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A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face - one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy.

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VI. Giuseppe Caponsacchi

Answer you, Sirs? Do I understand aright?
Have patience! In this sudden smoke from hell,—
So things disguise themselves,—I cannot see
My own hand held thus broad before my face
And know it again. Answer you? Then that means
Tell over twice what I, the first time, told
Six months ago: 't was here, I do believe,
Fronting you same three in this very room,
I stood and told you: yet now no one laughs,
Who then … nay, dear my lords, but laugh you did,
As good as laugh, what in a judge we style
Laughter—no levity, nothing indecorous, lords!
Only,—I think I apprehend the mood:
There was the blameless shrug, permissible smirk,
The pen's pretence at play with the pursed mouth,
The titter stifled in the hollow palm
Which rubbed the eyebrow and caressed the nose,
When I first told my tale: they meant, you know,
"The sly one, all this we are bound believe!
"Well, he can say no other than what he says.
"We have been young, too,—come, there's greater guilt!
"Let him but decently disembroil himself,
"Scramble from out the scrape nor move the mud,—
"We solid ones may risk a finger-stretch!
And now you sit as grave, stare as aghast
As if I were a phantom: now 't is—"Friend,
"Collect yourself!"—no laughing matter more—
"Counsel the Court in this extremity,
"Tell us again!"—tell that, for telling which,
I got the jocular piece of punishment,
Was sent to lounge a little in the place
Whence now of a sudden here you summon me
To take the intelligence from just—your lips!
You, Judge Tommati, who then tittered most,—
That she I helped eight months since to escape
Her husband, was retaken by the same,
Three days ago, if I have seized your sense,—
(I being disallowed to interfere,
Meddle or make in a matter none of mine,
For you and law were guardians quite enough
O' the innocent, without a pert priest's help)—
And that he has butchered her accordingly,
As she foretold and as myself believed,—
And, so foretelling and believing so,
We were punished, both of us, the merry way:
Therefore, tell once again the tale! For what?
Pompilia is only dying while I speak!
Why does the mirth hang fire and miss the smile?
My masters, there's an old book, you should con
For strange adventures, applicable yet,

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Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society

Epigraph

Υδραν φονεύσας, μυρίων τ᾽ ἄλλων πόνων
διῆλθον ἀγέλας . . .
τὸ λοίσθιον δὲ τόνδ᾽ ἔτλην τάλας πόνον,
. . . δῶμα θριγκῶσαι κακοῖς.

I slew the Hydra, and from labour pass'd
To labour — tribes of labours! Till, at last,
Attempting one more labour, in a trice,
Alack, with ills I crowned the edifice.

You have seen better days, dear? So have I —
And worse too, for they brought no such bud-mouth
As yours to lisp "You wish you knew me!" Well,
Wise men, 't is said, have sometimes wished the same,
And wished and had their trouble for their pains.
Suppose my Œdipus should lurk at last
Under a pork-pie hat and crinoline,
And, latish, pounce on Sphynx in Leicester Square?
Or likelier, what if Sphynx in wise old age,
Grown sick of snapping foolish people's heads,
And jealous for her riddle's proper rede, —
Jealous that the good trick which served the turn
Have justice rendered it, nor class one day
With friend Home's stilts and tongs and medium-ware,—
What if the once redoubted Sphynx, I say,
(Because night draws on, and the sands increase,
And desert-whispers grow a prophecy)
Tell all to Corinth of her own accord.
Bright Corinth, not dull Thebes, for Lais' sake,
Who finds me hardly grey, and likes my nose,
And thinks a man of sixty at the prime?
Good! It shall be! Revealment of myself!
But listen, for we must co-operate;
I don't drink tea: permit me the cigar!
First, how to make the matter plain, of course —
What was the law by which I lived. Let 's see:
Ay, we must take one instant of my life
Spent sitting by your side in this neat room:
Watch well the way I use it, and don't laugh!
Here's paper on the table, pen and ink:
Give me the soiled bit — not the pretty rose!
See! having sat an hour, I'm rested now,
Therefore want work: and spy no better work
For eye and hand and mind that guides them both,
During this instant, than to draw my pen
From blot One — thus — up, up to blot Two — thus —
Which I at last reach, thus, and here's my line
Five inches long and tolerably straight:

