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My biggest challenge is trust, and really believing that trust, in letting things just happen personally and professionally and trust with myself. But I'm getting better at it.

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Monica Bellucci

I feel fine and comfortable with myself, but not because I'm beautiful.

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Their Biggest Challenge Ever

The only thing left was reality
For the survivors to deal with!
It was their biggest challenge ever...
Since a few had never traveled there before!

But for the majority who sought definition...
This discovery had the promise,
To keep them honest...
Trustworthy and accountable!

And none were ready,
For these traumatic revelations
To be experienced!
Without testing!

How would the rats react?
Some thought!

That's why a planning committee was discussed,
And developed
To initiate a feasibility study.
And ways to implement its findings.
If deemed suitable for mass consumption!

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Really! Is That What You Want?

Maybe it is best,
I will never come to understand...
What pleases others.
And yet the same action done,
Will make some upset.

Sometimes one's intentions,
To project a comprehension...
With an empathy attached.
Will offend some who then prepare,
To defend themselves in a boxing match.

And there are times when one desires,
To have no contact at all with others.
As some may find this an attractive challenge,
No matter what disgusting thing is said...
From a mouth spewing indignities,
With a hope what is done sends them off to another!

'You have wishes to be tamed!
Don't you? '
Who knew you would meet your...domesticator.'

~Excuse me?
I am wanting you to buzz off.~

'Really!
Is that what you want?
Deep in the crevices of your mind?
Or...
Are you secretly wishing to redecorate my hive? '

No!
But IF I had a fly-swatter,
You would get the message!
Immediately.
Believe me.

'Oh.
I see.
So you are into spankings? '

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Sharon Corr

I think it's a big challenge not to murder each other, ... I mean, we're family so we fight now and then, but we're getting better at it. I mean, the music's really important to us, and we love doing that, so in order to preserve that, we get on.

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Trust no one but yourself!

Who Can You Trust?
Who Can you trust in the world today?
Your friends?
They'll be just as trifling as your enemy
When you are stuck at a dead end

Who can you trust in the world today?
Your blood?
Blood is thicker than water
Don't let this be your rule
By this same rule was I fooled.

Who can you trust in the world today?
Your instructors?
Their job is to teach not to care
Your problems will appear just as thin as air.

Who can you trust in the world today?
Those who inforce and carry out the law?
This is where the world tears
They should be the ones we fear

Who can your trust in the world today?
Don't put your emotions up on a shelf
Trust no one but yourself!

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Yesterday, today and tomorrow

Today part of my life is shattered
and lay in pieces
like a pane of broken glass.

Yesterday my wife left me,
for another man
and her children
do not any more regard me
as a father,
though I sacrificed
my life for them.

Yesterday my reputation was in ruins
and not only with the people that I know,
but across the globe
lies were spread by emails about me
to make me loose integrity.

Yesterday two cars were stolen from me
and no police could find the cars
or the villains
and the insurance
absconded from paying
with very clever clauses.

Yesterday I started doing contract work
and do not really know
from where the next job will come
and what lies ahead
for the next month or year.

Today part of my life is shattered
and lay in pieces
like a pane of broken glass,
but today I started a new life
and are free
from the persons
that impeded me.

Today I love somebody really special
that I know loves me,
today I act as I always did
with respect and integrity,
today I do my work
to the best of my ability,
today I go to interviews
and still believe
that the right permanent job will come
and today I live my life
as if it’s the last and only day.

Only the great creator knows
what tomorrow holds,
but tomorrow is safe
in His hands and I wait
while His love unfolds
with the passage of time.

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Pains and agony with pleasure

Did you endure all pains and agony with pleasure?
Did you ever consider its length for sure?
Did you ever regret that it is His will and wish?
You got to trust him till the life is finished

Were you kept low for future good?
Sometimes you were not afforded food
Was it His blessings to keep you near?
If answer is in 'Yes” you have all the rights to live without fear

He may respond to your undisputed faith
That he may be kind till your death
It is wish of almighty to shower the happiness
You stand fast with strong faith and face

Life is not what you see it from the outset
It will never reveal or make others to let
It will shape as per efforts put in
It may face failure or outright win

No one has judged it for sure
No one can predict the future
It has to be based on tremendous efforts
It may be made easier with good rapport

Shade or no shade, it has to be struggled till the end
You have enough time to regroup, think and mend
The lost time may never be recovered
Yet there is enough of opportunity for new things to be discovered

You may come out with triumph
You may sign it with your thumb
The happiness may run for quite sometime
Yet uncertainty may take over at any time

Live and face as it comes
Laugh it out and always welcome
New leaf is to be opened with passing of each day
The failure may be pushed miles away

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If You Really Want To

You say youre all alone,
And after all the changes youve been through today
You can use a little tenderness, right now
Ok, Ive been alone,
And I can understand the way you feel tonight
Maybe together we can charge it all right now
I can tell by the look in your tear-filled eyes
You need somebody you can hold onto
If you really want to, Id love to hold you
If you really want to, then Id love to be the body that you hold onto
You say, he broke your heart,
He left you crying, but he did not set you free
And now you feel like you can never love again
Ok, so let me know,
Its up to you how long you let his memory stay
And do you really wanna carry on this way
I can tell by the look in your tear-filled eyes
You need somebody you can hold onto
If you really want to, Id love to hold you
If you really want to, then Id love to be the body that you hold onto
If you really want to, if you really want to,
Then I really cant deny you
So many things you need to know, so many left to say
But you mean more than words I know,
I can help you chase the pain away
I can tell by the look in your tear-filled eyes
You need somebody you can hold onto
If you really want to, if you really want to
If you really want to, then Id love to be the body that you hold onto
If you really want to, if you really want to,
Then I really cant deny you
If you really want to, if you really want to
If you really want to... (to fade)
(chorus repeats out)

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Who I'm Starting To See

i use to let you tell me what to do,
i don't know why,
maybe because at the time,
i couldn't think for myself,

it was just something about you,
that made me feel special,
but, now i see what you doing,
little by little,

i see where i went wrong,
giving up part of my power,
and letting you have what you want,
i feel as if you can't trust me,

you snoop through my phone,
when i'm not looking,
just to see who i dial,
i caught you one or twice,

but you thought it was fun and games,
what is wrong with you?
little by little,
i'm starting to think i will be better off,

if only i wasn't with you,
i'm starting to feel trapped,
rather than free and opened,
my friend seem to say,

you're abit controling,
am i being blind sided?
can't really see,
what's in front of me, the whole time?

i think back of when you notice me,
it wasn't until you realize,
what you were slowly losing,
that you put in a little effort,

just to try and be with me,
but, in my eyes,
i'm starting to think it was fake,
you put up a front,

rather than just be yourself,
people don't see,
what i'm starting to see,
a guy who does more talk,

rather than take action,
i don't know why i'm still with you,
i know i'm better than this,
but, i get sucked in,

when you tell me that you miss me,
i don't know why, maybe because,
i don't like the feeling of being alone,
i've been through so much,

at times you helped me through,
other times you made jokes,
about the mistakes i made,
what kind of help are you?

you wanted to perade it,
like it was you business to tell,
what kind of friend are you?
slowly i'm starting to see the real you,

the part i lost sight on,
when everything fell apart,
to make me think,
you just wasn't the one for me.
Copyright © 2009
7-01-09

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Artegal And Elidure

WHERE be the temples which, in Britain's Isle,
For his paternal Gods, the Trojan raised?
Gone like a morning dream, or like a pile
Of clouds that in cerulean ether blazed!
Ere Julius landed on her white-cliffed shore,
They sank, delivered o'er
To fatal dissolution; and, I ween,
No vestige then was left that such had ever been.

Nathless, a British record (long concealed
In old Armorica, whose secret springs
No Gothic conqueror ever drank) revealed
The marvellous current of forgotten things;
How Brutus came, by oracles impelled,
And Albion's giants quelled,
A brood whom no civility could melt,
'Who never tasted grace, and goodness ne'er had felt.'

By brave Corineus aided, he subdued,
And rooted out the intolerable kind;
And this too-long-polluted land imbued
With goodly arts and usages refined;
Whence golden harvests, cities, warlike towers,
And pleasure's sumptuous bowers;
Whence all the fixed delights of house and home,
Friendships that will not break, and love that cannot roam.

O, happy Britain! region all too fair
For self-delighting fancy to endure
That silence only should inhabit there,
Wild beasts, or uncouth savages impure!
But, intermingled with the generous seed,
Grew many a poisonous weed;
Thus fares it still with all that takes its birth
From human care, or grows upon the breast of earth.

Hence, and how soon! that war of vengeance waged
By Guendolen against her faithless lord;
Till she, in jealous fury unassuaged
Had slain his paramour with ruthless sword:
Then, into Severn hideously defiled,
She flung her blameless child,
Sabrina,-vowing that the stream should bear
That name through every age, her hatred to declare.

So speaks the Chronicle, and tells of Lear
By his ungrateful daughters turned adrift.
Ye lightnings, hear his voice!-they cannot hear,
Nor can the winds restore his simple gift.
But One there is, a Child of nature meek,
Who comes her Sire to seek;
And he, recovering sense, upon her breast
Leans smilingly, and sinks into a perfect rest.

There too we read of Spenser's fairy themes,
And those that Milton loved in youthful years;
The sage enchanter Merlin's subtle schemes;
The feats of Arthur and his knightly peers;
Of Arthur,-who, to upper light restored,
With that terrific sword
Which yet he brandishes for future war,
Shall lift his country's fame above the polar star!

What wonder, then, if in such ample field
Of old tradition, one particular flower
Doth seemingly in vain its fragrance yield,
And bloom unnoticed even to this late hour?
Now, gentle Muses, your assistance grant,
While I this flower transplant
Into a garden stored with Poesy;
Where flowers and herbs unite, and haply some weeds be,
That, wanting not wild grace, are from all mischief free!

A KING more worthy of respect and love
Than wise Gorbonian ruled not in his day;
And grateful Britain prospered far above
All neighbouring countries through his righteous sway;
He poured rewards and honours on the good;
The oppressor he withstood;
And while he served the Gods with reverence due
Fields smiled, and temples rose, and towns and cities grew.

He died, whom Artegal succeeds-his son;
But how unworthy of that sire was he!
A hopeful reign, auspiciously begun,
Was darkened soon by foul iniquity.
From crime to crime he mounted, till at length
The nobles leagued their strength
With a vexed people, and the tyrant chased;
And, on the vacant throne, his worthier Brother placed.

From realm to realm the humbled Exile went,
Suppliant for aid his kingdom to regain;
In many a court, and many a warrior's tent,
He urged his persevering suit in vain.
Him, in whose wretched heart ambition failed,
Dire poverty assailed;
And, tired with slights his pride no more could brook,
He towards his native country cast a longing look.

Fair blew the wished-for wind-the voyage sped;
He landed; and, by many dangers scared,
'Poorly provided, poorly followed,'
To Calaterium's forest he repaired.
How changed from him who, born to highest place,
Had swayed the royal mace,
Flattered and feared, despised yet deified,
In Troynovant, his seat by silver Thames's side!

From that wild region where the crownless King
Lay in concealment with his scanty train,
Supporting life by water from the spring,
And such chance food as outlaws can obtain,
Unto the few whom he esteems his friends
A messenger he sends;
And from their secret loyalty requires
Shelter and daily bread,-the sum of his desires.

While he the issue waits, at early morn
Wandering by stealth abroad, he chanced to hear
A startling outcry made by hound and horn,
From which the tusky wild boar flies in fear;
And, scouring toward him o'er the grassy plain,
Behold the hunter train!
He bids his little company advance
With seeming unconcern and steady countenance.

The royal Elidure, who leads the chase,
Hath checked his foaming courser:-can it be!
Methinks that I should recognise that face,
Though much disguised by long adversity!
He gazed rejoicing, and again he gazed,
Confounded and amazed-
'It is the king, my brother!' and, by sound
Of his own voice confirmed, he leaps upon the ground.

Long, strict, and tender was the embrace he gave,
Feebly returned by daunted Artegal;
Whose natural affection doubts enslave,
And apprehensions dark and criminal.
Loth to restrain the moving interview,
The attendant lords withdrew;
And, while they stood upon the plain apart,
Thus Elidure, by words, relieved his struggling heart.

'By heavenly Powers conducted, we have met;
-O Brother! to my knowledge lost so long,
But neither lost to love, nor to regret,
Nor to my wishes lost;-forgive the wrong,
(Such it may seem) if I thy crown have borne,
Thy royal mantle worn:
I was their natural guardian; and 'tis just
That now I should restore what hath been held in trust.'

A while the astonished Artegal stood mute,
Then thus exclaimed: 'To me, of titles shorn,
And stripped of power! me, feeble, destitute,
To me a kingdom! spare the bitter scorn:
If justice ruled the breast of foreign kings,
Then, on the wide-spread wings
Of war, had I returned to claim my right;
This will I here avow, not dreading thy despite.'

'I do not blame thee,' Elidure replied;
'But, if my looks did with my words agree,
I should at once be trusted, not defied,
And thou from all disquietude be free.
May the unsullied Goddess of the chase,
Who to this blessed place
At this blest moment led me, if I speak
With insincere intent, on me her vengeance wreak!

'Were this same spear, which in my hand I grasp.
The British sceptre, here would I to thee
The symbol yield; and would undo this clasp,
If it confined the robe of sovereignty.
Odious to me the pomp of regal court,
And joyless sylvan sport,
While thou art roving, wretched and forlorn,
Thy couch the dewy earth, thy roof the forest thorn!'

Then Artegal thus spake: 'I only sought,
Within this realm a place of safe retreat;
Beware of rousing an ambitious thought;
Beware of kindling hopes, for me unmeet!
Thou art reputed wise, but in my mind
Art pitiably blind:
Full soon this generous purpose thou may'st rue,
When that which has been done no wishes can undo.

'Who, when a crown is fixed upon his head,
Would balance claim with claim, and right with right?
But thou-I know not how inspired, how led-
Wouldst change the course of things in all men's sight!
And this for one who cannot imitate
Thy virtue, who may hate:
For, if, by such strange sacrifice restored,
He reign, thou still must be his king, and sovereign lord;

'Lifted in magnanimity above
Aught that my feeble nature could perform,
Or even conceive; surpassing me in love
Far as in power the eagle doth the worm.
I, Brother! only should be king in name,
And govern to my shame;
A shadow in a hated land, while all
Of glad or willing service to thy share would fall.'

'Believe it not,' said Elidure; 'respect
Awaits on virtuous life, and ever most
Attends on goodness with dominion decked,
Which stands the universal empire's boast;
This can thy own experience testify:
Nor shall thy foes deny
That, in the gracious opening of thy reign,
Our father's spirit seemed in thee to breathe again.

'And what if o'er thy bright unbosoming
Clouds of disgrace and envious fortune past!
Have we not seen the glories of the spring
By veil of noontide darkness overcast?
The frith that glittered like a warrior's shield,
The sky, the gay green field,
Are vanished; gladness ceases in the groves,
And trepidation strikes the blackened mountain-coves.

'But is that gloom dissolved? how passing clear
Seems the wide world, far brighter than before!
Even so thy latent worth will re-appear,
Gladdening the people's heart from shore to shore;
For youthful faults ripe virtues shall atone;
Re-seated on thy throne,
Proof shalt thou furnish that misfortune, pain,
And sorrow, have confirmed thy native right to reign.

'But, not to overlook what thou may'st know,
Thy enemies are neither weak nor few;
And circumspect must be our course, and slow
Or from my purpose ruin may ensue.
Dismiss thy followers;-let them calmly wait
Such change in thy estate
As I already have in thought devised;
And which, with caution due, may soon be realised.'

The Story tells what courses were pursued,
Until king Elidure, with full consent
Of all his peers, before the multitude,
Rose,-and, to consummate this just intent,
Did place upon his brother's head the crown,
Relinquished by his own;
Then to his people cried, 'Receive your lord,
Gorbonian's first-born son, your rightful king restored!'

The people answered with a loud acclaim:
Yet more;-heart-smitten by the heroic deed,
The reinstated Artegal became
Earth's noblest penitent; from bondage freed
Of vice-thenceforth unable to subvert
Or shake his high desert.
Long did he reign; and, when he died, the tear
Of universal grief bedewed his honoured bier.

Thus was a Brother by a Brother saved;
With whom a crown (temptation that hath set
Discord in hearts of men till they have braved
Their nearest kin with deadly purpose met)
'Gainst duty weighed, and faithful love, did seem
A thing of no esteem;
And, from this triumph of affection pure,
He bore the lasting name of 'pious Elidure.'

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Grandmother’s Teaching

``Grandmother dear, you do not know; you have lived the old-world life,
Under the twittering eaves of home, sheltered from storm and strife;
Rocking cradles, and covering jams, knitting socks for baby feet,
Or piecing together lavender bags for keeping the linen sweet:
Daughter, wife, and mother in turn, and each with a blameless breast,
Then saying your prayers when the nightfall came, and quietly dropping to rest.

``You must not think, Granny, I speak in scorn, for yours have been well-spent days,
And none ever paced with more faithful feet the dutiful ancient ways.
Grandfather's gone, but while he lived you clung to him close and true,
And mother's heart, like her eyes, I know, came to her straight from you.
If the good old times, at the good old pace, in the good old grooves would run,
One could not do better, I'm sure of that, than do as you all have done.

``But the world has wondrously changed, Granny, since the days when you were young;
It thinks quite different thoughts from then, and speaks with a different tongue.
The fences are broken, the cords are snapped, that tethered man's heart to home;
He ranges free as the wind or the wave, and changes his shore like the foam.
He drives his furrows through fallow seas, he reaps what the breakers sow,
And the flash of his iron flail is seen mid the barns of the barren snow.

``He has lassoed the lightning and led it home, he has yoked it unto his need,
And made it answer the rein and trudge as straight as the steer or steed.
He has bridled the torrents and made them tame, he has bitted the champing tide,
It toils as his drudge and turns the wheels that spin for his use and pride.
He handles the planets and weighs their dust, he mounts on the comet's car,
And he lifts the veil of the sun, and stares in the eyes of the uttermost star.

``'Tis not the same world you knew, Granny; its fetters have fallen off;
The lowliest now may rise and rule where the proud used to sit and scoff.
No need to boast of a scutcheoned stock, claim rights from an ancient wrong;
All are born with a silver spoon in their mouths whose gums are sound and strong.
And I mean to be rich and great, Granny; I mean it with heart and soul:
At my feet is the ball, I will roll it on, till it spins through the golden goal.

``Out on the thought that my copious life should trickle through trivial days,
Myself but a lonelier sort of beast, watching the cattle graze,
Scanning the year's monotonous change, gaping at wind and rain,
Or hanging with meek solicitous eyes on the whims of a creaking vane;
Wretched if ewes drop single lambs, blest so is oilcake cheap,
And growing old in a tedious round of worry, surfeit, and sleep.

``You dear old Granny, how sweet your smile, and how soft your silvery hari!
But all has moved on while you sate still in your cap and easy-chair.
The torch of knowledge is lit for all, it flashes from hand to hand;
The alien tongues of the earth converse, and whisper from strand to strand.
The very churches are changed and boast new hymns, new rites, new truth;
Men worship a wiser and greater God than the halfknown God of your youth.

``What! marry Connie and set up house, and dwell where my fathers dwelt,
Giving the homely feasts they gave and kneeling where they knelt?
She is pretty, and good, and void I am sure of vanity, greed, or guile;
But she has not travelled nor seen the world, and is lacking in air and style.
Women now are as wise and strong as men, and vie with men in renown;
The wife that will help to build my fame was not bred near a country town.

``What a notion! to figure at parish boards, and wrangle o'er cess and rate,
I, who mean to sit for the county yet, and vote on an Empire's fate;
To take the chair at the Farmers' Feast, and tickle their bumpkin ears,
Who must shake a senate before I die, and waken a people's cheers!
In the olden days was no choice, so sons to the roof of their fathers clave:
But now! 'twere to perish before one's time, and to sleep in a living grave.

``I see that you do not understand. How should you? Your memory clings
To the simple music of silenced days and the skirts of vanishing things.
Your fancy wanders round ruined haunts, and dwells upon oft-told tales;
Your eyes discern not the widening dawn, nor your ears catch the rising gales.
But live on, Granny, till I come back, and then perhaps you will own
The dear old Past is an empty nest, and the Present the brood that is flown.''

``And so, my dear, you've come back at last? I always fancied you would.
Well, you see the old home of your childhood's days is standing where it stood.
The roses still clamber from porch to roof, the elder is white at the gate,
And over the long smooth gravel path the peacock still struts in state.
On the gabled lodge, as of old, in the sun, the pigeons sit and coo,
And our hearts, my dear, are no whit more changed, but have kept still warm for you.

``You'll find little altered, unless it be me, and that since my last attack;
But so that you only give me time, I can walk to the church and back.
You bade me not die till you returned, and so you see I lived on:
I'm glad that I did now you've really come, but it's almost time I was gone.
I suppose that there isn't room for us all, and the old should depart the first.
That's as it should be. What is sad, is to bury the dead you've nursed.

``Won't you have bit nor sup, my dear? Not even a glass of whey?
The dappled Alderney calved last week, and the baking is fresh to-day.
Have you lost your appetite too in town, or is it you've grown over-nice?
If you'd rather have biscuits and cowslip wine, they'll bring them up in a trice.
But what am I saying? Your coming down has set me all in a maze:
I forgot that you travelled here by train; I was thinking of coaching days.

``There, sit you down, and give me your hand, and tell me about it all,
From the day that you left us, keen to go, to the pride that had a fall.
And all went well at the first? So it does, when we're young and puffed with hope;
But the foot of the hill is quicker reached the easier seems the slope.
And men thronged round you, and women too! Yes, that I can understand.
When there's gold in the palm, the greedy world is eager to grasp the hand.

``I heard them tell of your smart town house, but I always shook my head.
One doesn't grow rich in a year and a day, in the time of my youth 'twas said.
Men do not reap in the spring, my dear, nor are granaries filled in May,
Save it be with the harvest of former years, stored up for a rainy day.
The seasons will keep their own true time, you can hurry nor furrow nor sod:
It's honest labour and steadfast thrift that alone are blest by God.

``You say you were honest. I trust you were, nor do I judge you, my dear:
I have old-fashioned ways, and it's quite enough to keep one's own conscience clear.
But still the commandment, ``Thou shalt not steal,'' though a simple and ancient rule,
Was not made for modern cunning to baulk, nor for any new age to befool;
And if my growing rich unto others brought but penury, chill, and grief,
I should feel, though I never had filched with my hands, I was only a craftier thief.

``That isn't the way they look at it there? All worshipped the rising sun?
Most of all the fine lady, in pride of purse you fancied your heart had won.
I don't want to hear of her beauty or birth: I reckon her foul and low;
Far better a steadfast cottage wench than grand loves that come and go.
To cleave to their husbands, through weal, through woe, is all women have to do:
In growing as clever as men they seem to have matched them in fickleness too.

``But there's one in whose heart has your image still dwelt through many an absent day,
As the scent of a flower will haunt a closed room, though the flower be taken away.
Connie's not quite so young as she was, no doubt, but faithfulness never grows old;
And were beauty the only fuel of love, the warmest hearth soon would grow cold.
Once you thought that she had not travelled, and knew neither the world nor life:
Not to roam, but to deem her own hearth the whole world, that's what a man wants in a wife.

``I'm sure you'd be happy with Connie, at least if your own heart's in the right place.
She will bring you nor power, nor station, nor wealth, but she never will bring you disgrace.
They say that the moon, though she moves round the earth, never turns to him morning or night
But one face of her sphere, and it must be because she's so true a satellite;
And Connie, if into your orbit once drawn by the sacrament sanctioned above,
Would revolve round you constantly, only to show the one-sided aspect of love.

``You will never grow rich by the land, I own; but if Connie and you should wed,
It will feed your children and household too, as it you and your fathers fed.
The seasons have been unkindly of late; there's a wonderful cut of hay,
But the showers have washed all the goodness out, till it's scarcely worth carting away.
There's a fairish promise of barley straw, but the ears look rusty and slim:
I suppose God intends to remind us thus that something depends on Him.

``God neither progresses nor changes, dear, as I once heard you rashly say:
Man's schools and philosophies come and go, but His word doth not pass away.
We worship Him here as we did of old, with simple and reverent rite:
In the morning we pray Him to bless our work, to forgive our transgressions at night.
To keep His commandments, to fear His name, and what should be done, to do,-
That's the beginning of wisdom still; I suspect 'tis the end of it too.

``You must see the new-fangled machines at work, that harrow, and thresh, and reap;
They're wonderful quick, there's no mistake, and they say in the end they're cheap.
But they make such a clatter, and seem to bring the rule of the town to the fields:
There's something more precious in country life than the balance of wealth it yields.
But that seems going; I'm sure I hope that I shall be gone before:
Better poor sweet silence of rural toil than the factory's opulent roar.

``They're a mighty saving of labour, though; so at least I hear them tell,
Making fewer hands and fewer mouths, but fewer hearts as well:
They sweep up so close that there's nothing left for widows and bairns to glean;
If machines are growing like men, man seems to be growing a half machine.
There's no friendliness left; the only tie is the wage upon Saturday nights:
Right used to mean duty; you'll find that now there's no duty, but only rights.

``Still stick to your duty, my dear, and then things cannot go much amiss.
What made folks happy in bygone times, will make them happy in this.
There's little that's called amusement, here; but why should the old joys pall?
Has the blackbird ceased to sing loud in spring? Has the cuckoo forgotten to call?
Are bleating voices no longer heard when the cherryblossoms swarm?
And have home, and children, and fireside lost one gleam of their ancient charm?

``Come, let us go round; to the farmyard first, with its litter of fresh-strewn straw,
Past the ash-tree dell, round whose branching tops the young rooks wheel and caw;
Through the ten-acre mead that was mown the first, and looks well for aftermath,
Then round by the beans-I shall tire by then,-and home up the garden-path,
Where the peonies hang their blushing heads, where the larkspur laughs from its stalk-
With my stick and your arm I can manage. But see! There, Connie comes up the walk.''

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 7

With these words Hector passed through the gates, and his brother
Alexandrus with him, both eager for the fray. As when heaven sends a
breeze to sailors who have long looked for one in vain, and have
laboured at their oars till they are faint with toil, even so
welcome was the sight of these two heroes to the Trojans.
Thereon Alexandrus killed Menesthius the son of Areithous; he
lived in Ame, and was son of Areithous the Mace-man, and of
Phylomedusa. Hector threw a spear at Eioneus and struck him dead
with a wound in the neck under the bronze rim of his helmet.
Glaucus, moreover, son of Hippolochus, captain of the Lycians, in hard
hand-to-hand fight smote Iphinous son of Dexius on the shoulder, as he
was springing on to his chariot behind his fleet mares; so he fell
to earth from the car, and there was no life left in him.
When, therefore, Minerva saw these men making havoc of the
Argives, she darted down to Ilius from the summits of Olympus, and
Apollo, who was looking on from Pergamus, went out to meet her; for he
wanted the Trojans to be victorious. The pair met by the oak tree, and
King Apollo son of Jove was first to speak. "What would you have
said he, "daughter of great Jove, that your proud spirit has sent
you hither from Olympus? Have you no pity upon the Trojans, and
would you incline the scales of victory in favour of the Danaans?
Let me persuade you- for it will be better thus- stay the combat for
to-day, but let them renew the fight hereafter till they compass the
doom of Ilius, since you goddesses have made up your minds to
destroy the city."
And Minerva answered, "So be it, Far-Darter; it was in this mind
that I came down from Olympus to the Trojans and Achaeans. Tell me,
then, how do you propose to end this present fighting?"
Apollo, son of Jove, replied, "Let us incite great Hector to
challenge some one of the Danaans in single combat; on this the
Achaeans will be shamed into finding a man who will fight him."
Minerva assented, and Helenus son of Priam divined the counsel of
the gods; he therefore went up to Hector and said, "Hector son of
Priam, peer of gods in counsel, I am your brother, let me then
persuade you. Bid the other Trojans and Achaeans all of them take
their seats, and challenge the best man among the Achaeans to meet you
in single combat. I have heard the voice of the ever-living gods,
and the hour of your doom is not yet come."
Hector was glad when he heard this saying, and went in among the
Trojans, grasping his spear by the middle to hold them back, and
they all sat down. Agamemnon also bade the Achaeans be seated. But
Minerva and Apollo, in the likeness of vultures, perched on father
Jove's high oak tree, proud of their men; and the ranks sat close
ranged together, bristling with shield and helmet and spear. As when
the rising west wind furs the face of the sea and the waters grow dark
beneath it, so sat the companies of Trojans and Achaeans upon the
plain. And Hector spoke thus:-
"Hear me, Trojans and Achaeans, that I may speak even as I am
minded; Jove on his high throne has brought our oaths and covenants to
nothing, and foreshadows ill for both of us, till you either take
the towers of Troy, or are yourselves vanquished at your ships. The
princes of the Achaeans are here present in the midst of you; let him,
then, that will fight me stand forward as your champion against
Hector. Thus I say, and may Jove be witness between us. If your
champion slay me, let him strip me of my armour and take it to your
ships, but let him send my body home that the Trojans and their
wives may give me my dues of fire when I am dead. In like manner, if
Apollo vouchsafe me glory and I slay your champion, I will strip him
of his armour and take it to the city of Ilius, where I will hang it
in the temple of Apollo, but I will give up his body, that the
Achaeans may bury him at their ships, and the build him a mound by the
wide waters of the Hellespont. Then will one say hereafter as he sails
his ship over the sea, 'This is the monument of one who died long
since a champion who was slain by mighty Hector.' Thus will one say,
and my fame shall not be lost."
Thus did he speak, but they all held their peace, ashamed to decline
the challenge, yet fearing to accept it, till at last Menelaus rose
and rebuked them, for he was angry. "Alas," he cried, "vain braggarts,
women forsooth not men, double-dyed indeed will be the stain upon us
if no man of the Danaans will now face Hector. May you be turned every
man of you into earth and water as you sit spiritless and inglorious
in your places. I will myself go out against this man, but the
upshot of the fight will be from on high in the hands of the
immortal gods."
With these words he put on his armour; and then, O Menelaus, your
life would have come to an end at the hands of hands of Hector, for he
was far better the man, had not the princes of the Achaeans sprung
upon you and checked you. King Agamemnon caught him by the right
hand and said, "Menelaus, you are mad; a truce to this folly. Be
patient in spite of passion, do not think of fighting a man so much
stronger than yourself as Hector son of Priam, who is feared by many
another as well as you. Even Achilles, who is far more doughty than
you are, shrank from meeting him in battle. Sit down your own
people, and the Achaeans will send some other champion to fight
Hector; fearless and fond of battle though he be, I ween his knees
will bend gladly under him if he comes out alive from the
hurly-burly of this fight."
With these words of reasonable counsel he persuaded his brother,
whereon his squires gladly stripped the armour from off his shoulders.
Then Nestor rose and spoke, "Of a truth," said he, "the Achaean land
is fallen upon evil times. The old knight Peleus, counsellor and
orator among the Myrmidons, loved when I was in his house to
question me concerning the race and lineage of all the Argives. How
would it not grieve him could he hear of them as now quailing before
Hector? Many a time would he lift his hands in prayer that his soul
might leave his body and go down within the house of Hades. Would,
by father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, that I were still young and
strong as when the Pylians and Arcadians were gathered in fight by the
rapid river Celadon under the walls of Pheia, and round about the
waters of the river Iardanus. The godlike hero Ereuthalion stood
forward as their champion, with the armour of King Areithous upon
his shoulders- Areithous whom men and women had surnamed 'the
Mace-man,' because he fought neither with bow nor spear, but broke the
battalions of the foe with his iron mace. Lycurgus killed him, not
in fair fight, but by entrapping him in a narrow way where his mace
served him in no stead; for Lycurgus was too quick for him and speared
him through the middle, so he fell to earth on his back. Lycurgus then
spoiled him of the armour which Mars had given him, and bore it in
battle thenceforward; but when he grew old and stayed at home, he gave
it to his faithful squire Ereuthalion, who in this same armour
challenged the foremost men among us. The others quaked and quailed,
but my high spirit bade me fight him though none other would
venture; I was the youngest man of them all; but when I fought him
Minerva vouchsafed me victory. He was the biggest and strongest man
that ever I killed, and covered much ground as he lay sprawling upon
the earth. Would that I were still young and strong as I then was, for
the son of Priam would then soon find one who would face him. But you,
foremost among the whole host though you be, have none of you any
stomach for fighting Hector."
Thus did the old man rebuke them, and forthwith nine men started
to their feet. Foremost of all uprose King Agamemnon, and after him
brave Diomed the son of Tydeus. Next were the two Ajaxes, men
clothed in valour as with a garment, and then Idomeneus, and
Meriones his brother in arms. After these Eurypylus son of Euaemon,
Thoas the son of Andraemon, and Ulysses also rose. Then Nestor
knight of Gerene again spoke, saying: "Cast lots among you to see
who shall be chosen. If he come alive out of this fight he will have
done good service alike to his own soul and to the Achaeans."
Thus he spoke, and when each of them had marked his lot, and had
thrown it into the helmet of Agamemnon son of Atreus, the people
lifted their hands in prayer, and thus would one of them say as he
looked into the vault of heaven, "Father Jove, grant that the lot fall
on Ajax, or on the son of Tydeus, or upon the king of rich Mycene
himself."
As they were speaking, Nestor knight of Gerene shook the helmet, and
from it there fell the very lot which they wanted- the lot of Ajax.
The herald bore it about and showed it to all the chieftains of the
Achaeans, going from left to right; but they none of of them owned it.
When, however, in due course he reached the man who had written upon
it and had put it into the helmet, brave Ajax held out his hand, and
the herald gave him the lot. When Ajax saw him mark he knew it and was
glad; he threw it to the ground and said, "My friends, the lot is
mine, and I rejoice, for I shall vanquish Hector. I will put on my
armour; meanwhile, pray to King Jove in silence among yourselves
that the Trojans may not hear you- or aloud if you will, for we fear
no man. None shall overcome me, neither by force nor cunning, for I
was born and bred in Salamis, and can hold my own in all things."
With this they fell praying to King Jove the son of Saturn, and thus
would one of them say as he looked into the vault of heaven, "Father
Jove that rulest from Ida, most glorious in power, vouchsafe victory
to Ajax, and let him win great glory: but if you wish well to Hector
also and would protect him, grant to each of them equal fame and
prowess.
Thus they prayed, and Ajax armed himself in his suit of gleaming
bronze. When he was in full array he sprang forward as monstrous
Mars when he takes part among men whom Jove has set fighting with
one another- even so did huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans, spring
forward with a grim smile on his face as he brandished his long
spear and strode onward. The Argives were elated as they beheld him,
but the Trojans trembled in every limb, and the heart even of Hector
beat quickly, but he could not now retreat and withdraw into the ranks
behind him, for he had been the challenger. Ajax came up bearing his
shield in front of him like a wall- a shield of bronze with seven
folds of oxhide- the work of Tychius, who lived in Hyle and was by far
the best worker in leather. He had made it with the hides of seven
full-fed bulls, and over these he had set an eighth layer of bronze.
Holding this shield before him, Ajax son of Telamon came close up to
Hector, and menaced him saying, "Hector, you shall now learn, man to
man, what kind of champions the Danaans have among them even besides
lion-hearted Achilles cleaver of the ranks of men. He now abides at
the ships in anger with Agamemnon shepherd of his people, but there
are many of us who are well able to face you; therefore begin the
fight."
And Hector answered, "Noble Ajax, son of Telamon, captain of the
host, treat me not as though I were some puny boy or woman that cannot
fight. I have been long used to the blood and butcheries of battle.
I am quick to turn my leathern shield either to right or left, for
this I deem the main thing in battle. I can charge among the
chariots and horsemen, and in hand to hand fighting can delight the
heart of Mars; howbeit I would not take such a man as you are off
his guard- but I will smite you openly if I can."
He poised his spear as he spoke, and hurled it from him. It struck
the sevenfold shield in its outermost layer- the eighth, which was
of bronze- and went through six of the layers but in the seventh
hide it stayed. Then Ajax threw in his turn, and struck the round
shield of the son of Priam. The terrible spear went through his
gleaming shield, and pressed onward through his cuirass of cunning
workmanship; it pierced the shirt against his side, but he swerved and
thus saved his life. They then each of them drew out the spear from
his shield, and fell on one another like savage lions or wild boars of
great strength and endurance: the son of Priam struck the middle of
Ajax's shield, but the bronze did not break, and the point of his dart
was turned. Ajax then sprang forward and pierced the shield of Hector;
the spear went through it and staggered him as he was springing
forward to attack; it gashed his neck and the blood came pouring
from the wound, but even so Hector did not cease fighting; he gave
ground, and with his brawny hand seized a stone, rugged and huge, that
was lying upon the plain; with this he struck the shield of Ajax on
the boss that was in its middle, so that the bronze rang again. But
Ajax in turn caught up a far larger stone, swung it aloft, and
hurled it with prodigious force. This millstone of a rock broke
Hector's shield inwards and threw him down on his back with the shield
crushing him under it, but Apollo raised him at once. Thereon they
would have hacked at one another in close combat with their swords,
had not heralds, messengers of gods and men, come forward, one from
the Trojans and the other from the Achaeans- Talthybius and Idaeus
both of them honourable men; these parted them with their staves,
and the good herald Idaeus said, "My sons, fight no longer, you are
both of you valiant, and both are dear to Jove; we know this; but
night is now falling, and the behests of night may not be well
gainsaid."
Ajax son of Telamon answered, "Idaeus, bid Hector say so, for it was
he that challenged our princes. Let him speak first and I will
accept his saying."
Then Hector said, "Ajax, heaven has vouchsafed you stature and
strength, and judgement; and in wielding the spear you excel all
others of the Achaeans. Let us for this day cease fighting;
hereafter we will fight anew till heaven decide between us, and give
victory to one or to the other; night is now falling, and the
behests of night may not be well gainsaid. Gladden, then, the hearts
of the Achaeans at your ships, and more especially those of your own
followers and clansmen, while I, in the great city of King Priam,
bring comfort to the Trojans and their women, who vie with one another
in their prayers on my behalf. Let us, moreover, exchange presents
that it may be said among the Achaeans and Trojans, 'They fought
with might and main, but were reconciled and parted in friendship.'
On this he gave Ajax a silver-studded sword with its sheath and
leathern baldric, and in return Ajax gave him a girdle dyed with
purple. Thus they parted, the one going to the host of the Achaeans,
and the other to that of the Trojans, who rejoiced when they saw their
hero come to them safe and unharmed from the strong hands of mighty
Ajax. They led him, therefore, to the city as one that had been
saved beyond their hopes. On the other side the Achaeans brought
Ajax elated with victory to Agamemnon.
When they reached the quarters of the son of Atreus, Agamemnon
sacrificed for them a five-year-old bull in honour of Jove the son
of Saturn. They flayed the carcass, made it ready, and divided it into
joints; these they cut carefully up into smaller pieces, putting
them on the spits, roasting them sufficiently, and then drawing them
off. When they had done all this and had prepared the feast, they
ate it, and every man had his full and equal share, so that all were
satisfied, and King Agamemnon gave Ajax some slices cut lengthways
down the loin, as a mark of special honour. As soon as they had had
enough to cat and drink, old Nestor whose counsel was ever truest
began to speak; with all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he
addressed them thus:-
"Son of Atreus, and other chieftains, inasmuch as many of the
Achaeans are now dead, whose blood Mars has shed by the banks of the
Scamander, and their souls have gone down to the house of Hades, it
will be well when morning comes that we should cease fighting; we will
then wheel our dead together with oxen and mules and burn them not far
from the ships, that when we sail hence we may take the bones of our
comrades home to their children. Hard by the funeral pyre we will
build a barrow that shall be raised from the plain for all in
common; near this let us set about building a high wall, to shelter
ourselves and our ships, and let it have well-made gates that there
may be a way through them for our chariots. Close outside we will
dig a deep trench all round it to keep off both horse and foot, that
the Trojan chieftains may not bear hard upon us."
Thus he spoke, and the princess shouted in applause. Meanwhile the
Trojans held a council, angry and full of discord, on the acropolis by
the gates of King Priam's palace; and wise Antenor spoke. "Hear me
he said, "Trojans, Dardanians, and allies, that I may speak even as
I am minded. Let us give up Argive Helen and her wealth to the sons of
Atreus, for we are now fighting in violation of our solemn
covenants, and shall not prosper till we have done as I say."
He then sat down and Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen rose to
speak. "Antenor," said he, "your words are not to my liking; you can
find a better saying than this if you will; if, however, you have
spoken in good earnest, then indeed has heaven robbed you of your
reason. I will speak plainly, and hereby notify to the Trojans that
I will not give up the woman; but the wealth that I brought home
with her from Argos I will restore, and will add yet further of my
own."
On this, when Paris had spoken and taken his seat, Priam of the race
of Dardanus, peer of gods in council, rose and with all sincerity
and goodwill addressed them thus: "Hear me, Trojans, Dardanians, and
allies, that I may speak even as I am minded. Get your suppers now
as hitherto throughout the city, but keep your watches and be wakeful.
At daybreak let Idaeus go to the ships, and tell Agamemnon and
Menelaus sons of Atreus the saying of Alexandrus through whom this
quarrel has come about; and let him also be instant with them that
they now cease fighting till we burn our dead; hereafter we will fight
anew, till heaven decide between us and give victory to one or to
the other."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They took
supper in their companies and at daybreak Idaeus went his wa to the
ships. He found the Danaans, servants of Mars, in council at the stern
of Agamemnon's ship, and took his place in the midst of them. "Son
of Atreus," he said, "and princes of the Achaean host, Priam and the
other noble Trojans have sent me to tell you the saying of
Alexandrus through whom this quarrel has come about, if so be that you
may find it acceptable. All the treasure he took with him in his ships
to Troy- would that he had sooner perished- he will restore, and
will add yet further of his own, but he will not give up the wedded
wife of Menelaus, though the Trojans would have him do so. Priam
bade me inquire further if you will cease fighting till we burn our
dead; hereafter we will fight anew, till heaven decide between us
and give victory to one or to the other."
They all held their peace, but presently Diomed of the loud
war-cry spoke, saying, "Let there be no taking, neither treasure,
nor yet Helen, for even a child may see that the doom of the Trojans
is at hand."
The sons of the Achaeans shouted applause at the words that Diomed
had spoken, and thereon King Agamemnon said to Idaeus, "Idaeus, you
have heard the answer the Achaeans make you-and I with them. But as
concerning the dead, I give you leave to burn them, for when men are
once dead there should be no grudging them the rites of fire. Let Jove
the mighty husband of Juno be witness to this covenant."
As he spoke he upheld his sceptre in the sight of all the gods,
and Idaeus went back to the strong city of Ilius. The Trojans and
Dardanians were gathered in council waiting his return; when he
came, he stood in their midst and delivered his message. As soon as
they heard it they set about their twofold labour, some to gather
the corpses, and others to bring in wood. The Argives on their part
also hastened from their ships, some to gather the corpses, and others
to bring in wood.
The sun was beginning to beat upon the fields, fresh risen into
the vault of heaven from the slow still currents of deep Oceanus, when
the two armies met. They could hardly recognise their dead, but they
washed the clotted gore from off them, shed tears over them, and
lifted them upon their waggons. Priam had forbidden the Trojans to
wail aloud, so they heaped their dead sadly and silently upon the
pyre, and having burned them went back to the city of Ilius. The
Achaeans in like manner heaped their dead sadly and silently on the
pyre, and having burned them went back to their ships.
Now in the twilight when it was not yet dawn, chosen bands of the
Achaeans were gathered round the pyre and built one barrow that was
raised in common for all, and hard by this they built a high wall to
shelter themselves and their ships; they gave it strong gates that
there might be a way through them for their chariots, and close
outside it they dug a trench deep and wide, and they planted it within
with stakes.
Thus did the Achaeans toil, and the gods, seated by the side of Jove
the lord of lightning, marvelled at their great work; but Neptune,
lord of the earthquake, spoke, saying, "Father Jove, what mortal in
the whole world will again take the gods into his counsel? See you not
how the Achaeans have built a wall about their ships and driven a
trench all round it, without offering hecatombs to the gods? The The
fame of this wall will reach as far as dawn itself, and men will no
longer think anything of the one which Phoebus Apollo and myself built
with so much labour for Laomedon."
Jove was displeased and answered, "What, O shaker of the earth,
are you talking about? A god less powerful than yourself might be
alarmed at what they are doing, but your fame reaches as far as dawn
itself. Surely when the Achaeans have gone home with their ships,
you can shatter their wall and Ring it into the sea; you can cover the
beach with sand again, and the great wall of the Achaeans will then be
utterly effaced."
Thus did they converse, and by sunset the work of the Achaeans was
completed; they then slaughtered oxen at their tents and got their
supper. Many ships had come with wine from Lemnos, sent by Euneus
the son of Jason, born to him by Hypsipyle. The son of Jason freighted
them with ten thousand measures of wine, which he sent specially to
the sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus. From this supply the
Achaeans bought their wine, some with bronze, some with iron, some
with hides, some with whole heifers, and some again with captives.
They spread a goodly banquet and feasted the whole night through, as
also did the Trojans and their allies in the city. But all the time
Jove boded them ill and roared with his portentous thunder. Pale
fear got hold upon them, and they spilled the wine from their cups
on to the ground, nor did any dare drink till he had made offerings to
the most mighty son of Saturn. Then they laid themselves down to
rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.

