hurried upward, shot across a face,
A woman's on the landing,–'How now, now!
Is no one to have holidays but you?
You said an hour, and stay three hours, I think,
And Julie waiting for your betters here!
Why if he had waked, he might have waked for me.'
–Just murmuring an excusing word she passed
And shut the rest out with the chamber-door,
Myself shut in beside her.
'Twas a room
Scarce large than a grave, and near as bare;
Two stools, a pallet-bed; I saw the room;
A mouse could find no sort of shelter in't,
Much less a greater secret; curtainless,–
The window fixed you with its torturing eye,
Defying you to take a step apart.
If peradventure you would hide a thing.
I saw the whole room, I and Marian there
Alone.
Alone? She threw her bonnet off,
Then sighing as 'twere sighing the last time,
Approached the bed, and drew a shawl away:
You could not peel a fruit you fear to bruise
More calmly and more carefully than so,–
Nor would you find within, a rosier flushed
Pomegranate–
There he lay, upon his back,
The yearling creature, warm and moist with life
To the bottom of his dimples,–to the ends
Of the lovely tumbled curls about his face;
For since he had been covered over-much
To keep him from the light glare, both his cheeks
Were hot and scarlet as the first live rose
The shepherd's heart blood ebbed away into,
The faster for his love. And love was here
As instant! in the pretty baby-mouth,
Shut close as if for dreaming that it sucked;
The little naked feet drawn up the way
Of nestled birdlings; everything so soft
And tender,–to the little holdfast hands,
Which, closing on a finger into sleep,
Had kept the mould of't.
While we stood there dumb,–
For oh, that it should take such innocence
To prove just guilt, I thought, and stood there dumb;
The light upon his eyelids pricked them wide,
And staring out at us with all their blue,
As half perplexed between the angelhood
He had been away to visit in his sleep,
And our most mortal presence,–gradually
He saw his mother's face, accepting it
In change for heaven itself, with such a smile
As might have well been learnt there,–never moved,
But smiled on, in a drowse of ecstasy,
So happy (half with her and half with heaven)
He could not have the trouble to be stirred,
But smiled and lay there. Like a rose, I said:
As red and still indeed as any rose,
That blows in all the silence of its leaves,
Content, in blowing, to fulfil its life.

She leaned above him (drinking him as wine)
In that extremity of love, 'twill pass
For agony or rapture, seeing that love
Includes the whole of nature, rounding it
To love . . no more,–since more can never be
Than just love. Self-forgot, cast out of self,
And drowning in the transport of the sight,
Her whole pale passionate face, mouth, forehead, eyes,
One gaze, she stood! then, slowly as he smiled,
She smiled too, slowly, smiling unaware,
And drawing from his countenance to hers
A fainter red, as if she watched a flame
And stood in it a-glow. 'How beautiful!'
Said she.
I answered, trying to be cold.
(Must sin have compensations, was my thought,
As if it were a holy thing like grief?
And is a woman to be fooled aside
From putting vice down, with that woman's toy,
A baby?)––'Ay! the child is well enough,'
I answered. 'If his mother's palms are clean,
They need be glad, of course, in clasping such:
But if not,–I would rather lay my hand,
Were I she,–on God's brazen altar-bars
Red-hot with burning sacrificial lambs,
Than touch the sacred curls of such a child.'

She plunged her fingers in his clustering locks,
As one who would not be afraid of fire;
And then, with indrawn steady utterance, said,–
'My lamb, my lamb! although, through such as thou,
The most unclean got courage and approach
To God, once,–now they cannot, even with men,
Find grace enough for pity and gentle words.'

'My Marian,' I made answer, grave and sad,
'The priest who stole a lamb to offer him,
Was still a thief. And if a woman steals
(Through God's own barrier-hedges of true love,
Which fence out licence in securing love)
A child like this, that smiles so in her face,
She is no mother, but a kidnapper,
And he's a dismal orphan . . not a son;
Whom all her kisses cannot feed so full
He will not miss herafter a pure home
To live in, a pure heart to lean against,
A pure good mother's name and memory
To hope by when the world grows thick and bad,
And he feels out for virtue.'
'Oh,' she smiled
With bitter patience, 'the child takes his chance,–
Not much worse off in being fatherless
Than I was fathered. He will say, belike,
His mother was the saddest creature born;
He'll say his mother lived so contrary
To joy, that even the kindest, seeing her,
Grew sometimes almost cruel: he'll not say
She flew contrarious in the face of God
With bat-wings of her vices. Stole my child,–
My flower of earth, my only flower on earth,
My sweet, my beauty!' . . Up she snatched the child,
And breaking on him in a storm of tears,
Drew out her long sobs from their shivering roots,
Until he took it for a game, and stretched
His feet, and flapped his eager arms like wings,
And crowed and gurgled through his infant laugh:
'Mine, mine,' she said; 'I have as sure a right
As any glad pround mother in the world,
Who sets her darling down to cut his teeth
Upon her church-ring. If she talks of law,
I talk of law! I claim my mother-dues
By law,–the law which now is paramount;
The common law, by which the poor and weak
Are trodden underfoot by vicious men,
And loathed for ever after by the good.
Let pass! I did not filch . . I found the child.'

'You found him, Marian?'
'Ay, I found him where
I found my curse,–in the gutter with my shame!
What have you, any of you, to say to that,
Who all are happy, and sit safe and high,
And never spoke before to arraign my right
To grief itself? What, what, . . being beaten down
By hoofs of maddened oxen into a ditch,
Half-dead, whole mangled . . when a girl, at last,
Breathes, sees . . and finds, there, bedded in her flesh,
Because of the overcoming shock perhaps,
Some coin of price! . . and when a good man comes
(That's God! the best men are not quite as good)
And says, 'I dropped the coin there: take it, you,
And keep it,–it shall pay you for the loss,–
You all put up your finger–'See the thief!
'Observe that precious thing she has come to filch!
'How bad those girls are!' Oh, my flower, my pet,
I dare forget I have you in my arms,
And fly off to be angry with the world,
And fright you, hurt you with my tempers, till
You double up your lip? Ah, that indeed
Is bad: a naughty mother!'
'You mistake,'
I interrupted. 'If I loved you not,
I should not, Marian, certainly be here.'

'Alas,' she said, 'you are so very good;
And yet I wish, indeed, you had never come
To make me sob until I vex the child.
It is not wholesome for these pleasure-plats
To be so early watered by our brine.
And then, who knows? he may not like me now
As well, perhaps, as ere he saw me fret,–
One's ugly fretting! he has eyes the same
As angels, but he cannot see as deep,
And so I've kept for ever in his sight
A sort of smile to please him, as you place
A green thing from the garden in a cup,
To make believe it grows there. Look, my sweet,
My cowslip-ball! we've done with that cross face,
And here's the face come back you used to like.
And, ah! he laughs! he likes me. Ah, Miss Leigh,
You're great and pure; but were you purer still,–
As if you had walked, we'll say, no otherwhere
Than up and down the new Jerusalem,
And held your trailing lutestring up yourself
From brushing the twelve stones, for fear of some
Small speck as little as a needle prick,
White stitched on white,–the child would keep to me,
Would choose his poor lost Marian, like me best,
And, though you stretched your arms, cry back and cling,
As we do, when God says it's time to die
And bids us go up higher. Leave us then;
We two are happy. Does he push me off?
He's satisfied with me, as I with him.'

'So soft to one, so hard to others! Nay.'
I cried, more angry that she melted me,
'We make henceforth a cushion of our faults
To sit and practise easy virtues on?
I thought a child was given to sanctify
A woman,–set her in the sight of all
The clear-eyed heavens, a chosen minister
To do their business and lead spirits up
The difficult blue heights. A woman lives,
Not bettered, quickened toward the truth and good
Through being a mother? . . . then she's none although
She damps her baby's cheeks by kissing them,
As we kill roses.'
'Kill! O Christ,' she said,
And turned her wild sad face from side to side
With most despairing wonder in it–'What,
What have you in your souls against me then,
All of you? am I wicked, do you think?
God knows me, trusts me with a child! but you,
You think me really wicked?'
'Complaisant,'
I answered softly, 'to a wrong you've done,
Because of certain profits,–which is wrong
Beyond the first wrong, Marian. When you left
The pure place and the noble heart, to take
The hand of a seducer' . .
'Whom? whose hand?
I took the hand of' . .
Springing up erect,
And lifting up the child at full arm's length,
As if to bear him like an oriflamme
Unconquerable to armies of reproach,–
'By him,' she said, 'my child's head and its curls,
By those blue eyes no woman born could dare
A perjury on, I make my mother's oath,
That if I left that Heart, to lighten it,
The blood of mine was still, except for grief!
No cleaner maid than I was, took a step
To a sadder cup,–no matron-mother now
Looks backwards to her early maidenhood
Through chaster pulses. I speak steadily:
And if I lie so, . . if, being fouled in will
And paltered with in soul by devil's lust,
I dare to bid this angel take my part, . .
Would God sit quiet, let us think, in heaven,
Nor strike me dumb with thunder? Yet I speak:
He clears me therefore. What, 'seduced' 's your word?
Do wolves seduce a wandering fawn in France?
Do eagles, who have pinched a lamb with claws,
Seduce it into carrion? So with me.
I was not ever as you say, seduced,
But simply murdered.'
There she paused, and sighed,
With such a sigh as drops from agony
To exhaustion,–sighing while she let the babe
Slide down upon her bosom from her arms,
And all her face's light fell after him,
Like a torch quenched in falling. Down she sank,
And sate upon the bedside with the child.
But I, convicted, broken utterly,
With woman's passion clung about her waist,
And kissed her hair and eyes,–'I have been wrong,
Sweet Marian' . . (weeping in a tender rage)
'Sweet holy Marian! And now, Marian, now,
I'll use your oath although my lips are hard,
And by the child, my Marian, by the child,
I'll swear his mother shall be innocent
Before my conscience, as in the open Book
Of Him who reads for judgment. Innocent,
My sister! let the night be ne'er so dark,
The moon is surely somewhere in the sky:
So surely is your whiteness to be found
Through all dark facts. But pardon, pardon me,
And smile a little, Marian,–for the child,
If not for me, my sister.'
The poor lip
Just motioned for the smile and let it go.
And then, with scarce a stirring of the mouth,
As if a statue spoke that could not breathe,
But spoke on calm between its marble lips,–
'I'm glad, I'm very glad you clear me so.
I should be sorry that you set me down
With harlots, or with even a better name
Which misbecomes his mother. For the rest
I am not on a level with your love,
Nor ever was, you know,–but now am worse,
Because that world of yours has dealt with me
As when the hard sea bites and chews a stone
And changes the first form of it. I've marked
A shore of pebbles bitten to one shape
From all the various life of madrepores;
And so, that little stone, called Marian Erle,
Picked up and dropped by you and another friend,
Was ground and tortured by the incessant sea
And bruised from what she was,–changed! death's a change,
And she, I said, was murdered; Marian's dead.
What can you do with people when they are dead,
But, if you are pious, sing a hymn and go;
Or, if you are tender, heave a sigh and go,
But go by all means,–and permit the grass
To keep its green feud up 'twixt them and you?
Then leave me,–let me rest. I'm dead, I say.
And if, to save the child from death as well,
The mother in me has survived the rest,
Why, that's God's miracle you must not tax,–
I'm not less dead for that: I'm nothing more
But just a mother. Only for the child,
I'm warm, and cold, and hungry, and afraid,
And smell the flowers a little, and see the sun,
And speak still, and am silent,–just for him!
I pray you therefore to mistake me not
And treat me haply, as I were alive;
For though you ran a pin into my soul,
I think it would not hurt nor trouble me.
Here's proof, dear lady,–in the market-place
But now, you promised me to say a word
About . . a friend, who once, long years ago,
Took God's place toward me, when He draws and loves
And does not thunder, . . whom at last I left,
As all of us leave God. You thought perhaps
I seemed to care for hearing of that friend?
Now, judge me! we have sate here half an hour
And talked together of the child and me,
And I not asked as much as 'What's the thing
You had to tell me of the friend . . the friend?'
He's sad, I think you said,–he's sick perhaps?
It's nought to Marian if he's sad or sick.
Another would have crawled beside your foot
And prayed your words out. Why, a beast, a dog,
A starved cat, if he had fed it once with milk,
Would show less hardness. But I'm dead, you see,
And that explains it.'
Poor, poor thing, she spoke
And shook her head, as white and calm as frost
On days too cold for raining any more,
But still with such a face, so much alive,
I could not choose but take it on my arm
And stroke the placid patience of its cheeks,–
Then told my story out, of Romney Leigh,
How, having lost her, sought her, missed her still,
He, broken-hearted for himself and her,
Had drawn the curtains of the world awhile
As if he had done with morning. There I stopped,
For when she gasped, and pressed me with her eyes,
'And now . . how is it with him? tell me now,'–
I felt the shame of compensated grief,
And chose my words with scruple–slowly stepped
Upon the slippery stones set here and there
Across the sliding water. 'Certainly,
As evening empties morning into night,
Another morning takes the evening up
With healthful, providential interchange;
And, though he thought still of her–'
'Yes, she knew,
She understood: she had supposed indeed
That, as one stops a hole upon a flute,
At which a new note comes and shapes the tune,
Excluding her would bring a worthier in,
And, long ere this, that Lady Waldemar
He loved so' . .
'Loved,' I started,–'loved her so!
Now tell me' . .
'I will tell you,' she replied:
'But since we're taking oaths, you'll promise first
That he in England, he, shall never learn
In what a dreadful trap his creature here,
Round whose unworthy neck he had meant to tie
The honourable ribbon of his name,
Fell unaware and came to butchery:
Because,–I know him,–as he takes to heart
The grief of every stranger, he's not like
To banish mine as far as I should choose
In wishing him most happy. Now he leaves
To think of me, perverse, who went my way,
Unkind, and left him,–but if once he knew . .
Ah, then, the sharp nail of my cruel wrong
Would fasten me for ever in his sight,
Like some poor curious bird, through each spread wing
Nailed high up over a fierce hunter's fire
To spoil the dinner of all tenderer folk
Come in by chance. Nay, since your Marian's dead,
You shall not hang her up, but dig a hole
And bury her in silence! ring no bells.'

I answered gaily, though my whole voice wept,
'We'll ring the joy-bells, not the funeral-bells,
Because we have her back, dead or alive.'

She never answered that, but shook her head;
Then low and calm, as one who, safe in heaven,
Shall tell a story of his lower life,
Unmoved by shame or anger,–so she spoke.
She told me she had loved upon her knees
As others pray, more perfectly absorbed
In the act and inspiration. She felt his,
For just his uses, not her own at all,–
His stool, to sit on or put up his foot,
His cup, to fill with wine or vinegar,
Whichever drink might please him at the chance,
For that should please her always: let him write
His name upon her . . it seemed natural;
It was most precious, standing on his shelf,
To wait until he chose to lift his hand.
Well, well,–I saw her then, and must have seen
How bright her life went floating on her love,
Like wicks the housewives send afloat on oil
Which feeds them to a flame that lasts the night.

To do good seemed so much his business,
That, having done it, she was fain to think,
Must fill up his capacity for joy.
At first she never mooted with herself
If he was happy, since he made her so,
Or if he loved her, being so much beloved:
Who thinks of asking if the sun is light,
Observing that it lightens? Who's so bold,
To question God of his felicity?
Still less. And thus she took for granted first,
What first of all she should have put to proof,
And sinned against him so, but only so.
'What could you hope,' she said, 'of such as she?
You take a kid you like, and turn it out
In some fair garden: though the creature's fond
And gentle, it will leap upon the beds
And break your tulips, bite your tender trees;
The wonder would be if such innocence
Spoiled less. A garden is no place for kids.'

And, by degrees, when he who had chosen her
Brought in his courteous and benignant friends
To spend their goodness on her, which she took
So very gladly, as a part of his,–
By slow degrees it broke on her slow sense,
That she, too, in that Eden of delight
Was out of place, and, like the silly kid,
Still did most mischief where she meant most love.
A thought enough to make a woman mad
(No beast in this, but she may well go mad),
That, saying, 'I am thine to love and use;'
May blow the plague in her protesting breath
To the very man for whom she claims to die,–
That, clinging round his neck, she pulls him down
And drowns him,–and that, lavishing her soul
She hales perdition on him. 'So, being mad,'
Said Marian . .
'Ah–who stirred such thoughts, you ask?
Whose fault it was, that she should have such thoughts?
None's fault, none's fault. The light comes, and we see:
But if it were not truly for our eyes,
There would be nothing seen, for all the light.
And so with Marian. If she saw at last,
The sense was in her,–Lady Waldemar
Had spoken all in vain else.'
'Oh my heart,
O prophet in my heart,' I cried aloud,
'Then Lady Waldemar spoke!'
'Did she speak,'
Mused Marian softly, 'or did she only sign?
Or did she put a word into her face
And look, and so impress you with the word?
Or leave it in the foldings of her gown,
Like rosemary smells, a movement will shake out
When no one's conscious? who shall say, or guess?
One thing alone was certain–from the day
The gracious lady paid a visit first,
She, Marian, saw things different,–felt distrust
Of all that sheltering roof of circumstance
Her hopes were building into with clay nests:
Her heart was restless, pacing up and down
And fluttering, like dumb creatures before storms,
Not knowing wherefore she was ill at ease.'

'And still the lady came,' said Marian Erle,
'Much oftener than he knew it, Mister Leigh.
She bade me never tell him she had come,
She liked to love me better than he knew,
So very kind was Lady Waldemar:
And every time she brought with her more light,
And every light made sorrow clearer . . Well,
Ah, well! we cannot give her blame for that;
'Twould be the same thing if an angel came,
Whose right should prove our wrong. And every time
The lady came, she looked more beautiful
And spoke more like a flute among green trees,
Until at last, as one, whose heart being sad
On hearing lovely music, suddenly
Dissolves in weeping, I brake out in tears
Before her . . asked her counsel . . 'had I erred
'In being too happy? would she set me straight?
'For she, being wise and good and born above
'The flats I had never climbed from, could perceive
'If such as I, might grow upon the hills;
'And whether such poor herb sufficed to grow,
'For Romney Leigh to break his fast upon't,–
'Or would he pine on such, or haply starve?'
She wrapt me in her generous arms at once,
And let me dream a moment how it feels
To have a real mother, like some girls:
But when I looked, her face was younger . . ay,
Youth's too bright not to be a little hard,
And beauty keeps itself still uppermost,
That's true!–Though Lady Waldemar was kind,
She hurt me, hurt, as if the morning-sun
Should smite us on the eyelids when we sleep,
And wake us up with headache. Ay, and soon
Was light enough to make my heart ache too:
She told me truths I asked for, . . 'twas my fault, . .
'That Romney could not love me, if he would,
'As men call loving; there are bloods that flow
'Together, like some rivers, and not mix,
'Through contraries of nature. He indeed
'Was set to wed me, to espouse my class,
'Act out a rash opinion,–and, once wed,
'So just a man and gentle, could not choose
'But make my life as smooth as marriage-ring,
'Bespeak me mildly, keep me a cheerful house,
'With servants, brooches, all the flowers I liked,
'And pretty dresses, silk the whole year round' . .
At which I stopped her,–'This for me. And now
'For him.'–She murmured,–truth grew difficult;
She owned, Twas plain a man like Romney Leigh
'Required a wife more level to himself.
'If day by day he had to bend his height
'To pick up sympathies, opinions, thoughts,
'And interchange the common talk of life
'Which helps a man to live as well as talk,
'His days were heavily taxed. Who buys a staff
'To fit the hand, that reaches but the knee?
'He'd feel it bitter to be forced to miss
'The perfect joy of married suited pairs,
'Who, bursting through the separating hedge
'Of personal dues with that sweet eglantine
'Of equal love, keep saying, 'So we think,
It strikes us,–that's our fancy.–When I asked
If earnest will, devoted love, employed
In youth like mine, would fail to raise me up,–
As two strong arms will always raise a child
To a fruit hung overhead? she sighed and sighed . .
'That could not be,' she feared. 'You take a pink,
'You dig about its roots and water it,
'And so improve it to a garden-pink,
'But will not change it to a heliotrope,
'The kind remains. And then, the harder truth–
'This Romney Leigh, so rash to leap a pale,
'So bold for conscience, quick for martyrdom,
'Would suffer steadily and never flinch,
'But suffer surely and keenly, when his class
'Turned shoulder on him for a shameful match,
'And set him up as nine-pin in their talk
'To bowl him down with jestings.'–There, she paused;
And when I used the pause in doubting that
We wronged him after all in what we feared–
'Suppose such things should never touch him, more
'In his high conscience, (if the things should be,)
'Than, when the queen sits in an upper room
'The horses in the street can spatter her!'–
A moment, hope came,–but the lady closed
That door and nicked the lock and shut it out,
Observing wisely that 'the tender heart
'Which made him over-soft to a lower class,
'Could scarcely fail to make him sensitive
'To a higher,–how they thought and what they felt.'

'Alas, alas!' said Marian, rocking slow
The pretty baby who was near asleep,
The eyelids creeping over the blue balls,–
'She made it clear, too clear–I saw the whole!
And yet who knows if I had seen my way
Straight out of it, by looking, though 'twas clear,
Unless the generous lady, 'ware of this,
Had set her own house all a-fire for me,
To light me forwards? Leaning on my face
Her heavy agate eyes which crushed my will,
She told me tenderly, (as when men come
To a bedside to tell people they must die)
'She knew of knowledge,–aye, of knowledge, knew,
'That Romney Leigh had loved her formerly.
'And she loved him, she might say, now the chance
'Was past . . but that, of course, he never guessed,–
'For something came between them . . something thin
As a cobweb . . catching every fly of doubt
'To hold it buzzing at the window-pane
'And help to dim the daylight. Ah, man's pride
'Or woman's–which is greatest? most averse
'To brushing cobwebs? Well, but she and he
'Remained fast friends; it seemed not more than so,
'Because he had bound his hands and could not stir:
'An honorable man, if somewhat rash;
'And she, not even for Romney, would she spill
'A blot . . as little even as a tear . .
'Upon his marriage-contract,–not to gain
'A better joy for two than came by that!
'For, though I stood between her heart and heaven,
'She loved me wholly.
Did I laugh or curse?
I think I sat there silent, hearing all,
Ay, hearing double,–Marian's tale, at once,
And Romney's marriage vow, 'I'll keep to THEE,'
Which means that woman-serpent. Is it time
For church now?
'Lady Waldemar spoke more,'
Continued Marian, 'but, as when a soul
Will pass out through the sweetness of a song
Beyond it, voyaging the uphill road,–
Even so mine wandered from the things I heard,
To those I suffered. It was afterward
I shaped the resolution to the act.
For many hours we talked. What need to talk?
The fate was clear and close; it touched my eyes;
But still the generous lady tried to keep
The case afloat, and would not let it go,
And argued, struggled upon Marian's side,
Which was not Romney's! though she little knew
What ugly monster would take up the end,–
What griping death within the drowning death
Was ready to complete my sum of death.'
I thought,–Perhaps he's sliding now the ring
Upon that woman's finger . .
She went on:
'The lady, failing to prevail her way,
Upgathered my torn wishes from the ground
And pieced them with her strong benevolence;
And, as I thought I could breathe freer air
Away from England, going without pause,
Without farewell,–just breaking with a jerk
The blossomed offshoot from my thorny life,–
She promised kindly to provide the means,
With instant passage to the colonies
And full protection, would commit me straight
'To one who once had been her waiting-maid
'And had the customs of the world, intent
'On changing England for Australia
'Herself, to carry out her fortune so.'
For which I thanked the Lady Waldemar,
As men upon their death-beds thank last friends
Who lay the pillow straight: it is not much,
And yet 'tis all of which they are capable,
This lying smoothly in a bed to die.
And so, 'twas fixed;–and so, from day to day,
The woman named, came in to visit me.'

Just then the girl stopped speaking,–sate erect,
And stared at me as if I had been a ghost,
(Perhaps I looked as white as any ghost),
With large-eyed horror. 'Does God make,' she said,
'All sorts of creatures really, do you think?
Or is it that the Devil slavers them
So excellently, that we come to doubt
Who's stronger, He who makes, or he who mars?
I never liked the woman's face or voice,
Or ways: it made me blush to look at her;
It made me tremble if she touched my hand;
And when she spoke a fondling word I shrank,
As if one hated me, who had power to hurt;
And, every time she came, my veins ran cold,
As somebody were walking on my grave.
At last I spoke to Lady Waldemar:
'Could such an one be good to trust?' I asked.
Whereat the lady stroked my cheek and laughed
Her silver-laugh (one must be born to laugh,
To put such music in it) 'Foolish girl,
'Your scattered wits are gathering wool beyond
'The sheep-walk reaches!–leave the thing to me.'
And therefore, half in trust, and half in scorn
That I had heart still for another fear
In such a safe despair, I left the thing.

'The rest is short. I was obedient:
I wrote my letter which delivered him
From Marian to his own prosperities,
And followed that bad guide. The lady?–hush,–
I never blame the lady. Ladies who
Sit high, however willing to look down,
Will scarce see lower than their dainty feet;
And Lady Waldemar saw less than I
With what a Devil's daughter I went forth
The swine's road, headlong over a precipice,
In such a curl of hell-foam caught and choked,
No shriek of soul in anguish could pierce through
To fetch some help. They say there's help in heaven
For all such cries. But if one cries from hell. .
What then?–the heavens are deaf upon that side.
A woman . . hear me,–let me make it plain,–
A woman . . not a monster . . both her breasts
Made right to suckle babes . . she took me off,
A woman also, young and ignorant,
And heavy with my grief, my two poor eyes
Near washed away with weeping, till the trees,
The blessed unaccustomed trees and fields,
Ran either side the train like stranger dogs
Unworthy of any notice,–took me off,
So dull, so blind, and only half alive,
Not seeing by what road, nor by what ship,
Nor toward what place, nor to what end of all.–
Men carry a corpse thus,–past the doorway, past
The garden-gate, the children's playground, up
The green lane,–then they leave it in the pit,
To sleep and find corruption, cheek to cheek
With him who stinks since Friday.
'But suppose;
To go down with one's soul into the grave,–
To go down half dead, half alive, I say,
And wake up with corruption, . . cheek to cheek
With him who stinks since Friday! There it is,
And that's the horror of't, Miss Leigh.
'You feel?
You understand?–no, do not look at me,
But understand. The blank, blind, weary way,
Which led . . where'er it led . . away at least;
The shifted ship . . to Sydney or to France . .
Still bound, wherever else, to another land;
The swooning sickness on the dismal sea,
The foreign shore, the shameful house, the night,
The feeble blood, the heavy-headed grief, . .
No need to bring their damnable drugged cup,
And yet they brought it! Hell's so prodigal
Of devil's gifts . . hunts liberally in packs,
Will kill no poor small creature of the wilds
But fifty red wide throats must smoke at it,
As HIS at me . . when waking up at last . .
I told you that I waked up in the grave.

'Enough so!–it is plain enough so. True,
We wretches cannot tell out all our wrong,
Without offence to decent happy folk.
I know that we must scrupulously hint
With half-words, delicate reserves, the thing
Which no one scrupled we should feel in full.
Let pass the rest, then; only leave my oath
Upon this sleeping child,–man's violence,
Not man's seduction, made me what I am,
As lost as . . I told him I should be lost.
When mothers fail us, can we help ourselves?
That's fatal!–And you call it being lost,
That down came next day's noon and caught me there,
Half gibbering and half raving on the floor,
And wondering what had happened up in heaven,
That suns should dare to shine when God Himself
Was certainly abolished.
'I was mad,–
How many weeks, I know not,–many weeks.
I think they let me go, when I was mad,
They feared my eyes and loosed me, as boys might
A mad dog which they had tortured. Up and down
I went, by road and village, over tracts
Of open foreign country, large and strange,
Crossed everywhere by long thin poplar-lines
Like fingers of some ghastly skeleton hand
Through sunlight and through moonlight evermore
Pushed out from hell itself to pluck me back,
And resolute to get me, slow and sure;
While every roadside Christ upon his cross
Hung reddening through his gory wounds at me,
And shook his nails in anger, and came down
To follow a mile after, wading up
The low vines and green wheat, crying 'Take the girl!
She's none of mine from henceforth.' Then, I knew,
(But this is somewhat dimmer than the rest)
The charitable peasants gave me bread
And leave to sleep in straw: and twice they tied,
At parting, Mary's image round my neck–
How heavy it seemed! as heavy as a stone;
A woman has been strangled with less weight:
I threw it in a ditch to keep it clean
And ease my breath a little, when none looked;
I did not need such safeguards:–brutal men
Stopped short, Miss Leigh, in insult, when they had seen
My face,–I must have had an awful look.
And so I lived: the weeks passed on,–I lived.
'Twas living my old tramp-life o'er again,
But, this time, in a dream, and hunted round
By some prodigious Dream-fear at my back,
Which ended, yet: my brain cleared presently,
And there I sate, one evening, by the road,
I, Marian Erle, myself, alone, undone,
Facing a sunset low upon the flats,
As if it were the finish of all time,–
The great red stone upon my sepulchre,
Which angels were too weak to roll away.

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

Canto the Fifth

I
When amatory poets sing their loves
In liquid lines mellifluously bland,
And pair their rhymes as Venus yokes her doves,
They little think what mischief is in hand;
The greater their success the worse it proves,
As Ovid's verse may give to understand;
Even Petrarch's self, if judged with due severity,
Is the Platonic pimp of all posterity.

II
I therefore do denounce all amorous writing,
Except in such a way as not to attract;
Plain -- simple -- short, and by no means inviting,
But with a moral to each error tack'd,
Form'd rather for instructing than delighting,
And with all passions in their turn attack'd;
Now, if my Pegasus should not be shod ill,
This poem will become a moral model.

III
The European with the Asian shore
Sprinkled with palaces; the ocean stream
Here and there studded with a seventy-four;
Sophia's cupola with golden gleam;
The cypress groves; Olympus high and hoar;
The twelve isles, and the more than I could dream,
Far less describe, present the very view
Which charm'd the charming Mary Montagu.

IV
I have a passion for the name of "Mary,"
For once it was a magic sound to me;
And still it half calls up the realms of fairy,
Where I beheld what never was to be;
All feelings changed, but this was last to vary,
A spell from which even yet I am not quite free:
But I grow sad -- and let a tale grow cold,
Which must not be pathetically told.

V
The wind swept down the Euxine, and the wave
Broke foaming o'er the blue Symplegades;
'T is a grand sight from off the Giant's Grave
To watch the progress of those rolling seas
Between the Bosphorus, as they lash and lave
Europe and Asia, you being quite at ease;
There's not a sea the passenger e'er pukes in,
Turns up more dangerous breakers than the Euxine.

VI
'T was a raw day of Autumn's bleak beginning,
When nights are equal, but not so the days;
The Parcae then cut short the further spinning
Of seamen's fates, and the loud tempests raise
The waters, and repentance for past sinning
In all, who o'er the great deep take their ways:
They vow to amend their lives, and yet they don't;
Because if drown'd, they can't -- if spared, they won't.

VII
A crowd of shivering slaves of every nation,
And age, and sex, were in the market ranged;
Each bevy with the merchant in his station:
Poor creatures! their good looks were sadly changed.
All save the blacks seem'd jaded with vexation,
From friends, and home, and freedom far estranged;
The negroes more philosophy display'd, --
Used to it, no doubt, as eels are to be flay'd.

VIII
Juan was juvenile, and thus was full,
As most at his age are, of hope and health;
Yet I must own he looked a little dull,
And now and then a tear stole down by stealth;
Perhaps his recent loss of blood might pull
His spirit down; and then the loss of wealth,
A mistress, and such comfortable quarters,
To be put up for auction amongst Tartars,

IX
Were things to shake a stoic; ne'ertheless,
Upon the whole his carriage was serene:
His figure, and the splendour of his dress,
Of which some gilded remnants still were seen,
Drew all eyes on him, giving them to guess
He was above the vulgar by his mien;
And then, though pale, he was so very handsome;
And then -- they calculated on his ransom.

X
Like a backgammon board the place was dotted
With whites and blacks, in groups on show for sale,
Though rather more irregularly spotted:
Some bought the jet, while others chose the pale.
It chanced amongst the other people lotted,
A man of thirty rather stout and hale,
With resolution in his dark grey eye,
Next Juan stood, till some might choose to buy.

XI
He had an English look; that is, was square
In make, of a complexion white and ruddy,
Good teeth, with curling rather dark brown hair,
And, it might be from thought or toil or study,
An open brow a little mark'd with care:
One arm had on a bandage rather bloody;
And there he stood with such sang-froid, that greater
Could scarce be shown even by a mere spectator.

XII
But seeing at his elbow a mere lad,
Of a high spirit evidently, though
At present weigh'd down by a doom which had
O'erthrown even men, he soon began to show
A kind of blunt compassion for the sad
Lot of so young a partner in the woe,
Which for himself he seem'd to deem no worse
Than any other scrape, a thing of course.

