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The Manuscript of Saint Alexius

There came a child into the solemn hall
where great Pope Innocent sat throned and heard
angry disputings on Free-Will in man,
Grace, Purity, and the Pelagian creed--
an ignorantly bold poor child, who stood
shewing his rags before the Pope's own eyes,
and bade him come to shrive a beggar man
he found alone and dying in a shed,
who sent him for the Pope, "not any else
but the Pope's self." And Innocent arose
and hushed the mockers "Surely I will go:
servant of servants, I." So he went forth
to where the man lay sleeping into death,
and blessed him. Then, with a last spurt of life,
the dying man rose sitting, "Take," he said,
and placed a written scroll in the Pope's hand,
and so fell back and died. Thus said the scroll:

Alexius, meanest servant of the Lord,
son of Euphemianus, senator,
and of Aglaia, writes his history,
God willing it, which, if God so shall will,
shall be revealed when he is fallen asleep.
Spirit of Truth, Christ, and all saints of Heaven,
and Mary, perfect dove of guilelessness,
make his mind clear, that he write utter truth.

That which I was all know: that which I am
God knows, not I, if I stand near to Him
because I have not yielded, or, by curse
of recreant longings, am to Him a wretch
it needs Such grace to pardon: but I know
that one day soon I, dead, shall see His face
with that great pity on it which is ours
who love Him and have striven and then rest,
that I shall look on Him and be content.

For what I am, in my last days, to men,
'tis nothing; scarce a name, and even that
known to be not my own; a wayside wretch
battening upon a rich lord's charity
and praying, (some say like the hypocrites),
a wayside wretch who, harboured for a night,
is harboured still, and, idle on the alms,
prays day and night and night and day, and fears
lest, even praying, he should suddenly
undo his prayer and perish and be great
and rich and happy. Jesu, keep me Thine.

Father and mother, when ye hear of me,
(for I shall choose so sure a messenger
whom God will shew me), when ye hear these words,
and Claudia, whom I dead will dare count mine,
bidding her pray she be Christ's more than mine,
believe I loved you; know it; but, beloved,
you never will know how much till at length
God bids you know all things in the new life.
Alas, you have had little joy of me:
beloved, could I have given drops of blood
in place of your shed tears, the cruellest wounds
had been my perfect joys: but both my love
and your distress needs were my cross to bear.
Forgive me that you sorrowed. And be glad
because you sorrowed and your sorrow was
holy to God, a sacrifice to Him.

Know now, all men who read or hear my words,
that I, Alexius, lived in much delights
of a dear home where they who looked on me
looked with a smile, and where I did but smile
to earn sweet praises as for some good deed:
I was the sunlight to my mother's eyes,
that waked their deepest blueness and warm glow,
I was my father's joy, ambition, boast,
his hope and his fulfilment. It may be
I grew too strong a link betwixt their hearts
and this poor world whose best gifts seemed to them
destined for me, grew, when they looked on Heaven,
a blur upon their sight, too largely near,
as any trivial tiny shape held close
will make eclipse against the eye it fills:
and so, maybe. for their sake, not for mine,
God took me from them, me, their only son,
for whom they prayed, and trebled pious deeds,
and took thought in this life.

I grew by them,
learning all meet for my estate on earth,
but learning more, what they taught more, of God,
and loving most that learning. And at times,
even from childhood, would my heart grow still
and seem to feel Him, hear Him, and I knew,
but not with ears, a voice that spoke no words
yet called me. And, as ignorant children choose
"I will be emperor when I am big,"
my foolish wont was "I will be a saint:"
later, when riper sense brought humbleness,
I said "When I am grown a man, my lot
Shall be with those who vow their lives to Christ."

But, when my father thought my words took shape
of other than boy's prattle, he grew grave,
and answered me "Alexius, thou art young,
and canst not judge of duties; but know this
thine is to serve God, living in the world."

And still the days went on, and still I felt
the silent voice that called me: then I said
"My father, now I am no more a child,
and I can know my heart; give me to God:"
but he replied "God gives no son save thee
to keep our fathers' name alive, and thus
He shews thy place and duty:" and, with tears,
my mother said "God gives no child save thee;
make me not childless." And their words seemed God's
more than my heart's, theirs who had rule on me.

But still my longing grew, and still the voice:
and they both answered "Had God need of thee
to leave thy natural place none else can fill,
there would be signs which none could doubt, nor we
nor thou thyself." And I received that word;
knowing I doubted since they bade me doubt.

And still the days went on, and still the voice
and then my father said "The bride is chosen,
if thou wilt have her; if not, choose thyself."
And more and more I prayed "Give me to God:"
and more and more they urged "Whom gives He us
save thee to keep our name alive? whom else
to stay us from a desolate old age,
and give us children prattling at our knees?"
and more and more they answered "Shew to us
how He has called thee from thy certain path
where He has set thy feet?" Wherefore I said
"I will obey, and will so serve my God
as you have bidden me serve Him, honouring you:"
and they two blessed me, and we were agreed.

And afterwards Euphemianus laughed
"He asks not of the bride; but, boy, art pleased?
'tis thy fair playmate Claudia, fair and good."
I, who asked not because I nothing cared,
was glad in afterthinking: for the girl
lad been my playmate, and of later time
knew her beauty with familiar eyes
and no more feared it than I feared the grace
of useless goddesses perfect in stone,
lingering dishonoured in unholy nooks
where comes no worship more; so that I mused
"The damsel brings no perilous wedding gift
of amorous unknown fetters for my soul;
my soul shall still be spared me, consecrate,
virgin to God until the better days
when I may live the life alone with Him:"
so was I comforted.

But, in the hour
when all the rite was done and the new bride
come to her home, I sitting half apart,
my mother took her fondly by the hand
and drew her, lagging timidly, to me,
and spoke "Look up my daughter, look on him:
Alexius, shall I tell what I have guessed,
how this girl loves you?" Then she raised her head
a moment long, and looked: and I grew white,
and sank back sickly. For I suddenly
knew that I might know that which men call love.

And through the tedious feast my mind was torn
with reasonings and repentance. For I said
"But I may love her," and kept marshalling forth
such scriptures as should seem to grant it me:
then would an anguish hurl my fabric down,
while I discerned that he who has put hand
upon the plough must never turn again
to take the joyaunce granted easy lives.
And bye and bye I stole away and went,
half conscious, through the darkling garden groves,
amid the evening silence, till I came
to a small lonely chapel, little used,
left open by I know not what new chance,
where there was patterned out in polished stones
Peter denying Christ. I hastened in,
and threw me on the floor, and would have prayed;
but, in a rush of tears, I fell asleep.

And there I dreamed: meseemed the easy years
had slipped along, and I sat, pleased and proud,
among my ruddy children, and I held
my wife's smooth hand, who but so much had changed
as to grow fairer in her womanhood;
and, facing us, a carved and marble Christ
hung on a Cross and gazed with Its dumb eyes,
I looking on It: and I turned my head
to smile to Claudia, and then looked again;
behold Its right arm moved, and then was still,
And a low voice came forth "Alexius, come."

And I replied "Oh Lord I am content;
but lo my father."

Then my father stood,
meseemed, beside me, leading in his hand
a sturdy urchin, copy of himself,
and answered "Son, my ears do hear thee called;
and now I have this son of thine: go forth."

And once again the voice, "Alexius, come."

And I replied "My Lord, I am content;
but lo my mother."

Then my mother stood,
meseemed, beside me, and her arm was wound
round my wife's neck, and clinging to her skirt
a baby boy and girl that teased and played
and clamoured for her kisses: so she stood,
and answered "Son, my ears do hear thee called;
and now this daughter hast thou given me,
and now I have these babes of thine: go forth."

And louder then the voice, "Alexius, come."

And I replied "Dear Lord, I am content;
I come."

Then Claudia's hand grew tight in mine,
and I looked on her face and saw it so
as when my mother bade her look on me,
and I replied "Oh Lord I were content,
but lo my wife."

And still again the voice;
and still again her hand that drew mine back;
and I replied "My wife: I cannot come."

And still again the voice, "Alexius, come,"
loud and in wrath.

And I replied "My wife:
I will not come."

And with that word I woke.

I was in darkness, and the door was locked,
(doubtless while I, asleep or tranced, lay dumb
some one had sought me there and had not found,
and so had gone, unconscious, prisoning me);
I groped my way toward the altar steps,
and thanked my God, and prayed.

When morning broke
I heard without two voices, as it seemed
of holy pilgrims talking, and one said

"The youth Alexius surely has fled forth
to serve God safelier;" the other said
"Then doth he well; for now that better part
shall none take from him, he shall be all God's
and only God's, not father's, mother's, son's,
nor any fond fair woman's." Then they went.

But I was still there prisoned. Day moved on,
and brightened, and then waned, and darkness came,
broken by one white moonbeam, for an hour,
that seemed a promise, and, in that good hope,
I prayed, then slept.

But when morn grew again,
and no deliverance came, but frequent steps,
and voices passing, I grew scared with doubts
if, keeping silence, as from enemies,
and by my silence dying, I should be
self-murdered or God's martyr; and I thought
how, maybe, at the last my fainting voice
should vainly cry too late, and I should pass
with none to give God's comfort. But I thought
"If God wills even that, then let it be."

But when the noon sun glowed I heard a hand
touch at the door, and crouched me in a nook,
and scarce had crouched when Claudia passed by me
with slow steps to the altar: she prayed long;
praying, poor child, to have me given back,
claiming me back of Heaven, as if her right
could equal That right, crying out for me
by loving names, and weeping, that my heart
went out of me towards her, wondering,
and yearned for her. But God was pitiful,
so that I swerved not.

When I heard her vow
to pray there daily, I perceived through her
deliverance should come shortly: and I planned
to stand within the shadow the noon light
threw from a massive column by the door,
and, when she had passed in and hid her face,
get me forth softly.

But the flesh was weak,
and when I waked again the noon beams fell
full on the face of Peter where he wept
repenting; Claudia was already there.

I thought a moment should I not come forth,
and charge her let none know, and go my way;
but, did she give one startled sudden cry,
womanlike, I had been betrayed: and then
I feared her if she wept.

May God forgive
my weak heart then, my weak heart all my days,
which never has been so strong as not feel
always the fall at hand, but then so weak
that some few urgent tears and soft sad words
might, haply might, have bought me from my God.

So she went forth, unconscious: and I prayed
death should not come at night, with none at hand
to minister beside me, and in faith
I laid me down to wait what God should send.

And in a little while she came again,
and sought and found a gold and emerald pin,
(one of the gifts they made me give to her),
dropped from her loosened hair, then, kissing it,
passed out, and, for a moment long, forgot
to make the door fast, turned back to the task,
then, murmuring "Why? For it is better thus,
when whoso wills can enter in and pray,"
left it and went.

Then free, I made my vow
to live unknown, unhonoured, with no ties,
no certain home, no aims, no rights, no name,
an unregarded wanderer, whose steps,
by whichsoever road they passed, but passed
to travel nearer Heaven. And, for a sign,
I made a secret place and hid my ring
under the altar.

You will find it there:
at the right hand a cross upon an A
cut on the floor, so small you must look well,
and near it, at the altar-base, a crack
I found there in the chiselling, (just behind
a cherub's wing), is closed with dust and earth;
there lies the ring. Give it me mine again,
it and my name I take back for my grave,
as I take back my kinsfolk and my friends
to pray and mourn for me and give God thanks.

That done, I got me forth, and saw none nigh,
(the search near home being over, as it seemed),
and with my best poor speed I found a copse
whose green thick tangles hid me: there I lay
till the cool nightfall came and patient stars
watched Earth asleep, as if they prayed for her;
and other eyes saw not save theirs, and those
that look from Heaven, when I came sickly forth
and dragged my limp and failing limbs along.

I made my clothes in tatters; thus I went
and begged food at a convent for my life
that else were flickered out: so they gave food,
and they gave shelter: and at dawn I went,
while none who could have known had looked on me,
and, hastening on my journey, followed forth
my fellow-Roman Tiber's seaward strides,
and reached the port. There, as I since have learned,
Euphemianus had left men in wait
while he searched otherwhere: but God ruled all.

A little ship was just launched out to sea,
her heel still caught upon the grating beach,
the men were good and took the pilgrim in
who at the farewell moment called to them,
and, in what while I know not, but it seemed
as short as in a dream are days and years,
I saw my shores grown narrow purple clouds,
and then (for I write truth though shaming me)
I broke into such weeping that the men
felt whiteness in their cheeks, and, marvelling,
sent whispers to and fro, in doubt of me
lest witchcraft held me or my some deep crime
had set a curse demoniac; and they schemed
if they should put back to be rid of me,
but one said "Tush! the youth weeps for his home;
at his age, maybe, some of us could weep;
let him alone."

A rough and grizzled man,
who after, at the haven, came and clapped
a great hand on my shoulder, "Look, my boy,
you keep your secrets safer: for I heard
of a hot hunt after a great man's son,
and when I saw you weep ...... Well go your way,
my tongue shall earn no wages by its blab.
Maybe at your age I should have fled too,
if yoked against my will; but I am old
and preach go home again. Some say she's fair;
and a fair woman, love her or not love,
is a fair woman: but, or fair or foul,
be wise, young sir, be wise; never go starve
because your cake's not candied to your taste."
I said "Kind friend, I have no home to seek;
God gives me not a home till bye and bye,"
and left him. So my pilgrimage began.

But, oh vain heart of man! can this be true
which I remember, that I, plodding on,
whither I did not ask me, as God willed,
undoubting and ungrieving, yea, puffed up
to feel my heart was numb of all regret,
carrying upon my lips (as men will burr
a day long some persistent measured strain)
for refrain-catch "Now all and only God's,"
drew from my bosom, with my crucifix,
a withered crumpled weed, a clinging thing
that, green and dainty, new brushed from its root,
with one white flower-speck on it, trailed its sprays
athwart the purple hem of Claudia's veil
the last time in the chapel while she prayed;
it lay upon the floor when she was gone.
A worthless grass, what good was it to me?
and, lo, made fellow with my crucifix!
yet surely I had done it scarce aware,
for now I gazed on it so stupidly
as though a secret hand had placed it there
to set a riddle so, nor could recall
what thought I took it with. But see what snares
I fled from, flying Claudia; suddenly
the thing was at my lips, in such a kiss
as, maybe, lovers kiss on women's mouths,
in such a kiss howbeit as brought forth shame
almost in its own birth. I hurled the weed,
the viperous thing, into the battling surf
that dragged and sucked the booming shingles down,
lashing the beach before a coming storm;
I hurled it forth and went.

It seems to me,
looking back now, as if that made an end.
I think I had no temptings afterwards.

Natheless my grief was bitter many times
remembering home: but that I felt not sin,
because 'twas as a soul among the dead
might sorrow, never wishing to come back.
And Claudia was not of my memories:
scarcely at all: a stray bad dream at night
would bring her to me, make me dream I wept
because I might not love her, but not dream
that I did love; in daytime she came not.

Ten years I wandered: who cares know the whither?
a pilgrim and alone I trod my way,
no man regarding me. Alone with God:
whether in deserts or the throng of towns;
whether upon the mountain-tops, whence earth
shows sometimes so too exquisite for man
as though the devil had leave to fashion it
and cozen us with its beauty; or below,
where in the valleys one beholds the hills
grow nearer Heaven at sunset; or my ears
full of the hymn of waters, where the sea
breaks at one's feet among the rough brown rocks;
whether in pain, in weariness, in fear,
or, thankful, taking comfortable rest;
always alone with God.

So for ten years:
and in the later of them I had peace:
so for ten years, and then, by what degrees
I know not, (for the stupor crept like sleep,
slowly yet sudden on one at the last),
my peace became a blankness. And one day
I sought to rouse me, questioning "Where is God?"
and could not weep because I found him not,
yea, could not rouse me. And my prayers were words,
like trite goodmorrows when two gossips meet
and never look for answers; and my praise
was rounded like the song the poet makes
to one who never lived for him to love.
I was my Pharisee to cheat myself
and make myself believe me that God's friend
I had forgotten what it felt to be.

So, when I saw this plainly, I took thought,
pondering how it should be that when I pined
for thirst of human love I loved God more
and felt His love more near me than when now
my heart was swept and garnished, void for Him:
at last I saw my need of quickening pain
to stir the sluggish soul awake in me,
and knew I offered nothing to my Lord,
offering Him that it cost me nought to give;
what good to turn to Him, "Lord I leave all,"
if all be noway precious?

I arose
and set my face to Rome, making all haste.

On the forty-seventh day I saw the sun
droop to the hills behind my father's house,
and lo, while I toiled up the rude ascent,
our last slope of the Aventine, there came,
riding apart and grave, from the far side,
Euphemianus. When he reached the gate
he entered not, but seemed to point me out
to the servitors that followed with his hawks,
and watched me coming upwards painfully.
And when he saw me footsore and so spent
he had compassion: ere my prayer was done,
"Food, my good lord, and rest, for charity,"
he bade them take me in.

Six years ago:
and now I die here. No one bade depart;
they gave me daily scraps, and let me live
in the shed for harbouring squalid wanderers
that sleep a night, and take their alms, and go.

None knew me; who should know me? Gone away,
past ten years since, a comely petted boy,
and now a half decrepit sickly wretch,
a lean and shrivelled carcase, the ten years
writ twenty on my leathery wrinkled face,
how was I their Alexius? Nay, they looked
and saw the stranger in the beggar's shed
they called, for want of name, Old Lazarus.

In the beggar's shed with God: with God again!
Oh exquisite pain that brought so exquisite joy!
even by instant peril to be lost
lo I was saved. Oh blessed exquisite pain!
my heart awoke, for anguish, and felt God.

I saw my father pass out and pass in;
sometimes he noted me and spoke a word
or looked a careless greeting, oftenest not;
I saw him daily, and I learned his face
how stern long sorrow made it and how still,
and, when some days he could not make a smile,
I heard the servants whisper "Do you see?
this is his lost son's birthday," or "the day
his son fled forth," or else "his baptism,"
"confirming," "going to school," all such home dates
as parents count who watch their children grow:
and he was changed, they said, cared not to see
friends' faces greeting him, nor join in talk,
but would be solitary; changed, they said,
since that strange losing of his only child.
My mother I saw not in the first days,
for she came never forth, but sat and slept,
and wakened querulous, and slept again.
And Claudia tended her: I had not thought
to find her here; I looked she'd count me dead
and marry her, ('tis known what women are),
and was all startled when I saw her first:
but only for the strangeness, after that
she was no more to me than I to her,
she might have smiled to me, or in my sight,
that dangerous smile and I be no more moved
than if a babe had laughed as I passed by.

Then a day came, a still and sultry day
when one might take count of each leaf that stirred
and think the one shrill grasshopper too loud,
my mother waked and heard a hymn I sang,
and took a whim to have the singer brought:
only a whim, belike, for could my voice
bring back the stripling's voice she had thought sweet?
they fetched me, I stood by her: ah my mother!
and she so changed! nothing of her old self;
the goodliness, the sweetness, the delight,
gone, waned out from her, as the light of day
was waning from her eyes long dulled by tears.
Ah, could I but have clung about her feet,
crying out "Mother, take thy son again!"
But yet for her it would have been too late.

She talked to me, inconsequent grave talk
like children's, whispered after when I prayed,
and made me sing her hymns, so was content
longer than was her wont, then bade me go
and come again to-morrow: ever since
she calls me every day.

And every day
is Claudia there. More than two thousand days,
and every day I look on Claudia's face
grown wistful and more sweet, and every day
behold her patience, hear her wise grave words,
and better know her all she is.

What then?
Have I not striven? have I not prevailed?

And now death is at hand: some few days more
and I shall lay me down and be at rest.
There will be no farewell at last, I think;'
they will not know of me that I lie sick
and pass away; and, even if they knew,
why should they come to close my dying eyes?
the beggar Lazarus can die alone,
as he has lived alone. My mother, though,
will lack me, ask for me, Claudia will send
to bid me hasten, then the word will come
"He died this morning," and she will not weep
but say "Poor wretch: God rest the parted soul,"
and turn to soothe my mother with some wile
to make her never miss me: and may be
Euphemianus will not hear the news,
or will not note it if he ever hears.
So I shall lie in the grave and they not care,
but wait for lost Alexius to come home,
and mourn for him, half hating him for their grief.

Give me fruit, give me fruit, oh Christ give my earned fruit,
for all my sufferings: I have mine for me,
but I claim theirs, give fruit for them I smote.

Have I written wildly? I will cancel nought.
for I have written looking death in face,
thinking God bade me write: and words come so
must stand untouched. But surely this much grace
my Lord hath given me, that they shall know.

Behold, I make this paper, being forced
as by the Spirit, and it comes on me
that God doth choose his highest in the world
to be the beggar's messenger: he first,
and I the last, so thereto he is called;
servant of servants. This, which I have witten,
do I entrust to him, my testament:
some shall learn patience from it and to do
what God bids and not doubt; for all is good,
all happy, if it be to do His will,
the suffering ye may guess, but not the bliss
till ye have tasted it.

And I desire
that, having scanned the scroll, he shall, or then
or later, as seems to his wisdom wise,
deliver all its words to them and her,
my father and my mother and my wife,
(lo, this once in my life I call her so).
I pray Thee, Lord, give the poor words the power
to comfort them and strengthen; and, I pray,
give the words power to strengthen and stir souls
which hear Thee call and pause to count with Thee.

And now, oh Lord, let earth be dim to me,
and Heaven come near mine eyes: the time is short,
and I am fain for thee. Lord Jesus come.

Now, when Pope Innocent had read the scroll,
he bade one with him enter in the house
and call the lord Euphemianus thither,
and Claudia, and Aglaia. So they came,
Aglaia feebly leaning on the two,
and questioning them who knew not; so they came;
and the Pope pointed them to the dead man,
"Behold, for this is one whom you should know."
Euphemianus gazed and was perplexed:
and the poor purblind mother gazed and peered,
"Old Lazarus? no, yes, old Lazarus;
asleep or dead? Why is it? is he dead?"
but Claudia answered softly "Yes I know;
I knew it;" and then, suddenly, borne down
by one strong gust of passion, flung herself
beside the corpse, her head upon its breast,
her arms clasped straining round it, weeping out.
And Innocent answered the father's eyes,
"This was Alexius, thy long lost son."
But yet the father, stricken dumb, looked doubt:
Aglaia cried "My boy, where is he then?"
and fretfully "This is old Lazarus:
where is my boy? show me Alexius."

Then Innocent bade peace, and read the scroll:
Euphemianus, with his face hid down
between his hands, listened and never stirred;
and Claudia listened, weeping silently;
but Aglaia whispered always "Is it true?
is the tale of Lazarus or of my boy?
I cannot understand." And, when 'twas read,
Euphemianus gazed upon his son,
"Yet did he well?" he said "he was our son,
he was her husband: how could it be well?
for look upon his mother, what she is."
But Claudia rose up tearless, and replied
"Alexius did all well: he knew God called:"
and Innocent, not tearless, raised his hand
and spoke "She answers wisely: he obeyed;
he knew, being a very saint of God:
let us bless God for him." And they all knelt.
But still Aglaia could not understand.

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Across the whole world wide
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For beauty and the beast...

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About to do what tigers should
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For creatures great and small,
Perhaps to feast, survive and then
Be feared by one and all...


Denis Martindale, copyright April 2011.

The poem is based on the magnificent painting
by Stephen Gayford called 'Watching You'.

More Stephen Gayford poems here:
denis-martindale-dot-blogspot-dot-com

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The American Way

1
I am a great American
I am almost nationalistic about it!
I love America like a madness!
But I am afraid to return to America
I'm even afraid to go into the American Express—


2
They are frankensteining Christ in America
in their Sunday campaigns
They are putting the fear of Christ in America
under their tents in their Sunday campaigns
They are driving old ladies mad with Christ in America
They are televising the gift of healing and the fear of hell
in America under their tents in their Sunday
campaigns
They are leaving their tents and are bringing their Christ
to the stadiums of America in their Sunday
campaigns
They are asking for a full house an all get out
for their Christ in the stadiums of America
They are getting them in their Sunday and Saturday
campaigns
They are asking them to come forward and fall on their
knees
because they are all guilty and they are coming
forward
in guilt and are falling on their knees weeping their
guilt
begging to be saved O Lord O Lord in their Monday
Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
and Sunday campaigns

3
It is a time in which no man is extremely wondrous
It is a time in which rock stupidity
outsteps the 5th Column as the sole enemy in America
It is a time in which ignorance is a good Ameri-cun
ignorance is excused only where it is so
it is not so in America
Man is not guilty Christ is not to be feared
I am telling you the American Way is a hideous monster
eating Christ making Him into Oreos and Dr. Pepper
the sacrament of its foul mouth
I am telling you the devil is impersonating Christ in America
America's educators & preachers are the mental-dictators
of false intelligence they will not allow America
to be smart
they will only allow death to make America smart
Educators & communicators are the lackeys of the
American Way
They enslave the minds of the young
and the young are willing slaves (but not for long)
because who is to doubt the American Way
is not the way?


The duty of these educators is no different
than the duty of a factory foreman
Replica production make all the young think alike
dress alike believe alike do alike
Togetherness this is the American Way
The few great educators in America are weak & helpless
They abide and so uphold the American Way
Wars have seen such men they who despised things about them
but did nothing and they are the most dangerous
Dangerous because their intelligence is not denied
and so give faith to the young
who rightfully believe in their intelligence
Smoke this cigarette doctors smoke this cigarette
and doctors know
Educators know but they dare not speak their know
The victory that is man is made sad in this fix
Youth can only know the victory of being born
all else is stemmed until death be the final victory
and a merciful one at that
If America falls it will be the blame of its educators
preachers communicators alike
America today is America's greatest threat
We are old when we are young
America is always new the world is always new
The meaning of the world is birth not death
Growth gone in the wrong direction
The true direction grows ever young
In this direction what grows grows old
A strange mistake a strange and sad mistake
for it has grown into an old thing
while all else around it is new
Rockets will not make it any younger—
And what made America decide to grow?
I do not know I can only hold it to the strangeness in man
And America has grown into the American Way
To be young is to be ever purposeful limitless
To grow is to know limit purposelessness
Each age is a new age
How outrageous it is that something old and sad
from the pre-age incorporates each new age
Do I say the Declaration of Independence is old?
Yes I say what was good for 1789 is not good for 1960
It was right and new to say all men were created equal
because it was a light then
But today it is tragic to say it
today it should be fact—
Man has been on earth a long time
One would think with his mania for growth
he would, by now, have outgrown such things as
constitutions manifestos codes commandments
that he could well live in the world without them
and know instinctively how to live and be
for what is being but the facility to love?


Was not that the true goal of growth, love?
Was not that Christ?
But man is strange and grows where he will
and chalks it all up to Fate whatever be
America rings with such strangeness
It has grown into something strange and
the American is good example of this mad growth
The boy man big baby meat
as though the womb were turned backwards
giving birth to an old man
The victory that is man does not allow man
to top off his empirical achievement with death
The Aztecs did it by yanking out young hearts
at the height of their power
The Americans are doing it by feeding their young to the
Way
For it was not the Spaniard who killed the Aztec
but the Aztec who killed the Aztec
Rome is proof Greece is proof all history is proof
Victory does not allow degeneracy
It will not be the Communists will kill America
no but America itself—
The American Way that sad mad process
is not run by any one man or organization
It is a monster born of itself existing of its self
The men who are employed by this monster
are employed unknowingly
They reside in the higher echelons of intelligence
They are the educators the psychiatrists the ministers
the writers the politicians the communicators
the rich the entertainment world
And some follow and sing the Way because they sincerely
believe it to be good
And some believe it holy and become minutemen in it
Some are in it simply to be in
And most are in it for gold
They do not see the Way as monster
They see it as the 'Good Life'
What is the Way?
The Way was born out of the American Dream a
nightmare—
The state of Americans today compared to the Americans
of the 18th century proves the nightmare—
Not Franklin not Jefferson who speaks for America today
but strange red-necked men of industry
and the goofs of show business
Bizarre! Frightening! The Mickey Mouse sits on the throne
and Hollywood has a vast supply—
Could grammar school youth seriously look upon
a picture of George Washington and 'Herman Borst'
the famous night club comedian together at Valley
Forge?
Old old and decadent gone the dignity
the American sun seems headed for the grave
O that youth might raise it anewl
The future depends solely on the young
The future is the property of the young
What the young know the future will know
What they are and do the future will be and do
What has been done must not be done again
Will the American Way allow this?
No.
I see in every American Express
and in every army center in Europe
I see the same face the same sound of voice
the same clothes the same walk
I see mothers & fathers no
difference among them
Replicas
They not only speak and walk and think alike
they have the same facel
What did this monstrous thing?
What regiments a people so?

How strange is nature's play on America
Surely were Lincoln alive today
he could never be voted President not with his
looks—
Indeed Americans are babies all in the embrace
of Mama Way
Did not Ike, when he visited the American Embassy in
Paris a year ago, say to the staff—'Everything is fine, just drink
Coca Cola, and everything will be all right.'
This is true, and is on record
Did not American advertising call for TOGETHERNESS?
not orgiasticly like today's call
nor as means to stem violence
This is true, and is on record.
Are not the army centers in Europe ghettos?
They are, and O how sad how lost!
The PX newsstands are filled with comic books
The army movies are always Doris Day
What makes a people huddle so?
Why can't they be universal?
Who has smelled them so?
This is serious! I do not mock or hate this
I can only sense some mad vast conspiracy!
Helplessness is all it is!
They are caught caught in the Way
And those who seek to get out of the Way
can not
The Beats are good example of this
They forsake the Way's habits
and acquire for themselves their own habits
And they become as distinct and regimented and lost
as the main flow
because the Way has many outlets
like a snake of many tentacles—
There is no getting out of the Way
The only way out is the death of the Way
And what will kill the Way but a new consciousness
Something great and new and wonderful must happen
to free man from this beast
It is a beast we can not see or even understand
For it be the condition of our minds
God how close to science fiction it all seemsl
As if some power from another planet
incorporated itself in the minds of us all
It could well bel
For as I live I swear America does not seem like America
to me

Americans are a great people
I ask for some great and wondrous event
that will free them from the Way
and make them a glorious purposeful people once
again
I do not know if that event is due deserved
or even possible
I can only hold that man is the victory of life
And I hold firm to American man

I see standing on the skin of the Way
America to be as proud and victorious as St.
Michael on the neck of the fallen Lucifer—

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John Keats

Endymion: Book III

There are who lord it o'er their fellow-men
With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen
Their baaing vanities, to browse away
The comfortable green and juicy hay
From human pastures; or, O torturing fact!
Who, through an idiot blink, will see unpack'd
Fire-branded foxes to sear up and singe
Our gold and ripe-ear'd hopes. With not one tinge
Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight
Able to face an owl's, they still are dight
By the blear-eyed nations in empurpled vests,
And crowns, and turbans. With unladen breasts,
Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount
To their spirit's perch, their being's high account,
Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones--
Amid the fierce intoxicating tones
Of trumpets, shoutings, and belabour'd drums,
And sudden cannon. Ah! how all this hums,
In wakeful ears, like uproar past and gone--
Like thunder clouds that spake to Babylon,
And set those old Chaldeans to their tasks.--
Are then regalities all gilded masks?
No, there are throned seats unscalable
But by a patient wing, a constant spell,
Or by ethereal things that, unconfin'd,
Can make a ladder of the eternal wind,
And poise about in cloudy thunder-tents
To watch the abysm-birth of elements.
Aye, 'bove the withering of old-lipp'd Fate
A thousand Powers keep religious state,
In water, fiery realm, and airy bourne;
And, silent as a consecrated urn,
Hold sphery sessions for a season due.
Yet few of these far majesties, ah, few!
Have bared their operations to this globe--
Few, who with gorgeous pageantry enrobe
Our piece of heaven--whose benevolence
Shakes hand with our own Ceres; every sense
Filling with spiritual sweets to plenitude,
As bees gorge full their cells. And, by the feud
'Twixt Nothing and Creation, I here swear,
Eterne Apollo! that thy Sister fair
Is of all these the gentlier-mightiest.
When thy gold breath is misting in the west,
She unobserved steals unto her throne,
And there she sits most meek and most alone;
As if she had not pomp subservient;
As if thine eye, high Poet! was not bent
Towards her with the Muses in thine heart;
As if the ministring stars kept not apart,
Waiting for silver-footed messages.
O Moon! the oldest shades 'mong oldest trees
Feel palpitations when thou lookest in:
O Moon! old boughs lisp forth a holier din
The while they feel thine airy fellowship.
Thou dost bless every where, with silver lip
Kissing dead things to life. The sleeping kine,
Couched in thy brightness, dream of fields divine:
Innumerable mountains rise, and rise,
Ambitious for the hallowing of thine eyes;
And yet thy benediction passeth not
One obscure hiding-place, one little spot
Where pleasure may be sent: the nested wren
Has thy fair face within its tranquil ken,
And from beneath a sheltering ivy leaf
Takes glimpses of thee; thou art a relief
To the poor patient oyster, where it sleeps
Within its pearly house.--The mighty deeps,
The monstrous sea is thine--the myriad sea!
O Moon! far-spooming Ocean bows to thee,
And Tellus feels his forehead's cumbrous load.

Cynthia! where art thou now? What far abode
Of green or silvery bower doth enshrine
Such utmost beauty? Alas, thou dost pine
For one as sorrowful: thy cheek is pale
For one whose cheek is pale: thou dost bewail
His tears, who weeps for thee. Where dost thou sigh?
Ah! surely that light peeps from Vesper's eye,
Or what a thing is love! 'Tis She, but lo!
How chang'd, how full of ache, how gone in woe!
She dies at the thinnest cloud; her loveliness
Is wan on Neptune's blue: yet there's a stress
Of love-spangles, just off yon cape of trees,
Dancing upon the waves, as if to please
The curly foam with amorous influence.
O, not so idle: for down-glancing thence
She fathoms eddies, and runs wild about
O'erwhelming water-courses; scaring out
The thorny sharks from hiding-holes, and fright'ning
Their savage eyes with unaccustomed lightning.
Where will the splendor be content to reach?
O love! how potent hast thou been to teach
Strange journeyings! Wherever beauty dwells,
In gulf or aerie, mountains or deep dells,
In light, in gloom, in star or blazing sun,
Thou pointest out the way, and straight 'tis won.
Amid his toil thou gav'st Leander breath;
Thou leddest Orpheus through the gleams of death;
Thou madest Pluto bear thin element;
And now, O winged Chieftain! thou hast sent
A moon-beam to the deep, deep water-world,
To find Endymion.

On gold sand impearl'd
With lily shells, and pebbles milky white,
Poor Cynthia greeted him, and sooth'd her light
Against his pallid face: he felt the charm
To breathlessness, and suddenly a warm
Of his heart's blood: 'twas very sweet; he stay'd
His wandering steps, and half-entranced laid
His head upon a tuft of straggling weeds,
To taste the gentle moon, and freshening beads,
Lashed from the crystal roof by fishes' tails.
And so he kept, until the rosy veils
Mantling the east, by Aurora's peering hand
Were lifted from the water's breast, and fann'd
Into sweet air; and sober'd morning came
Meekly through billows:--when like taper-flame
Left sudden by a dallying breath of air,
He rose in silence, and once more 'gan fare
Along his fated way.

Far had he roam'd,
With nothing save the hollow vast, that foam'd
Above, around, and at his feet; save things
More dead than Morpheus' imaginings:
Old rusted anchors, helmets, breast-plates large
Of gone sea-warriors; brazen beaks and targe;
Rudders that for a hundred years had lost
The sway of human hand; gold vase emboss'd
With long-forgotten story, and wherein
No reveller had ever dipp'd a chin
But those of Saturn's vintage; mouldering scrolls,
Writ in the tongue of heaven, by those souls
Who first were on the earth; and sculptures rude
In ponderous stone, developing the mood
Of ancient Nox;--then skeletons of man,
Of beast, behemoth, and leviathan,
And elephant, and eagle, and huge jaw
Of nameless monster. A cold leaden awe
These secrets struck into him; and unless
Dian had chaced away that heaviness,
He might have died: but now, with cheered feel,
He onward kept; wooing these thoughts to steal
About the labyrinth in his soul of love.

