Sunday Morning - V
She says, "But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss."
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
- quotes about victory
- quotes about boys
- quotes about grass
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about beauty
- quotes about dreaming
- quotes about death
- quotes about Sun
- quotes about love
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measure destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, 'I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?'
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven's hill, that has endured
As April's green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow's wings.
She says, 'But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.'
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, 'The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.'
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
Feel Grateful To Our Earth Mother
Feel grateful to our Earth mother for at least we should feel aware
That without her we could not exist of us she takes good care
We pollute her sky and waterways and remove trees from her land
Yet what we do to her to ourselves we do many of us don't seem to understand
The only visible God of which I can claim to know
To the great Goddess of Nature respect we ought to show
Many of her many life forms because of us becoming rare
This Earth is theirs as well as ours to live on and this Earth with them we ought to share
Feel grateful to our Earth Mother since off of her we do live
We take and take and take from her but back to her don't give
The creator of all life forms that live on land and waterway and sea
Than our marvellous Earth mother there is no greater force than she
And what we do to her we do to ourselves so happens to be true
Respect our great Earth Mother since our respect she is due.
I Should Lie In The Sun And Melt Into The Grass
I should lie in the sun and melt into the grass.
I listen to the bikers throttling up like chain-saws.
I sit here urgently trying not to pollute time.
A poem's got one foot on shore and one in the boat.
Let Atlantis rise or sink as it will. I can wait.
Even when it's calm, my heart is an idling storm
and every third thought is a voodoo doll
as it sees itself on the inside
behind the eyelid of a visionary eclipse.
Nothing to worry about. I'm not going to put
the eyes of the telescope out for looking at Lady Godiva.
Look at me tracking myself all over this paper,
mouse and bird letters in the snow at the base of a juniper.
How human it is to forgo yourself for a future that doesn't exist.
God, I wish there were more fireflies in my life than street signs.
Do you see the lack of meaning in how things are understood?
Thought will get you as far as a frog on a lily pad
but once you get there it's easy to see it's the lily that shines
in a whole other realm of language
that everyone understands but no one can speak.
I watch the honeysuckle burn the gate I came through.
I note the blue eye shadow of the damselfly
applying herself like a cosmetic pencil to the heavy petals
of the wild roses tangled in the fallen birch.
What a shock it would be if I were to take off my lifemask
and you were to discover me infinitely closer to you
like a dimension you hadn't detected in your awareness
than the light is to what you see when
you're sitting up in bed alone in the dark at three in the morning.
What a world, hey? What do you make of it?
The marvel and the horror and the mystery
and the way destiny manifestly unrolls like a lottery
for every living thing on a planet that occasionally plays
Russian roulette with the asteroids, and our tiny part in it all,
this mere speck of nothingness that can embody
in its formless spaces within, the superclustering of galaxies?
And the pain and the anger and the sorrow and the fear
and the way things change and disappear
as you look for the forms of your expectations everywhere
and everything's either an approximation or consolation
of what you can see so clearly, it burns the air?
I should lie down in the sun and melt into the grass,
but forgotten among buildings here, I am unbound
and not even the dead are as free as I am right now.
The whole universe is one big solid insight
where inanimate things are just another mode of motion
sitting in the room like Latin, dogpaddling in space and time,
and I'm tucked under your eyelids like a loveletter
you weren't expecting in a language that could read you
like any one of the seventy-two scholars of the Septuagint.
I've been listening to you for lightyears like leaves
listen for the wind and the rain and the moonlight
and what you have felt about being alive
to say hello and sing farewell, has been my feeling,
and when you have wept at the intransigence of angels
and the generosity of their expansive interventions,
I have been humbled by the eyes of my own exaltations.
And my feet swept out from under me
like an undertow of shadows on the moon.
Sister Lunacy, who can stand in the light
of these intensities and immensities for long
this vertigo of stars and skulls, bells and scars
without reeling in the delirium of simply being here
to witness them as if they somehow depended on us
to embody them in our hearts and minds and voids
as if they were no different from us than we were,
all waves of awareness the wind blows up on the ocean.
The imagination transforms everything in to us.
The stars reek of the eyes that have gazed up at them
like pyres and telescopes and censers, it's
in the hair of a comet like the smell of a lover,
it's what makes the meteorites as kissable
as the head of a snake to the lips of a gentle enemy.
Sister Lunacy, my heartfelt muse, my dark-side dakini,
what have you been dancing for all these years?
Have you been pearldiving among the castanets
for a moonrise in the mouth of a seashell
that could sing to you like the ocean you're lost upon?
You're the station every seeker gets to
on a pilgrimage he doesn't know he's taking
where he damns the consequences and blessings alike
and enters into the spiritual life as a rebel of compassion
as he addresses himself to what's arrayed before him
as if there were only one voice between himself and another
like a bridge that flows, like a star
that doesn't drown in your eye like a firefly.
And if there were anything I could ever say I was
it would have to be this just as it is, this
endlessness I keep being poured out into
as if my heart were the only waterclock I could live by
and disembodied space the only medium
that could accommodate my shapeshifting adaptations
like goldfish coming to the surface to feed on the stars.
Sister Lunacy, the moon reaches down to the roots of the river reeds
and the catfish thrive among the wild rice in the shallows,
and eyes in the darkness high overhead, as if
someone shattered a mirror into a billion bits of awareness
see you standing on your barren precipice
and long to know what it is you're thinking.
In order to understand you must become the thing itself.
You must abdicate your own presence to be
remotely at peace with the world, it's a strawdog anyway,
and it burns too fast to be much of a lighthouse.
And o my darkness, there are so many skins you have yet to shed
like the moon trying on a wardrobe of water
laying her gown across the lake like an early frost of sequins.
I shall come to you at first as a premonition
as lightly as a cloud touches the mountain, an aberrant insight,
a synchronistic intuition of our simultaneity,
and in your breath my breath shall be an atmosphere
and in your eye my eye shall lavish the most intimate of stars,
and in your blood my blood shall be the poppy and the rose.
Sister Lunacy, even after the house has burnt to the ground
my passion stands like a blackened doorway in the rain
and though I look at you through a broken window,
the moon is whole, and the sky is not torn or bruised.
- quotes about telescope
- quotes about kiss
- quotes about resignation
- quotes about Moon
- quotes about catfish
- quotes about eyes
- quotes about lottery
- quotes about students
- quotes about comets
I bring to thee, for love, white roses, delicate Death!
White lilies of the valley, dropping gently tears,
The white camellia, the seal of perfect years,
The misty white azalea, flickering as a breath.
White flowers I bring, and all the flowers I bring for thee,
Discreet and comforting Death! for those pale hands of thine;
O hands that I have fled, soft hands now laid on mine,
Softer than these white flowers of life, thy hands to me,
Most comfortable Death, mother of many dreams,
And gatherer of many dreams of men,
Dreams that come desolately flying back again,
With soiled and quivering wings, from undiscovered streams.
I have been fearful of thee, mother, all life long,
For I have loved a warm, alluring, treacherous bride,
Life, and she loved thee not; to hold me from thy side,
She closed her arms about my heart, to do thee wrong.
O gay and bitter bride of such divine desires,
Too fiercely passionate Life, that wast so prodigal
Of thine eternal moments, at the end of all
Take my forgiveness: I have passed through all thy fires.
Nothing can hurt me now, and having gained and lost
All things, and having loved, and having done with life,
I come back to thy arms, mother, and now all strife
Ceases; and every homeward-flying dream, wind-tossed,
My soul that looks upon thy face and understands,
My throbbing heart that at thy touch is quieted,
And all that once desired, and all desire now dead,
Are gathered to the peace and twilight of thy hands.
Love In Disguise
In candle flame
That burns in my soul
I am warmed
In the beauty of your eyes.
I see you dancing
Across open skies
It's only love in disguise.
When full moon
Lights frosted field.
And stolen embrace
When kiss lingers
On my lips
Your taste of wine.
Beauty taken in sips
Is so divine.
But I've been here
So dry your eyes.
Think about that closing door.
Your heart is a fool
Your head is wise.
It's really only
Love in disguise.
You cried when we made love.
But I cry to the stars above.
For something precious that always dies.
Put it down
To love in disguise.
Mother and Daughter- Sonnet Sequence
Young laughters, and my music! Aye till now
The voice can reach no blending minors near;
'Tis the bird's trill because the spring is here
And spring means trilling on a blossomy bough;
'Tis the spring joy that has no why or how,
But sees the sun and hopes not nor can fear--
Spring is so sweet and spring seems all the year.
Dear voice, the first-come birds but trill as thou.
Oh music of my heart, be thus for long:
Too soon the spring bird learns the later song;
Too soon a sadder sweetness slays content
Too soon! There comes new light on onward day,
There comes new perfume o'er a rosier way:
Comes not again the young spring joy that went.
ROME, November 1881.
That she is beautiful is not delight,
As some think mothers joy, by pride of her,
To witness questing eyes caught prisoner
And hear her praised the livelong dancing night;
But the glad impulse that makes painters sight
Bids me note her and grow the happier;
And love that finds me as her worshipper
Reveals me each best loveliness aright.
Oh goddess head! Oh innocent brave eyes!
Oh curved and parted lips where smiles are rare
And sweetness ever! Oh smooth shadowy hair
Gathered around the silence of her brow!
Child, I'd needs love thy beauty stranger-wise:
And oh the beauty of it, being thou!
I watch the sweet grave face in timorous thought
Lest I should see it dawn to some unrest
And read that in her heart is youth's ill guest,
The querulous young sadness, born of nought,
That wearies of the strife it has not fought,
And finds the life it has not had unblest,
And asks it knows not what that should be best,
And till Love come has never what it sought.
But she is still. A full and crystal lake
So gives it skies their passage to its deeps
In an unruffled morn where no winds wake,
And, strong and fretless, 'stirs not, nor yet sleeps.
My darling smiles and 'tis for gladness' sake;
She hears a woe, 'tis simple tears she weeps.
'Tis but a child. The quiet Juno gaze
Breaks at a trifle into mirth and glow,
Changed as a folded bud bursts into blow,
And she springs, buoyant, on some busy craze,
Or, in the rhythm of her girlish plays,
Like light upon swift waves floats to and fro,
And, whatsoe'er's her mirth, needs me to know,
And keeps me young by her young innocent ways.
Just now she and her kitten raced and sprang
To catch the daisy ball she tossed about;
Then they grew grave, and found a shady tree,
And kitty tried to see the notes she sang:
Now she flies hitherward--'Mother! Quick! Come see!
Two hyacinths in my garden almost out!'
Last night the broad blue lightnings flamed the sky;
We watched, our breaths caught as each burst its way,
And through its fire out-leaped the sharp white ray,
And sudden dark re-closed when it went by:
But she, that where we are will needs be nigh,
Had tired with hunting orchids half the day.
Her father thought she called us; he and I,
Half anxious, reached the bedroom where she lay.
Oh lily face upon the whiteness blent!
How calm she lay in her unconscious grace!
A peal crashed on the silence ere we went;
She stirred in sleep, a little changed her place,
'Mother,' she breathed, a smile grew on her face:
'Mother,' my darling breathed, and slept content.
Sometimes, as young things will, she vexes me,
Wayward, or too unheeding, or too blind.
Like aimless birds that, flying on a wind,
Strike slant against their own familiar tree;
Like venturous children pacing with the sea,
That turn but when the breaker spurts behind
Outreaching them with spray: she in such kind
Is borne against some fault, or does not flee.
And so, may be, I blame her for her wrong,
And she will frown and lightly plead her part,
And then I bid her go. But 'tis not long:
Then comes she lip to ear and heart to heart.
And thus forgiven her love seems newly strong,
And, oh my penitent, how dear thou art!
Her father lessons me I at times am hard,
Chiding a moment's fault as too grave ill,
And let some little blot my vision fill,
Scanning her with a narrow near regard.
True. Love's unresting gaze is self-debarred
From all sweet ignorance, and learns a skill,
Not painless, of such signs as hurt love's will,
That would not have its prize one tittle marred.
Alas! Who rears and loves a dawning rose
Starts at a speck upon one petal's rim:
Who sees a dusk creep in the shrined pearl's glows,
Is ruined at once: 'My jewel growing dim!'
I watch one bud that on my bosom blows,
I watch one treasured pearl for me and him.
A little child she, half defiant came
Reasoning her case--'twas not so long ago--
'I cannot mind your scolding, for I know
However bad I were you'd love the same.'
And I, what countering answer could I frame?
'Twas true, and true, and God's self told her so.
One does but ask one's child to smile and grow,
And each rebuke has love for its right name.
And yet, methinks, sad mothers who for years,
Watching the child pass forth that was their boast,
Have counted all the footsteps by new fears
Till even lost fears seem hopes whereof they're reft
And of all mother's good love sole is left--
Is their Love, Love, or some remembered ghost?
Oh weary hearts! Poor mothers that look back!
So outcasts from the vale where they were born
Turn on their road and, with a joy forlorn,
See the far roofs below their arid track:
So in chill buffets while the sea grows black
And windy skies, once blue, are tost and torn,
We are not yet forgetful of the morn,
And praise anew the sunshine that we lack.
Oh, sadder than pale sufferers by a tomb
That say 'My dead is happier, and is more'
Are they who dare no 'is' but tell what's o'er--
Thus the frank childhood, those the lovable ways--
Stirring the ashes of remembered days
For yet some sparks to warm the livelong gloom.
Not Love, not Love, that worn and footsore thrall
Who, crowned with withered buds and leaves gone dry,
Plods in his chains to follow one passed by,
Guerdoned with only tears himself lets fall.
Love is asleep and smiling in his pall,
And this that wears his shape and will not die
Was once his comrade shadow, Memory--
His shadow that now stands for him in all.
And there are those who, hurrying on past reach,
See the dim follower and laugh, content,
'Lo, Love pursues me, go where'er I will!'
Yet, longer gazing, some may half beseech,
'This must be Love that wears his features still:
Or else when was the moment that Love went?'
'Tis men who say that through all hurt and pain
The woman's love, wife's, mother's, still will hold,
And breathes the sweeter and will more unfold
For winds that tear it, and the sorrowful rain.
So in a thousand voices has the strain
Of this dear patient madness been retold,
That men call woman's love. Ah! they are bold,
Naming for love that grief which does remain.
Love faints that looks on baseness face to face:
Love pardons all; but by the pardonings dies,
With a fresh wound of each pierced through the breast.
And there stand pityingly in Love's void place
Kindness of household wont familiar-wise,
And faith to Love--faith to our dead at rest.
She has made me wayside posies: here they stand,
Bringing fresh memories of where they grew.
As new-come travellers from a world we knew
Wake every while some image of their land,
So these whose buds our woodland breezes fanned
Bring to my room the meadow where they blew,
The brook-side cliff, the elms where wood-doves coo--
And every flower is dearer for her hand.
Oh blossoms of the paths she loves to tread,
Some grace of her is in all thoughts you bear:
For in my memories of your homes that were
The old sweet loneliness they kept is fled,
And would I think it back I find instead
A presence of my darling mingling there.
My darling scarce thinks music sweet save mine:
'Tis that she does but love me more than hear.
She'll not believe my voice to stranger ear
Is merely measure to the note and line;
'Not so,' she says; 'Thou hast a secret thine:
The others' singing's only rich, or clear,
But something in thy tones brings music near;
As though thy song could search me and divine.'
Oh voice of mine that in some day not far
Time, the strong creditor, will call his debt,
Will dull--and even to her--will rasp and mar,
Sing Time asleep because of her regret,
Be twice thy life the thing her fancies are,
Thou echo to the self she knows not yet.
CASERTA, April, 1882.
To love her as to-day is so great bliss
I needs must think of morrows almost loth,
Morrows wherein the flower's unclosing growth
Shall make my darling other than she is.
The breathing rose excels the bud I wis,
Yet bud that will be rose is sweet for both;
And by-and-by seems like some later troth
Named in the moment of a lover's kiss.
Yes, I am jealous, as of one now strange
That shall instead of her possess my thought,
Of her own self made new by any change,
Of her to be by ripening morrows brought.
My rose of women under later skies!
Yet, ah! my child with the child's trustful eyes!
That some day Death who has us all for jest
Shall hide me in the dark and voiceless mould,
And him whose living hand has mine in hold,
Where loving comes not nor the looks that rest,
Shall make us nought where we are known the best,
Forgotten things that leave their track untold
As in the August night the sky's dropped gold--
This seems no strangeness, but Death's natural hest.
But looking on the dawn that is her face
To know she too is Death's seems mis-belief;
She should not find decay, but, as the sun
Moves mightier from the veil that hides his place,
Keep ceaseless radiance. Life is Death begun:
But Death and her! That's strangeness passing grief.
She will not have it that my day wanes low,
Poor of the fire its drooping sun denies,
That on my brow the thin lines write good-byes
Which soon may be read plain for all to know,
Telling that I have done with youth's brave show;
Alas! and done with youth in heart and eyes,
With wonder and with far expectancies,
Save but to say 'I knew such long ago.'
She will not have it. Loverlike to me,
She with her happy gaze finds all that's best,
She sees this fair and that unfretted still,
And her own sunshine over all the rest:
So she half keeps me as she'd have me be,
And I forget to age, through her sweet will.
And how could I grow old while she's so young?
Methinks her heart sets tune for mine to beat,
We are so near; her new thoughts, incomplete,
Find their shaped wording happen on my tongue;
Like bloom on last year's winterings newly sprung
My youth upflowers with hers, and must repeat
Old joyaunces in me nigh obsolete.
Could I grow older while my child's so young?
And there are tales how youthful blood instilled
Thawing frore Age's veins gave life new course,
And quavering limbs and eyes made indolent
Grew freshly eager with beginning force:
She so breathes impulse. Were my years twice spent,
Not burdening Age, with her, could make me chilled.
'Tis hard that the full summer of our round
Is but the turn where winter's sign-post's writ;
That to have reached the best is leaving it;
That final loss bears date from having found.
So some proud vessel in a narrow sound
Sails at high water with the fair wind fit,
And lo! the ebb along the sandy spit,
Lower and lower till she jars, aground.
'Tis hard. We are young still but more content;
'Tis our ripe flush, the heyday of our prime;
We learn full breath, how rich of the air we are!
But suddenly we note a touch of time,
A little fleck that scarcely seems to mar;
And we know then that some time since youth went.
Life on the wane: yes, sudden that news breaks.
And yet I would 'twere suddenly and less soon;
Since no forewarning makes loss opportune.
And now I watch that slow advance Time makes:
Watch as, while silent flow spreads broad the lakes
Mid the land levels of a smooth lagoon,
One waiting, pitiful, on a tidal dune,
Aware too long before it overtakes.
Ah! there's so quick a joy in hues and sun,
And will my eyes see dim? Will vacant sense
Forget the lark, the surges on the beach?
Shall I step wearily and wish 'twere done?
Well, if it be love will not too go hence,
Love will have new glad secrets yet to teach.
There's one I miss. A little questioning maid
That held my finger, trotting by my side,
And smiled out of her pleased eyes open wide,
Wondering and wiser at each word I said.
And I must help her frolics if she played,
And I must feel her trouble if she cried;
My lap was hers past right to be denied;
She did my bidding, but I more obeyed.
Dearer she is to-day, dearer and more;
Closer to me, since sister womanhoods meet;
Yet, like poor mothers some long while bereft,
I dwell on toward ways, quaint memories left,
I miss the approaching sound of pit-pat feet,
The eager baby voice outside my door.
Hardly in any common tender wise,
With petting talk, light lips on her dear cheek,
The love I mean my child will bear to speak,
Loth of its own less image for disguise;
But liefer will it floutingly devise,
Using a favourite jester's mimic pique,
Prompt, idle, by-names with their sense to seek,
And takes for language laughing ironies.
But she, as when some foreign tongue is heard,
Familiar on our lips and closely known,
We feel the every purport of each word
When ignorant ears reach empty sound alone,
So knows the core within each merry gird,
So gives back such a meaning in her own.
The brook leaps riotous with its life just found,
That freshets from the mountain rains have fed,
Beats at the boulders in its hindered bed,
And fills the valley with its triumphing sound.
The strong unthirsty tarn sunk in deep ground
Has never a sigh wherewith its wealth is said,
Has no more ripples than the May-flies tread:
Silence of waters is where they abound.
And love, whatever love, sure, makes small boast:
'Tis the new lovers tell, in wonder yet.
Oh happy need! Enriched stream's jubilant gush!
But who being spouses well have learned love's most,
Being child and mother learned not nor forget,
These in their joyfulness feel the tarn's strong hush.
Birds sing 'I love you, love' the whole day through,
And not another song can they sing right;
But, singing done with, loving's done with quite,
The autumn sunders every twittering two.
And I'd not have love make too much ado
With sweet parades of fondness and delight,
Lest iterant wont should make caresses trite,
Love-names mere cuckoo ousters of the true.
Oh heart can hear heart's sense in senseless nought,
And heart that's sure of heart has little speech.
What shall it tell? The other knows its thought.
What shall one doubt or question or beseech
Who is assured and knows and, unbesought,
Possesses the dear trust that each gives each.
'You scarcely are a mother, at that rate.
Only one child!' The blithe soul pitied loud.
And doubtless she, amid her household crowd,
When one brings care in another's fortunate;
When one fares forth another's at her gate.
Yea, were her first-born folded in his shroud,
Not with a whole despair would she be bowed,
She has more sons to make her heart elate.
Many to love her singly, mother theirs,
To give her the dear love of being their need,
To storm her lap by turns and claim their kiss,
To kneel around her at their bed-time prayers;
Many to grow her comrades! Some have this.
Yet I, I do not envy them indeed.
You think that you love each as much as one,
Mothers with many nestlings 'neath your wings.
Nay, but you know not. Love's most priceless things
Have unity that cannot be undone.
You give the rays, I the englobed full sun;
I give the river, you the separate springs:
My motherhood's all my child's with all it brings--
None takes the strong entireness from her: none.
You know not. You love yours with various stress;
This with a graver trust, this with more pride;
This maybe with more needed tenderness:
I by each uttermost passion of my soul
Am turned to mine; she is one, she has the whole:
How should you know who appraise love and divide?
Of my one pearl so much more joy I gain
As he that to his sole desire is sworn,
Indifferent what women more were born,
And if she loved him not all love were vain,
Gains more, because of her--yea, through all pain,
All love and sorrows, were they two forlorn--
Than whoso happiest in the lands of morn
Mingles his heart amid a wifely train.
Oh! Child and mother, darling! Mother and child!
And who but we? We, darling, paired alone?
Thou hast all thy mother; thou art all my own.
That passion of maternity which sweeps
Tideless 'neath where the heaven of thee hath smiled
Has but one channel, therefore infinite deeps.
Since first my little one lay on my breast
I never needed such a second good,
Nor felt a void left in my motherhood
She filled not always to the utterest.
The summer linnet, by glad yearnings pressed,
Builds room enough to house a callow brood:
I prayed not for another child--nor could;
My solitary bird had my heart's nest.
But she is cause that any baby thing
If it but smile, is one of mine in truth,
And every child becomes my natural joy:
And, if my heart gives all youth fostering,
Her sister, brother, seems the girl or boy:
My darling makes me mother to their youth.
The Birth of The War-God (Canto Sixth ) - Uma's Espousals
Now gentle Umá bade a damsel bear
To Śiva, Soul of All, her maiden prayer:
'Wait the high sanction of Himálaya's will,
And ask his daughter from the royal hill.'
Then ere the God, her own dear Lord, replied,
In blushing loveliness she sought his side.
Thus the young mango hails the approaching spring
By its own tuneful bird's sweet welcoming.
In Umá's ear he softly whispered, yea,
Then scarce could tear him from her arms away.
Swift with a thought he summoned from above
The Seven bright Saints to bear his tale of love.
They came, and She, the Heavenly Dame, was there,
Lighting with glories all the radiant air;
Just freshly bathed in sacred Gangá's tide,
Gemmed with the dancing flowers that deck her side,
And richly scented with the nectarous rill
That heavenly elephants from their brows distil.
Fair strings of pearl their radiant fingers hold,
Clothed are their limbs in hermit-coats of gold;
Their rosaries, large gems of countless price,
Shone like the fruit that glows in Paradise,
As though the glorious trees that blossom there
Had sought the forest for a life of prayer.
With all his thousand beams the God of Day,
Urging his coursers down the sloping way,
His banner furled at the approach of night,
Looks up in reverence on those lords of light.
Ancient creators: thus the wise, who know,
Gave them a name in ages long ago:
With Brahmá joining in creation's plan,
And perfecting the work His will began;
Still firm in penance, though the hermit-vow
Bears a ripe harvest for the sages now.
Brightest in glory 'mid that glorious band
See the fair Queen, the Heavenly Lady, stand.
Fixing her loving eyes upon her spouse,
She seemed sent forth to crown the sage's vows
With sweet immortal joy, the dearest prize
Strong prayer could merit from the envious skies.
With equal honour on the Queen and all
Did the kind glance of Śiva's welcome fall.
No partial favour by the good is shown:
They count not station, but the deed alone.
So fair she shone upon his raptured view,
He longed for wedlock's heavenly pleasures too.
What hath such power to lead the soul above
By virtue's pleasant path as wedded love!
Scarce had the holy motive lent its aid
To knit great Śiva to the Mountain-Maid,
When Káma's spirit that had swooned in fear
Breathed once again and deemed forgiveness near.
The ancient Sages reverently adored
The world's great Father and its Sovran Lord,
And while a soft ecstatic thrilling ran
O'er their celestial frames, they thus began:
'Glorious the fruit our holy studies bear,
Our constant penance, sacrifice and prayer.
For that high place within thy thoughts we gain
Which fancy strives to reach, but longs in vain.
How blest is he, the glory of the wise,
Deep in whose thoughtful breast thy Godhead lies!
But who may tell his joy who rests enshrined,
O Brahmá's great Creator, in thy mind!
We dwell on high above the cold moon's ray;
Beneath our mansion glows the God of Day,
But now thy favour lends us brighter beams,
Blest with thy love our star unchanging gleams.
How should we tell what soul-entrancing bliss
Enthrals our spirit at an hour like this?
Great Lord of All, thou Soul of Life indwelling,
We crave one word thy wondrous nature telling.
Though to our eyes thy outward form be shown,
How can we know thee as thou shouldst be known?
In this thy present shape, we pray thee, say
Dost thou create? dost thou preserve or slay?
But speak thy wish; called from our starry rest
We wait, O Śiva, for our Lord's behest'
Then answered thus the Lord of glory, while
Flashed from his dazzling teeth so white a smile,
The moon that crowned him poured a larger stream
Of living splendour from that pearly gleam:
'Ye know, great Sages of a race divine,
No selfish want e'er prompts a deed of mine.
Do not the forms—eight varied forms—I wear,
The truth of this to all the world declare?
Now, as that thirsty bird that drinks the rain
Prays the kind clouds of heaven to soothe its pain,
So the Gods pray me, trembling 'neath their foe,
To send a child of mine and end their woe.
I seek the Mountain-Maiden as my bride:
Our hero son shall tame the demon's pride.
Thus the priest bids the holy fire arise,
Struck from the wood to aid the sacrifice.
Go, ask Himálaya for the lovely maid:
Blest are those bridals which the holy aid.
So shall more glorious honours gild my name,
And win the father yet a prouder fame.
Nor, O ye heavenly Sages, need I teach
What for the maiden's hand shall be your speech,
For still the wise in worthiest honour hold
The rules and precepts ye ordained of old.
This Lady too shall aid your mission there:
Best for such task a skilful matron's care.
And now, my heralds, to your task away,
Where proud Himálaya holds his royal sway;
Then meet me where this mighty torrent raves
Down the steep channel with its headlong waves.'
Thus while that holiest One his love confessed,
The hermits listened: from each saintly breast
Fled the false shame that yet had lingered there,
And love and wedlock showed divinely fair.
On through the heaven, o'er tracts of swordlike blue,
Towards the gay city, swift as thought, they flew,
Bright with high domes and palaces most fair,
As if proud Alaká were planted there,
Or Paradise poured forth, in showers that bless,
The rich o'erflowings of its loveliness.
Round lofty towers adorned with gems and gold
Her guardian stream the holy Gangá rolled.
On every side, the rampart's glowing crown,
Bright wreaths of fragrant flowers hung waving down,—
Flowers that might tempt the maids of heavenly birth
To linger fondly o'er that pride of earth.
Its noble elephants, unmoved by fear,
The distant roaring of the lions hear.
In beauty peerless, and unmatched in speed,
Its thousand coursers of celestial breed.
Through the broad streets bright sylphs and minstrels rove:
Its dames are Goddesses of stream and grove.
Hark! the drum echoes louder and more loud
From glittering halls whose spires are wrapt in cloud.
It were the thunder, but that voice of fear
Falls not in measured time upon the ear.
'Tis balmy cool, for many a heavenly tree,
With quivering leaves and branches waving free,
Sheds a delightful freshness through the air,—
Fans which no toil of man has stationed there.
The crystal chambers where they feast at night
Flash back the beamings of the starry light.
So brightly pure that silver gleam is shed,
Playing so fondly round each beauteous head,
That all seem gifted from those lights above
With richest tokens of superior love.
How blest its maidens! cloudless is their day,
And radiant herbs illume their nightly way.
No term of days, but endless youth they know;
No Death save him who bears the Flowery Bow:
Their direst swoon, their only frenzy this—
The trance of love, the ecstasy of bliss!
Ne'er can their lovers for one hour withstand
The frown, the quivering lip, the scornful hand;
But seek forgiveness of the angry fair,
And woo her smile with many an earnest prayer.
Around, wide gardens spread their pleasant bowers,
Where the bright Champac opes her fragrant flowers:
Dear shades, beloved by the sylphs that roam
In dewy evening from their mountain home.
Ah! why should mortals fondly strive to gain
Heaven and its joys by ceaseless toil and pain?
E'en the Saints envied as their steps drew near,
And owned a brighter heaven was opened here.
They lighted down; braided was each long tress,
Bright as the pictured flame, as motionless.
Himálaya's palace-warders in amaze
On the Seven Sages turned their eager gaze,—
A noble company of celestial race
Where each in order of his years had place,—
Glorious, as when the sun, his head inclining,
Sees his own image 'mid the waters shining.
To greet them with a gift Himálaya sped,
Earth to her centre shaking at his tread.
By his dark lips with mountain metals dyed,
His arms like pines that clothe his lofty side:
By his proud stature, by his stony breast,
Lord of the Snowy Hills he stood confest.
On to his Council-hall he led the way,
Nor failed due honour to the Saints to pay.
On couch of reed the Monarch bade them rest,
And thus with uplift hands those Heavenly Lords addressed:
'Like soft rain falling from a cloudless sky,
Or fruit, when bloom has failed to glad the eye,
So are ye welcome, Sages; thus I feel
Ecstatic thrilling o'er my spirit steal,
Changed, like dull senseless iron to burning gold,
Or some rapt creature, when the heavens unfold
To eyes yet dim with tears of earthly care,
The rest, the pleasures, and the glory there.
Long pilgrim bands from this auspicious day
To my pure hill shall bend their constant way.
Famed shall it be o'er all the lands around,
For where the good have been is holy ground.
Now am I doubly pure, for Gangá's tide
Falls on my head from heaven and laves my side.
Henceforth I boast a second stream as sweet,
The water, Sages, that has touched your feet.
Twice by your favour is Himálaya blest,—
This towery mountain that your feet have prest,
And this my moving form is happier still
To wait your bidding, to perform your will.
These mighty limbs that fill the heaven's expanse
Sink down, o'erpowered, in a blissful trance.
So bright your presence, at the glorious sight
My brooding shades of darkness turn to light.
The gloom that haunts my mountain caverns flies,
And cloudy passion in the spirit dies.
O say, if here your arrowy course ye sped
To throw fresh glory round my towering head.
Surely your wish, ye Mighty Ones, can crave
No aid, no service from your willing slave.
Yet deem me worthy of some high behest:
The lord commandeth, and the slave is blest.
Declare your pleasure, then, bright heavenly band:
We crave no guerdon but your sole command.
Yours are we all, Himálaya and his bride,
And this dear maiden child our hope and pride.'
Not once he spake: his cavern mouths around
In hollow echoings gave again the sound.
Of all who speak beyond compare the best,
Angiras answered at the Saints' request:
'This power hast thou, great King, and mightier far,
Thy mind is lofty as thy summits are.
Sages say truly, Vishṇu is thy name:
His spirit breatheth in thy mountain frame.
Within the caverns of thy boundless breast
All things that move and all that move not rest.
How on his head so soft, so delicate,
Could the great Snake uphold the huge earth's weight,
Did not thy roots, far-reaching down to hell,
Bear up the burden and assist him well?
Thy streams of praise, thy pure rills' ceaseless flow
Make glad the nations wheresoe'er they go,
Till, shedding purity on every side,
They sink at length in boundless Ocean's tide.
Blest is fair Gangá, for her heavenly stream
Flows from the feet of him that sits supreme;
And blest once more, O mighty Hill, is she
That her bright waters spring anew from thee.
Vast grew his body when the avenging God
In three huge strides o'er all creation trod.
Above, below, his form increased, but thou
Wast ever glorious and as vast as now.
By thee is famed Sumeru forced to hide
His flashing rays and pinnacles of pride,
For thou hast won thy station in the skies
'Mid the great Gods who claim the sacrifice.
Firm and unmoved remains thy lofty hill,
Yet thou canst bow before the holy still.
Now—for the glorious work will fall on thee,—
Hear thou the cause of this our embassy.
We also, Mountain Monarch, since we bear
To thee the message, in the labour share.
The Highest, Mightiest, Noblest One, adored
By the proud title of our Sovran Lord:
The crescent moon upon his brow bears he,
And wields the wondrous powers of Deity.
He in this earth and varied forms displayed,
Bound each to other by exchange of aid,
Guides the great world and all the things that are,
As flying coursers whirl the glittering car.
Him good men seek with holy thought and prayer,
Who fills their breast and makes his dwelling there.
When saints, we read, his lofty sphere attain,
They ne'er may fall to this base earth again:
His messengers, great King, we crave the hand
Of thy fair daughter at the God's command.
At such blest union, as of Truth and Voice,
A father's heart should grieve not, but rejoice.
Her Lord is Father of the world, and she
Of all that liveth shall the mother be.
Gods that adore him with the Neck of Blue
In homage bent shall hail the Lady too,
And give a glory to her feet with gems
That sparkle in their priceless diadems.
Hear what a roll shall blazon forth thy line,—
Maid, Father, Suitor, Messengers divine!
Give him the chosen lady, and aspire
To call thy son the Universe's Sire,
Who laudeth none, but all mankind shall raise
To Him through endless time the songs of praise.'
Thus while he spake the lady bent her head
To hide her cheek, now blushing rosy red,
And numbered o'er with seeming care the while
Her lotus' petals in sweet maiden guile.
With pride and joy Himálaya's heart beat high,
Yet ere he spake he looked to Mená's eye:
Full well he knew a mother's gentle care
Learns her child's heart and love's deep secret there,
And this the hour, he felt, when fathers seek
Her eye for answer or her changing cheek.
His eager look Himálaya scarce had bent
When Mená's eye beamed back her glad assent.
O gentle wives! your fondest wish is still
To have with him you love one heart, one will.
He threw his arms around the blushing maid
In queenly garment and in gems arrayed,
Awhile was silent, then in rapture cried,
'Come, O my daughter! Come, thou destined bride
Of Śiva, Lord of All: this glorious band
Of Saints have sought thee at the God's command;
And I thy sire this happy day obtain
The best reward a father's wish would gain.'
Then to the Saints he cried: 'Pure Hermits, see
The spouse of Śiva greets your company.'
They looked in rapture on the maid, and poured
Their fullest blessing on her heavenly lord.
So low she bowed, the gems that decked her hair
And sparkled in her ear fell loosened there;
Then with sweet modesty and joy opprest
She hid her blushes on the Lady's breast,
Who cheered the mother weeping for her child,
Her own dear Umá, till again she smiled:
Such bliss and glory should be hers above,
Yea, mighty Śiva's undivided love.
They named the fourth for Umá's nuptial day;
Then sped the Sages on their homeward way;
And thanked by Śiva with a gracious eye
Sought their bright rest amid the stars on high.
Through all those weary days the lover sighed
To wind his fond arms round his gentle bride.
Oh, if the Lord of Heaven could find no rest,
Think, think how Love, strong Love, can tear a mortal's breast!
The Birth of The War-God (Canto Seventh ) - Uma''s Bridal
In light and glory dawned the expected day
Blest with a kindly star's auspicious ray,
When gaily gathered at Himálaya's call
His kinsmen to the solemn festival.
Through the broad city every dame's awake
To grace the bridal for her monarch's sake;
So great their love for him, this single care
Makes one vast household of the thousands there.
Heaven is not brighter than the royal street
Where flowers lie scattered 'neath the nobles' feet,
And banners waving to the breeze unfold
Their silken broidery over gates of gold.
And she, their child, upon her bridal day
Bears her dear parents' every thought away.
So, when from distant shores a friend returns,
With deeper love each inmost spirit burns.
So, when grim Death restores his prey again
Joy brighter shines from memory of pain.
Each noble matron of Himálaya's race
Folds his dear Umá in a long embrace,
Pours blessings on her head, and prays her take
Some priceless jewel for her friendship's sake.
With sweetest influence a star of power
Had joined the spotted moon: at that blest hour
To deck fair Umá many a noble dame
And many a gentle maid assiduous came.
And well she graced their toil, more brightly fair
With feathery grass and wild flowers in her hair.
A silken robe flowed free below her waist;
Her sumptuous head a glittering arrow graced.
So shines the young unclouded moon at last,
Greeting the sun, its darksome season past.
Sweet-scented Lodhra dust and Sandal dyed
The delicate beauties of the fair young bride,
Veiled with a soft light robe. Her tiring-girls
Then led her to a chamber decked with pearls
And paved with sapphires, where the lulling sound
Of choicest music breathed divinely round.
There o'er the lady's limbs they poured by turns
Streams of pure water from their golden urns.
Fresh from the cooling bath the lovely maid
In fairest white her tender form arrayed.
So opens the Kása all her shining flowers
Lured from their buds by softly falling showers.
Then to a court with canopies o'erhead
A crowd of noble dames the maiden led—
A court for solemn rites, where gems and gold
Adorn the pillars that the roof uphold.
There on a couch they set her with her face
Turned toward the east. So lovely then the grace
Of that dear maid, so ravishing her smile,
E'en her attendants turned to gaze awhile;
For though the brightest gems around her lay,
Her brighter beauty stole their eyes away.
Through her long tresses one a chaplet wound,
And one with fragrant grass her temples crowned,
While o'er her head sweet clouds of incense rolled
To try and perfume every shining fold.
Bright dyes of saffron and the scented wood
Adorned her beauty, till the maiden stood
Fairer than Gangá when the Love-birds play
O'er sandy islets in her silvery bay.
To what rare beauty shall her maids compare
Her clear brow shaded by her glossy hair?
Less dazzling pure the lovely lotus shines
Flecked by the thronging bees in dusky lines.
Less bright the moon, when a dark band of cloud
Enhances beauties which it cannot shroud.
Behind her ear a head of barley drew
The eye to gaze upon its golden hue.
But then her cheek, with glowing saffron dyed,
To richer beauty called the glance aside.
Though from those lips, where Beauty's guerdon lay,
The vermeil tints were newly washed away,
Yet o'er them, as she smiled, a ray was thrown
Of quivering brightness that was all their own.
'Lay this dear foot upon thy lover's head
Crowned with the moon,' the laughing maiden said,
Who dyed her lady's feet—no word spake she,
But beat her with her wreath in playful glee.
Then tiring-women took the jetty dye
To guard, not deck, the beauty of her eye,
Whose languid half-shut glances might compare
With lotus leaves just opening to the air;
And as fresh gems adorned her neck and arms,
So quickly changing grew the maiden's charms,
Like some fair plant where bud succeeding bud
Unfolds new beauty; or a silver flood
Where gay birds follow quickly; or like night,
When crowding stars come forth in all their light.
Oft as the mirror would her glance beguile
She longed to meet her Lord's approving smile.
Her tasteful skill the timid maid essays
To win one smile of love, one word of praise.
The happy mother took the golden dye
And raised to hers young Umá's beaming eye.
Then swelled her bosom with maternal pride
As thus she decked her darling for a bride.
Oh, she had longed to trace on that fair brow
The nuptial line, yet scarce could mark it now.
On Umá's rounded arm the woollen band
Was fixt securely by the nurse's hand.
Blind with the tears that filled her swimming eye,
In vain the mother strove that band to tie.
Spotless as curling foam-flakes stood she there,
As yielding soft, as graceful and as fair:
Or like the glory of an autumn night
Robed by the full moon in a veil of light.
Then at her mother's hest, the maid adored
The spirit of each high ancestral lord,
Nor failed she next the noble dames to greet,
And give due honour to their reverend feet.
They raised the maiden as she bowed her head:
'Thine be the fulness of his love!' they said.
Half of his being, blessing high as this
Can add no rapture to her perfect bliss.
Well-pleased Himálaya viewed the pomp and pride
Meet for his daughter, meet for Śiva's bride;
Then sought the hall with all his friends to wait
The bridegroom's coming with a monarch's state.
Meanwhile by heavenly matrons' care displayed
Upon Kuvera's lofty mount were laid
The ornaments of Śiva, which of yore
At his first nuptials the bridegroom wore.
He laid his hand upon the dress, but how
Shall robes so sad, so holy, grace him now?
His own dire vesture took a shape as fair
As gentle bridegroom's heart could wish to wear.
The withering skull that glazed the eye with dread,
Shone a bright coronal to grace his head.
That elephant's hide the God had worn of old
Was now a silken robe inwrought with gold.
Ere this his body was with dust besprent:
With unguent now it shed delightful scent;
And that mid-eye which glittering like a star
Shot the wild terror of its glance afar—
So softly now its golden radiance beamed—
A mark of glory on his forehead seemed.
His twining serpents, destined still to be
The pride and honour of the deity,
Changed but their bodies: in each sparkling crest
The blazing gems still shone their loveliest.
What need of jewels on the brow of Him
Who wears the crescent moon? No spot may dim
Its youthful beauty, e'en in light of day
Shedding the glory of its quenchless ray.
Well-pleased the God in all his pride arrayed
Saw his bright image mirrored in the blade
Of the huge sword they brought; then calmly leant
On Nandi's arm, and toward his bull he went,
Whose broad back covered with a tiger's hide
Was steep to climb as Mount Kailása's side.
Yet the dread monster humbly shrank for fear,
And bowed in reverence as his Lord drew near.
The matrons followed him, a saintly throng,
Their ear-rings waving as they dashed along:
Sweet faces, with such glories round them shed
As made the air one lovely lotus bed.
On flew those bright ones: Káli came behind,
The skulls that decked her rattling in the wind:
Like the dark rack that scuds across the sky,
With herald lightning and the crane's shrill cry.
Hark! from the glorious bands that lead the way,
Harp, drum, and pipe, and shrilling trumpet's bray,
Burst through the sky upon the startled ear
And tell the Gods the hour of worship's near.
They came; the Sun presents a silken shade
Which heaven's own artist for the God had made,
Gilding his brows, as though bright Gangá rolled
Adown his holy head her waves of gold.
She in her Goddess-shape divinely fair,
And Yamuná, sweet river-Nymph, were there,
Fanning their Lord, that fancy still might deem
Swans waved their pinions round each Lady of the Stream.
E'en Brahmá came, Creator, Lord of Might,
And Vishṇu glowing from the realms of light.
'Ride on,' they cried, 'thine, thine for ever be
The strength, the glory, and the victory.'
To swell his triumph that high blessing came
Like holy oil upon the rising flame.
In those Three Persons the one God was shown,
Each first in place, each last,—not one alone;
Of Śiva, Vishṇu, Brahmá, each may be
First, second, third, among the Blessed Three.
By Indra led, each world-upholding Lord
With folded hands the mighty God adored.
In humble robes arrayed, the pomp and pride
Of glorious deity they laid aside.
They signed to Nandi, and the favourite's hand
Guided his eye upon the suppliant band.
He spake to Vishṇu, and on Indra smiled,
To Brahmá bowed—the lotus' mystic child.
On all the hosts of heaven his friendly eye
Beamed duly welcome as they crowded nigh.
The Seven Great Saints their blessings o'er him shed,
And thus in answer, with a smile, he said:
'Hail, mighty Sages! hail, ye Sons of Light!
My chosen priests to celebrate this rite.'
Now in sweet tones the heavenly minstrels tell
His praise, beneath whose might Tripura fell.
He moves to go: from his moon-crest a ray
Sheds quenchless light on his triumphant way.
On through the air his swift bull bore him well,
Decked with the gold of many a tinkling bell;
Tossing from time to time his head on high,
Enwreathed with clouds as he flew racing by,
As though in furious charge he had uptorn
A bank of clay upon his mighty horn.
Swiftly they came where in its beauty lay
The city subject to Himálaya's sway.
No foeman's foot had ever trod those halls,
No foreign bands encamped around the walls.
Then Śiva's glances fixed their eager hold
On that fair city as with threads of gold.
The God whose neck still gleams with cloudy blue
Burst on the wondering people's upturned view,
And on the earth descended, from the path
His shafts once dinted in avenging wrath.
Forth from the gates a noble army poured
To do meet honour to the mighty Lord.
With all his friends on elephants of state
The King of Mountains passed the city gate,
So gaily decked, the princes all were seen
Like moving hills inwrapt in bowery green.
As the full rushing of two streams that pour
Beneath one bridge with loud tumultuous roar,
So through the city's open gate streamed in
Mountains and Gods with tumult and with din.
So glorious was the sight, wonder and shame,
When Śiva bowed him, o'er the Monarch came;
He knew not he had bent his lofty crest
In reverent greeting to his heavenly guest
Himálaya, joying in the festive day,
Before the immortal bridegroom led the way
Where heaps of gay flowers burying half the feet
Lay breathing odours through the crowded street.
Careless of all beside, each lady's eye
Must gaze on Śiva as the troop sweeps by.
One dark-eyed beauty will not stay to bind
Her long black tresses, floating unconfined
Save by her little hand; her flowery crown
Hanging neglected and unfastened down.
One from her maiden tore her foot away
On which the dye, all wet and streaming, lay,
And o'er the chamber rushing in her haste,
Where'er she stepped, a crimson footprint traced.
Another at the window takes her stand;
One eye is dyed,—the pencil in her hand.
Here runs an eager maid, and running, holds
Loose and ungirt her flowing mantle's folds,
Whilst, as she strives to close the parting vest,
Its brightness gives new beauty to her breast.
Oh! what a sight! the crowded windows there
With eager faces excellently fair,
Like sweetest lilies, for their dark eyes fling
Quick glances quivering like the wild bee's wing.
Onward in peerless glory Śiva passed;
Gay banners o'er his way their shadows cast,
Each palace dome, each pinnacle and height
Catching new lustre from his crest of light.
On swept the pageant: on the God alone
The eager glances of the dames were thrown;
On his bright form they fed the rapturous gaze,
And only turned to marvel and to praise:
'Oh, well and wisely, such a lord to gain
The Mountain-Maid endured the toil and pain.
To be his slave were joy; but Oh, how blest
The wife—the loved one—lying on his breast!
Surely in vain, had not the Lord of Life
Matched this fond bridegroom and this loving wife,
Had been his wish to give the worlds a mould
Of perfect beauty! Falsely have they told
How the young flower-armed God was burnt by fire
At the red flash of Śiva's vengeful ire.
No: jealous Love a fairer form confessed,
And cast away his own, no more the loveliest.
How glorious is the Mountain King, how proud
Earth's stately pillar, girt about with cloud!
Now will he lift his lofty head more high,
Knit close to Śiva by this holy tie.'
Such words of praise from many a bright-eyed dame
On Śiva's ear with soothing witchery came.
Through the broad streets 'mid loud acclaim he rode,
And reached the palace where the King abode.
There he descended from his monster's side,
As the sun leaves a cloud at eventide.
Leaning on Vishṇu's arm he passed the door
Where mighty Brahmá entered in before.
Next Indra came, and all the host of heaven,
The noble Saints and those great Sages seven.
Then led they Śiva to a royal seat;
Fair gifts they brought, for such a bridegroom meet:
With all due rites, the honey and the milk,
Rich gems were offered and two robes of silk.
At length by skilful chamberlains arrayed
They led the lover to the royal maid.
Thus the fond Moon disturbs the tranquil rest
Of Ocean glittering with his foamy crest,
And leads him on, his proud waves swelling o'er,
To leap with kisses on the clasping shore.
He gazed on Umá. From his lotus eyes
Flashed out the rapture of his proud surprise.
Then calm the current of his spirit lay
Like the world basking in an autumn day.
They met; and true love's momentary shame
O'er the blest bridegroom and his darling came.
Eye looked to eye, but, quivering as they met,
Scarce dared to trust the rapturous gazing yet.
In the God's hand the priest has duly laid
The radiant fingers of the Mountain-Maid,
Bright, as if Love with his dear sprays of red
Had sought that refuge in his hour of dread.
From hand to hand the soft infection stole,
Till each confessed it in the inmost soul.
Fire filled his veins, with joy she trembled; such
The magic influence of that thrilling touch.
How grows their beauty, when two lovers stand
Eye fixt on eye, hand fondly linkt in hand!
Then how, unblamed, may mortal minstrel dare
To paint in words the beauty of that pair!
Around the fire in solemn rite they trod,
The lovely lady and the glorious God;
Like day and starry midnight when they meet
In the broad plains at lofty Meru's feet.
Thrice at the bidding of the priest they came
With swimming eyes around the holy flame.
Then at his word the bride in order due
Into the blazing fire the parched grain threw,
And toward her face the scented smoke she drew,
Which softly wreathing o'er her fair cheek hung,
And round her ears in flower-like beauty clung.
As o'er the incense the sweet lady stooped,
The ear of barley from her tresses drooped,
And rested on her cheek, beneath the eye
Still brightly beaming with the jetty dye.
'This flame be witness of your wedded life:
Be just, thou husband, and be true, thou wife!'
Such was the priestly blessing on the bride.
Eager she listened, as the earth when dried
By parching summer suns drinks deeply in
The first soft droppings when the rains begin.
'Look, gentle Umá,' cried her Lord, 'afar
Seest thou the brightness of yon polar star?
Like that unchanging ray thy faith must shine.'
Sobbing, she whispered, 'Yes, for ever thine.'
The rite is o'er. Her joyful parents now
At Brahmá's feet in duteous reverence bow.
Then to fair Umá spake the gracious Power
Who sits enthroned upon the lotus flower:
'O beautiful lady, happy shalt thou be,
And hero children shall be born of thee;'
Then looked in silence: vain the hope to bless
The bridegroom, Śiva, with more happiness.
Then from the altar, as prescribed of old,
They turned, and rested upon seats of gold;
And, as the holy books for men ordain,
Were sprinkled duly with the moistened grain.
High o'er their heads sweet Beauty's Queen displayed
Upon a stem of reed a cool green shade,
While the young lotus-leaves of which 'twas made
Seemed, as they glistened to the wondering view,
All richly pearled with drops of beady dew.
In twofold language on each glorious head
The Queen of Speech her richest blessings shed;
In strong, pure, godlike utterance for his ear,
To her in liquid tones, soft, beautifully clear.
Now for awhile they gaze where maids divine
In graceful play the expressive dance entwine;
Whose eloquent motions, with an actor's art,
Show to the life the passions of the heart.
The rite was ended; then the heavenly band
Prayed Śiva, raising high the suppliant hand:
'Now, for the dear sake of thy lovely bride,
Have pity on the gentle God,' they cried,
'Whose tender body thy fierce wrath has slain:
Give all his honour, all his might again.'
Well pleased, he smiled, and gracious answer gave:
Śiva himself now yields him Káma's slave.
When duly given, the great will ne'er despise
The gentle pleading of the good and wise.
Now have they left the wedded pair alone;
And Śiva takes her hand within his own
To lead his darling to the bridal bower,
Decked with bright gold and all her sumptuous dower.
She blushes sweetly as her maidens there
Look with arch smiles and glances on the pair;
And for one moment, while the damsels stay,
From him she loves turns her dear face away.
