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Larry Hagman

I liked Dallas better because it was more deceptive, you could do more with it.

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0337Just a moment

The usual disgusting scene:
the sneezes coming one after the other
so no fun enjoying the one;
the coughs like an iron file along the lung,
coughs that just weren't going anywhere;
and as for the nose-blowing stuff -
beats any horror film in Sensurround...

and in the midst of all this carefully selected
personal misery.

a moment of perfection.

there it was, full on,
looking one straight in the eye:
perfection.
and because it was perfect
all you could do was look at it and register
and because it was perfect,
it was peaceful
and because it was peaceful it was still
and because it was still it wasn't going to go away

and all you could do was, to just be 'yes! '

and because perfection is - well, perfect -
there has to be Mr Other
saying in best TV style
'So that's it, huh? Just that? And I'm supposed to get the message?
Do me a favour...'

but it hadn't gone away.

Well that's how it was this afternoon.
You get the evidence without the commentary.
The back-up.
The instruction book in five not-quite languages.
The friend who's been there.
Or some less extreme scenario.

But no. That's it.
And you know you won't forget it.


Call you later.

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He was so honest you could play craps with him over the phone.

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You Dont Understand Me

Ive been up all night, youve been puttin up a fight.
Seems like nothin I say gets through.
How did this old bed fit a world between me and you.
We said goodnight but the silence was so thick
You could cut it with a knife.
Weve hit the wall again and theres nothin I can do.
Youre the one, yea, Ive put all my trust in your hands.
Cmon and look in my eyes, here I am, here I am
You dont understand me, my baby.
You dont seem to know that I need you so much.
You dont understand me, my feelings,
The reason Im breathin, my love
The mornin comes and youre reaching out for me
Just like everythings the same
And I let myself believe things are gonna change.
When you kiss my mouth and you hold my body close,
Do you wonder whos inside?
Maybe theres no way we could feel each others pain.
Tell me why it gets harder to know where I stand.
I guess loneliness found a new friend, here I am
You dont understand me...
You dont seem to get me, my baby.
You dont really see that I live for your touch.
You dont understand me, my dreams or the things I believe in, my love.
You dont understand me. you dont understand me. understand me.

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Better Than It Was

Once I had it all planned out
My dirty fingers moved about
To make a mess of everything around me
I dont claim to know my way
I still run in circles everyday
Running around half blind
Life can be unkind
But its better than it was
Its better than it was
I complain very little because
Its better than it was
I get to remembering
We had a lot more money then
To make a mess of everything around us
Now the money comes and goes a bit faster
Then my confidence grows
Everybody knows
There aint nothing new about money woes
But its better than it was
Its better than it was
Its better than it was
Its better than we ever could have
Wished it to before
It was bad a while ago
Better this I know
Its better than it was
Better than it was
I complain very little because
Its better than it was
Better than it was

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I Was the Promise Breaker

my parents expect me to understand
they expect me to think its just about them
expect me to know its not my fault..
but honestly its all a lie they thought

they think it makes me feel better to know
that sometimes love doesnt grow
and now they have grown so far apart
the love is not there that was at the start

so dont start telling me im not the cause
i know im the reason and its all because
without me you guys wouldnt fight
without me you guys wouldnt argue
without me you guys would be happy
but i changed all that

so yea it is my fault..
stop lying to me
stop lying to yourself
it was always my fault
because i was a mistake

you never really wanted me in the first place
i changed your plans at an annual pace
you got old and had more reasons to scorn
i was what caused the pages to turn
the page that caused the rise and fall
of your once true love thats not there at all

you made a promise the day you were married
but i guess that all changed when it was me you carried
im sorry i ended up being your promise breaker
dont act like im not the reason, dont be a faker

i guess marriage isnt till the end after all
but you taught me a lesson, dont learn to fall
dont fall in love when your pages arent ready
when they dont want to turn to a new page and be steady

dont make a mistake like having a baby
then let your marriage fail, dont let stress be too heavy
happy endings dont come when you make mistakes
dont ruin your life when you have too much at stake

I guess its my fault you guys grew apart
a marriage wont last if love isnt felt from the heart
I'm sorry you brought me into your life
without me my mom would still be my dad's wife

but i was your mistake
and ive always been the issue
your marriage has failed
and i need a tissue

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Patrick White

Because I Don't Confront You

Because I don't confront you
doesn't mean this tree
doesn't know how to stand up to the wind.
If I bend like a river reed in a current
I'll still be here
long after the current has passed.
To the unenlightened it's inconceivable
there's nothing to win
because both opposites are empty.
Take empty from empty it's still empty.
No reason to put a gun to your head to check it out.
Just because you've got a trigger
like the first crescent of the moon
doesn't mean you have to pull it.
Three for three.
Blood and cartridges.
Strange lipstick.
But you're still banking on the one that's empty.
Those that have the power to hurt
but will do none.
Shakespeare.
Sonnet 94.
Lonely advice to those who never take it.
And it's not hard to imagine
better things to do in the world
than trade barbs and stingers
with third world killer bees.
And there's nothing unholier than a holy war.
Or a faith that festers
because it doesn't know
how to clean a wound properly.
Even maggots make better nurses than that.
And besides
as unlikely as it seems at times
I'd rather be loved than right.
I don't want to lie down with a woman at night
like a body count.
You say I'm not in touch with reality
as if reality were some kind of guillotine
you expected me to stick my neck out for
swanning on the block.
No.
I don't stay in touch much
with French executioners.
But I can see the world as you see it.
A snakepit with the occasional apple-tree.
You think of reality as a hard medicine
you have to wince like a lemon to take
but if you ask me
the way you put it
reality sounds more like a toxin
than the antidote to the snake.
If the kids don't like it then neither do I.
The iodine you pour on things
hurts worse than the original scrape.
The cure is more delirious than the disease.
You see the black door of the prison
and you want to paint it pink.
You realign the constellations
like barbed wire around a concentration camp
and reality drives up like the commandant
of what you think
to announce to the inmates
they're in the real world now
where iron rules
and the watchdogs never sleep.
What happy fool
bemused by watching his illusions
chase their tails
and play with snakes
is going to turn his delusion in
for something as stern as that?
An ideologue is someone
whose spirit is weaker than their intellect
and ideas pack like cholesterol around their hearts
and harden like plack on their teeth.
Someone who is terminally ideational
thinks of reality as a kind of rehabilitation
for the rest of us.
A man asks for water in a desert of stars.
An ideologue offers him bleach
as if he were redressing an incorrigible wino
for giving up on reality.
And when he talks of reform
it's like listening to a dvd
giving step by step instructions
in how to turn a chameleon into an albino.
And I see something of the same in you.
Ideologues are appalled by the sloppiness of life.
They see it as something to organize
not something to create.
They hate the suggestible mysteries
that never quite come into focus.
They want to refit the Flying Dutchman
with real sails and upgraded astrolabes.
They loathe the Uncertainty Principle
at work in their atoms and their evolution.
They look at beauty as ornamentalism.
There's nothing functional about a sunset.
Even out in the country
I've heard them scolding life
for squandering itself on a flower.
Wild asters and loosestrife
are merely a silly extravagance
and there are so many stars at night
you'd think life was running a casino.
When you tell me I should get in touch with reality
I feel I should be looking for some ultimate
behind everything
some ulterior way of understanding life
that illegitimizes everything under my nose
as mere phenomena and appearance.
The rat behind the arras.
The meaning of things
that makes things irrelevant
as if what my senses perceived
were mere wrapping.
When I look at things
as if there were no inside or out
to them or me
I see the creative contents
and events of a mind
that belongs to all of us.
And there isn't a thought or a thing
that doesn't express the whole of it.
Delusion and enlightenment
share the same nature I do.
The star is as much me
as I am the star
so when I say the stars have opened my eyes
to how exalted you can feel
when you're humbled
by the sublime lucidity of life
my eyes have done as much for them.
You want to put life on a diet.
And time on a budget.
Usually when someone tells me to be realistic
I'm talking to a conservative
who's in denial about the future.
Nature is nurture
and no one's ever left the womb
but there are available dimensions
in the dark backward abysm of time
that's been maturing us for the last
fourteen and a half billion years
out of our own inconceivability
like wine
not vinegar
into this sublime creative collaboration
which is the life of the mind.
Whatever we create
simultaneously and seamlessly creates us.
It's a child's drawing.
There are no flaws in it.
What's unrealistic about a purple sun?
Lebanese cochineal shells
for the togas of the Roman imperium.
The emperor's got no clothes.
So you dress him up in your nakedness
and paint his portrait in purples and blues
and ask Caligula to lend him some shoes.
It's a dynamic equilibrium of transformations.
It's a living cosmic harmony
that's as mystically specific and intimate
as a snowflake melting on your arm.
The dead branch blossoms
like a witching stick
whenever it's near water
and the magician's wand sheds its skin
like serpent-fire on the wind.
These things are true too.
Anything the Inconceivable
does or reveals
is always spontaneous
because there is no way of predicting it.
Every dropp of water
that opens itself like an eye
in the infinite sea of awareness
is merely water watching water
shift its shape into fish and trees and humans.
The river turns
and the zodiacal kings of the Etruscans
bow down to Vertumamnis
who will grow up to be kidnapped by the Romans
and raised as Morpheus the god of dreams.
Or Orpheus among the Greeks
if he dreams while he's awake.
If life weren't creatively inconceivable
we couldn't have been born into it
to conceive of the unthinkable.
It's the empty cup that pours the wine.
It's the mystery
that all our answers are looking for.
When I look at the stars
though they're arranged in constellations
to me they are never endlessly one thing
but radiant with beginnings
going off in all directions at once.
You speak of reality
as if it were the negative
of a photographic starmap
elapsed by time.
You're an equatorial mount with clock drive
and a colour-blind spectrograph
where your third eye used to be.
Thirteen ways of looking at the same blackbird.
Meaning infinite.
And they're all true.
I am.
And so are you.
And what's a blackbird
if it isn't the primordial atom
the many in the one
nuclear fusion
the muse and the inspiration
all the combinations and permutations
of the way it will continue to be seen anew
in every moment
as if it will always be the beginning of creation?
Six trillion miles in a light-year.
And Proxima Centauri 4.7 light years away.
The next star over unfencible time and space.
You look at the insurmountability of these distances
and you think that's how far it is from here to there
and your isolation brings you to the precipice of despair
when your omnidirectional self
looks creation in the face
and mistakes humility for insignificance everywhere.
And you say to yourself
there's no point or place
for a period
at the end of an infinite sentence.
And you make a brutal discipline of your irrelevance
and call it reality
and the dead begin to legislate for the living
and the blind for those who can see.
Van Gogh said it best in a letter to Theo.
Some people live their lives
as if they were walking to the stars.
Some take the train.
And some fly.
For the birds
nothing's ever further away
than their wingspan
as it is with fish and fins.
And turning the jewel in the light
and looking at its infinite flashes of insight
without the glass eye
of a Cyclopean appraiser
cut it up atomically
like a butcher or a surgeon
deciding on where to make the next incision
I would add that like a star
even after billions of years on the road
whose light never really leaves home
because everywhere it goes
it's in the doorway
on the threshold
because there's no discontinuity
no distinction
no severance
between a ray of light and its source
between a way of life and its course
there's a fourth kind of pilgrim
who just has to look up at the stars
or the sun and the moon
or Venus luxuriating in the sunset
if he wants to shine down on everything.
So if I don't confront you like a bottom-feeder
on the floor of your thinktank
rising to the surface
like a scumbag to high public office
it's not because I'm a coward or a fool.
It's just that I'm enrolled
in this funny kind of school
where you learn through experience
to use your ignorance
as a teaching device
to enlighten the Buddha.
What's water to the goldfish
is water to the barracuda
without and within
every wave of water light and life
the whole sea of awareness at high tide
the whole sky with all its myriads of stars
tattooed on the skin of a water droplet
that thinks it's tough
to stick pins through the eye of an inkwell
like an Oedipal voodoo doll
with Medusan issues
because she never had a mother
who didn't turn her heart to stone.
Water is fish.
Fish is water.
Air is bird.
Bird is air.
Earth is worm.
Worm is earth.
And fire is a phoenix that nests in its own ashes.
And you can ask the moon
if you don't believe me.
Sometimes the water
makes a quick exit
and swims out of you
like tears and light-years of neap tides
but there's never going to come a time
whether you measure it in lunar months
or waterclocks
or the wavelengths of a snake-pit
you're ever going to swim out of it.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

First Book

OF writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others' uses, will write now for mine,–
Will write my story for my better self,
As when you paint your portrait for a friend,
Who keeps it in a drawer and looks at it
Long after he has ceased to love you, just
To hold together what he was and is.

I, writing thus, am still what men call young;
I have not so far left the coasts of life
To travel inland, that I cannot hear
That murmur of the outer Infinite
Which unweaned babies smile at in their sleep
When wondered at for smiling; not so far,
But still I catch my mother at her post
Beside the nursery-door, with finger up,
'Hush, hush–here's too much noise!' while her sweet eyes
Leap forward, taking part against her word
In the child's riot. Still I sit and feel
My father's slow hand, when she had left us both,
Stroke out my childish curls across his knee;
And hear Assunta's daily jest (she knew
He liked it better than a better jest)
Inquire how many golden scudi went
To make such ringlets. O my father's hand,
Stroke the poor hair down, stroke it heavily,–
Draw, press the child's head closer to thy knee!
I'm still too young, too young to sit alone.

I write. My mother was a Florentine,
Whose rare blue eyes were shut from seeing me
When scarcely I was four years old; my life,
A poor spark snatched up from a failing lamp
Which went out therefore. She was weak and frail;
She could not bear the joy of giving life–
The mother's rapture slew her. If her kiss
Had left a longer weight upon my lips,
It might have steadied the uneasy breath,
And reconciled and fraternised my soul
With the new order. As it was, indeed,
I felt a mother-want about the world,
And still went seeking, like a bleating lamb
Left out at night, in shutting up the fold,–
As restless as a nest-deserted bird
Grown chill through something being away, though what
It knows not. I, Aurora Leigh, was born
To make my father sadder, and myself
Not overjoyous, truly. Women know
The way to rear up children, (to be just,)
They know a simple, merry, tender knack
Of tying sashes, fitting baby-shoes,
And stringing pretty words that make no sense,
And kissing full sense into empty words;
Which things are corals to cut life upon,
Although such trifles: children learn by such,
Love's holy earnest in a pretty play,
And get not over-early solemnised,–
But seeing, as in a rose-bush, Love's Divine,
Which burns and hurts not,–not a single bloom,–
Become aware and unafraid of Love.
Such good do mothers. Fathers love as well
–Mine did, I know,–but still with heavier brains,
And wills more consciously responsible,
And not as wisely, since less foolishly;
So mothers have God's licence to be missed.

My father was an austere Englishman,
Who, after a dry life-time spent at home
In college-learning, law, and parish talk,
Was flooded with a passion unaware,
His whole provisioned and complacent past
Drowned out from him that moment. As he stood
In Florence, where he had come to spend a month
And note the secret of Da Vinci's drains,
He musing somewhat absently perhaps
Some English question . . whether men should pay
The unpopular but necessary tax
With left or right hand–in the alien sun
In that great square of the Santissima,
There drifted past him (scarcely marked enough
To move his comfortable island-scorn,)
A train of priestly banners, cross and psalm,–
The white-veiled rose-crowned maidens holding up
Tall tapers, weighty for such wrists, aslant
To the blue luminous tremor of the air,
And letting drop the white wax as they went
To eat the bishop's wafer at the church;
From which long trail of chanting priests and girls,
A face flashed like a cymbal on his face,
And shook with silent clangour brain and heart,
Transfiguring him to music. Thus, even thus,
He too received his sacramental gift
With eucharistic meanings; for he loved.

And thus beloved, she died. I've heard it said
That but to see him in the first surprise
Of widower and father, nursing me,
Unmothered little child of four years old,
His large man's hands afraid to touch my curls,
As if the gold would tarnish,–his grave lips
Contriving such a miserable smile,
As if he knew needs must, or I should die,
And yet 'twas hard,–would almost make the stones
Cry out for pity. There's a verse he set
In Santa Croce to her memory,
'Weep for an infant too young to weep much
When death removed this mother'–stops the mirth
To-day, on women's faces when they walk
With rosy children hanging on their gowns,
Under the cloister, to escape the sun
That scorches in the piazza. After which,
He left our Florence, and made haste to hide
Himself, his prattling child, and silent grief,
Among the mountains above Pelago;
Because unmothered babes, he thought, had need
Of mother nature more than others use,
And Pan's white goats, with udders warm and full
Of mystic contemplations, come to feed
Poor milkless lips of orphans like his own–
Such scholar-scraps he talked, I've heard from friends,
For even prosaic men, who wear grief long,
Will get to wear it as a hat aside
With a flower stuck in't. Father, then, and child,
We lived among the mountains many years,
God's silence on the outside of the house,
And we, who did not speak too loud, within;
And old Assunta to make up the fire,
Crossing herself whene'er a sudden flame
Which lightened from the firewood, made alive
That picture of my mother on the wall.
The painter drew it after she was dead;
And when the face was finished, throat and hands,
Her cameriera carried him, in hate
Of the English-fashioned shroud, the last brocade
She dressed in at the Pitti. 'He should paint
No sadder thing than that,' she swore, 'to wrong
Her poor signora.' Therefore, very strange
The effect was. I, a little child, would crouch
For hours upon the floor, with knees drawn up
And gaze across them, half in terror, half
In adoration, at the picture there,–
That swan-like supernatural white life,
Just sailing upward from the red stiff silk
Which seemed to have no part in it, nor power
To keep it from quite breaking out of bounds:
For hours I sate and stared. Asssunta's awe
And my poor father's melancholy eyes
Still pointed that way. That way, went my thoughts
When wandering beyond sight. And as I grew
In years, I mixed, confused, unconsciously,
Whatever I last read or heard or dreamed,
Abhorrent, admirable, beautiful,
Pathetical, or ghastly, or grotesque,
With still that face . . . which did not therefore change,
But kept the mystic level of all forms
And fears and admirations; was by turn
Ghost, fiend, and angel, fairy, witch, and sprite,–
A dauntless Muse who eyes a dreadful Fate,
A loving Psyche who loses sight of Love,
A still Medusa, with mild milky brows
All curdled and all clothed upon with snakes
Whose slime falls fast as sweat will; or, anon,
Our Lady of the Passion, stabbed with swords
Where the Babe sucked; or, Lamia in her first
Moonlighted pallor, ere she shrunk and blinked,
And, shuddering, wriggled down to the unclean;
Or, my own mother, leaving her last smile
In her last kiss, upon the baby-mouth
My father pushed down on the bed for that,–
Or, my dead mother, without smile or kiss,
Buried at Florence. All which images,
Concentred on the picture, glassed themselves
Before my meditative childhood, . . as
The incoherencies of change and death
Are represented fully, mixed and merged,
In the smooth fair mystery of perpetual Life.

And while I stared away my childish wits
Upon my mother's picture, (ah, poor child!)
My father, who through love had suddenly
Thrown off the old conventions, broken loose
From chin-bands of the soul, like Lazarus,
Yet had no time to learn to talk and walk
Or grow anew familiar with the sun,–
Who had reached to freedom, not to action, lived,
But lived as one entranced, with thoughts, not aims,–
Whom love had unmade from a common man
But not completed to an uncommon man,–
My father taught me what he had learnt the best
Before he died and left me,–grief and love.
And, seeing we had books among the hills,
Strong words of counselling souls, confederate
With vocal pines and waters,–out of books
He taught me all the ignorance of men,
And how God laughs in heaven when any man
Says, 'Here I'm learned; this, I understand;
In that, I am never caught at fault or doubt.'
He sent the schools to school, demonstrating
A fool will pass for such through one mistake,
While a philosopher will pass for such,
Through said mistakes being ventured in the gross
And heaped up to a system.
I am like,
They tell me, my dear father. Broader brows
Howbeit, upon a slenderer undergrowth
Of delicate features,–paler, near as grave;
But then my mother's smile breaks up the whole,
And makes it better sometimes than itself.

So, nine full years, our days were hid with God
Among his mountains. I was just thirteen,
Still growing like the plants from unseen roots
In tongue-tied Springs,–and suddenly awoke
To full life and its needs and agonies,
With an intense, strong, struggling heart beside
A stone-dead father. Life, struck sharp on death,
Makes awful lightning. His last word was, 'Love–'
'Love, my child, love, love!'–(then he had done with grief)
'Love, my child.' Ere I answered he was gone,
And none was left to love in all the world.

There, ended childhood: what succeeded next
I recollect as, after fevers, men
Thread back the passage of delirium,
Missing the turn still, baffled by the door;
Smooth endless days, notched here and there with knives;
A weary, wormy darkness, spurred i' the flank
With flame, that it should eat and end itself
Like some tormented scorpion. Then, at last,
I do remember clearly, how there came
A stranger with authority, not right,
(I thought not) who commanded, caught me up
From old Assunta's neck; how, with a shriek,
She let me go,–while I, with ears too full
Of my father's silence, to shriek back a word,
In all a child's astonishment at grief
Stared at the wharfage where she stood and moaned,
My poor Assunta, where she stood and moaned!
The white walls, the blue hills, my Italy,
Drawn backward from the shuddering steamer-deck,
Like one in anger drawing back her skirts
Which suppliants catch at. Then the bitter sea
Inexorably pushed between us both,
And sweeping up the ship with my despair
Threw us out as a pasture to the stars.
Ten nights and days we voyaged on the deep;
Ten nights and days, without the common face
Of any day or night; the moon and sun
Cut off from the green reconciling earth,
To starve into a blind ferocity
And glare unnatural; the very sky
(Dropping its bell-net down upon the sea
As if no human heart should 'scape alive,)
Bedraggled with the desolating salt,
Until it seemed no more than holy heaven
To which my father went. All new, and strange–
The universe turned stranger, for a child.

Then, land!–then, England! oh, the frosty cliffs
Looked cold upon me. Could I find a home
Among those mean red houses through the fog?
And when I heard my father's language first
From alien lips which had no kiss for mine,
I wept aloud, then laughed, then wept, then wept,–
And some one near me said the child was mad
Through much sea-sickness. The train swept us on.
Was this my father's England? the great isle?
The ground seemed cut up from the fellowship
Or verdure, field from field, as man from man;
The skies themselves looked low and positive,
As almost you could touch them with a hand,
And dared to do it, they were so far off
From God's celestial crystals; all things, blurred
And dull and vague. Did Shakspeare and his mates
Absorb the light here?–not a hill or stone
With heart to strike a radiant colour up
Or active outline on the indifferent air!

I think I see my father's sister stand
Upon the hall-step of her country-house
To give me welcome. She stood straight and calm,
Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight
As if for taming accidental thoughts
From possible pulses; brown hair pricked with grey
By frigid use of life, (she was not old,
Although my father's elder by a year)
A nose drawn sharply, yet in delicate lines;
A close mild mouth, a little soured about
The ends, through speaking unrequited loves,
Or peradventure niggardly half-truths;
Eyes of no colour,–once they might have smiled,
But never, never have forgot themselves
In smiling; cheeks in which was yet a rose
Of perished summers, like a rose in a book,
Kept more for ruth than pleasure,–if past bloom,
Past fading also.
She had lived we'll say,
A harmless life, she called a virtuous life,
A quiet life, which was not life at all,
(But that, she had not lived enough to know)
Between the vicar and the county squires,
The lord-lieutenant looking down sometimes
From the empyreal, to assure their souls
Against chance vulgarisms, and, in the abyss,
The apothecary looked on once a year,
To prove their soundness of humility.
The poor-club exercised her Christian gifts
Of knitting stockings, stitching petticoats,
Because we are of one flesh after all
And need one flannel, (with a proper sense
Of difference in the quality)–and still
The book-club guarded from your modern trick
Of shaking dangerous questions from the crease,
Preserved her intellectual. She had lived
A sort of cage-bird life, born in a cage,
Accounting that to leap from perch to perch
Was act and joy enough for any bird.
Dear heaven, how silly are the things that live
In thickets and eat berries!
I, alas,
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage,
And she was there to meet me. Very kind.
Bring the clean water; give out the fresh seed.
She stood upon the steps to welcome me,
Calm, in black garb. I clung about her neck,–
Young babes, who catch at every shred of wool
To draw the new light closer, catch and cling
Less blindly. In my ears, my father's word
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in shells,
'Love, love, my child,' She, black there with my grief,
Might feel my love–she was his sister once–
I clung to her. A moment, she seemed moved.
Kissed me with cold lips, suffered me to cling,
And drew me feebly through the hall, into
The room she sate in.
There, with some strange spasm
Of pain and passion, she wrung loose my hands
Imperiously, and held me at arm's length,
And with two grey-steel naked-bladed eyes
Searched through my face,–ay, stabbed it through and through,
Through brows and cheeks and chin, as if to find
A wicked murderer in my innocent face,
If not here, there perhaps. Then, drawing breath,
She struggled for her ordinary calm,
And missed it rather,–told me not to shrink,
As if she had told me not to lie or swear,–
'She loved my father, and would love me too
As long as I deserved it.' Very kind.