"What is there in thee, Moon! that thou shouldst move
My heart so potently? When yet a child
I oft have dried my tears when thou hast smil'd.
Thou seem'dst my sister: hand in hand we went
From eve to morn across the firmament.
No apples would I gather from the tree,
Till thou hadst cool'd their cheeks deliciously:
No tumbling water ever spake romance,
But when my eyes with thine thereon could dance:
No woods were green enough, no bower divine,
Until thou liftedst up thine eyelids fine:
In sowing time ne'er would I dibble take,
Or drop a seed, till thou wast wide awake;
And, in the summer tide of blossoming,
No one but thee hath heard me blithly sing
And mesh my dewy flowers all the night.
No melody was like a passing spright
If it went not to solemnize thy reign.
Yes, in my boyhood, every joy and pain
By thee were fashion'd to the self-same end;
And as I grew in years, still didst thou blend
With all my ardours: thou wast the deep glen;
Thou wast the mountain-top--the sage's pen--
The poet's harp--the voice of friends--the sun;
Thou wast the river--thou wast glory won;
Thou wast my clarion's blast--thou wast my steed--
My goblet full of wine--my topmost deed:--
Thou wast the charm of women, lovely Moon!
O what a wild and harmonized tune
My spirit struck from all the beautiful!
On some bright essence could I lean, and lull
Myself to immortality: I prest
Nature's soft pillow in a wakeful rest.
But, gentle Orb! there came a nearer bliss--
My strange love came--Felicity's abyss!
She came, and thou didst fade, and fade away--
Yet not entirely; no, thy starry sway
Has been an under-passion to this hour.
Now I begin to feel thine orby power
Is coming fresh upon me: O be kind,
Keep back thine influence, and do not blind
My sovereign vision.--Dearest love, forgive
That I can think away from thee and live!--
Pardon me, airy planet, that I prize
One thought beyond thine argent luxuries!
How far beyond!" At this a surpris'd start
Frosted the springing verdure of his heart;
For as he lifted up his eyes to swear
How his own goddess was past all things fair,
He saw far in the concave green of the sea
An old man sitting calm and peacefully.
Upon a weeded rock this old man sat,
And his white hair was awful, and a mat
Of weeds were cold beneath his cold thin feet;
And, ample as the largest winding-sheet,
A cloak of blue wrapp'd up his aged bones,
O'erwrought with symbols by the deepest groans
Of ambitious magic: every ocean-form
Was woven in with black distinctness; storm,
And calm, and whispering, and hideous roar
Were emblem'd in the woof; with every shape
That skims, or dives, or sleeps, 'twixt cape and cape.
The gulphing whale was like a dot in the spell,
Yet look upon it, and 'twould size and swell
To its huge self; and the minutest fish
Would pass the very hardest gazer's wish,
And show his little eye's anatomy.
Then there was pictur'd the regality
Of Neptune; and the sea nymphs round his state,
In beauteous vassalage, look up and wait.
Beside this old man lay a pearly wand,
And in his lap a book, the which he conn'd
So stedfastly, that the new denizen
Had time to keep him in amazed ken,
To mark these shadowings, and stand in awe.

The old man rais'd his hoary head and saw
The wilder'd stranger--seeming not to see,
His features were so lifeless. Suddenly
He woke as from a trance; his snow-white brows
Went arching up, and like two magic ploughs
Furrow'd deep wrinkles in his forehead large,
Which kept as fixedly as rocky marge,
Till round his wither'd lips had gone a smile.
Then up he rose, like one whose tedious toil
Had watch'd for years in forlorn hermitage,
Who had not from mid-life to utmost age
Eas'd in one accent his o'er-burden'd soul,
Even to the trees. He rose: he grasp'd his stole,
With convuls'd clenches waving it abroad,
And in a voice of solemn joy, that aw'd
Echo into oblivion, he said:--

"Thou art the man! Now shall I lay my head
In peace upon my watery pillow: now
Sleep will come smoothly to my weary brow.
O Jove! I shall be young again, be young!
O shell-borne Neptune, I am pierc'd and stung
With new-born life! What shall I do? Where go,
When I have cast this serpent-skin of woe?--
I'll swim to the syrens, and one moment listen
Their melodies, and see their long hair glisten;
Anon upon that giant's arm I'll be,
That writhes about the roots of Sicily:
To northern seas I'll in a twinkling sail,
And mount upon the snortings of a whale
To some black cloud; thence down I'll madly sweep
On forked lightning, to the deepest deep,
Where through some sucking pool I will be hurl'd
With rapture to the other side of the world!
O, I am full of gladness! Sisters three,
I bow full hearted to your old decree!
Yes, every god be thank'd, and power benign,
For I no more shall wither, droop, and pine.
Thou art the man!" Endymion started back
Dismay'd; and, like a wretch from whom the rack
Tortures hot breath, and speech of agony,
Mutter'd: "What lonely death am I to die
In this cold region? Will he let me freeze,
And float my brittle limbs o'er polar seas?
Or will he touch me with his searing hand,
And leave a black memorial on the sand?
Or tear me piece-meal with a bony saw,
And keep me as a chosen food to draw
His magian fish through hated fire and flame?
O misery of hell! resistless, tame,
Am I to be burnt up? No, I will shout,
Until the gods through heaven's blue look out!--
O Tartarus! but some few days agone
Her soft arms were entwining me, and on
Her voice I hung like fruit among green leaves:
Her lips were all my own, and--ah, ripe sheaves
Of happiness! ye on the stubble droop,
But never may be garner'd. I must stoop
My head, and kiss death's foot. Love! love, farewel!
Is there no hope from thee? This horrid spell
Would melt at thy sweet breath.--By Dian's hind
Feeding from her white fingers, on the wind
I see thy streaming hair! and now, by Pan,
I care not for this old mysterious man!"

He spake, and walking to that aged form,
Look'd high defiance. Lo! his heart 'gan warm
With pity, for the grey-hair'd creature wept.
Had he then wrong'd a heart where sorrow kept?
Had he, though blindly contumelious, brought
Rheum to kind eyes, a sting to human thought,
Convulsion to a mouth of many years?
He had in truth; and he was ripe for tears.
The penitent shower fell, as down he knelt
Before that care-worn sage, who trembling felt
About his large dark locks, and faultering spake:

"Arise, good youth, for sacred Phoebus' sake!
I know thine inmost bosom, and I feel
A very brother's yearning for thee steal
Into mine own: for why? thou openest
The prison gates that have so long opprest
My weary watching. Though thou know'st it not,
Thou art commission'd to this fated spot
For great enfranchisement. O weep no more;
I am a friend to love, to loves of yore:
Aye, hadst thou never lov'd an unknown power
I had been grieving at this joyous hour
But even now most miserable old,
I saw thee, and my blood no longer cold
Gave mighty pulses: in this tottering case
Grew a new heart, which at this moment plays
As dancingly as thine. Be not afraid,
For thou shalt hear this secret all display'd,
Now as we speed towards our joyous task."

So saying, this young soul in age's mask
Went forward with the Carian side by side:
Resuming quickly thus; while ocean's tide
Hung swollen at their backs, and jewel'd sands
Took silently their foot-prints. "My soul stands
Now past the midway from mortality,
And so I can prepare without a sigh
To tell thee briefly all my joy and pain.
I was a fisher once, upon this main,
And my boat danc'd in every creek and bay;
Rough billows were my home by night and day,--
The sea-gulls not more constant; for I had
No housing from the storm and tempests mad,
But hollow rocks,--and they were palaces
Of silent happiness, of slumberous ease:
Long years of misery have told me so.
Aye, thus it was one thousand years ago.
One thousand years!--Is it then possible
To look so plainly through them? to dispel
A thousand years with backward glance sublime?
To breathe away as 'twere all scummy slime
From off a crystal pool, to see its deep,
And one's own image from the bottom peep?
Yes: now I am no longer wretched thrall,
My long captivity and moanings all
Are but a slime, a thin-pervading scum,
The which I breathe away, and thronging come
Like things of yesterday my youthful pleasures.

"I touch'd no lute, I sang not, trod no measures:
I was a lonely youth on desert shores.
My sports were lonely, 'mid continuous roars,
And craggy isles, and sea-mew's plaintive cry
Plaining discrepant between sea and sky.
Dolphins were still my playmates; shapes unseen
Would let me feel their scales of gold and green,
Nor be my desolation; and, full oft,
When a dread waterspout had rear'd aloft
Its hungry hugeness, seeming ready ripe
To burst with hoarsest thunderings, and wipe
My life away like a vast sponge of fate,
Some friendly monster, pitying my sad state,
Has dived to its foundations, gulph'd it down,
And left me tossing safely. But the crown
Of all my life was utmost quietude:
More did I love to lie in cavern rude,
Keeping in wait whole days for Neptune's voice,
And if it came at last, hark, and rejoice!
There blush'd no summer eve but I would steer
My skiff along green shelving coasts, to hear
The shepherd's pipe come clear from aery steep,
Mingled with ceaseless bleatings of his sheep:
And never was a day of summer shine,
But I beheld its birth upon the brine:
For I would watch all night to see unfold
Heaven's gates, and Aethon snort his morning gold
Wide o'er the swelling streams: and constantly
At brim of day-tide, on some grassy lea,
My nets would be spread out, and I at rest.
The poor folk of the sea-country I blest
With daily boon of fish most delicate:
They knew not whence this bounty, and elate
Would strew sweet flowers on a sterile beach.

"Why was I not contented? Wherefore reach
At things which, but for thee, O Latmian!
Had been my dreary death? Fool! I began
To feel distemper'd longings: to desire
The utmost privilege that ocean's sire
Could grant in benediction: to be free
Of all his kingdom. Long in misery
I wasted, ere in one extremest fit
I plung'd for life or death. To interknit
One's senses with so dense a breathing stuff
Might seem a work of pain; so not enough
Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,
And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt
Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;
Forgetful utterly of self-intent;
Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow.
Then, like a new fledg'd bird that first doth shew
His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,
I tried in fear the pinions of my will.
'Twas freedom! and at once I visited
The ceaseless wonders of this ocean-bed.
No need to tell thee of them, for I see
That thou hast been a witness--it must be
For these I know thou canst not feel a drouth,
By the melancholy corners of that mouth.
So I will in my story straightway pass
To more immediate matter. Woe, alas!
That love should be my bane! Ah, Scylla fair!
Why did poor Glaucus ever--ever dare
To sue thee to his heart? Kind stranger-youth!
I lov'd her to the very white of truth,
And she would not conceive it. Timid thing!
She fled me swift as sea-bird on the wing,
Round every isle, and point, and promontory,
From where large Hercules wound up his story
Far as Egyptian Nile. My passion grew
The more, the more I saw her dainty hue
Gleam delicately through the azure clear:
Until 'twas too fierce agony to bear;
And in that agony, across my grief
It flash'd, that Circe might find some relief--
Cruel enchantress! So above the water
I rear'd my head, and look'd for Phoebus' daughter.
Aeaea's isle was wondering at the moon:--
It seem'd to whirl around me, and a swoon
Left me dead-drifting to that fatal power.

"When I awoke, 'twas in a twilight bower;
Just when the light of morn, with hum of bees,
Stole through its verdurous matting of fresh trees.
How sweet, and sweeter! for I heard a lyre,
And over it a sighing voice expire.
It ceased--I caught light footsteps; and anon
The fairest face that morn e'er look'd upon
Push'd through a screen of roses. Starry Jove!
With tears, and smiles, and honey-words she wove
A net whose thraldom was more bliss than all
The range of flower'd Elysium. Thus did fall
The dew of her rich speech: "Ah! Art awake?
O let me hear thee speak, for Cupid's sake!
I am so oppress'd with joy! Why, I have shed
An urn of tears, as though thou wert cold dead;
And now I find thee living, I will pour
From these devoted eyes their silver store,
Until exhausted of the latest drop,
So it will pleasure thee, and force thee stop
Here, that I too may live: but if beyond
Such cool and sorrowful offerings, thou art fond
Of soothing warmth, of dalliance supreme;
If thou art ripe to taste a long love dream;
If smiles, if dimples, tongues for ardour mute,
Hang in thy vision like a tempting fruit,
O let me pluck it for thee." Thus she link'd
Her charming syllables, till indistinct
Their music came to my o'er-sweeten'd soul;
And then she hover'd over me, and stole
So near, that if no nearer it had been
This furrow'd visage thou hadst never seen.

"Young man of Latmos! thus particular
Am I, that thou may'st plainly see how far
This fierce temptation went: and thou may'st not
Exclaim, How then, was Scylla quite forgot?

"Who could resist? Who in this universe?
She did so breathe ambrosia; so immerse
My fine existence in a golden clime.
She took me like a child of suckling time,
And cradled me in roses. Thus condemn'd,
The current of my former life was stemm'd,
And to this arbitrary queen of sense
I bow'd a tranced vassal: nor would thence
Have mov'd, even though Amphion's harp had woo'd
Me back to Scylla o'er the billows rude.
For as Apollo each eve doth devise
A new appareling for western skies;
So every eve, nay every spendthrift hour
Shed balmy consciousness within that bower.
And I was free of haunts umbrageous;
Could wander in the mazy forest-house
Of squirrels, foxes shy, and antler'd deer,
And birds from coverts innermost and drear
Warbling for very joy mellifluous sorrow--
To me new born delights!

"Now let me borrow,
For moments few, a temperament as stern
As Pluto's sceptre, that my words not burn
These uttering lips, while I in calm speech tell
How specious heaven was changed to real hell.

"One morn she left me sleeping: half awake
I sought for her smooth arms and lips, to slake
My greedy thirst with nectarous camel-draughts;
But she was gone. Whereat the barbed shafts
Of disappointment stuck in me so sore,
That out I ran and search'd the forest o'er.
Wandering about in pine and cedar gloom
Damp awe assail'd me; for there 'gan to boom
A sound of moan, an agony of sound,
Sepulchral from the distance all around.
Then came a conquering earth-thunder, and rumbled
That fierce complain to silence: while I stumbled
Down a precipitous path, as if impell'd.
I came to a dark valley.--Groanings swell'd
Poisonous about my ears, and louder grew,
The nearer I approach'd a flame's gaunt blue,
That glar'd before me through a thorny brake.
This fire, like the eye of gordian snake,
Bewitch'd me towards; and I soon was near
A sight too fearful for the feel of fear:
In thicket hid I curs'd the haggard scene--
The banquet of my arms, my arbour queen,
Seated upon an uptorn forest root;
And all around her shapes, wizard and brute,
Laughing, and wailing, groveling, serpenting,
Shewing tooth, tusk, and venom-bag, and sting!
O such deformities! Old Charon's self,
Should he give up awhile his penny pelf,
And take a dream 'mong rushes Stygian,
It could not be so phantasied. Fierce, wan,
And tyrannizing was the lady's look,
As over them a gnarled staff she shook.
Oft-times upon the sudden she laugh'd out,
And from a basket emptied to the rout
Clusters of grapes, the which they raven'd quick
And roar'd for more; with many a hungry lick
About their shaggy jaws. Avenging, slow,
Anon she took a branch of mistletoe,
And emptied on't a black dull-gurgling phial:
Groan'd one and all, as if some piercing trial
Was sharpening for their pitiable bones.
She lifted up the charm: appealing groans
From their poor breasts went sueing to her ear
In vain; remorseless as an infant's bier
She whisk'd against their eyes the sooty oil.
Whereat was heard a noise of painful toil,
Increasing gradual to a tempest rage,
Shrieks, yells, and groans of torture-pilgrimage;
Until their grieved bodies 'gan to bloat
And puff from the tail's end to stifled throat:
Then was appalling silence: then a sight
More wildering than all that hoarse affright;
For the whole herd, as by a whirlwind writhen,
Went through the dismal air like one huge Python
Antagonizing Boreas,--and so vanish'd.
Yet there was not a breath of wind: she banish'd
These phantoms with a nod. Lo! from the dark
Came waggish fauns, and nymphs, and satyrs stark,
With dancing and loud revelry,--and went
Swifter than centaurs after rapine bent.--
Sighing an elephant appear'd and bow'd
Before the fierce witch, speaking thus aloud
In human accent: "Potent goddess! chief
Of pains resistless! make my being brief,
Or let me from this heavy prison fly:
Or give me to the air, or let me die!
I sue not for my happy crown again;
I sue not for my phalanx on the plain;
I sue not for my lone, my widow'd wife;
I sue not for my ruddy drops of life,
My children fair, my lovely girls and boys!
I will forget them; I will pass these joys;
Ask nought so heavenward, so too--too high:
Only I pray, as fairest boon, to die,
Or be deliver'd from this cumbrous flesh,
From this gross, detestable, filthy mesh,
And merely given to the cold bleak air.
Have mercy, Goddess! Circe, feel my prayer!"

That curst magician's name fell icy numb
Upon my wild conjecturing: truth had come
Naked and sabre-like against my heart.
I saw a fury whetting a death-dart;
And my slain spirit, overwrought with fright,
Fainted away in that dark lair of night.
Think, my deliverer, how desolate
My waking must have been! disgust, and hate,
And terrors manifold divided me
A spoil amongst them. I prepar'd to flee
Into the dungeon core of that wild wood:
I fled three days--when lo! before me stood
Glaring the angry witch. O Dis, even now,
A clammy dew is beading on my brow,
At mere remembering her pale laugh, and curse.
"Ha! ha! Sir Dainty! there must be a nurse
Made of rose leaves and thistledown, express,
To cradle thee my sweet, and lull thee: yes,
I am too flinty-hard for thy nice touch:
My tenderest squeeze is but a giant's clutch.
So, fairy-thing, it shall have lullabies
Unheard of yet; and it shall still its cries
Upon some breast more lily-feminine.
Oh, no--it shall not pine, and pine, and pine
More than one pretty, trifling thousand years;
And then 'twere pity, but fate's gentle shears
Cut short its immortality. Sea-flirt!
Young dove of the waters! truly I'll not hurt
One hair of thine: see how I weep and sigh,
That our heart-broken parting is so nigh.
And must we part? Ah, yes, it must be so.
Yet ere thou leavest me in utter woe,
Let me sob over thee my last adieus,
And speak a blessing: Mark me! thou hast thews
Immortal, for thou art of heavenly race:
But such a love is mine, that here I chase
Eternally away from thee all bloom
Of youth, and destine thee towards a tomb.
Hence shalt thou quickly to the watery vast;
And there, ere many days be overpast,
Disabled age shall seize thee; and even then
Thou shalt not go the way of aged men;
But live and wither, cripple and still breathe
Ten hundred years: which gone, I then bequeath
Thy fragile bones to unknown burial.
Adieu, sweet love, adieu!"--As shot stars fall,
She fled ere I could groan for mercy. Stung
And poisoned was my spirit: despair sung
A war-song of defiance 'gainst all hell.
A hand was at my shoulder to compel
My sullen steps; another 'fore my eyes
Moved on with pointed finger. In this guise
Enforced, at the last by ocean's foam
I found me; by my fresh, my native home.
Its tempering coolness, to my life akin,
Came salutary as I waded in;
And, with a blind voluptuous rage, I gave
Battle to the swollen billow-ridge, and drave
Large froth before me, while there yet remain'd
Hale strength, nor from my bones all marrow drain'd.

"Young lover, I must weep--such hellish spite
With dry cheek who can tell? While thus my might
Proving upon this element, dismay'd,
Upon a dead thing's face my hand I laid;
I look'd--'twas Scylla! Cursed, cursed Circe!
O vulture-witch, hast never heard of mercy?
Could not thy harshest vengeance be content,
But thou must nip this tender innocent
Because I lov'd her?--Cold, O cold indeed
Were her fair limbs, and like a common weed
The sea-swell took her hair. Dead as she was
I clung about her waist, nor ceas'd to pass
Fleet as an arrow through unfathom'd brine,
Until there shone a fabric crystalline,
Ribb'd and inlaid with coral, pebble, and pearl.
Headlong I darted; at one eager swirl
Gain'd its bright portal, enter'd, and behold!
'Twas vast, and desolate, and icy-cold;
And all around--But wherefore this to thee
Who in few minutes more thyself shalt see?--
I left poor Scylla in a niche and fled.
My fever'd parchings up, my scathing dread
Met palsy half way: soon these limbs became
Gaunt, wither'd, sapless, feeble, cramp'd, and lame.

"Now let me pass a cruel, cruel space,
Without one hope, without one faintest trace
Of mitigation, or redeeming bubble
Of colour'd phantasy; for I fear 'twould trouble
Thy brain to loss of reason: and next tell
How a restoring chance came down to quell
One half of the witch in me. On a day,
Sitting upon a rock above the spray,
I saw grow up from the horizon's brink
A gallant vessel: soon she seem'd to sink
Away from me again, as though her course
Had been resum'd in spite of hindering force--
So vanish'd: and not long, before arose
Dark clouds, and muttering of winds morose.
Old Eolus would stifle his mad spleen,
But could not: therefore all the billows green
Toss'd up the silver spume against the clouds.
The tempest came: I saw that vessel's shrouds
In perilous bustle; while upon the deck
Stood trembling creatures. I beheld the wreck;
The final gulphing; the poor struggling souls:
I heard their cries amid loud thunder-rolls.
O they had all been sav'd but crazed eld
Annull'd my vigorous cravings: and thus quell'd
And curb'd, think on't, O Latmian! did I sit
Writhing with pity, and a cursing fit
Against that hell-born Circe. The crew had gone,
By one and one, to pale oblivion;
And I was gazing on the surges prone,
With many a scalding tear and many a groan,
When at my feet emerg'd an old man's hand,
Grasping this scroll, and this same slender wand.
I knelt with pain--reached out my hand--had grasp'd
These treasures--touch'd the knuckles--they unclasp'd--
I caught a finger: but the downward weight
O'erpowered me--it sank. Then 'gan abate
The storm, and through chill aguish gloom outburst
The comfortable sun. I was athirst
To search the book, and in the warming air
Parted its dripping leaves with eager care.
Strange matters did it treat of, and drew on
My soul page after page, till well-nigh won
Into forgetfulness; when, stupefied,
I read these words, and read again, and tried
My eyes against the heavens, and read again.
O what a load of misery and pain
Each Atlas-line bore off!--a shine of hope
Came gold around me, cheering me to cope
Strenuous with hellish tyranny. Attend!
For thou hast brought their promise to an end.

"In the wide sea there lives a forlorn wretch,
Doom'd with enfeebled carcase to outstretch
His loath'd existence through ten centuries,
And then to die alone. Who can devise
A total opposition? No one. So
One million times ocean must ebb and flow,
And he oppressed. Yet he shall not die,
These things accomplish'd:--If he utterly
Scans all the depths of magic, and expounds
The meanings of all motions, shapes, and sounds;
If he explores all forms and substances
Straight homeward to their symbol-essences;
He shall not die. Moreover, and in chief,
He must pursue this task of joy and grief
Most piously;--all lovers tempest-tost,
And in the savage overwhelming lost,
He shall deposit side by side, until
Time's creeping shall the dreary space fulfil:
Which done, and all these labours ripened,
A youth, by heavenly power lov'd and led,
Shall stand before him; whom he shall direct
How to consummate all. The youth elect
Must do the thing, or both will be destroy'd."--

"Then," cried the young Endymion, overjoy'd,
"We are twin brothers in this destiny!
Say, I intreat thee, what achievement high
Is, in this restless world, for me reserv'd.
What! if from thee my wandering feet had swerv'd,
Had we both perish'd?"--"Look!" the sage replied,
"Dost thou not mark a gleaming through the tide,
Of divers brilliances? 'tis the edifice
I told thee of, where lovely Scylla lies;
And where I have enshrined piously
All lovers, whom fell storms have doom'd to die
Throughout my bondage." Thus discoursing, on
They went till unobscur'd the porches shone;
Which hurryingly they gain'd, and enter'd straight.
Sure never since king Neptune held his state
Was seen such wonder underneath the stars.
Turn to some level plain where haughty Mars
Has legion'd all his battle; and behold
How every soldier, with firm foot, doth hold
His even breast: see, many steeled squares,
And rigid ranks of iron--whence who dares
One step? Imagine further, line by line,
These warrior thousands on the field supine:--
So in that crystal place, in silent rows,
Poor lovers lay at rest from joys and woes.--
The stranger from the mountains, breathless, trac'd
Such thousands of shut eyes in order plac'd;
Such ranges of white feet, and patient lips
All ruddy,--for here death no blossom nips.
He mark'd their brows and foreheads; saw their hair
Put sleekly on one side with nicest care;
And each one's gentle wrists, with reverence,
Put cross-wise to its heart.

"Let us commence,
Whisper'd the guide, stuttering with joy, even now."
He spake, and, trembling like an aspen-bough,
Began to tear his scroll in pieces small,
Uttering the while some mumblings funeral.
He tore it into pieces small as snow
That drifts unfeather'd when bleak northerns blow;
And having done it, took his dark blue cloak
And bound it round Endymion: then struck
His wand against the empty air times nine.--
"What more there is to do, young man, is thine:
But first a little patience; first undo
This tangled thread, and wind it to a clue.
Ah, gentle! 'tis as weak as spider's skein;
And shouldst thou break it--What, is it done so clean?
A power overshadows thee! Oh, brave!
The spite of hell is tumbling to its grave.
Here is a shell; 'tis pearly blank to me,
Nor mark'd with any sign or charactery--
Canst thou read aught? O read for pity's sake!
Olympus! we are safe! Now, Carian, break
This wand against yon lyre on the pedestal."

'Twas done: and straight with sudden swell and fall
Sweet music breath'd her soul away, and sigh'd
A lullaby to silence.--"Youth! now strew
These minced leaves on me, and passing through
Those files of dead, scatter the same around,
And thou wilt see the issue."--'Mid the sound
Of flutes and viols, ravishing his heart,
Endymion from Glaucus stood apart,
And scatter'd in his face some fragments light.
How lightning-swift the change! a youthful wight
Smiling beneath a coral diadem,
Out-sparkling sudden like an upturn'd gem,
Appear'd, and, stepping to a beauteous corse,
Kneel'd down beside it, and with tenderest force
Press'd its cold hand, and wept--and Scylla sigh'd!
Endymion, with quick hand, the charm applied--
The nymph arose: he left them to their joy,
And onward went upon his high employ,
Showering those powerful fragments on the dead.
And, as he pass'd, each lifted up its head,
As doth a flower at Apollo's touch.
Death felt it to his inwards; 'twas too much:
Death fell a weeping in his charnel-house.
The Latmian persever'd along, and thus
All were re-animated. There arose
A noise of harmony, pulses and throes
Of gladness in the air--while many, who
Had died in mutual arms devout and true,
Sprang to each other madly; and the rest
Felt a high certainty of being blest.
They gaz'd upon Endymion. Enchantment
Grew drunken, and would have its head and bent.
Delicious symphonies, like airy flowers,
Budded, and swell'd, and, full-blown, shed full showers
Of light, soft, unseen leaves of sounds divine.
The two deliverers tasted a pure wine
Of happiness, from fairy-press ooz'd out.
Speechless they eyed each other, and about
The fair assembly wander'd to and fro,
Distracted with the richest overflow
Of joy that ever pour'd from heaven.

----"Away!"
Shouted the new-born god; "Follow, and pay
Our piety to Neptunus supreme!"--
Then Scylla, blushing sweetly from her dream,
They led on first, bent to her meek surprise,
Through portal columns of a giant size,
Into the vaulted, boundless emerald.
Joyous all follow'd, as the leader call'd,
Down marble steps; pouring as easily
As hour-glass sand--and fast, as you might see
Swallows obeying the south summer's call,
Or swans upon a gentle waterfall.

Thus went that beautiful multitude, nor far,
Ere from among some rocks of glittering spar,
Just within ken, they saw descending thick
Another multitude. Whereat more quick
Moved either host. On a wide sand they met,
And of those numbers every eye was wet;
For each their old love found. A murmuring rose,
Like what was never heard in all the throes
Of wind and waters: 'tis past human wit
To tell; 'tis dizziness to think of it.

This mighty consummation made, the host
Mov'd on for many a league; and gain'd, and lost
Huge sea-marks; vanward swelling in array,
And from the rear diminishing away,--
Till a faint dawn surpris'd them. Glaucus cried,
"Behold! behold, the palace of his pride!
God Neptune's palaces!" With noise increas'd,
They shoulder'd on towards that brightening east.
At every onward step proud domes arose
In prospect,--diamond gleams, and golden glows
Of amber 'gainst their faces levelling.
Joyous, and many as the leaves in spring,
Still onward; still the splendour gradual swell'd.
Rich opal domes were seen, on high upheld
By jasper pillars, letting through their shafts
A blush of coral. Copious wonder-draughts
Each gazer drank; and deeper drank more near:
For what poor mortals fragment up, as mere
As marble was there lavish, to the vast
Of one fair palace, that far far surpass'd,
Even for common bulk, those olden three,
Memphis, and Babylon, and Nineveh.

As large, as bright, as colour'd as the bow
Of Iris, when unfading it doth shew
Beyond a silvery shower, was the arch
Through which this Paphian army took its march,
Into the outer courts of Neptune's state:
Whence could be seen, direct, a golden gate,
To which the leaders sped; but not half raught
Ere it burst open swift as fairy thought,
And made those dazzled thousands veil their eyes
Like callow eagles at the first sunrise.
Soon with an eagle nativeness their gaze
Ripe from hue-golden swoons took all the blaze,
And then, behold! large Neptune on his throne
Of emerald deep: yet not exalt alone;
At his right hand stood winged Love, and on
His left sat smiling Beauty's paragon.

Far as the mariner on highest mast
Can see all round upon the calmed vast,
So wide was Neptune's hall: and as the blue
Doth vault the waters, so the waters drew
Their doming curtains, high, magnificent,
Aw'd from the throne aloof;--and when storm-rent
Disclos'd the thunder-gloomings in Jove's air;
But sooth'd as now, flash'd sudden everywhere,
Noiseless, sub-marine cloudlets, glittering
Death to a human eye: for there did spring
From natural west, and east, and south, and north,
A light as of four sunsets, blazing forth
A gold-green zenith 'bove the Sea-God's head.
Of lucid depth the floor, and far outspread
As breezeless lake, on which the slim canoe
Of feather'd Indian darts about, as through
The delicatest air: air verily,
But for the portraiture of clouds and sky:
This palace floor breath-air,--but for the amaze
Of deep-seen wonders motionless,--and blaze
Of the dome pomp, reflected in extremes,
Globing a golden sphere.

They stood in dreams
Till Triton blew his horn. The palace rang;
The Nereids danc'd; the Syrens faintly sang;
And the great Sea-King bow'd his dripping head.
Then Love took wing, and from his pinions shed
On all the multitude a nectarous dew.
The ooze-born Goddess beckoned and drew
Fair Scylla and her guides to conference;
And when they reach'd the throned eminence
She kist the sea-nymph's cheek,--who sat her down
A toying with the doves. Then,--"Mighty crown
And sceptre of this kingdom!" Venus said,
"Thy vows were on a time to Nais paid:
Behold!"--Two copious tear-drops instant fell
From the God's large eyes; he smil'd delectable,
And over Glaucus held his blessing hands.--
"Endymion! Ah! still wandering in the bands
Of love? Now this is cruel. Since the hour
I met thee in earth's bosom, all my power
Have I put forth to serve thee. What, not yet
Escap'd from dull mortality's harsh net?
A little patience, youth! 'twill not be long,
Or I am skilless quite: an idle tongue,
A humid eye, and steps luxurious,
Where these are new and strange, are ominous.
Aye, I have seen these signs in one of heaven,
When others were all blind; and were I given
To utter secrets, haply I might say
Some pleasant words:--but Love will have his day.
So wait awhile expectant. Pr'ythee soon,
Even in the passing of thine honey-moon,
Visit my Cytherea: thou wilt find
Cupid well-natured, my Adonis kind;
And pray persuade with thee--Ah, I have done,
All blisses be upon thee, my sweet son!"--
Thus the fair goddess: while Endymion
Knelt to receive those accents halcyon.

Meantime a glorious revelry began
Before the Water-Monarch. Nectar ran
In courteous fountains to all cups outreach'd;
And plunder'd vines, teeming exhaustless, pleach'd
New growth about each shell and pendent lyre;
The which, in disentangling for their fire,
Pull'd down fresh foliage and coverture
For dainty toying. Cupid, empire-sure,
Flutter'd and laugh'd, and oft-times through the throng
Made a delighted way. Then dance, and song,
And garlanding grew wild; and pleasure reign'd.
In harmless tendril they each other chain'd,
And strove who should be smother'd deepest in
Fresh crush of leaves.

O 'tis a very sin
For one so weak to venture his poor verse
In such a place as this. O do not curse,
High Muses! let him hurry to the ending.

All suddenly were silent. A soft blending
Of dulcet instruments came charmingly;
And then a hymn.

"KING of the stormy sea!
Brother of Jove, and co-inheritor
Of elements! Eternally before
Thee the waves awful bow. Fast, stubborn rock,
At thy fear'd trident shrinking, doth unlock
Its deep foundations, hissing into foam.
All mountain-rivers lost, in the wide home
Of thy capacious bosom ever flow.
Thou frownest, and old Eolus thy foe
Skulks to his cavern, 'mid the gruff complaint
Of all his rebel tempests. Dark clouds faint
When, from thy diadem, a silver gleam
Slants over blue dominion. Thy bright team
Gulphs in the morning light, and scuds along
To bring thee nearer to that golden song
Apollo singeth, while his chariot
Waits at the doors of heaven. Thou art not
For scenes like this: an empire stern hast thou;
And it hath furrow'd that large front: yet now,
As newly come of heaven, dost thou sit
To blend and interknit
Subdued majesty with this glad time.
O shell-borne King sublime!
We lay our hearts before thee evermore--
We sing, and we adore!

"Breathe softly, flutes;
Be tender of your strings, ye soothing lutes;
Nor be the trumpet heard! O vain, O vain;
Not flowers budding in an April rain,
Nor breath of sleeping dove, nor river's flow,--
No, nor the Eolian twang of Love's own bow,
Can mingle music fit for the soft ear
Of goddess Cytherea!
Yet deign, white Queen of Beauty, thy fair eyes
On our souls' sacrifice.

"Bright-winged Child!
Who has another care when thou hast smil'd?
Unfortunates on earth, we see at last
All death-shadows, and glooms that overcast
Our spirits, fann'd away by thy light pinions.
O sweetest essence! sweetest of all minions!
God of warm pulses, and dishevell'd hair,
And panting bosoms bare!
Dear unseen light in darkness! eclipser
Of light in light! delicious poisoner!
Thy venom'd goblet will we quaff until
We fill--we fill!
And by thy Mother's lips----"


Was heard no more
For clamour, when the golden palace door
Opened again, and from without, in shone
A new magnificence. On oozy throne
Smooth-moving came Oceanus the old,
To take a latest glimpse at his sheep-fold,
Before he went into his quiet cave
To muse for ever--Then a lucid wave,
Scoop'd from its trembling sisters of mid-sea,
Afloat, and pillowing up the majesty
Of Doris, and the Egean seer, her spouse--
Next, on a dolphin, clad in laurel boughs,
Theban Amphion leaning on his lute:
His fingers went across it--All were mute
To gaze on Amphitrite, queen of pearls,
And Thetis pearly too.--

The palace whirls
Around giddy Endymion; seeing he
Was there far strayed from mortality.
He could not bear it--shut his eyes in vain;
Imagination gave a dizzier pain.
"O I shall die! sweet Venus, be my stay!
Where is my lovely mistress? Well-away!
I die--I hear her voice--I feel my wing--"
At Neptune's feet he sank. A sudden ring
Of Nereids were about him, in kind strife
To usher back his spirit into life:
But still he slept. At last they interwove
Their cradling arms, and purpos'd to convey
Towards a crystal bower far away.

Lo! while slow carried through the pitying crowd,
To his inward senses these words spake aloud;
Written in star-light on the dark above:
Dearest Endymion! my entire love!
How have I dwelt in fear of fate: 'tis done--
Immortal bliss for me too hast thou won.
Arise then! for the hen-dove shall not hatch
Her ready eggs, before I'll kissing snatch
Thee into endless heaven. Awake! awake!

The youth at once arose: a placid lake
Came quiet to his eyes; and forest green,
Cooler than all the wonders he had seen,
Lull'd with its simple song his fluttering breast.
How happy once again in grassy nest!

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The Cenci : A Tragedy In Five Acts

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

Count Francesco Cenci.
Giacomo, his Son.
Bernardo, his Son.
Cardinal Camillo.
Orsino, a Prelate.
Savella, the Pope's Legate.
Olimpio, Assassin.
Marzio, Assassin.
Andrea, Servant to Cenci.
Nobles, Judges, Guards, Servants.
Lucretia, Wife of Cenci, and Step-mother of his children.
Beatrice, his Daughter.

The Scene lies principally in Rome, but changes during the Fourth Act to Petrella, a castle among the Apulian Apennines.
Time. During the Pontificate of Clement VIII.


ACT I

Scene I.
-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace.
Enter Count Cenci, and Cardinal Camillo.


Camillo.
That matter of the murder is hushed up
If you consent to yield his Holiness
Your fief that lies beyond the Pincian gate.-
It needed all my interest in the conclave
To bend him to this point: he said that you
Bought perilous impunity with your gold;
That crimes like yours if once or twice compounded
Enriched the Church, and respited from hell
An erring soul which might repent and live:-
But that the glory and the interest
Of the high throne he fills, little consist
With making it a daily mart of guilt
As manifold and hideous as the deeds
Which you scarce hide from men's revolted eyes.


Cenci.
The third of my possessions-let it go!
Ay, I once heard the nephew of the Pope
Had sent his architect to view the ground,
Meaning to build a villa on my vines
The next time I compounded with his uncle:
I little thought he should outwit me so!
Henceforth no witness-not the lamp-shall see
That which the vassal threatened to divulge
Whose throat is choked with dust for his reward.
The deed he saw could not have rated higher
Than his most worthless life:-it angers me!
Respited me from Hell!-So may the Devil
Respite their souls from Heaven. No doubt Pope Clement,
And his most charitable nephews, pray
That the Apostle Peter and the Saints
Will grant for their sake that I long enjoy
Strength, wealth, and pride, and lust, and length of days
Wherein to act the deeds which are the stewards
Of their revenue.-But much yet remains
To which they show no title.