The Golden Legend: VI. The School Of Salerno
A traveling Scholastic affixing his Theses to the gate
of the College.
_Scholastic._ There, that is my gauntlet, my banner, my shield,
Hung up as a challenge to all the field!
One hundred and twenty-five propositions,
Which I will maintain with the sword of the tongue
Against all disputants, old and young.
Let us see if doctors or dialecticians
Will dare to dispute my definitions,
Or attack any one of my learned theses.
Here stand I; the end shall be as God pleases.
I think I have proved, by profound research
The error of all those doctrines so vicious
Of the old Areopagite Dionysius,
That are making such terrible work in the churches,
By Michael the Stammerer sent from the East,
And done into Latin by that Scottish beast,
Erigena Johannes, who dares to maintain,
In the face of the truth, the error infernal,
That the universe is and must be eternal;
At first laying down, as a fact fundamental,
That nothing with God can be accidental;
Then asserting that God before the creation
Could not have existed, because it is plain
That, had he existed, he would have created;
Which is begging the question that should be debated,
And moveth me less to anger than laughter.
All nature, he holds, is a respiration
Of the Spirit of God, who, in breathing, hereafter
Will inhale it into his bosom again,
So that nothing but God alone will remain.
And therein he contradicteth himself;
For he opens the whole discussion by stating,
That God can only exist in creating.
That question I think I have laid on the shelf!
(_He goes out. Two Doctors come in disputing, and
followed by pupils._)
_Doctor Serafino._ I, with the Doctor Seraphic, maintain,
That a word which is only conceived in the brain
Is a type of eternal Generation;
The spoken word is the Incarnation.
_Doctor Cherubino._ What do I care for the Doctor Seraphic,
With all his wordy chaffer and traffic?
_Doctor Serafino._ You make but a paltry show of resistance;
Universals have no real existence!
_Doctor Cherubino._ Your words are but idle and empty chatter;
Ideas are eternally joined to matter!
_Doctor Serafino_. May the Lord have mercy on your position,
You wretched, wrangling culler of herbs!
_Doctor Cherubino_. May he send your soul to eternal perdition,
For your Treatise on the Irregular Verbs!
(_They rush out fighting. Two Scholars come in._)
_First Scholar_. Monte Cassino, then, is your College.
What think you of ours here at Salern?
_Second Scholar_. To tell the truth, I arrived so lately,
I hardly yet have had time to discern.
So much, at least, I am bound to acknowledge:
The air seems healthy, the buildings stately,
And on the whole I like it greatly.
_First Scholar_. Yes, the air is sweet; the Calabrian hills
Send us down puffs of mountain air;
And in summer time the sea-breeze fills
With its coolness cloister, and court, and square.
Then at every season of the year
There are crowds of guests and travellers here;
Pilgrims, and mendicant friars, and traders
From the Levant, with figs and wine,
And bands of wounded and sick Crusaders,
Coming back from Palestine.
_Second Scholar_. And what are the studies you pursue?
What is the course you here go through?
_First Scholar_. The first three years of the college course
Are given to Logic alone, as the source
Of all that is noble, and wise, and true.
_Second Scholar_. That seems rather strange, I must confess.
In a Medical School; yet, nevertheless,
You doubtless have reasons for that.
_First Scholar_. Oh yes!
For none but a clever dialectician
Can hope to become a great physician;
That has been settled long ago.
Logic makes an important part
Of the mystery of the healing art;
For without it how could you hope to show
That nobody knows so much as you know?
After this there are five years more
Devoted wholly to medicine,
With lectures on chirurgical lore,
And dissections of the bodies of swine,
As likest the human form divine.
_Second Scholar_. What are the books now most in vogue?
_First Scholar_. Quite an extensive catalogue;
Mostly, however, books of our own;
As Gariopontus' Passionarius,
And the writings of Matthew Platearius;
And a volume universally known
As the Regimen of the School of Salern,
For Robert of Normandy written in terse
And very elegant Latin verse.
Each of these writings has its turn.
And when at length we have finished these,
Then comes the struggle for degrees,
With all the oldest and ablest critics;
The public thesis and disputation,
Question, and answer, and explanation
Of a passage out of Hippocrates,
Or Aristotle's Analytics.
There the triumphant Magister stands!
A book is solemnly placed in his hands,
On which he swears to follow the rule
And ancient forms of the good old School;
To report if any confectionarius
Mingles his drugs with matters various,
And to visit his patients twice a day,
And once in the night, if they live in town,
And if they are poor, to take no pay.
Having faithfully promised these,
His head is crowned with a laurel crown;
A kiss on his cheek, a ring on his hand,
The Magister Artium et Physices
Goes forth from the school like a lord of the land.
And now, as we have the whole morning before us
Let us go in, if you make no objection,
And listen awhile to a learned prelection
On Marcus Aurelius Cassiodorus.
(_They go in. Enter_ LUCIFER _as a Doctor._)
_Lucifer_. This is the great School of Salern!
A land of wrangling and of quarrels,
Of brains that seethe, and hearts that burn,
Where every emulous scholar hears,
In every breath that comes to his ears,
The rustling of another's laurels!
The air of the place is called salubrious;
The neighborhood of Vesuvius lends it
An odor volcanic, that rather mends it,
And the buildings have an aspect lugubrious,
That inspires a feeling of awe and terror
Into the heart of the beholder,
And befits such an ancient homestead of error,
Where the old falsehoods moulder and smoulder,
And yearly by many hundred hands
Are carried away, in the zeal of youth,
And sown like tares in the field of truth,
To blossom and ripen in other lands.
What have we here, affixed to the gate?
The challenge of some scholastic wight,
Who wishes to hold a public debate
On sundry questions wrong or right!
Ah, now this is my great delight!
For I have often observed of late
That such discussions end in a fight.
Let us see what the learned wag maintains
With such a prodigal waste of brains.
'Whether angels in moving from place to place
Pass through the intermediate space.
Whether God himself is the author of evil,
Or whether that is the work of the Devil.
When, where, and wherefore Lucifer fell,
And whether he now is chained in hell.'
I think I can answer that question well!
So long as the boastful human mind
Consents in such mills as this to grind,
I sit very firmly upon my throne!
Of a truth it almost makes me laugh,
To see men leaving the golden grain
To gather in piles the pitiful chaff
That old Peter Lombard thrashed with his brain,
To have it caught up and tossed again
On the horns of the Dumb Ox of Cologne!
But my guests approach! there is in the air
A fragrance, like that of the Beautiful Garden
Of Paradise, in the days that were!
An odor of innocence, and of prayer,
And of love, and faith that never fails,
Which as the fresh-young heart exhales
Before it begins to wither and harden!
I cannot breathe such an atmosphere!
My soul is filled with a nameless fear,
That, after all my trouble and pain,
After all my restless endeavor,
The youngest, fairest soul of the twain,
The most ethereal, most divine,
Will escape from my hands forever and ever.
But the other is already mine!
Let him live to corrupt his race,
Breathing among them, with every breath,
Weakness, selfishness, and the base
And pusillanimous fear of death.
I know his nature, and I know
That of all who in my ministry
Wander the great earth to and fro,
And on my errands come and go,
The safest and subtlest are such as he.
(_Enter_ PRINCE HENRY _and_ ELSIE _with
_Prince Henry._ Can you direct us to Friar Angelo?
_Lucifer._ He stands before you.
_Prince Henry._ Then you know our purpose.
I am Prince Henry of Hoheneck, and this
The maiden that I spake of in my letters.
_Lucifer._ It is a very grave and solemn business!
We must not be precipitate. Does she
Without compulsion, of her own free will,
Consent to this?
_Prince Henry._ Against all opposition,
Against all prayers, entreaties, protestations.
She will not be persuaded.
_Lucifer._ That is strange!
Have you thought well of it?
_Elsie._ I come not here
To argue, but to die. Your business is not
to question, but to kill me. I am ready.
I am impatient to be gone from here
Ere any thoughts of earth disturb again
The spirit of tranquillity within me.
_Prince Henry._ Would I had not come here
Would I were dead,
And thou wert in thy cottage in the forest,
And hadst not known me! Why have I done this?
Let me go back and die.
_Elsie._ It cannot be;
Not if these cold, flat stones on which we tread
Were coulters heated white, and yonder gateway
Flamed like a furnace with a sevenfold heat.
I must fulfil my purpose.
_Prince Henry._ I forbid it!
Not one step farther. For I only meant
To put thus far thy courage to the proof.
It is enough. I, too, have courage to die,
For thou hast taught me!
_Elsie._ O my Prince! remember
Your promises. Let me fulfill my errand.
You do not look on life and death as I do.
There are two angels, that attend unseen
Each one of us, and in great books record
Our good and evil deeds. He who writes down
The good ones, after every action closes
His volume, and ascends with it to God.
The other keeps his dreadful day-book open
Till sunset, that we may repent; which doing,
The record of the action fades away,
And leaves a line of white across the page.
Now if my act be good, as I believe it,
It cannot be recalled. It is already
Sealed up in heaven, as a good deed accomplished.
The rest is yours. Why wait you? I am ready.
(_To her attendants._)
Weep not, my friends! rather rejoice with me.
I shall not feel the pain, but shall be gone,
And you will have another friend in heaven.
Then start not at the creaking of the door
Through which I pass. I see what lies beyond it.
(_To_ PRINCE HENRY.)
And you, O Prince! bear back my benison
Unto my father's house, and all within it.
This morning in the church I prayed for them,
After confession, after absolution,
When my whole soul was white, I prayed for them.
God will take care of them, they need me not.
And in your life let my remembrance linger,
As something not to trouble and disturb it,
But to complete it, adding life to life.
And if at times beside the evening fire
You see my face among the other faces,
Let it not be regarded as a ghost
That haunts your house, but as a guest that loves you.
Nay, even as one of your own family,
Without whose presence there were something wanting.
I have no more to say. Let us go in.
_Prince Henry._ Friar Angelo! I charge you on your life,
Believe not what she says, for she is mad,
And comes here not to die, but to be healed.
_Elsie._ Alas! Prince Henry!
_Lucifer._ Come with me; this way.
(ELSIE _goes in with_ LUCIFER, _who thrusts_ PRINCE
HENRY _back and closes the door._)
_Prince Henry._ Gone! and the light of all my life gone with her!
A sudden darkness falls upon the world!
_Forester._ News from the Prince!
_Ursula._ Of death or life?
_Forester._ You put your questions eagerly!
_Ursula._ Answer me, then! How is the Prince?
_Forester._ I left him only two hours since
Homeward returning down the river,
As strong and well as if God, the Giver,
Had given him back in his youth again.
_Ursula (despairing)._ Then Elsie, my poor child, is dead!
_Forester._ That, my good woman, I have not said.
Don't cross the bridge till you come to it,
Is a proverb old, and of excellent wit.
_Ursula._ Keep me no longer in this pain!
_Forester._ It is true your daughter is no more;--
That is, the peasant she was before.
_Ursula._ Alas! I am simple and lowly bred
I am poor, distracted, and forlorn.
And it is not well that you of the court
Should mock me thus, and make a sport
Of a joyless mother whose child is dead,
For you, too, were of mother, born!
_Forester._ Your daughter lives, and the Prince is well!
You will learn ere long how it all befell.
Her heart for a moment never failed;
But when they reached Salerno's gate,
The Prince's nobler self prevailed,
And saved her for a nobler fate,
And he was healed, in his despair,
By the touch of St. Matthew's sacred bones;
Though I think the long ride in the open air,
That pilgrimage over stocks and stones,
In the miracle must come in for a share!
_Ursula._ Virgin! who lovest the poor and lonely,
If the loud cry of a mother's heart
Can ever ascend to where thou art,
Into thy blessed hands and holy
Receive my prayer of praise and thanksgiving!
Let the hands that bore our Saviour bear it
Into the awful presence of God;
For thy feet with holiness are shod,
And if thou bearest it he will hear it.
Our child who was dead again is living!
_Forester._ I did not tell you she was dead;
If you thought so 'twas no fault of mine;
At this very moment, while I speak,
They are sailing homeward down the Rhine,
In a splendid barge, with golden prow,
And decked with banners white and red
As the colors on your daughter's cheek.
They call her the Lady Alicia now;
For the Prince in Salerno made a vow
That Elsie only would he wed.
_Ursula._ Jesu Maria! what a change!
All seems to me so weird and strange!
_Forester._ I saw her standing on the deck,
Beneath an awning cool and shady;
Her cap of velvet could not hold
The tresses of her hair of gold,
That flowed and floated like the stream,
And fell in masses down her neck.
As fair and lovely did she seem
As in a story or a dream
Some beautiful and foreign lady.
And the Prince looked so grand and proud,
And waved his hand thus to the crowd
That gazed and shouted from the shore,
All down the river, long and loud.
_Ursula._ We shall behold our child once more;
She is not dead! She is not dead!
God, listening, must have overheard
The prayers, that, without sound or word,
Our hearts in secrecy have said!
O, bring me to her; for mine eyes
Are hungry to behold her face;
My very soul within me cries;
My very hands seem to caress her,
To see her, gaze at her, and bless her;
Dear Elsie, child of God and grace!
(_Goes out toward the garden._)
_Forester._ There goes the good woman out of her head;
And Gottlieb's supper is waiting here;
A very capacious flagon of beer,
And a very portentous loaf of bread.
One would say his grief did not much oppress him.
Here's to the health of the Prince, God bless him!
Ha! it buzzes and stings like a hornet!
And what a scene there, through the door!
The forest behind and the garden before,
And midway an old man of threescore,
With a wife and children that caress him.
Let me try still further to cheer and adorn it
With a merry, echoing blast of my cornet!
(_Goes out blowing his horn._)
* * * * *
THE CASTLE OF VAUTSBERG ON THE RHINE.
* * * * *
PRINCE HENRY _and_ ELSIE _standing on the terrace at
evening. The sound of bells heard from a distance._
_Prince Henry._ We are alone. The wedding guests
Ride down the hill, with plumes and cloaks,
And the descending dark invests
The Niederwald, and all the nests
Among its hoar and haunted oaks.
_Elsie._ What bells are those, that ring so slow,
So mellow, musical, and low?
_Prince Henry._ They are the bells of Geisenheim,
That with their melancholy chime
Ring out the curfew of the sun.
_Elsie._ Listen, beloved.
_Prince Henry._ They are done!
Dear Elsie! many years ago
Those same soft bells at eventide
Rang in the ears of Charlemagne,
As, seated by Fastrada's side
At Ingelheim, in all his pride
He heard their sound with secret pain.
_Elsie._ Their voices only speak to me
Of peace and deep tranquillity,
And endless confidence in thee!
_Prince Henry._ Thou knowest the story of her ring,
How, when the court went back to Aix,
Fastrada died; and how the king
Sat watching by her night and day,
Till into one of the blue lakes,
That water that delicious land,
They cast the ring, drawn from her hand;
And the great monarch sat serene
And sad beside the fated shore,
Nor left the land forever more.
_Elsie._ That was true love.
_Prince Henry._ For him the queen
Ne'er did what thou hast done for me.
_Elsie._ Wilt thou as fond and faithful be?
Wilt thou so love me after death?
_Prince Henry._ In life's delight, in death's dismay,
In storm and sunshine, night and day,
In health, in sickness, in decay,
Here and hereafter, I am thine!
Thou hast Fastrada's ring. Beneath
The calm, blue waters of thine eyes
Deep in thy steadfast soul it lies,
And, undisturbed by this world's breath,
With magic light its jewels shine!
This golden ring, which thou hast worn
Upon thy finger since the morn,
Is but a symbol and a semblance,
An outward fashion, a remembrance,
Of what thou wearest within unseen,
O my Fastrada, O my queen!
Behold! the hilltops all aglow
With purple and with amethyst;
While the whole valley deep below
Is filled, and seems to overflow,
With a fast-rising tide of mist.
The evening air grows damp and chill;
Let us go in.
_Elsie._ Ah, not so soon.
See yonder fire! It is the moon
Slow rising o'er the eastern hill.
It glimmers on the forest tips,
And through the dewy foliage drips
In little rivulets of light,
And makes the heart in love with night.
_Prince Henry._ Oft on this terrace, when the day
Was closing, have I stood and gazed,
And seen the landscape fade away,
And the white vapors rise and drown
Hamlet and vineyard, tower and town
While far above the hilltops blazed.
But men another hand than thine
Was gently held and clasped in mine;
Another head upon my breast
Was laid, as thine is now, at rest.
Why dost thou lift those tender eyes
With so much sorrow and surprise?
A minstrel's, not a maiden's hand,
Was that which in my own was pressed.
A manly form usurped thy place,
A beautiful, but bearded face,
That now is in the Holy Land,
Yet in my memory from afar
Is shining on us like a star.
But linger not. For while I speak,
A sheeted spectre white and tall,
The cold mist climbs the castle wall,
And lays his hand upon thy cheek!
(_They go in._)
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE TWO RECORDING ANGELS ASCENDING.
_The Angel of Good Deeds (with closed book_). God sent his
messenger the rain,
And said unto the mountain brook,
'Rise up, and from thy caverns look
And leap, with naked, snow-white feet.
From the cool hills into the heat
Of the broad, arid plain.'
God sent his messenger of faith,
And whispered in the maiden's heart,
'Rise up, and look from where thou art,
And scatter with unselfish hands
Thy freshness on the barren sands
And solitudes of Death.'
O beauty of holiness,
Of self-forgetfulness, of lowliness!
O power of meekness,
Whose very gentleness and weakness
Are like the yielding, but irresistible air!
Upon the pages
Of the sealed volume that I bear,
The deed divine
Is written in characters of gold,
That never shall grow old,
But all through ages
Burn and shine,
With soft effulgence!
O God! it is thy indulgence
That fills the world with the bliss
Of a good deed like this!
_The Angel of Evil Deeds (with open book)._ Not yet, not yet
Is the red sun wholly set,
But evermore recedes,
While open still I bear
The Book of Evil Deeds,
To let the breathings of the upper air
Visit its pages and erase
The records from its face!
Fainter and fainter as I gaze
On the broad blaze
The glimmering landscape shines,
And below me the black river
Is hidden by wreaths of vapor!
Fainter and fainter the black lines
Begin to quiver
Along the whitening surface of the paper;
Shade after shade
The terrible words grow faint and fade,
And in their place
Runs a white space!
Down goes the sun!
But the soul of one,
Who by repentance
Has escaped the dreadful sentence,
Shines bright below me as I look.
It is the end!
With closed Book
To God do I ascend.
Lo! over the mountain steeps
A dark, gigantic shadow sweeps
Beneath my feet;
A blackness inwardly brightening
With sullen heat,
As a storm-cloud lurid with lightning.
And a cry of lamentation,
Repeated and again repeated,
Deep and loud
As the reverberation
Of cloud answering unto cloud,
Swells and rolls away in the distance,
As if the sheeted
Baffled and thwarted by the wind's resistance.
It is Lucifer,
The son of mystery;
And since God suffers him to be,
He, too, is God's minister,
And labors for some good
By us not understood!
Epistle to an Orphan after William Mackworth Praed A Letter of Advice
They tell me you're promised a mother,
to cuddle, to cosset, to care.
Take care for she may try to smother,
to cover her inner despair.
The experts agree that another
could just as well clinch the affair, -
and beware that you never discover
the father who's no longer there.
(Parody William Mackworth PRAED - A Letter 31 October 1990)
A Letter to PH from a Disappointed Writer
Dear PH, I leave you this letter
after writing from ten until nine
for a site I'd delight to know better,
for a smile that my heart can't decline.
Yet one finds after wearily pacing,
for replies in the cold, for some sign,
that that heart which with hope had been racing
to darkest despair must incline.
Dear PH from twelve to eleven
each night I would knock at your door
in hope that an angel from heaven
could show me the light, - but no more
will I screed in my need if no answer
effective can echo joy's store -
I can't act as a puppet-stringed dancer,
not even for one I adore!
Dear PH the time have I waited
day in and day out by grief torn,
all write up down written, ill-fated
as my consonants vowed my vowels scorn.
The wonder my dunderhead brought you
tonight may steal thunder at morn,
but the blossoms whose beauty besought you
fade as fast as last season's drenched corn.
As on Thursday applauseless, defeated,
so on Friday all clauseless I'm spurned,
is the cycle of love thus completed,
is this all the thanks that I've earned?
It is hard for a fool to be taken -
its a sign that one's soft in the head, -
but the reason that slept must awaken,
and the spirit, restored, won't be lead!
I'd have offered you all in my power,
to cherish, to share, to be kind,
I'd have nurtured emotions to flower
and found wings for soul unresigned.
It is not just the whim of an hour
but a lifetime with no chains to bind,
in a warm, in a warm, tender bower
with blank verse, even worse, left behind!
How can I be present tomorrow,
bear false witness with stanzas prewrit?
once again less 'in anger than sorrow'
I will try to bar love from my wit.
I will try to contain my emotion -
or go through the motions to ease
the emptiness born from devotion
to one who my [he]art pleased to tease.
Good luck with your plans to continue
support for the wor[l]d caught in art!
Good luck for the talent that s[w]ings you!
Good luck for a applause the stats chart!
I'll return into cold hibernation
all alone til your smile shines bright through
the slough of despondent elation,
these Elysean fields cropped by few.
Dear PH, ignore to this last letter
should sentiments biased appear,
yet I shall be ever your debtor -
who taught me to share and feel near.
Intuitions are fine for romantic,
inner feelings that flower in dreams,
but a chasm as deep as Atlantic
drowns my talent, it seems, PH, Dear!
So sometimes recall that I follow
your footsteps as forward they flow,
and the shadow which seems to be hollow
is an echo which helps me to know
how the sun shines for YOU as Appollo
his steeds urges onwards, - and though
forgetful nights daily verse swallow
tomorrow dawn's brightness will glow!
(Parody William Mackworth PRAED A Letter of Advice 12 April 2005 revised 19 November 2006)
A Letter of Advice to Margaret Thatcher
You tell me you've taken a lover, -
the Serpent - to suckle at breast,
what took you so long to discover
its worth, that you seemed to detest?
Is it fears of the new German eagle,
which now flies in the skies, to and fro?
Is it fear to appear far less regal?
Prime Minister, Maggie, say 'No! '
You so often set foot in the City
among the stockbrokers and Jews,
until now no-one noticed that pity
assisted in making the News.
Lip service you paid as a token
to E.E.C., more stop than go,
would you now betray promises spoken?
Prime Minister, Maggie, say 'No! '
The arguments strongly defended
won time, though for whom no-one knows,
the endergy fiercely expended
I now do reverse with my prose!
Don't think that I'm not sympathetic
to common wealth causes, but so
urgently must I seem more magnetic, -
Prime Ministers learn to say 'No! '
Exports are the life of the nation,
and spendthrifts throw eggs from the nest,
why would you now import inflation
why risk fresh electoral test?
You constancy prized, never faltered,
what further can grandeur bestow?
My heart is the same, is yours altered?
Prime Minister, Maggie, say No!
Beware or you'll face resignation
from the ranks of conservative friends,
for instransigence breeds indignation,
a sign that your time nears its end.
Will you bend, or back down from your folly.
On your knees beg to Brussels, kow-tow?
Or defend precious pound, British lolly,
or become Lady Diehard, Soho? ...
Our infantile logic was stupid,
and once we admitted its flaws,
to Snake turned like Eve to a Cupid!
a fig for Conservative bores!
A policy firm and effective
must govern though markets sink low,
while a girl learns a sense of perspective
at times when she simply says 'No! '
(7 October 1990Parody Winthrop Mackworth PRAED A Letter of Advice)
A Letter of Advice
From Miss Medora Trevilian at Padua
to Miss Araminta Vavasour, in London
Enfin, monsieur, un homme aimable;
Voila: pourquoi je ne saurais l'aimer. Scribe
You tell me you're promised a lover,
My own Araminta, next week;
Why cannot my fancy discover
The hue of his coat and his cheek?
Alas! if he look like another,
A vicar, a banker, a beau,
Be deaf to your father and mother,
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
Miss Lane at her Temple of Fashion,
Taught us both how to sing and to speak,
And we loved one another with passion,
Before we had been there a week:
You gave me a ring for a token;
I wear it wherever I go;
I gave you a chain - is it broken?
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
O think of our favourite cottage,
And think of our dear Lallah Rookh!
How we shared with the milkmaids their pottage,
And drank of the stream from the brook:
How fondly our loving lips faltered
'What further can grandeur bestow?
My heart is the same; - is yours altered?
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
Remember the thrilling romances
We read on the bank in the glen;
Remember the suitors our fancies
Would picture for both of us then.
They wore the red cross on their shoulder,
They had vanquished and pardoned their foe -
Sweet friend, are you wiser or colder?
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
You know, when Lord Rigmarole's carriage
Drove off with your sister Justine,
You wept, dearest girl, at the marriage,
And whispered 'How base she has been! '
You said you were sure it would kill you,
If ever your husband looked so;
And you will apostatize, - will you?
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
When I heard I was going abroad, love,
I thought I was going to die;
We walked arm in arm to the road, love,
We looked arm in arm to the sky;
And I said 'When a foreign postillion
Has hurried me off to the Po,
Forget not Medora Trevilian:
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
We parted! but sympathy's fetters
Reach far over valley and hill;
I muse o'er your exquisite letters,
And feel that your heart is mine still;
And he who would share it with me, love -
The richest of treasure below -
If he's not what Orlando should be, love,
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
If he wears a top-boot in his wooing,
If he comes to you riding a cob,
If he talks of his baking or brewing,
If he puts up his feet on the hob,
If he ever drinks port after dinner,
If his brow, or his breeding is low,
If he calls himself 'Thompson' or 'Skinner',
My own, Araminta, say 'No! '
If he ever sets foot in the City,
Amongst the stockbrokers and Jews,
If he has not a heart full of pity,
If he don't stand six feet in his shoes,
If his lips are not redder than roses,
If his hands are not whiter than snow,
If he has not the model of noses, -
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
If he speaks of a tax or a duty,
If he does not look grand on his knees,
If he's blind to a landscape of beauty,
Hills, valleys, rocks, waters, and trees,
If he dotes not on desolate towers,
If he likes not to hear the blast blow,
If he knows not the language of flowers, -
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
He must walk - like a god of old story
Come down from the home of his rest;
He must smile - like the sun in his glory
On the buds he loves ever the best;
And oh! from its ivory portal
Like music his soft speech must flow! -
If he speak, smile, or walk like a mortal,
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
Don't listen to tales of his bounty,
Don't hear what they say of his birth,
Don't look at his seat in the county,
Don't calculate what he is worth;
But give him a theme to write verse on,
And see if he turns out his toe;
If he's only an excellent person, -
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
Winthrop Mackworth PRAED 1802_1839
The Talented Man
Letter From A Lady In London To A Lady At Lausanne
Dear Alice! you'll laugh when you know it, -
Last week, at the Duchess's ball,
I danced with the clever new poet, -
You've heard of him, - Tully St. Paul.
Miss Jonquil was perfectly frantic;
I wish you had seen Lady Anne!
It really was very romantic,
He is such a talented man!
He came up from Brazen Nose College,
Just caught, as they call it, this spring;
And his head, love, is stuffed full of knowledge
Of every conceivable thing.
Of science and logic he chatters,
As fine and as fast as he can;
Though I am no judge of such matters,
I'm sure he's a talented man.
His stories and jests are delightful; -
Not stories or jests, dear, for you;
The jests are exceedingly spiteful,
The stories not always quite true.
Perhaps to be kind and veracious
May do pretty well at Lausanne;
But it never would answer, - good gracious!
Chez nous - in a talented man.
He sneers, - how my Alice would scold him! -
At the bliss of a sigh or a tear;
He laughed - only think! - when I told him
How we cried o'er Trevelyan last year;
I vow I was quite in a passion;
I broke all the sticks of my fan;
But sentiment's quite out of fashion,
It seems, in a talented man.
Lady Bab, who is terribly moral,
Has told me that Tully is vain,
And apt - which is silly - to quarrel,
And fond - which is sad - of champagne.
I listened, and doubted, dear Alice,
For I saw, when my Lady began,
It was only the Dowager's malice; -
She does hate a talented man!
He's hideous, I own it. But fame, love,
Is all that these eyes can adore;
He's lame, - but Lord Byron was lame, love,
And dumpy, - but so is Tom Moore.
Then his voice, - such a voice! my sweet creature,
It's like your Aunt Lucy's toucan:
But oh! what's a tone or a feature,
When once one's a talented man?
My mother, you know, all the season,
Has talked of Sir Geoffrey's estate;
And truly, to do the fool reason,
He has been less horrid of late.
But to-day, when we drive in the carriage,
I'll tell her to lay down her plan; -
If ever I venture on marriage,
It must be a talented man!
P.S. - I have found, on reflection,
One fault in my friend, - entre nous;
Without it, he'd just be perfection; -
Poor fellow, he has not a sou!
And so, when he comes in September
To shoot with my uncle, Sir Dan,
I've promised mamma to remember
He's only a talented man!
Winthrop Mackworth Praed 1802_1839
At length the term's ending;
I 'm in for my Schools in a week;
And the time that at present I'm spending
On you should be spent upon Greek:
But I'm fairly well read in my Plato,
I'm thoroughly red in the eyes,
And I've almost forgotten the way to
Be healthy and wealthy and wise.
So 'the best of all ways' - why repeat you
The verse at 2.30 a.m.,
When I 'm stealing an hour to entreat you
Dear Kitty, to come to Commem.?
Oh, come! You shall rustle in satin
Through halls where Examiners trod:
Your laughter shall triumph o'er Latin
In lecture-room, garden, and quad.
They stand in the silent Sheldonian -
Our orators, waiting - for you,
Their style guaranteed Ciceronian,
Their subject - 'the Ladies in Blue.'
The Vice sits arrayed in his scarlet;
He's pale, but they say he dissem-
-bles by calling his Beadle a 'varlet'
Whenever he thinks of Commem.
There are dances, flirtations at Nuneham,
Flower-shows, the procession of Eights:
There's a list stretching _usque ad Lunam_
Of concerts, and lunches, and fetes:
There's the Newdigate all about 'Gordon, '
- So sweet, and they say it will scan.
You shall flirt with a Proctor, a Warden
Shall run for your shawl and your fan.
They are sportive as gods broken loose from
Olympus, and yet very em-
-inent men. There are plenty to choose from,
You'll find, if you come to Commem.
I know your excuses: Red Sorrel
Has stumbled and broken her knees;
Aunt Phoebe thinks waltzing immoral;
And 'Algy, you are such a tease;
It's nonsense, of course, but she _is_ strict';
And little Dick Hodge has the croup;
And there's no one to visit your 'district'
Or make Mother Tettleby's soup.
Let them cease for a se'nnight to plague you;
Oh, leave them to manage _pro tem_.
With their croups and their soups and their ague)
Dear Kitty, and come to Commem.
Don't tell me Papa has lumbago,
That you haven't a frock fit to wear,
That the curate 'has notions, and may go
To lengths if there's nobody there, '
That the Squire has 'said things' to the Vicar,
And the Vicar 'had words' with the Squire,
That the Organist's taken to liquor,
And leaves you to manage the choir:
For Papa must be cured, and the curate
Coerced, and your gown is a gem;
And the moral is - Don't be obdurate,
Dear Kitty, but come to Commem.
'My gown? Though, no doubt, sir, you're clever,
You 'd better leave fashions alone.
Do you think that a frock lasts for ever? '
Dear Kitty, I'll grant you have grown;
But I thought of my 'scene' with McVittie
That night when he trod on your train
At the Bachelor's Ball. ''Twas a pity, '
You said, but I knew 'twas Champagne.
And your gown was enough to compel me
To fall down and worship its hem -
(Are 'hems' wearing? If not, you shall tell me
What is, when you come to Commem.)
Have you thought, since that night, of the Grotto?
Of the words whispered under the palms,
While the minutes flew by and forgot to
Remind us of Aunt and her qualms?
Of the stains of the old _Journalisten_?
Of the rose that I begged from your hair?
When you turned, and I saw something glisten -
Dear Kitty, don't frown; it _was_ there!
But that idiot Delane in the middle
Bounced in with 'Our dance, I - ahem! '
And - the rose you may find in my Liddell
And Scott when you come to Commem.
Then, Kitty, let 'yes' be the answer.
We'll dance at the 'Varsity Ball,
And the morning shall find you a dancer
In Christ Church or Trinity hall.
And perhaps, when the elders are yawning
And rafters grow pale overhead
With the day, there shall come with its dawning
Some thought of that sentence unsaid.
Be it this, be it that - 'I forget, ' or
'Was joking' - whatever the fem-
-inine fib, you'll have made me your debtor
And come, - you _will_ come? to Commem.
Green Bays Parody 1893 Arthur QUILLER-COUCH
Parody - Winthrop Mackworth PRAED A Letter of Advice
HER LETTER - Francis Bret Harte to William Mackworth Praed
I'm sitting alone by the fire,
Dressed just as I came from the dance,
In a robe even you would admire, -
It cost a cool thousand in France;
I'm be-diamonded out of all reason,
My hair is done up in a cue:
In short, sir, 'the belle of the season'
Is wasting an hour upon you.
A dozen engagements I've broken;
I left in the midst of a set;
Likewise a proposal, half spoken,
That waits - on the stairs - for me yet.
They say he'll be rich, - when he grows up, -
And then he adores me indeed;
And you, sir, are turning your nose up,
Three thousand miles off, as you read.
'And how do I like my position? '
'And what do I think of New York? '
'And now, in my higher ambition,
With whom do I waltz, flirt, or talk? '
'And isn't it nice to have riches,
And diamonds and silks, and all that? '
'And aren't they a change to the ditches
And tunnels of Poverty Flat? '
Well, yes, - if you saw us out driving
Each day in the Park, four-in-hand,
If you saw poor dear mamma contriving
To look supernaturally grand, -
If you saw papa's picture, as taken
By Brady, and tinted at that, -
You'd never suspect he sold bacon
And flour at Poverty Flat.
And yet, just this moment, when sitting
In the glare of the grand chandelier, -
In the bustle and glitter befitting
The 'finest soiree of the year, ' -
In the mists of a gaze de Chambery,
And the hum of the smallest of talk, -
Somehow, Joe, I thought of the 'Ferry, '
And the dance that we had on 'The Fork; '
Of Harrison's bar, with its muster
Of flags festooned over the wall;
Of the candles that shed their soft lustre
And tallow on head-dress and shawl;
Of the steps that we took to one fiddle,
Of the dress of my queer vis-a-vis;
And how I once went down the middle
With the man that shot Sandy McGee.
Of the moon that was quietly sleeping
On the hill, when the time came to go;
Of the few baby peaks that were peeping
From under their bedclothes of snow;
Of that ride, - that to me was the rarest,
Of - the something you said at the gate.
Ah! Joe, then I wasn't an heiress
To 'the best-paying lead in the State.'
Well, well, it's all past; yet it's funny
To think, as I stood in the glare
Of fashion and beauty and money,
That I should be thinking, right there,
Of some one who breasted high water,
And swam the North Fork, and all that,
Just to dance with old Folinsbee's daughter,
The Lily of Poverty Flat.
But goodness! what nonsense I'm writing!
(Mamma says my taste still is low) ,
Instead of my triumphs reciting, -
I'm spooning on Joseph, - heigh-ho!
And I'm to be 'finished' by travel, -
Whatever's the meaning of that.
Oh, why did papa strike pay gravel
In drifting on Poverty Flat?
Good-night! - here's the end of my paper;
Good-night! - if the longitude please, -
For maybe, while wasting my taper,
Your sun's climbing over the trees.
But know, if you haven't got riches,
And are poor, dearest Joe, and all that,
That my heart's somewhere there in the ditches,
And you've struck it, - on Poverty Flat
Francis Bret Harte 1830_1902
Song of a Plebutante
Oh Mumsy, it's the starters of the Season
And here I am with not a thing to wear;
If I'm lucky I may stumble
On a T-shirt in a jumble
That won't look too outrageous in Sloane Square.
I know we really can't afford a party,
With unions pushing Britain down the drain,
And I'm sorry poor old Daddy
Has to borrow from his caddie
And cycle to the City in the rain.
I've had a teeny tete-a-tete with Tanya;
She couldn't fit me in at her boutique,
So I've joined the ranks of labour
With an office job at Faber,
And they're starting me at forty pounds a week.
Oh, getting up at eight won't be too ghastly,
(Fiona says that filing can be fun) ,
But the times they are a-changing
And the marriage you're arranging
Will have to wait until I'm twenty-one.
Oh, Mumsy, please stop crying, there's a darling,
Oh, Daddy, I can't bear it if you shout;
But if Quentin Crisp can do it
There can't be that much to it,
And nothing's going to stop me coming out!
Roger WODDIS 1917_1993
Parody Winthrop Mackworth PRAED A Letter of Advice
A Letter of Advice, to My Godson
TO MY GODSON.
(Aged six weeks)
Small bundle, enveloped in laces,
For whom I stood sponsor last week,
When you slept, with the pinkest of faces,
And never emitted a squeak;
Though vain is the task of illuming
The Future's inscrutable scroll,
I cannot refrain from assuming
A semi-prophetical _role_,
I predict that in paths Montessorian
Your infantile steps will be led,
And with modes which are Phrygian and Dorian
Your musical appetite fed;
You'll be taught how to dance by a Russian,
'Eurhythmics' you'll learn from a Swiss,
How not to behave like a Prussian-
No teaching is needed for this!
Will you learn Esperanto at Eton?
Or, if Eton by then is suppressed,
Be sent to grow apples or wheat on
A ranche in the ultimate West?
Will you aim at a modern diploma
In civics or commerce or stinks?
Inhale the Wisconsin aroma
Or think as the Humanist thinks?
Will you learn to play tennis from COVEY
Or model your stroke on JAY GOULD?
Will you play the piano like TOVEY
Or by gramophone records be schooled?
Will you golf, or will golfing be banished
To answer the needs of the plough,
And links from the landscape have vanished
To pasture the sheep and the cow?
Your taste in the region of letters
I only can dimly foresee,
But guess that from metrical fetters
The verse you'll affect must be free;
And I shan't be surprised or astounded
If your generation rebels
Against adulation unbounded
Of MASEFIELD and BENNETT and WELLS.
Upholding ancestral tradition
Your uncle has booked you at Lord's,
But I doubt if you'll sate your ambition
Athletic on well-levelled swards;
No, I rather opine that you'll follow
The lead that we owe to the WRIGHTS,
And soar like the eagle or swallow
On far and adventurous flights.
But no matter-in joy and affliction,
In seasons of failure or fame,
I cherish the certain conviction
You'll never dishonour your name;
For the love of the mother that bore you,
The life and the death of your sire
Will shine as a lantern before you,
To guide and exalt and inspire.
Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 152, March 28,1917
Author Unknown Parody William Mackworth Praed
Lycus the Centaur
FROM AN UNROLLED MANUSCRIPT OF APOLLONIUS CURIUS
(The Argument: Lycus, detained by Circe in her magical dominion, is beloved by a Water Nymph, who, desiring to render him immortal, has recourse to the Sorceress. Circe gives her an incantation to pronounce, which should turn Lycus into a horse; but the horrible effect of the charm causing her to break off in the midst, he becomes a Centaur).
Who hath ever been lured and bound by a spell
To wander, fore-doomed, in that circle of hell
Where Witchery works with her will like a god,
Works more than the wonders of time at a nod,—
At a word,—at a touch,—at a flash of the eye,
But each form is a cheat, and each sound is a lie,
Things born of a wish—to endure for a thought,
Or last for long ages—to vanish to nought,
Or put on new semblance? O Jove, I had given
The throne of a kingdom to know if that heaven,
And the earth and its streams were of Circe, or whether
They kept the world's birthday and brighten'd together!
For I loved them in terror, and constantly dreaded
That the earth where I trod, and the cave where I bedded,
The face I might dote on, should live out the lease
Of the charm that created, and suddenly cease:
And I gave me to slumber, as if from one dream
To another—each horrid,—and drank of the stream
Like a first taste of blood, lest as water I quaff'd
Swift poison, and never should breathe from the draught,—
Such drink as her own monarch husband drain'd up
When he pledged her, and Fate closed his eyes in the cup.
And I pluck'd of the fruit with held breath, and a fear
That the branch would start back and scream out in my ear;
For once, at my suppering, I plucked in the dusk
An apple, juice-gushing and fragrant of musk;
But by daylight my fingers were crimson'd with gore,
And the half-eaten fragment was flesh at the core;
And once—only once—for the love of its blush,
I broke a bloom bough, but there came such a gush
On my hand, that it fainted away in weak fright,
While the leaf-hidden woodpecker shriek'd at the sight;
And oh! such an agony thrill'd in that note,
That my soul, startling up, beat its wings in my throat,
As it long'd to be free of a body whose hand
Was doom'd to work torments a Fury had plann'd!
There I stood without stir, yet how willing to flee,
As if rooted and horror-turn'd into a tree,—
Oh! for innocent death,—and to suddenly win it,
I drank of the stream, but no poison was in it;
I plunged in its waters, but ere I could sink,
Some invisible fate pull'd me back to the brink;
I sprang from the rock, from its pinnacle height,
But fell on the grass with a grasshopper's flight;
I ran at my fears—they were fears and no more,
For the bear would not mangle my limbs, nor the boar,
But moan'd—all their brutalized flesh could not smother
The horrible truth,—we were kin to each other!
They were mournfully gentle, and group'd for relief,
All foes in their skin, but all friends in their grief:
The leopard was there,—baby-mild in its feature;
And the tiger, black-barr'd, with the gaze of a creature
That knew gentle pity; the bristle-back'd boar,
His innocent tusks stain'd with mulberry gore;
And the laughing hyena—but laughing no more;
And the snake, not with magical orbs to devise
Strange death, but with woman's attraction of eyes;
The tall ugly ape, that still bore a dim shine
Through his hairy eclipse of a manhood divine;
And the elephant stately, with more than its reason,
How thoughtful in sadness! but this is no season
To reckon them up from the lag-bellied toad
To the mammoth, whose sobs shook his ponderous load.
There were woes of all shapes, wretched forms, when I came,
That hung down their heads with a human-like shame;
The elephant hid in the boughs, and the bear
Shed over his eyes the dark veil of his hair;
And the womanly soul turning sick with disgust,
Tried to vomit herself from her serpentine crust;
While all groan'd their groans into one at their lot,
As I brought them the image of what they were not.
Then rose a wild sound of the human voice choking
Through vile brutal organs—low tremulous croaking:
Cries swallow'd abruptly—deep animal tones
Attuned to strange passion, and full-utter'd groans;
All shuddering weaken, till hush'd in a pause
Of tongues in mute motion and wide-yawning jaws;
And I guessed that those horrors were meant to tell o'er
The tale of their woes; but the silence told more,
That writhed on their tongues; and I knelt on the sod,
And pray'd with my voice to the cloud-stirring god,
For the sad congregation of supplicants there,
That upturn'd to his heaven brute faces of prayer;
And I ceased, and they utter'd a moaning so deep,
That I wept for my heart-ease,—but they could not weep,
And gazed with red eyeballs, all wistfully dry,
At the comfort of tears in a stag's human eye.
Then I motion'd them round, and, to soothe their distress,
I caress'd, and they bent them to meet my caress,
Their necks to my arm, and their heads to my palm,
And with poor grateful eyes suffer'd meekly and calm
Those tokens of kindness, withheld by hard fate
From returns that might chill the warm pity to hate;
So they passively bow'd—save the serpent, that leapt
To my breast like a sister, and pressingly crept
In embrace of my neck, and with close kisses blister'd
My lips in rash love,—then drew backward, and glister'd
Her eyes in my face, and loud hissing affright,
Dropt down, but swift started away from my sight!
This sorrow was theirs, but thrice wretched my lot,
Turn'd brute in my soul, though my body was not,
When I fled from the sorrow of womanly faces,
That shrouded their woe in the shade of lone places,
And dash'd off bright tears, till their fingers were wet,
And then wiped their lids with long tresses of jet:
But I fled—though they stretch'd out their hands, all entangled
With hair, and blood-stain'd of the breasts they had mangled,—
Though they call'd—and perchance but to ask, had I seen
Their loves, or to tell the vile wrongs that had been:
But I stayed not to hear, lest the story should hold
Some hell-form of words, some enchantment, once told,
Might translate me in flesh to a brute; and I dreaded
To gaze on their charms, lest my faith should be wedded
With some pity,—and love in that pity perchance—
To a thing not all lovely; for once at glance,
Methought, where one sat, I descried a bright wonder
That flow'd like a long silver rivulet under
The long fenny grass,—with so lovely a breast,
Could it be a snake-tail made the charm of the rest?
So I roamed in that circle of horrors, and Fear
Walk'd with me, by hills, and in valleys, and near
Cluster'd trees for their gloom—not to shelter from heat—
But lest a brute-shadow should grow at my feet;
And besides that full oft in the sunshiny place
Dark shadows would gather like clouds on its face,
In the horrible likeness of demons (that none
Could see, like invisible flames in the sun);
But grew to one monster that seized on the light,
Like the dragon that strangles the moon in the night;
Fierce sphinxes, long serpents, and asps of the south;
Wild birds of huge beak, and all horrors that drouth
Engenders of slime in the land of the pest,
Vile shapes without shape, and foul bats of the West,
Bringing Night on their wings; and the bodies wherein
Great Brahma imprisons the spirits of sin,
Many-handed, that blent in one phantom of fight
Like a Titan, and threatfully warr'd with the light;
I have heard the wild shriek that gave signal to close,
When they rushed on that shadowy Python of foes,
That met with sharp beaks and wide gaping of jaws,
With flappings of wings, and fierce grasping of claws,
And whirls of long tails:—I have seen the quick flutter
Of fragments dissevered,—and necks stretch'd to utter
Long screamings of pain,—the swift motion of blows,
And wrestling of arms—to the flight at the close,
When the dust of the earth startled upward in rings,
And flew on the whirlwind that follow'd their wings.
Thus they fled—not forgotten—but often to grow
Like fears in my eyes, when I walk'd to and fro
In the shadows, and felt from some beings unseen
The warm touch of kisses, but clean or unclean
I knew not, nor whether the love I had won
Was of heaven or hell—till one day in the sun,
In its very noon-blaze, I could fancy a thing
Of beauty, but faint as the cloud-mirrors fling
On the gaze of the shepherd that watches the sky,
Half-seen and half-dream'd in the soul of his eye.
And when in my musings I gazed on the stream,
In motionless trances of thought, there would seem
A face like that face, looking upward through mine:
With his eyes full of love, and the dim-drownd shine
Of limbs and fair garments, like clouds in that blue
Serene:—there I stood for long hours but to view
Those fond earnest eyes that were ever uplifted
Towards me, and wink'd as the water-weed drifted
Between; but the fish knew that presence, and plied
Their long curvy tails, and swift darted aside.
There I gazed for lost time, and forgot all the things
That once had been wonders—the fishes with wings,
And the glimmer of magnified eyes that look'd up
From the glooms of the bottom like pearls in a cup,
And the huge endless serpent of silvery gleam,
Slow winding along like a tide in the stream.
Some maid of the waters, some Naiad, methought
Held me dear in the pearl of her eye—and I brought
My wish to that fancy; and often I dash'd
My limbs in the water, and suddenly splash'd
The cool drops around me, yet clung to the brink,
Chill'd by watery fears, how that beauty might sink
With my life in her arms to her garden, and bind me
With its long tangled grasses, or cruelly wind me
In some eddy to hum out my life in her ear,
Like a spider-caught bee,—and in aid of that fear
Came the tardy remembrance—Oh falsest of men!
Why was not that beauty remember'd till then?
My love, my safe love, whose glad life would have run
Into mine—like a drop—that our fate might be one,
That now, even now,—may-be,—clasp'd in a dream,
That form which I gave to some jilt of the stream,
And gazed with fond eyes that her tears tried to smother
On a mock of those eyes that I gave to another!
Then I rose from the stream, but the eyes of my mind,
Still full of the tempter, kept gazing behind
On her crystalline face, while I painfully leapt
To the bank, and shook off the curst waters, and wept
With my brow in the reeds; and the reeds to my ear
Bow'd, bent by no wind, and in whispers of fear,
Growing small with large secrets, foretold me of one
That loved me,—but oh to fly from her, and shun
Her love like a pest—though her love was as true
To mine as her stream to the heavenly blue;
For why should I love her with love that would bring
All misfortune, like hate, on so joyous a thing?
Because of her rival,—even Her whose witch-face
I had slighted, and therefore was doom'd in that place
To roam, and had roam'd, where all horrors grew rank,
Nine days ere I wept with my brow on that bank;
Her name be not named, but her spite would not fail
To our love like a blight; and they told me the tale
Of Scylla,—and Picus, imprison'd to speak
His shrill-screaming woe through a woodpecker's beak.
Then they ceased—I had heard as the voice of my star
That told me the truth of my fortunes—thus far
I had read of my sorrow, and lay in the hush
Of deep meditation,—when lo! a light crush
Of the reeds, and I turn'd and look'd round in the night
Of new sunshine, and saw, as I sipp'd of the light
Narrow-winking, the realized nymph of the stream,
Rising up from the wave with the bend and the gleam
Of a fountain, and o'er her white arms she kept throwing
Bright torrents of hair, that went flowing and flowing
In falls to her feet, and the blue waters roll'd
Down her limbs like a garment, in many a fold,
Sun-spangled, gold-broider'd, and fled far behind,
Like an infinite train. So she came and reclined
In the reeds, and I hunger'd to see her unseal
The buds of her eyes that would ope and reveal
The blue that was in them;—they oped and she raised
Two orbs of pure crystal, and timidly gazed
With her eyes on my eyes; but their color and shine
Was of that which they look'd on, and mostly of mine—
For she loved me,—except when she blush'd, and they sank,
Shame-humbled, to number the stones on the bank,
Or her play-idle fingers, while lisping she told me
How she put on her veil, and in love to behold me
Would wing through the sun till she fainted away
Like a mist, and then flew to her waters and lay
In love-patience long hours, and sore dazzled her eyes
In watching for mine 'gainst the midsummer skies.
But now they were heal'd,—O my heart, it still dances
When I think of the charm of her changeable glances,
And my image how small when it sank in the deep
Of her eyes where her soul was,—Alas! now they weep,
And none knoweth where. In what stream do her eyes
Shed invisible tears? Who beholds where her sighs
Flow in eddies, or sees the ascent of the leaf
She has pluck'd with her tresses? Who listens her grief
Like a far fall of waters, or hears where her feet
Grow emphatic among the loose pebbles, and beat
Them together? Ah! surely her flowers float adown
To the sea unaccepted, and little ones drown
For need of her mercy,—even he whose twin-brother
Will miss him forever; and the sorrowful mother
Imploreth in vain for his body to kiss
And cling to, all dripping and cold as it is,
Because that soft pity is lost in hard pain
We loved,—how we loved!—for I thought not again
Of the woes that were whisper'd like fears in that place
If I gave me to beauty. Her face was the face,
Far away, and her eyes were the eyes that were drown'd
For my absence,—her arms were the arms that sought round
And claspt me to nought; for I gazed and became
Only true to my falsehood, and had but one name
For two loves, and call'd ever on Ægle, sweet maid
Of the sky-loving waters,—and was not afraid
Of the sight of her skin;—for it never could be;
Her beauty and love were misfortunes to me!
Thus our bliss had endured for a time-shorten'd space,
Like a day made of three, and the smile of her face
Had been with me for joy,—when she told me indeed
Her love was self-task'd with a work that would need
Some short hours, for in truth 'twas the veriest pity
Our love should not last, and then sang me a ditty,
Of one with warm lips that should love her, and love her
When suns were burnt dim and long ages past over.
So she fled with her voice, and I patiently nested
My limbs in the reeds, in still quiet, and rested
Till my thoughts grew extinct, and I sank in a sleep
Of dreams,—but their meaning was hidden too deep
To be read what their woe was;—but still it was woe
That was writ on all faces that swam to and fro
In that river of night;—and the gaze of their eyes
Was sad,—and the bend of their brows,—and their cries
Were seen, but I heard not. The warm touch of tears
Travell'd down my cold cheeks, and I shook till my fears
Awaked me, and lo! I was couch'd in a bower,
The growth of long summers rear'd up in an hour!