XIII
"My boy!" said he, "amidst this motley crew
Of Georgians, Russians, Nubians, and what not,
All ragamuffins differing but in hue,
With whom it is our luck to cast our lot,
The only gentlemen seem I and you;
So let us be acquainted, as we ought:
If I could yield you any consolation,
'T would give me pleasure. -- Pray, what is your nation?"

XIV
When Juan answer'd -- "Spanish!" he replied,
"I thought, in fact, you could not be a Greek;
Those servile dogs are not so proudly eyed:
Fortune has play'd you here a pretty freak,
But that's her way with all men, till they're tried;
But never mind, -- she'll turn, perhaps, next week;
She has served me also much the same as you,
Except that I have found it nothing new."

XV
"Pray, sir," said Juan, "if I may presume,
What brought you here?" -- "Oh! nothing very rare --
Six Tartars and a drag-chain." -- "To this doom
But what conducted, if the question's fair,
Is that which I would learn." -- "I served for some
Months with the Russian army here and there,
And taking lately, by Suwarrow's bidding,
A town, was ta'en myself instead of Widdin."

XVI
"Have you no friends?" -- "I had -- but, by God's blessing,
Have not been troubled with them lately. Now
I have answer'd all your questions without pressing,
And you an equal courtesy should show.'
"Alas!" said Juan, "'t were a tale distressing,
And long besides." -- "Oh! if 't is really so,
You're right on both accounts to hold your tongue;
A sad tale saddens doubly, when't is long.

XVII
"But droop not: Fortune at your time of life,
Although a female moderately fickle,
Will hardly leave you (as she's not your wife)
For any length of days in such a pickle.
To strive, too, with our fate were such a strife
As if the corn-sheaf should oppose the sickle:
Men are the sport of circumstances, when
The circumstances seem the sport of men."

XVIII
"'T is not," said Juan, "for my present doom
I mourn, but for the past; -- I loved a maid:" --
He paused, and his dark eye grew full of gloom;
A single tear upon his eyelash staid
A moment, and then dropp'd; "but to resume,
'T is not my present lot, as I have said,
Which I deplore so much; for I have borne
Hardships which have the hardiest overworn,

XIX
"On the rough deep. But this last blow --" and here
He stopp'd again, and turn'd away his face.
"Ay," quoth his friend, "I thought it would appear
That there had been a lady in the case;
And these are things which ask a tender tear,
Such as I, too, would shed if in your place:
I cried upon my first wife's dying day,
And also when my second ran away:

XX
"My third --" -- "Your third!" quoth Juan, turning round;
"You scarcely can be thirty: have you three?"
"No -- only two at present above ground:
Surely 't is nothing wonderful to see
One person thrice in holy wedlock bound!"
"Well, then, your third," said Juan; "what did she?
She did not run away, too, -- did she, sir?"
"No, faith." -- "What then?" -- "I ran away from her."

XXI
"You take things coolly, sir," said Juan. "Why,"
Replied the other, "what can a man do?
There still are many rainbows in your sky,
But mine have vanish'd. All, when life is new,
Commence with feelings warm, and prospects high;
But time strips our illusions of their hue,
And one by one in turn, some grand mistake
Casts off its bright skin yearly like the snake.

XXII
"'T is true, it gets another bright and fresh,
Or fresher, brighter; but the year gone through,
This skin must go the way, too, of all flesh,
Or sometimes only wear a week or two; --
Love's the first net which spreads its deadly mesh;
Ambition, Avarice, Vengeance, Glory, glue
The glittering lime-twigs of our latter days,
Where still we flutter on for pence or praise."

XXIII
"All this is very fine, and may be true,"
Said Juan; "but I really don't see how
It betters present times with me or you."
"No?" quoth the other; "yet you will allow
By setting things in their right point of view,
Knowledge, at least, is gain'd; for instance, now,
We know what slavery is, and our disasters
May teach us better to behave when masters."

XXIV
"Would we were masters now, if but to try
Their present lessons on our Pagan friends here,"
Said Juan, -- swallowing a heart-burning sigh:
"Heaven help the scholar whom his fortune sends here!"
"Perhaps we shall be one day, by and by,"
Rejoin'd the other, when our bad luck mends here;
"Meantime (yon old black eunuch seems to eye us)
I wish to G-d that somebody would buy us.

XXV
"But after all, what is our present state?
'T is bad, and may be better -- all men's lot:
Most men are slaves, none more so than the great,
To their own whims and passions, and what not;
Society itself, which should create
Kindness, destroys what little we had got:
To feel for none is the true social art
Of the world's stoics -- men without a heart."

XXVI
Just now a black old neutral personage
Of the third sex stept up, and peering over
The captives, seem'd to mark their looks and age,
And capabilities, as to discover
If they were fitted for the purposed cage:
No lady e'er is ogled by a lover,
Horse by a blackleg, broadcloth by a tailor,
Fee by a counsel, felon by a jailor,

XXVII
As is a slave by his intended bidder.
'T is pleasant purchasing our fellow-creatures;
And all are to be sold, if you consider
Their passions, and are dext'rous; some by features
Are bought up, others by a warlike leader,
Some by a place -- as tend their years or natures;
The most by ready cash -- but all have prices,
From crowns to kicks, according to their vices.

XXVIII
The eunuch, having eyed them o'er with care,
Turn'd to the merchant, and begun to bid
First but for one, and after for the pair;
They haggled, wrangled, swore, too -- so they did!
As though they were in a mere Christian fair
Cheapening an ox, an ass, a lamb, or kid;
So that their bargain sounded like a battle
For this superior yoke of human cattle.

XXIX
At last they settled into simple grumbling,
And pulling out reluctant purses, and
Turning each piece of silver o'er, and tumbling
Some down, and weighing others in their hand,
And by mistake sequins with paras jumbling,
Until the sum was accurately scann'd,
And then the merchant giving change, and signing
Receipts in full, began to think of dining.

XXX
I wonder if his appetite was good?
Or, if it were, if also his digestion?
Methinks at meals some odd thoughts might intrude,
And conscience ask a curious sort of question,
About the right divine how far we should
Sell flesh and blood. When dinner has opprest one,
I think it is perhaps the gloomiest hour
Which turns up out of the sad twenty-four.

XXXI
Voltaire says "No:" he tells you that Candide
Found life most tolerable after meals;
He's wrong -- unless man were a pig, indeed,
Repletion rather adds to what he feels,
Unless he's drunk, and then no doubt he's freed
From his own brain's oppression while it reels.
Of food I think with Philip's son, or rather
Ammon's (ill pleased with one world and one father);

XXXII
I think with Alexander, that the act
Of eating, with another act or two,
Makes us feel our mortality in fact
Redoubled; when a roast and a ragout,
And fish, and soup, by some side dishes back'd,
Can give us either pain or pleasure, who
Would pique himself on intellects, whose use
Depends so much upon the gastric juice?

XXXIII
The other evening ('t was on Friday last) --
This is a fact and no poetic fable --
Just as my great coat was about me cast,
My hat and gloves still lying on the table,
I heard a shot -- 't was eight o'clock scarce past --
And, running out as fast as I was able,
I found the military commandant
Stretch'd in the street, and able scarce to pant.

XXXIV
Poor fellow! for some reason, surely bad,
They had slain him with five slugs; and left him there
To perish on the pavement: so I had
Him borne into the house and up the stair,
And stripp'd and look'd to -- But why should I ad
More circumstances? vain was every care;
The man was gone: in some Italian quarrel
Kill'd by five bullets from an old gun-barrel.

XXXV
I gazed upon him, for I knew him well;
And though I have seen many corpses, never
Saw one, whom such an accident befell,
So calm; though pierced through stomach, heart, and liver,
He seem'd to sleep, -- for you could scarcely tell
(As he bled inwardly, no hideous river
Of gore divulged the cause) that he was dead:
So as I gazed on him, I thought or said --

XXXVI
"Can this be death? then what is life or death?
Speak!" but he spoke not: "Wake!" but still he slept: --
"But yesterday and who had mightier breath?
A thousand warriors by his word were kept
In awe: he said, as the centurion saith,
'Go,' and he goeth; 'come,' and forth he stepp'd.
The trump and bugle till he spake were dumb --
And now nought left him but the muffled drum."

XXXVII
And they who waited once and worshipp'd -- they
With their rough faces throng'd about the bed
To gaze once more on the commanding clay
Which for the last, though not the first, time bled:
And such an end! that he who many a day
Had faced Napoleon's foes until they fled, --
The foremost in the charge or in the sally,
Should now be butcher'd in a civic alley.

XXXVIII
The scars of his old wounds were near his new,
Those honourable scars which brought him fame;
And horrid was the contrast to the view --
But let me quit the theme; as such things claim
Perhaps even more attention than is due
From me: I gazed (as oft I have gazed the same)
To try if I could wrench aught out of death
Which should confirm, or shake, or make a faith;

XXXIX
But it was all a mystery. Here we are,
And there we go: -- but where? five bits of lead,
Or three, or two, or one, send very far!
And is this blood, then, form'd but to be shed?
Can every element our elements mar?
And air -- earth -- water -- fire live -- and we dead?
We whose minds comprehend all things? No more;
But let us to the story as before.

XL
The purchaser of Juan and acquaintance
Bore off his bargains to a gilded boat,
Embark'd himself and them, and off they went thence
As fast as oars could pull and water float;
They look'd like persons being led to sentence,
Wondering what next, till the caïque was brought
Up in a little creek below a wall
O'ertopp'd with cypresses, dark-green and tall.

XLI
Here their conductor tapping at the wicket
Of a small iron door, 't was open'd, and
He led them onward, first through a low thicket
Flank'd by large groves, which tower'd on either hand:
They almost lost their way, and had to pick it --
For night was dosing ere they came to land.
The eunuch made a sign to those on board,
Who row'd off, leaving them without a word.

XLII
As they were plodding on their winding way
Through orange bowers, and jasmine, and so forth
(Of which I might have a good deal to say,
There being no such profusion in the North
Of oriental plants, "et cetera,"
But that of late your scribblers think it worth
Their while to rear whole hotbeds in their works
Because one poet travell'd 'mongst the Turks) --

XLIII
As they were threading on their way, there came
Into Don Juan's head a thought, which he
Whisper'd to his companion: -- 't was the same
Which might have then occurr'd to you or me.
"Methinks," said he, "it would be no great shame
If we should strike a stroke to set us free;
Let's knock that old black fellow on the head,
And march away -- 't were easier done than said."

XLIV
"Yes," said the other, "and when done, what then?
How get out? how the devil got we in?
And when we once were fairly out, and when
From Saint Bartholomew we have saved our skin,
To-morrow'd see us in some other den,
And worse off than we hitherto have been;
Besides, I'm hungry, and just now would take,
Like Esau, for my birthright a beef-steak.

XLV
"We must be near some place of man's abode; --
For the old negro's confidence in creeping,
With his two captives, by so queer a road,
Shows that he thinks his friends have not been sleeping;
A single cry would bring them all abroad:
'T is therefore better looking before leaping --
And there, you see, this turn has brought us through,
By Jove, a noble palace! -- lighted too."

XLVI
It was indeed a wide extensive building
Which open'd on their view, and o'er the front
There seem'd to be besprent a deal of gilding
And various hues, as is the Turkish wont, --
A gaudy taste; for they are little skill'd in
The arts of which these lands were once the font:
Each villa on the Bosphorus looks a screen
New painted, or a pretty opera-scene.

XLVII
And nearer as they came, a genial savour
Of certain stews, and roast-meats, and pilaus,
Things which in hungry mortals' eyes find favour,
Made Juan in his harsh intentions pause,
And put himself upon his good behaviour:
His friend, too, adding a new saving clause,
Said, "In Heaven's name let's get some supper now,
And then I'm with you, if you're for a row."

XLVIII
Some talk of an appeal unto some passion,
Some to men's feelings, others to their reason;
The last of these was never much the fashion,
For reason thinks all reasoning out of season.
Some speakers whine, and others lay the lash on,
But more or less continue still to tease on,
With arguments according to their "forte;"
But no one dreams of ever being short. --

XLIX
But I digress: of all appeals, -- although
I grant the power of pathos, and of gold,
Of beauty, flattery, threats, a shilling, -- no
Method's more sure at moments to take hold
Of the best feelings of mankind, which grow
More tender, as we every day behold,
Than that all-softening, overpowering knell,
The tocsin of the soul -- the dinner-bell.

L
Turkey contains no bells, and yet men dine;
And Juan and his friend, albeit they heard
No Christian knoll to table, saw no line
Of lackeys usher to the feast prepared,
Yet smelt roast-meat, beheld a huge fire shine,
And cooks in motion with their clean arms bared,
And gazed around them to the left and right
With the prophetic eye of appetite.

LI
And giving up all notions of resistance,
They follow'd close behind their sable guide,
Who little thought that his own crack'd existence
Was on the point of being set aside:
He motion'd them to stop at some small distance,
And knocking at the gate, 't was open'd wide,
And a magnificent large hall display'd
The Asian pomp of Ottoman parade.

LII
I won't describe; description is my forte,
But every fool describes in these bright days
His wondrous journey to some foreign court,
And spawns his quarto, and demands your praise --
Death to his publisher, to him 't is sport;
While Nature, tortured twenty thousand ways,
Resigns herself with exemplary patience
To guide-books, rhymes, tours, sketches, illustrations.

LIII
Along this hall, and up and down, some, squatted
Upon their hams, were occupied at chess;
Others in monosyllable talk chatted,
And some seem'd much in love with their own dress.
And divers smoked superb pipes decorated
With amber mouths of greater price or less;
And several strutted, others slept, and some
Prepared for supper with a glass of rum.

LIV
As the black eunuch enter'd with his brace
Of purchased Infidels, some raised their eyes
A moment without slackening from their pace;
But those who sate ne'er stirr'd in anywise:
One or two stared the captives in the face,
Just as one views a horse to guess his price;
Some nodded to the negro from their station,
But no one troubled him with conversation.

LV
He leads them through the hall, and, without stopping,
On through a farther range of goodly rooms,
Splendid but silent, save in one, where, dropping,
A marble fountain echoes through the glooms
Of night which robe the chamber, or where popping
Some female head most curiously presumes
To thrust its black eyes through the door or lattice,
As wondering what the devil a noise that is.

LVI
Some faint lamps gleaming from the lofty walls
Gave light enough to hint their farther way,
But not enough to show the imperial halls,
In all the flashing of their full array;
Perhaps there's nothing -- I'll not say appals,
But saddens more by night as well as day,
Than an enormous room without a soul
To break the lifeless splendour of the whole.

LVII
Two or three seem so little, one seems nothing:
In deserts, forests, crowds, or by the shore,
There solitude, we know, has her full growth in
The spots which were her realms for evermore;
But in a mighty hall or gallery, both in
More modern buildings and those built of yore,
A kind of death comes o'er us all alone,
Seeing what's meant for many with but one.

LVIII
A neat, snug study on a winter's night,
A book, friend, single lady, or a glass
Of claret, sandwich, and an appetite,
Are things which make an English evening pass;
Though certes by no means so grand a sight
As is a theatre lit up by gas.
I pass my evenings in long galleries solely,
And that's the reason I'm so melancholy.

LIX
Alas! man makes that great which makes him little:
I grant you in a church 't is very well:
What speaks of Heaven should by no means be brittle,
But strong and lasting, till no tongue can tell
Their names who rear'd it; but huge houses fit ill --
And huge tombs worse -- mankind, since Adam fell:
Methinks the story of the tower of Babel
Might teach them this much better than I'm able.

LX
Babel was Nimrod's hunting-box, and then
A town of gardens, walls, and wealth amazing,
Where Nabuchadonosor, king of men,
Reign'd, till one summer's day he took to grazing,
And Daniel tamed the lions in their den,
The people's awe and admiration raising;
'T was famous, too, for Thisbe and for Pyramus,
And the calumniated queen Semiramis.

LXI
That injured Queen by chroniclers so coarse
Has been accused (I doubt not by conspiracy)
Of an improper friendship for her horse
(Love, like religion, sometimes runs to heresy):
This monstrous tale had probably its source
(For such exaggerations here and there I see)
In writing "Courser" by mistake for "Courier:"
I wish the case could come before a jury here.

LXII
But to resume, -- should there be (what may not
Be in these days?) some infidels, who don't,
Because they can't find out the very spot
Of that same Babel, or because they won't
(Though Claudius Rich, Esquire, some bricks has got,
And written lately two memoirs upon't),
Believe the Jews, those unbelievers, who
Must be believed, though they believe not you,

LXIII
Yet let them think that Horace has exprest
Shortly and sweetly the masonic folly
Of those, forgetting the great place of rest,
Who give themselves to architecture wholly;
We know where things and men must end at best:
A moral (like all morals) melancholy,
And "Et sepulchri immemor struis domos"
Shows that we build when we should but entomb us.

LXIV
At last they reach'd a quarter most retired,
Where echo woke as if from a long slumber;
Though full of all things which could be desired,
One wonder'd what to do with such a number
Of articles which nobody required;
Here wealth had done its utmost to encumber
With furniture an exquisite apartment,
Which puzzled Nature much to know what Art meant.

LXV
It seem'd, however, but to open on
A range or suite of further chambers, which
Might lead to heaven knows where; but in this one
The movables were prodigally rich:
Sofas 't was half a sin to sit upon,
So costly were they; carpets every stitch
Of workmanship so rare, they made you wish
You could glide o'er them like a golden fish.

LXVI
The black, however, without hardly deigning
A glance at that which wrapt the slaves in wonder,
Trampled what they scarce trod for fear of staining,
As if the milky way their feet was under
With all its stars; and with a stretch attaining
A certain press or cupboard niched in yonder --
In that remote recess which you may see --
Or if you don't the fault is not in me, --

LXVII
I wish to be perspicuous; and the black,
I say, unlocking the recess, pull'd forth
A quantity of clothes fit for the back
Of any Mussulman, whate'er his worth;
And of variety there was no lack --
And yet, though I have said there was no dearth,
He chose himself to point out what he thought
Most proper for the Christians he had bought.

LXVIII
The suit he thought most suitable to each
Was, for the elder and the stouter, first
A Candiote cloak, which to the knee might reach,
And trousers not so tight that they would burst,
But such as fit an Asiatic breech;
A shawl, whose folds in Cashmire had been nurst,
Slippers of saffron, dagger rich and handy;
In short, all things which form a Turkish Dandy.

LXIX
While he was dressing, Baba, their black friend,
Hinted the vast advantages which they
Might probably attain both in the end,
If they would but pursue the proper way
Which fortune plainly seem'd to recommend;
And then he added, that he needs must say,
"'T would greatly tend to better their condition,
If they would condescend to circumcision.

LXX
"For his own part, he really should rejoice
To see them true believers, but no less
Would leave his proposition to their choice."
The other, thanking him for this excess
Of goodness, in thus leaving them a voice
In such a trifle, scarcely could express
"Sufficiently" (he said) "his approbation
Of all the customs of this polish'd nation.

LXXI
"For his own share -- he saw but small objection
To so respectable an ancient rite;
And, after swallowing down a slight refection,
For which he own'd a present appetite,
He doubted not a few hours of reflection
Would reconcile him to the business quite."
"Will it?" said Juan, sharply: "Strike me dead,
But they as soon shall circumcise my head!

LXXII
"Cut off a thousand heads, before--" -- "Now, pray,"
Replied the other, "do not interrupt:
You put me out in what I had to say.
Sir! -- as I said, as soon as I have supt,
I shall perpend if your proposal may
Be such as I can properly accept;
Provided always your great goodness still
Remits the matter to our own free-will."

LXXIII
Baba eyed Juan, and said, "Be so good
As dress yourself-" and pointed out a suit
In which a Princess with great pleasure would
Array her limbs; but Juan standing mute,
As not being in a masquerading mood,
Gave it a slight kick with his Christian foot;
And when the old negro told him to "Get ready,"
Replied, "Old gentleman, I'm not a lady."

LXXIV
"What you may be, I neither know nor care,"
Said Baba; "but pray do as I desire:
I have no more time nor many words to spare."
"At least," said Juan, "sure I may enquire
The cause of this odd travesty?" -- "Forbear,"
Said Baba, "to be curious; 't will transpire,
No doubt, in proper place, and time, and season:
I have no authority to tell the reason."

LXXV
"Then if I do," said Juan, "I'll be --" -- "Hold!"
Rejoin'd the negro, "pray be not provoking;
This spirit's well, but it may wax too bold,
And you will find us not too fond of joking."
"What, sir!" said Juan, "shall it e'er be told
That I unsex'd my dress?" But Baba, stroking
The things down, said, "Incense me, and I call
Those who will leave you of no sex at all.

LXXVI
"I offer you a handsome suit of clothes:
A woman's, true; but then there is a cause
Why you should wear them." -- "What, though my soul loathes
The effeminate garb?" -- thus, after a short pause,
Sigh'd Juan, muttering also some slight oaths,
"What the devil shall I do with all this gauze?"
Thus he profanely term'd the finest lace
Which e'er set off a marriage-morning face.

LXXVII
And then he swore; and, sighing, on he slipp'd
A pair of trousers of flesh-colour'd silk;
Next with a virgin zone he was equipp'd,
Which girt a slight chemise as white as milk;
But tugging on his petticoat, he tripp'd,
Which -- as we say -- or, as the Scotch say, whilk
(The rhyme obliges me to this; sometimes
Monarchs are less imperative than rhymes) --

LXXVIII
Whilk, which (or what you please), was owing to
His garment's novelty, and his being awkward:
And yet at last he managed to get through
His toilet, though no doubt a little backward:
The negro Baba help'd a little too,
When some untoward part of raiment stuck hard;
And, wrestling both his arms into a gown,
He paused, and took a survey up and down.

LXXIX
One difficulty still remain'd -- his hair
Was hardly long enough; but Baba found
So many false long tresses all to spare,
That soon his head was most completely crown'd,
After the manner then in fashion there;
And this addition with such gems was bound
As suited the ensemble of his toilet,
While Baba made him comb his head and oil it.

LXXX
And now being femininely all array'd,
With some small aid from scissors, paint, and tweezers,
He look'd in almost all respects a maid,
And Baba smilingly exclaim'd, "You see, sirs,
A perfect transformation here display'd;
And now, then, you must come along with me, sirs,
That is -- the Lady:" clapping his hands twice,
Four blacks were at his elbow in a trice.

LXXXI
"You, sir," said Baba, nodding to the one,
'Will please to accompany those gentlemen
To supper; but you, worthy Christian nun,
Will follow me: no trifling, sir; for when
I say a thing, it must at once be done.
What fear you? think you this a lion's den?
Why, 't is a palace; where the truly wise
Anticipate the Prophet's paradise.

LXXXII
"You fool! I tell you no one means you harm."
"So much the better," Juan said, "for them;
Else they shall feel the weight of this my arm,
Which is not quite so light as you may deem.
I yield thus far; but soon will break the charm
If any take me for that which I seem:
So that I trust for everybody's sake,
That this disguise may lead to no mistake."

LXXXIII
"Blockhead! come on, and see," quoth Baba; while
Don Juan, turning to his comrade, who
Though somewhat grieved, could scarce forbear a smile
Upon the metamorphosis in view, --
"Farewell!" they mutually exclaim'd: "this soil
Seems fertile in adventures strange and new;
One's turn'd half Mussulman, and one a maid,
By this old black enchanter's unsought aid."

LXXXIV
"Farewell!" said Juan: 'should we meet no more,
I wish you a good appetite." -- "Farewell!"
Replied the other; "though it grieves me sore;
When we next meet we'll have a tale to tell:
We needs must follow when Fate puts from shore.
Keep your good name; though Eve herself once fell."
"Nay," quoth the maid, "the Sultan's self shan't carry me,
Unless his highness promises to marry me."

LXXXV
And thus they parted, each by separate doors;
Baba led Juan onward room by room
Through glittering galleries and o'er marble floors,
Till a gigantic portal through the gloom,
Haughty and huge, along the distance lowers;
And wafted far arose a rich perfume:
It seem'd as though they came upon a shrine,
For all was vast, still, fragrant, and divine.

LXXXVI
The giant door was broad, and bright, and high,
Of gilded bronze, and carved in curious guise;
Warriors thereon were battling furiously;
Here stalks the victor, there the vanquish'd lies;
There captives led in triumph droop the eye,
And in perspective many a squadron flies:
It seems the work of times before the line
Of Rome transplanted fell with Constantine.

LXXXVII
This massy portal stood at the wide close
Of a huge hall, and on its either side
Two little dwarfs, the least you could suppose,
Were sate, like ugly imps, as if allied
In mockery to the enormous gate which rose
O'er them in almost pyramidic pride:
The gate so splendid was in all its features,
You never thought about those little creatures,

LXXXVIII
Until you nearly trod on them, and then
You started back in horror to survey
The wondrous hideousness of those small men,
Whose colour was not black, nor white, nor grey,
But an extraneous mixture, which no pen
Can trace, although perhaps the pencil may;
They were mis-shapen pigmies, deaf and dumb --
Monsters, who cost a no less monstrous sum.

LXXXIX
Their duty was -- for they were strong, and though
They look'd so little, did strong things at times --
To ope this door, which they could really do,
The hinges being as smooth as Rogers' rhymes;
And now and then, with tough strings of the bow,
As is the custom of those Eastern climes,
To give some rebel Pacha a cravat;
For mutes are generally used for that.

XC
They spoke by signs -- that is, not spoke at all;
And looking like two incubi, they glared
As Baba with his fingers made them fall
To heaving back the portal folds: it scared
Juan a moment, as this pair so small
With shrinking serpent optics on him stared;
It was as if their little looks could poison
Or fascinate whome'er they fix'd their eyes on.

XCI
Before they enter'd, Baba paused to hint
To Juan some slight lessons as his guide:
"If you could just contrive," he said, "to stint
That somewhat manly majesty of stride,
'T would be as well, and (though there's not much in 't)
To swing a little less from side to side,
Which has at times an aspect of the oddest; --
And also could you look a little modest,

XCII
"'T would be convenient; for these mutes have eyes
Like needles, which may pierce those petticoats;
And if they should discover your disguise,
You know how near us the deep Bosphorus floats;
And you and I may chance, ere morning rise,
To find our way to Marmora without boats,
Stitch'd up in sacks -- a mode of navigation
A good deal practised here upon occasion."

XCIII
With this encouragement, he led the way
Into a room still nobler than the last;
A rich confusion form'd a disarray
In such sort, that the eye along it cast
Could hardly carry anything away,
Object on object flash'd so bright and fast;
A dazzling mass of gems, and gold, and glitter,
Magnificently mingled in a litter.

XCIV
Wealth had done wonders -- taste not much; such things
Occur in Orient palaces, and even
In the more chasten'd domes of Western kings
(Of which I have also seen some six or seven),
Where I can't say or gold or diamond flings
Great lustre, there is much to be forgiven;
Groups of bad statues, tables, chairs, and pictures,
On which I cannot pause to make my strictures.

XCV
In this imperial hall, at distance lay
Under a canopy, and there reclined
Quite in a confidential queenly way,
A lady; Baba stopp'd, and kneeling sign'd
To Juan, who though not much used to pray,
Knelt down by instinct, wondering in his mind,
What all this meant: while Baba bow'd and bended
His head, until the ceremony ended.

XCVI
The lady rising up with such an air
As Venus rose with from the wave, on them
Bent like an antelope a Paphian pair
Of eyes, which put out each surrounding gem;
And raising up an arm as moonlight fair,
She sign'd to Baba, who first kiss'd the hem
Of her deep purple robe, and speaking low,
Pointed to Juan who remain'd below.

XCVII
Her presence was as lofty as her state;
Her beauty of that overpowering kind,
Whose force description only would abate:
I'd rather leave it much to your own mind,
Than lessen it by what I could relate
Of forms and features; it would strike you blind
Could I do justice to the full detail;
So, luckily for both, my phrases fail.

XCVIII
Thus much however I may add, -- her years
Were ripe, they might make six-and-twenty springs;
But there are forms which Time to touch forbears,
And turns aside his scythe to vulgar things,
Such as was Mary's Queen of Scots; true -- tears
And love destroy; and sapping sorrow wrings
Charms from the charmer, yet some never grow
Ugly; for instance -- Ninon de l'Enclos.

XCIX
She spake some words to her attendants, who
Composed a choir of girls, ten or a dozen,
And were all clad alike; like Juan, too,
Who wore their uniform, by Baba chosen;
They form'd a very nymph-like looking crew,
Which might have call'd Diana's chorus "cousin,"
As far as outward show may correspond;
I won't be bail for anything beyond.

C
They bow'd obeisance and withdrew, retiring,
But not by the same door through which came in
Baba and Juan, which last stood admiring,
At some small distance, all he saw within
This strange saloon, much fitted for inspiring
Marvel and praise; for both or none things win;
And I must say, I ne'er could see the very
Great happiness of the "Nil Admirari."

CI
"Not to admire is all the art I know
(Plain truth, dear Murray, needs few flowers of speech)
To make men happy, or to keep them so"
(So take it in the very words of Creech) --
Thus Horace wrote we all know long ago;
And thus Pope quotes the precept to re-teach
From his translation; but had none admired,
Would Pope have sung, or Horace been inspired?

CII
Baba, when all the damsels were withdrawn,
Motion'd to Juan to approach, and then
A second time desired him to kneel down,
And kiss the lady's foot; which maxim when
He heard repeated, Juan with a frown
Drew himself up to his full height again,
And said, "It grieved him, but he could not stoop
To any shoe, unless it shod the Pope."

CIII
Baba, indignant at this ill-timed pride,
Made fierce remonstrances, and then a threat
He mutter'd (but the last was given aside)
About a bow-string -- quite in vain; not yet
Would Juan bend, though 't were to Mahomet's bride:
There's nothing in the world like etiquette
In kingly chambers or imperial halls,
As also at the race and county balls.

CIV
He stood like Atlas, with a world of words
About his ears, and nathless would not bend:
The blood of all his line's Castilian lords
Boil'd in his veins, and rather than descend
To stain his pedigree a thousand swords
A thousand times of him had made an end;
At length perceiving the "foot" could not stand,
Baba proposed that he should kiss the hand.

CV
Here was an honourable compromise,
A half-way house of diplomatic rest,
Where they might meet in much more peaceful guise;
And Juan now his willingness exprest
To use all fit and proper courtesies,
Adding, that this was commonest and best,
For through the South the custom still commands
The gentleman to kiss the lady's hands.

CVI
And he advanced, though with but a bad grace,
Though on more thorough-bred or fairer fingers
No lips e'er left their transitory trace;
On such as these the lip too fondly lingers,
And for one kiss would fain imprint a brace,
As you will see, if she you love shall bring hers
In contact; and sometimes even a fair stranger's
An almost twelvemonth's constancy endangers.

CVII
The lady eyed him o'er and o'er, and bade
Baba retire, which he obey'd in style,
As if well used to the retreating trade;
And taking hints in good part all the while,
He whisper'd Juan not to be afraid,
And looking on him with a sort of smile,
Took leave, with such a face of satisfaction
As good men wear who have done a virtuous action.

CVIII
When he was gone, there was a sudden change:
I know not what might be the lady's thought,
But o'er her bright brow flash'd a tumult strange,
And into her dear cheek the blood was brought,
Blood-red as sunset summer clouds which range
The verge of Heaven; and in her large eyes wrought,
A mixture of sensations might be scann'd,
Of half voluptuousness and half command.

CIX
Her form had all the softness of her sex,
Her features all the sweetness of the devil,
When he put on the cherub to perplex
Eve, and paved (God knows how) the road to evil;
The sun himself was scarce more free from specks
Than she from aught at which the eye could cavil;
Yet, somehow, there was something somewhere wanting,
As if she rather order'd than was granting.

CX
Something imperial, or imperious, threw
A chain o'er all she did; that is, a chain
Was thrown as 't were about the neck of you, --
And rapture's self will seem almost a pain
With aught which looks like despotism in view:
Our souls at least are free, and 't is in vain
We would against them make the flesh obey --
The spirit in the end will have its way.

CXI
Her very smile was haughty, though so sweet;
Her very nod was not an inclination;
There was a self-will even in her small feet,
As though they were quite conscious of her station --
They trod as upon necks; and to complete
Her state (it is the custom of her nation),
A poniard deck'd her girdle, as the sign
She was a sultan's bride (thank Heaven, not mine!).

CXII
"To hear and to obey" had been from birth
The law of all around her; to fulfill
All phantasies which yielded joy or mirth,
Had been her slaves' chief pleasure, as her will;
Her blood was high, her beauty scarce of earth:
Judge, then, if her caprices e'er stood still;
Had she but been a Christian, I've a notion
We should have found out the "perpetual motion."

CXIII
Whate'er she saw and coveted was brought;
Whate'er she did not see, if she supposed
It might be seen, with diligence was sought,
And when 't was found straightway the bargain closed;
There was no end unto the things she bought,
Nor to the trouble which her fancies caused;
Yet even her tyranny had such a grace,
The women pardon'd all except her face.