I understood her meaning afterward;
She thought to find my mother in my face,
And questioned it for that. For she, my aunt,
Had loved my father truly, as she could,
And hated, with the gall of gentle souls,
My Tuscan mother, who had fooled away
A wise man from wise courses, a good man
From obvious duties, and, depriving her,
His sister, of the household precedence,
Had wronged his tenants, robbed his native land,
And made him mad, alike by life and death,
In love and sorrow. She had pored for years
What sort of woman could be suitable
To her sort of hate, to entertain it with;
And so, her very curiosity
Became hate too, and all the idealism
She ever used in life, was used for hate,
Till hate, so nourished, did exceed at last
The love from which it grew, in strength and heat,
And wrinkled her smooth conscience with a sense
Of disputable virtue (say not, sin)
When Christian doctrine was enforced at church.

And thus my father's sister was to me
My mother's hater. From that day, she did
Her duty to me, (I appreciate it
In her own word as spoken to herself)
Her duty, in large measure, well-pressed out,
But measured always. She was generous, bland,
More courteous than was tender, gave me still
The first place,–as if fearful that God's saints
Would look down suddenly and say, 'Herein
You missed a point, I think, through lack of love.'
Alas, a mother never is afraid
Of speaking angrily to any child,
Since love, she knows, is justified of love.

And I, I was a good child on the whole,
A meek and manageable child. Why not?
I did not live, to have the faults of life:
There seemed more true life in my father's grave
Than in all England. Since that threw me off
Who fain would cleave, (his latest will, they say,
Consigned me to his land) I only thought
Of lying quiet there where I was thrown
Like sea-weed on the rocks, and suffer her
To prick me to a pattern with her pin,
Fibre from fibre, delicate leaf from leaf,
And dry out from my drowned anatomy
The last sea-salt left in me.
So it was.
I broke the copious curls upon my head
In braids, because she liked smooth ordered hair.
I left off saying my sweet Tuscan words
Which still at any stirring of the heart
Came up to float across the English phrase,
As lilies, (Bene . . or che ch'è ) because
She liked my father's child to speak his tongue.
I learnt the collects and the catechism,
The creeds, from Athanasius back to Nice,
The Articles . . the Tracts against the times,
(By no means Buonaventure's 'Prick of Love,')
And various popular synopses of
Inhuman doctrines never taught by John,
Because she liked instructed piety.
I learnt my complement of classic French
(Kept pure of Balzac and neologism,)
And German also, since she liked a range
Of liberal education,–tongues, not books.
I learnt a little algebra, a little
Of the mathematics,–brushed with extreme flounce
The circle of the sciences, because
She misliked women who are frivolous.
I learnt the royal genealogies
Of Oviedo, the internal laws
Of the Burmese Empire, . . by how many feet
Mount Chimborazo outsoars Himmeleh,
What navigable river joins itself
To Lara, and what census of the year five
Was taken at Klagenfurt,–because she liked
A general insight into useful facts.
I learnt much music,–such as would have been
As quite impossible in Johnson's day
As still it might be wished–fine sleights of hand
And unimagined fingering, shuffling off
The hearer's soul through hurricanes of notes
To a noisy Tophet; and I drew . . costumes
From French engravings, nereids neatly draped,
With smirks of simmering godship,–I washed in
From nature, landscapes, (rather say, washed out.)
I danced the polka and Cellarius,
Spun glass, stuffed birds, and modelled flowers in wax,
Because she liked accomplishments in girls.
I read a score of books on womanhood
To prove, if women do not think at all,
They may teach thinking, (to a maiden aunt
Or else the author)–books demonstrating
Their right of comprehending husband's talk
When not too deep, and even of answering
With pretty 'may it please you,' or 'so it is,'–
Their rapid insight and fine aptitude,
Particular worth and general missionariness,
As long as they keep quiet by the fire
And never say 'no' when the world says 'ay,'
For that is fatal,–their angelic reach
Of virtue, chiefly used to sit and darn,
And fatten household sinners–their, in brief,
Potential faculty in everything
Of abdicating power in it: she owned
She liked a woman to be womanly,
And English women, she thanked God and sighed,
(Some people always sigh in thanking God)
Were models to the universe. And last
I learnt cross-stitch, because she did not like
To see me wear the night with empty hands,
A-doing nothing. So, my shepherdess
Was something after all, (the pastoral saints
Be praised for't) leaning lovelorn with pink eyes
To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks;
Her head uncrushed by that round weight of hat
So strangely similar to the tortoise-shell
Which slew the tragic poet.
By the way,
The works of women are symbolical.
We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight,
Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir,
To put on when you're weary–or a stool
To tumble over and vex you . . 'curse that stool!'
Or else at best, a cushion where you lean
And sleep, and dream of something we are not,
But would be for your sake. Alas, alas!
This hurts most, this . . that, after all, we are paid
The worth of our work, perhaps.
In looking down
Those years of education, (to return)
I wondered if Brinvilliers suffered more
In the water torture, . . flood succeeding flood
To drench the incapable throat and split the veins . .
Than I did. Certain of your feebler souls
Go out in such a process; many pine
To a sick, inodorous light; my own endured:
I had relations in the Unseen, and drew
The elemental nutriment and heat
From nature, as earth feels the sun at nights,
Or as a babe sucks surely in the dark,
I kept the life, thrust on me, on the outside
Of the inner life, with all its ample room
For heart and lungs, for will and intellect,
Inviolable by conventions. God,
I thank thee for that grace of thine!
At first,
I felt no life which was not patience,–did
The thing she bade me, without heed to a thing
Beyond it, sate in just the chair she placed,
With back against the window, to exclude
The sight of the great lime-tree on the lawn,
Which seemed to have come on purpose from the woods
To bring the house a message,–ay, and walked
Demurely in her carpeted low rooms,
As if I should not, harkening my own steps,
Misdoubt I was alive. I read her books,
Was civil to her cousin, Romney Leigh,
Gave ear to her vicar, tea to her visitors,
And heard them whisper, when I changed a cup,
(I blushed for joy at that!)–'The Italian child,
For all her blue eyes and her quiet ways,
Thrives ill in England; she is paler yet
Than when we came the last time; she will die.'

'Will die.' My cousin, Romney Leigh, blushed too,
With sudden anger, and approaching me
Said low between his teeth–'You're wicked now?
You wish to die and leave the world a-dusk
For others, with your naughty light blown out?'
I looked into his face defyingly.
He might have known, that, being what I was,
'Twas natural to like to get away
As far as dead folk can; and then indeed
Some people make no trouble when they die.
He turned and went abruptly, slammed the door
And shut his dog out.
Romney, Romney Leigh.
I have not named my cousin hitherto,
And yet I used him as a sort of friend;
My elder by few years, but cold and shy
And absent . . tender when he thought of it,
Which scarcely was imperative, grave betimes,
As well as early master of Leigh Hall,
Whereof the nightmare sate upon his youth
Repressing all its seasonable delights,
And agonising with a ghastly sense
Of universal hideous want and wrong
To incriminate possession. When he came
From college to the country, very oft
He crossed the hills on visits to my aunt,
With gifts of blue grapes from the hothouses,
A book in one hand,–mere statistics, (if
I chanced to lift the cover) count of all
The goats whose beards are sprouting down toward hell.
Against God's separating judgment-hour.
And she, she almost loved him,–even allowed
That sometimes he should seem to sigh my way;
It made him easier to be pitiful,
And sighing was his gift. So, undisturbed
At whiles she let him shut my music up
And push my needles down, and lead me out
To see in that south angle of the house
The figs grow black as if by a Tuscan rock.
On some light pretext. She would turn her head
At other moments, go to fetch a thing,
And leave me breath enough to speak with him,
For his sake; it was simple.
Sometimes too
He would have saved me utterly, it seemed,
He stood and looked so.
Once, he stood so near
He dropped a sudden hand upon my head
Bent down on woman's work, as soft as rain–
But then I rose and shook it off as fire,
The stranger's touch that took my father's place,
Yet dared seem soft.
I used him for a friend
Before I ever knew him for a friend.
'Twas better, 'twas worse also, afterward:
We came so close, we saw our differences
Too intimately. Always Romney Leigh
Was looking for the worms, I for the gods.
A godlike nature his; the gods look down,
Incurious of themselves; and certainly
'Tis well I should remember, how, those days
I was a worm too, and he looked on me.

A little by his act perhaps, yet more
By something in me, surely not my will,
I did not die. But slowly, as one in swoon,
To whom life creeps back in the form of death
With a sense of separation, a blind pain
Of blank obstruction, and a roar i' the ears
Of visionary chariots which retreat
As earth grows clearer . . slowly, by degrees,
I woke, rose up . . where was I? in the world:
For uses, therefore, I must count worth while.

I had a little chamber in the house,
As green as any privet-hedge a bird
Might choose to build in, though the nest itself
Could show but dead-brown sticks and straws; the walls
Were green, the carpet was pure green, the straight
Small bed was curtained greenly, and the folds
Hung green about the window, which let in
The out-door world with all its greenery.
You could not push your head out and escape
A dash of dawn-dew from the honeysuckle,
But so you were baptised into the grace
And privilege of seeing. . .
First, the lime,
(I had enough, there, of the lime, be sure,–
My morning-dream was often hummed away
By the bees in it;) past the lime, the lawn,
Which, after sweeping broadly round the house,
Went trickling through the shrubberies in a stream
Of tender turf, and wore and lost itself
Among the acacias, over which, you saw
The irregular line of elms by the deep lane
Which stopt the grounds and dammed the overflow
Of arbutus and laurel. Out of sight
The lane was; sunk so deep, no foreign tramp
Nor drover of wild ponies out of Wales
Could guess if lady's hall or tenant's lodge
Ddispensed such odours,–though his stick well -crooked
Might reach the lowest trail of blossoming briar
Which dipped upon the wall. Behind the elms,
And through their tops, you saw the folded hills
Striped up and down with hedges, (burley oaks
Projecting from the lines to show themselves)
Thro' which my cousin Romney's chimneys smoked
As still as when a silent mouth in frost
Breathes–showing where the woodlands hid Leigh Hall;
While far above, a jut of table-land,
A promontory without water, stretched,–
You could not catch it if the days were thick,
Or took it for a cloud; but, otherwise
The vigorous sun would catch it up at eve
And use it for an anvil till he had filled
The shelves of heaven with burning thunderbolts,
And proved he need not rest so early;–then
When all his setting trouble was resolved
Toa trance of passive glory, you might see
In apparition on the golden sky
(Alas, my Giotto's background!) the sheep run
Along the fine clear outline, small as mice
That run along a witch's scarlet thread.

Not a grand nature. Not my chestnut-woods
Of Vallombrosa, cleaving by the spurs
To the precipices. Not my headlong leaps
Of waters, that cry out for joy or fear
In leaping through the palpitating pines,
Like a white soul tossed out to eternity
With thrills of time upon it. Not indeed
My multitudinous mountains, sitting in
The magic circle, with the mutual touch
Electric, panting from their full deep hearts
Beneath the influent heavens, and waiting for
Communion and commission. Italy
Is one thing, England one.
On English ground
You understand the letter . . ere the fall,
How Adam lived in a garden. All the fields
Are tied up fast with hedges, nosegay-like;
The hills are crumpled plains–the plains, parterres–
The trees, round, woolly, ready to be clipped;
And if you seek for any wilderness
You find, at best, a park. A nature tamed
And grown domestic like a barn-door fowl,
Which does not awe you with its claws and beak,
Nor tempt you to an eyrie too high up,
But which, in cackling, sets you thinking of
Your eggs to-morrow at breakfast, in the pause
Of finer meditation.
Rather say
A sweet familiar nature, stealing in
As a dog might, or child, to touch your hand
Or pluck your gown, and humbly mind you so
Of presence and affection, excellent
For inner uses, from the things without.

I could not be unthankful, I who was
Entreated thus and holpen. In the room
I speak of, ere the house was well awake,
And also after it was well asleep,
I sat alone, and drew the blessing in
Of all that nature. With a gradual step,
A stir among the leaves, a breath, a ray,
It came in softly, while the angels made
A place for it beside me. The moon came,
And swept my chamber clean of foolish thoughts
The sun came, saying, 'Shall I lift this light
Against the lime-tree, and you will not look?
I make the birds sing–listen! . . but, for you.
God never hears your voice, excepting when
You lie upon the bed at nights and weep.'

Then, something moved me. Then, I wakened up
More slowly than I verily write now,
But wholly, at last, I wakened, opened wide
The window and my soul, and let the airs .
And out-door sights sweep gradual gospels in,
Regenerating what I was. O Life,
How oft we throw it off and think,–'Enough,
Enough of life in so much!–here's a cause
For rupture; herein we must break with Life,
Or be ourselves unworthy; here we are wronged,
Maimed, spoiled for aspiration; farewell Life!'
–And so, as froward babes, we hide our eyes
And think all ended.–Then, Life calls to us,
In some transformed, apocryphal, new voice,
Above us, or below us, or around . .
Perhaps we name it Nature's voice, or Love's,
Tricking ourselves, because we are more ashamed
So own our compensations than our griefs:
Still, Life's voice!–still, we make our peace with Life.

And I, so young then, was not sullen. Soon
I used to get up early, just to sit
And watch the morning quicken in the grey,
And hear the silence open like a flower,
Leaf after leaf,–and stroke with listless hand
The woodbine through the window, till at last
I came to do it with a sort of love,
At foolish unaware: whereat I smiled,–
A melancholy smile, to catch myself
Smiling for joy.
Capacity for joy
Admits temptation. It seemed, next, worth while
To dodge the sharp sword set against my life;
To slip down stairs through all the sleepy house,
As mute as any dream there, and escape
As a soul from the body, out of doors,–
Glide through the shrubberies, drop into the lane,
And wander on the hills an hour or two,
Then back again before the house should stir.

Or else I sat on in my chamber green,
And lived my life, and thought my thoughts, and prayed
My prayers without the vicar; read my books,
Without considering whether they were fit
To do me good. Mark, there. We get no good
By being ungenerous, even to a book,
And calculating profits . . so much help
By so much rending. It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,
Impassioned for its beauty and salt of truth–
'Tis then we get the right good from a book.

I read much. What my father taught before
From many a volume, Love re-emphasised
Upon the self-same pages: Theophrast
Grew tender with the memory of his eyes,
And Ælian made mine wet. The trick of Greek
And Latin, he had taught me, as he would
Have taught me wrestling or the game of fives
If such he had known.–most like a shipwrecked man
Who heaps his single platter with goats' cheese
And scarlet berries; or like any man
Who loves but one, and so gives all at once,
Because he has it, rather than because
He counts it worthy. Thus, my father gave;
And thus, as did the women formerly
By young Achilles, when they pinned the veil
Across the boy's audacious front, and swept
With tuneful laughs the silver-fretted rocks,
He wrapt his little daughter in his large
Man's doublet, careless did it fit or no.

But, after I had read for memory,
I read for hope. The path my father's foot
Had trod me out, which suddenly broke off,
(What time he dropped the wallet of the flesh
And passed) alone I carried on, and set
My child-heart 'gainst the thorny underwood,
To reach the grassy shelter of the trees.
Ah, babe i' the wood, without a brother-babe!
My own self-pity, like the red-breast bird,
Flies back to cover all that past with leaves.

Sublimest danger, over which none weeps,
When any young wayfaring soul goes forth
Alone, unconscious of the perilous road,
The day-sun dazzling in his limpid eyes,
To thrust his own way, he an alien, through
The world of books! Ah, you!–you think it fine,
You clap hands–'A fair day!'–you cheer him on,
As if the worst, could happen, were to rest
Too long beside a fountain. Yet, behold,
Behold!–the world of books is still the world;
And worldlings in it are less merciful
And more puissant. For the wicked there
Are winged like angels. Every knife that strikes,
Is edged from elemental fire to assail
A spiritual life. The beautiful seems right
By force of beauty, and the feeble wrong
Because of weakness. Power is justified,
Though armed against St. Michael. Many a crown
Covers bald foreheads. In the book-world, true,
There's no lack, neither, of God's saints and kings,
That shake the ashes of the grave aside
From their calm locks, and undiscomfited
Look stedfast truths against Time's changing mask.
True, many a prophet teaches in the roads;
True, many a seer pulls down the flaming heavens
Upon his own head in strong martyrdom,
In order to light men a moment's space.
But stay!–who judges?–who distinguishes
'Twixt Saul and Nahash justly, at first sight,
And leaves king Saul precisely at the sin,
To serve king David? who discerns at once
The sound of the trumpets, when the trumpets blow
For Alaric as well as Charlemagne?
Who judges prophets, and can tell true seers
From conjurors? The child, there? Would you leave
That child to wander in a battle-field
And push his innocent smile against the guns?
Or even in the catacombs, . . his torch
Grown ragged in the fluttering air, and all
The dark a-mutter round him? not a child!

I read books bad and good–some bad and good
At once: good aims not always make good books;
Well-tempered spades turn up ill-smelling soils
In digging vineyards, even: books, that prove
God's being so definitely, that man's doubt
Grows self-defined the other side the line,
Made Atheist by suggestion; moral books,
Exasperating to license; genial books,
Discounting from the human dignity;
And merry books, which set you weeping when
The sun shines,–ay, and melancholy books,
Which make you laugh that any one should weep
In this disjointed life, for one wrong more.

The world of books is still the world, I write,
And both worlds have God's providence, thank God,
To keep and hearten: with some struggle, indeed,
Among the breakers, some hard swimming through
The deeps–I lost breath in my soul sometimes
And cried 'God save me if there's any God.'
But even so, God save me; and, being dashed
From error on to error, every turn
Still brought me nearer to the central truth.

I thought so. All this anguish in the thick
Of men's opinions . . press and counterpress
Now up, now down, now underfoot, and now
Emergent . . all the best of it perhaps,
But throws you back upon a noble trust
And use of your own instinct,–merely proves
Pure reason stronger than bare inference
At strongest. Try it,–fix against heaven's wall
Your scaling ladders of high logic–mount
Step by step!–Sight goes faster; that still ray
Which strikes out from you, how, you cannot tell,
And why, you know not–(did you eliminate,
That such as you, indeed, should analyse?)
Goes straight and fast as light, and high as God.

The cygnet finds the water: but the man
Is born in ignorance of his element,
And feels out blind at first, disorganised
By sin i' the blood,–his spirit-insight dulled
And crossed by his sensations. Presently
We feel it quicken in the dark sometimes;
Then mark, be reverent, be obedient,–
For those dumb motions of imperfect life
Are oracles of vital Deity
Attesting the Hereafter. Let who says
'The soul's a clean white paper,' rather say,
A palimpsest, a prophets holograph
Defiled, erased and covered by a monk's,–
The apocalypse, by a Longus! poring on
Which obscene text, we may discern perhaps
Some fair, fine trace of what was written once,
Some upstroke of an alpha and omega
Expressing the old scripture.
Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret-room
Piled high with cases in my father's name;
Piled high, packed large,–where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books!
At last, because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.
As the earth
Plunges in fury, when the internal fires
Have reached and pricked her heart, and, throwing flat
The marts and temples, the triumphal gates
And towers of observation, clears herself
To elemental freedom–thus, my soul,
At poetry's divine first finger touch,
Let go conventions and sprang up surprised,
Convicted of the great eternities
Before two worlds.
What's this, Aurora Leigh,
You write so of the poets, and not laugh?
Those virtuous liars, dreamers after dark,
Exaggerators of the sun and moon,
And soothsayers in a tea-cup?
I write so
Of the only truth-tellers, now left to God,–
The only speakers of essential truth,
Posed to relative, comparative,
And temporal truths; the only holders by
His sun-skirts, through conventional grey glooms;
The only teachers who instruct mankind,
From just a shadow on a charnel wall,
To find man's veritable stature out,
Erect, sublime,–the measure of a man,
And that's the measure of an angel, says
The apostle. Ay, and while your common men
Build pyramids, gauge railroads, reign, reap, dine,
And dust the flaunty carpets of the world
For kings to walk on, or our senators,
The poet suddenly will catch them up
With his voice like a thunder. . 'This is soul,
This is life, this word is being said in heaven,
Here's God down on us! what are you about?
How all those workers start amid their work,
Look round, look up, and feel, a moment's space,
That carpet-dusting, though a pretty trade,
Is not the imperative labour after all.

My own best poets, am I one with you,
That thus I love you,–or but one through love?
Does all this smell of thyme about my feet
Conclude my visit to your holy hill
In personal presence, or but testify
The rustling of your vesture through my dreams
With influent odours? When my joy and pain,
My thought and aspiration, like the stops
Of pipe or flute, are absolutely dumb
If not melodious, do you play on me,
My pipers,–and if, sooth, you did not blow,
Would not sound come? or is the music mine,
As a man's voice or breath is called his own,
In breathed by the Life-breather? There's a doubt
For cloudy seasons!
But the sun was high
When first I felt my pulses set themselves
For concords; when the rhythmic turbulence
Of blood and brain swept outward upon words,
As wind upon the alders blanching them
By turning up their under-natures till
They trembled in dilation. O delight
And triumph of the poet,–who would say
A man's mere 'yes,' a woman's common 'no,'
A little human hope of that or this,
And says the word so that it burns you through
With a special revelation, shakes the heart
Of all the men and women in the world,
As if one came back from the dead and spoke,
With eyes too happy, a familiar thing
Become divine i' the utterance! while for him
The poet, the speaker, he expands with joy;
The palpitating angel in his flesh
Thrills inly with consenting fellowship
To those innumerous spirits who sun themselves
Outside of time.
O life, O poetry,
Which means life in life! cognisant of life
Beyond this blood-beat,–passionate for truth
Beyond these senses, –poetry, my life,–
My eagle, with both grappling feet still hot
From Zeus's thunder, who has ravished me
Away from all the shepherds, sheep, and dogs,
And set me in the Olympian roar and round
Of luminous faces, for a cup-bearer,
To keep the mouths of all the godheads moist
For everlasting laughters,–I, myself,
Half drunk across the beaker, with their eyes!
How those gods look!
Enough so, Ganymede.
We shall not bear above a round or two–
We drop the golden cup at Heré's foot
And swoon back to the earth,–and find ourselves
Face-down among the pine-cones, cold with dew,
While the dogs bark, and many a shepherd scoffs,
'What's come now to the youth?' Such ups and downs
Have poets.
Am I such indeed? The name
Is royal, and to sign it like a queen,
Is what I dare not,–though some royal blood
Would seem to tingle in me now and then,
With sense of power and ache,–with imposthumes
And manias usual to the race. Howbeit
I dare not: 'tis too easy to go mad,
And ape a Bourbon in a crown of straws;
The thing's too common.
Many fervent souls
Strike rhyme on rhyme, who would strike steel on steel
If steel had offered, in a restless heat
Of doing something. Many tender souls
Have strung their losses on a rhyming thread.
As children, cowslips:–the more pains they take,
The work more withers. Young men, ay, and maids,
Too often sow their wild oats in tame verse.
Before they sit down under their own vine
And live for use. Alas, near all the birds
Will sing at dawn,–and yet we do not take
The chaffering swallow for the holy lark.

In those days, though, I never analysed
Myself even. All analysis comes late.
You catch a sight of Nature, earliest,
In full front sun-face, and your eyelids wink
And drop before the wonder of 't; you miss
The form, through seeing the light. I lived, those days,
And wrote because I lived–unlicensed else:
My heart beat in my brain. Life's violent flood
Abolished bounds,–and, which my neighbour's field,
Which mine, what mattered? It is so in youth.
We play at leap-frog over the god Term;
The love within us and the love without
Are mixed, confounded; if we are loved or love,
We scarce distinguish. So, with other power.
Being acted on and acting seem the same:
In that first onrush of life's chariot-wheels,
We know not if the forests move or we.