Then I said, in the fear of my dream, I will fly
From this magic, but could not, because that my eye
Grew love-idle among the rich blooms; and the earth
Held me down with its coolness of touch, and the mirth
Of some bird was above me,—who, even in fear,
Would startle the thrush? and methought there drew near
A form as of Ægle,—but it was not the face
Hope made, and I knew the witch-Queen of that place,
Even Circe the Cruel, that came like a Death,
Which I fear'd, and yet fled not, for want of my breath.
There was thought in her face, and her eyes were not raised
From the grass at her foot, but I saw, as I gazed,
Her spite—and her countenance changed with her mind
As she plann'd how to thrall me with beauty, and bind
My soul to her charms,—and her long tresses play'd
From shade into shine and from shine into shade,
Like a day in mid-autumn,—first fair, O how fair!
With long snaky locks of the adder-black hair
That clung round her neck,—those dark locks that I prize,
For the sake of a maid that once loved me with eyes
Of that fathomless hue,—but they changed as they roll'd,
And brighten'd, and suddenly blazed into gold
That she comb'd into flames, and the locks that fell down
Turn'd dark as they fell, but I slighted their brown,
Nor loved, till I saw the light ringlets shed wild,
That innocence wears when she is but a child;
And her eyes,—Oh I ne'er had been witched with their shine,
Had they been any other, my Ægle, than thine!
Then I gave me to magic, and gazed till I madden'd
In the full of their light,—but I sadden'd and sadden'd
The deeper I look'd,—till I sank on the snow
Of her bosom, a thing made of terror and woe,
And answer'd its throb with the shudder of fears,
And hid my cold eyes from her eyes with my tears,
And strain'd her white arms with the still languid weight
Of a fainting distress. There she sat like the Fate
That is nurse unto Death, and bent over in shame
To hide me from her the true Ægle—that came
With the words on her lips the false witch had fore-given
To make me immortal—for now I was even
At the portals of Death, who but waited the hush
Of world-sounds in my ears to cry welcome, and rush
With my soul to the banks of his black-flowing river.
Oh, would it had flown from my body forever,
Ere I listen'd those words, when I felt with a start,
The life-blood rush back in one throb to my heart,
And saw the pale lips where the rest of that spell
Had perished in horror—and heard the farewell
Of that voice that was drown'd in the dash of the stream!
How fain had I follow'd, and plunged with that scream
Into death, but my being indignantly lagg'd
Through the brutalized flesh that I painfully dragg'd
Behind me:—O Circe! O mother of spite!
Speak the last of that curse! and imprison me quite
In the husk of a brute,—that no pity may name
The man that I was,—that no kindred may claim—
'The monster I am! Let me utterly be
Brute-buried, and Nature's dishonor with me
Uninscribed!'—But she listen'd my prayer, that was praise
To her malice, with smiles, and advised me to gaze
On the river for love,—and perchance she would make
In pity a maid without eyes for my sake,
And she left me like Scorn. Then I ask'd of the wave,
What monster I was, and it trembled and gave
The true shape of my grief, and I turn'd with my face
From all waters forever, and fled through that place,
Till with horror more strong than all magic I pass'd
Its bounds, and the world was before me at last.
There I wander'd in sorrow, and shunned the abodes
Of men, that stood up in the likeness of Gods,
But I saw from afar the warm shine of the sun
On the cities, where man was a million, not one;
And I saw the white smoke of their altars ascending,
That show'd where the hearts of many were blending,
And the wind in my face brought shrill voices that came
From the trumpets that gather'd whole bands in one fame
As a chorus of man,—and they stream'd from the gates
Like a dusky libation poured out to the Fates.
But at times there were gentler processions of peace
That I watch'd with my soul in my eyes till their cease,
There were women! there men! but to me a third sex
I saw them all dots—yet I loved them as specks:
And oft to assuage a sad yearning of eyes
I stole near the city, but stole covert-wise
Like a wild beast of love, and perchance to be smitten
By some hand that I rather had wept on than bitten!
Oh, I once had a haunt near a cot where a mother
Daily sat in the shade with her child, and would smother
Its eyelids in kisses, and then in its sleep
Sang dreams in its ear of its manhood, while deep
In a thicket of willows I gazed o'er the brooks
That murmur'd between us and kiss'd them with looks;
But the willows unbosom'd their secret, and never
I return'd to a spot I had startled forever,
Though I oft long'd to know, but could ask it of none,
Was the mother still fair, and how big was her son?
For the haunters of fields they all shunn'd me by flight;
The men in their horror, the women in fright;
None ever remain'd save a child once that sported
Among the wild bluebells, and playfully courted
The breeze; and beside him a speckled snake lay
Tight strangled, because it had hiss'd him away
From the flower at his finger; he rose and drew near
Like a Son of Immortals, one born to no fear,
But with strength of black locks and with eyes azure bright
To grow to large manhood of merciful might.
He came, with his face of bold wonder, to feel,
The hair of my side, and to lift up my heel,
And question'd my face with wide eyes; but when under
My lids he saw tears,—for I wept at his wonder,
He stroked me, and utter'd such kindliness then,
That the once love of women, the friendship of men
In past sorrow, no kindness e'er came like a kiss
On my heart in its desolate day such as this!
And I yearn'd at his cheeks in my love, and down bent,
And lifted him up in my arms with intent
To kiss him,—but he cruel-kindly, alas!
Held out to my lips a pluck'd handful of grass!
Then I dropt him in horror, but felt as I fled
The stone he indignantly hurl'd at my head,
That dissever'd my ear,—but I felt not, whose fate
Was to meet more distress in his love than his hate!
Thus I wander'd, companion'd of grief and forlorn
Till I wish'd for that land where my being was born
But what was that land with its love, where my home
Was self-shut against me; for why should I come
Like an after-distress to my gray-bearded father,
With a blight to the last of his sight?—let him rather
Lament for me dead, and shed tears in the urn
Where I was not, and still in fond memory turn
To his son even such as he left him. Oh, how
Could I walk with the youth once my fellows, but now
Like Gods to my humbled estate?—or how bear
The steeds once the pride of my eyes and the care
Of my hands? Then I turn'd me self-banish'd, and came
Into Thessaly here, where I met with the same
As myself. I have heard how they met by a stream
In games, and were suddenly changed by a scream
That made wretches of many, as she roll'd her wild eyes
Against heaven, and so vanish'd.—The gentle and wise
Lose their thoughts in deep studies, and others their ill
In the mirth of mankind where they mingle them still.
The Pleasures of Imagination: Book The First
With what attractive charms this goodly frame
Of nature touches the consenting hearts
Of mortal men; and what the pleasing stores
Which beauteous imitation thence derives
To deck the poet's, or the painter's toil;
My verse unfolds. Attend, ye gentle powers
Of musical delight! and while i sing
Your gifts, your honours, dance around my strain.
Thou, smiling queen of every tuneful breast,
Indulgent Fancy! from the fruitful banks
Of Avon, whence thy rosy fingers cull
Fresh flowers and dews to sprinkle on the turf
Where Shakespeare lies, be present: and with thee
Let Fiction come, upon her vagrant wings
Wafting ten thousand colours through the air,
Which, by the glances of her magic eye,
She blends and shifts at will, through countless forms,
Her wild creation. Goddess of the lyre,
Which rules the accents of the moving sphere,
Wilt thou, eternal Harmony! descend
And join this festive train? for with thee comes
The guide, the guardian of their lovely sports,
Majestic Truth; and where Truth deigns to come,
Her sister Liberty will not be far.
Be present all ye Genii, who conduct
The wandering footsteps of the youthful bard,
New to your springs and shades: who touch his ear
With finer sounds: who heighten to his eye
The bloom of nature, and before him turn
The gayest, happiest attitude of things.
Oft have the laws of each poetic strain
The critic-verse imploy'd; yet still unsung
Lay this prime subject, though importing most
A poet's name: for fruitless is the attempt,
By dull obedience and by creeping toil
Obscure to conquer the severe ascent
Of high Parnassus. Nature's kindling breath
Must fire the chosen genius; nature's hand
Must string his nerves, and imp his eagle-wings
Impatient of the painful steep, to soar
High as the summit; there to breathe at large
Æthereal air: with bards and sages old,
Immortal sons of praise. These flattering scenes
To this neglected labour court my song;
Yet not unconscious what a doubtful task
To paint the finest features of the mind,
And to most subtile and mysterious things
Give colour, strength, and motion. But the love
Of nature and the muses bids explore,
Through secret paths erewhile untrod by man,
The fair poetic region, to detect
Untasted springs, to drink inspiring draughts,
And shade my temples with unfading flowers
Cull'd from the laureate vale's profound recess,
Where never poet gain'd a wreath before.
From heaven my strains begin; from heaven descends
The flame of genius to the human breast,
And love and beauty, and poetic joy
And inspiration. Ere the radiant sun
Sprang from the east, or 'mid the vault of night
The moon suspended her serener lamp;
Ere mountains, woods, or streams adorn'd the globe,
Or wisdom taught the sons of men her lore;
Then liv'd the almighty One: then, deep-retir'd
In his unfathom'd essence, view'd the forms,
The forms eternal of created things;
The radiant sun, the moon's nocturnal lamp,
The mountains, woods and streams, the rowling globe,
And wisdom's mien celestial. From the first
Of days, on them his love divine he fix'd,
His admiration: till in time compleat,
What he admir'd and lov'd, his vital smile
Unfolded into being. Hence the breath
Of life informing each organic frame,
Hence the green earth, and wild resounding waves;
Hence light and shade alternate; warmth and cold;
And clear autumnal skies and vernal showers,
And all the fair variety of things.
But not alike to every mortal eye
Is this great scene unveil'd. For since the claims
Of social life, to different labours urge
The active powers of man; with wise intent
The hand of nature on peculiar minds
Imprints a different byass, and to each
Decrees its province in the common toil.
To some she taught the fabric of the sphere,
The changeful moon, the circuit of the stars,
The golden zones of heaven: to some she gave
To weigh the moment of eternal things,
Of time, and space, and fate's unbroken chain,
And will's quick impulse: others by the hand
She led o'er vales and mountains, to explore
What healing virtue swells the tender veins
Of herbs and flowers; or what the beams of morn
Draw forth, distilling from the clifted rind
In balmy tears. . But some, to higher hopes
Were destin'd; some within a finer mould
She wrought, and temper'd with a purer flame.
To these the sire omnipotent unfolds
The world's harmonious volume, there to read
The transcript of himself. On every part
They trace the bright impressions of his hand:
In earth or air, the meadow's purple stores,
The moon's mild radiance, or the virgin's form
Blooming with rosy smiles, they see portray'd
That uncreated beauty, which delights
The mind supreme. They also feel her charms,
Enamour'd; they partake the eternal joy.
For as old Memnon's image, long renown'd
By fabling Nilus, to the quivering touch
Of Titan's ray, with each repulsive string
Consenting, sounded through the warbling air
Unbidden strains; even so did nature's hand
To certain species of external things,
Attune the finer organs of the mind:
So the glad impulse of congenial powers,
Or of sweet sound, or fair proportion'd form,
The grace of motion, or the bloom of light,
Thrills through imagination's tender frame,
From nerve to nerve: all naked and alive
They catch the spreading rays: till now the soul
At length discloses every tuneful spring,
To that harmonious movement from without
Responsive. Then the inexpressive strain
Diffuses its inchantment: fancy dreams
Of sacred fountains and Elysian groves,
And vales of bliss: the intellectual power
Bends from his awful throne a wondering ear,
And smiles: the passions, gently sooth'd away,
Sink to divine repose, and love and joy
Alone are waking; love and joy, serene
As airs that fan the summer. O! attend,
Whoe'er thou art, whom these delights can touch,
Whose candid bosom the refining love
Of nature warms, o! listen to my song;
And i will guide thee to her favourite walks,
And teach thy solitude her voice to hear,
And point her loveliest features to thy view.
Know then, whate'er of nature's pregnant stores,
Whate'er of mimic art's reflected forms
With love and admiration thus inflame
The powers of fancy, her delighted sons
To three illustrious orders have referr'd;
Three sister-graces, whom the painter's hand,
The poet's tongue confesses; the sublime,
The wonderful, the fair. I see them dawn!
I see the radiant visions, where they rise,
More lovely than when Lucifer displays
His beaming forehead through the gates of morn,
To lead the train of Phœbus and the spring.
Say, why was man so eminently rais'd
Amid the vast creation; why ordain'd
Through life and death to dart his piercing eye,
With thoughts beyond the limit of his frame;
But that the omnipotent might send him forth
In sight of mortal and immortal powers,
As on a boundless theatre, to run
The great career of justice; to exalt
His generous aim to all diviner deeds;
To chase each partial purpose from his breast;
And through the mists of passion and of sense,
And through the tossing tide of chance and pain,
To hold his course unfaultering, while the voice
Of truth and virtue, up the steep ascent
Of nature, calls him to his high reward,
The applauding smile of heaven? Else wherefore burns
In mortal bosoms this unquenched hope,
That breathes from day to day sublimer things,
And mocks possession? wherefore darts the mind,
With such resistless ardour to embrace
Majestic forms; impatient to be free,
Spurning the gross controul of wilful might;
Proud of the strong contention of her toils;
Proud to be daring? Who but rather turns
To heaven's broad fire his unconstrained view,
Than to the glimmering of a waxen flame?
Who that, from Alpine heights, his labouring eye
Shoots round the wide horizon, to survey
Nilus or Ganges rowling his bright wave
Through mountains, plains, through empires black with shade
And continents of sand; will turn his gaze
To mark the windings of a scanty rill
That murmurs at his feet? The high-born soul
Disdains to rest her heaven-aspiring wing
Beneath its native quarry. Tir'd of earth
And this diurnal scene, she springs aloft
Through fields of air; pursues the flying storm;
Rides on the vollied lightning through the heavens;
Or, yok'd with whirlwinds and the northern blast,
Sweeps the long tract of day. Then high she soars
The blue profound, and hovering round the sun
Beholds him pouring the redundant stream
Of light; beholds his unrelenting sway
Bend the reluctant planets to absolve
The fated rounds of time. Thence far effus'd
She darts her swiftness up the long career
Of devious comets; through its burning signs
Exulting measures the perennial wheel
Of nature, and looks back on all the stars,
Whose blended light, as with a milky zone,
Invests the orient. Now amaz'd she views
The empyreal waste, where happy spirits hold,
Beyond this concave heaven, their calm abode;
And fields of radiance, whose unfading light
Has travell'd the profound six thousand years,
Nor yet arrives in sight of mortal things.
Even on the barriers of the world untir'd
She meditates the eternal depth below;
Till half recoiling, down the headlong steep
She plunges; soon o'erwhelm'd and swallow'd up
In that immense of being. There her hopes
Rest at the sated goal. For from the birth
Of mortal man, the sovran maker said,
That not in humble nor in brief delight,
Not in the fading echoes of renown,
Power's purple robes, nor pleasure's flowery lap,
The soul should find enjoyment: but from these
Turning disdainful to an equal good,
Through all the ascent of things inlarge her view,
Till every bound at length should disappear,
And infinite perfection close the scene.
Call now to mind what high capacious powers
Lie folded up in man; how far beyond
The praise of mortals, may the eternal growth
Of nature to perfection half divine,
Expand the blooming soul? What pity then
Should sloth's unkindly fogs depress to earth
Her tender blossom; choak the streams of life,
And blast her spring! Far otherwise design'd
Almighty wisdom; nature's happy cares
The obedient heart far otherwise incline.
Witness the sprightly joy when aught unknown
Strikes the quick sense, and wakes each active power
To brisker measures: witness the neglect
Of all familiar prospects, though beheld
With transport once; the fond attentive gaze
Of young astonishment; the sober zeal
Of age, commenting on prodigious things.
For such the bounteous providence of heaven,
In every breast implanting this desire
Of objects new and strange, to urge us on
With unremitted labour to pursue
Those sacred stores that wait the ripening soul,
In Truth's exhaustless bosom. What need words
To paint its power? For this the daring youth
Breaks from his weeping mother's anxious arms,
In foreign climes to rove: the pensive sage,
Heedless of sleep, or midnight's harmful damp,
Hangs o'er the sickly taper; and untir'd
The virgin follows, with inchanted step,
The mazes of some wild and wondrous tale,
From morn to eve; unmindful of her form,
Unmindful of the happy dress that stole
The wishes of the youth, when every maid
With envy pin'd. Hence, finally, by night
The village-matron, round the blazing hearth,
Suspends the infant-audience with her tales,
Breathing astonishment! of witching rhimes,
And evil spirits; of the death-bed call
Of him who robb'd the widow, and devour'd
The orphan's portion; of unquiet souls
Risen from the grave to ease the heavy guilt
Of deeds in life conceal'd; of shapes that walk
At dead of night, and clank their chains, and wave
The torch of hell around the murderer's bed.
At every solemn pause the croud recoil
Gazing each other speechless, and congeal'd
With shivering sighs: till eager for the event,
Around the beldame all arrect they hang,
Each trembling heart with grateful terrors quell'd.
But lo! disclos'd in all her smiling pomp,
Where Beauty onward moving claims the verse
Her charms inspire: the freely-flowing verse
In thy immortal praise, o form divine,
Smooths her mellifluent stream. Thee, Beauty, thee
The regal dome, and thy enlivening ray
The mossy roofs adore: thou, better sun!
For ever beamest on the enchanted heart
Love, and harmonious wonder, and delight
Poetic. Brightest progeny of heaven!
How shall i trace thy features? where select
The roseate hues to emulate thy bloom?
Haste then, my song, through nature's wide expanse,
Haste then, and gather all her comeliest wealth,
Whate'er bright spoils the florid earth contains,
Whate'er the waters, or the liquid air,
To deck thy lovely labour. Wilt thou fly
With laughing Autumn to the Atlantic isles,
And range with him the Hesperian field, and see
Where'er his fingers touch the fruitful grove,
The branches shoot with gold; where'er his step
Marks the glad soil, the tender clusters grow
With purple ripeness, and invest each hill
As with the blushes of an evening sky?
Or wilt thou rather stoop thy vagrant plume,
Where gliding through his daughter's honour'd shades,
The smooth Penéus from his glassy flood
Reflects purpureal Tempe's pleasant scene?
Fair Tempe! haunt belov'd of sylvan powers,
Of Nymphs and Fauns; where in the golden age
They play'd in secret on the shady brink
With ancient Pan: while round their choral steps
Young Hours and genial Gales with constant hand
Shower'd blossoms, odours, shower'd ambrosial dews,
And spring's Elysian bloom. Her flowery store
To thee nor Tempe shall refuse; nor watch
Of winged Hydra guard Hesperian fruits
From thy free spoil. O bear then, unreprov'd,
Thy smiling treasures to the green recess
Where young Dione stays. With sweetest airs
Intice her sorth to lend her angel-form
For Beauty's honour'd image. Hither turn
Thy graceful footsteps; hither, gentle maid,
Incline thy polish'd forehead: let thy eyes
Effuse the mildness of their azure dawn;
And may the fanning breezes waft aside
Thy radiant locks: disclosing, as it bends
With airy softness from the marble neck,
The cheek fair-blooming, and the rosy lip,
Where winning smiles and pleasures sweet as love,
With sanctity and wisdom, tempering blend
Their soft allurement. Then the pleasing force
Of nature, and her kind parental care
Worthier i'd sing: then all the enamour'd youth,
With each admiring virgin, to my lyre
Should throng attentive, while i point on high
Where Beauty's living image, like the morn
That wakes in Zephyr's arms the blushing May,
Moves onward; or as Venus, when she stood
Effulgent on the pearly car, and smil'd,
Fresh from the deep, and conscious of her form,
To see the Tritons tune their vocal shells,
And each cœrulean sister of the flood
With loud acclaim attend her o'er the waves,
To seek the Idalian bower. Ye smiling band
Of youths and virgins, who through all the maze
Of young desire with rival-steps pursue
This charm of beauty; if the pleasing toil
Can yield a moment's respite, hither turn
Your favourable ear, and trust my words.
I do not mean to wake the gloomy form
Of Superstition dress'd in Wisdom's garb,
To damp your tender hopes; i do not mean
To bid the jealous thunderer fire the heavens,
Or shapes infernal rend the groaning earth
To fright you from your joys, my cheerful song
With better omens calls you to the field,
Pleas'd with your generous ardour in the chace,
And warm like you. Then tell me, for ye know,
Does beauty ever deign to dwell where health
And active use are strangers? Is her charm
Confess'd in aught, whose most peculiar ends
Are lame and fruitless? Or did nature mean
This pleasing call the herald of a lye;
To hide the shame of discord and disease,
And catch with fair hypocrisy the heart
Of idle faith? O no! with better cares
The indulgent mother, conscious how infirm
Her offspring tread the paths of good and ill,
By this illustrious image, in each kind
Still most illustrious where the object holds
Its native powers most perfect, she by this
Illumes the headstrong impulse of desire,
And sanctifies his choice. The generous glebe
Whose bosom smiles with verdure, the clear tract
Of streams delicious to the thirsty soul,
The bloom of nectar'd fruitage ripe to sense,
And every charm of animated things,
Are only pledges of a state sincere,
The integrity and order of their frame,
When all is well within, and every end
Accomplish'd. Thus was beauty sent from heaven,
The lovely ministress of truth and good
In this dark world: for truth and good are one,
And beauty dwells in them, and they in her,
With like participation. Wherefore then,
O sons of earth! would ye dissolve the tye?
O wherefore, with a rash impetuous aim,
Seek ye those flowery joys with which the hand
Of lavish fancy paints each flattering scene
Where beauty seems to dwell, nor once inquire
Where is the sanction of eternal truth,
Or where the seal of undeceitful good,
To save your search from folly! Wanting these,
Lo! beauty withers in your void embrace,
And with the glittering of an idiot's toy
Did fancy mock your vows. Nor let the gleam
Of youthful hope that shines upon your hearts,
Be chill'd or clouded at this awful task,
To learn the lore of undeceitful good,
And truth eternal. Though the poisonous charms
Of baleful superstition guide the feet
Of servile numbers, through a dreary way
To their abode, through desarts, thorns and mire;
And leave the wretched pilgrim all forlorn
To muse at last, amid the ghostly gloom
Of graves, and hoary vaults, and cloister'd cells;
To walk with spectres through the midnight shade,
And to the screaming owl's accursed song
Attune the dreadful workings of his heart;
Yet be not ye dismay'd. A gentler star
Your lovely search illumines. From the grove
Where wisdom talk'd with her Athenian sons,
Could my ambitious hand intwine a wreath
Of Plato's olive with the Mantuan bay,
Then should my powerful verse at once dispell
Those monkish horrors: then in light divine
Disclose the Elysian prospect, where the steps
Of those whom nature charms, through blooming walks,
Through fragrant mountains and poetic streams,
Amid the train of sages, heroes, bards,
Led by their winged Genius and the choir
Of laurell'd science and harmonious art,
Proceed exulting to the eternal shrine,
Where truth conspicuous with her sister-twins,
The undivided partners of her sway,
With good and beauty reigns. O let not us,
Lull'd by luxurious pleasure's languid strain,
Or crouching to the frowns of bigot-rage,
O let us not a moment pause to join
That godlike band. And if the gracious power
Who first awaken'd my untutor'd song,
Will to my invocation breathe anew
The tuneful spirit; then through all our paths,
Ne'er shall the sound of this devoted lyre
Be wanting; whether on the rosy mead,
When summer smiles, to warn the melting heart
Of luxury's allurement; whether firm
Against the torrent and the stubborn hill
To urge bold virtue's unremitted nerve,
And wake the strong divinity of soul
That conquers chance and fate; or whether struck
For sounds of triumph, to proclaim her toils
Upon the lofty summit, round her brow
To twine the wreath of incorruptive praise;
To trace her hallow'd light through future worlds,
And bless heaven's image in the heart of man.
Thus with a faithful aim have we presum'd,
Adventurous, to delineate nature's form;
Whether in vast, majestic pomp array'd,
Or drest for pleasing wonder, or serene
In beauty's rosy smile. It now remains,
Through various being's fair-proportion'd scale,
To trace the rising lustre of her charms,
From their first twilight, shining forth at length
To full meridian splendour. Of degree
The least and lowliest, in the effusive warmth
Of colours mingling with a random blaze,
Doth beauty dwell. Then higher in the line
And variation of determin'd shape,
Where truth's eternal measures mark the bound
Of circle, cube, or sphere. The third ascent
Unites this varied symmetry of parts
With colour's bland allurement; as the pearl
Shines in the concave of its azure bed,
And painted shells indent their speckled wreath.
Then more attractive rise the blooming forms
Through which the breath of nature has infus'd
Her genial power to draw with pregnant veins
Nutritious moisture from the bounteous earth,
In fruit and seed prolific: thus the flowers
Their purple honours with the spring resume;
And such the stately tree which autumn bends
With blushing treasures. But more lovely still
Is nature's charm, where to the full consent
Of complicated members, to the bloom
Of colour, and the vital change of growth,
Life's holy flame and piercing sense are given,
And active motion speaks the temper'd soul:
So moves the bird of Juno; so the steed
With rival ardour beats the dusty plain,
And faithful dogs with eager airs of joy
Salute their fellows. Thus doth beauty dwell
There most conspicuous, even in outward shape,
Where dawns the high expression of a mind:
By steps conducting our inraptur'd search
To that eternal origin, whose power,
Through all the unbounded symmetry of things,
Like rays effulging from the parent sun,
This endless mixture of her charms diffus'd.
Mind, mind alone, (bear witness, earth and heaven!)
The living fountains in itself contains
Of beauteous and sublime: here hand in hand,
Sit paramount the Graces; here inthron'd,
Cœlestial Venus, with divinest airs,
Invites the soul to never-fading joy.
Look then abroad through nature, to the range
Of planets, suns, and adamantine spheres
Wheeling unshaken through the void immense;
And speak, o man! does this capacious scene
With half that kindling majesty dilate
Thy strong conception, as when Brutus rose
Refulgent from the stroke of Cæsar's fate,
Amid the croud of patriots; and his arm
Aloft extending, like eternal Jove
When guilt brings down the thunder, call'd aloud
On Tully's name, and shook his crimson steel,
And bade the father of his country, hail!
For lo! the tyrant prostrate on the dust,
And Rome again is free! Is aught so fair
In all the dewy landscapes of the spring,
In the bright eye of Hesper or the morn,
In nature's fairest forms, is aught so fair
As virtuous friendship? as the candid blush
Of him who strives with fortune to be just?
The graceful tear that streams for others woes?
Or the mild majesty of private life,
Where peace with ever-blooming olive crowns
The gate; where honour's liberal hands effuse
Unenvied treasures, and the snowy wings
Of innocence and love protect the scene?
Once more search, undismay'd, the dark profound
Where nature works in secret; view the beds
Of mineral treasure, and the eternal vault
That bounds the hoary ocean; trace the forms
Of atoms moving with incessant change
Their elemental round; behold the seeds
Of being, and the energy of life
Kindling the mass with ever-active flame:
Then to the secrets of the working mind
Attentive turn; from dim oblivion call
Her fleet, ideal band; and bid them, go!
Break through time's barrier, and o'ertake the hour
That saw the heavens created: then declare
If aught were found in those external scenes
To move thy wonder now. For what are all
The forms which brute, unconscious matter wears,
Greatness of bulk, or symmetry of parts?
Not reaching to the heart, soon feeble grows
The superficial impulse; dull their charms,
And satiate soon, and pall the languid eye.
Not so the moral species, nor the powers
Of genius and design; the ambitious mind
There sees herself: by these congenial forms
Touch'd and awaken'd, with intenser act
She bends each nerve, and meditates well-pleas'd
Her features in the mirror. For of all
The inhabitants of earth, to man alone
Creative wisdom gave to lift his eye
To truth's eternal measures; thence to frame
The sacred laws of action and of will,
Discerning justice from unequal deeds,
And temperance from folly. But beyond
This energy of truth, whose dictates bind
Assenting reason, the benignant sire,
To deck the honour'd paths of just and good,
Has added bright imagination's rays:
Where virtue, rising from the awful depth
Of truth's mysterious bosom, doth forsake
The unadorn'd condition of her birth;
And dress'd by fancy in ten thousand hues,
Assumes a various feature, to attract,
With charms responsive to each gazer's eye,
The hearts of men. Amid his rural walk,
The ingenuous youth, whom solitude inspires
With purest wishes, from the pensive shade
Beholds her moving, like a virgin-muse
That wakes her lyre to some indulgent theme
Of harmony and wonder: while among
The herd of servile minds, her strenuous form
Indignant flashes on the patriot's eye,
And through the rolls of memory appeals
To ancient honour, or in act serene,
Yet watchful, raises the majestic sword
Of public power, from dark ambition's reach
To guard the sacred volume of the laws.
Genius of ancient Greece! whose faithful steps
Well-pleas'd i follow through the sacred paths
Of nature and of science; nurse divine
Of all heroic deeds and fair desires!
O! let the breath of thy extended praise
Inspire my kindling bosom to the height
Of this untempted theme. Nor be my thoughts
Presumptuous counted, if amid the calm
That sooths this vernal evening into smiles,
I steal impatient from the sordid haunts
Of strife and low ambition, to attend
Thy sacred presence in the sylvan shade,
By their malignant footsteps ne'er profan'd.
Descend, propitious! to my favour'd eye;
Such in thy mien, thy warm, exalted air,
As when the Persian tyrant, foil'd and stung
With shame and desperation, gnash'd his teeth
To see thee rend the pageants of his throne;
And at the lightning of thy lifted spear
Crouch'd like a slave. Bring all thy martial spoils,
Thy palms, thy laurels, thy triumphal songs,
Thy smiling band of arts, thy godlike sires
Of civil wisdom, thy heroic youth
Warm from the schools of glory. Guide my way
walk, the green retreats
Of Academus, and the thymy vale,
Where oft inchanted with Socratic sounds,
Ilissus pure devolv'd his tuneful stream
In gentler murmurs. From the blooming store
Of these auspicious fields, may i unblam'd
Transplant some living blossoms to adorn
My native clime: while far above the flight
Of fancy's plume aspiring, i unlock
The springs of ancient wisdom; while i join
Thy name, thrice honour'd! with the immortal praise
Of nature, while to my compatriot youth
I point the high example of thy sons,
And tune to Attic themes the British lyre.
ray's Favorite Writings
“I SPEAK TO THEE OF LIGHT”
The Master spoke…
Brethren, I speak to thee of Light:
The dark/cold void is dead,
The Light warm and life-giving
Verily I say unto thee,
Light be the very Essence of God,
Indeed, an Instrument of Creation
Every color is contained in a rainbow,
In a single droplet of gleaming dew
Observe how all life seeks the Face of God,
Ever reaching upward, toward Luminosity
Ye have but to look within thy soul or into,
The eyes of another for a flash of God Himself
Burn bright Sons and Daughters of My Sun,
Even death cannot extinguish Him from thy soul
God’s Light Everlasting…
There’s an entire ocean,
In a single raindrop!
A Universe in your blood!
On this small planet,
Why selfish pleasures?
Why endless reaching?
Are you hoping this will,
Make you feel more alive?
Swim in your aliveness
Feel the vastness...
Know your True Self
(Inspired by Rumi)
Thou wast a strange autumn rose that,
by withering brought Winter’s wind
Having heard the song that called thee home;
Thou escaped confining cage and flew…
Gone to a secret world, through transformation
What use was thy crown of petals?
What use was thy beauty?
When it was thine to become the Sun!
Beauty, you enter the soul like a man
walks into a blossomed orchard in spring
Beauty, come to me that way again
Like inspiration in an artist’s mind
Making art before it comes into being
Beauty, you guard your silence perfectly
like a wineskin that does not leak
Beauty, you live where God lives...
As your soul was strong enough to take you there
Great Masters existed before Earth was created;
Before all was brought into existence
They stood chin high in wisdom
Before materiality, they knew what it was
like to be trapped inside matter
Before the body, they’d lived many lifetimes
Before seeds, they ate bread from harvest grain
Before oceans, they strung pearls
Where can you find such a Great Master?
CIRCLES IN THE SKY
The way of love is not subtle
Love’s door may open to devastation
Birds make great circles in the sky, declaring freedom
How do they know that?
They fall and in falling they’re given wings
Love is true freedom
(Inspired by Master Rumi)
Beloved, you are a Cosmic Child of God
Created more of light, than simple matter
If conscious of your power you’d be awed
Twas you that helped build Jacob’s ladder
Look at me;
A Cosmic speck, that
Can barely be seen
Look at my eyes
They are so small
Yet they see
EYES WIDE SHUT
There are those with open eyes
Whose hearts are closed
What do they see?
A Material world
But someone whose love is aware
Even with eyes that sleep
He or she shall wake up thousands of others
If you are not one of those light-filled lovers
Restrain your body’s intense desires
Limit how much you eat
Sleep not from laziness
If awake in your casket
Sleep long and soundly
Your spirit is out roaming and working
To the highest levels
Your eyes may rest but love needs no rest
You have a Higher Self inside
That listens for what delights the Soul
(Inspired by the brilliance of Rumi)
FROM GRAPE TO WINE
If you were to say I don’t exist
This grape would not argue
Longing to be wine
Makes me disreputable
Lowers self respect
A grape begins to become wine when it says
“Pressure is necessary to burst open”
Sweet wine flows from surrender
I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow;
I called out,
“It tastes sweet, does it not? ”
“Oh, you’ve caught me and ruined my business,
How can I sell sorrow, when you know it’s a blessing? ”
(Inspired by Rumi)
I AM A DIVINE ACT OF GOD
I am a Divine Act of God;
Here, now and forever
I am self contained
Healed in every cell of my body
God’s Light fills me
Light I give freely to all
I am compassion, peace, love
I am happiness, joy
I am grateful
LORD OF EARTH and SKY
The Lord God is here!
In the rumble of thunder
In clouds…His exhalation
You guess, before you speak
He knows, before you speak
You hate your brother
He loves you both
God Lives in all His Creation
Everything Mirrors God
Be of good cheer Beloved
Look into a mirror…
“Behold the Face of God”
(Inspired by Master Rumi)
Love comes in;
Only in this one tender moment,
Can I deliver you from yourself
Now my love;
My mouth is burning with sweetness
(Dedicated to the Brilliance of Rumi)
LOVE IS THE WAY
Love is the way;
Messengers from the
Mysteries tell us this
Love is The Mother
We are her children
She shines within us
She is visible when we trust
Invisible when we lose trust
Shine brightly beloved
(Inspired by the brilliance of Rumi)
LOVE KNOWS THE WAY HOME
We’ve had full abundance
Now is the time for modesty
Love is pulling us back to school
Love wants us free of resentment
Love wants us to release impulses
Misguiding, confusing our souls
Saints keep sprinkling water on our faces
Love reveals what we need to know soon enough
Then we shall awaken…
(Inspired by Rumi)
The moment I heard my first love story
I started looking for you
Not knowing how blind that could be
After much suffering I realized;
Lovers do not meet somewhere by chance
Lovers cannot be match made by others
Lovers are in each other all along
Sanctified by God, witnessed by Angels
Others dropped away, there you were…
(To Master Rumi)
Humans look outside themselves
Wasting time with wails ‘n groans
Ignore Higher-Self, they've shelved
Living in their bag of blood ‘n bones
(Inspired by Rumi’s brilliance)
One day a swarm of mosquitoes complained to God
“Lord God we must protest! ”
“What is it My Children? ”
“We want You to still the Wind”
“Because the Wind scatters our swarm”
“Ah I See”…God summoned the Wind
Within moments Wind arrived
God Spoke, “Wind, the mosquitoes have brought suit”
Wind replied “Where are my accusers? ”
'Gone…lost within thee Wind'
So it is when Seekers dispute God’s Creation
(Inspired by the brilliance of Rumi)
A day of understanding is upon us
When all wonders are revealed
When mankind claims full aliveness
When occult is no more concealed
Brought to light are 10 dimensions
Below and above the present third
Known the truth of God’s Intention
Brought to light His “Living Word”
We've but to open heart and soul
Reap rewards promised long ago
Broken hearts shall be made whole
Nurtured souls again shall grow
Rejoice dear Brethren and give thanks
For ye shall soon join Heaven’s ranks
MY KNOWING SOUL (Prayer)
My knowing soul;
You are a Master
A Buddha, a Jesus…
Why do I remain blind in your presence?
You are Joseph at the bottom of his well
Constantly working, but you don’t get paid
Because what you do seems trivial, like play
My knowing soul;
Crush my ego
Demolish my pride
Drown my selfishness
Understand your value
Accept your wisdom
Be at peace
(Dedicated to the brilliance of Rumi)
Often words are but tiny turds of humor and of wit,
Flotsam in a poets mind…“Oh my, what junk, what shit! ”
Alas, it’s true at times words can form a perfect line,
“How wonderful, how clever” the words are so sublime
When all is said 'n done, its truth that’s clear 'n real,
By writing what we see 'n hear...especially what we feel
Write on poets!
There be no rules that we must heed or follow
Drink in the gifts of words sweet chums...
But don’t forget to swallow!
Gaze upon star lighted sky
In awe of a universe so vast
God’s Love it doth exemplify
Sublime beauty unsurpassed
A delegation of birds petitioned God
“Why is it you never chastise the nightingale? ”
God bid nightingale to speak;
“My way, she explained is different
March to June I sing
The other nine months, while others
Continue chirping, I am silent”
Sing your sweet songs beloved
While your Brethren clatter about
But know when to be silent...
That God may speak to you
(Inspired by Rumi)
At night in dreams she comes to me
In full length gown with veil of lace
With nobility, grace, grand authority
Gives sweet kiss ‘n warm embrace
Sits face-to-face with me then speaks
Of her many travels to distant places
Like Istanbul, Beijing, Mozambique
Of other lands she sometime graces
Reveals beauty of God’s Creation
The value of a loving heart, soul
The power of prayer, meditation
About man’s longing to be whole
My Guardian Angel then takes flight
As night gives way to morning light
I wander 'cross these lands
Mountains to deep blue seas
Forests, valleys, desert sands
Yet, my roots are inside of me
(Inspired by Julie Delpy)
Phant om stalks a worried mind
Incites a single thought to spin
All sense of reason struck blind
Restored thru mental discipline
(To the Islands of Hawaii)
Strand of pearls broken
Strewn ‘cross vast waters
Minute volcanic tokens
Gaia's Sons ‘n Daughters
Songbirds bring relief to my longing
I am just as ecstatic as they are, but
have nothing to sing
Please, goddess of song,
practice a song through me
I am thy open vessel…
PASSION TAKES FLIGHT
Walk any crowded city street
See vacant stares on a sea of faces
How stiff they walk on frozen feet
Of long forgotten social graces
Is passion within human hearts gone
As far as knowing eyes can see?
Love and joy no longer paragon
'Lord', why won’t they look at me?
Your passion Vincent helps them find wings
As paint on canvas did so long ago
Lovely are the words your paintings sing
As if by magic, vivid flowers seem to grow
Soon, God’s Hands shall touch hearts again
Of long forgotten buried and the walking dead
Made afresh what was once arcane
The Will of God shall once more embed
Countless souls shall launch an upward flight
None shall rest, until reached, Eternal Light
Love comes with a sharp knife
Not some shy and dull excuse
Love does not fear for its reputation
Love is a madman working wild schemes
Tearing off his clothes
Recklessly choosing annihilation
Love is a tiny spider trying to
wrap an enormous wasp
Imagine the spider web woven across
the tomb where Jesus slept
Beloved, you have been walking the ocean’s edge
holding up your skirts to keep them dry
Beloved, you must dive deeper
A thousand times deeper
(Inspired by Rumi)
PERSION MOTHER'S TEARS
A Persian woman cries a mother’s tears
She ‘n son seek shelter in a tattered tent
A dead husband cannot sooth their fear
He fell victim to a cluster-bomb fragment
PLAY ME GENTLY
Pluck mine strings gently dear
My soul’s song offers to delight
Even angels dare not interfere
With our merriment tonight
POET MASTERS OF OLD
Khayyam, Gibran and Rumi
Word Masters of love and truth
Great souls that speak to me
Since I was a wide-eyed-youth
POWER OF WORDS
Written words are very powerful
Able to influence and elicit change
More powerful yet are spoken words
Birthed in the mind, delivered through
Tongue, diaphragm and lungs
Working in concert to deliver voice
Intelligent vibrations creating reality
Somewhere an angry someone screams
“I hate you”
Words moving through space unhindered
Past countless stars in countless galaxies
Wreaking endless havoc on God’s Creation
With your heart before speaking
Glorify the positive power of words
Destruction will cease and balance restored
I'd forsake a million roses
to simply see her pretty face
Trade a thousand words of love
for one tender embrace
Gift all my possessions
and never feel amiss
If she'd but share with me
one romantic kiss
To entwine as one,
would truly be divine
indeed this sacred act of love
would surely make her mine
Raindrops fall in the gray of morn
Care not what they wet and sate
'Law of gravity' they dare scorn
As dark sea below determines fate
Droplets unite to swell great oceans
With playful merriment and mirth
Pleased to play out impulsive notions
That they may flow again on Mother Earth
Emerald waters eager to ascend once more
Taunt ‘n tease the summer sun to calefaction
Vaporous clouds form, as many times before
Heaven’s call doth grant the water satisfaction
God Be Great and God Be Wise
When He Commands,
“Great Waters Rise! ”
How tall he sat upon
his black leather saddle
He wore a Stetson hat
boots ‘n chaps
body strong ‘n agile
Sharp spurs ‘n western shirts
with pearl snaps
A “roll-your-own” rest-easy
’tween chapped lips
“Bull Durham” tag
dangled from shirt pocket
Cigars he’d smoke
when “In the chips'
While astride his favorite hoss
His spurs did jingle,
on line-shack boards
At night we’d braid rawhide
ropes ‘n quirts
We Sipped spring water
from hollow gourds
By crackling fire
we’d darn socks ‘n mend
torn ‘n tattered shirts
My 13th year was spent
on a ranch dad worked
Did change my life
The art of “ridin, huntin,
ropin, camp cookin” I did learn
first chew of tobacco,
A new ‘n shiny
Branded hides ‘n
memories still burn
The last of a dying breed
of men my dad was
Once a year
with pockets full of silver,
He’d ride into town
to drink ‘n dance
with whores ‘n peers
Although I suffered when
he wandered off I'd forgive
He truly walked amongst
a hearty group of pioneers
Thank you dad
for all you gave to me
The laughter, campfires,
deer hunts ‘n fun
the great wonders
of nature I now see
I love ‘n miss you Dad,
You tough, ornery,
Pr ay the prayer that is the essence
of every ritual;
“I have no hope, I am torn to shreds.
You are my first, last and only refuge.”
Don’t pray daily prayers like a bird,
pecking its head up and down.
Indeed, prayer is an egg.
Hatch out all helplessness inside.
(Inspired by the brilliance of Rumi)
RUCKSACK FULL OF STONES
Born perfect, innocent, ready
Cast into a corrupt world
Parents eagerly present
A family heirloom
A patchwork rucksack
Part-filled with stones
To a wide-eyed child
Begins the journey…
Child given stones of many shapes, sizes
Stones of pity, sorrow, fear, trauma
Stones filled with words like “No”
Stones filled with ugly phrases
Stones filled with abuse, punishment, pain
Rucksack seams burgeon
A growing Soul shouts
Through lessons, experiences, prayer
One by one
Removed the stones
By the Grace of God,
Another Babe born
“Not this time”
Into Wisdom’s Fire
Ends a vicious cycle…
RU MI SPOKE TO ME
He came at twilight
Whispering wise words
I failed to heed them
This rueful acolyte
(A time when I did not believe)
SHAKE THE DREAMS FROM YOUR HAIR
”Shake the dreams from your hair”
See the surreality you create around you
Do you know the power of your actions?
Do you see the rampant chaos, destruction?
Why do you blame God for your mischief?
Why do you blame others for your misdeeds?
Whilst goaded/aided by Satan posing as God!
Poor choices and judgments belong to man alone;
Atone through service
Redeem through love
Comes a day filled with blinding brilliance,
Behold the Face of God…
(The title of this poem was inspired by Jim Morrison of the Doors)
Mystic, poet and Faun
Indeed a loose arrow
In flight, though aimless
Rest easy my children
Destination matters not
Until your junket ends
And “the grim one” lay claim
Dance rather than sit
Sing don't complain
Make-Merry, then Mary make
Drink Huxley’s soma
Eat from nature’s Cornucopia
Above all…laugh, cry and feel
Ye shall truly know what’s real
I was content enough to stay still
Inside the pearl
Inside my shell
But a hurricane of experience
lashed me out of hiding and
pushed me toward shore
The sea told me her secrets
I slept like fog against a cliff…
(Inspired by Rumi)
STONES and THORNS
Are you bewildered?
Why do you walk on stones and thorns with bare feet?
Beloved, don’t you know lovers do not walk on feet?
They walk on love.
A lover’s journey is neither short nor long,
A lover’s journey is timeless…endless
A precious journey guided by a fervent heart
(Inspired by Master Rumi)
Jesus is back.
If you do not feel in yourself
the freshness of Jesus,
Weep and then smile.
Do not pretend to know something
you have not experienced.
There is a necessary dying.
Then Jesus breathes again.
Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be the ground.
So wildflowers will come up
where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different…
(Inspired by the brilliance of Rumi)
THE ANCIENT MAYANS KNEW...
Mayans knew Earth’s spin one day would still
When time and space would find a proper end
After evil ate its greedy fill
When iron-will of man would finally bend
Message Mayans left was carved in stone
So those that followed could plainly see
A day when 'The Beast' would be dethroned
Restored to Earth peace and harmony
Nears a day, a Host of Angels are deployed
To every dark corner of this troubled Earth
Evil empires' that rule shall be destroyed
As Earth’s pregnant belly readies for rebirth
A birth of greater consciousness for all
Countless souls shall begin to crowd and fill
Heavens Wondrous Kingdom-Hall
Where souls once more accept God's Will
THE BEAUTY OF LOVE
Today like every day, you may
Wake up empty and frightened.
Do not open the door to your study and begin reading,
Rather take down a musical instrument and play.
Beloved, let the beauty of love be what you do.
There are hundreds of ways to be grateful.
(Inspired by Rumi)
THE CHESTNUT STALLION
(To horse lovers)
He was born of noble blood
A great Chestnut Stallion
No man would ever mount him
Mum came by Spanish Galleon
In spring the mare did foal
A gangly, unsure colt
Possessed he a great soul
Betwixt eyes a thunderbolt
Before long grew strong ‘n fast
Quite something this chestnut hoss
He lived with herd on prairie vast
‘Twas clear one day he’d be boss
Challenge came one summer day
Chestnut called out “Old Roan”
A mighty fight they'd display
The old chief finally dethroned
Adrenalin ran thru Stallion’s blood
Eyes flashed red at nervous herd
His coat matted with gore ‘n mud
Banished Roan, ran off East-ward
Chestnut ringed herd into tight band
They set off for distant winter range
Away from winter kill, to canyon land
Instinctive migration, timeless change
Back to prairie homeland come spring
New foals’ pranced in tall green grass
Hawks circled above, Larks did sing
Frozen time, while seasons’ passed
Stood guard their “Chestnut Stallion”
Who’s mum came by Spanish galleon
In his dream an old man appeared.
“Good king, I have news”
“Tomorrow a stranger will come.
I sent for him. He’s a prophet you can trust.
Listen to him.”
As dawn rose, the king was sitting in the
watchtower on the roof.
He saw someone coming.
He ran to meet this guest.
Their souls knit together,
without stitch or seam.
The king opened his arms and
held the prophet close to him.
He led him to the head table.
“At last I have found what only
patience can bring. This one whose
face answers any question and who
simply by looking can loosen the
knot of intellectual discussion.”
The king touched the prophet’s arm,
and said “Speak to me of Jerusalem”
The prophet smiled…
(Inspired by the brilliance of Rumi)
With my soul she nearly did abscond
A Siren/Temptress born of turbid sea
‘Twas good, I was chained ‘n bound
At mast, or she'd stole the best of me
THE WARRIOR WAY
A warrior gathers weapons from this world
Objects of power along life's path
Ever seeking the favor of Earth Spirits’
A warrior does not prepare to die
A warrior only prepares to battle
Every battle is a warrior’s last
Outcome matters little to him
At death a warrior’s Impeccable-Will flows
To the Light that gave him life
A tiny gland betwixt your eyes, smaller than a pea
Ready to serve through good intent ‘n meditation
A second sight within, that helps you know ‘n see
Helps express the higher self, upon full activation
THI RST FOR FRIENDSHIP
I’m grateful when connected to you dear friend (my taste of sweetness)
You, that makes an oak tree strong and a rose a rose
You give me friendship, that for some is the oldest thirst there is
I do not measure friendship in a cup of tea
I’m a fish, you’re the moon
You cannot touch me...
But you’re light fills the ocean I swim in
(Inspired by Rumi)
THOUGHT AND LIGHT
Thought and light can travel anywhere
Through space and time at will, do tear
Both unencumbered by gravity or mass
Transcend complications and morass
THREE MONKEYS…PLUS ONE
First monkey covered his eyes and spoke,
“See no evil”...
By refusing to see and confronting evil
Victims are born of doubt, guilt and fear
Clear sight sheds light and illumines evil
Second monkey covered his ears and spoke,
“Hear no evil”...
By refusing to hear the voice of evil one cannot know truth
Truth is discerned by the heart and mind
Voicing truth creates a vibration that dis-integrates evil
Third monkey covered his mouth and thought,
“Speak no evil”...
Evil cannot manifest if one thinks before speaking
Fourth monkey opened his mouth and spoke,
“Do no evil”...
This was the wisest monkey of all
TORCH AFTER TORCH
Do you prefer;
As ravens do
New leaves forming
Night birds singing?
Let LOVE dissolve you into
the moment of the Season
or you will light torch
after torch trying to find
what's already in front of you
(Inspired by the brilliance of Rumi)
“I remember everything that happened before 2012 AD,
as I watched fundamentalist, fanaticism grip the world.
This vile trigger lay deep in the human soul. They were
sexually excited about the end of the world. They lusted
over this, because they would not have to solve any of their
own problems. Lurking deep in their soul was the desire
to die rather than to take responsibility for Mother Earth.
They were choking in the garbage of their own making.
Great souls that walked the Earth kept absorbing the waste,
but still man’s inner and outer garbage burgeoned.
Men built bigger and deadlier weapons.
Great nations made war against and plundered smaller nations.
They built bigger cities, and covered themselves with layers of possessions.
They consumed anything to avoid realizing their own inner emptiness.
2012 AD came and nothing happened.”
(Dedicated to Barbara for inspiring this poem)
UNDRESS, STAND NAKED...
Learn the alchemy true Mystics know;
The instant you accept hardship given you
Welcome adversity, as friend
Make light of what torment offers
Sorrows are but old clothes, indeed rags
Covered by a tattered threadbare coat
Undress thy naked body underneath
Behold the sweetness that comes after grief
(Inspired by Master Rumi)
UNHAPPY WITH WHOM YOU ARE?
Japanese redo their eyes
Iranians redo their nose
Hollywood breasts resize
All lust designer clothes
Obese want to be slim
Slim desire bigger boobs
Buy memberships at gyms
While kids go the down tubes
Lawyer’s want to be politicians
Politicians consult and lobby
Not toil, just blind ambition
Indeed, life to them is just a hobby
They know not we’re all the same
Below the skin and in our hearts
Just have self esteem to claim
Place horse back in front of cart
On Earth, God creates all equal
At Least until He plays our sequel
Coat and mane as white as snow
Between its eyes a spiraled horn
Piercing blue eyes, a true albino
This creature known as Unicorn
Neither of male or female gender
Unicorns are imagined into being
Strong, courageous soul-menders
Given to human beings for seeing
No mans ever tamed this shy beast
Save a virgin girl unafraid to weep
Lured by her soulful song released
Head upon her lap it goes to sleep
Unicorns dream wishes into reality
By transcending human sensuality
The universe is Divine Law
Indeed, a Reasonable Father
When you feel ungrateful
The shape of the world
seems mean and ugly
Make peace with Father
Then every experience
fills with immediacy
Love this, be not bored
Beauty constantly wells up like
the noise of a brook in Spring
Tree limbs rise and fall
their ecstatic arms
Leaves talk poetry together
making fresh metaphors
The opinion of this poem is
of great optimism for the future
But Father Reason says;
No need to announce the future
This now is it!