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I. The Ring and the Book

Do you see this Ring?
'T is Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani's imitative craft)
Etrurian circlets found, some happy morn,
After a dropping April; found alive
Spark-like 'mid unearthed slope-side figtree-roots
That roof old tombs at Chiusi: soft, you see,
Yet crisp as jewel-cutting. There's one trick,
(Craftsmen instruct me) one approved device
And but one, fits such slivers of pure gold
As this was,—such mere oozings from the mine,
Virgin as oval tawny pendent tear
At beehive-edge when ripened combs o'erflow,—
To bear the file's tooth and the hammer's tap:
Since hammer needs must widen out the round,
And file emboss it fine with lily-flowers,
Ere the stuff grow a ring-thing right to wear.
That trick is, the artificer melts up wax
With honey, so to speak; he mingles gold
With gold's alloy, and, duly tempering both,
Effects a manageable mass, then works:
But his work ended, once the thing a ring,
Oh, there's repristination! Just a spirt
O' the proper fiery acid o'er its face,
And forth the alloy unfastened flies in fume;
While, self-sufficient now, the shape remains,
The rondure brave, the lilied loveliness,
Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry—
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.

Do you see this square old yellow Book, I toss
I' the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers,—pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since?
Examine it yourselves! I found this book,
Gave a lira for it, eightpence English just,
(Mark the predestination!) when a Hand,
Always above my shoulder, pushed me once,
One day still fierce 'mid many a day struck calm,
Across a Square in Florence, crammed with booths,
Buzzing and blaze, noontide and market-time,
Toward Baccio's marble,—ay, the basement-ledge
O' the pedestal where sits and menaces
John of the Black Bands with the upright spear,
'Twixt palace and church,—Riccardi where they lived,
His race, and San Lorenzo where they lie.

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Satan Absolved

(In the antechamber of Heaven. Satan walks alone. Angels in groups conversing.)
Satan. To--day is the Lord's ``day.'' Once more on His good pleasure
I, the Heresiarch, wait and pace these halls at leisure
Among the Orthodox, the unfallen Sons of God.
How sweet in truth Heaven is, its floors of sandal wood,
Its old--world furniture, its linen long in press,
Its incense, mummeries, flowers, its scent of holiness!
Each house has its own smell. The smell of Heaven to me
Intoxicates and haunts,--and hurts. Who would not be
God's liveried servant here, the slave of His behest,
Rather than reign outside? I like good things the best,
Fair things, things innocent; and gladly, if He willed,
Would enter His Saints' kingdom--even as a little child.

[Laughs. I have come to make my peace, to crave a full amaun,
Peace, pardon, reconcilement, truce to our daggers--drawn,
Which have so long distraught the fair wise Universe,
An end to my rebellion and the mortal curse
Of always evil--doing. He will mayhap agree
I was less wholly wrong about Humanity
The day I dared to warn His wisdom of that flaw.
It was at least the truth, the whole truth, I foresaw
When He must needs create that simian ``in His own
Image and likeness.'' Faugh! the unseemly carrion!
I claim a new revision and with proofs in hand,
No Job now in my path to foil me and withstand.
Oh, I will serve Him well!
[Certain Angels approach. But who are these that come
With their grieved faces pale and eyes of martyrdom?
Not our good Sons of God? They stop, gesticulate,
Argue apart, some weep,--weep, here within Heaven's gate!
Sob almost in God's sight! ay, real salt human tears,
Such as no Spirit wept these thrice three thousand years.
The last shed were my own, that night of reprobation
When I unsheathed my sword and headed the lost nation.
Since then not one of them has spoken above his breath
Or whispered in these courts one word of life or death
Displeasing to the Lord. No Seraph of them all,
Save I this day each year, has dared to cross Heaven's hall
And give voice to ill news, an unwelcome truth to Him.
Not Michael's self hath dared, prince of the Seraphim.
Yet all now wail aloud.--What ails ye, brethren? Speak!
Are ye too in rebellion? Angels. Satan, no. But weak
With our long earthly toil, the unthankful care of Man.

Satan. Ye have in truth good cause.

Angels. And we would know God's plan,
His true thought for the world, the wherefore and the why
Of His long patience mocked, His name in jeopardy.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Eighth Book

ONE eve it happened when I sate alone,
Alone upon the terrace of my tower,
A book upon my knees, to counterfeit
The reading that I never read at all,
While Marian, in the garden down below,
Knelt by the fountain (I could just hear thrill
The drowsy silence of the exhausted day)
And peeled a new fig from that purple heap
In the grass beside her,–turning out the red
To feed her eager child, who sucked at it
With vehement lips across a gap of air
As he stood opposite, face and curls a-flame
With that last sun-ray, crying, 'give me, give,'
And stamping with imperious baby-feet,
(We're all born princes)–something startled me,–
The laugh of sad and innocent souls, that breaks
Abruptly, as if frightened at itself;
'Twas Marian laughed. I saw her glance above
In sudden shame that I should hear her laugh,
And straightway dropped my eyes upon my book,
And knew, the first time, 'twas Boccaccio's tales,
The Falcon's,–of the lover who for love
Destroyed the best that loved him. Some of us
Do it still, and then we sit and laugh no more.
Laugh you, sweet Marian! you've the right to laugh,
Since God himself is for you, and a child!
For me there's somewhat less,–and so, I sigh.