CXIV
Juan, the latest of her whims, had caught
Her eye in passing on his way to sale;
She order'd him directly to be bought,
And Baba, who had ne'er been known to fail
In any kind of mischief to be wrought,
At all such auctions knew how to prevail:
She had no prudence, but he had; and this
Explains the garb which Juan took amiss.

CXV
His youth and features favour'd the disguise,
And, should you ask how she, a sultan's bride,
Could risk or compass such strange phantasies,
This I must leave sultanas to decide:
Emperors are only husbands in wives' eyes,
And kings and consorts oft are mystified,
As we may ascertain with due precision,
Some by experience, others by tradition.

CXVI
But to the main point, where we have been tending: --
She now conceived all difficulties past,
And deem'd herself extremely condescending
When, being made her property at last,
Without more preface, in her blue eyes blending
Passion and power, a glance on him she cast,
And merely saying, "Christian, canst thou love?"
Conceived that phrase was quite enough to move.

CXVII
And so it was, in proper time and place;
But Juan, who had still his mind o'erflowing
With Haidée's isle and soft Ionian face,
Felt the warm blood, which in his face was glowing,
Rush back upon his heart, which fill'd apace,
And left his cheeks as pale as snowdrops blowing;
These words went through his soul like Arab-spears,
So that he spoke not, but burst into tears.

CXVIII
She was a good deal shock'd; not shock'd at tears,
For women shed and use them at their liking;
But there is something when man's eye appears
Wet, still more disagreeable and striking;
A woman's tear-drop melts, a man's half sears,
Like molten lead, as if you thrust a pike in
His heart to force it out, for (to be shorter)
To them 't is a relief, to us a torture.

CXIX
And she would have consoled, but knew not how:
Having no equals, nothing which had e'er
Infected her with sympathy till now,
And never having dreamt what 't was to bear
Aught of a serious, sorrowing kind, although
There might arise some pouting petty care
To cross her brow, she wonder'd how so near
Her eyes another's eye could shed a tear.

CXX
But nature teaches more than power can spoil,
And, when a strong although a strange sensation
Moves -- female hearts are such a genial soil
For kinder feelings, whatsoe'er their nation,
They naturally pour the "wine and oil,"
Samaritans in every situation;
And thus Gulbeyaz, though she knew not why,
Felt an odd glistening moisture in her eye.

CXXI
But tears must stop like all things else; and soon
Juan, who for an instant had been moved
To such a sorrow by the intrusive tone
Of one who dared to ask if "he had loved,"
Call'd back the stoic to his eyes, which shone
Bright with the very weakness he reproved;
And although sensitive to beauty, he
Felt most indignant still at not being free.

CXXII
Gulbeyaz, for the first time in her days,
Was much embarrass'd, never having met
In all her life with aught save prayers and praise;
And as she also risk'd her life to get
Him whom she meant to tutor in love's ways
Into a comfortable tete-a-tete,
To lose the hour would make her quite a martyr,
And they had wasted now almost a quarter.

CXXIII
I also would suggest the fitting time
To gentlemen in any such like case,
That is to say in a meridian clime --
With us there is more law given to the chase,
But here a small delay forms a great crime:
So recollect that the extremest grace
Is just two minutes for your declaration --
A moment more would hurt your reputation.

CXXIV
Juan's was good; and might have been still better,
But he had got Haidée into his head:
However strange, he could not yet forget her,
Which made him seem exceedingly ill-bred.
Gulbeyaz, who look'd on him as her debtor
For having had him to her palace led,
Began to blush up to the eyes, and then
Grow deadly pale, and then blush back again.

CXXV
At length, in an imperial way, she laid
Her hand on his, and bending on him eyes
Which needed not an empire to persuade,
Look'd into his for love, where none replies:
Her brow grew black, but she would not upbraid,
That being the last thing a proud woman tries;
She rose, and pausing one chaste moment, threw
Herself upon his breast, and there she grew.

CXXVI
This was an awkward test, as Juan found,
But he was steel'd by sorrow, wrath, and pride:
With gentle force her white arms he unwound,
And seated her all drooping by his side,
Then rising haughtily he glanced around,
And looking coldly in her face, he cried,
"The prison'd eagle will not pair, nor I
Serve a Sultana's sensual phantasy.

CXXVII
"Thou ask'st if I can love? be this the proof
How much I have loved -- that I love not thee!
In this vile garb, the distaff, web, and woof,
Were fitter for me: Love is for the free!
I am not dazzled by this splendid roof,
Whate'er thy power, and great it seems to be;
Heads bow, knees bend, eyes watch around a throne,
And hands obey -- our hearts are still our own."

CXXVIII
This was a truth to us extremely trite;
Not so to her, who ne'er had heard such things:
She deem'd her least command must yield delight,
Earth being only made for queens and kings.
If hearts lay on the left side or the right
She hardly knew, to such perfection brings
Legitimacy its born votaries, when
Aware of their due royal rights o'er men.

CXXIX
Besides, as has been said, she was so fair
As even in a much humbler lot had made
A kingdom or confusion anywhere,
And also, as may be presumed, she laid
Some stress on charms, which seldom are, if e'er,
By their possessors thrown into the shade:
She thought hers gave a double "right divine;"
And half of that opinion's also mine.

CXXX
Remember, or (if you can not) imagine,
Ye, who have kept your chastity when young,
While some more desperate dowager has been waging
Love with you, and been in the dog-days stung
By your refusal, recollect her raging!
Or recollect all that was said or sung
On such a subject; then suppose the face
Of a young downright beauty in this case.

CXXXI
Suppose, -- but you already have supposed,
The spouse of Potiphar, the Lady Booby,
Phaedra, and all which story has disclosed
Of good examples; pity that so few by
Poets and private tutors are exposed,
To educate -- ye youth of Europe -- you by!
But when you have supposed the few we know,
You can't suppose Gulbeyaz' angry brow.

CXXXII
A tigress robb'd of young, a lioness,
Or any interesting beast of prey,
Are similes at hand for the distress
Of ladies who can not have their own way;
But though my turn will not be served with less,
These don't express one half what I should say:
For what is stealing young ones, few or many,
To cutting short their hopes of having any?

CXXXIII
The love of offspring's nature's general law,
From tigresses and cubs to ducks and ducklings;
There's nothing whets the beak, or arms the claw
Like an invasion of their babes and sucklings;
And all who have seen a human nursery, saw
How mothers love their children's squalls and chucklings;
This strong extreme effect (to tire no longer
Your patience) shows the cause must still be stronger.

CXXXIV
If I said fire flash'd from Gulbeyaz' eyes,
'T were nothing -- for her eyes flash'd always fire;
Or said her cheeks assumed the deepest dyes,
I should but bring disgrace upon the dyer,
So supernatural was her passion's rise;
For ne'er till now she knew a check'd desire:
Even ye who know what a check'd woman is
(Enough, God knows!) would much fall short of this.

CXXXV
Her rage was but a minute's, and 't was well --
A moment's more had slain her; but the while
It lasted 't was like a short glimpse of hell:
Nought's more sublime than energetic bile,
Though horrible to see yet grand to tell,
Like ocean warring 'gainst a rocky isle;
And the deep passions flashing through her form
Made her a beautiful embodied storm.

CXXXVI
A vulgar tempest 't were to a typhoon
To match a common fury with her rage,
And yet she did not want to reach the moon,
Like moderate Hotspur on the immortal page;
Her anger pitch'd into a lower tune,
Perhaps the fault of her soft sex and age --
Her wish was but to "kill, kill, kill," like Lear's,
And then her thirst of blood was quench'd in tears.

CXXXVII
A storm it raged, and like the storm it pass'd,
Pass'd without words -- in fact she could not speak;
And then her sex's shame broke in at last,
A sentiment till then in her but weak,
But now it flow'd in natural and fast,
As water through an unexpected leak;
For she felt humbled -- and humiliation
Is sometimes good for people in her station

CXXXVIII
It teaches them that they are flesh and blood,
It also gently hints to them that others,
Although of clay, are yet not quite of mud;
That urns and pipkins are but fragile brothers,
And works of the same pottery, bad or good,
Though not all born of the same sires and mothers:
It teaches -- Heaven knows only what it teaches,
But sometimes it may mend, and often reaches.

CXXXIX
Her first thought was to cut off Juan's head;
Her second, to cut only his -- acquaintance;
Her third, to ask him where he had been bred;
Her fourth, to rally him into repentance;
Her fifth, to call her maids and go to bed;
Her sixth, to stab herself; her seventh, to sentence
The lash to Baba: -- but her grand resource
Was to sit down again, and cry of course.

CXL
She thought to stab herself, but then she had
The dagger close at hand, which made it awkward;
For Eastern stays are little made to pad,
So that a poniard pierces if 't is stuck hard:
She thought of killing Juan -- but, poor lad!
Though he deserved it well for being so backward,
The cutting off his head was not the art
Most likely to attain her aim -- his heart.

CXLI
Juan was moved; he had made up his mind
To be impaled, or quarter'd as a dish
For dogs, or to be slain with pangs refined,
Or thrown to lions, or made baits for fish,
And thus heroically stood resign'd,
Rather than sin -- except to his own wish:
But all his great preparatives for dying
Dissolved like snow before a woman crying.

CXLII
As through his palms Bob Acres' valour oozed,
So Juan's virtue ebb'd, I know not how;
And first he wonder'd why he had refused;
And then, if matters could be made up now;
And next his savage virtue he accused,
Just as a friar may accuse his vow,
Or as a dame repents her of her oath,
Which mostly ends in some small breach of both.

CXLIII
So he began to stammer some excuses;
But words are not enough in such a matter,
Although you borrow'd all that e'er the muses
Have sung, or even a Dandy's dandiest chatter,
Or all the figures Castlereagh abuses;
Just as a languid smile began to flatter
His peace was making, but before he ventured
Further, old Baba rather briskly enter'd.

CXLIV
"Bride of the Sun! and Sister of the Moon!"
('T was thus he spake) "and Empress of the Earth!
Whose frown would put the spheres all out of tune,
Whose smile makes all the planets dance with mirth,
Your slave brings tidings -- he hopes not too soon --
Which your sublime attention may be worth:
The Sun himself has sent me like a ray,
To hint that he is coming up this way."

CXLV
"Is it," exclaim'd Gulbeyaz, "as you say?
I wish to heaven he would not shine till morning!
But bid my women form the milky way.
Hence, my old comet! give the stars due warning --
And, Christian! mingle with them as you may,
And as you'd have me pardon your past scorning --"
Here they were interrupted by a humming
Sound, and then by a cry, "The Sultan's coming!"

CXLVI
First came her damsels, a decorous file,
And then his Highness' eunuchs, black and white;
The train might reach a quarter of a mile:
His majesty was always so polite
As to announce his visits a long while
Before he came, especially at night;
For being the last wife of the Emperour,
She was of course the favorite of the four.

CXLVII
His Highness was a man of solemn port,
Shawl'd to the nose, and bearded to the eyes,
Snatch'd from a prison to preside at court,
His lately bowstrung brother caused his rise;
He was as good a sovereign of the sort
As any mention'd in the histories
Of Cantemir, or Knolles, where few shine
Save Solyman, the glory of their line.

CXLVIII
He went to mosque in state, and said his prayers
With more than "Oriental scrupulosity;"
He left to his vizier all state affairs,
And show'd but little royal curiosity:
I know not if he had domestic cares --
No process proved connubial animosity;
Four wives and twice five hundred maids, unseen,
Were ruled as calmly as a Christian queen.

CXLIX
If now and then there happen'd a slight slip,
Little was heard of criminal or crime;
The story scarcely pass'd a single lip --
The sack and sea had settled all in time,
From which the secret nobody could rip:
The Public knew no more than does this rhyme;
No scandals made the daily press a curse --
Morals were better, and the fish no worse.

CL
He saw with his own eyes the moon was round,
Was also certain that the earth was square,
Because he had journey'd fifty miles, and found
No sign that it was circular anywhere;
His empire also was without a bound:
'T is true, a little troubled here and there,
By rebel pachas, and encroaching giaours,
But then they never came to "the Seven Towers;"

CLI
Except in shape of envoys, who were sent
To lodge there when a war broke out, according
To the true law of nations, which ne'er meant
Those scoundrels, who have never had a sword in
Their dirty diplomatic hands, to vent
Their spleen in making strife, and safely wording
Their lies, yclep'd despatches, without risk or
The singeing of a single inky whisker.

CLII
He had fifty daughters and four dozen sons,
Of whom all such as came of age were stow'd,
The former in a palace, where like nuns
They lived till some Bashaw was sent abroad,
When she, whose turn it was, was wed at once,
Sometimes at six years old -- though it seems odd,
'T is true; the reason is, that the Bashaw
Must make a present to his sire in law.

CLIII
His sons were kept in prison, till they grew
Of years to fill a bowstring or the throne,
One or the other, but which of the two
Could yet be known unto the fates alone;
Meantime the education they went through
Was princely, as the proofs have always shown:
So that the heir apparent still was found
No less deserving to be hang'd than crown'd.

CLIV
His majesty saluted his fourth spouse
With all the ceremonies of his rank,
Who clear'd her sparkling eyes and smooth'd her brows,
As suits a matron who has play'd a prank;
These must seem doubly mindful of their vows,
To save the credit of their breaking bank:
To no men are such cordial greetings given
As those whose wives have made them fit for heaven.

CLV
His Highness cast around his great black eyes,
And looking, as he always look'd, perceived
Juan amongst the damsels in disguise,
At which he seem'd no whit surprised nor grieved,
But just remark'd with air sedate and wise,
While still a fluttering sigh Gulbeyaz heaved,
"I see you've bought another girl; 't is pity
That a mere Christian should be half so pretty."

CLVI
This compliment, which drew all eyes upon
The new-bought virgin, made her blush and shake.
Her comrades, also, thought themselves undone:
Oh! Mahomet! that his majesty should take
Such notice of a giaour, while scarce to one
Of them his lips imperial ever spake!
There was a general whisper, toss, and wriggle,
But etiquette forbade them all to giggle.

CLVII
The Turks do well to shut -- at least, sometimes --
The women up, because, in sad reality,
Their chastity in these unhappy climes
Is not a thing of that astringent quality
Which in the North prevents precocious crimes,
And makes our snow less pure than our morality;
The sun, which yearly melts the polar ice,
Has quite the contrary effect on vice.

CLVIII
Thus in the East they are extremely strict,
And Wedlock and a Padlock mean the same;
Excepting only when the former's pick'd
It ne'er can be replaced in proper frame;
Spoilt, as a pipe of claret is when prick'd:
But then their own Polygamy's to blame;
Why don't they knead two virtuous souls for life
Into that moral centaur, man and wife?

CLIX
Thus far our chronicle; and now we pause,
Though not for want of matter; but 't is time
According to the ancient epic laws,
To slacken sail, and anchor with our rhyme.
Let this fifth canto meet with due applause,
The sixth shall have a touch of the sublime;
Meanwhile, as Homer sometimes sleeps, perhaps
You'll pardon to my muse a few short naps.

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XI. Guido

You are the Cardinal Acciaiuoli, and you,
Abate Panciatichi—two good Tuscan names:
Acciaiuoli—ah, your ancestor it was
Built the huge battlemented convent-block
Over the little forky flashing Greve
That takes the quick turn at the foot o' the hill
Just as one first sees Florence: oh those days!
'T is Ema, though, the other rivulet,
The one-arched brown brick bridge yawns over,—yes,
Gallop and go five minutes, and you gain
The Roman Gate from where the Ema's bridged:
Kingfishers fly there: how I see the bend
O'erturreted by Certosa which he built,
That Senescal (we styled him) of your House!
I do adjure you, help me, Sirs! My blood
Comes from as far a source: ought it to end
This way, by leakage through their scaffold-planks
Into Rome's sink where her red refuse runs?
Sirs, I beseech you by blood-sympathy,
If there be any vile experiment
In the air,—if this your visit simply prove,
When all's done, just a well-intentioned trick,
That tries for truth truer than truth itself,
By startling up a man, ere break of day,
To tell him he must die at sunset,—pshaw!
That man's a Franceschini; feel his pulse,
Laugh at your folly, and let's all go sleep!
You have my last word,—innocent am I
As Innocent my Pope and murderer,
Innocent as a babe, as Mary's own,
As Mary's self,—I said, say and repeat,—
And why, then, should I die twelve hours hence? I
Whom, not twelve hours ago, the gaoler bade
Turn to my straw-truss, settle and sleep sound
That I might wake the sooner, promptlier pay
His due of meat-and-drink-indulgence, cross
His palm with fee of the good-hand, beside,
As gallants use who go at large again!
For why? All honest Rome approved my part;
Whoever owned wife, sister, daughter,—nay,
Mistress,—had any shadow of any right
That looks like right, and, all the more resolved,
Held it with tooth and nail,—these manly men
Approved! I being for Rome, Rome was for me.
Then, there's the point reserved, the subterfuge
My lawyers held by, kept for last resource,
Firm should all else,—the impossible fancy!—fail,
And sneaking burgess-spirit win the day.
The knaves! One plea at least would hold,—they laughed,—
One grappling-iron scratch the bottom-rock
Even should the middle mud let anchor go!
I hooked my cause on to the Clergy's,—plea
Which, even if law tipped off my hat and plume,
Revealed my priestly tonsure, saved me so.
The Pope moreover, this old Innocent,
Being so meek and mild and merciful,
So fond o' the poor and so fatigued of earth,
So … fifty thousand devils in deepest hell!
Why must he cure us of our strange conceit
Of the angel in man's likeness, that we loved
And looked should help us at a pinch? He help?
He pardon? Here's his mind and message—death!
Thank the good Pope! Now, is he good in this,
Never mind, Christian,—no such stuff's extant,—
But will my death do credit to his reign,
Show he both lived and let live, so was good?
Cannot I live if he but like? "The law!"
Why, just the law gives him the very chance,
The precise leave to let my life alone,
Which the archangelic soul of him (he says)
Yearns after! Here they drop it in his palm,
My lawyers, capital o' the cursed kind,—
Drop life to take and hold and keep: but no!
He sighs, shakes head, refuses to shut hand,
Motions away the gift they bid him grasp,
And of the coyness comes—that off I run
And down I go, he best knows whither! mind,
He knows, who sets me rolling all the same!
Disinterested Vicar of our Lord,
This way he abrogates and disallows,
Nullifies and ignores,—reverts in fine
To the good and right, in detriment of me!
Talk away! Will you have the naked truth?
He's sick of his life's supper,—swallowed lies:
So, hobbling bedward, needs must ease his maw
Just where I sit o' the door-sill. Sir Abate,
Can you do nothing? Friends, we used to frisk:
What of this sudden slash in a friend's face,
This cut across our good companionship
That showed its front so gay when both were young?
Were not we put into a beaten path,
Bid pace the world, we nobles born and bred,
We body of friends with each his scutcheon full
Of old achievement and impunity,—
Taking the laugh of morn and Sol's salute
As forth we fared, pricked on to breathe our steeds
And take equestrian sport over the green
Under the blue, across the crop,—what care?
If we went prancing up hill and down dale,
In and out of the level and the straight,
By the bit of pleasant byeway, where was harm?
Still Sol salutes me and the morning laughs:
I see my grandsire's hoof-prints,—point the spot
Where he drew rein, slipped saddle, and stabbed knave
For daring throw gibe—much less, stone—from pale:
Then back, and on, and up with the cavalcade.
Just so wend we, now canter, now converse,
Till, 'mid the jauncing pride and jaunty port,
Something of a sudden jerks at somebody—
A dagger is out, a flashing cut and thrust,
Because I play some prank my grandsire played,
And here I sprawl: where is the company? Gone!
A trot and a trample! only I lie trapped,
Writhe in a certain novel springe just set
By the good old Pope: I'm first prize. Warn me? Why?
Apprise me that the law o' the game is changed?
Enough that I'm a warning, as I writhe,
To all and each my fellows of the file,
And make law plain henceforward past mistake,
"For such a prank, death is the penalty!"
Pope the Five Hundredth (what do I know or care?)
Deputes your Eminency and Abateship
To announce that, twelve hours from this time, he needs
I just essay upon my body and soul
The virtue of his brand-new engine, prove
Represser of the pranksome! I'm the first!
Thanks. Do you know what teeth you mean to try
The sharpness of, on this soft neck and throat?
I know it,—I have seen and hate it,—ay,
As you shall, while I tell you! Let me talk,
Or leave me, at your pleasure! talk I must:
What is your visit but my lure to talk?
Nay, you have something to disclose?—a smile,
At end of the forced sternness, means to mock
The heart-beats here? I call your two hearts stone!
Is your charge to stay with me till I die?
Be tacit as your bench, then! Use your ears,
I use my tongue: how glibly yours will run
At pleasant supper-time … God's curse! … to-night
When all the guests jump up, begin so brisk
"Welcome, his Eminence who shrived the wretch!
"Now we shall have the Abate's story!"

Life!
How I could spill this overplus of mine
Among those hoar-haired, shrunk-shanked odds and ends
Of body and soul old age is chewing dry!
Those windlestraws that stare while purblind death
Mows here, mows there, makes hay of juicy me,
And misses just the bunch of withered weed
Would brighten hell and streak its smoke with flame!
How the life I could shed yet never shrink,
Would drench their stalks with sap like grass in May!
Is it not terrible, I entreat you, Sirs?—
With manifold and plenitudinous life,
Prompt at death's menace to give blow for threat,
Answer his "Be thou not!" by "Thus I am!"—
Terrible so to be alive yet die?

How I live, how I see! so,—how I speak!
Lucidity of soul unlocks the lips:
I never had the words at will before.
How I see all my folly at a glance!
"A man requires a woman and a wife:"
There was my folly; I believed the saw.
I knew that just myself concerned myself,
Yet needs must look for what I seemed to lack,
In a woman,—why, the woman's in the man!
Fools we are, how we learn things when too late!
Overmuch life turns round my woman-side:
The male and female in me, mixed before,
Settle of a sudden: I'm my wife outright
In this unmanly appetite for truth,
This careless courage as to consequence,
This instantaneous sight through things and through,
This voluble rhetoric, if you please,—'t is she!
Here you have that Pompilia whom I slew,
Also the folly for which I slew her!

Fool!
And, fool-like, what is it I wander from?
What did I say of your sharp iron tooth?
Ah,—that I know the hateful thing! this way.
I chanced to stroll forth, many a good year gone,
One warm Spring eve in Rome, and unaware
Looking, mayhap, to count what stars were out,
Came on your fine axe in a frame, that fails
And so cuts off a man's head underneath,
Mannaia,—thus we made acquaintance first:
Out of the way, in a by-part o' the town,
At the Mouth-of-Truth o' the river-side, you know:
One goes by the Capitol: and wherefore coy,
Retiring out of crowded noisy Rome?
Because a very little time ago
It had done service, chopped off head from trunk
Belonging to a fellow whose poor house
The thing must make a point to stand before—
Felice Whatsoever-was-the-name
Who stabled buffaloes and so gained bread,
(Our clowns unyoke them in the ground hard by)
And, after use of much improper speech,
Had struck at Duke Some-title-or-other's face,
Because he kidnapped, carried away and kept
Felice's sister who would sit and sing
I' the filthy doorway while she plaited fringe
To deck the brutes with,—on their gear it goes,—
The good girl with the velvet in her voice.
So did the Duke, so did Felice, so
Did Justice, intervening with her axe.
There the man-mutilating engine stood
At ease, both gay and grim, like a Swiss guard
Off duty,—purified itself as well,
Getting dry, sweet and proper for next week,—
And doing incidental good, 't was hoped
To the rough lesson-lacking populace
Who now and then, forsooth, must right their wrongs!
There stood the twelve-foot-square of scaffold, railed
Considerately round to elbow-height,
For fear an officer should tumble thence
And sprain his ankle and be lame a month,
Through starting when the axe fell and head too!
Railed likewise were the steps whereby 't was reached.
All of it painted red: red, in the midst,
Ran up two narrow tall beams barred across,
Since from the summit, some twelve feet to reach,
The iron plate with the sharp shearing edge
Had slammed, jerked, shot, slid,—I shall soon find which!—
And so lay quiet, fast in its fit place,
The wooden half-moon collar, now eclipsed
By the blade which blocked its curvature: apart,
The other half,—the under half-moon board
Which, helped by this, completes a neck's embrace,—
Joined to a sort of desk that wheels aside
Out of the way when done with,—down you kneel,
In you're pushed, over you the other drops,
Tight you're clipped, whiz, there's the blade cleaves its best,
Out trundles body, down flops head on floor,
And where's your soul gone? That, too, I shall find!
This kneeling place was red, red, never fear!
But only slimy-like with paint, not blood,
For why? a decent pitcher stood at hand,
A broad dish to hold sawdust, and a broom
By some unnamed utensil,—scraper-rake,—
Each with a conscious air of duty done.
Underneath, loungers,—boys and some few men,—
Discoursed this platter, named the other tool,
Just as, when grooms tie up and dress a steed,
Boys lounge and look on, and elucubrate
What the round brush is used for, what the square,—
So was explained—to me the skill-less then—
The manner of the grooming for next world
Undergone by Felice What's-his-name.
There's no such lovely month in Rome as May—
May's crescent is no half-moon of red plank,
And came now tilting o'er the wave i' the west,
One greenish-golden sea, right 'twixt those bars
Of the engine—I began acquaintance with,
Understood, hated, hurried from before,
To have it out of sight and cleanse my soul!
Here it is all again, conserved for use:
Twelve hours hence, I may know more, not hate worse.

That young May-moon-month! Devils of the deep!
Was not a Pope then Pope as much as now?
Used not he chirrup o'er the Merry Tales,
Chuckle,—his nephew so exact the wag
To play a jealous cullion such a trick
As wins the wife i' the pleasant story! Well?
Why do things change? Wherefore is Rome un-Romed?
I tell you, ere Felice's corpse was cold,
The Duke, that night, threw wide his palace-doors,
Received the compliments o' the quality
For justice done him,—bowed and smirked his best,
And in return passed round a pretty thing,
A portrait of Felice's sister's self,
Florid old rogue Albano's masterpiece,
As—better than virginity in rags—
Bouncing Europa on the back o' the bull:
They laughed and took their road the safelier home.
Ah, but times change, there's quite another Pope,
I do the Duke's deed, take Felice's place,
And, being no Felice, lout and clout,
Stomach but ill the phrase "I lost my head!"
How euphemistic! Lose what? Lose your ring,
Your snuff-box, tablets, kerchief!—but, your head?
I learnt the process at an early age;
'T was useful knowledge, in those same old days,
To know the way a head is set on neck.
My fencing-master urged "Would you excel?
"Rest not content with mere bold give-and-guard,
"Nor pink the antagonist somehow-anyhow!
"See me dissect a little, and know your game!
"Only anatomy makes a thrust the thing."
Oh Cardinal, those lithe live necks of ours!
Here go the vertebræ, here's Atlas, here
Axis, and here the symphyses stop short,
So wisely and well,—as, o'er a corpse, we cant,—
And here's the silver cord which … what's our word?
Depends from the gold bowl, which loosed (not "lost")
Lets us from heaven to hell,—one chop, we're loose!
"And not much pain i' the process," quoth a sage:
Who told him? Not Felice's ghost, I think!
Such "losing" is scarce Mother Nature's mode.
She fain would have cord ease itself away,
Worn to a thread by threescore years and ten,
Snap while we slumber: that seems bearable.
I'm told one clot of blood extravasate
Ends one as certainly as Roland's sword,—
One drop of lymph suffused proves Oliver's mace,—
Intruding, either of the pleasant pair,
On the arachnoid tunic of my brain.
That's Nature's way of loosing cord!—but Art,
How of Art's process with the engine here,
When bowl and cord alike are crushed across,
Bored between, bruised through? Why, if Fagon's self,
The French Court's pride, that famed practitioner,
Would pass his cold pale lightning of a knife,
Pistoja-ware, adroit 'twixt joint and joint,
With just a "See how facile, gentlefolk!"—
The thing were not so bad to bear! Brute force
Cuts as he comes, breaks in, breaks on, breaks out
O' the hard and soft of you: is that the same?
A lithe snake thrids the hedge, makes throb no leaf:
A heavy ox sets chest to brier and branch,
Bursts somehow through, and leaves one hideous hole
Behind him!

And why, why must this needs be?
Oh, if men were but good! They are not good,
Nowise like Peter: people called him rough,
But if, as I left Rome, I spoke the Saint,
—"Petrus, quo vadis?"—doubtless, I should hear,
"To free the prisoner and forgive his fault!
"I plucked the absolute dead from God's own bar,
"And raised up Dorcas,—why not rescue thee?"
What would cost one such nullifying word?
If Innocent succeeds to Peter's place,
Let him think Peter's thought, speak Peter's speech!
I say, he is bound to it: friends, how say you?
Concede I be all one bloodguiltiness
And mystery of murder in the flesh,
Why should that fact keep the Pope's mouth shut fast?
He execrates my crime,—good!—sees hell yawn
One inch from the red plank's end which I press,—
Nothing is better! What's the consequence?
How should a Pope proceed that knows his cue?
Why, leave me linger out my minute here,
Since close on death comes judgment and comes doom,
Not crib at dawn its pittance from a sheep
Destined ere dewfall to be butcher's-meat!
Think, Sirs, if I have done you any harm,
And you require the natural revenge,
Suppose, and so intend to poison me,
—Just as you take and slip into my draught
The paperful of powder that clears scores,
You notice on my brow a certain blue:
How you both overset the wine at once!
How you both smile! "Our enemy has the plague!
"Twelve hours hence he'll be scraping his bones bare
"Of that intolerable flesh, and die,
"Frenzied with pain: no need for poison here!
"Step aside and enjoy the spectacle!"
Tender for souls are you, Pope Innocent!
Christ's maxim is—one soul outweighs the world:
Respite me, save a soul, then, curse the world!
"No," venerable sire, I hear you smirk,
"No: for Christ's gospel changes names, not things,
"Renews the obsolete, does nothing more!
"Our fire-new gospel is re-tinkered law,
"Our mercy, justice,—Jove's rechristened God,—
"Nay, whereas, in the popular conceit,
"'T is pity that old harsh Law somehow limps,
"Lingers on earth, although Law's day be done,
"Else would benignant Gospel interpose,
"Not furtively as now, but bold and frank
"O'erflutter us with healing in her wings,
"Law being harshness, Gospel only love—
"We tell the people, on the contrary,
"Gospel takes up the rod which Law lets fall;
"Mercy is vigilant when justice sleeps!
"Does Law permit a taste of Gospel-grace?
"The secular arm allow the spiritual power
"To act for once?—no compliment so fine
"As that our Gospel handsomely turn harsh,
"Thrust victim back on Law the nice and coy!"
Yes, you do say so, else you would forgive
Me whom Law does not touch but tosses you!
Don't think to put on the professional face!
You know what I know: casuists as you are,
Each nerve must creep, each hair start, sting and stand,
At such illogical inconsequence!
Dear my friends, do but see! A murder's tried,
There are two parties to the cause: I'm one,
—Defend myself, as somebody must do:
I have the best o' the battle: that's a fact,
Simple fact,—fancies find no place just now.
What though half Rome condemned me? Half approved:
And, none disputes, the luck is mine at last,
All Rome, i' the main, acquitting me: whereon,
What has the Pope to ask but "How finds Law?"
"I find," replies Law, "I have erred this while:
"Guilty or guiltless, Guido proves a priest,
"No layman: he is therefore yours, not mine:
"I bound him: loose him, you whose will is Christ's!"
And now what does this Vicar of our Lord,
Shepherd o' the flock,—one of whose charge bleats sore
For crook's help from the quag wherein it drowns?
Law suffers him employ the crumpled end:
His pleasure is to turn staff, use the point,
And thrust the shuddering sheep, he calls a wolf,
Back and back, down and down to where hell gapes!
"Guiltless," cries Law—"Guilty" corrects the Pope!
"Guilty," for the whim's sake! "Guilty," he somehow thinks,
And anyhow says: 't is truth; he dares not lie!