Your deepest need and desire
is satisfied by the energy of this
moment held in your hand
(Inspired by the brilliance of Rumi)
A donkey turning a millstone is not trying
to press oil from seeds. He is running away
from the blow that was just struck and is hoping
to avoid the next.
For the same reason, an ox takes a load of
baggage wherever you want him to.
We look to ease our pain, this keeps civilization
moving along, with fear as the motivator.
Allow fear to be your master teacher, not a task master
WARRIORS & PACIFISTS
Brother, you choose to walk a warriors path
I choose to walk a path to lasting peace
World has both, so please curtail thy wrath
There’s room for both, to ply our expertise
WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM?
Human beings are bound to earth
By gravity, atmosphere and water
Basic elements, a few pennies worth
Indeed, terrestrial Sons ‘n Daughters
What happens when our bodies shed?
When spirit takes its upward flight
When gone are guilt, fear and dread
When souls are called back to the light
Perhaps free spirits visit other places
Strange planets inhabited before
Filled with beings with familiar faces
You return again as friend ‘n savior?
Look within, inquire where you’ve been
B’cuz there’s more than what’s under skin
WHAT’S MY WORTH?
I ask which one is worth more?
To be amongst a crowd or my solitude?
Power over others or personal freedom?
A little while alone in my room is of more
value than anything given to me
What’s my worth?
My worth is not a million dollars
My worth is a million moments
WHY GOD LOVES ME
In a dream, God spoke to me;
“You are my Son and I love you”
I feel your generosity Lord, but must ask
what is it in me that causes your love?
“You have seen a small child with its mother
It does not know anyone else exists
The mother scolds, praises, or perhaps
a little slap, but the child still reaches
wanting to be held by her
Disappointment, elation matter not
There is only one direction that the child turns
That is how you are with Me”
(Inspired by Rumi)
WHY IS IT?
“Why is it Ray you always dress in black?
Do you mourn the dying and the dead?
Is it because soldiers come home in sacks,
Or on TV see jihad Muslims behead? ”
“Do you mourn Mother Earth they trash?
For laying waste to once lush forest lands?
A greedy few who sell their souls for cash,
Who on Liberty’s apron wipe their bloody hands? ”
Today and more tomorrows, I’ll wear black
Till peace upon a troubled Earth prevails
When evil ones let go and give power back
When balance returns to “Justice Scales”
WINDOWS TO THE SOUL
Look deep into eyes of another
Into the windows of their soul
You’ll find they’re sister or brother
This truth shall make you whole
A WORLD WITHOUT MUSIC?
A World without music
Is a World stricken mute
Dead all things acoustic
Humankind left destitute
YOU SPEAK OF LOVE…
You speak of love whilst spewing hate
I cannot shake a hand holding a sword
I pray my plea for peace be not too late
'Fore destroyed the Earth we once adored
Come sit with me my zealous friends
Let us share a meal and sweet wine
Let's discuss what future may portend
I trust ye hear me and won’t decline
There stands a chance for lasting peace
When past disputes are forever set aside
When war and conflict finally cease
When good will, brotherhood abide
God Himself will surely smile
After eons of humankind denial
Sometimes I’m up
Flat on my tush
It’s all about being human you see
This up ‘n down, up ‘n down yoyo me
My love is young, so young;
Young is her cheek, and her throat,
And life is a song to be sung
With love the word for each note.
Young is her cheek and her throat;
Her eyes have the smile o' May.
And love is the word for each note
In the song of my life to-day.
Her eyes have the smile o' May;
Her heart is the heart of a dove,
And the song of my life to-day
Is love, beautiful love.
Her heart is the heart of a dove,
Ah, would it but fly to my breast
Where love, beautiful love,
Has made it a downy nest.
Ah, would she but fly to my breast,
My love who is young, so young;
I have made her a downy nest
And life is a song to be sung.
A dull little station, a man with the eye
Of a dreamer; a bevy of girls moving by;
A swift moving train and a hot Summer sun,
The curtain goes up, and our play is begun.
The drama of passion, of sorrow, of strife,
Which always is billed for the theatre Life.
It runs on forever, from year unto year,
With scarcely a change when new actors appear.
It is old as the world is-far older in truth,
For the world is a crude little planet of youth.
And back in the eras before it was formed,
The passions of hearts through the Universe stormed.
Maurice Somerville passed the cluster of girls
Who twisted their ribbons and fluttered their curls
In vain to attract him; his mind it was plain
Was wholly intent on the incoming train.
That great one eyed monster puffed out its black breath,
Shrieked, snorted and hissed, like a thing bent on death,
Paused scarcely a moment, and then sped away,
And two actors more now enliven our play.
A graceful young woman with eyes like the morn,
With hair like the tassels which hang from the corn,
And a face that might serve as a model for Peace,
Moved lightly along, smiled and bowed to Maurice,
Then was lost in the circle of friends waiting near.
A discord of shrill nasal tones smote the ear,
As they greeted their comrade and bore her from sight.
(The ear oft is pained while the eye feels delight
In the presence of women throughout our fair land:
God gave them the graces which win and command,
But the devil, who always in mischief rejoices,
Slipped into their teachers and ruined their voices.)
There had stepped from the train just behind Mabel Lee
A man whose deportment bespoke him to be
A child of good fortune. His mien and his air
Were those of one all unaccustomed to care.
His brow was not vexed with the gold seeker's worry,
His manner was free from the national hurry.
Repose marked his movements. Yet gaze in his eye,
And you saw that this calm outer man was a lie;
And you knew that deep down in the depths of his breast
There dwelt the unmerciful imp of unrest.
He held out his hand; it was clasped with a will
In both the firm palms of Maurice Somerville.
'Well, Reese, my old Comrade;' 'Ha, Roger, my boy,'
They cried in a breath, and their eyes gemmed with joy
(Which but for their sex had been set in a tear),
As they walked arm in arm to the trap waiting near,
And drove down the shining shell roadway which wound
Through forest and meadow, in search of the Sound.
I smell the salt water-that perfume which starts
The blood from hot brains back to world withered hearts;
You may talk of the fragrance of flower filled fields,
You may sing of the odors the Orient yields,
You may tell of the health laden scent of the pine,
But give me the subtle salt breath of the brine.
Already I feel lost emotions of youth
Steal back to my soul in their sweetness and truth;
Small wonder the years leave no marks on your face,
Time's scythe gathers rust in this idyllic place.
You must feel like a child on the Great Mother's breast,
With the Sound like a nurse watching over your rest?
There is beauty and truth in your quaint simile,
I love the Sound more than the broad open sea.
The ocean seems always stern, masculine, bold,
The Sound is a woman, now warm, and now cold.
It rises in fury and threatens to smite,
Then falls at your feet with a coo of delight;
Capricious, seductive, first frowning, then smiling,
And always, whatever its mood is, beguiling.
Look, now you can see it, bright beautiful blue,
And far in the distance there loom into view
The banks of Long Island, full thirty miles off;
A sign of wet weather to-morrow. Don't scoff!
We people who chum with the waves and the wind
Know more than all wise signal bureaus combined.
But come, let us talk of yourself-for of me
There is little to tell which your eyes may not see.
Since we finished at College (eight years, is it not?)
I simply have dreamed away life in this spot.
With my dogs and my horses, a book and a pen,
And a week spent in town as a change now and then.
Fatigue for the body, disease for the mind,
Are all that the city can give me, I find.
Yet once in a while there is wisdom I hold
In leaving the things that are dearer than gold,-
Loved people and places-if only to learn
The exquisite rapture it is to return.
But you, I remember, craved motion and change;
You hated the usual, worshiped the strange.
Adventure and travel I know were your theme:
Well, how did the real compare with the dream?
You have compassed the earth since we parted at Yale,
Has life grown the richer, or only grown stale?
Stale, stale, my dear boy! that's the story in short,
I am weary of travel, adventure and sport;
At home and abroad, in all climates and lands,
I have had what life gives when a full purse commands
I have chased after Pleasure, that phantom faced elf,
And lost the best part of my youth and myself.
And now, barely thirty, I'm heart sick and blue;
Life seems like a farce scarcely worth sitting through.
I dread its long stretch of dissatisfied years;
Ah! wealth is not always the boon it appears.
And poverty lights not such ruinous fires
As gratified appetites, tastes and desires.
Fate curses, when letting us do as we please-
It stunts a man's soul to be cradled in ease.
You are right in a measure; the devil I hold
Is oftener found in full coffers of gold
Than in bare, empty larders. The soul, it is plain,
Needs the conflicts of earth, needs the stress and the strain
Of misfortune, to bring out its strength in this life-
The Soul's calisthenics are sorrow and strife.
But, Roger, what folly to stand in youth's prime
And talk like a man who could father old Time.
You have life all before you; the past,-let it sleep;
Its lessons alone are the things you should keep.
There is virtue sometimes in our follies and sinnings;
Right lives very often have faulty beginnings.
Results, and not causes, are what we should measure.
You have learned precious truths in your search after pleasure.
You have learned that a glow worm is never a star,
You have learned that Peace builds not her temples afar.
And now, dispossessed of the spirit to roam,
You are finely equipped to establish a home.
That's the one thing you need to lend savor to life,
A home, and the love of a sweet hearted wife,
And children to gladden the path to old age.
Alas! from life's book I have torn out that page;
I have loved many times and in many a fashion,
Which means I know nothing at all of the passion.
I have scattered my heart, here and there, bit by bit,
'Til now there is nothing worth while left of it;
And, worse than all else, I have ceased to believe
In the virtue and truth of the daughters of Eve.
There's tragedy for you-when man's early trust
In woman, experience hurls to the dust!
Then you doubt your own mother?
She passed heavenward
Before I remember; a saint, I have heard,
While she lived; there are scores of good women to-day,
Temptation has chanced not to wander their way.
The devil has more than his lordship can do,
He can't make the rounds, so some women keep true.
You think then each woman, if tempted, must fall?
Yes, if tempted her way-not one way suits them all-
They have tastes in their sins as they have in their clothes,
The tempter, of course, has to first study those.
One needs to be flattered, another is bought;
One yields to caresses, by frowns one is caught.
One wants a bold master, another a slave,
With one you must jest, with another be grave.
But swear you're a sinner whom she has reformed
And the average feminine fortress is stormed.
In rescuing men from abysses of sin
She loses her head-and herself tumbles in.
The mind of a woman was shaped for a saint,
But deep in her heart lies the devil's own taint.
With plans for salvation her busy brain teems,
While her heart longs in secret to know how sin seems.
And if with this question unanswered she dies,
Temptation came not in the right sort of guise.
There's my estimate, Reese, of the beautiful sex;
I see by your face that my words wound and vex,
But remember, my boy, I'm a man of the world.
Thank God, in the vortex I have not been hurled.
If experience breeds such a mental disease,
I am glad I have lived with the birds and the bees,
And the winds and the waves, and let people alone.
So far in my life but good women I've known.
My mother, my sister, a few valued friends-
A teacher, a schoolmate, and there the list ends.
But to know one true woman in sunshine and gloom,
From the zenith of life to the door of the tomb,
To know her, as I knew that mother of mine,
Is to know the whole sex and to kneel at the shrine.
Then you think saint and woman synonymous terms?
Oh, no! we are all, men and women, poor worms
Crawling up from the dampness and darkness of clay
To bask in the sunlight and warmth of the day.
Some climb to a leaf and reflect its bright sheen,
Some toil through the grass, and are crushed there unseen.
Some sting if you touch them, and some evolve wings;
Yet God dwells in each of the poor, groping things.
They came from the Source-to the Source they go back;
The sinners are those who have missed the true track.
We can not judge women or men as a class,
Each soul has its own distinct place in the mass.
There is no sex in sin; it were folly to swear
All women are angels, but worse to declare
All are devils as you do. You're morbid, my boy,
In what you thought gold you have found much alloy
And now you are doubting there is the true ore.
But wait till you study my sweet simple store
Of pure sterling treasures; just wait till you've been
A few restful weeks, or a season, within
The charmed circle of home life; then, Roger, you'll find
These malarial mists clearing out of your mind.
As a ship cuts the fog and is caught by the breeze,
And swept through the sunlight to fair, open seas,
So your heart will be caught and swept out to the ocean
Of youth and youth's birthright of happy emotion.
I'll wager my hat (it was new yesterday)
That you'll fall in love, too, in a serious way.
Our girls at Bay Bend are bewitching and fair,
And Cupid lurks ever in salt Summer air.
I question your gifts as a prophet, and yet,
I confess in my travels I never have met
A woman whose face so impressed me at sight,
As one seen to-day; a mere girl, sweet and bright,
Who entered the train quite alone and sat down
Surrounded by parcels she'd purchased in town.
A trim country lass, but endowed with the beauty
Which makes a man think of his conscience and duty.
Some women, you know, move us that way-God bless them,
While others rouse only a thirst to possess them
The face of the girl made me wish to be good,
I went out and smoked to escape from the mood.
When conscience through half a man's life has been sleeping
What folly to wake it to worry and weeping!
The pessimist role is a modern day fad,
But, Roger, you make a poor cynic, my lad.
Your heart at the core is as sound as a nut,
Though the wheels of your mind have dropped into the rut
Of wrong thinking. You need a strong hand on the lever
Of good common sense, and an earnest endeavor
To pull yourself out of the slough of despond
Back into the highway of peace just beyond.
And now, here we are at Peace Castle in truth,
And there stands its Chatelaine, sweet Sister Ruth,
To welcome you, Roger; you'll find a new type
In this old-fashioned girl, who in years scarcely ripe,
And as childish in heart as she is in her looks,
And without worldly learning or knowledge of books,
Yet in housewifely wisdom is wise as a sage.
She is quite out of step with the girls of her age,
For she has no ambition beyond the home sphere.
Ruth, here's Roger Montrose, my comrade of dear College days.
The gray eyes of the girl of nineteen
Looked into the face oft in fancy she'd seen
When her brother had talked of his comrade at Yale.
His stature was lower, his cheek was more pale
Than her thought had portrayed him; a look in his eye
Made her sorry, she knew not for what nor knew why,
But she longed to befriend him, as one needing aid.
While he, gazing down on the face of the maid,
Spoke some light words of greeting, the while his mind ran
On her 'points' good and bad; for the average man
When he looks at a woman proceeds first to scan her
As if she were horse flesh, and in the same manner
Notes all that is pleasing, or otherwise. So
Roger gazed at Ruth Somerville.
'Mouth like a bow
And eyes full of motherhood; color too warm,
And too round in the cheek and too full in the form
For the highest ideal of beauty and art.
Domestic-that word is the cue to her part
She would warm a man's slippers, but never his veins;
She would feed well his stomach, but never his brains.
And after she looks on her first baby's face,
Her husband will hold but a second-class place
In her thoughts or emotions, unless he falls ill,
When a dozen trained nurses her place can not fill.
She is sweet of her kind; and her kind since the birth
Of this sin ridden, Circe-cursed planet, the Earth,
Has kept it, I own, with its medleys of evil
From going straight into the hands of the devil.
It is not through its heroes the world lives and thrives,
But through its sweet commonplace mothers and wives.
We love them, and leave them; deceive, and respect them,
We laud loud their virtues and straightway neglect them.
They are daisy and buttercup women of earth
Who grace common ways with their sweetness and worth.
We praise, but we pass them, to reach for some flower
That stings when we pluck it, or wilts in an hour.
'You are thornless, fair Ruth! you are useful and sweet!
But lovers shall pass you to sigh at the feet
Of the selfish and idle, for such is man's way;
Your lot is to work, and to weep, and to pray.
To give much and get little; to toil and to wait
For the meager rewards of indifferent fate.
Yet so wholesome your heart, you will never complain;
You will feast on life's sorrow and drink of its pain,
And thank God for the banquet; 'tis women like you
Who make the romancing of preachers seem true.
The earth is your debtor to such large amounts
There must be a heaven to square up accounts,
Or else the whole scheme of existence at best
Is a demon's poor effort at making a jest.'
That night as Ruth brushed out her bright hazel hair
Her thoughts were of Roger, 'His bold laughing air
Is a cloak to some sorrow concealed in his breast,
His mind is the home of some secret unrest.'
She sighed; and there woke in her bosom once more
The impulse to comfort and help him; to pour
Soothing oil from the urn of her heart on his wounds.
Where motherhood nature in woman abounds
It is thus Cupid comes; unannounced and unbidden,
In sweet pity's guise, with his arrows well hidden.
But once given welcome and housed as a guest,
He hurls the whole quiver full into her breast,
While he pulls off his mask and laughs up in her eyes
With an impish delight at her start of surprise.
So intent is this archer on bagging his game
He scruples at nothing which gives him good aim.
Ruth's heart was a virgin's, in love menaced danger
While she sat by her mirror and pitied the stranger.
But just as she blew out her candle and stood
Robed for sleep in the moonlight, a change in her mood
Quickly banished the dreamer, and brought in its stead
The practical housekeeper. Sentiment fled;
And she puzzled her brain to decide which were best,
Corn muffins or hot graham gems, for the guest!
The short-sighted minister preached at Bay Bend
His long-winded sermon quite through to the end,
Unmindful there sat in the Somerville pew
A stranger whose pale handsome countenance drew
All eyes from his own reverend self; nor suspected
What Ruth and her brother too plainly detected
That the stranger was bored.
'Though his gaze never stirred
From the face of the preacher, his heart has not heard,'
Ruth said to herself; and her soft mother-eye
Was fixed on his face with a look like a sigh
In its tremulous depths, as they rose to depart.
Then suddenly Roger, alert, seemed to start
And his dull, listless glance changed to one of surprise
And of pleasure. Ruth saw that the goal of his eyes
Was her friend Mabel Lee in the vestibule; fair
As a saint that is pictured with sun tangled hair
And orbs like the skies in October. She smiled,
And the saint disappeared in the innocent child
With an unconscious dower of beauty and youth
She paused in the vestibule waiting for Ruth
And seemed not to notice the warm eager gaze
Of two men fixed upon her in different ways.
One, the look which souls lift to a being above,
The other a look of unreasoning love
Born of fancy and destined to grow in an hour
To a full fledged emotion of mastering power.
She spoke, and her voice disappointed the ear;
It lacked some deep chords that the heart hoped to hear.
It was sweet, but not vibrant; it came from the throat,
And one listened in vain for a full chested note.
While something at times like a petulant sound
Seemed in strange disaccord with the peace so profound
Of the eyes and the brow.
Though our sight is deceived
The ear is an organ that may be believed.
The faces of people are trained to conceal,
But their unruly voices are prone to reveal
What lies deep in their natures; a voice rarely lies,
But Mabel Lee's voice told one tale, while her eyes
Told another. Large, liquid, and peaceful as lakes
Where the azure dawn rests, ere the loud world awakes,
Were the beautiful eyes of the maiden. 'A saint,
Without mortal blemish or weak human taint,'
Said Maurice to himself. To himself Roger said:
'The touch of her soft little hands on my head
Would convert me. What peace for a world weary breast
To just sit by her side and be soothed into rest.'
Daring thoughts for a stranger. Maurice, who had known
Mabel Lee as a child, to himself would not own
Such bold longings as those were. He held her to be
Too sacred for even a thought that made free.
And the voice in his bosom was silenced and hushed
Lest the bloom from her soul by his words should be brushed.
There are men to whom love is religion; but woman
Is far better pleased with a homage more human.
Though she may not be able to love in like fashion,
She wants to be wooed with both ardor and passion.
Had Mabel Lee read Roger's thoughts of her, bold
Though they were, they had flattered and pleased her, I hold.
The stranger was duly presented.
I am sure, has no least recollection of me,
But the pleasure is mine to have looked on her face
Once before this.
Indeed? May I ask where?
Was the train, and the time yesterday.
'Then I came
From my shopping excursion in town by the same
Fast express which brought you? Had I known that the friend
Of my friends, was so near me en route for Bay Bend,
I had waived all conventions and asked him to take
One-half of my parcels for sweet pity's sake.
You sadden me sorely. As long as I live
I shall mourn the great pleasure chance chose not to give.
Take courage, mon ami. Our fair friend, Miss Lee,
Fills her time quite as full of sweet works as the bee;
Like the bee, too, she drives out the drones from her hive.
You must toil in her cause, in her favor to thrive.
She need but command me. To wait upon beauty
And goodness combined makes a pleasure of duty.
Who serves Mabel Lee serves all Righteousness too.
Pray, then, that she gives you some labor to do.
The cure for the pessimist lies in good deeds.
Who toils for another forgets his own needs,
And mischief and misery never attend
On the man who is occupied fully.
Has the town on her shoulders. Whatever may be
The cause that is needy, we look to Miss Lee.
Have you gold? She will make you disgorge it ere long;
Are you poor? Well, perchance you can dance-sing a song-
Make a speech-tell a story, or plan a charade.
Whatever you have, gold or wits, sir, must aid
In her numerous charities.
Riches and brain
Are but loans from the Master. He meant them, 'tis plain,
To be used in His service; and people are kind,
When once you can set them to thinking. I find
It is lack of perception, not lack of good heart
Which makes the world selfish in seeming. My part
Is to call the attention of Plenty to need,
And to bid Pleasure pause for a moment and heed
The woes and the burdens of Labor.
From the rosy and eloquent lips of Miss Lee
Would make Avarice pour out his coffers of gold
At her feet, I should fancy; would soften the cold,
Selfish heart of the world to compassionate sighs,
And bring tears of pity to vain Pleasure's eyes.
As the sunset a color on lily leaves throws,
The words and the glances of Roger Montrose
O'er the listener's cheeks sent a pink tinted wave;
While Maurice seemed disturbed, and his sister grew grave.
The false chink of flattery's coin smites the ear
With an unpleasant ring when the heart is sincere.
Yet the man whose mind pockets are filled with this ore,
Though empty his brain cells, is never a bore
To the opposite sex.
While Maurice knew of old
Roger's wealth in that coin that does duty for gold
In Society dealings, it hurt him to see
The cheap metal offered to sweet Mabel Lee.
(Yet, perchance, the hurt came, not so much that 'twas offered,
As in seeing her take, with a smile, what was proffered.)
They had walked, two by two, down the elm shaded street,
Which led to a cottage, vine hidden, and sweet
With the breath of the roses that covered it, where
Mabel paused in the gateway; a picture most fair.
'I would ask you to enter,' she said, 'ere you pass,
But in just twenty minutes my Sunday-school class
Claims my time and attention; and later I meet
A Committee on Plans for the boys of the street.
We seek to devise for these pupils in crime
Right methods of thought and wise uses of time.
I am but a vagrant, untutored and wild,
May I join your street class, and be taught like a child?
If you come I will carefully study your case.
I must go along, too, just to keep him in place.
Then you think him unruly?
I was, but am changed since one-half hour ago.
The change is too sudden to be of much worth;
The deepest convictions are slowest of birth.
Conversion, I hold, to be earnest and lasting,
Begins with repentance and praying and fasting,
And (begging your pardon for such a bold speech),
You seem, sir, a stranger to all and to each
Of these ways of salvation.
Since yesterday, miss,
When, unseen, I first saw you (believe me in this),
I have deeply repented my sins of the past.
To-night I will pray, and to-morrow will fast-
Or, make it next week, when my shore appetite
May be somewhat subdued in its ravenous might.
That's the way of the orthodox sinner! He waits
Until time or indulgence or misery sates
All his appetites, then his repentance begins,
When his sins cease to please, then he gives up his sins
And grows pious. Now prove you are morally brave
By actually giving up something you crave!
We have fricasseed chicken and strawberry cake
For our dinner to-day.
For dear principle's sake
I could easily do what you ask, were it not
Most unkind to Miss Ruth, who gave labor and thought
To that menu, preparing it quite to my taste.
But the thought and the dinner will both go to waste,
If we linger here longer; and Mabel, I see,
Is impatient to go to her duties.
Is reluctant to turn from the lily although
The lily may obviously wish he would go
And leave her to muse in the sunlight alone.
Yet when the rose calls him, his sorrow, I own,
Has its recompense. So from delight to delight
I fly with my wings honeyladen.
Oh, love is like the dawnlight
That turns the dark to day,
And love is like the deep night
With secrets hid away.
And love is like the moonlight
Where tropic Summers glow,
And love is like the twilight
When dreams begin to grow.
Oh, love is like the sunlight
That sets the world ablaze.
And love is like the moonlight
With soft, illusive rays.
And love is like the starlight
That glimmers o'er the skies.
And love is like the far light
That shines from God's great eyes.
Maurice Somerville from his turreted den
Looked out of the window and laid down his pen.
A soft salty wind from the water was blowing,
Below in the garden sat Ruth with her sewing.
And stretched on the grass at her feet Roger lay
With a book in his hand.
Through the ripe August day,
Piped the Katydids' voices, Jack Frost's tally-ho
Commanding Queen Summer to pack up and go.
Maurice leaned his head on the casement and sighed,
Strong and full in his heart surged love's turbulent tide.
And thoughts of the woman he worshiped with longing
Took shape and like angels about him came thronging.
The world was all Mabel! her exquisite face
Seemed etched on the sunlight and gave it its grace;
Her eyes made the blue of the heavens, the sun
Was her wonderful hair caught and coiled into one
Shining mass. With a reverent, worshipful awe,
It was Mabel, fair Mabel, dear Mabel he saw,
When he looked up to God.
They had been much together
Through all the bright stretches of midsummer weather,
Ruth, Roger, and Mabel and he. Scarce a day
But the four were united in work or in play.
And much of the play to a man or a maid
Not in love had seemed labor. Recital, charade,
Garden party, church festival, musical, hop,
Were all planned by Miss Lee without respite or stop.
The poor were the richer; school, hospital, church,
The heathen, the laborer left in the lurch
By misfortune, the orphan, the indigent old,
Our kind Lady Bountiful aided with gold
Which she filched from the pockets of pleasure-God's spoil,
And God's blessing will follow such lives when they toil
Through an infinite sympathy.
Fair Mabel Lee
Loved to rule and to lead. She was eager to be
In the eyes of the public. That modern day craze
Possessed her in secret, and this was its phase.
An innocent, even commendable, fad
Which filled empty larders and cheered up the sad.
She loved to do good. But, alas! in her heart,
She loved better still the authoritative part
Which she played in her town.
'Neath the saint's aureole
Lurked the feminine tyrant who longed to control,
And who never would serve; but her sway was so sweet,
That her world was contented to bow at her feet.
Who toils in the great public vineyard must needs
Let other hands keep his own garden from weeds.
So busy was Mabel with charity fairs
She gave little thought to her home or its cares.
Mrs. Lee, like the typical modern day mother,
Was maid to her daughter; the father and brother
Were slaves at her bidding; an excellent plan
To make a tyrannical wife for some man.
Yet where was the man who, beholding the grace
Of that slight girlish creature, and watching her face
With its infantile beauty and sweetness, would dare
Think aught but the rarest of virtues dwelt there?
Rare virtues she had, but in commonplace ones
Which make happy husbands and home loving sons
She was utterly lacking. Ruth Somerville saw
In sorrow and silence this blemishing flaw
In the friend whom she loved with devotion! Maurice
Saw only the angel with eyes full of peace.
The faults of plain women are easily seen.
But who cares to peer back of beauty's fair screen
For things which are ugly to look on?
Is not quite in love when his sharp eyes discover
The flaws in his jewel.
Maurice from his room
Looked dreamily down on the garden of bloom,
Where Ruth sat with Roger; he smiled as he thought
How quickly the world sated cynic was brought
Into harness by Cupid. The man mad with drink,
And the man mad with love, is quite certain to think
All other men drunkards or lovers. In truth
Maurice had expected his friend to love Ruth.
'She was young, she was fair; with her bright sunny art
She could scatter the mists from his world befogged heart.
She could give him the one heaven under God's dome,
A peaceful, well ordered, and love-guarded home.
And he? why of course he would worship her! When
Cupid finds the soft spot in the hearts of such men
They are ideal husbands.' Maurice Somerville
Felt the whole world was shaping itself to his will.
And his heart stirred with joy as, by thought necromancy,
He made the near future unfold to his fancy,
And saw Ruth the bride of his friend, and the place
She left vacant supplied with the beauty and grace
Of this woman he longed for, the love of his life,
Fair Mabel, his angel, his sweet spirit wife.
Maurice to his desk turned again and once more
Began to unburden his bosom and pour
His heart out on paper-the poet's relief,
When drunk with life's rapture or sick with its grief.
When shall I tell my lady that I love her?
Will it be while the sunshine woos the world,
Or when the mystic twilight bends above her,
Or when the day's bright banners all are furled?
Will wild winds shriek, or will the calm stars glow,
When I shall tell her that I love her so,
I love her so?
I think the sun should shine in all his glory;
Again, the twilight seems the fitting time.
Yet sweet dark night would understand the story,
So old, so new, so tender, so sublime.
Wild storms should rage to chord with my desire,
Yet faithful stars should shine and never tire,
And never tire.
Ah, if my lady will consent to listen,
All hours, will times, shall hear my story told.
In amorous dawns, on nights when pale stars glisten
In dim hushed gloamings and in noon hours bold,
While thunders crash, and while the winds breathe low,
Will I re-tell her that I love her so.
I love her so.
The October day had been luscious and fair
Like a woman of thirty. A chill in the air
As the sun faced the west spoke of frost lurking near
All day the Sound lay without motion, and clear
As a mirror, and blue as a blond baby's eyes.
A change in the tide brought a change to the skies.
The bay stirred and murmured and parted its lips
And breathed a long sigh for the lost lovely ships,
That had gone with the Summer.
Its calm placid breast
Was stirred into passionate pain and unrest.
Not a sail, not a sail anywhere to be seen!
The soft azure eyes of the sea turned to green.
A sudden wind rose; like a runaway horse
Unchecked and unguided it sped on its course.
The waves bared their teeth, and spat spray in the face
Of the furious gale as they fled in the chase.
The sun hurried into a cloud; and the trees
Bowed low and yet lower, as if to appease
The wrath of the storm king that threatened them Close
To the waves at their wildest stood Roger Montrose.
The day had oppressed him; and now the unrest
Of the wind beaten sea brought relief to his breast,
Or at least brought the sense of companionship. Lashed
By his higher emotions, the man's passions dashed
On the shore of his mind in a frenzy of pain,
Like the waves on the rocks, and a frenzy as vain.
Since the day he first looked on her face, Mabel Lee
Had seemed to his self sated nature to be,
On life's troubled ocean, a beacon of light,
To guide him safe out from the rocks and the night.
Her calm soothed his passion; her peace gave him poise;
She seemed like a silence in life's vulgar noise.
He bathed in the light which her purity cast,
And felt half absolved from the sins of the past.
He longed in her mantle of goodness to hide
And forget the whole world. By the incoming tide
He talked with his heart as one talks with a friend
Who is dying. 'The summer has come to an end
And I wake from my dreaming,' he mused. 'Wake to know
That my place is not here-I must go I must go.
Who dares laugh at Love shall hear Love laughing last,
As forth from his bowstring barbed arrows are cast.
I scoffed at the god with a sneer on my lip,
And he forces me now from his chalice to sip
A bitter sweet potion. Ah, lightly the part
Of a lover I've played many times, but my heart
Has been proud in its record of friendship. And now
The mad, eager lover born in me must bow
To the strong claims of friendship. I love Mabel Lee;
Dared I woo as I would, I could make her love me.
The soul of a maid who knows not passion's fire
Is moth to the flame of a man's strong desire.
With one kiss on her lips I could banish the nun
And wake in her virginal bosom the one
Mighty love of her life. If I leave her, I know
She will be my friend's wife in a season or so.
He loves her, he always has loved her; 'tis he
Who ever will do all the loving; and she
Will accept it, and still be the saint to the end,
And she never will know what she missed; but my friend
Has the right to speak first. God! how can he delay?
I marvel at men who are fashioned that way.
He has worshiped her since first she put up her tresses,
And let down the hem of her school-girlish dresses
And now she is full twenty-two; were I he
A brood of her children should climb on my knee
By this time! What a sin against love to postpone
The day that might make her forever his own.
The man who can wait has no blood in his veins.
Maurice is a dreamer, he loves with his brains
Not with soul and with senses. And yet his whole life
Will be blank if he makes not this woman his wife.
She is woof of his dreams, she is warp of his mind;
Who tears her away shall leave nothing behind.
No, no, I am going: farewell to Bay Bend
I am no woman's lover-I am one man's friend.
Still-born in the arms of the matron eyed year
Lies the beautiful dream that my life buries here.
Its tomb was its cradle; it came but to taunt me,
It died, but its phantom shall ever more haunt me.'
He turned from the waves that leaped at him in wrath
To find Mabel Lee, like a wraith, in his path.
The rose from her cheek had departed in fear;
The tip of her eyelash was gemmed with a tear.
The rude winds had disarranged mantle and dress,
And she clung with both hands to her hat in distress.
'I am frightened,' she cried, in a tremulous tone;
'I dare not proceed any farther alone.
As I came by the church yard the wind felled a tree,
And invisible hands seemed to hurl it at me;
I hurried on, shrieking; the wind, in disgust,
Tore the hat from my head, filled my eyes full of dust,
And otherwise made me the butt of its sport.
Just then I spied you, like a light in the port,
And I steered for you. Please do not laugh at my fright!
I am really quite bold in the calm and the light,
But when a storm gathers, or darkness prevails,
My courage deserts me, my bravery fails,
And I want to hide somewhere and cover my ears,
And give myself up to weak womanish tears.'
Her ripple of talk allowed Roger Montrose
A few needed moments to calm and compose
His excited emotions; to curb and control
The turbulent feelings that surged through his soul
At the sudden encounter.
'I quite understand,'
He said in a voice that was under command
Of his will, 'All your fears in a storm of this kind.
There is something uncanny and weird in the wind;
Intangible, viewless, it speeds on its course,
And forests and oceans must yield to its force.
What art has constructed with patience and toil,
The wind in one second of time can despoil.
It carries destruction and death and despair,
Yet no man can follow it into its lair
And bind it or stay it-this thing without form.
Ah! there comes the rain! we are caught in the storm.
Put my coat on your shoulders and come with me where
Yon rock makes a shelter-I often sit there
To watch the great conflicts 'twixt tempest and sea.
Let me lie at your feet! 'Tis the last time, Miss Lee,
I shall see you, perchance, in this life, who can say?
I leave on the morrow at break o' the day.'
Indeed? Why, how sudden! and may I inquire
The reason you leave us without one desire
To return? for your words seem a final adieu.
I never expect to return, that is true,
Yet my wish is to stay.
Are you not your own master?
Alas, yes! and therein lies the cause of disaster.
Myself bids me go, my calm, reasoning part,
The will is the man, not the poor, foolish heart,
Which is ever at war with the intellect. So
I silence its clamoring voices and go.
Were I less my own master, I then might remain.
Your words are but riddles, I beg you explain.
No, no, rather bid me keep silent! To say
Why I go were as weak on my part as to stay.
I think you most cruel! You know, sir, my sex
Loves dearly a secret. Then why should you vex
And torment me in this way by hinting at one?
Let us talk of the weather, I think the storm done.
Very well! I will go! No, you need not come too,
And I will not shake hands, I am angry with you.
And you will not shake hands when we part for all time?
Then read me your riddle!
No, that were a crime
Against honor and friendship; girl, girl, have a care-
You are goading my poor, tortured heart to despair.
His last words were lost in the loud thunder's crash;
The sea seemed ablaze with a sulphurous flash.
From the rocks just above them an evergreen tree
Was torn up by the roots and flung into the sea.
The waves with rude arms hurled it back on the shore;
The wind gained in fury. The glare and the roar
Of the lightning and tempest paled Mabel Lee's cheek.
Her pupils dilated; she sprang with a shriek
Of a terrified child lost to all save alarm,
And clasped Roger Montrose with both hands by the arm,
While her cheek pressed his shoulder. An agony, sweet
And unbearable, thrilled from his head to his feet,
His veins were like rivers, with billows of fire:
His will lost control; and long fettered desire
Slipped its leash. He caught Mabel Lee to his breast,
Drew her face up to his, on her frightened lips pressed
Wild caresses of passion that startled and shocked.
Like a madman he looked, like a madman he talked,
Waiting not for reply, with no pause but a kiss,
While his iron arms welded her bosom to his.
'Girl, girl, you demanded my secret,' he cried;
'Well, that bruise on your lips tells the story! I tried,
Good God, how I tried! to be silent and go
Without speaking one word, without letting you know
That I loved you; yet how could you look in my eyes
And not see love was there like the sun in the skies?
Ah, those hands on my arm-that dear head lightly pressed
On my shoulder! God, woman, the heart in my breast
Was dry powder, your touch was the spark; and the blame
Must be yours if both lives are scorched black with the flame.
Do you hate me, despise me, for being so weak?
No, no! let me kiss you again ere you speak!
You are mine for the moment; and mine-mine alone
Is the first taste of passion your soft mouth has known.
Whoever forestalls me in winning your hand,
Between you and him shall this mad moment stand-
You shall think of me, though you think only to hate.
There-speak to me-speak to me-tell me my fate;
On your words, Mabel Lee, hangs my whole future life.
I covet you, covet you, sweet, for my wife;
I want to stay here at your side. Since I first
Saw your face I have felt an unquenchable thirst
To be good-to look deep in your eyes and find God,
And to leave in the past the dark paths I have trod
In my search after pleasure. Ah, must I go back
Into folly again, to retread the old track
Which leads out into nothingness? Girl, answer me,
As souls answer at Judgment.'
The face of the sea
Shone with sudden pink splendor. The riotous wind
Swooned away with exhaustion. Each dark cloud seemed lined
With vermilion. The tempest was over. A word
Floated up like a feather; the silence was stirred
By the soul of a sigh. The last remnant of gray
In the skies turned to gold, as a voice whispered, 'Stay.'
God grinds His poor people to powder
All day and all night I can hear,
Their cries growing louder and louder.
Oh, God, have You deadened Your ear?
The chimes in old Trinity steeple
Ring in the sweet season of prayer,
And still God is grinding His people,
He is grinding them down to despair.
Mind, body and muscle and marrow,
He grinds them again and again.
Can He who takes heed of the sparrow
Be blind to the tortures of men?
In a bare little room of a tenement row
Of the city, Maurice sat alone. It was so
(In this nearness to life's darkest phases of grief
And despair) that his own bitter woe found relief.
Joy needs no companion; but sorrow and pain
Long to comrade with sorrow. The flowery chain
Flung by Pleasure about her gay votaries breaks
With the least strain upon it. The chain sorrow makes
Links heart unto heart. As a bullock will fly
To far fields when an arrow has pierced him, to die,
So Maurice had flown over far oceans to find
No balm for his wounds, and no peace for his mind.
Cosmopolitan, always, is sorrow; at home
In all countries and lands, thriving well while we roam
In vain efforts to slay it. Toil only, brings peace
To the tempest tossed heart. What in travel Maurice
Failed to find-self-forgetfulness-came with his work
For the suffering poor in the slums of New York.
He had wandered in strange heathen countries-had been
Among barbarous hordes; but the greed and the sin
Of his own native land seemed the shame of the hour.
In his gold there was balm, in his pen there was power
To comfort the needy, to aid and defend
The unfortunate. Close in their midst, as a friend
And companion, for more than twelve months he had dwelt.
Like a ray of pure light in a cellar was felt
This strong, wholesome presence. His little room bare
Of all luxuries, taught the poor souls who flocked there
For his counsel and aid, how by mere cleanliness
The grim features of want lose some lines of distress.
The slips from the plants on his window ledge, given
To beauty starved souls, spoke more clearly of heaven
And God than did sermons or dry creedy tracts.
Maurice was no preacher; and yet his kind acts
Of mercy and self-immolation sufficed
To wake in dark minds a bright image of Christ-
The Christ often heard of, but doubted before.
Maurice spoke no word of religion. Of yore
His heart had accepted the creeds of his youth
Without pausing to cavil, or question their truth.
Faith seemed his inheritance. But, with the blow
Which slew love and killed friendship, faith, too, seemed to go.
It is easy to be optimistic in pleasure,
But when Pain stands us up by her portal to measure
The actual height of our trust and belief,
Ah! then is the time when our faith comes to grief.
The woes of our fellows, God sends them, 'tis plain;
But the devil himself is the cause of our pain.
We question the wisdom that rules o'er the world,
And our minds into chaos and darkness are hurled.
The average scoffer at faith goes about
Pouring into the ears of his fellows each doubt
Which assails him. One truth he fails wholly to heed;
That a doubt oft repeated may bore like a creed.
Maurice kept his thoughts to himself, but his pen
Was dipped in the gall of his heart now and then,
And his muse was the mouthpiece. The sin unforgiven
I hold by the Cherubim chanting in heaven
Is the sin of the poet who dares sing a strain
Which adds to the world's awful chorus of pain
And repinings. The souls whom the gods bless at birth
With the great gift of song, have been sent to the earth
To better and brighten it. Woe to the heart
Which lets its own sorrow embitter its art.
Unto him shall more sorrow be given; and life
After life filled with sorrow, till, spent with the strife,
He shall cease from rebellion, and bow to the rod
In submission, and own and acknowledge his God.
Maurice, with his unwilling muse in the gloom
Of a mood pessimistic, was shut in his room.
A whistle, a step on the stairway, a knock,
Then over the transom there fluttered a flock
Of white letters. The Muse, with a sigh of content,
Left the poet to read them, and hurriedly went
Back to pleasanter regions. Maurice glanced them through:
There were brief business epistles from two
Daily papers, soliciting work from his pen;
A woman begged money for Christ's sake; three men
Asked employment; a mother wrote only to say
How she blessed him and prayed God to bless him each day
For his kindness to her and to hers; and the last
Was a letter from Ruth. The pale ghost of the past
Rose out of its poor shallow grave, with the scent
And the mold of the clay clinging to it, and leant
O'er Maurice as he read, while its breath fanned his cheek.
'Forgive me,' wrote Ruth; 'for at last I must speak
Of the two whom you wish to forget. Well I know
How you suffered, still suffer, from fate's sudden blow,
Though I am a woman, and women must stay
And fight out pain's battles where men run away.
But my strength has its limit, my courage its end,
The time has now come when I, too, leave Bay Bend.
Maurice, let the bitterness housed in your heart
For the man you long loved as a comrade, depart,
And let pity replace it. Oh, weep for his sorrow-
From your fountain of grief, held in check, let me borrow;
I have so overdrawn on the bank of my tears
That my anguish is now refused payment. For years
You loved Mabel Lee. Well, to some hearts love speaks
His whole tale of passion in brief little weeks.
As Minerva, full grown, from the great brow of Jove
Sprang to life, so full blown from our breasts may spring Love.
Love hid like a bee in my heart's lily cup;
I knew not he was there till his sting woke me up.
Maurice, oh, Maurice! Can you fancy the woe
Of seeing the prize which you coveted so
Misused, or abused, by another? The wife
Of the man whom I worshiped is spoiling the life
That was wax in her hands, wax to shape as she chose.
You were blind to her faults, so was Roger Montrose.
Both saw but the saint; well, let saints keep their places,
And not crowd the women in life's hurried races.
As saint, Mabel Lee might succeed; but, oh brother,
She never was meant for a wife or a mother.
Her beautiful home has the desolate air
Of a house that is ruled by its servants. The care-
The thought of the woman (that sweet, subtle power
Pervading some rooms like the scent of a flower),
Which turns house into home-that is lacking. She goes
On her merciful rounds, does our Lady Montrose,
Looking after the souls of the heathen, and leaving
The poor hungry soul of her lord to its grieving.
He craves her companionship; wants her to be
At his side, more his own, than the public's. But she
Holds such love is but selfish; and thinks he should make
Some sacrifice gladly for charity's sake.
Her schools, and her clubs, and her fairs fill her time;
He wants her to travel; no, that were a crime
To go seeking for pleasure, and leave duty here.
God had given her work and her labor lay near.
A month of the theater season in town?
No, the stage is an evil that needs putting down
By good people. So, scheme as he will, the poor man
Has to finally yield every project and plan
To this sweet stubborn saint; for the husband, you see,
Stands last in her thoughts. He has come, after three
Patient years, to that knowledge; his wishes, his needs
Must always give way to her whims, or her creeds.
She knows not the primer of loving; her soul
Is engrossed with the poor petty wish to control,
And she chafes at restriction. Love loves to be bound,
And its sweetest of freedom in bondage is found.
She pulls at her fetters. One worshiping heart
And its faithful devotion play but a small part
In her life. She would rather be lauded and praised
By a crowd of inferior followers, raised
To the pitiful height of their leader, than be
One man's goddess. There, now, is the true Mabel Lee!
Grieve not that you lost her, but grieve for the one
Who with me stood last night by the corpse of his son,
And with me stood alone. Ah! how wisely and well
Could Mabel descant on Maternity! tell
Other women the way to train children to be
An honor and pride to their parents! Yet she,
From the first, left her child to the nurses. She found
'Twas a tax on her nerves to have baby around
When it worried and cried. The nurse knew what to do,
And a block down the street lived Mama! 'twixt the two
Little Roger would surely be cared for. She must
Keep her strength and be worthy the love and the trust
Of the poor, who were yearly increasing, and not
Bestow on her own all the care and the thought-
That were selfishness, surely.
Well, the babe grew apace,
But yesterday morning a flush on its face
And a look in its eye worried Roger. The mother
Was due at some sort of convention or other
In Boston-I think 'twas a grand federation
Of clubs formed by women to rescue the Nation
From man's awful clutches; and Mabel was made
The head delegate of the Bay Bend Brigade.
Once drop in a small, selfish nature the seed
Of ambition for place, and it grows like a weed.
The fair village angel we called Mabel Lee,
As Mrs. Montrose, has developed, you see,
To a full fledged Reformer. It quite turned her head
To be sent to the city of beans and brown bread
As a delegate! (Delegate! magical word!
The heart of the queer modern woman is stirred
Far more by its sound than by aught she may hear
In the phrases poor Cupid pours into her ear.)
Mabel chirped to the baby a dozen good-byes,
And laughed at the trouble in Roger's grave eyes,
As she leaned o'er the lace ruffled crib of her son
And talked baby-talk: 'Now be good, 'ittle one,
While Mama is away, and don't draw a long breath,
Unless 'oo would worry Papa half to death.
And don't cough, and, of all things, don't sneeze, 'ittle dear,
Or Papa will be thrown into spasms of fear.
Now, good-bye, once again, 'ittle man; mother knows
There is no other baby like Roger Montrose
In the whole world to-day.'
So she left him. That night
The nurse sent a messenger speeding in fright
For the Doctor; a second for Grandmama Lee
And Roger despatched still another for me.
All in vain! through the gray chilly paths of the dawn
The soul of the beautiful baby passed on
Into Mother-filled lands.
Ah! my God, the despair
Of seeing that agonized sufferer there;
To stand by his side, yet denied the relief
Of sharing, as wife, and as mother, his grief.
Enough! I have borne all I can bear. The role
Of friend to a lover pulls hard on the soul
Of a sensitive woman. The three words in life
Which have meaning to me are home, mother and wife-
Or, rather, wife, mother and home. Once I thought
Men cared for the women who found home the spot
Next to heaven for happiness; women who knew
No ambition beyond being loyal and true,
And who loved all the tasks of the housewife. I learn,
Instead, that from women of that kind men turn,
With a yawn, unto those who are useless; who live
For the poor hollow world and for what it can give,
And who make home the spot where, when other joys cease,
One sleeps late when one wishes.
You left me Maurice
Left the home I have kept since our dear Mother died,
With such sisterly love and such housewifely pride,
And you wandered afar, and for what cause, forsooth?
Oh! because a vain, self-loving woman, in truth,
Had been faithless. The man whom I worshiped, ignored
The love and the comfort my woman's heart stored
In its depths for his taking, and sought Mabel Lee.
Well, I'm done with the role of the housewife. I see
There is nothing in being domestic. The part
Is unpicturesque, and at war with all art.
The senile old Century leers with dim eyes
At our sex and demands that we shock or surprise
His thin blood into motion. The home's not the place
To bring a pleased smile to his wicked old face.
To the mandate I bow; since all strive for that end,
I must join the great throng! I am leaving Bay Bend
This day week. I will see you in town as I pass
To the college at C--, where I enter the class
Of medical students-I fancy you will
Like to see my name thus-Dr. Ruth Somerville.'
Maurice dropped the long, closely written epistle,
Stared hard at the wall, and gave vent to a whistle.
A Doctor! his sweet, little home-loving sister.
A Doctor! one might as well prefix a Mister
To Ruth Somerville, that most feminine name.
And then in the wake of astonishment came
Keen pity for all she had suffered. 'Poor Ruth,
She writes like an agonized woman, in truth,
And like one torn with jealousy. Ah, I can see,'
He mused, 'how the pure soul of sweet Mabel Lee
Revolts at the bondage and shrinks from the ban
That lies in the love of that sensual man.
He is of the earth, earthy. He loves but her beauty,
He cares not for conscience, or honor or duty.
Like a moth she was dazzled and lured by the flame
Of a light she thought love, till she learned its true name;
When she found it mere passion, it lost all its charms.
No wonder she flies from his fettering arms!
God pity you, Mabel! poor ill mated wife;
But my love, like a planet, shall watch o'er your life,
Though all other light from your skies disappear,
Like a sun in the darkness my love shall appear.
Unselfish and silent, it asks no return,
But while the great firmament lasts it shall burn.'
Muse, muse, awake, and sing thy loneliest strain,
Song, song, be sad with sorrow's deepest pain,
Heart, heart, bow down and never bound again,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.
Night, night, draw close thy filmy mourning veil,
Moon, moon, conceal thy beauty sweet and pale,
Wind, wind, sigh out thy most pathetic wail,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.
Time, time, speed by, thou art too slow, too slow,
Grief, grief, pass on, and take thy cup of woe,
Life, life, be kind, ah! do not wound her so,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.
Sleep, sleep, dare not to touch mine aching eyes,
Love, love, watch on, though fate thy wish denies,
Heart, heart, sigh on, since she, my Lady, sighs,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.
The flower breathes low to the bee,
'Behold, I am ripe with bloom.
Let Love have his way with me,
Ere I fall unwed in my tomb.'
The rooted plant sighs in distress
To the winds by the garden walk
'Oh, waft me my lover's caress,
Or I shrivel and die on my stalk.'
The whippoorwill utters her love
In a passionate 'Come, oh come,'
To the male in the depths of the grove,
But the heart of a woman is dumb.
The lioness seeks her mate,
The she-tiger calls her own-
Who made it a woman's fate
To sit in the silence alone?
Wooed, wedded and widowed ere twenty. The life
Of Zoe Travers is told in that sentence. A wife
For one year, loved and loving; so full of life's joy
That death, growing jealous, resolved to destroy
The Eden she dwelt in. Five desolate years
She walked robed in weeds, and bathed ever in tears,
Through the valley of memory. Locked in love's tomb
Lay youth in its glory and hope in its bloom.
At times she was filled with religious devotion,
Again crushed to earth with rebellious emotion
And unresigned sorrow.
Ah, wild was her grief!
And the years seemed to bring her no balm of relief.
When a heart from its sorrow time cannot estrange,
God sends it another to alter and change
The current of feeling. Zoe's mother, her one
Tie to earth, became ill. When the doctors had done
All the harm which they dared do with powder and pill,
They ordered a trial of Dame Nature's skill.
Dear Nature! what grief in her bosom must stir
When she sees us turn everywhere save unto her
For the health she holds always in keeping; and sees
Us at last, when too late, creeping back to her knees,
Begging that she at first could have given!
Mother Nature's heart grieved o'er the mother of Zoe,
Who came but to die on her bosom. She died
Where the mocking bird poured out its passionate tide
Of lush music; and all through the dark days of pain
That succeeded, and over and through the refrain
Of her sorrow, Zoe heard that wild song evermore.
It seemed like a blow which pushed open a door
In her heart. Something strange, sweet and terrible stirred
In her nature, aroused by the song of that bird.
It rang like a voice from the future; a call
That came not from the past; yet the past held her all.
