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William Butler Yeats

Oil And Blood

In tombs of gold and lapis lazuli
Bodies of holy men and women exude
Miraculous oil, odour of violet.

But under heavy loads of trampled clay
Lie bodies of the vampires full of blood;
Their shrouds are bloody and their lips are wet.

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Time and Grief

O TIME! who know'st a lenient hand to lay
Softest on sorrow's wound, and slowly thence
(Lulling to sad repose the weary sense)
The faint pang stealest unperceived away;
On thee I rest my only hope at last,
And think, when thou hast dried the bitter tear
That flows in vain o'er all my soul held dear,
I may look back on every sorrow past,
And meet life's peaceful evening with a smile:
As some lone bird, at day's departing hour,
Sings in the sunbeam, of the transient shower
Forgetful, though its wings are wet the while:—
Yet ah! how much must this poor heart endure,
Which hopes from thee, and thee alone, a cure!

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Amusing and Delicious Social Prey

Do not continue to perpetuate with perpetration,
Anyone's self indulged deluded opinion...
They keep about themselves,
That they are above reproach...
And constructive criticism given.

Do not do this!
Accept honesty as a gift that frees.

Those performing their fantasies,
Dished and embellished with a bit of ego...
Are in need of 'someone' to draw that line,
Made to be understood.

If not...
You do them more harm,
Than their false friends who find them...
Amusing and delicious social prey.

Establish your boundaries with people like this.
Do not beat around the bush.
Your name may be spoken with bitterness from their lips.
But one day,
When they do awaken...
They will no longer restrict themselves,
To insecurities they masquerade.
And don't be surprised,
If one they should call to apologize!

Hopefully they will come to understand,
You were never in the market...
To solicit OR promote the advancement of fools.

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Patrick White

I Wish Everyone In The World Were As Mad As You Are

I wish everyone in the world were as mad as you are.
I wish everyone in the world talked the same nonsense you do
and meant as much.
Stop crying.
I wish everyone in the world were as good as you are
and didn't lie to anyone else
other than themselves
about what the truth is.
You shape chaos to your mind
like light to space
to make a habitable planet you can live on
and if it isn't round sometimes
and O doesn't always cast the same shadow
that the others mimic with theirs
I wish everyone could put on your kind of airs
and be as good to life as the kind of atmosphere you are.
Come on now.
Here.
Dry your tears with this.
All those constellations you made up
out of the stars in your eyes
are your own private myths and mandalas
and you're free to change them as you will
and I wish everyone made as much
of the light they were given to go by
as you have.
I'm too much of a thorn
to paint the delicate iridescent watercolours
I see smeared on your tender bubbles
like original pictures of the universe
from a thousand spaced-out Hubbles
but I wish everyone in the world
had your kind of genius for vulnerability.
You hold up a single feather of light
like a candle among stars
like a green leaf in the middle of winter
and the world that is inured to three dimensions
for infinitely tedious reasons
would rather put its eyes out
and gape like blackholes
than see as you do
that there are countless seasons to the soul
that burn like a phoenix
and there's nowhere you can point to in the darkness
that isn't an equinox of love and understanding
when the sun shines at midnight
and spring harvests what the autumn sows.
Having a deep cosmic insight
like a stranger beyond lucidity
into the windows of the houses of your own zodiac
might make you look like a maniac to the neighbours
who keep watch in their asylum
against any kind of freedom
that might release them from their lighthouse
like a geni from a lamp
that doesn't conform to anyone's wishs but her own
but I wish everyone had the courage
you have not to be them.
Life isn't fair or unfair.
Life isn't kind or cruel.
It isn't half-Buddha and half-fool.
Neither impersonal
nor sentimental
life isn't a kind of obedience
to its own rules
as if it were bound like God to keep its word.
Or what?
Who else is there to answer to?
All the taboos want to be thresholds
and all the thresholds
want to run away from home.
Could be a curse.
Could be a blessing.
Could be just more idle words.
But you're not like that.
You're not a fountain mouth
that mistakes alphabets for birds
and holds them to the letter of the law
in a world full of music.
It's enlightenment to sing to a window.
It's ignorance to sing to a mirror.
But you don't sing to either
and your song is clear as running water
all the way down the mountain.
The picture-music
of your eyes and your ears
can already hear the ocean from here
that gathers to receive the flowing
like the heart receives blood
like the mind receives your thoughts.
Look out at the world.
You're the host.
Look inward.
You're the guest.
You can break bread with the dead
without being a ghost.
You can drink wine with the living
and it's the wine that gets high on you
flowing into a seabed of shadows on the moon
that hasn't touched a dropp for years.
Don't believe what the cynics say about innocence.
They have the sensibilities of blackflies
trying to draw blood from the Mona Lisa.
Don't grieve if you're a butterfly
that can't follow the flightplans of the maggots.
There's only a slight difference in wingspan
between a waterbird and a phoenix
but it would take lightyears
to measure a single feather of yours.
There's no cult of the rose
that insists it fall upon its own thorns first
or the moon draw first blood
on the blades of its own crescents.
You don't have to scar
your own deathmask with experience
just to prove you knew
how to eat the pain and bleed.
You don't have to wear your face in public
as if it were something you kept up your sleeve.
Dice might be the foundation-stones of the lost
but that doesn't mean
you have to go pearl-diving
for the moon in quicksand
or change your song like a jukebox
playing the slots
when you're a mermaid on the rocks.
I wish everyone had the same chance
to risk it all as you do
and win back their lives
like eleven come of seven
insteading of seeing everything
as if they were jinxed by inasuspicious birds
turning the wrong way on a prayer-wheel
that keeps coming up snake-eyes
with every roll of their skulls.
You can't heal the luck
of a wounded Nazi
by turning his swastika the other way.
You can't teach snakes to bite other people.
And you don't know enough
if there's anything left to say or understand
and even then there's a silence
that still longs to be heard
like a humming bird sipping honey from your ears
or deep in a telescopic wishing well of stars
burning in a dream of mirrors
they walk across
like fire on the water
or the distant blue notes
of the hidden nightbird
that echoes your tears
as if it were crying out in the darkness
from the safety of a secret place
for the same reasons you are.
As if it were trying to befriend its own sorrow
and weep for tomorrow as you do
for all the things of the past
it won't even know it's missing.
I wish everyone in the world
could live the future as you do
as something that is already happening now.
Even when you're crying
because you don't think you're brave enough
not to.
You're not a lame princess
that anyone needs to rescue.
You're a dragon bringing rain.
And if the snakepit hisses at you
like a social structure
and calls you insane sometimes
because you have wings
and they still hug the earth
all tied up in knots
taking their poisons out on each other
to keep from feeling anything
it's just their way of defining sanity
by the standards of the numbest.
It's not you that's crazy.
It's not you that's the dumbest.
I wish everyone in the world
were as warm-blooded and wise as you are.
When the serpent fire at the base of your spine
has passed through the doors
of all your chakras like vertebrae
and you're already a circumpolar constellation j
just a little off true north
shining like Draco
why worry if you're no good
at the game of snakes and ladders
they play like politics and religion back here on earth
to see who gets to be the pillar
and who the quicksand.
You understand way more than that.
I can tell by the fire in your eyes
that you're a phoenix among stars
and you've transcended the eagles and the houseflies
that can't even begin to imagine
the kind of heights you can reach to
or the depth of the view below you
when you're riding your own thermals
like beautiful helices in the mindstream
for the sheer joy of being only you.
Even now.
These tears
that run all the way down to your lips
as if water had fingertips
what are they
but the way you cry for things
that everyone else didn't?
I wish everyone in the world could be like you.
I wish you could teach us all
to stop living a spiritual lie
on the deathbed of an earthly truth
as if that were the only way
to foolproof ourselves
against reality
like a stranger looking through our windows at night
who doesn't recognize herself in us
because most of us aren't as brave and free as you are
to leave the door ajar
and let whatever wants to come in
come in.
Some track in mud.
Some.
Stars.
And the mud flowers in light.
And the stars bloom in fire.
And one looks up
and the other looks down
on each other's likeness
reflected in the other
as if they were engendered by the same being.
Sight is a kind of love
and I wish everyone in the world
were inspired by the mystic dimensions
and intimate clarity of your kind of seeing
that even through these tears
that I'm not having much luck in wiping away
can comprehend a world
that's more wonderful than it thinks it is.

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Custer: Book Second

I

Oh, for the power to call to aid, of mine
Own humble Muse, the famed and sacred nine.
Then might she fitly sing, and only then,
Of those intrepid and unflinching men
Who knew no homes save ever moving tents,
And who 'twixt fierce unfriendly elements
And wild barbarians warred. Yet unfraid,
Since love impels thy strains, sing, sing, my modest maid.

II

Relate how Custer in midwinter sought
Far Washita's cold shores; tell why he fought
With savage nomads fortressed in deep snows.
Woman, thou source of half the sad world's woes
And all its joys, what sanguinary strife
Has vexed the earth and made contention rife
Because of thee! For, hidden in man's heart,
Ay, in his very soul, of his true self a part,

III

The natural impulse and the wish belongs
To win thy favor and redress thy wrongs.
Alas! for woman, and for man, alas!
If that dread hour should ever come to pass,
When, through her new-born passion for control,
She drives that beauteous impulse from his soul.
What were her vaunted independence worth
If to obtain she sells her sweetest rights of birth?

IV

God formed fair woman for her true estate-
Man's tender comrade, and his equal mate,
Not his competitor in toil and trade.
While coarser man, with greater strength was made
To fight her battles and her rights protect.
Ay! to protect the rights of earth's elect
(The virgin maiden and the spotless wife)
From immemorial time has man laid down his life.

V

And now brave Custer's valiant army pressed
Across the dangerous desert of the West,
To rescue fair white captives from the hands
Of brutal Cheyenne and Comanche bands,
On Washita's bleak banks. Nine hundred strong
It moved its slow determined way along,
Past frontier homes left dark and desolate
By the wild Indians' fierce and unrelenting hate;

VI

Past forts where ranchmen, strong of heart and bold,
Wept now like orphaned children as they told,
With quivering muscles and with anguished breath,
Of captured wives, whose fate was worse than death;
Past naked bodies whose disfiguring wounds
Spoke of the hellish hate of human hounds;
Past bleaching skeleton and rifled grave,
On pressed th' avenging host, to rescue and to save.

VII

Uncertain Nature, like a fickle friend,
(Worse than the foe on whom we may depend)
Turned on these dauntless souls a brow of wrath
And hurled her icy jav'lins in their path.
With treacherous quicksands, and with storms that blight,
Entrapped their footsteps and confused their sight.
'Yet on,' urged Custer, 'on at any cost,
No hour is there to waste, no moment to be lost.'

VIII

Determined, silent, on they rode, and on,
Like fabled Centaurs, men and steeds seemed one.
No bugle echoed and no voice spoke near,
Lest on some lurking Indian's list'ning ear
The sound might fall. Through swift descending snow
The stealthy guides crept, tracing out the foe;
No fire was lighted, and no halt was made
From haggard gray-lipped dawn till night lent friendly shade.

IX

Then, by the shelt'ring river's bank at last,
The weary warriors paused for their repast.
A couch of ice and falling shows for spread
Made many a suffering soldier's chilling bed.
They slept to dream of glory and delight,
While the pale fingers of the pitying night
Wove ghostly winding sheets for that doomed score
Who, ere another eve, should sleep to wake no more.

X

But those who slept not, saw with startled eyes
Far off, athwart dim unprotecting skies,
Ascending slowly with majestic grace,
A lustrous rocket, rising out of space.
'Behold the signal of the foe,' cried one,
The field is lost before the strife's begun.
Yet no! for see! yon rays spread near and far;
It is the day's first smile, the radiant morning star.

XI

The long hours counting till the daylight broke,
In whispered words the restless warriors spoke.
They talked of battles, but they thought of home
(For hearts are faithful though the feet may roam).
Brave Hamilton, all eager for the strife,
Mused o'er that two-fold mystery-death and life;
'And when I die,' quoth he, 'mine be the part
To fall upon the field, a bullet in my heart.'

XII

At break of dawn the scouts crept in to say
The foe was camped a rifle shot away.
The baying of a dog, an infant's cry
Pierced through the air; sleep fled from every eye.
To horse! to arms! the dead demand the dead!
Let the grand charge upon the lodge be led!
Let the Mosaic law, life for a life
Pay the long standing debt of blood. War to the knife!

XIII

So spake each heart in that unholy rage
Which fires the brain, when war the thoughts engage.
War, hideous war, appealing to the worst
In complex man, and waking that wild thirst
For human blood which blood alone can slake.
Yet for their country's safety, and the sake
Of tortured captives moaning in alarm
The Indian must be made to fear the law's strong arm.

XIV

A noble vengeance burned in Custer's breast,
But, as he led his army to the crest,
Above the wigwams, ready for the charge
He felt the heart within him, swelling large
With human pity, as an infant's wail
Shrilled once again above the wintry gale.
Then hosts of murdered children seemed to rise;
And shame his halting thought with sad accusing eyes,

XV

And urge him on to action. Stern of brow
The just avenger, and the General now,
He gives the silent signal to the band
Which, all impatient, waits for his command.
Cold lips to colder metal press; the air
Echoes those merry strains which mean despair
For sleeping chieftain and for toiling squaw,
But joy to those stern hearts which glory in the law

XVI

Of murder paying murder's awful debt.
And now four squadrons in one charge are met.
From east and west, from north and south they come,
At call of bugle and at roll of drum.
Their rifles rain hot hail upon the foe,
Who flee from danger in death's jaws to go.
The Indians fight like maddened bulls at bay,
And dying shriek and groan, wound the young ear of day.

XVII

A pallid captive and a white-browed boy
Add to the tumult piercing cries of joy,
As forth they fly, with high hope animate.
A hideous squaw pursues them with her hate;
Her knife descends with sickening force and sound;
Their bloody entrails stain the snow-clad ground.
She shouts with glee, then yells with rage and falls
Dead by her victims' side, pierced by avenging balls.

XVIII

Now war runs riot, carnage reigns supreme.
All thoughts of mercy fade from Custer's scheme.
Inhuman methods for inhuman foes,
Who feed on horrors and exult in woes.
To conquer and subdue alone remains
In dealing with the red man on the plains.
The breast that knows no conscience yields to fear,
Strike! let the Indian meet his master now and here.

XIX

With thoughts like these was Custer's mind engaged.
The gentlest are the sternest when enraged.
All felt the swift contagion of his ire,
For he was one who could arouse and fire
The coldest heart, so ardent was his own.
His fearless eye, his calm intrepid tone,
Bespoke the leader, strong with conscious power,
Whom following friends will bless, while foes will curse and cower.

XX

Again they charge! and now among the killed
Lies Hamilton, his wish so soon fulfilled,
Brave Elliott pursues across the field
The flying foe, his own young life to yield.
But like the leaves in some autumnal gale
The red men fall in Washita's wild vale.
Each painted face and black befeathered head
Still more repulsive seems with death's grim pallor wed.

XXI

New forces gather on surrounding knolls,
And fierce and fiercer war's red river rolls.
With bright-hued pennants flying from each lance
The gayly costumed Kiowas advance.
And bold Comanches (Bedouins of the land)
Infuse fresh spirit in the Cheyenne band.
While from the ambush of some dark ravine
Flash arrows aimed by hands, unerring and unseen.

XXIII

The hours advance; the storm clouds roll away;
Still furious and more furious grows the fray.
The yellow sun makes ghastlier still the sight
Of painted corpses, staring in its light.
No longer slaves, but comrades of their griefs,
The squaws augment the forces of their chiefs.
They chant weird dirges in a minor key,
While from the narrow door of wigwam and tepee

XXIII

Cold glittering eyes above cold glittering steel
Their deadly purpose and their hate reveal.
The click of pistols and the crack of guns
Proclaim war's daughters dangerous as her sons.
She who would wield the soldier's sword and lance
Must be prepared to take the soldier's chance.
She who would shoot must serve as target, too;
The battle-frenzied men, infuriate now pursue.

XXIV

And blood of warrior, woman and papoose,
Flow free as waters when some dam breaks loose;
Consuming fire, the wanton friend of war
(Whom allies worship and whom foes abhor)
Now trails her crimson garments through the street,
And ruin marks the passing of her feet.
Full three-score lodges smoke upon the plain,
And all the vale is strewn with bodies of the slain.

XXV

And those who are not numbered with the dead
Before all-conquering Custer now are led.
To soothe their woes, and calm their fears he seeks;
An Osage guide interprets while he speaks.
The vanquished captives, humbled, cowed and spent
Read in the victor's eye his kind intent.
The modern victor is as kind as brave;
His captive is his guest, not his insulted slave.

XXVI

Mahwissa, sister of the slaughtered chief
Of all the Cheyennes, listens; and her grief
Yields now to hope; and o'er her withered face
There flits the stealthy cunning of her race.
Then forth she steps, and thus begins to speak:
'To aid the fallen and support the weak
Is man's true province; and to ease the pain
Of those o'er whom it is his purpose now to reign.