The heavens were making room to hold the night,
The sevenfold heavens unfolding all their gates
To let the stars out slowly (prophesied
In close-approaching advent, not discerned),
While still the cue-owls from the cypresses
Of the Poggio called and counted every pulse
Of the skyey palpitation. Gradually
The purple and transparent shadows slow
Had filled up the whole valley to the brim,
And flooded all the city, which you saw
As some drowned city in some enchanted sea,
Cut off from nature,–drawing you who gaze,
With passionate desire, to leap and plunge,
And find a sea-king with a voice of waves,
And treacherous soft eyes, and slippery locks
You cannot kiss but you shall bring away
Their salt upon your lips. The duomo-bell
Strikes ten, as if it struck ten fathoms down,
So deep; and fifty churches answer it
The same, with fifty various instances.
Some gaslights tremble along squares and streets
The Pitti's palace-front is drawn in fire:

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Fifth Book

AURORA LEIGH, be humble. Shall I hope
To speak my poems in mysterious tune
With man and nature,–with the lava-lymph
That trickles from successive galaxies
Still drop by drop adown the finger of God,
In still new worlds?–with summer-days in this,
That scarce dare breathe, they are so beautiful?–
With spring's delicious trouble in the ground
Tormented by the quickened blood of roots.
And softly pricked by golden crocus-sheaves
In token of the harvest-time of flowers?–
With winters and with autumns,–and beyond,
With the human heart's large seasons,–when it hopes
And fears, joys, grieves, and loves?–with all that strain
Of sexual passion, which devours the flesh
In a sacrament of souls? with mother's breasts,
Which, round the new made creatures hanging there,
Throb luminous and harmonious like pure spheres?–
With multitudinous life, and finally
With the great out-goings of ecstatic souls,
Who, in a rush of too long prisoned flame,
Their radiant faces upward, burn away
This dark of the body, issuing on a world
Beyond our mortal?–can I speak my verse
So plainly in tune to these things and the rest,
That men shall feel it catch them on the quick,
As having the same warrant over them
To hold and move them, if they will or no,
Alike imperious as the primal rhythm
Of that theurgic nature? I must fail,
Who fail at the beginning to hold and move
One man,–and he my cousin, and he my friend,
And he born tender, made intelligent,
Inclined to ponder the precipitous sides
Of difficult questions; yet, obtuse to me,–
Of me, incurious! likes me very well,
And wishes me a paradise of good,
Good looks, good means, and good digestion!–ay,
But otherwise evades me, puts me off
With kindness, with a tolerant gentleness,–
Too light a book for a grave man's reading! Go,
Aurora Leigh: be humble.
There it is;
We women are too apt to look to one,
Which proves a certain impotence in art.
We strain our natures at doing something great,
Far less because it's something great to do,
Than, haply, that we, so, commend ourselves
As being not small, and more appreciable
To some one friend. We must have mediators

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XI. Guido

You are the Cardinal Acciaiuoli, and you,
Abate Panciatichi—two good Tuscan names:
Acciaiuoli—ah, your ancestor it was
Built the huge battlemented convent-block
Over the little forky flashing Greve
That takes the quick turn at the foot o' the hill
Just as one first sees Florence: oh those days!
'T is Ema, though, the other rivulet,
The one-arched brown brick bridge yawns over,—yes,
Gallop and go five minutes, and you gain
The Roman Gate from where the Ema's bridged:
Kingfishers fly there: how I see the bend
O'erturreted by Certosa which he built,
That Senescal (we styled him) of your House!
I do adjure you, help me, Sirs! My blood
Comes from as far a source: ought it to end
This way, by leakage through their scaffold-planks
Into Rome's sink where her red refuse runs?
Sirs, I beseech you by blood-sympathy,
If there be any vile experiment
In the air,—if this your visit simply prove,
When all's done, just a well-intentioned trick,
That tries for truth truer than truth itself,
By startling up a man, ere break of day,
To tell him he must die at sunset,—pshaw!
That man's a Franceschini; feel his pulse,
Laugh at your folly, and let's all go sleep!
You have my last word,—innocent am I
As Innocent my Pope and murderer,
Innocent as a babe, as Mary's own,
As Mary's self,—I said, say and repeat,—
And why, then, should I die twelve hours hence? I—
Whom, not twelve hours ago, the gaoler bade
Turn to my straw-truss, settle and sleep sound
That I might wake the sooner, promptlier pay
His due of meat-and-drink-indulgence, cross
His palm with fee of the good-hand, beside,
As gallants use who go at large again!
For why? All honest Rome approved my part;
Whoever owned wife, sister, daughter,—nay,
Mistress,—had any shadow of any right
That looks like right, and, all the more resolved,
Held it with tooth and nail,—these manly men
Approved! I being for Rome, Rome was for me.
Then, there's the point reserved, the subterfuge
My lawyers held by, kept for last resource,
Firm should all else,—the impossible fancy!—fail,
And sneaking burgess-spirit win the day.
The knaves! One plea at least would hold,—they laughed,—
One grappling-iron scratch the bottom-rock

