One may define flattery as a base companionship which is most advantageous to the flatterer.
One May Write With Forked Tongue
ON written ciphers you depend
EMit and then amend your speech,
AYe, there's the rub for when I teach
WRit long till generations' end
IT will run true, no falsehood rend.
Echoes base pale face - white leach -
WIll suck to meanings change to beach
THe sense when times upon fresh bend
FOrwards embark or backwards trend
Refuting fair traditions. Each
Knows Time revenge exacts to reach
EDitions new that few defend.
TONe tribal sends reviving stream
GUEst welcomes with true story's gleam.
(c) Jonathan Robin - acrostic sonnet One May Write With Forked Tongue written 14 January 2007
There Is But One May In The Year,
There is but one May in the year,
And sometimes May is wet and cold;
There is but one May in the year
Before the year grows old.
Yet though it be the chilliest May,
With least of sun and most of showers,
Its wind and dew, its night and day,
Bring up the flowers.
One may contribute
This one may contribute a lot
To blame self against real evil and fought
Know fully well that something has really gone wrongs
That can't be changed by reciting hymns or holy songs
Never feel guilty that others are sinners than you
They may be less and can’t be proved as true
You must thrive to compare good with best
Humanity demands that this is the real test
I feel bad when something differently is noticed
Deceive people by different mode while promised
How can they be superior in deceiving?
When they professed same religion and believed
This can be accepted sarcastically
How can there be any equation basically?
How the performance or practicing evil can vary with degree?
Who will voice in affirmative and totally agree?
No religion can afford to teach insubordination
That too for fellow brethren in question
This may create bitterness and possible alienation
Widen the gap among nationals creating problem for nation
No one can claim or boost free from sin
It is common and known fact and in fact been
No one can take solace from being less or more
This is matter deserved to be condemned or deplored
We need to feel guilty on this count
No religion teaches or encourages us to mount
An attack based on ideology without solid reasons
And take blame to be intolerant and as bigotry persons
- quotes about tolerance
- quotes about performance
- quotes about promises
- quotes about nations
- quotes about questions
- quotes about music
- quotes about worry
- quotes about peace
- quotes about hate
Canto the Twelfth
Of all the barbarous middle ages, that
Which is most barbarous is the middle age
Of man; it is -- I really scarce know what;
But when we hover between fool and sage,
And don't know justly what we would be at --
A period something like a printed page,
Black letter upon foolscap, while our hair
Grows grizzled, and we are not what we were; --
Too old for youth, -- too young, at thirty-five,
To herd with boys, or hoard with good threescore, --
I wonder people should be left alive;
But since they are, that epoch is a bore:
Love lingers still, although 't were late to wive;
And as for other love, the illusion's o'er;
And money, that most pure imagination,
Gleams only through the dawn of its creation.
O Gold! Why call we misers miserable?
Theirs is the pleasure that can never pall;
Theirs is the best bower anchor, the chain cable
Which holds fast other pleasures great and small.
Ye who but see the saving man at table,
And scorn his temperate board, as none at all,
And wonder how the wealthy can be sparing,
Know not what visions spring from each cheese-paring.
Love or lust makes man sick, and wine much sicker;
Ambition rends, and gaming gains a loss;
But making money, slowly first, then quicker,
And adding still a little through each cross
(Which will come over things), beats love or liquor,
The gamester's counter, or the statesman's dross.
O Gold! I still prefer thee unto paper,
Which makes bank credit like a bank of vapour.
Who hold the balance of the world? Who reign
O'er congress, whether royalist or liberal?
Who rouse the shirtless patriots of Spain? [*]
(That make old Europe's journals squeak and gibber all.)
Who keep the world, both old and new, in pain
Or pleasure? Who make politics run glibber all?
The shade of Buonaparte's noble daring? --
Jew Rothschild, and his fellow-Christian, Baring.
Those, and the truly liberal Lafitte,
Are the true lords of Europe. Every loan
Is not a merely speculative hit,
But seats a nation or upsets a throne.
Republics also get involved a bit;
Columbia's stock hath holders not unknown
On 'Change; and even thy silver soil, Peru,
Must get itself discounted by a Jew.
Why call the miser miserable? as
I said before: the frugal life is his,
Which in a saint or cynic ever was
The theme of praise: a hermit would not miss
Canonization for the self-same cause,
And wherefore blame gaunt wealth's austerities?
Because, you'll say, nought calls for such a trial; --
Then there's more merit in his self-denial.
He is your only poet; -- passion, pure
And sparkling on from heap to heap, displays,
Possess'd, the ore, of which mere hopes allure
Nations athwart the deep: the golden rays
Flash up in ingots from the mine obscure;
On him the diamond pours its brilliant blaze,
While the mild emerald's beam shades down the dies
Of other stones, to soothe the miser's eyes.
The lands on either side are his; the ship
From Ceylon, Inde, or far Cathay, unloads
For him the fragrant produce of each trip;
Beneath his cars of Ceres groan the roads,
And the vine blushes like Aurora's lip;
His very cellars might be kings' abodes;
While he, despising every sensual call,
Commands -- the intellectual lord of all.
Perhaps he hath great projects in his mind,
To build a college, or to found a race,
A hospital, a church, -- and leave behind
Some dome surmounted by his meagre face:
Perhaps he fain would liberate mankind
Even with the very ore which makes them base;
Perhaps he would be wealthiest of his nation,
Or revel in the joys of calculation.
But whether all, or each, or none of these
May be the hoarder's principle of action,
The fool will call such mania a disease: --
What is his own? Go -- look at each transaction,
Wars, revels, loves -- do these bring men more ease
Than the mere plodding through each "vulgar fraction"?
Or do they benefit mankind? Lean miser!
Let spendthrifts' heirs enquire of yours -- who's wiser?
How beauteous are rouleaus! how charming chests
Containing ingots, bags of dollars, coins
(Not of old victors, all whose heads and crests
Weigh not the thin ore where their visage shines,
But) of fine unclipt gold, where dully rests
Some likeness, which the glittering cirque confines,
Of modern, reigning, sterling, stupid stamp: --
Yes! ready money is Aladdin's lamp.
"Love rules the camp, the court, the grove," -- "for love
Is heaven, and heaven is love:" -- so sings the bard;
Which it were rather difficult to prove
(A thing with poetry in general hard).
Perhaps there may be something in "the grove,"
At least it rhymes to "love;" but I'm prepared
To doubt (no less than landlords of their rental)
If "courts" and "camps" be quite so sentimental.
But if Love don't, Cash does, and Cash alone:
Cash rules the grove, and fells it too besides;
Without cash, camps were thin, and courts were none;
Without cash, Malthus tells you -- "take no brides."
So Cash rules Love the ruler, on his own
High ground, as virgin Cynthia sways the tides:
And as for Heaven "Heaven being Love," why not say honey
Is wax? Heaven is not Love, 't is Matrimony.
Is not all love prohibited whatever,
Excepting marriage? which is love, no doubt,
After a sort; but somehow people never
With the same thought the two words have help'd out:
Love may exist with marriage, and should ever,
And marriage also may exist without;
But love sans bans is both a sin and shame,
And ought to go by quite another name.
Now if the "court," and "camp," and "grove," be not
Recruited all with constant married men,
Who never coveted their neighbour's lot,
I say that line's a lapsus of the pen; --
Strange too in my "buon camerado" Scott,
So celebrated for his morals, when
My Jeffrey held him up as an example
To me; -- of whom these morals are a sample.
Well, if I don't succeed, I have succeeded,
And that's enough; succeeded in my youth,
The only time when much success is needed:
And my success produced what I, in sooth,
Cared most about; it need not now be pleaded --
Whate'er it was, 't was mine; I've paid, in truth,
Of late the penalty of such success,
But have not learn'd to wish it any less.
That suit in Chancery, -- which some persons plead
In an appeal to the unborn, whom they,
In the faith of their procreative creed,
Baptize posterity, or future clay, --
To me seems but a dubious kind of reed
To lean on for support in any way;
Since odds are that posterity will know
No more of them, than they of her, I trow.
Why, I'm posterity -- and so are you;
And whom do we remember? Not a hundred.
Were every memory written down all true,
The tenth or twentieth name would be but blunder'd;
Even Plutarch's Lives have but pick'd out a few,
And 'gainst those few your annalists have thunder'd;
And Mitford in the nineteenth century [*]
Gives, with Greek truth, the good old Greek the lie.
Good people all, of every degree,
Ye gentle readers and ungentle writers,
In this twelfth Canto 't is my wish to be
As serious as if I had for inditers
Malthus and Wilberforce: -- the last set free
The Negroes and is worth a million fighters;
While Wellington has but enslaved the Whites,
And Malthus does the thing 'gainst which he writes.
I'm serious -- so are all men upon paper;
And why should I not form my speculation,
And hold up to the sun my little taper?
Mankind just now seem wrapt in mediation
On constitutions and steam-boats of vapour;
While sages write against all procreation,
Unless a man can calculate his means
Of feeding brats the moment his wife weans.
That's noble! That's romantic! For my part,
I think that "Philo-genitiveness" is
(Now here's a word quite after my own heart,
Though there's a shorter a good deal than this,
If that politeness set it not apart;
But I'm resolved to say nought that's amiss) --
I say, methinks that "Philo-genitiveness"
Might meet from men a little more forgiveness.
And now to business. -- O my gentle Juan,
Thou art in London -- in that pleasant place,
Where every kind of mischief's daily brewing,
Which can await warm youth in its wild race.
'T is true, that thy career is not a new one;
Thou art no novice in the headlong chase
Of early life; but this is a new land,
Which foreigners can never understand.
What with a small diversity of climate,
Of hot or cold, mercurial or sedate,
I could send forth my mandate like a primate
Upon the rest of Europe's social state;
But thou art the most difficult to rhyme at,
Great Britain, which the Muse may penetrate.
All countries have their "Lions," but in thee
There is but one superb menagerie.
But I am sick of politics. Begin,
"Paulo Majora." Juan, undecided
Amongst the paths of being "taken in,"
Above the ice had like a skater glided:
When tired of play, he flirted without sin
With some of those fair creatures who have prided
Themselves on innocent tantalisation,
And hate all vice except its reputation.
But these are few, and in the end they make
Some devilish escapade or stir, which shows
That even the purest people may mistake
Their way through virtue's primrose paths of snows;
And then men stare, as if a new ass spake
To Balaam, and from tongue to ear o'erflows
Quicksilver small talk, ending (if you note it)
With the kind world's amen -- "Who would have thought it?"
The little Leila, with her orient eyes,
And taciturn Asiatic disposition
(Which saw all western things with small surprise,
To the surprise of people of condition,
Who think that novelties are butterflies
To be pursued as food for inanition),
Her charming figure and romantic history
Became a kind of fashionable mystery.
The women much divided -- as is usual
Amongst the sex in little things or great.
Think not, fair creatures, that I mean to abuse you all --
I have always liked you better than I state:
Since I've grown moral, still I must accuse you all
Of being apt to talk at a great rate;
And now there was a general sensation
Amongst you, about Leila's education.
In one point only were you settled -- and
You had reason; 't was that a young child of grace,
As beautiful as her own native land,
And far away, the last bud of her race,
Howe'er our friend Don Juan might command
Himself for five, four, three, or two years' space,
Would be much better taught beneath the eye
Of peeresses whose follies had run dry.
So first there was a generous emulation,
And then there was a general competition,
To undertake the orphan's education.
As Juan was a person of condition,
It had been an affront on this occasion
To talk of a subscription or petition;
But sixteen dowagers, ten unwed she sages,
Whose tale belongs to "Hallam's Middle Ages,"
And one or two sad, separate wives, without
A fruit to bloom upon their withering bough --
Begg'd to bring up the little girl and "out," --
For that's the phrase that settles all things now,
Meaning a virgin's first blush at a rout,
And all her points as thorough-bred to show:
And I assure you, that like virgin honey
Tastes their first season (mostly if they have money).
How all the needy honourable misters,
Each out-at-elbow peer, or desperate dandy,
The watchful mothers, and the careful sisters
(Who, by the by, when clever, are more handy
At making matches, where "'t is gold that glisters,"
Than their he relatives), like flies o'er candy
Buzz round "the Fortune" with their busy battery,
To turn her head with waltzing and with flattery!
Each aunt, each cousin, hath her speculation;
Nay, married dames will now and then discover
Such pure disinterestedness of passion,
I've known them court an heiress for their lover.
"Tantæne!" Such the virtues of high station,
Even in the hopeful Isle, whose outlet 's "Dover!"
While the poor rich wretch, object of these cares,
Has cause to wish her sire had had male heirs.
Some are soon bagg"d, and some reject three dozen.
'T is fine to see them scattering refusals
And wild dismay o'er every angry cousin
(Friends of the party), who begin accusals,
Such as -- "Unless Miss (Blank) meant to have chosen
Poor Frederick, why did she accord perusals
To his billets? Why waltz with him? Why, I pray,
Look yes last night, and yet say no to-day?
"Why? -- Why? -- Besides, Fred really was attach'd;
'T was not her fortune -- he has enough without:
The time will come she'll wish that she had snatch'd
So good an opportunity, no doubt: --
But the old marchioness some plan had hatch'd,
As I'll tell Aurea at to-morrow's rout:
And after all poor Frederick may do better --
Pray did you see her answer to his letter?"
Smart uniforms and sparkling coronets
Are spurn'd in turn, until her turn arrives,
After male loss of time, and hearts, and bets
Upon the sweepstakes for substantial wives;
And when at last the pretty creature gets
Some gentleman, who fights, or writes, or drives,
It soothes the awkward squad of the rejected
To find how very badly she selected.
For sometimes they accept some long pursuer,
Worn out with importunity; or fall
(But here perhaps the instances are fewer)
To the lot of him who scarce pursued at all.
A hazy widower turn'd of forty's sure [*]
(If 't is not vain examples to recall)
To draw a high prize: now, howe'er he got her, I
See nought more strange in this than t' other lottery.
I, for my part (one "modern instance" more,
"True, 't is a pity -- pity 't is, 't is true"),
Was chosen from out an amatory score,
Albeit my years were less discreet than few;
But though I also had reform'd before
Those became one who soon were to be two,
I'll not gainsay the generous public's voice,
That the young lady made a monstrous choice.
Oh, pardon my digression -- or at least
Peruse! 'T is always with a moral end
That I dissert, like grace before a feast:
For like an aged aunt, or tiresome friend,
A rigid guardian, or a zealous priest,
My Muse by exhortation means to mend
All people, at all times, and in most places,
Which puts my Pegasus to these grave paces.
But now I'm going to be immoral; now
I mean to show things really as they are,
Not as they ought to be: for I avow,
That till we see what's what in fact, we're far
From much improvement with that virtuous plough
Which skims the surface, leaving scarce a scar
Upon the black loam long manured by Vice,
Only to keep its corn at the old price.
But first of little Leila we'll dispose;
For like a day-dawn she was young and pure,
Or like the old comparison of snows,
Which are more pure than pleasant to be sure.
Like many people everybody knows,
Don Juan was delighted to secure
A goodly guardian for his infant charge,
Who might not profit much by being at large.
Besides, he had found out he was no tutor
(I wish that others would find out the same);
And rather wish'd in such things to stand neuter,
For silly wards will bring their guardians blame:
So when he saw each ancient dame a suitor
To make his little wild Asiatic tame,
Consulting "the Society for Vice
Suppression," Lady Pinchbeck was his choice.
Olden she was -- but had been very young;
Virtuous she was -- and had been, I believe;
Although the world has such an evil tongue
That -- but my chaster ear will not receive
An echo of a syllable that's wrong:
In fact, there's nothing makes me so much grieve,
As that abominable tittle-tattle,
Which is the cud eschew'd by human cattle.
Moreover I've remark'd (and I was once
A slight observer in a modest way),
And so may every one except a dunce,
That ladies in their youth a little gay,
Besides their knowledge of the world, and sense
Of the sad consequence of going astray,
Are wiser in their warnings 'gainst the woe
Which the mere passionless can never know.
While the harsh prude indemnifies her virtue
By railing at the unknown and envied passion,
Seeking far less to save you than to hurt you,
Or, what's still worse, to put you out of fashion, --
The kinder veteran with calm words will court you,
Entreating you to pause before you dash on;
Expounding and illustrating the riddle
Of epic Love's beginning, end, and middle.
Now whether it be thus, or that they are stricter,
As better knowing why they should be so,
I think you'll find from many a family picture,
That daughters of such mothers as may know
The world by experience rather than by lecture,
Turn out much better for the Smithfield Show
Of vestals brought into the marriage mart,
Than those bred up by prudes without a heart.
I said that Lady Pinchbeck had been talk'd about --
As who has not, if female, young, and pretty?
But now no more the ghost of Scandal stalk'd about;
She merely was deem'd amiable and witty,
And several of her best bons-mots were hawk'd about:
Then she was given to charity and pity,
And pass'd (at least the latter years of life)
For being a most exemplary wife.
High in high circles, gentle in her own,
She was the mild reprover of the young,
Whenever -- which means every day -- they'd shown
An awkward inclination to go wrong.
The quantity of good she did's unknown,
Or at the least would lengthen out my song:
In brief, the little orphan of the East
Had raised an interest in her, which increased.