Camillo.
Oh, Count Cenci!
So much that thou mightst honourably live
And reconcile thyself with thine own heart
And with thy God, and with the offended world.
How hideously look deeds of lust and blood
Through those snow white and venerable hairs!-
Your children should be sitting round you now,
But that you fear to read upon their looks
The shame and misery you have written there.
Where is your wife? Where is your gentle daughter?
Methinks her sweet looks, which make all things else
Beauteous and glad, might kill the fiend within you.
Why is she barred from all society
But her own strange and uncomplaining wrongs?
Talk with me, Count,-you know I mean you well
I stood beside your dark and fiery youth
Watching its bold and bad career, as men
Watch meteors, but it vanished not-I marked
Your desperate and remorseless manhood; now
Do I behold you in dishonoured age
Charged with a thousand unrepented crimes.
Yet I have ever hoped you would amend,
And in that hope have saved your life three times.


Cenci.
For which Aldobrandino owes you now
My fief beyond the Pincian.-Cardinal,
One thing, I pray you, recollect henceforth,
And so we shall converse with less restraint.
A man you knew spoke of my wife and daughter-
He was accustomed to frequent my house;
So the next day his wife and daughter came
And asked if I had seen him; and I smiled:
I think they never saw him any more.


Camillo.
Thou execrable man, beware!-


Cenci.
Of thee?
Nay this is idle:-We should know each other.
As to my character for what men call crime
Seeing I please my senses as I list,
And vindicate that right with force or guile,
It is a public matter, and I care not
If I discuss it with you. I may speak
Alike to you and my own conscious heart-
For you give out that you have half reformed me,
Therefore strong vanity will keep you silent
If fear should not; both will, I do not doubt.
All men delight in sensual luxury,
All men enjoy revenge; and most exult
Over the tortures they can never feel-
Flattering their secret peace with others' pain.
But I delight in nothing else. I love
The sight of agony, and the sense of joy,
When this shall be another's, and that mine.
And I have no remorse and little fear,
Which are, I think, the checks of other men.
This mood has grown upon me, until now
Any design my captious fancy makes
The picture of its wish, and it forms none
But such as men like you would start to know,
Is as my natural food and rest debarred
Until it be accomplished.


Camillo.
Art thou not
Most miserable?


Cenci.
Why, miserable?-
No.-I am what your theologians call
Hardened;-which they must be in impudence,
So to revile a man's peculiar taste.
True, I was happier than I am, while yet
Manhood remained to act the thing I thought;
While lust was sweeter than revenge; and now
Invention palls:-Ay, we must all grow old-
And but that there yet remains a deed to act
Whose horror might make sharp an appetite
Duller than mine-I'd do-I know not what.
When I was young I thought of nothing else
But pleasure; and I fed on honey sweets:
Men, by St. Thomas! cannot live like bees,
And I grew tired:-yet, till I killed a foe,
And heard his groans, and heard his children's groans,
Knew I not what delight was else on earth,
Which now delights me little. I the rather
Look on such pangs as terror ill conceals,
The dry fixed eyeball; the pale quivering lip,
Which tell me that the spirit weeps within
Tears bitterer than the bloody sweat of Christ.
I rarely kill the body, which preserves,
Like a strong prison, the soul within my power,
Wherein I feed it with the breath of fear
For hourly pain.


Camillo.
Hell's most abandoned fiend
Did never, in the drunkenness of guilt,
Speak to his heart as now you speak to me;
I thank my God that I believe you not.


Enter Andrea.


Andrea.
My Lord, a gentleman from Salamanca
Would speak with you.


Cenci.
Bid him attend me in
The grand saloon.


[Exit Andrea.


Camillo.
Farewell; and I will pray
Almighty God that thy false, impious words
Tempt not his spirit to abandon thee.


[Exit Camillo.


Cenci.
The third of my possessions! I must use
Close husbandry, or gold, the old man's sword,
Falls from my withered hand. But yesterday
There came an order from the Pope to make
Fourfold provision for my cursèd sons;
Whom I had sent from Rome to Salamanca,
Hoping some accident might cut them off;
And meaning if I could to starve them there.
I pray thee, God, send some quick death upon them!
Bernardo and my wife could not be worse
If dead and damned:-then, as to Beatrice- [Looking around him suspiciously.

I think they cannot hear me at that door;
What if they should? And yet I need not speak
Though the heart triumphs with itself in words.
O, thou most silent air, that shalt not hear
What now I think! Thou, pavement, which I tread
Towards her chamber,-let your echoes talk
Of my imperious step scorning surprise,
But not of my intent!-Andrea!


[Enter Andrea.


Andrea.
My lord?


Cenci.
Bid Beatrice attend me in her chamber
This evening:-no, at midnight and alone.


[Exeunt.


Scene II.
-A Garden of the Cenci Palace. EnterBeatrice and Orsino, as in conversation.


Beatrice.
Pervert not truth,
Orsino. You remember where we held
That conversation;-nay, we see the spot
Even from this cypress;-two long years are past
Since, on an April midnight, underneath
The moonlight ruins of mount Palatine,
I did confess to you my secret mind.


Orsino.
You said you loved me then.


Beatrice.
You are a Priest,
Speak to me not of love.


Orsino.
I may obtain
The dispensation of the Pope to marry.
Because I am a Priest do you believe
Your image, as the hunter some struck deer,
Follows me not whether I wake or sleep?


Beatrice.
As I have said, speak to me not of love;
Had you a dispensation I have not;
Nor will I leave this home of misery
Whilst my poor Bernard, and that gentle lady
To whom I owe life, and these virtuous thoughts,
Must suffer what I still have strength to share.
Alas, Orsino! All the love that once
I felt for you, is turned to bitter pain.
Ours was a youthful contract, which you first
Broke, by assuming vows no Pope will loose.
And thus I love you still, but holily,
Even as a sister or a spirit might;
And so I swear a cold fidelity.
And it is well perhaps we shall not marry.
You have a sly, equivocating vein
That suits me not.-Ah, wretched that I am!
Where shall I turn? Even now you look on me
As you were not my friend, and as if you
Discovered that I thought so, with false smiles
Making my true suspicion seem your wrong.
Ah, no! forgive me; sorrow makes me seem
Sterner than else my nature might have been;
I have a weight of melancholy thoughts,
And they forbode,-but what can they forbode
Worse than I now endure?


Orsino.
All will be well.
Is the petition yet prepared? You know
My zeal for all you wish, sweet Beatrice;
Doubt not but I will use my utmost skill
So that the Pope attend to your complaint.


Beatrice.
Your zeal for all I wish;-Ah me, you are cold!
Your utmost skill . . . speak but one word . . . (aside)
Alas!
Weak and deserted creature that I am,
Here I stand bickering with my only friend! [To Orsino.

This night my father gives a sumptuous feast,
Orsino; he has heard some happy news
From Salamanca, from my brothers there,
And with this outward show of love he mocks
His inward hate. 'Tis bold hypocrisy,
For he would gladlier celebrate their deaths,
Which I have heard him pray for on his knees:
Great God! that such a father should be mine!
But there is mighty preparation made,
And all our kin, the Cenci, will be there,
And all the chief nobility of Rome.
And he has bidden me and my pale Mother
Attire ourselves in festival array.
Poor lady! She expects some happy change
In his dark spirit from this act; I none.
At supper I will give you the petition:
Till when-farewell.


Orsino.
Farewell.
(Exit Beatrice.)
I know the Pope
Will ne'er absolve me from my priestly vow
But by absolving me from the revenue
Of many a wealthy see; and, Beatrice,
I think to win thee at an easier rate.
Nor shall he read her eloquent petition:
He might bestow her on some poor relation
Of his sixth cousin, as he did her sister,
And I should be debarred from all access.
Then as to what she suffers from her father,
In all this there is much exaggeration:-
Old men are testy and will have their way;
A man may stab his enemy, or his vassal,
And live a free life as to wine or women,
And with a peevish temper may return
To a dull home, and rate his wife and children;
Daughters and wives call this foul tyranny.
I shall be well content if on my conscience
There rest no heavier sin than what they suffer
From the devices of my love-a net
From which she shall escape not. Yet I fear
Her subtle mind, her awe-inspiring gaze,
Whose beams anatomize me nerve by nerve
And lay me bare, and make me blush to see
My hidden thoughts.-Ah, no! A friendless girl
Who clings to me, as to her only hope:-
I were a fool, not less than if a panther
Were panic-stricken by the antelope's eye,
If she escape me.


[Exit.


Scene III.
-A Magnificent Hall in the Cenci Palace. A Banquet. Enter Cenci, Lucretia, Beatrice, Orsino, Camillo, Nobles.


Cenci.
Welcome, my friends and kinsmen; welcome ye,
Princes and Cardinals, pillars of the church,
Whose presence honours our festivity.
I have too long lived like an anchorite,
And in my absence from your merry meetings
An evil word is gone abroad of me;
But I do hope that you, my noble friends,
When you have shared the entertainment here,
And heard the pious cause for which 'tis given,
And we have pledged a health or two together,
Will think me flesh and blood as well as you;
Sinful indeed, for Adam made all so,
But tender-hearted, meek and pitiful.


First Guest.
In truth, my Lord, you seem too light of heart,
Too sprightly and companionable a man,
To act the deeds that rumour pins on you. (To his Companion.)

I never saw such blithe and open cheer
In any eye!


Second Guest.
Some most desired event,
In which we all demand a common joy,
Has brought us hither; let us hear it, Count.


Cenci.
It is indeed a most desired event.
If, when a parent from a parent's heart
Lifts from this earth to the great Father of all
A prayer, both when he lays him down to sleep,
And when he rises up from dreaming it;
One supplication, one desire, one hope,
That he would grant a wish for his two sons,
Even all that he demands in their regard-
And suddenly beyond his dearest hope
It is accomplished, he should then rejoice,
And call his friends and kinsmen to a feast,
And task their love to grace his merriment,-
Then honour me thus far-for I am he.


Beatrice
(to Lucretia).
Great God! How horrible! Some dreadful ill
Must have befallen my brothers.


Lucretia.
Fear not, Child,
He speaks too frankly.


Beatrice.
Ah! My blood runs cold.
I fear that wicked laughter round his eye,
Which wrinkles up the skin even to the hair.


Cenci.
Here are the letters brought from Salamanca;
Beatrice, read them to your mother. God!
I thank thee! In one night didst thou perform,
By ways inscrutable, the thing I sought.
My disobedient and rebellious sons
Are dead!-Why, dead!-What means this change of cheer?
You hear me not, I tell you they are dead;
And they will need no food or raiment more:
The tapers that did light them the dark way
Are their last cost. The Pope, I think, will not
Expect I should maintain them in their coffins.
Rejoice with me-my heart is wondrous glad.


[Lucretia sinks, half fainting; Beatrice supports her.


Beatrice.
It is not true!-Dear lady, pray look up.
Had it been true, there is a God in Heaven,
He would not live to boast of such a boon.
Unnatural man, thou knowest that it is false.


Cenci.
Ay, as the word of God; whom here I call
To witness that I speak the sober truth;-
And whose most favouring Providence was shown
Even in the manner of their deaths. For Rocco
Was kneeling at the mass, with sixteen others,
When the church fell and crushed him to a mummy,
The rest escaped unhurt. Cristofano
Was stabbed in error by a jealous man,
Whilst she he loved was sleeping with his rival;
All in the self-same hour of the same night;
Which shows that Heaven has special care of me.
I beg those friends who love me, that they mark
The day a feast upon their calendars.
It was the twenty-seventh of December:
Ay, read the letters if you doubt my oath.


[The Assembly appears confused; several of the guests rise.


First Guest.
Oh, horrible! I will depart-


Second Guest.
And I.-


Third Guest.
No, stay!
I do believe it is some jest; though faith!
'Tis mocking us somewhat too solemnly.
I think his son has married the Infanta,
Or found a mine of gold in El Dorado;
'Tis but to season some such news; stay, stay!
I see 'tis only raillery by his smile.


Cenci
(filling a bowl of wine, and lifting it up).
Oh, thou bright wine whose purple splendour leaps
And bubbles gaily in this golden bowl
Under the lamplight, as my spirits do,
To hear the death of my accursèd sons!
Could I believe thou wert their mingled blood,
Then would I taste thee like a sacrament,
And pledge with thee the mighty Devil in Hell,
Who, if a father's curses, as men say,
Climb with swift wings after their children's souls,
And drag them from the very throne of Heaven,
Now triumphs in my triumph!-But thou art
Superfluous; I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine to-night.
Here, Andrea! Bear the bowl around.


A Guest
(rising).
Thou wretch!
Will none among this noble company
Check the abandoned villain?


Camillo.
For God's sake
Let me dismiss the guests! You are insane,
Some ill will come of this.


Second Guest.
Seize, silence him!


First Guest.
I will!


Third Guest.
And I!


Cenci
(addressing those who rise with a threatening gesture).
Who moves? Who speaks?


(turning to the Company)


'tis nothing
Enjoy yourselves.-Beware! For my revenge
Is as the sealed commission of a king
That kills, and none dare name the murderer.


[The Banquet is broken up; several of the Guests are departing.


Beatrice.
I do entreat you, go not, noble guests;
What, although tyranny and impious hate
Stand sheltered by a father's hoary hair?
What, if 'tis he who clothed us in these limbs
Who tortures them, and triumphs? What, if we,
The desolate and the dead, were his own flesh,
His children and his wife, whom he is bound
To love and shelter? Shall we therefore find
No refuge in this merciless wide world?
O think what deep wrongs must have blotted out
First love, then reverence in a child's prone mind,
Till it thus vanquish shame and fear! O think!
I have borne much, and kissed the sacred hand
Which crushed us to the earth, and thought its stroke
Was perhaps some paternal chastisement!
Have excused much, doubted; and when no doubt
Remained, have sought by patience, love, and tears
To soften him, and when this could not be
I have knelt down through the long sleepless nights
And lifted up to God, the Father of all,
Passionate prayers: and when these were not heard
I have still borne,-until I meet you here,
Princes and kinsmen, at this hideous feast
Given at my brothers' deaths. Two yet remain,
His wife remains and I, whom if ye save not,
Ye may soon share such merriment again
As fathers make over their children's graves.
O Prince Colonna, thou art our near kinsman,
Cardinal, thou art the Pope's chamberlain,
Camillo, thou art chief justiciary,
Take us away!


Cenci.
(He has been conversing with Camillo during the first part of Beatrice's speech; he hears the conclusion, and now advances.)
I hope my good friends here
Will think of their own daughters-or perhaps
Of their own throats-before they lend an ear
To this wild girl.


Beatrice
(not noticing the words of Cenci).
Dare no one look on me?
None answer? Can one tyrant overbear
The sense of many best and wisest men?
Or is it that I sue not in some form
Of scrupulous law, that ye deny my suit?
O God! That I were buried with my brothers!
And that the flowers of this departed spring
Were fading on my grave! And that my father
Were celebrating now one feast for all!


Camillo.
A bitter wish for one so young and gentle;
Can we do nothing?


Colonna.
Nothing that I see.
Count Cenci were a dangerous enemy:
Yet I would second any one.


A Cardinal.
And I.


Cenci.
Retire to your chamber, insolent girl!


Beatrice.
Retire thou, impious man! Ay, hide thyself
Where never eye can look upon thee more!
Wouldst thou have honour and obedience
Who art a torturer? Father, never dream
Though thou mayst overbear this company,
But ill must come of ill.-Frown not on me!
Haste, hide thyself, lest with avenging looks
My brothers' ghosts should hunt thee from thy seat!
Cover thy face from every living eye,
And start if thou but hear a human step:
Seek out some dark and silent corner, there,
Bow thy white head before offended God,
And we will kneel around, and fervently
Pray that he pity both ourselves and thee.


Cenci.


My friends, I do lament this insane girl
Has spoilt the mirth of our festivity.
Good night, farewell; I will not make you longer
Spectators of our dull domestic quarrels.
Another time.-


[Exeunt all but Cenci and Beatrice.


My brain is swimming round;
Give me a bowl of wine!


[To Beatrice.


Thou painted viper!
Beast that thou art! Fair and yet terrible!
I know a charm shall make thee meek and tame,
Now get thee from my sight!


[Exit Beatrice.


Here, Andrea,
Fill up this goblet with Greek wine. I said
I would not drink this evening; but I must;
For, strange to say, I feel my spirits fail
With thinking what I have decreed to do.- [Drinking the wine.

Be thou the resolution of quick youth
Within my veins, and manhood's purpose stern,
And age's firm, cold, subtle villainy;
As if thou wert indeed my children's blood
Which I did thirst to drink! The charm works well;
It must be done; it shall be done, I swear!


[Exit.


END OF THE FIRST ACT.

ACT II
Scene I.
-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace. Enter Lucretia and Bernardo.


Lucretia.
Weep not, my gentle boy; he struck but me
Who have borne deeper wrongs. In truth, if he
Had killed me, he had done a kinder deed.
O God, Almighty, do Thou look upon us,
We have no other friend but only Thee!
Yet weep not; though I love you as my own,
I am not your true mother.


Bernardo.
O more, more,
Than ever mother was to any child,
That have you been to me! Had he not been
My father, do you think that I should weep!


Lucretia.
Alas! Poor boy, what else couldst thou have done?


Enter Beatrice.


Beatrice
(in a hurried voice).
Did he pass this way? Have you seen him, brother?
Ah, no! that is his step upon the stairs;
'Tis nearer now; his hand is on the door;
Mother, if I to thee have ever been
A duteous child, now save me! Thou, great God,
Whose image upon earth a father is,
Dost Thou indeed abandon me? He comes;
The door is opening now; I see his face;
He frowns on others, but he smiles on me,
Even as he did after the feast last night. Enter a Servant.

Almighty God, how merciful Thou art!
'Tis but Orsino's servant.-Well, what news?


Servant.
My master bids me say, the Holy Father
Has sent back your petition thus unopened. [Giving a paper.

And he demands at what hour 'twere secure
To visit you again?


Lucretia.
At the Ave Mary.[Exit Servant.

So, daughter, our last hope has failed; Ah me!
How pale you look; you tremble, and you stand
Wrapped in some fixed and fearful meditation,
As if one thought were over strong for you:
Your eyes have a chill glare; O, dearest child!
Are you gone mad? If not, pray speak to me.


Beatrice.
You see I am not mad: I speak to you.


Lucretia.
You talked of something that your father did
After that dreadful feast? Could it be worse
Than when he smiled, and cried, 'My sons are dead!'
And every one looked in his neighbour's face
To see if others were as white as he?
At the first word he spoke I felt the blood
Rush to my heart, and fell into a trance;
And when it passed I sat all weak and wild;
Whilst you alone stood up, and with strong words
Checked his unnatural pride; and I could see
The devil was rebuked that lives in him.
Until this hour thus have you ever stood
Between us and your father's moody wrath
Like a protecting presence: your firm mind
Has been our only refuge and defence:
What can have thus subdued it? What can now
Have given you that cold melancholy look,
Succeeding to your unaccustomed fear?


Beatrice.
What is it that you say? I was just thinking
'Twere better not to struggle any more.
Men, like my father, have been dark and bloody,
Yet never-Oh! Before worse comes of it
'Twere wise to die: it ends in that at last.


Lucretia.
Oh, talk not so, dear child! Tell me at once
What did your father do or say to you?
He stayed not after that accursèd feast
One moment in your chamber.-Speak to me.


Bernardo.
Oh, sister, sister, prithee, speak to us!


Beatrice
(speaking very slowly with a forced calmness).


It was one word, Mother, one little word;
One look, one smile. (Wildly.)
Oh! He has trampled me
Under his feet, and made the blood stream down
My pallid cheeks. And he has given us all
Ditch-water, and the fever-stricken flesh
Of buffaloes, and bade us eat or starve,
And we have eaten.-He has made me look
On my beloved Bernardo, when the rust
Of heavy chains has gangrened his sweet limbs,
And I have never yet despaired-but now!
What could I say?


[Recovering herself.


Ah, no! 'tis nothing new.
The sufferings we all share have made me wild:
He only struck and cursed me as he passed;
He said, he looked, he did;-nothing at all
Beyond his wont, yet it disordered me.
Alas! I am forgetful of my duty,
I should preserve my senses for your sake.


Lucretia.
Nay, Beatrice; have courage, my sweet girl,
If any one despairs it should be I
Who loved him once, and now must live with him
Till God in pity call for him or me.
For you may, like your sister, find some husband,
And smile, years hence, with children round your knees;
Whilst I, then dead, and all this hideous coil
Shall be remembered only as a dream.


Beatrice.
Talk not to me, dear lady, of a husband.
Did you not nurse me when my mother died?
Did you not shield me and that dearest boy?
And had we any other friend but you
In infancy, with gentle words and looks,
To win our father not to murder us?
And shall I now desert you? May the ghost
Of my dead Mother plead against my soul
If I abandon her who filled the place
She left, with more, even, than a mother's love!


Bernardo.
And I am of my sister's mind. Indeed
I would not leave you in this wretchedness,
Even though the Pope should make me free to live
In some blithe place, like others of my age,
With sports, and delicate food, and the fresh air.
Oh, never think that I will leave you, Mother!


Lucretia.
My dear, dear children!


Enter Cenci, suddenly.


Cenci.


What, Beatrice here!
Come hither!


[She shrinks back, and covers her face.


Nay, hide not your face, 'tis fair;
Look up! Why, yesternight you dared to look
With disobedient insolence upon me,
Bending a stern and an inquiring brow
On what I meant; whilst I then sought to hide
That which I came to tell you-but in vain.


Beatrice
(wildly, staggering towards the door).
O that the earth would gape! Hide me, O God!


Cenci.
Then it was I whose inarticulate words
Fell from my lips, and who with tottering steps
Fled from your presence, as you now from mine.
Stay, I command you-from this day and hour
Never again, I think, with fearless eye,
And brow superior, and unaltered cheek,
And that lip made for tenderness or scorn,
Shalt thou strike dumb the meanest of mankind;
Me least of all. Now get thee to thy chamber!
Thou too, loathed image of thy cursèd mother, [To Bernardo.

Thy milky, meek face makes me sick with hate! [Exeunt Beatrice and Bernardo.
(Aside.)

So much has passed between us as must make
Me bold, her fearful.-'Tis an awful thing
To touch such mischief as I now conceive:
So men sit shivering on the dewy bank,
And try the chill stream with their feet; once in . . .
How the delighted spirit pants for joy!


Lucretia
(advancing timidly towards him).
O husband! Pray forgive poor Beatrice.
She meant not any ill.


Cenci.
Nor you perhaps?
Nor that young imp, whom you have taught by rote
Parricide with his alphabet? Nor Giacomo?
Nor those two most unnatural sons, who stirred
Enmity up against me with the Pope?
Whom in one night merciful God cut off:
Innocent lambs! They thought not any ill.
You were not here conspiring? You said nothing
Of how I might be dungeoned as a madman;
Or be condemned to death for some offence,
And you would be the witnesses?-This failing,
How just it were to hire assassins, or
Put sudden poison in my evening drink?
Or smother me when overcome by wine?
Seeing we had no other judge but God,
And He had sentenced me, and there were none
But you to be the executioners
Of His decree enregistered in Heaven?
Oh, no! You said not this?


Lucretia.
So help me God,
I never thought the things you charge me with!


Cenci.
If you dare speak that wicked lie again
I'll kill you. What! It was not by your counsel
That Beatrice disturbed the feast last night?
You did not hope to stir some enemies
Against me, and escape, and laugh to scorn
What every nerve of you now trembles at?
You judged that men were bolder than they are;
Few dare to stand between their grave and me.


Lucretia.
Look not so dreadfully! By my salvation
I knew not aught that Beatrice designed;
Nor do I think she designed any thing
Until she heard you talk of her dead brothers.


Cenci.
Blaspheming liar! You are damned for this!
But I will take you where you may persuade
The stones you tread on to deliver you:
For men shall there be none but those who dare
All things-not question that which I command.
On Wednesday next I shall set out: you know
That savage rock, the Castle of Petrella:
'Tis safely walled, and moated round about:
Its dungeons underground, and its thick towers
Never told tales; though they have heard and seen
What might make dumb things speak.-Why do you linger?
Make speediest preparation for the journey! [Exit Lucretia.

The all-beholding sun yet shines; I hear
A busy stir of men about the streets;
I see the bright sky through the window panes:
It is a garish, broad, and peering day;
Loud, light, suspicious, full of eyes and ears,
And every little corner, nook, and hole
Is penetrated with the insolent light.
Come darkness! Yet, what is the day to me?
And wherefore should I wish for night, who do
A deed which shall confound both night and day?
'Tis she shall grope through a bewildering mist
Of horror: if there be a sun in heaven
She shall not dare to look upon its beams;
Nor feel its warmth. Let her then wish for night;
The act I think shall soon extinguish all
For me: I bear a darker deadlier gloom
Than the earth's shade, or interlunar air,
Or constellations quenched in murkiest cloud,
In which I walk secure and unbeheld
Towards my purpose.-Would that it were done!


[Exit.


Scene II.
-A Chamber in the Vatican. Enter Camillo and Giacomo, in conversation.


Camillo.
There is an obsolete and doubtful law
By which you might obtain a bare provision
Of food and clothing-


Giacomo.
Nothing more? Alas!
Bare must be the provision which strict law
Awards, and agèd, sullen avarice pays.
Why did my father not apprentice me
To some mechanic trade? I should have then
Been trained in no highborn necessities
Which I could meet not by my daily toil.
The eldest son of a rich nobleman
Is heir to all his incapacities;
He has wide wants, and narrow powers. If you,
Cardinal Camillo, were reduced at once
From thrice-driven beds of down, and delicate food,
An hundred servants, and six palaces,
To that which nature doth indeed require?-


Camillo.
Nay, there is reason in your plea; 'twere hard.


Giacomo.
'Tis hard for a firm man to bear: but I
Have a dear wife, a lady of high birth,
Whose dowry in ill hour I lent my father
Without a bond or witness to the deed:
And children, who inherit her fine senses,
The fairest creatures in this breathing world;
And she and they reproach me not. Cardinal,
Do you not think the Pope would interpose
And stretch authority beyond the law?


Camillo.
Though your peculiar case is hard, I know
The Pope will not divert the course of law.
After that impious feast the other night
I spoke with him, and urged him then to check
Your father's cruel hand; he frowned and said,
'Children are disobedient, and they sting
Their fathers' hearts to madness and despair,
Requiting years of care with contumely.
I pity the Count Cenci from my heart;
His outraged love perhaps awakened hate,
And thus he is exasperated to ill.
In the great war between the old and young
I, who have white hairs and a tottering body,
Will keep at least blameless neutrality.' Enter Orsino.

You, my good Lord Orsino, heard those words.


Orsino.
What words?


Giacomo.
Alas, repeat them not again!
There then is no redress for me, at least
None but that which I may achieve myself,
Since I am driven to the brink.-But, say,
My innocent sister and my only brother
Are dying underneath my father's eye.
The memorable torturers of this land,
Galeaz Visconti, Borgia, Ezzelin,
Never inflicted on the meanest slave
What these endure; shall they have no protection?


Camillo.
Why, if they would petition to the Pope
I see not how he could refuse it-yet
He holds it of most dangerous example
In aught to weaken the paternal power,
Being, as 'twere, the shadow of his own.
I pray you now excuse me. I have business
That will not bear delay.


[Exit Camillo.


Giacomo.
But you, Orsino,
Have the petition: wherefore not present it?


Orsino.
I have presented it, and backed it with
My earnest prayers, and urgent interest;
It was returned unanswered. I doubt not
But that the strange and execrable deeds
Alleged in it-in truth they might well baffle
Any belief-have turned the Pope's displeasure
Upon the accusers from the criminal:
So I should guess from what Camillo said.


Giacomo.
My friend, that palace-walking devil Gold
Has whispered silence to his Holiness:
And we are left, as scorpions ringed with fire.
What should we do but strike ourselves to death?
For he who is our murderous persecutor
Is shielded by a father's holy name,
Or I would-


[Stops abruptly.


Orsino.
What? Fear not to speak your thought.
Words are but holy as the deeds they cover:
A priest who has forsworn the God he serves;
A judge who makes Truth weep at his decree;
A friend who should weave counsel, as I now,
But as the mantle of some selfish guile;
A father who is all a tyrant seems,
Were the profaner for his sacred name.


Giacomo.
Ask me not what I think; the unwilling brain
Feigns often what it would not; and we trust
Imagination with such phantasies
As the tongue dares not fashion into words,
Which have no words, their horror makes them dim
To the mind's eye.-My heart denies itself
To think what you demand.


Orsino.
But a friend's bosom
Is as the inmost cave of our own mind
Where we sit shut from the wide gaze of day,
And from the all-communicating air.
You look what I suspected-


Giacomo.
Spare me now!
I am as one lost in a midnight wood,
Who dares not ask some harmless passenger
The path across the wilderness, lest he,
As my thoughts are, should be-a murderer.
I know you are my friend, and all I dare
Speak to my soul that will I trust with thee.
But now my heart is heavy, and would take
Lone counsel from a night of sleepless care.
Pardon me, that I say farewell-farewell!
I would that to my own suspected self
I could address a word so full of peace.


Orsino.


Farewell!-Be your thoughts better or more bold. [Exit Giacomo.

I had disposed the Cardinal Camillo
To feed his hope with cold encouragement:
It fortunately serves my close designs
That 'tis a trick of this same family
To analyse their own and other minds.
Such self-anatomy shall teach the will
Dangerous secrets: for it tempts our powers,
Knowing what must be thought, and may be done,
Into the depth of darkest purposes:
So Cenci fell into the pit; even I,
Since Beatrice unveiled me to myself,
And made me shrink from what I cannot shun,
Show a poor figure to my own esteem,
To which I grow half reconciled. I'll do
As little mischief as I can; that thought
Shall fee the accuser conscience.


(After a pause.)


Now what harm
If Cenci should be murdered?-Yet, if murdered,
Wherefore by me? And what if I could take
The profit, yet omit the sin and peril
In such an action? Of all earthly things
I fear a man whose blows outspeed his words;
And such is Cenci: and while Cenci lives
His daughter's dowry were a secret grave
If a priest wins her.-Oh, fair Beatrice!
Would that I loved thee not, or loving thee
Could but despise danger and gold and all
That frowns between my wish and its effect,
Or smiles beyond it! There is no escape . . .
Her bright form kneels beside me at the altar,
And follows me to the resort of men,
And fills my slumber with tumultuous dreams,
So when I wake my blood seems liquid fire;
And if I strike my damp and dizzy head
My hot palm scorches it: her very name,
But spoken by a stranger, makes my heart
Sicken and pant; and thus unprofitably
I clasp the phantom of unfelt delights
Till weak imagination half possesses
The self-created shadow. Yet much longer
Will I not nurse this life of feverous hours:
From the unravelled hopes of Giacomo
I must work out my own dear purposes.
I see, as from a tower, the end of all:
Her father dead; her brother bound to me
By a dark secret, surer than the grave;
Her mother scared and unexpostulating
From the dread manner of her wish achieved:
And she!-Once more take courage, my faint heart;
What dares a friendless maiden matched with thee?
I have such foresight as assures success:
Some unbeheld divinity doth ever,
When dread events are near, stir up men's minds
To black suggestions; and he prospers best,
Not who becomes the instrument of ill,
But who can flatter the dark spirit, that makes
Its empire and its prey of other hearts
Till it become his slave . . . as I will do.


[Exit.


END OF THE SECOND ACT.

ACT III
Scene I.
-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace. Lucretia, to her enter Beatrice.


Beatrice.
(She enters staggering, and speaks wildly.)
Reach me that handkerchief!-My brain is hurt;
My eyes are full of blood; just wipe them for me . . .
I see but indistinctly . . .


Lucretia.
My sweet child,
You have no wound; 'tis only a cold dew
That starts from your dear brow . . . Alas! Alas!
What has befallen?


Beatrice.
How comes this hair undone?
Its wandering strings must be what blind me so,
And yet I tied it fast.-O, horrible!
The pavement sinks under my feet! The walls
Spin round! I see a woman weeping there,
And standing calm and motionless, whilst I
Slide giddily as the world reels. . . . My God!
The beautiful blue heaven is flecked with blood!
The sunshine on the floor is black! The air
Is changed to vapours such as the dead breathe
In charnel pits! Pah! I am choked! There creeps
A clinging, black, contaminating mist
About me . . . 'tis substantial, heavy, thick,
I cannot pluck it from me, for it glues
My fingers and my limbs to one another,
And eats into my sinews, and dissolves
My flesh to a pollution, poisoning
The subtle, pure, and inmost spirit of life!
My God! I never knew what the mad felt
Before; for I am mad beyond all doubt!
(More wildly.)
No, I am dead! These putrefying limbs
Shut round and sepulchre the panting soul
Which would burst forth into the wandering air! (A pause.)

What hideous thought was that I had even now?
'Tis gone; and yet its burthen remains here
O'er these dull eyes . . . upon this weary heart!
O, world! O, life! O, day! O, misery!


Lucretia.
What ails thee, my poor child? She answers not:
Her spirit apprehends the sense of pain,
But not its cause; suffering has dried away
The source from which it sprung . . .


Beatrice
(franticly).
Like Parricide . . .
Misery has killed its father: yet its father
Never like mine . . . O, God! What thing am I?


Lucretia.
My dearest child, what has your father done?


Beatrice
(doubtfully).


Who art thou, questioner? I have no father.
(Aside.)
She is the madhouse nurse who tends on me,
It is a piteous office.


[To Lucretia, in a slow, subdued voice.


Do you know
I thought I was that wretched Beatrice
Men speak of, whom her father sometimes hales
From hall to hall by the entangled hair;
At others, pens up naked in damp cells
Where scaly reptiles crawl, and starves her there,
Till she will eat strange flesh. This woful story
So did I overact in my sick dreams,
That I imagined . . . no, it cannot be!
Horrible things have been in this wide world,
Prodigious mixtures, and confusions strange
Of good and ill; and worse have been conceived
Than ever there was found a heart to do.
But never fancy imaged such a deed
As . . .


[Pauses, suddenly recollecting herself.


Who art thou? Swear to me, ere I die
With fearful expectation, that indeed
Thou art not what thou seemest . . . Mother!


Lucretia.
Oh!
My sweet child, know you . . .


Beatrice.
Yet speak it not:
For then if this be truth, that other too
Must be a truth, a firm enduring truth,
Linked with each lasting circumstance of life,
Never to change, never to pass away.
Why so it is. This is the Cenci Palace;
Thou art Lucretia; I am Beatrice.
I have talked some wild words, but will no more.
Mother, come near me: from this point of time,
I am . . .


[Her voice dies away faintly.


Lucretia.
Alas! What has befallen thee, child?
What has thy father done?


Beatrice.
What have I done?
Am I not innocent? Is it my crime
That one with white hair, and imperious brow,
Who tortured me from my forgotten years,
As parents only dare, should call himself
My father, yet should be!-Oh, what am I?
What name, what place, what memory shall be mine?
What retrospects, outliving even despair?


Lucretia.
He is a violent tyrant, surely, child:
We know that death alone can make us free;
His death or ours. But what can he have done
Of deadlier outrage or worse injury?
Thou art unlike thyself; thine eyes shoot forth
A wandering and strange spirit. Speak to me,
Unlock those pallid hands whose fingers twine
With one another.


Beatrice.
'Tis the restless life
Tortured within them. If I try to speak
I shall go mad. Ay, something must be done;
What, yet I know not . . . something which shall make
The thing that I have suffered but a shadow
In the dread lightning which avenges it;
Brief, rapid, irreversible, destroying
The consequence of what it cannot cure.
Some such thing is to be endured or done:
When I know what, I shall be still and calm,
And never anything will move me more.
But now!-O blood, which art my father's blood,
Circling through these contaminated veins,
If thou, poured forth on the polluted earth,
Could wash away the crime, and punishment
By which I suffer . . . no, that cannot be!
Many might doubt there were a God above
Who sees and permits evil, and so die:
That faith no agony shall obscure in me.


Lucretia.
It must indeed have been some bitter wrong;
Yet what, I dare not guess. Oh, my lost child,
Hide not in proud impenetrable grief
Thy sufferings from my fear.


Beatrice.
I hide them not.
What are the words which you would have me speak?
I, who can feign no image in my mind
Of that which has transformed me: I, whose thought
Is like a ghost shrouded and folded up
In its own formless horror: of all words,
That minister to mortal intercourse,
Which wouldst thou hear? For there is none to tell
My misery: if another ever knew
Aught like to it, she died as I will die,
And left it, as I must, without a name.
Death! Death! Our law and our religion call thee
A punishment and a reward . . . Oh, which
Have I deserved?


Lucretia.
The peace of innocence;
Till in your season you be called to heaven.
Whate'er you may have suffered, you have done
No evil. Death must be the punishment
Of crime, or the reward of trampling down
The thorns which God has strewed upon the path
Which leads to immortality.


Beatrice.


Ay; death . . .
The punishment of crime. I pray thee, God,
Let me not be bewildered while I judge.
If I must live day after day, and keep
These limbs, the unworthy temple of Thy spirit,
As a foul den from which what Thou abhorrest
May mock Thee, unavenged . . . it shall not be!
Self-murder . . . no, that might be no escape,
For Thy decree yawns like a Hell between
Our will and it:-O! In this mortal world
There is no vindication and no law
Which can adjudge and execute the doom
Of that through which I suffer.


Enter Orsino.
(She approaches him solemnly.)


