People did not even then like to eat dirt, if they could see it.
He Did Not Become an Immortal
HE DID NOT BECOME AN IMMORTAL
He did not become great
He did not understand the universe to the end
He did not even make a small work
A few deeply needed
He did not succeed
He lived a life
For a dream he did not realize
And now in his old age
Poor and quiet
What his failure will mean
For his own children
And whether he will go to the end
And nothing else.
He is an old man
Writing another poem
An old man who has written
So many unread poems
What can he do but write another?
How much will he suffer
Before he gets out of it all?
- quotes about poetry
- quotes about elders
- quotes about old age
- quotes about life
- quotes about poverty
- quotes about childhood
- quotes about work
- quotes about men
- quotes about dreaming
I dance upon the wash-house roof,
And fill my hair with straws,
And from my fellows keep aloof.
I'll tell you why. because
The glare in every eye I see,
I hear their talk inane;
For, sure as two and two are three,
All, all are mad as mad can be,
And I alone am sane.
Jones says, if we grow too much bread
The people may not eat;
And Smith declares in nervous dread,
More boots mean more bare feet.
Black says the price of gold must jump
Ere men was rich again.
White says the price of gold must slump;
For all the world is off its chump,
And I alone am sane.
I laugh and stand upon my head
Upon the wash-house roof.
If such an act men did not dread,
I'm sure and certain proof
They'd see me right side up. Why not?
The thing's as plain as plain.
But they look grave and gabble rot,
For all the world is off its dot,
And I alone am sane.
I am the great economist;
I stick straws in my locks;
For I've the truth that all have missed
In this world's paradox.
If all mankind would but agree
(Here lies our only hope)
That two and two must equal three,
They'd all grow sane again, like me;
And I'd stop chewing soap.
- quotes about missing
- quotes about equality
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about dance
- quotes about bread
- quotes about eyes
- quotes about black
- quotes about white
Wrestling With Time
Time and I are grappling
as we have all my life.
In my youth I tried to full-nelson her
into telling me my future
but she didn't comply.
I spend many hours with her
in my upstairs bed-room
peering at video games;
she waited patiently
for me to get through this phase.
The referee in this match
I tried to bribe he refused
but she gentle-stroked my brow
and told me to play fair and be patient.
I dreamed of having super powers
and told her that was what I wanted;
she smiled reassuringly
saying 'Sure but you have to first overcome many barriers
and prove yourself.
Too many tests there
it turned out for me.
I asked her for luck
but no luck.
I tried arm-twisting on her
but every fall I won
I also lost another.
It did not even look like the crowd was on my side.
At times it even looked like my own family
to support me.
When I started to date Time threw down the dice
snake-eyes and craps
never a lucky seven.
one step up and two steps back.
I asked her at last
for True Love and
she said simply 'Look behind you.'
turning I saw it was someone
who had always
been at my side
living in my blind spot.
Now it is Time against two
in this match
this has improved the odds.
Not so much happily ever after, but
we two in this round two
are now a tag team;
Time is sitting in that opposite corner, solo.
we'll will pin her
to Life's Mat
In any event
root for us
because I assure you my friend
Time knows your name too.
Vincent (Starry Starry Night)
Words/music: don mclean
Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summers day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.
Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps theyll listen now.
Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in vincents eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artists loving hand.
Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps theyll listen now.
For they could not love you,
But still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.
Starry, starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls,
Frameless head on nameless walls,
With eyes that watch the world and cant forget.
Like the strangers that youve met,
The ragged men in the ragged clothes,
The silver thorn of bloody rose,
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.
Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, theyre not listening still.
Perhaps they never will.
Like a Scent I Did Not Invent
Like a scent I did not invent...
I can not prevent or stop,
Images used with my words lifted.
By those who flatter,
And yet invade.
One day they may consider,
My thoughts about their approach.
One day they may even think of me,
While they encroach upon my activities.
To see me less as a novelty...
But someone with feelings,
They disregard but touch.
Like a scent I did not invent...
I can not prevent or stop,
Images used with my words lifted.
By those who flatter,
And yet invade.
For purposes 'they' have,
When one steps on stage,
Isn't it all about 'theater'?
And what we 'exchange' in presentation,
Isn't it there for interpretation?
In a mixed-use composition of vision? '
That's too deep for me.
I'd just like some 'thank yous' expressed.
At least be considerate about it!
Why This World Exists (In Answer To Louis Esterhuizen)
From the moment that I could think
I was wondering why this world does exist,
man is born in a place
where everything goes to destruction and decay?
What kind of God creates a place
where there is pain, suffering and hardship
where catastrophe at times hit mercilessly
as if every thing is going into damnation and darkness?
Some faiths believe that man
reincarnates over and over,
to in the end become part of a god,
have got to live though this desolation time and again.
Only the Christian faith declares
why our world is in this state,
about a almighty God who comes, to take up man’s guilt
with a salvation plan and how its going to end.
If you read the holy Bible carefully,
it’s clear that Lucifer was created perfectly,
that out of his own will he wanted to be equal to God,
he wanted to stop worshipping God.
When he broke the law
he created the biggest crisis in the universe
persuading other angels to act in rebellion,
where Michael (who is like God)
and his angels defended the heaven.
At that moment God could have wiped out Lucifer
and his followers instantaneously
but then everyone would serve Him out of fear and not out of love
and his Godly character did not even consider that possibility
whereupon He made a plan to solve this problem eternally.
God exists from eternity and is without a beginning,
through Jesus Christ, God created the world, by His own hands formed man
in the image of God and blew into him the breath of life,
He created man as two sexes, as man and woman.
Man was instructed to multiply,
to bring forth a own life in his image, to bring forth children,
to rule over the earth, the animals, birds and fishes
and everything was perfect in the whole earth, in every single thing.
It was then that God started the thing called time,
determining a period of time in which sin has got to abate,
where man as ruler had to lie down laws,
had to eat from the fruit of the earth,
proving to the universe that God is only love,
that dominion demands just laws,
going to the meaning
that the creation came from love.
No angels have ever been ordered to multiply
or to reign, Satan wanted to rule,
wanted to receive worship and become a god,
used his opportunity to lead man into darkness
saying in deception as he still does, that man will get knowledge
will become like God and will not die
and man had then lost his glory
(so as if the master of darkness could bring light)
and in free will man chose,
where his choice had an impact on everything,
even cursing his descendants to a damned world
but God came to place Himself in man’s place
and many people believe that I am only telling a myth here,
but my almighty Lord Jesus Christ lives.
Not Even The Light
Not even the light of the stars
shining like the keys to the ancient love-letters
bound among the secret jewels
of the queen of heaven
penetrates me as deeply as you do.
The planet wheels into the night
bearing its burden of humans
murdering each other
to enforce one state of ignorance
as the rabid bees
strafe the demented flowers
on the far side of the world
for enriching their radioactive pollen,
convinced in their madness
more honey than blood will flow from the wound.
I walk by myself
along the brittle banks of a frozen stream
among the detonations of the cattails
waiting like Napoleonic cannoneers
to stoke the charge of the next volley.
The snow in the sunset
is stained a spectral apricot
that disappears like breath on a cold window
and the sky is vast with my insignificance.
Two or three decades of life left,
if I'm lucky,
and though I have tried to use my time
to leave a gift for someone I will never meet,
long ago I realized
there is no way of assessing
what they will find
after the coffin closes like an eyelid
on this long, dark, radiant brevity
that once shone like the moon
in the ores of my blood.
Like the wandering of this rivulet
my heart has always been
a pilgrim without a shrine
and the direction of prayer has encompassed all
like a man getting up off his knees
and walking through an open door
to drink from the cup of his lover
in the shadows of the autumn willow
that sways like kite-tails
from the flights of fire
she ignites among the stars
that gather in the dark like strangers
before their own ghosts.
What the wind
has torn away from me like apple-bloom,
like poems, like smoke and leaf, like skies,
like tears and blood and faith
it has replaced
with these deeper revelations of you
that hang like a windfall of scarlet bells
from the branch of a dead tree in winter.
The wine of your life and light
has matured in the ferocious crucibles of the sun
and you have been poured out
like the passion of a sword
to cleave the stone of my heart
with these truant rivers of wounded silver
that flow through me like blood.
A young breeze
tries to hone the edge of its blade
on the rising moon
as a black ribbon of water
runs like a snake of oil
between the enclosing jaws
and cataracts of ice,
tiny wavelets scaling its skin
scintillant with the small commotions of stars overhead.
The bush wolves
have been nosing for muskrat
and you can almost taste the steam
rising from hot meat on the air.
I squeak like a pulley through the virgin snow,
following the banks of my own meandering,
owing nothing of myself to anyone,
wholly my own solitude,
as I pass through the gates
of the enclosing darkness
trying to enter the abyss and the mystery
of what I have lived so precariously
over the last sixty-three years,
what it means, if anything,
to be a human among these paper birches
on an island in the stream,
looking up at the intimate unattainability
of the stars,
knowing you are growing old,
that death is more populous with friends
than life, that love
has sloughed you so many times
like a viper's skin,
like the phases of the moon,
like a shrine of smoke and ashes,
that the phoenix hesitates
to robe itself in the full glory
of its former plumes of fire.
My mother will die soon.
I must say it,
voice it in my blood
to be able to bear it
and my children are clouds in the world
that no longer look for their reflections
in the eyes of the lake they arose from
as if they were merely breathed out.
And how in any god's name
can a man define the absence
he has grown to be,
except he standardize his own spinal cord
as the only measure of loss
he has to go by?
And even after
all the millennia of my walking,
I'm still only six feet closer to the stars
though my mind can embody all of space
in a solitary thought.
And the deep, inner silence
in the empty throne-room of my heart
where even the most profound events of my life
are seen to be ultimately no more
than the antics of a jester
playing with shadows,
turns out after all to be
just another mode of weeping.
It takes a lifetime
for a dropp of water
to gather the courage to fall
from the tip of a blade of stargrass,
and the tongue has tears
the eyes know nothing of.
I admire the cool crimson
on the brushes of the ground willow
as they try to catch my likeness
on the ice-primed canvas of the snow,
to portray me as I lived
they need to be loaded with blood not paint.
Like the moon
I have worn the same blossom
as a face
for years now
and I still don't know the fruit
that ripens beneath it;
whether my life has sweetened
in orchards of light,
or black dwarf of the forbidden apple
on a dead tree,
I taste like a full eclipse.
And what could it change even if I did know?
When the diaspora of my starseed
at a harvest of thorns;
who is the host
and who is the guest
and who asks for a menu?
And no matter how far from home
the journey takes him,
whether down a dead-end alley
or further than the stars
was there ever a man
who didn't walk to his own funeral
like a bell
looking for any beginning
that might not be lost in the end?
Or does the snake
that takes its tail in its mouth
as a gesture of eternity
eventually end up swallowing
its own head
like this stream before me
making its way to the sea?
I stepped across a star sill
through a vertical door into life
and in the leaving of it
I shall knock from the inside
on a door that's horizontal
to continue my descent toward earth
down a ladder of thresholds;
and what began so earnestly
among family and friends and lovers
will be concluded by a stranger
who will wear my name like a gravestone.
But here among the tangle
of these fallen trees, their roots
and washed like a corpse
by the water and the snow,
Venus peers through the fingers
of the branches above
where two crows have paired
like quotation marks
around the hearsay of the night
though I am left speechless
by the random beauty of the scene,
as if my voice had been released like a bird
into its own most intimate, inward vision
and that vision were everywhere you like the sky
it disappears into like I do
everytime my heart is opened
like one of the lockets of time
and I stare into your eyes
and the universe stares back
as you breathe out the night with all of its stars
and then I breathe you in
just as a golden feather of the moon
lands without a ripple
or unravelling wake
on the mirror of these lonely, black waters
I have followed deep into the darkness
like the urgent secret of my own lifestream,
and I know it's you. I know it's you.
The Odyssey: Book 18
Now there came a certain common tramp who used to go begging all
over the city of Ithaca, and was notorious as an incorrigible
glutton and drunkard. This man had no strength nor stay in him, but he
was a great hulking fellow to look at; his real name, the one his
mother gave him, was Arnaeus, but the young men of the place called
him Irus, because he used to run errands for any one who would send
him. As soon as he came he began to insult Ulysses, and to try and
drive him out of his own house.
"Be off, old man," he cried, "from the doorway, or you shall be
dragged out neck and heels. Do you not see that they are all giving me
the wink, and wanting me to turn you out by force, only I do not
like to do so? Get up then, and go of yourself, or we shall come to
Ulysses frowned on him and said, "My friend, I do you no manner of
harm; people give you a great deal, but I am not jealous. There is
room enough in this doorway for the pair of us, and you need not
grudge me things that are not yours to give. You seem to be just
such another tramp as myself, but perhaps the gods will give us better
luck by and by. Do not, however, talk too much about fighting or you
will incense me, and old though I am, I shall cover your mouth and
chest with blood. I shall have more peace to-morrow if I do, for you
will not come to the house of Ulysses any more."
Irus was very angry and answered, "You filthy glutton, you run on
trippingly like an old fish-fag. I have a good mind to lay both
hands about you, and knock your teeth out of your head like so many
boar's tusks. Get ready, therefore, and let these people here stand by
and look on. You will never be able to fight one who is so much
younger than yourself."
Thus roundly did they rate one another on the smooth pavement in
front of the doorway, and when Antinous saw what was going on he
laughed heartily and said to the others, "This is the finest sport
that you ever saw; heaven never yet sent anything like it into this
house. The stranger and Irus have quarreled and are going to fight,
let us set them on to do so at once."
The suitors all came up laughing, and gathered round the two
ragged tramps. "Listen to me," said Antinous, "there are some goats'
paunches down at the fire, which we have filled with blood and fat,
and set aside for supper; he who is victorious and proves himself to
be the better man shall have his pick of the lot; he shall be free
of our table and we will not allow any other beggar about the house at
The others all agreed, but Ulysses, to throw them off the scent,
said, "Sirs, an old man like myself, worn out with suffering, cannot
hold his own against a young one; but my irrepressible belly urges
me on, though I know it can only end in my getting a drubbing. You
must swear, however that none of you will give me a foul blow to
favour Irus and secure him the victory."
They swore as he told them, and when they had completed their oath
Telemachus put in a word and said, "Stranger, if you have a mind to
settle with this fellow, you need not be afraid of any one here.
Whoever strikes you will have to fight more than one. I am host, and
the other chiefs, Antinous and Eurymachus, both of them men of
understanding, are of the same mind as I am."
Every one assented, and Ulysses girded his old rags about his loins,
thus baring his stalwart thighs, his broad chest and shoulders, and
his mighty arms; but Minerva came up to him and made his limbs even
stronger still. The suitors were beyond measure astonished, and one
would turn towards his neighbour saying, "The stranger has brought
such a thigh out of his old rags that there will soon be nothing
left of Irus."
Irus began to be very uneasy as he heard them, but the servants
girded him by force, and brought him [into the open part of the court]
in such a fright that his limbs were all of a tremble. Antinous
scolded him and said, "You swaggering bully, you ought never to have
been born at all if you are afraid of such an old broken-down creature
as this tramp is. I say, therefore- and it shall surely be- if he
beats you and proves himself the better man, I shall pack you off on
board ship to the mainland and send you to king Echetus, who kills
every one that comes near him. He will cut off your nose and ears, and
draw out your entrails for the dogs to eat."
This frightened Irus still more, but they brought him into the
middle of the court, and the two men raised their hands to fight. Then
Ulysses considered whether he should let drive so hard at him as to
make an end of him then and there, or whether he should give him a
lighter blow that should only knock him down; in the end he deemed
it best to give the lighter blow for fear the Achaeans should begin to
suspect who he was. Then they began to fight, and Irus hit Ulysses
on the right shoulder; but Ulysses gave Irus a blow on the neck
under the ear that broke in the bones of his skull, and the blood came
gushing out of his mouth; he fell groaning in the dust, gnashing his
teeth and kicking on the ground, but the suitors threw up their
hands and nearly died of laughter, as Ulysses caught hold of him by
the foot and dragged him into the outer court as far as the
gate-house. There he propped him up against the wall and put his staff
in his hands. "Sit here," said he, "and keep the dogs and pigs off;
you are a pitiful creature, and if you try to make yourself king of
the beggars any more you shall fare still worse."
Then he threw his dirty old wallet, all tattered and torn, over
his shoulder with the cord by which it hung, and went back to sit down
upon the threshold; but the suitors went within the cloisters,
laughing and saluting him, "May Jove, and all the other gods," said
they, 'grant you whatever you want for having put an end to the
importunity of this insatiable tramp. We will take him over to the
mainland presently, to king Echetus, who kills every one that comes
Ulysses hailed this as of good omen, and Antinous set a great goat's
paunch before him filled with blood and fat. Amphinomus took two
loaves out of the bread-basket and brought them to him, pledging him
as he did so in a golden goblet of wine. "Good luck to you," he
said, "father stranger, you are very badly off at present, but I
hope you will have better times by and by."
To this Ulysses answered, "Amphinomus, you seem to be a man of
good understanding, as indeed you may well be, seeing whose son you
are. I have heard your father well spoken of; he is Nisus of
Dulichium, a man both brave and wealthy. They tell me you are his son,
and you appear to be a considerable person; listen, therefore, and
take heed to what I am saying. Man is the vainest of all creatures
that have their being upon earth. As long as heaven vouchsafes him
health and strength, he thinks that he shall come to no harm
hereafter, and even when the blessed gods bring sorrow upon him, he
bears it as he needs must, and makes the best of it; for God
Almighty gives men their daily minds day by day. I know all about
it, for I was a rich man once, and did much wrong in the
stubbornness of my pride, and in the confidence that my father and
my brothers would support me; therefore let a man fear God in all
things always, and take the good that heaven may see fit to send him
without vainglory. Consider the infamy of what these suitors are
doing; see how they are wasting the estate, and doing dishonour to the
wife, of one who is certain to return some day, and that, too, not
long hence. Nay, he will be here soon; may heaven send you home
quietly first that you may not meet with him in the day of his coming,
for once he is here the suitors and he will not part bloodlessly."
With these words he made a drink-offering, and when he had drunk
he put the gold cup again into the hands of Amphinomus, who walked
away serious and bowing his head, for he foreboded evil. But even so
he did not escape destruction, for Minerva had doomed him fall by
the hand of Telemachus. So he took his seat again at the place from
which he had come.
Then Minerva put it into the mind of Penelope to show herself to the
suitors, that she might make them still more enamoured of her, and win
still further honour from her son and husband. So she feigned a
mocking laugh and said, "Eurynome, I have changed my and have a
fancy to show myself to the suitors although I detest them. I should
like also to give my son a hint that he had better not have anything
more to do with them. They speak fairly enough but they mean
"My dear child," answered Eurynome, "all that you have said is true,
go and tell your son about it, but first wash yourself and anoint your
face. Do not go about with your cheeks all covered with tears; it is
not right that you should grieve so incessantly; for Telemachus,
whom you always prayed that you might live to see with a beard, is
already grown up."
"I know, Eurynome," replied Penelope, "that you mean well, but do
not try and persuade me to wash and to anoint myself, for heaven
robbed me of all my beauty on the day my husband sailed; nevertheless,
tell Autonoe and Hippodamia that I want them. They must be with me
when I am in the cloister; I am not going among the men alone; it
would not be proper for me to do so."
On this the old woman went out of the room to bid the maids go to
their mistress. In the meantime Minerva bethought her of another
matter, and sent Penelope off into a sweet slumber; so she lay down on
her couch and her limbs became heavy with sleep. Then the goddess shed
grace and beauty over her that all the Achaeans might admire her.
She washed her face with the ambrosial loveliness that Venus wears
when she goes dancing with the Graces; she made her taller and of a
more commanding figure, while as for her complexion it was whiter than
sawn ivory. When Minerva had done all this she went away, whereon
the maids came in from the women's room and woke Penelope with the
sound of their talking.
"What an exquisitely delicious sleep I have been having," said
she, as she passed her hands over her face, "in spite of all my
misery. I wish Diana would let me die so sweetly now at this very
moment, that I might no longer waste in despair for the loss of my
dear husband, who possessed every kind of good quality and was the
most distinguished man among the Achaeans."
With these words she came down from her upper room, not alone but
attended by two of her maidens, and when she reached the suitors she
stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister,
holding a veil before her face, and with a staid maid servant on
either side of her. As they beheld her the suitors were so overpowered
and became so desperately enamoured of her, that each one prayed he
might win her for his own bed fellow.
"Telemachus," said she, addressing her son, "I fear you are no
longer so discreet and well conducted as you used to be. When you were
younger you had a greater sense of propriety; now, however, that you
are grown up, though a stranger to look at you would take you for
the son of a well-to-do father as far as size and good looks go,
your conduct is by no means what it should be. What is all this
disturbance that has been going on, and how came you to allow a
stranger to be so disgracefully ill-treated? What would have
happened if he had suffered serious injury while a suppliant in our
house? Surely this would have been very discreditable to you."
"I am not surprised, my dear mother, at your displeasure," replied
Telemachus, "I understand all about it and know when things are not as
they should be, which I could not do when I was younger; I cannot,
however, behave with perfect propriety at all times. First one and
then another of these wicked people here keeps driving me out of my
mind, and I have no one to stand by me. After all, however, this fight
between Irus and the stranger did not turn out as the suitors meant it
to do, for the stranger got the best of it. I wish Father Jove,
Minerva, and Apollo would break the neck of every one of these
wooers of yours, some inside the house and some out; and I wish they
might all be as limp as Irus is over yonder in the gate of the outer
court. See how he nods his head like a drunken man; he has had such
a thrashing that he cannot stand on his feet nor get back to his home,
wherever that may be, for has no strength left in him."
Thus did they converse. Eurymachus then came up and said, "Queen
Penelope, daughter of Icarius, if all the Achaeans in Iasian Argos
could see you at this moment, you would have still more suitors in
your house by tomorrow morning, for you are the most admirable woman
in the whole world both as regards personal beauty and strength of
To this Penelope replied, "Eurymachus, heaven robbed me of all my
beauty whether of face or figure when the Argives set sail for Troy
and my dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after
my affairs, I should both be more respected and show a better presence
to the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the
afflictions which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. My husband
foresaw it all, and when he was leaving home he took my right wrist in
his hand- 'Wife, 'he said, 'we shall not all of us come safe home
from Troy, for the Trojans fight well both with bow and spear. They
are excellent also at fighting from chariots, and nothing decides
the issue of a fight sooner than this. I know not, therefore,
whether heaven will send me back to you, or whether I may not fall
over there at Troy. In the meantime do you look after things here.
Take care of my father and mother as at present, and even more so
during my absence, but when you see our son growing a beard, then
marry whom you will, and leave this your present home. This is what he
said and now it is all coming true. A night will come when I shall
have to yield myself to a marriage which I detest, for Jove has
taken from me all hope of happiness. This further grief, moreover,
cuts me to the very heart. You suitors are not wooing me after the
custom of my country. When men are courting a woman who they think
will be a good wife to them and who is of noble birth, and when they
are each trying to win her for himself, they usually bring oxen and
sheep to feast the friends of the lady, and they make her
magnificent presents, instead of eating up other people's property
without paying for it."
This was what she said, and Ulysses was glad when he heard her
trying to get presents out of the suitors, and flattering them with
fair words which he knew she did not mean.
Then Antinous said, "Queen Penelope, daughter of Icarius, take as
many presents as you please from any one who will give them to you; it
is not well to refuse a present; but we will not go about our business
nor stir from where we are, till you have married the best man among
us whoever he may be."
The others applauded what Antinous had said, and each one sent his
servant to bring his present. Antinous's man returned with a large and
lovely dress most exquisitely embroidered. It had twelve beautifully
made brooch pins of pure gold with which to fasten it. Eurymachus
immediately brought her a magnificent chain of gold and amber beads
that gleamed like sunlight. Eurydamas's two men returned with some
earrings fashioned into three brilliant pendants which glistened
most beautifully; while king Pisander son of Polyctor gave her a
necklace of the rarest workmanship, and every one else brought her a
beautiful present of some kind.
Then the queen went back to her room upstairs, and her maids brought
the presents after her. Meanwhile the suitors took to singing and
dancing, and stayed till evening came. They danced and sang till it
grew dark; they then brought in three braziers to give light, and
piled them up with chopped firewood very and dry, and they lit torches
from them, which the maids held up turn and turn about. Then Ulysses
"Maids, servants of Ulysses who has so long been absent, go to the
queen inside the house; sit with her and amuse her, or spin, and
pick wool. I will hold the light for all these people. They may stay
till morning, but shall not beat me, for I can stand a great deal."
The maids looked at one another and laughed, while pretty Melantho
began to gibe at him contemptuously. She was daughter to Dolius, but
had been brought up by Penelope, who used to give her toys to play
with, and looked after her when she was a child; but in spite of all
this she showed no consideration for the sorrows of her mistress,
and used to misconduct herself with Eurymachus, with whom she was in
"Poor wretch," said she, "are you gone clean out of your mind? Go
and sleep in some smithy, or place of public gossips, instead of
chattering here. Are you not ashamed of opening your mouth before your
betters- so many of them too? Has the wine been getting into your
head, or do you always babble in this way? You seem to have lost
your wits because you beat the tramp Irus; take care that a better man
than he does not come and cudgel you about the head till he pack you
bleeding out of the house."
"Vixen," replied Ulysses, scowling at her, "I will go and tell
Telemachus what you have been saying, and he will have you torn limb
With these words he scared the women, and they went off into the
body of the house. They trembled all aver, for they thought he would
do as he said. But Ulysses took his stand near the burning braziers,
holding up torches and looking at the people- brooding the while on
things that should surely come to pass.
But Minerva would not let the suitors for one moment cease their
insolence, for she wanted Ulysses to become even more bitter against
them; she therefore set Eurymachus son of Polybus on to gibe at him,
which made the others laugh. "Listen to me," said he, "you suitors
of Queen Penelope, that I may speak even as I am minded. It is not for
nothing that this man has come to the house of Ulysses; I believe
the light has not been coming from the torches, but from his own head-
for his hair is all gone, every bit of it."
Then turning to Ulysses he said, "Stranger, will you work as a
servant, if I send you to the wolds and see that you are well paid?
Can you build a stone fence, or plant trees? I will have you fed all
the year round, and will find you in shoes and clothing. Will you
go, then? Not you; for you have got into bad ways, and do not want
to work; you had rather fill your belly by going round the country
"Eurymachus," answered Ulysses, "if you and I were to work one
against the other in early summer when the days are at their
longest- give me a good scythe, and take another yourself, and let
us see which will fast the longer or mow the stronger, from dawn
till dark when the mowing grass is about. Or if you will plough
against me, let us each take a yoke of tawny oxen, well-mated and of
great strength and endurance: turn me into a four acre field, and
see whether you or I can drive the straighter furrow. If, again, war
were to break out this day, give me a shield, a couple of spears and a
helmet fitting well upon my temples- you would find me foremost in the
fray, and would cease your gibes about my belly. You are insolent
and cruel, and think yourself a great man because you live in a little
world, ind that a bad one. If Ulysses comes to his own again, the
doors of his house are wide, but you will find them narrow when you
try to fly through them."
Eurymachus was furious at all this. He scowled at him and cried,
"You wretch, I will soon pay you out for daring to say such things
to me, and in public too. Has the wine been getting into your head
or do you always babble in this way? You seem to have lost your wits
because you beat the tramp Irus. With this he caught hold of a
footstool, but Ulysses sought protection at the knees of Amphinomus of
Dulichium, for he was afraid. The stool hit the cupbearer on his right
hand and knocked him down: the man fell with a cry flat on his back,
and his wine-jug fell ringing to the ground. The suitors in the
covered cloister were now in an uproar, and one would turn towards his
neighbour, saying, "I wish the stranger had gone somewhere else, bad
luck to hide, for all the trouble he gives us. We cannot permit such
disturbance about a beggar; if such ill counsels are to prevail we
shall have no more pleasure at our banquet."
On this Telemachus came forward and said, "Sirs, are you mad? Can
you not carry your meat and your liquor decently? Some evil spirit has
possessed you. I do not wish to drive any of you away, but you have
had your suppers, and the sooner you all go home to bed the better."
The suitors bit their lips and marvelled at the boldness of his
speech; but Amphinomus the son of Nisus, who was son to Aretias, said,
"Do not let us take offence; it is reasonable, so let us make no
answer. Neither let us do violence to the stranger nor to any of
Ulysses' servants. Let the cupbearer go round with the
drink-offerings, that we may make them and go home to our rest. As for
the stranger, let us leave Telemachus to deal with him, for it is to
his house that he has come."
Thus did he speak, and his saying pleased them well, so Mulius of
Dulichium, servant to Amphinomus, mixed them a bowl of wine and
water and handed it round to each of them man by man, whereon they
made their drink-offerings to the blessed gods: Then, when they had
made their drink-offerings and had drunk each one as he was minded,
they took their several ways each of them to his own abode.
Orlando Furioso Canto 11
Assisted by the magic ring she wears,
Angelica evanishes from view.
Next in a damsel, whom a giant bears
Beneath his arm, his bride Rogero true
Beholds. Orlando to the shore repairs,
Where the fell orc so many damsels slew;
Olympia frees, and spoils the beast of life:
Her afterwards Oberto takes to wife.
Although a feeble rein, in mid career,
Will oft suffice to stop courageous horse;
'Tis seldom Reason's bit will serve to steer
Desire, or turn him from his furious course,
When pleasure is in reach: like headstrong bear,
Whom from the honeyed meal 'tis ill to force,
If once he scent the tempting mess, or sup
A drop, which hangs upon the luscious cup.
What reason then Rogero shall withhold
From taking with Angelica delight, -
That gentle maid, there naked in his hold,
In the lone forest, and secure from sight?
Of Bradamant he thinks not, who controlled
His bosom erst: and foolish were the knight,
If thinking of that damsel as before,
By this he had not set an equal store;
Warmed by whose youthful beauties, the severe
Xenocrates would not have been more chaste.
The impatient Child had dropt both shield and spear,
And hurrying now his other arms uncased;
When, casting down her eyes in shame and fear,
The virtuous ring upon her finger placed,
Angelica descried, and which of yore
From her Brunello in Albracca bore.
This is the ring she carried into France,
When thither first the damsel took her way;
With her the brother, bearer of the lance,
After, the paladin, Astolpho's prey.
With this she Malagigi's spells and trance
Made vain by Merlin's stair; and on a day
Orlando freed, with many knights and good,
From Dragontina's cruel servitude:
With this passed viewless from the turret-cell,
Where her that bad old man had mewed; but why
Recount its different wonders, if as well
You know the virtues of the ring as I?
From her this even in her citadel,
His monarch Agramant to satisfy,
Brunello took: since where she had been crost
By Fortune, till her native realm was lost.
Now that she this upon her hand surveys,
She is so full of pleasure and surprise,
She doubts it is a dream, and, in amaze,
Hardly believes her very hand and eyes.
Then softly to her mouth the hoop conveys,
And, quicker than the flash which cleaves the skies,
From bold Rogero's sight her beauty shrowds,
As disappears the sun, concealed in clouds.
Yet still Rogero gazed like wight distraught,
And hurried here and there with fruitless speed:
But when he had recalled the ring to thought,
Foiled and astounded, cursed his little heed.
And now the vanished lady, whom he sought,
Of that ungrateful and discourteous deed
Accusing stood, wherewith she had repaid,
(Unfitting recompense) his generous aid.
'Ungrateful damsel! and is this the pay
You render for the service done?' (said he)
'Why rather would you steal my ring away
Than have it as a welcome gift from me?
Not only this, (but use me as you may)
I, and my shield and courser, yours shall be;
So you no more conceal your beauteous cheer.
Cruel, though answering not, I know you hear.'
So saying, like one blind, with bootless care,
Feeling his way about the fount he strayed.
How often he embraced the empty air,
Hoping in this to have embraced the maid!
Meanwhile, now far removed, the flying fair
Had halted not, till to a cave conveyed.
Formed in a mountain was that harbour rude;
Spacious, and for her need supplied with food.
'Twas here an aged herdsman, one who tended
A numerous troop of mares, had made his won:
These, seeking pasture, through the valley wended,
Where the green grass was fed by freshening run:
While stalls on either side the cave, defended
His charge from the oppressive noon-tide sun;
Angelica, within, that livelong day,
Unseen of prying eyes, prolonged her stay;
And about evening, when refreshed with rest
And food, she deemed her course she might renew;
In certain rustic weeds her body dressed:
How different from those robes of red, or blue,
Green, yellow, purple, her accustomed vest,
So various in its fashion, shape, and hue!
Yet her not so that habit misbecame,
But that she looked the fair and noble dame.
Then Phillis' and Neaera's praise forbear,
And ye who sing of Amaryllis cease,
Or flying Galataea, not so fair,
Tityrus and Melibaeus, with your peace!
'Twas here the beauteous lady took a mare,
Which liked her best, of all that herd's increase.
Then, and then first conceived the thought, again
To seek in the Levant her antient reign.
This while Rogero, after he had passed
Long space in hope the maid might re-appear,
Awakened from his foolish dream at last,
And found she was not nigh, and did not hear.
Then to remount his griffin-courser cast,
In earth and air accustomed to career.
But, having slipt his bit, the winged horse
Had towered and soared in air a freer course.