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The Ghost - Book IV

Coxcombs, who vainly make pretence
To something of exalted sense
'Bove other men, and, gravely wise,
Affect those pleasures to despise,
Which, merely to the eye confined,
Bring no improvement to the mind,
Rail at all pomp; they would not go
For millions to a puppet-show,
Nor can forgive the mighty crime
Of countenancing pantomime;
No, not at Covent Garden, where,
Without a head for play or player,
Or, could a head be found most fit,
Without one player to second it,
They must, obeying Folly's call,
Thrive by mere show, or not at all
With these grave fops, who, (bless their brains!)
Most cruel to themselves, take pains
For wretchedness, and would be thought
Much wiser than a wise man ought,
For his own happiness, to be;
Who what they hear, and what they see,
And what they smell, and taste, and feel,
Distrust, till Reason sets her seal,
And, by long trains of consequences
Insured, gives sanction to the senses;
Who would not (Heaven forbid it!) waste
One hour in what the world calls Taste,
Nor fondly deign to laugh or cry,
Unless they know some reason why;
With these grave fops, whose system seems
To give up certainty for dreams,
The eye of man is understood
As for no other purpose good
Than as a door, through which, of course,
Their passage crowding, objects force,
A downright usher, to admit
New-comers to the court of Wit:
(Good Gravity! forbear thy spleen;
When I say Wit, I Wisdom mean)
Where (such the practice of the court,
Which legal precedents support)
Not one idea is allow'd
To pass unquestion'd in the crowd,
But ere it can obtain the grace
Of holding in the brain a place,
Before the chief in congregation
Must stand a strict examination.
Not such as those, who physic twirl,
Full fraught with death, from every curl;

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Seventh Book

'THE woman's motive? shall we daub ourselves
With finding roots for nettles? 'tis soft clay
And easily explored. She had the means,
The moneys, by the lady's liberal grace,
In trust for that Australian scheme and me,
Which so, that she might clutch with both her hands,
And chink to her naughty uses undisturbed,
She served me (after all it was not strange,;
'Twas only what my mother would have done)
A motherly, unmerciful, good turn.

'Well, after. There are nettles everywhere,
But smooth green grasses are more common still;
The blue of heaven is larger than the cloud;
A miller's wife at Clichy took me in
And spent her pity on me,–made me calm
And merely very reasonably sad.
She found me a servant's place in Paris where
I tried to take the cast-off life again,
And stood as quiet as a beaten ass
Who, having fallen through overloads, stands up
To let them charge him with another pack.

'A few months, so. My mistress, young and light,
Was easy with me, less for kindness than
Because she led, herself, an easy time
Betwixt her lover and her looking-glass,
Scarce knowing which way she was praised the most.
She felt so pretty and so pleased all day
She could not take the trouble to be cross,
But sometimes, as I stooped to tie her shoe,
Would tap me softly with her slender foot
Still restless with the last night's dancing in't,
And say 'Fie, pale-face! are you English girls
'All grave and silent? mass-book still, and Lent?
'And first-communion colours on your cheeks,
'Worn past the time for't? little fool, be gay!'
At which she vanished, like a fairy, through
A gap of silver laughter.
'Came an hour
When all went otherwise. She did not speak,
But clenched her brows, and clipped me with her eyes
As if a viper with a pair of tongs,
Too far for any touch, yet near enough
To view the writhing creature,–then at last,
'Stand still there, in the holy Virgin's name,
'Thou Marian; thou'rt no reputable girl,
'Although sufficient dull for twenty saints!
'I think thou mock'st me and my house,' she said;
'Confess thou'lt be a mother in a month,