Welcome, Friend!
I have to tell you that, since last we met,
I have endured a wrong so great and strange,
That neither life nor death can give me rest.
Ask me not what it is, for there are deeds
Which have no form, sufferings which have no tongue.


Orsino.
And what is he who has thus injured you?


Beatrice.
The man they call my father: a dread name.


Orsino.
It cannot be . . .


Beatrice.
What it can be, or not,
Forbear to think. It is, and it has been;
Advise me how it shall not be again.
I thought to die; but a religious awe
Restrains me, and the dread lest death itself
Might be no refuge from the consciousness
Of what is yet unexpiated. Oh, speak!


Orsino.
Accuse him of the deed, and let the law
Avenge thee.


Beatrice.
Oh, ice-hearted counsellor!
If I could find a word that might make known
The crime of my destroyer; and that done,
My tongue should like a knife tear out the secret
Which cankers my heart's core; ay, lay all bare
So that my unpolluted fame should be
With vilest gossips a stale mouthèd story;
A mock, a byword, an astonishment:-
If this were done, which never shall be done,
Think of the offender's gold, his dreaded hate,
And the strange horror of the accuser's tale,
Baffling belief, and overpowering speech;
Scarce whispered, unimaginable, wrapped
In hideous hints . . . Oh, most assured redress!


Orsino.
You will endure it then?


Beatrice.


Endure?-Ors ino,
It seems your counsel is small profit.


[Turns from him, and speaks half to herself.


Ay,
All must be suddenly resolved and done.
What is this undistinguishable mist
Of thoughts, which rise, like shadow after shadow,
Darkening each other?


Orsino.
Should the offender live?
Triumph in his misdeed? and make, by use,
His crime, whate'er it is, dreadful no doubt,
Thine element; until thou mayst become
Utterly lost; subdued even to the hue
Of that which thou permittest?


Beatrice
(to herself).
Mighty death!
Thou double-visaged shadow? Only judge!
Rightfullest arbiter!


[She retires absorbed in thought.


Lucretia.
If the lightning
Of God has e'er descended to avenge . . .


Orsino.
Blaspheme not! His high Providence commits
Its glory on this earth, and their own wrongs
Into the hands of men; if they neglect
To punish crime . . .


Lucretia.
But if one, like this wretch,
Should mock, with gold, opinion, law, and power?
If there be no appeal to that which makes
The guiltiest tremble? If because our wrongs,
For that they are unnatural, strange, and monstrous,
Exceed all measure of belief? O God!
If, for the very reasons which should make
Redress most swift and sure, our injurer triumphs?
And we, the victims, bear worse punishment
Than that appointed for their torturer?


Orsino.
Think not
But that there is redress where there is wrong,
So we be bold enough to seize it.


Lucretia.
How?
If there were any way to make all sure,
I know not . . . but I think it might be good
To . . .


Orsino.
Why, his late outrage to Beatrice;
For it is such, as I but faintly guess,
As makes remorse dishonour, and leaves her
Only one duty, how she may avenge:
You, but one refuge from ills ill endured;
Me, but one counsel . . .


Lucretia.
For we cannot hope
That aid, or retribution, or resource
Will arise thence, where every other one
Might find them with less need.


[Beatrice advances.


Orsino.
Then . . .


Beatrice.
Peace, Orsino!
And, honoured Lady, while I speak, I pray,
That you put off, as garments overworn,
Forbearance and respect, remorse and fear,
And all the fit restraints of daily life,
Which have been borne from childhood, but which now
Would be a mockery to my holier plea.
As I have said, I have endured a wrong,
Which, though it be expressionless, is such
As asks atonement; both for what is past,
And lest I be reserved, day after day,
To load with crimes an overburthened soul,
And be . . . what ye can dream not. I have prayed
To God, and I have talked with my own heart,
And have unravelled my entangled will,
And have at length determined what is right.
Art thou my friend, Orsino? False or true?
Pledge thy salvation ere I speak.


Orsino.
I swear
To dedicate my cunning, and my strength,
My silence, and whatever else is mine,
To thy commands.


Lucretia.
You think we should devise
His death?


Beatrice.
And execute what is devised,
And suddenly. We must be brief and bold.


Orsino.
And yet most cautious.


Lucretia.
For the jealous laws
Would punish us with death and infamy
For that which it became themselves to do.


Beatrice.
Be cautious as ye may, but prompt. Orsino,
What are the means?


Orsino.
I know two dull, fierce outlaws,
Who think man's spirit as a worm's, and they
Would trample out, for any slight caprice,
The meanest or the noblest life. This mood
Is marketable here in Rome. They sell
What we now want.


Lucretia.
To-morrow before dawn,
Cenci will take us to that lonely rock,
Petrella, in the Apulian Apennines.
If he arrive there . . .


Beatrice.
He must not arrive.


Orsino.
Will it be dark before you reach the tower?


Lucretia.
The sun will scarce be set.


Beatrice.
But I remember
Two miles on this side of the fort, the road
Crosses a deep ravine; 'tis rough and narrow,
And winds with short turns down the precipice;
And in its depth there is a mighty rock,
Which has, from unimaginable years,
Sustained itself with terror and with toil
Over a gulf, and with the agony
With which it clings seems slowly coming down;
Even as a wretched soul hour after hour,
Clings to the mass of life; yet clinging, leans;
And leaning, makes more dark the dread abyss
In which it fears to fall: beneath this crag
Huge as despair, as if in weariness,
The melancholy mountain yawns . . . below,
You hear but see not an impetuous torrent
Raging among the caverns, and a bridge
Crosses the chasm; and high above there grow,
With intersecting trunks, from crag to crag,
Cedars, and yews, and pines; whose tangled hair
Is matted in one solid roof of shade
By the dark ivy's twine. At noonday here
'Tis twilight, and at sunset blackest night.


Orsino.
Before you reach that bridge make some excuse
For spurring on your mules, or loitering
Until . . .


Beatrice.
What sound is that?


Lucretia.
Hark! No, it cannot be a servant's step
It must be Cenci, unexpectedly
Returned . . . Make some excuse for being here.


Beatrice.
(To Orsino, as she goes out.)
That step we hear approach must never pass
The bridge of which we spoke.


[Exeunt Lucretia and Beatrice.


Orsino.
What shall I do?
Cenci must find me here, and I must bear
The imperious inquisition of his looks
As to what brought me hither: let me mask
Mine own in some inane and vacant smile. Enter Giacomo, in a hurried manner.

How! Have you ventured hither? Know you then
That Cenci is from home?


Giacomo.
I sought him here;
And now must wait till he returns.


Orsino.
Great God!
Weigh you the danger of this rashness?


Giacomo.
Ay!
Does my destroyer know his danger? We
Are now no more, as once, parent and child,
But man to man; the oppressor to the oppressed;
The slanderer to the slandered; foe to foe:
He has cast Nature off, which was his shield,
And Nature casts him off, who is her shame;
And I spurn both. Is it a father's throat
Which I will shake, and say, I ask not gold;
I ask not happy years; nor memories
Of tranquil childhood; nor home-sheltered love;
Though all these hast thou torn from me, and more;
But only my fair fame; only one hoard
Of peace, which I thought hidden from thy hate,
Under the penury heaped on me by thee,
Or I will . . . God can understand and pardon,
Why should I speak with man?


Orsino.
Be calm, dear friend.


Giacomo.
Well, I will calmly tell you what he did.
This old Francesco Cenci, as you know,
Borrowed the dowry of my wife from me,
And then denied the loan; and left me so
In poverty, the which I sought to mend
By holding a poor office in the state.
It had been promised to me, and already
I bought new clothing for my raggèd babes,
And my wife smiled; and my heart knew repose.
When Cenci's intercession, as I found,
Conferred this office on a wretch, whom thus
He paid for vilest service. I returned
With this ill news, and we sate sad together
Solacing our despondency with tears
Of such affection and unbroken faith
As temper life's worst bitterness; when he,
As he is wont, came to upbraid and curse,
Mocking our poverty, and telling us
Such was God's scourge for disobedient sons.
And then, that I might strike him dumb with shame,
I spoke of my wife's dowry; but he coined
A brief yet specious tale, how I had wasted
The sum in secret riot; and he saw
My wife was touched, and he went smiling forth.
And when I knew the impression he had made,
And felt my wife insult with silent scorn
My ardent truth, and look averse and cold,
I went forth too: but soon returned again;
Yet not so soon but that my wife had taught
My children her harsh thoughts, and they all cried,
'Give us clothes, father! Give us better food!
What you in one night squander were enough
For months!' I looked, and saw that home was hell.
And to that hell will I return no more
Until mine enemy has rendered up
Atonement, or, as he gave life to me
I will, reversing Nature's law . . .


Orsino.
Trust me,
The compensation which thou seekest here
Will be denied.


Giacomo.
Then . . . Are you not my friend?
Did you not hint at the alternative,
Upon the brink of which you see I stand,
The other day when we conversed together?
My wrongs were then less. That word parricide,
Although I am resolved, haunts me like fear.


Orsino.
It must be fear itself, for the bare word
Is hollow mockery. Mark, how wisest God
Draws to one point the threads of a just doom,
So sanctifying it: what you devise
Is, as it were, accomplished.


Giacomo.
Is he dead?


Orsino.
His grave is ready. Know that since we met
Cenci has done an outrage to his daughter.


Giacomo.
What outrage?


Orsino.
That she speaks not, but you may
Conceive such half conjectures as I do,
From her fixed paleness, and the lofty grief
Of her stern brow bent on the idle air,
And her severe unmodulated voice,
Drowning both tenderness and dread; and last
From this; that whilst her step-mother and I,
Bewildered in our horror, talked together
With obscure hints; both self-misunderstood
And darkly guessing, stumbling, in our talk,
Over the truth, and yet to its revenge,
She interrupted us, and with a look
Which told before she spoke it, he must die: . . .


Giacomo.
It is enough. My doubts are well appeased;
There is a higher reason for the act
Than mine; there is a holier judge than me,
A more unblamed avenger. Beatrice,
Who in the gentleness of thy sweet youth
Hast never trodden on a worm, or bruised
A living flower, but thou hast pitied it
With needless tears! Fair sister, thou in whom
Men wondered how such loveliness and wisdom
Did not destroy each other! Is there made
Ravage of thee? O, heart, I ask no more
Justification! Shall I wait, Orsino,
Till he return, and stab him at the door?


Orsino.
Not so; some accident might interpose
To rescue him from what is now most sure;
And you are unprovided where to fly,
How to excuse or to conceal. Nay, listen:
All is contrived; success is so assured
That . . .


Enter Beatrice.


Beatrice.
'Tis my brother's voice! You know me not?


Giacomo.
My sister, my lost sister!


Beatrice.
Lost indeed!
I see Orsino has talked with you, and
That you conjecture things too horrible
To speak, yet far less than the truth. Now, stay not,
He might return: yet kiss me; I shall know
That then thou hast consented to his death.
Farewell, farewell! Let piety to God,
Brotherly love, justice and clemency,
And all things that make tender hardest hearts
Make thine hard, brother. Answer not . . . farewell.


[Exeunt severally.


Scene II.
-A mean Apartment in Giacomo's House. Giacomo alone.


Giacomo.


'Tis midnight, and Orsino comes not yet. [Thunder, and the sound of a storm.

What! can the everlasting elements
Feel with a worm like man? If so, the shaft
Of mercy-wingèd lightning would not fall
On stones and trees. My wife and children sleep:
They are now living in unmeaning dreams:
But I must wake, still doubting if that deed
Be just which is most necessary. O,
Thou unreplenished lamp! whose narrow fire
Is shaken by the wind, and on whose edge
Devouring darkness hovers! Thou small flame,
Which, as a dying pulse rises and falls,
Still flickerest up and down, how very soon,
Did I not feed thee, wouldst thou fail and be
As thou hadst never been! So wastes and sinks
Even now, perhaps, the life that kindled mine:
But that no power can fill with vital oil
That broken lamp of flesh. Ha! 'tis the blood
Which fed these veins that ebbs till all is cold:
It is the form that moulded mine that sinks
Into the white and yellow spasms of death:
It is the soul by which mine was arrayed
In God's immortal likeness which now stands
Naked before Heaven's judgement seat!


[A bell strikes.


One! Two!
The hours crawl on; and when my hairs are white,
My son will then perhaps be waiting thus,
Tortured between just hate and vain remorse;
Chiding the tardy messenger of news
Lik

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The Moat House

PART I

I

UNDER the shade of convent towers,
Where fast and vigil mark the hours,
From childhood into youth there grew
A maid as fresh as April dew,
And sweet as May's ideal flowers,

Brighter than dawn in wind-swept skies,
Like children's dreams most pure, unwise,
Yet with a slumbering soul-fire too,
That sometimes shone a moment through
Her wondrous unawakened eyes.


The nuns, who loved her coldly, meant
The twig should grow as it was bent;
That she, like them, should watch youth's bier,
Should watch her day-dreams disappear,
And go the loveless way they went.


The convent walls were high and grey;
How could Love hope to find a way
Into that citadel forlorn,
Where his dear name was put to scorn,
Or called a sinful thing to say?


Yet Love did come; what need to tell
Of flowers downcast, that sometimes fell
Across her feet when dreamily
She paced, with unused breviary,
Down paths made still with August's spell--


Of looks cast through the chapel grate,
Of letters helped by Love and Fate,
That to cold fingers did not come
But lay within a warmer home,
Upon her heart inviolate?


Somehow he loved her--she loved him:
Then filled her soul's cup to the brim,
And all her daily life grew bright
With such a flood of rosy light
As turned the altar candles dim.


But love that lights is love that leads,
And lives upon the heart it feeds;
Soon grew she pale though not less fair,
And sighed his name instead of prayer,
And told her heart-throbs, not her beads.


How could she find the sunlight fair,
A sunlight that he did not share?
How could a rose smell sweet within
The cruel bars that shut her in,
And shut him out while she was there?


He vowed her fealty firm and fast,
Then to the winds her fears she cast;
They found a way to cheat the bars,
And in free air, beneath free stars,
Free, and with him, she stood at last.


'Now to some priest,' he said, 'that he
May give thee--blessing us--to me.'
'No priest,' she cried in doubt and fear,
'He would divide, not join us, dear.
I am mine--I give myself to thee.


'Since thou and I are mine and thine,
What need to swear it at a shrine?
Would love last longer if we swore
That we would love for evermore?
God gives me thee--and thou art mine.'


'God weds us now,' he said, 'yet still
Some day shall we all forms fulfil.
Eternal truth affords to smile
At laws wherewith man marks his guile,
Yet law shall join us--when you will.


'So look your last, my love, on these
Forbidding walls and wooing trees.
Farewell to grief and gloom,' said he;
'Farewell to childhood's joy,' said she;
But neither said, 'Farewell to peace.'

Song.

My sweet, my sweet,
She is complete
From dainty head to darling feet;
So warm and white,
So brown and bright,
So made for love and love's delight.


God could but spare
One flower so fair,
There is none like her anywhere;
Beneath wide skies
The whole earth lies,
But not two other such brown eyes.


The world we're in,
If one might win?
Not worth that dimple in her chin
A heaven to know?
I'll let that go
But once to see her lids droop low


Over her eyes,
By love made wise:
To see her bosom fall and rise
Is more than worth
The angels' mirth,
And all the heaven-joys of earth.


This is the hour
Which gives me power
To win and wear earth's whitest flower.
Oh, Love, give grace,
Through all life's ways
Keep pure this heart, her dwelling place.


II

The fields were reaped and the pastures bare,
And the nights grown windy and chill,
When the lovers passed through the beech woods fair,
And climbed the brow of the hill.
In the hill's spread arm the Moat House lies
With elm and willow tree;
'And is that your home at last?' she sighs.
'Our home at last,' laughs he.


Across the bridge and into the hall
Where the waiting housefolk were.
'This is my lady,' he said to them all,
And she looked so sweet and fair
That every maid and serving-boy
God-blessed them then and there,
And wished them luck, and gave them joy,
For a happy, handsome pair.


And only the old nurse shook her head:
'Too young,' she said, 'too young.'
She noted that no prayers were read,
No marriage bells were rung;
No guests were called, no feast was spread,
As was meet for a marriage tide;
The young lord in the banquet hall broke bread
Alone with his little bride.


Yet her old heart warmed to the two, and blessed,
They were both so glad and gay,
By to-morrow and yesterday unoppressed,
Fulfilled of the joy of to-day;
Like two young birds in that dull old nest,
So careless of coming care,
So rapt in the other that each possessed,
The two young lovers were.


He was heir to a stern hard-natured race,
That had held the Moat House long,
But the gloom of his formal dwelling place
Dissolved at her voice and song;
So bright, so sweet, to the house she came,
So winning of way and word,
The household knew her by one pet name,
'My Lady Ladybird.'


First love so rarely gets leave to bring,
In our world where money is might,
Its tender buds to blossoming
With the sun of its own delight.
We love at rose or at vintage prime,
In the glare and heat of the day,
Forgetting the dawn and the violet time,
And the wild sweet scent of the may.


These loved like children, like children played,
The old house laughed with delight
At her song of a voice, at the radiance made
By her dress's flashing flight.
Up the dark oak stair, through the gallery's gloom,
She ran like a fairy fleet,
And ever her lover from room to room
Fast followed her flying feet.


They gathered the buds of the late-lived rose
In the ordered garden ways,
They walked through the sombre yew-walled close
And threaded the pine woods maze,
They rode through woods where their horses came
Knee-deep through the rustling leaves,
Through fields forlorn of the poppies' flame
And bereft of their golden sheaves.


In the mellow hush of October noon
They rowed in the flat broad boat,
Through the lily leaves so thickly strewn
On the sunny side of the moat.
They were glad of the fire of the beech-crowned hill,
And glad of the pale deep sky,
And the shifting shade that the willows made
On the boat as she glided by.


They roamed each room of the Moat House through
And questioned the wraiths of the past,
What legends rare the old dresses knew,
And the swords, what had wet them last?
What faces had looked through the lozenge panes,
What shadows darkened the door,
What feet had walked in the jewelled stains
That the rich glass cast on the floor?


She dressed her beauty in old brocade
That breathed of loss and regret,
In laces that broken hearts had swayed,
In the days when the swords were wet;
And the rubies and pearls laughed out and said,
'Though the lovers for whom we were set,
And the women who loved us, have long been dead,
Yet beauty and we live yet.'


When the wild white winter's spectral hand
Effaced the green and the red,
And crushed the fingers brown of the land
Till they grew death-white instead,
The two found cheer in their dark oak room,
And their dreams of a coming spring,
For a brighter sun shone through winter's gloom
Than ever a summer could bring.


They sat where the great fires blazed in the hall,
Where the wolf-skins lay outspread,
The pictured faces looked down from the wall
To hear his praise of the dead.
He told her ghostly tales of the past,
And legends rare of his house,
Till she held her breath at the shade fire-cast,
And the scamper-rush of the mouse,


Till she dared not turn her head to see
What shape might stand by her chair--
Till she cried his name, and fled to his knee,
And safely nestled there.
Then they talked of their journey, the city's crowd,
Of the convent's faint joy and pain,
Till the ghosts of the past were laid in the shroud
Of commonplace things again.


So the winter died, and the baby spring,
With hardly voice for a cry,
And hands too weak the signs to bring
That all men might know her by,
Yet woke, and breathed through the soft wet air
The promise of all things dear,
And poets and lovers knew she was there,
And sang to their hearts, 'She is here.'

Song.

Soft is the ground underfoot,
Soft are the skies overhead,
Green is the ivy round brown hedge root,
Green is the moss where we tread.


Purple the woods are, and brown;
The blackbird is glossy and sleek,
He knows that the worms are no more kept down
By frost out of reach of his beak.


Grey are the sheep in the fold,
Tired of their turnip and beet,
Dreaming of meadow and pasture and wold,
And turf the warm rain will make sweet.


Leaves sleep, no bud wakens yet,
But we know by the song of the sun,
And the happy way that the world smiles, wet,
That the spring--oh, be glad!--is begun.


What stirs the heart of the tree?
What stirs the seed the earth bears?
What is it stirring in you and in me
Longing for summer, like theirs?--

Longing you cannot explain,
Yearning that baffles me still!
Ah! that each spring should bring longings again
No summer can ever fulfil!


III

When all the world had echoed the song
That the poet and lover sang,
When 'Glory to spring,' sweet, soft, and strong,
From the ferny woods outrang,
In wet green meadow, in hollow green,
The primrose stars outshone,
And the bluebells balanced their drooping sheen
In copses lovely and lone.


The green earth laughed, full of leaf and flower,
The sky laughed too, full of sun;
Was this the hour for a parting hour,
With the heaven of spring just won?
The woods and fields were echoing
To a chorus of life and bliss.
Oh, hard to sting the face of the spring
With the smart of a parting kiss!


A kinsman ailing, a summons sent
To haste to his dying bed.
'Oh, cruel sentence of banishment!
For my heart says 'Go'!' he said.
'So now good-bye to my home, my dear,
To the spring we watched from its birth;
There is no spring, oh, my sweet, but here,
'Tis winter all over the earth.


'But I come again, oh, spring of my life,
You hold the cord in your hand
That will draw me back, oh, my sweetheart wife,
To the place where your dear feet stand;
But a few short days, and my arms shall be
Once more round your little head,
And you will be weeping glad tears with me
On the grave of our parting, dead!


'I leave you my heart for a short short while,
It will ache if 'tis wrapped in fears;
Keep it safe and warm in the sun of your smile,
Not wet with the rain of your tears.


Be glad of the joy that shall soon be won,
Be glad to-day, though we part;
You shall weep for our parting when parting is done,
And drop your tears on my heart.'

Song.

Good-bye, my love, my only dear, I know your heart is true
And that it lingers here with me while mine fares forth with you.
We part? Our hearts are almost one, and are so closely tied
'Tis yours that stirs my bosom-lace, mine beats against your side.


So not at losing you I grieve, since heart and soul stay here,
But all the gladness of my life, I cry to lose it, dear;
Warmth of the sun, sweet of the rose, night's rest and light of day,
I mourn for these, for if you go, you take them all away.


You are sad too--not at leaving me, whose heart must with you go,
But at the heaven you leave behind--ah, yes--you told me so,
You said wherever you might go you could not ever find
A spring so sweet, love so complete, as these you leave behind.


No future joy will ever pay this moment's bitter ache,
Yet I am glad to be so sad, since it is for your sake.
You take so much, I do but wish that you could take the whole,
Could take me, since you take my rest, my light, my joy, my soul.

Song.

Oh, love, I leave
This springtide eve,
When woods in sunset shine blood-red;
The long road lies
Before my eyes,
My horse goes on with even tread.


I dare not turn
These eyes that burn
Back to the terrace where you lean;
If I should see
Your tears for me,
I must turn back to dry them, O my queen!


Yet I must go,
Fate has it so,
Duty spoke once, and I obey;
Sadly I rise,
Leave paradise,
And turn my face the other way.


Nothing is dear
On earth but here,
There is no joy away from you;
What though there be
New things to see,
New friends, new faces, and adventures new?


Yet since I may
Not with you stay,
Hey for the outer world of life!
Brace limbs, shake rein,
And seek again
The hurry, jostle, jar and strife.


Hey for the new!
Yet, love, for you--
I have loved you so--the last hand-kiss.
How vast a world
Lies here unfurled!
How small, if sweet, home's inner round of bliss!


The road bends right,
Leads out of sight,
Here I may turn, nor fear to see;
So far away,
One could not say
If you are weeping now for me.


Behind this eve
My love I leave,
The big bright world spreads out before;
Yet will I come,
To you and home,
Oh, love, and rest beneath your yoke once more.


IV

She stood upon the terrace, gazing still
Down the long road to watch him out of sight,
Dry-eyed at first, until the swelling hill
Hid him. Then turned she to the garden bright,
Whose ways held memories of lover's laughter,
And lover's sadness that had followed after,
Both born of passion's too intense delight.


The garden knew her secrets, and its bowers
Threw her her secrets back in mocking wise;
''Twas here he buried you in lilac flowers.
Here while he slept you covered up his eyes
With primroses. They died; and by that token
Love, like a flower whose stalk has once been broken,
Will live no more for all your tears and sighs.'


The sundial that had marked their happy hours
Cried out to her, 'I know that he is gone;
So many twos have wreathed me round with flowers,
And always one came afterwards alone,
And always wept--even as you are weeping.
The flowers while they lived were cold, shade keeping,
But always through the tears the sun still shone.'


She left the garden; but the house still more
Whispered, 'You love him--he has gone away.'
Where fell her single footstep sighed the floor,
'Another foot than yours fell here to-day.'
The very hound she stroked looked round and past her,
Then in her face, and whined, 'Where is our master?'
The whole house had the same one thing to say.


Empty, without its soul, disconsolate,
The great house was: through all the rooms went she,
And every room was dark and desolate,
Nothing seemed good to do or good to see.
At last, upon the wolf-skins, worn with weeping,
The old nurse found her, like a tired child, sleeping
With face tear-stained, and sobbing brokenly.


Wearily went the days, all sad the same,
Yet each brought its own added heaviness.
Why was it that no letter from him came
To ease the burden of her loneliness?
Why did he send no message, word, or greeting,
To help her forward to their day of meeting,
No written love--no black and white caress?


At last there came a letter, sweet but brief,
'He was so busy--had no time for more.'
No time! She had had time enough for grief,
There never had been so much time before;
And yet the letter lay within her bosom,
Pressed closely to her breathing beauty's blossom,
Worn for a balm, because her heart was sore.


She knew not where he stayed, and so could send,
Of all the letters that she wrote, not one;
Hour after soft spring hour the child would spend
In pouring out her soul, for, once begun,
The tale of all her love and grief flowed over
Upon the letters that she wrote her lover,
And that the fire read when the tale was done.


And yet she never doubted he would come,
If not before, yet when a baby's eyes
Should look for him, when his deserted home
Should waken to a baby's laughs and cries.
'He judges best--perhaps he comes to-morrow,
But come he will, and we shall laugh at sorrow
When in my arms our little baby lies.'


And in the August days a soft hush fell
Upon the house--the old nurse kept her place
Beside the little wife--and all was well;
After rapt anguish came a breathing space,
And she, mid tears and smiles, white-faced, glad-eyed,
Felt her wee baby move against her side,
Kissed its small hands, worshipped its tiny face.

Song.

Oh, baby, baby, baby dear,
We lie alone together here;
The snowy gown and cap and sheet
With lavender are fresh and sweet;
Through half-closed blinds the roses peer
To see and love you, baby dear.


We are so tired, we like to lie
Just doing nothing, you and I,
Within the darkened quiet room.
The sun sends dusk rays through the gloom,
Which is no gloom since you are here,
My little life, my baby dear.


Soft sleepy mouth so vaguely pressed
Against your new-made mother's breast,
Soft little hands in mine I fold,
Soft little feet I kiss and hold,
Round soft smooth head and tiny ear,
All mine, my own, my baby dear.


And he we love is far away!
But he will come some happy day.
You need but me, and I can rest
At peace with you beside me pressed.
There are no questions, longings vain,
No murmuring, nor doubt, nor pain,
Only content and we are here,
My baby dear.

PART II

I

While winged Love his pinions folded in the Moat House by the hill,
In the city there was anger, doubt, distrust, and thoughts of ill;
For his kinsmen, hearing rumours of the life the lovers led,
Wept, and wrung their hands, and sorrowed--'Better that the lad were dead
Than to live thus--he, the son of proudest man and noblest earl--
Thus in open sin with her, a nameless, shameless, foreign girl.'
(Ever when they thus lamented, 'twas the open sin they named,
Till one wondered whether sinning, if less frank, had been less blamed.)
''Tis our duty to reclaim him--mate him to a noble bride
Who shall fitly grace his station, and walk stately by his side--
Gently loose him from the fetters of this siren fair and frail
(In such cases time and absence nearly always will prevail).
He shall meet the Duke's fair daughter--perfect, saintly Lady May--
Beauty is the surest beacon to a young man gone astray!
Not at all precipitately, but with judgment sure and fine,
We will rescue and redeem him from his shameful husks and swine.


So--his uncle's long been ailing (gout and dropsy for his sins)--
Let that serve for pretext; hither bring the youth--his cure begins.'
So they summoned him and welcomed, and their utmost efforts bent
To snatch back a brand from burning and a soul from punishment--
Sought to charm him with their feastings, each more sumptuous than the last,
From his yearning recollections of his very sinful past--
Strove to wipe his wicked doings from his memory's blotted
By the chaster, purer interests of the ball-room and the stage.
And for Lady May--they hinted to the girl, child-innocent,
That her hand to save the sinner by her Saviour had been sent,
That her voice might bring his voice her Master's triumph choir to swell,
And might save a man from sorrow and a human soul from hell.


So she used her maiden graces, maiden glances, maiden smiles,
To protect the erring pilgrim from the devil's subtle wiles--
Saw him daily, sent him letters, pious verses by the score,
Every angel's trap she baited with her sweet religious lore--
Ventured all she knew, not knowing that her beauty and her youth
Were far better to bait traps with than her odds and ends of truth.
First he listened, vain and flattered that a girl as fair as she
Should be so distinctly anxious for his lost humanity,
Yet determined no attentions, even from the Lady May,
Should delay his home-returning one unnecessary day.
But as she--heart-wrung with pity for his erring soul--grew kind,
Fainter, fainter grew the image of his sweetheart left behind;
Till one day May spoke of sorrow--prayed him to reform--repent,
Urged the festival in heaven over every penitent;
Bold in ignorance, spoke vaguely and low-toned of sin and shame,


And at last her voice, half breathless, faltered, broke upon his name,
And two tears fell from her lashes on the roses at her breast,
Far more potent in their silence than her preaching at its best.
And his weak soul thrilled and trembled at her beauty, and he cried,
'Not for me those priceless tears: I am your slave--you shall decide.'
'Save your soul,' she sighed. 'Was ever man so tempted, tried, before?
It is yours!' and at the word his soul was lost for evermore.
Never woman pure and saintly did the devil's work so well!
Never soul ensnared for heaven took a surer road to hell!
Lady May had gained her convert, loved him, and was satisfied,
And before the last leaves yellowed she would kneel down as his bride.
She was happy, and he struggled to believe that perfidy
Was repentance--reformation was not one with cruelty,


Yet through all congratulations, friends' smiles, lovers' flatteries,
Lived a gnawing recollection of the lost love harmonies.
In the day he crushed it fiercely, kept it covered out of sight,
But it held him by the heart-strings and came boldly out at night:
In the solemn truthful night his soul shrank shuddering from its lies,
And his base self knew its baseness, and looked full in its false eyes.
In the August nights, when all the sky was deep and toneless blue,
And the gold star-points seemed letting the remembered sunlight through,
When the world was hushed and peaceful in the moonlight's searching white,
He would toss and cast his arms out through the silence and the night
To those eyes that through the night and through the silence came again,
Haunting him with the persistence and the passion of their pain.


'Oh, my little love--my sweetheart--oh, our past--our sweet love-day--
Oh, if I were only true--or you were only Lady May!'
But the sunshine scared the vision, and he rose once more love-warm
To the Lady May's perfections and his own proposed reform.
Coward that he was! he could not write and break that loving heart:
To the worn-out gouty kinsman was assigned that pleasing part.
'Say it kindly,' said her lover, 'always friends--I can't forget--
We must meet no more--but give her tenderest thought and all regret;
Bid her go back to the convent--she and I can't meet as friends--
Offer her a good allowance--any terms to make amends
For what nought could make amends for--for my baseness and my sin.
Oh, I know which side the scale this deed of mine will figure in!
Curse reform!--she may forget me--'tis on me the burdens fall,


For I love her only, solely--not the Lady May at all!'
'Patience,' said the uncle, 'patience, this is but the natural pain
When a young man turns from sinning to the paths of grace again.
Your wild oats are sown--you're plighted to the noble Lady May
(Whose estates adjoin your manor in a providential way).
Do your duty, sir, for surely pangs like these are such as win
Pardon and the heavenly blessing on the sinner weaned from sin.'

Song.

Day is fair, and so is she
Whom so soon I wed;
But the night, when memory
Guards my sleepless bed,
And with cold hands brings once more
Thorns from rose-sweet days of yore--
Night I curse and dread.


Day is sweet, as sweet as her
Girlish tenderness;
But the night, when near me stir
Rustlings of a dress,
Echoes of a loving tone
Now renounced, forsworn, foregone,
Night is bitterness.


Day can stir my blood like wine
Or her beauty's fire,
But at night I burn and pine,
Torture, turn and tire,
With a longing that is pain,
Just to kiss and clasp again
Love's one lost desire.


Day is glad and pure and bright,
Pure, glad, bright as she;
But the sad and guilty night
Outlives day--for me.
Oh, for days when day and night
Equal balance of delight
Were alike to me!


In the day I see my feet
Walk in steadfast wise,
Following my lady sweet
To her Paradise,
Like some stray-recovered lamb;
But I see the beast I am
When the night stars rise.


Yet in wedding day there lies
Magic--so they say;
Ghosts will have no chance to rise
Near my Lady May.
Vain the hope! In good or ill
Those lost eyes will haunt me still
Till my dying day.


II

Quickly died the August roses, and the kin of Lady May
Dowered her richly, blessed her freely, and announced her wedding day;
And his yearnings and remorses fainter grew as days went on
'Neath the magic of the beauty of the woman he had won;
And less often and less strongly was his fancy caught and crossed
By remembrance of the dearness of the woman he had lost.
Long sweet mornings in the boudoir where the flowers stood about,
Whisperings in the balcony when stars and London lamps came out,

Concerts, flower shows, garden parties, balls and dinners, rides and drives,
All the time-killing distractions of these fashionable lives;
Dreary, joyless as a desert, pleasure's everlasting way,
But enchantment can make lovely even deserts, so they say,
Sandy waste, or waste of London season, where no green leaf grows,
Shone on but by love or passion, each will blossom like the rose!
Came no answer to the letter that announced his marriage day;
But his people wrote that Lady Ladybird had gone away.
So he sent to bid get ready to receive his noble wife.
Two such loving women granted to one man, and in one life!
Though he shuddered to remember with what ghosts the Moat House swarmed--
Ghosts of lovely days and dreamings ere the time when he reformed--
Yet he said, 'She cannot surely greatly care, or I had heard

Some impulsive, passionate pleading, had some sorrowing written word;
She has journeyed to her convent--will be glad as ere I came,
Through her beauty's dear enchantment, to a life of shameless shame;
And the memories of her dearness passion's flaming sword shall slay,
When the Moat House sees the bridal of myself and Lady May!'

III

Bright the mellow autumn sunshine glows upon the wedding day;
Lawns are swept from leaves, and doorways are wreathed round with garlands gay,
Flowery arches span the carriage drive from grass again to grass,
Flowers are ready for the flinging when the wedded pair shall pass;
Bells are ringing, clanging, clamouring from the belfry 'mid the trees,
And the sound rings out o'er woodlands, parks and gardens, lawns and leas;

All the village gay with banners waits the signal, 'Here they come!'
To strew flowers, wave hats, drop curtseys, and hurra its 'Welcome home!'
At the gates the very griffins on the posts are wreathed with green.
In their ordered lines wait servants for the pair to pass between;
But among them there is missing more than one familiar face,
And new faces, blank expectant, fill up each vacated place,
And the other servants whisper, 'Nurse would wail to see this day,
It was well she left the service when 'my Lady' ran away.'
Louder, clearer ring the joy-bells through the shaken, shattered air,
Till the echoes of them waken in the hillside far and fair;
Level shine the golden sunbeams in the golden afternoon.
In the east the wan ghost rises of the silver harvest moon.

Hark! wheels was it? No, but fancy. Listen! No--yes--can you hear?
Yes, it is the coming carriage rolling nearer and more near!
Till the horse-hoofs strike the roadway, unmistakable and clear!
They are coming! shout your welcome to my lord and lady fair:
May God shower his choicest blessings on the happy wedded pair!
Here they are! the open carriage and surrounding dusty cloud,
Whence he smiles his proud acceptance of the homage of the crowd;
And my lady's sweet face! Bless her! there's a one will help the poor,
Eyes like those could never turn a beggar helpless from her door!
Welcome, welcome! scatter flowers: see, they smile--bow left and right,
Reach the lodge gates--God of heaven! what was that, the flash of white?
Shehas sprung out from the ambush of the smiling, cheering crowd:


'Fling your flowers--here's my welcome!' sharp the cry rings out and loud.
Sudden sight of wild white face, and haggard eyes, and outstretched hands--
Just one heart-beat's space before the bridal pair that figure stands,
Then the horses, past controlling, forward bound, their hoofs down thrust--
And the carriage wheels jolt over something bloody in the dust.
'Stop her! Stop her! Stop the horses!' cry the people all too late,
For my lord and Lady May have had their welcome at their gate.


