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William Cowper

The Task: Book III. -- The Garden

As one who, long in thickets and in brakes
Entangled, winds now this way and now that
His devious course uncertain, seeking home;
Or, having long in miry ways been foil’d,
And sore discomfited, from slough to slough
Plunging, and half despairing of escape;
If chance at length he finds a greensward smooth
And faithful to the foot, his spirits rise,
He chirrups brisk his ear-erecting steed,
And winds his way with pleasure and with ease:
So I, designing other themes, and call’d
To adorn the Sofa with eulogium due,
To tell its slumbers, and to paint its dreams,
Have rambled wide. In country, city, seat
Of academic fame (howe’er deserved),
Long held, and scarcely disengaged at last.
But now with pleasant pace a cleanlier road
I mean to tread. I feel myself at large,
Courageous, and refresh’d for future toil,
If toil awaits me, or if dangers new.

Since pulpits fail, and sounding boards reflect
Most part an empty ineffectual sound,
What chance that I, to fame so little known,
Nor conversant with men or manners much,
Should speak to purpose, or with better hope
Crack the satiric thong? ‘Twere wiser far
For me, enamour’d of sequester’d scenes,
And charm’d with rural beauty, to repose,
Where chance may throw me, beneath elm or vine,
My languid limbs, when summer sears the plains;
Or, when rough winter rages, on the soft
And shelter’d Sofa, while the nitrous air
Feeds a blue flame, and makes a cheerful hearth;
There, undisturb’d by Folly, and apprised
How great the danger of disturbing her,
To muse in silence, or at least confine
Remarks that gall so many to the few,
My partners in retreat. Disgust conceal’d
Is ofttimes proof of wisdom, when the fault
Is obstinate, and cure beyond our reach.

Domestic Happiness, thou only bliss
Of Paradise that has survived the fall!
Though few now taste thee unimpair’d and pure,
Or tasting long enjoy thee! too infirm,
Or too incautious, to preserve thy sweets
Unmix’d with drops of bitter, which neglect
Or temper sheds into thy crystal cup;
Thou art the nurse of Virtue, in thine arms
She smiles, appearing, as in truth she is,
Heaven-born, and destined to the skies again.
Thou art not known where Pleasure is adored,
That reeling goddess with the zoneless waist
And wandering eyes, still leaning on the arm
Of Novelty, her fickle, frail support;
For thou art meek and constant, hating change,
And finding in the calm of truth-tried love
Joys that her stormy raptures never yield.
Forsaking thee, what shipwreck have we made
Of honour, dignity, and fair renown!
Till prostitution elbows us aside
In all our crowded streets; and senates seem
Convened for purposes of empire less
Than to release the adultress from her bond.
The adultress! what a theme for angry verse!
What provocation to the indignant heart,
That feels for injur’d love! but I disdain
The nauseous task, to paint her as she is,
Cruel, abandon’d, glorying in her shame!
No:—let her pass, and, charioted along
In guilty splendour, shake the public ways;
The frequency of crimes has wash’d them white;
And verse of mine shall never brand the wretch,
Whom matrons now, of character unsmirch’d
And chaste themselves, are not ashamed to own.
Virtue and vice had boundaries in old time,
Not to be pass’d: and she, that had renounced
Her sex’s honour, was renounced herself
By all that prized it; not for prudery’s sake,
But dignity’s, resentful of the wrong.
‘Twas hard perhaps on here and there a waif,
Desirous to return, and not received;
But was a wholesome rigour in the main,
And taught the unblemish’d to preserve with care
That purity, whose loss was loss of all.
Men too were nice in honour in those days,
And judged offenders well. Then he that sharp’d,
And pocketed a prize by fraud obtain’d,
Was mark’d and shunn’d as odious. He that sold
His country, or was slack when she required
His every nerve in action and at stretch,
Paid, with the blood that he had basely spared,
The price of his default. But now—yes, now
We are become so candid and so fair,
So liberal in construction, and so rich
In Christian charity (good-natured age!),
That they are safe, sinners of either sex,
Transgress what laws they may. Well dress’d, well bred,
Well equipaged, is ticket good enough
To pass us readily through every door.
Hypocrisy, detest her as we may
(And no man’s hatred ever wrong’d her yet),
May claim this merit still—that she admits
The worth of what she mimics with such care,
And thus gives virtue indirect applause;
But she has burnt her mask, not needed here,
Where Vice has such allowance, that her shifts
And specious semblances have lost their use.

I was a stricken deer, that left the herd
Long since: with many an arrow deep infix’d
My panting side was charged, when I withdrew,
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.
There was I found by One who had himself
Been hurt by the archers. In his side he bore,
And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars.
With gentle force soliciting the darts,
He drew them forth, and heal’d, and bade me live.
Since then, with few associates, in remote
And silent woods I wander, far from those
My former partners of the peopled scene;
With few associates, not wishing more.
Here much I ruminate, as much I may,
With other views of men and manners now
Than once, and others of a life to come.
I see that all are wanderers, gone astray
Each in his own delusions; they are lost
In chase of fancied happiness, still woo’d
And never won. Dream after dream ensues;
And still they dream that they shall still succeed;
And still are disappointed. Rings the world
With the vain stir. I sum up half mankind,
And add two-thirds of the remaining half,
And find the total of their hopes and fears
Dreams, empty dreams. The million flit as gay
As if created only like the fly,
That spreads his motley wings in the eye of noon,
To sport their season, and be seen no more.
The rest are sober dreamers, grave and wise,
And pregnant with discoveries new and rare.
Some write a narrative of wars, and feats
Of heroes little known; and call the rant
A history; describe the man, of whom
His own coevals took but little note;
And paint his person, character, and views,
As they had known him from his mother’s womb.
They disentangle from the puzzled skein,
In which obscurity has wrapp’d them up,
The threads of politic and shrewd design,
That ran through all his purposes, and charge
His mind with meanings that he never had,
Or having, kept conceal’d. Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata there
Extract a register, by which we learn,
That He who made it, and reveal’d its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age.
Some, more acute, and more industrious still,
Contrive creation; travel nature up
To the sharp peak of her sublimest height,
And tell us whence the stars; why some are fix’d,
And planetary some; what gave them first
Rotation, from what fountain flow’d their light.
Great contest follows, and much learned dust
Involves the combatants; each claiming truth,
And truth disclaiming both. And thus they spend
The little wick of life’s poor shallow lamp
In playing tricks with nature, giving laws
To distant worlds, and trifling in their own.
Is’t not a pity, now, that tickling rheums
Should ever tease the lungs and blear the sight
Of oracles like these? Great pity too,
That, having wielded the elements, and built
A thousand systems, each in his own way,
They should go out in fume, and be forgot?
Ah! what is life thus spent? and what are they
But frantic who thus spend it? all for smoke—
Eternity for bubbles proves at last
A senseless bargain. When I see such games
Play’d by the creatures of a Power who swears
That he will judge the earth, and call the fool
To a sharp reckoning that has lived in vain;
And when I weigh this seeming wisdom well,
And prove it in the infallible result
So hollow and so false—I feel my heart
Dissolve in pity, and account the learn’d,
If this be learning, most of all deceived.
Great crimes alarm the conscience, but it sleeps
While thoughtful man is plausibly amused.
Defend me therefore, common sense, say I,
From reveries so airy, from the toil
Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
And growing old in drawing nothing up!

‘Twere well, says one sage erudite, profound,
Terribly arch’d and aquiline his nose,
And overbuilt with most impending brows,—
‘Twere well could you permit the world to live
As the world pleases: what’s the world to you?
Much. I was born of woman, and drew milk
As sweet as charity from human breasts.
I think, articulate, I laugh and weep,
And exercise all functions of a man.
How then should I and any man that lives
Be strangers to each other? Pierce my vein,
Take of the crimson stream meandering there,
And catechise it well: apply thy glass,
Search it, and prove now if it be not blood
Congenial with thine own: and, if it be,
What edge of subtlety canst thou suppose
Keen enough, wise and skilful as thou art,
To cut the link of brotherhood, by which
One common Maker bound me to the kind?
True; I am no proficient, I confess,
In arts like yours. I cannot call the swift
And perilous lightnings from the angry clouds,
And bid them hide themselves in earth beneath;
I cannot analyse the air, nor catch
The parallax of yonder luminous point,
That seems half-quench’d in the immense abyss:
Such powers I boast not—neither can I rest
A silent witness of the headlong rage,
Or heedless folly by which thousands die,
Bone of my bone, and kindred souls to mine.

God never meant that man should scale the heavens
By strides of human wisdom. In his works,
Though wondrous, he commands us in his word
To seek him rather where his mercy shines.
The mind indeed, enlighten’d from above,
Views him in all; ascribes to the grand cause
The grand effect; acknowledges with joy
His manner, and with rapture tastes his style.
But never yet did philosophic tube,
That brings the planets home into the eye
Of Observation, and discovers, else
Not visible, his family of worlds,
Discover him that rules them; such a veil
Hangs over mortal eyes, blind from the birth,
And dark in things divine. Full often too
Our wayward intellect, the more we learn
Of nature overlooks her Author more;
From instrumental causes proud to draw
Conclusions retrograde and mad mistake.
But if his word once teach us, shoot a ray
Through all the heart’s dark chambers, and reveal
Truths undiscern’d but by that holy light,
Then all is plain. Philosophy, baptized
In the pure fountain of eternal love,
Has eyes indeed; and, viewing all she sees
As meant to indicate a God to man,
Gives him his praise, and forfeits not her own.
Learning has borne such fruit in other days
On all her branches: piety has found
Friends in the friends of science, and true prayer
Has flow’d from lips wet with Castalian dews.
Such was thy wisdom, Newton, child-like sage!
Sagacious reader of the works of God,
And in his word sagacious. Such, too, thine,
Milton, whose genius had angelic wings,
And fed on manna! And such thine, in whom
Our British Themis gloried with just cause,
Immortal Hale! for deep discernment praised,
And sound integrity, not more than famed
For sanctity of manners undefiled.

All flesh is grass, and all its glory fades
Like the fair flower dishevell’d in the wind;
Riches have wings, and grandeur is a dream.
The man we celebrate must find a tomb,
And we that worship him ignoble graves.
Nothing is proof against the general curse
Of vanity, that seizes all below.
The only amaranthine flower on earth
Is virtue; the only lasting treasure, truth.
But what is truth? ‘Twas Pilate’s question put
To Truth itself, that deign’d him no reply.
And wherefore? will not God impart his light
To them that ask it?—Freely—’tis his joy,
His glory, and his nature to impart.
But to the proud, uncandid, insincere,
Or negligent inquirer, not a spark.
What’s that which brings contempt upon a book,
And him who writes it, though the style be neat,
The method clear, and argument exact?
That makes a minister in holy things
The joy of many and the dread of more,
His name a theme for praise and for reproach?—
That, while it gives us worth in God’s account,
Depreciates and undoes us in our own?
What pearl is it that rich men cannot buy,
That learning is too proud to gather up;
But which the poor, and the despised of all,
Seek and obtain, and often find unsought?
Tell me—and I will tell thee what is truth.

O friendly to the best pursuits of man,
Friendly to thought, to virtue, and to peace,
Domestic life in rural pleasure pass’d!
Few know thy value, and few taste thy sweets;
Though many boast thy favours, and affect
To understand and choose thee for their own.
But foolish man forgoes his proper bliss,
E’en as his first progenitor, and quits,
Though placed in Paradise (for earth has still
Some traces of her youthful beauty left),
Substantial happiness for transient joy.
Scenes form’d for contemplation, and to nurse
The growing seeds of wisdom; that suggest,
By every pleasing image they present,
Reflections such as meliorate the heart,
Compose the passions, and exalt the mind;
Scenes such as these ‘tis his supreme delight
To fill with riot, and defile with blood.
Should some contagion, kind to the poor brutes
We persecute, annihilate the tribes
That draw the sportsman over hill and dale,
Fearless and rapt away from all his cares;
Should never game-fowl hatch her eggs again,
Nor baited hook deceive the fish’s eye;
Could pageantry and dance, and feast and song,
Be quell’d in all our summer months’ retreat,
How many self-deluded nymphs and swains,
Who dream they have a taste for fields and groves,
Would find them hideous nurseries of the spleen,
And crowd the roads, impatient for the town!
They love the country, and none else, who seek
For their own sake its silence and its shade.
Delights which who would leave, that has a heart
Susceptible of pity, or a mind
Cultured and capable of sober thought,
For all the savage din of the swift pack,
And clamours of the field?—Detested sport,
That owes its pleasures to another’s pain;
That feeds upon the sobs and dying shrieks
Of harmless nature, dumb, but yet endued
With eloquence, that agonies inspire
Of silent tears and heart-distending sighs?
Vain tears, alas! and sighs that never find
A corresponding tone in jovial souls!
Well—one at least is safe. One shelter’d hare
Has never heard the sanguinary yell
Of cruel man, exulting in her woes.
Innocent partner of my peaceful home,
Whom ten long years’ experience of my care
Has made at last familiar; she has lost
Much of her vigilant instinctive dread,
Not needful here, beneath a roof like mine.
Yes—thou mayest eat thy bread, and lick the hand
That feeds thee; thou mayest frolic on the floor
At evening, and at night retire secure
To thy straw couch, and slumber unalarm’d;
For I have gain’d thy confidence, have pledged
All that is human in me to protect
Thine unsuspecting gratitude and love.
If I survive thee, I will dig thy grave;
And, when I place thee in it, sighing say,
“I knew at least one hare that had a friend.”

How various his employments whom the world
Calls idle; and who justly in return
Esteems that busy world an idler too!
Friends, books, a garden, and perhaps his pen,
Delightful industry enjoy’d at home,
And Nature, in her cultivated trim
Dress’d to his taste, inviting him abroad—
Can he want occupation who has these?
Will he be idle who has much to enjoy?
Me, therefore, studious of laborious ease,
Not slothful, happy to deceive the time,
Not waste it, and aware that human life
Is but a loan to be repaid with use,
When He shall call his debtors to account,
From whom are all our blessings, business finds
E’en here: while sedulous I seek to improve,
At least neglect not, or leave unemploy’d,
The mind He gave me; driving it, though slack
Too oft, and much impeded in its work,
By causes not to be divulged in vain,
To its just point—the service of mankind.
He, that attends to his interior self,
That has a heart, and keeps it; has a mind
That hungers, and supplies it; and who seeks
A social, not a dissipated life,
Has business; feels himself engaged to achieve
No unimportant, though a silent, task.
A life all turbulence and noise may seem
To him that leads it, wise, and to be praised;
But wisdom is a pearl with most success
Sought in still water and beneath clear skies.
He that is ever occupied in storms,
Or dives not for it, or brings up instead,
Vainly industrious, a disgraceful prize.

The morning finds the self-sequester’d man
Fresh for his task, intend what task he may.
Whether inclement seasons recommend
His warm but simple home, where he enjoys
With her who shares his pleasures and his heart,
Sweet converse, sipping calm the fragrant lymph
Which neatly she prepares; then to his book
Well chosen, and not sullenly perused
In selfish silence, but imparted oft,
As ought occurs, that she might smile to hear,
Or turn to nourishment, digested well.
Or if the garden, with its many cares,
All well repaid, demand him, he attends
The welcome call, conscious how much the hand
Of lubbard Labour needs his watchful eye.
Oft loitering lazily, if not o’erseen,
Or misapplying his unskilful strength.
Nor does he govern only or direct,
But much performs himself. No works, indeed,
That ask robust, tough sinews, bred to toil,
Servile employ; but such as may amuse,
Not tire, demanding rather skill than force.
Proud of his well-spread walls, he views his trees,
That meet no barren interval between,
With pleasure more than e’en their fruits afford;
Which, save himself who trains them, none can feel.
These therefore are his own peculiar charge;
No meaner hand may discipline the shoots,
None but his steel approach them. What is weak,
Distemper’d, or has lost prolific powers,
Impair’d by age, his unrelenting hand
Dooms to the knife: nor does he spare the soft
And succulent, that feeds its giant growth,
But barren, at the expense of neighbouring twigs
Less ostentatious, and yet studded thick
With hopeful gems. The rest, no portion left
That may disgrace his art, or disappoint
Large expectations, he disposes neat,
At measured distances, that air and sun,
Admitted freely, may afford their aid,
And ventilate and warm the swelling buds.
Hence Summer has her riches, Autumn hence,
And hence e’en Winter fills his wither’d hand
With blushing fruits, and plenty not his own.
Fair recompence of labour well bestow’d,
And wise precaution; which a clime so rude
Makes needful still, whose Spring is but the child
Of churlish Winter, in her froward moods
Discovering much the temper of her sire.
For oft, as if in her the stream of mild
Maternal nature had reversed its course,
She brings her infants forth with many smiles;
But, once deliver’d, kills them with a frown.
He therefore, timely warn’d himself, supplies
Her want of care, screening and keeping warm
The plenteous bloom, that no rough blast may sweep
His garlands from the boughs. Again, as oft
As the sun peeps, and vernal airs breathe mild,
The fence withdrawn, he gives them every beam,
And spreads his hopes before the blaze of day.

To raise the prickly and green-coated gourd,
So grateful to the palate, and when rare
So coveted, else base and disesteem’d—
Food for the vulgar merely—is an art
That toiling ages have but just matured,
And at this moment unassay’d in song.
Yet gnats have had, and frogs and mice, long since,
Their eulogy; those sang the Mantuan bard;
And these the Grecian, in ennobling strains;
And in thy numbers, Phillips, shines for aye,
The solitary shilling. Pardon then,
Ye sage dispensers of poetic fame,
The ambition of one meaner far, whose powers,
Presuming an attempt not less sublime,
Pant for the praise of dressing to the taste
Of critic appetite no sordid fare,
A cucumber, while costly yet and scarce.

The stable yields a stercoraceous heap,
Impregnated with quick fermenting salts,
And potent to resist the freezing blast;
For, ere the beech and elm have cast their leaf
Deciduous, when now November dark
Checks vegetation in the torpid plant
Exposed to his cold breath, the task begins.
Warily therefore, and with prudent heed,
He seeks a favour’d spot; that where he builds
The agglomerated pile his frame may front
The sun’s meridian disk, and at the back
Enjoy close shelter, wall, or reeds, or hedge
Impervious to the wind. First he bids spread
Dry fern or litter’d hay, that may imbibe
The ascending damps; then leisurely impose,
And lightly, shaking it with agile hand
From the full fork, the saturated straw.
What longest binds the closest forms secure
The shapely side, that as it rises takes,
By just degrees, an overhanging breadth,
Sheltering the base with its projected eaves;
The uplifted frame, compact at every joint,
And overlaid with clear translucent glass,
He settles next upon the sloping mount,
Whose sharp declivity shoots off secure
From the dash’d pane the deluge as it falls.
He shuts it close, and the first labour ends.
Thrice must the voluble and restless earth
Spin round upon her axle, ere the warmth,
Slow gathering in the midst, through the square mass
Diffused, attain the surface: when, behold!
A pestilent and most corrosive steam,
Like a gross fog Bœotian, rising fast,
And fast condensed upon the dewy sash,
Asks egress; which obtain’d, the overcharged
And drench’d conservatory breathes abroad,
In volumes wheeling slow, the vapour dank;
And, purified, rejoices to have lost
Its foul inhabitant. But to assuage
The impatient fervour, which it first conceives
Within its reeking bosom, threatening death
To his young hopes, requires discreet delay.
Experience, slow preceptress, teaching oft
The way to glory by miscarriage foul,
Must prompt him, and admonish how to catch
The auspicious moment, when the temper’d heat,
Friendly to vital motion, may afford
Soft fomentation, and invite the seed.
The seed, selected wisely, plump, and smooth,
And glossy, he commits to pots of size
Diminutive, well fill’d with well prepared
And fruitful soil, that has been treasured long,
And drunk no moisture from the dripping clouds.
These on the warm and genial earth, that hides
The smoking manure, and o’erspreads it all,
He places lightly, and, as time subdues
The rage of fermentation, plunges deep
In the soft medium, till they stand immersed.
Then rise the tender germs, upstarting quick,
And spreading wide their spongy lobes; at first
Pale, wan, and livid; but assuming soon,
If fann’d by balmy and nutritious air,
Strain’d through the friendly mats, a vivid green.
Two leaves produced, two rough indented leaves,
Cautious he pinches from the second stalk
A pimple, that portends a future sprout,
And interdicts its growth. Thence straight succeed
The branches, sturdy to his utmost wish;
Prolific all, and harbingers of more.
The crowded roots demand enlargement now,
And transplantation in an ampler space.
Indulged in what they wish, they soon supply
Large foliage, overshadowing golden flowers,
Blown on the summit of the apparent fruit.
These have their sexes; and when summer shines,
The bee transports the fertilizing meal
From flower to flower, and e’en the breathing air
Wafts the rich prize to its appointed use.
Not so when winter scowls. Assistant Art
Then acts in Nature’s office, brings to pass
The glad espousals, and ensures the crop.

Grudge not, ye rich (since Luxury must have
His dainties, and the World’s more numerous half
Lives by contriving delicates for you),
Grudge not the cost. Ye little know the cares,
The vigilance, the labour, and the skill,
That day and night are exercised, and hang
Upon the ticklish balance of suspense,
That ye may garnish your profuse regales
With summer fruits brought forth by wintry suns.
Ten thousand dangers lie in wait to thwart
The process. Heat, and cold, and wind, and steam,
Moisture, and drought, mice, worms, and swarming flies,
Minute as dust, and numberless, oft work
Dire disappointment, that admits no cure,
And which no care can obviate. It were long,
Too long, to tell the expedients and the shifts
Which he that fights a season so severe
Devises while he guards his tender trust;
And oft at last in vain. The learn’d and wise
Sarcastic would exclaim, and judge the song
Cold as its theme, and like its theme the fruit
Of too much labour, worthless when produced.

Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.
Unconscious of a less propitious clime,
There blooms exotic beauty, warm and snug,
While the winds whistle and the snows descend.
The spiry myrtle with unwithering leaf
Shines there, and flourishes. The golden boast
Of Portugal and western India there,
The ruddier orange, and the paler lime,
Peep through their polish’d foliage at the storm,
And seem to smile at what they need not fear.
The amomum there with intermingling flowers
And cherries hangs her twigs. Geranium boasts
Her crimson honours; and the spangled beau,
Ficoides, glitters bright the winter long.
All plants, of every leaf that can endure
The winter’s frown, if screen’d from his shrewd bite,
Live there, and prosper. Those Ausonia claims,
Levantine regions these; the Azores send
Their jessamine, her jessamine remote
Caffraria: foreigners from many lands,
They form one social shade, as if convened
By magic summons of the Orphean lyre.
Yet just arrangement, rarely brought to pass
But by a master’s hand, disposing well
The gay diversities of leaf and flower,
Must lend its aid to illustrate all their charms,
And dress the regular yet various scene.
Plant behind plant aspiring, in the van
The dwarfish, in the rear retired, but still
Sublime above the rest, the statelier stand.
So once were ranged the sons of ancient Rome,
A noble show! while Roscius trod the stage;
And so, while Garrick, as renown’d as he,
The sons of Albion; fearing each to lose
Some note of Nature’s music from his lips,
And covetous of Shakspeare’s beauty, seen
In every flash of his far beaming eye.
Nor taste alone and well contrived display
Suffice to give the marshall’d ranks the grace
Of their complete effect. Much yet remains
Unsung, and many cares are yet behind,
And more laborious; cares on which depends
Their vigour, injured soon, not soon restored.
The soil must be renewed, which often wash’d,
Loses its treasure of salubrious salts,
And disappoints the roots; the slender roots
Close interwoven, where they meet the vase,
Must smooth be shorn away; the sapless branch
Must fly before the knife; the wither’d leaf
Must be detach’d, and where it strews the floor
Swept with a woman’s neatness, breeding else
Contagion, and disseminating death.
Discharge but these kind offices (and who
Would spare, that loves them, offices like these?)
Well they reward the toil. The sight is pleased,
The scent regaled, each odoriferous leaf,
Each opening blossom freely breathes abroad
Its gratitude, and thanks him with its sweets.

So manifold, all pleasing in their kind,
All healthful, are the employs of rural life,
Reiterated as the wheel of time
Runs round; still ending and beginning still.
Nor are these all. To deck the shapely knoll,
That softly swell’d and gaily dress’d appears
A flowery island, from the dark green lawn
Emerging, must be deem’d a labour due
To no mean hand, and asks the touch of taste.
Here also grateful mixture of well-match’d
And sorted hues (each giving each relief,
And by contrasted beauty shining more)
Is needful. Strength may wield the ponderous spade,
May turn the clod, and wheel the compost home;
But elegance, chief grace the garden shows,
And most attractive, is the fair resul
Of thought, the creature of a polish’d mind.
Without it all is gothic as the scene
To which the insipid citizen resorts
Near yonder heath; where Industry misspent,
But proud of his uncouth ill chosen task,
Has made a heaven on earth; with suns and moons
Of close ramm’d stones has charged the encumber’d soil,
And fairly laid the zodiac in the dust.
He therefore, who would see his flowers disposed
Sightly and in just order, ere he gives
The beds the trusted treasure of their seeds,
Forecasts the future whole; that when the scene
Shall break into its preconceived display,
Each for itself, and all as with one voice
Conspiring, may attest his bright design.
Nor even then, dismissing as perform’d
His pleasant work, may he suppose it done.
Few self-supported flowers endure the wind
Uninjured, but expect the upholding aid
Of the smooth shaven prop, and, neatly tied,
Are wedded thus, like beauty to old age,
For interest sake, the living to the dead.
Some clothe the soil that feeds them, far diffused
And lowly creeping, modest and yet fair,
Like virtue, thriving most where little seen;
Some, more aspiring, catch the neighbour shrub
With clasping tendrils, and invest his branch,
Else unadorn’d with many a gay festoon
And fragrant chaplet, recompensing well
The strength they borrow with the grace they lend.
All hate the rank society of weeds,
Noisome, and ever greedy to exhaust
The impoverish’d earth; an overbearing race,
That, like the multitude made faction mad,
Disturb good order, and degrade true worth.

O blest seclusion from a jarring world,
Which he, thus occupied, enjoys! Retreat
Cannot indeed to guilty man restore
Lost innocence, or cancel follies past;
But it has peace, and much secures the mind
From all assaults of evil; proving still
A faithful barrier, not o’erleap’d with ease
By vicious Custom, raging uncontroll’d
Abroad, and desolating public life.
When fierce temptation, seconded within
By traitor Appetite, and arm’d with darts
Temper’d in Hell, invades the throbbing breast,
To combat may be glorious, and success
Perhaps may crown us; but to fly is safe.
Had I the choice of sublunary good,
What could I wish, that I possess not here?
Health, leisure, means to improve it, friendship, peace,
No loose or wanton, though a wandering, muse,
And constant occupation without care.
Thus blest I draw a picture of that bliss;
Hopeless indeed, that dissipated minds,
And profligate abusers of a world
Created fair so much in vain for them,
Should seek the guiltless joys that I describe,
Allured by my report: but sure no less
That self-condemn’d they must neglect the prize,
And what they will not taste must yet approve.
What we admire we praise; and, when we praise,
Advance it into notice, that, its worth
Acknowledged, others may admire it too.
I therefore recommend, though at the risk
Of popular disgust, yet boldly still,
The cause of piety and sacred truth,
And virtue, and those scenes which God ordain’d
Should best secure them and promote them most,
Scenes that I love, and with regret perceive
Forsaken, or through folly not enjoy’d.
Pure is the nymph, though liberal of her smiles,
And chaste, though unconfined, whom I extol.
Not as the prince in Shushan, when he call’d,
Vain-glorious of her charms, his Vashti forth,
To grace the full pavilion. His design
Was but to boast his own peculiar good,
Which all might view with envy, none partake.
My charmer is not mine alone; my sweets,
And she that sweetens all my bitters too,
Nature, enchanting Nature, in whose form
And lineaments divine I trace a hand
That errs not, and finds raptures still renew’d,
Is free to all men—universal prize.
Strange that so fair a creature should yet want
Admirers, and be destined to divide
With meaner objects e’en the few she finds!
Stripp’d of her ornaments, her leaves, and flowers,
She loses all her influence. Cities then
Attract us, and neglected Nature pines,
Abandon’d as unworthy of our love.
But are not wholesome airs, though unperfumed
By roses; and clear suns, though scarcely felt;
And groves, if unharmonious, yet secure
From clamour, and whose very silence charms;
To be preferr’d to smoke, to the eclipse
That metropolitan volcanoes make,
Whose Stygian throats breathe darkness all day long;
And to the stir of Commerce, driving slow,
And thundering loud, with his ten thousand wheels?
They would be, were not madness in the head,
And folly in the heart; were England now
What England was, plain, hospitable, kind,
And undebauch’d. But we have bid farewell
To all the virtues of those better days,
And all their honest pleasures. Mansions once
Knew their own masters; and laborious hinds,
Who had survived the father, served the son.
Now the legitimate and rightful lord
Is but a transient guest, newly arrived,
And soon to be supplanted. He that saw
His patrimonial timber cast its leaf
Sells the last scantling, and transfers the price
To some shrewd sharper, ere it buds again.
Estates are landscapes, gazed upon awhile,
Then advertised, and auctioneer’d away.
The country starves, and they that feed the o’ercharged
And surfeited lewd town with her fair dues,
By a just judgment strip and starve themselves.
The wings, that waft our riches out of sight,
Grow on the gamester’s elbows; and the alert
And nimble motion of those restless joints,
That never tire, soon fans them all away.
Improvement too, the idol of the age,
Is fed with many a victim. Lo, he comes!
The omnipotent magician, Brown, appears!
Down falls the venerable pile, the abode
Of our forefathers—a grave whisker’d race,
But tasteless. Springs a palace in its stead,
But in a distant spot; where more exposed
It may enjoy the advantage of the north,
And aguish east, till time shall have transform’d
Those naked acres to a sheltering grove.
He speaks. The lake in front becomes a lawn:
Woods vanish, hills subside, and valleys rise;
And streams, as if created for his use,
Pursue the track of his directing wand,
Sinuous or straight, now rapid and now slow,
Now murmuring soft, now roaring in cascades—
E’en as he bids! The enraptured owner smiles.
‘Tis finish’d, and yet, finish’d as it seems,
Still wants a grace, the loveliest it could show,
A mine to satisfy the enormous cost.
Drain’d to the last poor item of his wealth,
He sighs, departs, and leaves the accomplish’d plan,
That he has touch’d, retouch’d, many a long day
Labour’d, and many a night pursued in dreams,
Just when it meets his hopes, and proves the heaven
He wanted, for a wealthier to enjoy!
And now perhaps the glorious hour is come
When, having no stake left, no pledge to endear
Her interests, or that gives her sacred cause
A moment’s operation on his love,
He burns with most intense and flagrant zeal,
To serve his country. Ministerial grace
Deals him out money from the public chest;
Or, if that mine be shut, some private purse
Supplies his need with a usurious loan,
To be refunded duly, when his vote
Well managed shall have earn’d its worthy price.
O innocent, compared with arts like these,
Crape, and cock’d pistol, and the whistling ball
Sent through the traveller’s temples! He that finds
One drop of Heaven’s sweet mercy in his cup,
Can dig, beg, rot, and perish, well content,
So he may wrap himself in honest rags
At his last gasp: but could not for a world
Fish up his dirty and dependent bread
From pools and ditches of the commonwealth,
Sordid and sickening at his own success.

Ambition, avarice, penury incurr’d
By endless riot, vanity, the lust
Of pleasure and variety, despatch,
As duly as the swallows disappear,
The world of wandering knights and squires to town.
London engulfs them all! The shark is there,
And the shark’s prey; the spendthrift, and the leech
That sucks him; there the sycophant, and he
Who, with bareheaded and obsequious bows,
Begs a warm office, doom’d to a cold jail
And groat per diem, if his patron frown.
The levee swarms, as if in golden pomp
Were character’d on every statesman’s door,
“Batter’d and bankrupt fortunes mended here.”
These are the charms that sully and eclipse
The charms of nature. ‘Tis the cruel gripe
That lean hard-handed Poverty inflicts,
The hope of better things, the chance to win,
The wish to shine, the thirst to be amused,
That at the sound of Winter’s hoary wing
Unpeople all our counties of such herds
Of fluttering, loitering, cringing, begging, loose,
And wanton vagrants, as make London, vast
And boundless as it is, a crowded coop.

O thou, resort and mart of all the earth,
Chequer’d with all complexions of mankind,
And spotted with all crimes; in whom I see
Much that I love, and more that I admire,
And all that I abhor; thou freckled fair,
That pleasest and yet shock’st me, I can laugh,
And I can weep, can hope, and can despond,
Feel wrath and pity, when I think on thee!
Ten righteous would have saved the city once,
And thou hast many righteous.—Well for thee—
That salt preserves thee; more corrupted else,
And therefore more obnoxious, at this hour,
Than Sodom in her day had power to be,
For whom God heard his Abraham plead in vain.

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Christmas-Eve

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

II.
Well, from the road, the lanes or the common,
In came the flock: the fat weary woman,
Panting and bewildered, down-clapping
Her umbrella with a mighty report,
Grounded it by me, wry and flapping,
A wreck of whalebones; then, with a snort,
Like a startled horse, at the interloper
Who humbly knew himself improper,
But could not shrink up small enough,
Round to the door, and in,—the gruff
Hinge’s invariable scold
Making your very blood run cold.
Prompt in the wake of her, up-pattered
On broken clogs, the many-tattered
Little old-faced, peaking sister-turned-mother
Of the sickly babe she tried to smother
Somehow up, with its spotted face,
From the cold, on her breast, the one warm place;
She too must stop, wring the poor suds dry
Of a draggled shawl, and add thereby
Her tribute to the door-mat, sopping
Already from my own clothes’ dropping,
Which yet she seemed to grudge I should stand on;
Then stooping down to take off her pattens,
She bore them defiantly, in each hand one,
Planted together before her breast
And its babe, as good as a lance in rest.
Close on her heels, the dingy satins
Of a female something, past me flitted,
With lips as much too white, as a streak
Lay far too red on each hollow cheek;
And it seemed the very door-hinge pitied
All that was left of a woman once,
Holding at least its tongue for the nonce.
Then a tall yellow man, like the Penitent Thief,
With his jaw bound up in a handkerchief,
And eyelids screwed together tight,
Led himself in by some inner light.
And, except from him, from each that entered,
I had the same interrogation—
“What, you, the alien, you have ventured
To take with us, elect, your station?
“A carer for none of it, a Gallio?”—
Thus, plain as print, I read the glance
At a common prey, in each countenance,
As of huntsman giving his hounds the tallyho:
And, when the door’s cry drowned their wonder,
The draught, it always sent in shutting,
Made the flame of the single tallow candle
In the cracked square lanthorn I stood under,
Shoot its blue lip at me, rebutting,
As it were, the luckless cause of scandal:
I verily thought the zealous light
(In the chapel’s secret, too!) for spite,
Would shudder itself clean off the wick,
With the airs of a St. John’s Candlestick.
There was no standing it much longer.
“Good folks,” said I, as resolve grew stronger,
“This way you perform the Grand-Inquisitor,
“When the weather sends you a chance visitor?
“You are the men, and wisdom shall die with you,
And none of the old Seven Churches vie with you!
“But still, despite the pretty perfection
To which you carry your trick of exclusiveness,
And, taking God’s word under wise protection,
“Correct its tendency to diffusiveness,
“Bidding one reach it over hot ploughshares,—
“Still, as I say, though you’ve found salvation,
“If I should choose to cry—as now—‘Shares!’—
“See if the best of you bars me my ration!
“Because I prefer for my expounder
Of the laws of the feast, the feast’s own Founder:
“Mine’s the same right with your poorest and sickliest,
“Supposing I don the marriage-vestiment;
“So, shut your mouth, and open your Testament,
And carve me my portion at your quickliest!”
Accordingly, as a shoemaker’s lad
With wizened face in want of soap,
And wet apron wound round his waist like a rope,
After stopping outside, for his cough was bad,
To get the fit over, poor gentle creature,
And so avoid disturbing the preacher,
Passed in, I sent my elbow spikewise
At the shutting door, and entered likewise,—
Received the hinge’s accustomed greeting,
Crossed the threshold’s magic pentacle,
And found myself in full conventicle,
To wit, in Zion Chapel Meeting,
On the Christmas-Eve of ’Forty-nine,
Which, calling its flock to their special clover,
Found them assembled and one sheep over,
Whose lot, as the weather pleased, was mine.

