Nobody, as long as he moves about among the currents of life, is without trouble.
Nobody, as long as he moves about among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble.
Among the Red Guns
Among the red guns,
In the hearts of soldiers
Running free blood
In the long, long campaign:
Dreams go on.
Among the leather saddles,
In the heads of soldiers
Heavy in the wracks and kills
Of all straight fighting:
Dreams go on.
Among the hot muzzles,
In the hands of soldiers
Brought from flesh-folds of women--
Soft amid the blood and crying--
In all your hearts and heads
Among the guns and saddles and muzzles:
Dreams go on,
Out of the dead on their backs,
Broken and no use any more:
Dreams of the way and the end go on.
Love Among The Cannibals
Love among the cannibals, love among the cannibals
Love among the cannibals
I heard you sing about love, but that was a long time ago
I was one of the ones who believed your lies, now your true colors show
So we stand upon the grave of the promises you made
With nowhere left to hide and no more alibis
Dark teeth, bite deep - better not turn your back
No show, move slow - remember to cover your tracks - get back!
Love among the cannibals (eat my heart out), two-faced animals
Love among the cannibals (I wanna stand and shout) two-faced animals
I move alone in the dark, feelin too weak to fight
Cause I know the dream is about to die, in the dim and dusty light
Where the river used to roll a caravan of souls
Move naked and alone, shining like a bone
Night falls, skin crawls - darkness everywhere
Too much bad blood - nobody seems to care - beware!
Love among the cannibals (eat my heart out), two-faced animals
Love (oh) among the cannibals
Love among the cannibals (love), two-faced animals
Love (love) among the cannibals, two-faced animals.
Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society
Υδραν φονεύσας, μυρίων τ᾽ ἄλλων πόνων
διῆλθον ἀγέλας . . .
τὸ λοίσθιον δὲ τόνδ᾽ ἔτλην τάλας πόνον,
. . . δῶμα θριγκῶσαι κακοῖς.
I slew the Hydra, and from labour pass'd
To labour — tribes of labours! Till, at last,
Attempting one more labour, in a trice,
Alack, with ills I crowned the edifice.
You have seen better days, dear? So have I —
And worse too, for they brought no such bud-mouth
As yours to lisp "You wish you knew me!" Well,
Wise men, 't is said, have sometimes wished the same,
And wished and had their trouble for their pains.
Suppose my Œdipus should lurk at last
Under a pork-pie hat and crinoline,
And, latish, pounce on Sphynx in Leicester Square?
Or likelier, what if Sphynx in wise old age,
Grown sick of snapping foolish people's heads,
And jealous for her riddle's proper rede, —
Jealous that the good trick which served the turn
Have justice rendered it, nor class one day
With friend Home's stilts and tongs and medium-ware,—
What if the once redoubted Sphynx, I say,
(Because night draws on, and the sands increase,
And desert-whispers grow a prophecy)
Tell all to Corinth of her own accord.
Bright Corinth, not dull Thebes, for Lais' sake,
Who finds me hardly grey, and likes my nose,
And thinks a man of sixty at the prime?
Good! It shall be! Revealment of myself!
But listen, for we must co-operate;
I don't drink tea: permit me the cigar!
First, how to make the matter plain, of course —
What was the law by which I lived. Let 's see:
Ay, we must take one instant of my life
Spent sitting by your side in this neat room:
Watch well the way I use it, and don't laugh!
Here's paper on the table, pen and ink:
Give me the soiled bit — not the pretty rose!
See! having sat an hour, I'm rested now,
Therefore want work: and spy no better work
For eye and hand and mind that guides them both,
During this instant, than to draw my pen
From blot One — thus — up, up to blot Two — thus —
Which I at last reach, thus, and here's my line
Five inches long and tolerably straight:
Better to draw than leave undrawn, I think.
Fitter to do than let alone, I hold,
Though better, fitter, by but one degree.
Therefore it was that, rather than sit still
Simply, my right-hand drew it while my left
Pulled smooth and pinched the moustache to a point.
Now I permit your plump lips to unpurse:
So far, one possibly may understand
"Without recourse to witchcraft!" True, my dear.
Thus folks begin with Euclid, — finish, how?
Trying to square the circle! — at any rate,
Solving abstruser problems than this first
"How find the nearest way 'twixt point and point."
Deal but with moral mathematics so —
Master one merest moment's work of mine,
Even this practising with pen and ink, —
Demonstrate why I rather plied the quill
Than left the space a blank, — you gain a fact,
And God knows what a fact's worth! So proceed
By inference from just this moral fact
— I don't say, to that plaguy quadrature
"What the whole man meant, whom you wish you knew,"
But, what meant certain things he did of old,
Which puzzled Europe, — why, you'll find them plain,
This way, not otherwise: I guarantee.
Understand one, you comprehend the rest.
Rays from all round converge to any point:
Study the point then ere you track the rays!
The size o' the circle's nothing; subdivide
Earth, and earth's smallest grain of mustard-seed,
You count as many parts, small matching large,
If you can use the mind's eye: otherwise,
Material optics, being gross at best,
Prefer the large and leave our mind the small —
And pray how many folks have minds can see?
Certainly you — and somebody in Thrace
Whose name escapes me at the moment. You —
Lend me your mind then! Analyse with me
This instance of the line 'twixt blot and blot
I rather chose to draw than leave a blank.
Things else being equal. You are taught thereby
That 't is my nature, when I am at ease,
Rather than idle out my life too long,
To want to do a thing — to put a thought,
Whether a great thought or a little one,
Into an act, as nearly as may be.
Make what is absolutely new — I can't,
Mar what is made already well enough —
I won't: but turn to best account the thing
That 's half-made — that I can. Two blots, you saw
I knew how to extend into a line
Symmetric on the sheet they blurred before —
Such little act sufficed, this time, such thought.
Now, we'll extend rays, widen out the verge,
Describe a larger circle; leave this first
Clod of an instance we began with, rise
To the complete world many clods effect.
Only continue patient while I throw,
Delver-like, spadeful after spadeful up,
Just as truths come, the subsoil of me, mould
Whence spring my moods: your object, — just to find,
Alike from handlift and from barrow-load, 100
What salts and silts may constitute the earth —
If it be proper stuff to blow man glass,
Or bake him pottery, bear him oaks or wheat —
What's born of me, in brief; which found, all's known.
If it were genius did the digging-job,
Logic would speedily sift its product smooth
And leave the crude truths bare for poetry;
But I'm no poet, and am stiff i' the back.
What one spread fails to bring, another may.
In goes the shovel and out comes scoop — as here!
I live to please myself. I recognize
Power passing mine, immeasurable, God —
Above me, whom He made, as heaven beyond
Earth — to use figures which assist our sense.
I know that He is there as I am here.
By the same proof, which seems no proof at all,
It so exceeds familiar forms of proof.
Why "there," not "here"? Because, when I say "there,"
I treat the feeling with distincter shape
That space exists between us: I, — not He, —
Live, think, do human work here — no machine.
His will moves, but a being by myself,
His, and not He who made me for a work,
Watches my working, judges its effect,
But does not interpose. He did so once,
And probably will again some time — not now,
Life being the minute of mankind, not God's,
In a certain sense, like time before and time
After man's earthly life, so far as man
Needs apprehend the matter. Am I clear?
Suppose I bid a courier take to-night
(. . . Once for all, let me talk as if I smoked
Yet in the Residenz, a personage:
I must still represent the thing I was,
Galvanically make dead muscle play.
Or how shall I illustrate muscle's use?)
I could then, last July, bid courier take
Message for me, post-haste, a thousand miles.
I bid him, since I have the right to bid,
And, my part done so far, his part begins;
He starts with due equipment, will and power,
Means he may use, misuse, not use at all.
At his discretion, at his peril too.
I leave him to himself: but, journey done,
I count the minutes, call for the result
In quickness and the courier quality.
Weigh its worth, and then punish or reward
According to proved service; not before.
Meantime, he sleeps through noontide, rides till dawn.
Sticks to the straight road, tries the crooked path,
Measures and manages resource, trusts, doubts
Advisers by the wayside, does his best
At his discretion, lags or launches forth,
(He knows and I know) at his peril too.
You see? Exactly thus men stand to God:
I with my courier, God with me. Just so
I have His bidding to perform; but mind
And body, all of me, though made and meant
For that sole service, must consult, concert
With my own self and nobody beside,
How to effect the same: God helps not else.
'T is I who, with my stock of craft and strength,
Choose the directer cut across the hedge,
Or keep the foot-track that respects a crop.
Lie down and rest, rise up and run, — live spare,
Feed free, — all that 's my business: but, arrive,
Deliver message, bring the answer back,
And make my bow, I must: then God will speak,
Praise me or haply blame as service proves.
To other men, to each and everyone,
Another law! what likelier? God, perchance,
Grants each new man, by some as new a mode.
Intercommunication with Himself,
Wreaking on finiteness infinitude;
By such a series of effects, gives each
Last His own imprint: old yet ever new
The process: 't is the way of Deity.
How it succeeds, He knows: I only know
That varied modes of creatureship abound,
Implying just as varied intercourse
For each with the creator of them all.
Each has his own mind and no other's mode.
What mode may yours be? I shall sympathize!
No doubt, you, good young lady that you are,
Despite a natural naughtiness or two,
Turn eyes up like a Pradier Magdalen
And see an outspread providential hand
Above the owl's-wing aigrette — guard and guide —
Visibly o'er your path, about your bed,
Through all your practisings with London-town.
It points, you go; it stays fixed, and you stop;
You quicken its procedure by a word
Spoken, a thought in silence, prayer and praise.
Well, I believe that such a hand may stoop,
And such appeals to it may stave off harm,
Pacify the grim guardian of this Square,
And stand you in good stead on quarter-day:
Quite possible in your case; not in mine.
"Ah, but I choose to make the difference,
Find the emancipation?" No, I hope!
If I deceive myself, take noon for night,
Please to become determinedly blind
To the true ordinance of human life.
Through mere presumption — that is my affair.
And truly a grave one; but as grave I think
Your affair, yours, the specially observed, —
Each favoured person that perceives his path
Pointed him, inch by inch, and looks above
For guidance, through the mazes of this world,
In what we call its meanest life-career
— Not how to manage Europe properly.
But how keep open shop, and yet pay rent.
Rear household, and make both ends meet, the same.
I say, such man is no less tasked than I
To duly take the path appointed him
By whatsoever sign he recognize.
Our insincerity on both our heads!
No matter what the object of a life,
Small work or large, — the making thrive a shop,
Or seeing that an empire take no harm, —
There are known fruits to judge obedience by.
You've read a ton's weight, now, of newspaper —
Lives of me, gabble about the kind of prince —
You know my work i' the rough; I ask you, then.
Do I appear subordinated less
To hand-impulsion, one prime push for all.
Than little lives of men, the multitude
That cried out, every quarter of an hour,
For fresh instructions, did or did not work,
And praised in the odd minutes?
Eh, my dear?
Such is the reason why I acquiesced
In doing what seemed best for me to do,
So as to please myself on the great scale,
Having regard to immortality
No less than life — did that which head and heart
Prescribed my hand, in measure with its means
Of doing — used my special stock of power —
Not from the aforesaid head and heart alone,
But every sort of helpful circumstance.
Some problematic and some nondescript:
All regulated by the single care
I' the last resort — that I made thoroughly serve
The when and how, toiled where was need, reposed
As resolutely to the proper point.
Braved sorrow, courted joy, to just one end:
Namely, that just the creature I was bound
To be, I should become, nor thwart at all
God's purpose in creation. I conceive
No other duty possible to man, —
Highest mind, lowest mind, — no other law
By which to judge life failure or success:
What folks call being saved or cast away.
Such was my rule of life; I worked my best
Subject to ultimate judgment, God's not man's.
Well then, this settled, — take your tea, I beg.
And meditate the fact, 'twixt sip and sip, —
This settled — why I pleased myself, you saw,
By turning blot and blot into a line,
O' the little scale, — we'll try now (as your tongue
Tries the concluding sugar-drop) what's meant
To please me most o' the great scale. Why, just now,
With nothing else to do within my reach.
Did I prefer making two blots one line
To making yet another separate
Third blot, and leaving those I found unlinked?
It meant, I like to use the thing I find.
Rather than strive at unfound novelty:
I make the best of the old, nor try for new.
Such will to act, such choice of action's way.
Constitute — when at work on the great scale,
Driven to their farthest natural consequence
By all the help from all the means — my own
Particular faculty of serving God,
Instinct for putting power to exercise
Upon some wish and want o' the time, I prove
Possible to mankind as best I may.
This constitutes my mission, — grant the phrase, —
Namely, to rule men — men within my reach,
To order, influence and dispose them so
As render solid and stabilify
Mankind in particles, the light and loose,
For their good and my pleasure in the act.
Such good accomplished proves twice good to me —
Good for its own sake, as the just and right.
And, in the effecting also, good again
To me its agent, tasked as suits my taste.
Is this much easy to be understood
At first glance? Now begin the steady gaze!
My rank — (if I must tell you simple truth —
Telling were else not worth the whiff o' the weed
I lose for the tale's sake) — dear, my rank i' the world
Is hard to know and name precisely: err
I may, but scarcely over-estimate
My style and title. Do I class with men
Most useful to their fellows? Possibly, —
Therefore, in some sort, best; but, greatest mind
And rarest nature? Evidently no.
A conservator, call me, if you please,
Not a creator nor destroyer: one
Who keeps the world safe. I profess to trace
The broken circle of society,
Dim actual order, I can redescribe
Not only where some segment silver-true
Stays clear, but where the breaks of black commence
Baffling you all who want the eye to probe —
As I make out yon problematic thin
White paring of your thumb-nail outside there,
Above the plaster-monarch on his steed —
See an inch, name an ell, and prophecy
O' the rest that ought to follow, the round moon
Now hiding in the night of things: that round,
I labour to demonstrate moon enough
For the month's purpose, — that society,
Render efficient for the age's need:
Preserving you in either case the old,
Nor aiming at a new and greater thing,
A sun for moon, a future to be made
By first abolishing the present law:
No such proud task for me by any means!
History shows you men whose master-touch
Not so much modifies as makes anew:
Minds that transmute nor need restore at all.
A breath of God made manifest in flesh
Subjects the world to change, from time to time,
Alters the whole conditions of our race
Abruptly, not by unperceived degrees
Nor play of elements already there,
But quite new leaven, leavening the lump,
And liker, so, the natural process. See!
Where winter reigned for ages — by a turn
I' the time, some star-change, (ask geologists)
The ice-tracts split, clash, splinter and disperse.
And there's an end of immobility,
Silence, and all that tinted pageant, base
To pinnacle, one flush from fairy-land
Dead-asleep and deserted somewhere, — see! —
As a fresh sun, wave, spring and joy outburst.
Or else the earth it is, time starts from trance.
Her mountains tremble into fire, her plains
Heave blinded by confusion: what result?
New teeming growth, surprises of strange life
Impossible before, a world broke up
And re-made, order gained by law destroyed.
Not otherwise, in our society
Follow like portents, all as absolute
Regenerations: they have birth at rare
Uncertain unexpected intervals
O' the world, by ministry impossible
Before and after fulness of the days:
Some dervish desert-spectre, swordsman, saint,
Law-giver, lyrist, — Oh, we know the names!
Quite other these than I. Our time requires
No such strange potentate, — who else would dawn, —
No fresh force till the old have spent itself.
Such seems the natural economy.
To shoot a beam into the dark, assists:
To make that beam do fuller service, spread
And utilize such bounty to the height,
That assists also, — and that work is mine.
I recognize, contemplate, and approve
The general compact of society.
Not simply as I see effected good.
But good i' the germ, each chance that's possible
I' the plan traced so far: all results, in short,
For better or worse of the operation due
To those exceptional natures, unlike mine,
Who, helping, thwarting, conscious, unaware.
Did somehow manage to so far describe
This diagram left ready to my hand.
Waiting my turn of trial. I see success.
See failure, see what makes or mars throughout.
How shall I else but help complete this plan
Of which I know the purpose and approve,
By letting stay therein what seems to stand,
And adding good thereto of easier reach
To-day than yesterday?
So much, no more!
Whereon, "No more than that?" — inquire aggrieved
Half of my critics: "nothing new at all?
The old plan saved, instead of a sponged slate
And fresh-drawn figure?" — while, "So much as that?"
Object their fellows of the other faith:
"Leave uneffaced the crazy labyrinth
Of alteration and amendment, lines
Which every dabster felt in duty bound
To signalize his power of pen and ink
By adding to a plan once plain enough?
Why keep each fool's bequeathment, scratch and blurr
Which overscrawl and underscore the piece —
Nay, strengthen them by touches of your own?"
Well, that 's my mission, so I serve the world,
Figure as man o' the moment, — in default
Of somebody inspired to strike such change
Into society — from round to square.
The ellipsis to the rhomboid, how you please,
As suits the size and shape o' the world he finds.
But this I can, — and nobody my peer, —
Do the best with the least change possible:
Carry the incompleteness on, a stage,
Make what was crooked straight, and roughness smooth.
And weakness strong: wherein if I succeed,
It will not prove the worst achievement, sure.
In the eyes at least of one man, one I look
Nowise to catch in critic company:
To-wit, the man inspired, the genius' self
Destined to come and change things thoroughly.
He, at least, finds his business simplified.
Distinguishes the done from undone, reads
Plainly what meant and did not mean this time
We live in, and I work on, and transmit
To such successor: he will operate
On good hard substance, not mere shade and shine.
Let all my critics, born to idleness
And impotency, get their good, and have
Their hooting at the giver: I am deaf —
Who find great good in this society,
Great gain, the purchase of great labour. Touch
The work I may and must, but — reverent
In every fall o' the finger-tip, no doubt.
Perhaps I find all good there's warrant for
I' the world as yet: nay, to the end of time, —
Since evil never means part company
With mankind, only shift side and change shape.
I find advance i' the main, and notably
The Present an improvement on the Past,
And promise for the Future — which shall prove
Only the Present with its rough made smooth,
Its indistinctness emphasized; I hope
No better, nothing newer for mankind,
But something equably smoothed everywhere,
Good, reconciled with hardly-quite-as-good,
Instead of good and bad each jostling each.
"And that's all?" Ay, and quite enough for me!
We have toiled so long to gain what gain I find
I' the Present, — let us keep it! We shall toil
So long before we gain — if gain God grant —
A Future with one touch of difference
I' the heart of things, and not their outside face, —
Let us not risk the whiff of my cigar
For Fourier, Comte and all that ends in smoke!
This I see clearest probably of men
With power to act and influence, now alive:
Juster than they to the true state of things;
In consequence, more tolerant that, side
By side, shall co-exist and thrive alike
In the age, the various sorts of happiness
jNIoral, mark! — not material — moods o' the mind
Suited to man and man his opposite:
Say, minor modes of movement — hence to there,
Or thence to here, or simply round about —
So long as each toe spares its neighbour's kibe,
Nor spoils the major march and main advance.
The love of peace, care for the family,
Contentment with what's bad but might be worse —
Good movements these! and good, too, discontent,
So long as that spurs good, which might be best,
Into becoming better, anyhow:
Good — pride of country, putting hearth and home
I' the back-ground, out of undue prominence:
Good — yearning after change, strife, victory,
And triumph. Each shall have its orbit marked,
But no more, — none impede the other's path
In this wide world, — though each and all alike,
Save for me, fain would spread itself through space
And leave its fellow not an inch of way.
I rule and regulate the course, excite,
Restrain: because the whole machine should march
Impelled by those diversely-moving parts,
Each blind to aught beside its little bent.
Out of the turnings round and round inside,
Comes that straightforward world-advance, I want,
And none of them supposes God wants too
And gets through just their hindrance and my help.
I think that to have held the balance straight
For twenty years, say, weighing claim and claim,
And giving each its due, no less no more,
This was good service to humanity,
Right usage of my power in head and heart,
And reasonable piety beside.
Keep those three points in mind while judging me!
You stand, perhaps, for some one man, not men, —
Represent this or the other interest,
Nor mind the general welfare, — so, impugn
My practice and dispute my value: why?
You man of faith, I did not tread the world
Into a paste, and thereof make a smooth
Uniform mound whereon to plant your flag,
The lily-white, above the blood and brains!
Nor yet did I, you man of faithlessness,
So roll things to the level which you love,
That you could stand at ease there and survey
The universal Nothing undisgraced
By pert obtrusion of some old church-spire
I' the distance! Neither friend would I content,
Nor, as the world were simply meant for him.
Thrust out his fellow and mend God's mistake.
Why, you two fools, — my dear friends all the same, —
Is it some change o' the world and nothing else
Contents you? Should whatever was, not be?
How thanklessly you view things! There 's the root
Of the evil, source of the entire mistake:
You see no worth i' the world, nature and life,
Unless we change what is to what may be.
Which means, — may be, i' the brain of one of you!
"Reject what is?" — all capabilities —
Nay, you may style them chances if you choose —
All chances, then, of happiness that lie
Open to anybody that is born,
Tumbles into this life and out again, —
All that may happen, good and evil too,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
"O grandeur of the visible universe
Our human littleness contrasts withal!
O sun, O moon, ye mountains and thou sea,
Thou emblem of immensity, thou this,
That and the other, — what impertinence
In man to eat and drink and walk about
And have his little notions of his own,
The while some wave sheds foam upon the shore!"
First of all, 't is a lie some three-times thick:
The bard, — this sort of speech being poetry, —
The bard puts mankind well outside himself
And then begins instructing them: "This way
I and my friend the sea conceive of you!
What would you give to think such thoughts as ours
Of you and the sea together? "Down they go
On the humbled knees of them: at once they draw
Distinction, recognize no mate of theirs
In one, despite his mock humility,
So plain a match for what he plays with. Next,
The turn of the great ocean-play-fellow,
When the bard, leaving Bond Street very far
From ear-shot, cares not to ventriloquize,
But tells the sea its home-truths: "You, my match?
You, all this terror and inmiensity
And what not? Shall I tell you what you are?
Just fit to hitch into a stanza, so
Wake up and set in motion who's asleep
O' the other side of you, in England, else
Unaware, as folk pace their Bond Street now,
Somebody here despises them so much!
Between us, — they are the ultimate! to them
And their perception go these lordly thoughts:
Since what were ocean — mane and tail, to boot —
Mused I not here, how make thoughts thinkable?
Start forth my stanza and astound the world!
Back, billows, to your insignificance!
Deep, you are done with!"
Learn, my gifted friend,
There are two things i' the world, still wiser folk
Accept — intelligence and sympathy.
You pant about unutterable power
I' the ocean, all you feel but cannot speak?
Why, that's the plainest speech about it all.
You did not feel what was not to be felt.
Well, then, all else but what man feels is naught —
The wash o' the liquor that o'erbrims the cup
Called man, and runs to waste adown his side,
Perhaps to feed a cataract, — who cares?
I'll tell you: all the more I know mankind,
The more I thank God, like my grandmother,
For making me a little lower than
The angels, honour-clothed and glory-crowned:
This is the honour, — that no thing I know,
Feel or conceive, but I can make my own
Somehow, by use of hand or head or heart:
This is the glory, — that in all conceived.
Or felt or known, I recognize a mind
Not mine but like mine, — for the double joy, —
Making all things for me and me for Him.
There's folly for you at this time of day!
So think it! and enjoy your ignorance
Of what — no matter for the worthy's name —
Wisdom set working in a noble heart,
When he, who was earth's best geometer
Up to that time of day, consigned his life
With its results into one matchless book,
The triumph of the human mind so far.
All in geometry man yet could do:
And then wrote on the dedication-page
In place of name the universe applauds,
"But, God, what a geometer art Thou!"
I suppose Heaven is, through Eternity,
The equalizing, ever and anon,
In momentary rapture, great with small,
Omniscience with intelligency, God
With man, — the thunder-glow from pole to pole
Abolishing, a blissful moment-space,
Great cloud alike and small cloud, in one fire —
As sure to ebb as sure again to flow
When the new receptivity deserves
The new completion. There's the Heaven for me.
And I say, therefore, to live out one's life
I' the world here, with the chance, — whether by pain
Or pleasure be the process, long or short
The time, august or mean the circumstance
To human eye, — of learning how set foot
Decidedly on some one path to Heaven,
Touch segment in the circle whence all lines
Lead to the centre equally, red lines
Or black lines, so they but produce themselves —
This, I do say, — and here my sermon ends, —
This makes it worth our while to tenderly
Handle a state of things which mend we might.
Mar we may, but which meanwhile helps so far.
Therefore my end is — save society!
"And that's all?" twangs the never-failing taunt
O' the foe — "No novelty, creativeness,
Mark of the master that renews the age?"
"Nay, all that?" rather will demur my judge
I look to hear some day, nor friend nor foe —
"Did you attain, then, to perceive that God
Knew what He undertook when He made things?"
Ay: that my task was to co-operate
Rather than play the rival, chop and change
The order whence comes all the good we know,
With this, — good's last expression to our sense, —
That there's a further good conceivable
Beyond the utmost earth can realize:
And, therefore, that to change the agency,
The evil whereby good is brought about —
Try to make good do good as evil does —
Were just as if a chemist, wanting white.
And knowing black ingredients bred the dye.
Insisted these too should be white forsooth!
Correct the evil, mitigate your best,
Blend mild with harsh, and soften black to gray
If gray may follow with no detriment
To the eventual perfect purity!
But as for hazarding the main result
By hoping to anticipate one half
In the intermediate process, — no, my friends!
This bad world, I experience and approve;
Your good world, — with no pity, courage, hope.
Fear, sorrow, joy, — devotedness, in short,
Which I account the ultimate of man,
Of which there's not one day nor hour but brings
In flower or fruit, some sample of success,
Out of this same society I save —
None of it for me! That I might have none,
I rapped your tampering knuckles twenty years.
Such was the task imposed me, such my end.
Now for the means thereto. Ah, confidence —
Keep we together or part company?
This is the critical minute! "Such my end?"
Certainly; how could it be otherwise?
Can there be question which was the right task —
To save or to destroy society?
Why, even prove that, by some miracle,
Destruction were the proper work to choose,
And that a torch best remedies what's wrong
I' the temple, whence the long procession wound
Of powers and beauties, earth's achievements all.
The human strength that strove and overthrew, —
The human love that, weak itself, crowned strength,—
The instinct crying "God is whence I came!" —
The reason laying down the law "And such
His will i' the world must be! " — the leap and shout
Of genius "For I hold His very thoughts,
The meaning of the mind of Him!" — nay, more
The ingenuities, each active force
That turning in a circle on itselt
Looks neither up nor down but keeps the spot.
Mere creature-like and, for religion, works,
Works only and works ever, makes and shapes
And changes, still wrings more of good from less,
Still stamps some bad out, where was worst before.
So leaves the handiwork, the act and deed.
Were it but house and land and wealth, to show
Here was a creature perfect in the kind —
Whether as bee, beaver, or behemoth,
What's the importance? he has done his work
For work's sake, worked well, earned a creature's praise; —
I say, concede that same fane, whence deploys
Age after age, all this humanity,
Diverse but ever dear, out of the dark
Behind the altar into the broad day
By the portal — enter, and, concede there mocks
Each lover of free motion and much space
A perplexed length of apse and aisle and nave, —
Pillared roof and carved screen, and what care I?
That irk the movement and impede the march, —
Nay, possibly, bring flat upon his nose
At some odd break-neck angle, by some freak
Of old-world artistry, that personage
Who, could he but have kept his skirts from grief
And catching at the hooks and crooks about,
Had stepped out on the daylight of our time
Plainly the man of the age, — still, still, I bar
Excessive conflagration in the case.
"Shake the flame freely!" shout the multitude:
The architect approves I stuck my torch
Inside a good stout lantern, hung its light
Above the hooks and crooks, and ended so.
To save society was well: the means
Whereby to save it, — there begins the doubt
Permitted you, imperative on me;
Were mine the best means? Did I work aright
With powers appointed me? — since powers denied
Concern me nothing.
Well, my work reviewed
Fairly, leaves more hope than discouragement.
First, there's the deed done: what I found, I leave,-
What tottered, I kept stable: if it stand
One month, without sustainment, still thank me
The twenty years' sustainer! Now, observe,
Sustaining is no brilliant self-display
Like knocking down or even setting up:
Much bustle these necessitate; and still
To vulgar eye, the mightier of the myth
Is Hercules, who substitutes his own
For Atlas' shoulder and supports the globe
A whole day, — not the passive and obscure
Atlas who bore, ere Hercules was born,
And is to go on bearing that same load
When Hercules turns ash on OEta's top.
'T is the transition-stage, the tug and strain.
That strike men: standing still is stupid-like.
My pressure was too constant on the whole
For any part's eruption into space
Mid sparkles, crackling, and much praise of me.
I saw that, in the ordinary life,
Many of the little make a mass of men
Important beyond greatness here and there;
As certainly as, in life exceptional,
When old things terminate and new commence,
A solitary great man's worth the world.
God takes the business into His own hands
At such time: who creates the novel flower
Contrives to guard and give it breathing-room:
I merely tend the corn-field, care for crop,
And weed no acre thin to let emerge
What prodigy may stifle there perchance,
— No, though my eye have noted where he lurks.
Oh those mute myriads that spoke loud to me —
The eyes that craved to see the light, the mouths
That sought the daily bread and nothing more,
The hands that supplicated exercise,
Men that had wives, and women that had babes,
And all these making suit to only live!
Was I to turn aside from husbandry,
Leave hope of harvest for the corn, my care,
To play at horticulture, rear some rose
Or poppy into perfect leaf and bloom
When, mid the furrows, up was pleased to sprout
Some man, cause, system, special interest
I ought to study, stop the world meanwhile?
"But I am Liberty, Philanthropy,
Enhghtenment, or Patriotism, the power
Whereby you are to stand or fall!" cries each:
"Mine and mine only be the flag you flaunt!"
And, when I venture to object "Meantime,
What of yon myriads with no flag at all —
My crop which, who flaunts flag must tread across?"
"Now, this it is to have a puny mind!"
Admire my mental prodigies: "down — down —
Ever at home o' the level and the low.
There bides he brooding! Could he look above,
With less of the owl and more of the eagle eye,
He'd see there's no way helps the little cause
Like the attainment of the great. Dare first
The chief emprise; dispel yon cloud between
The sun and us; nor fear that, though our heads
Find earlier warmth and comfort from his ray,
What Hes about our feet, the multitude,
Will fail of benefaction presently.