To the past she had plighted her vows; in the past
Lay her one dream of happiness, first, only, last.
Alone in the world now, she felt the unrest
Of an unanchored boat on the wild billow's breast.
Two homes had been shattered; the West held but tombs.
She drifted again where the magnolia blooms
And the mocking bird sings. Oh! that song, that wild strain,
Whose echoes still haunted her heart and her brain!
How she listened to hear it repeated! It came
Through the dawn to her heart, and the sound was like flame.
It chased all the shadows of night from her room,
And burst the closed bud of the day into bloom.
It leaped to the heavens, it sank to the earth
It gave life new rapture and love a new birth.
It ran through her veins like a fiery stream,
And the past and its sorrow-was only a dream.
The call of a bird in the spring for its lover
Is the voice of all Nature when winter is over.
The heart of the woman re-echoed the strain,
And its meaning, at last, to her senses was plain.
Grief's winter was over, the snows from her heart
Were melted; hope's blossoms were ready to start.
The spring had returned with its siren delights,
And her youth and emotions asserted their rights.
Then memory struggled with passion. The dead
Seemed to rise from the grave and accuse her. She fled
From her thoughts as from lepers; returned to old ways,
And strove to keep occupied, filling her days
With devotional duties. But when the night came
She heard through her slumber that song like a flame,
And her dreams were sweet torture. She sought all too soon
To chill the warm sun of her youth's ardent noon
With the shadows of premature evening. Her mind
Lacked direction a
'O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
Our thoughts as boundless, and our soul's as free
Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
Survey our empire, and behold our home!
These are our realms, no limits to their sway-
Our flag the sceptre all who meet obey.
Ours the wild life in tumult still to range
From toil to rest, and joy in every change.
Oh, who can tell? not thou, luxurious slave!
Whose soul would sicken o'er the heaving wave;
Not thou, vain lord of wantonness and ease!
whom slumber soothes not - pleasure cannot please -
Oh, who can tell, save he whose heart hath tried,
And danced in triumph o'er the waters wide,
The exulting sense - the pulse's maddening play,
That thrills the wanderer of that trackless way?
That for itself can woo the approaching fight,
And turn what some deem danger to delight;
That seeks what cravens shun with more than zeal,
And where the feebler faint can only feel -
Feel - to the rising bosom's inmost core,
Its hope awaken and Its spirit soar?
No dread of death if with us die our foes -
Save that it seems even duller than repose:
Come when it will - we snatch the life of life -
When lost - what recks it but disease or strife?
Let him who crawls enamour'd of decay,
Cling to his couch, and sicken years away:
Heave his thick breath, and shake his palsied head;
Ours - the fresh turf; and not the feverish bed.
While gasp by gasp he falters forth his soul,
Ours with one pang - one bound - escapes control.
His corse may boast its urn and narrow cave,
And they who loath'd his life may gild his grave:
Ours are the tears, though few, sincerely shed,
When Ocean shrouds and sepulchres our dead.
For us, even banquets fond regret supply
In the red cup that crowns our memory;
And the brief epitaph in danger's day,
When those who win at length divide the prey,
And cry, Remembrance saddening o'er each brow,
How had the brave who fell exulted now!'
Such were the notes that from the Pirate's isle
Around the kindling watch-fire rang the while:
Such were the sounds that thrill'd the rocks along,
And unto ears as rugged seem'd a song!
In scatter'd groups upon the golden sand,
They game-carouse-converse-or whet the brand:
Select the arms-to each his blade assign,
And careless eye the blood that dims its shine.
Repair the boat, replace the helm or oar,
While others straggling muse along the shore:
For the wild bird the busy springes set,
Or spread beneath the sun the dripping net:
Gaze where some distant sail a speck supplies
With all the 'thirsting eve of Enterprise:
Tell o'er the tales of many a night of toil,
And marvel where they next shall seize a spoil:
No matter where-- their chief's allotment this;
Theirs, to believe no prey nor plan amiss.
But who that CHIEF? his name on every shore
Is famed and fear'd - they ask and know no more.
With these he mingles not but to command;
Few are his words, but keen his eye and hand.
Ne'er seasons he with mirth their jovial mess
But they forgive his silence for success.
Ne'er for his lip the purpling cup they fill,
That goblet passes him untasted still -
And for his fare - the rudest of his crew
Would that, in turn, have pass'd untasted too;
Earth's coarsest bread, the garden's homeliest roots,
And scarce the summer luxury of fruits,
His short repast in humbleness supply
With all a hermit's board would scarce deny.
But while he shuns the grosser joys of sense,
His mind seems nourish'd by that abstinence.
'Steer to that shore! ' - they sail. 'Do this!' - 'tis done:
'Now form and follow me!' - the spoil is won.
Thus prompt his accents and his actions still,
And all obey and few inquire his will;
So To such, brief answer and contemptuous eye
Convey reproof, nor further deign reply.
'A sail! - sail! ' -a promised prize to Hope!
Her nation - flag - how speaks the telescope?
No prize, alas! but yet a welcome sail:
The blood-red signal glitters in the gale.
Yes - she is ours - a home - returning bark -
Blow fair thou breeze! - she anchors ere the dark.
Already doubled is the cape - our bay
Receives that prow which proudly spurns the spray.
How gloriously her gallant course she goes!
Her white wings flying - never from her foes-
She walks the waters like a thing of life,
And seems to dare the elements to strife.
Who would not brave the battle-fire, the wreck,
To move the monarch of her peopled deck?
Hoarse o'er her side the rustling cable rings;
The sails are furl'd; and anchoring round she swings;
And gathering loiterers on the land discern
Her boat descending from the latticed stem.
'Tis mann'd-the oars keep concert to the strand,
Till grates her keel upon the shallow sand.
Hail to the welcome shout! - the friendly speech!
When hand grasps hand uniting on the beach;
The smile, the question, and the quick reply,
And the heart's promise of festivity!
The tidings spread, and gathering grows the crowd;
The hum of voices, and the laughter loud,
And woman's gentler anxious tone is heard -
Friends', husbands', lovers' names in each dear word:
'Oh! are they safe? we ask not of success -
But shall we see them? will their accents bless?
From where the battle roars, the billows chafe
They doubtless boldly did - but who are safe?
Here let them haste to gladden and surprise,
And kiss the doubt from these delighted eyes!'
'Where is our chief? for him we bear report -
And doubt that joy - which hails our coming short;
Yet thus sincere, 'tis cheering, though so brief;
But, Juan! instant guide us to our chief:
Our greeting paid, we'll feast on our return,
And all shall hear what each may wish to learn.'
Ascending slowly by the rock-hewn way,
To where his watch-tower beetles o'er the bay,
By bushy brake, and wild flowers blossoming,
And freshness breathing from each silver spring,
Whose scatter'd streams from granite basins burst,
Leap into life, and sparkling woo your thirst;
From crag to cliff they mount - Near yonder cave,
What lonely straggler looks along the wave?
In pensive posture leaning on the brand,
Not oft a resting-staff to that red hand?
'Tis he 'tis Conrad - here, as wont, alone;
On - Juan! - on - and make our purpose known.
The bark he views - and tell him we would greet
His ear with tidings he must quickly meet:
We dare not yet approach-thou know'st his mood
When strange or uninvited steps intrude.'
Him Juan sought, and told of their intent;-
He spake not, but a sign express'd assent.
These Juan calls - they come - to their salute
He bends him slightly, but his lips are mute.
'These letters, Chief, are from the Greek - the spy,
Who still proclaims our spoil or peril nigh:
Whate'er his tidings, we can well report,
Much that' - 'Peace, peace! ' - he cuts their prating short.
Wondering they turn, abash'd, while each to each
Conjecture whispers in his muttering speech:
They watch his glance with many a stealing look
To gather how that eye the tidings took;
But, this as if he guess'd, with head aside,
Perchance from some emotion, doubt, or pride,
He read the scroll - 'My tablets, Juan' hark -
Where is Gonsalvo?'
'In the anchor'd bark'
'There let him stay - to him this order bear -
Back to your duty - for my course prepare:
Myself this enterprise to-night will share.'
'To-night, Lord Conrad!'
'Ay! at set of sun:
The breeze will freshen when the day is done.
My corslet, cloak - one hour and we are gone.
Sling on thy bugle - see that free from rust
My carbine-lock springs worthy of my trust.
Be the edge sharpen'd of my boarding-brand,
And give its guard more room to fit my hand.
This let the armourer with speed dispose
Last time, it more fatigued my arm than foes:
Mark that the signal-gun be duly fired,
To tell us when the hour of stay's expired.'
They make obeisance, and retire in haste,
Too soon to seek again the watery waste:
Yet they repine not - so that Conrad guides;
And who dare question aught that he decides?
That man of loneliness and mystery
Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh;
Whose name appals the fiercest of his crew,
And tints each swarthy cheek with sallower hue;
Still sways their souls with that commanding art
That dazzles, leads, yet chills the vulgar heart.
What is that spell, that thus his lawless train
Confess and envy, yet oppose in vain?
What should it be, that thus their faith can bind?
The power of Thought - the magic of the Mind!
Link'd with success, assumed and kept with skill,
That moulds another's weakness to its will;
Wields with their hands, but, still to these unknown,
Makes even their mightiest deeds appear his own
Such hath it been shall be - beneath the sun
The many still must labour for the one!
'Tis Nature's doom - but let the wretch who toils
Accuse not, hate not him who wears the spoils.
Oh! if he knew the weight of splendid chains,
How light the balance of his humbler pains!
Unlike the heroes of each ancient race,
Demons in act, but Gods at least in face,
In Conrad's form seems little to admire,
Though his dark eyebrow shades a glance of fire:
Robust but not Herculean - to the sight
No giant frame sets forth his common height;
Yet, in the whole, who paused to look again,
Saw more than marks the crowd of vulgar men;
They gaze and marvel how - and still confess
That thus it is, but why they cannot guess.
Sun-bumt his cheek, his forehead high and pale
The sable curls in wild profusion veil;
And oft perforce his rising lip reveals
The haughtier thought it curbs, but scarce conceals
Though smooth his voice, and calm his general mien'
Still seems there something he would not have seen
His features' deepening lines and varying hue
At times attracted, yet perplex'd the view,
As if within that murkiness of mind
Work'd feelings fearful, and yet undefined
Such might it be - that none could truly tell -
Too close inquiry his stern glance would quell.
There breathe but few whose aspect might defy
The full encounter of his searching eye;
He had the skill, when Cunning's gaze would seek
To probe his heart and watch his changing cheek
At once the observer's purpose to espy,
And on himself roll back his scrutiny,
Lest he to Conrad rather should betray
Some secret thought, than drag that chief's to day.
There was a laughing Devil in his sneer,
That raised emotions both of rage and fear;
And where his frown of hatred darkly fell,
Hope withering fled, and Mercy sigh'd farewell!
Slight are the outward signs of evil thought,
Within-within-'twas there the spirit wrought!
Love shows all changes-Hate, Ambition, Guile,
Betray no further than the bitter smile;
The lip's least curl, the lightest paleness thrown
Along the govern'd aspect, speak alone
Of deeper passions; and to judge their mien,
He, who would see, must be himself unseen.
Then-with the hurried tread, the upward eye,
The clenched hand, the pause of agony,
That listens, starting, lest the step too near
Approach intrusive on that mood of fear;
Then-with each feature working from the heart,
With feelings, loosed to strengthen-not depart,
That rise, convulse, contend-that freeze, or glow
Flush in the' cheek, or damp upon the brow;
Then, Stranger! if thou canst, and tremblest not
Behold his soul-the rest that soothes his lot!
Mark how that lone and blighted bosom sears
The scathing thought of execrated years!
Behold-but who hath seen, or e'er shall see,
Man as himself-the secret spirit free?
Yet was not Conrad thus by Nature sent
To lead the guilty-guilt's worse instrument-
His soul was changed, before his deeds had driven
Him forth to war with man and forfeit heaven
Warp'd by the world in Disappointment's school,
In words too wise, in conduct there a fool;
Too firm to yield, and far too proud to stoop,
Doom'd by his very virtues for a dupe,
He cursed those virtues as the cause of ill,
And not the traitors who betray'd him still;
Nor deem'd that gifts bestow'd on better men
Had left him joy, and means to give again
Fear'd, shunn'd, belied, ere youth had lost her force,
He hated man too much to feel remorse,
And thought the voice of wrath a sacred call,
To pay the injuries of some on all.
He knew himself a villain-but he deem'd
The rest no better than the thing he seem'd
And scorn'd'the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loath'd him, crouch'd and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt;
His name could sadden, and his acts surprise;
But they that fear'd him dared not to despise;
Man spurns the worm, but pauses ere he wake
The slumbering venom of the folded snake:
The first may turn, but not avenge the blow;
The last expires, but leaves no living foe;
Fast to the doom'd offender's form it clings,
And he may crush-not conquer-still it stings!
None are all evil-quickening round his heart
One softer feeling would not yet depart
Oft could he sneer at others as beguiled
By passions worthy of a fool or child;
Yet 'gainst that passion vainly still he strove,
And even in him it asks the name of Love!
Yes, it was love-unchangeable-unchanged,
Felt but for one from whom he never ranged;
Though fairest captives daily met his eye,
He shunn'd, nor sought, but coldly pass'd them by;
Though many a beauty droop'd in prison'd bower,
None ever sooth'd his most unguarded hour.
Yes-it was Love-if thoughts of tenderness
Tried in temptation, strengthen'd by distress
Unmoved by absence, firm in every clime,
And yet-oh more than all! untired by time;
Which nor defeated hope, nor baffled wile,
Could render sullen were she near to smile,
Nor rage could fire, nor sickness fret to vent
On her one murmur of his discontent;
Which still would meet with joy, with calmness part,
Lest that his look of grief should reach her heart;
Which nought removed, nor menaced to remove-
If there be love in mortals-this was love!
He was a villain-ay, reproaches shower
On him-but not the passion, nor its power,
Which only proved, all other virtues gone,
Not guilt itself could quench this loveliest one!
He paused a moment-till his hastening men
Pass'd the first winding downward to the glen.
'Strange tidings!-many a peril have I pass'd
Nor know I why this next appears the last!
Yet so my heart forebodes, but must not fear
Nor shall my followers find me falter here.
'Tis rash to meet, but surer death to wait
Till here they hunt us to undoubted fate;
And, if my plan but hold, and Fortune smile,
We'll furnish mourners for our funeral pile.
Ay, let them slumber-peaceful be their dreams!
Morn ne'er awoke them with such brilliant beams
As kindle high to-flight (but blow, thou breeze!)
To warm these slow avengers of the sea
Now to Medora-Oh! my sinking heart,
Long may her own be lighter than thou art!
Yet was I brave-mean boast where all are brave!
Ev'n insects sting for aught they seek to save.
This common courage which with brutes we share
That owes its' deadliest efforts to despair,
Small merit claims-but 'twas my nobler hope
To teach my few with numbers still to cope;
Long have I led them-not to vainly bleed:
No medium now-we perish or succeed;
So let it be-it irks not me to die;
But thus to urge them whence they cannot fly.
My lot hath long had little of my care,
But chafes my pride thus baffled in the snare:
Is this my skill? my craft? to set at last
Hope, power, and life upon a single cast?
Oh' Fate!-accuse thy folly, not thy fate!
She may redeem thee still, not yet too late.'
Thus with himself communion held he, till
He reach'd the summit of his towercrown'd hill:
There at the portal paused-or wild and soft
He heard those accents never heard too oft
Through the high lattice far yet sweet they rung,
And these the notes his bird of beauty sung:
'Deep in my soul that tender secret dwells,
Lonely and lost to light for evermore,
Save when to thine my heart responsive swells,
Then trembles into silence as before
'There, in its centre' a sepulchral lamp
Burns the slow flame, eternal, but unseen;
Which not the darkness of despair can damp,
Though vain its ray as it had never been.
'Remember me-Oh! pass not thou my grave
Without one thought whose relics there recline
The only pang my bosom dare not brave
Must be to find forgetfulness in thine.
'My fondest, faintest, latest accents hear-
Grief for the dead not virtue can reprove;
Then give me all I ever ask'd-a tear,
The first-last-sole reward of so much love!'
He pass'd the portal, cross'd the corridor,
And reach'd the chamber as the strain gave o'er:
'My own Medora! sure thy song is sad-'
'In Conrad's absence wouldst thou have it glad?
Without thine ear to listen to my lay,
Still must my song my thoughts, my soul betray:
Still must each action to my bosom suit,
My heart unhush'd, although my lips were mute!
Oh! many a night on this lone couch reclined,
My dreaming fear with storms hath wing'd the wind,
And deem'd the breath that faintly fann'd thy sail
The murmuring prelude of the ruder gale;
Though soft, it seem'd the low prophetic dirge,
That mourn'd thee floating on the savage surge;
Still would I rise to rouse the beacon fire,
Lest spies less true should let the blaze expire;
And many a restless hour outwatch'd each star,
And morning came-and still thou wert afar.
Oh! how the chill blast on my bosom blew,
And day broke dreary on my troubled view,
And still I gazed and gazed-and not a prow
Was granted to my tears, my truth, my vow!
At length 'twas noon-I hail'd and blest the mast
That met my sight-it near'd-Alas! it pass'd!
Another came-Oh God! 'twas thine at last!
Would that those days were over! wilt thou ne'er,
My Conrad! learn the joys of peace to share?
Sure thou hast more than wealth, and many a home
As bright as this invites us not to roam:
Thou know'st it is not peril that I fear,
I only tremble when thou art not here;
Then not for mine, but that far dearer life,
Which flies from love and languishes for strife-
How strange that heart, to me so tender still,
Should war with nature and its better will!'
'Yea, strange indeed-that heart hath long been changed;
Worm-like 'twas trampled, adder-like avenged,
Without one hope on earth beyond thy love,
And scarce a glimpse of mercy from above.
Yet the same feeling which thou dost condemn,
My very love to thee is hate to them,
So closely mingling here, that disentwined,
I cease to love thee when I love mankind:
Yet dread not this - the proof of all the past
Assures the future that my love will last;
But - oh, Medora! nerve thy gentler heart;
This hour again-but not for long-we part.'
'This hour we part-my heart foreboded this:
Thus ever fade my fairy dreams of bliss.
This hour-it cannot be-this hour away!
Yon bark hath hardly anchor'd in the bay:
Her consort still is absent, and her crew
Have need of rest before they toil anew:
My love! thou mock'st my weakness; and wouldst steel
My breast before the time when it must feel;
But trifle now no more with my distress,
Such mirth hath less of play than bitterness.
Be silent, Conrad! -dearest! come and share
The feast these hands delighted to prepare;
Light toil! to cull and dress thy frugal fare!
See, I have pluck'd the fruit that promised best,
And where not sure, perplex'd, but pleased, I guess'd
At such as seem'd the fairest; thrice the hill
My steps have wound to try the coolest rill;
Yes! thy sherbet tonight will sweetly flow,
See how it sparkles in its vase of snow!
The grapes' gay juice thy bosom never cheers;
Thou more than Moslem when the cup appears:
Think not I mean to chide-for I rejoice
What others deem a penance is thy choice.
But come, the board is spread; our silver lamp
Is trimm'd, and heeds not the sirocco's damp:
Then shall my handmaids while the time along,
And join with me the dance, or wake the song;
Or my guitar, which still thou lov'st to hear'
Shall soothe or lull-or, should it vex thine ear
We'll turn the' tale, by Ariosto told,
Of fair Olympia loved and left of old.
Why, thou wert worse than he who broke his vow
To that lost damsel, shouldst thou leave me now;
Or even that traitor chief-I've seen thee smile,
When the dear sky show'd Ariadne's Isle,
Which I have pointed from these cliffs the while:
And thus half sportive, half in fear, I said,
Lest time should rake that doubt to more than dread,
Thus Conrad, too, win quit me for the main;
And he deceived me-for he came again!'
'Again, again-and oft again-my love!
If there be life below, and hope above,
He will return-but now, the moments bring
The time of parting with redoubled wing:
The why, the where - what boots it now to tell?
Since all must end in that wild word - farewell!
Yet would I fain-did time allow disclose-
Fear not-these are no formidable foes
And here shall watch a more than wonted guard,
For sudden siege and long defence prepared:
Nor be thou lonely, though thy lord 's away,
Our matrons and thy handmaids with thee stay;
And this thy comfort-that, when next we meet,
Security shall make repose more sweet.
List!-'tis the bugle! '-Juan shrilly blew-
'One kiss-one more-another-Oh! Adieu!'
She rose-she sprung-she clung to his embrace,
Till his heart heaved beneath her hidden face:
He dared not raise to his that deep-blue eye,
Which downcast droop'd in tearless agony.
Her long fair hair lay floating o'er his arms,
In all the wildness of dishevell'd charms;
Scarce beat that bosom where his image dwelt
So full-that feeling seem'd almost Unfelt!
Hark-peals the thunder of the signal-gun
It told 'twas sunset, and he cursed that sun.
Again-again-that form he madly press'd,
Which mutely clasp'd, imploringly caress'd!
And tottering to the couch his bride he bore,
One moment gazed, as if to gaze no more;
Felt that for him earth held but her alone,
Kiss'd her cold forehead-turn'd-is Conrad gone?
'And is he gone?' on sudden solitude
How oft that fearful question will intrude
'Twas but an instant past, and here he stood!
And now '-without the portal's porch she rush'd,
And then at length her tears in freedom gush'd;
Big, bright, and fast, unknown to her they fell;
But still her lips refused to send-'Farewell!'
For in that word-that fatal word-howe'er
We promise, hope, believe, there breathes despair.
O'er every feature of that still, pale face,
Had sorrow fix'd what time can ne'er erase:
The tender blue of that large loving eye
Grew frozen with its gaze on vacancy,
Till-Oh? how far!-it caught a glimpse of him,
And then it flow'd, and phrensied seem'd to swim
Through those' long, dark, and glistening lashes dew'd
With drops of sadness oft to be renew'd.
'He's gone! '-against her heart that hand is driven,
Convulsed and quick-then gently raised to heaven:
She look'd and saw the heaving of the main;
The white sail set she dared not look again;
But turn'd with sickening soul within the gate
'It is no dream - and I am desolate!'
From crag to crag descending, swiftly sped
Stern Conrad down, nor once he turn'd his head;
But shrunk whene'er the windings of his way
Forced on his eye what he would not survey,
His lone but lovely dwelling on the steep,
That hail'd him first when homeward from the deep
And she-the dim and melancholy star,
Whose ray of beauty reach'd him from afar
On her he must not gaze, he must not think,
There he might rest-but on Destruction's brink:
Yet once almost he stopp'd, and nearly gave
His fate to chance, his projects to the wave:
But no-it must not be-a worthy chief
May melt, but not betray to woman's grief.
He sees his bark, he notes how fair the wind,
And sternly gathers all his might of mind:
Again he hurries on-and as he hears
The dang of tumult vibrate on his ears,
The busy sounds, the bustle of the shore,
The shout, the signal, and the dashing oar;
As marks his eye the seaboy on the mast,
The anchors rise, the sails unfurling fast,
The waving kerchiefs of the crowd that urge
That mute adieu to those who stem the surge;
And more than all, his blood-red flag aloft,
He marvell'd how his heart could seem so soft.
Fire in his glance, and wildness in his breast
He feels of all his former self possest;
He bounds - he flies-until his footsteps reach
The verge where ends the cliff, begins the beach,
There checks his speed; but pauses less to breathe
The breezy freshness of the deep beneath,
Than there his wonted statelier step renew;
Nor rush, disturb'd by haste, to vulgar view:
For well had Conrad learn'd to curb the crowd,
By arts that veil and oft preserve the proud;
His was the lofty port, the distant mien,
That seems to shun the sight-and awes if seen:
The solemn aspect, and the high-born eye,
That checks low mirth, but lacks not courtesy;
All these he wielded to command assent:
But where he wish'd to win, so well unbent
That kindness cancell'd fear in those who heard,
And others' gifts show'd mean beside his word,
When echo'd to the heart as from his own
His deep yet tender melody of tone:
But such was foreign to his wonted mood,
He cared not what he soften'd, but subdued:
The evil passions of his youth had made
Him value less who loved-than what obey'd.
Around him mustering ranged his ready guard,
Before him Juan stands - 'Are all prepared?'
They are - nay more - embark'd: the boats
Waits but my Chief-'
My sword, and my capote.'
Soon firmly girded on, and lightly slung,
His belt and cloak were o'er his shoulders flung:
'Call Pedro here!' He comes - and Conrad bends,
With all the courtesy he deign'd his friends;
'Receive these tablets, and peruse with care,
Words of high trust and truth are graven there;
Double the guard, and when Anselmo's bark
Arrives, let him alike these orders mark:
In three days (serve the breeze) the sun shall shine
On our return - till then all peace be thine!'
This said, his brother Pirate's hand he wrung,
Then to his boat with haughty gesture sprung.
Flash'd the dipt oars, and sparkling with the stroke,
Around the waves' phosphoric brightness broke;
They gain the vessel - on the deck he stands, -
Shrieks the shrill whistle, ply the busy hands -
He marks how well the ship her helm obeys,
How gallant all her crew, and deigns to praise.
His eyes of pride to young Gonsalvo turn -
Why doth he start, and inly seem to mourn?
Alas! those eyes beheld his rocky tower
And live a moment o'er the parting hour;
She - his Medora - did she mark the prow?
Ah! never loved he half so much as now!
But much must yet be done ere dawn of day -
Again he mans himself and turns away;
Down to the cabin with Gonsalvo bends,
And there unfolds his plan, his means, and ends;
Before them burns the lamp, and spreads the chart,
And all that speaks and aids the naval art;
They to the midnight watch protract debate;
To anxious eyes what hour is ever late?
Meantime, the steady breeze serenely blew,
And fast and falcon-like the vessel flew;
Pass'd the high headlands of each clustering isle,
To gain their port - long - long ere morning smile:
And soon the night-glass through the narrow bay
Discovers where the Pacha's galleys lay.
Count they each sail, and mark how there supine
The lights in vain o'er heedless Moslem shine.
Secure, unnoted, Conrad's prow pass'd by,
And anchor'd where his ambush meant to lie;
Screen'd from espial by the jutting cape,
That rears on high its rude fantastic shape.
Then rose his band to duty - not from sleep -
Equipp'd for deeds alike on land or deep;
While lean'd their leader o'er the fretting flood,
And calmly talk'd-and yet he talk'd of blood!
CANTO THE SECOND
'Conoscestci dubiosi desiri?'~Dante
IN Coron's bay floats many a galley light,
Through Coron's lattices the lamps are bright
For Seyd, the Pacha, makes a feast to-night:
A feast for promised triumph yet to come,
When he shall drag the fetter'd Rovers home;
This hath he sworn by Allah and his sword,
And faithful to his firman and his word,
His summon'd prows collect along the coast,
And great the gathering crews, and loud the boast;
Already shared the captives and the prize,
Though far the distant foe they thus despise
'Tis but to sail - no doubt to-morrow's Sun
Will see the Pirates bound, their haven won!
Meantime the watch may slumber, if they will,
Nor only wake to war, but dreaming kill.
Though all, who can, disperse on shore and seek
To flesh their glowing valour on the Greek;
How well such deed becomes the turban'd brave -
To bare the sabre's edge before a slave!
Infest his dwelling - but forbear to slay,
Their arms are strong, yet merciful to-day,
And do not deign to smite because they may!
Unless some gay caprice suggests the blow,
To keep in practice for the coming foe.
Revel and rout the evening hours beguile,
And they who wish to wear a head must smile
For Moslem mouths produce their choicest cheer,
And hoard their curses, till the coast is clear.
High in his hall reclines the turban'd Seyd;
Around-the bearded chiefs he came to lead.
Removed the banquet, and the last pilaff -
Forbidden draughts, 'tis said, he dared to quaff,
Though to the rest the sober berry's juice
The slaves bear round for rigid Moslems' use;
The long chibouque's dissolving cloud supply,
While dance the Almas to wild minstrelsy.
The rising morn will view the chiefs embark;
But waves are somewhat treacherous in the dark:
And revellers may more securely sleep
On silken couch than o'er the rugged deep:
Feast there who can - nor combat till they must,
And less to conquest than to Korans trust:
And yet the numbers crowded in his host
Might warrant more than even the Pacha's boast.
With cautious reverence from the outer gate
Slow stalks the slave, whose office there to wait,
Bows his bent head, his hand salutes the floor,
Ere yet his tongue the trusted tidings bore:
'A captive Dervise, from the Pirate's nest
Escaped, is here - himself would tell the rest.'
He took the sign from Seyd's assenting eye,
And led the holy man in silence nigh.
His arms were folded on his dark-green vest,
His step was feeble, and his look deprest;
Yet worn he seem'd of hardship more than years,
And pale his cheek with penance, not from fears.
Vow'd to his God - his sable locks he wore,
And these his lofty cap rose proudly o'er:
Around his form his loose long robe was thrown
And wrapt 'a breast bestow'd on heaven alone;
Submissive, yet with self-possession mann'd,
He calmly, met the curious eyes that scann d;
And question of his coming fain would seek,
Before the Pacha's will allow'd to speak.
Whence com'st thou, Dervise?'
'From the outlaw's den,
A fugitive -'
'Thy capture where and when?'
From Scalanova's port to Scio's isle,
The Saick was bound; but Allah did not smile
Upon our course - the Moslem merchant's gains
The Rovers won; our limbs have worn their chains.
I had no death to fear, nor wealth to boast
Beyond the wandering freedom which I lost;
At length a fisher's humble boat by night
Afforded hope, and offer'd chance of flight;
I seized the hour, and find my safety here -
With thee - most mighty Pacha! who can fear?'
'How speed the outlaws? stand they well prepared,
Their plunder'd wealth, and robber's rock, to guard?
Dream they of this our preparation, doom'd
To view with fire their scorpion nest consumed?'
'Pacha! the fetter'd captive's mourning eye,
That weeps for flight, but ill can play the spy;
I only heard the reckless waters roar
Those waves that would not bear me from the shore;
I only mark'd the glorious sun and sky,
Too bright, too blue, or my captivity;
And felt that all which Freedom's bosom cheers
Must break my chain before it dried my tears.
This may'st thou judge, at least, from my escape,
They little deem of aught in peril's shape;
Else vainly had I pray'd or sought the chance
That leads me here - if eyed with vigilance
The careless guard that did not see me fly
May watch as idly when thy power is nigh.
Pacha! my limbs are faint - and nature craves
Food for my hunger, rest from tossing waves:
Permit my absence - peace be with thee! Peace
With all around! - now grant repose - release.'
'Stay, Dervise! I have more to question - stay,
I do command thee - sit - dost hear? - obey!
More I must ask, and food the slaves shall bring
Thou shalt not pine where all are banqueting:
The supper done - prepare thee to reply,
Clearly and full -I love not mystery.'
'Twere vain to guess what shook the pious man,
Who look'd not lovingly on that Divan;
Nor show'd high relish for the banquet prest,
And less respect for every fellow guest.
'Twas but a moment's peevish hectic pass'd
Along his cheek, and tranquillised as fast:
He sate him down in silence, and his look
Resumed the calmness which before forsook:
This feast was usher'd in, but sumptuous fare
He shunn'd as if some poison mingled there.
For one so long condemn'd to toil and fast,
Methinks he strangely spares the rich re-past.
'What ails thee, Dervise? eat - dost thou suppose
This feast a Christian's? or my friends thy foes?
Why dost thou shun the salt? that sacred pledge,
Which once partaken, blunts the sabre's edge,
Makes ev'n contending tribes in peace unite,
And hated hosts seem brethren to the sight!'
'Salt seasons dainties-and my food is still
The humblest root, my drink the simplest rill;
And my stern vow and order's laws oppose
To break or mingle bread with friends or foes;
It may seem strange - if there be aught to dread,
That peril rests upon my single head;
But for thy sway - nay more - thy Sultan's throne,
I taste nor bread nor banquet - save alone;
Infringed our order's rule, the Prophet's rage
To Mecca's dome might bar my pilgrimage.'
'Well - as thou wilt - ascetic as thou art -
One question answer; then in peace depart.
How many ? - Ha! it cannot sure be day?
What star - what sun is bursting on the bay?
It shines a lake of fire ! - away - away!
Ho! treachery! my guards! my scimitar!
The galleys feed the flames - and I afar!
Accursed Dervise! - these thy tidings - thou
Some villain spy-seize cleave him - slay him now!'
Up rose the Dervise with that burst of light,
Nor less his change of form appall'd the sight:
Up rose that Dervise - not in saintly garb,
But like a warrior bounding on his barb,
Dash'd his high cap, and tore his robe away -
Shone his mail'd breast, and flash'd his sabre's ray!
His dose but glittering casque, and sable plume,
More glittering eye, and black brow's sabler gloom,
Glared on the Moslems' eyes some Afrit sprite,
Whose demon death-blow left no hope for fight.
The wild confusion, and the swarthy glow
Of flames on high, and torches from below;
The shriek of terror, and the mingling yell -
For swords began to dash' and shouts to swell -
Flung o'er that spot of earth the air of hell!
Distracted, to and fro, the flying slaves
Behold but bloody shore and fiery waves;
Nought heeded they the Pacha's angry cry,
They seize that Dervise!-seize on Zatanai!
He saw their terror-check'd the first dispair
That urged him but to stand and perish there,
Since far too early and too well obey'd,
The flame was kindled ere the signal made;
He saw their terror - from his baldric drew
-His bugle-brief the blast-but shrilly blew;
'Tis answered-' Well ye speed, my gallant crew!
Why did I doubt their quickness of career?
And deem design had left me single here?'
Sweeps his long arm-that sabre's whirling sway
Sheds fast atonement for its first delay;
Completes his fury what their fear begun,
And makes the many basely quail to one.
The cloven turbans o'er the chamber spread,
And scarce an arm dare rise to guard its head:
Even Seyd, convulsed, o'erwhelm'd, with rage surprise,
Retreats before him, though he still defies.
No craven he - and yet he dreads the blow,
So much Confusion magnifies his foe!
His blazing galleys still distract his sight,
He tore his beard, and foaming fled the fight;
For now the pirates pass'd the Haram gate,
And burst within - and it were death to wait
Where wild Amazement shrieking - kneeling throws
The sword aside - in vain the blood o'erflows!
The Corsairs pouring, haste to where within
Invited Conrad's bugle, and the din
Of groaning victims, and wild cries for life,
Proclaim'd how well he did the work of strife.
They shout to find him grim and lonely there,
A glutted tiger mangling in his lair!
But short their greeting, shorter his reply
'Tis well but Seyd escapes, and he must die-
Much hath been done, but more remains to do -
Their galleys blaze - why not their city too?'
Quick at the word they seized him each a torch'
And fire the dome from minaret to porch.
A stern delight was fix'd in Conrad's eye,
But sudden sunk - for on his ear the cry
Of women struck, and like a deadly knell
Knock'd at that heart unmoved by battle's yell.
'Oh! burst the Haram - wrong not on your lives
One female form remember - we have wives.
On them such outrage Vengeance will repay;
Man is our foe, and such 'tis ours to slay:
But still we spared - must spare the weaker prey.
Oh! I forgot - but Heaven will not forgive
If at my word the helpless cease to live;
Follow who will - I go - we yet have time
Our souls to lighten of at least a crime.'
He climbs the crackling stair, he bursts the door,
Nor feels his feet glow scorching with the floor;
His breath choked gasping with the volumed smoke,
But still from room to room his way he broke.
They search - they find - they save: with lusty arms
Each bears a prize of unregarded charms;
Calm their loud fears; sustain their sinking frames
With all the care defenceless beauty claims
So well could Conrad tame their fiercest mood,
And check the very hands with gore imbrued.
But who is she? whom Conrad's arms convey
From reeking pile and combat's wreck away -
Who but the love of him he dooms to bleed?
The Haram queen - but still the slave of Seyd!
Brief time had Conrad now to greet Gulnare,
Few words to re-assure the trembling fair
For in that pause compassion snatch'd from war,
The foe before retiring, fast and far,
With wonder saw their footsteps unpursued,
First slowlier fled - then rallied - then withstood.
This Seyd perceives, then first perceives how few?
Compared with his, the Corsair's roving crew,
And blushes o'er his error, as he eyes
The ruin wrought by panic and surprise.
Alla il Alla! Vengeance swells the cry -
Shame mounts to rage that must atone or die!
And flame for flame and blood for blood must tell,
The tide of triumph ebbs that flow'd too well -
When wrath returns to renovated strife,
And those who fought for conquest strike for life
Conrad beheld the danger - he beheld
His followers faint by freshening foes repell'd:
'One effort - one - to break the circling host!'
They form - unite - charge - waver - all is lost!
Within a narrower ring compress'd, beset,
Hopeless, not heartless, strive and struggle yet -
Ah! now they fight in firmest file no more,
Hemm'd in, cut off, cleft down, and trampled o'er,
But each strikes singly, silently, and home,
And sinks outwearied rather than o'ercome,
His last faint quittance rendering with his breath,
Till the blade glimmers in the grasp of death!
But first, ere came the rallying host to blows,
And rank to rank, and hand to hand oppose,
Gulnare and all her Haram handmaids freed,
Safe in the dome of one who held their creed,
By Conrad's mandate safely were bestow'd
And dried those tears for life and fame that flow'd:
And when that dark-eyed lady, young Gulnare
Recall'd those thoughts late wandering in despair
Much did she marvel o'er the courtesy
That smooth'd his accents, soften'd in his eye:
'Twas strange-that robber thus with gore bedew'd
Seem'd gentler then than Seyd in fondest mood.
The Pacha woo'd as if he deem'd the slave
Must seem delighted with the heart he gave
The Corsair vow'd protection, soothed affright
As if his homage were a woman's right.
'The wish is wrong-nay, worse for female - vain:
Yet much I long to view that chief again;
If but to thank for, what my fear forget,
The life my loving lord remember'd not!'
And him she saw, where thickest carnage spread,
But gather'd breathing from the happier dead;
Far from his band, and battling with a host
That deem right dearly won the field he lost,
Fell'd - bleeding - baffled of the death he sought,
And snatch'd to expiate all the ills he wrought;
Preserved to linger and to live in vain,
While Vengeance ponder'd o'er new plans of pain,
And stanch'd the blood she saves to shed again -
But drop for drop, for Seyd's unglutted eye
Would doom him ever dying - ne'er to die!
Can this be he? triumphant late she saw
When his red hand's wild gesture waved a law!
'Tis he indeed - disarm'd but undeprest,
His sole regret the life he still possest;
His wounds too slight, though taken with that will,
Which would have kiss'd the hand that then could kill.
Oh were there none, of all the many given,
To send his soul - he scarcely ask'd to heaven?
Must he alone of all retain his breath,
Who more than all had striven and struck for death?
He deeply felt - what mortal hearts must feel,
When thus reversed on faithless fortune's wheel,
For crimes committed, and the victor's threat
Of lingering tortures to repay the debt -
He deeply, darkly felt; but evil pride
That led to perpetrate, now serves to hide.
Still in his stern and self-collected mien
A conqueror's more than captive's air is seen
Though faint with wasting toil and stiffening wound,
But few that saw - so calmly gazed around:
Though the far shouting of the distant crowd,
Their tremors o'er, rose insolently loud,
The better warriors who beheld him near,
Insulted not the foe who taught them fear;
And the grim guards that to his durance led,
In silence eyed him with a secret dread
The Leech was sent-but not in mercy - there,
To note how much the life yet left could bear;
He found enough to load with heaviest chain,
And promise feeling for the wrench of pain;
To-morrow - yea - tomorrow's evening gun
Will sinking see impalement's pangs begun'
And rising with the wonted blush of morn
Behold how well or ill those pangs are borne.
Of torments this the longest and the worst,
Which adds all other agony to thirst,
That day by day death still forbears to slake,
While famish'd vultures flit around the stake.
'Oh! Water - water! ' smiling Hate denies
The victim's prayer, for if he drinks he dies.
This was his doom; - the Leech, the guard were gone,
And left proud Conrad fetter'd and alone.
'Twere vain to paint to what his feelings grew -
It even were doubtful if their victim knew.
There is a war, a chaos of the mind,
When all its elements convulsed, combined,
Lie dark and jarring with perturbed force,
And gnashing with impenitent Remorse -
That juggling fiend, who never spake before
But cries 'I warn'd thee!' when the deed is o'er.
Vain voice! the spirit burning but unbent
May writhe, rebel - the weak alone repent!
Even in that lonely hour when most it feels,
And, to itself; all, all that self reveals,-
No single passion, and no ruling thought
That leaves the rest, as once, unseen, unsought,
But the wild prospect when the soul reviews,
All rushing through their thousand avenues -
Ambition's dreams expiring, love's regret,
Endanger'd glory, life itself beset;
The joy untasted, the contempt or hate
'Gainst those who fain would triumph in our fate
The hopeless' past, the hasting future driven
Too quickly on to guess of hell or heaven;
Deeds, thoughts, and words, perhaps remember'd not
So keenly till that hour, but ne'er forgot;
Things light or lovely in their acted time,
But now to stern reflection each a crime;
The withering sense of evil unreveal'd,
Not cankering less because the more con ceal'd -
All, in a word, from which all eyes must start,
That opening sepulchre - the naked heart
Bares with its buried woes, till Pride awake,
To snatch the mirror from the soul-and break.
Ay, Pride can veil, and Courage brave it all -
All - all - before - beyond - the deadliest fall.
Each hath some fear, and he who least betrays,
The only hypocrite deserving praise:
Not the loud recreant wretch who boasts and flies;
But he who looks on death-and silent dies.
So steel'd by pondering o'er his far career,
He half-way meets him should he menace near!
In the high chamber of his highest tower
Sate Conrad, fetter'd in the Pacha's power.
His palace perish'd in the flame - this fort
Contain'd at once his captive and his court.
Not much could Conrad of his sentence blame,
His foe, if vanquish'd, had but shared the same:-
Alone he sate-in solitude had scann'd
His guilty bosom, but that breast he mann'd:
One thought alone he could not - dared not meet -
'Oh, how these tidings will Medora greet?'
Then - only then - his clanking hands he raised,
And strain'd with rage the chain on which he gazed
But soon he found, or feign'd, or dream'd relief,
And smiled in self-derision of his grief,
'And now come torture when it will - or may,
More need of rest to nerve me for the day!'
This said, with languor to his mat he crept,
And, whatsoe'er his visions, quickly slept
'Twas hardly midnight when that fray begun,
For Conrad's plans matured, at once were done:
And Havoc loathes so much the waste of time,
She scarce had left an uncommitted crime.
One hour beheld him since the tide he stemm'd -
Disguised, discover'd, conquering, ta'en, condemn'd -
A chief on land, an outlaw on the deep
Destroying, saving, prison'd, and asleep!
He slept in calmest seeming, for his breath
Was hush'd so deep - Ah! happy if in death!
He slept - Who o'er his placid slumber bends?
His foes are gone, and here he hath no friends;
Is it some seraph sent to grant him grace?
No, 'tis an earthly form with heavenly face!
Its white arm raised a lamp - yet gently hid,
Lest the ray flash abruptly on the lid
Of that closed eye, which opens but to pain,
And once unclosed - but once may close again
That form, with eye so dark, and cheek so fair,
And auburn waves of gemm'd and braided hair;
With shape of fairy lightness - naked foot,
That shines like snow, and falls on earth as mute -
Through guards and dunnest night how came it there?
Ah! rather ask what will not woman dare?
Whom youth and pity lead like thee, Gulnare!
She could not sleep - and while the Pacha's rest
In muttering dreams yet saw his pirate-guest
She left his side - his signet-ring she bore
Which oft in sport adorn'd her hand before -
And with it, scarcely question'd, won her way
Through drowsy guards that must that sign obey.
Worn out with toil, and tired with changing blows
Their eyes had' envied Conrad his repose;
And chill and nodding at the turret door,
They stretch their listless limbs, and watch no more;
Just raised their heads to hail the signet-ring,
Nor ask or what or who the sign may bring.
She gazed in wonder, 'Can he calmly sleep,
While other eyes his fall or ravage weep?
And mine in restlessness are wandering here -
What sudden spell hath made this man so dear?
True-'tis to him my life, and more, I owe,
And me and mine he spared from worse than woe:
'Tis late to think - but soft, his slumber breaks -
How heavily he sighs! - he starts - awakes!'
He raised his head, and dazzled with the light,
His eye seem'd dubious if it saw aright:
He moved his hand - the grating of his chain
Too harshly told him that he lived again.
'What is that form? if not a shape of air,
Methinks, my jailor's face shows wondrous fair!'
'Pirate! thou know'st me not-but I am one,
Grateful for deeds thou hast too rarely done;
Look on me - and remember her, thy hand
Snatch'd from the flames, and thy more fearful band.
I come through darkness and I scarce know why -
Yet not to hurt - I would not see thee die'
'If so, kind lady! thine the only eye
That would not here in that gay hope delight:
Theirs is the chance - and let them use their right.
But still I thank their courtesy or thine,
That would confess me at so fair a shrine!'
Strange though it seem - yet with extremest grief
Is link'd a mirth - it doth not bring relief -
That playfulness of Sorrow ne'er beguiles,
And smiles in bitterness - but still it smiles;
And sometimes with the wisest and the best,
Till even the scaffold echoes with their jest!
Yet not the joy to which it seems akin -
It may deceive all hearts, save that within.
Whate'er it was that flash'd on Conrad, now
A laughing wildness half unbent his brow
And these his accents had a sound of mirth,
As if the last he could enjoy on earth;
Yet 'gainst his nature - for through that short life,
Few thoughts had he to spare from gloom and strife.
'Corsair! thy doom is named - but I have power
To soothe the Pacha in his weaker hour.
Thee would I spare - nay more - would save thee now,
But this - time - hope - nor even thy strength allow;
But all I can, I will: at least, delay
The sentence that remits thee scarce a day.
More now were ruin - even thyself were loth
The vain attempt should bring but doom to both.'
'Yes! loth indeed:- my soul is nerved to all,
Or fall'n too low to fear a further fall:
Tempt not thyself with peril - me with hope
Of flight from foes with whom I could not cope:
Unfit to vanquish, shall I meanly fly,
The one of all my band that would not die?
Yet there is one to whom my memory clings,
Till to these eyes her own wild softness springs.
My sole resources in the path I trod
Were these - my bark, my sword, my love, my God!
The last I left in youth! - he leaves me now -
And Man but works his will to lay me low.
I have no thought to mock his throne with prayer
Wrung from the coward crouching of despair;
It is enough - I breathe, and I can bear.
My sword is shaken from the worthless hand
That might have better kept so true a brand;
My bark is sunk or captive - but my love -
For her in sooth my voice would mount above:
Oh! she is all that still to earth can bind -
And this will break a heart so more than kind,
And blight a form - till thine appear'd, Gulnare!
Mine eye ne'er ask'd if others were as fair.'
'Thou lov'st another then? - but what to me
Is this - 'tis nothing - nothing e'er can be:
But yet - thou lov'st - and - Oh! I envy those
Whose hearts on hearts as faithful can repose,
Who never feel the void-the wandering thought
That sighs o'er vision~such as mine hath wrought.'
'Lady methought thy love was his, for whom
This arm redeem'd thee from a fiery tomb.
'My love stern Seyd's! Oh - No - No - not my love -
Yet much this heart, that strives no more, once strove
To meet his passion but it would not be.
I felt - I feel - love dwells with - with the free.
I am a slave, a favour'd slave at best,
To share his splendour, and seem very blest!
Oft must my soul the question undergo,
Of -' Dost thou love?' and burn to answer, 'No!'
Oh! hard it is that fondness to sustain,
And struggle not to feel averse in vain;
But harder still the heart's recoil to bear,
And hide from one - perhaps another there.
He takes the hand I give not, nor withhold -
Its pulse nor check'd, nor quicken'd-calmly cold:
And when resign'd, it drops a lifeless weight
From one I never loved enough to hate.
No warmth these lips return by his imprest,
And chill'd remembrance shudders o'er the rest.
Yes - had lever proved that passion's zeal,
The change to hatred were at least to feel:
But still he goes unmourn'd, returns unsought,
And oft when present - absent from my thought.
Or when reflection comes - and come it must -
I fear that henceforth 'twill but bring disgust;
I am his slave - but, in despite of pride,
'Twere worse than bondage to become his bride.
Oh! that this dotage of his breast would cease:
Or seek another and give mine release,
But yesterday - I could have said, to peace!
Yes, if unwonted fondness now I feign,
Remember captive! 'tis to break thy chain;
Repay the life that to thy hand I owe
To give thee back to all endear'd below,
Who share such love as I can never know.
Farewell, morn breaks, and I must now away:
'Twill cost me dear - but dread no death to-day!'
She press'd his fetter'd fingers to her heart,
And bow'd her head, and turn'd her to de part,
And noiseless as a lovely dream is gone.
And was she here? and is he now alone?
What gem hath dropp'd and sparkles o'er his chain?
The tear most sacred, shed for others' pain,
That starts at once - bright - pure - from Pity's mine
Already polish'd by the hand divine!
Oh! too convincing - deangerously dear -
In woman's eye the unanswerable tear
That weapon of her weakness she can wield,
To save, subdue at once her spear and shield:
Avoid it - Virtue ebbs and Wisdom errs,
Too fondly gazing on that grief of hers!
What lost a world, and bade a hero fly?
The timid tear in Cleopatra's eye.
Yet be the soft triumvir's fault forgiven;
By this - how many lose not earth - but heaven!
Consign their souls to man's eternal foe,
And seal their own to spare some wanton's woe!
'Tis morn, and o'er his alter'd features play
The beams - without the hope of yester-day.
What shall he be ere night? perchance a thing
O'er which the raven flaps her funeral wing
By his closed eye unheeded and unfelt;
While sets that sun, and dews of evening melt,
Chin wet, and misty round each stiffen'd limb,
Refreshing earth - reviving all but him!
CANTO THE THIRD
'Come vedi - ancor non m'abbandona'~Dante
Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,
Along Morea's hills the setting sun;
Not, as in Northern climes, obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light!
O'er the hush'd deep the yellow beam he throws,
Gilds the green wave, that trembles as it glows.
On old Ægina's rock and Idra's isle,
The god of gladness sheds his parting smile;
O'er his own regions lingering, loves to shine,
Though there his altars are no more divine.
Descending fast the mountain shadows kiss
Thy glorious gulf; unconquer'd Salamis!
Their azure arches through the long expanse
More deeply purpled meet his mellowing glance,
And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,
Mark his gay course, and own the hues of heaven;
Tm, darkly shaded from the land and deep,
Behind his Delphian cliff he sinks to sleep.
On such an eve, his palest beam he cast,
When - Athens! here thy Wisest look'd his last.
How watch'd thy better sons his farewell ray,
That closed their murder'd sage's latest day!
Not yet - not yet - Sol pauses on the hill -
The precious hour of parting lingers still;
But sad his light to agonising eyes,
And dark the mountain's once delightful dyes:
Gloom o'er the lovely land he seem'd to pour,
The land, where Phoebus never frown'd before;
But ere he sank below Cithæron's head,
The cup of woe was quaff'd - the spirit fled
The soul of him who scorn'd to fear or fly -
Who lived and died, as none can live or die!
But lo! from high Hymettus to the plain,
The queen of night asserts her silent reign.
No murky vapour, herald of the storm,
Hides her fair face, nor girds her glowing form:
With cornice glimmering as the moon-beams play,
There the white column greets her grateful ray,
And, bright around with quivering beams beset,
Her emblem sparkles o'er the minaret:
The groves of olive scatter'd dark and wide
Where meek Cephisus pours his scanty tide,
The cypress saddening by the sacred mosque,
The gleaming turret of the gay kiosk,
And, dun and sombre 'mid the holy calm,
Near Theseus' fane yon solitary palm,
All tinged with varied hues arrest the eye -
And dull were his that pass'd them heedless by.
Again the Ægean, heard no more afar,
Lulls his chafed breast from elemental war;
Again his waves in milder tints unfold
Their long array of sapphire and of gold,
Mix'd with the shades of many a distant isle,
That frown - where gentler ocean seems to smile.
Not now my theme-why turn my thoughts to thee?
Oh! who can look along thy native sea.
Nor dwell upon thy name, whate'er the tale
So much its magic must o'er all prevail?
