The Old Bark Hut
In an old bark hut on a mountainside
In a spot that was lone and drear
A woman whose heart was aching sat
Watching from year to year.
A small boy, Jim, her only child,
Helped her to watch and wait,
But the time never came when they could go free,
Free from the bond of hate.
For McConnel was out on the mountainside
Living without a hope
And seeing nothing before him now
But death by a hangman’s rope.
Hated and chased by his fellow men,
To take him alive or dead,
An outlaw banned by the world was he
With five hundred pounds on his head.
A message had come that evening which said
“Now, Jim, you mustn’t wait,
If you want to save your father, or
By heaven, you’ll be too late.
“He’s out at Mackinnon’s Crossing, they say,
The track is rough, old man,
But if any here can do it—why
It’s you and old Darky can.”
And Jim knew well what the message meant,
As he brought his horse to the door!
While away through the gathering darkness came
The sound of the river’s roar.
But the brave little heart never faltered as
He stooped to kiss her good-bye
And said, “God bless you, Mother dear,
I’ll save Dad tonight or I’ll die.”
The old horse answered the touch of his hand
And galloped away from the door;
He seemed to know ‘twas a journey for life—
Well, he’d done such journey’s before.
Out from the firelight, and through the rails,
Out through the ghastly trees,
While all the time the warning roar
Of the river came back on the breeze;
Steadily down the mountainside
He rode, for his course was plain,
Though his heart was heavy, though not with fear,
But because of that brand of Cain.
The boy thinks over his mother’s last words:
“I’ll love him as long as I live!
He must have time for repentance on earth
But surely God will forgive.”
As he glanced back over his shoulder there
She stood by the light of the door
Trying to pierce the darkness in vain,
Thinking she’d see him no more.
Then as he looked she bowed her head
And slowly turned away,
And the boy knew that the noble wife
Had knelt by the bed to pray.
Mile after mile, hour after hour,
And then just ahead, shining and white,
Was the foam of Mackinnon’s Crossing—
What a jump for old Darky tonight!
And then Jim thinks of the long, lone years
And the hopes that are crushed and dead;
And a woman whose heart is as true as steel,
As rue as the day she was wed.
As she loved him then in the years gone by
When the future held promise in store,
So she loved him today when the future held
Naught but death by his country’s law.
Jim pressed his knees to the saddle flap
And tightened his hold on the rein;
They had jumped the river last summertime,
How he hoped they would do it again!
Then a voice rang out through the darkness there,
“Hold, now hold, stand still!
We know you, lad, it’s too late to run;
Hands up or we’ll shoot to kill!”
Then he knew that the police were around him,
In the darkness they moved to and fro;
For an instant he pulled on the bridle-rein,
But he’d promised his mother he’d go.
And he thought of the poor, sad woman alone,
Kneeling in prayer by the bed;
So he loosened the reins on old Darky’s neck
And rushed at the river ahead.
Then a volley rang out through the forest dark—
A fall in the roaring flood;
And the darkness hid from all human eyes
The form that was stained with blood.
The horse struggled hard, the waters rushed on;
He sank to rise no more.
But the boy fought the flood in silence, inch
By inch to the other shore.
Slowly and sadly, but bravely on,
Brushing away the tears;
He was leaving behind in the river’s flood
His friend and companion for years.
And all the time the blood trickled down,
O God! what a hot burning pain!
And he knew he was doing is duty clean
He would never come back again.
Staggering in through the yielding door
Into the cold dark room
Where his father lay, and the faint firelight
Showed through the ghostly gloom.
The bushranger sprang to his feet in alarm
And levelled the gun at his head
And his loud voice demanded, “Who are you?
Speak quick, or you are dead.”
And then a weak little voice made answer,
“It’s me; Mother sends you her love;
The police are back at the crossing now,
So clear out and meet Mother above.”
Then McConnel placed his gun by the wall
And knelt on the cold hard floor;
And somehow the tears came rushing down
As they never had before.
His arms went around the brave little lad,
He nursed his head on his breast;
He seemed to know that the end was nigh
And Jim would soon be at rest.
And the boy was speaking feebly at last,
“They shot me back at the creek,
And old Darky is dead and gone, Dad,
And oh, I’m so tired and weak.”
Then his voice fell away in a whisper soft,
So faint it could scarce be heard,
“Oh Dad,, clear out, they are coming fast;
Tell Mother, I kept my word.”
Quickly in silence the police gathered around,
They had captured the beast in his lair;
The outlaw sat with his boy in his arms,
He semed not to heed nor to care.
He was thinking now of the seed he had sown,
He was tasting its bitter fruit,
When the sergeant stepped to the door and said,
“McConnel, bail up or I’ll shoot.”
Then the sergeant placed a lamp by the door,
The rifles gleamed out in the light;
But the outlaw said, “Sergeant O’Drady,
Let’s have no more shooting tonight.
“You can take me now to the judgement seat
As God has taken this lad;
You’d die to take my life, you men—
He died to save his dad.
“I want you to help me dig his grave,
And perhaps you will say a prayer;
Then you can take me and hang me dead—
It’s my wife, or I wouldn’t care.
“Carefully now. . . Oh thank you, men,
Lay him as best you can;
The policeman is shown by his coat, of course;
But the tears—well, they show the man.”
Then the party went back to the old bark hut
As the sun was mounting the hill;
No smoke arose from the chimney cold
And all was silent and still.
The sergeant opened the creaky door,
And lifted his cap with a start,
…Ah, McConnel had broken the country’s laws
And broken a woman’s heart.
- quotes about time
- quotes about boys
- quotes about dogs
- quotes about elders
- quotes about death
- quotes about summer
- quotes about women
- quotes about voice
- quotes about promises
Don Juan: Canto The Third
Hail, Muse! et cetera.--We left Juan sleeping,
Pillow'd upon a fair and happy breast,
And watch'd by eyes that never yet knew weeping,
And loved by a young heart, too deeply blest
To feel the poison through her spirit creeping,
Or know who rested there, a foe to rest,
Had soil'd the current of her sinless years,
And turn'd her pure heart's purest blood to tears!
Oh, Love! what is it in this world of ours
Which makes it fatal to be loved? Ah, why
With cypress branches hast thou Wreathed thy bowers,
And made thy best interpreter a sigh?
As those who dote on odours pluck the flowers,
And place them on their breast- but place to die-
Thus the frail beings we would fondly cherish
Are laid within our bosoms but to perish.
In her first passion woman loves her lover,
In all the others all she loves is love,
Which grows a habit she can ne'er get over,
And fits her loosely- like an easy glove,
As you may find, whene'er you like to prove her:
One man alone at first her heart can move;
She then prefers him in the plural number,
Not finding that the additions much encumber.
I know not if the fault be men's or theirs;
But one thing 's pretty sure; a woman planted
(Unless at once she plunge for life in prayers)
After a decent time must be gallanted;
Although, no doubt, her first of love affairs
Is that to which her heart is wholly granted;
Yet there are some, they say, who have had none,
But those who have ne'er end with only one.
'T is melancholy, and a fearful sign
Of human frailty, folly, also crime,
That love and marriage rarely can combine,
Although they both are born in the same clime;
Marriage from love, like vinegar from wine-
A sad, sour, sober beverage- by time
Is sharpen'd from its high celestial flavour
Down to a very homely household savour.
There 's something of antipathy, as 't were,
Between their present and their future state;
A kind of flattery that 's hardly fair
Is used until the truth arrives too late-
Yet what can people do, except despair?
The same things change their names at such a rate;
For instance- passion in a lover 's glorious,
But in a husband is pronounced uxorious.
Men grow ashamed of being so very fond;
They sometimes also get a little tired
(But that, of course, is rare), and then despond:
The same things cannot always be admired,
Yet 't is 'so nominated in the bond,'
That both are tied till one shall have expired.
Sad thought! to lose the spouse that was adorning
Our days, and put one's servants into mourning.
There 's doubtless something in domestic doings
Which forms, in fact, true love's antithesis;
Romances paint at full length people's wooings,
But only give a bust of marriages;
For no one cares for matrimonial cooings,
There 's nothing wrong in a connubial kiss:
Think you, if Laura had been Petrarch's wife,
He would have written sonnets all his life?
All tragedies are finish'd by a death,
All comedies are ended by a marriage;
The future states of both are left to faith,
For authors fear description might disparage
The worlds to come of both, or fall beneath,
And then both worlds would punish their miscarriage;
So leaving each their priest and prayer-book ready,
They say no more of Death or of the Lady.
The only two that in my recollection
Have sung of heaven and hell, or marriage, are
Dante and Milton, and of both the affection
Was hapless in their nuptials, for some bar
Of fault or temper ruin'd the connection
(Such things, in fact, it don't ask much to mar):
But Dante's Beatrice and Milton's Eve
Were not drawn from their spouses, you conceive.
Some persons say that Dante meant theology
By Beatrice, and not a mistress- I,
Although my opinion may require apology,
Deem this a commentator's fantasy,
Unless indeed it was from his own knowledge he
Decided thus, and show'd good reason why;
I think that Dante's more abstruse ecstatics
Meant to personify the mathematics.
Haidee and Juan were not married, but
The fault was theirs, not mine; it is not fair,
Chaste reader, then, in any way to put
The blame on me, unless you wish they were;
Then if you 'd have them wedded, please to shut
The book which treats of this erroneous pair,
Before the consequences grow too awful;
'T is dangerous to read of loves unlawful.
Yet they were happy,- happy in the illicit
Indulgence of their innocent desires;
But more imprudent grown with every visit,
Haidee forgot the island was her sire's;
When we have what we like, 't is hard to miss it,
At least in the beginning, ere one tires;
Thus she came often, not a moment losing,
Whilst her piratical papa was cruising.
Let not his mode of raising cash seem strange,
Although he fleeced the flags of every nation,
For into a prime minister but change
His title, and 't is nothing but taxation;
But he, more modest, took an humbler range
Of life, and in an honester vocation
Pursued o'er the high seas his watery journey,
And merely practised as a sea-attorney.
The good old gentleman had been detain'd
By winds and waves, and some important captures;
And, in the hope of more, at sea remain'd,
Although a squall or two had damp'd his raptures,
By swamping one of the prizes; he had chain'd
His prisoners, dividing them like chapters
In number'd lots; they all had cuffs and collars,
And averaged each from ten to a hundred dollars.
Some he disposed of off Cape Matapan,
Among his friends the Mainots; some he sold
To his Tunis correspondents, save one man
Toss'd overboard unsaleable (being old);
The rest- save here and there some richer one,
Reserved for future ransom- in the hold
Were link'd alike, as for the common people he
Had a large order from the Dey of Tripoli.
The merchandise was served in the same way,
Pieced out for different marts in the Levant;
Except some certain portions of the prey,
Light classic articles of female want,
French stuffs, lace, tweezers, toothpicks, teapot, tray,
Guitars and castanets from Alicant,
All which selected from the spoil he gathers,
Robb'd for his daughter by the best of fathers.
A monkey, a Dutch mastiff, a mackaw,
Two parrots, with a Persian cat and kittens,
He chose from several animals he saw-
A terrier, too, which once had been a Briton's,
Who dying on the coast of Ithaca,
The peasants gave the poor dumb thing a pittance;
These to secure in this strong blowing weather,
He caged in one huge hamper altogether.
Then having settled his marine affairs,
Despatching single cruisers here and there,
His vessel having need of some repairs,
He shaped his course to where his daughter fair
Continued still her hospitable cares;
But that part of the coast being shoal and bare,
And rough with reefs which ran out many a mile,
His port lay on the other side o' the isle.
And there he went ashore without delay,
Having no custom-house nor quarantine
To ask him awkward questions on the way
About the time and place where he had been:
He left his ship to be hove down next day,
With orders to the people to careen;
So that all hands were busy beyond measure,
In getting out goods, ballast, guns, and treasure.
Arriving at the summit of a hill
Which overlook'd the white walls of his home,
He stopp'd.- What singular emotions fill
Their bosoms who have been induced to roam!
With fluttering doubts if all be well or ill-
With love for many, and with fears for some;
All feelings which o'erleap the years long lost,
And bring our hearts back to their starting-post.
The approach of home to husbands and to sires,
After long travelling by land or water,
Most naturally some small doubt inspires-
A female family 's a serious matter
(None trusts the sex more, or so much admires-
But they hate flattery, so I never flatter);
Wives in their husbands' absences grow subtler,
And daughters sometimes run off with the butler.
An honest gentleman at his return
May not have the good fortune of Ulysses;
Not all lone matrons for their husbands mourn,
Or show the same dislike to suitors' kisses;
The odds are that he finds a handsome urn
To his memory- and two or three young misses
Born to some friend, who holds his wife and riches,-
And that his Argus- bites him by the breeches.
If single, probably his plighted fair
Has in his absence wedded some rich miser;
But all the better, for the happy pair
May quarrel, and the lady growing wiser,
He may resume his amatory care
As cavalier servente, or despise her;
And that his sorrow may not be a dumb one,
Write odes on the Inconstancy of Woman.
And oh! ye gentlemen who have already
Some chaste liaison of the kind- I mean
An honest friendship with a married lady-
The only thing of this sort ever seen
To last- of all connections the most steady,
And the true Hymen (the first 's but a screen)-
Yet for all that keep not too long away,
I 've known the absent wrong'd four times a day.
Lambro, our sea-solicitor, who had
Much less experience of dry land than ocean,
On seeing his own chimney-smoke, felt glad;
But not knowing metaphysics, had no notion
Of the true reason of his not being sad,
Or that of any other strong emotion;
He loved his child, and would have wept the loss of her,
But knew the cause no more than a philosopher.
He saw his white walls shining in the sun,
His garden trees all shadowy and green;
He heard his rivulet's light bubbling run,
The distant dog-bark; and perceived between
The umbrage of the wood so cool and dun
The moving figures, and the sparkling sheen
Of arms (in the East all arm)- and various dyes
Of colour'd garbs, as bright as butterflies.
And as the spot where they appear he nears,
Surprised at these unwonted signs of idling,
He hears- alas! no music of the spheres,
But an unhallow'd, earthly sound of fiddling!
A melody which made him doubt his ears,
The cause being past his guessing or unriddling;
A pipe, too, and a drum, and shortly after,
A most unoriental roar of laughter.
And still more nearly to the place advancing,
Descending rather quickly the declivity,
Through the waved branches o'er the greensward glancing,
'Midst other indications of festivity,
Seeing a troop of his domestics dancing
Like dervises, who turn as on a pivot, he
Perceived it was the Pyrrhic dance so martial,
To which the Levantines are very partial.
And further on a group of Grecian girls,
The first and tallest her white kerchief waving,
Were strung together like a row of pearls,
Link'd hand in hand, and dancing; each too having
Down her white neck long floating auburn curls
(The least of which would set ten poets raving);
Their leader sang- and bounded to her song,
With choral step and voice, the virgin throng.
And here, assembled cross-legg'd round their trays,
Small social parties just begun to dine;
Pilaus and meats of all sorts met the gaze,
And flasks of Samian and of Chian wine,
And sherbet cooling in the porous vase;
Above them their dessert grew on its vine,
The orange and pomegranate nodding o'er
Dropp'd in their laps, scarce pluck'd, their mellow store.
A band of children, round a snow-white ram,
There wreathe his venerable horns with flowers;
While peaceful as if still an unwean'd lamb,
The patriarch of the flock all gently cowers
His sober head, majestically tame,
Or eats from out the palm, or playful lowers
His brow, as if in act to butt, and then
Yielding to their small hands, draws back again.
Their classical profiles, and glittering dresses,
Their large black eyes, and soft seraphic cheeks,
Crimson as cleft pomegranates, their long tresses,
The gesture which enchants, the eye that speaks,
The innocence which happy childhood blesses,
Made quite a picture of these little Greeks;
So that the philosophical beholder
Sigh'd for their sakes- that they should e'er grow older.
Afar, a dwarf buffoon stood telling tales
To a sedate grey circle of old smokers,
Of secret treasures found in hidden vales,
Of wonderful replies from Arab jokers,
Of charms to make good gold and cure bad ails,
Of rocks bewitch'd that open to the knockers,
Of magic ladies who, by one sole act,
Transform'd their lords to beasts (but that 's a fact).
Here was no lack of innocent diversion
For the imagination or the senses,
Song, dance, wine, music, stories from the Persian,
All pretty pastimes in which no offence is;
But Lambro saw all these things with aversion,
Perceiving in his absence such expenses,
Dreading that climax of all human ills,
The inflammation of his weekly bills.
Ah! what is man? what perils still environ
The happiest mortals even after dinner-
A day of gold from out an age of iron
Is all that life allows the luckiest sinner;
Pleasure (whene'er she sings, at least) 's a siren,
That lures, to flay alive, the young beginner;
Lambro's reception at his people's banquet
Was such as fire accords to a wet blanket.
He- being a man who seldom used a word
Too much, and wishing gladly to surprise
(In general he surprised men with the sword)
His daughter- had not sent before to advise
Of his arrival, so that no one stirr'd;
And long he paused to re-assure his eyes
In fact much more astonish'd than delighted,
To find so much good company invited.
He did not know (alas! how men will lie)
That a report (especially the Greeks)
Avouch'd his death (such people never die),
And put his house in mourning several weeks,-
But now their eyes and also lips were dry;
The bloom, too, had return'd to Haidee's cheeks,
Her tears, too, being return'd into their fount,
She now kept house upon her own account.
Hence all this rice, meat, dancing, wine, and fiddling,
Which turn'd the isle into a place of pleasure;
The servants all were getting drunk or idling,
A life which made them happy beyond measure.
Her father's hospitality seem'd middling,
Compared with what Haidee did with his treasure;
'T was wonderful how things went on improving,
While she had not one hour to spare from loving.
Perhaps you think in stumbling on this feast
He flew into a passion, and in fact
There was no mighty reason to be pleased;
Perhaps you prophesy some sudden act,
The whip, the rack, or dungeon at the least,
To teach his people to be more exact,
And that, proceeding at a very high rate,
He show'd the royal penchants of a pirate.
You 're wrong.- He was the mildest manner'd man
That ever scuttled ship or cut a throat:
With such true breeding of a gentleman,
You never could divine his real thought;
No courtier could, and scarcely woman can
Gird more deceit within a petticoat;
Pity he loved adventurous life's variety,
He was so great a loss to good society.
Advancing to the nearest dinner tray,
Tapping the shoulder of the nighest guest,
With a peculiar smile, which, by the way,
Boded no good, whatever it express'd,
He ask'd the meaning of this holiday;
The vinous Greek to whom he had address'd
His question, much too merry to divine
The questioner, fill'd up a glass of wine,
And without turning his facetious head,
Over his shoulder, with a Bacchant air,
Presented the o'erflowing cup, and said,
'Talking 's dry work, I have no time to spare.'
A second hiccup'd, 'Our old master 's dead,
You 'd better ask our mistress who 's his heir.'
'Our mistress!' quoth a third: 'Our mistress!- pooh!-
You mean our master- not the old, but new.'
These rascals, being new comers, knew not whom
They thus address'd- and Lambro's visage fell-
And o'er his eye a momentary gloom
Pass'd, but he strove quite courteously to quell
The expression, and endeavouring to resume
His smile, requested one of them to tell
The name and quality of his new patron,
Who seem'd to have turn'd Haidee into a matron.
'I know not,' quoth the fellow, 'who or what
He is, nor whence he came- and little care;
But this I know, that this roast capon 's fat,
And that good wine ne'er wash'd down better fare;
And if you are not satisfied with that,
Direct your questions to my neighbour there;
He 'll answer all for better or for worse,
For none likes more to hear himself converse.'
I said that Lambro was a man of patience,
And certainly he show'd the best of breeding,
Which scarce even France, the paragon of nations,
E'er saw her most polite of sons exceeding;
He bore these sneers against his near relations,
His own anxiety, his heart, too, bleeding,
The insults, too, of every servile glutton,
Who all the time was eating up his mutton.
Now in a person used to much command-
To bid men come, and go, and come again-
To see his orders done, too, out of hand-
Whether the word was death, or but the chain-
It may seem strange to find his manners bland;
Yet such things are, which I can not explain,
Though doubtless he who can command himself
Is good to govern- almost as a Guelf.
Not that he was not sometimes rash or so,
But never in his real and serious mood;
Then calm, concentrated, and still, and slow,
He lay coil'd like the boa in the wood;
With him it never was a word and blow,
His angry word once o'er, he shed no blood,
But in his silence there was much to rue,
And his one blow left little work for two.
He ask'd no further questions, and proceeded
On to the house, but by a private way,
So that the few who met him hardly heeded,
So little they expected him that day;
If love paternal in his bosom pleaded
For Haidee's sake, is more than I can say,
But certainly to one deem'd dead, returning,
This revel seem'd a curious mode of mourning.
If all the dead could now return to life
(Which God forbid!) or some, or a great many,
For instance, if a husband or his wife
(Nuptial examples are as good as any),
No doubt whate'er might be their former strife,
The present weather would be much more rainy-
Tears shed into the grave of the connection
Would share most probably its resurrection.
He enter'd in the house no more his home,
A thing to human feelings the most trying,
And harder for the heart to overcome,
Perhaps, than even the mental pangs of dying;
To find our hearthstone turn'd into a tomb,
And round its once warm precincts palely lying
The ashes of our hopes, is a deep grief,
Beyond a single gentleman's belief.
He enter'd in the house- his home no more,
For without hearts there is no home; and felt
The solitude of passing his own door
Without a welcome; there he long had dwelt,
There his few peaceful days Time had swept o'er,
There his worn bosom and keen eye would melt
Over the innocence of that sweet child,
His only shrine of feelings undefiled.
He was a man of a strange temperament,
Of mild demeanour though of savage mood,
Moderate in all his habits, and content
With temperance in pleasure, as in food,
Quick to perceive, and strong to bear, and meant
For something better, if not wholly good;
His country's wrongs and his despair to save her
Had stung him from a slave to an enslaver.
The love of power, and rapid gain of gold,
The hardness by long habitude produced,
The dangerous life in which he had grown old,
The mercy he had granted oft abused,
The sights he was accustom'd to behold,
The wild seas, and wild men with whom he cruised,
Had cost his enemies a long repentance,
And made him a good friend, but bad acquaintance.
But something of the spirit of old Greece
Flash'd o'er his soul a few heroic rays,
Such as lit onward to the Golden Fleece
His predecessors in the Colchian days;
T is true he had no ardent love for peace-
Alas! his country show'd no path to praise:
Hate to the world and war with every nation
He waged, in vengeance of her degradation.
Still o'er his mind the influence of the clime
Shed its Ionian elegance, which show'd
Its power unconsciously full many a time,-
A taste seen in the choice of his abode,
A love of music and of scenes sublime,
A pleasure in the gentle stream that flow'd
Past him in crystal, and a joy in flowers,
Bedew'd his spirit in his calmer hours.
But whatsoe'er he had of love reposed
On that beloved daughter; she had been
The only thing which kept his heart unclosed
Amidst the savage deeds he had done and seen;
A lonely pure affection unopposed:
There wanted but the loss of this to wean
His feelings from all milk of human kindness,
And turn him like the Cyclops mad with blindness.
The cubless tigress in her jungle raging
Is dreadful to the shepherd and the flock;
The ocean when its yeasty war is waging
Is awful to the vessel near the rock;
But violent things will sooner bear assuaging,
Their fury being spent by its own shock,
Than the stern, single, deep, and wordless ire
Of a strong human heart, and in a sire.
It is a hard although a common case
To find our children running restive- they
In whom our brightest days we would retrace,
Our little selves re-form'd in finer clay,
Just as old age is creeping on apace,
And clouds come o'er the sunset of our day,
They kindly leave us, though not quite alone,
But in good company- the gout or stone.
Yet a fine family is a fine thing
(Provided they don't come in after dinner);
'T is beautiful to see a matron bring
Her children up (if nursing them don't thin her);
Like cherubs round an altar-piece they cling
To the fire-side (a sight to touch a sinner).
A lady with her daughters or her nieces
Shines like a guinea and seven-shilling pieces.
Old Lambro pass'd unseen a private gate,
And stood within his hall at eventide;
Meantime the lady and her lover sate
At wassail in their beauty and their pride:
An ivory inlaid table spread with state
Before them, and fair slaves on every side;
Gems, gold, and silver, form'd the service mostly,
Mother of pearl and coral the less costly.
The dinner made about a hundred dishes;
Lamb and pistachio nuts- in short, all meats,
And saffron soups, and sweetbreads; and the fishes
Were of the finest that e'er flounced in nets,
Drest to a Sybarite's most pamper'd wishes;
The beverage was various sherbets
Of raisin, orange, and pomegranate juice,
Squeezed through the rind, which makes it best for use.
These were ranged round, each in its crystal ewer,
And fruits, and date-bread loaves closed the repast,
And Mocha's berry, from Arabia pure,
In small fine China cups, came in at last;
Gold cups of filigree made to secure
The hand from burning underneath them placed,
Cloves, cinnamon, and saffron too were boil'd
Up with the coffee, which (I think) they spoil'd.
The hangings of the room were tapestry, made
Of velvet panels, each of different hue,
And thick with damask flowers of silk inlaid;
And round them ran a yellow border too;
The upper border, richly wrought, display'd,
Embroider'd delicately o'er with blue,
Soft Persian sentences, in lilac letters,
From poets, or the moralists their betters.
These Oriental writings on the wall,
Quite common in those countries, are a kind
Of monitors adapted to recall,
Like skulls at Memphian banquets, to the mind
The words which shook Belshazzar in his hall,
And took his kingdom from him: You will find,
Though sages may pour out their wisdom's treasure,
There is no sterner moralist than Pleasure.
A beauty at the season's close grown hectic,
A genius who has drunk himself to death,
A rake turn'd methodistic, or Eclectic
(For that 's the name they like to pray beneath)-
But most, an alderman struck apoplectic,
Are things that really take away the breath,-
And show that late hours, wine, and love are able
To do not much less damage than the table.
Haidee and Juan carpeted their feet
On crimson satin, border'd with pale blue;
Their sofa occupied three parts complete
Of the apartment- and appear'd quite new;
The velvet cushions (for a throne more meet)
Were scarlet, from whose glowing centre grew
A sun emboss'd in gold, whose rays of tissue,
Meridian-like, were seen all light to issue.
Crystal and marble, plate and porcelain,
Had done their work of splendour; Indian mats
And Persian carpets, which the heart bled to stain,
Over the floors were spread; gazelles and cats,
And dwarfs and blacks, and such like things, that gain
Their bread as ministers and favourites (that 's
To say, by degradation) mingled there
As plentiful as in a court, or fair.
There was no want of lofty mirrors, and
The tables, most of ebony inlaid
With mother of pearl or ivory, stood at hand,
Or were of tortoise-shell or rare woods made,
Fretted with gold or silver:- by command,
The greater part of these were ready spread
With viands and sherbets in ice- and wine-
Kept for all comers at all hours to dine.
Of all the dresses I select Haidee's:
She wore two jelicks- one was of pale yellow;
Of azure, pink, and white was her chemise-
'Neath which her breast heaved like a little billow;
With buttons form'd of pearls as large as peas,
All gold and crimson shone her jelick's fellow,
And the striped white gauze baracan that bound her,
Like fleecy clouds about the moon, flow'd round her.
One large gold bracelet clasp'd each lovely arm,
Lockless- so pliable from the pure gold
That the hand stretch'd and shut it without harm,
The limb which it adorn'd its only mould;
So beautiful- its very shape would charm;
And, clinging as if loath to lose its hold,
The purest ore enclosed the whitest skin
That e'er by precious metal was held in.