Others should do the lying. That's the cause
Brings you both here: I ought in decency
Confess to you that I deserve my fate,
Am guilty, as the Pope thinks,—ay, to the end,
Keep up the jest, lie on, lie ever, lie
I' the latest gasp of me! What reason, Sirs?
Because to-morrow will succeed to-day
For you, though not for me: and if I stick
Still to the truth, declare with my last breath,
I die an innocent and murdered man,—
Why, there's the tongue of Rome will wag apace
This time to-morrow: don't I hear the talk!
"So, to the last he proved impenitent?
"Pagans have said as much of martyred saints!
"Law demurred, washed her hands of the whole case.
"Prince Somebody said this, Duke Something, that,
"Doubtless the man's dead, dead enough, don't fear!
"But, hang it, what if there have been a spice,
"A touch of … eh? You see, the Pope's so old,
"Some of us add, obtuse: age never slips
"The chance of shoving youth to face death first!"
And so on. Therefore to suppress such talk
You two come here, entreat I tell you lies,
And end, the edifying way. I end,
Telling the truth! Your self-styled shepherd thieves!
A thief—and how thieves hate the wolves we know:
Damage to theft, damage to thrift, all's one!
The red hand is sworn foe of the black jaw.
That's only natural, that's right enough:
But why the wolf should compliment the thief
With shepherd's title, bark out life in thanks,
And, spiteless, lick the prong that spits him,—eh,
Cardinal? My Abate, scarcely thus!
There, let my sheepskin-garb, a curse on't, go—
Leave my teeth free if I must show my shag!
Repent? What good shall follow? If I pass
Twelve hours repenting, will that fact hold fast
The thirteenth at the horrid dozen's end?
If I fall forthwith at your feet, gnash, tear,
Foam, rave, to give your story the due grace,
Will that assist the engine half-way back
Into its hiding-house?—boards, shaking now,
Bone against bone, like some old skeleton bat
That wants, at winter's end, to wake and prey!
Will howling put the spectre back to sleep?
Ah, but I misconceive your object, Sirs!
Since I want new life like the creature,—life
Being done with here, begins i' the world away:
I shall next have "Come, mortals, and be judged!"
There's but a minute betwixt this and then:
So, quick, be sorry since it saves my soul!
Sirs, truth shall save it, since no lies assist!
Hear the truth, you, whatever you style yourselves,
Civilization and society!
Come, one good grapple, I with all the world!
Dying in cold blood is the desperate thing;
The angry heart explodes, bears off in blaze
The indignant soul, and I'm combustion-ripe.
Why, you intend to do your worst with me!
That's in your eyes! You dare no more than death,
And mean no less. I must make up my mind.
So Pietro,—when I chased him here and there,
Morsel by morsel cut away the life
I loathed,—cried for just respite to confess
And save his soul: much respite did I grant!
Why grant me respite who deserve my doom?
Me—who engaged to play a prize, fight you,
Knowing your arms, and foil you, trick for trick,
At rapier-fence, your match and, maybe, more.
I knew that if I chose sin certain sins,
Solace my lusts out of the regular way
Prescribed me, I should find you in the path,
Have to try skill with a redoubted foe;
You would lunge, I would parry, and make end.
At last, occasion of a murder comes:
We cross blades, I, for all my brag, break guard,
And in goes the cold iron at my breast,
Out at my back, and end is made of me.
You stand confessed the adroiter swordsman,—ay,
But on your triumph you increase, it seems,
Want more of me than lying flat on face:
I ought to raise my ruined head, allege
Not simply I pushed worse blade o' the pair,
But my antagonist dispensed with steel!
There was no passage of arms, you looked me low,
With brow and eye abolished cut and thrust
Nor used the vulgar weapon! This chance scratch,
This incidental hurt, this sort of hole
I' the heart of me? I stumbled, got it so!
Fell on my own sword as a bungler may!
Yourself proscribe such heathen tools, and trust
To the naked virtue: it was virtue stood
Unarmed and awed me,—on my brow there burned
Crime out so plainly intolerably red,
That I was fain to cry—"Down to the dust
"With me, and bury there brow, brand and all!"
Law had essayed the adventure,—but what's Law?
Morality exposed the Gorgon shield!
Morality and Religion conquer me.
If Law sufficed would you come here, entreat
I supplement law, and confess forsooth?
Did not the Trial show things plain enough?
"Ah, but a word of the man's very self
"Would somehow put the keystone in its place
"And crown the arch!" Then take the word you want!

I say that, long ago, when things began,
All the world made agreement, such and such
Were pleasure-giving profit-bearing acts,
But henceforth extra-legal, nor to be:
You must not kill the man whose death would please
And profit you, unless his life stop yours
Plainly, and need so be put aside:
Get the thing by a public course, by law,
Only no private bloodshed as of old!
All of us, for the good of every one,
Renounced such licence and conformed to law:
Who breaks law, breaks pact therefore, helps himself
To pleasure and profit over and above the due,
And must pay forfeit,—pain beyond his share:
For, pleasure being the sole good in the world,
Anyone's pleasure turns to someone's pain,
So, law must watch for everyone,—say we,
Who call things wicked that give too much joy,
And nickname mere reprisal, envy makes,
Punishment: quite right! thus the world goes round.
I, being well aware such pact there was,
I, in my time who found advantage come
Of law's observance and crime's penalty,—
Who, but for wholesome fear law bred in friends,
Had doubtless given example long ago,
Furnished forth some friend's pleasure with my pain,
And, by my death, pieced out his scanty life,—
I could not, for that foolish life of me,
Help risking law's infringement,—I broke bond,
And needs must pay price,—wherefore, here's my head,
Flung with a flourish! But, repentance too?
But pure and simple sorrow for law's breach
Rather than blunderer's-ineptitude?
Cardinal, no! Abate, scarcely thus!
'T is the fault, not that I dared try a fall
With Law and straightway am found undermost,
But that I failed to see, above man's law,
God's precept you, the Christians, recognize?
Colly my cow! Don't fidget, Cardinal!
Abate, cross your breast and count your beads
And exorcize the devil, for here he stands
And stiffens in the bristly nape of neck,
Daring you drive him hence! You, Christians both?
I say, if ever was such faith at all
Born in the world, by your community
Suffered to live its little tick of time,
'T is dead of age, now, ludicrously dead;
Honour its ashes, if you be discreet,
In epitaph only! For, concede its death,
Allow extinction, you may boast unchecked
What feats the thing did in a crazy land
At a fabulous epoch,—treat your faith, that way,
Just as you treat your relics: "Here's a shred
"Of saintly flesh, a scrap of blessed bone,
"Raised King Cophetua, who was dead, to life
"In Mesopotamy twelve centuries since,
"Such was its virtue!"—twangs the Sacristan,
Holding the shrine-box up, with hands like feet
Because of gout in every finger joint:
Does he bethink him to reduce one knob,
Allay one twinge by touching what he vaunts?
I think he half uncrooks fist to catch fee,
But, for the grace, the quality of cure,—
Cophetua was the man put that to proof!
Not otherwise, your faith is shrined and shown
And shamed at once: you banter while you bow!
Do you dispute this? Come, a monster-laugh,
A madman's laugh, allowed his Carnival
Later ten days than when all Rome, but he,
Laughed at the candle-contest: mine's alight,
'T is just it sputter till the puff o' the Pope
End it to-morrow and the world turn Ash.
Come, thus I wave a wand and bring to pass
In a moment, in the twinkle of an eye,
What but that—feigning everywhere grows fact,
Professors turn possessors, realize
The faith they play with as a fancy now,
And bid it operate, have full effect
On every circumstance of life, to-day,
In Rome,—faith's flow set free at fountain-head!
Now, you'll own, at this present, when I speak,
Before I work the wonder, there's no man
Woman or child in Rome, faith's fountain-head,
But might, if each were minded, realize
Conversely unbelief, faith's opposite—
Set it to work on life unflinchingly,
Yet give no symptom of an outward change:
Why should things change because men disbelieve
What's incompatible, in the whited tomb,
With bones and rottenness one inch below?
What saintly act is done in Rome to-day
But might be prompted by the devil,—"is"
I say not,—"has been, and again may be,—"
I do say, full i' the face o' the crucifix
You try to stop my mouth with! Off with it!
Look in your own heart, if your soul have eyes!
You shall see reason why, though faith were fled,
Unbelief still might work the wires and move
Man, the machine, to play a faithful part.
Preside your college, Cardinal, in your cape,
Or,—having got above his head, grown Pope,—
Abate, gird your loins and wash my feet!
Do you suppose I am at loss at all
Why you crook, why you cringe, why fast or feast?
Praise, blame, sit, stand, lie or go!—all of it,
In each of you, purest unbelief may prompt,
And wit explain to who has eyes to see.
But, lo, I wave wand, made the false the true!
Here's Rome believes in Christianity!
What an explosion, how the fragments fly
Of what was surface, mask and make-believe!
Begin now,—look at this Pope's-halberdier
In wasp-like black and yellow foolery!
He, doing duty at the corridor,
Wakes from a muse and stands convinced of sin!
Down he flings halbert, leaps the passage-length,
Pushes into the presence, pantingly
Submits the extreme peril of the case
To the Pope's self,—whom in the world beside?—
And the Pope breaks talk with ambassador,
Bids aside bishop, wills the whole world wait
Till he secure that prize, outweighs the world,
A soul, relieve the sentry of his qualm!
His Altitude the Referendary,—
Robed right, and ready for the usher's word
To pay devoir,—is, of all times, just then
'Ware of a master-stroke of argument
Will cut the spinal cord … ugh, ugh! … I mean,
Paralyse Molinism for evermore!
Straight he leaves lobby, trundles, two and two,
Down steps to reach home, write, if but a word
Shall end the impudence: he leaves who likes
Go pacify the Pope: there's Christ to serve!
How otherwise would men display their zeal?
If the same sentry had the least surmise
A powder-barrel 'neath the pavement lay
In neighbourhood with what might prove a match,
Meant to blow sky-high Pope and presence both—
Would he not break through courtiers, rank and file,
Bundle up, bear off and save body so,
The Pope, no matter for his priceless soul?
There's no fool's-freak here, nought to soundly swinge,
Only a man in earnest, you'll so praise
And pay and prate about, that earth shall ring!
Had thought possessed the Referendary
His jewel-case at home was left ajar,
What would be wrong in running, robes awry,
To be beforehand with the pilferer?
What talk then of indecent haste? Which means,
That both these, each in his degree, would do
Just that,—for a comparative nothing's sake,
And thereby gain approval and reward,—
Which, done for what Christ says is worth the world,
Procures the doer curses, cuffs and kicks.
I call such difference 'twixt act and act,
Sheer lunacy unless your truth on lip
Be recognized a lie in heart of you!
How do you all act, promptly or in doubt,
When there's a guest poisoned at supper-time
And he sits chatting on with spot on cheek?
"Pluck him by the skirt, and round him in the ears,
"Have at him by the beard, warn anyhow!"
Good, and this other friend that's cheat and thief
And dissolute,—go stop the devil's feast,
Withdraw him from the imminent hell-fire!
Why, for your life, you dare not tell your friend
"You lie, and I admonish you for Christ!"
Who yet dare seek that same man at the Mass
To warn him—on his knees, and tinkle near,—
He left a cask a-tilt, a tap unturned,
The Trebbian running: what a grateful jump
Out of the Church rewards your vigilance!
Perform that self-same service just a thought
More maladroitly,—since a bishop sits
At function!—and he budges not, bites lip,—
"You see my case: how can I quit my post?
"He has an eye to any such default.
"See to it, neighbour, I beseech your love!"
He and you know the relative worth of things,
What is permissible or inopportune.
Contort your brows! You know I speak the truth:
Gold is called gold, and dross called dross, i' the Book:
Gold you let lie and dross pick up and prize!
—Despite your muster of some fifty monks
And nuns a-maundering here and mumping there,
Who could, and on occasion would, spurn dross,
Clutch gold, and prove their faith a fact so far,—
I grant you! Fifty times the number squeak
And gibber in the madhouse—firm of faith,
This fellow, that his nose supports the moon;
The other, that his straw hat crowns him Pope:
Does that prove all the world outside insane?
Do fifty miracle-mongers match the mob
That acts on the frank faithless principle,
Born-baptized-and-bred Christian-atheists, each
With just as much a right to judge as you,—
As many senses in his soul, and nerves
I' neck of him as I,—whom, soul and sense,
Neck and nerve, you abolish presently,—
I being the unit in creation now
Who pay the Maker, in this speech of mine,
A creature's duty, spend my last of breath
In bearing witness, even by my worst fault,
To the creature's obligation, absolute,
Perpetual: my worst fault protests, "The faith
"Claims all of me: I would give all she claims,
"But for a spice of doubt: the risk's too rash:
"Double or quits, I play, but, all or nought,
"Exceeds my courage: therefore, I descend
"To the next faith with no dubiety—
"Faith in the present life, made last as long
"And prove as full of pleasure as may hap,
"Whatever pain it cause the world." I'm wrong?
I've had my life, whate'er I lose: I'm right?
I've got the single good there was to gain.
Entire faith, or else complete unbelief!
Aught between has my loathing and contempt,
Mine and God's also, doubtless: ask yourself,
Cardinal, where and how you like a man!
Why, either with your feet upon his head,
Confessed your caudatory, or, at large,
The stranger in the crowd who caps to you
But keeps his distance,—why should he presume?
You want no hanger-on and dropper-off,
Now yours, and now not yours but quite his own,
According as the sky looks black or bright.
Just so I capped to and kept off from faith—
You promised trudge behind through fair and foul,
Yet leave i' the lurch at the first spit of rain.
Who holds to faith whenever rain begins?
What does the father when his son lies dead,
The merchant when his money-bags take wing,
The politician whom a rival ousts?
No case but has its conduct, faith prescribes:
Where's the obedience that shall edify?
Why, they laugh frankly in the face of faith
And take the natural course,—this rends his hair
Because his child is taken to God's breast.
That gnashes teeth and raves at loss of trash
Which rust corrupts and thieves break through and steal,
And this, enabled to inherit earth
Through meekness, curses till your blood runs cold!
Down they all drop to my low level, rest
Heart upon dungy earth that's warm and soft,
And let who please attempt the altitudes.
Each playing prodigal son of heavenly sire,
Turning his nose up at the fatted calf,
Fain to fill belly with the husks, we swine
Did eat by born depravity of taste!

Enough of the hypocrites. But you, Sirs, you
Who never budged from litter where I lay,
And buried snout i' the draff-box while I fed,
Cried amen to my creed's one article—
"Get pleasure, 'scape pain,—give your preference
"To the immediate good, for time is brief,
"And death ends good and ill and everything!
"What's got is gained, what's gained soon is gained twice,
"And,—inasmuch as faith gains most,—feign faith!"
So did we brother-like pass word about:
You, now,—like bloody drunkards but half-drunk,
Who fool men yet perceive men find them fools,—
Vexed that a titter gains the gravest mouth,—
O' the sudden you must needs re-introduce
Solemnity, straight sober undue mirth
By a blow dealt me your boon companion here
Who, using the old licence, dreamed of harm
No more than snow in harvest: yet it falls!
You check the merriment effectually
By pushing your abrupt machine i' the midst,
Making me Rome's example: blood for wine!
The general good needs that you chop and change!
I may dislike the hocus-pocus,—Rome,
The laughter-loving people, won't they stare
Chap-fallen!—while serious natures sermonize
"The magistrate, he beareth not the sword
"In vain; who sins may taste its edge, we see!"
Why my sin, drunkards? Where have I abused
Liberty, scandalized you all so much?
Who called me, who crooked finger till I came,
Fool that I was, to join companionship?
I knew my own mind, meant to live my life,
Elude your envy, or else make a stand,
Take my own part and sell you my life dear.
But it was "Fie! No prejudice in the world
"To the proper manly instinct! Cast your lot
"Into our lap, one genius ruled our births,
"We'll compass joy by concert; take with us
"The regular irregular way i' the wood;
"You'll miss no game through riding breast by breast,
"In this preserve, the Church's park and pale,
"Rather than outside where the world lies waste!"
Come, if you said not that, did you say this?
Give plain and terrible warning, "Live, enjoy?
"Such life begins in death and ends in hell!
"Dare you bid us assist your sins, us priests
"Who hurry sin and sinners from the earth?
"No such delight for us, why then for you?
"Leave earth, seek heaven or find its opposite!"
Had you so warned me, not in lying words
But veritable deeds with tongues of flame,
That had been fair, that might have struck a man,
Silenced the squabble between soul and sense,
Compelled him to make mind up, take one course
Or the other, peradventure!—wrong or right,
Foolish or wise, you would have been at least
Sincere, no question,—forced me choose, indulge
Or else renounce my instincts, still play wolf
Or find my way submissive to your fold,
Be red-crossed on my fleece, one sheep the more.
But you as good as bade me wear sheep's wool
Over wolf's skin, suck blood and hide the noise
By mimicry of something like a bleat,—
Whence it comes that because, despite my care,
Because I smack my tongue too loud for once,
Drop baaing, here's the village up in arms!
Have at the wolfs throat, you who hate the breed!
Oh, were it only open yet to choose—
One little time more—whether I'd be free
Your foe, or subsidized your friend forsooth!
Should not you get a growl through the white fangs
In answer to your beckoning! Cardinal,
Abate, managers o' the multitude,
I'd turn your gloved hands to account, be sure!
You should manipulate the coarse rough mob:
'T is you I'd deal directly with, not them,—
Using your fears: why touch the thing myself
When I could see you hunt, and then cry "Shares!
"Quarter the carcase or we quarrel; come,
"Here's the world ready to see justice done!"
Oh, it had been a desperate game, but game
Wherein the winner's chance were worth the pains!
We'd try conclusions!—at the worst, what worse
Than this Mannaia-machine, each minute's talk
Helps push an inch the nearer me? Fool, fool!

You understand me and forgive, sweet Sirs?
I blame you, tear my hair and tell my woe—
All's but a flourish, figure of rhetoric!
One must try each expedient to save life.
One makes fools look foolisher fifty-fold
By putting in their place men wise like you,
To take the full force of an argument
Would buffet their stolidity in vain.
If you should feel aggrieved by the mere wind
O' the blow that means to miss you and maul them,
That's my success! Is it not folly, now,
To say with folk, "A plausible defence—
"We see through notwithstanding, and reject?"
Reject the plausible they do, these fools,
Who never even make pretence to show
One point beyond its plausibility
In favour of the best belief they hold!
"Saint Somebody-or-other raised the dead:"
Did he? How do you come to know as much?
"Know it, what need? The story's plausible,
"Avouched for by a martyrologist,
"And why should good men sup on cheese and leeks
"On such a saint's day, if there were no saint?"
I praise the wisdom of these fools, and straight
Tell them my story—"plausible, but false!"
False, to be sure! What else can story be
That runs—a young wife tired of an old spouse,
Found a priest whom she fled away with,—both
Took their full pleasure in the two-days' flight,
Which a grey-headed greyer-hearted pair,
(Whose best boast was, their life had been a lie)
Helped for the love they bore all liars. Oh,
Here incredulity begins! Indeed?
Allow then, were no one point strictly true,
There's that i' the tale might seem like truth at least
To the unlucky husband,—jaundiced patch—
Jealousy maddens people, why not him?
Say, he was maddened, so forgivable!
Humanity pleads that though the wife were true,
The priest true, and the pair of liars true,
They might seem false to one man in the world!
A thousand gnats make up a serpent's sting,
And many sly soft stimulants to wrath
Compose a formidable wrong at last
That gets called easily by some one name
Not applicable to the single parts,
And so draws down a general revenge,
Excessive if you take crime, fault by fault.
Jealousy! I have known a score of plays,
Were listened to and laughed at in my time
As like the everyday-life on all sides,
Wherein the husband, mad as a March hare,
Suspected all the world contrived his shame.
What did the wife? The wife kissed both eyes blind,
Explained away ambiguous circumstance,
And while she held him captive by the hand,
Crowned his head,—you know what's the mockery,—
By half her body behind the curtain. That's
Nature now! That's the subject of a piece
I saw in Vallombrosa Convent, made
Expressly to teach men what marriage was!
But say "Just so did I misapprehend,
"Imagine she deceived me to my face,"
And that's pretence too easily seen through!
All those eyes of all husbands in all plays,
At stare like one expanded peacock-tail,
Are laughed at for pretending to be keen
While horn-blind: but the moment I step forth—
Oh, I must needs o' the sudden prove a lynx
And look the heart, that stone-wall, through and through!
Such an eye, God's may be,—not yours nor mine.

Yes, presently . . what hour is fleeting now?
When you cut earth away from under me,
I shall be left alone with, pushed beneath
Some such an apparitional dread orb
As the eye of God, since such an eye there glares:
I fancy it go filling up the void
Above my mote-self it devours, or what
Proves—wrath, immensity wreaks on nothingness.
Just how I felt once, couching through the dark,
Hard by Vittiano; young I was, and gay,
And wanting to trap fieldfares: first a spark
Tipped a bent, as a mere dew-globule might
Any stiff grass-stalk on the meadow,—this
Grew fiercer, flamed out full, and proved the sun.
What do I want with proverbs, precepts here?
Away with man! What shall I say to God?
This, if I find the tongue and keep the mind—
"Do Thou wipe out the being of me, and smear
"This soul from off Thy white of things, I blot!
"I am one huge and sheer mistake,—whose fault?
"Not mine at least, who did not make myself!"
Someone declares my wife excused me so!
Perhaps she knew what argument to use.
Grind your teeth, Cardinal: Abate, writhe!
What else am I to cry out in my rage,
Unable to repent one particle
O' the past? Oh, how I wish some cold wise man
Would dig beneath the surface which you scrape,
Deal with the depths, pronounce on my desert
Groundedly! I want simple sober sense,
That asks, before it finishes with a dog,
Who taught the dog that trick you hang him for?
You both persist to call that act a crime,
Which sense would call ... yes, I maintain it, Sirs,...
A blunder! At the worst, I stood in doubt
On cross-road, took one path of many paths:
It leads to the red thing, we all see now,
But nobody saw at first: one primrose-patch
In bank, one singing-bird in bush, the less,
Had warned me from such wayfare: let me prove!
Put me back to the cross-road, start afresh!
Advise me when I take the first false step!
Give me my wife: how should I use my wife,
Love her or hate her? Prompt my action now!
There she is, there she stands alive and pale,
The thirteen-years' old child, with milk for blood,
Pompilia Comparini, as at first,
Which first is only four brief years ago!
I stand too in the little ground-floor room
O' the father's house at Via Vittoria: see!
Her so-called mother,—one arm round the waist
O' the child to keep her from the toys, let fall
At wonder I can live yet look so grim,—
Ushers her in, with deprecating wave
Of the other,—and she fronts me loose at last,
Held only by the mother's finger-tip.
Struck dumb,—for she was white enough before!—
She eyes me with those frightened balls of black,
As heifer—the old simile comes pat—
Eyes tremblingly the altar and the priest.
The amazed look, all one insuppressive prayer,—
Might she but breathe, set free as heretofore,
Have this cup leave her lips unblistered, bear
Any cross anywhither anyhow,
So but alone, so but apart from me!
You are touched? So am I, quite otherwise,
If 't is with pity. I resent my wrong,
Being a man: I only show man's soul
Through man's flesh: she sees mine, it strikes her thus!
Is that attractive? To a youth perhaps—
Calf-creature, one-part boy to three-parts girl,
To whom it is a flattering novelty
That he, men use to motion from their path,
Can thus impose, thus terrify in turn
A chit whose terror shall be changed apace
To bliss unbearable when grace and glow,
Prowess and pride descend the throne and touch
Esther in all that pretty tremble, cured
By the dove o' the sceptre! But myself am old,
O' the wane at least, in all things: what do you say
To her who frankly thus confirms my doubt?
I am past the prime, I scare the woman-world,
Done-with that way: you like this piece of news?
A little saucy rose-bud minx can strike
Death-damp into the breast of doughty king
Though 't were French Louis,—soul I understand,—
Saying, by gesture of repugnance, just
"Sire, you are regal, puissant and so forth,
"But—young you have been, are not, nor will be!"
In vain the mother nods, winks, bustles up,
"Count, girls incline to mature worth like you!
"As for Pompilia, what's flesh, fish, or fowl
"To one who apprehends no difference,
"And would accept you even were you old
"As you are … youngish by her father's side?
"Trim but your beard a little, thin your bush
"Of eyebrow; and for presence, portliness,
"And decent gravity, you beat a boy!"
Deceive yourself one minute, if you may,
In presence of the child that so loves age,
Whose neck writhes, cords itself against your kiss,
Whose hand you wring stark, rigid with despair!
Well, I resent this; I am young in soul,
Nor old in body,—thews and sinews here,—
Though the vile surface be not smooth as once,—
Far beyond that first wheelwork which went wrong
Through the untempered iron ere 't was proof:
I am the wrought man worth ten times the crude,
Would woman see what this declines to see,
Declines to say "I see,"—the officious word
That makes the thing, pricks on the soul to shoot
New fire into the half-used cinder, flesh!
Therefore 't is she begins with wronging me,
Who cannot but begin with hating her.
Our marriage follows: there she stands again!
Why do I laugh? Why, in the very gripe
O' the jaws of death's gigantic skull, do I
Grin back his grin, make sport of my own pangs?
Why from each clashing of his molars, ground
To make the devil bread from out my grist,
Leaps out a spark of mirth, a hellish toy?
Take notice we are lovers in a church,
Waiting the sacrament to make us one
And happy! Just as bid, she bears herself,
Comes and kneels, rises, speaks, is silent,—goes:
So have I brought my horse, by word and blow,
To stand stock-still and front the fire he dreads.
How can I other than remember this,
Resent the very obedience? Gain thereby?
Yes, I do gain my end and have my will,—
Thanks to whom? When the mother speaks the word,
She obeys it—even to enduring me!
There had been compensation in revolt—
Revolt's to quell: but martyrdom rehearsed,
But predetermined saintship for the sake
O' the mother?—"Go!" thought I, "we meet again!"
Pass the next weeks of dumb contented death,
She lives,—wakes up, installed in house and home,
Is mine, mine all day-long, all night-long mine.
Good folk begin at me with open mouth
"Now, at least, reconcile the child to life!
"Study and make her love … that is, endure
"The … hem! the … all of you though somewhat old,
"Till it amount to something, in her eye,
"As good as love, better a thousand times,—
"Since nature helps the woman in such strait,
"Makes passiveness her pleasure: failing which,
"What if you give up boy-and-girl-fools'-play
"And go on to wise friendship all at once?
"Those boys and girls kiss themselves cold, you know,
"Toy themselves tired and slink aside full soon
"To friendship, as they name satiety:
"Thither go you and wait their coming!" Thanks,
Considerate advisers,—but, fair play!
Had you and I, friends, started fair at first
We, keeping fair, might reach it, neck by neck,
This blessed goal, whenever fate so please:
But why am I to miss the daisied mile
The course begins with, why obtain the dust
Of the end precisely at the starting-point?
Why quaff life's cup blown free of all the beads,
The bright red froth wherein our beard should steep
Before our mouth essay the black o' the wine?
Foolish, the love-fit? Let me prove it such
Like you, before like you I puff things clear!
"The best's to come, no rapture but content!
"Not love's first glory but a sober glow,
"Not a spontaneous outburst in pure boon,
"So much as, gained by patience, care and toil,
"Proper appreciation and esteem!"
Go preach that to your nephews, not to me
Who, tired i' the midway of my life, would stop
And take my first refreshment, pluck a rose:
What's this coarse woolly hip, worn smooth of leaf,
You counsel I go plant in garden-plot,
Water with tears, manure with sweat and blood,
In confidence the seed shall germinate
And, for its very best, some far-off day,
Grow big, and blow me out a dog-rose bell?
Why must your nephews begin breathing spice
O' the hundred-petalled Provence prodigy?
Nay, more and worse,—would such my root bear rose—
Prove really flower and favourite, not the kind
That's queen, but those three leaves that make one cup
And hold the hedge-bird's breakfast,—then indeed
The prize though poor would pay the care and toil!
Respect we Nature that makes least as most,
Marvellous in the minim! But this bud,
Bit through and burned black by the tempter's tooth,
This bloom whose best grace was the slug outside
And the wasp inside its bosom,—call you "rose"?
Claim no immunity from a weed's fate
For the horrible present! What you call my wife
I call a nullity in female shape,
Vapid disgust, soon to be pungent plague,
When mixed with, made confusion and a curse
By two abominable nondescripts,
That father and that mother: think you see
The dreadful bronze our boast, we Aretines,
The Etruscan monster, the three-headed thing,
Bellerophon's foe! How name you the whole beast?
You choose to name the body from one head,
That of the simple kid which droops the eye,
Hangs the neck and dies tenderly enough:
I rather see the griesly lion belch
Flame out i' the midst, the serpent writhe her rings,
Grafted into the common stock for tail,
And name the brute, Chimæra which I slew!
How was there ever more to be—(concede
My wife's insipid harmless nullity)—
Dissociation from that pair of plagues—
That mother with her cunning and her cant—
The eyes with first their twinkle of conceit,
Then, dropped to earth in mock-demureness,—now,
The smile self-satisfied from ear to ear,
Now, the prim pursed-up mouth's protruded lips,
With deferential duck, slow swing of head,
Tempting the sudden fist of man too much,—
That owl-like screw of lid and rock of ruff!
As for the father,—Cardinal, you know,
The kind of idiot!—such are rife in Rome,
But they wear velvet commonly; good fools,
At the end of life, to furnish forth young folk
Who grin and bear with imbecility:
Since the stalled ass, the joker, sheds from jaw
Corn, in the joke, for those who laugh or starve.
But what say we to the same solemn beast
Wagging his ears and wishful of our pat,
When turned, with holes in hide and bones laid bare,
To forage for himself i' the waste o' the world,
Sir Dignity i' the dumps? Pat him? We drub
Self-knowledge, rather, into frowzy pate,
Teach Pietro to get trappings or go hang!
Fancy this quondam oracle in vogue
At Via Vittoria, this personified
Authority when time was,—Pantaloon
Flaunting his tom-fool tawdry just the same
As if Ash-Wednesday were mid-Carnival!
That's the extreme and unforgiveable
Of sins, as I account such. Have you stooped
For your own ends to bestialize yourself
By flattery of a fellow of this stamp?
The ends obtained or else shown out of reach,
He goes on, takes the flattery for pure truth,—
"You love, and honour me, of course: what next?"
What, but the trifle of the stabbing, friend?—
Which taught you how one worships when the shrine
Has lost the relic that we bent before.
Angry! And how could I be otherwise?
'T is plain: this pair of old pretentious fools
Meant to fool me: it happens, I fooled them.
Why could not these who sought to buy and sell
Me,—when they found themselves were bought and sold,
Make up their mind to the proved rule of right,
Be chattel and not chapman any more?
Miscalculation has its consequence;
But when the shepherd crooks a sheep-like thing
And meaning to get wool, dislodges fleece
And finds the veritable wolf beneath,
(How that staunch image serves at every turn!)
Does he, by way of being politic,
Pluck the first whisker grimly visible?
Or rather grow in a trice all gratitude,
Protest this sort-of-what-one-might-name sheep
Beats the old other curly-coated kind,
And shall share board and bed, if so it deign,
With its discoverer, like a royal ram?
Ay, thus, with chattering teeth and knocking knees,
Would wisdom treat the adventure! these, forsooth,
Tried whisker-plucking, and so found what trap
The whisker kept perdue, two rows of teeth—
Sharp, as too late the prying fingers felt.
What would you have? The fools transgress, the fools
Forthwith receive appropriate punishment:
They first insult me, I return the blow,
There follows noise enough: four hubbub months,
Now hue and cry, now whimpering and wail—
A perfect goose-yard cackle of complaint
Because I do not gild the geese their oats,—
I have enough of noise, ope wicket wide,
Sweep out the couple to go whine elsewhere,
Frightened a little, hurt in no respect,
And am just taking thought to breathe again,
Taste the sweet sudden silence all about,
When, there they raise it, the old noise I know,
At Rome i' the distance! "What, begun once more?
"Whine on, wail ever, 't is the loser's right!"
But eh, what sort of voice grows on the wind?
Triumph it sounds and no complaint at all!
And triumph it is. My boast was premature:
The creatures, I turned forth, clapped wing and crew
Fighting-cock-fashion,—they had filched a pearl
From dung-heap, and might boast with cause enough!
I was defrauded of all bargained for:
You know, the Pope knows, not a soul but knows
My dowry was derision, my gain—muck,
My wife, (the Church declared my flesh and blood)
The nameless bastard of a common whore:
My old name turned henceforth to … shall I say
"He that received the ordure in his face?"
And they who planned this wrong, performed this wrong,
And then revealed this wrong to the wide world,
Rounded myself in the ears with my own wrong,—
Why, these were (note hell's lucky malice, now!)
These were just they who, they alone, could act
And publish and proclaim their infamy,
Secure that men would in a breath believe
Compassionate and pardon them,—for why?
They plainly were too stupid to invent,
Too simple to distinguish wrong from right,—
Inconscious agents they, the silly-sooth,
Of heaven's retributive justice on the strong
Proud cunning violent oppressor—me!
Follow them to their fate and help your best,
You Rome, Arezzo, foes called friends of me,
They gave the good long laugh to, at my cost!
Defray your share o' the cost, since you partook
The entertainment! Do!—assured the while,
That not one stab, I dealt to right and left,
But went the deeper for a fancy—this—
That each might do me two-fold service, find
A friend's face at the bottom of each wound,
And scratch its smirk a little!