And so, like most young poets, in a flush
Of individual life, I poured myself
Along the veins of others, and achieved
Mere lifeless imitations of life verse,
And made the living answer for the dead,
Profaning nature. 'Touch not, do not taste,
Nor handle,'–we're too legal, who write young:
We beat the phorminx till we hurt our thumbs,
As if still ignorant of counterpoint;
We call the Muse . . 'O Muse, benignant Muse!'–
As if we had seen her purple-braided head .
With the eyes in it start between the boughs
As often as a stag's. What make-believe,
With so much earnest! what effete results,
From virile efforts! what cold wire-drawn odes
From such white heats!–bucolics, where the cows
Would scare the writer if they splashed the mud
In lashing off the flies,–didactics, driven
Against the heels of what the master said;
And counterfeiting epics, shrill with trumps
A babe might blow between two straining cheeks
Of bubbled rose, to make his mother laugh;
And elegiac griefs, and songs of love,
Like cast-off nosegays picked up on the road,
The worse for being warm: all these things, writ
On happy mornings, with a morning heart,
That leaps for love, is active for resolve,
Weak for art only. Oft, the ancient forms
Will thrill, indeed, in carrying the young blood.
The wine-skins, now and then, a little warped,
Will crack even, as the new wine gurgles in.
Spare the old bottles!–spill not the new wine.

By Keats's soul, the man who never stepped
In gradual progress like another man,
But, turning grandly on his central self,
Ensphered himself in twenty perfect years
And died, not young,–(the life of a long life,
Distilled to a mere drop, falling like a tear
Upon the world's cold cheek to make it burn
For ever;) by that strong excepted soul,
I count it strange, and hard to understand,
That nearly all young poets should write old;
That Pope was sexagenarian at sixteen,
And beardless Byron academical,
And so with others. It may be, perhaps,
Such have not settled long and deep enough
In trance, to attain to clairvoyance,–and still
The memory mixes with the vision, spoils,
And works it turbid.
Or perhaps, again,
In order to discover the Muse-Sphinx,
The melancholy desert must sweep round,
Behind you, as before.–
For me, I wrote
False poems, like the rest, and thought them true.
Because myself was true in writing them.
I, peradventure, have writ true ones since
With less complacence.
But I could not hide
My quickening inner life from those at watch.
They saw a light at a window now and then,
They had not set there. Who had set it there?
My father's sister started when she caught
My soul agaze in my eyes. She could not say
I had no business with a sort of soul,
But plainly she objected,–and demurred,
That souls were dangerous things to carry straight
Through all the spilt saltpetre of the world.

She said sometimes, 'Aurora, have you done
Your task this morning?–have you read that book?
And are you ready for the crochet here?'–
As if she said, 'I know there's something wrong,
I know I have not ground you down enough
To flatten and bake you to a wholesome crust
For household uses and proprieties,
Before the rain has got into my barn
And set the grains a-sprouting. What, you're green
With out-door impudence? you almost grow?'
To which I answered, 'Would she hear my task,
And verify my abstract of the book?
And should I sit down to the crochet work?
Was such her pleasure?' . . Then I sate and teased
The patient needle til it split the thread,
Which oozed off from it in meandering lace
From hour to hour. I was not, therefore, sad;
My soul was singing at a work apart
Behind the wall of sense, as safe from harm
As sings the lark when sucked up out of sight,
In vortices of glory and blue air.

And so, through forced work and spontaneous work,
The inner life informed the outer life,
Reduced the irregular blood to settled rhythms,
Made cool the forehead with fresh-sprinkling dreams,
And, rounding to the spheric soul the thin
Pined body, struck a colour up the cheeks,
Though somewhat faint. I clenched my brows across
My blue eyes greatening in the looking-glass,
And said, 'We'll live, Aurora! we'll be strong.
The dogs are on us–but we will not die.'

Whoever lives true life, will love true love.
I learnt to love that England. Very oft,
Before the day was born, or otherwise
Through secret windings of the afternoons,
I threw my hunters off and plunged myself
Among the deep hills, as a hunted stag
Will take the waters, shivering with the fear
And passion of the course. And when, at last
Escaped,–so many a green slope built on slope
Betwixt me and the enemy's house behind,
I dared to rest, or wander,–like a rest
Made sweeter for the step upon the grass,–
And view the ground's most gentle dimplement,
(As if God's finger touched but did not press
In making England!) such an up and down
Of verdure,–nothing too much up or down,
A ripple of land; such little hills, the sky
Can stoop to tenderly and the wheatfields climb;
Such nooks of valleys, lined with orchises,
Fed full of noises by invisible streams;
And open pastures, where you scarcely tell
White daisies from white dew,–at intervals
The mythic oaks and elm-trees standing out
Self-poised upon their prodigy of shade,–
I thought my father's land was worthy too
Of being my Shakspeare's.
Very oft alone,
Unlicensed; not unfrequently with leave
To walk the third with Romney and his friend
The rising painter, Vincent Carrington,
Whom men judge hardly, as bee-bonneted,
Because he holds that, paint a body well,
You paint a soul by implication, like
The grand first Master. Pleasant walks! for if
He said . . 'When I was last in Italy' . .
It sounded as an instrument that's played
Too far off for the tune–and yet it's fine
To listen.
Often we walked only two,
If cousin Romney pleased to walk with me.
We read, or talked, or quarrelled, as it chanced;
We were not lovers, nor even friends well-matched–
Say rather, scholars upon different tracks,
And thinkers disagreed; he, overfull
Of what is, and I, haply, overbold
For what might be.
But then the thrushes sang,
And shook my pulses and the elms' new leaves,–
And then I turned, and held my finger up,
And bade him mark that, howsoe'er the world
Went ill, as he related, certainly
The thrushes still sang in it.–At which word
His brow would soften,–and he bore with me
In melancholy patience, not unkind,
While, breaking into voluble ecstasy,
I flattered all the beauteous country round,
As poets use . . .the skies, the clouds, the fields,
The happy violets hiding from the roads
The primroses run down to, carrying gold,–
The tangled hedgerows, where the cows push out
Impatient horns and tolerant churning mouths
'Twixt dripping ash-boughs,–hedgerows all alive
With birds and gnats and large white butterflies
Which look as if the May-flower had sought life
And palpitated forth upon the wind,–
Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver mist,
Farms, granges, doubled up among the hills,
And cattle grazing in the watered vales,
And cottage-chimneys smoking from the woods,
And cottage-gardens smelling everywhere,
Confused with smell of orchards. 'See,' I said,
'And see! is God not with us on the earth?
And shall we put Him down by aught we do?
Who says there's nothing for the poor and vile
Save poverty and wickedness? behold!'
And ankle-deep in English grass I leaped,
And clapped my hands, and called all very fair.

In the beginning when God called all good,
Even then, was evil near us, it is writ.
But we, indeed, who call things good and fair,
The evil is upon us while we speak;
Deliver us from evil, let us pray.

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Because I Was Dew

I am the dew
a soothing moment to greet anxious

I am the dew
featuring the beauty of the momentary flash of the morning sun greets

I am the dew
which will soon disappear with the heat sun

I am the dew
like what I'm telling you
that should not grieve when the dew was
disappeared and hope to return again
because I was dew


Copyright © 2012

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Because Assange Was Bold Leaking Government Secrets

only one prime question remains on international soap
opera stage will British peons sacrilege destroy sanctity
of global embassies' diplomatic status in spite revenge
because Assange was bold leaking government secrets?

who fool script wrote UK using terrorist tactics to storm
an embassy in style remix Iranian railroaded false charges
past model CIA hit South American too quickly forgotten?
spy umbrella stabbing public fatal poison lacks warnings?


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John Masefield Was More

John Masefield was more than a man of rhyme
Perhaps the greatest poet of his time
At least that's how I feel about him anyway
Though some may not agree with what I say.

John Masefield he penned many a verse play
And even his longer poems enjoyed and read today
The Everlasting Mercy and The Widow in the Bye Street
As narrative masterpieces would be hard to beat.

John Masefield literary works will live forever more
His fame has spread far beyond England's shore
He was a master of the wordsmith trade
'Tis true that poets are born and not made.

John Masefield was more than a literary man of note
He was indeed a very brilliant poet
A high standard of writing into old age he did attain
And will we ever see his likes again?

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He Was More than a Dog to Me

My dog Bosky
When small
Looked very chubby
Had a big
Burly body
Black coat shining
Long tail wagging
Ready to pounce
On anybody
Intruding
Old and young
Would fear
Very sight of his
Would know
From a distance
If I was coming
Started barking
Moved in the garden
With tremendous
Anxiety
Followed my commands
With full sincerity
At times behaved
Naughty
Won’t listen to me
Ran here and there
Asking me
To play with him
Slept near my bed
Throughout his life
In thick and thin
Always with me
More than a friend
Was a part of the family
Guarded the house
With full responsibility
Sickness brought
Silence to him
Made me look
Helpless and weak
The day he died
It was raining
As if even god was
Crying
Always remains
In my memory
Eyes become watery
When I think of him
He was more than a
Dog to me


(In memory of my pet dog Bosky)

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Pooh Bear learns about Enjambment

Pooh liked Autumn. Autumn means walking with a scarf round your neck and sometimes seeing your breath in the air like a silent conversation, and wet leaves underfoot and twigs going crackle or sometimes crack! which can be scary if you aren't holding CR's hand.

So here they are, walking together paw-in-hand down the path in Hundred-Acre Wood, and Pooh is humming a happy hum with words looking for it, rather like inquisitive flies that don't quite land on you, wondering if they should stay or not, and how the other flies feel if two of them land together...

'CR..' said Pooh, 'What's en-jamb-ment? ' It sounded like what happens when a wasp gets stuck in a honey jar, or perhaps a marmalade jar.

'That's a long word, Pooh...' said CR, wondering how to explain to a Bear Of Little Brain Yet Poetically Gifted, in the easiest way, when you're not too sure yourself...

'Well...' said CR at last, 'you don't really need it, Pooh, because your Hums all finish each line with a rhyme - so everyone knows just where they are....but suppose you get to the end of a line, and the line looks around like Eeyore does after a big mouthful of juicy autumn grass, and it can't see another line that wants to pair with it in a friendly rhyme.... then if you let it just go on being by itself - like Eeyore - and it's happy to be that way, if occasionally grumbly about it - that's called 'free verse'.

'So then you can just go on and on without thinking about when to stop... but then if you write it down so that other people can read it without getting out of breath, what 'free verse poets' do is like turning over the page of a book and wondering what's coming - like, is there a scary illustration on the next page, or a Surprise, or only a few lines and THE END - what these poets do, is to treat the lines the same way as pages, so that at the end of each line, you wonder a little bit more than usual, what's coming in the next line... instead of yawning and wondering if it's time for A Little Something...'

'I see..' said Pooh, in the way you do when you're a Very Polite Bear but don't really see, not yet anyway...

Then he remembered that poem by Rupert Somebody that CR had told him was an Extended Metaphor, which had that memorable line which the Poetic Bear could have written himself: '...and is there hunny still for tea? ...' though of course Pooh was always careful, himself, to have a line of hunnypots up there where you could see that the future was golden and hunny-coloured...

'CR...' said Pooh in that happy feeling when the brain seems to sorting things out for you, '...so if you wrote carefully in a book, '... and is there hunny still for tea? ...' you could write it with the first line

...and is there...

and people would wonder what you were going to ask them... or

...and is there hunny...

and they'd wonder, what you were asking about hunny; or

... and is there hunny still...

and they might be suddenly worried that the hunny had run out; or just

...and is there hunny still for tea?

which tells them exactly what you're thinking without making them think too much? '

'Exactly! ' said CR (though it sounded more 'exackly' because he was happy and excited) ' You really are a Poetic Bear, Pooh! '

And he squeezed Pooh's paw in a Specially Friendly fashion, and a hunny-coloured glow filled Pooh, as one more Useful Thing about Poetry was put into place...

And as they returned home for a Little Something, Pooh was humming a hum with words flying curiously around it, which would be his first Free Verse Hum With Enjambment which grown-up poets would read with that little extra interest, as they came to the end of each line, and know that it was written by W.Edward Bear Esquire, Poet...

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Better It Would Have Been (Sonnet Corona / Crown Of Sonnets)

I

Without you much better it would have been,
if in this wide world under all the skies
I did not know you, I had never seen
the glimmer, the attraction in your eyes.

Better it would have been if I unseen
at the braking of that particular day
joyous, somewhat sincere like a teen
went on another different kind of way,

I would then have totally missed you
as our love, our joy was sealed in vain.
You would not have opportunity to do
things that leave much heartache and pain

as your heart was set in some treachery,
your blunt rebuke was not sought by me.


II

Your blunt rebuke was not sought by me,
yet you gave it to me as if earned,
as if from it I was not to be free,
its impact did hurt and really burned

right into my depths, my heart's inner core
and still I then very much loved you
every day more and even much more
as something very sincere and true

but my Lord I loved more deeper still
as He always dwelled in everything
and I try to live by His very will,
with your love being at times a cursing

and at times there was water on my glasses;
when the wild wind rushes through the grasses.


III

When the wild wind rushes through the grasses,
it is something that you will never see
nor the beauty of the places were it passes
as you can never be really quite free

from the rich earthly things that embraces
you in wantonness, in deep iniquity
and at many different kinds of places
high up on the hill and down in the lea

diamonds adorn grasses and wild flowers
as if nature cries for you and me
as tears of dew that shines, not from showers
while life is how it's determined to be,

when you had chosen a fresh sort of start;
I did not ask you to return my heart.


IV

I did not ask you to return my heart
you have trampled it again and again
and now it would be really just in vain
as it is broken in every part

but now from each other being apart
we live separate lives of joy and pain
and the simple fact does still remain,
it does not take someone really quite smart

to know that when you do not have me
your whole life becomes somewhat mundane,
then you do not really want to be free
and I know that it sounds very inane
but obviously I cannot anymore be
yours in love's strange painful mystery.


V

Yours in love's strange painful mystery
were without any tears and full of glee
but left me totally broken hearted
then I noted after more than fifteen years

that you did not take a last kind of kiss,
from me was taking whatever you could,
had totally forgotten our sweet bliss,
maybe I knew this was the way that it would.

I wish time and again not to have know you
in the way that it ended when you were gone,
while then you had been wickedly untrue
had have intimate sex with someone,

it's sometimes hard to be the only one,
when at night in darkness I lie down alone.


VI

When at night in darkness I lie down alone
the golden moon and all the stars are bright
and some of them to me are quite unknown,
Orion and the seven sisters gleam at night

but life does continually carry on
the morning sun seems at times out of sight
and it is stripped from all affection
but can constantly bring back life and light

to what is still left of my kind of world,
as if everything is falling apart
and in all the things that I do behold
you seem to be somehow the crucial part

as if everything was astray leaden,
as you left me, my life did then deaden.


VII

As you left me, my life did then deaden
as if being tied up and underfed,
walking away, not anymore a maiden,
leaving my heart filled with only dread.

In love I saw you as pure and holy
a mother for children, true to the gods,
but with your lover you acted lowly
as you did cast me away to life's odds

and you have lost all the joyful graces
with the very thoughts of you that remain,
images of your many different faces
are filled to the brim with utter pain

and to meet you again I am not keen,
without you much better it would have been.

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Robert Frost

Home Burial

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him. She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again. He spoke
Advancing toward her: "What is it you see
From up there always? -- for I want to know."
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: "What is it you see?"
Mounting until she cowered under him.
"I will find out now -- you must tell me, dear."
She, in her place, refused him any help,
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him look, sure that he wouldn't see,
Blind creature; and a while he didn't see.
But at last he murmured, "Oh" and again, "Oh."

"What is it -- what?" she said.

"Just that I see."

"You don't," she challenged. "Tell me what it is."

"The wonder is I didn't see at once.
I never noticed it from here before.
I must be wonted to it -- that's the reason.
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble,
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill. We haven't to mind those.
But I understand: it is not the stones,
But the child's mound ----"

"Don't, don't, don't,
don't," she cried.

She withdrew, shrinking from beneath his arm
That rested on the banister, and slid downstairs;
And turned on him with such a daunting look,
He said twice over before he knew himself:
"Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?"

"Not you! -- Oh, where's my hat? Oh, I don't need it!
I must get out of here. I must get air.--
I don't know rightly whether any man can."

"Amy! Don't go to someone else this time.
Listen to me. I won't come down the stairs."
He sat and fixed his chin between his fists.
"There's something I should like to ask you, dear."

"You don't know how to ask it."
"Help me, then."

Her fingers moved the latch for all reply.

"My words are nearly always an offense.
I don't know how to speak of anything
So as to please you. But I might be taught,
I should suppose. I can't say I see how.
A man must partly give up being a man
With womenfolk. We could have some arrangement
By which I'd bind myself to keep hands off
Anything special you're a-mind to name.
Though I don't like such things 'twixt those that love.
Two that don't love can't live together without them.
But two that do can't live together with them."
She moved the latch a little. "Don't -- don't go.
Don't carry it to someone else this time.
Tell me about it if it's something human.
Let me into your grief. I'm not so much
Unlike other folks as your standing there
Apart would make me out. Give me my chance.
I do think, though, you overdo it a little.
What was it brought you up to think it the thing
To take your mother-loss of a first child
So inconsolably -- in the face of love.
You'd think his memory might be satisfied ----"

"There you go sneering now!"

"I'm not, I'm not!
You make me angry. I'll come down to you.
God, what a woman! And it's come to this,
A man can't speak of his own child that's dead."

"You can't because you don't know how to speak.
If you had any feelings, you that dug
With your own hand -- how could you? -- his little grave;
I saw you from that very window there,
Making the gravel leap and leap in air,
Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thought, Who is that man? I didn't know you.
And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs
To look again, and still your spade kept lifting.
Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice
Out in the kitchen, and I don't know why,
But I went near to see with my own eyes.
You could sit there with the stains on your shoes
Of the fresh earth from your own baby's grave
And talk about your everyday concerns.
You had stood the spade up against the wall
Outside there in the entry, for I saw it."

"I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed.
I'm cursed. God, if I don't believe I'm cursed."

"I can repeat the very words you were saying:
'Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.'
Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlour?
You couldn't care! The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.
Friends make pretense of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people, and things they understand.
But the world's evil. I won't have grief so
If I can change it. Oh, I won't, I won't!"

"There, you have said it all and you feel better.
You won't go now. You're crying. Close the door.
The heart's gone out of it: why keep it up?
Amyl There's someone coming down the road!"

"You -- oh, you think the talk is all. I must go --
Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you ----"

"If -- you -- do!" She was opening the door wider.
"Where do you mean to go? First tell me that.
I'll follow and bring you back by force. I will! --"

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Patrick White

You Were A Hooker At Sixteen

YOU WERE A HOOKER BY SIXTEEN

You were a hooker by sixteen.
Your mother, your madame
The navy at N.F.B. Esquimalt, your john.
In the triplex, next door, upstairs
on a Friday night, all the windows
broken from the inside by whiskey bottles.
My friend, since you were seven,
how we struggled to keep our innocence
out of the world's greasy hands.
Oil slick on the rose.
White peonies of blood-stained Kleenex
in the toilet bowl. Eclipse of the flowers
in a city of gardens. Even when the stars
were out, the darkness lurked, the doorways
housed strangers like trap door spiders.
Joy held a grudge against our wariness.
The windows didn't trust us, and the street
was a firewalk of ordeals to test us
for things we really didn't comprehend
but sensed, like broken glass, were crucial.

Painful to remember even now,
grey, grey, grey, the middle-aged children
trying to inch their way through the concrete
like dandelions or blades of grass,
or when it was wet, wrote their names in it,
each the founding member of a different slab,
gravestones with graffiti epitaphs
laid like bets against a future
that had been conditioned
by violence, poverty, disappointment.
The mythic inflation of human extremes
venting fumaroles of pent up emotions
entrenched like killer bees in their hearts
swarming the children in the agony of their perversity
as if they were always trying to get even with God
for something that drove them mad
with distemper and spiritual rabies.
Desecration always the answer.
Smashing beautiful things, debunking
the rare gestures of human divinity
that reminded them of who they weren't,
fouling the waters of the children
with the effluvium of their own degeneracy.

I can see the chestnuts of your big brown eyes,
your helical blonde hair, your mulatto lips
and the pearl of your nacreous smile
when we walked through the wild broom fields
at the edge of town, and you forgot
how much your life hurt. Your mother.
Your body. Your corrosive acquiescence.
I should have made love to you
when you asked me why I hadn't
and all I could say, because it was true,
I wanted to be different for you.
I wanted to show you what water couldn't manage,
if you filled a bathtub up with tears,
you could always wash off in the stars.
You could burn off with light.
You could polish gold in the fire.
You could get out of the net
like the Circlet of Western Fish in Pisces,
out of the fetid uncleaned fish tank,
and see for yourself how vast the ocean is.

I didn't know of a better way to be with you
especially when you showed up on Saturday morning
with wounds you'd keep to yourself
the rest of your life, and I wouldn't ask,
it could have been anyone of a dozen men,
who bruised the beautiful blue eyelids of the rose,
and how, phosphorus and dry ice in my heart,
I wanted to give them a sex change
and turn them out like working girls on car seats
in the badlands of the Hindu woodlots
that reeked like seaweed on the moon.

Murder too good for the likes of them
in the ferocity of what was left of my boyish purity
I wanted to introduce them to the kind of agony
that feeds on itself, a root-fire, an inflammation
that can't be contained by remorse or forgiveness.
Thorns on the roses they use to wipe their asses.

How many gates ago was that, how many
forbidden thresholds crossed, how many
long sidewalks you walked down alone
like a gazelle in the rain
with your stilettoes in your hand
thinking about nightschool
to become a nurse's aide. Gone now,
noxious vapours from a street vent.
Heard you dumped a trick in Montreal
as soon as you got off the plane.
I went on to university which was
a different kind of whoredom without the fun
and then deepened my alienation as a poet
by refusing to forget about you
when I entered the witness protection programme
and disguised myself in my solitude
to keep the nightmares from seeping back in
like radon gas summoned to a seance in the basement
where all the bodies were buried
that had made their bones at our expense.

Still doesn't make sense to me after all these years.
Surreal atrocities and ironic black farces
you didn't know whether to laugh or cry at.
As I get older, little archipelagoes of memories
surface from that lost continent of childhood
before it broke up and went its separate ways.
I take little doses of depression everyday
to immunize myself against the poison
of all those people who threw themselves
like bad meat down the wishing wells of the children
we did an unconvincing job of being,
so little joy in the way we looked at ourselves
when no one else was. Salvage and shipwrecks.

Time insulates and buffs, brokers and deals,
but it does not heal. You love someone,
and you loved them even before
you learned how to feel, and they're in
a worse mess than you are, and you burn
to help them out like one constellation to another,
a bear trap in a marijuana patch baited
like Andromeda chained and helpless on the rocks
and you want to slay the inevitability of dragons,
but all you've got for a sword is the hand of a clock
and the courage of a badly mauled heart
and thirty-seven light years of remembering
your unspeakable silence on a Saturday morning
and the tenderness of you leaning your head
against my shoulder as we walked
as if I were the mountain and you
were the avalanche looking for someone
to hold on to you like a meteor shower
at the end of an era of one-eyed telescopes.

Hope you're a nurse somewhere now in the world.
Clean sheets and a compassionate bedside manner.
Maybe staring out of a window on the nightward
at the stars above and the city lights below
as we used to look down from Mt. Tolmie
to see the firefly of Port Angeles across the Georgia Strait
like a sister galaxy, Messier 31,
in the Great Square of Pegasus
where I buried our new myth of origin
in that constellation I made up for us
like a time capsule of what we could save
of our childhoods, and never dig up again.

O but that fathomless silence on Saturday morning
like a black hole in the sunshine, and the sky,
the injured bird in your eyes, has taught me more
about the crazy wisdom of compassion
and the injustice of suffering before you had a voice
to shriek it as if your nails were striating glass
like a diamond-cutter or a snow blind glacier
or a mirror you clawed until it bled red roses,
than my last eight books and four awards for poetry have.

Every anti-hero needs an anti-muse of dark energy
to fire things up like a cold furnace
in a lighthouse on the dark side of the moon,
that doesn't listen to its own storm warnings
and goes off in a lifeboat to look for you
as if I could still keep you from drowning
in a sea of shadows after all these years.
Three bells and all's well, I hope.
Though probability's seldom esteemed
for the prophet it is. You left me your silence,
as if nothing else could answer me,
and I've been listening in my solitude ever since
for the hush of your shoes coming down the hospital hall.