XXVII

'Let the strong chief unite with theirs his life,
And take this black-eyed maiden for a wife.'
Then, moving with an air of proud command,
She leads a dusky damsel by the hand,
And places her at wondering Custer's side,
Invoking choicest blessings on the bride
And all unwilling groom, who thus replies.
'Fair is the Indian maid, with bright bewildering eyes,

XXVIII

'But fairer still is one who, year on year,
Has borne man's burdens, conquered woman's fear;
And at my side rode mile on weary mile,
And faced all deaths, all dangers, with a smile,
Wise as Minerva, as Diana brave,
Is she whom generous gods in kindness gave
To share the hardships of my wandering life,
Companion, comrade, friend, my loved and loyal wife.

XXIX

'The white chief weds but one. Take back thy maid.'
He ceased, and o'er Mahwissa's face a shade
Of mingled scorn and pity and surprise
Sweeps as she slow retreats, and thus replies:
'Rich is the pale-faced chief in battle fame,
But poor is he who but one wife may claim.
Wives are the red-skinned heroes' rightful spoil;
In war they prove his strength, in times of peace they toil.'

XXX

But hark! The bugle echoes o'er the plains
And sounds again those merry Celtic strains
Which oft have called light feet to lilting dance,
But now they mean the order to advance.
Along the river's bank, beyond the hill
Two thousand foemen lodge, unconquered still.
Ere falls night's curtain on this bloody play,
The army must proceed, with feint of further fray.

XXXI

The weary warriors mount their foam-flecked steeds,
With flags unfurled the dauntless host proceeds.
What though the foe outnumbers two to one?
Boldness achieves what strength oft leaves undone;
A daring mein will cause brute force to cower,
And courage is the secret source of power.
As Custer's column wheels upon their sight
The frightened red men yield the untried field by flight.

XXXII

Yet when these conquering heroes sink to rest,
Dissatisfaction gnaws the leader's breast,
For far away across vast seas of snows
Held prisoners still by hostile Arapahoes
And Cheyennes unsubdued, two captives wait.
On God and Custer hangs their future fate.
May the Great Spirit nerve the mortal's arm
To rescue suffering souls from worse than death's alarm.

XXXIII

But ere they seek to rescue the oppressed,
The valiant dead, in state, are laid to rest.
Mourned Hamilton, the faithful and the brave,
Nine hundred comrades follow to the grave;
And close behind the banner-hidden corse
All draped in black, walks mournfully his horse;
While tears of sound drip through the sunlit day.
A soldier may not weep, but drums and bugles may.

XXXIV

Now, Muse, recount, how after long delays
And dangerous marches through untrodden ways,
Where cold and hunger on each hour attend,
At last the army gains the journey's end.
An Indian village bursts upon the eye;
Two hundred lodges, sleep-encompassed lie,
There captives moan their anguished prayers through tears,
While in the silent dawn the armied answer nears.

XXXV

To snatch two fragile victims from the foe
Nine hundred men have traversed leagues of snow.
Each woe they suffered in a hostile land
The flame of vengeance in their bosoms fanned.
They thirst for slaughter, and the signal wait
To wrest the captives from their horrid fate.
Each warrior's hand upon his rifle falls,
Each savage soldier's heart for awful bloodshed calls.

XXXVI

And one, in years a youth, in woe a man,
Sad Brewster, scarred by sorrow's blighting ban,
Looks, panting, where his captive sister sleeps,
And o'er his face the shade of murder creeps.
His nostrils quiver like a hungry beast
Who scents anear the bloody carnal feast.
He longs to leap down in that slumbering vale
And leave no foe alive to tell the awful tale.

XXXVII

Not so, calm Custer. Sick of gory strife,
He hopes for rescue with no loss of life;
And plans that bloodless battle of the plains
Where reasoning mind outwits mere savage brains.
The sullen soldiers follow where he leads;
No gun is emptied, and no foeman bleeds.
Fierce for the fight and eager for the fray
They look upon their Chief in undisguised dismay.

XXXVIII

He hears the murmur of their discontent,
But sneers can never change a strong mind's bent.
He knows his purpose and he does not swerve.
And with a quiet mien and steady nerve
He meets dark looks where'er his steps may go,
And silence that is bruising as a blow,
Where late were smiles and words of ardent praise.
So pass the lagging weeks of wearying delays.

XXXIX

Inaction is not always what it seems,
And Custer's mind with plan and project teems.
Fixed in his peaceful purpose he abides
With none takes counsel and in none confides;
But slowly weaves about the foe a net
Which leaves them wholly at his mercy, yet
He strikes no fateful blow; he takes no life,
And holds in check his men, who pant for bloody strife.

XL

Intrepid warrior and skilled diplomate,
In his strong hands he holds the red man's fate.
The craftiest plot he checks with counterplot,
Till tribe by tribe the tricky foe is brought
To fear his vengeance and to know his power.
As man's fixed gaze will make a wild beast cower,
So these crude souls feel that unflinching will
Which draws them by its force, yet does not deign to kill.

XLI

And one by one the hostile Indians send
Their chiefs to seek a peaceful treaty's end.
Great councils follow; skill with cunning copes
And conquers it; and Custer sees his hopes
So long delayed, like stars storm hidden, rise
To radiate with splendor all his skies.
The stubborn Cheyennes, cowed at last by fear,
Leading the captive pair, o'er spring-touched hills appear.

XLII

With breath suspended, now the whole command
Waits the approach of that equestrian band.
Nearer it comes, still nearer, then a cry,
Half sob, half shriek, goes piercing God's blue sky,
And Brewster, like a nimble-footed doe,
Or like an arrow hurrying from a bow,
Shoots swiftly through the intervening space
And that lost sister clasps, in sorrowing love's embrace.

XLIII

And men who leaned o'er Hamilton's rude bier
And saw his dead dear face without a tear,
Strong souls who early learned the manly art
Of keeping from the eye what's in the heart,
Soldiers who look unmoved on death's pale brow,
Avert their eyes, to hide their moisture now.
The briny flood forced back from shores of woe,
Needs but to touch the strands of joy to overflow.

XLIV

About the captives welcoming warriors crowd,
All eyes are wet, and Brewster sobs aloud.
Alas, the ravage wrought by toil and woe
On faces that were fair twelve moons ago.
Bronzed by exposure to the heat and cold,
Still young in years, yet prematurely old,
By insults humbled and by labor worn,
They stand in youth's bright hour, of all youth's graces shorn.

XLV

A scanty garment rudely made of sacks
Hangs from their loins; bright blankets drape their backs;
About their necks are twisted tangled strings
Of gaudy beads, while tinkling wire and rings
Of yellow brass on wrists and fingers glow.
Thus, to assuage the anger of the foe
The cunning Indians decked the captive pair
Who in one year have known a lifetime of despair.

XLVI

But love can resurrect from sorrow's tomb
The vanished beauty and the faded bloom,
As sunlight lifts the bruised flower from the sod,
Can lift crushed hearts to hope, for love is God.
Already now in freedom's glad release
The hunted look of fear gives place to peace,
And in their eyes at thought of home appears
That rainbow light of joy which brightest shines through tears.

XLVII

About the leader thick the warriors crowd;
Late loud in censure, now in praises loud,
They laud the tactics, and the skill extol
Which gained a bloodless yet a glorious goal.
Alone and lonely in the path of right
Full many a brave soul walks. When gods requite
And crown his actions as their worth demands,
Among admiring throngs the hero always stands.


XLVIII

Back to the East the valorous squadrons sweep;
The earth, arousing from her long, cold sleep,
Throws from her breast the coverlet of snow,
Revealing Spring's soft charms which lie below.
Suppressed emotions in each heart arise,
The wooer wakens and the warrior dies.
The bird of prey is vanquished by the dove,
And thoughts of bloody strife give place to thoughts of love.

XLIX

The mighty plains, devoid of whispering trees,
Guard well the secrets of departed seas.
Where once great tides swept by with ebb and flow
The scorching sun looks down in tearless woe.
And fierce tornadoes in ungoverned pain
Mourn still the loss of that mysterious main.
Across this ocean bed the soldiers fly-
Home is the gleaming goal that lures each eager eye.

L

Like some elixir which the gods prepare,
They drink the viewless tonic of the air,
Sweet with the breath of startled antelopes
Which speed before them over swelling slopes.
Now like a serpent writhing o'er the moor,
The column curves and makes a slight detour,
As Custer leads a thousand men away
To save a ground bird's nest which in the footpath lay.

LI

Mile following mile, against the leaning skies
Far off they see a dull dark cloud arise.
The hunter's instinct in each heart is stirred,
Beholding there in one stupendous herd
A hundred thousand buffaloes. Oh great
Unwieldy proof of Nature's cruder state,
Rough remnant of a prehistoric day,
Thou, with the red man, too, must shortly pass away.

LII

Upon those spreading plains is there not room
For man and bison, that he seals its doom?
What pleasure lies and what seductive charm
In slaying with no purpose but to harm?
Alas, that man, unable to create,
Should thirst forever to exterminate,
And in destruction find his fiercest joy.
The gods alone create, gods only should destroy.

LIII

The flying hosts a straggling bull pursue;
Unerring aim, the skillful Custer drew.
The wounded beast turns madly in despair
And man and horse are lifted high in air.
The conscious steed needs not the guiding rein;
Back with a bound and one quick cry of pain
He springs, and halts, well knowing where must fall
In that protected frame, the sure death dealing ball.

LIV

With minds intent upon the morrow's feast,
The men surround the carcass of the beast.
Rolled on his back, he lies with lolling tongue,
Soon to the saddle savory steaks are hung.
And from his mighty head, great tufts of hair
Are cut as trophies for some lady fair.
To vultures then they leave the torn remains
Of what an hour ago was monarch of the plains.

LV

Far off, two bulls in jealous war engage,
Their blood-shot eye balls roll in furious rage;
With maddened hoofs they mutilate the ground
And loud their angry bellowings resound;
With shaggy heads bent low they plunge and roar,
Till both broad bellies drip with purple gore.
Meanwhile, the heifer, whom the twain desire,
Stands browsing near the pair, indifferent to their ire.

LVI

At last she lifts her lazy head and heeds
The clattering hoofs of swift advancing steeds.
Off to the herd with cumb'rous gait she runs
And leaves the bulls to face the threatening guns.
No more for them the free life of the plains,
Its mating pleasures and its warring pains.
Their quivering flesh shall feed unnumbered foes,
Their tufted tails adorn the soldiers' saddle bows.

LVII

Now into camp the conquering hosts advance;
On burnished arms the brilliant sunbeams glance.
Brave Custer leads, blonde as the gods of old;
Back from his brow blow clustering locks of gold,
And, like a jewel in a brook, there lies,
Far in the depths of his blue guarded eyes,
The thought of one whose smiling lips upcurled,
Mean more of joy to him than plaudits of the world.

LVIII

The troops in columns of platoons appear
Close to the leader following. Ah, here
The poetry of war is fully seen,
Its prose forgotten; as against the green
Of Mother Nature, uniformed in blue,
The soldiers pass for Sheridan's review.
The motion-music of the moving throng,
Is like a silent tune, set to a wordless song.

LIX

The guides and trailers, weird in war's array,
Precede the troops along the grassy way.
They chant wild songs, and with loud noise and stress,
In savage manner savage joy express.
The Indian captives, blanketed in red,
On ponies mounted, by the scouts are led.
Like sumach bushes, etched on evening skies,
Against the blue-clad troops, this patch of color lies.

LX

High o'er the scene vast music billows bound,
And all the air is liquid with the sound
Of those invisible compelling waves.
Perchance they reach the low and lonely graves
Where sleep brave Elliott and Hamilton,
And whisper there the tale of victory won;
Or do the souls of soldiers tried and true
Come at the bugle call, and march in grand review?

LXI

The pleased Commander watches in surprise
This splendid pageant surge before his eyes.
Not in those mighty battle days of old
Did scenes like this upon his sight unfold.
But now it passes. Drums and bugles cease
To dash war billows on the shores of Peace.
The victors smile on fair broad bosomed Sleep
While in her soothing arms, the vanquished cease to weep

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Custer

BOOK FIRST.

I.

ALL valor died not on the plains of Troy.
Awake, my Muse, awake! be thine the joy
To sing of deeds as dauntless and as brave
As e'er lent luster to a warrior's grave.
Sing of that noble soldier, nobler man,
Dear to the heart of each American.
Sound forth his praise from sea to listening sea-
Greece her Achilles claimed, immortal Custer, we.

II.

Intrepid are earth's heroes now as when
The gods came down to measure strength with men.
Let danger threaten or let duty call,
And self surrenders to the needs of all;
Incurs vast perils, or, to save those dear,
Embraces death without one sigh or tear.
Life's martyrs still the endless drama play
Though no great Homer lives to chant their worth to-day.

III.

And if he chanted, who would list his songs,
So hurried now the world's gold-seeking throngs?
And yet shall silence mantle mighty deeds?
Awake, dear Muse, and sing though no ear heeds!
Extol the triumphs, and bemoan the end
Of that true hero, lover, son and friend
Whose faithful heart in his last choice was shown-
Death with the comrades dear, refusing flight alone.

IV.

He who was born for battle and for strife
Like some caged eagle frets in peaceful life;
So Custer fretted when detained afar
From scenes of stirring action and of war.
And as the captive eagle in delight,
When freedom offers, plumes himself for flight
And soars away to thunder clouds on high,
With palpitating wings and wild exultant cry,

V.

So lion-hearted Custer sprang to arms,
And gloried in the conflict's loud alarms.
But one dark shadow marred his bounding joy;
And then the soldier vanished, and the boy,
The tender son, clung close, with sobbing breath,
To her from whom each parting was new death;
That mother who like goddesses of old,
Gave to the mighty Mars, three warriors brave and bold,

VI.

Yet who, unlike those martial dames of yore,
Grew pale and shuddered at the sight of gore.
A fragile being, born to grace the hearth,
Untroubled by the conflicts of the earth.
Some gentle dove who reared young eaglets, might,
In watching those bold birdlings take their flight,
Feel what that mother felt who saw her sons
Rush from her loving arms, to face death-dealing guns.

VII.

But ere thy lyre is strung to martial strains
Of wars which sent our hero o'er the plains,
To add the cypress to his laureled brow,
Be brave, my Muse, and darker truths avow.
Let Justice ask a preface to thy songs,
Before the Indian's crimes declare his wrongs;
Before effects, wherein all horrors blend,
Declare the shameful cause, precursor of the end.

VIII.

When first this soil the great Columbus trod,
He was less like the image of his God
Than those ingenuous souls, unspoiled by art,
Who lived so near to Mother Nature's heart;
Those simple children of the wood and wave,
As frank as trusting, and as true as brave;
Savage they were, when on some hostile raid
(For where is he so high, whom war does not degrade?) .

IX.

But dark deceit and falsehood's shameless shame
They had not learned, until the white man came.
He taught them, too, the lurking devil's joy
In liquid lies, that lure but to destroy.
With wily words, as false as they were sweet,
He spread his snares for unsuspecting feet;
Paid truth with guile, and trampled in the dust
Their gentle childlike faith and unaffected trust.

X.

And for the sport of idle kings and knaves
Of Nature's greater noblemen, made slaves.
Alas, the hour, when the wronged Indian knows
His seeming benefactors are but foes.
His kinsmen kidnapped and his lands possessed,
The demon woke in that untutored breast.
Four hundred years have rolled upon their way-
The ruthless demon rules the red man to this day.

XI.

If, in the morning of success, that grand
Invincible discoverer of our land
Had made no lodge or wigwam desolate
To carry trophies to the proud and great;
If on our history's page there were no blot
Left by the cruel rapine of Cabot,
Of Verrazin, and Hudson, dare we claim
The Indian of the plains, to-day had been same?

XII.

For in this brief existence, not alone
Do our lives gather what our hands have sown,
But we reap, too, what others long ago
Sowed, careless of the harvests that might grow.
Thus hour by hour the humblest human souls
Inscribe in cipher on unending scrolls,
The history of nations yet to be;
Incite fierce bloody wars, to rage from sea to sea,

XIII.

Or pave the way to peace. There is no past,
So deathless are events-results so vast.
And he who strives to make one act or hour
Stand separate and alone, needs first the power
To look upon the breaking wave and say,
'These drops were bosomed by a cloud to-day,
And those from far mid-ocean's crest were sent.'
So future, present, past, in one wide sea are blent.


BOOK SECOND.

I.

Oh, for the power to call to aid, of mine
Own humble Muse, the famed and sacred nine.
Then might she fitly sing, and only then,
Of those intrepid and unflinching men
Who knew no homes save ever moving tents,
And who 'twixt fierce unfriendly elements
And wild barbarians warred. Yet unfraid,
Since love impels thy strains, sing, sing, my modest maid.

II.

Relate how Custer in midwinter sought
Far Washita's cold shores; tell why he fought
With savage nomads fortressed in deep snows.
Woman, thou source of half the sad world's woes
And all its joys, what sanguinary strife
Has vexed the earth and made contention rife
Because of thee! For, hidden in man's heart,
Ay, in his very soul, of his true self a part,

III.