Juan, too, was a sort of favourite with her,
Because she thought him a good heart at bottom,
A little spoil'd, but not so altogether;
Which was a wonder, if you think who got him,
And how he had been toss'd, he scarce knew whither:
Though this might ruin others, it did not him,
At least entirely -- for he had seen too many
Changes in youth, to be surprised at any.
And these vicissitudes tell best in youth;
For when they happen at a riper age,
People are apt to blame the Fates, forsooth,
And wonder Providence is not more sage.
Adversity is the first path to truth:
He who hath proved war, storm, or woman's rage,
Whether his winters be eighteen or eighty,
Hath won the experience which is deem'd so weighty.
How far it profits is another matter. --
Our hero gladly saw his little charge
Safe with a lady, whose last grown-up daughter
Being long married, and thus set at large,
Had left all the accomplishments she taught her
To be transmitted, like the Lord Mayor's barge,
To the next comer; or -- as it will tell
More Muse-like -- like to Cytherea's shell.
I call such things transmission; for there is
A floating balance of accomplishment
Which forms a pedigree from Miss to Miss,
According as their minds or backs are bent.
Some waltz; some draw; some fathom the abyss
Of metaphysics; others are content
With music; the most moderate shine as wits;
While others have a genius turn'd for fits.
But whether fits, or wits, or harpsichords,
Theology, fine arts, or finer stays,
May be the baits for gentlemen or lords
With regular descent, in these our days,
The last year to the new transfers its hoards;
New vestals claim men's eyes with the same praise
Of "elegant" et cætera, in fresh batches --
All matchless creatures, and yet bent on matches.
But now I will begin my poem. 'T is
Perhaps a little strange, if not quite new,
That from the first of Cantos up to this
I've not begun what we have to go through.
These first twelve books are merely flourishes,
Preludios, trying just a string or two
Upon my lyre, or making the pegs sure;
And when so, you shall have the overture.
My Muses do not care a pinch of rosin
About what's call'd success, or not succeeding:
Such thoughts are quite below the strain they have chosen;
'T is a "great moral lesson" they are reading.
I thought, at setting off, about two dozen
Cantos would do; but at Apollo's pleading,
If that my Pegasus should not be founder'd,
I think to canter gently through a hundred.
Don Juan saw that microcosm on stilts,
Yclept the Great World; for it is the least,
Although the highest: but as swords have hilts
By which their power of mischief is increased,
When man in battle or in quarrel tilts,
Thus the low world, north, south, or west, or east,
Must still obey the high -- which is their handle,
Their moon, their sun, their gas, their farthing candle.
He had many friends who had many wives, and was
Well look'd upon by both, to that extent
Of friendship which you may accept or pass,
It does nor good nor harm being merely meant
To keep the wheels going of the higher class,
And draw them nightly when a ticket's sent:
And what with masquerades, and fetes, and balls,
For the first season such a life scarce palls.
A young unmarried man, with a good name
And fortune, has an awkward part to play;
For good society is but a game,
"The royal game of Goose," as I may say,
Where every body has some separate aim,
An end to answer, or a plan to lay --
The single ladies wishing to be double,
The married ones to save the virgins trouble.
I don't mean this as general, but particular
Examples may be found of such pursuits:
Though several also keep their perpendicular
Like poplars, with good principles for roots;
Yet many have a method more reticular --
"Fishers for men," like sirens with soft lutes:
For talk six times with the same single lady,
And you may get the wedding dresses ready.
Perhaps you'll have a letter from the mother,
To say her daughter's feelings are trepann'd;
Perhaps you'll have a visit from the brother,
All strut, and stays, and whiskers, to demand
What "your intentions are?" -- One way or other
It seems the virgin's heart expects your hand:
And between pity for her case and yours,
You'll add to Matrimony's list of cures.
I've known a dozen weddings made even thus,
And some of them high names: I have also known
Young men who -- though they hated to discuss
Pretensions which they never dream'd to have shown --
Yet neither frighten'd by a female fuss,
Nor by mustachios moved, were let alone,
And lived, as did the broken-hearted fair,
In happier plight than if they form'd a pair.
There's also nightly, to the uninitiated,
A peril -- not indeed like love or marriage,
But not the less for this to be depreciated:
It is -- I meant and mean not to disparage
The show of virtue even in the vitiated --
It adds an outward grace unto their carriage --
But to denounce the amphibious sort of harlot,
"Couleur de rose," who's neither white nor scarlet.
Such is your cold coquette, who can't say "No,"
And won't say "Yes," and keeps you on and off-ing
On a lee-shore, till it begins to blow --
Then sees your heart wreck'd, with an inward scoffing.
This works a world of sentimental woe,
And sends new Werters yearly to their coffin;
But yet is merely innocent flirtation,
Not quite adultery, but adulteration.
"Ye gods, I grow a talker!" Let us prate.
The next of perils, though I place it sternest,
Is when, without regard to "church or state,"
A wife makes or takes love in upright earnest.
Abroad, such things decide few women's fate --
(Such, early traveller! is the truth thou learnest) --
But in old England, when a young bride errs,
Poor thing! Eve's was a trifling case to hers.
For 't is a low, newspaper, humdrum, lawsuit
Country, where a young couple of the same ages
Can't form a friendship, but the world o'erawes it.
Then there's the vulgar trick of those damned damages!
A verdict -- grievous foe to those who cause it! --
Forms a sad climax to romantic homages;
Besides those soothing speeches of the pleaders,
And evidences which regale all readers.
But they who blunder thus are raw beginners;
A little genial sprinkling of hypocrisy
Has saved the fame of thousand splendid sinners,
The loveliest oligarchs of our gynocracy;
You may see such at all the balls and dinners,
Among the proudest of our aristocracy,
So gentle, charming, charitable, chaste --
And all by having tact as well as taste.
Juan, who did not stand in the predicament
Of a mere novice, had one safeguard more;
For he was sick -- no, 't was not the word sick I meant --
But he had seen so much love before,
That he was not in heart so very weak; -- I meant
But thus much, and no sneer against the shore
Of white cliffs, white necks, blue eyes, bluer stockings,
Tithes, taxes, duns, and doors with double knockings.
But coming young from lands and scenes romantic,
Where lives, not lawsuits, must be risk'd for Passion,
And Passion's self must have a spice of frantic,
Into a country where 't is half a fashion,
Seem'd to him half commercial, half pedantic,
Howe'er he might esteem this moral nation:
Besides (alas! his taste -- forgive and pity!)
At first he did not think the women pretty.
I say at first -- for he found out at last,
But by degrees, that they were fairer far
Than the more glowing dames whose lot is cast
Beneath the influence of the eastern star.
A further proof we should not judge in haste;
Yet inexperience could not be his bar
To taste: -- the truth is, if men would confess,
That novelties please less than they impress.
Though travell'd, I have never had the luck to
Trace up those shuffling negroes, Nile or Niger,
To that impracticable place, Timbuctoo,
Where Geography finds no one to oblige her
With such a chart as may be safely stuck to --
For Europe ploughs in Afric like "bos piger:"
But if I had been at Timbuctoo, there
No doubt I should be told that black is fair.
It is. I will not swear that black is white;
But I suspect in fact that white is black,
And the whole matter rests upon eyesight.
Ask a blind man, the best judge. You'll attack
Perhaps this new position -- but I'm right;
Or if I'm wrong, I'll not be ta'en aback: --
He hath no morn nor night, but all is dark
Within; and what seest thou? A dubious spark.
But I'm relapsing into metaphysics,
That labyrinth, whose clue is of the same
Construction as your cures for hectic phthisics,
Those bright moths fluttering round a dying flame;
And this reflection brings me to plain physics,
And to the beauties of a foreign dame,
Compared with those of our pure pearls of price,
Those polar summers, all sun, and some ice.
Or say they are like virtuous mermaids, whose
Beginnings are fair faces, ends mere fishes; --
Not that there's not a quantity of those
Who have a due respect for their own wishes.
Like Russians rushing from hot baths to snows [*]
Are they, at bottom virtuous even when vicious:
They warm into a scrape, but keep of course,
As a reserve, a plunge into remorse.
But this has nought to do with their outsides.
I said that Juan did not think them pretty
At the first blush; for a fair Briton hides
Half her attractions -- probably from pity --
And rather calmly into the heart glides,
Than storms it as a foe would take a city;
But once there (if you doubt this, prithee try)
She keeps it for you like a true ally.
She cannot step as does an Arab barb,
Or Andalusian girl from mass returning,
Nor wear as gracefully as Gauls her garb,
Nor in her eye Ausonia's glance is burning;
Her voice, though sweet, is not so fit to warb-
le those bravuras (which I still am learning
To like, though I have been seven years in Italy,
And have, or had, an ear that served me prettily); --
She cannot do these things, nor one or two
Others, in that off-hand and dashing style
Which takes so much -- to give the devil his due;
Nor is she quite so ready with her smile,
Nor settles all things in one interview
(A thing approved as saving time and toil); --
But though the soil may give you time and trouble,
Well cultivated, it will render double.
And if in fact she takes to a "grande passion,"
It is a very serious thing indeed:
Nine times in ten 't is but caprice or fashion,
Coquetry, or a wish to take the lead,
The pride of a mere child with a new sash on,
Or wish to make a rival's bosom bleed:
But the tenth instance will be a tornado,
For there's no saying what they will or may do.
The reason's obvious; if there's an éclat,
They lose their caste at once, as do the Parias;
And when the delicacies of the law
Have fill'd their papers with their comments various,
Society, that china without flaw
(The hypocrite!), will banish them like Marius,
To sit amidst the ruins of their guilt:
For Fame's a Carthage not so soon rebuilt.
Perhaps this is as it should be; -- it is
A comment on the Gospel's "Sin no more,
And be thy sins forgiven:" -- but upon this
I leave the saints to settle their own score.
Abroad, though doubtless they do much amiss,
An erring woman finds an opener door
For her return to Virtue -- as they call
That lady, who should be at home to all.
For me, I leave the matter where I find it,
Knowing that such uneasy virtue leads
People some ten times less in fact to mind it,
And care but for discoveries and not deeds.
And as for chastity, you'll never bind it
By all the laws the strictest lawyer pleads,
But aggravate the crime you have not prevented,
By rendering desperate those who had else repented.
But Juan was no casuist, nor had ponder'd
Upon the moral lessons of mankind:
Besides, he had not seen of several hundred
A lady altogether to his mind.
A little "blasé" -- 't is not to be wonder'd
At, that his heart had got a tougher rind:
And though not vainer from his past success,
No doubt his sensibilities were less.
He also had been busy seeing sights --
The Parliament and all the other houses;
Had sat beneath the gallery at nights,
To hear debates whose thunder roused (not rouses)
The world to gaze upon those northern lights
Which flash'd as far as where the musk-bull browses; [*]
He had also stood at times behind the throne --
But Grey was not arrived, and Chatham gone.
He saw, however, at the closing session,
That noble sight, when really free the nation,
A king in constitutional possession
Of such a throne as is the proudest station,
Though despots know it not -- till the progression
Of freedom shall complete their education.
'T is not mere splendour makes the show august
To eye or heart -- it is the people's trust.
There, too, he saw (whate'er he may be now)
A Prince, the prince of princes at the time,
With fascination in his very bow,
And full of promise, as the spring of prime.
Though royalty was written on his brow,
He had then the grace, too, rare in every clime,
Of being, without alloy of fop or beau,
A finish'd gentleman from top to toe.
And Juan was received, as hath been said,
Into the best society: and there
Occurr'd what often happens, I'm afraid,
However disciplined and debonnaire: --
The talent and good humour he display'd,
Besides the mark'd distinction of his air,
Exposed him, as was natural, to temptation,
Even though himself avoided the occasion.
But what, and where, with whom, and when, and why,
Is not to be put hastily together;
And as my object is morality
(Whatever people say), I don't know whether
I'll leave a single reader's eyelid dry,
But harrow up his feelings till they wither,
And hew out a huge monument of pathos,
As Philip's son proposed to do with Athos. [*]
Here the twelfth Canto of our introduction
Ends. When the body of the book's begun,
You'll find it of a different construction
From what some people say 't will be when done:
The plan at present's simply in concoction,
I can't oblige you, reader, to read on;
That's your affair, not mine: a real spirit
Should neither court neglect, nor dread to bear it.
And if my thunderbolt not always rattles,
Remember, reader! you have had before
The worst of tempests and the best of battles
That e'er were brew'd from elements or gore,
Besides the most sublime of -- Heaven knows what else:
An usurer could scarce expect much more --
But my best canto, save one on astronomy,
Will turn upon "political economy."
That is your present theme for popularity:
Now that the public hedge hath scarce a stake,
It grows an act of patriotic charity,
To show the people the best way to break.
My plan (but I, if but for singularity,
Reserve it) will be very sure to take.
Meantime, read all the national debt-sinkers,
And tell me what you think of your great thinkers.
Considered now as a possession, one may define culture as the residuum of a large body of useless knowledge that has been well and truly forgotten.
The Wisdom Of Merlyn
These are the time--words of Merlyn, the voice of his age recorded,
All his wisdom of life, the fruit of tears in his youth, of joy in his manhood hoarded,
All the wit of his years unsealed, to the witless alms awarded.
These are his time--gifts of song, his help to the heavy--laden,
Words of an expert of life, who has gathered its sins in his sack, its virtues to grieve and gladden,
Speaking aloud as one who is strong to the heart of man, wife and maiden.
For he is Merlyn of old, the once young, the still robed in glory,
Ancient of days though he be, with wisdom only for wealth and the crown of his locks grown hoary,
Yet with the rage of his soul untamed, the skill of his lips in story.
He dares not unhouselled die, who has seen, who has known, who has tasted
What of the splendours of Time, of the wise wild joys of the Earth, of the newness of pleasures quested,
All that is neither of then nor now, Truth's naked self clean--breasted,
Things of youth and of strength, the Earth with its infinite pity,
Glories of mountain and plain, of streams that wind from the hills to the insolent human city,
Dark with its traders of human woe enthroned in the seats of the mighty.
Fair things nobler than Man before the day of his ruling,
Free in their ancient peace, ere he came to change, to destroy, to hinder with his schooling,
Asking naught that was his to give save freedom from his fooling.
Beautiful, wonderful, wise, a consonant law--ruled heaven,
Garden ungardened yet, in need yet hardly of God to walk there noon or even,
Beast and bird and flower in its place, Earth's wonders more than seven.
Of these he would speak and confess, to the young who regard not their heirship,
Of beauty to boys who are blind, of might to the impotent strong, to the women who crowd Time's fair ship,
Of pearls deep hid in Love's Indian seas, the name of the God they worship.
Thus let it be with Merlyn before his daylight is ended,
One last psalm of his life, the light of it lipped with laughter, the might of it mixed and blended
Still with the subtle sweet need of tears than Pleasure's self more splendid,
Psalm and hymn of the Earth expounding what Time teaches,
Creed no longer of wrath, of silent issueless hopes, of a thing which beyond Man's reach is,
Hope deferred till the heart grows sick, while the preacher vainly preaches.
Nay but a logic of life, which needeth no deferring,
Life with its birthright love, the sun the wind and the rain in multiple pleasure stirring
Under the summer leaves at noon, with no sad doubt of erring,
No sad legend of sin, since his an innocent Eden
Is, and a garden of grace, its gateway clear of the sword, its alleys not angel--ridden,
Its tree of life at the lips of all and never a fruit forbidden.
Merlyn is no vain singer to vex men's ears in the street,
Nay, nor a maid's unbidden. He importuneth none with his song, be it never so wild and sweet.
She that hath ears to hear, let her hear; he will not follow her feet.
Merlyn makes no petition. He asketh of no man alms.
Prince and prophet is he, a monarch, a giver of gifts, a lord of the open plams,
Sueth he naught, not at God's own hand, though he laudeth the Lord in psalms.
Merlyn would speak his message only to hearts that are strong,
To him that hath courage to climb, who would gather time's samphire flowers, who would venture the crags among.
To her who would lesson her soul to fear, with love for sermon and song.
Merlyn hath arms of pity, the weak he would hold to his soul,
Make them partakers of truth, of the ancient weal of the Earth, of the life--throb from Pole to Pole.
He would hold them close; he would dry their tears; with a kiss he would make them whole.
Thus would he sing and to thee, thou child with the eyes of passion
Watching his face in the dark, in the silent light of the stars, while he in his godlike fashion
Maketh his mock at the fears of men, nor spareth to lay the lash on.
Thus would thy Merlyn devise, ere the days of his years be numbered,
Now at threescore and ten. He would leave his word to the world, his soul of its load uncumbered.
Then would he lay his ear to the grave, and sleep as his childhood slumbered.
What is the fruit of Wisdom? To learn the proportion of things;
To know the ant from the lion, the whale from the crest of the wave, the ditty the grasshopper sings
From the chaunt of the full--fledged Paradise bird as he shakes the dew from his wings.
There is one thing more than knowledge, a harvest garnered by few:
To tutor the heart to achieve, to fashion the act to the hand, to do and not yearn to do,
To say to the wish of the soul ``I will,'' to have gathered the flower where it grew.
I was young, and they told me ``Tarry. The rash in the nets are taken.
If there be doubt of thy deed, abstain, lest the day of danger behold thee by these forsaken,
Lest thou lie in the lion's den thou hast roused, with the eyes thou hast dared to waken.''