'Twas the old nurse who sprang to her, raised the brown-haired, dust-soiled head,
Looked a moment, closed the eyelids--then turned to my lord and said,
Kneeling still upon the roadway, with her arm flung round the dead,
While the carriage waited near her, blood and dust upon its wheels
(Ask my lord within to tell you how a happy bridegroom feels):
'Now, my lord, you are contented; you have chosen for your bride
This same fine and dainty lady who is sitting by your side.
Did ye tell her ere this bridal of the girl who bore your shame,
Bore your love-vows--bore your baby--everything except your name?
When they strewed the flowers to greet you, and the banners were unfurled,
She has flung before your feet the sweetest flower in all the world!
Woe's the day I ever nursed you--loved your lisping baby word,
For you grew to name of manhood, and to title of my lord;
Woe's the day you ever saw her, brought her home to wreck her life,
Throwing by your human plaything, to seek out another wife.
God will judge, and I would rather be the lost child lying there,


With your babe's milk in her bosom, your horse-hoof marks on her hair,
Than be you when God shall thunder, when your days on earth are filled,
'Where is she I gave, who loved you, whom you ruined, left and killed?'
Murderer, liar, coward, traitor, look upon your work and say
That your heart is glad within you on your happy wedding day!
And for you, my noble lady, take my blessing on your head,
Though it is not like the blessing maidens look for when they wed.
Never bride had such a welcome, such a flower laid on her way,
As was given you when your carriage crushed her out of life to-day.
Take my blessing--see her body, see what you and he have done--
And I wish you joy, my lady, of the bridegroom you have won.'


Like a beaten cur, that trembles at the whistling of the lash,
He stands listening, hands a-tremble, face as pale as white wood ash;
But the Lady May springs down, her soul shines glorious in her eyes,
Moving through the angry silence comes to where the other lies,
Gazes long upon her silent, but at last she turns her gaze
On the nurse, and lips a-tremble, hands outstretched, she slowly says,
'She is dead--but, but her baby--' all her woman's heart is wild
With an infinite compassion for the little helpless child.
Then she turns to snatch the baby from the arms of one near by,
Holds it fast and looks towards him with a voiceless bitter cry,
As imploring him to loose her from some nightmare's deadly bands.
Dogged looks he down and past her, and she sees and understands,
Then she speaks--'I keep your baby--that's my right in sight of men,
But by God I vow I'll never see your dastard face again.'
So she turned with no word further towards the purple-clouded west,
And passed thither with his baby clasped against her maiden breast.


Little Ladybird was buried in the old ancestral tomb.
From that grave there streams a shadow that wraps up his life in gloom,
And he drags the withered life on, longs for death that will not come,
The interminable night hours riven by that 'Welcome home!'
And he dares not leave this earthly hell of sharp remorse behind,
Lest through death not rest but hotter fire of anguish he should find.
Coward to the last, he will not risk so little for so much,
So he burns, convicted traitor, in the hell self-made of such:
And at night he wakes and shivers with unvanquishable dread
At the ghosts that press each other for a place beside his bed,
And he shudders to remember all the dearness that is dead.


Song.

I had a soul,
Not strong, but following good if good but led.
I might have kept it clean and pure and whole,
And given it up at last, grown strong with days
Of steadfast striving in truth's stern sweet ways;
Instead, I soiled and smutched and smothered it
With poison-flowers it valued not one whit--
Now it is dead.


I had a heart
Most true, most sweet, that on my loving fed.
I might have kept her all my life, a part
Of all my life--I let her starve and pine,
Ruined her life and desolated mine.
Sin brushed my lips--I yielded at a touch,
Tempted so little, and I sinned so much,
And she is dead.


There was a life
That in my sin I took and chained and wed,
And made--perpetual remorse!--my wife.
In my sin's harvest she must reap her share,
That makes its sheaves less light for me to bear.
Oh, life I might have left to bloom and grow!
I struck its root of happiness one blow,
And it is dead.


Once joy I had,
Now I have only agony instead,
That maddens, yet will never send me mad.
The best that comes is numbed half-sick despair,
Remembering how sweet the dear dead were.
My whole life might have been one clear joy song!
Now--oh, my heart, how still life is, how long,
For joy is dead.


Yet there is this:
I chose the thorns not grapes, the stones not bread;
I had my chance, they say, to gain or miss.
And yet I feel it was predestinate
From the first hour, from the first dawn of fate,
That I, thus placed, when that hour should arise,
Must act thus, and could not act otherwise.
This is the worst of all that can be said;
For hope is dead.

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John Keats

Endymion: Book I

ENDYMION.

A Poetic Romance.

"THE STRETCHED METRE OF AN AN ANTIQUE SONG."
INSCRIBED TO THE MEMORY OF THOMAS CHATTERTON.


Book I


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.

Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
That, whether there be shine, or gloom o'ercast,
They alway must be with us, or we die.

Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I
Will trace the story of Endymion.
The very music of the name has gone
Into my being, and each pleasant scene
Is growing fresh before me as the green
Of our own vallies: so I will begin
Now while I cannot hear the city's din;
Now while the early budders are just new,
And run in mazes of the youngest hue
About old forests; while the willow trails
Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer
My little boat, for many quiet hours,
With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
Many and many a verse I hope to write,
Before the daisies, vermeil rimm'd and white,
Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
I must be near the middle of my story.
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finished: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end.
And now at once, adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.

Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread
A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed
So plenteously all weed-hidden roots
Into o'er-hanging boughs, and precious fruits.
And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep,
Where no man went; and if from shepherd's keep
A lamb strayed far a-down those inmost glens,
Never again saw he the happy pens
Whither his brethren, bleating with content,
Over the hills at every nightfall went.
Among the shepherds, 'twas believed ever,
That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever
From the white flock, but pass'd unworried
By angry wolf, or pard with prying head,
Until it came to some unfooted plains
Where fed the herds of Pan: ay great his gains
Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many,
Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny,
And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly
To a wide lawn, whence one could only see
Stems thronging all around between the swell
Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell
The freshness of the space of heaven above,
Edg'd round with dark tree tops? through which a dove
Would often beat its wings, and often too
A little cloud would move across the blue.

Full in the middle of this pleasantness
There stood a marble altar, with a tress
Of flowers budded newly; and the dew
Had taken fairy phantasies to strew
Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve,
And so the dawned light in pomp receive.
For 'twas the morn: Apollo's upward fire
Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre
Of brightness so unsullied, that therein
A melancholy spirit well might win
Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine
Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine
Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;
The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run
To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;
Man's voice was on the mountains; and the mass
Of nature's lives and wonders puls'd tenfold,
To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.

Now while the silent workings of the dawn
Were busiest, into that self-same lawn
All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped
A troop of little children garlanded;
Who gathering round the altar, seemed to pry
Earnestly round as wishing to espy
Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited
For many moments, ere their ears were sated
With a faint breath of music, which ev'n then
Fill'd out its voice, and died away again.
Within a little space again it gave
Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave,
To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking
Through copse-clad vallies,--ere their death, oer-taking
The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea.

And now, as deep into the wood as we
Might mark a lynx's eye, there glimmered light
Fair faces and a rush of garments white,
Plainer and plainer shewing, till at last
Into the widest alley they all past,
Making directly for the woodland altar.
O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue faulter
In telling of this goodly company,
Of their old piety, and of their glee:
But let a portion of ethereal dew
Fall on my head, and presently unmew
My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring,
To stammer where old Chaucer used to sing.

Leading the way, young damsels danced along,
Bearing the burden of a shepherd song;
Each having a white wicker over brimm'd
With April's tender younglings: next, well trimm'd,
A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks
As may be read of in Arcadian books;
Such as sat listening round Apollo's pipe,
When the great deity, for earth too ripe,
Let his divinity o'er-flowing die
In music, through the vales of Thessaly:
Some idly trailed their sheep-hooks on the ground,
And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound
With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these,
Now coming from beneath the forest trees,
A venerable priest full soberly,
Begirt with ministring looks: alway his eye
Stedfast upon the matted turf he kept,
And after him his sacred vestments swept.
From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white,
Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light;
And in his left he held a basket full
Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull:
Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still
Than Leda's love, and cresses from the rill.
His aged head, crowned with beechen wreath,
Seem'd like a poll of ivy in the teeth
Of winter hoar. Then came another crowd
Of shepherds, lifting in due time aloud
Their share of the ditty. After them appear'd,
Up-followed by a multitude that rear'd
Their voices to the clouds, a fair wrought car,
Easily rolling so as scarce to mar
The freedom of three steeds of dapple brown:
Who stood therein did seem of great renown
Among the throng. His youth was fully blown,
Shewing like Ganymede to manhood grown;
And, for those simple times, his garments were
A chieftain king's: beneath his breast, half bare,
Was hung a silver bugle, and between
His nervy knees there lay a boar-spear keen.
A smile was on his countenance; he seem'd,
To common lookers on, like one who dream'd
Of idleness in groves Elysian:
But there were some who feelingly could scan
A lurking trouble in his nether lip,
And see that oftentimes the reins would slip
Through his forgotten hands: then would they sigh,
And think of yellow leaves, of owlets cry,
Of logs piled solemnly.--Ah, well-a-day,
Why should our young Endymion pine away!

Soon the assembly, in a circle rang'd,
Stood silent round the shrine: each look was chang'd
To sudden veneration: women meek
Beckon'd their sons to silence; while each cheek
Of virgin bloom paled gently for slight fear.
Endymion too, without a forest peer,
Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face,
Among his brothers of the mountain chase.
In midst of all, the venerable priest
Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least,
And, after lifting up his aged hands,
Thus spake he: "Men of Latmos! shepherd bands!
Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks:
Whether descended from beneath the rocks
That overtop your mountains; whether come
From vallies where the pipe is never dumb;
Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs
Blue hare-bells lightly, and where prickly furze
Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge
Nibble their fill at ocean's very marge,
Whose mellow reeds are touch'd with sounds forlorn
By the dim echoes of old Triton's horn:
Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare
The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air;
And all ye gentle girls who foster up
Udderless lambs, and in a little cup
Will put choice honey for a favoured youth:
Yea, every one attend! for in good truth
Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan.
Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than
Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains
Speckled with countless fleeces? Have not rains
Green'd over April's lap? No howling sad
Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had
Great bounty from Endymion our lord.
The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour'd
His early song against yon breezy sky,
That spreads so clear o'er our solemnity."

Thus ending, on the shrine he heap'd a spire
Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire;
Anon he stain'd the thick and spongy sod
With wine, in honour of the shepherd-god.
Now while the earth was drinking it, and while
Bay leaves were crackling in the fragrant pile,
And gummy frankincense was sparkling bright
'Neath smothering parsley, and a hazy light
Spread greyly eastward, thus a chorus sang:

"O THOU, whose mighty palace roof doth hang
From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth
Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death
Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness;
Who lov'st to see the hamadryads dress
Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken;
And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken
The dreary melody of bedded reeds--
In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds
The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth;
Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth
Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx--do thou now,
By thy love's milky brow!
By all the trembling mazes that she ran,
Hear us, great Pan!

"O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles
Passion their voices cooingly 'mong myrtles,
What time thou wanderest at eventide
Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side
Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom
Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom
Their ripen'd fruitage; yellow girted bees
Their golden honeycombs; our village leas
Their fairest-blossom'd beans and poppied corn;
The chuckling linnet its five young unborn,
To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries
Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies
Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year
All its completions--be quickly near,
By every wind that nods the mountain pine,
O forester divine!

"Thou, to whom every fawn and satyr flies
For willing service; whether to surprise
The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit;
Or upward ragged precipices flit
To save poor lambkins from the eagle's maw;
Or by mysterious enticement draw
Bewildered shepherds to their path again;
Or to tread breathless round the frothy main,
And gather up all fancifullest shells
For thee to tumble into Naiads' cells,
And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping;
Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping,
The while they pelt each other on the crown
With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown--
By all the echoes that about thee ring,
Hear us, O satyr king!

"O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears,
While ever and anon to his shorn peers
A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn,
When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn
Anger our huntsman: Breather round our farms,
To keep off mildews, and all weather harms:
Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds,
That come a swooning over hollow grounds,
And wither drearily on barren moors:
Dread opener of the mysterious doors
Leading to universal knowledge--see,
Great son of Dryope,
The many that are come to pay their vows
With leaves about their brows!

Be still the unimaginable lodge
For solitary thinkings; such as dodge
Conception to the very bourne of heaven,
Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,
That spreading in this dull and clodded earth
Gives it a touch ethereal--a new birth:
Be still a symbol of immensity;
A firmament reflected in a sea;
An element filling the space between;
An unknown--but no more: we humbly screen
With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending,
And giving out a shout most heaven rending,
Conjure thee to receive our humble Paean,
Upon thy Mount Lycean!

Even while they brought the burden to a close,
A shout from the whole multitude arose,
That lingered in the air like dying rolls
Of abrupt thunder, when Ionian shoals
Of dolphins bob their noses through the brine.
Meantime, on shady levels, mossy fine,
Young companies nimbly began dancing
To the swift treble pipe, and humming string.
Aye, those fair living forms swam heavenly
To tunes forgotten--out of memory:
Fair creatures! whose young children's children bred
Thermopylæ its heroes--not yet dead,
But in old marbles ever beautiful.
High genitors, unconscious did they cull
Time's sweet first-fruits--they danc'd to weariness,
And then in quiet circles did they press
The hillock turf, and caught the latter end
Of some strange history, potent to send
A young mind from its bodily tenement.
Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent
On either side; pitying the sad death
Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath
Of Zephyr slew him,--Zephyr penitent,
Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,
Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain.
The archers too, upon a wider plain,
Beside the feathery whizzing of the shaft,
And the dull twanging bowstring, and the raft
Branch down sweeping from a tall ash top,
Call'd up a thousand thoughts to envelope
Those who would watch. Perhaps, the trembling knee
And frantic gape of lonely Niobe,
Poor, lonely Niobe! when her lovely young
Were dead and gone, and her caressing tongue
Lay a lost thing upon her paly lip,
And very, very deadliness did nip
Her motherly cheeks. Arous'd from this sad mood
By one, who at a distance loud halloo'd,
Uplifting his strong bow into the air,
Many might after brighter visions stare:
After the Argonauts, in blind amaze
Tossing about on Neptune's restless ways,
Until, from the horizon's vaulted side,
There shot a golden splendour far and wide,
Spangling those million poutings of the brine
With quivering ore: 'twas even an awful shine
From the exaltation of Apollo's bow;
A heavenly beacon in their dreary woe.
Who thus were ripe for high contemplating,
Might turn their steps towards the sober ring
Where sat Endymion and the aged priest
'Mong shepherds gone in eld, whose looks increas'd
The silvery setting of their mortal star.
There they discours'd upon the fragile bar
That keeps us from our homes ethereal;
And what our duties there: to nightly call
Vesper, the beauty-crest of summer weather;
To summon all the downiest clouds together
For the sun's purple couch; to emulate
In ministring the potent rule of fate
With speed of fire-tailed exhalations;
To tint her pallid cheek with bloom, who cons
Sweet poesy by moonlight: besides these,
A world of other unguess'd offices.
Anon they wander'd, by divine converse,
Into Elysium; vieing to rehearse
Each one his own anticipated bliss.
One felt heart-certain that he could not miss
His quick gone love, among fair blossom'd boughs,
Where every zephyr-sigh pouts and endows
Her lips with music for the welcoming.
Another wish'd, mid that eternal spring,
To meet his rosy child, with feathery sails,
Sweeping, eye-earnestly, through almond vales:
Who, suddenly, should stoop through the smooth wind,
And with the balmiest leaves his temples bind;
And, ever after, through those regions be
His messenger, his little Mercury.
Some were athirst in soul to see again
Their fellow huntsmen o'er the wide champaign
In times long past; to sit with them, and talk
Of all the chances in their earthly walk;
Comparing, joyfully, their plenteous stores
Of happiness, to when upon the moors,
Benighted, close they huddled from the cold,
And shar'd their famish'd scrips. Thus all out-told
Their fond imaginations,--saving him
Whose eyelids curtain'd up their jewels dim,
Endymion: yet hourly had he striven
To hide the cankering venom, that had riven
His fainting recollections. Now indeed
His senses had swoon'd off: he did not heed
The sudden silence, or the whispers low,
Or the old eyes dissolving at his woe,
Or anxious calls, or close of trembling palms,
Or maiden's sigh, that grief itself embalms:
But in the self-same fixed trance he kept,
Like one who on the earth had never stept.
Aye, even as dead-still as a marble man,
Frozen in that old tale Arabian.

Who whispers him so pantingly and close?
Peona, his sweet sister: of all those,
His friends, the dearest. Hushing signs she made,
And breath'd a sister's sorrow to persuade
A yielding up, a cradling on her care.
Her eloquence did breathe away the curse:
She led him, like some midnight spirit nurse
Of happy changes in emphatic dreams,
Along a path between two little streams,--
Guarding his forehead, with her round elbow,
From low-grown branches, and his footsteps slow
From stumbling over stumps and hillocks small;
Until they came to where these streamlets fall,
With mingled bubblings and a gentle rush,
Into a river, clear, brimful, and flush
With crystal mocking of the trees and sky.
A little shallop, floating there hard by,
Pointed its beak over the fringed bank;
And soon it lightly dipt, and rose, and sank,
And dipt again, with the young couple's weight,--
Peona guiding, through the water straight,
Towards a bowery island opposite;
Which gaining presently, she steered light
Into a shady, fresh, and ripply cove,
Where nested was an arbour, overwove
By many a summer's silent fingering;
To whose cool bosom she was used to bring
Her playmates, with their needle broidery,
And minstrel memories of times gone by.

So she was gently glad to see him laid
Under her favourite bower's quiet shade,
On her own couch, new made of flower leaves,
Dried carefully on the cooler side of sheaves
When last the sun his autumn tresses shook,
And the tann'd harvesters rich armfuls took.
Soon was he quieted to slumbrous rest:
But, ere it crept upon him, he had prest
Peona's busy hand against his lips,
And still, a sleeping, held her finger-tips
In tender pressure. And as a willow keeps
A patient watch over the stream that creeps
Windingly by it, so the quiet maid
Held her in peace: so that a whispering blade
Of grass, a wailful gnat, a bee bustling
Down in the blue-bells, or a wren light rustling
Among seer leaves and twigs, might all be heard.

O magic sleep! O comfortable bird,
That broodest o'er the troubled sea of the mind
Till it is hush'd and smooth! O unconfin'd
Restraint! imprisoned liberty! great key
To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy,
Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves,
Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves
And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world
Of silvery enchantment!--who, upfurl'd
Beneath thy drowsy wing a triple hour,
But renovates and lives?--Thus, in the bower,
Endymion was calm'd to life again.
Opening his eyelids with a healthier brain,
He said: "I feel this thine endearing love
All through my bosom: thou art as a dove
Trembling its closed eyes and sleeked wings
About me; and the pearliest dew not brings
Such morning incense from the fields of May,
As do those brighter drops that twinkling stray
From those kind eyes,--the very home and haunt
Of sisterly affection. Can I want
Aught else, aught nearer heaven, than such tears?
Yet dry them up, in bidding hence all fears
That, any longer, I will pass my days
Alone and sad. No, I will once more raise
My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more
Make my horn parley from their foreheads hoar:
Again my trooping hounds their tongues shall loll
Around the breathed boar: again I'll poll
The fair-grown yew tree, for a chosen bow:
And, when the pleasant sun is getting low,
Again I'll linger in a sloping mead
To hear the speckled thrushes, and see feed
Our idle sheep. So be thou cheered sweet,
And, if thy lute is here, softly intreat
My soul to keep in its resolved course."

Hereat Peona, in their silver source,
Shut her pure sorrow drops with glad exclaim,
And took a lute, from which there pulsing came
A lively prelude, fashioning the way
In which her voice should wander. 'Twas a lay
More subtle cadenced, more forest wild
Than Dryope's lone lulling of her child;
And nothing since has floated in the air
So mournful strange. Surely some influence rare
Went, spiritual, through the damsel's hand;
For still, with Delphic emphasis, she spann'd
The quick invisible strings, even though she saw
Endymion's spirit melt away and thaw
Before the deep intoxication.
But soon she came, with sudden burst, upon
Her self-possession--swung the lute aside,
And earnestly said: "Brother, 'tis vain to hide
That thou dost know of things mysterious,
Immortal, starry; such alone could thus
Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinn'd in aught
Offensive to the heavenly powers? Caught
A Paphian dove upon a message sent?
Thy deathful bow against some deer-herd bent,
Sacred to Dian? Haply, thou hast seen
Her naked limbs among the alders green;
And that, alas! is death. No, I can trace
Something more high perplexing in thy face!"

Endymion look'd at her, and press'd her hand,
And said, "Art thou so pale, who wast so bland
And merry in our meadows? How is this?
Tell me thine ailment: tell me all amiss!--
Ah! thou hast been unhappy at the change
Wrought suddenly in me. What indeed more strange?
Or more complete to overwhelm surmise?
Ambition is no sluggard: 'tis no prize,
That toiling years would put within my grasp,
That I have sigh'd for: with so deadly gasp
No man e'er panted for a mortal love.
So all have set my heavier grief above
These things which happen. Rightly have they done:
I, who still saw the horizontal sun
Heave his broad shoulder o'er the edge of the world,
Out-facing Lucifer, and then had hurl'd
My spear aloft, as signal for the chace--
I, who, for very sport of heart, would race
With my own steed from Araby; pluck down
A vulture from his towery perching; frown
A lion into growling, loth retire--
To lose, at once, all my toil breeding fire,
And sink thus low! but I will ease my breast
Of secret grief, here in this bowery nest.

"This river does not see the naked sky,
Till it begins to progress silverly
Around the western border of the wood,
Whence, from a certain spot, its winding flood
Seems at the distance like a crescent moon:
And in that nook, the very pride of June,
Had I been used to pass my weary eves;
The rather for the sun unwilling leaves
So dear a picture of his sovereign power,
And I could witness his most kingly hour,
When he doth lighten up the golden reins,
And paces leisurely down amber plains
His snorting four. Now when his chariot last
Its beams against the zodiac-lion cast,
There blossom'd suddenly a magic bed
Of sacred ditamy, and poppies red:
At which I wondered greatly, knowing well
That but one night had wrought this flowery spell;
And, sitting down close by, began to muse
What it might mean. Perhaps, thought I, Morpheus,
In passing here, his owlet pinions shook;
Or, it may be, ere matron Night uptook
Her ebon urn, young Mercury, by stealth,
Had dipt his rod in it: such garland wealth
Came not by common growth. Thus on I thought,
Until my head was dizzy and distraught.
Moreover, through the dancing poppies stole
A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul;
And shaping visions all about my sight
Of colours, wings, and bursts of spangly light;
The which became more strange, and strange, and dim,
And then were gulph'd in a tumultuous swim:
And then I fell asleep. Ah, can I tell
The enchantment that afterwards befel?
Yet it was but a dream: yet such a dream
That never tongue, although it overteem
With mellow utterance, like a cavern spring,
Could figure out and to conception bring
All I beheld and felt. Methought I lay
Watching the zenith, where the milky way
Among the stars in virgin splendour pours;
And travelling my eye, until the doors
Of heaven appear'd to open for my flight,
I became loth and fearful to alight
From such high soaring by a downward glance:
So kept me stedfast in that airy trance,
Spreading imaginary pinions wide.
When, presently, the stars began to glide,
And faint away, before my eager view:
At which I sigh'd that I could not pursue,
And dropt my vision to the horizon's verge;
And lo! from opening clouds, I saw emerge
The loveliest moon, that ever silver'd o'er
A shell for Neptune's goblet: she did soar
So passionately bright, my dazzled soul
Commingling with her argent spheres did roll
Through clear and cloudy, even when she went
At last into a dark and vapoury tent--
Whereat, methought, the lidless-eyed train
Of planets all were in the blue again.
To commune with those orbs, once more I rais'd
My sight right upward: but it was quite dazed
By a bright something, sailing down apace,
Making me quickly veil my eyes and face:
Again I look'd, and, O ye deities,
Who from Olympus watch our destinies!
Whence that completed form of all completeness?
Whence came that high perfection of all sweetness?
Speak, stubborn earth, and tell me where, O Where
Hast thou a symbol of her golden hair?
Not oat-sheaves drooping in the western sun;
Not--thy soft hand, fair sister! let me shun
Such follying before thee--yet she had,
Indeed, locks bright enough to make me mad;
And they were simply gordian'd up and braided,
Leaving, in naked comeliness, unshaded,
Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow;
The which were blended in, I know not how,
With such a paradise of lips and eyes,
Blush-tinted cheeks, half smiles, and faintest sighs,
That, when I think thereon, my spirit clings
And plays about its fancy, till the stings
Of human neighbourhood envenom all.
Unto what awful power shall I call?
To what high fane?--Ah! see her hovering feet,
More bluely vein'd, more soft, more whitely sweet
Than those of sea-born Venus, when she rose
From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows
Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion;
'Tis blue, and over-spangled with a million
Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed,
Over the darkest, lushest blue-bell bed,
Handfuls of daisies."--"Endymion, how strange!
Dream within dream!"--"She took an airy range,
And then, towards me, like a very maid,
Came blushing, waning, willing, and afraid,
And press'd me by the hand: Ah! 'twas too much;
Methought I fainted at the charmed touch,
Yet held my recollection, even as one
Who dives three fathoms where the waters run
Gurgling in beds of coral: for anon,
I felt upmounted in that region
Where falling stars dart their artillery forth,
And eagles struggle with the buffeting north
That balances the heavy meteor-stone;--
Felt too, I was not fearful, nor alone,
But lapp'd and lull'd along the dangerous sky.
Soon, as it seem'd, we left our journeying high,
And straightway into frightful eddies swoop'd;
Such as ay muster where grey time has scoop'd
Huge dens and caverns in a mountain's side:
There hollow sounds arous'd me, and I sigh'd
To faint once more by looking on my bliss--
I was distracted; madly did I kiss
The wooing arms which held me, and did give
My eyes at once to death: but 'twas to live,
To take in draughts of life from the gold fount
Of kind and passionate looks; to count, and count
The moments, by some greedy help that seem'd
A second self, that each might be redeem'd
And plunder'd of its load of blessedness.
Ah, desperate mortal! I ev'n dar'd to press
Her very cheek against my crowned lip,
And, at that moment, felt my body dip
Into a warmer air: a moment more,
Our feet were soft in flowers. There was store
Of newest joys upon that alp. Sometimes
A scent of violets, and blossoming limes,
Loiter'd around us; then of honey cells,
Made delicate from all white-flower bells;
And once, above the edges of our nest,
An arch face peep'd,--an Oread as I guess'd.

"Why did I dream that sleep o'er-power'd me
In midst of all this heaven? Why not see,
Far off, the shadows of his pinions dark,
And stare them from me? But no, like a spark
That needs must die, although its little beam
Reflects upon a diamond, my sweet dream
Fell into nothing--into stupid sleep.
And so it was, until a gentle creep,
A careful moving caught my waking ears,
And up I started: Ah! my sighs, my tears,
My clenched hands;--for lo! the poppies hung
Dew-dabbled on their stalks, the ouzel sung
A heavy ditty, and the sullen day
Had chidden herald Hesperus away,
With leaden looks: the solitary breeze
Bluster'd, and slept, and its wild self did teaze
With wayward melancholy; and r thought,
Mark me, Peona! that sometimes it brought
Faint fare-thee-wells, and sigh-shrilled adieus!--
Away I wander'd--all the pleasant hues
Of heaven and earth had faded: deepest shades
Were deepest dungeons; heaths and sunny glades
Were full of pestilent light; our taintless rills
Seem'd sooty, and o'er-spread with upturn'd gills
Of dying fish; the vermeil rose had blown
In frightful scarlet, and its thorns out-grown
Like spiked aloe. If an innocent bird
Before my heedless footsteps stirr'd, and stirr'd
In little journeys, I beheld in it
A disguis'd demon, missioned to knit
My soul with under darkness; to entice
My stumblings down some monstrous precipice:
Therefore I eager followed, and did curse
The disappointment. Time, that aged nurse,
Rock'd me to patience. Now, thank gentle heaven!
These things, with all their comfortings, are given
To my down-sunken hours, and with thee,
Sweet sister, help to stem the ebbing sea
Of weary life."

Thus ended he, and both
Sat silent: for the maid was very loth
To answer; feeling well that breathed words
Would all be lost, unheard, and vain as swords
Against the enchased crocodile, or leaps
Of grasshoppers against the sun. She weeps,
And wonders; struggles to devise some blame;
To put on such a look as would say, Shame
On this poor weakness! but, for all her strife,
She could as soon have crush'd away the life
From a sick dove. At length, to break the pause,
She said with trembling chance: "Is this the cause?
This all? Yet it is strange, and sad, alas!
That one who through this middle earth should pass
Most like a sojourning demi-god, and leave
His name upon the harp-string, should achieve
No higher bard than simple maidenhood,
Singing alone, and fearfully,--how the blood
Left his young cheek; and how he used to stray
He knew not where; and how he would say, nay,
If any said 'twas love: and yet 'twas love;
What could it be but love? How a ring-dove
Let fall a sprig of yew tree in his path;
And how he died: and then, that love doth scathe,
The gentle heart, as northern blasts do roses;
And then the ballad of his sad life closes
With sighs, and an alas!--Endymion!
Be rather in the trumpet's mouth,--anon
Among the winds at large--that all may hearken!
Although, before the crystal heavens darken,
I watch and dote upon the silver lakes
Pictur'd in western cloudiness, that takes
The semblance of gold rocks and bright gold sands,
Islands, and creeks, and amber-fretted strands
With horses prancing o'er them, palaces
And towers of amethyst,--would I so tease
My pleasant days, because I could not mount
Into those regions? The Morphean fount
Of that fine element that visions, dreams,
And fitful whims of sleep are made of, streams
Into its airy channels with so subtle,
So thin a breathing, not the spider's shuttle,
Circled a million times within the space
Of a swallow's nest-door, could delay a trace,
A tinting of its quality: how light
Must dreams themselves be; seeing they're more slight
Than the mere nothing that engenders them!
Then wherefore sully the entrusted gem
Of high and noble life with thoughts so sick?
Why pierce high-fronted honour to the quick
For nothing but a dream?" Hereat the youth
Look'd up: a conflicting of shame and ruth
Was in his plaited brow: yet his eyelids
Widened a little, as when Zephyr bids
A little breeze to creep between the fans
Of careless butterflies: amid his pains
He seem'd to taste a drop of manna-dew,
Full palatable; and a colour grew
Upon his cheek, while thus he lifeful spake.

"Peona! ever have I long'd to slake
My thirst for the world's praises: nothing base,
No merely slumberous phantasm, could unlace
The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepar'd--
Though now 'tis tatter'd; leaving my bark bar'd
And sullenly drifting: yet my higher hope
Is of too wide, too rainbow-large a scope,
To fret at myriads of earthly wrecks.
Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks
Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
A fellowship with essence; till we shine,
Full alchemiz'd, and free of space. Behold
The clear religion of heaven! Fold
A rose leaf round thy finger's taperness,
And soothe thy lips: hist, when the airy stress
Of music's kiss impregnates the free winds,
And with a sympathetic touch unbinds
Eolian magic from their lucid wombs:
Then old songs waken from enclouded tombs;
Old ditties sigh above their father's grave;
Ghosts of melodious prophecyings rave
Round every spot where trod Apollo's foot;
Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit,
Where long ago a giant battle was;
And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass
In every place where infant Orpheus slept.
Feel we these things?--that moment have we stept
Into a sort of oneness, and our state
Is like a floating spirit's. But there are
Richer entanglements, enthralments far
More self-destroying, leading, by degrees,
To the chief intensity: the crown of these
Is made of love and friendship, and sits high
Upon the forehead of humanity.
All its more ponderous and bulky worth
Is friendship, whence there ever issues forth
A steady splendour; but at the tip-top,
There hangs by unseen film, an orbed drop
Of light, and that is love: its influence,
Thrown in our eyes, genders a novel sense,
At which we start and fret; till in the end,
Melting into its radiance, we blend,
Mingle, and so become a part of it,--
Nor with aught else can our souls interknit
So wingedly: when we combine therewith,
Life's self is nourish'd by its proper pith,
And we are nurtured like a pelican brood.
Aye, so delicious is the unsating food,
That men, who might have tower'd in the van
Of all the congregated world, to fan
And winnow from the coming step of time
All chaff of custom, wipe away all slime
Left by men-slugs and human serpentry,
Have been content to let occasion die,
Whilst they did sleep in love's elysium.
And, truly, I would rather be struck dumb,
Than speak against this ardent listlessness:
For I have ever thought that it might bless
The world with benefits unknowingly;
As does the nightingale, upperched high,
And cloister'd among cool and bunched leaves--
She sings but to her love, nor e'er conceives
How tiptoe Night holds back her dark-grey hood.
Just so may love, although 'tis understood
The mere commingling of passionate breath,
Produce more than our searching witnesseth:
What I know not: but who, of men, can tell
That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell
To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,
The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,
The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,
The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,
Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet,
If human souls did never kiss and greet?

"Now, if this earthly love has power to make
Men's being mortal, immortal; to shake
Ambition from their memories, and brim
Their measure of content; what merest whim,
Seems all this poor endeavour after fame,
To one, who keeps within his stedfast aim
A love immortal, an immortal too.
Look not so wilder'd; for these things are true,
And never can be born of atomies
That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies,
Leaving us fancy-sick. No, no, I'm sure,
My restless spirit never could endure
To brood so long upon one luxury,
Unless it did, though fearfully, espy
A hope beyond the shadow of a dream.
My sayings will the less obscured seem,
When I have told thee how my waking sight
Has made me scruple whether that same night
Was pass'd in dreaming. Hearken, sweet Peona!
Beyond the matron-temple of Latona,
Which we should see but for these darkening boughs,
Lies a deep hollow, from whose ragged brows
Bushes and trees do lean all round athwart,
And meet so nearly, that with wings outraught,
And spreaded tail, a vulture could not glide
Past them, but he must brush on every side.
Some moulder'd steps lead into this cool cell,
Far as the slabbed margin of a well,
Whose patient level peeps its crystal eye
Right upward, through the bushes, to the sky.
Oft have I brought thee flowers, on their stalks set
Like vestal primroses, but dark velvet
Edges them round, and they have golden pits:
'Twas there I got them, from the gaps and slits
In a mossy stone, that sometimes was my seat,
When all above was faint with mid-day heat.
And there in strife no burning thoughts to heed,
I'd bubble up the water through a reed;
So reaching back to boy-hood: make me ships
Of moulted feathers, touchwood, alder chips,
With leaves stuck in them; and the Neptune be
Of their petty ocean. Oftener, heavily,
When love-lorn hours had left me less a child,
I sat contemplating the figures wild
Of o'er-head clouds melting the mirror through.
Upon a day, while thus I watch'd, by flew
A cloudy Cupid, with his bow and quiver;
So plainly character'd, no breeze would shiver
The happy chance: so happy, I was fain
To follow it upon the open plain,
And, therefore, was just going; when, behold!
A wonder, fair as any I have told--
The same bright face I tasted in my sleep,
Smiling in the clear well. My heart did leap
Through the cool depth.--It moved as if to flee--
I started up, when lo! refreshfully,
There came upon my face, in plenteous showers,
Dew-drops, and dewy buds, and leaves, and flowers,
Wrapping all objects from my smothered sight,
Bathing my spirit in a new delight.
Aye, such a breathless honey-feel of bliss
Alone preserved me from the drear abyss
Of death, for the fair form had gone again.
Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain
Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth
On the deer's tender haunches: late, and loth,
'Tis scar'd away by slow returning pleasure.
How sickening, how dark the dreadful leisure
Of weary days, made deeper exquisite,
By a fore-knowledge of unslumbrous night!
Like sorrow came upon me, heavier still,
Than when I wander'd from the poppy hill:
And a whole age of lingering moments crept
Sluggishly by, ere more contentment swept
Away at once the deadly yellow spleen.
Yes, thrice have I this fair enchantment seen;
Once more been tortured with renewed life.
When last the wintry gusts gave over strife
With the conquering sun of spring, and left the skies
Warm and serene, but yet with moistened eyes
In pity of the shatter'd infant buds,--
That time thou didst adorn, with amber studs,
My hunting cap, because I laugh'd and smil'd,
Chatted with thee, and many days exil'd
All torment from my breast;--'twas even then,
Straying about, yet, coop'd up in the den
Of helpless discontent,--hurling my lance
From place to place, and following at chance,
At last, by hap, through some young trees it struck,
And, plashing among bedded pebbles, stuck
In the middle of a brook,--whose silver ramble
Down twenty little falls, through reeds and bramble,
Tracing along, it brought me to a cave,
Whence it ran brightly forth, and white did lave
The nether sides of mossy stones and rock,--
'Mong which it gurgled blythe adieus, to mock
Its own sweet grief at parting. Overhead,
Hung a lush screen of drooping weeds, and spread
Thick, as to curtain up some wood-nymph's home.
"Ah! impious mortal, whither do I roam?"
Said I, low voic'd: "Ah whither! 'Tis the grot
Of Proserpine, when Hell, obscure and hot,
Doth her resign; and where her tender hands
She dabbles, on the cool and sluicy sands:
Or 'tis the cell of Echo, where she sits,
And babbles thorough silence, till her wits
Are gone in tender madness, and anon,
Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone
Of sadness. O that she would take my vows,
And breathe them sighingly among the boughs,
To sue her gentle ears for whose fair head,
Daily, I pluck sweet flowerets from their bed,
And weave them dyingly--send honey-whispers
Round every leaf, that all those gentle lispers
May sigh my love unto her pitying!
O charitable echo! hear, and sing
This ditty to her!--tell her"--so I stay'd
My foolish tongue, and listening, half afraid,
Stood stupefied with my own empty folly,
And blushing for the freaks of melancholy.
Salt tears were coming, when I heard my name
Most fondly lipp'd, and then these accents came:
‘Endymion! the cave is secreter
Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir
No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise
Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys
And trembles through my labyrinthine hair."
At that oppress'd I hurried in.--Ah! where
Are those swift moments? Whither are they fled?
I'll smile no more, Peona; nor will wed
Sorrow the way to death, but patiently
Bear up against it: so farewel, sad sigh;
And come instead demurest meditation,
To occupy me wholly, and to fashion
My pilgrimage for the world's dusky brink.
No more will I count over, link by link,
My chain of grief: no longer strive to find
A half-forgetfulness in mountain wind
Blustering about my ears: aye, thou shalt see,
Dearest of sisters, what my life shall be;
What a calm round of hours shall make my days.
There is a paly flame of hope that plays
Where'er I look: but yet, I'll say 'tis naught--
And here I bid it die. Have not I caught,
Already, a more healthy countenance?
By this the sun is setting; we may chance
Meet some of our near-dwellers with my car."