PATRICK WHITE

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Aurora Leigh (excerpts)

[Book 1]
I am like,
They tell me, my dear father. Broader brows
Howbeit, upon a slenderer undergrowth
Of delicate features, -- paler, near as grave ;
But then my mother's smile breaks up the whole,
And makes it better sometimes than itself.
So, nine full years, our days were hid with God
Among his mountains : I was just thirteen,
Still growing like the plants from unseen roots
In tongue-tied Springs, -- and suddenly awoke
To full life and life 's needs and agonies,
With an intense, strong, struggling heart beside
A stone-dead father. Life, struck sharp on death,
Makes awful lightning. His last word was, `Love --'
`Love, my child, love, love !' -- (then he had done with grief)
`Love, my child.' Ere I answered he was gone,
And none was left to love in all the world.
There, ended childhood. What succeeded next
I recollect as, after fevers, men
Thread back the passage of delirium,
Missing the turn still, baffled by the door ;
Smooth endless days, notched here and there with knives ;
A weary, wormy darkness, spurr'd i' the flank
With flame, that it should eat and end itself
Like some tormented scorpion. Then at last
I do remember clearly, how there came
A stranger with authority, not right,
(I thought not) who commanded, caught me up
From old Assunta's neck ; how, with a shriek,
She let me go, -- while I, with ears too full
Of my father's silence, to shriek back a word,
In all a child's astonishment at grief
Stared at the wharf-edge where she stood and moaned,
My poor Assunta, where she stood and moaned !
The white walls, the blue hills, my Italy,
Drawn backward from the shuddering steamer-deck,
Like one in anger drawing back her skirts
Which supplicants catch at. Then the bitter sea
Inexorably pushed between us both,
And sweeping up the ship with my despair
Threw us out as a pasture to the stars.
Ten nights and days we voyaged on the deep ;
Ten nights and days, without the common face
Of any day or night ; the moon and sun
Cut off from the green reconciling earth,
To starve into a blind ferocity
And glare unnatural ; the very sky
(Dropping its bell-net down upon the sea
As if no human heart should 'scape alive,)
Bedraggled with the desolating salt,
Until it seemed no more that holy heaven
To which my father went. All new and strange
The universe turned stranger, for a child.
Then, land ! -- then, England ! oh, the frosty cliffs
Looked cold upon me. Could I find a home
Among those mean red houses through the fog ?
And when I heard my father's language first
From alien lips which had no kiss for mine
I wept aloud, then laughed, then wept, then wept,
And some one near me said the child was mad
Through much sea-sickness. The train swept us on.
Was this my father's England ? the great isle ?
The ground seemed cut up from the fellowship
Of verdure, field from field, as man from man ;
The skies themselves looked low and positive,
As almost you could touch them with a hand,
And dared to do it they were so far off
From God's celestial crystals ; all things blurred
And dull and vague. Did Shakspeare and his mates
Absorb the light here ? -- not a hill or stone
With heart to strike a radiant colour up
Or active outline on the indifferent air.
I think I see my father's sister stand
Upon the hall-step of her country-house
To give me welcome. She stood straight and calm,
Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight
As if for taming accidental thoughts
From possible pulses ; brown hair pricked with grey
By frigid use of life, (she was not old
Although my father's elder by a year)
A nose drawn sharply yet in delicate lines ;
A close mild mouth, a little soured about
The ends, through speaking unrequited loves
Or peradventure niggardly half-truths ;
Eyes of no colour, -- once they might have smiled,
But never, never have forgot themselves
In smiling ; cheeks, in which was yet a rose
Of perished summers, like a rose in a book,
Kept more for ruth than pleasure, -- if past bloom,
Past fading also.
She had lived, we'll say,
A harmless life, she called a virtuous life,
A quiet life, which was not life at all,
(But that, she had not lived enough to know)
Between the vicar and the country squires,
The lord-lieutenant looking down sometimes
From the empyrean to assure their souls
Against chance-vulgarisms, and, in the abyss
The apothecary, looked on once a year
To prove their soundness of humility.
The poor-club exercised her Christian gifts
Of knitting stockings, stitching petticoats,
Because we are of one flesh after all
And need one flannel (with a proper sense
Of difference in the quality) -- and still
The book-club, guarded from your modern trick
Of shaking dangerous questions from the crease,
Preserved her intellectual. She had lived
A sort of cage-bird life, born in a cage,
Accounting that to leap from perch to perch
Was act and joy enough for any bird.
Dear heaven, how silly are the things that live
In thickets, and eat berries !
I, alas,
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage,
And she was there to meet me. Very kind.
Bring the clean water, give out the fresh seed.
She stood upon the steps to welcome me,
Calm, in black garb. I clung about her neck, --
Young babes, who catch at every shred of wool
To draw the new light closer, catch and cling
Less blindly. In my ears, my father's word
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in shells,
`Love, love, my child.' She, black there with my grief,
Might feel my love -- she was his sister once,
I clung to her. A moment, she seemed moved,
Kissed me with cold lips, suffered me to cling,
And drew me feebly through the hall into
The room she sate in.
There, with some strange spasm
Of pain and passion, she wrung loose my hands
Imperiously, and held me at arm's length,
And with two grey-steel naked-bladed eyes
Searched through my face, -- ay, stabbed it through and through,
Through brows and cheeks and chin, as if to find
A wicked murderer in my innocent face,
If not here, there perhaps. Then, drawing breath,
She struggled for her ordinary calm
And missed it rather, -- told me not to shrink,
As if she had told me not to lie or swear, --
`She loved my father, and would love me too
As long as I deserved it.' Very kind.

[Book 5]

AURORA LEIGH, be humble. Shall I hope
To speak my poems in mysterious tune
With man and nature ? -- with the lava-lymph
That trickles from successive galaxies
Still drop by drop adown the finger of God
In still new worlds ? -- with summer-days in this ?
That scarce dare breathe they are so beautiful ?--
With spring's delicious trouble in the ground,
Tormented by the quickened blood of roots,
And softly pricked by golden crocus-sheaves
In token of the harvest-time of flowers ?--
With winters and with autumns, -- and beyond,
With the human heart's large seasons, when it hopes
And fears, joys, grieves, and loves ? -- with all that strain
Of sexual passion, which devours the flesh
In a sacrament of souls ? with mother's breasts
Which, round the new-made creatures hanging there,
Throb luminous and harmonious like pure spheres ? --
With multitudinous life, and finally
With the great escapings of ecstatic souls,
Who, in a rush of too long prisoned flame,
Their radiant faces upward, burn away
This dark of the body, issuing on a world,
Beyond our mortal ? -- can I speak my verse
Sp plainly in tune to these things and the rest,
That men shall feel it catch them on the quick,
As having the same warrant over them
To hold and move them if they will or no,
Alike imperious as the primal rhythm
Of that theurgic nature ? I must fail,
Who fail at the beginning to hold and move
One man, -- and he my cousin, and he my friend,
And he born tender, made intelligent,
Inclined to ponder the precipitous sides
Of difficult questions ; yet, obtuse to me,
Of me, incurious ! likes me very well,
And wishes me a paradise of good,
Good looks, good means, and good digestion, -- ay,
But otherwise evades me, puts me off
With kindness, with a tolerant gentleness, --
Too light a book for a grave man's reading ! Go,
Aurora Leigh : be humble.
There it is,
We women are too apt to look to One,
Which proves a certain impotence in art.
We strain our natures at doing something great,
Far less because it 's something great to do,
Than haply that we, so, commend ourselves
As being not small, and more appreciable
To some one friend. We must have mediators
Betwixt our highest conscience and the judge ;
Some sweet saint's blood must quicken in our palms
Or all the life in heaven seems slow and cold :
Good only being perceived as the end of good,
And God alone pleased, -- that's too poor, we think,
And not enough for us by any means.
Ay, Romney, I remember, told me once
We miss the abstract when we comprehend.
We miss it most when we aspire, -- and fail.
Yet, so, I will not. -- This vile woman's way
Of trailing garments, shall not trip me up :
I 'll have no traffic with the personal thought
In art's pure temple. Must I work in vain,
Without the approbation of a man ?
It cannot be ; it shall not. Fame itself,
That approbation of the general race,
Presents a poor end, (though the arrow speed,
Shot straight with vigorous finger to the white,)
And the highest fame was never reached except
By what was aimed above it. Art for art,
And good for God Himself, the essential Good !
We 'll keep our aims sublime, our eyes erect,
Although our woman-hands should shake and fail ;
And if we fail .. But must we ? --
Shall I fail ?
The Greeks said grandly in their tragic phrase,
`Let no one be called happy till his death.'
To which I add, -- Let no one till his death
Be called unhappy. Measure not the work
Until the day 's out and the labour done,
Then bring your gauges. If the day's work 's scant,
Why, call it scant ; affect no compromise ;
And, in that we have nobly striven at least,
Deal with us nobly, women though we be.
And honour us with truth if not with praise.

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 18

Thus then did they fight as it were a flaming fire. Meanwhile the
fleet runner Antilochus, who had been sent as messenger, reached
Achilles, and found him sitting by his tall ships and boding that
which was indeed too surely true. "Alas," said he to himself in the
heaviness of his heart, "why are the Achaeans again scouring the plain
and flocking towards the ships? Heaven grant the gods be not now
bringing that sorrow upon me of which my mother Thetis spoke, saying
that while I was yet alive the bravest of the Myrmidons should fall
before the Trojans, and see the light of the sun no longer. I fear the
brave son of Menoetius has fallen through his own daring and yet I
bade him return to the ships as soon as he had driven back those
that were bringing fire against them, and not join battle with
Hector."
As he was thus pondering, the son of Nestor came up to him and
told his sad tale, weeping bitterly the while. "Alas," he cried,
"son of noble Peleus, I bring you bad tidings, would indeed that
they were untrue. Patroclus has fallen, and a fight is raging about
his naked body- for Hector holds his armour."
A dark cloud of grief fell upon Achilles as he listened. He filled
both hands with dust from off the ground, and poured it over his head,
disfiguring his comely face, and letting the refuse settle over his
shirt so fair and new. He flung himself down all huge and hugely at
full length, and tore his hair with his hands. The bondswomen whom
Achilles and Patroclus had taken captive screamed aloud for grief,
beating their breasts, and with their limbs failing them for sorrow.
Antilochus bent over him the while, weeping and holding both his hands
as he lay groaning for he feared that he might plunge a knife into his
own throat. Then Achilles gave a loud cry and his mother heard him
as she was sitting in the depths of the sea by the old man her father,
whereon she screamed, and all the goddesses daughters of Nereus that
dwelt at the bottom of the sea, came gathering round her. There were
Glauce, Thalia and Cymodoce, Nesaia, Speo, thoe and dark-eyed Halie,
Cymothoe, Actaea and Limnorea, Melite, Iaera, Amphithoe and Agave,
Doto and Proto, Pherusa and Dynamene, Dexamene, Amphinome and
Callianeira, Doris, Panope, and the famous sea-nymph Galatea,
Nemertes, Apseudes and Callianassa. There were also Clymene, Ianeira
and Ianassa, Maera, Oreithuia and Amatheia of the lovely locks, with
other Nereids who dwell in the depths of the sea. The crystal cave was
filled with their multitude and they all beat their breasts while
Thetis led them in their lament.
"Listen," she cried, "sisters, daughters of Nereus, that you may
hear the burden of my sorrows. Alas, woe is me, woe in that I have
borne the most glorious of offspring. I bore him fair and strong, hero
among heroes, and he shot up as a sapling; I tended him as a plant
in a goodly garden, and sent him with his ships to Ilius to fight
the Trojans, but never shall I welcome him back to the house of
Peleus. So long as he lives to look upon the light of the sun he is in
heaviness, and though I go to him I cannot help him. Nevertheless I
will go, that I may see my dear son and learn what sorrow has befallen
him though he is still holding aloof from battle."
She left the cave as she spoke, while the others followed weeping
after, and the waves opened a path before them. When they reached
the rich plain of Troy, they came up out of the sea in a long line
on to the sands, at the place where the ships of the Myrmidons were
drawn up in close order round the tents of Achilles. His mother went
up to him as he lay groaning; she laid her hand upon his head and
spoke piteously, saying, "My son, why are you thus weeping? What
sorrow has now befallen you? Tell me; hide it not from me. Surely Jove
has granted you the prayer you made him, when you lifted up your hands
and besought him that the Achaeans might all of them be pent up at
their ships, and rue it bitterly in that you were no longer with
them."
Achilles groaned and answered, "Mother, Olympian Jove has indeed
vouchsafed me the fulfilment of my prayer, but what boots it to me,
seeing that my dear comrade Patroclus has fallen- he whom I valued
more than all others, and loved as dearly as my own life? I have
lost him; aye, and Hector when he had killed him stripped the wondrous
armour, so glorious to behold, which the gods gave to Peleus when they
laid you in the couch of a mortal man. Would that you were still
dwelling among the immortal sea-nymphs, and that Peleus had taken to
himself some mortal bride. For now you shall have grief infinite by
reason of the death of that son whom you can never welcome home-
nay, I will not live nor go about among mankind unless Hector fall
by my spear, and thus pay me for having slain Patroclus son of
Menoetius."
Thetis wept and answered, "Then, my son, is your end near at hand-
for your own death awaits you full soon after that of Hector."
Then said Achilles in his great grief, "I would die here and now, in
that I could not save my comrade. He has fallen far from home, and
in his hour of need my hand was not there to help him. What is there
for me? Return to my own land I shall not, and I have brought no
saving neither to Patroclus nor to my other comrades of whom so many
have been slain by mighty Hector; I stay here by my ships a bootless
burden upon the earth, I, who in fight have no peer among the
Achaeans, though in council there are better than I. Therefore, perish
strife both from among gods and men, and anger, wherein even a
righteous man will harden his heart- which rises up in the soul of a
man like smoke, and the taste thereof is sweeter than drops of
honey. Even so has Agamemnon angered me. And yet- so be it, for it
is over; I will force my soul into subjection as I needs must; I
will go; I will pursue Hector who has slain him whom I loved so
dearly, and will then abide my doom when it may please Jove and the
other gods to send it. Even Hercules, the best beloved of Jove- even
he could not escape the hand of death, but fate and Juno's fierce
anger laid him low, as I too shall lie when I am dead if a like doom
awaits me. Till then I will win fame, and will bid Trojan and
Dardanian women wring tears from their tender cheeks with both their
hands in the grievousness of their great sorrow; thus shall they
know that he who has held aloof so long will hold aloof no longer.
Hold me not back, therefore, in the love you bear me, for you shall
not move me."
Then silver-footed Thetis answered, "My son, what you have said is
true. It is well to save your comrades from destruction, but your
armour is in the hands of the Trojans; Hector bears it in triumph upon
his own shoulders. Full well I know that his vaunt shall not be
lasting, for his end is close at hand; go not, however, into the press
of battle till you see me return hither; to-morrow at break of day I
shall be here, and will bring you goodly armour from King Vulcan."
On this she left her brave son, and as she turned away she said to
the sea-nymphs her sisters, "Dive into the bosom of the sea and go
to the house of the old sea-god my father. Tell him everything; as for
me, I will go to the cunning workman Vulcan on high Olympus, and ask
him to provide my son with a suit of splendid armour."
When she had so said, they dived forthwith beneath the waves,
while silver-footed Thetis went her way that she might bring the
armour for her son.
Thus, then, did her feet bear the goddess to Olympus, and
meanwhile the Achaeans were flying with loud cries before murderous
Hector till they reached the ships and the Hellespont, and they
could not draw the body of Mars's servant Patroclus out of reach of
the weapons that were showered upon him, for Hector son of Priam
with his host and horsemen had again caught up to him like the flame
of a fiery furnace; thrice did brave Hector seize him by the feet,
striving with might and main to draw him away and calling loudly on
the Trojans, and thrice did the two Ajaxes, clothed in valour as
with a garment, beat him from off the body; but all undaunted he would
now charge into the thick of the fight, and now again he would stand
still and cry aloud, but he would give no ground. As upland
shepherds that cannot chase some famished lion from a carcase, even so
could not the two Ajaxes scare Hector son of Priam from the body of
Patroclus.
And now he would even have dragged it off and have won
imperishable glory, had not Iris fleet as the wind, winged her way
as messenger from Olympus to the son of Peleus and bidden him arm. She
came secretly without the knowledge of Jove and of the other gods, for
Juno sent her, and when she had got close to him she said, "Up, son of
Peleus, mightiest of all mankind; rescue Patroclus about whom this
fearful fight is now raging by the ships. Men are killing one another,
the Danaans in defence of the dead body, while the Trojans are
trying to hale it away, and take it to wind Ilius: Hector is the
most furious of them all; he is for cutting the head from the body and
fixing it on the stakes of the wall. Up, then, and bide here no
longer; shrink from the thought that Patroclus may become meat for the
dogs of Troy. Shame on you, should his body suffer any kind of
outrage."
And Achilles said, "Iris, which of the gods was it that sent you
to me?"
Iris answered, "It was Juno the royal spouse of Jove, but the son of
Saturn does not know of my coming, nor yet does any other of the
immortals who dwell on the snowy summits of Olympus."
Then fleet Achilles answered her saying, "How can I go up into the
battle? They have my armour. My mother forbade me to arm till I should
see her come, for she promised to bring me goodly armour from
Vulcan; I know no man whose arms I can put on, save only the shield of
Ajax son of Telamon, and he surely must be fighting in the front
rank and wielding his spear about the body of dead Patroclus."
Iris said, 'We know that your armour has been taken, but go as you
are; go to the deep trench and show yourelf before the Trojans, that
they may fear you and cease fighting. Thus will the fainting sons of
the Achaeans gain some brief breathing-time, which in battle may
hardly be."
Iris left him when she had so spoken. But Achilles dear to Jove
arose, and Minerva flung her tasselled aegis round his strong
shoulders; she crowned his head with a halo of golden cloud from which
she kindled a glow of gleaming fire. As the smoke that goes up into
heaven from some city that is being beleaguered on an island far out
at sea- all day long do men sally from the city and fight their
hardest, and at the going down of the sun the line of beacon-fires
blazes forth, flaring high for those that dwell near them to behold,
if so be that they may come with their ships and succour them- even so
did the light flare from the head of Achilles, as he stood by the
trench, going beyond the wall- but he aid not join the Achaeans for he
heeded the charge which his mother laid upon him.
There did he stand and shout aloud. Minerva also raised her voice
from afar, and spread terror unspeakable among the Trojans. Ringing as
the note of a trumpet that sounds alarm then the foe is at the gates
of a city, even so brazen was the voice of the son of Aeacus, and when
the Trojans heard its clarion tones they were dismayed; the horses
turned back with their chariots for they boded mischief, and their
drivers were awe-struck by the steady flame which the grey-eyed
goddess had kindled above the head of the great son of Peleus.
Thrice did Achilles raise his loud cry as he stood by the trench,
and thrice were the Trojans and their brave allies thrown into
confusion; whereon twelve of their noblest champions fell beneath
the wheels of their chariots and perished by their own spears. The
Achaeans to their great joy then drew Patroclus out of reach of the
weapons, and laid him on a litter: his comrades stood mourning round
him, and among them fleet Achilles who wept bitterly as he saw his
true comrade lying dead upon his bier. He had sent him out with horses
and chariots into battle, but his return he was not to welcome.
Then Juno sent the busy sun, loth though he was, into the waters
of Oceanus; so he set, and the Achaeans had rest from the tug and
turmoil of war.
Now the Trojans when they had come out of the fight, unyoked their
horses and gathered in assembly before preparing their supper. They
kept their feet, nor would any dare to sit down, for fear had fallen
upon them all because Achilles had shown himself after having held
aloof so long from battle. Polydamas son of Panthous was first to
speak, a man of judgement, who alone among them could look both before
and after. He was comrade to Hector, and they had been born upon the
same night; with all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed
them thus:-
"Look to it well, my friends; I would urge you to go back now to
your city and not wait here by the ships till morning, for we are
far from our walls. So long as this man was at enmity with Agamemnon
the Achaeans were easier to deal with, and I would have gladly
camped by the ships in the hope of taking them; but now I go in
great fear of the fleet son of Peleus; he is so daring that he will
never bide here on the plain whereon the Trojans and Achaeans fight
with equal valour, but he will try to storm our city and carry off our
women. Do then as I say, and let us retreat. For this is what will
happen. The darkness of night will for a time stay the son of
Peleus, but if he find us here in the morning when he sallies forth in
full armour, we shall have knowledge of him in good earnest. Glad
indeed will he be who can escape and get back to Ilius, and many a
Trojan will become meat for dogs and vultures may I never live to hear
it. If we do as I say, little though we may like it, we shall have
strength in counsel during the night, and the great gates with the
doors that close them will protect the city. At dawn we can arm and
take our stand on the walls; he will then rue it if he sallies from
the ships to fight us. He will go back when he has given his horses
their fill of being driven all whithers under our walls, and will be
in no mind to try and force his way into the city. Neither will he
ever sack it, dogs shall devour him ere he do so."
Hector looked fiercely at him and answered, "Polydamas, your words
are not to my liking in that you bid us go back and be pent within the
city. Have you not had enough of being cooped up behind walls? In
the old-days the city of Priam was famous the whole world over for its
wealth of gold and bronze, but our treasures are wasted out of our
houses, and much goods have been sold away to Phrygia and fair Meonia,
for the hand of Jove has been laid heavily upon us. Now, therefore,
that the son of scheming Saturn has vouchsafed me to win glory here
and to hem the Achaeans in at their ships, prate no more in this
fool's wise among the people. You will have no man with you; it
shall not be; do all of you as I now say;- take your suppers in your
companies throughout the host, and keep your watches and be wakeful
every man of you. If any Trojan is uneasy about his possessions, let
him gather them and give them out among the people. Better let
these, rather than the Achaeans, have them. At daybreak we will arm
and fight about the ships; granted that Achilles has again come
forward to defend them, let it be as he will, but it shall go hard
with him. I shall not shun him, but will fight him, to fall or
conquer. The god of war deals out like measure to all, and the
slayer may yet be slain."
Thus spoke Hector; and the Trojans, fools that they were, shouted in
applause, for Pallas Minerva had robbed them of their understanding.
They gave ear to Hector with his evil counsel, but the wise words of
Polydamas no man would heed. They took their supper throughout the
host, and meanwhile through the whole night the Achaeans mourned
Patroclus, and the son of Peleus led them in their lament. He laid his
murderous hands upon the breast of his comrade, groaning again and
again as a bearded lion when a man who was chasing deer has robbed him
of his young in some dense forest; when the lion comes back he is
furious, and searches dingle and dell to track the hunter if he can
find him, for he is mad with rage- even so with many a sigh did
Achilles speak among the Myrmidons saying, "Alas! vain were the
words with which I cheered the hero Menoetius in his own house; I said
that I would bring his brave son back again to Opoeis after he had
sacked Ilius and taken his share of the spoils- but Jove does not give
all men their heart's desire. The same soil shall be reddened here
at Troy by the blood of us both, for I too shall never be welcomed
home by the old knight Peleus, nor by my mother Thetis, but even in
this place shall the earth cover me. Nevertheless, O Patroclus, now
that I am left behind you, I will not bury you, till I have brought
hither the head and armour of mighty Hector who has slain you.
Twelve noble sons of Trojans will I behead before your bier to
avenge you; till I have done so you shall lie as you are by the ships,
and fair women of Troy and Dardanus, whom we have taken with spear and
strength of arm when we sacked men's goodly cities, shall weep over
you both night and day."
Then Achilles told his men to set a large tripod upon the fire
that they might wash the clotted gore from off Patroclus. Thereon they
set a tripod full of bath water on to a clear fire: they threw
sticks on to it to make it blaze, and the water became hot as the
flame played about the belly of the tripod. When the water in the
cauldron was boiling they washed the body, anointed it with oil, and
closed its wounds with ointment that had been kept nine years. Then
they laid it on a bier and covered it with a linen cloth from head
to foot, and over this they laid a fair white robe. Thus all night
long did the Myrmidons gather round Achilles to mourn Patroclus.
Then Jove said to Juno his sister-wife, "So, Queen Juno, you have
gained your end, and have roused fleet Achilles. One would think
that the Achaeans were of your own flesh and blood."
And Juno answered, "Dread son of Saturn, why should you say this
thing? May not a man though he be only mortal and knows less than we
do, do what he can for another person? And shall not I- foremost of
all goddesses both by descent and as wife to you who reign in
heaven- devise evil for the Trojans if I am angry with them?"
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Thetis came to the house of
Vulcan, imperishable, star-bespangled, fairest of the abodes in
heaven, a house of bronze wrought by the lame god's own hands. She
found him busy with his bellows, sweating and hard at work, for he was
making twenty tripods that were to stand by the wall of his house, and
he set wheels of gold under them all that they might go of their own
selves to the assemblies of the gods, and come back again- marvels
indeed to see. They were finished all but the ears of cunning
workmanship which yet remained to be fixed to them: these he was now
fixing, and he was hammering at the rivets. While he was thus at
work silver-footed Thetis came to the house. Charis, of graceful
head-dress, wife to the far-famed lame god, came towards her as soon
as she saw her, and took her hand in her own, saying, "Why have you
come to our house, Thetis, honoured and ever welcome- for you do not
visit us often? Come inside and let me set refreshment before you."
The goddess led the way as she spoke, and bade Thetis sit on a
richly decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also
under her feet. Then she called Vulcan and said, "Vulcan, come here,
Thetis wants you"; and the far-famed lame god answered, "Then it is
indeed an august and honoured goddess who has come here; she it was
that took care of me when I was suffering from the heavy fall which
I had through my cruel mother's anger- for she would have got rid of
me because I was lame. It would have gone hardly with me had not
Eurynome, daughter of the ever-encircling waters of Oceanus, and
Thetis, taken me to their bosom. Nine years did I stay with them,
and many beautiful works in bronze, brooches, spiral armlets, cups,
and chains, did I make for them in their cave, with the roaring waters
of Oceanus foaming as they rushed ever past it; and no one knew,
neither of gods nor men, save only Thetis and Eurynome who took care
of me. If, then, Thetis has come to my house I must make her due
requital for having saved me; entertain her, therefore, with all
hospitality, while I put by my bellows and all my tools."
On this the mighty monster hobbled off from his anvil, his thin legs
plying lustily under him. He set the bellows away from the fire, and
gathered his tools into a silver chest. Then he took a sponge and
washed his face and hands, his shaggy chest and brawny neck; he donned
his shirt, grasped his strong staff, and limped towards the door.
There were golden handmaids also who worked for him, and were like
real young women, with sense and reason, voice also and strength,
and all the learning of the immortals; these busied themselves as
the king bade them, while he drew near to Thetis, seated her upon a
goodly seat, and took her hand in his own, saying, "Why have you
come to our house, Thetis honoured and ever welcome- for you do not
visit us often? Say what you want, and I will do it for you at once if
I can, and if it can be done at all."
Thetis wept and answered, "Vulcan, is there another goddess in
Olympus whom the son of Saturn has been pleased to try with so much
affliction as he has me? Me alone of the marine goddesses did he
make subject to a mortal husband, Peleus son of Aeacus, and sorely
against my will did I submit to the embraces of one who was but
mortal, and who now stays at home worn out with age. Neither is this
all. Heaven vouchsafed me a son, hero among heroes, and he shot up
as a sapling. I tended him as a plant in a goodly garden and sent
him with his ships to Ilius to fight the Trojans, but never shall I
welcome him back to the house of Peleus. So long as he lives to look
upon the light of the sun, he is in heaviness, and though I go to
him I cannot help him; King Agamemnon has made him give up the
maiden whom the sons of the Achaeans had awarded him, and he wastes
with sorrow for her sake. Then the Trojans hemmed the Achaeans in at
their ships' sterns and would not let them come forth; the elders,
therefore, of the Argives besought Achilles and offered him great
treasure, whereon he refused to bring deliverance to them himself, but
put his own armour on Patroclus and sent him into the fight with
much people after him. All day long they fought by the Scaean gates
and would have taken the city there and then, had not Apollo
vouchsafed glory to Hector and slain the valiant son of Menoetius
after he had done the Trojans much evil. Therefore I am suppliant at
your knees if haply you may be pleased to provide my son, whose end is
near at hand, with helmet and shield, with goodly greaves fitted
with ancle-clasps, and with a breastplate, for he lost his own when
his true comrade fell at the hands of the Trojans, and he now lies
stretched on earth in the bitterness of his soul."
And Vulcan answered, "Take heart, and be no more disquieted about
this matter; would that I could hide him from death's sight when his
hour is come, so surely as I can find him armour that shall amaze
the eyes of all who behold it."
When he had so said he left her and went to his bellows, turning
them towards the fire and bidding them do their office. Twenty bellows
blew upon the melting-pots, and they blew blasts of every kind, some
fierce to help him when he had need of them, and others less strong as
Vulcan willed it in the course of his work. He threw tough copper into
the fire, and tin, with silver and gold; he set his great anvil on its
block, and with one hand grasped his mighty hammer while he took the
tongs in the other.
First he shaped the shield so great and strong, adorning it all over
and binding it round with a gleaming circuit in three layers; and
the baldric was made of silver. He made the shield in five
thicknesses, and with many a wonder did his cunning hand enrich it.
He wrought the earth, the heavens, and the sea; the moon also at her
full and the untiring sun, with all the signs that glorify the face of
heaven- the Pleiads, the Hyads, huge Orion, and the Bear, which men
also call the Wain and which turns round ever in one place, facing.
Orion, and alone never dips into the stream of Oceanus.
He wrought also two cities, fair to see and busy with the hum of
men. In the one were weddings and wedding-feasts, and they were
going about the city with brides whom they were escorting by
torchlight from their chambers. Loud rose the cry of Hymen, and the
youths danced to the music of flute and lyre, while the women stood
each at her house door to see them.
Meanwhile the people were gathered in assembly, for there was a
quarrel, and two men were wrangling about the blood-money for a man
who had been killed, the one saying before the people that he had paid
damages in full, and the other that he had not been paid. Each was
trying to make his own case good, and the people took sides, each
man backing the side that he had taken; but the heralds kept them
back, and the elders sate on their seats of stone in a solemn
circle, holding the staves which the heralds had put into their hands.
Then they rose and each in his turn gave judgement, and there were two
talents laid down, to be given to him whose judgement should be deemed
the fairest.
About the other city there lay encamped two hosts in gleaming
armour, and they were divided whether to sack it, or to spare it and
accept the half of what it contained. But the men of the city would
not yet consent, and armed themselves for a surprise; their wives
and little children kept guard upon the walls, and with them were
the men who were past fighting through age; but the others sallied
forth with Mars and Pallas Minerva at their head- both of them wrought
in gold and clad in golden raiment, great and fair with their armour
as befitting gods, while they that followed were smaller. When they
reached the place where they would lay their ambush, it was on a
riverbed to which live stock of all kinds would come from far and near
to water; here, then, they lay concealed, clad in full armour. Some
way off them there were two scouts who were on the look-out for the
coming of sheep or cattle, which presently came, followed by two
shepherds who were playing on their pipes, and had not so much as a
thought of danger. When those who were in ambush saw this, they cut
off the flocks and herds and killed the shepherds. Meanwhile the
besiegers, when they heard much noise among the cattle as they sat
in council, sprang to their horses, and made with all speed towards
them; when they reached them they set battle in array by the banks
of the river, and the hosts aimed their bronze-shod spears at one
another. With them were Strife and Riot, and fell Fate who was
dragging three men after her, one with a fresh wound, and the other
unwounded, while the third was dead, and she was dragging him along by
his heel: and her robe was bedrabbled in men's blood. They went in and
out with one another and fought as though they were living people
haling away one another's dead.
He wrought also a fair fallow field, large and thrice ploughed
already. Many men were working at the plough within it, turning
their oxen to and fro, furrow after furrow. Each time that they turned
on reaching the headland a man would come up to them and give them a
cup of wine, and they would go back to their furrows looking forward
to the time when they should again reach the headland. The part that
they had ploughed was dark behind them, so that the field, though it
was of gold, still looked as if it were being ploughed- very curious
to behold.
He wrought also a field of harvest corn, and the reapers were
reaping with sharp sickles in their hands. Swathe after swathe fell to
the ground in a straight line behind them, and the binders bound
them in bands of twisted straw. There were three binders, and behind
them there were boys who gathered the cut corn in armfuls and kept
on bringing them to be bound: among them all the owner of the land
stood by in silence and was glad. The servants were getting a meal
ready under an oak, for they had sacrificed a great ox, and were
busy cutting him up, while the women were making a porridge of much
white barley for the labourers' dinner.
He wrought also a vineyard, golden and fair to see, and the vines
were loaded with grapes. The bunches overhead were black, but the
vines were trained on poles of silver. He ran a ditch of dark metal
all round it, and fenced it with a fence of tin; there was only one
path to it, and by this the vintagers went when they would gather
the vintage. Youths and maidens all blithe and full of glee, carried
the luscious fruit in plaited baskets; and with them there went a
boy who made sweet music with his lyre, and sang the Linus-song with
his clear boyish voice.
He wrought also a herd of homed cattle. He made the cows of gold and
tin, and they lowed as they came full speed out of the yards to go and
feed among the waving reeds that grow by the banks of the river. Along
with the cattle there went four shepherds, all of them in gold, and
their nine fleet dogs went with them. Two terrible lions had
fastened on a bellowing bull that was with the foremost cows, and
bellow as he might they haled him, while the dogs and men gave
chase: the lions tore through the bull's thick hide and were gorging
on his blood and bowels, but the herdsmen were afraid to do
anything, and only hounded on their dogs; the dogs dared not fasten on
the lions but stood by barking and keeping out of harm's way.
The god wrought also a pasture in a fair mountain dell, and large
flock of sheep, with a homestead and huts, and sheltered sheepfolds.
Furthermore he wrought a green, like that which Daedalus once made
in Cnossus for lovely Ariadne. Hereon there danced youths and
maidens whom all would woo, with their hands on one another's
wrists. The maidens wore robes of light linen, and the youths well
woven shirts that were slightly oiled. The girls were crowned with
garlands, while the young men had daggers of gold that hung by
silver baldrics; sometimes they would dance deftly in a ring with
merry twinkling feet, as it were a potter sitting at his work and
making trial of his wheel to see whether it will run, and sometimes
they would go all in line with one another, and much people was
gathered joyously about the green. There was a bard also to sing to
them and play his lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in
the midst of them when the man struck up with his tune.
All round the outermost rim of the shield he set the mighty stream
of the river Oceanus.
Then when he had fashioned the shield so great and strong, he made a
breastplate also that shone brighter than fire. He made helmet,
close fitting to the brow, and richly worked, with a golden plume
overhanging it; and he made greaves also of beaten tin.
Lastly, when the famed lame god had made all the armour, he took
it and set it before the mother of Achilles; whereon she darted like a
falcon from the snowy summits of Olympus and bore away the gleaming
armour from the house of Vulcan.

