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I would rather die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life.

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Id Rather Die

If your blood could give me happiness id ask for just a drop;
If your breath could fill my soul id ask for just a whisper;
If your tears could save my life than id say not a word;
For i would rather die than see you cry...
Please don't cry anymore...

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I Would Rather Be An Animal

Someday I would rather be a cow,
because I could live in the now.
I would rather be an ostrich
and bury my head in the sand,
then figure out a crazy homosapien.
Yes, a bird would be a better fit for me,
flying carefree through the trees.
Maybe a cat on the prawl,
they help the planet more then you know.
Even a dolphin who brings lots of love and cheer,
they have a lot of stored knowledge,
that’s why they are here.
I’ld rather be an animal with no problems at all,
but I guess I’m a conscious human
to remember Who You Are.

Written by Christina Sunrise on September 12,2011
www.purplepoems.com www.christinasunrise.com

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I Would Rather Be…

Thirteen pages of absolute nonsense,
pure propaganda without an ounce of
truth, crass materialism, prejudice, lack
of understanding and insight – and you
want me not only to read this junk, but
to translate it also?

I would rather be consumed by a legion
of ants, be stung by a myriad bees, face
a ravenous lion or a rabid dog, rather be
crucified or stoned to death, than read
and translate such stupidity, rather start
digging to find the Tibetan tunnels

Mentioned in Good Omens, meet hostile
aliens conducting strange experiments on
human victims, seek for the ancient under-
ground cities described by Von Däniken,
rather walk barefoot over glowing coals,
be stuck on the SS Eldridge ship of the

Philadelphia Experiment, moving in and
out of time, running the risk of deep freeze
as explained by the elusive Victor Allende,
rather fly over the Bermuda Triangle or
confront the Japanese Devil Sea, rather
be stuck on the moon or fall into

An interminable rabbit hole, than read and
translate this document; every time I look
at it, the skin on my head starts to shrink,
I would rather be skinned alive by the last
of the Mohicans, have my heart torn out
still beating while I am alive

In sacrifice by the ancient Mayans, than
work on this piece of utter stupidity…

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Who Would Not Die For England!

Who would not die for England!

This great thought,
Through centuries of Glory handed down
By storied vault in monumental fane,
And homeless grave in lone barbaric lands,
Homeless but not forgotten, so can thrill
With its imperious call the hearts of men,
That suddenly from dwarf ignoble lives
They rise to heights of nobleness, and spurn
The languid couch of safety, to embrace
Duty and Death that evermore were twin.

``Who would not die for England!''

Thus He said,
Who at the holiest of all English hearths,
The holiest and the highest, had been given
A seat, an English Princess for his Bride,-
Now at that hearth weeping her widowed tears,
Bitter and barren as the winter rain.
``It is not meet that I, whom this famed Isle,
This generous, mighty, and majestic Land,
Ennobled as her son, should not repay
Her splendid gift of kinship. Let me go,
Go where they go, Her world-researching race,
That slumber pillowed on the half-drawn sword,
And wake at whisper of her will, to greet
Duty and Death that evermore were twin.''

Who would not die for England!

And for Her
He dies, who, whether in the fateful fight,
Or in the marish jungle, where She bids,
Far from encircling fondness, far from kiss
Of clinging babes, hushes his human heart,
And, stern to every voice but Hers, obeys
Duty and Death that evermore were twin.

So across the far-off foam,
Bring him hither, bring him home,
Over avenues of wave,-
English ground,-to English grave;
Where his soldier dust may rest,
England's Flag above his breast,
And, love-tended, long may bloom
English flowers about his tomb.

Who would not die for England, that can give
A sepulture like this, 'mid hamlet crofts,
And comely cottages with old-world flowers,
And rustic seats for labour-palsied limbs,
The pensioners of Peace! I linger here,
Pondering the dark inexplicable Night,
Here by this river-girt sequestered shrine
Whose vanished walls were reared anew by Him,
Of Princes the most princely, if it be
That Wisdom, Love, and Virtue more adorn
Sarcophagus of Kings than dripping spears,
Lone wailing hearths and hecatombs of slain.
And He too died for England, He who lived
Scorning all joy save that great joy of all,
The love of one true woman, She a Queen,
Empress and Queen, yet not the more revered,
Not the more loved, for those resounding names,
Than for the lowlier titles, Gracious, Good,
The Worthiest of Women ever crowned.

Sweetest Consort, sagest Prince!
Snows on snows have melted since
England lost you;-late to learn
Worth that never can return;
Learned to know you as you were,
Known, till then, alone to Her!
Luminous as sun at noon,
Tender as the midnight moon,
Steadfast as the steered-by star,
Wise as Time and Silence are:
Deaf to vain-belittling lie,
Deaf to gibing jealousy;
Thinking only of the goal,
And, like every lofty soul,
Scanning with a far-off smile
The revilings of the vile.

Yes, He too died for England! thence withdrawn
Dim to that undiscoverable land
Where our lost loved ones dwell with wistful eyes,
And lips that look but speak not. . . . But away!
Away from these soft-whispering waves that make
A dulcet dirge around the new-delved grave,
To bluff East-Anglia, where on wind-swept lawns
The sanguine crocus peeps from underground
To feel the sun and only finds the snow;
And, whinnying on the norland blast, the surge
Leaps against iron coast with iron hoof,
As though the hosts of Denmark foamed afresh,
Caparisoned for ravin! And I see
A cradle, not a coffin, and therein
Another Child to England; and, veiled Fate
Over it bent with deep-divining gaze,
And with oracular lips, like nurse inspired,
Foretelling the fair Future.

``Another Albert shalt Thou be, so known,
So known, so honoured, and His name shall stand
The sponsor to your spotlessness, until
Dawns the full day when, conscious of your soul,
Your soul, your self, and that high mission laid
On all of such begetting, you may seize
The sceptre of your will, and, thus-wise armed
Against the sirens of disloyal sense,
Like to your pure progenitor abide
In God's stern presence, and surrender never
That last prerogative of all your race,
To live and die for England!''

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I would rather die in freedom on my way back home than starve to death here.

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True Love.

It is the very tune of hearts, and rhythms
To all occasions truly musical.
He sticks as fast to her each whim as does
The scarabaeus to its curious ball,
As if life's very destiny were in it;
And as the thing would rather die than part
With what occasions her so much turmoil,
I swear by what I now of true love know,
He'd dare even death rather than banished be
From her who has become a part of him.

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Some Would Rather Run and Hide

For eight years,
One man was allowed...
To strip them bare of their principles.
Leaving them naked of values.
And barren of their quality of life.

Now they are fearful,
That a new leader...
Will not understand their standards.
Is not aware of their needs.
And he is the only one mentally stable.
Capable to restore order.
And chose this responsibility,
To clean up the injustices...
Inflicted upon them.

And yet...
They distrust him,
Because he dares to be honest...
Direct and disciplined.
And they are afraid...
He may solicit from them sanity!
He presents a differentness.
And this is not their custom.
Some would rather run and hide...
Than confront reality.

And he scares them with his seriousness,
To have them sacrifice their fantasies.
Even though crooks they have trusted...
Have left them bone dry of treasured beliefs,
And their ideals!

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I would rather Freedom

I would rather a much better place,
A place of sanity,
Far away from the phantoms of ghostly shadows,
Far away from the phantasmagoria of knives and death,
Far away for the chocking disgudting stench,
of sweat and feces,
of contaminated air,
of blood,
of diseases and death
I would rather a place of decency,
And that place is freedom,

Oh Freedom! freedom,
Freedom for the scaring stare of my cellmate,
Freedom from the brutal touch of the guard,
Freedom from the hardwork for no pay!

I would rather freedom,
I am going to freedom, To my people,
To make love to my woman,
To give love to my children,
To eat the food that's got some taste,
And bath in clean cold water,

And I will not mock them,
I will let them know my side of the story,
And I hope this time the wheel of justice will not spin in favour of those who have money and land,
Not even those who know the judge,
But justice in truth and FREEDOM!

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Story of a girl

this is the story of a girl-(and not a song by blink 182 ewww)
who allways found herself
hateing this world
everything that happened
allways was her fault
she finally decided
it wasnt worth the guilt
that she would rather die
than live another day
that she would rather die
than hear another lie
for days, weeks, months,
she tried to decide
if she wanted life
or just death
she decided to give up
she chose the wimps way out
she chose to have
her funeral b4 marriage
her barrial b4 graduation
the gun b4 too lobg
was loaded and at her head
a single tear rolled down her face
she knew soon she would have to leave
her lover mom and dad
so she slowly squeezed the trigger
and finally she had peace
but wait
what are those voices
where are they comeing from
what is that light
am i in heaven
i thought there was no such thing
but i hear one sweet voice
but it sounds so sad
it is josh
i hurt him real bad
as i slowly drift away i hear them say 'were losing her'
i hear a tiny wimpering cry
and from there i hear nothing
i am gone...

date unknown

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Zimbabwe frightened you

Zimbabwe frightened you,
Zimbabwe where we could be alone
and in a way I felt at home.
The dark black faces,
the savagery, hunger
and wretched poverty
were more than you could take.

You panicked thinking
that the unruly young teenagers
and so-called war veterans
would not just drive
the farmers away,
but were sharpening
their Panga-blades
even for white tourists.

Everywhere you looked,
you saw death, destruction
and black rule taking its toll
and the ever hungry
begging people
was like a prophecy
of what in the future
may be waiting for us
at home.

Visiting the places
we had dreamed of,
the Zimbabwe ruins,
Mana pools, Kariba lake
and the Victoria falls
was like a nightmare to you.

Even the African art carvings
of people and animals
and rural paintings
of the Ndebele people
hardly caught your eye
and you would rather die
than stay a day longer.

African dancers screaming
around a fire
and dancing like shadows
on the beat
of ancient drums
drove the fear home,
so that you wanted to get into the car.

[References: To Minette, of whom there is just memories. You Hated Spain by Ted Hughes.]

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Mafeking

Once again, banners, fly!
Clang again, bells, on high,
Sounding to sea and sky,
Longer and louder,
Mafeking's glory with
Kimberley, Ladysmith,
Of our unconquered kith
Prouder and prouder.

Hemmed in for half a year,
Still with no succour near,
Nor word of hope to cheer
Wounded and dying,
Famished, and foiled of sleep
By the fierce cannon's leap,
They vowed still, still to keep
England's Flag flying.

Nor was their mettle shown
By male and strong alone,
But, as intrepid grown,
Fragile and tender,
Without or tear or sigh,
Echoed the brave old cry,
``We, too, would rather die,
Die than surrender.''

As pressed the foe more near,
Only with naked spear,
Ne'er knowing what to fear,
Parley, or blench meant,
Forward through shot and shell,
While still the foremost fell,
They with resistless yell
Stormed his entrenchment.

Then, when hope dawned at last,
And fled the foe, aghast
At the relieving blast
Heard in the melley,-
O our stout, stubborn kith!
Kimberley, Ladysmith,
Mafeking, wedded with
Lucknow and Delhi!

Sound for them martial lay!
Crown them with battle-bay,
Both those who died, and they
'Gainst death could wrestle:
Powell of endless fame,
All, all with equal claim,
And, of the storied name,
Gallant young Cecil!

Long as the waves shall roll,
Long as Fame guards her scroll,
And men through heart and soul
Thrill to true glory,
Their deed, from age to age,
Shall voice and verse engage,
Swelling the splendid page
Of England's Story.

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The Sphinx

THIS mystery of golden hair,
Of eyes and lips and bosom fair,
Is not--if one could really see--
Mere flesh and blood, like you and me:
This is a sphinx whose still lips say
This one thing ever, day by day,
To all who cross her in life's ways:
'Which is the way to love?' she says.


For every man who meets her eyes
In their deep depths the question lies;
And vainly would he seek to fly
Or put the wordless challenge by,
Unless within his soul be set
Some true-love vow as amulet:
This clasping, let him flee her spell,
Nor trust its guardian powers too well.


Nothing seems good to think about
But just to find that secret out;
We bring her fruits of earnest hours,
And offer choice of passion-flowers,
Of crowns, of heart's blood, of heart's ache,
Our hopes we spurn, our joys forsake,
While she looks down upon our pain
Without compassion or disdain.


She does not will to question thus--
Fate made her just to torture us;
Nor can she tell you, if she will,
Aught of your guesses, good or ill.
But if you fail to answer well,
Your own foiled heart prepares your hell,
And all your days you walk alone,
And curse the done and the undone.


She does not bid you for her sake
Your soul to wreck, your life to break,
Nor would she choose it for her part.
Only for ever in your heart
The haunting question must abide,
And clamour morn and eventide,
Until no single note your ear
Of all life's harmonies can hear.


Yet to some man it will be given
To find the key that opens heaven;
For him, beloved by all the Fates,
Answer as well as question waits
In those unwakened eyes of hers,
And when their calm that answer stirs,
From her stone sleep the sphinx will wake
Into a woman, for his sake.


What though one's whole life's light grows night
With that unanswered question's blight?
One's one poor chance is richly worth
The richest certainties of earth!
Myself would rather die, I know--
Starved, just because I want her so--
Than feast in highest heaven of bliss
On any other woman's kiss.


Such spells she has, I would not choose
One look or touch of hers to lose,
Though every touch and look have power
To sting me to my dying hour;
Though every breath of hers should bring
Frost on life's bud and blossoming,
What soul could ask a dearer death
Than to be withered by her breath?

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The Burial March Of Dundee

Sound the fife, and cry the slogan-
Let the pibroch shake the air
With its wild triumphal music,
Worthy of the freight we bear.
Let the ancient hills of Scotland
Hear once more the battle-song
Swell within their glens and valleys
As the clansmen march along!
Never from the field of combat,
Never from the deadly fray,
Was a nobler trophy carried
Than we bring with us to-day;
Never, since the valiant Douglas
On his dauntless bosom bore
Good King Robert's heart-the priceless-
To our dear Redeemer's shore!
Lo! we bring with us the hero-
Lo! we bring the conquering Græme,
Crowned as best beseems a victor
From the altar of his fame;
Fresh and bleeding from the battle
Whence his spirit took its flight,
Midst the crashing charge of squadrons,
And the thunder of the fight!
Strike, I say, the notes of triumph,
As we march o'er moor and lea!
Is there any here will venture
To bewail our dead Dundee?
Let the widows of the traitors
Weep until their eyes are dim!
Wail ye may full well for Scotland-
Let none dare to mourn for him!
See! above his glorious body
Lies the royal banner's fold-
See! his valiant blood is mingled
With its crimson and its gold.
See! how calm he looks and stately,
Like a warrior on his shield,
Waiting till the flush of morning
Breaks along the battle-field!
See-Oh never more, my comrades!
Shall we see that falcon eye
Redden with its inward lightning,
As the hour of fight drew nigh;
Never shall we hear the voice that,
Clearer than the trumpet's call,
Bade us strike for King and Country,
Bade us win the field or fall!
On the heights of Killiecrankie
Yester-morn our army lay:
Slowly rose the mist in columns
From the river's broken way;
Hoarsely roared the swollen torrent,
And the pass was wrapped in gloom,
When the clansmen rose together
From their lair amidst the broom.
Then we belted on our tartans,
And our bonnets down we drew,
And we felt our broadswords' edges,
And we proved them to be true;
And we prayed the prayer of soldiers,
And we cried the gathering-cry,
And we clasped the hands of kinsmen,
And we swore to do or die!
Then our leader rode before us
On his war-horse black as night-
Well the Cameronian rebels
Knew that charger in the fight!-
And a cry of exultation
From the bearded warriors rose;
For we loved the house of Claver'se,
And we thought of good Montrose.
But he raised his hand for silence-
'Soldiers! I have sworn a vow:
Ere the evening-star shall glisten
On Schehallion's lofty brow,
Either we shall rest in triumph,
Or another of the Graemes
Shall have died in battle-harness
For his Country and King James!
Think upon the Royal Martyr-
Think of what his race endure-
Think on him whom butchers murder'd
On the field of Magus Muir:-
By his sacred blood I charge ye,
By the ruin'd hearth and shrine-
By the blighted hopes of Scotland,
By your injuries and mine-
Strike this day as if the anvil
Lay beneath your blows the while,
Be they Covenanting traitors,
Or the brood of false Argyle!
Strike! and drive the trembling rebels
Backwards o'er the stormy Forth;
Let them tell their pale Convention
How they fared within the North.
Let them tell that Highland honour
Is not to be bought nor sold,
That we scorn their Prince's anger,
As we loathe his foreign gold.
Strike! and when the fight is over,
If ye look in vain for me,
Where the dead are lying thickest,
Search for him that was Dundee!'