Around, as princess of her father's land,
A like gold bar above her instep roll'd
Announced her rank; twelve rings were on her hand;
Her hair was starr'd with gems; her veil's fine fold
Below her breast was fasten'd with a band
Of lavish pearls, whose worth could scarce be told;
Her orange silk full Turkish trousers furl'd
About the prettiest ankle in the world.
Her hair's long auburn waves down to her heel
Flow'd like an Alpine torrent which the sun
Dyes with his morning light,- and would conceal
Her person if allow'd at large to run,
And still they seem resentfully to feel
The silken fillet's curb, and sought to shun
Their bonds whene'er some Zephyr caught began
To offer his young pinion as her fan.
Round her she made an atmosphere of life,
The very air seem'd lighter from her eyes,
They were so soft and beautiful, and rife
With all we can imagine of the skies,
And pure as Psyche ere she grew a wife-
Too pure even for the purest human ties;
Her overpowering presence made you feel
It would not be idolatry to kneel.
Her eyelashes, though dark as night, were tinged
(It is the country's custom), but in vain;
For those large black eyes were so blackly fringed,
The glossy rebels mock'd the jetty stain,
And in their native beauty stood avenged:
Her nails were touch'd with henna; but again
The power of art was turn'd to nothing, for
They could not look more rosy than before.
The henna should be deeply dyed to make
The skin relieved appear more fairly fair;
She had no need of this, day ne'er will break
On mountain tops more heavenly white than her:
The eye might doubt if it were well awake,
She was so like a vision; I might err,
But Shakspeare also says, 't is very silly
'To gild refined gold, or paint the lily'
Juan had on a shawl of black and gold,
But a white baracan, and so transparent
The sparkling gems beneath you might behold,
Like small stars through the milky way apparent;
His turban, furl'd in many a graceful fold,
An emerald aigrette with Haidee's hair in 't
Surmounted as its clasp- a glowing crescent,
Whose rays shone ever trembling, but incessant.
And now they were diverted by their suite,
Dwarfs, dancing girls, black eunuchs, and a poet,
Which made their new establishment complete;
The last was of great fame, and liked to show it:
His verses rarely wanted their due feet;
And for his theme- he seldom sung below it,
He being paid to satirize or flatter,
As the psalm says, 'inditing a good matter.'
He praised the present, and abused the past,
Reversing the good custom of old days,
An Eastern anti-jacobin at last
He turn'd, preferring pudding to no praise-
For some few years his lot had been o'ercast
By his seeming independent in his lays,
But now he sung the Sultan and the Pacha
With truth like Southey, and with verse like Crashaw.
He was a man who had seen many changes,
And always changed as true as any needle;
His polar star being one which rather ranges,
And not the fix'd- he knew the way to wheedle:
So vile he 'scaped the doom which oft avenges;
And being fluent (save indeed when fee'd ill),
He lied with such a fervour of intention-
There was no doubt he earn'd his laureate pension.
But he had genius,- when a turncoat has it,
The 'Vates irritabilis' takes care
That without notice few full moons shall pass it;
Even good men like to make the public stare:-
But to my subject- let me see- what was it?-
Oh!- the third canto- and the pretty pair-
Their loves, and feasts, and house, and dress, and mode
Of living in their insular abode.
Their poet, a sad trimmer, but no less
In company a very pleasant fellow,
Had been the favourite of full many a mess
Of men, and made them speeches when half mellow;
And though his meaning they could rarely guess,
Yet still they deign'd to hiccup or to bellow
The glorious meed of popular applause,
Of which the first ne'er knows the second cause.
But now being lifted into high society,
And having pick'd up several odds and ends
Of free thoughts in his travels for variety,
He deem'd, being in a lone isle, among friends,
That, without any danger of a riot, he
Might for long lying make himself amends;
And, singing as he sung in his warm youth,
Agree to a short armistice with truth.
He had travell'd 'mongst the Arabs, Turks, and Franks,
And knew the self-loves of the different nations;
And having lived with people of all ranks,
Had something ready upon most occasions-
Which got him a few presents and some thanks.
He varied with some skill his adulations;
To 'do at Rome as Romans do,' a piece
Of conduct was which he observed in Greece.
Thus, usually, when he was ask'd to sing,
He gave the different nations something national;
'T was all the same to him- 'God save the king,'
Or 'Ca ira,' according to the fashion all:
His muse made increment of any thing,
From the high lyric down to the low rational:
If Pindar sang horse-races, what should hinder
Himself from being as pliable as Pindar?
In France, for instance, he would write a chanson;
In England a six canto quarto tale;
In Spain, he'd make a ballad or romance on
The last war- much the same in Portugal;
In Germany, the Pegasus he 'd prance on
Would be old Goethe's (see what says De Stael);
In Italy he 'd ape the 'Trecentisti;'
In Greece, he sing some sort of hymn like this t' ye:
THE ISLES OF GREECE.
The isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.
The Scian and the Teian muse,
The hero's harp, the lover's lute,
Have found the fame your shores refuse;
Their place of birth alone is mute
To sounds which echo further west
Than your sires' 'Islands of the Blest.'
The mountains look on Marathon-
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream'd that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians' grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.
A king sate on the rocky brow
Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis;
And ships, by thousands, lay below,
And men in nations;- all were his!
He counted them at break of day-
And when the sun set where were they?
And where are they? and where art thou,
My country? On thy voiceless shore
The heroic lay is tuneless now-
The heroic bosom beats no more!
And must thy lyre, so long divine,
Degenerate into hands like mine?
'T is something, in the dearth of fame,
Though link'd among a fetter'd race,
To feel at least a patriot's shame,
Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
For what is left the poet here?
For Greeks a blush- for Greece a tear.
Must we but weep o'er days more blest?
Must we but blush?- Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae!
What, silent still? and silent all?
Ah! no;- the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent's fall,
And answer, 'Let one living head,
But one arise,- we come, we come!'
'T is but the living who are dumb.
In vain- in vain: strike other chords;
Fill high the cup with Samian wine!
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,
And shed the blood of Scio's vine!
Hark! rising to the ignoble call-
How answers each bold Bacchanal!
You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet,
Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
Of two such lessons, why forget
The nobler and the manlier one?
You have the letters Cadmus gave-
Think ye he meant them for a slave?
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
We will not think of themes like these!
It made Anacreon's song divine:
He served- but served Polycrates-
A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.
The tyrant of the Chersonese
Was freedom's best and bravest friend;
That tyrant was Miltiades!
Oh! that the present hour would lend
Another despot of the kind!
Such chains as his were sure to bind.
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
On Suli's rock, and Parga's shore,
Exists the remnant of a line
Such as the Doric mothers bore;
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown,
The Heracleidan blood might own.
Trust not for freedom to the Franks-
They have a king who buys and sells;
In native swords, and native ranks,
The only hope of courage dwells;
But Turkish force, and Latin fraud,
Would break your shield, however broad.
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
Our virgins dance beneath the shade-
I see their glorious black eyes shine;
But gazing on each glowing maid,
My own the burning tear-drop laves,
To think such breasts must suckle slaves
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
There, swan-like, let me sing and die:
A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine-
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!
Thus sung, or would, or could, or should have sung,
The modern Greek, in tolerable verse;
If not like Orpheus quite, when Greece was young,
Yet in these times he might have done much worse:
His strain display'd some feeling- right or wrong;
And feeling, in a poet, is the source
Of others' feeling; but they are such liars,
And take all colours- like the hands of dyers.
But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
'T is strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper- even a rag like this,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that 's his.
And when his bones are dust, his grave a blank,
His station, generation, even his nation,
Become a thing, or nothing, save to rank
In chronological commemoration,
Some dull MS. oblivion long has sank,
Or graven stone found in a barrack's station
In digging the foundation of a closet,
May turn his name up, as a rare deposit.
And glory long has made the sages smile;
'T is something, nothing, words, illusion, wind-
Depending more upon the historian's style
Than on the name a person leaves behind:
Troy owes to Homer what whist owes to Hoyle:
The present century was growing blind
To the great Marlborough's skill in giving knocks,
Until his late life by Archdeacon Coxe.
Milton 's the prince of poets- so we say;
A little heavy, but no less divine:
An independent being in his day-
Learn'd, pious, temperate in love and wine;
But, his life falling into Johnson's way,
We 're told this great high priest of all the Nine
Was whipt at college- a harsh sire- odd spouse,
For the first Mrs. Milton left his house.
All these are, certes, entertaining facts,
Like Shakspeare's stealing deer, Lord Bacon's bribes;
Like Titus' youth, and Caesar's earliest acts;
Like Burns (whom Doctor Currie well describes);
Like Cromwell's pranks;- but although truth exacts
These amiable descriptions from the scribes,
As most essential to their hero's story,
They do not much contribute to his glory.
All are not moralists, like Southey, when
He prated to the world of 'Pantisocracy;'
Or Wordsworth unexcised, unhired, who then
Season'd his pedlar poems with democracy;
Or Coleridge, long before his flighty pen
Let to the Morning Post its aristocracy;
When he and Southey, following the same path,
Espoused two partners (milliners of Bath).
Such names at present cut a convict figure,
The very Botany Bay in moral geography;
Their loyal treason, renegado rigour,
Are good manure for their more bare biography.
Wordsworth's last quarto, by the way, is bigger
Than any since the birthday of typography;
A drowsy frowzy poem, call'd the 'Excursion.'
Writ in a manner which is my aversion.
He there builds up a formidable dyke
Between his own and others' intellect;
But Wordsworth's poem, and his followers, like
Joanna Southcote's Shiloh, and her sect,
Are things which in this century don't strike
The public mind,- so few are the elect;
And the new births of both their stale virginities
Have proved but dropsies, taken for divinities.
But let me to my story: I must own,
If I have any fault, it is digression-
Leaving my people to proceed alone,
While I soliloquize beyond expression;
But these are my addresses from the throne,
Which put off business to the ensuing session:
Forgetting each omission is a loss to
The world, not quite so great as Ariosto.
I know that what our neighbours call 'longueurs'
(We 've not so good a word, but have the thing
In that complete perfection which ensures
An epic from Bob Southey every spring),
Form not the true temptation which allures
The reader; but 't would not be hard to bring
Some fine examples of the epopee,
To prove its grand ingredient is ennui.
We learn from Horace, 'Homer sometimes sleeps;'
We feel without him, Wordsworth sometimes wakes,-
To show with what complacency he creeps,
With his dear 'Waggoners,' around his lakes.
He wishes for 'a boat' to sail the deeps-
Of ocean?- No, of air; and then he makes
Another outcry for 'a little boat,'
And drivels seas to set it well afloat.
If he must fain sweep o'er the ethereal plain,
And Pegasus runs restive in his 'Waggon,'
Could he not beg the loan of Charles's Wain?
Or pray Medea for a single dragon?
Or if, too classic for his vulgar brain,
He fear'd his neck to venture such a nag on,
And he must needs mount nearer to the moon,
Could not the blockhead ask for a balloon?
'Pedlars,' and 'Boats,' and 'Waggons!' Oh! ye shades
Of Pope and Dryden, are we come to this?
That trash of such sort not alone evades
Contempt, but from the bathos' vast abyss
Floats scumlike uppermost, and these Jack Cades
Of sense and song above your graves may hiss-
The 'little boatman' and his 'Peter Bell'
Can sneer at him who drew 'Achitophel'!
T' our tale.- The feast was over, the slaves gone,
The dwarfs and dancing girls had all retired;
The Arab lore and poet's song were done,
And every sound of revelry expired;
The lady and her lover, left alone,
The rosy flood of twilight's sky admired;-
Ave Maria! o'er the earth and sea,
That heavenliest hour of Heaven is worthiest thee!
Ave Maria! blessed be the hour!
The time, the clime, the spot, where I so oft
Have felt that moment in its fullest power
Sink o'er the earth so beautiful and soft,
While swung the deep bell in the distant tower,
Or the faint dying day-hymn stole aloft,
And not a breath crept through the rosy air,
And yet the forest leaves seem'd stirr'd with prayer.
Ave Maria! 't is the hour of prayer!
Ave Maria! 't is the hour of love!
Ave Maria! may our spirits dare
Look up to thine and to thy Son's above!
Ave Maria! oh that face so fair!
Those downcast eyes beneath the Almighty dove-
What though 't is but a pictured image?- strike-
That painting is no idol,- 't is too like.
Some kinder casuists are pleased to say,
In nameless print- that I have no devotion;
But set those persons down with me to pray,
And you shall see who has the properest notion
Of getting into heaven the shortest way;
My altars are the mountains and the ocean,
Earth, air, stars,- all that springs from the great Whole,
Who hath produced, and will receive the soul.
Sweet hour of twilight!- in the solitude
Of the pine forest, and the silent shore
Which bounds Ravenna's immemorial wood,
Rooted where once the Adrian wave flow'd o'er,
To where the last Caesarean fortress stood,
Evergreen forest! which Boccaccio's lore
And Dryden's lay made haunted ground to me,
How have I loved the twilight hour and thee!
The shrill cicadas, people of the pine,
Making their summer lives one ceaseless song,
Were the sole echoes, save my steed's and mine,
And vesper bell's that rose the boughs along;
The spectre huntsman of Onesti's line,
His hell-dogs, and their chase, and the fair throng
Which learn'd from this example not to fly
From a true lover,- shadow'd my mind's eye.
Oh, Hesperus! thou bringest all good things-
Home to the weary, to the hungry cheer,
To the young bird the parent's brooding wings,
The welcome stall to the o'erlabour'd steer;
Whate'er of peace about our hearthstone clings,
Whate'er our household gods protect of dear,
Are gather'd round us by thy look of rest;
Thou bring'st the child, too, to the mother's breast.
Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart
Of those who sail the seas, on the first day
When they from their sweet friends are torn apart;
Or fills with love the pilgrim on his way
As the far bell of vesper makes him start,
Seeming to weep the dying day's decay;
Is this a fancy which our reason scorns?
Ah! surely nothing dies but something mourns!
When Nero perish'd by the justest doom
Which ever the destroyer yet destroy'd,
Amidst the roar of liberated Rome,
Of nations freed, and the world overjoy'd,
Some hands unseen strew'd flowers upon his tomb:
Perhaps the weakness of a heart not void
Of feeling for some kindness done, when power
Had left the wretch an uncorrupted hour.
But I 'm digressing; what on earth has Nero,
Or any such like sovereign buffoons,
To do with the transactions of my hero,
More than such madmen's fellow man- the moon's?
Sure my invention must be down at zero,
And I grown one of many 'wooden spoons'
Of verse (the name with which we Cantabs please
To dub the last of honours in degrees).
I feel this tediousness will never do-
'T is being too epic, and I must cut down
(In copying) this long canto into two;
They 'll never find it out, unless I own
The fact, excepting some experienced few;
And then as an improvement 't will be shown:
I 'll prove that such the opinion of the critic is
From Aristotle passim.--See poietikes.
- quotes about Greece
- quotes about wedding
- quotes about nations
- quotes about pearls
- quotes about snow
- quotes about sheep
- quotes about questions
- quotes about philosophy
- quotes about luck
The Old Bark Hut
Oh, my name is Bob the Swagman, before you all I stand,
And I've had many ups and downs while travelling through the land.
I once was well-to-do, my boys, but now I am stumped up,
And I'm forced to go on rations in an old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
I'm forced to go on rations in an old bark hut.
Ten pounds of flour, ten pounds of beef, some sugar and some tea,
That's all they give to a hungry man, until the Seventh Day.
If you don't be moighty sparing, you'll go with a hungry gut
For that's one of the great misfortunes in an old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
For that's one of the great misfortunes in an old bark hut.
The bucket you boil your beef in has to carry water, too,
And they'll say you're getting mighty flash if you should ask for two.
I've a billy, and a pint pot, and a broken-handled cup,
And they all adorn the table in the old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
And they all adorn the table in the old bark hut.
Faith, the table is not made of wood, as many you have seen
For if I had one half so good, I'd think myself serene
'Tis only an old sheet of bark—God knows when it was cut
It was blown from off the rafters of the old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
It was blown from off the rafters of the old bark hut.
And of furniture, there's no such thing, 'twas never in the place,
Except the stool I sit upon—and that's an old gin case.
It does us for a safe as well, but you must keep it shut,
Or the flies would make it canter round the old hark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
Or the flies would make it canter round the old bark hut.
If you should leave it open, and the flies should find your meat,
They'll scarcely leave a single piece that's fit for man to eat.
But you mustn't curse, nor grumble—what won't fatten will fill up
For what's out of sight is out of mind in an old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
For what's out of sight is out of mind in an old bark hut.
In the summer time, when the weather's warm, this hut is nice and cool,
And you'll find the gentle breezes blowing in through every hole.
You can leave the old door open, or you can leave it shut,
There's no fear of suffocation in the old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
There's no fear of suffocation in the old bark hut.
In the winter time—preserve us all—to live in there's a treat
Especially when it's raining hard, and blowing wind and sleet.
The rain comes down the chimney, and your meat is black with soot
That's a substitute for pepper in an old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
That's a substitute for pepper in an old bark hut.
I've seen the rain come in this hut just like a perfect flood,
Especially through that great big hole where once the table stood.
There's not a blessed spot, me boys, where you could lay your nut,
But the rain is sure to find you in the old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
But the rain is sure to find you in the old bark hut.
So beside the fire I make me bed, and there I lay me down,
And think myself as happy as the king that wears a crown.
But as you'd be dozing off to sleep a flea will wake you up,
Which makes you curse the vermin in the old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hu
Which makes you curse the vermin in the old bark hut.
Faith, such flocks of fleas you never saw, they are so plump and fat,
And if you make a grab at one, he'll spit just like a cat.
Last night they got my pack of cards, and were fighting for the cut
I thought the devil had me in the old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
I thought the devil had me in the old bark hut.
So now, my friends, I've sung my song, and that as well as I could,
And I hope the ladies present won't think my language rude,
And all ye younger people, in the days when you grow up,
Remember Bob the Swagman, and the old bark hut.
In an old bark hut. In an old bark hut.
Remember Bob the Swagman, and the old bark hut.
TIMES followed one another. Came a morn
I stood upon the brink of twenty years,
And looked before and after, as I stood
Woman and artist,–either incomplete,
Both credulous of completion. There I held
The whole creation in my little cup,
And smiled with thirsty lips before I drank,
'Good health to you and me, sweet neighbour mine
And all these peoples.'
I was glad, that day;
The June was in me, with its multitudes
Of nightingales all singing in the dark,
And rosebuds reddening where the calyx split.
I felt so young, so strong, so sure of God!
So glad, I could not choose be very wise!
And, old at twenty, was inclined to pull
My childhood backward in a childish jest
To see the face of't once more, and farewell!
In which fantastic mood I bounded forth
At early morning,–would not wait so long
As even to snatch my bonnet by the strings,
But, brushing a green trail across the lawn
With my gown in the dew, took will and way
Among the acacias of the shrubberies,
To fly my fancies in the open air
And keep my birthday, till my aunt awoke
To stop good dreams. Meanwhile I murmured on,
As honeyed bees keep humming to themselves;
'The worthiest poets have remained uncrowned
Till death has bleached their foreheads to the bone,
And so with me it must be, unless I prove
Unworthy of the grand adversity,–
And certainly I would not fail so much.
What, therefore, if I crown myself to-day
In sport, not pride, to learn the feel of it,
Before my brows be numb as Dante's own
To all the tender pricking of such leaves?
Such leaves? what leaves?'
I pulled the branches down,
To choose from.
'Not the bay! I choose no bay;
The fates deny us if we are overbold:
Nor myrtle–which means chiefly love; and love
Is something awful which one dare not touch
So early o' mornings. This verbena strains
The point of passionate fragrance; and hard by,
This guelder rose, at far too slight a beck
Of the wind, will toss about her flower-apples.
Ah–there's my choice,–that ivy on the wall,
That headlong ivy! not a leaf will grow
But thinking of a wreath. Large leaves, smooth leaves,
Serrated like my vines, and half as green.
I like such ivy; bold to leap a height
'Twas strong to climb! as good to grow on graves
As twist about a thyrsus; pretty too,
(And that's not ill) when twisted round a comb.'
Thus speaking to myself, half singing it,
Because some thoughts are fashioned like a bell
To ring with once being touched, I drew a wreath
Drenched, blinding me with dew, across my brow,
And fastening it behind so, . . turning faced
. . My public!–Cousin Romney–with a mouth
Twice graver than his eyes.
I stood there fixed–
My arms up, like the caryatid, sole
Of some abolished temple, helplessly
Persistent in a gesture which derides
A former purpose. Yet my blush was flame,
As if from flax, not stone.
The earliest of Aurora's!'
Hand stretched out
I clasped, as shipwrecked men will clasp a hand,
Indifferent to the sort of palm. The tide
Had caught me at my pastime, writing down
My foolish name too near upon the sea
Which drowned me with a blush as foolish. 'You,
The smile died out in his eyes
And dropped upon his lips, a cold dead weight,
For just a moment . . 'Here's a book, I found!
No name writ on it–poems, by the form;
Some Greek upon the margin,–lady's Greek,
Without the accents. Read it? Not a word.
I saw at once the thing had witchcraft in't,
Whereof the reading calls up dangerous spirits;
I rather bring it to the witch.'
You found it.' . .
'In the hollow by the stream,
That beach leans down into–of which you said,
The Oread in it has a Naiad's heart
And pines for waters.'
My cousin! that I have seen you not too much
A witch, a poet, scholar, and the rest,
To be a woman also.'
With a glance
The smile rose in his eyes again, and touched
The ivy on my forehead, light as air.
I answered gravely, 'Poets needs must be
Or men or women–more's the pity.'
But men, and still less women, happily,
Scarce need be poets. Keep to the green wreath,
Since even dreaming of the stone and bronze
Brings headaches, pretty cousin, and defiles
The clean white morning dresses.'
'So you judge!
Because I love the beautiful, I must
Love pleasure chiefly, and be overcharged
For ease and whiteness! Well–you know the world.
And only miss your cousin; 'tis not much!–
But learn this: I would rather take my part
With God's Dead, who afford to walk in white
Yet spread His glory, than keep quiet here,
And gather up my feet from even a step,
For fear to soil my gown in so much dust.
I choose to walk at all risks.–Here, if heads
That hold a rhythmic thought, must ache perforce,
For my part, I choose headaches,–and to-day's
'Dear Aurora, choose instead
To cure such. You have balsams.'
The headache is too noble for my sex.
You think the heartache would sound decenter,
Since that's the woman's special, proper ache,
And altogether tolerable, except
To a woman.'
Saying which, I loosed my wreath.
And, swinging it beside me as I walked,
Half petulant, half playful, as we walked,
I sent a sidelong look to find his thought,–
As falcon set on falconer's finger may,
With sidelong head, and startled, braving eye,
Which means, 'You'll see–you'll see! I'll soon take flight–
You shall not hinder.' He, as shaking out
His hand and answering 'Fly then,' did not speak,
Except by such a gesture. Silently
We paced, until, just coming into sight
Of the house-windows, he abruptly caught
At one end of the swinging wreath, and said
'Aurora!' There I stopped short, breath and all.
'Aurora, let's be serious, and throw by
This game of head and heart. Life means, be sure,
Both heart and head,–both active, both complete,
And both in earnest. Men and women make
The world, as head and heart make human life.
Work man, work woman, since there's work to do
In this beleaguered earth, for head and heart,
And thought can never do the work of love!
But work for ends, I mean for uses; not
For such sleek fringes (do you call them ends?
Still less God's glory) as we sew ourselves
Upon the velvet of those baldaquins
Held 'twixt us and the sun. That book of yours,
I have not read a page of; but I toss
A rose up–it falls calyx down, you see! . .
The chances are that, being a woman, young,
And pure, with such a pair of large, calm eyes, . .
You write as well . . and ill . . upon the whole,
As other women. If as well, what then?
If even a little better, . . still what then?
We want the Best in art now, or no art.
The time is done for facile settings up
Of minnow gods, nymphs here, and tritons there;
The polytheists have gone out in God,
That unity of Bests. No best, no God!–
And so with art, we say. Give art's divine,
Direct, indubitable, real as grief,–
Or leave us to the grief we grow ourselves
Divine by overcoming with mere hope
And most prosaic patience. You, you are young
As Eve with nature's daybreak on her face;
But this same world you are come to, dearest coz,
Has done with keeping birthdays, saves her wreaths
To hang upon her ruins,–and forgets
To rhyme the cry with which she still beats back
Those savage, hungry dogs that hunt her down
To the empty grave of Christ. The world's hard pressed;
The sweat of labour in the early curse
Has (turning acrid in six thousand years)
Become the sweat of torture. Who has time,
An hour's time . . think! . . to sit upon a bank
And hear the cymbal tinkle in white hands!
When Egypt's slain, I say, let Miriam sing!–
Before . . where's Moses?'
Where's Moses?–is a Moses to be found?–
You'll sink him vainly in the bulrushes,
While I in vain touch cymbals. Yet, concede,
Such sounding brass has done some actual good,
(The application in a woman's hand,
If that were credible, being scarcely spoilt,)
In colonising beehives.'
'There it is!–
You play beside a death-bed like a child,
Yet measure to yourself a prophet's place
To teach the living. None of all these things,
Can women understand. You generalise,
Oh, nothing!–not even grief! Your quick-breathed hearts,
So sympathetic to the personal pang,
Close on each separate knife-stroke, yielding up
A whole life at each wound; incapable
Of deepening, widening a large lap of life
To hold the world-full woe. The human race
To you means, such a child, or such a man,
You saw one morning waiting in the cold,
Beside that gate, perhaps. You gather up
A few such cases, and, when strong, sometimes
Will write of factories and of slaves, as if
Your father were a negro, and your son
A spinner in the mills. All's yours and you,–
All, coloured with your blood, or otherwise
Just nothing to you. Why, I call you hard
To general suffering. Here's the world half blind
With intellectual light, half brutalised
With civilization, having caught the plague
In silks from Tarsus, shrieking east and west
Along a thousand railroads, mad with pain
And sin too! . . does one woman of you all,
(You who weep easily) grow pale to see
This tiger shake his cage?–does one of you
Stand still from dancing, stop from stringing pearls
And pine and die, because of the great sum
Of universal anguish?–Show me a tear
Wet as Cordelia's, in eyes bright as yours,
Because the world is mad? You cannot count,
That you should weep for this account, not you!
You weep for what you know. A red-haired child
Sick in a fever, if you touch him once,
Though but so little as with a finger-tip,
Will set you weeping! but a million sick . .
You could as soon weep for the rule of three,
Or compound fractions. Therefore, this same world
Uncomprehended by you must remain
Uninfluenced by you. Women as you are,
Mere women, personal and passionate,
You give us doating mothers, and chaste wives.
Sublime Madonnas, and enduring saints!
We get no Christ from you,–and verily
We shall not get a poet, in my mind.'
'With which conclusion you conclude' . .
That you, Aurora, with the large live brow
And steady eyelids, cannot condescend
To play at art, as children play at swords,
To show a pretty spirit, chiefly admired
Because true action is impossible.
You never can be satisfied with praise
Which men give women when they judge a book
Not as mere work, but as mere woman's work,
Expressing the comparative respect
Which means the absolute scorn. 'Oh, excellent!
'What grace! what facile turns! what fluent sweeps!
'What delicate discernment . . almost thought!
'The book does honour to the sex, we hold.
'Among our female authors we make room
'For this fair writer, and congratulate
'The country that produces in these times
'Such women, competent to . . spell.