The natural impulse and the wish belongs
To win thy favor and redress thy wrongs.
Alas! for woman, and for man, alas!
If that dread hour should ever come to pass,
When, through her new-born passion for control,
She drives that beauteous impulse from his soul.
What were her vaunted independence worth
If to obtain she sells her sweetest rights of birth?

IV.

God formed fair woman for her true estate-
Man's tender comrade, and his equal mate,
Not his competitor in toil and trade.
While coarser man, with greater strength was made
To fight her battles and her rights protect.
Ay! to protect the rights of earth's elect
(The virgin maiden and the spotless wife)
From immemorial time has man laid down his life.

V.

And now brave Custer's valiant army pressed
Across the dangerous desert of the West,
To rescue fair white captives from the hands
Of brutal Cheyenne and Comanche bands,
On Washita's bleak banks. Nine hundred strong
It moved its slow determined way along,
Past frontier homes left dark and desolate
By the wild Indians' fierce and unrelenting hate;

VI.

Past forts where ranchmen, strong of heart and bold,
Wept now like orphaned children as they told,
With quivering muscles and with anguished breath,
Of captured wives, whose fate was worse than death;
Past naked bodies whose disfiguring wounds
Spoke of the hellish hate of human hounds;
Past bleaching skeleton and rifled grave,
On pressed th' avenging host, to rescue and to save.

VII.

Uncertain Nature, like a fickle friend,
(Worse than the foe on whom we may depend)
Turned on these dauntless souls a brow of wrath
And hurled her icy jav'lins in their path.
With treacherous quicksands, and with storms that blight,
Entrapped their footsteps and confused their sight.
'Yet on, ' urged Custer, 'on at any cost,
No hour is there to waste, no moment to be lost.'

VIII.

Determined, silent, on they rode, and on,
Like fabled Centaurs, men and steeds seemed one.
No bugle echoed and no voice spoke near,
Lest on some lurking Indian's list'ning ear
The sound might fall. Through swift descending snow
The stealthy guides crept, tracing out the foe;
No fire was lighted, and no halt was made
From haggard gray-lipped dawn till night lent friendly shade.

IX.

Then, by the shelt'ring river's bank at last,
The weary warriors paused for their repast.
A couch of ice and falling shows for spread
Made many a suffering soldier's chilling bed.
They slept to dream of glory and delight,
While the pale fingers of the pitying night
Wove ghostly winding sheets for that doomed score
Who, ere another eve, should sleep to wake no more.

X.

But those who slept not, saw with startled eyes
Far off, athwart dim unprotecting skies,
Ascending slowly with majestic grace,
A lustrous rocket, rising out of space.
'Behold the signal of the foe, ' cried one,
The field is lost before the strife's begun.
Yet no! for see! yon rays spread near and far;
It is the day's first smile, the radiant morning star.

XI.

The long hours counting till the daylight broke,
In whispered words the restless warriors spoke.
They talked of battles, but they thought of home
(For hearts are faithful though the feet may roam) .
Brave Hamilton, all eager for the strife,
Mused o'er that two-fold mystery-death and life;
'And when I die, ' quoth he, ' mine be the part
To fall upon the field, a bullet in my heart.'

XII.

At break of dawn the scouts crept in to say
The foe was camped a rifle shot away.
The baying of a dog, an infant's cry
Pierced through the air; sleep fled from every eye.
To horse! to arms! the dead demand the dead!
Let the grand charge upon the lodge be led!
Let the Mosaic law, life for a life
Pay the long standing debt of blood. War to the knife!

XIII.

So spake each heart in that unholy rage
Which fires the brain, when war the thoughts engage.
War, hideous war, appealing to the worst
In complex man, and waking that wild thirst
For human blood which blood alone can slake.
Yet for their country's safety, and the sake
Of tortured captives moaning in alarm
The Indian must be made to fear the law's strong arm.


XIV.

A noble vengeance burned in Custer's breast,
But, as he led his army to the crest,
Above the wigwams, ready for the charge
He felt the heart within him, swelling large
With human pity, as an infant's wail
Shrilled once again above the wintry gale.
Then hosts of murdered children seemed to rise;
And shame his halting thought with sad accusing eyes,

XV.
And urge him on to action. Stern of brow
The just avenger, and the General now,
He gives the silent signal to the band
Which, all impatient, waits for his command.
Cold lips to colder metal press; the air
Echoes those merry strains which mean despair
For sleeping chieftain and for toiling squaw,
But joy to those stern hearts which glory in the law

XVI.
Of murder paying murder's awful debt.
And now four squadrons in one charge are met.
From east and west, from north and south they come,
At call of bugle and at roll of drum.
Their rifles rain hot hail upon the foe,
Who flee from danger in death's jaws to go.
The Indians fight like maddened bulls at bay,
And dying shriek and groan, wound the young ear of day.

XVII.
A pallid captive and a white-browed boy
Add to the tumult piercing cries of joy,
As forth they fly, with high hope animate.
A hideous squaw pursues them with her hate;
Her knife descends with sickening force and sound;
Their bloody entrails stain the snow-clad ground.
She shouts with glee, then yells with rage and falls
Dead by her victims' side, pierced by avenging balls.

XVIII.
Now war runs riot, carnage reigns supreme.
All thoughts of mercy fade from Custer's scheme.
Inhuman methods for inhuman foes,
Who feed on horrors and exult in woes.
To conquer and subdue alone remains
In dealing with the red man on the plains.
The breast that knows no conscience yields to fear,
Strike! let the Indian meet his master now and here,


XIX.
With thoughts like these was Custer's mind engaged.
The gentlest are the sternest when enraged.
All felt the swift contagion of his ire,
For he was one who could arouse and fire
The coldest heart, so ardent was his own.
His fearless eye, his calm intrepid tone,
Bespoke the leader, strong with conscious power,
Whom following friends will bless, while foes will curse and cower.

XX.
Again they charge! and now among the killed
Lies Hamilton, his wish so soon fulfilled,
Brave Elliott pursues across the field
The flying foe, his own young life to yield.
But like the leaves in some autumnal gale
The red men fall in Washita's wild vale.
Each painted face and black befeathered head
Still more repulsive seems with death's grim pallor wed.

XXI.
New forces gather on surrounding knolls,
And fierce and fiercer war's red river rolls.
With bright-hued pennants flying from each lance
The gayly costumed Kiowas advance.
And bold Comanches (Bedouins of the land)
Infuse fresh spirit in the Cheyenne band.
While from the ambush of some dark ravine
Flash arrows aimed by hands, unerring and unseen.

XXIII.
The hours advance; the storm clouds roll away;
Still furious and more furious grows the fray.
The yellow sun makes ghastlier still the sight
Of painted corpses, staring in its light.
No longer slaves, but comrades of their griefs,
The squaws augment the forces of their chiefs.
They chant weird dirges in a minor key,
While from the narrow door of wigwam and tepee

XXIII.
Cold glittering eyes above cold glittering steel
Their deadly purpose and their hate reveal.
The click of pistols and the crack of guns
Proclaim war's daughters dangerous as her sons.
She who would wield the soldier's sword and lance
Must be prepared to take the soldier's chance.
She who would shoot must serve as target, too;
The battle-frenzied men, infuriate now pursue.

XXIV.
And blood of warrior, woman and papoose,
Flow free as waters when some dam breaks loose;
Consuming fire, the wanton friend of war
(Whom allies worship and whom foes abhor)
Now trails her crimson garments through the street,
And ruin marks the passing of her feet.
Full three-score lodges smoke upon the plain,
And all the vale is strewn with bodies of the slain.

XXV.
And those who are not numbered with the dead
Before all-conquering Custer now are led.
To soothe their woes, and calm their fears he seeks;
An Osage guide interprets while he speaks.
The vanquished captives, humbled, cowed and spent
Read in the victor's eye his kind intent.
The modern victor is as kind as brave;
His captive is his guest, not his insulted slave.

XXVI.
Mahwissa, sister of the slaughtered chief
Of all the Cheyennes, listens; and her grief
Yields now to hope; and o'er her withered face
There flits the stealthy cunning of her race.
Then forth she steps, and thus begins to speak:
'To aid the fallen and support the weak
Is man's true province; and to ease the pain
Of those o'er whom it is his purpose now to reign.


XXVII.
'Let the strong chief unite with theirs his life,
And take this black-eyed maiden for a wife.'
Then, moving with an air of proud command,
She leads a dusky damsel by the hand,
And places her at wondering Custer's side,
Invoking choicest blessings on the bride
And all unwilling groom, who thus replies.
'Fair is the Indian maid, with bright bewildering eyes,

XXVIII.
'But fairer still is one who, year on year,
Has borne man's burdens, conquered woman's fear;
And at my side rode mile on weary mile,
And faced all deaths, all dangers, with a smile,
Wise as Minerva, as Diana brave,
Is she whom generous gods in kindness gave
To share the hardships of my wandering life,
Companion, comrade, friend, my loved and loyal wife.

XXIX.
'The white chief weds but one. Take back thy maid.'
He ceased, and o'er Mahwissa's face a shade
Of mingled scorn and pity and surprise
Sweeps as she slow retreats, and thus replies:
'Rich is the pale-faced chief in battle fame,
But poor is he who but one wife may claim.
Wives are the red-skinned heroes' rightful spoil;
In war they prove his strength, in times of peace they toil.'

XXX.
But hark! The bugle echoes o'er the plains
And sounds again those merry Celtic strains
Which oft have called light feet to lilting dance,
But now they mean the order to advance.
Along the river's bank, beyond the hill
Two thousand foemen lodge, unconquered still.
Ere falls night's curtain on this bloody play,
The army must proceed, with feint of further fray.

XXXI.
The weary warriors mount their foam-flecked steeds,
With flags unfurled the dauntless host proceeds.
What though the foe outnumbers two to one?
Boldness achieves what strength oft leaves undone;
A daring mein will cause brute force to cower,
And courage is the secret source of power.
As Custer's column wheels upon their sight
The frightened red men yield the untried field by flight.


XXXII.
Yet when these conquering heroes sink to rest,
Dissatisfaction gnaws the leader's breast,
For far away across vast seas of snows
Held prisoners still by hostile Arapahoes
And Cheyennes unsubdued, two captives wait.
On God and Custer hangs their future fate.
May the Great Spirit nerve the mortal's arm
To rescue suffering souls from worse than death's alarm.

XXXIII.
But ere they seek to rescue the oppressed,
The valiant dead, in state, are laid to rest.
Mourned Hamilton, the faithful and the brave,
Nine hundred comrades follow to the grave;
And close behind the banner-hidden corse
All draped in black, walks mournfully his horse;
While tears of sound drip through the sunlit day.
A soldier may not weep, but drums and bugles may.

XXXIV.
Now, Muse, recount, how after long delays
And dangerous marches through untrodden ways,
Where cold and hunger on each hour attend,
At last the army gains the journey's end.
An Indian village bursts upon the eye;
Two hundred lodges, sleep-encompassed lie,
There captives moan their anguished prayers through tears,
While in the silent dawn the armied answer nears.

XXXV.
To snatch two fragile victims from the foe
Nine hundred men have traversed leagues of snow.
Each woe they suffered in a hostile land
The flame of vengeance in their bosoms fanned.
They thirst for slaughter, and the signal wait
To wrest the captives from their horrid fate.
Each warrior's hand upon his rifle falls,
Each savage soldier's heart for awful bloodshed calls.

XXXVI.
And one, in years a youth, in woe a man,
Sad Brewster, scarred by sorrow's blighting ban,
Looks, panting, where his captive sister sleeps,
And o'er his face the shade of murder creeps.
His nostrils quiver like a hungry beast
Who scents anear the bloody carnal feast.
He longs to leap down in that slumbering vale
And leave no foe alive to tell the awful tale.

XXXVII.
Not so, calm Custer. Sick of gory strife,
He hopes for rescue with no loss of life;
And plans that bloodless battle of the plains
Where reasoning mind outwits mere savage brains.
The sullen soldiers follow where he leads;
No gun is emptied, and no foeman bleeds.
Fierce for the fight and eager for the fray
They look upon their Chief in undisguised dismay.

XXXVIII.
He hears the murmur of their discontent,
But sneers can never change a strong mind's bent.
He knows his purpose and he does not swerve,
And with a quiet mien and steady nerve
He meets dark looks where'er his steps may go,
And silence that is bruising as a blow,
Where late were smiles and words of ardent praise.
So pass the lagging weeks of wearying delays.

XXXIX.
Inaction is not always what it seems,
And Custer's mind with plan and project teems.
Fixed in his peaceful purpose he abides
With none takes counsel and in none confides;
But slowly weaves about the foe a net
Which leaves them wholly at his mercy, yet
He strikes no fateful blow; he takes no life,
And holds in check his men, who pant for bloody strife.

XL.
Intrepid warrior and skilled diplomate,
In his strong hands he holds the red man's fate.
The craftiest plot he checks with counterplot,
Till tribe by tribe the tricky foe is brought
To fear his vengeance and to know his power.
As man's fixed gaze will make a wild beast cower,
So these crude souls feel that unflinching will
Which draws them by its force, yet does not deign to kill.

XLI.
And one by one the hostile Indians send
Their chiefs to seek a peaceful treaty's end.
Great councils follow; skill with cunning copes
And conquers it; and Custer sees his hopes
So long delayed, like stars storm hidden, rise
To radiate with splendor all his skies.
The stubborn Cheyennes, cowed at last by fear,
Leading the captive pair, o'er spring-touched hills appear.

XLII.
With breath suspended, now the whole command
Waits the approach of that equestrian band.
Nearer it comes, still nearer, then a cry,
Half sob, half shriek, goes piercing God's blue sky,
And Brewster, like a nimble-footed doe,
Or like an arrow hurrying from a bow,
Shoots swiftly through the intervening space
And that lost sister clasps, in sorrowing love's embrace.


XLIII.
And men who leaned o'er Hamilton's rude bier
And saw his dead dear face without a tear,
Strong souls who early learned the manly art
Of keeping from the eye what's in the heart,
Soldiers who look unmoved on death's pale brow,
Avert their eyes, to hide their moisture now.
The briny flood forced back from shores of woe,
Needs but to touch the strands of joy to overflow.

XLIV.
About the captives welcoming warriors crowd,
All eyes are wet, and Brewster sobs aloud.
Alas, the ravage wrought by toil and woe
On faces that were fair twelve moons ago.
Bronzed by exposure to the heat and cold,
Still young in years, yet prematurely old,
By insults humbled and by labor worn,
They stand in youth's bright hour, of all youth's graces shorn.

XLV.
A scanty garment rudely made of sacks
Hangs from their loins; bright blankets drape their backs;
About their necks are twisted tangled strings
Of gaudy beads, while tinkling wire and rings
Of yellow brass on wrists and fingers glow.
Thus, to assuage the anger of the foe
The cunning Indians decked the captive pair
Who in one year have known a lifetime of despair.

XLVI.
But love can resurrect from sorrow's tomb
The vanished beauty and the faded bloom,
As sunlight lifts the bruised flower from the sod,
Can lift crushed hearts to hope, for love is God.
Already now in freedom's glad release
The hunted look of fear gives place to peace,
And in their eyes at thought of home appears
That rainbow light of joy which brightest shines through tears.

XLVII.
About the leader thick the warriors crowd;
Late loud in censure, now in praises loud,
They laud the tactics, and the skill extol
Which gained a bloodless yet a glorious goal.
Alone and lonely in the path of right
Full many a brave soul walks. When gods requite
And crown his actions as their worth demands,
Among admiring throngs the hero always stands.


A row of six asterisks is on the page at this point

XLVIII.
Back to the East the valorous squadrons sweep;
The earth, arousing from her long, cold sleep,
Throws from her breast the coverlet of snow,
Revealing Spring's soft charms which lie below.
Suppressed emotions in each heart arise,
The wooer wakens and the warrior dies.
The bird of prey is vanquished by the dove,
And thoughts of bloody strife give place to thoughts of love.

XLIX.
The mighty plains, devoid of whispering trees,
Guard well the secrets of departed seas.
Where once great tides swept by with ebb and flow
The scorching sun looks down in tearless woe.
And fierce tornadoes in ungoverned pain
Mourn still the loss of that mysterious main.
Across this ocean bed the soldiers fly-
Home is the gleaming goal that lures each eager eye.

L.
Like some elixir which the gods prepare,
They drink the viewless tonic of the air,
Sweet with the breath of startled antelopes
Which speed before them over swelling slopes.
Now like a serpent writhing o'er the moor,
The column curves and makes a slight detour,
As Custer leads a thousand men away
To save a ground bird's nest which in the footpath lay.


LI.
Mile following mile, against the leaning skies
Far off they see a dull dark cloud arise.
The hunter's instinct in each heart is stirred,
Beholding there in one stupendous herd
A hundred thousand buffaloes. Oh great
Unwieldy proof of Nature's cruder state,
Rough remnant of a prehistoric day,
Thou, with the red man, too, must shortly pass away.