Loudly then the hills re-echoed
With our answer to his call,
But a deeper echo sounded
In the bosoms of us all.
For the lands of wide Breadalbane,
Not a man who heard him speak
Would that day have left the battle.
Burning eye and flushing cheek
Told the clansmen's fierce emotion,
And they harder drew their breath;
For their souls were strong within them,
Stronger than the grasp of death.
Soon we heard a challenge-trumpet
Sounding in the pass below,
And the distant tramp of horses,
And the voices of the foe:
Down we crouched amid the bracken,
Till the Lowland ranks drew near,
Panting like the hounds in summer,
When they scent the stately deer.
From the dark defile emerging,
Next we saw the squadrons come,
Leslie's foot and Leven's troopers
Marching to the tuck of drum;
Through the scattered wood of birches,
O'er the broken ground and heath,
Wound the long battalion slowly,
Till they gained the field beneath;
Then we bounded from our covert.-
Judge how looked the Saxons then,
When they saw the rugged mountain
Start to life with armèd men!
Like a tempest down the ridges,
Swept the hurricane of steel,
Rose the slogan of Macdonald-
Flashed the broadsword of Locheill!
Vainly sped the withering volley
'Mongst the foremost of our band-
On we poured until we met them,
Foot to foot, and hand to hand.
Horse and man went down like drift-wood
When the floods are black at Yule,
And their carcasses are whirling
In the Garry's deepest pool.
Horse and man went down before us-
Living foe there tarried none
On the field of Killiecrankie,
When that stubborn fight was done!

And the evening-star was shining
On Schehallion's distant head,
When we wiped our bloody broadswords,
And returned to count the dead.
There we found him, gashed and gory,
Stretch'd upon the cumbered plain,
As he told us where to seek him,
In the thickest of the slain.
And a smile was on his visage,
For within his dying ear
Pealed the joyful note of triumph,
And the clansmen's clamorous cheer:
So, amidst the battle's thunder,
Shot, and steel, and scorching flame,
In the glory of his manhood
Passed the spirit of the Græme!
Open wide the vaults of Athol,
Where the bones of heroes rest-
Open wide the hallowed portals
To receive another guest!
Last of Scots, and last of freemen-
Last of all that dauntless race
Who would rather die unsullied
Than outlive the land's disgrace!
O thou lion-hearted warrior!
Reck not of the after-time:
Honour may be deemed dishonour,
Loyalty be called a crime.
Sleep in peace with kindred ashes
Of the noble and the true,
Hands that never failed their country,
Hearts that never baseness knew.
Sleep!-and till the latest trumpet
Wakes the dead from earth and sea,
Scotland shall not boast a braver
Chieftain than our own Dundee!

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The Double Image

1.

I am thirty this November.
You are still small, in your fourth year.
We stand watching the yellow leaves go queer,
flapping in the winter rain.
falling flat and washed. And I remember
mostly the three autumns you did not live here.
They said I'd never get you back again.
I tell you what you'll never really know:
all the medical hypothesis
that explained my brain will never be as true as these
struck leaves letting go.

I, who chose two times
to kill myself, had said your nickname
the mewling mouths when you first came;
until a fever rattled
in your throat and I moved like a pantomine
above your head. Ugly angels spoke to me. The blame,
I heard them say, was mine. They tattled
like green witches in my head, letting doom
leak like a broken faucet;
as if doom had flooded my belly and filled your bassinet,
an old debt I must assume.

Death was simpler than I'd thought.
The day life made you well and whole
I let the witches take away my guilty soul.
I pretended I was dead
until the white men pumped the poison out,
putting me armless and washed through the rigamarole
of talking boxes and the electric bed.
I laughed to see the private iron in that hotel.
Today the yellow leaves
go queer. You ask me where they go I say today believed
in itself, or else it fell.

Today, my small child, Joyce,
love your self's self where it lives.
There is no special God to refer to; or if there is,
why did I let you grow
in another place. You did not know my voice
when I came back to call. All the superlatives
of tomorrow's white tree and mistletoe
will not help you know the holidays you had to miss.
The time I did not love
myself, I visited your shoveled walks; you held my glove.
There was new snow after this.

2.

They sent me letters with news
of you and I made moccasins that I would never use.
When I grew well enough to tolerate
myself, I lived with my mother, the witches said.
But I didn't leave. I had my portrait
done instead.

Part way back from Bedlam
I came to my mother's house in Gloucester,
Massachusetts. And this is how I came
to catch at her; and this is how I lost her.
I cannot forgive your suicide, my mother said.
And she never could. She had my portrait
done instead.

I lived like an angry guest,
like a partly mended thing, an outgrown child.
I remember my mother did her best.
She took me to Boston and had my hair restyled.
Your smile is like your mother's, the artist said.
I didn't seem to care. I had my portrait
done instead.

There was a church where I grew up
with its white cupboards where they locked us up,
row by row, like puritans or shipmates
singing together. My father passed the plate.
Too late to be forgiven now, the witches said.
I wasn't exactly forgiven. They had my portrait
done instead.

3.

All that summer sprinklers arched
over the seaside grass.
We talked of drought
while the salt-parched
field grew sweet again. To help time pass
I tried to mow the lawn
and in the morning I had my portrait done,
holding my smile in place, till it grew formal.
Once I mailed you a picture of a rabbit
and a postcard of Motif number one,
as if it were normal
to be a mother and be gone.

They hung my portrait in the chill
north light, matching
me to keep me well.
Only my mother grew ill.
She turned from me, as if death were catching,
as if death transferred,
as if my dying had eaten inside of her.
That August you were two, by I timed my days with doubt.
On the first of September she looked at me
and said I gave her cancer.
They carved her sweet hills out
and still I couldn't answer.

4.

That winter she came
part way back
from her sterile suite
of doctors, the seasick
cruise of the X-ray,
the cells' arithmetic
gone wild. Surgery incomplete,
the fat arm, the prognosis poor, I heard
them say.

During the sea blizzards
she had here
own portrait painted.
A cave of mirror
placed on the south wall;
matching smile, matching contour.
And you resembled me; unacquainted
with my face, you wore it. But you were mine
after all.

I wintered in Boston,
childless bride,
nothing sweet to spare
with witches at my side.
I missed your babyhood,
tried a second suicide,
tried the sealed hotel a second year.
On April Fool you fooled me. We laughed and this
was good.

5.

I checked out for the last time
on the first of May;
graduate of the mental cases,
with my analysts's okay,
my complete book of rhymes,
my typewriter and my suitcases.

All that summer I learned life
back into my own
seven rooms, visited the swan boats,
the market, answered the phone,
served cocktails as a wife
should, made love among my petticoats

and August tan. And you came each
weekend. But I lie.
You seldom came. I just pretended
you, small piglet, butterfly
girl with jelly bean cheeks,
disobedient three, my splendid

stranger. And I had to learn
why I would rather
die than love, how your innocence
would hurt and how I gather
guilt like a young intern
his symptons, his certain evidence.

That October day we went
to Gloucester the red hills
reminded me of the dry red fur fox
coat I played in as a child; stock still
like a bear or a tent,
like a great cave laughing or a red fur fox.

We drove past the hatchery,
the hut that sells bait,
past Pigeon Cove, past the Yacht Club, past Squall's
Hill, to the house that waits
still, on the top of the sea,
and two portraits hung on the opposite walls.

6.

In north light, my smile is held in place,
the shadow marks my bone.
What could I have been dreaming as I sat there,
all of me waiting in the eyes, the zone
of the smile, the young face,
the foxes' snare.

In south light, her smile is held in place,
her cheeks wilting like a dry
orchid; my mocking mirror, my overthrown
love, my first image. She eyes me from that face
that stony head of death
I had outgrown.

The artist caught us at the turning;
we smiled in our canvas home
before we chose our foreknown separate ways.
The dry redfur fox coat was made for burning.
I rot on the wall, my own
Dorian Gray.

And this was the cave of the mirror,
that double woman who stares
at herself, as if she were petrified
in time - two ladies sitting in umber chairs.
You kissed your grandmother
and she cried.

7.

I could not get you back
except for weekends. You came
each time, clutching the picture of a rabbit
that I had sent you. For the last time I unpack
your things. We touch from habit.
The first visit you asked my name.
Now you will stay for good. I will forget
how we bumped away from each other like marionettes
on strings. It wasn't the same
as love, letting weekends contain
us. You scrape your knee. You learn my name,
wobbling up the sidewalk, calling and crying.
You can call me mother and I remember my mother again,
somewhere in greater Boston, dying.

I remember we named you Joyce
so we could call you Joy.
You came like an awkward guest
that first time, all wrapped and moist
and strange at my heavy breast.
I needed you. I didn't want a boy,
only a girl, a small milky mouse
of a girl, already loved, already loud in the house
of herself. We named you Joy.
I, who was never quite sure
about being a girl, needed another
life, another image to remind me.
And this was my worst guilt; you could not cure
or soothe it. I made you to find me.

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Christina Georgina Rossetti

Monna Innominata: A Sonnet of Sonnets

1

Lo dì che han detto a' dolci amici addio. - Dante
Amor, con quanto sforzo oggi mi vinci! - Petrarca

Come back to me, who wait and watch for you:--
Or come not yet, for it is over then,
And long it is before you come again,
So far between my pleasures are and few.
While, when you come not, what I do I do
Thinking "Now when he comes," my sweetest when:"
For one man is my world of all the men
This wide world holds; O love, my world is you.
Howbeit, to meet you grows almost a pang
Because the pang of parting comes so soon;
My hope hangs waning, waxing, like a moon
Between the heavenly days on which we meet:
Ah me, but where are now the songs I sang
When life was sweet because you call'd them sweet?

2

Era già 1'ora che volge il desio. - Dante
Ricorro al tempo ch' io vi vidi prima. - Petrarca

I wish I could remember that first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or winter for aught I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May.
If only I could recollect it, such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;
It seem'd to mean so little, meant so much;
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand--Did one but know!


3

O ombre vane, fuor che ne l'aspetto! - Dante
Immaginata guida la conduce. - Petrarca

I dream of you to wake: would that I might
Dream of you and not wake but slumber on;
Nor find with dreams the dear companion gone,
As summer ended summer birds take flight.
In happy dreams I hold you full in sight,
I blush again who waking look so wan;
Brighter than sunniest day that ever shone,
In happy dreams your smile makes day of night.
Thus only in a dream we are at one,
Thus only in a dream we give and take
The faith that maketh rich who take or give;
If thus to sleep is sweeter than to wake,
To die were surely sweeter than to live,
Though there be nothing new beneath the sun.


4

Poca favilla gran fliamma seconda. - Dante
Ogni altra cosa, ogni pensier va fore,
E sol ivi con voi rimansi amore. - Petrarca

I lov'd you first: but afterwards your love
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drown'd the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? my love was long,
And yours one moment seem'd to wax more strong;
I lov'd and guess'd at you, you construed me--
And lov'd me for what might or might not be
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not "mine" or "thine;"
With separate "I" and "thou" free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of "thine that is not mine;"
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.


5

Amor che a nullo amato amar perdona. - Dante
Amor m'addusse in sì gioiosa spene. - Petrarca

O my heart's heart, and you who are to me
More than myself myself, God be with you,
Keep you in strong obedience leal and true
To Him whose noble service setteth free,
Give you all good we see or can foresee,
Make your joys many and your sorrows few,
Bless you in what you bear and what you do,
Yea, perfect you as He would have you be.
So much for you; but what for me, dear friend?
To love you without stint and all I can
Today, tomorrow, world without an end;
To love you much and yet to love you more,
As Jordan at his flood sweeps either shore;
Since woman is the helpmeet made for man.


6

Or puoi la quantitate
Comprender de l'amor che a te mi scalda. - Dante
Non vo' che da tal nodo mi scioglia. - Petrarca

Trust me, I have not earn'd your dear rebuke,
I love, as you would have me, God the most;
Would lose not Him, but you, must one be lost,
Nor with Lot's wife cast back a faithless look
Unready to forego what I forsook;
This say I, having counted up the cost,
This, though I be the feeblest of God's host,
The sorriest sheep Christ shepherds with His crook.
Yet while I love my God the most, I deem
That I can never love you overmuch;
I love Him more, so let me love you too;
Yea, as I apprehend it, love is such
I cannot love you if I love not Him,
I cannot love Him if I love not you.


7

Qui primavera sempre ed ogni frutto. - Dante
Ragionando con meco ed io con lui. - Petrarca

"Love me, for I love you"--and answer me,
"Love me, for I love you"--so shall we stand
As happy equals in the flowering land
Of love, that knows not a dividing sea.
Love builds the house on rock and not on sand,
Love laughs what while the winds rave desperately;
And who hath found love's citadel unmann'd?
And who hath held in bonds love's liberty?
My heart's a coward though my words are brave
We meet so seldom, yet we surely part
So often; there's a problem for your art!
Still I find comfort in his Book, who saith,
Though jealousy be cruel as the grave,
And death be strong, yet love is strong as death.


8

Come dicesse a Dio: D'altro non calme. - Dante
Spero trovar pietà non che perdono. - Petrarca

"I, if I perish, perish"--Esther spake:
And bride of life or death she made her fair
In all the lustre of her perfum'd hair
And smiles that kindle longing but to slake.
She put on pomp of loveliness, to take
Her husband through his eyes at unaware;
She spread abroad her beauty for a snare,
Harmless as doves and subtle as a snake.
She trapp'd him with one mesh of silken hair,
She vanquish'd him by wisdom of her wit,
And built her people's house that it should stand:--
If I might take my life so in my hand,
And for my love to Love put up my prayer,
And for love's sake by Love be granted it!