I answered–burning through his thread of talk
With a quick flame of emotion,–'You have read
My soul, if not my book, and argue well
I would not condescend . . we will not say
To such a kind of praise, (a worthless end
Is praise of all kinds) but to such a use
Of holy art and golden life. I am young,
And peradventure weak–you tell me so–
Through being a woman. And, for all the rest,
Take thanks for justice. I would rather dance
At fairs on tight-rope, till the babies dropped
Their gingerbread for joy,–than shift the types
For tolerable verse, intolerable
To men who act and suffer. Better far,
Pursue a frivolous trade by serious means,
Than a sublime art frivolously.'
Choose nobler work than either, O moist eyes,
And hurrying lips, and heaving heart! We are young
Aurora, you and I. The world . . look round . .
The world, we're come to late, is swollen hard
With perished generations and their sins:
The civiliser's spade grinds horribly
On dead men's bones, and cannot turn up soil
That's otherwise than fetid. All success
Proves partial failure; all advance implies
What's left behind; all triumph, something crushed
At the chariot-wheels; all government, some wrong:
And rich men make the poor, who curse the rich,
Who agonise together, rich and poor,
Under and over, in the social spasm
And crisis of the ages. Here's an age,
That makes its own vocation! here, we have stepped
Across the bounds of time! here's nought to see,
But just the rich man and just Lazarus,
And both in torments; with a mediate gulph,
Though not a hint of Abraham's bosom. Who,
Being man and human, can stand calmly by
And view these things, and never tease his soul
For some great cure? No physic for this grief,
In all the earth and heavens too?'
In God, for your part?–ay? That He who makes,
Can make good things from ill things, best from worst,
As men plant tulips upon dunghills when
They wish them finest?'
'True. A death-heat is
The same as life-heat, to be accurate;
And in all nature is no death at all,
As men account of death, as long as God
Stands witnessing for life perpetually,'
By being just God. That's abstract truth, I know,
Philosophy, or sympathy with God:
But I, I sympathise with man, not God,
I think I was a man for chiefly this;
And when I stand beside a dying bed,
It's death to me. Observe,–it had not much
Consoled the race of mastodons to know
Before they went to fossil, that anon
Their place should quicken with the elephant
They were not elephants but mastodons:
And I, a man, as men are now, and not
As men may be hereafter, feel with men
In the agonising present.'
'Is it so,'
I said, 'my cousin? is the world so bad,
While I hear nothing of it through the trees?
The world was always evil,–but so bad?'
'So bad, Aurora. Dear, my soul is grey
With poring over the long sum of ill;
So much for vice, so much for discontent,
So much for the necessities of power,
So much for the connivances of fear,–
Coherent in statistical despairs
With such a total of distracted life, . .
To see it down in figures on a page,
Plain, silent, clear . . as God sees through the earth
The sense of all the graves! . . . that's terrible
For one who is not God, and cannot right
The wrong he looks on. May I choose indeed
But vow away my years, my means, my aims,
Among the helpers, if there's any help
In such a social strait? The common blood
That swings along my veins, is strong enough
To draw me to this duty.'
Then I spoke.
'I have not stood long on the strand of life,
And these salt waters have had scarcely time
To creep so high up as to wet my feet.
I cannot judge these tides–I shall, perhaps.
A woman's always younger than a man
At equal years, because she is disallowed
Maturing by the outdoor sun and air,
And kept in long-clothes past the age to walk.
Ah well, I know you men judge otherwise!
You think a woman ripens as a peach,–
In the cheeks, chiefly. Pass it to me now;
I'm young in age, and younger still, I think,
As a woman. But a child may say amen
To a bishop's prayer and see the way it goes;
And I, incapable to loose the knot
Of social questions, can approve, applaud
August compassion, christian thoughts that shoot
Beyond the vulgar white of personal aims.
Accept my reverence.'
There he glowed on me
With all his face and eyes. 'No other help?'
Said he–'no more than so?'
'What help?' I asked.
'You'd scorn my help,–as Nature's self, you say,
Has scorned to put her music in my mouth,
Because a woman's. Do you now turn round
And ask for what a woman cannot give?'
'For what she only can, I turn and ask,'
He answered, catching up my hands in his,
And dropping on me from his high-eaved brow
The full weight of his soul,–'I ask for love,
And that, she can; for life in fellowship
Through bitter duties–that, I know she can;
For wifehood . . will she?'
'Now,' I said, 'may God
Be witness 'twixt us two!' and with the word,
Meseemed I floated into a sudden light
Above his stature,–'am I proved too weak
To stand alone, yet strong enough to bear
Such leaners on my shoulder? poor to think,
Yet rich enough to sympathise with thought?
Incompetent to sing, as blackbirds can,
Yet competent to love, like HIM?'
Perhaps I darkened, as the lighthouse will
That turns upon the sea. 'It's always so!
Anything does for a wife.'
And dearly honoured' . . he pressed in at once
With eager utterance,–'you translate me ill.
I do not contradict my thought of you
Which is most reverent, with another thought
Found less so. If your sex is weak for art,
(And I who said so, did but honour you
By using truth in courtship) it is strong
For life and duty. Place your fecund heart
In mine, and let us blossom for the world
That wants love's colour in the grey of time.
With all my talk I can but set you where
You look down coldly on the arena-heaps
Of headless bodies, shapeless, indistinct!
The Judgment-Angel scarce would find his way
Through such a heap of generalised distress,
To the individual man with lips and eyes–
Much less Aurora. Ah, my sweet, come down,
And, hand in hand, we'll go where yours shall touch
These victims, one by one! till one by one,
The formless, nameless trunk of every man
Shall seem to wear a head, with hair you know,
And every woman catch your mother's face
To melt you into passion.'
'I am a girl,'
I answered slowly; 'you do well to name
My mother's face. Though far too early, alas,
God's hand did interpose 'twixt it and me,
I know so much of love, as used to shine
In that face and another. Just so much;
No more indeed at all. I have not seen
So much love since, I pray you pardon me,
As answers even to make a marriage with,
In this cold land of England. What you love,
Is not a woman, Romney, but a cause:
You want a helpmate, not a mistress, sir,–
A wife to help your ends . . in her no end!
Your cause is noble, your ends excellent,
But I, being most unworthy of these and that,
Do otherwise conceive of love. Farewell.'
'Farewell, Aurora, you reject me thus?'
'Why, sir, you are married long ago.
You have a wife already whom you love,
Your social theory. Bless you both, I say.
For my part, I am scarcely meek enough
To be the handmaid of a lawful spouse.
Do I look a Hagar, think you?'
'So, you jest!'
'Nay so, I speak in earnest,' I replied.
'You treat of marriage too much like, at least,
A chief apostle; you would bear with you
A wife . . a sister . . shall we speak it out?
A sister of charity.'
'Then, must it be
Indeed farewell? And was I so far wrong
In hope and in illusion, when I took
The woman to be nobler than the man,
Yourself the noblest woman,–in the use
And comprehension of what love is,–love,
That generates the likeness of itself
Through all heroic duties? so far wrong
In saying bluntly, venturing truth on love,
'Come, human creature, love and work with me,'–
Instead of, 'Lady, thou art wondrous fair,
'And, where the Graces walk before, the Muse
'Will follow at the lighting of the eyes,
'And where the Muse walks, lovers need to creep
'Turn round and love me, or I die of love.
With quiet indignation I broke in.
'You misconceive the question like a man,
Who sees a woman as the complement
Of his sex merely. You forget too much
That every creature, female as the male,
Stands single in responsible act and thought
As also in birth and death. Whoever says
To a loyal woman, 'Love and work with me,'
Will get fair answers, if the work and love
Being good themselves, are good for her–the best
She was born for. Women of a softer mood,
Surprised by men when scarcely awake to life,
Will sometimes only hear the first word, love,
And catch up with it any kind of work,
Indifferent, so that dear love go with it:
I do not blame such women, though, for love,
They pick much oakum; earth's fanatics make
Too frequently heaven's saints. But me, your work
Is not the best for,–nor your love the best,
Nor able to commend the kind of work
For love's sake merely. Ah, you force me, sir,
To be over-bold in speaking of myself,–
I, too, have my vocation,–work to do,
The heavens and earth have set me, since I changed
My father's face for theirs,–and though your world
Were twice as wretched as you represent
Most serious work, most necessary work,
As any of the economists'. Reform,
Make trade a Christian possibility,
And individual right no general wrong;
Wipe out earth's furrows of the Thine and Mine,
And leave one green, for men to play at bowls;
With innings for them all! . . what then, indeed,
If mortals were not greater by the head
Than any of their prosperities? what then,
Unless the artist keep up open roads
Betwixt the seen and unseen,–bursting through
The best of your conventions with his best
The unspeakable, imaginable best
God bids him speak, to prove what lies beyond
Both speech and imagination? A starved man
Exceeds a fat beast: we'll not barter, sir,
The beautiful for barley.–And, even so,
I hold you will not compass your poor ends
Of barley-feeding and material ease,
Without a poet's individualism
To work your universal. It takes a soul,
To move a body: it takes a high-souled man,
To move the masses . . even to a cleaner stye:
It takes the ideal, to blow a hair's breadth off
The dust of the actual.–ah, your Fouriers failed,
Because not poets enough to understand
That life develops from within.–For me,
Perhaps I am not worthy, as you say,
Of work like this! . . perhaps a woman's soul
Aspires, and not creates! yet we aspire,
And yet I'll try out your perhapses, sir;
And if I fail . . why, burn me up my straw
Like other false works–I'll not ask for grace,
Your scorn is better, cousin Romney. I
Who love my art, would never wish it lower
To suit my stature. I may love my art,
You'll grant that even a woman may love art,
Seeing that to waste true love on anything,
Is womanly, past question.'
The very last word which I said, that day,
As you the creaking of the door, years past,
Which let upon you such disabling news
You ever after have been graver. He,
His eyes, the motions in his silent mouth,
Were fiery points on which my words were caught,
Transfixed for ever in my memory
For his sake, not their own. And yet I know
I did not love him . . nor he me . . that's sure . .
And what I said, is unrepented of,
As truth is always. Yet . . a princely man!–
If hard to me, heroic for himself!
He bears down on me through the slanting years,
The stronger for the distance. If he had loved,
Ay, loved me, with that retributive face, . .
I might have been a common woman now,
And happier, less known and less left alone;
Perhaps a better woman after all,–
With chubby children hanging on my neck
To keep me low and wise. Ah me, the vines
That bear such fruit are proud to stoop with it.
The palm stands upright in a realm of sand.
And I, who spoke the truth then, stand upright,
Still worthy of having spoken out the truth,
By being content I spoke it, though it set
Him there, me here.–O woman's vile remorse,
To hanker after a mere name, a show,
A supposition, a potential love!
Does every man who names love in our lives,
Become a power for that? is love's true thing
So much best to us, that what personates love
Is next best? A potential love, forsooth!
We are not so vile. No, no–he cleaves, I think,
This man, this image, . . chiefly for the wrong
And shock he gave my life, in finding me
Precisely where the devil of my youth
Had set me, on those mountain-peaks of hope
All glittering with the dawn-dew, all erect
And famished for the morning,–saying, while
I looked for empire and much tribute, 'Come,
I have some worthy work for thee below.
Come, sweep my barns, and keep my hospitals,–
And I will pay thee with a current coin
Which men give women.'
As we spoke, the grass
Was trod in haste beside us, and my aunt,
With smile distorted by the sun,–face, voice,
As much at issue with the summer-day
As if you brought a candle out of doors,–
Broke in with, 'Romney, here!–My child, entreat
Your cousin to the house, and have your talk,
If girls must talk upon their birthdays. Come.'
He answered for me calmly, with pale lips
That seemed to motion for a smile in vain.
'The talk is ended, madam, where we stand.
Your brother's daughter has dismissed me here;
And all my answer can be better said
Beneath the trees, than wrong by such a word
Your house's hospitalities. Farewell.'
With that he vanished. I could hear his heel
Ring bluntly in the lane, as down he leapt
The short way, from us.–Then, a measured speech
Withdrew me. 'What means this, Aurora Leigh?
My brother's daughter has dismissed my guests?'
The lion in me felt the keeper's voice,
Through all its quivering dewlaps: I was quelled
Before her,–meekened to the child she knew:
I prayed her pardon, said, 'I had little thought
To give dismissal to a guest of hers,
In letting go a friend of mine, who came
To take me into service as a wife,–
No more than that, indeed.'
'No more, no more?
Pray heaven,' she answered, 'that I was not mad.
I could not mean to tell her to her face
That Romney Leigh had asked me for a wife,
And I refused him?'
'Did he ask?' I said;
'I think he rather stooped to take me up
For certain uses which he found to do
For something called a wife. He never asked.'
'What stuff!' she answered; 'are they queens, these girls?
They must have mantles, stitched with twenty silks,
Spread out upon the ground, before they'll step
One footstep for the noblest lover born.'
'But I am born,' I said with firmness, 'I,
To walk another way than his, dear aunt.'
'You walk, you walk! A babe at thirteen months
Will walk as well as you,' she cried in haste,
'Without a steadying finger. Why, you child,
God help you, you are groping in the dark,
For all this sunlight. You suppose, perhaps,
That you, sole offspring of an opulent man,
Are rich and free to choose a way to walk?
You think, and it's a reasonable thought,
That I besides, being well to do in life,
Will leave my handful in my niece's hand
When death shall paralyse these fingers? Pray,
Pray, child,–albeit I know you love me not,–
As if you loved me, that I may not die!
For when I die and leave you, out you go,
(Unless I make room for you in my grave)
Unhoused, unfed, my dear, poor brother's lamb,
(Ah heaven,–that pains!)–without a right to crop
A single blade of grass beneath these trees,
Or cast a lamb's small shadow on the lawn,
Unfed, unfolded! Ah, my brother, here's
The fruit you planted in your foreign loves!–
Ay, there's the fruit he planted! never look
Astonished at me with your mother's eyes,
For it was they, who set you where you are,
An undowered orphan. Child, your father's choice
Of that said mother, disinherited
His daughter, his and hers. Men do not think
Of sons and daughters, when they fall in love,
So much more than of sisters; otherwise,
He would have paused to ponder what he did,
And shrunk before that clause in the entail
Excluding offspring by a foreign wife
(The clause set up a hundred years ago
By a Leigh who wedded a French dancing-girl
And had his heart danced over in return)
But this man shrunk at nothing, never thought
Of you, Aurora, any more than me–
Your mother must have been a pretty thing,
For all the coarse Italian blacks and browns,
To make a good man, which my brother was,
Unchary of the duties to his house;
But so it fell indeed. Our cousin Vane,
Vane Leigh, the father of this Romney, wrote
Directly on your birth, to Italy,
'I ask your baby daughter for my son
In whom the entail now merges by the law.
Betroth her to us out of love, instead
Of colder reasons, and she shall not lose
By love or law from henceforth'–so he wrote;
A generous cousin, was my cousin Vane.
Remember how he drew you to his knee
The year you came here, just before he died,
And hollowed out his hands to hold your cheeks,
And wished them redder,–you remember Vane?
And now his son who represents our house
And holds the fiefs and manors in his place,
To whom reverts my pittance when I die,
(Except a few books and a pair of shawls)
The boy is generous like him, and prepared
To carry out his kindest word and thought
To you, Aurora. Yes, a fine young man
Is Romney Leigh; although the sun of youth
Has shone too straight upon his brain, I know,
And fevered him with dreams of doing good
To good-for-nothing people. But a wife
Will put all right, and stroke his temples cool
With healthy touches' . .
I broke in at that.
I could not lift my heavy heart to breathe
Till then, but then I raised it, and it fell
In broken words like these–'No need to wait.
The dream of doing good to . . me, at least,
Is ended, without waiting for a wife
To cool the fever for him. We've escaped
That danger . . thank Heaven for it.'
You,' she cried,
'Have got a fever. What, I talk and talk
An hour long to you,–I instruct you how
You cannot eat or drink or stand or sit
Or even die, like any decent wretch
In all this unroofed and unfurnished world,
Without your cousin,–and you still maintain
There's room 'twixt him and you, for flirting fans
And running knots in eyebrows! You must have
A pattern lover sighing on his knee:
You do not count enough a noble heart,
Above book-patterns, which this very morn
Unclosed itself, in two dear fathers' names,
To embrace your orphaned life! fie, fie! But stay
I write a word, and counteract this sin.'
She would have turned to leave me, but I clung.
'O sweet my father's sister, hear my word
Before you write yours. Cousin Vane did well,
And Romney well,–and I well too,
In casting back with all my strength and will
The good they meant me. O my God, my God!
God meant me good, too, when he hindered me
From saying 'yes' this morning. If you write
A word, it shall be 'no.' I say no, no!
I tie up 'no' upon His altar-horns
Quite out of reach of perjury! At least
My soul is not a pauper; I can live
At least my soul's life, without alms from men,
And if it must be in heaven instead of earth,
Let heaven look to it,–I am not afraid.'
She seized my hands with both hers, strained them fast
And drew her probing and unscrupulous eyes
Right through me, body and heart. 'Yet, foolish Sweet,
You love this man. I have watched you when he came
And when he went, and when we've talked of him:
I am not old for nothing; I can tell
The weather-signs of love–you love this man.'
Girls blush, sometimes, because they are alive,
Half wishing they were dead to save the shame.
The sudden blush devours them, neck and brow;
They have drawn too near the fire of life, like gnats,
And flare up bodily, wings and all. What then?
Who's sorry for a gnat . . or girl?
I feel the brand upon my forehead now
Strike hot, sear deep, as guiltless men may feel
The felon's iron, say, and scorn the mark
Of what they are not. Most illogical
Irrational nature of our womanhood,
That blushes one way, feels another way,
And prays, perhaps, another! After all,
We cannot be the equal of the male,
Who rules his blood a little.
I blushed indeed, as if I loved the man,
And her incisive smile, accrediting
That treason of false witness in my blush,
Did bow me downward like a swathe of grass
Below its level that struck me,–I attest
The conscious skies and all their daily suns,
I think I loved him not . . nor then, nor since . .
Nor ever. Do we love the schoolmaster,
Being busy in the woods? much less, being poor,
The overseer of the parish? Do we keep
Our love, to pay our debts with?
White and cold
I grew next moment. As my blood recoiled
From that imputed ignominy, I made
My heart great with it. Then, at last I spoke,–
Spoke veritable words, but passionate,
Too passionate perhaps . . ground up with sobs
To shapeless endings. She let fall my hands,
And took her smile off, in sedate disgust,
As peradventure she had touched a snake,–
A dead snake, mind!–and, turning round, replied
'We'll leave Italian manners, if you please.
I think you had an English father, child,
And ought to find it possible to speak
A quiet 'yes' or 'no,' like English girls,
Without convulsions. In another month
We'll take another answer . . no, or yes.'
With that she left me in the garden-walk.
I had a father! yes, but long ago–
How long it seemed that moment!–Oh, how far,
How far and safe, God, dost thou keep thy saints
When once gone from us! We may call against
The lighted windows of thy fair June-heaven
Where all the souls are happy,–and not one,
Not even my father, look from work or play
To ask, 'Who is it that cries after us,
Below there, in the dusk?' Yet formerly
He turned his face upon me quick enough,
If I said 'father.' Now I might cry loud;
The little lark reached higher with his song
Than I with crying. Oh, alone, alone,–
Not troubling any in heaven, nor any on earth,
I stood there in the garden, and looked up
The deaf blue sky that brings the roses out
On such June mornings.
You who keep account
Of crisis and transition in this life,
Set down the first time Nature says plain 'no'
To some 'yes' in you, and walks over you
In gorgeous sweeps of scorn. We all begin
By singing with the birds, and running fast
With June-days, hand in hand: but once, for all,
The birds must sing against us, and the sun
Strike down upon us like a friend's sword caught
By an enemy to slay us, while we read
The dear name on the blade which bites at us!–
That's bitter and convincing: after that
We seldom doubt that something in the large
Smooth order of creation, though no more
Than haply a man's footstep, has gone wrong.
Some tears fell down my cheeks, and then I smiled,
As those smile who have no face in the world
To smile back to them. I had lost a friend
In Romney Leigh; the thing was sure–a friend,
Who had looked at me most gently now and then,
And spoken of my favourite books . . 'our books' . .
With such a voice! Well, voice and look were now
More utterly shut out from me, I felt,
Than even my father's. Romney now was turned
To a benefactor, to a generous man,
Who had tied himself to marry . . me, instead
Of such a woman, with low timorous lids
He lifted with a sudden word one day,
And left, perhaps, for my sake.–Ah, self-tied
By a contract,–male Iphigenia, bound
At a fatal Aulis, for the winds to change,
(But loose him–they'll not change;) he well might seem
A little cold and dominant in love!
He had a right to be dogmatical,
This poor, good Romney. Love, to him, was made
A simple law-clause. If I married him,
I would not dare to call my soul my own,
Which so he had bought and paid for: every thought
And every heart-beat down there in the bill,–
Not one found honestly deductible
From any use that pleased him! He might cut
My body into coins to give away
Among his other paupers; change my sons,
While I stood dumb as Griseld, for black babes
Or piteous foundlings; might unquestioned set
My right hand teaching in the Ragged Schools,
My left hand washing in the Public Baths,
What time my angel of the Ideal stretched
Both his to me in vain! I could not claim
The poor right of a mouse in a trap, to squeal.
And take so much as pity, from myself.
Farewell, good Romney! if I loved you even,
I could but ill afford to let you be
So generous to me. Farewell, friend, since friend
Betwixt us two, forsooth, must be a word
So heavily overladen. And, since help
Must come to me from those who love me not,
Farewell, all helpers–I must help myself,
And am alone from henceforth.–Then I stooped,
And lifted the soiled garland from the ground,
And set it on my head as bitterly
As when the Spanish king did crown the bones
Of his dead love. So be it. I preserve
That crown still,–in the drawer there! 'twas the first;
The rest are like it;–those Olympian crowns,
We run for, till we lose sight of the sun
In the dust of the racing chariots!
Before the evening fell, I had a note
Which ran,–'Aurora, sweet Chaldean, you read
My meaning backward like your eastern books,
While I am from the west, dear. Read me now
A little plainer. Did you hate me quite
But yesterday? I loved you for my part;
I love you. If I spoke untenderly
This morning, my beloved, pardon it;
And comprehend me that I loved you so,
I set you on the level of my soul,
And overwashed you with the bitter brine
Of some habitual thoughts. Henceforth, my flower,
Be planted out of reach of any such,
And lean the side you please, with all your leaves!
Write woman's verses and dream woman's dreams;
But let me feel your perfume in my home,
To make my sabbath after working-days;
Bloom out your youth beside me,–be my wife.'
I wrote in answer–'We, Chaldeans, discern
Still farther than we read. I know your heart
And shut it like the holy book it is,
Reserved for mild-eyed saints to pore upon
Betwixt their prayers at vespers. Well, you're right,
I did not surely hate you yesterday;
And yet I do not love you enough to-day
To wed you, cousin Romney. Take this word,
And let it stop you as a generous man
From speaking farther. You may tease, indeed,
And blow about my feelings, or my leaves,–
And here's my aunt will help you with east winds,
And break a stalk, perhaps, tormenting me;
But certain flowers grow near as deep as trees,
And, cousin, you'll not move my root, not you,
With all your confluent storms. Then let me grow
Within my wayside hedge, and pass your way!
This flower has never as much to say to you
As the antique tomb which said to travellers, 'Pause,
'Siste, viator. Ending thus, I signed.
The next week passed in silence, so the next,
And several after: Romney did not come,
Nor my aunt chide me. I lived on and on,
As if my heart were kept beneath a glass,
And everybody stood, all eyes and ears,
To see and hear it tick. I could not sit,
Nor walk, nor take a book, nor lay it down,
Nor sew on steadily, nor drop a stitch
And a sigh with it, but I felt her looks
Still cleaving to me, like the sucking asp
To Cleopatra's breast, persistently
Through the intermittent pantings. Being observed,
When observation is not sympathy,
Is just being tortured. If she said a word,
A 'thank you,' or an 'if it please you, dear.'
She meant a commination, or, at best,
An exorcism against the devildom
Which plainly held me. So with all the house.
Susannah could not stand and twist my hair,
Without such glancing at the looking-glass
To see my face there, that she missed the plait:
And John,–I never sent my plate for soup,
Or did not send it, but the foolish John
Resolved the problem, 'twixt his napkined thumbs,
Of what was signified by taking soup
Or choosing mackerel. Neighbours, who dropped in
On morning visits, feeling a joint wrong,
Smiled admonition, sate uneasily,
And talked with measured, emphasised reserve,
Of parish news, like doctors to the sick,
When not called in,–as if, with leave to speak,
They might say something. Nay, the very dog
Would watch me from his sun-patch on the floor,
In alternation with the large black fly
Not yet in reach of snapping. So I lived.
A Roman died so: smeared with honey, teased
By insects, stared to torture by the noon:
And many patient souls 'neath English roofs
Have died like Romans. I, in looking back,
Wish only, now, I had borne the plague of all
With meeker spirits than were rife in Rome.
For, on the sixth week, the dead sea broke up,
Dashed suddenly through beneath the heel of Him
Who stands upon the sea and earth, and swears
Time shall be nevermore. The clock struck nine
That morning, too,–no lark was out of tune;
The hidden farms among the hills, breathed straight
Their smoke toward heaven; the lime-trees scarcely stirred
Beneath the blue weight of the cloudless sky,
Though still the July air came floating through
The woodbine at my window, in and out,
With touches of the out-door country-news
For a bending forehead. There I sate, and wished
That morning-truce of God would last till eve,
Or longer. 'Sleep,' I thought, 'late sleepers,–sleep,
And spare me yet the burden of your eyes.'
Then, suddenly, a single ghastly shriek
Tore upwards from the bottom of the house.
Like one who wakens in a grave and shrieks,
The still house seemed to shriek itself alive,
And shudder through its passages and stairs
With slam of doors and clash of bells.–I sprang,
I stood up in the middle of the room,
And there confronted at my chamber-door,
A white face,–shivering, ineffectual lips.
'Come, come,' they tried to utter, and I went;
As if a ghost had drawn me at the point
Of a fiery finger through the uneven dark,
I went with reeling footsteps down the stair.
Nor asked a question.
There she sate, my aunt,–
Bolt upright in the chair beside her bed,
Whose pillow had no dint! she had used no bed
For that night's sleeping . . yet slept well. My God
The dumb derision of that grey, peaked face
Concluded something grave against the sun,
Which filled the chamber with its July burst
When Susan drew the curtains, ignorant
Of who sate open-eyed behind her. There,
She sate . . it sate . . we said 'she' yesterday . .
And held a letter with unbroken seal,
As Susan gave it to her hand last night:
All night she had held it. If its news referred
To duchies or to dunghills, not an inch
She'd budge, 'twas obvious, for such worthless odds:
Nor, though the stars were suns, and overburned
Their spheric limitations, swallowing up
Like wax the azure spaces, could they force
Those open eyes to wink once. What last sight
Had left them blank and flat so,–drawing out
The faculty of vision from the roots,
As nothing more, worth seeing, remained behind?
Were those the eyes that watched me, worried me?
That dogged me up and down the hours and days,
A beaten, breathless, miserable soul?
And did I pray, a half hour back, but so,
To escape the burden of those eyes . . those eyes?
'Sleep late' I said.–
Why now, indeed, they sleep.
God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers,
And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face,
A gauntlet with a gift in't. Every wish
Is like a prayer . . With God.
I had my wish,–
To read and meditate the thing I would,
To fashion all my life upon my thought,
And marry, or not marry. Henceforth, none
Could disapprove me, vex me, hamper me.
Full ground-room, in this desert newly made,
For Babylon or Balbec,–when the breath,
Just choked with sand, returns, for building towns!