LII.
Upon those spreading plains is there not room
For man and bison, that he seals its doom?
What pleasure lies and what seductive charm
In slaying with no purpose but to harm?
Alas, that man, unable to create,
Should thirst forever to exterminate,
And in destruction find his fiercest joy.
The gods alone create, gods only should destroy.

LIII.
The flying hosts a straggling bull pursue;
Unerring aim, the skillful Custer drew.
The wounded beast turns madly in despair
And man and horse are lifted high in air.
The conscious steed needs not the guiding rein;
Back with a bound and one quick cry of pain
He springs, and halts, well knowing where must fall
In that protected frame, the sure death dealing ball.

LIV.
With minds intent upon the morrow's feast,
The men surround the carcass of the beast.
Rolled on his back, he lies with lolling tongue,
Soon to the saddle savory steaks are hung.
And from his mighty head, great tufts of hair
Are cut as trophies for some lady fair.
To vultures then they leave the torn remains
Of what an hour ago was monarch of the plains.

LV.
Far off, two bulls in jealous war engage,
Their blood-shot eye balls roll in furious rage;
With maddened hoofs they mutilate the ground
And loud their angry bellowings resound;
With shaggy heads bent low they plunge and roar,
Till both broad bellies drip with purple gore.
Meanwhile, the heifer, whom the twain desire,
Stands browsing near the pair, indifferent to their ire.

LVI.
At last she lifts her lazy head and heeds
The clattering hoofs of swift advancing steeds.
Off to the herd with cumb'rous gait she runs
And leaves the bulls to face the threatening guns.
No more for them the free life of the plains,
Its mating pleasures and its warring pains.
Their quivering flesh shall feed unnumbered foes,
Their tufted tails adorn the soldiers' saddle bows.

LVII.
Now into camp the conquering hosts advance;
On burnished arms the brilliant sunbeams glance.
Brave Custer leads, blonde as the gods of old;
Back from his brow blow clustering locks of gold,
And, like a jewel in a brook, there lies,
Far in the depths of his blue guarded eyes,
The thought of one whose smiling lips upcurled,
Mean more of joy to him than plaudits of the world.

LVIII.
The troops in columns of platoons appear
Close to the leader following. Ah, here
The poetry of war is fully seen,
Its prose forgotten; as against the green
Of Mother Nature, uniformed in blue,
The soldiers pass for Sheridan's review.
The motion-music of the moving throng,
Is like a silent tune, set to a wordless song.

LIX.
The guides and trailers, weird in war's array,
Precede the troops along the grassy way.
They chant wild songs, and, with loud noise and stress,
In savage manner savage joy express.
The Indian captives, blanketed in red,
On ponies mounted, by the scouts are led.
Like sumach bushes, etched on evening skies,
Against the blue-clad troops, this patch of color lies.

LX.
High o'er the scene vast music billows bound,
And all the air is liquid with the sound
Of those invisible compelling waves.
Perchance they reach the low and lonely graves
Where sleep brave Elliott and Hamilton,
And whisper there the tale of victory won;
Or do the souls of soldiers tried and true
Come at the bugle call, and march in grand review?

LXI.
The pleased Commander watches in surprise
This splendid pageant surge before his eyes.
Not in those mighty battle days of old
Did scenes like this upon his sight unfold.
But now it passes. Drums and bugles cease
To dash war billows on the shores of Peace.
The victors smile on fair broad bosomed Sleep
While in her soothing arms, the vanquished cease to weep.

BOOK THIRD.
There is an interval of eight years between Books Second and Third.

I.
As in the long dead days marauding hosts
Of Indians came from far Siberian coasts,
And drove the peaceful Aztecs from their grounds,
Despoiled their homes (but left their tell-tale mounds) ,
So has the white man with the Indians done.
Now with their backs against the setting sun
The remnants of a dying nation stand
And view the lost domain, once their beloved land.

II.
Upon the vast Atlantic's leagues of shore
The happy red man's tent is seen no more;
And from the deep blue lakes which mirror heaven
His bounding bark canoe was long since driven.
The mighty woods, those temples where his God
Spoke to his soul, are leveled to the sod;
And in their place tall church spires point above,
While priests proclaim the law of Christ, the King of Love.

III.
The avaricious and encroaching rail
Seized the wide fields which knew the Indians' trail.
Back to the reservations in the West
The native owners of the land were pressed,
And selfish cities, harbingers of want,
Shut from their vision each accustomed haunt.
Yet hungry Progress, never satisfied,
Gazed on the western plains, and gazing, longed and sighed.

IV.
As some strange bullock in a pasture field
Compels the herds to fear him, and to yield
The juicy grass plots and the cooling shade
Until, despite their greater strength, afraid,
They huddle in some corner spot and cower
Before the monarch's all controlling power,
So has the white man driven from its place
By his aggressive greed, Columbia's native race.

V.
Yet when the bull pursues the herds at bay,
Incensed they turn, and dare dispute his sway.
And so the Indians turned, when men forgot
Their sacred word, and trespassed on the spot.
The lonely little spot of all their lands,
The reservation of the peaceful bands.
But lust for gold all conscience kills in man,
'Gold in the Black Hills, gold! ' the cry arose and ran

VI.
From lip to lip, as flames from tree to tree
Leap till the forest is one fiery sea,
And through the country surged that hot unrest
Which thirst for riches wakens in the breast.
In mighty throngs the fortune hunters came,
Despoiled the red man's lands and slew his game,
Broke solemn treaties and defied the law.
And all these ruthless acts the Nation knew and saw.

VII.
Man is the only animal that kills
Just for the wanton love of slaughter; spills
The blood of lesser things to see it flow;
Lures like a friend, to murder like a foe
The trusting bird and beast; and, coward like,
Deals covert blows he dare not boldly strike.
The brutes have finer souls, and only slay
When torn by hunger's pangs, or when to fear a prey.

VIII.
The pale-faced hunter, insolent and bold,
Pursued the bison while he sought for gold.
And on the hungry red man's own domains
He left the rotting and unused remains
To foul with sickening stench each passing wind
And rouse the demon in the savage mind,
Save in the heart where virtues dominate
Injustice always breeds its natural offspring- hate.

IX.
The chieftain of the Sioux, great Sitting Bull,
Mused o'er their wrongs, and felt his heart swell full
Of bitter vengeance. Torn with hate's unrest
He called a council and his braves addressed.
'From fair Wisconsin's shimmering lakes of blue
Long years ago the white man drove the Sioux.
Made bold by conquest, and inflamed by greed,
He still pursues our tribes, and still our ranks recede.

X.
'Fair are the White Chief's promises and words,
But dark his deeds who robs us of our herds.
He talks of treaties, asks the right to buy,
Then takes by force, not waiting our reply.
He grants us lands for pastures and abodes
To devastate them by his iron roads.
But now from happy Spirit Lands, a friend
Draws near the hunted Sioux, to strengthen and defend.


XI.
'While walking in the fields I saw a star;
Unconsciously I followed it afar-
It led me on to valleys filled with light,
Where danced our noble chieftains slain in fight.
Black Kettle, first of all that host I knew,
He whom the strong armed Custer foully slew.
And then a spirit took me by the hand,
The Great Messiah King who comes to free the land.

XII.
'Suns were his eyes, a speaking tear his voice,
.Whose rainbow sounds made listening hearts rejoice
And thus he spake: 'The red man's hour draws near
When all his lost domains shall reappear.
The elk, the deer, the bounding antelope,
Shall here return to grace each grassy slope.'
He waved his hand above the fields, and lo!
Down through the valleys came a herd of buffalo.

XIII.
'The wondrous vision vanished, but I knew
That Sitting Bull must make the promise true.
Great Spirits plan what mortal man achieves,
The hand works magic when the heart believes.
Arouse, ye braves! let not the foe advance.
Arm for the battle and begin the dance-
The sacred dance in honor of our slain,
Who will return to earth, ere many moons shall wane.'

XIV.
Thus Sitting Bull, the chief of wily knaves,
Worked on the superstitions of his braves.
Mixed truth with lies; and stirred to mad unrest
The warlike instinct in each savage breast.
A curious product of unhappy times,
The natural offspring of unnumbered crimes,
He used low cunning and dramatic arts
To startle and surprise those crude untutored hearts.

XV.
Out from the lodges pour a motley throng,
Slow measures chanting of a dirge-like song.
In one great circle dizzily they swing,
A squaw and chief alternate in the ring.
Coarse raven locks stream over robes of white,
Their deep set orbs emit a lurid light,
And as through pine trees moan the winds refrains,
So swells and dies away, the ghostly graveyard strains.

XVI.
Like worded wine is music to the ear,
And long indulged makes mad the hearts that hear.
The dancers, drunken with the monotone
Of oft repeated notes, now shriek and groan
And pierce their ruddy flesh with sharpened spears;
Still more excited when the blood appears,
With warlike yells, high in the air they bound,
Then in a deathlike trance fall prostrate on the ground.

XVII.
They wake to tell weird stories of the dead,
While fresh performers to the ring are led.
The sacred nature of the dance is lost,
War is their cry, red war, at any cost.
Insane for blood they wait for no command,
But plunge marauding through the frightened land.
Their demon hearts on devils' pleasures bent,
For each new foe surprised, new torturing deaths invent.

XVIII.
Staked to the earth one helpless creature lies,
Flames at his feet and splinters in his eyes.
Another groans with coals upon his breast,
While 'round the pyre the Indians dance and jest.
A crying child is brained upon a tree,
The swooning mother saved from death, to be
The slave and plaything of a filthy knave,
Whose sins would startle hell, whose clay defile a grave.

XIX.
Their cause was right, their methods all were wrong.
Pity and censure both to them belong.
Their woes were many, but their crimes were more.
The soulless Satan holds not in his store
Such awful tortures as the Indians' wrath
Keeps for the hapless victim in his path.
And if the last lone remnants of that race
Were by the white man swept from off the earth's fair face,

XX.
Were every red man slaughtered in a day,
Still would that sacrifice but poorly pay
For one insulted woman captive's woes.
Again great Custer in his strength arose,
More daring, more intrepid than of old.
The passing years had touched and turned to gold
The ever widening aureole of fame
That shone upon his brow, and glorified his name.

XXI.
Wise men make laws, then turn their eyes away,
While fools and knaves ignore them day by day;
And unmolested, fools and knaves at length
Induce long wars which sap a country's strength.
The sloth of leaders, ruling but in name,
Has dragged full many a nation down to shame.
A word unspoken by the rightful lips
Has dyed the land with blood, and blocked the sea with ships.

XXII.
The word withheld, when Indians asked for aid,
Came when the red man started on his raid.
What Justice with a gesture might have done
Was left for noisy war with bellowing gun.
And who save Custer and his gallant men
Could calm the tempest into peace again?
What other hero in the land could hope
With Sitting Bull, the fierce and lawless one to cope?

XXIII.
What other warrior skilled enough to dare
Surprise that human tiger in his lair?
Sure of his strength, unconscious of his fame
Out from the quiet of the camp he came;
And stately as Diana at his side
Elizabeth, his wife and alway bride,
And Margaret, his sister, rode apace;
Love's clinging arms he left to meet death's cold embrace.

XXIV.
As the bright column wound along its course,
The smiling leader turned upon his horse
To gaze with pride on that superb command.
Twelve hundred men, the picked of all the land,
Innured to hardship and made strong by strife
Their lithe limbed bodies breathed of out-door life;
While on their faces, resolute and brave,
Hope stamped its shining seal, although their thoughts were grave.

XXV.
The sad eyed women halted in the dawn,
And waved farewell to dear ones riding on.
The modest mist picked up her robes and ran
Before the Sun god's swift pursuing van.
And suddenly there burst on startled eyes,
The sight of soldiers, marching in the skies;
That phantom host, a phantom Custer led;
Mirage of dire portent, forecasting days ahead.

XXVI.
The soldiers' children, flaunting mimic flags,
Played by the roadside, striding sticks for nags.
Their mothers wept, indifferent to the crowd
Who saw their tears and heard them sob aloud.
Old Indian men and squaws crooned forth a rhyme
Sung by their tribes from immemorial time;
And over all the drums' incessant beat
Mixed with the scout's weird rune, and tramp of myriad feet.

XXVII.
So flawless was the union of each part
The mighty column (moved as by one heart)
Pulsed through the air, like some sad song well sung,
Which gives delight, although the soul is wrung.
Farther and fainter to the sight and sound
The beautiful embodied poem wound;
Till like a ribbon, stretched across the land
Seemed the long narrow line of that receding band.

XXVIII.
The lot of those who in the silence wait
Is harder than the fighting soldiers' fate.
Back to the lonely post two women passed,
With unaccustomed sorrow overcast.
Two sad for sighs, too desolate for tears,
The dark forebodings of long widowed years
In preparation for the awful blow
Hung on the door of hope the sable badge of woe.

XXIX.
Unhappy Muse! for thee no song remains,
Save the sad miséréré of the plains.
Yet though defeat, not triumph, ends the tale,
Great victors sometimes are the souls that fail.
All glory lies not in the goals we reach,
But in the lessons which our actions teach.
And he who, conquered, to the end believes
In God and in himself, though vanquished, still achieves.

XXX.
Ah, grand as rash was that last fatal raid
The little group of daring heroes made.
Two hundred and two score intrepid men
Rode out to war; not one came back again.
Like fiends incarnate from the depths of hell
Five thousand foemen rose with deafening yell,
And swept that vale as with a simoon's breath,
But like the gods of old, each martyr met his death.

XXXI.
Like gods they battled and like gods they died.
Hour following hour that little band defied
The hordes of red men swarming o'er the plain,
Till scarce a score stood upright 'mid the slain.
Then in the lull of battle, creeping near,
A scout breathed low in Custer's listening ear:
'Death lies before, dear life remains behind
Mount thy sure-footed steed, and hasten with the wind.'

XXXII.
A second's silence. Custer dropped his head,
His lips slow moving as when prayers are said-
Two words he breathed-'God and Elizabeth, '
Then shook his long locks in the face of death
And with a final gesture turned away
To join that fated few who stood at bay.
Ah! deeds like that the Christ in man reveal
Let Fame descend her throne at Custer's shrine to kneel.

XXXIII.
Too late to rescue, but in time to weep,
His tardy comrades came. As if asleep
He lay, so fair, that even hellish hate
Withheld its hand and dared not mutilate.
By fiends who knew not honor, honored still,
He smiled and slept on that far western hill.
Cast down thy lyre, oh Muse! thy song is done!
Let tears complete the tale of him who failed, yet won.

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Gold and Silver

Gold is hills and mountains,
Silver has been weighed all the time
By giants, and elves shall look at the sun.
The moon is silvery in the night due to the night,
There is star that brightens the sky of light,
Inwardly the thoughts do resound,
And the verse is expiring for the thinking men.
Gold has been climbed and fashioned by women
Who eat others and their fathers do have size of wealth.
Silver is praised by the women who dare enter thinking men
And praise them, whilst they who are male construct thoughts
To send to lovers in the night, when the silver moon is in sight.

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Sucking Tongues And Pouting Lips

All day long,
There is a playing of catch up.
And follow the leader.

And all day long all their lives,
This is done!
The following behind someone.

Sucking tongues and pouting lips,
They do as if
They were born to do this.

Sharing complaints and voicing opinions,
They do as if this is routine.
Everyday, everynight.
From Sunrise 'til noon!
And under moonlight.

All day long,
There is a playing of catch up.
And follow the leader.

And all day long all their lives,
This is done!
The following behind someone.

Sucking tongues and pouting lips,
They do as if
They were born to do this.

Sharing complaints and voicing opinions,
They do as if this is routine.
And for them,
It is!

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The Otters And Their Mermaids

Bride and groom matchsticks—
Burning by striking until there are little brush fires
Underneath the mobiles of penny-ante mountains—
And they name them,
As they turn around blazing for a life time—
The very exact things that fill up trailer parks and
Apartment buildings and, sometimes, teepees—
While the beautiful airplanes whisper above them—
Offering things to the moonless atmosphere—
Until the people go out shopping again,
Amassing in the hazards of their amusements,
Bivouacking in the coliseums that fold up eagerly filled
With pledges—
And the blue collared antelope dream of the otters
And their mermaids, until the day disappears underneath
A swing set taller than all of the world.

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The Glories of our Blood and State

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings.
Sceptre and crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill;
But their strong nerves at last must yield,
They tame but one another still.
Early or late,
They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds;
Upon death's purple altar now,
See where the victor-victim bleeds.
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

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Lilac And Gold And Green

Lilac and gold and green!
Those are the colours I love the best,
Spring's own raiment untouched and clean,
When the world is awake and yet hardly dressed,
And the stranger sun, her bridegroom shy,
Looks at her bosom and wonders why
She is so beautiful, he so blest.

Lilac and green and gold!
Those were the colours you wore to--day,
Robed you were in them fold on fold,
Clothed in the light of your love's delay.
And I held you thus in my arms, once only,
And wondered still, as you left me lonely,
How the world's beauty was changed to grey.

Lilac and gold and green!
I would die for the truth of those colours true!
Lilac for loyalty, gold for my queen,
And green the faith of my love for you.
Here is a posy of all the three.
My heart is with it. So think of me,
And our weeping skies shall once more be blue.