III.
I very soon had enough of it.
The hot smell and the human noises,
And my neighbour’s coat, the greasy cuff of it,
Were a pebble-stone that a child’s hand poises,
Compared with the pig-of-lead-like pressure
Of the preaching-man’s immense stupidity,
As he poured his doctrine forth, full measure,
To meet his audience’s avidity.
You needed not the wit of the Sybil
To guess the cause of it all, in a twinkling—
No sooner had our friend an inkling
Of treasure hid in the Holy Bible,
(Whenever it was the thought first struck hin
How Death, at unawares, might duck him
Deeper than the grave, and quench
The gin-shop’s light in Hell’s grim drench)
Than he handled it so, in fine irreverence,
As to hug the Book of books to pieces:
And, a patchwork of chapters and texts in severance,
Not improved by the private dog’s-ears and creases,
Having clothed his own soul with, he’d fain see equipt yours,—
So tossed you again your Holy Scriptures.
And you picked them up, in a sense, no doubt:
Nay, had but a single face of my neighbours
Appeared to suspect that the preacher’s labours
Were help which the world could be saved without,
’Tis odds but I had borne in quiet
A qualm or two at my spiritual diet;
Or, who can tell? had even mustered
Somewhat to urge in behalf of the sermon:
But the flock sate on, divinely flustered,
Sniffing, methought, its dew of Hermon
With such content in every snuffle,
As the devil inside us loves to ruffle.
My old fat woman purred with pleasure,
And thumb round thumb went twirling faster
While she, to his periods keeping measure,
Maternally devoured the pastor.
The man with the handkerchief, untied it.
Showed us a horrible wen inside it,
Gave his eyelids yet another screwing.
And rocked himself as the woman was doing.
The shoemaker’s lad, discreetly choking,
Kept down his cough. ’Twas too provoking!
My gorge rose at the nonsense and stuff of it,
And saying, like Eve when she plucked the apple,
“I wanted a taste, and now there’s enough of it,”
I flung out of the little chapel.

IV.
There was a lull in the rain, a lull
In the wind too; the moon was risen,
And would have shone out pure and full,
But for the ramparted cloud-prison,
Block on block built up in the west,
For what purpose the wind knows best,
Who changes his mind continually.
And the empty other half of the sky
Seemed in its silence as if it knew
What, any moment, might look through
A chance-gap in that fortress massy:—
Through its fissures you got hints
Of the flying moon, by the shifting tints,
Now, a dull lion-colour, now, brassy
Burning to yellow, and whitest yellow,
Like furnace-smoke just ere the flames bellow,
All a-simmer with intense strain
To let her through,—then blank again,
At the hope of her appearance failing.
Just by the chapel, a break in the railing
Shows a narrow path directly across;
’Tis ever dry walking there, on the moss—
Besides, you go gently all the way uphill:
I stooped under and soon felt better:
My head grew light, my limbs more supple,
As I walked on, glad to have slipt the fetter;
My mind was full of the scene I had left,
That placid flock, that pastor vociferant,
—How this outside was pure and different!
The sermon, now—what a mingled weft
Of good and ill! were either less,
Its fellow had coloured the whole distinctly;
But alas for the excellent earnestness,
And the truths, quite true if stated succinctly,
But as surely false, in their quaint presentment,
However to pastor and flock’s contentment!
Say rather, such truths looked false to your eyes,
With his provings and parallels twisted and twined,
Till how could you know them, grown double their size,
In the natural fog of the good man’s mind?
Like yonder spots of our roadside lamps,
Haloed about with the common’s damps.
Truth remains true, the fault’s in the prover;
The zeal was good, and the aspiration;
And yet, and yet, yet, fifty times over,
Pharaoh received no demonstration
By his Baker’s dream of Baskets Three,
Of the doctrine of the Trinity,—
Although, as our preacher thus embellished it,
Apparently his hearers relished it
With so unfeigned a gust—who knows if
They did not prefer our friend to Joseph?
But so it is everywhere, one way with all of them!
These people have really felt, no doubt,
A something, the motion they style the Call of them;
And this is their method of bringing about,
By a mechanism of words and tones,
(So many texts in so many groans)
A sort of reviving or reproducing,
More or less perfectly, (who can tell?—)
Of the mood itself, that strengthens by using;
And how it happens, I understand well.
A tune was born in my head last week,
Out of the thump-thump and shriek-shriek
Of the train, as I came by it, up from Manchester;
And when, next week, I take it back again,
My head will sing to the engine’s clack again,
While it only makes my neighbour’s haunches stir,
—Finding no dormant musical sprout
In him, as in me, to be jolted out.
’Tis the taught already that profit by teaching;
He gets no more from the railway’s preaching,
Than, from this preacher who does the rail’s office, I,
Whom therefore the flock casts a jealous eye on.
Still, why paint over their door “Mount Zion,”
To which all flesh shall come, saith the prophecy?

V.
But wherefore be harsh on a single case?
After how many modes, this Christmas-Eve,
Does the selfsame weary thing take place?
The same endeavour to make you believe,
And much with the same effect, no more:
Each method abundantly convincing,
As I say, to those convinced before,
But scarce to he swallowed without wincing,
By the not-as-yet-convinced. For me,
I have my own church equally.
And in this church my faith sprang first!
(I said, as I reached the rising ground,
And the wind began again, with a burst
Of rain in my face, and a glad rebound
From the heart beneath, as if, God speeding me,
I entered His church-door, Nature leading me)
—In youth I looked to these very skies,
And probing their immensities,
I found God there, His visible power;
Yet felt in my heart, amid all its sense
Of that power, an equal evidence
That His love, there too, was the nobler dower.
For the loving worm within its clod,
Were diviner than a loveless god
Amid his worlds, I will dare to say.
You know what I mean: God’s all, man’s nought:
But also, God, whose pleasure brought
Man into being, stands away
As it were, an handbreadth off, to give
Room for the newly-made to live,
And look at Him from a place apart,
And use his gifts of brain and heart,
Given, indeed, but to keep for ever.
Who speaks of man, then, must not sever
Man’s very elements from man,
Saying, “But all is God’s”—whose plan
Was to create man and then leave him
Able, His own word saith, to grieve Him,
But able to glorify Him too,
As a mere machine could never do,
That prayed or praised, all unaware
Of its fitness for aught but praise and prayer,
Made perfect as a thing of course.
Man, therefore, stands on his own stock
Of love and power as a pin-point rock,
And, looking to God who ordained divorce
Of the rock from His boundless continent,
Sees in His Power made evident,
Only excess by a million fold
O’er the power God gave man in the mould.
For, see: Man’s hand, first formed to carry
A few pounds’ weight, when taught to marry
Its strength with an engine’s, lifts a mountain,
—Advancing in power by one degree;
And why count steps through eternity?
But Love is the ever springing fountain:
Man may enlarge or narrow his bed
For the water’s play, but the water head—
How can he multiply or reduce it?
As easy create it, as cause it to cease:
He may profit by it, or abuse it;
But ’tis not a thing to bear increase
As power will: be love less or more
In the heart of man, he keeps it shut
Or opes it wide as he pleases, but
Love’s sum remains what it was before.
So, gazing up, in my youth, at love
As seen through power, ever above
All modes which make it manifest,
My soul brought all to a single test—
That He, the Eternal First and Last,
Who, in His power, had so surpassed
All man conceives of what is might,—
Whose wisdom, too, showed infinite,
—Would prove as infinitely good;
Would never, my soul understood,
With power to work all love desires,
Bestow e’en less than man requires:
That He who endlessly was teaching,
Above my spirit’s utmost reaching,
What love can do in the leaf or stone,
(So that to master this alone,
This done in the stone or leaf for me,
I must go on learning endlessly)
Would never need that I, in turn,
Should point him out a defect unheeded,
And show that God had yet to learn
What the meanest human creature needed,—
—Not life, to wit, for a few short years,
Tracking His way through doubts and fears,
While the stupid earth on which I stay
Suffers no change, but passive adds
Its myriad years to myriads,
Though I, He gave it to, decay,
Seeing death come and choose about me,
And my dearest ones depart without me.
No! love which, on earth, amid all the shows of it,
Has ever been seen the sole good of life in it,
The love, ever growing there, spite of the strife in it,
Shall arise, made perfect, from death’s repose of it!
And I shall behold Thee, face to face,
O God, and in Thy light retrace
How in all I loved here, still wast Thou!
Whom pressing to, then, as I fain would now,
I shall find as able to satiate
The love, Thy gift, as my spirit’s wonder
Thou art able to quicken and sublimate,
Was this sky of Thine, that I now walk under,
And glory in Thee as thus I gaze,
—Thus, thus! oh, let men keep their ways
Of seeking Thee in a narrow shrine—
Be this my way! And this is mine!

VI.
For lo, what think you? suddenly
The rain and the wind ceased, and the sky
Received at once the full fruition
Of the moon’s consummate apparition.
The black cloud-barricade was riven,
Ruined beneath her feet, and driven
Deep in the west; while, bare and breathless,
North and south and east lay ready
For a glorious Thing, that, dauntless, deathless,
Sprang across them, and stood steady.
’Twas a moon-rainbow, vast and perfect,
From heaven to heaven extending, perfect
As the mother-moon’s self, full in face.
It rose, distinctly at the base
With its seven proper colours chorded,
Which still, in the rising, were compressed,
Until at last they coalesced,
And supreme the spectral creature lorded
In a triumph of whitest white,—
Above which intervened the night.
But above night too, like the next,
The second of a wondrous sequence,
Reaching in rare and rarer frequence,
Till the heaven of heavens be circumflext,
Another rainbow rose, a mightier,
Fainter, flushier, and flightier,—
Rapture dying along its verge!
Oh, whose foot shall I see emerge,
WHOSE, from the straining topmost dark,
On to the keystone of that arc?

VII.
This sight was shown me, there and then,—
Me, one out of a world of men,
Singled forth, as the chance might hap
To another, if in a thunderclap
Where I heard noise, and you saw flame,
Some one man knew God called his name.
For me, I think I said, “Appear!
“Good were it to be ever here.
“If Thou wilt, let me build to Thee
“Service-tabernacles Three,
“Where, for ever in Thy presence,
“In extatic acquiescence,
“Far alike from thriftless learning
And ignorance’s undiscerning,
“ I may worship and remain!”
Thus, at the show above me, gazing
With upturned eyes, I felt my brain
Glutted with the glory, blazing
Throughout its whole mass, over and under,
Until at length it burst asunder,
And out of it bodily there streamed
The too-much glory, as it seemed,
Passing from out me to the ground,
Then palely serpentining round
Into the dark with mazy error.

VIII.
All at once I looked up with terror.
He was there.
He Himself with His human air,
On the narrow pathway, just before:
I saw the back of Him, no more—
He had left the chapel, then, as I.
I forgot all about the sky.
No face: only the sight
Of a sweepy Garment, vast and white,
With a hem that I could recognise.
I felt terror, no surprise:
My mind filled with the cataract,
At one bound, of the mighty fact.
I remembered, He did say
Doubtless, that, to this world’s end,
Where two or three should meet and pray,
He would be in the midst, their Friend:
Certainly He was there with them.
And my pulses leaped for joy
Of the golden thought without alloy,
That I saw His very Vesture’s hem.
Then rushed the blood back, cold and clear
With a fresh enhancing shiver of fear,
And I hastened, cried out while I pressed
To the salvation of the Vest,
“But not so, Lord! It cannot be
“That Thou, indeed, art leaving me—
“Me, that have despised Thy friends.
“Did my heart make no amends?
“Thou art the Love of God—above
“His Power, didst hear me place His Love,
And that was leaving the world for Thee!
“Therefore Thou must not turn from me
“As if I had chosen the other part.
“Folly and pride o’ercame my heart.
Our best is bad, nor bears Thy test
“Still it should be our very best.
“I thought it best that Thou, the Spirit,
“Be worshipped in spirit and in truth,
And in beauty, as even we require it—
“Not in the forms burlesque, uncouth,
“I left but now, as scarcely fitted
“For Thee: I knew not what I pitied:
“But, all I felt there, right or wrong,
“What is it to Thee, who curest sinning?
“Am I not weak as Thou art strong?
“I have looked to Thee from the beginning,
“Straight up to Thee through all the world
“Which, like an idle scroll, lay furled
To nothingness on either side:
And since the time Thou wast descried,
“Spite of the weak heart, so have I
“Lived ever, and so fain would die,
“Living and dying, Thee before!
“But if Thou leavest me—”

IX.
Less or more,
I suppose that I spoke thus.
When,—have mercy, Lord, on us!
The whole Face turned upon me full.
And I spread myself beneath it,
As when the bleacher spreads, to seethe it
In the cleansing sun, his wool,—
Steeps in the flood of noontide whiteness
Some defiled, discoloured web—
So lay I, saturate with brightness.
And when the flood appeared to ebb,
Lo, I was walking, light and swift,
With my senses settling fast and steadying,
But my body caught up in the whirl and drift
Of the Vesture’s amplitude, still eddying
On, just before me, still to be followed,
As it carried me after with its motion:
What shall I say?—as a path were hollowed
And a man went weltering through the ocean,
Sucked along in the flying wake
Of the luminous water-snake.
Darkness and cold were cloven, as through
I passed, upborne yet walking too.
And I turned to myself at intervals,—
“So He said, and so it befals.
“God who registers the cup
Of mere cold water, for His sake
To a disciple rendered up,
“Disdains not His own thirst to slake
“At the poorest love was ever offered:
And because it was my heart I proffered,
“With true love trembling at the brim,
“He suffers me to follow Him
“For ever, my own way,—dispensed
“From seeking to be influenced
“By all the less immediate ways
“That earth, in worships manifold,
“Adopts to reach, by prayer and praise,
‘The Garment’s hem, which, lo, I hold!”

X.
And so we crossed the world and stopped.
For where am I, in city or plain,
Since I am ’ware of the world again?
And what is this that rises propped
With pillars of prodigious girth?
Is it really on the earth,
This miraculous Dome of God?
Has the angel’s measuring-rod
Which numbered cubits, gem from gem,
’Twixt the gates of the New Jerusalem,
Meted it out,—and what he meted,
Have the sons of men completed?
—Binding, ever as he bade,
Columns in this colonnade
With arms wide open to embrace
The entry of the human race
To the breast of . . . what is it, yon building,
Ablaze in front, all paint and gilding,
With marble for brick, and stones of price
For garniture of the edifice?
Now I see: it is no dream:
It stands there and it does not seem;
For ever, in pictures, thus it looks,
And thus I have read of it in books,
Often in England, leagues away,
And wondered how those fountains play,
Growing up eternally
Each to a musical water-tree,
Whose blossoms drop, a glittering boon,
Before my eyes, in the light of the moon,
To the granite lavers underneath.
Liar and dreamer in your teeth!
I, the sinner that speak to you,
Was in Rome this night, and stood, and knew
Both this and more! For see, for see,
The dark is rent, mine eye is free
To pierce the crust of the outer wall,
And I view inside, and all there, all,
As the swarming hollow of a hive,
The whole Basilica alive!
Men in the chancel, body, and nave,
Men on the pillars’ architrave,
Men on the statues, men on the tombs
With popes and kings in their porphyry wombs,
All famishing in expectation
Of the main-altar’s consummation.
For see, for see, the rapturous moment
Approaches, and earth’s best endowment
Blends with heaven’s: the taper-fires
Pant up, the winding brazen spires
Heave loftier yet the baldachin:
The incense-gaspings, long kept in,
Suspire in clouds; the organ blatant
Holds his breath and grovels latent,
As if God’s hushing finger grazed him,
(Like Behemoth when He praised him)
At the silver bell’s shrill tinkling,
Quick cold drops of terror sprinkling
On the sudden pavement strewed
With faces of the multitude.
Earth breaks up, time drops away,
In flows heaven, with its new day
Of endless life, when He who trod,
Very Man and very God,
This earth in weakness, shame and pain,
Dying the death whose signs remain
Up yonder on the accursed tree,—
Shall come again, no more to be
Of captivity the thrall,
But the one God, all in all,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
As His servant John received the words,
“I died, and live for evermore!”

XI.
Yet I was left outside the door.
Why sate I there on the threshold-stone,
Left till He returns, alone
Save for the Garment’s extreme fold
Abandoned still to bless my hold?—
My reason, to my doubt, replied,
As if a book were opened wide,
And at a certain page I traced
Every record undefaced,
Added by successive years,—
The harvestings of truth’s stray ears
Singly gleaned, and in one sheaf
Bound together for belief.
Yes, I said—that He will go
And sit with these in turn, I know.
Their faith’s heart beats, though her head swims
Too giddily to guide her limbs,
Disabled by their palsy-stroke
From propping me. Though Rome’s gross yoke
Drops off, no more to be endured,
Her teaching is not so obscured
By errors and perversities,
That no truth shines athwart the lies:
And He, whose eye detects a spark
Even where, to man’s, the whole seems dark,
May well see flame where each beholder
Acknowledges the embers smoulder.
But I, a mere man, fear to quit
The clue God gave me as most fit
To guide my footsteps through life’s maze,
Because Himself discerns all ways
Open to reach Him: I, a man
He gave to mark where faith began
To swerve aside, till from its summit
Judgment drops her damning plummet,
Pronouncing such a fatal space
Departed from the Founder’s base:
He will not bid me enter too,
But rather sit, as now I do,
Awaiting His return outside.
—’Twas thus my reason straight replied,
And joyously I turned, and pressed
The Garment’s skirt upon my breast,
Until, afresh its light suffusing me,
My heart cried,—what has been abusing me
That I should wait here lonely and coldly,
Instead of rising, entering boldly,
Baring truth’s face, and letting drift
Her veils of lies as they choose to shift?
Do these men praise Him? I will raise
My voice up to their point of praise!
I see the error; but above
The scope of error, see the love.—
Oh, love of those first Christian days!
—Fanned so soon into a blaze,
From the spark preserved by the trampled sect,
That the antique sovereign Intellect
Which then sate ruling in the world,
Like a change in dreams, was hurled
From the throne he reigned upon:
—You looked up, and he was gone!
Gone, his glory of the pen!
—Love, with Greece and Rome in ken,
Bade her scribes abhor the trick
Of poetry and rhetoric,
And exult, with hearts set free,
In blessed imbecility
Scrawled, perchance, on some torn sheet,
Leaving Livy incomplete.
Gone, his pride of sculptor, painter!
—Love, while able to acquaint her
With the thousand statues yet
Fresh from chisel, pictures wet
From brush, she saw on every side,
Chose rather with an infant’s pride
To frame those portents which impart
Such unction to true Christian Art.
Gone, Music too! The air was stirred
By happy wings: Terpander’s bird
(That, when the cold came, fled away)
Would tarry not the wintry day,—
As more-enduring sculpture must,
Till a filthy saint rebuked the gust
With which he chanced to get a sight
Of some dear naked Aphrodite
He glanced a thought above the toes of,
By breaking zealously her nose off.
Love, surely, from that music’s lingering,
Might have filched her organ-fingering,
Nor chose rather to set prayings
To hog-grunts, praises to horse-neighings.
Love was the startling thing, the new;
Love was the all-sufficient too;
And seeing that, you see the rest.
As a babe can find its mother’s breast
As well in darkness as in light,
Love shut our eyes, and all seemed right.
True, the world’s eyes are open now:
—Less need for me to disallow
Some few that keep Love’s zone unbuckled,
Peevish as ever to be suckled,
Lulled by the same old baby-prattle
With intermixture of the rattle,
When she would have them creep, stand steady
Upon their feet, or walk already,
Not to speak of trying to climb.
I will be wise another time,
And not desire a wall between us,
When next I see a church-roof cover
So many species of one genus,
All with foreheads bearing Lover
Written above the earnest eyes of them;
All with breasts that beat for beauty,
Whether sublimed, to the surprise of them,
In noble daring, steadfast duty,
The heroic in passion, or in action,—
Or, lowered for the senses’ satisfaction,
To the mere outside of human creatures,
Mere perfect form and faultless features.
What! with all Rome here, whence to levy
Such contributions to their appetite,
With women and men in a gorgeous bevy,
They take, as it were, a padlock, and clap it tight
On their southern eyes, restrained from feeding
On the glories of their ancient reading,
On the beauties of their modern singing,
On the wonders of the builder’s bringing,
On the majesties of Art around them,—
And, all these loves, late struggling incessant,
When faith has at last united and bound them,
They offer up to God for a present!
Why, I will, on the whole, be rather proud of it,—
And, only taking the act in reference
To the other recipients who might have allowed of it
I will rejoice that God had the preference!

XII.
So I summed up my new resolves:
Too much love there can never be.
And where the intellect devolves
Its function on love exclusively,
I, as one who possesses both,
Will accept the provision, nothing loth,
—Will feast my love, then depart elsewhere,
That my intellect may find its share.
And ponder, O soul, the while thou departest,
And see thou applaud the great heart of the artist,
Who, examining the capabilities
Of the block of marble he has to fashion
Into a type of thought or passion,—
Not always, using obvious facilities,
Shapes it, as any artist can,
Into a perfect symmetrical man,
Complete from head to foot of the life-size,
Such as old Adam stood in his wife’s eyes,—
But, now and then, bravely aspires to consummate
A Colossus by no means so easy to come at,
And uses the whole of his block for the bust,
Leaving the minds of the public to finish it,
Since cut it ruefully short he must:
On the face alone he expends his devotion;
He rather would mar than resolve to diminish it,
—Saying, “Applaud me for this grand notion
Of what a face may be! As for completing it
“In breast and body and limbs, do that, you!”
All hail! I fancy how, happily meeting it,
A trunk and legs would perfect the statue,
Could man carve so as to answer volition.
And how much nobler than petty cavils,
A hope to find, in my spirit-travels,
Some artist of another ambition,
Who having a block to carve, no bigger,
Has spent his power on the opposite quest,
And believed to begin at the feet was best—
For so may I see, ere I die, the whole figure!

XIII.
No sooner said than out in the night!
And still as we swept through storm and night,
My heart beat lighter and more light:
And lo, as before, I was walking swift,
With my senses settling fast and steadying,
But my body caught up in the whirl and drift
Of the Vesture’s amplitude, still eddying
On just before me, still to be followed,
As it carried me after with its motion,
—What shall I say?—as a path were hollowed,
And a man went weltering through the ocean
Sucked along in the flying wake
Of the luminous water-snake.

XIV.
Alone! I am left alone once more—
(Save for the Garment’s extreme fold
Abandoned still to bless my hold)
Alone, beside the entrance-door
Of a sort of temple,—perhaps a college,
—Like nothing I ever saw before
At home in England, to my knowledge.
The tall, old, quaint, irregular town!
It may be . . though which, I can’t affirm . . any
Of the famous middle-age towns of Germany;
And this flight of stairs where I sit down,
Is it Halle, Weimar, Cassel, or Frankfort,
Or Göttingen, that I have to thank for’t?
It may be Göttingen,—most likely.
Through the open door I catch obliquely
Glimpses of a lecture-hall;
And not a bad assembly neither—
Ranged decent and symmetrical
On benches, waiting what’s to see there;
Which, holding still by the Vesture’s hem,
I also resolve to see with them,
Cautious this time how I suffer to slip
The chance of joining in fellowship
With any that call themselves His friends,
As these folks do, I have a notion.
But hist—a buzzing and emotion!
All settle themselves, the while ascends
By the creaking rail to the lecture-desk,
Step by step, deliberate
Because of his cranium’s over-freight,
Three parts sublime to one grotesque,
If I have proved an accurate guesser,
The hawk-nosed, high-cheek-boned Professor.
I felt at once as if there ran
A shoot of love from my heart to the man—
That sallow, virgin-minded, studious
Martyr to mild enthusiasm,
As he uttered a kind of cough-preludious
That woke my sympathetic spasm,
(Beside some spitting that made me sorry)
And stood, surveying his auditory
With a wan pure look, well nigh celestial,—
—Those blue eyes had survived so much!
While, under the foot they could not smutch,
Lay all the fleshly and the bestial.
Over he bowed, and arranged his notes,
Till the auditory’s clearing of throats
Was done with, died into silence;
And, when each glance was upward sent,
Each bearded mouth composed intent,
And a pin might be heard drop half a mile hence,—
He pushed back higher his spectacles,
Let the eyes stream out like lamps from cells,
And giving his head of hair—a hake
Of undressed tow, for colour and quantity—
One rapid and impatient shake,
(As our own young England adjusts a jaunty tie
When about to impart, on mature digestion,
Some thrilling view of the surplice-question)
—The Professor’s grave voice, sweet though hoarse,
Broke into his Christmas-Eve’s discourse.

XV.
And he began it by observing
How reason dictated that men
Should rectify the natural swerving,
By a reversion, now and then,
To the well-heads of knowledge, few
And far away, whence rolling grew
The life-stream wide whereat we drink,
Commingled, as we needs must think,
With waters alien to the source:
To do which, aimed this Eve’s discourse.
Since, where could be a fitter time
For tracing backward to its prime,
This Christianity, this lake,
This reservoir, whereat we slake,
From one or other bank, our thirst?
So he proposed inquiring first
Into the various sources whence
This Myth of Christ is derivable;
Demanding from the evidence,
(Since plainly no such life was liveable)
How these phenomena should class?
Whether ’twere best opine Christ was,
Or never was at all, or whether
He was and was not, both together—
It matters little for the name,
So the Idea be left the same:
Only, for practical purpose’ sake,
’Twas obviously as well to take
The popular story,—understanding
How the ineptitude of the time,
And the penman’s prejudice, expanding
Fact into fable fit for the clime,
Had, by slow and sure degrees, translated it
Into this myth, this Individuum,—
Which, when reason had strained and abated it
Of foreign matter, gave, for residuum,
A Man!—a right true man, however,
Whose work was worthy a man’s endeavour!
Work, that gave warrant almost sufficient
To his disciples, for rather believing
He was just omnipotent and omniscient,
As it gives to us, for as frankly receiving
His word, their tradition,—which, though it meant
Something entirely different
From all that those who only heard it,
In their simplicity thought and averred it,
Had yet a meaning quite as respectable:
For, among other doctrines delectable,
Was he not surely the first to insist on,
The natural sovereignty of our race?—
Here the lecturer came to a pausing-place.
And while his cough, like a drouthy piston,
Tried to dislodge the husk that grew to him,
I seized the occasion of bidding adieu to him,
The Vesture still within my hand.

XVI.
I could interpret its command.
This time He would not bid me enter
The exhausted air-bell of the Critic.
Truth’s atmosphere may grow mephitic
When Papist struggles with Dissenter,
Impregnating its pristine clarity,
—One, by his daily fare’s vulgarity,
Its gust of broken meat and garlic;
—One, by his soul’s too-much presuming,
To turn the frankincense’s fuming
And vapours of the candle starlike
Into the cloud her wings she buoys on:
And each, that sets the pure air seething,
Poisoning it for healthy breathing—
But the Critic leaves no air to poison;
Pumps out by a ruthless ingenuity
Atom by atom, and leaves you—vacuity.
Thus much of Christ, does he reject?
And what retain? His intellect?
What is it I must reverence duly?
Poor intellect for worship, truly,
Which tells me simply what was told
(If mere morality, bereft
Of the God in Christ, be all that’s left)
Elsewhere by voices manifold;
With this advantage, that the stater
Made nowise the important stumble
Of adding, he, the sage and humble,
Was also one with the Creator.
You urge Christ’s followers’ simplicity:
But how does shifting blame, evade it?
Have wisdom’s words no more felicity?
The stumbling-block, His speech—who laid it?
How comes it that for one found able,
To sift the truth of it from fable,
Millions believe it to the letter?
Christ’s goodness, then—does that fare better?
Strange goodness, which upon the score
Of being goodness, the mere due
Of man to fellow-man, much more
To God,—should take another view
Of its possessor’s privilege,
And bid him rule his race! You pledge
Your fealty to such rule? What, all—
From Heavenly John and Attic Paul,
And that brave weather-battered Peter
Whose stout faith only stood completer
For buffets, sinning to be pardoned,
As the more his hands hauled nets, they hardened,—
All, down to you, the man of men,
Professing here at Göttingen,
Compose Christ’s flock! So, you and I
Are sheep of a good man! and why?
The goodness,—how did he acquire it?
Was it self-gained, did God inspire it?
Choose which; then tell me, on what ground
Should its possessor dare propound
His claim to rise o’er us an inch?
Were goodness all some man’s invention,
Who arbitrarily made mention
What we should follow, and where flinch,—
What qualities might take the style
Of right and wrong,—and had such guessing
Met with as general acquiescing
As graced the Alphabet erewhile,
When A got leave an Ox to be,
No Camel (quoth the Jews) like G,—
For thus inventing thing and title
Worship were that man’s fit requital.
But if the common conscience must
Be ultimately judge, adjust
Its apt name to each quality
Already known,—I would decree
Worship for such mere demonstration
And simple work of nomenclature,
Only the day I praised, not Nature,
But Harvey, for the circulation.
I would praise such a Christ, with pride
And joy, that he, as none beside,
Had taught us how to keep the mind
God gave him, as God gave his kind,
Freer than they from fleshly taint!
I would call such a Christ our Saint,
As I declare our Poet, him
Whose insight makes all others dim:
A thousand poets pried at life,
And only one amid the strife
Rose to be Shakespeare! Each shall take
His crown, I’d say, for the world’s sake—
Though some objected—“Had we seen
“The heart and head of each, what screen
“Was broken there to give them light,
“While in ourselves it shuts the sight,
“We should no more admire, perchance,
“That these found truth out at a glance,
“Than marvel how the bat discerns
“Some pitch-dark cavern’s fifty turns,
“Led by a finer tact, a gift
“He boasts, which other birds must shift
“Without, and grope as best they can.”
No, freely I would praise the man.—
Nor one whit more, if he contended
That gift of his, from God, descended.
Ah, friend, what gift of man’s does not?
No nearer Something, by a jot,
Rise an infinity of Nothings
Than one: take Euclid for your teacher:
Distinguish kinds: do crownings, clothings,
Make that Creator which was creature?
Multiply gifts upon his head,
And what, when all’s done, shall be said
But . . . the more gifted he, I ween!
That one’s made Christ, another, Pilate,
And This might be all That has been,—
So what is there to frown or smile at?
What is left for us, save, in growth,
Of soul, to rise up, far past both,
From the gift looking to the Giver,
And from the cistern to the River,
And from the finite to Infinity,
And from man’s dust to God’s divinity?

XVII.
Take all in a word: the Truth in God’s breast
Lies trace for trace upon ours impressed:
Though He is so bright and we so dim,
We are made in His image to witness Him;
And were no eye in us to tell,
Instructed by no inner sense.
The light of Heaven from the dark of Hell,
That light would want its evidence,—
Though Justice, Good and Truth were still
Divine, if by some demon’s will,
Hatred and wrong had been proclaimed
Law through the worlds, and Right misnamed.
No mere exposition of morality
Made or in part or in totality,
Should win you to give it worship, therefore:
And, if no better proof you will care for,
—Whom do you count the worst man upon earth?
Be sure, he knows, in his conscience, more
Of what Right is, than arrives at birth
In the best man’s acts that we bow before:
This last knows better—true; but my fact is,
’Tis one thing to know, and another to practise;
And thence I conclude that the real God-function
Is to furnish a motive and injunction
For practising what we know already.
And such an injunction and such a motive
As the God in Christ, do you waive, and “heady
High minded,” hang your tablet-votive
Outside the fane on a finger-post?
Morality to the uttermost,
Supreme in Christ as we all confess,
Why need we prove would avail no jot
To make Him God, if God He were not?
What is the point where Himself lays stress
Does the precept run “Believe in Good,
“In Justice, Truth, now understood
“For the first time?”—or, “Believe in ME,
“Who lived and died, yet essentially
“Am Lord of Life?” Whoever can take
The same to his heart and for mere love’s sake
Conceive of the love,—that man obtains
A new truth; no conviction gains
Of an old one only, made intense
By a fresh appeal to his faded sense.

XVIII.
Can it be that He stays inside?
Is the Vesture left me to commune with?
Could my soul find aught to sing in tune with
Even at this lecture, if she tried?
Oh, let me at lowest sympathise
With the lurking drop of blood that lies
In the desiccated brain’s white roots
Without a throb for Christ’s attributes,
As the Lecturer makes his special boast!
If love’s dead there, it has left a ghost.
Admire we, how from heart to brain
(Though to say so strike the doctors dum
One instinct rises and falls again,
Restoring the equilibrium.
And how when the Critic had done his best,
And the Pearl of Price, at reason’s test,
Lay dust and ashes levigable
On the Professor’s lecture-table;
When we looked for the inference and monition
That our faith, reduced to such a condition,
Be swept forthwith to its natural dust-hole,—
He bids us, when we least expect it,
Take back our faith,—if it be not just whole,
Yet a pearl indeed, as his tests affect it,
Which fact pays the damage done rewardingly,
So, prize we our dust and ashes accordingly!
“Go home and venerate the Myth
“I thus have experimented with—
“This Man, continue to adore him
“Rather than all who went before him,
And all who ever followed after!”—
Surely for this I may praise you, my brother!
Will you take the praise in tears or laughter?
That’s one point gained: can I compass another?
Unlearned love was safe from spurning—
Can’t we respect your loveless learning?
Let us at least give Learning honour!
What laurels had we showered upon her,
Girding her loins up to perturb
Our theory of the Middle Verb;
Or Turklike brandishing a scimetar
O’er anapests in comic-trimeter;
Or curing the halt and maimed Iketides,
While we lounged on at our indebted ease:
Instead of which, a tricksy demon
Sets her at Titus or Philemon!
When Ignorance wags his ears of leather
And hates God’s word, ’tis altogether;
Nor leaves he his congenial thistles
To go and browze on Paul’s Epistles.
And you, the audience, who might ravage
The world wide, enviably savage
Nor heed the cry of the retriever,
More than Herr Heine (before his fever),—
I do not tell a lie so arrant
As say my passion’s wings are furled up,
And, without the plainest Heavenly warrant,
I were ready and glad to give this world up—
But still, when you rub the brow meticulous,
And ponder the profit of turning holy
If not for God’s, for your own sake solely,
—God forbid I should find you ridiculous!
Deduce from this lecture all that eases you,
Nay, call yourselves, if the calling pleases you,
“Christians,”—abhor the Deist’s pravity,—
Go on, you shall no more move my gravity,
Than, when I see boys ride a-cockhorse
I find it in my heart to embarrass them
By hinting that their stick’s a mock horse,
And they really carry what they say carries them.

XIX.
So sate I talking with my mind.
I did not long to leave the door
And find a new church, as before,
But rather was quiet and inclined
To prolong and enjoy the gentle resting
From further tracking and trying and testing.
This tolerance is a genial mood!
(Said I, and a little pause ensued).
One trims the bark ’twixt shoal and shelf,
And sees, each side, the good effects of it,
A value for religion’s self,
A carelessness about the sects of it.
Let me enjoy my own conviction,
Not watch my neighbour’s faith with fretfulness,
Still spying there some dereliction
Of truth, perversity, forgetfulness!
Better a mild indifferentism,
To teach that all our faiths (though duller
His shines through a dull spirit’s prism)
Originally had one colour—
Sending me on a pilgrimage
Through ancient and through modern times
To many peoples, various climes,
Where I may see Saint, Savage, Sage
Fuse their respective creeds in one
Before the general Father’s throne!

XX.
. . . ’T was the horrible storm began afresh!
The black night caught me in his mesh
Whirled me up, and flung me prone.
I was left on the college-step alone.
I looked, and far there, ever fleeting
Far, far away, the receding gesture,
And looming of the lessening Vesture,
Swept forward from my stupid hand,
While I watched my foolish heart expand
In the lazy glow of benevolence,
O’er the various modes of man’s belief.
I sprang up with fear’s vehemence.
—Needs must there be one way, our chief
Best way of worship: let me strive
To find it, and when found, contrive
My fellows also take their share.
This constitutes my earthly care:
God’s is above it and distinct!
For I, a man, with men am linked,
And not a brute with brutes; no gain
That I experience, must remain
Unshared: but should my best endeavour
To share it, fail—subsisteth ever
God’s care above, and I exult
That God, by God’s own ways occult,
May—doth, I will believe—bring back
All wanderers to a single track!
Meantime, I can but testify
God’s care for me—no more, can I—
It is but for myself I know.
The world rolls witnessing around me
Only to leave me as it found me;
Men cry there, but my ear is slow.
Their races flourish or decay
—What boots it, while yon lucid way
Loaded with stars, divides the vault?
How soon my soul repairs its fault
When, sharpening senses’ hebetude,
She turns on my own life! So viewed,
No mere mote’s-breadth but teems immense
With witnessings of providence:
And woe to me if when I look
Upon that record, the sole book
Unsealed to me, I take no heed
Of any warning that I read!
Have I been sure, this Christmas-Eve;
God’s own hand did the rainbow weave,
Whereby the truth from heaven slid
Into my soul?—I cannot bid
The world admit He stooped to heal
My soul, as if in a thunder-peal
Where one heard noise, and one saw flame,
I only knew He named my name.
And what is the world to me, for sorrow
Or joy in its censures, when to-morrow
It drops the remark, with just-turned head
Then, on again—That man is dead?
Yes,—but for me—my name called,—drawn
As a conscript’s lot from the lap’s black yawn,
He has dipt into on a battle-dawn:
Bid out of life by a nod, a glance,—
Stumbling, mute-mazed, at nature’s chance,—
With a rapid finger circled round,
Fixed to the first poor inch of ground,
To light from, where his foot was found;
Whose ear but a minute since lay free
To the wide camp’s buzz and gossipry—
Summoned, a solitary man,
To end his life where his life began,
From the safe glad rear, to the dreadful van!
Soul of mine, hadst thou caught and held
By the hem of the Vesture . . .