To his first ill addition grave and sore
Was to have lost the bird of rapid wing,
Which he no better than the mockery bore
Put on him by the maid; but deeper sting
Than this or that, implants, and pains him more,
The thought of having lost the precious ring;
Not for its power so much, esteemed above
Its worth, as given him by his lady love.
Afflicted beyond measure, he, with shield
Cast on his shoulder, and new-cased in mail,
Left the sea-side, and through a grassy field
Pursued his way, towards a spacious vale:
Where he beheld a path, by wood concealed,
The widest and most beaten in the dale.
Nor far had wound the closest shades within,
Ere on his right he heard a mighty din.
He heard a din, and fearful clashing sound
Of arms, and hurrying on with eager pace
'Twixt tree and tree, two furious champions found,
Waging fierce fight in close and straightened place:
Who to each other (warring on what ground
I know not) neither showed regard nor grace.
The one a giant was of haughty cheer,
And one a bold and gallant cavalier.
Covered with shield and sword, one, leaping, sped
Now here now there, and thus himself defended,
Lest a two-handed mace upon his head
Should fall, with which the giant still offended: -
On the field lay his horse, already dead.
Rogero paused, and to the strife attended:
And straight his wishes leant towards the knight,
Whom he would fain see conqueror in the fight:
Yet not for this would lend the champion aid,
But to behold the cruel strife stood nigh.
Lo! a two-handed stroke the giant made
Upon the lesser warrior's casque, and by
The mighty blow the knight was overlaid:
The other, when astound he saw him lie,
To deal the foe his death, his helm untied,
So that the warrior's face Rogero spied.
Of his sweet lady, of his passing fair,
And dearest Bradamant Rogero spies
The lovely visage of its helmet bare;
Towards whom, to deal her death, the giant hies:
So that, advancing with his sword in air,
To sudden battle him the Child defies,
But he, who will not wait for new alarm,
Takes the half-lifeless lady in his arm,
And on his shoulder flings and bears away;
As sometimes wolf a little lamb will bear,
Or eagle in her crooked claws convey
Pigeon, or such-like bird, through liquid air.
Rogero runs with all the speed he may,
Who sees how needed is his succour there.
But with such strides the giant scours the plain,
Him with his eyes the knight pursues with pain.
This flying and that following, the two
Kept a close path which widened still, and they
Piercing that forest, issued forth to view
On a wide meadow, which without it lay.
- No more of this. Orlando I pursue,
That bore Cymosco's thunder-bolt away;
And this had in the deepest bottom drowned,
That never more the mischief might be found.
But with small boot: for the impious enemy
Of human nature, taught the bolt to frame,
After the shaft, which darting from the sky
Pierces the cloud and comes to ground in flame,
Who, when he tempted Eve to eat and die
With the apple, hardly wrought more scathe and shame,
Some deal before, or in our grandsires' day,
Guided a necromancer where it lay.
More than a hundred fathom buried so,
Where hidden it had lain a mighty space,
The infernal tool by magic from below
Was fished and born amid the German race;
Who, by one proof and the other, taught to know
Its powers, and he who plots for our disgrace,
The demon, working on their weaker wit,
As last upon its fatal purpose hit.
To Italy and France, on every hand
The cruel art among all people past:
And these the bronze in hollow mould expand,
First in the furnace melted by the blast:
Others the iron bore, and small or grand,
Fashion the various tube they pierce or cast.
And bombard, gun, according to its frame,
Or single cannon this, or double, name.
This saker, culverine, or falcon hight,
I hear (all names the inventor has bestowed);
Which splits or shivers steel and stone outright,
And, where the bullet passes, makes a road.
- Down to the sword, restore thy weapons bright,
Sad soldier, to the forge, a useless load;
And gun or carbine on thy shoulder lay,
Who without these, I wot, shalt touch no pay.
How, foul and pestilent discovery,
Didst thou find place within the human heart?
Through thee is martial glory lost, through thee
The trade of arms became a worthless art:
And at such ebb are worth and chivalry,
That the base often plays the better part.
Through thee no more shall gallantry, no more
Shall valour prove their prowess as of yore.
Through thee, alas! are dead, or have to die,
So many noble lords and cavaliers
Before this war shall end, which, Italy
Afflicting most, has drowned the world in tears,
That, if I said the word, I err not, I,
Saying he sure the cruellest appears
And worst, of nature's impious and malign,
Who did this hateful engine first design:
And I shall think, in order to pursue
The sin for ever, God has doomed to hell
That cursed soul, amid the unhappy crew,
Beside the accursed Judas there to dwell.
But follow we the good Orlando, who
So burns to seek Ebuda's island fell,
Whose foul inhabitants a monster sate
With flesh of women, fair and delicate.
But no less slow than eager was the knight:
The winds appear, which still his course delay;
Who, whether blowing on the left or right,
Or poop, so faintly in his canvas play,
His bark makes little speed; and, spent outright,
The breeze which wafts her sometimes dies away,
Or blows so foul, that he is fain to steer
Another course, or to the leeward veer.
It was the will of Heaven that he, before
The King of Ireland, should not reach the land,
The he with greater ease upon that shore
Might act what shortly you shall understand.
'Make for the isle. Now' (said he) 'may'st thou moor,'
(Thus issuing to the pilot his command),
'And give me for my need the skiff; for I
Will to the rock without more company.
'The biggest cable that thou hast aboard,
And biggest anchor to my hands consign;
Thou shalt perceive why thus my boat is stored,
If I but meet that monster of the brine.'
He bade them lower the pinnace overboard,
With all things that befitted his design:
His arms he left behind, except his blade,
And singly for the rocky island made.
Home to his breast the count pulls either oar,
With the island at his back, to which he wends,
In guise that, crawling up the sandy shore,
The crooked crab from sea or marsh ascends.
It was the hour Aurora gay before
The rising sun her yellow hair extends
(His orb as yet half-seen, half-hid from sight)
Not without stirring jealous Tithon's spite.
Approaching to the naked rock as near
As vigorous hand might serve to cast a stone,
He knew not if he heard, or did not hear
A cry, so faint and feeble was the moan.
When, turning to the left, the cavalier,
His level sight along the water thrown,
Naked as born, bound to a stump, espied
A dame whose feet were wetted by the tide.
Because she distant is, and evermore
Holds down her face, he ill can her discern:
Both sculls he pulls amain, and nears the shore,
With keen desire more certain news to learn:
But now the winding beach is heard to roar,
And wood and cave the mighty noise return;
The billows swell, and, lo! the beast! who pressed,
And nigh concealed the sea beneath his breast.
As cloud from humid vale is seen to rise,
Pregnant with rain and storm, which seems withal
To extinguished day, and charged with deeper dyes
Than night, to spread throughout this earthly ball,
So swims the beast, who so much occupies
Of sea, he may be said to keep it all.
Waves roar: collected in himself, the peer
Looks proudly on, unchanged in heart and cheer.
He, as one well resolved in his intent,
Moved quickly to perform the feat he planned;
And, for he would the damsel's harm prevent,
And would with that assail the beast at hand,
Between her and the orc the boat he sent,
Leaving within the sheath his idle brand,
Anchor and cable next he takes in hold,
And waits the foe with constant heart and bold.
As soon as him the monster has descried,
And skiff at little interval, his throat
The fish, to swallow him, expands so wide,
That horse and horseman through his jaws might float.
Here Roland with the anchor, and beside
(Unless I am mistaken) with the boat
Plunged, and engulphed the parted teeth betwixt,
His anchor in the tongue and palate fixt;
So that the monster could no longer drop
Or raise his horrid jaws, which this extends.
'Tis thus who digs the mine is wont to prop
The ground, and where he works the roof suspends,
Lest sudden ruin whelm him from atop,
While he incautiously his task intends.
Roland (so far apart was either hook)
But by a leap could reach the highest crook.
The prop so placed, Orlando now secure
That the fell beast his mouth no more can close,
Unsheathes his sword, and, in that cave obscure,
Deals here and there, now thrusts, now trenchant blows.
As well as citadel, whose walls immure
The assailants, can defend her from her foes,
The monster, harassed by the war within,
Defends himself against the Paladin.
Now floats the monstrous beast, o'ercome with pain,
Whose scaly flanks upon the waves expand;
And now descends into the deepest main,
Scowers at the bottom, and stirs up the sand.
The rising flood ill able to sustain,
The cavalier swims forth, and makes for land.
He leaves the anchor fastened in his tongue,
And grasps the rope which from the anchor hung.
So swimming till the island is attained,
With this towards the rock Orlando speeds:
He hawls the anchor home (a footing gained),
Pricked by whose double fluke, the monster bleeds.
The labouring orc to follow is constrained,
Dragged by that force which every force exceeds;
Which at a single sally more achieves
Than at ten turns the circling windlass heaves.
As a wild bull, about whose horn is wound
The unexpected noose, leaps here and there,
When he has felt the cord, and turns him round,
And rolls and rises, yet slips not the snare;
So from his pleasant seat and ancient bound,
Dragged by that arm and rope he cannot tear,
With thousands of strange wheels and thousand slides,
The monster follows where the cable guides.
This the red sea with reason would be hight
To-day, such streams of blood have changed its hue;
And where the monster lashed it in his spite,
The eye its bottom through the waves might view.
And now he splashed the sky, and dimmed the light
Of the clear sun, so high the water flew.
The noise re-echoing round, the distant shore
And wood and hill rebound the deafening roar.
Forth from his grotto aged Proteus hies,
And mounts above the surface at the sound;
And having seen Orlando dive, and rise
From the orc, and drag the monstrous fish to ground,
His scattered flock forgot, o'er ocean flies;
While so the din increases, that, astound,
Neptune bids yoke his dolphins, and that day
For distant Aethiopia posts away.
With Melicerta on her shoulders, weeping
Ino, and Nereids with dishevelled hair,
The Glauci, Tritons, and their fellows, leaping
They know not whither, speed, some here, some there.
Orlando draws to land, the billows sweeping,
That horrid fish, but might his labour spare:
For, with the torment worn, and travel sore,
The brute, exhausted, died, ere dragged ashore.
Of the islanders had trooped no petty throng,
To witness that strange fight, who by a vain
And miserable superstition stung,
Esteemed such holy deed a work profane;
And said that this would be another wrong
To Proteus, and provoke his ire again;
Make him his herds pour forth upon the strand,
And with the whole old warfare vex the land;
And that it better were to sue for peace,
First from the injured god, lest worse ensue;
And Proteus from his cruel hate would cease,
If they into the sea the offender threw.
As torch to torch gives fire, and lights increase,
Until the flame is spread the country through,
Even so from heart to heart the fury spread,
Which in the waves would doom Orlando dead.
These, armed with sling or bow, upon the shore,
And these supplied with spear or sword descend;
And on each side, behind him and before,
Distant and near, as best they can, offend.
At such a brutal insult wonders sore
The peer, who sees that mischief they intend,
In vengeance for the cruel monster slain,
Whence he had glory hoped, and praise to gain.
But as the usage is of surly bear,
By sturdy Russ or Lithuanian led,
Little to heed the dogs in crowded fair,
Nor even at their yelps to turn his head,
The clamour of the churls assembled there
Orlando witnessed with as little dread;
Who knew that he the rout which threatened death,
Had power to scatter at a single breath:
And speedily he made them yield him place,
When turned on them, he grasped his trenchant blade.
Misjudging of his worth, the foolish race
Deemed that he would have short resistance made;
Since him they saw no covering buckler brace,
Uncuirassed, nor in other arms arrayed;
But knew not that, from head to foot, a skin
More hard than diamond cased the Paladin.
What by Orlando others cannot do,
The knight by others can; at half a score
Of blows in all he thirty killed; by few
He passed that measure, if the strokes were more:
And had already turned him to undo
The naked lady, having cleared the shore,
When other larum sounds, and other cries
From a new quarter of the island rise.
While so the Paladin had kept in play
The barbarous islanders, upon that hand,
The men of Ireland, without let or fray,
Had poured from many quarters on the strand:
And now, without remorse or pity, slay
The inhabitants, through all the wasted land;
And, was it justice moved, or cruel rage,
Slaughter without regard to sex or age.
Little or no defender the island-crew
Attempt; in part as taken unaware,
In part that in the little place are few,
And that those few without a purpose are.
'Mid sack and fire, the wasted country through,
The islanders are slain, and everwhere
The walls are upon earth in ruin spread,
Nor in the land is left a living head.
As if the mighty tumult which he hears,
And shriek and ruin had concerned him nought,
The naked rock the bold Orlando nears,
Where she was placed, to feed the monster brought.
He looks, and known to him the dame appears,
And more appears, when nigher her he sought:
Olympia she appears, and is indeed
Olympia, whose faith reaped so ill a meed.
Wretched Olympia; whom, beside the scorn
Which Love put on her, Fortune too pursued,
Who sent the corsairs fell, which her had born
That very day to the island of Ebude.
She Roland recollects on his return
Landward; but, for the damsel naked stood,
Not only nought she to the warrior said,
But dared not raise her eyes, and dropt her head.
Orlando asks what evil destiny
Her to that cruel island had conveyed
From where she in as much felicity
Was with her consort left as could be said:
'I know not (cried the weeping dame) if I
Have thanks to render thee for death delayed,
Or should lament me that, through means of thee,
This day did not my woes concluded see.
'I have to thank thee that from death, too dread
And monstrous, thy good arm deliverance gave;
Which would have been too monstrous, had I fed
The beast, and in his belly found a grave:
But cannot thank thee that I am not dead,
Since death alone can me from misery save,
Well shall I thank thee for that wished relief,
Which can deliver me from every grief.'
Next she related, with loud sobs and sighs,
How her false spouse betrayed her as she lay
Asleep, and how of pirates made the prize,
They bore her from the desert isle away.
And, as she spake, she turned her in the guise
Of Dian, framed by artists, who pourtray
Her carved or painted, as in liquid font
She threw the water in Actaeon's front.
For, as she can, her waist she hides, and breast,
More liberal of flowing flank and reins.
Roland desires his ship, to find a vest
To cover her, delivered from her chains:
While he is all intent upon this quest,
Oberto comes; Oberto, he that reigns
O'er Ireland's people, who had understood
How lifeless lay the monster of the flood;
And, swimming, how, amid the watery roar,
A knight a weighty anchor in his throat
Had fix'd, and so had dragged him to the shore,
As men against the current track a boat.
This while Oberto comes; who, if his lore,
Who told the tale, were true, desires to note;
While his invading army, far and wide,
Ebuda burn and waste on every side.
Oberto, though the Paladin to sight
Was dripping, and with water foul and gore;
With gore, that from the orc, emerged to light,
Whom he had entered bodily, he bore,
He for the country knew the stranger knight
As he perused his face; so much the more,
That he had thought when told the tidings, none
Save Roland could such mighty fear have done;
Knew him, because a page of honour he
Had been in France, and for the crown, his right
Upon his father's death, had crossed the sea
The year before. So often he the knight
Had seen, and had with him held colloquy,
Their times of meeting had been infinite.
He doffed his casque, with festive welcome pressed
Towards the count, and clasped him to the breast.
Orlando is no less rejoined to see
The king, than is the king that champion true.
After with friendly cheer and equal glee
Had once or twice embraced the noble two,
To Oberto Roland told the treachery
Which had been done the youthful dame, and who
Had done it, - false Bireno - that among
All men should least have sought to do her wrong.
To him he told the many proofs and clear
By which the dame's affection had been tried;
And how she for Bireno kin and geer
Had lost, and would in fine for him have died.
And how he this could warrant, and appear
To vouch for much, as witness on her side.
While thus to him her griefs Orlando showed,
The lady's shining eyes with tears o'erflowed.
Her face was such as sometimes in the spring
We see a doubtful sky, when on the plain
A shower descends, and the sun, opening
His cloudy veil, looks out amid the rain.
And as the nightingale then loves to sing
From branch of verdant stem her dulcet strain,
So in her beauteous tears his pinions bright
Love bathes, rejoicing in the chrystal light.
The stripling heats his golden arrow's head
At her bright eyes, then slacks the weapon's glow
In streams, which falls between white flowers and red;
And, the shaft tempered, strongly draws his bow,
And roves at him, o'er whom no shield is spread,
Nor iron rind, nor double mail below;
Who, gazing on her tresses, eyes, and brow,
Feels that his heart is pierced, he knows not how.
Olympia's beauties are of those most rare,
Nor is the forehead's beauteous curve alone
Excellent, and her eyes and cheeks and hair,
Mouth, nose, and throat, and shoulders; but, so down
Descending from the lady's bosom fair,
Parts which are wont to be concealed by gown,
Are such, as haply should be placed before
Whate'er this ample world contains in store.
In whiteness they surpassed unsullied snow,
Smooth ivory to the touch: above were seen
Two rounding paps, like new-pressed milk in show,
Fresh-taken from its crate of rushes green;
The space betwixt was like the valley low,
Which oftentimes we see small hills between,
Sweet in its season, and now such as when
Winter with snows has newly filled the glen.
The swelling hips and haunches' symmetry,
The waist more clear than mirror's polished grain,
And members seem of Phidias' turnery,
Or work of better hand and nicer pain.
As well to you of other parts should I
Relate, which she to hide desired in vain.
To sum the beauteous whole, from head to feet,
In her all loveliness is found complete.
And had she in the Idaean glen unveiled
In ancient days before the Phrygian swain,
By how much heavenly Venus had prevailed
I know not, though her rivals strove in vain.
Nor haply had the youth for Sparta sailed,
To violate the hospitable reign;
But said: 'With Menelaus let Helen rest!
No other prize I seek, of this possest';
Or in Crotona dwelt, where the divine
Zeuxis in days of old his work projected,
To be the ornament of Juno's shrine,
And hence so many naked dames collected;
And in one form perfection to combine,
Some separate charm from this or that selected,
He from no other model need have wrought.
Since joined in her were all the charms he sought.
I do not think Bireno ever viewed
Naked that beauteous form; for sure it were
He never could have been so stern of mood,
As to have left her on that desert lair.
That Ireland's king was fired I well conclude,
Nor hid the flame that he within him bare.
He strives to comfort her, and hope instill,
That future good shall end her present ill.
And her to Holland promises to bear,
And vows till she is to her state restored,
And just and memorable vengeance there
Achieved upon her perjured, traitor lord,
He never will unceasing war forbear,
Waged with all means that Ireland can afford;
And this with all his speed. He, up and down,
Meantime bids seek for female vest and gown.
Now will it need to send in search of vest
Beyond the savage island's narrow bound,
Since thither every day in such came dressed,
Some dame, to feed the beast, from countries round.
Nor long his followers there pursued the quest,
Ere many they of various fashions found.
So was Olympia clothed; while sad of mood
Was he, not so to clothe her as he wou'd.
But never silk so choice or gold so fine
Did the industrious Florentine prepare,
Nor whosoever broiders gay design,
Though on his task be spent time, toil, and care,
Nor Lemnos' god, nor Pallas' art divine,
Form raiment worthy of those limbs so fair,
That King Oberto cannot choose but he
Recalls them at each turn to memory.
To see that love so kindled by the dame,
On many grounds Orlando was content;
Who not alone rejoiced that such a shame
Put upon her, Bireno should repent;
But, that in the design on which he came,
He should be freed from grave impediment.
Not for Olympia thither had he made,
But, were his lady there, to lend her aid.
To him, that there she was not, soon was clear,
But clear it was not if she had been there,
Or no; since of those islesmen, far and near,
One was not left the tidings to declare.
The following day they from the haven steer,
And all united in one squadron fare.
The Paladin with them to Ireland hies,
From whence to France the warrior's passage lies.
Scarcely a day in Ireland's realm he spends:
And for no prayers his purposed end forbore:
Love, that in quest of his liege-lady sends
The knight upon this track, permits no more.
Departing, he Olympia recommends
To the Irish monarch, who to serve her swore:
Although this needed not; since he was bent
More than behoved, her wishes to content:
So levied in few days his warlike band,
And (league with England's kind and Scotland's made)
In Holland and in Friesland left no land
To the false duke, so rapid was the raid.
And to rebel against that lord's command
His Zealand stirred; nor he the war delayed,
Until by him Bireno's blood was spilt:
A punishment that ill atoned his guilt.
Oberto takes to wife Olympia fair,
And her of countess makes a puissant queen.
But be the Paladin again our care,
Who furrows , night and day, the billows green,
And strikes his sails in the same harbour, where
They to the wind erewhile unfurled had been
All armed, he on his Brigliadoro leaps,
And leaves behind him winds and briny deeps.
The remnant of the winter, he with shield
And spear achieved things worthy to be shown,
I ween; but these were then so well concealed,
It is no fault of mine they are not blown;
For good Orlando was in fighting field,
Prompter to do, than make his prowess known.
Nor e'er was bruited action of the knight,
Save when some faithful witness was in sight.
That winter's remnant he so passed that feat
Of his was known not to the public ear;
But when within that animal discreet
Which Phryxus bore, the sun illumed the sphere,
And Zephyrus returning glad and sweet,
Brought back with him again the blooming year,
The wondrous deeds Orlando did in stower,
Appeared with the new grass and dainty flower.
From plain to hill, from champaign flat to shore,
Oppressed with grief and pain the County fares,
When a long cry, entering a forest hoar,
- A load lamenting smites upon his ears.
He grasps his brand and spurs his courser sore,
And swiftly pricks toward the sound he hears.
But I shall at another season say
What chanced, and may be heard in future lay.
The Odyssey: Book 9
And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, it is a good thing to hear a
bard with such a divine voice as this man has. There is nothing better
or more delightful than when a whole people make merry together,
with the guests sitting orderly to listen, while the table is loaded
with bread and meats, and the cup-bearer draws wine and fills his
cup for every man. This is indeed as fair a sight as a man can see.
Now, however, since you are inclined to ask the story of my sorrows,
and rekindle my own sad memories in respect of them, I do not know how
to begin, nor yet how to continue and conclude my tale, for the hand
of heaven has been laid heavily upon me.
"Firstly, then, I will tell you my name that you too may know it,
and one day, if I outlive this time of sorrow, may become my there
guests though I live so far away from all of you. I am Ulysses son
of Laertes, reknowned among mankind for all manner of subtlety, so
that my fame ascends to heaven. I live in Ithaca, where there is a
high mountain called Neritum, covered with forests; and not far from
it there is a group of islands very near to one another- Dulichium,
Same, and the wooded island of Zacynthus. It lies squat on the
horizon, all highest up in the sea towards the sunset, while the
others lie away from it towards dawn. It is a rugged island, but it
breeds brave men, and my eyes know none that they better love to
look upon. The goddess Calypso kept me with her in her cave, and
wanted me to marry her, as did also the cunning Aeaean goddess
Circe; but they could neither of them persuade me, for there is
nothing dearer to a man than his own country and his parents, and
however splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it be far
from father or mother, he does not care about it. Now, however, I will
tell you of the many hazardous adventures which by Jove's will I met
with on my return from Troy.
"When I had set sail thence the wind took me first to Ismarus, which
is the city of the Cicons. There I sacked the town and put the
people to the sword. We took their wives and also much booty, which we
divided equitably amongst us, so that none might have reason to
complain. I then said that we had better make off at once, but my
men very foolishly would not obey me, so they stayed there drinking
much wine and killing great numbers of sheep and oxen on the sea
shore. Meanwhile the Cicons cried out for help to other Cicons who
lived inland. These were more in number, and stronger, and they were
more skilled in the art of war, for they could fight, either from
chariots or on foot as the occasion served; in the morning, therefore,
they came as thick as leaves and bloom in summer, and the hand of
heaven was against us, so that we were hard pressed. They set the
battle in array near the ships, and the hosts aimed their
bronze-shod spears at one another. So long as the day waxed and it was
still morning, we held our own against them, though they were more
in number than we; but as the sun went down, towards the time when men
loose their oxen, the Cicons got the better of us, and we lost half
a dozen men from every ship we had; so we got away with those that
"Thence we sailed onward with sorrow in our hearts, but glad to have
escaped death though we had lost our comrades, nor did we leave till
we had thrice invoked each one of the poor fellows who had perished by
the hands of the Cicons. Then Jove raised the North wind against us
till it blew a hurricane, so that land and sky were hidden in thick
clouds, and night sprang forth out of the heavens. We let the ships
run before the gale, but the force of the wind tore our sails to
tatters, so we took them down for fear of shipwreck, and rowed our
hardest towards the land. There we lay two days and two nights
suffering much alike from toil and distress of mind, but on the
morning of the third day we again raised our masts, set sail, and took
our places, letting the wind and steersmen direct our ship. I should
have got home at that time unharmed had not the North wind and the
currents been against me as I was doubling Cape Malea, and set me
off my course hard by the island of Cythera.
"I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the
sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eater,
who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to
take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore
near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company
to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they
had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among
the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the
lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring
about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened
to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the
Lotus-eater without thinking further of their return; nevertheless,
though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made
them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at
once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting
to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with
"We sailed hence, always in much distress, till we came to the
land of the lawless and inhuman Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes neither
plant nor plough, but trust in providence, and live on such wheat,
barley, and grapes as grow wild without any kind of tillage, and their
wild grapes yield them wine as the sun and the rain may grow them.
They have no laws nor assemblies of the people, but live in caves on
the tops of high mountains; each is lord and master in his family, and
they take no account of their neighbours.
"Now off their harbour there lies a wooded and fertile island not
quite close to the land of the Cyclopes, but still not far. It is
overrun with wild goats, that breed there in great numbers and are
never disturbed by foot of man; for sportsmen- who as a rule will
suffer so much hardship in forest or among mountain precipices- do not
go there, nor yet again is it ever ploughed or fed down, but it lies a
wilderness untilled and unsown from year to year, and has no living
thing upon it but only goats. For the Cyclopes have no ships, nor
yet shipwrights who could make ships for them; they cannot therefore
go from city to city, or sail over the sea to one another's country as
people who have ships can do; if they had had these they would have
colonized the island, for it is a very good one, and would yield
everything in due season. There are meadows that in some places come
right down to the sea shore, well watered and full of luscious
grass; grapes would do there excellently; there is level land for
ploughing, and it would always yield heavily at harvest time, for
the soil is deep. There is a good harbour where no cables are
wanted, nor yet anchors, nor need a ship be moored, but all one has to
do is to beach one's vessel and stay there till the wind becomes
fair for putting out to sea again. At the head of the harbour there is
a spring of clear water coming out of a cave, and there are poplars
growing all round it.
"Here we entered, but so dark was the night that some god must
have brought us in, for there was nothing whatever to be seen. A thick
mist hung all round our ships; the moon was hidden behind a mass of
clouds so that no one could have seen the island if he had looked
for it, nor were there any breakers to tell us we were close in
shore before we found ourselves upon the land itself; when, however,
we had beached the ships, we took down the sails, went ashore and
camped upon the beach till daybreak.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, we admired
the island and wandered all over it, while the nymphs Jove's daughters
roused the wild goats that we might get some meat for our dinner. On
this we fetched our spears and bows and arrows from the ships, and
dividing ourselves into three bands began to shoot the goats. Heaven
sent us excellent sport; I had twelve ships with me, and each ship got
nine goats, while my own ship had ten; thus through the livelong day
to the going down of the sun we ate and drank our fill,- and we had
plenty of wine left, for each one of us had taken many jars full
when we sacked the city of the Cicons, and this had not yet run out.
While we were feasting we kept turning our eyes towards the land of
the Cyclopes, which was hard by, and saw the smoke of their stubble
fires. We could almost fancy we heard their voices and the bleating of
their sheep and goats, but when the sun went down and it came on dark,
we camped down upon the beach, and next morning I called a council.
"'Stay here, my brave fellows,' said I, 'all the rest of you,
while I go with my ship and exploit these people myself: I want to see
if they are uncivilized savages, or a hospitable and humane race.'
"I went on board, bidding my men to do so also and loose the
hawsers; so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their
oars. When we got to the land, which was not far, there, on the face
of a cliff near the sea, we saw a great cave overhung with laurels. It
was a station for a great many sheep and goats, and outside there
was a large yard, with a high wall round it made of stones built
into the ground and of trees both pine and oak. This was the abode
of a huge monster who was then away from home shepherding his
flocks. He would have nothing to do with other people, but led the
life of an outlaw. He was a horrid creature, not like a human being at
all, but resembling rather some crag that stands out boldly against
the sky on the top of a high mountain.
"I told my men to draw the ship ashore, and stay where they were,
all but the twelve best among them, who were to go along with
myself. I also took a goatskin of sweet black wine which had been
given me by Maron, Apollo son of Euanthes, who was priest of Apollo
the patron god of Ismarus, and lived within the wooded precincts of
the temple. When we were sacking the city we respected him, and spared
his life, as also his wife and child; so he made me some presents of
great value- seven talents of fine gold, and a bowl of silver, with
twelve jars of sweet wine, unblended, and of the most exquisite
flavour. Not a man nor maid in the house knew about it, but only
himself, his wife, and one housekeeper: when he drank it he mixed
twenty parts of water to one of wine, and yet the fragrance from the
mixing-bowl was so exquisite that it was impossible to refrain from
drinking. I filled a large skin with this wine, and took a wallet full
of provisions with me, for my mind misgave me that I might have to
deal with some savage who would be of great strength, and would
respect neither right nor law.
"We soon reached his cave, but he was out shepherding, so we went
inside and took stock of all that we could see. His cheese-racks
were loaded with cheeses, and he had more lambs and kids than his pens
could hold. They were kept in separate flocks; first there were the
hoggets, then the oldest of the younger lambs and lastly the very
young ones all kept apart from one another; as for his dairy, all
the vessels, bowls, and milk pails into which he milked, were swimming
with whey. When they saw all this, my men begged me to let them
first steal some cheeses, and make off with them to the ship; they
would then return, drive down the lambs and kids, put them on board
and sail away with them. It would have been indeed better if we had
done so but I would not listen to them, for I wanted to see the
owner himself, in the hope that he might give me a present. When,
however, we saw him my poor men found him ill to deal with.
"We lit a fire, offered some of the cheeses in sacrifice, ate others
of them, and then sat waiting till the Cyclops should come in with his
sheep. When he came, he brought in with him a huge load of dry
firewood to light the fire for his supper, and this he flung with such
a noise on to the floor of his cave that we hid ourselves for fear
at the far end of the cavern. Meanwhile he drove all the ewes
inside, as well as the she-goats that he was going to milk, leaving
the males, both rams and he-goats, outside in the yards. Then he
rolled a huge stone to the mouth of the cave- so huge that two and
twenty strong four-wheeled waggons would not be enough to draw it from
its place against the doorway. When he had so done he sat down and
milked his ewes and goats, all in due course, and then let each of
them have her own young. He curdled half the milk and set it aside
in wicker strainers, but the other half he poured into bowls that he
might drink it for his supper. When he had got through with all his
work, he lit the fire, and then caught sight of us, whereon he said:
"'Strangers, who are you? Where do sail from? Are you traders, or do
you sail the as rovers, with your hands against every man, and every
man's hand against you?'
"We were frightened out of our senses by his loud voice and
monstrous form, but I managed to say, 'We are Achaeans on our way home
from Troy, but by the will of Jove, and stress of weather, we have
been driven far out of our course. We are the people of Agamemnon, son
of Atreus, who has won infinite renown throughout the whole world,
by sacking so great a city and killing so many people. We therefore
humbly pray you to show us some hospitality, and otherwise make us
such presents as visitors may reasonably expect. May your excellency
fear the wrath of heaven, for we are your suppliants, and Jove takes
all respectable travellers under his protection, for he is the avenger
of all suppliants and foreigners in distress.'
"To this he gave me but a pitiless answer, 'Stranger,' said he, 'you
are a fool, or else you know nothing of this country. Talk to me,
indeed, about fearing the gods or shunning their anger? We Cyclopes do
not care about Jove or any of your blessed gods, for we are ever so
much stronger than they. I shall not spare either yourself or your
companions out of any regard for Jove, unless I am in the humour for
doing so. And now tell me where you made your ship fast when you
came on shore. Was it round the point, or is she lying straight off
"He said this to draw me out, but I was too cunning to be caught
in that way, so I answered with a lie; 'Neptune,' said I, 'sent my
ship on to the rocks at the far end of your country, and wrecked it.
We were driven on to them from the open sea, but I and those who are
with me escaped the jaws of death.'
"The cruel wretch vouchsafed me not one word of answer, but with a
sudden clutch he gripped up two of my men at once and dashed them down
upon the ground as though they had been puppies. Their brains were
shed upon the ground, and the earth was wet with their blood. Then
he tore them limb from limb and supped upon them. He gobbled them up
like a lion in the wilderness, flesh, bones, marrow, and entrails,
without leaving anything uneaten. As for us, we wept and lifted up our
hands to heaven on seeing such a horrid sight, for we did not know
what else to do; but when the Cyclops had filled his huge paunch,
and had washed down his meal of human flesh with a drink of neat milk,
he stretched himself full length upon the ground among his sheep,
and went to sleep. I was at first inclined to seize my sword, draw it,
and drive it into his vitals, but I reflected that if I did we
should all certainly be lost, for we should never be able to shift the
stone which the monster had put in front of the door. So we stayed
sobbing and sighing where we were till morning came.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, he again
lit his fire, milked his goats and ewes, all quite rightly, and then
let each have her own young one; as soon as he had got through with
all his work, he clutched up two more of my men, and began eating them
for his morning's meal. Presently, with the utmost ease, he rolled the
stone away from the door and drove out his sheep, but he at once put
it back again- as easily as though he were merely clapping the lid
on to a quiver full of arrows. As soon as he had done so he shouted,
and cried 'Shoo, shoo,' after his sheep to drive them on to the
mountain; so I was left to scheme some way of taking my revenge and
covering myself with glory.