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Byron

Don Juan: Canto The Ninth

Oh, Wellington! (or 'Villainton'--for Fame
Sounds the heroic syllables both ways;
France could not even conquer your great name,
But punn'd it down to this facetious phrase-
Beating or beaten she will laugh the same),
You have obtain'd great pensions and much praise:
Glory like yours should any dare gainsay,
Humanity would rise, and thunder 'Nay!'

I don't think that you used Kinnaird quite well
In Marinet's affair--in fact, 'twas shabby,
And like some other things won't do to tell
Upon your tomb in Westminster's old abbey.
Upon the rest 'tis not worth while to dwell,
Such tales being for the tea-hours of some tabby;
But though your years as man tend fast to zero,
In fact your grace is still but a young hero.

Though Britain owes (and pays you too) so much,
Yet Europe doubtless owes you greatly more:
You have repair'd Legitimacy's crutch,
A prop not quite so certain as before:
The Spanish, and the French, as well as Dutch,
Have seen, and felt, how strongly you restore;
And Waterloo has made the world your debtor
(I wish your bards would sing it rather better).

You are 'the best of cut-throats:'--do not start;
The phrase is Shakspeare's, and not misapplied:
War's a brain-spattering, windpipe-slitting art,
Unless her cause by right be sanctified.
If you have acted once a generous part,
The world, not the world's masters, will decide,
And I shall be delighted to learn who,
Save you and yours, have gain'd by Waterloo?

I am no flatterer- you 've supp'd full of flattery:
They say you like it too- 't is no great wonder.
He whose whole life has been assault and battery,
At last may get a little tired of thunder;
And swallowing eulogy much more than satire, he
May like being praised for every lucky blunder,
Call'd 'Saviour of the Nations'--not yet saved,
And 'Europe's Liberator'--still enslaved.

I've done. Now go and dine from off the plate
Presented by the Prince of the Brazils,
And send the sentinel before your gate
A slice or two from your luxurious meals:
He fought, but has not fed so well of late.
Some hunger, too, they say the people feels:--
There is no doubt that you deserve your ration,
But pray give back a little to the nation.

I don't mean to reflect--a man so great as
You, my lord duke! is far above reflection:
The high Roman fashion, too, of Cincinnatus,
With modern history has but small connection:
Though as an Irishman you love potatoes,
You need not take them under your direction;
And half a million for your Sabine farm
Is rather dear!--I'm sure I mean no harm.

Great men have always scorn'd great recompenses:
Epaminondas saved his Thebes, and died,
Not leaving even his funeral expenses:
George Washington had thanks and nought beside,
Except the all-cloudless glory (which few men's is
To free his country: Pitt too had his pride,
And as a high-soul'd minister of state is
Renown'd for ruining Great Britain gratis.

Never had mortal man such opportunity,
Except Napoleon, or abused it more:
You might have freed fallen Europe from the unity
Of tyrants, and been blest from shore to shore:
And now--what is your fame? Shall the Muse tune it ye?
Now--that the rabble's first vain shouts are o'er?
Go! hear it in your famish'd country's cries!
Behold the world! and curse your victories!

As these new cantos touch on warlike feats,
To you the unflattering Muse deigns to inscribe
Truths, that you will not read in the Gazettes,
But which 'tis time to teach the hireling tribe
Who fatten on their country's gore, and debts,
Must be recited, and- without a bribe.
You did great things; but not being great in mind,
Have left undone the greatest- and mankind.

Death laughs--Go ponder o'er the skeleton
With which men image out the unknown thing
That hides the past world, like to a set sun
Which still elsewhere may rouse a brighter spring--
Death laughs at all you weep for:--look upon
This hourly dread of all! whose threaten'd sting
Turns life to terror, even though in its sheath:
Mark how its lipless mouth grins without breath!

Mark how it laughs and scorns at all you are!
And yet was what you are: from ear to ear
It laughs not--there is now no fleshy bar
So call'd; the Antic long hath ceased to hear,
But still he smiles; and whether near or far,
He strips from man that mantle (far more dear
Than even the tailor's), his incarnate skin,
White, black, or copper--the dead bones will grin.

And thus Death laughs,--it is sad merriment,
But still it is so; and with such example
Why should not Life be equally content
With his superior, in a smile to trample
Upon the nothings which are daily spent
Like bubbles on an ocean much less ample
Than the eternal deluge, which devours
Suns as rays--worlds like atoms--years like hours?

'To be, or not to be? that is the question,'
Says Shakspeare, who just now is much in fashion.
I am neither Alexander nor Hephaestion,
Nor ever had for abstract fame much passion;
But would much rather have a sound digestion
Than Buonaparte's cancer: could I dash on
Through fifty victories to shame or fame-
Without a stomach what were a good name?

'O dura ilia messorum!'--'Oh
Ye rigid guts of reapers!' I translate
For the great benefit of those who know
What indigestion is--that inward fate
Which makes all Styx through one small liver flow.
A peasant's sweat is worth his lord's estate:
Let this one toil for bread- that rack for rent,
He who sleeps best may be the most content.

'To be, or not to be?'--Ere I decide,
I should be glad to know that which is being?
'T is true we speculate both far and wide,
And deem, because we see, we are all-seeing:
For my part, I 'll enlist on neither side,
Until I see both sides for once agreeing.
For me, I sometimes think that life is death,
Rather than life a mere affair of breath.

'Que scais-je?' was the motto of Montaigne,
As also of the first academicians:
That all is dubious which man may attain,
Was one of their most favourite positions.
There's no such thing as certainty, that's plain
As any of Mortality's conditions;
So little do we know what we're about in
This world, I doubt if doubt itself be doubting.

It is a pleasant voyage perhaps to float,
Like Pyrrho, on a sea of speculation;
But what if carrying sail capsize the boat?
Your wise men don't know much of navigation;
And swimming long in the abyss of thought
Is apt to tire: a calm and shallow station
Well nigh the shore, where one stoops down and gathers
Some pretty shell, is best for moderate bathers.

'But heaven,' as Cassio says, 'is above all--
No more of this, then,--let us pray!' We have
Souls to save, since Eve's slip and Adam's fall,
Which tumbled all mankind into the grave,
Besides fish, beasts, and birds. 'The sparrow's fall
Is special providence,' though how it gave
Offence, we know not; probably it perch'd
Upon the tree which Eve so fondly search'd.

Oh, ye immortal gods! what is theogony?
Oh, thou too, mortal man! what is philanthropy?
Oh, world! which was and is, what is cosmogony?
Some people have accused me of misanthropy;
And yet I know no more than the mahogany
That forms this desk, of what they mean; lykanthropy
I comprehend, for without transformation
Men become wolves on any slight occasion.

But I, the mildest, meekest of mankind,
Like Moses, or Melancthon, who have ne'er
Done anything exceedingly unkind,--
And (though I could not now and then forbear
Following the bent of body or of mind)
Have always had a tendency to spare,--
Why do they call me misanthrope? Because
They hate me, not I them.--and here we'll pause.

'Tis time we should proceed with our good poem,--
For I maintain that it is really good,
Not only in the body but the proem,
However little both are understood
Just now,--but by and by the Truth will show 'em
Herself in her sublimest attitude:
And till she doth, I fain must be content
To share her beauty and her banishment.

Our hero (and, I trust, kind reader, yours)
Was left upon his way to the chief city
Of the immortal Peter's polish'd boors
Who still have shown themselves more brave than witty.
I know its mighty empire now allures
Much flattery--even Voltaire's, and that's a pity.
For me, I deem an absolute autocrat
Not a barbarian, but much worse than that.

And I will war, at least in words (and--should
My chance so happen--deeds), with all who war
With Thought;--and of Thought's foes by far most rude,
Tyrants and sycophants have been and are.
I know not who may conquer: if I could
Have such a prescience, it should be no bar
To this my plain, sworn, downright detestation
Of every depotism in every nation.

It is not that I adulate the people:
Without me, there are demagogues enough,
And infidels, to pull down every steeple,
And set up in their stead some proper stuff.
Whether they may sow scepticism to reap hell,
As is the Christian dogma rather rough,
I do not know;--I wish men to be free
As much from mobs as kings- from you as me.

The consequence is, being of no party,
I shall offend all parties: never mind!
My words, at least, are more sincere and hearty
Than if I sought to sail before the wind.
He who has nought to gain can have small art: he
Who neither wishes to be bound nor bind,
May still expatiate freely, as will I,
Nor give my voice to slavery's jackal cry.

That's an appropriate simile, that jackal;--
I 've heard them in the Ephesian ruins howl
By night, as do that mercenary pack all,
Power's base purveyors, who for pickings prowl,
And scent the prey their masters would attack all.
However, the poor jackals are less foul
(As being the brave lions' keen providers)
Than human insects, catering for spiders.

Raise but an arm! 'twill brush their web away,
And without that, their poison and their claws
Are useless. Mind, good people! what I say
(Or rather peoples)--go on without pause!
The web of these tarantulas each day
Increases, till you shall make common cause:
None, save the Spanish fly and Attic bee,
As yet are strongly stinging to be free.

Don Juan, who had shone in the late slaughter,
Was left upon his way with the despatch,
Where blood was talk'd of as we would of water;
And carcasses that lay as thick as thatch
O'er silenced cities, merely served to flatter
Fair Catherine's pastime--who look'd on the match
Between these nations as a main of cocks,
Wherein she liked her own to stand like rocks.

And there in a kibitka he roll'd on
(A cursed sort of carriage without springs,
Which on rough roads leaves scarcely a whole bone),
Pondering on glory, chivalry, and kings,
And orders, and on all that he had done--
And wishing that post-horses had the wings
Of Pegasus, or at the least post-chaises
Had feathers, when a traveller on deep ways is.

At every jolt--and they were many--still
He turn'd his eyes upon his little charge,
As if he wish'd that she should fare less ill
Than he, in these sad highways left at large
To ruts, and flints, and lovely Nature's skill,
Who is no paviour, nor admits a barge
On her canals, where God takes sea and land,
Fishery and farm, both into his own hand.

At least he pays no rent, and has best right
To be the first of what we used to call
'Gentlemen farmer'--a race worn out quite,
Since lately there have been no rents at all,
And 'gentlemen' are in a piteous plight,
And 'farmers' can't raise Ceres from her fall:
She fell with Buonaparte--What strange thoughts
Arise, when we see emperors fall with oats!

But Juan turn'd his eyes on the sweet child
Whom he had saved from slaughter--what a trophy
Oh! ye who build up monuments, defiled
With gore, like Nadir Shah, that costive sophy,
Who, after leaving Hindostan a wild,
And scarce to the Mogul a cup of coffee
To soothe his woes withal, was slain, the sinner!
Because he could no more digest his dinner;--

Oh ye! or we! or he! or she! reflect,
That one life saved, especially if young
Or pretty, is a thing to recollect
Far sweeter than the greenest laurels sprung
From the manure of human clay, though deck'd
With all the praises ever said or sung:
Though hymn'd by every harp, unless within
Your heart joins chorus, Fame is but a din.

Oh! ye great authors luminous, voluminous!
Ye twice ten hundred thousand daily scribes!
Whose pamphlets, volumes, newspapers, illumine us!
Whether you're paid by government in bribes,
To prove the public debt is not consuming us--
Or, roughly treading on the 'courtier's kibes'
With clownish heel, your popular circulation
Feeds you by printing half the realm's starvation;--

Oh, ye great authors!--'Apropos des bottes,'--
I have forgotten what I meant to say,
As sometimes have been greater sages' lots;
'Twas something calculated to allay
All wrath in barracks, palaces, or cots:
Certes it would have been but thrown away,
And that's one comfort for my lost advice,
Although no doubt it was beyond all price.

But let it go:--it will one day be found
With other relics of 'a former world,'
When this world shall be former, underground,
Thrown topsy-turvy, twisted, crisp'd, and curl'd,
Baked, fried, or burnt, turn'd inside-out, or drown'd,
Like all the worlds before, which have been hurl'd
First out of, and then back again to chaos,
The superstratum which will overlay us.

So Cuvier says;--and then shall come again
Unto the new creation, rising out
From our old crash, some mystic, ancient strain
Of things destroy'd and left in airy doubt:
Like to the notions we now entertain
Of Titans, giants, fellows of about
Some hundred feet in height, not to say miles,
And mammoths, and your winged crocodiles.

Think if then George the Fourth should be dug up!
How the new worldlings of the then new East
Will wonder where such animals could sup!
(For they themselves will be but of the least:
Even worlds miscarry, when too oft they pup,
And every new creation hath decreased
In size, from overworking the material--
Men are but maggots of some huge Earth's burial.)

How will--to these young people, just thrust out
From some fresh Paradise, and set to plough,
And dig, and sweat, and turn themselves about,
And plant, and reap, and spin, and grind, and sow,
Till all the arts at length are brought about,
Especially of war and taxing,--how,
I say, will these great relics, when they see 'em,
Look like the monsters of a new museum?

But I am apt to grow too metaphysical:
'The time is out of joint,'--and so am I;
I quite forget this poem's merely quizzical,
And deviate into matters rather dry.
I ne'er decide what I shall say, and this I cal
Much too poetical: men should know why
They write, and for what end; but, note or text,
I never know the word which will come next.

So on I ramble, now and then narrating,
Now pondering:--it is time we should narrate.
I left Don Juan with his horses baiting--
Now we 'll get o'er the ground at a great rate.
I shall not be particular in stating
His journey, we 've so many tours of late:
Suppose him then at Petersburgh; suppose
That pleasant capital of painted snows;

Suppose him in a handsome uniform,--
A scarlet coat, black facings, a long plume,
Waving, like sails new shiver'd in a storm,
Over a cock'd hat in a crowded room,
And brilliant breeches, bright as a Cairn Gorme,
Of yellow casimere we may presume,
White stocking drawn uncurdled as new milk
O'er limbs whose symmetry set off the silk;

Suppose him sword by side, and hat in hand,
Made up by youth, fame, and an army tailor-
That great enchanter, at whose rod's command
Beauty springs forth, and Nature's self turns paler,
Seeing how Art can make her work more grand
(When she don't pin men's limbs in like a gaoler),--
Behold him placed as if upon a pillar! He
Seems Love turn'd a lieutenant of artillery:--

His bandage slipp'd down into a cravat;
His wings subdued to epaulettes; his quiver
Shrunk to a scabbard, with his arrows at
His side as a small sword, but sharp as ever;
His bow converted into a cock'd hat;
But still so like, that Psyche were more clever
Than some wives (who make blunders no less stupid),
If she had not mistaken him for Cupid.

The courtiers stared, the ladies whisper'd, and
The empress smiled: the reigning favourite frown'd--
I quite forget which of them was in hand
Just then; as they are rather numerous found,
Who took by turns that difficult command
Since first her majesty was singly crown'd:
But they were mostly nervous six-foot fellows,
All fit to make a Patagonian jealous.

Juan was none of these, but slight and slim,
Blushing and beardless; and yet ne'ertheless
There was a something in his turn of limb,
And still more in his eye, which seem'd to express,
That though he look'd one of the seraphim,
There lurk'd a man beneath the spirit's dress.
Besides, the empress sometimes liked a boy,
And had just buried the fair-faced Lanskoi.

No wonder then that Yermoloff, or Momonoff,
Or Scherbatoff, or any other off
Or on, might dread her majesty had not room enough
Within her bosom (which was not too tough)
For a new flame; a thought to cast of gloom enough
Along the aspect, whether smooth or rough,
Of him who, in the language of his station,
Then held that 'high official situation.'

O, gentle ladies! should you seek to know
The import of this diplomatic phrase,
Bid Ireland's Londonderry's Marquess show
His parts of speech; and in the strange displays
Of that odd string of words, all in a row,
Which none divine, and every one obeys,
Perhaps you may pick out some queer no meaning,
Of that weak wordy harvest the sole gleaning.

I think I can explain myself without
That sad inexplicable beast of prey--
That Sphinx, whose words would ever be a doubt,
Did not his deeds unriddle them each day--
That monstrous hieroglyphic--that long spout
Of blood and water, leaden Castlereagh!
And here I must an anecdote relate,
But luckily of no great length or weight.

An English lady ask'd of an Italian,
What were the actual and official duties
Of the strange thing some women set a value on,
Which hovers oft about some married beauties,
Called 'Cavalier servente?'--a Pygmalion
Whose statues warm (I fear, alas! too true 'tis)
Beneath his art. The dame, press'd to disclose them,
Said--'Lady, I beseech you to suppose them.'

And thus I supplicate your supposition,
And mildest, matron-like interpretation,
Of the imperial favourite's condition.
'T was a high place, the highest in the nation
In fact, if not in rank; and the suspicion
Of any one's attaining to his station,
No doubt gave pain, where each new pair of shoulders,
If rather broad, made stocks rise and their holders.

Juan, I said, was a most beauteous boy,
And had retain'd his boyish look beyond
The usual hirsute seasons which destroy,
With beards and whiskers, and the like, the fond
Parisian aspect which upset old Troy
And founded Doctors' Commons:--I have conn'd
The history of divorces, which, though chequer'd,
Calls Ilion's the first damages on record.

And Catherine, who loved all things (save her lord,
Who was gone to his place), and pass'd for much
Admiring those (by dainty dames abhorr'd)
Gigantic gentlemen, yet had a touch
Of sentiment; and he she most adored
Was the lamented Lanskoi, who was such
A lover as had cost her many a tear,
And yet but made a middling grenadier.

Oh thou 'teterrima causa' of all 'belli'--
Thou gate of life and death--thou nondescript!
Whence is our exit and our entrance,--well I
May pause in pondering how all souls are dipt
In thy perennial fountain:--how man fell I
Know not, since knowledge saw her branches stript
Of her first fruit; but how he falls and rises
Since, thou hast settled beyond all surmises.

Some call thee 'the worst cause of war,' but I
Maintain thou art the best: for after all
From thee we come, to thee we go, and why
To get at thee not batter down a wall,
Or waste a world? since no one can deny
Thou dost replenish worlds both great and small:
With, or without thee, all things at a stand
Are, or would be, thou sea of life's dry land!

Catherine, who was the grand epitome
Of that great cause of war, or peace, or what
You please (it causes all the things which be,
So you may take your choice of this or that)--
Catherine, I say. was very glad to see
The handsome herald, on whose plumage sat
Victory; and pausing as she saw him kneel
With his despatch, forgot to break the seal.

Then recollecting the whole empress, nor
forgetting quite the woman (which composed
At least three parts of this great whole), she tore
The letter open with an air which posed
The court, that watch'd each look her visage wore,
Until a royal smile at length disclosed
Fair weather for the day. Though rather spacious,
Her face was noble, her eyes fine, mouth gracious.

Great joy was hers, or rather joys: the first
Was a ta'en city, thirty thousand slain.
Glory and triumph o'er her aspect burst,
As an East Indian sunrise on the main.
These quench'd a moment her ambition's thirst--
So Arab deserts drink in summer's rain:
In vain!- As fall the dews on quenchless sands,
Blood only serves to wash Ambition's hands!

Her next amusement was more fanciful;
She smiled at mad Suwarrow's rhymes, who threw
Into a Russian couplet rather dull
The whole gazette of thousands whom he slew.
Her third was feminine enough to annul
The shudder which runs naturally through
Our veins, when things call'd sovereigns think it best
To kill, and generals turn it into jest.

The two first feelings ran their course complete,
And lighted first her eye, and then her mouth:
The whole court look'd immediately most sweet,
Like flowers well water'd after a long drouth.
But when on the lieutenant at her feet
Her majesty, who liked to gaze on youth
Almost as much as on a new despatch,
Glanced mildly, all the world was on the watch.

Though somewhat large, exuberant, and truculent,
When wroth- while pleased, she was as fine a figure
As those who like things rosy, ripe, and succulent,
Would wish to look on, while they are in vigour.
She could repay each amatory look you lent
With interest, and in turn was wont with rigour
To exact of Cupid's bills the full amount
At sight, nor would permit you to discount.

With her the latter, though at times convenient,
Was not so necessary; for they tell
That she was handsome, and though fierce look'd lenient,
And always used her favourites too well.
If once beyond her boudoir's precincts in ye went,
Your 'fortune' was in a fair way 'to swell
A man' (as Giles says); for though she would widow all
Nations, she liked man as an individual.

What a strange thing is man? and what a stranger
Is woman! What a whirlwind is her head,
And what a whirlpool full of depth and danger
Is all the rest about her! Whether wed
Or widow, maid or mother, she can change her
Mind like the wind: whatever she has said
Or done, is light to what she'll say or do;--
The oldest thing on record, and yet new!

Oh Catherine! (for of all interjections,
To thee both oh! and ah! belong of right
In love and war) how odd are the connections
Of human thoughts, which jostle in their flight!
Just now yours were cut out in different sections:
First Ismail's capture caught your fancy quite;
Next of new knights, the fresh and glorious batch;
And thirdly he who brought you the despatch!

Shakspeare talks of 'the herald Mercury
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;'
And some such visions cross'd her majesty,
While her young herald knelt before her still.
'Tis very true the hill seem'd rather high,
For a lieutenant to climb up; but skill
Smooth'd even the Simplon's steep, and by God's blessing
With youth and health all kisses are 'heaven-kissing.'

Her majesty look'd down, the youth look'd up--
And so they fell in love;--she with his face,
His grace, his God-knows-what: for Cupid's cup
With the first draught intoxicates apace,
A quintessential laudanum or 'black drop,'
Which makes one drunk at once, without the base
Expedient of full bumpers; for the eye
In love drinks all life's fountains (save tears) dry.

He, on the other hand, if not in love,
Fell into that no less imperious passion,
Self-love- which, when some sort of thing above
Ourselves, a singer, dancer, much in fashion,
Or duchess, princess, empress, 'deigns to prove'
('Tis Pope's phrase) a great longing, though a rash one,
For one especial person out of many,
Makes us believe ourselves as good as any.

Besides, he was of that delighted age
Which makes all female ages equal--when
We don't much care with whom we may engage,
As bold as Daniel in the lion's den,
So that we can our native sun assuage
In the next ocean, which may flow just then,
To make a twilight in, just as Sol's heat is
Quench'd in the lap of the salt sea, or Thetis.

And Catherine (we must say thus much for Catherine),
Though bold and bloody, was the kind of thing
Whose temporary passion was quite flattering,
Because each lover look'd a sort of king,
Made up upon an amatory pattern,
A royal husband in all save the ring--
Which, being the damn'dest part of matrimony,
Seem'd taking out the sting to leave the honey.

And when you add to this, her womanhood
In its meridian, her blue eyes or gray
(The last, if they have soul, are quite as good,
Or better, as the best examples say:
Napoleon's, Mary's (queen of Scotland), should
Lend to that colour a transcendent ray;
And Pallas also sanctions the same hue,
Too wise to look through optics black or blue)--

Her sweet smile, and her then majestic figure,
Her plumpness, her imperial condescension,
Her preference of a boy to men much bigger
(Fellows whom Messalina's self would pension),
Her prime of life, just now in juicy vigour,
With other extras, which we need not mention,--
All these, or any one of these, explain
Enough to make a stripling very vain.

And that's enough, for love is vanity,
Selfish in its beginning as its end,
Except where 't is a mere insanity,
A maddening spirit which would strive to blend
Itself with beauty's frail inanity,
On which the passion's self seems to depend:
And hence some heathenish philosophers
Make love the main spring of the universe.

Besides Platonic love, besides the love
Of God, the love of sentiment, the loving
Of faithful pairs (I needs must rhyme with dove,
That good old steam-boat which keeps verses moving
'Gainst reason--Reason ne'er was hand-and-glove
With rhyme, but always leant less to improving
The sound than sense)--beside all these pretences
To love, there are those things which words name senses;

Those movements, those improvements in our bodies
Which make all bodies anxious to get out
Of their own sand-pits, to mix with a goddess,
For such all women are at first no doubt.
How beautiful that moment! and how odd is
That fever which precedes the languid rout
Of our sensations! What a curious way
The whole thing is of clothing souls in clay!

The noblest kind of love is love Platonical,
To end or to begin with; the next grand
Is that which may be christen'd love canonical,
Because the clergy take the thing in hand;
The third sort to be noted in our chronicle
As flourishing in every Christian land,
Is when chaste matrons to their other ties
Add what may be call'd marriage in disguise.

Well, we won't analyse--our story must
Tell for itself: the sovereign was smitten,
Juan much flatter'd by her love, or lust;-
I cannot stop to alter words once written,
And the two are so mix'd with human dust,
That he who names one, both perchance may hit on:
But in such matters Russia's mighty empress
Behaved no better than a common sempstress.

The whole court melted into one wide whisper,
And all lips were applied unto all ears!
The elder ladies' wrinkles curl'd much crisper
As they beheld; the younger cast some leers
On one another, and each lovely lisper
Smiled as she talk'd the matter o'er; but tears
Of rivalship rose in each clouded eye
Of all the standing army who stood by.

All the ambassadors of all the powers
Enquired, Who was this very new young man,
Who promised to be great in some few hours?
Which is full soon--though life is but a span.
Already they beheld the silver showers
Of rubles rain, as fast as specie can,
Upon his cabinet, besides the presents
Of several ribands, and some thousand peasants.

Catherine was generous,--all such ladies are:
Love, that great opener of the heart and all
The ways that lead there, be they near or far,
Above, below, by turnpikes great or small,--
Love (though she had a cursed taste for war,
And was not the best wife, unless we call
Such Clytemnestra, though perhaps 't is better
That one should die, than two drag on the fetter)--

Love had made Catherine make each lover's fortune,
Unlike our own half-chaste Elizabeth,
Whose avarice all disbursements did importune,
If history, the grand liar, ever saith
The truth; and though grief her old age might shorten,
Because she put a favourite to death,
Her vile, ambiguous method of flirtation,
And stinginess, disgrace her sex and station.

But when the levee rose, and all was bustle
In the dissolving circle, all the nations'
Ambassadors began as 'twere to hustle
Round the young man with their congratulations.
Also the softer silks were heard to rustle
Of gentle dames, among whose recreations
It is to speculate on handsome faces,
Especially when such lead to high places.

Juan, who found himself, he knew not how,
A general object of attention, made
His answers with a very graceful bow,
As if born for the ministerial trade.
Though modest, on his unembarrass'd brow
Nature had written 'gentleman.' He said
Little, but to the purpose; and his manner
Flung hovering graces o'er him like a banner.

An order from her majesty consign'd
Our young lieutenant to the genial care
Of those in office: all the world look'd kind
(As it will look sometimes with the first stare,
Which youth would not act ill to keep in mind),
As also did Miss Protasoff then there,
Named from her mystic office 'l'Eprouveuse,'
A term inexplicable to the Muse.

With her then, as in humble duty bound,
Juan retired,--and so will I, until
My Pegasus shall tire of touching ground.
We have just lit on a 'heaven-kissing hill,'
So lofty that I feel my brain turn round,
And all my fancies whirling like a mill;
Which is a signal to my nerves and brain,
To take a quiet ride in some green Lane.

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Canto the Ninth

I
Oh, Wellington! (or "Villainton" -- for Fame
Sounds the heroic syllables both ways;
France could not even conquer your great name,
But punn'd it down to this facetious phrase --
Beating or beaten she will laugh the same),
You have obtain'd great pensions and much praise:
Glory like yours should any dare gainsay,
Humanity would rise, and thunder "Nay!"

II
I don't think that you used Kinnaird quite well
In Marinet's affair -- in fact, 't was shabby,
And like some other things won't do to tell
Upon your tomb in Westminster's old abbey.
Upon the rest 't is not worth while to dwell,
Such tales being for the tea-hours of some tabby;
But though your years as man tend fast to zero,
In fact your grace is still but a young hero.

III
Though Britain owes (and pays you too) so much,
Yet Europe doubtless owes you greatly more:
You have repair'd Legitimacy's crutch,
A prop not quite so certain as before:
The Spanish, and the French, as well as Dutch,
Have seen, and felt, how strongly you restore;
And Waterloo has made the world your debtor
(I wish your bards would sing it rather better).

IV
You are "the best of cut-throats:" -- do not start;
The phrase is Shakspeare's, and not misapplied:
War's a brain-spattering, windpipe-slitting art,
Unless her cause by right be sanctified.
If you have acted once a generous part,
The world, not the world's masters, will decide,
And I shall be delighted to learn who,
Save you and yours, have gain'd by Waterloo?

V
I am no flatterer -- you've supp'd full of flattery:
They say you like it too -- 't is no great wonder.
He whose whole life has been assault and battery,
At last may get a little tired of thunder;
And swallowing eulogy much more than satire, he
May like being praised for every lucky blunder,
Call'd "Saviour of the Nations" -- not yet saved,
And "Europe's Liberator" -- still enslaved.

VI
I've done. Now go and dine from off the plate
Presented by the Prince of the Brazils,
And send the sentinel before your gate
A slice or two from your luxurious meals:
He fought, but has not fed so well of late.
Some hunger, too, they say the people feels: --
There is no doubt that you deserve your ration,
But pray give back a little to the nation.

VII
I don't mean to reflect -- a man so great as
You, my lord duke! is far above reflection:
The high Roman fashion, too, of Cincinnatus,
With modern history has but small connection:
Though as an Irishman you love potatoes,
You need not take them under your direction;
And half a million for your Sabine farm
Is rather dear! -- I'm sure I mean no harm.

VIII
Great men have always scorn'd great recompenses:
Epaminondas saved his Thebes, and died,
Not leaving even his funeral expenses:
George Washington had thanks and nought beside,
Except the all-cloudless glory (which few men's is)
To free his country: Pitt too had his pride,
And as a high-soul'd minister of state is
Renown'd for ruining Great Britain gratis.

IX
Never had mortal man such opportunity,
Except Napoleon, or abused it more:
You might have freed fallen Europe from the unity
Of tyrants, and been blest from shore to shore:
And now -- what is your fame? Shall the Muse tune it ye?
Now -- that the rabble's first vain shouts are o'er?
Go! hear it in your famish'd country's cries!
Behold the world! and curse your victories!

X
As these new cantos touch on warlike feats,
To you the unflattering Muse deigns to inscribe
Truths, that you will not read in the Gazettes,
But which 't is time to teach the hireling tribe
Who fatten on their country's gore, and debts,
Must be recited, and -- without a bribe.
You did great things; but not being great in mind,
Have left undone the greatest -- and mankind.

XI
Death laughs -- Go ponder o'er the skeleton
With which men image out the unknown thing
That hides the past world, like to a set sun
Which still elsewhere may rouse a brighter spring --
Death laughs at all you weep for: -- look upon
This hourly dread of all! whose threaten'd sting
Turns life to terror, even though in its sheath:
Mark how its lipless mouth grins without breath!

XII
Mark how it laughs and scorns at all you are!
And yet was what you are: from ear to ear
It laughs not -- there is now no fleshy bar
So call'd; the Antic long hath ceased to hear,
But still he smiles; and whether near or far,
He strips from man that mantle (far more dear
Than even the tailor's), his incarnate skin,
White, black, or copper -- the dead bones will grin.

XIII
And thus Death laughs, -- it is sad merriment,
But still it is so; and with such example
Why should not Life be equally content
With his superior, in a smile to trample
Upon the nothings which are daily spent
Like bubbles on an ocean much less ample
Than the eternal deluge, which devours
Suns as rays -- worlds like atoms -- years like hours?

XIV
"To be, or not to be? that is the question,"
Says Shakspeare, who just now is much in fashion.
I am neither Alexander nor Hephæstion,
Nor ever had for abstract fame much passion;
But would much rather have a sound digestion
Than Buonaparte's cancer: could I dash on
Through fifty victories to shame or fame --
Without a stomach what were a good name?

XV
"O dura ilia messorum!" -- "Oh
Ye rigid guts of reapers!" I translate
For the great benefit of those who know
What indigestion is -- that inward fate
Which makes all Styx through one small liver flow.
A peasant's sweat is worth his lord's estate:
Let this one toil for bread -- that rack for rent,
He who sleeps best may be the most content.

XVI
"To be, or not to be?" -- Ere I decide,
I should be glad to know that which is being?
'T is true we speculate both far and wide,
And deem, because we see, we are all-seeing:
For my part, I'll enlist on neither side,
Until I see both sides for once agreeing.
For me, I sometimes think that life is death,
Rather than life a mere affair of breath.

XVII
"Que scais-je?" was the motto of Montaigne,
As also of the first academicians:
That all is dubious which man may attain,
Was one of their most favourite positions.
There's no such thing as certainty, that's plain
As any of Mortality's conditions;
So little do we know what we're about in
This world, I doubt if doubt itself be doubting.

XVIII
It is a pleasant voyage perhaps to float,
Like Pyrrho, on a sea of speculation;
But what if carrying sail capsize the boat?
Your wise men don't know much of navigation;
And swimming long in the abyss of thought
Is apt to tire: a calm and shallow station
Well nigh the shore, where one stoops down and gathers
Some pretty shell, is best for moderate bathers.

XIX
"But heaven," as Cassio says, "is above all --
No more of this, then, -- let us pray!" We have
Souls to save, since Eve's slip and Adam's fall,
Which tumbled all mankind into the grave,
Besides fish, beasts, and birds. "The sparrow's fall
Is special providence," though how it gave
Offence, we know not; probably it perch'd
Upon the tree which Eve so fondly search'd.

XX
Oh, ye immortal gods! what is theogony?
Oh, thou too, mortal man! what is philanthropy?
Oh, world! which was and is, what is cosmogony?
Some people have accused me of misanthropy;
And yet I know no more than the mahogany
That forms this desk, of what they mean; Lykanthropy
I comprehend, for without transformation
Men become wolves on any slight occasion.

XXI
But I, the mildest, meekest of mankind,
Like Moses, or Melancthon, who have ne'er
Done anything exceedingly unkind, --
And (though I could not now and then forbear
Following the bent of body or of mind)
Have always had a tendency to spare, --
Why do they call me misanthrope? Because
They hate me, not I them. -- and here we'll pause.

XXII
'T is time we should proceed with our good poem, --
For I maintain that it is really good,
Not only in the body but the proem,
However little both are understood
Just now, -- but by and by the Truth will show 'em
Herself in her sublimest attitude:
And till she doth, I fain must be content
To share her beauty and her banishment.

XXIII
Our hero (and, I trust, kind reader, yours)
Was left upon his way to the chief city
Of the immortal Peter's polish'd boors
Who still have shown themselves more brave than witty.
I know its mighty empire now allures
Much flattery -- even Voltaire's, and that's a pity.
For me, I deem an absolute autocrat
Not a barbarian, but much worse than that.

XXIV
And I will war, at least in words (and -- should
My chance so happen -- deeds), with all who war
With Thought; -- and of Thought's foes by far most rude,
Tyrants and sycophants have been and are.
I know not who may conquer: if I could
Have such a prescience, it should be no bar
To this my plain, sworn, downright detestation
Of every depotism in every nation.

XXV
It is not that I adulate the people:
Without me, there are demagogues enough,
And infidels, to pull down every steeple,
And set up in their stead some proper stuff.
Whether they may sow scepticism to reap hell,
As is the Christian dogma rather rough,
I do not know; -- I wish men to be free
As much from mobs as kings -- from you as me.

XXVI
The consequence is, being of no party,
I shall offend all parties: never mind!
My words, at least, are more sincere and hearty
Than if I sought to sail before the wind.
He who has nought to gain can have small art: he
Who neither wishes to be bound nor bind,
May still expatiate freely, as will I,
Nor give my voice to slavery's jackal cry.