The heir came over on the funeral day,
And we two cousins met before the dead,
With two pale faces. Was it death or life
That moved us? When the will was read and done,
The official guest and witnesses withdrawn,
We rose up in a silence almost hard,
And looked at one another. Then I said,
'Farewell, my cousin.'
But he touched, just touched
My hatstrings tied for going, (at the door
The carriage stood to take me) and said low,
His voice a little unsteady through his smile,
'Is there time,' I asked,
'In these last days of railroads, to stop short
Like Cæsar's chariot (weighing half a ton)
On the Appian road for morals?'
'There is time,'
He answered grave, 'for necessary words,
Inclusive, trust me, of no epitaph
On man or act, my cousin. We have read
A will, which gives you all the personal goods
And funded monies of your aunt.'
Her memory for it. With three hundred pounds
We buy in England even, clear standing-room
To stand and work in. Only two hours since,
I fancied I was poor.'
'And cousin, still
You're richer than you fancy. The will says,
Three hundred pounds, and any other sum
Of which the said testatrix dies possessed.
I say she died possessed of other sums.'
'Dear Romney, need we chronicle the pence?
I'm richer than I thought–that's evident.
'Listen rather. You've to do
With business and a cousin,' he resumed,
'And both, I fear, need patience. Here's the fact.
The other sum (there is another sum,
Unspecified in any will which dates
After possession, yet bequeathed as much
And clearly as those said three hundred pounds)
Is thirty thousand. You will have it paid
When? . . where? My duty troubles you with words.'
He struck the iron when the bar was hot;
No wonder if my eyes sent out some sparks.
'Pause there! I thank you. You are delicate
In glosing gifts;–but I, who share your blood,
Am rather made for giving, like yourself,
Than taking, like your pensioners. Farewell.'
He stopped me with a gesture of calm pride.
'A Leigh,' he said, 'gives largesse and gives love,
But gloses neither: if a Leigh could glose,
He would not do it, moreover, to a Leigh,
With blood trained up along nine centuries
To hound and hate a lie, from eyes like yours.
And now we'll make the rest as clear; your aunt
Possessed these monies.'
'You'll make it clear,
My cousin, as the honour of us both,
Or one of us speaks vainly–that's not I.
My aunt possessed this sum,–inherited
From whom, and when? bring documents, prove dates.'
'Why now indeed you throw your bonnet off.
As if you had time left for a logarithm!
The faith's the want. Dear cousin, give me faith,
And you shall walk this road with silken shoes,
As clean as any lady of our house
Supposed the proudest. Oh, I comprehend
The whole position from your point of sight.
I oust you from your father's halls and lands,
And make you poor by getting rich–that's law;
Considering which, in common circumstance,
You would not scruple to accept from me
Some compensation, some sufficiency
Of income–that were justice; but, alas,
I love you . . that's mere nature!–you reject
My love . . that's nature also;–and at once,
You cannot, from a suitor disallowed,
A hand thrown back as mine is, into yours
Receive a doit, a farthing, . . not for the world!
That's etiquette with women, obviously
Exceeding claim of nature, law, and right,
Unanswerable to all. I grant, you see,
The case as you conceive it,–leave you room
To sweep your ample skirts of womanhood;
While, standing humbly squeezed against the wall,
I own myself excluded from being just,
Restrained from paying indubitable debts,
Because denied from giving you my soul–
That's my fortune!–I submit to it
As if, in some more reasonable age,
'Twould not be less inevitable. Enough.
You'll trust me, cousin, as a gentleman,
To keep your honour, as you count it, pure,–
Your scruples (just as if I thought them wise)
Safe and inviolate from gifts of mine.'
I answered mild but earnest. 'I believe
In no one's honour which another keeps,
Nor man's nor woman's. As I keep, myself,
My truth and my religion, I depute
No father, though I had one this side death,
Nor brother, though I had twenty, much less you,
Though twice my cousin, and once Romney Leigh,
To keep my honour pure. You face, today,
A man who wants instruction, mark me, not
A woman who wants protection. As to a man,
Show manhood, speak out plainly, be precise
With facts and dates. My aunt inherited
This sum, you say–'
'I said she died possessed
Of this, dear cousin.'
'Not by heritage.
Thank you: we're getting to the facts at last.
Perhaps she played at commerce with a ship
Which came in heavy with Australian gold?
Or touched a lottery with her finger-end,
Which tumbled on a sudden into her lap
Some old Rhine tower or principality?
Perhaps she had to do with a marine
Sub-transatlantic railroad, which pre-pays
As well as pre-supposes? or perhaps
Some stale ancestral debt was after-paid
By a hundred years, and took her by surprise?–
You shake your head my cousin; I guess ill.'
'You need not guess, Aurora, nor deride,
The truth is not afraid of hurting you.
You'll find no cause, in all your scruples, why
Your aunt should cavil at a deed of gift
'Twixt her and me.'
'I thought so–ah! a gift.'
'You naturally thought so,' he resumed.
'A very natural gift.'
'A gift, a gift!
Her individual life being stranded high
Above all want, approaching opulence,
Too haughty was she to accept a gift
Without some ultimate aim: ah, ah, I see,–
A gift intended plainly for her heirs,
And so accepted . . if accepted . . ah,
Indeed that might be; I am snared perhaps,
Just so. But, cousin, shall I pardon you,
If thus you have caught me with a cruel springe?'
He answered gently, 'Need you tremble and pant
Like a netted lioness? is't my fault, mine,
That you're a grand wild creature of the woods,
And hate the stall built for you? Any way,
Though triply netted, need you glare at me?
I do not hold the cords of such a net,
You're free from me, Aurora!'
'Now may God
Deliver me from this strait! This gift of yours
Was tendered . . when? accepted . . when?' I asked.
'A month . . a fortnight since? Six weeks ago
It was not tendered. By a word she dropped,
I know it was not tendered nor received.
When was it? bring your dates.'
'What matters when?
A half-hour ere she died, or a half-year,
Secured the gift, maintains the heritage
Inviolable with law. As easy pluck
The golden stars from heaven's embroidered stole,
To pin them on the grey side of this earth,
As make you poor again, thank God.'
Nor clean again from henceforth, you thank God?
Well, sir–I ask you . . I insist at need . .
Vouchsafe the special date, the special date.'
'The day before her death-day,' he replied,
'The gift was in her hands. We'll find that deed,
And certify that date to you.'
Who has climbed a mountain-height and carried up
His own heart climbing, panting in his throat
With the toil of the ascent, takes breath at last,
Looks back in triumph–so I stood and looked:
'Dear cousin Romney, we have reached the top
Of this steep question, and may rest, I think.
But first, I pray you pardon, that the shock
And surge of natural feeling and event
Had made me oblivious of acquainting you
That this, this letter . . unread, mark,–still sealed,
Was found enfolded in the poor dead hand:
That spirit of hers had gone beyond the address,
Which could not find her though you wrote it clear.–
I know your writing, Romney,–recognise
The open-hearted A, the liberal sweep
Of the G. Now listen,–let us understand;
You will not find that famous deed of gift,
Unless you find it in the letter here,
Which, not being mine, I give you back.–Refuse
To take the letter? well then–you and I,
As writer and as heiress, open it
Together, by your leave.–Exactly so:
The words in which the noble offering's made,
Are nobler still, my cousin; and, I own,
The proudest and most delicate heart alive,
Distracted from the measure of the gift
By such a grace in giving, might accept
Your largesse without thinking any more
Of the burthen of it, than King Solomon
Considered, when he wore his holy ring
Charactered over with the ineffable spell,
How many carats of fine gold made up
Its money-value. So, Leigh gives to Leigh–
Or rather, might have given, observe!–for that's
The point we come to. Here's a proof of gift,
But here's no proof, sir, of acceptancy,
But rather, disproof. Death's black dust, being blown,
Infiltrated through every secret fold
Of this sealed letter by a puff of fate,
Dried up for ever the fresh-written ink,
Annulled the gift, disutilised the grace,
And left these fragments.'
As I spoke, I tore
The paper up and down, and down and up
And crosswise, till it fluttered from my hands,
As forest-leaves, stripped suddenly and rapt
By a whirlwind on Valdarno, drop again,
Drop slow, and strew the melancholy ground
Before the amazed hills . . why, so, indeed,
I'm writing like a poet, somewhat large
In the type of the image,–and exaggerate
A small thing with a great thing, topping it!–
But then I'm thinking how his eyes looked . . his
With what despondent and surprised reproach!
I think the tears were in them as he looked–
I think the manly mouth just trembled. Then
He broke the silence.
'I may ask, perhaps,
Although no stranger . . only Romney Leigh,
Which means still less . . than Vincent Carrington . .
Your plans in going hence, and where you go.
This cannot be a secret.'
'All my life
Is open to you, cousin. I go hence
To London, to the gathering-place of souls,
To live mine straight out, vocally, in books;
Harmoniously for others, if indeed
A woman's soul, like man's, be wide enough
To carry the whole octave (that's to prove)
Or, if I fail, still, purely for myself.
Pray God be with me, Romney.'
'Ah, poor child,
Who fight against the mother's 'tiring hand,
And choose the headsman's! May God change his world
For your sake, sweet, and make it mild as heaven,
And juster than I have found you!'
But I paused.
'And you, my cousin?'–
'I,' he said,–'you ask?
You care to ask? Well, girls have curious minds,
And fain would know the end of everything,
Of cousins, therefore, with the rest.
For me, Aurora, I've my work; you know my work;
And having missed this year some personal hope,
I must beware the rather that I miss
No reasonable duty. While you sing
Your happy pastorals of the meads and trees,
Bethink you that I go to impress and prove
On stifled brains and deafened ears, stunned deaf,
Crushed dull with grief, that nature sings itself,
And needs no mediate poet, lute or voice,
To make it vocal. While you ask of men
Your audience, I may get their leave perhaps
For hungry orphans to say audibly
'We're hungry, see,'–for beaten and bullied wives
To hold their unweaned babies up in sight,
Whom orphanage would better; and for all
To speak and claim their portion . . by no means
Of the soil, . . but of the sweat in tilling it,–
Since this is now-a-days turned privilege,
To have only God's curse on us, and not man's
Such work I have for doing, elbow-deep
In social problems,–as you tie your rhymes,
To draw my uses to cohere with needs,
And bring the uneven world back to its round;
Or, failing so much, fill up, bridge at least
To smoother issues, some abysmal cracks
And feuds of earth, intestine heats have made
To keep men separate,–using sorry shifts
Of hospitals, almshouses, infant schools,
And other practical stuff of partial good,
You lovers of the beautiful and whole,
Despise by system.'
'I despise? The scorn
Is yours, my cousin. Poets become such,
Through scorning nothing. You decry them for
The good of beauty, sung and taught by them,
While they respect your practical partial good
As being a part of beauty's self. Adieu!
When God helps all the workers for his world,
The singers shall have help of Him, not last.'
He smiled as men smile when they will not speak
Because of something bitter in the thought;
And still I feel his melancholy eyes
Look judgment on me. It is seven years since:
I know not if 'twas pity or 'twas scorn
Has made them so far-reaching: judge it ye
Who have had to do with pity more than love,
And scorn than hatred. I am used, since then,
To other ways, from equal men. But so,
Even so, we let go hands, my cousin and I,
And, in between us, rushed the torrent-world
To blanch our faces like divided rocks,
And bar for ever mutual sight and touch
Except through swirl of spray and all that roar.
You are but millions. Our unnumbered nations
Are as the sands upon the sounding shore.
We are the Scythians! We are the slit-eyed Asians!
Try to wage war with us-you'll try no more!
You've had whole centuries. We-a single hour.
Like serfs obedient to their feudal lord,
We've held the shield between two hostile powers-
Old Europe and the barbarous Mongol horde.
Your ancient forge has hammered down the ages,
Drowning the distant avalanche's roar.
Messina, Lisbon-these, you thought, were pages
In some strange book of legendary lore.
Full centuries long you've watched our Eastern lands,
Fished for our pearls and bartered them for grain;
Made mockery of us, while you laid your plans
And oiled your cannon for the great campaign.
The hour has come. Doom wheels on beating wing.
Each day augments the old outrageous score.
Soon not a trace of dead nor living thing
Shall stand where once your Paestums flowered before.
O Ancient World, before your culture dies,
Whilst failing life within you breathes and sinks,
Pause and be wise, as Oedipus was wise,
And solve the age-old riddle of the Sphinx.
That Sphinx is Russia. Grieving and exulting,
And weeping black and bloody tears enough,
She stares at you, adoring and insulting,
With love that turns to hate, and hate-to love.
Yes, love! For you of Western lands and birth
No longer know the love our blood enjoys.
You have forgoten there's a love on Earth
That burns like fire and, like all fire, destroys.
We love cold Science passionately pursued;
The visionary fire of inspiration;
The salt of Gallic wit, so subtly shrewd,
And the grim genius of th German nation.
We know the hell of a Parisian street,
And Venice, cool in water and in stone;
The scent of lemons in the southern heat;
The fuming piles of soot-begrimed Cologne.
We love raw flesh, its color and its stench.
We love to taste it in our hungry maws.
Are we to blame then, if your ribs should crunch,
Fragile between our massive, gentle paws?
We know just how to play the cruel game
Of breaking in the most rebellious steeds;
And stubborn captive maids we also tame
And subjugate, to gratify our needs…
Come join us, then! Leave war and war's alarms,
And grasp the hand of peace and amity.
While still there's time, Comrades, lay down your arms!
Let us unite in true fraternity!
But if you spurn us, then we shall not mourn.
We too can reckon perfidy no crime,
And countless generations yet unborn
Shall curse your memory till the end of time.
We shall abandon Europe and her charm.
We shall resort to Scythian craft and guile.
Swift to the woods and forests we shall swarm,
And then look back, and smile our slit-eyed smile.
Away to the Urals, all! Quick, leave the land,
And clear the field for trial by blood and sword,
Where steel machines that have no soul must stand
And face the fury of the Mongol horde.
But we ourselves, henceforth, we shall not serve
As henchmen holding up the trusty shield.
We'll keep our distance and, slit-eyed, observe
The deadly conflict raging on the field.
We shall not stir, even though the frenzied Huns
Plunder the corpses of the slain in battle, drive
Their cattle into shrines, burn cities down,
And roast their white-skinned fellow men alive.
O ancient World, arise! For the last time
We call you to the ritual feast and fire
Of peace and brotherhood! For the last time
O hear the summons of the barbarian lyre!
When Orpheus Sweetly Did Complayne
When Orpheus sweetly did complayne
Upon his lute with heavy strayne
How his Euridice was slayne,
The trees to heare
Obtayn'd an eare,
And after left it off againe.
At every stroake and every stay
The boughs kept time, and nodding lay,
And listened bending all one way:
The aspen tree
As well as hee
Began to shake and learn'd to play.
If wood could speake, a tree might heare,
If wood could sound true greife so neare
A tree might dropp an amber teare:
If wood so well
Could ring a knell
The Cipres might condole the beare.
The standing nobles of the grove
Hearing dead wood so speak and move
The fatall axe beganne to love:
They envyde death
That gave such breath
As men alive doe saints above
My Louis loved me oh so well
And spiered me for his wife;
He would have haled me from the hell
That was my bawdy life:
The mother of his bairns to be,
Daftlike he saw in me.
But I, a hizzie of the town
Just telt him we must part;
Loving too well to drag him down
I tore him from my heart:
To save the honour of his name
I went back to my shame.
They say he soared to starry fame,
Romance flowed from his pen;
A prince of poets he became,
Pride of his fellow men:
My breast was pillow for his head,
Yet naught of his I've read.
Smoking my cutty pipe the while,
In howths of Leith I lag;
* My Louis lies in South Sea isle
As I a sodden hag
Live on . . . Oh Love, by men enskied
The day you went--I died.
Tell The Truth
(by eric clapton and bobby whitlock)
Tell the truth. tell me whos been fooling you?
Tell the truth. whos been fooling who?
There you sit there, looking so cool
While the whole show is passing you by.
You better come to terms with your fellow men soon, cause...
The whole world is shaking now. cant you feel it?
A new dawn is breaking now. cant you see it?
Tell the truth. tell me whos been fooling you
Tell the truth. whos been fooling who?
It doesnt matter just who you are,
Or where youre going or been.
Open your eyes and look into your heart.
The whole world is shaking now. cant you feel it?
A new dawn is breaking now. cant you see it?
I said see it, yeah, cant you see it?
Cant you see it, yeah, cant you see it?
I can see it, yeah.
Tell the truth. tell me whos been fooling you
Tell the truth. whos been fooling who?
Hear what I say, cause every word is true.
You know I wouldnt tell you no lies.
Your times coming, gonna be soon, boy.
To sepulcher my mouldy bones
I bough a pile of noble stones,
And half a year a sculptor spent
To hew my marble monument,
The stateliest to rear its head
In all this city of the dead.
And generations passing through
Will gape, and ask: What did he do
To earn this tomb so rich and rare,
In Attic grace beyond compare?
How was his life in honour spent,
To worthy this proud monument?
What did I do" Well, nothing much.
'Tis true I had the Midas touch.
A million pounds I made wherewith
To glorify the name: John Smith;
Yet not a soul wept for me when
Death raft me from my fellow men.
My sculptor wins undying fame,
While I, who paid, am just a name.
A wooden cross surveys my bones,
With on it stenciled: Peter Jones.
And round it are five hundred more;
(A proper job did old man War!)
So young they were, so fresh, so fit,
So hopeful - that's the hell of it.
The old are sapped and ripe to die,
But in the flush of Spring was I.
I might have fathered children ten,
To come to grips with sterling men;
And now a cross in weeds to rot,
Is all to show how fierce I fought.
The old default, the young must pay;
My life was wasted, thrown away.
While people gladden, to forget
The bitterness of vein regret,
With not a soul to morn for me
My skull grins up in mockery.
. . . Pale crosses greet the grieving stars,
And always will be - War and Wars.
Dead to the World
I am dead to the world
What I mean to say is i die each day
What I mean to say is i am only clay
As a sun blackened by burning smoke begins to set on the horizon
A laugh at our existence
A laugh at subsistence
For the sun will rise when we are all dead
The sun will rise when mankind is dust
The sun will look out over a volcanic ocean and wonder
'where did you all go? I was just getting warmed up'
I am man. But I am dead to the world. Aren't you?
Willows bow their heads in prayer
As the Sun sets on the horizon
And the bikinied blond frolics in the waves as if nothing matters
And we are all dead to the world
As quick as a wink we will be gone
How fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev'n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasures bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shrivl'd heart
Could have recover'd greenness? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickning, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an hour;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell.
We say amiss,
This or that is:
Thy word is all, if we could spell.
O that I once past changing were,
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Off'ring at heav'n, growing and groaning thither:
Nor doth my flower
Want a spring-shower,
My sins and I joining together:
But while I grow in a straight line,
Still upwards bent, as if heav'n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone,
Where all things burn,
When thou dost turn,
And the least frown of thine is shown?
And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my only light,
It cannot be
That I am her
On whom thy tempests fell all night.
These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.
In my heart, my love fades
To the small corners of dark color spades
I see it fester in its pointed edge
And to its death I solemnly pledge
"Kill my love, kill my heart"
then I smash the spade, till its love falls apart
Now all that's there, is sable ink
And into its fluid my hand does sink
I write with it all love's gain
And all we seek all in vain.
Love is not defined by anything
But a broken heart that cannot sing
In morbid ink, my soul I dress
And to love, my love I confess
My love of love, a dark spade
That kills my heart, the spade it made
Beautiful night, how the stars, they so clearly shine
And the joyful moon how it mirrors back my smile
Oh, beautiful night, you're good to a heart like mine
Oh, beautiful night, you've made this long road worthwhile
Beautiful night, glow of the city behind me
Smile, I, with my heart at peace and my mind at ease
Oh, beautiful night, tranquility sets me free
Oh, beautiful night, I dream of moments like these
Beautiful night and all seems so right with the world
Questions come later; decisions, future doth hold
Oh, beautiful night, for now I watch the sky twirl
Oh, beautiful night, I wait for light to behold
Yet, in the stillness of evening I dream these dreams
That the beauty of this night is all that it seems
Sleeping In Flames
Even the mirror
Sleeps in flames
When you’re awake.
Tousle your hair
On each of your
In a height that howls
What do you see in the mirror?
I watched you,
As you marvel at yourself
All over your vicinity.
Inside the mirror as
You were standing in front of it.
Eating her own tail.
A picture of
Winter as you
From the porch.
A classic warfare
Sometimes I see
The Sun breaking
Into one of your
But your vision
As the mirror
Into the mirror’s world
I see moments
Of a woman
Setting a man
And then laughs
Shrills and heaves a little
And then goes back
To the rifles.
It’s like seeing death,
By the flames.
Going over to susans house, walking south down baxter street
-nothing hiding behind this picket fence
Theres a crazy old woman smashing bottles on the sidewalk
Where her house burnt down two years ago
People say that back then she really wasnt that crazy
Going over to susans house
Going over to susans house
Shes gonna make it right
Down by the donut prince a fifteen year old boy lies on the sidewalk
With a bullet in his forehead
In a final act of indignity the paramedics take off all his clothes
For the whole world to see while they put him in the bag
Meanwhile and old couple argues inside the queen bee
The sick fluorescent light shimmering on their skin
Going over to susans house
Going over to susans house
I cant be alone tonight
Take a left down echo park, a kid asks do I want some crack
T.v. sets are spewing baywatch through the windows into black
Here comes a girl with long brown hair who cant be more than seventeen
She sucks on a red popsicle while she pushes a baby girl in a pink carriage
And Im thinking that must be her sister
That must be her sister, right?
They go into the 7-11 and I keep walking
Going over to susans house (repeat)
Lifes been so good to me
Has it been good to you
Has it been everything
That you expected it to be
Was it as good for you
As it was good for me
And was it everything
That it was all set up to be
(now is that gratitude)
Now is that gratitude
Or is it really love
Some kind of reality
That fits just like a glove
Now is that gratitude
For everything Ive done
Or is it something else
Thats got me on the run
In the middle of a big tornado
On the tip of everyones tongue
In the belly of a giant whale
All the girls just wanna have fun
In the look of a frightened neighbor
In a big warm bed at night
In a broken elevator
In the teeth of a dog that bites
In the middle of a revolution
In the look of a childs face
In the silence of the dinner table
In the stillness of disgrace
(I used to eat little girls I knew
I used to fly high up in the sky
I used to chew up rocks and
Spit out gravel
I had a heart as cold as ice)
But when I think of you
And what youve done to me
You took away my hope
You took away my fantasy
I once had lots of pride
The world was in my hands
I lived way at the top
Of castles made of sand
Ooh . . .
I dream of you sometimes
Ooh . . .
I dream of you sometimes
In the middle of a big tornado . . .
Lifes been so good to me . . .
Im Catchin Hell
Written by chuck jackson and marvin yancy
Tonight, i, I just want to talk to the ladies, oh fellows your cool but girls
If youve got a good man, youd better keep him,
Oh I know youre saying right now, what does she know
Who is she to tell me about my situation, well, I dont know your situation
But whatever it is, you should try to stay together
You know that big argument that you had the other night, remember
Well, today its not nothing, just dont let him leave you honey
Cause then youll find out that it wasnt those real big things you loved about him
It was the real small things, go on and laugh but its true
You know, things that youve seen a thousand times around the house
But never paid any attention to, like helping with the groceries
And helping in the yard and painting and repairing and huh, paying the bills
But you know now, all I have is memories and regrets
I could have given our love a chance to grow but no
I had to challenge it and be heard (oh), let me tell you something
That female liberation stuff, I dont know, sometimes I dont think its worth it
And Im really feeling, feeling kind of bad yaul, Im catching hell living here alone
Hmm, I never realized, oh lord, that you mean so much to me
Im catching hell living here alone, I want you to come back baby
Come back cause heres where you belong, oh yeah
If I could replay, if I could replay that whole scene again, oh well
You know that I would never, never say it again, that our love, our love is at its end
And oh, you know that I would kind of ease on back, yes I would
And let confusion pass on by, I took moves well, oh yeah
Without one good reason why, Im catching hell, catching hell
Lord Im living, living, living here alone, alone, lone, I didnt believe it could be
You know all the pressure on me, all the time, oh, Im catching hell, well, well
Living here alone, lone, lone, lone, lone, lone, lone, to tell you the truth
To tell you the truth Im going out of my mind---, yeah, oh do you hear me tonight
I dont have too (this is my story) much more to say except
Somebody (hey, this is my song) told me that if youve got something
Thats good to you and you dont use it (sad, sad) you might lose it (sad, song)
(song, so sad) so girls hold on to your good thing (oh), (you gotta hold on a little bit now)
And dont let go, oh---do you hear me tonight, its so sad living alone
Living alone (hmm), hold on to your good thing, hold on, (well, well) oh yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah---oh, oh, oh, lordy, lordy do you know what its like
Catching hell, (somebody turn up the microphone, oh---), oh, no, no, no, no, no, no
Peter Bell, A Tale
There's something in a flying horse,
There's something in a huge balloon;
But through the clouds I'll never float
Until I have a little Boat,
Shaped like the crescent-moon.
And now I 'have' a little Boat,
In shape a very crescent-moon
Fast through the clouds my boat can sail;
But if perchance your faith should fail,
Look up--and you shall see me soon!
The woods, my Friends, are round you roaring,
Rocking and roaring like a sea;
The noise of danger's in your ears,
And ye have all a thousand fears
Both for my little Boat and me!
Meanwhile untroubled I admire
The pointed horns of my canoe;
And, did not pity touch my breast,
To see how ye are all distrest,
Till my ribs ached, I'd laugh at you!
Away we go, my Boat and I--
Frail man ne'er sate in such another;
Whether among the winds we strive,
Or deep into the clouds we dive,
Each is contented with the other.
Away we go--and what care we
For treasons, tumults, and for wars?
We are as calm in our delight
As is the crescent-moon so bright
Among the scattered stars.
Up goes my Boat among the stars
Through many a breathless field of light,
Through many a long blue field of ether,
Leaving ten thousand stars beneath her:
Up goes my little Boat so bright!
The Crab, the Scorpion, and the Bull--
We pry among them all; have shot
High o'er the red-haired race of Mars,
Covered from top to toe with scars;
Such company I like it not!
The towns in Saturn are decayed,
And melancholy Spectres throng them;--
The Pleiads, that appear to kiss
Each other in the vast abyss,
With joy I sail among them.
Swift Mercury resounds with mirth,
Great Jove is full of stately bowers;
But these, and all that they contain,
What are they to that tiny grain,
That little Earth of ours?
Then back to Earth, the dear green Earth:--
Whole ages if I here should roam,
The world for my remarks and me
Would not a whit the better be;
I've left my heart at home.
See! there she is, the matchless Earth!
There spreads the famed Pacific Ocean!
Old Andes thrusts yon craggy spear
Through the grey clouds; the Alps are here,
Like waters in commotion!
Yon tawny slip is Libya's sands;
That silver thread the river Dnieper!
And look, where clothed in brightest green
Is a sweet Isle, of isles the Queen;
Ye fairies, from all evil keep her!
And see the town where I was born!
Around those happy fields we span
In boyish gambols;--I was lost
Where I have been, but on this coast
I feel I am a man.
Never did fifty things at once
Appear so lovely, never, never;--
How tunefully the forests ring!
To hear the earth's soft murmuring
Thus could I hang for ever!
"Shame on you!" cried my little Boat,
"Was ever such a homesick Loon,
Within a living Boat to sit,
And make no better use of it;
A Boat twin-sister of the crescent-moon!
"Ne'er in the breast of full-grown Poet
Fluttered so faint a heart before;--
Was it the music of the spheres
That overpowered your mortal ears?