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Thurso’s Landing

I
The coast-road was being straightened and repaired again,
A group of men labored at the steep curve
Where it falls from the north to Mill Creek. They scattered and hid
Behind cut banks, except one blond young man
Who stooped over the rock and strolled away smiling
As if he shared a secret joke with the dynamite;
It waited until he had passed back of a boulder,
Then split its rock cage; a yellowish torrent
Of fragments rose up the air and the echoes bumped
From mountain to mountain. The men returned slowly
And took up their dropped tools, while a banner of dust
Waved over the gorge on the northwest wind, very high
Above the heads of the forest.
Some distance west of the road,
On the promontory above the triangle
Of glittering ocean that fills the gorge-mouth,
A woman and a lame man from the farm below
Had been watching, and turned to go down the hill. The young
woman looked back,
Widening her violet eyes under the shade of her hand. 'I think
they'll blast again in a minute.'
And the man: 'I wish they'd let the poor old road be. I don't
like improvements.' 'Why not?' 'They bring in the world;
We're well without it.' His lameness gave him some look of age
but he was young too; tall and thin-faced,
With a high wavering nose. 'Isn't he amusing,' she said, 'that
boy Rick Armstrong, the dynamite man,
How slowly he walks away after he lights the fuse. He loves to
show off. Reave likes him, too,'
She added; and they clambered down the path in the rock-face,
little dark specks
Between the great headland rock and the bright blue sea.

II
The road-workers had made their camp
North of this headland, where the sea-cliff was broken down and
sloped to a cove. The violet-eyed woman's husband,
Reave Thurso, rode down the slope to the camp in the gorgeous
autumn sundown, his hired man Johnny Luna
Riding behind him. The road-men had just quit work and four
or five were bathing in the purple surf-edge,
The others talked by the tents; blue smoke fragrant with food
and oak-wood drifted from the cabin stove-pipe
And slowly went fainting up the vast hill.
Thurso drew rein by
a group of men at a tent door
And frowned at them without speaking, square-shouldered and
heavy-jawed, too heavy with strength for so young a man,
He chose one of the men with his eyes. 'You're Danny Woodruff,

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V. Count Guido Franceschini

Thanks, Sir, but, should it please the reverend Court,
I feel I can stand somehow, half sit down
Without help, make shift to even speak, you see,
Fortified by the sip of … why, 't is wine,
Velletri,—and not vinegar and gall,
So changed and good the times grow! Thanks, kind Sir!
Oh, but one sip's enough! I want my head
To save my neck, there's work awaits me still.
How cautious and considerate … aie, aie, aie,
Nor your fault, sweet Sir! Come, you take to heart
An ordinary matter. Law is law.
Noblemen were exempt, the vulgar thought,
From racking; but, since law thinks otherwise,
I have been put to the rack: all's over now,
And neither wrist—what men style, out of joint:
If any harm be, 't is the shoulder-blade,
The left one, that seems wrong i' the socket,—Sirs,
Much could not happen, I was quick to faint,
Being past my prime of life, and out of health.
In short, I thank you,—yes, and mean the word.
Needs must the Court be slow to understand
How this quite novel form of taking pain,
This getting tortured merely in the flesh,
Amounts to almost an agreeable change
In my case, me fastidious, plied too much
With opposite treatment, used (forgive the joke)
To the rasp-tooth toying with this brain of mine,
And, in and out my heart, the play o' the probe.
Four years have I been operated on
I' the soul, do you see—its tense or tremulous part—
My self-respect, my care for a good name,
Pride in an old one, love of kindred—just
A mother, brothers, sisters, and the like,
That looked up to my face when days were dim,
And fancied they found light there—no one spot,
Foppishly sensitive, but has paid its pang.
That, and not this you now oblige me with,
That was the Vigil-torment, if you please!
The poor old noble House that drew the rags
O' the Franceschini's once superb array
Close round her, hoped to slink unchallenged by,—
Pluck off these! Turn the drapery inside out
And teach the tittering town how scarlet wears!
Show men the lucklessness, the improvidence
Of the easy-natured Count before this Count,
The father I have some slight feeling for,
Who let the world slide, nor foresaw that friends
Then proud to cap and kiss their patron's shoe,
Would, when the purse he left held spider-webs,
Properly push his child to wall one day!