XXVII
That's an appropriate simile, that jackal; --
I've heard them in the Ephesian ruins howl
By night, as do that mercenary pack all,
Power's base purveyors, who for pickings prowl,
And scent the prey their masters would attack all.
However, the poor jackals are less foul
(As being the brave lions' keen providers)
Than human insects, catering for spiders.

XXVIII
Raise but an arm! 't will brush their web away,
And without that, their poison and their claws
Are useless. Mind, good people! what I say
(Or rather peoples) -- go on without pause!
The web of these tarantulas each day
Increases, till you shall make common cause:
None, save the Spanish fly and Attic bee,
As yet are strongly stinging to be free.

XXIX
Don Juan, who had shone in the late slaughter,
Was left upon his way with the despatch,
Where blood was talk'd of as we would of water;
And carcasses that lay as thick as thatch
O'er silenced cities, merely served to flatter
Fair Catherine's pastime -- who look'd on the match
Between these nations as a main of cocks,
Wherein she liked her own to stand like rocks.

XXX
And there in a kibitka he roll'd on
(A curséd sort of carriage without springs,
Which on rough roads leaves scarcely a whole bone),
Pondering on glory, chivalry, and kings,
And orders, and on all that he had done --
And wishing that post-horses had the wings
Of Pegasus, or at the least post-chaises
Had feathers, when a traveller on deep ways is.

XXXI
At every jolt -- and they were many -- still
He turn'd his eyes upon his little charge,
As if he wish'd that she should fare less ill
Than he, in these sad highways left at large
To ruts, and flints, and lovely Nature's skill,
Who is no paviour, nor admits a barge
On her canals, where God takes sea and land,
Fishery and farm, both into his own hand.

XXXII
At least he pays no rent, and has best right
To be the first of what we used to call
"Gentlemen farmer" -- a race worn out quite,
Since lately there have been no rents at all,
And "gentlemen" are in a piteous plight,
And "farmers" can't raise Ceres from her fall:
She fell with Buonaparte -- What strange thoughts
Arise, when we see emperors fall with oats!

XXXIII
But Juan turn'd his eyes on the sweet child
Whom he had saved from slaughter -- what a trophy!
Oh! ye who build up monuments, defiled
With gore, like Nadir Shah, that costive sophy,
Who, after leaving Hindostan a wild,
And scarce to the Mogul a cup of coffee
To soothe his woes withal, was slain, the sinner!
Because he could no more digest his dinner; --

XXXIV
Oh ye! or we! or he! or she! reflect,
That one life saved, especially if young
Or pretty, is a thing to recollect
Far sweeter than the greenest laurels sprung
From the manure of human clay, though deck'd
With all the praises ever said or sung:
Though hymn'd by every harp, unless within
Your heart joins chorus, Fame is but a din.

XXXV
Oh! ye great authors luminous, voluminous!
Ye twice ten hundred thousand daily scribes!
Whose pamphlets, volumes, newspapers, illumine us!
Whether you're paid by government in bribes,
To prove the public debt is not consuming us --
Or, roughly treading on the "courtier's kibes"
With clownish heel, your popular circulation
Feeds you by printing half the realm's starvation; --

XXXVI
Oh, ye great authors! -- "Apropos des bottes," --
I have forgotten what I meant to say,
As sometimes have been greater sages' lots; --
'T was something calculated to allay
All wrath in barracks, palaces, or cots:
Certes it would have been but thrown away,
And that's one comfort for my lost advice,
Although no doubt it was beyond all price.

XXXVII
But let it go: -- it will one day be found
With other relics of "a former world,"
When this world shall be former, underground,
Thrown topsy-turvy, twisted, crisp'd, and curl'd,
Baked, fried, or burnt, turn'd inside-out, or drown'd,
Like all the worlds before, which have been hurl'd
First out of, and then back again to chaos,
The superstratum which will overlay us.

XXXVIII
So Cuvier says; -- and then shall come again
Unto the new creation, rising out
From our old crash, some mystic, ancient strain
Of things destroy'd and left in airy doubt:
Like to the notions we now entertain
Of Titans, giants, fellows of about
Some hundred feet in height, not to say miles,
And mammoths, and your wingéd crocodiles.

XXXIX
Think if then George the Fourth should be dug up!
How the new worldlings of the then new East
Will wonder where such animals could sup!
(For they themselves will be but of the least:
Even worlds miscarry, when too oft they pup,
And every new creation hath decreased
In size, from overworking the material --
Men are but maggots of some huge Earth's burial.)

XL
How will -- to these young people, just thrust out
From some fresh Paradise, and set to plough,
And dig, and sweat, and turn themselves about,
And plant, and reap, and spin, and grind, and sow,
Till all the arts at length are brought about,
Especially of war and taxing, -- how,
I say, will these great relics, when they see 'em,
Look like the monsters of a new museum?

XLI
But I am apt to grow too metaphysical:
"The time is out of joint," -- and so am I;
I quite forget this poem's merely quizzical,
And deviate into matters rather dry.
I ne'er decide what I shall say, and this I call
Much too poetical: men should know why
They write, and for what end; but, note or text,
I never know the word which will come next.

XLII
So on I ramble, now and then narrating,
Now pondering: -- it is time we should narrate.
I left Don Juan with his horses baiting --
Now we'll get o'er the ground at a great rate.
I shall not be particular in stating
His journey, we've so many tours of late:
Suppose him then at Petersburgh; suppose
That pleasant capital of painted snows;

XLIII
Suppose him in a handsome uniform, --
A scarlet coat, black facings, a long plume,
Waving, like sails new shiver'd in a storm,
Over a cock'd hat in a crowded room,
And brilliant breeches, bright as a Cairn Gorme,
Of yellow casimere we may presume,
White stocking drawn uncurdled as new milk
O'er limbs whose symmetry set off the silk;

XLIV
Suppose him sword by side, and hat in hand,
Made up by youth, fame, and an army tailor --
That great enchanter, at whose rod's command
Beauty springs forth, and Nature's self turns paler,
Seeing how Art can make her work more grand
(When she don't pin men's limbs in like a gaoler), --
Behold him placed as if upon a pillar! He
Seems Love turn'd a lieutenant of artillery: --

XLV
His bandage slipp'd down into a cravat;
His wings subdued to epaulettes; his quiver
Shrunk to a scabbard, with his arrows at
His side as a small sword, but sharp as ever;
His bow converted into a cock'd hat;
But still so like, that Psyche were more clever
Than some wives (who make blunders no less stupid),
If she had not mistaken him for Cupid.

XLVI
The courtiers stared, the ladies whisper'd, and
The empress smiled: the reigning favourite frown'd --
I quite forget which of them was in hand
Just then; as they are rather numerous found,
Who took by turns that difficult command
Since first her majesty was singly crown'd:
But they were mostly nervous six-foot fellows,
All fit to make a Patagonian jealous.

XLVII
Juan was none of these, but slight and slim,
Blushing and beardless; and yet ne'ertheless
There was a something in his turn of limb,
And still more in his eye, which seem'd to express,
That though he look'd one of the seraphim,
There lurk'd a man beneath the spirit's dress.
Besides, the empress sometimes liked a boy,
And had just buried the fair-faced Lanskoi.

XLVIII
No wonder then that Yermoloff, or Momonoff,
Or Scherbatoff, or any other off
Or on, might dread her majesty had not room enough
Within her bosom (which was not too tough)
For a new flame; a thought to cast of gloom enough
Along the aspect, whether smooth or rough,
Of him who, in the language of his station,
Then held that "high official situation."

XLIX
O, gentle ladies! should you seek to know
The import of this diplomatic phrase,
Bid Ireland's Londonderry's Marquess show
His parts of speech; and in the strange displays
Of that odd string of words, all in a row,
Which none divine, and every one obeys,
Perhaps you may pick out some queer no meaning,
Of that weak wordy harvest the sole gleaning.

L
I think I can explain myself without
That sad inexplicable beast of prey --
That Sphinx, whose words would ever be a doubt,
Did not his deeds unriddle them each day --
That monstrous hieroglyphic -- that long spout
Of blood and water, leaden Castlereagh!
And here I must an anecdote relate,
But luckily of no great length or weight.

LI
An English lady ask'd of an Italian,
What were the actual and official duties
Of the strange thing some women set a value on,
Which hovers oft about some married beauties,
Called "Cavalier servente?" -- a Pygmalion
Whose statues warm (I fear, alas! too true 't is)
Beneath his art. The dame, press'd to disclose them,
Said -- "Lady, I beseech you to suppose them."

LII
And thus I supplicate your supposition,
And mildest, matron-like interpretation,
Of the imperial favourite's condition.
'T was a high place, the highest in the nation
In fact, if not in rank; and the suspicion
Of any one's attaining to his station,
No doubt gave pain, where each new pair of shoulders,
If rather broad, made stocks rise and their holders.

LIII
Juan, I said, was a most beauteous boy,
And had retain'd his boyish look beyond
The usual hirsute seasons which destroy,
With beards and whiskers, and the like, the fond
Parisian aspect which upset old Troy
And founded Doctors' Commons: -- I have conn'd
The history of divorces, which, though chequer'd,
Calls Ilion's the first damages on record.

LIV
And Catherine, who loved all things (save her lord,
Who was gone to his place), and pass'd for much
Admiring those (by dainty dames abhorr'd)
Gigantic gentlemen, yet had a touch
Of sentiment; and he she most adored
Was the lamented Lanskoi, who was such
A lover as had cost her many a tear,
And yet but made a middling grenadier.

LV
Oh thou "teterrima causa" of all "belli" --
Thou gate of life and death -- thou nondescript!
Whence is our exit and our entrance, -- well I
May pause in pondering how all souls are dipt
In thy perennial fountain: -- how man fell I
Know not, since knowledge saw her branches stript
Of her first fruit; but how he falls and rises
Since, thou hast settled beyond all surmises.

LVI
Some call thee "the worst cause of war," but I
Maintain thou art the best: for after all
From thee we come, to thee we go, and why
To get at thee not batter down a wall,
Or waste a world? since no one can deny
Thou dost replenish worlds both great and small:
With, or without thee, all things at a stand
Are, or would be, thou sea of life's dry land!

LVII
Catherine, who was the grand Epitome
Of that great cause of war, or peace, or what
You please (it causes all the things which be,
So you may take your choice of this or that) --
Catherine, I say. was very glad to see
The handsome herald, on whose plumage sat
Victory; and pausing as she saw him kneel
With his despatch, forgot to break the seal.

LVIII
Then recollecting the whole empress, nor
Forgetting quite the woman (which composed
At least three parts of this great whole), she tore
The letter open with an air which posed
The court, that watch'd each look her visage wore,
Until a royal smile at length disclosed
Fair weather for the day. Though rather spacious,
Her face was noble, her eyes fine, mouth gracious.

LIX
Great joy was hers, or rather joys: the first
Was a ta'en city, thirty thousand slain.
Glory and triumph o'er her aspect burst,
As an East Indian sunrise on the main.
These quench'd a moment her ambition's thirst --
So Arab deserts drink in summer's rain:
In vain! -- As fall the dews on quenchless sands,
Blood only serves to wash Ambition's hands!

LX
Her next amusement was more fanciful;
She smiled at mad Suwarrow's rhymes, who threw
Into a Russian couplet rather dull
The whole gazette of thousands whom he slew.
Her third was feminine enough to annul
The shudder which runs naturally through
Our veins, when things call'd sovereigns think it best
To kill, and generals turn it into jest.

LXI
The two first feelings ran their course complete,
And lighted first her eye, and then her mouth:
The whole court look'd immediately most sweet,
Like flowers well water'd after a long drouth.
But when on the lieutenant at her feet
Her majesty, who liked to gaze on youth
Almost as much as on a new despatch,
Glanced mildly, all the world was on the watch.

LXII
Though somewhat large, exuberant, and truculent,
When wroth -- while pleased, she was as fine a figure
As those who like things rosy, ripe, and succulent,
Would wish to look on, while they are in vigour.
She could repay each amatory look you lent
With interest, and in turn was wont with rigour
To exact of Cupid's bills the full amount
At sight, nor would permit you to discount.

LXIII
With her the latter, though at times convenient,
Was not so necessary; for they tell
That she was handsome, and though fierce look'd lenient,
And always used her favourites too well.
If once beyond her boudoir's precincts in ye went,
Your "fortune" was in a fair way "to swell
A man" (as Giles says); for though she would widow all
Nations, she liked man as an individual.

LXIV
What a strange thing is man? and what a stranger
Is woman! What a whirlwind is her head,
And what a whirlpool full of depth and danger
Is all the rest about her! Whether wed
Or widow, maid or mother, she can change her
Mind like the wind: whatever she has said
Or done, is light to what she'll say or do; --
The oldest thing on record, and yet new!

LXV
Oh Catherine! (for of all interjections,
To thee both oh! and ah! belong of right
In love and war) how odd are the connections
Of human thoughts, which jostle in their flight!
Just now yours were cut out in different sections:
First Ismail's capture caught your fancy quite;
Next of new knights, the fresh and glorious batch;
And thirdly he who brought you the despatch!

LXVI
Shakspeare talks of "the herald Mercury
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;"
And some such visions cross'd her majesty,
While her young herald knelt before her still.
'T is very true the hill seem'd rather high,
For a lieutenant to climb up; but skill
Smooth'd even the Simplon's steep, and by God's blessing
With youth and health all kisses are "heaven-kissing."

LXVII
Her majesty look'd down, the youth look'd up --
And so they fell in love; -- she with his face,
His grace, his God-knows-what: for Cupid's cup
With the first draught intoxicates apace,
A quintessential laudanum or "black drop,"
Which makes one drunk at once, without the base
Expedient of full bumpers; for the eye
In love drinks all life's fountains (save tears) dry.

LXVIII
He, on the other hand, if not in love,
Fell into that no less imperious passion,
Self-love -- which, when some sort of thing above
Ourselves, a singer, dancer, much in fashion,
Or duchess, princess, empress, "deigns to prove"
('T is Pope's phrase) a great longing, though a rash one,
For one especial person out of many,
Makes us believe ourselves as good as any.

LXIX
Besides, he was of that delighted age
Which makes all female ages equal -- when
We don't much care with whom we may engage,
As bold as Daniel in the lion's den,
So that we can our native sun assuage
In the next ocean, which may flow just then,
To make a twilight in, just as Sol's heat is
Quench'd in the lap of the salt sea, or Thetis.

LXX
And Catherine (we must say thus much for Catherine),
Though bold and bloody, was the kind of thing
Whose temporary passion was quite flattering,
Because each lover look'd a sort of king,
Made up upon an amatory pattern,
A royal husband in all save the ring --
Which, being the damn'dest part of matrimony,
Seem'd taking out the sting to leave the honey.

LXXI
And when you add to this, her womanhood
In its meridian, her blue eyes or gray
(The last, if they have soul, are quite as good,
Or better, as the best examples say:
Napoleon's, Mary's (queen of Scotland), should
Lend to that colour a transcendent ray;
And Pallas also sanctions the same hue,
Too wise to look through optics black or blue) --

LXXII
Her sweet smile, and her then majestic figure,
Her plumpness, her imperial condescension,
Her preference of a boy to men much bigger
(Fellows whom Messalina's self would pension),
Her prime of life, just now in juicy vigour,
With other extras, which we need not mention, --
All these, or any one of these, explain
Enough to make a stripling very vain.

LXXIII
And that's enough, for love is vanity,
Selfish in its beginning as its end,
Except where 't is a mere insanity,
A maddening spirit which would strive to blend
Itself with beauty's frail inanity,
On which the passion's self seems to depend:
And hence some heathenish philosophers
Make love the main spring of the universe.

LXXIV
Besides Platonic love, besides the love
Of God, the love of sentiment, the loving
Of faithful pairs (I needs must rhyme with dove,
That good old steam-boat which keeps verses moving
'Gainst reason -- Reason ne'er was hand-and-glove
With rhyme, but always leant less to improving
The sound than sense) -- beside all these pretences
To love, there are those things which words name senses;

LXXV
Those movements, those improvements in our bodies
Which make all bodies anxious to get out
Of their own sand-pits, to mix with a goddess,
For such all women are at first no doubt.
How beautiful that moment! and how odd is
That fever which precedes the languid rout
Of our sensations! What a curious way
The whole thing is of clothing souls in clay!

LXXVI
The noblest kind of love is love Platonical,
To end or to begin with; the next grand
Is that which may be christen'd love canonical,
Because the clergy take the thing in hand;
The third sort to be noted in our chronicle
As flourishing in every Christian land,
Is when chaste matrons to their other ties
Add what may be call'd marriage in disguise.

LXXVII
Well, we won't analyse -- our story must
Tell for itself: the sovereign was smitten,
Juan much flatter'd by her love, or lust; --
I cannot stop to alter words once written,
And the two are so mix'd with human dust,
That he who names one, both perchance may hit on:
But in such matters Russia's mighty empress
Behaved no better than a common sempstress.

LXXVIII
The whole court melted into one wide whisper,
And all lips were applied unto all ears!
The elder ladies' wrinkles curl'd much crisper
As they beheld; the younger cast some leers
On one another, and each lovely lisper
Smiled as she talk'd the matter o'er; but tears
Of rivalship rose in each clouded eye
Of all the standing army who stood by.

LXXIX
All the ambassadors of all the powers
Enquired, Who was this very new young man,
Who promised to be great in some few hours?
Which is full soon -- though life is but a span.
Already they beheld the silver showers
Of rubles rain, as fast as specie can,
Upon his cabinet, besides the presents
Of several ribands, and some thousand peasants.

LXXX
Catherine was generous, -- all such ladies are:
Love, that great opener of the heart and all
The ways that lead there, be they near or far,
Above, below, by turnpikes great or small, --
Love (though she had a curséd taste for war,
And was not the best wife, unless we call
Such Clytemnestra, though perhaps 't is better
That one should die, than two drag on the fetter) --

LXXXI
Love had made Catherine make each lover's fortune,
Unlike our own half-chaste Elizabeth,
Whose avarice all disbursements did importune,
If history, the grand liar, ever saith
The truth; and though grief her old age might shorten,
Because she put a favourite to death,
Her vile, ambiguous method of flirtation,
And stinginess, disgrace her sex and station.

LXXXII
But when the levée rose, and all was bustle
In the dissolving circle, all the nations'
Ambassadors began as 't were to hustle
Round the young man with their congratulations.
Also the softer silks were heard to rustle
Of gentle dames, among whose recreations
It is to speculate on handsome faces,
Especially when such lead to high places.

LXXXIII
Juan, who found himself, he knew not how,
A general object of attention, made
His answers with a very graceful bow,
As if born for the ministerial trade.
Though modest, on his unembarrass'd brow
Nature had written "gentleman." He said
Little, but to the purpose; and his manner
Flung hovering graces o'er him like a banner.

LXXXIV
An order from her majesty consign'd
Our young lieutenant to the genial care
Of those in office: all the world look'd kind
(As it will look sometimes with the first stare,
Which youth would not act ill to keep in mind),
As also did Miss Protasoff then there,
Named from her mystic office "l'Eprouveuse,"
A term inexplicable to the Muse.

LXXXV
With her then, as in humble duty bound,
Juan retired, -- and so will I, until
My Pegasus shall tire of touching ground.
We have just lit on a "heaven-kissing hill,"
So lofty that I feel my brain turn round,
And all my fancies whirling like a mill;
Which is a signal to my nerves and brain,
To take a quiet ride in some green Lane.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Golden Legend: IV. The Road To Hirschau

PRINCE HENRY _and_ ELSIE, _with their attendants, on
horseback._

_Elsie._ Onward and onward the highway runs
to the distant city, impatiently bearing
Tidings of human joy and disaster, of love and of
hate, of doing and daring!

_Prince Henry._ This life of ours is a wild aeolian
harp of many a joyous strain,
But under them all there runs a loud perpetual wail,
as of souls in pain.

_Elsie._ Faith alone can interpret life, and the heart
that aches and bleeds with the stigma
Of pain, alone bears the likeness of Christ, and can
comprehend its dark enigma.

_Prince Henry._ Man is selfish, and seeketh pleasure
with little care of what may betide;
Else why am I travelling here beside thee, a demon
that rides by an angel's side?

_Elsie._ All the hedges are white with dust, and
the great dog under the creaking wain
Hangs his head in the lazy heat, while onward the
horses toil and strain

_Prince Henry._ Now they stop at the wayside inn,
and the wagoner laughs with the landlord's daughter,
While out of the dripping trough the horses distend
their leathern sides with water.

_Elsie._ All through life there are wayside inns,
where man may refresh his soul with love;
Even the lowest may quench his thirst at rivulets fed
by springs from above.

_Prince Henry._ Yonder, where rises the cross of
stone, our journey along the highway ends,
And over the fields, by a bridle path, down into the
broad green valley descends.

_Elsie._ I am not sorry to leave behind the beaten
road with its dust and heat;
The air will be sweeter far, and the turf will be softer
under our horses' feet.

(_They turn down a green lane._)

_Elsie._ Sweet is the air with the budding haws,
and the valley stretching for miles below
Is white with blossoming cheery trees, as if just covered
with lightest snow.

_Prince Henry._ Over our heads a white cascade is
gleaming against the distant hill;
We cannot hear it, nor see it move, but it hangs like
a banner when winds are still.

_Elsie._ Damp and cool is this deep ravine, and
cool the sound of the brook by our side!
What is this castle that rises above us, and lords it
over a land so wide?

_Prince Henry._ It is the home of the Counts of
Calva; well have I known these scenes of old,
Well I remember each tower and turret, remember the
brooklet, the wood, and the wold.

_Elsie._ Hark! from the little village below us the
bells of the church are ringing for rain!
Priests and peasants in long procession come forth
and kneel on the arid plain.

_Prince Henry._ They have not long to wait, for I
see in the south uprising a little cloud,
That before the sun shall be set will cover the sky
above us as with a shroud.

(_They pass on._)

* * * * *

THE CONVENT OF HIRSCHAU IN THE BLACK FOREST.

* * * * *

_The Convent cellar._ FRIAR CLAUS _comes in with a
light and a basket of empty flagons._

_Friar Claus._ I always enter this sacred place
With a thoughtful, solemn, and reverent pace,
Pausing long enough on each stair
To breathe an ejaculatory prayer,
And a benediction on the vines
That produce these various sorts of wines!

For my part, I am well content
That we have got through with the tedious Lent!
Fasting is all very well for those
Who have to contend with invisible foes;
But I am quite sure it does not agree
With a quiet, peaceable man like me,
Who am not of that nervous and meagre kind
That are always distressed in body and mind!
And at times it really does me good
To come down among this brotherhood,
Dwelling forever under ground,
Silent, contemplative, round and sound;
Each one old, and brown with mould,
But filled to the lips with the ardor of youth,
With the latent power and love of truth,
And with virtues fervent and manifold.

I have heard it said, that at Easter-tide,
When buds are swelling on every side,
And the sap begins to move in the vine.
Then in all the cellars, far and wide,
The oldest, as well as the newest, wine
Begins to stir itself, and ferment,
With a kind of revolt and discontent
At being so long in darkness pent,
And fain would burst from its sombre tun
To bask on the hillside in the sun;
As in the bosom of us poor friars,
The tumult of half-subdued desires
For the world that we have left behind
Disturbs at times all peace of mind!
And now that we have lived through Lent,
My duty it is, as often before,
To open awhile the prison-door,
And give these restless spirits vent.

Now here is a cask that stands alone,
And has stood a hundred years or more,
Its beard of cobwebs, long and hoar,
Trailing and sweeping along the floor,
Like Barbarossa, who sits in his cave,
Taciturn, sombre, sedate, and grave,
Till his beard has grown through the table of stone!
It is of the quick and not of the dead!
In its veins the blood is hot and red,
And a heart still beats in those ribs of oak
That time may have tamed, but has not broke;
It comes from Bacharach on the Rhine,
Is one of the three best kinds of wine,
And costs some hundred florins the ohm;
But that I do not consider dear,
When I remember that every year
Four butts are sent to the Pope of Rome.
And whenever a goblet thereof I drain,
The old rhyme keeps running in my brain:

At Bacharach on the Rhine,
At Hochheim on the Main,
And at Wuerzburg on the Stein,
Grow the three best kinds of wine!

They are all good wines, and better far
Than those of the Neckar, or those of the Ahr
In particular, Wuerzburg well may boast
Of its blessed wine of the Holy Ghost,
Which of all wines I like the most.
This I shall draw for the Abbot's drinking,
Who seems to be much of my way of thinking.

(_Fills a flagon._)

Ah! how the streamlet laughs and sings!
What a delicious fragrance springs
From the deep flagon, while it fills,
As of hyacinths and daffodils!
Between this cask and the Abbot's lips
Many have been the sips and slips;
Many have been the draughts of wine,
On their way to his, that have stopped at mine;
And many a time my soul has hankered
For a deep draught out of his silver tankard,
When it should have been busy with other affairs,
Less with its longings and more with its prayers.
But now there is no such awkward condition,
No danger of death and eternal perdition;
So here's to the Abbot and Brothers all,
Who dwell in this convent of Peter and Paul!

(_He drinks._)

O cordial delicious! O soother of pain!
It flashes like sunshine into my brain!
A benison rest on the Bishop who sends
Such a fudder of wine as this to his friends!

And now a flagon for such as may ask
A draught from the noble Bacharach cask,
And I will be gone, though I know full well
The cellar's a cheerfuller place than the cell.
Behold where he stands, all sound and good,
Brown and old in his oaken hood;
Silent he seems externally
As any Carthusian monk may be;
But within, what a spirit of deep unrest!
What a seething and simmering in his breast!
As if the heaving of his great heart
Would burst his belt of oak apart!
Let me unloose this button of wood,
And quiet a little his turbulent mood.

(_Sets it running._)

See! how its currents gleam and shine,
As if they had caught the purple hues
Of autumn sunsets on the Rhine,
Descending and mingling with the dews;
Or as if the grapes were stained with the blood
Of the innocent boy, who, some years back,
Was taken and crucified by the Jews,
In that ancient town of Bacharach;
Perdition upon those infidel Jews,
In that ancient town of Bacharach!
The beautiful town, that gives us wine
With the fragrant odor of Muscadine!
I should deem it wrong to let this pass
Without first touching my lips to the glass,
For here in the midst of the current I stand,
Like the stone Pfalz in the midst of the river
Taking toll upon either hand,
And much more grateful to the giver.

(_He drinks._)

Here, now, is a very inferior kind,
Such as in any town you may find,
Such as one might imagine would suit
The rascal who drank wine out of a boot,
And, after all, it was not a crime,
For he won thereby Dorf Hueffelsheim.
A jolly old toper! who at a pull
Could drink a postilion's jack boot full,
And ask with a laugh, when that was done,
If the fellow had left the other one!
This wine is as good as we can afford
To the friars, who sit at the lower board,
And cannot distinguish bad from good,
And are far better off than if they could,
Being rather the rude disciples of beer
Than of anything more refined and dear!

(_Fills the other flagon and departs._)

* * * * *

THE SCRIPTORIUM.

FRIAR PACIFICUS _transcribing and illuminating._

_Friar Pacificus_ It is growing dark! Yet one line more,
And then my work for today is o'er.
I come again to the name of the Lord!
Ere I that awful name record,
That is spoken so lightly among men,
Let me pause awhile, and wash my pen;
Pure from blemish and blot must it be
When it writes that word of mystery!

Thus have I labored on and on,
Nearly through the Gospel of John.
Can it be that from the lips
Of this same gentle Evangelist,
That Christ himself perhaps has kissed,
Came the dread Apocalypse!
It has a very awful look,
As it stands there at the end of the book,
Like the sun in an eclipse.
Ah me! when I think of that vision divine,
Think of writing it, line by line,
I stand in awe of the terrible curse,
Like the trump of doom, in the closing verse!
God forgive me! if ever I
Take aught from the book of that Prophecy,
Lest my part too should be taken away
From the Book of Life on the Judgment Day.

This is well written, though I say it!
I should not be afraid to display it,
In open day, on the selfsame shelf
With the writings of St Thecla herself,
Or of Theodosius, who of old
Wrote the Gospels in letters of gold!
That goodly folio standing yonder,
Without a single blot or blunder,
Would not bear away the palm from mine,
If we should compare them line for line.

There, now, is an initial letter!
King Rene himself never made a better!
Finished down to the leaf and the snail,
Down to the eyes on the peacock's tail!
And now, as I turn the volume over,
And see what lies between cover and cover,
What treasures of art these pages hold,
All ablaze with crimson and gold,
God forgive me! I seem to feel
A certain satisfaction steal
Into my heart, and into my brain,
As if my talent had not lain
Wrapped in a napkin, and all in vain.
Yes, I might almost say to the Lord,
Here is a copy of thy Word,
Written out with much toil and pain;
Take it, O Lord, and let it be
As something I have done for thee!

(_He looks from the window._)

How sweet the air is! How fair the scene!
I wish I had as lovely a green
To paint my landscapes and my leaves!
How the swallows twitter under the eaves!
There, now, there is one in her nest;
I can just catch a glimpse of her head and breast,
And will sketch her thus, in her quiet nook,
In the margin of my Gospel book.

(_He makes a sketch._)

I can see no more. Through the valley yonder
A shower is passing; I hear the thunder
Mutter its curses in the air,
The Devil's own and only prayer!
The dusty road is brown with rain,
And speeding on with might and main,
Hitherward rides a gallant train.
They do not parley, they cannot wait,
But hurry in at the convent gate.
What a fair lady! and beside her
What a handsome, graceful, noble rider!
Now she gives him her hand to alight;
They will beg a shelter for the night.
I will go down to the corridor,
And try to see that face once more;
It will do for the face of some beautiful Saint,
Or for one of the Maries I shall paint.

(_Goes out._)

* * * * *

THE CLOISTERS.

* * * * *

_The_ ABBOT ERNESTUS _pacing to and fro._

_Abbot._ Slowly, slowly up the wall
Steals the sunshine, steals the shade;
Evening damps begin to fall,
Evening shadows are displayed.
Round me, o'er me, everywhere,
All the sky is grand with clouds,
And athwart the evening air
Wheel the swallows home in crowds.
Shafts of sunshine from the west
Paint the dusky windows red;
Darker shadows, deeper rest,
Underneath and overhead.
Darker, darker, and more wan,
In my breast the shadows fall;
Upward steals the life of man,
As the sunshine from the wall.
From the wall into the sky,
From the roof along the spire;
Ah, the souls of those that die
Are but sunbeams lifted higher.

(_Enter_ PRINCE HENRY.)

_Prince Henry._ Christ is arisen!

_Abbot._ Amen! he is arisen!
His peace be with you!

_Prince Henry._ Here it reigns forever!
The peace of God, that passeth understanding,
Reigns in these cloisters and these corridors,
Are you Ernestus, Abbot of the convent?

_Abbot._ I am.

_Prince Henry._ And I Prince Henry of Hoheneck,
Who crave your hospitality to-night.

_Abbot._ You are thrice welcome to our humble walls.
You do us honor; and we shall requite it,
I fear, but poorly, entertaining you
With Paschal eggs, and our poor convent wine,
The remnants of our Easter holidays.

_Prince Henry._ How fares it with the holy monks of Hirschau?
Are all things well with them?

_Abbot._ All things are well.

_Prince Henry._ A noble convent! I have known it long
By the report of travellers. I now see
Their commendations lag behind the truth.
You lie here in the valley of the Nagold
As in a nest: and the still river, gliding
Along its bed, is like an admonition
How all things pass. Your lands are rich and ample,
And your revenues large. God's benediction
Rests on your convent.

_Abbot._ By our charities
We strive to merit it. Our Lord and Master,
When he departed, left us in his will,
As our best legacy on earth, the poor!
These we have always with us; had we not,
Our hearts would grow as hard as are these stones.

_Prince Henry._ If I remember right, the Counts of Calva
Founded your convent.

_Abbot._ Even as you say.

_Prince Henry._ And, if I err not, it is very old.

_Abbot._ Within these cloisters lie already buried
Twelve holy Abbots. Underneath the flags
On which we stand, the Abbot William lies,
Of blessed memory.

_Prince Henry._ And whose tomb is that,
Which bears the brass escutcheon?

_Abbot._ A benefactor's.
Conrad, a Count of Calva, he who stood
Godfather to our bells.

_Prince Henry._ Your monks are learned
And holy men, I trust.

_Abbot._ There are among them
Learned and holy men. Yet in this age
We need another Hildebrand, to shake
And purify us like a mighty wind.
The world is wicked, and sometimes I wonder
God does not lose his patience with it wholly,
And shatter it like glass! Even here, at times,
Within these walls, where all should be at peace,
I have my trials. Time has laid his hand
Upon my heart, gently, not smiting it,
But as a harper lays his open palm
Upon his harp, to deaden its vibrations.
Ashes are on my head, and on my lips
Sackcloth, and in my breast a heaviness
And weariness of life, that makes me ready
To say to the dead Abbots under us,
'Make room for me!' Only I see the dusk
Of evening twilight coming, and have not
Completed half my task; and so at times
The thought of my shortcomings in this life
Falls like a shadow on the life to come.

_Prince Henry._ We must all die, and not the old alone;
The young have no exemption from that doom.

_Abbot._ Ah, yes! the young may die, but the old must!
That is the difference.

_Prince Henry._ I have heard much laud
Of your transcribers. Your Scriptorium
Is famous among all, your manuscripts
Praised for their beauty and their excellence.

_Abbot._ That is indeed our boast. If you desire it,
You shall behold these treasures. And meanwhile
Shall the Refectorarius bestow
Your horses and attendants for the night.

(_They go in. The Vesper-bell rings._)

* * * * *

THE CHAPEL.

* * * * *

_Vespers; after which the monks retire, a chorister
leading an old monk who is blind_.

_Prince Henry._ They are all gone, save one who lingers,
Absorbed in deep and silent prayer.
As if his heart could find no rest,
At times he beats his heaving breast
With clenched and convulsive fingers,
Then lifts them trembling in the air.
A chorister, with golden hair,
Guides hitherward his heavy pace.
Can it be so? Or does my sight
Deceive me in the uncertain light?
Ah no! I recognize that face,
Though Time has touched it in his flight,
And changed the auburn hair to white.
It is Count Hugo of the Rhine,
The deadliest foe of all our race,
And hateful unto me and mine!

_The Blind Monk_. Who is it that doth stand so near
His whispered words I almost hear?

_Prince Henry_. I am Prince Henry of Hoheneck,
And you, Count Hugo of the Rhine!
I know you, and I see the scar,
The brand upon your forehead, shine
And redden like a baleful star!

_The Blind Monk_. Count Hugo once, but now the wreck
Of what I was. O Hoheneck!
The passionate will, the pride, the wrath
That bore me headlong on my path,
Stumbled and staggered into fear,
And failed me in my mad career,
As a tired steed some evil-doer,
Alone upon a desolate moor,
Bewildered, lost, deserted, blind,
And hearing loud and close behind
The o'ertaking steps of his pursuer.
Then suddenly, from the dark there came
A voice that called me by my name,
And said to me, 'Kneel down and pray!'
And so my terror passed away,
Passed utterly away forever.
Contrition, penitence, remorse,
Came on me, with o'erwhelming force;
A hope, a longing, an endeavor,
By days of penance and nights of prayer,
To frustrate and defeat despair!
Calm, deep, and still is now my heart.
With tranquil waters overflowed;
A lake whose unseen fountains start,
Where once the hot volcano glowed.
And you, O Prince of Hoheneck!
Have known me in that earlier time,
A man of violence and crime,
Whose passions brooked no curb nor check.
Behold me now, in gentler mood,
One of this holy brotherhood.
Give me your hand; here let me kneel;
Make your reproaches sharp as steel;
Spurn me, and smite me on each cheek;
No violence can harm the meek,
There is no wound Christ cannot heal!
Yes; lift your princely hand, and take
Revenge, if 't is revenge you seek,
Then pardon me, for Jesus' sake!

_Prince Henry._ Arise, Count Hugo! let there be
No farther strife nor enmity
Between us twain; we both have erred!
Too rash in act, too wroth in word,
From the beginning have we stood
In fierce, defiant attitude,
Each thoughtless of the other's right,
And each reliant on his might.
But now our souls are more subdued;
The hand of God, and not in vain,
Has touched us with the fire of pain.
Let us kneel down, and side by side
Pray, till our souls are purified,
And pardon will not be denied!

(_They kneel._)

* * * * *

THE REFECTORY.

* * * * *

_Gaudiolum of Monks at midnight. LUCIFER disguised
as a Friar._

_Friar Paul (sings)._ Ave! color vini clari,
Dulcis potus, non aman,
Tua nos inebriari
Digneris potentia!

_Friar Cuthbert._ Not so much noise, my worthy freres,
You'll disturb the Abbot at his prayers.

_Friar Paul (sings)._ O! quam placens in colore!
O! quam fragrans in odore!
O! quam sapidum in ore!
Dulce linguse vinculum!

_Friar Cuthbert._ I should think your tongue had
broken its chain!

_Friar Paul (sings)._ Felix venter quern intrabis!
Felix guttur quod rigabis!
Felix os quod tu lavabis!
Et beata labia!

_Friar Cuthbert._ Peace! I say, peace!
Will you never cease!
You will rouse up the Abbot, I tell you again!

_Friar John._ No danger! to-night he will let us alone,
As I happen to know he has guests of his own.

_Friar Cuthbert._ Who are they?

_Friar John._ A German Prince and his train,
Who arrived here just before the rain.
There is with him a damsel fair to see,
As slender and graceful as a reed!
When she alighted from her steed,
It seemed like a blossom blown from a tree.

_Friar Cuthbert._ None of your pale-faced girls for me!

(_Kisses the girl at his side_.)

_Friar John._ Come, old fellow, drink down to your peg!
do not drink any farther, I beg!

_Friar Paul (sings)._ In the days of gold,
The days of old,
Cross of wood
And bishop of gold!

_Friar Cuthbert (to the girl)._ What an infernal racket and din!
No need not blush so, that's no sin.
You look very holy in this disguise,
Though there's something wicked in your eyes!

_Friar Paul (continues.)_ Now we have changed
That law so good,
To cross of gold
And bishop of wood!

_Friar Cuthbert._ I like your sweet face under a hood.
Sister! how came you into this way?

_Girl._ It was you, Friar Cuthbert, who led me astray.
Have you forgotten that day in June,
When the church was so cool in the afternoon,
And I came in to confess my sins?
That is where my ruin begins.

_Friar John._ What is the name of yonder friar,
With an eye that glows like a coal of fire,
And such a black mass of tangled hair?

_Friar Paul._ He who is sitting there,
With a rollicking,
Devil may care,
Free and easy look and air,
As if he were used to such feasting and frollicking?

_Friar John._ The same.

_Friar Paul._ He's a stranger. You had better ask his name,
And where he is going, and whence he came.

_Friar John._ Hallo! Sir Friar!

_Friar Paul._ You must raise your voice a little higher,
He does not seem to hear what you say.
Now, try again! He is looking this way.

_Friar John._ Hallo! Sir Friar,
We wish to inquire
Whence you came, and where you are going,
And anything else that is worth the knowing.
So be so good as to open your head.

_Lucifer._ I am a Frenchman born and bred,
Going on a pilgrimage to Rome.
My home
Is the convent of St. Gildas de Rhuys,
Of which, very like, you never have heard.

_Monks._ Never a word!

_Lucifer._ You must know, then, it is in the diocese
Called the Diocese of Vannes,
In the province of Brittany.
From the gray rocks of Morbihan
It overlooks the angry sea;
The very seashore where,
In his great despair,
Abbot Abelard walked to and fro,
Filling the night with woe,
And wailing aloud to the merciless seas
The name of his sweet Heloise!
Whilst overhead
The convent windows gleamed as red
As the fiery eyes of the monks within,
Who with jovial din
Gave themselves up to all kinds of sin!
Ha! that is a convent! that is an abbey!
Over the doors,
None of your death-heads carved in wood,
None of your Saints looking pious and good,
None of your Patriarchs old and shabby!
But the heads and tusks of boars,
And the cells
Hung all round with the fells
of the fallow-deer,
And then what cheer!
What jolly, fat friars,
Sitting round the great, roaring fires,
Roaring louder than they,
With their strong wines,
And their concubines,
And never a bell,
With its swagger and swell,
Calling you up with a start of affright
In the dead of night,
To send you grumbling down dark stairs,
To mumble your prayers,
But the cheery crow
Of cocks in the yard below,
After daybreak, an hour or so,
And the barking of deep-mouthed hounds,
These are the sounds
That, instead of bells, salute the ear.
And then all day
Up and away
Through the forest, hunting the deer!
Ah, my friends! I'm afraid that here
You are a little too pious, a little too tame,
And the more is the shame,
It is the greatest folly
Not to be jolly;
That's what I think!
Come, drink, drink,
Drink, and die game!