Come now, let each of us awhile cry truce
To special interests, make common cause
Against the adversary — or perchance
Mere dullard to his own plain interest!
Which of us will you choose? — since needs must be
Some one o' the warring causes you incline
To hold, i' the main, has right and should prevail;
Why not adopt and give it prevalence?
Choose strict Faith or lax Incredulity, —
King, Caste and Cultus — or the Rights of Man,
Sovereignty of each Proudhon o'er himself,
And all that follows in just consequence!
Go free the stranger from a foreign yoke;
Or stay, concentrate energy at home;
Succeed! — when he deserves, the stranger will.
Comply with the Great Nation's impulse, print
By force of arms, — since reason pleads in vain,
And, mid the sweet compulsion, pity weeps, —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau on the universe!
Snub the Great Nation, cure the impulsive itch
With smartest fillip on a restless nose
Was ever launched by thumb and finger! Bid
Hohenstiel-Schwangau first repeal the tax
On pig-tails and pomatum and then mind
Abstruser matters for next century!
Is your choice made? Why then, act up to choice!
Leave the illogical touch now here now there
I' the way of work, the tantalizing help
First to this then the other opposite:
The blowing hot and cold, sham policy,
Sure ague of the mind and nothing more,
Disease of the perception or the Will,
That fain would hide in a fine name! Your choice,
Speak it out and condemn yourself thereby!"
Well, Leicester-square is not the Residenz:
Instead of shrugging shoulder, turning friend
The deaf ear, with a wink to the police —
I'll answer — by a question, wisdom's mode.
How many years, o' the average, do men
Live in this world? Some score, say computists.
Quintuple me that term and give mankind
The likely hundred, and with all my heart
I'll take your task upon me, work your way,
Concentrate energy on some one cause:
Since, counseller, I also have my cause,
My flag, my faith in its effect, my hope
In its eventual triumph for the good
O' the world. And once upon a time, when I
Was like all you, mere voice and nothing more,
Myself took wings, soared sun-ward, and thence sang
"Look where I live i' the loft, come up to me,
Groundlings, nor grovel longer I gain this height.
And prove you breathe here better than below!
Why, what emancipation far and wide
Will follow in a trice! They too can soar,
Each tenant of the earth's circumference
Claiming to elevate humanity,
They also must attain such altitude,
Live in the luminous circle that surrounds
The planet, not the leaden orb itself.
Press out, each point, from surface to yon verge
Which one has gained and guaranteed your realm!"
Ay, still my fragments wander, music-fraught,
Sighs of the soul, mine once, mine now, and mine
For ever! Crumbled arch, crushed aqueduct,
Alive with tremors in the shaggy growth
Of wild-wood, crevice-sown, that triumphs there
Imparting exultation to the hills!
Sweep of the swathe when only the winds walk
And waft my words above the grassy sea
Under the blinding blue that basks o'er Rome, —
Hear ye not still — "Be Italy again?"
And ye, what strikes the panic to your heart?
Decrepit council-chambers, — where some lamp
Drives the unbroken black three paces off
From where the greybeards huddle in debate,
Dim cowls and capes, and midmost glimmers one
Like tarnished gold, and what they say is doubt.
And what they think is fear, and what suspends
The breath in them is not the plaster-patch
Time disengages from the painted wall
Where Rafael moulderingly bids adieu,
Nor tick of the insect turning tapestry
To dust, which a queen's finger traced of old;
But some word, resonant, redoubtable.
Of who once felt upon his head a hand
Whereof the head now apprehends his foot.
"Light in Rome, Law in Rome, and Liberty
O' the soul in Rome — the free Church, the free State!
Stamp out the nature that's best typified
By its embodiment in Peter's Dome,
The scorpion-body with the greedy pair
Of outstretched nippers, either colonnade
Agape for the advance of heads and hearts!"
There's one cause for you! one and only one.
For I am vocal through the universe,
I' the work-shop, manufactory, exchange
And market-place, sea-port and custom-house
O' the frontier: listen if the echoes die —
"Unfettered commerce! Power to speak and hear,
And print and read! The universal vote!
Its rights for labour!" This, with much beside,
I spoke when I was voice and nothing more,
But altogether such an one as you
My censors. "Voice, and nothing more, indeed!"
Re-echoes round me: "that's the censure, there's
Involved the ruin of you soon or late!
Voice, — when its promise beat the empty air:
And nothing more, — when solid earth's your stage.
And we desiderate performance, deed
For word, the realizing all you dreamed
In the old days: now, for deed, we find at door
O' the council-chamber posted, mute as mouse,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, sentry and safeguard
O' the greybeards all a-chuckle, cowl to cape.
Who challenge Judas, — that 's endearment's style, —
To stop their mouths or let escape grimace,
While they keep cursing Italy and him.
The power to speak, hear, print and read is ours?
Ay, we learn where and how, when clapped inside
A convict-transport bound for cool Cayenne!
The universal vote we have: its urn,
We also have where votes drop, fingered-o'er
By the universal Prefect. Say, Trade's free
And Toil turned master out o' the slave it was:
What then? These feed man's stomach, but his soul
Craves finer fare, nor lives by bread alone.
As somebody says somewhere. Hence you stand
Proved and recorded either false or weak,
Faulty in promise or performance: which?"
Neither, I hope. Once pedestalled on earth,
To act not speak, I found earth was not air.
I saw that multitude of mine, and not
The nakedness and nullity of air
Fit only for a voice to float in free.
Such eyes I saw that craved the light alone.
Such mouths that wanted bread and nothing else,
Such hands that supplicated handiwork,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes,
Yet all these pleading just to live, not die!
Did I believe one whit less in belief.
Take truth for falsehood, wish the voice revoked
That told the truth to heaven for earth to hear?
No, this should be, and shall; but when and how?
At what expense to these who average
Your twenty years of life, my computists?
"Not bread alone" but bread before all else
For these: the bodily want serve first, said I;
If earth-space and the life-time help not here,
Where is the good of body having been?
But, helping body, if we somewhat baulk
The soul of finer fare, such food's to find
Elsewhere and afterward — all indicates.
Even this self-same fact that soul can starve
Yet body still exist its twenty years:
While, stint the body, there's an end at once
O' the revel in the fancy that Rome's free.
And superstition's fettered, and one prints
Whate'er one pleases and who pleases reads
The same, and speaks out and is spoken to.
And divers hundred thousand fools may vote
A vote untampered with by one wise man,
And so elect Barabbas deputy
In lieu of his concurrent. I who trace
The purpose written on the face of things,
For my behoof and guidance — (whoso needs
No such sustainment, sees beneath my signs,
Proves, what I take for writing, penmanship,
Scribble and flourish with no sense for me
O' the sort I solemnly go spelling out, —
Let him! there 's certain work of mine to show
Alongside his work: which gives warranty
Of shrewder vision in the workman — judge!)
I who trace Providence without a break
I' the plan of things, drop plumb on this plain print
Of an intention with a view to good,
That man is made in sympathy with man
At outset of existence, so to speak;
But in dissociation, more and more,
Man from his fellow, as their lives advance
In culture; still humanity, that's born
A mass, keeps flying off, fining away
Ever into a multitude of points,
And ends in isolation, each from each:
Peerless above i' the sky, the pinnacle, —
Absolute contact, fusion, all below
At the base of being. How comes this about?
This stamp of God characterizing man
And nothing else but man in the universe —
That, while he feels with man (to use man's speech)
I' the little things of life, its fleshly wants
Of food and rest and health and happiness,
Its simplest spirit-motions, loves and hates,
Hopes, fears, soul-cravings on the ignoblest scale,
O' the fellow-creature, — owns the bond at base, —
He tends to freedom and divergency
In the upward progress, plays the pinnacle
When life's at greatest (grant again the phrase!
Because there's neither great nor small in life.)
"Consult thou for thy kind that have the eyes
To see, the mouths to eat, the hands to work,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes!"
Prompts Nature. "Care thou for thyself alone
I' the conduct of the mind God made thee with!
Think, as if man had never thought before!
Act, as if all creation hung attent
On the acting of such faculty as thine,
To take prime pattern from thy masterpiece!"
Nature prompts also: neither law obeyed
To the uttermost by any heart and soul
We know or have in record: both of them
Acknowledged blindly by whatever man
We ever knew or heard of in this world.
"Will you have why and wherefore, and the fact
Made plain as pikestaff?" modern Science asks.
"That mass man sprung from was a jelly-lump
Once on a time; he kept an after course
Through fish and insect, reptile, bird and beast,
Till he attained to be an ape at last
Or last but one. And if this doctrine shock
In aught the natural pride" . . . Friend, banish fear,
The natural humility replies!
Do you suppose, even I, poor potentate,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, who once ruled the roast, —
I was born able at all points to ply
My tools? or did I have to learn my trade,
Practise as exile ere perform as prince?
The world knows something of my ups and downs:
But grant me time, give me the management
And manufacture of a model me.
Me fifty-fold, a prince without a flaw, —
Why, there's no social grade, the sordidest,
My embryo potentate should blink and scape.
King, all the better he was cobbler once,
He should know, sitting on the throne, how tastes
Life to who sweeps the doorway. But life's hard,
Occasion rare; you cut probation short,
And, being half-instructed, on the stage
You shuffle through your part as best you may,
And bless your stars, as I do. God takes time.
I like the thought He should have lodged me once
I' the hole, the cave, the hut, the tenement.
The mansion and the palace; made me learn
The feel o' the first, before I found myself
Loftier i' the last, not more emancipate
From first to last of lodging, I was I,
And not at all the place that harboured me.
Do I refuse to follow farther yet
I' the backwardness, repine if tree and flower,
Mountain or streamlet were my dwelling-place
Before I gained enlargement, grew mollusc?
As well account that way for many a thrill
Of kinship, I confess to, with the powers
Called Nature: animate, inanimate.
In parts or in the whole, there's something there
Man-like that somehow meets the man in me.
My pulse goes altogether with the heart
O' the Persian, that old Xerxes, when he stayed
His march to conquest of the world, a day
I' the desert, for the sake of one superb
Plane-tree which queened it there in solitude:
Giving her neck its necklace, and each arm
Its armlet, suiting soft waist, snowy side.
With cincture and apparel. Yes, I lodged
In those successive tenements; perchance
Taste yet the straitness of them while I stretch
Limb and enjoy new liberty the more.
And some abodes are lost or ruinous;
Some, patched-up and pieced out, and so transformed
They still accommodate the traveller
His day of life-time. O you count the links,
Descry no bar of the unbroken man?
Yes, — and who welds a lump of ore, suppose
He likes to make a chain and not a bar.
And reach by link on link, link small, link large,
Out to the due length — why, there's forethought still
Outside o' the series, forging at one end.
While at the other there's — no matter what
The kind of critical intelligence
Believing that last link had last but one
For parent, and no link was, first of all,
Fitted to anvil, hammered into shape.
Else, I accept the doctrine, and deduce
This duty, that I recognize mankind,
In all its height and depth and length and breadth.
Mankind i' the main have little wants, not large:
I, being of will and power to help, i' the main,
Mankind, must help the least wants first. My friend,
That is, my foe, without such power and will,
May plausibly concentrate all he wields,
And do his best at helping some large want,
Exceptionally noble cause, that's seen
Subordinate enough from where I stand.
As he helps, I helped once, when like himself.
Unable to help better, work more wide;
And so would work with heart and hand to-day,
Did only computists confess a fault,
And multiply the single score by five,
Five only, give man's life its hundred years.
Change life, in me shall follow change to match!
Time were then, to work here, there, everywhere,
By turns and try experiment at ease!
Full time to mend as well as mar: why wait
The slow and sober uprise all around
O' the building? Let us run up, right to roof.
Some sudden marvel, piece of perfectness,
And testify what we intend the whole!
Is the world losing patience? "Wait!" say we:
"There's time: no generation needs to die
Unsolaced; you Ve a century in store!"
But, no: I sadly let the voices wing
Their way i' the upper vacancy, nor test
Truth on this solid as I promised once.
Well, and what is there to be sad about?
The world's the world, life's life, and nothing else.
'T is part of life, a property to prize.
That those o' the higher sort engaged i' the world,
Should fancy they can change its ill to good.
Wrong to right, ugliness to beauty: find
Enough success in fancy turning fact.
To keep the sanguine kind in countenance
And justify the hope that busies them:
Failure enough, — to who can follow change
Beyond their vision, see new good prove ill
I' the consequence, see blacks and whites of life
Shift square indeed, but leave the chequered face
Unchanged i' the main, — failure enough for such.
To bid ambition keep the whole from change,
As their best service. I hope naught beside.
No, my brave thinkers, whom I recognize,
Gladly, myself the first, as, in a sense,
All that our world's worth, flower and fruit of man!
Such minds myself award supremacy
Over the common insignificance,
When only Mind's in question, — Body bows
To quite another government, you know.
Be Kant crowned king o' the castle in the air!
Hans Slouch, — his own, and children's mouths to feed
I' the hovel on the ground, — wants meat, nor chews
"The Critique of Pure Reason" in exchange.
But, now, — suppose I could allow your claims
And quite change life to please you, — would it please?
Would life comport with change and still be life?
Ask, now, a doctor for a remedy:
There's his prescription. Bid him point you out
Which of the five or six ingredients saves
The sick man. "Such the efficacity?
Then why not dare and do things in one dose
Simple and pure, all virtue, no alloy
Of the idle drop and powder?" What's his word?
The efficacity, neat, were neutralized:
It wants dispersing and retarding, — nay
Is put upon its mettle, plays its part
Precisely through such hindrance everywhere,
Finds some mysterious give and take i' the case,
Some gain by opposition, he foregoes
Should he unfetter the medicament.
So with this thought of yours that fain would work
Free in the world: it wants just what it finds —
The ignorance, stupidity, the hate,
Envy and malice and uncharitableness
That bar your passage, break the flow of you
Down from those happy heights where many a cloud
Combined to give you birth and bid you be
The royalest of rivers: on you glide
Silverly till you reach the summit-edge,
Then over, on to all that ignorance.
Stupidity, hate, envy, bluffs and blocks.
Posted to fret you into foam and noise.
What of it? Up you mount in minute mist,
And bridge the chasm that crushed your quietude,
A spirit-rainbow, earthborn jewelry
Outsparkling the insipid firmament
Blue above Terni and its orange-trees.
Do not mistake me! You, too, have your rights!
Hans must not burn Kant's house above his head,
Because he cannot understand Kant's book:
And still less must Hans' pastor bum Kant's self
Because Kant understands some books too well.
But, justice seen to on this little point,
Answer me, is it manly, is it sage
To stop and struggle with arrangements here
It took so many lives, so much of toil,
To tinker up into efficiency?
Can't you contrive to operate at once, —
Since time is short and art is long, — to show
Your quality i' the world, whatever you boast,
Without this fractious call on folks to crush
The world together just to set you free,
Admire the capers you will cut perchance,
Nor mind the mischief to your neighbours?
Age and experience bring discouragement,"
You taunt me: I maintain the opposite.
Am I discouraged who, — perceiving health.
Strength, beauty, as they tempt the eye of soul,
Are uncombinable with flesh and blood, —
Resolve to let my body live its best,
And leave my soul what better yet may be
Or not be, in this life or afterward?
— In either fortune, wiser than who waits
Till magic art procure a miracle.
In virtue of my very confidence
Mankind ought to outgrow its babyhood,
I prescribe rocking, deprecate rough hands,
While thus the cradle holds it past mistake.
Indeed, my task's the harder — equable
Sustainment everywhere, all strain, no push —
Whereby friends credit me with indolence,
Apathy, hesitation. "Stand stock-still
If able to move briskly? 'All a-strain' —
So must we compliment your passiveness?
Sound asleep, rather!"
Just the judgment passed
Upon a statue, luckless like myself,
I saw at Rome once! 'T was some artist's whim
To cover all the accessories close
I' the group, and leave you only Laocoön
With neither sons nor serpents to denote
The purpose of his gesture. Then a crowd
Was called to try the question, criticize
Wherefore such energy of legs and arms.
Nay, eyeballs, starting from the socket. One —
I give him leave to write my history —
Only one said "I think the gesture strives
Against some obstacle we cannot see."
All the rest made their minds up. "'T is a yawn
Of sheer fatigue subsiding to repose:
The Statue's 'Somnolency' clear enough!"
There, my arch stranger-friend, my audience both
And arbitress, you have one half your wish,
At least: you know the thing I tried to do!
All, so far, to my praise and glory — all
Told as befits the self-apologist, —
Who ever promises a candid sweep
And clearance of those errors miscalled crimes
None knows more, none laments so much as he,
And ever rises from confession, proved
A god whose fault was — trying to be man.
Just so, fair judge, — if I read smile aright —
I condescend to figure in your eyes
As biggest heart and best of Europe's friends,
And hence my failure. God will estimate
Success one day; and, in the mean time — you!
I daresay there's some fancy of the sort
Frolicking round this final puff I send
To die up yonder in the ceiling-rose, —
Some consolation-stakes, we losers win!
A plague of the return to "I — I — I
Did this, meant that, hoped, feared the other thing!"
Autobiography, adieu! The rest
Shall make amends, be pure blame, history
And falsehood: not the ineffective truth,
But Thiers-and-Victor-Hugo exercise.
Hear what I never was, but might have been
I' the better world where goes tobacco-smoke!
Here lie the dozen volumes of my life:
(Did I say "lie?" the pregnant word will serve.)
Cut on to the concluding chapter, though!
Because the little hours begin to strike.
Hurry Thiers-Hugo to the labour's end!
Something like this the unwritten chapter reads.
Exemplify the situation thus!
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, being, no dispute,
Absolute mistress, chose the Assembly, first,
To serve her: chose this man, its President
Afterward, to serve also, — specially
To see that they did service one and all.
And now the proper term of years was out.
When the Head-servant must vacate his place;
And nothing lay so patent to the world
As that his fellow-servants one and all
Were — mildly make we mention — knaves or fools,
Each of them with his purpose flourished full
I' the face of you by word and impudence,
Or filtered slyly out by nod and wink
And nudge upon your sympathetic rib —
That not one minute more did knave or fool
Mean to keep faith and serve as he had sworn
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, once that Head away.
Why did such swear except to get the chance,
When time should ripen and confusion bloom,
Of putting Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
To the true use of human property?
Restoring souls and bodies, this to Pope,
And that to King, that other to his planned
Perfection of a Share-and-share-alike,
That other still, to Empire absolute
In shape of the Head-servant's very self
Transformed to master whole and sole: each scheme
Discussible, concede one circumstance —
That each scheme's parent were, beside himself,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, not her serving-man
Sworn to do service in the way she chose
Rather than his way: way superlative,
Only, — by some infatuation, — his
And his and his and everyone's but hers
Who stuck to just the Assembly and the Head.
I niake no doubt the Head, too, had his dream
Of doing sudden duty swift and sure
On all that heap of untrustworthiness —
Catching each vaunter of the villany
He meant to perpetrate when time was ripe,
Once the Head-servant fairly out of doors, —
And, caging here a knave and there a fool,
Cry "Mistress of the servants, these and me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! I, their trusty Head,
Pounce on a pretty scheme concocting here
That's stopped, extinguished by my vigilance.
Your property is safe again: but mark!
Safe in these hands, not yours, who lavish trust
Too lightly. Leave my hands their charge awhile!
I know your business better than yourself:
Let me alone about it! Some fine day,
Once we are rid of the embarrassment,
You shall look up and see your longings crowned!"
Such fancy may have tempted to be false,
But this man chose truth and was wiser so.
He recognized that for great minds i' the world
There is no trial like the appropriate one
Of leaving little minds their liberty
Of littleness to blunder on through life,
Now, aiming at right end by foolish means.
Now, at absurd achievement through the aid
Of good and wise means: trial to acquiesce
In folly's life-long privilege — though with power
To do the little minds the good they need,
Despite themselves, by just abolishing
Their right to play the part and fill the place
I' the scheme of things He schemed who made alike
Great minds and little minds, saw use for each.
Could the orb sweep those puny particles
It just half-lights at distance, hardly leads
I' the leash — sweep out each speck of them from space
They anticize in with their days and nights
And whirlings round and dancings off, forsooth,
And all that fruitless individual life
One cannot lend a beam to but they spoil —
Sweep them into itself and so, one star,
Preponderate henceforth i' the heritage
Of heaven! No! in less senatorial phrase.
The man endured to help, not save outright
The multitude by substituting him
For them, his knowledge, will and way, for God's:
Not change the world, such as it is, and was
And will be, for some other, suiting all
Except the purpose of the maker. No!
He saw that weakness, wickedness will be,
And therefore should be: that the perfect man
As we account perfection — at most pure
0' the special gold, whate'er the form it take,
Head-work or heart-work, fined and thrice-refined
I' the crucible of life, whereto the powers
Of the refiner, one and all, were flung
To feed the flame their utmost, — e'en that block.
He holds out breathlessly triumphant, — breaks
Into some poisonous ore, its opposite.
At the very purest, so compensating
The Adversary — what if we believe?
For earlier stern exclusion of his stuff.
See the sage, with the hunger for the truth,
And see his system that's all true, except
The one weak place that's stanchioned by a lie!
The moralist, that walks with head erect
I' the crystal clarity of air so long.
Until a stumble, and the man's one mire!
Philanthropy undoes the social knot
With axe-edge, makes love room 'twixt head and trunk!
Religion — but, enough, the thing's too clear!
Well, if these sparks break out i' the greenest tree.
Our topmost of performance, yours and mine,
AVhat will be done i' the dry ineptitude
Of ordinary mankind, Ipark and bole.
All seems ashamed of but their mother-earth?
Therefore throughout his term of servitude
He did the appointed service, and forbore
Extraneous action that were duty else,
Done by some other servant, idle now
Or mischievous: no matter, each his own —
Own task, and, in the end, own praise or blame!
He suffered them strut, prate and brag their best.
Squabble at odds on every point save one,
And there shake hands, — agree to trifle time,
Obstruct advance with, each, his cricket-cry
"Wait till the Head be off the shoulders here!
Then comes my King, my Pope, my Autocrat,
My Socialist Republic to her own —
To-wit, that property of only me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau who conceits herself
Free, forsooth, and expects I keep her so!"
— Nay, suffered when, perceiving with dismay
His silence paid no tribute to their noise,
They turned on him. "Dumb menace in that mouth,
Malice in that unstridulosity!
He cannot but intend some stroke of state
Shall signalize his passage into peace
Out of the creaking, — hinder transference
O' the Hohenstielers-Schwangauese to king.
Pope, autocrat, or socialist republic! That's
Exact the cause his lips unlocked would cry!
Therefore be stirring: brave, beard, bully him!
Dock, by the million, of its friendly joints,
The electoral body short at once! who did,
May do again, and undo us beside.
Wrest from his hands the sword for self-defence,
The right to parry any thrust in play
We peradventure please to meditate!"
And so forth; creak, creak, creak: and ne'er a line
His locked mouth oped the wider, till at last
O' the long degraded and insulting day,
Sudden the clock told it was judgment-time.
Then he addressed himself to speak indeed
To the fools, not knaves: they saw him walk straight down
Each step of the eminence, as he first engaged,
And stand at last o' the level, — all he swore.
"People, and not the people's varletry,
This is the task you set myself and these!
Thus I performed my part of it, and thus
They thwarted me throughout, here, here, and here:
Study each instance! yours the loss, not mine.
What they intend now is demonstrable
As plainly: here's such man, and here's such mode
Of making you some other than the thing
You, wisely or unwisely, choose to be,
And only set him up to keep you so.
Do you approve this? Yours the loss, not mine.
Do you condemn it? There's a remedy.
Take me — who know your mind, and mean your good,
With clearer head and stouter arm than they,
Or you, or haply anybody else —
And make me master for the moment! Choose
What time, what power you trust me with: I too
Will choose as frankly ere I trust myself
With time and power: they must be adequate
To the end and aim, since mine the loss, with yours
If means be wanting; once their worth approved,
Grant them, and I shall forthwith operate —
Ponder it well! — to the extremest stretch
0' the power you trust me: if with unsuccess,
God wills it, and there's nobody to blame."
Whereon the people answered with a shout
"The trusty one! no tricksters any more!"
How could they other? He was in his place.
What followed? Just what he foresaw, what proved
The soundness of both judgments, — his, o' the knaves
And fools, each trickster with his dupe, — and theirs
The people, in what head and arm should help.
There was uprising, masks dropped, flags unfurled,
Weapons outflourished in the wind, my faith!
Heavily did he let his fist fall plumb
On each perturber of the public peace,
No matter whose the wagging head it broke —
From bald-pate craft and greed and impudence
Of night-hawk at first cliance to prowl and prey
For glory and a little gain beside,
Passing for eagle in the dusk of the age, —
To florid head-top, foamy patriotism
And tribunitial daring, breast laid bare
Thro' confidence in rectitude, with hand
On private pistol in the pocket: these
And all the dupes of these, who lent themselves
As dust and feather do, to help offence
O' the wind that whirls them at you, then subsides
In safety somewhere, leaving filth afloat,
Annoyance you may brush from eyes and beard, —
These he stopped: bade the wind's spite howl or whine
Its worst outside the building, wind conceives
Meant to be pulled together and become
Its natural playground so. What foolishness
Of dust or feather proved importunate
And fell 'twixt thumb and finger, found them gripe
To detriment of bulk and buoyancy.
Then followed silence and submission. Next,
The inevitable comment came on work
And work's cost; he was censured as profuse
Of human life and liberty: too swift
And thorough his procedure, who had lagged
At the outset, lost the opportunity
Through timid scruples as to right and wrong.
"There's no such certain mark of a small mind"
(So did Sagacity explain the fault)
"As when it needs must square away and sink
To its own small dimensions, private scale
Of right and wrong, — humanity i' the large,
The right and wrong of the universe, forsooth!
This man addressed himself to guard and guide
Hohenstiel-Schwangau. When the case demands
He frustrate villany in the egg, unhatched,
With easy stamp and minimum of pang
E'en to the punished reptile, 'There's my oath
Restrains my foot,' objects our guide and guard,
'I must leave guardianship and guidance now:
Rather than stretch one handbreadth of the law,
I am bound to see it break from end to end.
First show me death i' the body politic:
Then prescribe pill and potion, what may please
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! all is for her sake:
'T was she ordained my service should be so.
What if the event demonstrate her unwise,
If she unwill the thing she willed before?
I hold to the letter and obey the bond
And leave her to perdition loyally.'
Whence followed thrice the expenditure we blame
Of human life and liberty: for want
O' the by-blow, came deliberate butcher's-work!"
"Elsewhere go carry your complaint!" bade he.
"Least, largest, there's one law for all the minds,
Here or above: be true at any price!
'T is just o' the great scale, that such happy stroke
Of falsehood would be found a failure. Truth
Still stands unshaken at her base by me,
Reigns paramount i' the world, for the large good
O' the long late generations, — I and you
Forgotten like this buried foohshness!
Not so the good I rooted in its grave."
This is why he refused to break his oath,
Rather appealed to the people, gained the power
To act as he thought best, then used it, once
For all, no matter what the consequence
To knaves and fools. As thus began his sway,
So, through its twenty years, one rule of right
Sufficed him: govern for the many first,
The poor mean multitude, all mouths and eyes:
Bid the few, better favoured in the brain,
Be patient, nor presume on privilege.
Help him, or else be quiet, — never crave
That he help them, — increase, forsooth, the gulf
Yawning so terribly 'twixt mind and mind
I' the world here, which his purpose was to block
At bottom, were it by an inch, and bridge,
If by a filament, no more, at top,
Equalize things a little! And the way
He took to work that purpose out, was plain
Enough to intellect and honesty
And — superstition, style it if you please,
So long as you allow there was no lack
O' the quality imperative in man —
Reverence. You see deeper? thus saw he,
And by the light he saw, must walk: how else
Was he to do his part? the man's, with might
And main, and not a faintest touch of fear
Sure he was in the hand of God who comes
Before and after, with a work to do
Which no man helps nor hinders. Thus the man,
So timid when the business was to touch
The uncertain order of humanity,
Imperil, for a problematic cure
Of grievance on the surface, any good
I' the deep of things, dim yet discernible —
This same man, so irresolute before,
Show him a true excrescence to cut sheer,
A devil's-graft on God's foundation-stone,
Then — no complaint of indecision more!
He wrenched out the whole canker, root and branch,
Deaf to who cried the world would tumble in
At its four corners if he touched a twig.
Witness that lie of lies, arch-infamy.
When the Republic, with all life involved
In just this law — "Each people rules itself
Its own way, not as any stranger please" —
Turned, and for first proof she was living, bade
Hohenstiel-Schwangau fasten on the throat
Of the first neighbour that claimed benefit
O' the law herself established: "Hohenstiel
For Hohenstielers! Rome, by parity
Of reasoning, for Romans? That 's a jest
Wants proper treatment, — lancet-puncture suits
The proud flesh: Rome ape Hohenstiel forsooth!"
And so the siege and slaughter and success
Whereof we nothing doubt that Hohenstiel
Will have to pay the price, in God's good time,
Which does not always fall on Saturday
When the world looks for wages. Any how.
He found this infamy triumphant. Well, —
Sagacity suggested, make this speech!
"The work was none of mine: suppose wrong wait,
Stand over for redressing? Mine for me,
My predecessors' work on their own head!
Meantime, there's plain advantage, should we leave
Things as we find them. Keep Rome manacled
Hand and foot: no fear of unruliness!
Her foes consent to even seem our friends
So long, no longer. Then, there's glory got
I' the boldness and bravado to the world.
The disconcerted world must grin and bear
The old saucy writing, — 'Grunt thereat who may,
So shall things be, for such my pleasure is —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau.' How that reads in Rome
I' the Capitol where Brennus broke his pate!
And what a flourish for our journalists!"
Only, it was nor read nor flourished of,
Since, not a moment did such glory stay
Excision of the canker! Out it came,
Root and branch, with much roaring, and some blood,
And plentiful abuse of him from friend
And foe. Who cared? Not Nature, that assuaged
The pain and set the patient on his legs
Promptly: the better! had it been the worse,
'T is Nature you must try conclusions with,
Not he, since nursing canker kills the sick
For certain, while to cut may cure, at least.
"Ah," groaned a second time Sagacity,
"Again the little mind, precipitate,
Rash, rude, when even in the right, as here!
