Our demands are simple, normal, and therefore they are difficult to satisfy. All we ask is that an actor on the stage live in accordance with natural laws.
OUR DAYS ARE SONGS COMPOSED BY GOD! = By Tom Zart Most Published Poet On The Web
OUR DAYS ARE SONGS COMPOSED BY GOD!
Life's a book written through
Where the pages are the years.
There's good, evil, false and true
With laughter, sweat, and tears.
Our days are songs composed by God
As we set them to music with pleasure.
His cup of life is for us to drink
Though, He, decides the measure.
Hurried and worried, dawn till dusk
There's no time for a curtain call.
We burn our candles from both ends
And we're lucky to be alive at all.
Cards are shuffled and hands are dealt
For all to place their bets.
Youthful blunders, adulthood struggles
And old age with its regrets.
It matters not, how long we live
But more, how well we play our part.
For the road to Heaven is always near
As long as there's truth in our heart.
EYES OF LOVE
A mind may see a thousand eyes
Though the heart yearns for two
When the eyes we love have up and gone
To the arms of someone new.
Eyes that twinkle, I distrust
For they are the distant stars.
Eyes in love have a steady glow
Like Venus, the Moon or Mars.
Eyes of love, like planets at night
Use borrowed light to shine.
Eyes are the living lenses
To the camera of our mind.
Eyes tend to believe themselves
Like the blind love of mothers.
Eyes speak without words
To the hearts and souls of others.
No rope or cable can hold so tight
What love can do with twine.
No kiss can taste so bittersweet
As the one which captures our mind.
The first sign of love is the last of wisdom
As eager hearts fulfill desire.
Love is just a staple of life
Though heaven sparks the fire.
Heaven knows no rage like love
Once to hatred it has turned.
How wise are we who are such fools
Who forget the lessons we've learned.
Love, indeed, descends from Heaven
Like a shooting star across the sky.
Love sometimes stirs the dust
Till tears fall free from the eye.
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By God’s Poet
Most Published Poet
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The angel in heaven
God today you took away a much loved person.
Who we all loved so much.
Our lives have changed forever.
And this pain we have to bear.
All I ask is that you take good care of him.
And help us to understand.
Why he was called so soon.
I know that he'll be with me every step of the way.
And at times things may get tough
And I wont know what to say.
Thats when I think of you.
Grandad I no myou would of wanted me to be strong.
I try even though it all seems wrong.
As I prepared to say the final good bye.
The tears began to flow.
And the healing process slow.
Only becuase I lost someone who really cared.
As I look for you in places where you usually were.
I begin to realise you not very far.
You still live on in my heart.
Your shoes no one can fill.
Your chair remains empty not to be filled again.
As time goes by I manage a smile.
As you left so many memories that goes on for miles.
The pain is less and less.
But you I do still miss.
Nothing is going to bliss
Our Hearts Are Woven Together
Our hearts are woven together
Not by human strands
But from the mouth of God
Where all plans begin
It is His great pleasure
To bring you two together
With words of love and treasure
Gold strands through needles’ eye so fine
That it cuts through the edge of time
Sown with thread so rare
Love’s true cost sown in without care
Hearts bound for glee and stormy seas
With God’s sail upon our ship
With master Captain at its helm
Will guide us through this earthly realm
At last on distance shores we land
Together we join Him in the Promised Land
To thank Him for a job well done
For our two hearts sown as one
The Parson's Tale
By that the Manciple his tale had ended,
The sunne from the south line was descended
So lowe, that it was not to my sight
Degrees nine-and-twenty as in height.
Four of the clock it was then, as I guess,
For eleven foot, a little more or less,
My shadow was at thilke time, as there,
Of such feet as my lengthe parted were
In six feet equal of proportion.
Therewith the moone's exaltation,* *rising
*In meane* Libra, gan alway ascend, *in the middle of*
As we were ent'ring at a thorpe's* end. *village's
For which our Host, as he was wont to gie,* *govern
As in this case, our jolly company,
Said in this wise; 'Lordings every one,
Now lacketh us no more tales than one.
Fulfill'd is my sentence and my decree;
I trow that we have heard of each degree.* from each class or rank
Almost fulfilled is mine ordinance; in the company
I pray to God so give him right good chance
That telleth us this tale lustily.
Sir Priest,' quoth he, 'art thou a vicary?* *vicar
Or art thou a Parson? say sooth by thy fay.* *faith
Be what thou be, breake thou not our play;
For every man, save thou, hath told his tale.
Unbuckle, and shew us what is in thy mail.* *wallet
For truely me thinketh by thy cheer
Thou shouldest knit up well a great mattere.
Tell us a fable anon, for cocke's bones.'
This Parson him answered all at ones;
'Thou gettest fable none y-told for me,
For Paul, that writeth unto Timothy,
Reproveth them that *weive soothfastness,* *forsake truth*
And telle fables, and such wretchedness.
Why should I sowe draff* out of my fist, *chaff, refuse
When I may sowe wheat, if that me list?
For which I say, if that you list to hear
Morality and virtuous mattere,
And then that ye will give me audience,
I would full fain at Christe's reverence
Do you pleasance lawful, as I can.
But, truste well, I am a southern man,
I cannot gest,* rom, ram, ruf, by my letter; *relate stories
And, God wot, rhyme hold I but little better.
And therefore if you list, I will not glose,* *mince matters
I will you tell a little tale in prose,
To knit up all this feast, and make an end.
And Jesus for his grace wit me send
To shewe you the way, in this voyage,
Of thilke perfect glorious pilgrimage,
That hight Jerusalem celestial.
And if ye vouchesafe, anon I shall
Begin upon my tale, for which I pray
Tell your advice,* I can no better say. *opinion
But natheless this meditation
I put it aye under correction
Of clerkes,* for I am not textuel; *scholars
I take but the sentence,* trust me well. *meaning, sense
Therefore I make a protestation,
That I will stande to correction.'
Upon this word we have assented soon;
For, as us seemed, it was *for to do'n,* *a thing worth doing*
To enden in some virtuous sentence,* *discourse
And for to give him space and audience;
And bade our Host he shoulde to him say
That alle we to tell his tale him pray.
Our Hoste had. the wordes for us all:
'Sir Priest,' quoth he, 'now faire you befall;
Say what you list, and we shall gladly hear.'
And with that word he said in this mannere;
'Telle,' quoth he, 'your meditatioun,
But hasten you, the sunne will adown.
Be fructuous,* and that in little space; *fruitful; profitable
And to do well God sende you his grace
[The Parson begins his 'little treatise' -(which, if given at
length, would extend to about thirty of these pages, and which
cannot by any stretch of courtesy or fancy be said to merit the
title of a 'Tale') in these words: -]
Our sweet Lord God of Heaven, that no man will perish, but
will that we come all to the knowledge of him, and to the
blissful life that is perdurable [everlasting], admonishes us by
the prophet Jeremiah, that saith in this wise: 'Stand upon the
ways, and see and ask of old paths, that is to say, of old
sentences, which is the good way, and walk in that way, and ye
shall find refreshing for your souls,' &c. Many be the
spiritual ways that lead folk to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the
reign of glory; of which ways there is a full noble way, and full
convenable, which may not fail to man nor to woman, that
through sin hath misgone from the right way of Jerusalem
celestial; and this way is called penitence. Of which men should
gladly hearken and inquire with all their hearts, to wit what is
penitence, and whence it is called penitence, and in what
manner, and in how many manners, be the actions or workings
of penitence, and how many species there be of penitences, and
what things appertain and behove to penitence, and what things
[Penitence is described, on the authority of Saints Ambrose,
Isidore, and Gregory, as the bewailing of sin that has been
wrought, with the purpose never again to do that thing, or any
other thing which a man should bewail; for weeping and not
ceasing to do the sin will not avail - though it is to be hoped
that after every time that a man falls, be it ever so often, he may
find grace to arise through penitence. And repentant folk that
leave their sin ere sin leave them, are accounted by Holy Church
sure of their salvation, even though the repentance be at the last
hour. There are three actions of penitence; that a man be
baptized after he has sinned; that he do no deadly sin after
receiving baptism; and that he fall into no venial sins from day
to day. 'Thereof saith St Augustine, that penitence of good and
humble folk is the penitence of every day.' The species of
penitence are three: solemn, when a man is openly expelled
from Holy Church in Lent, or is compelled by Holy Church to
do open penance for an open sin openly talked of in the
country; common penance, enjoined by priests in certain cases,
as to go on pilgrimage naked or barefoot; and privy penance,
which men do daily for private sins, of which they confess
privately and receive private penance. To very perfect penitence
are behoveful and necessary three things: contrition of heart,
confession of mouth, and satisfaction; which are fruitful
penitence against delight in thinking, reckless speech, and
wicked sinful works.
Penitence may be likened to a tree, having its root in contrition,
biding itself in the heart as a tree-root does in the earth; out of
this root springs a stalk, that bears branches and leaves of
confession, and fruit of satisfaction. Of this root also springs a
seed of grace, which is mother of all security, and this seed is
eager and hot; and the grace of this seed springs of God,
through remembrance on the day of judgment and on the pains
of hell. The heat of this seed is the love of God, and the desire
of everlasting joy; and this heat draws the heart of man to God,
and makes him hate his sin. Penance is the tree of life to them
that receive it. In penance or contrition man shall understand
four things: what is contrition; what are the causes that move a
man to contrition; how he should be contrite; and what
contrition availeth to the soul. Contrition is the heavy and
grievous sorrow that a man receiveth in his heart for his sins,
with earnest purpose to confess and do penance, and never
more to sin. Six causes ought to move a man to contrition: 1.
He should remember him of his sins; 2. He should reflect that
sin putteth a man in great thraldom, and all the greater the
higher is the estate from which he falls; 3. He should dread the
day of doom and the horrible pains of hell; 4. The sorrowful
remembrance of the good deeds that man hath omitted to do
here on earth, and also the good that he hath lost, ought to
make him have contrition; 5. So also ought the remembrance of
the passion that our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins; 6.
And so ought the hope of three things, that is to say,
forgiveness of sin, the gift of grace to do well, and the glory of
heaven with which God shall reward man for his good deeds. -
All these points the Parson illustrates and enforces at length;
waxing especially eloquent under the third head, and plainly
setting forth the sternly realistic notions regarding future
punishments that were entertained in the time of Chaucer:-]
Certes, all the sorrow that a man might make from the
beginning of the world, is but a little thing, at retard of [in
comparison with] the sorrow of hell. The cause why that Job
calleth hell the land of darkness; understand, that he calleth
it land or earth, for it is stable and never shall fail, and dark, for
he that is in hell hath default [is devoid] of light natural; for
certes the dark light, that shall come out of the fire that ever
shall burn, shall turn them all to pain that be in hell, for it
sheweth them the horrible devils that them torment. Covered
with the darkness of death; that is to say, that he that is in hell
shall have default of the sight of God; for certes the sight of
God is the life perdurable [everlasting]. The darkness of death,
be the sins that the wretched man hath done, which that disturb
[prevent] him to see the face of God, right as a dark cloud doth
between us and the sun. Land of misease, because there be three
manner of defaults against three things that folk of this world
have in this present life; that is to say, honours, delights, and
riches. Against honour have they in hell shame and confusion:
for well ye wot, that men call honour the reverence that man
doth to man; but in hell is no honour nor reverence; for certes
no more reverence shall be done there to a king than to a knave
[servant]. For which God saith by the prophet Jeremiah; 'The
folk that me despise shall be in despite.' Honour is also called
great lordship. There shall no wight serve other, but of harm
and torment. Honour is also called great dignity and highness;
but in hell shall they be all fortrodden [trampled under foot] of
devils. As God saith, 'The horrible devils shall go and come
upon the heads of damned folk;' and this is, forasmuch as the
higher that they were in this present life, the more shall they be
abated [abased] and defouled in hell. Against the riches of this
world shall they have misease [trouble, torment] of poverty, and
this poverty shall be in four things: in default [want] of treasure;
of which David saith, 'The rich folk that embraced and oned
[united] all their heart to treasure of this world, shall sleep in the
sleeping of death, and nothing shall they find in their hands of
all their treasure.' And moreover, the misease of hell shall be in
default of meat and drink. For God saith thus by Moses, 'They
shall be wasted with hunger, and the birds of hell shall devour
them with bitter death, and the gall of the dragon shall be their
drink, and the venom of the dragon their morsels.' And
furthermore, their misease shall be in default of clothing, for
they shall be naked in body, as of clothing, save the fire in
which they burn, and other filths; and naked shall they be in
soul, of all manner virtues, which that is the clothing of the soul.
Where be then the gay robes, and the soft sheets, and the fine
shirts? Lo, what saith of them the prophet Isaiah, that under
them shall be strewed moths, and their covertures shall be of
worms of hell. And furthermore, their misease shall be in default
of friends, for he is not poor that hath good friends: but there is
no friend; for neither God nor any good creature shall be friend
to them, and evereach of them shall hate other with deadly hate.
The Sons and the daughters shall rebel against father and
mother, and kindred against kindred, and chide and despise each
other, both day and night, as God saith by the prophet Micah.
And the loving children, that whom loved so fleshly each other,
would each of them eat the other if they might. For how should
they love together in the pains of hell, when they hated each
other in the prosperity of this life? For trust well, their fleshly
love was deadly hate; as saith the prophet David; 'Whoso
loveth wickedness, he hateth his own soul:' and whoso hateth
his own soul, certes he may love none other wight in no
manner: and therefore in hell is no solace nor no friendship, but
ever the more kindreds that be in hell, the more cursing, the
more chiding, and the more deadly hate there is among them.
And furtherover, they shall have default of all manner delights;
for certes delights be after the appetites of the five wits
[senses]; as sight, hearing, smelling, savouring [tasting], and
touching. But in hell their sight shall be full of darkness and of
smoke, and their eyes full of tears; and their hearing full of
waimenting [lamenting] and grinting [gnashing] of teeth, as
saith Jesus Christ; their nostrils shall be full of stinking; and, as
saith Isaiah the prophet, their savouring [tasting] shall be full of
bitter gall; and touching of all their body shall be covered with
fire that never shall quench, and with worms that never shall
die, as God saith by the mouth of Isaiah. And forasmuch as they
shall not ween that they may die for pain, and by death flee from
pain, that may they understand in the word of Job, that saith,
'There is the shadow of death.' Certes a shadow hath the
likeness of the thing of which it is shadowed, but the shadow is
not the same thing of which it is shadowed: right so fareth the
pain of hell; it is like death, for the horrible anguish; and why?
for it paineth them ever as though they should die anon; but
certes they shall not die. For, as saith Saint Gregory, 'To
wretched caitiffs shall be given death without death, and end
without end, and default without failing; for their death shall
always live, and their end shall evermore begin, and their default
shall never fail.' And therefore saith Saint John the Evangelist,
'They shall follow death, and they shall not find him, and they
shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.' And eke Job
saith, that in hell is no order of rule. And albeit that God hath
created all things in right order, and nothing without order, but
all things be ordered and numbered, yet nevertheless they that
be damned be not in order, nor hold no order. For the earth
shall bear them no fruit (for, as the prophet David saith, 'God
shall destroy the fruit of the earth, as for them'): nor water shall
give them no moisture, nor the air no refreshing, nor the fire no
light. For as saith Saint Basil, 'The burning of the fire of this
world shall God give in hell to them that be damned, but the
light and the clearness shall be given in heaven to his children;
right as the good man giveth flesh to his children, and bones to
his hounds.' And for they shall have no hope to escape, saith
Job at last, that there shall horror and grisly dread dwell without
end. Horror is always dread of harm that is to come, and this
dread shall ever dwell in the hearts of them that be damned.
And therefore have they lost all their hope for seven causes.
First, for God that is their judge shall be without mercy to them;
nor they may not please him; nor none of his hallows [saints];
nor they may give nothing for their ransom; nor they have no
voice to speak to him; nor they may not flee from pain; nor they
have no goodness in them that they may shew to deliver them
[Under the fourth head, of good works, the Parson says: -]
The courteous Lord Jesus Christ will that no good work be lost,
for in somewhat it shall avail. But forasmuch as the good works
that men do while they be in good life be all amortised [killed,
deadened] by sin following, and also since all the good works
that men do while they be in deadly sin be utterly dead, as for to
have the life perdurable [everlasting], well may that man that no
good works doth, sing that new French song, J'ai tout perdu -
mon temps et mon labour . For certes, sin bereaveth a man
both the goodness of nature, and eke the goodness of grace.
For soothly the grace of the Holy Ghost fareth like fire, that
may not be idle; for fire faileth anon as it forleteth [leaveth] its
working, and right so grace faileth anon as it forleteth its
working. Then loseth the sinful man the goodness of glory, that
only is to good men that labour and work. Well may he be sorry
then, that oweth all his life to God, as long as he hath lived, and
also as long as he shall live, that no goodness hath to pay with
his debt to God, to whom he oweth all his life: for trust well he
shall give account, as saith Saint Bernard, of all the goods that
have been given him in his present life, and how he hath them
dispended, insomuch that there shall not perish an hair of his
head, nor a moment of an hour shall not perish of his time, that
he shall not give thereof a reckoning.
[Having treated of the causes, the Parson comes to the manner,
of contrition - which should be universal and total, not merely
of outward deeds of sin, but also of wicked delights and
thoughts and words; 'for certes Almighty God is all good, and
therefore either he forgiveth all, or else right naught.' Further,
contrition should be 'wonder sorrowful and anguishous,' and
also continual, with steadfast purpose of confession and
amendment. Lastly, of what contrition availeth, the Parson says,
that sometimes it delivereth man from sin; that without it neither
confession nor satisfaction is of any worth; that it 'destroyeth
the prison of hell, and maketh weak and feeble all the strengths
of the devils, and restoreth the gifts of the Holy Ghost and of all
good virtues, and cleanseth the soul of sin, and delivereth it
from the pain of hell, and from the company of the devil, and
from the servage [slavery] of sin, and restoreth it to all goods
spiritual, and to the company and communion of Holy Church.'
He who should set his intent to these things, would no longer be
inclined to sin, but would give his heart and body to the service
of Jesus Christ, and thereof do him homage. 'For, certes, our
Lord Jesus Christ hath spared us so benignly in our follies, that
if he had not pity on man's soul, a sorry song might we all sing.'
The Second Part of the Parson's Tale or Treatise opens with an
explanation of what is confession - which is termed 'the
second part of penitence, that is, sign of contrition;' whether it
ought needs be done or not; and what things be convenable to
true confession. Confession is true shewing of sins to the priest,
without excusing, hiding, or forwrapping [disguising] of
anything, and without vaunting of good works. 'Also, it is
necessary to understand whence that sins spring, and how they
increase, and which they be.' From Adam we took original sin;
'from him fleshly descended be we all, and engendered of vile
and corrupt matter;' and the penalty of Adam's transgression
dwelleth with us as to temptation, which penalty is called
concupiscence. 'This concupiscence, when it is wrongfully
disposed or ordained in a man, it maketh him covet, by covetise
of flesh, fleshly sin by sight of his eyes, as to earthly things, and
also covetise of highness by pride of heart.' The Parson
proceeds to shew how man is tempted in his flesh to sin; how,
after his natural concupiscence, comes suggestion of the devil,
that is to say the devil's bellows, with which he bloweth in man
the fire of con cupiscence; and how man then bethinketh him
whether he will do or no the thing to which he is tempted. If he
flame up into pleasure at the thought, and give way, then is he
all dead in soul; 'and thus is sin accomplished, by temptation, by
delight, and by consenting; and then is the sin actual.' Sin is
either venial, or deadly; deadly, when a man loves any creature
more than Jesus Christ our Creator, venial, if he love Jesus
Christ less than he ought. Venial sins diminish man's love to
God more and more, and may in this wise skip into deadly sin;
for many small make a great. 'And hearken this example: A
great wave of the sea cometh sometimes with so great a
violence, that it drencheth [causes to sink] the ship: and the
same harm do sometimes the small drops, of water that enter
through a little crevice in the thurrok [hold, bilge], and in the
bottom of the ship, if men be so negligent that they discharge
them not betimes. And therefore, although there be difference
betwixt these two causes of drenching, algates [in any case] the
ship is dreint [sunk]. Right so fareth it sometimes of deadly sin,'
and of venial sins when they multiply in a man so greatly as to
make him love worldly things more than God. The Parson then
enumerates specially a number of sins which many a man
peradventure deems no sins, and confesses them not, and yet
nevertheless they are truly sins: - ]
This is to say, at every time that a man eateth and drinketh more
than sufficeth to the sustenance of his body, in certain he doth
sin; eke when he speaketh more than it needeth, he doth sin; eke
when he heareth not benignly the complaint of the poor; eke
when he is in health of body, and will not fast when other folk
fast, without cause reasonable; eke when he sleepeth more than
needeth, or when he cometh by that occasion too late to church,
or to other works of charity; eke when he useth his wife without
sovereign desire of engendrure, to the honour of God, or for the
intent to yield his wife his debt of his body; eke when he will not
visit the sick, or the prisoner, if he may; eke if he love wife, or
child, or other worldly thing, more than reason requireth; eke if
he flatter or blandish more than he ought for any necessity; eke
if he minish or withdraw the alms of the poor; eke if he apparail
[prepare] his meat more deliciously than need is, or eat it too
hastily by likerousness [gluttony]; eke if he talk vanities in the
church, or at God's service, or that he be a talker of idle words
of folly or villainy, for he shall yield account of them at the day
of doom; eke when he behighteth [promiseth] or assureth to do
things that he may not perform; eke when that by lightness of
folly he missayeth or scorneth his neighbour; eke when he hath
any wicked suspicion of thing, that he wot of it no
soothfastness: these things, and more without number, be sins,
as saith Saint Augustine.
[No earthly man may eschew all venial sins; yet may he refrain
him, by the burning love that he hath to our Lord Jesus Christ,
and by prayer and confession, and other good works, so that it
shall but little grieve. 'Furthermore, men may also refrain and
put away venial sin, by receiving worthily the precious body of
Jesus Christ; by receiving eke of holy water; by alms-deed; by
general confession of Confiteor at mass, and at prime, and at
compline [evening service]; and by blessing of bishops and
priests, and by other good works.' The Parson then proceeds to
weightier matters:- ]
Now it is behovely [profitable, necessary] to tell which be
deadly sins, that is to say, chieftains of sins; forasmuch as all
they run in one leash, but in diverse manners. Now be they
called chieftains, forasmuch as they be chief, and of them spring
all other sins. The root of these sins, then, is pride, the general
root of all harms. For of this root spring certain branches: as ire,
envy, accidie or sloth, avarice or covetousness (to common
understanding), gluttony, and lechery: and each of these sins
hath his branches and his twigs, as shall be declared in their
chapters following. And though so be, that no man can tell
utterly the number of the twigs, and of the harms that come of
pride, yet will I shew a part of them, as ye shall understand.
There is inobedience, vaunting, hypocrisy, despite, arrogance,
impudence, swelling of hearte, insolence, elation, impatience,
strife, contumacy, presumption, irreverence, pertinacity, vain-
glory and many another twig that I cannot tell nor declare. . . .]
And yet [moreover] there is a privy species of pride that waiteth
first to be saluted ere he will salute, all [although] be he less
worthy than that other is; and eke he waiteth [expecteth] or
desireth to sit or to go above him in the way, or kiss the pax,
or be incensed, or go to offering before his neighbour, and
such semblable [like] things, against his duty peradventure, but
that he hath his heart and his intent in such a proud desire to be
magnified and honoured before the people. Now be there two
manner of prides; the one of them is within the heart of a man,
and the other is without. Of which soothly these foresaid things,
and more than I have said, appertain to pride that is within the
heart of a man and there be other species of pride that be
without: but nevertheless, the one of these species of pride is
sign of the other, right as the gay levesell [bush] at the tavern is
sign of the wine that is in the cellar. And this is in many things:
as in speech and countenance, and outrageous array of clothing;
for certes, if there had been no sin in clothing, Christ would not
so soon have noted and spoken of the clothing of that rich man
in the gospel. And Saint Gregory saith, that precious clothing is
culpable for the dearth [dearness] of it, and for its softness, and
for its strangeness and disguising, and for the superfluity or for
the inordinate scantness of it; alas! may not a man see in our
days the sinful costly array of clothing, and namely [specially] in
too much superfluity, or else in too disordinate scantness? As to
the first sin, in superfluity of clothing, which that maketh it so
dear, to the harm of the people, not only the cost of the
embroidering, the disguising, indenting or barring, ounding,
paling, winding, or banding, and semblable [similar] waste
of cloth in vanity; but there is also the costly furring [lining or
edging with fur] in their gowns, so much punching of chisels to
make holes, so much dagging [cutting] of shears, with the
superfluity in length of the foresaid gowns, trailing in the dung
and in the mire, on horse and eke on foot, as well of man as of
woman, that all that trailing is verily (as in effect) wasted,
consumed, threadbare, and rotten with dung, rather than it is
given to the poor, to great damage of the foresaid poor folk,
and that in sundry wise: this is to say, the more that cloth is
wasted, the more must it cost to the poor people for the
scarceness; and furthermore, if so be that they would give such
punched and dagged clothing to the poor people, it is not
convenient to wear for their estate, nor sufficient to boot [help,
remedy] their necessity, to keep them from the distemperance
[inclemency] of the firmament. Upon the other side, to speak of
the horrible disordinate scantness of clothing, as be these cutted
slops or hanselines [breeches] , that through their shortness
cover not the shameful member of man, to wicked intent alas!
some of them shew the boss and the shape of the horrible
swollen members, that seem like to the malady of hernia, in the
wrapping of their hosen, and eke the buttocks of them, that fare
as it were the hinder part of a she-ape in the full of the moon.
And more over the wretched swollen members that they shew
through disguising, in departing [dividing] of their hosen in
white and red, seemeth that half their shameful privy members
were flain [flayed]. And if so be that they depart their hosen in
other colours, as is white and blue, or white and black, or black
and red, and so forth; then seemeth it, by variance of colour,
that the half part of their privy members be corrupt by the fire
of Saint Anthony, or by canker, or other such mischance. And
of the hinder part of their buttocks it is full horrible to see, for
certes, in that part of their body where they purge their stinking
ordure, that foul part shew they to the people proudly in despite
of honesty [decency], which honesty Jesus Christ and his friends
observed to shew in his life. Now as of the outrageous array of
women, God wot, that though the visages of some of them
seem full chaste and debonair [gentle], yet notify they, in their
array of attire, likerousness and pride. I say not that honesty
[reasonable and appropriate style] in clothing of man or woman
unconvenable but, certes, the superfluity or disordinate scarcity
of clothing is reprovable. Also the sin of their ornament, or of
apparel, as in things that appertain to riding, as in too many
delicate horses, that be holden for delight, that be so fair, fat,
and costly; and also in many a vicious knave, [servant] that is
sustained because of them; in curious harness, as in saddles,
cruppers, peytrels, [breast-plates] and bridles, covered with
precious cloth and rich bars and plates of gold and silver. For
which God saith by Zechariah the prophet, 'I will confound the
riders of such horses.' These folk take little regard of the riding
of God's Son of heaven, and of his harness, when he rode upon
an ass, and had no other harness but the poor clothes of his
disciples; nor we read not that ever he rode on any other beast.
I speak this for the sin of superfluity, and not for reasonable
honesty [seemliness], when reason it requireth. And moreover,
certes, pride is greatly notified in holding of great meinie
[retinue of servants], when they be of little profit or of right no
profit, and namely [especially] when that meinie is felonous
[violent ] and damageous [harmful] to the people by hardiness
[arrogance] of high lordship, or by way of office; for certes,
such lords sell then their lordship to the devil of hell, when they
sustain the wickedness of their meinie. Or else, when these folk
of low degree, as they that hold hostelries, sustain theft of their
hostellers, and that is in many manner of deceits: that manner of
folk be the flies that follow the honey, or else the hounds that
follow the carrion. Such foresaid folk strangle spiritually their
lordships; for which thus saith David the prophet, 'Wicked
death may come unto these lordships, and God give that they
may descend into hell adown; for in their houses is iniquity and
shrewedness, [impiety] and not God of heaven.' And certes, but
if [unless] they do amendment, right as God gave his benison
[blessing] to Laban by the service of Jacob, and to Pharaoh by
the service of Joseph; right so God will give his malison
[condemnation] to such lordships as sustain the wickedness of
their servants, but [unless] they come to amendment. Pride of
the table apaireth [worketh harm] eke full oft; for, certes, rich
men be called to feasts, and poor folk be put away and rebuked;
also in excess of divers meats and drinks, and namely [specially]
such manner bake-meats and dish-meats burning of wild fire,
and painted and castled with paper, and semblable [similar]
waste, so that it is abuse to think. And eke in too great
preciousness of vessel, [plate] and curiosity of minstrelsy, by
which a man is stirred more to the delights of luxury, if so be
that he set his heart the less upon our Lord Jesus Christ, certain
it is a sin; and certainly the delights might be so great in this
case, that a man might lightly [easily] fall by them into deadly
[The sins that arise of pride advisedly and habitually are deadly;
those that arise by frailty unadvised suddenly, and suddenly
withdraw again, though grievous, are not deadly. Pride itself
springs sometimes of the goods of nature, sometimes of the
goods of fortune, sometimes of the goods of grace; but the
Parson, enumerating and examining all these in turn, points out
how little security they possess and how little ground for pride
they furnish, and goes on to enforce the remedy against pride -
which is humility or meekness, a virtue through which a man
hath true knowledge of himself, and holdeth no high esteem of
himself in regard of his deserts, considering ever his frailty.]
Now be there three manners [kinds] of humility; as humility in
heart, and another in the mouth, and the third in works. The
humility in the heart is in four manners: the one is, when a man
holdeth himself as nought worth before God of heaven; the
second is, when he despiseth no other man; the third is, when he
recketh not though men hold him nought worth; the fourth is,
when he is not sorry of his humiliation. Also the humility of
mouth is in four things: in temperate speech; in humility of
speech; and when he confesseth with his own mouth that he is
such as he thinketh that he is in his heart; another is, when he
praiseth the bounte [goodness] of another man and nothing
thereof diminisheth. Humility eke in works is in four manners:
the first is, when he putteth other men before him; the second is,
to choose the lowest place of all; the third is, gladly to assent to
good counsel; the fourth is, to stand gladly by the award
[judgment] of his sovereign, or of him that is higher in degree:
certain this is a great work of humility.
[The Parson proceeds to treat of the other cardinal sins, and
their remedies: (2.) Envy, with its remedy, the love of God
principally and of our neighbours as ourselves: (3.) Anger, with
all its fruits in revenge, rancour, hate, discord, manslaughter,
blasphemy, swearing, falsehood, flattery, chiding and reproving,
scorning, treachery, sowing of strife, doubleness of tongue,
betraying of counsel to a man's disgrace, menacing, idle words,
jangling, japery or buffoonery, &c. - and its remedy in the
virtues called mansuetude, debonairte, or gentleness, and
patience or sufferance: (4.) Sloth, or 'Accidie,' which comes
after the sin of Anger, because Envy blinds the eyes of a man,
and Anger troubleth a man, and Sloth maketh him heavy,
thoughtful, and peevish. It is opposed to every estate of man -
as unfallen, and held to work in praising and adoring God; as
sinful, and held to labour in praying for deliverance from sin;
and as in the state of grace, and held to works of penitence. It
resembles the heavy and sluggish condition of those in hell; it
will suffer no hardness and no penance; it prevents any
beginning of good works; it causes despair of God's mercy,
which is the sin against the Holy Ghost; it induces somnolency
and neglect of communion in prayer with God; and it breeds
negligence or recklessness, that cares for nothing, and is the
nurse of all mischiefs, if ignorance is their mother. Against
Sloth, and these and other branches and fruits of it, the remedy
lies in the virtue of fortitude or strength, in its various species of
magnanimity or great courage; faith and hope in God and his
saints; surety or sickerness, when a man fears nothing that can
oppose the good works he has under taken; magnificence, when
he carries out great works of goodness begun; constancy or
stableness of heart; and other incentives to energy and laborious
service: (5.) Avarice, or Covetousness, which is the root of all
harms, since its votaries are idolaters, oppressors and enslavers
of men, deceivers of their equals in business, simoniacs,
gamblers, liars, thieves, false swearers, blasphemers, murderers,
and sacrilegious. Its remedy lies in compassion and pity largely
exercised, and in reasonable liberality - for those who spend on
'fool-largesse,' or ostentation of worldly estate and luxury,
shall receive the malison [condemnation] that Christ shall give
at the day of doom to them that shall be damned: (6.) Gluttony;
- of which the Parson treats so briefly that the chapter may be
given in full: - ]
After Avarice cometh Gluttony, which is express against the
commandment of God. Gluttony is unmeasurable appetite to eat
or to drink; or else to do in aught to the unmeasurable appetite
and disordered covetousness [craving] to eat or drink. This sin
corrupted all this world, as is well shewed in the sin of Adam
and of Eve. Look also what saith Saint Paul of gluttony:
'Many,' saith he, 'go, of which I have oft said to you, and now
I say it weeping, that they be enemies of the cross of Christ, of
which the end is death, and of which their womb [stomach] is
their God and their glory;' in confusion of them that so savour
[take delight in] earthly things. He that is usant [accustomed,
addicted] to this sin of gluttony, he may no sin withstand, he
must be in servage [bondage] of all vices, for it is the devil's
hoard, [lair, lurking-place] where he hideth him in and resteth.
This sin hath many species. The first is drunkenness, that is the
horrible sepulture of man's reason: and therefore when a man is
drunken, he hath lost his reason; and this is deadly sin. But
soothly, when that a man is not wont to strong drink, and
peradventure knoweth not the strength of the drink, or hath
feebleness in his head, or hath travailed [laboured], through
which he drinketh the more, all [although] be he suddenly
caught with drink, it is no deadly sin, but venial. The second
species of gluttony is, that the spirit of a man waxeth all
troubled for drunkenness, and bereaveth a man the discretion of
his wit. The third species of gluttony is, when a man devoureth
his meat, and hath no rightful manner of eating. The fourth is,
when, through the great abundance of his meat, the humours of
his body be distempered. The fifth is, forgetfulness by too much
drinking, for which a man sometimes forgetteth by the morrow
what be did at eve. In other manner be distinct the species of
gluttony, after Saint Gregory. The first is, for to eat or drink
before time. The second is, when a man getteth him too delicate
meat or drink. The third is, when men take too much over
measure [immoderately]. The fourth is curiosity [nicety] with
great intent [application, pains] to make and apparel [prepare]
his meat. The fifth is, for to eat too greedily. These be the five
fingers of the devil's hand, by which he draweth folk to the sin.
Against gluttony the remedy is abstinence, as saith Galen; but
that I hold not meritorious, if he do it only for the health of his
body. Saint Augustine will that abstinence be done for virtue,
and with patience. Abstinence, saith he, is little worth, but if
[unless] a man have good will thereto, and but it be enforced by
patience and by charity, and that men do it for God's sake, and
in hope to have the bliss in heaven. The fellows of abstinence be
temperance, that holdeth the mean in all things; also shame, that
escheweth all dishonesty [indecency, impropriety], sufficiency,
that seeketh no rich meats nor drinks, nor doth no force of [sets
no value on] no outrageous apparelling of meat; measure
[moderation] also, that restraineth by reason the unmeasurable
appetite of eating; soberness also, that restraineth the outrage of
drink; sparing also, that restraineth the delicate ease to sit long
at meat, wherefore some folk stand of their own will to eat,
because they will eat at less leisure.