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John Dryden

The Hind And The Panther, A Poem In Three Parts : Part II.

“Dame,” said the Panther, “times are mended well,
Since late among the Philistines you fell.
The toils were pitched, a spacious tract of ground
With expert huntsmen was encompassed round;
The inclosure narrowed; the sagacious power
Of hounds and death drew nearer every hour.
'Tis true, the younger lion 'scaped the snare,
But all your priestly calves lay struggling there,
As sacrifices on their altars laid;
While you, their careful mother, wisely fled,
Not trusting destiny to save your head.
For, whate'er promises you have applied
To your unfailing Church, the surer side
Is four fair legs in danger to provide;
And whate'er tales of Peter's chair you tell,
Yet, saving reverence of the miracle,
The better luck was yours to 'scape so well.”
“As I remember,” said the sober Hind,
“Those toils were for your own dear self designed,
As well as me; and with the selfsame throw,
To catch the quarry and the vermin too,—
Forgive the slanderous tongues that called you so.
Howe'er you take it now, the common cry
Then ran you down for your rank loyalty.
Besides, in Popery they thought you nurst,
As evil tongues will ever speak the worst,
Because some forms, and ceremonies some
You kept, and stood in the main question dumb.
Dumb you were born indeed; but, thinking long,
The test, it seems, at last has loosed your tongue:
And to explain what your forefathers meant,
By real presence in the sacrament,
After long fencing pushed against a wall,
Your salvo comes, that he's not there at all:
There changed your faith, and what may change may fall.
Who can believe what varies every day,
Nor ever was, nor will be at a stay?”
“Tortures may force the tongue untruths to tell,
And I ne'er owned myself infallible,”
Replied the Panther: “grant such presence were,
Yet in your sense I never owned it there.
A real virtue we by faith receive,
And that we in the sacrament believe.”
“Then,” said the Hind, “as you the matter state,
Not only Jesuits can equivocate;
For real, as you now the word expound,
From solid substance dwindles to a sound.
Methinks, an Æsop's fable you repeat;
You know who took the shadow for the meat:
Your Church's substance thus you change at will,
And yet retain your former figure still.
I freely grant you spoke to save your life;
For then you lay beneath the butcher's knife.
Long time you fought, redoubled battery bore,
But, after all, against yourself you swore,
Your former self; for every hour your form
Is chopped and changed, like winds before a storm.
Thus fear and interest will prevail with some;
For all have not the gift of martyrdom.”
The Panther grinned at this, and thus replied:
“That men may err was never yet denied;
But, if that common principle be true,
The canon, dame, is levelled full at you.
But, shunning long disputes, I fain would see
That wondrous wight, Infallibility.
Is he from heaven, this mighty champion, come?
Or lodged below in subterranean Rome?
First, seat him somewhere, and derive his race,
Or else conclude that nothing has no place.”
“Suppose, though I disown it,” said the Hind,
“The certain mansion were not yet assigned;
The doubtful residence no proof can bring
Against the plain existence of the thing.
Because philosophers may disagree,
If sight by emission, or reception be,
Shall it be thence inferred, I do not see?
But you require an answer positive,
Which yet, when I demand, you dare not give;
For fallacies in universals live.
I then affirm, that this unfailing guide
In Pope and General Councils must reside;
Both lawful, both combined; what one decrees
By numerous votes, the other ratifies:
On this undoubted sense the Church relies.
'Tis true, some doctors in a scantier space,
I mean, in each apart, contract the place.
Some, who to greater length extend the line,
The Church's after-acceptation join.
This last circumference appears too wide;
The Church diffused is by the Council tied,
As members by their representatives
Obliged to laws, which prince and senate gives.
Thus, some contract, and some enlarge the space;
In Pope and Council, who denies the place,
Assisted from above with God's unfailing grace?
Those canons all the needful points contain;
Their sense so obvious, and their words so plain,
That no disputes about the doubtful text
Have hitherto the labouring world perplext.
If any should in after-times appear,
New Councils must be called, to make the meaning clear;
Because in them the power supreme resides,
And all the promises are to the guides.
This may be taught with sound and safe defence;
But mark how sandy is your own pretence,
Who, setting Councils, Pope, and Church aside,
Are every man his own presuming guide.
The sacred books, you say, are full and plain,
And every needful point of truth contain;
All who can read interpreters may be.
Thus, though your several Churches disagree,
Yet every saint has to himself alone
The secret of this philosophic stone.
These principles you jarring sects unite,
When differing doctors and disciples fight.
Though Luther, Zuinglius, Calvin, holy chiefs,
Have made a battle-royal of beliefs;
Or, like wild horses, several ways have whirled
The tortured text about the Christian world;
Each Jehu lashing on with furious force,
That Turk or Jew could not have used it worse;
No matter what dissension leaders make,
Where every private man may save a stake:
Ruled by the scripture and his own advice,
Each has a blind by-path to Paradise;
Where, driving in a circle slow or fast,
Opposing sects are sure to meet at last.
A wondrous charity you have in store
For all reformed to pass the narrow door;
So much, that Mahomet had scarcely more.
For he, kind prophet, was for damning none;
But Christ and Moses were to save their own:
Himself was to secure his chosen race,
Though reason good for Turks to take the place,
And he allowed to be the better man,
In virtue of his holier Alcoran.”
“True,” said the Panther, “I shall ne'er deny
My brethren may be saved as well as I:
Though Huguenots contemn our ordination,
Succession, ministerial vocation;
And Luther, more mistaking what he read,
Misjoins the sacred body with the bread:
Yet, lady, still remember I maintain,
The word in needful points is only plain.”
“Needless, or needful, I not now contend,
For still you have a loop-hole for a friend,”
Rejoined the matron; “but the rule you lay
Has led whole flocks, and leads them still astray,
In weighty points, and full damnation's way.
For, did not Arius first, Socinus now,
The Son's eternal Godhead disavow?
And did not these by gospel texts alone
Condemn our doctrine, and maintain their own?
Have not all heretics the same pretence
To plead the scriptures in their own defence?
How did the Nicene Council then decide
That strong debate? was it by scripture tried?
No, sure; to that the rebel would not yield;
Squadrons of texts he marshalled in the field:
That was but civil war, an equal set,
Where piles with piles, and eagles eagles met.
With texts point-blank and plain he faced the foe,
And did not Satan tempt our Saviour so?
The good old bishops took a simpler way;
Each asked but what he heard his father say,
Or how he was instructed in his youth,
And by tradition's force upheld the truth.”
The Panther smiled at this;—“And when,” said she,
“Were those first Councils disallowed by me?
Or where did I at sure tradition strike,
Provided still it were apostolic?”
“Friend,” said the Hind, “you quit your former ground,
Where all your faith you did on scripture found:
Now 'tis tradition joined with holy writ;
But thus your memory betrays your wit.”
“No,” said the Panther; “for in that I view,
When your tradition's forged, and when 'tis true.
I set them by the rule, and, as they square,
Or deviate from undoubted doctrine there,
This oral fiction, that old faith declare.”

Hind.
“The Council steered, it seems, a different course;
They tried the scripture by tradition's force:
But you tradition by the scripture try;
Pursued by sects, from this to that you fly,
Nor dare on one foundation to rely.
The word is then deposed, and in this view,
You rule the scripture, not the scripture you.”
Thus said the dame, and, smiling, thus pursued:
I see, tradition then is disallowed,
When not evinced by scripture to be true,
And scripture, as interpreted by you.
But here you tread upon unfaithful ground,
Unless you could infallibly expound;
Which you reject as odious popery,
And throw that doctrine back with scorn on me.
Suppose we on things traditive divide,
And both appeal to scripture to decide;
By various texts we both uphold our claim,
Nay, often, ground our titles on the same:
After long labour lost, and time's expense,
Both grant the words, and quarrel for the sense.
Thus all disputes for ever must depend;
For no dumb rule can controversies end.
Thus, when you said,—Tradition must be tried
By sacred writ, whose sense yourselves decide,
You said no more, but that yourselves must be
The judges of the scripture sense, not we.
Against our Church-tradition you declare,
And yet your clerks would sit in Moses' chair;
At least 'tis proved against your argument,
The rule is far from plain, where all dissent.”
“If not by scriptures, how can we be sure,”
Replied the Panther, “what tradition's pure?
For you may palm upon us new for old;
All, as they say, that glitters, is not gold.”
“How but by following her,” replied the dame,
“To whom derived from sire to son they came;
Where every age does on another move,
And trusts no farther than the next above;
Where all the rounds like Jacob's ladder rise,
The lowest hid in earth, the topmost in the skies?”
Sternly the savage did her answer mark,
Her glowing eye-balls glittering in the dark,
And said but this:—“Since lucre was your trade,
Succeeding times such dreadful gaps have made,
'Tis dangerous climbing: To your sons and you
I leave the ladder, and its omen too.”