The great mind knows the power of gentleness,
Only tries force because persuasion fails.
Had this man, by prelusive trumpet-blast,
Signified 'Truth and Justice mean to come.
Nay, fast approach your threshold! Ere they knock,
See that the house be set in order, swept
And garnished, windows shut, and doors thrown wide!
The free State comes to visit the free Church:
Receive her! or . . or . . never mind what else!'
Thus moral suasion heralding brute force,
How had he seen the old abuses die,
And new life kindle here, there, everywhere.
Roused simply by that mild yet potent spell —
Beyond or beat of drum or stroke of sword —
"How, indeed?" he asked,
"When all to see, after some twenty years,
Were your own fool-face waiting for the sight.
Faced by as wide a grin from ear to ear
O' the knaves that, while the fools were waiting, worked —
Broke yet another generation's heart —
Twenty years' respite helping! Teach your nurse
'Compliance with, before you suck, the teat!'
Find what that means, and meanwhile hold your tongue!"
Whereof the war came which he knew must be.
Now, this had proved the dry-rot of the race
He ruled o'er, that, in the old day, when was need
They fought for their own liberty and life,
Well did they fight, none better: whence, such love
Of fighting somehow still for fighting's sake
Against no matter whose the liberty
And life, so long as self-conceit should crow
And clap the wing, while justice sheathed her claw, —
That what had been the glory of the world
When thereby came the world's good, grew its plague
Now that the champion-armour, donned to dare
The dragon once, was clattered up and down
Highway and by-path of the world at peace,
Merely to mask marauding, or for sake
O' the shine and rattle that apprized the fields
Hohenstiel-Schwangau was a fighter yet.
And would be, till the weary world suppressed
A peccant humour out of fashion now.
Accordingly the world spoke plain at last.
Promised to punish who next played with fire.
So, at his advent, such discomfiture
Taking its true shape of beneficence,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, half-sad and part-wise,
Sat: if with wistful eye reverting oft
To each pet weapon rusty on its peg,
Yet, with a sigh of satisfaction too
That, peacefulness become the law, herself
Got the due share of godsends in its train,
Cried shame and took advantage quietly.
Still, so the dry-rot had been nursed into
Blood, bones and marrow, that, from worst to best,
All, — clearest brains and soundest hearts, save here, —
All had this lie acceptable for law
Plain as the sun at noonday — "War is best,
Peace is worst; peace we only tolerate
As needful preparation for new war:
War may be for whatever end we will —
Peace only as the proper help thereto.
Such is the law of right and wrong for us
Hohenstiel-Schwangau: for the other world,
As naturally, quite another law.
Are we content? The world is satisfied.
Discontent? Then the world must give us leave
Strike right and left to exercise our arm
Torpid of late through overmuch repose,
And show its strength is still superlative
At somebody's expense in life or limb:
Which done, — let peace succeed and last a year!"
Such devil's-doctrine was so judged God's law,
We say, when this man stepped upon the stage,
That it had seemed a venial fault at most
Had he once more obeyed Sagacity.
"You come i' the happy interval of peace,
The favourable weariness from war:
Prolong it! — artfully, as if intent
On ending peace as soon as possible.
Quietly so increase the sweets of ease
And safety, so employ the multitude.
Put hod and trowel so in idle hands.
So stuff and stop the wagging jaws with bread.
That selfishness shall surreptitiously
Do wisdom's office, whisper in the ear
Of Hohenstiel-Schwangau, there's a pleasant feel
In being gently forced down, pinioned fast
To the easy arm-chair by the pleading arms
O' the world beseeching her to there abide
Content with all the harm done hitherto,
And let herself be petted in return,
Free to re-wage, in speech and prose and verse,
The old unjust wars, nay — in verse and prose
And speech, — to vaunt new victories, as vile
A plague o' the future, — so that words suffice
For present comfort, and no deeds denote
That, — tired of illimitable line on line
Of boulevard-building, tired o' the theatre
With the tuneful thousand in their thrones above.
For glory of the male intelligence.
And Nakedness in her due niche below,
For illustration of the female use —
She, 'twixt a yawn and sigh, prepares to slip
Out of the arm-chair, wants some blood again
From over the boundary, to colour-up
The sheeny sameness, keep the world aware
Hohenstiel-Schwangau must have exercise
Despite the petting of the universe!
Come, you're a city-builder: what's the way
Wisdom takes when time needs that she entice
Some fierce tribe, castled on the mountain-peak,
Into the quiet and amenity
O' the meadow-land below? By crying 'Done
With fight now, down with fortress?' Rather — 'Dare
On, dare ever, not a stone displaced!'
Cries Wisdom, 'Cradle of our ancestors.
Be bulwark, give our children safety still!
Who of our children please, may stoop and taste
O' the valley-fatness, unafraid, — for why?
At first alarm, they have thy mother-ribs
To run upon for refuge; foes forget
Scarcely what Terror on her vantage-coigne,
Couchant supreme among the powers of air,
Watches — prepared to pounce — the country wide!
Meanwhile the encouraged valley holds its own,
From the first hut's adventure in descent.
Half home, half hiding place, — to dome and spire
Befitting the assured metropolis:
Nor means offence to the fort which caps the crag,
All undismantled of a turret-stone,
And bears the banner-pole that creaks at times
Embarrassed by the old emblazonment,
When festal days are to commemorate.
Otherwise left untenanted, no doubt,
Since, never fear, our myriads from below
Would rush, if needs were, man the walls once more.
Renew the exploits of the earlier time
At moment's notice! But till notice sound,
Inhabit we in ease and opulence!'
And so, till one day thus a notice sounds,
Not trumpeted, but in a whisper-gust
Fitfully playing through mute city streets
At midnight weary of day's feast and game —
'Friends, your famed fort's a ruin past repair!
Its use is — to proclaim it had a use
Stolen away long since. Climb to study there
How to paint barbican and battlement
I' the scenes of our new theatre! We fight
Now — by forbidding neighbours to sell steel
Or buy wine, not by blowing out their brains!
Moreover, while we let time sap the strength
O' the walls omnipotent in menace once,
Neighbours would seem to have prepared surprise —
Run up defences in a mushroom-growth,
For all the world like what we boasted: brief —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau's policy is peace!' "
Ay, so Sagacity advised him filch
Folly from fools: handsomely substitute
The dagger o' lath, while gay they sang and danced
For that long dangerous sword they liked to feel,
Even at feast-time, clink and make friends start.
No! he said "Hear the truth, and bear the truth,
And bring the truth to bear on all you are
And do, assured that only good comes thence
Whate'er the shape good take! While I have rule.
Understand! — war for war's sake, war for the sake
O' the good war gets you as war's sole excuse,
Is damnable and damned shall be. You want
Glory? Why so do I, and so does God.
Where is it found, — in this paraded shame, —
One particle of glory? Once you warred
For liberty against the world, and won:
There was the glory. Now, you fain would war
Because the neighbour prospers overmuch, —
Because there has been silence half-an-hour,
Like Heaven on earth, without a cannon-shot
Are minded to disturb the jubilee, —
Because the loud tradition echoes faint,
And who knows but posterity may doubt
If the great deeds were ever done at all,
Much less believe, were such to do again,
So the event would follow: therefore, prove
The old power, at the expense of somebody!
Oh, Glory, — gilded bubble, bard and sage
So nickname rightly, — would thy dance endure
One moment, would thy mocking make believe
Only one upturned eye thy ball was gold,
Had'st thou less breath to buoy thy vacancy
Than a whole multitude expends in praise,
Less range for roaming than from head to head
Of a whole people? Flit, fall, fly again,
Only, fix never where the resolute hand
May prick thee, prove the lie thou art, at once!
Give me real intellect to reason with,
No multitude, no entity that apes
One wise man, being but a million fools!
How and whence wishest glory, thou wise one?
Would'st get it, — did'st thyself guide Providence, —
By stinting of his due each neighbour round
In strength and knowledge and dexterity
So as to have thy littleness grow large
By all those somethings, once, turned nothings, now,
As children make a molehill mountainous
By scooping out the plain into a trench
And saving so their favourite from approach?
Quite otherwise the cheery game of life.
True yet mimetic warfare, whereby man
Does his best with his utmost, and so ends
The victor most of all in fair defeat.
Who thinks, — would he have no one think beside?
Who knows, who does, — must other learning die
And action perish? Why, our giant proves
No better than a dwarf, with rivalry
Prostrate around him. 'Let the whole race stand
And try conclusions fairly!' he cries first.
Show me the great man would engage his peer
Rather by grinning 'Cheat, thy gold is brass!'
Than granting 'Perfect piece of purest ore!
Still, is it less good mintage, this of mine?'
Well, and these right and sound results of soul
I' the strong and healthy one wise man, — shall such
Be vainly sought for, scornfully renounced
I' the multitude that make the entity —
The people? — to what purpose, if no less.
In power and purity of soul, below
The reach of the unit than, in multiplied
Might of the body, vulgarized the more,
Above, in thick and threefold brutishness?
See! you accept such one wise man, myself:
Wiser or less wise, still I operate
From my own stock of wisdom, nor exact
Of other sort of natures you admire.
That whoso rhymes a sonnet pays a tax,
Who paints a landscape dips brush at his cost,
Who scores a septett true for strings and wind
Mulcted must be — else how should I impose
Properly, attitudinize aright,
Did such conflicting claims as these divert
Hohenstiel-Schwangau from observing me?
Therefore, what I find facile, you be sure,
With effort or without it, you shall dare —
You, I aspire to make my better self
And truly the Great Nation. No more war
For war's sake, then! and, — seeing, wickedness
Springs out of folly, — no more foolish dread
O' the neighbour waxing too inordinate
A rival, through his gain of wealth and ease!
What? — keep me patient, Powers! — the people here,
Earth presses to her heart, nor owns a pride
Above her pride i' the race all flame and air
And aspiration to the boundless Great,
The incommensurably Beautiful —
Whose very faulterings groundward come of flight
Urged by a pinion all too passionate
For heaven and what it holds of gloom and glow:
Bravest of thinkers, bravest of the brave
Doers, exalt in Science, rapturous
In Art, the — more than all — magnetic race
To fascinate their fellows, mould mankind
Hohenstiel-Schwangau-fashion, — these, what? — these
Will have to abdicate their primacy
Should such a nation sell them steel untaxed,
And such another take itself, on hire
For the natural sen'night, somebody for lord
Unpatronized by me whose back was turned?
Or such another yet would fain build bridge,
Lay rail, drive tunnel, busy its poor self
With its appropriate fancy: so there's — flash —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau up in arms at once!
Genius has somewhat of the infantine:
But of the childish, not a touch nor taint
Except through self-will, which, being foolishness,
Is certain, soon or late, of punishment.
Which Providence avert! — and that it may
Avert what both of us would so deserve.
No foolish dread o' the neighbour, I enjoin!
By consequence, no wicked war with him,
While I rule!
Does that mean — no war at all
When just the wickedness I here proscribe
Comes, haply, from the neighbour? Does my speech
Precede the praying that you beat the sword
To plough-share, and the spear to pruning-hook.
And sit down henceforth under your own vine
And fig-tree through the sleepy summer month,
Letting what hurly-burly please explode
On the other side the mountain-frontier? No,
Beloved! I foresee and I announce
Necessity of warfare in one case,
For one cause: one way, I bid broach the blood
O' the world. For truth and right, and only right
And truth, — right, truth, on the absolute scale of God,
No pettiness of man's admeasurement, —
In such case only, and for such one cause,
Fight your hearts out, whatever fate betide
Hands energetic to the uttermost!
Lie not! Endure no lie which needs your heart
And hand to push it out of mankind's path —
No lie that lets the natural forces work
Too long ere lay it plain and pulverized —
Seeing man's life lasts only twenty years!
And such a lie, before both man and God,
Being, at this time present, Austria's rule
O'er Italy, — for Austria's sake the first,
Italy's next, and our sake last of all.
Come with me and deliver Italy!
Smite hip and thigh until the oppressor leave
Free from the Adriatic to the Alps
The oppressed one! We were they who laid her low
In the old bad day when Villany braved Truth
And Right, and laughed 'Henceforward, God deposed,
The Devil is to rule for evermore
I' the world!' — whereof to stop the consequence,
And for atonement of false glory there
Gaped at and gabbled over by the world,
We purpose to get God enthroned again
For what the world will gird at as sheer shame
I' the cost of blood and treasure. 'All for naught —
Not even, say, some patch of province, splice
O' the frontier? — some snug honorarium-fee
Shut into glove and pocketed apace?'
(Questions Sagacity) 'in deference
To the natural susceptibility
Of folks at home, unwitting of that pitch
You soar to, and misdoubting if Truth, Right
And the other such augustnesses repay
Expenditure in coin o' the realm, — but prompt
To recognize the cession of Savoy
And Nice as marketable value!' No,
Sagacity, go preach to Metternich,
And, sermon ended, stay where he resides I
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, you and I must march
The other road! war for the hate of war,
Not love, this once!" So Italy was free.
What else noteworthy and commendable
I' the man's career? — that he was resolute
No trepidation, much less treachery
On his part, should imperil from its poise
The ball o' the world, heaved up at such expense
Of pains so far, and ready to rebound,
Let but a finger maladroitly fall,
Under pretence of making fast and sure
The inch gained by late volubility,
And run itself back to the ancient rest
At foot o' the mountain. Thus he ruled, gave proof
The world had gained a point, progressive so,
By choice, this time, as will and power concurred,
0' the fittest man to rule; not chance of birth,
Or such-like dice-throw. Oft Sagacity
Was at his ear: "Confirm this clear advance,
Support this wise procedure! You, elect
O' the people, mean to justify their choice
And out-king all the kingly imbeciles;
But that's just half the enterprise: remains
You find them a successor like yourself,
In head and heart and eye and hand and aim,
Or all done's undone; and whom hope to mould
So like you as the pupil Nature sends,
The son and heir's completeness which you lack?
Lack it no longer! Wed the pick o' the world,
Where'er you think you find it. Should she be
A queen, — tell Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
'So do the old enthroned decrepitudes
Acknowledge, in the rotten hearts of them,
Their knell is knolled, they hasten to make peace
With the new order, recognize in me
Your right to constitute what king you will.
Cringe therefore crown in hand and bride on arm,
To both of us: we triumph, I suppose!'
Is it the other sort of rank? — bright eye,
Soft smile, and so forth, all her queenly boast?
Undaunted the exordium — 'I, the man
O' the people, with the people mate myself:
So stand, so fall. Kings, keep your crowns and brides!
Our progeny (if Providence agree)
Shall live to tread the baubles underfoot
And bid the scarecrows consort with their kin.
For son, as for his sire, be the free wife
In the free state!' "
That is. Sagacity
Would prop up one more lie, the most of all
Pernicious fancy that the son and heir
Receives the genius from the sire, himself
Transmits as surely, — ask experience else!
Which answers, — never was so plain a truth
As that God drops his seed of heavenly flame
Just where He wills on earth: sometimes where man
Seems to tempt — such the accumulated store
Of faculties — one spark to fire the heap;
Sometimes where, fire-ball-like, it falls upon
The naked unpreparedness of rock,
Burns, beaconing the nations through their night.
Faculties, fuel for the flame? All helps
Come, ought to come, or come not, crossed by chance,
From culture and transmission. What's your want
I' the son and heir? Sympathy, aptitude.
Teachableness, the fuel for the flame?
You'll have them for your pains: but the flame's self,
The novel thought of God shall light the world?
No, poet, though your offspring rhyme and chime
I' the cradle, — painter, no, for all your pet
Draws his first eye, beats Salvatore's boy, —
And thrice no, statesman, should your progeny
Tie bib and tucker with no tape but red,
And make a foolscap-kite of protocols!
Critic and copyist and bureaucrat
To heart's content! The seed o' the apple-tree
Brings forth another tree which bears a crab:
'T is the great gardener grafts the excellence
On wildings where he will.
"How plain I view,
Across those misty years 'twixt me and Rome " —
(Such the man's answer to Sagacity)
The little wayside temple, halfway down
To a mild river that makes oxen white
Miraculously, un-mouse-colours hide,
Or so the Roman country people dream!
I view that sweet small shrub-embedded shrine
On the declivity, was sacred once
To a transmuting Genius of the land,
Could touch and turn its dunnest natures bright,
— Since Italy means the Land of the Ox, we know.
Well, how was it the due succession fell
From priest to priest who ministered i' the cool
Calm fane o' the Clitumnian god? The sire
Brought forth a son and sacerdotal sprout,
Endowed instinctively with good and grace
To suit the gliding gentleness below —
Did he? Tradition tells another tale.
Each priest obtained his predecessor's staff,
Robe, fillet and insignia, blamelessly.
By springing out of ambush, soon or late.
And slaying him: the initiative rite
Simply was murder, save that murder took,
I' the case, another and religious name.
So it was once, is now, shall ever be
With genius and its priesthood in this world:
The new power slays the old — but handsomely.
There he lies, not diminished by an inch
Of stature that he graced the altar with.
Though somebody of other bulk and build
Cries 'What a goodly personage lies here
Reddening the water where the bulrush roots!
May I conduct the service in his place.
Decently and in order, as did he,
And, as he did not, keep a wary watch
When meditating 'neath a willow shade!'
Find out your best man, sure the son of him,
Will prove best man again, and, better still
Somehow than best, the grandson-prodigy!
You think the world would last another day
Did we so make us masters of the trick
Whereby the works go, we could pre-arrange
Their play and reach perfection when we please?
Depend on it, the change and the surprise
Are part o' the plan: 't is we wish steadiness;
Nature prefers a motion by unrest,
Advancement through this force that jostles that.
And so, since much remains i' the world to see.
Here is it still, affording God the sight."
Thus did the man refute Sagacity,
Ever at this one whisper in his ear:
"Here are you picked out, by a miracle,
And placed conspicuously enough, folks say
And you believe, by Providence outright
Taking a new way — nor without success —
To put the world upon its mettle: good!
But Fortune alternates with Providence;
Resource is soon exhausted. Never count
On such a happy hit occurring twice!
Try the old method next time!"
(At whisper in his ear, the laugh outbroke)
"And most discredited of all the modes
By just the men and women who make boast
They are kings and queens thereby! Mere self-defence
Should teach them, on one chapter of the law
Must be no sort of trifling — chastity:
They stand or fall, as their progenitors
Were chaste or unchaste. Now, run eye around
My crowned acquaintance, give each life its look
And no more, — why, you'd think each life was led
Purposely for example of what pains
Who leads it took to cure the prejudice.
And prove there's nothing so unproveable
As who is who, what son of what a sire,
And, — inferentially, — how faint the chance
That the next generation needs to fear
Another fool o' the selfsame type as he
Happily regnant now by right divine
And luck o' the pillow! No: select your lord
By the direct employment of your brains
As best you may, — bad as the blunder prove,
A far worse evil stank beneath the sun
When some legitimate blockhead managed so
Matters that high time was to interfere,
Though interference came from hell itself
And not the blind mad miserable mob
Happily ruled so long by pillow-luck
And divine right, — by lies in short, not truth.
And meanwhile use the allotted minute . . . "
Two, three, four, five — yes, five the pendule warns!
Eh? Why, this wild work wanders past all bound
And bearing! Exile, Leicester-square, the life
I' the old gay miserable time, rehearsed,
Tried on again like cast clothes, still to serve
At a pinch, perhaps? "Who's who?" was aptly asked,
Since certainly I am not I! since when?
Where is the bud-mouthed arbitress? A nod
Out-Homering Homer! Stay — there flits the clue
I fain would find the end of! Yes, — "Meanwhile,
Use the allotted minute!" Well, you see,
(Veracious and imaginary Thiers,
Who map out thus the life I might have led,
But did not, — all the worse for earth and me —
Doff spectacles, wipe pen, shut book, decamp!)
You see 't is easy in heroics! Plain
Pedestrian speech shall help me perorate.
Ah, if one had no need to use the tongue!
How obvious and how easy 't is to talk
Inside the soul, a ghostly dialogue —
Instincts with guesses, — instinct, guess, again
With dubious knowledge, half-experience: each
And all the interlocutors alike
Subordinating, — as decorum bids,
Oh, never fear! but still decisively, —
Claims from without that take too high a tone,
— ("God wills this, man wants that, the dignity
Prescribed a prince would wish the other thing") —
Putting them back to insignificance
Beside one intimatest fact — myself
Am first to be considered, since I live
Twenty years longer and then end, perhaps!
But, where one ceases to soliloquize,
Somehow the motives, that did well enough
I' the darkness, when you bring them into light
Are found, like those famed cave-fish, to lack eye
And organ for the upper magnitudes.
The other common creatures, of less fine
Existence, that acknowledge earth and heaven,
Have it their own way in the argument.
Yes, forced to speak, one stoops to say — one's aim
Was — what it peradventure should have been; —
To renovate a people, mend or end
That bane come of a blessing meant the world —
Inordinate culture of the sense made quick
By soul, — the lust o' the flesh, lust of the eye,
And pride of life, — and, consequent on these,
The worship of that prince o' the power o' the air
Who paints the cloud and fills the emptiness
And bids his votaries, famishing for truth.
Feed on a lie.
Alack, one lies oneself
Even in the stating that one's end was truth,
Truth only, if one states as much in words!
Give me the inner chamber of the soul
For obvious easy argument! 't is there
One pits the silent truth against a lie —
Truth which breaks shell a careless simple bird,
Nor wants a gorget nor a beak filed fine,
Steel spurs and the whole armoury o' the tongue,
To equalize the odds. But, do your best,
Words have to come: and somehow words deflect
As the best cannon ever rifled will.
"Deflect" indeed! nor merely words from thoughts
But names from facts: "Clitumnus" did I say?
As if it had been his ox-whitening wave
Whereby folk practised that grim cult of old —
The murder of their temple's priest by who
Would qualify for his succession. Sure —
Nemi was the true lake's style. Dream had need
Of the ox-whitening piece of prettiness
And so confused names, well known once awake.
So, i' the Residenz yet, not Leicester-square,
Alone, — no such congenial intercourse! —
My reverie concludes, as dreaming should,
With daybreak: nothing done and over yet,
Except cigars! The adventure thus may be,
Or never needs to be at all: who knows?
My Cousin-Duke, perhaps, at whose hard head
— Is it, now — is this letter to be launched,
The sight of whose grey oblong, whose grim seal,
Set all these fancies floating for an hour?
Twenty years are good gain, come what come will!
Double or quits! The letter goes! Or stays?
- quotes about Rome
- quotes about Italy
- quotes about victory
- quotes about performance
- quotes about language
- quotes about tobacco
- quotes about old age
- quotes about frontiers
- quotes about perfection
Among the ropes of lie
A silent actor standing
Naked between the acts
Dragged out of a pack of cards
To deliver the paper speech
To raise his glass and toast
To nothing behind the curtain's outreach
And a playwright anonymous
With the hand on his forehead
Wondering about the rules of writing
The part of the text secretly overheard
But never whispered to the main and side roles
And a beautiful child playing by his side
Completely lost in translation
His future killed by error corrections
I wonder how long an acrobat world can sway
Among the ropes of its own lie
- quotes about writers
- quotes about translation
- quotes about actors
- quotes about paper
- quotes about time
- quotes about future
- quotes about beauty
- quotes about childhood
Shuffling Among the 'Nots
Shuffling among the 'nots'!
Those who have,
Can keep what they've got.
I like the nonchalants.
They seem to have...
Lots of moxie.
The 'haves' seem to shell out a lot.
All boxed in and slick like foxes.
The 'nots' don't mind downing shots.
From a bottle that's passed to a neighbor,
While the 'haves' always want to cop!
And sip champagne with caviar nonstop!
Shuffling among the 'nots'!
Those who have,
Can keep what they've got.
I like the nonchalants.
They seem to have...
Lots of moxie.
Nobody brags about who has finally made it!
Or give shade while eating marmalade.
Nobody I know fakes it.
If they got it in their pocket...
No one is amazed.
Or talk about their chauffeurs,
Or laying off lazy maids.
The 'haves' seem to shell out a lot.
All boxed in and slick like foxes.
The 'nots' don't mind downing shots.
From a bottle that's passed to a neighbor,
While the 'haves' always want to cop!
And sip champagne with caviar nonstop!
Shuffling among the 'nots'!
Those who have,
Can keep what they've got.
I like the nonchalants.
They seem to have...
Lots of moxie.
Meeting Among the Mountains
The little pansies by the road have turned
Away their purple faces and their gold,
And evening has taken all the bees from the thyme,
And all the scent is shed away by the cold.
Against the hard and pale blue evening sky
The mountain's new-dropped summer snow is clear
Glistening in steadfast stillness: like transcendent
Clean pain sending on us a chill down here.
Chirst on the Cross! -- his beautiful young man's body
Has fallen dead upon the nails, and hangs
White and loose at last, with all the pain
Drawn on his mouth, eyes broken at last by his pangs.
And slowly down the mountain road, belated,
A bullock wagon comes; so I am ashamed
To gaze any more at the Christ, whom the mountain snows
Whitely confront; I wait on the grass, am lamed.
The breath of the bullock stains the hard, chill air,
The band is across its brow, and it scarcely seems
To draw the load, so still and slow it moves,
While the driver on the shaft sits crouched in dreams.
Surely about his sunburnt face is something
That vexes me with wonder. He sits so still
Here among all this silence, crouching forward,
Dreaming and letting the bullock take its will.
I stand aside on the grass to let them go;
-- And Christ, I have met his accusing eyes again,
The brown eyes black with misery and hate, that look
Full in my own, and the torment starts again.
One moment the hate leaps at me standing there,
One moment I see the stillness of agony,
Something frozen in the silence that dare not be
Loosed, one moment the darkness frightens me.
Then among the averted pansies, beneath the high
White peaks of snow, at the foot of the sunken Christ
I stand in a chill of anguish, trying to say
The joy I bought was not too highly priced.
But he has gone, motionless, hating me,
Living as the mountains do, because they are strong,
With a pale, dead Christ on the crucifix of his heart,
And breathing the frozen memory of his wrong.
Still in his nostrils the frozen breath of despair,
And heart like a cross that bears dead agony
Of naked love, clenched in his fists the shame,
And in his belly the smouldering hate of me.
And I, as I stand in the cold, averted flowers,
Feel the shame-wounds in his hands pierce through my own,
And breathe despair that turns my lungs to stone
And know the dead Christ weighing on my bone.
Among The Timothy
Long hours ago, while yet the morn was blithe,
Nor sharp athirst had drunk the beaded dew,
A reaper came, and swung his cradled scythe
Around this stump, and, shearing slowly, drew
Far round among the clover, ripe for hay,
A circle clean and grey;
And here among the scented swathes that gleam,
Mixed with dead daisies, it is sweet to lie
And watch the grass and the few-clouded sky,
Nor think but only dream.
For when the noon was turning, and the heat
Fell down most heavily on field and wood,
I too came hither, borne on restless feet,
Seeking some comfort for an echoing mood.
Ah, I was weary of the drifting hours,
The echoing city towers,
The blind grey streets, the jingle of the throng,
Weary of hope that like a shape of stone,
Sat near at hand without a smile or moan,
And weary most of song.
And those high moods of mine that someone made
My heart a heaven, opening like a flower,
A sweeter world where I in wonder strayed,
Begirt with shapes of beauty and the power
Of dreams that moved through that enchanted clime
With changing breaths of rhyme,
Were all gone lifeless now like those white leaves.
That hang all winter, shivering dead and blind
Among the sinewy beeches in the wind,
That vainly calls and grieves.
Ah! I will set no more mine overtasked brain
To barren search and toil that beareth nought,
Forever following with sorefooted pain
The crossing pathways of unbourned thought;
But let it go, as one that hath no skill,
To take what shape it will,
An ant slow-burrowing in the earthy gloom,
A spider bathing in the dew at morn,
Or a brown bee in wayward fancy borne
From hidden bloom to bloom.
Hither and thither o'er the rocking grass
The little breezes, blithe as they are blind,
Teasing the slender blossoms pass and pass,
Soft-footed children of the gipsy wind,
To taste of every purple-fringed head
Before the bloom is dead;
And scarcely heed the daisies that, endowed
With stems so short they cannot see, up-bear
Their innocent sweet eyes distressed, and stare
Like children in a crowd.
Not far to fieldward in the central heat,
Shadowing the clover, a pale poplar stands
With glimmering leaves that, when the wind comes, beat
Together like innumerable small hands,
And with the calm, as in vague dreams astray,
Hang wan and silver-grey;
Like sleepy maenads, who in pale surprise,
Half-wakened by a prowling beast, have crept
Out of the hidden covert, where they slept,
At noon with languid eyes.
The crickets creak, and through the noonday glow,
That crazy fiddler of the hot mid-year,
The dry cicada plies his wiry bow
In long-spun cadence, thin and dusty sere:
From the green grass the small grasshoppers' din
Spreads soft and silvery thin:
And ever and anon a murmur steals
Into mine ears of toil that moves alway,
The crackling rustle of the pitch-forked hay
And lazy jerk of wheels.
As so I lie and feel the soft hours a wane,
To wind and sun and peaceful sound laid bare,
That aching dim discomfort of the brain
Fades off unseen, and shadowy-footed care
Into some hidden corner creeps at last
To slumber deep and fast;
And gliding on, quite fashioned to forget,
From dream to dream I bid my spirit pass
Out into the pale green ever-swaying grass
To brood, but no more fret.
And hour by hour among all shapes that grow
Of purple mints and daisies gemmed with gold
In sweet unrest my visions come and go;
I feel and hear and with quiet eyes behold;
And hour by hour, the ever-journeying sun,
In gold and shadow spun,
Into mine eyes and blood, and through the dim
Green glimmering forest of the grass shines down,
Till flower and blade, and every cranny brown,
And I are soaked with him.
Demonic Spirit Among The Numb
Demonic spirit among the numb,
you here with me again, fire, familiar,
looking for someone among the dead as I am,
blue cyanotic corpse, skull-harp, anyone
who might remember you from years ago
when glass was an ice-age and you wept
like honey in a blast furnace of killer bees?
Redemption or genius? We both agreed.
No one was waiting for us on the other side
with gates and doors, weathervanes and smiles
for the creatures we always wanted to become.
One real tear would have been enough,
but nothing, nihil, nada, nix,
for all those unforgettable moments in hell,
isolation in an abandoned prison
when I was a lighthouse with a shattered eye
and you had no interest in a cell
that wasn't interested in keeping anyone in.