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The Gold And Beyond

On a snow crystal morning
Some place close to heaven
On the side of a mountain
In a race for the sun
In a matter of moments
The dream of a lifetime is won
There's a fire in the heart
And it feels like the hunger
The spirit is burning
Consumed by the flame
To be one of the best
Of the best in the world
Is its name
To go faster and farther
Than anyone ever before
To be braver and stronger
And truer than ever before
To be all that you can be
And all that you've ever longer for
In the eyes of the mountain
All people are equal
In the eyes of all people
Our souls can be seen
In the course of our struggle
We'll know what humanity means
To be all that you can be
And all that you've ever longed for
We gather together
To face one another
We gather in silence
And sing for the sun
We gather in peace
To go for the gold and beyond

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Children And Their Immortal Shelter.

Children And Their Immortal Shelter, -To My Divine Sisters And Brothers.

Go on go on with sense’s slaughter,
Of your biological parasites,
The Mother Divine, cries and whines,
Seeing her children’s plight.

Sinners were they never not,
No sin had they ever brought,
But in senses’ play, on their clays,
Their Mother, they have forgot.

The mystic play, on the ground,
Goes round and round,
With sports and, operas incessant,

The referee’s whistle, -conscience’ bell
And captain’s dictate not to make a foul,
Remain, remain unheard, -although they haul.

The mother wishes, the mother cherishes,
First. a righteous play, and then,
To feel Her origin, the clay within green,
For her children, by their birth, are divine.

Time She has allotted, -of incessant births,
For playing with Her children on this earth.
The child-like innocence, with no ignorance,
And Faith-live, -for mother’s anchor,
Open to the children, the recognition of immortal shelter.

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People (And Their Attritions)

To dream in the shade of gray
And wake with the sound of silence
The redolent ululations of the stagnant wind
Will freeze the airwaves with icicles
Sharper than the tongues of fire

People are people
Marred with a weak heart
That heeds no change for mercy
When stricken by godly hands;
Like a serpent, infuriated from the ground
By the prime predators with blood
Warm and red that he envied
With such amazed incongruity

Disturbed by the clamors beyond the pale
And the pertinacious exploitations
These harried hands wrought upon graves
Praying with the white flowers
Tossed without remorse
Withering with the brittle bones

I snide a fang for the manipulation
Ensconced in the hollow bones -
Haunted by the lost childhood
And the false-analogy of the future

People are people
And it will never reimburse
The lack of reasons
For all these conflagrating wounds

I hissed, I snickered,
At my own involution
To my life's suspension
And the pathos begged
Groveling for your poison

To all the lovely people
And your banquet of attrition:

Can you see the last bit of me
Hauling into the sun-drenched light
So you can see the profuse vexation
And the fear that the immense shadow casts?

In this turpitude I curled and folded
The weary scherzo of the heart
And like a mote suspended in the dusk
I descended, waning from your touch.

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People And Their Situations Do Change

If it is true you knew,
How I felt in those times...
Where were you,
To help me empty...
Those many buckets of tears,
I cried.
If it is true,
My struggles with agony...
Had been something you knew.

If it is true you knew,
Who planted obstacles on my path...
Why were you not there for me at all?
And when I reach out to you,
You dismissed me and laughed.

If it 'is' true you knew,
What I was going through...
You said nothing about it,
Until several years have passed.

And,
If it is true you knew...
Anything about me at all,
Why have you waited until today...
To appear to say,
You are experiencing your own downfall.

To what degree of an empathy,
Do expect from me...
To receive?

'People and their situations change.'

I couldn't say that any better.
I agree.
Trust me.

And that person you say you knew back then,
Has matured to improve...
On my expectations of 'friends'.
And can see people and things as they are.
With a re-arrangement done to philosophies,
Without a passing of judgement on them.

'People and their situations change.'

I couldn't say that any better.
I agree.
Trust me.
And I've been blessed with a peace,
I am going to protect and keep.

And all I can do is wish you the best.
With a peacefulness I am feeling.
Hoping one day,
The same for you will come your way.

People and their situations do change.
Of that,
I totally agree.
But an empathy from me you wish to receive...
Was not from you,
Ever given to me from you to give...
To believe you can receive.

I agree...
People and their situations do change,
A lot!

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Ode to the Cambro-Britons and their Harp, His Ballad of Agi

Fair stood the wind for France,
When we our sails advance;
Nor now to prove our chance
Longer will tarry;
But putting to the main,
At Caux, the mouth of Seine,
With all his martial train
Landed King Harry.

And taking many a fort,
Furnish'd in warlike sort,
Marcheth towards Agincourt
In happy hour;
Skirmishing day by day
With those that stopp'd his way,
Where the French gen'ral lay
With all his power.

Which, in his height of pride,
King Henry to deride,
His ransom to provide
To the King sending;
Which he neglects the while,
As from a nation vile
Yet with an angry smile
Their fall portending.

And turning to his men
Quoth our brave Henry then:
"Though they to one be ten
Be not amazed.
Yet have we well begun:
Battles so bravely won
Have ever to the sun
By Fame been raised!

"And for myself," quoth he,
"This my full rest shall be:
England ne'er mourn for me,
Nor more esteem me;
Victor I will remain,
Or on this earth lie slain;
Never shall she sustain
Loss to redeem me!

"Poitiers and Cressy tell
When most their pride did swell
Under our swords they fell;
No less our skill is
Than when our grandsire great,
Claiming the regal seat,
By many a warlike feat
Lopp'd the French lilies."

The Duke of York so dread
The eager vaward led;
With the main Henry sped
Amongst his henchmen:
Excester had the rear,
A braver man not there
O Lord, how hot they were
On the false Frenchmen!

They now to fight are gone;
Armour on armour shone;
Drum now to drum did groan:
To hear, was wonder;
That, with cries they make,
The very earth did shake;
Trumpet to trumpet spake,
Thunder to thunder.

Well it thine age became,
O noble Erpingham,
Which didst the signal aim
To our hid forces;
When, from a meadow by,
Like a storm suddenly,
The English archery
Stuck the French horses

With Spanish yew so strong,
Arrows a cloth-yard long,
That like to serpents stung,
Piercing the weather.
None from his fellow starts,
But playing manly parts,
And like true English hearts
Stuck close together.

When down their bows they threw,
And forth their bilboes drew,
And on the French they flew,
Not one was tardy;
Arms were from shoulders sent,
Scalps to the teeth were rent,
Down the French peasants went:
Our men were hardy.

This while our noble King,
His broad sword brandishing,
Down the French host did ding,
As to o'erwhelm it.
And many a deep wound lent,
His arms with blood besprent,
And many a cruel dent
Bruised his helmet.

Gloster, that duke so good,
Next of the royal blood,
For famous England stood
With his brave brother.
Clarence, in steel so bright,
Though but a maiden knight,
Yet in that furious fight
Scarce such another!

Warwick in blood did wade,
Oxford the foe invade,
And cruel slaughter made,
Still as they ran up.
Suffolk his axe did ply;
Beaumont and Willoughby
Bare them right doughtily;
Ferrers and Fanhope.

Upon Saint Crispin's Day
Fought was this noble fray,
Which fame did not delay
To England to carry.
O when shall English men
With such acts fill a pen,
Or England breed again
Such a King Harry?

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After All The Endless Longing To Be Who We Are

IN THE MANNER OF BORGES I WRITE POEMS IN MY OLD AGE

In the manner of Borges I write poems in my old age
And dream that they are not only imitations
Of poems written by others
When we all were young.

Instead I go on now in the darkness of the night
Because the fear of what will be
Is always so deep in me
It does not need Poetry or Happiness or any other Meaning
Outside itself.

We are small sands drifting on the edge of stars
Lesser beings of a time we will never know
All that we have done comes back to us over and over again
As if we never were

I don’t believe I will ever write Borges lines
He wrote them in his own imagined words
And I must in my own little life
Suffer to the end of time
All I have not been
And never will be.

God Who is Good
God of Love
You gave me so much
You did not have to give me Poetry also.


THE REAL POETS

The real poets are few in number and largely known by name
The rest of us are endless frustration in aspiration
Words upon words upon words
Dreams upon dreams upon dreams
Getting and going nowhere forever unheard

The real poets find their anthologized place
And we know them over and over and over again
The rest of us just appear this only once
If we appear at all
And our words and our hearts and our minds
Do not encompass and inspire the endless rereadings
Time and Time’s Wounds make again and again and again

We are once only always forever losts
Nothing will save us
These words too coming in the wake of a long night’s reading
Of the poems of others
Cannot sustain and redeem
Cannot be what they would be
Cannot help and cannot save
Me or you or anyone we love
Even as poetry.

God Who Knows All
And in the End Decides on Everything
Has made us smaller even than the Angels
And our place in the Divine Song
Is not as far as we know
Anywhere heard at all.

Goodbye world
We are going
We have done what we could
We have written and written and written
Oxymandias’ poet will remain
And we will not
The lone and desert sands will stretch away
When we are not even a single grain.


THE WORLD IS FILLED WITH THE ENDLESS SILENCE OF THINGS

The world is filled with the endless silence of things
Dreams in old age are not the dreams of youth – and will never be
Old pain in old bodies stirs the imagination to anger at itself
The history of the universe begins somewhere long before we were born
And when Time ends more Time will not begin elsewhere
Parallel universes pose mathematical riddles to an evidence- hungry horde of physicists who live by supposition alone
And yet underneath it all we are biological beings – brains of our own misperceptions
Clamoring clamoring while on the other side of the moon
The cold goes deeper in us than all the distances we will never reach
Mites and Bites and Little Strings Digital waves and wiry wise things
We are all more than a cave painting with buffalo music beating in the fire
Under the darkness once
When we hunted with small eyes the body’s animal prey
Our spirit said mocking melodies of great and good sounds
Let the Maker of All be One in Love
And less than us may there never be new
The world we love and the people we trust
And the endless game of the transitions
This is a hell of a way to be who we are
And yet some say we are dust more than stars
And under the end of the forever we feel
Only our Names will remain not quite real.


AFTER ALL THE ENDLESS LONGING TO BE WHO WE ARE

After all the endless longing to be who we are
We come in old age to know what we dared never dream
That we as we are are less than we will forever be
And all that we have made is nothing beside
What God alone may make us should God have decided
That we are worth more than the interval here of our own small being
Dust is not enough
And will never be
For what we dream
For those we most love
Bones interred and epitaphs made righteous in stone
Cannot replace the vital thing of each breathing being
So so long ago
I knew when my grandmother died that she Bessie Zeibert- Peshie really- had so much love and goodness she should never be gone
Lost in her very last moments seeking a stolen sweater no one had ever taken
A sixteen year old girl in steerage with her first child who would never marry and live only to help his nephews and niece
God of Love
What are we
So many have died
So many good people
And I here officially an old man yet young enough to begin and thrive again in words
Questioning as I did then and knowing more and no more
We are the end and the beginning of the universe humanbeings kind or unkind
Light too is another name for death when it is forever too strong
I see I feel I know
We are what we are
And You will take us home
In a way we cannot dream now
Something so good as many of us have been
Must never die
And You Alone know how
We will survive
In the endless Infinite Eternity which no one who has ever lived can describe
Or truly understand.

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Grandmother's Story Of Bunker Hill Battle (as she saw it from the Belfry)

'Tis like stirring living embers when, at eighty, one remembers
All the achings and the quakings of 'the times that tried men's souls';
When I talk of Whig and Tory, when I tell the Rebel story,
To you the words are ashes, but to me they're burning coals.

I had heard the muskets' rattle of the April running battle;
Lord Percy's hunted soldiers, I can see their red coats still;
But a deadly chill comes o'er me, as the day looms up before me,
When a thousand men lay bleeding on the slopes of Bunker's Hill.

'Twas a peaceful summer's morning, when the first thing gave us warning
Was the booming of the cannon from the river and the shore:
'Child,' says grandma, 'what's the matter, what is all this noise and clatter?
Have those scalping Indian devils come to murder us once more?'

Poor old soul! my sides were shaking in the midst of all my quaking
To hear her talk of Indians when the guns began to roar:
She had seen the burning village, and the slaughter and the pillage,
When the Mohawks killed her father, with their bullets through his door.

Then I said, 'Now, dear old granny, don't you fret and worry any,
For I'll soon come back and tell you whether this is work or play;
There can't be mischief in it, so I won't be gone a minute'—
For a minute then I started. I was gone the livelong day.

No time for bodice-lacing or for looking-glass grimacing;
Down my hair went as I hurried, tumbling half-way to my heels;
God forbid your ever knowing, when there's blood around her flowing,
How the lonely, helpless daughter of a quiet household feels!

In the street I heard a thumping; and I knew it was the stumping
Of the Corporal, our old neighbor, on that wooden leg he wore,
With a knot of women round him,—it was lucky I had found him,—
So I followed with the others, and the Corporal marched before.

They were making for the steeple,—the old soldier and his people;
The pigeons circled round us as we climbed the creaking stair,
Just across the narrow river—O, so close it made me shiver!—
Stood a fortress on the hilltop that but yesterday was bare.

Not slow our eyes to find it; well we knew who stood behind it,
Though the earthwork hid them from us, and the stubborn walls were dumb:
Here were sister, wife, and mother, looking wild upon each other,
And their lips were white with terror as they said, THE HOUR HAS COME!

The morning slowly wasted, not a morsel had we tasted,
And our heads were almost splitting with the cannons' deafening thrill,
When a figure tall and stately round the rampart strode sedately;
It was PRESCOTT, one since told me; he commanded on the hill.

Every woman's heart grew bigger when we saw his manly figure,
With the banyan buckled round it, standing up so straight and tall;
Like a gentleman of leisure who is strolling out for pleasure,
Through the storm of shells and cannon-shot he walked around the wall.

At eleven the streets were swarming, for the red-coats' ranks were forming;
At noon in marching order they were moving to the piers;
How the bayonets gleamed and glistened, as we looked far down and listened
To the trampling and the drum-beat of the belted grenadiers!

At length the men have started, with a cheer (it seemed faint-hearted),
In their scarlet regimentals, with their knapsacks on their backs,
And the reddening, rippling water, as after a sea-fight's slaughter,
Round the barges gliding onward blushed like blood along their tracks.

So they crossed to the other border, and again they formed in order;
And the boats came back for soldiers, came for soldiers, soldiers still:
The time seemed everlasting to us women faint and fasting,—
At last they're moving, marching, marching proudly up the hill.

We can see the bright steel glancing all along the lines advancing—
Now the front rank fires a volley—they have thrown away their shot;
Far behind the earthwork lying, all the balls above them flying,
Our people need not hurry; so they wait and answer not.

Then the Corporal, our old cripple (he would swear sometimes and tipple),—
He had heard the bullets whistle (in the old French war) before,—
Calls out in words of jeering, just as if they all were hearing,—
And his wooden leg thumps fiercely on the dusty belfry floor:—

'Oh! fire away, ye villains, and earn King George's shillin's,
But ye'll waste a ton of powder afore a 'rebel' falls;
You may bang the dirt and welcome, they're as safe as Dan'l Malcolm
Ten foot beneath the gravestone that you've splintered with your balls!'

In the hush of expectation, in the awe and trepidation
Of the dread approaching moment, we are well-nigh breathless all;
Though the rotten bars are failing on the rickety belfry railing,
We are crowding up against them like the waves against a wall.

Just a glimpse (the air is clearer), they are nearer,—nearer,— nearer,
When a flash—a curling smoke-wreath—then a crash—the steeple shakes—
The deadly truce is ended; the tempest's shroud is rended;
Like a morning mist it gathered, like a thunder-cloud it breaks!

O the sight our eyes discover as the blue-black smoke blows over!
The red-coats stretched in windrows as a mower rakes his hay;
Here a scarlet heap is lying, there a headlong crowd is flying
Like a billow that has broken and is shivered into spray.

Then we cried, 'The troops are routed! they are beat—it can't be doubted!
God be thanked, the fight is over!'—Ah! the grim old soldier's smile!
'Tell us, tell us why you look so?' (we could hardly speak, we shook so),—
'Are they beaten? Are they beaten? ARE they beaten?'— 'Wait a while.'

O the trembling and the terror! for too soon we saw our error:
They are baffled, not defeated; we have driven them back in vain;
And the columns that were scattered, round the colors that were tattered,
Toward the sullen silent fortress turn their belted breasts again.

All at once, as we are gazing, lo the roofs of Charlestown blazing!
They have fired the harmless village; in an hour it will be down!
The Lord in heaven confound them, rain his fire and brimstone round them,—
The robbing, murdering red-coats, that would burn a peaceful town!

They are marching, stern and solemn; we can see each massive column
As they near the naked earth-mound with the slanting walls so steep.
Have our soldiers got faint-hearted, and in noiseless haste departed?
Are they panic-struck and helpless? Are they palsied or asleep?

Now! the walls they're almost under! scarce a rod the foes asunder!
Not a firelock flashed against them! up the earthwork they will swarm!
But the words have scarce been spoken, when the ominous calm is broken,
And a bellowing crash has emptied all the vengeance of the storm!