[At great length the Parson then points out the many varieties of
the sin of (7.) Lechery, and its remedy in chastity and
continence, alike in marriage and in widowhood; also in the
abstaining from all such indulgences of eating, drinking, and
sleeping as inflame the passions, and from the company of all
who may tempt to the sin. Minute guidance is given as to the
duty of confessing fully and faithfully the circumstances that
attend and may aggravate this sin; and the Treatise then passes
to the consideration of the conditions that are essential to a true
and profitable confession of sin in general. First, it must be in
sorrowful bitterness of spirit; a condition that has five signs -
shamefastness, humility in heart and outward sign, weeping with
the bodily eyes or in the heart, disregard of the shame that
might curtail or garble confession, and obedience to the penance
enjoined. Secondly, true confession must be promptly made, for
dread of death, of increase of sinfulness, of forgetfulness of
what should be confessed, of Christ's refusal to hear if it be put
off to the last day of life; and this condition has four terms; that
confession be well pondered beforehand, that the man
confessing have comprehended in his mind the number and
greatness of his sins and how long he has lain in sin, that he be
contrite for and eschew his sins, and that he fear and flee the
occasions for that sin to which he is inclined. - What follows
under this head is of some interest for the light which it throws
on the rigorous government wielded by the Romish Church in
those days -]
Also thou shalt shrive thee of all thy sins to one man, and not a
parcel [portion] to one man, and a parcel to another; that is to
understand, in intent to depart [divide] thy confession for shame
or dread; for it is but strangling of thy soul. For certes Jesus
Christ is entirely all good, in him is none imperfection, and
therefore either he forgiveth all perfectly, or else never a deal
[not at all]. I say not that if thou be assigned to thy penitencer
for a certain sin, that thou art bound to shew him all the
remnant of thy sins, of which thou hast been shriven of thy
curate, but if it like thee [unless thou be pleased] of thy
humility; this is no departing [division] of shrift. And I say not,
where I speak of division of confession, that if thou have license
to shrive thee to a discreet and an honest priest, and where thee
liketh, and by the license of thy curate, that thou mayest not
well shrive thee to him of all thy sins: but let no blot be behind,
let no sin be untold as far as thou hast remembrance. And when
thou shalt be shriven of thy curate, tell him eke all the sins that
thou hast done since thou wert last shriven. This is no wicked
intent of division of shrift. Also, very shrift [true confession]
asketh certain conditions. First, that thou shrive thee by thy
free will, not constrained, nor for shame of folk, nor for malady
[sickness], or such things: for it is reason, that he that
trespasseth by his free will, that by his free will he confess his
trespass; and that no other man tell his sin but himself; nor he
shall not nay nor deny his sin, nor wrath him against the priest
for admonishing him to leave his sin. The second condition is,
that thy shrift be lawful, that is to say, that thou that shrivest
thee, and eke the priest that heareth thy confession, be verily in
the faith of Holy Church, and that a man be not despaired of the
mercy of Jesus Christ, as Cain and Judas were. And eke a man
must accuse himself of his own trespass, and not another: but he
shall blame and wite [accuse] himself of his own malice and of
his sin, and none other: but nevertheless, if that another man be
occasion or else enticer of his sin, or the estate of the person be
such by which his sin is aggravated, or else that be may not
plainly shrive him but [unless] he tell the person with which he
hath sinned, then may he tell, so that his intent be not to
backbite the person, but only to declare his confession. Thou
shalt not eke make no leasings [falsehoods] in thy confession
for humility, peradventure, to say that thou hast committed and
done such sins of which that thou wert never guilty. For Saint
Augustine saith, 'If that thou, because of humility, makest a
leasing on thyself, though thou were not in sin before, yet art
thou then in sin through thy leasing.' Thou must also shew thy
sin by thine own proper mouth, but [unless] thou be dumb, and
not by letter; for thou that hast done the sin, thou shalt have the
shame of the confession. Thou shalt not paint thy confession
with fair and subtle words, to cover the more thy sin; for then
beguilest thou thyself, and not the priest; thou must tell it
plainly, be it never so foul nor so horrible. Thou shalt eke shrive
thee to a priest that is discreet to counsel thee; and eke thou
shalt not shrive thee for vain-glory, nor for hypocrisy, nor for
no cause but only for the doubt [fear] of Jesus' Christ and the
health of thy soul. Thou shalt not run to the priest all suddenly,
to tell him lightly thy sin, as who telleth a jape [jest] or a tale,
but advisedly and with good devotion; and generally shrive thee
oft; if thou oft fall, oft arise by confession. And though thou
shrive thee oftener than once of sin of which thou hast been
shriven, it is more merit; and, as saith Saint Augustine, thou
shalt have the more lightly [easily] release and grace of God,
both of sin and of pain. And certes, once a year at the least way,
it is lawful to be houseled, for soothly once a year all
things in the earth renovelen [renew themselves].
[Here ends the Second Part of the Treatise; the Third Part,
which contains the practical application of the whole, follows
entire, along with the remarkable 'Prayer of Chaucer,' as it
stands in the Harleian Manuscript:-]
De Tertia Parte Poenitentiae. [Of the third part of penitence]
Now have I told you of very [true] confession, that is the
second part of penitence: The third part of penitence is
satisfaction, and that standeth generally in almsdeed and bodily
pain. Now be there three manner of almsdeed: contrition of
heart, where a man offereth himself to God; the second is, to
have pity of the default of his neighbour; the third is, in giving
of good counsel and comfort, ghostly and bodily, where men
have need, and namely [specially] sustenance of man's food.
And take keep [heed] that a man hath need of these things
generally; he hath need of food, of clothing, and of herberow
[lodging], he hath need of charitable counsel and visiting in
prison and malady, and sepulture of his dead body. And if thou
mayest not visit the needful with thy person, visit them by thy
message and by thy gifts. These be generally alms or works of
charity of them that have temporal riches or discretion in
counselling. Of these works shalt thou hear at the day of doom.
This alms shouldest thou do of thine own proper things, and
hastily [promptly], and privily [secretly] if thou mayest; but
nevertheless, if thou mayest not do it privily, thou shalt not
forbear to do alms, though men see it, so that it be not done for
thank of the world, but only for thank of Jesus Christ. For, as
witnesseth Saint Matthew, chap. v., 'A city may not be hid that
is set on a mountain, nor men light not a lantern and put it
under a bushel, but men set it on a candlestick, to light the men
in the house; right so shall your light lighten before men, that
they may see your good works, and glorify your Father that is
Now as to speak of bodily pain, it is in prayer, in wakings,
[watchings] in fastings, and in virtuous teachings. Of orisons ye
shall understand, that orisons or prayers is to say a piteous will
of heart, that redresseth it in God, and expresseth it by word
outward, to remove harms, and to have things spiritual and
durable, and sometimes temporal things. Of which orisons,
certes in the orison of the Pater noster hath our Lord Jesus
Christ enclosed most things. Certes, it is privileged of three
things in its dignity, for which it is more digne [worthy] than
any other prayer: for Jesus Christ himself made it: and it is
short, for [in order] it should be coude the more lightly, [be
more easily conned or learned] and to withhold [retain] it the
more easy in heart, and help himself the oftener with this orison;
and for a man should be the less weary to say it; and for a man
may not excuse him to learn it, it is so short and so easy: and
for it comprehendeth in itself all good prayers. The exposition
of this holy prayer, that is so excellent and so digne, I betake
[commit] to these masters of theology; save thus much will I
say, when thou prayest that God should forgive thee thy guilts,
as thou forgivest them that they guilt to thee, be full well ware
that thou be not out of charity. This holy orison aminisheth
[lesseneth] eke venial sin, and therefore it appertaineth specially
to penitence. This prayer must be truly said, and in very faith,
and that men pray to God ordinately, discreetly, and devoutly;
and always a man shall put his will to be subject to the will of
God. This orison must eke be said with great humbleness and
full pure, and honestly, and not to the annoyance of any man or
woman. It must eke be continued with the works of charity. It
availeth against the vices of the soul; for, assaith Saint Jerome,
by fasting be saved the vices of the flesh, and by prayer the
vices of the soul
After this thou shalt understand, that bodily pain stands in
waking [watching]. For Jesus Christ saith 'Wake and pray, that
ye enter not into temptation.' Ye shall understand also, that
fasting stands in three things: in forbearing of bodily meat and
drink, and in forbearing of worldly jollity, and in forbearing of
deadly sin; this is to say, that a man shall keep him from deadly
sin in all that he may. And thou shalt understand eke, that God
ordained fasting; and to fasting appertain four things: largeness
[generosity] to poor folk; gladness of heart spiritual; not to be
angry nor annoyed nor grudge [murmur] for he fasteth; and also
reasonable hour for to eat by measure; that is to say, a man
should not eat in untime [out of time], nor sit the longer at his
meal for [because] he fasteth. Then shalt thou understand, that
bodily pain standeth in discipline, or teaching, by word, or by
writing, or by ensample. Also in wearing of hairs [haircloth] or
of stamin [coarse hempen cloth], or of habergeons [mail-shirts]
on their naked flesh for Christ's sake; but ware thee well
that such manner penance of thy flesh make not thine heart
bitter or angry, nor annoyed of thyself; for better is to cast away
thine hair than to cast away the sweetness of our Lord Jesus
Christ. And therefore saith Saint Paul, 'Clothe you, as they that
be chosen of God in heart, of misericorde [with compassion],
debonairte [gentleness], sufferance [patience], and such manner
of clothing,' of which Jesus Christ is more apaid [better
pleased] than of hairs or of hauberks. Then is discipline eke in
knocking of thy breast, in scourging with yards [rods], in
kneelings, in tribulations, in suffering patiently wrongs that be
done to him, and eke in patient sufferance of maladies, or losing
of worldly catel [chattels], or of wife, or of child, or of other
Then shalt thou understand which things disturb penance, and
this is in four things; that is dread, shame, hope, and wanhope,
that is, desperation. And for to speak first of dread, for which
he weeneth that he may suffer no penance, thereagainst is
remedy for to think that bodily penance is but short and little at
the regard of [in comparison with] the pain of hell, that is so
cruel and so long, that it lasteth without end. Now against the
shame that a man hath to shrive him, and namely [specially]
these hypocrites, that would be holden so perfect, that they
have no need to shrive them; against that shame should a man
think, that by way of reason he that hath not been ashamed to
do foul things, certes he ought not to be ashamed to do fair
things, and that is confession. A man should eke think, that God
seeth and knoweth all thy thoughts, and all thy works; to him
may nothing be hid nor covered. Men should eke remember
them of the shame that is to come at the day of doom, to them
that be not penitent and shriven in this present life; for all the
creatures in heaven, and in earth, and in hell, shall see apertly
[openly] all that he hideth in this world.
Now for to speak of them that be so negligent and slow to
shrive them; that stands in two manners. The one is, that he
hopeth to live long, and to purchase [acquire] much riches for
his delight, and then he will shrive him: and, as he sayeth, he
may, as him seemeth, timely enough come to shrift: another is,
the surquedrie [presumption ] that he hath in Christ's
mercy. Against the first vice, he shall think that our life is in no
sickerness, [security] and eke that all the riches in this world be
in adventure, and pass as a shadow on the wall; and, as saith St
Gregory, that it appertaineth to the great righteousness of God,
that never shall the pain stint [cease] of them, that never would
withdraw them from sin, their thanks [with their goodwill], but
aye continue in sin; for that perpetual will to do sin shall they
have perpetual pain. Wanhope [despair] is in two manners [of
two kinds]. The first wanhope is, in the mercy of God: the other
is, that they think they might not long persevere in goodness.
The first wanhope cometh of that he deemeth that he sinned so
highly and so oft, and so long hath lain in sin, that he shall not
be saved. Certes against that cursed wanhope should he think,
that the passion of Jesus Christ is more strong for to unbind,
than sin is strong for to bind. Against the second wanhope he
shall think, that as oft as he falleth, he may arise again by
penitence; and though he never so long hath lain in sin, the
mercy of Christ is always ready to receive him to mercy.
Against the wanhope that he thinketh he should not long
persevere in goodness, he shall think that the feebleness of the
devil may nothing do, but [unless] men will suffer him; and eke
he shall have strength of the help of God, and of all Holy
Church, and of the protection of angels, if him list.
Then shall men understand, what is the fruit of penance; and
after the word of Jesus Christ, it is the endless bliss of heaven,
where joy hath no contrariety of woe nor of penance nor
grievance; there all harms be passed of this present life; there as
is the sickerness [security] from the pain of hell; there as is the
blissful company, that rejoice them evermore each of the other's
joy; there as the body of man, that whilom was foul and dark, is
more clear than the sun; there as the body of man that whilom
was sick and frail, feeble and mortal, is immortal, and so strong
and so whole, that there may nothing apair [impair, injure] it;
there is neither hunger, nor thirst, nor cold, but every soul
replenished with the sight of the perfect knowing of God. This
blissful regne [kingdom] may men purchase by poverty spiritual,
and the glory by lowliness, the plenty of joy by hunger and
thirst, the rest by travail, and the life by death and mortification
of sin; to which life He us bring, that bought us with his
precious blood! Amen.
- quotes about saint
- quotes about injury
- quotes about honor
- quotes about receiving
- quotes about poverty
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about numbers
- quotes about fables
The Amber Whale
WE were down in the Indian Ocean, after sperm, and three years out;
The last six months in the tropics, and looking in vain for a spout,—
Five men up on the royal yards, weary of straining their sight;
And every day like its brother,—just morning and noon and night—
Nothing to break the sameness: water and wind and sun
Motionless, gentle, and blazing,—never a change in one.
Every day like its brother: when the noonday eight-bells came,
'Twas like yesterday; and we seemed to know that to-morrow would be the same.
The foremast hands had a lazy time: there was never a thing to do;
The ship was painted, tarred down, and scraped; and the mates had nothing new.
We'd worked at sinnet and ratline till there wasn't a yarn to use,
And all we could do was watch and pray for a sperm whale's spout—or news.
It was whaler's luck of the vilest sort; and, though many a volunteer
Spent his watch below on the look-out, never a whale came near,—
At least of the kind we wanted: there were lots of whales of a sort,—
Killers and finbacks, and such like, as if they enjoyed the sport
Of seeing a whale-ship idle; but we never lowered a boat
For less than a blackfish, —there's no oil in a killer's or finback's coat.
There was rich reward for the look-out men,—tobacco for even a sail,
And a barrel of oil for the lucky dog who'd be first to 'raise' a whale.
The crew was a mixture from every land, and many a tongue they spoke;
And when they sat in the fo'castle, enjoying an evening smoke,
There were tales told, youngster, would make you stare—stories of countless shoals
Of devil-fish in the Pacific and right-whales away at the Poles.
There was one of these fo'castle yarns that we always loved to hear,—
Kanaka and Maori and Yankee; all lent an eager ear
To that strange old tale that was always new,—the wonderful treasure-tale
Of an old Down-Eastern harpooneer who had struck an Amber Whale!
Ay, that was a tale worth hearing, lad: if 'twas true we couldn't say,
Or if 'twas a yarn old Mat had spun to while the time away.
'It's just fifteen years ago,' said Mat, 'since I shipped as harpooneer
On board a bark in New Bedford, and came cruising somewhere near
To this whaling-ground we're cruising now; but whales were plenty then,
And not like now, when we scarce get oil to pay for the ship and men.
There were none of these oil wells running then,—at least, what shore folk term
An oil well in Pennsylvania,—but sulphur-bottom and sperm
Were plenty as frogs in a mud-hole, and all of 'em big whales, too;
One hundred barrels for sperm-whales; and for sulphur-bottom, two.
You couldn't pick out a small one: the littlest calf or cow
Had a sight more oil than the big bull whales we think so much of now.
We were more to the east, off Java Straits, a little below the mouth,—
A hundred and five to the east'ard and nine degrees to the south;
And that was as good a whaling-ground for middling-sized, handy whales
As any in all the ocean; and 'twas always white with sails
From Scotland and Hull and New England,—for the whales were thick as frogs,
And 'twas little trouble to kill 'em then, for they lay as quiet as logs.
And every night we'd go visiting the other whale-ships 'round,
Or p'r'aps we'd strike on a Dutchman, calmed off the Straits, and bound
To Singapore or Batavia, with plenty of schnapps to sell
For a few whale's teeth or a gallon of oil, and the latest news to tell.
And in every ship of that whaling fleet was one wonderful story told,—
How an Amber Whale had been seen that year that was worth a mint of gold.
And one man—mate of a Scotchman—said he'd seen, away to the west,
A big school of sperm, and one whale's spout was twice as high as the rest;
And we knew that that was the Amber Whale, for we'd often heard before
That his spout was twice as thick as the rest, and a hundred feet high or more.
And often, when the look-out cried, 'He blows!' the very hail
Thrilled every heart with the greed of gold,—for we thought of the Amber Whale.
'But never a sight of his spout we saw till the season there went round,
And the ships ran down to the south'ard to another whaling-ground.
We stayed to the last off Java, and then we ran to the west,
To get our recruits at Mauritius, and give the crew a rest.
Five days we ran in the trade winds, and the boys were beginning to talk
Of their time ashore, and whether they'd have a donkey-ride or a walk,
And whether they'd spend their money in wine, bananas, or pearls,
Or drive to the sugar plantations to dance with the Creole girls.
But they soon got something to talk about. Five days we ran west-sou'-west,
But the sixth day's log-book entry was a change from all the rest;
For that was the day the mast-head men made every face turn pale,
With the cry that we all had dreamt about,—'He Blows! The Amber Whale!'
And every man was motionless, and every speaker's lip
Just stopped as it was, with the word half-said: there wasn't a Sound in the ship
Till the Captain hailed the masthead, 'Whereaway is the whale you see?'
And the cry came down again, 'He blows! about four points on our lee,
And three miles off, sir,—there he blows! he's going to leeward fast!'
And then we sprang to the rigging, and saw the great whale at last!
'Ah! shipmates, that was a sight to see: the water was smooth as a lake,
And there was the monster rolling, with a school of whales in his wake.
They looked like pilot-fish round a shark, as if they were keeping guard;
And, shipmates, the spout of that Amber Whale was high as a sky-sail yard.
There was never a ship's crew worked so quick as our whalemen worked that day,—
When the captain shouted,' Swing the boats, and be ready to lower away!'
Then, 'A pull on the weather-braces, men! let her head fall off three points!'
And off she swung, with a quarter-breeze straining the old ship's joints.
The men came down from the mastheads; and the boat's crews stood on the rail,
Stowing the lines and irons, and fixing paddles and sail.
And when all was ready we leant on the boats and looked at the Amber's spout,
That went up like a monster fountain, with a sort of a rumbling shout,
Like a thousand railroad engines puffing away their smoke.
He was just like a frigate's hull capsized, and the swaying water broke
Against the sides of the great stiff whale: he was steering south-by-west, —
For the Cape, no doubt, for a whale can shape a course as well as the best.
We soon got close as was right to go; for the school might hear a hail,
Or see the bark, and that was the last of our Bank-of-England Whale.
'Let her luff,' said the Old Man, gently. 'Now, lower away, my boys,
And pull for a mile, then paddle,—and mind that you make no noise.'
'A minute more, and the boats were down; and out from the hull of the bark
They shot with a nervous sweep of the oars, like dolphins away from a shark.
Each officer stood in the stern, and watched, as he held the steering oar,
And the crews bent down to their pulling as they never pulled before.
'Our Mate was as thorough a whaleman as I ever met afloat;
And I was his harpooneer that day, and sat in the bow of the boat.
His eyes were set on the whales ahead, and he spoke in a low, deep tone,
And told the men to be steady and cool, and the whale was all our own.
And steady and cool they proved to be: you could read it in every face,
And in every straining muscle, that they meant to win that race.
'Bend to it, boys, for a few strokes more,—bend to it steady and long!
Now, in with your oars, and paddles out,—all together, and strong!'
Then we turned and sat on the gunwale, with our faces to the bow;
And the whales were right ahead,—no more than four ships' lengths off now.
There were five of 'em, hundred-barrelers, like guards round the Amber Whale.
And to strike him we'd have to risk being stove by crossing a sweeping tail;
But the prize and the risk were equal. 'Mat,' now whispers the Mate,
'Are your irons ready?' 'Ay, ay, sir.' 'Stand up, then, steady, and wait
Till I give the word, then let 'em fly, and hit him below the fin
As he rolls to wind'ard. Start her, boys! now's the time to slide her in!
Hurrah! that fluke just missed us. Mind, as soon as the iron's fast,
Be ready to back your paddles,—now in for it, boys, at last.
'And two irons flew: the first one sank in the joint,
'Tween the head and hump,—in the muscle; but the second had its point
Turned off by striking the amber case, coming out again like a bow,
And the monster carcass quivered, and rolled with pain from the first deep blow.
Then he lashed the sea with his terrible flukes, and showed us many a sign
That his rage was roused. 'Lay off,' roared the Mate, ' and all keep clear of the line!'
And that was a timely warning, for the whale made an awful breach
Right out of the sea; and 'twas well for us that the boat was beyond the reach
Of his sweeping flukes, as he milled around, and made for the Captain's boat,
That was right astern. And, shipmates, then my heart swelled up in my throat
At the sight I saw: the Amber Whale was lashing the sea with rage,
And two of his hundred-barrel guards were ready now to engage
In a bloody fight, and with open jaws they came to their masters aid.
Then we knew the Captain's boat was doomed; but the crew were no whit afraid,—
They were brave New England whalemen,—and we saw the harpooneer
Stand up to send in his irons, as soon as the whales came near.
Then we heard the Captain's order, 'Heave!' and saw the harpoon fly,
As the whales closed in with their open jaws: a shock, and a stifled cry
Was all that we heard; then we looked to see if the crew were still afloat,—
But nothing was there save a dull red patch, and the boards of the shattered boat!
'But that was no time for mourning words: the other two boats came in,
And one got fast on the quarter, and one aft the starboard fin
Of the Amber Whale. For a minute he paused, as if he were in doubt
As to whether 'twas best to run or fight. 'Lay on!' the Mate roared out,
‘And I'll give him a lance!' The boat shot in; and the Mate, when he saw his chance
Of sending it home to the vitals, four times he buried his lance.
A minute more, and a cheer went up, when we saw that his aim was good;
For the lance had struck in a life-spot, and the whale was spouting blood!
But now came the time of danger, for the school of whales around
Had aired their flukes, and the cry was raised, 'Look out! they're going to sound!'
And down they went with a sudden plunge, the Amber Whale the last,
While the lines ran smoking out of the tubs, he went to the deep so fast.
Before you could count your fingers, a hundred fathoms were out;
And then he stopped, for a wounded whale must come to the top and spout.
We hauled slack line as we felt him rise; and when he came up alone,
And spouted thick blood; we cheered again, for we knew he was all our own.
He was frightened now, and his fight was gone,—right round and round he spun,
As if he was trying to sight the boats, or find the best side to run.
But that was the minute for us to work: the boats hauled in their slack,
And bent on the drag-tubs over the stern to tire and hold him back.
The bark was five miles to wind'ard, and the mate gave a troubled glance
At the sinking sun, and muttered, 'Boys, we must give him another lance,
Or he'll run till night; and, if he should head to windward in the dark,
We'll be forced to cut loose and leave him, or else lose run of the bark.
'So we hauled in close, two boats at once, but only frightened the whale;
And, like a hound that was badly whipped, he turned and showed his tail,
With his head right dead to wind'ard; then as straight and as swift he sped
As a hungry shark for a swimming prey; and, bending over his head,
Like a mighty plume, went his bloody spout. Ah, shipmates, that was a sight
Worth a life at sea to witness! In his wake the sea was white
As you've seen it after a steamer's screw, churning up like foaming yeast;
And the boats went hissing along at the rate of twenty knots at least.
With the water flush with the gunwhale, and the oars were all apeak,
While the crews sat silent and quiet, watching the long, white streak
That was traced by the line of our passage. We hailed the bark as we passed,
And told them to keep a sharp look-out from the head of every mast;
'And if we're not back by sundown,' cried the Mate, 'you keep a light
At the royal cross-trees. If he dies, we may stick to the whale all night.'
'And past we swept with our oars apeak, and waved oar hands to the hail
Of the wondering men on the taffrail, who were watching our Amber Whale
As he surged ahead, just as if he thought he could tire his enemies out;
I was almost sorrowful, shipmates, to see after each red spout
That the great whale's strength was failing: the sweep of his flukes grew slow,
Till at sundown he made about four knots, and his spout was weak and low.
Then said the Mate to his boat's crew: 'Boys, the vessel is out of sight
To the leeward: now, shall we cut the line, or stick to the whale all night?'
'We'll stick to the whale!' cried every man. 'Let the other boats go back
To the vessel and beat to wind'ard, as well as they can, in our track.'
It was done as they said: the lines were cut, and the crews cried out, 'Good speed!'
As we swept along in the darkness, in the wake of our monster steed,
That went plunging on, with the dogged hope that he'd fire his enemies still,—
But even the strength of an Amber Whale must break before human will.
By little and little his power had failed as he spouted his blood away,
Till at midnight the rising moon shone down on the great fish as he lay
Just moving his flukes; but at length he stopped, and raising his square, black head
As high as the topmast cross-trees, swung round and fell over—dead!
'And then rose a shout of triumph,—a shout that was more like a curse
Than an honest cheer; but, shipmates, the thought In our hearts was worse,
And 'twas punished with bitter suffering. We claimed the whale as our own,
And said that the crew should have no share of the wealth that was ours alone.
We said to each other: We want their help till we get the whale aboard,
So we'll let 'em think that- they'll have a share till we get the Amber stored,
And then we'll pay them their wages, and send them ashore—or afloat,
If they show their temper. Ah! shipmates, no wonder 'twas that boat
And its selfish crew were cursed that night. Next day we saw no sail,
But the wind and sea were rising. Still, we held to the drifting whale,—
And a dead whale drifts to windward,—going farther away from the ship,
Without water, or bread, or courage to pray with heart or lip
That had planned and spoken the treachery. The wind blew into a gale,
And it screamed like mocking laughter round our boat and the Amber Whale.
'That night fell dark on the starving crew, and a hurricane blew next day;
Then we cut the line, and we cursed the prize as it drifted fast away,
As if some power under the waves were towing it out of sight;
And there we were, without help or hope, dreading the coming night.
Three days that hurricane lasted. When it passed, two men were dead;
And the strongest one of the living had not strength to raise his head,
When his dreaming swoon was broken by the sound of a cheery hail,
And he saw a shadow fall on the boat,—it fell from the old bark's sail!
And when he heard their kindly words, you'd think he should have smiled
With joy at his deliverance; but he cried like a little child,
And hid his face in his poor weak hands,—for he thought of the selfish plan,—
And he prayed to God to forgive them all. And, shipmates, I am the man! —
The only one of the sinful crew that ever beheld his home;
For before the cruise was over, all the rest were under the foam.
It's just fifteen years gone, shipmates,' said old Mat, ending his tale;
'And I often pray that I'll never see another Amber Whale.'
A reason to live
A man's reason to live is his very reason to die. His reason to live is his reason to sacrifice by his reason to love. His reason to love is his reason to die. If he died it would be a great sacrifice by reason of his faith. Then that reason of faith is substantiated if that love is good. Therefore his faith is purposeful.
A dangerous man has no reason to live and therefore no reason to love as all is lost. If that man has no love he has no reason for faith and he has no reason of faith because there is no love. He will give up his life easily. Look at the ones who love you and you will have the reason to live. That reason to live is what makes you believe in life. Therefore by reason of love you have faith and by reason of faith you have life. - John 17: 3
A reason to live
A man's reason to live is his very reason to die. His reason to live is his reason to sacrifice by his reason to love. His reason to love is his reason to die. If he died it would be a great sacrifice by reason of his faith. Then that reason of faith is substantiated if that love is good. Therefore his faith is purposeful.
A dangerous man has no reason to live and therefore no reason to love as all is lost. If that man has no love he has no reason for faith and he has no reason of faith because there is no love. He will give up his life easily. Look at the ones who love you and you will have the reason to live. That reason to live is what makes you believe in life. Therefore by reason of love you have faith and by reason of faith you have life. - John 17: 3
For The One Who Would Take Man's Life In His Hands
Tiger Christ unsheathed his sword,
Threw it down, became a lamb.
Swift spat upon the species, but
Took two women to his heart.
Samson who was strong as death
Paid his strength to kiss a slut.
Othello that stiff warrior
Was broken by a woman's heart.
Troy burned for a sea-tax, also for
Possession of a charming whore.
What do all examples show?
What must the finished murderer know?
You cannot sit on bayonets,
Nor can you eat among the dead.
When all are killed, you are alone,
A vacuum comes where hate has fed.
Murder's fruit is silent stone,
The gun increases poverty.
With what do these examples shine?
The soldier turned to girls and wine.
Love is the tact of every good,
The only warmth, the only peace.
"What have I said?" asked Socrates.
"Affirmed extremes, cried yes and no,
Taken all parts, denied myself,
Praised the caress, extolled the blow,
Soldier and lover quite deranged
Until their motions are exchanged.
-What do all examples show?
What can any actor know?
The contradiction in every act,
The infinite task of the human heart."
Quiet Please, There's A Lady On Stage
(carole bayer-sager & peter allen)
Quiet please, there's a lady on stage
She may not be the latest rage
But she's singing and she means it
And she deserves a little silence
Quiet please, there's a woman up there
And she's been honest through her songs
Long before your consciousness was raised
Doesn't that deserve a little praise
So put your hands together and help her along
All that's left of the singer's
All that's left of the song
Stand for the ovation
And give her one last celebration
Quiet please, there's a person up there
And she's been singing of the things
That none of us could bear to hear for ourselves
Give her your respect if nothing else
Quiet please, there's a lady on stage
Conductor, turn the final page
And when it's over we can all go home
But she lives on -- on the stage alone.
Every Little Thing She Does
Freshman year mama asked waht do you wanna
do when you get out of here.
i said well gee, i'm only 13, but i think i'd like to play my guitar
be a star
She well thats not it you got some time to go
good sense will kick in any time you know.
i'm not worried, i'm not worried
Softmore year she asked the same old thing,
my answer had remained unchanged
i saw her fidgit with her thumbs,
she said you like computers John, you like computers don't you
you see i always see with a computer you like computers
maybee you could do something with computers yea wouldn't that be nice
Junior year, its a little more tense she says,
what do you want to do with your life?
i'm not on the fence i know exactly what i am to be
and i'm only 17.
she well all i ask is that you pay attention in class,
so if you happen to xhange your mind in time you can still go
so where reputible, do us proud.
so i went down stairs and played the guitar loud.
yea and senior its the same old question
she said what you wanna do?
i said play my guitar and sing, she said theres no such thing,
she said thers no such thing
Here in the garden-bed,
Hoeing the celery,
Wonders the Lord has made
Pass ever before me.
I see the young birds build,
And swallows come and go,
And summer grow and gild,
And winter die in snow.
Many a thing I note,
And store it in my mind,
For all my ragged coat
That scarce will stop the wind.
I light my pipe and draw,
And, leaning on my spade,
I marvel with much awe
O'er all the Lord hath made.
Now, here's a curious thing:
Upon the first of March
The crow goes house-building
In the elm and in the larch.
And be it shine or snow,
Though many winds carouse,
That day the artful crow
Begins to build his house.
But thenthe wonder's big !
If Sunday fell that day,
Nor straw, nor screw, nor twig,
Till Monday would he lay.
His black wings to his side,
He'd drone upon his perch,
Subdued and holy-eyed
As though he were in church.
The crow's a gentleman
Not greatly to my mind,
He'll steal what seeds he can,
And all you hide he'll find.
Yet though he's bully and sneak,
To small birds, bird of prey,
He counts the days of the week,
And keeps the Sabbath Day.
Not Fulfilling Our Demands
Violent computer generated games,
Are being embedded in the imaginations...
Of unsuspecting children.
Just about every TV show,
Has a theme of someone getting maimed...
Or killed after being rushed to a hospital,
With a cast of overheated medical attendents.
Children today can spell corruption,
Quicker than they can spell 'biology, chemistry...
Speak correct English or do simple math.
And you've come to ask me,
Why are today's children disrespectful?
It couldn't be a negligent society.
Let's blame all our headaches on elected leaders,
Not fulfilling our demands to suit our self righteous needs.
Our People are Suffering Mercilessly and Dying Unnecessarily
Our people are suffering mercilessly
Every second of the day and dying sporadically
In Haiti, our people are dying unnecessarily under unstable tents
Our people are in dire need of our (your and my) Help and support
We must stop the sufferings at the door step of their port
We cannot survive without each other; let’s use our common sense
We have become too relaxed, too complacent,
Too easily satisfied; we are almost nonexistent
We know how to make better tea than any other party
Let’s start drinking good tea again
So we can be more energized and defiant facing the almighty sea
Let’s start to move again for our people in pain
Let’s defeat: ignorance, incompetence and nonchalance
We need to help and support them 101 percent
We have been sleeping and snoring
We need to wake-up; we need to shake-up our bottom
Because right now our bottom line is experiencing a phantom pain
Our people are desperate and almost insane
Under the cluttered tarps and the feeble tents, they are suffering
Believe it or not, we are their oxygen and their hope
Let’s unite, let’s help them, and let’s vote
For leaders who fight for us and our interests
Wake-up brothers, sisters and friends, open your eyes,
Wake-up, open your brain, wake-up because the pies
Are almost on your face, we must not rest
Until we reach our common goals and destination together
We need to love each other more
We need to take care of each other more
We need to help each other more
We need to fight for each other more
Haiti needs all of you
Book Thirteenth [Imagination And Taste, How Impaired And Restored Concluded]
FROM Nature doth emotion come, and moods
Of calmness equally are Nature's gift:
This is her glory; these two attributes
Are sister horns that constitute her strength.
Hence Genius, born to thrive by interchange
Of peace and excitation, finds in her
His best and purest friend; from her receives
That energy by which he seeks the truth,
From her that happy stillness of the mind
Which fits him to receive it when unsought.
Such benefit the humblest intellects
Partake of, each in their degree; 'tis mine
To speak, what I myself have known and felt;
Smooth task! for words find easy way, inspired
By gratitude, and confidence in truth.
Long time in search of knowledge did I range
The field of human life, in heart and mind
Benighted; but, the dawn beginning now
To re-appear, 'twas proved that not in vain
I had been taught to reverence a Power
That is the visible quality and shape
And image of right reason; that matures
Her processes by steadfast laws; gives birth
To no impatient or fallacious hopes,
No heat of passion or excessive zeal,
No vain conceits; provokes to no quick turns
Of self-applauding intellect; but trains
To meekness, and exalts by humble faith;
Holds up before the mind intoxicate
With present objects, and the busy dance
Of things that pass away, a temperate show
Of objects that endure; and by this course
Disposes her, when over-fondly set
On throwing off incumbrances, to seek
In man, and in the frame of social life,
Whate'er there is desirable and good
Of kindred permanence, unchanged in form
And function, or, through strict vicissitude
Of life and death, revolving. Above all
Were re-established now those watchful thoughts
Which, seeing little worthy or sublime
In what the Historian's pen so much delights
To blazon--power and energy detached
From moral purpose--early tutored me
To look with feelings of fraternal love
Upon the unassuming things that hold
A silent station in this beauteous world.
Thus moderated, thus composed, I found
Once more in Man an object of delight,
Of pure imagination, and of love;
And, as the horizon of my mind enlarged,
Again I took the intellectual eye
For my instructor, studious more to see
Great truths, than touch and handle little ones.
Knowledge was given accordingly; my trust
Became more firm in feelings that had stood
The test of such a trial; clearer far
My sense of excellence--of right and wrong:
The promise of the present time retired
Into its true proportion; sanguine schemes,
Ambitious projects, pleased me less; I sought
For present good in life's familiar face,
And built thereon my hopes of good to come.