Guards gone. Angels with flaming swords.
The place was useless. The air agony.
Space twisted into a gravitational eye
that insisted on seeing what it wanted to,
the light imploding back into itself like a heretic
of flowers and stars, trying to get
a good look at us, homeless mutations
chained to the same chromosome for life.
No shepherd moons for us, casting shadows
like dice on conventional equators
that didn't have the chaos to be a star
and shine by itself alone, take a blue-eyed risk,
white phosphorus, get out of itself somehow,
all those long languishing radio waves
and take a peek through the eye of its own
three hundred year old methane hurricane,
instead of painting carnelian on your forehead
starmud and ashes from the inexhaustible urns
of all those dragons that let the sun down
by offering a library of matchbooks
for elucidation and companionship
and more ghosts than you can throw beans at
to keep them away like a hailstorm of asteroids
shrieking like atmospheres in a burning morgue.
For years I expected you to turn on me
like the flipside of a teaching sword
with the stamina of a forge, and an edge
so clear it would have been inhuman to blunt it
with the mirages of the lies of mercy that spare no one
crossing this desert like a caravan of waterclocks
and I offered you my throat willingly and said
let's do it in the name of nothing, or, better yet,
let's dedicate it like a direction for those
who'll come after us as lost as they are alone.
I'll be the exiled vagantes at the diamond crossroads
and you be the milestone in the middle of nowhere
that evaporated upon impact like the last of your species.
Yes, and I breathed you in like a nuclear winter
and ever since we've been indistinguishable
in the way we've climbed our burning ladders
of evolution up out of these august heights of a black hole,
totally siderealized by black matter breaking into light
backstage where nothing but the business of the world
goes on late into the night. One broken heart
after another accusing the finest passion
they've ever known in their life of amorous treachery
as if they were the latest recruit in the fraud squad
so they didn't have to be the victims of the truth.
At least we can look at things like an hourglass
that didn't quite make it as a telescope
and tell a harmless mirage from a lethal dose of stars.
I can even take pity on you sometimes
when you're off in your own space like a mirror
trying to picture something of your own
that isn't a reflection of me on the dark side
of my own eyelids trying to bloom in Braille.
Suicide to sacrifice. It's a hell of a leap of faith,
and there was no asylum in the abyss to catch you
when you fell from paradise to Pandemonium
and not a single siren went off, and the parachute candled,
and you looked more like a daylily at dusk
than you did a comet that was trying to tell me something.
The messenger got a message. But there was no one
to tell it to. And everything's been clear ever since.
We can look at the willows down by the lake
and say, o, yes, beautiful, blithe adolescents
lingering in their sorrows like the eyes of young gazelles.
And I can run my tongue along
the first crescent of the envelope of the moon
to blood that sword in sacred syllables of the east
with the power of heart-stopping cobras
in the medicine bags of their fangs
and have everybody ask for an encore
like an unpredictable eclipse at the back
of everyone's star-struck eyes
through the buffer of a tinted lens darkly.
Indeed, is it not absurdly marvellous in our eyes
that we exist as we do like the longing
of someone who died light years ago,
fire in its own smoke, a poppy in its red cloak,
a star that ate its own ashes, time
with its tail in its mouth about to
swallow itself whole as if it had two heads,
though a single dream were pillow enough for both.
Not two. And the koan is broken.
And you can hear the applause of a single hand
startled into believing we neither know nor don't know
what we do and we don't understand.
To E. Fitzgerald: Tiresias
OLD FITZ, who from your suburb grange,
Where once I tarried for a while,
Glance at the wheeling orb of change,
And greet it with a kindly smile;
Whom yet I see as there you sit
Beneath your sheltering garden-tree,
And watch your doves about you flit,
And plant on shoulder, hand, and knee,
Or on your head their rosy feet,
As if they knew your diet spares
Whatever moved in that full sheet
Let down to Peter at his prayers;
Who live on milk and meal and grass;
And once for ten long weeks I tried
Your table of Pythagoras,
- And seem'd at first "a thing enskied,"
As Shakespeare has it, airy-light
To float above the ways of men,
Then fell from that half-spiritual height
Chill'd, till I tasted flesh again
One night when earth was winter-b]ack,
And all the heavens flash'd in frost;
And on me, half-asleep, came back
That wholesome heat the blood had lost,
And set me climbing icy capes
And glaciers, over which there roll'd
To meet me long-arm'd vines with grapes
Of Eshcol hugeness- for the cold
Without, and warmth within me, wrought
To mould the dream; but none can say
That Lenten fare makes Lenten thought
Who reads your golden Eastern lay,
Than which I know no version done
In English more divinely well;
A planet equal to the sun
Which cast it, that large infidel
Your Omar, and your Omar drew
Full-handed plaudits from our best
In modern letters, and from two,
Old friends outvaluing all the rest,
Two voices heard on earth no more;
But we old friends are still alive,
And I am nearing seventy-four,
While you have touch'd at seventy-five,
And so I send a birthday line
Of greeting; and my son, who dipt
In some forgotten book of mine
With sallow scraps of manuscript,
And dating many a year ago,
Has hit on this, which you will take,
My Fitz, and welcome, as I know,
Less for its own than for the sake
Of one recalling gracious times,
When, in our younger London days,
You found some merit in my rhymes,
And I more pleasure in your praise.
I WISH I were as in the years of old
While yet the blessed daylight made itself
Ruddy thro' both the roofs of sight, and woke
These eyes, now dull, but then so keen to seek
The meanings ambush'd under all they saw,
The flight of birds, the flame of sacrifice,
What omens may foreshadow fate to man
And woman, and the secret of the Gods.
My son, the Gods, despite of human prayer,
Are slower to forgive than human kings.
The great God Ares burns in anger still
Against the guiltless heirs of him from Tyre
Our Cadmus, out of whom thou art, who found
Beside the springs of Dirce, smote, and still'd
Thro' all its folds the multitudinous beast
The dragon, which our trembling fathers call'd
The God's own son.
A tale, that told to me,
When but thine age, by age as winter-white
As mine is now, amazed, but made me yearn
For larger glimpses of that more than man
Which rolls the heavens, and lifts and lays the deep,
Yet loves and hates with mortal hates and loves,
And moves unseen among the ways of men.
Then, in my wanderings all the lands that lie
Subjected to the Heliconian ridge
Have heard this footstep fall, altho' my wont
Was more to scale the highest of the heights
With some strange hope to see the nearer God.
One naked peak‹the sister of the Sun
Would climb from out the dark, and linger there
To silver all the valleys with her shafts‹
There once, but long ago, five-fold thy term
Of years, I lay; the winds were dead for heat-
The noonday crag made the hand burn; and sick
For shadow‹not one bush was near‹I rose
Following a torrent till its myriad falls
Found silence in the hollows underneath.
There in a secret olive-glade I saw
Pallas Athene climbing from the bath
In anger; yet one glittering foot disturb'd
The lucid well; one snowy knee was prest
Against the margin flowers; a dreadful light
Came from her golden hair, her golden helm
And all her golden armor on the grass,
And from her virgin breast, and virgin eyes
Remaining fixt on mine, till mine grew dark
For ever, and I heard a voice that said
"Henceforth be blind, for thou hast seen too much,
And speak the truth that no man may believe."
Son, in the hidden world of sight that lives
Behind this darkness, I behold her still
Beyond all work of those who carve the stone
Beyond all dreams of Godlike womanhood,
Ineffable beauty, out of whom, at a glance
And as it were, perforce, upon me flash'd
The power of prophesying‹but to me
No power so chain'd and coupled with the curse
Of blindness and their unbelief who heard
And heard not, when I spake of famine, plague
Shrine-shattering earthquake, fire, flood, thunderbolt,
And angers of the Gods for evil done
And expiation lack'd‹no power on Fate
Theirs, or mine own! for when the crowd would roar
For blood, for war, whose issue was their doom,
To cast wise words among the multitude
Was fiinging fruit to lions; nor, in hours
Of civil outbreak, when I knew the twain
Would each waste each, and bring on both the yoke
Of stronger states, was mine the voice to curb
The madness of our cities and their kings.
Who ever turn'd upon his heel to hear
My warning that the tyranny of one
Was prelude to the tyranny of all?
My counsel that the tyranny of all
Led backward to the tyranny of one?
This power hath work'd no good to aught that lives
And these blind hands were useless in their wars.
O. therefore, that the unfulfill'd desire,
The grief for ever born from griefs to be
The boundless yearning of the prophet's heart‹
Could that stand forth, and like a statue, rear'd
To some great citizen, wim all praise from all
Who past it, saying, "That was he!"
Virtue must shape itself im deed, and those
Whom weakness or necessity have cramp'd
Withm themselves, immerging, each, his urn
In his own well, draws solace as he may.
Menceceus, thou hast eyes, and I can hear
Too plainly what full tides of onset sap
Our seven high gates, and what a weight of war
Rides on those ringing axlesl jingle of bits,
Shouts, arrows, tramp of the horn-footed horse
That grind the glebe to powder! Stony showers
Of that ear-stunning hail of Ares crash
Along the sounding walls. Above, below
Shock after shock, the song-built towers and gates
Reel, bruised and butted with the shuddering
War-thunder of iron rams; and from within
The city comes a murmur void of joy,
Lest she be taken captive‹maidens, wives,
And mothers with their babblers of the dawn,
And oldest age in shadow from the night,
Falling about their shrines before their Gods,
And wailing, "Save us."
And they wail to thee!
These eyeless eyes, that cannot see thine own,
See this, that only in thy virtue lies
The saving of our Thebes; for, yesternight,
To me, the great God Ares, whose one bliss
Is war and human sacrifice‹himself
Blood-red from battle, spear and helmet tipt
With stormy light as on a mast at sea,
Stood out before a darkness, crying, "Thebes,
Thy Thebes shall fall and perish, for I loathe
The seed of Cadmus‹yet if one of these
By his own hand‹if one of these‹"
My son, No sound is breathed so potent to coerce,
And to conciliate, as their names who dare
For that sweet mother land which gave them birth
Nobly to do, nobly to die. Their names,
Graven on memorial columns, are a song
Heard in the future; few, but more than wall
And rampart, their examples reach a hand
Far thro' all years, and everywhere they meet
And kindle generous purpose, and the strength
To mould it into action pure as theirs.
Fairer thy fate than mine, if life's best end
Be to end well! and thou refusing this,
Unvenerable will thy memory be
While men shall move the lips; but if thou dare‹
Thou, one of these, the race of Cadmus‹then
No stone is fitted in yon marble girth
Whose echo shall not tongue thy glorious doom,
Nor in this pavement but shall ring thy name
To every hoof that clangs it, and the springs
Of Dirce laving yonder battle-plain,
Heard from the roofs by night, will murmur thee
To thine own Thebes, while Thebes thro' thee shall stand
Firm-based with all her Gods.
The Dragon's cave
Half hid, they tell me, now in flowing vines‹
Where once he dwelt and whence he roll'd himself
At dead of night‹thou knowest, and that smooth rock
Before it, altar-fashion'd, where of late
The woman-breasted Sphinx, with wings drawn back
Folded her lion paws, and look'd to Thebes.
There blanch the bones of whom she slew, and these
Mixt with her own, because the fierce beast found
A wiser than herself, and dash'd herself
Dead in her rage; but thou art wise enough
Tho' young, to love thy wiser, blunt the curse
Of Pallas, bear, and tho' I speak the truth
Believe I speak it, let thine own hand strike
Thy youthful pulses into rest and quench
The red God's anger, fearing not to plunge
Thy torch of life in darkness, rather thou
Rejoicing that the sun, the moon, the stars
Send no such light upon the ways of men
As one great deed.
Thither, my son, and there
Thou, that hast never known the embrace of love
Offer thy maiden life.
This useless hand!
I felt one warm tear fall upon it. Gone!
He will achieve his greatness.
But for me I would that I were gather'd to my rest,
And mingled with the famous kings of old
On whom about their ocean-islets flash
The faces of the Gods‹the wise man's word
Here trampled by the populace underfoot
There crown'd with worship and these eyes will find
The men I knew, and watch the chariot whirl
About the goal again, and hunters race
The shadowy lion, and the warrior-kings
In height and prowess more than human, strive
Again for glory, while the golden lyre
Is ever sounding in heroic ears
Heroic hymns, and every way the vales
Wind, clouded with the grateful incense-fume
Of those who mix all odor to the Gods
On one far height in one far-shining fire.
"One height and one far-shining fire!"
And while I fancied that my friend
For this brief idyll would require
A less diffuse and opulent end,
And would defend his judgment well,
If I should deem it over nice‹
The tolling of his funeral bell
Broke on my Pagan Paradise,
And mixt the dream of classic times,
And all the phantoms of the dream,
With present grief, and made the rhymes,
That miss'd his living welcome, seem
Like would-be guests an hour too late,
Who down the highway moving on
With easy laughter find the gate
Is bolted, and the master gone.
Gone onto darkness, that full light
Of friendship! past, in sleep, away
By night, into the deeper night!
The deeper night? A clearer day
Than our poor twilight dawn on earth‹
If night, what barren toil to be!
What life, so maim'd by night, were worth
Our living out? Not mine to me
Remembering all the golden hours
Now silent, and so many dead,
And him the last; and laying flowers,
This wreath, above his honor'd head,
And praying that, when I from hence
Shall fade with him into the unknown,
My close of earth's experience
May prove as peaceful as his own.
Lines Written Among The Euganean Hills
Many a green isle needs must be
In the deep wide sea of Misery,
Or the mariner, worn and wan,
Never thus could voyage on -
Day and night, and night and day,
Drifting on his dreary way,
With the solid darkness black
Closing round his vessel's track:
Whilst above the sunless sky,
Big with clouds, hangs heavily,
And behind the tempest fleet
Hurries on with lightning feet,
He is ever drifted on
O'er the unreposing wave
To the haven of the grave.
What, if there no friends will greet;
What, if there no heart will meet
His with love's impatient beat;
Wander wheresoe'er he may,
Can he dream before that day
To find refuge from distress
In friendship's smile, in love's caress?
Then 'twill wreak him little woe
Whether such there be or no:
Senseless is the breast, and cold,
Which relenting love would fold;
Bloodless are the veins and chill
Which the pulse of pain did fill;
Every little living nerve
That from bitter words did swerve
Round the tortured lips and brow,
Are like sapless leaflets now
Frozen upon December's bough.
On the beach of a northern sea
Which tempests shake eternally,
As once the wretch there lay to sleep,
Lies a solitary heap,
One white skull and seven dry bones,
On the margin of the stones,
Where a few grey rushes stand,
Boundaries of the sea and land:
Nor is heard one voice of wail
But the sea-mews, as they sail
O'er the billows of the gale;
Or the whirlwind up and down
Howling, like a slaughtered town,
When a king in glory rides
Through the pomp and fratricides:
Those unburied bones around
There is many a mournful sound;
There is no lament for him,
Like a sunless vapour, dim,
Who once clothed with life and thought
What now moves nor murmurs not.
Ay, many flowering islands lie
In the waters of wide Agony:
To such a one this morn was led,
My bark by soft winds piloted:
'Mid the mountains Euganean
I stood listening to the paean
With which the legioned rooks did hail
The sun's uprise majestical;
Gathering round with wings all hoar,
Through the dewy mist they soar
Like gray shades, till the eastern heaven
Bursts, and then, as clouds of even,
Flecked with fire and azure, lie
In the unfathomable sky,
So their plumes of purple grain,
Starred with drops of golden rain,
Gleam above the sunlight woods,
As in silent multitudes
On the morning's fitful gale
Through the broken mist they sail,
And the vapours cloven and gleaming
Follow, down the dark steep streaming,
Till all is bright, and clear, and still,
Round the solitary hill.
Beneath is spread like a green sea
The waveless plain of Lombardy,
Bounded by the vaporous air,
Islanded by cities fair;
Underneath Day's azure eyes
Ocean's nursling, Venice, lies,
A peopled labyrinth of walls,
Amphitrite's destined halls,
Which her hoary sire now paves
With his blue and beaming waves.
Lo! the sun upsprings behind,
Broad, red, radiant, half-reclined
On the level quivering line
Of the waters crystalline;
And before that chasm of light,
As within a furnace bright,
Column, tower, and dome, and spire,
Shine like obelisks of fire,
Pointing with inconstant motion
From the altar of dark ocean
To the sapphire-tinted skies;
As the flames of sacrifice
From the marble shrines did rise,
As to pierce the dome of gold
Where Apollo spoke of old.
Sea-girt City, thou hast been
Ocean's child, and then his queen;
Now is come a darker day,
And thou soon must be his prey,
If the power that raised thee here
Hallow so thy watery bier.
A less drear ruin then than now,
With thy conquest-branded brow
Stooping to the slave of slaves
From thy throne, among the waves
Wilt thou be, when the sea-mew
Flies, as once before it flew,
O'er thine isles depopulate,
And all is in its ancient state,
Save where many a palace gate
With green sea-flowers overgrown
Like a rock of Ocean's own,
Topples o'er the abandoned sea
As the tides change sullenly.
The fisher on his watery way,
Wandering at the close of day,
Will spread his sail and seize his oar
Till he pass the gloomy shore,
Lest thy dead should, from their sleep
Bursting o'er the starlight deep,
Lead a rapid masque of death
O'er the waters of his path.
Those who alone thy towers behold
Quivering through aereal gold,
As I now behold them here,
Would imagine not they were
Sepulchres, where human forms,
Like pollution-nourished worms,
To the corpse of greatness cling,
Murdered, and now mouldering:
But if Freedom should awake
In her omnipotence and shake
From the Celtic Anarch's hold
All the keys of dungeons cold,
Where a hundred cities lie
Chained like thee, ingloriously,
Thou and all thy sister band
Might adorn this sunny land,
Twining memories of old time
With new virtues more sublime;
If not, perish thou and they! -
Clouds which stain truth's rising day
By her sun consumed away -
Earth can spare ye; while like flowers,
In the waste of years and hours,
From your dust new nations spring
With more kindly blossoming.
Perish -let there only be
Floating o'er thy heartless sea
As the garment of thy sky
Clothes the world immortally,
One remembrance, more sublime
Than the tattered pall of time,
Which scarce hides thy visage wan; -
That a tempest-cleaving Swan
Of the sons of Albion,
Driven from his ancestral streams
By the might of evil dreams,
Found a nest in thee; and Ocean
Welcomed him with such emotion
That its joy grew his, and sprung
From his lips like music flung
O'er a mighty thunder-fit,
Chastening terror: -what though yet
Poesy's unfailing River,
Which through Albion winds forever
Lashing with melodious wave
Many a sacred Poet's grave,
Mourn its latest nursling fled?
What though thou with all thy dead
Scarce can for this fame repay
Aught thine own? oh, rather say
Though thy sins and slaveries foul
Overcloud a sunlike soul?
As the ghost of Homer clings
Round Scamander's wasting springs;
As divinest Shakespeare's might
Fills Avon and the world with light
Like omniscient power which he
Imaged 'mid mortality;
As the love from Petrarch's urn,
Yet amid yon hills doth burn,
A quenchless lamp by which the heart
Sees things unearthly; -so thou art,
Mighty spirit -so shall be
The City that did refuge thee.
Lo, the sun floats up the sky
Like thought-winged Liberty,
Till the universal light
Seems to level plain and height;
From the sea a mist has spread,
And the beams of morn lie dead
On the towers of Venice now,
Like its glory long ago.
By the skirts of that gray cloud
Many-domed Padua proud
Stands, a peopled solitude,
'Mid the harvest-shining plain,
Where the peasant heaps his grain
In the garner of his foe,
And the milk-white oxen slow
With the purple vintage strain,
Heaped upon the creaking wain,
That the brutal Celt may swill
Drunken sleep with savage will;
And the sickle to the sword
Lies unchanged, though many a lord,
Like a weed whose shade is poison,
Overgrows this region's foison,
Sheaves of whom are ripe to come
To destruction's harvest-home:
Men must reap the things they sow,
Force from force must ever flow,
Or worse; but 'tis a bitter woe
That love or reason cannot change
The despot's rage, the slave's revenge.
Padua, thou within whose walls
Those mute guests at festivals,
Son and Mother, Death and Sin,
Played at dice for Ezzelin,
Till Death cried, 'I win, I win!'
And Sin cursed to lose the wager,
But Death promised, to assuage her,
That he would petition for
Her to be made Vice-Emperor,
When the destined years were o'er,
Over all between the Po
And the eastern Alpine snow,
Under the mighty Austrian.
She smiled so as Sin only can,
And since that time, ay, long before,
Both have ruled from shore to shore, -
That incestuous pair, who follow
Tyrants as the sun the swallow,
As Repentance follows Crime,
And as changes follow Time.
In thine halls the lamp of learning,
Padua, now no more is burning;
Like a meteor, whose wild way
Is lost over the grave of day,
It gleams betrayed and to betray:
Once remotest nations came
To adore that sacred flame,
When it lit not many a hearth
On this cold and gloomy earth:
Now new fires from antique light
Spring beneath the wide world's might;
But their spark lies dead in thee,
Trampled out by Tyranny.
As the Norway woodman quells,
In the depth of piny dells,
One light flame among the brakes,
While the boundless forest shakes,
And its mighty trunks are torn
By the fire thus lowly born:
The spark beneath his feet is dead,
He starts to see the flames it fed
Howling through the darkened sky
With a myriad tongues victoriously,
And sinks down in fear: so thou,
O Tyranny, beholdest now
Light around thee, and thou hearest
The loud flames ascend, and fearest:
Grovel on the earth; ay, hide
In the dust thy purple pride!
Noon descends around me now:
'Tis the noon of autumn's glow,
When a soft and purple mist
Like a vapourous amethyst,
Or an air-dissolved star
Mingling light and fragrance, far
From the curved horizon's bound
To the point of Heaven's profound,
Fills the overflowing sky;
And the plains that silent lie
Underneath the leaves unsodden
Where the infant Frost has trodden
With his morning-winged feet,
Whose bright print is gleaming yet;
And the red and golden vines,
Piercing with their trellised lines
The rough, dark-skirted wilderness;
The dun and bladed grass no less,
Pointing from this hoary tower
In the windless air; the flower
Glimmering at my feet; the line
Of the olive-sandalled Apennine
In the south dimly islanded;
And the Alps, whose snows are spread
High between the clouds and sun;
And of living things each one;
And my spirit which so long
Darkened this swift stream of song, -
By the glory of the sky:
Be it love, light, harmony,
Odour, or the soul of all
Which from Heaven like dew doth fall,
Or the mind which feeds this verse
Peopling the lone universe.
Noon descends, and after noon
Autumn's evening meets me soon,
Leading the infantine moon,
And that one star, which to her
Almost seems to minister
Half the crimson light she brings
From the sunset's radiant springs:
And the soft dreams of the morn
(Which like winged winds had borne
To that silent isle, which lies
Mid remembered agonies,
The frail bark of this lone being)
Pass, to other sufferers fleeing,
And its ancient pilot, Pain,
Sits beside the helm again.
Other flowering isles must be
In the sea of Life and Agony:
Other spirits float and flee
O'er that gulf: even now, perhaps,
On some rock the wild wave wraps,
With folded wings they waiting sit
For my bark, to pilot it
To some calm and blooming cove,
Where for me, and those I love,
May a windless bower be built,
Far from passion, pain, and guilt,
In a dell mid lawny hills,
Which the wild sea-murmur fills,
And soft sunshine, and the sound
Of old forests echoing round,
And the light and smell divine
Of all flowers that breathe and shine:
We may live so happy there,
That the Spirits of the Air,
Envying us, may even entice
To our healing Paradise
The polluting multitude;
But their rage would be subdued
By that clime divine and calm,
And the winds whose wings rain balm
On the uplifted soul, and leaves
Under which the bright sea heaves;
While each breathless interval
In their whisperings musical
The inspired soul supplies
With its own deep melodies;
And the love which heals all strife
Circling, like the breath of life,
All things in that sweet abode
With its own mild brotherhood:
They, not it, would change; and soon
Every sprite beneath the moon
Would repent its envy vain,
And the earth grow young again.
The Odyssey: Book 2
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Telemachus rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his
comely feet, girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call
the people in assembly, so they called them and the people gathered
thereon; then, when they were got together, he went to the place of
assembly spear in hand- not alone, for his two hounds went with him.
Minerva endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all
marvelled at him as he went by, and when he took his place' in his
father's seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.
Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite experience,
the first to speak His son Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius,
land of noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him when
they were all shut up in the cave, and had cooked his last dinner
for him, He had three sons left, of whom two still worked on their
father's land, while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors;
nevertheless their father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and
was still weeping for him when he began his speech.
"Men of Ithaca," he said, "hear my words. From the day Ulysses
left us there has been no meeting of our councillors until now; who
then can it be, whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to
convene us? Has he got wind of some host approaching, and does he wish
to warn us, or would he speak upon some other matter of public moment?
I am sure he is an excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him
his heart's desire."
Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once, for he
was bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the middle of the
assembly and the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then,
turning to Aegyptius, "Sir," said he, "it is I, as you will shortly
learn, who have convened you, for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I
have not got wind of any host approaching about which I would warn
you, nor is there any matter of public moment on which I would
speak. My grieveance is purely personal, and turns on two great
misfortunes which have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the
loss of my excellent father, who was chief among all you here present,
and was like a father to every one of you; the second is much more
serious, and ere long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The sons of
all the chief men among you are pestering my mother to marry them
against her will. They are afraid to go to her father Icarius,
asking him to choose the one he likes best, and to provide marriage
gifts for his daughter, but day by day they keep hanging about my
father's house, 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; we have now no
Ulysses to ward off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own
against them. I shall never all my days be as good a man as he was,
still I would indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I
cannot stand such treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced
and ruined. Have respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to
public opinion. Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods should
be displeased and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, who is
the beginning and the end of councils, [do not] hold back, my friends,
and leave me singlehanded- unless it be that my brave father Ulysses
did some wrong to the Achaeans which you would now avenge on me, by
aiding and abetting these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out
of house and home at all, I had rather you did the eating
yourselves, for I could then take action against you to some
purpose, and serve you with notices from house to house till I got
paid in full, whereas now I have no remedy."
With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst into
tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat still and no
one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only Antinous, who
"Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to
throw the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother's fault not ours,
for she is a very artful woman. This three years past, and close on
four, she has been driving us out of our minds, by encouraging each
one of us, and sending him messages without meaning one word of what
she says. And then there was that other trick she played us. She set
up a great tambour frame in her room, and began to work on an enormous
piece of fine needlework. 'Sweet hearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed
dead, still do not press me to marry again immediately, wait- for I
would not have skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
completed a pall for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against
the time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women
of the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.'
"This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see her
working on her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick
the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for
three years and we never found her out, but as time wore on and she
was now in her fourth year, one of her maids who knew what she was
doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so
she had to finish it whether she would or no. The suitors,
therefore, make you this answer, that both you and the Achaeans may
understand-'Send your mother away, and bid her marry the man of her
own and of her father's choice'; for I do not know what will happen if
she goes on plaguing us much longer with the airs she gives herself on
the score of the accomplishments Minerva has taught her, and because
she is so clever. We never yet heard of such a woman; we know all
about Tyro, Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, but they
were nothing to your mother, any one of them. It was not fair of her
to treat us in that way, and as long as she continues in the mind with
which heaven has now endowed her, so long shall we go on eating up
your estate; and I do not see why she should change, for she gets
all the honour and glory, and it is you who pay for it, not she.
Understand, then, that we will not go back to our lands, neither
here nor elsewhere, till she has made her choice and married some
one or other of us."
Telemachus answered, "Antinous, how can I drive the mother who
bore me from my father's house? My father is abroad and we do not know
whether he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to pay
Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I insist on sending his
daughter back to him. Not only will he deal rigorously with me, but
heaven will also punish me; for my mother when she leaves the house
will calf on the Erinyes to avenge her; besides, it would not be a
creditable thing to do, and I will have nothing to say to it. If you
choose to take offence at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere at
one another's houses at your own cost turn and turn about. If, on
the other hand, you elect to persist in spunging upon one man,
heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full, and when you
fall in my father's house there shall be no man to avenge you."
As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain, and
they flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in their own
lordly flight. When they were right over the middle of the assembly
they wheeled and circled about, beating the air with their wings and
glaring death into the eyes of them that were below; then, fighting
fiercely and tearing at one another, they flew off towards the right
over the town. The people wondered as they saw them, and asked each
other what an this might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best
prophet and reader of omens among them, spoke to them plainly and in
all honesty, saying:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, and I speak more particularly to the
suitors, for I see mischief brewing for them. Ulysses is not going
to be away much longer; indeed he is close at hand to deal out death
and destruction, not on them alone, but on many another of us who live
in Ithaca. Let us then be wise in time, and put a stop to this
wickedness before he comes. Let the suitors do so of their own accord;
it will be better for them, for I am not prophesying without due
knowledge; everything has happened to Ulysses as I foretold when the
Argives set out for Troy, and he with them. I said that after going
through much hardship and losing all his men he should come home again
in the twentieth year and that no one would know him; and now all this
is coming true."
Eurymachus son of Polybus then said, "Go home, old man, and prophesy
to your own children, or it may be worse for them. I can read these
omens myself much better than you can; birds are always flying about
in the sunshine somewhere or other, but they seldom mean anything.
Ulysses has died in a far country, and it is a pity you are not dead
along with him, instead of prating here about omens and adding fuel to
the anger of Telemachus which is fierce enough as it is. I suppose you
think he will give you something for your family, but I tell you-
and it shall surely be- when an old man like you, who should know
better, talks a young one over till he becomes troublesome, in the
first place his young friend will only fare so much the worse- he will
take nothing by it, for the suitors will prevent this- and in the
next, we will lay a heavier fine, sir, upon yourself than you will
at all like paying, for it will bear hardly upon you. As for
Telemachus, I warn him in the presence of you all to send his mother
back to her father, who will find her a husband and provide her with
all the marriage gifts so dear a daughter may expect. Till we shall go
on harassing him with our suit; for we fear no man, and care neither
for him, with all his fine speeches, nor for any fortune-telling of
yours. You may preach as much as you please, but we shall only hate
you the more. We shall go back and continue to eat up Telemachus's
estate without paying him, till such time as his mother leaves off
tormenting us by keeping us day after day on the tiptoe of
expectation, each vying with the other in his suit for a prize of such
rare perfection. Besides we cannot go after the other women whom we
should marry in due course, but for the way in which she treats us."