9

O dignitosa coscienza e netta! - Dante
Spirto più acceso di virtuti ardenti. - Petrarca

Thinking of you, and all that was, and all
That might have been and now can never be,
I feel your honour'd excellence, and see
Myself unworthy of the happier call:
For woe is me who walk so apt to fall,
So apt to shrink afraid, so apt to flee,
Apt to lie down and die (ah, woe is me!)
Faithless and hopeless turning to the wall.
And yet not hopeless quite nor faithless quite,
Because not loveless; love may toil all night,
But take at morning; wrestle till the break
Of day, but then wield power with God and man:--
So take I heart of grace as best I can,
Ready to spend and be spent for your sake.


10

Con miglior corso e con migliore stella. - Dante
La vita fugge e non s'arresta un' ora. - Petrarca

Time flies, hope flags, life plies a wearied wing;
Death following hard on life gains ground apace;
Faith runs with each and rears an eager face,
Outruns the rest, makes light of everything,
Spurns earth, and still finds breath to pray and sing;
While love ahead of all uplifts his praise,
Still asks for grace and still gives thanks for grace,
Content with all day brings and night will bring.
Life wanes; and when love folds his wings above
Tired hope, and less we feel his conscious pulse,
Let us go fall asleep, dear friend, in peace:
A little while, and age and sorrow cease;
A little while, and life reborn annuls
Loss and decay and death, and all is love.


11

Vien dietro a me e lascia dir le genti. - Dante
Contando i casi della vita nostra. - Petrarca

Many in aftertimes will say of you
"He lov'd her"--while of me what will they say?
Not that I lov'd you more than just in play,
For fashion's sake as idle women do.
Even let them prate; who know not what we knew
Of love and parting in exceeding pain,
Of parting hopeless here to meet again,
Hopeless on earth, and heaven is out of view.
But by my heart of love laid bare to you,
My love that you can make not void nor vain,
Love that foregoes you but to claim anew
Beyond this passage of the gate of death,
I charge you at the Judgment make it plain
My love of you was life and not a breath.


12

Amor, che ne la mente mi ragiona. - Dante
Amor vien nel bel viso di costei. - Petrarca

If there be any one can take my place
And make you happy whom I grieve to grieve,
Think not that I can grudge it, but believe
I do commend you to that nobler grace,
That readier wit than mine, that sweeter face;
Yea, since your riches make me rich, conceive
I too am crown'd, while bridal crowns I weave,
And thread the bridal dance with jocund pace.
For if I did not love you, it might be
That I should grudge you some one dear delight;
But since the heart is yours that was mine own,
Your pleasure is my pleasure, right my right,
Your honourable freedom makes me free,
And you companion'd I am not alone.


13

E drizzeremo gli occhi al Primo Amore. - Dante
Ma trovo peso non da le mie braccia. - Petrarca

If I could trust mine own self with your fate,
Shall I not rather trust it in God's hand?
Without Whose Will one lily doth not stand,
Nor sparrow fall at his appointed date;
Who numbereth the innumerable sand,
Who weighs the wind and water with a weight,
To Whom the world is neither small nor great,
Whose knowledge foreknew every plan we plann'd.
Searching my heart for all that touches you,
I find there only love and love's goodwill
Helpless to help and impotent to do,
Of understanding dull, of sight most dim;
And therefore I commend you back to Him
Whose love your love's capacity can fill.


14

E la Sua Volontade è nostra pace. - Dante
Sol con questi pensier, con altre chiome. - Petrarca

Youth gone, and beauty gone if ever there
Dwelt beauty in so poor a face as this;
Youth gone and beauty, what remains of bliss?
I will not bind fresh roses in my hair,
To shame a cheek at best but little fair,--
Leave youth his roses, who can bear a thorn,--
I will not seek for blossoms anywhere,
Except such common flowers as blow with corn.
Youth gone and beauty gone, what doth remain?
The longing of a heart pent up forlorn,
A silent heart whose silence loves and longs;
The silence of a heart which sang its songs
While youth and beauty made a summer morn,
Silence of love that cannot sing again.

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Never Land

PREFACE
This yarn is a fabric woven of several earlier warped works, lightly laced together with additional braided tales of human frailty. The looms were purling frantically... Some pearls may be found wonting, hanging loose, dangling free within a fuzzy flight of fancy... These untethered strands may be fastened, or be forgotten, or be hidden by the readers in the corners of their minds... Some may end up in stitches, others all torn up or ripped apart, others may just say ‘made of hole cloth', ‘sew what' or ‘I don't seam to get the needle point'... This wanton web is yours to spin...

Some have said that such strange things ‘have Never happened in our Land', such quaint things ‘could Never happen in our Land'', such murky things ‘will Never happen in our Land''... and this may be true... such is the gossamer that veils the human mind... and thus ensues the title of this Fantasy...

NEVER LAND


An ancient man named Peter Pan, disguised but from the past,
With feathered cap and tunic wrap and sabre's sailed his last.
Though fully grown, on dust he's flown and perched upon a mast
Atop the Walls around the sprawls, unvisited and vast -
And all the while with bitter smile he's watching us aghast.

As day begins, a spindle spins, it weaves a wanton web;
Like puckered prunes, like midday moons, like yesterday's celebs,
We scrape and grope, we seldom hope - he's watching while we ebb:

The organ grinder preaches fine on Sunday afternoons -
He quotes from books but overlooks the Secrets Carved in Runes:
'You've tried and toyed, but can't avoid or shun the pale monsoons,
It's sink or swim as echoed dim in swinging door saloons'.
The laughingstocks are flinging rocks at ball-and-chained baboons.

While ghetto boys are looting toys preparing for their doom
And Mademoiselles are weaving shells on tapestries with looms,
Cathedral cats and rafter rats are peering in the room,
Where ragged strangers stoop for change, for coppers in the gloom,
Whose thoughts are more upon the doors of crypts in Christmas bloom,
And gold doubloons and silver spoons that tempt beyond the tomb.

Mid Uzi shots from vacant lots, that strike and ricochet
A painted girl with flaxen curl (named Wendy) 's on her way
To tantalise with half-clad thighs, to trick again today;
And indiscreet upon the street she gives her pride away
To any guy who's passing by with time and cash to pay.
(In concert halls beyond the Walls, unjaded girls ballet,
With flowered thoughts of Camelot and dreams of cabarets.)

The alley ways within the maze are paved with rats and mice.
Evangelists with moneyed fists collect the sacrifice
From losers scorned and rubes reborn, and promise paradise,
While in the back they cook some crack, inhale, and roll the dice.

A bum called Boe has stubbed his toe, he's stumbled in the gutter;
With broken neck, he looks a wreck, the sparrows all aflutter,
The passers-by, they close an eye, and turn their heads and mutter:
'Let's pray for rains to wash the lanes, to clear away the clutter.'
A river slows neath mountain snows, and leaves begin to shudder.

Though rip-off shops and crooked cops are paid not once but thrice,
The painted girl with flaxen curl is paring down her price
And loosely tempts cold hands unkempt to touch the merchandise.
A crazy guy cries 'where am I', a schizo titters twice,
And double quick a lunatic affects a fight with lice.

The jungle teems, a siren screams, the air is filled with meth.
The Reverent Priest and nuns unleash the Holy Shibboleth.
And Righteous Jane who is insane, as well as Sister Beth,
While telling tales to no avail of everlasting death,
At least imbue Hagg Avenue with whisky on their breath.

The Reverent Priest combats the Beast, they're kneeling down to prey,
To fight the truth with fang and tooth, to toil for yesterday,
To etch their mark within the dark, to paint their résumé
On shrouds and sheets which then completes the devil's dossier.

Old Dan, he's drunk and in a funk, all mired in the mud.
A Monk begins to wash Dan's sins, and asks 'How are you, Bud? '
'I'm feeling pain and crying rain till soon there is a flood.
And no god's there who seems to care I'm always coughing blood.'
The Monk, he turns, Dan's words he spurns and lets the bible thud.

Well, Banjo Boy, he will annoy with jangled rhymes that fray:
'The clanging bells of carousels lead blind men's minds astray
To rings of gold they'll never hold in fingers made of clay.
But crest and crown will crumble down, when withered roots decay.'

Now, Railroad Bob has lost his job, he's got no place for working,
His wife, she cries with desperate eyes, their baby's head's a' jerking.
The union man don't give a damn, Big Brother lies a' lurking,
The boss' in cabs are picking scabs, they count their money, smirking.

A pregnant lass with eyes of glass has never learned to cope.
Once set adrift her fall was swift, she slid a slipp'ry slope -
She casts the Curse, the Holy Verse, and shoots a shot of dope,
And stalks discreet Asylum Street her daily horoscope -
The stray was struck by random truck which was her only hope.

Well, Banjo Boy, with little joy, he strums her life entire:
'The wayward waif was never safe; her stars were dark and dire.
Born midst the rues and avenues where lack and want aspire
Where no one heeds the childish needs that little ones require;
Where faith survives in tempest lives, a swirl within the briar,
Infinity grinds as time unwinds, until the winds expire.
Her last caprice? The final peace that no one could deny her -
Whipped by the flood, stray beads of blood are spattered on the spire;
Though beads of sweat are cool and wet, cold clotted blood is dryer.'

Though broken there, she's fled the snare with dying thoughts serene.
And now she's dead, the rumours spread: her age? a sweet 16,
With child, unwed, her soul dyed red, her body so unclean.
A place is sought where she can rot, avoiding churchyard scenes,
In limey pits, as well befits, behind forbidding screens;
And all the while a dirge is styled on tattered tambourines
Which echo through the human zoo in valleys of the Queens.

Without rejoice, in hissing voice, near soil that's seldom trod
'In pious role, God bless my soul', was mouthed with mitred nod,
Neath scarlet trim with black, and grim, behind a robed facade -
'She'll burn in hell and sulphur smell', spat Priest and man of god.

Well, angels sweet with cloven feet, they sing in girl's attire,
But Banjo Boy, he's playing coy while chanting in the choir:
'The clueless search within the church to find what they desire,
But near the nave or gravelled grave, there is no Rectifier.'
And when he's through, without ado, he stacks some stones nearby her.

A sodden dreg with wooden leg is dancing for a dime,
To sacred psalms and other balms, all ticking with the time.
He's 22, he's almost through, he's melted in his prime,
His bane is firm, the canker worm dissolves his brain to slime.
With slanted scales and twisted jails, his life's his only crime.

The eyes behind the head inclined reflect a universe
Of shanty towns and kings in crowns and parties in a hearse,
Of heaping mounds of coffee grounds and pennies in a purse,
Of heart attacks in shoddy shacks, of motion in reverse,
Of reasons why pale kids must die, quite trite and curtly terse,
Of puppet people at the steeple, kneeling down averse,
Of tinkle tones and megaphones with empty words and worse,
Of life's begin' in utter sin and other things perverse,
Of lewd taboos and residues contained within the Curse,
While poets blind, in gallows' rind, carve epitaphs in verse.

Bob walks the streets and begs for eats or little jobs for trying
'The answer's no, you ought to know, no use for you applying,
And don't be sad, it aint that bad, it's soon your time for dying.'
The air is thick, his baby's sick, the cries are multiplying.

The backyard blight is hid from sight, it's covered up and bland,
The beggar clump beside the dump has pencil box in hand.
With sightless eyes upon the skies he's lying there unmanned,
With no relief and bitter grief too dark to understand.
The backyard blight is hid from sight, it's covered up and bland,
And Robin Hood and Brother Hood lie buried in the sand.

While all night queens carve figurines in gelatine and jade,
Behind a door and on the floor a deal is finally made;
The painted girl with flaxen curl has plied again her trade
And now the care within her stare has turned a darker shade.
Her lack of guile and parting smile are cutting like a blade.

Some boys with cheek play hide and seek within a house condemned
Their faces gaunt reflecting want that's hard to comprehend.
With no excuse an old recluse is waiting to descend.
His eyes despair behind the stair, he's never had a friend
To talk about his hidden doubt of how the world will end -
To die alone on empty throne and other Fates impend.

And soon the boys chase phantom joys and, presto when they're gone,
The old recluse, with nimble noose and facial features drawn,
No longer waits upon the Fates but yawns his final yawn
- Like Tinker Bell, he spins a spell, in fairy dust chiffon -
With twisted brow, he's tranquil now, he's floating like a swan
And as he fades from life's charades, the night awaits the dawn.

A boomerang with ebon fang is soaring through the air
To pierce and breach the heart of each and then is called despair.
And as it grows it will oppose and fester everywhere.
And yet the crop that's at the top will still be unaware.

A lad is stopped by roving cops, who shoot in disregard.
His face is black, he's on his back, a breeze is breathing hard,
He bleeds and dies, his mama cries, the screaming sky is scarred,
The sheriff and his squad at hand are laughing in the yard.

Bob's wife's in town, she's broken down, she's ranting with a fury,
Their baby coughs, the doctor scoffs, the snow is all a' flurry,
Their life of sin has done them in, they skirmish, scrimp and scurry.
It's getting late, Bob's tempting fate, his choices cruel and blurry,
His midnight dreams are filled with screams, he knows he needs to hurry -
He chooses gas, they breathe their last, there's no more cause to worry.

Per protocols near ivied walls arrayed in sage festoons,
The Countess quips, while giving tips, to crimson caped buffoons:
'To rise from mass to upper class, like twirly bird tycoons,
You stretch the treat you always eat, with tiny tablespoons'

A learned leach begins to teach (with songs upon a liar) :
'Within the thrall of Satan's call to yield to dim desire
Lie wicked lies that tantalize the flesh and blood Vampire;
Abiding souls with self-control in everyday Hellfire
Will rest assured, when once interred, in afterlife Empire'.
The words, they weave the make believe, while slugs in salt expire,
Baptised in tears and rampant fears, all mirrored in the mire.

It's getting hot on private yachts, though far from desert plains -
'Well, come to think, we'll have a drink', Sir Captain Hook ordains.
Beyond the blame and pit of shame, outside the Walled domains,
They pet their pups and raise their cups, take sips of pale champagnes
To touch the tips of languid lips with pearls of purple rains.

Well, Gypsy Guy would rather die than hunker down in chains,
Be ridden south with bit in mouth, or heed the hold of reins;
The ones that plot are in a spot, the boss man he complains:
'The gypsy soul, I can't control, my patience wears and wanes;
They will not cede to common greed, one only way remains,
In boxcar bins, with violins we'll freight them out in trains,
And in the bogs, they'll die like dogs, and everybody gains.'

Arrayed in shawls with crystal balls, and gazing at the moons,
Wiled women tease with melodies and spooky loony tunes
While making toasts to holey ghosts on rainy day lagoons:
'Well, here's to you and others too, embedded in the dunes,
Avoid the stares, avoid the snares, avoid the veiled typhoons
And fend your way as every day, 'gainst heavy heeled dragoons.'

The birds of pray are on their way, in every beak the Word
(Of ptomaine tomes by gnarly gnomes) whose meaning is obscured;
They roost aloof on every roof, obscene but always herd,
To tell the tale of Jonah's whale and other rhymes absurd -
With shifty eyes, they're giving whys for living life deferred.

While jackals lean, hyenas mean, and hungry crocodiles
Feast in the lounge and never scrounge, lambs languish in the aisle.
The naive dare to say 'unfair, let's try to reconcile.
We'll all relax and weigh the facts, let justice spin the dial.'