They spake, but I answered ``Nay, who waiteth shall take no quarry.
Pleasure is fleet as the roe; in the vales he feedeth to--day, but at nightwhen the eyes grow weary
Lo, he hath passed to the desolate hills; he is gone. Nay, he may not tarry.''
For Joy too needeth a net. He cometh tame to thy hand,
Asketh an alms of thy life, to serve thee, thy jubilant slave, if thou wouldst but understand.
Then is thy moment, O Man, for the noose, be it steel or a silken band.
Therefore, where doubt is, do! Thou shalt stumble in thine endeavour,
Ay, till thy knees be sore, thy back with the arrows of grief, and thou stand with an empty quiver.
Yet shall thy heart prevail through its pain, for pain is a mastering lever.
Wouldst thou be wise, O Man? At the knees of a woman begin.
Her eyes shall teach thee thy road, the worth of the thing called pleasure, the joy of the thing called sin.
Else shalt thou go to thy grave in pain for the folly that might have been.
For know, the knowledge of women the beginning of wisdom is.
Who had seven hundred wives and concubines hundreds three, as we read in the book of bliss?
Solomon, wisest of men and kings, and ``all of them princesses.''
Yet, be thou stronger than they. To be ruled of a woman is ill.
Life hath an hundred ways, beside the way of her arms, to give thee of joy thy fill.
Only is love of thy life the flower. Be thine the ultimate will.
A right way is to be happy, a wrong way too. Then beware.
Leave the colt in his stall, he shall grow to a thankless jade, be he never so fat and fair.
Sloth is a crime. Rise up, young fool, and grasp thy joy by the hair.
What is the motto of youth? There is only one. Be thou strong.
Do thy work and achieve, with thy brain, with thy hands, with thy heart, the deeds which to strength belong.
Strike each day thy blow for the right, or failing strike for the wrong.
He that would gain let him give. The shut hand hardly shall win.
Open thy palms to the poor, O thou of the indigent heart. There shall pleas ure be poured therein.
Use thy soul to the cord of joy. If thou sin must, strongly sin.
Cast thy whole heart away. The Earth, philosophers tell,
Leaps to a pebble thrown, be it never so little; it moved to the bidding of that which fell.
Throw thy heart! Thou shalt move the world, though thou fall on the floor of Hell.
Few have the courage of loving. Faint hearts! The loss is theirs.
Few of their idlest whims. ``I would win to Rome ere I die,'' one cried in his daily cares,
Yet plods on on 'Change to his grave, the slave of his stocks and shares.
Learn to appraise thy desires, to weigh the wares of thy heart.
If thou wouldst play with pleasure, avoid Love's passionate tides, its perilous Ocean chart,
Hug the shores of Love's inland seas, and buy thy joys in the mart.
Love lightly, but marry at leisure. Wild Love is a flower of the field
Waiting all hands to gather and ours. If we leave it another will win it and kneel where we kneeled.
Marriage is one tame garden rose in a garden fenced and sealed.
O thou who art sitting silent! Youth, with the eyelids of grief!
How shall I rouse thee to wit? Thou hast stolen the joy of our world. Thouscornest its vain relief.
Nay, she is here. Be thy tongue set free. Play up, thou eloquent thief.
Doubt not thy absolution, sinner, who darest to sin.
So thou prevail in the end, she shall hold thee guiltless of guile, a hero, a paladin.
The end in her eyes hath thee justified, whatever thy means have been.
Love is of body and body, the physical passion of joy;
The desire of the man for the maid, her nakedness strained to his own; the mother's who suckles her boy
With the passionate flow of her naked breast. All else is a fraudulent toy.
Of the house where Love is the master thy beauty may hold the key.
It shall open the hall--door wide, shout loud thy name to its lord. Yet, wouldst thou its full guest be,
Bring with thee other than beauty, wit. Then sit at the feast made free.
``To talk of love is to make love.'' Truly, a maxim of price.
Nathless the noblest soul, shouldst thou tell her of passionate things and fail to gaze in her eyes,
Shall hold thee cheap in her woman's pride, a clown for thy courtesies.
Love hath two mountain summits, the first where pleasure was born
Faint in the cloud--land of light, a vision of possible hope; the second a tempest--torn
Crag where passion is lord and king. Betwixt them what vales forlorn!
Happiness needs to be learned. In youth the ideal woman
Gazed at afar was a dream, a priceless untouchable prize, while she in your arms, too human,
Mocked you with love. 'Tis an art learned late; alas, and the whole by no man.
O! thou in the purple gendered. Thou needst pain for thy case.
Lose thy health or thy heart. Be bowed in thy soul's despond. Be whelmed in a world's disgrace.
So shall thy eyes be unsealed of pride and see Love face to face.
If thou wouldst win love, speak. She shall read the truth on thy lips.
Spoken vows shall prevail, the spell of thy eloquent hand, the flame of thy finger--tips.
Write? She is reading another's eyes while thy sad pen dips and dips.
Thou hast ventured a letter of passion, in ease of thy passionate heart?
Nay, be advised; there is fear, mischance in the written word, when lovers are far apart.
Pain is betrayed by the subtle pen where lips prevailed without art.
Love is a fire. In the lighting, it raiseth a treacherous smoke,
Telling its tale to the world; but anon, growing clear in its flame, may be hid by an old wife's cloak,
And the world learn nothing more and forget the knowledge its smouldering woke.
Comes there a trouble upon thee? Be silent, nor own the debt.
Friendship kicks at the goda; thy naked state is its shame; thou hast angered these with thy fret.
Wait. The world shall forgive thy sin. It asks but leave to forget.
The world is an indolent house--shrew. It scolds but cares not to know
Whether in fancy or fact. What it thinks we have done, that it scourges; the true thing we did it lets go.
What matter? We fare less ill than our act, ay, all of us; more be our woe!
There are days when wisdom is witless, when folly is noble, sublime.
Let us thank the dear gods for our madness, the rush of the blood in our veins, the exuberant pulsings of Time,
And pray, while we sin the forbidden sin, we be spared our penance of crime.
There are habits and customs of passion. Long loves are a tyrannous debt.
But to some there is custom of change, the desire of the untrodden ways, with sunshine of days that were wet,
Of the four fair wives of love's kindly law by licence of Mahomet.
Experience all is of use, save one, to have angered a friend.
Break thy heart for a maid; another shall love thee anon. The gold shall return thou didst spend,
Ay, and thy beaten back grow whole. But friendship's grave is the end.
Why do I love thee, brother? We have shared what things in our youth,
Battle and siege and triumph, together, always together, in wanderings North and South.
But one thing shared binds nearer than all, the kisses of one sweet mouth.
He that hath loved the mother shall love the daughter no less,
Sister the younger sister. There are tones how sweet to his ear, gestures that plead and press,
Echoes fraught with remembered things that cry in the silences.
Fly from thy friend in his fortune, his first days of wealth, of fame;
Or, if thou needest to meet him, do thou as the children of Noah, walk back wards and guard thee from blame.
He who saw found forgiveness none. With thee it were haply the same.
Bridegroom, thy pride is unseemly. Thou boastest abroad, with a smile,
Thou hast read our humanity's riddle. Nay, wait yet a year with thy bride; she shall lesson thee wiser the while.
Then shalt thou blush for thy words to--day, the shame of thy innocent guile.
The love of a girl is a taper lit on a windy night.
Awhile it lightens our darkness, consoles with its pure sudden flame, and the shadows around it grow white.
Anon with a rain--gust of tears it is gone, and we blink more blind for the light.
Sage, thou art proud of thy knowledge, what mountains and marvels seen!
Thou hast loved how madly, how often! hast known what wiles of the heart, what ways of maid, wife and quean!
Yet shalt thou still be betrayed by love, befooled like a boy on the green.
Oh, there is honour in all love. Have lips once kissed thee, be dumb,
Save in their only praise. To cheapen the thing thou hast loved is to bite at thyself thy thumb,
To shout thy own fool's fault to the world, and beat thy shame on a drum.
Who hath dared mock at thy beauty, Lady? Who deemeth thee old?
If he had seen thee anon in the tender light of thine eyes, as I saw thee, what tales had he told
Of ruined kingdoms and kings for one, of misers spending their gold!
Friendship or Love? You ask it: which binds with the stronger tether?
Friendship? Thy comrade of youth, who laughed with thee on thy road? What ailed him in that rough weather,
When to thy bosom Love's angel crept, twin tragedies locked together?
Friendship is fostered with gifts. Be it so; little presents? Yes.
Friendship! But ah, not Love, since love is itself Love's gift and it angereth him to have less.
Woe to the lover who dares to bring more wealth than his tenderness.
This to the woman: Forbear his gifts, the man's thou wouldst hold.
Cheerfully he shall give and thou nothing guess, yet anon he shall weigh thee in scales of his gold.
Woe to thee then if the charge be more than a heartache's cost all told.
Thou art tempted, a passion unworthy? Long struggle hath dulled thy brain?
How shalt thou save thee, poor soul? How buy back the peace of thy days? If of rest thou be fain,
Oft is there virtue in yielding all; thou shalt not be tempted again.
Sacrifice truly is noble. Yet, Lady, ponder thy fate.
Many a victory, won in tears by her who forbore, hath ruined her soul's estate.
Virtue's prize was too dear a whim, the price agreed to too great.
Virtue or vice? Which, think you, should need more veil for her face?
Virtue hath little fear; she goeth in unchaste guise; she ventureth all disgrace.
Poor Vice hid in her shame sits dumb while a stranger taketh her place.
Chastity? Who is unchaste? The church--wed wife, without blame
Yielding her body nightly, a lack--love indolent prize, to the lord of her legal shame?
Or she, the outlawed passionate soul? Their carnal act is the same.
In youth it is well thou lovest. The fire in thee burneth strong.
Choose whom thou wilt, it kindleth; a beggar--maid or a queen, she shall carry the flame along.
Only in age to be loved is best; her right shall repair thy wrong.
Lady, wouldst fly with thy lover? Alas, he loves thee to--day.
How shall it be to--morrow? He saw thee a bird in the air, a rose on its thorny spray.
He would take thee? What shalt thou be in his hand? A burden to bear alway.
Women love beauty in women, a thing to uphold, to adore,
To vaunt for all womanhood's fame, a seemly sweet fitness of body, adorned with all virtuous lore.
Beauty, but not of the kind men prize. On that they would set small store.
What is there cruel as fear? A falcon rending her prey
Showeth an evil eye, but to him she loveth is kind; her rage she shall put away.
But a frightened woman hath pity none. Though she love thee, yet shall she slay.
Show not thy sin to thy son. He shall judge thee harder than these.
All the servants of Noah beheld his shame in the house and loyally held their peace.
Ham alone at his father laughed, made jest of his nakedness.
Cast not loose thy religion, whether believing or no.
Heavy it is with its rule, a burden laid on thy back, a sombre mask at the show.
Yet shall it cloak thee in days of storm, a shield when life's whirlwinds blow.
As to the tree its ivy, so virtue is to the soul.
All the winter long it clothed us in leafage green, and the forest paid us its toll.
Now it is Spring and the rest rejoice while we stand drear in our dole.
Thy love of children is well. Yet a peril lurketh therein.
See lest thy sloth take excuse of thy fondness. Nay, coward art thou, and thine is the pestilent sin.
Shift wouldst thou thy burden of life, the blame of thy ``might have been.''
Courage we all find enough to bear the mischance of our friends.
How many tortured souls have gone to their self--made graves through wreck of their own mad ends:
But no man yet hath his weazand slit for his neighbour's pain in amends.
Fear not to change thy way, since change is of growth, life's sign.
The Child in his growing body, the Sage in his gathered lore, the Saint in his growths divine,
All find pleasure but Age which weeps the unchanging years' decline.
Whence is our fountain of tears? We weep in childhood for pain,
Anon for triumph in manhood, the sudden glory of praise, the giant mastered and slain.
Age weeps only for love renewed and pleasure come back again.
What is our personal self? A fading record of days
Held in our single brain, memory linked with memory back to our childhood's ways.
Beyond it what? A tradition blurred of gossip and nursemaid says.
Why dost thou plain of thine age, O thou with the beard that is thin?
Art thou alone in thy home? Is there none at thy side, not one, to deem thee a man among men?
Nay, thou art young while she holds thy hand, be thy years the threescore and ten.
The world is untimely contrived. It gives us our sunshine in summer,
Its laughing face in our youth, when we need it not to be gay, being each one his own best mummer.
All its frown is for life that goes, its smile for the last new comer.
Europe a horologe is, ill mounted and clogged with grime,
Asia a clock run down. Its hands on the dial are still; its hours are toldby no chime.
Nathless, twice in the twenty--four, it shall tell thee exactly the time.
What is the profit of knowledge? Ah none, though to know not is pain!
We grieve like a child in the dark; we grope for a chink at the door, for a way of escape from the chain;
We beat on life's lock with our bleeding hands, till it opens. And where is the gain?
I have tried all pleasures but one, the last and sweetest; it waits.
Childhood, the childhood of age, to totter again on the lawns, to have done with the loves and the hates,
To gather the daisies, and drop them, and sleep on the nursing knees of the Fates.
I asked of the wise man ``Tell me, what age is the age of pleasure?
Twenty years have I lived. I have spread my meshes in vain. I have taken a paltry treasure.
Where is the heart of the gold?'' And he, ``I will tell thee anon at leisure.''
I pleaded at thirty ``Listen. I have played, I have lost, I have won.
I have loved in joy and sorrow. My life is a burden grown with the thought of its sands outrun.
Where is the joy of our years? At forty?'' ``Say it is just begun.''
At forty I made love's mourning. I stood alone with my foes,
Foot to foot with my Fate, as a man at grips with a man, returning blows for blows.
In the joy of battle ``'Tis here'' I cried. But the wise man, ``Nay, who knows?''
At fifty I walked sedately. At sixty I took my rest.
I had learned the good with the evil. I troubled my soul no more, I had reached the Isles of the Blest.
The sage was dead who had warned my fears. I was wise, I too, with the best.
What do we know of Being? Our own? How short lived, how base!
That which is not our own? The eternal enrolment of stars, the voids and the silences!
The enormous might of the mindless globes whirling through infinite space!
The infinite Great overhead, the infinite Little beneath!
The turn of the cellular germ, the giddy evolving of life in the intricate struggle for breath,
The microbe, the mote alive in the blood, the eyeless atom of death!
Yet which is the greater Being? We have dreamed of a life--giving God,
Him, the mind of the Sun, the conscious brain--flower of Space, with a cosmic form and abode,
With thought and pity and power of will, Humanity's ethical code.
We have dreamed, but we do not believe. Be He here, be He not, 'tis as one.
His Godhead, how does it help? He is far. He is blind to our need. Nay, nay, He is less than the Sun,
Less than the least of the tremulous stars, than our old scorned idols of stone.
For He heareth not, nor seeth. As we to the motes in our blood,
So is He to our lives, a possible symbol of power, a formula half understood.
But the voice of Him, where? the hand grip, where? A child's cry lost in a wood.
Therefore is Matter monarch, the eternal the infinite Thing,
The ``I that am'' which reigneth, which showeth no shadow of change, while humanities wane and spring,
Which saith ``Make no vain Gods before me, who only am Lord and King.''
What then is Merlyn's message, his word to thee weary of pain,
Man, on thy desolate march, thy search for an adequate cause, for a thread, for a guiding rein,
Still in the maze of thy doubts and fears, to bring thee thy joy again?
Thou hast tried to climb to the sky; thou hast called it a firmament;
Thou hast found it a thing infirm, a heaven which is no haven, a bladder punctured and rent,
A mansion frail as the rainbow mist, as thy own soul impotent.
Thou hast clung to a dream in thy tears; thou hast stayed thy rage with a hope;
Thou hast anchored thy wreck to a reed, a cobweb spread for thy sail, with sand for thy salvage rope;
Thou hast made thy course with a compass marred, a toy for thy telescope.
What hast thou done with thy days? Bethink thee, Man, that alone,
Thou of all sentient things, hast learned to grieve in thy joy, hast earned thee the malison
Of going sad without cause of pain, a weeper and woebegone.
Why? For the dream of a dream of another than this fair life
Joyous to all but thee, by every creature beloved in its spring--time of passion rife,
By every creature but only thee, sad husband with sadder wife,
Scared at thought of the end, at the simple logic of death,
Scared at the old Earth's arms outstretched to hold thee again, thou child of an hour, of a breath,
Seeking refuge with all but her, the mother that comforteth.
Merlyn's message is this: he would bid thee have done with pride.
What has it brought thee but grief, thy parentage with the Gods, thy kinship with beasts denied?
What thy lore of a life to come in a cloud--world deified?
O thou child which art Man, distraught with a shadow of ill!
O thou fool of thy dreams, thou gatherer rarely of flowers but of fungi ofevil smell,
Posion growths of the autumn woods, rank mandrake and mort--morell!
Take thy joy with the rest, the bird, the beast of the field,
Each one wiser than thou, which frolic in no dismay, which seize what the seasons yield,
And lay thee down when thy day is done content with the unrevealed.
Take the thing which thou hast. Forget thy kingdom unseen.
Lean thy lips on the Earth; she shall bring new peace to thy eyes with her healing vesture green.