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sixth Book

THE English have a scornful insular way
Of calling the French light. The levity
Is in the judgment only, which yet stands;
For say a foolish thing but oft enough,
(And here's the secret of a hundred creeds,–
Men get opinions as boys learn to spell,
By re-iteration chiefly) the same thing
Shall pass at least for absolutely wise,
And not with fools exclusively. And so,
We say the French are light, as if we said
The cat mews, or the milch-cow gives us milk:
Say rather, cats are milked, and milch cows mew,
For what is lightness but inconsequence,
Vague fluctuation 'twixt effect and cause,
Compelled by neither? Is a bullet light,
That dashes from the gun-mouth, while the eye
Winks, and the heart beats one, to flatten itself
To a wafer on the white speck on a wall
A hundred paces off? Even so direct,
So sternly undivertible of aim,
Is this French people.
All idealists
Too absolute and earnest, with them all
The idea of a knife cuts real flesh;
And still, devouring the safe interval
Which Nature placed between the thought and act,
They threaten conflagration to the world
And rush with most unscrupulous logic on
Impossible practice. Set your orators
To blow upon them with loud windy mouths
Through watchword phrases, jest or sentiment,
Which drive our burley brutal English mobs
Like so much chaff, whichever way they blow,–
This light French people will not thus be driven.
They turn indeed; but then they turn upon
Some central pivot of their thought and choice,
And veer out by the force of holding fast.
–That's hard to understand, for Englishmen
Unused to abstract questions, and untrained
To trace the involutions, valve by valve,
In each orbed bulb-root of a general truth,
And mark what subtly fine integument
Divides opposed compartments. Freedom's self
Comes concrete to us, to be understood,
Fixed in a feudal form incarnately
To suit our ways of thought and reverence,
The special form, with us, being still the thing.
With us, I say, though I'm of Italy
My mother's birth and grave, by father's grave
And memory; let it be,–a poet's heart

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Tale XXI

The Learned Boy

An honest man was Farmer Jones, and true;
He did by all as all by him should do;
Grave, cautious, careful, fond of gain was he,
Yet famed for rustic hospitality:
Left with his children in a widow'd state,
The quiet man submitted to his fate;
Though prudent matrons waited for his call,
With cool forbearance he avoided all;
Though each profess'd a pure maternal joy,
By kind attention to his feeble boy;
And though a friendly Widow knew no rest,
Whilst neighbour Jones was lonely and distress'd;
Nay, though the maidens spoke in tender tone
Their hearts' concern to see him left alone,
Jones still persisted in that cheerless life,
As if 'twere sin to take a second wife.
Oh! 'tis a precious thing, when wives are dead,
To find such numbers who will serve instead;
And in whatever state a man be thrown,
'Tis that precisely they would wish their own;
Left the departed infants--then their joy
Is to sustain each lovely girl and boy:
Whatever calling his, whatever trade,
To that their chief attention has been paid;
His happy taste in all things they approve,
His friends they honour, and his food they love;
His wish for order, prudence in affairs,
An equal temper (thank their stars!), are theirs;
In fact, it seem'd to be a thing decreed,
And fix'd as fate, that marriage must succeed:
Yet some, like Jones, with stubborn hearts and

hard,
Can hear such claims and show them no regard.
Soon as our Farmer, like a general, found
By what strong foes he was encompass'd round,
Engage he dared not, and he could not fly,
But saw his hope in gentle parley lie;
With looks of kindness then, and trembling heart,
He met the foe, and art opposed to art.
Now spoke that foe insidious--gentle tones,
And gentle looks, assumed for Farmer Jones:
'Three girls,' the Widow cried, 'a lively three
To govern well--indeed it cannot be.'
'Yes,' he replied, 'it calls for pains and care:
But I must bear it.'--'Sir, you cannot bear;
Your son is weak, and asks a mother's eye:'
'That, my kind friend, a father's may supply.'

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Second Book

TIMES followed one another. Came a morn
I stood upon the brink of twenty years,
And looked before and after, as I stood
Woman and artist,–either incomplete,
Both credulous of completion. There I held
The whole creation in my little cup,
And smiled with thirsty lips before I drank,
'Good health to you and me, sweet neighbour mine
And all these peoples.'
I was glad, that day;
The June was in me, with its multitudes
Of nightingales all singing in the dark,
And rosebuds reddening where the calyx split.
I felt so young, so strong, so sure of God!
So glad, I could not choose be very wise!
And, old at twenty, was inclined to pull
My childhood backward in a childish jest
To see the face of't once more, and farewell!
In which fantastic mood I bounded forth
At early morning,–would not wait so long
As even to snatch my bonnet by the strings,
But, brushing a green trail across the lawn
With my gown in the dew, took will and way
Among the acacias of the shrubberies,
To fly my fancies in the open air
And keep my birthday, till my aunt awoke
To stop good dreams. Meanwhile I murmured on,
As honeyed bees keep humming to themselves;
'The worthiest poets have remained uncrowned
Till death has bleached their foreheads to the bone,
And so with me it must be, unless I prove
Unworthy of the grand adversity,–
And certainly I would not fail so much.
What, therefore, if I crown myself to-day
In sport, not pride, to learn the feel of it,
Before my brows be numb as Dante's own
To all the tender pricking of such leaves?
Such leaves? what leaves?'
I pulled the branches down,
To choose from.
'Not the bay! I choose no bay;
The fates deny us if we are overbold:
Nor myrtle–which means chiefly love; and love
Is something awful which one dare not touch
So early o' mornings. This verbena strains
The point of passionate fragrance; and hard by,
This guelder rose, at far too slight a beck
Of the wind, will toss about her flower-apples.
Ah–there's my choice,–that ivy on the wall,
That headlong ivy! not a leaf will grow