"In the end I deemed it would be the best plan to do as follows. The
Cyclops had a great club which was lying near one of the sheep pens;
it was of green olive wood, and he had cut it intending to use it
for a staff as soon as it should be dry. It was so huge that we
could only compare it to the mast of a twenty-oared merchant vessel of
large burden, and able to venture out into open sea. I went up to this
club and cut off about six feet of it; I then gave this piece to the
men and told them to fine it evenly off at one end, which they
proceeded to do, and lastly I brought it to a point myself, charring
the end in the fire to make it harder. When I had done this I hid it
under dung, which was lying about all over the cave, and told the
men to cast lots which of them should venture along with myself to
lift it and bore it into the monster's eye while he was asleep. The
lot fell upon the very four whom I should have chosen, and I myself
made five. In the evening the wretch came back from shepherding, and
drove his flocks into the cave- this time driving them all inside, and
not leaving any in the yards; I suppose some fancy must have taken
him, or a god must have prompted him to do so. As soon as he had put
the stone back to its place against the door, he sat down, milked
his ewes and his goats all quite rightly, and then let each have her
own young one; when he had got through with all this work, he
gripped up two more of my men, and made his supper off them. So I went
up to him with an ivy-wood bowl of black wine in my hands:
"'Look here, Cyclops,' said I, you have been eating a great deal
of man's flesh, so take this and drink some wine, that you may see
what kind of liquor we had on board my ship. I was bringing it to
you as a drink-offering, in the hope that you would take compassion
upon me and further me on my way home, whereas all you do is to go
on ramping and raving most intolerably. You ought to be ashamed
yourself; how can you expect people to come see you any more if you
treat them in this way?'
"He then took the cup and drank. He was so delighted with the
taste of the wine that he begged me for another bowl full. 'Be so
kind,' he said, 'as to give me some more, and tell me your name at
once. I want to make you a present that you will be glad to have. We
have wine even in this country, for our soil grows grapes and the
sun ripens them, but this drinks like nectar and ambrosia all in one.'
"I then gave him some more; three times did I fill the bowl for him,
and three times did he drain it without thought or heed; then, when
I saw that the wine had got into his head, I said to him as
plausibly as I could: 'Cyclops, you ask my name and I will tell it
you; give me, therefore, the present you promised me; my name is
Noman; this is what my father and mother and my friends have always
"But the cruel wretch said, 'Then I will eat all Noman's comrades
before Noman himself, and will keep Noman for the last. This is the
present that I will make him.'
As he spoke he reeled, and fell sprawling face upwards on the
ground. His great neck hung heavily backwards and a deep sleep took
hold upon him. Presently he turned sick, and threw up both wine and
the gobbets of human flesh on which he had been gorging, for he was
very drunk. Then I thrust the beam of wood far into the embers to heat
it, and encouraged my men lest any of them should turn
faint-hearted. When the wood, green though it was, was about to blaze,
I drew it out of the fire glowing with heat, and my men gathered round
me, for heaven had filled their hearts with courage. We drove the
sharp end of the beam into the monster's eye, and bearing upon it with
all my weight I kept turning it round and round as though I were
boring a hole in a ship's plank with an auger, which two men with a
wheel and strap can keep on turning as long as they choose. Even
thus did we bore the red hot beam into his eye, till the boiling blood
bubbled all over it as we worked it round and round, so that the steam
from the burning eyeball scalded his eyelids and eyebrows, and the
roots of the eye sputtered in the fire. As a blacksmith plunges an axe
or hatchet into cold water to temper it- for it is this that gives
strength to the iron- and it makes a great hiss as he does so, even
thus did the Cyclops' eye hiss round the beam of olive wood, and his
hideous yells made the cave ring again. We ran away in a fright, but
he plucked the beam all besmirched with gore from his eye, and
hurled it from him in a frenzy of rage and pain, shouting as he did so
to the other Cyclopes who lived on the bleak headlands near him; so
they gathered from all quarters round his cave when they heard him
crying, and asked what was the matter with him.
"'What ails you, Polyphemus,' said they, 'that you make such a
noise, breaking the stillness of the night, and preventing us from
being able to sleep? Surely no man is carrying off your sheep?
Surely no man is trying to kill you either by fraud or by force?
"But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, 'Noman is
killing me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force!'
"'Then,' said they, 'if no man is attacking you, you must be ill;
when Jove makes people ill, there is no help for it, and you had
better pray to your father Neptune.'
"Then they went away, and I laughed inwardly at the success of my
clever stratagem, but the Cyclops, groaning and in an agony of pain,
felt about with his hands till he found the stone and took it from the
door; then he sat in the doorway and stretched his hands in front of
it to catch anyone going out with the sheep, for he thought I might be
foolish enough to attempt this.
"As for myself I kept on puzzling to think how I could best save
my own life and those of my companions; I schemed and schemed, as
one who knows that his life depends upon it, for the danger was very
great. In the end I deemed that this plan would be the best. The
male sheep were well grown, and carried a heavy black fleece, so I
bound them noiselessly in threes together, with some of the withies on
which the wicked monster used to sleep. There was to be a man under
the middle sheep, and the two on either side were to cover him, so
that there were three sheep to each man. As for myself there was a ram
finer than any of the others, so I caught hold of him by the back,
esconced myself in the thick wool under his belly, and flung on
patiently to his fleece, face upwards, keeping a firm hold on it all
"Thus, then, did we wait in great fear of mind till morning came,
but when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the
male sheep hurried out to feed, while the ewes remained bleating about
the pens waiting to be milked, for their udders were full to bursting;
but their master in spite of all his pain felt the backs of all the
sheep as they stood upright, without being sharp enough to find out
that the men were underneath their bellies. As the ram was going
out, last of all, heavy with its fleece and with the weight of my
crafty self; Polyphemus laid hold of it and said:
"'My good ram, what is it that makes you the last to leave my cave
this morning? You are not wont to let the ewes go before you, but lead
the mob with a run whether to flowery mead or bubbling fountain, and
are the first to come home again at night; but now you lag last of
all. Is it because you know your master has lost his eye, and are
sorry because that wicked Noman and his horrid crew have got him
down in his drink and blinded him? But I will have his life yet. If
you could understand and talk, you would tell me where the wretch is
hiding, and I would dash his brains upon the ground till they flew all
over the cave. I should thus have some satisfaction for the harm a
this no-good Noman has done me.'
"As spoke he drove the ram outside, but when we were a little way
out from the cave and yards, I first got from under the ram's belly,
and then freed my comrades; as for the sheep, which were very fat,
by constantly heading them in the right direction we managed to
drive them down to the ship. The crew rejoiced greatly at seeing those
of us who had escaped death, but wept for the others whom the
Cyclops had killed. However, I made signs to them by nodding and
frowning that they were to hush their crying, and told them to get all
the sheep on board at once and put out to sea; so they went aboard,
took their places, and smote the grey sea with their oars. Then,
when I had got as far out as my voice would reach, I began to jeer
at the Cyclops.
"'Cyclops,' said I, 'you should have taken better measure of your
man before eating up his comrades in your cave. You wretch, eat up
your visitors in your own house? You might have known that your sin
would find you out, and now Jove and the other gods have punished
"He got more and more furious as he heard me, so he tore the top
from off a high mountain, and flung it just in front of my ship so
that it was within a little of hitting the end of the rudder. The
sea quaked as the rock fell into it, and the wash of the wave it
raised carried us back towards the mainland, and forced us towards the
shore. But I snatched up a long pole and kept the ship off, making
signs to my men by nodding my head, that they must row for their
lives, whereon they laid out with a will. When we had got twice as far
as we were before, I was for jeering at the Cyclops again, but the men
begged and prayed of me to hold my tongue.
"'Do not,' they exclaimed, 'be mad enough to provoke this savage
creature further; he has thrown one rock at us already which drove
us back again to the mainland, and we made sure it had been the
death of us; if he had then heard any further sound of voices he would
have pounded our heads and our ship's timbers into a jelly with the
rugged rocks he would have heaved at us, for he can throw them a
"But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my
rage, 'Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out
and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son
of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.'
"On this he groaned, and cried out, 'Alas, alas, then the old
prophecy about me is coming true. There was a prophet here, at one
time, a man both brave and of great stature, Telemus son of Eurymus,
who was an excellent seer, and did all the prophesying for the
Cyclopes till he grew old; he told me that all this would happen to me
some day, and said I should lose my sight by the hand of Ulysses. I
have been all along expecting some one of imposing presence and
superhuman strength, whereas he turns out to be a little insignificant
weakling, who has managed to blind my eye by taking advantage of me in
my drink; come here, then, Ulysses, that I may make you presents to
show my hospitality, and urge Neptune to help you forward on your
journey- for Neptune and I are father and son. He, if he so will,
shall heal me, which no one else neither god nor man can do.'
"Then I said, 'I wish I could be as sure of killing you outright and
sending you down to the house of Hades, as I am that it will take more
than Neptune to cure that eye of yours.'
"On this he lifted up his hands to the firmament of heaven and
prayed, saying, 'Hear me, great Neptune; if I am indeed your own
true-begotten son, grant that Ulysses may never reach his home
alive; or if he must get back to his friends at last, let him do so
late and in sore plight after losing all his men [let him reach his
home in another man's ship and find trouble in his house.']
"Thus did he pray, and Neptune heard his prayer. Then he picked up a
rock much larger than the first, swung it aloft and hurled it with
prodigious force. It fell just short of the ship, but was within a
little of hitting the end of the rudder. The sea quaked as the rock
fell into it, and the wash of the wave it raised drove us onwards on
our way towards the shore of the island.
"When at last we got to the island where we had left the rest of our
ships, we found our comrades lamenting us, and anxiously awaiting
our return. We ran our vessel upon the sands and got out of her on
to the sea shore; we also landed the Cyclops' sheep, and divided
them equitably amongst us so that none might have reason to
complain. As for the ram, my companions agreed that I should have it
as an extra share; so I sacrificed it on the sea shore, and burned its
thigh bones to Jove, who is the lord of all. But he heeded not my
sacrifice, and only thought how he might destroy my ships and my
"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
feasted our fill on meat and drink, but when the sun went down and
it came on dark, we camped upon the beach. When the child of
morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I bade my men on board and
loose the hawsers. Then they took their places and smote the grey
sea with their oars; so we sailed on with sorrow in our hearts, but
glad to have escaped death though we had lost our comrades.
The Odyssey: Book 17
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Telemachus bound on his sandals and took a strong spear that suited
his hands, for he wanted to go into the city. "Old friend," said he to
the swineherd, "I will now go to the town and show myself to my
mother, for she will never leave off grieving till she has seen me. As
for this unfortunate stranger, take him to the town and let him beg
there of any one who will give him a drink and a piece of bread. I
have trouble enough of my own, and cannot be burdened with other
people. If this makes him angry so much the worse for him, but I
like to say what I mean."
Then Ulysses said, "Sir, I do not want to stay here; a beggar can
always do better in town than country, for any one who likes can
give him something. I am too old to care about remaining here at the
beck and call of a master. Therefore let this man do as you have
just told him, and take me to the town as soon as I have had a warm by
the fire, and the day has got a little heat in it. My clothes are
wretchedly thin, and this frosty morning I shall be perished with
cold, for you say the city is some way off."
On this Telemachus strode off through the yards, brooding his
revenge upon the When he reached home he stood his spear against a
bearing-post of the cloister, crossed the stone floor of the
cloister itself, and went inside.
Nurse Euryclea saw him long before any one else did. She was putting
the fleeces on to the seats, and she burst out crying as she ran up to
him; all the other maids came up too, and covered his head and
shoulders with their kisses. Penelope came out of her room looking
like Diana or Venus, and wept as she flung her arms about her son. She
kissed his forehead and both his beautiful eyes, "Light of my eyes,"
she cried as she spoke fondly to him, "so you are come home again; I
made sure I was never going to see you any more. To think of your
having gone off to Pylos without saying anything about it or obtaining
my consent. But come, tell me what you saw."
"Do not scold me, mother,' answered Telemachus, "nor vex me,
seeing what a narrow escape I have had, but wash your face, change
your dress, go upstairs with your maids, and promise full and
sufficient hecatombs to all the gods if Jove will only grant us our
revenge upon the suitors. I must now go to the place of assembly to
invite a stranger who has come back with me from Pylos. I sent him
on with my crew, and told Piraeus to take him home and look after
him till I could come for him myself."
She heeded her son's words, washed her face, changed her dress,
and vowed full and sufficient hecatombs to all the gods if they
would only vouchsafe her revenge upon the suitors.
Telemachus went through, and out of, the cloisters spear in hand-
not alone, for his two fleet dogs went with him. Minerva endowed him
with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marvelled at him as
he went by, and the suitors gathered round him with fair words in
their mouths and malice in their hearts; but he avoided them, and went
to sit with Mentor, Antiphus, and Halitherses, old friends of his
father's house, and they made him tell them all that had happened to
him. Then Piraeus came up with Theoclymenus, whom he had escorted
through the town to the place of assembly, whereon Telemachus at
once joined them. Piraeus was first to speak: "Telemachus," said he,
"I wish you would send some of your women to my house to take awa
the presents Menelaus gave you."
"We do not know, Piraeus," answered Telemachus, "what may happen. If
the suitors kill me in my own house and divide my property among them,
I would rather you had the presents than that any of those people
should get hold of them. If on the other hand I manage to kill them, I
shall be much obliged if you will kindly bring me my presents."
With these words he took Theoclymenus to his own house. When they
got there they laid their cloaks on the benches and seats, went into
the baths, and washed themselves. When the maids had washed and
anointed them, and had given them cloaks and shirts, they took their
seats at table. A maid servant then brought them water in a
beautiful golden ewer, and poured it into a silver basin for them to
wash their hands; and she drew a clean table beside them. An upper
servant brought them bread and offered them many good things of what
there was in the house. Opposite them sat Penelope, reclining on a
couch by one of the bearing-posts of the cloister, and spinning.
Then they laid their hands on the good things that were before them,
and as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink Penelope said:
"Telemachus, I shall go upstairs and lie down on that sad couch,
which I have not ceased to water with my tears, from the day Ulysses
set out for Troy with the sons of Atreus. You failed, however, to make
it clear to me before the suitors came back to the house, whether or
no you had been able to hear anything about the return of your
"I will tell you then truth," replied her son. "We went to Pylos and
saw Nestor, who took me to his house and treated me as hospitably as
though I were a son of his own who had just returned after a long
absence; so also did his sons; but he said he had not heard a word
from any human being about Ulysses, whether he was alive or dead. He
sent me, therefore, with a chariot and horses to Menelaus. There I saw
Helen, for whose sake so many, both Argives and Trojans, were in
heaven's wisdom doomed to suffer. Menelaus asked me what it was that
had brought me to Lacedaemon, and I told him the whole truth,
whereon he said, 'So, then, these cowards would usurp a brave man's
bed? A hind might as well lay her new-born young in the lair of a
lion, and then go off to feed in the forest or in some grassy dell.
The lion, when he comes back to his lair, will make short work with
the pair of them, and so will Ulysses with these suitors. By father
Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, if Ulysses is still the man that he was
when he wrestled with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and threw him so
heavily that all the Greeks cheered him- if he is still such, and were
to come near these suitors, they would have a short shrift and a sorry
wedding. As regards your question, however, I will not prevaricate nor
deceive you, but what the old man of the sea told me, so much will I
tell you in full. He said he could see Ulysses on an island
sorrowing bitterly in the house of the nymph Calypso, who was
keeping him prisoner, and he could not reach his home, for he had no
ships nor sailors to take him over the sea.' This was what Menelaus
told me, and when I had heard his story I came away; the gods then
gave me a fair wind and soon brought me safe home again."
With these words he moved the heart of Penelope. Then Theoclymenus
said to her:
"Madam, wife of Ulysses, Telemachus does not understand these
things; listen therefore to me, for I can divine them surely, and will
hide nothing from you. May Jove the king of heaven be my witness,
and the rites of hospitality, with that hearth of Ulysses to which I
now come, that Ulysses himself is even now in Ithaca, and, either
going about the country or staying in one place, is enquiring into all
these evil deeds and preparing a day of reckoning for the suitors. I
saw an omen when I was on the ship which meant this, and I told
Telemachus about it."
"May it be even so," answered Penelope; "if your words come true,
you shall have such gifts and such good will from me that all who
see you shall congratulate you."
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs,
or aiming with spears at a mark on the levelled ground in front of the
house, and behaving with all their old insolence. But when it was
now time for dinner, and the flock of sheep and goats had come into
the town from all the country round, with their shepherds as usual,
then Medon, who was their favourite servant, and who waited upon
them at table, said, "Now then, my young masters, you have had
enough sport, so come inside that we may get dinner ready. Dinner is
not a bad thing, at dinner time."
They left their sports as he told them, and when they were within
the house, they laid their cloaks on the benches and seats inside, and
then sacrificed some sheep, goats, pigs, and a heifer, all of them fat
and well grown. Thus they made ready for their meal. In the meantime
Ulysses and the swineherd were about starting for the town, and the
swineherd said, "Stranger, I suppose you still want to go to town
to-day, as my master said you were to do; for my own part I should
have liked you to stay here as a station hand, but I must do as my
master tells me, or he will scold me later on, and a scolding from
one's master is a very serious thing. Let us then be off, for it is
now broad day; it will be night again directly and then you will
find it colder."
"I know, and understand you," replied Ulysses; "you need say no
more. Let us be going, but if you have a stick ready cut, let me
have it to walk with, for you say the road is a very rough one."
As he spoke he threw his shabby old tattered wallet over his
shoulders, by the cord from which it hung, and Eumaeus gave him a
stick to his liking. The two then started, leaving the station in
charge of the dogs and herdsmen who remained behind; the swineherd led
the way and his master followed after, looking like some broken-down
old tramp as he leaned upon his staff, and his clothes were all in
rags. When they had got over the rough steep ground and were nearing
the city, they reached the fountain from which the citizens drew their
water. This had been made by Ithacus, Neritus, and Polyctor. There was
a grove of water-loving poplars planted in a circle all round it,
and the clear cold water came down to it from a rock high up, while
above the fountain there was an altar to the nymphs, at which all
wayfarers used to sacrifice. Here Melanthius son of Dolius overtook
them as he was driving down some goats, the best in his flock, for the
suitors' dinner, and there were two shepherds with him. When he saw
Eumaeus and Ulysses he reviled them with outrageous and unseemly
language, which made Ulysses very angry.
"There you go," cried he, "and a precious pair you are. See how
heaven brings birds of the same feather to one another. Where, pray,
master swineherd, are you taking this poor miserable object? It
would make any one sick to see such a creature at table. A fellow like
this never won a prize for anything in his life, but will go about
rubbing his shoulders against every man's door post, and begging,
not for swords and cauldrons like a man, but only for a few scraps not
worth begging for. If you would give him to me for a hand on my
station, he might do to clean out the folds, or bring a bit of sweet
feed to the kids, and he could fatten his thighs as much as he pleased
on whey; but he has taken to bad ways and will not go about any kind
of work; he will do nothing but beg victuals all the town over, to
feed his insatiable belly. I say, therefore and it shall surely be- if
he goes near Ulysses' house he will get his head broken by the
stools they will fling at him, till they turn him out."
On this, as he passed, he gave Ulysses a kick on the hip out of pure
wantonness, but Ulysses stood firm, and did not budge from the path.
For a moment he doubted whether or no to fly at Melanthius and kill
him with his staff, or fling him to the ground and beat his brains
out; he resolved, however, to endure it and keep himself in check, but
the swineherd looked straight at Melanthius and rebuked him, lifting
up his hands and praying to heaven as he did so.
"Fountain nymphs," he cried, "children of Jove, if ever Ulysses
burned you thigh bones covered with fat whether of lambs or kids,
grant my prayer that heaven may send him home. He would soon put an
end to the swaggering threats with which such men as you go about
insulting people-gadding all over the town while your flocks are going
to ruin through bad shepherding."
Then Melanthius the goatherd answered, "You ill-conditioned cur,
what are you talking about? Some day or other I will put you on
board ship and take you to a foreign country, where I can sell you and
pocket the money you will fetch. I wish I were as sure that Apollo
would strike Telemachus dead this very day, or that the suitors
would kill him, as I am that Ulysses will never come home again."
With this he left them to come on at their leisure, while he went
quickly forward and soon reached the house of his master. When he
got there he went in and took his seat among the suitors opposite
Eurymachus, who liked him better than any of the others. The
servants brought him a portion of meat, and an upper woman servant set
bread before him that he might eat. Presently Ulysses and the
swineherd came up to the house and stood by it, amid a sound of music,
for Phemius was just beginning to sing to the suitors. Then Ulysses
took hold of the swineherd's hand, and said:
"Eumaeus, this house of Ulysses is a very fine place. No matter
how far you go you will find few like it. One building keeps following
on after another. The outer court has a wall with battlements all
round it; the doors are double folding, and of good workmanship; it
would be a hard matter to take it by force of arms. I perceive, too,
that there are many people banqueting within it, for there is a
smell of roast meat, and I hear a sound of music, which the gods
have made to go along with feasting."
Then Eumaeus said, "You have perceived aright, as indeed you
generally do; but let us think what will be our best course. Will
you go inside first and join the suitors, leaving me here behind
you, or will you wait here and let me go in first? But do not wait
long, or some one may you loitering about outside, and throw something
at you. Consider this matter I pray you."
And Ulysses answered, "I understand and heed. Go in first and
leave me here where I am. I am quite used to being beaten and having
things thrown at me. I have been so much buffeted about in war and
by sea that I am case-hardened, and this too may go with the rest. But
a man cannot hide away the cravings of a hungry belly; this is an
enemy which gives much trouble to all men; it is because of this
that ships are fitted out to sail the seas, and to make war upon other
As they were thus talking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised
his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argos, whom Ulysses had
bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any work out of
him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when
they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his
master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow
dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come
and draw it away to manure the great close; and he was full of
fleas. As soon as he saw Ulysses standing there, he dropped his ears
and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When
Ulysses saw the dog on the other side of the yard, dashed a tear
from his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:
"Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap:
his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he
only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept
merely for show?"
"This hound," answered Eumaeus, "belonged to him who has died in a
far country. If he were what he was when Ulysses left for Troy, he
would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in
the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its
tracks. But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead
and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their
work when their master's hand is no longer over them, for Jove takes
half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him."
As he spoke he went inside the buildings to the cloister where the
suitors were, but Argos died as soon as he had recognized his master.
Telemachus saw Eumaeus long before any one else did, and beckoned
him to come and sit beside him; so he looked about and saw a seat
lying near where the carver sat serving out their portions to the
suitors; he picked it up, brought it to Telemachus's table, and sat
down opposite him. Then the servant brought him his portion, and
gave him bread from the bread-basket.
Immediately afterwards Ulysses came inside, looking like a poor
miserable old beggar, leaning on his staff and with his clothes all in
rags. He sat down upon the threshold of ash-wood just inside the doors
leading from the outer to the inner court, and against a
bearing-post of cypress-wood which the carpenter had skillfully
planed, and had made to join truly with rule and line. Telemachus took
a whole loaf from the bread-basket, with as much meat as he could hold
in his two hands, and said to Eumaeus, "Take this to the stranger, and
tell him to go the round of the suitors, and beg from them; a beggar
must not be shamefaced."
So Eumaeus went up to him and said, "Stranger, Telemachus sends
you this, and says you are to go the round of the suitors begging, for
beggars must not be shamefaced."
Ulysses answered, "May King Jove grant all happiness to
Telemachus, and fulfil the desire of his heart."
Then with both hands he took what Telemachus had sent him, and
laid it on the dirty old wallet at his feet. He went on eating it
while the bard was singing, and had just finished his dinner as he
left off. The suitors applauded the bard, whereon Minerva went up to
Ulysses and prompted him to beg pieces of bread from each one of the
suitors, that he might see what kind of people they were, and tell the
good from the bad; but come what might she was not going to save a
single one of them. Ulysses, therefore, went on his round, going
from left to right, and stretched out his hands to beg as though he
were a real beggar. Some of them pitied him, and were curious about
him, asking one another who he was and where he came from; whereon the
goatherd Melanthius said, "Suitors of my noble mistress, I can tell
you something about him, for I have seen him before. The swineherd
brought him here, but I know nothing about the man himself, nor
where he comes from."
On this Antinous began to abuse the swineherd. "You precious idiot,"
he cried, "what have you brought this man to town for? Have we not
tramps and beggars enough already to pester us as we sit at meat? Do
you think it a small thing that such people gather here to waste
your master's property and must you needs bring this man as well?"
And Eumaeus answered, "Antinous, your birth is good but your words
evil. It was no doing of mine that he came here. Who is likely to
invite a stranger from a foreign country, unless it be one of those
who can do public service as a seer, a healer of hurts, a carpenter,
or a bard who can charm us with his Such men are welcome all the world
over, but no one is likely to ask a beggar who will only worry him.
You are always harder on Ulysses' servants than any of the other
suitors are, and above all on me, but I do not care so long as
Telemachus and Penelope are alive and here."
But Telemachus said, "Hush, do not answer him; Antinous has the
bitterest tongue of all the suitors, and he makes the others worse."
Then turning to Antinous he said, "Antinous, you take as much care
of my interests as though I were your son. Why should you want to
see this stranger turned out of the house? Heaven forbid; take'
something and give it him yourself; I do not grudge it; I bid you take
it. Never mind my mother, nor any of the other servants in the
house; but I know you will not do what I say, for you are more fond of
eating things yourself than of giving them to other people."
"What do you mean, Telemachus," replied Antinous, "by this
swaggering talk? If all the suitors were to give him as much as I
will, he would not come here again for another three months."
As he spoke he drew the stool on which he rested his dainty feet
from under the table, and made as though he would throw it at Ulysses,
but the other suitors all gave him something, and filled his wallet
with bread and meat; he was about, therefore, to go back to the
threshold and eat what the suitors had given him, but he first went up
to Antinous and said:
"Sir, give me something; you are not, surely, the poorest man
here; you seem to be a chief, foremost among them all; therefore you
should be the better giver, and I will tell far and wide of your
bounty. I too was a rich man once, and had a fine house of my own;
in those days I gave to many a tramp such as I now am, no matter who
he might be nor what he wanted. I had any number of servants, and
all the other things which people have who live well and are accounted
wealthy, but it pleased Jove to take all away from me. He sent me with
a band of roving robbers to Egypt; it was a long voyage and I was
undone by it. I stationed my bade ships in the river Aegyptus, and
bade my men stay by them and keep guard over them, while sent out
scouts to reconnoitre from every point of vantage.
"But the men disobeyed my orders, took to their own devices, and
ravaged the land of the Egyptians, killing the men, and taking their
wives and children captives. The alarm was soon carried to the city,
and when they heard the war-cry, the people came out at daybreak
till the plain was filled with soldiers horse and foot, and with the
gleam of armour. Then Jove spread panic among my men, and they would
no longer face the enemy, for they found themselves surrounded. The
Egyptians killed many of us, and took the rest alive to do forced
labour for them; as for myself, they gave me to a friend who met them,
to take to Cyprus, Dmetor by name, son of Iasus, who was a great man
in Cyprus. Thence I am come hither in a state of great misery."
Then Antinous said, "What god can have sent such a pestilence to
plague us during our dinner? Get out, into the open part of the court,
or I will give you Egypt and Cyprus over again for your insolence
and importunity; you have begged of all the others, and they have
given you lavishly, for they have abundance round them, and it is easy
to be free with other people's property when there is plenty of it."
On this Ulysses began to move off, and said, "Your looks, my fine
sir, are better than your breeding; if you were in your own house
you would not spare a poor man so much as a pinch of salt, for
though you are in another man's, and surrounded with abundance, you
cannot find it in you to give him even a piece of bread."
This made Antinous very angry, and he scowled at him saying, "You
shall pay for this before you get clear of the court." With these
words he threw a footstool at him, and hit him on the right
shoulder-blade near the top of his back. Ulysses stood firm as a
rock and the blow did not even stagger him, but he shook his head in
silence as he brooded on his revenge. Then he went back to the
threshold and sat down there, laying his well-filled wallet at his
"Listen to me," he cried, "you suitors of Queen Penelope, that I may
speak even as I am minded. A man knows neither ache nor pain if he
gets hit while fighting for his money, or for his sheep or his cattle;
and even so Antinous has hit me while in the service of my miserable
belly, which is always getting people into trouble. Still, if the poor
have gods and avenging deities at all, I pray them that Antinous may
come to a bad end before his marriage."
"Sit where you are, and eat your victuals in silence, or be off
elsewhere," shouted Antinous. "If you say more I will have you dragged
hand and foot through the courts, and the servants shall flay you
The other suitors were much displeased at this, and one of the young
men said, "Antinous, you did ill in striking that poor wretch of a
tramp: it will be worse for you if he should turn out to be some
god- and we know the gods go about disguised in all sorts of ways as
people from foreign countries, and travel about the world to see who
do amiss and who righteously."
Thus said the suitors, but Antinous paid them no heed. Meanwhile
Telemachus was furious about the blow that had been given to his
father, and though no tear fell from him, he shook his head in silence
and brooded on his revenge.
Now when Penelope heard that the beggar had been struck in the
banqueting-cloister, she said before her maids, "Would that Apollo
would so strike you, Antinous," and her waiting woman Eurynome
answered, "If our prayers were answered not one of the suitors would
ever again see the sun rise." Then Penelope said, "Nurse, I hate every
single one of them, for they mean nothing but mischief, but I hate
Antinous like the darkness of death itself. A poor unfortunate tramp
has come begging about the house for sheer want. Every one else has
given him something to put in his wallet, but Antinous has hit him
on the right shoulder-blade with a footstool."
Thus did she talk with her maids as she sat in her own room, and
in the meantime Ulysses was getting his dinner. Then she called for
the swineherd and said, "Eumaeus, go and tell the stranger to come
here, I want to see him and ask him some questions. He seems to have
travelled much, and he may have seen or heard something of my
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "If these Achaeans,
Madam, would only keep quiet, you would be charmed with the history of
his adventures. I had him three days and three nights with me in my
hut, which was the first place he reached after running away from
his ship, and he has not yet completed the story of his misfortunes.
If he had been the most heaven-taught minstrel in the whole world,
on whose lips all hearers hang entranced, I could not have been more
charmed as I sat in my hut and listened to him. He says there is an
old friendship between his house and that of Ulysses, and that he
comes from Crete where the descendants of Minos live, after having
been driven hither and thither by every kind of misfortune; he also
declares that he has heard of Ulysses as being alive and near at
hand among the Thesprotians, and that he is bringing great wealth home
"Call him here, then," said Penelope, "that I too may hear his
story. As for the suitors, let them take their pleasure indoors or out
as they will, for they have nothing to fret about. Their corn and wine
remain unwasted in their houses with none but servants to consume
them, while they keep hanging about our house day after day
sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their banquets, and
never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of wine they
drink. No estate can stand such recklessness, for we have now no
Ulysses to protect us. If he were to come again, he and his son
would soon have their revenge."
As she spoke Telemachus sneezed so loudly that the whole house
resounded with it. Penelope laughed when she heard this, and said to
Eumaeus, "Go and call the stranger; did you not hear how my son
sneezed just as I was speaking? This can only mean that all the
suitors are going to be killed, and that not one of them shall escape.
Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart: if I am
satisfied that the stranger is speaking the truth I shall give him a
shirt and cloak of good wear."
When Eumaeus heard this he went straight to Ulysses and said,
"Father stranger, my mistress Penelope, mother of Telemachus, has sent
for you; she is in great grief, but she wishes to hear anything you
can tell her about her husband, and if she is satisfied that you are
speaking the truth, she will give you a shirt and cloak, which are the
very things that you are most in want of. As for bread, you can get
enough of that to fill your belly, by begging about the town, and
letting those give that will."
"I will tell Penelope," answered Ulysses, "nothing but what is
strictly true. I know all about her husband, and have been partner
with him in affliction, but I am afraid of passing. through this crowd
of cruel suitors, for their pride and insolence reach heaven. Just
now, moreover, as I was going about the house without doing any
harm, a man gave me a blow that hurt me very much, but neither
Telemachus nor any one else defended me. Tell Penelope, therefore,
to be patient and wait till sundown. Let her give me a seat close up
to the fire, for my clothes are worn very thin- you know they are, for
you have seen them ever since I first asked you to help me- she can
then ask me about the return of her husband."
The swineherd went back when he heard this, and Penelope said as she
saw him cross the threshold, "Why do you not bring him here,
Eumaeus? Is he afraid that some one will ill-treat him, or is he shy
of coming inside the house at all? Beggars should not be shamefaced."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "The stranger is quite
reasonable. He is avoiding the suitors, and is only doing what any one
else would do. He asks you to wait till sundown, and it will be much
better, madam, that you should have him all to yourself, when you
can hear him and talk to him as you will."
"The man is no fool," answered Penelope, "it would very likely be as
he says, for there are no such abominable people in the whole world as
these men are."