With jaundiced monks and minds pre-shrunk, the jury is compiled.
The Rulers meet, First Ladies greet, the Kings appear in style.
Before the Court, their sins are short, they're swept into a pile;
With diatribes and petty bribes, the jurors are beguiled.

The Herd entreats, the Shepherd bleats the verdict of the trial:
'You have no face. Stay in your place, stay in the Rank and File.
And wait instead, for when you're dead, for riches after while';
Aristocrats add caveats while sailing down the Nile:
'If Minds are mugged or simply drugged with philtres in a vial,
Then few indeed will fail to feed the Pharaoh's Crocodile.'
The wordsmiths spin, the bankers grin and politicians smile,
The riff and raff, they never laugh, they mark a martyred mile.

The rituals are finished, all, here comes the Reverent Priest.
He leads the crowds beneath the clouds, and there the flock is fleeced
With crossing signs and bloody wines and consecrated yeast,
'The last are first, the rich are cursed.' (The leached remain the least.)
His step is gay without dismay before his evening feast;
He thanks the Lord for room and board and bows to Eden East;
He doesn't sigh or wonder why the sins have not decreased.

The sinking sun is now undone, the sky is fading red.
A spider black hides in a crack and spins a silken thread
And babes will soon collapse and swoon, on curbs they call a bed;
With vacant eyes they fantasize and dream of gingerbread,
And then are freed, though still in need, from anguish of the dead.

While midnight bats are gnawing gnats and feasting free unseen,
A toddler's fed from garbage sheds an elegant cuisine.
Along the trails in distant dales a lonesome wolverine
Feigns appetite on fogy nights and days of crystalline.

The circus gongs excite the throngs in nighttime Never Land -
They swarm to see the destiny of Freaks at their command,
While Acrobats step pitapat across the shifting sands
And Lady Fat adores her cat and oozes charm unplanned.
The Dwarfs in suits, so small and cute when marching with the band,
Ask crimson Clowns with painted frowns, to lend a mutant hand,
While Tamers' whips with withered tips, throughout the winter land,
Lure minds entranced through hoops enhanced with flames of fires fanned.
White Elephants in big-top tents sell black tusk contraband
To Sycophants in regiments who overflow the stands,
But No One sees anomalies, and No One understands.
At night's demise, the dither dies, the lonely Crowd disbands,
Down dead-end streets the Horde retreats, their threadbare rags in strands,
And Janes and Joes reweave their woes, for thoughts of change are banned.

The Monk of Mock has fled the flock caught knocking up a tween
(She brought to light the special rite he thought to leave unseen) .
With profaned eyes they agonise, their souls no more serene
And at the shrine the flutes of wine are filled with kerosene
By men unkempt who once had dreamt but now can dream no more
Except when bellowed bellies belch an ever growing roar,
Which churns the seas and stirs a breeze that mercy can't ignore,
And in the night, though filled with fright, they try to end the War.

The slow and quick are hurling bricks and fight with clubs of rage
To break the chains and cleanse the stains of life within a cage,
But yield to stings of armoured things that crush in every age.

At crack of dawn, a broken pawn, in pools of blood and fire,
He washes wounds, in blood festooned - the waves flow nigh and nigher;
The ghetto towns are burning down - the flames grow high and higher -
And in their wake, a golden snake is rising from the pyre,
Her knees are bare, consumed in prayer, applauded by the Friar.
And soon it's clear the end is near - while magpie birds conspire,
The lowly worm is made to squirm while dangling from a wire.

The line was crossed, the battle lost, the losers can't deny,
The residues are far and few, though smoke pervades the sky.
The cool wind's cruel, a cutting tool, the vanquished ask it 'Why? ',
And bittersweet, from Easy Street, the Pashas' puffed reply:
'The rules are set, so don't forget, the rabble will comply;
The grapes of wrath may make you laugh, the day you are to die.'

The down and out, they knock about beneath the barren skies
Where homeward bound, without a sound, a wretched raven flies.
Beyond the Walls, the morning calls the newborn sun to rise,
And Peter Pan, a broken man, he tilts his head and cries.

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Gotham - Book I

Far off (no matter whether east or west,
A real country, or one made in jest,
Nor yet by modern Mandevilles disgraced,
Nor by map-jobbers wretchedly misplaced)
There lies an island, neither great nor small,
Which, for distinction sake, I Gotham call.
The man who finds an unknown country out,
By giving it a name, acquires, no doubt,
A Gospel title, though the people there
The pious Christian thinks not worth his care
Bar this pretence, and into air is hurl'd
The claim of Europe to the Western world.
Cast by a tempest on the savage coast,
Some roving buccaneer set up a post;
A beam, in proper form transversely laid,
Of his Redeemer's cross the figure made--
Of that Redeemer, with whose laws his life,
From first to last, had been one scene of strife;
His royal master's name thereon engraved,
Without more process the whole race enslaved,
Cut off that charter they from Nature drew,
And made them slaves to men they never knew.
Search ancient histories, consult records,
Under this title the most Christian lords
Hold (thanks to conscience) more than half the ball;
O'erthrow this title, they have none at all;
For never yet might any monarch dare,
Who lived to Truth, and breathed a Christian air,
Pretend that Christ, (who came, we all agree,
To bless his people, and to set them free)
To make a convert, ever one law gave
By which converters made him first a slave.
Spite of the glosses of a canting priest,
Who talks of charity, but means a feast;
Who recommends it (whilst he seems to feel
The holy glowings of a real zeal)
To all his hearers as a deed of worth,
To give them heaven whom they have robb'd of earth;
Never shall one, one truly honest man,
Who, bless'd with Liberty, reveres her plan,
Allow one moment that a savage sire
Could from his wretched race, for childish hire,
By a wild grant, their all, their freedom pass,
And sell his country for a bit of glass.
Or grant this barbarous right, let Spain and France,
In slavery bred, as purchasers advance;
Let them, whilst Conscience is at distance hurl'd,
With some gay bauble buy a golden world:
An Englishman, in charter'd freedom born,
Shall spurn the slavish merchandise, shall scorn
To take from others, through base private views,
What he himself would rather die, than lose.
Happy the savage of those early times,
Ere Europe's sons were known, and Europe's crimes!
Gold, cursed gold! slept in the womb of earth,
Unfelt its mischiefs, as unknown its worth;
In full content he found the truest wealth,
In toil he found diversion, food, and health;
Stranger to ease and luxury of courts,
His sports were labours, and his labours sports;
His youth was hardy, and his old age green;
Life's morn was vigorous, and her eve serene;
No rules he held, but what were made for use,
No arts he learn'd, nor ills which arts produce;
False lights he follow'd, but believed them true;
He knew not much, but lived to what he knew.
Happy, thrice happy now the savage race,
Since Europe took their gold, and gave them grace!
Pastors she sends to help them in their need,
Some who can't write; with others who can't read;
And on sure grounds the gospel pile to rear,
Sends missionary felons every year;
Our vices, with more zeal than holy prayers,
She teaches them, and in return takes theirs.
Her rank oppressions give them cause to rise,
Her want of prudence, means and arms supplies,
Whilst her brave rage, not satisfied with life,
Rising in blood, adopts the scalping-knife.
Knowledge she gives, enough to make them know
How abject is their state, how deep their woe;
The worth of freedom strongly she explains,
Whilst she bows down, and loads their necks with chains.
Faith, too, she plants, for her own ends impress'd,
To make them bear the worst, and hope the best;
And whilst she teaches, on vile Interest's plan,
As laws of God, the wild decrees of man,
Like Pharisees, of whom the Scriptures tell,
She makes them ten times more the sons of Hell.
But whither do these grave reflections tend?
Are they design'd for any, or no end?
Briefly but this--to prove, that by no act
Which Nature made, that by no equal pact
'Twixt man and man, which might, if Justice heard,
Stand good; that by no benefits conferr'd,
Or purchase made, Europe in chains can hold
The sons of India, and her mines of gold.
Chance led her there in an accursed hour;
She saw, and made the country hers by power;
Nor, drawn by virtue's love from love of fame,
Shall my rash folly controvert the claim,
Or wish in thought that title overthrown
Which coincides with and involves my own.
Europe discover'd India first; I found
My right to Gotham on the self-same ground;
I first discover'd it, nor shall that plea
To her be granted, and denied to me;
I plead possession, and, till one more bold
Shall drive me out, will that possession hold.
With Europe's rights my kindred rights I twine;
Hers be the Western world, be Gotham mine.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
As on a day, a high and holy day,
Let every instrument of music play,
Ancient and modern; those which drew their birth
(Punctilios laid aside) from Pagan earth,
As well as those by Christian made and Jew;
Those known to many, and those known to few;
Those which in whim and frolic lightly float,
And those which swell the slow and solemn note;
Those which (whilst Reason stands in wonder by)
Make some complexions laugh, and others cry;
Those which, by some strange faculty of sound,
Can build walls up, and raze them to the ground;
Those which can tear up forests by the roots,
And make brutes dance like men, and men like brutes;
Those which, whilst Ridicule leads up the dance,
Make clowns of Monmouth ape the fops of France;
Those which, where Lady Dulness with Lord Mayors
Presides, disdaining light and trifling airs,
Hallow the feast with psalmody; and those
Which, planted in our churches to dispose
And lift the mind to Heaven, are disgraced
With what a foppish organist calls Taste:
All, from the fiddle (on which every fool,
The pert son of dull sire, discharged from school,
Serves an apprenticeship in college ease,
And rises through the gamut to degrees)
To those which (though less common, not less sweet)
From famed Saint Giles's, and more famed Vine Street,
(Where Heaven, the utmost wish of man to grant,
Gave me an old house, and an older aunt)
Thornton, whilst Humour pointed out the road
To her arch cub, hath hitch'd into an ode;--
All instruments (attend, ye listening spheres!
Attend, ye sons of men! and hear with ears),
All instruments (nor shall they seek one hand
Impress'd from modern Music's coxcomb band),
All instruments, self-acted, at my name
Shall pour forth harmony, and loud proclaim,
Loud but yet sweet, to the according globe,
My praises; whilst gay Nature, in a robe,
A coxcomb doctor's robe, to the full sound
Keeps time, like Boyce, and the world dances round.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
Infancy, straining backward from the breast,
Tetchy and wayward, what he loveth best
Refusing in his fits, whilst all the while
The mother eyes the wrangler with a smile,
And the fond father sits on t' other side,
Laughs at his moods, and views his spleen with pride,
Shall murmur forth my name, whilst at his hand
Nurse stands interpreter, through Gotham's land.
Childhood, who like an April morn appears,
Sunshine and rain, hopes clouded o'er with fears,
Pleased and displeased by starts, in passion warm,
In reason weak; who, wrought into a storm,
Like to the fretful billows of the deep,
Soon spends his rage, and cries himself asleep;
Who, with a feverish appetite oppress'd,
For trifles sighs, but hates them when possess'd;
His trembling lash suspended in the air,
Half-bent, and stroking back his long lank hair,
Shall to his mates look up with eager glee,
And let his top go down to prate of me.
Youth, who, fierce, fickle, insolent, and vain,
Impatient urges on to Manhood's reign,
Impatient urges on, yet with a cast
Of dear regard looks back on Childhood past,
In the mid-chase, when the hot blood runs high,
And the quick spirits mount into his eye;
When pleasure, which he deems his greatest wealth,
Beats in his heart, and paints his cheeks with health;
When the chafed steed tugs proudly at the rein,
And, ere he starts, hath run o'er half the plain;
When, wing'd with fear, the stag flies full in view,
And in full cry the eager hounds pursue,
Shall shout my praise to hills which shout again,
And e'en the huntsman stop to cry, Amen.
Manhood, of form erect, who would not bow
Though worlds should crack around him; on his brow
Wisdom serene, to passion giving law,
Bespeaking love, and yet commanding awe;
Dignity into grace by mildness wrought;
Courage attemper'd and refined by thought;
Virtue supreme enthroned; within his breast
The image of his Maker deep impress'd;
Lord of this earth, which trembles at his nod,
With reason bless'd, and only less than God;
Manhood, though weeping Beauty kneels for aid,
Though Honour calls, in Danger's form array'd,
Though clothed with sackloth, Justice in the gates,
By wicked elders chain'd, Redemption waits,
Manhood shall steal an hour, a little hour,
(Is't not a little one?) to hail my power.
Old Age, a second child, by Nature cursed
With more and greater evils than the first;
Weak, sickly, full of pains, in every breath
Railing at life, and yet afraid of death;
Putting things off, with sage and solemn air,
From day to day, without one day to spare;
Without enjoyment, covetous of pelf,
Tiresome to friends, and tiresome to himself;
His faculties impair'd, his temper sour'd,
His memory of recent things devour'd
E'en with the acting, on his shatter'd brain
Though the false registers of youth remain;
From morn to evening babbling forth vain praise
Of those rare men, who lived in those rare days,
When he, the hero of his tale, was young;
Dull repetitions faltering on his tongue;
Praising gray hairs, sure mark of Wisdom's sway,
E'en whilst he curses Time, which made him gray;
Scoffing at youth, e'en whilst he would afford
All but his gold to have his youth restored,
Shall for a moment, from himself set free,
Lean on his crutch, and pipe forth praise to me.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
Things without life shall in this chorus join,
And, dumb to others' praise, be loud in mine.
The snowdrop, who, in habit white and plain,
Comes on, the herald of fair Flora's train;
The coxcomb crocus, flower of simple note,
Who by her side struts in a herald's coat;
The tulip, idly glaring to the view,
Who, though no clown, his birth from Holland drew;
Who, once full dress'd, fears from his place to stir,
The fop of flowers, the More of a parterre;
The woodbine, who her elm in marriage meets,
And brings her dowry in surrounding sweets;
The lily, silver mistress of the vale;
The rose of Sharon, which perfumes the gale;
The jessamine, with which the queen of flowers,
To charm her god, adorns his favourite bowers,
Which brides, by the plain hand of Neatness dress'd,
Unenvied rival, wear upon their breast,
Sweet as the incense of the morn, and chaste
As the pure zone which circles Dian's waist;
All flowers, of various names, and various forms,
Which the sun into strength and beauty warms,
From the dwarf daisy, which, like infants, clings,
And fears to leave the earth from whence it springs,
To the proud giant of the garden race,
Who, madly rushing to the sun's embrace,
O'ertops her fellows with aspiring aim,
Demands his wedded love, and bears his name;
All, one and all, shall in this chorus join,
And, dumb to others' praise, be loud in mine.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
Forming a gloom, through which, to spleen-struck minds,
Religion, horror-stamp'd, a passage finds,
The ivy crawling o'er the hallow'd cell
Where some old hermit's wont his beads to tell
By day, by night; the myrtle ever green,
Beneath whose shade Love holds his rites unseen;
The willow, weeping o'er the fatal wave
Where many a lover finds a watery grave;
The cypress, sacred held, when lovers mourn
Their true love snatch'd away; the laurel worn
By poets in old time, but destined now,
In grief, to wither on a Whitehead's brow;
The fig, which, large as what in India grows,
Itself a grove, gave our first parents clothes;
The vine, which, like a blushing new-made bride,
Clustering, empurples all the mountain's side;
The yew, which, in the place of sculptured stone,
Marks out the resting-place of men unknown;
The hedge-row elm; the pine, of mountain race;
The fir, the Scotch fir, never out of place;
The cedar, whose top mates the highest cloud,
Whilst his old father Lebanon grows proud
Of such a child, and his vast body laid
Out many a mile, enjoys the filial shade;
The oak, when living, monarch of the wood;
The English oak, which, dead, commands the flood;
All, one and all, shall in this chorus join,
And, dumb to others' praise, be loud in mine.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
The showers, which make the young hills, like young lambs,
Bound and rebound; the old hills, like old rams,
Unwieldy, jump for joy; the streams which glide,
Whilst Plenty marches smiling by their side,
And from their bosom rising Commerce springs;
The winds, which rise with healing on their wings,
Before whose cleansing breath Contagion flies;
The sun, who, travelling in eastern skies,
Fresh, full of strength, just risen from his bed,
Though in Jove's pastures they were born and bred,
With voice and whip can scarce make his steeds stir,
Step by step, up the perpendicular;
Who, at the hour of eve, panting for rest,
Rolls on amain, and gallops down the west
As fast as Jehu, oil'd for Ahab's sin,
Drove for a crown, or postboys for an inn;
The moon, who holds o'er night her silver reign,
Regent of tides, and mistress of the brain,
Who to her sons, those sons who own her power,
And do her homage at the midnight hour,
Gives madness as a blessing, but dispenses
Wisdom to fools, and damns them with their senses;
The stars, who, by I know not what strange right,
Preside o'er mortals in their own despite,
Who, without reason, govern those who most
(How truly, judge from thence!) of reason boast,
And, by some mighty magic yet unknown,
Our actions guide, yet cannot guide their own;
All, one and all, shall in this chorus join,
And, dumb to others' praise, be loud in mine.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
The moment, minute, hour, day, week, month, year,
Morning and eve, as they in turn appear;
Moments and minutes, which, without a crime,
Can't be omitted in accounts of time,
Or, if omitted, (proof we might afford)
Worthy by parliaments to be restored;
The hours, which, dress'd by turns in black and white,
Ordain'd as handmaids, wait on Day and Night;
The day, those hours, I mean, when light presides,
And Business in a cart with Prudence rides;
The night, those hours, I mean, with darkness hung,
When Sense speaks free, and Folly holds her tongue;
The morn, when Nature, rousing from her strife
With death-like sleep, awakes to second life;
The eve, when, as unequal to the task,
She mercy from her foe descends to ask;
The week, in which six days are kindly given
To think of earth, and one to think of heaven;
The months, twelve sisters, all of different hue,
Though there appears in all a likeness too;
Not such a likeness as, through Hayman's works,
Dull mannerist! in Christians, Jews, and Turks,
Cloys with a sameness in each female face,
But a strange something, born of Art and Grace,
Which speaks them all, to vary and adorn,
At different times of the same parents born;
All, one and all, shall in this chorus join,
And, dumb to others' praise, be loud in mine.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
Frore January, leader of the year,
Minced-pies in van, and calves' heads in the rear;
Dull February, in whose leaden reign
My mother bore a bard without a brain;
March, various, fierce, and wild, with wind-crack'd cheeks,
By wilder Welshmen led, and crown'd with leeks;
April, with fools, and May, with bastards bless'd;
June, with White Roses on her rebel breast;
July, to whom, the Dog-star in her train,
Saint James gives oysters, and Saint Swithin rain;
August, who, banish'd from her Smithfield stand,
To Chelsea flies, with Doggett in her hand;
September, when by custom (right divine)
Geese are ordain'd to bleed at Michael's shrine,
Whilst the priest, not so full of grace as wit,
Falls to, unbless'd, nor gives the saint a bit;
October, who the cause of Freedom join'd,
And gave a second George to bless mankind;
November, who, at once to grace our earth,
Saint Andrew boasts, and our Augusta's birth;
December, last of months, but best, who gave
A Christ to man, a Saviour to the slave,
Whilst, falsely grateful, man, at the full feast,
To do God honour makes himself a beast;
All, one and all, shall in this chorus join,
And, dumb to others' praise, be loud in mine.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
The seasons as they roll; Spring, by her side
Lechery and Lent, lay-folly and church-pride,
By a rank monk to copulation led,
A tub of sainted salt-fish on her head;
Summer, in light transparent gauze array'd,
Like maids of honour at a masquerade,
In bawdry gauze, for which our daughters leave
The fig, more modest, first brought up by Eve,
Panting for breath, inflamed with lustful fires,
Yet wanting strength to perfect her desires,
Leaning on Sloth, who, fainting with the heat,
Stops at each step, and slumbers on his feet;
Autumn, when Nature, who with sorrow feels
Her dread foe Winter treading on her heels,
Makes up in value what she wants in length,
Exerts her powers, and puts forth all her strength,
Bids corn and fruits in full perfection rise,
Corn fairly tax'd, and fruits without excise;
Winter, benumb'd with cold, no longer known
By robes of fur, since furs became our own;
A hag, who, loathing all, by all is loathed,
With weekly, daily, hourly, libels clothed,
Vile Faction at her heels, who, mighty grown,
Would rule the ruler, and foreclose the throne,
Would turn all state affairs into a trade,
Make laws one day, the next to be unmade,
Beggar at home, a people fear'd abroad,
And, force defeated, make them slaves by fraud;
All, one and all, shall in this chorus join,
And, dumb to others' praise, be loud in mine.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
The year, grand circle! in whose ample round
The seasons regular and fix'd are bound,
(Who, in his course repeated o'er and o'er,
Sees the same things which he had seen before;
The same stars keep their watch, and the same sun
Runs in the track where he from first hath run;
The same moon rules the night; tides ebb and flow;
Man is a puppet, and this world a show;
Their old dull follies, old dull fools pursue,
And vice in nothing, but in mode, is new;
He ---- a lord (now fair befall that pride,
He lived a villain, but a lord he died)
Dashwood is pious, Berkeley fix'd as Fate,
Sandwich (thank Heaven!) first minister of state;
And, though by fools despised, by saints unbless'd,
By friends neglected, and by foes oppress'd,
Scorning the servile arts of each court elf,
Founded on honour, Wilkes is still himself)
The year, encircled with the various train
Which waits, and fills the glories of his reign,
Shall, taking up this theme, in chorus join,
And, dumb to others' praise, be loud in mine.
Rejoice, ye happy Gothamites! rejoice;
Lift up your voice on high, a mighty voice,
The voice of gladness; and on every tongue,
In strains of gratitude, be praises hung,
The praises of so great and good a king:
Shall Churchill reign, and shall not Gotham sing?
Thus far in sport--nor let our critics hence,
Who sell out monthly trash, and call it sense,
Too lightly of our present labours deem,
Or judge at random of so high a theme:
High is our theme, and worthy are the men
To feel the sharpest stroke of Satire's pen;
But when kind Time a proper season brings,
In serious mood to treat of serious things,
Then shall they find, disdaining idle play,
That I can be as grave and dull as they.
Thus far in sport--nor let half patriots, those
Who shrink from every blast of Power which blows,
Who, with tame cowardice familiar grown,
Would hear my thoughts, but fear to speak their own;
Who (lest bold truths, to do sage Prudence spite,
Should burst the portals of their lips by night,
Tremble to trust themselves one hour in sleep)
Condemn our course, and hold our caution cheap;
When brave Occasion bids, for some great end,
When Honour calls the poet as a friend,
Then shall they find that, e'en on Danger's brink,
He dares to speak what they scarce dare to think.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 16