XXI.
And I caught
At the flying Robe, and unrepelled
Was lapped again in its folds full-fraught
With warmth and wonder and delight,
God’s mercy being infinite.
And scarce had the words escaped my tongue,
When, at a passionate bound, I sprung
Out of the wandering world of rain,
Into the little chapel again.

XXII.
How else was I found there, bolt upright
On my bench, as if I had never left it?
—Never flung out on the common at night
Nor met the storm and wedge-like cleft it,
Seen the raree-show of Peter’s successor,
Or the laboratory of the Professor!
For the Vision, that was true, I wist,
True as that heaven and earth exist.
There sate my friend, the yellow and tall,
With his neck and its wen in the selfsame place;
Yet my nearest neighbour’s cheek showed gall,
She had slid away a contemptuous space:
And the old fat woman, late so placable,
Eyed me with symptoms, hardly mistakeable,
Of her milk of kindness turning rancid:
In short a spectator might have fancied
That I had nodded betrayed by a slumber,
Yet kept my seat, a warning ghastly,
Through the heads of the sermon, nine in number,
To wake up now at the tenth and lastly.
But again, could such a disgrace have happened?
Each friend at my elbow had surely nudged it;
And, as for the sermon, where did my nap end?
Unless I heard it, could I have judged it?
Could I report as I do at the close,
First, the preacher speaks through his nose:
Second, his gesture is too emphatic:
Thirdly, to waive what’s pedagogic,
The subject-matter itself lacks logic:
Fourthly, the English is ungrammatic.
Great news! the preacher is found no Pascal,
Whom, if I pleased, I might to the task call
Of making square to a finite eye
The circle of infinity,
And find so all-but-just-succeeding!
Great news! the sermon proves no reading
Where bee-like in the flowers I may bury me,
Like Taylor’s, the immortal Jeremy!
And now that I know the very worst of him,
What was it I thought to obtain at first of him?
Ha! Is God mocked, as He asks?
Shall I take on me to change His tasks,
And dare, despatched to a river-head
For a simple draught of the element,
Neglect the thing for which He sent,
And return with another thing instead?—
Saying . . . “Because the water found
“Welling up from underground,
“Is mingled with the taints of earth,
“While Thou, I know, dost laugh at dearth,
And couldest, at a word, convulse
“The world with the leap of its river-pulse,—
“Therefore I turned from the oozings muddy,
And bring thee a chalice I found, instead:
“See the brave veins in the breccia ruddy!
“One would suppose that the marble bled.
“What matters the water? A hope I have nursed,
“That the waterless cup will quench my thirst.”
—Better have knelt at the poorest stream
That trickles in pain from the straitest rift!
For the less or the more is all God’s gift,
Who blocks up or breaks wide the granite-seam.
And here, is there water or not, to drink?
I, then, in ignorance and weakness,
Taking God’s help, have attained to think
My heart does best to receive in meekness
This mode of worship, as most to His mind,
Where earthly aids being cast behind,
His All in All appears serene,
With the thinnest human veil between,
Letting the mystic Lamps, the Seven,
The many motions of His spirit,
Pass, as they list, to earth from Heaven.
For the preacher’s merit or demerit,
It were to be wished the flaws were fewer
In the earthen vessel, holding treasure,
Which lies as safe in a golden ewer;
But the main thing is, does it hold good measure?
Heaven soon sets right all other matters!—
Ask, else, these ruins of humanity,
This flesh worn out to rags and tatters,
This soul at struggle with insanity,
Who thence take comfort, can I doubt,
Which an empire gained, were a loss without.
May it be mine! And let us hope
That no worse blessing befal the Pope,
Turn’d sick at last of the day’s buffoonery,
Of his posturings and his petticoatings,
Beside the Bourbon bully’s gloatings
In the bloody orgies of drunk poltroonery!
Nor may the Professor forego its peace
At Göttingen, presently, when, in the dusk
Of his life, if his cough, as I fear, should increase,
Prophesied of by that horrible husk;
And when, thicker and thicker, the darkness fills
The world through his misty spectacles,
And he gropes for something more substantial
Than a fable, myth, or personification,
May Christ do for him, what no mere man shall,
And stand confessed as the God of salvation!
Meantime, in the still recurring fear
Lest myself, at unawares, be found,
While attacking the choice of my neighbours round,
Without my own made—I choose here!
The giving out of the hymn reclaims me;
I have done!—And if any blames me,
Thinking that merely to touch in brevity
The topics I dwell on, were unlawful,—
Or, worse, that I trench, with undue levity,
On the bounds of the Holy and the awful,
I praise the heart, and pity the head of him,
And refer myself to THEE, instead of him;
Who head and heart alike discernest,
Looking below light speech we utter,
When the frothy spume and frequent sputter
Prove that the soul’s depths boil in earnest!
May the truth shine out, stand ever before us!
I put up pencil and join chorus
To Hepzibah Tune, without further apology,
The last five verses of the third section
Of the seventeenth hymn in Whitfield’s Collection,
To conclude with the doxology.

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The Victories Of Love. Book II

I
From Jane To Her Mother

Thank Heaven, the burthens on the heart
Are not half known till they depart!
Although I long'd, for many a year,
To love with love that casts out fear,
My Frederick's kindness frighten'd me,
And heaven seem'd less far off than he;
And in my fancy I would trace
A lady with an angel's face,
That made devotion simply debt,
Till sick with envy and regret,
And wicked grief that God should e'er
Make women, and not make them fair.
That he might love me more because
Another in his memory was,
And that my indigence might be
To him what Baby's was to me,
The chief of charms, who could have thought?
But God's wise way is to give nought
Till we with asking it are tired;
And when, indeed, the change desired
Comes, lest we give ourselves the praise,
It comes by Providence, not Grace;
And mostly our thanks for granted pray'rs
Are groans at unexpected cares.
First Baby went to heaven, you know,
And, five weeks after, Grace went, too.
Then he became more talkative,
And, stooping to my heart, would give
Signs of his love, which pleased me more
Than all the proofs he gave before;
And, in that time of our great grief,
We talk'd religion for relief;
For, though we very seldom name
Religion, we now think the same!
Oh, what a bar is thus removed
To loving and to being loved!
For no agreement really is
In anything when none's in this.
Why, Mother, once, if Frederick press'd
His wife against his hearty breast,
The interior difference seem'd to tear
My own, until I could not bear
The trouble. 'Twas a dreadful strife,
And show'd, indeed, that faith is life.
He never felt this. If he did,
I'm sure it could not have been hid;
For wives, I need not say to you,
Can feel just what their husbands do,
Without a word or look; but then
It is not so, you know, with men.

From that time many a Scripture text
Help'd me, which had, before, perplex'd.
Oh, what a wond'rous word seem'd this:
He is my head, as Christ is his!
None ever could have dared to see
In marriage such a dignity
For man, and for his wife, still less,
Such happy, happy lowliness,
Had God Himself not made it plain!
This revelation lays the rein—

If I may speak so—on the neck
Of a wife's love, takes thence the check
Of conscience, and forbids to doubt
Its measure is to be without
All measure, and a fond excess
Is here her rule of godliness.

I took him not for love but fright;
He did but ask a dreadful right.
In this was love, that he loved me
The first, who was mere poverty.
All that I know of love he taught;
And love is all I know of aught.
My merit is so small by his,
That my demerit is my bliss.
My life is hid with him in Christ,
Never thencefrom to be enticed;
And in his strength have I such rest
As when the baby on my breast
Finds what it knows not how to seek,
And, very happy, very weak,
Lies, only knowing all is well,
Pillow'd on kindness palpable.


II
From Lady Clitheroe To Mary Churchill

Dear Saint, I'm still at High-Hurst Park.
The house is fill'd with folks of mark.
Honoria suits a good estate
Much better than I hoped. How fate
Loads her with happiness and pride!
And such a loving lord, beside!
But between us, Sweet, everything
Has limits, and to build a wing
To this old house, when Courtholm stands
Empty upon his Berkshire lands,
And all that Honor might be near
Papa, was buying love too dear.

With twenty others, there are two
Guests here, whose names will startle you:
Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Graham!
I thought he stay'd away for shame.
He and his wife were ask'd, you know,
And would not come, four years ago.
You recollect Miss Smythe found out
Who she had been, and all about
Her people at the Powder-mill;
And how the fine Aunt tried to instil
Haut ton, and how, at last poor Jane
Had got so shy and gauche that, when
The Dockyard gentry came to sup,
She always had to be lock'd up;
And some one wrote to us and said
Her mother was a kitchen-maid.
Dear Mary, you'll be charm'd to know
It must be all a fib. But, oh,
She is the oddest little Pet
On which my eyes were ever set!
She's so outrée and natural
That, when she first arrived, we all
Wonder'd, as when a robin comes
In through the window to eat crumbs
At breakfast with us. She has sense,
Humility, and confidence;
And, save in dressing just a thought
Gayer in colours than she ought,
(To-day she looks a cross between
Gipsy and Fairy, red and green,)
She always happens to do well.
And yet one never quite can tell
What she might do or utter next.
Lord Clitheroe is much perplex'd.
Her husband, every now and then,
Looks nervous; all the other men
Are charm'd. Yet she has neither grace,
Nor one good feature in her face.
Her eyes, indeed, flame in her head,
Like very altar-fires to Fred,
Whose steps she follows everywhere
Like a tame duck, to the despair
Of Colonel Holmes, who does his part
To break her funny little heart.
Honor's enchanted. 'Tis her view
That people, if they're good and true,
And treated well, and let alone,
Will kindly take to what's their own,
And always be original,
Like children. Honor's just like all
The rest of us! But, thinking so,
'Tis well she miss'd Lord Clitheroe,
Who hates originality,
Though he puts up with it in me.

Poor Mrs. Graham has never been
To the Opera! You should have seen
The innocent way she told the Earl
She thought Plays sinful when a girl,
And now she never had a chance!
Frederick's complacent smile and glance
Towards her, show'd me, past a doubt,
Honoria had been quite cut out.
'Tis very strange; for Mrs. Graham,
Though Frederick's fancy none can blame,
Seems the last woman you'd have thought
Her lover would have ever sought.
She never reads, I find, nor goes
Anywhere; so that I suppose
She got at all she ever knew
By growing up, as kittens do.

Talking of kittens, by-the-bye,
You have more influence than I
With dear Honoria. Get her, Dear,
To be a little more severe
With those sweet Children. They've the run
Of all the place. When school was done,
Maud burst in, while the Earl was there,
With ‘Oh, Mama, do be a bear!’

Do you know, Dear, this odd wife of Fred
Adores his old Love in his stead!
She is so nice, yet, I should say,
Not quite the thing for every day.
Wonders are wearying! Felix goes
Next Sunday with her to the Close,
And you will judge.

Honoria asks
All Wiltshire Belles here; Felix basks
Like Puss in fire-shine, when the room
Is thus aflame with female bloom.
But then she smiles when most would pout;
And so his lawless loves go out
With the last brocade. 'Tis not the same,
I fear, with Mrs. Frederick Graham.
Honoria should not have her here,—
And this you might just hint, my Dear,—
For Felix says he never saw
Such proof of what he holds for law,
That ‘beauty is love which can be seen.’
Whatever he by this may mean,
Were it not dreadful if he fell
In love with her on principle!


III
From Jane To Mrs. Graham

Mother, I told you how, at first,
I fear'd this visit to the Hurst.
Fred must, I felt, be so distress'd
By aught in me unlike the rest
Who come here. But I find the place
Delightful; there's such ease, and grace,
And kindness, and all seem to be
On such a high equality.
They have not got to think, you know,
How far to make the money go.
But Frederick says it's less the expense
Of money, than of sound good-sense,
Quickness to care what others feel,
And thoughts with nothing to conceal;
Which I'll teach Johnny. Mrs. Vaughan
Was waiting for us on the Lawn,
And kiss'd and call'd me ‘Cousin.’ Fred
Neglected his old friends, she said.
He laugh'd, and colour'd up at this.
She was, you know, a flame of his;
But I'm not jealous! Luncheon done,
I left him, who had just begun
To talk about the Russian War
With an old Lady, Lady Carr,—
A Countess, but I'm more afraid,
A great deal, of the Lady's Maid,—
And went with Mrs. Vaughan to see
The pictures, which appear'd to be
Of sorts of horses, clowns, and cows
Call'd Wouvermans and Cuyps and Dows.
And then she took me up, to show
Her bedroom, where, long years ago,
A Queen slept. 'Tis all tapestries
Of Cupids, Gods, and Goddesses,
And black, carved oak. A curtain'd door
Leads thence into her soft Boudoir,
Where even her husband may but come
By favour. He, too, has his room,
Kept sacred to his solitude.
Did I not think the plan was good?
She ask'd me; but I said how small
Our house was, and that, after all,
Though Frederick would not say his prayers
At night till I was safe upstairs,
I thought it wrong to be so shy
Of being good when I was by.
‘Oh, you should humour him!’ she said,
With her sweet voice and smile; and led
The way to where the children ate
Their dinner, and Miss Williams sate.
She's only Nursery-Governess,
Yet they consider her no less
Than Lord or Lady Carr, or me.
Just think how happy she must be!
The Ball-Room, with its painted sky
Where heavy angels seem to fly,
Is a dull place; its size and gloom
Make them prefer, for drawing-room,
The Library, all done up new
And comfortable, with a view
Of Salisbury Spire between the boughs.

When she had shown me through the house,
(I wish I could have let her know
That she herself was half the show;
She is so handsome, and so kind!)
She fetch'd the children, who had dined;
And, taking one in either hand,
Show'd me how all the grounds were plann'd.
The lovely garden gently slopes
To where a curious bridge of ropes
Crosses the Avon to the Park.
We rested by the stream, to mark
The brown backs of the hovering trout.
Frank tickled one, and took it out
From under a stone. We saw his owls,
And awkward Cochin-China fowls,
And shaggy pony in the croft;
And then he dragg'd us to a loft,
Where pigeons, as he push'd the door,
Fann'd clear a breadth of dusty floor,
And set us coughing. I confess
I trembled for my nice silk dress.
I cannot think how Mrs. Vaughan
Ventured with that which she had on,—
A mere white wrapper, with a few
Plain trimmings of a quiet blue,
But, oh, so pretty! Then the bell
For dinner rang. I look'd quite well
(‘Quite charming,’ were the words Fred said,)
With the new gown that I've had made.

I am so proud of Frederick.
He's so high-bred and lordly-like
With Mrs. Vaughan! He's not quite so
At home with me; but that, you know,
I can't expect, or wish. 'Twould hurt,
And seem to mock at my desert.
Not but that I'm a duteous wife
To Fred; but, in another life,
Where all are fair that have been true
I hope I shall be graceful too,
Like Mrs. Vaughan. And, now, good-bye!
That happy thought has made me cry,
And feel half sorry that my cough,
In this fine air, is leaving off.


IV
From Frederick To Mrs. Graham

Honoria, trebly fair and mild
With added loves of lord and child,
Is else unalter'd. Years, which wrong
The rest, touch not her beauty, young
With youth which rather seems her clime,
Than aught that's relative to time.
How beyond hope was heard the prayer
I offer'd in my love's despair!
Could any, whilst there's any woe,
Be wholly blest, then she were so.
She is, and is aware of it,
Her husband's endless benefit;
But, though their daily ways reveal
The depth of private joy they feel,
'Tis not their bearing each to each
That does abroad their secret preach,
But such a lovely good-intent
To all within their government
And friendship as, 'tis well discern'd,
Each of the other must have learn'd;
For no mere dues of neighbourhood
Ever begot so blest a mood.

And fair, indeed, should be the few
God dowers with nothing else to do,
And liberal of their light, and free
To show themselves, that all may see!
For alms let poor men poorly give
The meat whereby men's bodies live;
But they of wealth are stewards wise
Whose graces are their charities.

The sunny charm about this home
Makes all to shine who thither come.
My own dear Jane has caught its grace,
And, honour'd, honours too the place.
Across the lawn I lately walk'd
Alone, and watch'd where mov'd and talk'd,
Gentle and goddess-like of air,
Honoria and some Stranger fair.
I chose a path unblest by these;
When one of the two Goddesses,
With my Wife's voice, but softer, said,
‘Will you not walk with us, dear Fred?’

She moves, indeed, the modest peer
Of all the proudest ladies here.
Unawed she talks with men who stand
Among the leaders of the land,
And women beautiful and wise,
With England's greatness in their eyes.
To high, traditional good-sense,
And knowledge ripe without pretence,
And human truth exactly hit
By quiet and conclusive wit,
Listens my little, homely Dove,
Mistakes the points and laughs for love;
And, after, stands and combs her hair,
And calls me much the wittiest there!

With reckless loyalty, dear Wife,
She lays herself about my life!
The joy I might have had of yore
I have not; for 'tis now no more,
With me, the lyric time of youth,
And sweet sensation of the truth.
Yet, past my hope or purpose bless'd,
In my chance choice let be confess'd
The tenderer Providence that rules
The fates of children and of fools!

I kiss'd the kind, warm neck that slept,
And from her side this morning stepp'd,
To bathe my brain from drowsy night
In the sharp air and golden light.
The dew, like frost, was on the pane.
The year begins, though fair, to wane.
There is a fragrance in its breath
Which is not of the flowers, but death;
And green above the ground appear
The lilies of another year.
I wander'd forth, and took my path
Among the bloomless aftermath;
And heard the steadfast robin sing
As if his own warm heart were Spring,
And watch'd him feed where, on the yew,
Hung honey'd drops of crimson dew;
And then return'd, by walls of peach,
And pear-trees bending to my reach,
And rose-beds with the roses gone,
To bright-laid breakfast. Mrs. Vaughan
Was there, none with her. I confess
I love her than of yore no less!
But she alone was loved of old;
Now love is twain, nay, manifold;
For, somehow, he whose daily life
Adjusts itself to one true wife,
Grows to a nuptial, near degree
With all that's fair and womanly.
Therefore, as more than friends, we met,
Without constraint, without regret;
The wedded yoke that each had donn'd
Seeming a sanction, not a bond.


V
From Mrs. Graham

Your love lacks joy, your letter says.
Yes; love requires the focal space
Of recollection or of hope,
Ere it can measure its own scope.
Too soon, too soon comes Death to show
We love more deeply than we know!
The rain, that fell upon the height
Too gently to be call'd delight,
Within the dark vale reappears
As a wild cataract of tears;
And love in life should strive to see
Sometimes what love in death would be!
Easier to love, we so should find,
It is than to be just and kind.

She's gone: shut close the coffin-lid:
What distance for another did
That death has done for her! The good,
Once gazed upon with heedless mood,
Now fills with tears the famish'd eye,
And turns all else to vanity.
'Tis sad to see, with death between,
The good we have pass'd and have not seen!
How strange appear the words of all!
The looks of those that live appal.
They are the ghosts, and check the breath:
There's no reality but death,
And hunger for some signal given
That we shall have our own in heaven.
But this the God of love lets be
A horrible uncertainty.

How great her smallest virtue seems,
How small her greatest fault! Ill dreams
Were those that foil'd with loftier grace
The homely kindness of her face.
'Twas here she sat and work'd, and there
She comb'd and kiss'd the children's hair;
Or, with one baby at her breast,
Another taught, or hush'd to rest.
Praise does the heart no more refuse
To the chief loveliness of use.
Her humblest good is hence most high
In the heavens of fond memory;
And Love says Amen to the word,
A prudent wife is from the Lord.
Her worst gown's kept, ('tis now the best,
As that in which she oftenest dress'd,)
For memory's sake more precious grown
Than she herself was for her own.
Poor child! foolish it seem'd to fly
To sobs instead of dignity,
When she was hurt. Now, more than all,
Heart-rending and angelical
That ignorance of what to do,
Bewilder'd still by wrong from you:
For what man ever yet had grace
Ne'er to abuse his power and place?

No magic of her voice or smile
Suddenly raised a fairy isle,
But fondness for her underwent
An unregarded increment,
Like that which lifts, through centuries,
The coral-reef within the seas,
Till, lo! the land where was the wave,
Alas! 'tis everywhere her grave.


VI
From Jane To Mrs. Graham

Dear Mother, I can surely tell,
Now, that I never shall get well.
Besides the warning in my mind,
All suddenly are grown so kind.
Fred stopp'd the Doctor, yesterday,
Downstairs, and, when he went away,
Came smiling back, and sat with me,
Pale, and conversing cheerfully
About the Spring, and how my cough,
In finer weather, would leave off.
I saw it all, and told him plain
I felt no hope of Spring again.
Then he, after a word of jest,
Burst into tears upon my breast,
And own'd, when he could speak, he knew
There was a little danger, too.
This made me very weak and ill,
And while, last night, I lay quite still,
And, as he fancied, in the deep,
Exhausted rest of my short sleep,
I heard, or dream'd I heard him pray:
‘Oh, Father, take her not away!
Let not life's dear assurance lapse
‘Into death's agonised 'Perhaps,'

‘A hope without Thy promise, where
‘Less than assurance is despair!
‘Give me some sign, if go she must,
‘That death's not worse than dust to dust,
‘Not heaven, on whose oblivious shore
‘Joy I may have, but her no more!
‘The bitterest cross, it seems to me,
Of all is infidelity;
And so, if I may choose, I'll miss
‘The kind of heaven which comes to this.
‘If doom'd, indeed, this fever ceased,
To die out wholly, like a beast,
‘Forgetting all life's ill success
‘In dark and peaceful nothingness,
‘I could but say, Thy will be done;
‘For, dying thus, I were but one
Of seed innumerable which ne'er
‘In all the worlds shall bloom or bear.
‘I've put life past to so poor use
‘Well may'st Thou life to come refuse;
And justice, which the spirit contents,
‘Shall still in me all vain laments;
‘Nay, pleased, I will, while yet I live,
‘Think Thou my forfeit joy may'st give
To some fresh life, else unelect,
And heaven not feel my poor defect!
‘Only let not Thy method be
To make that life, and call it me;
‘Still less to sever mine in twain,
And tell each half to live again,
And count itself the whole! To die,
‘Is it love's disintegrity?
‘Answer me, 'No,' and I, with grace,
‘Will life's brief desolation face,
‘My ways, as native to the clime,
‘Adjusting to the wintry time,
‘Ev'n with a patient cheer thereof—’

He started up, hearing me cough.
Oh, Mother, now my last doubt's gone!
He likes me more than Mrs. Vaughan;
And death, which takes me from his side,
Shows me, in very deed, his bride!


VII
From Jane To Frederick

I leave this, Dear, for you to read,
For strength and hope, when I am dead.
When Grace died, I was so perplex'd,
I could not find one helpful text;
And when, a little while before,
I saw her sobbing on the floor,
Because I told her that in heaven
She would be as the angels even,
And would not want her doll, 'tis true
A horrible fear within me grew,
That, since the preciousness of love
Went thus for nothing, mine might prove
To be no more, and heaven's bliss
Some dreadful good which is not this.

But being about to die makes clear
Many dark things. I have no fear,
Now, that my love, my grief, my joy
Is but a passion for a toy.
I cannot speak at all, I find,
The shining something in my mind,
That shows so much that, if I took
My thoughts all down, 'twould make a book.
God's Word, which lately seem'd above
The simpleness of human love,
To my death-sharpen'd hearing tells
Of little or of nothing else;
And many things I hoped were true,
When first they came, like songs, from you,
Now rise with witness past the reach
Of doubt, and I to you can teach,
As if with felt authority
And as things seen, what you taught me.

Yet how? I have no words but those
Which every one already knows:
As, ‘No man hath at any time
‘Seen God, but 'tis the love of Him
‘Made perfect, and He dwells in us,
‘If we each other love.’ Or thus,
‘My goodness misseth in extent
Of Thee, Lord! In the excellent
‘I know Thee; and the Saints on Earth
‘Make all my love and holy mirth.’
And further, ‘Inasmuch as ye
‘Did it to one of these, to Me
‘Ye did it, though ye nothing thought
‘Nor knew of Me, in that ye wrought.’

What shall I dread? Will God undo
Our bond, which is all others too?
And when I meet you will you say
To my reclaiming looks, ‘Away!
‘A dearer love my bosom warms
‘With higher rights and holier charms.
‘The children, whom thou here may'st see,
‘Neighbours that mingle thee and me,
And gaily on impartial lyres
‘Renounce the foolish filial fires
‘They felt, with 'Praise to God on high,
‘'Goodwill to all else equally;'

‘The trials, duties, service, tears;
‘The many fond, confiding years
Of nearness sweet with thee apart;
‘The joy of body, mind, and heart;
‘The love that grew a reckless growth,
‘Unmindful that the marriage-oath
To love in an eternal style
‘Meant—only for a little while:
‘Sever'd are now those bonds earth-wrought:
‘All love, not new, stands here for nought!’

Why, it seems almost wicked, Dear,
Even to utter such a fear!
Are we not ‘heirs,’ as man and wife,
‘Together of eternal life?’
Was Paradise e'er meant to fade,
To make which marriage first was made?
Neither beneath him nor above
Could man in Eden find his Love;
Yet with him in the garden walk'd
His God, and with Him mildly talk'd!
Shall the humble preference offend
In heaven, which God did there commend?
Are ‘honourable and undefiled’
The names of aught from heaven exiled?
And are we not forbid to grieve
As without hope? Does God deceive,
And call that hope which is despair,
Namely, the heaven we should not share?
Image and glory of the man,
As he of God, is woman. Can
This holy, sweet proportion die
Into a dull equality?
Are we not one flesh, yea, so far
More than the babe and mother are,
That sons are bid mothers to leave
And to their wives alone to cleave,
‘For they two are one flesh?’ But 'tis
In the flesh we rise. Our union is,
You know 'tis said, ‘great mystery.’
Great mockery, it appears to me;
Poor image of the spousal bond
Of Christ and Church, if loosed beyond
This life!—'Gainst which, and much more yet,
There's not a single word to set.
The speech to the scoffing Sadducee
Is not in point to you and me;
For how could Christ have taught such clods
That Cæsar's things are also God's?
The sort of Wife the Law could make
Might well be ‘hated’ for Love's sake,
And left, like money, land, or house;
For out of Christ is no true spouse.

I used to think it strange of Him
To make love's after-life so dim,
Or only clear by inference:
But God trusts much to common sense,
And only tells us what, without
His Word, we could not have found out.
On fleshly tables of the heart
He penn'd truth's feeling counterpart
In hopes that come to all: so, Dear,
Trust these, and be of happy cheer,
Nor think that he who has loved well
Is of all men most miserable.

There's much more yet I want to say,
But cannot now. You know my way
Of feeling strong from Twelve till Two
After my wine. I'll write to you
Daily some words, which you shall have
To break the silence of the grave.


VIII
From Jane To Frederick

You think, perhaps, ‘Ah, could she know
How much I loved her!’ Dear, I do!
And you may say, ‘Of this new awe
Of heart which makes her fancies law,
‘These watchful duties of despair,
‘She does not dream, she cannot care!’
Frederick, you see how false that is,
Or how could I have written this?
And, should it ever cross your mind
That, now and then, you were unkind,
You never, never were at all!
Remember that! It's natural
For one like Mr. Vaughan to come,
From a morning's useful pastime, home,
And greet, with such a courteous zest,
His handsome wife, still newly dress'd,
As if the Bird of Paradise
Should daily change her plumage thrice.
He's always well, she's always gay.
Of course! But he who toils all day,
And comes home hungry, tired, or cold,
And feels 'twould do him good to scold
His wife a little, let him trust
Her love, and say the things he must,
Till sooth'd in mind by meat and rest.
If, after that, she's well caress'd,
And told how good she is, to bear
His humour, fortune makes it fair.
Women like men to be like men;
That is, at least, just now and then.
Thus, I have nothing to forgive,
But those first years, (how could I live!)
When, though I really did behave
So stupidly, you never gave
One unkind word or look at all:
As if I was some animal
You pitied! Now, in later life,
You used me like a proper Wife.

You feel, Dear, in your present mood,
Your Jane, since she was kind and good,
A child of God, a living soul,
Was not so different, on the whole,
From Her who had a little more
Of God's best gifts: but, oh, be sure,
My dear, dear Love, to take no blame
Because you could not feel the same
Towards me, living, as when dead.
A hungry man must needs think bread
So sweet! and, only at their rise
And setting, blessings, to the eyes,
Like the sun's course, grow visible.
If you are sad, remember well,
Against delusions of despair,
That memory sees things as they were,
And not as they were misenjoy'd,
And would be still, if ought destroy'd
The glory of their hopelessness:
So that, in truth, you had me less
In days when necessary zeal
For my perfection made you feel
My faults the most, than now your love
Forgets but where it can approve.
You gain by loss, if that seem'd small
Possess'd, which, being gone, turns all
Surviving good to vanity.
Oh, Fred, this makes it sweet to die!

Say to yourself: ‘'Tis comfort yet
‘I made her that which I regret;
And parting might have come to pass
‘In a worse season; as it was,
‘Love an eternal temper took,
‘Dipp'd, glowing, in Death's icy brook!’
Or say, ‘On her poor feeble head
‘This might have fallen: 'tis mine instead!
And so great evil sets me free
‘Henceforward from calamity.
And, in her little children, too,
‘How much for her I yet can do!’
And grieve not for these orphans even;
For central to the love of Heaven
Is each child as each star to space.
This truth my dying love has grace
To trust with a so sure content,
I fear I seem indifferent.

You must not think a child's small heart
Cold, because it and grief soon part.
Fanny will keep them all away,
Lest you should hear them laugh and play,
Before the funeral's over. Then
I hope you'll be yourself again,
And glad, with all your soul, to find
How God thus to the sharpest wind
Suits the shorn lambs. Instruct them, Dear,
For my sake, in His love and fear.
And show how, till their journey's done,
Not to be weary they must run.

Strive not to dissipate your grief
By any lightness. True relief
Of sorrow is by sorrow brought.
And yet for sorrow's sake, you ought
To grieve with measure. Do not spend
So good a power to no good end!
Would you, indeed, have memory stay
In the heart, lock up and put away
Relics and likenesses and all
Musings, which waste what they recall.
True comfort, and the only thing
To soothe without diminishing
A prized regret, is to match here,
By a strict life, God's love severe.
Yet, after all, by nature's course,
Feeling must lose its edge and force.
Again you'll reach the desert tracts
Where only sin or duty acts.
But, if love always lit our path,
Where were the trial of our faith?

Oh, should the mournful honeymoon
Of death be over strangely soon,
And life-long resolutions, made
In grievous haste, as quickly fade,
Seeming the truth of grief to mock,
Think, Dearest, 'tis not by the clock
That sorrow goes! A month of tears
Is more than many, many years
Of common time. Shun, if you can,
However, any passionate plan.
Grieve with the heart; let not the head
Grieve on, when grief of heart is dead;
For all the powers of life defy
A superstitious constancy.

The only bond I hold you to
Is that which nothing can undo.
A man is not a young man twice;
And if, of his young years, he lies
A faithful score in one wife's breast,
She need not mind who has the rest.
In this do what you will, dear Love,
And feel quite sure that I approve.
And, should it chance as it may be,
Give her my wedding-ring from me;
And never dream that you can err
T'wards me by being good to her;
Nor let remorseful thoughts destroy
In you the kindly flowering joy
And pleasure of the natural life.

But don't forget your fond, dead Wife.
And, Frederick, should you ever be
Tempted to think your love of me
All fancy, since it drew its breath
So much more sweetly after death,
Remember that I never did
A single thing you once forbid;
All poor folk liked me; and, at the end,
Your Cousin call'd me ‘Dearest Friend!’

And, now, 'twill calm your grief to know,—
You, who once loved Honoria so,—
There's kindness, that's look'd kindly on,
Between her Emily and John.
Thus, in your children, you will wed!
And John seems so much comforted,
(Like Isaac when his mother died
And fair Rebekah was his bride),
By his new hope, for losing me!
So all is happiness, you see.
And that reminds me how, last night,
I dreamt of heaven, with great delight.
A strange, kind Lady watch'd my face,
Kiss'd me, and cried, ‘His hope found grace!’
She bade me then, in the crystal floor,
Look at myself, myself no more;
And bright within the mirror shone
Honoria's smile, and yet my own!
And, when you talk, I hear,’ she sigh'd,
‘How much he loved her! Many a bride
‘In heaven such countersemblance wears
‘Through what Love deem'd rejected prayers.’
She would have spoken still; but, lo,
One of a glorious troop, aglow
From some great work, towards her came,
And she so laugh'd, 'twas such a flame,
Aaron's twelve jewels seem'd to mix
With the lights of the Seven Candlesticks.


IX
From Lady Clitheroe To Mrs. Graham

My dearest Aunt, the Wedding-day,
But for Jane's loss, and you away,
Was all a Bride from heaven could beg!
Skies bluer than the sparrow's egg,
And clearer than the cuckoo's call;
And such a sun! the flowers all
With double ardour seem'd to blow!
The very daisies were a show,
Expanded with uncommon pride,
Like little pictures of the Bride.

Your Great-Niece and your Grandson were
Perfection of a pretty pair.
How well Honoria's girls turn out,
Although they never go about!
Dear me, what trouble and expense
It took to teach mine confidence!
Hers greet mankind as I've heard say
That wild things do, where beasts of prey
Were never known, nor any men
Have met their fearless eyes till then.
Their grave, inquiring trust to find
All creatures of their simple kind
Quite disconcerts bold coxcombry,
And makes less perfect candour shy.
Ah, Mrs. Graham! people may scoff,
But how your home-kept girls go off!
How Hymen hastens to unband
The waist that ne'er felt waltzer's hand!
At last I see my Sister's right,
And I've told Maud this very night,
(But, oh, my daughters have such wills!)
To knit, and only dance quadrilles.

You say Fred never writes to you
Frankly, as once he used to do,
About himself; and you complain
He shared with none his grief for Jane.
It all comes of the foolish fright
Men feel at the word, hypocrite.
Although, when first in love, sometimes
They rave in letters, talk, and rhymes,
When once they find, as find they must.
How hard 'tis to be hourly just
To those they love, they are dumb for shame,
Where we, you see, talk on the same.

Honoria, to whose heart alone
He seems to open all his own,
At times has tears in her kind eyes,
After their private colloquies.
He's her most favour'd guest, and moves
My spleen by his impartial loves.
His pleasure has some inner spring
Depending not on anything.
Petting our Polly, none e'er smiled
More fondly on his favourite child;
Yet, playing with his own, it is
Somehow as if it were not his.
He means to go again to sea,
Now that the wedding's over. He
Will leave to Emily and John
The little ones to practise on;
And Major-domo, Mrs. Rouse,
A deal old soul from Wilton House,
Will scold the housemaids and the cook,
Till Emily has learn'd to look
A little braver than a lamb
Surprised by dogs without its dam!

Do, dear Aunt, use your influence,
And try to teach some plain good sense
To Mary. 'Tis not yet too late
To make her change her chosen state
Of single silliness. In truth,
I fancy that, with fading youth,
Her will now wavers. Yesterday,
Though, till the Bride was gone away,
Joy shone from Mary's loving heart,
I found her afterwards apart,
Hysterically sobbing. I
Knew much too well to ask her why.
This marrying of Nieces daunts
The bravest souls of maiden Aunts.
Though Sisters' children often blend
Sweetly the bonds of child and friend,
They are but reeds to rest upon.
When Emily comes back with John,
Her right to go downstairs before
Aunt Mary will but be the more
Observed if kindly waived, and how
Shall these be as they were, when now
Niece has her John, and Aunt the sense
Of her superior innocence?
Somehow, all loves, however fond,
Prove lieges of the nuptial bond;
And she who dares at this to scoff,
Finds all the rest in time drop off;
While marriage, like a mushroom-ring,
Spreads its sure circle every Spring.

She twice refused George Vane, you know;
Yet, when he died three years ago
In the Indian war, she put on gray,
And wears no colours to this day.
And she it is who charges me,
Dear Aunt, with ‘inconsistency!’