This said, he rose, faint-smiling like a star
Through autumn mists, and took Peona's hand:
They stept into the boat, and launch'd from land.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

First Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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Gareth And Lynette

The last tall son of Lot and Bellicent,
And tallest, Gareth, in a showerful spring
Stared at the spate. A slender-shafted Pine
Lost footing, fell, and so was whirled away.
'How he went down,' said Gareth, 'as a false knight
Or evil king before my lance if lance
Were mine to use--O senseless cataract,
Bearing all down in thy precipitancy--
And yet thou art but swollen with cold snows
And mine is living blood: thou dost His will,
The Maker's, and not knowest, and I that know,
Have strength and wit, in my good mother's hall
Linger with vacillating obedience,
Prisoned, and kept and coaxed and whistled to--
Since the good mother holds me still a child!
Good mother is bad mother unto me!
A worse were better; yet no worse would I.
Heaven yield her for it, but in me put force
To weary her ears with one continuous prayer,
Until she let me fly discaged to sweep
In ever-highering eagle-circles up
To the great Sun of Glory, and thence swoop
Down upon all things base, and dash them dead,
A knight of Arthur, working out his will,
To cleanse the world. Why, Gawain, when he came
With Modred hither in the summertime,
Asked me to tilt with him, the proven knight.
Modred for want of worthier was the judge.
Then I so shook him in the saddle, he said,
"Thou hast half prevailed against me," said so--he--
Though Modred biting his thin lips was mute,
For he is alway sullen: what care I?'

And Gareth went, and hovering round her chair
Asked, 'Mother, though ye count me still the child,
Sweet mother, do ye love the child?' She laughed,
'Thou art but a wild-goose to question it.'
'Then, mother, an ye love the child,' he said,
'Being a goose and rather tame than wild,
Hear the child's story.' 'Yea, my well-beloved,
An 'twere but of the goose and golden eggs.'

And Gareth answered her with kindling eyes,
'Nay, nay, good mother, but this egg of mine
Was finer gold than any goose can lay;
For this an Eagle, a royal Eagle, laid
Almost beyond eye-reach, on such a palm
As glitters gilded in thy Book of Hours.
And there was ever haunting round the palm
A lusty youth, but poor, who often saw
The splendour sparkling from aloft, and thought
"An I could climb and lay my hand upon it,
Then were I wealthier than a leash of kings."
But ever when he reached a hand to climb,
One, that had loved him from his childhood, caught
And stayed him, "Climb not lest thou break thy neck,
I charge thee by my love," and so the boy,
Sweet mother, neither clomb, nor brake his neck,
But brake his very heart in pining for it,
And past away.'

To whom the mother said,
'True love, sweet son, had risked himself and climbed,
And handed down the golden treasure to him.'

And Gareth answered her with kindling eyes,
'Gold?' said I gold?--ay then, why he, or she,
Or whosoe'er it was, or half the world
Had ventured--HAD the thing I spake of been
Mere gold--but this was all of that true steel,
Whereof they forged the brand Excalibur,
And lightnings played about it in the storm,
And all the little fowl were flurried at it,
And there were cries and clashings in the nest,
That sent him from his senses: let me go.'

Then Bellicent bemoaned herself and said,
'Hast thou no pity upon my loneliness?
Lo, where thy father Lot beside the hearth
Lies like a log, and all but smouldered out!
For ever since when traitor to the King
He fought against him in the Barons' war,
And Arthur gave him back his territory,
His age hath slowly droopt, and now lies there
A yet-warm corpse, and yet unburiable,
No more; nor sees, nor hears, nor speaks, nor knows.
And both thy brethren are in Arthur's hall,
Albeit neither loved with that full love
I feel for thee, nor worthy such a love:
Stay therefore thou; red berries charm the bird,
And thee, mine innocent, the jousts, the wars,
Who never knewest finger-ache, nor pang
Of wrenched or broken limb--an often chance
In those brain-stunning shocks, and tourney-falls,
Frights to my heart; but stay: follow the deer
By these tall firs and our fast-falling burns;
So make thy manhood mightier day by day;
Sweet is the chase: and I will seek thee out
Some comfortable bride and fair, to grace
Thy climbing life, and cherish my prone year,
Till falling into Lot's forgetfulness
I know not thee, myself, nor anything.
Stay, my best son! ye are yet more boy than man.'

Then Gareth, 'An ye hold me yet for child,
Hear yet once more the story of the child.
For, mother, there was once a King, like ours.
The prince his heir, when tall and marriageable,
Asked for a bride; and thereupon the King
Set two before him. One was fair, strong, armed--
But to be won by force--and many men
Desired her; one good lack, no man desired.
And these were the conditions of the King:
That save he won the first by force, he needs
Must wed that other, whom no man desired,
A red-faced bride who knew herself so vile,
That evermore she longed to hide herself,
Nor fronted man or woman, eye to eye--
Yea--some she cleaved to, but they died of her.
And one--they called her Fame; and one,--O Mother,
How can ye keep me tethered to you--Shame.
Man am I grown, a man's work must I do.
Follow the deer? follow the Christ, the King,
Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King--
Else, wherefore born?'

To whom the mother said
'Sweet son, for there be many who deem him not,
Or will not deem him, wholly proven King--
Albeit in mine own heart I knew him King,
When I was frequent with him in my youth,
And heard him Kingly speak, and doubted him
No more than he, himself; but felt him mine,
Of closest kin to me: yet--wilt thou leave
Thine easeful biding here, and risk thine all,
Life, limbs, for one that is not proven King?
Stay, till the cloud that settles round his birth
Hath lifted but a little. Stay, sweet son.'

And Gareth answered quickly, 'Not an hour,
So that ye yield me--I will walk through fire,
Mother, to gain it--your full leave to go.
Not proven, who swept the dust of ruined Rome
From off the threshold of the realm, and crushed
The Idolaters, and made the people free?
Who should be King save him who makes us free?'

So when the Queen, who long had sought in vain
To break him from the intent to which he grew,
Found her son's will unwaveringly one,
She answered craftily, 'Will ye walk through fire?
Who walks through fire will hardly heed the smoke.
Ay, go then, an ye must: only one proof,
Before thou ask the King to make thee knight,
Of thine obedience and thy love to me,
Thy mother,--I demand.

And Gareth cried,
'A hard one, or a hundred, so I go.
Nay--quick! the proof to prove me to the quick!'

But slowly spake the mother looking at him,
'Prince, thou shalt go disguised to Arthur's hall,
And hire thyself to serve for meats and drinks
Among the scullions and the kitchen-knaves,
And those that hand the dish across the bar.
Nor shalt thou tell thy name to anyone.
And thou shalt serve a twelvemonth and a day.'

For so the Queen believed that when her son
Beheld his only way to glory lead
Low down through villain kitchen-vassalage,
Her own true Gareth was too princely-proud
To pass thereby; so should he rest with her,
Closed in her castle from the sound of arms.

Silent awhile was Gareth, then replied,
'The thrall in person may be free in soul,
And I shall see the jousts. Thy son am I,
And since thou art my mother, must obey.
I therefore yield me freely to thy will;
For hence will I, disguised, and hire myself
To serve with scullions and with kitchen-knaves;
Nor tell my name to any--no, not the King.'

Gareth awhile lingered. The mother's eye
Full of the wistful fear that he would go,
And turning toward him wheresoe'er he turned,
Perplext his outward purpose, till an hour,
When wakened by the wind which with full voice
Swept bellowing through the darkness on to dawn,
He rose, and out of slumber calling two
That still had tended on him from his birth,
Before the wakeful mother heard him, went.

The three were clad like tillers of the soil.
Southward they set their faces. The birds made
Melody on branch, and melody in mid air.
The damp hill-slopes were quickened into green,
And the live green had kindled into flowers,
For it was past the time of Easterday.

So, when their feet were planted on the plain
That broadened toward the base of Camelot,
Far off they saw the silver-misty morn
Rolling her smoke about the Royal mount,
That rose between the forest and the field.
At times the summit of the high city flashed;
At times the spires and turrets half-way down
Pricked through the mist; at times the great gate shone
Only, that opened on the field below:
Anon, the whole fair city had disappeared.

Then those who went with Gareth were amazed,
One crying, 'Let us go no further, lord.
Here is a city of Enchanters, built
By fairy Kings.' The second echoed him,
'Lord, we have heard from our wise man at home
To Northward, that this King is not the King,
But only changeling out of Fairyland,
Who drave the heathen hence by sorcery
And Merlin's glamour.' Then the first again,
'Lord, there is no such city anywhere,
But all a vision.'

Gareth answered them
With laughter, swearing he had glamour enow
In his own blood, his princedom, youth and hopes,
To plunge old Merlin in the Arabian sea;
So pushed them all unwilling toward the gate.
And there was no gate like it under heaven.
For barefoot on the keystone, which was lined
And rippled like an ever-fleeting wave,
The Lady of the Lake stood: all her dress
Wept from her sides as water flowing away;
But like the cross her great and goodly arms
Stretched under the cornice and upheld:
And drops of water fell from either hand;
And down from one a sword was hung, from one
A censer, either worn with wind and storm;
And o'er her breast floated the sacred fish;
And in the space to left of her, and right,
Were Arthur's wars in weird devices done,
New things and old co-twisted, as if Time
Were nothing, so inveterately, that men
Were giddy gazing there; and over all
High on the top were those three Queens, the friends
Of Arthur, who should help him at his need.

Then those with Gareth for so long a space
Stared at the figures, that at last it seemed
The dragon-boughts and elvish emblemings
Began to move, seethe, twine and curl: they called
To Gareth, 'Lord, the gateway is alive.'

And Gareth likewise on them fixt his eyes
So long, that even to him they seemed to move.
Out of the city a blast of music pealed.
Back from the gate started the three, to whom
From out thereunder came an ancient man,
Long-bearded, saying, 'Who be ye, my sons?'

Then Gareth, 'We be tillers of the soil,
Who leaving share in furrow come to see
The glories of our King: but these, my men,
(Your city moved so weirdly in the mist)
Doubt if the King be King at all, or come
From Fairyland; and whether this be built
By magic, and by fairy Kings and Queens;
Or whether there be any city at all,
Or all a vision: and this music now
Hath scared them both, but tell thou these the truth.'

Then that old Seer made answer playing on him
And saying, 'Son, I have seen the good ship sail
Keel upward, and mast downward, in the heavens,
And solid turrets topsy-turvy in air:
And here is truth; but an it please thee not,
Take thou the truth as thou hast told it me.
For truly as thou sayest, a Fairy King
And Fairy Queens have built the city, son;
They came from out a sacred mountain-cleft
Toward the sunrise, each with harp in hand,
And built it to the music of their harps.
And, as thou sayest, it is enchanted, son,
For there is nothing in it as it seems
Saving the King; though some there be that hold
The King a shadow, and the city real:
Yet take thou heed of him, for, so thou pass
Beneath this archway, then wilt thou become
A thrall to his enchantments, for the King
Will bind thee by such vows, as is a shame
A man should not be bound by, yet the which
No man can keep; but, so thou dread to swear,
Pass not beneath this gateway, but abide
Without, among the cattle of the field.
For an ye heard a music, like enow
They are building still, seeing the city is built
To music, therefore never built at all,
And therefore built for ever.'

Gareth spake
Angered, 'Old master, reverence thine own beard
That looks as white as utter truth, and seems
Wellnigh as long as thou art statured tall!
Why mockest thou the stranger that hath been
To thee fair-spoken?'

But the Seer replied,
'Know ye not then the Riddling of the Bards?
"Confusion, and illusion, and relation,
Elusion, and occasion, and evasion"?
I mock thee not but as thou mockest me,
And all that see thee, for thou art not who
Thou seemest, but I know thee who thou art.
And now thou goest up to mock the King,
Who cannot brook the shadow of any lie.'

Unmockingly the mocker ending here
Turned to the right, and past along the plain;
Whom Gareth looking after said, 'My men,
Our one white lie sits like a little ghost
Here on the threshold of our enterprise.
Let love be blamed for it, not she, nor I:
Well, we will make amends.'

With all good cheer
He spake and laughed, then entered with his twain
Camelot, a city of shadowy palaces
And stately, rich in emblem and the work
Of ancient kings who did their days in stone;
Which Merlin's hand, the Mage at Arthur's court,
Knowing all arts, had touched, and everywhere
At Arthur's ordinance, tipt with lessening peak
And pinnacle, and had made it spire to heaven.
And ever and anon a knight would pass
Outward, or inward to the hall: his arms
Clashed; and the sound was good to Gareth's ear.
And out of bower and casement shyly glanced
Eyes of pure women, wholesome stars of love;
And all about a healthful people stept
As in the presence of a gracious king.

Then into hall Gareth ascending heard
A voice, the voice of Arthur, and beheld
Far over heads in that long-vaulted hall
The splendour of the presence of the King
Throned, and delivering doom--and looked no more--
But felt his young heart hammering in his ears,
And thought, 'For this half-shadow of a lie
The truthful King will doom me when I speak.'
Yet pressing on, though all in fear to find
Sir Gawain or Sir Modred, saw nor one
Nor other, but in all the listening eyes
Of those tall knights, that ranged about the throne,
Clear honour shining like the dewy star
Of dawn, and faith in their great King, with pure
Affection, and the light of victory,
And glory gained, and evermore to gain.
Then came a widow crying to the King,
'A boon, Sir King! Thy father, Uther, reft
From my dead lord a field with violence:
For howsoe'er at first he proffered gold,
Yet, for the field was pleasant in our eyes,
We yielded not; and then he reft us of it
Perforce, and left us neither gold nor field.'

Said Arthur, 'Whether would ye? gold or field?'
To whom the woman weeping, 'Nay, my lord,
The field was pleasant in my husband's eye.'

And Arthur, 'Have thy pleasant field again,
And thrice the gold for Uther's use thereof,
According to the years. No boon is here,
But justice, so thy say be proven true.
Accursed, who from the wrongs his father did
Would shape himself a right!'

And while she past,
Came yet another widow crying to him,
'A boon, Sir King! Thine enemy, King, am I.
With thine own hand thou slewest my dear lord,
A knight of Uther in the Barons' war,
When Lot and many another rose and fought
Against thee, saying thou wert basely born.
I held with these, and loathe to ask thee aught.
Yet lo! my husband's brother had my son
Thralled in his castle, and hath starved him dead;
And standeth seized of that inheritance
Which thou that slewest the sire hast left the son.
So though I scarce can ask it thee for hate,
Grant me some knight to do the battle for me,
Kill the foul thief, and wreak me for my son.'

Then strode a good knight forward, crying to him,
'A boon, Sir King! I am her kinsman, I.
Give me to right her wrong, and slay the man.'

Then came Sir Kay, the seneschal, and cried,
'A boon, Sir King! even that thou grant her none,
This railer, that hath mocked thee in full hall--
None; or the wholesome boon of gyve and gag.'

But Arthur, 'We sit King, to help the wronged
Through all our realm. The woman loves her lord.
Peace to thee, woman, with thy loves and hates!
The kings of old had doomed thee to the flames,
Aurelius Emrys would have scourged thee dead,
And Uther slit thy tongue: but get thee hence--
Lest that rough humour of the kings of old
Return upon me! Thou that art her kin,
Go likewise; lay him low and slay him not,
But bring him here, that I may judge the right,
According to the justice of the King:
Then, be he guilty, by that deathless King
Who lived and died for men, the man shall die.'

Then came in hall the messenger of Mark,
A name of evil savour in the land,
The Cornish king. In either hand he bore
What dazzled all, and shone far-off as shines
A field of charlock in the sudden sun
Between two showers, a cloth of palest gold,
Which down he laid before the throne, and knelt,
Delivering, that his lord, the vassal king,
Was even upon his way to Camelot;
For having heard that Arthur of his grace
Had made his goodly cousin, Tristram, knight,
And, for himself was of the greater state,
Being a king, he trusted his liege-lord
Would yield him this large honour all the more;
So prayed him well to accept this cloth of gold,
In token of true heart and felty.

Then Arthur cried to rend the cloth, to rend
In pieces, and so cast it on the hearth.
An oak-tree smouldered there. 'The goodly knight!
What! shall the shield of Mark stand among these?'
For, midway down the side of that long hall
A stately pile,--whereof along the front,
Some blazoned, some but carven, and some blank,
There ran a treble range of stony shields,--
Rose, and high-arching overbrowed the hearth.
And under every shield a knight was named:
For this was Arthur's custom in his hall;
When some good knight had done one noble deed,
His arms were carven only; but if twain
His arms were blazoned also; but if none,
The shield was blank and bare without a sign
Saving the name beneath; and Gareth saw
The shield of Gawain blazoned rich and bright,
And Modred's blank as death; and Arthur cried
To rend the cloth and cast it on the hearth.

'More like are we to reave him of his crown
Than make him knight because men call him king.
The kings we found, ye know we stayed their hands
From war among themselves, but left them kings;
Of whom were any bounteous, merciful,
Truth-speaking, brave, good livers, them we enrolled
Among us, and they sit within our hall.
But as Mark hath tarnished the great name of king,
As Mark would sully the low state of churl:
And, seeing he hath sent us cloth of gold,
Return, and meet, and hold him from our eyes,
Lest we should lap him up in cloth of lead,
Silenced for ever--craven--a man of plots,
Craft, poisonous counsels, wayside ambushings--
No fault of thine: let Kay the seneschal
Look to thy wants, and send thee satisfied--
Accursed, who strikes nor lets the hand be seen!'

And many another suppliant crying came
With noise of ravage wrought by beast and man,
And evermore a knight would ride away.

Last, Gareth leaning both hands heavily
Down on the shoulders of the twain, his men,
Approached between them toward the King, and asked,
'A boon, Sir King (his voice was all ashamed),
For see ye not how weak and hungerworn
I seem--leaning on these? grant me to serve
For meat and drink among thy kitchen-knaves
A twelvemonth and a day, nor seek my name.
Hereafter I will fight.'

To him the King,
'A goodly youth and worth a goodlier boon!
But so thou wilt no goodlier, then must Kay,
The master of the meats and drinks, be thine.'

He rose and past; then Kay, a man of mien
Wan-sallow as the plant that feels itself
Root-bitten by white lichen,

'Lo ye now!
This fellow hath broken from some Abbey, where,
God wot, he had not beef and brewis enow,
However that might chance! but an he work,
Like any pigeon will I cram his crop,
And sleeker shall he shine than any hog.'

Then Lancelot standing near, 'Sir Seneschal,
Sleuth-hound thou knowest, and gray, and all the hounds;
A horse thou knowest, a man thou dost not know:
Broad brows and fair, a fluent hair and fine,
High nose, a nostril large and fine, and hands
Large, fair and fine!--Some young lad's mystery--
But, or from sheepcot or king's hall, the boy
Is noble-natured. Treat him with all grace,
Lest he should come to shame thy judging of him.'

Then Kay, 'What murmurest thou of mystery?
Think ye this fellow will poison the King's dish?
Nay, for he spake too fool-like: mystery!
Tut, an the lad were noble, he had asked
For horse and armour: fair and fine, forsooth!
Sir Fine-face, Sir Fair-hands? but see thou to it
That thine own fineness, Lancelot, some fine day
Undo thee not--and leave my man to me.'

So Gareth all for glory underwent
The sooty yoke of kitchen-vassalage;
Ate with young lads his portion by the door,
And couched at night with grimy kitchen-knaves.
And Lancelot ever spake him pleasantly,
But Kay the seneschal, who loved him not,
Would hustle and harry him, and labour him
Beyond his comrade of the hearth, and set
To turn the broach, draw water, or hew wood,
Or grosser tasks; and Gareth bowed himself
With all obedience to the King, and wrought
All kind of service with a noble ease
That graced the lowliest act in doing it.
And when the thralls had talk among themselves,
And one would praise the love that linkt the King
And Lancelot--how the King had saved his life
In battle twice, and Lancelot once the King's--
For Lancelot was the first in Tournament,
But Arthur mightiest on the battle-field--
Gareth was glad. Or if some other told,
How once the wandering forester at dawn,
Far over the blue tarns and hazy seas,
On Caer-Eryri's highest found the King,
A naked babe, of whom the Prophet spake,
'He passes to the Isle Avilion,
He passes and is healed and cannot die'--
Gareth was glad. But if their talk were foul,
Then would he whistle rapid as any lark,
Or carol some old roundelay, and so loud
That first they mocked, but, after, reverenced him.
Or Gareth telling some prodigious tale
Of knights, who sliced a red life-bubbling way
Through twenty folds of twisted dragon, held
All in a gap-mouthed circle his good mates
Lying or sitting round him, idle hands,
Charmed; till Sir Kay, the seneschal, would come
Blustering upon them, like a sudden wind
Among dead leaves, and drive them all apart.
Or when the thralls had sport among themselves,
So there were any trial of mastery,
He, by two yards in casting bar or stone
Was counted best; and if there chanced a joust,
So that Sir Kay nodded him leave to go,
Would hurry thither, and when he saw the knights
Clash like the coming and retiring wave,
And the spear spring, and good horse reel, the boy
Was half beyond himself for ecstasy.

So for a month he wrought among the thralls;
But in the weeks that followed, the good Queen,
Repentant of the word she made him swear,
And saddening in her childless castle, sent,
Between the in-crescent and de-crescent moon,
Arms for her son, and loosed him from his vow.

This, Gareth hearing from a squire of Lot
With whom he used to play at tourney once,
When both were children, and in lonely haunts
Would scratch a ragged oval on the sand,
And each at either dash from either end--
Shame never made girl redder than Gareth joy.
He laughed; he sprang. 'Out of the smoke, at once
I leap from Satan's foot to Peter's knee--
These news be mine, none other's--nay, the King's--
Descend into the city:' whereon he sought
The King alone, and found, and told him all.

'I have staggered thy strong Gawain in a tilt
For pastime; yea, he said it: joust can I.
Make me thy knight--in secret! let my name
Be hidden, and give me the first quest, I spring
Like flame from ashes.'

Here the King's calm eye
Fell on, and checked, and made him flush, and bow
Lowly, to kiss his hand, who answered him,
'Son, the good mother let me know thee here,
And sent her wish that I would yield thee thine.
Make thee my knight? my knights are sworn to vows
Of utter hardihood, utter gentleness,
And, loving, utter faithfulness in love,
And uttermost obedience to the King.'

Then Gareth, lightly springing from his knees,
'My King, for hardihood I can promise thee.
For uttermost obedience make demand
Of whom ye gave me to, the Seneschal,
No mellow master of the meats and drinks!
And as for love, God wot, I love not yet,
But love I shall, God willing.'

And the King
'Make thee my knight in secret? yea, but he,
Our noblest brother, and our truest man,
And one with me in all, he needs must know.'

'Let Lancelot know, my King, let Lancelot know,
Thy noblest and thy truest!'

And the King--
'But wherefore would ye men should wonder at you?
Nay, rather for the sake of me, their King,
And the deed's sake my knighthood do the deed,
Than to be noised of.'

Merrily Gareth asked,
'Have I not earned my cake in baking of it?
Let be my name until I make my name!
My deeds will speak: it is but for a day.'
So with a kindly hand on Gareth's arm
Smiled the great King, and half-unwillingly
Loving his lusty youthhood yielded to him.
Then, after summoning Lancelot privily,
'I have given him the first quest: he is not proven.
Look therefore when he calls for this in hall,
Thou get to horse and follow him far away.
Cover the lions on thy shield, and see
Far as thou mayest, he be nor ta'en nor slain.'

Then that same day there past into the hall
A damsel of high lineage, and a brow
May-blossom, and a cheek of apple-blossom,
Hawk-eyes; and lightly was her slender nose
Tip-tilted like the petal of a flower;
She into hall past with her page and cried,

'O King, for thou hast driven the foe without,
See to the foe within! bridge, ford, beset
By bandits, everyone that owns a tower
The Lord for half a league. Why sit ye there?
Rest would I not, Sir King, an I were king,
Till even the lonest hold were all as free
From cursd bloodshed, as thine altar-cloth
From that best blood it is a sin to spill.'

'Comfort thyself,' said Arthur. 'I nor mine
Rest: so my knighthood keep the vows they swore,
The wastest moorland of our realm shall be
Safe, damsel, as the centre of this hall.
What is thy name? thy need?'

'My name?' she said--
'Lynette my name; noble; my need, a knight
To combat for my sister, Lyonors,
A lady of high lineage, of great lands,
And comely, yea, and comelier than myself.
She lives in Castle Perilous: a river
Runs in three loops about her living-place;
And o'er it are three passings, and three knights
Defend the passings, brethren, and a fourth
And of that four the mightiest, holds her stayed
In her own castle, and so besieges her
To break her will, and make her wed with him:
And but delays his purport till thou send
To do the battle with him, thy chief man
Sir Lancelot whom he trusts to overthrow,
Then wed, with glory: but she will not wed
Save whom she loveth, or a holy life.
Now therefore have I come for Lancelot.'

Then Arthur mindful of Sir Gareth asked,
'Damsel, ye know this Order lives to crush
All wrongers of the Realm. But say, these four,
Who be they? What the fashion of the men?'

'They be of foolish fashion, O Sir King,
The fashion of that old knight-errantry
Who ride abroad, and do but what they will;
Courteous or bestial from the moment, such
As have nor law nor king; and three of these
Proud in their fantasy call themselves the Day,
Morning-Star, and Noon-Sun, and Evening-Star,
Being strong fools; and never a whit more wise
The fourth, who alway rideth armed in black,
A huge man-beast of boundless savagery.
He names himself the Night and oftener Death,
And wears a helmet mounted with a skull,
And bears a skeleton figured on his arms,
To show that who may slay or scape the three,
Slain by himself, shall enter endless night.
And all these four be fools, but mighty men,
And therefore am I come for Lancelot.'

Hereat Sir Gareth called from where he rose,
A head with kindling eyes above the throng,
'A boon, Sir King--this quest!' then--for he marked
Kay near him groaning like a wounded bull--
'Yea, King, thou knowest thy kitchen-knave am I,
And mighty through thy meats and drinks am I,
And I can topple over a hundred such.
Thy promise, King,' and Arthur glancing at him,
Brought down a momentary brow. 'Rough, sudden,
And pardonable, worthy to be knight--
Go therefore,' and all hearers were amazed.

But on the damsel's forehead shame, pride, wrath
Slew the May-white: she lifted either arm,
'Fie on thee, King! I asked for thy chief knight,
And thou hast given me but a kitchen-knave.'
Then ere a man in hall could stay her, turned,
Fled down the lane of access to the King,
Took horse, descended the slope street, and past
The weird white gate, and paused without, beside
The field of tourney, murmuring 'kitchen-knave.'

Now two great entries opened from the hall,
At one end one, that gave upon a range
Of level pavement where the King would pace
At sunrise, gazing over plain and wood;
And down from this a lordly stairway sloped
Till lost in blowing trees and tops of towers;
And out by this main doorway past the King.
But one was counter to the hearth, and rose
High that the highest-crested helm could ride
Therethrough nor graze: and by this entry fled
The damsel in her wrath, and on to this
Sir Gareth strode, and saw without the door
King Arthur's gift, the worth of half a town,
A warhorse of the best, and near it stood
The two that out of north had followed him:
This bare a maiden shield, a casque; that held
The horse, the spear; whereat Sir Gareth loosed
A cloak that dropt from collar-bone to heel,
A cloth of roughest web, and cast it down,
And from it like a fuel-smothered fire,
That lookt half-dead, brake bright, and flashed as those
Dull-coated things, that making slide apart
Their dusk wing-cases, all beneath there burns
A jewelled harness, ere they pass and fly.
So Gareth ere he parted flashed in arms.
Then as he donned the helm, and took the shield
And mounted horse and graspt a spear, of grain
Storm-strengthened on a windy site, and tipt
With trenchant steel, around him slowly prest
The people, while from out of kitchen came
The thralls in throng, and seeing who had worked
Lustier than any, and whom they could but love,
Mounted in arms, threw up their caps and cried,
'God bless the King, and all his fellowship!'
And on through lanes of shouting Gareth rode
Down the slope street, and past without the gate.

So Gareth past with joy; but as the cur
Pluckt from the cur he fights with, ere his cause
Be cooled by fighting, follows, being named,
His owner, but remembers all, and growls
Remembering, so Sir Kay beside the door
Muttered in scorn of Gareth whom he used
To harry and hustle.

'Bound upon a quest
With horse and arms--the King hath past his time--
My scullion knave! Thralls to your work again,
For an your fire be low ye kindle mine!
Will there be dawn in West and eve in East?
Begone!--my knave!--belike and like enow
Some old head-blow not heeded in his youth
So shook his wits they wander in his prime--
Crazed! How the villain lifted up his voice,
Nor shamed to bawl himself a kitchen-knave.
Tut: he was tame and meek enow with me,
Till peacocked up with Lancelot's noticing.
Well--I will after my loud knave, and learn
Whether he know me for his master yet.
Out of the smoke he came, and so my lance
Hold, by God's grace, he shall into the mire--
Thence, if the King awaken from his craze,
Into the smoke again.'

But Lancelot said,
'Kay, wherefore wilt thou go against the King,
For that did never he whereon ye rail,
But ever meekly served the King in thee?
Abide: take counsel; for this lad is great
And lusty, and knowing both of lance and sword.'
'Tut, tell not me,' said Kay, 'ye are overfine
To mar stout knaves with foolish courtesies:'
Then mounted, on through silent faces rode
Down the slope city, and out beyond the gate.

But by the field of tourney lingering yet
Muttered the damsel, 'Wherefore did the King
Scorn me? for, were Sir Lancelot lackt, at least
He might have yielded to me one of those
Who tilt for lady's love and glory here,
Rather than--O sweet heaven! O fie upon him--
His kitchen-knave.'

To whom Sir Gareth drew
(And there were none but few goodlier than he)
Shining in arms, 'Damsel, the quest is mine.
Lead, and I follow.' She thereat, as one
That smells a foul-fleshed agaric in the holt,
And deems it carrion of some woodland thing,
Or shrew, or weasel, nipt her slender nose
With petulant thumb and finger, shrilling, 'Hence!
Avoid, thou smellest all of kitchen-grease.
And look who comes behind,' for there was Kay.
'Knowest thou not me? thy master? I am Kay.
We lack thee by the hearth.'

And Gareth to him,
'Master no more! too well I know thee, ay--
The most ungentle knight in Arthur's hall.'
'Have at thee then,' said Kay: they shocked, and Kay
Fell shoulder-slipt, and Gareth cried again,
'Lead, and I follow,' and fast away she fled.

But after sod and shingle ceased to fly
Behind her, and the heart of her good horse
Was nigh to burst with violence of the beat,
Perforce she stayed, and overtaken spoke.

'What doest thou, scullion, in my fellowship?
Deem'st thou that I accept thee aught the more
Or love thee better, that by some device
Full cowardly, or by mere unhappiness,
Thou hast overthrown and slain thy master--thou!--
Dish-washer and broach-turner, loon!--to me
Thou smellest all of kitchen as before.'

'Damsel,' Sir Gareth answered gently, 'say
Whate'er ye will, but whatsoe'er ye say,
I leave not till I finish this fair quest,
Or die therefore.'

'Ay, wilt thou finish it?
Sweet lord, how like a noble knight he talks!
The listening rogue hath caught the manner of it.
But, knave, anon thou shalt be met with, knave,
And then by such a one that thou for all
The kitchen brewis that was ever supt
Shalt not once dare to look him in the face.'

'I shall assay,' said Gareth with a smile
That maddened her, and away she flashed again
Down the long avenues of a boundless wood,
And Gareth following was again beknaved.

'Sir Kitchen-knave, I have missed the only way
Where Arthur's men are set along the wood;
The wood is nigh as full of thieves as leaves:
If both be slain, I am rid of thee; but yet,
Sir Scullion, canst thou use that spit of thine?
Fight, an thou canst: I have missed the only way.'

So till the dusk that followed evensong
Rode on the two, reviler and reviled;
Then after one long slope was mounted, saw,
Bowl-shaped, through tops of many thousand pines
A gloomy-gladed hollow slowly sink
To westward--in the deeps whereof a mere,
Round as the red eye of an Eagle-owl,
Under the half-dead sunset glared; and shouts
Ascended, and there brake a servingman
Flying from out of the black wood, and crying,
'They have bound my lord to cast him in the mere.'
Then Gareth, 'Bound am I to right the wronged,
But straitlier bound am I to bide with thee.'
And when the damsel spake contemptuously,
'Lead, and I follow,' Gareth cried again,
'Follow, I lead!' so down among the pines
He plunged; and there, blackshadowed nigh the mere,
And mid-thigh-deep in bulrushes and reed,
Saw six tall men haling a seventh along,
A stone about his neck to drown him in it.
Three with good blows he quieted, but three
Fled through the pines; and Gareth loosed the stone
From off his neck, then in the mere beside
Tumbled it; oilily bubbled up the mere.
Last, Gareth loosed his bonds and on free feet
Set him, a stalwart Baron, Arthur's friend.

'Well that ye came, or else these caitiff rogues
Had wreaked themselves on me; good cause is theirs
To hate me, for my wont hath ever been
To catch my thief, and then like vermin here
Drown him, and with a stone about his neck;
And under this wan water many of them
Lie rotting, but at night let go the stone,
And rise, and flickering in a grimly light
Dance on the mere. Good now, ye have saved a life
Worth somewhat as the cleanser of this wood.
And fain would I reward thee worshipfully.
What guerdon will ye?'
Gareth sharply spake,
'None! for the deed's sake have I done the deed,
In uttermost obedience to the King.
But wilt thou yield this damsel harbourage?'

Whereat the Baron saying, 'I well believe
You be of Arthur's Table,' a light laugh
Broke from Lynette, 'Ay, truly of a truth,
And in a sort, being Arthur's kitchen-knave!--
But deem not I accept thee aught the more,
Scullion, for running sharply with thy spit
Down on a rout of craven foresters.
A thresher with his flail had scattered them.
Nay--for thou smellest of the kitchen still.
But an this lord will yield us harbourage,
Well.'

So she spake. A league beyond the wood,
All in a full-fair manor and a rich,
His towers where that day a feast had been
Held in high hall, and many a viand left,
And many a costly cate, received the three.
And there they placed a peacock in his pride
Before the damsel, and the Baron set
Gareth beside her, but at once she rose.

'Meseems, that here is much discourtesy,
Setting this knave, Lord Baron, at my side.
Hear me--this morn I stood in Arthur's hall,
And prayed the King would grant me Lancelot
To fight the brotherhood of Day and Night--
The last a monster unsubduable
Of any save of him for whom I called--
Suddenly bawls this frontless kitchen-knave,
"The quest is mine; thy kitchen-knave am I,
And mighty through thy meats and drinks am I."
Then Arthur all at once gone mad replies,
"Go therefore," and so gives the quest to him--
Him--here--a villain fitter to stick swine
Than ride abroad redressing women's wrong,
Or sit beside a noble gentlewoman.'

Then half-ashamed and part-amazed, the lord
Now looked at one and now at other, left
The damsel by the peacock in his pride,
And, seating Gareth at another board,
Sat down beside him, ate and then began.

'Friend, whether thou be kitchen-knave, or not,
Or whether it be the maiden's fantasy,
And whether she be mad, or else the King,
Or both or neither, or thyself be mad,
I ask not: but thou strikest a strong stroke,
For strong thou art and goodly therewithal,
And saver of my life; and therefore now,
For here be mighty men to joust with, weigh
Whether thou wilt not with thy damsel back
To crave again Sir Lancelot of the King.
Thy pardon; I but speak for thine avail,
The saver of my life.'

And Gareth said,
'Full pardon, but I follow up the quest,
Despite of Day and Night and Death and Hell.'

So when, next morn, the lord whose life he saved
Had, some brief space, conveyed them on their way
And left them with God-speed, Sir Gareth spake,
'Lead, and I follow.' Haughtily she replied.

'I fly no more: I allow thee for an hour.
Lion and stout have isled together, knave,
In time of flood. Nay, furthermore, methinks
Some ruth is mine for thee. Back wilt thou, fool?
For hard by here is one will overthrow
And slay thee: then will I to court again,
And shame the King for only yielding me
My champion from the ashes of his hearth.'

To whom Sir Gareth answered courteously,
'Say thou thy say, and I will do my deed.
Allow me for mine hour, and thou wilt find
My fortunes all as fair as hers who lay
Among the ashes and wedded the King's son.'