Panciatichi!
There's a report at Florence,—is it true?—
That when your relative the Cardinal
Built, only the other day, that barrack-bulk,
The palace in Via Larga, someone picked
From out the street a saucy quip enough
That fell there from its day's flight through the town,
About the flat front and the windows wide
And bulging heap of cornice,—hitched the joke
Into a sonnet, signed his name thereto,
And forthwith pinned on post the pleasantry:
For which he's at the galleys, rowing now
Up to his waist in water,—just because
Panciatic and lymphatic rhymed so pat!
I hope, Sir, those who passed this joke on me
Were not unduly punished? What say you,
Prince of the Church, my patron? Nay, indeed,
I shall not dare insult your wits so much
As think this problem difficult to solve.
This Pietro and Violante then, I say,
These two ambiguous insects, changing name
And nature with the season's warmth or chill,—
Now, grovelled, grubbing toiling moiling ants,
A very synonym of thrift and peace,—
Anon, with lusty June to prick their heart,
Soared i' the air, winged flies for more offence,
Circled me, buzzed me deaf and stung me blind,
And stunk me dead with fetor in the face
Until I stopped the nuisance: there's my crime!
Pity I did not suffer them subside
Into some further shape and final form
Of execrable life? My masters, no!
I, by one blow, wisely cut short at once
Them and their transformations of disgust,
In the snug little Villa out of hand.
"Grant me confession, give bare time for that!"—
Shouted the sinner till his mouth was stopped.
His life confessed!—that was enough for me,
Who came to see that he did penance. 'S death!
Here's a coil raised, a pother and for what?
Because strength, being provoked by weakness, fought
And conquered,—the world never heard the like!
Pah, how I spend my breath on them, as if
'T was their fate troubled me, too hard to range
Among the right and fit and proper things!

Ay, but Pompilia,—I await your word,—
She, unimpeached of crime, unimplicate
In folly, one of alien blood to these
I punish, why extend my claim, exact
Her portion of the penalty? Yes, friends,
I go too fast: the orator's at fault:
Yes, ere I lay her, with your leave, by them
As she was laid at San Lorenzo late,
I ought to step back, lead you by degrees,
Recounting at each step some fresh offence,
Up to the red bed,—never fear, I will!
Gaze at her, where I place her, to begin,
Confound me with her gentleness and worth!
The horrible pair have fled and left her now,
She has her husband for her sole concern:
His wife, the woman fashioned for his help,
Flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, the bride
To groom as is the Church and Spouse to Christ:
There she stands in his presence: "Thy desire
"Shall be to the husband, o'er thee shall he rule!"
—"Pompilia, who declare that you love God,
"You know who said that: then, desire my love,
"Yield me contentment and be ruled aright!"
She sits up, she lies down, she comes and goes,
Kneels at the couch-side, overleans the sill
O' the window, cold and pale and mute as stone,
Strong as stone also. "Well, are they not fled?
"Am I not left, am I not one for all?
"Speak a word, drop a tear, detach a glance,
"Bless me or curse me of your own accord!
"Is it the ceiling only wants your soul,
"Is worth your eyes?" And then the eyes descend,
And do look at me. Is it at the meal?
"Speak!" she obeys, "Be silent!" she obeys,
Counting the minutes till I cry "Depart,"
As brood-bird when you saunter past her eggs.
Departs she? just the same through door and wall
I see the same stone strength of white despair.
And all this will be never otherwise!
Before, the parents' presence lent her life:
She could play off her sex's armoury,
Entreat, reproach, be female to my male,
Try all the shrieking doubles of the hare,
Go clamour to the Commissary, bid
The Archbishop hold my hands and stop my tongue,
And yield fair sport so: but the tactics change,
The hare stands stock-still to enrage the hound!
Since that day when she learned she was no child
Of those she thought her parents,—that their trick
Had tricked me whom she thought sole trickster late,—
Why, I suppose she said within herself
"Then, no more struggle for my parents' sake!
"And, for my own sake, why needs struggle be?"
But is there no third party to the pact?
What of her husband's relish or dislike
For this new game of giving up the game,
This worst offence of not offending more?
I'll not believe but instinct wrought in this,
Set her on to conceive and execute
The preferable plague: how sure they probe—
These jades, the sensitivest soft of man!
The long black hair was wound now in a wisp,
Crowned sorrow better than the wild web late:
No more soiled dress, 't is trimness triumphs now,
For how should malice go with negligence?
The frayed silk looked the fresher for her spite!
There was an end to springing out of bed,
Praying me, with face buried on my feet,
Be hindered of my pastime,—so an end
To my rejoinder, "What, on the ground at last?
'Vanquished in fight, a supplicant for life?
"What if I raise you? 'Ware the casting down
"When next you fight me!" Then, she lay there, mine:
Now, mine she is if I please wring her neck,—
A moment of disquiet, working eyes,
Protruding tongue, a long sigh, then no more,—
As if one killed the horse one could not ride!
Had I enjoined "Cut off the hair!"—why, snap
The scissors, and at once a yard or so
Had fluttered in black serpents to the floor:
But till I did enjoin it, how she combs,
Uncurls and draws out to the complete length,
Plaits, places the insulting rope on head
To be an eyesore past dishevelment!
Is all done? Then sit still again and stare!
I advise—no one think to bear that look
Of steady wrong, endured as steadily
—Through what sustainment of deluding hope?
Who is the friend i' the background that notes all?
Who may come presently and close accounts?
This self-possession to the uttermost,
How does it differ in aught, save degree,
From the terrible patience of God?

"All which just means,
"She did not love you!" Again the word is launched
And the fact fronts me! What, you try the wards
With the true key and the dead lock flies ope?
No, it sticks fast and leaves you fumbling still!
You have some fifty servants, Cardinal,—
Which of them loves you? Which subordinate
But makes parade of such officiousness
That,—if there's no love prompts it,—love, the sham,
Does twice the service done by love, the true.
God bless us liars, where's one touch of truth
In what we tell the world, or world tells us,
Of how we love each other? All the same,
We calculate on word and deed, nor err,—
Bid such a man do such a loving act,
Sure of effect and negligent of cause,
Just as we bid a horse, with cluck of tongue,
Stretch his legs arch-wise, crouch his saddled back
To foot-reach of the stirrup—all for love,
And some for memory of the smart of switch
On the inside of the foreleg—what care we?
Yet where's the bond obliges horse to man
Like that which binds fast wife to husband? God
Laid down the law: gave man the brawny arm
And ball of fist—woman the beardless cheek
And proper place to suffer in the side:
Since it is he can strike, let her obey!
Can she feel no love? Let her show the more,
Sham the worse, damn herself praiseworthily!
Who's that soprano, Rome went mad about
Last week while I lay rotting in my straw?
The very jailer gossiped in his praise—
How,—dressed up like Armida, though a man;
And painted to look pretty, though a fright,—
He still made love so that the ladies swooned,
Being an eunuch. "Ah, Rinaldo mine!
"But to breathe by thee while Jove slays us both!
All the poor bloodless creature never felt,
Si, do, re, mi, fa, squeak and squall—for what?
Two gold zecchines the evening. Here's my slave,
Whose body and soul depend upon my nod,
Can't falter out the first note in the scale
For her life! Why blame me if I take the life?
All women cannot give men love, forsooth!
No, nor all pullets lay the henwife eggs—
Whereat she bids them remedy the fault,
Brood on a chalk-ball: soon the nest is stocked—
Otherwise, to the plucking and the spit!
This wife of mine was of another mood—
Would not begin the lie that ends with truth,
Nor feign the love that brings real love about:
Wherefore I judged, sentenced and punished her
But why particularize, defend the deed?
Say that I hated her for no one cause
Beyond my pleasure so to do,—what then?
Just on as much incitement acts the world,
All of you! Look and like! You favour one
Browbeat another, leave alone a third,—
Why should you master natural caprice?
Pure nature Try: plant elm by ash in file;
Both unexceptionable trees enough,
They ought to overlean each other, pair
At top, and arch across the avenue
The whole path to the pleasaunce: do they so—
Or loathe, lie off abhorrent each from each?
Lay the fault elsewhere: since we must have faults,
Mine shall have been,—seeing there's ill in the end
Come of my course,—that I fare somehow worse
For the way I took: my fault … as God's my judge,
I see not where my fault lies, that's the truth!
I ought … oh, ought in my own interest
Have let the whole adventure go untried,
This chance by marriage: or else, trying it,
Ought to have turned it to account, some one
O' the hundred otherwises? Ay, my friend,
Easy to say, easy to do: step right
Now you've stepped left and stumbled on the thing,
The red thing! Doubt I any more than you
That practice makes man perfect? Give again
The chance,—same marriage and no other wife,
Be sure I'll edify you! That's because
I'm practised, grown fit guide for Guido's self.
You proffered guidance,—I know, none so well,—
You laid down law and rolled decorum out,
From pulpit-corner on the gospel-side,—
Wanted to make your great experience mine,
Save me the personal search and pains so: thanks!
Take your word on life's use? When I take his—
The muzzled ox that treadeth out the corn,
Gone blind in padding round and round one path,—
As to the taste of green grass in the field!
What do you know o' the world that's trodden flat
And salted sterile with your daily dung,
Leavened into a lump of loathsomeness?
Take your opinion of the modes of life,
The aims of life, life's triumph or defeat,
How to feel, how to scheme, and how to do
Or else leave undone? You preached long and loud
On high-days, "Take our doctrine upon trust!
"Into the mill-house with you! Grind our corn,
"Relish our chaff, and let the green grass grow!"
I tried chaff, found I famished on such fare,
So made this mad rush at the mill-house-door,
Buried my head up to the ears in dew,
Browsed on the best: for which you brain me, Sirs!
Be it so. I conceived of life that way,
And still declare—life, without absolute use
Of the actual sweet therein, is death, not life.
Give me,—pay down,—not promise, which is air,—
Something that's out of life and better still,
Make sure reward, make certain punishment,
Entice me, scare me,—I'll forgo this life;
Otherwise, no!—the less that words, mere wind,
Would cheat me of some minutes while they plague,
Baulk fulness of revenge here,—blame yourselves
For this eruption of the pent-up soul
You prisoned first and played with afterward
"Deny myself" meant simply pleasure you,
The sacred and superior, save the mark!
You,—whose stupidity and insolence
I must defer to, soothe at every turn,—
Whose swine-like snuffling greed and grunting lust
I had to wink at or help gratify,—
While the same passions,—dared they perk in me,
Me, the immeasurably marked, by God,
Master of the whole world of such as you,—
I, boast such passions? 'T was "Suppress them straight!
"Or stay, we'll pick and choose before destroy.
"Here's wrath in you, a serviceable sword,—
"Beat it into a ploughshare! What's this long
"Lance-like ambition? Forge a pruning-hook,
"May be of service when our vines grow tall!
"But—sword use swordwise, spear thrust out as spear?
"Anathema! Suppression is the word!"
My nature, when the outrage was too gross,
Widened itself an outlet over-wide
By way of answer, sought its own relief
With more of fire and brimstone than you wished.
All your own doing: preachers, blame yourselves!

'T is I preach while the hour-glass runs and runs!
God keep me patient! All I say just means—
My wife proved, whether by her fault or mine,—
That's immaterial,—a true stumbling-block
I' the way of me her husband. I but plied
The hatchet yourselves use to clear a path,
Was politic, played the game you warrant wins,
Plucked at law's robe a-rustle through the courts,
Bowed down to kiss divinity's buckled shoe
Cushioned i' the church: efforts all wide the aim!
Procedures to no purpose! Then flashed truth.
The letter kills, the spirit keeps alive
In law and gospel: there be nods and winks
Instruct a wise man to assist himself
In certain matters, nor seek aid at all.
"Ask money of me,"—quoth the clownish saw,—
"And take my purse! But,—speaking with respect,—
"Need you a solace for the troubled nose?
"Let everybody wipe his own himself!"
Sirs, tell me free and fair! Had things gone well
At the wayside inn: had I surprised asleep
The runaways, as was so probable,
And pinned them each to other partridge-wise,
Through back and breast to breast and back, then bade
Bystanders witness if the spit, my sword,
Were loaded with unlawful game for once—
Would you have interposed to damp the glow
Applauding me on every husband's cheek?
Would you have checked the cry "A judgment, see!
"A warning, note! Be henceforth chaste, ye wives,
"Nor stray beyond your proper precinct, priests!"
If you had, then your house against itself
Divides, nor stands your kingdom any more.
Oh why, why was it not ordained just so?
Why fell not things out so nor otherwise?
Ask that particular devil whose task it is
To trip the all-but-at perfection,—slur
The line o' the painter just where paint leaves off
And life begins,—put ice into the ode
O' the poet while he cries "Next stanza—fire!"
Inscribe all human effort with one word,
Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete!
Being incomplete, my act escaped success.
Easy to blame now! Every fool can swear
To hole in net that held and slipped the fish.
But, treat my act with fair unjaundiced eye,
What was there wanting to a masterpiece
Except the luck that lies beyond a man?
My way with the woman, now proved grossly wrong,
Just missed of being gravely grandly right
And making mouths laugh on the other side.
Do, for the poor obstructed artist's sake,
Go with him over that spoiled work once more!
Take only its first flower, the ended act
Now in the dusty pod, dry and defunct!
I march to the Villa, and my men with me,
That evening, and we reach the door and stand.
I say … no, it shoots through me lightning-like
While I pause, breathe, my hand upon the latch,
"Let me forebode! Thus far, too much success:
"I want the natural failure—find it where?
"Which thread will have to break and leave a loop
"I' the meshy combination, my brain's loom
"Wove this long while, and now next minute tests?
"Of three that are to catch, two should go free,
"One must: all three surprised,—impossible!
"Beside, I seek three and may chance on six,—
"This neighbour, t' other gossip,—the babe's birth
"Brings such to fireside, and folks give them wine,—
"'T is late: but when I break in presently
"One will be found outlingering the rest
"For promise of a posset,—one whose shout
"Would raise the dead down in the catacombs,
"Much more the city-watch that goes its round.
"When did I ever turn adroitly up
"To sun some brick embedded in the soil,
"And with one blow crush all three scorpions there?
"Or Pietro or Violante shambles off—
"It cannot be but I surprise my wife—
"If only she is stopped and stamped on, good!
"That shall suffice: more is improbable.
"Now I may knock!" And this once for my sake
The impossible was effected: I called king,
Queen and knave in a sequence, and cards came,
All three, three only! So, I had my way,
Did my deed: so, unbrokenly lay bare
Each tænia that had sucked me dry of juice,
At last outside me, not an inch of ring
Left now to writhe about and root itself
I' the heart all powerless for revenge! Henceforth
I might thrive: these were drawn and dead and damned
Oh Cardinal, the deep long sigh you heave
When the load's off you, ringing as it runs
All the way down the serpent-stair to hell!
No doubt the fine delirium flustered me,
Turned my brain with the influx of success
As if the sole need now were to wave wand
And find doors fly wide,—wish and have my will,—
The rest o' the scheme would care for itself: escape
Easy enough were that, and poor beside!
It all but proved so,—ought to quite have proved,
Since, half the chances had sufficed, set free
Anyone, with his senses at command,
From thrice the danger of my flight. But, drunk,
Redundantly triumphant,—some reverse
Was sure to follow! There's no other way
Accounts for such prompt perfect failure then
And there on the instant. Any day o' the week,
A ducat slid discreetly into palm
O' the mute post-master, while you whisper him—
How you the Count and certain four your knaves,
Have just been mauling who was malapert,
Suspect the kindred may prove troublesome,
Therefore, want horses in a hurry,—that
And nothing more secures you any day
The pick o' the stable! Yet I try the trick,
Double the bribe, call myself Duke for Count,
And say the dead man only was a Jew,
And for my pains find I am dealing just
With the one scrupulous fellow in all Rome—
Just this immaculate official stares,
Sees I want hat on head and sword in sheath,
Am splashed with other sort of wet than wine,
Shrugs shoulder, puts my hand by, gold and all,
Stands on the strictness of the rule o' the road!
"Where's the Permission?" Where's the wretched rag
With the due seal and sign of Rome's Police,
To be had for asking, half-an-hour ago?
"Gone? Get another, or no horses hence!"
He dares not stop me, we five glare too grim,
But hinders,—hacks and hamstrings sure enough,
Gives me some twenty miles of miry road
More to march in the middle of that night
Whereof the rough beginning taxed the strength
O' the youngsters, much more mine, both soul and flesh,
Who had to think as well as act: dead-beat,
We gave in ere we reached the boundary
And safe spot out of this irrational Rome,—
Where, on dismounting from our steeds next day,
We had snapped our fingers at you, safe and sound,
Tuscans once more in blessed Tuscany,
Where laws make wise allowance, understand
Civilized life and do its champions right!
Witness the sentence of the Rota there,
Arezzo uttered, the Granduke confirmed,
One week before I acted on its hint,—
Giving friend Guillichini, for his love,
The galleys, and my wife your saint, Rome's saint,—
Rome manufactures saints enough to know,—
Seclusion at the Stinche for her life.
All this, that all but was, might all have been,
Yet was not! baulked by just a scrupulous knave
Whose palm was horn through handling horses' hoofs
And could not close upon my proffered gold!
What say you to the spite of fortune? Well,
The worst's in store: thus hindered, haled this way
To Rome again by hangdogs, whom find I
Here, still to fight with, but my pale frail wife?
—Riddled with wounds by one not like to waste
The blows he dealt,—knowing anatomy,—
(I think I told you) bound to pick and choose
The vital parts! 'T was learning all in vain!
She too must shimmer through the gloom o' the grave,
Come and confront me—not at judgment-seat
Where I could twist her soul, as erst her flesh,
And turn her truth into a lie,—but there,
O' the death-bed, with God's hand between us both,
Striking me dumb, and helping her to speak,
Tell her own story her own way, and turn
My plausibility to nothingness!
Four whole days did Pompilia keep alive,
With the best surgery of Rome agape
At the miracle,—this cut, the other slash,
And yet the life refusing to dislodge,
Four whole extravagant impossible days,
Till she had time to finish and persuade
Every man, every woman, every child
In Rome, of what she would: the selfsame she
Who, but a year ago, had wrung her hands,
Reddened her eyes and beat her breasts, rehearsed
The whole game at Arezzo, nor availed
Thereby to move one heart or raise one hand!
When destiny intends you cards like these,
What good of skill and preconcerted play?
Had she been found dead, as I left her dead,
I should have told a tale brooked no reply:
You scarcely will suppose me found at fault
With that advantage! "What brings me to Rome?
"Necessity to claim and take my wife:
"Better, to claim and take my new born babe,—
"Strong in paternity a fortnight old,
"When't is at strongest: warily I work,
"Knowing the machinations of my foe;
"I have companionship and use the night:
"I seek my wife and child,—I find—no child
"But wife, in the embraces of that priest
"Who caused her to elope from me. These two,
"Backed by the pander-pair who watch the while,
"Spring on me like so many tiger-cats,
"Glad of the chance to end the intruder. I
"What should I do but stand on my defence,
"Strike right, strike left, strike thick and threefold, slay,
"Not all-because the coward priest escapes.
"Last, I escape, in fear of evil tongues,
"And having had my taste of Roman law."
What's disputable, refutable here?—
Save by just this one ghost-thing half on earth,
Half out of it,—as if she held God's hand
While she leant back and looked her last at me,
Forgiving me (here monks begin to weep)
Oh, from her very soul, commending mine
To heavenly mercies which are infinite,—
While fixing fast my head beneath your knife!
'T is fate not fortune. All is of a piece!
When was it chance informed me of my youths?
My rustic four o' the family, soft swains,
What sweet surprise had they in store for me,
Those of my very household,—what did Law
Twist with her rack-and-cord-contrivance late
From out their bones and marrow? What but this—
Had no one of these several stumbling-blocks
Stopped me, they yet were cherishing a scheme,
All of their honest country homespun wit,
To quietly next day at crow of cock
Cut my own throat too, for their own behoof,
Seeing I had forgot to clear accounts
O' the instant, nowise slackened speed for that,—
And somehow never might find memory,
Once safe back in Arezzo, where things change,
And a court-lord needs mind no country lout.
Well, being the arch-offender, I die last,—
May, ere my head falls, have my eyesight free,
Nor miss them dangling high on either hand,
Like scarecrows in a hemp-field, for their pains!

And then my Trial,—'t is my Trial that bites
Like a corrosive, so the cards are packed,
Dice loaded, and my life-stake tricked away!
Look at my lawyers, lacked they grace of law,
Latin or logic? Were not they fools to the height,
Fools to the depth, fools to the level between,
O' the foolishness set to decide the case?
They feign, they flatter; nowise does it skill,
Everything goes against me: deal each judge
His dole of flattery and feigning,—why,
He turns and tries and snuffs and savours it,
As some old fly the sugar-grain, your gift;
Then eyes your thumb and finger, brushes clean
The absurd old head of him, and whisks away,
Leaving your thumb and finger dirty. Faugh!

And finally, after this long-drawn range
Of affront and failure, failure and affront,—
This path, 'twixt crosses leading to a skull,
Paced by me barefoot, bloodied by my palms
From the entry to the end,—there's light at length,
A cranny of escape: appeal may be
To the old man, to the father, to the Pope,
For a little life—from one whose life is spent,
A little pity—from pity's source and seat,
A little indulgence to rank, privilege,
From one who is the thing personified,
Rank, privilege, indulgence, grown beyond
Earth's bearing, even, ask Jansenius else!
Still the same answer, still no other tune
From the cicala perched at the tree-top
Than crickets noisy round the root: 't is "Die!"
Bids Law—"Be damned!" adds Gospel,—nay,
No word so frank,—'t is rather, "Save yourself!"
The Pope subjoins—"Confess and be absolved!
"So shall my credit countervail your shame,
"And the world see I have not lost the knack
"Of trying all the spirits: yours, my son,
"Wants but a fiery washing to emerge
"In clarity! Come, cleanse you, ease the ache
"Of these old bones, refresh our bowels, boy!"
Do I mistake your mission from the Pope?
Then, bear his Holiness the mind of me!
I do get strength from being thrust to wall,
Successively wrenched from pillar and from post
By this tenacious hate of fortune, hate
Of all things in, under, and above earth.
Warfare, begun this mean unmanly mode,
Does best to end so,—gives earth spectacle
Of a brave fighter who succumbs to odds
That turn defeat to victory. Stab, I fold
My mantle round me! Rome approves my act:
Applauds the blow which costs me life but keeps
My honour spotless: Rome would praise no more
Had I fallen, say, some fifteen years ago,
Helping Vienna when our Aretines
Flocked to Duke Charles and fought Turk Mustafa;
Nor would you two be trembling o'er my corpse
With all this exquisite solicitude.
Why is it that I make such suit to live?
The popular sympathy that's round me now
Would break like bubble that o'er-domes a fly:
Solid enough while he lies quiet there,
But let him want the air and ply the wing,
Why, it breaks and bespatters him, what else?
Cardinal, if the Pope had pardoned me,
And I walked out of prison through the crowd,
It would not be your arm I should dare press!
Then, if I got safe to my place again,
How sad and sapless were the years to come!
I go my old ways and find things grown grey;
You priests leer at me, old friends look askance
The mob's in love, I'll wager, to a man,
With my poor young good beauteous murdered wife:
For hearts require instruction how to beat,
And eyes, on warrant of the story, wax
Wanton at portraiture in white and black
Of dead Pompilia gracing ballad-sheet,
Which eyes, lived she unmurdered and unsung,
Would never turn though she paced street as bare
As the mad penitent ladies do in France.
My brothers quietly would edge me out
Of use and management of things called mine;
Do I command? "You stretched command before!
Show anger? "Anger little helped you once!"
Advise? "How managed you affairs of old?"
My very mother, all the while they gird,
Turns eye up, gives confirmatory groan;
For unsuccess, explain it how you will,
Disqualifies you, makes you doubt yourself,
—Much more, is found decisive by your friends.
Beside, am I not fifty years of age?
What new leap would a life take, checked like mine
I' the spring at outset? Where's my second chance?
Ay, but the babe … I had forgot my son,
My heir! Now for a burst of gratitude!
There's some appropriate service to intone,
Some gaudeamus and thanksgiving psalm!
Old, I renew my youth in him, and poor
Possess a treasure,—is not that the phrase?
Only I must wait patient twenty years—
Nourishing all the while, as father ought,
The excrescence with my daily blood of life.
Does it respond to hope, such sacrifice,—
Grows the wen plump while I myself grow lean?
Why, here's my son and heir in evidence,
Who stronger, wiser, handsomer than I
By fifty years, relieves me of each load,—
Tames my hot horse, carries my heavy gun,
Courts my coy mistress,—has his apt advice
On house-economy, expenditure,
And what not? All which good gifts and great growth
Because of my decline, he brings to bear
On Guido, but half apprehensive how
He cumbers earth, crosses the brisk young Count,
Who civilly would thrust him from the scene.
Contrariwise, does the blood-offering fail?
There's an ineptitude, one blank the more
Added to earth in semblance of my child?
Then, this has been a costly piece of work,
My life exchanged for his!—why he, not I,
Enjoy the world, if no more grace accrue?
Dwarf me, what giant have you made of him?
I do not dread the disobedient son:
I know how to suppress rebellion there,
Being not quite the fool my father was.
But grant the medium measure of a man,
The usual compromise 'twixt fool and sage,
You know—the tolerably-obstinate,
The not-so-much-perverse but you may train,
The true son-servant that, when parent bids
"Go work, son, in my vineyard!" makes reply
"I go, Sir!"—Why, what profit in your son
Beyond the drudges you might subsidize,
Have the same work from, at a paul the head?
Look at those four young precious olive-plants
Reared at Vittiano,—not on flesh and blood,
These twenty years, but black bread and sour wine!
I bade them put forth tender branch, hook, hold,
And hurt three enemies I had in Rome:
They did my hest as unreluctantly,
At promise of a dollar, as a son
Adjured by mumping memories of the past.
No, nothing repays youth expended so—
Youth, I say, who am young still: grant but leave
To live my life out, to the last I'd live
And die conceding age no right of youth!
It is the will runs the renewing nerve
Through flaccid flesh that faints before the time.
Therefore no sort of use for son have I
Sick, not of life's feast but of steps to climb
To the house where life prepares her feast,—of means
To the end: for make the end attainable
Without the means,—my relish were like yours.
A man may have an appetite enough
For a whole dish of robins ready cooked,
And yet lack courage to face sleet, pad snow,
And snare sufficiently for supper.

Thus
The time's arrived when, ancient Roman-like,
I am bound to fall on my own sword: why not
Say—Tuscan-like, more ancient, better still?
Will you hear truth can do no harm nor good?
I think I never was at any time
A Christian, as you nickname all the world,
Me among others: truce to nonsense now!
Name me, a primitive religionist—
As should the aboriginary be
I boast myself, Etruscan, Aretine,
One sprung,—your frigid Virgil's fieriest word,—
From fauns and nymphs, trunks and the heart of oak,
With,—for a visible divinity,—
The portent of a Jove Ægiochus
Descried 'mid clouds, lightning and thunder, couched
On topmost crag of your Capitoline:
'T is in the Seventh Æneid,—what, the Eighth?
Right,—thanks, Abate,—though the Christian's dumb,
The Latinist's vivacious in you yet!
I know my grandsire had our tapestry
Marked with the motto, 'neath a certain shield,
Whereto his grandson presently will give gules
To vary azure. First we fight for faiths,
But get to shake hands at the last of all:
Mine's your faith too,—in Jove Ægiochus!
Nor do Greek gods, that serve as supplement,
Jar with the simpler scheme, if understood.
We want such intermediary race
To make communication possible;
The real thing were too lofty, we too low,
Midway hang these: we feel their use so plain
In linking height to depth, that we doff hat
And put no question nor pry narrowly
Into the nature hid behind the names.
We grudge no rite the fancy may demand;
But never, more than needs, invent, refine,
Improve upon requirement, idly wise
Beyond the letter, teaching gods their trade,
Which is to teach us: we'll obey when taught.
Why should we do our duty past the need?
When the sky darkens, Jove is wroth,—say prayer!
When the sun shines and Jove is glad,—sing psalm!
But wherefore pass prescription and devise
Blood-offering for sweat-service, lend the rod
A pungency through pickle of our own?
Learned Abate,—no one teaches you
What Venus means and who's Apollo here!
I spare you, Cardinal,—but, though you wince,
You know me, I know you, and both know that!
So, if Apollo bids us fast, we fast:
But where does Venus order we stop sense
When Master Pietro rhymes a pleasantry?
Give alms prescribed on Friday: but, hold hand
Because your foe lies prostrate,—where's the word
Explicit in the book debars revenge?
The rationale of your scheme is just
"Pay toll here, there pursue your pleasure free!"
So do you turn to use the medium-powers,
Mars and Minerva, Bacchus and the rest,
And so are saved propitiating—whom?
What all-good, all-wise and all-potent Jove
Vexed by the very sins in man, himself
Made life's necessity when man he made?
Irrational bunglers! So, the living truth
Revealed to strike Pan dead, ducks low at last,
Prays leave to hold its own and live good days
Provided it go masque grotesquely, called
Christian not Pagan. Oh, you purged the sky
Of all gods save the One, the great and good,
Clapped hands and triumphed! But the change came fast:
The inexorable need in man for life—
(Life, you may mulct and minish to a grain
Out of the lump, so that the grain but live)
Laughed at your substituting death for life,
And bade you do your worst: which worst was done
In just that age styled primitive and pure
When Saint this, Saint that, dutifully starved,
Froze, fought with beasts, was beaten and abused
And finally ridded of his flesh by fire:
He kept life-long unspotted from the world!
Next age, how goes the game, what mortal gives
His life and emulates Saint that, Saint this?
Men mutter, make excuse or mutiny,
In fine are minded all to leave the new,
Stick to the old,—enjoy old liberty,
No prejudice in enjoyment, if you please,
To the new profession: sin o' the sly, henceforth!
The law stands though the letter kills: what then?
The spirit saves as unmistakeably.
Omniscience sees, Omnipotence could stop,
Omnibenevolence pardons: it must be,
Frown law its fiercest, there's a wink somewhere!

Such was the logic in this head of mine:
I, like the rest, wrote "poison" on my bread,
But broke and ate:—said "Those that use the sword
"Shall perish by the same;" then stabbed my foe.
I stand on solid earth, not empty air:
Dislodge me, let your Pope's crook hale me hence!
Not he, nor you! And I so pity both,
I'll make the true charge you want wit to make:
"Count Guido, who reveal our mystery,
"And trace all issues to the love of life.
"We having life to love and guard, like you,
"Why did you put us upon self-defence?
"You well knew what prompt pass-word would appease
"The sentry's ire when folk infringed his bounds,
"And yet kept mouth shut: do you wonder then
"If, in mere decency, he shot you dead?
"He can't have people play such pranks as yours
"Beneath his nose at noonday: you disdained
"To give him an excuse before the world
"By crying 'I break rule to save our camp!'
"Under the old rule, such offence were death;
"And you had heard the Pontifex pronounce
"'Since you slay foe and violate the form,
"'Slaying turns murder, which were sacrifice
"'Had you, while, say, law-suiting foe to death,
"'But raised an altar to the Unknown God
"'Or else the Genius of the Vatican.'
"Why then this pother?—all because the Pope,
"Doing his duty, cried 'A foreigner,
"'You scandalize the natives: here at Rome
"'Romano vivitur more: wise men, here,
"'Put the Church forward and efface themselves.
"'The fit defence had been,—you stamped on wheat,
"'Intending all the time to trample tares,—
"'Were fain extirpate, then, the heretic,
"'You now find, in your haste was slain a fool:
"'Nor Pietro, nor Violante, nor your wife
"'Meant to breed up your babe a Molinist!
"'Whence you are duly contrite. Not one word
"'Of all this wisdom did you urge: which slip
"'Death must atone for.'"