When she had done speaking Eumaeus went back to the suitors, for
he had explained everything. Then he went up to Telemachus and said in
his ear so that none could overhear him, "My dear sir, I will now go
back to the pigs, to see after your property and my own business.
You will look to what is going on here, but above all be careful to
keep out of danger, for there are many who bear you ill will. May Jove
bring them to a bad end before they do us a mischief."
"Very well," replied Telemachus, "go home when you have had your
dinner, and in the morning come here with the victims we are to
sacrifice for the day. Leave the rest to heaven and me."
On this Eumaeus took his seat again, and when he had finished his
dinner he left the courts and the cloister with the men at table,
and went back to his pigs. As for the suitors, they presently began to
amuse themselves with singing and dancing, for it was now getting on
Through the eyes of a Field Coronet (Epic)
In the kaki coloured tent in Umbilo he writes
his life’s story while women, children and babies are dying,
slowly but surely are obliterated, he see how his nation is suffering
while the events are notched into his mind.
Lying even heavier on him is the treason
of some other Afrikaners who for own gain
have delivered him, to imprisonment in this place of hatred
and thoughts go through him to write a book.
The Afrikaner nation sprouted
who fought decades without defeat
against the super power Spain
mixed with French Huguenots
who left their homes and belongings,
with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Associate this then with the fact
that these people fought formidable
for seven generations
against every onslaught that they got
from savages en wild animals
becoming marksmen, riding
and taming wild horses
with one bullet per day
to hunt a wild antelope,
who migrated right across the country
over hills in mass protest
and then you have
the most formidable adversary
and then let them fight
in a natural wilderness
where the hunter,
the sniper and horseman excels
and any enemy is at a lost.
Let them then also be patriotic
into their souls,
believe in and read
out of the word of God
and then there is almost nothing
that these people do fear.
The Zuid Afrikaanse republic
existed out of twenty one districts,
each with a magistrate for civil ethics,
a commandant to deter the enemy,
in control of a commando as their leader
and so structures appeared
with a commandant-general for much greater authority,
for the whole country.
A field coronet was in control of a ward
to issue commands in it
and the citizens themselves chose their men
as they thought best
and all men from sixteen to sixty had to do service,
if the need be, be prepared for war.
A field coronet was a respected man
as the magistrate, justice of the peace and prosecutor
and a military leader of a ward who could
call up citizens for duty to a commando in a laager
and he was a political representative
of the government and in a district
citizens chose own officers
as they saw it fit.
Commandos arouse when the Boers
had to defend themselves against attacks
from black tribes
and they came together in numbers
to be able to give proper resistance
and to stop pillage, murder and sorrow.
I. Battles against rebel captains Mesotie, Sebboel, Mapit and Magoeba
On the farm of Daniel Page
all the citizens of the ward come together
and Jacobus Potgieter hurried there
and they crowd around the rifles and ammunition
that the government was providing
just a little distance from the cornfields
and Jacobus was like many without a weapon,
but ready to serve his country
and from many hunting expeditions
with his brother in law, Jacobus was very capable
with a rifle.
This was however the first time
that he had been called up for war
and at dusk he was on the porch
when the field coronet arrived with a letter
addressed to the four black captains
who were rebelling
and it happened on the same night
that the field coronet still awake and active
had to depart with sixteen citizens
to Agatha near the native village
of captain Mesotie
and they were totally unaware
that they were awaited,
where they fought bravely
hurrying to the little fortress,
firing to try and win the struggle.
At Agatha they were cornered,
had to make holes
through the walls
to shoot from the building
in their fierce task
to resist the attackers.
The government after this incident sends
a big commando to help,
but the Mesotie tribe
fires at them with canons
from up high and from below
and with rifles and spears
they assaulted the Boers.
The Boers answer their attack
with their own cannons,
shooting into the bushes
where a little war erupts,
and the commando as both horsemen
and foot soldiers
rush down to the village
opening fire and the village starts to burn.
after his tribe loses the battle,
being tired from the events of the past days.
All his tribe’s rifles,
spears and many other weapons
and the village is stripped
of grain before the fire destroys it.
General PJ Joubert manages to
get captain Sebboel in control
and captain Mapit’s tribe
is caught and are crestfallen.
Magoeba flees with his tribe
into the thick bush and his village
is burnt to the ground and stripped,
but the Magoeba tribe circles out
taking half of Houtbergbos
and the town was almost lost to them.
Six forts are constructed
to try and get the Magoeba tribe under control.
The enemy however
draws the citizens manning the forts
out of the forts
while they wait in ambush
and surround them.
The government again calls up
a large commando
and even tribesmen from Swaziland come to help.
Some of the Swazi warriors
behead Magoeba and nineteen others with a sword,
praising the ancestral spirits
and the Boer citizens
win the war against the rest of the Magoeba tribe
pinning them against the hill
and taking them prisoner
and come to the aid of the Swazi’s in times of trouble.
II. The Jameson raid of 1896
Jacobus Potgieter was busy
trading yellow-wood planks
for cattle and was far from his farm,
when he heard about the nonsense
due to Jameson and his little gang
and he hurried to render his services
while they were invading the Transvaal,
but when he did reach Pretoria
the shots had already been fired
and the enemy had been imprisoned.
General Cronje had decided
to lead Jameson’s band into a trap
that was set near Krugersdorp
and at Doornkop the little battle was fought
and some of the citizens,
as agents of the government,
took good quality rifles and canon.
After this incident President Kruger
had set a ultimatum to the foreigners
and a large commando went to collect the rifles
that they had smuggled into the country.
Judge Gregorowski gave the members
of the reform committee the death penalty
but President Paul Kruger had mercy
and changed the sentence
to fifteen years imprisonment
and once again he considered the requests
for leniency, by changing the sentences to a large fine.
Even Cecil John Rhodes was involved
with the invasion
and he lost his position as prime minister
of the Cape colony
but the British government had refused
to pay a single cent
of the claim of damages,
and the problems with the foreigners
had not been solved.
III. The Magatoe war of 1897
Back in 1867 the parents of Jacobus Potgieter,
all the inhabitants of Schoemansdal,
had to flee from the forces of Magatoe
and the farmers were anxious
of the raids of pillage and plunder
of the “Babbler”
and Jacobus himself saw
the destruction of Magatoe’s tribe
and how the town and church, had to be left
to the mercy of Magatoe
and how they had to flee
further back into the republic.
The situation became more serious
and in 1897 the government
called together a commando
of four thousand citizens to stop the plunder
of Magatoe’s tribe and before the attack,
a day of prayer was held
asking God to have mercy on His nation.
The commando was still far away
into the hills, the cliffs,
when firing started from the Magatoe tribe
while their view was still obstructed
and Jacobus was in the front lines of the battle
where he and other Boers, with accurate shots
drove the enemy back
as most of them were marksmen.
Suddenly a thick cloud of fog appeared
enveloping the whole enemy village,
giving the Boers time to build entrenchments
from behind which they could harass the enemy.
When the entrenchments were ready
the thick cloud of fog over Magatoe’s village
started to dissipate and to general Joubert it seemed fit,
as he gave orders
to dropp canon shells and bullets
like rain on that village.
In a half hour’s time they stormed
into the village
while firing at will.
Most of Magatoe’s warriors
fled to safety
and some was killed,
and one rose from a hole
to try and resist,
but Magatoe’s tribe, the Matabele (Ndebele)
then fled to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
and that formidable tribe
was taught a lesson
and after thirty years stopped harassing the Boers.
IV. Preview to the war with Britain
Jacobus had just been back at home
when in 1899 he had to leave it
and had to leave his family behind,
to get involved with the war against Britain.
He had been gone
on a two month long hunting expedition,
where he was hunting from the back of his horse
and so many animals were shot
that he filled an ox wagon,
but out of duty he had to go on commando
and had to leave his wife and children behind.
Along with his friends they hunted fifty animals.
The game consisted of giraffes, cape oryxes
and eland, many was shot at a time
and he first went back
to greet his family as he had to be on commando
by the eleventh of October
and he went on horseback without fear of the British.
After five hours on horseback from Houtbosberg
they got to the laager,
greeted other men there,
but had to leave again to the Soutpansberg hills
to meet with another commando coming from Spitskop
at the Crocodile River and was told,
that the government had declared war
on Great Britain and was ordered to go to war.
That evening one citizen was of the opinion
that the war would not last long,
as they were civilised men
and every one a marksmen
and he did hear that the British
was also a civilised people
could be sorted out, in a civilised manner
and he gave big value to that quality of them.
Somebody else thought
that it would take months long
and another person that for many evenings
they would have to gather around fires
and that the government has another plan
apart from war
to resist the British.
V. The start of the war
From a hillock
two Boer commandos storm from the back
into a British camp and start the battle
and a couple of British soldiers are shot,
a lot of them are captured, but it’s almost in vain
as most of them flee and get away.
The Boers follow them
in the direction of the Tuli River and at daybreak
some of the enemy combine forces
with comrades at a ox wagon
and the Boers shoot accurately
to try and stop them
and the British break from cover
and the enemy flee
to find shelter in a house
that is empty
and try to resist from the cover of it.
The house is shot to pieces
and for the third time on one day
the British again flee from that aria
against the superior numbers of Boers
and the next day
the Boers capture nine wagons, left behind
with ammunition and food.
The next day Boer scouts
find a large abandoned British camp
with tents, horses and mules where they stop
and while Jacobus tries to rid his feet from cramps,
he notices a large cloud of dust
that is coming in their direction,
that he interprets as enemy.
There’s a field coronet
that stands his man,
to resist the enemy
while two Boer commandos flee past him.
At dusk Jacobus Potgieter finds more men
with a canon on a hillock
and with just more than twenty Boer citizens
he is worried,
but prepares for and waits the enemy.
The more the night darkens,
the nearer the cloud of dust comes
and the Boers are ready to resist the enemy,
to let no Englishman pass them
and there’s a rumbling sound
and something is wrong
as no enemy appears
and they are taken by surprise
in the moonlight
without a shot being fired,
by a huge swarm of grasshoppers
of which the whole veldt is covered
where they swarm like ants.
Jacobus was really disillusioned and angry
about the cowardliness of officers,
of which some
do not return to the commando
and to him this is nearly treason
and to him they are worse than animals.
Sometimes some of the Boers
just asked permission
not to participate in the battle
(of which the general just had to bare knowledge)
and in that way the Boer forces decreased
and the permission could not be denied
and then the men went home, went away.
Generals could only react
against men deserting without permission
and some left the others
and was sometimes nearby
sometimes seen near to battlefields,
as spectators watching
how the battle develops
and some of these later worked for the enemy.
VI. The siege of Kimberley
The Soutpansberg commando got instructions
to go to the Modder Rivier,
to stop the enemy
who were marching along the railway track.
The commando was divided in two
and Jacobus Potgieter was ordered
to ride along with field coronet Alberts by train
to Modder River near to Magersfontein
and the other field coronets and the commandant
went to Colenso to help put it to siege
and to surround that town.
At the Modder River they met general Cronje
and seven thousand other citizens
and greeted each other.
Just a little later commandant-general De la Rey
and the Transvaal citizens were added to strengthen
the citizens from the Orange Free State
and quickly they got to work.
The Boers wanted to stop the British march,
before the enemy could cross the river
and tried to beat them with trenches and ramparts
and by this method break their attack.
The river was a natural strong point
for their defence
with sheltering that the enemy
would not be able to see
and trenches were placed near to the steep banks
The train bridge was blasted away
and three places was left to cross the river
from where they would stop the enemy.
General De la Rey thought that the main column
would come along the railway
to cross the river near to the bridge
and wanted to break this superior numbered force.
Just Bosmansdift and Rosmeadsdrift
were the other places where the river would suit the British,
considering the depth of the river and exposure
to fire that the Boers could manage.
The southern banks of the river
was taken by the Soutpansberg citizens to cover it,
with the men of general Cronje
as part of his plans
that covered the aria between Bosmansdrift
and the intersection of the Modder
and Riet Rivers and the men were enthusiastic
to try and shoot accurately.
General De la Rey with about eight hundred
Transvaal citizens was waiting on the right
near toe the rail crossing.
In the long grass and sand on the left
between the Riet River
and the Modder River some more citizens
were positioned to cover Bosmansdrift
if the enemy want to cross it.
General Prinsloo with a few thousand
Orange Free State citizens were
to the west of general de La Rey’s men
lying from the bridge up to Rosmeadsdrift
between rocky ledges.
In the shelter of the riverbank
behind the men the horses were kept
with them neighing every now and then
and on the northern side
of the Riet River a few canon
was placed behind the men.
Most of the canons were set up
next to the railway track
to cover the aria in front of general de La Rey
and to hit the main oncoming column.
A prayer before the battle was:
“Dear Father, here we are together
before the big battle
coming tomorrow, to pray
to you. We are scared,
that’s why we are here,
praying like we are now doing.
Over there are the British
also Christians like us. Maybe they
are also praying
just as we are doing. For this reason
I want to ask you
please do not take the part
of either one
and if it is your will,
stay out of it,
then tomorrow you will see something! ”
It was shouted: “Here they come! ”
When the canon behind them started shooting
the citizens started firing on the oncoming enemy
and the enemy took cover in an open aria
and the whole day long
they had to stay there on the ground
as they got shots
from Boers sheltered in trenches.
Every time during that day
that the enemy tried to storm forward
the Boers were taking marksmen shots
with their Mausers
and pinned them down, hour after hour
until the dark night.
For ten hours long
the enemy was lying there and nobody
was able to move
and every one that tried to get up
was shot down with Mauser fire
coming from positions that they were not aware of.
After the first rifle fire
the British answered with canon fire
whereupon with big success
the Boers answered with their long-tom canons
and the machinegun of the enemy
was destroyed by the Boers artillery
at the beginning of the battle
and the British were halted for hours long.
A British column moved past from the left
and swept general Prinsloo’s men back.
Under orders of commandant general de La Rey,
the Lichtenburg commando went to free them.
Following this the British was shot back
from Rosmeadsdrift, but a small number
of the British got past Bosmansdrift,
from where in the heat of the battle
they were also shot back
and the battle lasted into the dark night.
After sunset general De la Rey ordered
his men to fall back to Jacobsdal
and the citizens were happy with this decision.
The Free State citizens went to
their set positions at Spytfontein
and Scholsnek about twelve miles from Kimberley
to disappear into their trenches there.
General Cronje got about 7000 citizens
back from Mafakeng
to come and help at the Modder River
and Lord Methuen waited on reinforcements
to be able to stop the Boers.
Then the Boers went to work
to dig trenches at the feet
of the Magersfontein hillocks,
to strengthen their positions
and then they took cover in the trenches.
From the Merthon train stop for about three miles east,
at the foot of the Magersfontein hillocks
the main force of about 3500 citizens was set
in trenches up unto a low hill.
Next to the trenches, well camouflaged
small forts were built
from where the Boers could fire
at any place on the battlefield.
Jacobus Potgieter was placed with 600 men
in a position right against the railway track,
where general Cronje thought
that the British would try and break through.
About 1500 citizens were placed on the right wing,
north of the Modder River station
under command of general Andries Cronje,
but the left wing with 2500 citizens, east of Magersfontein
was without trenches and without a defence line.
To mislead the enemy
a few forts were build on the hillocks
with eleven canon set on the hillocks
and the trenches was hidden
by the camouflage of branches and grass.
When the British on 10 December 1899 started firing
with canon fire from Scholsnek
and were covering the aria with bombs,
it was the first time
that Jacobus Potgieter resisted them
under direct canon fire
and brave men with rifles fired back at the British.
General Piet Cronje called the citizens together
while looking at them earnestly:
“Citizens, the enemy is ready to move against us.
We have to remember one thing.
To fall back the lives of others
are placed in the balance,
and 20 to 30 lives are lost.
When the enemy move out against us, I will
set up a flying commando en lead it to them.”
General Cronje ordered them to wait
until the enemy moves and then to storm forward
for about five hundred paces
and then to take deadly shots
and not to look if anyone is being hit,
just to be aware of the enemy
and to read their movements.
General Cronje’s words were:
“This is the place where we have to beat the enemy! ”
Just at about midnight the British
started their march to Magersfontein
with general-major AG Wauchope leading in the front.
It was very cold and pitch dark
with rain pouring down
and they reached the hillocks
while thunderbolts were dropping down,
totally unaware of the trenches
onto which they were marching.
The enemy came in on an unexpected wing
and the citizens then killed a large number
of British soldiers in the dusk
and shot after shot was taken
and in the front Wauchope received
seven shots simultaneously
and the enemy was confused
while the Boers were mowing them down.
Some turned about to run back
and were falling over the ones behind them
causing still greater chaos
and it was still dark when the canons
were already getting involved.
The Boers were surrounded while the enemy
tried to break through,
to try and win Kimberley back,
but their attacks were stopped
at a great cost to the British,
who time and again
stormed into the Boer fire.
Then the enemy turned right to try and demolish
general Cronje’s left wing, to kill the Boers there,
but were shot down by the resisting Boers.
The whole day long the bombardment
of the British canons were falling
and at about twelve o’clock
general Cronje gave orders
to Jacobus Potgieter’s commando
to move running onto the left wing.
They stormed onto the enemy
and their attack was so effective
that the enemy turned around fleeing
and the Boers took the initiative
driving a great number of the British back.
With the British defeat
Jacobus could not establish
the number of enemy dead
as some were already taken away during the battle.
When Jacobus Potgieter walked on the battlefield
three days after the battle
there were bloody British flags
and some wounded moaning men totally without hope
and by then the dead had been driven away for days
and there were still hundreds that he found there
and after five days the enemy were still digging graves
and were still busy with funeral services.
Commando after commando
went home after that battle
and left the rest of the Boers there.
Cecil John Rhodes
were at the point of handing Kimberley over,
of letting the Boers into the town,
when Methuen attacked with 40000
soldiers as a flashpoint.
With a battle lasting three days long
the British broke through at Paardeberg,
firing hour after hour at the Boers
but the Boers broke this attack.
Then the huge British force tried to break through
the forces of the Orange Free State,
but were waited upon
by the men of commandant Jacobs.
Then they send a column past the backside
and they faced general Christian de Wet
and his men shot them out off their territory.
When the Boers had halted
the whole of the British force,
the British got some more reinforcements
to try again to break through on the eastern side
in such a great force
that the Boers could not stop them.
Jacobus Potgieter was at Scholsnek
with the Soutpansberg commando
for almost three months
under unstopped canon bombardment
and after the breakthrough
general Cronje gave orders to draw back.
“Leave your trenches and fight a way through to the laager.”
The next day the Boers were gone.
During the night Jacobus Potgieter
fled with the laager
and there were a lot of wagons
that had to go back.
Over farms and in the veldt,
women and children were joining them
and Jacobus caught a wild horse
and tamed it in that night
as if it was destined for him.
The wagons kept general Cronje’s commando back
causing the British to catch up with them
and they began shelling
from one of the woman’s farm
in a huge bombardment.
At eight o’clock that night
the Boers again moved out
and the superfluous things were thrown away
as many horses and oxen had been killed
by the bombardment and the distress was huge
and then general Christian de Wet
almost fought right through the British
to come and free general Cronje’s men.
Until eight o’clock that morning
the Boers were fleeing
as the enemy was formidable
and field coronets Jacobus Potgieter
and H Schnell were ordered
to go and find some horses
but to try and avoid the enemy.
The walking Boers were tired
without a proper opportunity
to get away from the British
and the remaining oxen
were thin and tired from the pulling
at the continuous fast pace
and from a shortage of grass
and they did not know
to eat the lye-bushes.
Jacobus Potgieter caught up
with general Cronje.
General Cronje was at the front side of the laager
and strong like steel,
checking the canon and was very worried
and then the commando again
came under British canon bombardment.
In the bushes Jacobus heard horses
and were chasing them
catching them and waged his life in the dark
before Jacobus took the horses into a bush
and decided not to go back in the dark
as it was too dangerous.
The next morning Jacobus tried
to go back to the laager
and came across other citizens
that had fled from the laager
and they told him
to turn back as the commando
was surrounded and the whole time
under enemy rifle and canon fire.
Jacobus Potgieter did not listen to them
and another group of citizens
that he crossed paths with
told him the same thing
and he was annoyed:
“If we turn around and leave our brothers
in their position of distress,
it can cost their lives
and we do not deserve anything better than death.
Come on brothers, bring your rifles! ”
Then on his own Jacobus Potgieter rode
still nearer to the laager
and he was in a hurry, not saving the horses
and he met commandant P Schutte
who asked him very worried:
“Where do you think,
you are going with those horses? ”
He explained that he was taking them
through to the laager
and commandant P Schutte was totally amazed
and said to him:
“Brother, before God nothing is impossible,
but those citizens in that laager
will never again come out of it.
The enemy has more than enough to take there.
Do not take more booty to them.
If you go to that laager with these horses
they will catch you and all of these horses.
Rather turn back and go to Brandfort and wait
for my report about the outcome.”
He listened to the advice of the commandant
and later he came to know that the enemy
had put 150 canons and 75000 soldiers
with continuous bombardment
against 4000 citizens and their 6 canons.
At long last general Cronje had to surrender
against the overpowering numbers
that day and night
came nearer to them
and without mercy the citizens
that were captured were sent
to St. Helena Island for imprisonment.
Of the fourteen field coronets ten was killed
and only Jacobus Potgieter and H Schnell did escape
while shots were fired at them
and a while later the British
marched into Bloemfontein
with the Boers
not really being able to stop them.
VII. The invasion of Natal
After the defeat at Paardeberg
Jacobus Potgieter was sent home
to rest for a month
and the trip took days
but it wasn’t really dangerous
and he took the horses along
as did not want to leave them with anyone.
Jacobus returned to the war
and had to go to Burgersberg in Natal
where he was very unhappy
with the leadership
of the commanding officers
and the fact that they did not take action
as general Piet Cronje and his men
were known for careful plans
and their bravery
and Jacobus was responsible
to give supplies like food, clothes
and ammunition to his comrades.
With the outbreak of the war
the citizens of general Joubert
went to Newcastle and Dundee
to conquer the coal fields.
The 4500 citizens of general Lucas Meyer
were on their way to the Talana hillocks,
to take the enemy on,
with general Erasmus leading his 5000 citizens
to the Mpate kopjes
and general de Kock’s 750 men went
to cut the railway connection at Elandslaagte.
Without great adversary Newcastle
on 16 October fell to the Boers
and on 20 October 1899
Dundee was bombarded
from the hillocks with shots
falling into the enemy camp
where big chaos broke out
among the 3800 soldiers
where the British general Penn-Symons
got them under control
and began with a counter attack
and then the British
were held behind a wall.
To inspire his troops
Penn-Symons ran through
the opening in the wall
where he got several fatal shots.
The British infantry
then stormed the hillock
and came under fire
from the Boers at the top
and their own artillery
that killed some of them.
After the Boers were driven away
from the hillock
they pursued the fleeing Boers
but the whole British horse battalion was unaware
of the men of general Erasmus
and all of them were captured
and their horses were taken from them.
On 19 October general de Kock’s men
assaulted the British trains
where they draw the few British soldiers into a fight
and started to unload the wagons.
An angry general White
rushed his 3500 soldiers to Elandslaagte
where they started to shell the Boers
catching the Boers of balance.
At Dundee brigadier general Yule took command
and under instructions from general White
the British were fleeing back to Ladysmith.
Another 9000 Boers
under chief commandant Prinsloo
but saw the British soldiers storming
over a open piece of veldt
from where they shot them back
with rifle fire, driving them right into Ladysmith.
When general Meyer resigned
field coronet Louis Botha got his position
and it did not take long
for him to proof his bravery
and to rise as a great leader.
In the hillocks at Ladysmith White’s soldiers
were waiting on the Boers
but started their bombardment
on a hillock without any Boer on it
and then the canons of the Boers fired back,
out shooting those of the British
and while the Boers long-tom canons
general Joubert attacked the British form all sides
where in humiliation White had lost
954 soldiers as prisoners of war.
From the surrounding hillocks
Ladysmith was bombarded by canon
where 12500 soldiers
and 7800 citizens were housed
with bombs coming down on them
and they were left with food
for two months and feed for only one month.
On 9 November the Boers attacked the town
with their commandos but could not take it
and the counter attack
of George White was resisted,
but then it happened
that the liberation column
of Buller started its march
trying to penetrate the Boer commandos,
but the Boers were waiting for them
on the other side of the Tugela River
and the British army
was unable to find the drift
to try and pass through the river
and were defeated in chaos
and 143 were killed,755 wounded
and 240 were taken prisoner of war
which had an impact on the career of Buller
and he was fired as supreme commander
and become only the commander
for the invasion through Natal
with Lord Roberts replacing him.
Although Buller then had 30000 soldiers,
his soldiers were thrashed
at Spioenkop and Vaalkrans
but with his great superior number of men,
eventually Buller liberated Ladysmith and Colenso
and Jacobus Potgieter
had been two months in Natal
when Buller’s big army attacked them.
With the death of general Joubert, from illness,
general Louis Botha
was appointed in his place
who ordered the Boer forces to pull back
to the border with the Transvaal
where trenches were prepared
to try and stop the enemy.
The British numbers were far too big
and a lot of Boers were killed
and the Boers could not stop the big force,
with which the British went through them
and later the Orange Free State and Transvaal
came under annexation from Great Britain.
VIII. The changing face of the war
After the defeat on the border of the Transvaal
the Boers gathered on 17 March at Kroonstad
and all their military and political leaders were there
and general Christiaan de Wet accepted leadership,
as commandant-general of the Orange Free State
and they talked and planned together.
Commandant-general de Wet’s plan
was to keep his men highly mobile,
to take the war to the rear guard of the enemy,
to settle the fight
from their horses with their rifles.
They would find food
and ammunition on the farms
and would constantly change
their position and ride on.
It was fruitless to fight
against overpowering numbers
in the front lines,
where the British were only waiting
to decimate the Boers and conditions
were worsened for the Boers
and to hit the enemy
where they expect it the least,
could do great damage to them
and had the possibility
to win the two countries back again.
But first the citizens had to go home
to rest for a month
and general de Wet was well aware,
that he was going to loose some soldiers,
but only the brave
and the most determined
would then come back to him.
The plan was then accepted
by commandant-general De la Rey
and both presidents Kruger and Steyn
for the Boers to ride out in raids
and not to spare any rear defence.
The whole matter
was a big embarrassment to the British.
The Boer patriots
attacked with surprise and again disappeared
before a big British force could react
and de Wet did become a big head ache to them
and they could not stop, the attacks from the Boers
or their guerrilla warfare tactics.
To cut the Boers supply lines
to let his army ride through the farms,
to drive out the women and children
and to put them in concentration camps
with armed soldiers closing down on farms
burning down farms, houses and even towns,
claiming the Boers possessions or selling it
and by force removing women and children.
He also armed the black tribesmen
to attack the farms,
to expel women and children with firearms,
to kill them and to rape
at night and during the day.
Some people believe that Kitchener carefully
chose numerous places
that was hideous,
where people was held in perilous conditions
but it remains a fact
that he did not spend a lot of time
on the planning
and choosing of the camps,
without any feelings for being humane,
or the considering of sicknesses and disasters.
There were fifty concentration camps
that are now being seen as places
of human suffering and sorrow
where about 110000 women
and children were held captured
and where more than 20000 starved
from the pests prevailing
through sickness of almost any kind,
glass that was grinded into the meal,
and glass and fishing hooks
in the salt meat and so on,
as if the British did not
possess humanity at all.
Some of the camps were in marches
or at wet muddy places
at cold windy places,
constructed next to rivers
without hygienic conditions to disrupt lives
and some women had to bath
and wash in pools after rain.
Sometimes people in these camps
had to stay in the open for lengths of time
exposed to sun, rain, hail and wind,
as if it was being planned to kill them
and sometimes they had to beg for clothes.
Food rations was inadequate
and some people starved
from lack of food,
meat from sick animals
were unhygienic cut into pieces.
Only one doctor was appointed
for every camp
with numbers of more than four thousand people,
mostly without hospital facilities
with a lot of complaints
that the medicine was poisoned
and medical treatment was not given to everybody.
IX. The war in the Soutpansberg
General Beyers was sent by the government
as leader to both the Soutpansberg
and Waterberg commandos,
to try and win the war against the British
and it was clear that he knew the art
of using the environment
as camouflage while attacking the British.
When Jacobus Potgieter arrived
in the Northern Transvaal
they had to avoid Pretoria
to get to Warmbaths,
as Pretoria had fallen to the enemy
and for two months
they were harassing the British
and when Paget had withdrawn to Pienaars River,
the Waterberg district was the frontline,
but there were many traitors among the Boers
who daily went to the British,
some were tired of fighting
against the British
and others later came back
on instruction of the British,
to try and convince
some more to surrender.
Jacobus was again chosen
as field coronet of Houtbergbos
and had to go there with immediate effect,
to appose the British.
With a overwhelming big force
Paget went to Pietersburg
that fell to the British on 29 March 1901,
where the British plundered
whatever they could
and they were placing women and children
into concentration camps
and took cattle to Pretoria as a source of food.
They were burning down houses,
were even casting salt onto the fields.
The British possession of Pietersburg
drove the Boers into the mountains
with the British in control
of the whole Northern Transvaal,
with Colenbrander and Plummer
driving the war there,
trying to destroy the Boer commando
of general Beyers.
Plummer made his invasion
along the Olifant River
and in that unknown aria
befriended the blacks,
giving firearms to them
to attack the women on farms
and with all the Boer traitors
that were acting for the British,
Jacobus Potgieter resigned as field coronet.
When the British at Heanertsburg
started fighting with the Boers,
the Boers saw a cloud
of dust coming along,
that was rising from the direction of Houtbosberg
and Jacobus Potgieter and W van Heerden
went out during the night
to scout on the enemy.
Just where they had seen the cloud of dust,
they arrived during the night at a black village
and sneaked up to the wall of the village
and called a black man over
to get some information from him
while trying to avoid the enemy.
The man told them lies
that only two wagons
belonging to the Boers had passed
and about the direction that the wagons
had gone he kept on being deceitful.
From the tracks Jacobus could see
that it was six wagons of the British,
and probably on the way to their camp,
he did not give the black man
any further attention
whose village had been instructed
by the British to attack the women
and children on the farms,
to rob and pillage with firearms.
Back at the commando a spy
told them about a British unit approaching
from another direction
and they had to go out scouting
to see what the British was up to,
but could find no signs of their presence
while they were riding along the whole day long.
At the place where the commando had been
a letter had been left:
“Come in the direction of Haenertsburg.”
Jacobus and field coronet Marais then decided
to get more information
and hurried to the farm
of Jacobus that was nearby.
On the farm Jacobus’s wife Margritha
ran crying up to them and said:
“Where were you the whole day?
The whole territory
has been taken by the British.
The canons were firing the whole day long
and the blacks have stolen all the cattle.
All the people have left! They said that they
would stay at a certain mountain
and we have to meet them there.
The enemy has gone into the mountains
with thousands of blacks
going along with them.”
It was already dark
and they went to the nearest neighbour
to try and get more information.
They greeted him: “How are things here? ”
The neighbour answered:
“The enemy went into the hills
shortly after the two of you had left.
went in the direction of Wolkberg.
The long-tom canon
had fired 16 shots. The enemy
was almost at the canon
when the 17th shot was fired. The canon crew
blew the canon into pieces with dynamite.
The blacks took all the cattle and sheep
and all of the clothes and blankets
of the women and children.
Also every thing in the house,
including all the food. Chickens and pigs
have been killed. The women
were pushed about by the blacks.”
From there they went to the houses
of other citizens to find some more answers
until two o’clock at night whereupon Marais said:
“Let us go to Wolkberg.”
Jacobus answered: “The blacks
are pillaging the women and children
and who knows if the are going to kill them as well.
I will stay here to look for some more citizens,
if your want to go to Wolkberg.”
Marais went to Wolkberg where he was
captured by the enemy,
Jacobus found nobody else
while he was riding to his farm
and he had to hide his horse
to be able to escape with it.
Then he sneaked around the house
to see if his family was safe
and all of them were well
and he was aware of the Lord’s mercy.
The next morning Jacobus
found two more citizens
and heard from them
about the pillaging done by the blacks,
that had happened to other families
and the blacks did not even
leave a blanket for the children,
or anything to eat
and the people
would not be able to forget these evil events
that for Jacobus spoke
of barbarism and the frailty of man
and in his heart he wished disaster on the British.
Jacobus Potgieter, JM Dames and L Alberts together
made plans to protect their families.
They decided that each man
would stay at his own house
as long as he could
and would fire on anyone coming near
until death to rescue their families.
When the blacks came with rifles
to pillage these citizens,
the Boers opened fire on them,
to stop the attacks
where they were around the houses,
like vultures waiting for the death
of the farmers.
But with shot upon shot
they were warded off,
where these farmers were on guard
sitting and praying
for God to stop the enemy.
They saw the British Calvary riding past
and had decided to wait on the enemy,
in order for the women to ask their protection,
but after three days and nights they were far too tired.
They then did decide to surrender, as they could not anymore
carry on with the blacks that were serving the enemy
and Jacobus Potgieter and L Alberts went to the enemy,
while J Dames stayed behind to guard their families.