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Give Your Heart To The Hawks

1 he apples hung until a wind at the equinox,

That heaped the beach with black weed, filled the dry grass

Under the old trees with rosy fruit.

In the morning Fayne Fraser gathered the sound ones into a

basket,

The bruised ones into a pan. One place they lay so thickly
She knelt to reach them.

Her husband's brother passing
Along the broken fence of the stubble-field,
His quick brown eyes took in one moving glance
A little gopher-snake at his feet flowing through the stubble
To gain the fence, and Fayne crouched after apples
With her mop of red hair like a glowing coal
Against the shadow in the garden. The small shapely reptile
Flowed into a thicket of dead thistle-stalks
Around a fence-post, but its tail was not hidden.
The young man drew it all out, and as the coil
Whipped over his wrist, smiled at it; he stepped carefully
Across the sag of the wire. When Fayne looked up
His hand was hidden; she looked over her shoulder
And twitched her sunburnt lips from small white teeth
To answer the spark of malice in his eyes, but turned
To the apples, intent again. Michael looked down
At her white neck, rarely touched by the sun,
But now the cinnabar-colored hair fell off from it;
And her shoulders in the light-blue shirt, and long legs like a boy's
Bare-ankled in blue-jean trousers, the country wear;
He stooped quietly and slipped the small cool snake
Up the blue-denim leg. Fayne screamed and writhed,
Clutching her thigh. 'Michael, you beast.' She stood up
And stroked her leg, with little sharp cries, the slender invader
Fell down her ankle.

Fayne snatched for it and missed;


Michael stood by rejoicing, his rather small

Finely cut features in a dance of delight;

Fayne with one sweep flung at his face

All the bruised and half-spoiled apples in the pan,

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VII. Pompilia

I am just seventeen years and five months old,
And, if I lived one day more, three full weeks;
'T is writ so in the church's register,
Lorenzo in Lucina, all my names
At length, so many names for one poor child,
—Francesca Camilla Vittoria Angela
Pompilia Comparini,—laughable!
Also 't is writ that I was married there
Four years ago: and they will add, I hope,
When they insert my death, a word or two,—
Omitting all about the mode of death,—
This, in its place, this which one cares to know,
That I had been a mother of a son
Exactly two weeks. It will be through grace
O' the Curate, not through any claim I have;
Because the boy was born at, so baptized
Close to, the Villa, in the proper church:
A pretty church, I say no word against,
Yet stranger-like,—while this Lorenzo seems
My own particular place, I always say.
I used to wonder, when I stood scarce high
As the bed here, what the marble lion meant,
With half his body rushing from the wall,
Eating the figure of a prostrate man
(To the right, it is, of entry by the door)
An ominous sign to one baptized like me,
Married, and to be buried there, I hope.
And they should add, to have my life complete,
He is a boy and Gaetan by name—
Gaetano, for a reason,—if the friar
Don Celestine will ask this grace for me
Of Curate Ottoboni: he it was
Baptized me: he remembers my whole life
As I do his grey hair.

All these few things
I know are true,—will you remember them?
Because time flies. The surgeon cared for me,
To count my wounds,—twenty-two dagger-wounds,
Five deadly, but I do not suffer much—
Or too much pain,—and am to die to-night.

Oh how good God is that my babe was born,
—Better than born, baptized and hid away
Before this happened, safe from being hurt!
That had been sin God could not well forgive:
He was too young to smile and save himself.
When they took two days after he was born,
My babe away from me to be baptized
And hidden awhile, for fear his foe should find,—

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Three Women

My love is young, so young;
Young is her cheek, and her throat,
And life is a song to be sung
With love the word for each note.

Young is her cheek and her throat;
Her eyes have the smile o' May.
And love is the word for each note
In the song of my life to-day.

Her eyes have the smile o' May;
Her heart is the heart of a dove,
And the song of my life to-day
Is love, beautiful love.


Her heart is the heart of a dove,
Ah, would it but fly to my breast
Where love, beautiful love,
Has made it a downy nest.


Ah, would she but fly to my breast,
My love who is young, so young;
I have made her a downy nest
And life is a song to be sung.