_Monks,_ And your Abbot What's-his-name?

_Lucifer._ Abelard!

_Monks._ Did he drink hard?

_Lucifer._ O, no! Not he!
He was a dry old fellow,
Without juice enough to get thoroughly mellow.
There he stood,
Lowering at us in sullen mood,
As if he had come into Brittany
Just to reform our brotherhood!

(_A roar of laughter_.)

But you see
It never would do!
For some of us knew a thing or two,
In the Abbey of St. Gildas de Rhuys!
For instance, the great ado
With old Fulbert's niece,
The young and lovely Heloise!

_Friar John._ Stop there, if you please,
Till we drink to the fair Heloise.

_All (drinking and shouting)._ Heloise! Heloise!

(_The Chapel-bell tolls_.)

_Lucifer (starting)._ What is that bell for? Are you such asses
As to keep up the fashion of midnight masses?

_Friar Cuthbert._ It is only a poor, unfortunate brother,
Who is gifted with most miraculous powers
Of getting up at all sorts of hours,
And, by way of penance and Christian meekness,
Of creeping silently out of his cell
To take a pull at that hideous bell;
So that all the monks who are lying awake
May murmur some kind of prayer for his sake,
And adapted to his peculiar weakness!

_Friar John._ From frailty and fall--

_All._ Good Lord, deliver us all!

_Friar Cuthbert._ And before the bell for matins sounds,
He takes his lantern, and goes the rounds,
Flashing it into our sleepy eyes,
Merely to say it is time to arise.
But enough of that. Go on, if you please,
With your story about St. Gildas de Rhuys.

_Lucifer._ Well, it finally came to pass
That, half in fun and half in malice,
One Sunday at Mass
We put some poison into the chalice.
But, either by accident or design,
Peter Abelard kept away
From the chapel that day,
And a poor, young friar, who in his stead
Drank the sacramental wine,
Fell on the steps of the altar, dead!
But look! do you see at the window there
That face, with a look of grief and despair,
That ghastly face, as of one in pain?

_Monks._ Who? where?

_Lucifer._ As I spoke, it vanished away again.

_Friar Cuthbert._ It is that nefarious
Siebald the Refectorarius.
That fellow is always playing the scout,
Creeping and peeping and prowling about;
And then he regales
The Abbot with Scandalous tales.

_Lucifer_. A spy in the convent? One of the brothers
Telling scandalous tales of the others?
Out upon him, the lazy loon!
I would put a stop to that pretty soon,
In a way he should rue it.

_Monks_. How shall we do it?

_Lucifer_. Do you, brother Paul,
Creep under the window, close to the wall,
And open it suddenly when I call.
Then seize the villain by the hair,
And hold him there,
And punish him soundly, once for all.

_Friar Cuthbert_. As St. Dustan of old,
We are told,
Once caught the Devil by the nose!

_Lucifer_. Ha! ha! that story is very clever,
But has no foundation whatsoever.
Quick! for I see his face again
Glaring in at the window pane;
Now! now! and do not spare your blows.

(FRIAR PAUL _opens the window suddenly, and seizes_
SIEBALD. _They beat him._)

_Friar Siebald_. Help! help! are you going to slay me?

_Friar Paul_. That will teach you again to betray me!

_Friar Siebald_. Mercy! mercy!

_Friar Paul_ (_shouting and beating_). Rumpas bellorum lorum,
Vim confer amorum
Morum verorum, rorun.
Tu plena polorum!

_Lucifer_. Who stands in the doorway yonder,
Stretching out his trembling hand,
Just as Abelard used to stand,
The flash of his keen, black eyes
Forerunning the thunder?

_The Monks (in confusion)_. The Abbot! the
Abbot!

_Friar Cuthbert (to the girl)_. Put on your disguise!

_Friar Francis_. Hide the great flagon
From the eyes of the dragon!

_Friar Cuthbert_. Pull the brown hood over your face,
Lest you bring me into disgrace!

_Abbot_. What means this revel and carouse?
Is this a tavern and drinking-house?
Are you Christian monks, or heathen devils,
To pollute this convent with your revels?
Were Peter Damian still upon earth,
To be shocked by such ungodly mirth,
He would write your names, with pen of gall,
In his Book of Gomorrah, one and all!
Away, you drunkards! to your cells,
And pray till you hear the matin-bells;
You, Brother Francis, and you, Brother Paul!
And as a penance mark each prayer
With the scourge upon your shoulders bare;
Nothing atones for such a sin
But the blood that follows the discipline.
And you, Brother Cuthbert, come with me
Alone into the sacristy;
You, who should be a guide to your brothers,
And are ten times worse than all the others,
For you I've a draught that has long been brewing
You shall do a penance worth the doing!
Away to your prayers, then, one and all!
I wonder the very, convent wall
Does not crumble and crush you in its fall!

* * * * *

THE NEIGHBORING NUNNERY.

* * * * *

_The_ ABBESS IRMINGARD _sitting with_ ELSIE _in the
moonlight._

_Irmingard_ The night is silent, the wind is still,
The moon is looking from yonder hill
Down upon convent, and grove, and garden;
The clouds have passed away from her face,
Leaving behind them no sorrowful trace,
Only the tender and quiet grace
Of one, whose heart had been healed with pardon!

And such am I. My soul within
Was dark with passion and soiled with sin.
But now its wounds are healed again;
Gone are the anguish, the terror, and pain;
For across that desolate land of woe,
O'er whose burning sands I was forced to go,
A wind from heaven began to blow;
And all my being trembled and shook,
As the leaves of the tree, or the grass of the field,
And I was healed, as the sick are healed,
When fanned by the leaves of the Holy Book!

As thou sittest in the moonlight there,
Its glory flooding thy golden hair,
And the only darkness that which lies
In the haunted chambers of thine eyes,
I feel my soul drawn unto thee,
Strangely, and strongly, and more and more,
As to one I have known and loved before;
For every soul is akin to me
That dwells in the land of mystery!
I am the Lady Irmingard,
Born of a noble race and name!
Many a wandering Suabian bard,
Whose life was dreary, and bleak, and hard,
Has found through me the way to fame.
Brief and bright were those days, and the night
Which followed was full of a lurid light.
Love, that of every woman's heart
Will have the whole, and not a part,
That is to her, in Nature's plan,
More than ambition is to man,
Her light, her life, her very breath,
With no alternative but death,
Found me a maiden soft and young,
Just from the convent's cloistered school,
And seated on my lowly stool,
Attentive while the minstrels sung.

Gallant, graceful, gentle, tall,
Fairest, noblest, best of all,
Was Walter of the Vogelweid,
And, whatsoever may betide,
Still I think of him with pride!
His song was of the summer-time
The very birds sang in his rhyme;
The sunshine, the delicious air,
The fragrance of the flowers, were there,
And I grew restless as I heard,
Restless and buoyant as a bird,
Down soft, aerial currents sailing,
O'er blossomed orchards, and fields in bloom,
And through the momentary gloom
Of shadows o'er the landscape trailing,
Yielding and borne I knew not where,
But feeling resistance unavailing.

And thus, unnoticed and apart,
And more by accident than choice.
I listened to that single voice
Until the chambers of my heart
Were filled with it by night and day,
One night,--it was a night in May,--
Within the garden, unawares,
Under the blossoms in the gloom,
I heard it utter my own name
With protestations and wild prayers;
And it rang through me, and became
Like the archangel's trump of doom,
Which the soul hears, and must obey;
And mine arose as from a tomb.
My former life now seemed to me
Such as hereafter death may be,
When in the great Eternity
We shall awake and find it day.

It was a dream, and would not stay;
A dream, that in a single night
Faded and vanished out of sight.
My father's anger followed fast
This passion, as a freshening blast
Seeks out and fans the fire, whose rage
It may increase, but not assuage.
And he exclaimed: 'No wandering bard
Shall win thy hand, O Irmingard!
For which Prince Henry of Hoheneck
By messenger and letter sues.'

Gently, but firmly, I replied:
'Henry of Hoheneck I discard!
Never the hand of Irmingard
Shall lie in his as the hand of a bride!'
This said I, Walter, for thy sake:
This said I, for I could not choose.
After a pause, my father spake
In that cold and deliberate tone
Which turns the hearer into stone,
And seems itself the act to be
That follows with such dread certainty;
'This, or the cloister and the veil!'
No other words than these he said,
But they were like a funeral wail;
My life was ended, my heart was dead.

That night from the castle-gate went down,
With silent, slow, and stealthy pace,
Two shadows, mounted on shadowy steeds,
Taking the narrow path that leads
Into the forest dense and brown,
In the leafy darkness of the place,
One could not distinguish form nor face,
Only a bulk without a shape,
A darker shadow in the shade;
One scarce could say it moved or stayed,
Thus it was we made our escape!
A foaming brook, with many a bound,
Followed us like a playful hound;
Then leaped before us, and in the hollow
Paused, and waited for us to follow,
And seemed impatient, and afraid
That our tardy flight should be betrayed
By the sound our horses' hoof-beats made,
And when we reached the plain below,
He paused a moment and drew rein
To look back at the castle again;
And we saw the windows all aglow
With lights, that were passing to and fro;
Our hearts with terror ceased to beat;
The brook crept silent to our feet;
We knew what most we feared to know.
Then suddenly horns began to blow;
And we heard a shout, and a heavy tramp,
And our horses snorted in the damp
Night-air of the meadows green and wide,
And in a moment, side by side,
So close, they must have seemed but one,
The shadows across the moonlight run,
And another came, and swept behind,
Like the shadow of clouds before the wind!

How I remember that breathless flight
Across the moors, in the summer night!
How under our feet the long, white road
Backward like a river flowed,
Sweeping with it fences and hedges,
Whilst farther away, and overhead,
Paler than I, with fear and dread,
The moon fled with us, as we fled
Along the forest's jagged edges!

All this I can remember well;
But of what afterward befell
I nothing farther can recall
Than a blind, desperate, headlong fall;
The rest is a blank and darkness all.
When I awoke out of this swoon,
The sun was shining, not the moon,
Making a cross upon the wall
With the bars of my windows narrow and tall;
And I prayed to it, as I had been wont to pray,
From early childhood, day by day,
Each morning, as in bed I lay!
I was lying again in my own room!
And I thanked God, in my fever and pain,
That those shadows on the midnight plain
Were gone, and could not come again!
I struggled no longer with my doom!
This happened many years ago.
I left my father's home to come
Like Catherine to her martyrdom,
For blindly I esteemed it so.
And when I heard the convent door
Behind me close, to ope no more,
I felt it smite me like a blow,
Through all my limbs a shudder ran,
And on my bruised spirit fell
The dampness of my narrow cell
As night-air on a wounded man,
Giving intolerable pain.

But now a better life began,
I felt the agony decrease
By slow degrees, then wholly cease,
Ending in perfect rest and peace!
It was not apathy, nor dulness,
That weighed and pressed upon my brain,
But the same passion I had given
To earth before, now turned to heaven
With all its overflowing fulness.

Alas! the world is full of peril!
The path that runs through the fairest meads,
On the sunniest side of the valley, leads
Into a region bleak and sterile!
Alike in the high-born and the lowly,
The will is feeble, and passion strong.
We cannot sever right from wrong;
Some falsehood mingles with all truth;
Nor is it strange the heart of youth
Should waver and comprehend but slowly
The things that are holy and unholy!

But in this sacred and calm retreat,
We are all well and safely shielded
From winds that blow, and waves that beat,
From the cold, and rain, and blighting heat,
To which the strongest hearts have yielded.
Here we stand as the Virgins Seven,
For our celestial bridegroom yearning;
Our hearts are lamps forever burning,
With a steady and unwavering flame,
Pointing upward, forever the same,
Steadily upward toward the Heaven!

The moon is hidden behind a cloud;
A sudden darkness fills the room,
And thy deep eyes, amid the gloom,
Shine like jewels in a shroud.
On the leaves is a sound of falling rain;
A bird, awakened in its nest,
Gives a faint twitter of unrest,
Then smoothes its plumes and sleeps again.

No other sounds than these I hear;
The hour of midnight must be near.
Thou art o'erspent with the day's fatigue
Of riding many a dusty league;
Sink, then, gently to thy slumber;
Me so many cares encumber,
So many ghosts, and forms of fright,
Have started from their graves to-night,
They have driven sleep from mine eyes away:
I will go down to the chapel and pray.

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Matthew Arnold

Sohrab and Rustum

And the first grey of morning fill'd the east,
And the fog rose out of the Oxus stream.
But all the Tartar camp along the stream
Was hush'd, and still the men were plunged in sleep;
Sohrab alone, he slept not; all night long
He had lain wakeful, tossing on his bed;
But when the grey dawn stole into his tent,
He rose, and clad himself, and girt his sword,
And took his horseman's cloak, and left his tent,
And went abroad into the cold wet fog,
Through the dim camp to Peran-Wisa's tent.

Through the black Tartar tents he pass'd, which stood
Clustering like bee-hives on the low flat strand
Of Oxus, where the summer-floods o'erflow
When the sun melts the snows in high Pamere
Through the black tents he pass'd, o'er that low strand,
And to a hillock came, a little back
From the stream's brink--the spot where first a boat,
Crossing the stream in summer, scrapes the land.
The men of former times had crown'd the top
With a clay fort; but that was fall'n, and now
The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa's tent,
A dome of laths, and o'er it felts were spread.
And Sohrab came there, and went in, and stood
Upon the thick piled carpets in the tent,
And found the old man sleeping on his bed
Of rugs and felts, and near him lay his arms.
And Peran-Wisa heard him, though the step
Was dull'd; for he slept light, an old man's sleep;
And he rose quickly on one arm, and said:--

"Who art thou? for it is not yet clear dawn.
Speak! is there news, or any night alarm?"

But Sohrab came to the bedside, and said:--
"Thou know'st me, Peran-Wisa! it is I.
The sun is not yet risen, and the foe
Sleep; but I sleep not; all night long I lie
Tossing and wakeful, and I come to thee.
For so did King Afrasiab bid me seek
Thy counsel, and to heed thee as thy son,
In Samarcand, before the army march'd;
And I will tell thee what my heart desires.
Thou know'st if, since from Ader-baijan first
I came among the Tartars and bore arms,
I have still served Afrasiab well, and shown,
At my boy's years, the courage of a man.
This too thou know'st, that while I still bear on
The conquering Tartar ensigns through the world,
And beat the Persians back on every field,
I seek one man, one man, and one alone--
Rustum, my father; who I hoped should greet,
Should one day greet, upon some well-fought field,
His not unworthy, not inglorious son.
So I long hoped, but him I never find.
Come then, hear now, and grant me what I ask.
Let the two armies rest to-day; but I
Will challenge forth the bravest Persian lords
To meet me, man to man; if I prevail,
Rustum will surely hear it; if I fall--
Old man, the dead need no one, claim no kin.
Dim is the rumour of a common fight,
Where host meets host, and many names are sunk;
But of a single combat fame speaks clear."

He spoke; and Peran-Wisa took the hand
Of the young man in his, and sigh'd, and said:--

"O Sohrab, an unquiet heart is thine!
Canst thou not rest among the Tartar chiefs,
And share the battle's common chance with us
Who love thee, but must press for ever first,
In single fight incurring single risk,
To find a father thou hast never seen?
That were far best, my son, to stay with us
Unmurmuring; in our tents, while it is war,
And when 'tis truce, then in Afrasiab's towns.
But, if this one desire indeed rules all,
To seek out Rustum--seek him not through fight!
Seek him in peace, and carry to his arms,
O Sohrab, carry an unwounded son!
But far hence seek him, for he is not here.
For now it is not as when I was young,
When Rustum was in front of every fray;
But now he keeps apart, and sits at home,
In Seistan, with Zal, his father old.
Whether that his own mighty strength at last
Peels the abhorr'd approaches of old age,
Or in some quarrel with the Persian King.
There go!--Thou wilt not? Yet my heart forebodes
Danger or death awaits thee on this field.
Fain would I know thee safe and well, though lost
To us; fain therefore send thee hence, in peace
To seek thy father, not seek single fights
In vain;--but who can keep the lion's cub
From ravening, and who govern Rustum's son?
Go, I will grant thee what thy heart desires."

So said he, and dropp'd Sohrab's hand, and left
His bed, and the warm rugs whereon he lay;
And o'er his chilly limbs his woollen coat
He pass'd, and tied his sandals on his feet,
And threw a white cloak round him, and he took
In his right hand a ruler's staff, no sword;
And on his head he set his sheep-skin cap,
Black, glossy, curl'd, the fleece of Kara-Kul;
And raised the curtain of his tent, and call'd
His herald to his side, and went abroad.

The sun by this had risen, and clear'd the fog
From the broad Oxus and the glittering sands.
And from their tents the Tartar horsemen filed
Into the open plain; so Haman bade--
Haman, who next to Peran-Wisa ruled
The host, and still was in his lusty prime.
From their black tents, long files of horse, they stream'd;
As when some grey November morn the files,
In marching order spread, of long-neck'd cranes
Stream over Casbin and the southern slopes
Of Elburz, from the Aralian estuaries,
Or some frore Caspian reed-bed, southward bound
For the warm Persian sea-board--so they stream'd.
The Tartars of the Oxus, the King's guard,
First, with black sheep-skin caps and with long spears;
Large men, large steeds; who from Bokhara come
And Khiva, and ferment the milk of mares.
Next, the more temperate Toorkmuns of the south,
The Tukas, and the lances of Salore,
And those from Attruck and the Caspian sands;
Light men and on light steeds, who only drink
The acrid milk of camels, and their wells.
And then a swarm of wandering horse, who came
From far, and a more doubtful service own'd;
The Tartars of Ferghana, from the banks
Of the Jaxartes, men with scanty beards
And close-set skull-caps; and those wilder hordes
Who roam o'er Kipchak and the northern waste,
Kalmucks and unkempt Kuzzaks, tribes who stray
Nearest the Pole, and wandering Kirghizzes,
Who come on shaggy ponies from Pamere;
These all filed out from camp into the plain.
And on the other side the Persians form'd;--
First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they seem'd.
The Ilyats of Khorassan; and behind,
The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot,
Marshall'd battalions bright in burnish'd steel.
But Peran-Wisa with his herald came,
Threading the Tartar squadrons to the front,
And with his staff kept back the foremost ranks.
And when Ferood, who led the Persians, saw
That Peran-Wisa kept the Tartars back,
He took his spear, and to the front he came,
And check'd his ranks, and fix'd them where they stood.
And the old Tartar came upon the sand
Betwixt the silent hosts, and spake, and said:--

"Ferood, and ye, Persians and Tartars, hear!
Let there be truce between the hosts to-day.
But choose a champion from the Persian lords
To fight our champion Sohrab, man to man."

As, in the country, on a morn in June,
When the dew glistens on the pearled ears,
A shiver runs through the deep corn for joy--
So, when they heard what Peran-Wisa said,
A thrill through all the Tartar squadrons ran
Of pride and hope for Sohrab, whom they loved.

But as a troop of pedlars, from Cabool,
Cross underneath the Indian Caucasus,
That vast sky-neighbouring mountain of milk snow;
Crossing so high, that, as they mount, they pass
Long flocks of travelling birds dead on the snow,
Choked by the air, and scarce can they themselves
Slake their parch'd throats with sugar'd mulberries--
In single file they move, and stop their breath,
For fear they should dislodge the o'erhanging snows--
So the pale Persians held their breath with fear.

And to Ferood his brother chiefs came up
To counsel; Gudurz and Zoarrah came,
And Feraburz, who ruled the Persian host
Second, and was the uncle of the King;
These came and counsell'd, and then Gudurz said:--

"Ferood, shame bids us take their challenge up,
Yet champion have we none to match this youth.
He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart.
But Rustum came last night; aloof he sits
And sullen, and has pitch'd his tents apart.
Him will I seek, and carry to his ear
The Tartar challenge, and this young man's name.
Haply he will forget his wrath, and fight.
Stand forth the while, and take their challenge up."

So spake he; and Ferood stood forth and cried:--
"Old man, be it agreed as thou hast said!
Let Sohrab arm, and we will find a man."
He spake: and Peran-Wisa turn'd, and strode
Back through the opening squadrons to his tent.
But through the anxious Persians Gudurz ran,
And cross'd the camp which lay behind, and reach'd,
Out on the sands beyond it, Rustum's tents.
Of scarlet cloth they were, and glittering gay,
Just pitch'd; the high pavilion in the midst
Was Rustum's, and his men lay camp'd around.
And Gudurz enter'd Rustum's tent, and found
Rustum; his morning meal was done, but still
The table stood before him, charged with food--
A side of roasted sheep, and cakes of bread;
And dark green melons; and there Rustum sate
Listless, and held a falcon° on his wrist,
And play'd with it; but Gudurz came and stood
Before him; and he look'd, and saw him stand,
And with a cry sprang up and dropp'd the bird,
And greeted Gudurz with both hands, and said:--

"Welcome! these eyes could see no better sight.
What news? but sit down first, and eat and drink."

But Gudurz stood in the tent-door, and said:--
"Not now! a time will come to eat and drink,
But not to-day; to-day has other needs.
The armies are drawn out, and stand at gaze;
For from the Tartars is a challenge brought
To pick a champion from the Persian lords
To fight their champion--and thou know'st his name--
Sohrab men call him, but his birth is hid.
O Rustum, like thy might is this young man's!
He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart;
And he is young, and Iran's chiefs are old,
Or else too weak; and all eyes turn to thee.
Come down and help us, Rustum, or we lose!"

He spoke; but Rustum answer'd with, a smile:--
"Go to! if Iran's chiefs are old, then I
Am older; if the young are weak, the King
Errs strangely; for the King, for Kai Khosroo,
Himself is young, and honours younger men,
And lets the aged moulder to their graves.
Rustum he loves no more, but loves the young--
The young may rise at Sohrab's vaunts, not I.
For what care I, though all speak Sohrab's fame?
For would that I myself had such a son,
And not that one slight helpless girl I have--
A son so famed, so brave, to send to war,
And I to tarry with the snow-hair'd Zal,
My father, whom the robber Afghans vex,
And clip his borders short, and drive his herds,
And he has none to guard his weak old age.
There would I go, and hang my armour up,
And with my great name fence that weak old man,
And spend the goodly treasures I have got,
And rest my age, and hear of Sohrab's fame,
And leave to death the hosts of thankless kings,
And with these slaughterous hands draw sword no more."

He spoke, and smiled; and Gudurz made reply:--
"What then, O Rustum, will men say to this,
When Sohrab dares our bravest forth, and seeks
Thee most of all, and thou, whom most he seeks,
Hidest thy face? Take heed lest men should say:
_Like some old miser, Rustum hoards his fame,
And shuns to peril it with younger men."_

And, greatly moved, then Rustum made reply:--
"O Gudurz, wherefore dost thou say such words?
Thou knowest better words than this to say.
What is one more, one less, obscure or famed,
Valiant or craven, young or old, to me?
Are not they mortal, am not I myself?
But who for men of nought would do great deeds?
Come, thou shalt see how Rustum hoards his fame!
But I will fight unknown, and in plain arms;
Let not men say of Rustum, he was match'd
In single fight with any mortal man."

He spoke, and frown'd; and Gudurz turn'd, and ran
Back quickly through the camp in fear and joy--
Fear at his wrath, but joy that Rustum came.
But Rustum strode to his tent-door, and call'd
His followers in, and bade them bring his arms,
And clad himself in steel; the arms he chose
Were plain, and on his shield was no device,
Only his helm was rich, inlaid with gold,
And, from the fluted spine atop, a plume
Of horsehair waved, a scarlet horsehair plume.
So arm'd, he issued forth; and Ruksh, his horse,
Follow'd him like a faithful hound at heel--
Ruksh, whose renown was noised through all the earth,
The horse, whom Rustum on a foray once
Did in Bokhara by the river find
A colt beneath its dam, and drove him home,
And rear'd him; a bright bay, with lofty crest,
Dight with a saddle-cloth of broider'd green
Crusted with gold, and on the ground were work'd
All beasts of chase, all beasts which hunters know.
So follow'd, Rustum left his tents, and cross'd
The camp, and to the Persian host appear'd.
And all the Persians knew him, and with shouts
Hail'd; but the Tartars knew not who he was.
And dear as the wet diver to the eyes
Of his pale wife who waits and weeps on shore,
By sandy Bahrein, in the Persian Gulf,
Plunging all day in the blue waves, at night,
Having made up his tale of precious pearls,
Rejoins her in their hut upon the sands--
So dear to the pale Persians Rustum came.

And Rustum to the Persian front advanced,
And Sohrab arm'd in Haman's tent, and came.
And as afield the reapers cut a swath
Down through the middle of a rich man's corn,
And on each side are squares of standing corn,
And in the midst a stubble, short and bare--
So on each side were squares of men, with spears
Bristling, and in the midst, the open sand.
And Rustum came upon the sand, and cast
His eyes toward the Tartar tents, and saw
Sohrab come forth, and eyed him as he came.

As some rich woman, on a winter's morn,
Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge
Who with numb blacken'd fingers makes her fire--
At cock-crow, on a starlit winter's morn,
When the frost flowers the whiten'd window-panes--
And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts
Of that poor drudge may be; so Rustum eyed
The unknown adventurous youth, who from afar
Came seeking Rustum, and defying forth
All the most valiant chiefs; long he perused
His spirited air, and wonder'd who he was.
For very young he seem'd, tenderly rear'd;
Like some young cypress, tall, and dark, and straight,
Which in a queen's secluded garden throws
Its slight dark shadow on the moonlit turf,
By midnight, to a bubbling fountain's sound--
So slender Sohrab seem'd, so softly rear'd.
And a deep pity enter'd Rustum's soul
As he beheld him coming; and he stood,
And beckon'd to him with his hand, and said:--

"O thou young man, the air of Heaven is soft,
And warm, and pleasant; but the grave is cold!
Heaven's air is better than the cold dead grave.
Behold me! I am vast, and clad in iron,
And tried; and I have stood on many a field
Of blood, and I have fought with many a foe--
Never was that field lost, or that foe saved.
O Sohrab, wherefore wilt thou rush on death?
Be govern'd! quit the Tartar host, and come
To Iran, and be as my son to me,
And fight beneath my banner till I die!
There are no youths in Iran brave as thou."

So he spake, mildly; Sohrab heard his voice,
The mighty voice of Rustum, and he saw
His giant figure planted on the sand,
Sole, like some single tower, which a chief
Hath builded on the waste in former years
Against the robbers; and he saw that head,
Streak'd with its first grey hairs;--hope filled his soul,
And he ran forward and embraced his knees,
And clasp'd his hand within his own, and said:--

"O, by thy father's head! by thine own soul!
Art thou not Rustum? speak! art thou not he?"

But Rustum eyed askance the kneeling youth,
And turn'd away, and spake to his own soul:--

"Ah me, I muse what this young fox may mean!
False, wily, boastful, are these Tartar boys.
For if I now confess this thing he asks,
And hide it not, but say: _Rustum is here_!
He will not yield indeed, nor quit our foes,
But he will find some pretext not to fight,
And praise my fame, and proffer courteous gifts
A belt or sword perhaps, and go his way.
And on a feast-tide, in Afrasiab's hall,
In Samarcand, he will arise and cry:
'I challenged once, when the two armies camp'd
Beside the Oxus, all the Persian lords
To cope with me in single fight; but they
Shrank, only Rustum dared; then he and I
Changed gifts, and went on equal terms away.'
So will he speak, perhaps, while men applaud;
Then were the chiefs of Iran shamed through me."

And then he turn'd, and sternly spake aloud:--
"Rise! wherefore dost thou vainly question thus
Of Rustum? I am here, whom thou hast call'd
By challenge forth; make good thy vaunt, or yield!
Is it with Rustum only thou wouldst fight?
Rash boy, men look on Rustum's face and flee!
For well I know, that did great Rustum stand
Before thy face this day, and were reveal'd,
There would be then no talk of fighting more.
But being what I am, I tell thee this--
Do thou record it in thine inmost soul:
Either thou shalt renounce thy vaunt and yield,
Or else thy bones shall strew this sand, till winds
Bleach them, or Oxus with his summer-floods,
Oxus in summer wash them all away."

He spoke; and Sohrab answer'd, on his feet:--
"Art thou so fierce? Thou wilt not fright me so!
I am no girl to be made pale by words.
Yet this thou hast said well, did Rustum stand
Here on this field, there were no fighting then.
But Rustum is far hence, and we stand here.
Begin! thou art more vast, more dread than I,
And thou art proved, I know, and I am young--
But yet success sways with the breath of Heaven.
And though thou thinkest that thou knowest sure
Thy victory, yet thou canst not surely know.
For we are all, like swimmers in the sea,
Poised on the top of a huge wave of fate,
Which hangs uncertain to which side to fall.
And whether it will heave us up to land,
Or whether it will roll us out to sea,
Back out to sea, to the deep waves of death,
We know not, and no search will make us know;
Only the event will teach us in its hour."

He spoke, and Rustum answer'd not, but hurl'd
His spear; down from the shoulder, down it came,
As on some partridge, in the corn a hawk,
That long has tower'd in the airy clouds,
Drops like a plummet; Sohrab saw it come,
And sprang aside, quick as a flash; the spear
Hiss'd, and went quivering down into the sand,
Which it sent flying wide;--then Sohrab threw
In turn, and full struck Rustum's shield; sharp rang,
The iron plates rang sharp, but turn'd the spear.
And Rustum seized his club, which none but he
Could wield; an unlopp'd trunk it was, and huge,
Still rough--like those which men in treeless plains
To build them boats fish from the flooded rivers,
Hyphasis° or Hydaspes, when, high up
By their dark springs, the wind in winter-time
Hath made in Himalayan forests wrack,
And strewn the channels with torn boughs--so huge
The club which Rustum lifted now, and struck
One stroke; but again Sohrab sprang aside,
Lithe as the glancing snake, and the club came
Thundering to earth, and leapt from Rustum's hand.
And Rustum follow'd his own blow, and fell
To his knees, and with his fingers clutch'd the sand;
And now might Sohrab have unsheathed his sword,
And pierced the mighty Rustum while he lay
Dizzy, and on his knees, and choked with sand;
But he look'd on, and smiled, nor bared his sword,
But courteously drew back, and spoke, and said:--

"Thou strik'st too hard! that club of thine will float
Upon the summer-floods, and not my bones.
But rise, and be not wroth! not wroth am I;
No, when I see thee, wrath forsakes my soul.
Thou say'st, thou art not Rustum; be it so!
Who art thou then, that canst so touch my soul?
Boy as I am, I have seen battles too--
Have waded foremost in their bloody waves,
And heard their hollow roar of dying men;
But never was my heart thus touch'd before.
Are they from Heaven, these softenings of the heart?
O thou old warrior, let us yield to Heaven!
Come, plant we here in earth our angry spears,
And make a truce, and sit upon this sand,
And pledge each other in red wine, like friends,
And thou shalt talk to me of Rustum's deeds.
There are enough foes in the Persian host,
Whom I may meet, and strike, and feel no pang;
Champions enough Afrasiab has, whom thou
Mayst fight; fight _them_, when they confront thy spear!
But oh, let there be peace 'twixt thee and me!"

He ceased, but while he spake, Rustum had risen,
And stood erect, trembling with rage; his club
He left to lie, but had regain'd his spear,
Whose fiery point now in his mail'd right-hand
Blazed bright and baleful, like that autumn-star,
The baleful sign of fevers; dust had soil'd
His stately crest, and dimm'd his glittering arms.
His breast heaved, his lips foam'd, and twice his voice
Was choked with rage; at last these words broke way:--

"Girl! nimble with thy feet, not with thy hands!
Curl'd minion, dancer, coiner of sweet words!
Fight, let me hear thy hateful voice no more!
Thou art not in Afrasiab's gardens now
With Tartar girls, with whom thou art wont to dance;
But on the Oxus-sands, and in the dance
Of battle, and with me, who make no play
Of war; I fight it out, and hand to hand.
Speak not to me of truce, and pledge, and wine!
Remember all thy valour; try thy feints
And cunning! all the pity I had is gone;
Because thou hast shamed me before both the hosts
With thy light skipping tricks, and thy girl's wiles."

He spoke, and Sohrab kindled at his taunts,
And he too drew his sword; at once they rush'd
Together, as two eagles on one prey
Come rushing down together from the clouds,
One from the east, one from the west; their shields
Bash'd with a clang together, and a din.
Rose, such as that the sinewy woodcutters
Make often in the forest's heart at morn,
Of hewing axes, crashing trees--such blows
Rustum and Sohrab on each other hail'd.
And you would say that sun and stars took part
In that unnatural conflict; for a cloud
Grew suddenly in Heaven, and dark'd the sun
Over the fighters' heads; and a wind rose
Under their feet, and moaning swept the plain,
And in a sandy whirlwind wrapp'd the pair.
In gloom they twain were wrapp'd, and they alone;
For both the on-looking hosts on either hand
Stood in broad daylight, and the sky was pure,
And the sun sparkled on the Oxus stream.
But in the gloom they fought, with bloodshot eyes
And labouring breath; first Rustum struck the shield
Which Sohrab held stiff out; the steel-spiked spear
Rent the tough plates, but fail'd to reach the skin,
And Rustum pluck'd it back with angry groan.
Then Sohrab with his sword smote Rustum's helm,
Nor clove its steel quite through; but all the crest
He shore away, and that proud horsehair plume,
Never till now defiled, sank to the dust;
And Rustum bow'd his head; but then the gloom
Grew blacker, thunder rumbled in the air,
And lightnings rent the cloud; and Ruksh, the horse,
Who stood at hand, utter'd a dreadful cry;--
No horse's cry was that, most like the roar
Of some pain'd desert-lion, who all day
Hath trail'd the hunter's javelin in his side,
And comes at night to die upon the sand.
The two hosts heard that cry, and quaked for fear,
And Oxus curdled as it cross'd his stream.
But Sohrab heard, and quail'd not, but rush'd on,
And struck again; and again Rustum bow'd
His head; but this time all the blade, like glass,
Sprang in a thousand shivers on the helm,
And in the hand the hilt remain'd alone.
Then Rustum raised his head; his dreadful eyes
Glared, and he shook on high his menacing spear,
And shouted: _Rustum_!--Sohrab heard that shout,
And shrank amazed; back he recoil'd one step,
And scann'd with blinking eyes the advancing form;
And then he stood bewilder'd; and he dropp'd
His covering shield, and the spear pierced his side.
He reel'd, and staggering back, sank to the ground;
And then the gloom dispersed, and the wind fell,
And the bright sun broke forth, and melted all
The cloud; and the two armies saw the pair--
Saw Rustum standing, safe upon his feet,
And Sohrab, wounded, on the bloody sand.

Then, with a bitter smile, Rustum began:--
"Sohrab, thou thoughtest in thy mind to kill
A Persian lord this day, and strip his corpse,
And bear thy trophies to Afrasiab's tent.
Or else that the great Rustum would come down
Himself to fight, and that thy wiles would move
His heart to take a gift, and let thee go.
And then all the Tartar host would praise
Thy courage or thy craft, and spread thy fame,
To glad° thy father in his weak old age.
Fool, thou art slain, and by an unknown man!
Dearer to the red jackals shalt thou be
Than to thy friends, and to thy father old."

And, with a fearless mien, Sohrab replied:--
"Unknown thou art; yet thy fierce vaunt is vain
Thou dost not slay me, proud and boastful man!
No! Rustum slays me, and this filial heart.
For were I match'd with ten such men as thee,
And I were that which till to-day I was,
They should be lying here, I standing there
But that belovéd name unnerved my arm--
That name, and something, I confess, in thee,
Which troubles all my heart, and made my shield
Fall; and thy spear transfix'd an unarm'd foe.
And now thou boastest, and insult'st my fate.
But hear thou this, fierce man, tremble to hear
The mighty Rustum shall avenge my death!
My father, whom I seek through all the world,
He shall avenge my death, and punish thee!"

As when some hunter in the spring hath found
A breeding eagle sitting on her nest,
Upon the craggy isle of a hill-lake,
And pierced her with an arrow as she rose,
And follow'd her to find her where she fell
Far off;--anon her mate comes winging back
From hunting, and a great way off descries
His huddling young left sole; at that, he checks
His pinion, and with short uneasy sweeps
Circles above his eyry, with loud screams
Chiding his mate back to her nest; but she
Lies dying, with the arrow in her side,
In some far stony gorge out of his ken,
A heap of fluttering feathers--never more
Shall the lake glass her, flying over it;
Never the black and dripping precipices
Echo her stormy scream as she sails by--
As that poor bird flies home, nor knows his loss,
So Rustum knew not his own loss, but stood
Over his dying son, and knew him not.

But, with a cold incredulous voice, he said:--
"What prate is this of fathers and revenge?
The mighty Rustum never had a son."

And, with a failing voice, Sohrab replied:--
"Ah yes, he had! and that lost son am I.
Surely the news will one day reach his ear,
Reach Rustum, where he sits, and tarries long,
Somewhere, I know not where, but far from here;
And pierce him like a stab, and make him leap
To arms, and cry for vengeance upon thee.
Fierce man, bethink thee, for an only son!
What will that grief, what will that vengeance be?
Oh, could I live, till I that grief had seen!
Yet him I pity not so much, but her,
My mother, who in Ader-baijan dwells
With that old king, her father, who grows grey
With age, and rules over the valiant Koords.
Her most I pity, who no more will see
Sohrab returning from the Tartar camp,
With spoils and honour, when the war is done.
But a dark rumour will be bruited up,
From tribe to tribe, until it reach her ear;
And then will that defenceless woman learn
That Sohrab will rejoice her sight no more,
But that in battle with a nameless foe,
By the far-distant Oxus, he is slain."

He spoke; and as he ceased, he wept aloud,
Thinking of her he left, and his own death.
He spoke; but Rustum listen'd, plunged in thought.
Nor did he yet believe it was his son
Who spoke, although he call'd back names he knew;
For he had had sure tidings that the babe,
Which was in Ader-baijan born to him,
Had been a puny girl, no boy at all--
So that sad mother sent him word, for fear
Rustum should seek the boy, to train in arms--
And so he deem'd that either Sohrab took,
By a false boast, the style of Rustum's son;
Or that men gave it him, to swell his fame.
So deem'd he; yet he listen'd, plunged in thought
And his soul set to grief, as the vast tide
Of the bright rocking Ocean sets to shore
At the full moon; tears gather'd in his eyes;
For he remember'd his own early youth,
And all its bounding rapture; as, at dawn,
The shepherd from his mountain-lodge descries
A far, bright city, smitten by the sun,
Through many rolling clouds--so Rustum saw
His youth; saw Sohrab's mother, in her bloom;
And that old king, her father, who loved well
His wandering guest, and gave him his fair child
With joy; and all the pleasant life they led,
They three, in that long-distant summer-time--
The castle, and the dewy woods, and hunt
And hound, and morn on those delightful hills
In Ader-baijan. And he saw that Youth,
Of age and looks to be his own dear son,
Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand;
Like some rich hyacinth which by the scythe
Of an unskilful gardener has been cut,
Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed,
And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom,
On the mown, dying grass--so Sohrab lay,
Lovely in death, upon the common sand.
And Rustum gazed on him with grief, and said:--

"O Sohrab, thou indeed art such a son
Whom Rustum, wert thou his, might well have loved.
Yet here thou errest, Sohrab, or else men
Have told thee false--thou art not Rustum's son.
For Rustum had no son; one child he had--
But one--a girl; who with her mother now
Plies some light female task, nor dreams of us--
Of us she dreams not, nor of wounds, nor war."

But Sohrab answer'd him in wrath; for now
The anguish of the deep-fix'd spear grew fierce,
And he desired to draw forth the steel,
And let the blood flow free, and so to die--
But first he would convince his stubborn foe;
And, rising sternly on one arm, he said:--

"Man, who art thou who dost deny my words?
Truth sits upon the lips of dying men,
And falsehood, while I lived, was far from mine.
I tell thee, prick'd upon this arm I bear
That seal which Rustum to my mother gave,
That she might prick it on the babe she bore."

He spoke; and all the blood left Rustum's cheeks,
And his knees totter'd, and he smote his hand
Against his breast, his heavy mailed hand,
That the hard iron corslet clank'd aloud;
And to his heart he press'd the other hand,
And in a hollow voice he spake, and said:--

"Sohrab, that were a proof which could not lie!
If thou show this, then art thou Rustum's son."