Then Telemachus said, "Eurymachus, and you other suitors, I shall
say no more, and entreat you no further, for the gods and the people
of Ithaca now know my story. Give me, then, a ship and a crew of
twenty men to take me hither and thither, and I will go to Sparta
and to Pylos in quest of my father who has so long been missing.
Some one may tell me something, or (and people often hear things in
this way) some heaven-sent message may direct me. If I can hear of him
as alive and on his way home I will put up with the waste you
suitors will make for yet another twelve months. If on the other
hand I hear of his death, I will return at once, celebrate his funeral
rites with all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make my
mother marry again."
With these words he sat down, and Mentor who had been a friend of
Ulysses, and had been left in charge of everything with full authority
over the servants, rose to speak. He, then, plainly and in all honesty
addressed them thus:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, I hope that you may never have a kind and
well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern you equitably; I
hope that all your chiefs henceforward may be cruel and unjust, for
there is not one of you but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled you as
though he were your father. I am not half so angry with the suitors,
for if they choose to do violence in the naughtiness of their
hearts, and wager their heads that Ulysses will not return, they can
take the high hand and eat up his estate, but as for you others I am
shocked at the way in which you all sit still without even trying to
stop such scandalous goings on-which you could do if you chose, for
you are many and they are few."
Leiocritus, son of Evenor, answered him saying, "Mentor, what
folly is all this, that you should set the people to stay us? It is
a hard thing for one man to fight with many about his victuals. Even
though Ulysses himself were to set upon us while we are feasting in
his house, and do his best to oust us, his wife, who wants him back so
very badly, would have small cause for rejoicing, and his blood
would be upon his own head if he fought against such great odds. There
is no sense in what you have been saying. Now, therefore, do you
people go about your business, and let his father's old friends,
Mentor and Halitherses, speed this boy on his journey, if he goes at
all- which I do not think he will, for he is more likely to stay where
he is till some one comes and tells him something."
On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own
abode, while the suitors returned to the house of Ulysses.
Then Telemachus went all alone by the sea side, washed his hands
in the grey waves, and prayed to Minerva.
"Hear me," he cried, "you god who visited me yesterday, and bade
me sail the seas in search of my father who has so long been
missing. I would obey you, but the Achaeans, and more particularly the
wicked suitors, are hindering me that I cannot do so."
As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness
and with the voice of Mentor. "Telemachus," said she, "if you are made
of the same stuff as your father you will be neither fool nor coward
henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word nor left his work
half done. If, then, you take after him, your voyage will not be
fruitless, but unless you have the blood of Ulysses and of Penelope in
your veins I see no likelihood of your succeeding. Sons are seldom
as good men as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better;
still, as you are not going to be either fool or coward
henceforward, and are not entirely without some share of your father's
wise discernment, I look with hope upon your undertaking. But mind you
never make common cause with any of those foolish suitors, for they
have neither sense nor virtue, and give no thought to death and to the
doom that will shortly fall on one and all of them, so that they shall
perish on the same day. As for your voyage, it shall not be long
delayed; your father was such an old friend of mine that I will find
you a ship, and will come with you myself. Now, however, return
home, and go about among the suitors; begin getting provisions ready
for your voyage; see everything well stowed, the wine in jars, and the
barley meal, which is the staff of life, in leathern bags, while I
go round the town and beat up volunteers at once. There are many ships
in Ithaca both old and new; I will run my eye over them for you and
will choose the best; we will get her ready and will put out to sea
Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time
in doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily and found the
suitors flaying goats and singeing pigs in the outer court. Antinous
came up to him at once and laughed as he took his hand in his own,
saying, "Telemachus, my fine fire-eater, bear no more ill blood
neither in word nor deed, but eat and drink with us as you used to do.
The Achaeans will find you in everything- a ship and a picked crew
to boot- so that you can set sail for Pylos at once and get news of
your noble father."
"Antinous," answered Telemachus, "I cannot eat in peace, nor take
pleasure of any kind with such men as you are. Was it not enough
that you should waste so much good property of mine while I was yet
a boy? Now that I am older and know more about it, I am also stronger,
and whether here among this people, or by going to Pylos, I will do
you all the harm I can. I shall go, and my going will not be in vain
though, thanks to you suitors, I have neither ship nor crew of my own,
and must be passenger not captain."
As he spoke he snatched his hand from that of Antinous. Meanwhile
the others went on getting dinner ready about the buildings, jeering
at him tauntingly as they did so.
"Telemachus," said one youngster, "means to be the death of us; I
suppose he thinks he can bring friends to help him from Pylos, or
again from Sparta, where he seems bent on going. Or will he go to
Ephyra as well, for poison to put in our wine and kill us?"
Another said, "Perhaps if Telemachus goes on board ship, he will
be like his father and perish far from his friends. In this case we
should have plenty to do, for we could then divide up his property
amongst us: as for the house we can let his mother and the man who
marries her have that."
This was how they talked. But Telemachus went down into the lofty
and spacious store-room where his father's treasure of gold and bronze
lay heaped up upon the floor, and where the linen and spare clothes
were kept in open chests. Here, too, there was a store of fragrant
olive oil, while casks of old, well-ripened wine, unblended and fit
for a god to drink, were ranged against the wall in case Ulysses
should come home again after all. The room was closed with well-made
doors opening in the middle; moreover the faithful old house-keeper
Euryclea, daughter of Ops the son of Pisenor, was in charge of
everything both night and day. Telemachus called her to the store-room
"Nurse, draw me off some of the best wine you have, after what you
are keeping for my father's own drinking, in case, poor man, he should
escape death, and find his way home again after all. Let me have
twelve jars, and see that they all have lids; also fill me some
well-sewn leathern bags with barley meal- about twenty measures in
all. Get these things put together at once, and say nothing about
it. I will take everything away this evening as soon as my mother
has gone upstairs for the night. I am going to Sparta and to Pylos
to see if I can hear anything about the return of my dear father.
When Euryclea heard this she began to cry, and spoke fondly to
him, saying, "My dear child, what ever can have put such notion as
that into your head? Where in the world do you want to go to- you, who
are the one hope of the house? Your poor father is dead and gone in
some foreign country nobody knows where, and as soon as your back is
turned these wicked ones here will be scheming to get you put out of
the way, and will share all your possessions among themselves; stay
where you are among your own people, and do not go wandering and
worrying your life out on the barren ocean."
"Fear not, nurse," answered Telemachus, "my scheme is not without
heaven's sanction; but swear that you will say nothing about all
this to my mother, till I have been away some ten or twelve days,
unless she hears of my having gone, and asks you; for I do not want
her to spoil her beauty by crying."
The old woman swore most solemnly that she would not, and when she
had completed her oath, she began drawing off the wine into jars,
and getting the barley meal into the bags, while Telemachus went
back to the suitors.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. She took his shape,
and went round the town to each one of the crew, telling them to
meet at the ship by sundown. She went also to Noemon son of
Phronius, and asked him to let her have a ship- which he was very
ready to do. When the sun had set and darkness was over all the
land, she got the ship into the water, put all the tackle on board her
that ships generally carry, and stationed her at the end of the
harbour. Presently the crew came up, and the goddess spoke
encouragingly to each of them.
Furthermore she went to the house of Ulysses, and threw the
suitors into a deep slumber. She caused their drink to fuddle them,
and made them drop their cups from their hands, so that instead of
sitting over their wine, they went back into the town to sleep, with
their eyes heavy and full of drowsiness. Then she took the form and
voice of Mentor, and called Telemachus to come outside.
"Telemachus," said she, "the men are on board and at their oars,
waiting for you to give your orders, so make haste and let us be off."
On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps.
When they got to the ship they found the crew waiting by the water
side, and Telemachus said, "Now my men, help me to get the stores on
board; they are all put together in the cloister, and my mother does
not know anything about it, nor any of the maid servants except one."
With these words he led the way and the others followed after.
When they had brought the things as he told them, Telemachus went on
board, Minerva going before him and taking her seat in the stern of
the vessel, while Telemachus sat beside her. Then the men loosed the
hawsers and took their places on the benches. Minerva sent them a fair
wind from the West, that whistled over the deep blue waves whereon
Telemachus told them to catch hold of the ropes and hoist sail, and
they did as he told them. They set the mast in its socket in the cross
plank, raised it, and made it fast with the forestays; then they
hoisted their white sails aloft with ropes of twisted ox hide. As
the sail bellied out with the wind, the ship flew through the deep
blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward.
Then they made all fast throughout the ship, filled the mixing-bowls
to the brim, and made drink offerings to the immortal gods that are
from everlasting, but more particularly to the grey-eyed daughter of
Thus, then, the ship sped on her way through the watches of the
night from dark till dawn.
The Great Hunger
Clay is the word and clay is the flesh
Where the potato-gatherers like mechanised scarecrows move
Along the side-fall of the hill - Maguire and his men.
If we watch them an hour is there anything we can prove
Of life as it is broken-backed over the Book
Of Death? Here crows gabble over worms and frogs
And the gulls like old newspapers are blown clear of the hedges, luckily.
Is there some light of imagination in these wet clods?
Or why do we stand here shivering?
Which of these men
Loved the light and the queen
Too long virgin? Yesterday was summer. Who was it promised marriage to himself
Before apples were hung from the ceilings for Hallowe'en?
We will wait and watch the tragedy to the last curtain,
Till the last soul passively like a bag of wet clay
Rolls down the side of the hill, diverted by the angles
Where the plough missed or a spade stands, straitening the way.
A dog lying on a torn jacket under a heeled-up cart,
A horse nosing along the posied headland, trailing
A rusty plough. Three heads hanging between wide-apart legs.
October playing a symphony on a slack wire paling.
Maguire watches the drills flattened out
And the flints that lit a candle for him on a June altar
Flameless. The drills slipped by and the days slipped by
And he trembled his head away and ran free from the world's halter,
And thought himself wiser than any man in the townland
When he laughed over pints of porter
Of how he came free from every net spread
In the gaps of experience. He shook a knowing head
And pretended to his soul
That children are tedious in hurrying fields of April
Where men are spanning across wide furrows.
Lost in the passion that never needs a wife
The pricks that pricked were the pointed pins of harrows.
Children scream so loud that the crows could bring
The seed of an acre away with crow-rude jeers.
Patrick Maguire, he called his dog and he flung a stone in the air
And hallooed the birds away that were the birds of the years.
Turn over the weedy clods and tease out the tangled skeins.
What is he looking for there?
He thinks it is a potato, but we know better
Than his mud-gloved fingers probe in this insensitive hair.
'Move forward the basket and balance it steady
In this hollow. Pull down the shafts of that cart, Joe,
And straddle the horse,' Maguire calls.
'The wind's over Brannagan's, now that means rain.
Graip up some withered stalks and see that no potato falls
Over the tail-board going down the ruckety pass -
And that's a job we'll have to do in December,
Gravel it and build a kerb on the bog-side. Is that Cassidy's ass
Out in my clover? Curse o' God
Where is that dog?.
Never where he's wanted' Maguire grunts and spits
Through a clay-wattled moustache and stares about him from the height.
His dream changes like the cloud-swung wind
And he is not so sure now if his mother was right
When she praised the man who made a field his bride.
Watch him, watch him, that man on a hill whose spirit
Is a wet sack flapping about the knees of time.
He lives that his little fields may stay fertile when his own body
Is spread in the bottom of a ditch under two coulters crossed in Christ's Name.
He was suspicious in his youth as a rat near strange bread,
When girls laughed; when they screamed he knew that meant
The cry of fillies in season. He could not walk
The easy road to destiny. He dreamt
The innocence of young brambles to hooked treachery.
O the grip, O the grip of irregular fields! No man escapes.
It could not be that back of the hills love was free
And ditches straight.
No monster hand lifted up children and put down apes
'O God if I had been wiser!'
That was his sigh like the brown breeze in the thistles.
He looks, towards his house and haggard. 'O God if I had been wiser!'
But now a crumpled leaf from the whitethorn bushes
Darts like a frightened robin, and the fence
Shows the green of after-grass through a little window,
And he knows that his own heart is calling his mother a liar
God's truth is life - even the grotesque shapes of his foulest fire.
The horse lifts its head and cranes
Through the whins and stones
To lip late passion in the crawling clover.
In the gap there's a bush weighted with boulders like morality,
The fools of life bleed if they climb over.
The wind leans from Brady's, and the coltsfoot leaves are holed with rust,
Rain fills the cart-tracks and the sole-plate grooves;
A yellow sun reflects in Donaghmoyne
The poignant light in puddles shaped by hooves.
Come with me, Imagination, into this iron house
And we will watch from the doorway the years run back,
And we will know what a peasant's left hand wrote on the page.
Be easy, October. No cackle hen, horse neigh, tree sough, duck quack.
Maguiire was faithful to death:
He stayed with his mother till she died
At the age of ninety-one.
She stayed too long,
Wife and mother in one.
When she died
The knuckle-bones were cutting the skin of her son's backside
And he was sixty-five.
O he loved his mother
Above all others.
O he loved his ploughs
And he loved his cows
And his happiest dream
Was to clean his arse
With perennial grass
On the bank of some summer stream;
To smoke his pipe
In a sheltered gripe
In the middle of July.
His face in a mist
And two stones in his fist
And an impotent worm on his thigh.
But his passion became a plague
For he grew feeble bringing the vague
Women of his mind to lust nearness,
Once a week at least flesh must make an appearance.
So Maguire got tired
Of the no-target gun fired
And returned to his headland of carrots and cabbage
To the fields once again
Where eunuchs can be men
And life is more lousy than savage.
Poor Paddy Maguire, a fourteen-hour day
He worked for years. It was he that lit the fire
And boiled the kettle and gave the cows their hay.
His mother tall hard as a Protestant spire
Came down the stairs barefoot at the kettle-call
And talked to her son sharply: 'Did you let
The hens out, you?' She had a venomous drawl
And a wizened face like moth-eaten leatherette.
Two black cats peeped between the banisters
And gloated over the bacon-fizzling pan.
Outside the window showed tin canisters.
The snipe of Dawn fell like a whirring stone
And Patrick on a headland stood alone.
The pull is on the traces, it is March
And a cold black wind is blowing from Dundalk.
The twisting sod rolls over on her back
The virgin screams before the irresistible sock.
No worry on Maguire's mind this day
Except that he forgot to bring his matches.
'Hop back there Polly, hoy back, woa, wae,
From every second hill a neighbour watches
With all the sharpened interest of rivalry.
Yet sometimes when the sun comes through a gap
These men know God the Father in a tree:
The Holy Spirit is the rising sap,
And Christ will be the green leaves that will come
At Easter from the sealed and guarded tomb.
Primroses and the unearthly start of ferns
Among the blackthorn shadows in the ditch,
A dead sparrow and an old waistcoat. Maguire learns
As the horses turn slowly round the which is which
Of love and fear and things half born to mind
He stands between the plough-handles and he sees
At the end of a long furrow his name signed
Among the poets, prostitutes. With all miseries
He is one. Here with the unfortunate
Who for half-moments of paradise
Pay out good days and wait and wait
For sunlight-woven cloaks. O to be wise
As Respectability that knows the price of all things
And marks God's truth in pounds and pence and farthings.
April, and no one able to calculate
How far it is to harvest. They put down
The seeds blindly with sensuous groping fingers
And sensual dreams sleep dreams subtly underground.
Tomorrow is Wednesday - who cares?
'Remember Eileen Farrelly? I was thinking
A man might do a damned sight worse …' That voice is blown
Through a hole in a garden wall -
And who was Eileen now cannot be known.
The cattle are out on grass
The corn is coming up evenly.
The farm folk are hurrying to catch Mass:
Christ will meet them at the end of the world, the slow and the speedier.
But the fields say: only Time can bless.
Maguire knelt beside a pillar where he could spit
Without being seen. He turned an old prayer round:
'Jesus, Mary, Joseph pray for us
Now and at the Hour.' Heaven dazzled death.
'Wonder should I cross-plough that turnip-ground.'
The tension broke. The congregation lifted it head
As one man and coughed in unison.
Five hundred hearts were hungry for life-
Who lives in Christ shall never die the death.
And the candle-lit Altar and the flowers
And the pregnant Tabernacle lifted a moment to Prophecy
Out of the clayey hours
Maguire sprinkled his face with holy water
As the congregation stood up for the Last Gospel.
He rubbed the dust off his knees with his palm, and then
Coughed the prayer phlegm up from his throat and sighed: Amen.
Once one day in June when he was walking
Among his cattle in the Yellow Meadow
He met a girl carrying a basket
And he was then a young and heated fellow.
Too earnest, too earnest! He rushed beyond the thing
To the unreal. And he saw Sin
Written in letters larger than John Bunyan dreamt of.
For the strangled impulse there is no redemption.
And that girl was gone and he was counting
The dangers in the fields where love ranted
He was helpless. He saw his cattle
And stroked their flanks in lieu of wife to handle.
He would have changed the circle if he could,
The circle that was the grass track where he ran.
Twenty times a day he ran round the field
And still there was no winning-post where the runner is cheered home.
Desperately he broke the tune,
But however he tried always the same melody lept up from the background,
The dragging step of a ploughman going home through the guttery
Headlands under an April-watery moon.
Religion, the fields and the fear of the Lord
And Ignorance giving him the coward's blow,
He dared not rise to pluck the fantasies
From the fruited Tree of Life. He bowed his head
And saw a wet weed twined about his toe.
Evening at the cross-roads -
Heavy heads nodding out words as wise
As the ruminations of cows after milking.
From the ragged road surface a boy picks up
A piece of gravel and stares at it-and then
Tosses it across the elm tree on to the railway.
He means nothing.
Not a damn thing
Somebody is coming over the metal railway bridge
And his hobnailed boots on the arches sound like a gong
Calling men awake. But the bridge is too narrow -
The men lift their heads a moment. That was only John,
So they dream on.
Night in the elms, night in the grass.
O we are too tired to go home yet. Two cyclists pass
Talking loudly of Kitty and Molly?
Horses or women? wisdom or folly?
A door closes on an evicted dog
Where prayers begin in Barney Meegan's kitchen :
Rosie curses the cat between her devotions;
The daughter prays that she may have three wishes -
Health and wealth and love -
From the fairy who is faith or hope or compounds of.
At the cross-roads the crowd had thinned out:
Last words were uttered. There is no to-morrow;
No future but only time stretched for the mowing of the hay
Or putting an axle in the turf-barrow.
Patrick Maguire went home and made cocoa
And broke a chunk off the loaf of wheaten bread;
His mother called down to him to look again
And make sure that the hen-house was locked. His sister grunted in bed
The sound of a sow taking up a new position.
Pat opened his trousers wide over the ashes
And dreamt himself to lewd sleepiness.
The clock ticked on. Time passes.
Health and wealth and love he too dreamed of in May
As he sat on the railway slope and watched the children of the place
Picking up a primrose here and a daisy there -
They were picking up life's truth singly.
But he dreamt of the Absolute envased bouquet -
AIl or nothing. And it was nothing. For God is not all
In one place, complete
Till Hope comes in and takes it on his shoulder -
O Christ, that is what you have done for us:
In a crumb of bread the whole mystery is.
He read the symbol too sharply and turned
From the five simple doors of sense
To the door whose combination lock has puzzled
Philosopher and priest and common dunce.
Men build their heavens as they build their circles
Of friends. God is in the bits and pieces of Everyday -
A kiss here and a laugh again, and sometimes tears,
A pearl necklace round the neck of poverty.
He sat on the railway slope and watched the evening,
Too beautifully perfect to use,
And his three wishes were three stones too sharp to sit on,
Too hard to carve. Three frozen idols of a speechless muse.
'Now go to Mass and pray and confess your sins
And you'll have all the luck,' his mother said.
He listened to the lie that is a woman's screen
Around a conscience when soft thighs are spread.
And all the while she was setting up the lie
She trusted in Nature that never deceives.
But her son took it as literal truth.
Religion's walls expand to the push of nature. Morality yields
To sense - but not in little tillage fields.
Life went on like that. One summer morning
Again through a hay-field on her way to the shop -
The grass was wet and over-leaned the path -
And Agnes held her skirts sensationally up,
And not because the grass was wet either.
A man was watching her, Patrick Maguire.
She was in love with passion and its weakness
And the wet grass could never cool the fire
That radiated from her unwanted womb in that metaphysical land
Where flesh was thought more spiritual than music
Among the stars - out of reach of the peasant's hand.
Ah, but the priest was one of the people too -
A farmers son - and surely he knew
The needs of a brother and sister.
Religion could not be a counter-irritant like a blister,
But the certain standard, measured and known
By which man might re-make his soul though all walls were down
And all earth's pedestalled gods thrown.
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate
He didn't care a damn.
Said whatever came into his head,
Said whatever came into his head,
Said whatever came into his head
And inconsequently sang.
While his world withered away,
He had a cigarette to smoke and a pound to spend
On drink the next Saturday.
His cattle were fat
And his horses all that
Midsummer grass could make them.
The young women ran wild
And dreamed of a child
Joy dreams though the fathers might forsake them
But no one would take them;
No man could ever see
That their skirts had loosed buttons,
O the men were as blind as could be.
And Patrick Maguire
From his. purgatory fire
Called the gods of the Christian to prove
That this twisted skein
Was the necessary pain
And not the rope that was strangling true love.
But sitting on a wooden gate
Sometime in July
When he was thirty-four or five
He gloried in the lie:
He made it read the way it should,
He made life read the evil good
While he cursed the ascetic brotherhood
Without knowing why.
Sitting on a wooden gate
All, all alone
He sang and laughed
Like a man quite daft,
Or like a man on a channel raft
He fantasied forth his groan.
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate
He rode in day-dream cars.
He locked his body with his knees
When the gate swung too much in the breeze.
But while he caught high ecstasies
Life slipped between the bars.
He gave himself another year,
Something was bound to happen before then -
The circle would break down
And he would carve the new one to his own will.
A new rhythm is a new life
And in it marriage is hung and money.
He would be a new man walking through unbroken meadows
Of dawn in the year of One.
The poor peasant talking to himself in a stable door
An ignorant peasant deep in dung.
What can the passers-by think otherwise?
Where is his silver bowl of knowledge hung?
Why should men be asked to believe in a soul
That is only the mark of a hoof in guttery gaps?
A man is what is written on the label.
And the passing world stares but no one stops
To look closer. So back to the growing crops
And the ridges he never loved.
Nobody will ever know how much tortured poetry the pulled weeds on the ridge wrote
Before they withered in the July sun,
Nobody will ever read the wild, sprawling, scrawling mad woman's signature,
The hysteria and the boredom of the enclosed nun of his thought.
Like the afterbirth of a cow stretched on a branch in the wind
Life dried in the veins of these women and men:
'The grey and grief and unloved,
The bones in the backs of their hands,
And the chapel pressing its low ceiling over them.
Sometimes they did laugh and see the sunlight,
A narrow slice of divine instruction.
Going along the river at the bend of Sunday
The trout played in the pools encouragement
To jump in love though death bait the hook.
And there would be girls sitting on the grass banks of lanes.
Stretch-legged and lingering staring -
A man might take one of them if he had the courage.
But 'No' was in every sentence of their story
Except when the public-house came in and shouted its piece.
The yellow buttercups and the bluebells among the whin bushes
On rocks in the middle of ploughing
Was a bright spoke in the wheel
Of the peasant's mill.
The goldfinches on the railway paling were worth looking at -
A man might imagine then
Himself in Brazil and these birds the birds of paradise
And the Amazon and the romance traced on the school map lived again.
Talk in evening corners and under trees
Was like an old book found in a king's tomb.
The children gathered round like students and listened
And some of the saga defied the draught in the open tomb
And was not blown.
Their intellectual life consisted in reading
Reynolds News or the Sunday Dispatch,
With sometimes an old almanac brought down from the ceiling
Or a school reader brown with the droppings of thatch.
The sporting results or the headlines of war
Was a humbug profound as the highbrow's Arcana.
Pat tried to be wise to the abstraction of all that
But its secret dribbled down his waistcoat like a drink from a strainer.
He wagered a bob each way on the Derby,
He got a straight tip from a man in a shop -
A double from the Guineas it was and thought himself
A master mathematician when one of them came up
And he could explain how much he'd have drawn
On the double if the second leg had followed the first.
He was betting on form and breeding, he claimed,
And the man that did that could never be burst.
After that they went on to the war, and the generals
On both sides were shown to be stupid as hell.
If he'd taken that road, they remarked of a Marshal,
He'd have … O they know their geography well
This was their university. Maguire was an undergraduate
Who dreamed from his lowly position of rising
To a professorship like Larry McKenna or Duffy
Or the pig-gelder Nallon whose knowledge was amazing.
'A treble, full multiple odds … That's flat porter …
Another one … No, you're wrong about that thing I was telling you. .
Did you part with your filly, Jack? I heard that you sold her.…'
The students were all savants by the time of pub-close.
A year passed and another hurried after it
And Patrick Maguire was still six months behind life -
His mother six months ahead of it;
His sister straddle-legged across it: -
One leg in hell and the other in heaven
And between the purgatory of middle-aged virginity -
She prayed for release to heaven or hell.
His mother's voice grew thinner like a rust-worn knife
But it cut venomously as it thinned,
It cut him up the middle till he became more woman than man,
And it cut through to his mind before the end.
Another field whitened in the April air
And the harrows rattled over the seed.
He gathered the loose stones off the ridges carefully
And grumbled to his men to hurry. He looked like a man who could give advice
To foolish young fellows. He was forty-seven,
And there was depth in his jaw and his voice was the voice of a great cattle-dealer,
A man with whom the fair-green gods break even.
'I think I ploughed that lea the proper depth,
She ought to give a crop if any land gives …
Drive slower with the foal-mare, Joe.'
Joe, a young man of imagined wives,
Smiles to himself and answered like a slave:
'You needn't fear or fret.
I'm taking her as easy, as easy as …
Easy there Fanny, easy, pet.'
They loaded the day-scoured implements on the cart
As the shadows of poplars crookened the furrows.
It was the evening, evening. Patrick was forgetting to be lonely
As he used to be in Aprils long ago.
It was the menopause, the misery-pause.
The schoolgirls passed his house laughing every morning
And sometimes they spoke to him familiarly -
He had an idea. Schoolgirls of thirteen
Would see no political intrigue in an old man's friendship.
The heifer waiting to be nosed by the old bull.
That notion passed too - there was the danger of talk
And jails are narrower than the five-sod ridge
And colder than the black hills facing Armagh in February.
He sinned over the warm ashes again and his crime
The law's long arm could not serve with time.
His face set like an old judge's pose:
Respectability and righteousness,
Stand for no nonsense.
The priest from the altar called Patrick Maguire's name
To hold the collecting-box in the chapel door
During all the Sundays of May.
His neighbours envied him his holy rise,
But he walked down from the church with affected indifference
And took the measure of heaven angle-wise.
He still could laugh and sing,
But not the wild laugh or the abandoned harmony now
That called the world to new silliness from the top of a wooden gate
When thirty-five could take the sparrow's bow.
Let us be kind, let us be kind and sympathetic:
Maybe life is not for joking or for finding happiness in -
This tiny light in Oriental Darkness
Looking out chance windows of poetry or prayer.
And the grief and defeat of men like these peasants
Is God's way - maybe - and we must not want too much
The twisted thread is stronger than the wind-swept fleece.
And in the end who shall rest in truth's high peace?
Or whose is the world now, even now?
O let us kneel where the blind ploughman kneels
And learn to live without despairing
In a mud-walled space -
Illiterate unknown and unknowing.
Let us kneel where he kneels
And feel what he feels.
One day he saw a daisy and he thought it
Reminded him of his childhood -
He stopped his cart to look at it.
Was there a fairy hiding behind it?
He helped a poor woman whose cow
Had died on her;
He dragged home a drunken man on a winter's night
And one rare moment he heard the young people playing on the railway stile
And he wished them happiness and whatever they most desired from life.
He saw the sunlight and begrudged no man
His share of what the miserly soil and soul
Gives in a season to a ploughman.
And he cried for his own loss one late night on the pillow
And yet thanked the God who had arranged these things.
Was he then a saint?
A Matt Talbot of Monaghan?
His sister Mary Anne spat poison at the children
Who sometimes came to the door selling raffle tickets
For holy funds.
'Get out, you little tramps!' she would scream
As she shook to the hens an armful of crumbs,
But Patrick often put his hand deep down
In his trouser-pocket and fingered out a penny
Or maybe a tobacco-stained caramel.
'You're soft,' said the sister; 'with other people's money
It's not a bit funny.'
The cards are shuffled and the deck
Laid flat for cutting - Tom Malone
Cut for trump. I think we'll make
This game, the last, a tanner one.
Hearts. Right. I see you're breaking
Your two-year-old. Play quick, Maguire,
The clock there says it's half-past ten -
Kate, throw another sod on that fire.
One of the card-players laughs and spits
Into the flame across a shoulder.
Outside, a noise like a rat
Among the hen-roosts.
The cock crows over
The frosted townland of the night.
Eleven o'clock and still the game
Goes on and the players seem to be
Drunk in an Orient opium den.
Midnight, one o'clock, two.
Somebody's leg has fallen asleep.
What about home? Maguire, are you
Using your double-tree this week?
Why? do you want it? Play the ace.
There's it, and that's the last card for me.
A wonderful night, we had. Duffy's place
Is very convenient. Is that a ghost or a tree?
And so they go home with dragging feet
And their voices rumble like laden carts.
And they are happy as the dead or sleeping …
I should have led that ace of hearts.
The fields were bleached white,
The wooden tubs full of water
Were white in the winds
That blew through Brannagan's Gap on their way from Siberia;
The cows on the grassless heights .
Followed the hay that had wings -
The February fodder that hung itself on the black branches
Of the hill-top hedge.
A man stood beside a potato-pit
And clapped his arms
And pranced on the crisp roots
And shouted to warm himself.
Then he buck-leaped about the potatoes
And scooped them into a basket.
He looked like a bucking suck-calf
Whose spine was being tickled.
Sometimes he stared across the bogs
And sometimes he straightened his back and vaguely whistled
A tune that weakened his spirit
And saddened his terrier dog's.