Drink once more at her fount of love, the one true hippocrene.
O thou child of thy fears! Nay, shame on thy childish part
Weeping when called to thy bed. Take cheer. When the shadows come, when the crowd is leaving the mart,
Then shalt thou learn that thou needest sleep, Death's kindly arms for thy heart.
- quotes about strength
- quotes about wisdom
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about friendship
- quotes about youth
- quotes about art
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about pain
The Interpretation of Nature and
MAN, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature: beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.
Neither the naked hand nor the understanding left to itself can effect much. It is by instruments and helps that the work is done, which are as much wanted for the understanding as for the hand. And as the instruments of the hand either give motion or guide it, so the instruments of the mind supply either suggestions for the understanding or cautions.
Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.
Towards the effecting of works, all that man can do is to put together or put asunder natural bodies. The rest is done by nature working within.
The study of nature with a view to works is engaged in by the mechanic, the mathematician, the physician, the alchemist, and the magician; but by all (as things now are) with slight endeavour and scanty success.
It would be an unsound fancy and self-contradictory to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried.
The productions of the mind and hand seem very numerous in books and manufactures. But all this variety lies in an exquisite subtlety and derivations from a few things already known; not in the number of axioms.
Moreover the works already known are due to chance and experiment rather than to sciences; for the sciences we now possess are merely systems for the nice ordering and setting forth of things already invented; not methods of invention or directions for new works.
The cause and root of nearly all evils in the sciences is this -- that while we falsely admire and extol the powers of the human mind we neglect to seek for its true helps.
The subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of the senses and understanding; so that all those specious meditations, speculations, and glosses in which men indulge are quite from the purpose, only there is no one by to observe it.
As the sciences which we now have do not help us in finding out new works, so neither does the logic which we now have help us in finding out new sciences.
The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions than to help the search after truth. So it does more harm than good.
The syllogism is not applied to the first principles of sciences, and is applied in vain to intermediate axioms; being no match for the subtlety of nature. It commands assent therefore to the proposition, but does not take hold of the thing.
The syllogism consists of propositions, propositions consist of words, words are symbols of notions. Therefore if the notions themselves (which is the root of the matter) are confused and over-hastily abstracted from the facts, there can be no firmness in the superstructure. Our only hope therefore lies in a true induction.
There is no soundness in our notions whether logical or physical. Substance, Quality, Action, Passion, Essence itself, are not sound notions: much less are Heavy, Light, Dense, Rare, Moist, Dry, Generation, Corruption, Attraction, Repulsion, Element, Matter, Form, and the like; but all are fantastical and ill defined.
Our notions of less general species, as Man, Dog, Dove, and of the immediate perceptions of the sense, as Hot, Cold, Black, White, do not materially mislead us; yet even these are sometimes confused by the flux and alteration of matter and the mixing of one thing with another. All the others which men have hitherto adopted are but wanderings, not being abstracted and formed from things by proper methods.
Nor is there less of wilfulness and wandering in the construction of axioms than in the formations of notions; not excepting even those very principles which are obtained by common induction; but much more in the axioms and lower propositions educed by the syllogism.
The discoveries which have hitherto been made in the sciences are such as lie close to vulgar notions, scarcely beneath the surface. In order to penetrate into the inner and further recesses of nature, it is necessary that both notions and axioms be derived from things by a more sure and guarded way; and that a method of intellectual operation be introduced altogether better and more certain.
There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immovable, proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle axioms. And this way is now in fashion. The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by a gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried.
The understanding left to itself takes the same course (namely, the former) which it takes in accordance with logical order. For the mind longs to spring up to positions of higher generality, that it may find rest there; and so after a little while wearies of experiment. But this evil is increased by logic, because of the order and solemnity of its disputations.
The understanding left to itself, in a sober, patient, and grave mind, especially if it be not hindered by received doctrines, tries a little that other way, which is the right one, but with little progress; since the understanding, unless directed and assisted, is a thing unequal, and quite unfit to contend with the obscurity of things.
Both ways set out from the senses and particulars, and rest in the highest generalities; but the difference between them is infinite. For the one just glances at experiment and particulars in passing, the other dwells duly and orderly among them. The one, again, begins at once by establishing certain abstract and useless generalities, the other rises by gradual steps to that which is prior and better known in the order of nature.
There is a great difference between the Idols of the human mind and the Ideas of the divine. That is to say, between certain empty dogmas, and the true signatures and marks set upon the works of creation as they are found in nature.
It cannot be that axioms established by argumentation should avail for the discovery of new works; since the subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of argument. But axioms duly and orderly formed from particulars easily discover the way to new particulars, and thus render sciences active.
The axioms now in use, having been suggested by a scanty and manipular experience and a few particulars of most general occurrence, are made for the most part just large enough to fit and take these in: and therefore it is no wonder if they do not lead to new particulars. And if some opposite instance, not observed or not known before, chance to come in the way, the axiom is rescued and preserved by some frivolous distinction; whereas the truer course would be to correct the axiom itself.
The conclusions of human reason as ordinarily applied in matter of nature, I call for the sake of distinction Anticipations of Nature (as a thing rash or premature). That reason which is elicited from facts by a just and methodical process, I call Interpretation of Nature.
Anticipations are a ground sufficiently firm for consent; for even if men went mad all after the same fashion, they might agree one with another well enough.
For the winning of assent, indeed, anticipations are far more powerful than interpretations; because being collected from a few instances, and those for the most part of familiar occurrence, they straightway touch the understanding and fill the imagination; whereas interpretations on the other hand, being gathered here and there from very various and widely dispersed facts, cannot suddenly strike the understanding; and therefore they must needs, in respect of the opinions of the time, seem harsh and out of tune; much as the mysteries of faith do.
In sciences founded on opinions and dogmas, the use of anticipations and logic is good; for in them the object is to command assent to the proposition, not to master the thing.
Though all the wits of all the ages should meet together and combine and transmit their labours, yet will no great progress ever be made in science by means of anticipations; because radical errors in the first concoction of the mind are not to be cured by the excellence of functions and remedies subsequent.
It is idle to expect any great advancement in science from the superinducing and engrafting of new things upon old. We must begin anew from the very foundations, unless we would revolve for ever in a circle with mean and contemptible progress.
The honour of the ancient authors, and indeed of all, remains untouched; since the comparison I challenge is not of wits or faculties, but of ways and methods, and the part I take upon myself is not that of a judge, but of a guide.
This must be plainly avowed: no judgment can be rightly formed either of my method or of the discoveries to which it leads, by means of anticipations (that is to say, of the reasoning which is now in use); since I cannot be called on to abide by the sentence of a tribunal which is itself on its trial.
Even to deliver and explain what I bring forward is no easy matter; for things in themselves new will yet be apprehended with reference to what is old.
It was said by Borgia of the expedition of the French into Italy, that they came with chalk in their hands to mark out their lodgings, not with arms to force their way in. I in like manner would have my doctrine enter quietly into the minds that are fit and capable of receiving it; for confutations cannot be employed, when the difference is upon first principles and very notions and even upon forms of demonstration.
One method of delivery alone remains to us; which is simply this: we must lead men to the particulars themselves, and their series and order; while men on their side must force themselves for awhile to lay their notions by and begin to familiarise themselves with facts.
The doctrine of those who have denied that certainty could be attained at all, has some agreement with my way of proceeding at the first setting out; but they end in being infinitely separated and opposed. For the holders of that doctrine assert simply that nothing can be known; I also assert that not much can be known in nature by the way which is now in use. But then they go on to destroy the authority of the senses and understanding; whereas I proceed to devise and supply helps for the same.
The idols and false notions which are now in possession of the human understanding, and have taken deep root therein, not only so beset men's minds that truth can hardly find entrance, but even after entrance obtained, they will again in the very instauration of the sciences meet and trouble us, unless men being forewarned of the danger fortify themselves as far as may be against their assaults.
There are four classes of Idols which beset men's minds. To these for distinction's sake I have assigned names, -- calling the first class Idols of the Tribe; the second, Idols of the Cave; the third, Idols of the Market-place; the fourth, Idols of the Theatre.
The formation of ideas and axioms by true induction is no doubt the proper remedy to be applied for the keeping off and clearing away of idols. To point them out, however, is of great use; for the doctrine of Idols is to the Interpretation of Nature what the doctrine of the refutation of Sophisms is to common Logic.
The Idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense as of the mind are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolours the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.
The Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual man. For every one (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolours the light of nature; owing either to his own proper and peculiar nature; or to his education and conversation with others; or to the reading of books, and the authority of those whom he esteems and admires; or to the differences of impressions, accordingly as they take place in a mind preoccupied and predisposed or in a mind indifferent and settled; or the like. So that the spirit of man (according as it is meted out to different individuals) is in fact a thing variable and full of perturbation, and governed as it were by chance. Whence it was well observed by Heraclitus that men look for sciences in their own lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.
There are also Idols formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other, which I call Idols of the Market-place, on account of the commerce and consort of men there. For it is by discourse that men associate; and words are imposed according to the apprehension of the vulgar. And therefore the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding. Nor do the definitions or explanations wherewith in some things learned men are wont to guard and defend themselves, by any means set the matter right. But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies.
Lastly, there are Idols which have immigrated into men's minds from the various dogmas of philosophies, and also from wrong laws of demonstration. These I call Idols of the Theatre; because in my judgment all the received systems are but so many stage-plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion. Nor is it only of the systems now in vogue, or only of the ancient sects and philosophies, that I speak; for many more plays of the same kind may yet be composed and in like artificial manner set forth; seeing that errors the most widely different have nevertheless causes for the most part alike. Neither again do I mean this only of entire systems, but also of many principles and axioms in science, which by tradition, credulity, and negligence have come to be received.
But of these several kinds of Idols I must speak more largely and exactly, that the understanding may be duly cautioned.
The human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds. And though there be many things in nature which are singular and unmatched, yet it devises for them parallels and conjugates and relatives which do not exist. Hence the fiction that all celestial bodies move in perfect circles; spirals and dragons being (except in name) utterly rejected. Hence too the element of Fire with its orb is brought in, to make up the square with the other three which the sense perceives. Hence also the ratio of density of the so-called elements is arbitrarily fixed at ten to one. And so on of other dreams. And these fancies affect not dogmas only, but simple notions also.
The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects; in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods, -- "Aye," asked he again, "but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?" And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by. But with far more subtlety does this mischief insinuate itself into philosophy and the sciences; in which the first conclusion colours and brings into conformity with itself all that come after, though far sounder and better. Besides, independently of that delight and vanity which I have described, it is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human intellect to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives; whereas it ought properly to hold itself indifferently disposed towards both alike. Indeed in the establishment of any true axiom, the negative instance is the more forcible of the two.
The human understanding is moved by those things most which strike and enter the mind simultaneously and suddenly, and so fill the imagination; and then it feigns and supposes all other things to be somehow, though it cannot see how, similar to those few things by which it is surrounded. But for that going to and fro to remote and heterogeneous instances, by which axioms are tried as in the fire, the intellect is altogether slow and unfit, unless it be forced thereto by severe laws and overruling authority.
The human understanding is unquiet; it cannot stop or rest, and still presses onward, but in vain. Therefore it is that we cannot conceive of any end or limit to the world; but always as of necessity it occurs to us that there is something beyond. Neither again can it be conceived how eternity has flowed down to the present day; for that distinction which is commonly received of infinity in time past and in time to come can by no means hold; for it would thence follow that one infinity is greater than another, and that infinity is wasting away and tending to become finite. The like subtlety arises touching the infinite divisibility of lines, from the same inability of thought to stop. But this inability interferes more mischievously in the discovery of causes: for although the most general principles in nature ought to be held merely positive, as they are discovered, and cannot with truth be referred to a cause; nevertheless the human understanding being unable to rest still seeks something prior in the order of nature. And then it is that in struggling towards that which is further off it falls back upon that which is more nigh at hand; namely, on final causes: which have relation clearly to the nature of man rather than to the nature of the universe; and from this source have strangely defiled philosophy. But he is no less an unskilled and shallow philosopher who seeks causes of that which is most general, than he who in things subordinate and subaltern omits to do so.
The human understanding is no dry light, but receives an infusion from the will and affections; whence proceed sciences which may be called "sciences as one would." For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections colour and infect the understanding.
But by far the greatest hindrance and aberration of the human understanding proceeds from the dullness, incompetency, and deceptions of the senses; in that things which strike the sense outweigh things which do not immediately strike it, though they be more important. Hence it is that speculation commonly ceases where sight ceases; insomuch that of things invisible there is little or no observation. Hence all the working of the spirits inclosed in tangible bodies lies hid and unobserved of men. So also all the more subtle changes of form in the parts of coarser substances (which they commonly call alteration, though it is in truth local motion through exceedingly small spaces) is in like manner unobserved. And yet unless these two things just mentioned be searched out and brought to light, nothing great can be achieved in nature, as far as the production of works is concerned. So again the essential nature of our common air, and of all bodies less dense than air (which are very many), is almost unknown. For the sense by itself is a thing infirm and erring; neither can instruments for enlarging or sharpening the senses do much; but all the truer kind of interpretation of nature is effected by instances and experiments fit and apposite; wherein the sense decides touching the experiment only, and the experiment touching the point in nature and the thing itself.
The human understanding is of its own nature prone to abstractions and gives a substance and reality to things which are fleeting. But to resolve nature into abstractions is less to our purpose than to dissect her into parts; as did the school of Democritus, which went further into nature than the rest. Matter rather than forms should be the object of our attention, its configurations and changes of configuration, and simple action, and law of action or motion; for forms are figments of the human mind, unless you will call those laws of action forms.
Such then are the idols which I call Idols of the Tribe; and which take their rise either from the homogeneity of the substance of the human spirit, or from its preoccupation, or from its narrowness, or from its restless motion, or from an infusion of the affections, or from the incompetency of the senses, or from the mode of impression.
The Idols of the Cave take their rise in the peculiar constitution, mental or bodily, of each individual; and also in education, habit, and accident. Of this kind there is a great number and variety; but I will instance those the pointing out of which contains the most important caution, and which have most effect in disturbing the clearness of the understanding.
Men become attached to certain particular sciences and speculations, either because they fancy themselves the authors and inventors thereof, or because they have bestowed the greatest pains upon them and become most habituated to them. But men of this kind, if they betake themselves to philosophy and contemplations of a general character, distort and colour them in obedience to their former fancies; a thing especially to be noticed in Aristotle, who made his natural philosophy a mere bond-servant to his logic, thereby rendering it contentious and well nigh useless. The race of chemists again out of a few experiments of the furnace have built up a fantastic philosophy, framed with reference to a few things; and Gilbert also, after he had employed himself most laboriously in the study and observation of the loadstone, proceeded at once to construct an entire system in accordance with his favourite subject.
There is one principal and as it were radical distinction between different minds, in respect of philosophy and the sciences; which is this: that some minds are stronger and apter to mark the differences of things, others to mark their resemblances. The steady and acute mind can fix its contemplations and dwell and fasten on the subtlest distinctions: the lofty and discursive mind recognises and puts together the finest and most general resemblances. Both kinds however easily err in excess, by catching the one at gradations the other at shadows.
There are found some minds given to an extreme admiration of antiquity, others to an extreme love and appetite for novelty: but few so duly tempered that they can hold the mean, neither carping at what has been well laid down by the ancients, nor despising what is well introduced by the moderns. This however turns to the great injury of the sciences and philosophy; since these affectations of antiquity and novelty are the humours of partisans rather than judgments; and truth is to be sought for not in the felicity of any age, which is an unstable thing, but in the light of nature and experience, which is eternal. These factions therefore must be abjured, and care must be taken that the intellect be not hurried by them into assent.
Contemplations of nature and of bodies in their simple form break up and distract the understanding, while contemplations of nature and bodies in their composition and configuration overpower and dissolve the understanding: a distinction well seen in the school of Leucippus and Democritus as compared with the other philosophies. For that school is so busied with the particles that it hardly attends to the structure; while the others are so lost in admiration of the structure that they do not penetrate to the simplicity of nature. These kinds of contemplation should therefore be alternated and taken by turns; that so the understanding may be rendered at once penetrating and comprehensive, and the inconveniences above mentioned, with the idols which proceed from them, may be avoided.
Let such then be our provision and contemplative prudence for keeping off and dislodging the Idols of the Cave, which grow for the most part either out of the predominance of a favourite subject, or out of an excessive tendency to compare or to distinguish, or out of partiality for particular ages, or out of the largeness or minuteness of the objects contemplated. And generally let every student of nature take this as a rule, -- that whatever his mind seizes and dwells upon with peculiar satisfaction is to be held in suspicion, and that so much the more care is to be taken in dealing with such questions to keep the understanding even and clear.
But the Idols of the Market-place are the most troublesome of all: idols which have crept into the understanding through the alliances of words and names. For men believe that their reason governs words; but it is also true that words react on the understanding; and this it is that has rendered philosophy and the sciences sophistical and inactive. Now words, being commonly framed and applied according to the capacity of the vulgar, follow those lines of division which are most obvious to the vulgar understanding. And whenever an understanding of greater acuteness or a more diligent observation would alter those lines to suit the true divisions of nature, words stand in the way and resist the change. Whence it comes to pass that the high and formal discussions of learned men end oftentimes in disputes about words and names; with which (according to the use and wisdom of the mathematicians) it would be more prudent to begin, and so by means of definitions reduce them to order. Yet even definitions cannot cure this evil in dealing with natural and material things; since the definitions themselves consist of words, and those words beget others: so that it is necessary to recur to individual instances, and those in due series and order; as I shall say presently when I come to the method and scheme for the formation of notions and axioms.