1
I.
A dull little station, a man with the eye
Of a dreamer; a bevy of girls moving by;
A swift moving train and a hot Summer sun,
The curtain goes up, and our play is begun.
The drama of passion, of sorrow, of strife,
Which always is billed for the theatre Life.
It runs on forever, from year unto year,
With scarcely a change when new actors appear.
It is old as the world is-far older in truth,
For the world is a crude little planet of youth.
And back in the eras before it was formed,
The passions of hearts through the Universe stormed.


Maurice Somerville passed the cluster of girls
Who twisted their ribbons and fluttered their curls
In vain to attract him; his mind it was plain
Was wholly intent on the incoming train.
That great one eyed monster puffed out its black breath,
Shrieked, snorted and hissed, like a thing bent on death,

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Give The Po Man A Break

Give po man a break
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Christmas-Eve

I.
OUT of the little chapel I burst
Into the fresh night air again.
I had waited a good five minutes first
In the doorway, to escape the rain
That drove in gusts down the common’s centre,
At the edge of which the chapel stands,
Before I plucked up heart to enter:
Heaven knows how many sorts of hands
Reached past me, groping for the latch
Of the inner door that hung on catch,
More obstinate the more they fumbled,
Till, giving way at last with a scold
Of the crazy hinge, in squeezed or tumbled
One sheep more to the rest in fold,
And left me irresolute, standing sentry
In the sheepfold’s lath-and-plaster entry,
Four feet long by two feet wide,
Partitioned off from the vast inside—
I blocked up half of it at least.
No remedy; the rain kept driving:
They eyed me much as some wild beast,
The congregation, still arriving,
Some of them by the mainroad, white
A long way past me into the night,
Skirting the common, then diverging;
Not a few suddenly emerging
From the common’s self thro’ the paling-gaps,—
—They house in the gravel-pits perhaps,
Where the road stops short with its safeguard border
Of lamps, as tired of such disorder;—
But the most turned in yet more abruptly
From a certain squalid knot of alleys,
Where the town’s bad blood once slept corruptly,
Which now the little chapel rallies
And leads into day again,—its priestliness
Lending itself to hide their beastliness
So cleverly (thanks in part to the mason),
And putting so cheery a whitewashed face on
Those neophytes too much in lack of it,
That, where you cross the common as I did,
And meet the party thus presided,
“Mount Zion,” with Love-lane at the back of it,
They front you as little disconcerted,
As, bound for the hills, her fate averted
And her wicked people made to mind him,
Lot might have marched with Gomorrah behind him.

II.
Well, from the road, the lanes or the common,

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Tamar

I
A night the half-moon was like a dancing-girl,
No, like a drunkard's last half-dollar
Shoved on the polished bar of the eastern hill-range,
Young Cauldwell rode his pony along the sea-cliff;
When she stopped, spurred; when she trembled, drove
The teeth of the little jagged wheels so deep
They tasted blood; the mare with four slim hooves
On a foot of ground pivoted like a top,
Jumped from the crumble of sod, went down, caught, slipped;
Then, the quick frenzy finished, stiffening herself
Slid with her drunken rider down the ledges,
Shot from sheer rock and broke
Her life out on the rounded tidal boulders.

The night you know accepted with no show of emotion the little
accident; grave Orion
Moved northwest from the naked shore, the moon moved to
meridian, the slow pulse of the ocean
Beat, the slow tide came in across the slippery stones; it drowned
the dead mare's muzzle and sluggishly
Felt for the rider; Cauldwell’s sleepy soul came back from the
blind course curious to know
What sea-cold fingers tapped the walls of its deserted ruin.
Pain, pain and faintness, crushing
Weights, and a vain desire to vomit, and soon again
die icy fingers, they had crept over the loose hand and lay in the
hair now. He rolled sidewise
Against mountains of weight and for another half-hour lay still.
With a gush of liquid noises
The wave covered him head and all, his body
Crawled without consciousness and like a creature with no bones,
a seaworm, lifted its face
Above the sea-wrack of a stone; then a white twilight grew about
the moon, and above
The ancient water, the everlasting repetition of the dawn. You
shipwrecked horseman
So many and still so many and now for you the last. But when it
grew daylight
He grew quite conscious; broken ends of bone ground on each
other among the working fibers
While by half-inches he was drawing himself out of the seawrack
up to sandy granite,
Out of the tide's path. Where the thin ledge tailed into flat cliff
he fell asleep. . . .
Far seaward
The daylight moon hung like a slip of cloud against the horizon.
The tide was ebbing
From the dead horse and the black belt of sea-growth. Cauldwell
seemed to have felt her crying beside him,

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