X
From Frederick To Honoria

Cousin, my thoughts no longer try
To cast the fashion of the sky.
Imagination can extend
Scarcely in part to comprehend
The sweetness of our common food
Ambrosial, which ingratitude
And impious inadvertence waste,
Studious to eat but not to taste.
And who can tell what's yet in store
There, but that earthly things have more
Of all that makes their inmost bliss,
And life's an image still of this,
But haply such a glorious one
As is the rainbow of the sun?
Sweet are your words, but, after all
Their mere reversal may befall
The partners of His glories who
Daily is crucified anew:
Splendid privations, martyrdoms
To which no weak remission comes,
Perpetual passion for the good
Of them that feel no gratitude,
Far circlings, as of planets' fires,
Round never-to-be-reach'd desires,
Whatever rapturously sighs
That life is love, love sacrifice.
All I am sure of heaven is this:
Howe'er the mode, I shall not miss
One true delight which I have known.
Not on the changeful earth alone
Shall loyalty remain unmoved
T'wards everything I ever loved.
So Heaven's voice calls, like Rachel's voice
To Jacob in the field, ‘Rejoice!
‘Serve on some seven more sordid years,
‘Too short for weariness or tears;
‘Serve on; then, oh, Beloved, well-tried,
‘Take me for ever as thy Bride!’


XI
From Mary Churchill To The Dean

Charles does me honour, but 'twere vain
To reconsider now again,
And so to doubt the clear-shown truth
I sought for, and received, when youth,
Being fair, and woo'd by one whose love
Was lovely, fail'd my mind to move.
God bids them by their own will go,
Who ask again the things they know!
I grieve for my infirmity,
And ignorance of how to be
Faithful, at once, to the heavenly life,
And the fond duties of a wife.
Narrow am I and want the art
To love two things with all my heart.
Occupied singly in His search,
Who, in the Mysteries of the Church,
Returns, and calls them Clouds of Heaven,
I tread a road, straight, hard, and even;
But fear to wander all confused,
By two-fold fealty abused.
Either should I the one forget,
Or scantly pay the other's debt.

You bid me, Father, count the cost.
I have; and all that must be lost
I feel as only woman can.
To make the heart's wealth of some man,
And through the untender world to move,
Wrapt safe in his superior love,
How sweet! How sweet the household round
Of duties, and their narrow bound,
So plain, that to transgress were hard,
Yet full of manifest reward!
The charities not marr'd, like mine,
With chance of thwarting laws divine;
The world's regards and just delight
In one that's clearly, kindly right,
How sweet! Dear Father, I endure,
Not without sharp regret, be sure,
To give up such glad certainty,
For what, perhaps, may never be.
For nothing of my state I know,
But that t'ward heaven I seem to go,
As one who fondly landward hies
Along a deck that seaward flies.
With every year, meantime, some grace
Of earthly happiness gives place
To humbling ills, the very charms
Of youth being counted, henceforth, harms:
To blush already seems absurd;
Nor know I whether I should herd
With girls or wives, or sadlier balk
Maids' merriment or matrons' talk.

But strait's the gate of life! O'er late,
Besides, 'twere now to change my fate:
For flowers and fruit of love to form,
It must be Spring as well as warm.
The world's delight my soul dejects,
Revenging all my disrespects
Of old, with incapacity
To chime with even its harmless glee,
Which sounds, from fields beyond my range,
Like fairies' music, thin and strange.
With something like remorse, I grant
The world has beauty which I want;
And if, instead of judging it,
I at its Council chance to sit,
Or at its gay and order'd Feast,
My place seems lower than the least.
The conscience of the life to be
Smites me with inefficiency,
And makes me all unfit to bless
With comfortable earthliness
The rest-desiring brain of man.
Finally, then, I fix my plan
To dwell with Him that dwells apart
In the highest heaven and lowliest heart;
Nor will I, to my utter loss,
Look to pluck roses from the Cross.
As for the good of human love,
'Twere countercheck almost enough
To think that one must die before
The other; and perhaps 'tis more
In love's last interest to do
Nought the least contrary thereto,
Than to be blest, and be unjust,
Or suffer injustice; as they must,
Without a miracle, whose pact
Compels to mutual life and act,
Whether love shines, or darkness sleeps
Cold on the spirit's changeful deeps.

Enough if, to my earthly share,
Fall gleams that keep me from despair.
Happy the things we here discern;
More happy those for which we yearn;
But measurelessly happy above
All else are those we guess not of!


XII
From Felix To Honoria

Dearest, my Love and Wife, 'tis long
Ago I closed the unfinish'd song
Which never could be finish'd; nor
Will ever Poet utter more
Of love than I did, watching well
To lure to speech the unspeakable!
‘Why, having won her, do I woo?’
That final strain to the last height flew
Of written joy, which wants the smile
And voice that are, indeed, the while
They last, the very things you speak,
Honoria, who mak'st music weak
With ways that say, ‘Shall I not be
‘As kind to all as Heaven to me?’
And yet, ah, twenty-fold my Bride!
Rising, this twentieth festal-tide,
You still soft sleeping, on this day
Of days, some words I long to say,
Some words superfluously sweet
Of fresh assurance, thus to greet
Your waking eyes, which never grow
Weary of telling what I know
So well, yet only well enough
To wish for further news thereof.

Here, in this early autumn dawn,
By windows opening on the lawn,
Where sunshine seems asleep, though bright,
And shadows yet are sharp with night,
And, further on, the wealthy wheat
Bends in a golden drowse, how sweet
To sit and cast my careless looks
Around my walls of well-read books,
Wherein is all that stands redeem'd
From time's huge wreck, all men have dream'd
Of truth, and all by poets known
Of feeling, and in weak sort shown,
And, turning to my heart again,
To find I have what makes them vain,
The thanksgiving mind, which wisdom sums,
And you, whereby it freshly comes
As on that morning, (can there be
Twenty-two years 'twixt it and me?)
When, thrill'd with hopeful love I rose
And came in haste to Sarum Close,
Past many a homestead slumbering white
In lonely and pathetic light,
Merely to fancy which drawn blind
Of thirteen had my Love behind,
And in her sacred neighbourhood
To feel that sweet scorn of all good
But her, which let the wise forfend
When wisdom learns to comprehend!

Dearest, as each returning May
I see the season new and gay
With new joy and astonishment,
And Nature's infinite ostent
Of lovely flowers in wood and mead,
That weet not whether any heed,
So see I, daily wondering, you,
And worship with a passion new
The Heaven that visibly allows
Its grace to go about my house,
The partial Heaven, that, though I err
And mortal am, gave all to her
Who gave herself to me. Yet I
Boldly thank Heaven, (and so defy
The beggarly soul'd humbleness
Which fears God's bounty to confess,)
That I was fashion'd with a mind
Seeming for this great gift design'd,
So naturally it moved above
All sordid contraries of love,
Strengthen'd in youth with discipline
Of light, to follow the divine
Vision, (which ever to the dark
Is such a plague as was the ark
In Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron,) still
Discerning with the docile will
Which comes of full persuaded thought,
That intimacy in love is nought
Without pure reverence, whereas this,
In tearfullest banishment, is bliss.

And so, dearest Honoria, I
Have never learn'd the weary sigh
Of those that to their love-feasts went,
Fed, and forgot the Sacrament;
And not a trifle now occurs
But sweet initiation stirs
Of new-discover'd joy, and lends
To feeling change that never ends;
And duties, which the many irk,
Are made all wages and no work.

How sing of such things save to her,
Love's self, so love's interpreter?
How the supreme rewards confess
Which crown the austere voluptuousness
Of heart, that earns, in midst of wealth,
The appetite of want and health,
Relinquishes the pomp of life
And beauty to the pleasant Wife
At home, and does all joy despise
As out of place but in her eyes?
How praise the years and gravity
That make each favour seem to be
A lovelier weakness for her lord?
And, ah, how find the tender word
To tell aright of love that glows
The fairer for the fading rose?
Of frailty which can weight the arm
To lean with thrice its girlish charm?
Of grace which, like this autumn day,
Is not the sad one of decay,
Yet one whose pale brow pondereth
The far-off majesty of death?
How tell the crowd, whom passion rends,
That love grows mild as it ascends?
That joy's most high and distant mood
Is lost, not found in dancing blood;
Albeit kind acts and smiling eyes,
And all those fond realities
Which are love's words, in us mean more
Delight than twenty years before?

How, Dearest, finish, without wrong
To the speechless heart, the unfinish'd song,
Its high, eventful passages
Consisting, say, of things like these:—

One morning, contrary to law,
Which, for the most, we held in awe,
Commanding either not to intrude
On the other's place of solitude
Or solitary mind, for fear
Of coming there when God was near,
And finding so what should be known
To Him who is merciful alone,
And views the working ferment base
Of waking flesh and sleeping grace,
Not as we view, our kindness check'd
By likeness of our own defect,
I, venturing to her room, because
(Mark the excuse!) my Birthday 'twas,
Saw, here across a careless chair,
A ball-dress flung, as light as air,
And, here, beside a silken couch,
Pillows which did the pressure vouch
Of pious knees, (sweet piety!
Of goodness made and charity,
If gay looks told the heart's glad sense,
Much rather than of penitence,)
And, on the couch, an open book,
And written list—I did not look,
Yet just in her clear writing caught:—
‘Habitual faults of life and thought
‘Which most I need deliverance from.’
I turn'd aside, and saw her come
Adown the filbert-shaded way,
Beautified with her usual gay
Hypocrisy of perfectness,
Which made her heart, and mine no less,
So happy! And she cried to me,
‘You lose by breaking rules, you see!
‘Your Birthday treat is now half-gone
Of seeing my new ball-dress on.’
And, meeting so my lovely Wife,
A passing pang, to think that life
Was mortal, when I saw her laugh,
Shaped in my mind this epitaph:
‘Faults had she, child of Adam's stem,
‘But only Heaven knew of them.’

Or thus:

For many a dreadful day,
In sea-side lodgings sick she lay,
Noteless of love, nor seem'd to hear
The sea, on one side, thundering near,
Nor, on the other, the loud Ball
Held nightly in the public hall;
Nor vex'd they my short slumbers, though
I woke up if she breathed too low.
Thus, for three months, with terrors rife,
The pending of her precious life
I watch'd o'er; and the danger, at last,
The kind Physician said, was past.
Howbeit, for seven harsh weeks the East
Breathed witheringly, and Spring's growth ceased,
And so she only did not die;
Until the bright and blighting sky
Changed into cloud, and the sick flowers
Remember'd their perfumes, and showers
Of warm, small rain refreshing flew
Before the South, and the Park grew,
In three nights, thick with green. Then she
Revived, no less than flower and tree,
In the mild air, and, the fourth day,
Look'd supernaturally gay
With large, thanksgiving eyes, that shone,
The while I tied her bonnet on,
So that I led her to the glass,
And bade her see how fair she was,
And how love visibly could shine.
Profuse of hers, desiring mine,
And mindful I had loved her most
When beauty seem'd a vanish'd boast,
She laugh'd. I press'd her then to me,
Nothing but soft humility;
Nor e'er enhanced she with such charms
Her acquiescence in my arms.
And, by her sweet love-weakness made
Courageous, powerful, and glad,
In a clear illustration high
Of heavenly affection, I
Perceived that utter love is all
The same as to be rational,
And that the mind and heart of love,
Which think they cannot do enough,
Are truly the everlasting doors
Wherethrough, all unpetition'd, pours
The eternal pleasance. Wherefore we
Had innermost tranquillity,
And breathed one life with such a sense
Of friendship and of confidence,
That, recollecting the sure word:
‘If two of you are in accord,
‘On earth, as touching any boon
‘Which ye shall ask, it shall be done
‘In heaven,’ we ask'd that heaven's bliss
Might ne'er be any less than this;
And, for that hour, we seem'd to have
The secret of the joy we gave.

How sing of such things, save to her,
Love's self, so love's interpreter?
How read from such a homely page
In the ear of this unhomely age?
'Tis now as when the Prophet cried:
‘The nation hast Thou multiplied,
‘But Thou hast not increased the joy!’
And yet, ere wrath or rot destroy
Of England's state the ruin fair,
Oh, might I so its charm declare,
That, in new Lands, in far-off years,
Delighted he should cry that hears:
‘Great is the Land that somewhat best
‘Works, to the wonder of the rest!
‘We, in our day, have better done
‘This thing or that than any one;
And who but, still admiring, sees
‘How excellent for images
‘Was Greece, for laws how wise was Rome;
‘But read this Poet, and say if home
And private love did e'er so smile
‘As in that ancient English isle!’


XIII
From Lady Clitheroe To Emily Graham

My dearest Niece, I'm charm'd to hear
The scenery's fine at Windermere,
And glad a six-weeks' wife defers
In the least to wisdom not yet hers.
But, Child, I've no advice to give!
Rules only make it hard to live.
And where's the good of having been
Well taught from seven to seventeen,
If, married, you may not leave off,
And say, at last, ‘I'm good enough!’
Weeding out folly, still leave some.
It gives both lightness and aplomb.
We know, however wise by rule,
Woman is still by nature fool;
And men have sense to like her all
The more when she is natural.
'Tis true that, if we choose, we can
Mock to a miracle the man;
But iron in the fire red hot,
Though 'tis the heat, the fire 'tis not:
And who, for such a feint, would pledge
The babe's and woman's privilege,
No duties and a thousand rights?
Besides, defect love's flow incites,
As water in a well will run
Only the while 'tis drawn upon.

‘Point de culte sans mystère,’ you say,
And what if that should die away?’
Child, never fear that either could
Pull from Saint Cupid's face the hood.
The follies natural to each
Surpass the other's moral reach.
Just think how men, with sword and gun,
Will really fight, and never run;
And all in sport: they would have died,
For sixpence more, on the other side!
A woman's heart must ever warm
At such odd ways: and so we charm
By strangeness which, the more they mark,
The more men get into the dark.
The marvel, by familiar life,
Grows, and attaches to the wife
By whom it grows. Thus, silly Girl,
To John you'll always be the pearl
In the oyster of the universe;
And, though in time he'll treat you worse,
He'll love you more, you need not doubt,
And never, never find you out!

My Dear, I know that dreadful thought
That you've been kinder than you ought.
It almost makes you hate him! Yet
'Tis wonderful how men forget,
And how a merciful Providence
Deprives our husbands of all sense
Of kindness past, and makes them deem
We always were what now we seem.
For their own good we must, you know,
However plain the way we go,
Still make it strange with stratagem;
And instinct tells us that, to them,
'Tis always right to bate their price.
Yet I must say they're rather nice,
And, oh, so easily taken in
To cheat them almost seems a sin!
And, Dearest, 'twould be most unfair
To John your feelings to compare
With his, or any man's; for she
Who loves at all loves always; he,
Who loves far more, loves yet by fits,
And when the wayward wind remits
To blow, his feelings faint and drop
Like forge-flames when the bellows stop.
Such things don't trouble you at all
When once you know they're natural.

My love to John; and, pray, my Dear,
Don't let me see you for a year;
Unless, indeed, ere then you've learn'd
That Beauties wed are blossoms turn'd
To unripe codlings, meant to dwell
In modest shadow hidden well,
Till this green stage again permute
To glow of flowers with good of fruit.
I will not have my patience tried
By your absurd new-married pride,
That scorns the world's slow-gather'd sense,
Ties up the hands of Providence,
Rules babes, before there's hope of one,
Better than mothers e'er have done,
And, for your poor particular,
Neglects delights and graces far
Beyond your crude and thin conceit.
Age has romance almost as sweet
And much more generous than this
Of yours and John's. With all the bliss
Of the evenings when you coo'd with him,
And upset home for your sole whim,
You might have envied, were you wise,
The tears within your Mother's eyes,
Which, I dare say, you did not see.
But let that pass! Yours yet will be,
I hope, as happy, kind, and true
As lives which now seem void to you.
Have you not seen shop-painters paste
Their gold in sheets, then rub to waste
Full half, and, lo, you read the name?
Well, Time, my Dear, does much the same
With this unmeaning glare of love.

But, though you yet may much improve,
In marriage, be it still confess'd,
There's little merit at the best.
Some half-a-dozen lives, indeed,
Which else would not have had the need,
Get food and nurture, as the price
Of antedated Paradise;
But what's that to the varied want
Succour'd by Mary, your dear Aunt,
Who put the bridal crown thrice by,
For that of which virginity,
So used, has hope? She sends her love,
As usual with a proof thereof—
Papa's discourse, which you, no doubt,
Heard none of, neatly copied out
Whilst we were dancing. All are well,
Adieu, for there's the Luncheon Bell.


The Wedding Sermon

I
The truths of Love are like the sea
For clearness and for mystery.
Of that sweet love which, startling, wakes
Maiden and Youth, and mostly breaks
The word of promise to the ear,
But keeps it, after many a year,
To the full spirit, how shall I speak?
My memory with age is weak,
And I for hopes do oft suspect
The things I seem to recollect.
Yet who but must remember well
'Twas this made heaven intelligible
As motive, though 'twas small the power
The heart might have, for even an hour,
To hold possession of the height
Of nameless pathos and delight!


II
In Godhead rise, thither flow back
All loves, which, as they keep or lack,
In their return, the course assign'd,
Are virtue or sin. Love's every kind,
Lofty or low, of spirit or sense,
Desire is, or benevolence.
He who is fairer, better, higher
Than all His works, claims all desire,
And in His Poor, His Proxies, asks
Our whole benevolence: He tasks,
Howbeit, His People by their powers;
And if, my Children, you, for hours,
Daily, untortur'd in the heart,
Can worship, and time's other part
Give, without rough recoils of sense,
To the claims ingrate of indigence,
Happy are you, and fit to be
Wrought to rare heights of sanctity,
For the humble to grow humbler at.
But if the flying spirit falls flat,
After the modest spell of prayer
That saves the day from sin and care,
And the upward eye a void descries,
And praises are hypocrisies,
And, in the soul, o'erstrain'd for grace,
A godless anguish grows apace;
Or, if impartial charity
Seems, in the act, a sordid lie,
Do not infer you cannot please
God, or that He His promises
Postpones, but be content to love
No more than He accounts enough.
Account them poor enough who want
Any good thing which you can grant;
And fathom well the depths of life
In loves of Husband and of Wife,
Child, Mother, Father; simple keys
To what cold faith calls mysteries.

III
The love of marriage claims, above
All other kinds, the name of love,
As perfectest, though not so high
As love which Heaven with single eye
Considers. Equal and entire,
Therein benevolence, desire,
Elsewhere ill-join'd or found apart,
Become the pulses of one heart,
Which now contracts, and now dilates,
And, both to the height exalting, mates
Self-seeking to self-sacrifice.
Nay, in its subtle paradise
(When purest) this one love unites
All modes of these two opposites,
All balanced in accord so rich
Who may determine which is which?
Chiefly God's Love does in it live,
And nowhere else so sensitive;
For each is all that the other's eye,
In the vague vast of Deity,
Can comprehend and so contain
As still to touch and ne'er to strain
The fragile nerves of joy. And then
'Tis such a wise goodwill to men
And politic economy
As in a prosperous State we see,
Where every plot of common land
Is yielded to some private hand
To fence about and cultivate.
Does narrowness its praise abate?
Nay, the infinite of man is found
But in the beating of its bound,
And, if a brook its banks o'erpass,
'Tis not a sea, but a morass.

IV
No giddiest hope, no wildest guess
Of Love's most innocent loftiness
Had dared to dream of its own worth,
Till Heaven's bold sun-gleam lit the earth.
Christ's marriage with the Church is more,
My Children, than a metaphor.
The heaven of heavens is symbol'd where
The torch of Psyche flash'd despair.

But here I speak of heights, and heights
Are hardly scaled. The best delights
Of even this homeliest passion, are
In the most perfect souls so rare,
That they who feel them are as men
Sailing the Southern ocean, when,
At midnight, they look up, and eye
The starry Cross, and a strange sky
Of brighter stars; and sad thoughts come
To each how far he is from home.

V
Love's inmost nuptial sweetness see
In the doctrine of virginity!
Could lovers, at their dear wish, blend,
'Twould kill the bliss which they intend;
For joy is love's obedience
Against the law of natural sense;
And those perpetual yearnings sweet
Of lives which dream that they can meet
Are given that lovers never may
Be without sacrifice to lay
On the high altar of true love,
With tears of vestal joy. To move
Frantic, like comets to our bliss,
Forgetting that we always miss,
And so to seek and fly the sun,
By turns, around which love should run,
Perverts the ineffable delight
Of service guerdon'd with full sight
And pathos of a hopeless want,
To an unreal victory's vaunt,
And plaint of an unreal defeat.
Yet no less dangerous misconceit
May also be of the virgin will,
Whose goal is nuptial blessing still,
And whose true being doth subsist,
There where the outward forms are miss'd,
In those who learn and keep the sense
Divine of ‘due benevolence,’
Seeking for aye, without alloy
Of selfish thought, another's joy,
And finding in degrees unknown
That which in act they shunn'd, their own.
For all delights of earthly love
Are shadows of the heavens, and move
As other shadows do; they flee
From him that follows them; and he
Who flies, for ever finds his feet
Embraced by their pursuings sweet.

VI
Then, even in love humane, do I
Not counsel aspirations high,
So much as sweet and regular
Use of the good in which we are.
As when a man along the ways
Walks, and a sudden music plays,
His step unchanged, he steps in time,
So let your Grace with Nature chime.
Her primal forces burst, like straws,
The bonds of uncongenial laws.
Right life is glad as well as just,
And, rooted strong in ‘This I must,’
It bears aloft the blossom gay
And zephyr-toss'd, of ‘This I may;’
Whereby the complex heavens rejoice
In fruits of uncommanded cho

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VII. Pompilia

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

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

Oh how good God is that my babe was born,
—Better than born, baptized and hid away
Before this happened, safe from being hurt!
That had been sin God could not well forgive:
He was too young to smile and save himself.
When they took two days after he was born,
My babe away from me to be baptized
And hidden awhile, for fear his foe should find,—
The country-woman, used to nursing babes,
Said "Why take on so? where is the great loss?
"These next three weeks he will but sleep and feed,
"Only begin to smile at the month's end;
"He would not know you, if you kept him here,
"Sooner than that; so, spend three merry weeks
"Snug in the Villa, getting strong and stout,
"And then I bring him back to be your own,
"And both of you may steal to—we know where!"
The month—there wants of it two weeks this day!
Still, I half fancied when I heard the knock
At the Villa in the dusk, it might prove she—
Come to say "Since he smiles before the time,
"Why should I cheat you out of one good hour?
"Back I have brought him; speak to him and judge!"
Now I shall never see him; what is worse,
When he grows up and gets to be my age,
He will seem hardly more than a great boy;
And if he asks "What was my mother like?"
People may answer "Like girls of seventeen"—
And how can he but think of this and that,
Lucias, Marias, Sofias, who titter or blush
When he regards them as such boys may do?
Therefore I wish someone will please to say
I looked already old though I was young;
Do I not … say, if you are by to speak …
Look nearer twenty? No more like, at least,
Girls who look arch or redden when boys laugh,
Than the poor Virgin that I used to know
At our street-corner in a lonely niche,—
The babe, that sat upon her knees, broke off,—
Thin white glazed clay, you pitied her the more:
She, not the gay ones, always got my rose.

How happy those are who know how to write!
Such could write what their son should read in time,
Had they a whole day to live out like me.
Also my name is not a common name,
"Pompilia," and may help to keep apart
A little the thing I am from what girls are.
But then how far away, how hard to find
Will anything about me have become,
Even if the boy bethink himself and ask!
No father that he ever knew at all,
Nor ever had—no, never had, I say!
That is the truth,—nor any mother left,
Out of the little two weeks that she lived,
Fit for such memory as might assist:
As good to as no family, no name,
Not even poor old Pietro's name, nor hers,
Poor kind unwise Violante, since it seems
They must not be my parents any more.
That is why something put it in my head
To call the boy "Gaetano"—no old name
For sorrow's sake; I looked up to the sky
And took a new saint to begin anew.
One who has only been made saint—how long?
Twenty-five years: so, carefuller, perhaps,
To guard a namesake than those old saints grow,
Tired out by this time,—see my own five saints!

On second thoughts, I hope he will regard
The history of me as what someone dreamed,
And get to disbelieve it at the last:
Since to myself it dwindles fast to that,
Sheer dreaming and impossibility,—
Just in four days too! All the seventeen years,
Not once did a suspicion visit me
How very different a lot is mine
From any other woman's in the world.
The reason must be, 't was by step and step
It got to grow so terrible and strange.
These strange woes stole on tiptoe, as it were,
Into my neighbourhood and privacy,
Sat down where I sat, laid them where I lay;
And I was found familiarised with fear,
When friends broke in, held up a torch and cried
"Why, you Pompilia in the cavern thus,
"How comes that arm of yours about a wolf?
"And the soft length,—lies in and out your feet
"And laps you round the knee,—a snake it is!"
And so on.

Well, and they are right enough,
By the torch they hold up now: for first, observe,
I never had a father,—no, nor yet
A mother: my own boy can say at least
"I had a mother whom I kept two weeks!"
Not I, who little used to doubt … I doubt
Good Pietro, kind Violante, gave me birth?
They loved me always as I love my babe
(—Nearly so, that is—quite so could not be—)
Did for me all I meant to do for him,
Till one surprising day, three years ago,
They both declared, at Rome, before some judge
In some Court where the people flocked to hear,
That really I had never been their child,
Was a mere castaway, the careless crime
Of an unknown man, the crime and care too much
Of a woman known too well,—little to these,
Therefore, of whom I was the flesh and blood:
What then to Pietro and Violante, both
No more my relatives than you or you?
Nothing to them! You know what they declared.

So with my husband,—just such a surprise,
Such a mistake, in that relationship!
Everyone says that husbands love their wives,
Guard them and guide them, give them happiness;
'T is duty, law, pleasure, religion: well,
You see how much of this comes true in mine!
People indeed would fain have somehow proved
He was no husband: but he did not hear,
Or would not wait, and so has killed us all.
Then there is … only let me name one more!
There is the friend,—men will not ask about,
But tell untruths of, and give nicknames to,
And think my lover, most surprise of all!
Do only hear, it is the priest they mean,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi: a priest—love,
And love me! Well, yet people think he did.
I am married, he has taken priestly vows,
They know that, and yet go on, say, the same,
"Yes, how he loves you!" "That was love"—they say,
When anything is answered that they ask:
Or else "No wonder you love him"—they say.
Then they shake heads, pity much, scarcely blame—
As if we neither of us lacked excuse,
And anyhow are punished to the full,
And downright love atones for everything!
Nay, I heard read out in the public Court
Before the judge, in presence of my friends,
Letters't was said the priest had sent to me,
And other letters sent him by myself,
We being lovers!

Listen what this is like!
When I was a mere child, my mother … that's
Violante, you must let me call her so
Nor waste time, trying to unlearn the word …
She brought a neighbour's child of my own age
To play with me of rainy afternoons;
And, since there hung a tapestry on the wall,
We two agreed to find each other out
Among the figures. "Tisbe, that is you,
"With half-moon on your hair-knot, spear in hand,
"Flying, but no wings, only the great scarf
"Blown to a bluish rainbow at your back:
"Call off your hound and leave the stag alone!"
"—And there are you, Pompilia, such green leaves
"Flourishing out of your five finger-ends,
"And all the rest of you so brown and rough:
"Why is it you are turned a sort of tree?"
You know the figures never were ourselves
Though we nicknamed them so. Thus, all my life,—
As well what was, as what, like this, was not,—
Looks old, fantastic and impossible:
I touch a fairy thing that fades and fades.
—Even to my babe! I thought, when he was born,
Something began for once that would not end,
Nor change into a laugh at me, but stay
For evermore, eternally quite mine.
Well, so he is,—but yet they bore him off,
The third day, lest my husband should lay traps
And catch him, and by means of him catch me.
Since they have saved him so, it was well done:
Yet thence comes such confusion of what was
With what will be,—that late seems long ago,
And, what years should bring round, already come,
Till even he withdraws into a dream
As the rest do: I fancy him grown great,
Strong, stern, a tall young man who tutors me,
Frowns with the others "Poor imprudent child!
"Why did you venture out of the safe street?
"Why go so far from help to that lone house?
"Why open at the whisper and the knock?"
Six days ago when it was New Year's-day,
We bent above the fire and talked of him,
What he should do when he was grown and great.
Violante, Pietro, each had given the arm
I leant on, to walk by, from couch to chair
And fireside,—laughed, as I lay safe at last,
"Pompilia's march from bed to board is made,
"Pompilia back again and with a babe,
"Shall one day lend his arm and help her walk!"
Then we all wished each other more New Years.
Pietro began to scheme—"Our cause is gained;
"The law is stronger than a wicked man:
"Let him henceforth go his way, leave us ours!
"We will avoid the city, tempt no more
"The greedy ones by feasting and parade,—
"Live at the other villa, we know where,
"Still farther off, and we can watch the babe
"Grow fast in the good air; and wood is cheap
"And wine sincere outside the city gate.
"I still have two or three old friends will grope
"Their way along the mere half-mile of road,
"With staff and lantern on a moonless night
"When one needs talk: they'll find me, never fear,
"And I'll find them a flask of the old sort yet!"
Violante said "You chatter like a crow:
"Pompilia tires o' the tattle, and shall to bed:
"Do not too much the first day,—somewhat more
"To-morrow, and, the next, begin the cape
"And hood and coat! I have spun wool enough."
Oh what a happy friendly eve was that!

And, next day, about noon, out Pietro went—
He was so happy and would talk so much,
Until Violante pushed and laughed him forth
Sight-seeing in the cold,—"So much to see
"I' the churches! Swathe your throat three times!" she cried,
"And, above all, beware the slippery ways,
"And bring us all the news by supper-time!"
He came back late, laid by cloak, staff and hat,
Powdered so thick with snow it made us laugh,
Rolled a great log upon the ash o' the hearth,
And bade Violante treat us to a flask,
Because he had obeyed her faithfully,
Gone sight-see through the seven, and found no church
To his mind like San Giovanni—"There's the fold,
"And all the sheep together, big as cats!
"And such a shepherd, half the size of life,
"Starts up and hears the angel"—when, at the door,
A tap: we started up: you know the rest.

Pietro at least had done no harm, I know;
Nor even Violante, so much harm as makes
Such revenge lawful. Certainly she erred—
Did wrong, how shall I dare say otherwise?—
In telling that first falsehood, buying me
From my poor faulty mother at a price,
To pass off upon Pietro as his child.
If one should take my babe, give him a name,
Say he was not Gaetano and my own,
But that some other woman made his mouth
And hands and feet,—how very false were that!
No good could come of that; and all harm did.
Yet if a stranger were to represent
"Needs must you either give your babe to me
"And let me call him mine for evermore,
"Or let your husband get him"—ah, my God,
That were a trial I refuse to face!
Well, just so here: it proved wrong but seemed right
To poor Violante—for there lay, she said,
My poor real dying mother in her rags,
Who put me from her with the life and all,
Poverty, pain, shame and disease at once,
To die the easier by what price I fetched—
Also (I hope) because I should be spared
Sorrow and sin,—why may not that have helped?
My father,—he was no one, any one,—
The worse, the likelier,—call him—he who came,
Was wicked for his pleasure, went his way,
And left no trace to track by; there remained
Nothing but me, the unnecessary life,
To catch up or let fall,—and yet a thing
She could make happy, be made happy with,
This poor Violante,—who would frown thereat?

Well, God, you see! God plants us where we grow.
It is not that because a bud is born
At a wild briar's end, full i' the wild beast's way,
We ought to pluck and put it out of reach
On the oak-tree top,—say "There the bud belongs!"
She thought, moreover, real lies were lies told
For harm's sake; whereas this had good at heart,
Good for my mother, good for me, and good
For Pietro who was meant to love a babe,
And needed one to make his life of use,
Receive his house and land when he should die.
Wrong, wrong and always wrong! how plainly wrong:
For see, this fault kept pricking, as faults do,
All the same at her heart: this falsehood hatched,
She could not let it go nor keep it fast.
She told me so,—the first time I was found
Locked in her arms once more after the pain,
When the nuns let me leave them and go home,
And both of us cried all the cares away,—
This it was set her on to make amends,
This brought about the marriage—simply this!
Do let me speak for her you blame so much!
When Paul, my husband's brother, found me out,
Heard there was wealth for who should marry me,
So, came and made a speech to ask my hand
For Guido,—she, instead of piercing straight
Through the pretence to the ignoble truth,
Fancied she saw God's very finger point,
Designate just the time for planting me
(The wild-briar slip she plucked to love and wear)
In soil where I could strike real root, and grow,
And get to be the thing I called myself:
For, wife and husband are one flesh, God says,
And I, whose parents seemed such and were none,
Should in a husband have a husband now,
Find nothing, this time, but was what it seemed,
—All truth and no confusion any more.
I know she meant all good to me, all pain
To herself,—since how could it be aught but pain,
To give me up, so, from her very breast,
The wilding flower-tree-branch that, all those years,
She had got used to feel for and find fixed?
She meant well: has it been so ill i' the main?
That is but fair to ask: one cannot judge
Of what has been the ill or well of life,
The day that one is dying,—sorrows change
Into not altogether sorrow-like;
I do see strangeness but scarce misery,
Now it is over, and no danger more.
My child is safe; there seems not so much pain.
It comes, most like, that I am just absolved,
Purged of the past, the foul in me, washed fair,—
One cannot both have and not have, you know,—
Being right now, I am happy and colour things.
Yes, everybody that leaves life sees all
Softened and bettered: so with other sights:
To me at least was never evening yet
But seemed far beautifuller than its day,
For past is past.

There was a fancy came,
When somewhere, in the journey with my friend,
We stepped into a hovel to get food;
And there began a yelp here, a bark there,—
Misunderstanding creatures that were wroth
And vexed themselves and us till we retired.
The hovel is life: no matter what dogs bit
Or cats scratched in the hovel I break from,
All outside is lone field, moon and such peace—
Flowing in, filling up as with a sea
Whereon comes Someone, walks fast on the white,
Jesus Christ's self, Don Celestine declares,
To meet me and calm all things back again.

Beside, up to my marriage, thirteen years
Were, each day, happy as the day was long:
This may have made the change too terrible.
I know that when Violante told me first
The cavalier—she meant to bring next morn,
Whom I must also let take, kiss my hand—
Would be at San Lorenzo the same eve
And marry me,—which over, we should go
Home both of us without him as before,
And, till she bade speak, I must hold my tongue,
Such being the correct way with girl-brides,
From whom one word would make a father blush,—
I know, I say, that when she told me this,
—Well, I no more saw sense in what she said
Than a lamb does in people clipping wool;
Only lay down and let myself be clipped.
And when next day the cavalier who came—
(Tisbe had told me that the slim young man
With wings at head, and wings at feet, and sword
Threatening a monster, in our tapestry,
Would eat a girl else,—was a cavalier)
When he proved Guido Franceschini,—old
And nothing like so tall as I myself
Hook-nosed and yellow in a bush of beard,
Much like a thing I saw on a boy's wrist,
He called an owl and used for catching birds,—
And when he took my hand and made a smile—
Why, the uncomfortableness of it all
Seemed hardly more important in the case
Than,—when one gives you, say, a coin to spend,—
Its newness or its oldness; if the piece
Weigh properly and buy you what you wish,
No matter whether you get grime or glare!
Men take the coin, return you grapes and figs.
Here, marriage was the coin, a dirty piece
Would purchase me the praise of those I loved:
About what else should I concern myself?

So, hardly knowing what a husband meant,
I supposed this or any man would serve,
No whit the worse for being so uncouth:
For I was ill once and a doctor came
With a great ugly hat, no plume thereto,
Black jerkin and black buckles and black sword,
And white sharp beard over the ruff in front,
And oh so lean, so sour-faced and austere!—
Who felt my pulse, made me put out my tongue,
Then oped a phial, dripped a drop or two
Of a black bitter something,—I was cured!
What mattered the fierce beard or the grim face?
It was the physic beautified the man,
Master Malpichi,—never met his match
In Rome, they said,—so ugly all the same!