Who that beheld that Sun upon thee set,
Fair Athens! could thine evening face for get?
Not he - whose heart nor time nor distance frees,
Spell-bound within the clustering Cyclades!
Nor seems this homage foreign to its strain,
His Corsair's isle was once thine own domain -
Would that with freedom it were thine again!
The Sun hath sunk - and, darker than the night,
Sinks with its beam upon the beacon height
Medora's heart - the third day's come and gone -
With it he comes not - sends not - faithless one!
The wind was fair though light; and storms were none. 70
Last eve Anselmo's bark return'd, and yet
His only tidings that they had not met!
Though wild, as now, far different were the tale
Had Conrad waited for that single sail.
The night-breeze freshens - she that day had pass'd
In watching all that Hope proclaim'd a mast;
Sadly she sate on high - Impatience bore
At last her footsteps to the midnight shore,
And there she wander'd, heedless of the spray
That dash'd her garments oft, and warn'd away:
She saw not, felt not this - nor dared depart,
Nor deem'd it cold - her chill was at her heart;
Till grew such certainty from that suspense
His very sight had shock'd from life or sense!
It came at last - a sad and shatter'd boat,
Whose inmates first beheld whom first they sought;
Some bleeding - all most wretched - these the few -
Scarce knew they how escaped - this all they knew.
In silence, darkling, each appear'd to wait
His fellow's mournful guess at Conrad's fate:
Something they would have said; but seem'd to fear
To trust their accents to Medora's ear.
She saw at once, yet sunk not - trembled not -
Beneath that grief, that loneliness of lot;
Within that meek fair form were feelings high,
That deem'd not, till they found, their energy
While yet was Hope they soften'd, flutter'd wept -
All lost - that softness died not - but it slept;
And o'er its slumber rose that Strength which said,
'With nothing left to love, there's nought to dread.'
'Tis more than nature's; like the burning 'night
VI. Giuseppe Caponsacchi
Answer you, Sirs? Do I understand aright?
Have patience! In this sudden smoke from hell,—
So things disguise themselves,—I cannot see
My own hand held thus broad before my face
And know it again. Answer you? Then that means
Tell over twice what I, the first time, told
Six months ago: 't was here, I do believe,
Fronting you same three in this very room,
I stood and told you: yet now no one laughs,
Who then … nay, dear my lords, but laugh you did,
As good as laugh, what in a judge we style
Laughter—no levity, nothing indecorous, lords!
Only,—I think I apprehend the mood:
There was the blameless shrug, permissible smirk,
The pen's pretence at play with the pursed mouth,
The titter stifled in the hollow palm
Which rubbed the eyebrow and caressed the nose,
When I first told my tale: they meant, you know,
"The sly one, all this we are bound believe!
"Well, he can say no other than what he says.
"We have been young, too,—come, there's greater guilt!
"Let him but decently disembroil himself,
"Scramble from out the scrape nor move the mud,—
"We solid ones may risk a finger-stretch!
And now you sit as grave, stare as aghast
As if I were a phantom: now 't is—"Friend,
"Collect yourself!"—no laughing matter more—
"Counsel the Court in this extremity,
"Tell us again!"—tell that, for telling which,
I got the jocular piece of punishment,
Was sent to lounge a little in the place
Whence now of a sudden here you summon me
To take the intelligence from just—your lips!
You, Judge Tommati, who then tittered most,—
That she I helped eight months since to escape
Her husband, was retaken by the same,
Three days ago, if I have seized your sense,—
(I being disallowed to interfere,
Meddle or make in a matter none of mine,
For you and law were guardians quite enough
O' the innocent, without a pert priest's help)—
And that he has butchered her accordingly,
As she foretold and as myself believed,—
And, so foretelling and believing so,
We were punished, both of us, the merry way:
Therefore, tell once again the tale! For what?
Pompilia is only dying while I speak!
Why does the mirth hang fire and miss the smile?
My masters, there's an old book, you should con
For strange adventures, applicable yet,
'T is stuffed with. Do you know that there was once
This thing: a multitude of worthy folk
Took recreation, watched a certain group
Of soldiery intent upon a game,—
How first they wrangled, but soon fell to play,
Threw dice,—the best diversion in the world.
A word in your ear,—they are now casting lots,
Ay, with that gesture quaint and cry uncouth,
For the coat of One murdered an hour ago!
I am a priest,—talk of what I have learned.
Pompilia is bleeding out her life belike,
Gasping away the latest breath of all,
This minute, while I talk—not while you laugh?
Yet, being sobered now, what is it you ask
By way of explanation? There's the fact!
It seems to fill the universe with sight
And sound,—from the four corners of this earth
Tells itself over, to my sense at least.
But you may want it lower set i' the scale,—
Too vast, too close it clangs in the ear, perhaps;
You'd stand back just to comprehend it more.
Well then, let me, the hollow rock, condense
The voice o' the sea and wind, interpret you
The mystery of this murder. God above!
It is too paltry, such a transference
O' the storm's roar to the cranny of the stone!
This deed, you saw begin—why does its end
Surprise you? Why should the event enforce
The lesson, we ourselves learned, she and I,
From the first o' the fact, and taught you, all in vain?
This Guido from whose throat you took my grasp,
Was this man to be favoured, now or feared,
Let do his will, or have his will restrained,
In the relation with Pompilia? Say!
Did any other man need interpose
—Oh, though first comer, though as strange at the work
As fribble must be, coxcomb, fool that's near
To knave as, say, a priest who fears the world—
Was he bound brave the peril, save the doomed,
Or go on, sing his snatch and pluck his flower,
Keep the straight path and let the victim die?
I held so; you decided otherwise,
Saw no such peril, therefore no such need
To stop song, loosen flower, and leave path. Law,
Law was aware and watching, would suffice,
Wanted no priest's intrusion, palpably
Pretence, too manifest a subterfuge!
Whereupon I, priest, coxcomb, fribble and fool,
Ensconced me in my corner, thus rebuked,
A kind of culprit, over-zealous hound
Kicked for his pains to kennel; I gave place,
To you, and let the law reign paramount:
I left Pompilia to your watch and ward,
And now you point me—there and thus she lies!
Men, for the last time, what do you want with me?
Is it,—you acknowledge, as it were, a use,
A profit in employing me?—at length
I may conceivably help the august law?
I am free to break the blow, next hawk that swoops
On next dove, nor miss much of good repute?
Or what if this your summons, after all,
Be but the form of mere release, no more,
Which turns the key and lets the captive go?
I have paid enough in person at Civita,
Am free,—what more need I concern me with?
Thank you! I am rehabilitated then,
A very reputable priest. But she—
The glory of life, the beauty of the world,
The splendour of heaven, … well, Sirs, does no one move?
Do I speak ambiguously? The glory, I say,
And the beauty, I say, and splendour, still say I,
Who, priest and trained to live my whole life long
On beauty and splendour, solely at their source,
God,—have thus recognized my food in her,
You tell me, that's fast dying while we talk,
Pompilia! How does lenity to me,
Remit one death-bed pang to her? Come, smile!
The proper wink at the hot-headed youth
Who lets his soul show, through transparent words,
The mundane love that's sin and scandal too!
You are all struck acquiescent now, it seems:
It seems the oldest, gravest signor here,
Even the redoubtable Tommati, sits
Chop-fallen,—understands how law might take
Service like mine, of brain and heart and hand,
In good part. Better late than never, law
You understand of a sudden, gospel too
Has a claim here, may possibly pronounce
Consistent with my priesthood, worthy Christ,
That I endeavoured to save Pompilia?
You were wrong, you see: that's well to see, though late:
That's all we may expect of man, this side
The grave: his good is—knowing he is bad:
Thus will it be with us when the books ope
And we stand at the bar on judgment-day.
Well then, I have a mind to speak, see cause
To relume the quenched flax by this dreadful light,
Burn my soul out in showing you the truth.
I heard, last time I stood here to be judged,
What is priest's-duty,—labour to pluck tares
And weed the corn of Molinism; let me
Make you hear, this time, how, in such a case,
Man, be he in the priesthood or at plough,
Mindful of Christ or marching step by step
With … what's his style, the other potentate
Who bids have courage and keep honour safe,
Nor let minuter admonition tease?—
How he is bound, better or worse, to act.
Earth will not end through this misjudgment, no!
For you and the others like you sure to come,
Fresh work is sure to follow,—wickedness
That wants withstanding. Many a man of blood,
Many a man of guile will clamour yet,
Bid you redress his grievance,—as he clutched
The prey, forsooth a stranger stepped between,
And there's the good gripe in pure waste! My part
Is done; i' the doing it, I pass away
Out of the world. I want no more with earth.
Let me, in heaven's name, use the very snuff
O' the taper in one last spark shall show truth
For a moment, show Pompilia who was true!
Not for her sake, but yours: if she is dead,
Oh, Sirs, she can be loved by none of you
Most or least priestly! Saints, to do us good,
Must be in heaven, I seem to understand:
We never find them saints before, at least.
Be her first prayer then presently for you—
She has done the good to me …
What is all this?
There, I was born, have lived, shall die, a fool!
This is a foolish outset:—might with cause
Give colour to the very lie o' the man,
The murderer,—make as if I loved his wife,
In the way he called love. He is the fool there!
Why, had there been in me the touch of taint,
I had picked up so much of knaves'-policy
As hide it, keep one hand pressed on the place
Suspected of a spot would damn us both.
Or no, not her!—not even if any of you
Dares think that I, i' the face of death, her death
That's in my eyes and ears and brain and heart,
Lie,—if he does, let him! I mean to say,
So he stop there, stay thought from smirching her
The snow-white soul that angels fear to take
Untenderly. But, all the same, I know
I too am taintless, and I bare my breast.
You can't think, men as you are, all of you,
But that, to hear thus suddenly such an end
Of such a wonderful white soul, that comes
Of a man and murderer calling the white black,
Must shake me, trouble and disadvantage. Sirs,
Why, good and wise you are!
You might at the beginning stop my mouth:
So, none would be to speak for her, that knew.
I talk impertinently, and you bear,
All the same. This it is to have to do
With honest hearts: they easily may err,
But in the main they wish well to the truth.
You are Christians; somehow, no one ever plucked
A rag, even, from the body of the Lord,
To wear and mock with, but, despite himself,
He looked the greater and was the better. Yes,
I shall go on now. Does she need or not
I keep calm? Calm I'll keep as monk that croons
Transcribing battle, earthquake, famine, plague,
From parchment to his cloister's chronicle.
Not one word more from the point now!
Yes, I am one of your body and a priest.
Also I am a younger son o' the House
Oldest now, greatest once, in my birth-town
Arezzo, I recognize no equal there—
(I want all arguments, all sorts of arms
That seem to serve,—use this for a reason, wait!)
Not therefore thrust into the Church, because
O' the piece of bread one gets there. We were first
Of Fiesole, that rings still with the fame
Of Capo-in-Sacco our progenitor:
When Florence ruined Fiesole, our folk
Migrated to the victor-city, and there
Flourished,—our palace and our tower attest,
In the Old Mercato,—this was years ago,
Four hundred, full,—no, it wants fourteen just.
Our arms are those of Fiesole itself,
The shield quartered with white and red: a branch
Are the Salviati of us, nothing more.
That were good help to the Church? But better still—
Not simply for the advantage of my birth
I' the way of the world, was I proposed for priest;
But because there's an illustration, late
I' the day, that's loved and looked to as a saint
Still in Arezzo, he was bishop of,
Sixty years since: he spent to the last doit
His bishop's-revenue among the poor,
And used to tend the needy and the sick,
Barefoot, because of his humility.
He it was,—when the Granduke Ferdinand
Swore he would raze our city, plough the place
And sow it with salt, because we Aretines
Had tied a rope about the neck, to hale
The statue of his father from its base
For hate's sake,—he availed by prayers and tears
To pacify the Duke and save the town.
This was my father's father's brother. You see,
For his sake, how it was I had a right
To the self-same office, bishop in the egg,
So, grew i' the garb and prattled in the school,
Was made expect, from infancy almost,
The proper mood o' the priest; till time ran by
And brought the day when I must read the vows,
Declare the world renounced and undertake
To become priest and leave probation,—leap
Over the ledge into the other life,
Having gone trippingly hitherto up to the height
O'er the wan water. Just a vow to read!
I stopped short awe-struck. "How shall holiest flesh
"Engage to keep such vow inviolate,
"How much less mine? I know myself too weak,
"Unworthy! Choose a worthier stronger man!"
And the very Bishop smiled and stopped my mouth
In its mid-protestation. "Incapable?
"Qualmish of conscience? Thou ingenuous boy!
"Clear up the clouds and cast thy scruples far!
"I satisfy thee there's an easier sense
"Wherein to take such vow than suits the first
"Rough rigid reading. Mark what makes all smooth,
"Nay, has been even a solace to myself!
"The Jews who needs must, in their synagogue,
"Utter sometimes the holy name of God,
"A thing their superstition boggles at,
"Pronounce aloud the ineffable sacrosanct,—
"How does their shrewdness help them? In this wise;
"Another set of sounds they substitute,
"Jumble so consonants and vowels—how
"Should I know?—that there grows from out the old
"Quite a new word that means the very same—
"And o'er the hard place slide they with a smile.
"Giuseppe Maria Caponsacchi mine,
"Nobody wants you in these latter days
"To prop the Church by breaking your back-bone,—
"As the necessary way was once, we know,
"When Diocletian flourished and his like.
"That building of the buttress-work was done
"By martyrs and confessors: let it bide,
"Add not a brick, but, where you see a chink,
"Stick in a sprig of ivy or root a rose
"Shall make amends and beautify the pile!
"We profit as you were the painfullest
"O' the martyrs, and you prove yourself a match
"For the cruelest confessor ever was,
"If you march boldly up and take your stand
"Where their blood soaks, their bones yet strew the soil,
"And cry 'Take notice, I the young and free
"'And well-to-do i' the world, thus leave the world,
"'Cast in my lot thus with no gay young world
"'But the grand old Church: she tempts me of the two!'
"Renounce the world? Nay, keep and give it us!
"Let us have you, and boast of what you bring.
"We want the pick o' the earth to practise with,
"Not its offscouring, halt and deaf and blind
"In soul and body. There's a rubble-stone
"Unfit for the front o' the building, stuff to stow
"In a gap behind and keep us weather-tight;
"There's porphyry for the prominent place. Good lack!
"Saint Paul has had enough and to spare, I trow,
"Of ragged run-away Onesimus:
"He wants the right-hand with the signet-ring
"Of King Agrippa, now, to shake and use.
"I have a heavy scholar cloistered up,
"Close under lock and key, kept at his task
"Of letting Fénelon know the fool he is,
"In a book I promise Christendom next Spring.
"Why, if he covets so much meat, the clown,
"As a lark's wing next Friday, or, any day,
"Diversion beyond catching his own fleas,
"He shall be properly swinged, I promise him.
"But you, who are so quite another paste
"Of a man,—do you obey me? Cultivate
"Assiduous that superior gift you have
"Of making madrigals—(who told me? Ah!)
"Get done a Marinesque Adoniad straight
"With a pulse o' the blood a-pricking, here and there,
"That I may tell the lady 'And he's ours!'"
So I became a priest: those terms changed all,
I was good enough for that, nor cheated so;
I could live thus and still hold head erect.
Now you see why I may have been before
A fribble and coxcomb, yet, as priest, break word
Nowise, to make you disbelieve me now.
I need that you should know my truth. Well, then,
According to prescription did I live,
—Conformed myself, both read the breviary
And wrote the rhymes, was punctual to my place
I' the Pieve, and as diligent at my post
Where beauty and fashion rule. I throve apace,
Sub-deacon, Canon, the authority
For delicate play at tarocs, and arbiter
O' the magnitude of fan-mounts: all the while
Wanting no whit the advantage of a hint
Benignant to the promising pupil,—thus:
"Enough attention to the Countess now,
"The young one; 't is her mother rules the roast,
"We know where, and puts in a word: go pay
"Devoir to-morrow morning after mass!
"Break that rash promise to preach, Passion-week!
"Has it escaped you the Archbishop grunts
"And snuffles when one grieves to tell his Grace
"No soul dares treat the subject of the day
"Since his own masterly handling it (ha, ha!)
"Five years ago,—when somebody could help
"And touch up an odd phrase in time of need,
"(He, he!)—and somebody helps you, my son!
"Therefore, don't prove so indispensable
"At the Pieve, sit more loose i' the seat, nor grow
"A fixture by attendance morn and eve!
"Arezzo's just a haven midway Rome—
"Rome's the eventual harbour,—make for port,
"Crowd sail, crack cordage! And your cargo be
"A polished presence, a genteel manner, wit
"At will, and tact at every pore of you!
"I sent our lump of learning, Brother Clout,
"And Father Slouch, our piece of piety,
"To see Rome and try suit the Cardinal.
"Thither they clump-clumped, beads and book in hand,
"And ever since 't is meat for man and maid
"How both flopped down, prayed blessing on bent pate
"Bald many an inch beyond the tonsure's need,
"Never once dreaming, the two moony dolts,
"There's nothing moves his Eminence so much
"As—far from all this awe at sanctitude—
"Heads that wag, eyes that twinkle, modified mirth
"At the closet-lectures on the Latin tongue
"A lady learns so much by, we know where.
"Why, body o' Bacchus, you should crave his rule
"For pauses in the elegiac couplet, chasms
"Permissible only to Catullus! There!
"Now go to duty: brisk, break Priscian's head
"By reading the day's office—there's no help.
"You've Ovid in your poke to plaster that;
"Amen's at the end of all: then sup with me!"
Well, after three or four years of this life,
In prosecution of my calling, I
Found myself at the theatre one night
With a brother Canon, in a mood and mind
Proper enough for the place, amused or no:
When I saw enter, stand, and seat herself
A lady, young, tall, beautiful, strange and sad.
It was as when, in our cathedral once,
As I got yawningly through matin-song,
I saw facchini bear a burden up,
Base it on the high-altar, break away
A board or two, and leave the thing inside
Lofty and lone: and lo, when next I looked,
There was the Rafael! I was still one stare,
When—"Nay, I'll make her give you back your gaze"—
Said Canon Conti; and at the word he tossed
A paper-twist of comfits to her lap,
And dodged and in a trice was at my back
Nodding from over my shoulder. Then she turned,
Looked our way, smiled the beautiful sad strange smile.
"Is not she fair? 'T is my new cousin," said he:
"The fellow lurking there i' the black o' the box
"Is Guido, the old scapegrace: she's his wife,
"Married three years since: how his Countship sulks!
"He has brought little back from Rome beside,
"After the bragging, bullying. A fair face,
"And—they do say—a pocketful of gold
"When he can worry both her parents dead.
"I don't go much there, for the chamber's cold
"And the coffee pale. I got a turn at first
"Paying my duty: I observed they crouched
"—The two old frightened family spectres—close
"In a corner, each on each like mouse on mouse
"I' the cat's cage: ever since, I stay at home.
"Hallo, there's Guido, the black, mean and small,
"Bends his brows on us—please to bend your own
"On the shapely nether limbs of Light-skirts there
"By way of a diversion! I was a fool
"To fling the sweetmeats. Prudence, for God's love!
"To-morrow I'll make my peace, e'en tell some fib,
"Try if I can't find means to take you there."
That night and next day did the gaze endure,
Burnt to my brain, as sunbeam thro' shut eyes,
And not once changed the beautiful sad strange smile.
At vespers Conti leaned beside my seat
I' the choir,—part said, part sung—"In ex-cel-sis—
"All's to no purpose; I have louted low,
"But he saw you staring—quia sub—don't incline
"To know you nearer: him we would not hold
"For Hercules,—the man would lick your shoe
"If you and certain efficacious friends
"Managed him warily,—but there's the wife:
"Spare her, because he beats her, as it is,
"She's breaking her heart quite fast enough—jam tu—
"So, be you rational and make amends
"With little Light-skirts yonder—in secula
"Secu-lo-o-o-o-rum. Ah, you rogue! Every one knows
"What great dame she makes jealous: one against one,
"Play, and win both!"
Sirs, ere the week was out,
I saw and said to myself "Light-skirts hides teeth
"Would make a dog sick,—the great dame shows spite
"Should drive a cat mad: 't is but poor work this—
"Counting one's fingers till the sonnet's crowned.
"I doubt much if Marino really be
"A better bard than Dante after all.
"'T is more amusing to go pace at eve
"I' the Duomo,—watch the day's last gleam outside
"Turn, as into a skirt of God's own robe,
"Those lancet-windows' jewelled miracle,—
"Than go eat the Archbishop's ortolans,
"Digest his jokes. Luckily Lent is near:
"Who cares to look will find me in my stall
"At the Pieve, constant to this faith at least—
"Never to write a canzonet any more."
So, next week, 't was my patron spoke abrupt,
In altered guise. "Young man, can it be true
"That after all your promise of sound fruit,
"You have kept away from Countess young or old
"And gone play truant in church all day long?
"Are you turning Molinist?" I answered quick:
"Sir, what if I turned Christian? It might be.
"The fact is, I am troubled in my mind,
"Beset and pressed hard by some novel thoughts.
"This your Arezzo is a limited world;
"There's a strange Pope,—'t is said, a priest who thinks.
"Rome is the port, you say: to Rome I go.
"I will live alone, one does so in a crowd,
"And look into my heart a little." "Lent
"Ended,"—I told friends—"I shall go to Rome."
One evening I was sitting in a muse
Over the opened "Summa," darkened round
By the mid-March twilight, thinking how my life
Had shaken under me,—broke short indeed
And showed the gap 'twixt what is, what should be,—
And into what abysm the soul may slip,
Leave aspiration here, achievement there,
Lacking omnipotence to connect extremes—
Thinking moreover … oh, thinking, if you like,
How utterly dissociated was I
A priest and celibate, from the sad strange wife
Of Guido,—just as an instance to the point,
Nought more,—how I had a whole store of strengths
Eating into my heart, which craved employ,
And she, perhaps, need of a finger's help,—
And yet there was no way in the wide world
To stretch out mine and so relieve myself,—
How when the page o' the Summa preached its best,
Her smile kept glowing out of it, as to mock
The silence we could break by no one word,—
There came a tap without the chamber-door,
And a whisper; when I bade who tapped speak out.
And, in obedience to my summons, last
In glided a masked muffled mystery,
Laid lightly a letter on the opened book,
Then stood with folded arms and foot demure,
Pointing as if to mark the minutes' flight.
I took the letter, read to the effect
That she, I lately flung the comfits to,
Had a warm heart to give me in exchange,
And gave it,—loved me and confessed it thus,
And bade me render thanks by word of mouth,
Going that night to such a side o' the house
Where the small terrace overhangs a street
Blind and deserted, not the street in front:
Her husband being away, the surly patch,
At his villa of Vittiano.
"And you?"—I asked:
"What may you be?" "Count Guido's kind of maid—
"Most of us have two functions in his house.
"We all hate him, the lady suffers much,
"'T is just we show compassion, furnish help,
"Specially since her choice is fixed so well.
"What answer may I bring to cheer the sweet
Then I took a pen and wrote
"No more of this! That you are fair, I know:
"But other thoughts now occupy my mind.
"I should not thus have played the insensible
"Once on a time. What made you,—may one ask,—
"Marry your hideous husband? 'T was a fault,
"And now you taste the fruit of it. Farewell."
"There!" smiled I as she snatched it and was gone—
"There, let the jealous miscreant,—Guido's self,
"Whose mean soul grins through this transparent trick,—
"Be baulked so far, defrauded of his aim!
"What fund of satisfaction to the knave,
"Had I kicked this his messenger down stairs,
"Trussed to the middle of her impudence,
"And set his heart at ease so! No, indeed!
"There's the reply which he shall turn and twist
"At pleasure, snuff at till his brain grow drunk,
"As the bear does when he finds a scented glove
"That puzzles him,—a hand and yet no hand,
"Of other perfume than his own foul paw!
"Last month, I had doubtless chosen to play the dupe,
"Accepted the mock-invitation, kept
"The sham appointment, cudgel beneath cloak,
"Prepared myself to pull the appointer's self
"Out of the window from his hiding-place
"Behind the gown of this part-messenger
"Part-mistress who would personate the wife.
"Such had seemed once a jest permissible:
"Now I am not i' the mood."
Back next morn brought
The messenger, a second letter in hand.
"You are cruel, Thyrsis, and Myrtilla moans
"Neglected but adores you, makes request
"For mercy: why is it you dare not come?
"Such virtue is scarce natural to your age.
"You must love someone else; I hear you do,
"The Baron's daughter or the Advocate's wife,
"Or both,—all's one, would you make me the third—
"I take the crumbs from table gratefully
"Nor grudge who feasts there. 'Faith, I blush and blaze!
"Yet if I break all bounds, there's reason sure.
"Are you determinedly bent on Rome?
"I am wretched here, a monster tortures me:
"Carry me with you! Come and say you will!
"Concert this very evening! Do not write!
"I am ever at the window of my room
"Over the terrace, at the Ave. Come!"
I questioned—lifting half the woman's mask
To let her smile loose. "So, you gave my line
"To the merry lady?" "She kissed off the wax,
"And put what paper was not kissed away,
"In her bosom to go burn: but merry, no!
"She wept all night when evening brought no friend,
"Alone, the unkind missive at her breast;
"Thus Philomel, the thorn at her breast too,
"Sings" … "Writes this second letter?" "Even so!
"Then she may peep at vespers forth?"—"What risk
"Do we run o' the husband?"—"Ah,—no risk at all!
"He is more stupid even than jealous. Ah—
"That was the reason? Why, the man's away!
"Beside, his bugbear is that friend of yours,
"Fat little Canon Conti. He fears him,
"How should he dream of you? I told you truth:
"He goes to the villa at Vittiano—'t is
"The time when Spring-sap rises in the vine—
"Spends the night there. And then his wife's a child:
"Does he think a child outwits him? A mere child:
"Yet so full grown, a dish for any duke.
"Don't quarrel longer with such cates, but come!"
I wrote "In vain do you solicit me.
"I am a priest: and you are wedded wife,
"Whatever kind of brute your husband prove.
"I have scruples, in short. Yet should you really show
"Sign at the window … but nay, best be good!
"My thoughts are elsewhere," "Take her that!"
"Let the incarnate meanness, cheat and spy,
"Mean to the marrow of him, make his heart
"His food, anticipate hell's worm once more!
"Let him watch shivering at the window—ay,
"And let this hybrid, this his light-of-love
"And lackey-of-lies,—a sage economy,—
"Paid with embracings for the rank brass coin,—
"Let her report and make him chuckle o'er
"The break-down of my resolution now,
"And lour at disappointment in good time!
"—So tantalize and so enrage by turns,
"Until the two fall each on the other like
"Two famished spiders, as the coveted fly
"That toys long, leaves their net and them at last!"
And so the missives followed thick and fast
For a month, say,—I still came at every turn
On the soft sly adder, endlong 'neath my tread.
I was met i' the street, made sign to in the church,
A slip was found i' the door-sill, scribbled word
'Twixt page and page o' the prayer-book in my place.
A crumpled thing dropped even before my feet,
Pushed through the blind, above the terrace-rail,
As I passed, by day, the very window once.
And ever from corners would be peering up
The messenger, with the self-same demand
"Obdurate still, no flesh but adamant?
"Nothing to cure the wound, assuage the throe
"O' the sweetest lamb that ever loved a bear?"
And ever my one answer in one tone—
"Go your ways, temptress! Let a priest read, pray,
"Unplagued of vain talk, visions not for him!
"In the end, you'll have your will and ruin me!"
One day, a variation: thus I read:
"You have gained little by timidity.
"My husband has found out my love at length,
"Sees cousin Conti was the stalking-horse,
"And you the game he covered, poor fat soul!
"My husband is a formidable foe,
"Will stick at nothing to destroy you. Stand
"Prepared, or better, run till you reach Rome!
"I bade you visit me, when the last place
"My tyrant would have turned suspicious at,
"Or cared to seek you in, was … why say, where?
"But now all's changed: beside, the season's past
"At the villa,—wants the master's eye no more.
"Anyhow, I beseech you, stay away
"From the window! He might well be posted there."
I wrote—"You raise my courage, or call up
"My curiosity, who am but man.
"Tell him he owns the palace, not the street
"Under—that's his and yours and mine alike.
"If it should please me pad the path this eve,
"Guido will have two troubles, first to get
"Into a rage and then get out again.
"Be cautious, though: at the Ave!"
You of the Court!
When I stood question here and reached this point
O' the narrative,—search notes and see and say
If someone did not interpose with smile
And sneer, "And prithee why so confident
"That the husband must, of all needs, not the wife,
"Fabricate thus,—what if the lady loved?
"What if she wrote the letters?"
I told you there's a picture in our church.
Well, if a low-browed verger sidled up
Bringing me, like a blotch, on his prod's point,
A transfixed scorpion, let the reptile writhe,
And then said "See a thing that Rafael made—
"This venom issued from Madonna's mouth!"
I should reply, "Rather, the soul of you
"Has issued from your body, like from like,
"By way of the ordure-corner!"
But no less,
I tired of the same long black teasing lie
Obtruded thus at every turn; the pest
Was far too near the picture, anyhow:
One does Madonna service, making clowns
Remove their dung-heap from the sacristy.
"I will to the window, as he tempts," said I:
"Yes, whom the easy love has failed allure,
"This new bait of adventure tempts,—thinks he.
"Though the imprisoned lady keeps afar,
"There will they lie in ambush, heads alert,
"Kith, kin, and Count mustered to bite my heel.
"No mother nor brother viper of the brood
"Shall scuttle off without the instructive bruise!"
So I went: crossed street and street: "The next street's turn,
"I stand beneath the terrace, see, above,
"The black of the ambush-window. Then, in place
"Of hand's throw of soft prelude over lute,
"And cough that clears way for the ditty last,"—
I began to laugh already—"he will have
"'Out of the hole you hide in, on to the front,
"'Count Guido Franceschini, show yourself!
"'Hear what a man thinks of a thing like you,
"'And after, take this foulness in your face!'"
The words lay living on my lip, I made
The one-turn more—and there at the window stood,
Framed in its black square length, with lamp in hand,
Pompilia; the same great, grave, griefful air
As stands i' the dusk, on altar that I know,
Left alone with one moonbeam in her cell,
Our Lady of all the Sorrows. Ere I knelt—
Assured myself that she was flesh and blood—
She had looked one look and vanished.
I thought—"Just so:
"It was herself, they have set her there to watch—
"Stationed to see some wedding band go by,
"On fair pretence that she must bless the bride,
"Or wait some funeral with friends wind past,
"And crave peace for the corpse that claims its due.
"She never dreams they used her for a snare,
"And now withdraw the bait has served its turn.
"Well done, the husband, who shall fare the worse!"
And on my lip again was—"Out with thee,
"Guido!" When all at once she re-appeared;
But, this time, on the terrace overhead,
So close above me, she could almost touch
My head if she bent down; and she did bend,
While I stood still as stone, all eye, all ear.
She began—"You have sent me letters, Sir:
"I have read none, I can neither read nor write;
"But she you gave them to, a woman here,
"One of the people in whose power I am,
"Partly explained their sense, I think, to me
"Obliged to listen while she inculcates
"That you, a priest, can dare love me, a wife,
"Desire to live or die as I shall bid,
"(She makes me listen if I will or no)
"Because you saw my face a single time.
"It cannot be she says the thing you mean;
"Such wickedness were deadly to us both:
"But good true love would help me now so much—
"I tell myself, you may mean good and true.
"You offer me, I seem to understand,
"Because I am in poverty and starve,
"Much money, where one piece would save my life.
"The silver cup upon the altar-cloth
"Is neither yours to give nor mine to take;
"But I might take one bit of bread therefrom,
"Since I am starving, and return the rest,
"Yet do no harm: this is my very case.
"I am in that strait, I may not dare abstain
"From so much of assistance as would bring
"The guilt of theft on neither you nor me;
"But no superfluous particle of aid.
"I think, if you will let me state my case,
"Even had you been so fancy-fevered here,
"Not your sound self, you must grow healthy now—
"Care only to bestow what I can take.
"That it is only you in the wide world,
"Knowing me nor in thought nor word nor deed,
"Who, all unprompted save by your own heart,
"Come proffering assistance now,—were strange
"But that my whole life is so strange: as strange
"It is, my husband whom I have not wronged
"Should hate and harm me. For his own soul's sake,
"Hinder the harm! But there is something more,
"And that the strangest: it has got to be
"Somehow for my sake too, and yet not mine,
"—This is a riddle—for some kind of sake
"Not any clearer to myself than you,
"And yet as certain as that I draw breath,—
"I would fain live, not die—oh no, not die!
"My case is, I was dwelling happily
"At Rome with those dear Comparini, called
"Father and mother to me; when at once
"I found I had become Count Guido's wife:
"Who then, not waiting for a moment, changed
"Into a fury of fire, if once he was
"Merely a man: his face threw fire at mine,
"He laid a hand on me that burned all peace,
"All joy, all hope, and last all fear away,
"Dipping the bough of life, so pleasant once,
"In fire which shrivelled leaf and bud alike,
"Burning not only present life but past,
"Which you might think was safe beyond his reach.
"He reached it, though, since that beloved pair,
"My father once, my mother all those years,
"That loved me so, now say I dreamed a dream
"And bid me wake, henceforth no child of theirs,
"Never in all the time their child at all.
"Do you understand? I cannot: yet so it is.
"Just so I say of you that proffer help:
"I cannot understand what prompts your soul,
"I simply needs must see that it is so,
"Only one strange and wonderful thing more.
"They came here with me, those two dear ones, kept
"All the old love up, till my husband, till
"His people here so tortured them, they fled.
"And now, is it because I grow in flesh
"And spirit one with him their torturer,
"That they, renouncing him, must cast off me?
"If I were graced by God to have a child,
"Could I one day deny God graced me so?
"Then, since my husband hates me, I shall break
"No law that reigns in this fell house of hate,
"By using—letting have effect so much
"Of hate as hides me from that whole of hate
"Would take my life which I want and must have—
"Just as I take from your excess of love
"Enough to save my life with, all I need.
"The Archbishop said to murder me were sin:
"My leaving Guido were a kind of death
"With no sin,—more death, he must answer for.
"Hear now what death to him and life to you
"I wish to pay and owe. Take me to Rome!
"You go to Rome, the servant makes me hear.
"Take me as you would take a dog, I think,
"Masterless left for strangers to maltreat:
"Take me home like that—leave me in the house
"Where the father and the mother are; and soon
"They'll come to know and call me by my name,
"Their child once more, since child I am, for all
"They now forget me, which is the worst o' the dream—
"And the way to end dreams is to break them, stand,
"Walk, go: then help me to stand, walk and go!
"The Governor said the strong should help the weak:
"You know how weak the strongest women are.
"How could I find my way there by myself?
"I cannot even call out, make them hear—
"Just as in dreams: I have tried and proved the fact.
"I have told this story and more to good great men,
"The Archbishop and the Governor: they smiled.
"'Stop your mouth, fair one!'—presently they frowned,
"'Get you gone, disengage you from our feet!'
"I went in my despair to an old priest,
"Only a friar, no great man like these two,
"But good, the Augustinian, people name
"Romano,—he confessed me two months since:
"He fears God, why then needs he fear the world?
"And when he questioned how it came about
"That I was found in danger of a sin—
"Despair of any help from providence,—
"'Since, though your husband outrage you,' said he,
"'That is a case too common, the wives die
"'Or live, but do not sin so deep as this'—
"Then I told—what I never will tell you—
"How, worse than husband's hate, I had to bear
"The love,—soliciting to shame called love,—
"Of his brother,—the young idle priest i' the house
"With only the devil to meet there. 'This is grave—
"'Yes, we must interfere: I counsel,—write
"'To those who used to be your parents once,
"'Of dangers here, bid them convey you hence!'
"'But,' said I, 'when I neither read nor write?'
"Then he took pity and promised 'I will write.'
"If he did so,—why, they are dumb or dead:
"Either they give no credit to the tale,
"Or else, wrapped wholly up in their own joy
"Of such escape, they care not who cries, still
"I' the clutches. Anyhow, no word arrives.
"All such extravagance and dreadfulness
"Seems incident to dreaming, cured one way,—
"Wake me! The letter I received this morn,
"Said—if the woman spoke your very sense—
"'You would die for me:' I can believe it now:
"For now the dream gets to involve yourself.
"First of all, you seemed wicked and not good,
"In writing me those letters: you came in
"Like a thief upon me. I this morning said
"In my extremity, entreat the thief!
"Try if he have in him no honest touch!
"A thief might save me from a murderer.
"'T was a thief said the last kind word to Christ:
"Christ took the kindness and forgave the theft:
"And so did I prepare what I now say.
"But now, that you stand and I see your face,
"Though you have never uttered word yet,—well, I know,
"Here too has been dream-work, delusion too,
"And that at no time, you with the eyes here,
"Ever intended to do wrong by me,
"Nor wrote such letters therefore. It is false,
"And you are true, have been true, will be true.
"To Rome then,—when is it you take me there?
"Each minute lost is mortal. When?—I ask."
I answered "It shall be when it can be.
"I will go hence and do your pleasure, find
"The sure and speedy means of travel, then
"Come back and take you to your friends in Rome.
"There wants a carriage, money and the rest,—
"A day's work by to-morrow at this time.
"How shall I see you and assure escape?"
She replied, "Pass, to-morrow at this hour.
"If I am at the open window, well:
"If I am absent, drop a handkerchief
"And walk by! I shall see from where I watch,
"And know that all is done. Return next eve,
"And next, and so till we can meet and speak!"
"To-morrow at this hour I pass," said I.
She was withdrawn.
Here is another point
I bid you pause at. When I told thus far,
Someone said, subtly, "Here at least was found
"Your confidence in error,—you perceived
"The spirit of the letters, in a sort,
"Had been the lady's, if the body should be
"Supplied by Guido: say, he forged them all!
"Here was the unforged fact—she sent for you,
"Spontaneously elected you to help,
"—What men call, loved you: Guido read her mind,
"Gave it expression to assure the world
"The case was just as he foresaw: he wrote,
Sirs, that first simile serves still,—
That falsehood of a scorpion hatched, I say,
Nowhere i' the world but in Madonna's mouth.
Go on! Suppose, that falsehood foiled, next eve
Pictured Madonna raised her painted hand,
Fixed the face Rafael bent above the Babe,
On my face as I flung me at her feet:
Such miracle vouchsafed and manifest,
Would that prove the first lying tale was true?
Pompilia spoke, and I at once received,
Accepted my own fact, my miracle
Self-authorized and self-explained,—she chose
To summon me and signify her choice.
Afterward,—oh! I gave a passing glance
To a certain ugly cloud-shape, goblin-shred
Of hell-smoke hurrying past the splendid moon
Out now to tolerate no darkness more,
And saw right through the thing that tried to pass
For truth and solid, not an empty lie:
"So, he not only forged the words for her
"But words for me, made letters he called mine:
"What I sent, he retained, gave these in place,
"All by the mistress-messenger! As I
"Recognized her, at potency of truth,
"So she, by the crystalline soul, knew me,
"Never mistook the signs. Enough of this—
"Let the wraith go to nothingness again,
"Here is the orb, have only thought for her!"
"Thought?" nay, Sirs, what shall follow was not thought:
I have thought sometimes, and thought long and hard.
I have stood before, gone round a serious thing,
Tasked my whole mind to touch and clasp it close,
As I stretch forth my arm to touch this bar.
God and man, and what duty I owe both,—
I dare to say I have confronted these
In thought: but no such faculty helped here.
I put forth no thought,—powerless, all that night
I paced the city: it was the first Spring.
By the invasion I lay passive to,
In rushed new things, the old were rapt away;
Alike abolished—the imprisonment
Of the outside air, the inside weight o' the world
That pulled me down. Death meant, to spurn the ground.
Soar to the sky,—die well and you do that.
The very immolation made the bliss;
Death was the heart of life, and all the harm
My folly had crouched to avoid, now proved a veil
Hiding all gain my wisdom strove to grasp:
As if the intense centre of the flame
Should turn a heaven to that devoted fly
Which hitherto, sophist alike and sage,
Saint Thomas with his sober grey goose-quill,
And sinner Plato by Cephisian reed,
Would fain, pretending just the insect's good,
Whisk off, drive back, consign to shade again.
Into another state, under new rule
I knew myself was passing swift and sure;
Whereof the initiatory pang approached,
Felicitous annoy, as bitter-sweet
As when the virgin-band, the victors chaste,
Feel at the end the earthly garments drop,
And rise with something of a rosy shame
Into immortal nakedness: so I
Lay, and let come the proper throe would thrill
Into the ecstasy and outthrob pain.
I' the grey of dawn it was I found myself
Facing the pillared front o' the Pieve—mine,
My church: it seemed to say for the first time
"But am not I the Bride, the mystic love
"O' the Lamb, who took thy plighted troth, my priest,
"To fold thy warm heart on my heart of stone
"And freeze thee nor unfasten any more?
"This is a fleshly woman,—let the free
"Bestow their life-blood, thou art pulseless now!"
See! Day by day I had risen and left this church
At the signal waved me by some foolish fan,
With half a curse and half a pitying smile
For the monk I stumbled over in my haste,
Prostrate and corpse-like at the altar-foot
Intent on his corona: then the church
Was ready with her quip, if word conduced,
To quicken my pace nor stop for prating—"There!
"Be thankful you are no such ninny, go
"Rather to teach a black-eyed novice cards
"Than gabble Latin and protrude that nose
"Smoothed to a sheep's through no brains and much faith!"
That sort of incentive! Now the church changed tone—
Now, when I found out first that life and death
Are means to an end, that passion uses both,
Indisputably mistress of the man
Whose form of worship is self-sacrifice:
Now, from the stone lungs sighed the scrannel voice
"Leave that live passion, come be dead with me!"
As if, i' the fabled garden, I had gone
On great adventure, plucked in ignorance
Hedge-fruit, and feasted to satiety,
Laughing at such high fame for hips and haws,
And scorned the achievement: then come all at once
O' the prize o' the place, the thing of perfect gold,
The apple's self: and, scarce my eye on that,
Was 'ware as well o' the seven-fold dragon's watch.
Sirs, I obeyed. Obedience was too strange,—
This new thing that had been struck into me
By the look o' the lady,—to dare disobey
The first authoritative word. 'T was God's.
I had been lifted to the level of her,
Could take such sounds into my sense. I said
"We two are cognisant o' the Master now;
"She it is bids me bow the head: how true,
"I am a priest! I see the function here;
"I thought the other way self-sacrifice:
"This is the true, seals up the perfect sum.
"I pay it, sit down, silently obey."
So, I went home. Dawn broke, noon broadened, I—
I sat stone-still, let time run over me.
The sun slanted into my room, had reached
The west. I opened book,—Aquinas blazed
With one black name only on the white page.
I looked up, saw the sunset: vespers rang:
"She counts the minutes till I keep my word
"And come say all is ready. I am a priest.
"Duty to God is duty to her: I think
"God, who created her, will save her too
"Some new way, by one miracle the more,
"Without me. Then, prayer may avail perhaps."
I went to my own place i' the Pieve, read
The office: I was back at home again
Sitting i' the dark. "Could she but know—but know
"That, were there good in this distinct from God's,
"Really good as it reached her, though procured
"By a sin of mine,—I should sin: God forgives.
"She knows it is no fear withholds me: fear?
"Of what? Suspense here is the terrible thing.
"If she should, as she counts the minutes, come
"On the fantastic notion that I fear
"The world now, fear the Archbishop, fear perhaps
"Count Guido, he who, having forged the lies,
"May wait the work, attend the effect,—I fear
"The sword of Guido! Let God see to that—
"Hating lies, let not her believe a lie!"
Again the morning found me. "I will work,
"Tie down my foolish thoughts. Thank God so far!
"I have saved her from a scandal, stopped the tongues
"Had broken else into a cackle and hiss
"Around the noble name. Duty is still
"Wisdom: I have been wise." So the day wore.
At evening—"But, achieving victory,
"I must not blink the priest's peculiar part,
"Nor shrink to counsel, comfort: priest and friend—
"How do we discontinue to be friends?
"I will go minister, advise her seek
"Help at the source,—above all, not despair:
"There may be other happier help at hand.
"I hope it,—wherefore then neglect to say?"
There she stood—leaned there, for the second time,
Over the terrace, looked at me, then spoke:
"Why is it you have suffered me to stay
"Breaking my heart two days more than was need?
"Why delay help, your own heart yearns to give?
"You are again here, in the self-same mind,
"I see here, steadfast in the face of you,—
"You grudge to do no one thing that I ask.
"Why then is nothing done? You know my need.
"Still, through God's pity on me, there is time
"And one day more: shall I be saved or no?"
I answered—"Lady, waste no thought, no word
"Even to forgive me! Care for what I care—
"Only! Now follow me as I were fate!
"Leave this house in the dark to-morrow night,
"Just before daybreak:—there's new moon this eve—
"It sets, and then begins the solid black.
"Descend, proceed to the Torrione, step
"Over the low dilapidated wall,
"Take San Clemente, there's no other gate
"Unguarded at the hour: some paces thence
"An inn stands; cross to it; I shall be there."
She answered, "If I can but find the way.
"But I shall find it. Go now!"
I did go,
Took rapidly the route myself prescribed,
Stopped at Torrione, climbed the ruined place,
Proved that the gate was practicable, reached
The inn, no eye, despite the dark, could miss,
Knocked there and entered, made the host secure:
"With Caponsacchi it is ask and have;
"I know my betters. Are you bound for Rome?
"I get swift horse and trusty man," said he.
Then I retraced my steps, was found once more
In my own house for the last time: there lay
The broad pale opened Summa. "Shut his book,
"There's other showing! 'T was a Thomas too
"Obtained,—more favoured than his namesake here,—
"A gift, tied faith fast, foiled the tug of doubt,—
"Our Lady's girdle; down he saw it drop
"As she ascended into heaven, they say:
"He kept that safe and bade all doubt adieu.
"I too have seen a lady and hold a grace."
I know not how the night passed: morning broke;
Presently came my servant. "Sir, this eve—
"Do you forget?" I started. "How forget?
"What is it you know?" "With due submission, Sir,
"This being last Monday in the month but one
"And a vigil, since to-morrow is Saint George,
"And feast day, and moreover day for copes,
"And Canon Conti now away a month,
"And Canon Crispi sour because, forsooth,
"You let him sulk in stall and bear the brunt
"Of the octave … Well, Sir, 't is important!"
"Hearken, I have to start for Rome this night.
"No word, lest Crispi overboil and burst!
"Provide me with a laic dress! Throw dust
"I' the Canon's eye, stop his tongue's scandal so!
"See there's a sword in case of accident."
I knew the knave, the knave knew me.
Through each familiar hindrance of the day
Did I make steadily for its hour and end,—
Felt time's old barrier-growth of right and fit
Give way through all its twines, and let me go.
Use and wont recognized the excepted man,
Let speed the special service,—and I sped
Till, at the dead between midnight and morn,
There was I at the goal, before the gate,
With a tune in the ears, low leading up to loud,
A light in the eyes, faint that would soon be flare,
Ever some spiritual witness new and new
In faster frequence, crowding solitude
To watch the way o' the warfare,—till, at last,
When the ecstatic minute must bring birth,
Began a whiteness in the distance, waxed
Whiter and whiter, near grew and more near,
Till it was she: there did Pompilia come:
The white I saw shine through her was her soul's,
Certainly, for the body was one black,
Black from head down to foot. She did not speak,
Glided into the carriage,—so a cloud
Gathers the moon up. "By San Spirito,
"To Rome, as if the road burned underneath!
"Reach Rome, then hold my head in pledge, I pay
"The run and the risk to heart's content!" Just that
I said,—then, in another tick of time,
Sprang, was beside her, she and I alone.
So it began, our flight thro' dusk to clear,
Through day and night and day again to night
Once more, and to last dreadful dawn of all.
Sirs, how should I lie quiet in my grave
Unless you suffer me wring, drop by drop,
My brain dry, make a riddance of the drench
Of minutes with a memory in each,
Recorded motion, breath or look of hers,
Which poured forth would present you one pure glass,
Mirror you plain,—as God's sea, glassed in gold,
His saints,—the perfect soul Pompilia? Men,
You must know that a man gets drunk with truth
Stagnant inside him! Oh, they've killed her, Sirs!
Can I be calm?
Calmly! Each incident
Proves, I maintain, that action of the flight
For the true thing it was. The first faint scratch
O' the stone will test its nature, teach its worth
To idiots who name Parian—coprolite.
After all, I shall give no glare—at best
Only display you certain scattered lights
Lamping the rush and roll of the abyss:
Nothing but here and there a fire-point pricks
Wavelet from wavelet: well!
For the first hour
We both were silent in the night, I know:
Sometimes I did not see nor understand.
Blackness engulphed me,—partial stupor, say—
Then I would break way, breathe through the surprise,
And be aware again, and see who sat
In the dark vest with the white face and hands.
I said to myself—"I have caught it, I conceive
"The mind o' the mystery: 't is the way they wake
"And wait, two martyrs somewhere in a tomb
"Each by each as their blessing was to die;
"Some signal they are promised and expect,—
"When to arise before the trumpet scares:
"So, through the whole course of the world they wait
"The last day, but so fearless and so safe!
"No otherwise, in safety and not fear,
"I lie, because she lies too by my side."
You know this is not love, Sirs,—it is faith,
The feeling that there's God, he reigns and rules
Out of this low world: that is all; no harm!
At times she drew a soft sigh—music seemed
Always to hover just above her lips,
Not settle,—break a silence music too.
In the determined morning, I first found
Her head erect, her face turned full to me,
Her soul intent on mine through two wide eyes.
I answered them. "You are saved hitherto.
"We have passed Perugia,—gone round by the wood,
"Not through, I seem to think,—and opposite
"I know Assisi; this is holy ground."
Then she resumed. "How long since we both left
"Arezzo?" "Years—and certain hours beside."
It was at … ah, but I forget the names!
'T is a mere post-house and a hovel or two;
I left the carriage and got bread and wine
And brought it her. "Does it detain to eat?"
"They stay perforce, change horses,—therefore eat!
"We lose no minute: we arrive, be sure!"
This was—I know not where—there's a great hill
Close over, and the stream has lost its bridge,
One fords it. She began—"I have heard say
"Of some sick body that my mother knew,
"'T was no good sign when in a limb diseased
"All the pain suddenly departs,—as if
"The guardian angel discontinued pain
"Because the hope of cure was gone at last:
"The limb will not again exert itself,
"It needs be pained no longer: so with me,
"—My soul whence all the pain is past at once:
"All pain must be to work some good in the end.
"True, this I feel now, this may be that good,
"Pain was because of,—otherwise, I fear!"
She said,—a long while later in the day,
When I had let the silence be,—abrupt—
"Have you a mother?" "She died, I was born."
"A sister then?" "No sister." "Who was it—
"What woman were you used to serve this way,
"Be kind to, till I called you and you came?"
I did not like that word. Soon afterward—
"Tell me, are men unhappy, in some kind
"Of mere unhappiness at being men,
"As women suffer, being womanish?
"Have you, now, some unhappiness, I mean,
"Born of what may be man's strength overmuch,
"To match the undue susceptibility,
"The sense at every pore when hate is close?
"It hurts us if a baby hides its face
"Or child strikes at us punily, calls names
"Or makes a mouth,—much more if stranger men
"Laugh or frown,—just as that were much to bear!
"Yet rocks split,—and the blow-ball does no more,
"Quivers to feathery nothing at a touch;
"And strength may have its drawback weakness scapes."
Once she asked "What is it that made you smile,
"At the great gate with the eagles and the snakes,
"Where the company entered, 't is a long time since?"
"—Forgive—I think you would not understand:
"Ah, but you ask me,—therefore, it was this.
"That was a certain bishop's villa-gate,
"I knew it by the eagles,—and at once
"Remembered this same bishop was just he
"People of old were wont to bid me please
"If I would catch preferment: so, I smiled
"Because an impulse came to me, a whim—
"What if I prayed the prelate leave to speak,
"Began upon him in his presence-hall
"—'What, still at work so grey and obsolete?
"'Still rocheted and mitred more or less?