Then to the shore of one of those long loops
Wherethrough the serpent river coiled, they came.
Rough-thicketed were the banks and steep; the stream
Full, narrow; this a bridge of single arc
Took at a leap; and on the further side
Arose a silk pavilion, gay with gold
In streaks and rays, and all Lent-lily in hue,
Save that the dome was purple, and above,
Crimson, a slender banneret fluttering.
And therebefore the lawless warrior paced
Unarmed, and calling, 'Damsel, is this he,
The champion thou hast brought from Arthur's hall?
For whom we let thee pass.' 'Nay, nay,' she said,
'Sir Morning-Star. The King in utter scorn
Of thee and thy much folly hath sent thee here
His kitchen-knave: and look thou to thyself:
See that he fall not on thee suddenly,
And slay thee unarmed: he is not knight but knave.'

Then at his call, 'O daughters of the Dawn,
And servants of the Morning-Star, approach,
Arm me,' from out the silken curtain-folds
Bare-footed and bare-headed three fair girls
In gilt and rosy raiment came: their feet
In dewy grasses glistened; and the hair
All over glanced with dewdrop or with gem
Like sparkles in the stone Avanturine.
These armed him in blue arms, and gave a shield
Blue also, and thereon the morning star.
And Gareth silent gazed upon the knight,
Who stood a moment, ere his horse was brought,
Glorying; and in the stream beneath him, shone
Immingled with Heaven's azure waveringly,
The gay pavilion and the naked feet,
His arms, the rosy raiment, and the star.

Then she that watched him, 'Wherefore stare ye so?
Thou shakest in thy fear: there yet is time:
Flee down the valley before he get to horse.
Who will cry shame? Thou art not knight but knave.'

Said Gareth, 'Damsel, whether knave or knight,
Far liefer had I fight a score of times
Than hear thee so missay me and revile.
Fair words were best for him who fights for thee;
But truly foul are better, for they send
That strength of anger through mine arms, I know
That I shall overthrow him.'

And he that bore
The star, when mounted, cried from o'er the bridge,
'A kitchen-knave, and sent in scorn of me!
Such fight not I, but answer scorn with scorn.
For this were shame to do him further wrong
Than set him on his feet, and take his horse
And arms, and so return him to the King.
Come, therefore, leave thy lady lightly, knave.
Avoid: for it beseemeth not a knave
To ride with such a lady.'

'Dog, thou liest.
I spring from loftier lineage than thine own.'
He spake; and all at fiery speed the two
Shocked on the central bridge, and either spear
Bent but not brake, and either knight at once,
Hurled as a stone from out of a catapult
Beyond his horse's crupper and the bridge,
Fell, as if dead; but quickly rose and drew,
And Gareth lashed so fiercely with his brand
He drave his enemy backward down the bridge,
The damsel crying, 'Well-stricken, kitchen-knave!'
Till Gareth's shield was cloven; but one stroke
Laid him that clove it grovelling on the ground.

Then cried the fallen, 'Take not my life: I yield.'
And Gareth, 'So this damsel ask it of me
Good--I accord it easily as a grace.'
She reddening, 'Insolent scullion: I of thee?
I bound to thee for any favour asked!'
'Then he shall die.' And Gareth there unlaced
His helmet as to slay him, but she shrieked,
'Be not so hardy, scullion, as to slay
One nobler than thyself.' 'Damsel, thy charge
Is an abounding pleasure to me. Knight,
Thy life is thine at her command. Arise
And quickly pass to Arthur's hall, and say
His kitchen-knave hath sent thee. See thou crave
His pardon for thy breaking of his laws.
Myself, when I return, will plead for thee.
Thy shield is mine--farewell; and, damsel, thou,
Lead, and I follow.'

And fast away she fled.
Then when he came upon her, spake, 'Methought,
Knave, when I watched thee striking on the bridge
The savour of thy kitchen came upon me
A little faintlier: but the wind hath changed:
I scent it twenty-fold.' And then she sang,
'"O morning star" (not that tall felon there
Whom thou by sorcery or unhappiness
Or some device, hast foully overthrown),
"O morning star that smilest in the blue,
O star, my morning dream hath proven true,
Smile sweetly, thou! my love hath smiled on me."

'But thou begone, take counsel, and away,
For hard by here is one that guards a ford--
The second brother in their fool's parable--
Will pay thee all thy wages, and to boot.
Care not for shame: thou art not knight but knave.'

To whom Sir Gareth answered, laughingly,
'Parables? Hear a parable of the knave.
When I was kitchen-knave among the rest
Fierce was the hearth, and one of my co-mates
Owned a rough dog, to whom he cast his coat,
"Guard it," and there was none to meddle with it.
And such a coat art thou, and thee the King
Gave me to guard, and such a dog am I,
To worry, and not to flee--and--knight or knave--
The knave that doth thee service as full knight
Is all as good, meseems, as any knight
Toward thy sister's freeing.'

'Ay, Sir Knave!
Ay, knave, because thou strikest as a knight,
Being but knave, I hate thee all the more.'

'Fair damsel, you should worship me the more,
That, being but knave, I throw thine enemies.'

'Ay, ay,' she said, 'but thou shalt meet thy match.'

So when they touched the second river-loop,
Huge on a huge red horse, and all in mail
Burnished to blinding, shone the Noonday Sun
Beyond a raging shallow. As if the flower,
That blows a globe of after arrowlets,
Ten thousand-fold had grown, flashed the fierce shield,
All sun; and Gareth's eyes had flying blots
Before them when he turned from watching him.
He from beyond the roaring shallow roared,
'What doest thou, brother, in my marches here?'
And she athwart the shallow shrilled again,
'Here is a kitchen-knave from Arthur's hall
Hath overthrown thy brother, and hath his arms.'
'Ugh!' cried the Sun, and vizoring up a red
And cipher face of rounded foolishness,
Pushed horse across the foamings of the ford,
Whom Gareth met midstream: no room was there
For lance or tourney-skill: four strokes they struck
With sword, and these were mighty; the new knight
Had fear he might be shamed; but as the Sun
Heaved up a ponderous arm to strike the fifth,
The hoof of his horse slipt in the stream, the stream
Descended, and the Sun was washed away.

Then Gareth laid his lance athwart the ford;
So drew him home; but he that fought no more,
As being all bone-battered on the rock,
Yielded; and Gareth sent him to the King,
'Myself when I return will plead for thee.'
'Lead, and I follow.' Quietly she led.
'Hath not the good wind, damsel, changed again?'
'Nay, not a point: nor art thou victor here.
There lies a ridge of slate across the ford;
His horse thereon stumbled--ay, for I saw it.

'"O Sun" (not this strong fool whom thou, Sir Knave,
Hast overthrown through mere unhappiness),
"O Sun, that wakenest all to bliss or pain,
O moon, that layest all to sleep again,
Shine sweetly: twice my love hath smiled on me."

What knowest thou of lovesong or of love?
Nay, nay, God wot, so thou wert nobly born,
Thou hast a pleasant presence. Yea, perchance,--

'"O dewy flowers that open to the sun,
O dewy flowers that close when day is done,
Blow sweetly: twice my love hath smiled on me."

'What knowest thou of flowers, except, belike,
To garnish meats with? hath not our good King
Who lent me thee, the flower of kitchendom,
A foolish love for flowers? what stick ye round
The pasty? wherewithal deck the boar's head?
Flowers? nay, the boar hath rosemaries and bay.

'"O birds, that warble to the morning sky,
O birds that warble as the day goes by,
Sing sweetly: twice my love hath smiled on me."

'What knowest thou of birds, lark, mavis, merle,
Linnet? what dream ye when they utter forth
May-music growing with the growing light,
Their sweet sun-worship? these be for the snare
(So runs thy fancy) these be for the spit,
Larding and basting. See thou have not now
Larded thy last, except thou turn and fly.
There stands the third fool of their allegory.'

For there beyond a bridge of treble bow,
All in a rose-red from the west, and all
Naked it seemed, and glowing in the broad
Deep-dimpled current underneath, the knight,
That named himself the Star of Evening, stood.

And Gareth, 'Wherefore waits the madman there
Naked in open dayshine?' 'Nay,' she cried,
'Not naked, only wrapt in hardened skins
That fit him like his own; and so ye cleave
His armour off him, these will turn the blade.'

Then the third brother shouted o'er the bridge,
'O brother-star, why shine ye here so low?
Thy ward is higher up: but have ye slain
The damsel's champion?' and the damsel cried,

'No star of thine, but shot from Arthur's heaven
With all disaster unto thine and thee!
For both thy younger brethren have gone down
Before this youth; and so wilt thou, Sir Star;
Art thou not old?'
'Old, damsel, old and hard,
Old, with the might and breath of twenty boys.'
Said Gareth, 'Old, and over-bold in brag!
But that same strength which threw the Morning Star
Can throw the Evening.'

Then that other blew
A hard and deadly note upon the horn.
'Approach and arm me!' With slow steps from out
An old storm-beaten, russet, many-stained
Pavilion, forth a grizzled damsel came,
And armed him in old arms, and brought a helm
With but a drying evergreen for crest,
And gave a shield whereon the Star of Even
Half-tarnished and half-bright, his emblem, shone.
But when it glittered o'er the saddle-bow,
They madly hurled together on the bridge;
And Gareth overthrew him, lighted, drew,
There met him drawn, and overthrew him again,
But up like fire he started: and as oft
As Gareth brought him grovelling on his knees,
So many a time he vaulted up again;
Till Gareth panted hard, and his great heart,
Foredooming all his trouble was in vain,
Laboured within him, for he seemed as one
That all in later, sadder age begins
To war against ill uses of a life,
But these from all his life arise, and cry,
'Thou hast made us lords, and canst not put us down!'
He half despairs; so Gareth seemed to strike
Vainly, the damsel clamouring all the while,
'Well done, knave-knight, well-stricken, O good knight-knave--
O knave, as noble as any of all the knights--
Shame me not, shame me not. I have prophesied--
Strike, thou art worthy of the Table Round--
His arms are old, he trusts the hardened skin--
Strike--strike--the wind will never change again.'
And Gareth hearing ever stronglier smote,
And hewed great pieces of his armour off him,
But lashed in vain against the hardened skin,
And could not wholly bring him under, more
Than loud Southwesterns, rolling ridge on ridge,
The buoy that rides at sea, and dips and springs
For ever; till at length Sir Gareth's brand
Clashed his, and brake it utterly to the hilt.
'I have thee now;' but forth that other sprang,
And, all unknightlike, writhed his wiry arms
Around him, till he felt, despite his mail,
Strangled, but straining even his uttermost
Cast, and so hurled him headlong o'er the bridge
Down to the river, sink or swim, and cried,
'Lead, and I follow.'

But the damsel said,
'I lead no longer; ride thou at my side;
Thou art the kingliest of all kitchen-knaves.

'"O trefoil, sparkling on the rainy plain,
O rainbow with three colours after rain,
Shine sweetly: thrice my love hath smiled on me."

'Sir,--and, good faith, I fain had added--Knight,
But that I heard thee call thyself a knave,--
Shamed am I that I so rebuked, reviled,
Missaid thee; noble I am; and thought the King
Scorned me and mine; and now thy pardon, friend,
For thou hast ever answered courteously,
And wholly bold thou art, and meek withal
As any of Arthur's best, but, being knave,
Hast mazed my wit: I marvel what thou art.'

'Damsel,' he said, 'you be not all to blame,
Saving that you mistrusted our good King
Would handle scorn, or yield you, asking, one
Not fit to cope your quest. You said your say;
Mine answer was my deed. Good sooth! I hold
He scarce is knight, yea but half-man, nor meet
To fight for gentle damsel, he, who lets
His heart be stirred with any foolish heat
At any gentle damsel's waywardness.
Shamed? care not! thy foul sayings fought for me:
And seeing now thy words are fair, methinks
There rides no knight, not Lancelot, his great self,
Hath force to quell me.'
Nigh upon that hour
When the lone hern forgets his melancholy,
Lets down his other leg, and stretching, dreams
Of goodly supper in the distant pool,
Then turned the noble damsel smiling at him,
And told him of a cavern hard at hand,
Where bread and baken meats and good red wine
Of Southland, which the Lady Lyonors
Had sent her coming champion, waited him.

Anon they past a narrow comb wherein
Where slabs of rock with figures, knights on horse
Sculptured, and deckt in slowly-waning hues.
'Sir Knave, my knight, a hermit once was here,
Whose holy hand hath fashioned on the rock
The war of Time against the soul of man.
And yon four fools have sucked their allegory
From these damp walls, and taken but the form.
Know ye not these?' and Gareth lookt and read--
In letters like to those the vexillary
Hath left crag-carven o'er the streaming Gelt--
'PHOSPHORUS,' then 'MERIDIES'--'HESPERUS'--
'NOX'--'MORS,' beneath five figures, armd men,
Slab after slab, their faces forward all,
And running down the Soul, a Shape that fled
With broken wings, torn raiment and loose hair,
For help and shelter to the hermit's cave.
'Follow the faces, and we find it. Look,
Who comes behind?'

For one--delayed at first
Through helping back the dislocated Kay
To Camelot, then by what thereafter chanced,
The damsel's headlong error through the wood--
Sir Lancelot, having swum the river-loops--
His blue shield-lions covered--softly drew
Behind the twain, and when he saw the star
Gleam, on Sir Gareth's turning to him, cried,
'Stay, felon knight, I avenge me for my friend.'
And Gareth crying pricked against the cry;
But when they closed--in a moment--at one touch
Of that skilled spear, the wonder of the world--
Went sliding down so easily, and fell,
That when he found the grass within his hands
He laughed; the laughter jarred upon Lynette:
Harshly she asked him, 'Shamed and overthrown,
And tumbled back into the kitchen-knave,
Why laugh ye? that ye blew your boast in vain?'
'Nay, noble damsel, but that I, the son
Of old King Lot and good Queen Bellicent,
And victor of the bridges and the ford,
And knight of Arthur, here lie thrown by whom
I know not, all through mere unhappiness--
Device and sorcery and unhappiness--
Out, sword; we are thrown!' And Lancelot answered, 'Prince,
O Gareth--through the mere unhappiness
Of one who came to help thee, not to harm,
Lancelot, and all as glad to find thee whole,
As on the day when Arthur knighted him.'

Then Gareth, 'Thou--Lancelot!--thine the hand
That threw me? An some chance to mar the boast
Thy brethren of thee make--which could not chance--
Had sent thee down before a lesser spear,
Shamed had I been, and sad--O Lancelot--thou!'

Whereat the maiden, petulant, 'Lancelot,
Why came ye not, when called? and wherefore now
Come ye, not called? I gloried in my knave,
Who being still rebuked, would answer still
Courteous as any knight--but now, if knight,
The marvel dies, and leaves me fooled and tricked,
And only wondering wherefore played upon:
And doubtful whether I and mine be scorned.
Where should be truth if not in Arthur's hall,
In Arthur's presence? Knight, knave, prince and fool,
I hate thee and for ever.'

And Lancelot said,
'Blessd be thou, Sir Gareth! knight art thou
To the King's best wish. O damsel, be you wise
To call him shamed, who is but overthrown?
Thrown have I been, nor once, but many a time.
Victor from vanquished issues at the last,
And overthrower from being overthrown.
With sword we have not striven; and thy good horse
And thou are weary; yet not less I felt
Thy manhood through that wearied lance of thine.
Well hast thou done; for all the stream is freed,
And thou hast wreaked his justice on his foes,
And when reviled, hast answered graciously,
And makest merry when overthrown. Prince, Knight
Hail, Knight and Prince, and of our Table Round!'

And then when turning to Lynette he told
The tale of Gareth, petulantly she said,
'Ay well--ay well--for worse than being fooled
Of others, is to fool one's self. A cave,
Sir Lancelot, is hard by, with meats and drinks
And forage for the horse, and flint for fire.
But all about it flies a honeysuckle.
Seek, till we find.' And when they sought and found,
Sir Gareth drank and ate, and all his life
Past into sleep; on whom the maiden gazed.
'Sound sleep be thine! sound cause to sleep hast thou.
Wake lusty! Seem I not as tender to him
As any mother? Ay, but such a one
As all day long hath rated at her child,
And vext his day, but blesses him asleep--
Good lord, how sweetly smells the honeysuckle
In the hushed night, as if the world were one
Of utter peace, and love, and gentleness!
O Lancelot, Lancelot'--and she clapt her hands--
'Full merry am I to find my goodly knave
Is knight and noble. See now, sworn have I,
Else yon black felon had not let me pass,
To bring thee back to do the battle with him.
Thus an thou goest, he will fight thee first;
Who doubts thee victor? so will my knight-knave
Miss the full flower of this accomplishment.'

Said Lancelot, 'Peradventure he, you name,
May know my shield. Let Gareth, an he will,
Change his for mine, an

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Ode On The Insurrection In Candia

STR. 1

I laid my laurel-leaf
At the white feet of grief,
Seeing how with covered face and plumeless wings,
With unreverted head
Veiled, as who mourns his dead,
Lay Freedom couched between the thrones of kings,
A wearied lion without lair,
And bleeding from base wounds, and vexed with alien air.

STR. 2

Who was it, who, put poison to thy mouth,
Who lulled with craft or chant thy vigilant eyes,
O light of all men, lamp to north and south,
Eastward and westward, under all men's skies?
For if thou sleep, we perish, and thy name
Dies with the dying of our ephemeral breath;
And if the dust of death o'ergrows thy flame,
Heaven also is darkened with the dust of death.
If thou be mortal, if thou change or cease,
If thine hand fail, or thine eyes turn from Greece,
Thy firstborn, and the firstfruits of thy fame,
God is no God, and man is moulded out of shame.

STR. 3

Is there change in the secret skies,
In the sacred places that see
The divine beginning of things,
The weft of the web of the world?
Is Freedom a worm that dies,
And God no God of the free?
Is heaven like as earth with her kings
And time as a serpent curled
Round life as a tree?

From the steel-bound snows of the north,
From the mystic mother, the east,
From the sands of the fiery south,
From the low-lit clouds of the west,
A sound of a cry is gone forth;
Arise, stand up from the feast,
Let wine be far from the mouth,
Let no man sleep or take rest,
Till the plague hath ceased.

Let none rejoice or make mirth
Till the evil thing be stayed,
Nor grief be lulled in the lute,
Nor hope be loud on the lyre;
Let none be glad upon earth.
O music of young man and maid,
O songs of the bride, be mute.
For the light of her eyes, her desire,
Is the soul dismayed.

It is not a land new-born
That is scourged of a stranger's hand,
That is rent and consumed with flame.
We have known it of old, this face,
With the cheeks and the tresses torn,
With shame on the brow as a brand.
We have named it of old by name,
The land of the royallest race,
The most holy land.

STR. 4

Had I words of fire,
Whose words are weak as snow;
Were my heart a lyre
Whence all its love might flow
In the mighty modulations of desire,
In the notes wherewith man's passion worships woe;

Could my song release
The thought weak words confine,
And my grief, O Greece,
Prove how it worships thine;
It would move with pulse of war the limbs of peace,
Till she flushed and trembled and became divine.

(Once she held for true
This truth of sacred strain;
Though blood drip like dew
And life run down like rain,
It is better that war spare but one or two
Than that many live, and liberty be slain.)

Then with fierce increase
And bitter mother's mirth,
From the womb of peace,
A womb that yearns for birth,
As a man-child should deliverance come to Greece,
As a saviour should the child be born on earth.

STR. 5

O that these my days had been
Ere white peace and shame were wed
Without torch or dancers' din
Round the unsacred marriage-bed!
For of old the sweet-tongued law,
Freedom, clothed with all men's love,
Girt about with all men's awe,
With the wild war-eagle mated
The white breast of peace the dove,
And his ravenous heart abated
And his windy wings were furled
In an eyrie consecrated
Where the snakes of strife uncurled,
And her soul was soothed and sated
With the welfare of the world.

ANT. 1

But now, close-clad with peace,
While war lays hand on Greece,
The kingdoms and their kings stand by to see;
"Aha, we are strong," they say,
"We are sure, we are well," even they;
"And if we serve, what ails ye to be free?
We are warm, clothed round with peace and shame;
But ye lie dead and naked, dying for a name."

ANT. 2

O kings and queens and nations miserable,
O fools and blind, and full of sins and fears,
With these it is, with you it is not well;
Ye have one hour, but these the immortal years.
These for a pang, a breath, a pulse of pain,
Have honour, while that honour on earth shall be:
Ye for a little sleep and sloth shall gain
Scorn, while one man of all men born is free.
Even as the depth more deep than night or day,
The sovereign heaven that keeps its eldest way,
So without chance or change, so without stain,
The heaven of their high memories shall nor wax nor wane.

ANT. 3

As the soul on the lips of the dead
Stands poising her wings for flight,
A bird scarce quit of her prison,
But fair without form or flesh,
So stands over each man's head
A splendour of imminent light,
A glory of fame rearisen,
Of day rearisen afresh
From the hells of night.

In the hundred cities of Crete
Such glory was not of old,
Though her name was great upon earth
And her face was fair on the sea.
The words of her lips were sweet,
Her days were woven with gold,
Her fruits came timely to birth;
So fair she was, being free,
Who is bought and sold.

So fair, who is fairer now
With her children dead at her side,
Unsceptred, unconsecrated,
Unapparelled, unhelped, unpitied,
With blood for gold on her brow,
Where the towery tresses divide;
The goodly, the golden-gated,
Many-crowned, many-named, many-citied,
Made like as a bride.

And these are the bridegroom's gifts;
Anguish that straitens the breath,
Shame, and the weeping of mothers,
And the suckling dead at the breast,
White breast that a long sob lifts;
And the dumb dead mouth, which saith,
How long, and how long, my brothers?"
And wrath which endures not rest,
And the pains of death.

ANT. 4

Ah, but would that men,
With eyelids purged by tears,
Saw, and heard again
With consecrated ears,
All the clamour, all the splendour, all the slain,
All the lights and sounds of war, the fates and fears;

Saw far off aspire,
With crash of mine and gate,
From a single pyre
The myriad flames of fate,
Soul by soul transfigured in funereal fire,
Hate made weak by love, and love made strong by hate.

Children without speech,
And many a nursing breast;
Old men in the breach,
Where death sat down a guest;
With triumphant lamentation made for each,
Let the world salute their ruin and their rest.

In one iron hour
The crescent flared and waned,
As from tower to tower,
Fire-scathed and sanguine-stained,
Death, with flame in hand, an open bloodred flower,
Passed, and where it bloomed no bloom of life remained.

ANT. 5

Hear, thou earth, the heavy-hearted
Weary nurse of waning races;
From the dust of years departed,
From obscure funereal places,
Raise again thy sacred head,
Lift the light up of thine eyes
Where are they of all thy dead
That did more than these men dying
In their godlike Grecian wise?
Not with garments rent and sighing,
Neither gifts of myrrh and gold,
Shall their sons lament them lying,
Lest the fame of them wax cold;
But with lives to lives replying,
And a worship from of old.

EPODE

O sombre heart of earth and swoln with grief,
That in thy time wast as a bird for mirth,
Dim womb of life and many a seed and sheaf,
And full of changes, ancient heart of earth,
From grain and flower, from grass and every leaf,
Thy mysteries and thy multitudes of birth,
From hollow and hill, from vales and all thy springs,
From all shapes born and breath of all lips made,
From thunders, and the sound of winds and wings,
From light, and from the solemn sleep of shade,
From the full fountains of all living things,
Speak, that this plague be stayed.
Bear witness all the ways of death and life
If thou be with us in the world's old strife,
If thou be mother indeed,
And from these wounds that bleed
Gather in thy great breast the dews that fall,
And on thy sacred knees
Lull with mute melodies,
Mother, thy sleeping sons in death's dim hall.
For these thy sons, behold,
Sons of thy sons of old,
Bear witness if these be not as they were;
If that high name of Greece
Depart, dissolve, decease
From mouths of men and memories like as air.
By the last milk that drips
Dead on the child's dead lips,
By old men's white unviolated hair,
By sweet unburied faces
That fill those red high places
Where death and freedom found one lion's lair,
By all the bloodred tears
That fill the chaliced years,
The vessels of the sacrament of time,
Wherewith, O thou most holy,
O Freedom, sure and slowly
Thy ministrant white hands cleanse earth of crime;
Though we stand off afar
Where slaves and slaveries are,
Among the chains and crowns of poisonous peace;
Though not the beams that shone
From rent Arcadion
Can melt her mists and bid her snows decrease;
Do thou with sudden wings
Darken the face of kings,
But turn again the beauty of thy brows on Greece;
Thy white and woundless brows,
Whereto her great heart bows;
Give her the glories of thine eyes to see;
Turn thee, O holiest head,
Toward all thy quick and dead,
For love's sake of the souls that cry for thee;
O love, O light, O flame,
By thine own Grecian name,
We call thee and we charge thee that all these be free.

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The Princess (part 6)

My dream had never died or lived again.
As in some mystic middle state I lay;
Seeing I saw not, hearing not I heard:
Though, if I saw not, yet they told me all
So often that I speak as having seen.

For so it seemed, or so they said to me,
That all things grew more tragic and more strange;
That when our side was vanquished and my cause
For ever lost, there went up a great cry,
The Prince is slain. My father heard and ran
In on the lists, and there unlaced my casque
And grovelled on my body, and after him
Came Psyche, sorrowing for Aglaïa.
But high upon the palace Ida stood
With Psyche's babe in arm: there on the roofs
Like that great dame of Lapidoth she sang.


'Our enemies have fallen, have fallen: the seed,
The little seed they laughed at in the dark,
Has risen and cleft the soil, and grown a bulk
Of spanless girth, that lays on every side
A thousand arms and rushes to the Sun.

'Our enemies have fallen, have fallen: they came;
The leaves were wet with women's tears: they heard
A noise of songs they would not understand:
They marked it with the red cross to the fall,
And would have strown it, and are fallen themselves.

'Our enemies have fallen, have fallen: they came,
The woodmen with their axes: lo the tree!
But we will make it faggots for the hearth,
And shape it plank and beam for roof and floor,
And boats and bridges for the use of men.

'Our enemies have fallen, have fallen: they struck;
With their own blows they hurt themselves, nor knew
There dwelt an iron nature in the grain:
The glittering axe was broken in their arms,
Their arms were shattered to the shoulder blade.

'Our enemies have fallen, but this shall grow
A night of Summer from the heat, a breadth
Of Autumn, dropping fruits of power: and rolled
With music in the growing breeze of Time,
The tops shall strike from star to star, the fangs
Shall move the stony bases of the world.

'And now, O maids, behold our sanctuary
Is violate, our laws broken: fear we not
To break them more in their behoof, whose arms
Championed our cause and won it with a day
Blanched in our annals, and perpetual feast,
When dames and heroines of the golden year
Shall strip a hundred hollows bare of Spring,
To rain an April of ovation round
Their statues, borne aloft, the three: but come,
We will be liberal, since our rights are won.
Let them not lie in the tents with coarse mankind,
Ill nurses; but descend, and proffer these
The brethren of our blood and cause, that there
Lie bruised and maimed, the tender ministries
Of female hands and hospitality.'

She spoke, and with the babe yet in her arms,
Descending, burst the great bronze valves, and led
A hundred maids in train across the Park.
Some cowled, and some bare-headed, on they came,
Their feet in flowers, her loveliest: by them went
The enamoured air sighing, and on their curls
From the high tree the blossom wavering fell,
And over them the tremulous isles of light
Slided, they moving under shade: but Blanche
At distance followed: so they came: anon
Through open field into the lists they wound
Timorously; and as the leader of the herd
That holds a stately fretwork to the Sun,
And followed up by a hundred airy does,
Steps with a tender foot, light as on air,
The lovely, lordly creature floated on
To where her wounded brethren lay; there stayed;
Knelt on one knee,--the child on one,--and prest
Their hands, and called them dear deliverers,
And happy warriors, and immortal names,
And said 'You shall not lie in the tents but here,
And nursed by those for whom you fought, and served
With female hands and hospitality.'

Then, whether moved by this, or was it chance,
She past my way. Up started from my side
The old lion, glaring with his whelpless eye,
Silent; but when she saw me lying stark,
Dishelmed and mute, and motionlessly pale,
Cold even to her, she sighed; and when she saw
The haggard father's face and reverend beard
Of grisly twine, all dabbled with the blood
Of his own son, shuddered, a twitch of pain
Tortured her mouth, and o'er her forehead past
A shadow, and her hue changed, and she said:
'He saved my life: my brother slew him for it.'
No more: at which the king in bitter scorn
Drew from my neck the painting and the tress,
And held them up: she saw them, and a day
Rose from the distance on her memory,
When the good Queen, her mother, shore the tress
With kisses, ere the days of Lady Blanche:
And then once more she looked at my pale face:
Till understanding all the foolish work
Of Fancy, and the bitter close of all,
Her iron will was broken in her mind;
Her noble heart was molten in her breast;
She bowed, she set the child on the earth; she laid
A feeling finger on my brows, and presently
'O Sire,' she said, 'he lives: he is not dead:
O let me have him with my brethren here
In our own palace: we will tend on him
Like one of these; if so, by any means,
To lighten this great clog of thanks, that make
Our progress falter to the woman's goal.'

She said: but at the happy word 'he lives'
My father stooped, re-fathered o'er my wounds.
So those two foes above my fallen life,
With brow to brow like night and evening mixt
Their dark and gray, while Psyche ever stole
A little nearer, till the babe that by us,
Half-lapt in glowing gauze and golden brede,
Lay like a new-fallen meteor on the grass,
Uncared for, spied its mother and began
A blind and babbling laughter, and to dance
Its body, and reach its fatling innocent arms
And lazy lingering fingers. She the appeal
Brooked not, but clamouring out 'Mine--mine--not yours,
It is not yours, but mine: give me the child'
Ceased all on tremble: piteous was the cry:
So stood the unhappy mother open-mouthed,
And turned each face her way: wan was her cheek
With hollow watch, her blooming mantle torn,
Red grief and mother's hunger in her eye,
And down dead-heavy sank her curls, and half
The sacred mother's bosom, panting, burst
The laces toward her babe; but she nor cared
Nor knew it, clamouring on, till Ida heard,
Looked up, and rising slowly from me, stood
Erect and silent, striking with her glance
The mother, me, the child; but he that lay
Beside us, Cyril, battered as he was,
Trailed himself up on one knee: then he drew
Her robe to meet his lips, and down she looked
At the armed man sideways, pitying as it seemed,
Or self-involved; but when she learnt his face,
Remembering his ill-omened song, arose
Once more through all her height, and o'er him grew
Tall as a figure lengthened on the sand
When the tide ebbs in sunshine, and he said:

'O fair and strong and terrible! Lioness
That with your long locks play the Lion's mane!
But Love and Nature, these are two more terrible
And stronger. See, your foot is on our necks,
We vanquished, you the Victor of your will.
What would you more? Give her the child! remain
Orbed in your isolation: he is dead,
Or all as dead: henceforth we let you be:
Win you the hearts of women; and beware
Lest, where you seek the common love of these,
The common hate with the revolving wheel
Should drag you down, and some great Nemesis
Break from a darkened future, crowned with fire,
And tread you out for ever: but howso'er
Fixed in yourself, never in your own arms
To hold your own, deny not hers to her,
Give her the child! O if, I say, you keep
One pulse that beats true woman, if you loved
The breast that fed or arm that dandled you,
Or own one port of sense not flint to prayer,
Give her the child! or if you scorn to lay it,
Yourself, in hands so lately claspt with yours,
Or speak to her, your dearest, her one fault,
The tenderness, not yours, that could not kill,
Give ~me~ it: ~I~ will give it her.
He said:
At first her eye with slow dilation rolled
Dry flame, she listening; after sank and sank
And, into mournful twilight mellowing, dwelt
Full on the child; she took it: 'Pretty bud!
Lily of the vale! half opened bell of the woods!
Sole comfort of my dark hour, when a world
Of traitorous friend and broken system made
No purple in the distance, mystery,
Pledge of a love not to be mine, farewell;
These men are hard upon us as of old,
We two must part: and yet how fain was I
To dream thy cause embraced in mine, to think
I might be something to thee, when I felt
Thy helpless warmth about my barren breast
In the dead prime: but may thy mother prove
As true to thee as false, false, false to me!
And, if thou needs must needs bear the yoke, I wish it
Gentle as freedom'--here she kissed it: then--
'All good go with thee! take it Sir,' and so
Laid the soft babe in his hard-mailèd hands,
Who turned half-round to Psyche as she sprang
To meet it, with an eye that swum in thanks;
Then felt it sound and whole from head to foot,
And hugged and never hugged it close enough,
And in her hunger mouthed and mumbled it,
And hid her bosom with it; after that
Put on more calm and added suppliantly:

'We two were friends: I go to mine own land
For ever: find some other: as for me
I scarce am fit for your great plans: yet speak to me,
Say one soft word and let me part forgiven.'

But Ida spoke not, rapt upon the child.
Then Arac. 'Ida--'sdeath! you blame the man;
You wrong yourselves--the woman is so hard
Upon the woman. Come, a grace to me!
I am your warrior: I and mine have fought
Your battle: kiss her; take her hand, she weeps:
'Sdeath! I would sooner fight thrice o'er than see it.'

But Ida spoke not, gazing on the ground,
And reddening in the furrows of his chin,
And moved beyond his custom, Gama said:

'I've heard that there is iron in the blood,
And I believe it. Not one word? not one?
Whence drew you this steel temper? not from me,
Not from your mother, now a saint with saints.
She said you had a heart--I heard her say it--
"Our Ida has a heart"--just ere she died--
"But see that some on with authority
Be near her still" and I--I sought for one--
All people said she had authority--
The Lady Blanche: much profit! Not one word;
No! though your father sues: see how you stand
Stiff as Lot's wife, and all the good knights maimed,
I trust that there is no one hurt to death,
For our wild whim: and was it then for this,
Was it for this we gave our palace up,
Where we withdrew from summer heats and state,
And had our wine and chess beneath the planes,
And many a pleasant hour with her that's gone,
Ere you were born to vex us? Is it kind?
Speak to her I say: is this not she of whom,
When first she came, all flushed you said to me
Now had you got a friend of your own age,
Now could you share your thought; now should men see
Two women faster welded in one love
Than pairs of wedlock; she you walked with, she
You talked with, whole nights long, up in the tower,
Of sine and arc, spheroïd and azimuth,
And right ascension, Heaven knows what; and now
A word, but one, one little kindly word,
Not one to spare her: out upon you, flint!
You love nor her, nor me, nor any; nay,
You shame your mother's judgment too. Not one?
You will not? well--no heart have you, or such
As fancies like the vermin in a nut
Have fretted all to dust and bitterness.'
So said the small king moved beyond his wont.

But Ida stood nor spoke, drained of her force
By many a varying influence and so long.
Down through her limbs a drooping languor wept:
Her head a little bent; and on her mouth
A doubtful smile dwelt like a clouded moon
In a still water: then brake out my sire,
Lifted his grim head from my wounds. 'O you,
Woman, whom we thought woman even now,
And were half fooled to let you tend our son,
Because he might have wished it--but we see,
The accomplice of your madness unforgiven,
And think that you might mix his draught with death,
When your skies change again: the rougher hand
Is safer: on to the tents: take up the Prince.'

He rose, and while each ear was pricked to attend
A tempest, through the cloud that dimmed her broke
A genial warmth and light once more, and shone
Through glittering drops on her sad friend.
'Come hither.
O Psyche,' she cried out, 'embrace me, come,
Quick while I melt; make reconcilement sure
With one that cannot keep her mind an hour:
Come to the hollow hear they slander so!
Kiss and be friends, like children being chid!
~I~ seem no more: ~I~ want forgiveness too:
I should have had to do with none but maids,
That have no links with men. Ah false but dear,
Dear traitor, too much loved, why?--why?--Yet see,
Before these kings we embrace you yet once more
With all forgiveness, all oblivion,
And trust, not love, you less.
And now, O sire,
Grant me your son, to nurse, to wait upon him,
Like mine own brother. For my debt to him,
This nightmare weight of gratitude, I know it;
Taunt me no more: yourself and yours shall have
Free adit; we will scatter all our maids
Till happier times each to her proper hearth:
What use to keep them here--now? grant my prayer.
Help, father, brother, help; speak to the king:
Thaw this male nature to some touch of that
Which kills me with myself, and drags me down
From my fixt height to mob me up with all
The soft and milky rabble of womankind,
Poor weakling even as they are.'
Passionate tears
Followed: the king replied not: Cyril said:
'Your brother, Lady,--Florian,--ask for him
Of your great head--for he is wounded too--
That you may tend upon him with the prince.'
'Ay so,' said Ida with a bitter smile,
'Our laws are broken: let him enter too.'
Then Violet, she that sang the mournful song,
And had a cousin tumbled on the plain,
Petitioned too for him. 'Ay so,' she said,
'I stagger in the stream: I cannot keep
My heart an eddy from the brawling hour:
We break our laws with ease, but let it be.'
'Ay so?' said Blanche: 'Amazed am I to her
Your Highness: but your Highness breaks with ease
The law your Highness did not make: 'twas I.
I had been wedded wife, I knew mankind,
And blocked them out; but these men came to woo
Your Highness--verily I think to win.'

So she, and turned askance a wintry eye:
But Ida with a voice, that like a bell
Tolled by an earthquake in a trembling tower,
Rang ruin, answered full of grief and scorn.