The idols imposed by words on the understanding are of two kinds. They are either names of things which do not exist (for as there are things left unnamed through lack of observation, so likewise are there names which result from fantastic suppositions and to which nothing in reality corresponds), or they are names of things which exist, but yet confused and ill-defined, and hastily and irregularly derived from realities. Of the former kind are Fortune, the Prime Mover, Planetary Orbits, Element of Fire, and like fictions which owe their origin to false and idle theories. And this class of idols is more easily expelled, because to get rid of them it is only necessary that all theories should be steadily rejected and dismissed as obsolete.
But the other class, which springs out of a faulty and unskilful abstraction, is intricate and deeply rooted. Let us take for example such a word as humid; and see how far the several things which the word is used to signify agree with each other; and we shall find the word humid to be nothing else than a mark loosely and confusedly applied to denote a variety of actions which will not bear to be reduced to any constant meaning. For it both signifies that which easily spreads itself round any other body; and that which in itself is indeterminate and cannot solidise; and that which readily yields in every direction; and that which easily divides and scatters itself; and that which easily unites and collects itself; and that which readily flows and is put in motion; and that which readily clings to another body and wets it; and that which is easily reduced to a liquid, or being solid easily melts. Accordingly when you come to apply the word, -- if you take it in one sense, flame is humid; if in another, air is not humid; if in another, fine dust is humid; if in another, glass is humid. So that it is easy to see that the notion is taken by abstraction only from water and common and ordinary liquids, without any due verification.
There are however in words certain degrees of distortion and error. One of the least faulty kinds is that of names of substances, especially of lowest species and well-deduced (for the notion of chalk and of mud is good, of earth bad); a more faulty kind is that of actions, as to generate, to corrupt, to alter; the most faulty is of qualities (except such as are the immediate objects of the sense) as heavy, light, rare, dense, and the like. Yet in all these cases some notions are of necessity a little better than others, in proportion to the greater variety of subjects that fall within the range of the human sense.
But the Idols of the Theatre are not innate, nor do they steal into the understanding secretly, but are plainly impressed and received into the mind from the play-books of philosophical systems and the perverted rules of demonstration. To attempt refutations in this case would be merely inconsistent with what I have already said: for since we agree neither upon principles nor upon demonstrations there is no place for argument. And this is so far well, inasmuch as it leaves the honour of the ancients untouched. For they are no wise disparaged the question between them and me being only as to the way. For as the saying is, the lame man who keeps the right road outstrips the runner who takes a wrong one. Nay it is obvious that when a man runs the wrong way, the more active and swift he is the further he will go astray.
But the course I propose for the discovery of sciences is such as leaves but little to the acuteness and strength of wits, but places all wits and understandings nearly on a level. For as in the drawing of a straight line or a perfect circle, much depends on the steadiness and practice of the hand, if it be done by aim of hand only, but if with the aid of rule or compass, little or nothing; so is it exactly with my plan. But though particular confutations would be of no avail, yet touching the sects and general divisions of such systems I must say something; something also touching the external signs which show that they are unsound; and finally something touching the causes of such great infelicity and of such lasting and general agreement in error; that so the access to truth may be made less difficult, and the human understanding may the more willingly submit to its purgation and dismiss its idols.
Idols of the Theatre, or of Systems, are many, and there can be and perhaps will be yet many more. For were it not that new for many ages men's minds have been busied with religion and theology; and were it not that civil governments, especially monarchies, have been averse to such novelties, even in matters speculative; so that men labour therein to the peril and harming of their fortunes, -- not only unrewarded, but exposed also to contempt and envy; doubtless there would have arisen many other philosophical sects like to those which in great variety flourished once among the Greeks. For as on the phenomena of the heavens many hypotheses may be constructed, so likewise (and more also) many various dogmas may be set up and established on the phenomena of philosophy. And in the plays of this philosophical theatre you may observe the same thing which is found in the theatre of the poets, that stories invented for the stage are more compact and elegant, and more as one would wish them to be, than true stories out of history.
In general however there is taken for the material of philosophy either a great deal out of a few things, or a very little out of many things; so that on both sides philosophy is based on too narrow a foundation of experiment and natural history, and decides on the authority of too few cases. For the Rational School of philosophers snatches from experience a variety of common instances, neither duly ascertained nor diligently examined and weighed, and leaves all the rest to meditation and agitation of wit.
There is also another class of philosophers, who having bestowed much diligent and careful labour on a few experiments, have thence made bold to educe and construct systems; wresting all other facts in a strange fashion to conformity therewith.
And there is yet a third class, consisting of those who out of faith and veneration mix their philosophy with theology and traditions; among whom the vanity of some has gone so far aside as to seek the origin of sciences among spirits and genii. So that this parent stock of errors -- this false philosophy -- is of three kinds; the Sophistical, the Empirical, and the Superstitious.
The most conspicuous example of the first class was Aristotle, who corrupted natural philosophy by his logic: fashioning the world out of categories; assigning to the human soul, the noblest of substances, a genus from words of the second intention; doing the business of density and rarity (which is to make bodies of greater or less dimensions, that is, occupy greater or less spaces), by the frigid distinction of act and power; asserting that single bodies have each a single and proper motion, and that if they participate in any other, then this results from an external cause; and imposing countless other arbitrary restrictions on the nature of things; being always more solicitous to provide an answer to the question and affirm something positive in words, than about the inner truth of things; a failing best shown when his philosophy is compared with other systems of note among the Greeks. For the Homoeomera of Anaxagoras; the Atoms of Leucippus and Democritus; the Heaven and Earth of Parmenides; the Strife and Friendship of Empedocles; Heraclitus's doctrine how bodies are resolved into the indifferent nature of fire, and remoulded into solids; have all of them some taste of the natural philosopher, -- some savour of the nature of things, and experience, and bodies; whereas in the physics of Aristotle you hear hardly anything but the words of logic; which in his metaphysics also, under a more imposing name, and more forsooth as a realist than a nominalist, he has handled over again. Nor let any weight be given to the fact, that in his books on animals and his problems, and other of his treatises, there is frequent dealing with experiments. For he had come to his conclusion before; he did not consult experience, as he should have done, in order to the framing of his decisions and axioms; but having first determined the question according to his will, he then resorts to experience, and bending her into conformity with his placets leads her about like a captive in a procession; so that even on this count he is more guilty than his modern followers, the schoolmen, who have abandoned experience altogether.
But the Empirical school of philosophy gives birth to dogmas more deformed and monstrous than the Sophistical or Rational school. For it has its foundations not in the light of common notions, (which though it be a faint and superficial light, is yet in a manner universal, and has reference to many things,) but in the narrowness and darkness of a few experiments. To those therefore who are daily busied with these experiments, and have infected their imagination with them, such a philosophy seems probable and all but certain; to all men else incredible and vain. Of this there is a notable instance in the alchemists and their dogmas; though it is hardly to be found elsewhere in these times, except perhaps in the philosophy of Gilbert. Nevertheless with regard to philosophies of this kind there is one caution not to be omitted; for I foresee that if ever men are roused by my admonitions to betake themselves seriously to experiment and bid farewell to sophistical doctrines, then indeed through the premature hurry of the understanding to leap or fly to universals and principles of things, great danger may be apprehended from philosophies of this kind; against which evil we ought even now to prepare.
But the corruption of philosophy by superstition and an admixture of theology is far more widely spread, and does the greatest harm, whether to entire systems or to their parts. For the human understanding is obnoxious to the influence of the imagination no less than to the influence of common notions. For the contentious and sophistical kind of philosophy ensnares the understanding; but this kind, being fanciful and timid and half poetical, misleads it more by flattery. For there is in man an ambition of the understanding, no less than of the will, especially in high and lofty spirits.
Of this kind we have among the Greeks a striking example in Pythagoras, though he united with it a coarser and more cumbrous superstition; another in Plato and his school, more dangerous and subtle. It shows itself likewise in parts of other philosophies, in the introduction of abstract forms and final causes and first causes, with the omission in most cases of causes intermediate, and the like. Upon this point the greatest caution should be used. For nothing is so mischievous as the apotheosis of error; and it is a very plague of the understanding for vanity to become the object of veneration. Yet in this vanity some of the moderns have with extreme levity indulged so far as to attempt to found a system of natural philosophy on the first chapter of Genesis, on the book of Job, and other parts of the sacred writings; seeking for the dead among the living: which also makes the inhibition and repression of it the more important, because from this unwholesome mixture of things human and divine there arises not only a fantastic philosophy but also an heretical religion. Very meet it is therefore that we be sober-minded, and give to faith that only which is faith's.
So much then for the mischievous authorities of systems, which are founded either on common notions, or on a few experiments, or on superstition. It remains to speak of the faulty subject-matter of contemplations, especially in natural philosophy. Now the human understanding is infected by the sight of what takes place in the mechanical arts, in which the alteration of bodies proceeds chiefly by composition or separation, and so imagines that something similar goes on in the universal nature of things. From this source has flowed the fiction of elements, and of their concourse for the formation of natural bodies. Again, when man contemplates nature working freely, he meets with different species of things, of animals, of plants, of minerals; whence he readily passes into the opinion that there are in nature certain primary forms which nature intends to educe, and that the remaining variety proceeds from hindrances and aberrations of nature in the fulfilment of her work, or from the collision of different species and the transplanting of one into another. To the first of these speculations we owe our primary qualities of the elements; to the other our occult properties and specific virtues; and both of them belong to those empty compendia of thought wherein the mind rests, and whereby it is diverted from more solid pursuits. It is to better purpose that the physicians bestow their labour on the secondary qualities of matter, and the operations of attraction, repulsion, attenuation, conspissation, dilatation, astriction, dissipation, maturation, and the like; and were it not that by those two compendia which I have mentioned (elementary qualities, to wit, and specific virtues) they corrupted their correct observations in these other matters, -- either reducing them to first qualities and their subtle and incommensurable mixtures, or not following them out with greater and more diligent observation to third and fourth qualities, but breaking off the scrutiny prematurely, -- they had made much greater progress. Nor are powers of this kind (I do not say the same, but similar) to be sought for only in the medicines of the human body, but also in the changes of all other bodies.
But it is a far greater evil that they make the quiescent principles, wherefrom, and not the moving principles, whereby, things are produced, the object of their contemplation and inquiry. For the former tend to discourse, the latter to works. Nor is there any value in those vulgar distinctions of motion which are observed in the received system of natural philosophy, as generation, corruption, augmentation, diminution, alteration, and local motion. What they mean no doubt is this: -- if a body, in other respects not changed, be moved from its place, this is local motion; if without change of place or essence, it be changed in quality, this is alteration; if by reason of the change the mass and quantity of the body do not remain the same, this is augmentation or diminution; if they be changed to such a degree that they change their very essence and substance and turn to something else, this is generation and corruption. But all this is merely popular, and does not at all go deep into nature; for these are only measures and limits, not kinds of motion. What they intimate is how far, not by what means, or from what source. For they do not suggest anything with regard either to the desires of bodies or to the development of their parts: it is only when that motion presents the thing grossly and palpably to the sense as different from what it was, that they begin to mark the division. Even when they wish to suggest something with regard to the causes of motion, and to establish a division with reference to them, they introduce with the greatest negligence a distinction between motion natural and violent; a distinction which is itself drawn entirely from a vulgar notion, since all violent motion is also in fact natural; the external efficient simply setting nature working otherwise than it was before. But if, leaving all this, any one shall observe (for instance) that there is in bodies a desire of mutual contact, so as not to suffer the unity of nature to be quite separated or broken and a vacuum thus made; or if any one say that there is in bodies a desire of resuming their natural dimensions or tension, so that if compressed within or extended beyond them, they immediately strive to recover themselves, and fall back to their old volume and extent; or if any one say that there is in bodies a desire of congregating towards masses of kindred nature, -- of dense bodies, for instance, towards the globe of the earth, of thin and rare bodies towards the compass of the sky; all these and the like are truly physical kinds of motion; -- but those others are entirely logical and scholastic, as is abundantly manifest from this comparison.
Nor again is it a less evil, that in their philosophies and contemplations their labour is spent in investigating and handling the first principles of things and the highest generalities of nature; whereas utility and the means of working result entirely from things intermediate. Hence it is that men cease not from abstracting nature till they come to potential and uninformed matter, nor on the other hand from dissecting nature till they reach the atom; things which, even if true, can do but little for the welfare of mankind.
A caution must also be given to the understanding against the intemperance which systems of philosophy manifest in giving or withholding assent; because intemperance of this kind seems to establish Idols and in some sort to perpetuate them, leaving no way open to reach and dislodge them.
This excess is of two kinds: the first being manifest in those who are ready in deciding, and render sciences dogmatic and magisterial; the other in those who deny that we can know anything, and so introduce a wandering kind of inquiry that leads to nothing; of which kinds the former subdues, the latter weakens the understanding. For the philosophy of Aristotle, after having by hostile confutations destroyed all the rest (as the Ottomans serve their brothers), has laid down the law on all points; which done, he proceeds himself to raise new questions of his own suggestion, and dispose of them likewise; so that nothing may remain that is not certain and decided: a practice which holds and is in use among his successors.
The school of Plato, on the other hand, introduced Acatalepsia, at first in jest and irony, and in disdain of the older sophists, Protagoras, Hippias, and the rest, who were of nothing else so much ashamed as of seeming to doubt about anything. But the New Academy made a dogma of it, and held it as a tenet. And though their's is a fairer seeming way than arbitrary decisions; since they say that they by no means destroy all investigation, like Pyrrho and his Refrainers, but allow of some things to be followed as probable, though of none to be maintained as true; yet still when the human mind has once despaired of finding truth, its interest in all things grows fainter; and the result is that men turn aside to pleasant disputations and discourses and roam as it were from object to object, rather than keep on a course of severe inquisition. But, as I said at the beginning and am ever urging, the human senses and understanding, weak as they are, are not to be deprived of their authority, but to be supplied with helps.
So much concerning the several classes of Idols, and their equipage: all of which must be renounced and put away with a fixed and solemn determination, and the understanding thoroughly freed and cleansed; the entrance into the kingdom of man, founded on the sciences, being not much other than the entrance into the kingdom of heaven, whereinto none may enter except as a little child.
The Witch of Hebron
A Rabbinical Legend
From morn until the setting of the sun
The rabbi Joseph on his knees had prayed,
And, as he rose with spirit meek and strong,
An Indian page his presence sought, and bowed
Before him, saying that a lady lay
Sick unto death, tormented grievously,
Who begged the comfort of his holy prayers.
The rabbi, ever to the call of grief
Open as day, arose; and girding straight
His robe about him, with the page went forth;
Who swiftly led him deep into the woods
That hung, heap over heap, like broken clouds
On Hebron’s southern terraces; when lo!
Across a glade a stately pile he saw,
With gleaming front, and many-pillared porch
Fretted with sculptured vinage, flowers and fruit,
And carven figures wrought with wondrous art
As by some Phidian hand.
For a wide space in front, and belting all
The splendid structure with a finer grace,
A glowing garden smiled; its breezes bore
Airs as from paradise, so rich the scent
That breathed from shrubs and flowers; and fair the growths
Of higher verdure, gemm’d with silver blooms,
Which glassed themselves in fountains gleaming light
Each like a shield of pearl.
Within the halls
Strange splendour met the rabbi’s careless eyes,
Halls wonderful in their magnificance,
With pictured walls, and columns gleaming white
Like Carmel’s snow, or blue-veined as with life;
Through corridors he passed with tissues hung
Inwrought with threaded gold by Sidon’s art,
Or rich as sunset clouds with Tyrian dye;
Past lofty chambers, where the gorgeous gleam
Of jewels, and the stainèd radiance
Of golden lamps, showed many a treasure rare
Of Indian and Armenian workmanship
Which might have seemed a wonder of the world:
And trains of servitors of every clime,
Greeks, Persians, Indians, Ethiopians,
In richest raiment thronged the spacious halls.
The page led on, the rabbi following close,
And reached a still and distant chamber, where
In more than orient pomp, and dazzling all
The else-unrivalled splendour of the rest,
A queenly woman lay; so beautiful,
That though upon her moon-bright visage, pain
And langour like eclipsing shadows gloomed,
The rabbi’s aged heart with tremor thrilled;
Then o’er her face a hectic colour passed,
Only to leave that pallor which portends
The nearness of the tomb.
From youth to age
The rabbi Joseph still had sought in herbs
And minerals the virtues they possess,
And now of his medicaments he chose
What seemed most needful in her sore estate;
“Alas, not these,” the dying woman said,
“A malady like mine thou canst not cure,
’Tis fatal as the funeral march of Time!
But that I might at length discharge my mind
Of a dread secret, that hath been to me
An ever-haunting and most ghostly fear,
Darkening my whole life like an ominous cloud
And which must end it ere the morning come,
Therefore did I entreat thy presence here.”