With settling judgments now of what would last
And what would disappear; prepared to find
Presumption, folly, madness, in the men
Who thrust themselves upon the passive world
As Rulers of the world; to see in these,
Even when the public welfare is their aim,
Plans without thought, or built on theories
Vague and unsound; and having brought the books
Of modern statists to their proper test,
Life, human life, with all its sacred claims
Of sex and age, and heaven-descended rights,
Mortal, or those beyond the reach of death;
And having thus discerned how dire a thing
Is worshipped in that idol proudly named
'The Wealth of Nations,' 'where' alone that wealth
Is lodged, and how increased; and having gained
A more judicious knowledge of the worth
And dignity of individual man,
No composition of the brain, but man
Of whom we read, the man whom we behold
With our own eyes--I could not but inquire--
Not with less interest than heretofore,
But greater, though in spirit more subdued--
Why is this glorious creature to be found
One only in ten thousand? What one is,
Why may not millions be? What bars are thrown
By Nature in the way of such a hope?
Our animal appetites and daily wants,
Are these obstructions insurmountable?
If not, then others vanish into air.
'Inspect the basis of the social pile:
Inquire,' said I, 'how much of mental power
And genuine virtue they possess who live
By bodily toil, labour exceeding far
Their due proportion, under all the weight
Of that injustice which upon ourselves
Ourselves entail.' Such estimate to frame
I chiefly looked (what need to look beyond?)
Among the natural abodes of men,
Fields with their rural works; recalled to mind
My earliest notices; with these compared
The observations made in later youth,
And to that day continued.--For, the time
Had never been when throes of mighty Nations
And the world's tumult unto me could yield,
How far soe'er transported and possessed,
Full measure of content; but still I craved
An intermingling of distinct regards
And truths of individual sympathy
Nearer ourselves. Such often might be gleaned
From the great City, else it must have proved
To me a heart-depressing wilderness;
But much was wanting: therefore did I turn
To you, ye pathways, and ye lonely roads;
Sought you enriched with everything I prized,
With human kindnesses and simple joys.
Oh! next to one dear state of bliss, vouchsafed,
Alas! to few in this untoward world,
The bliss of walking daily in life's prime
Through field or forest with the maid we love,
While yet our hearts are young, while yet we breathe
Nothing but happiness, in some lone nook,
Deep vale, or anywhere, the home of both,
From which it would be misery to stir:
Oh! next to such enjoyment of our youth,
In my esteem, next to such dear delight,
Was that of wandering on from day to day
Where I could meditate in peace, and cull
Knowledge that step by step might lead me on
To wisdom; or, as lightsome as a bird
Wafted upon the wind from distant lands,
Sing notes of greeting to strange fields or groves,
Which lacked not voice to welcome me in turn:
And, when that pleasant toil had ceased to please,
Converse with men, where if we meet a face
We almost meet a friend, on naked heaths
With long long ways before, by cottage bench,
Or well-spring where the weary traveller rests.
Who doth not love to follow with his eye
The windings of a public way? the sight,
Familiar object as it is, hath wrought
On my imagination since the morn
Of childhood, when a disappearing line,
One daily present to my eyes, that crossed
The naked summit of a far-off hill
Beyond the limits that my feet had trod,
Was like an invitation into space
Boundless, or guide into eternity.
Yes, something of the grandeur which invests
The mariner, who sails the roaring sea
Through storm and darkness, early in my mind
Surrounded, too, the wanderers of the earth;
Grandeur as much, and loveliness far more.
Awed have I been by strolling Bedlamites;
From many other uncouth vagrants (passed
In fear) have walked with quicker step; but why
Take note of this? When I began to enquire,
To watch and question those I met, and speak
Without reserve to them, the lonely roads
Were open schools in which I daily read
With most delight the passions of mankind,
Whether by words, looks, sighs, or tears, revealed;
There saw into the depth of human souls,
Souls that appear to have no depth at all
To careless eyes. And--now convinced at heart
How little those formalities, to which
With overweening trust alone we give
The name of Education, have to do
With real feeling and just sense; how vain
A correspondence with the talking world
Proves to the most; and called to make good search
If man's estate, by doom of Nature yoked
With toil, be therefore yoked with ignorance;
If virtue be indeed so hard to rear,
And intellectual strength so rare a boon--
I prized such walks still more, for there I found
Hope to my hope, and to my pleasure peace
And steadiness, and healing and repose
To every angry passion. There I heard,
From mouths of men obscure and lowly, truths
Replete with honour; sounds in unison
With loftiest promises of good and fair.
There are who think that strong affection, love
Known by whatever name, is falsely deemed
A gift, to use a term which they would use,
Of vulgar nature; that its growth requires
Retirement, leisure, language purified
By manners studied and elaborate;
That whoso feels such passion in its strength
Must live within the very light and air
Of courteous usages refined by art.
True is it, where oppression worse than death
Salutes the being at his birth, where grace
Of culture hath been utterly unknown,
And poverty and labour in excess
From day to day pre-occupy the ground
Of the affections, and to Nature's self
Oppose a deeper nature; there, indeed,
Love cannot be; nor does it thrive with ease
Among the close and overcrowded haunts
Of cities, where the human heart is sick,
And the eye feeds it not, and cannot feed.
--Yes, in those wanderings deeply did I feel
How we mislead each other; above all,
How books mislead us, seeking their reward
From judgments of the wealthy Few, who see
By artificial lights; how they debase
The Many for the pleasure of those Few;
Effeminately level down the truth
To certain general notions, for the sake
Of being understood at once, or else
Through want of better knowledge in the heads
That framed them; flattering self-conceit with words,
That, while they most ambitiously set forth
Extrinsic differences, the outward marks
Whereby society has parted man
From man, neglect the universal heart.
Here, calling up to mind what then I saw,
A youthful traveller, and see daily now
In the familiar circuit of my home,
Here might I pause, and bend in reverence
To Nature, and the power of human minds,
To men as they are men within themselves.
How oft high service is performed within,
When all the external man is rude in show,--
Not like a temple rich with pomp and gold,
But a mere mountain chapel, that protects
Its simple worshippers from sun and shower.
Of these, said I, shall be my song; of these,
If future years mature me for the task,
Will I record the praises, making verse
Deal boldly with substantial things; in truth
And sanctity of passion, speak of these,
That justice may be done, obeisance paid
Where it is due: thus haply shall I teach,
Inspire; through unadulterated ears
Pour rapture, tenderness, and hope,--my theme
No other than the very heart of man,
As found among the best of those who live--
Not unexalted by religious faith,
Nor uninformed by books, good books, though few--
In Nature's presence: thence may I select
Sorrow, that is not sorrow, but delight;
And miserable love, that is not pain
To hear of, for the glory that redounds
Therefrom to human kind, and what we are.
Be mine to follow with no timid step
Where knowledge leads me: it shall be my pride
That I have dared to tread this holy ground,
Speaking no dream, but things oracular;
Matter not lightly to be heard by those
Who to the letter of the outward promise
Do read the invisible soul; by men adroit
In speech, and for communion with the world
Accomplished; minds whose faculties are then
Most active when they are most eloquent,
And elevated most when most admired.
Men may be found of other mould than these,
Who are their own upholders, to themselves
Encouragement, and energy, and will,
Expressing liveliest thoughts in lively words
As native passion dictates. Others, too,
There are among the walks of homely life
Still higher, men for contemplation framed,
Shy, and unpractised in the strife of phrase;
Meek men, whose very souls perhaps would sink
Beneath them, summoned to such intercourse:
Theirs is the language of the heavens, the power,
The thought, the image, and the silent joy:
Words are but under-agents in their souls;
When they are grasping with their greatest strength,
They do not breathe among them: this I speak
In gratitude to God, Who feeds our hearts
For His own service; knoweth, loveth us,
When we are unregarded by the world.
Also, about this time did I receive
Convictions still more strong than heretofore,
Not only that the inner frame is good,
And graciously composed, but that, no less,
Nature for all conditions wants not power
To consecrate, if we have eyes to see,
The outside of her creatures, and to breathe
Grandeur upon the very humblest face
Of human life. I felt that the array
Of act and circumstance, and visible form,
Is mainly to the pleasure of the mind
What passion makes them; that meanwhile the forms
Of Nature have a passion in themselves,
That intermingles with those works of man
To which she summons him; although the works
Be mean, have nothing lofty of their own;
And that the Genius of the Poet hence
May boldly take his way among mankind
Wherever Nature leads; that he hath stood
By Nature's side among the men of old,
And so shall stand for ever. Dearest Friend!
If thou partake the animating faith
That Poets, even as Prophets, each with each
Connected in a mighty scheme of truth,
Have each his own peculiar faculty,
Heaven's gift, a sense that fits him to perceive
Objects unseen before, thou wilt not blame
The humblest of this band who dares to hope
That unto him hath also been vouchsafed
An insight that in some sort he possesses,
A privilege whereby a work of his,
Proceeding from a source of untaught things,
Creative and enduring, may become
A power like one of Nature's. To a hope
Not less ambitious once among the wilds
Of Sarum's Plain, my youthful spirit was raised;
There, as I ranged at will the pastoral downs
Trackless and smooth, or paced the bare white roads
Lengthening in solitude their dreary line,
Time with his retinue of ages fled
Backwards, nor checked his flight until I saw
Our dim ancestral Past in vision clear;
Saw multitudes of men, and, here and there,
A single Briton clothed in wolf-skin vest,
With shield and stone-axe, stride across the wold;
The voice of spears was heard, the rattling spear
Shaken by arms of mighty bone, in strength,
Long mouldered, of barbaric majesty.
I called on Darkness--but before the word
Was uttered, midnight darkness seemed to take
All objects from my sight; and lo! again
The Desert visible by dismal flames;
It is the sacrificial altar, fed
With living men--how deep the groans! the voice
Of those that crowd the giant wicker thrills
The monumental hillocks, and the pomp
Is for both worlds, the living and the dead.
At other moments--(for through that wide waste
Three summer days I roamed) where'er the Plain
Was figured o'er with circles, lines, or mounds,
That yet survive, a work, as some divine,
Shaped by the Druids, so to represent
Their knowledge of the heavens, and image forth
The constellations--gently was I charmed
Into a waking dream, a reverie
That, with believing eyes, where'er I turned,
Beheld long-bearded teachers, with white wands
Uplifted, pointing to the starry sky,
Alternately, and plain below, while breath
Of music swayed their motions, and the waste
Rejoiced with them and me in those sweet sounds.
This for the past, and things that may be viewed
Or fancied in the obscurity of years
From monumental hints: and thou, O Friend!
Pleased with some unpremeditated strains
That served those wanderings to beguile, hast said
That then and there my mind had exercised
Upon the vulgar forms of present things,
The actual world of our familiar days,
Yet higher power; had caught from them a tone,
An image, and a character, by books
Not hitherto reflected. Call we this
A partial judgment--and yet why? for 'then'
We were as strangers; and I may not speak
Thus wrongfully of verse, however rude,
Which on thy young imagination, trained
In the great City, broke like light from far.
Moreover, each man's Mind is to herself
Witness and judge; and I remember well
That in life's every-day appearances
I seemed about this time to gain clear sight
Of a new world--a world, too, that was fit
To be transmitted, and to other eyes
Made visible; as ruled by those fixed laws
Whence spiritual dignity originates,
Which do both give it being and maintain
A balance, an ennobling interchange
Of action from without and from within;
The excellence, pure function, and best power
Both of the objects seen, and eye that sees.
Today, recovering from influenza,
I begin, having nothing worse to do,
This autobiography that ends a
Half of my life I'm glad I'm through.
O Love, what a bloody hullaballoo
I look back at, shaken and sober,
When that intemperate life I view
From this temperate October.
To nineteen hundred and forty-seven
I pay the deepest of respects,
For during this year I was given
Some insight into the other sex.
I was a victim, till forty-six,
Of the rosy bed with bitches in it;
But now, in spite of all pretexts,
I never sleep a single minute.
O fellow sailor on the tossing sea,
O fleeting virgin in the night,
O privates, general in lechery,
Shun, shun the bedroom like a blight:
Evade, O amorous acolyte,
That pillow where your heart can bury -
For if the thing was stood upright
It would become a cemetery.
I start with this apostrophe
To all apostles of true love:
With your devotion visit me,
Give me the glory of the dove
That dies of dereliction. Give
True love to me, true love to me,
And in two shakes I will prove
It's false to you and false to me.
Bright spawner, on your sandbank dwell
Coldblooded as a plumber's pipe -
The procreatory ocean swell
Warming, till they're over ripe,
The cockles of your cold heart, will
Teach us true love can instil
Temperature into any type.
Does not the oyster in its bed
Open a yearning yoni when
The full moon passes overhead
Feeling for pearls? O nothing, then,
Too low a form of life is, when
Love, abandoning the cloister,
Can animate the bedded oyster,
The spawning tiddler, and men.
Thus all of us, the pig and prince,
The prince and the psychiatrist,
Owe everything to true love, since
How the devil could we exist
If our parents had never kissed?
All biographies, therefore,
- No matter what else they evince -
Open, like prisons, with adore.
Remember, when you love another,
Who demonstrably is a bitch,
Even Venus had a mother
Whose love, like a silent aitch,
Incepted your erotic itch.
Love, Love has the longest history,
For we can tell an ape his father
Begot him on a mystery.
I, born in Essex thirty-four
Essentially sexual years ago,
Stepped down, looked around, and saw
I had been cast a little low
In the social register
For the friends whom I now know.
Is a constable a mister?
Bob's your uncle, even so.
Better men than I have wondered
Why one's father could not see
That at one's birth he had blundered.
His ill-chosen paternity
Embarrasses the fraternity
Of one's friends who, living Huysmans,
Understandably have wondered
At fatherhood permitted policemen.
So I, the son of an administer
Of the facts of civil laws
Delight in uncivil and even sinister
Violations. Thus my cause
Is simply, friend, to hell with yours.
In misdemeanours I was nourished -
Learnt, like altruists in Westminster,
By what duplicities one flourished.
At five, but feeling rather young,
With a blue eye beauty over six,
Hand in hand and tongue to tongue
I took a sin upon my sex.
Sin? It was pleasure. So I told her.
And ever since, persisting in
Concupiscences no bolder
My pleasure's been to undress sin.
What's the point of a confession
If you have nothing to confess?
I follow the perjuring profession
- O poet, lying to impress! -
But the beautiful lie in a beautiful dress
Is the least heinous of my transgressions:
When a new one's added, 'O who was it? '
Sigh the skeletons in my closet.
Ladybird, ladybird, come home, come home:
Muse and mistress wherever you are.
The evening is here and in the gloom
Each bisexual worm burns like a star
And the love of man is crepuscular.
In the day the world. But, at night, we
Lonely on egoes dark and far
Apart as worlds, between sea and sea,
Yearn on each other as the stars hold
One another in fields together.
O rose of all the world, enfold
Each weeping worm against the cold
Of the bitter ego's weather;
To warm our isothermal pride
Cause sometimes, Love, another
To keep us by an unselfish side.
The act of human procreation
- The rutting tongue, the grunt and shudder,
The sweat, the reek of defecation,
The cradle hanging by the bladder,
The scramble up the hairy ladder,
And from the thumping bed of Time
Immortality, a white slime,
Sucking at its mother's udder -
The act of human procreation
- The sore dug plugging, the lugged out bub,
The small man priming a lactation,
The grunt, the drooping teat, the rub
Of gum and dug, the slobbing kiss:
Behold the mater amabilis,
Sow with a saviour, messiah and cow,
Virgin and piglet, son and sow:
The act of human procreation,
- O crown and flower, O culmination
Of perfect love throughout creation -
What can I compare it to?
O eternal butterflies in the belly,
O trembling of the heavenly jelly,
O miracle of birth! Really
We are excreted, like shit.
The Church, mediatrix between heaven
And human fallibility
Reminds us that the age of seven
Inaugurates the Reason we
Spend our prolonged seniority
Transgressing. Of that time I wish
I could recount a better story
Than finding a shilling and a fish.
But memory flirts with seven veils
Peekabooing the accidental
And what the devil it all entails
Only Sigmund Freud suspects.
I think my shilling and my fish
Symbolised a hidden wish
To sublimate these two affects:
Money is nice and so is sex.
The Angel of Reason, descending
On my seven year old head
Inscribed this sentence by my bed:
The pleasure of money is unending
But sex satisfied is sex dead.
I tested to see if sex died
But, all my effort notwithstanding,
Have never found it satisfied.
Abacus of Reason, you have been
The instrument of my abuse,
The North Star I have never seen,
The trick for which I have no use:
The Reason, gadget of schoolmasters,
Pimp of the spirit, the smart alec,
Proud engineer of disasters,
I see phallic: you, cephalic.
Happy those early days when I
Attended an elementary school
Where seven hundred infant lives
Flittered like gadflies on the stool
(We discovered that contraceptives
Blown up like balloons, could fly):
We memorised the Golden Rule:
Lie, lie, lie, lie.
For God's sake, Barker. This is enough
Whimsicalities and such stuff.
Where's the ineffable mystery,
The affiancing to affinities
Of the young poet? The history
Of an evolving mind's love
For the miseries and the humanities?
The sulking and son loving Muse
Grabbed me when I was nine. She saw
It was a question of self abuse
Or verses. I tossed off reams before
I cared to recognize their purpose.
While other urchins were blowing up toads
With pipes of straw stuck in the arse,
So was I, but I also wrote odes.
There was a priest, a priest, a priest,
A Reverend of the Oratory
Who taught me history. At least
He taught me the best part of his story.
Fat Father William, have you ceased
To lead boys up the narrow path
Through the doors of the Turkish Bath?
I hope you're warm in Purgatory.
And in the yard of the tenement
- The Samuel Lewis Trust - I played
While my father, for the rent
(Ten bob a wekk and seldom paid) ,
Trudged London for a job. I went
Skedaddling up the scanty years,
My learning, like the rent, in arrears,
But sometimes making the grade.
Oh boring kids! In spite of Freud
I find my childhood recollections
Much duller now than when I enjoyed
It. The whistling affections,
All fitting wrong, toy railway sections
Running in circles. Cruel as cats
Even the lower beasts avoid
These inhumanitarian brats.
Since the Age of Reason's seven
And most of one's friends over eight,
Therefore they're reasonable? Even
Sensible Stearns or simpleton Stephen
Wouldn't claim that. I contemplate
A world which, at crucial instants,
Surrenders to adulterant infants
The adult onus to think straight.
At the bottom of this murky well
My childhood, like a climbing root,
Nursed in dirt the simple cell
That pays itself this sour tribute.
Track any poet to a beginning
And in a dark room you will find
A little boy intent on sinning
With an etymological lover.
I peopled my youth with the pulchritude
Of heterae noun-anatomised;
The literature that I prized
Was anything to do with the nude
Spirit of creative art
Who whispered to me: 'Don't be queasy.
Simply write about a tart
And there she is. The rest's easy.'
And thus, incepted in congenial
Feebleness of moral power
I became a poet. Venial
As a human misdemeanour,
Still, it gave me, prisoner
In my lack of character,
Pig to the Circean Muse's honour.
Her honour? Why, it's lying on her.
Dowered, invested and endowed
With every frailty is the poet -
Yielding to wickedness because
How the hell else can he know it?
The tempted poet must be allowed
All ethical latitude. His small flaws
Bring home to him, in sweet breaches,
The moral self indulgence teaches.
Where was I? Running, so to speak,
To the adolescent seed? I
Found my will power rather weak
And my appetite rather greedy
About the year of the General Strike,
So I struck, as it were, myself:
Refused to do anything whatsover, like
Exercise books on a shelf.
Do Youth and Innocence prevail
Over that cloudcuckoo clime
Where the seasons never fail
And the clocks forget the time?
Where the peaks of the sublime
Crown every thought; where every vale
Has its phantasy and phantasm
And every midnight its orgasm?
I mooned into my fourteenth year
Through a world pronouncing harsh
Judgments I could not quite hear
About my verse, my young moustasche
And my bad habits. In Battersea Park
I almost heard strangers gossip
About my poems, almost remark
The bush of knowledge on my lip.
Golden Calf, Golden Calf, where are you now
Who lowed so mournfully in the dense
Arcana of my adolescence?
No later anguish of bull or cow
Could ever be compared with half
The misery of the amorous calf
Moonstruck in moonshine. How could I know
You can't couple Love with any sense?
Poignant as a swallowed knife,
Abstracted as a mannequin,
Remote as music, touchy as skin,
Into an apocalypse,
Young Love, taking Grief to wife,
And tasting the bitterness of her lips
Forgets it comes from swabbing gin.
The veils descend. The unknown figure
Is sheeted in the indecencies
Of shame and boils. The nose gets bigger,
The private parts, haired like a trigger,
Cock at a dream. The infant cries
Abandoned in its discarded larva,
Out of which steps, with bloodshot eyes,
The man, the man, crying Ave, Ave!
That Frenchman really had the trick
Of figure skating in this stanza
But I, thank God, cannot read Gallic
And so escape his influenza.
Above my head his rhetoric
Asks emulation. I do not answer.
It is as though I had not heard
Because I cannot speak a word.
But I invoke him, dirty dog,
As one barker to another:
Lift over me your clever leg,
Teach me, you snail-swallowing frog
To make out of a spot of bother
Verses that shall catalogue
Every exaggerated human claim,
Every exaggerated human aim.
I entreat you, frank villain,
Get up out of your bed of dirt
And guide my hand. You are still an
At telling Truth she's telling lies.
Get up liar; get up, cheat,
Look the bitch square in the eyes
And you'll see what I entreat.
We share, frog, much the same well.
I sense your larger spectre down
Here among the social swill
Moving at ease beside my own
And the muckrakers I have known.
No, not the magnitude I claim
That makes your shade loom like a tall
Memorial but the type's the same.
You murdered with a knife, but I
Like someone out of Oscar Wilde
Commemorate with a child
The smiling victims as they die
Slewing in kisses and the lie
Of generation. But we both killed.
I rob the grave you glorify,
You glorify where I defiled.
O most adult adulterer
Preside, now, coldly over
My writing hand, as to it crowd
The images of those unreal years
That, like a curtain, seem to stir
Guiltily over what they cover -
Those unreal years, dreamshot and proud,
When the vision first appears.
The unveiled vision of all things
Walking towards us as we stand
And giving us, in either hand,
The knowledge that the world brings
To those her most beloved, those
Who, when she strikes with her wings,
Stand rooted, turned into a rose
By terrestrial understandings.
Come, sulking woman, bare as water,
Dazzle me now as you dazzled me
When, blinded by your nudity,
I saw the sex of the intellect,
The idea of the beautiful.
The beautiful to which I, later,
Gave only mistrust and neglect,
The idea no dishonour can annul.
Vanquished aviatrix, descend
Again, long vanished vision whom
I have not known so long, assume
Your former bright prerogative,
Illuminate, guide and attend
Me now. O living vision, give
The grave, the verity; and send
The spell that makes the poem live.
I sent a letter to my love
In an envelope of stone,
And in between the letters ran
A crying torrent that began
To grow till it was bigger than
Nyanza or the heart of man.
I sent a letter to my love
In an envelope of stone.
I sent a present to my love
In a black bordered box,
A clock that beats a time of tears
As the stricken midnight nears
And my love weeps as she hears
The armageddon of the years.
I sent my love the present
In a black bordered box.
I sent a liar to my love
With his hands full of roses
But she shook her yellow and curled
Curled and yellow hair and cried
The rose is dead of all the world
Since my only love has lied.
I sent a liar to my love
With roses in his hands.
I sent a daughter to my love
In a painted cradle.
She took her up at her left breast
And rocked her to a mothered rest
Singing a song that what is best
Loves and loves and forgets the rest.
I sent a daughter to my love
In a painted cradle.
I sent a letter to my love
On a sheet of stone.
She looked down and as she read
She shook her yellow hair and said
Now he sleeps alone instead
Of many a lie in many a bed.
I sent a letter to my love
On a sheet of stone.
O long-haired virgin by my tree
Among whose forks hung enraged
A sexual passion not assuaged
By you, its victim - knee to knee,
Locked sweating in the muscled dark
Lovers, as new as we were, spill
The child on grass in Richmond Park.
Crying the calf runs wild among
Hills of the heart are memories:
Long long the white kiss of the young
Rides the lip and only dies
When the whole man stalks among
The crosses where remorse lies -
Then, then the vultures on the tongue
Rule empires of white memories.
Legendary water, where, within
Gazing, my own face I perceive,
How can my self-disgust believe
This was my angel at seventeeen?
Stars, stars and the world, seen
Untouched by crystal. Retrieve
The morning star what culprit can
Who knows his blood spins in between?
Move backward, loving rover, over
All those unfeathered instances
I tar with kiss of pitch, the dirty
Lip-service that a jaded thirty
Renders its early innocences.
Pointer of recollection, show
The deaths in feather that now cover
The tarry spot I died below.
What sickening snot-engendered bastard
Likes making an idiot of himself?
I wish to heaven I had mastered
The art of living like a dastard
While still admiring oneself.
About my doings, past and recent,
I hear Disgust - my better half -
'His only decency's indecent.'
Star-fingered shepherdess of Sleep
Come, pacify regret, remorse;
And let the suffering black sheep
Weep on the bed it made. Let pause
The orphic criminal to perceive
That in the venue of his days
All the crimes look back and grieve
Over lies no grief allays.
Sleep at my side again, my bride,
As on our marriage bed you turned
Into a flowering bush that burned
All the proud flesh away. Beside
Me now, you, shade of my departed
Broken, abandoned bride, lie still,
And I shall hold you close until
Even our ghosts are broken hearted.
So trusting, innocent, and unknowing
What the hazards of the world
Storm and strike a marriage with,
We did not hear the grinders blowing
But sailed our kisses round the world
Ignorant of monsters and the vaster
Cemetery of innocence. This wreath
Dreams over our common disaster.
But bright that nuptials to me now
As when, the smiling foetus carried
Rose-decked today instead of tomorrow,
Like country cousins we were married
By the pretty bullying embryo
And you, my friend: I will not borrow
Again the serge suit that I carried
Through honey of moon to sup of sorrow.
Loving the hand, gentle the reproving;
Loving the heart, deeper the understanding;
Deeper the understanding, larger the confiding
For the hurt heart's hiding.
Forgiving the hand, love without an ending
Walks back on water; giving and taking
Both sides become by simple comprehending:
Deeper the love, greater the heart at breaking.
O Bishop Andrewes, Bishop Berkeley,
John Peale Bishop and Bishop's Park,
I look through my ego darkly
But all that I perceive is dark:
My parochial testaments
And with your vestal vested vestments
Tenderly invest my state.
Let grace, like lace, descend upon me
And dignify my wingless shoulder:
Let Grace, like space, lie heavy on me
And make me seem a little older,
A little nobler; let Grace sidle
Into my shameful bed, and, curling
About me in a psychic bridal,
Prove that even Grace is a darling.
The moon is graceful in the sky,
The bird is graceful in the air,
The girl is graceful too, so why
The devil should I ever care
Capitulating to despair?
Since Grace is clearly everywhere
And I am either here or there
I'm pretty sure I've got my share.
Grace whom no man ever held,
Whose breast no human hand has pressed,
Grace no lover has undressed
Because she's naked as a beast -
Grace will either gild or geld.
Sweet Grace abounding into bed
Jumps to it hot as a springald -
After a brief prayer is said.
Come to me, Grace, and I will take
You close into my wicked hands,
And when you come, make no mistake,
I'll disgrace you at both ends.
We'll grace all long throughout the night
And as the morning star looks in
And blanches at the state we're in -
We'll grace again to be polite.
For Marriage is a state of grace.
So many mutual sacrifices
Infallibly induce a peace
Past understanding or high prices.
So many forgivenesses for so many
Double crossings or double dealings -
I know that the married cannot have any
But the most unselfish feelings.
But the wise Church, contemplating
The unnatural demands
That marriage and the art of mating
Make on egoists, commands
We recognise as sacramental
A union otherwise destined
To break in every anarchic wind
Broken by the temperamental.
Off the Tarpeian, for high treason,
Tied in a bag with a snake and a cock,
The traitor trod the Roman rock.
But in the bag, for a better reason,
The married lovers, cock and snake,
Lie on a Mount of Venus. Traitor
Each to each, fake kissing fake,
So punished by a betrayed creator.
'The willing union of two lives.'
This is, the Lords of Justice tell us,
The purpose of the connubial knot.
But I can think of only one
Function that at best contrives
To join the jealous with the jealous,
And what this function joins is not
Lives, but the erogenous zone.
I see the young bride move among
The nine-month trophies of her pride,
And though she is not really young
And only virtually a bride,
She knows her beauties now belong
With every other treasure of her
Past and future, to her lover:
But her babies work out wrong.
I see the bridegroom in his splendour
Rolling like an unbridalled stallion,
Handsome, powerful and tender,
And passionate as an Italian -
And nothing I could say would lend a
Shock of more surprise and pride
Than if I said that this rapscallion
Was necking with his legal bride.
I knew a beautiful courtesan
Who, after service, would unbosom
He prettier memories, like blossom,
At the feet of the weary man:
'I'm such a sensitive protoplasm,'
She whispered, when I was not there,
'That I experience an orgasm
If I t o u c h a millionaire.'
Lying with, about, upon,
Everything and everyone,
Every happy little wife
Miscegenates once in alife,
And every pardonable groom
Needs, sometimes, a change of womb,
Because, although damnation may be,
Society needs every baby.
It takes a sacrament to keep
Any man and woman together:
Birds of a forgivable feather
Always flock and buck together:
And in our forgivable sleep
What birdwatcher will know whether
God Almighty sees we keep
Religiously to one another?
I have often wondered what method
Governed the heavenly mind when
It made as audience to God
The sycophant, the seaman sod,
The solipsist - in short, men.
Even the circus stepping mare
Lifts her nose into the air
In the presence of this paragon.
For half a dozen simple years
We lived happily, so to speak,
On twenty-seven shillings a week;
And, when worried and in tears,
My mercenary wife complained
That we could not afford our marriage,
'It's twice as much,' I explained,
'As MacNeice pays for his garage.'
I entertained the Marxian whore -
I am concerned with economics,
And naturally felt that more
Thought should be given to our stomachs.
But when I let my fancy dwell
On anything below the heart,
I found my thoughts, and hands as well,
Resting upon some private part.
I sat one morning on the can
That served us for a lavatory
Composing some laudatory
Verses on the state of man:
My wife called from the kitchen dresser:
'There's someone here from Japan.
He wants you out there. As Professor.
Oh, yes. The War just began.'
So Providence engineered her
And the crown of the objector
Was snatched from me. In wars
The conscientious protester
Preserves, as worlds sink to force,
The dignified particular.
Particularly one, of course.
'The hackneyed rollcall of chronology' -
Thus autobiography to de Quincey.
And I can understand it, since he
Lived like a footnote to philology.
But the archangelic enumeration
Of unpredictable hejiras -
These, with a little exaggeration,
I can adduce for my admirerers.
And so, when I saw you, nightmare island,
Fade into the autumnal night,
I felt the tears rise up for my land,
But somehow these tears were not quite
As sick as when my belly laughed
Remembering England had given me
The unconditional liberty
To do a job for which I starved.
Almighty God, by whose ill will
I was created with a conscience;
By whose merciful malevolence
I shall be sustained until
My afflictions fulfil
His victories; by whose dispensation
Whatever I have had of sense
Has obfuscated my salvation -
Good God, grant that, in reviewing
My past life, I may remember
Everything I did worth doing
Seemed rather wicked in pursuing:
Grant, Good God, I shall have remitted
Those earthly pleasures beyond number
I necessarily omitted,
Exhausted by the ones committed.
Good God, let me recollect
Your many mercies, tall and short,
The blousy blondes, the often necked,
And those whom I should not have thought
Given wisely to me; nor let forget
My grateful memory the odd
Consolers, too frequently brunette,
Who charged me for your mercies, God.
Good God, let me so recall
My grave omissions and commissions
That I may repent them all,
- The places, faces and positions;
Together with the few additions
A feeble future may instal.
Good God, only mathematicians
Consider Love an ordinal.
Good God, so wisely you provided
The loving heart I suffer with,
That I am constantly divided
By a deep love for all beneath
Me. Every man knows well
He rides his own whores down to hell,
But, good God, every knackered horse
Was, originally, yours.
Good God, receive my thanksgiving
For all the wonders I have seen
(And all the blunders in between)
In my thirty odd years of living.
I have seen the morning rise
And I have seen the evening set -
Anything different would surprise
Me even more profoundly yet.
Good God, receive my gratitude
For favours undeserved: accept
This truly heartfelt platitude:
You gave me too much latitude
And so I hanged myself. I kept
Your mercy, Good God, in a box
But out at midnight Justice crept
And axed me with a paradox.
O loving kindness of the knife
That cuts the proud flesh from the rotten
Ego and cuts the rotten life
Out of the rotten bone! No, not an
Ounce of sparrow is forgotten
As that butchering surgeon cuts
And rummages among my guts
To succour what was misbegotten.
I confess, my God, this lonely
Derelict of a night, when I
And not the conscious I only
Feel all the responsibility -
(But the simple and final fact
That we are better than we act,
For this fortunate windfall
We are not responsible at all) -
I confess, my God, that in
The hotbed of the monkey sin
I saw you through a guilt of hair
Standing lonely as a mourner
Silent in the bedroom corner
Knowing you need not be there:
I saw the genetic man had torn
A face away from your despair.
I confess, my God, my Good,
I have not wholly understood
The nature of our holiness:
The striking snake errs even less
Not questioning; the physicist
Not asking why all things exist
Serves better than those who advance a
Question to which life's the answer.
But, O my God, the human purpose
If at all I can perceive
A purpose in the life I live,
Is to hide in the glass horse
Of our doubt until the pity
Of heaven opens up a city
Of absolute belief to us,
Because our silence is hideous
And our doubt more miserable
Than certainty of the worst would be.
Like infinity pitiable
Ghosts who do not even know
They waver between reality
And unreality, we go
About our lives and cannot see
Even why we suffer so.
I know only that the heart
Doubting every real thing else
Does not doubt the voice that tells
Us that we suffer. The hard part
At the dead centre of the soul
Is an age of frozen grief
No vernal equinox of relief
Can mitigate, and no love console.
Then, O my God, by the hand
This star-wandering grief takes
The world that does not understand
Its own miseries and mistakes
And leads it home. Not yet, but later
To lean an expiated head
On the shoulder of a creator
Who knows where all troubles lead.
I looked into my heart to write.
In that red sepulchre of lies
I saw that all man cherishes
Goes proud, rots and perishes
Till through that red room pitiless night
Trails only knife-tongued memories
To whose rags cling, shrieking, bright
Unborn and aborted glories.
And vinegar the mirages
That, moaning they were possible
Charge me with the unholy No.
The unaccomplished issue rages
Round the ringed heart like a bull
Bellowing for birth. But even so
Remorselessly the clock builds ages
Over its lifeless embryo.
Ruined empire of dissipated time,
Perverted aim, abused desire,
The monstrous amoeba cannot aspire
But sinks down into the cold slime
Of Eden as Ego. It is enough
To sink back in the primal mud
Of the first person. For what could
Equal the paradise of Self Love?
The necessary angel is
The lie. Behind, us, all tongue splayed,
The lie triumphant and tremendous
Shields us from what we are afraid
Of seeing when we turn - the Abyss
Giving back a face of small
Twisted fear - and this is all,
To conquer the lie, that we possess.
Come, corybantic self-delusion,
And whisper such deceptions to
Me now that I will not care who
Or what you are, save palliation
Of the question marked heart. Let rest
The harp and horror horned head upon
That green regenerative breast
By whose great law we still live on.
Now from my window looking down
I see the lives of those for whom
My love has still a little room
Go suffering by. I see my own
Stopped, like a stair carpet, at this story
Not worth the telling. O memory
Let the gilded images of joys known
Return, and be consolatory!
Bitter and broken as the morning
Valentine climbs the glaciered sky
With a spike in his foot. The lover's warning
Blazes a sunrise on our misery:
Look down, look down, and see our grey
And loveless rendezvous, Valentine:
Fold, then, in grief and cast away
The love that is not yours or mine.