Jacobus had decided to trust in God,
in faith to hold on to the salvation of the Lord
and with a heavy heart he went to surrender,
to try and protect his family with this deed.
The enemy was scared when they saw Jacobus
as they were people from
the Cape colony without arms,
that was part of the British force
and acted as drivers for wagons and mules.
They were in the riverbed,
at the long-tom canon
that had been shot into pieces
and were trying to get a piece
of the canon out of the water.
They greeted the drivers
and went to meet the British
at Najensbrook, about a hour from home,
where an officer
were giving orders in Afrikaans.
Jacobus asked: “What is going on?
I expect to meet Englishmen here.
Now I meet Boers as enemies? ”
One answers him: “What do you think?
We are many more than you.
Our commando is about 1200 strong
and we are mostly Boers
who are helping the British.”
Then Jacobus asks confused: “How can it be,
that you are fighting against your own nation? ”
“We are British subjects from
the Cape colony and Natal.”
Then Jacobus asks: “Where is your general?
I want to see him.”
Then the officer gave orders to a driver:
“Take this man to the general,
the main commander of the laager.”
The laager where they were going
was far from there and Jacobus and Alberts
still were carrying their rifles
and met the officer being angry about the events
of the day before and laid their weapons down
and asked the British officer:
“Why does it look as if you
are fighting with black people against us,
how do you let black people
pillage our homes and families? ”
Then the officer bursts loose:
“Why did you not surrender
before I had to come here?
You let me come here for no reason! ”
Whereupon Jacobus said: “It isn’t fair
to fight with the blacks against the whites.
Still more so, to let them attack our women! ”
The officer answered unruly:
“I have instructed the black people
not to do such things,
but they do not want to listen.”
Whereupon Jacobus answers him:
“I do not believe it! ”
The officer then told them
to go and wait on a certain farm for a day or so.
Whereupon Jacobus was still more angry:
“No! I do not have time to sit around.
Give orders to the blacks
to stop pillaging our families.”
The officer ordered Jacobus to wait
on his commander who had to come
and Jacobus harassed that commander
with the accusation
about the blacks pillaging
women and children
at which the officer granted his request
but at that time most of the farms
had already been pillaged,
and the women and kids were endangered
and treated very badly by the blacks.
Then the officer said: “I will let you go back.
Bring your families here.”
Whereupon Jacobus shook his head and replied:
“The blacks have robbed all the oxen and wagons.
How am I to do it? ”
The colonel then gave the blacks instructions
to give the oxen and wagons back
but they did not really care about his commands,
whereupon Jacobus went back to his family
where they were safe but full of sorrow.
The blacks had only returned six oxen
and no wagons
and at the house of L Alberts
there were some more problems,
with one hundred and three people
that had fled there
without clothes, food and blankets
and they were women and children
who had been molested
and pillaged by the blacks.
Jacobus was astonished
as some of these women
had walked 24 miles
and had carried
their small children on their backs.
A woman said: “The blacks pushed me around
against the ground.”
Another one: “The blacks stabbed me with a
Assegai (spear) in the breast.”
A third one said: “They were hitting me
with rifles against the chest.”
Another lady said: “I tried to keep a blanket
for my child,
but the black man grabbed it
and knocked me from my feet
whit a rifle.”
Some of the blacks
that were loyal workers and maids
did take some things to look after,
when they saw the band of robbers arriving
and stormed with these things into the bushes
and brought the possessions back later
and this humanity goes deep
into a person’s heart,
but it was single items
that they were able to take
like a blanket or sometimes a bed.
Some of the blacks acted shamefully,
raping some of those women
and it was what was reported
to Jacobus Johannes Potgieter,
and it is reported here truthfully
and of these things
Jacobus was also a witness
and the enemy had no idea
how he felt about these things
and to protect his family
he went to hand his rifle in.
There were 103 women and children
that Jacobus Potgieter and L Alberts
had to transport with three wagons,
but a lot had to walk
and this trip was dreadful.
That first night
some of the women went to sleep
at Jacobus’s house
as he still had some food,
that he shared with them
and his wife was looking
for sheets and blankets
to try and make beds on the ground.
Some women slept inside on the floor,
but others had to sleep outside
and it was really terrible,
to see vulnerable women lying around.
Jacobus went along with the wagons
up to the main road
and took leave of his wife and companions
and rode out to meet the enemy
and the colonel leading them
where he said to the colonel:
“The women and children,
103 of them in total are waiting on you.”
From the stories that the women
and children had heard
they were really scared of the British.
Jacobus was riding with the enemy
to lead them to the women and children
and he said to the colonel:
“I will go to the families and tell them
that you are coming,
that they do not have to fear.”
The colonel and some of his captains
came along to Kuiperkuil
where some of the women
and children were crying
out of fear for the enemy,
being scared to get hurt
and stayed in a group together.
The British loaded these people
on some more wagons
and turned with them in the road
taking them to Pietersburg
where they lived
in houses for a month long
and then just before dark one late afternoon,
was taken to the concentration camp
as sentenced people.
Some of the food that they got to eat,
(this is the honest truth)
was meat from cattle and sheep
that was contaminated with diseases
and these illnesses
were carried over to these people.
Some of the sick animals
were daily slaughtered there in front of the people
and the meat given to them to eat,
while the British knew about the illnesses
that the animals did possess.
Some of the rations were flour,
coffee and sugar and were given
sparingly to the people.
Some of the cattle had fire-illness,
some with lung-disease
and they got that food to eat
as if the British
had forgotten about these illnesses.
Some of the sheep had measles,
others were infected with heart-water
and this meat was given to the people to eat
as if there was no law in the country
while the British knew about these illnesses
and without food
these people would also have perished
and in this way the British
earned more hatred and caused a lot of sorrow.
Jacobus was digging graves for the dead,
sometimes as many as seventeen per day,
where they loaded as many
as twelve bodies at a time
on a wagon to bury them.
After a time the people refused to eat the meat
as they knew that it made them ill
and were caused their deaths
and they gained the trust of the English doctor
and he did examine the meat and did confirm
that it was terribly infected,
almost like a kind of acknowledgement
whereupon the sheep
were slaughtered and buried.
They then received tinned meat
with grain and sometimes fine pieces of glass
and fishhooks in them
that also droops
the British with inhumanity.
Jacobus took the names
and length and width
of every dead body
and wrote it in his diary
and in a way half estranged,
he took the bodies
after the funeral service to the graves
and covered them with sand.
In that concentration camp Jacobus dug
maybe seventeen graves on a day
and he was mourning while he witnessed
the death of so many people,
but the mule wagon could only take
ten to twelve coffins at a time
depending on the sizes of the coffins.
The crying and sorrow of this experience
stayed with him and his youngest child
Margritha Jacoba was only five months old
when they went into the concentration camp
being aware of people dying.
In every tent where he looked into,
Jacobus saw sick people infected
that they got from the sick meat.
After only two weeks
in the concentration camp
all of his children became ill.
Many things was terribly wrong
in that concentration camp.
All the people with measles died form it,
even adults who were kept in that camp.
Jacobus felt totally defenceless,
knew that the intentions
of the British was wrong
and the only thing
that he and his wife Margritha could do
was to reconcile them with the will of God
and three times a day they were praying
putting the protection of their children
before the throne of God.
X. Jacobus Potgieter escapes
For a long period of time
Jacobus did not receive any news
from the commando,
but at the insistence of the British
a traitor’s wife was sent to the Boers,
to try and convince them to surrender
and she brought news
about the commando’s whereabouts.
started to make plans to escape,
to walk away from the British,
to join the commando once more
and to get the enemy out of his country.
Mostly the lower class Boers joined the British
to kill Afrikaners for 5 shilling a day,
trying to force the Boers to loose the war.
The British even tried
to convince Jacobus to join them,
but he saw it as an evil plan
and was angry about it,
as he was forced unfairly
to surrender, to protect his family
With the passing time Jacobus made friends
with other men
and they were also involved in his escape plan,
at a time where the British were on the look out
for rebellion among the prisoners
Jacobus got thirty citizens
to lead them to freedom.
After many months Jacobus
and his friends got an opportunity
to ride along with the wagons
that was going out of the camp to collect firewood,
but the evening before the escape,
many of his friends became too scared to escape
and most of them decided to stay,
but only seven men
went through with the decision to escape.
They had a careful plan
and took food for four days
and two pairs of clothes along,
that was strong enough to last a year
while they trusted in God to lead them.
Unsure Jacobus greeted his wife and children
and scared that the British could have a suspicion of trouble
they left the crying children in the tent
while he greeted them.
Jacobus was well aware
about the dangers of this concentration camp
how the food, the bad circumstances
impacted on his children,
and asked God to look after them
and to guide the way back to the commando
through the coming dangers.
The seven men were somewhat sultry
when they got onto the wagons,
but in the wood fields they were industrious,
while the other men and blacks
were turning around them.
The escaping men were:
Jacobus Johannes Potgieter,
AJ van Jaarsveld, CJ Potgieter
(the brother of Jacobus) , SJ de Beer,
JH Venter, C Harmse and W van der Gijft,
who trusted their lives into the hands of God.
At twilight that night
they told the driver of their wagon
that they were going to escape,
were going to walk back to their commando,
but did not tell their plans to him
and they had difficulty in convincing him
to take the wagon back to the British
and from the blacks of the nearest rural village
they traded a blanket for a goat
and made a big fire to fry the meat,
while the other citizens
were still standing around them
and they ate as much as they could,
before they went to hide in the bushes
and the blacks were not aggressive
as long as they were with the British,
but became very hostile
the moment that they were not with the British.
With their clothes and a blanket each,
they left that camp in the wood fields
and without talking,
sneaked in the dark past the blacks
hiding in the bushes.
While working during the day they scouted the aria,
finding a route
and slipped away without being noticed.
There was a farm near to them
where they could find hidden rifles and ammunition,
that was buried there and Jacobus during the day
had cut a piece of wood to use as a digging tool,
but they first had to pass a large black village.
They kept to the bushes, trusting in God’s help
but when after an hour they arrived on the farm,
a light was burning in the house on the farm
and they were astonished to find people there
and thought that some of the men
who decided not to come along,
had betrayed them to the British
as the owner of the farm
had been captured by the British.
Sagrys de Beer said: “Let’s leave the rifles.
We are going to get captured here.
The voices that we hear are the voices of Boers,
but far too many Boers have joined the British
to fight against us.
We cannot trust anybody, or that they
will be on our side.”
Fifteen paces from the house
they then discussed the matter,
about either getting the rifles
or leaving the weapons and moving on.
Jacobus who really want the rifles
at first did not want to listen to advice and said:
“Grys, we cannot leave the rifles here,
we have to move over the wall silently
and go and dig the rifles out.”
“You will have us caught! Listen to the voices.
They are enemy Boers! ”
“Grys, just think about the black towns
that we will have to pass.”
“Kotie let us rather walk away while it is still dark.
Let us leave the rifles. Even if we go
over the wall unnoticed,
they will hear us when we start digging
with that piece of wood in your hand.
They will shoot us. If one of us are wounded
we will be very sorry that we did not leave
the guns here.
Kotie, let’s go. My maid
has hidden two of my rifles and ammunition
I will go to my farm.
My maid is trustworthy.”
“Grys, I will do as you say. Come, let us go.”
Thick fog were rising and they were lost,
Could not find the road and wandered along
until they found the road again
and then decided to stay near to it,
but the packs that they were carrying
were becoming heavy
and they were becoming tired.
Sagrys said: “Kotie, we have to sleep here.
Old Albert and Krisjan cannot walk any further.
They are tired. You have to take care
of the weakest man among us.”
“You are right, Grys.
We will have to get away from the road
and go down the cliff, to get a sleeping place.
When the British become aware that we have escaped,
they will start following our tracks.”
“Kotie, lets turn off here to the left.
The cliff is deep. They will never find us here.
If suddenly they find us, we can run along
the cliff in to the bushes.
If we reach the bushes,
they can bring thousands of men
to try and find us, but will have no success.
I know this region very well.”
“It sounds like a great plan,
come on guys lets go down the cliff.
The Victories Of Love. Book I
From Frederick Graham
Mother, I smile at your alarms!
I own, indeed, my Cousin's charms,
But, like all nursery maladies,
Love is not badly taken twice.
Have you forgotten Charlotte Hayes,
My playmate in the pleasant days
At Knatchley, and her sister, Anne,
The twins, so made on the same plan,
That one wore blue, the other white,
To mark them to their father's sight;
And how, at Knatchley harvesting,
You bade me kiss her in the ring,
Like Anne and all the others? You,
That never of my sickness knew,
Will laugh, yet had I the disease,
And gravely, if the signs are these:
As, ere the Spring has any power,
The almond branch all turns to flower,
Though not a leaf is out, so she
The bloom of life provoked in me;
And, hard till then and selfish, I
Was thenceforth nought but sanctity
And service: life was mere delight
In being wholly good and right,
As she was; just, without a slur;
Honouring myself no less than her;
Obeying, in the loneliest place,
Ev'n to the slightest gesture, grace
Assured that one so fair, so true,
He only served that was so too.
For me, hence weak towards the weak,
No more the unnested blackbird's shriek
Startled the light-leaved wood; on high
Wander'd the gadding butterfly,
Unscared by my flung cap; the bee,
Rifling the hollyhock in glee,
Was no more trapp'd with his own flower,
And for his honey slain. Her power,
From great things even to the grass
Through which the unfenced footways pass,
Was law, and that which keeps the law,
Cherubic gaiety and awe;
Day was her doing, and the lark
Had reason for his song; the dark
In anagram innumerous spelt
Her name with stars that throbb'd and felt;
'Twas the sad summit of delight
To wake and weep for her at night;
She turn'd to triumph or to shame
The strife of every childish game;
The heart would come into my throat
At rosebuds; howsoe'er remote,
In opposition or consent,
Each thing, or person, or event,
Or seeming neutral howsoe'er,
All, in the live, electric air,
Awoke, took aspect, and confess'd
In her a centre of unrest,
Yea, stocks and stones within me bred
Anxieties of joy and dread.
O, bright apocalyptic sky
O'erarching childhood! Far and nigh
Mystery and obscuration none,
Yet nowhere any moon or sun!
What reason for these sighs? What hope,
Daunting with its audacious scope
The disconcerted heart, affects
These ceremonies and respects?
Why stratagems in everything?
Why, why not kiss her in the ring?
'Tis nothing strange that warriors bold,
Whose fierce, forecasting eyes behold
The city they desire to sack,
Humbly begin their proud attack
By delving ditches two miles off,
Aware how the fair place would scoff
At hasty wooing; but, O child,
Why thus approach thy playmate mild?
One morning, when it flush'd my thought
That, what in me such wonder wrought
Was call'd, in men and women, love,
And, sick with vanity thereof,
I, saying loud, ‘I love her,’ told
My secret to myself, behold
A crisis in my mystery!
For, suddenly, I seem'd to be
Whirl'd round, and bound with showers of threads
As when the furious spider sheds
Captivity upon the fly
To still his buzzing till he die;
Only, with me, the bonds that flew,
Enfolding, thrill'd me through and through
With bliss beyond aught heaven can have
And pride to dream myself her slave.
A long, green slip of wilder'd land,
With Knatchley Wood on either hand,
Sunder'd our home from hers. This day
Glad was I as I went her way.
I stretch'd my arms to the sky, and sprang
O'er the elastic sod, and sang
‘I love her, love her!’ to an air
Which with the words came then and there;
And even now, when I would know
All was not always dull and low,
I mind me awhile of the sweet strain
Love taught me in that lonely lane.
Such glories fade, with no more mark
Than when the sunset dies to dark.
They pass, the rapture and the grace
Ineffable, their only trace
A heart which, having felt no less
Than pure and perfect happiness,
Is duly dainty of delight;
A patient, poignant appetite
For pleasures that exceed so much
The poor things which the world calls such,
That, when these lure it, then you may
The lion with a wisp of hay.
That Charlotte, whom we scarcely knew
From Anne but by her ribbons blue,
Was loved, Anne less than look'd at, shows
That liking still by favour goes!
This Love is a Divinity,
And holds his high election free
Of human merit; or let's say,
A child by ladies call'd to play,
But careless of their becks and wiles,
Till, seeing one who sits and smiles
Like any else, yet only charms,
He cries to come into her arms.
Then, for my Cousins, fear me not!
None ever loved because he ought.
Fatal were else this graceful house,
So full of light from ladies' brows.
There's Mary; Heaven in her appears
Like sunshine through the shower's bright tears;
Mildred's of Earth, yet happier far
Than most men's thoughts of Heaven are;
But, for Honoria, Heaven and Earth
Seal'd amity in her sweet birth.
The noble Girl! With whom she talks
She knights first with her smile; she walks,
Stands, dances, to such sweet effect,
Alone she seems to move erect.
The brightest and the chastest brow
Rules o'er a cheek which seems to show
That love, as a mere vague suspense
Of apprehensive innocence,
Perturbs her heart; love without aim
Or object, like the sunlit flame
That in the Vestals' Temple glow'd,
Without the image of a god.
And this simplicity most pure
She sets off with no less allure
Of culture, subtly skill'd to raise
The power, the pride, and mutual praise
Of human personality
Above the common sort so high,
It makes such homely souls as mine
Marvel how brightly life may shine.
How you would love her! Even in dress
She makes the common mode express
New knowledge of what's fit so well
'Tis virtue gaily visible!
Nay, but her silken sash to me
Were more than all morality,
Had not the old, sweet, feverous ill
Left me the master of my will!
So, Mother, feel at rest, and please
To send my books on board. With these,
When I go hence, all idle hours
Shall help my pleasures and my powers.
I've time, you know, to fill my post,
And yet make up for schooling lost
Through young sea-service. They all speak
German with ease; and this, with Greek,
(Which Dr. Churchill thought I knew,)
And history, which I fail'd in too,
Will stop a gap I somewhat dread,
After the happy life I've led
With these my friends; and sweet 'twill be
To abridge the space from them to me.
From Mrs. Graham
My Child, Honoria Churchill sways
A double power through Charlotte Hayes.
In minds to first-love's memory pledged
The second Cupid's born full-fledged.
I saw, and trembled for the day
When you should see her beauty, gay
And pure as apple-blooms, that show
Outside a blush and inside snow,
Her high and touching elegance
Of order'd life as free as chance.
Ah, haste from her bewitching side,
No friend for you, far less a bride!
But, warning from a hope so wild,
I wrong you. Yet this know, my Child:
He that but once too nearly hears
The music of forefended spheres,
Is thenceforth lonely, and for all
His days like one who treads the Wall
Of China, and, on this hand, sees
Cities and their civilities,
And, on the other, lions. Well,
(Your rash reply I thus foretell,)
Good is the knowledge of what's fair,
Though bought with temporal despair!
Yes, good for one, but not for two.
Will it content a wife that you
Should pine for love, in love's embrace,
Through having known a happier grace;
And break with inward sighs your rest,
Because, though good, she's not the best?
You would, you think, be just and kind,
And keep your counsel! You will find
You cannot such a secret keep;
'Twill out, like murder, in your sleep;
A touch will tell it, though, for pride,
She may her bitter knowledge hide;
And, while she accepts love's make-believe,
You'll twice despise what you'd deceive.
I send the books. Dear Child, adieu!
Tell me of all you are and do.
I know, thank God, whate'er it be,
'Twill need no veil 'twixt you and me.
The multitude of voices blythe
Of early day, the hissing scythe
Across the dew drawn and withdrawn,
The noisy peacock on the lawn,
These, and the sun's eye-gladding gleam,
This morning, chased the sweetest dream
That e'er shed penitential grace
On life's forgetful commonplace;
Yet 'twas no sweeter than the spell
To which I woke to say farewell.
Noon finds me many a mile removed
From her who must not be beloved;
And us the waste sea soon shall part,
Heaving for aye, without a heart!
Mother, what need to warn me so?
I love Miss Churchill? Ah, no, no.
I view, enchanted, from afar,
And love her as I love a star,
For, not to speak of colder fear,
Which keeps my fancy calm, I hear,
Under her life's gay progress hurl'd,
The wheels of the preponderant world,
Set sharp with swords that fool to slay
Who blunders from a poor byway,
To covet beauty with a crown
Of earthly blessing added on;
And she's so much, it seems to me,
Beyond all women womanly,
I dread to think how he should fare
Who came so near as to despair.
Yonder the sombre vessel rides
Where my obscure condition hides.
Waves scud to shore against the wind
That flings the sprinkling surf behind;
In port the bickering pennons show
Which way the ships would gladly go;
Through Edgecumb Park the rooted trees
Are tossing, reckless, in the breeze;
On top of Edgecumb's firm-set tower,
As foils, not foibles, of its power,
The light vanes do themselves adjust
To every veering of the gust:
By me alone may nought be given
To guidance of the airs of heaven?
In battle or peace, in calm or storm,
Should I my daily task perform,
Better a thousand times for love,
Who should my secret soul reprove?
Beholding one like her, a man
Longs to lay down his life! How can
Aught to itself seem thus enough,
When I have so much need thereof?
Blest in her place, blissful is she;
And I, departing, seem to be
Like the strange waif that comes to run
A few days flaming near the sun,
And carries back, through boundless night,
Its lessening memory of light.
Oh, my dear Mother, I confess
To a deep grief of homelessness,
Unfelt, save once, before. 'Tis years
Since such a shower of girlish tears
Disgraced me? But this wretched Inn,
At Plymouth, is so full of din,
Talkings and trampings to and fro.
And then my ship, to which I go
To-night, is no more home. I dread,
As strange, the life I long have led;
And as, when first I went to school,
And found the horror of a rule
Which only ask'd to be obey'd,
I lay and wept, of dawn afraid,
And thought, with bursting heart, of one
Who, from her little, wayward son,
Required obedience, but above
Obedience still regarded love,
So change I that enchanting place,
The abode of innocence and grace
And gaiety without reproof,
For the black gun-deck's louring roof,
Blind and inevitable law
Which makes light duties burdens, awe
Which is not reverence, laughters gain'd
At cost of purities profaned,
And whatsoever most may stir
Remorseful passion towards her,
Whom to behold is to depart
From all defect of life and heart.
But, Mother, I shall go on shore,
And see my Cousin yet once more!
'Twere wild to hope for her, you say.
l've torn and cast those words away.
Surely there's hope! For life 'tis well
Love without hope's impossible;
So, if I love, it is that hope
Is not outside the outer scope
Of fancy. You speak truth: this hour
I must resist, or lose the power.
What! and, when some short months are o'er,
Be not much other than before?
Drop from the bright and virtuous sphere
In which I'm held but while she's dear?
For daily life's dull, senseless mood,
Slay the fine nerves of gratitude
And sweet allegiance, which I owe
Whether the debt be weal or woe?
Nay, Mother, I, forewarn'd, prefer
To want for all in wanting her.
For all? Love's best is not bereft
Ever from him to whom is left
The trust that God will not deceive
His creature, fashion'd to believe
The prophecies of pure desire.
Not loss, not death, my love shall tire.
A mystery does my heart foretell;
Nor do I press the oracle
For explanations. Leave me alone,
And let in me love's will be done.
Fashion'd by Heaven and by art
So is she, that she makes the heart
Ache and o'erflow with tears, that grace
So lovely fair should have for place,
(Deeming itself at home the while,)
The unworthy earth! To see her smile
Amid this waste of pain and sin,
As only knowing the heaven within,
Is sweet, and does for pity stir
Passion to be her minister:
Wherefore last night I lay awake,
And said, ‘Ah, Lord, for Thy love's sake,
Give not this darling child of Thine
To care less reverent than mine!’
And, as true faith was in my word,
I trust, I trust that I was heard.
The waves, this morning, sped to land,
And shouted hoarse to touch the strand,
Where Spring, that goes not out to sea,
Lay laughing in her lovely glee;
And, so, my life was sunlit spray
And tumult, as, once more to-day,
For long farewell did I draw near
My Cousin, desperately dear.
Faint, fierce, the truth that hope was none
Gleam'd like the lightning in the sun;
Yet hope I had, and joy thereof.
The father of love is hope, (though love
Lives orphan'd on, when hope is dead,)
And, out of my immediate dread
And crisis of the coming hour,
Did hope itself draw sudden power.
So the still brooding storm, in Spring,
Makes all the birds begin to sing.
Mother, your foresight did not err:
I've lost the world, and not won her.
And yet, ah, laugh not, when you think
What cup of life I sought to drink!
The bold, said I, have climb'd to bliss
Absurd, impossible, as this,
With nought to help them but so great
A heart it fascinates their fate.
If ever Heaven heard man's desire,
Mine, being made of altar-fire,
Must come to pass, and it will be
That she will wait, when she shall see,
This evening, how I go to get,
By means unknown, I know not yet
Quite what, but ground whereon to stand,
And plead more plainly for her hand!
And so I raved, and cast in hope
A superstitious horoscope!
And still, though something in her face
Portended ‘No!’ with such a grace
It burthen'd me with thankfulness,
Nothing was credible but ‘Yes.’
Therefore, through time's close pressure bold,
I praised myself, and boastful told
My deeds at Acre; strain'd the chance
I had of honour and advance
In war to come; and would not see
Sad silence meant, ‘What's this to me.’
When half my precious hour was gone,
She rose to greet a Mr. Vaughan;
And, as the image of the moon
Breaks up, within some still lagoon
That feels the soft wind suddenly,
Or tide fresh flowing from the sea,
And turns to giddy flames that go
Over the water to and fro,
Thus, when he took her hand to-night,
Her lovely gravity of light
Was scatter'd into many smiles
And flattering weakness. Hope beguiles
No more my heart, dear Mother. He,
By jealous looks, o'erhonour'd me.
With nought to do, and fondly fain
To hear her singing once again,
I stay'd, and turn'd her music o'er;
Then came she with me to the door.
‘Dearest Honoria,’ I said,
(By my despair familiar made,)
‘Heaven bless you!’ Oh, to have back then stepp'd
And fallen upon her neck, and wept,
And said, ‘My friend, I owe you all
‘I am, and have, and hope for. Call
‘For some poor service; let me prove
‘To you, or him here whom you love,
‘My duty. Any solemn task,
‘For life's whole course, is all I ask!’
Then she must surely have wept too,
And said, ‘My friend, what can you do!’
And I should have replied, ‘I'll pray
‘For you and him three times a-day,
‘And, all day, morning, noon, and night,
‘My life shall be so high and right
‘That never Saint yet scaled the stairs
‘Of heaven with more availing prayers!’
But this (and, as good God shall bless
Somehow my end, I'll do no less,)
I had no right to speak. Oh, shame,
So rich a love, so poor a claim!
My Mother, now my only friend,
Farewell. The school-books which you send
I shall not want, and so return.
Give them away, or sell, or burn.
I'll write from Malta. Would I might
But be your little Child to-night,
And feel your arms about me fold,
Against this loneliness and cold!
From Mrs. Graham
The folly of young girls! They doff
Their pride to smooth success, and scoff
At far more noble fire and might
That woo them from the dust of fight!
But, Frederick, now the storm is past,
Your sky should not remain o'ercast.
A sea-life's dull, and, oh, beware
Of nourishing, for zest, despair.
My Child, remember, you have twice
Heartily loved; then why not thrice,
Or ten times? But a wise man shuns
To cry ‘All's over,’ more than once.
I'll not say that a young man's soul
Is scarcely measure of the whole
Earthly and heavenly universe,
To which he inveterately prefers
The one beloved woman. Best
Speak to the senses' interest,
Which brooks no mystery nor delay:
Frankly reflect, my Son, and say,
Was there no secret hour, of those
Pass'd at her side in Sarum Close,
When, to your spirit's sick alarm,
It seem'd that all her marvellous charm
Was marvellously fled? Her grace
Of voice, adornment, movement, face
Was what already heart and eye
Had ponder'd to satiety;
And so the good of life was o'er,
Until some laugh not heard before,
Some novel fashion in her hair,
Or style of putting back her chair,
Restored the heavens. Gather thence
The loss-consoling inference.
Yet blame not beauty, which beguiles,
With lovely motions and sweet smiles,
Which while they please us pass away,
The spirit to lofty thoughts that stay
And lift the whole of after-life,
Unless you take the vision to wife,
Which then seems lost, or serves to slake
Desire, as when a lovely lake
Far off scarce fills the exulting eye
Of one athirst, who comes thereby,
And inappreciably sips
The deep, with disappointed lips.
To fail is sorrow, yet confess
That love pays dearly for success!
No blame to beauty! Let's complain
Of the heart, which can so ill sustain
Delight. Our griefs declare our fall,
But how much more our joys! They pall
With plucking, and celestial mirth
Can find no footing on the earth,
More than the bird of paradise,
Which only lives the while it flies.
Think, also, how 'twould suit your pride
To have this woman for a bride.
Whate'er her faults, she's one of those
To whom the world's last polish owes
A novel grace, which all who aspire
To courtliest custom must acquire.
The world's the sphere she's made to charm,
Which you have shunn'd as if 'twere harm.
Oh, law perverse, that loneliness
Breeds love, society success!
Though young, 'twere now o'er late in life
To train yourself for such a wife;
So she would suit herself to you,
As women, when they marry, do.
For, since 'tis for our dignity
Our lords should sit like lords on high,
We willingly deteriorate
To a step below our rulers' state;
And 'tis the commonest of things
To see an angel, gay with wings,
Lean weakly on a mortal's arm!
Honoria would put off the charm
Of lofty grace that caught your love,
For fear you should not seem above
Herself in fashion and degree,
As in true merit. Thus, you see,
'Twere little kindness, wisdom none,
To light your cot with such a sun.
Write not, my Mother, her dear name
With the least word or hint of blame.
Who else shall discommend her choice,
I giving it my hearty voice?
Wed me? Ah, never near her come
The knowledge of the narrow home!
Far fly from her dear face, that shows
The sunshine lovelier than the rose,
The sordid gravity they wear
Who poverty's base burthen bear!
(And all are poor who come to miss
Their custom, though a crown be this.)
My hope was, that the wheels of fate,
For my exceeding need, might wait,
And she, unseen amidst all eyes,
Move sightless, till I sought the prize,
With honour, in an equal field.
But then came Vaughan, to whom I yield
With grace as much as any man,
In such cause, to another can.
Had she been mine, it seems to me
That I had that integrity
And only joy in her delight—
But each is his own favourite
In love! The thought to bring me rest
Is that of us she takes the best.
'Twas but to see him to be sure
That choice for her remain'd no more!
His brow, so gaily clear of craft;
His wit, the timely truth that laugh'd
To find itself so well express'd;
His words, abundant yet the best;
His spirit, of such handsome show
You mark'd not that his looks were so;
His bearing, prospects, birth, all these
Might well, with small suit, greatly please;
How greatly, when she saw arise
The reflex sweetness of her eyes
In his, and every breath defer
Humbly its bated life to her;
Whilst power and kindness of command,
Which women can no more withstand
Than we their grace, were still unquell'd,
And force and flattery both compell'd
Her softness! Say I'm worthy. I
Grew, in her presence, cold and shy.
It awed me, as an angel's might
In raiment of reproachful light.
Her gay looks told my sombre mood
That what's not happy is not good;
And, just because 'twas life to please,
Death to repel her, truth and ease
Deserted me; I strove to talk,
And stammer'd foolishness; my walk
Was like a drunkard's; if she took
My arm, it stiffen'd, ached, and shook:
A likely wooer! Blame her not;
Nor ever say, dear Mother, aught
Against that perfectness which is
My strength, as once it was my bliss.
And do not chafe at social rules.
Leave that to charlatans and fools.
Clay graffs and clods conceive the rose,
So base still fathers best. Life owes
Itself to bread; enough thereof
And easy days condition love;
And, kindly train'd, love's roses thrive,
No more pale, scentless petals five,
Which moisten the considerate eye
To see what haste they make to die,
But heavens of colour and perfume,
Which, month by month, renew the bloom
Of art-born graces, when the year
In all the natural grove is sere.
Blame nought then! Bright let be the air
About my lonely cloud of care.
Religion, duty, books, work, friends,—
'Tis good advice, but there it ends.
I'm sick for what these have not got.
Send no more books: they help me not;
I do my work: the void's there still
Which carefullest duty cannot fill.
What though the inaugural hour of right
Comes ever with a keen delight?
Little relieves the labour's heat;
Disgust oft crowns it when complete;
And life, in fact, is not less dull
For being very dutiful.
‘The stately homes of England,’ lo,
‘How beautiful they stand!’ They owe
How much to nameless things like me
Their beauty of security!
But who can long a low toil mend
By looking to a lofty end?
And let me, since 'tis truth, confess
The void's not fill'd by godliness.
God is a tower without a stair,
And His perfection, love's despair.
'Tis He shall judge me when I die;
He suckles with the hissing fly
The spider; gazes calmly down,
Whilst rapine grips the helpless town.
His vast love holds all this and more.
In consternation I adore.
Nor can I ease this aching gulf
With friends, the pictures of myself.
Then marvel not that I recur
From each and all of these to her.
For more of heaven than her have I
No sensitive capacity.
Had I but her, ah, what the gain
Of owning aught but that domain!
Nay, heaven's extent, however much,
Cannot be more than many such;
And, she being mine, should God to me
Say ‘Lo! my Child, I give to thee
All heaven besides,’ what could I then,
But, as a child, to Him complain
That whereas my dear Father gave
A little space for me to have
In His great garden, now, o'erblest,
I've that, indeed, but all the rest,
Which, somehow, makes it seem I've got
All but my only cared-for plot.