Then, with weak hasty fingers, Sohrab loosed
His belt, and near the shoulder bared his arm,
And show'd a sign in faint vermilion points
Prick'd; as a cunning workman, in Pekin,
Pricks with vermilion some clear porcelain vase,
An emperor's gift--at early morn he paints,
And all day long, and, when night comes, the lamp
Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands--
So delicately prick'd the sign appear'd
On Sohrab's arm, the sign of Rustum's seal.
It was that griffin, which of old rear'd Zal,
Rustum's great father, whom they left to die,
A helpless babe, among the mountain-rocks;
Him that kind creature found, and rear'd, and loved--
Then Rustum took it for his glorious sign.
And Sohrab bared that image on his arm,
And himself scann'd it long with mournful eyes,
And then he touch'd it with his hand and said:--

"How say'st thou? Is that sign the proper sign
Of Rustum's son, or of some other man's?"

He spoke; but Rustum gazed, and gazed, and stood
Speechless; and then he utter'd one sharp cry:
_O boy_--_thy father!_--and his voice choked there.
And then a dark cloud pass'd before his eyes,
And his head swam, and he sank down to earth.
But Sohrab crawl'd to where he lay, and cast
His arms about his neck, and kiss'd his lips,
And with fond faltering fingers stroked his cheeks,
Trying to call him back to life; and life
Came back to Rustum, and he oped his eyes,
And they stood wide with horror; and he seized
In both his hands the dust which lay around,
And threw it on his head, and smirch'd his hair,--
His hair, and face, and beard, and glittering arms;
And strong convulsive groanings shook his breast,
And his sobs choked him; and he clutch'd his sword,
To draw it, and for ever let life out.
But Sohrab saw his thought, and held his hands,
And with a soothing voice he spake, and said:--

"Father, forbear! for I but meet to-day
The doom which at my birth was written down
In Heaven, and thou art Heaven's unconscious hand.
Surely my heart cried out that it was thou,
When first I saw thee; and thy heart spoke too,
I know it! but fate trod those promptings down
Under its iron heel; fate, fate engaged
The strife, and hurl'd me on my father's spear.
But let us speak no more of this! I find
My father; let me feel that I have found!
Come, sit beside me on this sand, and take
My head betwixt thy hands, and kiss my cheeks,
And wash them with thy tears, and say: _My son!_
Quick! quick! for number'd are my sands of life,
And swift; for like the lightning to this field
I came, and like the wind I go away--
Sudden, and swift, and like a passing wind.
But it was writ in Heaven that this should be."

So said he, and his voice released the heart
Of Rustum, and his tears brake forth; he cast
His arms round his son's neck, and wept aloud,
And kiss'd him. And awe fell on both the hosts,
When they saw Rustum's grief; and Ruksh, the horse,
With his head bowing to the ground and mane
Sweeping the dust, came near, and in mute woe
First to the one then to the other moved
His head, as if inquiring what their grief
Might mean; and from his dark, compassionate eyes,
The big warm tears roll'd down, and caked the sand.
But Rustum chid him with stern voice, and said:--

"Ruksh, now thou grievest; but, O Ruksh, thy feet
Should first have rotted on their nimble joints,
Or ere they brought thy master to this field!"

But Sohrab look'd upon the horse and said:--
"Is this, then, Ruksh? How often, in past days,
My mother told me of thee, thou brave steed,
My terrible father's terrible horse! and said,
That I should one day find thy lord and thee.
Come, let me lay my hand upon thy mane!
O Ruksh, thou art more fortunate than I;
For thou hast gone where I shall never go,
And snuff'd the breezes of my father's home.
And thou hast trod the sands of Seistan,
And seen the River of Helmund, and the Lake
Of Zirrah; and the aged Zal himself
Has often stroked thy neck, and given thee food,
Corn in a golden platter soak'd with wine,
And said: _O Ruksh! bear Rustum well!_--but I
Have never known my grandsire's furrow'd face,
Nor seen his lofty house in Seistan,
Nor slaked my thirst at the clear Helmund stream;
But lodged among my father's foes, and seen
Afrasiab's cities only, Samarcand,
Bokhara, and lone Khiva in the waste,
And the black Toorkmun tents; and only drunk
The desert rivers, Moorghab and Tejend,
Kohik, and where the Kalmuks feed their sheep,
The northern Sir; and this great Oxus stream,
The yellow Oxus, by whose brink I die."

Then, with a heavy groan, Rustum bewail'd:--
"Oh, that its waves were flowing over me!
Oh, that I saw its grains of yellow silt
Roll tumbling in the current o'er my head!"

But, with a grave mild voice, Sohrab replied:--
"Desire not that, my father! thou must live.
For some are born to do great deeds, and live,
As some are born to be obscured, and die.
Do thou the deeds I die too young to do,
And reap a second glory in thine age;
Thou art my father, and thy gain is mine.
But come! thou seest this great host of men
Which follow me; I pray thee, slay not these!
Let me entreat for them; what have they done?
They follow'd me, my hope, my fame, my star.
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace.
But me thou must bear hence, not send with them,
But carry me with thee to Seistan,
And place me on a bed, and mourn for me,
Thou, and the snow-hair'd Zal, and all thy friends.
And thou must lay me in that lovely earth,
And heap a stately mound above my bones,
And plant a far-seen pillar over all.
That so the passing horseman on the waste
May see my tomb a great way off, and cry:
_Sohrab, the mighty Rustum's son, lies there,
Whom his great father did in ignorance kill!_
And I be not forgotten in my grave."

And, with a mournful voice, Rustum replied:--
"Fear not! as thou hast said, Sohrab, my son,
So shall it be; for I will burn my tents,
And quit the host, and bear thee hence with me,
And carry thee away to Seistan,
And place thee on a bed, and mourn for thee,
With the snow-headed Zal, and all my friends.
And I will lay thee in that lovely earth,
And heap a stately mound above thy bones,
And plant a far-seen pillar over all,
And men shall not forget thee in thy grave.
And I will spare thy host; yea, let them go!
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace!
What should I do with slaying any more?
For would that all that I have ever slain
Might be once more alive; my bitterest foes,
And they who were call'd champions in their time,
And through whose death I won that fame I have--
And I were nothing but a common man,
A poor, mean soldier, and without renown,
So thou mightest live too, my son, my son!
Or rather would that I, even I myself,
Might now be lying on this bloody sand,
Near death, and by an ignorant stroke of thine,
Not thou of mine! and I might die, not thou;
And I, not thou, be borne to Seistan;
And Zal might weep above my grave, not thine;
And say: _O son, I weep thee not too sore,
For willingly, I know, thou met'st thine end!_
But now in blood and battles was my youth,
And full of blood and battles is my age,
And I shall never end this life of blood."

Then, at the point of death, Sohrab replied:--
"A life of blood indeed, thou dreadful man!
But thou shalt yet have peace; only not now,
Not yet! but thou shalt have it on that day,
When thou shalt sail in a high-masted ship,
Thou and the other peers of Kai Khosroo,
Returning home over the salt blue sea,
From laying thy dear master in his grave."

And Rustum gazed in Sohrab's face, and said:--
"Soon be that day, my son, and deep that sea!
Till then, if fate so wills, let me endure."

He spoke; and Sohrab smiled on him, and took
The spear, and drew it from his side, and eased
His wound's imperious anguish; but the blood
Came welling from the open gash, and life
Flow'd with the stream;--all down his cold white side
The crimson torrent ran, dim now and soil'd,
Like the soil'd tissue of white violets
Left, freshly gather'd, on their native bank,
By children whom their nurses call with haste.
Indoors from the sun's eye; his head droop'd low,
His limbs grew slack; motionless, white, he lay--
White, with eyes closed; only when heavy gasps,
Deep heavy gasps quivering through all his frame,
Convulsed him back to life, he open'd them,
And fix'd them feebly on his father's face;
Till now all strength was ebb'd, and from his limbs
Unwillingly the spirit fled away,
Regretting the warm mansion which it left,
And youth, and bloom, and this delightful world.

So, on the bloody sand, Sohrab lay dead;
And the great Rustum drew his horseman's cloak
Down o'er his face, and sate by his dead son.
As those black granite pillars, once high-rear'd
By Jemshid in Persepolis, to bear
His house, now 'mid their broken flights of steps
Lie prone, enormous, down the mountain side--
So in the sand lay Rustum by his son.

And night came down over the solemn waste,
And the two gazing hosts, and that sole pair,
And darken'd all; and a cold fog, with night,
Crept from the Oxus. Soon a hum arose,
As of a great assembly loosed, and fires
Began to twinkle through the fog; for now
Both armies moved to camp, and took their meal;
The Persians took it on the open sands
Southward, the Tartars by the river marge;
And Rustum and his son were left alone.

But the majestic river floated on,
Out of the mist and hum of that low land,
Into the frosty starlight, and there moved,
Rejoicing, through the hush'd Chorasmian waste,
Under the solitary moon;--he flow'd
Right for the polar star, past Orgunjè,
Brimming, and bright, and large; then sands begin
To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
And split his currents; that for many a league
The shorn and parcell'd Oxus strains along
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles--
Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had
In his high mountain-cradle in Pamere,
A foil'd circuitous wanderer--till at last
The long'd-for dash of waves is heard, and wide
His luminous home° of waters opens, bright
And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars
Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Seventh Book

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

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

'A few months, so. My mistress, young and light,
Was easy with me, less for kindness than
Because she led, herself, an easy time
Betwixt her lover and her looking-glass,
Scarce knowing which way she was praised the most.
She felt so pretty and so pleased all day
She could not take the trouble to be cross,
But sometimes, as I stooped to tie her shoe,
Would tap me softly with her slender foot
Still restless with the last night's dancing in't,
And say 'Fie, pale-face! are you English girls
'All grave and silent? mass-book still, and Lent?
'And first-communion colours on your cheeks,
'Worn past the time for't? little fool, be gay!'
At which she vanished, like a fairy, through
A gap of silver laughter.
'Came an hour
When all went otherwise. She did not speak,
But clenched her brows, and clipped me with her eyes
As if a viper with a pair of tongs,
Too far for any touch, yet near enough
To view the writhing creature,–then at last,
'Stand still there, in the holy Virgin's name,
'Thou Marian; thou'rt no reputable girl,
'Although sufficient dull for twenty saints!
'I think thou mock'st me and my house,' she said;
'Confess thou'lt be a mother in a month,
'Thou mask of saintship.'
'Could I answer her?
The light broke in so. It meant that then, that?
I had not thought of that, in all my thoughts,
Through all the cold, dumb aching of my brow,
Through all the heaving of impatient life
Which threw me on death at intervals, through all
The upbreak of the fountains of my heart
The rains had swelled too large: it could mean that?
Did God make mothers out of victims, then,
And set such pure amens to hideous deeds?
Why not? He overblows an ugly grave
With violets which blossom in the spring.
And I could be a mother in a month!
I hope it was not wicked to be glad.
I lifted up my voice and wept, and laughed,
To heaven, not her, until I tore my throat.
'Confess, confess!' what was there to confess,
Except man's cruelty, except my wrong?
Except this anguish, or this ecstasy?
This shame, or glory? The light woman there
Was small to take it in: an acorn-cup
Would take the sea in sooner.
Good,' she cried;
'Unmarried and a mother, and she laughs!
'These unchaste girls are always impudent.
'Get out, intriguer! leave my house, and trot:
'I wonder you should look me in the face,
'With such a filthy secret.'
'Then I rolled
My scanty bundle up, and went my way,
Washed white with weeping, shuddering head and foot
With blind hysteric passion, staggering forth
Beyond those doors, 'Twas natural, of course,
She should not ask me where I meant to sleep;
I might sleep well beneath the heavy Seine,
Like others of my sort; the bed was laid
For us. By any woman, womanly,
Had thought of him who should be in a month,
The sinless babe that should be in a month,
And if by chance he might be warmer housed
Than underneath such dreary, dripping eaves.'

I broke on Marian there. 'Yet she herself,
A wife, I think, had scandals of her own,
A lover, not her husband.'
'Ay,' she said
'But gold and meal are measured otherwise;
I learnt so much at school,' said Marian Erle.

'O crooked world,' I cried, 'ridiculous
If not so lamentable! It's the way
With these light women of a thrifty vice,
My Marian,–always hard upon the rent
In any sister's virtue! while they keep
Their chastity so darned with perfidy,
That, though a rag itself, it looks as well
Across a street, in balcony or coach,
As any stronger stuff might. For my part,
I'd rather take the wind-side of the stews
Than touch such women with my finger-end
They top the poor street-walker by their lie,
And look the better for being so much worse
The devil's most devilish when respectable.
But you, dear, and your story.'
'All the rest
Is here,' she said, and sighed upon the child.
'I found a mistress-sempstress who was kind
And let me sew in peace among her girls;
And what was better than to draw the threads
All day and half the night, for him, and him?
And so I lived for him, and so he lives,
And so I know, by this time, God lives too.'
She smiled beyond the sun, and ended so,
And all my soul rose up to take her part
Against the world's successes, virtues, fames.
'Come with me, sweetest sister,' I returned,
'And sit within my house, and do me good
From henceforth, thou and thine! ye are my own
From henceforth. I am lonely in the world,
And thou art lonely, and the child is half
An orphan. Come, and, henceforth, thou and I
Being still together, will not miss a friend,
Nor he a father, since two mothers shall
Make that up to him. I am journeying south,
And, in my Tuscan home I'll find a niche,
And set thee there, my saint, the child and thee,
And burn the lights of love before thy face,
And ever at thy sweet look cross myself
From mixing with the world's prosperities;
That so, in gravity and holy calm,
We too may live on toward the truer life.'

She looked me in the face and answered not,
Nor signed she was unworthy, nor gave thanks,
But took the sleeping child and held it out
To meet my kiss, as if requiting me
And trusting me at once. And thus, at once,
I carried him and her to where I lived;
She's there now, in the little room, asleep,
I hear the soft child-breathing through the door;
And all three of us, at to-morrow's break,
Pass onward, homeward, to our Italy.
Oh, Romney Leigh, I have your debts to pay,
And I'll be just and pay them.
But yourself!
To pay your debts is scarcely difficult;
To buy your life is nearly impossible,
Being sold away to Lamia. My head aches;
I cannot see my road along this dark;
Nor can I creep and grope, as fits the dark,
For these foot-catching robes of womanhood:
A man might walk a little . . but I!–He loves
The Lamia-woman,–and I, write to him
What stops his marriage, and destroys his peace,–
Or what, perhaps, shall simply trouble him,
Until she only need to touch his sleeve
With just a finger's tremulous white flame,
Saying, 'Ah,–Aurora Leigh! a pretty tale,
'A very pretty poet! I can guess
'The motive'–then, to catch his eyes in hers,
And vow she does not wonder,–and they two
To break in laughter, as the sea along
A melancholy coast, and float up higher,
In such a laugh, their fatal weeds of love!
Ay, fatal, ay. And who shall answer me,
Fate has not hurried tides; and if to-night
My letter would not be a night too late,–
An arrow shot into a man that's dead,
To prove a vain intention? Would I show
The new wife vile, to make the husband mad?
No, Lamia! shut the shutters, bar the doors
From every glimmer on they serpent-skin!
I will not let thy hideous secret out
To agonise the man I love–I mean
The friend I love . . as friends love.
It is strange,
To-day while Marian told her story, like
To absorb most listeners, how I listened chief
To a voice not hers, nor yet that enemy's,
Nor God's in wrath, . . but one that mixed with mine
Long years ago, among the garden-trees,
And said to me, to me too, 'Be my wife,
Aurora!' It is strange, with what a swell
Of yearning passion, as a snow of ghosts
Might beat against the impervious doors of heaven,
I thought, 'Now, if I had been a woman, such
As God made women, to save men by love,–
By just my love I might have saved this man,
And made a nobler poem for the world
Than all I have failed in.' But I failed besides
In this; and now he's lost! through me alone!
And, by my only fault, his empty house
Sucks in, at this same hour, a wind from hell
To keep his hearth cold, make his casements creak
For ever to the tune of plague and sin–
O Romney, O my Romney, O my friend!
My cousin and friend! my helper, when I would,
My love that might be! mine!
Why, how one weeps
When one's too weary! Were a witness by,
He'd say some folly . . that I loved the man,
Who knows? . . and make me laugh again for scorn.
At strongest, women are as weak in flesh,
As men, at weakest, vilest, are in soul:
So, hard for women to keep pace with men!
As well give up at once, sit down at once.
And weep as I do. Tears, tears! why, we weep?
'Tis worth enquiry?–That we've shamed a life,
Or lost a love, or missed a world, perhaps?
By no means. Simply, that we've walked too far,
Or talked too much, or felt the wind i' the east,–
And so we weep, as if both body and soul
Broke up in water–this way.
Poor mixed rags
Forsooth we're made of, like those other dolls
That lean with pretty faces into fairs.
It seems as if I had a man in me,
Despising such a woman.
Yet indeed.
To see a wrong or suffering moves us all
To undo it, though we should undo ourselves;
Ay, all the more, that we undo ourselves;
That's womanly, past doubt, and not ill-moved.
A natural movement, therefore, on my part,
To fill the chair up of my cousin's wife,
And save him from a devil's company!
We're all so,–made so–'tis our woman's trade
To suffer torment for another's ease.
The world's male chivalry has perished out,
But women are knights-errant to the last;
And, if Cervantes had been greater still,
He had made his Don a Donna.
So it clears,
And so we rain our skies blue.
Put away
This weakness. If, as I have just now said,
A man's within me–let him act himself,
Ignoring the poor conscious trouble of blood
That's called the woman merely. I will write
Plain words to England,–if too late, too late,–
If ill-accounted, then accounted ill;
We'll trust the heavens with something.

'Dear Lord Howe,
You'll find a story on another leaf
That's Marian Erle's,–what noble friend of yours
She trusted once, through what flagitious means
To what disastrous ends;–the story's true.
I found her wandering on the Paris quays,
A babe upon her breast,–unnatural
Unseasonable outcast on such snows
Unthawed to this time. I will tax in this
Your friendship, friend,–if that convicted She
Be not his wife yet, to denounce the facts
To himself,–but, otherwise, to let them pass
On tip-toe like escaping murderers,
And tell my cousin, merely–Marian lives,
Is found, and finds her home with such a friend,
Myself, Aurora. Which good news, 'She's found,'
Will help to make him merry in his love:
I sent it, tell him, for my marriage gift,
As good as orange-water for the nerves,
Or perfumed gloves for headaches,–though aware
That he, except of love, is scarcely sick;
I mean the new love this time, . . since last year.
Such quick forgetting on the part of men!
Is any shrewder trick upon the cards
To enrich them? pray instruct me how it's done.
First, clubs,–and while you look at clubs, it's spades;
That's prodigy. The lightning strikes a man,
And when we think to find him dead and charred . .
Why, there he is on a sudden, playing pipes
Beneath the splintered elm-tree! Crime and shame
And all their hoggery trample your smooth world,
Nor leave more foot-marks than Apollo's kine,
Whose hoofs were muffled by the thieving god
In tamarisk-leaves and myrtle. I'm so sad,
So weary and sad to-night, I'm somewhat sour,–
Forgive me. To be blue and shrew at once,
Exceeds all toleration except yours;
But yours, I know, is infinite. Farewell.
To-morrow we take train for Italy.
Speak gently of me to your gracious wife,
As one, however far, shall yet be near
In loving wishes to your house.'
I sign.
And now I'll loose my heart upon a page,
This–
'Lady Waldemar, I'm very glad
I never liked you; which you knew so well,
You spared me, in your turn, to like me much.
Your liking surely had done worse for me
Than has your loathing, though the last appears
Sufficiently unscrupulous to hurt,
And not afraid of judgment. Now, there's space
Between our faces,–I stand off, as if
I judged a stranger's portrait and pronounced
Indifferently the type was good or bad:
What matter to me that the lines are false,
I ask you? Did I ever ink my lips
By drawing your name through them as a friend's.
Or touch your hands as lovers do? thank God
I never did: and, since you're proved so vile,
Ay, vile, I say,–we'll show it presently,–
I'm not obliged to nurse my friend in you,
Or wash out my own blots, in counting yours,
Or even excuse myself to honest souls
Who seek to touch my lip or clasp my palm,–
'Alas, but Lady Waldemar came first!'
'Tis true, by this time, you may near me so
That you're my cousin's wife. You've gambled
As Lucifer, and won the morning-star
In that case,–and the noble house of Leigh
Must henceforth with its good roof shelter you:
I cannot speak and burn you up between
Those rafters, I who am born a Leigh,–nor speak
And pierce your breast through Romney's, I who live
His friend and cousin!–so, you are safe. You two
Must grow together like the tares and wheat
Till God's great fire.–But make the best of time.

'And hide this letter! let it speak no more
Than I shall, how you tricked poor Marian Erle,
And set her own love digging her own grave
Within her green hope's pretty garden-ground;
Ay, sent her forth with some of your sort
To a wicked house in France,–from which she fled
With curses in her eyes and ears and throat,
Her whole soul choked with curses,–mad, in short,
And madly scouring up and down for weeks
The foreign hedgeless country, lone and lost,–
So innocent, male-fiends might slink within
Remote hell-corners, seeing her so defiled!

'But you,–you are a woman and more bold.
To do you justice, you'd not shrink to face . .
We'll say, the unfledged life in the other room,
Which, treading down God's corn, you trod in sight
Of all the dogs, in reach of all the guns,–
Ay, Marian's babe, her poor unfathered child,
Her yearling babe!–you'd face him when he wakes
And opens up his wonderful blue eyes:
You'd meet them and not wink perhaps, nor fear
God's triumph in them and supreme revenge,
So, righting His creation's balance-scale
(You pulled as low as Tophet) to the top
Of most celestial innocence! For me
Who am not as bold, I own those infant eyes
Have set me praying.
'While they look at heaven,
No need of protestation in my words
Against the place you've made them! let them look!
They'll do your business with the heavens, be sure:
I spare you common curses.
'Ponder this.
If haply you're the wife of Romney Leigh,
(For which inheritance beyond your birth
You sold that poisonous porridge called your soul)
I charge you, be his faithful and true wife!
Keep warm his hearth and clean his board, and, when
He speaks, be quick with your obedience;
Still grind your paltry wants and low desires
To dust beneath his heel; though, even thus,
The ground must hurt him,–it was writ of old,
'Ye shall not yoke together ox and ass,'
The nobler and ignobler. Ay, but you
Shall do your part as well as such ill things
Can do aught good. You shall not vex him,–mark,
You shall not vex him, . .jar him when he's sad,
Or cross him when he's eager. Understand
To trick him with apparent sympathies,
Nor let him see thee in the face too near
And unlearn thy sweet seeming. Pay the price
Of lies, by being constrained to lie on still;
'Tis easy for they sort: a million more
Will scarcely damn thee deeper.
'Doing which,
You are very safe from Marian and myself;
We'll breathe as softly as the infant here,
And stir no dangerous embers. Fail a point,
And show our Romney wounded, ill-content,
Tormented in his home, . . we open a mouth,
And such a noise will follow, the last trump's
Will scarcely seem more dreadful, even to you;
You'll have no pipers after: Romney will
(I know him) push you forth as none of his,
All other men declaring it well done;
While women, even the worst, your like, will draw
Their skirts back, not to brush you in the street;
And so I warn you. I'm . . . Aurora Leigh.'

The letter written, I felt satisfied.
The ashes, smouldering in me, were thrown out
By handfuls from me: I had writ my heart
And wept my tears, and now was cool and calm;
And, going straightway to the neighbouring room,
I lifted up the curtains of the bed
Where Marian Erle, the babe upon her arm,
Both faces leaned together like a pair
Of folded innocences, self-complete,
Each smiling from the other, smiled and slept.
There seemed no sin, no shame, no wrath, no grief.
I felt, she too had spoken words that night,
But softer certainly, and said to God,–
Who laughs in heaven perhaps, that such as I
Should make ado for such as she.–'Defiled'
I wrote? 'defiled' I thought her? Stoop,
Stoop lower, Aurora! get the angels' leave
To creep in somewhere, humbly, on your knees,
Within this round of sequestration white
In which they have wrapt earth's foundlings, heaven's elect!

The next day, we took train to Italy
And fled on southward in the roar of steam.
The marriage-bells of Romney must be loud,
To sound so clear through all! I was not well;
And truly, though the truth is like a jest,
I could not choose but fancy, half the way,
I stood alone i' the belfry, fifty bells
Of naked iron, mad with merriment,
(As one who laughs and cannot stop himself)
All clanking at me, in me, over me,
Until I shrieked a shriek I could not hear,
And swooned with noise,–but still, along my swoon,
Was 'ware the baffled changes backward rang,
Prepared, at each emerging sense, to beat
And crash it out with clangour. I was weak;
I struggled for the posture of my soul
In upright consciousness of place and time,
But evermore, 'twixt waking and asleep,
Slipped somehow, staggered, caught at Marian's eyes
A moment, (it is very good for strength
To know that some one needs you to be strong)
And so recovered what I called myself,
For that time.
I just knew it when we swept
Above the old roofs of Dijon. Lyons dropped
A spark into the night, half trodden out
Unseen. But presently the winding Rhone
Washed out the moonlight large along his banks,
Which strained their yielding curves out clear and clean
To hold it,–shadow of town and castle just blurred
Upon the hurrying river. Such an air
Blew thence upon the forehead,–half an air
And half a water,–that I leaned and looked;
Then, turning back on Marian, smiled to mark
That she looked only on her child, who slept,
His face towards the moon too.
So we passed
The liberal open country and the close,
And shot through tunnels, like a lightning-wedge
By great Thor-hammers driven through the rock,
Which, quivering through the intestine blackness, splits,
And lets it in at once: the train swept in
Athrob with effort, trembling with resolve,
The fierce denouncing whistle wailing on
And dying off smothered in the shuddering dark,
While we, self-awed, drew troubled breath, oppressed
As other Titans, underneath the pile
And nightmare of the mountains. Out, at last,
To catch the dawn afloat upon the land!
–Hills, slung forth broadly and gauntly everywhere,
Not crampt in their foundations, pushing wide
Rich outspreads of the vineyards and the corn
(As if they entertained i' the name of France)
While, down their straining sides, streamed manifest
A soil as red as Charlemagne's knightly blood,
To consecrate the verdure. Some one said,
'Marseilles!' And lo, the city of Marseilles,
With all her ships behind her, and beyond,
The scimitar of ever-shining sea,
For right-hand use, bared blue against the sky!
That night we spent between the purple heaven
And purple water: I think Marian slept;
But I, as a dog a-watch for his master's foot,
Who cannot sleep or eat before he hears,
I sate upon the deck and watched all night,
And listened through the stars for Italy.
Those marriage-bells I spoke of, sounded far,
As some child's go-cart in the street beneath
To a dying man who will not pass the day,
And knows it, holding by a hand he loves.
I, too, sate quiet, satisfied with death,
Sate silent: I could hear my own soul speak,
And had my friend,–for Nature comes sometimes
And says, 'I am ambassador for God.'
I felt the wind soft from the land of souls;
The old miraculous mountains heaved in sight,
One straining past another along the shore,
The way of grand dull Odyssean ghosts
Athirst to drink the cool blue wine of seas
And stare on voyagers. Peak pushing peak
They stood: I watched beyond that Tyrian belt
Of intense sea betwixt them and the ship,
Down all their sides the misty olive-woods
Dissolving in the weak congenial moon,
And still disclosing some brown convent-tower
That seems as if it grew from some brown rock,–
Or many a little lighted village, dropt
Like a fallen star, upon so high a point,
You wonder what can keep it in its place
From sliding headlong with the waterfalls
Which drop and powder all the myrtle-groves
With spray of silver. Thus my Italy
Was stealing on us. Genoa broke with day;
The Doria's long pale palace striking out,
From green hills in advance of the white town,
A marble finger dominant to ships,
Seen glimmering through the uncertain grey of dawn.

But then I did not think, 'my Italy,'
I thought, 'my father!' O my father's house,
Without his presence!–Places are too much
Or else too little, for immortal man;
Too little, when love's May o'ergrows the ground,–
Too much, when that luxuriant wealth of green
Is rustling to our ankles in dead leaves.
'Tis only good to be, or here or there,
Because we had a dream on such a stone,
Or this or that,–but, once being wholly waked,
And come back to the stone without the dream,
We trip upon't,–alas! and hurt ourselves;
Or else it falls on us and grinds us flat,
The heaviest grave-stone on this buying earth.
But while I stood and mused, a quiet touch
Fell light upon my arm, and, turning round,
A pair of moistened eyes convicted mine.
'What, Marian! is the babe astir so soon?'
'He sleeps,' she answered; 'I have crept up thrice,
And seen you sitting, standing, still at watch.
I thought it did you good till now, but now' . . .
'But now,' I said, 'you leave the child alone.'
'And your're alone,' she answered,–and she looked
As if I, too, were something. Sweet the help
Of one we have helped! Thanks, Marian, for that help.

I found a house, at Florence, on the hill
Of Bellosguardo. 'Tis a tower that keeps
A post of double-observation o'er
The valley of Arno (holding as a hand
The outspread city) straight toward Fiesole
And Mount Morello and the setting sun,–
The Vallombrosan mountains to the right,
Which sunrise fills as full as crystal cups
Wine-filled, and red to the brim because it's red.
No sun could die, nor yet be born, unseen
By dwellers at my villa: morn and eve
Were magnified before us in the pure
Illimitable space and pause of sky,
Intense as angels' garments blanched with God,
Less blue than radiant. From the outer wall
Of the garden, dropped the mystic floating grey
Of olive-trees, (with interruptions green
From maize and vine) until 'twas caught and torn
On that abrupt black line of cypresses
Which signed the way to Florence. Beautiful
The city lay along the ample vale,
Cathedral, tower and palace, piazza and street;
The river trailing like a silver cord
Through all, and curling loosely, both before
And after, over the whole stretch of land
Sown whitely up and down its opposite slopes,
With farms and villas.
Many weeks had passed,
No word was granted.–Last, a letter came
From Vincent Carrington:–'My Dear Miss Leigh,
You've been as silent as a poet should,
When any other man is sure to speak.
If sick, if vexed, if dumb, a silver-piece
Will split a man's tongue,–straight he speaks and says,
'Received that cheque.' But you! . . I send you funds
To Paris, and you make no sign at all.
Remember I'm responsible and wait
A sign of you, Miss Leigh.
'Meantime your book
Is eloquent as if you were not dumb;
And common critics, ordinarily deaf
To such fine meanings, and, like deaf men, loth
To seem deaf, answering chance-wise, yes or no,
'It must be,' or 'it must not,' (most pronounced
When least convinced) pronounce for once aright:
You'd think they really heard,–and so they do . .
The burr of three or four who really hear
And praise your book aright: Fame's smallest trump
Is a great ear-trumpet for the deaf as posts,
No other being effective. Fear not, friend;
We think, here, you have written a good book,
And you, a woman! It was in you–yes,
I felt 'twas in you: yet I doubted half
If that od-force of German Reichenbach
Which still from female finger-tips burns blue,
Could strike out, as our masculine white heats,
To quicken a man. Forgive me. All my heart
Is quick with yours, since, just a fortnight since,
I read your book and loved it.
'Will you love
My wife, too? Here's my secret, I might keep
A month more from you! but I yield it up
Because I know you'll write the sooner for't,–
Most women (of your height even) counting love
Life's only serious business. Who's my wife
That shall be in a month? you ask? nor guess?
Remember what a pair of topaz eyes
You once detected, turned against the wall,
That morning, in my London painting-room;
The face half-sketched, and slurred; the eyes alone!
But you . . you caught them up with yours, and said
'Kate Ward's eyes, surely.'–Now, I own the truth,
I had thrown them there to keep them safe from Jove;
They would so naughtily find out their way
To both the heads of both my Danaës,
Where just it made me mad to look at them.
Such eyes! I could not paint or think of eyes
But those,–and so I flung them into paint
And turned them to the wall's care. Ay, but now
I've let them out, my Kate's! I've painted her,
(I'll change my style, and leave mythologies)
The whole sweet face; it looks upon my soul
Like a face on water, to beget itself,
A half-length portrait, in a hanging cloak
Like one you wore once; 'tis a little frayed;
I pressed, too, for the nude harmonious arm–
But she . . she'd have her way, and have her cloak;
She said she could be like you only so,
And would not miss the fortune. Ah, my friend,
You'll write and say she shall not miss your love
Through meeting mine? in faith, she would not change:
She has your books by heart, more than my words,
And quotes you up against me till I'm pushed
Where, three months since, her eyes were! nay, in fact,
Nought satisfied her but to make me paint
Your last book folded in her dimpled hands,
Instead of my brown palette, as I wished,
(And, grant me, the presentment had been newer)
She'd grant me nothing: I've compounded for
The naming of the wedding-day next month,
And gladly too. 'Tis pretty, to remark
How women can love women of your sort,
And tie their hearts with love-knots to your feet,
Grow insolent about you against men,
And put us down by putting up the lip,
As if a man,–there are such, let us own.
Who write not ill,–remains a man, poor wretch,
While you–! Write far worse than Aurora Leigh,
And there'll be women who believe of you
(Besides my Kate) that if you walked on sand
You would not leave a foot-print.
'Are you put
To wonder by my marriage, like poor Leigh?
'Kate Ward!' he said. 'Kate Ward!' he said anew.
'I thought . . .' he said, and stopped,–'I did not think . . .'
And then he dropped to silence.
'Ah, he's changed
I had not seen him, you're aware, for long,
But went of course. I have not touched on this
Through all this letter,–conscious of your heart,
And writing lightlier for the heavy fact,
As clocks are voluble with lead.
'How weak
To say I'm sorry. Dear Leigh, dearest Leigh!
In those old days of Shropshire,–pardon me,–
When he and you fought many a field of gold
On what you should do, or you should not do,
Make bread of verses, (it just came to that)
I thought you'd one day draw a silken peace
Through a gold ring. I thought so. Foolishly,
The event proved,–for you went more opposite
To each other, month by month, and year by year,
Until this happened. God knows best, we say,
But hoarsely. When the fever took him first,
Just after I had writ to you in France,
They tell me Lady Waldemar mixed drinks
And counted grains, like any salaried nurse,
Excepting that she wept too. Then Lord Howe,
You're right about Lord Howe! Lord Howe's a trump;
And yet, with such in his hand, a man like Leigh
May lose, as he does. There's an end to all,–
Yes, even this letter, through the second sheet
May find you doubtful. Write a word for Kate:
Even now she reads my letters like a wife,
And if she sees her name, I'll see her smile,
And share the luck. So, bless you, friend of two!
I will not ask you what your feeling is
At Florence with my pictures. I can hear
Your heart a-flutter over the snow-hills;
And, just to pace the Pitti with you once,
I'd give a half-hour of to-morrow's walk
With Kate . . I think so. Vincent Carrington.'

The noon was hot; the air scorched like the sun,
And was shut out. The closed persiani threw
Their long-scored shadows on my villa-floor,
And interlined the golden atmosphere
Straight, still,–across the pictures on the wall
The statuette on the console, (of young Love
And Psyche made one marble by a kiss)
The low couch where I leaned, the table near,
The vase of lilies, Marian pulled last night,
(Each green leaf and each white leaf ruled in black
As if for writing some new text of fate)
And the open letter, rested on my knee,–
But there, the lines swerved, trembled, though I sate
Untroubled . . plainly, . . reading it again
And three times. Well, he's married; that is clear.
No wonder that he's married, nor much more
That Vincent's therefore, 'sorry.' Why, of course,
The lady nursed him when he was not well,
Mixed drinks,–unless nepenthe was the drink,
'Twas scarce worth telling. But a man in love
Will see the whole sex in his mistress' hood,
The prettier for its lining of fair rose;
Although he catches back, and says at last,
'I'm sorry.' Sorry. Lady Waldemar
At prettiest, under the said hood, preserved
From such a light as I could hold to her face
To flare its ugly wrinkles out to shame,–
Is scarce a wife for Romney, as friends judge,
Aurora Leigh, or Vincent Carrington,–
That's plain. And if he's 'conscious of my heart' . .
Perhaps it's natural, though the phrase is strong;
(One's apt to use strong phrases, being in love)
And even that stuff of 'fields of gold,' 'gold rings,'
And what he 'thought,' poor Vincent! what he 'thought,'
May never mean enough to ruffle me.
–Why, this room stifles. Better burn than choke;
Best have air, air, although it comes with fire,
Throw open blinds and windows to the noon
And take a blister on my brow instead
Of this dead weight! best, perfectly be stunned
By those insufferable cicale, sick
And hoarse with rapture of the summer-heat,
That sing like poets, till their hearts break, . . sing
Till men say, 'It's too tedious.'
Books succeed,
And lives fail. Do I feel it so, at last?
Kate loves a worn-out cloak for being like mine,
While I live self-despised for being myself,
And yearn toward some one else, who yearns away
From what he is, in his turn. Strain a step
For ever, yet gain no step? Are we such,
We cannot, with our admirations even,
Our tip-toe aspirations, touch a thing
That's higher than we? is all a dismal flat,
And God alone above each,–as the sun
O'er level lagunes, to make them shine and stink,–
Laying stress upon us with immediate flame,
While we respond with our miasmal fog,
And call it mounting higher, because we grow
More highly fatal?
Tush, Aurora Leigh!
You wear your sackcloth looped in Cæsar's way.
And brag your failings as mankind's. Be still.
There is what's higher in this very world,
Than you can live, or catch at. Stand aside,
And look at others–instance little Kate!
She'll make a perfect wife for Carrington.
She always has been looking round the earth
For something good and green to alight upon
And nestle into, with those soft-winged eyes
Subsiding now beneath his manly hand
'Twixt trembling lids of inexpressive joy:
I will not scorn her, after all, too much,
That so much she should love me. A wise man
Can pluck a leaf, and find a lecture in't;
And I, too, . . God has made me,–I've a heart
That's capable of worship, love, and loss;
We say the same of Shakspeare's. I'll be meek,
And learn to reverence, even this poor myself.

The book, too–pass it. 'A good book,' says he,
'And you a woman,' I had laughed at that,
But long since. I'm a woman,–it is true;
Alas, and woe to us, when we feel it most!
Then, least care have we for the crowns and goals,
And compliments on writing our good books.