So again, with murderous slaughter, pelted backward to the water,
Fly Pigot's running heroes and the frightened braves of Howe;
And we shout, 'At last they're done for, it's their barges they have run for:
They are beaten, beaten, beaten; and the battle's over now!'

And we looked, poor timid creatures, on the rough old soldier's features,
Our lips afraid to question, but he knew what we would ask:
'Not sure,' he said; 'keep quiet,—once more, I guess, they'll try it—
Here's damnation to the cut-throats!' then he handed me his flask,

Saying, 'Gal, you're looking shaky; have a drop of old Jamaiky:
I'm afraid there'll be more trouble afore this job is done;'
So I took one scorching swallow; dreadful faint I felt and hollow,
Standing there from early morning when the firing was begun.

All through those hours of trial I had watched a calm clock dial,
As the hands kept creeping, creeping,—they were creeping round to four,
When the old man said, 'They're forming with their bayonets fixed for storming:
It's the death grip that's a coming,—they will try the works once more.'

With brazen trumpets blaring, the flames behind them glaring,
The deadly wall before them, in close array they come;
Still onward, upward toiling, like a dragon's fold uncoiling—
Like the rattlesnake's shrill warning the reverberating drum!

Over heaps all torn and gory—shall I tell the fearful story,
How they surged above the breastwork, as a sea breaks over a deck;
How, driven, yet scarce defeated, our worn-out men retreated,
With their powder-horns all emptied, like the swimmers from a wreck?

It has all been told and painted; as for me, they say I fainted,
And the wooden-legged old Corporal stumped with me down the stair:
When I woke from dreams affrighted the evening lamps were lighted,—
On the floor a youth was lying; his bleeding breast was bare.

And I heard through all the flurry, 'Send for WARREN! hurry! hurry!
Tell him here's a soldier bleeding, and he'll come and dress his wound!'
Ah, we knew not till the morrow told its tale of death and sorrow,
How the starlight found him stiffened on the dark and bloody ground.

Who the youth was, what his name was, where the place from which he came was,
Who had brought him from the battle, and had left him at our door,
He could not speak to tell us; but 'twas one of our brave fellows,
As the homespun plainly showed us which the dying soldier wore.

For they all thought he was dying, as they gathered 'round him crying,—
And they said, 'O, how they'll miss him!' and, 'What will his mother do?'
Then, his eyelids just unclosing like a child's that has been dozing,
He faintly murmured, 'Mother!'—and—I saw his eyes were blue.

—'Why, grandma, how you're winking!'—Ah, my child, it sets me thinking
Of a story not like this one. Well, he somehow lived along;
So we came to know each other, and I nursed him like a—mother,
Till at last he stood before me, tall, and rosy-cheeked, and strong.

And we sometimes walked together in the pleasant summer weather;
—'Please to tell us what his name was?'—Just your own, my little dear,—
There's his picture Copley painted: we became so well acquainted,
That—in short, that's why I'm grandma, and you children all are here!

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The Symphony

"O Trade! O Trade! would thou wert dead!
The Time needs heart -- 'tis tired of head:
We're all for love," the violins said.
"Of what avail the rigorous tale
Of bill for coin and box for bale?
Grant thee, O Trade! thine uttermost hope:
Level red gold with blue sky-slope,
And base it deep as devils grope:
When all's done, what hast thou won
Of the only sweet that's under the sun?
Ay, canst thou buy a single sigh
Of true love's least, least ecstasy?"
Then, with a bridegroom's heart-beats trembling,
All the mightier strings assembling
Ranged them on the violins' side
As when the bridegroom leads the bride,
And, heart in voice, together cried:
"Yea, what avail the endless tale
Of gain by cunning and plus by sale?
Look up the land, look down the land
The poor, the poor, the poor, they stand
Wedged by the pressing of Trade's hand
Against an inward-opening door
That pressure tightens evermore:
They sigh a monstrous foul-air sigh
For the outside leagues of liberty,
Where Art, sweet lark, translates the sky
Into a heavenly melody.
`Each day, all day' (these poor folks say),
`In the same old year-long, drear-long way,
We weave in the mills and heave in the kilns,
We sieve mine-meshes under the hills,
And thieve much gold from the Devil's bank tills,
To relieve, O God, what manner of ills? --
The beasts, they hunger, and eat, and die;
And so do we, and the world's a sty;
Hush, fellow-swine: why nuzzle and cry?
"Swinehood hath no remedy"
Say many men, and hasten by,
Clamping the nose and blinking the eye.
But who said once, in the lordly tone,
"Man shall not live by bread alone
But all that cometh from the Throne?"
Hath God said so?
But Trade saith "No:"
And the kilns and the curt-tongued mills say "Go!
There's plenty that can, if you can't: we know.
Move out, if you think you're underpaid.
The poor are prolific; we're not afraid;
Trade is trade."'"
Thereat this passionate protesting
Meekly changed, and softened till
It sank to sad requesting
And suggesting sadder still:
"And oh, if men might some time see
How piteous-false the poor decree
That trade no more than trade must be!
Does business mean, `Die, you -- live, I?'
Then `Trade is trade' but sings a lie:
'Tis only war grown miserly.
If business is battle, name it so:
War-crimes less will shame it so,
And widows less will blame it so.
Alas, for the poor to have some part
In yon sweet living lands of Art,
Makes problem not for head, but heart.
Vainly might Plato's brain revolve it:
Plainly the heart of a child could solve it."

And then, as when from words that seem but rude
We pass to silent pain that sits abrood
Back in our heart's great dark and solitude,
So sank the strings to gentle throbbing
Of long chords change-marked with sobbing --
Motherly sobbing, not distinctlier heard
Than half wing-openings of the sleeping bird,
Some dream of danger to her young hath stirred.
Then stirring and demurring ceased, and lo!
Every least ripple of the strings' song-flow
Died to a level with each level bow
And made a great chord tranquil-surfaced so,
As a brook beneath his curving bank doth go
To linger in the sacred dark and green
Where many boughs the still pool overlean
And many leaves make shadow with their sheen.
But presently
A velvet flute-note fell down pleasantly
Upon the bosom of that harmony,
And sailed and sailed incessantly,
As if a petal from a wild-rose blown
Had fluttered down upon that pool of tone
And boatwise dropped o' the convex side
And floated down the glassy tide
And clarified and glorified
The solemn spaces where the shadows bide.
From the warm concave of that fluted note
Somewhat, half song, half odor, forth did float,
As if a rose might somehow be a throat:
"When Nature from her far-off glen
Flutes her soft messages to men,
The flute can say them o'er again;
Yea, Nature, singing sweet and lone,
Breathes through life's strident polyphone
The flute-voice in the world of tone.
Sweet friends,
Man's love ascends
To finer and diviner ends
Than man's mere thought e'er comprehends
For I, e'en I,
As here I lie,
A petal on a harmony,
Demand of Science whence and why
Man's tender pain, man's inward cry,
When he doth gaze on earth and sky?
I am not overbold:
I hold
Full powers from Nature manifold.
I speak for each no-tongued tree
That, spring by spring, doth nobler be,
And dumbly and most wistfully
His mighty prayerful arms outspreads
Above men's oft-unheeding heads,
And his big blessing downward sheds.
I speak for all-shaped blooms and leaves,
Lichens on stones and moss on eaves,
Grasses and grains in ranks and sheaves;
Broad-fronded ferns and keen-leaved canes,
And briery mazes bounding lanes,
And marsh-plants, thirsty-cupped for rains,
And milky stems and sugary veins;
For every long-armed woman-vine
That round a piteous tree doth twine;
For passionate odors, and divine
Pistils, and petals crystalline;
All purities of shady springs,
All shynesses of film-winged things
That fly from tree-trunks and bark-rings;
All modesties of mountain-fawns
That leap to covert from wild lawns,
And tremble if the day but dawns;
All sparklings of small beady eyes
Of birds, and sidelong glances wise
Wherewith the jay hints tragedies;
All piquancies of prickly burs,
And smoothnesses of downs and furs
Of eiders and of minevers;
All limpid honeys that do lie
At stamen-bases, nor deny
The humming-birds' fine roguery,
Bee-thighs, nor any butterfly;
All gracious curves of slender wings,
Bark-mottlings, fibre-spiralings,
Fern-wavings and leaf-flickerings;
Each dial-marked leaf and flower-bell
Wherewith in every lonesome dell
Time to himself his hours doth tell;
All tree-sounds, rustlings of pine-cones,
Wind-sighings, doves' melodious moans,
And night's unearthly under-tones;
All placid lakes and waveless deeps,
All cool reposing mountain-steeps,
Vale-calms and tranquil lotos-sleeps; --
Yea, all fair forms, and sounds, and lights,
And warmths, and mysteries, and mights,
Of Nature's utmost depths and heights,
-- These doth my timid tongue present,
Their mouthpiece and leal instrument
And servant, all love-eloquent.
I heard, when `"All for love"' the violins cried:
So, Nature calls through all her system wide,
`Give me thy love, O man, so long denied.'
Much time is run, and man hath changed his ways,
Since Nature, in the antique fable-days,
Was hid from man's true love by proxy fays,
False fauns and rascal gods that stole her praise.
The nymphs, cold creatures of man's colder brain,
Chilled Nature's streams till man's warm heart was fain
Never to lave its love in them again.
Later, a sweet Voice `Love thy neighbor' said;
Then first the bounds of neighborhood outspread
Beyond all confines of old ethnic dread.
Vainly the Jew might wag his covenant head:
`"All men are neighbors,"' so the sweet Voice said.
So, when man's arms had circled all man's race,
The liberal compass of his warm embrace
Stretched bigger yet in the dark bounds of space;
With hands a-grope he felt smooth Nature's grace,
Drew her to breast and kissed her sweetheart face:
Yea man found neighbors in great hills and trees
And streams and clouds and suns and birds and bees,
And throbbed with neighbor-loves in loving these.
But oh, the poor! the poor! the poor!
That stand by the inward-opening door
Trade's hand doth tighten ever more,
And sigh their monstrous foul-air sigh
For the outside hills of liberty,
Where Nature spreads her wild blue sky
For Art to make into melody!
Thou Trade! thou king of the modern days!
Change thy ways,
Change thy ways;
Let the sweaty laborers file
A little while,
A little while,
Where Art and Nature sing and smile.
Trade! is thy heart all dead, all dead?
And hast thou nothing but a head?
I'm all for heart," the flute-voice said,
And into sudden silence fled,
Like as a blush that while 'tis red
Dies to a still, still white instead.

Thereto a thrilling calm succeeds,
Till presently the silence breeds
A little breeze among the reeds
That seems to blow by sea-marsh weeds:
Then from the gentle stir and fret
Sings out the melting clarionet,
Like as a lady sings while yet
Her eyes with salty tears are wet.
"O Trade! O Trade!" the Lady said,
"I too will wish thee utterly dead
If all thy heart is in thy head.
For O my God! and O my God!
What shameful ways have women trod
At beckoning of Trade's golden rod!
Alas when sighs are traders' lies,
And heart's-ease eyes and violet eyes
Are merchandise!
O purchased lips that kiss with pain!
O cheeks coin-spotted with smirch and stain!
O trafficked hearts that break in twain!
-- And yet what wonder at my sisters' crime?
So hath Trade withered up Love's sinewy prime,
Men love not women as in olden time.
Ah, not in these cold merchantable days
Deem men their life an opal gray, where plays
The one red Sweet of gracious ladies'-praise.
Now, comes a suitor with sharp prying eye --
Says, `Here, you Lady, if you'll sell, I'll buy:
Come, heart for heart -- a trade? What! weeping? why?'
Shame on such wooers' dapper mercery!
I would my lover kneeling at my feet
In humble manliness should cry, `O sweet!
I know not if thy heart my heart will greet:
I ask not if thy love my love can meet:
Whate'er thy worshipful soft tongue shall say,
I'll kiss thine answer, be it yea or nay:
I do but know I love thee, and I pray
To be thy knight until my dying day.'
Woe him that cunning trades in hearts contrives!
Base love good women to base loving drives.
If men loved larger, larger were our lives;
And wooed they nobler, won they nobler wives."

There thrust the bold straightforward horn
To battle for that lady lorn,
With heartsome voice of mellow scorn,
Like any knight in knighthood's morn.
"Now comfort thee," said he,
"Fair Lady.
For God shall right thy grievous wrong,
And man shall sing thee a true-love song,
Voiced in act his whole life long,
Yea, all thy sweet life long,
Fair Lady.
Where's he that craftily hath said,
The day of chivalry is dead?
I'll prove that lie upon his head,
Or I will die instead,
Fair Lady.
Is Honor gone into his grave?
Hath Faith become a caitiff knave,
And Selfhood turned into a slave
To work in Mammon's cave,
Fair Lady?
Will Truth's long blade ne'er gleam again?
Hath Giant Trade in dungeons slain
All great contempts of mean-got gain
And hates of inward stain,
Fair Lady?
For aye shall name and fame be sold,
And place be hugged for the sake of gold,
And smirch-robed Justice feebly scold
At Crime all money-bold,
Fair Lady?
Shall self-wrapt husbands aye forget
Kiss-pardons for the daily fret
Wherewith sweet wifely eyes are wet --
Blind to lips kiss-wise set --
Fair Lady?
Shall lovers higgle, heart for heart,
Till wooing grows a trading mart
Where much for little, and all for part,
Make love a cheapening art,
Fair Lady?
Shall woman scorch for a single sin
That her betrayer may revel in,
And she be burnt, and he but grin
When that the flames begin,
Fair Lady?
Shall ne'er prevail the woman's plea,
`We maids would far, far whiter be
If that our eyes might sometimes see
Men maids in purity,'
Fair Lady?
Shall Trade aye salve his conscience-aches
With jibes at Chivalry's old mistakes --
The wars that o'erhot knighthood makes
For Christ's and ladies' sakes,
Fair Lady?
Now by each knight that e'er hath prayed
To fight like a man and love like a maid,
Since Pembroke's life, as Pembroke's blade,
I' the scabbard, death, was laid,
Fair Lady,
I dare avouch my faith is bright
That God doth right and God hath might.
Nor time hath changed His hair to white,
Nor His dear love to spite,
Fair Lady.
I doubt no doubts: I strive, and shrive my clay,
And fight my fight in the patient modern way
For true love and for thee -- ah me! and pray
To be thy knight until my dying day,
Fair Lady."
Made end that knightly horn, and spurred away
Into the thick of the melodious fray.

And then the hautboy played and smiled,
And sang like any large-eyed child,
Cool-hearted and all undefiled.
"Huge Trade!" he said,
"Would thou wouldst lift me on thy head
And run where'er my finger led!
Once said a Man -- and wise was He --
`Never shalt thou the heavens see,
Save as a little child thou be.'"
Then o'er sea-lashings of commingling tunes
The ancient wise bassoons,
Like weird
Gray-beard
Old harpers sitting on the high sea-dunes,
Chanted runes:
"Bright-waved gain, gray-waved loss,
The sea of all doth lash and toss,
One wave forward and one across:
But now 'twas trough, now 'tis crest,
And worst doth foam and flash to best,
And curst to blest.

Life! Life! thou sea-fugue, writ from east to west,
Love, Love alone can pore
On thy dissolving score
Of harsh half-phrasings,
Blotted ere writ,
And double erasings
Of chords most fit.
Yea, Love, sole music-master blest,
May read thy weltering palimpsest.
To follow Time's dying melodies through,
And never to lose the old in the new,
And ever to solve the discords true --
Love alone can do.
And ever Love hears the poor-folks' crying,
And ever Love hears the women's sighing,
And ever sweet knighthood's death-defying,
And ever wise childhood's deep implying,
But never a trader's glozing and lying.

And yet shall Love himself be heard,
Though long deferred, though long deferred:
O'er the modern waste a dove hath whirred:
Music is Love in search of a word."