Hind.
“The Panther's breath was ever famed for sweet;
But from the Wolf such wishes oft I meet.
You learned this language from the Blatant Beast,
Or rather did not speak, but were possessed.
As for your answer, 'tis but barely urged:
You must evince tradition to be forged;
Produce plain proofs; unblemished authors use
As ancient as those ages they accuse;
Till when, 'tis not sufficient to defame;
An old possession stands, till elder quits the claim.
Then for our interest, which is named alone
To load with envy, we retort your own;
For, when traditions in your faces fly,
Resolving not to yield, you must decry.
As when the cause goes hard, the guilty man
Excepts, and thins his jury all he can;
So when you stand of other aid bereft,
You to the twelve apostles would be left.
Your friend the Wolf did with more craft provide
To set those toys, traditions, quite aside;
And fathers too, unless when, reason spent,
He cites them but sometimes for ornament.
But, madam Panther, you, though more sincere,
Are not so wise as your adulterer;
The private spirit is a better blind,
Than all the dodging tricks your authors find.
For they, who left the scripture to the crowd,
Each for his own peculiar judge allowed;
The way to please them was to make them proud.
Thus with full sails they ran upon the shelf;
Who could suspect a cozenage from himself?
On his own reason safer 'tis to stand,
Than be deceived and damned at second-hand.
But you, who fathers and traditions take,
And garble some, and some you quite forsake,
Pretending Church-authority to fix,
And yet some grains of private spirit mix,
Are, like a mule, made up of different seed,
And that's the reason why you never breed;
At least, not propagate your kind abroad,
For home dissenters are by statutes awed.
And yet they grow upon you every day,
While you, to speak the best, are at a stay,
For sects, that are extremes, abhor a middle way:
Like tricks of state, to stop a raging flood,
Or mollify a mad-brained senate's mood;
Of all expedients never one was good.
Well may they argue, nor can you deny,
If we must fix on Church authority,
Best on the best, the fountain, not the flood;
That must be better still, if this be good.
Shall she command, who has herself rebelled?
Is antichrist by antichrist expelled?
Did we a lawful tyranny displace,
To set aloft a bastard of the race?
Why all these wars to win the book, if we
Must not interpret for ourselves, but she?
Either be wholly slaves, or wholly free.
For purging fires traditions must not fight;
But they must prove episcopacy's right.
Thus, those led horses are from service freed;
You never mount them but in time of need.
Like mercenaries, hired for home defence,
They will not serve against their native prince.
Against domestic foes of hierarchy
These are drawn forth, to make fanatics fly;
But, when they see their countrymen at hand,
Marching against them under Church-command,
Straight they forsake their colours, and disband.”
Thus she; nor could the Panther well enlarge
With weak defence against so strong a charge;
But said:—“For what did Christ his word provide,
If still his Church must want a living guide?
And if all-saving doctrines are not there,
Or sacred penmen could not make them clear,
From after-ages we should hope in vain
For truths which men inspired could not explain.”
“Before the word was written,” said the Hind,
“Our Saviour preached his faith to humankind:
From his apostles the first age received
Eternal truth, and what they taught believed.
Thus, by tradition faith was planted first,
Succeeding flocks succeeding pastors nursed.
This was the way our wise Redeemer chose,
Who sure could all things for the best dispose,
To fence his fold from their encroaching foes.
He could have writ himself, but well foresaw
The event would be like that of Moses' law;
Some difference would arise, some doubts remain,
Like those which yet the jarring Jews maintain.
No written laws can be so plain, so pure,
But wit may gloss, and malice may obscure;
Not those indited by his first command,
A prophet graved the text, an angel held his hand.
Thus faith was ere the written word appeared,
And men believed not what they read, but heard.
But since the apostles could not be confined
To these, or those, but severally designed
Their large commission round the world to blow,
To spread their faith, they spread their labours too.
Yet still their absent flock their pains did share;
They hearkened still, for love produces care.
And as mistakes arose, or discords fell,
Or bold seducers taught them to rebel,
As charity grew cold, or faction hot,
Or long neglect their lessons had forgot,
For all their wants they wisely did provide,
And preaching by epistles was supplied;
So, great physicians cannot all attend,
But some they visit, and to some they send.
Yet all those letters were not writ to all;
Nor first intended but occasional,
Their absent sermons; nor, if they contain
All needful doctrines, are those doctrines plain.
Clearness by frequent preaching must be wrought;
They writ but seldom, but they daily taught;
And what one saint has said of holy Paul,
‘He darkly writ,’ is true applied to all.
For this obscurity could heaven provide
More prudently than by a living guide,
As doubts arose, the difference to decide?
A guide was therefore needful, therefore made;
And, if appointed, sure to be obeyed.
Thus, with due reverence to the apostles' writ,
By which my sons are taught, to which submit,
I think, those truths, their sacred works contain,
The Church alone can certainly explain;
That following ages, leaning on the past,
May rest upon the primitive at last.
Nor would I thence the word no rule infer,
But none without the Church-interpreter;
Because, as I have urged before, 'tis mute,
And is itself the subject of dispute.
But what the apostles their successors taught,
They to the next, from them to us is brought,
The undoubted sense which is in scripture sought.
From hence the Church is armed, when errors rise,
To stop their entrance, and prevent surprise;
And, safe entrenched within, her foes without defies.
By these all festering sores her Councils heal,
Which time or has disclosed, or shall reveal;
For discord cannot end without a last appeal.
Nor can a council national decide,
But with subordination to her guide:
(I wish the cause were on that issue tried.)
Much less the scripture; for suppose debate
Betwixt pretenders to a fair estate,
Bequeathed by some legator's last intent;
(Such is our dying Saviour's testament
The will is proved, is opened, and is read,
The doubtful heirs their differing titles plead;
All vouch the words their interest to maintain,
And each pretends by those his cause is plain.
Shall then the testament award the right?
No, that's the Hungary for which they fight;
The field of battle, subject of debate;
The thing contended for, the fair estate.
The sense is intricate, 'tis only clear
What vowels and what consonants are there.
Therefore 'tis plain, its meaning must be tried
Before some judge appointed to decide.”
“Suppose,” the fair apostate said, “I grant,
The faithful flock some living guide should want,
Your arguments an endless chase pursue:
Produce this vaunted leader to our view,
This mighty Moses of the chosen crew.”
The dame, who saw her fainting foe retired,
With force renewed, to victory aspired;
And, looking upward to her kindred sky,
As once our Saviour owned his Deity,
Pronounced his words—“She whom ye seek am I.”
Nor less amazed this voice the Panther heard,
Than were those Jews to hear a God declared.
Then thus the matron modestly renewed:
“Let all your prophets and their sects be viewed,
And see to which of them yourselves think fit
The conduct of your conscience to submit;
Each proselyte would vote his doctor best,
With absolute exclusion to the rest:
Thus would your Polish diet disagree,
And end, as it began, in anarchy;
Yourself the fairest for election stand,
Because you seem crown-general of the land;
But soon against your superstitious lawn
Some Presbyterian sabre would be drawn;
In your established laws of sovereignty
The rest some fundamental flaw would see,
And call rebellion gospel-liberty.
To Church-decrees your articles require
Submission mollified, if not entire.
Homage denied, to censures you proceed;
But when Curtana will not do the deed,
You lay that pointless clergy-weapon by,
And to the laws, your sword of justice, fly.
Now this your sects the more unkindly take,
(Those prying varlets hit the blots you make,)
Because some ancient friends of yours declare,
Your only rule of faith the scriptures are,
Interpreted by men of judgment sound,
Which every sect will for themselves expound;
Nor think less reverence to their doctors due
For sound interpretation, than to you.
If then, by able heads, are understood
Your brother prophets, who reformed abroad;
Those able heads expound a wiser way,
That their own sheep their shepherd should obey.
But if you mean yourselves are only sound,
That doctrine turns the reformation round,
And all the rest are false reformers found;
Because in sundry points you stand alone,
Not in communion joined with any one;
And therefore must be all the Church, or none.
Then, till you have agreed whose judge is best,
Against this forced submission they protest;
While sound and sound a different sense explains,
Both play at hardhead till they break their brains;
And from their chairs each other's force defy,
While unregarded thunders vainly fly.
I pass the rest, because your Church alone
Of all usurpers best could fill the throne.
But neither you, nor any sect beside,
For this high office can be qualified,
With necessary gifts required in such a guide.
For that, which must direct the whole, must be
Bound in one bond of faith and unity;
But all your several Churches disagree.
The consubstantiating Church and priest
Refuse communion to the Calvinist;
The French reformed from preaching you restrain,
Because you judge their ordination vain;
And so they judge of yours, but donors must ordain.
In short, in doctrine, or in discipline,
Not one reformed can with another join;
But all from each, as from damnation, fly:
No union they pretend, but in non-popery.
Nor, should their members in a synod meet,
Could any Church presume to mount the seat,
Above the rest, their discords to decide;
None would obey, but each would be the guide;
And face to face dissensions would increase,
For only distance now preserves the peace.
All in their turns accusers, and accused;
Babel was never half so much confused;
What one can plead, the rest can plead as well;
For amongst equals lies no last appeal,
And all confess themselves are fallible.
Now, since you grant some necessary guide,
All who can err are justly laid aside;
Because a trust so sacred to confer
Shows want of such a sure interpreter;
And how can he be needful who can err?
Then, granting that unerring guide we want,
That such there is you stand obliged to grant;
Our Saviour else were wanting to supply
Our needs, and obviate that necessity.
It then remains, that Church can only be
The guide, which owns unfailing certainty;
Or else you slip your hold, and change your side,
Relapsing from a necessary guide.
But this annexed condition of the crown,
Immunity from errors, you disown;
Here then you shrink, and lay your weak pretensions down.
For petty royalties you raise debate;
But this unfailing universal state
You shun; nor dare succeed to such a glorious weight;
And for that cause those promises detest,
With which our Saviour did his Church invest;
But strive to evade, and fear to find them true,
As conscious they were never meant to you;
All which the Mother-Church asserts her own,
And with unrivalled claim ascends the throne.
So, when of old the Almighty Father sate
In council, to redeem our ruined state,
Millions of millions, at a distance round,
Silent the sacred consistory crowned,
To hear what mercy, mixed with justice, could propound;
All prompt, with eager pity, to fulfil
The full extent of their Creator's will:
But when the stern conditions were declared,
A mournful whisper through the host was heard,
And the whole hierarchy, with heads hung down,
Submissively declined the ponderous proffer'd crown.
Then, not till then, the Eternal Son from high
Rose in the strength of all the Deity;
Stood forth to accept the terms, and underwent
A weight which all the frame of heaven had bent,
Nor he himself could bear, but as Omnipotent.
Now, to remove the least remaining doubt,
That even the blear-eyed sects may find her out,
Behold what heavenly rays adorn her brows,
What from his wardrobe her beloved allows,
To deck the wedding-day of his unspotted spouse!
Behold what marks of majesty she brings,
Richer than ancient heirs of eastern kings!
Her right hand holds the sceptre and the keys,
To show whom she commands, and who obeys;
With these to bind, or set the sinner free,
With that to assert spiritual royalty.
“One in herself, not rent by schism, but sound,
Entire, one solid shining diamond;
Not sparkles shattered into sects like you:
One is the Church, and must be to be true;
One central principle of unity;
As undivided, so from errors free;
As one in faith, so one in sanctity.
Thus she, and none but she, the insulting rage
Of heretics opposed from age to age;
Still when the giant-brood invades her throne,
She stoops from heaven, and meets them halfway down,
And with paternal thunder vindicates her crown.
But like Egyptian sorcerers you stand,
And vainly lift aloft your magic wand,
To sweep away the swarms of vermin from the land;
You could, like them, with like infernal force,
Produce the plague, but not arrest the course.
But when the boils and botches, with disgrace
And public scandal, sat upon the face,
Themselves attacked, the Magi strove no more,
They saw God's finger, and their fate deplore;
Themselves they could not cure of the dishonest sore.
Thus one, thus pure, behold her largely spread,
Like the fair ocean from her mother-bed;
From east to west triumphantly she rides,
All shores are watered by her wealthy tides.
The gospel-sound, diffused from pole to pole,
Where winds can carry, and where waves can roll,
The selfsame doctrine of the sacred page
Conveyed to every clime, in every age.
“Here let my sorrow give my satire place,
To raise new blushes on my British race.
Our sailing ships like common-sewers we use,
And through our distant colonies diffuse
The draught of dungeons, and the stench of stews;
Whom, when their home-bred honesty is lost,
We disembogue on some far Indian coast,
Thieves, panders, palliards, sins of every sort;
Those are the manufactures we export,
And these the missioners our zeal has made;
For, with my country's pardon, be it said,
Religion is the least of all our trade.
“Yet some improve their traffic more than we,
For they on gain, their only god, rely,
And set a public price on piety.
Industrious of the needle and the chart,
They run full sail to their Japonian mart;
Preventing fear, and, prodigal of fame,
Sell all of Christian to the very name,
Nor leave enough of that to hide their naked shame.
“Thus, of three marks, which in the creed we view,
Not one of all can be applied to you;
Much less the fourth. In vain, alas! you seek
The ambitious title of apostolic:
Godlike descent! 'tis well your blood can be
Proved noble in the third or fourth degree;
For all of ancient that you had before,
I mean what is not borrowed from our store,
Was error fulminated o'er and o'er;
Old heresies condemned in ages past,
By care and time recovered from the blast.
“'Tis said with ease, but never can be proved,
The Church her old foundations has removed,
And built new doctrines on unstable sands:
Judge that, ye winds and rains! you proved her, yet she stands.
Those ancient doctrines charged on her for new,
Show when, and how, and from what hands they grew.
We claim no power, when heresies grow bold,
To coin new faith, but still declare the old.
How else could that obscene disease be purged,
When controverted texts are vainly urged?
To prove tradition new, there's somewhat more
Required, than saying, 'Twas not used before.
Those monumental arms are never stirred,
Till schism or heresy call down Goliah's sword.
“Thus, what you call corruptions, are, in truth,
The first plantations of the gospel's youth;
Old standard faith; but cast your eyes again,
And view those errors which new sects maintain,
Or which of old disturbed the Church's peaceful reign;
And we can point each period of the time,
When they began, and who begot the crime;
Can calculate how long the eclipse endured,
Who interposed, what digits were obscured:
Of all which are already passed away,
We know the rise, the progress, and decay.
“Despair at our foundations then to strike,
Till you can prove your faith apostolic;
A limpid stream drawn from the native source;
Succession lawful in a lineal course.
Prove any Church, opposed to this our head,
So one, so pure, so unconfinedly spread,
Under one chief of the spiritual state,
The members all combined, and all subordinate;
Show such a seamless coat, from schism so free,
In no communion joined with heresy;—
If such a one you find, let truth prevail;
Till when, your weights will in the balance fail;
A Church unprincipled kicks up the scale.
But if you cannot think, (nor sure you can
Suppose in God what were unjust in man,)
That He, the fountain of eternal grace,
Should suffer falsehood for so long a space
To banish truth, and to usurp her place;
That seven successive ages should be lost,
And preach damnation at their proper cost;
That all your erring ancestors should die,
Drowned in the abyss of deep idolatry;
If piety forbid such thoughts to rise,
Awake, and open your unwilling eyes:
God hath left nothing for each age undone,
From this to that wherein he sent his Son;
Then think but well of him, and half your work is done.
See how his Church, adorned with every grace,
With open arms, a kind forgiving face,
Stands ready to prevent her long-lost son's embrace!
Not more did Joseph o'er his brethren weep,
Nor less himself could from discovery keep,
When in the crowd of suppliants they were seen,
And in their crew his best-loved Benjamin.
That pious Joseph in the Church behold,
To feed your famine, and refuse your gold;
The Joseph you exiled, the Joseph whom you sold.”
Thus, while with heavenly charity she spoke,
A streaming blaze the silent shadows broke;
Shot from the skies a cheerful azure light;
The birds obscene to forests winged their flight,
And gaping graves received the wandering guilty sprite.
Such were the pleasing triumphs of the sky,
For James his late nocturnal victory;
The pledge of his almighty Patron's love,
The fireworks which his angels made above.
I saw myself the lambent easy light
Gild the brown horror, and dispel the night;
The messenger with speed the tidings bore;
News, which three labouring nations did restore;
But heaven's own Nuntius was arrived before.
By this, the Hind had reached her lonely cell,
And vapours rose, and dews unwholesome fell;
When she, by frequent observation wise,
As one who long on heaven had fixed her eyes,
Discerned a change of weather in the skies.
The western borders were with crimson spread,
The moon descending looked all flaming red;
She thought good manners bound her to invite
The stranger dame to be her guest that night.
'Tis true, coarse diet, and a short repast,
She said, were weak inducements to the taste
Of one so nicely bred, and so unused to fast;
But what plain fare her cottage could afford,
A hearty welcome at a homely board,
Was freely hers; and, to supply the rest,
An honest meaning, and an open breast;
Last, with content of mind, the poor man's wealth,
A grace-cup to their common patron's health.
This she desired her to accept, and stay,
For fear she might be wildered in her way,
Because she wanted an unerring guide,
And then the dewdrops on her silken hide
Her tender constitution did declare,
Too lady-like a long fatigue to bear,
And rough inclemencies of raw nocturnal air.
But most she feared, that, travelling so late,
Some evil-minded beasts might lie in wait,
And without witness wreak their hidden hate.
The Panther, though she lent a listening ear,
Had more of lion in her than to fear;
Yet wisely weighing, since she had to deal
With many foes, their numbers might prevail,
Returned her all the thanks she could afford,
And took her friendly hostess at her word;
Who, entering first her lowly roof, a shed
With hoary moss and winding ivy spread,
Honest enough to hide an humble hermit's head,
Thus graciously bespoke her welcome guest:
“So might these walls, with your fair presence blest,
Become your dwelling-place of everlasting rest;
Not for a night, or quick revolving year,
Welcome an owner, not a sojourner.
This peaceful seat my poverty secures;
War seldom enters but where wealth allures:
Nor yet despise it; for this poor abode,
Has oft received, and yet receives a God;
A God, victorious of the Stygian race,
Here laid his sacred limbs, and sanctified the place.
This mean retreat did mighty Pan contain;
Be emulous of him, and pomp disdain,
And dare not to debase your soul to gain.”
The silent stranger stood amazed to see
Contempt of wealth, and wilful poverty;
And, though ill habits are not soon controlled,
Awhile suspended her desire of gold.
But civilly drew in her sharpened paws,
Not violating hospitable laws,
And pacified her tail, and licked her frothy jaws.
The Hind did first her country cates provide;
Then couched herself securely by her side.

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Don Juan: Canto The Fifteenth

Ah!--What should follow slips from my reflection;
Whatever follows ne'ertheless may be
As à-propos of hope or retrospection,
As though the lurking thought had follow'd free.
All present life is but an interjection,
An 'Oh!' or 'Ah!' of joy or misery,
Or a 'Ha! ha!' or 'Bah!'-- a yawn, or 'Pooh!'
Of which perhaps the latter is most true.

But, more or less, the whole's a syncope
Or a singultus - emblems of emotion,
The grand antithesis to great ennui,
Wherewith we break our bubbles on the ocean,--
That watery outline of eternity,
Or miniature at least, as is my notion,
Which ministers unto the soul's delight,
In seeing matters which are out of sight.

But all are better than the sigh supprest,
Corroding in the cavern of the heart,
Making the countenance a masque of rest,
And turning human nature to an art.
Few men dare show their thoughts of worst or best;
Dissimulation always sets apart
A corner for herself; and therefore fiction
Is that which passes with least contradiction.

Ah! who can tell? Or rather, who can not
Remember, without telling, passion's errors?
The drainer of oblivion, even the sot,
Hath got blue devils for his morning mirrors:
What though on Lethe's stream he seem to float,
He cannot sink his tremors or his terrors;
The ruby glass that shakes within his hand
Leaves a sad sediment of Time's worst sand.

And as for love--O love!--We will proceed.
The Lady Adeline Amundeville,
A pretty name as one would wish to read,
Must perch harmonious on my tuneful quill.
There's music in the sighing of a reed;
There's music in the gushing of a rill;
There's music in all things, if men had ears:
Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.

The Lady Adeline, right honourable;
And honour'd, ran a risk of growing less so;
For few of the soft sex are very stable
In their resolves--alas! that I should say so!
They differ as wine differs from its label,
When once decanted;--I presume to guess so,
But will not swear: yet both upon occasion,
Till old, may undergo adulteration.

But Adeline was of the purest vintage,
The unmingled essence of the grape; and yet
Bright as a new Napoleon from its mintage,
Or glorious as a diamond richly set;
A page where Time should hesitate to print age,
And for which Nature might forego her debt--
Sole creditor whose process doth involve in 't
The luck of finding every body solvent.

O Death! thou dunnest of all duns! thou daily
Knockest at doors, at first with modest tap,
Like a meek tradesman when, approaching palely,
Some splendid debtor he would take by sap:
But oft denied, as patience 'gins to fail, he
Advances with exasperated rap,
And (if let in) insists, in terms unhandsome,
On ready money, or 'a draft on Ransom.'

Whate'er thou takest, spare a while poor Beauty!
She is so rare, and thou hast so much prey.
What though she now and then may slip from duty,
The more's the reason why you ought to stay.
Gaunt Gourmand! with whole nations for your booty,
You should be civil in a modest way:
Suppress, then, some slight feminine diseases,
And take as many heroes as Heaven pleases.

Fair Adeline, the more ingenuous
Where she was interested (as was said),
Because she was not apt, like some of us,
To like too readily, or too high bred
To show it (points we need not now discuss)--
Would give up artlessly both heart and head
Unto such feelings as seem'd innocent,
For objects worthy of the sentiment.

Some parts of Juan's history, which Rumour,
That live gazette, had scatter'd to disfigure,
She had heard; but women hear with more good humour
Such aberrations than we men of rigour:
Besides, his conduct, since in England, grew more
Strict, and his mind assumed a manlier vigour;
Because he had, like Alcibiades,
The art of living in all climes with ease.

His manner was perhaps the more seductive,
Because he ne'er seem'd anxious to seduce;
Nothing affected, studied, or constructive
Of coxcombry or conquest: no abuse
Of his attractions marr'd the fair perspective,
To indicate a Cupidon broke loose,
And seem to say, 'Resist us if you can'--
Which makes a dandy while it spoils a man.

They are wrong--that's not the way to set about it;
As, if they told the truth, could well be shown.
But, right or wrong, Don Juan was without it;
In fact, his manner was his own alone;
Sincere he was--at least you could not doubt it,
In listening merely to his voice's tone.
The devil hath not in all his quiver's choice
An arrow for the heart like a sweet voice.

By nature soft, his whole address held off
Suspicion: though not timid, his regard
Was such as rather seem'd to keep aloof,
To shield himself than put you on your guard:
Perhaps 'twas hardly quite assured enough,
But modesty's at times its own reward,
Like virtue; and the absence of pretension
Will go much farther than there's need to mention.

Serene, accomplish'd, cheerful but not loud;
Insinuating without insinuation;
Observant of the foibles of the crowd,
Yet ne'er betraying this in conversation;
Proud with the proud, yet courteously proud,
So as to make them feel he knew his station
And theirs:--without a struggle for priority,
He neither brook'd nor claim'd superiority.

That is, with men: with women he was what
They pleased to make or take him for; and their
Imagination's quite enough for that:
So that the outline's tolerably fair,
They fill the canvas up - and 'verbum sat.'
If once their phantasies be brought to bear
Upon an object, whether sad or playful,
They can transfigure brighter than a Raphael.

Adeline, no deep judge of character,
Was apt to add a colouring from her own:
'Tis thus the good will amiably err,
And eke the wise, as has been often shown.
Experience is the chief philosopher,
But saddest when his science is well known:
And persecuted sages teach the schools
Their folly in forgetting there are fools.

Was it not so, great Locke? and greater Bacon?
Great Socrates? And thou, Diviner still,
Whose lot it is by man to be mistaken,
And thy pure creed made sanction of all ill?
Redeeming worlds to be by bigots shaken,
How was thy toil rewarded? We might fill
Volumes with similar sad illustrations,
But leave them to the conscience of the nations.

I perch upon an humbler promontory,
Amidst life's infinite variety:
With no great care for what is nicknamed glory,
But speculating as I cast mine eye
On what may suit or may not suit my story,
And never straining hard to versify,
I rattle on exactly as I'd talk
With any body in a ride or walk.

I don't know that there may be much ability
Shown in this sort of desultory rhyme;
But there's a conversational facility,
Which may round off an hour upon a time.
Of this I'm sure at least, there's no servility
In mine irregularity of chime,
Which rings what's uppermost of new or hoary,
Just as I feel the 'Improvvisatore.'

'Omnia vult belle Matho dicere - dic aliquando
Et bene, dic neutrum, dic aliquando male.'
The first is rather more than mortal can do;
The second may be sadly done or gaily;
The third is still more difficult to stand to;
The fourth we hear, and see, and say too, daily.
The whole together is what I could wish
To serve in this conundrum of a dish.

A modest hope--but modesty 's my forte,
And pride my feeble:--let us ramble on.
I meant to make this poem very short,
But now I can't tell where it may not run.
No doubt, if I had wish' to pay my court
To critics, or to hail the setting sun
Of tyranny of all kinds, my concision
Were more;--but I was born for opposition.

But then 'tis mostly on the weaker side;
So that I verily believe if they
Who now are basking in their full-blown pride
Were shaken down, and 'dogs had had their day,'
Though at the first I might perchance deride
Their tumble, I should turn the other way,
And wax an ultra-royalist in loyalty,
Because I hate even democratic royalty.

I think I should have made a decent spouse,
If I had never proved the soft condition;
I think I should have made monastic vows,
But for my own peculiar superstition:
'Gainst rhyme I never should have knock'd my brows,
Nor broken my own head, nor that of Priscian,
Nor worn the motley mantle of a poet,
If some one had not told me to forego it.

But 'laissez aller'--knights and dames I sing,
Such as the times may furnish. 'T is a flight
Which seems at first to need no lofty wing,
Plumed by Longinus or the Stagyrite:
The difficultly lies in colouring
(Keeping the due proportions still in sight)
With nature manners which are artificial,
And rend'ring general that which is especial.

The difference is, that in the days of old
Men made the manners; manners now make men--
Pinn'd like a flock, and fleeced too in their fold,
At least nine, and a ninth beside of ten.
Now this at all events must render cold
Your writers, who must either draw again
Days better drawn before, or else assume
The present, with their common-place costume.

We'll do our best to make the best on't:--March!
March, my Muse! If you cannot fly, yet flutter;
And when you may not be sublime, be arch,
Or starch, as are the edicts statesmen utter.
We surely may find something worth research:
Columbus found a new world in a cutter,
Or brigantine, or pink, of no great tonnage,
While yet America was in her non-age.

When Adeline, in all her growing sense
Of Juan's merits and his situation,
Felt on the whole an interest intense,--
Partly perhaps because a fresh sensation,
Or that he had an air of innocence,
Which is for innocence a sad temptation,--
As women hate half measures, on the whole,
She 'gan to ponder how to save his soul.

She had a good opinion of advice,
Like all who give and eke receive it gratis,
For which small thanks are still the market price,
Even where the article at highest rate is:
She thought upon the subject twice or thrice,
And morally decided, the best state is
For morals, marriage; and this question carried,
She seriously advised him to get married.

Juan replied, with all becoming deference,
He had a predilection for that tie;
But that, at present, with immediate reference
To his own circumstances, there might lie
Some difficulties, as in his own preference,
Or that of her to whom he might apply:
That still he'd wed with such or such a lady,
If that they were not married all already.

Next to the making matches for herself,
And daughters, brothers, sisters, kith or kin,
Arranging them like books on the same shelf,
There 's nothing women love to dabble in
More (like a stock-holder in growing pelf)
Than match-making in general: 'tis no sin
Certes, but a preventative, and therefore
That is, no doubt, the only reason wherefore.

But never yet (except of course a miss
Unwed, or mistress never to be wed,
Or wed already, who object to this)
Was there chaste dame who had not in her head
Some drama of the marriage unities,
Observed as strictly both at board and bed
As those of Aristotle, though sometimes
They turn out melodrames or pantomimes.

They generally have some only son,
Some heir to a large property, some friend
Of an old family, some gay Sir john,
Or grave Lord George, with whom perhaps might end
A line, and leave posterity undone,
Unless a marriage was applied to mend
The prospect and their morals: and besides,
They have at hand a blooming glut of brides.

From these they will be careful to select,
For this an heiress, and for that a beauty;
For one a songstress who hath no defect,
For t'other one who promises much duty;
For this a lady no one can reject,
Whose sole accomplishments were quite a booty;
A second for her excellent connections;
A third, because there can be no objections.

When Rapp the Harmonist embargo'd marriage
In his harmonious settlement (which flourishes
Strangely enough as yet without miscarriage,
Because it breeds no more mouths than it nourishes,
Without those sad expenses which disparage
What Nature naturally most encourages)--
Why call'd he 'Harmony' a state sans wedlock?
Now here I've got the preacher at a dead lock.

Because he either meant to sneer at harmony
Or marriage, by divorcing them thus oddly.
But whether reverend Rapp learn'd this in Germany
Or no, 'tis said his sect is rich and godly,
Pious and pure, beyond what I can term any
Of ours, although they propagate more broadly.
My objection's to his title, not his ritual,
Although I wonder how it grew habitual.

But Rapp is the reverse of zealous matrons,
Who favour, malgre Malthus, generation -
Professors of that genial art, and patrons
Of all the modest part of propagation;
Which after all at such a desperate rate runs,
That half its produce tends to emigration,
That sad result of passions and potatoes -
Two weeds which pose our economic Catos.

Had Adeline read Malthus? I can't tell;
I wish she had: his book 's the eleventh commandment,
Which says, 'Thou shalt not marry,' unless well:
This he (as far as I can understand) meant.
'Tis not my purpose on his views to dwell
Nor canvass what so 'eminent a hand' meant;
But certes it conducts to lives ascetic,
Or turning marriage into arithmetic.

But Adeline, who probably presumed
That Juan had enough of maintenance,
Or separate maintenance, in case 'twas doom'd--
As on the whole it is an even chance
That bridegrooms, after they are fairly groom'd,
May retrograde a little in the dance
Of marriage (which might form a painter's fame,
Like Holbein's 'Dance of Death'--but 'tis the same);--

But Adeline determined Juan's wedding
In her own mind, and that 's enough for woman:
But then, with whom? There was the sage Miss Reading,
Miss Raw, Miss Flaw, Miss Showman, and Miss Knowman.
And the two fair co-heiresses Giltbedding.
She deem'd his merits something more than common:
All these were unobjectionable matches,
And might go on, if well wound up, like watches.