Of this day of the innocent
And happy lovers, let me praise
The grotesque bestiary of those
Who love too much. Monsters invent
Monster, like babies gypsies raise
In odd bottles for freak shows -
Those love too deeply for the skin.
Whose bottle are you monster in?
The grotesque bestiary where
Coiled the pythoness of sighs,
To keep a beast within her there
Crushes him in her clutch of vice
Till, misshapen to her passion, dead,
The lion of the heart survives
By suffering kisses into knives
And a spiked pit into a bed.
Stand in your sad and golden haired
Accusation about me now,
My sweet seven misled into life.
Oh had the hot headed seaman spared
Those breast-baring ova on their bough,
There'd been no aviary of my grief,
No sweet seven standing up in sorrow
Uttering songs of joy declared
Of joy declared, as bird extol
The principle of natural pleasure
Not knowing why. Declare to all
Who disbelieve it, that delight
Naturally inhabits the soul.
I look down at you to assure
My sense of wrong: but you declare
Whatever multiplies is right.
I looked into my heart to write.
But when I saw that cesspit twisted
With the disgusting laws that live
In royal domination under
The surface of our love, that writhe
Among our prizes, they attested
The putrefaction of our love
Spoils the spawner of its grandeur.
Today, the twenty-sixth of February,
I, halfway to the minute through
The only life I want to know,
Intend to end this rather dreary
Joke of an autobiography.
Thirty-five years is quite enough
Of one's own company. I grow
A bit sick of the terrestial stuff.
And the celestial nonsense. Swill
Guzzle and copulate and guzzle
And copulate and swill until
You break up like a jigsaw puzzle
Shattered with smiles. The idiotic
Beatitude of the sow in summer
Conceals a gibbering neurotic
Sowing hot oats to get warmer.
Look on your handwork, Adam, now
As I on mine, and do not weep.
The detritus is us. But how
Could you and I ever hope to keep
That glittering sibyl bright who first
Confided in us, perfect, once,
The difference between the best and the worst?
That vision is our innocence.
But we shall step into our grave
Not utterly divested of
The innocence our nativity
Embodies a god in. O bear,
Inheritors, all that you have,
The sense of good, with much care
Through the dirty street of life
And the gutter of our indignity.
I sense the trembling in my hand
Of that which will not ever lower
Its bright and pineal eye and wing
To any irony, nor surrender
The dominion of my understanding
To that Apollyonic power
Which, like the midnight whispering
Sun, surrounds us with dark splendour.
Enisled and visionary, mad
Alive, in the catacomb of the heart,
O lonely diviner, lovely diviner, impart
The knowledge of the good and the bad
To us in our need. Emblazon
Our instincts upon your illumination
So that the rot's revealed, and the reason
Shown crucified upon our desolation.
You, all whom I coldly took
And hid my head and horns among,
Shall go caterwauling down with me
Like a frenzy of chained doves. For, look!
We wailing ride down eternity
Tongue-tied together. We belong
To those with whom we shook the suck
And dared an antichrist to be.
Get rags, get rags, all angels, all
Laws, all principles, all deities,
Get rags, come down and suffocate
The orphan in its flaming cradle,
Snuff the game and the candle, for our state
- Insufferable among mysteries -
Makes the worms weep. Abate, abate
Your justice. Execute us with mercies!
The Task: Book IV. -- The Winter Evening
Hark! ‘tis the twanging horn o’er yonder bridge,
That with its wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon
Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright;—
He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spatter’d boots, strapp’d waist, and frozen locks;
News from all nations lumbering at his back.
True to his charge, the close-pack’d load behind,
Yet, careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destined inn,
And, having dropp’d the expected bag, pass on.
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
To him indifferent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears, that trickled down the writer’s cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
But O the important budget! usher’d in
With such heart-shaking music, who can say
What are its tidings? have our troops awaked?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugg’d,
Snore to the murmurs of the Atlantic wave?
Is India free? and does she wear her plumed
And jewell’d turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still? The grand debate,
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logic, and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh—I long to know them all;
I burn to set the imprison’d wranglers free,
And give them voice and utterance once again.
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups,
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
Not such his evening, who with shining face
Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeezed
And bored with elbow points through both his sides,
Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage:
Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb,
And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath
Of patriots, bursting with heroic rage,
Or placemen, all tranquillity and smiles.
This folio of four pages, happy work!
Which not e’en critics criticise; that holds
Inquisitive attention, while I read,
Fast bound in chains of silence, which the fair,
Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break;
What is it but a map of busy life,
Its fluctuations, and its vast concerns?
Here runs the mountainous and craggy ridge
That tempts Ambition. On the summit see
The seals of office glitter in his eyes;
He climbs, he pants, he grasps them! At his heels,
Close at his heels, a demagogue ascends,
And with a dexterous jerk soon twists him down,
And wins them, but to lose them in his turn.
Here rills of oily eloquence, in soft
Meanders, lubricate the course they take;
The modest speaker is ashamed and grieved
To engross a moment’s notice; and yet begs,
Begs a propitious ear for his poor thoughts,
However trivial all that he conceives.
Sweet bashfulness! it claims at least this praise;
The dearth of information and good sense,
That it foretells us, always comes to pass.
Cataracts of declamation thunder here;
There forests of no meaning spread the page,
In which all comprehension wanders lost;
While fields of pleasantry amuse us there
With merry descants on a nation’s woes.
The rest appears a wilderness of strange
But gay confusion; roses for the cheeks
And lilies for the brows of faded age,
Teeth for the toothless, ringlets for the bald,
Heaven, earth, and ocean, plunder’d of their sweets,
Nectareous essences, Olympian dews,
Sermons, and city feasts, and favourite airs,
Æthereal journeys, submarine exploits,
And Katerfelto, with his hair on end
At his own wonders, wondering for his bread.
‘Tis pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat,
To peep at such a world; to see the stir
Of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd;
To hear the roar she sends through all her gates
At a safe distance, where the dying sound
Falls a soft murmur on the uninjured ear.
Thus sitting, and surveying thus at ease
The globe and its concerns, I seem advanced
To some secure and more than mortal height
That liberates and exempts me from them all.
It turns submitted to my view, turns round
With all its generations; I behold
The tumult and am still. The sound of war
Has lost its terrors ere it reaches me;
Grieves, but alarms me not. I mourn the pride
And avarice that make man a wolf to man;
Hear the faint echo of those brazen throats,
By which he speaks the language of his heart,
And sigh, but never tremble at the sound.
He travels and expatiates, as the bee
From flower to flower, so he from land to land;
The manners, customs, policy of all
Pay contribution to the store he gleans;
He sucks intelligence in every clime,
And spreads the honey of his deep research
At his return—a rich repast for me.
He travels, and I too. I tread his deck,
Ascend his topmast, through his peering eyes
Discover countries, with a kindred heart
Suffer his woes, and share in his escapes;
While fancy, like the finger of a clock,
Runs the great circuit, and is still at home.
O Winter, ruler of the inverted year,
Thy scatter’d hair with sleet like ashes fill’d,
Thy breath congeal’d upon thy lips, thy cheeks
Fringed with a beard made white with other snows
Than those of age, thy forehead wrapp’d in clouds,
A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne
A sliding car, indebted to no wheels,
But urged by storms along its slippery way,
I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem’st,
And dreaded as thou art! Thou hold’st the sun
A prisoner in the yet undawning east,
Shortening his journey between morn and noon,
And hurrying him, impatient of his stay,
Down to the rosy west; but kindly still
Compensating his loss with added hours
Of social converse and instructive ease,
And gathering, at short notice, in one group
The family dispersed, and fixing thought,
Not less dispersed by daylight and its cares.
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fireside enjoyments, homeborn happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturb’d Retirement, and the hours
Of long uninterrupted evening know.
No rattling wheels stop short before these gates;
No powder’d pert proficient in the art
Of sounding an alarm assaults these doors
Till the street rings; no stationary steeds
Cough their own knell, while, heedless of the sound,
The silent circle fan themselves, and quake:
But here the needle plies its busy task,
The pattern grows, the well-depicted flower,
Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn,
Unfolds its bosom; buds, and leaves, and sprigs,
And curling tendrils, gracefully disposed,
Follow the nimble finger of the fair;
A wreath, that cannot fade, of flowers that blow
With most success when all besides decay.
The poet’s or historian’s page by one
Made vocal for the amusement of the rest;
The sprightly lyre, whose treasure of sweet sounds
The touch from many a trembling chord shakes out;
And the clear voice, symphonious, yet distinct,
And in the charming strife triumphant still,
Beguile the night, and set a keener edge
On female industry: the threaded steel
Flies swiftly, and unfelt the task proceeds.
The volume closed, the customary rites
Of the last meal commence. A Roman meal,
Such as the mistress of the world once found
Delicious, when her patriots of high note,
Perhaps by moonlight, at their humble doors,
And under an old oak’s domestic shade,
Enjoy’d, spare feast! a radish and an egg!
Discourse ensues, not trivial, yet not dull,
Nor such as with a frown forbids the play
Of fancy, or proscribes the sound of mirth:
Nor do we madly, like an impious world,
Who deem religion frenzy, and the God
That made them an intruder on their joys,
Start at his awful name, or deem his praise
A jarring note. Themes of a graver tone,
Exciting oft our gratitude and love,
While we retrace with Memory’s pointing wand,
That calls the past to our exact review,
The dangers we have ‘scaped, the broken snare,
The disappointed foe, deliverance found
Unlook’d for, life preserved, and peace restored,
Fruits of omnipotent eternal love.
O evenings worthy of the gods! exclaim’d
The Sabine bard. O evenings, I reply,
More to be prized and coveted than yours,
As more illumined, and with nobler truths,
That I, and mine, and those we love, enjoy.
Is Winter hideous in a garb like this?
Needs he the tragic fur, the smoke of lamps,
The pent-up breath of an unsavoury throng,
To thaw him into feeling; or the smart
And snappish dialogue, that flippant wits
Call comedy, to prompt him with a smile?
The self-complacent actor, when he views
(Stealing a sidelong glance at a full house)
The slope of faces from the floor to the roof
(As if one master spring controll’d them all),
Relax’d into a universal grin,
Sees not a countenance there that speaks of joy
Half so refined or so sincere as ours.
Cards were superfluous here, with all the tricks
That idleness has ever yet contrived
To fill the void of an unfurnish’d brain,
To palliate dulness, and give time a shove.
Time, as he passes us, has a dove’s wing.
Unsoil’d, and swift, and of a silken sound;
But the World’s Time is Time in masquerade!
Theirs, should I paint him, has his pinions fledged
With motley plumes; and, where the peacock shows
His azure eyes, is tinctured black and red
With spots quadrangular of diamond form,
Ensanguined hearts, clubs typical of strife,
And spades, the emblem of untimely graves.
What should be, and what was an hour-glass once,
Becomes a dice-box, and a billiard mace
Well does the work of his destructive scythe.
Thus deck’d, he charms a world whom Fashion blinds
To his true worth, most pleased when idle most;
Whose only happy are their wasted hours.
E’en misses, at whose age their mothers wore
The backstring and the bib, assume the dress
Of womanhood, fit pupils in the school
Of card-devoted Time, and, night by night
Placed at some vacant corner of the board,
Learn every trick, and soon play all the game.
But truce with censure. Roving as I rove,
Where shall I find an end, or how proceed?
As he that travels far oft turns aside,
To view some rugged rock or mouldering tower,
Which seen delights him not; then, coming home,
Describes and prints it, that the world may know
How far he went for what was nothing worth;
So I, with brush in hand and pallet spread,
With colours mix’d for a far different use,
Paint cards, and dolls, and every idle thing
That Fancy finds in her excursive flights.
Come, Evening, once again, season of peace;
Return, sweet Evening, and continue long!
Methinks I see thee in the streaky west,
With matron step slow moving, while the Night
Treads on thy sweeping train; one hand employ’d
In letting fall the curtain of repose
On bird and beast, the other charged for man
With sweet oblivion of the cares of day:
Not sumptuously adorn’d, not needing aid,
Like homely featured Night, of clustering gems;
A star or two, just twinkling on thy brow
Suffices thee; save that the moon is thine
No less than hers, not worn indeed on high
With ostentatious pageantry, but set
With modest grandeur in thy purple zone,
Resplendent less, but of an ampler round.
Come then, and thou shalt find thy votary calm,
Or make me so. Composure is thy gift:
And, whether I devote thy gentle hours
To books, to music, or the poet’s toil;
To weaving nets for bird-alluring fruit;
Or twining silken threads round ivory reels,
When they command whom man was born to please;
I slight thee not, but make thee welcome still.
Just when our drawing-rooms begin to blaze
With lights, by clear reflection multiplied
From many a mirror, in which he of Gath,
Goliath, might have seen his giant bulk
Whole without stooping, towering crest and all,
My pleasures too begin. But me perhaps
The glowing hearth may satisfy awhile
With faint illumination, that uplifts
The shadows to the ceiling, there by fits
Dancing uncouthly to the quivering flame.
Not undelightful is an hour to me
So spent in parlour twilight: such a gloom
Suits well the thoughtful or unthinking mind,
The mind contemplative, with some new theme
Pregnant, or indisposed alike to all.
Laugh ye, who boast your more mercurial powers,
That never felt a stupor, know no pause,
Nor need one; I am conscious, and confess,
Fearless, a soul that does not always think.
Me oft has Fancy ludicrous and wild
Soothed with a waking dream of houses, towers,
Trees, churches, and strange visages, express’d
In the red cinders, while with poring eye
I gazed, myself creating what I saw.
Nor less amused, have I quiescent watch’d
The sooty films that play upon the bars,
Pendulous and foreboding, in the view
Of superstition, prophesying still,
Though still deceived, some stranger’s near approach.
‘Tis thus the understanding takes repose
In indolent vacuity of thought,
And sleeps and is refresh’d. Meanwhile the face
Conceals the mood lethargic with a mask
Of deep deliberation, as the man
Were task’d to his full strength, absorb’d and lost.
Thus oft, reclined at ease, I lose an hour
At evening, till at length the freezing blast,
That sweeps the bolted shutter, summons home
The recollected powers; and, snapping short
The glassy threads with which the fancy weaves
Her brittle toils, restores me to myself.
How calm is my recess; and how the frost,
Raging abroad, and the rough wind, endear
The silence and the warmth enjoy’d within!
I saw the woods and fields at close of day
A variegated show; the meadows green,
Though faded; and the lands, where lately waved
The golden harvest, of a mellow brown,
Upturn’d so lately by the forceful share.
I saw far off the weedy fallows smile
With verdure not unprofitable, grazed
By flocks, fast feeding, and selecting each
His favourite herb; while all the leafless groves
That skirt the horizon, wore a sable hue
Scarce noticed in the kindred dusk of eve.
To-morrow brings a change, a total change!
Which even now, though silently perform’d,
And slowly, and by most unfelt, the face
Of universal nature undergoes.
Fast falls a fleecy shower: the downy flakes
Descending, and with never-ceasing lapse,
Softly alighting upon all below,
Assimilate all objects. Earth receives
Gladly the thickening mantle; and the green
And tender blade, that fear’d the chilling blast,
Escapes unhurt beneath so warm a veil.
In such a world so thorny, and where none
Finds happiness unblighted; or, if found,
Without some thistly sorrow at its side;
It seems the part of wisdom, and no sin
Against the law of love, to measure lots
With less distinguish’d than ourselves; that thus
We may with patience bear our moderate ills,
And sympathise with others suffering more.
Ill fares the traveller now, and he that stalks
In ponderous boots beside his reeking team.
The wain goes heavily, impeded sore
By congregated loads, adhering close
To the clogg’d wheels; and in its sluggish pace
Noiseless appears a moving hill of snow.
The toiling steeds expand the nostril wide,
While every breath, by respiration strong
Forced downward, is consolidated soon
Upon their jutting chests. He, form’d to bear
The pelting brunt of the tempestuous night,
With half-shut eyes, and pucker’d cheeks, and teeth
Presented bare against the storm, plods on.
One hand secures his hat, save when with both
He brandishes his pliant length of whip,
Resounding oft, and never heard in vain.
O happy; and, in my account, denied
That sensibility of pain with which
Refinement is endued, thrice happy thou!
Thy frame, robust and hardy, feels indeed
The piercing cold, but feels it unimpair’d.
The learned finger never need explore
Thy vigorous pulse; and the unhealthful east,
That breathes the spleen, and searches every bone
Of the infirm, is wholesome air to thee.
Thy days roll on exempt from household care;
Thy waggon is thy wife, and the poor beasts,
That drag the dull companion to and fro,
Thine helpless charge, dependent on thy care.
Ah, treat them kindly! rude as thou appear’st,
Yet show that thou hast mercy! which the great,
With needless hurry whirl’d from place to place,
Humane as they would seem, not always show.
Poor, yet industrious, modest, quiet, neat,
Such claim compassion in a night like this,
And have a friend in every feeling heart.
Warm’d, while it lasts, by labour all day long,
They brave the season, and yet find at eve,
Ill clad, and fed but sparely, time to cool.
The frugal housewife trembles when she lights
Her scanty stock of brushwood, blazing clear,
But dying soon, like all terrestrial joys.
The few small embers left she nurses well;
And, while her infant race, with outspread hands,
And crowded knees, sit cowering o’er the sparks,
Retires, content to quake, so they be warm’d.
The man feels least, as more inured than she
To winter, and the current in his veins
More briskly moved by his severer toil;
Yet he too finds his own distress in theirs.
The taper soon extinguish’d, which I saw
Dangled along at the cold finger’s end
Just when the day declined; and the brown loaf
Lodged on the shelf, half eaten without sauce
Of savoury cheese, or butter, costlier still;
Sleep seems their only refuge: for, alas!
Where penury is felt the thought is chain’d,
And sweet colloquial pleasures are but few!
With all this thrift they thrive not. All the care,
Ingenious Parsimony takes, but just
Saves the small inventory, bed, and stool,
Skillet, and old carved chest, from public sale.
They live, and live without extorted alms
From grudging hands; but other boast have none
To soothe their honest pride, that scorns to beg,
Nor comfort else, but in their mutual love.
I praise you much, ye meek and patient pair,
For ye are worthy; choosing rather far
A dry but independent crust, hard earn’d,
And eaten with a sigh, than to endure
The rugged frowns and insolent rebuffs
Of knaves in office, partial in the work
Of distribution, liberal of their aid
To clamorous importunity in rags,
But ofttimes deaf to suppliants, who would blush
To wear a tatter’d garb however coarse,
Whom famine cannot reconcile to filth:
These ask with painful shyness, and refused
Because deserving, silently retire!
But be ye of good courage! Time itself
Shall much befriend you. Time shall give increase;
And all your numerous progeny, well train’d,
But helpless, in few years shall find their hands,
And labour too. Meanwhile ye shall not want
What, conscious of your virtues, we can spare,
Nor what a wealthier than ourselves may send.
I mean the man who, when the distant poor
Need help, denies them nothing but his name.
But poverty with most, who whimper forth
Their long complaints, is self-inflicted woe;
The effect of laziness or sottish waste.
Now goes the nightly thief prowling abroad
For plunder; much solicitous how best
He may compensate for a day of sloth
By works of darkness and nocturnal wrong.
Woe to the gardener’s pale, the farmer’s hedge,
Plash’d neatly, and secured with driven stakes
Deep in the loamy bank! Uptorn by strength,
Resistless in so bad a cause, but lame
To better deeds, he bundles up the spoil,
An ass’s burden, and, when laden most
And heaviest, light of foot steals fast away;
Nor does the boarded hovel better guard
The well-stack’d pile of riven logs and roots
From his pernicious force. Nor will he leave
Unwrench’d the door, however well secured,
Where Chanticleer amidst his harem sleeps
In unsuspecting pomp. Twitch’d from the perch,
He gives the princely bird, with all his wives,
To his voracious bag, struggling in vain,
And loudly wondering at the sudden change.
Nor this to feed his own. ‘Twere some excuse,
Did pity of their sufferings warp aside
His principle, and tempt him into sin
For their support, so destitute. But they
Neglected pine at home; themselves, as more
Exposed than others, with less scruple made
His victims, robb’d of their defenceless all.
Cruel is all he does. ‘Tis quenchless thirst
Of ruinous ebriety that prompts
His every action, and imbrutes the man.
O for a law to noose the villain’s neck
Who starves his own; who persecutes the blood
He gave them in his children’s veins, and hates
And wrongs the woman he has sworn to love!
Pass where we may, through city or through town,
Village, or hamlet, of this merry land,
Though lean and beggar’d, every twentieth pace
Conducts the unguarded nose to such a whiff
Of stale debauch, forth issuing from the styes
That law has licensed, as makes temperance reel.
There sit, involved and lost in curling clouds
Of Indian fume, and guzzling deep, the boor,
The lackey, and the groom: the craftsman there
Takes a Lethean leave of all his toil;
Smith, cobbler, joiner, he that plies the shears,
And he that kneads the dough; all loud alike,
All learned, and all drunk! the fiddle screams
Plaintive and piteous, as it wept and wail’d
Its wasted tones and harmony unheard:
Fierce the dispute, whate’er the theme; while she,
Fell Discord, arbitress of such debate,
Perch’d on the sign-post, holds with even hand
Her undecisive scales. In this she lays
A weight of ignorance; in that, of pride;
And smiles delighted with the eternal poise.
Dire is the frequent curse, and its twin sound,
The cheek-distending oath, not to be praised
As ornamental, musical, polite,
Like those which modern senators employ,
Whose oath is rhetoric, and who swear for fame!
Behold the schools in which plebeian minds,
Once simple, are initiated in arts,
Which some may practise with politer grace,
But none with readier skill!—’tis here they learn
The road that leads from competence and peace
To indigence and rapine; till at last
Society, grown weary of the load,
Shakes her encumber’d lap, and casts them out.
But censure profits little: vain the attempt
To advertise in verse a public pest,
That, like the filth with which the peasant feeds
His hungry acres, stinks, and is of use.
The excise is fatten’d with the rich result
Of all this riot; and ten thousand casks,
For ever dribbling out their base contents,
Touch’d by the Midas finger of the state,
Bleed gold for ministers to sport away.
Drink, and be mad then; ‘tis your country bids!
Gloriously drunk, obey the important call!
Her cause demands the assistance of your throat;—
Ye all can swallow, and she asks no more.
Would I had fallen upon those happier days,
That poets celebrate; those golden times,
And those Arcadian scenes, that Maro sings,
And Sidney, warbler of poetic prose.
Nymphs were Dianas then, and swains had hearts
That felt their virtues: Innocence, it seems,
From courts dismiss’d, found shelter in the groves;
The footsteps of Simplicity, impress’d
Upon the yielding herbage (so they sing)
Then were not all effaced: then speech profane
And manners profligate were rarely found,
Observed as prodigies, and soon reclaim’d.
Vain wish! those days were never: airy dreams
Sat for the picture: and the poet’s hand,
Imparting substance to an empty shade,
Imposed a gay delirium for a truth.
Grant it:—I still must envy them an age
That favour’d such a dream; in days like these
Impossible, when Virtue is so scarce,
That to suppose a scene where she presides,
Is tramontane, and stumbles all belief.
No: we are polish’d now! The rural lass,
Whom once her virgin modesty and grace,
Her artless manners, and her neat attire,
So dignified, that she was hardly less
Than the fair shepherdess of old romance,
Is seen no more. The character is lost!
Her head, adorn’d with lappets pinn’d aloft,
And ribands streaming gay, superbly raised,
And magnified beyond all human size,
Indebted to some smart wig-weaver’s hand
For more than half the tresses it sustains;
Her elbows ruffled, and her tottering form
Ill propp’d upon French heels; she might be deem’d
(But that the basket dangling on her arm
Interprets her more truly) of a rank
Too proud for dairy work, or sale of eggs.
Expect her soon with footboy at her heels,
No longer blushing for her awkward load,
Her train and her umbrella all her care!
The town has tinged the country; and the stain
Appears a spot upon a vestal’s robe,
The worse for what it soils. The fashion runs
Down into scenes still rural; but, alas!
Scenes rarely graced with rural manners now!
Time was when in the pastoral retreat
The unguarded door was safe; men did not watch
To invade another’s right, or guard their own.
Then sleep was undisturb’d by fear, unscared
By drunken howlings; and the chilling tale
Of midnight murder was a wonder heard
With doubtful credit, told to frighten babes.
But farewell now to unsuspicious nights,
And slumbers unalarm’d! Now, ere you sleep,
See that your polish’d arms be primed with care,
And drop the night bolt;—ruffians are abroad;
And the first ‘larum of the cock’s shrill throat
May prove a trumpet, summoning your ear
To horrid sounds of hostile feet within.
E’en daylight has its dangers; and the walk
Through pathless wastes and woods, unconscious once
Of other tenants than melodious birds,
Or harmless flocks, is hazardous and bold.
Lamented change! to which full many a cause
Inveterate, hopeless of a cure, conspires.
The course of human things from good to ill,
From ill to worse, is fatal, never fails.
Increase of power begets increase of wealth;
Wealth luxury, and luxury excess;
Excess, the scrofulous and itchy plague,
That seizes first the opulent, descends
To the next rank contagious, and in time
Taints downward all the graduated scale
Of order, from the chariot to the plough.
The rich, and they that have an arm to check
The licence of the lowest in degree,
Desert their office; and themselves, intent
On pleasure, haunt the capital, and thus
To all the violence of lawless hands
Resign the scenes their presence might protect.
Authority herself not seldom sleeps,
Though resident, and witness of the wrong.
The plump convivial parson often bears
The magisterial sword in vain, and lays
His reverence and his worship both to rest
On the same cushion of habitual sloth.
Perhaps timidity restrains his arm;
When he should strike he trembles, and sets free,
Himself enslaved by terror of the band,
The audacious convict, whom he dares not bind.
Perhaps, though by profession ghostly pure,
He too may have his vice, and sometimes prove
Less dainty than becomes his grave outside
In lucrative concerns. Examine well
His milk-white hand; the palm is hardly clean—
But here and there an ugly smutch appears.
Foh! ‘twas a bribe that left it: he has touch’d
Corruption! Whoso seeks an audit here
Propitious, pays his tribute, game or fish,
Wildfowl or venison, and his errand speeds.
But faster far, and more than all the rest,
A noble cause, which none who bears a spark
Of public virtue, ever wish’d removed,
Works the deplored and mischievous effect.
‘Tis universal soldiership has stabb’d
The heart of merit in the meaner class.
Arms, through the vanity and brainless rage
Of those that bear them, in whatever cause,
Seem most at variance with all moral good,
And incompatible with serious thought.
The clown, the child of nature, without guile,
Blest with an infant’s ignorance of all
But his own simple pleasures; now and then
A wrestling-match, a foot-race, or a fair;
Is balloted, and trembles at the news:
Sheepish he doffs his hat, and mumbling swears
A bible-oath to be whate’er they please,
To do he knows not what. The task perform’d,
That instant he becomes the serjeant’s care,
His pupil, and his torment, and his jest.
His awkward gait, his introverted toes,
Bent knees, round shoulders, and dejected looks,
Procure him many a curse. By slow degrees
Unapt to learn, and form’d of stubborn stuff,
He yet by slow degrees puts off himself,
Grows conscious of a change, and likes it well:
He stands erect; his slouch becomes a walk;
He steps right onward, martial in his air,
His form, and movement; is as smart above
As meal and larded locks can make him; wears
His hat, or his plumed helmet, with a grace;
And, his three years of heroship expired,
Returns indignant to the slighted plough.
He hates the field, in which no fife or drum
Attends him; drives his cattle to a march;
And sighs for the smart comrades he has left.
‘Twere well if his exterior change were all—
But with his clumsy port the wretch has lost
His ignorance and harmless manners too.
To swear, to game, to drink; to show at home,
By lewdness, idleness, and Sabbath beach,
The great proficiency he made abroad;
To astonish and to grieve his gazing friends;
To break some maiden’s and his mother’s heart;
To be a pest where he was useful once;
Are his sole aim, and all his glory now.
Man in society is like a flower
Blown in its native bed: ‘tis there alone
His faculties, expanded in full bloom,
Shine out; there only reach their proper use.
But man, associated and leagued with man
By regal warrant, or self-join’d by bond
For interest sake, or swarming into clans
Beneath one head for purposes of war,
Like flowers selected from the rest, and bound
And bundled close to fill some crowded vase,
Fades rapidly, and, by compression marr’d,
Contracts defilement not to be endured.
Hence charter’d burghs are such public plagues;
And burghers, men immaculate perhaps
In all their private functions, once combined,
Become a loathsome body, only fit
For dissolution, hurtful to the main.
Hence merchants, unimpeachable of sin
Against the charities of domestic life,
Incorporated, seem at once to lose
Their nature; and, disclaiming all regard
For mercy and the common rights of man,
Build factories with blood, conducting trade
At the sword’s point, and dyeing the white robe
Of innocent commercial Justice red.
Hence too the field of glory, as the world
Misdeems it, dazzled by its bright array,
With all its majesty of thundering pomp,
Enchanting music and immortal wreaths,
Is but a school where thoughtlessness is taught
On principle, where foppery atones
For folly, gallantry for every vice.
But slighted as it is, and by the great
Abandon’d, and, which still I more regret,
Infected with the manners and the modes
It knew not once, the country wins me sill.
I never framed a wish, or form’d a plan,
That flatter’d me with hopes of earthly bliss,
But there I laid the scene. There early stray’d
My fancy, ere yet liberty of choice
Had found me, or the hope of being free.
My very dreams were rural; rural too
The firstborn efforts of my youthful muse,
Sportive, and jingling her poetic bells
Ere yet her ear was mistress of their powers.
No bard could please me but whose lyre was tuned
To Nature’s praises. Heroes and their feats
Fatigued me, never weary of the pipe
Of Tityrus, assembling, as he sang,
The rustic throng beneath his favourite beech.
Then Milton had indeed a poet’s charms:
New to my taste, his Paradise surpass’d
The struggling efforts of my boyish tongue
To speak its excellence. I danced for joy.
I marvell’d much that, at so ripe an age
As twice seven years, his beauties had then first
Engaged my wonder; and admiring still,
And still admiring, with regret supposed
The joy half lost, because not sooner found.
There too, enamour’d of the life I loved,
Pathetic in its praise, in its pursuit
Determined, and possessing it at last,
With transports, such as favour’d lovers feel,
I studied, prized, and wish’d that I had known
Ingenious Cowley! and, though now reclaim’d
By modern lights from an erroneous taste,
I cannot but lament thy splendid wit
Entangled in the cobwebs of the schools.
I still revere thee, courtly though retired;
Though stretch’d at ease in Chertsey’s silent bowers,
Not unemployed; and finding rich amends
For a lost world in solitude and verse.
‘Tis born with all: the love of Nature’s works
Is an ingredient in the compound man,
Infused at the creation of the kind.
And, though the Almighty Maker has throughout
Discriminated each from each, by strokes
And touches of his hand, with so much art
Diversified, that two were never found
Twins at all points—yet this obtains in all,
That all discern a beauty in his works,
And all can taste them: minds that have been form’d
And tutor’d, with a relish more exact,
But none without some relish, none unmoved.
It is a flame that dies not even there
Where nothing feeds it: neither business, crowds,
Nor habits of luxurious city life,
Whatever else they smother of true worth
In human bosoms, quench it or abate.
The villas with which London stands begirt
Like a swarth Indian with his belt of beads
Prove it. A breath of unadulterate air,
The glimpse of a green pasture, how they cheer
The citizen, and brace his languid frame!
E’en in the stifling bosom of the town
A garden, in which nothing thrives, has charms
That soothe the rich possessor; much consoled,
That here and there some sprigs of mournful mint,
Of nightshade, or valerian, grace the well
He cultivates. These serve him with a hint
That Nature lives; that sight-refreshing green
Is still the livery she delights to wear,
Though sickly samples of the exuberant whole.
What are the casements lined with creeping herbs,
The prouder sashes fronted with a range
Of orange, myrtle, or the fragrant weed,
The Frenchman’s darling? are they not all proofs
That man, immured in cities, still retains
His inborn inextinguishable thirst
Of rural scenes, compensating his loss
By supplemental shifts, the best he may,
The most unfurnish’d with the means of life,
And they that never pass their brick-wall bounds,
To range the fields and treat their lungs with air,
Yet feel the burning instinct: over head
Suspend their crazy boxes, planted thick,
And water’d duly. There the pitcher stands,
A fragment, and the spoutless teapot there;
Sad witnesses how close-pent man regrets
The country, with what ardour he contrives
A peep at Nature, when he can no more.
Hail, therefore, patroness of health and ease,
And contemplation, heart-consoling joys,
And harmless pleasures, in the throng’d abode
Of multitudes unknown! hail, rural life!
Address himself who will to the pursuit
Of honours, or emolument, or fame;
I shall not add myself to such a chase,
Thwart his attempts, or envy his success.
Some must be great. Great offices will have
Great talents. And God gives to every man
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche he was ordain’d to fill.
To the deliverer of an injured land
He gives a tongue to enlarge upon, a heart
To feel, and courage to redress her wrongs;
To monarchs dignity; to judges sense;
To artists ingenuity and skill;
To me an unambitious mind, content
In the low vale of life, that early felt
A wish for ease and leisure, and ere long
Found here that leisure and that ease I wish’d.
Tirocinium; or, a Review of Schools
It is not from his form, in which we trace
Strength join'd with beauty, dignity with grace,
That man, the master of this globe, derives
His right of empire over all that lives.
That form, indeed, the associate of a mind
Vast in its powers, ethereal in its kind,
That form, the labour of Almighty skill,
Framed for the service of a freeborn will,
Asserts precedence, and bespeaks control,
But borrows all its grandeur from the soul.
Hers is the state, the splendour, and the throne,
An intellectual kingdom, all her own.
For her the memory fills her ample page
With truths pour’d down from every distant age;
For her amasses an unbounded store,
The wisdom of great nations, now no more;
Though laden, not encumber’d with her spoil;
Laborious, yet unconscious of her toil;
When copiously supplied, then most enlarged;
Still to be fed, and not to be surcharged.
For her the Fancy, roving unconfined,
The present muse of every pensive mind,
Works magic wonders, adds a brighter hue
To Nature’s scenes than Nature ever knew.
At her command winds rise and waters roar,
Again she lays them slumbering on the shore;
With flower and fruit the wilderness supplies,
Or bids the rocks in ruder pomp arise.
For her the Judgment, umpire in the strife
That Grace and Nature have to wage through life,
Quick-sighted arbiter of good and ill,
Appointed sage preceptor to the Will,
Condemns, approves, and, with a faithful voice,
Guides the decision of a doubtful choice.
Why did the fiat of a God give birth
To yon fair Sun and his attendant Earth?
And, when descending he resigns the skies,
Why takes the gentler Moon her turn to rise,
Whom Ocean feels through all his countless waves,
And owns her power on every shore he laves?
Why do the seasons still enrich the year,
Fruitful and young as in their first career?
Spring hangs her infant blossoms on the trees,
Rock’d in the cradle of the western breeze:
Summer in haste the thriving charge receives
Beneath the shade of her expanded leaves,
Till Autumn’s fiercer heats and plenteous dews
Dye them at last in all their glowing hues.—
‘Twere wild profusion all, and bootless waste,
Power misemploy’d, munificence misplaced,
Had not its Author dignified the plan,
And crown’d it with the majesty of man.
Thus form’d, thus placed, intelligent, and taught,
Look where he will, the wonders God has wrought,
The wildest scorner of his Maker’s laws
Finds in a sober moment time to pause,
To press the important question on his heart,
“Why form’d at all, and wherefore as thou art?”
If man be what he seems, this hour a slave,
The next mere dust and ashes in the grave;
Endued with reason only to descry
His crimes and follies with an aching eye;
With passions, just that he may prove, with pain,
The force he spends against their fury vain;
And if, soon after having burnt, by turns,
With every lust with which frail Nature burns,
His being end where death dissolves the bond,
The tomb take all, and all be blank beyond;
Then he, of all that Nature has brought forth,
Stands self-impeach’d the creature of least worth,
And, useless while he lives, and when he dies,
Brings into doubt the wisdom of the skies.