A neighbour passed with a spade on his shoulder
And Patrick Maguire bent like a bridge
Whistled-good morning under his oxter
And the man the other side of the hedge
Champed his spade on the road at his toes
And talked an old sentimentality
While the wind blew under his clothes.
The mother sickened and stayed in bed all day,
Her head hardly dented the pillow, so light and thin it had worn,
But she still enquired after the household affairs.
She held the strings of her children's Punch and Judy, and when a mouth opened
It was her truth that the dolls would have spoken
If they hadn't been made of wood and tin -
'Did you open the barn door, Pat, to let the young calves in?'
The priest called to see her every Saturday
And she told him her troubles and fears:
'If Mary Anne was settled I'd die in peace -
I'm getting on in years.'
'You were a good woman,' said the priest,
'And your children will miss you when you're gone.
The likes of you this parish never knew,
I'm sure they'll not forget the work you've done.'
She reached five bony crooks under the tick -
'Five pounds for Masses - won't you say them quick.'
She died one morning in the beginning of May
And a shower of sparrow-notes was the litany for her dying.
The holy water was sprinkled on the bed-clothes
And her children stood around the bed and cried because it was too late for crying.
A mother dead! The tired sentiment:
'Mother, Mother' was a shallow pool
Where sorrow hardly could wash its feet …
Mary Anne came away from the deathbed and boiled the calves their gruel.
'O what was I doing when the procession passed?
Where was I looking? Young women and men
And I might have joined them.
Who bent the coin of my destiny
That it stuck in the slot?
I remember a night we walked
Through the moon of Donaghmoyne,
Four of us seeking adventure,
It was midsummer forty years ago.
Now I know
The moment that gave the turn to my life.
O Christ! I am locked in a stable with pigs and cows for ever.
The world looks on
And talks of the peasant:
The peasant has no worries;
In his little lyrical fields He ploughs and sows;
He eats fresh food,
He loves fresh women, He is his own master
As it was in the Beginning
The simpleness of peasant life.
The birds that sing for him are eternal choirs ,
Everywhere he walks there are flowers.
His heart is pure, His mind is clear,
He can talk to God as Moses and Isaiah talked
The peasant who is only one remove from the beasts he drives. '
'The travellers stop their cars to gape over the green bank into his fields: -
There is the source from which all cultures rise,
And all religions,
There is the pool in which the poet dips
And the musician.
Without the peasant base civilisation must die,
Unless the clay is in the mouth the singer's singing is useless.
The travellers touch the roots of the grass and feel renewed
When they grasp the steering wheels again.
The peasant is the unspoiled child of Prophecy,
The peasant is all virtues - let us salute him without irony
The peasant ploughman who is half a vegetable -
Who can react to sun and rain and sometimes even
Regret that the Maker of Light had not touched him more intensely.
Brought him up from the sub-soil to an existence
Of conscious joy. He was not born blind.
He is not always blind: sometimes the cataract yields
To sudden stone-falling or the desire to breed.
The girls pass along the roads
And he can remember what man is,
But there is nothing he can do.
Is there nothing he can do?
Is there no escape?
No escape, no escape.
The cows and horses breed,
And the potato-seed
Gives a bud and a root and rots
In the good mother's way with her sons;
The fledged bird is thrown
From the nest - on its own.
But the peasant in his little acres is tied
To a mother's womb by the wind-toughened navel-cord
Like a goat tethered to the stump of a tree -
He circles around and around wondering why it should be.
No crash, No drama.
That was how his life happened.
No mad hooves galloping in the sky,
But the weak, washy way of true tragedy -
A sick horse nosing around the meadow for a clean place to die.
We may come out in the October reality, Imagination,
The sleety wind no longer slants to the black hill where Maguire
And his men are now collecting the scattered harness and baskets.
The dog sitting on a wisp of dry stalks
Watches them through the shadows.
'Back in, back in.' One talks to the horse as to a brother.
Maguire himself is patting a potato-pit against the weather -
An old man fondling a new-piled grave:
'Joe, I hope you didn't forget to hide the spade .
For there's rogues in the townland.
Hide it flat in a furrow.
I think we ought to be finished by to-morrow.
Their voices through the darkness sound like voices from a cave,
A dull thudding far away, futile, feeble, far away,
First cousins to the ghosts of the townland.
A light stands in a window. Mary Anne
Has the table set and the tea-pot waiting in the ashes.
She goes to the door and listens and then she calls
From the top of the haggard-wall :
'What's keeping you
And the cows to be milked and all the other work there's to do?'
'All right, all right
We'll not stay here all night '
The curtain falls.
From the homing carts and the trees
And the bawling cows at the gates.
From the screeching water-hens
And the mill-race heavy with the Lammas floods curving over the weir
A train at the station blowing off steam
And the hysterical laughter of the defeated everywhere.
Night, and the futile cards are shuffled again.
Maguire spreads his legs over the impotent cinders that wake no manhood now
And he hardly looks to see which card is trump.
His sister tightens her legs and her lips and frizzles up
Like the wick of an oil-less lamp.
The curtain falls -
Maguire is not afraid of death, the Church will light him a candle
To see his way through the vaults and he'll understand the
Quality of the clay that dribbles over his coffin.
He'll know the names of the roots that climb down to tickle his feet.
And he will feel no different than when he walked through Donaghmoyne.
If he stretches out a hand - a wet clod,
If he opens his nostrils - a dungy smell;
If he opens his eyes once in a million years -
Through a crack in the crust of the earth he may see a face nodding in
Or a woman's legs.
Shut them again for that sight is sin.
He will hardly remember that life happened to him -
Something was brighter a moment. Somebody sang in the distance
A procession passed down a mesmerized street.
He remembers names like Easter and Christmas
By colour his fields were.
Maybe he will be born again, a bird of an angel's conceit
To sing the gospel of life
To a music as flighty tangent
As a tune on an oboe.
And the serious look of his fields will have changed to the leer of a hobo.
Swaggering celestially home to his three wishes granted.
Will that be? will that be?
Or is the earth right that laughs haw-haw
And does not believe
In an unearthly law.
The earth that says:
Patrick Maguire, the old peasant, can neither be damned nor glorified:
The graveyard in which he will lie will be just a deep-drilled potato-field
Where the seed gets no chance to come through
To the fun of the sun.
The tongue in his mouth is the root of a yew.
Silence, silence. The story is done.
He stands in the doorway of his house
A ragged sculpture of the wind,
October creaks the rotted mattress,
The bedposts fall. No hope. No lust.
The hungry fiend
Screams the apocalypse of clay
In every corner of this land.
The Iliad: Book 2
Now the other gods and the armed warriors on the plain slept
soundly, but Jove was wakeful, for he was thinking how to do honour to
Achilles, and destroyed much people at the ships of the Achaeans. In
the end he deemed it would be best to send a lying dream to King
Agamemnon; so he called one to him and said to it, "Lying Dream, go to
the ships of the Achaeans, into the tent of Agamemnon, and say to
him word to word as I now bid you. Tell him to get the Achaeans
instantly under arms, for he shall take Troy. There are no longer
divided counsels among the gods; Juno has brought them to her own
mind, and woe betides the Trojans."
The dream went when it had heard its message, and soon reached the
ships of the Achaeans. It sought Agamemnon son of Atreus and found him
in his tent, wrapped in a profound slumber. It hovered over his head
in the likeness of Nestor, son of Neleus, whom Agamemnon honoured
above all his councillors, and said:-
"You are sleeping, son of Atreus; one who has the welfare of his
host and so much other care upon his shoulders should dock his
sleep. Hear me at once, for I come as a messenger from Jove, who,
though he be not near, yet takes thought for you and pities you. He
bids you get the Achaeans instantly under arms, for you shall take
Troy. There are no longer divided counsels among the gods; Juno has
brought them over to her own mind, and woe betides the Trojans at
the hands of Jove. Remember this, and when you wake see that it does
not escape you."
The dream then left him, and he thought of things that were,
surely not to be accomplished. He thought that on that same day he was
to take the city of Priam, but he little knew what was in the mind
of Jove, who had many another hard-fought fight in store alike for
Danaans and Trojans. Then presently he woke, with the divine message
still ringing in his ears; so he sat upright, and put on his soft
shirt so fair and new, and over this his heavy cloak. He bound his
sandals on to his comely feet, and slung his silver-studded sword
about his shoulders; then he took the imperishable staff of his
father, and sallied forth to the ships of the Achaeans.
The goddess Dawn now wended her way to vast Olympus that she might
herald day to Jove and to the other immortals, and Agamemnon sent
the criers round to call the people in assembly; so they called them
and the people gathered thereon. But first he summoned a meeting of
the elders at the ship of Nestor king of Pylos, and when they were
assembled he laid a cunning counsel before them.
"My friends," said he, "I have had a dream from heaven in the dead
of night, and its face and figure resembled none but Nestor's. It
hovered over my head and said, 'You are sleeping, son of Atreus; one
who has the welfare of his host and so much other care upon his
shoulders should dock his sleep. Hear me at once, for I am a messenger
from Jove, who, though he be not near, yet takes thought for you and
pities you. He bids you get the Achaeans instantly under arms, for you
shall take Troy. There are no longer divided counsels among the
gods; Juno has brought them over to her own mind, and woe betides
the Trojans at the hands of Jove. Remember this.' The dream then
vanished and I awoke. Let us now, therefore, arm the sons of the
Achaeans. But it will be well that I should first sound them, and to
this end I will tell them to fly with their ships; but do you others
go about among the host and prevent their doing so."
He then sat down, and Nestor the prince of Pylos with all
sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus: "My friends," said he,
"princes and councillors of the Argives, if any other man of the
Achaeans had told us of this dream we should have declared it false,
and would have had nothing to do with it. But he who has seen it is
the foremost man among us; we must therefore set about getting the
people under arms."
With this he led the way from the assembly, and the other sceptred
kings rose with him in obedience to the word of Agamemnon; but the
people pressed forward to hear. They swarmed like bees that sally from
some hollow cave and flit in countless throng among the spring
flowers, bunched in knots and clusters; even so did the mighty
multitude pour from ships and tents to the assembly, and range
themselves upon the wide-watered shore, while among them ran
Wildfire Rumour, messenger of Jove, urging them ever to the fore. Thus
they gathered in a pell-mell of mad confusion, and the earth groaned
under the tramp of men as the people sought their places. Nine heralds
went crying about among them to stay their tumult and bid them
listen to the kings, till at last they were got into their several
places and ceased their clamour. Then King Agamemnon rose, holding his
sceptre. This was the work of Vulcan, who gave it to Jove the son of
Saturn. Jove gave it to Mercury, slayer of Argus, guide and
guardian. King Mercury gave it to Pelops, the mighty charioteer, and
Pelops to Atreus, shepherd of his people. Atreus, when he died, left
it to Thyestes, rich in flocks, and Thyestes in his turn left it to be
borne by Agamemnon, that he might be lord of all Argos and of the
isles. Leaning, then, on his sceptre, he addressed the Argives.
"My friends," he said, "heroes, servants of Mars, the hand of heaven
has been laid heavily upon me. Cruel Jove gave me his solemn promise
that I should sack the city of Priam before returning, but he has
played me false, and is now bidding me go ingloriously back to Argos
with the loss of much people. Such is the will of Jove, who has laid
many a proud city in the dust, as he will yet lay others, for his
power is above all. It will be a sorry tale hereafter that an
Achaean host, at once so great and valiant, battled in vain against
men fewer in number than themselves; but as yet the end is not in
sight. Think that the Achaeans and Trojans have sworn to a solemn
covenant, and that they have each been numbered- the Trojans by the
roll of their householders, and we by companies of ten; think
further that each of our companies desired to have a Trojan
householder to pour out their wine; we are so greatly more in number
that full many a company would have to go without its cup-bearer.
But they have in the town allies from other places, and it is these
that hinder me from being able to sack the rich city of Ilius. Nine of
Jove years are gone; the timbers of our ships have rotted; their
tackling is sound no longer. Our wives and little ones at home look
anxiously for our coming, but the work that we came hither to do has
not been done. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say: let us sail
back to our own land, for we shall not take Troy."
With these words he moved the hearts of the multitude, so many of
them as knew not the cunning counsel of Agamemnon. They surged to
and fro like the waves of the Icarian Sea, when the east and south
winds break from heaven's clouds to lash them; or as when the west
wind sweeps over a field of corn and the ears bow beneath the blast,
even so were they swayed as they flew with loud cries towards the
ships, and the dust from under their feet rose heavenward. They
cheered each other on to draw the ships into the sea; they cleared the
channels in front of them; they began taking away the stays from
underneath them, and the welkin rang with their glad cries, so eager
were they to return.
Then surely the Argives would have returned after a fashion that was
not fated. But Juno said to Minerva, "Alas, daughter of
aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable, shall the Argives fly home to their
own land over the broad sea, and leave Priam and the Trojans the glory
of still keeping Helen, for whose sake so many of the Achaeans have
died at Troy, far from their homes? Go about at once among the host,
and speak fairly to them, man by man, that they draw not their ships
into the sea."
Minerva was not slack to do her bidding. Down she darted from the
topmost summits of Olympus, and in a moment she was at the ships of
the Achaeans. There she found Ulysses, peer of Jove in counsel,
standing alone. He had not as yet laid a hand upon his ship, for he
was grieved and sorry; so she went close up to him and said, "Ulysses,
noble son of Laertes, are you going to fling yourselves into your
ships and be off home to your own land in this way? Will you leave
Priam and the Trojans the glory of still keeping Helen, for whose sake
so many of the Achaeans have died at Troy, far from their homes? Go
about at once among the host, and speak fairly to them, man by man,
that they draw not their ships into the sea."
Ulysses knew the voice as that of the goddess: he flung his cloak
from him and set off to run. His servant Eurybates, a man of Ithaca,
who waited on him, took charge of the cloak, whereon Ulysses went
straight up to Agamemnon and received from him his ancestral,
imperishable staff. With this he went about among the ships of the
Whenever he met a king or chieftain, he stood by him and spoke him
fairly. "Sir," said he, "this flight is cowardly and unworthy. Stand
to your post, and bid your people also keep their places. You do not
yet know the full mind of Agamemnon; he was sounding us, and ere
long will visit the Achaeans with his displeasure. We were not all
of us at the council to hear what he then said; see to it lest he be
angry and do us a mischief; for the pride of kings is great, and the
hand of Jove is with them."
But when he came across any common man who was making a noise, he
struck him with his staff and rebuked him, saying, "Sirrah, hold
your peace, and listen to better men than yourself. You are a coward
and no soldier; you are nobody either in fight or council; we cannot
all be kings; it is not well that there should be many masters; one
man must be supreme- one king to whom the son of scheming Saturn has
given the sceptre of sovereignty over you all."
Thus masterfully did he go about among the host, and the people
hurried back to the council from their tents and ships with a sound as
the thunder of surf when it comes crashing down upon the shore, and
all the sea is in an uproar.
The rest now took their seats and kept to their own several
places, but Thersites still went on wagging his unbridled tongue- a
man of many words, and those unseemly; a monger of sedition, a
railer against all who were in authority, who cared not what he
said, so that he might set the Achaeans in a laugh. He was the ugliest
man of all those that came before Troy- bandy-legged, lame of one
foot, with his two shoulders rounded and hunched over his chest. His
head ran up to a point, but there was little hair on the top of it.
Achilles and Ulysses hated him worst of all, for it was with them that
he was most wont to wrangle; now, however, with a shrill squeaky voice
he began heaping his abuse on Agamemnon. The Achaeans were angry and
disgusted, yet none the less he kept on brawling and bawling at the
son of Atreus.
"Agamemnon," he cried, "what ails you now, and what more do you
want? Your tents are filled with bronze and with fair women, for
whenever we take a town we give you the pick of them. Would you have
yet more gold, which some Trojan is to give you as a ransom for his
son, when I or another Achaean has taken him prisoner? or is it some
young girl to hide and lie with? It is not well that you, the ruler of
the Achaeans, should bring them into such misery. Weakling cowards,
women rather than men, let us sail home, and leave this fellow here at
Troy to stew in his own meeds of honour, and discover whether we
were of any service to him or no. Achilles is a much better man than
he is, and see how he has treated him- robbing him of his prize and
keeping it himself. Achilles takes it meekly and shows no fight; if he
did, son of Atreus, you would never again insult him."
Thus railed Thersites, but Ulysses at once went up to him and
rebuked him sternly. "Check your glib tongue, Thersites," said be,
"and babble not a word further. Chide not with princes when you have
none to back you. There is no viler creature come before Troy with the
sons of Atreus. Drop this chatter about kings, and neither revile them
nor keep harping about going home. We do not yet know how things are
going to be, nor whether the Achaeans are to return with good
success or evil. How dare you gibe at Agamemnon because the Danaans
have awarded him so many prizes? I tell you, therefore- and it shall
surely be- that if I again catch you talking such nonsense, I will
either forfeit my own head and be no more called father of Telemachus,
or I will take you, strip you stark naked, and whip you out of the
assembly till you go blubbering back to the ships."
On this he beat him with his staff about the back and shoulders till
he dropped and fell a-weeping. The golden sceptre raised a bloody weal
on his back, so he sat down frightened and in pain, looking foolish as
he wiped the tears from his eyes. The people were sorry for him, yet
they laughed heartily, and one would turn to his neighbour saying,
"Ulysses has done many a good thing ere now in fight and council,
but he never did the Argives a better turn than when he stopped this
fellow's mouth from prating further. He will give the kings no more of
Thus said the people. Then Ulysses rose, sceptre in hand, and
Minerva in the likeness of a herald bade the people be still, that
those who were far off might hear him and consider his council. He
therefore with all sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus:-
"King Agamemnon, the Achaeans are for making you a by-word among all
mankind. They forget the promise they made you when they set out
from Argos, that you should not return till you had sacked the town of
Troy, and, like children or widowed women, they murmur and would set
off homeward. True it is that they have had toil enough to be
disheartened. A man chafes at having to stay away from his wife even
for a single month, when he is on shipboard, at the mercy of wind
and sea, but it is now nine long years that we have been kept here;
I cannot, therefore, blame the Achaeans if they turn restive; still we
shall be shamed if we go home empty after so long a stay- therefore,
my friends, be patient yet a little longer that we may learn whether
the prophesyings of Calchas were false or true.
"All who have not since perished must remember as though it were
yesterday or the day before, how the ships of the Achaeans were
detained in Aulis when we were on our way hither to make war on
Priam and the Trojans. We were ranged round about a fountain
offering hecatombs to the gods upon their holy altars, and there was a
fine plane-tree from beneath which there welled a stream of pure
water. Then we saw a prodigy; for Jove sent a fearful serpent out of
the ground, with blood-red stains upon its back, and it darted from
under the altar on to the plane-tree. Now there was a brood of young
sparrows, quite small, upon the topmost bough, peeping out from
under the leaves, eight in all, and their mother that hatched them
made nine. The serpent ate the poor cheeping things, while the old
bird flew about lamenting her little ones; but the serpent threw his
coils about her and caught her by the wing as she was screaming. Then,
when he had eaten both the sparrow and her young, the god who had sent
him made him become a sign; for the son of scheming Saturn turned
him into stone, and we stood there wondering at that which had come to
pass. Seeing, then, that such a fearful portent had broken in upon our
hecatombs, Calchas forthwith declared to us the oracles of heaven.
'Why, Achaeans,' said he, 'are you thus speechless? Jove has sent us
this sign, long in coming, and long ere it be fulfilled, though its
fame shall last for ever. As the serpent ate the eight fledglings
and the sparrow that hatched them, which makes nine, so shall we fight
nine years at Troy, but in the tenth shall take the town.' This was
what he said, and now it is all coming true. Stay here, therefore, all
of you, till we take the city of Priam."
On this the Argives raised a shout, till the ships rang again with
the uproar. Nestor, knight of Gerene, then addressed them. "Shame on
you," he cried, "to stay talking here like children, when you should
fight like men. Where are our covenants now, and where the oaths
that we have taken? Shall our counsels be flung into the fire, with
our drink-offerings and the right hands of fellowship wherein we
have put our trust? We waste our time in words, and for all our
talking here shall be no further forward. Stand, therefore, son of
Atreus, by your own steadfast purpose; lead the Argives on to
battle, and leave this handful of men to rot, who scheme, and scheme
in vain, to get back to Argos ere they have learned whether Jove be
true or a liar. For the mighty son of Saturn surely promised that we
should succeed, when we Argives set sail to bring death and
destruction upon the Trojans. He showed us favourable signs by
flashing his lightning on our right hands; therefore let none make
haste to go till he has first lain with the wife of some Trojan, and
avenged the toil and sorrow that he has suffered for the sake of
Helen. Nevertheless, if any man is in such haste to be at home
again, let him lay his hand to his ship that he may meet his doom in
the sight of all. But, O king, consider and give ear to my counsel,
for the word that I say may not be neglected lightly. Divide your men,
Agamemnon, into their several tribes and clans, that clans and
tribes may stand by and help one another. If you do this, and if the
Achaeans obey you, you will find out who, both chiefs and peoples, are
brave, and who are cowards; for they will vie against the other.
Thus you shall also learn whether it is through the counsel of
heaven or the cowardice of man that you shall fail to take the town."
And Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, you have again outdone the sons
of the Achaeans in counsel. Would, by Father Jove, Minerva, and
Apollo, that I had among them ten more such councillors, for the
city of King Priam would then soon fall beneath our hands, and we
should sack it. But the son of Saturn afflicts me with bootless
wranglings and strife. Achilles and I are quarrelling about this girl,
in which matter I was the first to offend; if we can be of one mind
again, the Trojans will not stave off destruction for a day. Now,
therefore, get your morning meal, that our hosts join in fight. Whet
well your spears; see well to the ordering of your shields; give
good feeds to your horses, and look your chariots carefully over, that
we may do battle the livelong day; for we shall have no rest, not
for a moment, till night falls to part us. The bands that bear your
shields shall be wet with the sweat upon your shoulders, your hands
shall weary upon your spears, your horses shall steam in front of your
chariots, and if I see any man shirking the fight, or trying to keep
out of it at the ships, there shall be no help for him, but he shall
be a prey to dogs and vultures."
Thus he spoke, and the Achaeans roared applause. As when the waves
run high before the blast of the south wind and break on some lofty
headland, dashing against it and buffeting it without ceasing, as
the storms from every quarter drive them, even so did the Achaeans
rise and hurry in all directions to their ships. There they lighted
their fires at their tents and got dinner, offering sacrifice every
man to one or other of the gods, and praying each one of them that
he might live to come out of the fight. Agamemnon, king of men,
sacrificed a fat five-year-old bull to the mighty son of Saturn, and
invited the princes and elders of his host. First he asked Nestor
and King Idomeneus, then the two Ajaxes and the son of Tydeus, and
sixthly Ulysses, peer of gods in counsel; but Menelaus came of his own
accord, for he knew how busy his brother then was. They stood round
the bull with the barley-meal in their hands, and Agamemnon prayed,
saying, "Jove, most glorious, supreme, that dwellest in heaven, and
ridest upon the storm-cloud, grant that the sun may not go down, nor
the night fall, till the palace of Priam is laid low, and its gates
are consumed with fire. Grant that my sword may pierce the shirt of
Hector about his heart, and that full many of his comrades may bite
the dust as they fall dying round him."
Thus he prayed, but the son of Saturn would not fulfil his prayer.
He accepted the sacrifice, yet none the less increased their toil
continually. When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley-meal
upon the victim, they drew back its head, killed it, and then flayed
it. They cut out the thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers
of fat, and set pieces of raw meat on the top of them. These they
burned upon the split logs of firewood, but they spitted the inward
meats, and held them in the flames to cook. When the thigh-bones
were burned, and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest
up small, put the pieces upon spits, roasted them till they were done,
and drew them off; then, when they had finished their work and the
feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his full share, so
that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough to eat and
drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene, began to speak. "King Agamemnon,"
said he, "let us not stay talking here, nor be slack in the work
that heaven has put into our hands. Let the heralds summon the
people to gather at their several ships; we will then go about among
the host, that we may begin fighting at once."
Thus did he speak, and Agamemnon heeded his words. He at once sent
the criers round to call the people in assembly. So they called
them, and the people gathered thereon. The chiefs about the son of
Atreus chose their men and marshalled them, while Minerva went among
them holding her priceless aegis that knows neither age nor death.
From it there waved a hundred tassels of pure gold, all deftly
woven, and each one of them worth a hundred oxen. With this she darted
furiously everywhere among the hosts of the Achaeans, urging them
forward, and putting courage into the heart of each, so that he
might fight and do battle without ceasing. Thus war became sweeter
in their eyes even than returning home in their ships. As when some
great forest fire is raging upon a mountain top and its light is
seen afar, even so as they marched the gleam of their armour flashed
up into the firmament of heaven.
They were like great flocks of geese, or cranes, or swans on the
plain about the waters of Cayster, that wing their way hither and
thither, glorying in the pride of flight, and crying as they settle
till the fen is alive with their screaming. Even thus did their tribes
pour from ships and tents on to the plain of the Scamander, and the
ground rang as brass under the feet of men and horses. They stood as
thick upon the flower-bespangled field as leaves that bloom in summer.
As countless swarms of flies buzz around a herdsman's homestead in
the time of spring when the pails are drenched with milk, even so
did the Achaeans swarm on to the plain to charge the Trojans and
The chiefs disposed their men this way and that before the fight
began, drafting them out as easily as goatherds draft their flocks
when they have got mixed while feeding; and among them went King
Agamemnon, with a head and face like Jove the lord of thunder, a waist
like Mars, and a chest like that of Neptune. As some great bull that
lords it over the herds upon the plain, even so did Jove make the
son of Atreus stand peerless among the multitude of heroes.
And now, O Muses, dwellers in the mansions of Olympus, tell me-
for you are goddesses and are in all places so that you see all
things, while we know nothing but by report- who were the chiefs and
princes of the Danaans? As for the common soldiers, they were so
that I could not name every single one of them though I had ten
tongues, and though my voice failed not and my heart were of bronze
within me, unless you, O Olympian Muses, daughters of aegis-bearing
Jove, were to recount them to me. Nevertheless, I will tell the
captains of the ships and all the fleet together.
Peneleos, Leitus, Arcesilaus, Prothoenor, and Clonius were
captains of the Boeotians. These were they that dwelt in Hyria and
rocky Aulis, and who held Schoenus, Scolus, and the highlands of
Eteonus, with Thespeia, Graia, and the fair city of Mycalessus. They
also held Harma, Eilesium, and Erythrae; and they had Eleon, Hyle, and
Peteon; Ocalea and the strong fortress of Medeon; Copae, Eutresis, and
Thisbe the haunt of doves; Coronea, and the pastures of Haliartus;
Plataea and Glisas; the fortress of Thebes the less; holy Onchestus
with its famous grove of Neptune; Arne rich in vineyards; Midea,
sacred Nisa, and Anthedon upon the sea. From these there came fifty
ships, and in each there were a hundred and twenty young men of the
Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Mars, led the people that dwelt
in Aspledon and Orchomenus the realm of Minyas. Astyoche a noble
maiden bore them in the house of Actor son of Azeus; for she had
gone with Mars secretly into an upper chamber, and he had lain with
her. With these there came thirty ships.
The Phoceans were led by Schedius and Epistrophus, sons of mighty
Iphitus the son of Naubolus. These were they that held Cyparissus,
rocky Pytho, holy Crisa, Daulis, and Panopeus; they also that dwelt in
Anemorea and Hyampolis, and about the waters of the river Cephissus,
and Lilaea by the springs of the Cephissus; with their chieftains came
forty ships, and they marshalled the forces of the Phoceans, which
were stationed next to the Boeotians, on their left.
Ajax, the fleet son of Oileus, commanded the Locrians. He was not so
great, nor nearly so great, as Ajax the son of Telamon. He was a
little man, and his breastplate was made of linen, but in use of the
spear he excelled all the Hellenes and the Achaeans. These dwelt in
Cynus, Opous, Calliarus, Bessa, Scarphe, fair Augeae, Tarphe, and
Thronium about the river Boagrius. With him there came forty ships
of the Locrians who dwell beyond Euboea.
The fierce Abantes held Euboea with its cities, Chalcis, Eretria,
Histiaea rich in vines, Cerinthus upon the sea, and the rock-perched
town of Dium; with them were also the men of Carystus and Styra;
Elephenor of the race of Mars was in command of these; he was son of
Chalcodon, and chief over all the Abantes. With him they came, fleet
of foot and wearing their hair long behind, brave warriors, who
would ever strive to tear open the corslets of their foes with their
long ashen spears. Of these there came fifty ships.
And they that held the strong city of Athens, the people of great
Erechtheus, who was born of the soil itself, but Jove's daughter,
Minerva, fostered him, and established him at Athens in her own rich
sanctuary. There, year by year, the Athenian youths worship him with
sacrifices of bulls and rams. These were commanded by Menestheus,
son of Peteos. No man living could equal him in the marshalling of
chariots and foot soldiers. Nestor could alone rival him, for he was
older. With him there came fifty ships.
Ajax brought twelve ships from Salamis, and stationed them alongside
those of the Athenians.
The men of Argos, again, and those who held the walls of Tiryns,
with Hermione, and Asine upon the gulf; Troezene, Eionae, and the
vineyard lands of Epidaurus; the Achaean youths, moreover, who came
from Aegina and Mases; these were led by Diomed of the loud
battle-cry, and Sthenelus son of famed Capaneus. With them in
command was Euryalus, son of king Mecisteus, son of Talaus; but Diomed
was chief over them all. With these there came eighty ships.
Those who held the strong city of Mycenae, rich Corinth and Cleonae;
Orneae, Araethyrea, and Licyon, where Adrastus reigned of old;
Hyperesia, high Gonoessa, and Pellene; Aegium and all the coast-land
round about Helice; these sent a hundred ships under the command of
King Agamemnon, son of Atreus. His force was far both finest and
most numerous, and in their midst was the king himself, all glorious
in his armour of gleaming bronze- foremost among the heroes, for he
was the greatest king, and had most men under him.
And those that dwelt in Lacedaemon, lying low among the hills,
Pharis, Sparta, with Messe the haunt of doves; Bryseae, Augeae,
Amyclae, and Helos upon the sea; Laas, moreover, and Oetylus; these
were led by Menelaus of the loud battle-cry, brother to Agamemnon, and
of them there were sixty ships, drawn up apart from the others.