Enough was that for my weak hand
To tend, my heart to understand.
Oh, the sick fact, 'twixt her and me
There's naught, and half a world of sea.
In two, in less than two hours more
I set my foot on English shore,
Two years untrod, and, strange to tell,
Nigh miss'd through last night's storm! There fell
A man from the shrouds, that roar'd to quench
Even the billows' blast and drench.
Besides me none was near to mark
His loud cry in the louder dark,
Dark, save when lightning show'd the deeps
Standing about in stony heaps.
No time for choice! A rope; a flash
That flamed as he rose; a dizzy splash;
A strange, inopportune delight
Of mounting with the billowy might,
And falling, with a thrill again
Of pleasure shot from feet to brain;
And both paced deck, ere any knew
Our peril. Round us press'd the crew,
With wonder in the eyes of most.
As if the man who had loved and lost
Honoria dared no more than that!
My days have else been stale and flat.
This life's at best, if justly scann'd,
A tedious walk by the other's strand,
With, here and there cast up, a piece
Of coral or of ambergris,
Which, boasted of abroad, we ignore
The burden of the barren shore.
I seldom write, for 'twould be still
Of how the nerves refuse to thrill;
How, throughout doubly-darken'd days,
I cannot recollect her face;
How to my heart her name to tell
Is beating on a broken bell;
And, to fill up the abhorrent gulf,
Scarce loving her, I hate myself.
Yet, latterly, with strange delight,
Rich tides have risen in the night,
And sweet dreams chased the fancies dense
Of waking life's dull somnolence.
I see her as I knew her, grace
Already glory in her face;
I move about, I cannot rest,
For the proud brain and joyful breast
I have of her. Or else I float,
The pilot of an idle boat,
Alone, alone with sky and sea,
And her, the third simplicity.
Or Mildred, to some question, cries,
(Her merry meaning in her eyes,)
‘The Ball, oh, Frederick will go;
‘Honoria will be there!’ and, lo,
As moisture sweet my seeing blurs
To hear my name so link'd with hers,
A mirror joins, by guilty chance,
Either's averted, watchful glance!
Or with me, in the Ball-Room's blaze,
Her brilliant mildness thrids the maze;
Our thoughts are lovely, and each word
Is music in the music heard,
And all things seem but parts to be
Of one persistent harmony.
By which I'm made divinely bold;
The secret, which she knows, is told;
And, laughing with a lofty bliss
Of innocent accord, we kiss;
About her neck my pleasure weeps;
Against my lip the silk vein leaps;
Then says an Angel, ‘Day or night,
‘If yours you seek, not her delight,
‘Although by some strange witchery
‘It seems you kiss her, 'tis not she;
‘But, whilst you languish at the side
‘Of a fair-foul phantasmal bride,
‘Surely a dragon and strong tower
‘Guard the true lady in her bower.’
And I say, ‘Dear my Lord, Amen!’
And the true lady kiss again.
Or else some wasteful malady
Devours her shape and dims her eye;
No charms are left, where all were rife,
Except her voice, which is her life,
Wherewith she, for her foolish fear,
Says trembling, ‘Do you love me, Dear?’
And I reply, ‘Sweetest, I vow
‘I never loved but half till now.’
She turns her face to the wall at this,
And says, ‘Go, Love, 'tis too much bliss.’
And then a sudden pulse is sent
About the sounding firmament
In smitings as of silver bars;
The bright disorder of the stars
Is solved by music; far and near,
Through infinite distinctions clear,
Their twofold voices' deeper tone
Utters the Name which all things own,
And each ecstatic treble dwells
On one whereof none other tells;
And we, sublimed to song and fire,
Take order in the wheeling quire,
Till from the throbbing sphere I start,
Waked by the heaving of my heart.
Such dreams as these come night by night,
Disturbing day with their delight.
Portend they nothing? Who can tell!
God yet may do some miracle.
'Tis nigh two years, and she's not wed,
Or you would know! He may be dead,
Or mad, and loving some one else,
And she, much moved that nothing quells
My constancy, or, simply wroth
With such a wretch, accept my troth
To spite him; or her beauty's gone,
(And that's my dream!) and this man Vaughan
Takes her release: or tongues malign,
Confusing every ear but mine,
Have smirch'd her: ah, 'twould move her, sure,
To find I loved her all the more!
Nay, now I think, haply amiss
I read her words and looks, and his,
That night! Did not his jealousy
Show—Good my God, and can it be
That I, a modest fool, all blest,
Nothing of such a heaven guess'd?
Oh, chance too frail, yet frantic sweet,
To-morrow sees me at her feet!
Yonder, at last, the glad sea roars
Along the sacred English shores!
There lies the lovely land I know,
Where men and women lordliest grow;
There peep the roofs where more than kings
Postpone state cares to country things,
And many a gay queen simply tends
The babes on whom the world depends;
There curls the wanton cottage smoke
Of him that drives but bears no yoke;
There laughs the realm where low and high
Are lieges to society.
And life has all too wide a scope,
Too free a prospect for its hope,
For any private good or ill,
Except dishonour, quite to fill!
—Mother, since this was penn'd, I've read
That ‘Mr. Vaughan, on Tuesday, wed
‘The beautiful Miss Churchill.’ So
That's over; and to-morrow I go
To take up my new post on board
The ‘Wolf,’ my peace at last restored;
My lonely faith, like heart-of-oak,
Shock-season'd. Grief is now the cloak
I clasp about me to prevent
The deadly chill of a content
With any near or distant good,
Except the exact beatitude
Which love has shown to my desire.
Talk not of ‘other joys and higher,’
I hate and disavow all bliss
As none for me which is not this.
Think not I blasphemously cope
With God's decrees, and cast off hope.
How, when, and where can mine succeed?
I'll trust He knows who made my need.
Baseness of men! Pursuit being o'er,
Doubtless her Husband feels no more
The heaven of heavens of such a Bride,
But, lounging, lets her please his pride
With fondness, guerdons her caress
With little names, and turns a tress
Round idle fingers. If 'tis so,
Why then I'm happier of the two!
Better, for lofty loss, high pain,
Than low content with lofty gain.
Poor, foolish Dove, to trust from me
Her happiness and dignity!
I thought the worst had brought me balm:
'Twas but the tempest's central calm.
Vague sinkings of the heart aver
That dreadful wrong is come to her,
And o'er this dream I brood and dote,
And learn its agonies by rote.
As if I loved it, early and late
I make familiar with my fate,
And feed, with fascinated will,
On very dregs of finish'd ill.
I think, she's near him now, alone,
With wardship and protection none;
Alone, perhaps, in the hindering stress
Of airs that clasp him with her dress,
They wander whispering by the wave;
And haply now, in some sea-cave,
Where the ribb'd sand is rarely trod,
They laugh, they kiss. Oh, God! oh, God!
There comes a smile acutely sweet
Out of the picturing dark; I meet
The ancient frankness of her gaze,
That soft and heart-surprising blaze
Of great goodwill and innocence,
And perfect joy proceeding thence!
Ah! made for earth's delight, yet such
The mid-sea air's too gross to touch.
At thought of which, the soul in me
Is as the bird that bites a bee,
And darts abroad on frantic wing,
Tasting the honey and the sting;
And, moaning where all round me sleep
Amidst the moaning of the deep,
I start at midnight from my bed—
And have no right to strike him dead.
What world is this that I am in,
Where chance turns sanctity to sin!
'Tis crime henceforward to desire
The only good; the sacred fire
That sunn'd the universe is hell!
I hear a Voice which argues well:
‘The Heaven hard has scorn'd your cry;
‘Fall down and worship me, and I
‘Will give you peace; go and profane
‘This pangful love, so pure, so vain,
‘And thereby win forgetfulness
‘And pardon of the spirit's excess,
‘Which soar'd too nigh that jealous Heaven
‘Ever, save thus, to be forgiven.
‘No Gospel has come down that cures
‘With better gain a loss like yours.
‘Be pious! Give the beggar pelf,
‘And love your neighbour as yourself!
‘You, who yet love, though all is o'er,
‘And she'll ne'er be your neighbour more,
‘With soul which can in pity smile
‘That aught with such a measure vile
‘As self should be at all named 'love!'
‘Your sanctity the priests reprove;
‘Your case of grief they wholly miss;
‘The Man of Sorrows names not this.
‘The years, they say, graff love divine
‘On the lopp'd stock of love like thine;
‘The wild tree dies not, but converts.
‘So be it; but the lopping hurts,
‘The graff takes tardily! Men stanch
‘Meantime with earth the bleeding branch,
‘There's nothing heals one woman's loss,
‘And lighten's life's eternal cross
‘With intermission of sound rest,
‘Like lying in another's breast.
‘The cure is, to your thinking, low!
‘Is not life all, henceforward, so?’
Ill Voice, at least thou calm'st my mood.
I'll sleep! But, as I thus conclude,
The intrusions of her grace dispel
The comfortable glooms of hell.
A wonder! Ere these lines were dried,
Vaughan and my Love, his three-days' Bride,
Became my guests. I look'd, and, lo,
In beauty soft as is the snow
And powerful as the avalanche,
She lit the deck. The Heav'n-sent chance!
She smiled, surprised. They came to see
The ship, not thinking to meet me.
At infinite distance she's my day:
What then to him? Howbeit they say
'Tis not so sunny in the sun
But men might live cool lives thereon!
All's well; for I have seen arise
That reflex sweetness of her eyes
In his, and watch'd his breath defer
Humbly its bated life to her,
His wife. My Love, she's safe in his
Devotion! What ask'd I but this?
They bade adieu; I saw them go
Across the sea; and now I know
The ultimate hope I rested on,
The hope beyond the grave, is gone,
The hope that, in the heavens high,
At last it should appear that I
Loved most, and so, by claim divine,
Should have her, in the heavens, for mine,
According to such nuptial sort
As may subsist in the holy court,
Where, if there are all kinds of joys
To exhaust the multitude of choice
In many mansions, then there are
Loves personal and particular,
Conspicuous in the glorious sky
Of universal charity,
As Phosphor in the sunrise. Now
I've seen them, I believe their vow
Immortal; and the dreadful thought,
That he less honour'd than he ought
Her sanctity, is laid to rest,
And, blessing them, I too am blest.
My goodwill, as a springing air,
Unclouds a beauty in despair;
I stand beneath the sky's pure cope
Unburthen'd even by a hope;
And peace unspeakable, a joy
Which hope would deaden and destroy,
Like sunshine fills the airy gulf
Left by the vanishing of self.
That I have known her; that she moves
Somewhere all-graceful; that she loves,
And is belov'd, and that she's so
Most happy, and to heaven will go,
Where I may meet with her, (yet this
I count but accidental bliss,)
And that the full, celestial weal
Of all shall sensitively feel
The partnership and work of each,
And thus my love and labour reach
Her region, there the more to bless
Her last, consummate happiness,
Is guerdon up to the degree
Of that alone true loyalty
Which, sacrificing, is not nice
About the terms of sacrifice,
But offers all, with smiles that say,
'Tis little, but it is for aye!
From Mrs. Graham
You wanted her, my Son, for wife,
With the fierce need of life in life.
That nobler passion of an hour
Was rather prophecy than power;
And nature, from such stress unbent,
Recurs to deep discouragement.
Trust not such peace yet; easy breath,
In hot diseases, argues death;
And tastelessness within the mouth
Worse fever shows than heat or drouth.
Wherefore take, Frederick, timely fear
Against a different danger near:
Wed not one woman, oh, my Child,
Because another has not smiled!
Oft, with a disappointed man,
The first who cares to win him can;
For, after love's heroic strain,
Which tired the heart and brought no gain,
He feels consoled, relieved, and eased
To meet with her who can be pleased
To proffer kindness, and compute
His acquiescence for pursuit;
Who troubles not his lonely mood;
And asks for love mere gratitude.
Ah, desperate folly! Yet, we know,
Who wed through love wed mostly so.
At least, my Son, when wed you do,
See that the woman equals you,
Nor rush, from having loved too high,
Into a worse humility.
A poor estate's a foolish plea
For marrying to a base degree.
A woman grown cannot be train'd,
Or, if she could, no love were gain'd;
For, never was a man's heart caught
By graces he himself had taught.
And fancy not 'tis in the might
Of man to do without delight;
For, should you in her nothing find
To exhilarate the higher mind,
Your soul would deaden useless wings
With wickedness of lawful things,
And vampire pleasure swift destroy
Even the memory of joy.
So let no man, in desperate mood,
Wed a dull girl because she's good.
All virtues in his wife soon dim,
Except the power of pleasing him,
Which may small virtue be, or none!
I know my just and tender Son,
To whom the dangerous grace is given
That scorns a good which is not heaven;
My Child, who used to sit and sigh
Under the bright, ideal sky,
And pass, to spare the farmer's wheat,
The poppy and the meadow-sweet!
He would not let his wife's heart ache
For what was mainly his mistake;
But, having err'd so, all his force
Would fix upon the hard, right course.
She's graceless, say, yet good and true,
And therefore inly fair, and, through
The veils which inward beauty fold,
Faith can her loveliness behold.
Ah, that's soon tired; faith falls away
Without the ceremonial stay
Of outward loveliness and awe.
The weightier matters of the law
She pays: mere mint and cumin not;
And, in the road that she was taught,
She treads, and takes for granted still
Nature's immedicable ill;
So never wears within her eyes
A false report of paradise,
Nor ever modulates her mirth
With vain compassion of the earth,
Which made a certain happier face
Affecting, and a gayer grace
With pathos delicately edged!
Yet, though she be not privileged
To unlock for you your heart's delight,
(Her keys being gold, but not the right,)
On lower levels she may do!
Her joy is more in loving you
Than being loved, and she commands
All tenderness she understands.
It is but when you proffer more
The yoke weighs heavy and chafes sore.
It's weary work enforcing love
On one who has enough thereof,
And honour on the lowlihead
Of ignorance! Besides, you dread,
In Leah's arms, to meet the eyes
Of Rachel, somewhere in the skies,
And both return, alike relieved,
To life less loftily conceived.
Then wait the mood
In which a woman may be woo'd
Whose thoughts and habits are too high
For honour to be flattery,
And who would surely not allow
The suit that you could proffer now.
Her equal yoke would sit with ease;
It might, with wearing, even please,
(Not with a better word to move
The loyal wrath of present love);
She would not mope when you were gay,
For want of knowing aught to say;
Nor vex you with unhandsome waste
Of thoughts ill-timed and words ill-placed;
Nor reckon small things duties small,
And your fine sense fantastical;
Nor would she bring you up a brood
Of strangers bound to you by blood,
Boys of a meaner moral race,
Girls with their mother's evil grace,
But not her chance to sometimes find
Her critic past his judgment kind;
Nor, unaccustom'd to respect,
Which men, where 'tis not claim'd, neglect,
Confirm you selfish and morose,
And slowly, by contagion, gross;
But, glad and able to receive
The honour you would long to give,
Would hasten on to justify
Expectancy, however high,
Whilst you would happily incur
Compulsion to keep up with her.
Your letter, Mother, bears the date
Of six months back, and comes too late.
My Love, past all conceiving lost,
A change seem'd good, at any cost,
From lonely, stupid, silent grief,
Vain, objectless, beyond relief,
And, like a sea-fog, settled dense
On fancy, feeling, thought, and sense.
I grew so idle, so despised
Myself, my powers, by Her unprized,
Honouring my post, but nothing more,
And lying, when I lived on shore,
So late of mornings: weak tears stream'd
For such slight cause,—if only gleam'd,
Remotely, beautifully bright,
On clouded eves at sea, the light
Of English headlands in the sun,—
That soon I deem'd 'twere better done
To lay this poor, complaining wraith
Of unreciprocated faith:
And so, with heart still bleeding quick,
But strengthen'd by the comfort sick
Of knowing that She could not care,
I turn'd away from my despair,
And told our chaplain's daughter, Jane,—
A dear, good girl, who saw my pain,
And look'd as if she pitied me,—
How glad and thankful I should be
If some kind woman, not above
Myself in rank, would give her love
To one that knew not how to woo.
Whereat she, without more ado,
Blush'd, spoke of love return'd, and closed
With what she thought I had proposed.
And, trust me, Mother, I and Jane,
We suit each other well. My gain
Is very great in this good Wife,
To whom I'm bound, for natural life,
By hearty faith, yet crossing not
My faith towards—I know not what!
As to the ether is the air,
Is her good to Honoria's fair;
One place is full of both, yet each
Lies quite beyond the other's reach
If you say,
Am I contented? Yea and nay!
For what's base but content to grow
With less good than the best we know?
But think me not from life withdrawn,
By passion for a hope that's gone,
So far as to forget how much
A woman is, as merely such,
To man's affection. What is best,
In each, belongs to all the rest;
And though, in marriage, quite to kiss
And half to love the custom is,
'Tis such dishonour, ruin bare,
The soul's interior despair,
And life between two troubles toss'd,
To me, who think not with the most;
Whatever 'twould have been, before
My Cousin's time, 'tis now so sore
A treason to the abiding throne
Of that sweet love which I have known,
I cannot live so, and I bend
My mind perforce to comprehend
That He who gives command to love
Does not require a thing above
The strength He gives. The highest degree
Of the hardest grace, humility;
The step t'ward heaven the latest trod,
And that which makes us most like God,
And us much more than God behoves,
Is, to be humble in our loves.
Henceforth for ever therefore I
Renounce all partiality
Of passion. Subject to control
Of that perspective of the soul
Which God Himself pronounces good,
Confirming claims of neighbourhood,
And giving man, for earthly life,
The closest neighbour in a wife,
I'll serve all. Jane be much more dear
Than all as she is much more near!
I'll love her! Yea, and love's joy comes
Ever from self-love's martyrdoms!
Yet, not to lie for God, 'tis true
That 'twas another joy I knew
When freighted was my heart with fire
Of fond, irrational desire
For fascinating, female charms,
And hopeless heaven in Her mild arms.
Nor wrong I any, if I profess
That care for heaven with me were less
But that I'm utterly imbued
With faith of all Earth's hope renew'd
In realms where no short-coming pains
Expectance, and dear love disdains
Time's treason, and the gathering dross,
And lasts for ever in the gloss
All the bright past seems,
Now, but a splendour in my dreams,
Which shows, albeit the dreamer wakes,
The standard of right life. Life aches
To be therewith conform'd; but, oh,
The world's so stolid, dark, and low!
That and the mortal element
Forbid the beautiful intent,
And, like the unborn butterfly,
It feels the wings, and wants the sky.
But perilous is the lofty mood
Which cannot yoke with lowly good.
Right life, for me, is life that wends
By lowly ways to lofty ends.
I well perceive, at length, that haste
T'ward heaven itself is only waste;
And thus I dread the impatient spur
Of aught that speaks too plain of Her.
There's little here that story tells;
But music talks of nothing else.
Therefore, when music breathes, I say,
(And urge my task,) Away, away!
Thou art the voice of one I knew,
But what thou say'st is not yet true;
Thou art the voice of her I loved,
And I would not be vainly moved.
So that which did from death set free
All things, now dons death's mockery,
And takes its place with things that are
But little noted. Do not mar
For me your peace! My health is high.
The proud possession of mine eye
Departed, I am much like one
Who had by haughty custom grown
To think gilt rooms, and spacious grounds,
Horses, and carriages, and hounds,
Fine linen, and an eider bed
As much his need as daily bread,
And honour of men as much or more.
Till, strange misfortune smiting sore,
His pride all goes to pay his debts,
A lodging anywhere he gets,
And takes his family thereto
Weeping, and other relics few,
Allow'd, by them that seize his pelf,
As precious only to himself.
Yet the sun shines; the country green
Has many riches, poorly seen
From blazon'd coaches; grace at meat
Goes well with thrift in what they eat;
And there's amends for much bereft
In better thanks for much that's left!
Jane is not fair, yet pleases well
The eye in which no others dwell;
And features somewhat plainly set,
And homely manners leave her yet
The crowning boon and most express
Of Heaven's inventive tenderness,
A woman. But I do her wrong,
Letting the world's eyes guide my tongue!
She has a handsomeness that pays
No homage to the hourly gaze,
And dwells not on the arch'd brow's height
And lids which softly lodge the light,
Nor in the pure field of the cheek
Flow'rs, though the soul be still to seek;
But shows as fits that solemn place
Whereof the window is the face:
Blankness and leaden outlines mark
What time the Church within is dark;
Yet view it on a Festal night,
Or some occasion else for light,
And each ungainly line is seen
A special character to mean
Of Saint or Prophet, and the whole
Blank window is a living scroll.
For hours, the clock upon the shelf,
Has all the talking to itself;
But to and fro her needle runs
Twice, while the clock is ticking once;
And, when a wife is well in reach,
Not silence separates, but speech;
And I, contented, read, or smoke,
And idly think, or idly stroke
The winking cat, or watch the fire,
In social peace that does not tire;
Until, at easeful end of day,
She moves, and puts her work away,
And, saying ‘How cold 'tis,’ or ‘How warm,’
Or something else as little harm,
Comes, used to finding, kindly press'd,
A woman's welcome to my breast,
With all the great advantage clear
Of none else having been so near.
But sometimes, (how shall I deny!)
There falls, with her thus fondly by,
Dejection, and a chilling shade.
Remember'd pleasures, as they fade,
Salute me, and colossal grow,
Like foot-prints in the thawing snow.
I feel oppress'd beyond my force
With foolish envy and remorse.
I love this woman, but I might
Have loved some else with more delight;
And strange it seems of God that He
Should make a vain capacity.
Such times of ignorant relapse,
'Tis well she does not talk, perhaps.
The dream, the discontent, the doubt,
To some injustice flaming out,
Were't else, might leave us both to moan
A kind tradition overthrown,
And dawning promise once more dead
In the pernicious lowlihead
Of not aspiring to be fair.
And what am I, that I should dare
Dispute with God, who moulds one clay
To honour and shame, and wills to pay
With equal wages them that delve
About His vines one hour or twelve!
From Lady Clitheroe To Mary Churchill
I've dreadful news, my Sister dear!
Frederick has married, as we hear,
Oh, such a girl! This fact we get
From Mr. Barton, whom we met
At Abury once. He used to know,
At Race and Hunt, Lord Clitheroe,
And writes that he ‘has seen Fred Graham,
‘Commander of the 'Wolf,'—the same
‘The Mess call'd Joseph,—with his Wife
‘Under his arm.’ He ‘lays his life,
‘The fellow married her for love,
‘For there was nothing else to move.
‘H. is her Shibboleth. 'Tis said
‘Her Mother was a Kitchen-Maid.’
Poor Fred! What will Honoria say?
She thought so highly of him. Pray
Tell it her gently. I've no right,
I know you hold, to trust my sight;
But Frederick's state could not be hid!
And Felix, coming when he did,
Was lucky; for Honoria, too,
Was half in love. How warm she grew
On ‘worldliness,’ when once I said
I fancied that, in ladies, Fred
Had tastes much better than his means!
His hand was worthy of a Queen's,
Said she, and actually shed tears
The night he left us for two years,
And sobb'd, when ask'd the cause to tell,
That ‘Frederick look'd so miserable.’
He did look very dull, no doubt,
But such things girls don't cry about.
What weathercocks men always prove!
You're quite right not to fall in love.
I never did, and, truth to tell,
I don't think it respectable.
The man can't understand it, too.
He likes to be in love with you,
But scarce knows how, if you love him,
Poor fellow. When 'tis woman's whim
To serve her husband night and day,
The kind soul lets her have her way!
So, if you wed, as soon you should,
Be selfish for your husband's good.
Happy the men who relegate
Their pleasures, vanities, and state
To us. Their nature seems to be
To enjoy themselves by deputy,
For, seeking their own benefit,
Dear, what a mess they make of it!
A man will work his bones away,
If but his wife will only play;
He does not mind how much he's teased,
So that his plague looks always pleased;
And never thanks her, while he lives,
For anything, but what he gives!
'Tis hard to manage men, we hear!
Believe me, nothing's easier, Dear.
The most important step by far
Is finding what their colours are.
The next is, not to let them know
The reason why they love us so.
The indolent droop of a blue shawl,
Or gray silk's fluctuating fall,
Covers the multitude of sins
In me. Your husband, Love, might wince
At azure, and be wild at slate,
And yet do well with chocolate.
Of course you'd let him fancy he
Adored you for your piety.
From Jane To Her Mother
Dear Mother, as you write, I see
How glad and thankful I should be
For such a husband. Yet to tell
The truth, I am so miserable!
How could he—I remember, though,
He never said he loved me! No,
He is so right that all seems wrong
I've done and thought my whole life long!
I'm grown so dull and dead with fear
That Yes and No, when he is near,
Is all I have to say. He's quite
Unlike what most would call polite,
And yet, when first I saw him come
To tea in Aunt's fine drawing-room,
He made me feel so common! Oh,
How dreadful if he thinks me so!
It's no use trying to behave
To him. His eye, so kind and grave,
Sees through and through me! Could not you,
Without his knowing that I knew,
Ask him to scold me now and then?
Mother, it's such a weary strain
The way he has of treating me
As if 'twas something fine to be
A woman; and appearing not
To notice any faults I've got!
I know he knows I'm plain, and small,
Stupid, and ignorant, and all
Awkward and mean; and, by degrees,
I see a beauty which he sees,
When often he looks strange awhile,
Then recollects me with a smile.
I wish he had that fancied Wife,
With me for Maid, now! all my life
To dress her out for him, and make
Her looks the lovelier for his sake;
To have her rate me till I cried;
Then see her seated by his side,
And driven off proudly to the Ball;
Then to stay up for her, whilst all
The servants were asleep; and hear
At dawn the carriage rolling near,
And let them in; and hear her laugh,
And boast, he said that none was half
So beautiful, and that the Queen,
Who danced with him the first, had seen
And noticed her, and ask'd who was
That lady in the golden gauze?
And then to go to bed, and lie
In a sort of heavenly jealousy,
Until 'twas broad day, and I guess'd
She slept, nor knew how she was bless'd.
Pray burn this letter. I would not
Complain, but for the fear I've got
Of going wild, as we hear tell
Of people shut up in a cell,
With no one there to talk to. He
Must never know he is loved by me
The most; he'd think himself to blame;
And I should almost die for shame.
If being good would serve instead
Of being graceful, ah, then, Fred—
But I, myself, I never could
See what's in women's being good;
For all their goodness is to do
Just what their nature tells them to.
Now, when a man would do what's right,
He has to try with all his might.
Though true and kind in deed and word,
Fred's not a vessel of the Lord.
But I have hopes of him; for, oh,
How can we ever surely know
But that the very darkest place
May be the scene of saving grace!
‘How did I feel?’ The little wight
Fill'd me, unfatherly, with fright!
So grim it gazed, and, out of the sky,
There came, minute, remote, the cry,
Piercing, of original pain.
I put the wonder back to Jane,
And her delight seem'd dash'd, that I,
Of strangers still by nature shy,
Was not familiar quite so soon
With her small friend of many a moon.
But, when the new-made Mother smiled,
She seem'd herself a little child,
Dwelling at large beyond the law
By which, till then, I judged and saw;
And that fond glow which she felt stir
For it, suffused my heart for her;
To whom, from the weak babe, and thence
To me, an influent innocence,
Happy, reparative of life,
Came, and she was indeed my wife,
As there, lovely with love she lay,
Brightly contented all the day
To hug her sleepy little boy,
In the reciprocated joy
Of touch, the childish sense of love,
Ever inquisitive to prove
Its strange possession, and to know
If the eye's report be really so.
From Jane To Mrs. Graham
Dear Mother,—such if you'll allow,
In love, not law, I'll call you now,—
I hope you're well. I write to say
Frederick has got, besides his pay,
A good appointment in the Docks;
Also to thank you for the frocks
And shoes for Baby. I, (D.V.,)
Shall soon be strong. Fred goes to sea
No more. I am so glad; because,
Though kinder husband never was,
He seems still kinder to become
The more he stays with me at home.
When we are parted, I see plain
He's dull till he gets used again
To marriage. Do not tell him, though;
I would not have him know I know,
For all the world.
I try to mind
All your advice; but sometimes find
I do not well see how. I thought
To take it about dress; so bought
A gay new bonnet, gown, and shawl;
But Frederick was not pleased at all;
For, though he smiled, and said, ‘How smart!’
I feel, you know, what's in his heart.
But I shall learn! I fancied long
That care in dress was very wrong,
Till Frederick, in his startling way,
When I began to blame, one day,
The Admiral's Wife, because we hear
She spends two hours, or something near,
In dressing, took her part, and said
How all things deck themselves that wed;
How birds and plants grow fine to please
Each other in their marriages;
And how (which certainly is true—
It never struck me—did it you?)
Dress was, at first, Heaven's ordinance,
And has much Scripture countenance.
For Eliezer, we are told,
Adorn'd with jewels and with gold
Rebecca. In the Psalms, again,
How the King's Daughter dress'd! And, then,
The Good Wife in the Proverbs, she
Made herself clothes of tapestry,
Purple and silk: and there's much more
I had not thought about before!
But Fred's so clever! Do you know,
Since Baby came, he loves me so!
I'm really useful, now, to Fred;
And none could do so well instead.
It's nice to fancy, if I died,
He'd miss me from the Darling's side!
Also, there's something now, you see,
On which we talk, and quite agree;
On which, without pride too, I can
Hope I'm as wise as any man.
I should be happy now, if quite
Sure that in one thing Fred was right.
But, though I trust his prayers are said,
Because he goes so late to bed,
I doubt his Calling. Glad to find
A text adapted to his mind,—
That where St. Paul, in Man and Wife,
Allows a little worldly life,—
He smiled, and said that he knew all
Such things as that without St. Paul!
And once he said, when I with pain
Had got him just to read Romaine,
‘Men's creeds should not their hopes condemn.
‘Who wait for heaven to come to them
‘Are little like to go to heaven,
‘If logic's not the devil's leaven!’
I cried at such a wicked joke,
And he, surprised, went out to smoke.
But to judge him is not for me,
Who myself sin so dreadfully
As half to doubt if I should care
To go to heaven, and he not there.
He must be right; and I dare say
I shall soon understand his way.
To other things, once strange, I've grown
Accustom'd, nay, to like. I own
'Twas long before I got well used
To sit, while Frederick read or mused
For hours, and scarcely spoke. When he
For all that, held the door to me,
Pick'd up my handkerchief, and rose
To set my chair, with other shows
Of honour, such as men, 'tis true,
To sweethearts and fine ladies do,
It almost seem'd an unkind jest;
But now I like these ways the best.
They somehow make me gentle and good;
And I don't mind his quiet mood.
If Frederick does seem dull awhile,
There's Baby. You should see him smile!
I'm pretty and nice to him, sweet Pet,
And he will learn no better yet:
Indeed, now little Johnny makes
A busier time of it, and takes
Our thoughts off one another more,
I'm happy as need be, I'm sure!
From Felix To Honoria
Let me, Beloved, while gratitude
Is garrulous with coming good,
Or ere the tongue of happiness
Be silenced by your soft caress,
Relate how, musing here of you,
III. The Other Half-Rome
Another day that finds her living yet,
Little Pompilia, with the patient brow
And lamentable smile on those poor lips,
And, under the white hospital-array,
A flower-like body, to frighten at a bruise
You'd think, yet now, stabbed through and through again,
Alive i' the ruins. 'T is a miracle.
It seems that, when her husband struck her first,
She prayed Madonna just that she might live
So long as to confess and be absolved;
And whether it was that, all her sad life long
Never before successful in a prayer,
This prayer rose with authority too dread,—
Or whether, because earth was hell to her,
By compensation, when the blackness broke
She got one glimpse of quiet and the cool blue,
To show her for a moment such things were,—
Or else,—as the Augustinian Brother thinks,
The friar who took confession from her lip,—
When a probationary soul that moved
From nobleness to nobleness, as she,
Over the rough way of the world, succumbs,
Bloodies its last thorn with unflinching foot,
The angels love to do their work betimes,
Staunch some wounds here nor leave so much for God.
Who knows? However it be, confessed, absolved,
She lies, with overplus of life beside
To speak and right herself from first to last,
Right the friend also, lamb-pure, lion-brave,
Care for the boy's concerns, to save the son
From the sire, her two-weeks' infant orphaned thus,
And—with best smile of all reserved for him—
Pardon that sire and husband from the heart.
A miracle, so tell your Molinists!
There she lies in the long white lazar-house.
Rome has besieged, these two days, never doubt,
Saint Anna's where she waits her death, to hear
Though but the chink o' the bell, turn o' the hinge
When the reluctant wicket opes at last,
Lets in, on now this and now that pretence,
Too many by half,—complain the men of art,—
For a patient in such plight. The lawyers first
Paid the due visit—justice must be done;
They took her witness, why the murder was.
Then the priests followed properly,—a soul
To shrive; 't was Brother Celestine's own right,
The same who noises thus her gifts abroad.
But many more, who found they were old friends,
Pushed in to have their stare and take their talk
And go forth boasting of it and to boast.
Old Monna Baldi chatters like a jay,
Swears—but that, prematurely trundled out
Just as she felt the benefit begin,
The miracle was snapped up by somebody,—
Her palsied limb 'gan prick and promise life
At touch o' the bedclothes merely,—how much more
Had she but brushed the body as she tried!