There was Miss Millpond, smooth as summer's sea,
That usual paragon, an only daughter,
Who seem'd the cream of equanimity
Till skimm'd - and then there was some milk and water,
With a slight shade of blue too, it might be,
Beneath the surface; but what did it matter?
Love's riotous, but marriage should have quiet,
And being consumptive, live on a milk diet.

And then there was the Miss Audacia Shoestring,
A dashing demoiselle of good estate,
Whose heart was fix'd upon a star or blue string;
But whether English dukes grew rare of late,
Or that she had not harp'd upon the true string,
By which such sirens can attract our great,
She took up with some foreign younger brother,
A Russ or Turk - the one's as good as t'other.

And then there was - but why should I go on,
Unless the ladies should go off?- there was
Indeed a certain fair and fairy one,
Of the best class, and better than her class,--
Aurora Raby, a young star who shone
O'er life, too sweet an image for such glass,
A lovely being, scarcely form'd or moulded,
A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded;

Rich, noble, but an orphan; left an only
Child to the care of guardians good and kind;
But still her aspect had an air so lonely!
Blood is not water; and where shall we find
Feelings of youth like those which overthrown lie
By death, when we are left, alas! behind,
To feel, in friendless palaces, a home
Is wanting, and our best ties in the tomb?

Early in years, and yet more infantine
In figure, she had something of sublime
In eyes which sadly shone, as seraphs' shine.
All youth - but with an aspect beyond time;
Radiant and grave - as pitying man's decline;
Mournful - but mournful of another's crime,
She look'd as if she sat by Eden's door.
And grieved for those who could return no more.

She was a Catholic, too, sincere, austere,
As far as her own gentle heart allow'd,
And deem'd that fallen worship far more dear
Perhaps because 'twas fallen: her sires were proud
Of deeds and days when they had fill'd the ear
Of nations, and had never bent or bow'd
To novel power; and as she was the last,
She held their old faith and old feelings fast.

She gazed upon a world she scarcely knew,
As seeking not to know it; silent, lone,
As grows a flower, thus quietly she grew,
And kept her heart serene within its zone.
There was awe in the homage which she drew;
Her spirit seem'd as seated on a throne
Apart from the surrounding world, and strong
In its own strength - most strange in one so young!

Now it so happen'd, in the catalogue
Of Adeline, Aurora was omitted,
Although her birth and wealth had given her vogue
Beyond the charmers we have already cited;
Her beauty also seem'd to form no clog
Against her being mention'd as well fitted,
By many virtues, to be worth the trouble
Of single gentlemen who would be double.

And this omission, like that of the bust
Of Brutus at the pageant of Tiberius,
Made Juan wonder, as no doubt he must.
This he express'd half smiling and half serious;
When Adeline replied with some disgust,
And with an air, to say the least, imperious,
She marvell'd 'what he saw in such a baby
As that prim, silent, cold Aurora Raby?'

Juan rejoin'd - 'She was a Catholic,
And therefore fittest, as of his persuasion;
Since he was sure his mother would fall sick,
And the Pope thunder excommunication,
If--' But here Adeline, who seem'd to pique
Herself extremely on the inoculation
Of others with her own opinions, stated--
As usual--the same reason which she late did.

And wherefore not? A reasonable reason,
If good, is none the worse for repetition;
If bad, the best way's certainly to tease on,
And amplify: you lose much by concision,
Whereas insisting in or out of season
Convinces all men, even a politician;
Or - what is just the same - it wearies out.
So the end's gain'd, what signifies the route?

Why Adeline had this slight prejudice -
For prejudice it was - against a creature
As pure as sanctity itself from vice,
With all the added charm of form and feature,
For me appears a question far too nice,
Since Adeline was liberal by nature;
But nature's nature, and has more caprices
Than I have time, or will, to take to pieces.

Perhaps she did not like the quiet way
With which Aurora on those baubles look'd,
Which charm most people in their earlier day:
For there are few things by mankind less brook'd,
And womankind too, if we so may say,
Than finding thus their genius stand rebuked,
Like 'Anthony's by Caesar,' by the few
Who look upon them as they ought to do.

It was not envy - Adeline had none;
Her place was far beyond it, and her mind.
It was not scorn - which could not light on one
Whose greatest fault was leaving few to find.
It was not jealousy, I think: but shun
Following the 'ignes fatui' of mankind.
It was not - but 'tis easier far, alas!
To say what it was not than what it was.

Little Aurora deem'd she was the theme
Of such discussion. She was there a guest;
A beauteous ripple of the brilliant stream
Of rank and youth, though purer than the rest,
Which flow'd on for a moment in the beam
Time sheds a moment o'er each sparkling crest.
Had she known this, she would have calmly smiled--
She had so much, or little, of the child.

The dashing and proud air of Adeline
Imposed not upon her: she saw her blaze
Much as she would have seen a glow -worm shine,
Then turn'd unto the stars for loftier rays.
Juan was something she could not divine,
Being no sibyl in the new world's ways;
Yet she was nothing dazzled by the meteor,
Because she did not pin her faith on feature.

His fame too,--for he had that kind of fame
Which sometimes plays the deuce with womankind,
A heterogeneous mass of glorious blame,
Half virtues and whole vices being combined;
Faults which attract because they are not tame;
Follies trick'd out so brightly that they blind:--
These seals upon her wax made no impression,
Such was her coldness or her self-possession.

Juan knew nought of such a character--
High, yet resembling not his lost Haidee;
Yet each was radiant in her proper sphere:
The island girl, bred up by the lone sea,
More warm, as lovely, and not less sincere,
Was Nature's all: Aurora could not be,
Nor would be thus:--the difference in them
Was such as lies between a flower and gem.

Having wound up with this sublime comparison,
Methinks we may proceed upon our narrative,
And, as my friend Scott says, 'I sound my warison;'
Scott, the superlative of my comparative--
Scott, who can paint your Christian knight or Saracen,
Serf, lord, man, with such skill as none would share it, if
There had not been one Shakspeare and Voltaire,
Of one or both of whom he seems the heir.

I say, in my slight way I may proceed
To play upon the surface of humanity.
I write the world, nor care if the world read,
At least for this I cannot spare its vanity.
My Muse hath bred, and still perhaps may breed
More foes by this same scroll: when I began it, I
Thought that it might turn out so - now I know it,
But still I am, or was, a pretty poet.

The conference or congress (for it ended
As congresses of late do) of the Lady
Adeline and Don Juan rather blended
Some acids with the sweets - for she was heady;
But, ere the matter could be marr'd or mended,
The silvery bell rang, not for 'dinner ready,
But for that hour, call'd half-hour, given to dress,
Though ladies' robes seem scant enough for less.

Great things were now to be achieved at table,
With massy plate for armour, knives and forks
For weapons; but what Muse since Homer 's able
(His feasts are not the worst part of his works)
To draw up in array a single day-bill
Of modern dinners? where more mystery lurks,
In soups or sauces, or a sole ragout,

There was a goodly 'soupe a la bonne femme,'
Though God knows whence it came from; there was, too,
A turbot for relief of those who cram,
Relieved with 'dindon a la Parigeux;'
How shall I get this gourmand stanza through?--
'Soupe a la Beauveau,' whose relief was dory,
Relieved itself by pork, for greater glory.

But I must crowd all into one grand mess
Or mass; for should I stretch into detail,
My Muse would run much more into excess,
Than when some squeamish people deem her frail.
But though a 'bonne vivante,' I must confess
Her stomach's not her peccant part; this tale
However doth require some slight refection,
Just to relieve her spirits from dejection.

Fowls 'a la Conde,' slices eke of salmon,
With 'sauces Genevoises,' and haunch of venison;
Wines too, which might again have slain young Ammon--
A man like whom I hope we shan't see many soon;
They also set a glazed Westphalian ham on,
Whereon Apicius would bestow his benison;
And then there was champagne with foaming whirls,
As white as Cleopatra's melted pearls.

Then there was God knows what 'a l'Allemande,'
'A l'Espagnole,' 'timballe,' and 'salpicon'--
With things I can't withstand or understand,
Though swallow'd with much zest upon the whole;
And 'entremets' to piddle with at hand,
Gently to lull down the subsiding soul;
While great Lucullus' Robe triumphal muffles
(There's fame) young partridge fillets, deck'd with truffles.

What are the fillets on the victor's brow
To these? They are rags or dust. Where is the arch
Which nodded to the nation's spoils below?
Where the triumphal chariots' haughty march?
Gone to where victories must like dinners go.
Farther I shall not follow the research:
But oh! ye modern heroes with your cartridges,
When will your names lend lustre e'en to partridges?

Those truffles too are no bad accessaries,
Follow'd by 'petits puits d'amour'--a dish
Of which perhaps the cookery rather varies,
So every one may dress it to his wish,
According to the best of dictionaries,
Which encyclopedize both flesh and fish;
But even sans 'confitures,' it no less true is,
There's pretty picking in those 'petits puits.'

The mind is lost in mighty contemplation
Of intellect expanded on two courses;
And indigestion's grand multiplication
Requires arithmetic beyond my forces.
Who would suppose, from Adam's simple ration,
That cookery could have call'd forth such resources,
As form a science and a nomenclature
From out the commonest demands of nature?

The glasses jingled, and the palates tingled;
The diners of celebrity dined well;
The ladies with more moderation mingled
In the feast, pecking less than I can tell;
Also the younger men too: for a springald
Can't, like ripe age, in gormandize excel,
But thinks less of good eating than the whisper
(When seated next him) of some pretty lisper.

Alas! I must leave undescribed the gibier,
The salmi, the consomme, the puree,
All which I use to make my rhymes run glibber
Than could roast beef in our rough John Bull way:
I must not introduce even a spare rib here,
'Bubble and squeak' would spoil my liquid lay:
But I have dined, and must forego, Alas!
The chaste description even of a 'becasse;'

And fruits, and ice, and all that art refines
From nature for the service of the gout--
Taste or the gout,--pronounce it as inclines
Your stomach! Ere you dine, the French will do;
But after, there are sometimes certain signs
Which prove plain English truer of the two.
Hast ever had the gout? I have not had it--
But I may have, and you too, reader, dread it.

The simple olives, best allies of wine,
Must I pass over in my bill of fare?
I must, although a favourite 'plat' of mine
In Spain, and Lucca, Athens, every where:
On them and bread 'twas oft my luck to dine,
The grass my table-cloth, in open-air,
On Sunium or Hymettus, like Diogenes,
Of whom half my philosophy the progeny is.

Amidst this tumult of fish, flesh, and 'fowl,
And vegetables, all in masquerade,
The guests were placed according to their roll,
But various as the various meats display'd:
Don Juan sat next 'an l'Espagnole'--
No damsel, but a dish, as hath been said;
But so far like a lady, that 'twas drest
Superbly, and contain'd a world of zest.

By some odd chance too, he was placed between
Aurora and the Lady Adeline--
A situation difficult, I ween,
For man therein, with eyes and heart, to dine.
Also the conference which we have seen
Was not such as to encourage him to shine;
For Adeline, addressing few words to him,
With two transcendent eyes seem'd to look through him.

I sometimes almost think that eyes have ears:
This much is sure, that, out of earshot, things
Are somehow echoed to the pretty dears,
Of which I can't tell whence their knowledge springs.
Like that same mystic music of the spheres,
Which no one bears, so loudly though it rings,
'T is wonderful how oft the sex have heard
Long dialogues - which pass'd without a word!

Aurora sat with that indifference
Which piques a preux chevalier - as it ought:
Of all offences that's the worst offence,
Which seems to hint you are not worth a thought.
Now Juan, though no coxcomb in pretence,
Was not exactly pleased to be so caught;
Like a good ship entangled among ice,
And after so much excellent advice.

To his gay nothings, nothing was replied,
Or something which was nothing, as urbanity
Required. Aurora scarcely look'd aside,
Nor even smiled enough for any vanity.
The devil was in the girl! Could it be pride?
Or modesty, or absence, or inanity?
Heaven knows? But Adeline's malicious eyes
Sparkled with her successful prophecies,

And look'd as much as if to say, 'I said it;'
A kind of triumph I'll not recommend,
Because it sometimes, as I have seen or read it,
Both in the case of lover and of friend,
Will pique a gentleman, for his own credit,
To bring what was a jest to a serious end:
For all men prophesy what is or was,
And hate those who won't let them come to pass.

Juan was drawn thus into some attentions,
Slight but select, and just enough to express,
To females of perspicuous comprehensions,
That he would rather make them more than less.
Aurora at the last (so history mentions,
Though probably much less a fact than guess)
So far relax'd her thoughts from their sweet prison,
As once or twice to smile, if not to listen.

From answering she began to question; this
With her was rare: and Adeline, who as yet
Thought her predictions went not much amiss,
Began to dread she'd thaw to a coquette--
So very difficult, they say, it is
To keep extremes from meeting, when once set
In motion; but she here too much refined--
Aurora's spirit was not of that kind.

But Juan had a sort of winning way,
A proud humility, if such there be,
Which show'd such deference to what females say,
As if each charming word were a decree.
His tact, too, temper'd him from grave to gay,
And taught him when to be reserved or free:
He had the art of drawing people out,
Without their seeing what he was about.

Aurora, who in her indifference
Confounded him in common with the crowd
Of flatterers, though she deem'd he had more sense
Than whispering foplings, or than witlings loud--
Commenced (from such slight things will great commence)
To feel that flattery which attracts the proud
Rather by deference than compliment,
And wins even by a delicate dissent.

And then he had good looks;--that point was carried
Nem. con. amongst the women, which I grieve
To say leads oft to crim. con. with the married -
A case which to the juries we may leave,
Since with digressions we too long have tarried.
Now though we know of old that looks deceive,
And always have done, somehow these good looks
Make more impression than the best of books.

Aurora, who look'd more on books than faces,
Was very young, although so very sage,
Admiring more Minerva than the Graces,
Especially upon a printed page.
But Virtue's self, with all her tightest laces,
Has not the natural stays of strict old age;
And Socrates, that model of all duty,
Own'd to a penchant, though discreet, for beauty.

And girls of sixteen are thus far Socratic,
But innocently so, as Socrates;
And really, if the sage sublime and Attic
At seventy years had phantasies like these,
Which Plato in his dialogues dramatic
Has shown, I know not why they should displease
In virgins - always in a modest way,
Observe; for that with me's a 'sine qua.'

Also observe, that, like the great Lord Coke
(See Littleton), whene'er I have express'd
Opinions two, which at first sight may look
Twin opposites, the second is the best.
Perhaps I have a third, too, in a nook,
Or none at all - which seems a sorry jest:
But if a writer should be quite consistent,
How could he possibly show things existent?

If people contradict themselves, can
Help contradicting them, and every body,
Even my veracious self?- But that's a lie:
I never did so, never will--how should I?
He who doubts all things nothing can deny:
Truth's fountains may be clear--her streams are muddy,
And cut through such canals of contradiction,
That she must often navigate o'er fiction.

Apologue, fable, poesy, and parable,
Are false, but may he render'd also true,
By those who sow them in a land that's arable.
'Tis wonderful what fable will not do!
'Tis said it makes reality more bearable:
But what's reality? Who has its clue?
Philosophy? No: she too much rejects.
Religion? Yes; but which of all her sects?

Some millions must be wrong, that 's pretty dear;
Perhaps it may turn out that all were right.
God help us! Since we have need on our career
To keep our holy beacons always bright,
'Tis time that some new prophet should appear,
Or old indulge man with a second sight.
Opinions wear out in some thousand years,
Without a small refreshment from the spheres.

But here again, why will I thus entangle
Myself with metaphysics? None can hate
So much as I do any kind of wrangle;
And yet, such is my folly, or my fate,
I always knock my head against some angle
About the present, past, or future state.
Yet I wish well to Trojan and to Tyrian,
For I was bred a moderate Presbyterian.

But though I am a temperate theologian,
And also meek as a metaphysician,
Impartial between Tyrian and Trojan,
As Eldon on a lunatic commission--
In politics my duty is to show John
Bull something of the lower world's condition.
It makes my blood boil like the springs of Hecla,
To see men let these scoundrel sovereigns break law.

But politics, and policy, and piety,
Are topics which I sometimes introduce,
Not only for the sake of their variety,
But as subservient to a moral use;
Because my business is to dress society,
And stuff with sage that very verdant goose.
And now, that we may furnish with some matter all
Tastes, we are going to try the supernatural.

And now I will give up all argument;
And positively henceforth no temptation
Shall 'fool me to the top up of my bent:'--
Yes, I'll begin a thorough reformation.
Indeed, I never knew what people meant
By deeming that my Muse's conversation
Was dangerous;--I think she is as harmless
As some who labour more and yet may charm less.

Grim reader! did you ever see a ghost?
No; but you have heard--I understand--be dumb!
And don't regret the time you may have lost,
For you have got that pleasure still to come:
And do not think I mean to sneer at most
Of these things, or by ridicule benumb
That source of the sublime and the mysterious:-
For certain reasons my belief is serious.

Serious? You laugh;--you may: that will I not;
My smiles must be sincere or not at all.
I say I do believe a haunted spot
Exists--and where? That shall I not recall,
Because I 'd rather it should be forgot,
'Shadows the soul of Richard' may appal.
In short, upon that subject I've some qualms very
Like those of the philosopher of Malmsbury.

The night (I sing by night - sometimes an owl,
And now and then a nightingale) is dim,
And the loud shriek of sage Minerva's fowl
Rattles around me her discordant hymn:
Old portraits from old walls upon me scowl -
I wish to heaven they would not look so grim;
The dying embers dwindle in the grate -
I think too that I have sate up too late:

And therefore, though 'tis by no means my way
To rhyme at noon - when I have other things
To think of, if I ever think - I say
I feel some chilly midnight shudderings,
And prudently postpone, until mid-day,
Treating a topic which, alas! but brings
Shadows;--but you must be in my condition
Before you learn to call this superstition.

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Canto the Fifteenth

I
Ah! -- What should follow slips from my reflection;
Whatever follows ne'ertheless may be
As à-propos of hope or retrospection,
As though the lurking thought had follow'd free.
All present life is but an interjection,
An "Oh!" or "Ah!" of joy or misery,
Or a "Ha! ha!" or "Bah!" -- a yawn, or "Pooh!"
Of which perhaps the latter is most true.

II
But, more or less, the whole's a syncopé
Or a singultus -- emblems of emotion,
The grand antithesis to great ennui,
Wherewith we break our bubbles on the ocean, --
That watery outline of eternity,
Or miniature at least, as is my notion,
Which ministers unto the soul's delight,
In seeing matters which are out of sight.

III
But all are better than the sigh supprest,
Corroding in the cavern of the heart,
Making the countenance a masque of rest,
And turning human nature to an art.
Few men dare show their thoughts of worst or best;
Dissimulation always sets apart
A corner for herself; and therefore fiction
Is that which passes with least contradiction.

IV
Ah! who can tell? Or rather, who can not
Remember, without telling, passion's errors?
The drainer of oblivion, even the sot,
Hath got blue devils for his morning mirrors:
What though on Lethe's stream he seem to float,
He cannot sink his tremors or his terrors;
The ruby glass that shakes within his hand
Leaves a sad sediment of Time's worst sand.

V
And as for love -- O love! -- We will proceed.
The Lady Adeline Amundeville,
A pretty name as one would wish to read,
Must perch harmonious on my tuneful quill.
There's music in the sighing of a reed;
There's music in the gushing of a rill;
There's music in all things, if men had ears:
Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.

VI
The Lady Adeline, right honourable;
And honour'd, ran a risk of growing less so;
For few of the soft sex are very stable
In their resolves -- alas! that I should say so!
They differ as wine differs from its label,
When once decanted; -- I presume to guess so,
But will not swear: yet both upon occasion,
Till old, may undergo adulteration.

VII
But Adeline was of the purest vintage,
The unmingled essence of the grape; and yet
Bright as a new napoleon from its mintage,
Or glorious as a diamond richly set;
A page where Time should hesitate to print age,
And for which Nature might forego her debt --
Sole creditor whose process doth involve in 't
The luck of finding every body solvent.

VIII
O Death! thou dunnest of all duns! thou daily
Knockest at doors, at first with modest tap,
Like a meek tradesman when, approaching palely,
Some splendid debtor he would take by sap:
But oft denied, as patience 'gins to fail, he
Advances with exasperated rap,
And (if let in) insists, in terms unhandsome,
On ready money, or "a draft on Ransom."

IX
Whate'er thou takest, spare a while poor Beauty!
She is so rare, and thou hast so much prey.
What though she now and then may slip from duty,
The more's the reason why you ought to stay.
Gaunt Gourmand! with whole nations for your booty,
You should be civil in a modest way:
Suppress, then, some slight feminine diseases,
And take as many heroes as Heaven pleases.

X
Fair Adeline, the more ingenuous
Where she was interested (as was said),
Because she was not apt, like some of us,
To like too readily, or too high bred
To show it (points we need not now discuss) --
Would give up artlessly both heart and head
Unto such feelings as seem'd innocent,
For objects worthy of the sentiment.

XI
Some parts of Juan's history, which Rumour,
That live gazette, had scatter'd to disfigure,
She had heard; but women hear with more good humour
Such aberrations than we men of rigour:
Besides, his conduct, since in England, grew more
Strict, and his mind assumed a manlier vigour;
Because he had, like Alcibiades,
The art of living in all climes with ease.

XII
His manner was perhaps the more seductive,
Because he ne'er seem'd anxious to seduce;
Nothing affected, studied, or constructive
Of coxcombry or conquest: no abuse
Of his attractions marr'd the fair perspective,
To indicate a Cupidon broke loose,
And seem to say, "Resist us if you can" --
Which makes a dandy while it spoils a man.

XIII
They are wrong -- that's not the way to set about it;
As, if they told the truth, could well be shown.
But, right or wrong, Don Juan was without it;
In fact, his manner was his own alone;
Sincere he was -- at least you could not doubt it,
In listening merely to his voice's tone.
The devil hath not in all his quiver's choice
An arrow for the heart like a sweet voice.

XIV
By nature soft, his whole address held off
Suspicion: though not timid, his regard
Was such as rather seem'd to keep aloof,
To shield himself than put you on your guard:
Perhaps 't was hardly quite assured enough,
But modesty's at times its own reward,
Like virtue; and the absence of pretension
Will go much farther than there's need to mention.

XV
Serene, accomplish'd, cheerful but not loud;
Insinuating without insinuation;
Observant of the foibles of the crowd,
Yet ne'er betraying this in conversation;
Proud with the proud, yet courteously proud,
So as to make them feel he knew his station
And theirs: -- without a struggle for priority,
He neither brook'd nor claim'd superiority.

XVI
That is, with men: with women he was what
They pleased to make or take him for; and their
Imagination's quite enough for that:
So that the outline's tolerably fair,
They fill the canvas up -- and "verbum sat."
If once their phantasies be brought to bear
Upon an object, whether sad or playful,
They can transfigure brighter than a Raphael.

XVII
Adeline, no deep judge of character,
Was apt to add a colouring from her own:
'T is thus the good will amiably err,
And eke the wise, as has been often shown.
Experience is the chief philosopher,
But saddest when his science is well known:
And persecuted sages teach the schools
Their folly in forgetting there are fools.

XVIII
Was it not so, great Locke? and greater Bacon?
Great Socrates? And thou, Diviner still,
Whose lot it is by man to be mistaken,
And thy pure creed made sanction of all ill?
Redeeming worlds to be by bigots shaken,
How was thy toil rewarded? We might fill
Volumes with similar sad illustrations,
But leave them to the conscience of the nations.

XIX
I perch upon an humbler promontory,
Amidst life's infinite variety:
With no great care for what is nicknamed glory,
But speculating as I cast mine eye
On what may suit or may not suit my story,
And never straining hard to versify,
I rattle on exactly as I'd talk
With any body in a ride or walk.

XX
I don't know that there may be much ability
Shown in this sort of desultory rhyme;
But there's a conversational facility,
Which may round off an hour upon a time.
Of this I'm sure at least, there's no servility
In mine irregularity of chime,
Which rings what's uppermost of new or hoary,
Just as I feel the Improvvisatore.

XXI
"Omnia vult belle Matho dicere -- dic aliquando
Et bene, dic neutrum, dic aliquando male."
The first is rather more than mortal can do;
The second may be sadly done or gaily;
The third is still more difficult to stand to;
The fourth we hear, and see, and say too, daily.
The whole together is what I could wish
To serve in this conundrum of a dish.

XXII
A modest hope -- but modesty's my forte,
And pride my feeble: -- let us ramble on.
I meant to make this poem very short,
But now I can't tell where it may not run.
No doubt, if I had wished to pay my court
To critics, or to hail the setting sun
Of tyranny of all kinds, my concision
Were more; -- but I was born for opposition.