Among them went Menelaus himself, strong in zeal, urging his men to
fight; for he longed to avenge the toil and sorrow that he had
suffered for the sake of Helen.
The men of Pylos and Arene, and Thryum where is the ford of the
river Alpheus; strong Aipy, Cyparisseis, and Amphigenea; Pteleum,
Helos, and Dorium, where the Muses met Thamyris, and stilled his
minstrelsy for ever. He was returning from Oechalia, where Eurytus
lived and reigned, and boasted that he would surpass even the Muses,
daughters of aegis-bearing Jove, if they should sing against him;
whereon they were angry, and maimed him. They robbed him of his divine
power of song, and thenceforth he could strike the lyre no more. These
were commanded by Nestor, knight of Gerene, and with him there came
And those that held Arcadia, under the high mountain of Cyllene,
near the tomb of Aepytus, where the people fight hand to hand; the men
of Pheneus also, and Orchomenus rich in flocks; of Rhipae, Stratie,
and bleak Enispe; of Tegea and fair Mantinea; of Stymphelus and
Parrhasia; of these King Agapenor son of Ancaeus was commander, and
they had sixty ships. Many Arcadians, good soldiers, came in each
one of them, but Agamemnon found them the ships in which to cross
the sea, for they were not a people that occupied their business
upon the waters.
The men, moreover, of Buprasium and of Elis, so much of it as is
enclosed between Hyrmine, Myrsinus upon the sea-shore, the rock
Olene and Alesium. These had four leaders, and each of them had ten
ships, with many Epeans on board. Their captains were Amphimachus
and Thalpius- the one, son of Cteatus, and the other, of Eurytus- both
of the race of Actor. The two others were Diores, son of Amarynces,
and Polyxenus, son of King Agasthenes, son of Augeas.
And those of Dulichium with the sacred Echinean islands, who dwelt
beyond the sea off Elis; these were led by Meges, peer of Mars, and
the son of valiant Phyleus, dear to Jove, who quarrelled with his
father, and went to settle in Dulichium. With him there came forty
Ulysses led the brave Cephallenians, who held Ithaca, Neritum with
its forests, Crocylea, rugged Aegilips, Samos and Zacynthus, with
the mainland also that was over against the islands. These were led by
Ulysses, peer of Jove in counsel, and with him there came twelve
Thoas, son of Andraemon, commanded the Aetolians, who dwelt in
Pleuron, Olenus, Pylene, Chalcis by the sea, and rocky Calydon, for
the great king Oeneus had now no sons living, and was himself dead, as
was also golden-haired Meleager, who had been set over the Aetolians
to be their king. And with Thoas there came forty ships.
The famous spearsman Idomeneus led the Cretans, who held Cnossus,
and the well-walled city of Gortys; Lyctus also, Miletus and
Lycastus that lies upon the chalk; the populous towns of Phaestus
and Rhytium, with the other peoples that dwelt in the hundred cities
of Crete. All these were led by Idomeneus, and by Meriones, peer of
murderous Mars. And with these there came eighty ships.
Tlepolemus, son of Hercules, a man both brave and large of
stature, brought nine ships of lordly warriors from Rhodes. These
dwelt in Rhodes which is divided among the three cities of Lindus,
Ielysus, and Cameirus, that lies upon the chalk. These were
commanded by Tlepolemus, son of Hercules by Astyochea, whom he had
carried off from Ephyra, on the river Selleis, after sacking many
cities of valiant warriors. When Tlepolemus grew up, he killed his
father's uncle Licymnius, who had been a famous warrior in his time,
but was then grown old. On this he built himself a fleet, gathered a
great following, and fled beyond the sea, for he was menaced by the
other sons and grandsons of Hercules. After a voyage. during which
he suffered great hardship, he came to Rhodes, where the people
divided into three communities, according to their tribes, and were
dearly loved by Jove, the lord, of gods and men; wherefore the son
of Saturn showered down great riches upon them.
And Nireus brought three ships from Syme- Nireus, who was the
handsomest man that came up under Ilius of all the Danaans after the
son of Peleus- but he was a man of no substance, and had but a small
And those that held Nisyrus, Crapathus, and Casus, with Cos, the
city of Eurypylus, and the Calydnian islands, these were commanded
by Pheidippus and Antiphus, two sons of King Thessalus the son of
Hercules. And with them there came thirty ships.
Those again who held Pelasgic Argos, Alos, Alope, and Trachis; and
those of Phthia and Hellas the land of fair women, who were called
Myrmidons, Hellenes, and Achaeans; these had fifty ships, over which
Achilles was in command. But they now took no part in the war,
inasmuch as there was no one to marshal them; for Achilles stayed by
his ships, furious about the loss of the girl Briseis, whom he had
taken from Lyrnessus at his own great peril, when he had sacked
Lyrnessus and Thebe, and had overthrown Mynes and Epistrophus, sons of
king Evenor, son of Selepus. For her sake Achilles was still grieving,
but ere long he was again to join them.
And those that held Phylace and the flowery meadows of Pyrasus,
sanctuary of Ceres; Iton, the mother of sheep; Antrum upon the sea,
and Pteleum that lies upon the grass lands. Of these brave Protesilaus
had been captain while he was yet alive, but he was now lying under
the earth. He had left a wife behind him in Phylace to tear her cheeks
in sorrow, and his house was only half finished, for he was slain by a
Dardanian warrior while leaping foremost of the Achaeans upon the soil
of Troy. Still, though his people mourned their chieftain, they were
not without a leader, for Podarces, of the race of Mars, marshalled
them; he was son of Iphiclus, rich in sheep, who was the son of
Phylacus, and he was own brother to Protesilaus, only younger,
Protesilaus being at once the elder and the more valiant. So the
people were not without a leader, though they mourned him whom they
had lost. With him there came forty ships.
And those that held Pherae by the Boebean lake, with Boebe,
Glaphyrae, and the populous city of Iolcus, these with their eleven
ships were led by Eumelus, son of Admetus, whom Alcestis bore to
him, loveliest of the daughters of Pelias.
And those that held Methone and Thaumacia, with Meliboea and
rugged Olizon, these were led by the skilful archer Philoctetes, and
they had seven ships, each with fifty oarsmen all of them good
archers; but Philoctetes was lying in great pain in the Island of
Lemnos, where the sons of the Achaeans left him, for he had been
bitten by a poisonous water snake. There he lay sick and sorry, and
full soon did the Argives come to miss him. But his people, though
they felt his loss were not leaderless, for Medon, the bastard son
of Oileus by Rhene, set them in array.
Those, again, of Tricca and the stony region of Ithome, and they
that held Oechalia, the city of Oechalian Eurytus, these were
commanded by the two sons of Aesculapius, skilled in the art of
healing, Podalirius and Machaon. And with them there came thirty
The men, moreover, of Ormenius, and by the fountain of Hypereia,
with those that held Asterius, and the white crests of Titanus,
these were led by Eurypylus, the son of Euaemon, and with them there
came forty ships.
Those that held Argissa and Gyrtone, Orthe, Elone, and the white
city of Oloosson, of these brave Polypoetes was leader. He was son
of Pirithous, who was son of Jove himself, for Hippodameia bore him to
Pirithous on the day when he took his revenge on the shaggy mountain
savages and drove them from Mt. Pelion to the Aithices. But Polypoetes
was not sole in command, for with him was Leonteus, of the race of
Mars, who was son of Coronus, the son of Caeneus. And with these there
came forty ships.
Guneus brought two and twenty ships from Cyphus, and he was followed
by the Enienes and the valiant Peraebi, who dwelt about wintry Dodona,
and held the lands round the lovely river Titaresius, which sends
its waters into the Peneus. They do not mingle with the silver
eddies of the Peneus, but flow on the top of them like oil; for the
Titaresius is a branch of dread Orcus and of the river Styx.
Of the Magnetes, Prothous son of Tenthredon was commander. They were
they that dwelt about the river Peneus and Mt. Pelion. Prothous, fleet
of foot, was their leader, and with him there came forty ships.
Such were the chiefs and princes of the Danaans. Who, then, O
Muse, was the foremost, whether man or horse, among those that
followed after the sons of Atreus?
Of the horses, those of the son of Pheres were by far the finest.
They were driven by Eumelus, and were as fleet as birds. They were
of the same age and colour, and perfectly matched in height. Apollo,
of the silver bow, had bred them in Perea- both of them mares, and
terrible as Mars in battle. Of the men, Ajax, son of Telamon, was much
the foremost so long as Achilles' anger lasted, for Achilles
excelled him greatly and he had also better horses; but Achilles was
now holding aloof at his ships by reason of his quarrel with
Agamemnon, and his people passed their time upon the sea shore,
throwing discs or aiming with spears at a mark, and in archery.
Their horses stood each by his own chariot, champing lotus and wild
celery. The chariots were housed under cover, but their owners, for
lack of leadership, wandered hither and thither about the host and
went not forth to fight.
Thus marched the host like a consuming fire, and the earth groaned
beneath them when the lord of thunder is angry and lashes the land
about Typhoeus among the Arimi, where they say Typhoeus lies. Even
so did the earth groan beneath them as they sped over the plain.
And now Iris, fleet as the wind, was sent by Jove to tell the bad
news among the Trojans. They were gathered in assembly, old and young,
at Priam's gates, and Iris came close up to Priam, speaking with the
voice of Priam's son Polites, who, being fleet of foot, was
stationed as watchman for the Trojans on the tomb of old Aesyetes,
to look out for any sally of the Achaeans. In his likeness Iris spoke,
saying, "Old man, you talk idly, as in time of peace, while war is
at hand. I have been in many a battle, but never yet saw such a host
as is now advancing. They are crossing the plain to attack the city as
thick as leaves or as the sands of the sea. Hector, I charge you above
all others, do as I say. There are many allies dispersed about the
city of Priam from distant places and speaking divers tongues.
Therefore, let each chief give orders to his own people, setting
them severally in array and leading them forth to battle."
Thus she spoke, but Hector knew that it was the goddess, and at once
broke up the assembly. The men flew to arms; all the gates were
opened, and the people thronged through them, horse and foot, with the
tramp as of a great multitude.
Now there is a high mound before the city, rising by itself upon the
plain. Men call it Batieia, but the gods know that it is the tomb of
lithe Myrine. Here the Trojans and their allies divided their forces.
Priam's son, great Hector of the gleaming helmet, commanded the
Trojans, and with him were arrayed by far the greater number and
most valiant of those who were longing for the fray.
The Dardanians were led by brave Aeneas, whom Venus bore to
Anchises, when she, goddess though she was, had lain with him upon the
mountain slopes of Ida. He was not alone, for with him were the two
sons of Antenor, Archilochus and Acamas, both skilled in all the
arts of war.
They that dwelt in Telea under the lowest spurs of Mt. Ida, men of
substance, who drink the limpid waters of the Aesepus, and are of
Trojan blood- these were led by Pandarus son of Lycaon, whom Apollo
had taught to use the bow.
They that held Adresteia and the land of Apaesus, with Pityeia,
and the high mountain of Tereia- these were led by Adrestus and
Amphius, whose breastplate was of linen. These were the sons of Merops
of Percote, who excelled in all kinds of divination. He told them
not to take part in the war, but they gave him no heed, for fate lured
them to destruction.
They that dwelt about Percote and Practius, with Sestos, Abydos, and
Arisbe- these were led by Asius, son of Hyrtacus, a brave commander-
Asius, the son of Hyrtacus, whom his powerful dark bay steeds, of
the breed that comes from the river Selleis, had brought from Arisbe.
Hippothous led the tribes of Pelasgian spearsmen, who dwelt in
fertile Larissa- Hippothous, and Pylaeus of the race of Mars, two sons
of the Pelasgian Lethus, son of Teutamus.
Acamas and the warrior Peirous commanded the Thracians and those
that came from beyond the mighty stream of the Hellespont.
Euphemus, son of Troezenus, the son of Ceos, was captain of the
Pyraechmes led the Paeonian archers from distant Amydon, by the
broad waters of the river Axius, the fairest that flow upon the earth.
The Paphlagonians were commanded by stout-hearted Pylaemanes from
Enetae, where the mules run wild in herds. These were they that held
Cytorus and the country round Sesamus, with the cities by the river
Parthenius, Cromna, Aegialus, and lofty Erithini.
Odius and Epistrophus were captains over the Halizoni from distant
Alybe, where there are mines of silver.
Chromis, and Ennomus the augur, led the Mysians, but his skill in
augury availed not to save him from destruction, for he fell by the
hand of the fleet descendant of Aeacus in the river, where he slew
others also of the Trojans.
Phorcys, again, and noble Ascanius led the Phrygians from the far
country of Ascania, and both were eager for the fray.
Mesthles and Antiphus commanded the Meonians, sons of Talaemenes,
born to him of the Gygaean lake. These led the Meonians, who dwelt
under Mt. Tmolus.
Nastes led the Carians, men of a strange speech. These held
Miletus and the wooded mountain of Phthires, with the water of the
river Maeander and the lofty crests of Mt. Mycale. These were
commanded by Nastes and Amphimachus, the brave sons of Nomion. He came
into the fight with gold about him, like a girl; fool that he was, his
gold was of no avail to save him, for he fell in the river by the hand
of the fleet descendant of Aeacus, and Achilles bore away his gold.
Sarpedon and Glaucus led the Lycians from their distant land, by the
eddying waters of the Xanthus.
My thought, on views of admiration hung,
Intently ravish'd and depriv'd of tongue,
Now darts a while on earth, a while in air,
Here mov'd with praise and mov'd with glory there;
The joys entrancing and the mute surprize
Half fix the blood, and dim the moist'ning eyes;
Pleasure and praise on one another break,
And Exclamation longs at heart to speak;
When thus my Genius, on the work design'd
Awaiting closely, guides the wand'ring mind.
If while thy thanks wou'd in thy lays be wrought,
A bright astonishment involve the thought,
If yet thy temper wou'd attempt to sing,
Another's quill shall imp thy feebler wing;
Behold the name of royal David near,
Behold his musick and his measures here,
Whose harp Devotion in a rapture strung,
And left no state of pious souls unsung.
Him to the wond'ring world but newly shewn,
Celestial poetry pronounc'd her own;
A thousand hopes, on clouds adorn'd with rays,
Bent down their little beauteous forms to gaze;
Fair-blooming Innocence with tender years,
And native Sweetness for the ravish'd ears,
Prepar'd to smile within his early song,
And brought their rivers, groves, and plains along;
Majestick Honour at the palace bred,
Enrob'd in white, embroider'd o'er with red,
Reach'd forth the scepter of her royal state,
His forehead touch'd, and bid his lays be great;
Undaunted Courage deck'd with manly charms,
With waving-azure plumes, and gilded arms,
Displaid the glories, and the toils of fight,
Demanded fame, and call'd him forth to write.
To perfect these the sacred spirit came,
By mild infusion of celestial flame,
And mov'd with dove-like candour in his breast,
And breath'd his graces over all the rest.
Ah! where the daring flights of men aspire
To match his numbers with an equal fire;
In vain they strive to make proud Babel rise,
And with an earth-born labour touch the skies.
While I the glitt'ring page resolve to view,
That will the subject of my lines renew;
The Laurel wreath, my fames imagin'd shade,
Around my beating temples fears to fade;
My fainting fancy trembles on the brink,
And David's God must help or else I sink.
As rolling rivers in their channels flow,
Swift from aloft, but on the level slow;
Or rage in rocks, or glide along the plains,
So, just so copious, move the Psalmist's strains;
So sweetly vary'd with proportion'd heat,
So gently clear or so sublimely great,
While nature's seen in all her forms to shine,
And mix with beauties drawn from truth divine;
Sweet beauties (sweet affections endless rill,)
That in the soul like honey drops distil.
Hail holy spirit, hail supremely kind,
Whose inspirations thus enlarg'd the mind;
Who taught him what the gentle shepherd sings,
What rich expressions suit the port of kings;
What daring words describe the soldiers heat,
And what the prophet's extasies relate;
Nor let his worst condition be forgot,
In all this splendour of exulted thought.
On one thy diff'rent sorts of graces fall,
Still made for each, of equall force in all,
And while from heav'nly courts he feels a flame,
He sings the place from whence the blessing came;
And makes his inspirations sweetly prove
The tuneful subject of the mind they move.
Immortal spirit, light of life instil'd,
Who thus the bosom of a mortal fill'd,
Tho' weak my voice and tho' my light be dim,
Yet fain I'd praise thy wond'rous gifts in him;
Then since thine aid's attracted by desire,
And they that speak thee right must feel thy fire;
Vouchsafe a portion of thy grace divine,
And raise my voice and in my numbers shine;
I sing of David, David sings of thee,
Assist the Psalmist, and his work in me.
But now my verse, arising on the wing,
What part of all thy subject wilt thou sing?
How fire thy first attempt, in what resort
Of Palestina's plains, or Salem's court?
Where, as his hands the solemn measure play'd,
Curs'd fiends with torment and confusion fled;
Where, at the rosy spring of chearful light
(If pious fame record tradition right)
A soft Efflation of celestial fire
Came like a rushing breeze and shook the Lyre;
Still sweetly giving ev'ry trembling string
So much of sound as made him wake to sing.
Within my view the country first appears,
The country first enjoy'd his youthful years;
Then frame thy shady Landscapes in my strain,
Some conscious mountain or accustom'd plain;
Where by the waters, on the grass reclin'd,
With notes he rais'd, with notes he calm'd his mind;
For through the paths of rural life I'll stray,
And in his pleasures paint a shepherds day.
With grateful sentiments, with active will,
With voice exerted, and enliv'ning skill,
His free return of thanks he duely paid,
And each new day new beams of bounty shed.
Awake my tuneful harp, awake he crys,
Awake my lute, the sun begins to rise;
My God, I'm ready now! then takes a flight,
To purest Piety's exalted height;
From thence his soul, with heav'n itself in view,
On humble prayers and humble praises flew.
The praise as pleasing and as sweet the prayer,
As incense curling up thro' morning air.
When t'wards the field with early steps he trod,
And gaz'd around and own'd the works of God,
Perhaps in sweet melodious words of praise
He drew the prospect which adorn'd his ways;
The soil but newly visited with rain,
The river of the Lord with springing grain
Inlarge, encrease the soft'ned furrow blest,
The year with goodness crown'd, with beauty drest,
And still to pow'r divine ascribe it all,
From whose high paths the drops of fatness fall;
Then in the song the smiling sights rejoyce,
And all the mute creation finds a voice;
With thick returns delightful Ecchos fill
The pastur'd green, or soft ascending hill,
Rais'd by the bleatings of unnumb'red sheep,
To boast their glories in the crowds they keep;
And corn that's waving in the western gale,
With joyful sound proclaims the cover'd vale.
When e'er his flocks the lovely shepherd drove
To neighb'ring waters, to the neighb'ring grove;
To Jordan's flood refresh'd by cooling wind,
Or Cedron's brook to mossy banks confin'd,
In easy notes and guise of lowly swain,
'Twas thus he charm'd and taught the listning train.
The Lord's my Shepherd bountiful and good,
I cannot want since he provides me food;
Me for his sheep along the verdant meads,
Me all too mean his tender mercy leads;
To taste the springs of life and taste repose
Wherever living pasture sweetly grows.
And as I cannot want I need not fear,
For still the presence of my shepherd's near;
Through darksome vales where beasts of prey resort,
Where death appears with all his dreadful court,
His rod and hook direct me when I stray,
He calls to Fold, and they direct my way.
Perhaps when seated on the river's brink,
He saw the tender sheep at noon-day drink,
He sung the land where milk and honey glide
And fat'ning plenty rolls upon the tide.
Or fix'd within the freshness of a shade,
Whose boughs diffuse their leaves around his head,
He borrow'd notions from the kind retreat,
Then sung the righteous in their happy state,
And how by providential care, success
Shall all their actions in due season bless.
So firm they stand, so beautiful they look,
As planted trees aside the purling brook:
Not faded by the rays that parch the plain,
Nor careful for the want of dropping rain:
The leaves sprout forth, the rising branches shoot,
And summer crowns them with the ripen'd fruit.
But if the flow'ry field with vari'd hue
And native sweetness entertain'd his view;
The flow'ry field with all the glorious throng
Of lively colours, rose to paint his song;
Its pride and fall within the numbers ran
And spake the life of transitory man.
As grass arises by degrees unseen
To deck the breast of earth with lovely green,
'Till Nature's order brings the with'ring days,
And all the summer's beauteous pomp decays;
So by degrees unseen doth man arise,
So blooms by course and so by course he dies.
Or as her head the gawdy flowret heaves,
Spreads to the sun and boasts her silken leaves;
'Till accidental winds their glory shed,
And then they fall before the time to fade;
So man appears, so falls in all his prime,
'Ere age approaches on the steps of time.
But thee, my God! thee still the same we find,
Thy glory lasting, and thy mercy kind;
That still the just and all his race may know
No cause to mourn their swift account below.
When from beneath he saw the wand'ring sheep
That graz'd the level range along the steep,
Then rose, the wanton straglers home to call,
Before the pearly dews at ev'ning fall;
Perhaps new thoughts the rising ground supply,
And that employs his mind, which fills his eye.
From pointed hills, he crys, my wishes tend,
To that great hill from whence supports descend:
The Lord's that hill, that place of sure defence,
My wants obtain their certain help from thence.
And as large hills projected shadows throw,
To ward the sun from off the vales below,
Or for their safety stop the blasts above,
That with raw vapours loaded, nightly rove;
So shall protection o'er his servants spread,
And I repose beneath the sacred shade,
Unhurt by rage, that like a summer's day,
Destroys and scorches with impetuous ray;
By wasting sorrows undepriv'd of rest
That fall like damps by moon-shine, on the breast.
Here from the mind the prospects seem to wear,
And leave the couch'd design appearing bare;
And now no more the Shepherd sings his Hill,
But sings the sovereign Lord's protection still.
For as he sees the night prepar'd to come
On wings of ev'ning, he prepares for home,
And in the song thus adds a blessing more,
To what the thought within the figure bore:
Eternal goodness manifestly still
Preserves my soul from each approach of ill:
Ends all my days, as all my days begin,
And keeps my goings and my comings in.
Here think the sinking sun descends apace,
And from thy first attempt, my fancy, cease;
Here bid the ruddy shepherd quit the plain,
And to the fold return his flocks again.
Go, least the lyon or the shagged bear,
Thy tender lambs with savage hunger tear;
Tho' neither bear nor lyon match thy might,
When in their rage they stood reveal'd to sight;
Go, least thy wanton sheep returning home,
Shou'd as they pass thro' doubtful darkness roam.
Go ruddy youth, to Beth'lem turn thy way,
On Beth'lem's road conclude the parting day.
Methinks he goes as twilight leads the night,
And sees the Crescent rise with silver light;
His words consider all the sparkling show,
With which the stars in golden order glow.
And what is man, he crys, that thus thy kind,
Thy wond'rous love, has lodg'd him in thy mind?
For him they glitter; him the beasts of prey,
That scare my sheep, and these my sheep, obey.
O Lord, our Lord, with how deserv'd a fame,
Do's earth record the glories of thy name.
Then as he thus devoutly walks along,
And finds the road as finish'd with the song;
He sings with lifted hands and lifted eyes,
Be this, my God, an ev'ning sacrifice.
But now, the lowly dales, the trembling groves,
O'er which the whisper'd breeze serenely roves,
Leave all the course of working fancy clear,
Or only grace another subject here;
For in my purpose new designs arise,
Whose brightning images engage mine eyes.
Then here my verse thy louder accents raise,
Thy theme thro' lofty paths of glory trace,
Call forth his honours in imperial throngs
And strive to touch his more exalted songs.
While yet in humble vales his harp he strung,
While yet he follow'd after Ewes with young;
Eternal wisdom chose him for his own,
And from the flock advanc'd him to the throne;
That there his upright heart and prudent hand,
With more distinguish'd skill and high command,
Might act the shepherd in a noble sphere,
And take his nation into regal care.
He cou'd of mercy then and justice sing,
Those radiant virtues that adorn a king,
That make his reign blaze forth with bright renown,
Beyond those Gems whose splendour decks a crown:
That fixing peace, by temper'd love and fear,
Make plains abound, and barren mountains bear.
To thee to whom these attributes belong,
To thee my God, he cry'd, I send my song,
To thee from whom my regal glory came,
I sing the forms in which my court I frame;
Assist the models of imperfect skill,
O come with sacred aid, and fix my will.
A wise behaviour in my private ways,
And all my soul dispos'd to publick peace,
Shall daily strive to let my subjects see
A perfect pattern how to live in me.
Still will I think as still my glories rise,
To set no wicked thing before mine eyes.
Nor will I choose the favourites of state
Among those men that have incur'd thine hate,
Whose vice but makes 'em scandalously great;
'Tis time, that all whose froward rage of heart
Wou'd vex my realm, shall from my realm depart;
'Tis time that all whose private sland'ring lye
Leads judgment falsly, shall by judgment dye;
And time the Great who loose the reins to pride,
Shall with neglect and scorn be laid aside.
But o'er the tracts that my commands obey,
I'll send my light with sharp disarming ray,
Thro' dark retreats where humble minds abide,
Thro' shades of peace where modest tempers hide;
To find the good that may support my state,
And having found them, then to make them great.
My voice shall raise them from the lonely cell,
With me to govern and with me to dwell.
My voice shall flatt'ry and deceit disgrace,
And in their room exulted virtue place;
That with an early care and stedfast hand,
The wicked perish from the faithful land.
When on the throne he sat in calm repose,
And with a royal hope his Offspring rose,
His prayers, anticipating time, reveal
Their deep concernment for the publick weal;
Upon a good forecasted thought they run,
For common blessings in the king begun:
For righteousness and judgment strictly fair,
Which from the king descends upon his heir.
So when his life and all his labour cease,
The reign succeeding brings succeeding peace;
So still the poor shall find impartial laws,
And Orphans still a guardian of their cause:
And stern oppression have its galling yoke,
And rabid teeth of prey to pieces broke.
Then wond'ring at the glories of his way,
His friends shall love, his daunted foes obey;
For peaceful Commerce neighb'ring kings apply
And with great presents court the grand ally.
For him rich gums shall sweet Arabia bear,
For him rich Sheba, mines of gold prepare,
Him Tharsis, him the foreign isles shall greet,
And ev'ry nation bend beneath his feet.
And thus his honours far extended grow,
The type of great Messiah's reign below.
But worldly realms that in his accents shine,
Are left beneath the full advanc'd design,
When thoughts of empire in the mind encrease
O'er all the limits that determine place,
If thus the monarch's rising fancy move
To search for more unbounded realms above,
In which celestial courts the king maintains
And o'er the vast extent of nature reigns;
He then describes in elevated words,
His Israel's shepherd, as the Lord of Lords:
How bright between the Cherubims he sits,
What dazling lustre all his throne emits,
How righteousness with judgment join'd, support
The regal seat, and dignify the court.
How fairest honour and majestick state
The presence grace, and strength and beauty wait;
What glitt'ring ministers around him stand,
To fly like winds or flames at his command.
How sure the beams on which his palace rise
Are set in waters rais'd above the skies,
How wide the skies like outspread curtains fly
To vail majestick light from humane eye,
Or form'd the wide expanded vaults above,
Where storms are bounded tho' they seem to rove,
Where fire and hail and vapour so fulfil
The wise intentions of their makers will,
How well 'tis seen the great eternal mind
Rides on the clouds and walks upon the wind.
O wond'rous Lord! how bright thy glories shine,
The heav'ns declare, for what they boast is thine:
And yon blew tract, enrich'd with orbs of light,
In all its handy work displays thy might!
Again the monarch touch'd another strain,
Another province claim'd his verse again,
Where goodness infinite has fix'd a Sway,
Whose outstretch'd limits are the bounds of day.
Beneath this empire of extended air,
Yet still in reach of Providences care,
God plac'd the rounded earth with stedfast hand
And bid the basis ever firmly stand;
He bid the mountains from confusion's heaps
Exalt their summits, and assume their shapes.
He bid the waters like a garment spread,
To form large seas, and as he spake, they fled;
His voice, his thunder made the waves obey,
And forward hasten, 'till they form'd the sea;
Then least with lawless rage the surges roar,
He mark'd their bounds, and girt them in with shoar;
He fill'd the land with brooks that trembling steal
Through winding hills along the flow'ry vale,
To which the beasts that graze the vale, retreat
For cool refreshings in the summers heat;
While perch'd in leaves upon the tender sprays
The birds around their singing voices raise.
He makes the vapours which he taught to fly,
Forsake the chambers of the clouds on high,
And golden harvest rich with ears of grain,
And Spiry blades of grass adorn the plain,
And grapes luxuriant chear the soul with wine,
And ointment shed, to make the visage shine.
Through trunks of trees, fermenting sap proceeds,
To feed, and tinge the living boughs it feeds:
So shoots the firr, where airy storks abide,
So cedar, Lebanon's aspiring pride,
Whose birds by God's appointment in their nest,
With green surrounded, lye secure of rest.
Where small encrease the barren mountains give,
There kine adapted to the feeding live,
There flocks of goats in healthy pastures browse,
And in their rocky entrails rabbits house.
Where forrests thick with shrub entangled stand,
Untrod the roads and desolate the land;
There close in coverts hide the beasts of prey
'Till heavy darkness creeps upon the day,
Then roar with hunger's voice, and range abroad
And in their method seek their meat from God;
And when the dawning edge of eastern air
Begins to purple, to their dens repair.
Man next succeeding, from the sweet repose
Of downy beds, to work appointed goes;
When first the morning sees the rising sun,
He sees their labours both at once begun,
And night returning with its starry train,
Perceives their labours done at once again.
O manifold in works supremely wise,
How well thy gracious store the world supplies!
How all thy creatures on thy goodness call,
And that bestows a due support for all!
When from an open hand thy favours flow,
Rich bounty stoops to visit us below;
When from thy hand no more thy favours stream,
Back to the dust we turn from whence we came;
And when thy spirit gives the vital heat,
A sure succession keeps the kinds compleat;
The propagated seeds their forms retain,
And all the face of earth's renew'd again.
Thus, as you've seen th' effect reveal the cause,
Is nature's ruler known in nature's laws;
Thus still his pow'r is o'er the world display'd
And still rejoices in the world he made.
The Lord he reigns, the king of kings is king,
Let nations praise, and praises learn to sing.