--Such din shall trouble them no more.
"These nether precincts do not lack
Charms of their own;--then come with me;
I want a comrade, and for you
There's nothing that I would not do;
Nought is there that you shall not see.
"Haste! and above Siberian snows
We'll sport amid the boreal morning;
Will mingle with her lustres gliding
Among the stars, the stars now hiding,
And now the stars adorning.
"I know the secrets of a land
Where human foot did never stray;
Fair is that land as evening skies,
And cool, though in the depth it lies
Of burning Africa. 0
"Or we'll into the realm of Faery,
Among the lovely shades of things;
The shadowy forms of mountains bare,
And streams, and bowers, and ladies fair,
The shades of palaces and kings!
"Or, if you thirst with hardy zeal
Less quiet regions to explore,
Prompt voyage shall to you reveal
How earth and heaven are taught to feel
The might of magic lore!"
"My little vagrant Form of light,
My gay and beautiful Canoe,
Well have you played your friendly part;
As kindly take what from my heart
Experience forces--then adieu!
"Temptation lurks among your words;
But, while these pleasures you're pursuing
Without impediment or let,
No wonder if you quite forget
What on the earth is doing.
"There was a time when all mankind
Did listen with a faith sincere
To tuneful tongues in mystery versed;
'Then' Poets fearlessly rehearsed
The wonders of a wild career.
"Go--(but the world's a sleepy world,
And 'tis, I fear, an age too late)
Take with you some ambitious Youth!
For, restless Wanderer! I, in truth,
Am all unfit to be your mate.
"Long have I loved what I behold,
The night that calms, the day that cheers;
The common growth of mother-earth
Suffices me--her tears, her mirth,
Her humblest mirth and tears.
"The dragon's wing, the magic ring,
I shall not covet for my dower,
If I along that lowly way
With sympathetic heart may stray,
And with a soul of power.
"These given, what more need I desire
To stir, to soothe, or elevate?
What nobler marvels than the mind
May in life's daily prospect find,
May find or there create?
"A potent wand doth Sorrow wield;
What spell so strong as guilty Fear!
Repentance is a tender Sprite;
If aught on earth have heavenly might,
'Tis lodged within her silent tear.
"But grant my wishes,--let us now
Descend from this ethereal height;
Then take thy way, adventurous Skiff,
More daring far than Hippogriff,
And be thy own delight!
"To the stone-table in my garden,
Loved haunt of many a summer hour,
The Squire is come: his daughter Bess
Beside him in the cool recess
Sits blooming like a flower.
"With these are many more convened;
They know not I have been so far;--
I see them there, in number nine,
Beneath the spreading Weymouth-pine!
I see them--there they are!
"There sits the Vicar and his Dame;
And there my good friend, Stephen Otter;
And, ere the light of evening fail,
To them I must relate the Tale
Of Peter Bell the Potter."
Off flew the Boat--away she flees,
Spurning her freight with indignation!
And I, as well as I was able,
On two poor legs, toward my stone-table
Limped on with sore vexation.
"O, here he is!" cried little Bess--
She saw me at the garden-door;
"We've waited anxiously and long,"
They cried, and all around me throng,
Full nine of them or more!
"Reproach me not--your fears be still--
Be thankful we again have met;--
Resume, my Friends! within the shade
Your seats, and quickly shall be paid
The well-remembered debt."
I spake with faltering voice, like one
Not wholly rescued from the pale
Of a wild dream, or worse illusion;
But, straight, to cover my confusion,
Began the promised Tale.
ALL by the moonlight river side
Groaned the poor Beast--alas! in vain;
The staff was raised to loftier height,
And the blows fell with heavier weight
As Peter struck--and struck again.
"Hold!" cried the Squire, "against the rules
Of common sense you're surely sinning;
This leap is for us all too bold;
Who Peter was, let that be told,
And start from the beginning." 0
----"A Potter, Sir, he was by trade,"
Said I, becoming quite collected;
"And wheresoever he appeared,
Full twenty times was Peter feared
For once that Peter was respected.
"He, two-and-thirty years or more,
Had been a wild and woodland rover;
Had heard the Atlantic surges roar
On farthest Cornwall's rocky shore,
And trod the cliffs of Dover.
"And he had seen Caernarvon's towers,
And well he knew the spire of Sarum;
And he had been where Lincoln bell
Flings o'er the fen that ponderous knell--
A far-renowned alarum!
"At Doncaster, at York, and Leeds,
And merry Carlisle had be been;
And all along the Lowlands fair,
All through the bonny shire of Ayr
And far as Aberdeen.
"And he had been at Inverness;
And Peter, by the mountain-rills,
Had danced his round with Highland lasses;
And he had lain beside his asses
On lofty Cheviot Hills:
"And he had trudged through Yorkshire dales,
Among the rocks and winding 'scars',
Where deep and low the hamlets lie
Beneath their little patch of sky
And little lot of stars:
"And all along the indented coast,
Bespattered with the salt-sea foam;
Where'er a knot of houses lay
On headland, or in hollow bay;--
Sure never man like him did roam!
"As well might Peter, in the Fleet,
Have been fast bound, a begging debtor;--
He travelled here, he travelled there,--
But not the value of a hair
Was heart or head the better.
"He roved among the vales and streams,
In the green wood and hollow dell;
They were his dwellings night and day,--
But nature ne'er could find the way
Into the heart of Peter Bell.
"In vain, through every changeful year,
Did Nature lead him as before;
A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.
"Small change it made on Peter's heart
To see his gentle panniered train
With more than vernal pleasure feeding,
Where'er the tender grass was leading
Its earliest green along the lane.
"In vain, through water, earth, and air,
The soul of happy sound was spread,
When Peter on some April morn,
Beneath the broom or budding thorn,
Made the warm earth his lazy bed.
"At noon, when, by the forest's edge
He lay beneath the branches high,
The soft blue shy did never melt
Into his heart; he never felt
The witchery of the soft blue sky!
"On a fair prospect some have looked
And felt, as I have heard them say,
As if the moving time had been
A thing as steadfast as the scene
On which they gazed themselves away.
"Within the breast of Peter Bell
These silent raptures found no place;
He was a Carl as wild and rude
As ever hue-and-cry pursued,
As ever ran a felon's race.
"Of all that lead a lawless life,
Of all that love their lawless lives,
In city or in village small,
He was the wildest far of all;--
He had a dozen wedded wives.
"Nay, start not!--wedded wives--and twelve!
But how one wife could e'er come near him,
In simple truth I cannot tell;
For, be it said of Peter Bell
To see him was to fear him.
"Though Nature could not touch his heart
By lovely forms, and silent weather,
And tender sounds, yet you might see
At once, that Peter Bell and she
Had often been together.
"A savage wildness round him hung
As of a dweller out of doors;
In his whole figure and his mien
A savage character was seen
Of mountains and of dreary moors.
"To all the unshaped half-human thoughts
Which solitary Nature feeds
'Mid summer storms or winter's ice,
Had Peter joined whatever vice
The cruel city breeds. 0
"His face was keen as is the wind
That cuts along the hawthorn-fence;--
Of courage you saw little there,
But, in its stead, a medley air
Of cunning and of impudence.
"He had a dark and sidelong walk,
And long and slouching was his gait;
Beneath his looks so bare and bold,
You might perceive, his spirit cold
Was playing with some inward bait.
"His forehead wrinkled was and furred;
A work, one half of which was done
By thinking of his 'whens' and 'hows;'
And half, by knitting of his brows
Beneath the glaring sun.
"There was a hardness in his cheek,
There was a hardness in his eye,
As if the man had fixed his face,
In many a solitary place,
Against the wind and open sky!"
ONE NIGHT, (and now my little Bess!
We've reached at last the promised Tale:)
One beautiful November night,
When the full moon was shining bright
Upon the rapid river Swale,
Along the river's winding banks
Peter was travelling all alone;--
Whether to buy or sell, or led
By pleasure running in his head,
To me was never known.
He trudged along through copse and brake,
He trudged along o'er hill and dale;
Nor for the moon cared he a tittle,
And for the stars he cared as little,
And for the murmuring river Swale.
But, chancing to espy a path
That promised to cut short the way
As many a wiser man hath done,
He left a trusty guide for one
That might his steps betray.
To a thick wood he soon is brought
Where cheerily his course he weaves,
And whistling loud may yet be heard,
Though often buried, like a bird
Darkling, among the boughs and leaves.
But quickly Peter's mood is changed,
And on he drives with cheeks that burn
In downright fury and in wrath;--
There's little sign the treacherous path
Will to the road return!
The path grows dim, and dimmer still;
Now up, now down, the Rover wends,
With all the sail that he can carry,
Till brought to a deserted quarry--
And there the pathway ends.
He paused--for shadows of strange shape,
Massy and black, before him lay;
But through the dark, and through the cold,
And through the yawning fissures old,
Did Peter boldly press his way
Right through the quarry;--and behold
A scene of soft and lovely hue!
Where blue and grey, and tender green,
Together make as sweet a scene
As ever human eye did view.
Beneath the clear blue sky he saw
A little field of meadow ground;
But field or meadow name it not;
Call it of earth a small green plot,
With rocks encompassed round,
The Swale flowed under the grey rocks,
But he flowed quiet and unseen;--
You need a strong and stormy gale
To bring the noises of the Swale
To that green spot, so calm and green!
And is there no one dwelling here,
No hermit with his beads and glass?
And does no little cottage look
Upon this soft and fertile nook?
Does no one live near this green grass?
Across the deep and quiet spot
Is Peter driving through the grass--
And now has reached the skirting trees;
When, turning round his head, he sees
A solitary Ass.
"A Prize!" cries Peter--but he first
Must spy about him far and near:
There's not a single house in sight,
No woodman's hut, no cottage light--
Peter, you need not fear!
There's nothing to be seen but woods,
And rocks that spread a hoary gleam,
And this one Beast, that from the bed
Of the green meadow hangs his head
Over the silent stream.
His head is with a halter bound;
The halter seizing, Peter leapt
Upon the Creature's back, and plied
With ready heels his shaggy side;
But still the Ass his station kept. 0
Then Peter gave a sudden jerk,
A jerk that from a dungeon-floor
Would have pulled up an iron ring;
But still the heavy-headed Thing
Stood just as he had stood before!
Quoth Peter, leaping from his seat,
"There is some plot against me laid;"
Once more the little meadow-ground
And all the hoary cliffs around
He cautiously surveyed,
All, all is silent--rocks and woods,
All still and silent--far and near!
Only the Ass, with motion dull,
Upon the pivot of his skull
Turns round his long left ear.
Thought Peter, What can mean all this?
Some ugly witchcraft must be here!
--Once more the Ass, with motion dull,
Upon the pivot of his skull
Turned round his long left ear.
Suspicion ripened into dread;
Yet with deliberate action slow,
His staff high-raising, in the pride
Of skill, upon the sounding hide,
He dealt a sturdy blow.
The poor Ass staggered with the shock;
And then, as if to take his ease,
In quiet uncomplaining mood,
Upon the spot where he had stood,
Dropped gently down upon his knees:
As gently on his side he fell;
And by the river's brink did lie;
And, while he lay like one that mourned,
The patient Beast on Peter turned
His shining hazel eye.
'Twas but one mild, reproachful look,
A look more tender than severe;
And straight in sorrow, not in dread,
He turned the eye-ball in his head
Towards the smooth river deep and clear.
Upon the Beast the sapling rings;
His lank sides heaved, his limbs they stirred;
He gave a groan, and then another,
Of that which went before the brother,
And then he gave a third.
All by the moonlight river side
He gave three miserable groans;
And not till now hath Peter seen
How gaunt the Creature is,--how lean
And sharp his staring bones!
With legs stretched out and stiff he lay:--
No word of kind commiseration
Fell at the sight from Peter's tongue;
With hard contempt his heart was wrung,
With hatred and vexation.
The meagre beast lay still as death;
And Peter's lips with fury quiver;
Quoth he, "You little mulish dog,
I'll fling your carcase like a log
Head-foremost down the river!"
An impious oath confirmed the threat--
Whereat from the earth on which he lay
To all the echoes, south and north,
And east and west, the Ass sent forth
A long and clamorous bray!
This outcry, on the heart of Peter,
Seems like a note of joy to strike,--
Joy at the heart of Peter knocks;
But in the echo of the rocks
Was something Peter did not like.
Whether to cheer his coward breast,
Or that he could not break the chain,
In this serene and solemn hour,
Twined round him by demoniac power,
To the blind work he turned again.
Among the rocks and winding crags;
Among the mountains far away;
Once more the ass did lengthen out
More ruefully a deep-drawn shout,
The hard dry see-saw of his horrible bray!
What is there now in Peter's heart!
Or whence the might of this strange sound?
The moon uneasy looked and dimmer,
The broad blue heavens appeared to glimmer,
And the rocks staggered all around--
From Peter's hand the sapling dropped!
Threat has he none to execute;
"If any one should come and see
That I am here, they'll think," quoth he,
"I'm helping this poor dying brute."
He scans the Ass from limb to limb,
And ventures now to uplift his eyes;
More steady looks the moon, and clear
More like themselves the rocks appear
And touch more quiet skies.
His scorn returns--his hate revives;
He stoops the Ass's neck to seize
With malice--that again takes flight;
For in the pool a startling sight
Meets him, among the inverted trees. 0
Is it the moon's distorted face?
The ghost-like image of a cloud?
Is it a gallows there portrayed?
Is Peter of himself afraid?
Is it a coffin,--or a shroud?
A grisly idol hewn in stone?
Or imp from witch's lap let fall?
Perhaps a ring of shining fairies?
Such as pursue their feared vagaries
In sylvan bower, or haunted hall?
Is it a fiend that to a stake
Of fire his desperate self is tethering?
Or stubborn spirit doomed to yell
In solitary ward or cell,
Ten thousand miles from all his brethren?
Never did pulse so quickly throb,
And never heart so loudly panted;
He looks, he cannot choose but look;
Like some one reading in a book--
A book that is enchanted.
Ah, well-a-day for Peter Bell!
He will be turned to iron soon,
Meet Statue for the court of Fear!
His hat is up--and every hair
Bristles, and whitens in the moon!
He looks, he ponders, looks again;
He sees a motion--hears a groan;
His eyes will burst--his heart will break--
He gives a loud and frightful shriek,
And back he falls, as if his life were flown!
WE left our Hero in a trance,
Beneath the alders, near the river;
The Ass is by the river-side,
And, where the feeble breezes glide,
Upon the stream the moonbeams quiver.
A happy respite! but at length
He feels the glimmering of the moon;
Wakes with glazed eve. and feebly signing--
To sink, perhaps, where he is lying,
Into a second swoon!
He lifts his head, he sees his staff;
He touches--'tis to him a treasure!
Faint recollection seems to tell
That he is yet where mortals dwell--
A thought received with languid pleasure!
His head upon his elbow propped,
Becoming less and less perplexed,
Sky-ward he looks--to rock and wood--
And then--upon the glassy flood
His wandering eye is fixed.
Thought he, that is the face of one
In his last sleep securely bound!
So toward the stream his head he bent,
And downward thrust his staff, intent
The river's depth to sound.
'Now'--like a tempest-shattered bark,
That overwhelmed and prostrate lies,
And in a moment to the verge
Is lifted of a foaming surge--
Full suddenly the Ass doth rise!
His staring bones all shake with joy,
And close by Peter's side he stands:
While Peter o'er the river bends,
The little Ass his neck extends,
And fondly licks his hands.
Such life is in the Ass's eyes,
Such life is in his limbs and ears;
That Peter Bell, if he had been
The veriest coward ever seen,
Must now have thrown aside his fears.
The Ass looks on--and to his work
Is Peter quietly resigned;
He touches here--he touches there--
And now among the dead man's hair
His sapling Peter has entwined.
He pulls--and looks--and pulls again;
And he whom the poor Ass had lost,
The man who had been four days dead,
Head-foremost from the river's bed
Uprises like a ghost!
And Peter draws him to dry land;
And through the brain of Peter pass
Some poignant twitches, fast and faster,
"No doubt," quoth he, "he is the Master
Of this poor miserable Ass!"
The meagre Shadow that looks on--
What would he now? what is he doing?
His sudden fit of joy is flown,--
He on his knees hath laid him down,
As if he were his grief renewing;
But no--that Peter on his back
Must mount, he shows well as he can:
Thought Peter then, come weal or woe,
I'll do what he would have me do,
In pity to this poor drowned man.
With that resolve he boldly mounts
Upon the pleased and thankful Ass;
And then, without a moment's stay,
That earnest Creature turned away
Leaving the body on the grass. 0
Intent upon his faithful watch,
The Beast four days and nights had past;
A sweeter meadow ne'er was seen,
And there the Ass four days had been,
Nor ever once did break his fast:
Yet firm his step, and stout his heart;
The mead is crossed--the quarry's mouth
Is reached; but there the trusty guide
Into a thicket turns aside,
And deftly ambles towards the south.
When hark a burst of doleful sound!
And Peter honestly might say,
The like came never to his ears,
Though he has been, full thirty years,
A rover--night and day!
'Tis not a plover of the moors,
'Tis not a bittern of the fen;
Nor can it be a barking fox,
Nor night-bird chambered in the rocks,
Nor wild-cat in a woody glen!
The Ass is startled--and stops short
Right in the middle of the thicket;
And Peter, wont to whistle loud
Whether alone or in a crowd,
Is silent as a silent cricket.
What ails you now, my little Bess?
Well may you tremble and look grave!
This cry--that rings along the wood,
This cry--that floats adown the flood,
Comes from the entrance of a cave:
I see a blooming Wood-boy there,
And if I had the power to say
How sorrowful the wanderer is,
Your heart would be as sad as his
Till you had kissed his tears away!
Grasping a hawthorn branch in hand,
All bright with berries ripe and red,
Into the cavern's mouth he peeps;
Thence back into the moonlight creeps;
Whom seeks he--whom?--the silent dead:
His father!--Him doth he require--
Him hath he sought with fruitless pains,
Among the rocks, behind the trees;
Now creeping on his hands and knees,
Now running o'er the open plains.
And hither is he come at last,
When he through such a day has gone,
By this dark cave to be distrest
Like a poor bird--her plundered nest
Hovering around with dolorous moan!
Of that intense and piercing cry
The listening Ass conjectures well;
Wild as it is, he there can read
Some intermingled notes that plead
With touches irresistible.
But Peter--when he saw the Ass
Not only stop but turn, and change
The cherished tenor of his pace
That lamentable cry to chase--
It wrought in him conviction strange;
A faith that, for the dead man's sake
And this poor slave who loved him well,
Vengeance upon his head will fall,
Some visitation worse than all
Which ever till this night befell.
Meanwhile the Ass to reach his home,
Is striving stoutly as he may;
But, while he climbs the woody hill,
The cry grows weak--and weaker still;
And now at last it dies away.
So with his freight the Creature turns
Into a gloomy grove of beech,
Along the shade with footsteps true
Descending slowly, till the two
The open moonlight reach.
And there, along the narrow dell,
A fair smooth pathway you discern,
A length of green and open road--
As if it from a fountain flowed--
Winding away between the fern.
The rocks that tower on either side
Build up a wild fantastic scene;
Temples like those among the Hindoos,
And mosques, and spires, and abbey windows,
And castles all with ivy green!
And, while the Ass pursues his way,
Along this solitary dell,
As pensively his steps advance,
The mosques and spires change countenance
And look at Peter Bell!
That unintelligible cry
Hath left him high in preparation,--
Convinced that he, or soon or late,
This very night will meet his fate--
And so he sits in expectation!
The strenuous Animal hath clomb
With the green path; and now he wends
Where, shining like the smoothest sea,
In undisturbed immensity
A level plain extends. 0
But whence this faintly-rustling sound
By which the journeying pair are chased?
--A withered leaf is close behind,
Light plaything for the sportive wind
Upon that solitary waste.
When Peter spied the moving thing,
It only doubled his distress;
"Where there is not a bush or tree,
The very leaves they follow me--
So huge hath been my wickedness!"
To a close lane they now are come,
Where, as before, the enduring Ass
Moves on without a moment's stop,
Nor once turns round his head to crop
A bramble-leaf or blade of grass.
Between the hedges as they go,
The white dust sleeps upon the lane;
And Peter, ever and anon
Back-looking, sees, upon a stone,
Or in the dust, a crimson stain.
A stain--as of a drop of blood
By moonlight made more faint and wan;
Ha! why these sinkings of despair?
He knows not how the blood comes there--
And Peter is a wicked man.
At length he spies a bleeding wound,
Where he had struck the Ass's head;
He sees the blood, knows what it is,--
A glimpse of sudden joy was his,
But then it quickly fled;
Of him whom sudden death had seized
He thought,--of thee, O faithful Ass!
And once again those ghastly pains,
Shoot to and fro through heart and reins,
And through his brain like lightning pass.
I'VE heard of one, a gentle Soul,
Though given to sadness and to gloom,
And for the fact will vouch,--one night
It chanced that by a taper's light
This man was reading in his room;
Bending, as you or I might bend
At night o'er any pious book,
When sudden blackness overspread
The snow-white page on which he read,
And made the good man round him look.
The chamber walls were dark all round,--
And to his book he turned again;
--The light had left the lonely taper,
And formed itself upon the paper
Into large letters--bright and plain!
The godly book was in his hand--
And, on the page, more black than coal,
Appeared, set forth in strange array,
A 'word'--which to his dying day
Perplexed the good man's gentle soul.
The ghostly word, thus plainly seen,
Did never from his lips depart;
But he hath said, poor gentle wight!
It brought full many a sin to light
Out of the bottom of his heart.
Dread Spirits! to confound the meek
Why wander from your course so far,
Disordering colour, form, and stature!
--Let good men feel the soul of nature,
And see things as they are.
Yet, potent Spirits! well I know,
How ye, that play with soul and sense,
Are not unused to trouble friends
Of goodness, for most gracious ends--
And this I speak in reverence!
But might I give advice to you,
Whom in my fear I love so well;
From men of pensive virtue go,
Dread Beings! and your empire show
On hearts like that of Peter Bell.
Your presence often have I felt
In darkness and the stormy night;
And, with like force, if need there be,
Ye can put forth your agency
When earth is calm, and heaven is bright.
Then, coming from the wayward world,
That powerful world in which ye dwell,
Come, Spirits of the Mind! and try
To-night, beneath the moonlight sky,
What may be done with Peter Bell!
--O, would that some more skilful voice
My further labour might prevent!
Kind Listeners, that around me sit,
I feel that I am all unfit
For such high argument.
I've played, I've danced, with my narration;
I loitered long ere I began:
Ye waited then on my good pleasure;
Pour out indulgence still, in measure
As liberal as ye can!
Our Travellers, ye remember well,
Are thridding a sequestered lane;
And Peter many tricks is trying,
And many anodynes applying,
To ease his conscience of its pain. 0
By this his heart is lighter far;
And, finding that he can account
So snugly for that crimson stain,
His evil spirit up again
Does like an empty bucket mount.
And Peter is a deep logician
Who hath no lack of wit mercurial;
"Blood drops--leaves rustle--yet," quoth he,
"This poor man never, but for me,
Could have had Christian burial.
"And, say the best you can, 'tis plain,
That here has been some wicked dealing;
No doubt the devil in me wrought;
I'm not the man who could have thought
An Ass like this was worth the stealing!"
So from his pocket Peter takes
His shining horn tobacco-box;
And, in a light and careless way,
As men who with their purpose play,
Upon the lid he knocks.
Let them whose voice can stop the clouds,
Whose cunning eye can see the wind,
Tell to a curious world the cause
Why, making here a sudden pause,
The Ass turned round his head, and 'grinned'.
Appalling process! I have marked
The like on heath, in lonely wood;
And, verily, have seldom met
A spectacle more hideous--yet
It suited Peter's present mood.
And, grinning in his turn, his teeth
He in jocose defiance showed--
When, to upset his spiteful mirth,
A murmur, pent within the earth,
In the dead earth beneath the road
Rolled audibly! it swept along,
A muffled noise--a rumbling sound!--
'Twas by a troop of miners made,
Plying with gunpowder their trade,
Some twenty fathoms under ground.
Small cause of dire effect! for, surely,
If ever mortal, King or Cotter,
Believed that earth was charged to quake
And yawn for his unworthy sake,
'Twas Peter Bell the Potter.
But, as an oak in breathless air
Will stand though to the centre hewn;
Or as the weakest things, if frost
Have stiffened them, maintain their post;
So he, beneath the gazing moon!--
The Beast bestriding thus, he reached
A spot where, in a sheltering cove,
A little chapel stands alone,
With greenest ivy overgrown,
And tufted with an ivy grove;
Dying insensibly away
From human thoughts and purposes,
It seemed--wall, window, roof and tower--
To bow to some transforming power,
And blend with the surrounding trees.
As ruinous a place it was,
Thought Peter, in the shire of Fife
That served my turn, when following still
From land to land a reckless will
I married my sixth wife!
The unheeding Ass moves slowly on,
And now is passing by an inn
Brim-full of a carousing crew,
That make, with curses not a few,
An uproar and a drunken din.
I cannot well express the thoughts
Which Peter in those noises found;--
A stifling power compressed his frame,
While-as a swimming darkness came
Over that dull and dreary sound.
For well did Peter know the sound;
The language of those drunken joys
To him, a jovial soul, I ween,
But a few hours ago, had been
A gladsome and a welcome noise.
'Now', turned adrift into the past,
He finds no solace in his course;
Like planet-stricken men of yore,
He trembles, smitten to the core
By strong compunction and remorse.
But, more than all, his heart is stung
To think of one, almost a child;
A sweet and playful Highland girl,
As light and beauteous as a squirrel,
As beauteous and as wild!
Her dwelling was a lonely house,
A cottage in a heathy dell;
And she put on her gown of green,
And left her mother at sixteen,
And followed Peter Bell.
But many good and pious thoughts
Had she; and, in the kirk to pray,
Two long Scotch miles, through rain or snow
To kirk she had been used to go,
Twice every Sabbath-day. 0
And, when she followed Peter Bell,
It was to lead an honest life;
For he, with tongue not used to falter,
Had pledged his troth before the altar
To love her as his wedded wife.
A mother's hope is hers;--but soon
She drooped and pined like one forlorn;
From Scripture she a name did borrow;
Benoni, or the child of sorrow,
She called her babe unborn.
For she had learned how Peter lived,
And took it in most grievous part;
She to the very bone was worn,
And, ere that little child was born,
Died of a broken heart.
And now the Spirits of the Mind
Are busy with poor Peter Bell;
Upon the rights of visual sense
Usurping, with a prevalence
More terrible than magic spell.
Close by a brake of flowering furze
(Above it shivering aspens play)
He sees an unsubstantial creature,
His very self in form and feature,
Not four yards from the broad highway:
And stretched beneath the furze he sees
The Highland girl--it is no other;
And hears her crying as she cried,
The very moment that she died,
"My mother! oh my mother!"
The sweat pours down from Peter's face,
So grievous is his heart's contrition;
With agony his eye-balls ache
While he beholds by the furze-brake
This miserable vision!
Calm is the well-deserving brute,
'His' peace hath no offence betrayed;
But now, while down that slope he wends,
A voice to Peter's ear ascends,
Resounding from the woody glade:
The voice, though clamorous as a horn
Re-echoed by a naked rock,
Comes from that tabernacle--List!
Within, a fervent Methodist
Is preaching to no heedless flock!
"Repent! repent!" he cries aloud,
"While yet ye may find mercy;--strive
To love the Lord with all your might;
Turn to him, seek him day and night,
And save your souls alive!