Truths that the learn’d pursue with eager thought
Are not important always as dear-bought,
Proving at last, though told in pompous strains,
A childish waste of philosophic pains;
But truths on which depends our main concern,
That ‘tis our shame and misery not to learn,
Shine by the side of every path we tread
With such a lustre, he that runs may read.
‘Tis true that, if to trifle life away
Down to the sunset of their latest day,
Then perish on futurity’s wide shore
Like fleeting exhalations, found no more,
Were all that Heaven required of human kind,
And all the plan their destiny design’d,
What none could reverence all might justly blame,
And man would breathe but for his Maker’s shame.
But reason heard, and nature well perused,
At once the dreaming mind is disabused.
If all we find possessing earth, sea, air,
Reflect His attributes who placed them there,
Fulfil the purpose, and appear design’d
Proofs of the wisdom of the all-seeing mind,
‘Tis plain the creature, whom he chose to invest
With kingship and dominion o’er the rest,
Received his nobler nature, and was made
Fit for the power in which he stands array’d;
That first, or last, hereafter, if not here,
He too might make his author’s wisdom clear,
Praise him on earth, or, obstinately dumb,
Suffer his justice in a world to come.
This once believed, ‘twere logic misapplied
To prove a consequence by none denied,
That we are bound to cast the minds of youth
Betimes into the mould of heavenly truth,
That taught of God they may indeed be wise,
Nor ignorantly wandering miss the skies.
In early days the conscience has in most
A quickness, which in later life is lost:
Preserved from guilt by salutary fears,
Or guilty, soon relenting into tears.
Too careless often, as our years proceed,
What friends we sort with, or what books we read,
Our parents yet exert a prudent care
To feed our infant minds with proper fare;
And wisely store the nursery by degrees
With wholesome learning, yet acquired with ease.
Neatly secured from being soil’d or torn
Beneath a pane of thin translucent horn,
A book (to please us at a tender age
‘Tis call’d a book, though but a single page)
Presents the prayer the Saviour deign’d to teach,
Which children use, and parsons—when they preach.
Lisping our syllables, we scramble next
Through moral narrative, or sacred text;
And learn with wonder how this world began,
Who made, who marr’d, and who has ransom’d man:
Points which, unless the Scripture made them plain,
The wisest heads might agitate in vain.
O thou, whom, borne on fancy’s eager wing
Back to the season of life’s happy spring,
I pleased remember, and, while memory yet
Holds fast her office here, can ne’er forget;
Ingenious dreamer, in whose well-told tale
Sweet fiction and sweet truth alike prevail;
Whose humorous vein, strong sense, and simple style,
May teach the gayest, make the gravest smile;
Witty, and well employ’d, and, like thy Lord,
Speaking in parables his slighted word;
I name thee not, lest so despised a name
Should move a sneer at thy deserved fame;
Yet e’en in transitory life’s late day,
That mingles all my brown with sober grey,
Revere the man whose Pilgrim marks the road,
And guides the Progress of the soul to God.
‘Twere well with most, if books that could engage
Their childhood pleased them at a riper age;
The man, approving what had charm’d the boy,
Would die at last in comfort, peace, and joy,
And not with curses on his heart, who stole
The gem of truth from his unguarded soul.
The stamp of artless piety impress’d
By kind tuition on his yielding breast,
The youth, now bearded and yet pert and raw,
Regards with scorn, though once received with awe;
And, warp’d into the labyrinth of lies,
That babblers, call’d philosophers, devise,
Blasphemes his creed, as founded on a plan
Replete with dreams, unworthy of a man.
Touch but his nature in its ailing part,
Assert the native evil of his heart,
His pride resents the charge, although the proof
Rise in his forehead, and seem rank enough:
Point to the cure, describe a Saviour’s cross
As God’s expedient to retrieve his loss,
The young apostate sickens at the view,
And hates it with the malice of a Jew.
How weak the barrier of mere nature proves,
Opposed against the pleasures nature loves!
While self-betray’d, and wilfully undone,
She longs to yield, no sooner woo’d than won.
Try now the merits of this blest exchange
Of modest truth for wit’s eccentric range.
Time was, he closed as he began the day,
With decent duty, not ashamed to pray;
The practice was a bond upon his heart,
A pledge he gave for a consistent part;
Nor could he dare presumptuously displease
A power confess’d so lately on his knees.
But now farewell all legendary tales,
The shadows fly, philosophy prevails;
Prayer to the winds, and caution to the waves;
Religion makes the free by nature slaves.
Priests have invented, and the world admired
What knavish priests promulgate as inspired;
Till Reason, now no longer overawed,
Resumes her powers, and spurns the clumsy fraud;
And, common sense diffusing real day,
The meteor of the Gospel dies away.
Such rhapsodies our shrewd discerning youth
Learn from expert inquirers after truth;
Whose only care, might truth presume to speak,
Is not to find what they profess to seek.
And thus, well tutor’d only while we share
A mother’s lectures and a nurse’s care;
And taught at schools much mythologic stuff,
But sound religion sparingly enough;
Our early notices of truth disgraced,
Soon lose their credit, and are all effaced.
Would you your son should be a sot or dunce,
Lascivious, headstrong, or all these at once;
That in good time the stripling’s finish’d taste
For loose expense and fashionable waste
Should prove your ruin, and his own at last;
Train him in public with a mob of boys,
Childish in mischief only and in noise,
Else of a mannish growth, and five in ten
In infidelity and lewdness men.
There shall he learn, ere sixteen winters old,
That authors are most useful pawn’d or sold;
That pedantry is all that schools impart,
But taverns teach the knowledge of the heart;
There waiter Dick, with bacchanalian lays,
Shall win his heart, and have his drunken praise,
His counsellor and bosom friend shall prove,
And some street-pacing harlot his first love.
Schools, unless discipline were doubly strong,
Detain their adolescent charge too long;
The management of tyros of eighteen
Is difficult, their punishment obscene.
The stout tall captain, whose superior size
The minor heroes view with envious eyes,
Becomes their pattern, upon whom they fix
Their whole attention, and ape all his tricks.
His pride, that scorns to obey or to submit,
With them is courage; his effrontery wit.
His wild excursions, window-breaking feats,
Robbery of gardens, quarrels in the streets,
His hairbreadth ‘scapes, and all his daring schemes,
Transport them, and are made their favourite themes.
In little bosoms such achievements strike
A kindred spark: they burn to do the like.
Thus, half accomplish’d ere he yet begin
To show the peeping down upon his chin;
And, as maturity of years comes on,
Made just the adept that you design’d your son;
To ensure the perseverance of his course,
And give your monstrous project all its force,
Send him to college. If he there be tamed,
Or in one article of vice reclaim’d,
Where no regard of ordinances is shown
Or look’d for now, the fault must be his own.
Some sneaking virtue lurks in him, no doubt,
Where neither strumpets’ charms, nor drinking bout,
Nor gambling practices can find it out.
Such youths of spirit, and that spirit too,
Ye nurseries of our boys, we owe to you:
Though from ourselves the mischief more proceeds,
For public schools ‘tis public folly feeds.
The slaves of custom and establish’d mode,
With packhorse constancy we keep the road,
Crooked or straight, through quags or thorny dells,
True to the jingling of our leader’s bells.
To follow foolish precedents, and wink
With both our eyes, is easier than to think;
And such an age as ours balks no expense,
Except of caution and of common sense;
Else sure notorious fact, and proof so plain,
Would turn our steps into a wiser train.
I blame not those who, with what care they can,
O’erwatch the numerous and unruly clan;
Or, if I blame, ‘tis only that they dare
Promise a work of which they must despair.
Have ye, ye sage intendants of the whole,
A ubiquarian presence and control,
Elisha’s eye, that, when Gehazi stray’d,
Went with him, and saw all the game he play’d?
Yes—ye are conscious; and on all the shelves
Your pupils strike upon have struck yourselves.
Or if, by nature sober, ye had then,
Boys as ye were, the gravity of men,
Ye knew at least, by constant proofs address’d
To ears and eyes, the vices of the rest.
But ye connive at what ye cannot cure,
And evils not to be endured endure,
Lest power exerted, but without success,
Should make the little ye retain still less.
Ye once were justly famed for bringing forth
Undoubted scholarship and genuine worth;
And in the firmament of fame still shines
A glory, bright as that of all the signs,
Of poets raised by you, and statesmen, and divines.
Peace to them all! those brilliant times are fled,
And no such lights are kindling in their stead.
Our striplings shine indeed, but with such rays
As set the midnight riot in a blaze;
And seem, if judged by their expressive looks,
Deeper in none than in their surgeons’ books.
Say, muse (for education made the song,
No muse can hesitate, or linger long),
What causes move us, knowing, as we must,
That these mémenageries all fail their trust,
To send our sons to scout and scamper there,
While colts and puppies cost us so much care?
Be it a weakness, it deserves some praise,
We love the play-place of our early days;
The scene is touching, and the heart is stone
That feels not at that sight, and feels at none.
The wall on which we tried our graving skill,
The very name we carved subsisting still;
The bench on which we sat while deep employ’d,
Though mangled, hack’d, and hew’d, not yet destroy’d;
The little ones, unbutton’d, glowing hot,
Playing our games, and on the very spot;
As happy as we once, to kneel and draw
The chalky ring, and knuckle down at taw;
To pitch the ball into the grounded hat,
Or drive it devious with a dexterous pat;
The pleasing spectacle at once excites
Such recollection of our own delights,
That, viewing it, we seem almost to obtain
Our innocent sweet simple years again.
This fond attachment to the well-known place,
Whence first we started into life’s long race,
Maintains its hold with such unfailing sway,
We feel it e’en in age, and at our latest day.
Hark! how the sire of chits, whose future share
Of classic food begins to be his care,
With his own likeness placed on either knee,
Indulges all a father’s heartfelt glee;
And tells them, as he strokes their silver locks,
That they must soon learn Latin, and to box;
Then turning, he regales his listening wife
With all the adventures of his early life;
His skill in coachmanship, or driving chaise,
In bilking tavern-bills, and spouting plays;
What shifts he used, detected in a scrape,
How he was flogg’d, or had the luck to escape;
What sums he lost at play, and how he sold
Watch, seals, and all—till all his pranks are told.
Retracing thus his frolics (‘tis a name
That palliates deeds of folly and of shame),
He gives the local bias all its sway;
Resolves that where he play’d his sons shall play,
And destines their bright genius to be shown
Just in the scene where he display’d his own.
The meek and bashful boy will soon be taught
To be as bold and forward as he ought;
The rude will scuffle through with ease enough,
Great schools suit best the sturdy and the rough.
Ah, happy designation, prudent choice,
The event is sure; expect it, and rejoice!
Soon see your wish fulfill’d in either child,
The pert made perter, and the tame made wild.
The great indeed, by titles, riches, birth,
Excused the incumbrance of more solid worth,
Are best disposed of where with most success
They may acquire that confident address,
Those habits of profuse and lewd expense,
That scorn of all delights but those of sense,
Which, though in plain plebeians we condemn,
With so much reason, all expect from them.
But families of less illustrious fame,
Whose chief distinction is their spotless name,
Whose heirs, their honours none, their income small,
Must shine by true desert, or not at all,
What dream they of, that, with so little care
They risk their hopes, their dearest treasure, there?
They dream of little Charles or William graced
With wig prolix, down flowing to his waist;
They see the attentive crowds his talents draw,
They hear him speak—the oracle of law.
The father, who designs his babe a priest,
Dreams him episcopally such at least;
And, while the playful jockey scours the room
Briskly, astride upon the parlour broom,
In fancy sees him more superbly ride
In coach with purple lined, and mitres on its side.
Events improbable and strange as these,
Which only a parental eye foresees,
A public school shall bring to pass with ease.
But how? resides such virtue in that air,
As must create an appetite for prayer?
And will it breathe into him all the zeal
That candidates for such a prize should feel,
To take the lead and be the foremost still
In all true worth and literary skill?
“Ah, blind to bright futurity, untaught
The knowledge of the World, and dull of thought!
Church-ladders are not always mounted best
By learned clerks and Latinists profess’d.
The exalted prize demands an upward look,
Not to be found by poring on a book.
Small skill in Latin, and still less in Greek,
Is more than adequate to all I seek.
Let erudition grace him, or not grace,
I give the bauble but the second place;
His wealth, fame, honours, all that I intend,
Subsist and centre in one point—a friend.
A friend, whate’er he studies or neglects,
Shall give him consequence, heal all defects.
His intercourse with peers and sons of peers—
There dawns the splendour of his future years:
In that bright quarter his propitious skies
Shall blush betimes, and there his glory rise.
Your Lordship, and Your Grace! what school can teach
A rhetoric equal to those parts of speech?
What need of Homer’s verse or Tully’s prose,
Sweet interjections! if he learn but those?
Let reverend churls his ignorance rebuke,
Who starve upon a dog’s-ear’d Pentateuch,
The parson knows enough who knows a duke.”
Egregious purpose! worthily begun
In barbarous prostitution of your son;
Press’d on his part by means that would disgrace
A scrivener’s clerk, or footman out of place,
And ending, if at last its end be gain’d,
In sacrilege, in God’s own house profaned.
It may succeed; and, if his sins should call
For more than common punishment, it shall;
The wretch shall rise, and be the thing on earth
Least qualified in honour, learning, worth,
To occupy a sacred, awful post,
In which the best and worthiest tremble most.
The royal letters are a thing of course,
A king, that would, might recommend his horse;
And deans, no doubt, and chapters, with one voice,
As bound in duty, would confirm the choice.
Behold your bishop! well he plays his part,
Christian in name, and infidel in heart,
Ghostly in office, earthly in his plan,
A slave at court, elsewhere a lady’s man.
Dumb as a senator, and as a priest
A piece of mere church furniture at best;
To live estranged from God his total scope,
And his end sure, without one glimpse of hope.
But, fair although and feasible it seem,
Depend not much upon your golden dream;
For Providence, that seems concern’d to exempt
The hallow’d bench from absolute contempt,
In spite of all the wrigglers into place,
Still keeps a seat or two for worth and grace;
And therefore ‘tis, that, though the sight be rare,
We sometimes see a Lowth or Bagot there.
Besides, school friendships are not always found,
Though fair in promise, permanent and sound;
The most disinterested and virtuous minds,
In early years connected, time unbinds,
New situations give a different cast
Of habit, inclination, temper, taste;
And he, that seem’d our counterpart at first,
Soon shows the strong similitude reversed.
Young heads are giddy, and young hearts are warm,
And make mistakes for manhood to reform.
Boys are, at best, but pretty buds unblown,
Whose scent and hues are rather guess’d than known;
Each dreams that each is just what he appears,
But learns his error in maturer years,
When disposition, like a sail unfurl’d,
Shows all its rents and patches to the world.
If, therefore, e’en when honest in design,
A boyish friendship may so soon decline,
‘Twere wiser sure to inspire a little heart
With just abhorrence of so mean a part,
Than set your son to work at a vile trade
For wages so unlikely to be paid.
Our public hives of puerile resort,
That are of chief and most approved report,
To such base hopes, in many a sordid soul,
Owe their repute in part, but not the whole.
A principle, whose proud pretensions pass
Unquestion’d, though the jewel be but glass—
That with a world, not often over-nice,
Ranks as a virtue, and is yet a vice;
Or rather a gross compound, justly tried,
Of envy, hatred, jealousy, and pride—
Contributes most, perhaps, to enhance their fame;
And emulation is its specious name.
Boys, once on fire with that contentious zeal,
Feel all the rage that female rivals feel;
The prize of beauty in a woman’s eyes
Not brighter than in theirs the scholar’s prize.
The spirit of that competition burns
With all varieties of ill by turns;
Each vainly magnifies his own success,
Resents his fellow’s, wishes it were less,
Exults in his miscarriage if he fail,
Deems his reward too great if he prevail,
And labours to surpass him day and night,
Less for improvement than to tickle spite.
The spur is powerful, and I grant its force;
It pricks the genius forward in its course,
Allows short time for play, and none for sloth;
And, felt alike by each, advances both:
But judge, where so much evil intervenes,
The end, though plausible, not worth the means.
Weigh, for a moment, classical desert
Against a heart depraved and temper hurt;
Hurt too perhaps for life; for early wrong
Done to the nobler part affects it long;
And you are staunch indeed in learning’s cause,
If you can crown a discipline, that draws
Such mischiefs after it, with much applause.
Connexion form’d for interest, and endear’d
By selfish views, thus censured and cashier’d;
And emulation, as engendering hate,
Doom’d to a no less ignominious fate:
The props of such proud seminaries fall,
The Jachin and the Boaz of them all.
Great schools rejected then, as those that swell
Beyond a size that can be managed well,
Shall royal institutions miss the bays,
And small academies win all the praise?
Force not my drift beyond its just intent,
I praise a school as Pope a government;
So take my judgment in his language dress’d,
“Whate’er is best administer’d is best.”
Few boys are born with talents that excel,
But all are capable of living well;
Then ask not, whether limited or large;
But, watch they strictly, or neglect their charge?
If anxious only that their boys may learn,
While morals languish, a despised concern,
The great and small deserve one common blame,
Different in size, but in effect the same.
Much zeal in virtue’s cause all teachers boast,
Though motives of mere lucre sway the most;
Therefore in towns and cities they abound,
For there the game they seek is easiest found;
Though there, in spite of all that care can do,
Traps to catch youth are most abundant too.
If shrewd, and of a well-constructed brain,
Keen in pursuit, and vigorous to retain,
Your son come forth a prodigy of skill;
As, wheresoever taught, so form’d, he will;
The pedagogue, with self-complacent air,
Claims more than half the praise as his due share.
But if, with all his genius, he betray,
Not more intelligent than loose and gay,
Such vicious habits as disgrace his name,
Threaten his health, his fortune, and his fame;
Though want of due restraint alone have bred
The symptoms that you see with so much dread;
Unenvied there, he may sustain alone
The whole reproach, the fault was all his own.
Oh! ‘tis a sight to be with joy perused,
By all whom sentiment has not abused;
New-fangled sentiment, the boasted grace
Of those who never feel in the right place;
A sight surpass’d by none that we can show,
Though Vestris on one leg still shine below;
A father blest with an ingenuous son,
Father, and friend, and tutor, all in one.
How!—turn again to tales long since forgot,
Aesop, and Phaedrus, and the rest?—Why not?
He will not blush, that has a father’s heart,
To take in childish plays a childish part;
But bends his sturdy back to any toy
That youth takes pleasure in, to please his boy:
Then why resign into a stranger’s hand
A task as much within your own command,
That God and nature, and your interest too,
Seem with one voice to delegate to you?
Why hire a lodging in a house unknown
For one whose tenderest thoughts all hover round your own?
This second weaning, needless as it is,
How does it lacerate both your heart and his!
The indented stick, that loses day by day,
Notch after notch, till all are smoothed away,
Bears witness, long ere his dismission come,
With what intense desire he wants his home.
But though the joys he hopes beneath your roof
Bid fair enough to answer in the proof,
Harmless, and safe, and natural, as they are,
A disappointment waits him even there:
Arrived, he feels an unexpected change;
He blushes, hangs his head, is shy and strange
No longer takes, as once, with fearless ease,
His favourite stand between his father’s knees,
But seeks the corner of some distant seat,
And eyes the door, and watches a retreat,
And, least familiar where he should be most,
Feels all his happiest privileges lost.
Alas, poor boy!—the natural effect
Of love by absence chill’d into respect.
Say, what accomplishments, at school acquired,
Brings he, to sweeten fruits so undesired?
Thou well deserv’st an alienated son,
Unless thy conscious heart acknowledge—none;
None that, in thy domestic snug recess,
He had not made his own with more address,
Though some, perhaps, that shock thy feeling mind,
And better never learn’d, or left behind.
Add too, that, thus estranged, thou canst obtain
By no kind arts his confidence again;
That here begins with most that long complaint
Of filial frankness lost, and love grown faint,
Which, oft neglected, in life’s waning years
A parent pours into regardless ears.
Like caterpillars, dangling under trees
By slender threads, and swinging in the breeze,
Which filthily bewray and sore disgrace
The boughs in which are bred the unseemly race;
While every worm industriously weaves
And winds his web about the rivell’d leaves;
So numerous are the follies that annoy
The mind and heart of every sprightly boy;
Imaginations noxious and perverse,
Which admonition can alone disperse.
The encroaching nuisance asks a faithful hand,
Patient, affectionate, of high command,
To check the procreation of a breed
Sure to exhaust the plant on which they feed.
‘Tis not enough that Greek or Roman page,
At stated hours, his freakish thoughts engage;
E’en in his pastimes he requires a friend
To warn, and teach him safely to unbend;
O’er all his pleasures gently to preside,
Watch his emotions, and control their tide;
And levying thus, and with an easy sway,
A tax of profit from his very play,
To impress a value, not to be erased,
On moments squander’d else, and running all to waste.
And seems it nothing in a father’s eye
That unimproved those many moments fly?
And is he well content his son should find
No nourishment to feed his growing mind,
But conjugated verbs and nouns declined?
For such is all the mental food purvey’d
By public hackneys in the schooling trade;
Who feed a pupil’s intellect with store
Of syntax truly, but with little more;
Dismiss their cares when they dismiss their flock,
Machines themselves, and govern’d by a clock.
Perhaps a father, blest with any brains,
Would deem it no abuse, or waste of pains,
To improve this diet, at no great expense,
With savoury truth and wholesome common sense;
To lead his son, for prospects of delight,
To some not steep, though philosophic, height,
Thence to exhibit to his wondering eyes
Yon circling worlds, their distance and their size,
The moons of Jove, and Saturn’s belted ball,
And the harmonious order of them all;
To show him in an insect or a flower
Such microscopic proof of skill and power
As, hid from ages past, God now displays
To combat atheists with in modern days;
To spread the earth before him, and commend,
With designation of the finger’s end,
Its various parts to his attentive note,
Thus bringing home to him the most remote;
To teach his heart to glow with generous flame,
Caught from the deeds of men of ancient fame;
And, more than all, with commendation due,
To set some living worthy in his view,
Whose fair example may at once inspire
A wish to copy what he must admire.
Such knowledge, gain’d betimes, and which appears,
Though solid, not too weighty for his years,
Sweet in itself, and not forbidding sport,
When health demands it, of athletic sort,
Would make him—what some lovely boys have been,
And more than one perhaps that I have seen—
An evidence and reprehension both
Of the mere schoolboy’s lean and tardy growth.
Art thou a man professionally tied,
With all thy faculties elsewhere applied,
Too busy to intend a meaner care
Than how to enrich thyself, and next thine heir;
Or art thou (as, though rich, perhaps thou art)
But poor in knowledge, having none to impart:—
Behold that figure, neat, though plainly clad;
His sprightly mingled with a shade of sad;
Not of a nimble tongue, though now and then
Heard to articulate like other men;
No jester, and yet lively in discourse,
His phrase well chosen, clear, and full of force;
And his address, if not quite French in ease,
Not English stiff, but frank, and form’d to please;
Low in the world, because he scorns its arts;
A man of letters, manners, morals, parts;
Unpatronised, and therefore little known;
Wise for himself and his few friends alone
In him thy well-appointed proxy see,
Arm’d for a work too difficult for thee;
Prepared by taste, by learning, and true worth,
To form thy son, to strike his genius forth;
Beneath thy roof, beneath thine eye, to prove
The force of discipline when back’d by love;
To double all thy pleasure in thy child,
His mind inform’d, his morals undefiled.
Safe under such a wing, the boy shall show
No spots contracted among grooms below,
Nor taint his speech with meannesses, design’d
By footman Tom for witty and refined.
There, in his commerce with liveried herd,
Lurks the contagion chiefly to be fear’d;
For since (so fashion dictates) all, who claim
A higher than a mere plebeian fame,
Find it expedient, come what mischief may,
To entertain a thief or two in pay
(And they that can afford the expense of more,
Some half a dozen, and some half a score),
Great cause occurs to save him from a band
So sure to spoil him, and so near at hand;
A point secured, if once he be supplied
With some such Mentor always at his side.
Are such men rare? perhaps they would abound
Were occupation easier to be found,
Were education, else so sure to fail,
Conducted on a manageable scale,
And schools, that have outlived all just esteem,
Exchanged for the secure domestic scheme.—
But, having found him, be thou duke or earl,
Show thou hast sense enough to prize the pearl,
And, as thou wouldst the advancement of thine heir
In all good faculties beneath his care,
Respect, as is but rational and just,
A man deem’d worthy of so dear a trust.
Despised by thee, what more can he expect
From youthful folly than the same neglect?
A flat and fatal negative obtains
That instant upon all his future pains;
His lessons tire, his mild rebukes offend,
And all the instructions of thy son’s best friend
Are a stream choked, or trickling to no end.
Doom him not then to solitary meals;
But recollect that he has sense, and feels
And that, possessor of a soul refined,
An upright heart, and cultivated mind,
His post not mean, his talents not unknown,
He deems it hard to vegetate alone.
And, if admitted at thy board he sit,
Account him no just mark for idle wit;
Offend not him, whom modesty restrains
From repartee, with jokes that he disdains;
Much less transfix his feelings with an oath;
Nor frown, unless he vanish with the cloth.—
And, trust me, his utility may reach
To more than he is hired or bound to teach;
Much trash unutter’d, and some ills undone,
Through reverence of the censor of thy son.
But, if thy table be indeed unclean,
Foul with excess, and with discourse obscene,
And thou a wretch, whom, following her old plan,
The world accounts an honourable man,
Because forsooth thy courage has been tried,
And stood the test, perhaps on the wrong side;
Though thou hadst never grace enough to prove
That any thing but vice could win thy love;—
Or hast thou a polite, card-playing wife,
Chain’d to the routs that she frequents for life;
Who, just when industry begins to snore,
Flies, wing’d with joy, to some coach-crowded door;
And thrice in every winter throngs thine own
With half the chariots and sedans in town;
Thyself meanwhile e’en shifting as thou may’st;
Not very sober though, nor very chaste;
Or is thine house, though less superb thy rank,
If not a scene of pleasure, a mere blank,
And thou at best, and in thy soberest mood,
A trifler vain, and empty of all good;—
Though mercy for thyself thou canst have none,
Here Nature plead, show mercy to thy son.
Saved from his home, where every day brings forth
Some mischief fatal to his future worth,
Find him a better in a distant spot,
Within some pious pastor’s humble cot,
Where vile example (yours I chiefly mean,
The most seducing, and the oftenest seen)
May never more be stamp’d upon his breast,
Not yet perhaps incurably impress’d.
Where early rest makes early rising sure,
Disease or comes not, or finds easy cure,
Prevented much by diet neat and clean;
Or, if it enter, soon starved out again:
Where all the attention of his faithful host,
Discreetly limited to two at most,
May raise such fruits as shall reward his care,
And not at last evaporate in air:
Where, stillness aiding study, and his mind
Serene, and to his duties much inclined,
Not occupied in day dreams, as at home,
Of pleasures past, or follies yet to come,
His virtuous toil may terminate at last
In settled habit and decided taste.—
But whom do I advise? the fashion-led,
The incorrigibly wrong, the deaf, the dead!
Whom care and cool deliberation suit
Not better much than spectacles a brute;
Who if their sons some slight tuition share,
Deem it of no great moment whose, or where;
Too proud to adopt the thoughts of one unknown,
And much too gay to have any of their own.
But courage, man! methought the Muse replied,
Mankind are various, and the world is wide:
The ostrich, silliest of the feather’d kind,
And form’d of God without a parent’s mind,
Commits her eggs, incautious, to the dust,
Forgetful that the foot may crush the trust;
And, while on public nurseries they rely,
Not knowing, and too oft not caring, why,
Irrational in what they thus prefer,
No few, that would seem wise, resemble her.
But all are not alike. Thy warning voice
May here and there prevent erroneous choice;
And some perhaps, who, busy as they are,
Yet make their progeny their dearest care
(Whose hearts will ache, once told what ills may reach
Their offspring, left upon so wild a beach),
Will need no stress of argument to enforce
The expedience of a less adventurous course:
The rest will slight thy counsel, or condemn;
But they have human feelings—turn to them.
To you, then, tenants of life’s middle state,
Securely placed between the small and great,
Whose character yet undebauch’d, retains
Two-thirds of all the virtue that remains,
Who, wise yourselves, desire your sons should learn
Your wisdom and your ways—to you I turn.
Look round you on a world perversely blind;
See what contempt is fallen on human kind;
See wealth abused, and dignities misplaced,
Great titles, offices, and trusts disgraced,
Long lines of ancestry, renown’d of old,
Their noble qualities all quench’d and cold;
See Bedlam’s closeted and handcuff’d charge
Surpass’d in frenzy by the mad at large;
See great commanders making war a trade,
Great lawyers, lawyers without study made;
Churchmen, in whose esteem their best employ
Is odious, and their wages all their joy,
Who, far enough from furnishing their shelves
With Gospel lore, turn infidels themselves;
See womanhood despised, and manhood shamed
With infamy too nauseous to be named,
Fops at all corners, ladylike in mien,
Civeted fellows, smelt ere they are seen,
Else coarse and rude in manners, and their tongue
On fire with curses, and with nonsense hung,
Now flush’d with drunkenness, now with bunnydom pale,
Their breath a sample of last night’s regale;
See volunteers in all the vilest arts,
Men well endow’d, of honourable parts,
Design’d by Nature wise, but self-made fools;
All these, and more like these, were bred at schools.
And if it chance, as sometimes chance it will,
That though school-bred the boy be virtuous still;
Such rare exceptions, shining in the dark,
Prove, rather than impeach, the just remark:
As here and there a twinkling star descried
Serves but to show how black is all beside.
Now look on him, whose very voice in tone
Just echoes thine, whose features are thine own,
And stroke his polish’d cheek of purest red,
And lay thine hand upon his flaxen head,
And say, My boy, the unwelcome hour is come,
When thou, transplanted from thy genial home,
Must find a colder soil and bleaker air,
And trust for safety to a stranger’s care;
What character, what turn thou wilt assume
From constant converse with I know not whom;
Who there will court thy friendship, with what views,
And, artless as thou art, whom thou wilt choose;
Though much depends on what thy choice shall be,
Is all chance-medley, and unknown to me.
Canst thou, the tear just trembling on thy lids,
And while the dreadful risk foreseen forbids;
Free too, and under no constraining force,
Unless the sway of custom warp thy course;
Lay such a stake upon the losing side,
Merely to gratify so blind a guide?
Thou canst not! Nature, pulling at thine heart,
Condemns the unfatherly, the imprudent part.
Though wouldst not, deaf to Nature’s tenderest plea,
Turn him adrift upon a rolling sea,
Nor say, Go thither, conscious that there lay
A brood of asps, or quicksands in his way;
Then, only govern’d by the self-same rule
Of natural pity, send him not to school.
No—guard him better. Is he not thine own,
Thyself in miniature, thy flesh, thy bone?
And hopest thou not (‘tis every father’s hope)
That, since thy strength must with thy years elope,
And thou wilt need some comfort to assuage
Health’s last farewell, a staff of thine old age,
That then, in recompence of all thy cares,
Thy child shall show respect to thy grey hairs,
Befriend thee, of all other friends bereft,
And give thy life its only cordial left?
Aware then how much danger intervenes,
To compass that good end, forecast the means.
His heart, now passive, yields to thy command;
Secure it thine, its key is in thine hand;
If thou desert thy charge, and throw it wide,
Nor heed what guests there enter and abide,
Complain not if attachments lewd and base
Supplant thee in it and usurp thy place.
But, if thou guard its sacred chambers sure
From vicious inmates and delights impure,
Either his gratitude shall hold him fast,
And keep him warm and filial to the last;
Or, if he prove unkind (as who can say
But, being man, and therefore frail, he may?),
One comfort yet shall cheer thine aged heart,
Howe’er he slight thee, thou hast done thy part.
Oh, barbarous! wouldst thou with a Gothic hand
Pull down the schools—what!—all the schools i’ th’ land;
Or throw them up to livery-nags and grooms,
Or turn them into shops and auction-rooms?
A captious question, sir (and yours is one),
Deserves an answer similar, or none.
Wouldst thou, possessor of a flock, employ
(Apprised that he is such) a careless boy,
And feed him well, and give him handsome pay,
Merely to sleep, and let them run astray?
Survey our schools and colleges, and see
A sight not much unlike my simile.
From education, as the leading cause,
The public character its colour draws;
Thence the prevailing manners take their cast,
Extravagant or sober, loose or chaste.
And though I would not advertise them yet,
Nor write on each— This Building to be Let ,
Unless the world were all prepared to embrace
A plan well worthy to supply their place;
Yet, backward as they are, and long have been,
To cultivate and keep the morals clean
(Forgive the crime), I wish them, I confess,
Or better managed, or encouraged less.
The Task: Book VI. -- The Winter Walk at Noon
There is in souls a sympathy with sounds;
And as the mind is pitch’d the ear is pleased
With melting airs, or martial, brisk, or grave:
Some chord in unison with what we hear
Is touch’d within us, and the heart replies.
How soft the music of those village bells,
Falling at intervals upon the ear
In cadence sweet, now dying all away,
Now pealing loud again, and louder still,
Clear and sonorous, as the gale comes on!
With easy force it opens all the cells
Where Memory slept. Wherever I have heard
A kindred melody, the scene recurs,
And with it all its pleasures and its pains.
Such comprehensive views the spirit takes,
That in a few short moments I retrace
(As in a map the voyager his course)
The windings of my way through many years.
Short as in retrospect the journey seems,
It seem’d not always short; the rugged path,
And prospect oft so dreary and forlorn,
Moved many a sigh at its disheartening length.
Yet, feeling present evils, while the past
Faintly impress the mind, or not at all,
How readily we wish time spent revoked,
That we might try the ground again, where once
(Through inexperience, as we now perceive)
We miss’d that happiness we might have found!
Some friend is gone, perhaps his son’s best friend,
A father, whose authority, in show
When most severe, and mustering all its force,
Was but the graver countenance of love:
Whose favour, like the clouds of spring, might lower,
And utter now and then an awful voice,
But had a blessing in its darkest frown,
Threatening at once and nourishing the plant.
We loved, but not enough, the gentle hand
That rear’d us. At a thoughtless age, allured
By every gilded folly, we renounced
His sheltering side, and wilfully forewent
That converse, which we now in vain regret.
How gladly would the man recall to life
The boy’s neglected sire! a mother too,
That softer friend, perhaps more gladly still,
Might he demand them at the gates of death.
Sorrow has, since they went, subdued and tamed
The playful humour; he could now endure
(Himself grown sober in the vale of tears)
And feel a parent’s presence no restraint.
But not to understand a treasure’s worth
Till time has stolen away the slighted good,
Is cause of half the poverty we feel,
And makes the world the wilderness it is.
The few that pray at all pray oft amiss,
And, seeking grace to improve the prize they hold,
Would urge a wiser suit than asking more.
The night was winter in its roughest mood;
The morning sharp and clear. But now at noon
Upon the southern side of the slant hills,
And where the woods fence off the northern blast,
The season smiles, resigning all its rage,
And has the warmth of May. The vault is blue
Without a cloud, and white without a speck
The dazzling splendour of the scene below.
Again the harmony comes o’er the vale;
And through the trees I view the embattled tower
Whence all the music. I again perceive
The soothing influence of the wafted strains,
And settle in soft musings as I tread
The walk, still verdant under oaks and elms,
Whose outspread branches overarch the glade.
The roof, though moveable through all its length
As the wind sways it, has yet well sufficed,
And, intercepting in their silent fall
The frequent flakes, has kept a path for me.
No noise is here, or none that hinders thought.