However, I was hurried through a storm,
Next dark eve of December's deadest day—
How it rained!—through our street and the Lion's-mouth
And the bit of Corso,—cloaked round, covered close,
I was like something strange or contraband,—
Into blank San Lorenzo, up the aisle,
My mother keeping hold of me so tight,
I fancied we were come to see a corpse
Before the altar which she pulled me toward.
There we found waiting an unpleasant priest
Who proved the brother, not our parish friend,
But one with mischief-making mouth and eye,
Paul, whom I know since to my cost. And then
I heard the heavy church-door lock out help
Behind us: for the customary warmth,
Two tapers shivered on the altar. "Quick—
"Lose no time!" cried the priest. And straightway down
From … what's behind the altar where he hid—
Hawk-nose and yellowness and bush and all,
Stepped Guido, caught my hand, and there was I
O' the chancel, and the priest had opened book,
Read here and there, made me say that and this,
And after, told me I was now a wife,
Honoured indeed, since Christ thus weds the Church,
And therefore turned he water into wine,
To show I should obey my spouse like Christ.
Then the two slipped aside and talked apart,
And I, silent and scared, got down again
And joined my mother who was weeping now.
Nobody seemed to mind us any more,
And both of us on tiptoe found our way
To the door which was unlocked by this, and wide.
When we were in the street, the rain had stopped,
All things looked better. At out own house-door,
Violante whispered "No one syllable
"To Pietro! Girl-brides never breathe a word!"
"—Well treated to a wetting, draggle-tails!"
Laughed Pietro as he opened—"Very near
"You made me brave the gutter's roaring sea
"To carry off from roost old dove and young,
"Trussed up in church, the cote, by me, the kite!
"What do these priests mean, praying folk to death
"On stormy afternoons, with Christmas close
"To wash our sins off nor require the rain?"
Violante gave my hand a timely squeeze,
Madonna saved me from immodest speech,
I kissed him and was quiet, being a bride.
When I saw nothing more, the next three weeks,
Of Guido—"Nor the Church sees Christ" thought I:
"Nothing is changed however, wine is wine
"And water only water in our house.
"Nor did I see that ugly doctor since
"That cure of the illness: just as I was cured,
"I am married,—neither scarecrow will return."

Three weeks, I chuckled—"How would Giulia stare,
"And Tecla smile and Tisbe laugh outright,
"Were it not impudent for brides to talk!"—
Until one morning, as I sat and sang
At the broidery-frame alone i' the chamber,—loud
Voices, two, three together, sobbings too,
And my name, "Guido," "Paolo," flung like stones
From each to the other! In I ran to see.
There stood the very Guido and the priest
With sly face,—formal but nowise afraid,—
While Pietro seemed all red and angry, scarce
Able to stutter out his wrath in words;
And this it was that made my mother sob,
As he reproached her—"You have murdered us,
"Me and yourself and this our child beside!"
Then Guido interposed "Murdered or not,
"Be it enough your child is now my wife!
"I claim and come to take her." Paul put in,
"Consider—kinsman, dare I term you so?—
"What is the good of your sagacity
"Except to counsel in a strait like this?
"I guarantee the parties man and wife
"Whether you like or loathe it, bless or ban.
"May spilt milk be put back within the bowl—
"The done thing, undone? You, it is, we look
"For counsel to, you fitliest will advise!
"Since milk, though spilt and spoilt, does marble good,
"Better we down on knees and scrub the floor,
"Than sigh, 'the waste would make a syllabub!'
"Help us so turn disaster to account,
"So predispose the groom, he needs shall grace
"The bride with favour from the very first,
"Not begin marriage an embittered man!"
He smiled,—the game so wholly in his hands!
While fast and faster sobbed Violante—"Ay,
"All of us murdered, past averting now!
"O my sin, O my secret!" and such like.

Then I began to half surmise the truth;
Something had happened, low, mean, underhand,
False, and my mother was to blame, and I
To pity, whom all spoke of, none addressed:
I was the chattel that had caused a crime.
I stood mute,—those who tangled must untie
The embroilment. Pietro cried "Withdraw, my child!
"She is not helpful to the sacrifice
"At this stage,—do you want the victim by
"While you discuss the value of her blood?
"For her sake, I consent to hear you talk:
"Go, child, and pray God help the innocent!

I did go and was praying God, when came
Violante, with eyes swollen and red enough,
But movement on her mouth for make-believe
Matters were somehow getting right again.
She bade me sit down by her side and hear.
"You are too young and cannot understand,
"Nor did your father understand at first.
"I wished to benefit all three of us,
"And when he failed to take my meaning,—why,
"I tried to have my way at unaware—
"Obtained him the advantage he refused.
"As if I put before him wholesome food
"Instead of broken victual,—he finds change
"I' the viands, never cares to reason why,
"But falls to blaming me, would fling the plate
"From window, scandalize the neighbourhood,
"Even while he smacks his lips,—men's way, my child!
"But either you have prayed him unperverse
"Or I have talked him back into his wits:
"And Paolo was a help in time of need,—
"Guido, not much—my child, the way of men!
"A priest is more a woman than a man,
"And Paul did wonders to persuade. In short,
"Yes, he was wrong, your father sees and says;
"My scheme was worth attempting: and bears fruit,
"Gives you a husband and a noble name,
"A palace and no end of pleasant things.
"What do you care about a handsome youth?
"They are so volatile, and tease their wives!
"This is the kind of man to keep the house.
"We lose no daughter,—gain a son, that's all:
"For 't is arranged we never separate,
"Nor miss, in our grey time of life, the tints
"Of you that colour eve to match with morn.
"In good or ill, we share and share alike,
"And cast our lots into a common lap,
"And all three die together as we lived!
"Only, at Arezzo,—that's a Tuscan town,
"Not so large as this noisy Rome, no doubt,
"But older far and finer much, say folk,—
"In a great palace where you will be queen,
"Know the Archbishop and the Governor,
"And we see homage done you ere we die.
"Therefore, be good and pardon!"—"Pardon what?
"You know things, I am very ignorant:
"All is right if you only will not cry!"

And so an end! Because a blank begins
From when, at the word, she kissed me hard and hot,
And took me back to where my father leaned
Opposite Guido—who stood eyeing him,
As eyes the butcher the cast panting ox
That feels his fate is come, nor struggles more,—
While Paul looked archly on, pricked brow at whiles
With the pen-point as to punish triumph there,—
And said "Count Guido, take your lawful wife
"Until death part you!"

All since is one blank,
Over and ended; a terrific dream.
It is the good of dreams—so soon they go!
Wake in a horror of heart-beats, you may—
Cry "The dread thing will never from my thoughts!"
Still, a few daylight doses of plain life,
Cock-crow and sparrow-chirp, or bleat and bell
Of goats that trot by, tinkling, to be milked;
And when you rub your eyes awake and wide,
Where is the harm o' the horror? Gone! So here.
I know I wake,—but from what? Blank, I say!
This is the note of evil: for good lasts.
Even when Don Celestine bade "Search and find!
"For your soul's sake, remember what is past,
"The better to forgive it,"—all in vain!
What was fast getting indistinct before,
Vanished outright. By special grace perhaps,
Between that first calm and this last, four years
Vanish,—one quarter of my life, you know.
I am held up, amid the nothingness,
By one or two truths only—thence I hang,
And there I live,—the rest is death or dream,
All but those points of my support. I think
Of what I saw at Rome once in the Square
O' the Spaniards, opposite the Spanish House:
There was a foreigner had trained a goat,
A shuddering white woman of a beast,
To climb up, stand straight on a pile of sticks
Put close, which gave the creature room enough:
When she was settled there he, one by one,
Took away all the sticks, left just the four
Whereon the little hoofs did really rest,
There she kept firm, all underneath was air.
So, what I hold by, are my prayer to God,
My hope, that came in answer to the prayer,
Some hand would interpose and save me—hand
Which proved to be my friend's hand: and,—blest bliss,—
That fancy which began so faint at first,
That thrill of dawn's suffusion through my dark,
Which I perceive was promise of my child,
The light his unborn face sent long before,—
God's way of breaking the good news to flesh.
That is all left now of those four bad years.
Don Celestine urged "But remember more!
"Other men's faults may help me find your own.
"I need the cruelty exposed, explained,
"Or how can I advise you to forgive?"
He thought I could not properly forgive
Unless I ceased forgetting,—which is true:
For, bringing back reluctantly to mind
My husband's treatment of me,—by a light
That's later than my life-time, I review
And comprehend much and imagine more,
And have but little to forgive at last.
For now,—be fair and say,—is it not true
He was ill-used and cheated of his hope
To get enriched by marriage? Marriage gave
Me and no money, broke the compact so:
He had a right to ask me on those terms,
As Pietro and Violante to declare
They would not give me: so the bargain stood:
They broke it, and he felt himself aggrieved,
Became unkind with me to punish them.
They said 't was he began deception first,
Nor, in one point whereto he pledged himself,
Kept promise: what of that, suppose it were?
Echoes die off, scarcely reverberate
For ever,—why should ill keep echoing ill,
And never let our ears have done with noise?
Then my poor parents took the violent way
To thwart him,—he must needs retaliate,—wrong,
Wrong, and all wrong,—better say, all blind!
As I myself was, that is sure, who else
Had understood the mystery: for his wife
Was bound in some sort to help somehow there.
It seems as if I might have interposed,
Blunted the edge of their resentment so,
Since he vexed me because they first vexed him;
"I will entreat them to desist, submit,
"Give him the money and be poor in peace,—
"Certainly not go tell the world: perhaps
"He will grow quiet with his gains."

Yes, say
Something to this effect and you do well!
But then you have to see first: I was blind.
That is the fruit of all such wormy ways,
The indirect, the unapproved of God:
You cannot find their author's end and aim,
Not even to substitute your good for bad,
Your straight for the irregular; you stand
Stupefied, profitless, as cow or sheep
That miss a man's mind, anger him just twice
By trial at repairing the first fault.
Thus, when he blamed me, "You are a coquette,
"A lure-owl posturing to attract birds,
"You look love-lures at theatre and church,
"In walk, at window!"—that, I knew, was false:
But why he charged me falsely, whither sought
To drive me by such charge,—how could I know?
So, unaware, I only made things worse.
I tried to soothe him by abjuring walk,
Window, church, theatre, for good and all,
As if he had been in earnest: that, you know,
Was nothing like the object of his charge.
Yes, when I got my maid to supplicate
The priest, whose name she read when she would read
Those feigned false letters I was forced to hear
Though I could read no word of,—he should cease
Writing,—nay, if he minded prayer of mine,
Cease from so much as even pass the street
Whereon our house looked,—in my ignorance
I was just thwarting Guido's true intent;
Which was, to bring about a wicked change
Of sport to earnest, tempt a thoughtless man
To write indeed, and pass the house, and more,
Till both of us were taken in a crime.
He ought not to have wished me thus act lies,
Simulate folly: but,—wrong or right, the wish,—
I failed to apprehend its drift. How plain
It follows,—if I fell into such fault,
He also may have overreached the mark,
Made mistake, by perversity of brain,
I' the whole sad strange plot, the grotesque intrigue
To make me and my friend unself ourselves,
Be other man and woman than we were!
Think it out, you who have the time! for me,—
I cannot say less; more I will not say.
Leave it to God to cover and undo!
Only, my dulness should not prove too much!
—Not prove that in a certain other point
Wherein my husband blamed me,—and you blame,
If I interpret smiles and shakes of head,—
I was dull too. Oh, if I dared but speak!
Must I speak? I am blamed that I forwent
A way to make my husband's favour come.
That is true: I was firm, withstood, refused …
—Women as you are, how can I find the words?

I felt there was just one thing Guido claimed
I had no right to give nor he to take;
We being in estrangement, soul from soul:
Till, when I sought help, the Archbishop smiled,
Inquiring into privacies of life,
—Said I was blameable—(he stands for God)
Nowise entitled to exemption there.
Then I obeyed,—as surely had obeyed
Were the injunction "Since your husband bids,
"Swallow the burning coal he proffers you!"
But I did wrong, and he gave wrong advice
Though he were thrice Archbishop,—that, I know!—
Now I have got to die and see things clear.
Remember I was barely twelve years old—
A child at marriage: I was let alone
For weeks, I told you, lived my child-life still
Even at Arezzo, when I woke and found
First … but I need not think of that again—
Over and ended! Try and take the sense
Of what I signify, if it must be so.
After the first, my husband, for hate's sake,
Said one eve, when the simpler cruelty
Seemed somewhat dull at edge and fit to bear,
"We have been man and wife six months almost:
"How long is this your comedy to last?
"Go this night to my chamber, not your own!"
At which word, I did rush—most true the charge—
And gain the Archbishop's house—he stands for God—
And fall upon my knees and clasp his feet,
Praying him hinder what my estranged soul
Refused to bear, though patient of the rest:
"Place me within a convent," I implored—
"Let me henceforward lead the virgin life
"You praise in Her you bid me imitate!"
What did he answer? "Folly of ignorance!
"Know, daughter, circumstances make or mar
"Virginity,—'t is virtue or 't is vice.
"That which was glory in the Mother of God
"Had been, for instance, damnable in Eve
"Created to be mother of mankind.
"Had Eve, in answer to her Maker's speech
"'Be fruitful, multiply, replenish earth'—
"Pouted 'But I choose rather to remain
"'Single'—why, she had spared herself forthwith
"Further probation by the apple and snake,
"Been pushed straight out of Paradise! For see—
"If motherhood be qualified impure,
"I catch you making God command Eve sin!
"—A blasphemy so like these Molinists',
"I must suspect you dip into their books."
Then he pursued "'T was in your covenant!"

No! There my husband never used deceit.
He never did by speech nor act imply
"Because of our souls' yearning that we meet
"And mix in soul through flesh, which yours and mine
"Wear and impress, and make their visible selves,
"—All which means, for the love of you and me,
"Let us become one flesh, being one soul!"
He only stipulated for the wealth;
Honest so far. But when he spoke as plain—
Dreadfully honest also—"Since our souls
"Stand each from each, a whole world's width between,
"Give me the fleshly vesture I can reach
"And rend and leave just fit for hell to burn!"—
Why, in God's name, for Guido's soul's own sake
Imperilled by polluting mine,—I say,
I did resist; would I had overcome!

My heart died out at the Archbishop's smile;
—It seemed so stale and worn a way o' the world,
As though 't were nature frowning—"Here is Spring,
"The sun shines as he shone at Adam's fall,
"The earth requires that warmth reach everywhere:
"What, must your patch of snow be saved forsooth
"Because you rather fancy snow than flowers?"
Something in this style he began with me.
Last he said, savagely for a good man,
"This explains why you call your husband harsh,
"Harsh to you, harsh to whom you love. God's Bread!
"The poor Count has to manage a mere child
"Whose parents leave untaught the simplest things
"Their duty was and privilege to teach,—
"Good wives' instruction, gossips' lore: they laugh
"And leave the Count the task,—or leave it me!"
Then I resolved to tell a frightful thing.
"I am not ignorant,—know what I say,
"Declaring this is sought for hate, not love.
"Sir, you may hear things like almighty God.
"I tell you that my housemate, yes—the priest
"My husband's brother, Canon Girolamo—
"Has taught me what depraved and misnamed love
"Means, and what outward signs denote the sin,
"For he solicits me and says he loves,
"The idle young priest with nought else to do.
"My husband sees this, knows this, and lets be.
"Is it your counsel I bear this beside?"
"—More scandal, and against a priest this time!
"What, 't is the Canon now?"—less snappishly—
"Rise up, my child, for such a child you are,
"The rod were too advanced a punishment!
"Let's try the honeyed cake. A parable!
"'Without a parable spake He not to them.'
"There was a ripe round long black toothsome fruit,
"Even a flower-fig, the prime boast of May:
"And, to the tree, said … either the spirit o' the fig,
"Or, if we bring in men, the gardener,
"Archbishop of the orchard—had I time
"To try o' the two which fits in best: indeed
"It might be the Creator's self, but then
"The tree should bear an apple, I suppose,—
"Well, anyhow, one with authority said
"'Ripe fig, burst skin, regale the fig-pecker—
"'The bird whereof thou art a perquisite!'
"'Nay,' with a flounce, replied the restif fig,
"'I much prefer to keep my pulp myself:
"'He may go breakfastless and dinnerless,
"'Supperless of one crimson seed, for me!'
"So, back she flopped into her bunch of leaves.
"He flew off, left her,—did the natural lord,—
"And lo, three hundred thousand bees and wasps
"Found her out, feasted on her to the shuck:
"Such gain the fig's that gave its bird no bite!
"The moral,—fools elude their proper lot,
"Tempt other fools, get ruined all alike.
"Therefore go home, embrace your husband quick!
"Which if his Canon brother chance to see,
"He will the sooner back to book again."

So, home I did go; so, the worst befell:
So, I had proof the Archbishop was just man,
And hardly that, and certainly no more.
For, miserable consequence to me,
My husband's hatred waxed nor waned at all,
His brother's boldness grew effrontery soon,
And my last stay and comfort in myself
Was forced from me: henceforth I looked to God
Only, nor cared my desecrated soul
Should have fair walls, gay windows for the world.
God's glimmer, that came through the ruin-top,
Was witness why all lights were quenched inside:
Henceforth I asked God counsel, not mankind.

So, when I made the effort, freed myself,
They said—"No care to save appearance here!
"How cynic,—when, how wanton, were enough!"
—Adding, it all came of my mother's life—
My own real mother, whom I never knew,
Who did wrong (if she needs must have done wrong)
Through being all her life, not my four years,
At mercy of the hateful: every beast
O' the field was wont to break that fountain-fence,
Trample the silver into mud so murk
Heaven could not find itself reflected there.
Now they cry "Out on her, who, plashy pool,
"Bequeathed turbidity and bitterness
"To the daughter-stream where Guido dipt and drank!"
Well, since she had to bear this brand—let me!
The rather do I understand her now,
From my experience of what hate calls love,—
Much love might be in what their love called hate.
If she sold … what they call, sold … me her child—
I shall believe she hoped in her poor heart
That I at least might try be good and pure,
Begin to live untempted, not go doomed
And done with ere once found in fault, as she.
Oh and, my mother, it all came to this?
Why should I trust those that speak ill of you,
When I mistrust who speaks even well of them?
Why, since all bound to do me good, did harm,
May not you, seeming as you harmed me most,
Have meant to do most good—and feed your child
From bramble-bush, whom not one orchard-tree
But drew bough back from, nor let one fruit fall?
This it was for you sacrificed your babe?
Gained just this, giving your heart's hope away
As I might give mine, loving it as you,
If … but that never could be asked of me!

There, enough! I have my support again,
Again the knowledge that my babe was, is,
Will be mine only. Him, by death, I give
Outright to God, without a further care,—
But not to any parent in the world,—
So to be safe: why is it we repine?
What guardianship were safer could we choose?
All human plans and projects come to nought:
My life, and what I know of other lives,
Prove that: no plan nor project! God shall care!

And now you are not tired? How patient then
All of you,—Oh yes, patient this long while
Listening, and understanding, I am sure!
Four days ago, when I was sound and well
And like to live, no one would understand.
People were kind, but smiled "And what of him,
"Your friend, whose tonsure the rich dark-brown hides?
"There, there!—your lover, do we dream he was?
"A priest too—never were such naughtiness!
"Still, he thinks many a long think, never fear,
"After the shy pale lady,—lay so light
"For a moment in his arms, the lucky one!"
And so on: wherefore should I blame you much?
So we are made, such difference in minds,
Such difference too in eyes that see the minds!
That man, you misinterpret and misprise—
The glory of his nature, I had thought,
Shot itself out in white light, blazed the truth
Through every atom of his act with me:
Yet where I point you, through the crystal shrine,
Purity in quintessence, one dew-drop,
You all descry a spider in the midst.
One says "The head of it is plain to see,"
And one, "They are the feet by which I judge,"
All say, "Those films were spun by nothing else."

Then, I must lay my babe away with God,
Nor think of him again, for gratitude.
Yes, my last breath shall wholly spend itself
In one attempt more to disperse the stain,
The mist from other breath fond mouths have made,
About a lustrous and pellucid soul:
So that, when I am gone but sorrow stays,
And people need assurance in their doubt
If God yet have a servant, man a friend,
The weak a saviour and the vile a foe,—
Let him be present, by the name invoked,
Giuseppe-Maria Caponsacchi!

There,
Strength comes already with the utterance!
I will remember once more for his sake
The sorrow: for he lives and is belied.
Could he be here, how he would speak for me!
I had been miserable three drear years
In that dread palace and lay passive now,
When I first learned there could be such a man.
Thus it fell: I was at a public play,
In the last days of Carnival last March,
Brought there I knew not why, but now know well.
My husband put me where I sat, in front;
Then crouched down, breathed cold through me from behind,
Stationed i' the shadow,—none in front could see,—
I, it was, faced the stranger-throng beneath,
The crowd with upturned faces, eyes one stare,
Voices one buzz. I looked but to the stage,
Whereon two lovers sang and interchanged
"True life is only love, love only bliss:
"I love thee—thee I love!" then they embraced.
I looked thence to the ceiling and the walls,—
Over the crowd, those voices and those eyes,—
My thoughts went through the roof and out, to Rome
On wings of music, waft of measured words,—
Set me down there, a happy child again
Sure that to-morrow would be festa-day,
Hearing my parents praise past festas more,
And seeing they were old if I was young,
Yet wondering why they still would end discourse
With "We must soon go, you abide your time,
"And,—might we haply see the proper friend
"Throw his arm over you and make you safe!"

Sudden I saw him; into my lap there fell
A foolish twist of comfits, broke my dream
And brought me from the air and laid me low,
As ruined as the soaring bee that's reached
(So Pietro told me at the Villa once)
By the dust-handful. There the comfits lay:
I looked to see who flung them, and I faced
This Caponsacchi, looking up in turn.
Ere I could reason out why, I felt sure,
Whoever flung them, his was not the hand,—
Up rose the round face and good-natured grin
Of one who, in effect, had played the prank,
From covert close beside the earnest face,—
Fat waggish Conti, friend of all the world.
He was my husband's cousin, privileged
To throw the thing: the other, silent, grave,
Solemn almost, saw me, as I saw him.

There is a psalm Don Celestine recites,
"Had I a dove's wings, how I fain would flee!"
The psalm runs not "I hope, I pray for wings,"—
Not "If wings fall from heaven, I fix them fast,"—
Simply "How good it were to fly and rest,
"Have hope now, and one day expect content!
"How well to do what I shall never do!"
So I said "Had there been a man like that,
"To lift me with his strength out of all strife
"Into the calm, how I could fly and rest!
"I have a keeper in the garden here
"Whose sole employment is to strike me low
"If ever I, for solace, seek the sun.
"Life means with me successful feigning death,
"Lying stone-like, eluding notice so,
"Forgoing here the turf and there the sky.
"Suppose that man had been instead of this!"

Presently Conti laughed into my ear,
—Had tripped up to the raised place where I sat—
"Cousin, I flung them brutishly and hard!
"Because you must be hurt, to look austere
"As Caponsacchi yonder, my tall friend
"A-gazing now. Ah, Guido, you so close?
"Keep on your knees, do! Beg her to forgive!
"My cornet battered like a cannon-ball.
"Good-bye, I'm gone!"—nor waited the reply.

That night at supper, out my husband broke,
"Why was that throwing, that buffoonery?
"Do you think I am your dupe? What man would dare
"Throw comfits in a stranger lady's lap?
"'T was knowledge of you bred such insolence
"In Caponsacchi; he dared shoot the bolt,
"Using that Conti for his stalking-horse.
"How could you see him this once and no more,
"When he is always haunting hereabout
"At the street-corner or the palace-side,
"Publishing my shame and your impudence?
"You are a wanton,—I a dupe, you think?
"O Christ, what hinders that I kill her quick?"
Whereat he drew his sword and feigned a thrust.

All this, now,—being not so strange to me,
Used to such misconception day by day
And broken-in to bear,—I bore, this time,
More quietly than woman should perhaps;
Repeated the mere truth and held my tongue.

Then he said, "Since you play the ignorant,
"I shall instruct you. This amour,—commenced
"Or finished or midway in act, all's one,—
"'T is the town-talk; so my revenge shall be.
"Does he presume because he is a priest?
"I warn him that the sword I wear shall pink
"His lily-scented cassock through and through,
"Next time I catch him underneath your eaves!"
But he had threatened with the sword so oft
And, after all, not kept his promise. All
I said was "Let God save the innocent!
"Moreover death is far from a bad fate.
"I shall go pray for you and me, not him;
"And then I look to sleep, come death or, worse,
"Life." So, I slept.

There may have elapsed a week,
When Margherita,—called my waiting-maid,
Whom it is said my husband found too fair—
Who stood and heard the charge and the reply,
Who never once would let the matter rest
From that night forward, but rang changes still
On this the thrust and that the shame, and how
Good cause for jealousy cures jealous fools,
And what a paragon was this same priest
She talked about until I stopped my ears,—
She said, "A week is gone; you comb your hair,
"Then go mope in a corner, cheek on palm,
"Till night comes round again,—so, waste a week
"As if your husband menaced you in sport.
"Have not I some acquaintance with his tricks?
"Oh no, he did not stab the serving-man
"Who made and sang the rhymes about me once!
"For why? They sent him to the wars next day.
"Nor poisoned he the foreigner, my friend
"Who wagered on the whiteness of my breast,—
"The swarth skins of our city in dispute:
"For, though he paid me proper compliment,
"The Count well knew he was besotted with
"Somebody else, a skin as black as ink,
"(As all the town knew save my foreigner)
"He found and wedded presently,—'Why need
"'Better revenge?'—the Count asked. But what's here?
"A priest that does not fight, and cannot wed,
"Yet must be dealt with! If the Count took fire
"For the poor pastime of a minute,—me—
"What were the conflagration for yourself,
"Countess and lady-wife and all the rest?
"The priest will perish; you will grieve too late:
"So shall the city-ladies' handsomest
"Frankest and liberalest gentleman
"Die for you, to appease a scurvy dog
"Hanging's too good for. Is there no escape?
"Were it not simple Christian charity
"To warn the priest be on his guard,—save him
"Assured death, save yourself from causing it?
"I meet him in the street. Give me a glove,
"A ring to show for token! Mum's the word!"

I answered "If you were, as styled, my maid,
"I would command you: as you are, you say,
"My husband's intimate,—assist his wife
"Who can do nothing but entreat 'Be still!'
"Even if you speak truth and a crime is planned,
"Leave help to God as I am forced to do!
"There is no other help, or we should craze,
"Seeing such evil with no human cure.
"Reflect that God, who makes the storm desist,
"Can make an angry violent heart subside.
"Why should we venture teach Him governance?
"Never address me on this subject more!"

Next night she said "But I went, all the same,
"—Ay, saw your Caponsacchi in his house,
"And come back stuffed with news I must outpour.
"I told him 'Sir, my mistress is a stone:
"'Why should you harm her for no good you get?
"'For you do harm her—prowl about our place
"'With the Count never distant half the street,
"'Lurking at every corner, would you look!
"T is certain she has witched you with a spell.
"'Are there not other beauties at your beck?
"'We all know, Donna This and Monna That
"'Die for a glance of yours, yet here you gaze!
"'Go make them grateful, leave the stone its cold!'
"And he—oh, he turned first white and then red,
"And then—'To her behest I bow myself,
"'Whom I love with my body and my soul:
"'Only a word i' the bowing! See, I write
"'One little word, no harm to see or hear!
"'Then, fear no further!' This is what he wrote.
"I know you cannot read,—therefore, let me!
"'My idol!'" …

But I took it from her hand
And tore it into shreds. "Why, join the rest
"Who harm me? Have I ever done you wrong?
"People have told me 't is you wrong myself:
"Let it suffice I either feel no wrong
"Or else forgive it,—yet you turn my foe!
"The others hunt me and you throw a noose!"

She muttered "Have your wilful way!" I slept.

Whereupon … no, I leave my husband out
It is not to do him more hurt, I speak.
Let it suffice, when misery was most,
One day, I swooned and got a respite so.
She stooped as I was slowly coming to,
This Margherita, ever on my trace,
And whispered—"Caponsacchi!"

If I drowned,
But woke afloat i' the wave with upturned eyes,
And found their first sight was a star! I turned—
For the first time, I let her have her will,
Heard passively,—"The imposthume at such head,
"One touch, one lancet-puncture would relieve,—
"And still no glance the good physician's way
"Who rids you of the torment in a trice!
"Still he writes letters you refuse to hear.
"He may prevent your husband, kill himself,
"So desperate and all fordone is he!
"Just hear the pretty verse he made to-day!
"A sonnet from Mirtillo. 'Peerless fair …'
"All poetry is difficult to read,
"—The sense of it is, anyhow, he seeks
"Leave to contrive you an escape from hell,
"And for that purpose asks an interview.
"I can write, I can grant it in your name,
"Or, what is better, lead you to his house.
"Your husband dashes you against the stones;
"This man would place each fragment in a shrine:
"You hate him, love your husband!"

I returned
"It is not true I love my husband,—no,
"Nor hate this man. I listen while you speak,
"—Assured that what you say is false, the same:
"Much as when once, to me a little child,
"A rough gaunt man in rags, with eyes on fire,
"A crowd of boys and idlers at his heels,
"Rushed as I crossed the Square, and held my head
"In his two hands, 'Here's she will let me speak!
"'You little girl, whose eyes do good to mine,
"'I am the Pope, am Sextus, now the Sixth;
"'And that Twelfth Innocent, proclaimed to-day,
"'Is Lucifer disguised in human flesh!
"'The angels, met in conclave, crowned me!'—thus
"He gibbered and I listened; but I knew
"All was delusion, ere folk interposed
"'Unfasten him, the maniac!' Thus I know
"All your report of Caponsacchi false,
"Folly or dreaming; I have seen so much
"By that adventure at the spectacle,
"The face I fronted that one first, last time:
"He would belie it by such words and thoughts.
"Therefore while you profess to show him me,
"I ever see his own face. Get you gone!"

"—That will I, nor once open mouth again,—
"No, by Saint Joseph and the Holy Ghost!
"On your head be the damage, so adieu!"
And so more days, more deeds I must forget,
Till … what a strange thing now is to declare!
Since I say anything, say all if true!
And how my life seems lengthened as to serve!
It may be idle or inopportune,
But, true?—why, what was all I said but truth,
Even when I found that such as are untrue
Could only take the truth in through a lie?
Now—I am speaking truth to the Truth's self:
God will lend credit to my words this time.

It had got half through April. I arose
One vivid daybreak,—who had gone to bed
In the old way my wont those last three years,
Careless until, the cup drained, I should die.
The last sound in my ear, the over-night,
Had been a something let drop on the sly
In prattle by Margherita, "Soon enough
"Gaieties end, now Easter's past: a week,
"And the Archbishop gets him back to Rome,—
"Everyone leaves the town for Rome, this Spring,—
"Even Caponsacchi, out of heart and hope,
"Resigns himself and follows with the flock."
I heard this drop and drop like rain outside
Fast-falling through the darkness while she spoke:
So had I heard with like indifference,
"And Michael's pair of wings will arrive first
"At Rome, to introduce the company,
"And bear him from our picture where he fights
"Satan,—expect to have that dragon loose
"And never a defender!"—my sole thought
Being still, as night came, "Done, another day!
"How good to sleep and so get nearer death!"—
When, what, first thing at daybreak, pierced the sleep
With a summons to me? Up I sprang alive,
Light in me, light without me, everywhere
Change! A broad yellow sunbeam was let fall
From heaven to earth,—a sudden drawbridge lay,
Along which marched a myriad merry motes,
Mocking the flies that crossed them and recrossed
In rival dance, companions new-born too.
On the house-eaves, a dripping shag of weed
Shook diamonds on each dull grey lattice-square,
As first one, then another bird leapt by,
And light was off, and lo was back again,
Always with one voice,—where are two such joys?—
The blessed building-sparrow! I stepped forth,
Stood on the terrace,—o'er the roofs, such sky!
My heart sang, "I too am to go away,
"I too have something I must care about,
"Carry away with me to Rome, to Rome!
"The bird brings hither sticks and hairs and wool,
"And nowhere else i' the world; what fly breaks rank,
"Falls out of the procession that befits,
"From window here to window there, with all
"The world to choose,—so well he knows his course?
"I have my purpose and my motive too,
"My march to Rome, like any bird or fly!
"Had I been dead! How right to be alive!
"Last night I almost prayed for leave to die,
"Wished Guido all his pleasure with the sword
"Or the poison,—poison, sword, was but a trick,
"Harmless, may God forgive him the poor jest!
"My life is charmed, will last till I reach Rome!
"Yesterday, but for the sin,—ah, nameless be
"The deed I could have dared against myself!
"Now—see if I will touch an unripe fruit,
"And risk the health I want to have and use!
"Not to live, now, would be the wickedness,—
"For life means to make haste and go to Rome
"And leave Arezzo, leave all woes at once!"

Now, understand here, by no means mistake!
Long ago had I tried to leave that house
When it seemed such procedure would stop sin;
And still failed more the more I tried—at first
The Archbishop, as I told you,—next, our lord
The Governor,—indeed I found my way,
I went to the great palace where he rules,
Though I knew well 't was he who,—when I gave
A jewel or two, themselves had given me,
Back to my parents,—since they wanted bread,
They who had never let me want a nosegay,—he
Spoke of the jail for felons, if they kept
What was first theirs, then mine, so doubly theirs,
Though all the while my husband's most of all!
I knew well who had spoke the word wrought this:
Yet, being in extremity, I fled
To the Governor, as I say,—scarce opened lip
When—the cold cruel snicker close behind—
Guido was on my trace, already there,
Exchanging nod and wink for shrug and smile,
And I—pushed back to him and, for my pains
Paid with … but why remember what is past?
I sought out a poor friar the people call
The Roman, and confessed my sin which came
Of their sin,—that fact could not be repressed,—
The frightfulness of my despair in God:
And, feeling, through the grate, his horror shake,
Implored him, "Write for me who cannot write,
"Apprise my parents, make them rescue me!
"You bid me be courageous and trust God:
"Do you in turn dare somewhat, trust and write
"'Dear friends, who used to be my parents once,
"'And now declare you have no part in me,
"'This is some riddle I want wit to solve,
"'Since you must love me with no difference.
"'Even suppose you altered,—there's your hate,
"'To ask for: hate of you two dearest ones
"'I shall find liker love than love found here,
"'If husbands love their wives. Take me away
"'And hate me as you do the gnats and fleas,
"'Even the scorpions! How I shall rejoice!'
"Write that and save me!" And he promised—wrote
Or did not write; things never changed at all:
He was not like the Augustinian here!
Last, in a desperation I appealed
To friends, whoever wished me better days,
To Guillichini, that's of kin,—"What, I—
"Travel to Rome with you? A flying gout
"Bids me deny my heart and mind my leg!"
Then I tried Conti, used to brave—laugh back
The louring thunder when his cousin scowled
At me protected by his presence: "You—
"Who well know what you cannot save me from,—
"Carry me off! What frightens you, a priest?"
He shook his head, looked grave—"Above my strength!
"Guido has claws that scratch, shows feline teeth;
"A formidabler foe than I dare fret:
"Give me a dog to deal with, twice the size!
"Of course I am a priest and Canon too,
"But . . by the bye . . though both, not quite so bold
"As he, my fellow-Canon, brother-priest,
"The personage in such ill odour here
"Because of the reports—pure birth o' the brain!
"Our Caponsacchi, he's your true Saint George
"To slay the monster, set the Princess free,
"And have the whole High-Altar to himself:
'I always think so when I see that piece
"I' the Pieve, that's his church and mine, you know:
"Though you drop eyes at mention of his name!"

That name had got to take a half-grotesque
Half-ominous, wholly enigmatic sense,
Like any by-word, broken bit of song
Born with a meaning, changed by mouth and mouth
That mix it in a sneer or smile, as chance
Bids, till it now means nought but ugliness
And perhaps shame.

—All this intends to say,
That, over-night, the notion of escape
Had seemed distemper, dreaming; and the name,—
Not the man, but the name of him, thus made
Into a mockery and disgrace,—why, she
Who uttered it persistently, had laughed,
"I name his name, and there you start and wince
"As criminal from the red tongs' touch!"—yet now,
Now, as I stood letting morn bathe me bright,
Choosing which butterfly should bear my news,—
The white, the brown one, or that tinier blue,—
The Margherita, I detested so,
In she came—"The fine day, the good Spring time!
"What, up and out at window? That is best.
"No thought of Caponsacchi?—who stood there
"All night on one leg, like the sentry crane,
"Under the pelting of your water-spout—
"Looked last look at your lattice ere he leave
"Our city, bury his dead hope at Rome.
"Ay, go to looking-glass and make you fine,
"While he may die ere touch one least loose hair
"You drag at with the comb in such a rage!"

I turned—"Tell Caponsacchi he may come!"

"Tell him to come? Ah, but, for charity,
"A truce to fooling! Come? What,—come this eve?
"Peter and Paul! But I see through the trick!
"Yes, come, and take a flower-pot on his head,
"Flung from your terrace! No joke, sincere truth?"

How plainly I perceived hell flash and fade
O' the face of her,—the doubt that first paled joy,
Then, final reassurance I indeed
Was caught now, never to be free again!
What did I care?—who felt myself of force
To play with silk, and spurn the horsehair-springe.

"But—do you know that I have bade him come,
"And in your own name? I presumed so much,
"Knowing the thing you needed in your heart.
"But somehow—what had I to show in proof?
"He would not come: half-promised, that was all,
"And wrote the letters you refused to read.
"What is the message that shall move him now?"