The book has some truth in it, I believe:
And truth outlives pain, as the soul does life.
I know we talk our Phædons to the end
Through all the dismal faces that we make,
O'er-wrinkled with dishonouring agony
From any mortal drug. I have written truth,
And I a woman; feebly, partially,
Inaptly in presentation, Romney'll add,
Because a woman. For the truth itself,
That's neither man's nor woman's, but just God's;
None else has reason to be proud of truth:
Himself will see it sifted, disenthralled,
And kept upon the height and in the light,
As far as, and no farther, than 'tis truth;
For,–now He has left off calling firmaments
And strata, flowers and creatures, very good,–
He says it still of truth, which is His own.
Truth, so far, in my book;–the truth which draws
Through all things upwards; that a twofold world
Must go to a perfect cosmos. Natural things
And spiritual,–who separates those two
In art, in morals, or the social drift,
Tears up the bond of nature and brings death,
Paints futile pictures, writes unreal verse,
Leads vulgar days, deals ignorantly with men,
Is wrong, in short, at all points. We divide
This apple of life, and cut it through the pips,–
The perfect round which fitted Venus' hand
Has perished utterly as if we ate
Both halves. Without the spiritual, observe,
The natural's impossible;–no form,
No motion! Without sensuous, spiritual
Is inappreciable;–no beauty or power!
And in this twofold sphere the twofold man
(And still the artist is intensely a man)
Holds firmly by the natural, to reach
The spiritual beyond it,–fixes still
The type with mortal vision, to pierce through,
With eyes immortal, to the antetype
Some call the ideal,–better called the real,
And certain to be called so presently,
When things shall have their names. Look long enough
On any peasant's face here, coarse and lined.
You'll catch Antinous somewhere in that clay,
As perfect-featured as he yearns at Rome
From marble pale with beauty; then persist,
And, if your apprehension's competent,
You'll find some fairer angel at his back,
As much exceeding him, as he the boor,
And pushing him with empyreal disdain
For ever out of sight. Ay, Carrington
Is glad of such a creed! an artist must,
Who paints a tree, a leaf, a common stone
With just his hand, and finds it suddenly
A-piece with and conterminous to his soul.
Why else do these things move him, leaf or stone?
The bird's not moved, that pecks at a spring-shoot;
Nor yet the horse, before a quarry, a-graze:
But man, the two-fold creature, apprehends
The two-fold manner, in and outwardly,
And nothing in the world comes single to him.
A mere itself,–cup, column, or candlestick,
All patterns of what shall be in the Mount;
The whole temporal show related royally,
And build up to eterne significance
Through the open arms of God. 'There's nothing great
Nor small,' has said a poet of our day,
(Whose voice will ring beyond the curfew of eve
And not be thrown out by the matin's bell)
And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing's small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And,–glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,–
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

Truth so far, in my book! a truth which draws
From all things upwards. I, Aurora, still
Have felt it hound me through the wastes of life
As Jove did Io: and, until that Hand
Shall overtake me wholly, and, on my head,
Lay down its large, unfluctuating peace,
The feverish gad-fly pricks me up and down
It must be. Art's the witness of what Is
Behind this show. If this world's show were all,
Then imitation would be all in Art;
There, Jove's hand gripes us!–For we stand here, we.
If genuine artists, witnessing for God's
Complete, consummate, undivided work:
That not a natural flower can grow on earth,
Without a flower upon the spiritual side,
Substantial, archetypal, all a-glow
With blossoming causes,–not so far away,
That we, whose spirit-sense is somewhat cleared,
May not catch something of the bloom and breath,–
Too vaguely apprehended, though indeed
Still apprehended, consciously or not,
And still transferred to picture, music, verse,
For thrilling audient and beholding souls
By signs and touches which are known to souls,–
How known, they know not,–why, they cannot find,
So straight call out on genius, say, 'A man
Produced this,'–when much rather they should say,
Tis insight, and he saw this.'
Thus is Art
Self-magnified in magnifying a truth
Which, fully recognized, would change the world
And shift its morals. If a man could feel,
Not one day, in the artist's ecstasy,
But every day, feast, fast, or working-day,
The spiritual significance burn through
The hieroglyphic of material shows,
Henceforward he would paint the globe with wings,
And reverence fish and fowl, the bull, the tree,
And even his very body as a man,–
Which now he counts so vile, that all the towns
Make offal of their daughters for its use
On summer-nights, when God is sad in heaven
To think what goes on in his recreant world
He made quite other; while that moon he made
To shine there, at the first love's covenant,
Shines still, convictive as a marriage-ring
Before adulterous eyes.
How sure it is,
That, if we say a true word, instantly
We feel 'tis God's, not ours, and pass it on
As bread at sacrament, we taste and pass
Nor handle for a moment, as indeed
We dared to set up any claim to such!
And Imy poem;–let my readers talk;
I'm closer to itI can speak as well:
I'll say, with Romney, that the book is weak,
The range uneven, the points of sight obscure,
The music interrupted.
Let us go.
The end of woman (or of man, I think)
Is not a book. Alas, the best of books
Is but a word in Art, which soon grows cramped,
Stiff, dubious-statured with the weight of years,
And drops an accent or digamma down
Some cranny of unfathomable time,
Beyond the critic's reaching. Art itself,
We've called the higher life, still must feel the soul
Live past it. For more's felt than is perceived,
And more's perceived than can be interpreted,
And Love strikes higher with his lambent flame
Than Art can pile the faggots.
Is it so?
When Jove's hand meets us with composing touch,
And when, at last, we are hushed and satisfied,–
Then, Io does not call it truth, but love?
Well, well! my father was an Englishman:
My mother's blood in me is not so strong
That I should bear this stress of Tuscan noon
And keep my wits. The town, there, seems to seethe
In this Medæan boil-pot of the sun,
And all the patient hills are bubbling round
As if a prick would leave them flat. Does heaven
Keep far off, not to set us in a blaze?
Not so,–let drag your fiery fringes, heaven,
And burn us up to quiet! Ah, we know
Too much here, not to know what's best for peace;
We have too much light here, not to want more fire
To purify and end us. We talk, talk,
Conclude upon divine philosophies,
And get the thanks of men for hopeful books;
Whereat we take our own life up, and . . pshaw!
Unless we piece it with another's life,
(A yard of silk to carry out our lawn)
As well suppose my little handkerchief
Would cover Samminiato, church and all,
If out I threw it past the cypresses,
As, in this ragged, narrow life of mine,
Contain my own conclusions.
But at least
We'll shut up the persiani, and sit down,
And when my head's done aching, in the cool,
Write just a word to Kate and Carrington.
May joy be with them! she has chosen well,
And he not ill.
I should be glad, I think,
Except for Romney. Had he married Kate,
I surely, surely, should be very glad.
This Florence sits upon me easily,
With native air and tongue. My graves are calm,
And do not too much hurt me. Marian's good,
Gentle and loving,–lets me hold the child,
Or drags him up the hills to find me flowers
And fill those vases, ere I'm quite awake,–
The grandiose red tulips, which grow wild,
Or else my purple lilies, Dante blew
To a larger bubble with his prophet-breath;
Or one of those tall flowering reeds which stand
In Arno like a sheaf of sceptres, left
By some remote dynasty of dead gods,
To suck the stream for ages and get green,
And blossom wheresoe'er a hand divine
Had warmed the place with ichor. Such I've found
At early morning, laid across my bed,
And woke up pelted with a childish laugh
Which even Marian's low precipitous 'hush'
Had vainly interposed to put away,–
While I, with shut eyes, smile and motion for
The dewy kiss that's very sure to come
From mouth and cheeks, the whole child's face at once
Dissolved on mine,–as if a nosegay burst
Its string with the weight of roses overblown,
And dropt upon me. Surely I should be glad.
The little creature almost loves me now,
And calls my name . . 'Alola,' stripping off
The r s like thorns, to make it smooth enough
To take between his dainty, milk-fed lips,
God love him! I should certainly be glad,
Except, God help me, that I'm sorrowful,
Because of Romney.
Romney, Romney! Well,
This grows absurd!–too like a tune that runs
I' the head, and forces all things in the world,
Wind, rain, the creaking gnat or stuttering fly,
To sing itself and vex you;–yet perhaps
A paltry tune you never fairly liked,
Some 'I'd be a butterfly,' or 'C'est l'amour:'
We're made so,–not such tyrants to ourselves,
We are not slaves to nature. Some of us
Are turned, too, overmuch like some poor verse
With a trick of ritournelle: the same thing goes
And comes back ever.
Vincent Carrington
Is 'sorry,' and I'm sorry; but he's strong
To mount from sorrow to his heaven of love,
And when he says at moments, 'Poor, poor Leigh,
Who'll never call his own, so true a heart,
So fair a face even,'–he must quickly lose
The pain of pity in the blush he has made
By his very pitying eyes. The snow, for him,
Has fallen in May, and finds the whole earth warm,
And melts at the first touch of the green grass.
But Romney,–he has chosen, after all.
I think he had as excellent a sun
To see by, as most others, and perhaps
Has scarce seen really worse than some of us,
When all's said. Let him pass. I'm not too much
A woman, not to be a man for once,
And bury all my Dead like Alaric,
Depositing the treasures of my soul
In this drained water-course, and, letting flow
The river of life again, with commerce-ships
And pleasure-barges, full of silks and songs.
Blow winds, and help us.
Ah, we mock ourselves
With talking of the winds! perhaps as much
With other resolutions. How it weighs,
This hot, sick air! and how I covet here
The Dead's provision on the river's couch,
With silver curtains drawn on tinkling rings!
Or else their rest in quiet crypts,–laid by
From heat and noise!–from those cicale, say,
And this more vexing heart-beat.
So it is:
We covet for the soul, the body's part,
To die and rot. Even so, Aurora, ends
Our aspiration, who bespoke our place
So far in the east. The occidental flats
Had fed us fatter, therefore? we have climbed
Where herbage ends? we want the beast's part now
And tire of the angel's?–Men define a man,
The creature who stands front-ward to the stars,
The creature who looks inward to himself,
The tool-wright, laughing creature. 'Tis enough:
We'll say instead, the inconsequent creature, man,–
For that's his specialty. What creature else
Conceives the circle, and then walks the square?
Loves things proved bad, and leaves a thing proved good?
You think the bee makes honey half a year,
To loathe the comb in winter, and desire
The little ant's food rather? But a man–
Note men!–they are but women after all,
As women are but Auroras!–there are men
Born tender, apt to pale at a trodden worm,
Who paint for pastime, in their favourite dream,
Spruce auto-vestments flowered with crocus-flames:
There are, too, who believe in hell, and lie:
There are, who waste their souls in working out
Life's problem on these sands betwixt two tides,
And end,– 'Now give us the beast's part, in death.'

Alas, long-suffering and most patient God,
Thou need'st be surelier God to bear with us
Than even to have made us! thou, aspire, aspire
From henceforth for me! thou who hast, thyself,
Endured this fleshhood, knowing how, as a soaked
And sucking vesture, it would drag us down
And choke us in the melancholy Deep,
Sustain me, that, with thee, I walk these waves,
Resisting!–breathe me upward, thou for me
Aspiring, who art the way, the truth, the life,–
That no truth henceforth seem indifferent,
No way to truth laborious, and no life,
Not even this life I live, intolerable!
The days went by. I took up the old days
With all their Tuscan pleasures, worn and spoiled,–
Like some lost book we dropt in the long grass
On such a happy summer-afternoon
When last we read it with a loving friend,
And find in autumn, when the friend is gone,
The grass cut short, the weather changed, too late,
And stare at, as at something wonderful
For sorrow,–thinking how two hands, before,
Had held up what is left to only one,
And how we smiled when such a vehement nail
Impressed the tiny dint here, which presents
This verse in fire for ever! Tenderly
And mournfully I lived. I knew the birds
And insects,–which look fathered by the flowers
And emulous of their hues: I recognised
The moths, with that great overpoise of wings
Which makes a mystery of them how at all
They can stop flying: butterflies, that bear
Upon their blue wings such red embers round,
They seem to scorch the blue air into holes
Each flight they take: and fire-flies, that suspire
In short soft lapses of transported flame
Across the tingling Dark, while overhead
The constant and inviolable stars
Outburn those lights-of-love: melodious owls,
(If music had but one note and was sad,
'Twould sound just so) and all the silent swirl
Of bats, that seem to follow in the air
Some grand circumference of a shadowy dome
To which we are blind: and then, the nightingale
Which pluck our heart across a garden-wall,
(When walking in the town) and carry it
So high into the bowery almond-trees,
We tremble and are afraid, and feel as if
The golden flood of moonlight unaware
Dissolved the pillars of the steady earth
And made it less substantial. An I knew
The harmless opal snakes, and large-mouthed frogs,
(Those noisy vaunters of their shallow streams)
And lizards, the green lightnings of the wall,
Which, if you sit down still, nor sigh too loud,
Will flatter you and take you for a stone,
And flash familiarly about your feet
With such prodigious eyes in such small heads!–
I knew them though they had somewhat dwindled from
My childish imagery,–and kept in mind
How last I sat among them equally,
In fellowship and mateship, as a child
Will bear him still toward insect, beast, and bird,
Before the Adam in him has foregone
All privilege of Eden,–making friends
And talk, with such a bird or such a goat,
And buying many a two-inch-wide rush-cage
To let out the caged cricket on a tree,
Saying, 'Oh, my dear grillino, were you cramped
And are you happy with the ilex-leaves?
And do you love me who have let you go?
Say yes in singing, and I'll understand.'
But now the creatures all seemed farther off,
No longer mine, nor like me; only there,
A gulph between us. I could yearn indeed,
Like other rich men, for a drop of dew
To cool this heat,–a drop of the early dew,
The irrecoverable child-innocence
(Before the heart took fire and withered life)
When childhood might pair equally with birds;
But now . . the birds were grown too proud for us!
Alas, the very sun forbids the dew.

And I, I had come back to an empty nest,
Which every bird's too wise for. How I heard
My father's step on that deserted ground,
His voice along that silence, as he told
The names of bird and insect, tree and flower,
And all the presentations of the stars
Across Valdarno, interposing still
'My child,' 'my child.' When fathers say 'my child,'
'Tis easier to conceive the universe,
And life's transitions down the steps of law.

I rode once to the little mountain-house
As fast as if to find my father there,
But, when in sight of't, within fifty yards,
I dropped my horse's bridle on his neck
And paused upon his flank. The house's front
Was cased with lingots of ripe Indian corn
In tesselated order, and device
Of golden patterns: not a stone of wall
Uncovered,–not an inch of room to grow
A vine-leaf. The old porch had disappeared;
And, in the open doorway, sate a girl
At plaiting straws,-her black hair strained away
To a scarlet kerchief caught beneath her chin
In Tuscan fashion,–her full ebon eyes,
Which looked too heavy to be lifted so,
Still dropt and lifted toward the mulberry-tree
On which the lads were busy with their staves
In shout and laughter, stripping all the boughs
As bare as winter, of those summer leaves
My father had not changed for all the silk
In which the ugly silkworms hide themselves.
Enough. My horse recoiled before my heart–
I turned the rein abruptly. Back we went
As fast, to Florence.
That was trial enough
Of graves. I would not visit, if I could,
My father's or my mother's any more,
To see if stone-cutter or lichen beat
So early in the race, or throw my flowers,
Which could not out-smell heaven or sweeten earth.
They live too far above, that I should look
So far below to find them: let me think
That rather they are visiting my grave,
This life here, (undeveloped yet to life)
And that they drop upon me, now and then,
For token or for solace, some small weed
Least odorous of the growths of paradise,
To spare such pungent scents as kill with joy.
My old Assunta, too was dead, was dead–
O land of all men's past! for me alone,
It would not mix its tenses. I was past,
It seemed, like others,–only not in heaven.
And, many a Tuscan eve, I wandered down
The cypress alley, like a restless ghost
That tries its feeble ineffectual breath
Upon its own charred funeral-brands put out
Too soon,–where, black and stiff, stood up the trees
Against the broad vermilion of the skies.
Such skies!–all clouds abolished in a sweep
Of God's skirt, with a dazzle to ghosts and men,
As down I went, saluting on the bridge
The hem of such, before 'twas caught away
Beyond the peaks of Lucca. Underneath,
The river, just escaping from the weight
Of that intolerable glory, ran
In acquiescent shadow murmurously:
And up, beside it, streamed the festa-folk
With fellow-murmurs from their feet and fans,
(With issimo and ino and sweet poise
Of vowels in their pleasant scandalous talk)
Returning from the grand-duke's dairy-farm
Before the trees grew dangerous at eight,
(For, 'trust no tree by moonlight,' Tuscans say)
To eat their ice at Doni's tenderly,–
Each lovely lady close to a cavalier
Who holds her dear fan while she feeds her smile
On meditative spoonfuls of vanille,
He breathing hot protesting vows of love,
Enough to thaw her cream, and scorch his beard.
'Twas little matter. I could pass them by
Indifferently, not fearing to be known.
No danger of being wrecked upon a friend,
And forced to take an iceberg for an isle!
The very English, here, must wait to learn
To hang the cobweb of their gossip out
And catch a fly. I'm happy. It's sublime,
This perfect solitude of foreign lands!
To be, as if you had not been till then,
And were then, simply that you chose to be:
To spring up, not be brought forth from the ground,
Like grasshoppers at Athens, and skip thrice
Before a woman makes a pounce on you
And plants you in her hair!–possess yourself,
A new world all alive with creatures new,
New sun, new moon, new flowers, new people–ah,
And be possessed by none of them! No right
In one, to call your name, enquire your where,
Or what you think of Mister Some-one's book,
Or Mister Other's marriage, or decease,
Or how's the headache which you had last week,
Or why you look so pale still, since it's gone?
–Such most surprising riddance of one's life
Comes next one's death; it's disembodiment
Without the pang. I marvel, people choose
To stand stock-still like fakirs, till the moss
Grows on them, and they cry out, self-admired,
'How verdant and how virtuous!' Well, I'm glad;
Or should be, if grown foreign to myself
As surely as to others.
Musing so,
I walked the narrow unrecognising streets,
Where many a palace-front peers gloomily
Through stony vizors iron-barred, (prepared
Alike, should foe or lover pass that way,
For guest or victim) and came wandering out
Upon the churches with mild open doors
And plaintive wail of vespers, where a few,
Those chiefly women, sprinkled round in blots
Upon the dusk pavement, knelt and prayed
Toward the altar's silver glory. Oft a ray
(I liked to sit and watch) would tremble out,
Just touch some face more lifted, more in need,
Of course a woman's–while I dreamed a tale
To fit its fortunes. There was one who looked
As if the earth had suddenly grown too large
For such a little humpbacked thing as she;
The pitiful black kerchief round her neck
Sole proof she had had a mother. One, again,
Looked sick for love,–seemed praying some soft saint
To put more virtue in the new fine scarf
She spent a fortnight's meals on, yesterday,
That cruel Gigi might return his eyes
From Giuliana. There was one, so old,
So old, to kneel grew easier than to stand.–
So solitary, she accepts at last
Our Lady for her gossip, and frets on
Against the sinful world which goes its rounds
In marrying and being married, just the same
As when 'twas almost good and had the right,
(Her Gian alive, and she herself eighteen).
And yet, now even, if Madonna willed,
She'd win a tern in Thursday's lottery,
And better all things. Did she dream for nought,
That, boiling cabbage for the fast day's soup,
It smelt like blessed entrails? such a dream
For nought? would sweetest Mary cheat her so,
And lose that certain candle, straight and white
As any fair grand-duchess in her teens,
Which otherwise should flare here in a week?
Benigna sis, thou beauteous Queen of heaven!

I sate there musing and imagining
Such utterance from such faces: poor blind souls
That writhed toward heaven along the devil's trail,–
Who knows, I thought, but He may stretch his hand
And pick them up? 'tis written in the Book,
He heareth the young ravens when they cry;
And yet they cry for carrion.–O my God,–
And we, who make excuses for the rest,
We do it in our measure. Then I knelt,
And dropped my head upon the pavement too,
And prayed, since I was foolish in desire
Like other creatures, craving offal-food,
That He would stop his ears to what I said,
And only listen to the run and beat
Of this poor, passionate, helpless blood–
And then
I lay and spoke not. But He heard in heaven.
So many Tuscan evenings passed the same!
I could not lose a sunset on the bridge,
And would not miss a vigil in the church,
And liked to mingle with the out-door crowd
So strange and gay and ignorant of my face,
For men you know not, are as good as trees.
And only once, at the Santissima,
I almost chanced upon a man I knew,
Sir Blaise Delorme. He saw me certainly,
And somewhat hurried, as he crossed himself,
The smoothness of the action,–then half bowed,
But only half, and merely to my shade,
I slipped so quick behind the porphyry plinth,
And left him dubious if 'twas really I,
Or peradventure Satan's usual trick
To keep a mounting saint uncanonised.
But I was safe for that time, and he too;
The argent angels in the altar-flare
Absorbed his soul next moment. The good man!
In England we were scare acquaintances,
That here in Florence he should keep my thought
Beyond the image on his eye, which came
And went: and yet his thought disturbed my life.
For, after that, I often sate at home
On evenings, watching how they fined themselves
With gradual conscience to a perfect night,
Until a moon, diminished to a curve,
Lay out there, like a sickle for His hand
Who cometh down at last to reap the earth.
At such times, ended seemed my trade of verse;
I feared to jingle bells upon my robe
Before the four-faced silent cherubim;
With God so near me, could I sing of God?
I did not write, nor read, nor even think,
But sate absorbed amid the quickening glooms,
Most like some passive broken lump of salt
Dropt in by chance to a bowl of oenomel,
To spoil the drink a little, and lose itself,
Dissolving slowly, slowly, until lost.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Courtship of Miles Standish, The

I
MILES STANDISH

In the Old Colony days, in Plymouth the land of the Pilgrims
To and fro in a room of his simple and primitive dwelling,
Clad in doublet and hose, and boots of Cordovan leather,
Strode, with a martial air, Miles Standish the Puritan Captain.
Buried in thought he seemed, with his hands behind him, and pausing
Ever and anon to behold his glittering weapons of warfare,
Hanging in shining array along the walls of the chamber, --
Cutlass and corselet of steel, and his trusty sword of Damascus,
Curved at the point and inscribed with its mystical Arabic sentence,
While underneath, in a corner, were fowling-piece, musket, and matchlock.
Short of stature he was, but strongly built and athletic,
Broad in the shoulders, deep-chested, with muscles and sinews of iron;
Brown as a nut was his face, but his russet beard was already
Flaked with patches of snow, as hedges sometimes in November.
Near him was seated John Alden, his friend and household companion,
Writing with diligent speed at a table of pine by the window:
Fair-haired, azure-eyed, with delicate Saxon complexion,
Having the dew of his youth, and the beauty thereof, as the captives
Whom Saint Gregory saw, and exclaimed, "Not Angles, but Angels."
Youngest of all was he of the men who came in the Mayflower.

Suddenly breaking the silence, the diligent scribe interrupting,
Spake, in the pride of his heart, Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth.
"Look at these arms," he said, "the war-like weapons that hang here
Burnished and bright and clean, as if for parade or inspection!
This is the sword of Damascus I fought with in Flanders; this breastplate,
Well I remember the day! once save my life in a skirmish;
Here in front you can see the very dint of the bullet
Fired point-blank at my heart by a Spanish arcabucero.
Had it not been of sheer steel, the forgotten bones of Miles Standish
Would at this moment be mould, in their grave in the Flemish morasses."
Thereupon answered John Alden, but looked not up from his writing:
"Truly the breath of the Lord hath slackened the speed of the bullet;
He in his mercy preserved you, to be our shield and our weapon!"
Still the Captain continued, unheeding the words of the stripling:
"See, how bright they are burnished, as if in an arsenal hanging;
That is because I have done it myself, and not left it to others.
Serve yourself, would you be well served, is an excellent adage;
So I take care of my arms, as you of your pens and your inkhorn.
Then, too, there are my soldiers, my great, invincible army,
Twelve men, all equipped, having each his rest and his matchlock,
Eighteen shillings a month, together with diet and pillage,
And, like Caesar, I know the name of each of my soldiers!"
This he said with a smile, that danced in his eyes, as the sunbeams
Dance on the waves of the sea, and vanish again in a moment.
Alden laughed as he wrote, and still the Captain continued:
"Look! you can see from this window my brazen howitzer planted
High on the roof of the church, a preacher who speaks to the purpose,
Steady, straightforward, and strong, with irresistible logic,
Orthodox, flashing conviction right into the hearts of the heathen.
Now we are ready, I think, for any assault of the Indians;
Let them come, if they like, and the sooner they try it the better, --
Let them come, if they like, be it sagamore, sachem, or pow-wow,
Aspinet, Samoset, Corbitant, Squanto, or Tokamahamon!"

Long at the window he stood, and wistfully gazed on the landscape,
Washed with a cold gray mist, the vapory breath of the east-wind,
Forest and meadow and hill, and the steel-blue rim of the ocean,
Lying silent and sad, in the afternoon shadows and sunshine.
Over his countenance flitted a shadow like those on the landscape,
Gloom intermingled with light; and his voice was subdued with emotion,
Tenderness, pity, regret, as after a pause he proceeded:
"Yonder there, on the hill by the sea, lies buried Rose Standish;
Beautiful rose of love, that bloomed for me by the wayside!
She was the first to die of all who came in the Mayflower!
Green above her is growing the field of wheat we have sown there,
Better to hide from the Indian scouts the graves of our people,
Lest they should count them and see how many already have perished!"
Sadly his face he averted, and strode up and down, and was thoughtful.

Fixed to the opposite wall was a shelf of books, and among
them Prominent three, distinguished alike for bulk and for binding:
Bariffe's Artillery Guide, and the Commentaries of Caesar
Out of the Latin translated by Arthur Goldinge of London,
And, as if guarded by these, between them was standing the Bible.
Musing a moment before them, Miles Standish paused, as if doubtful
Which of the three he should choose for his consolation and comfort,
Whether the wars of the Hebrews, the famous campaigns of the Romans,
Or the Artillery practice, designed for belligerent Christians.
Finally down from its shelf he dragged the ponderous Roman,
Seated himself at the window, and opened the book and in silence
Turned o'er the well-worn leaves, where thumb-marks thick on the margin,
Like the trample of feet, proclaimed the battle was hottest.
Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the stripling,
Busily writing epistles important, to go by the Mayflower,
Ready to sail on the morrow, or next day at latest, God willing!
Homeward bound with the tidings of all that terrible winter,
Letters written by Alden and full of the name of Priscilla!
Full of the name and the fame of the Puritan maiden Priscilla!

II
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the
stripling, Or an occasional sign from the laboring heart of the Captain,
Reading the marvellous words and achievements of Julius Caesar.
After a while he exclaimed, as he smote with his hand, palm downwards,
Heavily on the page: "A wonderful man was this Caesar!
You are a writer, and I am a fighter, but here is a fellow
Who could both write and fight, and in both was equally skillful!"
Straightway answered and spake John Alden, the comely, the youthful:
"Yes, he was equally skilled, as you say, with his pen and his weapons.
Somewhere have I read, but where I forget, he could dictate
Seven letters at once, at the same time writing his memoirs."
"Truly," continued the Captain, not heeding or hearing the other,
"Truly a wonderful man was Caius Julius Caesar!
Better be first, he said, in a little Iberian village,
Than be second in Rome, and I think he was right when he said it.
Twice was he married before he was twenty, and many times after;
Battles five hundred he fought, and a thousand cities he conquered;
He, too, fought in Flanders, as he himself has recorded;
Finally he was stabbed by his friend, the orator Brutus!
Now, do you know what he did on a certain occasion in Flanders,
When the rear-guard of his army retreated, the front giving way too,
And the immortal Twelfth Legion was crowded so closely together
There was no room for their swords? Why, he seized a shield from a soldier,
Put himself straight at the head of his troops, and commanded the captains,
Calling on each by his name, to order forward the ensigns;
Then to widen the ranks, and give more room for their weapons;
So he won the day, the battle of something-or-other.
That's what I always say; if you wish a thing to be well done,
You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others!"

All was silent again; the Captain continued his reading.
Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the stripling
Writing epistles important to go next day by the Mayflower,
Filled with the name and the fame of the Puritan maiden Priscilla;
Every sentence began or closed with the name of Priscilla,
Till the treacherous pen, to which he confided the secret,
Strove to betray it by singing and shouting the name of Priscilla!
Finally closing his book, with a bang of the ponderous cover,
Sudden and loud as the sound of a soldier grounding his musket,
Thus to the young man spake Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth:
"When you have finished your work, I have something important to tell you.
Be not however in haste; I can wait; I shall not be impatient!"
Straightway Alden replied, as he folded the last of his letters,
Pushing his papers aside, and giving respectful attention:
"Speak; for whenever you speak, I am always ready to listen,
Always ready to hear whatever pertains to Miles Standish."
Thereupon answered the Captain, embarrassed, and culling his phrases:
" 'T is not good for a man to be alone, say the Scriptures.
This I have said before, and again and again I repeat it;
Every hour in the day, I think it, and feel it, and say it.
Since Rose Standish died, my life has been weary and dreary;
Sick at heart have I been, beyond the healing of friendship;
Oft in my lonely hours have I thought of the maiden Priscilla.
She is alone in the world; her father and mother and brother
Died in the winter together; I saw her going and coming,
Now to the grave of the dead, and now to the bed of the dying,
Patient, courageous, and strong, and said to myself, that if ever
There were angels on earth, as there are angels in heaven,
Two have I seen and known; and the angel whose name is Priscilla
Holds in my desolate life the place which the other abandoned.
Long have I cherished the thought, but never have dared to reveal it,
Being a coward in this though valiant enough for the most part.
Go to the damsel Priscilla, the loveliest maiden of Plymouth,
Say that a blunt old Captain, a man not of words but of actions,
Offers his hand and his heart, the hand and heart of a soldier.
Not in these words, you know, but this in short is my meaning;
I am a maker of war, and not a maker of phrases.
You, who are bred as a scholar, can say it in elegant language,
Such as you read in your books of the pleadings and wooings of lovers,
Such as you think best adapted to win the heart of a maiden."

When he had spoken, John Alden, the fair-haired, taciturn stripling,
All aghast at his words, surprised, embarrassed, bewildered,
Trying to mask his dismay by treating the subject with lightness,
Trying to smile, and yet feeling his heart stand still in his bosom,
Just as a timepiece stops in a house that is stricken by lightning,
Thus made answer and spake, or rather stammered than answered:
"Such a message as that, I am sure I should mangle and mar it;
If you would have it well done, -- I am only repeating your maxim, --
You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others!"
But with the air of a man whom nothing can turn from his purpose,
Gravely shaking his head, made answer the Captain of Plymouth:
"Truly the maxim is good, and I do not mean to gainsay it;
But we must use it discreetly, and not waste powder for nothing.
Now, as I said before, I was never a maker of phrases.
I can march up to a fortress and summon the place to surrender,
But march up to a woman with such a proposal, I dare not.
I'm not afraid of bullets, nor shot from the mouth of a cannon,
But of a thundering 'No!' point-blank from the mouth of a woman,
That I confess I'm afraid of, nor am I ashamed to confess it!
So you must grant my request, for you are an elegant scholar,
Having the graces of speech, and skill in the turning of phrases."
Taking the hand of his friend, who still was reluctant and doubtful,
Holding it long in his own, and pressing kindly, he added:
"Though I have spoken thus lightly, yet deep is the feeling that prompts me;
Surely you cannot refuse what I ask in the name of our friendship!"
Then made answer John Alden: "The name of friendship is sacred;
What you demand in that name, I have not the power to deny you!"
So the strong will prevailed, subduing and moulding the gentler,
Friendship prevailed over love, and Alden went on his errand.


III
THE LOVER'S ERRAND

So the strong will prevailed, and Alden went on his
errand, Out of the street of the village, and into the paths of the
forest, Into the tranquil woods, where bluebirds and robins were building
Towns in the populous trees, with hanging gardens of verdure,
Peaceful, aerial cities of joy and affection and freedom.
All around him was calm, but within him commotion and conflict,
Love contending with friendship, and self with each generous impulse.
To and fro in his breast his thoughts were heaving and dashing,
As in a foundering ship, with every roll of the vessel,
Washes the bitter sea, the merciless surge of the ocean!
"Must I relinquish it all," he cried with a wild lamentation, --
"Must I relinquish it all, the joy, the hope, the illusion?
Was it for this I have loved, and waited, and worshipped in silence?
Was it for this I have followed the flying feet and the shadow
Over the wintry sea, to the desolate shores of New England?
Truly the heart is deceitful, and out of its depths of corruption
Rise, like an exhalation, the misty phantoms of passion;
Angels of light they seem, but are only delusions of Satan.
All is clear to me now; I feel it, I see it distinctly!
This is the hand of the Lord; it is laid upon me in anger,
For I have followed too much the heart's desires and devices,
Worshipping Astaroth blindly, and impious idols of Baal.
This is the cross I must bear; the sin and the swift retribution."

So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went on his errand;
Crossing the brook at the ford, where it brawled over pebble and shallow,
Gathering still, as he went, the May-flowers blooming around him,
Fragrant, filling the air with a strange and wonderful sweetness,
Children lost in the woods, and covered with leaves in their slumber.
"Puritan flowers," he said, "and the type of Puritan maidens,
Modest and simple and sweet, the very type of Priscilla!
So I will take them to her; to Priscilla the Mayflower of Plymouth,
Modest and simple and sweet, as a parting gift will I take them;
Breathing their silent farewells, as they fade and wither and perish,
Soon to be thrown away as is the heart of the giver,"
So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went on his errand;
Came to an open space, and saw the disk of the ocean,
Sailless, sombre and cold with the comfortless breath of the east-wind;
Saw the new-built house, and people at work in a meadow;
Heard, as he drew near the door, the musical voice of Priscilla
Singing the hundredth Psalm, the grand old Puritan anthem,
Music that Luther sang to the sacred words of the Psalmist,
Full of the breath of the Lord, consoling and comforting many.
Then, as he opened the door, he beheld the form of the maiden
Seated beside her wheel, and the carded wool like a snow-drift
Piled at her knee, white hands feeding the ravenous spindle,
While with her foot on the treadle she guided the wheel in its motion.
Open wide on her lap lay the well-worn psalm-book of Ainsworth,
Printed in Amsterdam, the words and the music together,
Rough-hewn, angular notes, like stones in the wall of a churchyard,
Darkened and overhung by the running vine of the verses.
Such was the book from whose pages she sang the old Puritan anthem,
She, the Puritan girl, in the solitude of the forest,
Making the humble house and the modest apparel of homespun
Beautiful with her beauty, and rich with the wealth of her being!
Over him rushed, like a wind that is keen and cold and relentless,
Thoughts of what might have been, and the weight and woe of his errand:
All the dreams that had faded, and all the hopes that had vanished,
All his life henceforth a dreary and tenant-less mansion,
Haunted by vain regrets, and pallid, sorrowful faces.
Still he said to himself, and almost fiercely he said it,
"Let not him that putteth his hand to the plough look backwards;
Though the ploughshare cut through the flowers of life to its fountains,
Though it pass o'er the graves of the dead and the hearths of the living,
It is the will of the Lord; and his mercy endureth forever!"

So he entered the house: and the hum of the wheel and the singing
Suddenly ceased; for Priscilla, aroused by his step on the threshold,
Rose as he entered, and gave him her hand in signal of welcome,
Saying, "I knew it was you, when I heard your step in the passage;
For I was thinking of you, as I sat there singing and spinning."
Awkward and dumb with delight, that a thought of him had been mingled
Thus in the sacred psalm, that came from the heart of the maiden,
Silent before her he stood, and gave her the flowers for an answer,
Finding no words for his thought. He remembered that day in the winter,
After the first great snow, when he broke a path from the village,
Reeling and plunging along through the drifts that encumbered the doorway,
Stamping the snow from his feet as he entered the house, and Priscilla
Laughed at his snowy locks, and gave him a seat by the fireside,
Grateful and pleased to know he had thought of her in the snow-storm.
Had he but spoken then! perhaps not in vain had he spoken;
Now it was all too late; the golden moment had vanished!
So he stood there abashed, and gave her the flowers for an answer.

Then they sat down and talked of the birds and the beautiful Spring-time,
Talked of their friends at home, and the Mayflower that sailed on the morrow.
"I have been thinking all day," said gently the Puritan maiden,
"Dreaming all night, and thinking all day, of the hedge-rows of England, --
They are in blossom now, and the country is all like a garden:
Thinking of lanes and fields, and the song of the lark and the linnet,
Seeing the village street, and familiar faces of neighbors
Going about as of old, and stopping to gossip together,
And, at the end of the street, the village church, with the ivy
Climbing the old gray tower, and the quiet graves in the churchyard.
Kind are the people I live with, and dear to me my religion;
Still my heart is so sad, that I wish myself back in Old England.
You will say it is wrong, but I cannot help it: I almost
Wish myself back in Old England, I feel so lonely and wretched."

Thereupon answered the youth: "Indeed I do not condemn you;
Stouter hearts that a woman's have quailed in this terrible winter.
Yours is tender and trusting, and needs a stronger to lean on;
So I have come to you now, with an offer and proffer of marriage
Made by a good man and true, Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth!"

Thus he delivered his message, the dexterous writer of letters, --
Did not embellish the theme, nor array it in beautiful phrases,
But came straight to the point, and blurted it out like a school-boy;
Even the Captain himself could hardly have said it more bluntly.
Mute with amazement and sorrow, Priscilla the Puritan maiden
Looked into Alden's face, her eyes dilated with wonder,
Feeling his words like a blow, that stunned her and rendered her speechless;
Till at length she exclaimed, interrupting the ominous silence:
"If the great Captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me,
Why does he not come himself, and take the trouble to woo me"
If I am not worth the wooing, I surely am not worth the winning!"
Then John Alden began explaining and smoothing the matter,
Making it worse as he went, by saying the Captain was busy, --
Had no time for such things -- such things! the words grating harshly
Fell on the ear of Priscilla; and swift as a flash she made answer:
"Has he not time for such things, as you call it, before he is married,
Would he be likely to find it, or make it, after the wedding?
That is the way with you men; you don't understand us, you cannot.
When you have made up your minds, after thinking of this one and that one,
Choosing, selecting, rejecting, comparing one with another,
Then you make known your desire, with abrupt and sudden avowal,
And are offended and hurt, and indignant perhaps, that a woman
Does not respond at once to a love that she never suspected,
Does not attain at a bound the height to which you have been climbing.
This is not right nor just: for surely a woman's affection
Is not a thing to be asked for, and had for only the asking.
When one is truly in love, one not only says it, but shows it.
Had he but waited awhile, had he only showed that he loved me,
Even this Captain of yours -- who knows? -- at last might have won me,
Old and rough as he is; but now it never can happen."

Still John Alden went on, unheeding the words of Priscilla,
Urging the suit of his friend, explaining, persuading, expanding;
Spoke of his courage and skill, and of all his battles in Flanders,
How with the people of God he had chosen to suffer affliction;
How, in return for his zeal, they had made him Captain of Plymouth;
He was a gentleman born, could trace his pedigree plainly
Back to Hugh Standish of Duxbury Hall, in Lancashire, England,
Who was the son of Ralph, and the grandson of Thurston de Standish;
Heir unto vast estates of which he was basely defrauded,
Still bore the family arms, and had for his crest a cock argent,
Combed and wattled gules, and all the rest of the blazon.
He was a man of honor, of noble and generous nature;
Thought he was rough, he was kindly; she knew how during the winter
He had attended the sick, with a hand as gentle as a woman's'
Somewhat hasty and hot, he could not deny it, and headstrong,
Stern as a soldier might be, but hearty, and placable always,
Not to be laughed at and scorned, because he was little of stature;
For he was great of heart, magnanimous, courtly, courageous;
Any woman in Plymouth, nay, any woman in England,
Might be happy and proud to be called the wife of Miles Standish!

But as he warmed and glowed, in his simple and eloquent language,
Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival,
Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes overrunning with laughter,
Said, in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"

IV
JOHN ALDEN


Into the open air John Alden, perplexed and bewildered,
Rushed like a man insane, and wandered alone by the sea-side;
Paced up and down the sands, and bared his head to the east-wind,
Cooling his heated brow, and the fire and fever within him.
Slowly as out of the heavens, with apocalyptical splendors,
Sank the City of God, in the vision of John the Apostle,
So, with its cloudy walls of chrysolite, jasper, and sapphire,
Sank the broad red sun, and over its turrets uplifted
Glimmered the golden reed of the angel who measured the city.

"Welcome, O wind of the East!" he exclaimed in his wild exultation,
Welcome, O wind of the East, from the caves of the misty Atlantic!
Blowing o'er fields of dulse, and measureless meadows of sea-grass,
Blowing o'er rocky wastes, and the grottoes and gardens of ocean!
Lay thy cold, moist hand on my burning forehead, and wrap me
Close in thy garments of mist, to allay the fever within me!"

Like an awakened conscience, the sea was moaning and tossing,
Beating remorseful and loud the mutable sands of the sea-shore.
Fierce in his soul was the struggle and tumult of passions contending;
Love triumphant and crowned, and friendship wounded and bleeding,
Passionate cries of desire , and importunate pleadings of duty!
"Is it my fault," he said, "that the maiden has chosen between us?
Is it my fault that he failed, -- my fault that I am the victor?"
Then within him there thundered a voice, like the voice of the Prophet:
"It hath displeased the Lord!" -- and he thought of David's transgressions,
Bathsheba's beautiful face, and his friend in the front of the battle!
Shame and confusion of guilt, and abasement and self-condemnation,
Overwhelmed him at once; and he cried in the deepest contrition:
"It hath displeased the Lord! It is the temptation of Satan!"

Then, uplifting his head, he looked at the sea, and beheld there
Dimly the shadowy form of the Mayflower riding at anchor,
Rocked on the rising tide, and ready to sail on the morrow;
Heard the voices of men through the mist, the rattle of cordage
Thrown on the deck, the shouts of the mate, and the sailors' "Ay, ay, Sir!"
Clear and distinct, but not loud, in the dripping air of the twilight.
Still for a moment he stood and listened, and stared at the vessel,
Then went hurriedly on, as one who, seeing a phantom,
Stops, then quickens his pace, and follows the beckoning shadow.
"Yes, it is plain to me now," he murmured; "the hand of the Lord is
Leading me out of the land of darkness, the bondage of error,
Through the sea, that shall lift the walls of its waters around me,
Hiding me, cutting me off, from the cruel thoughts that pursue me.
Back will I go o'er the ocean, this dreary land will abandon,
Her whom I may not love, and him whom my heart has offended.
Better to be in my grave in the green old churchyard in England,
Close by my mother's side, and among the dust of my kindred;
Better be dead and forgotten, than living in shame and dishonor;
Sacred and safe and unseen, in the dark of the narrow chamber
With me my secret shall lie, like a buried jewel that glimmers
Bright on the hand that is dust, in the chambers of silence and darkness, --
Yes, as the marriage ring of the great espousal hereafter!"