My verses here may change their stile again,
And trace the Psalmist in another strain;
Where all his soul the soldiers spirit warms,
And to the musick fits the sound of arms,
Where brave disorder does in numbers dwell,
And artful number speaks disorder well.
Arise my genius and attempt the praise
Of dreaded pow'r and perilous essays,
And where his accents are too nobly great,
Like distant ecchos give the faint repeat.
For who like him with enterprizing pen,
Can paint the Lord of Hosts in wrath with men,
Or with just images of tuneful lay
Set all his terrors in their fierce array?
He comes! The tumult of discording spheres,
The quiv'ring shocks of earth, confess their fears;
Thick smoaks precede, and blasts of angry breath
That kindle dread devouring flames of death.
He comes! the firmament with dismal night
Bows down, and seems to fall upon the light,
The darkling mists inwrap his head around,
The waters deluge and the tempests sound,
While on the cherub's purple wings he flys,
And plants his black pavilion in the skies.
He comes! the clouds remove, the rattling hail
Descending, bounds and scatters o'er the vale;
His voice is heard, his thunder speaks his ire,
His light'ning blasts with blue sulphurious fire,
His brandish'd bolts with swift commission go
To punish man's rebellious acts below.
His stern rebukes lay deepest ocean bare,
And solid earth by wide eruption tear;
Then glares the naked gulph with dismal ray,
And then the dark foundations see the day.
O God! let mercy this thy war asswage,
Alas! no mortal can sustain thy rage.
While I but strive the dire effects to tell,
And on another's words attentive dwell,
Confusing passions in my bosom roll,
And all in tumult work the troubled soul:
Remorse with pity, fear with sorrow blend,
And I but strive in vain; my verse, descend,
To less aspiring paths direct thy flight,
Tho' still the less may more than match thy might,
While I to second agents tune the strings,
And Israel's warrior, Israel's battles sings;
Great warrior he, and great to sing of war,
Whose lines (if ever lines prevail'd so far)
Might pitch the tents, compose the ranks anew,
To combat sound, and bring the toil to view.
O nation most securely rais'd in name,
Whose fair records he wrote for endless fame;
O nation oft victorious o'er thy foes,
At once thy conquests and thy thanks he shews;
For thus he sung the realms that must be thine
And made thee thus confess an aid divine.
When mercy look'd, the waves perceiv'd its sway,
And Israel pass'd the deep divided sea.
When mercy spake it, haughty Pharoah's host
And haughty Pharoah by the waves were tost.
When mercy led us through the desart sand,
We reach'd the borders of the promis'd land:
Then all the kings their gather'd armies brought,
And all those kings by mercy's help we fought:
There with their monarch Amor's people bleed,
For God was gracious, and the tribes succeed.
There monst'rous Ogg was fell'd on Basan's plain,
For God was gracious to the tribes again.
At length their yoke the realms of Canaan feel,
And Israel sings that God is gracious still.
Nor has the warlike prince alone enroll'd
The wond'rous feats their fathers did of old;
His own emblazon'd acts adorn his lays,
These too may challenge just returns of praise.
My God! he crys, my surest rock of might,
My trust in dangers and my shield in fight,
Thy matchless bounties I with gladness own,
Nor find assistance but from thee alone;
Thy strength is armour, and my path success,
No pow'r like thee can thus securely bless;
When troops united wou'd arrest my course,
I break their files, and through their order force;
When in their towns they keep, my seige I form,
And leap the battlements, and lead the storm;
And when in camps abroad intrench'd they lye,
As swift as hinds in chace I bound on high;
My strenuous arms thou teachest how to kill,
And snap in sunder temper'd bows of steel;
My moving footsteps are enlarg'd by thee,
And kept from snares of planned ambush free;
And when my foes forsake the field of fight,
Then flush'd with conquest I pursue their flight;
In vain their fears that almost reach despair,
The trembling wretches from mine anger bear;
As swift as fear brisk warmth of conquest goes,
And at my feet dejects the wounded foes;
For help they call, but find their helper's gone,
For God's against them, and I drive them on:
As whirling dust in airy tumult fly
Before the tempest that involves the sky;
And in my rage's unavoided sway,
I tread their necks like abject heaps of clay.
The warriour thus in song his deeds express'd,
Nor vainly boasted what he but confess'd,
While warlike actions were proclaim'd abroad,
That all their praises, shou'd refer to God.
And here to make this bright design arise
In fairer splendor to the nation's eyes,
From private valour he converts his lays,
For yet the publick claim'd attempts of praise,
And publick conquests where they jointly fought,
Thus stand recorded by reflecting thought;
God sent his Samuel from his holy seat
To bear the promise of my future state,
And I rejoicing see the tribes fulfil
The promis'd purpose of almighty will;
Subjected Sichem, sweet Samaria's plain,
And Succoth's valleys have confess'd my reign;
Remoter Gilead's hilly tracts obey,
Manasseh's parted sands accept my sway;
Strong Ephraim's sons, and Ephraim's ports are mine,
And mine the throne of princely Judah's line;
Then since my people with my standard go,
To bring the strength of adverse empire low:
Let Moab's soil, to vile subjection brought,
With groans declare how well our ranks have fought;
Let vanquish'd Edom bow its humbled head,
And tell how pompous on its pride I tread;
And now Philistia with thy conqu'ring host,
Dismaid and broke, of conquer'd Israel boast;
But if a Seir or Rabbah yet remain
On Johemaan's Hill, or Ammon's plain,
Lead forth our armies Lord, regard our prayer,
Lead Lord of battles and we'll conquer there.
As this the warrior spake, his heart arose,
And thus with grateful turn perform'd the close;
Though men to men their best assistance lend,
Yet men alone will but in vain befriend,
Through God we work exploits of high renown,
'Tis God that treads our great opposers down.
Hear now the praise of well disputed fields,
The best return victorious honour yields;
'Tis common good restor'd, when lovely peace
Is join'd with righteousness in strict embrace;
Hear all ye victors what your sword secures,
Hear all you nations for the cause is yours;
And when the joyful trumpets loudly sound,
When groaning captives in their ranks are bound;
When pillars lift the bloody plumes in air,
And broken shafts and batter'd armour bear,
When painted arches acts of war relate,
When slow procession's pomps augment the state,
When fame relates their worth among the throng,
Thus take from David their triumphant song;
Oh clap your hands together, Oh rejoice
In God with melody's exalted voice,
Your sacred Psalm within his dwelling raise,
And for a pure oblation offer praise,
For the rich goodness plentifully shews,
He prospers our design upon our foes.
Then hither all ye nations hither run,
Behold the wonders which the Lord has done,
Behold with what a mind, the heap of slain,
He spreads the sanguine surface of the plain,
He makes the wars that mad confusion hurl'd,
Be spent in victories, and leave the world.
He breaks the bended bows, the spears of Ire,
And burns the shatter'd chariots in the Fire,
And bids the realms be still, the tumult cease,
And know the Lord of war, for Lord of peace;
Now may the tender youth in goodness rise,
Beneath the guidance of their parents eyes,
As tall young poplars when the rangers nigh,
To watch their risings least they shoot awry.
Now may the beauteous Daughters bred with care,
In modest rules and pious acts of fear,
Like polish'd corners of the Temple be,
So bright, so spotless, and so fit for thee.
Now may the various seasons bless the soil,
And plenteous Garners pay the Ploughman's toil;
Now sheep and kine upon the flow'ry meads,
Encrease in thousands and ten thousand heads,
And now no more the sound of grief complains,
For those that fall in fight, or live in chains;
Here when the blessings are proclaim'd aloud,
Join all the voices of the thankful crowd,
Let all that feel them thus confess their part,
Thus own their worth with one united heart;
Happy the realm which God vouchsafes to bless
With all the glories of a bright success!
And happy thrice the realm if thus he please,
To crown those glories with the sweets of ease.
From warfare finish'd, on a chain of thought
To bright attempts of future rapture wrought;
Yet stronger, yet thy pinnions stronger raise,
Oh fancy, reigning in the pow'r of lays.
For Sion's Hill thine airy courses hold,
'Twas there thy David Prophecy'd of old,
And there devout in contemplation sit,
In holy vision and extatick fit.
Methinks I seem to feel the charm begin,
Now sweet contentment tunes my soul within,
Now wond'rous soft arising musick plays,
And now full sounds upon the sense encrease;
Tis David's Lyre, his artful fingers move,
To court the spirit from the realms above,
And pleas'd to come where holiness attends,
The courted spirit from above descends.
Hence on the Lyre and voice new graces rest,
And bright Prophetick forms enlarge the breast;
Hence firm decrees his mystick Hymns relate,
Affix'd in Heav'ns adamantine gate,
The glories of the most important age,
And Christ's blest empire seen by sure presage.
When in a distant view with inward eyes,
He sees the Son descending from the skies,
To take the form of Man for Mankind's sake,
Tis thus he makes the great Messiah speak:
It is not, Father, blood of bullocks slain
Can cleanse the World from universal stain,
Such Off'rings are not here requir'd by thee,
But point at mine, and leave the work for me;
To perfect which, as Servants ears they drill,
In sign of op'ning to their Masters will,
Thy will wou'd open mine, and have me bear,
My sign of Ministry, the body there.
Prophetick volumes of our state assign
The worlds redemption as an act of mine,
And lo, with chearful and obedient heart,
I come, my father, to perform my part.
So spake the Son, and left his throne above,
When wings to bear him were prepar'd by love,
When with their Monarch on the great descent,
Sweet humbleness and gentle patience went,
Fair sisters both, both bless'd in his esteem,
And both appointed here to wait on him.
But now before the Prophet's ravish'd eyes,
Succeeding Prospects of his Life arise,
And here he teaches all the world to sing,
Those strains in which the nation own'd him King.
When boughs as at an holy feast they bear,
To shew the Godhead manifested there;
And garments as a mark of glory strow'd,
Declar'd a Prince proclaim'd upon the road;
This day the Lord hath made we will employ
In songs, he crys, and consecrate to joy.
Hosannah, Lord, Hosannah, shed thy peace,
Hosannah, long expecting nations grace,
Oh, bless'd in honour's height triumphant, thou
That wast to come, Oh bless thy people now.
Twere easy dwelling here with fix'd delight,
And much the sweet engagement of the sight;
But fleeting visions each on other throng,
And change the musick and demand the song.
Ah! musick chang'd by sadly moving show,
Ah! song demanded in excess of woe!
For what was all the gracious Saviour's stay,
Whilst here he trod in Life's encumber'd way,
But troubled patience, persecuted breath,
Neglected sorrows, and afflicting death?
Approach ye sinners, think the garden shews
His bloody sweat of full arising throes,
Approach his grief, and hear him thus complain
Through David's person, and in David's strain.
Oh save me God, thy floods about me roll,
Thy wrath divine hath overflow'd my soul,
I come at length where rising waters drown,
And sink in deep affliction deeply down.
Deceitful snares to bring me to the dead,
Lye ready plac'd in ev'ry path I tread;
And Hell itself, with all that Hell contains,
Of fiends accurs'd, and dreadful change of pains;
To daunt firm will, and cross the good design'd,
With strong temptations fasten on the mind;
Such grief such sorrows in amazing view,
Distracted fears and heaviness pursue.
Ye sages deeply read in human frame,
The passions causes, and their wild extream,
Where mov'd an object more oppos'd to bliss,
What other agony cou'd equal his?
The musick still proceeds with mournful airs,
And speaks the dangers, as it speaks the fears.
Oh sacred Presence from the son withdrawn,
Oh God my father wither art thou gone?
Oh must my soul bewail tormenting pain,
And all my words of anguish fall in vain?
The trouble's near in which my life will end,
But none is near that will assistance lend;
Like Basan's bulls my foes against me throng
So proud, inhuman, numberless, and strong.
Like desart lyons on their prey they go,
So much their fierce desire of blood they shew:
As ploughers wound the ground, they tore my back
And long deep furrows manifest the track.
They pierc'd my tender hands, my tender feet,
And caus'd sharp pangs, where nerves in numbers meet;
Rich streams of life forsake my rended veins
And fall like water spill'd upon the plains;
My bones that us'd in hollow seats to close,
Disjoint with anguish of convulsive throes;
My mourning heart is melted in my frame
As wax dissolving runs before a flame,
My strength dries up, my flesh the moisture leaves,
And on my tongue my clammy palate cleaves.
Alass! I thirst, alass! for drink I call,
For drink they give me vinegar and gall.
To sportful game the savage soldiers go
And for my vesture on my vesture throw;
While all deride who see me thus forlorn
And shoot their lips and shake their heads in scorn.
And with despiteful jest, behold, they cry,
The great peculiar darling of the sky,
He trusted God wou'd save his soul from woe,
Now God may have him if he loves him so.
But to the dust of death by quick decay
I come, O Father, be not long away.
And was it thus the prince of life was slain?
And was it thus he dy'd for worthless men?
Yes blessed Jesus! thus in ev'ry line
These suff'rings which the Prophet spake were thine.
Come christian to the corps, in spirit come,
And with true signs of grief surround the tomb.
Upon the threshold stone let sin be slain,
Such sacrifice will best avenge his pain.
Bring thither then repentance, sighs and tears,
Bring mortify'd desires, bring holy fears;
And earnest pray'r express'd from thoughts that roll
Through broken mind, and groanings of the soul;
These scatter on his hearse, and so prepare
Those obsequies the Jews deny'd him there,
While in your hearts the flames of love may burn,
To dress the vault, like lamps in sacred urn.
There oft my soul in such a grateful way,
Thine humblest homage with the godly pay.
But David strikes the sounding chords anew,
And to thy first design recalls thy view;
From life to death, from death to life he flies
And still pursues his object in his eyes.
And here recounts in more enliven'd song
The sacred Presence, not absented long.
The flesh not suffer'd in the grave to dwell,
The soul not suffer'd to remain in hell;
But as the conqueror fatigu'd in war,
With hot pursuit of enemies afar,
Reclines to drink the torrent gliding by,
Then lifts his looks to repossess the sky,
So bow'd the Son in life's uneasy road,
With anxious toil, and thorny danger strew'd;
So bow'd the son, but not to find relief,
But taste the deep imbitter'd floods of grief;
So when he tasted these he rais'd his head,
And left the sabled mansions of the dead,
Ere mould'ring time consum'd the bones away,
Or slow corruption's worms had work'd decay;
Here faith's foundations, all the soul employ
With springing graces, springing beams of joy,
Then paus'd the voice where nature's seen to pause,
And for a time suspend her ancient laws.
From hence arising as the glories rise,
That must advance above the lofty skies,
He runs with sprightly fingers o'er the Lyre,
And fills new songs with new celestial fire:
In which he shews by fair description's ray,
The Christ's Ascention, to the realms of day;
When Justice, pleas'd with life already paid,
Unbends her brows, and sheaths her angry blade;
And meditates rewards, and will restore
What mercy woo'd him to forsake before,
When on a cloud with gilded edge of light,
He rose above the reach of human sight,
And met the pomp that hung aloft in air
To make his honours more exceeding fair.
See, cries the prophet, how the chariots wait
To bear him upwards in triumphant state,
By twenty thousands in unnumber'd throng,
And Angels draw the glitt'ring ranks along.
The Lord amongst them sits in glory dress'd,
Nor more the Presence Sinai mount confest.
And now the chariots have begun to fly,
The triumph moves, the Lord ascends on high,
And Sin and Satan, us'd to captive men,
Are dragg'd for captives in his ample train;
While as he goes seraphick circles sing
The wond'rous conquest of their wond'rous king,
With shouts of joy their heav'nly voices raise,
And with shrill trumpets manifest his praise.
From such a point of such exceeding height
A while my verses stoop their airy flight,
And seem for rest on Olivet to breath,
And charge the two that stand in white beneath,
That as they move and join the moving rear,
Within their honour'd hands aloft they bear
The crown of thorns, the cross on which he dy'd,
The nails that pierc'd his limbs, the spear his side;
Then where kind mercy lays the thunder by,
Where Peace has hung great Michael's arms on high,
Let these adorn his magazine above,
And hang the trophies of victorious love,
Least man by superstitious mind entic'd,
Shou'd idolize whatever touch'd the Christ.
But still the Prophet in the spirit soars
To new Jerusalem's imperial doors;
There sees and hears the bless'd angelick throng,
There feels their musick, and records their song:
Or with the vision warm'd, attempts to write
For those inhabitants of native light,
And teaches harmony's distinguish'd parts,
In sweet respondence of united hearts;
For thus without might warbling angels sing,
Their course containing on the flutter'd wing;
Eternal gates! your stately portals rear,
Eternal gates! your ways of joy prepare,
The king of glory for admittance stays,
He comes, he'll enter, O prepare your ways;
Then bright arch-angels that attend the wall,
Might thus upon the beauteous order call;
Ye fellow ministers that now proclaim
Your king of glory, tell his awful name.
At which the beauteous order will accord,
And sound of solemn notes pronounce the Lord,
The Lord endew'd with strength, renown'd for might,
With spoils returning from the finish'd fight.
Again with Lays they charm the sacred gates,
And graces double while the song repeats,
Again within the sacred guardians sing,
And ask the name of their victorious king,
And then again the Lord's the name rebounds
From tongue to tongue, catch'd up in frequent rounds.
New thrones and pow'rs appear, to lift the gate,
And David still pursues their enter'd state;
Oh prophet! father! whither woudst thou fly?
Oh mystick Israel's chariot for the sky,
Thou sacred spirit! what a wond'rous height,
By thee supported, soars his airy flight!
For glimpse of Majesty divine is brought,
Among the shifted prospects of the thought;
Dread sacred sight! I dare not gaze for fear,
But sit beneath the singers feet and hear,
And hold each sound that interrupts the mind,
Thus in a calm by pow'r of verse confin'd.
Ye dreadful ministers of God, displeas'd,
Loud blasting tempests, be no longer rais'd!
Ye deep mouth'd thunders leave your direful groan,
Nor roll in hollow clouds around the throne,
The still small voice more justly will express
How great Jehovah did the Lord address,
And you bright feather'd choirs of endless peace,
A while from tuneful Hallelujahs cease,
A while stand fix'd with deep attentive care,
You'll have the time to sing for ever there.
The royal prophet will the silence break,
And in his words almighty goodness speak.
He spake (and smil'd to see the business done,)
Thou art my first, my great begotten son;
Here on the right of Majesty sit down,
Enjoy thy conquest and receive thy crown,
While I thy worship and renown compleat,
And make thy foes the foot-stool of thy feet,
For I'll pronounce the long resolv'd decree,
My sacred Sion be reserv'd for thee.
From thence thy peaceful rod of pow'r extend,
From thence thy messenger of mercy send,
And teach thy vanquish'd enemies to bow,
And rule where Hell has fix'd an empire now.
Then ready nations to their rightful king,
The free-will off'rings of their hearts shall bring,
In holy beauties for acceptance dress'd,
And ready nations be with pardon bless'd;
Mean while thy dawn of truth begins the day,
Enlightened subjects shall encrease thy sway,
With such a splendid and unnumber'd train,
As dews in morning fill the grassy plain.
This by myself I swore; the great intent
Has past my sanction and I can't repent;
Thou art a king and priest of peace below,
Like Salem's monarch and for ever so.
Ask what thou wilt, 'tis thine; the gentiles claim,
For thy possession take the world's extream,
The kings shall rage, the parties strive in vain,
By persecuting rage to break thy reign;
Thou art my Christ and they that still can be
Rebellious subjects, be destroy'd by thee.
Bring like the Potter to severe decay,
Thy worthless creatures, found in humble clay.
Then hear ye monarchs, and ye judges hear,
Rejoice with trembling, serve the Lord with fear,
In his commands with signs of homage move,
And kiss the gracious offers of his love;
Ye surely perish if his anger flame,
And only they be bless'd that bless his name.
Thus does the Christ in David's anthems shine,
With full magnificence of art divine,
Then on his subjects gifts of grace bestow,
And spread his Image on their hearts below,
As when our earthly kings receive the globe,
The sacred unction and the purple robe,
And mount the throne with golden glory crown'd,
They scatter medals of themselves around;
There heav'nly singers clap their vary'd wings,
And lead the choir of all created things,
Relate his glory's everlasting prime,
His fame continu'd with the length of time,
While e're the Sun shall dart a gilded beam,
Or changing Moons diffuse the silver'd gleam,
Where e're the waves of rolling ocean sent,
Encompass land with arms of wide extent.
Hail, full of mercy, ready nations cry!
Hail, for ever, ever bless'd on high!
Hail, Oh for ever on thy beauteous throne!
Thou Lord that workest wond'rous things alone,
Still let thy glory to the world appear,
And all the riches of thy goodness hear.
But thou fair Church in whom he fixes love,
Thou queen accepted of the prince above;
Behold him fairer than the sons of men,
Embrace his offer'd heart, and share his reign;
In Moses's laws they bred thy tender years,
But now to new commands incline thine ears,
Forget thy people, bear no more in mind
Thy Father's houshold, for thy spouse is kind.
Within thy soul let vain affections dye,
Him only worship, and with him comply.
So shall thy spouse's heart with thine agree,
So shall his fervour still encrease for thee.
Come while he calls, supremely favour'd queen,
In heav'nly glories dress thy soul within;
With pious actions to the throne be brought,
In close connection of the virtues wrought,
Let these around thee for a garment shine,
And be the work to make them pleasing, thine:
Come, lovely queen, advance with stately port,
Thy good companions shall compleat thy court,
With joyful souls their joyful entrance sing,
And fill the palace of your gracious king.
What tho' thy Moses and the prophets cease,
What tho' the Priesthood leaves the settled race,
The Father's place their offspring well supplies,
When at thy spouse's Ministry they rise,
When thy bless'd houshold on his orders go,
And rule for him where'er he reigns below.
Come, Queen exalted, come, my lasting song
To future ages shall thy fame prolong.
The joyful nations shall thy praise proclaim,
And for their safety crowd beneath thy name.
Oh bounteous Saviour! still thy mercy kind,
Still what thy David sung, thy servants find,
Still why thy David sung thy servants see,
From thee sent down, and sent again to thee.
They see the words of thanks and love divine,
In strains mysterious intermingl'd shine,
As sweet and rich unite in costly waves,
When purling gold the purpled webb receives,
And still the Church he shadow'd hears the lays,
In daily service as an aid to praise.
At these her temper good devotion warms,
And mounts aloft with more engaging charms.
Then as she strives to reach the lofty sky,
Bids gratitude assist her will to fly;
In these our gratitude becomes on fire,
Then feels its flames improv'd by strong desire,
Then feels desire in eager wishes move,
And wish determine in the point of love.
Such hymns to regulate and such to raise,
Approach, ye sounding instruments of praise.
Tis fit you tune for him whose holy love,
In wish aspiring to the choir above,
And fond to practice e're his time to go,
Devoutly call'd you to the choir below;
There where he plac'd you, with your solemn sound,
For Gods high glory fill the sacred ground,
And there and ev'ry where his wond'rous name,
Within his firmament of pow'r proclaim.
Soft pleasing lutes with easy sweetness move,
To touch the sentiments of Heav'nly love,
Assist the Lyre and voice to tell the charms
That gently stole him from the Father's arms;
Gay trembling Timbrels us'd with airs of mirth,
Assist the loud Hosannah rais'd on earth,
When on an Ass he meekly rides along,
And multitudes are heard within the song.
Full-tenor'd Psalt'ry, join the doleful part,
In which his agony possest his heart;
And seem to feel thyself, and seem to shew,
Arising heaviness and signs of woe.
Sonorous organ at his passion moan,
And utter forth thy sympathizing groan,
In big slow murmurs anxious sorrow speak,
While melancholy winds thine entrails shake,
As when he suffer'd, with complaining sound,
The storms in vaulted caverns shook the ground;
Swift chearful cymbals give an airy strain,
When having bravely broke the doubled chain,
Of Death and Hell, he left the conquer'd grave,
And rose to visit those he dy'd to save.
And as he mounts in song and Angels sing
With grand procession their returning king,
Triumphant trumpets raise their notes on high,
And make them seem to mount, and seem to fly.
Then all at once conspire to praise the Lord,
In musick's full consent, and just accord:
Ye sons of art, in such melodious way
Conclude the service which you join to pay,
While nations sing Amen, and yet again,
Hold forth the note and sing aloud Amen.
Here has my fancy gone where David leads,
Now softly pacing o'er the grassy meads,
Now nobly mounting where the monarchs rear
The gilded spires of palaces in air,
Now shooting thence upon the level flight,
To dreadful dangers and the toils of fight,
Anon with utmost stretch ascending far,
Beyond the region of the farthest star;
As sharpest sighted eagles tow'ring fly,
To weather their broad sails in open sky,
At length on wings half clos'd slide gently down,
And one attempt shall all my labours crown.
In other's verse the rest be better shewn,
But this is more, or should be more, thine own.
If then the spirit that supports my lines,
Have prov'd unequal to my large designs,
Let others rise from earthly passion's dream,
By me provok'd to vindicate the theme.
Let others round the world in rapture rove,
Or with strong feathers fan the breeze above,
Or walk the dusky shades of death, and dive
Down Hell's abyss, and mount again alive.
But Oh my God! may these unartful rhimes,
In sober words of woe bemoan my crimes.
Tis fit the sorrows I for ever vent,
For what I never can enough repent;
Tis fit, and David shews the moving way,
And with his pray'r instructs my soul to pray.
Then since thy guilt is more than match'd by me,
And since my troubles shou'd with thine agree,
O Muse to glories in affliction born!
May thine humility my soul adorn.
For humblest prayers are most affecting strains,
As Mines lye rich in lowly planted veins;
Such aid I want to render mercy kind,
And such an aid as here I want I find:
Thy weeping accents in my numbers run,
Ah thought! ah voice of inward dole begun!
My God, whose anger is appeas'd by tears,
Bow gently down thy mercy's gracious ears;
With many tongues my sins for justice call,
But mercy's ears are manifold for all.
Those sweet celestial windows open wide,
And in full streams let soft compassion glide,
There wash my soul and cleanse it yet again,
O th'roughly cleanse it from the guilty stain,
For I my life with inward anguish see,
And all its wretchedness confess to thee.
The large Inditement stands before my view,
Drawn forth by conscience, most amazing true,
And fill'd with secrets hid from human eye,
When foolish man, thy God stood witness by.
Then Oh, thou majesty divinely great,
Accept the sad confessions I repeat,
Which clear thy justice to the world below,
Shou'd dismal sentence doom my soul to woe.
When in the silent womb my shape was made,
And from the womb to lightsome life convey'd,
Curs'd sin began to take unhappy root,
And thro' my veins its early fibres shoot;
And then what goodness did'st thou shew, to kill
The rising weeds, and principles of ill;
When to my breast in fair celestial flame,
Eternal truth and lovely wisdom came,
Bright gift by simple nature never got,
But here reveal'd to change the antient blot.
This wond'rous help which mercy pleas'd to grant,
Continue still, for still thine aid I want,
And as the men whom leprosies invade,
Or they that touch the carcase of the dead,
With Hysop sprinkled and by water clean'd,
Their former pureness in the law regain'd;
So purge my soul diseas'd alas! within,
And much polluted with dead works of sin.
For such bless'd favours at thine hand I sue,
Be grace thine Hysop and thy water too.
Then shall my whiteness for perfection vie
With blanching snows that newly leave the sky.
Thus through my mind thy voice of gladness send,
Thus speak the joyful word, I will be clean'd;
That all my strength consum'd with mournful pain,
May by thy saving health rejoice again:
And now no more my foul offences see,
Oh turn from these, but turn thee not from me,
Or least they make me too deform'd a sight,
Oh, blot them with oblivion's endless night.
Then further pureness to thy servant grant,
Another heart, or change in this, I want.
Create another, or the change create,
For now my vile corruption is so great,
It seems a new creation to restore
Its fall'n estate to what it was before.
Renew my spirit, raging in my breast,
And all its passions in their course arrest,
Or turn their motions, widely gone astray,
And fix their footsteps in thy righteous way.
When this is granted, when again I'm whole,
Oh ne'er withdraw thy presence from my soul:
There let it shine, so let me be restor'd
To present joy which conscious hopes afford.
There let it sweetly shine, and o'er my breast
Diffuse the dawning of eternal rest;
Then shall the wicked this compassion see,
And learn thy worship and thy works from me.
For I to such occasions of thy praise
Will tune my lyre, and consecrate my lays.
Unseal my lips, where guilt and shame have hung
To stop the passage of my grateful tongue,
And let my prayer and song ascend, my prayer
Here join'd with saints, my song with angels there;
Yet neither prayer I'd give, nor songs alone,
If other off'rings were as much thy own:
But thine's the contrite spirit, thine's an heart
Oppress'd with sorrow, broke with inward smart;
That at thy footstool in confession shews
How well its faults, how well the judge it knows;
That sin with sober resolution flies,
This gift thy mercy never will despise.
Then in my soul a mystick altar rear,
And such a sacrifice I'll offer there;
There shall it stand in vows of virtue bound,
There falling tears shall wash it all around;
And sharp remorse, yet sharper edg'd by woe,
Deserv'd and fear'd, inflict the bleeding blow;
There shall my thoughts to holy breathings fly
Instead of incense to perfume the sky,
And thence my willing heart aspires above,
A victim panting in the flames of love.
Among The Clouds
among the clouds
and then you argue with me
about the earth
how can i ever believe you?
when your feet
have become cottons
and your brain
has become this gusty air
with empty thoughts
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
From Among The Sands
from among the sands of the shore
and you must accept there are trillions and trillions of them there
you have the guts to tell all of them
that you are not like them
that you are this diamond
admired by emerald and sapphire
and that gold is inferior
the mighty sun shines everyday above the trillions of your kind &
it is not bothered at all
it does not know you &
finds nothing significant about your claim for self-claim for glamor & glitter
need i tell you Mr. grain of sand
that a grain of sand is and will always be a good-for-nothing grain of sand?
I Dreamed I Moved Among The Elysian Fields
I dreamed I moved among the Elysian fields,
In converse with sweet women long since dead;
And out of blossoms which that meadow yields
I wove a garland for your living head.
Danai, that was the vessel for a day
Of golden Jove, I saw, and at her side,
Whom Jove the Bull desired and bore away,
Europa stood, and the Swan's featherless bride.
All these were mortal women, yet all these
Above the ground had had a god for guest;
Freely I walked beside them and at ease,
Addressing them, by them again addressed,
And marvelled nothing, for remembering you,
Wherefore I was among them well I knew.