"Repent! repent! though ye have gone,
Through paths of wickedness and woe,
After the Babylonian harlot;
And, though your sins be red as scarlet,
They shall be white as snow!"
Even as he passed the door, these words
Did plainly come to Peter's ears;
And they such joyful tidings were,
The joy was more than he could bear!--
He melted into tears.
Sweet tears of hope and tenderness!
And fast they fell, a plenteous shower!
His nerves, his sinews seemed to melt;
Through all his iron frame was felt
A gentle, a relaxing, power!
Each fibre of his frame was weak;
Weak all the animal within;
But, in its helplessness, grew mild
And gentle as an infant child,
An infant that has known no sin.
'Tis said, meek Beast! that, through Heaven's grace,
He not unmoved did notice now
The cross upon thy shoulder scored,
For lasting impress, by the Lord
To whom all human-kind shall bow;
Memorial of his touch--that day
When Jesus humbly deigned to ride,
Entering the proud Jerusalem,
By an immeasurable stream
Of shouting people deified!
Meanwhile the persevering Ass,
Turned towards a gate that hung in view
Across a shady lane; his chest
Against the yielding gate he pressed
And quietly passed through.
And up the stony lane he goes;
No ghost more softly ever trod;
Among the stones and pebbles, he
Sets down his hoofs inaudibly,
As if with felt his hoofs were shod.
Along the lane the trusty Ass
Went twice two hundred yards or more,
And no one could have guessed his aim,--
Till to a lonely house he came,
And stopped beside the door.
Thought Peter, 'tis the poor man's home!
He listens--not a sound is heard
Save from the trickling household rill;
But, stepping o'er the cottage-sill,
Forthwith a little Girl appeared. 00
She to the Meeting-house was bound
In hopes some tidings there to gather:
No glimpse it is, no doubtful gleam;
She saw--and uttered with a scream,
"My father! here's my father!"
The very word was plainly heard,
Heard plainly by the wretched Mother--
Her joy was like a deep affright:
And forth she rushed into the light,
And saw it was another! 10
And, instantly, upon the earth,
Beneath the full moon shining bright,
Close to the Ass's feet she fell;
At the same moment Peter Bell
Dismounts in most unhappy plight.
As he beheld the Woman lie
Breathless and motionless, the mind
Of Peter sadly was confused;
But, though to such demands unused,
And helpless almost as the blind,
He raised her up; and, while he held
Her body propped against his knee,
The Woman waked--and when she spied
The poor Ass standing by her side,
She moaned most bitterly.
"Oh! God be praised--my heart's at ease--
For he is dead--I know it well!"
--At this she wept a bitter flood;
And, in the best way that he could,
His tale did Peter tell.
He trembles--he is pale as death;
His voice is weak with perturbation;
He turns aside his head, he pauses;
Poor Peter, from a thousand causes,
Is crippled sore in his narration.
At length she learned how he espied
The Ass in that small meadow-ground;
And that her Husband now lay dead,
Beside that luckless river's bed
In which he had been drowned.
A piercing look the Widow cast
Upon the Beast that near her stands;
She sees 'tis he, that 'tis the same;
She calls the poor Ass by his name,
And wrings, and wrings her hands.
"O wretched loss--untimely stroke!
If he had died upon his bed!
He knew not one forewarning pain;
He never will come home again--
Is dead, for ever dead!"
Beside the woman Peter stands;
His heart is opening more and more;
A holy sense pervades his mind;
He feels what he for human kind
Had never felt before.
At length, by Peter's arm sustained,
The Woman rises from the ground--
"Oh, mercy! something must be done,
My little Rachel, you must run,--
Some willing neighbour must be found.
"Make haste--my little Rachel--do,
The first you meet with--bid him come,
Ask him to lend his horse to-night,
And this good Man, whom Heaven requite,
Will help to bring the body home."
Away goes Rachel weeping loud;--
An Infant, waked by her distress,
Makes in the house a piteous cry;
And Peter hears the Mother sigh,
"Seven are they, and all fatherless!"
And now is Peter taught to feel
That man's heart is a holy thing;
And Nature, through a world of death,
Breathes into him a second breath,
More searching than the breath of spring.
Upon a stone the Woman sits
In agony of silent grief--
From his own thoughts did Peter start;
He longs to press her to his heart,
From love that cannot find relief.
But roused, as if through every limb
Had past a sudden shock of dread,
The Mother o'er the threshold flies,
And up the cottage stairs she hies,
And on the pillow lays her burning head.
And Peter turns his steps aside
Into a shade of darksome trees,
Where he sits down, he knows not how,
With his hands pressed against his brow,
His elbows on his tremulous knees.
There, self-involved, does Peter sit
Until no sign of life he makes,
As if his mind were sinking deep
Through years that have been long asleep
The trance is passed away--he wakes;
He lifts his head--and sees the Ass
Yet standing in the clear moonshine;
"When shall I be as good as thou?
Oh! would, poor beast, that I had now
A heart but half as good as thine!" 0
But 'He'--who deviously hath sought
His Father through the lonesome woods,
Hath sought, proclaiming to the ear
Of night his grief and sorrowful fear--
He comes, escaped from fields and floods;--
With weary pace is drawing nigh;
He sees the Ass--and nothing living
Had ever such a fit of joy
As hath this little orphan Boy,
For he has no misgiving!
Forth to the gentle Ass he springs,
And up about his neck he climbs;
In loving words he talks to him,
He kisses, kisses face and limb,--
He kisses him a thousand times!
This Peter sees, while in the shade
He stood beside the cottage-door;
And Peter Bell, the ruffian wild,
Sobs loud, he sobs even like a child,
"O God! I can endure no more!"
--Here ends my Tale: for in a trice
Arrived a neighbour with his horse;
Peter went forth with him straightway;
And, with due care, ere break of day,
Together they brought back the Corse.
And many years did this poor Ass,
Whom once it was my luck to see
Cropping the shrubs of Leming-Lane,
Help by his labour to maintain
The Widow and her family.
And Peter Bell, who, till that night,
Had been the wildest of his clan,
Forsook his crimes, renounced his folly,
And, after ten months' melancholy,
Became a good and honest man.
Give Your Heart To The Hawks
1 he apples hung until a wind at the equinox,
That heaped the beach with black weed, filled the dry grass
Under the old trees with rosy fruit.
In the morning Fayne Fraser gathered the sound ones into a
The bruised ones into a pan. One place they lay so thickly
She knelt to reach them.
Her husband's brother passing
Along the broken fence of the stubble-field,
His quick brown eyes took in one moving glance
A little gopher-snake at his feet flowing through the stubble
To gain the fence, and Fayne crouched after apples
With her mop of red hair like a glowing coal
Against the shadow in the garden. The small shapely reptile
Flowed into a thicket of dead thistle-stalks
Around a fence-post, but its tail was not hidden.
The young man drew it all out, and as the coil
Whipped over his wrist, smiled at it; he stepped carefully
Across the sag of the wire. When Fayne looked up
His hand was hidden; she looked over her shoulder
And twitched her sunburnt lips from small white teeth
To answer the spark of malice in his eyes, but turned
To the apples, intent again. Michael looked down
At her white neck, rarely touched by the sun,
But now the cinnabar-colored hair fell off from it;
And her shoulders in the light-blue shirt, and long legs like a boy's
Bare-ankled in blue-jean trousers, the country wear;
He stooped quietly and slipped the small cool snake
Up the blue-denim leg. Fayne screamed and writhed,
Clutching her thigh. 'Michael, you beast.' She stood up
And stroked her leg, with little sharp cries, the slender invader
Fell down her ankle.
Fayne snatched for it and missed;
Michael stood by rejoicing, his rather small
Finely cut features in a dance of delight;
Fayne with one sweep flung at his face
All the bruised and half-spoiled apples in the pan,
A fragrant volley, and while he staggered under it,
The hat fallen from his head, she found one thoroughly
Soft-rotten, brown in the long white grass, and threw
For the crown of his dark head but perfectly missed,
Crying 'Quits. We're even.' They stood and warily smiled at each
In the heavy-sweet apple air.
The garden was sunken lower than
the little fields; it had many fragrances
And its own shadow, while the cows lay in the stream-bed, large
sycamore leaves dropped on their flanks; the yellow
Heads of the hills quivered with sun and the straining sea-glare.
Fayne said, 'Where did it go, poor thing?'
Looking for the little serpent. Michael said gravely, 'That's to
remember me by. I wish I could do worse.
I'm going away.' 'What?' 'From here again.'
'Oh, no.' 'I am, though.' 'No, Michael.'
'Freckles,' he answered, 'didn't it ever occur to you
That it's fairly dull here? I'm going up to town again.
I've got to earn money and spend it and hear the motors.'
She said dismally, 'What about me? Who'll there be to talk to?'
'Lance, of course.' 'I love him dearly; he's not fun exactly.
He wouldn't stick a rattlesnake up my leg.'
'Gopher-snake,' he shouted. They stood and laughed at each
And Michael: 'I was over the ridge to Drunken Charlie's,
Fixing up a little party for Saturday.
There'll be a moon in the evening. I leave Monday.'
Fayne said unhappily, 'Help me pick up the apples
I poured on you.'
Michael was taking Mary Abbey;
The Dolmans came, and Will Howard with two girls,
And Leo Ramirez with his sister Nell, so that the youth
Of the coast was all there. They met at Erasers'
And crossed the ridge; and were picketing the horses
Where they could ride no farther, on the airy brink
Above the great slides of the thousand-foot cliff.
They were very gay, colorful mites on the edge of the world.
The men divided the pack to carry;
Lance Eraser, being strongest, took most.
Far down below, the
broad ocean burned like a vast cat's eye
Pupilled by the track of sun; but eastward, beyond the white-
grassed hump of the ridge, the day moon stood bleak
And badly shaped, face of stained clay, above the limestone fang
of one of the Ventana mountains
Just its own color. Lance, looking back, saw his wife talking to
Michael, her cinnabar-colored hair
Like a flag of life against the pale east. That moment he saw the
horses plunging against the sky
And heard a noise like a sharp head of water from a narrow pipe;
a girl cried out,
Lance dropped his pack and returned. Will Howard was looking
But found none, but Lance found a burnt fence-post, relic of an
ancient fire. The snake lay with raised head,
The rattle of its tail making that noise of sharp water running; a
big rattler, but very small
At bay in the circle of the laughing men. Lance struck for its head,
but the snake that moment struck at the rope's end
That Michael was flicking at it, so that Lance's blow failed, the
fence-post broke to bits in his hand,
The snake not harmed; then Michael laughing with pleasure
whipped the creature to death with the doubled rope
And set his heel on the head; Lance damned all rotten wood, his
blond face flushing
Dark through the sunburn. Michael cut off the victim's
Tail with the ten rattles to give to Mary;
The other young men quieted the horses, and caught
One that had dragged away the bush it was tied to.
Lance would not wait, he picked up his pack and went
Alone down the zigzag path; but after a moment
His temper cleared.
Far down, short of the cat's-eye ocean, they
saw like a brown pebble
Drunken Charlie's hut in a gorge of the cliff, a feather of smoke,
and his boat like a split berry
Of bladdery seaweed up the thin strand; and Lance stood waiting
down the wild cliff side, his light-brown hair
Golden with sun, his hat and the pack laid down. The warm wind
up the mountain was wild with fragrance,
Chiefly the scent of the chiya bushes, that wear rosettes of seed
Strung on the stem. The girls squealed as they scrambled down,
when the brittle trap-rock broke underfoot,
Small fragments ran over on the next below. When they came to
the foot of the cliff Michael said, 'Now,' and offered
A bottle hot from his pocket. 'It's time.' Mary Abbey refused
it but the others drank, from mouth to mouth,
Stinging fire from the slobbered bottle-neck.
The sun was low
But had played all day on this southwestward
Cliff over the burning-glass water and the air
Still swirled with heat; the headland of Eraser's Point
Stopped off the trade-wind here. Fayne Fraser a little dizzily
Looked seaward, left of the blazing sun-track, and saw the track
of the northwest gale and the running waves
Like an endless army of horse with banners going by offshore;
her eyes followed them, a ruled line southward
Of violent water, converging toward the bronze headland beyond
headland of the mountain coast; and someone was saying,
'It's hot, we'll swim.' 'Before we eat,' someone said.
The girls twittered together and clustered northward
To a little cove beyond a fair spit of rock;
The men remained on this side.
Fayne undressed beside Mary
And was careful of words, because she'd sucked from the bottle
more than she meant to, and had small experience of drinking.
She said carefully, 'Where did those girls of Will Howard's
come from?' 'Nina told me,' she answered; 'waitresses
Down from the city on their vacation.' 'Honestly are they? I
guessed it.' 'No,' Mary said, 'they're nice girls.'
'That yellow-haired one, she's bad.' 'No,' Mary said. Fayne
said, 'Did you see her face when she looked at Michael
Across that bottle?' 'Oh, no,' Mary answered. '. . . Well. Are
you ready, Mary? Let's go.'
They limped down to the waves, giggling and wincing.
Fayne had tied a broad handkerchief around her hair
To shed the spray; she swam out farther than others,
Mary remained along shore.
The other side of the rock-spit
The men had bathed, and had come up strand again
To dry by the driftwood fire; all except Michael,
Who loved to swim. Lance Fraser stood by the fire, his broad
smooth chest, grooved between the square plates
Of heavy muscle, steamed and was ruddy in the glowing heat. He
narrowed his eyes to look seaward
And saw Michael's left arm, over the speck of his head, lift, reach
Swimming side-stroke; two white arms flashing swanlike on either
side of a handkerchief-hooded head
Emerged from the scales of light on the edge of the sun-dazzle.
The swimmers approached each other,
And met this side the long brown stain of the breathing kelp-bed.
But only thinking that they were too far out
And making a show of themselves.
On the pleasant water
Michael had called to Fayne, 'I've something for you.
Come here a minute.' She hardly dared, and thought
In the flashing joy of the sea, 'Oh, the water covers us.
What have you got?' 'Gin for girls.
We've got a fire on this side.' They met laughing,
And reached the bottle from hand to hand and floated decorously
Separate again. Fayne looked toward shore, and saw the vast
cliff in the flare of sundown soaring above
Like beaten gold, the imperfect moon-disk gold on its brow; the
tiny distinct white shapes of men
Around their spot of fire in the flat blue sea-shadow. She breathed
hard and said,
'My God, how beautiful. Oh, Michael, stay here at home.'
He answered with a watery yell of pleasure, submerging his
To roar as the sea-lions do.
Fayne trailed the bottle
And swam ashore. There was nothing to dry herself with;
The chill of the water had touched her blood, she sucked breath
Through clicking teeth. She sipped from the salted bottle,
And dressed, but shivered still.
She sunned herself by the fire,
Watching with fascinated speculation of pain
The antennae of lobsters like spikes of jointed grass
Above the heating water in a five-gallon tin
Writhe at the sky, lives unable to scream.
Under the vast calm vaulting glory of the afterglow, low smoky
rose and delicately
Stratified amber, soaring purple; then rose again, luminous and
virginal, floating the moon,
High up a scoured hollow of the cliff
Cormorants were settling to roost on the jags and ledges.
They writhed long Negro snake-throats and shot
Sharp heads at each other, shaking out sooty wings
And angry complaining cries.
Below, on the thread of beach,
The lonely fisherman who was called Drunken Charlie,
Fire glowing on his drugged eyes, wide beard and lank hair,
Turned meat on the grid over the barbecue-pit
And talked to himself all the time. Michael Fraser knelt
By a turned chest that served for table and poured
From a jug into cups, fierce new distillate
From Charlie's cliff -hidden kettle.
Faync Eraser shook half-dried
The color of the coals at the heart of the fire
But darkening as light decreased, and went to Lance
Who stood alone at the waves' edge, turning his back on the
world, and the wet sand
Raised by his weight on either side of his foot-soles ran water and
glistened in the still light. Fayne said
'Are you cross, dear?' She pushed up his rolled sleeve and clasped
her fingers on the broad trunk of his arm
Above the elbow, 'Dear, are you sad?' 'I? No,' he said, 'What
about?' 'You haven't spoken to anyone
Since we were swimming.' 'Why should I? You were out too
far, though.' 'Oh, I can swim.
And Michael was there to help me if I'd got tired.' 'By God, no,'
Lance said, with a sharp vision in his mind
Of her bright nakedness, the shining whiteness and the red hair.
She understood and said softly, 'Well,
I didn't need help. But he's our brother.' 'Certainly; I didn't
mind him,' he answered. 'But I did hate
To think that rabble of girls could look at you; it isn't decent.'
She said, 'They didn't seem interested.
Come, drink and eat. Those waitress women are passing the paper
plates.' He saw that vision once more,
The form and whiteness, the little gay-colored flower of the
pubic hair, and groaned, as a thick bull
Alone in the field groans to himself, not knowing why the hot
brow and the hooves itch for destruction.
Fayne to cure his unhappiness hasted and returned
Fetching two cups of the fire Michael was pouring.
After they had
eaten, twilight and moonlight came;
The fire burned smaller and brighter; they were twelve around
it; and drinks were poured. The bearded fisherman seemed
Stiffly asleep, with open eyes like a drowned man's
Glazed by the yellow firelight. Tom Dolman and Leo Ramirez
Roughed at each other, and Nina Dolman
Sitting between them cried out; then Michael said,
'Get up and wrestle.' All but the fisherman turned
To watch them circle clumsily on the damp sand
And suddenly lock, into one quadruped body reeling
Against the dark band of ocean and the low sky.
Ramirez had the low hold but Dolman was the heavier man;
They tugged and sobbed; Ramirez was lifted high
And writhed on the other's shoulder by the evening star,
But the strained column staggered and crumbled, the Spaniard
Fell uppermost and was the first to rise up.
Michael asked very gravely, 'Who was the winner?
The winner may challenge Lance.' Ramirez gasping and laughing
Said, 'Drunk; not to that extent.' 'Then gather firewood.
The fire's got low.'
The yellow-haired one of the two girls Will
Howard had brought
Sat in the sand beside Lance Fraser; she leaned on his shoulder
and held a cup to his mouth and said
'Please drink it for me: things are beginning to go 'round in
circles.' He drank; then Fayne on his other side
Grew suddenly cool and quite clear; she leaned across him and
said, 'That hair in the cup! Well, you drank it.
Her bleaches have made it brittle so it keeps falling.' 'Oh,' the
other gasped, 'that's not true.' 'It's pretty,' Fayne said,
'Only the black half inch at the roots. Is your name Lois? What's
your name?' 'Lois.' 'Lean the other way,
Lois.' Then Lance said angrily, 'Be quiet, will you,' and got up
To fetch more firewood.
A timber from one of the four ships
That have broken in half a century off Fraser's Point
Lay near and dry; Ramirez and Howard had brought it,
But the axe was lost in the sand. Lance up-ended it,
An ivory-white pillar under the moon,
Garnished with great iron bolts. He wedged his fingers
Into a crack and suddenly straining tore it in two;
The splitting made a great noise under the cliff,
The sea being quiet. Lance felt himself curiously
Numbed, as if the sharp effort had strained the whiskey
Out of his blood through the sheathes of his nerves;
His body obeyed as ever but felt a distance
Blocked off and alien. He took the halves of the timber
Under each arm and a bolt in his hand,
For two or three had fallen out of the wood,
This one straight, long and heavy. After he had laid
His logs on the fire he saw the fisherman's
Firelight-discolored eyes, and called 'Hey! Charlie.'
Still the man slept. Lance, wavering a little, reached
Over Will Howard's shoulder and took the cup from his hand,
Drank half, poured the other half on Charlie's long hair;
It dribbled into his beard; he coughed and awoke.
Lance said 'D'you ever have rattlesnakes down here?
I snicked at one up the cliff with a rotten stick;
But this'd fix 'em.' He gave him the iron bar;
Charlie posted it carefully up in the sand
Between his feet and answered, 'Mm; but there's Injuns.'
'What?' 'All that was cleared out of the country.
Where did you think they got to? They ain't got ships.
Down here they are.' The dark-haired girl that Will Howard
Suddenly stood up from the fire, she went toward the sea and
was heard vomiting. Charlie nodded and said,
'There's one o' them now. Most nights I see their fires away
down the beach.' Mary Abbey whispered to Michael,
'Don't take any more. Time to go home.' 'Ah no,' he said,
'dear, we just got here.' Fayne came to Lance
And said, 'Don't drink any more. Time to go home.' He an-
swered briskly, 'Since when are you giving orders?'
'Since you're not fit to.' She knew while the words made in her
throat, 'Now he'll be angry,' a pale rush of anger
Ran to meet his; the memory of all his bad-tempered times, his
heavy earnestness and lack of laughter,
Pierced like a mountain-peak the cloud in her mind, 'Oh, I do
He stared, more astonished than angry, and saw her face
Lean, sharp, bled white, each freckle black as a mole
Against its moon-gleam pallor. 'That's how you feel, ah?'
He turned his back. She thought, 'He'll never forgive me:
Let him not,' and saw the Dolmans, Nina and Tom,
Seeking the way up the cliff, Mary Abbey with them,
Fayne went and said, 'Michael, I've lost my cup,
Aren't there any more cups?' 'I'll hold the jug:
You hold your mouth.' 'Oo, I need water with it.'
'No, you don't.' Half of the sip went strangling
Into her throat, half ran by her little chin
And trickled between her breasts. She looked at the fire,
Then at the moon, both blurred fantastically,
Red burrowed, white wavered high. Michael said, 'My girl's
Fayne said, 'Oh, and yours?' He said 'That's no sense. That's
She laughed and answered, 'They don't.'
The moon suspended
in her great antelope-leap from the head of the cliff
Hung pouring whiteness along the narrow runway of sand and
slide-rock under the continent's foot,
A watery glittering and secret place, walled from the world,
closed by the cliff, ditched by the ocean.
Drunken Charlie dreamed by the dying fire;
Will Howard and Nell Ramirez were one slight point
Far down the white beach. Yellow-haired Lois
Spilled her drink and said, 'Seeing is believing.
Come on, I'll show you.' She smiled at Lance, 'Come, dear.
Sadie's passed out; it's all right wi' Sadie,'
And to Leo Ramirez, 'Come if you like, dark boy.'
He swayed and stammered, 'Responsible; Sister Nell.
Keep an eye on young sister.' 'Ah, go and find her.'
'Not till I see the picture on Sadie's stomach.'
They wandered toward Drunken Charlie's little hollow skiff
And its black shadow, drawn up the moonlight strand.
Lance thought, 'Here's a boat, let's break it,' and thought with
an ache of shame,
'I wouldn't think that, only being drunk.' The center of his
mind made savage war on rebellious out-liers
In breathless darkness behind the sweating forehead; while Leo
Ramirez, seeing the bright fish-scales glued
With blood and slime to the boat-thwarts glitter like a night of
stars, began to sing a stale song: 'We'll always,
Be young and gay. We'll always, feel that way.' Lois said 'Shut
up,' and led them around the boat,
Her friend lay in the moonlight nestled against it. Lois knelt
down and gently drew her by the shoulder;
She groaned in her sleep, resisting. Lois laughed, 'The boys want
to see it, Sadie,' and tugged, and turned her
Onto her back, the stained pale face up to the moonlight; the
teeth in the opened mouth glittered,
And sour breath crossed them, while Lois turned up the blouse,
loosened the band and jerked up the linen shift
To show a three-masted sailing-ship tattooed with black and red
inks on the soft white belly
Below the breasts. 'My God,' Ramirez said, 'there it is.'
Lois answered, 'A fellow dared her,' and looked for Lance,
Who trembled and said, 'Cover her up, damn you.'
Lois blinking drew down the blouse. Ramirez giggled,
'My God, a U. S. flag at the peak,' and reached
Over Lois's shoulder to raise the cloth;
Lance struck and felled him, and stepping across him fallen
Leaned and strode toward the cliff and the red coals
That had been the fire.
Drunken Charlie lay on the sand,
The iron bolt erect by his feet; Lance caught it up
And smashed the jug, and saw the remnant of whiskey
Glitter among the shards to sink into sand.
He ground his teeth; he saw in his mind in the stream of images
A second jug, and began to search for it.
The tide had fallen, the
steep ribbon of beach was but little wider,
But the sea was become so flattened that no waves flashed. Enor-
mous peace of the sea, white quiet of the cliff,
And at their angle and focus a few faint specks of humanity
happy in liquor or released in sleep,
But Lance alone. Then noises like the cries of a woman scream-
ing, bird after bird of sharp-colored sound
Flew on the face of the cliff, tattered wild wings against jagged
rocks. On the cliff head the patient horses
Turned their ears, grooving small wrinkles about the roots of the
cartilage, but did not lift up their heads;
And the sea was not moved, nor the moonlight quivered. Will
Howard was lying beside Nell Ramirez; they'd fallen asleep
Before he had his desire; they sighed and stirred in the sand. He
murmured 'Oh, somebody's got hysterics,'
And wriggled his fingers, which had grown painfully numb
between her plump knees. But Lois, Leo Ramirez
And Drunken Charlie heard the sounds nearer; they went in a
wind of fear to find out their fountain,
And Sadie awoke in the sand and followed heavily,
Falling but once, catching her clothes that slipped,
Whining at the hollow pain in her skull.
Beyond a rock
Stood Lance, high white in the moon-glaze, distorted, taller than
Lois said, 'Dearie?' He babbled, 'Oh Jesus Christ Oh Jesus
Christ Oh Jesus Christ,'
Behind him in a great shadow of her hair darkened
By the rock-shadow Fayne turned her white wedge of face
With three holes in it. She was kneeling, bent S-shape,
And seemed to stare up from the very ground. She said, 'I think
It is finished. Water please. Water please.
He fell down from the cliff.' Then Michael's feet were seen,
And thence the prone extended ridge of his body
Ending indefinitely under Fayne's face.
Lois cried, 'He's hurt.' But they dared not approach
For Lance standing between, high and twisted
Like a dead tree. Lance said, 'I . . .' Fayne cried,
'He fell down from the cliff.' They all stood silent,
Lois's mouth opened and closed on silence
Three times, then asked, 'Is he hurt?' Lance said, 'Oh Christ.
I ...' Fayne cried so that his words were hidden,
And stood up and said, 'He has died. Michael.
He was climbing the cliff and fell, his foot caught on that bush;
He struck his head on that rock, on that edge of rock.
It is all broken in. Oh, we loved him.'
Ramirez said, 'What for did he climb up there?'
'Have we drunk waterY* Fayne said. But Lance began
To shake, like a tall dead mast of redwood that men are felling,
It is half cut through, each dip of the axe the sonorous timber
quivers from the root up to the cloud,
He said 'I caught them . . .' 'He caught him,' Fayne cried,
'when he fell but he could not save him.' 'I killed . . .'
'You are wild with sorrow
He fell head down whether you'd tried to catch him or not.
You are not to blame.' He said, 'It is horrible
To hear the lies from her mouth like bees from a hot hive: I am
the one,' but Fayne running to him
Made an animal moan in her throat in time to hide what he said.
She came to Lance, and her face
Like a held spear, and said, 'Drunkard.
Too drunk to be understood. Keep still until you can talk and be
understood.' He drew backward from her,
Shuddering like a horse from a snake, but when his back was
against the rock he stammered, 'I
Will find my time.' 'Yes,' she answered, 'be quiet now. To-
morrow when you are better they'll understand you.'
'Is he dead?' 'Keep still. Will you shame his end
With drunkard babbling? For he was the dearest,' she said, 'in
the world to all of us. Lovelier than morning light
On the mountain before the morning. There is not one of us
would not have died for him: / would, / would, / would,'
She cried writhing, 'but not lose Lance too. How can I plan to
save him, I've got what I can't bear?