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 24

The assembly now broke up and the people went their ways each to his
own ship. There they made ready their supper, and then bethought
them of the blessed boon of sleep; but Achilles still wept for
thinking of his dear comrade, and sleep, before whom all things bow,
could take no hold upon him. This way and that did he turn as he
yearned after the might and manfulness of Patroclus; he thought of all
they had done together, and all they had gone through both on the
field of battle and on the waves of the weary sea. As he dwelt on
these things he wept bitterly and lay now on his side, now on his
back, and now face downwards, till at last he rose and went out as one
distraught to wander upon the seashore. Then, when he saw dawn
breaking over beach and sea, he yoked his horses to his chariot, and
bound the body of Hector behind it that he might drag it about. Thrice
did he drag it round the tomb of the son of Menoetius, and then went
back into his tent, leaving the body on the ground full length and
with its face downwards. But Apollo would not suffer it to be
disfigured, for he pitied the man, dead though he now was; therefore
he shielded him with his golden aegis continually, that he might
take no hurt while Achilles was dragging him.
Thus shamefully did Achilles in his fury dishonour Hector; but the
blessed gods looked down in pity from heaven, and urged Mercury,
slayer of Argus, to steal the body. All were of this mind save only
Juno, Neptune, and Jove's grey-eyed daughter, who persisted in the
hate which they had ever borne towards Ilius with Priam and his
people; for they forgave not the wrong done them by Alexandrus in
disdaining the goddesses who came to him when he was in his
sheepyards, and preferring her who had offered him a wanton to his
ruin.
When, therefore, the morning of the twelfth day had now come,
Phoebus Apollo spoke among the immortals saying, "You gods ought to be
ashamed of yourselves; you are cruel and hard-hearted. Did not
Hector burn you thigh-bones of heifers and of unblemished goats? And
now dare you not rescue even his dead body, for his wife to look upon,
with his mother and child, his father Priam, and his people, who would
forthwith commit him to the flames, and give him his due funeral
rites? So, then, you would all be on the side of mad Achilles, who
knows neither right nor ruth? He is like some savage lion that in
the pride of his great strength and daring springs upon men's flocks
and gorges on them. Even so has Achilles flung aside all pity, and all
that conscience which at once so greatly banes yet greatly boons him
that will heed it. man may lose one far dearer than Achilles has lost-
a son, it may be, or a brother born from his own mother's womb; yet
when he has mourned him and wept over him he will let him bide, for it
takes much sorrow to kill a man; whereas Achilles, now that he has
slain noble Hector, drags him behind his chariot round the tomb of his
comrade. It were better of him, and for him, that he should not do so,
for brave though he be we gods may take it ill that he should vent his
fury upon dead clay."
Juno spoke up in a rage. "This were well," she cried, "O lord of the
silver bow, if you would give like honour to Hector and to Achilles;
but Hector was mortal and suckled at a woman's breast, whereas
Achilles is the offspring of a goddess whom I myself reared and
brought up. I married her to Peleus, who is above measure dear to
the immortals; you gods came all of you to her wedding; you feasted
along with them yourself and brought your lyre- false, and fond of low
company, that you have ever been."
Then said Jove, "Juno, be not so bitter. Their honour shall not be
equal, but of all that dwell in Ilius, Hector was dearest to the gods,
as also to myself, for his offerings never failed me. Never was my
altar stinted of its dues, nor of the drink-offerings and savour of
sacrifice which we claim of right. I shall therefore permit the body
of mighty Hector to be stolen; and yet this may hardly be without
Achilles coming to know it, for his mother keeps night and day
beside him. Let some one of you, therefore, send Thetis to me, and I
will impart my counsel to her, namely that Achilles is to accept a
ransom from Priam, and give up the body."
On this Iris fleet as the wind went forth to carry his message. Down
she plunged into the dark sea midway between Samos and rocky Imbrus;
the waters hissed as they closed over her, and she sank into the
bottom as the lead at the end of an ox-horn, that is sped to carry
death to fishes. She found Thetis sitting in a great cave with the
other sea-goddesses gathered round her; there she sat in the midst
of them weeping for her noble son who was to fall far from his own
land, on the rich plains of Troy. Iris went up to her and said,
"Rise Thetis; Jove, whose counsels fail not, bids you come to him."
And Thetis answered, "Why does the mighty god so bid me? I am in great
grief, and shrink from going in and out among the immortals. Still,
I will go, and the word that he may speak shall not be spoken in
vain."
The goddess took her dark veil, than which there can be no robe more
sombre, and went forth with fleet Iris leading the way before her. The
waves of the sea opened them a path, and when they reached the shore
they flew up into the heavens, where they found the all-seeing son
of Saturn with the blessed gods that live for ever assembled near him.
Minerva gave up her seat to her, and she sat down by the side of
father Jove. Juno then placed a fair golden cup in her hand, and spoke
to her in words of comfort, whereon Thetis drank and gave her back the
cup; and the sire of gods and men was the first to speak.
"So, goddess," said he, "for all your sorrow, and the grief that I
well know reigns ever in your heart, you have come hither to
Olympus, and I will tell you why I have sent for you. This nine days
past the immortals have been quarrelling about Achilles waster of
cities and the body of Hector. The gods would have Mercury slayer of
Argus steal the body, but in furtherance of our peace and amity
henceforward, I will concede such honour to your son as I will now
tell you. Go, then, to the host and lay these commands upon him; say
that the gods are angry with him, and that I am myself more angry than
them all, in that he keeps Hector at the ships and will not give him
up. He may thus fear me and let the body go. At the same time I will
send Iris to great Priam to bid him go to the ships of the Achaeans,
and ransom his son, taking with him such gifts for Achilles as may
give him satisfaction.
Silver-footed Thetis did as the god had told her, and forthwith down
she darted from the topmost summits of Olympus. She went to her
son's tents where she found him grieving bitterly, while his trusty
comrades round him were busy preparing their morning meal, for which
they had killed a great woolly sheep. His mother sat down beside him
and caressed him with her hand saying, "My son, how long will you keep
on thus grieving and making moan? You are gnawing at your own heart,
and think neither of food nor of woman's embraces; and yet these too
were well, for you have no long time to live, and death with the
strong hand of fate are already close beside you. Now, therefore, heed
what I say, for I come as a messenger from Jove; he says that the gods
are angry with you, and himself more angry than them all, in that
you keep Hector at the ships and will not give him up. Therefore let
him go, and accept a ransom for his body."
And Achilles answered, "So be it. If Olympian Jove of his own motion
thus commands me, let him that brings the ransom bear the body away."
Thus did mother and son talk together at the ships in long discourse
with one another. Meanwhile the son of Saturn sent Iris to the
strong city of Ilius. "Go," said he, "fleet Iris, from the mansions of
Olympus, and tell King Priam in Ilius, that he is to go to the ships
of the Achaeans and free the body of his dear son. He is to take
such gifts with him as shall give satisfaction to Achilles, and he
is to go alone, with no other Trojan, save only some honoured
servant who may drive his mules and waggon, and bring back the body of
him whom noble Achilles has slain. Let him have no thought nor fear of
death in his heart, for we will send the slayer of Argus to escort
him, and bring him within the tent of Achilles. Achilles will not kill
him nor let another do so, for he will take heed to his ways and sin
not, and he will entreat a suppliant with all honourable courtesy."
On this Iris, fleet as the wind, sped forth to deliver her
message. She went to Priam's house, and found weeping and
lamentation therein. His sons were seated round their father in the
outer courtyard, and their raiment was wet with tears: the old man sat
in the midst of them with his mantle wrapped close about his body, and
his head and neck all covered with the filth which he had clutched
as he lay grovelling in the mire. His daughters and his sons' wives
went wailing about the house, as they thought of the many and brave
men who lay dead, slain by the Argives. The messenger of Jove stood by
Priam and spoke softly to him, but fear fell upon him as she did so.
"Take heart," she said, "Priam offspring of Dardanus, take heart and
fear not. I bring no evil tidings, but am minded well towards you. I
come as a messenger from Jove, who though he be not near, takes
thought for you and pities you. The lord of Olympus bids you go and
ransom noble Hector, and take with you such gifts as shall give
satisfaction to Achilles. You are to go alone, with no Trojan, save
only some honoured servant who may drive your mules and waggon, and
bring back to the city the body of him whom noble Achilles has
slain. You are to have no thought, nor fear of death, for Jove will
send the slayer of Argus to escort you. When he has brought you within
Achilles' tent, Achilles will not kill you nor let another do so,
for he will take heed to his ways and sin not, and he will entreat a
suppliant with all honourable courtesy."
Iris went her way when she had thus spoken, and Priam told his
sons to get a mule-waggon ready, and to make the body of the waggon
fast upon the top of its bed. Then he went down into his fragrant
store-room, high-vaulted, and made of cedar-wood, where his many
treasures were kept, and he called Hecuba his wife. "Wife," said he,
"a messenger has come to me from Olympus, and has told me to go to the
ships of the Achaeans to ransom my dear son, taking with me such gifts
as shall give satisfaction to Achilles. What think you of this matter?
for my own part I am greatly moved to pass through the of the Achaeans
and go to their ships."
His wife cried aloud as she heard him, and said, "Alas, what has
become of that judgement for which you have been ever famous both
among strangers and your own people? How can you venture alone to
the ships of the Achaeans, and look into the face of him who has slain
so many of your brave sons? You must have iron courage, for if the
cruel savage sees you and lays hold on you, he will know neither
respect nor pity. Let us then weep Hector from afar here in our own
house, for when I gave him birth the threads of overruling fate were
spun for him that dogs should eat his flesh far from his parents, in
the house of that terrible man on whose liver I would fain fasten
and devour it. Thus would I avenge my son, who showed no cowardice
when Achilles slew him, and thought neither of Right nor of avoiding
battle as he stood in defence of Trojan men and Trojan women."
Then Priam said, "I would go, do not therefore stay me nor be as a
bird of ill omen in my house, for you will not move me. Had it been
some mortal man who had sent me some prophet or priest who divines
from sacrifice- I should have deemed him false and have given him no
heed; but now I have heard the goddess and seen her face to face,
therefore I will go and her saying shall not be in vain. If it be my
fate to die at the ships of the Achaeans even so would I have it;
let Achilles slay me, if I may but first have taken my son in my
arms and mourned him to my heart's comforting."
So saying he lifted the lids of his chests, and took out twelve
goodly vestments. He took also twelve cloaks of single fold, twelve
rugs, twelve fair mantles, and an equal number of shirts. He weighed
out ten talents of gold, and brought moreover two burnished tripods,
four cauldrons, and a very beautiful cup which the Thracians had given
him when he had gone to them on an embassy; it was very precious,
but he grudged not even this, so eager was he to ransom the body of
his son. Then he chased all the Trojans from the court and rebuked
them with words of anger. "Out," he cried, "shame and disgrace to me
that you are. Have you no grief in your own homes that you are come to
plague me here? Is it a small thing, think you, that the son of Saturn
has sent this sorrow upon me, to lose the bravest of my sons? Nay, you
shall prove it in person, for now he is gone the Achaeans will have
easier work in killing you. As for me, let me go down within the house
of Hades, ere mine eyes behold the sacking and wasting of the city."
He drove the men away with his staff, and they went forth as the old
man sped them. Then he called to his sons, upbraiding Helenus,
Paris, noble Agathon, Pammon, Antiphonus, Polites of the loud
battle-cry, Deiphobus, Hippothous, and Dius. These nine did the old
man call near him. "Come to me at once," he cried, "worthless sons who
do me shame; would that you had all been killed at the ships rather
than Hector. Miserable man that I am, I have had the bravest sons in
all Troy- noble Nestor, Troilus the dauntless charioteer, and Hector
who was a god among men, so that one would have thought he was son
to an immortal- yet there is not one of them left. Mars has slain them
and those of whom I am ashamed are alone left me. Liars, and light
of foot, heroes of the dance, robbers of lambs and kids from your
own people, why do you not get a waggon ready for me at once, and
put all these things upon it that I may set out on my way?"
Thus did he speak, and they feared the rebuke of their father.
They brought out a strong mule-waggon, newly made, and set the body of
the waggon fast on its bed. They took the mule-yoke from the peg on
which it hung, a yoke of boxwood with a knob on the top of it and
rings for the reins to go through. Then they brought a yoke-band
eleven cubits long, to bind the yoke to the pole; they bound it on
at the far end of the pole, and put the ring over the upright pin
making it fast with three turns of the band on either side the knob,
and bending the thong of the yoke beneath it. This done, they
brought from the store-chamber the rich ransom that was to purchase
the body of Hector, and they set it all orderly on the waggon; then
they yoked the strong harness-mules which the Mysians had on a time
given as a goodly present to Priam; but for Priam himself they yoked
horses which the old king had bred, and kept for own use.
Thus heedfully did Priam and his servant see to the yolking of their
cars at the palace. Then Hecuba came to them all sorrowful, with a
golden goblet of wine in her right hand, that they might make a
drink-offering before they set out. She stood in front of the horses
and said, "Take this, make a drink-offering to father Jove, and
since you are minded to go to the ships in spite of me, pray that
you may come safely back from the hands of your enemies. Pray to the
son of Saturn lord of the whirlwind, who sits on Ida and looks down
over all Troy, pray him to send his swift messenger on your right
hand, the bird of omen which is strongest and most dear to him of
all birds, that you may see it with your own eyes and trust it as
you go forth to the ships of the Danaans. If all-seeing Jove will
not send you this messenger, however set upon it you may be, I would
not have you go to the ships of the Argives."
And Priam answered, "Wife, I will do as you desire me; it is well to
lift hands in prayer to Jove, if so be he may have mercy upon me."
With this the old man bade the serving-woman pour pure water over
his hands, and the woman came, bearing the water in a bowl. He
washed his hands and took the cup from his wife; then he made the
drink-offering and prayed, standing in the middle of the courtyard and
turning his eyes to heaven. "Father Jove," he said, "that rulest
from Ida, most glorious and most great, grant that I may be received
kindly and compassionately in the tents of Achilles; and send your
swift messenger upon my right hand, the bird of omen which is
strongest and most dear to you of all birds, that I may see it with my
own eyes and trust it as I go forth to the ships of the Danaans."
So did he pray, and Jove the lord of counsel heard his prayer.
Forthwith he sent an eagle, the most unerring portent of all birds
that fly, the dusky hunter that men also call the Black Eagle. His
wings were spread abroad on either side as wide as the well-made and
well-bolted door of a rich man's chamber. He came to them flying
over the city upon their right hands, and when they saw him they
were glad and their hearts took comfort within them. The old man
made haste to mount his chariot, and drove out through the inner
gateway and under the echoing gatehouse of the outer court. Before him
went the mules drawing the four-wheeled waggon, and driven by wise
Idaeus; behind these were the horses, which the old man lashed with
his whip and drove swiftly through the city, while his friends
followed after, wailing and lamenting for him as though he were on his
road to death. As soon as they had come down from the city and had
reached the plain, his sons and sons-in-law who had followed him
went back to Ilius.
But Priam and Idaeus as they showed out upon the plain did not
escape the ken of all-seeing Jove, who looked down upon the old man
and pitied him; then he spoke to his son Mercury and said, "Mercury,
for it is you who are the most disposed to escort men on their way,
and to hear those whom you will hear, go, and so conduct Priam to
the ships of the Achaeans that no other of the Danaans shall see him
nor take note of him until he reach the son of Peleus."
Thus he spoke and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus,
did as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden
sandals with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea; he
took the wand with which he seals men's eyes in sleep, or wakes them
just as he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand till he came to
Troy and to the Hellespont. To look at, he was like a young man of
noble birth in the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the down
just coming upon his face.
Now when Priam and Idaeus had driven past the great tomb of Ilius,
they stayed their mules and horses that they might drink in the river,
for the shades of night were falling, when, therefore, Idaeus saw
Mercury standing near them he said to Priam, "Take heed, descendant of
Dardanus; here is matter which demands consideration. I see a man
who I think will presently fall upon us; let us fly with our horses,
or at least embrace his knees and implore him to take compassion
upon us?
When he heard this the old man's heart failed him, and he was in
great fear; he stayed where he was as one dazed, and the hair stood on
end over his whole body; but the bringer of good luck came up to him
and took him by the hand, saying, "Whither, father, are you thus
driving your mules and horses in the dead of night when other men
are asleep? Are you not afraid of the fierce Achaeans who are hard
by you, so cruel and relentless? Should some one of them see you
bearing so much treasure through the darkness of the flying night,
what would not your state then be? You are no longer young, and he who
is with you is too old to protect you from those who would attack you.
For myself, I will do you no harm, and I will defend you from any
one else, for you remind me of my own father."
And Priam answered, "It is indeed as you say, my dear son;
nevertheless some god has held his hand over me, in that he has sent
such a wayfarer as yourself to meet me so Opportunely; you are so
comely in mien and figure, and your judgement is so excellent that you
must come of blessed parents."
Then said the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, "Sir, all that
you have said is right; but tell me and tell me true, are you taking
this rich treasure to send it to a foreign people where it may be
safe, or are you all leaving strong Ilius in dismay now that your
son has fallen who was the bravest man among you and was never lacking
in battle with the Achaeans?"
And Priam said, "Wo are you, my friend, and who are your parents,
that you speak so truly about the fate of my unhappy son?"
The slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, answered him, "Sir, you
would prove me, that you question me about noble Hector. Many a time
have I set eyes upon him in battle when he was driving the Argives
to their ships and putting them to the sword. We stood still and
marvelled, for Achilles in his anger with the son of Atreus suffered
us not to fight. I am his squire, and came with him in the same
ship. I am a Myrmidon, and my father's name is Polyctor: he is a
rich man and about as old as you are; he has six sons besides
myself, and I am the seventh. We cast lots, and it fell upon me to