The rabbi answered, “If indeed it stand
Within my power to serve thee, speak at once
All that thy heart would say. But if ’tis vain,
If this thy sin hath any mortal taint,
Forbear, O woman, to acquaint my soul
With aught that could thenceforth with horror chase
The memory of a man of Israel.”
“I am,” she said “the daughter of thy friend
Rabbi Ben Bachai—be his memory blest!
Once at thy side a laughing child I played;
I married with an Arab Prince, a man
Of lofty lineage, one of Ishmael’s race;
Not great in gear. Behold’st thou this abode?
Did ever yet the tent-born Arab build
Thus for his pride or pleasure? See’st thou
These riches? An no! Such were ne’er amassed
By the grey desert’s wild and wandering son;
Deadly the game by which I won them all!
And with a burning bitterness at best
Have I enjoyed them! And how gladly now
Would I, too late, forego them all, to mend
My broken peace with a repentant heed
In abject poverty!”
She ceased, and lay
Calm in her loveliness, with dreamy looks
Roaming, perhaps, in thought the fateful past;
Then suddenly her beauteous countenance grew
Bedimm’d and drear, then dark with mortal pangs,
While fierce convulsions shook her tortured frame,
And from her foaming lips such words o’erran,
That rabbi Joseph sank upon his knees,
And bowed his head a space in horror down
While ardent, pitying prayers for her great woe
Rose from his soul; when, lo! The woman’s face
Was cloudless as a summer heaven! The late
Dark brow was bright, the late pale cheek suffused
With roseate bloom; and, wondrous more than all,
Here weary eyes were changed to splendours now
That shot electric influence, and her lips
Were full and crimson, curled with stormy pride.
The doubting rabbi stood in wild amaze
To see the dying woman bold and fierce
In bright audacity of passion’s power.
“These are the common changes,” then she said,
“Of the fell ailment, that with torments strange,
Which search my deepest life, is tearing up
The dark foundations of my mortal state,
And sinking all its structures, hour by hour,
Into the dust of death. For nothing now
Is left me but to meet my nearing doom
As best I may in silent suffering.”
Then as he heard her words and saw her face,
The rabbi in his wisdom knew some strong
Indwelling evil spirit troubled her,
And straighway for an unction sent, wherewith
The famous ancestor whose name he bore,
Herod the Great’s chief hakim, had expelled
The daemon haunter of the dying king.
With this he touched her forehead and her eyes
And all her finger-tips. Forthwith he made
Within a consecrated crucible
A fire of citron-wood and cinnamon;
Then splashed the flames with incense, mingling all
With the strong influence of fervent prayer;
And, as the smoke arose, he bowed her head
Into its coils, that so she might inhale
Its salutary odour—till the fiend
That dwelt within her should be exorcised.
Her face once more grew pale with pain; she writhed
In burning torment, uttering many words
Of most unhallowed meaning! Yet her eyes
Were fixed the while, and motionless her lips!
Whereby the rabbi certainly perceived
’Twas not the woman of herself that spake,
But the dread spirit that possessed her soul,
And thus it cried aloud.
“WHY am I here, in this my last resort,
Perturbed with incense and anointings? Why
Compelled to listen to the sound of prayers
That smite me through as with the fire of God?
O pain, pain, pain! Is not this chamber full
Of the implacable stern punishers?
Full of avenging angels, holding each
A scourge of thunder in his potent hand,
Ready to lighten forth! And then, thus armed,
For ever chase and wound us as we fly!
Nor end with this—but, in each wound they make,
Pour venom sweltered from that tree As-gard,
Whose deadly shadow in its blackness falls
Over the lake of everlasting doom!
“Five hundred years ago, I, who thus speak,
Was an Egyptian of the splendid court
Of Ptolemy Philadelphus. To the top
Of mountainous power, though roughened with unrest,
And girt with dangers as with thunder-clouds,
Had I resolved by all resorts to climb;
By truth and falsehood, right and wrong alike;
And I did climb! Then firmly built in power
Second alone to my imperial lord’s,
I crowned with its impunity my lust
Of beauty, sowing broadcast everywhere
Such sensual baits wide round me, as should lure
Through pleasure, or through interest entrap,
The fairest daughters of the land, and lo!
Their lustrous eyes surcharged with passionate light
The chambers of my harem! But at length
Wearied of these, though sweet, I set my heart
On riches, heaped to such a fabulous sum
As never one man’s hoard in all the world
Might match; and to acquire them, steeped my life
In every public, every private wrong,
In lies, frauds, secret murders; till at last
A favoured minion I had trusted most,
And highest raised, unveiled before the king
The dark abysmal badness of my life;
But dearly did he rue it; nor till then
Guessed I how deadly grateful was revenge!
I stole into his chamber as he slept,
And with a sword, whose double edge for hours
I had whetted for the purpose of the deed,
There staked him through the midriff to his bed.
I fled; but first I sent, as oft before,
A present to the household of the man
Who had in secret my betrayer bribed.
Twas scented wine, and rich Damascus cakes;
On these he feasted, and fell sudden down,
Rolling and panting in his dying pangs,
A poisoned desert dog!
“But I had fled.
A swift ship bore me, which my forecast long
Had kept prepared against such need as this.
Over the waves three days she proudly rode;
Then came a mighty storm, and trampled all
Her masted bravery flat, and still drove on
The wave-swept ruin towards a reefy shore!
Meanwhile amongst the terror-stricken crew
An ominous murmur went from mouth to mouth;
They grouped themselves in councils, and, ere long,
Grew loud and furious with surmises wild,
And maniac menaces, all aimed at me!
My fugitive head it was at which so loud
The thunder bellowed! The wild-shrieking winds
And roaring waters held in vengeful chase
Me only! Me! Whose signal crimes alone
Had brought on us this anger of the gods!
And thus reproaching me with glaring eyes,
They would have seized and slain me, but I sprang
Back from amongst them, and, outstriking, stabbed
With sudden blow their leader to the heart;
Then, with my poniard scaring off the rest,
Leaped from the deck, and swimming reached the shore,
From which, in savage triumph, I beheld
The battered ship, with all her howling crew,
Heel, and go down, amid the whelming waves.
“Inland my course now lay for many days,
O’er barren hills and glens, whose herbless scopes
Never grew luminous with a water gleam,
Or heard the pleasant bubble of a brook,
For vast around the Afric desert stretched.
Starving and sun-scorched and afire with thirst,
I wandered ever on, until I came
To where, amid the dun and level waste,
In frightful loneliness, a mouldered group
Of ancient tombs stood ghostly. Here at last,
Utterly spent, in my despair I lay
Down on the burning sand, to gasp and die!
When from among the stones a withered man,
Old-seeming as the desert where he lived,
Came and stood by me, saying ‘get thee up!
Not much have I to give, but these at least
I offer to thy need, water and bread.’
“Then I arose and followed to his cell,—
A dismal cell, that seemed itself a tomb,
So lightless was it, and so foul with damp,
And at its entrance there were skulls and bones.
Long and deep drank I of the hermit’s draught,
And munched full greedily the hermit’s bread;
But with the strength which thence my frame derived,
Fierce rage devoured me, and I cursed my fate!
Whereat the withered creature laughed in scorn,
And mocked me with the malice of his eyes,
That sometimes, like a snake’s, shrank small, and then
Enlarging blazed as with infernal fire!
Then, on a sudden, with an oath that seemed
To wake a stir in the grey musty tombs,
As if their silence shuddered, he averred
That he could life me once more to the height
Of all my wishes—nay, even higher, but
On one condition only. Dared I swear,
By the dread angel of the second death,
I would be wholly his, both body and soul,
After a hundred years?
“Why should I not?
I answered, quivering with a stormy haste,
A rampart unreluctance! For so great
Was still my fury against all mankind,
And my desire of pomp and riches yet
So monstrous, that I felt I could have drunk
Blood, fire, or worse, to wear again the power
That fortune, working through my enemies’ hands,
Had stript away from me. So, word by word,
I swore the oath as he repeated it;
Nor much it moved me, in my eagerness,
To feel a damp and earthy odour break
Out of each tomb, from which there darkling rose
At every word a hissing as of snakes;
And yet the fell of hair upon my scalp
Rose bristling under a cold creeping thrill:
But I failed not, I swore the dread oath through,
And then the tombs grew silent as their dead.
But through my veins a feeling of strong youth
Coursed bold along, and summered in my heart,
Till there before him in my pride I stood
In stately strength, and swift as is the wind,
Magnificant as a desert-nurtured steed
Of princeliest pedigree, with nostrils wide
Dilated, and with eyes effusing flame.
‘Begone,’ he said, ’and live thy hundred years
Of splendour, power, pleasure, ease.’ His voice
Sighed off into the distance. He was gone:
Only a single raven, far aloft,
Was beating outwards with its sable wings;
The tombs had vanished, and the desert grey
Merged its whole circle with the bending sky.
“OUT of these wilds to Egypt I returned:
Men thought that I had perished with the ship,
And no one knew me now, because my face
And form were greatly changed,—from passing fair
To fairer yet; from manly, to a pile
So nobly built, that in all eyes I seemed
Beauteous as Thammuz! And my heart was changed;
Ambition wilder than a leopard’s thirst
For blood of roe, or flying hart, possessed
My spirit, like the madness of a god!
But this I yet even in its fiercest strain
Could curb and guide with sovereign strength of will.
From small beginnings onward still I worked,
Stepping as up a stair from rival head
To rival head,—from high to higher still,
Unto the loftiest post that might be held
Under the Ptolemies; and meantime paid
Each old unsettled score, defeating those
Who erst had worked against me, sweeping them
Out of all posts, all places; for though time
And change had wide dispersed them through the land,
The sleuth-hounds of my vengeance found them out!
Which things not being in a corner done,
What wonder was it that all Egypt now,
From end to end, even like a shaken hive,
Buzzed as disturbed with my portentous fame?
“And what to me were secret enemies?
Had I not also spies, who could pin down
A whisper in the dark and keep it there?
Could dash a covert frown by the same means
An open charge had challenged? Hence my name
Became a sound that struck through every heart
Ineffable dismay! And yet behold
There more I trampled on mankind, the more
Did fawning flatterers praise me as I swept
Like a magnificant meteor through the land!
The more I hurled the mighty from their seats,
And triumphed o’er them prostrate in the dust,
The human hounds that licked my master hand
But multiplied the more! And still I strode
From bad to worse, corrupting as I went,
Making the lowly ones more abject yet;
Awing as with a thunder-bearing hand
The high and affluent; while I bound the strong
To basest service, even with chains of gold.
All hated, cursed and feared me, for in vain
Daggers were levelled at my brazen heart—
They glanced, and slew some minion at my side
Poison was harmless as a heifer’s milk
When I had sipped it with my lips of scorn;
All that paraded pomp and smiling power
Could draw against me from the envious hearts
Of men in will as wicked as myself
I challenged, I encountered, and o’erthrew!
“But, after many years, exhaustion sere
Spread through the branches of my tree of life;
My forces flagged, my senses more and more
Were blunted, and incapable of joy;
The splendours of my rank availed me not;
A poverty as naked as a slave’s
Peered from them mockingly. The pride of power
That glowed so strong within me in my youth
Was now like something dying at my heart.
To cheat or stimulate my jaded taste,
Feasts, choice or sumptuous, were devised in vain;
there was disfavour, there was fraud within,
Like that which filled the fair-appearing rind
Of those delusive apples that of old
Grew on the Dead Sea shore.
“And yet, though thus
All that gave pleasure to my younger life
Was withering from my path like summer grass,
I still had one intense sensation, which
Grew ever keener as my years increased—
A hatred of mankind; to pamper which
I gloated, with a burning in my soul,
Over their degradation; and like one
Merry with wine, I revelled day by day
In scattering baits that should corrupt them more:
The covetous I sharpened into thieves,
Urged the vindictive, hardened the malign,
Whetted the ruffian with self-interest,
And flung him then, a burning brand, abroad.
And the decadence of the state in which
My fortunes had recast me, served me well.
Excess reeled shameless in the court itself,
Or, staggering thence, was rivalled by the wild
Mad looseness of the crowd. Down to its death
The old Greek dynasty was sinking fast;
Waste and pale want, extortion, meanness, fraud—
These, welling outwards from the throne itself,
Spread through the land.
“But now there seized my soul
A new ambition—from his feeble throne
To hurl the king, and mount thereon myself!
To this end still I lured him into ill,
And daily wove around him cunning snares,
That reached and trammelled too his fawning court;
And all went well, the end at last was near,
But in my triumph one thing I forgot—
My name was measured. At a banquet held
In the king’s chamber, lo! A guest appeared,
Chief of a Bactrian tribe, who tendered gold
To pay for some great wrong his desert horde
Had done our caravans; his age, men said,
Was wonderful; his craft more wondrous still;
For this his fame had spread through many lands,
And the dark seekers of forbidden lore
Knew his decrepit wretch to be their lord.
“The first glance that I met of his weird eye
Had sent into my soul a fearful doubt
That I had seen that cramp-shrunk withered form
And strange bright eye in some forgotten past.
But at the dry croak of his raven voice
Remembrance wok; I knew that I beheld
The old man of the tombs: I saw, and fell
Into the outer darkness of despair.
The day that was to close my dread account
Was come at last. The long triumphant feast
Of life had ended in a funeral treat.
I was to die—to suffer with the damned
The hideous torments of the second death!
The days, weeks, months of a whole hundred years
Seemed crushed into a thought, and burning out
In that brief period which was left me now.
“Stung with fierce horror, shame, and hate I fled;
I seized my sword, to plunge its ready point
Into my maddened heart, but on my arm
I felt a strong forbidding grasp! I turned;
The withered visage of the Bactrian met
My loathing eyes; I struggled to be free
From the shrunk wretch in vain; his spidery hands
Were strong as fetters of Ephesian brass,
And all my strength, though now with madness strung,
Was as a child’s to his. He calmly smiled:
‘Forbear, thou fool! Am I not Sammael?
Whom to resist is vain, and from whom yet
Has never mercy flowed; for what to me
Are feelings which thou knowest even in men
Are found the most in fools. But wide around
A prince of lies I reign. ’Tis I that fill
the Persian palaces with lust and wrong,
Till like the darkling heads of sewers they flow
With a corruption that in fretting thence
Taints all the region round with rankest ill;
’Tis I that clot the Bactrian sand with blood;
And now I come to fling the brands of war
Through all this people, this most ill-mixed mob,
Where Afric’s savage hordes meet treacherous Greeks,
And swarming Asia’s luxury-wasted sons.
This land throughout shall be a deluge soon
Of blood and fire, till ruin stalk alone,
A grisly spectre, in its grass-grown marts.’
The fiery eyes within his withered face
Glowed like live coals, as he triumphant spake,
And his strange voice, erewhile so thin and dry,
Came as if bellowed from the vaults of doom.
Prone fell I, powerless to move or speak;
And now he was about to plunge me down
Ten thousand times ten thousand fathoms deep
Through the earth’s crust, and through the slimy beds
Of nether ocean—down! Still down, below
The darkling roots of all this upper world
Into the regions of the courts of hell!
“To stamp me downward to the convict dead
His heel was raised, when suddenly I heard
Him heave a groan of superhuman pain,
So deep twas drawn! And as he groaned, I saw
A mighty downburst of celestial light
Enwrap his shrivelled form from head to foot,
As with a robe within whose venomous folds
He writhed in torment. Then above him stood
A shining shape, unspeakably sublime,
And gazed upon him! One of the high sons
Of Paradise, who still keep watch and ward
O’er Israel’s progeny, where’er dispersed;
And now they fought for me with arms that filled
The air wide round with flashes and swift gleams
Of dazzling light; full soon the Evil One
Fell conquered. Then forth sprang he from the ground
And with dark curses wrapped him in a cloud
That moved aloft, low thundering as it went.
“And then the shining son of paradise
Came where I lay and spoke, his glorious face
Severe with wrath, and yet divinely fair—
‘O Child of Guilt! Should vengeance not be wrought
On thee as well? On Sammael’s willing slave?’
I clasped his radiant knees—I wept—I groaned—
I beat my bosom in my wild distress.
At last the sacred Presence, who had held
The blow suspended still, spoke thus: ‘Thou’rt spared;
From no weak pity, but because thou art
Descended from the line of Israel:
For that cause spared;—yet must thou at my hand
Find some meet punishment.’ And as he spake,
He laid his hand with a life-crushing weight
Upon my forehead—and I fell, as dead!
“AWAKING as from sleep, I bounded up,
Stung with a feeling of enormous strength,
Though yet half wild with horror. Onward then
Ramping I went, out through the palace gates,
Down the long streets, and into the highways,
Forth to the wilds, amazed at my own speed!
And now afar, in long-drawn line appeared
A caravan upon its outward way
Over the desert of Pentapolis.
And strange the instinct seemed that urged me then
to rush amongst them—and devour: for I
Was fierce with hunger, and inflamed with thirst.
“Amidst a laggard company I leaped
That rested yet beside a cooling spring;
One of those clear springs that, like giant pearls,
Inlay the burning borders of the grey
Enormous desert. All at once they rose!
Some fled, some threw themselves amongst the brakes,
Some seized their swords and lances; this to see
Filled me at once with a mysterious rage
And savage joy! The sternness of their looks,
Their fearful cries, the gleaming of their spears
Seemed to insult me, and I rushed on them.