"After the Ave Maria, at first dark,
"I will be standing on the terrace, say!"

"I would I had a good long lock of hair
"Should prove I was not lying! Never mind!"

Off she went—"May he not refuse, that's all—
"Fearing a trick!"

I answered, "He will come."
And, all day, I sent prayer like incense up
To God the strong, God the beneficent,
God ever mindful in all strife and strait,
Who, for our own good, makes the need extreme,
Till at the last He puts forth might and saves.
An old rhyme came into my head and rang
Of how a virgin, for the faith of God,
Hid herself, from the Paynims that pursued,
In a cave's heart; until a thunderstone,
Wrapped in a flame, revealed the couch and prey
And they laughed—"Thanks to lightning, ours at last!"
And she cried "Wrath of God, assert His love!
"Servant of God, thou fire, befriend His child!"
And lo, the fire she grasped at, fixed its flash,
Lay in her hand a calm cold dreadful sword
She brandished till pursuers strewed the ground,
So did the souls within them die away,
As o'er the prostrate bodies, sworded, safe,
She walked forth to the solitudes and Christ:
So should I grasp the lightning and be saved!

And still, as the day wore, the trouble grew
Whereby I guessed there would be born a star,
Until at an intense throe of the dusk,
I started up, was pushed, I dare to say,
Out on the terrace, leaned and looked at last
Where the deliverer waited me: the same
Silent and solemn face, I first descried
At the spectacle, confronted mine once more.

So was that minute twice vouchsafed me, so
The manhood, wasted then, was still at watch
To save me yet a second time: no change
Here, though all else changed in the changing world!

I spoke on the instant, as my duty bade,
In some such sense as this, whatever the phrase.

"Friend, foolish words were borne from you to me;
"Your soul behind them is the pure strong wind,
"Not dust and feathers which its breath may bear:
"These to the witless seem the wind itself,
"Since proving thus the first of it they feel.
"If by mischance you blew offence my way,
"The straws are dropt, the wind desists no whit,
"And how such strays were caught up in the street
"And took a motion from you, why inquire?
"I speak to the strong soul, no weak disguise.
"If it be truth,—why should I doubt it truth?—
"You serve God specially, as priests are bound,
"And care about me, stranger as I am,
"So far as wish my good,—that miracle
"I take to intimate He wills you serve
"By saving me,—what else can He direct?
"Here is the service. Since a long while now,
"I am in course of being put to death:
"While death concerned nothing but me, I bowed
"The head and bade, in heart, my husband strike.
"Now I imperil something more, it seems,
"Something that's truelier me than this myself,
"Something I trust in God and you to save.
"You go to Rome, they tell me: take me there,
"Put me back with my people!"

He replied—
The first word I heard ever from his lips,
All himself in it,—an eternity
Of speech, to match the immeasurable depth
O' the soul that then broke silence—"I am yours."

So did the star rise, soon to lead my step,
Lead on, nor pause before it should stand still
Above the House o' the Babe,—my babe to be,
That knew me first and thus made me know him,
That had his right of life and claim on mine,
And would not let me die till he was born,
But pricked me at the heart to save us both,
Saying "Have you the will? Leave God the way!"
And the way was Caponsacchi—"mine," thank God!
He was mine, he is mine, he will be mine.

No pause i' the leading and the light! I know,
Next night there was a cloud came, and not he:
But I prayed through the darkness till it broke
And let him shine. The second night, he came.

"The plan is rash; the project desperate:
"In such a flight needs must I risk your life,
"Give food for falsehood, folly or mistake,
"Ground for your husband's rancour and revenge"—
So he began again, with the same face.
I felt that, the same loyalty—one star
Turning now red that was so white before—
One service apprehended newly: just
A word of mine and there the white was back!

"No, friend, for you will take me! 'T is yourself
"Risk all, not I,—who let you, for I trust
"In the compensating great God: enough!
"I know you: when is it that you will come?"

"To-morrow at the day's dawn." Then I heard
What I should do: how to prepare for flight
And where to fly.

That night my husband bade
"—You, whom I loathe, beware you break my sleep
"This whole night! Couch beside me like the corpse
"I would you were!" The rest you know, I think—
How I found Caponsacchi and escaped.

And this man, men call sinner? Jesus Christ!
Of whom men said, with mouths Thyself mad'st once,
"He hath a devil"—say he was Thy saint,
My Caponsacchi! Shield and show—unshroud
In Thine own time the glory of the soul
If aught obscure,—if ink-spot, from vile pens
Scribbling a charge against him—(I was glad
Then, for the first time, that I could not write)—
Flirted his way, have flecked the blaze!

For me,
'T is otherwise: let men take, sift my thoughts
—Thoughts I throw like the flax for sun to bleach!
I did pray, do pray, in the prayer shall die,
"Oh, to have Caponsacchi for my guide!"
Ever the face upturned to mine, the hand
Holding my hand across the world,—a sense
That reads, as only such can read, the mark
God sets on woman, signifying so
She should—shall peradventure—be divine;
Yet 'ware, the while, how weakness mars the print
And makes confusion, leaves the thing men see,
—Not this man sees,—who from his soul, re-writes
The obliterated charter,—love and strength
Mending what's marred. "So kneels a votarist,
"Weeds some poor waste traditionary plot
"Where shrine once was, where temple yet may be,
"Purging the place but worshipping the while,
"By faith and not by sight, sight clearest so,—
"Such way the saints work,"—says Don Celestine.
But I, not privileged to see a saint
Of old when such walked earth with crown and palm,
If I call "saint" what saints call something else—
The saints must bear with me, impute the fault
To a soul i' the bud, so starved by ignorance,
Stinted of warmth, it will not blow this year
Nor recognize the orb which Spring-flowers know.
But if meanwhile some insect with a heart
Worth floods of lazy music, spendthrift joy—
Some fire-fly renounced Spring for my dwarfed cup,
Crept close to me, brought lustre for the dark,
Comfort against the cold,—what though excess
Of comfort should miscall the creature—sun?
What did the sun to hinder while harsh hands
Petal by petal, crude and colourless,
Tore me? This one heart gave me all the Spring!
Is all told? There's the journey: and where's time
To tell you how that heart burst out in shine?
Yet certain points do press on me too hard.
Each place must have a name, though I forget:
How strange it was—there where the plain begins
And the small river mitigates its flow—
When eve was fading fast, and my soul sank,
And he divined what surge of bitterness,
In overtaking me, would float me back
Whence I was carried by the striding day—
So,—"This grey place was famous once," said he—
And he began that legend of the place
As if in answer to the unspoken fear,
And told me all about a brave man dead,
Which lifted me and let my soul go on!
How did he know too,—at that town's approach
By the rock-side,—that in coming near the signs
Of life, the house-roofs and the church and tower,
I saw the old boundary and wall o' the world
Rise plain as ever round me, hard and cold,
As if the broken circlet joined again,
Tightened itself about me with no break,—
As if the town would turn Arezzo's self,—
The husband there,—the friends my enemies,
All ranged against me, not an avenue
To try, but would be blocked and drive me back
On him,—this other, … oh the heart in that!
Did not he find, bring, put into my arms
A new-born babe?—and I saw faces beam
Of the young mother proud to teach me joy,
And gossips round expecting my surprise
At the sudden hole through earth that lets in heaven.
I could believe himself by his strong will
Had woven around me what I thought the world
We went along in, every circumstance,
Towns, flowers and faces, all things helped so well!
For, through the journey, was it natural
Such comfort should arise from first to last?
As I look back, all is one milky way;
Still bettered more, the more remembered, so
Do new stars bud while I but search for old,
And fill all gaps i' the glory, and grow him—
Him I now see make the shine everywhere.
Even at the last when the bewildered flesh,
The cloud of weariness about my soul
Clogging too heavily, sucked down all sense,—
Still its last voice was, "He will watch and care;
"Let the strength go, I am content: he stays!"
I doubt not he did stay and care for all—
From that sick minute when the head swam round,
And the eyes looked their last and died on him,
As in his arms he caught me, and, you say,
Carried me in, that tragical red eve,
And laid me where I next returned to life
In the other red of morning, two red plates
That crushed together, crushed the time between,
And are since then a solid fire to me,—
When in, my dreadful husband and the world
Broke,—and I saw him, master, by hell's right,
And saw my angel helplessly held back
By guards that helped the malice—the lamb prone,
The serpent towering and triumphant—then
Came all the strength back in a sudden swell,
I did for once see right, do right, give tongue
The adequate protest: for a worm must turn
If it would have its wrong observed by God.
I did spring up, attempt to thrust aside
That ice-block 'twixt the sun and me, lay low
The neutralizer of all good and truth.
If I sinned so,—never obey voice more
O' the Just and Terrible, who bids us—"Bear!"
Not—"Stand by, bear to see my angels bear!"
I am clear it was on impulse to serve God
Not save myself,—no—nor my child unborn!
Had I else waited patiently till now?—
Who saw my old kind parents, silly-sooth
And too much trustful, for their worst of faults,
Cheated, brow-beaten, stripped and starved, cast out
Into the kennel: I remonstrated,
Then sank to silence, for,—their woes at end,
Themselves gone,—only I was left to plague.
If only I was threatened and belied,
What matter? I could bear it and did bear;
It was a comfort, still one lot for all:
They were not persecuted for my sake
And I, estranged, the single happy one.
But when at last, all by myself I stood
Obeying the clear voice which bade me rise,
Not for my own sake but my babe unborn,
And take the angel's hand was sent to help—
And found the old adversary athwart the path—
Not my hand simply struck from the angel's, but
The very angel's self made foul i' the face
By the fiend who struck there,—that I would not bear,
That only I resisted! So, my first
And last resistance was invincible.
Prayers move God; threats, and nothing else, move men!
I must have prayed a man as he were God
When I implored the Governor to right
My parents' wrongs: the answer was a smile.
The Archbishop,—did I clasp his feet enough,
Hide my face hotly on them, while I told
More than I dared make my own mother know?
The profit was—compassion and a jest.
This time, the foolish prayers were done with, right
Used might, and solemnized the sport at once.
All was against the combat: vantage, mine?
The runaway avowed, the accomplice-wife,
In company with the plan-contriving priest?
Yet, shame thus rank and patent, I struck, bare,
At foe from head to foot in magic mail,
And off it withered, cobweb-armoury
Against the lightning! 'T was truth singed the lies
And saved me, not the vain sword nor weak speech!

You see, I will not have the service fail!
I say, the angel saved me: I am safe!
Others may want and wish, I wish nor want
One point o' the circle plainer, where I stand
Traced round about with white to front the world.
What of the calumny I came across,
What o' the way to the end?—the end crowns all.
The judges judged aright i' the main, gave me
The uttermost of my heart's desire, a truce
From torture and Arezzo, balm for hurt,
With the quiet nuns,—God recompense the good!
Who said and sang away the ugly past.
And, when my final fortune was revealed,
What safety while, amid my parents' arms,
My babe was given me! Yes, he saved my babe:
It would not have peeped forth, the bird-like thing,
Through that Arezzo noise and trouble: back
Had it returned nor ever let me see!
But the sweet peace cured all, and let me live
And give my bird the life among the leaves
God meant him! Weeks and months of quietude,
I could lie in such peace and learn so much—
Begin the task, I see how needful now,
Of understanding somewhat of my past,—
Know life a little, I should leave so soon.
Therefore, because this man restored my soul,
All has been right; I have gained my gain, enjoyed
As well as suffered,—nay, got foretaste too
Of better life beginning where this ends—
All through the breathing-while allowed me thus,
Which let good premonitions reach my soul
Unthwarted, and benignant influence flow
And interpenetrate and change my heart,
Uncrossed by what was wicked,—nay, unkind.
For, as the weakness of my time drew nigh,
Nobody did me one disservice more,
Spoke coldly or looked strangely, broke the love
I lay in the arms of, till my boy was born,
Born all in love, with nought to spoil the bliss
A whole long fortnight: in a life like mine
A fortnight filled with bliss is long and much.
All women are not mothers of a boy,
Though they live twice the length of my whole life,
And, as they fancy, happily all the same.
There I lay, then, all my great fortnight long,
As if it would continue, broaden out
Happily more and more, and lead to heaven:
Christmas before me,—was not that a chance?
I never realized God's birth before—
How He grew likest God in being born.
This time I felt like Mary, had my babe
Lying a little on my breast like hers.
So all went on till, just four days ago—
The night and the tap.

Oh it shall be success
To the whole of our poor family! My friends
… Nay, father and mother,—give me back my word!
They have been rudely stripped of life, disgraced
Like children who must needs go clothed too fine,
Carry the garb of Carnival in Lent.
If they too much affected frippery,
They have been punished and submit themselves,
Say no word: all is over, they see God
Who will not be extreme to mark their fault
Or He had granted respite: they are safe.
For that most woeful man my husband once,
Who, needing respite, still draws vital breath,
I—pardon him? So far as lies in me,
I give him for his good the life he takes,
Praying the world will therefore acquiesce.
Let him make God amends,—none, none to me
Who thank him rather that, whereas strange fate
Mockingly styled him husband and me wife,
Himself this way at least pronounced divorce,
Blotted the marriage-bond: this blood of mine
Flies forth exultingly at any door,
Washes the parchment white, and thanks the blow.
We shall not meet in this world nor the next,
But where will God be absent? In His face
Is light, but in His shadow healing too:
Let Guido touch the shadow and be healed!
And as my presence was importunate,—
My earthly good, temptation and a snare,—
Nothing about me but drew somehow down
His hate upon me,—somewhat so excused
Therefore, since hate was thus the truth of him,—
May my evanishment for evermore
Help further to relieve the heart that cast
Such object of its natural loathing forth!
So he was made; he nowise made himself:
I could not love him, but his mother did.
His soul has never lain beside my soul
But for the unresisting body.—thanks!
He burned that garment spotted by the flesh.
Whatever he touched is rightly ruined: plague
It caught, and disinfection it had craved
Still but for Guido; I am saved through him
So as by fire; to him—thanks and farewell!

Even for my babe, my boy, there's safety thence—
From the sudden death of me, I mean: we poor
Weak souls, how we endeavour to be strong!
I was already using up my life,—
This portion, now, should do him such a good,
This other go to keep off such an ill!
The great life; see, a breath and it is gone!
So is detached, so left all by itself
The little life, the fact which means so much.
Shall not God stoop the kindlier to His work,
His marvel of creation, foot would crush,
Now that the hand He trusted to receive
And hold it, lets the treasure fall perforce?
The better; He shall have in orphanage
His own way all the clearlier: if my babe
Outlived the hour—and he has lived two weeks—
It is through God who knows I am not by.
Who is it makes the soft gold hair turn black,
And sets the tongue, might lie so long at rest,
Trying to talk? Let us leave God alone!
Why should I doubt He will explain in time
What I feel now, but fail to find the words?
My babe nor was, nor is, nor yet shall be
Count Guido Franceschini's child at all—
Only his mother's, born of love not hate!
So shall I have my rights in after-time.
It seems absurd, impossible to-day;
So seems so much else, not explained but known!

Ah! Friends, I thank and bless you every one!
No more now: I withdraw from earth and man
To my own soul, compose myself for God.

Well, and there is more! Yes, my end of breath
Shall bear away my soul in being true!
He is still here, not outside with the world,
Here, here, I have him in his rightful place!
'T is now, when I am most upon the move,
I feel for what I verily find—again
The face, again the eyes, again, through all,
The heart and its immeasurable love
Of my one friend, my only, all my own,
Who put his breast between the spears and me.
Ever with Caponsacchi! Otherwise
Here alone would be failure, loss to me—
How much more loss to him, with life debarred
From giving life, love locked from love's display,
The day-star stopped its task that makes night morn!
O lover of my life, O soldier-saint,
No work begun shall ever pause for death!
Love will be helpful to me more and more
I' the coming course, the new path I must tread—
My weak hand in thy strong hand, strong for that!
Tell him that if I seem without him now,
That's the world's insight! Oh, he understands!
He is at Civita—do I once doubt
The world again is holding us apart?
He had been here, displayed in my behalf
The broad brow that reverberates the truth,
And flashed the word God gave him, back to man!
I know where the free soul is flown! My fate
Will have been hard for even him to bear:
Let it confirm him in the trust of God,
Showing how holily he dared the deed!
And, for the rest,—say, from the deed, no touch
Of harm came, but all good, all happiness,
Not one faint fleck of failure! Why explain?
What I see, oh, he sees and how much more!
Tell him,—I know not wherefore the true word
Should fade and fall unuttered at the last—
It was the name of him I sprang to meet
When came the knock, the summons and the end.
"My great heart, my strong hand are back again!"
I would have sprung to these, beckoning across
Murder and hell gigantic and distinct
O' the threshold, posted to exclude me heaven:
He is ordained to call and I to come!
Do not the dead wear flowers when dressed for God?
Say,—I am all in flowers from head to foot!
Say,—not one flower of all he said and did,
Might seem to flit unnoticed, fade unknown,
But dropped a seed, has grown a balsam-tree
Whereof the blossoming perfumes the place
At this supreme of moments! He is a priest;
He cannot marry therefore, which is right:
I think he would not marry if he could.
Marriage on earth seems such a counterfeit,
Mere imitation of the inimitable:
In heaven we have the real and true and sure.
'T is there they neither marry nor are given
In marriage but are as the angels: right,
Oh how right that is, how like Jesus Christ
To say that! Marriage-making for the earth,
With gold so much,—birth, power, repute so much,
Or beauty, youth so much, in lack of these!
Be as the angels rather, who, apart,
Know themselves into one, are found at length
Married, but marry never, no, nor give
In marriage; they are man and wife at once
When the true time is: here we have to wait
Not so long neither! Could we by a wish
Have what we will and get the future now,
Would we wish aught done undone in the past?
So, let him wait God's instant men call years;
Meantime hold hard by truth and his great soul,
Do out the duty! Through such souls alone
God stooping shows sufficient of His light
For us i' the dark to rise by. And I rise.

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Do Not Inhale Me

do not inhale me
for i am not a pure, clean air
filtered free
from viruses

instead just watch me
do not say any word
for i am just a blank wall

i would have like it more like a jar
emptied of its contents

but i was born a stone
and i dwell in my own silence
numb and always
unhurt as i have learned to
love it

you see there is no pain
but there is no happiness either.

and that is fair enough for me
now, look the moss is growing all around me

but i will not stop it
even with invaders i let them be

i am a stone and i am silent
i am hard and i do not move anymore.

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Its time to let go!

Its time to let go
I know!
I am holding on tight
As if it is my right
And its not

Its time to tie my shoe laces
With a knot and start walking on
Once where there was love,
There lies only emptiness
Broken dreams embedded within foggy steams
Everything has become familiar
Nothing to excite or ignite the passion

Once love sped like an express train
That I forgot the famous words “go-slow”
Hence we have already reached our destination
Without taking time to explore before condemnation

'I know', I whisper with a sigh
Its time to let go
There is still time to save ourselves
From feeling ridiculously low

Copyright 2005 - Sylvia Chidi

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My Time Is Now

Its time to look forward
Its time to move on
Its time to let go of the past
And realize it is gone.
Its time to set sail,
Its time to lift anchor
Its time to float free
Its time to release the anger
Its time I take off my mask
And stop hiding all of my scars
Its time to throw out the flask
Its time to break through these bars.
My time has come to be my hero
To give myself a number instead of a zero!
My time has come to stop all the tears
From looking back at these past few years.
My time has come to see if an angel actually exists
To find a love that truly wants bliss.
I want to give some one my love
More than they will ever need
I want to be there one and only
For as long as I shall breath.

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Our Blessings

Sitting to-day in the sunshine,
That touched me with fingers of love,
I thought of the manifold blessings
God scatters on earth, from above;
And they seemed, as I numbered them over,
Far more than we merit, or need,
And all that we lack is the angels
To make earth a heaven indeed.

The winter brings long, pleasant evenings,
The spring brings a promise of flowers
That summer breathes to fruition,
And autumn brings glad, golden hours.
The woodlands re-echo with music,
The moonbeams ensilver the sea;
There is sunlight and beauty about us,
And the world is as fair as can be.

But mortals are always complaining,
Each one thinks his own a sad lot;
And forgetting the good things about him,
Goes mourning for those he has not.
Instead of the star-spangled heavens,
We look on the dust at our feet;
We drain out the cup that is bitter,
Forgetting the one that is sweet.

We mourn o'er the thorn in the flower,
Forgetting its odour and bloom;
We pass by a garden of blossoms,
To weep o'er the dust of the tomb.
There are blessings unnumbered about us, -
Like the leaves of the forest they grow;
And the fault is our own - not the Giver's -
That we have not an Eden below.

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Growing Old

Is it parting with the roundness
Of the smoothly moulded cheek?
Is it losing from the dimples
Half the flashing joy they speak?
Is it fading of the lustre
From the wavy, golden hair?
Is it finding on the forehead
Graven lines of thought and care?

Is it dropping, as the rose-leaves
Drop their sweetness overblown,
Household names that once were dearer,
More familiar than our own?
Is it meeting on the pathway
Faces strange and glances cold,
While the soul with moan and shiver
Whispers sadly, 'Growing old?'

Is it frowning at the folly
Of the ardent hopes of youth?
Is it cynic melancholy
At the rarity of truth?
Is it disbelief in loving?
Selfish hate, or miser's greed?
Then such blight of Nature's noblest
Is a 'growing old' indeed,

But the silver thread that shineth
Whitely in the thinning tress,
And the pallor where the bloom was,
Need not tell of bitterness:
And the brow's more earnest writing
Where it once was marble fair,
May be but the spirit's tracing
Of the peace of answered prayer.

If the smile has gone in deeper,
And the tears more quickly start,
Both together meet in music
Low and tender in the heart;
And in others' joy and gladness.
When the life can find its own,
Surely angels learn to listen
To the sweetness of the tone.

Nothing lost of all we planted
In the time of budding leaves;
Only some things bound in bundles
And set by-- our precious sheaves;
Only treasure kept in safety,
Out of reach and out of rust,
Till we clasp it grown the richer
Through the glory of our trust.

On the gradual sloping pathway,
As the passing years decline,
Gleams a golden love-light falling
Far from upper heights divine.
And the shadows from that brightness
Wrap them softly in their fold,
Who unto celestial whiteness
Walk, by way of growing old.

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Patrick White

I'm Flying Under The Light

I'm flying under the light to avoid detection.
There. That's the first line. A cornerstone.
Maybe water, granite or quicksand
but the cosmic glain
is cracked open like a skull
to extract the message from the fortune-cookie.
The second line comes easier
though it hasn't come yet.
I'm waiting like a crematorium at the end of my cigarette.
Yes. Hot coffins for cool people.
Like it. Where's the rest?
A mirror looks into my face
and sees the enlightened folly of creation
is not the work of a clown.
Forgive the little arrogant flag of flame
I've been trying to raise
out of a nation of ashes
like an arsonist with noble aspirations.
I've looked up at too many stars over the years
not to see beyond my next breath
like a cloud of unknowing,
a road of ghosts,
into the sweeping clarity
of the silence and the darkness
that have unmarrowed me like a bone
to grow new organs of light, new senses,
new eyes and hearts and minds
that are free of the ferocities of night
that consume them death by death
in unextinguishable fire.
It's a mode of compassion
I can't get off my chest,
my way of venting with tears in my eyes
when I consider what becomes of us
who stood here once in the high starfields
alone in an opening between the groves
and gave our eyes back to the sky like water
that tasted of too much suffering
to be sweetened like an apple by grief
or provide us with a vision of relief
that floats better
than all these lifeboats of belief
we've overturned.
Time's refugees,
even in the donated tents of these bones,
flapping like skin in a desert wind,
only our homelessness is our own.
Like stars and dirt and leaves
we're swept off the stairs
across thresholds, out the door
and into the dustpans of our own eyes
whenever we think about putting down roots
and waking up beside our own boots
like bodies that walked all the way with us
to a known address and a bed
we didn't share with the dead.
Even when the moon is full and beautiful
I can hear the clacking castanets
of the crabs and the pebbles
rounded like skulls in the tides
of the untold myriads
that have come and gone like the sea.
To be so much and then nothing,
to be washed clean of everything you cherish
to watch the dyes run like blood and paint
or arsonists from autumn leaves
when your mind has lucked out
like a watercolour in the rain
and your brain unspools like mud.
Sometimes I think my awareness
is no more than the smear
of an incidental rainbow
on a distended bubble
whose inflation always
snaps back on itself in tears.
I prick myself on the thorn of a star
and let my eyes pop into vaster skies
and almost convince myself
that our bodies are crushed like grapes
to deepen the abyss of the wines
that bleed us into oblivion.
Or life is a dream without a dreamer,
fireflies in a well without an echo,
a magician so overcome by his own spell
there are doves flying out of his nostrils
and fish building nests in his brain like a tree
and yet he still can't conceive
of what he pulled out of his hat.
And fulfilment may well be the enlightened flower
of the ignorant roots of desire
like the truth in the mouth of a liar
but I'm not assuming I'm a vegetable
and who knows,
when you put it all together
from the earth and the light and the rain
into one brain
I might be nothing more
than just another kind of weather
trying to take shelter
in this makeshift eye of the storm.
But do you see what I mean?
There's no more continuity in being blind
than there is in looking into the face of God
and seeing the worlds within worlds
that seep like feelings into her thoughts
as if one world without a witness weren't enough.
Words stumble here like physics
before its singularity
and are left like bodies and shoes
on the myriad thresholds of hyperspace
where the worlds pour into each other
like a waterclock of salmon
returning to the source of it all
like the pulse of the sea to the call
of the voiceless bell that gives birth
to all the unimaginable generations of time
that have wounded the faceless mirrors of eternity
by breaking the silence and serenity
of the well that would not answer
by dropping in like eyes
that disappear in waves
washing out their own reflections.
Sometimes it seems as if
there are only two kinds of people in the world:
those that are going and those that have gone.
Where did they go?
Where are they coming from?
Are we the only strangers on the road
and our inhospitable purpose, this passing?
When she leaned on the windowsill
and cradled her head in her hands
to watch the summer clouds
her arms were cormorants of light
and she wore the window awry like a crown.
And the old Japanese man
with hair whiter than moonlight
who used to apologize to the weeds
he uprooted all morning long
in the whisper of a language
only he could understand
for making a distinction.
Where have they gone
where eyes can go and see and come back
across the threshold of their extinction,
mile zero of a road that leads
everywhere all at once
like any point in the infinite space
of the expanding universe?
Why must we leave
the mystic particulars of our lives
like shoes and bodies and names
at the opening door of our bootless generalities?
These fingertips were kissed by a mother
who strung them tenderly
like ten little birds
ten little arrows
to the lips of her bow.
Now that they've flown
can anyone follow
the light into the unknown
or lift their reflections from the waters,
their shadows from the gound
like breadcrumbs and fingertips
to say where they've gone
or even more impossibly
find out where we are now
so they can find their way back to us?
Or is all that we ever were and will be
irrevocably lost
like the root in the flower
that passes it by
on its way into the open
where its eyelids fall away?
When I fall away from myself
like a dropp of water
from the tongue of a leaf,
an unspoken word, a tear,
like rain on an autumn headstone
will the stone ripple
like the rings of a tree
to let you know
that the great sea of life
still jumps like a fish within me
to break through the immaculate
silence of the pond,
its undulant membrane of light,
like spring in the morning,
like a pulse of light beyond
the dark side of the mirror
that has never seen the moon,
that absorbs everything
like a cloak, or an oilslick,
an eclipse, a black hole
where things never appear,
to let you know I'm here. I'm here
where I have always been
where the joy of life transcends
its own thresholds of meaning
by parting its own waters
like the wake of a night passage
or the curtains of an open window
or a woman who opens her legs like a compass,
suffering her own felicity
to give birth to the shoreless sea,
dropp by drop,
you and me
each moment we live
where death hasn't laid down its threshold
and birth can't get through its own gate
because the concepts have left no living ancestry
in this empty world of now
where we live, where we
have always lived,
our elbows on the horizon
like two moons on a windowsill,
wondering, longing, dreaming,
a breath, a veil, a mist
as we evaporate
like visions off the lakes of our eyes
into the great abyss of our unknowing
like a nightstream that lives
blindly belonging
to what's going on, inexhaustibly.

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Egotism

YE powers fantastic ! goblin, sylph and fay,
Whose subtle forms no laws material sway ;
Ethereal essences, that dart and glide
Wherever pleasure or caprice may guide ;
Who leap with equal ease, if ye are bid,
A lady's thimble and a pyramid,
And scale, alike regardless of a fall,
The parlour fender and the Chinese wall,
Slip through a key-hole, 'neath the listed door,
Or from the smallest crevice in the floor ;
Or steer your way (and man's devices mock)
Through the dark mazes of a patent lock ;--
Of you I sing not--but my theme shall be
Of things as quick and volatile as ye,
--Those busy, subtle pronouns, I and Me.
Unsought, and unexpected they appear ;
No barriers heed they, and no laws revere;
But wind and penetrate, with dextrous force,
Through all the cracks and crannies of discourse.

Of those with whom self proves the darling theme,
Not all indulge it in a like extreme ;
Some have the sense to cover it no doubt ;
Would they had sense enough to root it out !
We therefore bring, as first upon the list,
The loud, loquacious, vulgar egotist ;
Whose I's and Me's are scattered in his talk,
Thick as the pebbles on a gravel walk.
Whate'er the topic be, through thick and thin
Himself is thrust, or squeezed, or sidled in.
Conceiving thus his own importance swells,
He makes himself a part of all he tells ;
And still to this he winds the subject round :
Suppose his friend is married, sick, or drowned,
He brought about the match, he lets you know ;
Told him about Miss B. a year ago ;
Or never shall forget, whate'er ensues,
How much he felt when first he heard the news.
A horseman thrown, lay weltering in the mud;
He thought of something that would stop the blood.
A neighhour had a quarrel with his wife ;
He never saw such doings in his life !
A fire broke out at midnight in the town ;
He started up, threw on his flannel gown,
Seized an old hat full twice as large as his,
And said, says he , 'I wonder where it is !'
Was doubtful if 'twere best to stay or go,
And trembled like a leaf, from top to toe.
In vain at times, some modest stander-by,
Catching a pause to make his brief reply,
Cries, 'dear!' or 'only think!' or, 'so did I ;'
For he, by no such obstacles deterred,
Runs on, must tell his tale, and will be heard.

Woe to themselves, and woe to small and great,
When two good egotists are tête-à-tête !
A battle this, though not of swords, but tongues,
And he the victor who has strongest lungs.
Too eager each in what himself recites,
To see how little interest it invites,
Each takes the attention his companion shows,
For pleasure in the story as it goes ;
Though judging by himself, he might have known,
He is but waiting to begin his own,
Watching some gap in the opponent's speech
To force it in--like soldiers at a breach.

Few talkers can detain themselves to weigh
The true impression made by what they say ;
And of all talkers, egotists are last
E'en to suspect that they may talk too fast,
But often, while pursuing their career,
Rejoiced that while they speak the rest must hear,
Some dry observer, whom they scarce perceive,
Sits smiling in his philosophic sleeve,
Impelled (while others carelessly condemn)
To blush for human nature and for them.

But 'tis not only with the loud and rude
That self betrays its nature unsubdued ;
Polite attention and refined address
But ill conceal it, and can ne'er suppress :
One truth, despite of manner, stands confest--
They love themselves unspeakably the best.

Many monopolists of words have been
Unconscious quite of their besetting sin ;
Of strong susceptibility possessed,
Enraptured oft, and oft as much distrest,
They deem themselves, nor others deem them less,
Affectionate and feeling to excess :
The charge of selfishness, or unconcern
In other's weal, with indignation spurn,
And think their failing and their weakest part,
Is having, as the phrase is--too much heart.
But tender hearts as well were hearts of stone,
If what they feel is for themselves alone.

Have you no knowledge of this species ? then
Take fair Matilda for a specimen ;
Compare the sketch with faces you have known,
And ere you quite discard it--with your own.
What ! has Matilda , then, no heart to feel
Generous emotion for another's weal ?
Oh yes, she has--the doubt she would declare
Hard and unjust to her , beyond compare ;
Her friends' and neighbours' interests to forget
She were the last to bear the blame--but yet
Engrossed by cares and interests of her own,
In fact , she gladly lets her friends alone ;
Too eager, and too busy to reflect,
What others may, and what they do expect.

Calm observation, and acute survey
Of others and ourselves, are swept away
By that strong, rude velocity of thought,
Which meets no proper barrier where it ought,
But rushes on, impetuous and unstemmed :--
Astonished, and abashed, and self-condemned,
Would stand Matilda , could she once be shown
Not other people's failings, but her own ;
And see, how borne on that perpetual tide,
She thinks and talks of self, and none beside :
Then might she learn to check its rapid force,
Abate its swiftness, and divert its course,
Make it through other fields meandering go,
And drain, in time, the selfish channel low.

Matilda's friend, as few besides had done,
(A patient, quiet, unpretending one)
Sits cheerful and unwearied day by day,
To hear, as usual, what she has to say.
By long experience, now at length, she learns
To drop all reference to her own concerns ;
The insipid 'dear !' or 'sure !' too well declares
Impatience in discussing those affairs ;
And then, the eager tone and altered brow,
How much her own are dearer--so that now,
--Whether her heart be aching, or it swell
With some sweet hope, 'twould be a joy to tell--
She cheeks the inclination, to attend
To some new project of her eager friend :
--How she intends, as soon as winter's o'er,
To make a passage to the nursery door,
Enlarge the parlour where she loves to sit,
And have the Turkey carpet made to fit ;
Or, how she means next spring to go to town,
And then to have her aunt and uncle down.
Or if more intellectual in her mood,
How she employs her hours of solitude ;
--Her plans, how much they fail, or how succeed ;
What last she read, and what she means to read ;
What time she rises, and what time retires,
And how her deeds fall short of her desires.
All this is very well, perhaps you cry ;
True, if her friend might whisper, 'so do I.'

Whene'er from home Matilda has to go,
With the same theme her letters overflow ;
Sheet after sheet in rapid course she sends,
Brimful and crossed, and written at both ends,
About her journey, visits, feelings, friends :
Still, still the same !--or if her friend had cast
Down in a modest postscript in her last,
Some line, which to transactions may refer,
Of vital consequence, perhaps, to her--
Matilda , in reply, just scrawls, you know
Along that slip on which the seal must go,
'I'm glad, or grieved, to hear of so and so.'

How can she pardon such unkind neglects ?
Why 'tis poor human nature, she reflects ;
Judging with kindness, candour, and good sense,
Takes it from whence it comes, without offence :
And she, with meekness gifted to endure
The evil she laments, but cannot cure,
Too wise to censure or resent the ill,
Sees it, and smiles, as even friendship will ;
Resolves to watch herself with double toil,
And root the selfish weeds from nature's soil.
--And so should we, for we are selfish all,
Without one real exception since the fall
Good nature and good sense in some, 'tis true,
Do much the vicious temper to subdue ;
While some unwittingly allow its growth,
Who yet might fair pretensions make to both.
Of all impostors he least wisdom shows
Who can and does upon himself impose.
Self-knowledge of all knowledge is the best ;
By most pretended, but by few possessed.
That true philosophy not understood,
The aim to do ourselves or others good
Proves weak ;--for they who to themselves are blind,
Rarely attain the knowledge of mankind.
But self-acquaintance is a certain guide ;
That key unlocks ten thousand hearts beside ;
There, in a glass, the common cast is shown ;
--He knows the world who truly knows his own.

The tattered wretch, who scrapes his idle tunes
Through our dull streets on rainy afternoons,
The lawless nuisance of the king's highway,
Houseless and friendless, wander where he may :
Suspected, spurned, unbound by social ties,
With none to mourn or miss him when he dies ;
Still, to himself, that vagrant man appears
The central object of revolving spheres,
Not less than he, who sweeps with regal robe
Half the circumference of the peopled globe.
All seem for him, that eye or thought can view,
The ground he treads, and heaven's ethereal blue,
The sheltering hovel he has gained from far,
And the hint glimmer of the utmost star.
Nought he regards by art or nature made,
But as it serves his pleasure or his trade ;
Mankind, should he define them, this the sense,
--Things bearing purses--purses yielding pence :
The ranging doors that meet his practised eye,
But places seem where he may knock and try ;
Where'er he stands, creation's dearest spot ;--
For what were all to him if he were not ?

'Twas thus I mused as he was passing by,
Roused by the tones of his harsh minstrelsy ;
And smiled and marvelled that such low estate
Wrought not indifference in him to his fate :
Till, unperceived, my roving thoughts had flown,
Far from his fate and feelings, to my own ;
And deep engraven in my heart I saw
The same strong influence and imperious law.
Self, self, with all the weight of woe it bears,
All its infirmities, and wants, and cares,
Its untold bitterness, its shame and ill--
Why is it magnified and worshipped still ?
When shall we break that bondage and be free--
See our own interests but as others see ?
And feel, as down the ceaseless stream we pass,
But viewless atoms in the mighty mass !