Cavalier Carlo—well, there's some excuse
For him—Maratta who paints Virgins so—
He too must fee the porter and slip by
With pencil cut and paper squared, and straight
There was he figuring away at face:
"A lovelier face is not in Rome," cried he,
"Shaped like a peacock's egg, the pure as pearl,
"That hatches you anon a snow-white chick."
Then, oh that pair of eyes, that pendent hair,
Black this and black the other! Mighty fine—
But nobody cared ask to paint the same,
Nor grew a poet over hair and eyes
Four little years ago when, ask and have,
The woman who wakes all this rapture leaned
Flower-like from out her window long enough,
As much uncomplimented as uncropped
By comers and goers in Via Vittoria: eh?
'T is just a flower's fate: past parterre we trip,
Till peradventure someone plucks our sleeve—
"Yon blossom at the briar's end, that's the rose
"Two jealous people fought for yesterday
"And killed each other: see, there's undisturbed
"A pretty pool at the root, of rival red!"
Then cry we "Ah, the perfect paragon!"
Then crave we "Just one keepsake-leaf for us!"
Truth lies between: there's anyhow a child
Of seventeen years, whether a flower or weed,
Ruined: who did it shall account to Christ—
Having no pity on the harmless life
And gentle face and girlish form he found,
And thus flings back. Go practise if you please
With men and women: leave a child alone
For Christ's particular love's sake!—so I say.
Somebody, at the bedside, said much more,
Took on him to explain the secret cause
O' the crime: quoth he, "Such crimes are very rife,
"Explode nor make us wonder now-a-days,
"Seeing that Antichrist disseminates
"That doctrine of the Philosophic Sin:
"Molinos' sect will soon make earth too hot!"
"Nay," groaned the Augustinian, "what's there new?
"Crime will not fail to flare up from men's hearts
"While hearts are men's and so born criminal;
"Which one fact, always old yet ever new,
"Accounts for so much crime that, for my part,
"Molinos may go whistle to the wind
"That waits outside a certain church, you know!"
Though really it does seem as if she here,
Pompilia, living so and dying thus,
Has had undue experience how much crime
A heart can hatch. Why was she made to learn
—Not you, not I, not even Molinos' self—
What Guido Franceschini's heart could hold?
Thus saintship is effected probably;
No sparing saints the process!—which the more
Tends to the reconciling us, no saints,
To sinnership, immunity and all.
For see now: Pietro and Violante's life
Till seventeen years ago, all Rome might note
And quote for happy—see the signs distinct
Of happiness as we yon Triton's trump.
What could they be but happy?—balanced so,
Nor low i' the social scale nor yet too high,
Nor poor nor richer than comports with ease,
Nor bright and envied, nor obscure and scorned,
Nor so young that their pleasures fell too thick,
Nor old past catching pleasure when it fell,
Nothing above, below the just degree,
All at the mean where joy's components mix.
So again, in the couple's very souls
You saw the adequate half with half to match,
Each having and each lacking somewhat, both
Making a whole that had all and lacked nought.
The round and sound, in whose composure just
The acquiescent and recipient side
Was Pietro's, and the stirring striving one
Violante's: both in union gave the due
Quietude, enterprise, craving and content,
Which go to bodily health and peace of mind.
But, as 't is said a body, rightly mixed,
Each element in equipoise, would last
Too long and live for ever,—accordingly
Holds a germ—sand-grain weight too much i' the scale—
Ordained to get predominance one day
And so bring all to ruin and release,—
Not otherwise a fatal germ lurked here:
"With mortals much must go, but something stays;
"Nothing will stay of our so happy selves."
Out of the very ripeness of life's core
A worm was bred—"Our life shall leave no fruit."
Enough of bliss, they thought, could bliss bear seed,
Yield its like, propagate a bliss in turn
And keep the kind up; not supplant themselves
But put in evidence, record they were,
Show them, when done with, i' the shape of a child.
"'T is in a child, man and wife grow complete,
"One flesh: God says so: let him do his work!"
Now, one reminder of this gnawing want,
One special prick o' the maggot at the core,
Always befell when, as the day came round,
A certain yearly sum,—our Pietro being,
As the long name runs, an usufructuary,—
Dropped in the common bag as interest
Of money, his till death, not afterward,
Failing an heir: an heir would take and take,
A child of theirs be wealthy in their place
To nobody's hurt—the stranger else seized all.
Prosperity rolled river-like and stopped,
Making their mill go; but when wheel wore out,
The wave would find a space and sweep on free
And, half-a-mile off, grind some neighbour's corn.
Adam-like, Pietro sighed and said no more:
Eve saw the apple was fair and good to taste,
So, plucked it, having asked the snake advice.
She told her husband God was merciful,
And his and her prayer granted at the last:
Let the old mill-stone moulder,—wheel unworn,
Quartz from the quarry, shot into the stream
Adroitly, as before should go bring grist—
Their house continued to them by an heir,
Their vacant heart replenished with a child.
We have her own confession at full length
Made in the first remorse: 't was Jubilee
Pealed in the ear o' the conscience and it woke.
She found she had offended God no doubt,
So much was plain from what had happened since,
Misfortune on misfortune; but she harmed
No one i' the world, so far as she could see.
The act had gladdened Pietro to the height,
Her spouse whom God himself must gladden so
Or not at all: thus much seems probable
From the implicit faith, or rather say
Stupid credulity of the foolish man
Who swallowed such a tale nor strained a whit
Even at his wife's far-over-fifty years
Matching his sixty-and-under. Him she blessed;
And as for doing any detriment
To the veritable heir,—why, tell her first
Who was he? Which of all the hands held up
I' the crowd, one day would gather round their gate,
Did she so wrong by intercepting thus
The ducat, spendthrift fortune thought to fling
For a scramble just to make the mob break shins?
She kept it, saved them kicks and cuffs thereby.
While at the least one good work had she wrought,
Good, clearly and incontestably! Her cheat—
What was it to its subject, the child's self,
But charity and religion? See the girl!
A body most like—a soul too probably—
Doomed to death, such a double death as waits
The illicit offspring of a common trull,
Sure to resent and forthwith rid herself
Of a mere interruption to sin's trade,
In the efficacious way old Tiber knows.
Was not so much proved by the ready sale
O' the child, glad transfer of this irksome chance?
Well then, she had caught up this castaway:
This fragile egg, some careless wild bird dropped,
She had picked from where it waited the foot-fall,
And put in her own breast till forth broke finch
Able to sing God praise on mornings now.
What so excessive harm was done?—she asked.
To which demand the dreadful answer comes—
For that same deed, now at Lorenzo's church,
Both agents, conscious and inconscious, lie;
While she, the deed was done to benefit,
Lies also, the most lamentable of things,
Yonder where curious people count her breaths,
Calculate how long yet the little life
Unspilt may serve their turn nor spoil the show,
Give them their story, then the church its group.
Well, having gained Pompilia, the girl grew
I' the midst of Pietro here, Violante there,
Each, like a semicircle with stretched arms,
Joining the other round her preciousness—
Two walls that go about a garden-plot
Where a chance sliver, branchlet slipt from bole
Of some tongue-leaved eye-figured Eden tree,
Filched by two exiles and borne far away.
Patiently glorifies their solitude,—
Year by year mounting, grade by grade surmount
The builded brick-work, yet is compassed still,
Still hidden happily and shielded safe,—
Else why should miracle have graced the ground?
But on the twelfth sun that brought April there
What meant that laugh? The coping-stone was reached;
Nay, above towered a light tuft of bloom
To be toyed with by butterfly or bee,
Done good to or else harm to from outside:
Pompilia's root, stalk and a branch or two
Home enclosed still, the rest would be the world's.
All which was taught our couple though obtuse,
Since walls have ears, when one day brought a priest,
Smooth-mannered soft-speeched sleek-cheeked visitor,
The notable Abate Paolo—known
As younger brother of a Tuscan house
Whereof the actual representative,
Count Guido, had employed his youth and age
In culture of Rome's most productive plant—
A cardinal: but years pass and change comes,
In token of which, here was our Paolo brought
To broach a weighty business. Might he speak?
Yes—to Violante somehow caught alone
While Pietro took his after-dinner doze,
And the young maiden, busily as befits,
Minded her broider-frame three chambers off.
So—giving now his great flap-hat a gloss
With flat o' the hand between-whiles, soothing now
The silk from out its creases o'er the calf,
Setting the stocking clerical again,
But never disengaging, once engaged,
The thin clear grey hold of his eyes on her—
He dissertated on that Tuscan house,
Those Franceschini,—very old they were—
Not rich however—oh, not rich, at least,
As people look to be who, low i' the scale
One way, have reason, rising all they can
By favour of the money-bag! 't is fair—
Do all gifts go together? But don't suppose
That being not so rich means all so poor!
Say rather, well enough—i' the way, indeed,
Ha, ha, to fortune better than the best:
Since if his brother's patron-friend kept faith,
Put into promised play the Cardinalate,
Their house might wear the red cloth that keeps warm,
Would but the Count have patience—there's the point!
For he was slipping into years apace,
And years make men restless—they needs must spy
Some certainty, some sort of end assured,
Some sparkle, tho' from topmost beacon-tip,
That warrants life a harbour through the haze.
In short, call him fantastic as you choose,
Guido was home-sick, yearned for the old sights
And usual faces,—fain would settle himself
And have the patron's bounty when it fell
Irrigate far rather than deluge near,
Go fertilize Arezzo, not flood Rome.
Sooth to say, 't was the wiser wish: the Count
Proved wanting in ambition,—let us avouch,
Since truth is best,—in callousness of heart,
And winced at pin-pricks whereby honours hang
A ribbon o'er each puncture: his—no soul
Ecclesiastic (here the hat was brushed)
Humble but self-sustaining, calm and cold,
Having, as one who puts his hand to the plough,
Renounced the over-vivid family-feel—
Poor brother Guido! All too plain, he pined
Amid Rome's pomp and glare for dinginess
And that dilapidated palace-shell
Vast as a quarry and, very like, as bare—
Since to this comes old grandeur now-a-days—
Or that absurd wild villa in the waste
O' the hill side, breezy though, for who likes air,
Vittiano, nor unpleasant with its vines,
Outside the city and the summer heats.
And now his harping on this one tense chord
The villa and the palace, palace this
And villa the other, all day and all night
Creaked like the implacable cicala's cry
And made one's ear drum ache: nought else would serve
But that, to light his mother's visage up
With second youth, hope, gaiety again,
He must find straightway, woo and haply win
And bear away triumphant back, some wife.
Well now, the man was rational in his way:
He, the Abate,—ought he to interpose?
Unless by straining still his tutelage
(Priesthood leaps over elder-brothership)
Across this difficulty: then let go,
Leave the poor fellow in peace! Would that be wrong?
There was no making Guido great, it seems,
Spite of himself: then happy be his dole!
Indeed, the Abate's little interest
Was somewhat nearly touched i' the case, they saw:
Since if his simple kinsman so were bent,
Began his rounds in Rome to catch a wife,
Full soon would such unworldliness surprise
The rare bird, sprinkle salt on phoenix' tail,
And so secure the nest a sparrow-hawk.
No lack of mothers here in Rome,—no dread
Of daughters lured as larks by looking-glass!
The first name-pecking credit-scratching fowl
Would drop her unfledged cuckoo in our nest
To gather greyness there, give voice at length
And shame the brood … but it was long ago
When crusades were, and we sent eagles forth!
No, that at least the Abate could forestall.
He read the thought within his brother's word,
Knew what he purposed better than himself.
We want no name and fame—having our own:
No worldly aggrandizement—such we fly:
But if some wonder of a woman's-heart
Were yet untainted on this grimy earth,
Tender and true—tradition tells of such—
Prepared to pant in time and tune with ours—
If some good girl (a girl, since she must take
The new bent, live new life, adopt new modes)
Not wealthy (Guido for his rank was poor)
But with whatever dowry came to hand,—
There were the lady-love predestinate!
And somehow the Abate's guardian eye—
Scintillant, rutilant, fraternal fire,—
Roving round every way had seized the prize
—The instinct of us, we, the spiritualty!
Come, cards on table; was it true or false
That here—here in this very tenement—
Yea, Via Vittoria did a marvel hide,
Lily of a maiden, white with intact leaf
Guessed thro' the sheath that saved it from the sun?
A daughter with the mother's hands still clasped
Over her head for fillet virginal,
A wife worth Guido's house and hand and heart?
He came to see; had spoken, he could no less—
(A final cherish of the stockinged calf)
If harm were,—well, the matter was off his mind.
Then with the great air did he kiss, devout,
Violante's hand, and rise up his whole height
(A certain purple gleam about the black)
And go forth grandly,—as if the Pope came next.
And so Violante rubbed her eyes awhile,
Got up too, walked to wake her Pietro soon
And pour into his ear the mighty news
How somebody had somehow somewhere seen
Their tree-top-tuft of bloom above the wall,
And came now to apprize them the tree's self
Was no such crab-sort as should go feed swine,
But veritable gold, the Hesperian ball
Ordained for Hercules to haste and pluck,
And bear and give the Gods to banquet with—
Hercules standing ready at the door.
Whereon did Pietro rub his eyes in turn,
Look very wise, a little woeful too,
Then, periwig on head, and cane in hand,
Sally forth dignifiedly into the Square
Of Spain across Babbuino the six steps,
Toward the Boat-fountain where our idlers lounge,—
Ask, for form's sake, who Hercules might be,
And have congratulation from the world.
Heartily laughed the world in his fool's-face
And told him Hercules was just the heir
To the stubble once a corn-field, and brick-heap
Where used to be a dwelling-place now burned.
Guido and Franceschini; a Count,—ay:
But a cross i' the poke to bless the Countship? No!
All gone except sloth, pride, rapacity,
Humours of the imposthume incident
To rich blood that runs thin,—nursed to a head
By the rankly-salted soil—a cardinal's court
Where, parasite and picker-up of crumbs,
He had hung on long, and now, let go, said some,
Shaken off, said others,—but in any case
Tired of the trade and something worse for wear,
Was wanting to change town for country quick,
Go home again: let Pietro help him home!
The brother, Abate Paolo, shrewder mouse,
Had pricked for comfortable quarters, inched
Into the core of Rome, and fattened so;
But Guido, over-burly for rat's hole
Suited to clerical slimness, starved outside,
Must shift for himself: and so the shift was this!
What, was the snug retreat of Pietro tracked,
The little provision for his old age snuffed?
"Oh, make your girl a lady, an you list,
"But have more mercy on our wit than vaunt
"Your bargain as we burgesses who brag!
"Why, Goodman Dullard, if a friend must speak,
"Would the Count, think you, stoop to you and yours
"Were there the value of one penny-piece
"To rattle 'twixt his palms—or likelier laugh,
"Bid your Pompilia help you black his shoe?"
Home again, shaking oft the puzzled pate,
Went Pietro to announce a change indeed,
Yet point Violante where some solace lay
Of a rueful sort,—the taper, quenched so soon,
Had ended merely in a snuff, not stink—
Congratulate there was one hope the less
Not misery the more: and so an end.
The marriage thus impossible, the rest
Followed: our spokesman, Paolo, heard his fate,
Resignedly Count Guido bore the blow:
Violante wiped away the transient tear,
Renounced the playing Danae to gold dreams,
Praised much her Pietro's prompt sagaciousness,
Found neighbours' envy natural, lightly laughed
At gossips' malice, fairly wrapped herself
In her integrity three folds about,
And, letting pass a little day or two,
Threw, even over that integrity,
Another wrappage, namely one thick veil
That hid her, matron-wise, from head to foot,
And, by the hand holding a girl veiled too,
Stood, one dim end of a December day,
In Saint Lorenzo on the altar-step—
Just where she lies now and that girl will lie—
Only with fifty candles' company
Now, in the place of the poor winking one
Which saw,—doors shut and sacristan made sure,—
A priest—perhaps Abate Paolo—wed
Guido clandestinely, irrevocably
To his Pompilia aged thirteen years
And five months,—witness the church register,—
Pompilia, (thus become Count Guido's wife
Clandestinely, irrevocably his,)
Who all the while had borne, from first to last,
As brisk a part i' the bargain, as yon lamb,
Brought forth from basket and set out for sale,
Bears while they chaffer, wary market-man
And voluble housewife, o'er it,—each in turn
Patting the curly calm inconscious head,
With the shambles ready round the corner there,
When the talk's talked out and a bargain struck.
Transfer complete, why, Pietro was apprised.
Violante sobbed the sobs and prayed the prayers
And said the serpent tempted so she fell,
Till Pietro had to clear his brow apace
And make the best of matters: wrath at first,—
How else? pacification presently,
Why not?—could flesh withstand the impurpled one,
The very Cardinal, Paolo's patron-friend?
Who, justifiably surnamed "a hinge,"
Knew where the mollifying oil should drop
To cure the creak o' the valve,—considerate
For frailty, patient in a naughty world.
He even volunteered to supervise
The rough draught of those marriage-articles
Signed in a hurry by Pietro, since revoked:
Trust's politic, suspicion does the harm,
There is but one way to brow-beat this world,
Dumb-founder doubt, and repay scorn in kind,—
To go on trusting, namely, till faith move
And faith here made the mountains move.
Why, friends whose zeal cried "Caution ere too late!"—
Bade "Pause ere jump, with both feet joined, on slough!"—
Counselled "If rashness then, now temperance!"—
Heard for their pains that Pietro had closed eyes,
Jumped and was in the middle of the mire,
Money and all, just what should sink a man.
By the mere marriage, Guido gained forthwith
Dowry, his wife's right; no rescinding there:
But Pietro, why must he needs ratify
One gift Violante gave, pay down one doit
Promised in first fool's-flurry? Grasp the bag
Lest the son's service flag,—is reason and rhyme,
Above all when the son's a son-in-law.
Words to the wind! The parents cast their lot
Into the lap o' the daughter: and the son
Now with a right to lie there, took what fell,
Pietro's whole having and holding, house and field,
Goods, chattels and effects, his worldly worth
Present and in perspective, all renounced
In favour of Guido. As for the usufruct—
The interest now, the principal anon,
Would Guido please to wait, at Pietro's death:
Till when, he must support the couple's charge,
Bear with them, housemates, pensionaries, pawned
To an alien for fulfilment of their pact.
Guido should at discretion deal them orts,
Bread-bounty in Arezzo the strange place,—
They who had lived deliciously and rolled
Rome's choicest comfit 'neath the tongue before.
Into this quag, "jump" bade the Cardinal!
And neck-deep in a minute there flounced they.
But they touched bottom at Arezzo: there—
Four months' experience of how craft and greed
Quickened by penury and pretentious hate
Of plain truth, brutify and bestialize,—
Four months' taste of apportioned insolence,
Cruelty graduated, dose by dose
Of ruffianism dealt out at bed and board,
And lo, the work was done, success clapped hands.
The starved, stripped, beaten brace of stupid dupes
Broke at last in their desperation loose,
Fled away for their lives, and lucky so;
Found their account in casting coat afar
And bearing off a shred of skin at least:
Left Guido lord o' the prey, as the lion is,
And, careless what came after, carried their wrongs
To Rome,—I nothing doubt, with such remorse
As folly feels, since pain can make it wise,
But crime, past wisdom, which is innocence,
Needs not be plagued with till a later day.
Pietro went back to beg from door to door,
In hope that memory not quite extinct
Of cheery days and festive nights would move
Friends and acquaintance—after the natural laugh,
And tributary "Just as we foretold—"
To show some bowels, give the dregs o' the cup,
Scraps of the trencher, to their host that was,
Or let him share the mat with the mastiff, he
Who lived large and kept open house so long.
Not so Violante: ever a-head i' the march,
Quick at the bye-road and the cut-across,
She went first to the best adviser, God—
Whose finger unmistakably was felt
In all this retribution of the past.
Here was the prize of sin, luck of a lie!
But here too was what Holy Year would help,
Bound to rid sinners of sin vulgar, sin
Abnormal, sin prodigious, up to sin
Impossible and supposed for Jubilee' sake:
To lift the leadenest of lies, let soar
The soul unhampered by a feather-weight.
"I will" said she "go burn out this bad hole
"That breeds the scorpion, baulk the plague at least
"Of hope to further plague by progeny:
"I will confess my fault, be punished, yes,
"But pardoned too: Saint Peter pays for all."
So, with the crowd she mixed, made for the dome,
Through the great door new-broken for the nonce
Marched, muffled more than ever matron-wise,
Up the left nave to the formidable throne,
Fell into file with this the poisoner
And that the parricide, and reached in turn
The poor repugnant Penitentiary
Set at this gully-hole o' the world's discharge
To help the frightfullest of filth have vent,
And then knelt down and whispered in his ear
How she had bought Pompilia, palmed the babe
On Pietro, passed the girl off as their child
To Guido, and defrauded of his due
This one and that one,—more than she could name,
Until her solid piece of wickedness
Happened to split and spread woe far and wide:
Contritely now she brought the case for cure.
Replied the throne—"Ere God forgive the guilt,
"Make man some restitution! Do your part!
"The owners of your husband's heritage,
"Barred thence by this pretended birth and heir,—
"Tell them, the bar came so, is broken so,
"Theirs be the due reversion as before!
"Your husband who, no partner in the guilt,
"Suffers the penalty, led blindfold thus
"By love of what he thought his flesh and blood
"To alienate his all in her behalf,—
"Tell him too such contract is null and void!
"Last, he who personates your son-in-law,
"Who with sealed eyes and stopped ears, tame and mute,
"Took at your hand that bastard of a whore
"You called your daughter and he calls his wife,—
"Tell him, and bear the anger which is just!
"Then, penance so performed, may pardon be!"
Who could gainsay this just and right award?
Nobody in the world: but, out o' the world,
Who knows?—might timid intervention be
From any makeshift of an angel-guide,
Substitute for celestial guardianship,
Pretending to take care of the girl's self:
"Woman, confessing crime is healthy work,
"And telling truth relieves a liar like you,
"But how of my quite unconsidered charge?
"No thought if, while this good befalls yourself,
"Aught in the way of harm may find out her?"
No least thought, I assure you: truth being truth,
Tell it and shame the devil!
Said and done:
Home went Violante, disbosomed all:
And Pietro who, six months before, had borne
Word after word of such a piece of news
Like so much cold steel inched through his breastblade,
Now at its entry gave a leap for joy
As who—what did I say of one in a quag?—
Should catch a hand from heaven and spring thereby
Out of the mud, on ten toes stand once more.
"What? All that used to be, may be again?
"My money mine again, my house, my land,
"My chairs and tables, all mine evermore?
"What, the girl's dowry never was the girl's,
"And, unpaid yet, is never now to pay?
"Then the girl's self, my pale Pompilia child
"That used to be my own with her great eyes—
"He who drove us forth, why should he keep her
"When proved as very a pauper as himself?
"Will she come back, with nothing changed at all,
"And laugh 'But how you dreamed uneasily!
"'I saw the great drops stand here on your brow—
"'Did I do wrong to wake you with a kiss?'
"No, indeed, darling! No, for wide awake
"I see another outburst of surprise:
"The lout-lord, bully-beggar, braggart-sneak,
"Who not content with cutting purse, crops ear—
"Assuredly it shall be salve to mine
"When this great news red-letters him, the rogue!
"Ay, let him taste the teeth o' the trap, this fox,
"Give us our lamb back, golden fleece and all,
"Let her creep in and warm our breasts again!
"Why care for the past? We three are our old selves,
"And know now what the outside world is worth."
And so, he carried case before the courts;
And there Violante, blushing to the bone,
Made public declaration of her fault,
Renounced her motherhood, and prayed the law
To interpose, frustrate of its effect
Her folly, and redress the injury done.
Whereof was the disastrous consequence,
That though indisputably clear the case
(For thirteen years are not so large a lapse,
And still six witnesses survived in Rome
To prove the truth o' the tale)—yet, patent wrong
Seemed Guido's; the first cheat had chanced on him:
Here was the pity that, deciding right,
Those who began the wrong would gain the prize.
Guido pronounced the story one long lie
Lied to do robbery and take revenge:
Or say it were no lie at all but truth,
Then, it both robbed the right heirs and shamed him
Without revenge to humanize the deed:
What had he done when first they shamed him thus?
But that were too fantastic: losels they,
And leasing this world's-wonder of a lie,
They lied to blot him though it brand themselves.
So answered Guido through the Abate's mouth.
Wherefore the court, its customary way,
Inclined to the middle course the sage affect.
They held the child to be a changeling,—good:
But, lest the husband got no good thereby,
They willed the dowry, though not hers at all,
Should yet be his, if not by right then grace—
Part-payment for the plain injustice done.
As for that other contract, Pietro's work,
Renunciation of his own estate,
That must be cancelled—give him back his gifts,
He was no party to the cheat at least!
So ran the judgment:—whence a prompt appeal
On both sides, seeing right is absolute.
Cried Pietro "Is the child no child of mine?
"Why give her a child's dowry?"—"Have I right
"To the dowry, why not to the rest as well?"
Cried Guido, or cried Paolo in his name:
Till law said "Reinvestigate the case!"
And so the matter pends, to this same day.
Hence new disaster—here no outlet seemed;
Whatever the fortune of the battle-field,
No path whereby the fatal man might march
Victorious, wreath on head and spoils in hand,
And back turned full upon the baffled foe,—
Nor cranny whence, desperate and disgraced,
Stripped to the skin, he might be fain to crawl
Worm-like, and so away with his defeat
To other fortune and a novel prey.
No, he was pinned to the place there, left alone
With his immense hate and, the solitary
Subject to satisfy that hate, his wife.
"Cast her off? Turn her naked out of doors?
"Easily said! But still the action pends,
"Still dowry, principal and interest,
"Pietro's possessions, all I bargained for,—
"Any good day, be but my friends alert,
"May give them me if she continue mine.
"Yet, keep her? Keep the puppet of my foes—
"Her voice that lisps me back their curse—her eye
"They lend their leer of triumph to—her lip
"I touch and taste their very filth upon?"
In short, he also took the middle course
Rome taught him—did at last excogitate
How he might keep the good and leave the bad
Twined in revenge, yet extricable,—nay
Make the very hate's eruption, very rush
Of the unpent sluice of cruelty relieve
His heart first, then go fertilize his field.
What if the girl-wife, tortured with due care,
Should take, as though spontaneously, the road
It were impolitic to thrust her on?
If, goaded, she broke out in full revolt,
Followed her parents i' the face o' the world,
Branded as runaway not castaway,
Self-sentenced and self-punished in the act?
So should the loathed form and detested face
Launch themselves into hell and there be lost
While he looked o'er the brink with folded arms;
So should the heaped-up shames go shuddering back
O' the head o' the heapers, Pietro and his wife,
And bury in the breakage three at once:
While Guido, left free, no one right renounced,
Gain present, gain prospective, all the gain,
None of the wife except her rights absorbed,
Should ask law what it was law paused about—
If law were dubious still whose word to take,
The husband's—dignified and derelict,
Or the wife's—the … what I tell you. It should be.
Guido's first step was to take pen, indite
A letter to the Abate,—not his own,
His wife's,—she should re-write, sign, seal and send.
She liberally told the household-news,
Rejoiced her vile progenitors were gone,
Revealed their malice—how they even laid
A last injunction on her, when they fled,
That she should forthwith find a paramour,
Complot with him to gather spoil enough,
Then burn the house down,—taking previous care
To poison all its inmates overnight,—
And so companioned, so provisioned too,
Follow to Rome and there join fortunes gay.
This letter, traced in pencil-characters,
Guido as easily got re-traced in ink
By his wife's pen, guided from end to end,
As if it had been just so much Chinese.
For why? That wife could broider, sing perhaps,
Pray certainly, but no more read than write
This letter "which yet write she must," he said,
"Being half courtesy and compliment,
"Half sisterliness: take the thing on trust!"
She had as readily re-traced the words
Of her own death-warrant,—in some sort 't was so.
This letter the Abate in due course
Communicated to such curious souls
In Rome as needs must pry into the cause
Of quarrel, why the Comparini fled
The Franceschini, whence the grievance grew,
What the hubbub meant: "Nay,—see the wife's own word,
"Authentic answer! Tell detractors too
"There's a plan formed, a programme figured here
"—Pray God no after-practice put to proof,
"This letter cast no light upon, one day!"
So much for what should work in Rome: back now
To Arezzo, follow up the project there,
Forward the next step with as bold a foot,
And plague Pompilia to the height, you see!
Accordingly did Guido set himself
To worry up and down, across, around,
The woman, hemmed in by her household-bars,—
Chase her about the coop of daily life,
Having first stopped each outlet thence save one
Which, like bird with a ferret in her haunt,
She needs must seize as sole way of escape
Though there was tied and twittering a decoy
To seem as if it tempted,—just the plume
O' the popinjay, not a real respite there
From tooth and claw of something in the dark,—
The tenebrific passage of the tale:
How hold a light, display the cavern's gorge?
How, in this phase of the affair, show truth?
Here is the dying wife who smiles and says
"So it was,—so it was not,—how it was,
"I never knew nor ever care to know—"
Till they all weep, physician, man of law,
Even that poor old bit of battered brass
Beaten out of all shape by the world's sins,
Common utensil of the lazar-house—
Confessor Celestino groans "'T is truth,
"All truth and only truth: there's something here,
"Some presence in the room beside us all,
"Something that every lie expires before:
"No question she was pure from first to last."
So far is well and helps us to believe:
But beyond, she the helpless, simple-sweet
Or silly-sooth, unskilled to break one blow
At her good fame by putting finger forth,—
How can she render service to the truth?
The bird says "So I fluttered where a springe
"Caught me: the springe did not contrive itself,
"That I know: who contrived it, God forgive!"
But we, who hear no voice and have dry eyes,
Must ask,—we cannot else, absolving her,—
How of the part played by that same decoy
I' the catching, caging? Was himself caught first?
We deal here with no innocent at least,
No witless victim,—he's a man of the age
And priest beside,—persuade the mocking world
Mere charity boiled over in this sort!
He whose own safety too,—(the Pope's apprised—
Good-natured with the secular offence,
The Pope looks grave on priesthood in a scrape)
Our priest's own safety therefore, may-be life,
Hangs on the issue! You will find it hard.
Guido is here to meet you with fixed foot,
Stiff like a statue—"Leave what went before!
"My wife fled i' the company of a priest,
"Spent two days and two nights alone with him:
"Leave what came after!" He stands hard to throw
Moreover priests are merely flesh and blood;
When we get weakness, and no guilt beside,
'Tis no such great ill-fortune: finding grey,
We gladly call that white which might be black,
Too used to the double-dye. So, if the priest
Moved by Pompilia's youth and beauty, gave
Way to the natural weakness… . Anyhow
Here be facts, charactery; what they spell
Determine, and thence pick what sense you may!
There was a certain young bold handsome priest
Popular in the city, far and wide
Famed, since Arezzo's but a little place,
As the best of good companions, gay and grave
At the decent minute; settled in his stall,
Or sidling, lute on lap, by lady's couch,
Ever the courtly Canon; see in him
A proper star to climb and culminate,
Have its due handbreadth of the heaven at Rome,
Though meanwhile pausing on Arezzo's edge,
As modest candle does 'mid mountain fog,
To rub off redness and rusticity
Ere it sweep chastened, gain the silver-sphere!
Whether through Guido's absence or what else,
This Caponsacchi, favourite of the town,
Was yet no friend of his nor free o' the house,
Though both moved in the regular magnates' march:
Each must observe the other's tread and halt
At church, saloon, theatre, house of play.
Who could help noticing the husband's slouch,
The black of his brow—or miss the news that buzzed
Of how the little solitary wife
Wept and looked out of window all day long?
What need of minute search into such springs
As start men, set o' the move?—machinery
Old as earth, obvious as the noonday sun.
Why, take men as they come,—an instance now,—
Of all those who have simply gone to see
Pompilia on her deathbed since four days,
Half at the least are, call it how you please,
In love with her—I don't except the priests
Nor even the old confessor whose eyes run
Over at what he styles his sister's voice
Who died so early and weaned him from the world.
Well, had they viewed her ere the paleness pushed
The last o' the red o' the rose away, while yet
Some hand, adventurous 'twixt the wind and her,
Might let shy life run back and raise the flower
Rich with reward up to the guardian's face,—
Would they have kept that hand employed all day
At fumbling on with prayer-book pages? No!
Men are men: why then need I say one word
More than that our mere man the Canon here
Saw, pitied, loved Pompilia?
This is why;
This startling why: that Caponsacchi's self—
Whom foes and friends alike avouch, for good
Or ill, a man of truth whate'er betide,
Intrepid altogether, reckless too
How his own fame and fortune, tossed to the winds,
Suffer by any turn the adventure take,
Nay, more—not thrusting, like a badge to hide,
'Twixt shirt and skin a joy which shown is shame—
But flirting flag-like i' the face o' the world
This tell-tale kerchief, this conspicuous love
For the lady,—oh, called innocent love, I know!