"'Don't you feel all that out of fashion now?
"'I find out when the day of things is done!'"
At eve we heard the angelus: she turned—
"I told you I can neither read nor write.
"My life stopped with the play-time; I will learn,
"If I begin to live again: but you—
"Who are a priest—wherefore do you not read
"The service at this hour? Read Gabriel's song,
"The lesson, and then read the little prayer
"To Raphael, proper for us travellers!"
I did not like that, neither, but I read.
When we stopped at Foligno it was dark.
The people of the post came out with lights:
The driver said, "This time to-morrow, may
"Saints only help, relays continue good,
"Nor robbers hinder, we arrive at Rome."
I urged, "Why tax your strength a second night?
"Trust me, alight here and take brief repose!
"We are out of harm's reach, past pursuit: go sleep
"If but an hour! I keep watch, guard the while
"Here in the doorway." But her whole face changed,
The misery grew again about her mouth,
The eyes burned up from faintness, like the fawn's
Tired to death in the thicket, when she feels
The probing spear o' the huntsman. "Oh, no stay!"
She cried, in the fawn's cry, "On to Rome, on, on—
"Unless 't is you who fear,—which cannot be!"
We did go on all night; but at its close
She was troubled, restless, moaned low, talked at whiles
To herself, her brow on quiver with the dream:
Once, wide awake, she menaced, at arms' length
Waved away something—"Never again with you!
"My soul is mine, my body is my soul's:
"You and I are divided ever more
"In soul and body: get you gone!" Then I—
"Why, in my whole life I have never prayed!
"Oh, if the God, that only can, would help!
"Am I his priest with power to cast out fiends?
"Let God arise and all his enemies
"Be scattered!" By morn, there was peace, no sigh
Out of the deep sleep.
When she woke at last,
I answered the first look—"Scarce twelve hours more,
"Then, Rome! There probably was no pursuit,
"There cannot now be peril: bear up brave!
"Just some twelve hours to press through to the prize:
"Then, no more of the terrible journey!" "Then,
"No more o' the journey: if it might but last!
"Always, my life-long, thus to journey still!
"It is the interruption that I dread,—
"With no dread, ever to be here and thus!
"Never to see a face nor hear a voice!
"Yours is no voice; you speak when you are dumb;
"Nor face, I see it in the dark. I want
"No face nor voice that change and grow unkind."
That I liked, that was the best thing she said.
In the broad day, I dared entreat, "Descend!"
I told a woman, at the garden-gate
By the post-house, white and pleasant in the sun,
"It is my sister,—talk with her apart!
"She is married and unhappy, you perceive;
"I take her home because her head is hurt;
"Comfort her as you women understand!"
So, there I left them by the garden-wall,
Paced the road, then bade put the horses to,
Came back, and there she sat: close to her knee,
A black-eyed child still held the bowl of milk,
Wondered to see how little she could drink,
And in her arms the woman's infant lay.
She smiled at me "How much good this has done!
"This is a whole night's rest and how much more!
"I can proceed now, though I wish to stay.
"How do you call that tree with the thick top
"That holds in all its leafy green and gold
"The sun now like an immense egg of fire?"
(It was a million-leaved mimosa.) "Take
"The babe away from me and let me go!"
And in the carriage "Still a day, my friend!
"And perhaps half a night, the woman fears.
"I pray it finish since it cannot last
"There may be more misfortune at the close,
"And where will you be? God suffice me then!"
And presently—for there was a roadside-shrine—
"When I was taken first to my own church
"Lorenzo in Lucina, being a girl,
"And bid confess my faults, I interposed
"'But teach me what fault to confess and know!'
"So, the priest said—'You should bethink yourself:
"'Each human being needs must have done wrong!'
"Now, be you candid and no priest but friend—
"Were I surprised and killed here on the spot,
"A runaway from husband and his home,
"Do you account it were in sin I died?
"My husband used to seem to harm me, not …
"Not on pretence he punished sin of mine,
"Nor for sin's sake and lust of cruelty,
"But as I heard him bid a farming-man
"At the villa take a lamb once to the wood
"And there ill-treat it, meaning that the wolf
"Should hear its cries, and so come, quick be caught,
"Enticed to the trap: he practised thus with me
"That so, whatever were his gain thereby,
"Others than I might become prey and spoil.
"Had it been only between our two selves,—
"His pleasure and my pain,—why, pleasure him
"By dying, nor such need to make a coil!
"But this was worth an effort, that my pain
"Should not become a snare, prove pain threefold
"To other people—strangers—or unborn—
"How should I know? I sought release from that—
"I think, or else from,—dare I say, some cause
"Such as is put into a tree, which turns
"Away from the north wind with what nest it holds,—
"The woman said that trees so turn: now, friend,
"Tell me, because I cannot trust myself!
"You are a man: what have I done amiss?"
You must conceive my answer,—I forget—
Taken up wholly with the thought, perhaps,
This time she might have said,—might, did not say—
"You are a priest." She said, "my friend."
We passed the places, somehow the calm went,
Again the restless eyes began to rove
In new fear of the foe mine could not see.
She wandered in her mind,—addressed me once
"Gaetano!"—that is not my name: whose name?
I grew alarmed, my head seemed turning too.
I quickened pace with promise now, now threat:
Bade drive and drive, nor any stopping more.
"Too deep i' the thick of the struggle, struggle through!
"Then drench her in repose though death's self pour
"The plenitude of quiet,—help us, God,
"Whom the winds carry!"
Suddenly I saw
The old tower, and the little white-walled clump
Of buildings and the cypress-tree or two,—
"Already Castelnuovo—Rome!" I cried,
"As good as Rome,—Rome is the next stage, think!
"This is where travellers' hearts are wont to beat.
"Say you are saved, sweet lady!" Up she woke.
The sky was fierce with colour from the sun
Setting. She screamed out "No, I must not die!
"Take me no farther, I should die: stay here!
"I have more life to save than mine!"
We seemed safe: what was it foreboded so?
Out of the coach into the inn I bore
The motionless and breathless pure and pale
Pompilia,—bore her through a pitying group
And laid her on a couch, still calm and cured
By deep sleep of all woes at once. The host
Was urgent "Let her stay an hour or two!
"Leave her to us, all will be right by morn!"
Oh, my foreboding! But I could not choose.
I paced the passage, kept watch all night long.
I listened,—not one movement, not one sigh.
"Fear not: she sleeps so sound!" they said: but I
Feared, all the same, kept fearing more and more,
Found myself throb with fear from head to foot,
Filled with a sense of such impending woe,
That, at first pause of night, pretence of gray,
I made my mind up it was morn.—"Reach Rome,
"Lest hell reach her! A dozen miles to make,
"Another long breath, and we emerge!" I stood
I' the court-yard, roused the sleepy grooms. "Have out
"Carriage and horse, give haste, take gold!" said I.
While they made ready in the doubtful morn,—
'T was the last minute,—needs must I ascend
And break her sleep; I turned to go.
Faced me Count Guido, there posed the mean man
As master,—took the field, encamped his rights,
Challenged the world: there leered new triumph, there
Scowled the old malice in the visage bad
And black o' the scamp. Soon triumph suppled the tongue
A little, malice glued to his dry throat,
And he part howled, part hissed … oh, how he kept
Well out o' the way, at arm's length and to spare!—
"My salutation to your priestship! What?
"Matutinal, busy with book so soon
"Of an April day that's damp as tears that now
"Deluge Arezzo at its darling's flight?—
"'T is unfair, wrongs feminity at large,
"To let a single dame monopolize
"A heart the whole sex claims, should share alike:
"Therefore I overtake you, Canon! Come!
"The lady,—could you leave her side so soon?
"You have not yet experienced at her hands
"My treatment, you lay down undrugged, I see!
"Hence this alertness—hence no death-in-life
"Like what held arms fast when she stole from mine.
"To be sure, you took the solace and repose
"That first night at Foligno!—news abound
"O' the road by this time,—men regaled me much,
"As past them I came halting after you,
"Vulcan pursuing Mars, as poets sing,—
"Still at the last here pant I, but arrive,
"Vulcan—and not without my Cyclops too,
"The Commissary and the unpoisoned arm
"O' the Civil Force, should Mars turn mutineer.
"Enough of fooling: capture the culprits, friend!
"Here is the lover in the smart disguise
"With the sword,—he is a priest, so mine lies still.
"There upstairs hides my wife the runaway,
"His leman: the two plotted, poisoned first,
"Plundered me after, and eloped thus far
"Where now you find them. Do your duty quick!
"Arrest and hold him! That's done: now catch her!"
During this speech of that man,—well, I stood
Away, as he managed,—still, I stood as near
The throat of him,—with these two hands, my own,—
As now I stand near yours, Sir,—one quick spring,
One great good satisfying gripe, and lo!
There had he lain abolished with his lie,
Creation purged o' the miscreate, man redeemed,
A spittle wiped off from the face of God!
I, in some measure, seek a poor excuse
For what I left undone, in just this fact
That my first feeling at the speech I quote
Was—not of what a blasphemy was dared,
Not what a bag of venomed purulence
Was split and noisome,—but how splendidly
Mirthful, how ludicrous a lie was launched!
Would Molière's self wish more than hear such man
Call, claim such woman for his own, his wife
Even though, in due amazement at the boast,
He had stammered, she moreover was divine?
She to be his,—were hardly less absurd
Than that he took her name into his mouth,
Licked, and then let it go again, the beast,
Signed with his slaver. Oh, she poisoned him,
Plundered him, and the rest! Well, what I wished
Was, that he would but go on, say once more
So to the world, and get his meed of men,
The fist's reply to the filth. And while I mused,
The minute, oh the misery, was gone!
On either idle hand of me there stood
Really an officer, nor laughed i' the least:
Nay, rendered justice to his reason, laid
Logic to heart, as 't were submitted them
"Twice two makes four."
"And now, catch her!" he cried.
That sobered me. "Let myself lead the way—
"Ere you arrest me, who am somebody,
"Being, as you hear, a priest and privileged,—
"To the lady's chamber! I presume you—men
"Expert, instructed how to find out truth,
"Familiar with the guise of guilt. Detect
"Guilt on her face when it meets mine, then judge
"Between us and the mad dog howling there!"
Up we all went together, in they broke
O' the chamber late my chapel. There she lay,
Composed as when I laid her, that last eve,
O' the couch, still breathless, motionless, sleep's self,
Wax-white, seraphic, saturate with the sun
O' the morning that now flooded from the front
And filled the window with a light like blood.
"Behold the poisoner, the adulteress,
"—And feigning sleep too! Seize, bind!" Guido hissed.
She started up, stood erect, face to face
With the husband: back he fell, was buttressed there
By the window all a flame with morning-red,
He the black figure, the opprobrious blur
Against all peace and joy and light and life.
"Away from between me and hell!" she cried:
"Hell for me, no embracing any more!
"I am God's, I love God, God—whose knees I clasp,
"Whose utterly most just award I take,
"But bear no more love-making devils: hence!"
I may have made an effort to reach her side
From where I stood i' the door-way,—anyhow
I found the arms, I wanted, pinioned fast,
Was powerless in the clutch to left and right
O' the rabble pouring in, rascality
Enlisted, rampant on the side of hearth
Home and the husband,—pay in prospect too!
They heaped themselves upon me. "Ha!—and him
"Also you outrage? Him, too, my sole friend,
"Guardian and saviour? That I baulk you of,
"Since—see how God can help at last and worst!"
She sprang at the sword that hung beside him, seized,
Drew, brandished it, the sunrise burned for joy
O' the blade, "Die," cried she, "devil, in God's name!"
Ah, but they all closed round her, twelve to one
—The unmanly men, no woman-mother made,
Spawned somehow! Dead-white and disarmed she lay
No matter for the sword, her word sufficed
To spike the coward through and through: he shook,
Could only spit between the teeth—"You see?
"You hear? Bear witness, then! Write down . . but no—
"Carry these criminals to the prison-house,
"For first thing! I begin my search meanwhile
"After the stolen effects, gold, jewels, plate,
"Money and clothes, they robbed me of and fled,
"With no few amorous pieces, verse and prose,
"I have much reason to expect to find."
When I saw that—no more than the first mad speech,
Made out the speaker mad and a laughing-stock,
So neither did this next device explode
One listener's indignation,—that a scribe
Did sit down, set himself to write indeed,
While sundry knaves began to peer and pry
In corner and hole,—that Guido, wiping brow
And getting him a countenance, was fast
Losing his fear, beginning to strut free
O' the stage of his exploit, snuff here, sniff there,—
Then I took truth in, guessed sufficiently
The service for the moment. "What I say,
"Slight at your peril! We are aliens here,
"My adversary and I, called noble both;
"I am the nobler, and a name men know.
"I could refer our cause to our own Court
"In our own country, but prefer appeal
"To the nearer jurisdiction. Being a priest,
"Though in a secular garb,—for reasons good
"I shall adduce in due time to my peers,—
"I demand that the Church I serve, decide
"Between us, right the slandered lady there.
"A Tuscan noble, I might claim the Duke:
"A priest, I rather choose the Church,—bid Rome
"Cover the wronged with her inviolate shield."
There was no refusing this: they bore me off,
They bore her off, to separate cells o' the same
Ignoble prison, and, separate, thence to Rome.
Pompilia's face, then and thus, looked on me
The last time in this life: not one sight since,
Never another sight to be! And yet
I thought I had saved her. I appealed to Rome:
It seems I simply sent her to her death.
You tell me she is dying now, or dead;
I cannot bring myself to quite believe
This is a place you torture people in:
What if this your intelligence were just
A subtlety, an honest wile to work
On a man at unawares? 'T were worthy you.
No, Sirs, I cannot have the lady dead!
That erect form, flashing brow, fulgurant eye,
That voice immortal (oh, that voice of hers!)
That vision in the blood-red day-break—that
Leap to life of the pale electric sword
Angels go armed with,—that was not the last
O' the lady! Come, I see through it, you find—
Know the manoeuvre! Also herself said
I had saved her: do you dare say she spoke false?
Let me see for myself if it be so!
Though she were dying, a Priest might be of use,
The more when he's a friend too,—she called me
Far beyond "friend." Come, let me see her—indeed
It is my duty, being a priest: I hope
I stand confessed, established, proved a priest?
My punishment had motive that, a priest
I, in a laic garb, a mundane mode,
Did what were harmlessly done otherwise.
I never touched her with my finger-tip
Except to carry her to the couch, that eve,
Against my heart, beneath my head, bowed low,
As we priests carry the paten: that is why
—To get leave and go see her of your grace—
I have told you this whole story over again.
Do I deserve grace? For I might lock lips,
Laugh at your jurisdiction: what have you
To do with me in the matter? I suppose
You hardly think I donned a bravo's dress
To have a hand in the new crime; on the old,
Judgment's delivered, penalty imposed,
I was chained fast at Civita hand and foot—
She had only you to trust to, you and Rome,
Rome and the Church, and no pert meddling priest
Two days ago, when Guido, with the right,
Hacked her to pieces. One might well be wroth;
I have been patient, done my best to help:
I come from Civita and punishment
As friend of the Court—and for pure friendship's sake
Have told my tale to the end,—nay, not the end—
For, wait—I'll end—not leave you that excuse!
When we were parted,—shall I go on there?
I was presently brought to Rome—yes, here I stood
Opposite yonder very crucifix—
And there sat you and you, Sirs, quite the same.
I heard charge, and bore question, and told tale
Noted down in the book there,—turn and see
If, by one jot or tittle, I vary now!
I' the colour the tale takes, there's change perhaps;
'T is natural, since the sky is different,
Eclipse in the air now; still, the outline stays.
I showed you how it came to be my part
To save the lady. Then your clerk produced
Papers, a pack of stupid and impure
Banalities called letters about love—
Love, indeed,—I could teach who styled them so,
Better, I think, though priest and loveless both!
"—How was it that a wife, young, innocent,
"And stranger to your person, wrote this page?"—
"—She wrote it when the Holy Father wrote
"The bestiality that posts thro' Rome,
"Put in his mouth by Pasquin." "Nor perhaps
"Did you return these answers, verse and prose,
"Signed, sealed and sent the lady? There's your hand!"
"—This precious piece of verse, I really judge,
"Is meant to copy my own character,
"A clumsy mimic; and this other prose,
"Not so much even; both rank forgery:
"Verse, quotha? Bembo's verse! When Saint John wrote
"The tract 'De Tribus,' I wrote this to match."
"—How came it, then, the documents were found
"At the inn on your departure?"—"I opine,
"Because there were no documents to find
"In my presence,—you must hide before you find.
"Who forged them hardly practised in my view;
"Who found them waited till I turned my back."
"—And what of the clandestine visits paid,
"Nocturnal passage in and out the house
"With its lord absent? 'T is alleged you climbed …"
"—Flew on a broomstick to the man i' the moon!
"Who witnessed or will testify this trash?"
"—The trusty servant, Margherita's self,
"Even she who brought you letters, you confess,
"And, you confess, took letters in reply:
"Forget not we have knowledge of the facts!"
"—Sirs, who have knowledge of the facts, defray
"The expenditure of wit I waste in vain,
"Trying to find out just one fact of all!
"She who brought letters from who could not write,
"And took back letters to who could not read,—
"Who was that messenger, of your charity?"
"—Well, so far favours you the circumstance
"That this same messenger … how shall we say? …
"Sub imputatione meretricis
"Laborat,—which makes accusation null:
"We waive this woman's: nought makes void the next.
"Borsi, called Venerino, he who drove,
"O' the first night when you fled away, at length
"Deposes to your kissings in the coach,
"—Frequent, frenetic …" "When deposed he so?"
"After some weeks of sharp imprisonment …"
"—Granted by friend the Governor, I engage—"
"—For his participation in your flight!
"At length his obduracy melting made
"The avowal mentioned . ." "Was dismissed forthwith
"To liberty, poor knave, for recompense.
"Sirs, give what credit to the lie you can!
"For me, no word in my defence I speak,
"And God shall argue for the lady!"
Did I stand question, and make answer, still
With the same result of smiling disbelief,
Polite impossibility of faith
In such affected virtue in a priest;
But a showing fair play, an indulgence, even,
To one no worse than others after all—
Who had not brought disgrace to the order, played
Discreetly, ruffled gown nor ripped the cloth
In a bungling game at romps: I have told you, Sirs—
If I pretended simply to be pure
Honest and Christian in the case,—absurd!
As well go boast myself above the needs
O' the human nature, careless how meat smells,
Wine tastes,—a saint above the smack! But once
Abate my crest, own flaws i' the flesh, agree
To go with the herd, be hog no more nor less,
Why, hogs in common herd have common rights:
I must not be unduly borne upon,
Who just romanced a little, sowed wild oats,
But 'scaped without a scandal, flagrant fault.
My name helped to a mirthful circumstance:
"Joseph" would do well to amend his plea:
Undoubtedly—some toying with the wife,
But as for ruffian violence and rape,
Potiphar pressed too much on the other side!
The intrigue, the elopement, the disguise,—well charged!
The letters and verse looked hardly like the truth.
Your apprehension was—of guilt enough
To be compatible with innocence,
So, punished best a little and not too much.
Had I struck Guido Franceschini's face,
You had counselled me withdraw for my own sake,
Baulk him of bravo-hiring. Friends came round,
Congratulated, "Nobody mistakes!
"The pettiness o' the forfeiture defines
"The peccadillo: Guido gets his share:
"His wife is free of husband and hook-nose,
"The mouldy viands and the mother-in-law.
"To Civita with you and amuse the time,
"Travesty us 'De Raptu Helenoe!'
"A funny figure must the husband cut
"When the wife makes him skip,—too ticklish, eh?
"Do it in Latin, not the Vulgar, then!
"Scazons—we'll copy and send his Eminence.
"Mind—one iambus in the final foot!
"He'll rectity it, be your friend for life!"
Oh, Sirs, depend on me for much new light
Thrown on the justice and religion here
By this proceeding, much fresh food for thought!
And I was just set down to study these
In relegation, two short days ago,
Admiring how you read the rules, when, clap,
A thunder comes into my solitude—
I am caught up in a whirlwind and cast here,
Told of a sudden, in this room where so late
You dealt out law adroitly, that those scales,
I meekly bowed to, took my allotment from,
Guido has snatched at, broken in your hands,
Metes to himself the murder of his wife,
Full measure, pressed down, running over now!
Can I assist to an explanation?—Yes,
I rise in your esteem, sagacious Sirs,
Stand up a renderer of reasons, not
The officious priest would personate Saint George
For a mock Princess in undragoned days.
What, the blood startles you? What, after all
The priest who needs must carry sword on thigh
May find imperative use for it? Then, there was
A Princess, was a dragon belching flame,
And should have been a Saint George also? Then,
There might be worse schemes than to break the bonds
At Arezzo, lead her by the little hand,
Till she reached Rome, and let her try to live?
But you were law and gospel,—would one please
Stand back, allow your faculty elbow-room?
You blind guides who must needs lead eyes that see!
Fools, alike ignorant of man and God!
What was there here should have perplexed your wit
For a wink of the owl-eyes of you? How miss, then,
What's now forced on you by this flare of fact—
As if Saint Peter failed to recognize
Nero as no apostle, John or James,
Till someone burned a martyr, made a torch
O' the blood and fat to show his features by!
Could you fail read this cartulary aright
On head and front of Franceschini there,
Large-lettered like hell's masterpiece of print,—
That he, from the beginning pricked at heart
By some lust, letch of hate against his wife,
Plotted to plague her into overt sin
And shame, would slay Pompilia body and soul,
And save his mean self—miserably caught
I' the quagmire of his own tricks, cheats and lies?
—That himself wrote those papers,—from himself
To himself,—which, i' the name of me and her,
His mistress-messenger gave her and me,
Touching us with such pustules of the soul
That she and I might take the taint, be shown
To the world and shuddered over, speckled so?
—That the agent put her sense into my words,
Made substitution of the thing she hoped,
For the thing she had and held, its opposite,
While the husband in the background bit his lips
At each fresh failure of his precious plot?
—That when at the last we did rush each on each,
By no chance but because God willed it so—
The spark of truth was struck from out our souls—
Made all of me, descried in the first glance,
Seem fair and honest and permissible love
O' the good and true—as the first glance told me
There was no duty patent in the world
Like daring try be good and true myself,
Leaving the shows of things to the Lord of Show
And Prince o' the Power of the Air. Our very flight,
Even to its most ambiguous circumstance,
Irrefragably proved how futile, false …
Why, men—men and not boys—boys and not babes—
Babes and not beasts—beasts and not stocks and stones!—
Had the liar's lie been true one pin-point speck,
Were I the accepted suitor, free o' the place,
Disposer of the time, to come at a call
And go at a wink as who should say me nay,—
What need of flight, what were the gain therefrom
But just damnation, failure or success?
Damnation pure and simple to her the wife
And me the priest—who bartered private bliss
For public reprobation, the safe shade
For the sunshine which men see to pelt me by:
What other advantage,—we who led the days
And nights alone i' the house,—was flight to find?
In our whole journey did we stop an hour,
Diverge a foot from straight road till we reached
Or would have reached—but for that fate of ours—
The father and mother, in the eye of Rome,
The eye of yourselves we made aware of us
At the first fall of misfortune? And indeed
You did so far give sanction to our flight,
Confirm its purpose, as lend helping hand,
Deliver up Pompilia not to him
She fled, but those the flight was ventured for.
Why then could you, who stopped short, not go on
One poor step more, and justify the means,
Having allowed the end?—not see and say
"Here's the exceptional conduct that should claim
"To be exceptionally judged on rules
"Which, understood, make no exception here"—
Why play instead into the devil's hands
By dealing so ambiguously as gave
Guido the power to intervene like me,
Prove one exception more? I saved his wife
Against law: against law he slays her now:
Deal with him!
I have done with being judged.
I stand here guiltless in thought, word and deed,
To the point that I apprise you,—in contempt
For all misapprehending ignorance
O' the human heart, much more the mind of Christ,—
That I assuredly did bow, was blessed
By the revelation of Pompilia. There!
Such is the final fact I fling you, Sirs,
To mouth and mumble and misinterpret: there!
"The priest's in love," have it the vulgar way!
Unpriest me, rend the rags o' the vestment, do—
Degrade deep, disenfranchise all you dare—
Remove me from the midst, no longer priest
And fit companion for the like of you—
Your gay Abati with the well-turned leg
And rose i' the hat-rim, Canons, cross at neck
And silk mask in the pocket of the gown,
Brisk Bishops with the world's musk still unbrushed
From the rochet; I'll no more of these good things:
There's a crack somewhere, something that's unsound
I' the rattle!
For Pompilia—be advised,
Build churches, go pray! You will find me there,
I know, if you come,—and you will come, I know.
Why, there's a Judge weeping! Did not I say
You were good and true at bottom? You see the truth—
I am glad I helped you: she helped me just so.
But for Count Guido,—you must counsel there!
I bow my head, bend to the very dust,
Break myself up in shame of faultiness.
I had him one whole moment, as I said—
As I remember, as will never out
O' the thoughts of me,—I had him in arm's reach
There,—as you stand, Sir, now you cease to sit,—
I could have killed him ere he killed his wife,
And did not: he went off alive and well
And then effected this last feat—through me!
Me—not through you—dsimiss that fear! 'T was you
Hindered me staying here to save her,—not
From leaving you and going back to him
And doing service in Arezzo. Come,
Instruct me in procedure! I conceive—
In all due self-abasement might I speak—
How you will deal with Guido: oh, not death!
Death, if it let her life be: otherwise
Not death,—your lights will teach you clearer! I
Certainly have an instinct of my own
I' the matter: bear with me and weigh its worth!
Let us go away—leave Guido all alone
Back on the world again that knows him now!
I think he will be found (indulge so far!)
Not to die so much as slide out of life,
Pushed by the general horror and common hate
Low, lower,—left o' the very ledge of things,
I seem to see him catch convulsively
One by one at all honest forms of life,
At reason, order, decency and use—
To cramp him and get foothold by at least;
And still they disengage them from his clutch.
"What, you are he, then, had Pompilia once
"And so forwent her? Take not up with us!"
And thus I see him slowly and surely edged
Off all the table-land whence life upsprings
Aspiring to be immortality,
As the snake, hatched on hill-top by mischance,
Despite his wriggling, slips, slides, slidders down
Hill-side, lies low and prostrate on the smooth
Level of the outer place, lapsed in the vale:
So I lose Guido in the loneliness,
Silence and dusk, till at the doleful end,
At the horizontal line, creation's verge,
From what just is to absolute nothingness—
Whom is it, straining onward still, he meets?
What other man deep further in the fate,
Who, turning at the prize of a footfall
To flatter him and promise fellowship,
Discovers in the act a frightful face—
Judas, made monstrous by much solitude!
The two are at one now! Let them love their love
That bites and claws like hate, or hate their hate
That mops and mows and makes as it were love!
There, let them each tear each in devil's-fun,
Or fondle this the other while malice aches—
Both teach, both learn detestability!
Kiss him the kiss, Iscariot! Pay that back,
That smatch o' the slaver blistering on your lip,
By the better trick, the insult he spared Christ—
Lure him the lure o' the letters, Aretine!
Lick him o'er slimy-smooth with jelly-filth
O' the verse-and-prose pollution in love's guise!
The cockatrice is with the basilisk!
There let them grapple, denizens o' the dark,
Foes or friends, but indissolubly bound,
In their one spot out of the ken of God
Or care of man, for ever and ever more!
Why, Sirs, what's this? Why, this is sorry and strange!
Futility, divagation: this from me
Bound to be rational, justify an act
Of sober man!—whereas, being moved so much,
I give you cause to doubt the lady's mind:
A pretty sarcasm for the world! I fear
You do her wit injustice,—all through me!
Like my fate all through,—ineffective help!
A poor rash advocate I prove myself.
You might be angry with good cause: but sure
At the advocate,—only at the undue zeal
That spoils the force of his own plea, I think?
My part was just to tell you how things stand,
State facts and not be flustered at their fume.
But then 't is a priest speaks: as for love,—no!
If you let buzz a vulgar fly like that
About your brains, as if I loved, forsooth,
Indeed, Sirs, you do wrong! We had no thought
Of such infatuation, she and I:
There are many points that prove it: do be just!
I told you,—at one little roadside-place
I spent a good half-hour, paced to and fro
The garden; just to leave her free awhile,
I plucked a handful of Spring herb and bloom:
I might have sat beside her on the bench
Where the children were: I wish the thing had been,
Indeed: the event could not be worse, you know:
One more half-hour of her saved! She's dead now, Sirs!
While I was running on at such a rate,
Friends should have plucked me by the sleeve: I went
Too much o' the trivial outside of her face
And the purity that shone there—plain to me,
Not to you, what more natural? Nor am I
Infatuated,—oh, I saw, be sure!
Her brow had not the right line, leaned too much,
Painters would say; they like the straight-up Greek:
This seemed bent somewhat with an invisible crown
Of martyr and saint, not such as art approves.
And how the dark orbs dwelt deep underneath,
Looked out of such a sad sweet heaven on me!
The lips, compressed a little, came forward too,
Careful for a whole world of sin and pain.
That was the face, her husband makes his plea,
He sought just to disfigure,—no offence
Beyond that! Sirs, let us be rational!
He needs must vindicate his honour,—ay,
Yet shirks, the coward, in a clown's disguise,
Away from the scene, endeavours to escape.
Now, had he done so, slain and left no trace
O' the slayer,—what were vindicated, pray?
You had found his wife disfigured or a corpse,
For what and by whom? It is too palpable!
Then, here's another point involving law:
I use this argument to show you meant
No calumny against us by that title
O' the sentence,—liars try to twist it so:
What penalty it bore, I had to pay
Till further proof should follow of innocence—
Probationis ob defectum,—proof?
How could you get proof without trying us?
You went through the preliminary form,
Stopped there, contrived this sentence to amuse
The adversary. If the title ran
For more than fault imputed and not proved,
That was a simple penman's error, else
A slip i' the phrase,—as when we say of you
"Charged with injustice"—which may either be
Or not be,—'t is a name that sticks meanwhile.
Another relevant matter: fool that I am!
Not what I wish true, yet a point friends urge:
It is not true,—yet, since friends think it helps,—
She only tried me when some others failed—
Began with Conti, whom I told you of,
And Guillichini, Guido's kinsfolk both,
And when abandoned by them, not before,
Turned to me. That's conclusive why she turned.
Much good they got by the happy cowardice!
Conti is dead, poisoned a month ago:
Does that much strike you as a sin? Not much,
After the present murder,—one mark more
On the Moor's skin,—what is black by blacker still?
Conti had come here and told truth. And so
With Guillichini; he's condemned of course
To the galleys, as a friend in this affair,
Tried and condemned for no one thing i' the world,
A fortnight since by who but the Governor?—
The just judge, who refused Pompilia help
At first blush, being her husband's friend, you know.
There are two tales to suit the separate courts,
Arezzo and Rome: he tells you here, we fled
Alone, unhelped,—lays stress on the main fault,
The spiritual sin, Rome looks to: but elsewhere
He likes best we should break in, steal, bear off,
Be fit to brand and pillory and flog—
That's the charge goes to the heart of the Governor:
If these unpriest me, you and I may yet
Converse, Vincenzo Marzi-Medici!
Oh, Sirs, there are worse men than you, I say!
More easily duped, I mean; this stupid lie,
Its liar never dared propound in Rome,
He gets Arezzo to receive,—nay more,
Gets Florence and the Duke to authorize!
This is their Rota's sentence, their Granduke
Signs and seals! Rome for me henceforward—Rome,
Where better men are,—most of all, that man
The Augustinian of the Hospital,
Who writes the letter,—he confessed, he says,
Many a dying person, never one
So sweet and true and pure and beautiful.
A good man! Will you make him Pope one day?
Not that he is not good too, this we have—
But old,—else he would have his word to speak,
His truth to teach the world: I thirst for truth,
But shall not drink it till I reach the source.
Sirs, I am quiet again. You see, we are
So very pitiable, she and I,
Who had conceivably been otherwise.
Forget distemperature and idle heat!
Apart from truth's sake, what's to move so much?
Pompilia will be presently with God;
I am, on earth, as good as out of it,
A relegated priest; when exile ends,
I mean to do my duty and live long.
She and I are mere strangers now: but priests
Should study passion; how else cure mankind,
Who come for help in passionate extremes?
I do but play with an imagined life
Of who, unfettered by a vow, unblessed
By the higher call,—since you will have it so,—
Leads it companioned by the woman there.
To live, and see her learn, and learn by her,
Out of the low obscure and petty world—
Or only see one purpose and one will
Evolve themselves i' the world, change wrong to right:
To have to do with nothing but the true,
The good, the eternal—and these, not alone
In the main current of the general life,
But small experiences of every day,
Concerns of the particular hearth and home:
To learn not only by a comet's rush
But a rose's birth,—not by the grandeur, God—
But the comfort, Christ. All this, how far away!
Mere delectation, meet for a minute's dream!—
Just as a drudging student trims his lamp,
Opens his Plutarch, puts him in the place
Of Roman, Grecian; draws the patched gown close,
Dreams, "Thus should I fight, save or rule the world!"—
Then smilingly, contentedly, awakes
To the old solitary nothingness.
So I, from such communion, pass content …
O great, just, good God! Miserable me!
From 'The Testament of Beauty
'Twas at that hour of beauty when the setting sun
squandereth his cloudy bed with rosy hues, to flood
his lov'd works as in turn he biddeth them Good-night;
and all the towers and temples and mansions of men
face him in bright farewell, ere they creep from their pomp
naked beneath the darkness;- while to mortal eyes
'tis given, ifso they close not of fatigue, nor strain
at lamplit tasks-'tis given, as for a royal boon
to beggarly outcasts in homeless vigil, to watch
where uncurtain's behind the great windows of space
Heav'n's jewel'd company circleth unapproachably-
'Twas at sunset that I, fleeing to hide my soul
in refuge of beauty from a mortal distress,
walk'd alone with the Muse in her garden of thought,
discoursing at liberty with the mazy dreams
that came wavering pertinaciously about me; as when
the small bats, issued from their hangings, flitter o'erhead
thru' the summer twilight, with thin cries to and fro
hunting in muffled flight atween the stars and flowers.
Then fell I in strange delusion, illusion strange to tell;
for as a man who lyeth fast asleep in his bed
may dream he waketh, and that he walketh upright
pursuing some endeavour in full conscience-so 'twas
with me; but contrawise; for being in truth awake
methought I slept and dreamt; and in thatt dream methought
I was telling a dream; nor telling was I as one
who, truly awaked from a true sleep, thinketh to tell
his dream to a friend, but for his scant remembrances
findeth no token of speech-it was not so with me;
for my tale was my dream and my dream the telling,
and I remember wondring the while I told it
how I told it so tellingly. And yet now 'twould seem
that Reason inveighed me with her old orderings;
as once when she took thought to adjust theology,
peopling the inane that vex'd her between God and man
with a hierarchy of angels; like those asteroids
wherewith she later fill'd the gap 'twixt Jove and Mars.
Verily by Beauty it is that we come as WISDOM,
yet not by Reason at Beauty; and now with many words
pleasing myself betimes I am fearing lest in the end
I play the tedious orator who maundereth on
for lack of heart to make an end of his nothings.
Wherefor as when a runner who hath run his round
handeth his staff away, and is glad of his rest,
here break I off, knowing the goal was not for me
the while I ran on telling of what cannot be told.
For not the Muse herself can tell of Goddes love;
which cometh to the child from the Mother's embrace,
an Idea spacious as the starry firmament's
inescapable infinity of radiant gaze,
that fadeth only as it outpasseth mortal sight:
and this direct contact is 't with eternities,
this springtide miracle of the soul's nativity
that oft hath set philosophers adrift in dream;
which thing Christ taught, when he set up a little child
to teach his first Apostles and to accuse their pride,
saying, 'Unless ye shall receive it as a child,
ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.'
So thru'out all his young mental apprenticehood
the child of very simplicity, and in the grace
and beauteous attitude of infantine wonder,
is apt to absorb Ideas in primal purity,
and by the assimilation of thatt immortal food
may build immortal life; but ever with the growth
of understanding, as the sensible images
are more and more corrupt, troubled by questioning thought,
or with vainglory alloy'd, 'tis like enought the boy
in prospect of his manhood wil hav cast to th' winds
his Baptism with his Babyhood; nor might he escape
the fall of Ev'ryman, did not a second call
of nature's Love await him to confirm his Faith
or to revoke him if he is whollylapsed therefrom.
And so mighty is this second vision, which cometh
in puberty of body and adolescence of mind
that, forgetting his Mother, he calleth it 'first Love';
for it mocketh at suasion or stubbornness of heart,
as the oceantide of the omnipotent Pleasur of God,
flushing all avenues of life, and unawares
by thousandfold approach forestalling its full flood
with divination of the secret contacts of Love,--
of faintest ecstasies aslumber in Nature's calm,
like thought in a closed book, where some poet long since
sang his throbbing passion to immortal sleep-with coy
tenderness delicat as the shifting hues
that sanctify the silent dawn with wonder-gleams,
whose evanescence is the seal of their glory,
consumed in self-becoming of eternity;
til every moment as it flyeth, cryeth 'Seize!
Seize me ere I die! I am the Life of Life.'
'Tis thus by near approach to an eternal presence
man's heart with divine furor kindled and possess'd
falleth in blind surrender; and finding therewithal
in fullest devotion the full reconcilement
betwixt his animal and spiritual desires,
such welcome hour of bliss standeth for certain pledge
of happiness perdurable: and coud he sustain
this great enthusiasm, then the unbounded promise
would keep fulfilment; since the marriage of true minds
is thatt once fabled garden, amidst of which was set
the single Tree that bore such med'cinable fruit
that if man ate thereof he should liv for ever.
Friendship is in loving rather than in being lov'd,
which is its mutual benediction and recompense;
and tho' this be, and tho' love is from lovers learn'd,
it springeth none the less from the old essence of self.
No friendless man ('twas well said) can be truly himself;
what a man looketh for in his friend and findeth,
and loving self best, loveth better than himself,
is his own better self, his live lovable idea,
flowering by expansion in the loves of his life.
And in the nobility of our earthly friendships
we hav al grades of attainment, and the best may claim
perfection of kind; and so, since ther be many bonds
other than breed (friendships of lesser motiv, found
even in the brutes) and since our politick is based
on actual association of living men, 'twil come
that the spiritual idea of Friendship, the huge
vastidity of its essence, is fritter'd away
in observation of the usual habits of men;
as happ'd with the great moralist, where his book saith
that ther can be no friendship betwixt God and man
because of their unlimited disparity.
From this dilemma of pagan thought, this poison of faith,
Man-soul made glad escape in the worship of Christ;
for his humanity is God's Personality,
and communion with him is the life of the soul.
Of which living ideas (when in the struggle of thought
harden'd by language they became symbols of faith)
Reason builded her maze, wherefrom none should escape,
wandering intent to map and learn her tortuous clews,
chanting their clerkly creed to the high-echoing stones
of their hand-fashion'd temple: but the Wind of heav'n
bloweth where it listeth, and Christ yet walketh the earth,
and talketh still as with those two disciples once
on the road to Emmaus-where they walk and are sad;
whose vision of him then was his victory over death,
thatt resurrection which all his lovers should share,
who in loving him had learn'd the Ethick of happiness;
whereby they too should come where he was ascended
to reign over men's hearts in the Kingdom of God.
Our happiest earthly comradeships hold a foretaste
of the feast of salvation and by thatt virtue in them
provoke desire beyond them to out-reach and surmount
their humanity in some superhumanity
and ultimat perfection: which, howe'ever 'tis found
or strangeley imagin'd, answereth to the need of each
and pulleth him instinctivly as to a final cause.
Thus unto all who hav found their high ideal in Christ,
Christ is to them the essence discern'd or undeiscern'd
of all their human friendships; and each lover of him
and of his beauty must be as a bud on the Vine
and hav participation in him; for Goddes love
is unescapable as nature's environment,
which if a man ignore or think to thrust it off
he is the ill-natured fool that runneth blindly on death.
This Individualism is man's true Socialism.
This is the rife Idea whose spiritual beauty
multiplieth in communion to transcendant might.
This is thatt excelent way whereon if we wil walk
all things shall be added unto us-thatt Love which inspired
the wayward Visionary in his doctrinal ode
to the three christian Graces, the Church's first hymn
and only deathless athanasian creed,--the which
'except a man believe he cannot be saved.'
This is the endearing bond whereby Christ's company
yet holdeth together on the truth of his promise
that he spake of his grat pity and trust in man's love,
'Lo, I am with you always ev'n to the end of the world.'
Truly the Soul returneth the body's loving
where it hath won it...and God so loveth the world...
and in the fellowship of the friendship of Christ
God is seen as the very self-essence of love,
Creator and mover of all as activ Lover of all,
self-express'd in not-self, mind and body, mother and child,
'twixt lover and loved, God and man: but ONE ETERNAL
in the love of Beauty and in the selfhood of Love.
A Faith On Trial
On the morning of May,
Ere the children had entered my gate
With their wreaths and mechanical lay,
A metal ding-dong of the date!
I mounted our hill, bearing heart
That had little of life save its weight:
The crowned Shadow poising dart
Hung over her: she, my own,
My good companion, mate,
Pulse of me: she who had shown
Fortitude quiet as Earth's
At the shedding of leaves. And around
The sky was in garlands of cloud,
Winning scents from unnumbered new births,
Pointed buds, where the woods were browned
By a mouldered beechen shroud;
Or over our meads of the vale,
Such an answer to sun as he,
Brave in his gold; to a sound,
None sweeter, of woods flapping sail,
With the first full flood of our year,
For their voyage on lustreful sea:
Unto what curtained haven in chief,
Will be writ in the book of the sere.
But surely the crew are we,
Eager or stamped or bowed;
Counted thinner at fall of the leaf.
Grief heard them, and passed like a bier.
Due Summerward, lo, they were set,
In volumes of foliage proud,
On the heave of their favouring tides,
And their song broadened out to the cheer
When a neck of the ramping surf
Rattles thunder a boat overrides.
All smiles ran the highways wet;
The worm drew its links from the turf;
The bird of felicity loud
Spun high, and a South wind blew.
Weak out of sheath downy leaves
Of the beech quivered lucid as dew,
Their radiance asking, who grieves;
For nought of a sorrow they knew:
No space to the dread wrestle vowed,
No chamber in shadow of night.
At times as the steadier breeze
Flutter-huddled their twigs to a crowd,
The beam of them wafted my sight
To league-long sun upon seas:
The golden path we had crossed
Many years, till her birthland swung
Recovered to vision from lost,
A light in her filial glance.
And sweet was her voice with the tongue,
The speechful tongue of her France,
Soon at ripple about us, like rills
Ever busy with little: away
Through her Normandy, down where the mills
Dot at lengths a rivercourse, grey
As its bordering poplars bent
To gusts off the plains above.
Old stone chateau and farms,
Home of her birth and her love!
On the thread of the pasture you trace,
By the river, their milk, for miles,
Spotted once with the English tent,
In days of the tocsin's alarms,
To tower of the tallest of piles,
The country's surveyor breast-high.
Home of her birth and her love!
Home of a diligent race;
Thrifty, deft-handed to ply
Shuttle or needle, and woo
Sun to the roots of the pear
Frogging each mud-walled cot.
The elders had known her in arms.
There plucked we the bluet, her hue
Of the deeper forget-me-not;
Well wedding her ripe-wheat hair.
I saw, unsighting: her heart
I saw, and the home of her love
There printed, mournfully rent:
Her ebbing adieu, her adieu,
And the stride of the Shadow athwart.
For one of our Autumns there! . . .
Straight as the flight of a dove
We went, swift winging we went.
We trod solid ground, we breathed air,
The heavens were unbroken. Break they,
The word of the world is adieu:
Her word: and the torrents are round,
The jawed wolf-waters of prey.
We stand upon isles, who stand:
A Shadow before us, and back,
A phantom the habited land.
We may cry to the Sunderer, spare
That dearest! he loosens his pack.
Arrows we breathe, not air.
The memories tenderly bound
To us are a drifting crew,
Amid grey-gapped waters for ground.
Alone do we stand, each one,
Till rootless as they we strew
Those deeps of the corse-like stare
At a foreign and stony sun.
Eyes had I but for the scene
Of my circle, what neighbourly grew.
If haply no finger lay out
To the figures of days that had been,
I gathered my herb, and endured;
My old cloak wrapped me about.
Unfooted was ground-ivy blue,
Whose rustic shrewd odour allured
In Spring's fresh of morning: unseen
Her favourite wood-sorrel bell
As yet, though the leaves' green floor
Awaited their flower, that would tell
Of a red-veined moist yestreen,
With its droop and the hues it wore,
When we two stood overnight
One, in the dark van-glow
On our hill-top, seeing beneath
Our household's twinkle of light
Through spruce-boughs, gem of a wreath.
Budding, the service-tree, white
Almost as whitebeam, threw,
From the under of leaf upright,
Flecks like a showering snow
On the flame-shaped junipers green,
On the sombre mounds of the yew.
Like silvery tapers bright
By a solemn cathedral screen,
They glistened to closer view.
Turf for a rooks' revel striped
Pleased those devourers astute.
Chorister blackbird and thrush
Together or alternate piped;
A free-hearted harmony large,
With meaning for man, for brute,
When the primitive forces are brimmed.
Like featherings hither and yon
Of aery tree-twigs over marge,
To the comb of the winds, untrimmed,
Their measure is found in the vast.
Grief heard them, and stepped her way on.
She has but a narrow embrace.
Distrustful of hearing she passed.
They piped her young Earth's Bacchic rout;
The race, and the prize of the race;
Earth's lustihead pressing to sprout.
But sight holds a soberer space.
Colourless dogwood low
Curled up a twisted root,
Nigh yellow-green mosses, to flush
Redder than sun upon rocks,
When the creeper clematis-shoot
Shall climb, cap his branches, and show,
Beside veteran green of the box,
At close of the year's maple blush,
A bleeding greybeard is he,
Now hale in the leafage lush.
Our parasites paint us. Hard by,
A wet yew-trunk flashed the peel
Of our naked forefathers in fight;
With stains of the fray sweating free;
And him came no parasite nigh:
Firm on the hard knotted knee,
He stood in the crown of his dun;
Earth's toughest to stay her wheel:
Under whom the full day is night;
Whom the century-tempests call son,
Having striven to rend him in vain.
I walked to observe, not to feel,
Not to fancy, if simple of eye
One may be among images reaped
For a shift of the glance, as grain:
Profitless froth you espy
Ashore after billows have leaped.
I fled nothing, nothing pursued:
The changeful visible face
Of our Mother I sought for my food;
Crumbs by the way to sustain.
Her sentence I knew past grace.
Myself I had lost of us twain,
Once bound in mirroring thought.
She had flung me to dust in her wake;
And I, as your convict drags
His chain, by the scourge untaught,
Bore life for a goad, without aim.
I champed the sensations that make
Of a ruffled philosophy rags.
For them was no meaning too blunt,
Nor aspect too cutting of steel.
This Earth of the beautiful breasts,
Shining up in all colours aflame,
To them had visage of hags:
A Mother of aches and jests:
Soulless, heading a hunt
Aimless except for the meal.
Hope, with the star on her front;
Fear, with an eye in the heel;
Our links to a Mother of grace;
They were dead on the nerve, and dead
For the nature divided in three;
Gone out of heart, out of brain,
Out of soul: I had in their place
The calm of an empty room.
We were joined but by that thin thread,
My disciplined habit to see.
And those conjure images, those,
The puppets of loss or gain;
Not he who is bare to his doom;
For whom never semblance plays
To bewitch, overcloud, illume.
The dusty mote-images rose;
Sheer film of the surface awag:
They sank as they rose; their pain
Declaring them mine of old days.
Now gazed I where, sole upon gloom,
As flower-bush in sun-specked crag,
Up the spine of the double combe
With yew-boughs heavily cloaked,
A young apparition shone:
Known, yet wonderful, white
Surpassingly; doubtfully known,
For it struck as the birth of Light:
Even Day from the dark unyoked.
It waved like a pilgrim flag
O'er processional penitents flown
When of old they broke rounding yon spine:
O the pure wild-cherry in bloom!
For their Eastward march to the shrine
Of the footsore far-eyed Faith,
Was banner so brave, so fair,
So quick with celestial sign
Of victorious rays over death?
For a conquest of coward despair; -
Division of soul from wits,
And these made rulers;--full sure,
More starlike never did shine
To illumine the sinister field
Where our life's old night-bird flits.
I knew it: with her, my own,
Had hailed it pure of the pure;
Our beacon yearly: but strange
When it strikes to within is the known;
Richer than newness revealed.
There was needed darkness like mine.
Its beauty to vividness blown
Drew the life in me forward, chased,
From aloft on a pinnacle's range,
That hindward spidery line,
The length of the ways I had paced,
A footfarer out of the dawn,
To Youth's wild forest, where sprang,
For the morning of May long gone,
The forest's white virgin; she
Seen yonder; and sheltered me, sang;
She in me, I in her; what songs
The fawn-eared wood-hollows revive
To pour forth their tune-footed throngs;
Inspire to the dreaming of good
Illimitable to come:
She, the white wild cherry, a tree,
Earth-rooted, tangibly wood,
Yet a presence throbbing alive;
Nor she in our language dumb:
A spirit born of a tree;
Because earth-rooted alive:
Huntress of things worth pursuit
Of souls; in our naming, dreams.
And each unto other was lute,
By fits quick as breezy gleams.
My quiver of aims and desires
Had colour that she would have owned;
And if by humaner fires
Hued later, these held her enthroned:
My crescent of Earth; my blood
At the silvery early stir;
Hour of the thrill of the bud
About to burst, and by her
Directed, attuned, englobed:
My Goddess, the chaste, not chill;
Choir over choir white-robed;
White-bosomed fold within fold:
For so could I dream, breast-bare,
In my time of blooming; dream still
Through the maze, the mesh, and the wreck,
Despite, since manhood was bold,
The yoke of the flesh on my neck.
She beckoned, I gazed, unaware
How a shaft of the blossoming tree
Was shot from the yew-wood's core.
I stood to the touch of a key
Turned in a fast-shut door.
They rounded my garden, content,
The small fry, clutching their fee,
Their fruit of the wreath and the pole;
And, chatter, hop, skip, they were sent,
In a buzz of young company glee,
Their natural music, swift shoal
To the next easy shedders of pence.
Why not? for they had me in tune
With the hungers of my kind.
Do readings of earth draw thence,
Then a concord deeper than cries
Of the Whither whose echo is Whence,
To jar unanswered, shall rise
As a fountain-jet in the mind
Bowed dark o'er the falling and strewn.
* * *
Unwitting where it might lead,
How it came, for the anguish to cease,
And the Questions that sow not nor spin,
This wisdom, rough-written, and black,
As of veins that from venom bleed,
I had with the peace within;
Or patience, mortal of peace,
Compressing the surgent strife
In a heart laid open, not mailed,
To the last blank hour of the rack,
When struck the dividing knife:
When the hand that never had failed
In its pressure to mine hung slack.
But this in myself did I know,
Not needing a studious brow,
Or trust in a governing star,
While my ears held the jangled shout
The children were lifting afar:
That natures at interflow
With all of their past and the now,
Are chords to the Nature without,
Orbs to the greater whole:
First then, nor utterly then
Till our lord of sensations at war,
The rebel, the heart, yields place
To brain, each prompting the soul.
Thus our dear Earth we embrace
For the milk, her strength to men.
And crave we her medical herb,
We have but to see and hear,
Though pierced by the cruel acerb,
The troops of the memories armed
Hostile to strike at the nest
That nourished and flew them warmed.
Not she gives the tear for the tear.
Weep, bleed, rave, writhe, be distraught,
She is moveless. Not of her breast
Are the symbols we conjure when Fear
Takes leaven of Hope. I caught,
With Death in me shrinking from Death,
As cold from cold, for a sign
Of the life beyond ashes: I cast,
Believing the vision divine,
Wings of that dream of my Youth
To the spirit beloved: 'twas unglassed
On her breast, in her depths austere:
A flash through the mist, mere breath,
Breath on a buckler of steel.