To view ourselves with stern and stoic eye,
Calm and unbiassed, like a stander-by,
Keeping aloof, and looking from above,
Detached from interest, prejudice, self-love,--
This, while it humbles, yet exalts the mind
Above the common level of mankind.
The soul that knows its mean and bounded length
Makes some approach to grandeur and to strength :
Conscious of littleness it learns to tower,
Knowing its feebleness, attains to power :
This makes the grand distinction that befalls,
Between the mind that soars and that which crawls.
That is a vulgar mind, which never learns
The just dimensions of its own concerns ;
But sunk in petty interests, private cares,
Fancies vast import in its small affairs.
True, the philosopher himself is caught
Absorbed, at times, in low and selfish thought ;
But here the difference lies, that he can smile
At that contracted temper all the while ;
And thence his soul, with glad transition, springs
Tired and disgusted up to nobler things.

Poor human nature ! whither should it flee,
Undone, infirm, and weak beyond degree,
But to the well of life ? that healthful tide,
Whose waters, when by humble faith applied,
Raise up the impotent, restore the blind,
And cure the inveterate maladies of mind.
He knows, who fashioneth our hearts the same,
Every minutia of their inmost frame ;
To which in that blest volume he has writ,
The line and precept admirably fit :
They reach, not actions only, but the thought
That tends to folly--not alone are brought
Against the act that does our neighbour wrong,
--They teach the egotist to hold his tongue.

How vainly may we follow and digest
What human wits and moralists attest ;
E'en those who studied human nature most,
Shakespeare and Johnson, Locke and all the host ;
And even pore in vain on that bright page
Which teaches and consoles from age to age ;
Unless we come imploring help and cure,
Guilty and impotent, and blind and poor,
Asking for 'all things new,' by faith and prayer ;
--Not with some little failing here and there,
Which, proving inconvenient where it stands,
We wish completely taken off our hands ;--
But seek (accounting all beside it loss)
A thorough renovation at the cross.
Then would the healing streams of mercy wind
Throughout the sickly mazes of the mind ;
The weed of selfishness would droop and die,
And plants of charity their place supply ;
That fruitful stream, refreshing as it flows,
Would make the desert blossom as the rose.

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Hermann And Dorothea - IX. Urania

CONCLUSION.

O YE Muses, who gladly favour a love that is heartfelt,
Who on his way the excellent youth have hitherto guided,
Who have press'd the maid to his bosom before their betrothal,
Help still further to perfect the bonds of a couple so loving,
Drive away the clouds which over their happiness hover!
But begin by saying what now in the house has been passing.

For the third time the mother impatiently enter'd the chamber
Where the men were sitting, which she had anxiously quitted,
Speaking of the approaching storm, and the loss of the moon's light,
Then of her son's long absence, and all the perils that night brings.
Strongly she censured their friends for having so soon left the youngster,
For not even addressing the maiden, or seeking to woo her.

'Make not the worst of the mischief,' the father peevishly answer'd;
'For you see we are waiting ourselves, expecting the issue.'

But the neighbour sat still, and calmly address'd them as follows:--
'In uneasy moments like these, I always feel grateful
To my late father, who when I was young all seeds of impatience
In my mind uprooted, and left no fragment remaining,
And I learnt how to wait, as well as the best of the wise men.
'Tell us what legerdemain he employ'd,' the pastor made answer.
'I will gladly inform you, and each one may gain by the lesson,'
Answer'd the neighbour. 'When I was a boy, I was standing one Sunday
In a state of impatience, eagerly waiting the carriage
Which was to carry us out to the fountain under the lime-trees;
But it came not; I ran like a weasel now hither, now thither,
Up and down the stairs, and from the door to the window;
Both my hands were prickling, I scratch'd away at the tables,
Stamping and trotting about, and scarcely refrain'd I from crying.
All this the calm man composedly saw; but finally when I
Carried my folly too far, by the arm he quietly took me,
Led me up to the window, and used this significant language
'See you up yonder the joiner's workshop, now closed for the Sunday?
'Twill be re-open'd to-morrow, and plane and saw will be working.
Thus will the busy hours be pass'd from morning till evening.
But remember this: the rimming will soon be arriving,
When the master, together with all his men, will be busy
In preparing and finishing quickly and deftly your coffin,
And they will carefully bring over here that house made of boards, which
Will at length receive the patient as well as impatient,
And which is destined to carry a roof that's unpleasantly heavy.
All that he mention'd I forthwith saw taking place in my mind's eye,
Saw the boards join'd together, and saw the black cover made ready,
Patiently then I sat, and meekly awaited the carriage.
And I always think of the coffin whenever I see men
Running about in a state of doubtful and wild expectation.'

Smilingly answered the pastor:--'Death's stirring image is neither
Unto the wise a cause of alarm,--or an end to the pious.
Back into life it urges the former, and teaches him action,
And, for the weal of the latter, it strengthens his hope in affliction.
Death is a giver of life unto both. Your father did wrongly
When to the sensitive boy he pointed out death in its own form.
Unto the youth should be shown the worth of a noble and ripen'd
Age, and unto the old man, youth, that both may rejoice in
The eternal circle, and life may in life be made perfect!'

Here the door was open'd. The handsome couple appear'd there,
And the friends were amazed, the loving parents astonish'd
At the form of the bride, the form of the bridegroom resembling.
Yes! the door appear'd too small to admit the tall figures
Which now cross'd the threshold, in company walking together.
To his parents Hermann presented her, hastily saying:--
'Here is a maiden just of the sort you are wishing to have here,
Welcome her kindly, dear father! she fully deserves it, and you too,
Mother dear, ask her questions as to her housekeeping knowledge,
That you may see how well she deserves to form one of our party.'
Then he hastily took on one side the excellent pastor,
Saying:--' Kind sir, I entreat you to help me out of this trouble
Quickly, and loosen the knot, whose unravelling I am so dreading;
For I have not ventured to woo as my bride the fair maiden,
But she believes she's to be a maid in the house, and I fear me
She will in anger depart, as soon as we talk about marriage.
But it must be decided at once! no longer in error
Shall she remain, and I no longer this doubt can put up with.
Hasten and once more exhibit that wisdom we all hold in honour.'
So the pastor forthwith turn'd round to the rest of the party,
But the maiden's soul was, unhappily, troubled already
By the talk of the father, who just had address'd her as follows,
Speaking good humour'dly, and in accents pleasant and lively
'Yes, I'm well satisfied, child! I joyfully see that my son has
Just as good taste as his father, who in his younger days show'd it,
Always leading the fairest one out in the dance, and then lastly
Taking the fairest one home as his wife--'twas your dear little mother!
For by the bride whom a man selects, we may easily gather
What kind of spirit his is, and whether he knows his own value.
But you will surely need but a short time to form your decision,
For I verily think he will find it full easy to follow.'
Hermann but partially heard the words; the whole of his members
Inwardly quivered, and all the circle were suddenly silent.

But the excellent maiden, by words of such irony wounded,
(As she esteem'd them to be) and deeply distress'd in her spirit,
Stood, while a passing flush from her cheeks as far as her neck was
Spreading, but she restrain'd herself, and collected her thoughts soon;
Then to the old man she said, not fully concealing her sorrow
'Truly I was not prepared by your son for such a reception,
When he described his father's nature,--that excellent burgher,
And I know I am standing before you, a person of culture,
Who behaves himself wisely to all, in a suitable manner.
But it would seem that you feel not pity enough for the poor thing
Who has just cross'd your threshold, prepared to enter your service
Else you would not seek to point out, with ridicule bitter,
How far removed my lot from your son's and that of yourself is.
True, with a little bundle, and poor, I have enter'd your dwelling,
Which it is the owner's delight to furnish with all things.
But I know myself well, and feel the whole situation.
Is it generous thus to greet me with language so jeering,
Which was well nigh expelled me the house, when just on the threshold?'

Hermann uneasily moved about, and signed to the pastor
To interpose without delay, and clear up the error.
Quickly the wise man advanced to the spot, and witness'd the maiden's
Silent vexation and tearful eyes and scarce-restrain'd sorrow.
Then his spirit advised him to solve not at once the confusion,
But, on the contrary, prove the excited mind of the maiden.
So, in words framed to try her, the pastor address'd her as follows:--
'Surely, my foreign maiden, you did not fully consider,
When you made up your mind to serve a stranger so quickly,
What it really is to enter the house of a master;
For a shake of the hand decides your fate for a twelvemonth,
And a single word Yes to much endurance will bind you.
But the worst part of the service is not the wearisome habits,
Nor the bitter toil of the work, which seems never-ending;
For the active freeman works hard as well as the servant.
But to suffer the whims of the master, who blames you unjustly,
Or who calls for this and for that, not knowing his own mind,
And the mistress's violence, always so easily kindled,
With the children's rough and supercilious bad manners,--
This is indeed hard to bear, whilst still fulfilling your duties
Promptly and actively, never becoming morose or ill-natured;
Yet for such work you appear little fit, for already the father's
Jokes have offended you deeply; yet nothing more commonly happens
Than to tease a maiden about her liking a youngster.'
Thus he spoke, and the maiden felt the weight of his language,
And no more restrain'd herself; mightily all her emotions
Show'd themselves, her bosom heaved, and a deep sigh escaped her,
And whilst shedding burning tears, she answer'd as follows:--
'Ne'er does the clever man, who seeks to advise us in sorrow,
Think how little his chilling words our hearts can deliver
From the pangs which an unseen destiny fastens upon us.
You are happy and merry. How then should a jest ever wound you?
But the slightest touch gives torture to those who are suff'ring.
Even dissimulation would nothing avail me at present.
Let me at once disclose what later would deepen my sorrow,
And consign me perchance to agony mute and consuming.
Let me depart forthwith! No more in this house dare I linger;
I must hence and away, and look once more for my poor friends
Whom I left in distress, when seeking to better my fortunes.
This is my firm resolve; and now I may properly tell you
That which had else been buried for many a year in my bosom.
Yes, the father's jest has wounded me deeply, I own it,
Not that I'm proud and touchy, as ill becometh a servant,
But because in truth in my heart a feeling has risen
For the youth, who to-day has fill'd the part of my Saviour.
For when first in the road he left me, his image remain'd still
Firmly fix'd in my mind; and I thought of the fortunate maiden
Whom, as his betroth'd one, he cherish'd perchance in his bosom.
And when I found him again at the well, the sight of him charm'd me
Just as if I had-seen an angel descending from heaven.
And I follow'd him willingly, when as a servant he sought me,
But by my heart in truth I was flatter'd (I need must confess it),
As I hitherward came, that I might possibly win him,
If I became in the house an indispensable pillar.
But, alas, I now see the dangers I well nigh fell into,
When I bethought me of living so near a silently-loved one.
Now for the first time I feel how far removed a poor maiden
Is from a richer youth, however clever she may be.
I have told you all this, that you my heart may mistake not,
Which an event that in thought I foreshadow has wounded already.
For I must have expected, my secret wishes concealing,
That, ere much time had elapsed, I should see him bringing his bride home.
And how then could I have endured my hidden affliction!
Happily I am warn'd in time, and out of my bosom
Has my secret escaped, whilst curable still is the evil.
But no more of the subject! I now must tarry no longer
In this house, where I now am standing in pain and confusion,
All my foolish hopes and my feelings freely confessing.
Not the night which, with sinking clouds, is spreading around us,
Not the rolling thunder (I hear it already) shall stop me,
Not the falling rain, which outside is descending in torrents,
Not the blustering storm. All this I had to encounter
In that sorrowful flight, while the enemy follow'd behind Us.
And once more I go on my way, as I long have been wont to,
Seized by the whirlpool of time, and parted from all that I care for.
So farewell! I'll tarry no longer. My fate is accomplish'd!'

Thus she spoke, and towards the door she hastily turn'd her,
Holding under her arm the bundle she brought when arriving.
But the mother seized by both of her arms the fair maiden,
Clasping her round the body, and cried with surprise and amazement
'Say, what signifies this? These fruitless tears, what denote they?
No, I'll not leave you alone! You're surely my dear son's betroth'd one!'
But the father stood still, and show'd a great deal of reluctance,
Stared at the weeping girl, and peevishly spoke then as follows
'This, then, is all the indulgence my friends are willing to give me,
That at the close of the day the most unpleasant thing happens!
For there is nothing I hate so much as the tears of a woman,
And their passionate cries, set up with such heat and excitement,
Which a little plain sense would show to be utterly needless.
Truly, I find the sight of these whimsical doings a nuisance.
Matters must shift for themselves; as for me, I think it is bed-time.'
So he quickly turn'd round, and hasten'd to go to the chamber
Where the marriage-bed stood, in which he slept for the most part.
But his son held him back, and spoke in words of entreaty
'Father, don't go in a hurry, and be not amniote with the maiden!
I alone have to bear the blame of all this confusion,
Which our friend has increased by his unexpected dissembling.
Speak then, honour'd Sir! for to you the affair I confided;
Heap not up pain and annoyance, but rather complete the whole matter;
For I surely in future should not respect you so highly,
If you play practical jokes, instead of displaying true wisdom.'

Thereupon the worthy pastor smilingly answer'd
'What kind of wisdom could have extracted the charming confession
Of this good maiden, and so have reveal'd all her character to us?
Is not your care converted at once to pleasure and rapture?
Speak out, then, for yourself! Why need explanations from others
Hermann then stepped forward, and gently address'd her as follows
'Do not repent of your tears, nor yet of your passing affliction;
For they perfect my happiness; yours too, I fain would consider.
I came not to the fountain, to hire so noble a maiden
As a servant, I came to seek to win you affections.
But, alas! my timid gaze had not strength to discover
Your heart's leanings; it saw in your eye but a friendly expression,
When you greeted it out of the tranquil fountain's bright mirror.
Merely to bring you home, made half of my happiness certain
But you now make it complete! May every blessing be yours, then!'
Then the maiden look'd on the youth with heartfelt emotion,
And avoided not kiss or embrace, the summit of rapture,
When they also are to the loving the long-wish'd-for pledges
Of approaching bliss in a life which now seems to them endless.
Then the pastor told the others the whole of the story;
But the maiden came and gracefully bent o'er the father,
Kissing the while his hand, which he to draw back attempted.
And she said:--' I am sure that you will forgive the surprised one,
First for her tears of sorrow, and then for her tears of true rapture.
O forgive the emotions by which they both have been prompted,
And let me fully enjoy the bliss that has now been vouchsafed me!
Let the first vexation, which my confusion gave rise to,
Also be the last! The loving service which lately
Was by the servant promised, shall now by the daughter be render'd.'

And the father, his tears concealing, straightway embraced her;
Lovingly came the mother in turn, and heartily kiss'd her,
Warmly shaking her hand; and silently wept they together.
Then in a hasty manner, the good and sensible pastor
Seized the hand of the father, his wedding-ring off from his finger
Drawing (not easily though; so plump was the member that held it)
Then he took the mother's ring, and betroth'd the two children,
Saying:--'Once more may it be these golden hoops' destination
Firmly to fasten a bond altogether resembling the old one!
For this youth is deeply imbued with love for the maiden,
And the maiden confesses that she for the youth has a liking.
Therefore, I now betroth you, and wish you all blessings hereafter,
With the parents' consent, and with our friend here as a witness.'

And the neighbour bent forward, and added his own benediction;
But when the clergyman placed the gold ring on the hand of the maiden,
He with astonishment saw the one which already was on it,
And which Hermann before at the fountain had anxiously noticed.
Whereupon he spoke in words at once friendly and jesting
'What! You are twice engaging yourself? I hope that the first one
May not appear at the altar, unkindly forbidding the banns there!'

But she said in reply:--'O let me devote but one moment
To this mournful remembrance! For well did the good youth deserve it,
Who, when departing, presented the ring, but never return'd home.
All was by him foreseen, when freedom's love of a sudden,
And a desire to play his part in the new-found Existence,
Drove him to go to Paris, where prison and death were his portion.
'Farewell,' said he, 'I go; for all things on earth are in motion
At this moment, and all things appear in a state of disunion.
Fundamental laws in the steadiest countries are loosen'd,
And possessions are parted from those who used to possess them,
Friends are parted from friends, and love is parted from love too.
I now leave you here, and whether I ever shall see you
Here again,--who can tell? Perchance these words will our last be.
Man is a stranger here upon earth, the proverb informs us;
Every person has now become more a stranger than ever.
Ours the soil is no longer; our treasures are fast flying from us;
All the sacred old vessels of gold and silver are melted,
All is moving, as though the old-fashion'd world would roll backwards
Into chaos and night, in order anew to be fashion'd.
You of my heart have possession, and if we shall ever here-after
Meet again over the wreck of the world, it will be as new creatures,
All remodell'd and free and independent of fortune;
For what fetters can bind down those who survive such a period!
But if we are destined not to escape from these dangers,
If we are never again to embrace each other with raptures
O then fondly keep in your thoughts my hovering image,
That you may be prepared with like courage for good and ill fortune!
If a new home or a new alliance should chance to allure you,
Then enjoy with thanks whatever your destiny offers,
Purely loving the loving, and grateful to him who thus loves you.
But remember always to tread with a circumspect footstep,
For the fresh pangs of a second loss will behind you be lurking.
Deem each day as sacred; but value not life any higher
Than any other possession, for all possessions are fleeting.'
Thus he spoke; and the noble youth and I parted for ever:
Meanwhile I ev'rything lost, and a thousand times thought of his warning.
Once more I think of his words, now that love is sweetly preparing
Happiness for me anew, and the brightest of hopes is unfolding.
Pardon me, dearest friend, for trembling e'en at the moment
When I am clasping your arm! For thus, on first landing, the sailor
Fancies that even the solid ground is shaking beneath him.'

Thus she spoke, and she placed the rings by the side of each other.
But the bridegroom answer'd, with noble and manly emotion
'All the firmer, amidst the universal disruption,
Be, Dorothea, our union! We'll show ourselves bold and enduring,
Firmly hold our own, and firmly retain our possessions.
For the man who in wav'ring times is inclined to be wav'ring
Only increases the evil, and spreads it wider and wider;
But the man of firm decision the universe fashions.
'Tis not becoming the Germans to further this fearful commotion,
And in addition to waver uncertainly hither and thither.
'This is our own!' we ought to say, and so to maintain it!
For the world will ever applaud those resolute nations
Who for God and the Law, their wives, and parents, and children
Struggle, and fall when contending against the foeman together.
You are mine; and now what is mine, is mine more than ever.
Not with anxiety will I preserve it, or timidly use it,
But with courage and strength. And if the enemy threaten
Now or hereafter, I'll hold myself ready, and reach down my weapons.
If I know that the house and my parents by you are protected,
I shall expose my breast to the enemy, void of all terror;
And if all others thought thus, then might against might should be measured,
And in the early prospect of peace we should all be rejoicing.'

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Shakuntala Act 1

King Dushyant in a chariot, pursuing an antelope, with a bow and quiver, attended by his Charioteer.
Suta (Charioteer). [Looking at the antelope, and then at the king]
When I cast my eye on that black antelope, and on thee, O king, with thy braced bow, I see before me, as it were, the God Mahésa chasing a hart (male deer), with his bow, named Pináca, braced in his left hand.

King Dushyant: The fleet animal has given us a long chase. Oh! there he runs, with his neck bent gracefully, looking back, from time to time, at the car (chariot) which follows him. Now, through fear of a descending shaft, he contracts his forehand, and extends his flexible haunches; and now, through fatigue, he pauses to nibble the grass in his path with his mouth half opened. See how he springs and bounds with long steps, lightly skimming the ground, and rising high in the air! And now so rapid is his flight, that he is scarce discernible!

Suta: The ground was uneven, and the horses were checked in their course. He has taken advantage of our delay. It is level now, and we may easily overtake him.

King Dushyant: Loosen the reins.

Suta: As the king commands. – [He drives the car first at full speed, and then gently.] – He could not escape. The horses were not even touched by the clouds of dust which they raised; they tossed their manes, erected their ears, and rather glided than galloped over the smooth plain.

King Dushyant: They soon outran the swift antelope. –Objects which, from their distance, appeared minute, presently became larger: what was really divided, seemed united, as we passed; and what was in truth bent, seemed straight. So swift was the motion of the wheels, that nothing, for many moments, was either distant or near. [He fixes an arrow in his bowstring.]

[Behind the scenes.] He must not be slain. This antelope, O king, has an asylum in our forest: he must not be slain.

Suta: [Listening and Looking.] Just as the animal presents a fair mark for our arrow, two hermits are advancing to interrupt your aim

King Dushyant: Then stop the car.

Suta: The king is obeyed. [He draws in the reins.]

Enter a Hermit and his Pupil.

Hermit: [Raising his hands.] Slay not, O mighty sovereign, slay not a poor fawn, who has found a place of refuge. No, surely, no; he must not be hurt. An arrow in the delicate body of a deer would be like fire in bale of cotton. Compared with thy keen shafts, how weak must be the tender hide of a young antelope! Replace quickly, oh! replace the arrow which thou hast aimed. The weapons of you kings and warriors are destined for the relief of the oppressed, not for the destruction of the guiltless.

King Dushyant: [Saluting them.] It is replaced.

[He places the arrow in his quiver.]

Hermit: [With joy] Worthy is that act of thee, most illustrious; of monarchs; worthy, indeed, of a prince descended from Puru. Mayst thou have a son adorned with virtues, a sovereign of the world!

Pupil: [Elevating both his hands.] Oh! by all means, may thy son be adorned with every virtue, a sovereign of the world!

King Dushyant: [Bowing to them.] My head bears with reverence the order of a Bráhmin

Hermit: Great king, we came hither to collect wood for a solemn sacrifice; and this forest, and the banks of the Malini, affords an asylum to the wild animals protected by Shakuntala, (Shakuntala) whom our holy preceptor Kanva has received as a sacred deposit. If you have no other avocation, enter yon grove, and let the rights of hospitality be duly performed. Having seen with your own eyes the virtuous behaviour of those whose only wealth is their piety, but whose worldly cares are now at an end, you will then exclaim, 'How many good subjects are defended by this arm, which the bowstring has made callous!'

King Dushyant: Is the master of your family at home?

Hermit: Our preceptor is gone to Sómatirt'ha, in hopes of deprecating some calamity, with which destiny threatens the irreproachable Shakuntala, and he has charged her, in his absence, to receive all guests with due honour.

King Dushyant: Holy man, I will attend her; and she, having observed my devotion, will report it favourably to the venerable sage.

Both: Be it so; and we depart on our own business. [The Hermit and his Pupil go out.]

King Dushyant: Drive on Suta. By visiting the abode of holiness, we shall purify our souls.

Suta: As the king (may his life be long!) commands. [He drives on.]

King Dushyant:[Looking on all sides.] That we are near the dwelling–place of pious hermits, would clearly have appeared, even if it had not been told.

Suta: By what marks?

King Dushyant: Do you not observe them? See under yon trees the hallowed grains which have been scattered on the ground, while the tender female parrots were feeding their unfledged young in their pendent nest. Mark in other places the shining pieces of polished stone which have bruised the oil fruit of the sacred Ingudì. Look at the young fawns, which, having acquired confidence in man, and accustomed themselves to the sound of his voice, frisk at pleasure, without varying their course. Even the surface of the river is reddened with lines of consecrated bark, which float down its stream.

Look again; the roots of yon trees are bathed in the waters of holy pools, which quiver as the breeze plays upon them; and the glowing lustre of yon fresh leaves is obscured, for a time, by smoke that rises from oblations of clarified butter. See too, where the young roes (deers) graze, without apprehension from our approach, on the lawn before yonder garden, where the tops of the sacrificial grass, cut for some religious rite, are sprinkled around.

Suta: I now observe holy habitation.

Dushm. [Turning aside.] This awful (awe inspiring)sanctuary, my friend, must not be violated. Here, therefore, stop the car; that I may descend.

Char. I hold in the reins. The king may descend at his pleasure.

King Dushyant:[Having descended, and looking at his own dress.] Groves devoted to religion must be entered in humbler habiliments (garments). Take these regal ornaments;–[the Charioteer receives them] –and, whilst I am observing those who inhabit this retreat, let the horses be watered and dressed.

Suta: Be it as you direct! [He goes out.]

King Dushyant: [Walking around and looking.] Now then I enter the sanctuary. –[He enters the grove.] –Oh! this place must be holy, my right arm throbs. –[Pausing and considering.] –What new acquisition does this omen promise in a sequestered grove? But the gates of predestined events are in all places open.

[Behind the Scenes.] Come hither, my beloved companions; Oh! come hither.

King Dushyant: [Listening.] Hah! I hear female voices to the right of yon arbour (tree). I am resolved to know who are conversing. –[He walks round and looks.] –There are some damsels, I see, belonging to the hermit's family who carry water–pots of different sizes proportioned to their strength, and are going to water the delicate plants. Oh! how charmingly they look! If the beauty of maids who dwell in woodland retreats cannot easily be found in the recesses of a palace, the garden flowers must make room for the blossoms of the forest, which excel them in colour and fragrance. [He stands gazing at them.]

Enter Shakuntala, Anusuya, and Priyamvada.

Anusuya: O my Shakuntala, it is in thy society that the trees of our father Canna seem to me delightful; it well becomes thee, who art soft as the fresh–blown Mallicá, to fill with water the canals which have been dug round these tender shrubs.

Shakuntala: It is not only in obedience to our father that I thus employ myself, though that were a sufficient motive, but I really feel the affection of a sister for these young plants. [Watering them.]

Priyamvada: My beloved friend, the shrubs which you have watered flower in the summer, which is now begun: let us give water to those which have passed their flowering time; for our virtue will be the greater when it is wholly disinterested.

Shakuntala: Excellent advice! [Watering other plants.]

King Dushyant: [Aside in transport.] How! is that Kanva's daughter, Shakuntala? –[With surprise.] –The venerable sage must have an unfeeling heart, since he has allotted a mean employment to so lovely a girl, and has dressed her in a coarse mantle of woven bark. He, who could with that so beautiful a creature, who at first sight ravishes my soul, should endure the hardships of his austere devotion, would attempt, I suppose, to cleave the hard wood Samì with a leaf of the blue lotos (lotus). Let me retire behind this tree, that I may gaze on her charms without diminishing her confidence. [He retires.]

Shakuntala: My friend Priyamvada has tied this mantle of bark so closely over my bosom that it gives me pain: Anusúuya, I request you to untie it.

[Anusuya unties the mantle.]

Priyamvada: [Laughing.] Well, my sweet friend, enjoy, while you may, that youthful prime, which gives your bosom so beautiful a swell.

King Dushyant: [Aside.] Admirably spoken, Priyamvada! No; her charms cannot be hidden, even though a robe of intertwisted fibres be thrown over her shoulders, and conceal a part of her bosom, like a veil of yellow leaves enfolding a radiant flower. The water lily, though dark moss may settle on its head, is nevertheless beautiful; and the moon with dewy beams is rendered yet brighter by its black spots. The bark itself acquires elegance from the features of a girl with antelope's eyes, and rather augments than diminishes my ardour. Many are the rough stalks which support the water lily; but many and exquisite are the blossoms which hang on them.

Shakuntala: [Looking before her.] Yon Amra tree, my friends, points with the finger of its leaves, which the gale gently agitates, and seems inclined to whisper some secret. I will go near it. [They all approach the tree.]

Priyamvada: O my Shakuntala, let us remain some time in this shade.
Shakuntala: Why here particularly?


Priyamvada: Because the Amra tree seems wedded to you, who are graceful as the blooming creeper which twines round it.

Shakuntala: Properly are you named Priyamvada, or speaking lovingly (kindly).

King Dushyant: [Aside.] She speaks truly. Yes; her lip glows like the tender leaflet; her arms resemble two flexible stalks; and youthful beauty shines, like a blossom, in all her lineaments.

Anusuya: See, my Shakuntala, how yon fresh Malicá, which you have surnamed Vanàdósini, or Delight of the Grove, has chosen the sweet Amra for her bridegroom.

Shakuntala: [Approaching, and looking at it with pleasure.] How charming is the season, when the nuptials even of plants are thus publicly celebrated! [She stands admiring it.]

Priyamvada: [Smiling.] Do you know, my Anusuya, why Shakuntala gazes on the plants with such rapture?

Anusuya: No, indeed: I was trying to guess. Pray, tell me.

Priyamvada: 'As the Grove's Delight is united to a suitable tree, thus I too hope for a bridegroom to my mind.' –That is her private thought at this moment.

Shakuntala Such are the sights of your own imagination. [Inverting the water–pot.]

Anusuya: Here is a plant, Shakuntala, which you have forgotten, though it has grown up, like yourself, under the fostering care of our father Kanva.

Shakuntala: Then I shall forget myself. –O wonderful! –[approaching the plant.] –O Priyamvada! [looking at it with joy] I have delightful tidings for you.

Priyamvada: What tidings, my beloved, for me?

Shakuntala: This Madhavi–creeper, though it be not the usual time for flowering, is covered with gay blossoms from its root to its top.

Both. [Approaching it hastily.] Is it really so, sweet friend?

Shakuntala: Is it so? Look yourselves.

Priyamvada: [With eagerness] From this omen, Shakuntala, I announce you an excellent husband, who will very soon take you by the hand. [Both girls look at Shakuntala.]

Shakuntala [Displeased.] A strange fancy of yours!

Priyamvada: Indeed, my beloved, I speak not jestingly. I heard something from our father Kanva. Your nurture of these plants has prospered; and thence it is, that I foretell your approaching nuptials.

Anusuya: It is thence, my Priyamvada, that she has watered them with so much alacrity.

Shakuntala: The Madhavi plant is my sister; can I do otherwise than cherish her?

[Pouring water on it.]

King Dushyant: [Aside.] I fear she is of the same religious order with her foster–father. Or has a mistaken apprehension risen in my mind? My warm heart is so attached to her, that she cannot but be a fit match for a man of the military class. The doubts which awhile perplex the good, are soon removed by the prevalence of their strong inclinations. I am enamoured of her, and she cannot, therefore, be the daughter of a Brahmin, whom I could not marry.

Shakuntala: [Moving her head.] Alas! a bee has left the blossom of this Mallicá, and is fluttering round my face. [She expresses uneasiness.]

King Dushyant: [Aside, with affection.] How often have I seen our court damsels affectedly turn their heads aside from some roving insect, merely to display their graces! But this rural charmer knits her brows, and gracefully moves her eyes through fear only, without art or affectation. Oh! happy– bee, who touchest the corner of that eye beautifully trembling; who, approaching the tip of that ear, murmurs as softly as if thou wert whispering a secret of love; and who sippest nectar, while she waves her graceful hand, from that lip, which contains all the treasures of delight! Whilst I am solicitous to know in what family she was born, thou art enjoying bliss, which to me would be supreme felicity.

Shakuntala: Disengage me, I entreat, from this importunate insect, which quite baffles my efforts.

Priyamvada: What power have we to deliver you? The king Dushmanta is the sole defender of our consecrated groves.

King Dushyant: [Aside.] This is a good occasion for me to discover myself –[advancing a little.] –I must not, I will not, fear. Yet –[checking himself and retiring] –my royal character will thus abruptly be known to them. No; I will appear as a simple stranger, and claim the duties of hospitality.

Shakuntala: This impudent bee will not rest. I will remove to another space. –[Stepping aside and looking round] –Away! away! He follows me wherever I go. Deliver me, oh! deliver me from this distress.

King Dushyant: [Advancing hastily.] Ah! While the race of Puru govern the world, and restrain even the most profligate, by good laws well administered, has any man the audacity to molest the lovely daughters of pious hermits? [They look at him with emotion.]

Anusuya: Sir, no man is here audacious; but this damsel, our beloved friend, was teased by a fluttering bee. [Both girls look at Shakuntala.]

King Dushyant: [Approaching her.] Damsel, may thy devotion prosper! [Shakuntala looks on the ground, bashful and silent.]

Anusuya: Our guest must be received with due honours.

Priyamvada: Stranger, you are welcome. Go, my Shakuntala; bring from the cottage a basket of fruit and flowers. This river will, in the mean time, supply water for his feet. [Looking at the water-pots.]

King Dushyant: Holy maid, the gentleness of thy speech does me sufficient honour.

Anusuya: Sit down awhile on this bank of earth, spread with the leaves of Septaperna: the shade is refreshing, and our lord must want repose after his journey.

King Dushyant: You too must all be fatigued by your hospitable attentions; rest yourselves, therefore, with me.

Priyamvada: [Aside to Shakuntala] Come, let us all be seated: our guest is contented with our reception of him. [They all seat themselves.]

Shakuntala: [Aside.] At the sight of this youth I feel an emotion scarce consistent with a grove devoted to piety.

King Dushyant: [Gazing at them alternately.] How well your friendship agrees, holy damsels, with the charming equality of your ages, and of your beauties!

Priyamvada: [Aside to Anusuya.] Who can this be, my Anusuya? The union of delicacy with robustness in his form, and of sweetness with dignity in his discourse, indicate a character fit for ample dominion.

Anusuya: [Aside to Priyamvada.] I too have been admiring him. I must ask him a few questions. –[Aloud.] Your sweet speech, Sir, gives me confidence. What imperial family is embellished by our noble guest? What is his native country? Surely it must be afflicted by his absence from it. What, I pray, could induce you to humiliate that exalted form of yours by visiting a forest peopled only by simple anchorites?

Shakuntala: [Aside.] Perplex not thyself, O my heart! let the faithful Anusuúya direct with her counsel the thoughts which rise in thee.

King Dushyant: [Aside.] How shall I reveal, or how shall I disguise myself? –[Musing.] –Be it so. [Aloud to Anusuúya.] Excellent lady, I am a student of the Véda, dwelling in the city of our king, descended from Puru; and, being occupied in the discharge of religious and moral duties, am come hither to behold the sanctuary of virtue.

Anusuya: Holy men, employed like you, are our lords and masters. [Shakuntala looks modest, yet with affection; while her companions gaze alternately at her and at the king.]

Anusuya: [Aside to Shakuntala] Oh! if our venerable father were present–

Shakuntala: What if he were?

Anusuya: He would entertain our guest with a variety of refreshments.

Shakuntala: [Pretending displeasure.]Go too; you had some other idea in your head; I will not listen to you. [She sits apart.]

King Dushyant: [Aside to Anusúuya and Priyamvada] In my turn, holy damsels, allow me to ask one question concerning your lovely friend.

Both. The request, Sir, does us honour.

King Dushyant: The sage Kanva, I know, is ever intent upon the great Being; and must have declined all earthly connections. How then can this damsel be, as it is said, his daughter?

Anusuya: Let our lord hear. There is, in the family of Cusa, a pious prince of extensive power, eminent in devotion and in arms.

King Dushyant: You speak, no doubt, of Kausika, the sage and monarch.

Anusuya: Know, Sir, that he is in truth her father; while Canna bears that reverend name, because he brought her up, since she was left an infant.

King Dushyant: Left? The word excites my curiosity; and raises in me a desire of knowing her whole story.

Anusuya: You shall hear it, Sir, in few words. –When that sage king had begun to gather the fruits of his austere devotion, the gods of Swarga (heaven) became apprehensive of his increasing power, and sent the nymph Ménacà (Menaka) to frustrate, by her allurements, the full effect of his austerities.

King Dushyant: Is a mortal's austerity (piety) so tremendous to the inferior deities? What was the event?

Anusuya: In the bloom of the vernal season, Causica, beholding the beauty of the celestial nymph, and wasted (overpowered) by the gale of desire. –[She stops and looks modest.]

King Dushyant: I now see the whole. Shakuntala then is the daughter of a king, by a nymph of the lower heaven.

Anusuya: Even so.

King Dushyant: [Aside.] The desire of my heart is gratified. –[Aloud.] How, indeed, could her transcendent beauty be the portion of mortal birth? Yon light, that sparkles with tremulous beams, proceeds not from a terrestrial cavern. [Sacontalá fits modestly, with her eyes on the ground.]

King Dushyant: [Again aside.] Happy man that I am! Now has my fancy an ample range. Yet, having heard the pleasantry of her companions on the subject of her nuptials, I am divided with anxious doubt, whether she be not wholly destined for a religious life.

Priyamvada: [Smiling, and looking first at Shakuntala, then at the king.] Our lord seems desirous of asking other questions.

[Shakuntala rebukes Priyamvada with her hand.]

King Dushyant: You know my very heart. I am, indeed, eager to learn the whole of this charmer's life; and must put one question more.

Priyamvada: Why should you muse on it so long? –[Aside.] One would think this religious man was forbidden by his vows to court a pretty woman.