Only, such scarlet fiery innocence
As most folk would try muffle up in shade,—
—'T is strange then that this else abashless mouth
Should yet maintain, for truth's sake which is God's,
That it was not he made the first advance,
That, even ere word had passed between the two,
Pompilia penned him letters, passionate prayers,
If not love, then so simulating love
That he, no novice to the taste of thyme,
Turned from such over-luscious honey-clot
At end o' the flower, and would not lend his lip
Till … but the tale here frankly outsoars faith:
There must be falsehood somewhere. For her part,
Pompilia quietly constantly avers
She never penned a letter in her life
Nor to the Canon nor any other man,
Being incompetent to write and read:
Nor had she ever uttered word to him, nor he
To her till that same evening when they met,
She on her window-terrace, he beneath
I' the public street, as was their fateful chance,
And she adjured him in the name of God
To find out, bring to pass where, when and how
Escape with him to Rome might be contrived.
Means were found, plan laid, time fixed, she avers,
And heart assured to heart in loyalty,
All at an impulse! All extemporized
As in romance-books! Is that credible?
Well, yes: as she avers this with calm mouth
Dying, I do think "Credible!" you'd cry—
Did not the priest's voice come to break the spell.
They questioned him apart, as the custom is,
When first the matter made a noise at Rome,
And he, calm, constant then as she is now,
For truth's sake did assert and re-assert
Those letters called him to her and he came,
—Which damns the story credible otherwise.
Why should this man,—mad to devote himself,
Careless what comes of his own fame, the first,—
Be studious thus to publish and declare
Just what the lightest nature loves to hide,
So screening lady from the byword's laugh
"First spoke the lady, last the cavalier!"
—I say,—why should the man tell truth just now
When graceful lying meets such ready shrift?
Or is there a first moment for a priest
As for a woman, when invaded shame
Must have its first and last excuse to show?
Do both contrive love's entry in the mind
Shall look, i' the manner of it, a surprise,—
That after, once the flag o' the fort hauled down,
Effrontery may sink drawbridge, open gate,
Welcome and entertain the conqueror?
Or what do you say to a touch of the devil's worst?
Can it be that the husband, he who wrote
The letter to his brother I told you of,
I' the name of her it meant to criminate,—
What if he wrote those letters to the priest?
Further the priest says, when it first befell,
This folly o' the letters, that he checked the flow,
Put them back lightly each with its reply.
Here again vexes new discrepancy:
There never reached her eye a word from him:
He did write but she could not read—could just
Burn the offence to wifehood, womanhood,
So did burn: never bade him come to her,
Yet when it proved he must come, let him come,
And when he did come though uncalled,—why, spoke
Prompt by an inspiration: thus it chanced.
Will you go somewhat back to understand?
When first, pursuant to his plan, there sprang,
Like an uncaged beast, Guido's cruelty
On soul and body of his wife, she cried
To those whom law appoints resource for such,
The secular guardian,—that's the Governor,
And the Archbishop,—that's the spiritual guide,
And prayed them take the claws from out her flesh.
Now, this is ever the ill consequence
Of being noble, poor and difficult,
Ungainly, yet too great to disregard,—
This—that born peers and friends hereditary,—
Though disinclined to help from their own store
The opprobrious wight, put penny in his poke
From private purse or leave the door ajar
When he goes wistful by at dinner-time,—
Yet, if his needs conduct him where they sit
Smugly in office, judge this, bishop that,
Dispensers of the shine and shade o' the place—
And if, friend's door shut and friend's purse undrawn,
Still potentates may find the office-seat
Do as good service at no cost—give help
By-the-bye, pay up traditional dues at once
Just through a feather-weight too much i' the scale,
Or finger-tip forgot at the balance-tongue,—
Why, only churls refuse, or Molinists.
Thus when, in the first roughness of surprise
At Guido's wolf-face whence the sheepskin fell,
The frightened couple, all bewilderment,
Rushed to the Governor,—who else rights wrong?
Told him their tale of wrong and craved redress—
Why, then the Governor woke up to the fact
That Guido was a friend of old, poor Count!—
So, promptly paid his tribute, promised the pair,
Wholesome chastisement should soon cure their qualms
Next time they came, wept, prated and told lies:
So stopped all prating, sent them dumb to Rome.
Well, now it was Pompilia's turn to try:
The troubles pressing on her, as I said,
Three times she rushed, maddened by misery,
To the other mighty man, sobbed out her prayer
At footstool of the Archbishop—fast the friend
Of her husband also! Oh, good friends of yore!
So, the Archbishop, not to be outdone
By the Governor, break custom more than he,
Thrice bade the foolish woman stop her tongue,
Unloosed her hands from harassing his gout,
Coached her and carried her to the Count again,
—His old friend should be master in his house,
Rule his wife and correct her faults at need!
Well, driven from post to pillar in this wise,
She, as a last resource, betook herself
To one, should be no family-friend at least,
A simple friar o' the city; confessed to him,
Then told how fierce temptation of release
By self-dealt death was busy with her soul,
And urged that he put this in words, write plain
For one who could not write, set down her prayer
That Pietro and Violante, parent-like
If somehow not her parents, should for love
Come save her, pluck from out the flame the brand
Themselves had thoughtlessly thrust in so deep
To send gay-coloured sparkles up and cheer
Their seat at the chimney-corner. The good friar
Promised as much at the moment; but, alack,
Night brings discretion: he was no one's friend,
Yet presently found he could not turn about
Nor take a step i' the case and fail to tread
On someone's toe who either was a friend,
Or a friend's friend, or friend's friend thrice-removed,
And woe to friar by whom offences come!
So, the course being plain,—with a general sigh
At matrimony the profound mistake,—
He threw reluctantly the business up,
Having his other penitents to mind.
If then, all outlets thus secured save one,
At last she took to the open, stood and stared
With her wan face to see where God might wait—
And there found Caponsacchi wait as well
For the precious something at perdition's edge,
He only was predestinate to save,—
And if they recognized in a critical flash
From the zenith, each the other, her need of him,
His need of … say, a woman to perish for,
The regular way o' the world, yet break no vow,
Do no harm save to himself,—if this were thus?
How do you say? It were improbable;
So is the legend of my patron-saint.
Anyhow, whether, as Guido states the case,
Pompilia,—like a starving wretch i' the street
Who stops and rifles the first passenger
In the great right of an excessive wrong,—
Did somehow call this stranger and he came,—
Or whether the strange sudden interview
Blazed as when star and star must needs go close
Till each hurts each and there is loss in heaven—
Whatever way in this strange world it was,—
Pompilia and Caponsacchi met, in fine,
She at her window, he i' the street beneath,
And understood each other at first look.
All was determined and performed at once.
And on a certain April evening, late
I' the month, this girl of sixteen, bride and wife
Three years and over,—she who hitherto
Had never taken twenty steps in Rome
Beyond the church, pinned to her mother's gown,
Nor, in Arezzo, knew her way through street
Except what led to the Archbishop's door,—
Such an one rose up in the dark, laid hand
On what came first, clothes and a trinket or two,
Belongings of her own in the old day,—
Stole from the side o' the sleeping spouse—who knows?
Sleeping perhaps, silent for certain,—slid
Ghost-like from great dark room to great dark room
In through the tapestries and out again
And onward, unembarrassed as a fate,
Descended staircase, gained last door of all,
Sent it wide open at first push of palm,
And there stood, first time, last and only time,
At liberty, alone in the open street,—
Unquestioned, unmolested found herself
At the city gate, by Caponsacchi's side,
Hope there, joy there, life and all good again,
The carriage there, the convoy there, light there
Broadening ever into blaze at Rome
And breaking small what long miles lay between;
Up she sprang, in he followed, they were safe.
The husband quotes this for incredible,
All of the story from first word to last:
Sees the priest's hand throughout upholding hers,
Traces his foot to the alcove, that night,
Whither and whence blindfold he knew the way,
Proficient in all craft and stealthiness;
And cites for proof a servant, eye that watched
And ear that opened to purse secrets up,
A woman-spy,—suborned to give and take
Letters and tokens, do the work of shame
The more adroitly that herself, who helped
Communion thus between a tainted pair,
Had long since been a leper thick in spot,
A common trull o' the town: she witnessed all,
Helped many meetings, partings, took her wage
And then told Guido the whole matter. Lies!
The woman's life confutes her word,—her word
Confutes itself: "Thus, thus and thus I lied."
"And thus, no question, still you lie," we say.
"Ay but at last, e'en have it how you will,
"Whatever the means, whatever the way, explodes
"The consummation"—the accusers shriek:
"Here is the wife avowedly found in flight,
"And the companion of her flight, a priest;
"She flies her husband, he the church his spouse:
"What is this?"
Wife and priest alike reply
"This is the simple thing it claims to be,
"A course we took for life and honour's sake,
"Very strange, very justifiable."
She says, "God put it in my head to fly,
"As when the martin migrates: autumn claps
"Her hands, cries 'Winter's coming, will be here,
"'Off with you ere the white teeth overtake!
"'Flee!' So I fled: this friend was the warm day,
"The south wind and whatever favours flight;
"I took the favour, had the help, how else?
"And so we did fly rapidly all night,
"All day, all night—a longer night—again,
"And then another day, longest of days,
"And all the while, whether we fled or stopped,
"I scarce know how or why, one thought filled both,
"'Fly and arrive!' So long as I found strength
"I talked with my companion, told him much,
"Knowing that he knew more, knew me, knew God
"And God's disposal of me,—but the sense
"O' the blessed flight absorbed me in the main,
"And speech became mere talking through a sleep,
"Till at the end of that last longest night
"In a red daybreak, when we reached an inn
"And my companion whispered 'Next stage—Rome!'
"Sudden the weak flesh fell like piled-up cards,
"All the frail fabric at a finger's touch,
"And prostrate the poor soul too, and I said
"'But though Count Guido were a furlong off,
"'Just on me, I must stop and rest awhile!'
"Then something like a huge white wave o' the sea
"Broke o'er my brain and buried me in sleep
"Blessedly, till it ebbed and left me loose,
"And where was I found but on a strange bed
"In a strange room like hell, roaring with noise,
"Ruddy with flame, and filled with men, in front
"Who but the man you call my husband? ay—
"Count Guido once more between heaven and me,
"For there my heaven stood, my salvation, yes—
"That Caponsacchi all my heaven of help,
"Helpless himself, held prisoner in the hands
"Of men who looked up in my husband's face
"To take the fate thence he should signify,
"Just as the way was at Arezzo. Then,
"Not for my sake but his who had helped me—
"I sprang up, reached him with one bound, and seized
"The sword o' the felon, trembling at his side,
"Fit creature of a coward, unsheathed the thing
"And would have pinned him through the poison-bag
"To the wall and left him there to palpitate,
"As you serve scorpions, but men interposed—
"Disarmed me, gave his life to him again
"That he might take mine and the other lives,
"And he has done so. I submit myself!"
The priest says—oh, and in the main result
The facts asseverate, he truly says.
As to the very act and deed of him,
However you mistrust the mind o' the man—
The flight was just for flight's sake, no pretext
For aught except to set Pompilia free.
He says "I cite the husband's self's worst charge
"In proof of my best word for both of us.
"Be it conceded that so many times
"We took our pleasure in his palace: then,
"What need to fly at all?—or flying no less,
"What need to outrage the lips sick and white
"Of a woman, and bring ruin down beside,
"By halting when Rome lay one stage beyond?"
So does he vindicate Pompilia's fame,
Confirm her story in all points but one—
This; that, so fleeing and so breathing forth
Her last strength in the prayer to halt awhile,
She makes confusion of the reddening white
Which was the sunset when her strength gave way,
And the next sunrise and its whitening red
Which she revived in when her husband came:
She mixes both times, morn and eve, in one,
Having lived through a blank of night 'twixt each
Though dead-asleep, unaware as a corpse,
She on the bed above; her friend below
Watched in the doorway of the inn the while,
Stood i' the red o' the morn, that she mistakes,
In act to rouse and quicken the tardy crew
And hurry out the horses, have the stage
Over, the last league, reach Rome and be safe:
When up came Guido.
Guido's tale begins—
How he and his whole household, drunk to death
By some enchanted potion, poppied drugs
Plied by the wife, lay powerless in gross sleep
And left the spoilers unimpeded way,
Could not shake off their poison and pursue,
Till noontide, then made shift to get on horse
And did pursue: which means he took his time,
Pressed on no more than lingered after, step
By step, just making sure o' the fugitives,
Till at the nick of time, he saw his chance,
Seized it, came up with and surprised the pair.
How he must needs have gnawn lip and gnashed teeth,
Taking successively at tower and town,
Village and roadside, still the same report
"Yes, such a pair arrived an hour ago,
"Sat in the carriage just where now you stand,
"While we got horses ready,—turned deaf ear
"To all entreaty they would even alight;
"Counted the minutes and resumed their course."
Would they indeed escape, arrive at Rome,
Leave no least loop-hole to let murder through,
But foil him of his captured infamy,
Prize of guilt proved and perfect? So it seemed.
Till, oh the happy chance, at last stage, Rome
But two short hours off, Castelnuovo reached,
The guardian angel gave reluctant place,
Satan stepped forward with alacrity,
Pompilia's flesh and blood succumbed, perforce
A halt was, and her husband had his will.
Perdue he couched, counted out hour by hour
Till he should spy in the east a signal-streak—
Night had been, morrow was, triumph would be.
Do you see the plan deliciously complete?
The rush upon the unsuspecting sleep,
The easy execution, the outcry
Over the deed "Take notice all the world!
"These two dead bodies, locked still in embrace,—
"The man is Caponsacchi and a priest,
"The woman is my wife: they fled me late,
"Thus have I found and you behold them thus,
"And may judge me: do you approve or no?"
Success did seem not so improbable,
But that already Satan's laugh was heard,
His black back turned on Guido—left i' the lurch
Or rather, baulked of suit and service now,
Left to improve on both by one deed more,
Burn up the better at no distant day,
Body and soul one holocaust to hell.
Anyhow, of this natural consequence
Did just the last link of the long chain snap:
For an eruption was o' the priest, alive
And alert, calm, resolute and formidable,
Not the least look of fear in that broad brow—
One not to be disposed of by surprise,
And armed moreover—who had guessed as much?
Yes, there stood he in secular costume
Complete from head to heel, with sword at side,
He seemed to know the trick of perfectly.
There was no prompt suppression of the man
As he said calmly "I have saved your wife
"From death; there was no other way but this;
"Of what do I defraud you except death?
"Charge any wrong beyond, I answer it."
Guido, the valorous, had met his match,
Was forced to demand help instead of fight,
Bid the authorities o' the place lend aid
And make the best of a broken matter so.
They soon obeyed the summons—I suppose,
Apprised and ready, or not far to seek—
Laid hands on Caponsacchi, found in fault,
A priest yet flagrantly accoutred thus,—
Then, to make good Count Guido's further charge,
Proceeded, prisoner made lead the way,
In a crowd, upstairs to the chamber-door
Where wax-white, dead asleep, deep beyond dream,
As the priest laid her, lay Pompilia yet.
And as he mounted step and step with the crowd
How I see Guido taking heart again!
He knew his wife so well and the way of her—
How at the outbreak she would shroud her shame
In hell's heart, would it mercifully yawn—
How, failing that, her forehead to his foot,
She would crouch silent till the great doom fell,
Leave him triumphant with the crowd to see
Guilt motionless or writhing like a worm!
No! Second misadventure, this worm turned,
I told you: would have slain him on the spot
With his own weapon, but they seized her hands:
Leaving her tongue free, as it tolled the knell
Of Guido's hope so lively late. The past
Took quite another shape now. She who shrieked
"At least and for ever I am mine and God's,
"Thanks to his liberating angel Death—
"Never again degraded to be yours
"The ignoble noble, the unmanly man,
"The beast below the beast in brutishness!"—
This was the froward child, "the restif lamb
"Used to be cherished in his breast," he groaned—
"Eat from his hand and drink from out his cup,
"The while his fingers pushed their loving way
"Through curl on curl of that soft coat—alas,
"And she all silverly baaed gratitude
"While meditating mischief!"—and so forth.
He must invent another story now!
The ins and outs o' the rooms were searched: he found
Or showed for found the abominable prize—
Love-letters from his wife who cannot write,
Love-letters in reply o' the priest—thank God!—
Who can write and confront his character
With this, and prove the false thing forged throughout:
Spitting whereat, he needs must spatter whom
But Guido's self?—that forged and falsified
One letter called Pompilia's, past dispute:
Then why not these to make sure still more sure?
So was the case concluded then and there:
Guido preferred his charges in due form,
Called on the law to adjudicate, consigned
The accused ones to the Prefect of the place,
(Oh mouse-birth of that mountain-like revenge!)
And so to his own place betook himself
After the spring that failed,—the wildcat's way.
The captured parties were conveyed to Rome;
Investigation followed here i' the court—
Soon to review the fruit of its own work,
From then to now being eight months and no more.
Guido kept out of sight and safe at home:
The Abate, brother Paolo, helped most
At words when deeds were out of question, pushed
Nearest the purple, best played deputy,
So, pleaded, Guido's representative
At the court shall soon try Guido's self,—what's more,
The court that also took—I told you, Sir—
That statement of the couple, how a cheat
Had been i' the birth of the babe, no child of theirs.
That was the prelude; this, the play's first act:
Whereof we wait what comes, crown, close of all.
Well, the result was something of a shade
On the parties thus accused,—how otherwise?
Shade, but with shine as unmistakable.
Each had a prompt defence: Pompilia first—
"Earth was made hell to me who did no harm:
"I only could emerge one way from hell
"By catching at the one hand held me, so
"I caught at it and thereby stepped to heaven:
"If that be wrong, do with me what you will!"
Then Caponsacchi with a grave grand sweep
O' the arm as though his soul warned baseness off—
"If as a man, then much more as a priest
"I hold me bound to help weak innocence:
"If so my worldly reputation burst,
"Being the bubble it is, why, burst it may:
"Blame I can bear though not blameworthiness.
"But use your sense first, see if the miscreant proved,
"The man who tortured thus the woman, thus
"Have not both laid the trap and fixed the lure
"Over the pit should bury body and soul!
"His facts are lies: his letters are the fact—
"An infiltration flavoured with himself!
"As for the fancies—whether … what is it you say?
"The lady loves me, whether I love her
"In the forbidden sense of your surmise,—
"If, with the midday blaze of truth above,
"The unlidded eye of God awake, aware,
"You needs must pry about and trace the birth
"Of each stray beam of light may traverse night,
"To the night's sun that's Lucifer himself,
"Do so, at other time, in other place,
"Not now nor here! Enough that first to last
"I never touched her lip nor she my hand
"Nor either of us thought a thought, much less
"Spoke a word which the Virgin might not hear.
"Be such your question, thus I answer it."
Then the court had to make its mind up, spoke.
"It is a thorny question, yea, a tale
"Hard to believe, but not impossible:
"Who can be absolute for either side?
"A middle course is happily open yet.
"Here has a blot surprised the social blank,—
"Whether through favour, feebleness or fault,
"No matter, leprosy has touched our robe
"And we unclean must needs be purified.
"Here is a wife makes holiday from home,
"A priest caught playing truant to his church,
"In masquerade moreover: both allege
"Enough excuse to stop our lifted scourge
"Which else would heavily fall. On the other hand,
"Here is a husband, ay and man of mark,
"Who comes complaining here, demands redress
"As if he were the pattern of desert—
"The while those plaguy allegations frown,
"Forbid we grant him the redress he seeks.
"To all men be our moderation known!
"Rewarding none while compensating each,
"Hurting all round though harming nobody,
"Husband, wife, priest, scot-free not one shall 'scape,
"Yet priest, wife, husband, boast the unbroken head
"From application of our excellent oil:
"So that, whatever be the fact, in fine,
"We make no miss of justice in a sort.
"First, let the husband stomach as he may,
"His wife shall neither be returned him, no—
"Nor branded, whipped and caged, but just consigned
"To a convent and the quietude she craves;
"So is he rid of his domestic plague:
"What better thing can happen to a man?
"Next, let the priest retire—unshent, unshamed,
"Unpunished as for perpetrating crime,
"But relegated (not imprisoned, Sirs!)
"Sent for three years to clarify his youth
"At Civita, a rest by the way to Rome:
"There let his life skim off its last of lees
"Nor keep this dubious colour. Judged the cause:
"All parties may retire, content, we hope."
That's Rome's way, the traditional road of law;
Whither it leads is what remains to tell.
The priest went to his relegation-place,
The wife to her convent, brother Paolo
To the arms of brother Guido with the news
And this beside—his charge was countercharged;
The Comparini, his old brace of hates,
Were breathed and vigilant and venomous now—
Had shot a second bolt where the first stuck,
And followed up the pending dowry-suit
By a procedure should release the wife
From so much of the marriage-bond as barred
Escape when Guido turned the screw too much
On his wife's flesh and blood, as husband may.
No more defence, she turned and made attack,
Claimed now divorce from bed and board, in short:
Pleaded such subtle strokes of cruelty,
Such slow sure siege laid to her body and soul,
As, proved,—and proofs seemed coming thick and fast,—
Would gain both freedom and the dowry back
Even should the first suit leave them in his grasp:
So urged the Comparini for the wife.
Guido had gained not one of the good things
He grasped at by his creditable plan
O' the flight and following and the rest: the suit
That smouldered late was fanned to fury new,
This adjunct came to help with fiercer fire,
While he had got himself a quite new plague—
Found the world's face an universal grin
At this last best of the Hundred Merry Tales
Of how a young and spritely clerk devised
To carry off a spouse that moped too much,
And cured her of the vapours in a trice:
And how the husband, playing Vulcan's part,
Told by the Sun, started in hot pursuit
To catch the lovers, and came halting up,
Cast his net and then called the Gods to see
The convicts in their rosy impudence—
Whereat said Mercury "Would that I were Mars!"
Oh it was rare, and naughty all the same!
Brief, the wife's courage and cunning,—the priest's show
Of chivalry and adroitness,—last not least,
The husband—how he ne'er showed teeth at all,
Whose bark had promised biting; but just sneaked
Back to his kennel, tail 'twixt legs, as 't were,—
All this was hard to gulp down and digest.
So pays the devil his liegeman, brass for gold.
But this was at Arezzo: here in Rome
Brave Paolo bore up against it all—
Battled it out, nor wanting to himself
Nor Guido nor the House whose weight he bore
Pillar-like, by no force of arm but brain.
He knew his Rome, what wheels to set to work;
Plied influential folk, pressed to the ear
Of the efficacious purple, pushed his way
To the old Pope's self,—past decency indeed,—
Praying him take the matter in his hands
Out of the regular court's incompetence.
But times are changed and nephews out of date
And favouritism unfashionable: the Pope
Said "Render Cæsar what is Cæsar's due!"
As for the Comparini's counter-plea,
He met that by a counter-plea again,
Made Guido claim divorce—with help so far
By the trial's issue: for, why punishment
However slight unless for guiltiness
However slender?—and a molehill serves
Much as a mountain of offence this way.
So was he gathering strength on every side
And growing more and more to menace—when
All of a terrible moment came the blow
That beat down Paolo's fence, ended the play
O' the foil and brought mannaia on the stage.
Five months had passed now since Pompilia's flight,
Months spent in peace among the Convert nuns.
This,—being, as it seemed, for Guido's sake
Solely, what pride might call imprisonment
And quote as something gained, to friends at home,—
This naturally was at Guido's charge:
Grudge it he might, but penitential fare,
Prayers, preachings, who but he defrayed the cost?
So, Paolo dropped, as proxy, doit by doit
Like heart's blood, till—what's here? What notice comes?
The convent's self makes application bland
That, since Pompilia's health is fast o' the wane,
She may have leave to go combine her cure
Of soul with cure of body, mend her mind
Together with her thin arms and sunk eyes
That want fresh air outside the convent-wall,
Say in a friendly house,—and which so fit
As a certain villa in the Pauline way,
That happens to hold Pietro and his wife,
The natural guardians? "Oh, and shift the care
"You shift the cost, too; Pietro pays in turn,
"And lightens Guido of a load! And then,
"Villa or convent, two names for one thing,
"Always the sojourn means imprisonment,
"Domus pro carcere—nowise we relax,
"Nothing abate: how answers Paolo?"
What would you answer? All so smooth and fair,
Even Paul's astuteness sniffed no harm i' the world.
He authorized the transfer, saw it made
And, two months after, reaped the fruit of the same,
Having to sit down, rack his brain and find
What phrase should serve him best to notify
Our Guido that by happy providence
A son and heir, a babe was born to him
I' the villa,—go tell sympathizing friends!
Yes, such had been Pompilia's privilege:
She, when she fled, was one month gone with child,
Known to herself or unknown, either way
Availing to explain (say men of art)
The strange and passionate precipitance
Of maiden startled into motherhood
Which changes body and soul by nature's law.
So when the she-dove breeds, strange yearnings come
For the unknown shelter by undreamed-of shores,
And there is born a blood-pulse in her heart
To fight if needs be, though with flap of wing,
For the wool-flock or the fur-tuft, though a hawk
Contest the prize,—wherefore, she knows not yet.
Anyhow, thus to Guido came the news.
"I shall have quitted Rome ere you arrive
"To take the one step left,"—wrote Paolo.
Then did the winch o' the winepress of all hate,
Vanity, disappointment, grudge and greed,
Take the last turn that screws out pure revenge
With a bright bubble at the brim beside—
By an heir's birth he was assured at once
O' the main prize, all the money in dispute:
Pompilia's dowry might revert to her
Or stay with him as law's caprice should point,—
But now—now—what was Pietro's shall be hers,
What was hers shall remain her own,—if hers,
Why then,—oh, not her husband's but—her heir's!
That heir being his too, all grew his at last
By this road or by that road, since they join.
Before, why, push he Pietro out o' the world,—
The current of the money stopped, you see,
Pompilia being proved no Pietro's child:
Or let it be Pompilia's life he quenched,
Again the current of the money stopped,—
Guido debarred his rights as husband soon,
So the new process threatened;—now, the chance,
Now, the resplendent minute! Clear the earth,
Cleanse the house, let the three but disappear
A child remains, depositary of all,
That Guido may enjoy his own again,
Repair all losses by a master-stroke,
Wipe out the past, all done all left undone,
Swell the good present to best evermore,
Die into new life, which let blood baptize!
So, i' the blue of a sudden sulphur-blaze,
Both why there was one step to take at Rome,
And why he should not meet with Paolo there,
He saw—the ins and outs to the heart of hell—
And took the straight line thither swift and sure.
He rushed to Vittiano, found four sons o' the soil,
Brutes of his breeding, with one spark i' the clod
That served for a soul, the looking up to him
Or aught called Franceschini as life, death,
Heaven, hell,—lord paramount, assembled these,
Harangued, equipped, instructed, pressed each clod
With his will's imprint; then took horse, plied spur,
And so arrived, all five of them, at Rome
On Christmas-Eve, and forthwith found themselves
Installed i' the vacancy and solitude
Left them by Paolo, the considerate man
Who, good as his word, had disappeared at once
As if to leave the stage free. A whole week
Did Guido spend in study of his part,
Then played it fearless of a failure. One,
Struck the year's clock whereof the hours are days,
And off was rung o' the little wheels the chime
"Good will on earth and peace to man:" but, two,
Proceeded the same bell and, evening come,
The dreadful five felt finger-wise their way
Across the town by blind cuts and black turns
To the little lone suburban villa; knocked—
"Who may be outside?" called a well-known voice.
"A friend of Caponsacchi's bringing friends
That's a test, the excusers say:
Ay, and a test conclusive, I return.
What? Had that name brought touch of guilt or taste
Of fear with it, aught to dash the present joy
With memory of the sorrow just at end,—
She, happy in her parents' arms at length
With the new blessing of the two weeks' babe,—
How had that name's announcement moved the wife?
Or, as the other slanders circulate,
Were Caponsacchi no rare visitant
On nights and days whither safe harbour lured,
What bait had been i' the name to ope the door?
The promise of a letter? Stealthy guests
Have secret watchwords, private entrances:
The man's own self might have been found inside
And all the scheme made frustrate by a word.
No: but since Guido knew, none knew so well,
The man had never since returned to Rome
Nor seen the wife's face more than villa's front,
So, could not be at hand to warn or save,-
For that, he took this sure way to the end.
"Come in," bade poor Violante cheerfully,
Drawing the door-bolt: that death was the first,
Stabbed through and through. Pietro, close on her heels,
Set up a cry—"Let me confess myself!
"Grant but confession!" Cold steel was the grant.
Then came Pompilia's turn.
Then they escaped.
The noise o' the slaughter roused the neighbourhood.
They had forgotten just the one thing more
Which saves i' the circumstance, the ticket to-wit
Which puts post-horses at a traveller's use:
So, all on foot, desperate through the dark
Reeled they like drunkards along open road,
Accomplished a prodigious twenty miles
Homeward, and gained Baccano very near,
Stumbled at last, deaf, dumb, blind through the feat,
Into a grange and, one dead heap, slept there
Till the pursuers hard upon their trace
Reached them and took them, red from head to heel,
And brought them to the prison where they lie.
The couple were laid i' the church two days ago,
And the wife lives yet by miracle.
All is told.
You hardly need ask what Count Guido says,
Since something he must say. "I own the deed—"
(He cannot choose,—but—) "I declare the same
"Just and inevitable,—since no way else
"Was left me, but by this of taking life,
"To save my honour which is more than life.
"I exercised a husband's rights." To which
The answer is as prompt—"There was no fault
"In any one o' the three to punish thus:
"Neither i' the wife, who kept all faith to you,
"Nor in the parents, whom yourself first duped,
"Robbed and maltreated, then turned out of doors.
"You wronged and they endured wrong; yours the fault.
"Next, had endurance overpassed the mark
"And turned resentment needing remedy,—
"Nay, put the absurd impossible case, for once—
"You were all blameless of the blame alleged
"And they blameworthy where you fix all blame,
"Still, why this violation of the law?
"Yourself elected law should take its course,
"Avenge wrong, or show vengeance not your right;
"Why, only when the balance in law's hand
"Trembles against you and inclines the way
"O' the other party, do you make protest,
"Renounce arbitrament, flying out of court,
"And crying 'Honour's hurt the sword must cure'?
"Aha, and so i' the middle of each suit
"Trying i' the courts,—and you had three in play
"With an appeal to the Pope's self beside,—
"What, you may chop and change and right your wrongs
"Leaving the law to lag as she thinks fit?"
That were too temptingly commodious, Count!
One would have still a remedy in reserve
Should reach the safest oldest sinner, you see!
One's honour forsooth? Does that take hurt alone
From the extreme outrage? I who have no wife,
Being yet sensitive in my degree
As Guido,—must discover hurt elsewhere
Which, half compounded-for in days gone by,
May profitably break out now afresh,
Need cure from my own expeditious hands.
The lie that was, as it were, imputed me
When you objected to my contract's clause,—
The theft as good as, one may say, alleged,
When you, co-heir in a will, excepted, Sir,
To my administration of effects,
—Aha, do you think law disposed of these?
My honour's touched and shall deal death around!
Count, that were too commodious, I repeat!
If any law be imperative on us all,
Of all are you the enemy: out with you
From the common light and air and life of man!
When She Did Not Like It Anymore
it is easy
she pretends the leaves are all dead
in the middle of spring
when he comes
she did not like it anymore
it is easy
she pretends there are no more flowers
that it is time for mourning
when he comes
she is dressed in black and
her lace around her lips
I Did Not Like It
i actually did not like it
when you rest your head
on my shoulders
while we were on bed
and you ask
if at all you mattered
how could you be
i am tired
and i have no mind
and i can be so dishonest
i do not like it
when you compel me to make another lie tonight
in my silence
you equated it with
Its Like Your Not Even Trying
its like your not even trying
yet i sit here smiling
for the words you say
send me away
your humor enlightens me
your sweet words brighten me
its hard to frown when your around
i love the way you make me smile
and how it only takes you a while
to make me feel so much joy
and how i know im not just your toy
now i know we can make it through
as long as you've got me and i've got you
When did I become just like him...(crys)
The smoked filled room
Of drugs and drunks
Blinds us to reality
Shimmering lights a fixation on life
The ripples effects of a dream
In stupor you act
In stupidity and remorse
You know not what you do
You don’t really care
What happens to you there?
You just let the advantage win
Then in an act of lust
You think hell, why not
The b_______ do it too
With hatred a new
You treat them the same
The same way they treated you
Then in dawns early light
Of the misfortune of night
You cry thinking
When did I become
Just like him
I Did Not Build This House
I did not build this house alone
Upon foundations of folly
Wood floors have split and groan
Knotty planks creep
Out the front door
Beyond walls stretched
Over mossy stone
I did not build this house alone
The symbiots fed it
As they were nourished
Engorged like an unborn child
Who stretches and kicks it
Then, vacates it for a while
This house whose pathways
Were fed by blood and breath
Humming and pumping
Beating and strumming
Dancing the rhythm of life
I did not build this house
It has morphed and grown
Then alas, has shrunk again
as now I am alone.
Betsy Schreiber © 2009
I Wrote A Poem I Did Not Know The Meaning Of
I WROTE A POEM I DID NOT KNOW THE MEANING OF
I wrote a poem I did not know the meaning of-
I understood whatever I understood of it
Was only one of many misunderstandings-
I wondered then whether my Poetry is nonsense-
I know it isn’t because it tells my true feeling.
But this too is perhaps only another interpretation and another misunderstanding-
I write this poem as if I know what it is all about -
But what if it is only my misinterpretation of the real poem
I never could write?
And what if these lines are some deliberate pretentious unnecessary small confusion no one needs,
Even my dream?