Meanwhile Ulysses and the swineherd had lit a fire in the hut and
were were getting breakfast ready at daybreak for they had sent the
men out with the pigs. When Telemachus came up, the dogs did not bark,
but fawned upon him, so Ulysses, hearing the sound of feet and
noticing that the dogs did not bark, said to Eumaeus:
"Eumaeus, I hear footsteps; I suppose one of your men or some one of
your acquaintance is coming here, for the dogs are fawning urn him and
not barking."
The words were hardly out of his mouth before his son stood at the
door. Eumaeus sprang to his feet, and the bowls in which he was mixing
wine fell from his hands, as he made towards his master. He kissed his
head and both his beautiful eyes, and wept for joy. A father could not
be more delighted at the return of an only son, the child of his old
age, after ten years' absence in a foreign country and after having
gone through much hardship. He embraced him, kissed him all over as
though he had come back from the dead, and spoke fondly to him saying:
"So you are come, Telemachus, light of my eyes that you are. When
I heard you had gone to Pylos I made sure I was never going to see you
any more. Come in, my dear child, and sit down, that I may have a good
look at you now you are home again; it is not very often you come into
the country to see us herdsmen; you stick pretty close to the town
generally. I suppose you think it better to keep an eye on what the
suitors are doing."
"So be it, old friend," answered Telemachus, "but I am come now
because I want to see you, and to learn whether my mother is still
at her old home or whether some one else has married her, so that
the bed of Ulysses is without bedding and covered with cobwebs."
"She is still at the house," replied Eumaeus, "grieving and breaking
her heart, and doing nothing but weep, both night and day
continually."
As spoke he took Telemachus' spear, whereon he crossed the stone
threshold and came inside. Ulysses rose from his seat to give him
place as he entered, but Telemachus checked him; "Sit down, stranger."
said he, "I can easily find another seat, and there is one here who
will lay it for me."
Ulysses went back to his own place, and Eumaeus strewed some green
brushwood on the floor and threw a sheepskin on top of it for
Telemachus to sit upon. Then the swineherd brought them platters of
cold meat, the remains from what they had eaten the day before, and he
filled the bread baskets with bread as fast as he could. He mixed wine
also in bowls of ivy-wood, and took his seat facing Ulysses. Then they
laid their hands on the good things that were before them, and as soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink Telemachus said to Eumaeus,
"Old friend, where does this stranger come from? How did his crew
bring him to Ithaca, and who were they?-for assuredly he did not
come here by land"'
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "My son, I will tell
you the real truth. He says he is a Cretan, and that he has been a
great traveller. At this moment he is running away from a
Thesprotian ship, and has refuge at my station, so I will put him into
your hands. Do whatever you like with him, only remember that he is
your suppliant."
"I am very much distressed," said Telemachus, "by what you have just
told me. How can I take this stranger into my house? I am as yet
young, and am not strong enough to hold my own if any man attacks
me. My mother cannot make up her mind whether to stay where she is and
look after the house out of respect for public opinion and the
memory of her husband, or whether the time is now come for her to take
the best man of those who are wooing her, and the one who will make
her the most advantageous offer; still, as the stranger has come to
your station I will find him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a
sword and sandals, and will send him wherever he wants to go. Or if
you like you can keep him here at the station, and I will send him
clothes and food that he may be no burden on you and on your men;
but I will not have him go near the suitors, for they are very
insolent, and are sure to ill-treat him in a way that would greatly
grieve me; no matter how valiant a man may be he can do nothing
against numbers, for they will be too strong for him."
Then Ulysses said, "Sir, it is right that I should say something
myself. I am much shocked about what you have said about the
insolent way in which the suitors are behaving in despite of such a
man as you are. Tell me, do you submit to such treatment tamely, or
has some god set your people against you? May you not complain of your
brothers- for it is to these that a man may look for support,
however great his quarrel may be? I wish I were as young as you are
and in my present mind; if I were son to Ulysses, or, indeed,
Ulysses himself, I would rather some one came and cut my head off, but
I would go to the house and be the bane of every one of these men.
If they were too many for me- I being single-handed- I would rather
die fighting in my own house than see such disgraceful sights day
after day, strangers grossly maltreated, and men dragging the women
servants about the house in an unseemly way, wine drawn recklessly,
and bread wasted all to no purpose for an end that shall never be
accomplished."
And Telemachus answered, "I will tell you truly everything. There is
no emnity between me and my people, nor can I complain of brothers, to
whom a man may look for support however great his quarrel may be. Jove
has made us a race of only sons. Laertes was the only son of
Arceisius, and Ulysses only son of Laertes. I am myself the only son
of Ulysses who left me behind him when he went away, so that I have
never been of any use to him. Hence it comes that my house is in the
hands of numberless marauders; for the chiefs from all the
neighbouring islands, Dulichium, Same, Zacynthus, as also all the
principal men of Ithaca itself, are eating up my house under the
pretext of paying court to my mother, who will neither say point blank
that she will not marry, nor yet bring matters to an end, so they
are making havoc of my estate, and before long will do so with
myself into the bargain. The issue, however, rests with heaven. But do
you, old friend Eumaeus, go at once and tell Penelope that I am safe
and have returned from Pylos. Tell it to herself alone, and then
come back here without letting any one else know, for there are many
who are plotting mischief against me."
"I understand and heed you," replied Eumaeus; "you need instruct
me no further, only I am going that way say whether I had not better
let poor Laertes know that you are returned. He used to superintend
the work on his farm in spite of his bitter sorrow about Ulysses,
and he would eat and drink at will along with his servants; but they
tell me that from the day on which you set out for Pylos he has
neither eaten nor drunk as he ought to do, nor does he look after
his farm, but sits weeping and wasting the flesh from off his bones."
"More's the pity," answered Telemachus, "I am sorry for him, but
we must leave him to himself just now. If people could have everything
their own way, the first thing I should choose would be the return
of my father; but go, and give your message; then make haste back
again, and do not turn out of your way to tell Laertes. Tell my mother
to send one of her women secretly with the news at once, and let him
hear it from her."
Thus did he urge the swineherd; Eumaeus, therefore, took his
sandals, bound them to his feet, and started for the town. Minerva
watched him well off the station, and then came up to it in the form
of a woman- fair, stately, and wise. She stood against the side of the
entry, and revealed herself to Ulysses, but Telemachus could not see
her, and knew not that she was there, for the gods do not let
themselves be seen by everybody. Ulysses saw her, and so did the dogs,
for they did not bark, but went scared and whining off to the other
side of the yards. She nodded her head and motioned to Ulysses with
her eyebrows; whereon he left the hut and stood before her outside the
main wall of the yards. Then she said to him:
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it is now time for you to tell
your son: do not keep him in the dark any longer, but lay your plans
for the destruction of the suitors, and then make for the town. I will
not be long in joining you, for I too am eager for the fray."
As she spoke she touched him with her golden wand. First she threw a
fair clean shirt and cloak about his shoulders; then she made him
younger and of more imposing presence; she gave him back his colour,
filled out his cheeks, and let his beard become dark again. Then she
went away and Ulysses came back inside the hut. His son was
astounded when he saw him, and turned his eyes away for fear he
might be looking upon a god.
"Stranger," said he, "how suddenly you have changed from what you
were a moment or two ago. You are dressed differently and your
colour is not the same. Are you some one or other of the gods that
live in heaven? If so, be propitious to me till I can make you due
sacrifice and offerings of wrought gold. Have mercy upon me."
And Ulysses said, "I am no god, why should you take me for one? I am
your father, on whose account you grieve and suffer so much at the
hands of lawless men."
As he spoke he kissed his son, and a tear fell from his cheek on
to the ground, for he had restrained all tears till now. but
Telemachus could not yet believe that it was his father, and said:
"You are not my father, but some god is flattering me with vain
hopes that I may grieve the more hereafter; no mortal man could of
himself contrive to do as you have been doing, and make yourself old
and young at a moment's notice, unless a god were with him. A second
ago you were old and all in rags, and now you are like some god come
down from heaven."
Ulysses answered, "Telemachus, you ought not to be so immeasurably
astonished at my being really here. There is no other Ulysses who will
come hereafter. Such as I am, it is I, who after long wandering and
much hardship have got home in the twentieth year to my own country.
What you wonder at is the work of the redoubtable goddess Minerva, who
does with me whatever she will, for she can do what she pleases. At
one moment she makes me like a beggar, and the next I am a young man
with good clothes on my back; it is an easy matter for the gods who
live in heaven to make any man look either rich or poor."
As he spoke he sat down, and Telemachus threw his arms about his
father and wept. They were both so much moved that they cried aloud
like eagles or vultures with crooked talons that have been robbed of
their half fledged young by peasants. Thus piteously did they weep,
and the sun would have gone down upon their mourning if Telemachus had
not suddenly said, "In what ship, my dear father, did your crew
bring you to Ithaca? Of what nation did they declare themselves to be-
for you cannot have come by land?"
"I will tell you the truth, my son," replied Ulysses. "It was the
Phaeacians who brought me here. They are great sailors, and are in the
habit of giving escorts to any one who reaches their coasts. They took
me over the sea while I was fast asleep, and landed me in Ithaca,
after giving me many presents in bronze, gold, and raiment. These
things by heaven's mercy are lying concealed in a cave, and I am now
come here on the suggestion of Minerva that we may consult about
killing our enemies. First, therefore, give me a list of the
suitors, with their number, that I may learn who, and how many, they
are. I can then turn the matter over in my mind, and see whether we
two can fight the whole body of them ourselves, or whether we must
find others to help us."
To this Telemachus answered, "Father, I have always heard of your
renown both in the field and in council, but the task you talk of is a
very great one: I am awed at the mere thought of it; two men cannot
stand against many and brave ones. There are not ten suitors only, nor
twice ten, but ten many times over; you shall learn their number at
once. There are fifty-two chosen youths from Dulichium, and they
have six servants; from Same there are twenty-four; twenty young
Achaeans from Zacynthus, and twelve from Ithaca itself, all of them
well born. They have with them a servant Medon, a bard, and two men
who can carve at table. If we face such numbers as this, you may
have bitter cause to rue your coming, and your revenge. See whether
you cannot think of some one who would be willing to come and help
us."
"Listen to me," replied Ulysses, "and think whether Minerva and
her father Jove may seem sufficient, or whether I am to try and find
some one else as well."
"Those whom you have named," answered Telemachus, "are a couple of
good allies, for though they dwell high up among the clouds they
have power over both gods and men."
"These two," continued Ulysses, "will not keep long out of the fray,
when the suitors and we join fight in my house. Now, therefore, return
home early to-morrow morning, and go about among the suitors as
before. Later on the swineherd will bring me to the city disguised
as a miserable old beggar. If you see them ill-treating me, steel your
heart against my sufferings; even though they drag me feet foremost
out of the house, or throw things at me, look on and do nothing beyond
gently trying to make them behave more reasonably; but they will not
listen to you, for the day of their reckoning is at hand.
Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart, when Minerva shall
put it in my mind, I will nod my head to you, and on seeing me do this
you must collect all the armour that is in the house and hide it in
the strong store room. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why
you are removing it; say that you have taken it to be out of the way
of the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses
went away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this
more particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to
quarrel over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm
which may disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms
sometimes tempts people to use them. But leave a sword and a spear
apiece for yourself and me, and a couple oxhide shields so that we can
snatch them up at any moment; Jove and Minerva will then soon quiet
these people. There is also another matter; if you are indeed my son
and my blood runs in your veins, let no one know that Ulysses is
within the house- neither Laertes, nor yet the swineherd, nor any of
the servants, nor even Penelope herself. Let you and me exploit the
women alone, and let us also make trial of some other of the men
servants, to see who is on our side and whose hand is against us."
"Father," replied Telemachus, "you will come to know me by and by,
and when you do you will find that I can keep your counsel. I do not
think, however, the plan you propose will turn out well for either
of us. Think it over. It will take us a long time to go the round of
the farms and exploit the men, and all the time the suitors will be
wasting your estate with impunity and without compunction. Prove the
women by all means, to see who are disloyal and who guiltless, but I
am not in favour of going round and trying the men. We can attend to
that later on, if you really have some sign from Jove that he will
support you."
Thus did they converse, and meanwhile the ship which had brought
Telemachus and his crew from Pylos had reached the town of Ithaca.
When they had come inside the harbour they drew the ship on to the
land; their servants came and took their armour from them, and they
left all the presents at the house of Clytius. Then they sent a
servant to tell Penelope that Telemachus had gone into the country,
but had sent the ship to the town to prevent her from being alarmed
and made unhappy. This servant and Eumaeus happened to meet when
they were both on the same errand of going to tell Penelope. When they
reached the House, the servant stood up and said to the queen in the
presence of the waiting women, "Your son, Madam, is now returned
from Pylos"; but Eumaeus went close up to Penelope, and said privately
that her son had given bidden him tell her. When he had given his
message he left the house with its outbuildings and went back to his
pigs again.
The suitors were surprised and angry at what had happened, so they
went outside the great wall that ran round the outer court, and held a
council near the main entrance. Eurymachus, son of Polybus, was the
first to speak.
"My friends," said he, "this voyage of Telemachus's is a very
serious matter; we had made sure that it would come to nothing. Now,
however, let us draw a ship into the water, and get a crew together to
send after the others and tell them to come back as fast as they can."
He had hardly done speaking when Amphinomus turned in his place
and saw the ship inside the harbour, with the crew lowering her sails,
and putting by their oars; so he laughed, and said to the others,
"We need not send them any message, for they are here. Some god must
have told them, or else they saw the ship go by, and could not
overtake her.
On this they rose and went to the water side. The crew then drew the
ship on shore; their servants took their armour from them, and they
went up in a body to the place of assembly, but they would not let any
one old or young sit along with them, and Antinous, son of
Eupeithes, spoke first.
"Good heavens," said he, "see how the gods have saved this man
from destruction. We kept a succession of scouts upon the headlands
all day long, and when the sun was down we never went on shore to
sleep, but waited in the ship all night till morning in the hope of
capturing and killing him; but some god has conveyed him home in spite
of us. Let us consider how we can make an end of him. He must not
escape us; our affair is never likely to come off while is alive,
for he is very shrewd, and public feeling is by no means all on our
side. We must make haste before he can call the Achaeans in
assembly; he will lose no time in doing so, for he will be furious
with us, and will tell all the world how we plotted to kill him, but
failed to take him. The people will not like this when they come to
know of it; we must see that they do us no hurt, nor drive us from our
own country into exile. Let us try and lay hold of him either on his
farm away from the town, or on the road hither. Then we can divide
up his property amongst us, and let his mother and the man who marries
her have the house. If this does not please you, and you wish
Telemachus to live on and hold his father's property, then we must not
gather here and eat up his goods in this way, but must make our offers
to Penelope each from his own house, and she can marry the man who
will give the most for her, and whose lot it is to win her."
They all held their peace until Amphinomus rose to speak. He was the
son of Nisus, who was son to king Aretias, and he was foremost among
all the suitors from the wheat-growing and well grassed island of
Dulichium; his conversation, moreover, was more agreeable to
Penelope than that of any of the other for he was a man of good
natural disposition. "My friends," said he, speaking to them plainly
and in all honestly, "I am not in favour of killing Telemachus. It
is a heinous thing to kill one who is of noble blood. Let us first
take counsel of the gods, and if the oracles of Jove advise it, I will
both help to kill him myself, and will urge everyone else to do so;
but if they dissuade us, I would have you hold your hands."
Thus did he speak, and his words pleased them well, so they rose
forthwith and went to the house of Ulysses where they took their
accustomed seats.
Then Penelope resolved that she would show herself to the suitors.
She knew of the plot against Telemachus, for the servant Medon had
overheard their counsels and had told her; she went down therefore
to the court attended by her maidens, and when she reached the suitors
she stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the
cloister holding a veil before her face, and rebuked Antinous saying:
"Antinous, insolent and wicked schemer, they say you are the best
speaker and counsellor of any man your own age in Ithaca, but you
are nothing of the kind. Madman, why should you try to compass the
death of Telemachus, and take no heed of suppliants, whose witness
is Jove himself? It is not right for you to plot thus against one
another. Do you not remember how your father fled to this house in
fear of the people, who were enraged against him for having gone
with some Taphian pirates and plundered the Thesprotians who were at
peace with us? They wanted to tear him in pieces and eat up everything
he had, but Ulysses stayed their hands although they were
infuriated, and now you devour his property without paying for it, and
break my heart by his wooing his wife and trying to kill his son.
Leave off doing so, and stop the others also."
To this Eurymachus son of Polybus answered, "Take heart, Queen
Penelope daughter of Icarius, and do not trouble yourself about
these matters. The man is not yet born, nor never will be, who shall
lay hands upon your son Telemachus, while I yet live to look upon
the face of the earth. I say- and it shall surely be- that my spear
shall be reddened with his blood; for many a time has Ulysses taken me
on his knees, held wine up to my lips to drink, and put pieces of meat
into my hands. Therefore Telemachus is much the dearest friend I have,
and has nothing to fear from the hands of us suitors. Of course, if
death comes to him from the gods, he cannot escape it." He said this
to quiet her, but in reality he was plotting against Telemachus.
Then Penelope went upstairs again and mourned her husband till
Minerva shed sleep over her eyes. In the evening Eumaeus got back to
Ulysses and his son, who had just sacrificed a young pig of a year old
and were ready; helping one another to get supper ready; Minerva
therefore came up to Ulysses, turned him into an old man with a stroke
of her wand, and clad him in his old clothes again, for fear that
the swineherd might recognize him and not keep the secret, but go
and tell Penelope.
Telemachus was the first to speak. "So you have got back,
Eumaeus," said he. "What is the news of the town? Have the suitors
returned, or are they still waiting over yonder, to take me on my
way home?"
"I did not think of asking about that," replied Eumaeus, "when I was
in the town. I thought I would give my message and come back as soon
as I could. I met a man sent by those who had gone with you to
Pylos, and he was the first to tell the new your mother, but I can say
what I saw with my own eyes; I had just got on to the crest of the
hill of Mercury above the town when I saw a ship coming into harbour
with a number of men in her. They had many shields and spears, and I
thought it was the suitors, but I cannot be sure."
On hearing this Telemachus smiled to his father, but so that Eumaeus
could not see him.
Then, when they had finished their work and the meal was ready, they
ate it, and every man had his full share so that all were satisfied.
As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, they laid down to
rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.