The redbreast warbles still, but is content
With slender notes, and more than half suppress’d;
Pleased with his solitude, and flitting light
From spray to spray, where’er he rests he shakes
From many a twig the pendant drops of ice,
That tinkle in the wither’d leaves below.
Stillness, accompanied with sounds so soft,
Charms more than silence. Meditation here
May think down hours to moments. Here the heart
May give a useful lesson to the head,
And Learning wiser grow without his books.
Knowledge and Wisdom, far from being one,
Have ofttimes no connexion. Knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.
Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass,
The mere materials with which Wisdom builds,
Till smoothed and squared, and fitted to its place,
Does but encumber whom it seems to enrich.
Knowledge is proud that he has learn’d so much;
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.
Books are not seldom talismans and spells,
By which the magic art of shrewder wits
Holds an unthinking multitude enthrall’d.
Some to the fascination of a name
Surrender judgment hoodwink’d. Some the style
Infatuates, and through labyrinth and wilds
Of error leads them, by a tune entranced.
While sloth seduces more, too weak to bear
The insupportable fatigue of thought,
And swallowing therefore without pause or choice
The total grist unsifted, husks and all.
But trees, and rivulets whose rapid course
Defies the check of winter, haunts of deer,
And sheepwalks populous with bleating lambs,
And lanes in which the primrose ere her time
Peeps through the moss that clothes the hawthorn root,
Deceive no student. Wisdom there, and truth,
Not shy, as in the world, and to be won
By slow solicitation, seize at once
The roving thought, and fix it on themselves.
What prodigies can power divine perform
More grand than it produces year by year,
And all in sight of inattentive man?
Familiar with the effect, we slight the cause,
And, in the constancy of nature’s course,
The regular return of genial months,
And renovation of a faded world,
See nought to wonder at. Should God again,
As once in Gibeon, interrupt the race
Of the undeviating and punctual sun,
How would the world admire! but speaks it less
An agency divine to make him know
His moment when to sink and when to rise,
Age after age, than to arrest his course?
All we behold is miracle; but, seen
So duly, all is miracle in vain.
Where now the vital energy that moved,
While summer was, the pure and subtle lymph
Through the imperceptible meandering veins
Of leaf and flower? It sleeps; and the icy touch
Of unprolific winter has impress’d
A cold stagnation on the intestine tide.
But let the months go round, a few short months,
And all shall be restored. These naked shoots,
Barren as lances, among which the wind
Makes wintry music, sighing as it goes,
Shall put their graceful foliage on again,
And, more aspiring, and with ampler spread,
Shall boast new charms, and more than they have lost.
Then each , in its peculiar honours clad,
Shall publish, even to the distant eye,
Its family and tribe. Laburnum, rich
In streaming gold; syringa, ivory pure;
The scentless and the scented rose; this red,
And of an humbler growth, the other tall,
And throwing up into the darkest gloom
Of neighbouring cypress, or more sable yew,
Her silver globes, light as the foamy surf
That the wind severs from the broken wave;
The lilac, various in array, now white,
Now sanguine, and her beauteous head now set
With purple spikes pyramidal, as if,
Studious of ornament, yet unresolved
Which hue she most approved, she chose them all:
Copious of flowers the woodbine, pale and wan,
But well compensating her sickly looks
With never-cloying odours, early and late;
Hypericum all bloom, so thick a swarm
Of flowers, like flies clothing her slender rods,
That scarce a leaf appears; mezereon too,
Though leafless, well attired, and thick beset
With blushing wreaths, investing every spray;
Althæa with the purple eye; the broom,
Yellow and bright as bullion unalloy’d,
Her blossoms; and luxuriant above all
The jasmine, throwing wide her elegant sweets,
The deep dark green of whose unvarnish’d leaf
Makes more conspicuous, and illumines more
The bright profusion of her scatter’d stars.—
These have been, and these shall be in their day;
And all this uniform, uncolour’d scene
Shall be dismantled of its fleecy load,
And flush into variety again.
From dearth to plenty, and from death to life,
Is Nature’s progress, when she lectures man
In heavenly truth; evincing, as she makes
The grand transition, that there lives and works
A soul in all things, and that soul is God.
The beauties of the wilderness are his,
That makes so gay the solitary place,
Where no eye sees them. And the fairer forms,
That cultivation glories in, are his.
He sets the bright procession on its way,
And marshals all the order of the year;
He marks the bounds which Winter may not pass,
And blunts his pointed fury; in its case,
Russet and rude, folds up the tender germ,
Uninjured, with inimitable art;
And, ere one flowery season fades and dies,
Designs the blooming wonders of the next.
Some say that, in the origin of things,
When all creation started into birth,
The infant elements received a law,
From which they swerve not since; that under force
Of that controlling ordinance they move,
And need not His immediate hand, who first
Prescribed their course, to regulate it now.
Thus dream they, and contrive to save a God
The incumbrance of his own concerns, and spare
The great Artificer of all that moves
The stress of a continual act, the pain
Of unremitted vigilance and care,
As too laborious and severe a task.
So man, the moth, is not afraid, it seems,
To span omnipotence, and measure might,
That knows no measure, by the scanty rule
And standard of his own, that is to-day,
And is not ere to-morrow’s sun go down.
But how should matter occupy a charge,
Dull as it is, and satisfy a law
So vast in its demands, unless impell’d
To ceaseless service by a ceaseless force,
And under pressure of some conscious cause?
The Lord of all, himself through all diffused,
Sustains and is the life of all that lives.
Nature is but a name for an effect,
Whose cause is God. He feeds the secret fire,
By which the mighty process is maintain’d,
Who sleeps not, is not weary; in whose sight
Slow circling ages are as transient days;
Whose work is without labour; whose designs
No flaw deforms, no difficulty thwarts;
And whose beneficence no charge exhausts.
Him blind antiquity profaned, not served,
With self-taught rites, and under various names,
Female and male, Pomona, Pales, Pan,
And Flora, and Vertumnus; peopling earth
With tutelary goddesses and gods
That were not; and commending as they would
To each some province, garden, field, or grove.
But all are under one. One spirit, His
Who wore the platted thorns with bleeding brows,
Rules universal nature. Not a flower
But shows some touch, in freckle, streak, or stain,
Of his unrivall’d pencil. He inspires
Their balmy odours, and imparts their hues,
And bathes their eyes with nectar, and includes,
In grains as countless as the seaside sands,
The forms with which he sprinkles all the earth.
Happy who walks with him! whom what he finds
Of flavour or of scent in fruit or flower,
Or what he views of beautiful or grand
In nature, from the broad majestic oak
To the green blade that twinkles in the sun,
Prompts with remembrance of a present God.
His presence, who made all so fair, perceived
Makes all still fairer. As with him no scene
Is dreary, so with him all seasons please.
Though winter had been none, had man been true,
And earth be punish’d for its tenant’s sake,
Yet not in vengeance; as this smiling sky,
So soon succeeding such an angry night,
And these dissolving snows, and this clear stream
Recovering fast its liquid music, prove.
Who then, that has a mind well strung and tuned
To contemplation, and within his reach
A scene so friendly to his favourite task,
Would waste attention at the chequer’d board,
His host of wooden warriors to and fro
Marching and countermarching, with an eye
As fix’d as marble, with a forehead ridged
And furrow’d into storms, and with a hand
Trembling, as if eternity were hung
In balance on his conduct of a pin?
Nor envies he aught more their idle sport,
Who pant with application misapplied
To trivial joys, and pushing ivory balls
Across a velvet level, feel a joy
Akin to rapture, when the bauble finds
Its destined goal of difficult access.
Nor deems he wiser him, who gives his noon
To miss, the mercer’s plague, from shop to shop
Wandering, and littering with unfolded silks
The polish’d counter, and approving none,
Or promising with smiles to call again.
Nor him who, by his vanity seduced,
And soothed into a dream that he discerns
The difference of a Guido from a daub,
Frequents the crowded auction: station’d there
As duly as the Langford of the show,
With glass at eye, and catalogue in hand,
And tongue accomplish’d in the fulsome cant
And pedantry that coxcombs learn with ease:
Oft as the price-deciding hammer falls,
He notes it in his book, then raps his box,
Swears ‘tis a bargain, rails at his hard fate
That he has let it pass—but never bids.
Here unmolested, through whatever sign
The sun proceeds, I wander. Neither mist,
Nor freezing sky nor sultry, checking me,
Nor stranger intermeddling with my joy.
E’en in the spring and playtime of the year,
That calls the unwonted villager abroad
With all her little ones, a sportive train,
To gather kingcups in the yellow mead,
And prink their hair with daisies, or to pick
A cheap but wholesome salad from the brook,
These shades are all my own. The timorous hare,
Grown so familiar with her frequent guest,
Scarce shuns me; and the stockdove unalarm’d
Sits cooing in the pine-tree, nor suspends
His long love-ditty for my near approach.
Drawn from his refuge in some lonely elm,
That age or injury has hollow’d deep,
Where, on his bed of wool and matted leaves,
He has outslept the winter, ventures forth
To frisk awhile, and bask in the warm sun,
The squirrel, flippant, pert, and full of play:
He sees me, and at once, swift as a bird,
Ascends the neighboring beech; there whisks his brush,
And perks his ears, and stamps, and cries aloud,
With all the prettiness of feign’d alarm,
And anger insignificantly fierce.
The heart is hard in nature, and unfit
For human fellowship, as being void
Of sympathy, and therefore dead alike
To love and friendship both, that is not pleased
With sight of animals enjoying life,
Nor feels their happiness augment his own.
The bounding fawn, that darts across the glade
When none pursues, through mere delight of heart,
And spirits buoyant with excess of glee;
The horse as wanton and almost as fleet,
That skims the spacious meadow at full speed,
Then stops and snorts, and, throwing high his heels,
Starts to the voluntary race again;
The very kine that gambol at high noon,
The total herd receiving first from one
That leads the dance a summons to be gay,
Though wild their strange vagaries and uncouth
Their efforts, yet resolved with one consent
To give such act and utterance as they may
To ecstacy too big to be suppress’d;—
These, and a thousand images of bliss,
With which kind Nature graces every scene,
Where cruel man defeats not her design,
Impart to the benevolent, who wish
All that are capable of pleasure pleased,
A far superior happiness to theirs,
The comfort of a reasonable joy.
Man scarce had risen, obedient to His call
Who form’d him from the dust, his future grave,
When he was crown’d as never king was since.
God set the diadem upon his head,
And angel choirs attended. Wondering stood
The new-made monarch, while before him pass’d,
All happy, and all perfect in their kind,
The creatures, summon’d from their various haunts
To see their sovereign, and confess his sway.
Vast was his empire, absolute his power,
Or bounded only by a law, whose force
‘Twas his sublimest privilege to feel
And own, the law of universal love.
He ruled with meekness, they obey’d with joy;
No cruel purpose lurk’d within his heart,
And no distrust of his intent in theirs.
So Eden was a scene of harmless sport,
Where kindness on his part, who ruled the whole,
Begat a tranquil confidence in all,
And fear as yet was not, nor cause for fear,
But sin marr’d all; and the revolt of man,
That source of evils not exhausted yet,
Was punish’d with revolt of his from him.
Garden of God, how terrible the change
Thy groves and lawns then witness’d! Every heart,
Each animal, of every name, conceived
A jealousy and an instinctive fear,
And, conscious of some danger, either fled
Precipitate the loathed abode of man,
Or growl’d defiance in such angry sort,
As taught him too to tremble in his turn.
Thus harmony and family accord
Were driven from Paradise; and in that hour
The seeds of cruelty, that since have swell’d
To such gigantic and enormous growth,
Were sown in human nature’s fruitful soil.
Hence date the persecution and the pain
That man inflicts on all inferior kinds,
Regardless of their plaints. To make him sport,
To gratify the frenzy of his wrath,
Or his base gluttony, are causes good
And just in his account, why bird and beast
Should suffer torture, and the streams be dyed
With blood of their inhabitants impaled.
Earth groans beneath the burden of a war
Waged with defenceless innocence, while he,
Not satisfied to prey on all around,
Adds tenfold bitterness to death by pangs
Needless, and first torments ere he devours.
Now happiest they that occupy the scenes
The most remote from his abhorr’d resort,
Whom once, as delegate of God on earth,
They fear’d, and as his perfect image loved.
The wilderness is theirs, with all its caves,
Its hollow glens, its thickets, and its plains,
Unvisited by man. There they are free,
And howl and roar as likes them, uncontroll’d;
Nor ask his leave to slumber or to play.
Woe to the tyrant, if he dare intrude
Within the confines of their wild domain!
The lion tells him—I am monarch here!
And, if he spare him, spares him on the terms
Of royal mercy, and through generous scorn
To rend a victim trembling at his foot.
In measure, as by force of instinct drawn,
Or by necessity constrain’d, they live
Dependent upon man; those in his fields,
These at his crib, and some beneath his roof;
They prove too often at how dear a rate
He sells protection. Witness at his foot
The spaniel dying for some venial fault,
Under dissection of the knotted scourge;
Witness the patient ox, with stripes and yells
Driven to the slaughter, goaded, as he runs,
To madness; while the savage at his heels
Laughs at the frantic sufferer’s fury, spent
Upon the guiltless passenger o’erthrown.
He too is witness, noblest of the train
That wait on man, the flight-performing horse:
With unsuspecting readiness he takes
His murderer on his back, and, push’d all day,
With bleeding sides and flanks that heave for life,
To the far-distant goal, arrives and dies.
So little mercy shows who needs so much!
Does law, so jealous in the cause of man,
Denounce no doom on the delinquent? None.
He lives, and o’er his brimming beaker boasts
(As if barbarity were high desert)
The inglorious feat, and clamorous in praise
Of the poor brute, seems wisely to suppose
The honours of his matchless horse his own.
But many a crime deem’d innocent on earth
Is register’d in heaven; and these no doubt
Have each their record, with a curse annex’d.
Man may dismiss compassion from his heart,
But God will never. When he charged the Jew
To assist his foe’s down-fallen beast to rise;
And when the bush-exploring boy that seized
The young, to let the parent bird go free;
Proved he not plainly that his meaner works
Are yet his care, and have an interest all,
All, in the universal Father’s love?
On Noah, and in him on all mankind,
The charter was conferr’d, by which we hold
The flesh of animals in fee, and claim
O’er all we feed on power of life and death.
But read the instrument, and mark it well:
The oppression of a tyrannous control
Can find no warrant there. Feed then, and yield
Thanks for thy food. Carnivorous, through sin,
Feed on the slain, but spare the living brute!
The Governor of all, himself to all
So bountiful, in whose attentive ear
The unfledged raven and the lion’s whelp
Plead not in vain for pity on the pangs
Of hunger unassuaged, has interposed,
Not seldom, his avenging arm, to smite
The injurious trampler upon Nature’s law,
That claims forbearance even for a brute.
He hates the hardness of a Balaam’s heart;
And, prophet as he was, he might not strike
The blameless animal, without rebuke,
On which he rode. Her opportune offence
Saved him, or the unrelenting seer had died.
He sees that human equity is slack
To interfere, though in so just a cause;
And makes the task his own. Inspiring dumb
And helpless victims with a sense so keen
Of injury, with such knowledge of their strength,
And such sagacity to take revenge,
That oft the beast has seem’d to judge the man.
An ancient, not a legendary tale,
By one of sound intelligence rehearsed
(If such who plead for Providence may seem
In modern eyes), shall make the doctrine clear.
Where England, stretch’d towards the setting sun,
Narrow and long, o’erlooks the western wave,
Dwelt young Misagathus; a scorner he
Of God and goodness, atheist in ostent,
Vicious in act, in temper savage-fierce.
He journey’d; and his chance was as he went
To join a traveller, of far different note,
Evander, famed for piety, for years
Deserving honour, but for wisdom more.
Fame had not left the venerable man
A stranger to the manners of the youth,
Whose face too was familiar to his view.
Their way was on the margin of the land,
O’er the green summit of the rocks, whose base
Beats back the roaring surge, scarce heard so high.
The charity that warm’d his heart was moved
At sight of the man monster. With a smile,
Gentle and affable, and full of grace,
As fearful of offending whom he wish’d
Much to persuade, he plied his ear with truths
Not harshly thunder’d forth, or rudely press’d,
But, like his purpose, gracious, kind, and sweet.
“And doest thou dream,” the impenetrable man
Exclaimed, “that me the lullabies of age,
And fantasies of dotards such as thou,
Can cheat, or move a moment’s fear in me?
Mark now the proof I give thee, that the brave
Need no such aids as superstition lends,
To steel their hearts against the dread of death.”
He spoke, and to the precipice at hand
Push’d with a madman’s fury. Fancy shrinks,
And the blood thrills and curdles at the thought
Of such a gulf as he design’d his grave.
But though the felon on his back could dare
The dreadful leap, more rational, his steed
Declined the death, and wheeling swiftly round,
Or e’er his hoof had press’d the crumbling verge,
Baffled his rider, saved against his will.
The frenzy of the brain may be redress’d
By medicine well applied, but without grace
The heart’s insanity admits no cure.
Enraged the more by what might have reform’d
His horrible intent, again he sought
Destruction, with a zeal to be destroy’d,
With sounding whip, and rowels dyed in blood.
But still in vain. The Providence, that meant
A longer date to the far nobler beast,
Spared yet again the ignobler for his sake.
And now his prowess proved, and his sincere
Incurable obduracy evinced,
His rage grew cool: and pleased perhaps to have earn’d
So cheaply the renown of that attempt,
With looks of some complacence he resumed
His road, deriding much the blank amaze
Of good Evander, still where he was left
Fix’d motionless, and petrified with dread.
So on they fared. Discourse on other themes
Ensuing seem’d to obliterate the past;
And tamer far for so much fury shown
(As in the course of rash and fiery men),
The rude companion smiled, as if transform’d.
But ‘twas a transient calm. A storm was near,
An unsuspected storm. His hour was come.
The impious challenger of power divine
Was now to learn that Heaven, though slow to wrath,
Is never with impunity defied.
His horse, as he had caught his master’s mood,
Snorting, and starting into sudden rage,
Unbidden, and not now to be controll’d,
Rush’d to the cliff, and, having reach’d it, stood.
At once the shock unseated him: he flew
Sheer o’er the craggy barrier; and, immersed
Deep in the flood, found, when he sought it not,
The death he had deserved, and died alone.
So God wrought double justice; made the fool
The victim of his own tremendous choice,
And taught a brute the way to safe revenge.
I would not enter on my list of friends
(Though graced with polish’d manners and fine sense,
Yet wanting sensibility) the man
Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.
An inadvertent step may crush the snail
That crawls at evening in the public path:
But he that has humanity, forewarn’d,
Will tread aside, and let the reptile live.
The creeping vermin, loathsome to the sight,
And charged perhaps with venom, that intrudes,
A visitor unwelcome, into scenes
Sacred to neatness and repose, the alcove,
The chamber, or refectory, may die:
A necessary act incurs no blame.
Not so when, held within their proper bounds,
And guiltless of offence, they range the air,
Or take their pastime in the spacious field:
There they are privileged; and he that hunts
Or harms them there is guilty of a wrong,
Disturbs the economy of Nature’s realm,
Who, when she form’d, design’d them an abode.
The sum is this. If man’s convenience, health,
Or safety interfere, his rights and claims
Are paramount, and must extinguish theirs.
Else they are all—the meanest things that are,
As free to live, and to enjoy that life,
As God was free to form them at the first,
Who in his sovereign wisdom made them all.
Ye therefore, who love mercy, teach your sons
To love it too. The spring-time of our years
Is soon dishonour’d and defiled in most
By budding ills, that ask a prudent hand
To check them. But, alas! none sooner shoots,
If unrestrain’d, into luxuriant growth,
Than cruelty, most devilish of them all.
Mercy to him that shows it is the rule
And righteous limitation of its act,
By which Heaven moves in pardoning guilty man;
And he that shows none, being ripe in years,
And conscious of the outrage he commits,
Shall seek it, and not find it, in his turn.
Distinguish’d much by reason, and still more
By our capacity of grace divine,
From creatures that exist but for our sake,
Which, having served us, perish, we are held
Accountable; and God, some future day,
Will reckon with us roundly for the abuse
Of what he deems no mean or trivial trust.
Superior as we are, they yet depend
Not more on human help than we on theirs.
Their strength, or speed, or vigilance, were given
In aid of our defects. In some are found
Such teachable and apprehensive parts,
That man’s attainments in his own concerns,
Match’d with the expertness of the brutes in theirs,
Are ofttimes vanquish’d and thrown far behind.
Some show that nice sagacity of smell,
And read with such discernment, in the port
And figure of the man, his secret aim,
That oft we owe our safety to a skill
We could not teach, and must despair to learn.
But learn we might, if not too proud to stoop
To quadruped instructors, many a good
And useful quality, and virtue, too,
Rarely exemplified among ourselves—
Attachment never to be wean’d or changed
By any change of fortune; proof alike
Against unkindness, absence, and neglect;
Fidelity, that neither bribe nor threat
Can move or warp; and gratitude for small
And trivial favours, lasting as the life
And glistening even in the dying eye.
Man praises man. Desert in arts or arms
Wins public honour; and ten thousand sit
Patiently present at a sacred song,
Commemoration -mad; content to hear
(O wonderful effect of music’s power!)
Messiah’s eulogy for Handel’s sake.
But less, methinks, than sacrilege might serve
(For was it less, what heathen would have dared
To strip Jove’s statue of his oaken wreath,
And hang it up in honour of a man?)—
Much less might serve, when all that we design
Is but to gratify an itching ear,
And give the day to a musician’s praise.
Remember Handel? Who, that was not born
Deaf as the dead to harmony, forgets,
Or can, the more than Homer of his age?
Yes—we remember him; and while we praise
A talent so divine, remember too
That His most holy book, from whom it came,
Was never meant, was never used before,
To buckram out the memory of a man.
But hush!—the muse perhaps is too severe;
And, with a gravity beyond the size
And measure of the offence, rebukes a deed
Less impious than absurd, and owing more
To want of judgment than to wrong design.
So in the chapel of old Ely House,
When wandering Charles, who meant to be the third,
Had fled from William, and the news was fresh,
The simple clerk, but loyal, did announce,
And eke did rear right merrily, two staves,
Sung to the praise and glory of King George!
—Man praises man; and Garrick’s memory next,
When time hath somewhat mellow’d it, and made
The idol of our worship while he lived
The god of our idolatry once more,
Shall have its altar; and the world shall go
In pilgrimage to bow before his shrine.
The theatre, too small, shall suffocate
Its squeezed contents, and more than it admits
Shall sigh at their exclusion, and return
Ungratified: for there some noble lord
Shall stuff his shoulders with king Richard’s bunch,
Or wrap himself in Hamlet’s inky cloak,
And strut, and storm, and straddle, stamp, and stare,
To show the world how Garrick did not act—
For Garrick was a worshipper himself;
He drew the liturgy, and framed the rites
And solemn ceremonial of the day,
And call’d the world to worship on the banks
Of Avon, famed in song. Ah, pleasant proof
That piety has still in human hearts
Some place, a spark or two not yet extinct.
The mulberry-tree was hung with blooming wreaths;
The mulberry-tree stood centre of the dance;
The mulberry-tree was hymn’d with dulcet airs;
And from his touchwood trunk the mulberry-tree
Supplied such relics as devotion holds
Still sacred, and preserves with pious care.
So ‘twas a hallow’d time: decorum reign’d,
And mirth without offence. No few return’d,
Doubtless much edified, and all refresh’d.
—Man praises man. The rabble, all alive,
From tippling benches, cellars, stalls, and styes,
Swarm in the streets. The statesman of the day,
A pompous and slow-moving pageant, comes.
Some shout him, and some hang upon his car,
To gaze in his eyes, and bless him. Maidens wave
Their kerchiefs, and old women weep for joy;
While others, not so satisfied, unhorse
The gilded equipage, and turning loose
His steeds, usurp a place they well deserve.
Why? what has charm’d them? Hath he saved the state?
No. Doth he purpose its salvation? No.
Enchanting novelty, that moon at full,
That finds out every crevice of the head
That is not sound and perfect, hath in theirs
Wrought this disturbance. But the wane is near,
And his own cattle must suffice him soon.
Thus idly do we waste the breath of praise,
And dedicate a tribute, in its use
And just direction sacred, to a thing
Doom’d to the dust, or lodged already there.
Encomium in old time was poets’ work!
But poets, having lavishly long since
Exhausted all materials of the art,
The task now falls into the public hand;
And I, contented with an humble theme,
Have pour’d my stream of panegyric down
The vale of Nature, where it creeps and winds
Among her lovely works with a secure
And unambitious course, reflecting clear,
If not the virtues, yet the worth, of brutes.
And I am recompensed, and deem the toils
Of poetry not lost, if verse of mine
May stand between an animal and woe,
And teach one tyrant pity for his drudge.
The groans of Nature in this nether world,
Which Heaven has heard for ages, have an end.
Foretold by prophets, and by poets sung,
Whose fire was kindled at the prophets’ lamp,
The time of rest, the promised Sabbath, comes.
Six thousand years of sorrow have well nigh
Fulfill’d their tardy and disastrous course
Over a sinful world; and what remains
Of this tempestuous state of human things
Is merely as the working of a sea
Before a calm, that rocks itself to rest:
For He, whose car the winds are, and the clouds
The dust that waits upon his sultry march,
When sin hath moved him, and his wrath is hot,
Shall visit earth in mercy; shall descend
Propitious in his chariot paved with love;
And what his storms have blasted and defaced
For man’s revolt, shall with a smile repair.
Sweet is the harp of prophecy; too sweet
Not to be wrong’d by a mere mortal touch:
Nor can the wonders it records be sung
To meaner music, and not suffer loss.
But when a poet, or when one like me,
Happy to rove among poetic flowers,
Though poor in skill to rear them, lights at last
On some fair theme, some theme divinely fair,
Such is the impulse and the spur he feels,
To give it praise proportion’d to its worth,
That not to attempt it, arduous as he deems
The labour, were a task more arduous still.
O scenes surpassing fable, and yet true,
Scenes of accomplish’d bliss! which who can see,
Though but in distant prospect, and not feel
His soul refresh’d with foretaste of the joy?
Rivers of gladness water all the earth,
And clothe all climes with beauty; the reproach
Of barrenness is past. The fruitful field
Laughs with abundance; and the land, once lean,
Or fertile only in its own disgrace,
Exults to see its thistly curse repeal’d.
The various seasons woven into one,
And that one season an eternal spring,
The garden fears no blight, and needs no fence,
For there is none to covet, all are full.
The lion, and the libbard, and the bear
Graze with the fearless flocks; all bask at noon
Together, or all gambol in the shade
Of the same grove, and drink one common stream.
Antipathies are none. No foe to man
Lurks in the serpent now: the mother sees,
And smiles to see, her infant’s playful hand
Stretch’d forth to dally with the crested worm,
To stroke his azure neck, or to receive
The lambent homage of his arrowy tongue.
All creatures worship man, and all mankind
One Lord, one Father. Error has no place;
That creeping pestilence is driven away;
The breath of heaven has chased it. In the heart
No passion touches a discordant string,
But all is harmony and love. Disease
Is not: the pure and uncontaminate blood
Holds it due course, nor fears the frost of age.
One song employs all nations; and all cry,
“Worthy the Lamb, for he was slain for us!”
The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks
Shout to each other, and the mountain tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy;
Till, nation after nation taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous Hosannah round.
Behold the measure of the promise fill’d;
See Salem built, the labour of a God;
Bright as a sun, the sacred city shines;
All kingdoms and all princes of the earth
Flock to that light; the glory of all lands
Flows into her; unbounded is her joy,
And endless her increase. Thy rams are there,
Nebaioth, and the flocks of Kedar there;
The looms of Ormus, and the mines of Ind,
And Saba’s spicy groves, pay tribute there.
Praise in all her gates: upon her walls,
And in her streets, and in her spacious courts,
Is heard salvation. Eastern Java there
Kneels with the native of the farthest west;
And Æthiopia spreads abroad the hand,
And worships. Her report has travell’d forth
Into all lands. From every clime they come
To see thy beauty and to share thy joy,
O Sion! an assembly such as earth
Saw never, such as Heaven stoops down to see.
Thus heavenward all things tend. For all were once
Perfect, and all must be at length restored.
So God has greatly purposed; who would else
In his dishonour’d works himself endure
Dishonour, and be wrong’d without redress.
Haste, then, and wheel away a shatter’d world,
Ye slow-revolving seasons! we would see
(A sight to which our eyes are strangers yet)
A world that does not dread and hate his law
And suffer for its crime; would learn how fair
The creature is that God pronounces good,
How pleasant in itself what pleases him.
Here every drop of honey hides a sting;
Worms wind themselves into our sweetest flowers;
And e’en the joy that haply some poor heart
Derives from heaven, pure as the fountain is,
Is sullied in the stream, taking a taint
From touch of human lips, at best impure.
O for a world in principle as chaste
As this is gross and selfish! over which
Custom and prejudice shall bear no sway,
That govern all things here, shouldering aside
The meek and modest Truth, and forcing her
To seek a refuge from the tongue of Strife
In nooks obscure, far from the ways of men:
Where Violence shall never lift the sword,
Nor Cunning justify the proud man’s wrong,
Leaving the poor no remedy but tears:
Where he, that fills an office, shall esteem
The occasion it presents of doing good
More than the perquisite: where Law shall speak
Seldom, and never but as Wisdom prompts
And Equity; not jealous more to guard
A worthless form, than to decide aright:—
Where Fashion shall not sanctify abuse,
Nor smooth Good-breeding (supplemental grace)
With lean performance ape the work of Love!
Come then, and, added to thy many crowns,
Receive yet one, the crown of all the earth,
Thou who alone art worthy! It was thine
By ancient covenant, ere Nature’s birth;
And thou hast made it thine by purchase since,
And overpaid its value with thy blood.
Thy saints proclaim thee king; and in their hearts
Thy title is engraven with a pen
Dipp’d in the fountain of eternal love.
Thy saints proclaim thee king; and thy delay
Gives courage to their foes, who, could they see
The dawn of thy last advent, long desired,
Would creep into the bowels of the hills,
And flee for safety to the falling rocks.
The very spirit of the world is tired
Of its own taunting question, ask’d so long,
“Where is the promise of your Lord’s approach?”
The infidel has shot his bolts away,
Till, his exhausted quiver yielding none,
He gleans the blunted shafts that have recoil’d,
And aims them at the shield of Truth again.
The veil is rent, rent too by priestly hands,
That hides divinity from mortal eyes;
And all the mysteries to faith proposed,
Insulted and traduced, are cast aside,
As useless, to the moles and to the bats.
They now are deem’d the faithful, and are praised,
Who, constant only in rejecting thee,
Deny thy Godhead with a martyr’s zeal,
And quit their office for their error’s sake.
Blind, and in love with darkness! yet e’en these
Worthy, compared with sycophants, who kneel
Thy name adoring, and then preach thee man!
So fares thy church. But how thy church may fare
The world takes little thought. Who will may preach,
And what they will. All pastors are alike
To wandering sheep, resolved to follow none.
Two gods divide them all—Pleasure and Gain:
For these they live, they sacrifice to these,
And in their service wage perpetual war
With Conscience and with thee. Lust in their hearts
And mischief in their hands, they roam the earth
To prey upon each other: stubborn, fierce,
High-minded, foaming out their own disgrace.
Thy prophets speak of such; and, noting down
The features of the last degenerate times,
Exhibit every lineament of these.
Come then, and, added to thy many crowns,
Receive yet one, as radiant as the rest,
Due to thy last and most effectual work,
Thy word fulfill’d, the conquest of a world!
He is the happy man whose life e’en now
Shows somewhat of that happier life to come;
Who, doom’d to an obscure but tranquil state,
Is pleased with it, and, were he free to choose,
Would make his fate his choice; whom peace, the fruit
Of virtue, and whom virtue, fruit of faith,
Prepare for happiness; bespeak him one
Content indeed to sojourn while he must
Below the skies, but having there his home.
The world o’erlooks him in her busy search
Of objects, more illustrious in her view;
And, occupied as earnestly as she,
Though more sublimely, he o’erlooks the world.
She scorns his pleasures, for she knows them not;
He seeks not hers, for he has proved them vain.
He cannot skim the ground like summer birds
Pursuing gilded flies; and such he deems
Her honours, her emoluments, her joys.
Therefore in Contemplation is his bliss,
Whose power is such, that whom she lifts from earth
She makes familiar with a heaven unseen,
And shows him glories yet to be reveal’d.
Not slothful he, though seeming unemploy’d,
And censured oft as useless. Stillest streams
Oft water fairest meadows, and the bird
That flutters least is longest on the wing.
Ask him, indeed, what trophies he has raised,
Or what achievements of immortal fame
He purposes, and he shall answer—None.
His warfare is within. There, unfatigued,
His fervent spirit labours. There he fights,
And there obtains fresh triumphs o’er himself,
And never-withering wreaths, compared with which
The laurels that a Cæsar reaps are weeds.
Perhaps the self-approving haughty world,
That as she sweeps him with her whistling silks
Scarce deigns to notice him, or, if she see,
Deems him a cipher in the works of God,
Receives advantage from his noiseless hours,
Of which she little dreams. Perhaps she owes
Her sunshine and her rain, her blooming spring
And plenteous harvest, to the prayer he makes,
When, Isaac-like, the solitary saint
Walks forth to meditate at even-tide,
And think on her who thinks not for herself.
Forgive him, then, thou bustler in concerns
Of little worth, an idler in the best,
If, author of no mischief and some good,
He seek his proper happiness by means
That may advance, but cannot hinder, thine.
Nor, though he tread the secret path of life,
Engage no notice, and enjoy much ease,
Account him an encumbrance on the state,
Receiving benefits, and rendering none.
His sphere, though humble, if that humble sphere
Shine with his fair example, and though small
His influence, if that influence all be spent
In soothing sorrow and in quenching strife,
In aiding helpless indigence, in works
From which at least a grateful few derive
Some taste of comfort in a world of woe;
Then let the supercilious great confess
He serves his country, recompenses well
The state, beneath the shadow of whose vine
He sits secure, and in the scale of life
Holds no ignoble, though a slighted, place.
The man, whose virtues are more felt than seen,
Must drop indeed the hope of public praise;
But he may boast, what few that win it can,
That, if his country stand not by his skill,
At least his follies have not wrought her fall.
Polite Refinement offers him in vain
Her golden tube, through which a sensual world
Draws gross impurity, and likes it well,
The neat conveyance hiding all the offence.
Not that he peevishly rejects a mode
Because that world adopts it. If it bear
The stamp and clear impression of good sense,
And be not costly more than of true worth,
He puts it on, and, for decorum sake,
Can wear it e’en as gracefully as she.
She judges of refinement by the eye,
He by the test of conscience, and a heart
Not soon deceived; aware that what is base
No polish can make sterling; and that vice,
Though well perfumed and elegantly dress’d,
Like an unburied carcass trick’d with flowers
Is but a garnish’d nuisance, fitter far
For cleanly riddance than for fair attire.
So life glides smoothly and by stealth away,
More golden than that age of fabled gold
Renown’d in ancient song; not vex’d with care
Or stain’d with guilt, beneficent, approved
Of God and man, and peaceful in its end.
So glide my life away! and so, at last,
My share of duties decently fulfill’d,
May some disease, not tardy to perform
Its destined office, yet with gentle stroke,
Dismiss me weary to a safe retreat,
Beneath the turf that I have often trod.
It shall not grieve me then that once, when call’d
To dress a Sofa with the flowers of verse,
I play’d awhile, obedient to the fair,
With that light task; but soon, to please her more,
Whom flowers alone I knew would little please,
Let fall the unfinish’d wreath, and roved for fruit;
Roved far, and gather’d much: some harsh, ‘tis true,
Pick’d from the thorns and briars of reproof,
But wholesome, well-digested; grateful some
To palates that can taste immortal truth;
Insipid else, and sure to be despised.