King Dushyant: This I ask. Is the strict rule of a hermit so far to be observed by Kanva, that he cannot dispose of his daughter in marriage, but must check the natural impulse of juvenile love? Can she (oh preposterous fate!) be destined to reside for life among her favourite antelopes, the black lustre of whose eyes is far surpassed by hers?

Priyamvada. Hitherto, Sir, our friend has lived happily in this consecrated forest, the abode of her spiritual father; but it is now his intention to unite her with a bridegroom equal to herself.

King Dushyant: [Aside, with ecstasy.] Exult, oh my heart, exult. All doubt is removed; and what before thou could have dreaded as a flame, may now be approached as a gem inestimable.

Shakuntala. [Seemingly angry.] Anusúuya I will stay here no longer.

Anusuya. Why so, I pray?

Shakuntala. I will go to the holy matron Gautami, and let her know how impertinently our Priyamvada has been prattling. [She rises.]

Anusuya. It will not be decent, my love, for an inhabitant of this hallowed wood to retire before a guest has received complete honour. [Shakuntala, giving no answer to go.]

King Dushyant: [Aside.] Is she then departing? –[He rises, as if going to stop her, but check himself.] –The actions of a passionate lover are as precipitate as his mind is agitated. Thus I, whose passion impelled me to follow the hermit's daughter, am restrained by a sense of duty.

Priyamvada. [Going upto Shakuntala} My angry friend, you must not retire.

Shakuntala: [Stepping back and frowning.] What should detain me?

Priyamvada. You owe me the labour, according to our agreement, of watering two more shrubs. Pay me first, to acquit your conscience, and then depart, if you please. [Holding her.]

King Dushyant: The damsel is fatigued, I imagine, by pouring so much water on the cherished plants. Her arms, graced with palms like fresh blossoms, hang carelessly down; her bosom heaves with strong breathing; and now her dishevelled locks, from which the string has dropped, are held by one of her lovely hands. Suffer me, therefore, thus to discharge the debt. –[Giving his ring to Priyamvada Both damsels, reading the name Dushyant, inscribed on the ring, look surprised at each other.] –It is a toy unworthy of your fixed attention; but I value it as a gift from the king.

Priyamvada. Then you ought not, Sir, to part with it. Her debt is from this moment discharged on your word only. [She returns the ring.]

Anusuya. You are now released, Shakuntala, by this benevolent lord –or favoured, perhaps, by a monarch himself. To what place will you now retire?

Shakuntala: [Aside.] Must I not wonder at all this if I preserve my senses?

Priyamvada: Are not you going, Shakuntala?

Shakuntala: Am I your subject? I shall go when it pleases me.

King Dushyant: [Aside, looking at Shakuntala] Either she is affected towards me, as I am towards her, or I am distracted with joy. She mingles not her discourse with mine; yet, when I speak, she listens attentively. She commands not her actions in my presence; and her eyes are engaged on me alone.

[Behind the scenes.] Oh pious hermits, preserve the animals of this hallowed forest! The king Dushyanta is hunting in it. The dust raised by the hoofs of his horses, which pound tile pebbles ruddy as early dawn, falls like a swarm of blighting insects on the consecrated boughs which sustain your mantles of woven bark, moist with the water of the stream in which you have bathed.

King Dushyant: [Aside.] Alas! my officers, who are searching for me, have indiscreetly disturbed this holy retreat.

[Again behind the scenes.] Beware, ye hermits, of yon elephant, who comes overturning all that oppose him; now he fixes his trunk with violence on a lofty branch that obstructs his way; and now he is entangled in the twining stalks of the Vratati. How are our sacred rites interrupted! How are the protected herds dispersed! The wild elephant, alarmed at the new appearance of a car, lays our forest waste.

King Dushyant: [Aside.] How unwillingly am I offending the devout forests! Yes; I must go to them instantly.

Priyamvada: Noble stranger, we are confounded with dread of the enraged elephant. With your permission, therefore, we retire to the hermit's cottage.

Anusuya. O Shakuntala, the venerable matron will be much distressed on your account. Come quickly, that we may be all safe together.

Shakuntala: [Walking slowly.] I am stopped, alas! by a sudden pain in my side.

King Dushyant: Be not alarmed, amiable damsels. It shall be my care that no disturbance happen in your sacred groves.

Priyamvada: Excellent stranger, we were wholly unacquainted with your station, and you will forgive us, we hope, for the offence of intermitting awhile the honours due to you: but we humbly request that you will give us once more the pleasure of seeing you, though you have not now been received with perfect hospitality.

King Dushyant: You depreciate your own merits. The sight of you, sweet damsels, has sufficiently honoured me.

Shakuntala: My foot, O Anusúya is hurt by this painted blade of Kusha grass; and now my loose vest of bark is caught by a branch of the Curuvaca. Help me to disentangle myself, and support me. [She goes out, looking from time to time at Dushmanta, and supported by the damsels.]

King Dushyant: [Sighing.] They are all departed; and I too, alas! must depart. For how short a moment have I been blessed with a sight of the incomparable Shakuntala I will send my attendants to the city, and take my station at no great distance from this forest. I cannot, in truth, divert my mind from the sweet occupation of gazing on her. How, indeed, should I otherwise occupy it? My body moves onward; but my restless heart runs back to her; like a light flag borne on a staff against the wind, and fluttering in an opposite direction.[He goes out.]

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Samuel Butler

Hudibras: Part 2 - Canto II

THE ARGUMENT

The Knight and Squire, in hot dispute,
Within an ace of falling out,
Are parted with a sudden fright
Of strange alarm, and stranger sight;
With which adventuring to stickle,
They're sent away in nasty pickle.

'Tis strange how some mens' tempers suit
(Like bawd and brandy) with dispute,
That for their own opinions stand last
Only to have them claw'd and canvast;
That keep their consciences in cases,
As fiddlers do their crowds and bases,
Ne'er to be us'd, but when they're bent
To play a fit for argument;
Make true and false, unjust and just,
Of no use but to be discust;
Dispute, and set a paradox
Like a straight boot upon the stocks,
And stretch it more unmercifully
Than HELMONT, MONTAIGN, WHITE, or TULLY,
So th' ancient Stoicks, in their porch,
With fierce dispute maintain'd their church;
Beat out their brains in fight and study,
To prove that Virtue is a Body;
That Bonum is an Animal,
Made good with stout polemic brawl;
in which some hundreds on the place
Were slain outright; and many a face
Retrench'd of nose, and eyes, and beard,
To maintain what their sect averr'd;
All which the Knight and Squire, in wrath,
Had like t' have suffered for their faith,
Each striving to make good his own,
As by the sequel shall be shown.

The Sun had long since, in the lap
Of THETIS, taken out his nap,
And, like a lobster boil'd, the morn
From black to red began to turn,
When HUDIBRAS, whom thoughts and aking,
'Twixt sleeping kept all night and waking,
Began to rub his drowsy eyes,
And from his couch prepar'd to rise,
Resolving to dispatch the deed
He vow'd to do with trusty speed.
But first, with knocking loud, and bawling,
He rouz'd the Squire, in truckle lolling;
And, after many circumstances,
Which vulgar authors, in romances,
Do use to spend their time and wits on,
To make impertinent description,
They got (with much ado) to horse,
And to the Castle bent their course,
In which he to the Dame before
To suffer whipping duly swore;
Where now arriv'd, and half unharnest,
To carry on the work in earnest,
He stopp'd, and paus'd upon the sudden,
And with a serious forehead plodding,
Sprung a new scruple his head,
Which first he scratch'd, and after said -
Whether it be direct infringing
An oath, if I should wave this swingeing,
And what I've sworn to bear, forbear,
And so b' equivocation swear,
Or whether it be a lesser sin
To be forsworn than act the thing,
Are deep and subtle points, which must,
T' inform my conscience, be discust;
In which to err a tittle may
To errors infinite make way;
And therefore I desire to know
Thy judgment e'er we further go.

Quoth Ralpho, Since you do enjoin't,
I shall enlarge upon the point;
And, for my own part, do not doubt
Th' affirmative may be made out,
But first, to state the case aright,
For best advantage of our light,
And thus 'tis: Whether 't be a sin
To claw and curry your own skin,
Greater or less, than to forbear,
And that you are forsworn, forswear.
But first, o' th' first: The inward man,
And outward, like a clan and clan,
Have always been at daggers-drawing,
And one another clapper-clawing.
Not that they really cuff, or fence,
But in a Spiritual Mystick sense;
Which to mistake, and make 'em squabble
In literal fray's abominable.
'Tis heathenish, in frequent use
With Pagans and apostate Jews,
To offer sacrifice of bridewells,
Like modern Indians to their idols;
And mongrel Christians of our times,
That expiate less with greater crimes,
And call the foul abomination,
Contrition and mortification.
Is 't not enough we're bruis'd and kicked
With sinful members of the wicked,
Our vessels, that are sanctify'd,
Prophan'd and curry'd back and side,
But we must claw ourselves with shameful
And heathen stripes, by their example;
Which (were there nothing to forbid it)
Is impious because they did it;
This, therefore, may be justly reckon'd
A heinous sin. Now to the second
That Saints may claim a dispensation
To swear and forswear, on occasion,
I doubt not but it will appear
With pregnant light: the point is clear.
Oaths are but words, and words but wind;
Too feeble implements to bind;
And hold with deeds proportion so
As shadows to a substance do.
Then when they strive for place, 'tis fit
The weaker vessel should submit.
Although your Church be opposite
To ours as Black Friars are to White,
In rule and order, yet I grant,
You are a Reformado Saint;
And what the Saints do claim as due,
You may pretend a title to:
But Saints whom oaths and vows oblige,
Know little of their privilege;
Further (I mean) than carrying on
Some self-advantage of their own:
For if the Dev'l, to serve his turn,
Can tell troth, why the Saints should scorn,
When it serves theirs, to swear and lye;
I think there's little reason why:
Else h' has a greater pow'r than they,
Which 't were impiety to say.
W' are not commanded to forbear
Indefinitely at all to swear;
But to swear idly, and in vain,
Without self-interest or gain
For breaking of an oath, and lying,
Is but a kind of self-denying;
A Saint-like virtue: and from hence
Some have broke oaths by Providence
Some, to the glory of the Lord,
Perjur'd themselves, and broke their word;
And this the constant rule and practice
Of all our late Apostles acts is.
Was not the cause at first begun
With perjury, and carried on?
Was there an oath the Godly took,
But in due time and place they broke?
Did we not bring our oaths in first,
Before our plate, to have them burst,
And cast in fitter models for
The present use of Church and War?
Did not our Worthies of the House,
Before they broke the peace, break vows?
For having freed us first from both
Th' Allegiance and Supremacy Oath,
Did they not next compel the Nation
To take and break the Protestation?
To swear, and after to recant
The solemn League and Covenant?
To take th' Engagement, and disclaim it,
Enforc'd by those who first did frame it
Did they not swear, at first, to fight
For the KING'S Safety and his Right,
And after march'd to find him out,
And charg'd him home with horse and foot;
But yet still had the confidence
To swear it was in his defence
Did they not swear to live and die
With Essex, and straight laid him by?

If that were all, for some have swore
As false as they, if th' did no more,
Did they not swear to maintain Law,
In which that swearing made a flaw?
For Protestant Religion vow,
That did that vowing disallow?
For Privilege of Parliament,
In which that swearing made a rent?
And since, of all the three, not one
Is left in being, 'tis well known.
Did they not swear, in express words,
To prop and back the House of Lords,
And after turn'd out the whole House-full
Of Peers, as dang'rous and unusefull?
So CROMWELL, with deep oaths and vows,
Swore all the Commons out o' th' House;
Vow'd that the red-coats would disband,
Ay, marry wou'd they, at their command;
And troll'd them on, and swore, and swore,
Till th' army turn'd them out of door.
This tells us plainly what they thought,
That oaths and swearing go for nought,
And that by them th' were only meant
To serve for an expedient.
What was the Public Faith found out for,
But to slur men of what they fought for
The Public Faith, which ev'ry one
Is bound t' observe, yet kept by none;
And if that go for nothing, why
Should Private Faith have such a tye?
Oaths were not purpos'd more than law,
To keep the good and just in awe,
But to confine the bad and sinful,
Like moral cattle, in a pinfold.
A Saint's of th' Heav'nly Realm a Peer;
And as no Peer is bound to swear,
But on the Gospel of his Honour,
Of which he may dispose as owner,
It follows, though the thing be forgery,
And false th' affirm, it is no perjury,
But a mere ceremony, and a breach
Of nothing, but a form of speech;
And goes for no more when 'tis took,
Than mere saluting of the book.
Suppose the Scriptures are of force,
They're but commissions of course,
And Saints have freedom to digress,
And vary from 'em, as they please;
Or mis-interpret them, by private
Instructions, to all aims they drive at.
Then why should we ourselves abridge
And curtail our own privilege?
Quakers (that, like to lanthorns, bear
Their light within 'em) will not swear
Their gospel is an accidence,
By which they construe conscience,
And hold no sin so deeply red,
As that of breaking Priscian's head;
(The head and founder of their order,)
That stirring Hat's held worse than murder.
These thinking th' are oblig'd to troth
In swearing, will not take an oath
Like mules, who, if th' have not their will
To keep their own pace, stand stock-still:
But they are weak, and little know
What free-born consciences may do.
'Tis the temptation of the Devil
That makes all human actions evil
For Saints may do the same things by
The Spirit, in sincerity,
Which other men are tempted to,
And at the Devil's instance do
And yet the actions be contrary,
Just as the Saints and Wicked vary.
For as on land there is no beast,
But in some fish at sea's exprest,
So in the Wicked there's no Vice,
Of which the Saints have not a spice;
And yet that thing that's pious in
The one, in th' other is a sin.
Is't not ridiculous, and nonsense,
A Saint should be a slave to conscience,
That ought to be above such fancies,
As far as above ordinances?
She's of the wicked, as I guess,
B' her looks, her language, and her dress:
And though, like constables, we search,
For false wares, one another's Church,
Yet all of us hold this for true,
No Faith is to the wicked due;
For truth is precious and divine;
Too rich a pearl for carnal swine,

Quoth HUDIBRAS, All this is true;
Yet 'tis not fit that all men knew,
Those mysteries and revelations,
And therefore topical evasions
Of subtle turns and shifts of sense,
Serve best with th' wicked for pretence,
Such as the learned Jesuits use,
And Presbyterians for excuse
Against the Protestants, when th' happen
To find their Churches taken napping:
As thus: A breach of oath is duple,
And either way admits a scruple,
And may be, ex parte of the maker
More criminal than th' injur'd taker;
For he that strains too far a vow,
Will break it, like an o'er-bent bow:
And he that made, and forc'd it, broke it,
Not he that for convenience took it.
A broken oath is, quatenus oath,
As sound t' all purposes of troth,
As broken laws are ne'er the worse;
Nay, till th' are broken have no force.
What's justice to a man, or laws,
That never comes within their claws
They have no pow'r, but to admonish:
Cannot controul, coerce, or punish,
Until they're broken, and then touch
Those only that do make 'em such.
Beside, no engagement is allow'd
By men in prison made for good;
For when they're set at liberty,
They're from th' engagement too set free.
The rabbins write, when any Jew
Did make to God, or man, a vow,
Which afterward he found untoward,
And stubborn to be kept, or too hard,
Any three other Jews o' th' nation,
Might free him from the obligation
And have not two saints pow'r to use
A greater privilege than three Jews?
The court of conscience, which in man
Should be supreme and sovereign,
Is't fit should be subordinate
To ev'ry petty court i' the state,
And have less power than the lesser,
To deal with perjury at pleasure?
Have its proceedings disallow'd, or
Allow'd, at fancy of Pye-Powder?
Tell all it does, or does not know,
For swearing ex officio?
Be forc'd t' impeach a broken hedge,
And pigs unring'd at Vis. Franc. Pledge?
Discover thieves, and bawds, recusants,
Priests, witches, eves-droppers, and nuisance:
Tell who did play at games unlawful,
And who fill'd pots of ale but half-full
And have no pow'r at all, nor shift,
To help itself at a dead lift
Why should not conscience have vacation
As well as other courts o' th' nation
Have equal power to adjourn,
Appoint appearance and return;
And make as nice distinction serve
To split a case, as those that carve,
Invoking cuckolds' names, hit joints;
Why should not tricks as slight do points
Is not th' High-Court of Justice sworn
To judge that law that serves their turn,
Make their own jealousies high-treason,
And fix 'm whomsoe'er they please on?
Cannot the learned counsel there
Make laws in any shape appear?
Mould 'em as witches do their clay,
When they make pictures to destroy
And vex 'em into any form
That fits their purpose to do harm?
Rack 'em until they do confess,
Impeach of treason whom they please,
And most perfidiously condemn
Those that engag'd their lives for them?
And yet do nothing in their own sense,
But what they ought by oath and conscience?
Can they not juggle, and, with slight
Conveyance, play with wrong and right;
And sell their blasts of wind as dear
As Lapland witches bottled air?
Will not fear, favour, bribe and grudge
The same case sev'ral ways adjudge?
As seamen, with the self-same gale,
Will sev'ral different courses sail?
As when the sea breaks o'er its bounds,
And overflows the level grounds,
Those banks and dams, that, like a screen,
Did keep it out, now keep it in;
So when tyrannic usurpation
Invades the freedom of a nation,
The laws o' th' land, that were intended
To keep it out, are made defend it.
Does not in chanc'ry ev'ry man swear
What makes best for him in his answer?
Is not the winding up witnesses
And nicking more than half the bus'ness?
For witnesses, like watches, go
Just as they're set, too fast or slow;
And where in conscience they're strait-lac'd,
'Tis ten to one that side is cast.
Do not your juries give their verdict
As if they felt the cause, not heard it?
And as they please, make matter of fact
Run all on one side, as they're pack't?
Nature has made man's breast no windores,
To publish what he does within doors,
Nor what dark secrets there inhabit,
Unless his own rash folly blab it.
If oaths can do a man no good
In his own bus'ness, why they shou'd
In other matters do him hurt,
I think there's little reason for't.
He that imposes an oath, makes it,
Not he that for convenience takes it:
Then how can any man be said
To break an oath he never made?
These reasons may, perhaps, look oddly
To th' Wicked, though th' evince the Godly;
But if they will not serve to clear
My honour, I am ne'er the near.
Honour is like that glassy bubble
That finds philosophers such trouble,
Whose least part crack't, the whole does fly,
And wits are crack'd to find out why.

Quoth RALPHO, Honour's but a word
To swear by only in a Lord:
In other men 'tis but a huff,
To vapour with instead of proof;
That, like a wen, looks big and swells,
Is senseless, and just nothing else.

Let it (quoth he) be what it will,
It has the world's opinion still.
But as men are not wise that run
The slightest hazard they may shun,
There may a medium be found out
To clear to all the world the doubt;
And that is, if a man may do't,
By proxy whipt, or substitute.

Though nice and dark the point appear,
(Quoth RALPH) it may hold up and clear.
That sinners may supply the place
Of suff'ring Saints is a plain case.
Justice gives sentence many times
On one man for another's crimes.

Our brethren of NEW ENGLAND use
Choice malefactors to excuse,
And hang the guiltless in their stead,
Of whom the Churches have less need;
As lately 't happen'd: In a town
There liv'd a cobler, and but one,
That out of doctrine could cut use,
And mend men's lives as well as shoes,
This precious brother having slain,
In time of peace, an Indian,
(Not out of malice, but mere zeal,
Because he was an Infidel,)
The mighty TOTTIPOTTYMOY
Sent to our elders an envoy,
Complaining sorely of the breach
Of league held forth by brother Patch
Against the articles in force
Between both Churches, his and ours
For which he crav'd the Saints to render
Into his hands or hang th' offender
But they maturely having weigh'd,
They had no more but him o' th' trade,
(A man that serv'd them in a double
Capacity, to teach and cobble,)
Resolv'd to spare him; yet, to do
The Indian Hoghgan Moghgan too
Impartial justice, in his stead did
Hang an old Weaver, that was bed-rid.
Then wherefore way not you be skipp'd,
And in your room another whipp'd?
For all Philosophers, but the Sceptick,
Hold whipping may be sympathetick.

It is enough, quoth HUDIBRAS,
Thou hast resolv'd and clear'd the case
And canst, in conscience, not refuse
From thy own doctrine to raise use.
I know thou wilt not (for my sake)
Be tender-conscienc'd of thy back.
Then strip thee off thy carnal jerking,
And give thy outward-fellow a ferking;
For when thy vessel is new hoop'd,
All leaks of sinning will be stopp'd.

Quoth RALPHO, You mistake the matter;
For in all scruples of this nature,
No man includes himself, nor turns
The point upon his own concerns.
As no man of his own self catches
The itch, or amorous French aches
So no man does himself convince,
By his own doctrine, of his sins
And though all cry down self, none means
His ownself in a literal sense.
Beside, it is not only foppish,
But vile, idolatrous and Popish,
For one man, out of his own skin,
To ferk and whip another's sin;
As pedants out of school-boys' breeches
Do claw and curry their own itches.
But in this case it is prophane,
And sinful too, because in vain;
For we must take our oaths upon it,
You did the deed, when I have done it.

Quoth HUDIBRAS, That's answer'd soon
Give us the whip, we'll lay it on.

Quoth RALPHO, That we may swear true,
'Twere properer that I whipp'd you
For when with your consent 'tis done,
The act is really your own.

Quoth HUDIBRAS, It is in vain
(I see) to argue 'gainst the grain;
Or, like the stars, incline men to
What they're averse themselves to do:
For when disputes are weary'd out,
'Tis interest still resolves the doubt
But since no reason can confute ye,
I'll try to force you to your duty
For so it is, howe'er you mince it;
As ere we part, I shall evince it
And curry (if you stand out) whether
You will or no, your stubborn leather.
Canst thou refuse to hear thy part
I' th' publick work, base as thou art?
To higgle thus for a few blows,
To gain thy Knight an op'lent spouse
Whose wealth his bowels yearn to purchase,
Merely for th' interest of the Churches;
And when he has it in his claws,
Will not be hide-bound to the Cause?
Nor shalt thou find him a Curmudgin,
If thou dispatch it without grudging.
If not, resolve, before we go,
That you and I must pull a crow.

Y' had best (quoth RALPHO) as the ancients
Say wisely, Have a care o' th' main chance,
And look before you ere you leap;
For as you sow, y' are like to reap:
And were y' as good as George-a-Green,
I shall make bold to turn agen
Nor am I doubtful of the issue
In a just quarrel, and mine is so.
Is't fitting for a man of honour
To whip the Saints, like Bishop Bonner?
A Knight t' usurp the beadle's office,
For which y' are like to raise brave trophies.
But I advise you (not for fear,
But for your own sake) to forbear;
And for the Churches, which may chance,
From hence, to spring a variance;
And raise among themselves new scruples,
Whom common danger hardly couples.
Remember how, in arms and politicks,
We still have worsted all your holy tricks;
Trepann'd your party with intrigue,
And took your grandees down a peg;
New modell'd th' army, and cashier'd
All that to legion SMEC adher'd;
Made a mere utensil o' your Church,
And after left it in the lurch
A scaffold to build up our own,
And, when w' had done with't, pull'd it down
Capoch'd your Rabbins of the Synod,
And snap'd their Canons with a why-not;
(Grave Synod Men, that were rever'd
For solid face and depth of beard);
Their classic model prov'd a maggot,
Their direct'ry an Indian Pagod;
And drown'd their discipline like a kitten,
On which they'd been so long a sitting;
Decry'd it as a holy cheat,
Grown out of date, and obsolete;
And all the Saints of the first grass
As casting foals of Balaam's ass.

At this the Knight grew high in chafe,
And staring furiously on RALPH,
He trembled, and look'd pale with ire
Like ashes first, then red as fire.
Have I (quoth he) been ta'en in fight,
And for so many moons lain by't,
And, when all other means did fail,
Have been exchang'd for tubs of ale?
Not but they thought me worth a ransome
Much more consid'rable and handsome,
But for their own sakes, and for fear
They were not safe when I was there
Now to be baffled by a scoundrel,
An upstart sect'ry, and a mungrel;
Such as breed out of peccant humours,
Of our own Church, like wens or tumours,
And, like a maggot in a sore,
Would that which gave it life devour;
It never shall be done or said;
With that he seiz'd upon his blade;
And RALPHO too, as quick and bold,
Upon his basket-hilt laid hold,
With equal readiness prcpar'd
To draw, and stand upon his guard;
When both were parted on the sudden,
With hideous clamour, and a loud one
As if all sorts of noise had been
Contracted into one loud din;
Or that some member to be chosen,
Had got the odds above a thousand,
And by the greatness of its noise,
Prov'd fittest for his country's choice.
This strange surprisal put the Knight
And wrathful Squire into a fright;
And though they stood prepar'd, with fatal
Impetuous rancour to join battel,
Both thought it was the wisest course
To wave the fight and mount to horse,
And to secure by swift retreating,
Themselves from danger of worse beating.
Yet neither of them would disparage,
By utt'ring of his mind, his courage,
Which made them stoutly keep their ground,
With horror and disdain wind-bound.

And now the cause of all their fear
By slow degrees approach'd so near,
They might distinguish different noise
Of horns, and pans, and dogs, and boys,
And kettle-drums, whose sullen dub
Sounds like the hooping of a tub.
But when the sight appear'd in view,
They found it was an antique show;
A triumph, that, for pomp and state,
Did proudest Romans emulate:
For as the aldermen of Rome
Their foes at training overcome,
And not enlarging territory,
(As some mistaken write in Story,)
Being mounted, in their best array,
Upon a carr, and who but they!
And follow'd with a world of tall-lads,
That merry ditties troll'd, and ballads,
Did ride with many a good-morrow,
Crying, Hey for our Town! through the Borough
So when this triumph drew so nigh
They might particulars descry,
They never saw two things so pat,
In all respects, as this and that.
First, he that led the cavalcade,
Wore a sow-gelder's flagellate,
On which he blew as strong a levet
As well-fee'd lawyer on his breviate,
When over one another's heads
They charge (three ranks at once) like Swedes,
Next pans and kettle, of all keys,
From trebles down to double base;
And after them, upon a nag,
That might pass for a forehand stag,
A cornet rode, and on his staff
A smock display'd did proudly wave.
Then bagpipes of the loudest drones,
With snuffling broken-winded tones,
Whose blasts of air, in pockets shut
Sound filthier than from the gut,
And make a viler noise than swine
In windy weather, when they whine.
Next one upon a pair of panniers,
Full fraught with that which for good manners
Shall here be nameless, mixt with grains,
Which he dispens'd among the swains,
And busily upon the crowd
At random round about bestow'd.
Then, mounted on a horned horse,
One bore a gauntlet and gilt spurs,
Ty'd to the pummel of a long sword
He held reverst, the point turn'd downward,
Next after, on a raw-bon'd steed,
The conqueror's standard-bearer rid,
And bore aloft before the champion
A petticoat display'd, and rampant
Near whom the Amazon triumphant
Bestrid her beast, and on the rump on't
Sat face to tail, and bum to bum,
The warrior whilom overcome;
Arm'd with a spindle and a distaff,
Which, as he rode, she made him twist off;
And when he loiter'd, o'er her shoulder
Chastis'd the reformado soldier.
Before the dame, and round about,
March'd whifflers and staffiers on foot,
With lackies, grooms, valets, and pages,
In fit and proper equipages;
Of whom some torches bore, some links,
Before the proud virago minx,
That was both Madam and a Don,
Like NERO'S SPORUS, or POPE JOAN;
And at fit periods the whole rout
Set up their throats with clamorous shout.
The Knight, transported, and the Squire,
Put up their weapons, and their ire;
And HUDIBRAS, who us'd to ponder
On such sights with judicious wonder,
Could hold no longer to impart
His animadversions, for his heart.

Quoth he, In all my life, till now,
I ne'er saw so prophane a show.
It is a Paganish invention, -
Which heathen writers often mention:
And he who made it had read GOODWIN,
Or Ross, or CAELIUS RHODOGINE,
With all the Grecians, SPEEDS and STOWS,
That best describe those ancient shows;
And has observ'd all fit decorums
We find describ'd by old historians:
For as the Roman conqueror,
That put an end to foreign war,
Ent'ring the town in triumph for it,
Bore a slave with him, in his chariot;
So this insulting female brave,
Carries behind her here a slave:
And as the ancients long ago,
When they in field defy'd the foe,
Hung out their mantles della guerre,
So her proud standard-bearer here
Waves on his spear, in dreadful manner,
A Tyrian-petticoat for banner:
Next links and torches, heretofore
Still borne before the emperor.
And as, in antique triumphs, eggs
Were borne for mystical intrigues,
There's one with truncheon, like a ladle,
That carries eggs too, fresh or addle;
And still at random, as he goes,
Among the rabble-rout bestows.

Quoth Ralpho, You mistake the matter;
For all th' antiquity you smatter,
Is but a riding, us'd of course
When the grey mare's the better horse;
When o'er the breeches greedy women
Fight to extend their vast dominion;
And in the cause impatient Grizel
Has drubb'd her Husband with bull's pizzle,
And brought him under Covert-Baron,
To turn her vassal with a murrain;
When wives their sexes shift, like hares,
And ride their husbands like night-mares,
And they in mortal battle vanquish'd,
Are of their charter disenfranchis'd
And by the right of war, like gills,
Condemn'd to distaff, horns, and wheels:
For when men by their wives are cow'd,
Their horns of course are understood

Quoth HUDIBRAS thou still giv'st sentence
Impertinently, and against sense.
Tis not the least disparagement
To be defeated by th' event,
Nor to be beaten by main force;
That does not make a man the worse,
Although his shoulders with battoon
Be claw'd and cudgel'd to some tune.
A taylor's 'prentice has no hard
Measure that's bang'd with a true yard:
But to turn tail, or run away,
And without blows give up the day,
Or to surrender ere th' assault,
That's no man's fortune, but his fault,
And renders men of honour less
Than all th' adversity of success;
And only unto such this shew
Of horns and petticoats is due.
There is a lesser profanation,
Like that the Romans call'd ovation:
For as ovation was allow'd
For conquest purchas'd without blood,
So men decree these lesser shows
For victory gotten without blows,
By dint of sharp hard words, which some
Give battle with, and overcome.
These mounted in a chair-curule,
Which moderns call a cucking-stool,
March proudly to the river's side,
And o'er the waves in triumph ride;
Like Dukes of VENICE, who are said
The Adriatick Sea to wed;
And have a gentler wife than those
For whom the State decrees those shows,
But both are heathenish, and come
From th' whores of Babylon and Rome;
And by the Saints should be withstood,
As Antichristian and lewd;
And as such, should now contribute
Our utmost struggling to prohibit.

This said, they both advanc'd, and rode
A dog-trot through the bawling crowd,
T'attack the leader, and still prest,
Till they approach'd him breast to breast
Then HUDIBRAS, with face and hand,
Made signs for silence; which obtain'd,
What means (quoth he) this Devil's precession
With men of orthodox profession?
'Tis ethnic and idolatrous,
From heathenism deriv'd to us,
Does not the Whore of Babylon ride
Upon her horned beast astride
Like this proud dame, who either is
A type of her, or she of this?
Are things of superstitious function
Fit to be us'd in Gospel Sun-shine?
It is an Antichristian opera,
Much us'd in midnight times of Popery,
Of running after self-inventions
Of wicked and profane intentions;
To scandalize that sex for scolding,
To whom the Saints are so beholden.
Women, who were our first Apostles
Without whose aid we had been lost else;
Women, that left no stone unturn'd
In which the Cause might he concern'd;
Brought in their children's' spoons and whistles,
To purchase swords, carbines, and pistols;
Their husbands, cullies, and sweet-hearts,
To take the Saints and Churches' parts;
Drew several gifted Brethren in,
That for the Bishops would have been,
And fix'd 'em constant to the party,
With motives powerful and hearty;
Their husbands robb'd, and made hard shifts
T'administer unto their gifts
All they cou'd rap, and rend, and pilfer,
To scraps and ends of gold and silver;
Rubb'd down the Teachers, tir'd and spent
With holding forth for Parliament,
Pamper'd and edify'd their zeal
With marrow-puddings many a meal;
And led them, with store of meat,
On controverted points to eat;
And cram'd 'em, till their guts did ake,
With cawdle, custard, and plum-cake:
What have they done, or what left undone,
That might advance the Cause at London?
March'd rank and file, with drum and ensign,
T'intrench the city for defence in
Rais'd rampiers with their own soft hands,
To put the enemy to stands;
From ladies down to oyster-wenches,
Labour'd like pioneers in trenches;
Fell to their pick-axes, and tools,
And help'd the men to dig like moles?
Have not the handmaids of the city
Chose of their members a committee,
For raising of a common purse
Out of their wages to raise horse?
And do they not as triers sit,
To judge what officers are fit
Have they -? At that an egg let fly,
Hit him directly o'er the eye,
And running down his cheek, besmear'd,
With orange tawny slime, his beard;
But beard and slime being of one hue,
The wound the less appear'd in view.
Then he that on the panniers rode,
Let fly on th' other side a load,
And, quickly charg'd again, gave fully
In RALPHO'S face another volley.
The Knight was startled with the smell,
And for his sword began to feel;
And RALPHO, smother'd with the stink,
Grasp'd his; when one, that bore a link,
O' th' sudden clapp'd his flaming cudgel,
Like linstock, to the horse's touch-hole;
And straight another, with his flambeaux,
Gave RALPHO'S o'er the eye a damn'd blow.
The beasts began to kick and fling,
And forc'd the rout to make a ring,
Through which they quickly broke their way,
And brought them off from further fray;
And though disorder'd in retreat,
Each of them stoutly kept his seat
For quitting both their swords and reins,
They grasp'd with all their strength the manes,
And, to avoid the foe's pursuit,
With spurring put their cattle to't;
And till all four were out of wind,
And danger too, ne'er look'd behind.
After th' had paus'd a while, supplying
Their spirits, spent with fight and flying,
And HUDIBRAS recruited force
Of lungs, for action or discourse,

Quoth he, That man is sure to lose
That fouls his hands with dirty foes:
For where no honour's to be gain'd,
'Tis thrown away in b'ing maintain'd.
'Twas ill for us we had to do
With so dishonourable a foe:
For though the law of arms doth bar
The use of venom'd shot in war,
Yet, by the nauseous smell, and noisome,
Their case-shot savours strong of poison;
And doubtless have been chew'd with teeth
Of some that had a stinking breath;
Else, when we put it to the push,
They have not giv'n us such a brush.
But as those pultroons, that fling dirt,
Do but defile, but cannot hurt,
So all the honour they have won,
Or we have lost, is much as one,
'Twas well we made so resolute
And brave retreat without pursuit;
For if we had not, we had sped
Much worse, to be in triumph led;
Than which the ancients held no state
Of man's life more unfortunate.
But if this bold adventure e'er
Do chance to reach the widow's ear,
It may, b'ing destin'd to assert
Her sex's honour, reach her heart:
And as such homely treats (they say)
Portend good fortune, so this may.
VESPASIAN being daub'd with dirt,
Was destin'd to the empire for't;
And from a Scavenger did come
To be a mighty Prince in Rome
And why may not this foul address
Presage in love the same success
Then let us straight, to cleanse our wounds,
Advance in quest of nearest ponds,
And after (as we first design'd)
Swear I've perform'd what she enjoin'd.

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If we had this back, and in full measure; if society were infused by it, through and through, and men lived its life, and in its life, philosophy would take care of itself and the nature of our institutions would not matter.

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Arthur Eddington

We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origins. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprint. And lo It is our own.

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Arthur Eddington

We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origins. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprint. And lo! It is our own.

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A God That Has No Heart

we have made
blood sacrifices to oil,
till we are covered
by the filth and the sludge
of our own greed.
leaving our children,
and their children,
suffocating at the altar
of a god that has no heart.
we have eaten their flesh,
and drank their blood!
we, the guilty,
cannot remain blind!

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Forlorn Hope

Hope is meant to lift darkness,
Point to some future goodness,
Forestall a danger that is looming,
Open a window on a new beginning.
We must keep its flame burning
In a selfish world past caring.

We see signs of warning,
Pointers to global warming,
But we are told not to worry,
And our fears we must bury,
For it’s simply a matter of less fuel-burning.
And all the while, our hope consuming.

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Trouble within

Greed and selfishness,
Trademark of a nation
Misery and hopelessness,
burden of its people

Yesterday oppressed,
Today’s oppressors

Who shall we blame,
If no our own self?
Who shall we blame,
If not our own people?

Paradigm of failure,
Archetype of frustration
Cited as example
Of everything gone wrong

No value,
No respect

Who shall we blame,
If not our own self?
Who shall we blame,
If not our own people?

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