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Sir Peter Harpdon's End

In an English Castle in Poictou. Sir Peter Harpdon, a Gascon knight in the English service, and John Curzon, his lieutenant.

John Curzon

Of those three prisoners, that before you came
We took down at St. John's hard by the mill,
Two are good masons; we have tools enough,
And you have skill to set them working.


Sir Peter

So-
What are their names?


John Curzon

Why, Jacques Aquadent,
And Peter Plombiere, but-


Sir Peter

What colour'd hair
Has Peter now? has Jacques got bow legs?


John Curzon

Why, sir, you jest: what matters Jacques' hair,
Or Peter's legs to us?


Sir Peter

O! John, John, John!
Throw all your mason's tools down the deep well,
Hang Peter up and Jacques; they're no good,
We shall not build, man.


John Curzon


going.

Shall I call the guard
To hang them, sir? and yet, sir, for the tools,
We'd better keep them still; sir, fare you well.


Muttering as he goes.


What have I done that he should jape at me?
And why not build? the walls are weak enough,
And we've two masons and a heap of tools.


Goes, still muttering.

Sir Peter

To think a man should have a lump like that
For his lieutenant! I must call him back,
Or else, as surely as St. George is dead,
He'll hang our friends the masons—here, John! John!


John Curzon

At your good service, sir.


Sir Peter

Come now, and talk
This weighty matter out; there, we've no stone
To mend our walls with,—neither brick nor stone.


John Curzon

There is a quarry, sir, some ten miles off.


Sir Peter

We are not strong enough to send ten men
Ten miles to fetch us stone enough to build.
In three hours' time they would be taken or slain,
The cursed Frenchmen ride abroad so thick.


John Curzon

But we can send some villaynes to get stone.


Sir Peter

Alas! John, that we cannot bring them back;
They would go off to Clisson or Sanxere,
And tell them we were weak in walls and men,
Then down go we; for, look you, times are changed,
And now no longer does the country shake
At sound of English names; our captains fade
From off our muster-rolls. At Lusac Bridge
I daresay you may even yet see the hole
That Chandos beat in dying; far in Spain
Pembroke is prisoner; Phelton prisoner here;
Manny lies buried in the Charterhouse;
Oliver Clisson turn'd these years agone;
The Captal died in prison; and, over all,
Edward the prince lies underneath the ground;
Edward the king is dead; at Westminster
The carvers smooth the curls of his long beard.
Everything goes to rack - eh! and we too.
Now, Curzon, listen; if they come, these French,
Whom have I got to lean on here, but you?
A man can die but once; will you die then,
Your brave sword in your hand, thoughts in your heart
Of all the deeds we have done here in France-
And yet may do? So God will have your soul,
Whoever has your body.


John Curzon

Why, sir, I
Will fight till the last moment, until then
Will do whate'er you tell me. Now I see
We must e'en leave the walls; well, well, perhaps
They're stronger than I think for; pity though,
For some few tons of stone, if Guesclin comes!


Sir Peter

Farewell, John, pray you watch the Gascons well,
I doubt them.


John Curzon

Truly, sir, I will watch well.

Goes.

Sir Peter

Farewell, good lump! and yet, when all is said,
'Tis a good lump. Why then, if Guesclin comes;
Some dozen stones from his petrariae,
And, under shelter of his crossbows, just
An hour's steady work with pickaxes,
Then a great noise—some dozen swords and glaives
A-playing on my basnet all at once,
And little more cross purposes on earth
For me.
Now this is hard: a month ago,
And a few minutes' talk had set things right
'Twixt me and Alice - if she had a doubt,
As (may Heaven bless her!) I scarce think she had,
'Twas but their hammer, hammer in her ears,
Of 'how Sir Peter fail'd at Lusac Bridge:'
And 'how he was grown moody of late days;'
And 'how Sir Lambert,” (think now!) 'his dear friend,
His sweet dear cousin, could not but confess
That Peter's talk tended towards the French,
Which he' (for instance Lambert) 'was glad of,
Being' (Lambert, you see) “on the French side.'
Well,
If I could but have seen her on that day,
Then, when they sent me off!
I like to think,
Although it hurts me, makes my head twist, what,
If I had seen her, what I should have said,
What she, my darling, would have said and done.
As thus perchance:
To find her sitting there,
In the window-seat, not looking well at all,
Crying perhaps, and I say quietly:
'Alice!' she looks up, chokes a sob, looks grave,
Changes from pale to red; but ere she speaks,
Straightway I kneel down there on both my knees,
And say: “O lady, have I sinn'd, your knight?
That still you ever let me walk alone
In the rose garden, that you sing no songs
When I am by, that ever in the dance
You quietly walk away when I come near?
Now that I have you, will you go, think you?”
Ere she could answer I would speak again,
Still kneeling there:
'What! they have frighted you,
By hanging burs, and clumsily carven puppets,
Round my good name; but afterwards, my love,
I will say what this means; this moment, see!
Do I kneel here, and can you doubt me? Yea,'
(For she would put her hands upon my face),
'Yea, that is best, yea feel, love, am I changed?'
And she would say: “Good knight, come, kiss my lips!'
And afterwards as I sat there would say:
'Please a poor silly girl by telling me
What all those things they talk of really were,
For it is true you did not help Chandos,
And true, poor love! you could not come to me
When I was in such peril.'
I should say:
'I am like Balen, all things turn to blame.
I did not come to you? At Bergerath
The Constable had held us close shut up;
If from the barriers I had made three steps,
I should have been but slain; at Lusac, too,
We struggled in a marish half the day,
And came too late at last: you know, my love
How heavy men and horses are all arm'd.
All that Sir Lambert said was pure, unmix'd,
Quite groundless lies; as you can think, sweet love'.
She, holding tight my hand as we sat there,
Started a little at Sir Lambert's name,
But otherwise she listen'd scarce at all
To what I said. Then with moist, weeping eyes,
And quivering lips, that scarcely let her speak,
She said: 'I love you.'
Other words were few,
The remnant of that hour; her hand smooth'd down
My foolish head; she kiss'd me all about
My face, and through the tangles of my beard
Her little fingers crept
O God, my Alice,
Not this good way: my lord but sent and said
That Lambert's sayings were taken at their worth,
Therefore that day I was to start, and keep
This hold against the French; and I am here,-


Looks out of the window.