sail hither with Achilles. I am now come from the ships on to the
plain, for with daybreak the Achaeans will set battle in array about
the city. They chafe at doing nothing, and are so eager that their
princes cannot hold them back."
Then answered Priam, "If you are indeed the squire of Achilles son
of Peleus, tell me now the Whole truth. Is my son still at the
ships, or has Achilles hewn him limb from limb, and given him to his
hounds?"
"Sir," replied the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, "neither
hounds nor vultures have yet devoured him; he is still just lying at
the tents by the ship of Achilles, and though it is now twelve days
that he has lain there, his flesh is not wasted nor have the worms
eaten him although they feed on warriors. At daybreak Achilles drags
him cruelly round the sepulchre of his dear comrade, but it does him
no hurt. You should come yourself and see how he lies fresh as dew,
with the blood all washed away, and his wounds every one of them
closed though many pierced him with their spears. Such care have the
blessed gods taken of your brave son, for he was dear to them beyond
all measure."
The old man was comforted as he heard him and said, "My son, see
what a good thing it is to have made due offerings to the immortals;
for as sure as that he was born my son never forgot the gods that hold
Olympus, and now they requite it to him even in death. Accept
therefore at my hands this goodly chalice; guard me and with
heaven's help guide me till I come to the tent of the son of Peleus."
Then answered the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, "Sir, you are
tempting me and playing upon my youth, but you shall not move me,
for you are offering me presents without the knowledge of Achilles
whom I fear and hold it great guiltless to defraud, lest some evil
presently befall me; but as your guide I would go with you even to
Argos itself, and would guard you so carefully whether by sea or land,
that no one should attack you through making light of him who was with
you."
The bringer of good luck then sprang on to the chariot, and
seizing the whip and reins he breathed fresh spirit into the mules and
horses. When they reached the trench and the wall that was before
the ships, those who were on guard had just been getting their
suppers, and the slayer of Argus threw them all into a deep sleep.
Then he drew back the bolts to open the gates, and took Priam inside
with the treasure he had upon his waggon. Ere long they came to the
lofty dwelling of the son of Peleus for which the Myrmidons had cut
pine and which they had built for their king; when they had built it
they thatched it with coarse tussock-grass which they had mown out
on the plain, and all round it they made a large courtyard, which
was fenced with stakes set close together. The gate was barred with
a single bolt of pine which it took three men to force into its place,
and three to draw back so as to open the gate, but Achilles could draw
it by himself. Mercury opened the gate for the old man, and brought in
the treasure that he was taking with him for the son of Peleus. Then
he sprang from the chariot on to the ground and said, "Sir, it is I,
immortal Mercury, that am come with you, for my father sent me to
escort you. I will now leave you, and will not enter into the presence
of Achilles, for it might anger him that a god should befriend
mortal men thus openly. Go you within, and embrace the knees of the
son of Peleus: beseech him by his father, his lovely mother, and his
son; thus you may move him."
With these words Mercury went back to high Olympus. Priam sprang
from his chariot to the ground, leaving Idaeus where he was, in charge
of the mules and horses. The old man went straight into the house
where Achilles, loved of the gods, was sitting. There he found him
with his men seated at a distance from him: only two, the hero
Automedon, and Alcimus of the race of Mars, were busy in attendance
about his person, for he had but just done eating and drinking, and
the table was still there. King Priam entered without their seeing
him, and going right up to Achilles he clasped his knees and kissed
the dread murderous hands that had slain so many of his sons.
As when some cruel spite has befallen a man that he should have
killed some one in his own country, and must fly to a great man's
protection in a land of strangers, and all marvel who see him, even so
did Achilles marvel as he beheld Priam. The others looked one to
another and marvelled also, but Priam besought Achilles saying, "Think
of your father, O Achilles like unto the gods, who is such even as I
am, on the sad threshold of old age. It may be that those who dwell
near him harass him, and there is none to keep war and ruin from
him. Yet when he hears of you being still alive, he is glad, and his
days are full of hope that he shall see his dear son come home to
him from Troy; but I, wretched man that I am, had the bravest in all
Troy for my sons, and there is not one of them left. I had fifty
sons when the Achaeans came here; nineteen of them were from a
single womb, and the others were borne to me by the women of my
household. The greater part of them has fierce Mars laid low, and
Hector, him who was alone left, him who was the guardian of the city
and ourselves, him have you lately slain; therefore I am now come to
the ships of the Achaeans to ransom his body from you with a great
ransom. Fear, O Achilles, the wrath of heaven; think on your own
father and have compassion upon me, who am the more pitiable, for I
have steeled myself as no man yet has ever steeled himself before
me, and have raised to my lips the hand of him who slew my son."
Thus spoke Priam, and the heart of Achilles yearned as he
bethought him of his father. He took the old man's hand and moved
him gently away. The two wept bitterly- Priam, as he lay at
Achilles' feet, weeping for Hector, and Achilles now for his father
and now for Patroclous, till the house was filled with their
lamentation. But when Achilles was now sated with grief and had
unburthened the bitterness of his sorrow, he left his seat and
raised the old man by the hand, in pity for his white hair and
beard; then he said, "Unhappy man, you have indeed been greatly
daring; how could you venture to come alone to the ships of the
Achaeans, and enter the presence of him who has slain so many of
your brave sons? You must have iron courage: sit now upon this seat,
and for all our grief we will hide our sorrows in our hearts, for
weeping will not avail us. The immortals know no care, yet the lot
they spin for man is full of sorrow; on the floor of Jove's palace
there stand two urns, the one filled with evil gifts, and the other
with good ones. He for whom Jove the lord of thunder mixes the gifts
he sends, will meet now with good and now with evil fortune; but he to
whom Jove sends none but evil gifts will be pointed at by the finger
of scorn, the hand of famine will pursue him to the ends of the world,
and he will go up and down the face of the earth, respected neither by
gods nor men. Even so did it befall Peleus; the gods endowed him
with all good things from his birth upwards, for he reigned over the
Myrmidons excelling all men in prosperity and wealth, and mortal
though he was they gave him a goddess for his bride. But even on him
too did heaven send misfortune, for there is no race of royal children
born to him in his house, save one son who is doomed to die all
untimely; nor may I take care of him now that he is growing old, for I
must stay here at Troy to be the bane of you and your children. And
you too, O Priam, I have heard that you were aforetime happy. They say
that in wealth and plenitude of offspring you surpassed all that is in
Lesbos, the realm of Makar to the northward, Phrygia that is more
inland, and those that dwell upon the great Hellespont; but from the
day when the dwellers in heaven sent this evil upon you, war and
slaughter have been about your city continually. Bear up against it,
and let there be some intervals in your sorrow. Mourn as you may for
your brave son, you will take nothing by it. You cannot raise him from
the dead, ere you do so yet another sorrow shall befall you."
And Priam answered, "O king, bid me not be seated, while Hector is
still lying uncared for in your tents, but accept the great ransom
which I have brought you, and give him to me at once that I may look
upon him. May you prosper with the ransom and reach your own land in
safety, seeing that you have suffered me to live and to look upon
the light of the sun."
Achilles looked at him sternly and said, "Vex me, sir, no longer;
I am of myself minded to give up the body of Hector. My mother,
daughter of the old man of the sea, came to me from Jove to bid me
deliver it to you. Moreover I know well, O Priam, and you cannot
hide it, that some god has brought you to the ships of the Achaeans,
for else, no man however strong and in his prime would dare to come to
our host; he could neither pass our guard unseen, nor draw the bolt of
my gates thus easily; therefore, provoke me no further, lest I sin
against the word of Jove, and suffer you not, suppliant though you
are, within my tents."
The old man feared him and obeyed. Then the son of Peleus sprang
like a lion through the door of his house, not alone, but with him
went his two squires Automedon and Alcimus who were closer to him than
any others of his comrades now that Patroclus was no more. These
unyoked the horses and mules, and bade Priam's herald and attendant be
seated within the house. They lifted the ransom for Hector's body from
the waggon. but they left two mantles and a goodly shirt, that
Achilles might wrap the body in them when he gave it to be taken home.
Then he called to his servants and ordered them to wash the body and
anoint it, but he first took it to a place where Priam should not
see it, lest if he did so, he should break out in the bitterness of
his grief, and enrage Achilles, who might then kill him and sin
against the word of Jove. When the servants had washed the body and
anointed it, and had wrapped it in a fair shirt and mantle, Achilles
himself lifted it on to a bier, and he and his men then laid it on the
waggon. He cried aloud as he did so and called on the name of his dear
comrade, "Be not angry with me, Patroclus," he said, "if you hear even
in the house of Hades that I have given Hector to his father for a
ransom. It has been no unworthy one, and I will share it equitably
with you."
Achilles then went back into the tent and took his place on the
richly inlaid seat from which he had risen, by the wall that was at
right angles to the one against which Priam was sitting. "Sir," he
said, "your son is now laid upon his bier and is ransomed according to
desire; you shall look upon him when you him away at daybreak; for the
present let us prepare our supper. Even lovely Niobe had to think
about eating, though her twelve children- six daughters and six
lusty sons- had been all slain in her house. Apollo killed the sons
with arrows from his silver bow, to punish Niobe, and Diana slew the
daughters, because Niobe had vaunted herself against Leto; she said
Leto had borne two children only, whereas she had herself borne
many- whereon the two killed the many. Nine days did they lie
weltering, and there was none to bury them, for the son of Saturn
turned the people into stone; but on the tenth day the gods in
heaven themselves buried them, and Niobe then took food, being worn
out with weeping. They say that somewhere among the rocks on the
mountain pastures of Sipylus, where the nymphs live that haunt the
river Achelous, there, they say, she lives in stone and still nurses
the sorrows sent upon her by the hand of heaven. Therefore, noble sir,
let us two now take food; you can weep for your dear son hereafter
as you are bearing him back to Ilius- and many a tear will he cost
you."
With this Achilles sprang from his seat and killed a sheep of
silvery whiteness, which his followers skinned and made ready all in
due order. They cut the meat carefully up into smaller pieces, spitted
them, and drew them off again when they were well roasted. Automedon
brought bread in fair baskets and served it round the table, while
Achilles dealt out the meat, and they laid their hands on the good
things that were before them. As soon as they had had enough to eat
and drink, Priam, descendant of Dardanus, marvelled at the strength
and beauty of Achilles for he was as a god to see, and Achilles
marvelled at Priam as he listened to him and looked upon his noble
presence. When they had gazed their fill Priam spoke first. "And
now, O king," he said, "take me to my couch that we may lie down and
enjoy the blessed boon of sleep. Never once have my eyes been closed
from the day your hands took the life of my son; I have grovelled
without ceasing in the mire of my stable-yard, making moan and
brooding over my countless sorrows. Now, moreover, I have eaten
bread and drunk wine; hitherto I have tasted nothing."
As he spoke Achilles told his men and the women-servants to set beds
in the room that was in the gatehouse, and make them with good red
rugs, and spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks
for Priam and Idaeus to wear. So the maids went out carrying a torch
and got the two beds ready in all haste. Then Achilles said laughingly
to Priam, "Dear sir, you shall lie outside, lest some counsellor of
those who in due course keep coming to advise with me should see you
here in the darkness of the flying night, and tell it to Agamemnon.
This might cause delay in the delivery of the body. And now tell me
and tell me true, for how many days would you celebrate the funeral
rites of noble Hector? Tell me, that I may hold aloof from war and
restrain the host."
And Priam answered, "Since, then, you suffer me to bury my noble son
with all due rites, do thus, Achilles, and I shall be grateful. You
know how we are pent up within our city; it is far for us to fetch
wood from the mountain, and the people live in fear. Nine days,
therefore, will we mourn Hector in my house; on the tenth day we
will bury him and there shall be a public feast in his honour; on
the eleventh we will build a mound over his ashes, and on the twelfth,
if there be need, we will fight."
And Achilles answered, "All, King Priam, shall be as you have
said. I will stay our fighting for as long a time as you have named."
As he spoke he laid his hand on the old man's right wrist, in
token that he should have no fear; thus then did Priam and his
attendant sleep there in the forecourt, full of thought, while
Achilles lay in an inner room of the house, with fair Briseis by his
side.
And now both gods and mortals were fast asleep through the
livelong night, but upon Mercury alone, the bringer of good luck,
sleep could take no hold for he was thinking all the time how to get
King Priam away from the ships without his being seen by the strong
force of sentinels. He hovered therefore over Priam's head and said,
"Sir, now that Achilles has spared your life, you seem to have no fear
about sleeping in the thick of your foes. You have paid a great
ransom, and have received the body of your son; were you still alive
and a prisoner the sons whom you have left at home would have to
give three times as much to free you; and so it would be if
Agamemnon and the other Achaeans were to know of your being here."
When he heard this the old man was afraid and roused his servant.
Mercury then yoked their horses and mules, and drove them quickly
through the host so that no man perceived them. When they came to
the ford of eddying Xanthus, begotten of immortal Jove, Mercury went
back to high Olympus, and dawn in robe of saffron began to break
over all the land. Priam and Idaeus then drove on toward the city
lamenting and making moan, and the mules drew the body of Hector. No
one neither man nor woman saw them, till Cassandra, fair as golden
Venus standing on Pergamus, caught sight of her dear father in his
chariot, and his servant that was the city's herald with him. Then she
saw him that was lying upon the bier, drawn by the mules, and with a
loud cry she went about the city saying, "Come hither Trojans, men and
women, and look on Hector; if ever you rejoiced to see him coming from
battle when he was alive, look now on him that was the glory of our
city and all our people."
At this there was not man nor woman left in the city, so great a
sorrow had possessed them. Hard by the gates they met Priam as he
was bringing in the body. Hector's wife and his mother were the
first to mourn him: they flew towards the waggon and laid their
hands upon his head, while the crowd stood weeping round them. They
would have stayed before the gates, weeping and lamenting the livelong
day to the going down of the sun, had not Priam spoken to them from
the chariot and said, "Make way for the mules to pass you.
Afterwards when I have taken the body home you shall have your fill of
weeping."
On this the people stood asunder, and made a way for the waggon.
When they had borne the body within the house they laid it upon a
bed and seated minstrels round it to lead the dirge, whereon the women
joined in the sad music of their lament. Foremost among them all
Andromache led their wailing as she clasped the head of mighty
Hector in her embrace. "Husband," she cried, "you have died young, and
leave me in your house a widow; he of whom we are the ill-starred
parents is still a mere child, and I fear he may not reach manhood.
Ere he can do so our city will be razed and overthrown, for you who
watched over it are no more- you who were its saviour, the guardian of
our wives and children. Our women will be carried away captives to the
ships, and I among them; while you, my child, who will be with me will
be put to some unseemly tasks, working for a cruel master. Or, may be,
some Achaean will hurl you (O miserable death) from our walls, to
avenge some brother, son, or father whom Hector slew; many of them
have indeed bitten the dust at his hands, for your father's hand in
battle was no light one. Therefore do the people mourn him. You have
left, O Hector, sorrow unutterable to your parents, and my own grief
is greatest of all, for you did not stretch forth your arms and
embrace me as you lay dying, nor say to me any words that might have
lived with me in my tears night and day for evermore."
Bitterly did she weep the while, and the women joined in her lament.
Hecuba in her turn took up the strains of woe. "Hector," she cried,
"dearest to me of all my children. So long as you were alive the
gods loved you well, and even in death they have not been utterly
unmindful of you; for when Achilles took any other of my sons, he
would sell him beyond the seas, to Samos Imbrus or rugged Lemnos;
and when he had slain you too with his sword, many a time did he
drag you round the sepulchre of his comrade- though this could not
give him life- yet here you lie all fresh as dew, and comely as one
whom Apollo has slain with his painless shafts."
Thus did she too speak through her tears with bitter moan, and
then Helen for a third time took up the strain of lamentation.
"Hector," said she, "dearest of all my brothers-in-law-for I am wife
to Alexandrus who brought me hither to Troy- would that I had died ere
he did so- twenty years are come and gone since I left my home and
came from over the sea, but I have never heard one word of insult or
unkindness from you. When another would chide with me, as it might
be one of your brothers or sisters or of your brothers' wives, or my
mother-in-law- for Priam was as kind to me as though he were my own
father- you would rebuke and check them with words of gentleness and
goodwill. Therefore my tears flow both for you and for my unhappy
self, for there is no one else in Troy who is kind to me, but all
shrink and shudder as they go by me."
She wept as she spoke and the vast crowd that was gathered round her
joined in her lament. Then King Priam spoke to them saying, "Bring
wood, O Trojans, to the city, and fear no cunning ambush of the
Argives, for Achilles when he dismissed me from the ships gave me
his word that they should not attack us until the morning of the
twelfth day."
Forthwith they yoked their oxen and mules and gathered together
before the city. Nine days long did they bring in great heaps wood,
and on the morning of the tenth day with many tears they took trave
Hector forth, laid his dead body upon the summit of the pile, and
set the fire thereto. Then when the child of morning rosy-fingered
dawn appeared on the eleventh day, the people again assembled, round
the pyre of mighty Hector. When they were got together, they first
quenched the fire with wine wherever it was burning, and then his
brothers and comrades with many a bitter tear gathered his white
bones, wrapped them in soft robes of purple, and laid them in a golden
urn, which they placed in a grave and covered over with large stones
set close together. Then they built a barrow hurriedly over it keeping
guard on every side lest the Achaeans should attack them before they
had finished. When they had heaped up the barrow they went back
again into the city, and being well assembled they held high feast
in the house of Priam their king.
Thus, then, did they celebrate the funeral of Hector tamer of
horses.

poem by , translated by Samuel ButlerReport problemRelated quotes
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