So, let death atone!
So ends mistake, so end mistakers!—end
Perhaps to recommence,—how should I know?
Only, be sure, no punishment, no pain
Childish, preposterous, impossible,
But some such fate as Ovid could foresee,—
Byblis in fluvium, let the weak soul end
In water, sed Lycaon in lupum, but
The strong become a wolf for evermore!
Change that Pompilia to a puny stream
Fit to reflect the daisies on its bank!
Let me turn wolf, be whole, and sate, for once,—
Wallow in what is now a wolfishness
Coerced too much by the humanity
That's half of me as well! Grow out of man,
Glut the wolf-nature,—what remains but grow
Into the man again, be man indeed
And all man? Do I ring the changes right?
Deformed, transformed, reformed, informed, conformed!
The honest instinct, pent and crossed through life,
Let surge by death into a visible flow
Of rapture: as the strangled thread of flame
Painfully winds, annoying and annoyed,
Malignant and maligned, thro' stone and ore,
Till earth exclude the stranger: vented once,
It finds full play, is recognized a-top
Some mountain as no such abnormal birth
Fire for the mount, the streamlet for the vale!
Ay, of the water was that wife of mine—
Be it for good, be it for ill, no run
O' the red thread through that insignificance!
Again, how she is at me with those eyes!
Away with the empty stare! Be holy still,
And stupid ever! Occupy your patch
Of private snow that's somewhere in what world
May now be growing icy round your head,
And aguish at your foot-print,—freeze not me,
Dare follow not another step I take,
Not with so much as those detested eyes,
No, though they follow but to pray me pause
On the incline, earth's edge that's next to hell!
None of your abnegation of revenge!
Fly at me frank, tug while I tear again!
There's God, go tell Him, testify your worst!
Not she! There was no touch in her of hate:
And it would prove her hell, if I reached mine!
To know I suffered, would still sadden her,
Do what the angels might to make amends!
Therefore there's either no such place as hell,
Or thence shall I be thrust forth, for her sake,
And thereby undergo three hells, not one—
I who, with outlet for escape to heaven,
Would tarry if such flight allowed my foe
To raise his head, relieved of that firm foot
Had pinned him to the fiery pavement else!
So am I made, "who did not make myself:"
(How dared she rob my own lip of the word?)
Beware me in what other world may be!—
Pompilia, who have brought me to this pass!
All I know here, will I say there, and go
Beyond the saying with the deed. Some use
There cannot but be for a mood like mine,
Implacable, persistent in revenge.
She maundered "All is over and at end:
"I go my own road, go you where God will!
"Forgive you? I forget you!" There's the saint
That takes your taste, you other kind of men!
How you had loved her! Guido wanted skill
To value such a woman at her worth!
Properly the instructed criticize
"What's here, you simpleton have tossed to take
"Its chance i' the gutter? This a daub, indeed?
"Why, 't is a Rafael that you kicked to rags!"
Perhaps so: some prefer the pure design:
Give me my gorge of colour, glut of gold
In a glory round the Virgin made for me!
Titian 's the man, not Monk Angelico
Who traces you some timid chalky ghost
That turns the church into a charnel: ay,
Just such a pencil might depict my wife!
She,—since she, also, would not change herself,—
Why could not she come in some heart-shaped cloud,
Rainbowed about with riches, royalty
Rimming her round, as round the tintless lawn
Guardingly runs the selvage cloth of gold?
I would have left the faint fine gauze untouched,
Needle-worked over with its lily and rose,
Let her bleach unmolested in the midst
Chill that selected solitary spot
Of quietude she pleased to think was life.
Purity, pallor grace the lawn no doubt
When there's the costly bordure to unthread
And make again an ingot: but what's grace
When you want meat and drink and clothes and fire?
A tale comes to my mind that's apposite—
Possibly true, probably false, a truth
Such as all truths we live by, Cardinal!
'T is said, a certain ancestor of mine
Followed—whoever was the potentate,
To Paynimrie, and in some battle, broke
Through more than due allowance of the foe,
And, risking much his own life, saved the lord's.
Battered and bruised, the Emperor scrambles up,
Rubs his eyes and looks round and sees my sire,
Picks a furze-sprig from out his hauberk-joint,
(Token how near the ground went majesty)
And says "Take this, and if thou get safe home,
"Plant the same in thy garden-ground to grow:
"Run thence an hour in a straight line, and stop:
"Describe a circle round (for central point)
"The furze aforesaid, reaching every way
"The length of that hour's run: I give it thee,—
"The central point, to build a castle there,
"The space circumjacent, for fit demesne,
"The whole to be thy children's heritage,—
"Whom, for thy sake, bid thou wear furze on cap!"
Those are my arms: we turned the furze a tree
To show more, and the greyhound tied thereto,
Straining to start, means swift and greedy both;
He stands upon a triple mount of gold—
By Jove, then, he's escaping from true gold
And trying to arrive at empty air!
Aha! the fancy never crossed my mind!
My father used to tell me, and subjoin
"As for the castle, that took wings and flew:
"The broad lands,—why, to traverse them to day
"Scarce tasks my gouty feet, and in my prime
"I doubt not I could stand and spit so far:
"But for the furze, boy, fear no lack of that,
"So long as fortune leaves one field to grub!
"Wherefore, hurra for furze and loyalty!"
What may I mean, where may the lesson lurk?
"Do not bestow on man, by way of gift,
"Furze without land for framework,—vaunt no grace
"Of purity, no furze-sprig of a wife,
"To me, i' the thick of battle for my bread,
"Without some better dowry,—gold will do!"
No better gift than sordid muck? Yes, Sirs!
Many more gifts much better. Give them me!
O those Olimpias bold, those Biancas brave,
That brought a husband power worth Ormuz' wealth!
Cried "Thou being mine, why, what but thine am I?
"Be thou to me law, right, wrong, heaven and hell!
"Let us blend souls, blent, thou in me, to bid
"Two bodies work one pleasure! What are these
"Called king, priest, father, mother, stranger, friend?
"They fret thee or they frustrate? Give the word—
"Be certain they shall frustrate nothing more!
"And who is this young florid foolishness
"That holds thy ortune in his pigmy clutch,
"—Being a prince and potency, forsooth!—
"He hesitates to let the trifle go?
"Let me but seal up eye, sing ear to sleep
"Sounder than Samson,—pounce thou on the prize
"Shall slip from off my breast, and down couchside,
"And on to floor, and far as my lord's feet—
"Where he stands in the shadow with the knife,
"Waiting to see what Delilah dares do!
"Is the youth fair? What is a man to me
"Who am thy call-bird? Twist his neck—my dupe's,—
"Then take the breast shall turn a breast indeed!"
Such women are there; and they marry whom?
Why, when a man has gone and hanged himself
Because of what he calls a wicked wife,—
See, if the very turpitude bemoaned
Prove not mere excellence the fool ignores!
His monster is perfection,—Circe, sent
Straight from the sun, with wand the idiot blames
As not an honest distaff to spin wool!
O thou Lucrezia, is it long to wait
Yonder where all the gloom is in a glow
With thy suspected presence?—virgin yet,
Virtuous again, in face of what's to teach—
Sin unimagined, unimaginable,—
I come to claim my bride,—thy Borgia's self
Not half the burning bridegroom I shall be!
Cardinal, take away your crucifix!
Abate, leave my lips alone,—they bite!
Vainly you try to change what should not change,
And shall not. I have bared, you bathe my heart—
It grows the stonier for your saving dew!
You steep the substance, you would lubricate,
In waters that but touch to petrify!

You too are petrifactions of a kind:
Move not a muscle that shows mercy. Rave
Another twelve hours, every word were waste!
I thought you would not slay impenitence,
But teased, from men you slew, contrition first,—
I thought you had a conscience. Cardinal,
You know I am wronged!—wronged, say, and wronged, maintain.
Was this strict inquisition made for blood
When first you showed us scarlet on your back,
Called to the College? Your straightforward way
To your legitimate end,—I think it passed
Over a scantling of heads brained, hearts broke,
Lives trodden into dust! How otherwise?
Such was the way o' the world, and so you walked.
Does memory haunt your pillow? Not a whit.
God wills you never pace your garden-path,
One appetizing hour ere dinner-time,
But your intrusion there treads out of life
A universe of happy innocent things:
Feel you remorse about that damsel-fly
Which buzzed so near your mouth and flapped your face?
You blotted it from being at a blow:
It was a fly, you were a man, and more,
Lord of created things, so took your course.
Manliness, mind,—these are things fit to save,
Fit to brush fly from: why, because I take
My course, must needs the Pope kill me?—kill you!
You! for this instrument, he throws away,
Is strong to serve a master, and were yours
To have and hold and get much good from out!
The Pope who dooms me needs must die next year;
I'll tell you how the chances are supposed
For his successor: first the Chamberlain,
Old San Cesario,—Colloredo, next,—
Then, one, two, three, four, I refuse to name;
After these, comes Altieri; then come you
Seventh on the list you come, unless … ha, ha,
How can a dead hand give a friend a lift?
Are you the person to despise the help
O' the head shall drop in pannier presently?
So a child seesaws on or kicks away
The fulcrum-stone that's all the sage requires
To fit his lever to and move the world.
Cardinal, I adjure you in God's name,
Save my life, fall at the Pope's feet, set forth
Things your own fashion, not in words like these
Made for a sense like yours who apprehend!
Translate into the Court-conventional
Count Guido must not die, is innocent!
"Fair, be assured! But what an he were foul,
"Blood-drenched and murder-crusted head to foot?
"Spare one whose death insults the Emperor,
"Nay, outrages the Louis you so love!
"He has friends who will avenge him; enemies
"Who will hate God now with impunity,
"Missing the old coercive: would you send
"A soul straight to perdition, dying frank
"An atheist?" Go and say this, for God's sake!
—Why, you don't think I hope you'll say one word?
Neither shall I persuade you from your stand
Nor you persuade me from my station: take
Your crucifix away, I tell you twice!

Come, I am tired of silence! Pause enough!
You have prayed: I have gone inside my soul
And shut its door behind me: 't is your torch
Makes the place dark: the darkness let alone
Grows tolerable twilight: one may grope
And get to guess at length and breadth and depth.
What is this fact I feel persuaded of
This something like a foothold in the sea,
Although Saint Peter's bark scuds, billow-borne,
Leaves me to founder where it flung me first?
Spite of your splashing, I am high and dry!
God takes his own part in each thing He made;
Made for a reason, He conserves his work,
Gives each its proper instinct of defence.
My lamblike wife could neither bark nor bite,
She bleated, bleated, till for pity pure
The village roused up, ran with pole and prong
To the rescue, and behold the wolf's at bay!
Shall he try bleating?—or take turn or two,
Since the wolf owns some kinship with the fox,
And, failing to escape the foe by craft,
Give up attempt, die fighting quietly?
The last bad blow that strikes fire in at eye
And on to brain, and so out, life and all,
How can it but be cheated of a pang
If, fighting quietly, the jaws enjoy
One re-embrace in mid back-bone they break,
After their weary work thro' the foe's flesh?
That's the wolf-nature. Don't mistake my trope!
A Cardinal so qualmish? Eminence,
My fight is figurative, blows i' the air,
Brain-war with powers and principalities,
Spirit-bravado, no real fisticuffs!
I shall not presently, when the knock comes,
Cling to this bench nor claw the hangman's face,
No, trust me! I conceive worse lots than mine.
Whether it be, the old contagious fit
And plague o' the prison have surprised me too,
The appropriate drunkenness of the death-hour
Crept on my sense, kind work o' the wine and myrrh,—
I know not,—I begin to taste my strength,
Careless, gay even. What's the worth of life?
The Pope's dead now, my murderous old man,
For Tozzi told me so: and you, forsooth—
Why, you don't think, Abate, do your best,
You'll live a year more with that hacking cough
And blotch of crimson where the cheek's a pit?
Tozzi has got you also down in book!
Cardinal, only seventh of seventy near,
Is not one called Albano in the lot?
Go eat your heart, you'll never be a Pope!
Inform me, is it true you left your love,
A Pucci, for promotion in the church?
She's more than in the church,—in the churchyard!
Plautilla Pucci, your affianced bride,
Has dust now in the eyes that held the love,—
And Martinez, suppose they make you Pope,
Stops that with veto,—so, enjoy yourself!
I see you all reel to the rock, you waves—
Some forthright, some describe a sinuous track,
Some, crested brilliantly, with heads above,
Some in a strangled swirl sunk who knows how,
But all bound whither the main-current sets,
Rockward, an end in foam for all of you!
What if I be o'ertaken, pushed to the front
By all you crowding smoother souls behind,
And reach, a minute sooner than was meant,
The boundary whereon I break to mist?
Go to! the smoothest safest of you all,
Most perfect and compact wave in my train,
Spite of the blue tranquillity above,
Spite of the breadth before of lapsing peace,
Where broods the halcyon and the fish leaps free,
Will presently begin to feel the prick
At lazy heart, the push at torpid brain,
Will rock vertiginously in turn, and reel,
And, emulative, rush to death like me.
Later or sooner by a minute then,
So much for the untimeliness of death!
And, as regards the manner that offends,
The rude and rough, I count the same for gain.
Be the act harsh and quick! Undoubtedly
The soul's condensed and, twice itself, expands
To burst thro' life, by alternation due,
Into the other state whate'er it prove.
You never know what life means till you die:
Even throughout life, 't is death that makes life live,
Gives it whatever the significance.
For see, on your own ground and argument,
Suppose life had no death to fear, how find
A possibility of nobleness
In man, prevented daring any more?
What's love, what's faith without a worst to dread?
Lack-lustre jewelry! but faith and love
With death behind them bidding do or die—
Put such a foil at back, the sparkle's born!
From out myself how the strange colours come!
Is there a new rule in another world?
Be sure I shall resign myself: as here
I recognized no law I could not see,
There, what I see, I shall acknowledge too:
On earth I never took the Pope for God,
In heaven I shall scarce take God for the Pope.
Unmanned, remanned: I hold it probable—
With something changeless at the heart of me
To know me by, some nucleus that's myself:
Accretions did it wrong? Away with them—
You soon shall see the use of fire!

Till when,
All that was, is; and must forever be.
Nor is it in me to unhate my hates,—
I use up my last strength to strike once more
Old Pietro in the wine-house-gossip-face,
To trample underfoot the whine and wile
Of beast Violante,—and I grow one gorge
To loathingly reject Pompilia's pale
Poison my hasty hunger took for food.
A strong tree wants no wreaths about its trunk,
No cloying cups, no sickly sweet of scent,
But sustenance at root, a bucketful.
How else lived that Athenian who died so,
Drinking hot bull's blood, fit for men like me?
I lived and died a man, and take man's chance,
Honest and bold: right will be done to such.

Who are these you have let descend my stair?
Ha, their accursed psalm! Lights at the sill!
Is it "Open" they dare bid you? Treachery!
Sirs, have I spoken one word all this while
Out of the world of words I had to say?
Not one word! All was folly—I laughed and mocked!
Sirs, my first true word, all truth and no lie,
Is—save me notwithstanding! Life is all!
I was just stark mad,—let the madman live
Pressed by as many chains as you please pile!
Don't open! Hold me from them! I am yours,
I am the Granduke's—no, I am the Pope's!
Abate,—Cardinal,—Christ,—Maria,—God, …
Pompilia, will you let them murder me?

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VI. Giuseppe Caponsacchi

Answer you, Sirs? Do I understand aright?
Have patience! In this sudden smoke from hell,—
So things disguise themselves,—I cannot see
My own hand held thus broad before my face
And know it again. Answer you? Then that means
Tell over twice what I, the first time, told
Six months ago: 't was here, I do believe,
Fronting you same three in this very room,
I stood and told you: yet now no one laughs,
Who then … nay, dear my lords, but laugh you did,
As good as laugh, what in a judge we style
Laughter—no levity, nothing indecorous, lords!
Only,—I think I apprehend the mood:
There was the blameless shrug, permissible smirk,
The pen's pretence at play with the pursed mouth,
The titter stifled in the hollow palm
Which rubbed the eyebrow and caressed the nose,
When I first told my tale: they meant, you know,
"The sly one, all this we are bound believe!
"Well, he can say no other than what he says.
"We have been young, too,—come, there's greater guilt!
"Let him but decently disembroil himself,
"Scramble from out the scrape nor move the mud,—
"We solid ones may risk a finger-stretch!
And now you sit as grave, stare as aghast
As if I were a phantom: now 't is—"Friend,
"Collect yourself!"—no laughing matter more—
"Counsel the Court in this extremity,
"Tell us again!"—tell that, for telling which,
I got the jocular piece of punishment,
Was sent to lounge a little in the place
Whence now of a sudden here you summon me
To take the intelligence from just—your lips!
You, Judge Tommati, who then tittered most,—
That she I helped eight months since to escape
Her husband, was retaken by the same,
Three days ago, if I have seized your sense,—
(I being disallowed to interfere,
Meddle or make in a matter none of mine,
For you and law were guardians quite enough
O' the innocent, without a pert priest's help)—
And that he has butchered her accordingly,
As she foretold and as myself believed,—
And, so foretelling and believing so,
We were punished, both of us, the merry way:
Therefore, tell once again the tale! For what?
Pompilia is only dying while I speak!
Why does the mirth hang fire and miss the smile?
My masters, there's an old book, you should con
For strange adventures, applicable yet,
'T is stuffed with. Do you know that there was once
This thing: a multitude of worthy folk
Took recreation, watched a certain group
Of soldiery intent upon a game,—
How first they wrangled, but soon fell to play,
Threw dice,—the best diversion in the world.
A word in your ear,—they are now casting lots,
Ay, with that gesture quaint and cry uncouth,
For the coat of One murdered an hour ago!
I am a priest,—talk of what I have learned.
Pompilia is bleeding out her life belike,
Gasping away the latest breath of all,
This minute, while I talk—not while you laugh?

Yet, being sobered now, what is it you ask
By way of explanation? There's the fact!
It seems to fill the universe with sight
And sound,—from the four corners of this earth
Tells itself over, to my sense at least.
But you may want it lower set i' the scale,—
Too vast, too close it clangs in the ear, perhaps;
You'd stand back just to comprehend it more.
Well then, let me, the hollow rock, condense
The voice o' the sea and wind, interpret you
The mystery of this murder. God above!
It is too paltry, such a transference
O' the storm's roar to the cranny of the stone!

This deed, you saw begin—why does its end
Surprise you? Why should the event enforce
The lesson, we ourselves learned, she and I,
From the first o' the fact, and taught you, all in vain?
This Guido from whose throat you took my grasp,
Was this man to be favoured, now or feared,
Let do his will, or have his will restrained,
In the relation with Pompilia? Say!
Did any other man need interpose
—Oh, though first comer, though as strange at the work
As fribble must be, coxcomb, fool that's near
To knave as, say, a priest who fears the world—
Was he bound brave the peril, save the doomed,
Or go on, sing his snatch and pluck his flower,
Keep the straight path and let the victim die?
I held so; you decided otherwise,
Saw no such peril, therefore no such need
To stop song, loosen flower, and leave path. Law,
Law was aware and watching, would suffice,
Wanted no priest's intrusion, palpably
Pretence, too manifest a subterfuge!
Whereupon I, priest, coxcomb, fribble and fool,
Ensconced me in my corner, thus rebuked,
A kind of culprit, over-zealous hound
Kicked for his pains to kennel; I gave place,
To you, and let the law reign paramount:
I left Pompilia to your watch and ward,
And now you point me—there and thus she lies!

Men, for the last time, what do you want with me?
Is it,—you acknowledge, as it were, a use,
A profit in employing me?—at length
I may conceivably help the august law?
I am free to break the blow, next hawk that swoops
On next dove, nor miss much of good repute?
Or what if this your summons, after all,
Be but the form of mere release, no more,
Which turns the key and lets the captive go?
I have paid enough in person at Civita,
Am free,—what more need I concern me with?
Thank you! I am rehabilitated then,
A very reputable priest. But she—
The glory of life, the beauty of the world,
The splendour of heaven, … well, Sirs, does no one move?
Do I speak ambiguously? The glory, I say,
And the beauty, I say, and splendour, still say I,
Who, priest and trained to live my whole life long
On beauty and splendour, solely at their source,
God,—have thus recognized my food in her,
You tell me, that's fast dying while we talk,
Pompilia! How does lenity to me,
Remit one death-bed pang to her? Come, smile!
The proper wink at the hot-headed youth
Who lets his soul show, through transparent words,
The mundane love that's sin and scandal too!
You are all struck acquiescent now, it seems:
It seems the oldest, gravest signor here,
Even the redoubtable Tommati, sits
Chop-fallen,—understands how law might take
Service like mine, of brain and heart and hand,
In good part. Better late than never, law
You understand of a sudden, gospel too
Has a claim here, may possibly pronounce
Consistent with my priesthood, worthy Christ,
That I endeavoured to save Pompilia?

Then,
You were wrong, you see: that's well to see, though late:
That's all we may expect of man, this side
The grave: his good is—knowing he is bad:
Thus will it be with us when the books ope
And we stand at the bar on judgment-day.
Well then, I have a mind to speak, see cause
To relume the quenched flax by this dreadful light,
Burn my soul out in showing you the truth.
I heard, last time I stood here to be judged,
What is priest's-duty,—labour to pluck tares
And weed the corn of Molinism; let me
Make you hear, this time, how, in such a case,
Man, be he in the priesthood or at plough,
Mindful of Christ or marching step by step
With … what's his style, the other potentate
Who bids have courage and keep honour safe,
Nor let minuter admonition tease?—
How he is bound, better or worse, to act.
Earth will not end through this misjudgment, no!
For you and the others like you sure to come,
Fresh work is sure to follow,—wickedness
That wants withstanding. Many a man of blood,
Many a man of guile will clamour yet,
Bid you redress his grievance,—as he clutched
The prey, forsooth a stranger stepped between,
And there's the good gripe in pure waste! My part
Is done; i' the doing it, I pass away
Out of the world. I want no more with earth.
Let me, in heaven's name, use the very snuff
O' the taper in one last spark shall show truth
For a moment, show Pompilia who was true!
Not for her sake, but yours: if she is dead,
Oh, Sirs, she can be loved by none of you
Most or least priestly! Saints, to do us good,
Must be in heaven, I seem to understand:
We never find them saints before, at least.
Be her first prayer then presently for you
She has done the good to me …

What is all this?
There, I was born, have lived, shall die, a fool!
This is a foolish outset:—might with cause
Give colour to the very lie o' the man,
The murderer,—make as if I loved his wife,
In the way he called love. He is the fool there!
Why, had there been in me the touch of taint,
I had picked up so much of knaves'-policy
As hide it, keep one hand pressed on the place
Suspected of a spot would damn us both.
Or no, not her!—not even if any of you
Dares think that I, i' the face of death, her death
That's in my eyes and ears and brain and heart,
Lie,—if he does, let him! I mean to say,
So he stop there, stay thought from smirching her
The snow-white soul that angels fear to take
Untenderly. But, all the same, I know
I too am taintless, and I bare my breast.
You can't think, men as you are, all of you,
But that, to hear thus suddenly such an end
Of such a wonderful white soul, that comes
Of a man and murderer calling the white black,
Must shake me, trouble and disadvantage. Sirs,
Only seventeen!

Why, good and wise you are!
You might at the beginning stop my mouth:
So, none would be to speak for her, that knew.
I talk impertinently, and you bear,
All the same. This it is to have to do
With honest hearts: they easily may err,
But in the main they wish well to the truth.
You are Christians; somehow, no one ever plucked
A rag, even, from the body of the Lord,
To wear and mock with, but, despite himself,
He looked the greater and was the better. Yes,
I shall go on now. Does she need or not
I keep calm? Calm I'll keep as monk that croons
Transcribing battle, earthquake, famine, plague,
From parchment to his cloister's chronicle.
Not one word more from the point now!

I begin.
Yes, I am one of your body and a priest.
Also I am a younger son o' the House
Oldest now, greatest once, in my birth-town
Arezzo, I recognize no equal there—
(I want all arguments, all sorts of arms
That seem to serve,—use this for a reason, wait!)
Not therefore thrust into the Church, because
O' the piece of bread one gets there. We were first
Of Fiesole, that rings still with the fame
Of Capo-in-Sacco our progenitor:
When Florence ruined Fiesole, our folk
Migrated to the victor-city, and there
Flourished,—our palace and our tower attest,
In the Old Mercato,—this was years ago,
Four hundred, full,—no, it wants fourteen just.
Our arms are those of Fiesole itself,
The shield quartered with white and red: a branch
Are the Salviati of us, nothing more.
That were good help to the Church? But better still—
Not simply for the advantage of my birth
I' the way of the world, was I proposed for priest;
But because there's an illustration, late
I' the day, that's loved and looked to as a saint
Still in Arezzo, he was bishop of,
Sixty years since: he spent to the last doit
His bishop's-revenue among the poor,
And used to tend the needy and the sick,
Barefoot, because of his humility.
He it was,—when the Granduke Ferdinand
Swore he would raze our city, plough the place
And sow it with salt, because we Aretines
Had tied a rope about the neck, to hale
The statue of his father from its base
For hate's sake,—he availed by prayers and tears
To pacify the Duke and save the town.
This was my father's father's brother. You see,
For his sake, how it was I had a right
To the self-same office, bishop in the egg,
So, grew i' the garb and prattled in the school,
Was made expect, from infancy almost,
The proper mood o' the priest; till time ran by
And brought the day when I must read the vows,
Declare the world renounced and undertake
To become priest and leave probation,—leap
Over the ledge into the other life,
Having gone trippingly hitherto up to the height
O'er the wan water. Just a vow to read!

I stopped short awe-struck. "How shall holiest flesh
"Engage to keep such vow inviolate,
"How much less mine? I know myself too weak,
"Unworthy! Choose a worthier stronger man!"
And the very Bishop smiled and stopped my mouth
In its mid-protestation. "Incapable?
"Qualmish of conscience? Thou ingenuous boy!
"Clear up the clouds and cast thy scruples far!
"I satisfy thee there's an easier sense
"Wherein to take such vow than suits the first
"Rough rigid reading. Mark what makes all smooth,
"Nay, has been even a solace to myself!
"The Jews who needs must, in their synagogue,
"Utter sometimes the holy name of God,
"A thing their superstition boggles at,
"Pronounce aloud the ineffable sacrosanct,—
"How does their shrewdness help them? In this wise;
"Another set of sounds they substitute,
"Jumble so consonants and vowels—how
"Should I know?—that there grows from out the old
"Quite a new word that means the very same
"And o'er the hard place slide they with a smile.
"Giuseppe Maria Caponsacchi mine,
"Nobody wants you in these latter days
"To prop the Church by breaking your back-bone,—
"As the necessary way was once, we know,
"When Diocletian flourished and his like.
"That building of the buttress-work was done
"By martyrs and confessors: let it bide,
"Add not a brick, but, where you see a chink,
"Stick in a sprig of ivy or root a rose
"Shall make amends and beautify the pile!
"We profit as you were the painfullest
"O' the martyrs, and you prove yourself a match
"For the cruelest confessor ever was,
"If you march boldly up and take your stand
"Where their blood soaks, their bones yet strew the soil,
"And cry 'Take notice, I the young and free
"'And well-to-do i' the world, thus leave the world,
"'Cast in my lot thus with no gay young world
"'But the grand old Church: she tempts me of the two!'
"Renounce the world? Nay, keep and give it us!
"Let us have you, and boast of what you bring.
"We want the pick o' the earth to practise with,
"Not its offscouring, halt and deaf and blind
"In soul and body. There's a rubble-stone
"Unfit for the front o' the building, stuff to stow
"In a gap behind and keep us weather-tight;
"There's porphyry for the prominent place. Good lack!
"Saint Paul has had enough and to spare, I trow,
"Of ragged run-away Onesimus:
"He wants the right-hand with the signet-ring
"Of King Agrippa, now, to shake and use.
"I have a heavy scholar cloistered up,
"Close under lock and key, kept at his task
"Of letting Fénelon know the fool he is,
"In a book I promise Christendom next Spring.
"Why, if he covets so much meat, the clown,
"As a lark's wing next Friday, or, any day,
"Diversion beyond catching his own fleas,
"He shall be properly swinged, I promise him.
"But you, who are so quite another paste
"Of a man,—do you obey me? Cultivate
"Assiduous that superior gift you have
"Of making madrigals—(who told me? Ah!)
"Get done a Marinesque Adoniad straight
"With a pulse o' the blood a-pricking, here and there,
"That I may tell the lady 'And he's ours!'"

So I became a priest: those terms changed all,
I was good enough for that, nor cheated so;
I could live thus and still hold head erect.
Now you see why I may have been before
A fribble and coxcomb, yet, as priest, break word
Nowise, to make you disbelieve me now.
I need that you should know my truth. Well, then,
According to prescription did I live,
—Conformed myself, both read the breviary
And wrote the rhymes, was punctual to my place
I' the Pieve, and as diligent at my post
Where beauty and fashion rule. I throve apace,
Sub-deacon, Canon, the authority
For delicate play at tarocs, and arbiter
O' the magnitude of fan-mounts: all the while
Wanting no whit the advantage of a hint
Benignant to the promising pupil,—thus:
"Enough attention to the Countess now,
"The young one; 't is her mother rules the roast,
"We know where, and puts in a word: go pay
"Devoir to-morrow morning after mass!
"Break that rash promise to preach, Passion-week!
"Has it escaped you the Archbishop grunts
"And snuffles when one grieves to tell his Grace
"No soul dares treat the subject of the day
"Since his own masterly handling it (ha, ha!)
"Five years ago,—when somebody could help
"And touch up an odd phrase in time of need,
"(He, he!)—and somebody helps you, my son!
"Therefore, don't prove so indispensable
"At the Pieve, sit more loose i' the seat, nor grow
"A fixture by attendance morn and eve!
"Arezzo's just a haven midway Rome—
"Rome's the eventual harbour,—make for port,
"Crowd sail, crack cordage! And your cargo be
"A polished presence, a genteel manner, wit
"At will, and tact at every pore of you!
"I sent our lump of learning, Brother Clout,
"And Father Slouch, our piece of piety,
"To see Rome and try suit the Cardinal.
"Thither they clump-clumped, beads and book in hand,
"And ever since 't is meat for man and maid
"How both flopped down, prayed blessing on bent pate
"Bald many an inch beyond the tonsure's need,
"Never once dreaming, the two moony dolts,
"There's nothing moves his Eminence so much
"As—far from all this awe at sanctitude—
"Heads that wag, eyes that twinkle, modified mirth
"At the closet-lectures on the Latin tongue
"A lady learns so much by, we know where.
"Why, body o' Bacchus, you should crave his rule
"For pauses in the elegiac couplet, chasms
"Permissible only to Catullus! There!
"Now go to duty: brisk, break Priscian's head
"By reading the day's office—there's no help.
"You've Ovid in your poke to plaster that;
"Amen's at the end of all: then sup with me!"

Well, after three or four years of this life,
In prosecution of my calling, I
Found myself at the theatre one night
With a brother Canon, in a mood and mind
Proper enough for the place, amused or no:
When I saw enter, stand, and seat herself
A lady, young, tall, beautiful, strange and sad.
It was as when, in our cathedral once,
As I got yawningly through matin-song,
I saw facchini bear a burden up,
Base it on the high-altar, break away
A board or two, and leave the thing inside
Lofty and lone: and lo, when next I looked,
There was the Rafael! I was still one stare,
When—"Nay, I'll make her give you back your gaze"—
Said Canon Conti; and at the word he tossed
A paper-twist of comfits to her lap,
And dodged and in a trice was at my back
Nodding from over my shoulder. Then she turned,
Looked our way, smiled the beautiful sad strange smile.
"Is not she fair? 'T is my new cousin," said he:
"The fellow lurking there i' the black o' the box
"Is Guido, the old scapegrace: she's his wife,
"Married three years since: how his Countship sulks!
"He has brought little back from Rome beside,
"After the bragging, bullying. A fair face,
"And—they do say—a pocketful of gold
"When he can worry both her parents dead.
"I don't go much there, for the chamber's cold
"And the coffee pale. I got a turn at first
"Paying my duty: I observed they crouched
"—The two old frightened family spectres—close
"In a corner, each on each like mouse on mouse
"I' the cat's cage: ever since, I stay at home.
"Hallo, there's Guido, the black, mean and small,
"Bends his brows on us—please to bend your own
"On the shapely nether limbs of Light-skirts there
"By way of a diversion! I was a fool
"To fling the sweetmeats. Prudence, for God's love!
"To-morrow I'll make my peace, e'en tell some fib,
"Try if I can't find means to take you there."

That night and next day did the gaze endure,
Burnt to my brain, as sunbeam thro' shut eyes,
And not once changed the beautiful sad strange smile.
At vespers Conti leaned beside my seat
I' the choir,—part said, part sung—"In ex-cel-sis—
"All's to no purpose; I have louted low,
"But he saw you staring—quia sub—don't incline
"To know you nearer: him we would not hold
"For Hercules,—the man would lick your shoe
"If you and certain efficacious friends
"Managed him warily,—but there's the wife:
"Spare her, because he beats her, as it is,
"She's breaking her heart quite fast enough—jam tu—
"So, be you rational and make amends
"With little Light-skirts yonder—in secula
"Secu-lo-o-o-o-rum. Ah, you rogue! Every one knows
"What great dame she makes jealous: one against one,
"Play, and win both!"

Sirs, ere the week was out,
I saw and said to myself "Light-skirts hides teeth
"Would make a dog sick,—the great dame shows spite
"Should drive a cat mad: 't is but poor work this—
"Counting one's fingers till the sonnet's crowned.
"I doubt much if Marino really be
"A better bard than Dante after all.
"'T is more amusing to go pace at eve
"I' the Duomo,—watch the day's last gleam outside
"Turn, as into a skirt of God's own robe,
"Those lancet-windows' jewelled miracle,—
"Than go eat the Archbishop's ortolans,
"Digest his jokes. Luckily Lent is near:
"Who cares to look will find me in my stall
"At the Pieve, constant to this faith at least—
"Never to write a canzonet any more."