A sprawling lonely gard with rotten walls,
And no one to bring aid if Guesclin comes,
Or any other.
There's a pennon now!
At last.
But not the Constable's: whose arms,
I wonder, does it bear? Three golden rings
On a red ground; my cousin's by the rood!
Well, I should like to kill him, certainly,
But to be kill'd by him-
A trumpet sounds.
That's for a herald;
I doubt this does not mean assaulting yet.

Enter John Curzon.

What says the herald of our cousin, sir?


John Curzon

So please you, sir, concerning your estate,
He has good will to talk with you.


Sir Peter

Outside,
I'll talk with him, close by the gate St. Ives.
Is he unarm'd?


John Curzon

Yea, sir, in a long gown.


Sir Peter

Then bid them bring me hither my furr'd gown
With the long sleeves, and under it I'll wear,
By Lambert's leave, a secret coat of mail;
And will you lend me, John, your little axe?
I mean the one with Paul wrought on the blade,
And I will carry it inside my sleeve,
Good to be ready always—you, John, go
And bid them set up many suits of arms,
Bows, archgays, lances, in the base-court, and
Yourself, from the south postern setting out,
With twenty men, be ready to break through
Their unguarded rear when I cry out “St. George!”


John Curzon

How, sir! will you attack him unawares,
And slay him unarm'd?


Sir Peter

Trust me, John, I know
The reason why he comes here with sleeved gown,
Fit to hide axes up. So, let us go.


They go. Outside the castle by the great gate; Sir Lambert and Sir Peter seated; guards attending each, the rest of Sir Lambert's men drawn up about a furlong off.

Sir Peter

And if I choose to take the losing side
Still, does it hurt you?


Sir Lambert

O! no hurt to me;
I see you sneering, “Why take trouble then,
Seeing you love me not?” Look you, our house
(Which, taken altogether, I love much)
Had better be upon the right side now,
If, once for all, it wishes to bear rule
As such a house should: cousin, you're too wise
To feed your hope up fat, that this fair France
Will ever draw two ways again; this side
The French, wrong-headed, all a-jar
With envious longings; and the other side
The order'd English, orderly led on
By those two Edwards through all wrong and right,
And muddling right and wrong to a thick broth
With that long stick, their strength. This is all changed,
The true French win, on either side you have
Cool-headed men, good at a tilting match,
And good at setting battles in array,
And good at squeezing taxes at due time;
Therefore by nature we French being here
Upon our own big land-

Sir Peter laughs aloud.


Well, Peter! well!
What makes you laugh?


Sir Peter

Hearing you sweat to prove
All this I know so well; but you have read
The siege of Troy?


Sir Lambert

O! yea, I know it well.


Sir Peter

There! they were wrong, as wrong as men could be;
For, as I think, they found it such delight
To see fair Helen going through their town:
Yea, any little common thing she did
(As stooping to pick a flower) seem'd so strange,
So new in its great beauty, that they said:
'Here we will keep her living in this town,
Till all burns up together.' And so, fought,
In a mad whirl of knowing they were wrong;
Yea, they fought well, and ever, like a man
That hangs legs off the ground by both his hands,
Over some great height, did they struggle sore,
Quite sure to slip at last; wherefore, take note
How almost all men, reading that sad siege,
Hold for the Trojans; as I did at least,
Thought Hector the best knight a long way.
Now
Why should I not do this thing that I think,
For even when I come to count the gains,
I have them my side: men will talk, you know,
(We talk of Hector, dead so long agone,)
When I am dead, of how this Peter clung
To what he thought the right; of how he died,
Perchance, at last, doing some desperate deed
Few men would care do now, and this is gain
To me, as ease and money is to you.
Moreover, too, I like the straining game
Of striving well to hold up things that fall;
So one becomes great. See you! in good times
All men live well together, and you, too,
Live dull and happy—happy? not so quick,
Suppose sharp thoughts begin to burn you up.
Why then, but just to fight as I do now,
A halter round my neck, would be great bliss.
O! I am well off.

Aside.

Talk, and talk, and talk,
I know this man has come to murder me,
And yet I talk still.


Sir Lambert

If your side were right,
You might be, though you lost; but if I said:
'You are a traitor, being, as you are,
Born Frenchman.' What are Edwards unto you,
Or Richards?


Sir Peter

Nay, hold there, my Lambert, hold!
For fear your zeal should bring you to some harm,
Don't call me traitor.


Sir Lambert

Furthermore, my knight,
Men call you slippery on your losing side;
When at Bordeaux I was ambassador,
I heard them say so, and could scarce say “Nay.”
He takes hold of something in his sleeve, and rises.


Sir Peter


rising.

They lied—and you lie, not for the first time.
What have you got there, fumbling up your sleeve,
A stolen purse?


Sir Lambert

Nay, liar in your teeth!
Dead liar too; St. Denis and St. Lambert!
Strikes at Sir Peter with a dagger.


Sir Peter


striking him flatlings with his axe.


How thief! thief! thief! so there, fair thief, so there,
St. George Guienne! glaives for the castellan!
You French, you are but dead, unless you lay
Your spears upon the earth. St. George Guienne!
Well done, John Curzon, how he has them now.

In the Castle.

John Curzon

What shall we do with all these prisoners, sir?


Sir Peter

Why, put them all to ransom, those that can
Pay anything, but not too light though, John,
Seeing we have them on the hip: for those
That have no money, that being certified,
Why, turn them out of doors before they spy;
But bring Sir Lambert guarded unto me.


John Curzon

I will, fair sir. He goes.


Sir Peter

I do not wish to kill him,
Although I think I ought; he shall go mark'd,
By all the saints, though! Enter Lambert guarded.
Now, Sir Lambert, now!
What sort of death do you expect to get,
Being taken this way?


Sir Lambert

Cousin! cousin! think!
I am your own blood; may God pardon me!
I am not fit to die; if you knew all,
All I have done since I was young and good,
O! you would give me yet another chance,
As God would, that I might wash all clear out,
By serving you and Him. Let me go now!
And I will pay you down more golden crowns
Of ransom than the king would!


Sir Peter

Well, stand back,
And do not touch me! No, you shall not die,
Nor yet pay ransom. You, John Curzon, cause
Some carpenters to build a scaffold, high,
Outside the gate; when it is built, sound out
To all good folks, 'Come, see a traitor punish'd!'
Take me my knight, and set him up thereon,
And let the hangman shave his head quite clean,
And cut his ears off close up to the head;
And cause the minstrels all the while to play
Soft music and good singing; for this day
Is my high day of triumph; is it not,
Sir Lambert?


Sir Lambert

Ah! on your own blood,
Own name, you heap this foul disgrace? you dare,
With hands and fame thus sullied, to go back
And take the lady Alice-


Sir Peter

Say her name
Again, and you are dead, slain here by me.
Why should I talk with you? I'm master here,
And do not want your schooling; is it not
My mercy that you are not dangling dead
There in the gateway with a broken neck?


Sir Lambert

Such mercy! why not kill me then outright?
To die is nothing; but to live that all
May point their fingers! yea, I'd rather die.


John Curzon

Why, will it make you any uglier man
To lose your ears? they're much too big for you,
You ugly Judas!


Sir Peter

Hold, John!

To Lambert.


That's your choice,
To die, mind! then you shall die—Lambert mine,
I thank you now for choosing this so well,
It saves me much perplexity and doubt;
Perchance an ill deed too, for half I count
This sparing traitors is an ill deed.
Well,
Lambert, die bravely, and we're almost friends.


Sir Lambert


grovelling.


O God! this is a fiend and not a man;
Will some one save me from him? help, help, help!
I will not die.


Sir Peter

Why, what is this I see?
A man who is a knight, and bandied words
So well just now with me, is lying down,
Gone mad for fear like this! So, so, you thought
You knew the worst, and might say what you pleased.
I should have guess'd this from a man like you.
Eh! righteous Job would give up skin for skin,
Yea, all a man can have for simple life,
And we talk fine, yea, even a hound like this,
Who needs must know that when he dies, deep hell
Will hold him fast for ever—so fine we talk,
'Would rather die' - all that. Now sir, get up!
And choose again: shall it be head sans ears,
Or trunk sans head?
John Curzon, pull him up!
What, life then? go and build the scaffold, John.
Lambert, I hope that never on this earth
We meet again; that you'll turn out a monk,
And mend the life I give you, so, farewell,
I'm sorry you're a rascal. John, despatch.


In the French camp before the Castle. Sir Peter prisoner, Guesclin, Clisson, Sir Lambert.

Sir Peter

So now is come the ending of my life;
If I could clear this sickening lump away
That sticks in my dry throat, and say a word,
Guesclin might listen.


Guesclin

Tell me, fair sir knight,
If you have been clean liver before God,
And then you need not fear much; as for me,
I cannot say I hate you, yet my oath,
And cousin Lambert's ears here clench the thing.


Sir Peter

I knew you could not hate me, therefore I
Am bold to pray for life; 'twill harm your cause
To hang knights of good name, harm here in France
I have small doubt, at any rate hereafter
Men will remember you another way
Than I should care to be remember'd. Ah!
Although hot lead runs through me for my blood,
All this falls cold as though I said: 'Sweet lords,
Give back my falcon!'
See how young I am;
Do you care altogether more for France,
Say rather one French faction, than for all
The state of Christendom? a gallant knight,
As (yea, by God!) I have been, is more worth
Than many castles; will you bring this death,
For a mere act of justice, on my head?
Think how it ends all, death! all other things
Can somehow be retrieved; yea, send me forth
Naked and maimed, rather than slay me here;
Then somehow will I get me other clothes,
And somehow will I get me some poor horse,
And, somehow clad in poor old rusty arms,
Will ride and smite among the serried glaives,
Fear not death so; for I can tilt right well,
Let me not say “I could;” I know all tricks,
That sway the sharp sword cunningly; ah you,
You, my Lord Clisson, in the other days
Have seen me learning these, yea, call to mind,
How in the trodden corn by Chartrès town,
When you were nearly swooning from the back
Of your black horse, those three blades slid at once
From off my sword's edge; pray for me, my lord!


Clisson

Nay, this is pitiful, to see him die.
My Lord the Constable, I pray you note
That you are losing some few thousand crowns
By slaying this man; also think: his lands
Along the Garonne river lie for leagues,
And are right rich, a many mills he has,
Three abbeys of grey monks do hold of him,
Though wishing well for Clement, as we do;
I know the next heir, his old uncle, well,
Who does not care two deniers for the knight
As things go now, but slay him, and then see
How he will bristle up like any perch,
With curves of spears. What! do not doubt, my lord,
You'll get the money; this man saved my life,
And I will buy him for two thousand crowns;
Well, five then—eh! what! “No” again? well then,
Ten thousand crowns?


Guesclin

My sweet lord, much I grieve
I cannot please you; yea, good sooth, I grieve
This knight must die, as verily he must;
For I have sworn it, so, men, take him out,
Use him not roughly.


Sir Lambert


coming forward.


Music, do you know,
Music will suit you well, I think, because
You look so mild, like Laurence being grill'd;
Or perhaps music soft and slow, because
This is high day of triumph unto me,
Is it not, Peter?
You are frighten'd, though,
Eh! you are pale, because this hurts you much,
Whose life was pleasant to you, not like mine,
You ruin'd wretch! Men mock me in the streets,
Only in whispers loud, because I am
Friend of the Constable; will this please you,
Unhappy Peter? once a-going home,
Without my servants, and a little drunk,
At midnight through the lone dim lamp-lit streets,
A whore came up and spat into my eyes,
(Rather to blind me than to make me see,)
But she was very drunk, and tottering back,
Even in the middle of her laughter, fell
And cut her head against the pointed stones,
While I lean'd on my staff, and look'd at her,
And cried, being drunk.
Girls would not spit at you.
You are so handsome, I think verily
Most ladies would be glad to kiss your eyes,
And yet you will be hung like a cur dog
Five minutes hence, and grow black in the face,
And curl your toes up. Therefore I am glad.
Guess why I stand and talk this nonsense now,
With Guesclin getting ready to play chess,
And Clisson doing something with his sword,
I can't see what, talking to Guesclin though,
I don't know what about, perhaps of you.
But, cousin Peter, while I stroke your beard,
Let me say this, I'd like to tell you now
That your life hung upon a game of chess,
That if, say, my squire Robert here should beat,
Why, you should live, but hang if I beat him;
Then guess, clever Peter, what I should do then:
Well, give it up? why, Peter, I should let
My squire Robert beat me, then you would think
That you were safe, you know; Eh? not at all,
But I should keep you three days in some hold,
Giving you salt to eat, which would be kind,
Considering the tax there is on salt;
And afterwards should let you go, perhaps?
No, I should not, but I should hang you, sir,
With a red rope in lieu of mere grey rope.
But I forgot, you have not told me yet
If you can guess why I talk nonsense thus,
Instead of drinking wine while you are hang'd?
You are not quick at guessing, give it up.
This is the reason; here I hold your hand,
And watch you growing paler, see you writhe
And this, my Peter, is a joy so dear,
I cannot by all striving tell you how
I love it, nor I think, good man, would you
Quite understand my great delight therein;
You, when you had me underneath you once,
Spat as it were, and said: 'Go take him out,'
(That they might do that thing to me whereat
E'en now this long time off I could well shriek,)
And then you tried forget I ever lived,
And sunk your hating into other things;
While I - St. Denis! though, I think you'll faint,
Your lips are grey so; yes, you will, unless
You let it out and weep like a hurt child;
Hurrah! you do now. Do not go just yet,
For I am Alice, am right like her now,
Will you not kiss me on the lips, my love?-


Clisson

You filthy beast, stand back and let him go,
Or by God's eyes I'll choke you. Kneeling to Sir Peter.
Fair sir knight,
I kneel upon my knees and pray to you
That you would pardon me for this your death;
God knows how much I wish you still alive,
Also how heartily I strove to save
Your life at this time; yea, He knows quite well,
(I swear it, so forgive me!) how I would,
If it were possible, give up my life
Upon this grass for yours; fair knight, although,
He knowing all things knows this thing too, well,
Yet when you see His face some short time hence,
Tell Him I tried to save you.