But all is in His hand, whose praise I seek.
In vain the poet sings, and the world hears,
If he regard not, though divine the theme.
‘Tis not in artful measures, in the chime
And idle tinkling of a minstrel’s lyre,
To charm His ear, whose eye is on the heart;
Whose frown can disappoint the proudest strain,
Whose approbation — prosper even mine.
The Interpretation of Nature and
MAN, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature: beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.
Neither the naked hand nor the understanding left to itself can effect much. It is by instruments and helps that the work is done, which are as much wanted for the understanding as for the hand. And as the instruments of the hand either give motion or guide it, so the instruments of the mind supply either suggestions for the understanding or cautions.
Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.
Towards the effecting of works, all that man can do is to put together or put asunder natural bodies. The rest is done by nature working within.
The study of nature with a view to works is engaged in by the mechanic, the mathematician, the physician, the alchemist, and the magician; but by all (as things now are) with slight endeavour and scanty success.
It would be an unsound fancy and self-contradictory to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried.
The productions of the mind and hand seem very numerous in books and manufactures. But all this variety lies in an exquisite subtlety and derivations from a few things already known; not in the number of axioms.
Moreover the works already known are due to chance and experiment rather than to sciences; for the sciences we now possess are merely systems for the nice ordering and setting forth of things already invented; not methods of invention or directions for new works.
The cause and root of nearly all evils in the sciences is this -- that while we falsely admire and extol the powers of the human mind we neglect to seek for its true helps.
The subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of the senses and understanding; so that all those specious meditations, speculations, and glosses in which men indulge are quite from the purpose, only there is no one by to observe it.
As the sciences which we now have do not help us in finding out new works, so neither does the logic which we now have help us in finding out new sciences.
The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions than to help the search after truth. So it does more harm than good.
The syllogism is not applied to the first principles of sciences, and is applied in vain to intermediate axioms; being no match for the subtlety of nature. It commands assent therefore to the proposition, but does not take hold of the thing.
The syllogism consists of propositions, propositions consist of words, words are symbols of notions. Therefore if the notions themselves (which is the root of the matter) are confused and over-hastily abstracted from the facts, there can be no firmness in the superstructure. Our only hope therefore lies in a true induction.
There is no soundness in our notions whether logical or physical. Substance, Quality, Action, Passion, Essence itself, are not sound notions: much less are Heavy, Light, Dense, Rare, Moist, Dry, Generation, Corruption, Attraction, Repulsion, Element, Matter, Form, and the like; but all are fantastical and ill defined.
Our notions of less general species, as Man, Dog, Dove, and of the immediate perceptions of the sense, as Hot, Cold, Black, White, do not materially mislead us; yet even these are sometimes confused by the flux and alteration of matter and the mixing of one thing with another. All the others which men have hitherto adopted are but wanderings, not being abstracted and formed from things by proper methods.
Nor is there less of wilfulness and wandering in the construction of axioms than in the formations of notions; not excepting even those very principles which are obtained by common induction; but much more in the axioms and lower propositions educed by the syllogism.
The discoveries which have hitherto been made in the sciences are such as lie close to vulgar notions, scarcely beneath the surface. In order to penetrate into the inner and further recesses of nature, it is necessary that both notions and axioms be derived from things by a more sure and guarded way; and that a method of intellectual operation be introduced altogether better and more certain.
There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immovable, proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle axioms. And this way is now in fashion. The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by a gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried.
The understanding left to itself takes the same course (namely, the former) which it takes in accordance with logical order. For the mind longs to spring up to positions of higher generality, that it may find rest there; and so after a little while wearies of experiment. But this evil is increased by logic, because of the order and solemnity of its disputations.
The understanding left to itself, in a sober, patient, and grave mind, especially if it be not hindered by received doctrines, tries a little that other way, which is the right one, but with little progress; since the understanding, unless directed and assisted, is a thing unequal, and quite unfit to contend with the obscurity of things.
Both ways set out from the senses and particulars, and rest in the highest generalities; but the difference between them is infinite. For the one just glances at experiment and particulars in passing, the other dwells duly and orderly among them. The one, again, begins at once by establishing certain abstract and useless generalities, the other rises by gradual steps to that which is prior and better known in the order of nature.
There is a great difference between the Idols of the human mind and the Ideas of the divine. That is to say, between certain empty dogmas, and the true signatures and marks set upon the works of creation as they are found in nature.
It cannot be that axioms established by argumentation should avail for the discovery of new works; since the subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of argument. But axioms duly and orderly formed from particulars easily discover the way to new particulars, and thus render sciences active.
The axioms now in use, having been suggested by a scanty and manipular experience and a few particulars of most general occurrence, are made for the most part just large enough to fit and take these in: and therefore it is no wonder if they do not lead to new particulars. And if some opposite instance, not observed or not known before, chance to come in the way, the axiom is rescued and preserved by some frivolous distinction; whereas the truer course would be to correct the axiom itself.
The conclusions of human reason as ordinarily applied in matter of nature, I call for the sake of distinction Anticipations of Nature (as a thing rash or premature). That reason which is elicited from facts by a just and methodical process, I call Interpretation of Nature.
Anticipations are a ground sufficiently firm for consent; for even if men went mad all after the same fashion, they might agree one with another well enough.
For the winning of assent, indeed, anticipations are far more powerful than interpretations; because being collected from a few instances, and those for the most part of familiar occurrence, they straightway touch the understanding and fill the imagination; whereas interpretations on the other hand, being gathered here and there from very various and widely dispersed facts, cannot suddenly strike the understanding; and therefore they must needs, in respect of the opinions of the time, seem harsh and out of tune; much as the mysteries of faith do.
In sciences founded on opinions and dogmas, the use of anticipations and logic is good; for in them the object is to command assent to the proposition, not to master the thing.
Though all the wits of all the ages should meet together and combine and transmit their labours, yet will no great progress ever be made in science by means of anticipations; because radical errors in the first concoction of the mind are not to be cured by the excellence of functions and remedies subsequent.
It is idle to expect any great advancement in science from the superinducing and engrafting of new things upon old. We must begin anew from the very foundations, unless we would revolve for ever in a circle with mean and contemptible progress.
The honour of the ancient authors, and indeed of all, remains untouched; since the comparison I challenge is not of wits or faculties, but of ways and methods, and the part I take upon myself is not that of a judge, but of a guide.
This must be plainly avowed: no judgment can be rightly formed either of my method or of the discoveries to which it leads, by means of anticipations (that is to say, of the reasoning which is now in use); since I cannot be called on to abide by the sentence of a tribunal which is itself on its trial.
Even to deliver and explain what I bring forward is no easy matter; for things in themselves new will yet be apprehended with reference to what is old.
It was said by Borgia of the expedition of the French into Italy, that they came with chalk in their hands to mark out their lodgings, not with arms to force their way in. I in like manner would have my doctrine enter quietly into the minds that are fit and capable of receiving it; for confutations cannot be employed, when the difference is upon first principles and very notions and even upon forms of demonstration.
One method of delivery alone remains to us; which is simply this: we must lead men to the particulars themselves, and their series and order; while men on their side must force themselves for awhile to lay their notions by and begin to familiarise themselves with facts.
The doctrine of those who have denied that certainty could be attained at all, has some agreement with my way of proceeding at the first setting out; but they end in being infinitely separated and opposed. For the holders of that doctrine assert simply that nothing can be known; I also assert that not much can be known in nature by the way which is now in use. But then they go on to destroy the authority of the senses and understanding; whereas I proceed to devise and supply helps for the same.
The idols and false notions which are now in possession of the human understanding, and have taken deep root therein, not only so beset men's minds that truth can hardly find entrance, but even after entrance obtained, they will again in the very instauration of the sciences meet and trouble us, unless men being forewarned of the danger fortify themselves as far as may be against their assaults.
There are four classes of Idols which beset men's minds. To these for distinction's sake I have assigned names, -- calling the first class Idols of the Tribe; the second, Idols of the Cave; the third, Idols of the Market-place; the fourth, Idols of the Theatre.
The formation of ideas and axioms by true induction is no doubt the proper remedy to be applied for the keeping off and clearing away of idols. To point them out, however, is of great use; for the doctrine of Idols is to the Interpretation of Nature what the doctrine of the refutation of Sophisms is to common Logic.
The Idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense as of the mind are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolours the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.
The Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual man. For every one (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolours the light of nature; owing either to his own proper and peculiar nature; or to his education and conversation with others; or to the reading of books, and the authority of those whom he esteems and admires; or to the differences of impressions, accordingly as they take place in a mind preoccupied and predisposed or in a mind indifferent and settled; or the like. So that the spirit of man (according as it is meted out to different individuals) is in fact a thing variable and full of perturbation, and governed as it were by chance. Whence it was well observed by Heraclitus that men look for sciences in their own lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.
There are also Idols formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other, which I call Idols of the Market-place, on account of the commerce and consort of men there. For it is by discourse that men associate; and words are imposed according to the apprehension of the vulgar. And therefore the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding. Nor do the definitions or explanations wherewith in some things learned men are wont to guard and defend themselves, by any means set the matter right. But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies.
Lastly, there are Idols which have immigrated into men's minds from the various dogmas of philosophies, and also from wrong laws of demonstration. These I call Idols of the Theatre; because in my judgment all the received systems are but so many stage-plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion. Nor is it only of the systems now in vogue, or only of the ancient sects and philosophies, that I speak; for many more plays of the same kind may yet be composed and in like artificial manner set forth; seeing that errors the most widely different have nevertheless causes for the most part alike. Neither again do I mean this only of entire systems, but also of many principles and axioms in science, which by tradition, credulity, and negligence have come to be received.
But of these several kinds of Idols I must speak more largely and exactly, that the understanding may be duly cautioned.
The human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds. And though there be many things in nature which are singular and unmatched, yet it devises for them parallels and conjugates and relatives which do not exist. Hence the fiction that all celestial bodies move in perfect circles; spirals and dragons being (except in name) utterly rejected. Hence too the element of Fire with its orb is brought in, to make up the square with the other three which the sense perceives. Hence also the ratio of density of the so-called elements is arbitrarily fixed at ten to one. And so on of other dreams. And these fancies affect not dogmas only, but simple notions also.
The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects; in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods, -- "Aye," asked he again, "but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?" And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by. But with far more subtlety does this mischief insinuate itself into philosophy and the sciences; in which the first conclusion colours and brings into conformity with itself all that come after, though far sounder and better. Besides, independently of that delight and vanity which I have described, it is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human intellect to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives; whereas it ought properly to hold itself indifferently disposed towards both alike. Indeed in the establishment of any true axiom, the negative instance is the more forcible of the two.
The human understanding is moved by those things most which strike and enter the mind simultaneously and suddenly, and so fill the imagination; and then it feigns and supposes all other things to be somehow, though it cannot see how, similar to those few things by which it is surrounded. But for that going to and fro to remote and heterogeneous instances, by which axioms are tried as in the fire, the intellect is altogether slow and unfit, unless it be forced thereto by severe laws and overruling authority.
The human understanding is unquiet; it cannot stop or rest, and still presses onward, but in vain. Therefore it is that we cannot conceive of any end or limit to the world; but always as of necessity it occurs to us that there is something beyond. Neither again can it be conceived how eternity has flowed down to the present day; for that distinction which is commonly received of infinity in time past and in time to come can by no means hold; for it would thence follow that one infinity is greater than another, and that infinity is wasting away and tending to become finite. The like subtlety arises touching the infinite divisibility of lines, from the same inability of thought to stop. But this inability interferes more mischievously in the discovery of causes: for although the most general principles in nature ought to be held merely positive, as they are discovered, and cannot with truth be referred to a cause; nevertheless the human understanding being unable to rest still seeks something prior in the order of nature. And then it is that in struggling towards that which is further off it falls back upon that which is more nigh at hand; namely, on final causes: which have relation clearly to the nature of man rather than to the nature of the universe; and from this source have strangely defiled philosophy. But he is no less an unskilled and shallow philosopher who seeks causes of that which is most general, than he who in things subordinate and subaltern omits to do so.
The human understanding is no dry light, but receives an infusion from the will and affections; whence proceed sciences which may be called "sciences as one would." For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections colour and infect the understanding.
But by far the greatest hindrance and aberration of the human understanding proceeds from the dullness, incompetency, and deceptions of the senses; in that things which strike the sense outweigh things which do not immediately strike it, though they be more important. Hence it is that speculation commonly ceases where sight ceases; insomuch that of things invisible there is little or no observation. Hence all the working of the spirits inclosed in tangible bodies lies hid and unobserved of men. So also all the more subtle changes of form in the parts of coarser substances (which they commonly call alteration, though it is in truth local motion through exceedingly small spaces) is in like manner unobserved. And yet unless these two things just mentioned be searched out and brought to light, nothing great can be achieved in nature, as far as the production of works is concerned. So again the essential nature of our common air, and of all bodies less dense than air (which are very many), is almost unknown. For the sense by itself is a thing infirm and erring; neither can instruments for enlarging or sharpening the senses do much; but all the truer kind of interpretation of nature is effected by instances and experiments fit and apposite; wherein the sense decides touching the experiment only, and the experiment touching the point in nature and the thing itself.
The human understanding is of its own nature prone to abstractions and gives a substance and reality to things which are fleeting. But to resolve nature into abstractions is less to our purpose than to dissect her into parts; as did the school of Democritus, which went further into nature than the rest. Matter rather than forms should be the object of our attention, its configurations and changes of configuration, and simple action, and law of action or motion; for forms are figments of the human mind, unless you will call those laws of action forms.
Such then are the idols which I call Idols of the Tribe; and which take their rise either from the homogeneity of the substance of the human spirit, or from its preoccupation, or from its narrowness, or from its restless motion, or from an infusion of the affections, or from the incompetency of the senses, or from the mode of impression.
The Idols of the Cave take their rise in the peculiar constitution, mental or bodily, of each individual; and also in education, habit, and accident. Of this kind there is a great number and variety; but I will instance those the pointing out of which contains the most important caution, and which have most effect in disturbing the clearness of the understanding.
Men become attached to certain particular sciences and speculations, either because they fancy themselves the authors and inventors thereof, or because they have bestowed the greatest pains upon them and become most habituated to them. But men of this kind, if they betake themselves to philosophy and contemplations of a general character, distort and colour them in obedience to their former fancies; a thing especially to be noticed in Aristotle, who made his natural philosophy a mere bond-servant to his logic, thereby rendering it contentious and well nigh useless. The race of chemists again out of a few experiments of the furnace have built up a fantastic philosophy, framed with reference to a few things; and Gilbert also, after he had employed himself most laboriously in the study and observation of the loadstone, proceeded at once to construct an entire system in accordance with his favourite subject.
There is one principal and as it were radical distinction between different minds, in respect of philosophy and the sciences; which is this: that some minds are stronger and apter to mark the differences of things, others to mark their resemblances. The steady and acute mind can fix its contemplations and dwell and fasten on the subtlest distinctions: the lofty and discursive mind recognises and puts together the finest and most general resemblances. Both kinds however easily err in excess, by catching the one at gradations the other at shadows.
There are found some minds given to an extreme admiration of antiquity, others to an extreme love and appetite for novelty: but few so duly tempered that they can hold the mean, neither carping at what has been well laid down by the ancients, nor despising what is well introduced by the moderns. This however turns to the great injury of the sciences and philosophy; since these affectations of antiquity and novelty are the humours of partisans rather than judgments; and truth is to be sought for not in the felicity of any age, which is an unstable thing, but in the light of nature and experience, which is eternal. These factions therefore must be abjured, and care must be taken that the intellect be not hurried by them into assent.
Contemplations of nature and of bodies in their simple form break up and distract the understanding, while contemplations of nature and bodies in their composition and configuration overpower and dissolve the understanding: a distinction well seen in the school of Leucippus and Democritus as compared with the other philosophies. For that school is so busied with the particles that it hardly attends to the structure; while the others are so lost in admiration of the structure that they do not penetrate to the simplicity of nature. These kinds of contemplation should therefore be alternated and taken by turns; that so the understanding may be rendered at once penetrating and comprehensive, and the inconveniences above mentioned, with the idols which proceed from them, may be avoided.
Let such then be our provision and contemplative prudence for keeping off and dislodging the Idols of the Cave, which grow for the most part either out of the predominance of a favourite subject, or out of an excessive tendency to compare or to distinguish, or out of partiality for particular ages, or out of the largeness or minuteness of the objects contemplated. And generally let every student of nature take this as a rule, -- that whatever his mind seizes and dwells upon with peculiar satisfaction is to be held in suspicion, and that so much the more care is to be taken in dealing with such questions to keep the understanding even and clear.
But the Idols of the Market-place are the most troublesome of all: idols which have crept into the understanding through the alliances of words and names. For men believe that their reason governs words; but it is also true that words react on the understanding; and this it is that has rendered philosophy and the sciences sophistical and inactive. Now words, being commonly framed and applied according to the capacity of the vulgar, follow those lines of division which are most obvious to the vulgar understanding. And whenever an understanding of greater acuteness or a more diligent observation would alter those lines to suit the true divisions of nature, words stand in the way and resist the change. Whence it comes to pass that the high and formal discussions of learned men end oftentimes in disputes about words and names; with which (according to the use and wisdom of the mathematicians) it would be more prudent to begin, and so by means of definitions reduce them to order. Yet even definitions cannot cure this evil in dealing with natural and material things; since the definitions themselves consist of words, and those words beget others: so that it is necessary to recur to individual instances, and those in due series and order; as I shall say presently when I come to the method and scheme for the formation of notions and axioms.
The idols imposed by words on the understanding are of two kinds. They are either names of things which do not exist (for as there are things left unnamed through lack of observation, so likewise are there names which result from fantastic suppositions and to which nothing in reality corresponds), or they are names of things which exist, but yet confused and ill-defined, and hastily and irregularly derived from realities. Of the former kind are Fortune, the Prime Mover, Planetary Orbits, Element of Fire, and like fictions which owe their origin to false and idle theories. And this class of idols is more easily expelled, because to get rid of them it is only necessary that all theories should be steadily rejected and dismissed as obsolete.
But the other class, which springs out of a faulty and unskilful abstraction, is intricate and deeply rooted. Let us take for example such a word as humid; and see how far the several things which the word is used to signify agree with each other; and we shall find the word humid to be nothing else than a mark loosely and confusedly applied to denote a variety of actions which will not bear to be reduced to any constant meaning. For it both signifies that which easily spreads itself round any other body; and that which in itself is indeterminate and cannot solidise; and that which readily yields in every direction; and that which easily divides and scatters itself; and that which easily unites and collects itself; and that which readily flows and is put in motion; and that which readily clings to another body and wets it; and that which is easily reduced to a liquid, or being solid easily melts. Accordingly when you come to apply the word, -- if you take it in one sense, flame is humid; if in another, air is not humid; if in another, fine dust is humid; if in another, glass is humid. So that it is easy to see that the notion is taken by abstraction only from water and common and ordinary liquids, without any due verification.
There are however in words certain degrees of distortion and error. One of the least faulty kinds is that of names of substances, especially of lowest species and well-deduced (for the notion of chalk and of mud is good, of earth bad); a more faulty kind is that of actions, as to generate, to corrupt, to alter; the most faulty is of qualities (except such as are the immediate objects of the sense) as heavy, light, rare, dense, and the like. Yet in all these cases some notions are of necessity a little better than others, in proportion to the greater variety of subjects that fall within the range of the human sense.
But the Idols of the Theatre are not innate, nor do they steal into the understanding secretly, but are plainly impressed and received into the mind from the play-books of philosophical systems and the perverted rules of demonstration. To attempt refutations in this case would be merely inconsistent with what I have already said: for since we agree neither upon principles nor upon demonstrations there is no place for argument. And this is so far well, inasmuch as it leaves the honour of the ancients untouched. For they are no wise disparaged the question between them and me being only as to the way. For as the saying is, the lame man who keeps the right road outstrips the runner who takes a wrong one. Nay it is obvious that when a man runs the wrong way, the more active and swift he is the further he will go astray.
But the course I propose for the discovery of sciences is such as leaves but little to the acuteness and strength of wits, but places all wits and understandings nearly on a level. For as in the drawing of a straight line or a perfect circle, much depends on the steadiness and practice of the hand, if it be done by aim of hand only, but if with the aid of rule or compass, little or nothing; so is it exactly with my plan. But though particular confutations would be of no avail, yet touching the sects and general divisions of such systems I must say something; something also touching the external signs which show that they are unsound; and finally something touching the causes of such great infelicity and of such lasting and general agreement in error; that so the access to truth may be made less difficult, and the human understanding may the more willingly submit to its purgation and dismiss its idols.
Idols of the Theatre, or of Systems, are many, and there can be and perhaps will be yet many more. For were it not that new for many ages men's minds have been busied with religion and theology; and were it not that civil governments, especially monarchies, have been averse to such novelties, even in matters speculative; so that men labour therein to the peril and harming of their fortunes, -- not only unrewarded, but exposed also to contempt and envy; doubtless there would have arisen many other philosophical sects like to those which in great variety flourished once among the Greeks. For as on the phenomena of the heavens many hypotheses may be constructed, so likewise (and more also) many various dogmas may be set up and established on the phenomena of philosophy. And in the plays of this philosophical theatre you may observe the same thing which is found in the theatre of the poets, that stories invented for the stage are more compact and elegant, and more as one would wish them to be, than true stories out of history.
In general however there is taken for the material of philosophy either a great deal out of a few things, or a very little out of many things; so that on both sides philosophy is based on too narrow a foundation of experiment and natural history, and decides on the authority of too few cases. For the Rational School of philosophers snatches from experience a variety of common instances, neither duly ascertained nor diligently examined and weighed, and leaves all the rest to meditation and agitation of wit.
There is also another class of philosophers, who having bestowed much diligent and careful labour on a few experiments, have thence made bold to educe and construct systems; wresting all other facts in a strange fashion to conformity therewith.
And there is yet a third class, consisting of those who out of faith and veneration mix their philosophy with theology and traditions; among whom the vanity of some has gone so far aside as to seek the origin of sciences among spirits and genii. So that this parent stock of errors -- this false philosophy -- is of three kinds; the Sophistical, the Empirical, and the Superstitious.
The most conspicuous example of the first class was Aristotle, who corrupted natural philosophy by his logic: fashioning the world out of categories; assigning to the human soul, the noblest of substances, a genus from words of the second intention; doing the business of density and rarity (which is to make bodies of greater or less dimensions, that is, occupy greater or less spaces), by the frigid distinction of act and power; asserting that single bodies have each a single and proper motion, and that if they participate in any other, then this results from an external cause; and imposing countless other arbitrary restrictions on the nature of things; being always more solicitous to provide an answer to the question and affirm something positive in words, than about the inner truth of things; a failing best shown when his philosophy is compared with other systems of note among the Greeks. For the Homoeomera of Anaxagoras; the Atoms of Leucippus and Democritus; the Heaven and Earth of Parmenides; the Strife and Friendship of Empedocles; Heraclitus's doctrine how bodies are resolved into the indifferent nature of fire, and remoulded into solids; have all of them some taste of the natural philosopher, -- some savour of the nature of things, and experience, and bodies; whereas in the physics of Aristotle you hear hardly anything but the words of logic; which in his metaphysics also, under a more imposing name, and more forsooth as a realist than a nominalist, he has handled over again. Nor let any weight be given to the fact, that in his books on animals and his problems, and other of his treatises, there is frequent dealing with experiments. For he had come to his conclusion before; he did not consult experience, as he should have done, in order to the framing of his decisions and axioms; but having first determined the question according to his will, he then resorts to experience, and bending her into conformity with his placets leads her about like a captive in a procession; so that even on this count he is more guilty than his modern followers, the schoolmen, who have abandoned experience altogether.
But the Empirical school of philosophy gives birth to dogmas more deformed and monstrous than the Sophistical or Rational school. For it has its foundations not in the light of common notions, (which though it be a faint and superficial light, is yet in a manner universal, and has reference to many things,) but in the narrowness and darkness of a few experiments. To those therefore who are daily busied with these experiments, and have infected their imagination with them, such a philosophy seems probable and all but certain; to all men else incredible and vain. Of this there is a notable instance in the alchemists and their dogmas; though it is hardly to be found elsewhere in these times, except perhaps in the philosophy of Gilbert. Nevertheless with regard to philosophies of this kind there is one caution not to be omitted; for I foresee that if ever men are roused by my admonitions to betake themselves seriously to experiment and bid farewell to sophistical doctrines, then indeed through the premature hurry of the understanding to leap or fly to universals and principles of things, great danger may be apprehended from philosophies of this kind; against which evil we ought even now to prepare.
But the corruption of philosophy by superstition and an admixture of theology is far more widely spread, and does the greatest harm, whether to entire systems or to their parts. For the human understanding is obnoxious to the influence of the imagination no less than to the influence of common notions. For the contentious and sophistical kind of philosophy ensnares the understanding; but this kind, being fanciful and timid and half poetical, misleads it more by flattery. For there is in man an ambition of the understanding, no less than of the will, especially in high and lofty spirits.
Of this kind we have among the Greeks a striking example in Pythagoras, though he united with it a coarser and more cumbrous superstition; another in Plato and his school, more dangerous and subtle. It shows itself likewise in parts of other philosophies, in the introduction of abstract forms and final causes and first causes, with the omission in most cases of causes intermediate, and the like. Upon this point the greatest caution should be used. For nothing is so mischievous as the apotheosis of error; and it is a very plague of the understanding for vanity to become the object of veneration. Yet in this vanity some of the moderns have with extreme levity indulged so far as to attempt to found a system of natural philosophy on the first chapter of Genesis, on the book of Job, and other parts of the sacred writings; seeking for the dead among the living: which also makes the inhibition and repression of it the more important, because from this unwholesome mixture of things human and divine there arises not only a fantastic philosophy but also an heretical religion. Very meet it is therefore that we be sober-minded, and give to faith that only which is faith's.
So much then for the mischievous authorities of systems, which are founded either on common notions, or on a few experiments, or on superstition. It remains to speak of the faulty subject-matter of contemplations, especially in natural philosophy. Now the human understanding is infected by the sight of what takes place in the mechanical arts, in which the alteration of bodies proceeds chiefly by composition or separation, and so imagines that something similar goes on in the universal nature of things. From this source has flowed the fiction of elements, and of their concourse for the formation of natural bodies. Again, when man contemplates nature working freely, he meets with different species of things, of animals, of plants, of minerals; whence he readily passes into the opinion that there are in nature certain primary forms which nature intends to educe, and that the remaining variety proceeds from hindrances and aberrations of nature in the fulfilment of her work, or from the collision of different species and the transplanting of one into another. To the first of these speculations we owe our primary qualities of the elements; to the other our occult properties and specific virtues; and both of them belong to those empty compendia of thought wherein the mind rests, and whereby it is diverted from more solid pursuits. It is to better purpose that the physicians bestow their labour on the secondary qualities of matter, and the operations of attraction, repulsion, attenuation, conspissation, dilatation, astriction, dissipation, maturation, and the like; and were it not that by those two compendia which I have mentioned (elementary qualities, to wit, and specific virtues) they corrupted their correct observations in these other matters, -- either reducing them to first qualities and their subtle and incommensurable mixtures, or not following them out with greater and more diligent observation to third and fourth qualities, but breaking off the scrutiny prematurely, -- they had made much greater progress. Nor are powers of this kind (I do not say the same, but similar) to be sought for only in the medicines of the human body, but also in the changes of all other bodies.
But it is a far greater evil that they make the quiescent principles, wherefrom, and not the moving principles, whereby, things are produced, the object of their contemplation and inquiry. For the former tend to discourse, the latter to works. Nor is there any value in those vulgar distinctions of motion which are observed in the received system of natural philosophy, as generation, corruption, augmentation, diminution, alteration, and local motion. What they mean no doubt is this: -- if a body, in other respects not changed, be moved from its place, this is local motion; if without change of place or essence, it be changed in quality, this is alteration; if by reason of the change the mass and quantity of the body do not remain the same, this is augmentation or diminution; if they be changed to such a degree that they change their very essence and substance and turn to something else, this is generation and corruption. But all this is merely popular, and does not at all go deep into nature; for these are only measures and limits, not kinds of motion. What they intimate is how far, not by what means, or from what source. For they do not suggest anything with regard either to the desires of bodies or to the development of their parts: it is only when that motion presents the thing grossly and palpably to the sense as different from what it was, that they begin to mark the division. Even when they wish to suggest something with regard to the causes of motion, and to establish a division with reference to them, they introduce with the greatest negligence a distinction between motion natural and violent; a distinction which is itself drawn entirely from a vulgar notion, since all violent motion is also in fact natural; the external efficient simply setting nature working otherwise than it was before. But if, leaving all this, any one shall observe (for instance) that there is in bodies a desire of mutual contact, so as not to suffer the unity of nature to be quite separated or broken and a vacuum thus made; or if any one say that there is in bodies a desire of resuming their natural dimensions or tension, so that if compressed within or extended beyond them, they immediately strive to recover themselves, and fall back to their old volume and extent; or if any one say that there is in bodies a desire of congregating towards masses of kindred nature, -- of dense bodies, for instance, towards the globe of the earth, of thin and rare bodies towards the compass of the sky; all these and the like are truly physical kinds of motion; -- but those others are entirely logical and scholastic, as is abundantly manifest from this comparison.
Nor again is it a less evil, that in their philosophies and contemplations their labour is spent in investigating and handling the first principles of things and the highest generalities of nature; whereas utility and the means of working result entirely from things intermediate. Hence it is that men cease not from abstracting nature till they come to potential and uninformed matter, nor on the other hand from dissecting nature till they reach the atom; things which, even if true, can do but little for the welfare of mankind.
A caution must also be given to the understanding against the intemperance which systems of philosophy manifest in giving or withholding assent; because intemperance of this kind seems to establish Idols and in some sort to perpetuate them, leaving no way open to reach and dislodge them.
This excess is of two kinds: the first being manifest in those who are ready in deciding, and render sciences dogmatic and magisterial; the other in those who deny that we can know anything, and so introduce a wandering kind of inquiry that leads to nothing; of which kinds the former subdues, the latter weakens the understanding. For the philosophy of Aristotle, after having by hostile confutations destroyed all the rest (as the Ottomans serve their brothers), has laid down the law on all points; which done, he proceeds himself to raise new questions of his own suggestion, and dispose of them likewise; so that nothing may remain that is not certain and decided: a practice which holds and is in use among his successors.
The school of Plato, on the other hand, introduced Acatalepsia, at first in jest and irony, and in disdain of the older sophists, Protagoras, Hippias, and the rest, who were of nothing else so much ashamed as of seeming to doubt about anything. But the New Academy made a dogma of it, and held it as a tenet. And though their's is a fairer seeming way than arbitrary decisions; since they say that they by no means destroy all investigation, like Pyrrho and his Refrainers, but allow of some things to be followed as probable, though of none to be maintained as true; yet still when the human mind has once despaired of finding truth, its interest in all things grows fainter; and the result is that men turn aside to pleasant disputations and discourses and roam as it were from object to object, rather than keep on a course of severe inquisition. But, as I said at the beginning and am ever urging, the human senses and understanding, weak as they are, are not to be deprived of their authority, but to be supplied with helps.
So much concerning the several classes of Idols, and their equipage: all of which must be renounced and put away with a fixed and solemn determination, and the understanding thoroughly freed and cleansed; the entrance into the kingdom of man, founded on the sciences, being not much other than the entrance into the kingdom of heaven, whereinto none may enter except as a little child.
 Death And Life
DEATH AND LIFE
Poet: Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar
50 Poems & Criticism
2 Gratitude; Again
3 The Wheel of Death
4 Free from worry
6 A puzzle
7 The Truth
8 Forms of Death
11 A Pair
12 The Opposite
15 A desire
17 The Philosophy of Life
21 A Prayer
22 A Mirage
23 A Vow
24 The Call of Conquest
25 A Call
26 One Day
28 A Wish
29 As Desired
31 Healthy Vision
34 The Philosophy of Death
35 An Invitation
36 To The Fairy of Death
37 A Request
38 The Mode of Death
39 A Comparison
40 The Difference
41 The End
42 A Blow
44 A Proclamation
45 I Bow Thee
46 Good Bye
48 An Ascetic
49 The Last Will
1 The Motif of Death in the Poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar —
An Assessment /
Dr. D. C. Chambial, Maranda (H.P.)
2 'Death-Perception: Life-Perception': A Dialectical Study
Mrs. Purnima Ray, Burdwan (W.B.)
3 Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar's 'Death-Perception: Life- Perception': An analysis
Dr. (mrs.) Jaya Lakshmi Rao V., (Visakhapatnam) (A.P.)
4 'Death' in the Poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar
Dr. D. Murali Manohar, Hyderabad (A.P.)
5 Revealing Reflections On Death And Life
Dr. Atma Ram
6 Reflecions on Mahendra Bhatnagar's Philosophy of Death
Dr. A.K. Chaturvedi
Death is imminent,
Life is so desired!
There's such a semblance
Between life and death!
Beauty to life
Endless — vast!
Life - art - efficiency
Embellishment - adornment!
Death element / feeling
Minute by minute death - tension
 Gratitude; Again
Death's made life
Transformed this world,
into a pleasant heaven,
the meaning of love,
into higher beings
than immortal god!
 The Wheel of Death
The wheel of death
Lifeless - living
Gradually grinding and changing
Every moment, every minute!
This earth rocks horribly!
This wheel of death
Life and death,
Earth and sky!
 Free from Worry
when every moment is free
from the dread of death.
It is ill-ominous
to talk about
the fear of death,
for this reason.
To know the mystery
not only difficult
merges into five-elements
not to return;
to revive again,
and know the mystery.
When there's no self
death — a puzzle
A wonderful puzzle!
All efforts futile —
the meaning of death;
it's very intricate difficult
 A Puzzle
Not worth living;
In quest of new
On an unknown path;
But where? ?
A pitch dark night,
 The Truth
If there were no death,
God wouldn't have any existence,
would have never reconciled
with his fate!
God - a symbol,
God - a proof
of man's helplessness
of readiness after death.
The whole philosophy
of hell and heaven
is an imagination.
at each moment
is afraid of death, and
horripilant again and again!
He knows —
'death is imminent'!
So, his each step
is frought with suspicion.
Not only this
he is also
of the so called
he takes refuge
for eternal peace in death!
he sings the long song -
'Ram nam satya hai! '
(God's name is the only TRUTH)
O, birth and death
save for his cruel-amusing act!
[1 God, dispensing death in Indian mythology.]
 Forms of Death
Be death natural
conclusion is the same -
end of a conscious life,
to change into a senselessness
to sleep for good
palpitation of heart!
Both are the so called
writs of Providence,
the script of fate: invisible, indelible.
an act of terminating life
or destruction of the ferocious
in self or social defense,
but, a murder.
Though the end, the same
True death or untimely death.
as an adversary.
accept not defeat,
not a bit
think of God
in an answer to the question,
The mystery of death
to be unmasked... revealed
An unbreakable string
Tied to birth,
The other extreme end!
Birth - a shore
Death - an opposite bank;
Why a jubilation?
Birth - death
One / well shaped;
The other / completely invisible!
Destruction: an assault!
Birth - initiation
Death - an earthly end!
Birth: yes, a being,
Death: ah! a non-being!
Birth: a new dawn,
Death: a horrendous night!
 A Pair
Sandy desert spread
like the dying lamp-flame
at he verge of death!
growing trees -
a resting place... life giving
 The Oppsite
Life: a jubilation
Death: the last breath
A melody / a cry!
Pious action / loud lamentation!
Morning is red
Evening is red
Morning-evening are one.
Wail on birth
Wail on death
Birth-death are one.
the true wisdom,
the real knowledge,
every other consideration
is in vain.
What makes you so sad?
Why do you lose your wits?
Life - very precious; true
Death - eternal, why do you rue
[1 A detached saintly statement.]