You are all our friends.'
She set her hands in the masses of red-dark hair, dark in the
moonlight, and tearing it, with her white face
To the white moon: 'That eye's blind. Like Juan Arriba's old
mare he used to beat on the face,
Her eyes froze white like that. He was larking on the cliff and
fell.' She seemed to be treading a tragic dance,
She was scuffling sand to cover the bolt of shipwreck that lay in
the shadow of the rock; she wrung her hands
And knelt moaning by Michael's head; she rose with blood on her
hand and fibers of hair, and ran
To the rock under the cliff. 'This rock killed him. He fell on this
edge,' she drew her hand on the edge
And the rock was stained. Then Sadie was heard gasping from
her poor stained face. One or two looked at her. 'O-uh,'
She whispered hoarsely, 'we was having fun!'
Lance moved at
length, like a dead man walking, toward his dead brother,
And stooped as one stoops to gather a sleeping child. Fayne ran
and said, 'No, the man. No, the man.
He has to come.' Lance turned toward her his face like a para-
Slack with peace, and said softly, 'The man.'
'He'd think wrong has been done. I can't think . . . coroner.
Don't take him up.' 'Home?' he said,
Seeming gently surprised; he gathered the body
Into his arms and walked along the foot of the cliff.
Fayne stayed behind a moment, the others following.
She cast quick looks over the rocks and sand;
One end of the rusty bolt was visible still;
She leaned toward it and fell on her face. She labored up
And went ten steps to the ebb and flung the iron
To the water edge.
Lance walked along the foot of the cliff.
He turned, not where the path went up, and walked
Into the face of the cliff, and stood there walking
Like an ox in a tread-mill, until Ramirez
Showed him the path. Fayne went up behind him.
Half way up
He awoke a moment out of his automatism
To feel failure and pain, his breathing like knives, and the failure
Of his eyes; it was impossible to see the path;
He checked a step and fell forward.
Fayne came up to him
And stood; there was nothing that she could do. They lay
Very peacefully together, Lance's face
On his brother's breast. She looked across them;
Terribly far down the moonlight cliff crouched the dark sea.
Ramirez came up and stood. Fayne said they had not the strength
to carry up either of the fallen, and so
They had to wait. They heard a faint breeze through the dry
bushes; and the crying of sea-lions far down below,
Where eight or ten were lying in a circle by the softly heaving
kelp-bed, as their custom is, and gazed
With great mild eyes at the sky and the night of water. Then
they sing in their manner, lifting up sleek
Dark-shining muzzles to the white moon, making a watery noise
of roaring and a lonely crying
For joy of life and the night.
At length Lance
Began to paw with his feet like a dreaming hound,
And some stones fell. He knelt and stood up
And took his burden and went up.
When they entered the sleep-
Fayne led the horse; Lance held his brother and rode behind him,
It would be hard to tell which one was slain
If the moon shone on their faces. The horse stopped and sighed
By the garden-gate; Lance did not move to dismount,
But sat and held up his brother. Fayne came beside,
Reaching to help; Lance whispered 'Ah, ah, thank God.'
'What?' 'He may be saved, Fayne.
He is hot under the arms and I heard him breathe.'
'You heard the horse breathe,' she said. They lifted down
The unmanageable weight.
Oh, ignorant penitents,
For surely the cause is too small for so much anguish.
To be drunk is a folly, to kill may call judgment down,
But these are not enormous evils,
And as for your brother, he has not been hurt.
For all the delights he has lost, pain has been saved him;
And the balance is strangely perfect,
And why are you pale with misery?
Because you have saved him from foolish labors and all the vain
From desires denied, and desires staled with attaining,
And from fear of want, and from all diseases, and from fear of
Or because you have kept him from becoming old,
When the teeth dropp and the eyes dim and the ears grow dull,
And the man is ashamed?
Surely it is nothing worse to be slain in the overflowing
Than to fall in the emptiness;
And though this moon blisters the night,
Darkness has not died, good darkness will come again;
Sometimes a fog will come in from sea,
Sometimes a cloud will crop all the stars.
The moonlight from the west window was a square cloth
Laid on the floor, with one corner on the bed,
Lying over Michael's hand; they had taken him
To his own room. Fayne whispered: 'Now we must tell them.
Your mother may dieher sick heart.
Don't let her die too bitterly. For this one night, dear,
Say nothing worse than 'Michael's gone.' Spare her something
Until she has cried. Four hours' mercy. By morning
That heart of hers will be seasoned.' Fayne strained in the dark
To see his face. He answered in a short while,
'How many mornings I've come in here
And routed him out of bed. He always was a late sleeper.
Sound asleep, Mother.' Fayne caught his arm. 'Can't you hear
'You,' he said, 'keep your hands off! . . . Until morning
I'll say he fell.'
It was not morning, but the moon was down.
The old mother sat by the bed with her hand on Michael's, regu-
larly her great fat-swollen body
Jerked with a sob, and tears were spurted from her closed eyes.
Old Fraser sat with his fists evenly
Together on his knees, his bony face held erect, the brown eyes in
their hollows red with lamplight.
Fayne heard the noise of a motor starting and left the room.
He was backing out the big truck,
The shed was full of the headlight glare, the ruby tail-light
glowed by the axle. Before she could come
It had crept out; its light swung up the driveway by the stooping
And picked from darkness the heavy timbers of the high corrals
and the white beehives remote on the hill;
Fayne ran down the river of light to the gate and closed it, and
stood in the gate for fear he might smash through;
But Lance came wearily to open; stooping, tall,
Black on the light. She said, 'Oh, where?' 'You know.
Tell dad to come to Salinas and get the truck;
There wasn't enough gas in the little one.'
She answered, 'Can the sheriff make us happy again?
Or the judge make Michael alive again?' 'Open the gate.'
'Yes, dear. Listen to me. When Arriba and his boys
Stole cows of ours, did you run to the courthouse?
We take care of ourselves down here. What we have done
Has to be borne. It's in ourselves and there's no escaping,
The state of California can't help you bear it.
That's only a herd of people, the state.
Oh, give your heart to the hawks for a snack o' meat
But not to men.' When she touched him with her hands,
Pleading, he sighed and said, 'If I'd been nearer
My decent mind, it would have been you, not Michael.
Did y' love him? Or was it only because you're female
And were drunk, female and drunk?' 'Oh. Hush. I was begging
Not to leave us, as I'm begging you. He promised me, dear.
He said he'd not go away. I kissed him for that; he was our
And you came behind.' Lance's blackness of his leaning bulk
Vibrated in the light-beam. 'It'd be a pity for me then.
I can't see clear, in the dirty streaming memories . . .
Don't be afraid; your part will be secret.
I'll say I killed him for nothing, a flea-bite quarrel,
Being beastly drunk.' 'He was killed,' she answered, 'for
'It's a great pity for me then.
Open the gate.' She clung to the timber bolt
To hold it home in the slot, and felt his mind
Tearing itself. 'Lance. Lance? Sweetheart:
Believe . . . whatever you need to save you.
I won't give you up. You can't remember what happened;
I tell you he fell from the cliff. But if your dreadful
Dream were true, I know you are strong enough
To give your heart to the hawks without a cry
And bear it in lonely silence to the end of life.
What else do you want? Ah. Confession's a coward
Running to officers, begging help. Not you.'
The scrape of slow boots on gravel outside the light-stream,
Across the pulses of the idling motor, and suddenly cried,
'He fell from the cliff.' An old man said in the dark,
'They ain't got consideration. Where was you going
This time o' night, after what's happened? Your dad wants you.
Your ma's took bad.' Lance moaned and stood still.
Fayne said, 'He was going to Lobos to telephone
The doct . . . the coroner. Dearest, you ought to go in.
She suffered great pain before, she was near death.
Old Davie will drive up the coast for you
When daylight comes.' 'Oh,' he said stilly, and turned
His face to the fountains of light; it gleamed without meaning
In the stream of radiance like a stake in a stream,
Except that from exhaustion the pupils of the eyes
Failed to contract, so that their secret interiors
Of their chambers returned the light all sanguine.
At length he kneaded them with his fists and said,
'I can't see well. You'll have to help me find the way in.
It's not a trick of yours, uh?'
His mother lay on the floor,
For Michael's body lay on the bed. The sun of pain at her heart
had rays like skewers of anguish
Along the left arm and up by the jugular arteries. She dared
not move; her face stood wet-white and still,
With live blue eyes; but the clay-pale lips opened and closed.
Old Eraser had swathed her in hasty blankets.
Fayne entered; Lance behind her stood swaying and stooping
in the door and saw his father
Crouched beside the great cocoon of the blankets; and Michael in
the bed above, and trinkets of Michael's
That hung on the wall, gleam in the lamplight. The violence of
pain was brief; she whispered 'better/* and breathed
With greedy shallow passion; her eyes found Lance.
grayed slowly into the room;
The lamp ran dry unnoticed. Lance and his father
Labored and carried the heavy old woman to bed.
Fayne brought them food, but Lance refused it. In the afternoon
He walked outdoors for a time, but nothing farther
Than the cattle-pens. Fayne must have been watching for him,
Because she went and walked by his side, and said,
When they were turned from the house, 'Mary Abbey was here.
It seems she expected to marry Michael, though he never told us.
She cried a lot.' Lance made no sign of hearing her.
Fayne said, looking up sidelong at his cheek and jaw,
Where the flesh hung thin on the bone: 'Her griefs not
Like ours, forever; but sharp at present. If she ever
Imagined that you . . . how could we bear her looks? You are
too strong, dear,
To lay on weaker persons a burden
That you alone ought to bear.' He strode faster
And stopped, muttering, 'He lies up there, like that.
And my mother, like that; and I have done it;
And you talk about Mary Abbey.' Fayne said, 'I have no time
To choose names, for a man is coming to-day
To question us. He's sent for. I have to tell you that you must
choose whether to relieve
Your own weakness , . . conscience I mean ... by easy con-
Or bear the whole weight unhelped. The first way's easy; you'll
be acquitted; you'll be left humbled and soiled,
But free; for confession is not enough; and you were too lost to
remember anything clearly; and I
Am the one witness. I saw him climb on the cliff and fall. So your
conscience will be well comforted,
And fairly cheap. Only your mother perhaps will die of it; your
father and I will swallow our portion;
And the crowd at Salinas
Will have had a good time watching your face in court. It would
be harder, if youVe a snake in your heart,
To keep it shut there.'
He was silent, and drew sharp breath and
said, 'A red-haired one. Ah.
A white one with a red brush. Did you do it with him
Or not?' 'Leave that,' she said stilly; 'this choice is now?
He groaned and answered, 'My mind's not quick like yours.
. . . I'll not lie to them.' 'Let me show your mind to you;
Be patient a moment still; if I seem cruel,
That's to save, all that's left. Look at yourself:
A man who believes his own sweet brother's blood
Lies on his hands: yet
Too scrupulous to tell a lie, for his mother's life.
Our minds are wonderful.' He meditated, and answered
Heavily, 'The sunlight seems dull but red.
What makes it red?' 'Your eyes are sick of not sleeping;
Or there's a forest-fire in the south.' 'Our minds? Little bottles
That hold all hell. I seem too tired to feel it, though.
I'll think, I'll think.'
'You have no time for thinking. He will come probably
Within this hour.' 'Who? Let him come. I'll tell him
God made them male and female but men have made
So-and-so ... I fall asleep while I talk . . . whiskey eh?
Lighted the sticky fire. It's not possible
I'd ever done it except that I stumbled on you
In the heart of guilt. I know that.' 'Believe it then,'
She answered shrilly, and stood twitching her lips
In the white freckled face, in the reddish light of her hair,
'If that will help.' 'Oh,' he said.
'... I wish you had picked from another tree.'
She answered: 'You are to say that you found him dying.
You heard me cry, and he was down by the rock.
Isn't that the truth exactly, because you remember
No previous thing? You heard me cry out; you came;
Michael was dying or had died. That's all. You carried him home.
. . , I wish he'd come.'
But the man did not come
Until afternoon the next day. Dark weather, for a stagnant ocean
of cloud was hung on the sky,
And what light shone came colored like the taste of metal through
smoke of burning forests far to the south,
That veiled the coast, so that it seemed brown twilight
In the house, in Michael's room. A lamp was lighted,
The death-wound viewed. 'Who saw him fall?' 'I alone.
My husband and others came when I cried.' 'Where is your
'With his mother,' she answered faintly. 'She had an attack,
Her heart, angina, and has to lie still. Shall I
Call him, sir?' her voice hardening, her eyes
Growing hard and narrow. 'Pretty soon. Was this young man
In trouble about anything?' 'No.' 'A girl?' 'He was engaged
To Miss Abbey.' 'They had a quarrel, ah?' 'No.'
'Did he seem cheerful?' 'Very.' 'They always do.
Yesterday I had to drive by Elkhorn Slough
Because a very cheerful old man opened his throat
With his nephew T s pen-knife. I was two hours
Finding that place; the farmers around there they couldn't tell
Whether Jesus Christ died on the cross
Or at the battle of Bull Run.'
Old Eraser had stood
Nerveless and dreaming over the livid face
Since they uncovered it; abruptly he turned his head
Above his bowed shoulder, saying 'It's enough.
Dog, blaspheme not. Go to your own place.
My son found death in recklessness, I fear in folly;
Write that and leave us alone; go hence and leave us
To mourn and hope.' 'Well, Mr. Fraser. You understand . . .'
'I am very patient,' the old man said, thrusting
His hollowed face toward the other, the closely set
Inflamed brown eyes pushing like the burnt end of a stick
That has been used to stir fire; the man stepped backward.
'Did he say patient! . . . Well, is your husband here?'
Payne's mouth jerked and froze hard, her hands quieted.
'I will call him. Come to the room downstairs.'
She said at the foot of the stair, 'This way, sir. It's dark.
Will you have to go ... to see the cliff, to see
The cliff?' 'Hm, what's that?' 'Where he fell.'
'Can we drive there?' 'No, ride and walk.' 'Look here,'
He said, 'I've come sixty-five miles already.
You're sure it was accidental?' 'Yes.' 'Well.
I always try to save the family feelings
When the case is not clear.' He tried his pen,
Shook it, and wrote. Fayne watched, quiet and cold, thinking that
Would not have to be questioned; he was saved now;
And saw the man to his car. When he had gone
She thought that now she could laugh or cry if she wanted to,
Now Lance was saved, but her nerves and her mind stood quiet.
She looked at the dusty gate and the dark house-gable
In the stagnant air against the black cloud, and perceived that all
events are exact and were shaped beforehand,
And spaced in a steel frame; when they come up we know them;
there is nothing for excitement.
She went in,
And found Lance in the dark at the head of the stair, bent for-
ward like a great bird. 'Has he gone, Fayne?'
'Did you know he was here?' 'I will live on,' he answered,
'seems to be best. I loved him well; he died instantly,
No anger nor pain. Davis has dug a place by the children's
On account of the dull weather
And closing twilight the group on the hilltop was hardly visible
in their vast scene. It was quite evident
That not only Pico Blanco against the north, and the gray Ven-
tanas, but even every dry fold
And gully of the humbler hills was almost by an infinite measure
of more importance
Than the few faint figures on the bare height,
The truck, and three saddled horses,
And some persons.
The old man swayed and shook, standing praying
At the head of a dug slot
Beside the pile of pale earth.
The heavy great brown-furred sky that covered all things made
a red point in the west, lost it and darkened,
And the Point Sur lighthouse made a thin stabbing from the
Swaying on his heels and toes the old man prayed:
'Oh Lord our God, when thy churches fell off from thee
To go awhoring after organ music,
Singing-women and lecturers, then my people
Came out from among them; and when thy last church,
Thy little band, thy chosen, was turned at length
To lust for wealth and amusement and worldly vanities,
I cried against them and I came forth from among them.
I promised thee in that day that I and my house
Would remain faithful, thou must never despair;
I said, though all men forget thee thou hast a fort
Here in these hills, one candle burning in the infidel world,
And my house is thy people.
My children died,
And I laid them in this place and begot more children
To be thy servants, and I taught them thy ways, but they fell
away from thee.
They found their pleasure among the ungodly, and I believe
They made themselves drunk with wine, and my dear son is
He died on the shore. One half of the curse of Eli has fallen
He covered his face with his knotted hands and stood gasping,
And said, 'I loved him. Here he is, Lord.
Surely thou hast forgiven his sins as I have forgiven them,
And wilt lift him to thy glory on the last day.'
The old man stood silent, lifting his face, and fixed his deep
close-set eyes, like the eyes of an old ape,
Small, dark and melancholy under the bar of the brow, between
the wide cheek-bones, fixed them far off
Across the darkening ridges and ocean upon that single red spot
that waned in the western sky,
And said 'The world darkens and the end is coming.
I cannot beget more children; I am old and empty,
And my wife is old. All men have turned their faces away from
I alone am thy church. Lord God, I beseech thee not to despair,
But remember thine ancient power, and smite the ungodly on
And the faithless churches with utter destruction. For Jesus'
sake, amen.' While he prayed, Fayne watched Lance
With pity and fear; and Mary Abbey, who was there with her
Kept stealing glances at Lance through her wet eyelashes.
She whispered to Fayne: 'Oh, Lance looks dreadfully.
I never knew he loved him so dreadfully.'
Fayne answered, 'Yes, he did'; and looked up at Lance
With pity and fear. 'He looks as if he'd fall sick,'
Mary said. Fayne answered, 'No, he is strong.
He hasn't eaten since Michael died; maybe
He hasn't slept.' Mary said, wiping her eyes,
'His face is so sad and fine, like carved marble.
They say he carried him all the way home, up that cliff.'
The old man ended his prayer, the redwood box
Was lowered with ropes; Lance had the weight at one end,
Old Fraser and Davis at the other. The ropes cut grooves
In the earth edges. While they were shovelling earth,
Mary Abbey, with a sudden abandoned gesture
Of the hand that had the handkerchief in it, ran up to Lance
On the scraped ground. 'Don't grieve so.' She reached and
His hand on the spade-handle. 'It makes me afraid for you.
We all loved him; life has to go on.' He jerked his hand,
And looked down at her face with startled eyes
So pale gray-blue that all the light that remained in the world
Under the low black sky seemed to live in them,
Stammering, 'No. No. He fell from the cliff.' She said, 'I know,
We have to bear it. I loved him too.' He gathered his dreaming
Into the bundle again and said, 'Oh. All right. Please keep out of
the way for the time.
We have this to do.' 'Good-bye,' she answered patiently. 'Fa-
ther's calling me.'
The pit was filled full and mounded;
Fayne came and said, 'What was she saying to you?' 'Nothing.
Who?' 'Mary Abbey.' 'I didn't see her.'
'What, Lance? She came and spoke to you.' 'I'd rather be there
with Michael,' he answered. 'Dear, you must rouse yourself.
Life has to go on.' 'Somebody was saying so, I think.
There's not a hawk in the sky.' She answered from a hoarse
throat, 'After dark? What are you dreaming?
See, Davie's turned on the headlights.' 'I hate them,' he said,
'killers, dirty chicken-thieves.'
The farm-truck headlights
Shone on the mounded earth, and cast its enormously lengthened
shadow and the shadows of a few moving
Persons across the world, with the beam of light, over mound
beyond mound of bare autumn hills, and black
Ocean under the black-roofed evening.
That night he returned
To lie with Fayne in their bed, but like two strangers
Lying in one bed in a crowded inn, who avoid
Touching each other; but the fifth night
She laid her hand on the smooth strength of his breast,
He pretended to be asleep, she moved against him,
Plucking his throat with her lips. He answered, 'After all?
You're right. If we're to live in this life
We'll keep its customs.' He approached her confidently,
And had no power. The little irrational anger
At finding himself ridiculous brought to his mind
That worse rage, never before clearly remembered,
But now to the last moment; or imagined. He drew
His limbs from Payne's without thinking of her, and lay still,
with shut fists,
Sweating, staring up spirals of awful darkness, that spun away up
and wound over his eyes
Around a hollow gray core with flecks in it. 'I am damned un-
justly. I did it in a moment.'
But Fayne knew nothing
Of the shut agony beside her; only she was troubled at heart, and
Whether he had ceased to love her said tenderly, 'Sleep,
Darling. I didn't mean. I didn't want.
Only I love you.' He felt her instinctive hand
Move downward fondling along the flat of his belly.
He set it aside and spoke, so low that her ears
Lost every word between the hair and the pillow.
'What, dearest?' 'I know it,' he said, 'they're dogs: that was
Fit to tell dogs. I can be damned
At home as well.' 'Hush, dear.' 'I don't make a good murderer,'
He said, 'I sweat.' She was silent and heard him breathing,
And mourned, 'Oh, cover your mind with quietness to-night.
In the morning you'll face it down again. This will get well with
It was really only a dreadful accident.' 'Very damnable,' he said,
'Very true.' Fayne said, 'We'll live, sweetheart, to feel it
Only a dreadful accident, and the sad death
Of one we loved.' 'That's your smooth skin.
The fires fester on mine. Will you do something
For me?' 'Dearest, with all my heart.' 'An easy kindness:
Shut up your mouth.'
He got up after a time;
When he went out she followed, trembling. He turned on her
Outside the door. 'I'm not going to Salinas,'
He whispered, 'nor bump myself off either.
I'll not starve your hawks of their snatch o' meat.
Now let me alone for Christ's sake.' She stood and saw him
Against the starlit window at the end steal down
The hallway, go past the stairhead, and enter the empty
Room of his brother. He slept there from that night on,
And seemed to regain calm strength.
In the course of a month
Rain seemed at hand, the south wind whetting his knife on the
long mountain and wild clouds flying;
Lance and his father set out to burn the hill to make pasture. They
carried fire in forkfuls of straw
Along the base of the south wall of their valley; the horses they
rode snorted against it, and smoke
Boiled, but the seaward end of the hill would only be burnt in
patches. Inland, at the parched end,
A reach of high grass and sage might have led out the fire to the
forest, and Lance rode up
To watch a flame down the wind to black out the danger.
He carried two barley-sacks and went to the Abbeys' trough
At the hill spring to dip them, to beat down the fire's
Creepings up wind. From that spur of the mountain
He saw the planted pine trees at Abbey's place,
And riding back with the dipped sacks, the vale
Of his own place, the smoke-mist, and Sycamore Creek
Wound like a long serpent down the small fields.
He set his fires and watched them rage with the wind,
Easily stifling their returns, riding herd
On the black line; then from the base of the hill
Red surf, and the dark spray rolled back by the wind,
Of the other fire came up roaring. The lines met
On the fall of the hill like waves at a river's mouth
That spout up and kill each other, and hang white spray
On cold clear wind.
A rabbit with blazing fur broke through the back-fire,
Bounding and falling, it passed by Lance and ran
Straight into the stem of a wild lilac bush,
He saw it was blind from the fire, and watching it struggle away
Up its dark pain, saw Mary Abbey coming down the black hill
against the white sky,
Treading on embers. Lance turned and hardened in the saddle,
and saw the vale below him a long trough of smoke
Spilled northward, then Mary came near and said, 'I wanted to
talk to you. I saw you ride by the water-trough.'
He shuddered and said, 'What? I'll watch the fire.' 'Fayne
doesn't like me so well I think
Since Michael . . . indeed I'm ashamed to be always around your
'I noticed you there,' he said, carefully regarding
The dark braids of her hair, and the pale brown face
Seen from above. 'I don't know,' she said.
'My father says to go away for a time,
His sister lives on a place in Idaho.
But I wouldn't want to forget. But I told Fayne . . .
So I don't know. We could see that you grieved for him
More deeply than anyone else, and all these great hills are empty.'
He said, 'Is that all?' 'Ah . . . ? Yes,' she answered,
And turned away and looked back. Lance found that the bridle-
Had broken suddenly between his hands, and said 'You won't get
anything from Fayne; she's hard as iron.
Why do you follow us around? What do you think you'll find
out?' She said, 'Your grief is greater perhaps,
For you knew him longer. But you have Fayne and I have no-
body: speak kindly to me. As I remember,
At first it came from seeing you and Fayne so happy in each
I wanted to be like that. I can't talk well, like Fayne,
But I read a great deal.' He stared at her face and began to knot
the bridle, his hands relaxing,
And said, 'I must ride around by the oak-scrub and see that the
fire has checked. I've got to be watchful always.
Will you stay here?' He went and returned and said, 'Come
down to our place whenever you are lonely, Mary.
My mother's quite well again. His death was ... do people talk
much about it?' She looked in wonder at his face,
And he with numbed lips: 'What lies do they . . . can't you
speak out?' 'I never
Talked about it with anyone, since Nina Dolman
Told us that day. Truly there's nothing to be said by anyone
Except, he was bright with life and suddenly nothing, nothing,
Lance breathed and said sharply, 'I wouldn't bet on it
If I were you. Mary, you are tender and merciful:
Don't come to the house; Fayne is like iron. You'd better
Run home and forget about us. Unless you should hear something
I ought to know.' 'What do you mean?' 'Good-bye.'
She saw his bridle-hand lift, she said 'I've no pride,
I pray you not to leave me yet, Lance.
I loved him greatly, and now that bond hangs cut,
Bleeding on the empty world, it reaches after
You that were near him, Fayne and you. I was always
Without companions, and now I'd give anything
To be in your friendship a little.' 'Anything?' he said.
'You faithful women.
Fayne was five days. Mmhm, I have seen a vision.
My eyes are opened I believe.'
He rode across the burnt hill,
Watching the wind swirl up the ashes and flatten
The spits of smoke. Past the singed oak-scrub he began to wonder,
If there was honey in the little tree, had . . . the dead
Tasted it before he died? 'You'd better be off to Idaho.
... I shy from his name like a scared horse.
By God, I'd better get used to it; I've got to live with it.'
He looked sharply all about the burnt solitude
To be sure of no hearers, and recited aloud:
'I killed Michael. My name is Lance Fraser.
I murdered my brother Michael. I was plastered,
But I caught 'em at it. I killed my brother Michael.
I'm not afraid to sleep in his room or even
Take over his girl if I choose. I am a dog,
But so are all.'
The tall man riding the little bay horse
Along the burnt ridge, talking loudly to nothing but the ash-
drifting wind; a shadow passed his right shoulder;
He turned on it with slitted eyes, and saw through the strained
lashes against the gray wind a ghastly old woman
Pursuing him, bent double with age and fury, her brown cloak
wild on the wind, but when she turned up the wind
It was only a redtail hawk that hunted
On the burnt borders, making her profit in the trouble of field-
mice. Lance groaned in his throat 'Go up you devil.
Ask your high places whether they can save you next time.'
Leo Ramirez rode down on business
About redwood for fence-posts; he asked in vain
For Lance, and had to deal with old Eraser. When he went out
He saw red hair around the corner of the house
And found Fayne in the garden, and asked for Lance.
'I couldn't tell you. I saw him ride to the south.
He'll be home soon for supper.' Ramirez stood
In troubled silence, looking at the earth, and said
'I wonder ought I to tell him . . .' Payne's body quivered
Ever so slightly, her face grew carefully blank.
'What, Leo?' 'Will Howard, for instance. Mouths that can't
Shut up for the love of God.' 'He drives the coast-stage,'
Fayne answered carefully. Ramirez looked over the creek
At the branded flanks of the south hill, and no rain had come
To streak them with gray relentings. 'He didn't see it,'
He said; 'and those two janes on vacation
Went back to town the next day.' He giggled, remembering
The sailing-ship stippled on the white skin,
And fixed his mind smooth again. Fayne said, 'How dares he
Lie about us?' Ramirez's brown soft eyes
Regarded her with mournful wonder and slid away.