So, next week, 't was my patron spoke abrupt,
In altered guise. "Young man, can it be true
"That after all your promise of sound fruit,
"You have kept away from Countess young or old
"And gone play truant in church all day long?
"Are you turning Molinist?" I answered quick:
"Sir, what if I turned Christian? It might be.
"The fact is, I am troubled in my mind,
"Beset and pressed hard by some novel thoughts.
"This your Arezzo is a limited world;
"There's a strange Pope,—'t is said, a priest who thinks.
"Rome is the port, you say: to Rome I go.
"I will live alone, one does so in a crowd,
"And look into my heart a little." "Lent
"Ended,"—I told friends—"I shall go to Rome."

One evening I was sitting in a muse
Over the opened "Summa," darkened round
By the mid-March twilight, thinking how my life
Had shaken under me,—broke short indeed
And showed the gap 'twixt what is, what should be,—
And into what abysm the soul may slip,
Leave aspiration here, achievement there,
Lacking omnipotence to connect extremes—
Thinking moreover … oh, thinking, if you like,
How utterly dissociated was I
A priest and celibate, from the sad strange wife
Of Guido,—just as an instance to the point,
Nought more,—how I had a whole store of strengths
Eating into my heart, which craved employ,
And she, perhaps, need of a finger's help,—
And yet there was no way in the wide world
To stretch out mine and so relieve myself,—
How when the page o' the Summa preached its best,
Her smile kept glowing out of it, as to mock
The silence we could break by no one word,—
There came a tap without the chamber-door,
And a whisper; when I bade who tapped speak out.
And, in obedience to my summons, last
In glided a masked muffled mystery,
Laid lightly a letter on the opened book,
Then stood with folded arms and foot demure,
Pointing as if to mark the minutes' flight.

I took the letter, read to the effect
That she, I lately flung the comfits to,
Had a warm heart to give me in exchange,
And gave it,—loved me and confessed it thus,
And bade me render thanks by word of mouth,
Going that night to such a side o' the house
Where the small terrace overhangs a street
Blind and deserted, not the street in front:
Her husband being away, the surly patch,
At his villa of Vittiano.

"And you?"—I asked:
"What may you be?" "Count Guido's kind of maid—
"Most of us have two functions in his house.
"We all hate him, the lady suffers much,
"'T is just we show compassion, furnish help,
"Specially since her choice is fixed so well.
"What answer may I bring to cheer the sweet
"Pompilia?"

Then I took a pen and wrote
"No more of this! That you are fair, I know:
"But other thoughts now occupy my mind.
"I should not thus have played the insensible
"Once on a time. What made you,—may one ask,—
"Marry your hideous husband? 'T was a fault,
"And now you taste the fruit of it. Farewell."

"There!" smiled I as she snatched it and was gone—
"There, let the jealous miscreant,—Guido's self,
"Whose mean soul grins through this transparent trick,—
"Be baulked so far, defrauded of his aim!
"What fund of satisfaction to the knave,
"Had I kicked this his messenger down stairs,
"Trussed to the middle of her impudence,
"And set his heart at ease so! No, indeed!
"There's the reply which he shall turn and twist
"At pleasure, snuff at till his brain grow drunk,
"As the bear does when he finds a scented glove
"That puzzles him,—a hand and yet no hand,
"Of other perfume than his own foul paw!
"Last month, I had doubtless chosen to play the dupe,
"Accepted the mock-invitation, kept
"The sham appointment, cudgel beneath cloak,
"Prepared myself to pull the appointer's self
"Out of the window from his hiding-place
"Behind the gown of this part-messenger
"Part-mistress who would personate the wife.
"Such had seemed once a jest permissible:
"Now I am not i' the mood."

Back next morn brought
The messenger, a second letter in hand.
"You are cruel, Thyrsis, and Myrtilla moans
"Neglected but adores you, makes request
"For mercy: why is it you dare not come?
"Such virtue is scarce natural to your age.
"You must love someone else; I hear you do,
"The Baron's daughter or the Advocate's wife,
"Or both,—all's one, would you make me the third—
"I take the crumbs from table gratefully
"Nor grudge who feasts there. 'Faith, I blush and blaze!
"Yet if I break all bounds, there's reason sure.
"Are you determinedly bent on Rome?
"I am wretched here, a monster tortures me:
"Carry me with you! Come and say you will!
"Concert this very evening! Do not write!
"I am ever at the window of my room
"Over the terrace, at the Ave. Come!"

I questioned—lifting half the woman's mask
To let her smile loose. "So, you gave my line
"To the merry lady?" "She kissed off the wax,
"And put what paper was not kissed away,
"In her bosom to go burn: but merry, no!
"She wept all night when evening brought no friend,
"Alone, the unkind missive at her breast;
"Thus Philomel, the thorn at her breast too,
"Sings" … "Writes this second letter?" "Even so!
"Then she may peep at vespers forth?"—"What risk
"Do we run o' the husband?"—"Ah,—no risk at all!
"He is more stupid even than jealous. Ah—
"That was the reason? Why, the man's away!
"Beside, his bugbear is that friend of yours,
"Fat little Canon Conti. He fears him,
"How should he dream of you? I told you truth:
"He goes to the villa at Vittiano—'t is
"The time when Spring-sap rises in the vine—
"Spends the night there. And then his wife's a child:
"Does he think a child outwits him? A mere child:
"Yet so full grown, a dish for any duke.
"Don't quarrel longer with such cates, but come!"
I wrote "In vain do you solicit me.
"I am a priest: and you are wedded wife,
"Whatever kind of brute your husband prove.
"I have scruples, in short. Yet should you really show
"Sign at the window … but nay, best be good!
"My thoughts are elsewhere," "Take her that!"

"Again
"Let the incarnate meanness, cheat and spy,
"Mean to the marrow of him, make his heart
"His food, anticipate hell's worm once more!
"Let him watch shivering at the window—ay,
"And let this hybrid, this his light-of-love
"And lackey-of-lies,—a sage economy,—
"Paid with embracings for the rank brass coin,—
"Let her report and make him chuckle o'er
"The break-down of my resolution now,
"And lour at disappointment in good time!
"—So tantalize and so enrage by turns,
"Until the two fall each on the other like
"Two famished spiders, as the coveted fly
"That toys long, leaves their net and them at last!"
And so the missives followed thick and fast
For a month, say,—I still came at every turn
On the soft sly adder, endlong 'neath my tread.
I was met i' the street, made sign to in the church,
A slip was found i' the door-sill, scribbled word
'Twixt page and page o' the prayer-book in my place.
A crumpled thing dropped even before my feet,
Pushed through the blind, above the terrace-rail,
As I passed, by day, the very window once.
And ever from corners would be peering up
The messenger, with the self-same demand
"Obdurate still, no flesh but adamant?
"Nothing to cure the wound, assuage the throe
"O' the sweetest lamb that ever loved a bear?"
And ever my one answer in one tone—
"Go your ways, temptress! Let a priest read, pray,
"Unplagued of vain talk, visions not for him!
"In the end, you'll have your will and ruin me!"

One day, a variation: thus I read:
"You have gained little by timidity.
"My husband has found out my love at length,
"Sees cousin Conti was the stalking-horse,
"And you the game he covered, poor fat soul!
"My husband is a formidable foe,
"Will stick at nothing to destroy you. Stand
"Prepared, or better, run till you reach Rome!
"I bade you visit me, when the last place
"My tyrant would have turned suspicious at,
"Or cared to seek you in, was … why say, where?
"But now all's changed: beside, the season's past
"At the villa,—wants the master's eye no more.
"Anyhow, I beseech you, stay away
"From the window! He might well be posted there."

I wrote—"You raise my courage, or call up
"My curiosity, who am but man.
"Tell him he owns the palace, not the street
"Under—that's his and yours and mine alike.
"If it should please me pad the path this eve,
"Guido will have two troubles, first to get
"Into a rage and then get out again.
"Be cautious, though: at the Ave!"

You of the Court!
When I stood question here and reached this point
O' the narrative,—search notes and see and say
If someone did not interpose with smile
And sneer, "And prithee why so confident
"That the husband must, of all needs, not the wife,
"Fabricate thus,—what if the lady loved?
"What if she wrote the letters?"

Learned Sir,
I told you there's a picture in our church.
Well, if a low-browed verger sidled up
Bringing me, like a blotch, on his prod's point,
A transfixed scorpion, let the reptile writhe,
And then said "See a thing that Rafael made—
"This venom issued from Madonna's mouth!"
I should reply, "Rather, the soul of you
"Has issued from your body, like from like,
"By way of the ordure-corner!"

But no less,
I tired of the same long black teasing lie
Obtruded thus at every turn; the pest
Was far too near the picture, anyhow:
One does Madonna service, making clowns
Remove their dung-heap from the sacristy.
"I will to the window, as he tempts," said I:
"Yes, whom the easy love has failed allure,
"This new bait of adventure tempts,—thinks he.
"Though the imprisoned lady keeps afar,
"There will they lie in ambush, heads alert,
"Kith, kin, and Count mustered to bite my heel.
"No mother nor brother viper of the brood
"Shall scuttle off without the instructive bruise!"

So I went: crossed street and street: "The next street's turn,
"I stand beneath the terrace, see, above,
"The black of the ambush-window. Then, in place
"Of hand's throw of soft prelude over lute,
"And cough that clears way for the ditty last,"—
I began to laugh already—"he will have
"'Out of the hole you hide in, on to the front,
"'Count Guido Franceschini, show yourself!
"'Hear what a man thinks of a thing like you,
"'And after, take this foulness in your face!'"

The words lay living on my lip, I made
The one-turn more—and there at the window stood,
Framed in its black square length, with lamp in hand,
Pompilia; the same great, grave, griefful air
As stands i' the dusk, on altar that I know,
Left alone with one moonbeam in her cell,
Our Lady of all the Sorrows. Ere I knelt—
Assured myself that she was flesh and blood—
She had looked one look and vanished.

I thought—"Just so:
"It was herself, they have set her there to watch—
"Stationed to see some wedding band go by,
"On fair pretence that she must bless the bride,
"Or wait some funeral with friends wind past,
"And crave peace for the corpse that claims its due.
"She never dreams they used her for a snare,
"And now withdraw the bait has served its turn.
"Well done, the husband, who shall fare the worse!"
And on my lip again was—"Out with thee,
"Guido!" When all at once she re-appeared;
But, this time, on the terrace overhead,
So close above me, she could almost touch
My head if she bent down; and she did bend,
While I stood still as stone, all eye, all ear.

She began—"You have sent me letters, Sir:
"I have read none, I can neither read nor write;
"But she you gave them to, a woman here,
"One of the people in whose power I am,
"Partly explained their sense, I think, to me
"Obliged to listen while she inculcates
"That you, a priest, can dare love me, a wife,
"Desire to live or die as I shall bid,
"(She makes me listen if I will or no)
"Because you saw my face a single time.
"It cannot be she says the thing you mean;
"Such wickedness were deadly to us both:
"But good true love would help me now so much—
"I tell myself, you may mean good and true.
"You offer me, I seem to understand,
"Because I am in poverty and starve,
"Much money, where one piece would save my life.
"The silver cup upon the altar-cloth
"Is neither yours to give nor mine to take;
"But I might take one bit of bread therefrom,
"Since I am starving, and return the rest,
"Yet do no harm: this is my very case.
"I am in that strait, I may not dare abstain
"From so much of assistance as would bring
"The guilt of theft on neither you nor me;
"But no superfluous particle of aid.
"I think, if you will let me state my case,
"Even had you been so fancy-fevered here,
"Not your sound self, you must grow healthy now—
"Care only to bestow what I can take.
"That it is only you in the wide world,
"Knowing me nor in thought nor word nor deed,
"Who, all unprompted save by your own heart,
"Come proffering assistance now,—were strange
"But that my whole life is so strange: as strange
"It is, my husband whom I have not wronged
"Should hate and harm me. For his own soul's sake,
"Hinder the harm! But there is something more,
"And that the strangest: it has got to be
"Somehow for my sake too, and yet not mine,
"—This is a riddle—for some kind of sake
"Not any clearer to myself than you,
"And yet as certain as that I draw breath,—
"I would fain live, not die—oh no, not die!
"My case is, I was dwelling happily
"At Rome with those dear Comparini, called
"Father and mother to me; when at once
"I found I had become Count Guido's wife:
"Who then, not waiting for a moment, changed
"Into a fury of fire, if once he was
"Merely a man: his face threw fire at mine,
"He laid a hand on me that burned all peace,
"All joy, all hope, and last all fear away,
"Dipping the bough of life, so pleasant once,
"In fire which shrivelled leaf and bud alike,
"Burning not only present life but past,
"Which you might think was safe beyond his reach.
"He reached it, though, since that beloved pair,
"My father once, my mother all those years,
"That loved me so, now say I dreamed a dream
"And bid me wake, henceforth no child of theirs,
"Never in all the time their child at all.
"Do you understand? I cannot: yet so it is.
"Just so I say of you that proffer help:
"I cannot understand what prompts your soul,
"I simply needs must see that it is so,
"Only one strange and wonderful thing more.
"They came here with me, those two dear ones, kept
"All the old love up, till my husband, till
"His people here so tortured them, they fled.
"And now, is it because I grow in flesh
"And spirit one with him their torturer,
"That they, renouncing him, must cast off me?
"If I were graced by God to have a child,
"Could I one day deny God graced me so?
"Then, since my husband hates me, I shall break
"No law that reigns in this fell house of hate,
"By using—letting have effect so much
"Of hate as hides me from that whole of hate
"Would take my life which I want and must have
"Just as I take from your excess of love
"Enough to save my life with, all I need.
"The Archbishop said to murder me were sin:
"My leaving Guido were a kind of death
"With no sin,—more death, he must answer for.
"Hear now what death to him and life to you
"I wish to pay and owe. Take me to Rome!
"You go to Rome, the servant makes me hear.
"Take me as you would take a dog, I think,
"Masterless left for strangers to maltreat:
"Take me home like that—leave me in the house
"Where the father and the mother are; and soon
"They'll come to know and call me by my name,
"Their child once more, since child I am, for all
"They now forget me, which is the worst o' the dream—
"And the way to end dreams is to break them, stand,
"Walk, go: then help me to stand, walk and go!
"The Governor said the strong should help the weak:
"You know how weak the strongest women are.
"How could I find my way there by myself?
"I cannot even call out, make them hear—
"Just as in dreams: I have tried and proved the fact.
"I have told this story and more to good great men,
"The Archbishop and the Governor: they smiled.
"'Stop your mouth, fair one!'—presently they frowned,
"'Get you gone, disengage you from our feet!'
"I went in my despair to an old priest,
"Only a friar, no great man like these two,
"But good, the Augustinian, people name
"Romano,—he confessed me two months since:
"He fears God, why then needs he fear the world?
"And when he questioned how it came about
"That I was found in danger of a sin—
"Despair of any help from providence,—
"'Since, though your husband outrage you,' said he,
"'That is a case too common, the wives die
"'Or live, but do not sin so deep as this'—
"Then I told—what I never will tell you
"How, worse than husband's hate, I had to bear
"The love,—soliciting to shame called love,—
"Of his brother,—the young idle priest i' the house
"With only the devil to meet there. 'This is grave—
"'Yes, we must interfere: I counsel,—write
"'To those who used to be your parents once,
"'Of dangers here, bid them convey you hence!'
"'But,' said I, 'when I neither read nor write?'
"Then he took pity and promised 'I will write.'
"If he did so,—why, they are dumb or dead:
"Either they give no credit to the tale,
"Or else, wrapped wholly up in their own joy
"Of such escape, they care not who cries, still
"I' the clutches. Anyhow, no word arrives.
"All such extravagance and dreadfulness
"Seems incident to dreaming, cured one way,—
"Wake me! The letter I received this morn,
"Said—if the woman spoke your very sense—
"'You would die for me:' I can believe it now:
"For now the dream gets to involve yourself.
"First of all, you seemed wicked and not good,
"In writing me those letters: you came in
"Like a thief upon me. I this morning said
"In my extremity, entreat the thief!
"Try if he have in him no honest touch!
"A thief might save me from a murderer.
"'T was a thief said the last kind word to Christ:
"Christ took the kindness and forgave the theft:
"And so did I prepare what I now say.
"But now, that you stand and I see your face,
"Though you have never uttered word yet,—well, I know,
"Here too has been dream-work, delusion too,
"And that at no time, you with the eyes here,
"Ever intended to do wrong by me,
"Nor wrote such letters therefore. It is false,
"And you are true, have been true, will be true.
"To Rome then,—when is it you take me there?
"Each minute lost is mortal. When?—I ask."

I answered "It shall be when it can be.
"I will go hence and do your pleasure, find
"The sure and speedy means of travel, then
"Come back and take you to your friends in Rome.
"There wants a carriage, money and the rest,—
"A day's work by to-morrow at this time.
"How shall I see you and assure escape?"

She replied, "Pass, to-morrow at this hour.
"If I am at the open window, well:
"If I am absent, drop a handkerchief
"And walk by! I shall see from where I watch,
"And know that all is done. Return next eve,
"And next, and so till we can meet and speak!"
"To-morrow at this hour I pass," said I.
She was withdrawn.

Here is another point
I bid you pause at. When I told thus far,
Someone said, subtly, "Here at least was found
"Your confidence in error,—you perceived
"The spirit of the letters, in a sort,
"Had been the lady's, if the body should be
"Supplied by Guido: say, he forged them all!
"Here was the unforged fact—she sent for you,
"Spontaneously elected you to help,
"—What men call, loved you: Guido read her mind,
"Gave it expression to assure the world
"The case was just as he foresaw: he wrote,
"She spoke."

Sirs, that first simile serves still,—
That falsehood of a scorpion hatched, I say,
Nowhere i' the world but in Madonna's mouth.
Go on! Suppose, that falsehood foiled, next eve
Pictured Madonna raised her painted hand,
Fixed the face Rafael bent above the Babe,
On my face as I flung me at her feet:
Such miracle vouchsafed and manifest,
Would that prove the first lying tale was true?
Pompilia spoke, and I at once received,
Accepted my own fact, my miracle
Self-authorized and self-explained,—she chose
To summon me and signify her choice.
Afterward,—oh! I gave a passing glance
To a certain ugly cloud-shape, goblin-shred
Of hell-smoke hurrying past the splendid moon
Out now to tolerate no darkness more,
And saw right through the thing that tried to pass
For truth and solid, not an empty lie:
"So, he not only forged the words for her
"But words for me, made letters he called mine:
"What I sent, he retained, gave these in place,
"All by the mistress-messenger! As I
"Recognized her, at potency of truth,
"So she, by the crystalline soul, knew me,
"Never mistook the signs. Enough of this—
"Let the wraith go to nothingness again,
"Here is the orb, have only thought for her!"

"Thought?" nay, Sirs, what shall follow was not thought:
I have thought sometimes, and thought long and hard.
I have stood before, gone round a serious thing,
Tasked my whole mind to touch and clasp it close,
As I stretch forth my arm to touch this bar.
God and man, and what duty I owe both,—
I dare to say I have confronted these
In thought: but no such faculty helped here.
I put forth no thought,—powerless, all that night
I paced the city: it was the first Spring.
By the invasion I lay passive to,
In rushed new things, the old were rapt away;
Alike abolished—the imprisonment
Of the outside air, the inside weight o' the world
That pulled me down. Death meant, to spurn the ground.
Soar to the sky,—die well and you do that.
The very immolation made the bliss;
Death was the heart of life, and all the harm
My folly had crouched to avoid, now proved a veil
Hiding all gain my wisdom strove to grasp:
As if the intense centre of the flame
Should turn a heaven to that devoted fly
Which hitherto, sophist alike and sage,
Saint Thomas with his sober grey goose-quill,
And sinner Plato by Cephisian reed,
Would fain, pretending just the insect's good,
Whisk off, drive back, consign to shade again.
Into another state, under new rule
I knew myself was passing swift and sure;
Whereof the initiatory pang approached,
Felicitous annoy, as bitter-sweet
As when the virgin-band, the victors chaste,
Feel at the end the earthly garments drop,
And rise with something of a rosy shame
Into immortal nakedness: so I
Lay, and let come the proper throe would thrill
Into the ecstasy and outthrob pain.

I' the grey of dawn it was I found myself
Facing the pillared front o' the Pieve—mine,
My church: it seemed to say for the first time
"But am not I the Bride, the mystic love
"O' the Lamb, who took thy plighted troth, my priest,
"To fold thy warm heart on my heart of stone
"And freeze thee nor unfasten any more?
"This is a fleshly woman,—let the free
"Bestow their life-blood, thou art pulseless now!"
See! Day by day I had risen and left this church
At the signal waved me by some foolish fan,
With half a curse and half a pitying smile
For the monk I stumbled over in my haste,
Prostrate and corpse-like at the altar-foot
Intent on his corona: then the church
Was ready with her quip, if word conduced,
To quicken my pace nor stop for prating—"There!
"Be thankful you are no such ninny, go
"Rather to teach a black-eyed novice cards
"Than gabble Latin and protrude that nose
"Smoothed to a sheep's through no brains and much faith!"
That sort of incentive! Now the church changed tone—
Now, when I found out first that life and death
Are means to an end, that passion uses both,
Indisputably mistress of the man
Whose form of worship is self-sacrifice:
Now, from the stone lungs sighed the scrannel voice
"Leave that live passion, come be dead with me!"
As if, i' the fabled garden, I had gone
On great adventure, plucked in ignorance
Hedge-fruit, and feasted to satiety,
Laughing at such high fame for hips and haws,
And scorned the achievement: then come all at once
O' the prize o' the place, the thing of perfect gold,
The apple's self: and, scarce my eye on that,
Was 'ware as well o' the seven-fold dragon's watch.

Sirs, I obeyed. Obedience was too strange,—
This new thing that had been struck into me
By the look o' the lady,—to dare disobey
The first authoritative word. 'T was God's.
I had been lifted to the level of her,
Could take such sounds into my sense. I said
"We two are cognisant o' the Master now;
"She it is bids me bow the head: how true,
"I am a priest! I see the function here;
"I thought the other way self-sacrifice:
"This is the true, seals up the perfect sum.
"I pay it, sit down, silently obey."

So, I went home. Dawn broke, noon broadened, I
I sat stone-still, let time run over me.
The sun slanted into my room, had reached
The west. I opened book,—Aquinas blazed
With one black name only on the white page.
I looked up, saw the sunset: vespers rang:
"She counts the minutes till I keep my word
"And come say all is ready. I am a priest.
"Duty to God is duty to her: I think
"God, who created her, will save her too
"Some new way, by one miracle the more,
"Without me. Then, prayer may avail perhaps."
I went to my own place i' the Pieve, read
The office: I was back at home again
Sitting i' the dark. "Could she but know—but know
"That, were there good in this distinct from God's,
"Really good as it reached her, though procured
"By a sin of mine,—I should sin: God forgives.
"She knows it is no fear withholds me: fear?
"Of what? Suspense here is the terrible thing.
"If she should, as she counts the minutes, come
"On the fantastic notion that I fear
"The world now, fear the Archbishop, fear perhaps
"Count Guido, he who, having forged the lies,
"May wait the work, attend the effect,—I fear
"The sword of Guido! Let God see to that—
"Hating lies, let not her believe a lie!"

Again the morning found me. "I will work,
"Tie down my foolish thoughts. Thank God so far!
"I have saved her from a scandal, stopped the tongues
"Had broken else into a cackle and hiss
"Around the noble name. Duty is still
"Wisdom: I have been wise." So the day wore.

At evening—"But, achieving victory,
"I must not blink the priest's peculiar part,
"Nor shrink to counsel, comfort: priest and friend—
"How do we discontinue to be friends?
"I will go minister, advise her seek
"Help at the source,—above all, not despair:
"There may be other happier help at hand.
"I hope it,—wherefore then neglect to say?"

There she stood—leaned there, for the second time,
Over the terrace, looked at me, then spoke:
"Why is it you have suffered me to stay
"Breaking my heart two days more than was need?
"Why delay help, your own heart yearns to give?
"You are again here, in the self-same mind,
"I see here, steadfast in the face of you,—
"You grudge to do no one thing that I ask.
"Why then is nothing done? You know my need.
"Still, through God's pity on me, there is time
"And one day more: shall I be saved or no?"
I answered—"Lady, waste no thought, no word
"Even to forgive me! Care for what I care—
"Only! Now follow me as I were fate!
"Leave this house in the dark to-morrow night,
"Just before daybreak:—there's new moon this eve—
"It sets, and then begins the solid black.
"Descend, proceed to the Torrione, step
"Over the low dilapidated wall,
"Take San Clemente, there's no other gate
"Unguarded at the hour: some paces thence
"An inn stands; cross to it; I shall be there."

She answered, "If I can but find the way.
"But I shall find it. Go now!"

I did go,
Took rapidly the route myself prescribed,
Stopped at Torrione, climbed the ruined place,
Proved that the gate was practicable, reached
The inn, no eye, despite the dark, could miss,
Knocked there and entered, made the host secure:
"With Caponsacchi it is ask and have;
"I know my betters. Are you bound for Rome?
"I get swift horse and trusty man," said he.

Then I retraced my steps, was found once more
In my own house for the last time: there lay
The broad pale opened Summa. "Shut his book,
"There's other showing! 'T was a Thomas too
"Obtained,—more favoured than his namesake here,—
"A gift, tied faith fast, foiled the tug of doubt,—
"Our Lady's girdle; down he saw it drop
"As she ascended into heaven, they say:
"He kept that safe and bade all doubt adieu.
"I too have seen a lady and hold a grace."

I know not how the night passed: morning broke;
Presently came my servant. "Sir, this eve—
"Do you forget?" I started. "How forget?
"What is it you know?" "With due submission, Sir,
"This being last Monday in the month but one
"And a vigil, since to-morrow is Saint George,
"And feast day, and moreover day for copes,
"And Canon Conti now away a month,
"And Canon Crispi sour because, forsooth,
"You let him sulk in stall and bear the brunt
"Of the octave … Well, Sir, 't is important!"

"True!
"Hearken, I have to start for Rome this night.
"No word, lest Crispi overboil and burst!
"Provide me with a laic dress! Throw dust
"I' the Canon's eye, stop his tongue's scandal so!
"See there's a sword in case of accident."
I knew the knave, the knave knew me.

And thus
Through each familiar hindrance of the day
Did I make steadily for its hour and end,—
Felt time's old barrier-growth of right and fit
Give way through all its twines, and let me go.
Use and wont recognized the excepted man,
Let speed the special service,—and I sped
Till, at the dead between midnight and morn,
There was I at the goal, before the gate,
With a tune in the ears, low leading up to loud,
A light in the eyes, faint that would soon be flare,
Ever some spiritual witness new and new
In faster frequence, crowding solitude
To watch the way o' the warfare,—till, at last,
When the ecstatic minute must bring birth,
Began a whiteness in the distance, waxed
Whiter and whiter, near grew and more near,
Till it was she: there did Pompilia come:
The white I saw shine through her was her soul's,
Certainly, for the body was one black,
Black from head down to foot. She did not speak,
Glided into the carriage,—so a cloud
Gathers the moon up. "By San Spirito,
"To Rome, as if the road burned underneath!
"Reach Rome, then hold my head in pledge, I pay
"The run and the risk to heart's content!" Just that
I said,—then, in another tick of time,
Sprang, was beside her, she and I alone.

So it began, our flight thro' dusk to clear,
Through day and night and day again to night
Once more, and to last dreadful dawn of all.
Sirs, how should I lie quiet in my grave
Unless you suffer me wring, drop by drop,
My brain dry, make a riddance of the drench
Of minutes with a memory in each,
Recorded motion, breath or look of hers,
Which poured forth would present you one pure glass,
Mirror you plain,—as God's sea, glassed in gold,
His saints,—the perfect soul Pompilia? Men,
You must know that a man gets drunk with truth
Stagnant inside him! Oh, they've killed her, Sirs!
Can I be calm?

Calmly! Each incident
Proves, I maintain, that action of the flight
For the true thing it was. The first faint scratch
O' the stone will test its nature, teach its worth
To idiots who name Parian—coprolite.
After all, I shall give no glare—at best
Only display you certain scattered lights
Lamping the rush and roll of the abyss:
Nothing but here and there a fire-point pricks
Wavelet from wavelet: well!

For the first hour
We both were silent in the night, I know:
Sometimes I did not see nor understand.
Blackness engulphed me,—partial stupor, say—
Then I would break way, breathe through the surprise,
And be aware again, and see who sat
In the dark vest with the white face and hands.
I said to myself—"I have caught it, I conceive
"The mind o' the mystery: 't is the way they wake
"And wait, two martyrs somewhere in a tomb
"Each by each as their blessing was to die;
"Some signal they are promised and expect,—
"When to arise before the trumpet scares:
"So, through the whole course of the world they wait
"The last day, but so fearless and so safe!
"No otherwise, in safety and not fear,
"I lie, because she lies too by my side."
You know this is not love, Sirs,—it is faith,
The feeling that there's God, he reigns and rules
Out of this low world: that is all; no harm!
At times she drew a soft sigh—music seemed
Always to hover just above her lips,
Not settle,—break a silence music too.

In the determined morning, I first found
Her head erect, her face turned full to me,
Her soul intent on mine through two wide eyes.
I answered them. "You are saved hitherto.
"We have passed Perugia,—gone round by the wood,
"Not through, I seem to think,—and opposite
"I know Assisi; this is holy ground."
Then she resumed. "How long since we both left
"Arezzo?" "Years—and certain hours beside."

It was at … ah, but I forget the names!
'T is a mere post-house and a hovel or two;
I left the carriage and got bread and wine
And brought it her. "Does it detain to eat?"
"They stay perforce, change horses,—therefore eat!
"We lose no minute: we arrive, be sure!"
This was—I know not where—there's a great hill
Close over, and the stream has lost its bridge,
One fords it. She began—"I have heard say
"Of some sick body that my mother knew,
"'T was no good sign when in a limb diseased
"All the pain suddenly departs,—as if
"The guardian angel discontinued pain
"Because the hope of cure was gone at last:
"The limb will not again exert itself,
"It needs be pained no longer: so with me,
"—My soul whence all the pain is past at once:
"All pain must be to work some good in the end.
"True, this I feel now, this may be that good,
"Pain was because of,—otherwise, I fear!"

She said,—a long while later in the day,
When I had let the silence be,—abrupt—
"Have you a mother?" "She died, I was born."
"A sister then?" "No sister." "Who was it—
"What woman were you used to serve this way,
"Be kind to, till I called you and you came?"
I did not like that word. Soon afterward—
"Tell me, are men unhappy, in some kind
"Of mere unhappiness at being men,
"As women suffer, being womanish?
"Have you, now, some unhappiness, I mean,
"Born of what may be man's strength overmuch,
"To match the undue susceptibility,
"The sense at every pore when hate is close?
"It hurts us if a baby hides its face
"Or child strikes at us punily, calls names
"Or makes a mouth,—much more if stranger men
"Laugh or frown,—just as that were much to bear!
"Yet rocks split,—and the blow-ball does no more,
"Quivers to feathery nothing at a touch;
"And strength may have its drawback weakness scapes."
Once she asked "What is it that made you smile,
"At the great gate with the eagles and the snakes,
"Where the company entered, 't is a long time since?"
"—Forgive—I think you would not understand:
"Ah, but you ask me,—therefore, it was this.
"That was a certain bishop's villa-gate,
"I knew it by the eagles,—and at once
"Remembered this same bishop was just he
"People of old were wont to bid me please
"If I would catch preferment: so, I smiled
"Because an impulse came to me, a whim—
"What if I prayed the prelate leave to speak,
"Began upon him in his presence-hall
"—'What, still at work so grey and obsolete?
"'Still rocheted and mitred more or less?
"'Don't you feel all that out of fashion now?
"'I find out when the day of things is done!'"

At eve we heard the angelus: she turned—
"I told you I can neither read nor write.
"My life stopped with the play-time; I will learn,
"If I begin to live again: but you
"Who are a priest—wherefore do you not read
"The service at this hour? Read Gabriel's song,
"The lesson, and then read the little prayer
"To Raphael, proper for us travellers!"
I did not like that, neither, but I read.

When we stopped at Foligno it was dark.
The people of the post came out with lights:
The driver said, "This time to-morrow, may
"Saints only help, relays continue good,
"Nor robbers hinder, we arrive at Rome."
I urged, "Why tax your strength a second night?
"Trust me, alight here and take brief repose!
"We are out of harm's reach, past pursuit: go sleep
"If but an hour! I keep watch, guard the while
"Here in the doorway." But her whole face changed,
The misery grew again about her mouth,
The eyes burned up from faintness, like the fawn's
Tired to death in the thicket, when she feels
The probing spear o' the huntsman. "Oh, no stay!"
She cried, in the fawn's cry, "On to Rome, on, on—
"Unless 't is you who fear,—which cannot be!"