Thus as he spake, he turned, in the strength of his strong resolution,
Leaving behind him the shore, and hurried along in the twilight,
Through the congenial gloom of the forest silent and sombre,
Till he beheld the lights in the seven houses of Plymouth,
Shining like seven stars in the dusk and mist of the evening.
Soon he entered his door, and found the redoubtable Captain
Sitting alone, and absorbed in the martial pages of Caesar,
Fighting some great campaign in Hainault of Brabant or Flanders.
"Long have you been on your errand," he said with a cheery demeanor,
Even as one who is waiting an answer, and fears not the issue.
"Not far off is the house, although the woods are between us;
But you have lingered so long, that while you were going and coming
I have fought ten battles and sacked and demolished a city.
Come, sit down, and in order relate to me all that has happened."

Then John Alden spake, and related the wondrous adventure,
From beginning to end, minutely, just as it happened;
How he had seen Priscilla, and how he had sped in his courtship,
Only smoothing a little, and softening down her refusal.
But when he came at length to the words Priscilla had spoken,
Words so tender and cruel: "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"
Up leaped the Captain of Plymouth, and stamped on the floor, till his armor
Clanged on the wall, where it hung, with a sound of sinister omen.
All his pent-up wrath burst forth in a sudden explosion,
E'en as a hand-grenade, that scatters destruction around it.
Wildly he shouted, and loud: "John Alden! you have betrayed me!
Me, Miles Standish, your friend! have supplanted, defrauded, betrayed me!
One of my ancestors ran his sword through the heart of Wat Tyler;
Who shall prevent me from running my own through the heart of a traitor?
Yours is the greater treason, for yours is a treason to friendship!
You, who lived under my roof, whom I cherished and loved as a brother;
You, who have fed at my board, and drunk at my cup, to whose keeping
I have intrusted my honor, my thoughts the most sacred and secret, --
You too, Brutus! as woe to the name of friendship hereafter!
Brutus was Caesar's friend, and you were mine, but, henceforward
Let there be nothing between us save war, and implacable hatred!"

So spake the Captain of Plymouth, and strode about in the chamber,
Chafing and choking with rage; like cords were the veins on his temples.
But in the midst of his anger a man appeared at the doorway,
Bringing in uttermost haste a message of urgent importance,
Rumors of danger and war and hostile incursions of Indians!
Straightway the Captain paused, and, without further question or parley,
Took from the nail on the wall his sword with its scabbard of iron,
Buckled the belt round his waist, and, frowning fiercely, departed.
Alden was left alone. He heard the clank of the scabbard
Growing fainter and fainter, and dying away in the distance.
Then he arose from his seat, and looked forth into the darkness,
Felt the cool air blow on his cheek, that was hot with the insult,
Lifted his eyes to the heavens, and, folding his hands as in childhood,
Prayed in the silence of night to the Father who seeth in secret.

Meanwhile the choleric Captain strode wrathful away to the council,
Found it already assembled, impatiently waiting his coming;
Men in the middle of life, austere and grave in deportment,
Only one of them old, the hill that was nearest to heaven,
Covered with snow, but erect, the excellent Elder of Plymouth.
God had sifted three kingdoms to find the wheat for this planting,
Then had sifted the wheat, as the living seed of a nation;
So say the chronicles old, and such is the faith of the people!
Near them was standing an Indian, in attitude stern and defiant,
Naked down to the waist, and grim and ferocious in aspect;
While on the table before them was lying unopened a Bible,
Ponderous, bound in leather, brass-studded, printed in Holland,
And beside it outstretched the skin of a rattlesnake glittered,
Filled, like a quiver, with arrows; a signal and challenge of warfare,
Brought by the Indian, and speaking with arrowy tongues of defiance.
This Miles Standish beheld, as he entered, and heard them debating
What were an answer befitting the hostile message and menace,
Talking of this and of that, contriving, suggesting, objecting;
One voice only for peace, and that the voice of the Elder,
Judging it wise and well that some at least were converted,
Rather than any were slain, for this was but Christian behavior!
Then out spake Miles Standish, the stalwart Captain of Plymouth,
Muttering deep in his throat, for his voice was husky with anger,
"What! do you mean to make war with milk and the water of roses?
Is it to shoot red squirrels you have your howitzer planted
There on the roof of the church, or is it to shoot red devils?
Truly the only tongue that is understood by a savage
Must be the tongue of fire that speaks from the mouth of the cannon!"
Thereupon answered and said the excellent Elder of Plymouth,
Somewhat amazed and alarmed at this irreverent language;
"Not so thought St. Paul, nor yet the other Apostles;
Not from the cannon's mouth were the tongues of fire they spake with!"
But unheeded fell this mild rebuke on the Captain,
Who had advanced to the table, and thus continued discoursing:
"Leave this matter to me, for to me by right it pertaineth.
War is a terrible trade; but in the cause that is righteous,
Sweet is the smell of powder; and thus I answer the challenge!"

Then from the rattlesnake's skin, with a sudden, contemptuous gesture,
Jerking the Indian arrows, he filled it with powder and bullets
Full to the very jaws, and handed it back to the savage,
Saying, in thundering tones: "Here, take it! this is your answer!"
Silently out of the room then glided the glistening savage,
Bearing the serpent's skin, and seeming himself like a serpent,
Winding his sinuous way in the dark to the depths of the forest.


V
THE SAILING OF THE MAYFLOWER

Just in the gray of the dawn, as the mists uprose from the
meadows, There was a stir and a sound in the slumbering village of Plymouth;
Clanging and clicking of arms, and the order imperative, "Forward!"
Given in tone suppressed, a tramp of feet, and then silence.
Figures ten, in the mist, marched slowly out of the village.
Standish the stalwart it was, with eight of his valorous army,
Led by their Indian guide, by Hobomok, friend of the white men,
Northward marching to quell the sudden revolt of the savage.
Giants they seemed in the mist, or the mighty men of King David;
Giants in heart they were, who believed in God and the Bible, --
Ay, who believed in the smiting of Midianites and Philistines.
Over them gleamed far off the crimson banners of morning;
Under them loud on the sands, the serried billows, advancing,
Fired along the line, and in regular order retreated.

Many a mile had they marched, when at length the village of Plymouth
Woke from its sleep and arose, intent on its manifold labors.
Sweet was the air and soft; and slowly the smoke from the chimneys
Rose over roofs of thatch, and pointed steadily eastward;
Men came forth from the doors, and paused and talked of the weather,
Said that the wind had changed, and was blowing fair for the Mayflower;
Talked of their Captain's departure, and all the dangers that menaced,
He being gone, the town, and what should be done in his absence.
Merrily sang the birds, and the tender voices of women
Consecrated with hymns the common cares of the household.
Out of the sea rose the sun, and the billows rejoiced at his coming;
Beautiful were his feet on the purple tops of the mountains;
Beautiful on the sails of the Mayflower riding at anchor,
Battered and blackened and worn by all the storms of the winter.
Loosely against her masts was hanging and flapping her canvas,
Rent by so many gales, and patched by the hands of the sailors.
Suddenly from her side, as the sun rose over the ocean,
Darted a puff of smoke, and floated seaward; anon rang
Loud over field and forest the cannon's roar, and the echoes
Heard and repeated the sound, the signal-gun of departure!
Ah! but with louder echoes replied the hearts of the people!
Meekly, in voices subdued, the chapter was read from the Bible,
Meekly the prayer was begun, but ended in fervent entreaty!
Then from their houses in haste came forth the Pilgrims of Plymouth,
Men and women and children, all hurrying down to the sea-shore,
Eager, with tearful eyes, to say farewell to the Mayflower,
Homeward bound o'er the sea, and leaving them here in the desert.

Foremost among them was Alden. All night he had lain without slumber,
Turning and tossing about in the heat and unrest of his fever.
He had beheld Miles Standish, who came back late from the council,
Stalking into the room, and heard him mutter and murmur;
Sometimes it seemed a prayer, and sometimes it sounded like swearing.
Once he had come to the bed, and stood there a moment in silence;
Then he had turned away, and said: "I will not awake him;
Let him sleep on, it is best; for what is the use of more talking!"
Then he extinguished the light, and threw himself down on his pallet,
Dressed as he was, and ready to start at the break of the morning, --
Covered himself with the cloak he had worn in his campaigns in Flanders, --
Slept as a soldier sleeps in his bivouac, ready for action.
But with the dawn he arose; in the twilight Alden beheld him
Put on his corselet of steel, and all the rest of his armor,
Buckle about his waist his trusty blade of Damascus,
Take from the corner his musket, and so stride out of the chamber.
Often the heart of the youth had burned and yearned to embrace him,
Often his lips had essayed to speak, imploring for pardon;
All the old friendship came back, with its tender and grateful emotions;
But his pride overmastered the nobler nature within him, --
Pride, and the sense of his wrong, and the burning fire of the insult.
So he beheld his friend departing in anger, but spake not,
Saw him go forth to danger, perhaps to death, and he spake not!
Then he arose from his bed, and heard what the people were saying.
Joined in the talk at the door, with Stephen and Richard and Gilbert,
Joined in the morning prayer, and in the reading of Scripture,
And, with the others, in haste went hurrying down to the sea-shore,
Down to the Plymouth Rock, that had been to their feet as a doorstep
Into a world unknown, -- the corner-stone of a nation!

There with his boat was the Master, already a little impatient
Lest he should lose the tide, or the wind might shift to the eastward,
Square-built, hearty, and strong, with an odor of ocean about him,
Speaking with this one and that, and cramming letters and parcels
Into his pockets capacious, and messages mingled together
Into his narrow brain, till at last he was wholly bewildered.
Nearer the boat stood Alden, with one foot placed on the gunwale,
One still firm on the rock, and talking at times with the sailors,
Seated erect on the thwarts, all ready and eager for starting.
He too was eager to go, and thus put an end to his anguish,
Thinking to fly from despair, that swifter than keel is or canvas,
Thinking to drown in the sea the ghost that would rise and pursue him.
But as he gazed on the crowd, he beheld the form of Priscilla
Standing dejected among them, unconscious of all that was passing.
Fixed were her eyes upon his, as if she divined his intention,
Fixed with a look so sad, so reproachful, imploring, and patient,
That with a sudden revulsion his heart recoiled from its purpose,
As from the verge of a crag, where one step more is destruction.
Strange is the heart of man, with its quick, mysterious instincts!
Strange is the life of man, and fatal or fated are moments,
Whereupon turn, as on hinges, the gates of the wall adamantine!
"Here I remain!" he exclaimed, as he looked at the heavens above him,
Thanking the Lord whose breath had scattered the mist and the madness,
Wherein, blind and lost, to death he was staggering headlong.
"Yonder snow-white cloud, that floats in the ether above me,
Seems like a hand that is pointing and beckoning over the ocean.
There is another hand, that is not so spectral and ghost-like,
Holding me, drawing me back, and clasping mine for protection.
Float, O hand of cloud, and vanish away in the ether!
Roll thyself up like a fist, to threaten and daunt me; I heed not
Either your warning or menace, or any omen of evil!
There is no land so sacred, no air so pure and so wholesome
As is the air she breathes, and the soil that is pressed by her footsteps.
Here for her sake will I stay, and like an invisible presence
Hover around her forever, protecting, supporting her weakness;
Yes! as my foot was the first that stepped on this rock at the landing,
So, with the blessing of God, shall it be the last at the leaving!"

Meanwhile the Master alert, but with dignified air and important,
Scanning with watchful eye the tide and the wind and the weather,
Walked about on the sands, and the people crowded around him
Saying a few last words, and enforcing his careful remembrance.
Then, taking each by the hand, as if he were gripping a tiller,
Into the boat he sprang, and in haste shoved off to his vessel,
Glad in his heart to get rid of all this worry and flurry,
Glad to be gone from a land of sand and sickness and sorrow,
Short allowance of victual, and plenty of nothing but Gospel!
Lost in the sound of the oars was the last farewell of the Pilgrims.
O strong hearts and true! not one went back in the Mayflower!
No, not one looked back, who had set his hand to this ploughing!

Soon were heard on board the shouts and songs of the sailors
Heaving the windlass round, and hoisting the ponderous anchor.
Then the yards were braced, and all sails set to the west-wind,
Blowing steady and strong; and the Mayflower sailed from the harbor,
Rounded the point of the Gurnet, and leaving far to the southward
Island and cape of sand, and the Field of the First Encounter,
Took the wind on her quarter, and stood for the open Atlantic,
Borne on the send of the sea, and the swelling hearts of the Pilgrims.

Long in silence they watched the receding sail of the vessel,
Much endeared to them all, as something living and human;
Then, as if filled with the spirit, and wrapt in a vision prophetic,
Baring his hoary head, the excellent Elder of Plymouth
Said, "Let us pray!' and they prayed, and thanked the Lord and took courage.
Mournfully sobbed the waves at the base of the rock, and above them
Bowed and whispered the wheat on the hill of death, and their kindred
Seemed to awake in their graves, and to join in the prayer that they uttered.
Sun-illumined and white, on the eastern verge of the ocean
Gleamed the departing sail, like a marble slab in a graveyard;
Buried beneath it lay forever all hope of escaping.
Lo! as they turned to depart, they saw the form of an Indian,
Watching them from the hill; but while they spake with each other,
Pointing with outstretched hands, and saying, "Look!" he had vanished.
So they returned to their homes; but Alden lingered a little,
Musing alone on the shore, and watching the wash of the billows
Round the base of the rock, and the sparkle and flash of the sunshine,
Like the spirit of God, moving visibly over the waters.


VI
PRISCILLA


Thus for a while he stood, and mused by the shore of the
ocean, Thinking of many things, and most of all of Priscilla;
And as if thought had the power to draw to itself, like the loadstone,
Whatsoever it touches, by subtile laws of its nature,
Lo! as he turned to depart, Priscilla was standing beside him.

"Are you so much offended, you will not speak to me?" said she.
"Am I so much to blame, that yesterday, when you were pleading
Warmly the cause of another, my heart, impulsive and wayward,
Pleaded your own, and spake out, forgetful perhaps of decorum?
Certainly you can forgive me for speaking so frankly, for saying
What I ought not to have said, yet now I can never unsay it;
For there are moments in life, when the heart is so full of emotion,
That if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble
Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret,
Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together.
Yesterday I was shocked, when I heard you speak of Miles Standish,
Praising his virtues, transforming his very defects into virtues,
Praising his courage and strength, and even his fighting in Flanders,
As if by fighting alone you could win the heart of a woman,
Quite overlooking yourself and the rest, in exalting your hero.
Therefore I spake as I did, by an irresistible impulse.
You will forgive me, I hope, for the sake of the friendship between us,
Which is too true and too sacred to be so easily broken!"
Thereupon answered John Alden, the scholar, the friend of Miles Standish:
"I was not angry with you, with myself alone I was angry.
Seeing how badly I managed the matter I had in my keeping."
"No!" interrupted the maiden, with answer prompt and decisive;
"No; you were angry with me, for speaking so frankly and freely.
It was wrong, I acknowledge; for it is the fate of a woman
Long to be patient and silent, to wait like a ghost that is speechless,
Till some questioning voice dissolves the spell of its silence.
Hence is the inner life of so many suffering women
Sunless and silent and deep, like subterranean rivers
Running through caverns of darkness, unheard, unseen, and unfruitful,
Chafing their channels of stone, with endless and profitless murmurs."
Thereupon answered John Alden, the young man, the lover of women:
"Heaven forbid it, Priscilla: and truly they seem to me always
More like the beautiful rivers that watered the garden of Eden,
More like the river Euphrates, through deserts of Havilah flowing,
Filling the land with delight, and memories sweet of the garden!"
Ah, by these words, I can see," again interrupted the maiden,
"How very little you prize me, or care for what I am saying.
When from the depths of my heart, in pain and with secret misgiving,
Frankly I speak to you, asking for sympathy only and kindness,
Straightway you take up my words, that are plain and direct and in earnest,
Turn them away from their meaning, and answer with flattering phrases.
This is not right, is not just, is not true to the best that is in you;
For I know and esteem you, and feel that your nature is noble,
Lifting mine up to a higher, a more ethereal level.
Therefore I value your friendship, and feel it perhaps the more keenly
If you say aught that implies I am only as one among many,
If you make use of those common and complimentary phrases
Most men think so fine, in dealing and speaking with women,
But which women reject as insipid, if not as insulting."

Mute and amazed was Alden; and listened and looked at Priscilla,
Thinking he never had seen her more fair, more divine in her beauty.
He who but yesterday pleaded so glibly the cause of another,
Stood there embarrassed and silent, and seeking in vain for an answer.
So the maiden went on, and little divined or imagined
What was at work in his heart, that made him so awkward and speechless.
"Let us, then, be what we are, and speak what we think, and in all things
Keep ourselves loyal to truth, and the sacred professions of friendship.
It is no secret I tell you, nor am I ashamed to declare it:
I have liked to be with you, to see you, to speak with you always.
So I was hurt at your words, and a little affronted to hear you
Urge me to marry your friend, though he were the Captain Miles Standish.
For I must tell you the truth: much more to me is your friendship
Than all the love he could give, were he twice the hero you think him."
Then she extended her hand, and Alden, who eagerly grasped it,
Felt all the wounds in his heart, that were aching and bleeding so sorely,
Healed by the touch of that hand, and he said, with a voice full of feeling:
"Yes, we must ever be friends; and of all who offer you friendship
Let me be ever the first, the truest, the nearest and dearest!"

Casting a farewell look at the glimmering sail of the Mayflower,
Distant, but still in sight, and sinking below the horizon,
Homeward together they walked, with a strange, indefinite feeling,
That all the rest had departed and left them alone in the desert.
But, as they went through the fields in the blessing and smile of the sunshine,
Lighter grew their hearts, and Priscilla said very archly:
"Now that our terrible Captain has gone in pursuit of the Indians,
Where he is happier far than he would be commanding a household,
You may speak boldly, and tell me of all that happened between you,
When you returned last night, and said how ungrateful you found me."
Thereupon answered John Alden, and told her the whole of the story, --
Told her his own despair, and the direful wrath of Miles Standish.
Whereat the maiden smiled, and said between laughing and earnest,
"He is a little chimney, and heated hot in a moment!"
But as he gently rebuked her, and told her how he had suffered, --
How he had even determined to sail that day in the Mayflower,
And had remained for her sake, on hearing the dangers that threatened, --
All her manner was changed, and she said with a faltering accent,
"Truly I thank you for this: how good you have been to me always!"

Thus, as a pilgrim devout, who toward Jerusalem journeys,
Taking three steps in advance, and one reluctantly backward,
Urged by importunate zeal, and withheld by pangs of contrition;
Slowly but steadily onward, receding yet ever advancing,
Journeyed this Puritan youth to the Holy Land of his longings,
Urged by the fervor of love, and withheld by remorseful misgivings.


VII
THE MARCH OF MILES STANDISH



Meanwhile the stalwart Miles Standish was marching
steadily northward,
Winding through forest and swamp, and along the trend of the sea-shore,
All day long, with hardly a halt, the fire of his anger
Burning and crackling within, and the sulphurous odor of powder
Seeming more sweet to his nostrils than all the scents of the forest.
Silent and moody he went, and much he revolved his discomfort;
He who was used to success, and to easy victories always,
Thus to be flouted, rejected, and laughed to scorn by a maiden,
Thus to be mocked and betrayed by the friend whom most he had trusted!
Ah! 't was too much to be borne, and he fretted and chafed in his armor!

"I alone am to blame," he muttered, "for mine was the folly.
What has a rough old soldier, grown grim and gray in the harness,
Used to the camp and its ways, to do with the wooing of maidens?
'T was but a dream, -- let it pass, -- let it vanish like so many others!
What I thought was a flower, is only a weed, and is worthless;
Out of my heart will I pluck it, and throw it away, and henceforward
Be but a fighter of battles, a lover and wooer of dangers!"
Thus he revolved in his mind his sorry defeat and discomfort,
While he was marching by day or lying at night in the forest,
Looking up at the trees, and the constellations beyond them.

After a three days' march he came to an Indian encampment
Pitched on the edge of a meadow, between the sea and the forest;
Women at work by the tents, and warriors, horrid with war-paint,
Seated about a fire, and smoking and talking together;
Who, when they saw from afar the sudden approach of the white meong the trend of the sea-shore,
All day long, with hardly a halt, the fire of his anger
Burning and crackling within, and the sulphurous odor of powder
Seeming more sweet to his nostrils than all the scents of the forest.
Silent and moody he went, and much he revolved his discomfort;
He who was used to success, and to easy victories always,
Thus to be flouted, rejected, and laughed to scorn by a maiden,
Thus to be mocked and betrayed by the friend whom most he had trusted!
Ah! 't was too much to be borne, and he fretted and chafed in his armor!

"I alone am to blame," he muttered, "for mine was the folly.
What has a rough old soldier, grown grim and gray in the harness,
Used to the camp and its ways, to do with the wooing of maidens?
'T was but a dream, -- let it pass, -- let it vanish like so many others!
What I thought was a flower, is only a weed, and is worthless;
Out of my heart will I pluck it, and throw it away, and henceforward
Be but a fighter of battles, a lover and wooer of dangers!"
Thus he revolved in his mind his sorry defeat and discomfort,
While he was marching by day or lying at night in the forest,
Looking up at the trees, and the constellations beyond them.

After a three days' march he came to an Indian encampment
Pitched on the edge of a meadow, between the sea and the forest;
Women at work by the tents, and warriors, horrid with war-paint,
Seated about a fire, and smoking and talking together;
Who, when they saw from afar the sudden approach of the white men,
Saw the flash of the sun on breastplate and sabre and musket,
Straightway leaped to their feet, and two, from among them advancing,
Came to parley with Standish, and offer him furs as a present;
Friendship was in their looks, but in their hearts there was hatred.
Braves of the tribe were these, and brothers, gigantic in stature,
Huge as Goliath of Gath, or the terrible Og, king of Bashan;
One was Pecksuot named, and the other was called Wattwamat.
Round their necks were suspended their knives in scabbards of wampum,
Two-edged, trenchant knives, with points as sharp as a needle.
Other arms had they none, for they were cunning and crafty.
"Welcome, English!" they said, -- these words they had learned from the traders
Touching at times on the coast, to barter and chaffer for peltries.
Then in their native tongue they began to parley with Standish,
Through his guide and interpreter, Hobomok, friend of the white man,
Begging for blankets and knives, but mostly for muskets and powder,
Kept by the white man, they said, concealed, with the plague, in his cellars,
Ready to be let loose, and destroy his brother the red man!
But when Standish refused, and said he would give them the Bible,
Suddenly changing their tone, they began to boast and to bluster.
Then Wattawamat advanced with a stride in front of the other,
And, with a lofty demeanor, thus vauntingly spake to the Captain:
"Now Wattawamat can see, by the fiery eyes of the Captain,
Angry is he in his heart; but the heart of the brave Wattawamat
Is not afraid at the sight. He was not born of a woman,
But on a mountain at night, from an oak-tree riven by lightning,
Forth he sprang at a bound, with all his weapons about him,
Shouting, 'Who is there here to fight with the brave Wattawamat?'"
Then he unsheathed his knife, and, whetting the blade on his left hand,
Held it aloft and displayed a woman's face on the handle;
Saying, with bitter expression and look of sinister meaning:
"I have another at home, with the face of a man on the handle;
By and by they shall marry; and there will be plenty of children!"

Then stood Pecksuot forth, self-vaunting, insulting Miles Standish:
While with his fingers he patted the knife that hung at his bosom,
Drawing it half from its sheath, and plunging it back, as he muttered,
"By and by it shall see; it shall eat; ah, ha! but shall speak not!
This is the mighty Captain the white men have sent to destroy us!
He is a little man; let him go and work with the women!"

Meanwhile Standish had noted the faces and figures of Indians
Peeping and creeping about from bush to tree in the forest,
Feigning to look for game, with arrows set on their bow-strings,
Drawing about him still closer and closer the net of their ambush.
But undaunted he stood, and dissembled and treated them smoothly;
So the old chronicles say, that were writ in the days of the fathers.
But when he heard their defiance, the boast, the taunt, and the insult,
All the hot blood of his race, of Sir Hugh and of Thurston de Standish,
Boiled and beat in his heart, and swelled in the veins of his temples.
Headlong he leaped on the boaster, and, snatching his knife from its scabbard,
Plunged it into his heart, and, reeling backward, the savage
Fell with his face to the sky and a fiend-like fierceness upon it.
Straight there arose from the forest the awful sound of the war-whoop.
And, like a flurry of snow on the whistling wind of December,
Swift and sudden and keen came a flight of feathery arrows.
Then came a cloud of smoke, and out of the cloud came the lightning,
Out of the lightning thunder; and death unseen ran before it.
Frightened the savages fled for shelter in swamp and in thicket,
Hotly pursued and beset; but their sachem, the brave Wattawamat,
Fled not; he was dead. Unswerving and swift had a bullet
Passed through his brain, and he fell with both hands clutching the greensward,
Seeming in death to hold back from his foe the land of his fathers.

There on the flowers of the meadow the warriors lay, and above them
Silent, with folded arms, stood Hobomok, friend of the white man.
Smiling at length he exclaimed to the stalwart Captain of Plymouth: --
"Pecksuot bragged very loud, of his courage, his strength, and his stature, --
Mocked the great Captain, and called him a little man; but I see now
Be enough have you been to lay him speechless before you!"

Thus the first battle was fought and won by the stalwart Miles Standish.
When the tidings thereof were brought to the village of Plymouth,
And as a trophy of war the head of the brave Wattawamat
Scowled from the roof of the fort, which at once was a church and a fortress,
All who beheld it rejoiced, and praised the Lord, and took courage.
Only Priscilla averted her face from this spectre of terror,
Thanking God in her heart that she had not married Miles Standish;
Shrinking, fearing almost, lest, coming home from his battles,
He should lay claim to her hand, as the prize and reward of his valor.


VIII
THE SPINNING-WHEEL



Month after me bull, that had fallen to Alden's allotment
In the division of cattle, might ruminate in the night-time
Over the pastures he cropped, made fragrant by sweet pennyroyal.

Oft when his labor was finished, with eager feet would the dreamer
Follow the pathway that ran through the woods to the house of Priscilla,
Led by illusions romantic and subtile deceptions of fancy,
Pleasure disguised as duty, and love in the semblance of friendship.
Ever of her he thought, when he fashioned the walls of his dwelling;
Ever of her he thought, when he delved in the soil of his garden;
Ever of her he thought, when he read in his Bible on Sunday
Praise of the virtuous woman, as she is described in the Proverbs, --
How the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her always,
How all the days of her life she will do him good, and not evil,
How she seeketh the wool and the flax and worketh with gladness,
How she layeth her hand to the spindle and holdeth the distaff,
How she is not afraid of the snow for herself or her household,
Knowing her household are clothed with the scarlet cloth of her weaving!

So as she sat at her wheel one afternoon in the Autumn,
Alden, who opposite sat, and was watching her dexterous fingers,
As if the thread she was spinning were that of his life and his fortune,
After a pause in their talk, thus spake to the sound of the spindle.
"Truly, Priscilla," he said, "when I see you spinning and spinning,
Never idle a moment, but thrifty and thoughtful of others,
Suddenly you are transformed, are visibly changed in a moment;
You are no longer Priscilla, but Bertha the Beautiful Spinner."
Here the light foot on the treadle grew swifter and swifter; the spindle
Uttered an angry snarl, and the thread snapped short in her fingers;
While the impetuous speaker, not heeding the mischief, continued:
"You are the beautiful Bertha, the spinner, the queen of Helvetia;
She whose story I read at a stall in the streets of Southampton,
Who, as she rode on her palfrey, o'er valley and meadow and mountain,
Ever was spinning her thread from a distaff fixed to her saddle.
She was so thrifty and good, that her name passed into a proverb.
So shall it be with your own, when the spinning-wheel shall no longer
Hum in the house of the farmer, and fill its chambers with music.
Then shall the mothers, reproving, relate how it was in their childhood,
Praising the good old times, and the days of Priscilla the spinner!"
Straight uprose from her wheel the beautiful Puritan maiden,
Pleased with the praise of her thrift from him whose praise was the sweetest,
Drew from the reel on the table a snowy skein of her spinning,
Thus making answer, meanwhile, to the flattering phrases of Alden:
"Come, you must not be idle; if I am a pattern for housewives,
Show yourself equally worthy of being the model of husbands.
Hold this skein on your hands, while I wind it, ready for knitting;
Then who knows but hereafter, when fashions have changed and the manners,
Fathers may talk to their sons of the good old times of John Alden!"
Thus, with a jest and a laugh, the skein on his hands she adjusted,
He sitting awkwardly there, with his arms extended before him,
She standing graceful, erect, and winding the thread from his fingers,
Sometimes chiding a little his clumsy manner of holding,
Sometimes touching his hands, as she disentangled expertly
Twist or knot in the yarn, unawares -- for how could she help it? --
Sending electrical thrills through every nerve in his body.

Lo! in the midst of this scene, a breathless messenger entered,
Bringing in hurry and heat the terrible news from the village.
Yes; Miles Standish was dead! -- an Indian had brought them the tidings, --
Slain by a poisoned arrow, shot down in the front of the battle,
Into an ambush beguiled, cut off with the whole of his forces;
All the town would be burned, and all the people be murdered!
Such were the tidings of evil that burst on the hearts of the hearers.
Silent and statue-like stood Priscilla, her face looking backward
Still at the face of the speaker, her arms uplifted in horror;
But John Alden, upstarting, as if the barb of the arrow
Piercing the heart of his friend had struck his own, and had sundered
Once and forever the bonds that held him bound as a captive,
Wild with excess of sensation, the awful delight of his freedom,
Mingled with pain and regret, unconscious of what he was doing,
Clasped, almost with a groan, the motionless form of Priscilla,
Pressing her close to his heart, as forever his own, and exclaiming:
"Those whom the Lord hath united, let no man put them asunder!"

Even as rivulets twain, from distant and separate sources,
Seeing each other afar, as they leap from the

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Courtship of Miles Standish

I
MILES STANDISH

In the Old Colony days, in Plymouth the land of the Pilgrims
To and fro in a room of his simple and primitive dwelling,
Clad in doublet and hose, and boots of Cordovan leather,
Strode, with a martial air, Miles Standish the Puritan Captain.
Buried in thought he seemed, with his hands behind him, and pausing
Ever and anon to behold his glittering weapons of warfare,
Hanging in shining array along the walls of the chamber, --
Cutlass and corselet of steel, and his trusty sword of Damascus,
Curved at the point and inscribed with its mystical Arabic sentence,
While underneath, in a corner, were fowling-piece, musket, and matchlock.
Short of stature he was, but strongly built and athletic,
Broad in the shoulders, deep-chested, with muscles and sinews of iron;
Brown as a nut was his face, but his russet beard was already
Flaked with patches of snow, as hedges sometimes in November.
Near him was seated John Alden, his friend and household companion,
Writing with diligent speed at a table of pine by the window:
Fair-haired, azure-eyed, with delicate Saxon complexion,
Having the dew of his youth, and the beauty thereof, as the captives
Whom Saint Gregory saw, and exclaimed, "Not Angles, but Angels."
Youngest of all was he of the men who came in the Mayflower.

Suddenly breaking the silence, the diligent scribe interrupting,
Spake, in the pride of his heart, Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth.
"Look at these arms," he said, "the war-like weapons that hang here
Burnished and bright and clean, as if for parade or inspection!
This is the sword of Damascus I fought with in Flanders; this breastplate,
Well I remember the day! once save my life in a skirmish;
Here in front you can see the very dint of the bullet
Fired point-blank at my heart by a Spanish arcabucero.
Had it not been of sheer steel, the forgotten bones of Miles Standish
Would at this moment be mould, in their grave in the Flemish morasses."
Thereupon answered John Alden, but looked not up from his writing:
"Truly the breath of the Lord hath slackened the speed of the bullet;
He in his mercy preserved you, to be our shield and our weapon!"
Still the Captain continued, unheeding the words of the stripling:
"See, how bright they are burnished, as if in an arsenal hanging;
That is because I have done it myself, and not left it to others.
Serve yourself, would you be well served, is an excellent adage;
So I take care of my arms, as you of your pens and your inkhorn.
Then, too, there are my soldiers, my great, invincible army,
Twelve men, all equipped, having each his rest and his matchlock,
Eighteen shillings a month, together with diet and pillage,
And, like Caesar, I know the name of each of my soldiers!"
This he said with a smile, that danced in his eyes, as the sunbeams
Dance on the waves of the sea, and vanish again in a moment.
Alden laughed as he wrote, and still the Captain continued:
"Look! you can see from this window my brazen howitzer planted
High on the roof of the church, a preacher who speaks to the purpose,
Steady, straightforward, and strong, with irresistible logic,
Orthodox, flashing conviction right into the hearts of the heathen.
Now we are ready, I think, for any assault of the Indians;
Let them come, if they like, and the sooner they try it the better, --
Let them come, if they like, be it sagamore, sachem, or pow-wow,
Aspinet, Samoset, Corbitant, Squanto, or Tokamahamon!"

Long at the window he stood, and wistfully gazed on the landscape,
Washed with a cold gray mist, the vapory breath of the east-wind,
Forest and meadow and hill, and the steel-blue rim of the ocean,
Lying silent and sad, in the afternoon shadows and sunshine.
Over his countenance flitted a shadow like those on the landscape,
Gloom intermingled with light; and his voice was subdued with emotion,
Tenderness, pity, regret, as after a pause he proceeded:
"Yonder there, on the hill by the sea, lies buried Rose Standish;
Beautiful rose of love, that bloomed for me by the wayside!
She was the first to die of all who came in the Mayflower!
Green above her is growing the field of wheat we have sown there,
Better to hide from the Indian scouts the graves of our people,
Lest they should count them and see how many already have perished!"
Sadly his face he averted, and strode up and down, and was thoughtful.

Fixed to the opposite wall was a shelf of books, and among
them Prominent three, distinguished alike for bulk and for binding:
Bariffe's Artillery Guide, and the Commentaries of Caesar
Out of the Latin translated by Arthur Goldinge of London,
And, as if guarded by these, between them was standing the Bible.
Musing a moment before them, Miles Standish paused, as if doubtful
Which of the three he should choose for his consolation and comfort,
Whether the wars of the Hebrews, the famous campaigns of the Romans,
Or the Artillery practice, designed for belligerent Christians.
Finally down from its shelf he dragged the ponderous Roman,
Seated himself at the window, and opened the book and in silence
Turned o'er the well-worn leaves, where thumb-marks thick on the margin,
Like the trample of feet, proclaimed the battle was hottest.
Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the stripling,
Busily writing epistles important, to go by the Mayflower,
Ready to sail on the morrow, or next day at latest, God willing!
Homeward bound with the tidings of all that terrible winter,
Letters written by Alden and full of the name of Priscilla!
Full of the name and the fame of the Puritan maiden Priscilla!

II
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the
stripling, Or an occasional sign from the laboring heart of the Captain,
Reading the marvellous words and achievements of Julius Caesar.
After a while he exclaimed, as he smote with his hand, palm downwards,
Heavily on the page: "A wonderful man was this Caesar!
You are a writer, and I am a fighter, but here is a fellow
Who could both write and fight, and in both was equally skillful!"
Straightway answered and spake John Alden, the comely, the youthful:
"Yes, he was equally skilled, as you say, with his pen and his weapons.
Somewhere have I read, but where I forget, he could dictate
Seven letters at once, at the same time writing his memoirs."
"Truly," continued the Captain, not heeding or hearing the other,
"Truly a wonderful man was Caius Julius Caesar!
Better be first, he said, in a little Iberian village,
Than be second in Rome, and I think he was right when he said it.
Twice was he married before he was twenty, and many times after;
Battles five hundred he fought, and a thousand cities he conquered;
He, too, fought in Flanders, as he himself has recorded;
Finally he was stabbed by his friend, the orator Brutus!
Now, do you know what he did on a certain occasion in Flanders,
When the rear-guard of his army retreated, the front giving way too,
And the immortal Twelfth Legion was crowded so closely together
There was no room for their swords? Why, he seized a shield from a soldier,
Put himself straight at the head of his troops, and commanded the captains,
Calling on each by his name, to order forward the ensigns;
Then to widen the ranks, and give more room for their weapons;
So he won the day, the battle of something-or-other.
That's what I always say; if you wish a thing to be well done,
You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others!"

All was silent again; the Captain continued his reading.
Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the stripling
Writing epistles important to go next day by the Mayflower,
Filled with the name and the fame of the Puritan maiden Priscilla;
Every sentence began or closed with the name of Priscilla,
Till the treacherous pen, to which he confided the secret,
Strove to betray it by singing and shouting the name of Priscilla!
Finally closing his book, with a bang of the ponderous cover,
Sudden and loud as the sound of a soldier grounding his musket,
Thus to the young man spake Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth:
"When you have finished your work, I have something important to tell you.
Be not however in haste; I can wait; I shall not be impatient!"
Straightway Alden replied, as he folded the last of his letters,
Pushing his papers aside, and giving respectful attention:
"Speak; for whenever you speak, I am always ready to listen,
Always ready to hear whatever pertains to Miles Standish."
Thereupon answered the Captain, embarrassed, and culling his phrases:
" 'T is not good for a man to be alone, say the Scriptures.
This I have said before, and again and again I repeat it;
Every hour in the day, I think it, and feel it, and say it.
Since Rose Standish died, my life has been weary and dreary;
Sick at heart have I been, beyond the healing of friendship;
Oft in my lonely hours have I thought of the maiden Priscilla.
She is alone in the world; her father and mother and brother
Died in the winter together; I saw her going and coming,
Now to the grave of the dead, and now to the bed of the dying,
Patient, courageous, and strong, and said to myself, that if ever
There were angels on earth, as there are angels in heaven,
Two have I seen and known; and the angel whose name is Priscilla
Holds in my desolate life the place which the other abandoned.
Long have I cherished the thought, but never have dared to reveal it,
Being a coward in this though valiant enough for the most part.
Go to the damsel Priscilla, the loveliest maiden of Plymouth,
Say that a blunt old Captain, a man not of words but of actions,
Offers his hand and his heart, the hand and heart of a soldier.
Not in these words, you know, but this in short is my meaning;
I am a maker of war, and not a maker of phrases.
You, who are bred as a scholar, can say it in elegant language,
Such as you read in your books of the pleadings and wooings of lovers,
Such as you think best adapted to win the heart of a maiden."

When he had spoken, John Alden, the fair-haired, taciturn stripling,
All aghast at his words, surprised, embarrassed, bewildered,
Trying to mask his dismay by treating the subject with lightness,
Trying to smile, and yet feeling his heart stand still in his bosom,
Just as a timepiece stops in a house that is stricken by lightning,
Thus made answer and spake, or rather stammered than answered:
"Such a message as that, I am sure I should mangle and mar it;
If you would have it well done, -- I am only repeating your maxim, --
You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others!"
But with the air of a man whom nothing can turn from his purpose,
Gravely shaking his head, made answer the Captain of Plymouth:
"Truly the maxim is good, and I do not mean to gainsay it;
But we must use it discreetly, and not waste powder for nothing.
Now, as I said before, I was never a maker of phrases.
I can march up to a fortress and summon the place to surrender,
But march up to a woman with such a proposal, I dare not.
I'm not afraid of bullets, nor shot from the mouth of a cannon,
But of a thundering 'No!' point-blank from the mouth of a woman,
That I confess I'm afraid of, nor am I ashamed to confess it!
So you must grant my request, for you are an elegant scholar,
Having the graces of speech, and skill in the turning of phrases."
Taking the hand of his friend, who still was reluctant and doubtful,
Holding it long in his own, and pressing kindly, he added:
"Though I have spoken thus lightly, yet deep is the feeling that prompts me;
Surely you cannot refuse what I ask in the name of our friendship!"
Then made answer John Alden: "The name of friendship is sacred;
What you demand in that name, I have not the power to deny you!"
So the strong will prevailed, subduing and moulding the gentler,
Friendship prevailed over love, and Alden went on his errand.