Then sudden spasms of pain searched deep my side,
Wherein a fell lance quivered. On I rushed;
I roared a roar that startled e’en myself,
So loud and hoarse and terrible its tone,
Then bounding, irresistible it seemed
As some huge fragment from a crag dislodged,
Against the puny wretch that sent the lance,
Instantly tore him, as he were a kid,
All into gory shreds! The others fled
At sight of this, nor would I chase them then,
All wearied by my flight. Besides, the well
Was gleaming in its coolness by me there.
“And as I stooped to quench my parching thirst,
Behold, reversed within the water clear,
The semblance of a monstrous lion stood!
I saw his shaggy mane, I saw his red
And glaring eyeballs rolling in amaze,
His rough and grinning lips, his long sharp fangs
All foul with gore and hung with strings of flesh!
I shrank away in horrible dismay.
But as the sun each moment fiercer grew,
I soon returned to stoop and slake my thirst.
Again was that tremendous presence there
Standing reversed, as erewhile, in the clear
And gleaming mirror of the smiling well!
The horrid truth smote like a rush of fire
Upon my brain! The dreadful thing I saw
Was my own shadow! I was a wild beast.”
“They did not fable, then, who held that oft
The guilty dead are punished in the shapes
Of beasts, if brutal were their lives as men.”
“Long lapped I the cool lymph, while still my tongue
Made drip for drip against the monstrous one,
Which, as in ugly mockery, from below
Seemed to lap up against it. But though thirst
Was quenched at length, what was there might appease
The baffled misery of my fated soul?
The thought that I no more was human, ran
Like scorpion venom through my mighty frame;
Fiercely I bounded, tearing up the sands,
That, like a drab mist, coursed me as I went
Out on my homeless track. I made my fangs
Meet in my flesh, trusting to find in pain
Some respite from the anguish of regret.
From morn to night, from night to morn, I fled,
Chased by the memory of my lost estate;
Then, worn and bleeding, in the burning sands
I lay down, as to die. In vain!—in vain!
The savage vigour of my lion-life
Might yield alone to the long tract of time.
“From hill to valley rushing after prey,
With whirlwind speed, was now my daily wont,
For all things fled before me—all things shrank
In mortal terror at my shaggy front.
Sometimes I sought those close-fenced villages,
Wherein the desert-dwellers hide their swart
And naked bodies from the scorching heats,
Hoping that I might perish by their shafts.
And often was I wounded—often bore
Their poisoned arrows in my burning flesh—
But still I lived.
“The tenor of my life
Was always this—the solitary state
Of a wild beast of prey, that hunted down
The antelope, the boar, the goat, the gorged
Their quivering flesh, and lapped their steaming blood;
Then slept till hunger, or the hunter’s cry,
Roused him again to battle or to slay,
To flight, pursuit, blood, stratagem, and wounds.
And to make this rude life more hideous yet,
I still retained a consciousness of all
The nobler habits of my eariler time,
And had a keen sense of what most had moved
My nature as a man, and knew besides
That this my punishment was fixed by One
Too mighty to be questioned, and too just
One tittle of its measure to remit.
“How long this haggard course of life went on
I might not even guess, for I had lost
The human faculty that measures time.
But still from night to night I found myself
Roaming the desert, howling at the moon,
Whose cold light always, as she poured it down,
Awoke a drear distemper in my brain:
But much I shunned the sunblaze, which at once
Inflamed me, and revealed my dread approach.
“Homelessly roaming thus for evermore,
The tempests beat on my unsheltered bulk,
In those bleak seasons when the drenching rains
Drove into covert all those gentler beasts
That were my natural prey. I swinkt beneath
The furnace heats of the midsummer sun,
When even the palm of the oasis stood
All withered, like a weed: and for how long,
Yet knew not.
“Thus the sun and moon arose
Through an interminable tract of time,
And yet though sense was dim, the view of all
My human life was ever at my beck,
Nay, opened out before me of itself
Plain as the pictures in a wizard’s glass!
I saw again the trains that round my car
Streamed countless, saw its pageants and its pomps,
Its faces fair and passionate, and felt
Lie’s eager pleasures, even its noble pangs!
Then in the anguish of my goaded heart
Would I roll howling in the burning sand.
“At length this life of horror seemed to near
Its fated bourn. The slow but sure approach
Of old decay was felt in every limb
And every function of my lion frame.
My massive strength seemed spent, my speed was gone,
The antelope escaped me! Wearily
I sought a mountain cavern, shut from day
By savage draperies of tangled briers,
And only dragged my tardy bulk abroad
When hunger urged. It chanced on such a day
I sprange amid a herd of buffaloes
And tore their leader down, who bellowing fell.
When, lo! The chief of those that drove them came
Against me, and I turned my rage on him:
But though the long lapse of so many years
Of ever-grinding wretchedness had dulled
My memory, I felt that I had seen
His withered visage twice before; and straight
A shuddering awe subdued me, and I crouched
Beneath him in the dust. My lust of blood,
My ruthless joy at sight of mortal pain,
Within me died, and if in human speech
I might have told the wild desire that filled
My being, I had prayed him once for all
To crush me out of life, and to consign
My misery to the pit of final death!
But when, all hopeless, I again looked up,
The tawney presence of the desert chief
Was gone, and I beheld the shining son
Of paradise, from whose majestic brow
There flashed the lightings of a wrath divine.
Yea, twas the angel that with Sammael
Had fought for me in Egypt; and once more
He laid his crushing had upon my front;
And earth and sky, and all that in them is,
Became to me a darkness, swimming blank
In the Eternal, round that point where now
My body lay, stretched dead upon the sand.
“AGAIN I lived—again I felt. But now
The winds of heaven seemed under me, and I
Was sweeping, like the spirit of a storm
That bellowed round me, in its murky glooms,
All heaving with a motion wide and swift
That seemed yet mightier than the darkling swells
Of ocean, wrestling with a midnight gale!
The wild winds tossed me; I was drenched throughout
With heavy moisture, and at intervals
Amid the ragged gaps of moving cloud,
Methought I caught dim glimpses of the sun
Hanging aloft, as if in drear eclipse;
But as my senses cleared, I saw my limbs
Were clothed with plumage; and long-taloned claws
Were closing eagerly with fierce desire
And sudden hunger after blood and prey!
An impulse to pursue and to destroy
Both on the earth and in the air, ran quick
Out from my heart and shivered in my wings;
And as a thing more central yet, I felt
Pregnant within me, throned o’er all, a lone
And sullen, yet majestic, glow of pride.
“’Twas plain that I, who had aforetime been
Crushed out of human being into that
Of a wild beast, had thence again passed on
Into the nature of some mighty thing
That now swept sailing on wide van-like wings,
Amid the whirls of an aërial gloom,
That out extending in one mighty cope
Hung heaving, like a black tent-roof, o’er all
The floor of Africa.
“Still on I swept,
And still as far as my keen vision went,
That now was gifted with a power that seemed
To pierce all space, I saw the vapours roll
In dreadful continuous of black
And shapeless masses, by the winds convulsed;
But soon in the remotest distance came
A change: the clouds were touched with sunny light,
And, as I nearer drew, I saw them dash,
Like the wild surges of an uproused sea
Of molten gold, against the marble sides
Of lofty mountains, which, though far below
My flight, yet pierced up through them all, and stood
With splintered cones and monster-snouted crags,
Immovable as fate. Beneath me, lo!
The grandeur of the kingdom of the air
Was circling in its magnitude! It was
A dread magnificence of which before
I might not even dream. I saw its quick
And subtle interchange of forms and hues,
Saw its black reservoirs of densest rain,
Its awful forges of the thunderstorm.
“At last, as onward still I swept, above
A milky mass of vapour far outspread,
Behold, reflected in its quiet gleam,
I saw an image that swept on with me,
Reversed as was the lion’s in the well,
With van-like wings, with eyeballs seething fire,
With taloned claws, and cruel down-bent beak,—
The mightiest eagle that had ever sailed
The seas of space since Adam named the first!
“My fated soul had passed into the form
Of that huge eagle which swept shadowed there.
Cold horror thrilled me! I was once again
Imprisoned in the being of a brute,
In the base being of a nature yet
Inferior by what infinite descent
To that poor remnant of intelligence
Which still kept with me,—like a put-back soul
Burningly conscious of its powers foregone,
Its inborn sovreignty of kind, and yet
So latent, self-less; once again to live
A life of carnage, and to sail abroad
A terror to all birds and gentle beasts
That heard the stormy rushings of my wings!
A royal bird indeed, who lived alone
In the great stillness of the mighty hills,
Or in the highest heavens.
“But in truth
Not much for many seasons had I need
To search for prey, for countless hosts of men,
Forth mustering over all the face of earth,
Cast the quick gleam of arms o’er trampled leagues
Of golden corn, and as they onward marched
They left behind them seas of raging fire,
In whose red surges cities thronged with men
And happy hamlets, homes of health and peace,
That rang erewhile with rural thankfulness,
Were whelmed in one wide doom; or in their strength
Confronted upon some set field of fight,
Their sullen masses charged with dreadful roar
That far out-yelled the fiercest yells of beasts,
And with brute madness rushed on wounds and death;
Or else about fenced cities they would pitch
Their crowded camps, and leaguer them for years,
Sowing the fields about them with a slime
Of carnage, till their growths were plagues alone.
What is the ravage made by brutes on brutes
To that man makes on man?
“With mingled pain
And joy I saw the wondrous ways of men,
(For ever when I hungered, close at hand,
Some fresh slain man lay smoking in his gore)
And though the instincts of the eagle’s life
Were fierce within me, yet I felt myself
Cast in a lot more capable of joy;
Safe from pursuit, from famine, and from wounds.
Some solaces, though few and far between,
Were added to me; and I argued thence,
In the dark musings of my eagle heart,
That not for ever was my soul condemned
To suffer in the body of a brute;
For though remembrance of the towering crimes
And matchless lusts, that filled my whole career
Of human life, worked in me evermore,
No longer did they shed about my life
So venomous a blight. Nay, I could think
How often I had looked with longing eyes
Up at the clear Egyptian heavens, and watched
The wings that cleft them, envying every bird
That, soaring in the sunshine, seemed to be
Exempt from all the grovelling cares of men.
I thought how once, when with my hunting train
I pierced that region round the cataracts,
I watched an eagle as it rose aloft
Into the lovely blue, and wished to change
My being with it as it floated on,
So inaccessible to hate or hurt,
So peaceful, at a height in heaven so safe;
And then it passed away through gorgeous clouds
Against the sunset, through the feathered flags
Of royal purple edged with burning gold.
“These fields of space were my dominion now;
Motion alone within a world so rich
Was something noble: but to move at will,
Upward or forward, or in circles vast,
Through boundless spaces with a rushing speed
No living thing might rival, and to see
The glory of the everlasting hills
Beneath me, and the myriad-peopled plains,
Broad rivers, and the towery towns that sate
Beside their spacious mouths, with out beyond
The lonely strength of the resounding seas—
This liberty began to move my sense
As something godlike; and in moving made
A sure impression that kept graining still
Into the texture of my brute estate—
Yea, graining in through all its fleshy lusts
And savage wonts.
“Hence ever more and more
The temper of a better spirit grew
Within me, as from inkling roots, and moved
E’en like an embryon in its moist recess:
A sensibility to beauteous things
As now I saw them in the heavens displayed,
And in the bright luxuriance of the earth;
Some power of just comparison, some sense
Of how a man would rank them, could he see
Those earthly grandeurs from the sovreign height
Whence I beheld them. And with this a wish
To commune even with the human race,
And pour the loftier wonders of my life
Into their ears, through a rich-worded song
Whose golden periods in mellow flow
Should witch all ears that heard them—ev’n old men s,
Ev’n jaded monarchs; not to speak of theirs,
Those spirit-lovely ones—yea, moons of love,
That rise at first in the Circassian hills—
And they should tingle all like tiny shells
Of roseate whiteness to its perfect chords.
“One day amid the mountains of the moon,
Behold a sudden storm had gatherd up
Out of my view, hid by a neighbouring height,
But which, thence wheeling with terrific force,
Wide tossed me with its gusts—aloft, and then
Downward as far; then whirlingly about,
Ev’n like a withered leaf. My strength of wing
Availed me nought, so mightily it raged;
Then suddenly, in the dim distance, lo!
I saw, as from the storm’s Plutonian heart,
A mass of white-hot light come writing forth,
And then the figure of a withered man
Seemed dropping headlong through the lurid clouds;
While full within the radiant light, again
The conquering son of paradise appeared,
Upon whose brow divine I yet might trace
Some sing of wrath. Onward the vision rushed,
Orbed in white light. I felt a stifling heat,
One cruel blasting pang, and headlong then
Fell earthward—dead; a plumb descending mass.
“WITHIN a rustic chamber, dark and low,
Thronged with wild-looking men and women strange,
I seemed to waken. Inwardly I felt
No briskness of existence, but a sense
Of languor rather, or revival slow:
And evermore the men and women came
And gazed upon me, shouting in amaze,
Then would they whirl about the room in dance,
Abandoned to their barbarous delight.
“I turned mine eyes about the low-roofed room,
Half fearing and half hoping I might see
The mighty angel that now ruled my life;
They thought I needed air, and I was borne
to a low casement. Like a picture lay
The world without. On all sides wide around
Nothing but mountains, feathered to their tops
With a dense growth of pines, and valleys filled
With a cold darkness that was lit alone
By the broad flashes of the furious streams
That leaped in thunder our of marble gaps!
Dull vapours, like a canopy of smoke,
Did so obscure the sun, that I had thought
The scene that now I saw was not of earth,
But for a golden flush that now and then
Would touch the highest ranges. What I was
I knew not, but I felt my former wants,
And oft I made vain efforts to expand
The wings I had no longer, and sail off,
And through those sullen vapours—up, and up—
Into the mighty silence of the blue.
“The day was fading, and a blare of horns,
With many voices and much trampling noise,
Heard from without, aroused me; and, ere long,
Women rushed in, each bearing some rich robe
Or some gay bauble, wherewithal they next
Arrayed me to their taste; and then they held
A mirror up before me, and I saw
My soul had this time passed into the form
Of a fair damsel. She, whose form I now
Re-animated, was—so learned I soon—
The only child of a Circassian chief,
Who had been long regarded by her house
As its chief treasure, for her beauty rare;
Reserved for him, no matter whence he came,
Whose hand could dip into the longest purse.
But envy lurks in the Circassian hills
As elsewhere, and a dose of opium,
Administered by one who had been long
The rival beauty of a neighbouring tribe,
Had served to quash a bargain quite complete
Save in the final payment of the gold,
Which had been even offered and told down,
And only not accepted, through some old
Delaying ceremony of the tribe;
And in this luckless circumstances, twas plain
That both my admirable parents saw
The unkindest turn of all.
“On all hands forth
Had scouts been sent to summon the whole tribe
To attend my obsequies, and then forthwith
Exterminate our ancient enemies
Through all their tents—such was the fierce resolve.
But while these things were pending, lo! The light
Had broken like a new morn from the eyes
Of the dead beauty; on her cheeks had dawned
A roseate colour; from her moistening lips
Low murmurs, too, had broken; whereupon
My parents in exulting hope transformed
The funeral to a general tribal feast,
And loaded me with all the ancient gauds
And ornaments they held. The Persian, too,
Had been invited to renew his suit,
And carry me at once beyond the reach
Of future opium doses.
“Soon he came
Galloping back to bear me to the arms
Of his long-bearded lord. He paid the price;
My worthy parents took a fond farewell
Of me, with tears declaring me to be
The life-light of their eyes, their rose of joy,—
Then stretched their palms out for the stranger’s gold,
And hurried off to count it o’er again—
The dear recovered treasure they so late
Had mourned as lost for ever. On that night
I was packed neatly on a camel’s back
Beside a precious case of porcelain pipes,
And carried Persia-ward, by stages safe,
From the Circassian mountains.
“At the court
I soon became the favourite of the king;
Lived sumptuously, but in perpetual fear:
For all my luxury and gold and gems,
I envied the poor slaves who swept the floors.
I was the favourite of my Persian lord
For one whole month, perhaps a little more,
And then I learned my place was to be filled;
And though I loathed him, as we loathe some cold
And reptile creature, yet I could not bear
To see a newer rival take my place,
For I was beautiful, and therefore vain:
So, that I might regain his favour past,
I now arrayed myself in airy robes,
While scarfs of purple like an orient queen’s
Barred them with brilliant tints, and gold and pearls
Confined the wavelets of my sunny hair.
“The harem all applauded, and there seemed
Even in his own dull eyes almost a flash
As of extorted joy, but this became
At the next moment a malignant scowl,
Which had its dark cause in such thoughts as these:
‘What! Did so soft and ignorant a thing
Hope to enchant again a man so wise
As he was—he! The paragon of kings!
By floating in before him like a swan,
A little better feathered than before?’
And then he waved the harem ladies forth,
And with him kept only a Nubian girl,
Whom he thought dull, and altogether his:
A conclave of those strange demoniac dwarfs
Who from their secret dens and crypts would come
On given signals forth, was summoned in:
Wizard-like beings, with enormous heads,
Splay-feet, and monstrous spider-fingered hands.
Nor was the council long; I on that night
Was to be poisoned with a pomegranate.