He said, 'You was very quick-thinking.' 'What?' she said, 'You
And when I cried to him to be careful you looked
And saw him larking on the rock, and you saw him fall,
You could see very plainly in the awful moonlight.
These are things, Leo, that you could swear to.' He nodded,
And slid his red tongue along his dry lips and answered,
'Yes'm.' 'So Howard's a liar,' she said. 'But don't tell Lance;
He'd break him in two. We'll all do very well,
All wicked stories will die, long long before
Our ache of loss.' 'Yes'm.' She walked beside him
To his tethered horse, and charmed him with an impulsive hand-
After he was in the saddle.
She stood with her face high, the
great sponge of red hair
Lying like a helmet-plume on her shoulders, and thought she was
sure of conquering security but she was tired;
She was not afraid of the enemy world, but Michael would never
be here laughing again. On the hill,
In the hill he lay; it was stranger than that, and sharper. And his
Ought to be hated a little in the much love. The smells in the
wind were of ocean, the reedy creek-mouth,
Cows, and wood-smoke, and chile-con-carne on the kitchen stove;
it was harder to analyze thoughts in the mind.
She looked at the dear house and its gables
Darkening so low against the hill and wide sky and the evening
color commencing; it was Lance's nest
Where he was born, and h
A Dramatic Poem
The deck of an ancient ship. At the right of the stage is the mast, with a large square sail hiding a great deal of the sky and sea on that side. The tiller is at the left of the stage; it is a long oar coming through an opening in the bulwark. The deck rises in a series of steps hehind the tiller, and the stern of the ship curves overhead. When the play opens there are four persons upon the deck. Aibric stands by the tiller. Forgael sleeps upon the raised portion of the deck towards the front of the stage. Two Sailors are standing near to the mast, on which a harp is hanging.
First Sailor. Has he not led us into these waste seas
For long enough?
Second Sailor. Aye, long and long enough.
First Sailor. We have not come upon a shore or ship
These dozen weeks.
Sccond Sailor. And I had thought to make
A good round Sum upon this cruise, and turn --
For I am getting on in life -- to something
That has less ups and downs than robbery.
First Sailor. I am so tired of being bachelor
I could give all my heart to that Red Moll
That had but the one eye.
Second Sailor. Can no bewitchment
Transform these rascal billows into women
That I may drown myself?
First Sailor. Better steer home,
Whether he will or no; and better still
To take him while he sleeps and carry him
And drop him from the gunnel.
Second Sailor. I dare not do it.
Were't not that there is magic in his harp,
I would be of your mind; but when he plays it
Strange creatures flutter up before one's eyes,
Or cry about one's ears.
First Sailor. Nothing to fear.
Second Sailor. Do you remember when we sank that
At the full moon?
First Sailor. He played all through the night.
Second Sailor. Until the moon had set; and when I looked
Where the dead drifted, I could see a bird
Like a grey gull upon the breast of each.
While I was looking they rose hurriedly,
And after circling with strange cries awhile
Flew westward; and many a time since then
I've heard a rustling overhead in the wind.
First Sailor. I saw them on that night as well as you.
But when I had eaten and drunk myself asleep
My courage came again.
Second Sailor. But that's not all.
The other night, while he was playing it,
A beautiful young man and girl came up
In a white breaking wave; they had the look
Of those that are alive for ever and ever.
First Sailor. I saw them, too, one night. Forgael was
And they were listening ther& beyond the sail.
He could not see them, but I held out my hands
To grasp the woman.
Second Sailor. You have dared to touch her?
First Sailor. O she was but a shadow, and slipped from
Second Sailor. But were you not afraid?
First Sailor. Why should I fear?
Second Sailor. 'Twas Aengus and Edain, the wandering
To whom all lovers pray.
First Sailor. But what of that?
A shadow does not carry sword or spear.
Second Sailor. My mother told me that there is not one
Of the Ever-living half so dangerous
As that wild Aengus. Long before her day
He carried Edain off from a king's house,
And hid her among fruits of jewel-stone
And in a tower of glass, and from that day
Has hated every man that's not in love,
And has been dangerous to him.
First Sailor. I have heard
He does not hate seafarers as he hates
Peaceable men that shut the wind away,
And keep to the one weary marriage-bed.
Second Sailor. I think that he has Forgael in his net,
And drags him through the sea,
First Sailor Well, net or none,
I'd drown him while we have the chance to do it.
Second Sailor. It's certain I'd sleep easier o' nights
If he were dead; but who will be our captain,
Judge of the stars, and find a course for us?
First Sailor. I've thought of that. We must have Aibric
For he can judge the stars as well as Forgael.
[Going towards Aibric.]
Become our captain, Aibric. I am resolved
To make an end of Forgael while he sleeps.
There's not a man but will be glad of it
When it is over, nor one to grumble at us.
Aibric. You have taken pay and made your bargain for it.
First Sailor. What good is there in this hard way of
Unless we drain more flagons in a year
And kiss more lips than lasting peaceable men
In their long lives? Will you be of our troop
And take the captain's share of everything
And bring us into populous seas again?
Aibric. Be of your troop! Aibric be one of you
And Forgael in the other scale! kill Forgael,
And he my master from my childhood up!
If you will draw that sword out of its scabbard
I'll give my answer.
First Sailor. You have awakened him.
[To Second Sailor.]
We'd better go, for we have lost this chance.
[They go out.]
Forgael. Have the birds passed us? I could hear your
But there were others.
Aibric. I have seen nothing pass.
Forgael. You're certain of it? I never wake from sleep
But that I am afraid they may have passed,
For they're my only pilots. If I lost them
Straying too far into the north or south,
I'd never come upon the happiness
That has been promised me. I have not seen them
These many days; and yet there must be many
Dying at every moment in the world,
And flying towards their peace.
Aibric. Put by these thoughts,
And listen to me for a while. The sailors
Are plotting for your death.
Forgael. Have I not given
More riches than they ever hoped to find?
And now they will not follow, while I seek
The only riches that have hit my fancy.
Aibric. What riches can you find in this waste sea
Where no ship sails, where nothing that's alive
Has ever come but those man-headed birds,
Knowing it for the world's end?
Forgael. Where the world ends
The mind is made unchanging, for it finds
Miracle, ecstasy, the impossible hope,
The flagstone under all, the fire of fires,
The roots of the world.
Aibric. Shadows before now
Have driven travellers mad for their own sport.
Forgael. Do you, too, doubt me? Have you joined their
Aibric. No, no, do not say that. You know right well
That I will never lift a hand against you.
Forgael. Why should you be more faithful than the rest,
Being as doubtful?
Aibric. I have called you master
Too many years to lift a hand against you.
Forgael. Maybe it is but natural to doubt me.
You've never known, I'd lay a wager on it,
A melancholy that a cup of wine,
A lucky battle, or a woman's kiss
Could not amend.
Aibric. I have good spirits enough.
Forgael. If you will give me all your mind awhile --
All, all, the very bottom of the bowl --
I'll show you that I am made differently,
That nothing can amend it but these waters,
Where I am rid of life -- the events of the world --
What do you call it? -- that old promise-breaker,
The cozening fortune-teller that comes whispering,
'You will have all you have wished for when you have
Land for your children or money in a pot.-
And when we have it we are no happier,
Because of that old draught under the door,
Or creaky shoes. And at the end of all
How are we better off than Seaghan the fool,
That never did a hand's turn? Aibric! Aibric!
We have fallen in the dreams the Ever-living
Breathe on the burnished mirror of the world
And then smooth out with ivory hands and sigh,
And find their laughter sweeter to the taste
For that brief sighing.
Aibric. If you had loved some woman --
Forgael. You say that also? You have heard the voices,
For that is what they say -- all, all the shadows --
Aengus and Edain, those passionate wanderers,
And all the others; but it must be love
As they have known it. Now the secret's out;
For it is love that I am seeking for,
But of a beautiful, unheard-of kind
That is not in the world.
Aibric. And yet the world
Has beautiful women to please every man.
Forgael. But he that gets their love after the fashion
'Loves in brief longing and deceiving hope
And bodily tenderness, and finds that even
The bed of love, that in the imagination
Had seemed to be the giver of all peace,
Is no more than a wine-cup in the tasting,
And as soon finished.
Aibric. All that ever loved
Have loved that way -- there is no other way.
Forgael. Yet never have two lovers kissed but they
believed there was some other near at hand,
And almost wept because they could not find it.
Aibric. When they have twenty years; in middle life
They take a kiss for what a kiss is worth,
And let the dream go by.
Forgael. It's not a dream,
But the reality that makes our passion
As a lamp shadow -- no -- no lamp, the sun.
What the world's million lips are thirsting for
Must be substantial somewhere.
Aibric. I have heard the Druids
Mutter such things as they awake from trance.
It may be that the Ever-living know it --
No mortal can.
Forgael. Yes; if they give us help.
Aibric. They are besotting you as they besot
The crazy herdsman that will tell his fellows
That he has been all night upon the hills,
Riding to hurley, or in the battle-host
With the Ever-living.
Forgael. What if he speak the truth,
And for a dozen hours have been a part
Of that more powerful life?
Aibric, His wife knows better.
Has she not seen him lying like a log,
Or fumbling in a dream about the house?
And if she hear him mutter of wild riders,
She knows that it was but the cart-horse coughing
That set him to the fancy.
Forgael. All would be well
Could we but give us wholly to the dreams,
And get into their world that to the sense
Is shadow, and not linger wretchedly
Among substantial things; for it is dreams
That lift us to the flowing, changing world
That the heart longs for. What is love itself,
Even though it be the lightest of light love,
But dreams that hurry from beyond the world
To make low laughter more than meat and drink,
Though it but set us sighing? Fellow-wanderer,
Could we but mix ourselves into a dream,
Not in its image on the mirror!
We're in the body that's impossible.
Forgael. And yet I cannot think they're leading me
To death; for they that promised to me love
As those that can outlive the moon have known it, '
Had the world's total life gathered up, it seemed,
Into their shining limbs -- I've had great teachers.
Aengus and Edain ran up out of the wave --
You'd never doubt that it was life they promised
Had you looked on them face to face as I did,
With so red lips, and running on such feet,
And having such wide-open, shining eyes.
Aibric. It's certain they are leading you to death.
None but the dead, or those that never lived,
Can know that ecstasy. Forgael! Forgael!
They have made you follow the man-headed birds,
And you have told me that their journey lies
Towards the country of the dead.
Forgael. What matter
If I am going to my death? -- for there,
Or somewhere, I shall find the love they have
That much is certain. I shall find a woman.
One of the Ever-living, as I think --
One of the Laughing People -- and she and I
Shall light upon a place in the world's core,
Where passion grows to be a changeless thing,
Like charmed apples made of chrysoprase,
Or chrysoberyl, or beryl, or chrysclite;
And there, in juggleries of sight and sense,
Become one movement, energy, delight,
Until the overburthened moon is dead.
[A number of Sailors entcr hurriedly.]
First Sailor. Look there! there in the mist! a ship of spice!
And we are almost on her!
Second Sailor. We had not known
But for the ambergris and sandalwood.
First Sailor. NO; but opoponax and cinnamon.
Forgael [taking the tiller from Aibric]. The Ever-living have
kept my bargain for me,
And paid you on the nail.
Aibric. Take up that rope
To make her fast while we are plundering her.
First Sailor. There is a king and queen upon her deck,
And where there is one woman there'll be others.
Aibric. Speak lower, or they'll hear.
First Sailor. They cannot hear;
They are too busy with each other. Look!
He has stooped down and kissed her on the lips.
Second Sailor. When she finds out we have better men
She may not be too sorry in the end.
First Sailor. She will be like a wild cat; for these queens
Care more about the kegs of silver and gold
And the high fame that come to them in marriage,
Than a strong body and a ready hand.
Second Sailor. There's nobody is natural but a robber,
And that is why the world totters about
Upon its bandy legs.
Aibric. Run at them now,
And overpower the crew while yet asleep!
[The Sailors go out.]
Dear exile from the hurrying crowd,
At work I muse to you aloud;
Thought on my anvil softens, glows,
And I forget our art has foes;
For life, the mother of beauty, seems
A joyous sleep with waking dreams.
Then the toy armoury of the brain
Opining, judging, looks as vain
As trowels silver gilt for use
Of mayors and kings, who have to lay
Foundation stones in hope they may
Be honoured for walls others build.
I, in amicable muse,
With fathomless wonder only filled,
Whisper over to your ear
Listening two hundred odd miles north,
And give thought chase that, were you here,
Our talk would never run to earth.
Man can answer no momentous question:
Whence comes his spirit? Has it lived before?
Reason fails; hot springs of feeling spout
Their snowy columns high in the dim land
Of his surmise — violent divine decisions
That often rule him: and at times he views
Portraits of places he has never been to,
Yet more minute and vivid than remembrance,
Of boyhood homes, sail between sleep and waking
Like some mirage, refuting all experience
With topsy-turvy ships,
That steals by in dead calms through tropic haze:
And many a man in his climacteric years,
Thoughts and remembered words have roused from sleep
With knowledge that he lacked on lying down:
And I, lapped in a trance of reverie, doubt
Some spore of episodes
Anterior far beyond this body's birth,
Dispersed like puffs of dust impalpable,
Wind-carried round this globe for centuries,
May, breathed with common air, yet swim the blood,
And striking root in this or that brain, raise
One such seems half-implied in all I am,
And many times re-pondered shapes like this:
A child myself I watched a woman loll
Like to a clot of seaweed thrown ashore;
Heavy and limp as cloth soaked in black dye,
She glooms the noontide dazzle where a bay
Bites into vineyarded flats close-fenced by hills,
Over whose tops lap forests of cork and fir
And reach in places half down their rough slopes.
Lower, some few cleared fields square on the thickets
Of junipers and longer thorns than furze
So clumped that they are trackless even for goats
I know two things about that woman: first
She is a slave and I am free, and next
As mothers need their sons' love she needs mine.
Longings to utter fond compassionate sounds
Stir through me, checked by knowing wiser folk
Reprobate such indulgence. Ill at ease,
Mute, yet her captive, I thrust brown toes through
Loose sand no daily large tides overwhelm
To cake and roll it firm and smooth and clean
As the Atlantic remakes shores, you know.
But there, like trailing skirts, long flaws of wind
Obliterate the prints feet during calms
Track over and over its always lonely stretch,
Till some will have, it ghosts must rove at night;
For folk by day are rare, yet a still week
Leaves hardly ten yards anywhere uncrossed;
Tempest spreads all revirginate like snow,
Half burying dead wood snapped off from tossed trees,
Since right along the foreshore, out of reach
Of furious driven waves, three hundred pines
Straggle the marches between sand and soil.
Like maps of stone-walled fields their branching roots
Hold the silt still so that thin grass grows there,
Its blades whitened with travelling powdery drift
The besom of the lightest breeze sets stirring.
That woman's gaze toils worn from remote years,
Yet forward yearns through the bright spacious noon,
Beyond the farthest isle, whose filmy shape
Floats faint on the sea-line.
I, scooping grains up with the frail half-shell
Pale green and white-lined of sea-urchin, knew
What her eyes sought as often children know
Of grief or sin they could not name or think of
Yet sooth or shrink from, so I saw and longed
To heal her tender wound and yet said naught.
The energy of bygone joy and pain
Had left her listless figure charged with magic
That caught and held my idleness near hers.
Resentful of her power, my spirit chafed
Against its own deep pity, as though it were
Raised ghost and she the witch had bid it haunt me.
What's more I knew this slave by rights should glean
And faggot drift-wood, not lounge there and waste
My father's food dreaming his time away.
For then as now the common-minded rich
Grudged ease to those whose toil brought them in means
For every waste of life. At length I spoke,
Insulting both my inarticulate soul
And her with acted anger: 'Lazy wretch,
Is it for eyes like yours to watch the sea
As though you waited for a homing ship?
My father might with reason spend his hours
Scanning the far horizon; for his Swan
Whose outward lading was full half a vintage
Is now months overdue.' She turned on me
Her languor knit and, through its homespun wrap,
Her muscular frame gave hints of rebel will,
While those great caves of night, her eyes, faced mine,
Dread with the silence of unuttered wrongs:
At last she spoke as one who must be heeded.
Truly I am not clear
Whether her meaning was conveyed in words
(She mingled accents of an eastern tongue
With deformed phrases of our native Latin)
Or whether thought from her gaze poured through mine.
The gravity of recollected life
Was hers, condensed and, like a vision, flashed
Suddenly on the guilty mind, a whole
Compact, no longer a mere tedious string
Of moments negligible, each so small
As they were lived, but stark like a slain man
Who would alive have been ourself with twice
The skill, the knowledge, the vitality
Actually ours. Yea, as a tree may view
With fingerless boughs and lorn pole impotent,
An elephant gorged upon its leaves depart,
Men often have reviewed an unwieldy past,
That like a feasted Mammoth, leisured and slow,
Turned its back on their warped bones. Even thus,
Momentous with reproach, her grave regard
Made me feel mean, cashiered of rank and right,
My limbs that twelve good years had nursed were numbed
And all their fidgety quicksilver grew stiff,
Novel and fevering hallucinations
Invaded my attention. So daylight
When shutters are thrown back spreads through a house;
As then the dreams and terrors of the night
Decamp, so from my mind were driven
All its own thoughts and feelings. Close she leant
Propped on a swarthy arm, while the other helped
With eloquent gesture potent as wizard wand,
Veil the world off as with an airy web,
Or flowing tent a-gleam with pictured folds.
These tauten and distend — one sea of wheat,
Islanded with black cities, borders now
The voluminous blue pavilion of day.
There-under to the nearest of those towns
This woman younger by ten years made haste
While at her side ran a small boy of six.
They neared the walls, half a huge double gate
Lay prostrate, though the other by stone hinges
Hung to its flanking tower. The path they followed
Threaded an old paved road whose flags were edged
With dry grass and dry weeds, even cactuses
Had pushed the stones up or found root in muck heaps:
The path struck up the slope of the fallen door,
Basalt like midnight, o'er which dusty feet
Had greyed a passage, for it rested on
Some débris fallen from the left-hand tower,
And from its upper edge rude blocks like steps
Led down into the straight main street, that ran
Past eyeless buildings mined as it were from coal,
And earthquake-raised to light. Palaces and
Roofless wide-flighted colonnaded temples,
The uncemented walls piled-plumb with blocks
Squared, polished, fitted with daemonic patience.
Each gaping threshold high again as need be
Waited a nine-foot lord to enter hall,
Where the least draughty corner sheltered now
Half-tented hut or improvised small home
For Arab, brown, light-footed and proud-necked
As was this woman with the compelling voice.
Their present hutched and hived within that past
As bees in the parchment chest of Samson's lion;
And all seem conscious that their life was sweet,
Like mice who clean their faces after meals
And have such grace of movement, when unscared,
As wins the admiration even of those
Whose stores they rob and soil. I saw her eyes
Young with contentment in her son
And smaller babe and in their handsome sire,
And knew that many a supper had been relished
With hearts as joyous as waited while she cooked
And served upon returning to their cot
In hall where once far other hearts caroused.
They and their tribe could never reap a tithe
Of the vast harvest rustling round those ruins,
And over which a half-moon soon set forth
From black hills mounded up both east and south,
While north-west her light played on distant summits;
All the huge interspace floored with standing corn
Which kings afar send soldiery to reap,
Who now, beside a long canal cut straight
In ancient days, have pitched their noisy camp
Which on that vast staid silence makes a bruise
Of blare and riot that its robust health
Will certainly heal in a brief lapse of time.
One night, re-thought on after ten whole years,
Is like the condor high above the Andes,
A speck with difficulty found again
Once the attention quits it. And I next
Descried our woman under breathless noon,
Bathing in a clear lane of gliding water
Whose banks seem lonely as the path of light
Crossing mid ocean south of Capricorn.
Her son steals warily after a butterfly
And is as hushed with hope to capture it
As are the birds with heat. An insect hum
Circles the spot as round a cymbal's rim,
Long after it has clanged, tingles a throb
Which in a dream forgets the parent sound,
Oppressed by this protracted and awe-filled pause,
She hardly dares to wade the stream and moves
As though in dread to wake some sleeping god,
Yet still she nears and nears the further bank
Where there is shade under a shumac's eaves.
The brilliant surface cut her right in two,
And the reflection of her bronzed torso
Hid all beneath the polished gliding mirror;
How her face listened to that sleep divine
Whose audible breath was tuned to dreams of bliss!
Sudden, as though the woof of heaven were torn,
A strident shout rang from some neighbour shrubs
Three Nubian soldiers ran upon her with
Delighted oily faces. Screaming first
Commands to her small son to make for home,
She laboured to recross the current as when
In nightmares the scared soul expects to die
Tortured by mutiny in limbs like lead,
But as the playful lion of the sea
Climbs the rock ledges hard by Fingal's cave
To throw himself down into deep green baths,
While others barking follow his vigorous lead,
The foremost Abyssinian threw his weight
Before her with a splash that hid them both,
As the explosion of light-filled liquid parcels
Shot forth in all directions. In his arms
She re-appeared, a tragic terrified face
Beside his coarse one laughing with success.
Squeezing her with a pantomime of love,
He turns to follow an arrow with his eyes
That his companion, still upon the bank,
Has aimed towards her son's small head that bobbed
Like a black cork across the basking corn.
But from the level of the sunk stream bed
Neither he nor she could see the target aimed at,
Yet in the pause they heard the poor child scream;
A second arrow, second scream; she fought,
But soon like bundle bound, hung o'er his shoulder,
Helpless as a mouse in cat's mouth carried off
In search of quiet, there to play with it.
Those arrows missed? — or did they not? The child
Shrieked twice, yet scarcely like a wounded thing
She thought and hoped and still but thinks and hopes.
Where is that boy? Where is her husband now?
While she submitted body to force and soul
To the great shuddering violence of despair
How had their life progressed in that far place?
Compassion fused my consciousness with hers
And second-sighted eloquence arose
To claim my mind for rostrum,
But obstinately tranced
My eyes clung to their vision;
For regions to explore allure the boy
No stretch of thought or sea of feeling tempts.
Entranced, the mind I then had, haunted
Those basalt ruins. High on sable towers
Some silky patriarchal goat appears
And ponders silent streets, or suddenly
Some nanny, her huge bag swollen with milk,
Trots out on galleries that unfenced run
Round vacant courts, there, stopped by plaintive kids,
Lets them complete their meal. While always, always,
Throughout, those mazed, sullen and sun-soaked walls,
The steady, healthy wind,
Which often blows for weeks without a lull
Across that upland plain,
Flutes staidly. Moaning
Continuously as seas
Or forests before storm,
And, gathering moment,
Articulated by her woe, begins
With second-sighted eloquence
To wail through me,
Nigh as unheeded,
As though it still had been
For ah! the heart is cowed
And dares not use her strength,
Hears the kind impulse plead
Against the common avaricious fear,
Grants it but life, though sovereignty was due
Or doles it sway but one day out of seven
Or one a year.
So, so, and ever, so
In the close-curtained court
Those causes are deferred
Which most import;
These wait man's leisure.
These daily matters elbow;
His panic meanness
Jibs blindly ere it hear
What wisdom has prepared,
Bolts headlong ere it see
Her face unfold its smile.
Man after man, race after race
Drops jaded by the iterancy
Of petty fear.
Even as horses on the green steppes grazing,
Hundreds scattered through lonely peacefulness,
If shadow of cloud or red fox breaking earth
Delude but one with dream of a stealthy foe,
All are stampeded.
Their frantic torrent draws in,
With dire attraction, cumulative force,
Stragglers grazing miles from where it started;
On it thunders quite devoid of meaning.
The tender private soul
Thus takes contagion from the sordid crowd,
And shying at mere dread of loss,
Loses the whole of life.
Thus, in the vortex of a base turmoil,
Those myriad million energies wear down
That might have raised mankind
To live the life of gods.
Had but my soul been his,
As his was mine,
Those wind-resembling accents
Had found fit auditor.
Their second-sighted eloquence,
Welcomed with acclamation,
Had fired action.
But that was ages since: he was not then
What now I am,
Who have no longer
The opportunity then mine, then missed, —
Who still am dazed and troubled
Surmising others mine, others missed.
Passionate, never-wearied voice,
Tombed in thy brittle shell,
This human heart
Thou croonest age on age,
'Give and ask not,
Help and blame not,'
Heeded less than large and mottled cowry
The which at least some child may hold to ear
All smiles to listen.
Thou findest parables;
With fond imagination
For the successive
This boy, myself that was,
Musing visions by that woman raised,
Watched that land she came from, towned with ruins
Send mile-long files of laden camels out
With grain to hostile cities, —
Knew too the blue entrancing plain of waters
Teemed with fresh shoals, buoyed up indifferently,
Fisher — trader — pirate bark, —
Even the straight thought whispered at his ear,
'Thy lips might join with hers as with some cousin's,
Here, now, at noon,
Hugging her bereavéd sadness close,
And still, to-night, with equal satisfaction,
Thy mother's blind contentment with her son.'
While half-seduced, half-chafed, his mind was shaken
As with conflicting gusts a choppy sea,
His eyes, still greedy of their visions,
Fastened a swarthy town enisled in wheat,
And to the ebon threshold of each house,
Conjured forth the man that each was planned for:
Great creatures smiling with his father's smile,
Muscular, wealthy and self-satisfied,
Wearing loud-coloured raiment, earrings, chains,
Armlet and buckle, all of clanking gold.
His spirit drank from theirs great draughts of pride
And read their minds more clearly than his own;
All, with one counsel like a chorus, dinned
His soul that then was mine,
With truths well-proved in action.
'Love is chaos,
For order's sake
Whatever must be, should be,'
Roared those bulls of Bashan.
Then their proud chant argued,
'How should this woman know
Her little lad again,
Who either now is bones
Under the fertile field,
Or well nigh a grown man?
Say they should cross at market
Both slaves would pass on, not a start the wiser.
What is she then to him
Or he to her
After these years?
To drag a life that might have been but is not
With toil of mind and heart,
Through dreary year on year,
Neglecting for its sake the life that is,
Spells folly and ingratitude to those
Who treat their slaves well.
Thy father's household and thyself should be
More to her now than those who may be dead,
The place she lives in dearer
Than any unattainable far land
Where she is more forgotten than old dreams.
Why make the day of evil worse
By dwelling on it after it has past?
Near things alone are real,
Now is the whole of time:
Places beyond the horizon are but pictures;
Memory cheats the eye with an illusion!'
'Your thoughts are sound, bold builders,
I am my father's son.
Behold this home-shore, these our hills, this bay,
And this our slave! —
Up, work, look sharp about it!'
Bounding a foot and fast retiring from her,
I stoop for stones strewn thick about the sand,
Aim them, fling them,
And, as my idle arm resumes the knack,
Score a hit and laugh
To see her stumble hurt, behind the pine trunks.
'Unless you work, I throw again,
To it and steady at it.
Mark me, drab, we Camilli
Mean what we say.'
Stone after stone still flies,
But aimed to knock chips from the pine-boles now;
For she is busy gathering sticks, increasing
Her distance as she may. The noon is sultry,
Heated and clammy, I,
Towards the live waves turning, slip my tunic,
Then run in naked.
Cooled and soothed by swimming,
Both mind and heart from their late tumult tuned
To placid acquiescent health,
I float, suspended in the limpid water,
Passive, rhythmically governed;
So tranced worlds travel the dark shoreless ether.
'Where should this stream of pictures tend?'
No, Bottomley, you will not ask;
To you I am quite free to send
The unexpected, unexplained,
You will not take me thus to task.
So they be painted well, they live;
If ill, they yet may cling to fame
Associated with your name.
In which case you, and not I, give
That we are both contented with.