We did go on all night; but at its close
She was troubled, restless, moaned low, talked at whiles
To herself, her brow on quiver with the dream:
Once, wide awake, she menaced, at arms' length
Waved away something—"Never again with you!
"My soul is mine, my body is my soul's:
"You and I are divided ever more
"In soul and body: get you gone!" Then I
"Why, in my whole life I have never prayed!
"Oh, if the God, that only can, would help!
"Am I his priest with power to cast out fiends?
"Let God arise and all his enemies
"Be scattered!" By morn, there was peace, no sigh
Out of the deep sleep.

When she woke at last,
I answered the first look—"Scarce twelve hours more,
"Then, Rome! There probably was no pursuit,
"There cannot now be peril: bear up brave!
"Just some twelve hours to press through to the prize:
"Then, no more of the terrible journey!" "Then,
"No more o' the journey: if it might but last!
"Always, my life-long, thus to journey still!
"It is the interruption that I dread,—
"With no dread, ever to be here and thus!
"Never to see a face nor hear a voice!
"Yours is no voice; you speak when you are dumb;
"Nor face, I see it in the dark. I want
"No face nor voice that change and grow unkind."
That I liked, that was the best thing she said.

In the broad day, I dared entreat, "Descend!"
I told a woman, at the garden-gate
By the post-house, white and pleasant in the sun,
"It is my sister,—talk with her apart!
"She is married and unhappy, you perceive;
"I take her home because her head is hurt;
"Comfort her as you women understand!"
So, there I left them by the garden-wall,
Paced the road, then bade put the horses to,
Came back, and there she sat: close to her knee,
A black-eyed child still held the bowl of milk,
Wondered to see how little she could drink,
And in her arms the woman's infant lay.
She smiled at me "How much good this has done!
"This is a whole night's rest and how much more!
"I can proceed now, though I wish to stay.
"How do you call that tree with the thick top
"That holds in all its leafy green and gold
"The sun now like an immense egg of fire?"
(It was a million-leaved mimosa.) "Take
"The babe away from me and let me go!"
And in the carriage "Still a day, my friend!
"And perhaps half a night, the woman fears.
"I pray it finish since it cannot last
"There may be more misfortune at the close,
"And where will you be? God suffice me then!"
And presently—for there was a roadside-shrine—
"When I was taken first to my own church
"Lorenzo in Lucina, being a girl,
"And bid confess my faults, I interposed
"'But teach me what fault to confess and know!'
"So, the priest said—'You should bethink yourself:
"'Each human being needs must have done wrong!'
"Now, be you candid and no priest but friend—
"Were I surprised and killed here on the spot,
"A runaway from husband and his home,
"Do you account it were in sin I died?
"My husband used to seem to harm me, not
"Not on pretence he punished sin of mine,
"Nor for sin's sake and lust of cruelty,
"But as I heard him bid a farming-man
"At the villa take a lamb once to the wood
"And there ill-treat it, meaning that the wolf
"Should hear its cries, and so come, quick be caught,
"Enticed to the trap: he practised thus with me
"That so, whatever were his gain thereby,
"Others than I might become prey and spoil.
"Had it been only between our two selves,—
"His pleasure and my pain,—why, pleasure him
"By dying, nor such need to make a coil!
"But this was worth an effort, that my pain
"Should not become a snare, prove pain threefold
"To other people—strangers—or unborn—
"How should I know? I sought release from that—
"I think, or else from,—dare I say, some cause
"Such as is put into a tree, which turns
"Away from the north wind with what nest it holds,—
"The woman said that trees so turn: now, friend,
"Tell me, because I cannot trust myself!
"You are a man: what have I done amiss?"
You must conceive my answer,—I forget—
Taken up wholly with the thought, perhaps,
This time she might have said,—might, did not say—
"You are a priest." She said, "my friend."

Day wore,
We passed the places, somehow the calm went,
Again the restless eyes began to rove
In new fear of the foe mine could not see.
She wandered in her mind,—addressed me once
"Gaetano!"—that is not my name: whose name?
I grew alarmed, my head seemed turning too.
I quickened pace with promise now, now threat:
Bade drive and drive, nor any stopping more.
"Too deep i' the thick of the struggle, struggle through!
"Then drench her in repose though death's self pour
"The plenitude of quiet,—help us, God,
"Whom the winds carry!"

Suddenly I saw
The old tower, and the little white-walled clump
Of buildings and the cypress-tree or two,—
"Already Castelnuovo—Rome!" I cried,
"As good as Rome,—Rome is the next stage, think!
"This is where travellers' hearts are wont to beat.
"Say you are saved, sweet lady!" Up she woke.
The sky was fierce with colour from the sun
Setting. She screamed out "No, I must not die!
"Take me no farther, I should die: stay here!
"I have more life to save than mine!"

She swooned.
We seemed safe: what was it foreboded so?
Out of the coach into the inn I bore
The motionless and breathless pure and pale
Pompilia,—bore her through a pitying group
And laid her on a couch, still calm and cured
By deep sleep of all woes at once. The host
Was urgent "Let her stay an hour or two!
"Leave her to us, all will be right by morn!"
Oh, my foreboding! But I could not choose.

I paced the passage, kept watch all night long.
I listened,—not one movement, not one sigh.
"Fear not: she sleeps so sound!" they said: but I
Feared, all the same, kept fearing more and more,
Found myself throb with fear from head to foot,
Filled with a sense of such impending woe,
That, at first pause of night, pretence of gray,
I made my mind up it was morn.—"Reach Rome,
"Lest hell reach her! A dozen miles to make,
"Another long breath, and we emerge!" I stood
I' the court-yard, roused the sleepy grooms. "Have out
"Carriage and horse, give haste, take gold!" said I.
While they made ready in the doubtful morn,—
'T was the last minute,—needs must I ascend
And break her sleep; I turned to go.

And there
Faced me Count Guido, there posed the mean man
As master,—took the field, encamped his rights,
Challenged the world: there leered new triumph, there
Scowled the old malice in the visage bad
And black o' the scamp. Soon triumph suppled the tongue
A little, malice glued to his dry throat,
And he part howled, part hissed … oh, how he kept
Well out o' the way, at arm's length and to spare!—
"My salutation to your priestship! What?
"Matutinal, busy with book so soon
"Of an April day that's damp as tears that now
"Deluge Arezzo at its darling's flight?—
"'T is unfair, wrongs feminity at large,
"To let a single dame monopolize
"A heart the whole sex claims, should share alike:
"Therefore I overtake you, Canon! Come!
"The lady,—could you leave her side so soon?
"You have not yet experienced at her hands
"My treatment, you lay down undrugged, I see!
"Hence this alertness—hence no death-in-life
"Like what held arms fast when she stole from mine.
"To be sure, you took the solace and repose
"That first night at Foligno!—news abound
"O' the road by this time,—men regaled me much,
"As past them I came halting after you,
"Vulcan pursuing Mars, as poets sing,—
"Still at the last here pant I, but arrive,
"Vulcan—and not without my Cyclops too,
"The Commissary and the unpoisoned arm
"O' the Civil Force, should Mars turn mutineer.
"Enough of fooling: capture the culprits, friend!
"Here is the lover in the smart disguise
"With the sword,—he is a priest, so mine lies still.
"There upstairs hides my wife the runaway,
"His leman: the two plotted, poisoned first,
"Plundered me after, and eloped thus far
"Where now you find them. Do your duty quick!
"Arrest and hold him! That's done: now catch her!"
During this speech of that man,—well, I stood
Away, as he managed,—still, I stood as near
The throat of him,—with these two hands, my own,—
As now I stand near yours, Sir,—one quick spring,
One great good satisfying gripe, and lo!
There had he lain abolished with his lie,
Creation purged o' the miscreate, man redeemed,
A spittle wiped off from the face of God!
I, in some measure, seek a poor excuse
For what I left undone, in just this fact
That my first feeling at the speech I quote
Was—not of what a blasphemy was dared,
Not what a bag of venomed purulence
Was split and noisome,—but how splendidly
Mirthful, how ludicrous a lie was launched!
Would Molière's self wish more than hear such man
Call, claim such woman for his own, his wife
Even though, in due amazement at the boast,
He had stammered, she moreover was divine?
She to be his,—were hardly less absurd
Than that he took her name into his mouth,
Licked, and then let it go again, the beast,
Signed with his slaver. Oh, she poisoned him,
Plundered him, and the rest! Well, what I wished
Was, that he would but go on, say once more
So to the world, and get his meed of men,
The fist's reply to the filth. And while I mused,
The minute, oh the misery, was gone!
On either idle hand of me there stood
Really an officer, nor laughed i' the least:
Nay, rendered justice to his reason, laid
Logic to heart, as 't were submitted them
"Twice two makes four."

"And now, catch her!" he cried.
That sobered me. "Let myself lead the way—
"Ere you arrest me, who am somebody,
"Being, as you hear, a priest and privileged,—
"To the lady's chamber! I presume you—men
"Expert, instructed how to find out truth,
"Familiar with the guise of guilt. Detect
"Guilt on her face when it meets mine, then judge
"Between us and the mad dog howling there!"
Up we all went together, in they broke
O' the chamber late my chapel. There she lay,
Composed as when I laid her, that last eve,
O' the couch, still breathless, motionless, sleep's self,
Wax-white, seraphic, saturate with the sun
O' the morning that now flooded from the front
And filled the window with a light like blood.
"Behold the poisoner, the adulteress,
"—And feigning sleep too! Seize, bind!" Guido hissed.

She started up, stood erect, face to face
With the husband: back he fell, was buttressed there
By the window all a flame with morning-red,
He the black figure, the opprobrious blur
Against all peace and joy and light and life.
"Away from between me and hell!" she cried:
"Hell for me, no embracing any more!
"I am God's, I love God, God—whose knees I clasp,
"Whose utterly most just award I take,
"But bear no more love-making devils: hence!"
I may have made an effort to reach her side
From where I stood i' the door-way,—anyhow
I found the arms, I wanted, pinioned fast,
Was powerless in the clutch to left and right
O' the rabble pouring in, rascality
Enlisted, rampant on the side of hearth
Home and the husband,—pay in prospect too!
They heaped themselves upon me. "Ha!—and him
"Also you outrage? Him, too, my sole friend,
"Guardian and saviour? That I baulk you of,
"Since—see how God can help at last and worst!"
She sprang at the sword that hung beside him, seized,
Drew, brandished it, the sunrise burned for joy
O' the blade, "Die," cried she, "devil, in God's name!"
Ah, but they all closed round her, twelve to one
The unmanly men, no woman-mother made,
Spawned somehow! Dead-white and disarmed she lay
No matter for the sword, her word sufficed
To spike the coward through and through: he shook,
Could only spit between the teeth—"You see?
"You hear? Bear witness, then! Write down . . but no—
"Carry these criminals to the prison-house,
"For first thing! I begin my search meanwhile
"After the stolen effects, gold, jewels, plate,
"Money and clothes, they robbed me of and fled,
"With no few amorous pieces, verse and prose,
"I have much reason to expect to find."

When I saw that—no more than the first mad speech,
Made out the speaker mad and a laughing-stock,
So neither did this next device explode
One listener's indignation,—that a scribe
Did sit down, set himself to write indeed,
While sundry knaves began to peer and pry
In corner and hole,—that Guido, wiping brow
And getting him a countenance, was fast
Losing his fear, beginning to strut free
O' the stage of his exploit, snuff here, sniff there,—
Then I took truth in, guessed sufficiently
The service for the moment. "What I say,
"Slight at your peril! We are aliens here,
"My adversary and I, called noble both;
"I am the nobler, and a name men know.
"I could refer our cause to our own Court
"In our own country, but prefer appeal
"To the nearer jurisdiction. Being a priest,
"Though in a secular garb,—for reasons good
"I shall adduce in due time to my peers,—
"I demand that the Church I serve, decide
"Between us, right the slandered lady there.
"A Tuscan noble, I might claim the Duke:
"A priest, I rather choose the Church,—bid Rome
"Cover the wronged with her inviolate shield."

There was no refusing this: they bore me off,
They bore her off, to separate cells o' the same
Ignoble prison, and, separate, thence to Rome.
Pompilia's face, then and thus, looked on me
The last time in this life: not one sight since,
Never another sight to be! And yet
I thought I had saved her. I appealed to Rome:
It seems I simply sent her to her death.
You tell me she is dying now, or dead;
I cannot bring myself to quite believe
This is a place you torture people in:
What if this your intelligence were just
A subtlety, an honest wile to work
On a man at unawares? 'T were worthy you.
No, Sirs, I cannot have the lady dead!
That erect form, flashing brow, fulgurant eye,
That voice immortal (oh, that voice of hers!)
That vision in the blood-red day-break—that
Leap to life of the pale electric sword
Angels go armed with,—that was not the last
O' the lady! Come, I see through it, you find—
Know the manoeuvre! Also herself said
I had saved her: do you dare say she spoke false?
Let me see for myself if it be so!
Though she were dying, a Priest might be of use,
The more when he's a friend too,—she called me
Far beyond "friend." Come, let me see her—indeed
It is my duty, being a priest: I hope
I stand confessed, established, proved a priest?
My punishment had motive that, a priest
I, in a laic garb, a mundane mode,
Did what were harmlessly done otherwise.
I never touched her with my finger-tip
Except to carry her to the couch, that eve,
Against my heart, beneath my head, bowed low,
As we priests carry the paten: that is why
—To get leave and go see her of your grace—
I have told you this whole story over again.
Do I deserve grace? For I might lock lips,
Laugh at your jurisdiction: what have you
To do with me in the matter? I suppose
You hardly think I donned a bravo's dress
To have a hand in the new crime; on the old,
Judgment's delivered, penalty imposed,
I was chained fast at Civita hand and foot—
She had only you to trust to, you and Rome,
Rome and the Church, and no pert meddling priest
Two days ago, when Guido, with the right,
Hacked her to pieces. One might well be wroth;
I have been patient, done my best to help:
I come from Civita and punishment
As friend of the Court—and for pure friendship's sake
Have told my tale to the end,—nay, not the end—
For, wait—I'll end—not leave you that excuse!

When we were parted,—shall I go on there?
I was presently brought to Rome—yes, here I stood
Opposite yonder very crucifix—
And there sat you and you, Sirs, quite the same.
I heard charge, and bore question, and told tale
Noted down in the book there,—turn and see
If, by one jot or tittle, I vary now!
I' the colour the tale takes, there's change perhaps;
'T is natural, since the sky is different,
Eclipse in the air now; still, the outline stays.
I showed you how it came to be my part
To save the lady. Then your clerk produced
Papers, a pack of stupid and impure
Banalities called letters about love—
Love, indeed,—I could teach who styled them so,
Better, I think, though priest and loveless both!
"—How was it that a wife, young, innocent,
"And stranger to your person, wrote this page?"—
"—She wrote it when the Holy Father wrote
"The bestiality that posts thro' Rome,
"Put in his mouth by Pasquin." "Nor perhaps
"Did you return these answers, verse and prose,
"Signed, sealed and sent the lady? There's your hand!"
"—This precious piece of verse, I really judge,
"Is meant to copy my own character,
"A clumsy mimic; and this other prose,
"Not so much even; both rank forgery:
"Verse, quotha? Bembo's verse! When Saint John wrote
"The tract 'De Tribus,' I wrote this to match."
"—How came it, then, the documents were found
"At the inn on your departure?"—"I opine,
"Because there were no documents to find
"In my presence,—you must hide before you find.
"Who forged them hardly practised in my view;
"Who found them waited till I turned my back."
"—And what of the clandestine visits paid,
"Nocturnal passage in and out the house
"With its lord absent? 'T is alleged you climbed …"
"—Flew on a broomstick to the man i' the moon!
"Who witnessed or will testify this trash?"
"—The trusty servant, Margherita's self,
"Even she who brought you letters, you confess,
"And, you confess, took letters in reply:
"Forget not we have knowledge of the facts!"
"—Sirs, who have knowledge of the facts, defray
"The expenditure of wit I waste in vain,
"Trying to find out just one fact of all!
"She who brought letters from who could not write,
"And took back letters to who could not read,—
"Who was that messenger, of your charity?"
"—Well, so far favours you the circumstance
"That this same messenger … how shall we say? …
"Sub imputatione meretricis
"Laborat,—which makes accusation null:
"We waive this woman's: nought makes void the next.
"Borsi, called Venerino, he who drove,
"O' the first night when you fled away, at length
"Deposes to your kissings in the coach,
"—Frequent, frenetic …" "When deposed he so?"
"After some weeks of sharp imprisonment …"
"—Granted by friend the Governor, I engage—"
"—For his participation in your flight!
"At length his obduracy melting made
"The avowal mentioned . ." "Was dismissed forthwith
"To liberty, poor knave, for recompense.
"Sirs, give what credit to the lie you can!
"For me, no word in my defence I speak,
"And God shall argue for the lady!"

So
Did I stand question, and make answer, still
With the same result of smiling disbelief,
Polite impossibility of faith
In such affected virtue in a priest;
But a showing fair play, an indulgence, even,
To one no worse than others after all—
Who had not brought disgrace to the order, played
Discreetly, ruffled gown nor ripped the cloth
In a bungling game at romps: I have told you, Sirs—
If I pretended simply to be pure
Honest and Christian in the case,—absurd!
As well go boast myself above the needs
O' the human nature, careless how meat smells,
Wine tastes,—a saint above the smack! But once
Abate my crest, own flaws i' the flesh, agree
To go with the herd, be hog no more nor less,
Why, hogs in common herd have common rights:
I must not be unduly borne upon,
Who just romanced a little, sowed wild oats,
But 'scaped without a scandal, flagrant fault.
My name helped to a mirthful circumstance:
"Joseph" would do well to amend his plea:
Undoubtedly—some toying with the wife,
But as for ruffian violence and rape,
Potiphar pressed too much on the other side!
The intrigue, the elopement, the disguise,—well charged!
The letters and verse looked hardly like the truth.
Your apprehension was—of guilt enough
To be compatible with innocence,
So, punished best a little and not too much.
Had I struck Guido Franceschini's face,
You had counselled me withdraw for my own sake,
Baulk him of bravo-hiring. Friends came round,
Congratulated, "Nobody mistakes!
"The pettiness o' the forfeiture defines
"The peccadillo: Guido gets his share:
"His wife is free of husband and hook-nose,
"The mouldy viands and the mother-in-law.
"To Civita with you and amuse the time,
"Travesty us 'De Raptu Helenoe!'
"A funny figure must the husband cut
"When the wife makes him skip,—too ticklish, eh?
"Do it in Latin, not the Vulgar, then!
"Scazons—we'll copy and send his Eminence.
"Mind—one iambus in the final foot!
"He'll rectity it, be your friend for life!"
Oh, Sirs, depend on me for much new light
Thrown on the justice and religion here
By this proceeding, much fresh food for thought!

And I was just set down to study these
In relegation, two short days ago,
Admiring how you read the rules, when, clap,
A thunder comes into my solitude—
I am caught up in a whirlwind and cast here,
Told of a sudden, in this room where so late
You dealt out law adroitly, that those scales,
I meekly bowed to, took my allotment from,
Guido has snatched at, broken in your hands,
Metes to himself the murder of his wife,
Full measure, pressed down, running over now!
Can I assist to an explanation?—Yes,
I rise in your esteem, sagacious Sirs,
Stand up a renderer of reasons, not
The officious priest would personate Saint George
For a mock Princess in undragoned days.
What, the blood startles you? What, after all
The priest who needs must carry sword on thigh
May find imperative use for it? Then, there was
A Princess, was a dragon belching flame,
And should have been a Saint George also? Then,
There might be worse schemes than to break the bonds
At Arezzo, lead her by the little hand,
Till she reached Rome, and let her try to live?
But you were law and gospel,—would one please
Stand back, allow your faculty elbow-room?
You blind guides who must needs lead eyes that see!
Fools, alike ignorant of man and God!
What was there here should have perplexed your wit
For a wink of the owl-eyes of you? How miss, then,
What's now forced on you by this flare of fact—
As if Saint Peter failed to recognize
Nero as no apostle, John or James,
Till someone burned a martyr, made a torch
O' the blood and fat to show his features by!
Could you fail read this cartulary aright
On head and front of Franceschini there,
Large-lettered like hell's masterpiece of print,—
That he, from the beginning pricked at heart
By some lust, letch of hate against his wife,
Plotted to plague her into overt sin
And shame, would slay Pompilia body and soul,
And save his mean self—miserably caught
I' the quagmire of his own tricks, cheats and lies?
—That himself wrote those papers,—from himself
To himself,—which, i' the name of me and her,
His mistress-messenger gave her and me,
Touching us with such pustules of the soul
That she and I might take the taint, be shown
To the world and shuddered over, speckled so?
—That the agent put her sense into my words,
Made substitution of the thing she hoped,
For the thing she had and held, its opposite,
While the husband in the background bit his lips
At each fresh failure of his precious plot?
—That when at the last we did rush each on each,
By no chance but because God willed it so—
The spark of truth was struck from out our souls—
Made all of me, descried in the first glance,
Seem fair and honest and permissible love
O' the good and true—as the first glance told me
There was no duty patent in the world
Like daring try be good and true myself,
Leaving the shows of things to the Lord of Show
And Prince o' the Power of the Air. Our very flight,
Even to its most ambiguous circumstance,
Irrefragably proved how futile, false …
Why, men—men and not boys—boys and not babes—
Babes and not beasts—beasts and not stocks and stones!—
Had the liar's lie been true one pin-point speck,
Were I the accepted suitor, free o' the place,
Disposer of the time, to come at a call
And go at a wink as who should say me nay,—
What need of flight, what were the gain therefrom
But just damnation, failure or success?
Damnation pure and simple to her the wife
And me the priest—who bartered private bliss
For public reprobation, the safe shade
For the sunshine which men see to pelt me by:
What other advantage,—we who led the days
And nights alone i' the house,—was flight to find?
In our whole journey did we stop an hour,
Diverge a foot from straight road till we reached
Or would have reached—but for that fate of ours—
The father and mother, in the eye of Rome,
The eye of yourselves we made aware of us
At the first fall of misfortune? And indeed
You did so far give sanction to our flight,
Confirm its purpose, as lend helping hand,
Deliver up Pompilia not to him
She fled, but those the flight was ventured for.
Why then could you, who stopped short, not go on
One poor step more, and justify the means,
Having allowed the end?—not see and say
"Here's the exceptional conduct that should claim
"To be exceptionally judged on rules
"Which, understood, make no exception here"—
Why play instead into the devil's hands
By dealing so ambiguously as gave
Guido the power to intervene like me,
Prove one exception more? I saved his wife
Against law: against law he slays her now:
Deal with him!

I have done with being judged.
I stand here guiltless in thought, word and deed,
To the point that I apprise you,—in contempt
For all misapprehending ignorance
O' the human heart, much more the mind of Christ,—
That I assuredly did bow, was blessed
By the revelation of Pompilia. There!
Such is the final fact I fling you, Sirs,
To mouth and mumble and misinterpret: there!
"The priest's in love," have it the vulgar way!
Unpriest me, rend the rags o' the vestment, do—
Degrade deep, disenfranchise all you dare—
Remove me from the midst, no longer priest
And fit companion for the like of you
Your gay Abati with the well-turned leg
And rose i' the hat-rim, Canons, cross at neck
And silk mask in the pocket of the gown,
Brisk Bishops with the world's musk still unbrushed
From the rochet; I'll no more of these good things:
There's a crack somewhere, something that's unsound
I' the rattle!

For Pompilia—be advised,
Build churches, go pray! You will find me there,
I know, if you come,—and you will come, I know.
Why, there's a Judge weeping! Did not I say
You were good and true at bottom? You see the truth—
I am glad I helped you: she helped me just so.

But for Count Guido,—you must counsel there!
I bow my head, bend to the very dust,
Break myself up in shame of faultiness.
I had him one whole moment, as I said—
As I remember, as will never out
O' the thoughts of me,—I had him in arm's reach
There,—as you stand, Sir, now you cease to sit,—
I could have killed him ere he killed his wife,
And did not: he went off alive and well
And then effected this last feat—through me!
Me—not through you—dsimiss that fear! 'T was you
Hindered me staying here to save her,—not
From leaving you and going back to him
And doing service in Arezzo. Come,
Instruct me in procedure! I conceive—
In all due self-abasement might I speak—
How you will deal with Guido: oh, not death!
Death, if it let her life be: otherwise
Not death,—your lights will teach you clearer! I
Certainly have an instinct of my own
I' the matter: bear with me and weigh its worth!
Let us go away—leave Guido all alone
Back on the world again that knows him now!
I think he will be found (indulge so far!)
Not to die so much as slide out of life,
Pushed by the general horror and common hate
Low, lower,—left o' the very ledge of things,
I seem to see him catch convulsively
One by one at all honest forms of life,
At reason, order, decency and use—
To cramp him and get foothold by at least;
And still they disengage them from his clutch.
"What, you are he, then, had Pompilia once
"And so forwent her? Take not up with us!"
And thus I see him slowly and surely edged
Off all the table-land whence life upsprings
Aspiring to be immortality,
As the snake, hatched on hill-top by mischance,
Despite his wriggling, slips, slides, slidders down
Hill-side, lies low and prostrate on the smooth
Level of the outer place, lapsed in the vale:
So I lose Guido in the loneliness,
Silence and dusk, till at the doleful end,
At the horizontal line, creation's verge,
From what just is to absolute nothingness—
Whom is it, straining onward still, he meets?
What other man deep further in the fate,
Who, turning at the prize of a footfall
To flatter him and promise fellowship,
Discovers in the act a frightful face—
Judas, made monstrous by much solitude!
The two are at one now! Let them love their love
That bites and claws like hate, or hate their hate
That mops and mows and makes as it were love!
There, let them each tear each in devil's-fun,
Or fondle this the other while malice aches—
Both teach, both learn detestability!
Kiss him the kiss, Iscariot! Pay that back,
That smatch o' the slaver blistering on your lip,
By the better trick, the insult he spared Christ—
Lure him the lure o' the letters, Aretine!
Lick him o'er slimy-smooth with jelly-filth
O' the verse-and-prose pollution in love's guise!
The cockatrice is with the basilisk!
There let them grapple, denizens o' the dark,
Foes or friends, but indissolubly bound,
In their one spot out of the ken of God
Or care of man, for ever and ever more!

Why, Sirs, what's this? Why, this is sorry and strange!
Futility, divagation: this from me
Bound to be rational, justify an act
Of sober man!—whereas, being moved so much,
I give you cause to doubt the lady's mind:
A pretty sarcasm for the world! I fear
You do her wit injustice,—all through me!
Like my fate all through,—ineffective help!
A poor rash advocate I prove myself.
You might be angry with good cause: but sure
At the advocate,—only at the undue zeal
That spoils the force of his own plea, I think?
My part was just to tell you how things stand,
State facts and not be flustered at their fume.
But then 't is a priest speaks: as for love,—no!
If you let buzz a vulgar fly like that
About your brains, as if I loved, forsooth,
Indeed, Sirs, you do wrong! We had no thought
Of such infatuation, she and I:
There are many points that prove it: do be just!
I told you,—at one little roadside-place
I spent a good half-hour, paced to and fro
The garden; just to leave her free awhile,
I plucked a handful of Spring herb and bloom:
I might have sat beside her on the bench
Where the children were: I wish the thing had been,
Indeed: the event could not be worse, you know:
One more half-hour of her saved! She's dead now, Sirs!
While I was running on at such a rate,
Friends should have plucked me by the sleeve: I went
Too much o' the trivial outside of her face
And the purity that shone there—plain to me,
Not to you, what more natural? Nor am I
Infatuated,—oh, I saw, be sure!
Her brow had not the right line, leaned too much,
Painters would say; they like the straight-up Greek:
This seemed bent somewhat with an invisible crown
Of martyr and saint, not such as art approves.
And how the dark orbs dwelt deep underneath,
Looked out of such a sad sweet heaven on me!
The lips, compressed a little, came forward too,
Careful for a whole world of sin and pain.
That was the face, her husband makes his plea,
He sought just to disfigure,—no offence
Beyond that! Sirs, let us be rational!
He needs must vindicate his honour,—ay,
Yet shirks, the coward, in a clown's disguise,
Away from the scene, endeavours to escape.
Now, had he done so, slain and left no trace
O' the slayer,—what were vindicated, pray?
You had found his wife disfigured or a corpse,
For what and by whom? It is too palpable!
Then, here's another point involving law:
I use this argument to show you meant
No calumny against us by that title
O' the sentence,—liars try to twist it so:
What penalty it bore, I had to pay
Till further proof should follow of innocence—
Probationis ob defectum,—proof?
How could you get proof without trying us?
You went through the preliminary form,
Stopped there, contrived this sentence to amuse
The adversary. If the title ran
For more than fault imputed and not proved,
That was a simple penman's error, else
A slip i' the phrase,—as when we say of you
"Charged with injustice"—which may either be
Or not be,—'t is a name that sticks meanwhile.
Another relevant matter: fool that I am!
Not what I wish true, yet a point friends urge:
It is not true,—yet, since friends think it helps,—
She only tried me when some others failed—
Began with Conti, whom I told you of,
And Guillichini, Guido's kinsfolk both,
And when abandoned by them, not before,
Turned to me. That's conclusive why she turned.
Much good they got by the happy cowardice!
Conti is dead, poisoned a month ago:
Does that much strike you as a sin? Not much,
After the present murder,—one mark more
On the Moor's skin,—what is black by blacker still?
Conti had come here and told truth. And so
With Guillichini; he's condemned of course
To the galleys, as a friend in this affair,
Tried and condemned for no one thing i' the world,
A fortnight since by who but the Governor?—
The just judge, who refused Pompilia help
At first blush, being her husband's friend, you know.
There are two tales to suit the separate courts,
Arezzo and Rome: he tells you here, we fled
Alone, unhelped,—lays stress on the main fault,
The spiritual sin, Rome looks to: but elsewhere
He likes best we should break in, steal, bear off,
Be fit to brand and pillory and flog—
That's the charge goes to the heart of the Governor:
If these unpriest me, you and I may yet
Converse, Vincenzo Marzi-Medici!
Oh, Sirs, there are worse men than you, I say!
More easily duped, I mean; this stupid lie,
Its liar never dared propound in Rome,
He gets Arezzo to receive,—nay more,
Gets Florence and the Duke to authorize!
This is their Rota's sentence, their Granduke
Signs and seals! Rome for me henceforward—Rome,
Where better men are,—most of all, that man
The Augustinian of the Hospital,
Who writes the letter,—he confessed, he says,
Many a dying person, never one
So sweet and true and pure and beautiful.
A good man! Will you make him Pope one day?
Not that he is not good too, this we have
But old,—else he would have his word to speak,
His truth to teach the world: I thirst for truth,
But shall not drink it till I reach the source.

Sirs, I am quiet again. You see, we are
So very pitiable, she and I,
Who had conceivably been otherwise.
Forget distemperature and idle heat!
Apart from truth's sake, what's to move so much?
Pompilia will be presently with God;
I am, on earth, as good as out of it,
A relegated priest; when exile ends,
I mean to do my duty and live long.
She and I are mere strangers now: but priests
Should study passion; how else cure mankind,
Who come for help in passionate extremes?
I do but play with an imagined life
Of who, unfettered by a vow, unblessed
By the higher call,—since you will have it so,—
Leads it companioned by the woman there.
To live, and see her learn, and learn by her,
Out of the low obscure and petty world—
Or only see one purpose and one will
Evolve themselves i' the world, change wrong to right:
To have to do with nothing but the true,
The good, the eternal—and these, not alone
In the main current of the general life,
But small experiences of every day,
Concerns of the particular hearth and home:
To learn not only by a comet's rush
But a rose's birth,—not by the grandeur, God—
But the comfort, Christ. All this, how far away!
Mere delectation, meet for a minute's dream!—
Just as a drudging student trims his lamp,
Opens his Plutarch, puts him in the place
Of Roman, Grecian; draws the patched gown close,
Dreams, "Thus should I fight, save or rule the world!"—
Then smilingly, contentedly, awakes
To the old solitary nothingness.
So I, from such communion, pass content …

O great, just, good God! Miserable me!

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Faithfulness

When someone whom you love
Does the same rash things you do
And so you feel a similar pain
In life, that is equality... and true.

For words and actions done or said
Mean nothing substantially concrete,
Unless one swears upon all dead
With faithfulness, seals Love complete.

Cherish the love you have that's rare
Love is a gold coin you spend only once
Foolish games and times you're unfair
May later forfeit your one last chance.

Copyright Cynthia Buhain Baello
March 2,2010
Philippines

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I would

Ever since you left me,
My life has been lonely and cold,
It hasn’t been the same,
If I had the chance to be with you one last time,
I would give up everything,
But that’s if I had the chance,
I am crazy for you,
Yet you too blind to see,
To see how much I have missed you,
I am falling for you,
I am calling you,
But you never pick up,
As I break down,
I never thought I would love someone like you,
I never knew that love was real in it’s own special way,
Someday you’ll know what you missed out on.

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