III
THE LOVER'S ERRAND

So the strong will prevailed, and Alden went on his
errand, Out of the street of the village, and into the paths of the
forest, Into the tranquil woods, where bluebirds and robins were building
Towns in the populous trees, with hanging gardens of verdure,
Peaceful, aerial cities of joy and affection and freedom.
All around him was calm, but within him commotion and conflict,
Love contending with friendship, and self with each generous impulse.
To and fro in his breast his thoughts were heaving and dashing,
As in a foundering ship, with every roll of the vessel,
Washes the bitter sea, the merciless surge of the ocean!
"Must I relinquish it all," he cried with a wild lamentation, --
"Must I relinquish it all, the joy, the hope, the illusion?
Was it for this I have loved, and waited, and worshipped in silence?
Was it for this I have followed the flying feet and the shadow
Over the wintry sea, to the desolate shores of New England?
Truly the heart is deceitful, and out of its depths of corruption
Rise, like an exhalation, the misty phantoms of passion;
Angels of light they seem, but are only delusions of Satan.
All is clear to me now; I feel it, I see it distinctly!
This is the hand of the Lord; it is laid upon me in anger,
For I have followed too much the heart's desires and devices,
Worshipping Astaroth blindly, and impious idols of Baal.
This is the cross I must bear; the sin and the swift retribution."

So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went on his errand;
Crossing the brook at the ford, where it brawled over pebble and shallow,
Gathering still, as he went, the May-flowers blooming around him,
Fragrant, filling the air with a strange and wonderful sweetness,
Children lost in the woods, and covered with leaves in their slumber.
"Puritan flowers," he said, "and the type of Puritan maidens,
Modest and simple and sweet, the very type of Priscilla!
So I will take them to her; to Priscilla the Mayflower of Plymouth,
Modest and simple and sweet, as a parting gift will I take them;
Breathing their silent farewells, as they fade and wither and perish,
Soon to be thrown away as is the heart of the giver,"
So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went on his errand;
Came to an open space, and saw the disk of the ocean,
Sailless, sombre and cold with the comfortless breath of the east-wind;
Saw the new-built house, and people at work in a meadow;
Heard, as he drew near the door, the musical voice of Priscilla
Singing the hundredth Psalm, the grand old Puritan anthem,
Music that Luther sang to the sacred words of the Psalmist,
Full of the breath of the Lord, consoling and comforting many.
Then, as he opened the door, he beheld the form of the maiden
Seated beside her wheel, and the carded wool like a snow-drift
Piled at her knee, white hands feeding the ravenous spindle,
While with her foot on the treadle she guided the wheel in its motion.
Open wide on her lap lay the well-worn psalm-book of Ainsworth,
Printed in Amsterdam, the words and the music together,
Rough-hewn, angular notes, like stones in the wall of a churchyard,
Darkened and overhung by the running vine of the verses.
Such was the book from whose pages she sang the old Puritan anthem,
She, the Puritan girl, in the solitude of the forest,
Making the humble house and the modest apparel of homespun
Beautiful with her beauty, and rich with the wealth of her being!
Over him rushed, like a wind that is keen and cold and relentless,
Thoughts of what might have been, and the weight and woe of his errand:
All the dreams that had faded, and all the hopes that had vanished,
All his life henceforth a dreary and tenant-less mansion,
Haunted by vain regrets, and pallid, sorrowful faces.
Still he said to himself, and almost fiercely he said it,
"Let not him that putteth his hand to the plough look backwards;
Though the ploughshare cut through the flowers of life to its fountains,
Though it pass o'er the graves of the dead and the hearths of the living,
It is the will of the Lord; and his mercy endureth forever!"

So he entered the house: and the hum of the wheel and the singing
Suddenly ceased; for Priscilla, aroused by his step on the threshold,
Rose as he entered, and gave him her hand in signal of welcome,
Saying, "I knew it was you, when I heard your step in the passage;
For I was thinking of you, as I sat there singing and spinning."
Awkward and dumb with delight, that a thought of him had been mingled
Thus in the sacred psalm, that came from the heart of the maiden,
Silent before her he stood, and gave her the flowers for an answer,
Finding no words for his thought. He remembered that day in the winter,
After the first great snow, when he broke a path from the village,
Reeling and plunging along through the drifts that encumbered the doorway,
Stamping the snow from his feet as he entered the house, and Priscilla
Laughed at his snowy locks, and gave him a seat by the fireside,
Grateful and pleased to know he had thought of her in the snow-storm.
Had he but spoken then! perhaps not in vain had he spoken;
Now it was all too late; the golden moment had vanished!
So he stood there abashed, and gave her the flowers for an answer.

Then they sat down and talked of the birds and the beautiful Spring-time,
Talked of their friends at home, and the Mayflower that sailed on the morrow.
"I have been thinking all day," said gently the Puritan maiden,
"Dreaming all night, and thinking all day, of the hedge-rows of England, --
They are in blossom now, and the country is all like a garden:
Thinking of lanes and fields, and the song of the lark and the linnet,
Seeing the village street, and familiar faces of neighbors
Going about as of old, and stopping to gossip together,
And, at the end of the street, the village church, with the ivy
Climbing the old gray tower, and the quiet graves in the churchyard.
Kind are the people I live with, and dear to me my religion;
Still my heart is so sad, that I wish myself back in Old England.
You will say it is wrong, but I cannot help it: I almost
Wish myself back in Old England, I feel so lonely and wretched."

Thereupon answered the youth: "Indeed I do not condemn you;
Stouter hearts that a woman's have quailed in this terrible winter.
Yours is tender and trusting, and needs a stronger to lean on;
So I have come to you now, with an offer and proffer of marriage
Made by a good man and true, Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth!"

Thus he delivered his message, the dexterous writer of letters, --
Did not embellish the theme, nor array it in beautiful phrases,
But came straight to the point, and blurted it out like a school-boy;
Even the Captain himself could hardly have said it more bluntly.
Mute with amazement and sorrow, Priscilla the Puritan maiden
Looked into Alden's face, her eyes dilated with wonder,
Feeling his words like a blow, that stunned her and rendered her speechless;
Till at length she exclaimed, interrupting the ominous silence:
"If the great Captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me,
Why does he not come himself, and take the trouble to woo me"
If I am not worth the wooing, I surely am not worth the winning!"
Then John Alden began explaining and smoothing the matter,
Making it worse as he went, by saying the Captain was busy, --
Had no time for such things -- such things! the words grating harshly
Fell on the ear of Priscilla; and swift as a flash she made answer:
"Has he not time for such things, as you call it, before he is married,
Would he be likely to find it, or make it, after the wedding?
That is the way with you men; you don't understand us, you cannot.
When you have made up your minds, after thinking of this one and that one,
Choosing, selecting, rejecting, comparing one with another,
Then you make known your desire, with abrupt and sudden avowal,
And are offended and hurt, and indignant perhaps, that a woman
Does not respond at once to a love that she never suspected,
Does not attain at a bound the height to which you have been climbing.
This is not right nor just: for surely a woman's affection
Is not a thing to be asked for, and had for only the asking.
When one is truly in love, one not only says it, but shows it.
Had he but waited awhile, had he only showed that he loved me,
Even this Captain of yours -- who knows? -- at last might have won me,
Old and rough as he is; but now it never can happen."

Still John Alden went on, unheeding the words of Priscilla,
Urging the suit of his friend, explaining, persuading, expanding;
Spoke of his courage and skill, and of all his battles in Flanders,
How with the people of God he had chosen to suffer affliction;
How, in return for his zeal, they had made him Captain of Plymouth;
He was a gentleman born, could trace his pedigree plainly
Back to Hugh Standish of Duxbury Hall, in Lancashire, England,
Who was the son of Ralph, and the grandson of Thurston de Standish;
Heir unto vast estates of which he was basely defrauded,
Still bore the family arms, and had for his crest a cock argent,
Combed and wattled gules, and all the rest of the blazon.
He was a man of honor, of noble and generous nature;
Thought he was rough, he was kindly; she knew how during the winter
He had attended the sick, with a hand as gentle as a woman's'
Somewhat hasty and hot, he could not deny it, and headstrong,
Stern as a soldier might be, but hearty, and placable always,
Not to be laughed at and scorned, because he was little of stature;
For he was great of heart, magnanimous, courtly, courageous;
Any woman in Plymouth, nay, any woman in England,
Might be happy and proud to be called the wife of Miles Standish!

But as he warmed and glowed, in his simple and eloquent language,
Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival,
Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes overrunning with laughter,
Said, in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"

IV
JOHN ALDEN


Into the open air John Alden, perplexed and bewildered,
Rushed like a man insane, and wandered alone by the sea-side;
Paced up and down the sands, and bared his head to the east-wind,
Cooling his heated brow, and the fire and fever within him.
Slowly as out of the heavens, with apocalyptical splendors,
Sank the City of God, in the vision of John the Apostle,
So, with its cloudy walls of chrysolite, jasper, and sapphire,
Sank the broad red sun, and over its turrets uplifted
Glimmered the golden reed of the angel who measured the city.

"Welcome, O wind of the East!" he exclaimed in his wild exultation,
Welcome, O wind of the East, from the caves of the misty Atlantic!
Blowing o'er fields of dulse, and measureless meadows of sea-grass,
Blowing o'er rocky wastes, and the grottoes and gardens of ocean!
Lay thy cold, moist hand on my burning forehead, and wrap me
Close in thy garments of mist, to allay the fever within me!"

Like an awakened conscience, the sea was moaning and tossing,
Beating remorseful and loud the mutable sands of the sea-shore.
Fierce in his soul was the struggle and tumult of passions contending;
Love triumphant and crowned, and friendship wounded and bleeding,
Passionate cries of desire , and importunate pleadings of duty!
"Is it my fault," he said, "that the maiden has chosen between us?
Is it my fault that he failed, -- my fault that I am the victor?"
Then within him there thundered a voice, like the voice of the Prophet:
"It hath displeased the Lord!" -- and he thought of David's transgressions,
Bathsheba's beautiful face, and his friend in the front of the battle!
Shame and confusion of guilt, and abasement and self-condemnation,
Overwhelmed him at once; and he cried in the deepest contrition:
"It hath displeased the Lord! It is the temptation of Satan!"

Then, uplifting his head, he looked at the sea, and beheld there
Dimly the shadowy form of the Mayflower riding at anchor,
Rocked on the rising tide, and ready to sail on the morrow;
Heard the voices of men through the mist, the rattle of cordage
Thrown on the deck, the shouts of the mate, and the sailors' "Ay, ay, Sir!"
Clear and distinct, but not loud, in the dripping air of the twilight.
Still for a moment he stood and listened, and stared at the vessel,
Then went hurriedly on, as one who, seeing a phantom,
Stops, then quickens his pace, and follows the beckoning shadow.
"Yes, it is plain to me now," he murmured; "the hand of the Lord is
Leading me out of the land of darkness, the bondage of error,
Through the sea, that shall lift the walls of its waters around me,
Hiding me, cutting me off, from the cruel thoughts that pursue me.
Back will I go o'er the ocean, this dreary land will abandon,
Her whom I may not love, and him whom my heart has offended.
Better to be in my grave in the green old churchyard in England,
Close by my mother's side, and among the dust of my kindred;
Better be dead and forgotten, than living in shame and dishonor;
Sacred and safe and unseen, in the dark of the narrow chamber
With me my secret shall lie, like a buried jewel that glimmers
Bright on the hand that is dust, in the chambers of silence and darkness, --
Yes, as the marriage ring of the great espousal hereafter!"

Thus as he spake, he turned, in the strength of his strong resolution,
Leaving behind him the shore, and hurried along in the twilight,
Through the congenial gloom of the forest silent and sombre,
Till he beheld the lights in the seven houses of Plymouth,
Shining like seven stars in the dusk and mist of the evening.
Soon he entered his door, and found the redoubtable Captain
Sitting alone, and absorbed in the martial pages of Caesar,
Fighting some great campaign in Hainault of Brabant or Flanders.
"Long have you been on your errand," he said with a cheery demeanor,
Even as one who is waiting an answer, and fears not the issue.
"Not far off is the house, although the woods are between us;
But you have lingered so long, that while you were going and coming
I have fought ten battles and sacked and demolished a city.
Come, sit down, and in order relate to me all that has happened."

Then John Alden spake, and related the wondrous adventure,
From beginning to end, minutely, just as it happened;
How he had seen Priscilla, and how he had sped in his courtship,
Only smoothing a little, and softening down her refusal.
But when he came at length to the words Priscilla had spoken,
Words so tender and cruel: "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"
Up leaped the Captain of Plymouth, and stamped on the floor, till his armor
Clanged on the wall, where it hung, with a sound of sinister omen.
All his pent-up wrath burst forth in a sudden explosion,
E'en as a hand-grenade, that scatters destruction around it.
Wildly he shouted, and loud: "John Alden! you have betrayed me!
Me, Miles Standish, your friend! have supplanted, defrauded, betrayed me!
One of my ancestors ran his sword through the heart of Wat Tyler;
Who shall prevent me from running my own through the heart of a traitor?
Yours is the greater treason, for yours is a treason to friendship!
You, who lived under my roof, whom I cherished and loved as a brother;
You, who have fed at my board, and drunk at my cup, to whose keeping
I have intrusted my honor, my thoughts the most sacred and secret, --
You too, Brutus! as woe to the name of friendship hereafter!
Brutus was Caesar's friend, and you were mine, but, henceforward
Let there be nothing between us save war, and implacable hatred!"

So spake the Captain of Plymouth, and strode about in the chamber,
Chafing and choking with rage; like cords were the veins on his temples.
But in the midst of his anger a man appeared at the doorway,
Bringing in uttermost haste a message of urgent importance,
Rumors of danger and war and hostile incursions of Indians!
Straightway the Captain paused, and, without further question or parley,
Took from the nail on the wall his sword with its scabbard of iron,
Buckled the belt round his waist, and, frowning fiercely, departed.
Alden was left alone. He heard the clank of the scabbard
Growing fainter and fainter, and dying away in the distance.
Then he arose from his seat, and looked forth into the darkness,
Felt the cool air blow on his cheek, that was hot with the insult,
Lifted his eyes to the heavens, and, folding his hands as in childhood,
Prayed in the silence of night to the Father who seeth in secret.

Meanwhile the choleric Captain strode wrathful away to the council,
Found it already assembled, impatiently waiting his coming;
Men in the middle of life, austere and grave in deportment,
Only one of them old, the hill that was nearest to heaven,
Covered with snow, but erect, the excellent Elder of Plymouth.
God had sifted three kingdoms to find the wheat for this planting,
Then had sifted the wheat, as the living seed of a nation;
So say the chronicles old, and such is the faith of the people!
Near them was standing an Indian, in attitude stern and defiant,
Naked down to the waist, and grim and ferocious in aspect;
While on the table before them was lying unopened a Bible,
Ponderous, bound in leather, brass-studded, printed in Holland,
And beside it outstretched the skin of a rattlesnake glittered,
Filled, like a quiver, with arrows; a signal and challenge of warfare,
Brought by the Indian, and speaking with arrowy tongues of defiance.
This Miles Standish beheld, as he entered, and heard them debating
What were an answer befitting the hostile message and menace,
Talking of this and of that, contriving, suggesting, objecting;
One voice only for peace, and that the voice of the Elder,
Judging it wise and well that some at least were converted,
Rather than any were slain, for this was but Christian behavior!
Then out spake Miles Standish, the stalwart Captain of Plymouth,
Muttering deep in his throat, for his voice was husky with anger,
"What! do you mean to make war with milk and the water of roses?
Is it to shoot red squirrels you have your howitzer planted
There on the roof of the church, or is it to shoot red devils?
Truly the only tongue that is understood by a savage
Must be the tongue of fire that speaks from the mouth of the cannon!"
Thereupon answered and said the excellent Elder of Plymouth,
Somewhat amazed and alarmed at this irreverent language;
"Not so thought St. Paul, nor yet the other Apostles;
Not from the cannon's mouth were the tongues of fire they spake with!"
But unheeded fell this mild rebuke on the Captain,
Who had advanced to the table, and thus continued discoursing:
"Leave this matter to me, for to me by right it pertaineth.
War is a terrible trade; but in the cause that is righteous,
Sweet is the smell of powder; and thus I answer the challenge!"

Then from the rattlesnake's skin, with a sudden, contemptuous gesture,
Jerking the Indian arrows, he filled it with powder and bullets
Full to the very jaws, and handed it back to the savage,
Saying, in thundering tones: "Here, take it! this is your answer!"
Silently out of the room then glided the glistening savage,
Bearing the serpent's skin, and seeming himself like a serpent,
Winding his sinuous way in the dark to the depths of the forest.


V
THE SAILING OF THE MAYFLOWER

Just in the gray of the dawn, as the mists uprose from the
meadows, There was a stir and a sound in the slumbering village of Plymouth;
Clanging and clicking of arms, and the order imperative, "Forward!"
Given in tone suppressed, a tramp of feet, and then silence.
Figures ten, in the mist, marched slowly out of the village.
Standish the stalwart it was, with eight of his valorous army,
Led by their Indian guide, by Hobomok, friend of the white men,
Northward marching to quell the sudden revolt of the savage.
Giants they seemed in the mist, or the mighty men of King David;
Giants in heart they were, who believed in God and the Bible, --
Ay, who believed in the smiting of Midianites and Philistines.
Over them gleamed far off the crimson banners of morning;
Under them loud on the sands, the serried billows, advancing,
Fired along the line, and in regular order retreated.

Many a mile had they marched, when at length the village of Plymouth
Woke from its sleep and arose, intent on its manifold labors.
Sweet was the air and soft; and slowly the smoke from the chimneys
Rose over roofs of thatch, and pointed steadily eastward;
Men came forth from the doors, and paused and talked of the weather,
Said that the wind had changed, and was blowing fair for the Mayflower;
Talked of their Captain's departure, and all the dangers that menaced,
He being gone, the town, and what should be done in his absence.
Merrily sang the birds, and the tender voices of women
Consecrated with hymns the common cares of the household.
Out of the sea rose the sun, and the billows rejoiced at his coming;
Beautiful were his feet on the purple tops of the mountains;
Beautiful on the sails of the Mayflower riding at anchor,
Battered and blackened and worn by all the storms of the winter.
Loosely against her masts was hanging and flapping her canvas,
Rent by so many gales, and patched by the hands of the sailors.
Suddenly from her side, as the sun rose over the ocean,
Darted a puff of smoke, and floated seaward; anon rang
Loud over field and forest the cannon's roar, and the echoes
Heard and repeated the sound, the signal-gun of departure!
Ah! but with louder echoes replied the hearts of the people!
Meekly, in voices subdued, the chapter was read from the Bible,
Meekly the prayer was begun, but ended in fervent entreaty!
Then from their houses in haste came forth the Pilgrims of Plymouth,
Men and women and children, all hurrying down to the sea-shore,
Eager, with tearful eyes, to say farewell to the Mayflower,
Homeward bound o'er the sea, and leaving them here in the desert.

Foremost among them was Alden. All night he had lain without slumber,
Turning and tossing about in the heat and unrest of his fever.
He had beheld Miles Standish, who came back late from the council,
Stalking into the room, and heard him mutter and murmur;
Sometimes it seemed a prayer, and sometimes it sounded like swearing.
Once he had come to the bed, and stood there a moment in silence;
Then he had turned away, and said: "I will not awake him;
Let him sleep on, it is best; for what is the use of more talking!"
Then he extinguished the light, and threw himself down on his pallet,
Dressed as he was, and ready to start at the break of the morning, --
Covered himself with the cloak he had worn in his campaigns in Flanders, --
Slept as a soldier sleeps in his bivouac, ready for action.
But with the dawn he arose; in the twilight Alden beheld him
Put on his corselet of steel, and all the rest of his armor,
Buckle about his waist his trusty blade of Damascus,
Take from the corner his musket, and so stride out of the chamber.
Often the heart of the youth had burned and yearned to embrace him,
Often his lips had essayed to speak, imploring for pardon;
All the old friendship came back, with its tender and grateful emotions;
But his pride overmastered the nobler nature within him, --
Pride, and the sense of his wrong, and the burning fire of the insult.
So he beheld his friend departing in anger, but spake not,
Saw him go forth to danger, perhaps to death, and he spake not!
Then he arose from his bed, and heard what the people were saying.
Joined in the talk at the door, with Stephen and Richard and Gilbert,
Joined in the morning prayer, and in the reading of Scripture,
And, with the others, in haste went hurrying down to the sea-shore,
Down to the Plymouth Rock, that had been to their feet as a doorstep
Into a world unknown, -- the corner-stone of a nation!

There with his boat was the Master, already a little impatient
Lest he should lose the tide, or the wind might shift to the eastward,
Square-built, hearty, and strong, with an odor of ocean about him,
Speaking with this one and that, and cramming letters and parcels
Into his pockets capacious, and messages mingled together
Into his narrow brain, till at last he was wholly bewildered.
Nearer the boat stood Alden, with one foot placed on the gunwale,
One still firm on the rock, and talking at times with the sailors,
Seated erect on the thwarts, all ready and eager for starting.
He too was eager to go, and thus put an end to his anguish,
Thinking to fly from despair, that swifter than keel is or canvas,
Thinking to drown in the sea the ghost that would rise and pursue him.
But as he gazed on the crowd, he beheld the form of Priscilla
Standing dejected among them, unconscious of all that was passing.
Fixed were her eyes upon his, as if she divined his intention,
Fixed with a look so sad, so reproachful, imploring, and patient,
That with a sudden revulsion his heart recoiled from its purpose,
As from the verge of a crag, where one step more is destruction.
Strange is the heart of man, with its quick, mysterious instincts!
Strange is the life of man, and fatal or fated are moments,
Whereupon turn, as on hinges, the gates of the wall adamantine!
"Here I remain!" he exclaimed, as he looked at the heavens above him,
Thanking the Lord whose breath had scattered the mist and the madness,
Wherein, blind and lost, to death he was staggering headlong.
"Yonder snow-white cloud, that floats in the ether above me,
Seems like a hand that is pointing and beckoning over the ocean.
There is another hand, that is not so spectral and ghost-like,
Holding me, drawing me back, and clasping mine for protection.
Float, O hand of cloud, and vanish away in the ether!
Roll thyself up like a fist, to threaten and daunt me; I heed not
Either your warning or menace, or any omen of evil!
There is no land so sacred, no air so pure and so wholesome
As is the air she breathes, and the soil that is pressed by her footsteps.
Here for her sake will I stay, and like an invisible presence
Hover around her forever, protecting, supporting her weakness;
Yes! as my foot was the first that stepped on this rock at the landing,
So, with the blessing of God, shall it be the last at the leaving!"

Meanwhile the Master alert, but with dignified air and important,
Scanning with watchful eye the tide and the wind and the weather,
Walked about on the sands, and the people crowded around him
Saying a few last words, and enforcing his careful remembrance.
Then, taking each by the hand, as if he were gripping a tiller,
Into the boat he sprang, and in haste shoved off to his vessel,
Glad in his heart to get rid of all this worry and flurry,
Glad to be gone from a land of sand and sickness and sorrow,
Short allowance of victual, and plenty of nothing but Gospel!
Lost in the sound of the oars was the last farewell of the Pilgrims.
O strong hearts and true! not one went back in the Mayflower!
No, not one looked back, who had set his hand to this ploughing!

Soon were heard on board the shouts and songs of the sailors
Heaving the windlass round, and hoisting the ponderous anchor.
Then the yards were braced, and all sails set to the west-wind,
Blowing steady and strong; and the Mayflower sailed from the harbor,
Rounded the point of the Gurnet, and leaving far to the southward
Island and cape of sand, and the Field of the First Encounter,
Took the wind on her quarter, and stood for the open Atlantic,
Borne on the send of the sea, and the swelling hearts of the Pilgrims.

Long in silence they watched the receding sail of the vessel,
Much endeared to them all, as something living and human;
Then, as if filled with the spirit, and wrapt in a vision prophetic,
Baring his hoary head, the excellent Elder of Plymouth
Said, "Let us pray!' and they prayed, and thanked the Lord and took courage.
Mournfully sobbed the waves at the base of the rock, and above them
Bowed and whispered the wheat on the hill of death, and their kindred
Seemed to awake in their graves, and to join in the prayer that they uttered.
Sun-illumined and white, on the eastern verge of the ocean
Gleamed the departing sail, like a marble slab in a graveyard;
Buried beneath it lay forever all hope of escaping.
Lo! as they turned to depart, they saw the form of an Indian,
Watching them from the hill; but while they spake with each other,
Pointing with outstretched hands, and saying, "Look!" he had vanished.
So they returned to their homes; but Alden lingered a little,
Musing alone on the shore, and watching the wash of the billows
Round the base of the rock, and the sparkle and flash of the sunshine,
Like the spirit of God, moving visibly over the waters.


VI
PRISCILLA


Thus for a while he stood, and mused by the shore of the
ocean, Thinking of many things, and most of all of Priscilla;
And as if thought had the power to draw to itself, like the loadstone,
Whatsoever it touches, by subtile laws of its nature,
Lo! as he turned to depart, Priscilla was standing beside him.

"Are you so much offended, you will not speak to me?" said she.
"Am I so much to blame, that yesterday, when you were pleading
Warmly the cause of another, my heart, impulsive and wayward,
Pleaded your own, and spake out, forgetful perhaps of decorum?
Certainly you can forgive me for speaking so frankly, for saying
What I ought not to have said, yet now I can never unsay it;
For there are moments in life, when the heart is so full of emotion,
That if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble
Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret,
Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together.
Yesterday I was shocked, when I heard you speak of Miles Standish,
Praising his virtues, transforming his very defects into virtues,
Praising his courage and strength, and even his fighting in Flanders,
As if by fighting alone you could win the heart of a woman,
Quite overlooking yourself and the rest, in exalting your hero.
Therefore I spake as I did, by an irresistible impulse.
You will forgive me, I hope, for the sake of the friendship between us,
Which is too true and too sacred to be so easily broken!"
Thereupon answered John Alden, the scholar, the friend of Miles Standish:
"I was not angry with you, with myself alone I was angry.
Seeing how badly I managed the matter I had in my keeping."
"No!" interrupted the maiden, with answer prompt and decisive;
"No; you were angry with me, for speaking so frankly and freely.
It was wrong, I acknowledge; for it is the fate of a woman
Long to be patient and silent, to wait like a ghost that is speechless,
Till some questioning voice dissolves the spell of its silence.
Hence is the inner life of so many suffering women
Sunless and silent and deep, like subterranean rivers
Running through caverns of darkness, unheard, unseen, and unfruitful,
Chafing their channels of stone, with endless and profitless murmurs."
Thereupon answered John Alden, the young man, the lover of women:
"Heaven forbid it, Priscilla: and truly they seem to me always
More like the beautiful rivers that watered the garden of Eden,
More like the river Euphrates, through deserts of Havilah flowing,
Filling the land with delight, and memories sweet of the garden!"
Ah, by these words, I can see," again interrupted the maiden,
"How very little you prize me, or care for what I am saying.
When from the depths of my heart, in pain and with secret misgiving,
Frankly I speak to you, asking for sympathy only and kindness,
Straightway you take up my words, that are plain and direct and in earnest,
Turn them away from their meaning, and answer with flattering phrases.
This is not right, is not just, is not true to the best that is in you;
For I know and esteem you, and feel that your nature is noble,
Lifting mine up to a higher, a more ethereal level.
Therefore I value your friendship, and feel it perhaps the more keenly
If you say aught that implies I am only as one among many,
If you make use of those common and complimentary phrases
Most men think so fine, in dealing and speaking with women,
But which women reject as insipid, if not as insulting."

Mute and amazed was Alden; and listened and looked at Priscilla,
Thinking he never had seen her more fair, more divine in her beauty.
He who but yesterday pleaded so glibly the cause of another,
Stood there embarrassed and silent, and seeking in vain for an answer.
So the maiden went on, and little divined or imagined
What was at work in his heart, that made him so awkward and speechless.
"Let us, then, be what we are, and speak what we think, and in all things
Keep ourselves loyal to truth, and the sacred professions of friendship.
It is no secret I tell you, nor am I ashamed to declare it:
I have liked to be with you, to see you, to speak with you always.
So I was hurt at your words, and a little affronted to hear you
Urge me to marry your friend, though he were the Captain Miles Standish.
For I must tell you the truth: much more to me is your friendship
Than all the love he could give, were he twice the hero you think him."
Then she extended her hand, and Alden, who eagerly grasped it,
Felt all the wounds in his heart, that were aching and bleeding so sorely,
Healed by the touch of that hand, and he said, with a voice full of feeling:
"Yes, we must ever be friends; and of all who offer you friendship
Let me be ever the first, the truest, the nearest and dearest!"

Casting a farewell look at the glimmering sail of the Mayflower,
Distant, but still in sight, and sinking below the horizon,
Homeward together they walked, with a strange, indefinite feeling,
That all the rest had departed and left them alone in the desert.
But, as they went through the fields in the blessing and smile of the sunshine,
Lighter grew their hearts, and Priscilla said very archly:
"Now that our terrible Captain has gone in pursuit of the Indians,
Where he is happier far than he would be commanding a household,
You may speak boldly, and tell me of all that happened between you,
When you returned last night, and said how ungrateful you found me."
Thereupon answered John Alden, and told her the whole of the story, --
Told her his own despair, and the direful wrath of Miles Standish.
Whereat the maiden smiled, and said between laughing and earnest,
"He is a little chimney, and heated hot in a moment!"
But as he gently rebuked her, and told her how he had suffered, --
How he had even determined to sail that day in the Mayflower,
And had remained for her sake, on hearing the dangers that threatened, --
All her manner was changed, and she said with a faltering accent,
"Truly I thank you for this: how good you have been to me always!"

Thus, as a pilgrim devout, who toward Jerusalem journeys,
Taking three steps in advance, and one reluctantly backward,
Urged by importunate zeal, and withheld by pangs of contrition;
Slowly but steadily onward, receding yet ever advancing,
Journeyed this Puritan youth to the Holy Land of his longings,
Urged by the fervor of love, and withheld by remorseful misgivings.


VII
THE MARCH OF MILES STANDISH

Meanwhile the stalwart Miles Standish was marching
steadily northward,
Winding through forest and swamp, and along the trend of the sea-shore,
All day long, with hardly a halt, the fire of his anger
Burning and crackling within, and the sulphurous odor of powder
Seeming more sweet to his nostrils than all the scents of the forest.
Silent and moody he went, and much he revolved his discomfort;
He who was used to success, and to easy victories always,
Thus to be flouted, rejected, and laughed to scorn by a maiden,
Thus to be mocked and betrayed by the friend whom most he had trusted!
Ah! 't was too much to be borne, and he fretted and chafed in his armor!

"I alone am to blame," he muttered, "for mine was the folly.
What has a rough old soldier, grown grim and gray in the harness,
Used to the camp and its ways, to do with the wooing of maidens?
'T was but a dream, -- let it pass, -- let it vanish like so many others!
What I thought was a flower, is only a weed, and is worthless;
Out of my heart will I pluck it, and throw it away, and henceforward
Be but a fighter of battles, a lover and wooer of dangers!"
Thus he revolved in his mind his sorry defeat and discomfort,
While he was marching by day or lying at night in the forest,
Looking up at the trees, and the constellations beyond them.

After a three days' march he came to an Indian encampment
Pitched on the edge of a meadow, between the sea and the forest;
Women at work by the tents, and warriors, horrid with war-paint,
Seated about a fire, and smoking and talking together;
Who, when they saw from afar the sudden approach of the white men,
Saw the flash of the sun on breastplate and sabre and musket,
Straightway leaped to their feet, and two, from among them advancing,
Came to parley with Standish, and offer him furs as a present;
Friendship was in their looks, but in their hearts there was hatred.
Braves of the tribe were these, and brothers, gigantic in stature,
Huge as Goliath of Gath, or the terrible Og, king of Bashan;
One was Pecksuot named, and the other was called Wattwamat.
Round their necks were suspended their knives in scabbards of wampum,
Two-edged, trenchant knives, with points as sharp as a needle.
Other arms had they none, for they were cunning and crafty.
"Welcome, English!" they said, -- these words they had learned from the traders
Touching at times on the coast, to barter and chaffer for peltries.
Then in their native tongue they began to parley with Standish,
Through his guide and interpreter, Hobomok, friend of the white man,
Begging for blankets and knives, but mostly for muskets and powder,
Kept by the white man, they said, concealed, with the plague, in his cellars,
Ready to be let loose, and destroy his brother the red man!
But when Standish refused, and said he would give them the Bible,
Suddenly changing their tone, they began to boast and to bluster.
Then Wattawamat advanced with a stride in front of the other,
And, with a lofty demeanor, thus vauntingly spake to the Captain:
"Now Wattawamat can see, by the fiery eyes of the Captain,
Angry is he in his heart; but the heart of the brave Wattawamat
Is not afraid at the sight. He was not born of a woman,
But on a mountain at night, from an oak-tree riven by lightning,
Forth he sprang at a bound, with all his weapons about him,
Shouting, 'Who is there here to fight with the brave Wattawamat?'"
Then he unsheathed his knife, and, whetting the blade on his left hand,
Held it aloft and displayed a woman's face on the handle;
Saying, with bitter expression and look of sinister meaning:
"I have another at home, with the face of a man on the handle;
By and by they shall marry; and there will be plenty of children!"

Then stood Pecksuot forth, self-vaunting, insulting Miles Standish:
While with his fingers he patted the knife that hung at his bosom,
Drawing it half from its sheath, and plunging it back, as he muttered,
"By and by it shall see; it shall eat; ah, ha! but shall speak not!
This is the mighty Captain the white men have sent to destroy us!
He is a little man; let him go and work with the women!"

Meanwhile Standish had noted the faces and figures of Indians
Peeping and creeping about from bush to tree in the forest,
Feigning to look for game, with arrows set on their bow-strings,
Drawing about him still closer and closer the net of their ambush.
But undaunted he stood, and dissembled and treated them smoothly;
So the old chronicles say, that were writ in the days of the fathers.
But when he heard their defiance, the boast, the taunt, and the insult,
All the hot blood of his race, of Sir Hugh and of Thurston de Standish,
Boiled and beat in his heart, and swelled in the veins of his temples.
Headlong he leaped on the boaster, and, snatching his knife from its scabbard,
Plunged it into his heart, and, reeling backward, the savage
Fell with his face to the sky and a fiend-like fierceness upon it.
Straight there arose from the forest the awful sound of the war-whoop.
And, like a flurry of snow on the whistling wind of December,
Swift and sudden and keen came a flight of feathery arrows.
Then came a cloud of smoke, and out of the cloud came the lightning,
Out of the lightning thunder; and death unseen ran before it.
Frightened the savages fled for shelter in swamp and in thicket,
Hotly pursued and beset; but their sachem, the brave Wattawamat,
Fled not; he was dead. Unswerving and swift had a bullet
Passed through his brain, and he fell with both hands clutching the greensward,
Seeming in death to hold back from his foe the land of his fathers.

There on the flowers of the meadow the warriors lay, and above them
Silent, with folded arms, stood Hobomok, friend of the white man.
Smiling at length he exclaimed to the stalwart Captain of Plymouth: --
"Pecksuot bragged very loud, of his courage, his strength, and his stature, --
Mocked the great Captain, and called him a little man; but I see now
Be enough have you been to lay him speechless before you!"

Thus the first battle was fought and won by the stalwart Miles Standish.
When the tidings thereof were brought to the village of Plymouth,
And as a trophy of war the head of the brave Wattawamat
Scowled from the roof of the fort, which at once was a church and a fortress,
All who beheld it rejoiced, and praised the Lord, and took courage.
Only Priscilla averted her face from this spectre of terror,
Thanking God in her heart that she had not married Miles Standish;
Shrinking, fearing almost, lest, coming home from his battles,
He should lay claim to her hand, as the prize and reward of his valor.


VIII
THE SPINNING-WHEEL

Month after month passed away, and in Autumn the ships
of the merchants
Came with kindred and friends, with cattle and corn for the Pilgrims.
All in the village was peace; the men were intent on their labors,
Busy with hewing and building, with garden-plot and with merestead,
Busy with breaking the glebe, and mowing the grass in the meadows,
Searching the sea for its fish, and hunting the deer in the forest.
All in the village was peace; but at times the rumor of warfare
Filled the air with alarm, and the apprehension of danger.
Bravely the stalwart Standish was scouring the land with his forces,
Waxing valiant in fight and defeating the alien armies,
Till his name had become a sound of fear to the nations.
Anger was still in his heart, but at times the remorse and contrition
Which in all noble natures succeed the passionate outbreak,
Came like a rising tide, that encounters the rush of a river,
Staying its current awhile, but making it bitter and brackish.

Meanwhile Alden at home had built him a new habitation,
Solid, substantial, of timber rough-hewn from the firs of the forest.
Wooden-barred was the door, and the roof was covered with rushes;
Latticed the windows were, and the window-panes were of paper,
Oiled to admit the light, while wind and rain were excluded.
There too he dug a well, and around it planted an orchard:
Still may be seen to this day some trace of the well and the orchard.
Close to the house was the stall, where, safe and secure from annoyance,
Raghorn, the snow-white bull, that had fallen to Alden's allotment
In the division of cattle, might ruminate in the night-time
Over the pastures he cropped, made fragrant by sweet pennyroyal.

Oft when his labor was finished, with eager feet would the dreamer
Follow the pathway that ran through the woods to the house of Priscilla,
Led by illusions romantic and subtile deceptions of fancy,
Pleasure disguised as duty, and love in the semblance of friendship.
Ever of her he thought, when he fashioned the walls of his dwelling;
Ever of her he thought, when he delved in the soil of his garden;
Ever of her he thought, when he read in his Bible on Sunday
Praise of the virtuous woman, as she is described in the Proverbs, --
How the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her always,
How all the days of her life she will do him good, and not evil,
How she seeketh the wool and the flax and worketh with gladness,
How she layeth her hand to the spindle and holdeth the distaff,
How she is not afraid of the snow for herself or her household,
Knowing her household are clothed with the scarlet cloth of her weaving!

So as she sat at her wheel one afternoon in the Autumn,
Alden, who opposite sat, and was watching her dexterous fingers,
As if the thread she was spinning were that of his life and his fortune,
After a pause in their talk, thus spake to the sound of the spindle.
"Truly, Priscilla," he said, "when I see you spinning and spinning,
Never idle a moment, but thrifty and thoughtful of others,
Suddenly you are transformed, are visibly changed in a moment;
You are no longer Priscilla, but Bertha the Beautiful Spinner."
Here the light foot on the treadle grew swifter and swifter; the spindle
Uttered an angry snarl, and the thread snapped short in her fingers;
While the impetuous speaker, not heeding the mischief, continued:
"You are the beautiful Bertha, the spinner, the queen of Helvetia;
She whose story I read at a stall in the streets of Southampton,
Who, as she rode on her palfrey, o'er valley and meadow and mountain,
Ever was spinning her thread from a distaff fixed to her saddle.
She was so thrifty and good, that her name passed into a proverb.
So shall it be with your own, when the spinning-wheel shall no longer
Hum in the house of the farmer, and fill its chambers with music.
Then shall the mothers, reproving, relate how it was in their childhood,
Praising the good old times, and the days of Priscilla the spinner!"
Straight uprose from her wheel the beautiful Puritan maiden,
Pleased with the praise of her thrift from him whose praise was the sweetest,
Drew from the reel on the table a snowy skein of her spinning,
Thus making answer, meanwhile, to the flattering phrases of Alden:
"Come, you must not be idle; if I am a pattern for housewives,
Show yourself equally worthy of being the model of husbands.
Hold this skein on your hands, while I wind it, ready for knitting;
Then who knows but hereafter, when fashions have changed and the manners,
Fathers may talk to their sons of the good old times of John Alden!"
Thus, with a jest and a laugh, the skein on his hands she adjusted,
He sitting awkwardly there, with his arms extended before him,
She standing graceful, erect, and winding the thread from his fingers,
Sometimes chiding a little his clumsy manner of holding,
Sometimes touching his hands, as she disentangled expertly
Twist or knot in the yarn, unawares -- for how could she help it? --
Sending electrical thrills through every nerve in his body.

Lo! in the midst of this scene, a breathless messenger entered,
Bringing in hurry and heat the terrible news from the village.
Yes; Miles Standish was dead! -- an Indian had brought them the tidings, --
Slain by a poisoned arrow, shot down in the front of the battle,
Into an ambush beguiled, cut off with the whole of his forces;
All the town would be burned, and all the people be murdered!
Such were the tidings of evil that burst on the hearts of the hearers.
Silent and statue-like stood Priscilla, her face looking backward
St

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Come And Be With Me

Your love is driving me crazy and,
I need you all day and night;
My bed is very cold and,
It needs someone like you to warm it.
My breasts are ready for your love,
So come and be with me.

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