Then stole the Nubian girl away, and brought
Me word of all; yet her news moved me not,
So sure I felt that this was not my doom;
Or moved me only to prepare for flight
With the poor Nubian girl. Unseen I came
To my own chamber, where I packed my goods;
And whence, unseen by all, we swiftly fled.
’Twas plain and patent to my inmost self
That in this last change I had always been
Regenerating more and more; for though
I had a love of mischief in my head,
At heart I was not bad, and they who knew
Me closely, or at least the woman sort,
Loved me,—nay, served me, as the Nubian did.
And now, as no one else might sell me,—lo!
I sold myself, and found myself installed
Queen of a rude baboon-like Afric king.
“Then I was captive to a Bedouin sheik,
Was sold in the slave-mart of Astrachan,
And carried thence to India, to be crowned
A rajahpoot’s sultana; from which state
Flying at length, I fell into a worse,
Being pounced on by a Turkoman horse-stealer.
At Alexandra I became the slave
Of a harsh Roman matron, who was wont
To flog and famish me to make me good,
And when I owned myself converted, then
She flogged and famished me the more, to make
My goodness lasting; and I finally
Fell stabbed in Cairo—slaughtered by a slave.
“AFTER some short and intermediate terms
Of transmigration, all in female forms,
In which, through kindly offices performed,
It seemed the temper of my spirit much
Had humanized, and in the last of which
Twas mine to die for once a natural death,
Again I had some deep-down hold on being,
Dim as an oyster’s in its ocean-bed;
Then came a sense of light and air, of space,
Of hunger, comfort, warmth, of sight and sound
I caught at length the drift of speech, and knew
That all who came to see me and admire
Called me Ben Bachai’s daughter.
But lovely as a starry night I grew,
A maid, the glory of her father’s house,
Her mother’s dovelet, filling all her wonts
With tenderness and joy. Still as I grew,
By strange degrees the memory of all
That I had been came back upon my mind
To fill it with wild sorrow and dismay;
To know I was a cheat, nor wholly what
I seemed to my fond parents—that I was
But half their daughter, and the rest a fiend,
With a fiend’s destiny,—ah! This, I say,
Would smite me even in dreams with icy pangs
Or wordless woe, yea, even while I slept
So innocently as it seemed, and so
Securely happy in the arms of love!”
As this was said, the Rabbi looked, and saw
That now again the woman seemed to speak
As of herself, and not as heretofore
With moveless lips, and prisoned voice, that came
As from some dark duality within.
Her looks had changed, too, with the voice, and now
Again she lay, a queen-like creature, racked
With mortal sufferings, who, when these grew less,
Or for a time remitted, even thus
Took up her tale again.
“At length upgrown
To womanhood, by some mysterious pact
Existing twixt my father’s house and that
Of an Arabian prince time out of mind,
I was now wedded ere I wished, and he,
My husband, finally had come to claim
And bear me from my home, that happiest home
Which I should know no more: a man most fair
To look upon, but void of force, in truth
The weakling of a worn-out line, who yet
(What merit in a prince!) Was not depraved,
Not wicked, not the mendicant of lust,
But mild, and even affectionate and just.
My dowry was immense, and flushed with this
The prince had summoned from his vassal tribe
Five hundred horse, all spearmen, to escort
And guard us desert-ward. And as we went
These ever and anon, at signal given,
Would whirl around us like a thunder-cloud
Wind-torn, and shooting instant shafts of fire!
And thus we roamed about the Arabian wastes,
Pitching our camp amid the fairest spots.
Beneath an awning oft I lay, and gazed
Out at the cloudless ether, where it wrapt
The silent hills, like to a conscious power
Big with the soul of an eternal past.
“But long this life might last not, for the prince
Sickened and died;—died poor, his wealth and mine
Having been squandered on the hungry horde
That wont to prance about us; who ere long,
Divining my extremity, grew loud
And urgent for rewards, till on a day,
By concert as it seemed, the tribe entire
Came fiercely round me, all demanding gifts,
Gifts that I had not; as they nearer pressed,
Wearing his way among them, lo! I saw
The old man of the tombs! The Bactrian sage!
With signs of awe they made him room to pass;
He fixed me with his shrunk and serpent eyes,
Waved off the abject Arabs, and then asked
‘Why art thou poor? With needs so great upon thee?
I offer thee long life and wealth and power.’
“I turned to him and said: ‘Should I not know,
By all the past, the nature of thy gifts?
Shows and delusions, evil, sin-stained all,
And terminating in eternal loss.’
‘Well, take it as thou wilt,’ he said; ‘my gifts
Are not so weighed by all.’ And saying this
He went his way, while I retired within
My lonely tent to weep.
“Next day the tribes
Again assembled, and with threats and cries,
And insults loud, they raised a passion in me.
My blood arose: I chid them angrily,
Called them all things but men, till they, alarmed,
Fell back in sullen silence for a while,
Crouching like tigers ready for a spring.
Humbled, perplexed, and frightened, I returned
Into my tent, and there within its folds
Stood the weird Bactrian with his snaky eyes,
And wiry voice that questioned as before:
‘Why art thou poor? Why dost thou suffer wrong,
With all this petty baseness brattling round?
Am I not here to help thee? I, thy one
Sole friend—not empty, but with ample means.
Behold the secrets of the inner earth!
There, down among the rock-roots of the hills,
What seest thou there? Look, as I point, even those
Strange miscreations, as they seem to thee,
Are demoniac moilers that obey
Such arts as I possess; the gnomish brood
Of Demogorgon. See them how they moil
Amid those diamonds shafts and reefs of gold
Embedded in the oldest drifts of time,
And in the mire that was the first crude floor
And blind extension of the infant earth:
Why art thou poor, then, when such slaves as they
Might work for thee, and glut thy need with all
The matchless values which are there enwombed,
Serving thee always as they now serve me?
Nor these alone: turn thou thy looks aloft,
And watch the stars as they go swimming past.
Behold their vastness, each a world,’ he said;
‘The secrets of all these, too, thou shalt know,
The spirits of all these shall be thy slaves,
If thou wilt swear as erst amid the tombs.’
“The woe of desolation wrapped me round,
The joy to know all mysteries tempted me,
And with a shudder that shook me to the soul
I swore, as erst I swore amid the tombs.
“As on my hand he placed a signet-ring,
Suddenly loud the desert winds arose,
And blew with mighty stress among the tents;
And instantly aloft the thunder ran,
A mighty issue of miraculous light
Burst shaft-like forward, smiting him in twain,
Or so it seemed, down through the solid earth.
In vain I shrunk into a dim recess;
Before me stood the son of paradise.
Then leapt the soul to life within my heart—
Leapt into life with fear, and pain, and woe—
Anger and sadness both were on his brow.
“‘Could’st thou no trial bear—all but redeemed;
Could’st thou not rest content? A rabbi’s child!
Enjoy as best thou may this ill-won power
Over the darker agencies of time,
And bide the end, which end is punishment
But the more terrible, the more delayed;
Yet know this also, thou shalt thus no more
Be punished in a body built of clay.’
He vanished, leaving me to sharp remorse,
And harrowed with the thought of his grieved look.
‘And yet no power in heaven or hell,’ I said,
‘May now annul my deed.’
“And not one day
Of joy has brought to me my ‘ill-won power.’
I built vast palaces in quiet view
Of ancient cities, or by famous streams;
I filled my halls with men and women fair,
And with these pages of a beauty rare
Like striplings kidnapped from some skirt of heaven;
Yet sorrowful of countenance withal,
As knowing that their mortal doom is joined
With mine irrevocably, that with me
’Tis theirs to own these shows of time, with me
To live—with me to die. And as, ’tis said,
A hunted roe will evermore beat round
Towards whence he started first, I felt at length
An ardent longing for my native place;
That spot in all the earth where only I,
In tasting of it, had divined the worth
And Sabbath quality of household peace.
Then coming hither, thus constrained, I pitched
My dwelling here, even this thou seest; built fair,
And filled with splendours such as never yet
Under one roof-tree on this earth were stored.
See yon surpassing lustres! Could this orb
Show such? From Mars came that; from Venus this;
And yonder mass of sun-bright glory, that
From Mercury came, whence came these viols, too,
Instinct with fervent music such as ne’er
From earthly instruments might thrill abroad.”
Then seizing one of them, even as she spake,
Over its chords she moved her ivory hand,
And instantly the palace domes throughout
Rang resonant, as every hall and crypt
Were pulsing music from a thousand shells
That still ran confluent with a mellow slide
And intercourse of cadence: sweet, and yet
Most mournful and most weird, and oft intoned
With a wild wilfulness of power that worked
For madness more than joy. “Even such, ” she said
“Are the delights with which I most converse
In the dark loneness of my fated soul,
For all is show, not substance. All I hold
But darkens more the certainty I have
Of wrath to come, from which no change of place,
No earthly power, no power of heaven nor hell,
May shield me now. I see it shadowing forth
Even like a coming night, in whose dark folds
My soul would ask to hide itself in vain.
And now I go to meet the angel’s face;
I will not claim my hundred years of pride,
I trample underneath my feet the gift
For which I sold my soul; I will not touch
The ring of Sammael, nor use his power
To stay the torments that devour my life;
Misery, shame, remorse, and dread are mine;
Yet shall the angel see repentent eyes,
And know at last I could one trial bear;
Too late, too late.”
As thus the woman spake,
Her brow grew dark, and suddenly she shrieked
In her great agony. “Oh pray for me!
Pray, rabbi! For the daughter of thy friend!
The hour is coming, nay, the hour is come!”
There was a rustle as of wings aloft,
A sudden flicker in the lights below,
And she, who until now seemed speaking, sank
Back on her pillow and in silence lay
Beautiful in the marble calm of death.
The rabbi gazed on her, and thought the while
Of those far times, when, as a child, her grace
Had filled with pleasantness her father’s house.
Then to her servants gave in charge the corpse,
And forth he paced, much musing as he went.
At length he turned to gaze once more upon
The silent house of death. Can such things be?
All had evanished like a morning mist!
Only the woods that hung like clouds about
The steeps of Hebron, in the whitening dawn
Lay dark against the sky! Only a pool
Gleamed flat before him, where it seemed erewhile
The splendid palace had adorned the view!
Perplexed in mind, the rabbi turned again
And hurried homeward, muttering as he went:
Was it a vision? Can such marvels be?
But what in truth are all things, even those
That seem most solid—dust and air at last
When one may pay out over two million dollars to presidential and Congressional campaigns, the U.S. government is virtually up for sale.
If one seeks to analyze experiences and reactions to the first postwar years, I hope one may say without being accused of bias that it is easier for the victor than for the vanquished to advocate peace.
My wife is
In her family way
likely to deliver
In a week or so
The birth of a
new one may be
a news for you -
but, in its arrival
I run the risk
of a good fortune
you will lend me
a sum repayable
before I opt
for the next offspring
The hospital bills
are the real checkmates
family down to the size
with permissible members,
to stand at ease
Sonnet: The Universe Is One
The land is one in which we live, work, sleep;
The sea is one which surrounds most of land;
The thirst is one and struggles same, we reap;
The race is one and labor, we by hand.
The air is one that all of us must breathe;
The Sun is one which we require for heat;
The wealth is one and we should not have greed;
The war is one and hungrily, we eat.
The Space is one, no matter how we keep;
The life is one; we ought to live our best;
The Sky is one, under which we all sleep;
The death is one that brings us to His Test.
The birth is one for all creatures on earth;
The God is one who gives and takes our breath.
Coming Back Home One Day From A Foreign Land
and one day you come back
home and all of them rejoice
for a soul that was lost and
now found, a feast is held
and some streamers hang
on rope twines and flowers
adorn some pillars and walls
smiles are exchanged turning
to heavy laughter and a series
of embraces from old arms
to the newer ones, you shed
some tears of joy and you
look at every nook and road
and even the rooms and
stairs over the farm and the
old village horizon, trees and
shrubs and garden grass,
you weigh which changed
most: is it the place or the
self? is it you or them?
less the drama, and the
excitement, i look at you
and tell you: things of the
heart remain exactly what
they are. Love is contained.
Inside The Library
one may accuse
a man reading a pile of books
of hiding away
from the touch of a lover
those fragile hands
not equated with the rough
feel of a page of
one may negate
his search as something
which should have better
be spent in the fields
and the stretch of green grass
and the tall lines of trees
in that cool green forest
but this man
does not sleep too
finding the words
in fact eating some of the
now drinking some of
the dreary moisture
from the nooks
breathing the emptiness of
the shadows of the
he is on one hand
also a shape of sacrifice
a monument of greatness
of those cockroaches
who by time shall
understand all these
To be away from worldly attachment
Can be considered nice moment
Where some aspects are pushed away
To find peace and happiness on the way
Many might have not seen the moon
Have been confined in cold room
Many might have not seen emerging sun
As they align for work before starts run
Sadness can’t be invited even for the fun
As it can be easily invited from the shots of gun
World is moving from darkness to light
We expect it to cease from the right
Life is full of adventure
No one can be so sure
Something can happen unexpectedly
Nothing must be tried repeatedly
Little off from the scene is welcome
That can be very good change and has to come
One may be replenished it with new energy
Same can’t be purchased with the help of money
Can Crime Pay? 1054
When comptroller would syphon a dollar,
one may hear loud and clear victims holler!
Red-faced and red handed
the bait is soon landed, -
can crime pay in our heyday white collar?
Bank bonus 'spite bail-outs are awful
not for long should they still seem dream lawful,
for when losses accrue
all life-savings we knew
must to dust turn to leave debts - a store full.
Sphinx Madoff may try on promotion
bankrupt pyramid raising commotion,
chickens come home to roost
soon or late, busting boost;
greenback backing's vanishing potion.
There's hot water, not flight, facts discovered,
Where the spotlight's bright glare acts uncovered,
guilt is tried, bail denied,
for a wide span inside, -
but its rash to think all cash recovered.
(8 September 2009)
What It Means To Forgive
They say: 'to err is human, to forgive, divine',
Though one may proffer you deserve none, I offer mine!
Know not do I, the depths of your inner turmoil,
Yet I am all too aware of it being lain, to boil!
Alas, love is not needed in order to forgive,
It allows a more fastidious, permanent understanding;
This decision must be one with which you may live-
Thus, in its righteousness, our conviction must be commanding!
You shall see, as do I, all attendant facts-
Then truly shall we bear witness to how your heart acts!
What your mind created-a self-fulfilling prophesy,
You allowed to become real-truly a tragedy!
Shun now the spectre, of all who hurt you,
Make consort again with the onlyone who'll ne'er desert you!
Maurice Harris,14 June 2008
Mama A Dream I Live With
in each morning there is a smile
in each mama there there is love
to hold it boldly and tightly
so sweet, so deep in my heart
to keep it worm, safe and secured
your simile, your eyes, that wrinkled face
that smooth hands now old with folded skin
i cherish, always
allow me to say
That part down deep in my heart
you still hold the best
never one may replace you
mama. never. never mama,
make another to me,
to the day when i end my life
the first you were to me
many days in that womb
that temperament, when eating from you
you made my life, so real, bright and sweet
i still remember, that
in tough time you kept caring me
in hard time you kept holding me
in terror nights, you capt carrying me
in cold and rainy time, you never leave me
you only slept, when am asleep
in whatever i faced, you were there to help
emotionally with grace and trials you cared best
in every morning light as another dream
you only catch my feeling
that i never had gone out of them
always i will keep you as a dream
i hold inside down deep my heart.
A Soldiers Love
He found out that his division was being shipped away
To a war zone where he would stay.
He did not want her to go thru the agony
Of whether he would come home or not.
This was the thought that he had got.
So he told her that he did not love her any more.
But she saw that his voice said one thing
and his eyes said another.
So here she sat at her window with tears in her eyes
Wondering how could he have lied.
She found out though that I was being shipped overseas
And said that she would wait for me.
I closed my eyes and all that I could see
Was the beauty of her company.
Every moment that was given to me was heaven sent
It was time which was lent
Borrowed time so that I could see
Just how much she meant to me.
Words could not express the feelings that arose
As she touched my heart, my mind, my inner soul.
She set my wandering spirit free
So true love I could see.
To feel and find love, no matter how short it may be
Is to live in ecstasy
and with you is where I want to be.
You have given me the strength to face each
And every day, and to deal with everything, come what may.
This here is a soldiers love, which will live forever
Like the stars above.
Think clearly what you want out of her?
Want her to lean on your solder
Or take hand in hand and go for drive
Or take her as partner and live
It won’t serve any purpose
If you think and merely suppose
Shed tears in isolation and question
Rub the mind with inside retention
What has attracted you in particular?
Her physical attraction or things so similar
Her speech, move or simple back ground
Some of the things certainly might have been found
Everything is right in its own perspective
Your thinking should be subjective
It should not bother about unfounded fears
As it ahs so many things to take into account and bear
Mere imagination can lead no where
You will have to take assertive stand and dare
No one may dare to refuse if you are firmly placed
It is not the time but against opportunity raced
But it is not bad idea to think and remain happy
You have full liberty to remain indoor and steady
Nothing may be involved as pure risk
You can run fast or walk very brisk
It is not enough to think and remain idle
You got to move decisively and remove the hurdle
Things may move automatically in your favor
Then may have everything as you wanted with honor