 A Desire
May all children and young live!
Heart-rending is untimely death!
over and over again
to consider this idea true?
A blind faith
an irrational faith!
Life / blends in five-elements,
the end / of a creation,
the end / of a person,
there be an eternal fusion.
Neither there is any Hell,
nor there is any Heaven,
this manifest world is the only truth.
Death — a truth,
Life — a truth!
 The Philosophy Of Life
External motion —
Internal motion —
The transporter of life-motion
Ceaseless controller —
as long as
life is in flux
History will be created by
Nev er there be catastrophe;
Life ever be full of melody,
Every particle be in motion.
To fuse is
To lose internal motion.
Struggles and strifes
lead to life,
to be inactive,
an indication - of the approaching death,
to stop - the end of life.
Life: only a flux
is to be alive!
an established trait
of the lifeless.
Life has a thrill, a throb,
a continuous palpitation in the live hearts!
To stop —
invitation to ill-ominous death,
The only 'mool-mantra'1
to prove life!
[1 Key principle.]
Wish for life —
Eternal and strongest,
The final truth
About every life
Yes, end is certainly,
But / it is also true -
impatient passion for
Immortality and youth
Will never wane,
Man's queer valour
Longs for melody,
Not for tears!
With the eternal challenge
of death is welcome!
He will be
A mrityunjaya1; he will be!
[1 victorious over death.]
isn't a proof of
like death - an exit.
Which is natural
in adopting it
without any specificity,
to be 'a human being.'
human glory only when
there is perfect peace of mind -
when we give
a new meaning to life,
in pitch dark
to a world full of lights.
Know the mysteries of life,
Talk to the moon and stars.
be the motive of our living,
let's devour materialistic hurdles
at every step.
life may be
dedicated to death.
the least difference of opinion.
This life is successful
this life is rare.
Blessed is the Earth!
 A Prayer
not for immortality,
I long for
Perfect health, diseaselessness,
of human mind and body.
This desired boon
not from any god.
Self-achieved by self-efforts
not by any prayer.
Body free from pain
mind free from torture.
we live for
 A Mirage
Self-willed and ambitious
runs after money
at the cost of life.
at this queer, dirty intention!
If there is life / money must flow in,
If there is life / pleasure must dog in!
Shattered and disorderly life
malady-stricken / frustrated wounded life
eager to fall into
Blind, perplexed, ignorant
Construes money to be supreme
thinks pleasure all in all!
He'll spoil / the precious life,
and will lose life / the gift of God!
 A Vow
have descended in
the formidable duel of
life and death!
being soldiers of
an immortal army of life,
will not be surrounded
by the deceitful trick of
May be vanquished,
but, will never admit the supremacy
of death a bit,
won't let our right
be snatched away!
The triumphant-call will echo
till the last breath
life-strength will fight
till the last edge of hope / effort!
 The Call Of Conquest
The whole world sleeps -
in the dead of night?
It's heard -
in the house hard by
death has suddenly charged,
it's true —
someone has died.
The sharp dagger
has once again
touched the man!
with ambrosial heart-felt condolences,
may this man
live again and again!
Let life-drum sound
biers be laid!
[1 Emissary of Yam / God dispensing death in Indian
 A Call
They who sing Alakh1
who sing the sweet beloved song
of new life
Singers of Sohar2
Players of life-song
on every string of the violin of heart
Strike by stretching!
into the live sea
Stir the stupor!
[1 A word urging inspiration.
2 An auspicious song sung at the birth of a child.]
 One Day
will be victorious,
fear not the wicked,
life will be victorious!
of dead death
will surround / frighten;
have faith in
the sun's strength / firmness
every particle of it!
Let's floodlight around!
life will be triumphant!
who are the artisans of life
should talk only
the meaningfulness of life,
about the essence of life!
strike back at it,
sing the glory of life,
strike a severe blow at
 A Wish
let there be
no existence of death-serpent
in the garden of life,
let human self
not be terrorized
of death scare!
let every person
without any doubt,
let his each moment be
Let a lover of life
play with life,
and live life fully
As long as
the lamps burnt on
even in rains!
with firm faith in
With a wish to live
wait for death!
why should it take
End the illusion,
Bend the kaal-chakar1!
Associate with life!
Give up this stupor!
[1 Cycle of death / time]
 Healthy Vision
by thinking self
laugh and sing
without any concern,
eat and drink
without any worry;
When face to face
with the end
Should remain ignorant of it
we call it
I sing the songs
about the triumph of life
I sing dauntlessly
the triumph of life-bud
of the dearest thing!
again and again!
The sounds that echo
in the sky of the graveyard
of the liberated-selves of carefree birds
hoisted the red flags,
on every house, in every village,
in every town,
of life, new life!
In every locality, at every cross,
here, there -
the demon of death
won't be able to carry out
his terrorist, fatal, men-devouring
on entering into the body,
an unvanquished doota1
within the body
in invisible places!
where from he comes now!
[1 Emissary. 2 Lord of death.]
 The Philosophy of Death
When a certainty,
O, tell death -
'Come; when you please.'
At this time
Let's sing and dance!
Play on varied musical instruments!
Let's end this silence;
 An Invitation
do come one day!
And take me away
in your flying-chariot;
away... far away
That I may
unite all those
living in hell,
urge on them
for a revolt,
for a change in life!
I don't acknowledge
I'll challenge them!
Just, let me jump
into the hell-pond!
Just, let me mingle
with the huge crowd of
[1 According to Indian mythology an official in the court of Yama who keeps record of righteous and unrighteous actions of living beings.]
 To The Fairy of Death
O death, come
I am ready!
I am helpless.
You'll come —
Like a clever girl.
Your this game
Come, o death
That of the book of life
Thou art the end!
Thou art the good news
O death, come
I've bedecked myself,
 A Request
it hardly matters
if you are feminine,
I can befriend you!
Why do you feel shy?
be my comrade!
If not a cohabiter
be my neighbour!
You beautiful like the moon,
from the opposite window
and one day
all at once
make me accompany you
to the land of the dead!
taunting and teasing!
 The Mode of Death
Death might be overtaking
might be out from the body
A dreaming man
What does he know?
Ask those living
have covered the dead body
with a sheet of cloth!
 A Comparison
the difference lies only in the 'I'
(the first vowel sound)
Shiva has three eyes,
Shava is blind!
A great imbroglio!
[1Shava — a dead body.]
 The Distance
Gave a sweet pain
How strange the coincidence
That the last farewell
O, the first love!
On the disappearing path,
With a wish -
Never to be fulfilled,
Sometime with a true physical touch
Never to be distanced!
I go -
Go with memory,
Go with pain!
 The End
Where is it now?
Where is it now?
Everything stood still
The running, jumping, the liquid river water
Everything frozen —
Like blood in veins!
All bones of body
Crackle with pain,
Who'll press them
Till the dying breath?
While none is around!
Now there is no flutter
Only a stasis,
Now life -
A fatigued filament;
 A Blow
kept you alive -
your living but decayed corpse!
Carry it silently, helplessly!
burnt the wishes
in a flaming furnace,
and filled every moment of life
with unbearable pain!
Never became a loved one;
never became a murderer!
O, never snatched the right to live -
though the doubt was unmasked,
When kept alive
I'll burn in the hell-fire
bear all by
Early or late
in an eternal sleep have to fall,
dust unto dust!
Then, why to weep?
will fly away!
Why you try so hard,
sing hymns every morn and eve,
nothing is in your control
you bow in every temple,
one day from the body
will fly away,
will fly away!
It is preordained that
in the lap of death
It is preordained that
will be lost
in the pitch dark
of the death!
It is preordained that
renouncing name and fair form
will be reduced
 A Proclamation
the world -
Mahendra Bhatnagar sleeps!
Sleeps in an eternal sleep!
is to happen
Why do you weep?
that is one's own,
one has no right
over it too,
hearth - wealth
that is one's own
has no essence!
You've no claim
silent - stoic
severing all relations
new and old!
has to experience
why to fear it?
O immortal death!
You may consider me
accept you from body and mind!
on the comfortable
I lose my identity
by fusing with the particles
of this soil!
I sow a new life!
As I have accepted life
I do accept you!
I go from this world!
I go from this
lovely home, lovely world!
for good... for good!
 I Bow Thee
O the springs of the world
O, the shining moon
The twinkling bright stars
O, the high waves of the sea!
wings of illusion,
Profuse with love
The strings of
An inextricable knot
The unrealised hopes
 Good Bye!
Beaten by fate,
In the game of life,
Tortured by dears,
Hurt on heart,
With a bowed head
Go for good —
Do not light the memory-lamp!
 An Ascetic
To overcome death
one more Siddharth1 — an ascetic
has set out!
Who at each step
trampled the elusive moves of
in any vyuha2
tied his noose hard
He who sings
songs of life
at the edge of doom,
one day —
he will attain
an immortal place
by changing his shape,
by making it a stupa3
1 initial name of Buddha.2 phlanx, the war movement arrangement of an army to surround or capture the enemy. 3 a Buddhistic tope/sacred spot.
 The Last Will
Never be disinterested!
Bear a blow
Never lose temper.
Let the last act be
free from rituals
let mind be set
only on the mystery beyond death!
Life after death
when none has known
when none has seen...
All established systems:
To follow them - not desired!
O never be a blind-follower,
Let refinement of worship be
in the splendour of knowledge.
good faith and good feelings!
on the renunciation of body?
a sign of perfection,
a successful stage
Why to bewail?
The end of life —
Why to bewail?
follow in the footsteps
of the departed
to attain the meaning of life,
Take the last salute!
One who has finished one's duty/karma.
THE MOTIF OF DEATH
N THE IPOETRY OF MAHENDRA BHATNAGAR:
– Dr. D. C. Chambial
Life is poised between the two antipodal points of birth and death. Where there is birth, there is death. Where one begins the other ends. Birth is welcome and rejoiced. Death is considered terrible and is, therefore, mourned. Enmeshed in the enigma of existence man has been trying since time immemorial to dive into the mysteries of life and death. All metaphysical systems of world are the outcome of man’s endeavour to find truth in this regard. In the modern age of science man has toiled hard to lay bare the mystery of death. However, it still remains beyond the domain of science. Where the domain of science ends, the domain of metaphysics begins.What is outside the physical world is left for the philosophy to explain. Mahendra Bhatnagar has, in his book, 'Death-Perception: Life-Perception', tried to perceive the mystery of life and death. In this paper my endeavour shall be to explore Mahendra Bhatnagar’s views about death.
In order to answer the question: What is death? The poet has nothing to say different from the commonly held notion about it that death is ‘an earthly end’ and compares it to ‘a horrendous night’ (‘Life - Death’: 22) . What the poet calls ‘a horrendous night’ is the state of existence after death. However, this ‘horrendous night’ begins with death. As the one side of a coin cannot be severed from the other, similarly, birth and death are also integral and cannot be separated: ‘an unbreakable string / tied to birth’ (Ibid.) The poet declares the Vedic truth: ‘Death - a truth’ (Reality’: 32) . It is also the truth of existence. Where there is life, there is death.
Man, ever since he began to speculate and meditate about the fate of life after its termination on this terra firma, has found death an enigma to explore. It was, and still is, an enigma for him.
There is a lot about death that one wants to know: what is death? What happens to the individual on death? If body is the dwelling of soul, as the Hinduism and most of the other world religions maintain, then, what happens to the soul on and after death? What would happen if there were no death? Etc. The poet also believes in this arcane nature of death and states: ‘Death? / A question-mark! ’ (Contemplation: 10) . He, once again, repeats this mystery of death in his poem, ‘Conclusion’, with the same words and is staunch in his faith that man is ever engaged in unraveling and unmasking the secrets about death. He says though ‘death’, at present, is ‘a question-mark’, but a day will certainly come when ‘The mystery of death / to be unmasked... revealed’ (‘Conclusion’: 20)
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar, the poet, opens his discourse about death and tells the readers about its imminence. He says: ‘Death is imminent / Unavoidable’ (Gratitude’: 2) . It is very much intone with the Hindu philosophy that states: ‘Jatasya hi dhruvo mrityu...’ (the Ghagvadgita: II,27) . He further expounds that death which is the end of life on the earth ‘... is certainly / Unavoidable! ’ (Experimenting’: 38) . The fact that whosoever has life and is born on this earth is bound to decay or die. An individual’s life is limited. One cannot go beyond this limit. None can abjure the verity that one day this life on earth has to come to an end. There is no way out. The poet sings:
One day from the body
will fly away,
Will fly away!
Here the poet, with the help of the symbol of a bird, tries to explain that one day JIVA or PRANA will have to forsake this body. It cannot live in for good. This body is subject to the laws of destructibility and transience.
Death has never been a welcome. The very origin of death, according to Christianity, is cruel, for it is the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God: they disobeyed the God, ate the forbidden fruit and the God, in turn, not only expelled them out of Eden but also inflicted death on them. Death has been with man since his first disobedience and the original sin. The poet calls death a cruel wheel that spares no one:
the wheel of death
Lifeless - living
Gradually grinding and changing
Every moment, every minute!
This earth rocks horribly!
invisibly / Silently
This wheel of death.
(‘The Wheel of Death’: 6) .
This wheel always goes on like the wheel of time and one and all fall prey to it without any distinction.
The termination of life from the physical body is termed as death. Death is death whatever be its kind or form. The philosopher poet, Dr. Mahendra also declares that ‘Though the end, the same death! ’ (‘Forms of Death’: 18) . Nonetheless, he differentiates and recognizes two kinds of death: one, natural or accidental death; two, the unnatural or suicide or murder. In this regard the poet writes: ‘Death natural / or accidental /... / end of a conscious life’ (Ibid.) These both kinds of death, natural and accidental, are so called because they are the ‘writs of Providence’ (Ibid.) But, about the second kind, ‘suicide / or / murder’, the poet says that it ‘isn’t death, but, a murder.’ (ibid.) Thus, the poet acknowledges two kinds of death with clear difference.
The poet is of the view that one should not fear death. While living one should be free from its fear. Living constantly under the fear of death will make the individual a coward and one will not be able to accomplish anything in one’s life. Thus the whole objective of life and living will be defeated. One is supposed to live and, while living, do such acts that are helpful for the progress of humanity. With this motive in mind, the poet says that ‘Fearing death / will make / living futile! / weight heavy / dry onerous / pleasureless heart.’ (Free From Worry’: 8) . Under the constant fear of death, life loses its meaning. In order to make life meaningful one has to be free from the fear of death. So, the philosopher poet says:
when every moment is free
from the dread of death. (Ibid.)
The poet seems to echo what the Hindu philosophy says:
v'kksP; kuUo'kkspLRoa izKkoknkaÜp Hkk'klsA
xrklwuxrklawÜp ukuq'kkspfUr if.Mrk%AA
What should not be worried about you should not worry say the wise
Whether one lives or dies does not bother the pundit.
(the Bhagvadgita: II,11) .
The poet, in his poem ‘The Philosophy of Death’ (72) posits:
When a certainty,
O, tell death —
‘Come; when you please.’
There is no need either to nourish any doubt about death or fear it; it is imminent. In another poem, he says:
It is preordained that
in the lap of death
× × ×
in the pitch dark
of the death! (‘Preordained’: 96)
and then talks about the destruction of the body after death by consigning it to fire: ‘fair form / will be reduced / to ashes! ’ (Ibid.) The JIVA forsakes body; body becomes dead because it is senseless to all external stimuli of the physical world, and finally the body joins the five elements - fire, earth, water, air, and sky, the PANCH BHUTA — out of which it had taken shape.
All this happens, the poet argues, when body becomes unsuitable for the soul as it’s dwelling. Then the soul leaves it and looks for a new one that is befitting for it, the poet says:
Not worth living;
In quest of new.’ (‘A Puzzle’: 12)
as if the soul unfolds the secret of its leaving the body, that is death, to the poet. The poet’s philosophy seems to echo the Vedic philosophy:
oklkafl th.kkZfu; Fkk fogk; uokfu x`g~.kkfr ujkss•ijkf.kA
rFkk 'kjhjkf.k fogk; th.kkZU; kfu la; fr uokfu nsghAA
As a man discards the old and worn out clothes,
Likewise the soul discards old body and enters new one.
(the Bhagvadgita: II,22) .
In the absence of death there would have no God nor the need for any such supreme divinity. The poet continues his argument that ‘If there were no death, / God wouldn’t have any existence’ (‘The truth’: 14) . It means that in the absence of death man would have thought himself to be the Supreme Being and the God were to be something non-existent. It is the existence of death that makes human being inferior to God and man needs some super power to attribute to that power all the enigmas of physical and metaphysical existence that are beyond the human ken. In the absence of death, even ‘The whole philosophy / hell and heaven’ (Ibid.) would have become redundant. But, there is death that necessitates the existence of God, before whose will the man bows. Therefore, the man realizes the ultimate truth that ‘Ram nam satya hai / (God’s name is the only TRUTH) ’ (Ibid.) In other words, the poet contends that only God is the Reality.
It is not that death has made the existence of God feasible but it also has a purpose. The poet maintains that death is not without purpose. It also has its utilitarian value and makes life not only useful but also beautiful for existence on this earth. He posits:
Death’s made life very beautiful,
Transforms this world, in fact,
Into a pleasant heaven,
We learnt the meaning of love,
Transformed man into higher beings
Than immortal god!
(‘Gratitude; Again’: 4)
Whatever man tries to achieve in life and art is also death’s gift to him; so, the poet firmly holds:
Beauty to life
Endless - vast!
Life - art - efficiency
Embellishment - adornment!
It is a fact that death has some objective. But, the poet not only encourages the mankind to shed the fear of death but also suggests to betittle death by finding a purpose of living because:
who are the artisans of life
should talk only about life
the meaningfulness of life.
about the essence of life.
His panacea for belittling death is:
strike back at it. (Ibid.)
But, how can we strike back at death? The poet has himself answered this question successfully in the poem itself that it can be done by discovering ‘the meaningfulness of life’ and by singing ‘the glory of life’ (Ibid.) The ‘meaningfulness of life’ suggests a purposeful life so that he is remembered even after he is dead.
Death is imminent. It cannot be avoided. It is the fate of all living beings on this earth. It can only be relegated to pettiness. Then there is no need to fear death: ‘let human self / not be terrorized / of death care’ (‘A Wish’: 58) . The living ones should always be ready to welcome death. There is no alternative to it. Therefore, the poet has debunked death of all its power and fear and and welcomes death to
do come one day!
And take me away
in your flying-chariot
away... far away
(‘An Invitation’: 74) .
perhaps, like the persona in Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘The Chariot’1
To conclude our discussion, we can say that the poet comes out with some very concrete suggestions to tear off the hitherto much significance attached to death. He does not believe in any type of ritual, because these do not form part of the eternal truth; these have been devised and followed by the survivors. He exhorts the mankind: ‘Let the last act be / free from rituals’ (‘The Last Will’: 110) . What is more important. in order to find the ultimate truth, to unmask the enigma of death shrouded in the mystery, is to approach the hitherto unsolved riddle of death single-mindedly. For this he suggests: ‘let mind be set / only on the mystery deyond death! ’ (Ibid.) He also consoles those who are left behind wailing and bemoaning in these words: ‘End - / a sign of perfection, / a successful stage / why to bewail’ and should
follow in the footsteps
of the departed
to attain the meaning of life
(‘Kritkarma’: 112) .
It is ‘the meaning of life’ that has not been found yet and the quest for which is ever going on like the journey of life as propounded by Aurobindo Ghose2. Mahendra Bhatnagar, the poet and philosopher, has very deeply studied and experienced, in his imagination, the concept of death and has made some very radical observations that make him stand all alone as a sedate thinker in the contemporary poetry.
(1) In the Dickinson’s poem, Death is one of the occupants in the chariot. Death asks the poetess / persona to accompany him. The opening lines of the poem are:
Because I could not stop for death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
In Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poem, the poet / persona invites Death to take him / her with himself, because he is not afraid of death and ready to go with him.
(2) In his poem, ‘Is This the End? ’, Aurobindo Ghose says that death does not put an end to the journey or quest of life. The poet refers to soul that is immortal and continues its journey ceaselessly. It goes on even after the goal has been achieved. The last two stanzas of them poem, that have relevance to the argument in the present article, are:
The Immortal in the mortal is his name!
An artist Godhead here
Ever remoulds himself in dimmer shapes,
Unwilling the cease.
Till all is done for which the stars were made,
Till the heart discovers God
And the soul knows itself. And even then
There is no end.
— Mrs. Purnima Ray
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s ‘Death-Perception: Life-Perception’ is a collection of fifty beautiful poems translated from original Hindi into English by Dr. D.C.Chambial. The poet, and the translator are already well-known figures in the literary arena, both in India and abroad. The Appendix 1&2 published in this book help us to know their achievements in detail. In short, their bio-notes are as follows -
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar is a leading Professor of Hindi Language and Literature, guides scholars, has several published books, and received many awards. His major poetry-collections include ‘Forty Poems’ translated by Shree Amir Mohammad Khan, and Prof. L.S.Sharma, ‘After The Forty Poems’ translated by Dr. Ramsevak Singh Yadav, Prof. Vareendra Kumar Varma, and Shree Amir Mohammad Khan, ‘Exuberance and other poems’, translated by Dr. Ravinandan Sinha, and ‘Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry’ translated by Dr. H.C.Gupta.
Dr. D.C.Chambial is a Professor of English, a widely published Indo-English poet and critic, has several published books, poetry collections, and on criticism, and edits an international journal ‘Poetcrit’. At the outset the translator in his note makes clear to us the most important features of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poetry, which we have to recho in our discussion from time to time in our own way. And we will see that Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poems are deep, intense in feeling, suggestive and thought-provoking.
The title of this present collection is very important. One should notice that ‘Death-Perception’ comes first, then ‘Life Perception’. The ‘Death-theme’ is a very common and universal one, but the fact is that we sometimes are aware of it, and sometimes not. Most of us know that it is inevitable and certain, and we are eager to know more about it, and want to escape from its clutches, but we do not know how to do it. It is here the utility of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poems on this subject. He explores all the possible ways with his extraordinary creative spirit, and he succeeds to satisfy our quench for the thirst of knowledge of this kind.
Poet Mahendra points us to see the fact that we are standing on the backbone of ‘Death’, so that our desire for life is being stirred again and again:
Death is imminent,
Life is so desired!
Although we get scared by it every now and then, yet it is acceptable, and for that ‘life’ itself is grateful to ‘Death’:
Death element / feeling
Minute by minute death-tension
Because Death’s contributions to Life are unnumbered:
Death’s made life
Transformed this world,
Into a pleasant heaven,
the meaning of love...
and the most important achievement of ‘Death’ is that it
Into higher beings
than immortal god!
This poet has seen ‘Death’ in the best possible ways, yet
he admits the impossibility to define it:
All efforts futile -
the meaning of death;
it’s very intricate difficult
He does not ignore its dark sides:
The wheel of death
He defines finely in a word:
.. A wonderful puzzle!
Poet Mahendra can establish a truth that man’s all philosophy including the idea of God revolves round ‘Death’:
If there were no death,
God wouldn’t have any existence,
would have never reconciled
with his fate!
For he is always led by this fact:
... ‘Death is imminent’!
So his idea of God is nothing but:
... a proof
of man’s helplessness
of readiness after death...
Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar equates the relation between Life and death through a fine imagery:
An unbreakable string
Tied to birth..
So he rightly poses the stoic question:
why a jubilation?
He can justify what he says regarding this by a logical fallacy:
Morning is red
Evening is red
Morning - evening are one.
Wail on birth
Wail on death
Birth-death are one...
It seems that he wants to say as one cannot detach death from life, similarly life cannot be detached from death:
Over and over again
Like the ancient Greek philosophers the poet says:
... this manifest world is the only truth...
Yet he confirms:
Death - a truth
Life - a truth
The poet gives us the key-principle to overcome death:
... Every time
With the eternal challenge
of death is welcome!
He will be
A mrityunjaya; he will be!
At the same time he makes us aware of meaningfulness of life:
isn’t a proof of
and his ‘meaningfulness’ finds its expression in humanistic approach to life:
be the motive of our living,
let’s devour materialistic hurdles
on every step.
Let’s acquire / such capabilities,
life may be
dedicated to death...
So in ‘Prayer’ poet Bhatnagar does not want any ascetic attainment, but leads the mankind in time of need:
not for immortality,
I long for
Perfect health, diseaselessness,
of human mind and body...
He shows us where ‘death’ takes place:
Shattered and disorderly life
Malady-stricken / Frustrated wounded life
eager to fall into
and the victory of life over death:
will be victorious,
fear not the wicked,
Like a Miltonic hero the poet discloses the way:
If death destroys us
strike back at it,
sing the glory of life,
strike a severe blow at
Here also revolution takes place, one has to utter these words:
That I may
unite all those
living in hell,
urge on them
for a revolt,
for a change in life!
It is only then we can realise what he says:
With a wish to live
wait for death!
He does not want the Epicurean way of living be termed as ‘true-living’:
Live / by thinking self
laugh and sing
without any concern,
eat and drink
without any worry;
should it / be termed / true living?
Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar sings paean of life, but there is something more special in his singing:
about the triumph of life
Like post-Tagorean Bengali surrealistic poet Jibanananda Das he admires the wealth of life:
I sing dauntlessly
the triumph of thru life-bud
of the dearest thing!
I sing again and again!
One may compare the words ‘again and again’ quoted above with Jibananada’s abar asiba phire (I will come again) . The words which poet Bhatnagar used are different, but the total effect is the same:
The sounds that echo
in the sky of graveyard
of the liberated-selves of carefree birds
of my life sentiments!
of my life - adorations!
Here he establishes one truth that poets from ages to ages sing life in there unique ways.
Perhaps for that reason poet Bhatnagar can romanticize ‘Death’:
(1) You’ll come —
Like a clever girl.
your this game
(2) You beautiful like the moon,
from the opposite window
One should notice that the poet attaches feminity to a beautiful object.
Poet Bhatnagar’s creativity finds its fullest expression when he uses the word ‘passing away’ instead of ‘death’:
Death might be overtaking
might be out from the body
A dreaming man
Yes, the dreaming people are active and creative, they dream before turning themselves into creativity, as Lord Vishnu sleeps and dreams before the creation of the Universe; they do not know the word ‘death’ while engrossing in their way of life. The last lines of this poem makes us thoughtful, leave us in a whirlpool of suggestions:
What does he know?
Ask those living
have covered the dead body
with a sheet of cloth!
It seems that poet Bhatnagar accepts indirectly the will of God behind death:
It is preordained that
in the lap of death
So he says to himself and at the same time to us to renounce all earthly attachments:
Do not light the memory-lamp!
He does not forget to remind us the most precious things of life, and he puts all this so masterly in the tongue of a dying-person:
O the springs of the world
O, the shining moon
The twinkling bright stars
O, the high waves of the sea!
In a way, he values most the Nature surrounding us, as
Mrityunjaya in Rabindranath Tagore’s short-story ‘The Hidden Treasure’ exclaimed: “I want sunlight, air, sky’’ etc. wanting to live.
For he knows that ultimate truth is, he makes a goodbye to an illusory world behind him:
wings of illusion,
Profuse with love
The strings of
An inextricable knot
The unrealised hopes
‘An Ascetic’ is an important poem, in the sense that the poet gives here a message to the strife - torn world we are living in:
He who sings
songs of life
at the edge of doom,
one day -
he will attain
an immortal place
by changing his shape,
Preserve this / heritage /
by making it a stupa.
The suggestion is if we sing songs of life, then there should be no hankering after life-killing desires and efforts; again the poet’s spirituality lies in humanity, and man’s religion in his ‘Kritakarma’. The poem ‘The Last Will’ can be seen as his consolation for us as well as a clarion call:
let mind be set
only on the mystery beyond death!
× × × ×
Let refinement of worship be
in the splendour of knowledge..
Here he gives more emphasis on ‘mind’ which controls all body-organs, and on ‘knowledge’, the purest of all things in the world, as we find in The Srimat Bhagavat Gita.
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar is, no doubt, an avant-garde Indian poet. Dr. D.C.Chambial excellent rendition extends the readership of
Dr. Bhatnagar’s philosophy and poetic ability. Dr. Chambial has done his job well, for his transcreation has retained all the literary qualities of the original poems - e.g. ‘the economy of linguistic expressions’, lucidity etc.
An Analytical Study
— Dr (Mrs) Jaya Lakshmi Rao V.
DEATH PERCEPTION - LIFE PERCEPTION is a sensitively rendered volume of 50 poems, originally written in Hindi. The poems retain their natural flavour to a great extent, thanks to the versatility of the well-known poet of national and international fame Dr D.C. Chambial. As the title indicates the mysterious entity of death and the magical polarity called life occupy the mind and art of Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar. The theme of death and life has ever been source of deep contemplation often verging on to obsession for creative writers from times immemorial. Yet it never lost its freshness and vigour due to the mystery that surrounds it, the magnetism it generates and the manifold wonder it evokes. Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poetry bears witness to all the above observations.
Dr Chambial kept the translation as close as the linguistic boundaries between the original Hindi and the foreign English languages have allowed. Praise is to him, who, despite the language constrictions was able to carry and convey the poetic preoccupations of the well¬ known Hindi Poet with life and death.
The volume begins with a difference. In the first poem ‘Gratitude’, the poet gleans a reason to be grateful to death. It certainly is a new perception. The poet says: “Death’s given / Man / Life-art¬efficiency / Such / Embellishment - adornment.” According to the poet, it is death that makes life beautiful and therefore desirable. Death’s imminence makes life all the more attractive. So, he offers “Gratitude / To death / Life’s gratitude.” The fact that death equals all is mourned in a poem entitled ‘The Wheel of Death / Time’. Death tramps the white radiance of life. Death is relentless, inexorable: “Before it! Stability has! No existence! Its motion! Always controls! Life and death! Earth and sky.”
Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poems are not for those who seek the romantic, who look for the sensational. They do not jingle either. There is evidently a deep contemplation, a firm conviction in his poems. Written in free verse, some of the lines remain clearly etched in the reader’s mind. Lines such as: “Invisibly / Silently / Continuously moves / This wheel of death / Uninterrupted... unchanged! ” make a mark because in spite of simple terminology the poet has used memorable imagery. When he captions a poem as ‘Wheel of Time’ (kaal chakra) , the poet is using a native metaphor. In the cultures of India, time is compared to a wheel, a wheel that is conceptualized with the elements of birth-growth (life) - death that repeat themselves ceaselessly. It is a cyclic process that is inevitable and unavoidable. So, says the poet why grieve over death and spoil one’s peace of mind? —“Life! only meaningful, / When every moment is free / From the dread of death.” Despite the scientific advancement, death is a ‘wonderful puzzle’ for the poet. He sees death as a conundrum in poems such as ‘Contemplation’ and ‘A Puzzle’. It is the fear of death that urges man to take “refuge! In God! For eternal peace..” Yet the poet firmly believes that man’s invincibility will make him see “The mystery of death / To be unmasked... revealed / Sure... some day” in ‘Conclusion’.
. In poems such as ‘Life-Death’ and ‘The Opposite’ the dividing line between the polarities of life and death are brought to focus. To the poet they are not separate but intrinsically interconnected. One cannot be without the other. They are the beginning and end of a unique cycle. Why then are feelings generated by then different? questions the poet. “Birth: Why a jubilation? / Death: Pain...? Why? ” the ironical fact however is, “Wail on birth! Wail on death! Birth-death are one.” (‘Equal’) According to the poet it is futile to think of Hell or Heaven. Suffice to know that “This manifest world the only truth / Death - a truth, / Life - a truth! ” The common everyday thought of life and death attains a special significance in the poems of Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar because of the complexity of human emotion and intellectual activity. Although the theme of death is glaring enough, we are especially made to take notice of it due to the rhythm the poet used. It successfully indicates the relative value of his individualized perception. For example in a poem entitled ‘The Philosophy of life’ the poet says that life is “ External motion / Physical vibration / Internal motion - / Life. Real death is to lose ‘internal’ motion, the spiritual death. Now we know where the ‘fuse’ lies. The poetic thought continues on to ‘Excelsior’. If - “Struggles and strifes / lead to life” then “to be inactive” is “an indication - of the approaching death, / to stop - the end of life.”
Here is a rediscovery of the Vedic observation that our life is a pilgrimage and that man is an eternal traveler on the move. Life is an adventure. There is no resting on the journey and there is no end to it either. In the Aitereya Brhmana there is hymn, which ends with the refrain: ‘Charaiveti, Charaiveti’ which means “Hence O traveler, march along, march along.” One finds an echo in “Excelsior.... excelsior! ”
Now that we do not have a key to the puzzle of death, why not we unravel the ‘mysteries of life’, which in turn equips us with the ability ‘to talk to the moon and to the stars’ thus achieving ‘meaningfulness’ of life. In other words, the poet exhorts us to keep in touch with the unseen presence of the cosmic power by its physical manifestation in various forms of nature. True, nature is our guide, friend, and philosopher. It gives according to the poet “Perfect peace of mind /... a new meaning to life.”
‘A Prayer’ is an insightful poem on the secret of leading a happy life. In the poet’s opinion happy life is an outcome of self achievement. He says: “We live for / 125 years” only when we have a “Body free from pain / Mind free from torture.” So that we live as much for ‘ourselves’ as of ‘others’ because according to the Indian thought the whole world is a family - Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. The foregone thought is entirely in opposition with the feeling that “Blind, perplexed, ignorant / Man... construes money to be supreme / Thinks pleasure all in all.” (‘A Mirage’) In ‘A Vow’ the poet depicts death as an adversary whom we the human race fight like soldiers because life is too precious to lose to “a deceitful trick of / Any adversary! ”
. ‘A Call’ is a unique poem in which the poet uses a number of sensory images to celebrate the carnival of life. In a Tagore-like lyricism, the poet hails the singers of Alakh and Sohar who play on ‘every string of the violin of heart’. Their songs are mainly meant for the ‘mentally vanquished’, to awaken those whose life turned into ‘stupor’. A number of poems expound the value attached to life, a rare gift. Poems such as ‘One day’, ‘Proved’, A Healthy Vision’, and ‘Compatibility’ sing of Shanti (peace) , victory, glory and pleasure of life. He envisages life wherein all will laugh and be merry. Death is compared to a terrorist in the poem ‘Dreadful’ who “remote controls” life - “By hiding / In invisible places.”
In ‘The Philosophy of Death’, ‘An Invitation’, ‘To the Fairy of Death ‘ and’ A Request’ there is a new challenge, a new welcome to a hail-fellow-well-met attitude to death. There is neither fear nor fascination towards humanity’s foe i.e. death. But one finds camaraderie, bonhomie, open, and candid. Death is treated as a friend, “a clever girl”, “a cohabiter” and “a neighbour.” Thus, we witness a metamorphosis in the poet’s notion of death as it passes from the stage of being the fearful and the awe-inspiring to that of a much¬-awaited welcome guest. Finally an agreeable compromise is reached. Peace at last! The pilgrim realizes his futile fencing with an invincible enemy. What cannot be cured must be endured. This endurance is not born of frustration but out of wise realization. that makes a world of difference.
In ‘Comparison’ the poet juxtaposes Shiva, the three-eyed Godhead with shava, the lifeless body. A single vowel shift from ‘i’ to ‘a’ brings in an irreplaceable difference in consciousness i.e. from spandana to jada. ‘ A Blow’ shows the futility of involvement because says the poet: “Early or late / all / in an eternal sleep have to fall / dust unto dust! ” thus after being enlightened that every one “One day / renouncing name and fair form / will be reduced / to ashes! ” (‘Preordained’) , the poet proclaims in ‘Proclamation’: “0 Death / I do accept you.../ I go / For good... for good / I go! ”
Now there is loveliness all around. Nothing but peace remains. Not, that which is a result of impotent stupor but the peace one arrives at after experiencing the vicissitudes of life, like the pe