Sir Peter

O! my lord,
I cannot say this is as good as life,
But yet it makes me feel far happier now,
And if at all, after a thousand years,
I see God's face, I will speak loud and bold,
And tell Him you were kind, and like Himself;
Sir, may God bless you!
Did you note how I
Fell weeping just now? pray you, do not think
That Lambert's taunts did this, I hardly heard
The base things that he said, being deep in thought
Of all things that have happen'd since I was
A little child; and so at last I thought
Of my true lady: truly, sir, it seem'd
No longer gone than yesterday, that this
Was the sole reason God let me be born
Twenty-five years ago, that I might love
Her, my sweet lady, and be loved by her;
This seem'd so yesterday, to-day death comes,
And is so bitter strong, I cannot see
Why I was born.
But as a last request,
I pray you, O kind Clisson, send some man,
Some good man, mind you, to say how I died,
And take my last love to her: fare-you-well,
And may God keep you; I must go now, lest
I grow too sick with thinking on these things;
Likewise my feet are wearied of the earth,
From whence I shall be lifted up right soon.


As he goes.


Ah me! shamed too, I wept at fear of death;
And yet not so, I only wept because
There was no beautiful lady to kiss me
Before I died, and sweetly wish good speed
From her dear lips. O for some lady, though
I saw her ne'er before; Alice, my love,
I do not ask for; Clisson was right kind,
If he had been a woman, I should die
Without this sickness: but I am all wrong,
So wrong, and hopelessly afraid to die.
There, I will go.
My God! how sick I am,
If only she could come and kiss me now.


The Hotel de la Barde, Bordeaux. The Lady Alice de la Barde looking out of a window into the street.


No news yet! surely, still he holds his own:
That garde stands well; I mind me passing it
Some months ago; God grant the walls are strong!
I heard some knights say something yestereve,
I tried hard to forget: words far apart
Struck on my heart something like this; one said:
'What eh! a Gascon with an English name,
Harpdon?' then nought, but afterwards: 'Poictou.'
As one who answers to a question ask'd;
Then carelessly regretful came: 'No, no.'
Whereto in answer loud and eagerly,
One said: “Impossible! Christ, what foul play!”
And went off angrily; and while thenceforth
I hurried gaspingly afraid, I heard:
'Guesclin;' 'Five thousand men-at-arms;' 'Clisson.'
My heart misgives me it is all in vain
I send these succours; and in good time there!
Their trumpet sounds, ah! here they are; good knights,
God up in Heaven keep you.
If they come
And find him prisoner—for I can't believe
Guesclin will slay him, even though they storm—
(The last horse turns the corner.)
God in Heaven!
What have I got to thinking of at last!
That thief I will not name is with Guesclin,
Who loves him for his lands. My love! my love!
O, if I lose you after all the past,
What shall I do?
I cannot bear the noise
And light street out there, with this thought alive,
Like any curling snake within my brain;
Let me just hide my head within these soft
Deep cushions, there to try and think it out.


Lying in the window-seat.


I cannot hear much noise now, and I think
That I shall go to sleep: it all sounds dim
And faint, and I shall soon forget most things;
Yea, almost that I am alive and here;
It goes slow, comes slow, like a big mill-wheel
On some broad stream, with long green weeds a-sway,
And soft and slow it rises and it falls,
Still going onward.
Lying so, one kiss,
And I should be in Avalon asleep,
Among the poppies and the yellow flowers;
And they should brush my cheek, my hair being spread
Far out among the stems; soft mice and small
Eating and creeping all about my feet,
Red shod and tired; and the flies should come
Creeping o'er my broad eyelids unafraid;
And there should be a noise of water going,
Clear blue, fresh water breaking on the slates,
Likewise the flies should creep—God's eyes! God help!
A trumpet? I will run fast, leap adown
The slippery sea-stairs, where the crabs fight.
Ah!
I was half dreaming, but the trumpet's true;
He stops here at our house. The Clisson arms?
Ah, now for news. But I must hold my heart,
And be quite gentle till he is gone out;
And afterwards—but he is still alive,
He must be still alive.


Enter a Squire of Clisson's.


Good day, fair sir,
I give you welcome, knowing whence you come.


Squire

My Lady Alice de la Barde, I come
From Oliver Clisson, knight and mighty lord,
Bringing you tidings: I make bold to hope
You will not count me villain, even if
They wring your heart, nor hold me still in hate.
For I am but a mouthpiece after all,
A mouthpiece, too, of one who wishes well
To you and your's.


Alice

Can you talk faster, sir,
Get over all this quicker? fix your eyes
On mine, I pray you, and whate'er you see,
Still go on talking fast, unless I fall,
Or bid you stop.


Squire

I pray your pardon then,
And, looking in your eyes, fair lady, say
I am unhappy that your knight is dead.
Take heart, and listen! let me tell you all.
We were five thousand goodly men-at-arms,
And scant five hundred had he in that hold:
His rotten sand-stone walls were wet with rain,
And fell in lumps wherever a stone hit;
Yet for three days about the barrier there
The deadly glaives were gather'd, laid across,
And push'd and pull'd; the fourth our engines came;
But still amid the crash of falling walls,
And roar of lombards, rattle of hard bolts,
The steady bow-strings flash'd, and still stream'd out
St. George's banner, and the seven swords,
And still they cried: “St.George Guienne!” until
Their walls were flat as Jericho's of old,
And our rush came, and cut them from the keep.


Alice

Stop, sir, and tell me if you slew him then,
And where he died, if you can really mean
That Peter Harpdon, the good knight, is dead?


Squire

Fair lady, in the base-court -


Alice

What base-court?
What do you talk of? Nay, go on, go on;
'Twas only something gone within my head:
Do you not know, one turns one's head round quick,
And something cracks there with sore pain? go on,
And still look at my eyes.


Squire

Almost alone,
There in the base-court fought he with his sword,
Using his left hand much, more than the wont
Of most knights now-a-days; our men gave back,
For wheresoever he hit a downright blow,
Some one fell bleeding, for no plate could hold
Against the sway of body and great arm;
Till he grew tired, and some man (no! not I,
I swear not I, fair lady, as I live!)
Thrust at him with a glaive between the knees,
And threw him; down he fell, sword undermost;
Many fell on him, crying out their cries,
Tore his sword from him, tore his helm off, and—


Alice

Yea, slew him: I am much too young to live,
Fair God, so let me die!
You have done well,
Done all your message gently; pray you go,
Our knights will make you cheer; moreover, take
This bag of franks for your expenses.


The Squire kneels.


But you do not go; still looking at my face,
You kneel! what, squire, do you mock me then?
You need not tell me who has set you on,
But tell me only, 'tis a made-up tale.
You are some lover may-be, or his friend;
Sir, if you loved me once, or your friend loved,
Think, is it not enough that I kneel down
And kiss your feet? your jest will be right good
If you give in now; carry it too far,
And 'twill be cruel: not yet? but you weep
Almost, as though you loved me; love me then,
And go to Heaven by telling all your sport,
And I will kiss you then with all my heart,
Upon the mouth; O! what can I do then
To move you?


Squire

Lady fair, forgive me still!
You know I am so sorry, but my tale
Is not yet finish'd:
So they bound his hands,
And brought him tall and pale to Guesclin's tent,
Who, seeing him, leant his head upon his hand,
And ponder'd somewhile, afterwards, looking up—
Fair dame, what shall I say?


Alice

Yea, I know now,
Good squire, you may go now with my thanks.


Squire

Yet, lady, for your own sake I say this,
Yea, for my own sake, too, and Clisson's sake:
When Guesclin told him he must be hanged soon,
Within a while he lifted up his head
And spoke for his own life; not crouching, though,
As abjectly afraid to die, nor yet
Sullenly brave as many a thief will die;
Nor yet as one that plays at japes with God:
Few words he spoke; not so much what he said
Moved us, I think, as, saying it, there played
Strange tenderness from that big soldier there
About his pleading; eagerness to live
Because folk loved him, and he loved them back,
And many gallant plans unfinish'd now
For ever. Clisson's heart, which may God bless!
Was moved to pray for him, but all in vain;
Wherefore I bring this message:
That he waits,
Still loving you, within the little church
Whose windows, with the one eye of the light
Over the altar, every night behold
The great dim broken walls he strove to keep!
There my Lord Clisson did his burial well.
Now, lady, I will go; God give you rest!


Alice

Thank Clisson from me, squire, and farewell!
And now to keep myself from going mad.
Christ! I have been a many times to church,
And, ever since my mother taught me prayers,
Have used them daily, but to-day I wish
To pray another way; come face to face,
O Christ, that I may clasp your knees and pray
I know not what; at any rate come now
From one of many places where you are,
Either in Heaven amid thick angel wings,
Or sitting on the altar strange with gems,
Or high up in the dustiness of the apse;
Let us go, You and I, a long way off,
To the little damp, dark, Poitevin church;
While you sit on the coffin in the dark,
Will I lie down, my face on the bare stone
Between your feet, and chatter anything
I have heard long ago, what matters it
So I may keep you there, your solemn face
And long hair even-flowing on each side,
Until you love me well enough to speak,
And give me comfort; yea, till o'er your chin,
And cloven red beard the great tears roll down
In pity for my misery, and I die,
Kissed over by you.
Eh Guesclin! if I were
Like Countess Mountfort now, that kiss'd the knight,
Across the salt sea come to fight for her;
Ah! just to go about with many knights,
Wherever you went, and somehow on one day,
In a thick wood to catch you off your guard,
Let you find, you and your some fifty friends,
Nothing but arrows wheresoe'er you turn'd,
Yea, and red crosses, great spears over them;
And so, between a lane of my true men,
To walk up pale and stern and tall, and with
My arms on my surcoat, and his therewith,
And then to make you kneel, O knight Guesclin;
And then—alas! alas! when all is said,
What could I do but let you go again,
Being pitiful woman? I get no revenge,
Whatever happens; and I get no comfort,
I am but weak, and cannot move my feet,
But as men bid me.
Strange I do not die.
Suppose this has not happen'd after all?
I will lean out again and watch for news.
I wonder how long I can still feel thus,
As though I watch'd for news, feel as I did
Just half-an-hour ago, before this news.
How all the street is humming, some men sing,
And some men talk; some look up at the house,
Then lay their heads together and look grave:
Their laughter pains me sorely in the heart,
Their thoughtful talking makes my head turn round;
Yea, some men sing, what is it then they sing?
Eh? Launcelot, and love and fate and death;
They ought to sing of him who was as wight
As Launcelot or Wade, and yet avail'd
Just nothing, but to fail and fail and fail,
And so at last to die and leave me here,
Alone and wretched; yea, perhaps they will,
When many years are past, make songs of us;
God help me, though, truly I never thought
That I should make a story in this way,
A story that his eyes can never see.


One sings from outside.


Therefore be it believed
Whatsoever he grieved,
Whan his horse was relieved,
This Launcelot,
Beat down on his knee,
Right valiant was he
God's body to see,
Though he saw it not.
Right valiant to move,
But for his sad love
The high God above
Stinted his praise.
Yet so he was glad
That his son, Lord Galahad,
That high joyaunce had
All his life-days.
Sing we therefore then
Launcelot's praise again,
For he wan crownès ten,
If he wan not twelve.
To his death from his birth
He was muckle of worth,
Lay him in the cold earth,
A long grave ye may delve.
Omnes homines benedicite!
This last fitte ye may see,
All men pray for me
Who made this history
Cunning and fairly.

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The City of Dreadful Night

Per me si va nella citta dolente.

--Dante

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

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

--Leopardi

PROEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LXX

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

333

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

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

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

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

IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V

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

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

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

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

VI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VII

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

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

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

VIII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IX

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

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

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

X

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XI

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

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

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

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

XII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XIII

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

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

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

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

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

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

XIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XV

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

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

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

XVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XVII

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

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

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

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

XVIII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XIX

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

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

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

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

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

XX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XXI

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

Low-seated she leans forward massively,
With cheek on clenched left hand, the forearm's might
Erect, its elbow on her rounded knee;
Across a clasped book in her lap the right
Upholds a pair of compasses; she gazes
With full set eyes, but wandering in thick mazes
Of sombre thought beholds no outward sight.

Words cannot picture her; but all men know
That solemn sketch the pure sad artist wrought
Three centuries and threescore years ago,
With phantasies of his peculiar thought:
The instruments of carpentry and science
Scattered about her feet, in strange alliance
With the keen wolf-hound sleeping undistraught;

Scales, hour-glass, bell, and magic-square above;
The grave and solid infant perched beside,
With open winglets that might bear a dove,
Intent upon its tablets, heavy-eyed;
Her folded wings as of a mighty eagle,
But all too impotent to lift the regal
Robustness of her earth-born strength and pride;

And with those wings, and that light wreath which seems
To mock her grand head and the knotted frown
Of forehead charged with baleful thoughts and dreams,
The household bunch of keys, the housewife's gown
Voluminous, indented, and yet rigid
As if a shell of burnished metal frigid,
The feet thick-shod to tread all weakness down;

The comet hanging o'er the waste dark seas,
The massy rainbow curved in front of it
Beyond the village with the masts and trees;
The snaky imp, dog-headed, from the Pit,
Bearing upon its batlike leathern pinions
Her name unfolded in the sun's dominions,
The "MELENCOLIA" that transcends all wit.

Thus has the artist copied her, and thus
Surrounded to expound her form sublime,
Her fate heroic and calamitous;
Fronting the dreadful mysteries of Time,
Unvanquished in defeat and desolation,
Undaunted in the hopeless conflagration
Of the day setting on her baffled prime.

Baffled and beaten back she works on still,
Weary and sick of soul she works the more,
Sustained by her indomitable will:
The hands shall fashion and the brain shall pore,
And all her sorrow shall be turned to labour,
Till Death the friend-foe piercing with his sabre
That mighty heart of hearts ends bitter war.

But as if blacker night could dawn on night,
With tenfold gloom on moonless night unstarred,
A sense more tragic than defeat and blight,
More desperate than strife with hope debarred,
More fatal than the adamantine Never
Encompassing her passionate endeavour,
Dawns glooming in her tenebrous regard:

To sense that every struggle brings defeat
Because Fate holds no prize to crown success;
That all the oracles are dumb or cheat
Because they have no secret to express;
That none can pierce the vast black veil uncertain
Because there is no light beyond the curtain;
That all is vanity and nothingness.

Titanic from her high throne in the north,
That City's sombre Patroness and Queen,
In bronze sublimity she gazes forth
Over her Capital of teen and threne,
Over the river with its isles and bridges,
The marsh and moorland, to the stern rock-ridges,
Confronting them with a coeval mien.

The moving moon and stars from east to west
Circle before her in the sea of air;
Shadows and gleams glide round her solemn rest.
Her subjects often gaze up to her there:
The strong to drink new strength of iron endurance,
The weak new terrors; all, renewed assurance
And confirmation of the old despair.

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