For the flesh in revolt at her laws,
Neither song nor smile in ruth,
Nor promise of things to reveal,
Has she, nor a word she saith:
We are asking her wheels to pause.
Well knows she the cry of unfaith.
If we strain to the farther shore,
We are catching at comfort near.
Assurances, symbols, saws,
Revelations in legends, light
To eyes rolling darkness, these
Desired of the flesh in affright,
For the which it will swear to adore,
She yields not for prayers at her knees;
The woolly beast bleating will shear.
These are our sensual dreams;
Of the yearning to touch, to feel
The dark Impalpable sure,
And have the Unveiled appear;
Whereon ever black she beams,
Doth of her terrible deal,
She who dotes over ripeness at play,
Rosiness fondles and feeds,
Guides it with shepherding crook,
To her sports and her pastures alway.
Not she gives the tear for the tear:
Harsh wisdom gives Earth, no more;
In one the spur and the curb:
An answer to thoughts or deeds;
To the Legends an alien look;
To the Questions a figure of clay.
Yet we have but to see and hear,
Crave we her medical herb.
For the road to her soul is the Real:
The root of the growth of man:
And the senses must traverse it fresh
With a love that no scourge shall abate,
To reach the lone heights where we scan
In the mind's rarer vision this flesh;
In the charge of the Mother our fate;
Her law as the one common weal.
We, whom the view benumbs,
We, quivering upward, each hour
Know battle in air and in ground
For the breath that goes as it comes,
For the choice between sweet and sour,
For the smallest grain of our worth:
And he who the reckoning sums
Finds nought in his hand save Earth.
Of Earth are we stripped or crowned.
The fleeting Present we crave,
Barter our best to wed,
In hope of a cushioned bower,
What is it but Future and Past
Like wind and tide at a wave!
Idea of the senses, bred
For the senses to snap and devour:
Thin as the shell of a sound
In delivery, withered in light.
Cry we for permanence fast,
Permanence hangs by the grave;
Sits on the grave green-grassed,
On the roll of the heaved grave-mound.
By Death, as by Life, are we fed:
The two are one spring; our bond
With the numbers; with whom to unite
Here feathers wings for beyond:
Only they can waft us in flight.
For they are Reality's flower.
Of them, and the contact with them,
Issues Earth's dearest daughter, the firm
In footing, the stately of stem;
Unshaken though elements lour;
A warrior heart unquelled;
Mirror of Earth, and guide
To the Holies from sense withheld:
Reason, man's germinant fruit.
She wrestles with our old worm
Self in the narrow and wide:
Relentless quencher of lies,
With laughter she pierces the brute;
And hear we her laughter peal,
'Tis Light in us dancing to scour
The loathed recess of his dens;
Scatter his monstrous bed,
And hound him to harrow and plough.
She is the world's one prize;
Our champion, rightfully head;
The vessel whose piloted prow,
Though Folly froth round, hiss and hoot,
Leaves legible print at the keel.
Nor least is the service she does,
That service to her may cleanse
The well of the Sorrows in us;
For a common delight will drain
The rank individual fens
Of a wound refusing to heal
While the old worm slavers its root.
I bowed as a leaf in rain;
As a tree when the leaf is shed
To winds in the season at wane:
And when from my soul I said,
May the worm be trampled: smite,
Sacred Reality! power
Filled me to front it aright.
I had come of my faith's ordeal.
It is not to stand on a tower
And see the flat universe reel;
Our mortal sublimities drop
Like raiment by glisterlings worn,
At a sweep of the scythe for the crop.
Wisdom is won of its fight,
The combat incessant; and dries
To mummywrap perching a height.
It chews the contemplative cud
In peril of isolate scorn,
Unfed of the onward flood.
Nor view we a different morn
If we gaze with the deeper sight,
With the deeper thought forewise:
The world is the same, seen through;
The features of men are the same.
But let their historian new
In the language of nakedness write,
Rejoice we to know not shame,
Not a dread, not a doubt: to have done
With the tortures of thought in the throes,
Our animal tangle, and grasp
Very sap of the vital in this:
That from flesh unto spirit man grows
Even here on the sod under sun:
That she of the wanton's kiss,
Broken through with the bite of an asp,
Is Mother of simple truth,
Relentless quencher of lies;
Eternal in thought; discerned
In thought mid-ferry between
The Life and the Death, which are one,
As our breath in and out, joy or teen.
She gives the rich vision to youth,
If we will, of her prompting wise;
Or men by the lash made lean,
Who in harness the mind subserve,
Their title to read her have earned;
Having mastered sensation--insane
At a stroke of the terrified nerve;
And out of the sensual hive
Grown to the flower of brain;
To know her a thing alive,
Whose aspects mutably swerve,
Whose laws immutably reign.
Our sentencer, clother in mist,
Her morn bends breast to her noon,
Noon to the hour dark-dyed,
If we will, of her promptings wise:
Her light is our own if we list.
The legends that sweep her aside,
Crying loud for an opiate boon,
To comfort the human want,
From the bosom of magical skies,
She smiles on, marking their source:
They read her with infant eyes.
Good ships of morality they,
For our crude developing force;
Granite the thought to stay,
That she is a thing alive
To the living, the falling and strewn.
But the Questions, the broods that haunt
Sensation insurgent, may drive,
The way of the channelling mole,
Head in a ground-vault gaunt
As your telescope's skeleton moon.
Barren comfort to these will she dole;
Dead is her face to their cries.
Intelligence pushing to taste
A lesson from beasts might heed.
They scatter a voice in the waste,
Where any dry swish of a reed
By grey-glassy water replies.
'They see not above or below;
Farthest are they from my soul,'
Earth whispers: 'they scarce have the thirst,
Except to unriddle a rune;
And I spin none; only show,
Would humanity soar from its worst,
Winged above darkness and dole,
How flesh unto spirit must grow.
Spirit raves not for a goal.
Shapes in man's likeness hewn
Desires not; neither desires
The sleep or the glory: it trusts;
Uses my gifts, yet aspires;
Dreams of a higher than it.
The dream is an atmosphere;
A scale still ascending to knit
The clear to the loftier Clear.
'Tis Reason herself, tiptoe
At the ultimate bound of her wit,
On the verges of Night and Day.
But is it a dream of the lusts,
To my dustiest 'tis decreed;
And them that so shuffle astray
I touch with no key of gold
For the wealth of the secret nook;
Though I dote over ripeness at play,
Rosiness fondle and feed,
Guide it with shepherding crook
To my sports and my pastures alway.
The key will shriek in the lock,
The door will rustily hinge,
Will open on features of mould,
To vanish corrupt at a glimpse,
And mock as the wild echoes mock,
Soulless in mimic, doth Greed
Or the passion for fruitage tinge
That dream, for your parricide imps
To wing through the body of Time,
Yourselves in slaying him slay.
Much are you shots of your prime,
You men of the act and the dream:
And please you to fatten a weed
That perishes, pledged to decay,
'Tis dearth in your season of need,
Down the slopes of the shoreward way; -
Nigh on the misty stream,
Where Ferryman under his hood,
With a call to be ready to pay
The small coin, whitens red blood.
But the young ethereal seed
Shall bring you the bread no buyer
Can have for his craving supreme;
To my quenchless quick shall speed
The soul at her wrestle rude
With devil, with angel more dire;
With the flesh, with the Fates, enringed.
The dream of the blossom of Good
Is your banner of battle unrolled
In its waver and current and curve
(Choir over choir white-winged,
White-bosomed fold within fold):
Hopeful of victory most
When hard is the task to sustain
Assaults of the fearful sense
At a mind in desolate mood
With the Whither, whose echo is Whence;
And humanity's clamour, lost, lost;
And its clasp of the staves that snap;
And evil abroad, as a main
Uproarious, bursting its dyke.
For back do you look, and lo,
Forward the harvest of grain! -
Numbers in council, awake
To love more than things of my lap,
Love me; and to let the types break,
Men be grass, rocks rivers, all flow;
All save the dream sink alike
To the source of my vital in sap:
Their battle, their loss, their ache,
For my pledge of vitality know.
The dream is the thought in the ghost;
The thought sent flying for food;
Eyeless, but sprung of an aim
Supernal of Reason, to find
The great Over-Reason we name
Beneficence: mind seeking Mind.
Dream of the blossom of Good,
In its waver and current and curve,
With the hopes of my offspring enscrolled!
Soon to be seen of a host
The flag of the Master I serve!
And life in them doubled on Life,
As flame upon flame, to behold,
High over Time-tumbled sea,
The bliss of his headship of strife,
Him through handmaiden me.'
Daughter of Heaven and Earth, coy Spring,
With sudden passion languishing,
Maketh all things softly smile,
Painteth pictures mile on mile,
Holds a cup with cowslip-wreaths,
Whence a smokeless incense breathes.
Girls are peeling the sweet willow,
Poplar white, and Gilead-tree,
And troops of boys
Shouting with whoop and hilloa,
And hip, hip three times three.
The air is full of whistlings bland;
What was that I heard
Out of the hazy land?
Harp of the wind, or song of bird,
Or clapping of shepherd's hands,
Or vagrant booming of the air,
Voice of a meteor lost in day?
Such tidings of the starry sphere
Can this elastic air convey.
Or haply 't was the cannonade
Of the pent and darkened lake,
Cooled by the pendent mountain's shade,
Whose deeps, till beams of noonday break,
Afflicted moan, and latest hold
Even unto May the iceberg cold.
Was it a squirrel's pettish bark,
Or clarionet of jay? or hark,
Where yon wedged line the Nestor leads,
Steering north with raucous cry
Through tracts and provinces of sky,
Every night alighting down
In new landscapes of romance,
Where darkling feed the clamorous clans
By lonely lakes to men unknown.
Come the tumult whence it will,
Voice of sport, or rush of wings,
It is a sound, it is a token
That the marble sleep is broken,
And a change has passed on things.
Beneath the calm, within the light,
A hid unruly appetite
Of swifter life, a surer hope,
Strains every sense to larger scope,
Impatient to anticipate
The halting steps of aged Fate.
Slow grows the palm, too slow the pearl:
When Nature falters, fain would zeal
Grasp the felloes of her wheel,
And grasping give the orbs another whirl.
Turn swiftlier round, O tardy ball!
And sun this frozen side,
Bring hither back the robin's call,
Bring back the tulip's pride.
Why chidest thou the tardy Spring?
The hardy bunting does not chide;
The blackbirds make the maples ring
With social cheer and jubilee;
The redwing flutes his o-ka-lee,
The robins know the melting snow;
The sparrow meek, prophetic-eyed,
Her nest beside the snow-drift weaves,
Secure the osier yet will hide
Her callow brood in mantling leaves;
And thou, by science all undone,
Why only must thy reason fail
To see the southing of the sun?
As we thaw frozen flesh with snow,
So Spring will not, foolish fond,
Mix polar night with tropic glow,
Nor cloy us with unshaded sun,
Nor wanton skip with bacchic dance,
But she has the temperance
Of the gods, whereof she is one,--
Masks her treasury of heat
Under east-winds crossed with sleet.
Plants and birds and humble creatures
Well accept her rule austere;
Titan-born, to hardy natures
Cold is genial and dear.
As Southern wrath to Northern right
Is but straw to anthracite;
As in the day of sacrifice,
When heroes piled the pyre,
The dismal Massachusetts ice
Burned more than others' fire,
So Spring guards with surface cold
The garnered heat of ages old:
Hers to sow the seed of bread,
That man and all the kinds be fed;
And, when the sunlight fills the hours,
Dissolves the crust, displays the flowers.
The world rolls round,--mistrust it not,--
Befalls again what once befell;
All things return, both sphere and mote,
And I shall hear my bluebird's note,
And dream the dream of Auburn dell.
When late I walked, in earlier days,
All was stiff and stark;
Knee-deep snows choked all the ways,
In the sky no spark;
Firm-braced I sought my ancient woods,
Struggling through the drifted roads;
The whited desert knew me not,
Snow-ridges masked each darling spot;
The summer dells, by genius haunted,
One arctic moon had disenchanted.
All the sweet secrets therein hid
By Fancy, ghastly spells undid.
Eldest mason, Frost, had piled,
With wicked ingenuity,
Swift cathedrals in the wild;
The piny hosts were sheeted ghosts
In the star-lit minster aisled.
I found no joy: the icy wind
Might rule the forest to his mind.
Who would freeze in frozen brakes?
Back to books and sheltered home,
And wood-fire flickering on the walls,
To hear, when, 'mid our talk and games,
Without the baffled north-wind calls.
But soft! a sultry morning breaks;
The cowslips make the brown brook gay;
A happier hour, a longer day.
Now the sun leads in the May,
Now desire of action wakes,
And the wish to roam.
The caged linnet in the Spring
Hearkens for the choral glee,
When his fellows on the wing
Migrate from the Southern Sea;
When trellised grapes their flowers unmask,
And the new-born tendrils twine,
The old wine darkling in the cask
Feels the bloom on the living vine,
And bursts the hoops at hint of Spring:
And so, perchance, in Adam's race,
Of Eden's bower some dream-like trace
Survived the Flight, and swam the Flood,
And wakes the wish in youngest blood
To tread the forfeit Paradise,
And feed once more the exile's eyes;
And ever when the happy child
In May beholds the blooming wild,
And hears in heaven the bluebird sing,
'Onward,' he cries, 'your baskets bring,--
In the next field is air more mild,
And o'er yon hazy crest is Eden's balmier Spring.'
Not for a regiment's parade,
Nor evil laws or rulers made,
Blue Walden rolls its cannonade,
But for a lofty sign
Which the Zodiac threw,
That the bondage-days are told,
And waters free as winds shall flow.
Lo! how all the tribes combine
To rout the flying foe.
See, every patriot oak-leaf throws
His elfin length upon the snows,
Not idle, since the leaf all day
Draws to the spot the solar ray,
Ere sunset quarrying inches down,
And half-way to the mosses brown;
While the grass beneath the rime
Has hints of the propitious time,
And upward pries and perforates
Through the cold slab a thousand gates,
Till green lances peering through
Bend happy in the welkin blue.
April cold with dropping rain
Willows and lilacs brings again,
The whistle of returning birds,
And trumpet-lowing of the herds.
The scarlet maple-keys betray
What potent blood hath modest May;
What fiery force the earth renews,
The wealth of forms, the flush of hues;
Joy shed in rosy waves abroad
Flows from the heart of Love, the Lord.
Hither rolls the storm of heat;
I feel its finer billows beat
Like a sea which me infolds;
Heat with viewless fingers moulds,
Swells, and mellows, and matures,
Paints, and flavours, and allures,
Bird and brier inly warms,
Still enriches and transforms,
Gives the reed and lily length,
Adds to oak and oxen strength,
Boils the world in tepid lakes,
Burns the world, yet burnt remakes;
Enveloping heat, enchanted robe,
Wraps the daisy and the globe,
Transforming what it doth infold,
Life out of death, new out of old,
Painting fawns' and leopards' fells,
Seethes the gulf-encrimsoning shells,
Fires garden with a joyful blaze
Of tulips in the morning's rays.
The dead log touched bursts into leaf,
The wheat-blade whispers of the sheaf.
What god is this imperial Heat,
Earth's prime secret, sculpture's seat?
Doth it bear hidden in its heart
Water-line patterns of all art,
All figures, organs, hues, and graces?
Is it Daedalus? is it Love?
Or walks in mask almighty Jove,
And drops from Power's redundant horn
All seeds of beauty to be born?
Where shall we keep the holiday,
And duly greet the entering May?
Too strait and low our cottage doors,
And all unmeet our carpet floors;
Nor spacious court, nor monarch's hall,
Suffice to hold the festival.
Up and away! where haughty woods
Front the liberated floods:
We will climb the broad-backed hills,
Hear the uproar of their joy;
We will mark the leaps and gleams
Of the new-delivered streams,
And the murmuring rivers of sap
Mount in the pipes of the trees,
Giddy with day, to the topmost spire,
Which for a spike of tender green
Bartered its powdery cap;
And the colours of joy in the bird,
And the love in its carol heard,
Frog and lizard in holiday coats,
And turtle brave in his golden spots;
We will hear the tiny roar
Of the insects evermore,
While cheerful cries of crag and plain
Reply to the thunder of river and main.
As poured the flood of the ancient sea
Spilling over mountain chains,
Bending forests as bends the sedge,
Faster flowing o'er the plains,--
A world-wide wave with a foaming edge
That rims the running silver sheet,--
So pours the deluge of the heat
Broad northward o'er the land,
Painting artless paradises,
Drugging herbs with Syrian spices,
Fanning secret fires which glow
In columbine and clover-blow,
Climbing the northern zones,
Where a thousand pallid towns
Lie like cockles by the main,
Or tented armies on a plain.
The million-handed sculptor moulds
Quaintest bud and blossom folds,
The million-handed painter pours
Opal hues and purple dye;
Azaleas flush the island floors,
And the tints of heaven reply.
Wreaths for the May! for happy Spring
To-day shall all her dowry bring,
The love of kind, the joy, the grace,
Hymen of element and race,
Knowing well to celebrate
With song and hue and star and state,
With tender light and youthful cheer,
The spousals of the new-born year.
Lo Love's inundation poured
Over space and race abroad!
Spring is strong and virtuous,
Broad-sowing, cheerful, plenteous,
Quickening underneath the mould
Grains beyond the price of gold.
So deep and large her bounties are,
That one broad, long midsummer day
Shall to the planet overpay
The ravage of a year of war.
Drug the cup, thou butler sweet,
And send the nectar round;
The feet that slid so long on sleet
Are glad to feel the ground.
Fill and saturate each kind
With good according to its mind,
Fill each kind and saturate
With good agreeing with its fate,
Willow and violet, maiden and man.
The bitter-sweet, the haunting air,
Creepeth, bloweth everywhere;
It preys on all, all prey on it,
Blooms in beauty, thinks in wit,
Stings the strong with enterprise,
Makes travellers long for Indian skies,
And where it comes this courier fleet
Fans in all hearts expectance sweet,
As if to-morrow should redeem
The vanished rose of evening's dream.
By houses lies a fresher green,
On men and maids a ruddier mien,
As if time brought a new relay
Of shining virgins every May,
And Summer came to ripen maids
To a beauty that not fades.
The ground-pines wash their rusty green,
The maple-tops their crimson tint,
On the soft path each track is seen,
The girl's foot leaves its neater print.
The pebble loosened from the frost
Asks of the urchin to be tost.
In flint and marble beats a heart,
The kind Earth takes her children's part,
The green lane is the school-boy's friend,
Low leaves his quarrel apprehend,
The fresh ground loves his top and ball,
The air rings jocund to his call,
The brimming brook invites a leap,
He dives the hollow, climbs the steep.
The youth reads omens where he goes,
And speaks all languages the rose.
The wood-fly mocks with tiny noise
The far halloo of human voice;
The perfumed berry on the spray
Smacks of faint memories far away.
A subtle chain of countless rings
The next unto the farthest brings,
And, striving to be man, the worm
Mounts through all the spires of form.
I saw the bud-crowned Spring go forth,
Stepping daily onward north
To greet staid ancient cavaliers
Filing single in stately train.
And who, and who are the travellers?
They were Night and Day, and Day and Night,
Pilgrims wight with step forthright.
I saw the Days deformed and low,
Short and bent by cold and snow;
The merry Spring threw wreaths on them,
Flower-wreaths gay with bud and bell;
Many a flower and many a gem,
They were refreshed by the smell,
They shook the snow from hats and shoon,
They put their April raiment on;
And those eternal forms,
Unhurt by a thousand storms,
Shot up to the height of the sky again,
And danced as merrily as young men.
I saw them mask their awful glance
Sidewise meek in gossamer lids;
And to speak my thought if none forbids.
It was as if the eternal gods,
Tired of their starry periods,
Hid their majesty in cloth
Woven of tulips and painted moth.
On carpets green the maskers march
Below May's well-appointed arch,
Each star, each god, each grace amain,
Every joy and virtue speed,
Marching duly in her train,
And fainting Nature at her need
Is made whole again.
'T was the vintage-day of field and wood,
When magic wine for bards is brewed;
Every tree and stem and chink
Gushed with syrup to the brink.
The air stole into the streets of towns,
And betrayed the fund of joy
To the high-school and medalled boy:
On from hall to chamber ran,
From youth to maid, from boy to man,
To babes, and to old eyes as well.
'Once more,' the old man cried, 'ye clouds,
Airy turrets purple-piled,
Which once my infancy beguiled,
Beguile me with the wonted spell.
I know ye skilful to convoy
The total freight of hope and joy
Into rude and homely nooks,
Shed mocking lustres on shelf of books,
On farmer's byre, on meadow-pipes,
Or on a pool of dancing chips.
I care not if the pomps you show
Be what they soothfast appear,
Or if yon realms in sunset glow
Be bubbles of the atmosphere.
And if it be to you allowed
To fool me with a shining cloud,
So only new griefs are consoled
By new delights, as old by old,
Frankly I will be your guest,
Count your change and cheer the best.
The world hath overmuch of pain,--
If Nature give me joy again,
Of such deceit I'll not complain.'
Ah! well I mind the calendar,
Faithful through a thousand years,
Of the painted race of flowers,
Exact to days, exact to hours,
Counted on the spacious dial
Yon broidered zodiac girds.
I know the pretty almanac
Of the punctual coming-back,
On their due days, of the birds.
I marked them yestermorn,
A flock of finches darting
Beneath the crystal arch,
Piping, as they flew, a march,--
Belike the one they used in parting
Last year from yon oak or larch;
Dusky sparrows in a crowd,
Diving, darting northward free,
Suddenly betook them all,
Every one to his hole in the wall,
Or to his niche in the apple-tree.
I greet with joy the choral trains
Fresh from palms and Cuba's canes.
Best gems of Nature's cabinet,
With dews of tropic morning wet,
Beloved of children, bards, and Spring,
O birds, your perfect virtues bring,
Your song, your forms, your rhythmic flight,
Your manners for the heart's delight,
Nestle in hedge, or barn, or roof,
Here weave your chamber weather-proof,
Forgive our harms, and condescend
To man, as to a lubber friend,
And, generous, teach his awkward race
Courage, and probity, and grace!
Poets praise that hidden wine
Hid in milk we drew
At the barrier of Time,
When our life was new.
We had eaten fairy fruit,
We were quick from head to foot,
All the forms we look on shone
As with diamond dews thereon.
What cared we for costly joys,
The Museum's far-fetched toys?
Gleam of sunshine on the wall
Poured a deeper cheer than all
The revels of the Carnival.
We a pine-grove did prefer
To a marble theatre,
Could with gods on mallows dine,
Nor cared for spices or for wine.
Wreaths of mist and rainbow spanned,
Arch on arch, the grimmest land;
Whistle of a woodland bird
Made the pulses dance,
Note of horn in valleys heard
Filled the region with romance.
None can tell how sweet,
How virtuous, the morning air;
Every accent vibrates well;
Not alone the wood-bird's call,
Or shouting boys that chase their ball,
Pass the height of minstrel skill,
But the ploughman's thoughtless cry,
Lowing oxen, sheep that bleat,
And the joiner's hammer-beat,
Softened are above their will.
All grating discords melt,
No dissonant note is dealt,
And though thy voice be shrill
Like rasping file on steel,
Such is the temper of the air,
Echo waits with art and care,
And will the faults of song repair.
So by remote Superior Lake,
And by resounding Mackinac,
When northern storms and forests shake,
And billows on the long beach break,
The artful Air doth separate
Note by note all sounds that grate,
Smothering in her ample breast
All but godlike words,
Reporting to the happy ear
Only purified accords.
Strangely wrought from barking waves,
Soft music daunts the Indian braves,--
Convent-chanting which the child
Hears pealing from the panther's cave
And the impenetrable wild.
One musician is sure,
His wisdom will not fail,
He has not tasted wine impure,
Nor bent to passion frail.
Age cannot cloud his memory,
Nor grief untune his voice,
Ranging down the ruled scale
From tone of joy to inward wail,
Tempering the pitch of all
In his windy cave.
He all the fables knows,
And in their causes tells,--
Knows Nature's rarest moods,
Ever on her secret broods.
The Muse of men is coy,
Oft courted will not come;
In palaces and market squares
Entreated, she is dumb;
But my minstrel knows and tells
The counsel of the gods,
Knows of Holy Book the spells,
Knows the law of Night and Day,
And the heart of girl and boy,
The tragic and the gay,
And what is writ on Table Round
Of Arthur and his peers,
What sea and land discoursing say
In sidereal years.
He renders all his lore
In numbers wild as dreams,
Modulating all extremes,--
What the spangled meadow saith
To the children who have faith;
Only to children children sing,
Only to youth will spring be spring.
Who is the Bard thus magnified?
When did he sing, and where abide?
Chief of song where poets feast
Is the wind-harp which thou seest
In the casement at my side.
How strangely wise thy strain!
Gay for youth, gay for youth,
(Sweet is art, but sweeter truth,)
In the hall at summer eve
Fate and Beauty skilled to weave.
From the eager opening strings
Rung loud and bold the song.
Who but loved the wind-harp's note?
How should not the poet doat
On its mystic tongue,
With its primeval memory,
Reporting what old minstrels said
Of Merlin locked the harp within,--
Merlin paying the pain of sin,
Pent in a dungeon made of air,--
And some attain his voice to hear,
Words of pain and cries of fear,
But pillowed all on melody,
As fits the griefs of bards to be.
And what if that all-echoing shell,
Which thus the buried Past can tell,
Should rive the Future, and reveal
What his dread folds would fain conceal?
It shares the secret of the earth,
And of the kinds that owe her birth.
Speaks not of self that mystic tone,
But of the Overgods alone:
It trembles to the cosmic breath,--
As it heareth, so it saith;
Obeying meek the primal Cause,
It is the tongue of mundane laws:
And this, at least, I dare affirm,
Since genius too has bound and term,
There is no bard in all the choir,
Not Homer's self, the poet sire,
Wise Milton's odes of pensive pleasure,
Or Shakspeare, whom no mind can measure,
Nor Collins' verse of tender pain,
Nor Byron's clarion of disdain,
Scott, the delight of generous boys,
Or Wordsworth, Pan's recording voice,--
Not one of all can put in verse,
Or to this presence could rehearse,
The sights and voices ravishing
The boy knew on the hills in Spring,
When pacing through the oaks he heard
Sharp queries of the sentry-bird,
The heavy grouse's sudden whirr,
The rattle of the kingfisher;
Saw bonfires of the harlot flies
In the lowland, when day dies;
Or marked, benighted and forlorn,
The first far signal-fire of morn.
These syllables that Nature spoke,
And the thoughts that in him woke,
Can adequately utter none
Save to his ear the wind-harp lone.
And best can teach its Delphian chord
How Nature to the soul is moored,
If once again that silent string,
As erst it wont, would thrill and ring.
Not long ago, at eventide,
It seemed, so listening, at my side
A window rose, and, to say sooth,
I looked forth on the fields of youth:
I saw fair boys bestriding steeds,
I knew their forms in fancy weeds,
Long, long concealed by sundering fates,
Mates of my youth,--yet not my mates,
Stronger and bolder far than I,
With grace, with genius, well attired,
And then as now from far admired,
Followed with love
They knew not of,
With passion cold and shy.
O joy, for what recoveries rare!
Renewed, I breathe Elysian air,
See youth's glad mates in earliest bloom,--
Break not my dream, obtrusive tomb!
Or teach thou, Spring! the grand recoil
Of life resurgent from the soil
Wherein was dropped the mortal spoil.
Soft on the south-wind sleeps the haze!
So on thy broad mystic van
Lie the opal-coloured days,
And waft the miracle to man.
Soothsayer of the eldest gods,
Repairer of what harms betide,
Revealer of the inmost powers
Prometheus proffered, Jove denied;
Disclosing treasures more than true,
Or in what far to-morrow due;
Speaking by the tongues of flowers,
By the ten-tongued laurel speaking,
Singing by the oriole songs,
Heart of bird the man's heart seeking;
Whispering hints of treasure hid
Under Morn's unlifted lid,
Islands looming just beyond
The dim horizon's utmost bound;--
Who can, like thee, our rags upbraid,
Or taunt us with our hope decayed?
Or who like thee persuade,
Making the splendour of the air,
The morn and sparkling dew, a snare?
Or who resent
Thy genius, wiles, and blandishment?
There is no orator prevails
To beckon or persuade
Like thee the youth or maid:
Thy birds, thy songs, thy brooks, thy gales,
Thy blooms, thy kinds,
Thy echoes in the wilderness,
Soothe pain, and age, and love's distress,
Fire fainting will, and build heroic minds.
For thou, O Spring! canst renovate
All that high God did first create.
Be still his arm and architect,
Rebuild the ruin, mend defect;
Chemist to vamp old worlds with new,
Coat sea and sky with heavenlier blue,
New-tint the plumage of the birds,
And slough decay from grazing herds,
Sweep ruins from the scarped mountain,
Cleanse the torrent at the fountain,
Purge alpine air by towns defiled,
Bring to fair mother fairer child,
Not less renew the heart and brain,
Scatter the sloth, wash out the stain,
Make the aged eye sun-clear,
To parting soul bring grandeur near.
Under gentle types, my Spring
Masks the might of Nature's king,
An energy that searches thorough
From Chaos to the dawning morrow;
Into all our human plight,
The soul's pilgrimage and flight;
In city or in solitude,
Step by step, lifts bad to good,
Without halting, without rest,
Lifting Better up to Best;
Planting seeds of knowledge pure,
Through earth to ripen, through heaven endure.
A Tale Of True Love
Not in the mist of legendary ages,
Which in sad moments men call long ago,
And people with bards, heroes, saints, and sages,
And virtues vanished, since we do not know,
But here to-day wherein we all grow old,
But only we, this Tale of True Love will be told.
For Earth to tender wisdom grows not older,
But to young hearts remains for ever young,
Spring no less winsome, Winter winds no colder,
Than when tales first were told, songs first were sung.
And all things always still remain the same,
That touch the human heart, and feed Love's vestal flame.
And, if you have ears to hear and eyes for seeing,
Maidens there be, as were there in your youth,
That round you breathe, and move, and have their being,
Fair as Greek Helen, pure as Hebrew Ruth;
With Heaven-appointed poets, quick to sing
Of blameless warrior brave, and wisdom-counselled king.
And, tho' in this our day, youth, love, and beauty,
Are far too often glorified as slave
Of every sense except the sense of Duty,
In fables that dishonour and deprave,
The old-world Creeds still linger, taught us by
The pious lips that mute now in the churchyard lie.
And this true simple tale in verse as simple
Will from its prelude to its close be told,
As free from artifice as is the dimple
In childhood's cheek, whereby is age consoled.
And haply it may soothe some sufferer's lot,
When noisier notes are husht, and newer ones forgot.
And think not, of your graciousness, I pray you,
Who tells the tale is one of those who deem
That love will beckon only to betray you,
Life an illusion, happiness a dream;
Only that noble grief is happier far
Than transitory lusts and feverish raptures are.
It was the season when aggressive Winter,
That had so long invested the sealed world,
With frosts that starve and hurricanes that splinter,
And rain, hail, blizzard, mercilessly hurled,
Made one forlorn last effort to assail
Ere Spring's relieving spears came riding on the gale.
For Amazonian March with breast uncovered
Blew loud her clarion, and the wintry host
Took courage fresh and lingeringly hovered
Round vale and hill, wherever needed most;
And ever and anon the raging weather
And wolfish winds re-formed, and onward swept together,
Loud-bellowing to the thunder-clouds to follow:
But all in vain, for here, there, everywhere,
Primrose battalions, seizing ridge and hollow,
Dingle, and covert, wind-flowers wild that dare
Beyond their seeming, bluebells without sound,
And scentless violets peeped, to spring up from the ground.
And, covering their advance, swift-scouring showers,
Gathering, dispersing, skirmished through the sky,
Till squadrons of innumerable flowers
Thronged through the land far as you could descry.
Then Winter, smitten with despair and dread,
Folded his fluttering tents, sounded retreat, and fled.
Whereat the land, so long beleaguered, seeing
The peril past, and Winter's iron ring
Broken, and all his cohorts norward fleeing,
Came forth to welcome and embrace the Spring,
Spring the Deliverer, and from sea and shore
Rose the rejoicing shout, ``See, April dawns once more!''
Radiant she came, attended by her zephyrs,
And forth from dusky stall and hurdled fold
Poured lowing kine and sleeky-coated heifers,
To roam at will through pastures green and gold,
Where unweaned lambs from morning until night
Raced round their nibbling dams, and frolicked with delight.
High up, on larch and cypress, merle and mavis
Vociferated love-lays sweet as strong,
And the bird dear to Homer and to Hafiz
Proclaimed the joy of sadness all night long;
Vowed each new Spring more Spring-like than the last,
And triumphed over Time, futile iconoclast.
Then imperceptibly and slowly rounded
Slim girlish April into maiden May,
Whereat still louder everywhere resounded
The cuckoo's call and throstle's roundelay.
It was as though in meadow, chase, and wood,
God made the world anew, and saw that it was good.
Then feudal Avoncourt, the stern and stately,
Whose dawn deep hidden in undated days,
Not like those palaces erected lately
Whose feet swift crumble, and whose face decays,
Defieth Time's insatiable tooth,
Relaxed grave gaze and wore the countenance of youth.
It had beheld kings and proud empires vanish,
Male sceptres shattered, princedoms pass away,
Norman, Plantagenet, Lombard, Swabian, Spanish,
Rise, rule, then totter, and topple from their sway;
York and Lancastrian Rose unfold and bloom,
Then canker and decay, and vanish in the tomb.
It faces the four winds with like demeanour
Norward as Southernward, as though to say,
``Blow from some other, stronger and still keener,
Wherefrom you will, and I will face that way.''
And round it as you roam, to gaze perplexed
Each side seems loveliest till you look upon the next.
Its present seeming unto ages Tudor
It owes, by unnamed, unknown hands designed,
Who planned and worked amid a folk deemed ruder,
But who with grace enduring strength combined.
Like sturdy oak with all its leaves still on,
When foliage from elm and sycamore have gone.
Upon its delicate, lofty-jutting portal
Imaginative minds and hands have wrought
Of dead artificers once deemed immortal,
From Southern climes by kings and magnates brought,
When architects and sculptors smiled in scorn
On plain defensive days and called the world reborn.
But time hath mellowed mullion, roof, and gable,
Stone-work without, and wainscotting within;
And nigh them oaken-timbered barn and stable,
Lowlier, withal of countenance akin,
Cluster, for in times olden, meek, and proud,
Being nearer much than now, their kinship was avowed.
From it slope woodlands and long alleys shaded,
Saving that all around it and more near
Stretches wild chase by ploughshare uninvaded,
Where roam rough cattle and unherded deer,
That look up as you pass from brackened sod,
Then flee with step as fleet as that whereon they trod.
Through vale below from many a source unfailing
A river flows where deft hands cast the line,
Well stocked with wary trout and bolder grayling.
Through smooth, fat pastures dotted o'er with kine
League after league the water winds away,
Oft turning as though loth from Avoncourt to stray.
It was in the sweet season that hath ravished
The virgin heart since ever love began,
A maiden, upon whom had Nature lavished
Each fair gift given to maiden or to man,
Roamed all alone through windings of its wood,
Seeking the way to where Avoncourt haply stood.
Onward in search of it she went, but slowly,
For who could hasten through so fresh a scene,
With violets paved, the lovelier because lowly,
And pallid primroses on ground of green;
While overhead each bird that hath a voice
Seemed in its own blithe notes to revel and rejoice.
And ever and anon she gazed around her,
Or knelt to gather some appealing flower,
And to dear God, the Father and the Founder
Of all things good, the all-protecting Power,
Breathed a brief prayer of thanks within her breast,
Feeling she roamed in Heaven on earth made manifest.
Sometimes she broke into spontaneous singing,
Such as fond nurse to fretful babe might sing,
Whose close as sudden is as its beginning.
Herself she seemed a portion of the Spring
Which, if she went, would lose the chiefest part
Of that which charms the gaze and captivates the heart.
At length she passed from out these paths embowered
To where meek does, young fawns, and shaggy beeves
Ranged amid bracken; but the House, that towered
Full nigh at hand, for intercepting leaves
She still descried not, so, advancing under
An arch of hornbeam, stood in husht, astonied wonder.
For there it rose as silent and abstracted
As though it nothing shared or had to say
With those that shadow-like have lived and acted
Upon the stage we call our later day;
From passing passions thoughtfully aloof,
Through age, not pride, without lamenting or reproof.
Then slowly timid, tentative explorer,
Longing to see yet dreading to be seen,
Asudden living figure rose before her
Of manly mould and meditative mien;
Modern, withal with air of ancient port,
As if the same blood flowed through him and Avoncourt.
``Forgive,'' she said, ``an overbold intruder!''
``I doubt if anywhere you would intrude;
But sooth none do on this survival Tudor,
Who visit its old age in reverent mood.''
``And that indeed I do. I never saw
Aught that I so admired, or felt for so much awe.''
``Will you, I round it willingly can guide you,
Unless-and, told, shall fully understand,-
Wander you rather would with none beside you
To mar the silence of the windless land,
Saving Spring's choristers, whose constant trills
One hears or doth not hear, according as one wills.''
``You know it well?'' she asked. ``I ought to know it.
Here was I born, here grew to boy's estate,
Pored o'er the page of storier and poet,
All that is big, magnanimous, and great,
Hardened my own, tried my dear Mother's nerves,
Robbed the home orchard, poached my Father's own preserves.''
``And are you now its occupant and possessor?''
``So called, alas! whose ancestors have paid
The final tax, by Death the stern assessor
On all poor mortals equitably laid.
I have a leasehold; no one can have more,
This side at least the vague, still-undiscovered shore.''
Thereat there fell a silence on their speaking,
And on they moved, he follower more than guide;
Oblivious she what 'twas that she was seeking,
Since conscious now of manhood at her side.
Withal, so much there was to lure her gaze,
That his on her could rest, nor stint its look of praise.
Then when they reached the Jacobean portal,
Back rolled its doors of iron brace and stay,
On grooves that seemed more cut for feet immortal
Than for a feeble transitory day,
And mounted oaken stair axe-hewn, unplaned,
With lion-headed piers unpolished and unstained.
From coffered ceiling hung down tattered banners,
And weapons warlike deadly deemed no more
Were parked on landing; grants of ancient manors,
With charts and parchments of black-letter lore,
Stacked spears and dinted armour; ebon presses
With jealous bolts stood locked in embrasured recesses.
Chamber on chamber wainscotted and spacious
Was lined with effigies of warriors wise,
Reticent rulers, dames revered and gracious,
Whose fingers wove the silken tapestries,
Time-toned but faded not, that draped the wall
Of gallery long and straight, and square-set banquet-hall.
About lay obsolete instruments, wheel and spindle,
When women read much less and knew much more,
Huge logs for early-rising maids to kindle
On deep-set hearths, mottoes of lasting lore
In ancient tongues, Norman, or Saxon stave,
Bidding man live and die, meek, pious, steadfast, brave.
And many a question asked she, always getting
The answer craved for, given prompt and plain.
``But look,'' she said, ``the sun will soon be setting,
And that old dial-hand that doth nor gain
Nor lose, I am sure, in its diurnal pace,
Reproves me I still lag in this enthralling place.''
``Then come again,'' he answered, ``at your leisure,''
And led her outward where the ancient pile
Looked as though dwelt within no special treasure,
And owned no spell nor charm save sunset's smile;
Like one of those large natures that betray
No sign that they are made of more than common clay.
``And may I ask, your homeward footsteps, whither?
What! there! it is on Avoncourt estate,
And I by shorter path can guide you thither
Than that you came by, fear you to be late.
You lodge with much-loved tenants, for the wife
My foster-parent was in rosy-dawning life.''
``She did not tell me that; but sooth our meeting
Was but two days back, though I quickly saw
That she for you would evermore be bleating
With voice of blent solicitude and awe.''
``'Tis so: on Sundays with a spirit meek
She worships God, then me the rest of all the week.''
Wending and winding under curved ways shaded,
Wider than heretofore, they farmward trod,
While twilight incense all the air pervaded
Round flower-decked altar at the shrine of God,
This sacred Earth, and for approaching night
One star kept watch, as yet Heaven's only lamp alight.
To her it seemed the Real and Ideal
At last were one, and every bird that sings
Joined prayerfully in chorus hymeneal,
Ere folding music underneath its wings.
How little did she guess that ambushed grief
Watched all her thoughts and lurked 'neath every dewy leaf!
``Are both your parents at the farmstead staying?''
``Alas!'' she said, ``like yours, they both abide
My coming further off, and in my praying
Alone survive; my guardian and my guide
My Mother's sister, whom we there shall find,
Most loving and most loved of living womankind.''
Where buttressed Church with crenellated Tower
Over the village still kept watch and ward;
``For these,'' he said, ``inherited have that power,
The pious citadels of peace that guard
The sin-beleaguered soul, and still repel
From humble homes and hearts the ravening hosts of hell.''
Within were monuments of home-delved marble,
Whereon lay figures of his race and name,
Crusaders whose dead deeds no time can garble,
Learning destroy, malignity defame:
Legs crossed, feet resting against faithful hound,
And, at their side, their dames and children kneeling round.
Then would they wend them valeward to the river,
And he cast line that neither curled nor sank.
Round ran the reel, then the lithe rod would quiver,
And May-fly trout lie gasping on the bank,
Or, like a flying shadow through the stream,
Startled, would pass to pool sheltered from noonday gleam.
Which pleased her most, for sooth she thought sport cruel,
Yet watched it for the sake of his rare skill,
But happiest when asudden wingèd jewel,
The king-fisher, disturbed near rustic mill,
Darted, and deep into its nest withdrew,
Shortly to issue forth, and, flickering, raid anew.
So passed the days unnoticed and uncounted,
As louder, longer, later, piped the merle,
And cuckoo oftener called, if harsher throated,
And hawthorn decked itself with loops of pearl.
It seemed a world reborn without its woes:
Woodbine was in the lanes, and everywhere the rose.
All things that are in that seductive season
In them struck root and with them got entwined;
Looking before or after had seemed treason
To the free heart and unconditioned mind,
As daily tightened beyond time's control
That strongest of all ties, the kinship of the soul.
And deeper into bliss they wandered blindly,
While woe and wet winds kept from them aloof,
As from screened homestead visitings unkindly,
Where old-world windows under gabled roof
Seem gazing at the present from the past,
And wondering how long such happiness will last.
Ah me! the days of Summer, not of Winter,
The shortest are and swiftest glide away,
And leaves of Autumn, sober mezzotinter,
Linger far longer than the blooms of May.
Time that, when fledged by joy, finds wings to fly,
With sorrow for its load limps slowly, wearily.
One evening, as they watched the sunset fading,
``To strangers Avoncourt must never pass,
For that would be dishonouring and degrading,''
Thinking aloud he said: ``withal, alas!
Sit by its hearth they must, and much I fear
That there they must abide for many a coming year.
``No fault of mine nor yet of those now sleeping
In tombs ancestral. Unrelenting time,
That hath the future in its unseen keeping,
Hath lowered the lofty, let the lowly climb,
And swept away the sustenance of my home.
What is there that endures? Go ask of Greece or Rome.
``Mullion from sill, transom from beam, is cracking,
Beauty and majesty their only stay;
And, save new wealth supply what now is lacking,
These too in turn will slowly pass away.
And I must save and strive in duteous ways,
So irksome felt by most in these luxurious days.''
``There is another way, some deem a duty,
None call unworthy,'' slowly she replied.
``Women there be, gifted with charm and beauty,
On whom hath Fortune lavished wealth beside.''
``I am not made like that,'' he firmly said;
``I but for love alone should ever woo or wed.''
And, as he said it, on her face he centred
Strong tender gaze, as though to search her soul,
Which straight so deep into her being entered,
She felt a current beyond will's control.
Crimsoning she turned aside, and thus confessed
The secret she had thought to hide within her breast.
Out of a cloud long gathering burst a flashing,
Followed by thunder's discontented sound;
And straight they heard slow big round raindrops plashing
On the green leaves o'erhead and emerald ground.
``Hark! I must hasten home,'' she said, ``before
The storm-wrack breaks.''-``And I will see you to your door.''
All through the morrow much he seemed to ponder,
And oft would halt and gaze upon the ground,
Or look out fixedly on something yonder,
Unseen by others, which at last he found,
And then strode quickly on, since he had solved
The doubt that would die out oftener the years revolved.
``Yes, for she hath that higher understanding
That routs Life's phantoms with a fearless face,
And knows, when spectral enemies throng banding,
The good from bad, the noble from the base.
To-morrow will I offer, ask for, all,
Love, Faith, and Hope can give, whatever else befall.''
But on the morrow came she not. More lonely,
Wandering, he felt than ever heretofore;
Nor on the morrow's morrow, and he only
Could wait her will, nor wend unto their door
Till wearily some doubtful days crept on,
And then the farmstead sought, to find its guests had gone!
Gone three days back, and none knew why or whither.
Then he with promptitude unleashed his mind,
In search for trace, now hither and now thither,
But trace or tidings nowhere could he find.
Still unremittingly he sought: in vain
Was search within our shore, was search beyond the main.
Slowly the glory from the Summer faded,
And ominously leaves began to fall;
And ever and anon harsh gusts invaded
Avoncourt, moaning through deserted hall,
And roaring woefully up chimney wide;
And mute the deerhound clung unto her master's side,
Or gazed at him with sad look sympathetic,
As though it too missed what its master missed.
``Ah, Lufra!'' said he in a voice prophetic,
``She is gone, and we shall never see her more.
Cling you to me, and I will take you where
Wander awhile I must, wherever I may fare.
``No more than you can I unmask the meaning
Of hapless things that baffle mortal vows.''
Then, sighing, saw he white-haired Winter gleaning,
Amid the crackling drift and fallen boughs
That lay on avenue, chase, and garden garth,
Fuel to feed faint flame upon her widowed hearth.
He was not one of those who love to wrangle
Before the populace for place and power,
Or fight for wealth with weapons that but strangle
The nobler passions, manhood's richest dower.
``I will return when wound shall less be felt,
And work among my folk, dwelling where once she dwelt.''
Farewell he took of wood-reeve, keeper, ranger,
And tenants grave with grief, and some in tears,
And order gave that Avoncourt to stranger
Be leased for maybe many coming years;
Then crossed the vigilant, unsleeping sea
That ranges round our Isle, to keep it great and free.
He lingered not in that vain-glorious city,
Whose Rulers pass the sceptre to the crowd,
But wended to the Land where amorous ditty
By swain at work to maid is sung aloud;
Where life is simple, and unchanging ways
Of tillage still recall loved Virgil's rustic lays:
Where on majestic pedestals the mighty
Marble imaginings of Art august,
Thought-wrinkled Zeus and dimpled Aphrodité,
Exact our homage and command our trust;
Immortal gods whose never-ending sway
Rebellion cannot shake nor scoffing sweep away.
And in that high companionship he slowly
Stifled his sighs and cicatrised his wound,
And, with the griefs the lofty and the lowly
Alike must feel, his share of pain attuned;
More willingly, it may be, since he knew
He unto love and loss would evermore keep true.
Ofttimes he stood by shrines where peasants kneeling
Told of their sorrows to the Mother-Maid,
Unto celestial sympathy appealing
From the world's pitiless splendour and parade;
And in that sight he resignation found,
With sun, and sea, and sky, and mountain-peaks around.
So that when nigh upon a year had vanished
Homeward his longing and his looks were cast,
Feeling 'twere base to longer stay self-banished,
Grafting his future on a fruitless past.
And soon his steadfast journeying came to close,
Where Avoncourt amid its unchanged woodlands rose.
It had meanwhile been leased to lately wedded
Tenants, unknown to Fame, but well endowed
With what could rescue it from fate so dreaded
Of slow decay and ruin-mantling shroud,
And who already had done much to win
Its walls from storm without, and worm and moth within.
So, as in duty bound, he promptly started
From home prepared for him on his estate,
With cheerful step if somewhat heavy-hearted,
To visit those who lived within his gate;
Ascending through the woodland's winding ways,
That wore more careful mien than in the bygone days.
It was the dawn of Autumn, very season
When he from further search for her forbore,
Whom to forget had seemed to him a treason,
Though well he knew he ne'er should see her more.
Sound, sight, scent, yellowing elm, and conecrowned fir,
Sunshine and shade alike, reminded him of her.
But, resolute to curb regret, he entered,
And, led through hall and corridor, he wound
To long ancestral gallery, and centred
His curious gaze on what he saw around.
It seemed to have lost no look of days gone by,
Withal to blend young smile with ancient majesty.
Still on the walls the effigies ancestral,
In armour or in ermine, hung unchanged,
With the device of wild boar, wolf, or kestrel,
That once in English forests freely ranged;
With later draperies that seemed to bring
Distance more near and shed a grace round everything.
While gazing out on well-remembered garden,
Where old yew hedges screened new-planted rose,
Against whose beauty none his heart could harden,
He heard a door soft open and then close.
And, turning, saw Egeria, with a face
Pale as a moon that moves alone through lonely space!
``Are you a guest,'' he said, ``in my poor dwelling?''
``I am,'' she answered, ``your-your tenant's wife.
Hear me in patience, dear, while I am telling
What tell I must, but tell this once for life.''
Whereat they towards each other drew more near:
One spoke, one listened, both without a sob or tear.
``I loved, I love you. Noble since I know you,
Here I confess that I shall love you still;
Since you will never show me nor I show you
More tenderness than now, for such God's will.
Knowing I should, love once avowed, rejoice,
Should not refuse your love, could not resist your voice,
``From you I fled, and steadfast left behind me
No word to weaken you, no sign, no trace,
Whereby your manliness could following find me.
For well I knew, that day your face my face
Scanned in strong silence, probing to my heart,
Love once confessed, no power could keep our lives apart.
``And well, too well I knew, for all things told me,
Men's tongues, the air, I thus should wreck your life,
And Avoncourt reproachfully behold me
A selfish bride and paralysing wife;
That duty had decreed a harder fate
For you, for me. If wrong, I know the right too late.
``In innocency's life there comes an hour
When stands revealed what it could never guess:
That there is magical and mystic power
To make love strong or leave it powerless;
If felt, if given without one selfish thought,
That Love is Wisdom's self, and all beside is nought.
``Ask me no more, I beg, than what I tell you:
I am your tenant, at another's will.
How, wherefore, when, on that which then befell, you,
Though I be mute, will understand me still.
Forgive, but ne'er forget me. Now depart,
Till to endurance Time shall mellowed have the smart.''
Her hand she stretched towards him, and, low bending,
On it his lips he reverently laid,
As on some sacred relic pilgrims wending
From far-off land with faith still undecayed.
Then he went forth, and she remained, alone,
Stern Duty unassailed upon its sovran throne.
But with the morrow's dawn there came the tidings
How that a crafty, freedom-loathing race,
Its schemes unmasked, had come from out its hidings,
And flung defiance in its Suzerain's face,
Then on his open territories burst,
Proclaiming these annexed unto its rule accursed.
Then England said, ``I must endure no longer
This long-conspiring, now presumptuous brood,
But must assert the Sceptre of the stronger
Against their vapourings vain and challenge rude,
Who have against me their false flag unfurled,
Urged to their ruin by an Empire-envying world.''
Nor England only, nor main-moated Britain,
But their brave offspring homed beyond the sea,
In righteous wrath arose, and, duty-smitten,
Vowed that their Afric brethren should be free
To think and speak the thing they would, and dwell
Equal and safe around Law's peaceful citadel.
Then said Sir Alured, ``Against such foemen
I too will ride and strike,'' and round him drew
All Avoncourt's hard-knit, well-mounted yeomen,
And to his lands ancestral bade adieu.
Beneath him seethed the waters no one barred,
Over the wave-wide track our steel-shod sentries guard.
And day by day Egeria scans and watches
The ebb and flow of fluctuating war,
And ofttimes sees his name in terse dispatches
Shine among those that most distinguished are.
Then pride and terror in her heart contend,
And low she prays anew, ``Dear God! his life befriend!''
And when she reads of some fresh deed of daring
That decorates his breast and crowns his brow,
Sparing of others, of himself unsparing,
She weeps apart where no one sees. But now
This Tale of True Love hath been truly told.
May it by some be read, and by it some consoled!