XXIII
But then 't is mostly on the weaker side;
So that I verily believe if they
Who now are basking in their full-blown pride
Were shaken down, and "dogs had had their day,"
Though at the first I might perchance deride
Their tumble, I should turn the other way,
And wax an ultra-royalist in loyalty,
Because I hate even democratic royalty.

XXIV
I think I should have made a decent spouse,
If I had never proved the soft condition;
I think I should have made monastic vows,
But for my own peculiar superstition:
'Gainst rhyme I never should have knock'd my brows,
Nor broken my own head, nor that of Priscian,
Nor worn the motley mantle of a poet,
If some one had not told me to forego it.

XXV
But laissez aller -- knights and dames I sing,
Such as the times may furnish. 'T is a flight
Which seems at first to need no lofty wing,
Plumed by Longinus or the Stagyrite:
The difficultly lies in colouring
(Keeping the due proportions still in sight)
With nature manners which are artificial,
And rend'ring general that which is especial.

XXVI
The difference is, that in the days of old
Men made the manners; manners now make men --
Pinn'd like a flock, and fleeced too in their fold,
At least nine, and a ninth beside of ten.
Now this at all events must render cold
Your writers, who must either draw again
Days better drawn before, or else assume
The present, with their common-place costume.

XXVII
We'll do our best to make the best on 't: -- March!
March, my Muse! If you cannot fly, yet flutter;
And when you may not be sublime, be arch,
Or starch, as are the edicts statesmen utter.
We surely may find something worth research:
Columbus found a new world in a cutter,
Or brigantine, or pink, of no great tonnage,
While yet America was in her non-age.

XXVIII
When Adeline, in all her growing sense
Of Juan's merits and his situation,
Felt on the whole an interest intense, --
Partly perhaps because a fresh sensation,
Or that he had an air of innocence,
Which is for innocence a sad temptation, --
As women hate half measures, on the whole,
She 'gan to ponder how to save his soul.

XXIX
She had a good opinion of advice,
Like all who give and eke receive it gratis,
For which small thanks are still the market price,
Even where the article at highest rate is:
She thought upon the subject twice or thrice,
And morally decided, the best state is
For morals, marriage; and this question carried,
She seriously advised him to get married.

XXX
Juan replied, with all becoming deference,
He had a predilection for that tie;
But that, at present, with immediate reference
To his own circumstances, there might lie
Some difficulties, as in his own preference,
Or that of her to whom he might apply:
That still he'd wed with such or such a lady,
If that they were not married all already.

XXXI
Next to the making matches for herself,
And daughters, brothers, sisters, kith or kin,
Arranging them like books on the same shelf,
There's nothing women love to dabble in
More (like a stock-holder in growing pelf)
Than match-making in general: 't is no sin
Certes, but a preventative, and therefore
That is, no doubt, the only reason wherefore.

XXXII
But never yet (except of course a miss
Unwed, or mistress never to be wed,
Or wed already, who object to this)
Was there chaste dame who had not in her head
Some drama of the marriage unities,
Observed as strictly both at board and bed
As those of Aristotle, though sometimes
They turn out melodrames or pantomimes.

XXXIII
They generally have some only son,
Some heir to a large property, some friend
Of an old family, some gay Sir John,
Or grave Lord George, with whom perhaps might end
A line, and leave posterity undone,
Unless a marriage was applied to mend
The prospect and their morals: and besides,
They have at hand a blooming glut of brides.

XXXIV
From these they will be careful to select,
For this an heiress, and for that a beauty;
For one a songstress who hath no defect,
For t' other one who promises much duty;
For this a lady no one can reject,
Whose sole accomplishments were quite a booty;
A second for her excellent connections;
A third, because there can be no objections.

XXXV
When Rapp the Harmonist embargo'd marriage
In his harmonious settlement (which flourishes
Strangely enough as yet without miscarriage,
Because it breeds no more mouths than it nourishes,
Without those sad expenses which disparage
What Nature naturally most encourages) --
Why call'd he "Harmony" a state sans wedlock?
Now here I've got the preacher at a dead lock,

XXXVI
Because he either meant to sneer at harmony
Or marriage, by divorcing them thus oddly.
But whether reverend Rapp learn'd this in Germany
Or no, 't is said his sect is rich and godly,
Pious and pure, beyond what I can term any
Of ours, although they propagate more broadly.
My objection's to his title, not his ritual,
Although I wonder how it grew habitual.

XXXVII
But Rapp is the reverse of zealous matrons,
Who favour, malgré Malthus, generation --
Professors of that genial art, and patrons
Of all the modest part of propagation;
Which after all at such a desperate rate runs,
That half its produce tends to emigration,
That sad result of passions and potatoes --
Two weeds which pose our economic Catos.

XXXVIII
Had Adeline read Malthus? I can't tell;
I wish she had: his book's the eleventh commandment,
Which says, "Thou shalt not marry," unless well:
This he (as far as I can understand) meant.
'T is not my purpose on his views to dwell
Nor canvass what so "eminent a hand" meant;
But certes it conducts to lives ascetic,
Or turning marriage into arithmetic.

XXXIX
But Adeline, who probably presumed
That Juan had enough of maintenance,
Or separate maintenance, in case 't was doom'd --
As on the whole it is an even chance
That bridegrooms, after they are fairly groom'd,
May retrograde a little in the dance
Of marriage (which might form a painter's fame,
Like Holbein's "Dance of Death" -- but 't is the same); --

XL
But Adeline determined Juan's wedding
In her own mind, and that's enough for woman:
But then, with whom? There was the sage Miss Reading,
Miss Raw, Miss Flaw, Miss Showman, and Miss Knowman.
And the two fair co-heiresses Giltbedding.
She deem'd his merits something more than common:
All these were unobjectionable matches,
And might go on, if well wound up, like watches.

XLI
There was Miss Millpond, smooth as summer's sea,
That usual paragon, an only daughter,
Who seem'd the cream of equanimity
Till skimm'd -- and then there was some milk and water,
With a slight shade of blue too, it might be,
Beneath the surface; but what did it matter?
Love's riotous, but marriage should have quiet,
And being consumptive, live on a milk diet.

XLII
And then there was the Miss Audacia Shoestring,
A dashing demoiselle of good estate,
Whose heart was fix'd upon a star or blue string;
But whether English dukes grew rare of late,
Or that she had not harp'd upon the true string,
By which such sirens can attract our great,
She took up with some foreign younger brother,
A Russ or Turk -- the one's as good as t' other.

XLIII
And then there was -- but why should I go on,
Unless the ladies should go off? -- there was
Indeed a certain fair and fairy one,
Of the best class, and better than her class, --
Aurora Raby, a young star who shone
O'er life, too sweet an image for such glass,
A lovely being, scarcely form'd or moulded,
A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded;

XLIV
Rich, noble, but an orphan; left an only
Child to the care of guardians good and kind;
But still her aspect had an air so lonely!
Blood is not water; and where shall we find
Feelings of youth like those which overthrown lie
By death, when we are left, alas! behind,
To feel, in friendless palaces, a home
Is wanting, and our best ties in the tomb?

XLV
Early in years, and yet more infantine
In figure, she had something of sublime
In eyes which sadly shone, as seraphs' shine.
All youth -- but with an aspect beyond time;
Radiant and grave -- as pitying man's decline;
Mournful -- but mournful of another's crime,
She look'd as if she sat by Eden's door.
And grieved for those who could return no more.

XLVI
She was a Catholic, too, sincere, austere,
As far as her own gentle heart allow'd,
And deem'd that fallen worship far more dear
Perhaps because 't was fallen: her sires were proud
Of deeds and days when they had fill'd the ear
Of nations, and had never bent or bow'd
To novel power; and as she was the last,
She held their old faith and old feelings fast.

XLVII
She gazed upon a world she scarcely knew,
As seeking not to know it; silent, lone,
As grows a flower, thus quietly she grew,
And kept her heart serene within its zone.
There was awe in the homage which she drew;
Her spirit seem'd as seated on a throne
Apart from the surrounding world, and strong
In its own strength -- most strange in one so young!

XLVIII
Now it so happen'd, in the catalogue
Of Adeline, Aurora was omitted,
Although her birth and wealth had given her vogue
Beyond the charmers we have already cited;
Her beauty also seem'd to form no clog
Against her being mention'd as well fitted,
By many virtues, to be worth the trouble
Of single gentlemen who would be double.

XLIX
And this omission, like that of the bust
Of Brutus at the pageant of Tiberius,
Made Juan wonder, as no doubt he must.
This he express'd half smiling and half serious;
When Adeline replied with some disgust,
And with an air, to say the least, imperious,
She marvell'd "what he saw in such a baby
As that prim, silent, cold Aurora Raby?"

L
Juan rejoin'd -- "She was a Catholic,
And therefore fittest, as of his persuasion;
Since he was sure his mother would fall sick,
And the Pope thunder excommunication,
If-" But here Adeline, who seem'd to pique
Herself extremely on the inoculation
Of others with her own opinions, stated --
As usual -- the same reason which she late did.

LI
And wherefore not? A reasonable reason,
If good, is none the worse for repetition;
If bad, the best way's certainly to tease on,
And amplify: you lose much by concision,
Whereas insisting in or out of season
Convinces all men, even a politician;
Or -- what is just the same -- it wearies out.
So the end's gain'd, what signifies the route?

LII
Why Adeline had this slight prejudice --
For prejudice it was -- against a creature
As pure as sanctity itself from vice,
With all the added charm of form and feature,
For me appears a question far too nice,
Since Adeline was liberal by nature;
But nature's nature, and has more caprices
Than I have time, or will, to take to pieces.

LIII
Perhaps she did not like the quiet way
With which Aurora on those baubles look'd,
Which charm most people in their earlier day:
For there are few things by mankind less brook'd,
And womankind too, if we so may say,
Than finding thus their genius stand rebuked,
Like "Anthony's by Cæsar," by the few
Who look upon them as they ought to do.

LIV
It was not envy -- Adeline had none;
Her place was far beyond it, and her mind.
It was not scorn -- which could not light on one
Whose greatest fault was leaving few to find.
It was not jealousy, I think: but shun
Following the ignes fatui of mankind.
It was not -- but 't is easier far, alas!
To say what it was not than what it was.

LV
Little Aurora deem'd she was the theme
Of such discussion. She was there a guest;
A beauteous ripple of the brilliant stream
Of rank and youth, though purer than the rest,
Which flow'd on for a moment in the beam
Time sheds a moment o'er each sparkling crest.
Had she known this, she would have calmly smiled --
She had so much, or little, of the child.

LVI
The dashing and proud air of Adeline
Imposed not upon her: she saw her blaze
Much as she would have seen a glow-worm shine,
Then turn'd unto the stars for loftier rays.
Juan was something she could not divine,
Being no sibyl in the new world's ways;
Yet she was nothing dazzled by the meteor,
Because she did not pin her faith on feature.

LVII
His fame too, -- for he had that kind of fame
Which sometimes plays the deuce with womankind,
A heterogeneous mass of glorious blame,
Half virtues and whole vices being combined;
Faults which attract because they are not tame;
Follies trick'd out so brightly that they blind: --
These seals upon her wax made no impression,
Such was her coldness or her self-possession.

LVIII
Juan knew nought of such a character --
High, yet resembling not his lost Haidée;
Yet each was radiant in her proper sphere:
The island girl, bred up by the lone sea,
More warm, as lovely, and not less sincere,
Was Nature's all: Aurora could not be,
Nor would be thus: -- the difference in them
Was such as lies between a flower and gem.

LIX
Having wound up with this sublime comparison,
Methinks we may proceed upon our narrative,
And, as my friend Scott says, "I sound my warison;"
Scott, the superlative of my comparative --
Scott, who can paint your Christian knight or Saracen,
Serf, lord, man, with such skill as none would share it, if
There had not been one Shakspeare and Voltaire,
Of one or both of whom he seems the heir.

LX
I say, in my slight way I may proceed
To play upon the surface of humanity.
I write the world, nor care if the world read,
At least for this I cannot spare its vanity.
My Muse hath bred, and still perhaps may breed
More foes by this same scroll: when I began it, I
Thought that it might turn out so -- now I know it,
But still I am, or was, a pretty poet.

LXI
The conference or congress (for it ended
As congresses of late do) of the Lady
Adeline and Don Juan rather blended
Some acids with the sweets -- for she was heady;
But, ere the matter could be marr'd or mended,
The silvery bell rang, not for "dinner ready,"
But for that hour, call'd half-hour, given to dress,
Though ladies' robes seem scant enough for less.

LXII
Great things were now to be achieved at table,
With massy plate for armour, knives and forks
For weapons; but what Muse since Homer's able
(His feasts are not the worst part of his works)
To draw up in array a single day-bill
Of modern dinners? where more mystery lurks,
In soups or sauces, or a sole ragoût,
Than witches, b---ches, or physicians, brew.

LXIII
There was a goodly "soupe à la bonne femme,"
Though God knows whence it came from; there was, too,
A turbot for relief of those who cram,
Relieved with "dindon à la Périgeux;"
There also was -- the sinner that I am!
How shall I get this gourmand stanza through? --
"Soupe à la Beauveau," whose relief was dory,
Relieved itself by pork, for greater glory.

LXIV
But I must crowd all into one grand mess
Or mass; for should I stretch into detail,
My Muse would run much more into excess,
Than when some squeamish people deem her frail.
But though a bonne vivante, I must confess
Her stomach's not her peccant part; this tale
However doth require some slight refection,
Just to relieve her spirits from dejection.

LXV
Fowls "à la Condé," slices eke of salmon,
With "sauces Génevoises," and haunch of venison;
Wines too, which might again have slain young Ammon --
A man like whom I hope we shan't see many soon;
They also set a glazed Westphalian ham on,
Whereon Apicius would bestow his benison;
And then there was champagne with foaming whirls,
As white as Cleopatra's melted pearls.

LXVI
Then there was God knows what "à l'Allemande,"
"À l'Espagnole," "timballe," and "salpicon" --
With things I can't withstand or understand,
Though swallow'd with much zest upon the whole;
And "entremets" to piddle with at hand,
Gently to lull down the subsiding soul;
While great Lucullus' Robe triumphal muffles
(There's fame) -- young partridge fillets, deck'd with truffles.

LXVII
What are the fillets on the victor's brow
To these? They are rags or dust. Where is the arch
Which nodded to the nation's spoils below?
Where the triumphal chariots' haughty march?
Gone to where victories must like dinners go.
Farther I shall not follow the research:
But oh! ye modern heroes with your cartridges,
When will your names lend lustre e'en to partridges?

LXVIII
Those truffles too are no bad accessaries,
Follow'd by "petits puits d'amour" -- a dish
Of which perhaps the cookery rather varies,
So every one may dress it to his wish,
According to the best of dictionaries,
Which encyclopedize both flesh and fish;
But even sans confitures, it no less true is,
There's pretty picking in those petits puits.

LXIX
The mind is lost in mighty contemplation
Of intellect expanded on two courses;
And indigestion's grand multiplication
Requires arithmetic beyond my forces.
Who would suppose, from Adam's simple ration,
That cookery could have call'd forth such resources,
As form a science and a nomenclature
From out the commonest demands of nature?

LXX
The glasses jingled, and the palates tingled;
The diners of celebrity dined well;
The ladies with more moderation mingled
In the feast, pecking less than I can tell;
Also the younger men too: for a springald
Can't, like ripe age, in gourmandise excel,
But thinks less of good eating than the whisper
(When seated next him) of some pretty lisper.

LXXI
Alas! I must leave undescribed the gibier,
The salmi, the consommé, the purée,
All which I use to make my rhymes run glibber
Than could roast beef in our rough John Bull way:
I must not introduce even a spare rib here,
"Bubble and squeak" would spoil my liquid lay:
But I have dined, and must forego, Alas!
The chaste description even of a "bécasse;"

LXXII
And fruits, and ice, and all that art refines
From nature for the service of the goût --
Taste or the gout, -- pronounce it as inclines
Your stomach! Ere you dine, the French will do;
But after, there are sometimes certain signs
Which prove plain English truer of the two.
Hast ever had the gout? I have not had it --
But I may have, and you too, reader, dread it.

LXXIII
The simple olives, best allies of wine,
Must I pass over in my bill of fare?
I must, although a favourite plat of mine
In Spain, and Lucca, Athens, every where:
On them and bread 't was oft my luck to dine,
The grass my table-cloth, in open-air,
On Sunium or Hymettus, like Diogenes,
Of whom half my philosophy the progeny is.

LXXIV
Amidst this tumult of fish, flesh, and fowl,
And vegetables, all in masquerade,
The guests were placed according to their roll,
But various as the various meats display'd:
Don Juan sat next "à l'Espagnole" --
No damsel, but a dish, as hath been said;
But so far like a lady, that 't was drest
Superbly, and contain'd a world of zest.

LXXV
By some odd chance too, he was placed between
Aurora and the Lady Adeline --
A situation difficult, I ween,
For man therein, with eyes and heart, to dine.
Also the conference which we have seen
Was not such as to encourage him to shine;
For Adeline, addressing few words to him,
With two transcendent eyes seem'd to look through him.

LXXVI
I sometimes almost think that eyes have ears:
This much is sure, that, out of earshot, things
Are somehow echoed to the pretty dears,
Of which I can't tell whence their knowledge springs.
Like that same mystic music of the spheres,
Which no one bears, so loudly though it rings,
'T is wonderful how oft the sex have heard
Long dialogues -- which pass'd without a word!

LXXVII
Aurora sat with that indifference
Which piques a preux chevalier -- as it ought:
Of all offences that's the worst offence,
Which seems to hint you are not worth a thought.
Now Juan, though no coxcomb in pretence,
Was not exactly pleased to be so caught;
Like a good ship entangled among ice,
And after so much excellent advice.

LXXVIII
To his gay nothings, nothing was replied,
Or something which was nothing, as urbanity
Required. Aurora scarcely look'd aside,
Nor even smiled enough for any vanity.
The devil was in the girl! Could it be pride?
Or modesty, or absence, or inanity?
Heaven knows? But Adeline's malicious eyes
Sparkled with her successful prophecies,

LXXIX
And look'd as much as if to say, "I said it;"
A kind of triumph I'll not recommend,
Because it sometimes, as I have seen or read it,
Both in the case of lover and of friend,
Will pique a gentleman, for his own credit,
To bring what was a jest to a serious end:
For all men prophesy what is or was,
And hate those who won't let them come to pass.

LXXX
Juan was drawn thus into some attentions,
Slight but select, and just enough to express,
To females of perspicuous comprehensions,
That he would rather make them more than less.
Aurora at the last (so history mentions,
Though probably much less a fact than guess)
So far relax'd her thoughts from their sweet prison,
As once or twice to smile, if not to listen.

LXXXI
From answering she began to question; this
With her was rare: and Adeline, who as yet
Thought her predictions went not much amiss,
Began to dread she'd thaw to a coquette --
So very difficult, they say, it is
To keep extremes from meeting, when once set
In motion; but she here too much refined --
Aurora's spirit was not of that kind.

LXXXII
But Juan had a sort of winning way,
A proud humility, if such there be,
Which show'd such deference to what females say,
As if each charming word were a decree.
His tact, too, temper'd him from grave to gay,
And taught him when to be reserved or free:
He had the art of drawing people out,
Without their seeing what he was about.

LXXXIII
Aurora, who in her indifference
Confounded him in common with the crowd
Of flatterers, though she deem'd he had more sense
Than whispering foplings, or than witlings loud --
Commenced (from such slight things will great commence)
To feel that flattery which attracts the proud
Rather by deference than compliment,
And wins even by a delicate dissent.

LXXXIV
And then he had good looks; -- that point was carried
Nem. con. amongst the women, which I grieve
To say leads oft to crim. con. with the married --
A case which to the juries we may leave,
Since with digressions we too long have tarried.
Now though we know of old that looks deceive,
And always have done, somehow these good looks
Make more impression than the best of books.

LXXXV
Aurora, who look'd more on books than faces,
Was very young, although so very sage,
Admiring more Minerva than the Graces,
Especially upon a printed page.
But Virtue's self, with all her tightest laces,
Has not the natural stays of strict old age;
And Socrates, that model of all duty,
Own'd to a penchant, though discreet, for beauty.

LXXXVI
And girls of sixteen are thus far Socratic,
But innocently so, as Socrates;
And really, if the sage sublime and Attic
At seventy years had phantasies like these,
Which Plato in his dialogues dramatic
Has shown, I know not why they should displease
In virgins -- always in a modest way,
Observe; for that with me's a "sine quâ."

LXXXVII
Also observe, that, like the great Lord Coke
(See Littleton), whene'er I have express'd
Opinions two, which at first sight may look
Twin opposites, the second is the best.
Perhaps I have a third, too, in a nook,
Or none at all -- which seems a sorry jest:
But if a writer should be quite consistent,
How could he possibly show things existent?

LXXXVIII
If people contradict themselves, can I
Help contradicting them, and every body,
Even my veracious self? -- But that's a lie:
I never did so, never will -- how should I?
He who doubts all things nothing can deny:
Truth's fountains may be clear -- her streams are muddy,
And cut through such canals of contradiction,
That she must often navigate o'er fiction.

LXXXIX
Apologue, fable, poesy, and parable,
Are false, but may be render'd also true,
By those who sow them in a land that's arable.
'T is wonderful what fable will not do!
'T is said it makes reality more bearable:
But what's reality? Who has its clue?
Philosophy? No: she too much rejects.
Religion? Yes; but which of all her sects?

XC
Some millions must be wrong, that's pretty clear;
Perhaps it may turn out that all were right.
God help us! Since we have need on our career
To keep our holy beacons always bright,
'T is time that some new prophet should appear,
Or old indulge man with a second sight.
Opinions wear out in some thousand years,
Without a small refreshment from the spheres.

XCI
But here again, why will I thus entangle
Myself with metaphysics? None can hate
So much as I do any kind of wrangle;
And yet, such is my folly, or my fate,
I always knock my head against some angle
About the present, past, or future state.
Yet I wish well to Trojan and to Tyrian,
For I was bred a moderate Presbyterian.

XCII
But though I am a temperate theologian,
And also meek as a metaphysician,
Impartial between Tyrian and Trojan,
As Eldon on a lunatic commission --
In politics my duty is to show John
Bull something of the lower world's condition.
It makes my blood boil like the springs of Hecla,
To see men let these scoundrel sovereigns break law.

XCIII
But politics, and policy, and piety,
Are topics which I sometimes introduce,
Not only for the sake of their variety,
But as subservient to a moral use;
Because my business is to dress society,
And stuff with sage that very verdant goose.
And now, that we may furnish with some matter all
Tastes, we are going to try the supernatural.

XCIV
And now I will give up all argument;
And positively henceforth no temptation
Shall "fool me to the top up of my bent:" --
Yes, I'll begin a thorough reformation.
Indeed, I never knew what people meant
By deeming that my Muse's conversation
Was dangerous; -- I think she is as harmless
As some who labour more and yet may charm less.

XCV
Grim reader! did you ever see a ghost?
No; but you have heard -- I understand -- be dumb!
And don't regret the time you may have lost,
For you have got that pleasure still to come:
And do not think I mean to sneer at most
Of these things, or by ridicule benumb
That source of the sublime and the mysterious: --
For certain reasons my belief is serious.

XCVI
Serious? You laugh; -- you may: that will I not;
My smiles must be sincere or not at all.
I say I do believe a haunted spot
Exists -- and where? That shall I not recall,
Because I'd rather it should be forgot,
"Shadows the soul of Richard" may appal.
In short, upon that subject I've some qualms very
Like those of the philosopher of Malmsbury.

XCVII
The night (I sing by night -- sometimes an owl,
And now and then a nightingale) is dim,
And the loud shriek of sage Minerva's fowl
Rattles around me her discordant hymn:
Old portraits from old walls upon me scowl --
I wish to heaven they would not look so grim;
The dying embers dwindle in the grate --
I think too that I have sate up too late:

XCVIII
And therefore, though 't is by no means my way
To rhyme at noon -- when I have other things
To think of, if I ever think -- I say
I feel some chilly midnight shudderings,
And prudently postpone, until mid-day,
Treating a topic which, alas! but brings
Shadows; -- but you must be in my condition
Before you learn to call this superstition.

XCIX
Between two worlds life hovers like a star,
'Twixt night and morn, upon the horizon's verge.
How little do we know that which we are!
How less what we may be! The eternal surge
Of time and tide rolls on, and bears afar
Our bubbles; as the old burst, new emerge,
Lash'd from the foam of ages; while the graves
Of empires heave but like some passing waves.

poem by from Don Juan (1824)Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Veronica Serbanoiu
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