'Fling our doors wide! all, all, not one, but all,
Not only he, but by my mother's soul,
Whatever man lies wounded, friend or foe,
Shall enter, if he will. Let our girls flit,
Till the storm die! but had you stood by us,
The roar that breaks the Pharos from his base
Had left us rock. She fain would sting us too,
But shall not. Pass, and mingle with your likes.
We brook no further insult but are gone.'
She turned; the very nape of her white neck
Was rosed with indignation: but the Prince
Her brother came; the king her father charmed
Her wounded soul with words: nor did mine own
Refuse her proffer, lastly gave his hand.

Then us they lifted up, dead weights, and bare
Straight to the doors: to them the doors gave way
Groaning, and in the Vestal entry shrieked
The virgin marble under iron heels:
And on they moved and gained the hall, and there
Rested: but great the crush was, and each base,
To left and right, of those tall columns drowned
In silken fluctuation and the swarm
Of female whisperers: at the further end
Was Ida by the throne, the two great cats
Close by her, like supporters on a shield,
Bow-backed with fear: but in the centre stood
The common men with rolling eyes; amazed
They glared upon the women, and aghast
The women stared at these, all silent, save
When armour clashed or jingled, while the day,
Descending, struck athwart the hall, and shot
A flying splendour out of brass and steel,
That o'er the statues leapt from head to head,
Now fired an angry Pallas on the helm,
Now set a wrathful Dian's moon on flame,
And now and then an echo started up,
And shuddering fled from room to room, and died
Of fright in far apartments.
Then the voice
Of Ida sounded, issuing ordinance:
And me they bore up the broad stairs, and through
The long-laid galleries past a hundred doors
To one deep chamber shut from sound, and due
To languid limbs and sickness; left me in it;
And others otherwhere they laid; and all
That afternoon a sound arose of hoof
And chariot, many a maiden passing home
Till happier times; but some were left of those
Held sagest, and the great lords out and in,
From those two hosts that lay beside the walls,
Walked at their will, and everything was changed.


Ask me no more: the moon may draw the sea;
The cloud may stoop from heaven and take the shape
With fold to fold, of mountain or of cape;
But O too fond, when have I answered thee?
Ask me no more.

Ask me no more: what answer should I give?
I love not hollow cheek or faded eye:
Yet, O my friend, I will not have thee die!
Ask me no more, lest I should bid thee live;
Ask me no more.

Ask me no more: thy fate and mine are sealed:
I strove against the stream and all in vain:
Let the great river take me to the main:
No more, dear love, for at a touch I yield;
Ask me no more.

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Tired

No not to-night, dear child; I cannot go;
I'm busy, tired; they knew I should not come;
you do not need me there. Dear, be content,
and take your pleasure; you shall tell me of it.
There, go to don your miracles of gauze,
and come and show yourself a great pink cloud.

So, she has gone with half a discontent;
but it will die before her curls are shaped,
and she'll go forth intent on being pleased,
and take her ponderous pastime like the rest--
patient delightedly, prepared to talk
in the right voice for the right length of time
on any thing that anybody names,
prepared to listen with the proper calm
to any song that anybody sings;
wedged in their chairs, all soberness and smiles,
one steady sunshine like an August day:
a band of very placid revellers,
glad to be there but gladder still to go.
She like the rest: it seems so strange to me,
my simple peasant girl, my nature's grace,
one with the others; my wood violet
stuck in a formal rose box at a show.

Well, since it makes her happier. True I thought
the artless girl, come from her cottage home
knowing no world beyond her village streets,
come stranger into our elaborate life
with such a blithe and wondering ignorance
as a young child's who sees new things all day,
would learn it my way and would turn to me
out of the solemn follies "What are these?
why must we live by drill and laugh by drill;
may we not be ourselves then, you and I?"
I thought she would have nestled here by me
"I cannot feign, and let me stay with you."
I thought she would have shed about my life
the unalloyed sweet freshness of the fields
pure from your cloying fashionable musks:
but she "will do what other ladies do"--
my sunburnt Madge I saw, with skirts pinned up,
carrying her father's dinner where he sat
to take his noon-day rest beneath the hedge,
and followed slowly for her clear loud song.

And she did then, she says, as others did
who were her like. 'Tis logical enough:
as every woman lives, (tush! as we all,
following such granted patterns for our souls
as for our hats and coats), she lived by rules
how to be as her neighbours, though I, trained
to my own different code, discerned it not
(mistaking other laws for lawlessness,
like raw and hasty travellers): and now
why should she, in a new world, all unapt
to judge its judgments, take so much on her
she did not in her old world, pick and choose
her pleasures and her tastes, her aims, her faiths,
breaking her smooth path with the thorny points
of upstart questions? She is just a bird
born in a wicker cage and brought away
into a gilded one: she does not pine
to make her nest in uncontrolled far woods,
but, unconceiving freedom, chirrups on,
content to see her prison bars so bright.

Yes, best for her; and, if not best for me,
I've my fault in it too: she's logical,
but what am I, who, having chosen her
for being all unlike the tutored type,
next try and mould her to it--chose indeed
my violet for being not a rose,
then bade it hold itself as roses do,
that passers by may note no difference?
The peasant ways must go, the homely burr,
the quaint strong English--ancient classic turns
mixed up with rustic blunders and misuse,
old grammar shot with daring grammarlessness;
the village belle's quick pertness, toss of head,
and shriek of saucy laughter--graces there,
and which a certain reckless gracefulness,
half hoydenish, half fawnlike, made in her
graces in even my eyes ... there; the ease
of quick companionship; the unsoftened "no's;"
the ready quarrels, ready makings up;
all these must go, I would not have her mocked
among the other women who have learned
sweet level speech and quiet courtesies--
and then they jarred upon me like the noise
of music out of rule, which, heard at first,
took the fresh ear with novel melody,
but makes you restless, listened to too long,
with missing looked for rhythms. So I teach,
or let her learn, the way to speak, to look,
to walk, to sit, to dance, to sing, to laugh,
and then ...... the prized dissimilarity
was outer husk and not essential core:
my wife is just the wife my any friend
selects among my any friend's good girls,
(a duplicate except that here and there
the rendering's faulty or touched in too strong);
my little rugged bit of gold I mined,
cleared from its quartz and dross and pieced for use
with recognized alloy, is minted down
one of a million stamped and current coins.

My poor dear Madge, it half seems treasonous
to let regret touch any thought of you,
loyal and loving to me as you are;
and you are very very dear to me,
I could not spare you, would not change your love
to have the rich ideal of my hope
in any other woman; as you are
I love you, being you. And for the rest,
if I, my theory's too eager fool,
mistook the freedom of blunt ignorance
for one with freedom of the instructed will,
and took yours for a nature made to keep
its hardiness in culture, gaining strength
to be itself more fully; if I looked
for some rare perfectness of natural gifts,
developing not changed, pruned and not dwarfed;
if I believed you would be that to me
so many men have sung by women's names
and known no woman for, where is your fault,
who did but give yourself as you were then,
and with so true a giving? Violet,
whose is the blame if, rooted from your place,
where you grew truly to your natural law,
set by my hand in artificial soil,
bound to unwonted props, whose blame if you
are not quite violet and not quite rose?

She's happy though, I think: she does not bear
the pain of my mistake, and shall not bear;
and she'll not ever guess of a mistake.

Mistake--'tis a hard word. Well let it pass:
it shall not wrong her: for was it in her
or in myself I was mistaken most?
What, I, who have been bold to hurl revolt
at great Queen Bugaboo Society,
did I not teach her suit and service first,
wincing when she infringed some useless law?
do I not wince to-day beside the fire
at every word or gesture she shall use
not scheduled in the warrant what to do?
do I not bid her have the table thus,
assort such viands, use such furniture,
wear such a stuff at morning, such at night,
all to the warrant of Queen Bugaboo,
and feel a something missing when she fails,
a discord setting all my teeth on edge?
Why, what a score of small observances;
mere fashionable tricks, are to my life
the butter on the bread, without which salve
the bit's too coarse to swallow; what a score
of other small observances and tricks,
worn out of fashion or not yet come in,
reek worse than garlic to my pampered taste,
making the wholesomest food too difficult!
And that which in an ancient yesterday
was but some great man's humour is to me
duty by rote to-day. I had not felt
my own life that punctilious copy-book,
writ to stock patterns set to all a school,
I have called usual lives, but my poor Madge
has unawares informed me of myself.

We can no other; 'tis as natural
to men to take this artificial kind
as to the flowers, which, grown in neighbour ranks,
taste the same winds and feed on the same soil,
to take inoculation by the bees
of one another's dyes and be alike
in new unlikeness to their primal types.

Our gift is imitation and to share
the subtle current of all sympathies;
we breathe each other's thoughts, as in a crowd
we breathe each other's breaths, unconsciously;
and if there could be a mere human man
to singly be creator, make the thing
which none has hoped for near him, say the things
which none has thought beside him, were there one
to be the god we claim in our rash word
original, needs were he such a one
as we call savage, one apart in woods
and friendless deserts, planning by himself
some first instinctive art, or questioning
blank ignorance and wonder into thoughts.
And as for us, the men who live in days
when what the West has whispered finds the East
across an ocean in a breath of time;
when the old era's painful manuscripts,
too choice and rare for less than sage's needs,
reach the new era changed to daily showers
of schoolboys' text-books raining from the press;
when we shake hands with our antipodes
for being neighbour to us; when, like streets
of the city where we are burghers, half the world
is our admitted home, the other half
our summer pleasure-grounds outside our walls;
we, who are scholars of all times and lands,
must be content, each several man, to feel
we are no sovereign units each to rule
the small world of himself, but knitted links,
one drawing on the other in a chain--
A bondage say, but have we not its worth,
help, movement, and the chain grows lengthening on
to span the universe? A braggart whim,
were it a possible, if any link,
breaking away from hundreds side by side,
would be a separate spangle.

Yet, alack,
sometimes we links get drawn we know not where,
but think there's mud about us. Still the chain
lies in God's hands, though the sly devil comes
and gives a crooked tug or so at times.

Links in a chain--my metaphor goes well,
convinces me where first I was convinced--
links in a chain, drawing each other on:
but never yet material metaphor
would fit a mind's whole thought, and the hitch comes
where I bid mine good-bye. Links in a chain,
but what of hearts and wills that are in us,
hopes, aims, beliefs? must we go measuring them
Ay "the world says," "so other people think,"
dock our near tastes and natures to the shapes
in common wear, make lay figures of our lives,
as women of their bodies, to be decked
and draped or trimmed and swathed or let go bare
by strict indefinite despots out of sight?
Why, let us have that freedom we accord
inanimate things, to grow each to his kind
and to his best, cattle and servile beasts,
to grow each to his kind and to his best;
but we--oh, monstrous folly--we, designed
each man so much unlike to all men else
as one whole kind of beasts to other kinds,
must train and pattern our reluctant souls
into one liveried sameness!

Oh, I am tired!
tired, tired, of this bland smiling slavery,
monotonous waste of life. And, while we fools
are making curtsies and brave compliments
to our rare century, and, courtierly,
swaddling our strength in trammels of soft silk,
the rotten depths grow rottener. Every day
more crime, more pain, more horror. We are good
no doubt, we "better classes"--oh, we boast
our modern virtues in the dead men's teeth
that were our fathers--we are earnest now,
and charitable, and we wash ourselves,
and have a very fair morality;
most well brought up, in fine, of any men
that any age has nurtured, and besides
so equal in our manners and our coats:
and then the classes which, though bettering,
are not quite better yet, are the most shrewd,
most apt, most honest, most intelligent,
that ever the world saw yet. True all of it
for aught I know, some of it as I think,
but underneath--great God, how many souls
are born an hour as provender for hell!

Oh horrible days! our goodness growing ripe,
a spreading scent of sweets, but with no power
to disinfect the spreading foulnesses;
and by mere birth-rate vice made multiplex!
From the murk lanes, and from the fetid courts,
and from the shameful dens where poverty
hobnobs with wolfish crime, out of the reek
of lust and filth, out of the festering homes
of pestilence and famine, the hoarse cry
grows multitudinous, the cavernous cry
of shame and ignorance hunger and greed
become despair and devilishness ..... And we
gravely thank God for culture and new lights!

Most horrible days: and we who know the worst,
(or dream it, sitting in our easy chairs,
sorry that all men have not easy chairs,)
and would do somewhat, do it all amiss.
We pelt our broad-cast gold into the mire,
then comes a scramble, foul grows fouler yet;
with a Samaritan hand we feed and feed
the daughters of the horseleech, drunkenness
and dissolute idleness, that cry "give, give,"
sucking the lifeblood from our people's heart;
we pension beggars, buy the burglar tools
and the sot gin, and pay the harlot's rent:
societies, committees, vestry rooms,
with fingers in our purses, lavish wealth,
past common counting, to keep up the tale
of pauper legions and bribe new recruits,
sow coin that, like the pestilent dragon's teeth,
bear us a poisonous crop of human harm:
all all endeavours go, like witches' prayers,
backwards against the meaning, and bring down
the counter-curse of blessings that were asked.

What should we do? I know not; but I think
there's moral in a hackneyed classic tale:
when the great gulf still yawned, after the gold
and treasures had been thrown, there came a man
and gave himself, and then the great gulf closed.

But how? how? And I know not; but I think
if the strong pith and freshness of our lives
were not so sucked and dried away, our span
not maimed and dwarfed, our sight not warped untrue,
by eating custom, petty disciplines,
footlight perspectives cramped to suit our stage,
if we were men, not types and portraitures
and imitative shadows, some of us
might learn--

Learn, learn, and if we learned,
saw by what boldness, or what sacrifice,
or what endurance, or what vehemence,
the goal of our beginning might be reached,
the padded skeleton we call the world,
that mumming glib Duessa who usurps
the true world's rule and rights, would trip us up
with half a league of silken barriers
too soft for us to break and breaking us.
Oh, but I know it, I, who time by time,
fierce with the turbulent goodness of my youth,
rushed to the clamourous call of new crusades,
and time by time dropped baffled and worn weak
before a rampart as of dancing pumps,
a wind as if it blew from ladies' fans,
till now I sit a weary man growing old
among the ruins of his purposes,
hopeless of any good to be by him.

Oh, with how full a hope, when morning glowed,
I donned my armour, who at night ride back
foolish and broken! I have set myself
to fight with shadows stronger than a man,
being impalpable and everywhere,
and striking done no hurt but to myself;
and I have ridden at ranks in adamant
and fallen, strained and useless, under foot;
and I have sieged impenetrable walls
and waited day by day till I grew faint;
and never have I triumphed in my cause,
whether it were a great one, or a dream,
a pettish whim, or too divinely large:
for if I strove against contagious ills
cankering the core of us or but at spots
that fleck the smooth gloss of our drawingrooms,
and if I rose to claim some wide desire
of general good or but my own escape
from some small prickings of our social gyves,
always I was against the multitude,
against strong Custom's army plodding on,
unconquerable, calm, like a great stream
whose power is that its waters drift one way.

Tired, tired--grown sick of battle and defeat,
lying in harbour, like a man worn out
by storms, and yet not patient of my rest:
how if I went to some kind southern clime
where, as they say, lost in long summer dreams,
the mind grows careless with sun-drunkenness
and sleeps and wakens softly like a child?
Would Madge be over sorry to come out
into free loneliness with me a while?
clear tints and sunshine, glowing seas and skies,
beauty of mountains and of girdled plains,
the strangeness of new peoples, change and rest,
would these atone to her for so much lost
which she counts precious? For she loves that round
of treadmill ceremonies, mimic tasks,
we make our women's lives--Good heavens what work
to set the creatures to, whom we declare
God purposed for companions to us men...
companions to each other only now,
their business but to waste each other's time.
So much to do among us, and we spend
so many human souls on only this!
in petty actress parts in the long game
(grave foolery like children playing school,
setting themselves hard tasks and punishments,)
that lasts till death and is Society:
the sunlight working hours all chopped and chipped
in stray ten minutes by some score of friends
who, grieved their friend's not out, come rustling in
by ones and twos to say the weather's fine;
or paid away, poor soul, on pilgrimage
reciprocally due to tell them so:
each woman owing tax of half her life
as plaything for the others' careless hours,
each woman setting down her foot to hold
her sister tightly to the tethered round,
will she or nill she: all with rights on each
greater than hers ... and I might say than God's,
since He made work the natural food of minds,
cheated of which they dwindle and go dead
like palsied limbs, and gives to each that sense
of beasts, who know their food, to know its work,
choosing the great or little.

But myself,
have I befooled the instinct by warped use?
for is not the fruit rotten I have found
by all my labours; nothing to the world
and to me bitterness? And I forget
the strong joy of endeavour, and the fire
of hope is burned out in me; all grows dull,
rest is not rest and I am sick of toil:
I count the cost, and--

Ready, love, at last?
Why, what a rosy June! A flush of bloom
sparkling with crystal dews--Ah silly one,
you love these muslin roses better far
than those that wear the natural dew of heaven.
I thought you prettier when, the other day,
the children crowned you with the meadow-sweets:
I like to hear you teach them wild flowers' names
and make them love them; but yourself--

What's that?
"The wild flowers in a room's hot stifling glare
would die in half a minute." True enough:
your muslin roses are the wiser wear.
Well, I must see you start. Draw your hood close:
and are you shawled against this east wind's chills?

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The Earthly Paradise: The Lady of the Land

The ArgumentA certain man having landed on an island in the Greek sea, found there a beautifuldamsel, whom he would fain have delivered from a strange & dreadful doom, butfailing herein, he died soon afterwards.
It happened once, some men of Italy
Midst the Greek Islands went a sea-roving,
And much good fortune had they on the sea:
Of many a man they had the ransoming,
And many a chain they gat and goodly thing;
And midst their voyage to an isle they came,
Whereof my story keepeth not the name.
Now though but little was there left to gain,
Because the richer folk had gone away,
Yet since by this of water they were fain
They came to anchor in a land-locked bay,
Whence in a while some went ashore to play,
Going but lightly armed in twos or threes,
For midst that folk they feared no enemies.

And of these fellows that thus went ashore,
One was there who left all his friends behind;
Who going inland ever more and more,
And being left quite alone, at last did find
A lonely valley sheltered from the wind,
Wherein, amidst an ancient cypress wood,
A long-deserted ruined castle stood.

The wood, once ordered in fair grove and glade,
With gardens overlooked by terraces,
And marble-pavèd pools for pleasure made,
Was tangled now and choked with fallen trees;
And he who went there, with but little ease
Must stumble by the stream's side, once made meet
For tender women's dainty wandering feet.

The raven's croak, the low wind choked and drear,
The baffled stream, the grey wolf's doleful cry,
Were all the sounds that mariner could hear,
As through the wood he wandered painfully;
But as unto the house he drew anigh,
The pillars of a ruined shrine he saw,
The once fair temple of a fallen law.

No image was there left behind to tell
Before whose face the knees of men had bowed;
An altar of black stone, of old wrought well,
Alone beneath a ruined roof now showed
The goal whereto the folk were wont to crowd,
Seeking for things forgotten long ago,
Praying for heads long ages laid a-low.

Close to the temple was the castle-gate,
Doorless and crumbling; there our fellow turned,
Trembling indeed at what might chance to wait
The prey entrapped, yet with a heart that burned
To know the most of what might there be learned,
And hoping somewhat too, amid his fear,
To light on such things as all men hold dear.

Noble the house was, nor seemed built for war,
But rather like the work of other days,
When men, in better peace than now they are,
Had leisure on the world around to gaze,
And noted well the past times' changing ways;
And fair with sculptured stories it was wrought,
By lapse of time unto dim ruin brought.

Now as he looked about on all these things
And strove to read the mouldering histories,
Above the door an image with wide wings,
Whose unclad limbs a serpent seemed to seize,
He dimly saw, although the western breeze
And years of biting frost and washing rain
Had made the carver's lab our well-nigh vain.

But this, though perished sore and worn away,
He noted well, because it seemed to be,
After the fashion of another day,
Some great man's badge of war or armoury;
And round it a carved wreath he seemed to see:
But taking note of these things, at the last
The mariner beneath the gateway passed.

And there a lovely cloistered court he found,
A fountain in the mist o'erthrown and dry,
And in the cloister briers twining round
The slender shafts; the wondrous imagery
Outworn by more than many years gone by;
Because the country people, in their fear
Of wizardry, had wrought destruction here,

And piteously these fair things had been maimed;
There stood great Jove, lacking his head of might;
Here was the archer, swift Apollo, lamed;
The shapely limbs of Venus hid from sight
By weeds and shards; Diana's ankles light
Bound with the cable of some coasting ship;
And rusty nails through Helen's maddening lip.

Therefrom unto the chambers did he pass,
And found them fair still, midst of their decay,
Though in them now no sign of man there was,
And everything but stone had passed away
That made them lovely in that vanished day;
Nay, the mere walls themselves would soon be gone
And nought be left but heaps of mouldering stone.

But he, when all the place he had gone o'er,
And with much trouble clomb the broken stair,
And from the topmost turret seen the shore
And his good ship drawn up at anchor there,
Came down again, and found a crypt most fair
Built wonderfully beneath the greatest hall,
And there he saw a door within the wall,

Well-hinged, close shut; nor was there in that place
Another on its hinges, therefore he
Stood there and pondered for a little space
And thought: "Perchance some marvel I shall see,
For surely here some dweller there must be,
Because this door seems whole and new and sound,
While nought but ruin I can see around."


So with that word, moved by a strong desire,
He tried the hasp, that yielded to his hand,
And in a strange place, lit as by a fire
Unseen but near, he presently did stand;
And by an odorous breeze his face was fanned,
As though in some Arabian plain he stood,
Anigh the border of a spice-tree wood.


He moved not for awhile, but looking round,
He wondered much to see the place so fair,
Because, unlike the castle above ground,
No pillager or wrecker had been there;
It seemed that time had passed on otherwhere,
Nor laid a finger on this hidden place
Rich with the wealth of some forgotten race.


With hangings, fresh as when they left the loom,
The walls were hung a space above the head,
Slim ivory chairs were set about the room,
And in one corner was a dainty bed
That seemed for some fair queen apparellèd;
And marble was the worst stone on the floor,
That with rich Indian webs was covered o'er.


The wanderer trembled when he saw all this,
Because he deemed by magic it was wrought;
Yet in his heart a longing for some bliss
Whereof the hard and changing world knows nought,
Arose and urged him on, and dimmed the thought
That there perchance some devil lurked to slay
The heedless wanderer from the light of day.


Over against him was another door
Set in the wall, so casting fear aside,
With hurried steps he crossed the varied floor,
And there again the silver latch he tried
And with no pain the door he opened wide,
And entering the new chamber cautiously
The glory of great heaps of gold could see.


Upon the floor uncounted medals lay
Like things of little value; here and there
Stood golden caldrons, that might well outweigh
The biggest midst an emperor's copper-ware,
And golden cups were set on tables fair,
Themselves of gold; and in all hollow things
Were stored great gems, worthy the crowns of kings.


The walls and roof with gold were overlaid,
And precious raiment from the wall hung down;
The fall of kings that treasure might have stayed,
Or gained some longing conqueror great renown,
Or built again some God-destroyed old town;
What wonder if this plunderer of the sea
Stood gazing at it long and dizzily?


But at the last his troubled eyes and dazed
He lifted from the glory of that gold,
And then the image, that well-nigh erased
Over the castle-gate he did behold,
Above a door well wrought in coloured gold
Again he saw; a naked girl with wings
Enfolded in a serpent's scaly rings.


And even as his eyes were fixed on it
A woman's voice came from the other side,
And through his heart strange hopes began to flit
That in some wondrous land he might abide
Not dying, master of a deathless bride,
So o'er the gold which now he scarce could see
He went, and passed this last door eagerly.


Then in a room he stood wherein there was
A marble bath, whose brimming water yet
Was scarcely still; a vessel of green glass
Half full of odorous ointment was there set
Upon the topmost step that still was wet,
And jewelled shoes and women's dainty gear,
Lay cast upon the varied pavement near.


In one quick glance these things his eyes did see,
But speedily they turned round to behold
Another sight, for throned on ivory
There sat a woman, whose wet tresses rolled
On to the floor in waves of gleaming gold,
Cast back from such a form as, erewhile shown
To one poor shepherd, lighted up Troy town.


Naked she was, the kisses of her feet
Upon the floor a dying path had made
From the full bath unto her ivory seat;
In her right hand, upon her bosom laid,
She held a golden comb, a mirror weighed
Her left hand down, aback her fair head lay
Dreaming awake of some long vanished day.


Her eyes were shut but she seemed not to sleep,
Her lips were murmuring things unheard and low,
Or sometimes twitched as though she needs must weep,
Though from her eyes the tears refused to flow,
And oft with heavenly red her cheek did glow,
As if remembrance of some half-sweet shame
Across the web of many memories came.


There stood the man, scarce daring to draw breath
For fear the lovely sight should fade away;
Forgetting heaven, forgetting life and death,
Trembling for fear lest something he should say
Unwitting, lest some sob should yet betray
His presence there, for to his eager eyes
Already did the tears begin to rise.


But as he gazed she moved, and with a sigh
Bent forward, dropping down her golden head:
"Alas, alas! another day gone by,
Another day and no soul come," she said;
"Another year, and still I am not dead!"
And with that word once more her head she raised,
And on the trembling man with great eyes gazed.


Then he imploring hands to her did reach,
And toward her very slowly 'gan to move
And with wet eyes her pity did beseech,
And seeing her about to speak he strove
From trembling lips to utter words of love;
But with a look she stayed his doubtful feet,
And made sweet music as their eyes did meet.


For now she spoke in gentle voice and clear,
Using the Greek tongue that he knew full well:
"What man art thou that thus hast wandered here,
And found this lonely chamber where I dwell?
Beware, beware! for I have many a spell;
If greed of power and gold have led thee on,
Not lightly shall this untold wealth be won.


"But if thou com'st here knowing of my tale,
In hope to bear away my body fair,
Stout must thine heart be, nor shall that avail
If thou a wicked soul in thee dost bear;
So once again I bid thee to beware,
Because no base man things like this may see,
And live thereafter long and happily."


"Lady," he said, "in Florence is my home,
And in my city noble is my name;
Neither on peddling voyage am I come,
But, like my fathers, bent to gather fame;
And though thy face has set my heart a-flame
Yet of thy story nothing do I know
But here have wandered heedlessly enow.


"But since the sight of thee mine eyes did bless,
What can I be but thine? what would'st thou have?
From those thy words, I deem from some distress
By deeds of mine thy dear life I might save;
O then, delay not! if one ever gave
His life to any, mine I give to thee;
Come, tell me what the price of love must be?


"Swift death, to be with thee a day and night
And with the earliest dawning to be slain?
Or better, a long year of great delight,
And many years of misery and pain?
Or worse, and this poor hour for all my gain?
A sorry merchant am I on this day,
E'en as thou willest so must I obey."


She said, "What brave words! nought divine am I,
But an unhappy and unheard-of maid
Compelled by evil fate and destiny
To live, who long ago should have been laid
Under the earth within the cypress shade.
Hearken awhile, and quickly shalt thou know
What deed I pray thee to accomplish now.


"God grant indeed thy words are not for nought!
Then shalt thou save me, since for many a day
To such a dreadful life I have been brought:
Nor will I spare with all my heart to pay
What man soever takes my grief away;
Ah! I will love thee, if thou lovest me
But well enough my saviour now to be.


"My father lived a many years agone
Lord of this land, master of all cunning,
Who ruddy gold could draw from out grey stone
And gather wealth from many an uncouth thing;
He made the wilderness rejoice and sing,
And such a leech he was that none could say
Without his word what soul should pass away.


"Unto Diana such a gift he gave,
Goddess above, below and on the earth,
That I should be her virgin and her slave
From the first hour of my most wretched birth;
Therefore my life had known but little mirth
When I had come unto my twentieth year
And the last time of hallowing drew anear.


"So in her temple had I lived and died
And all would long ago have passed away,
But ere that time came, did strange things betide,
Whereby I am alive unto this day;
Alas, the bitter words that I must say!
Ah! can I bring my wretched tongue to tell
How I was brought unto this fearful hell.


"A queen I was, what Gods I knew I loved,
And nothing evil was there in my thought,
And yet by love my wretched heart was moved
Until to utter ruin I was brought!
Alas! thou sayest our gods were vain and nought,
Wait, wait, till thou hast heard this tale of mine,
Then shalt thou think them devilish or divine.


"Hearken! in spite of father and of vow
I loved a man; but for that sin I think
Men had forgiven me--yea, yea, even thou;
But from the Gods the full cup must I drink
And into misery unheard-of sink,
Tormented when their own names are forgot,
And men must doubt e'er if they lived or not.


"Glorious my lover was unto my sight,
Most beautiful; of love we grew so fain
That we at last agreed, that on a night
We should be happy, but that he were slain
Or shut in hold; and neither joy nor pain
Should else forbid that hoped-for time to be;
So came the night that made a wretch of me.


"Ah! well do I remember all that night,
When through the window shone the orb of June,
And by the bed flickered the taper's light,
Whereby I trembled, gazing at the moon:
Ah me! the meeting that we had, when soon
Into his strong, well-trusted arms I fell
And many a sorrow we began to tell.


"Ah me! what parting on that night we had!
I think the story of my great despair
A little while might merry folk make sad;
For, as he swept away my yellow hair
To make my shoulder and my bosom bare,
I raised mine eyes, and shuddering could behold
A shadow cast upon the bed of gold:


"Then suddenly was quenched my hot desire
And he untwined his arms; the moon so pale
A while ago, seemed changed to blood and fire,
And yet my limbs beneath me did not fail,
And neither had I strength to cry or wail,
But stood there helpless, bare and shivering,
With staring eyes still fixed upon the thing.


"Because the shade that on the bed of gold
The changed and dreadful moon was throwing down
Was of Diana, whom I did behold
With knotted hair and shining girt-up gown,
And on the high white brow a deadly frown
Bent upon us, who stood scarce drawing breath,
Striving to meet the horrible sure death.


"No word at all the dreadful Goddess said,
But soon across my feet my lover lay,
And well indeed I knew that he was dead;
And would that I had died on that same day!
For in a while the image turned away,
And without words my doom I understood,
And felt a horror change my human blood.


"And there I fell, and on the floor I lay
By the dead man, till daylight came on me,
And not a word thenceforward could I say
For three years; till of grief and misery,
The lingering pest, the cruel enemy,
My father and his folk were dead and gone,
And in this castle I was left alone:


"And then the doom foreseen upon me fell,
For Queen Diana did my body change
Into a fork-tongued dragon flesh and fell,
And through the island nightly do I range,
Or in the green sea mate with monsters strange,
When in the middle of the moonlit night
The sleepy mariner I do affright.


"But all day long upon this gold I lie
Within this place, where never mason's hand
Smote trowel on the marble noisily;
Drowsy I lie, no folk at my command,
Who once was called the Lady of the Land;
Who might have bought a kingdom with a kiss,
Yea, half the world with such a sight as this."


And therewithal, with rosy fingers light,
Backward her heavy-hanging hair she threw,
To give her naked beauty more to sight;
But when, forgetting all the things he knew,
Maddened with love unto the prize he drew,
She cried: "Nay, wait! for wherefore wilt thou die,
Why should we not be happy, thou and I?


"Wilt thou not save me? once in every year
This rightful form of mine that thou dost see
By favour of the Goddess have I here
From sunrise unto sunset given me,
That some brave man may end my misery.
And thou--art thou not brave? can thy heart fail,
Whose eyes e'en now are weeping at my tale?


"Then listen! when this day is overpast,
A fearful monster shall I be again,
And thou mayst be my saviour at the last,
Unless, once more, thy words are nought and vain.
If thou of love and sovereignty art fain,
Come thou next morn, and when thou seest here
A hideous dragon, have thereof no fear,


"But take the loathsome head up in thine hands
And kiss it, and be master presently
Of twice the wealth that is in all the lands
From Cathay to the head of Italy;
And master also, if it pleaseth thee,
Of all thou praisest as so fresh and bright,
Of what thou callest crown of all delight.


"Ah! with what joy then shall I see again
The sunlight on the green grass and the trees,
And hear the clatter of the summer rain,
And see the joyous folk beyond the seas.
Ah, me! to hold my child upon my knees
After the weeping of unkindly tears
And all the wrongs of these four hundred years.


"Go now, go quick! leave this grey heap of stone;
And from thy glad heart think upon thy way,
How I shall love thee--yea, love thee alone,
That bringest me from dark death unto day;
For this shall be thy wages and thy pay;
Unheard-of wealth, unheard-of love is near,
If thou hast heart a little dread to bear."


Therewith she turned to go; but he cried out:
"Ah! wilt thou leave me then without one kiss,
To slay the very seeds of fear and doubt,
That glad to-morrow may bring certain bliss?
Hast thou forgotten how love lives by this,
The memory of some hopeful close embrace,
Low whispered words within some lonely place?"


But she, when his bright glittering eyes she saw
And burning cheeks, cried out: "Alas, alas!
Must I be quite undone, and wilt thou draw
A worse fate on me than the first one was?
O haste thee from this fatal place to pass!
Yet, ere thou goest, take this, lest thou shouldst deem
Thou hast been fooled by some strange midday dream."


So saying, blushing like a new-kissed maid,
From off her neck a little gem she drew,
That 'twixt those snowy rose-tinged hillocks laid,
The secrets of her glorious beauty knew;
And ere he well perceived what she would do,
She touched his hand, the gem within it lay,
And, turning, from his sight she fled away.


Then at the doorway where her rosy heel
Had glanced and vanished, he awhile did stare,
And still upon his hand he seemed to feel
The varying kisses of her fingers fair;
Then turned he toward the dreary crypt and bare,
And dizzily throughout the castle passed
Till by the ruined fane he stood at last.


Then weighing still the gem within his hand,
He stumbled backward through the cypress wood,
Thinking the while of some strange lovely land
Where all his life should be most fair and good;
Till on the valley's wall of hills he stood,
And slowly thence passed down unto the bay
Red with the death of that bewildering day.


The next day came, and he, who all the night
Had ceaselessly been turning in his bed,
Arose and clad himself in armour bright,
And many a danger he rememberèd;
Storming of towns, lone sieges full of dread,
That with renown his heart had borne him through,
And this thing seemed a little thing to do.


So on he went, and on the way he thought
Of all the glorious things of yesterday,
Nought of the price whereat they must be bought,
But ever to himself did softly say
"No roaming now, my wars are passed away,
No long dull days devoid of happiness,
When such a love my yearning heart shall bless."


Thus to the castle did he come at last,
But when unto the gateway he drew near,
And underneath its ruined archway passed
Into the court, a strange noise did he hear,
And through his heart there shot a pang of fear;
Trembling, he gat his sword into his hand,
And midmost of the cloisters took his stand.


But for a while that unknown noise increased,
A rattling, that with strident roars did blend
And whining moans; but suddenly it ceased,
A fearful thing stood at the cloister's end
And eyed him for a while, then 'gan to wend
Adown the cloisters, and began again
That rattling, and the moan like fiends in pain.


And as it came on towards him, with its teeth
The body of a slain goat did it tear,
The blood whereof in its hot jaws did seethe,
And on its tongue he saw the smoking hair;
Then his heart sank, and standing trembling there,
Throughout his mind wild thoughts and fearful ran:
"Some fiend she was," he said, "the bane of man."


Yet he abode her still, although his blood
Curdled within him: the thing dropped the goat,
And creeping on, came close to where he stood,
And raised its head to him and wrinkled throat.
Then he cried out and wildly at her smote,
Shutting his eyes, and turned and from the place
Ran swiftly, with a white and ghastly face.


But little things rough stones and tree-trunks seemed,
And if he fell, he rose and ran on still;
No more he felt his hurts than if he dreamed,
He made no stay for valley or steep hill,
Heedless he dashed through many a foaming rill,
Until he came unto the ship at last
And with no word into the deep hold passed.


Meanwhile the dragon, seeing him clean gone,
Followed him not, but crying horribly,
Caught up within her jaws a block of stone
And ground it into powder, then turned she,
With cries that folk could hear far out at sea,
And reached the treasure set apart of old,
To brood above the hidden heaps of gold.


Yet was she seen again on many a day
By some half-waking mariner or herd,
Playing amid the ripples of the bay,
Or on the hills making all things afeard,
Or in the wood that did that castle gird,
But never any man again durst go
To seek her woman 's form, and end her woe.


As for the man, who knows what things he bore?
What mournful faces peopled the sad night,
What wailings vexed him with reproaches sore,
What images of that nigh-gained delight!
What dreamed caresses from soft hands and white,
Turning to horrors ere they reached the best;
What struggles vain, what shame, what huge unrest?


No man he knew, three days he lay and raved
And cried for death, until a lethargy
Fell on him, and his fellows thought him saved;
But on the third night he awoke to die;
And at Byzantium doth his body lie
Between two blossoming pomegranate trees,
Within the churchyard of the Genoese.

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Griselda: A Society Novel In Verse - Chapter V

Griselda's madness lasted forty days,
Forty eternities! Men went their ways,
And suns arose and set, and women smiled,
And tongues wagged lightly in impeachment wild
Of Lady L.'s adventure. She was gone,
None knew by whom escorted or alone,
Or why or whither, only that one morning,
Without pretext, or subterfuge, or warning,
She had disappeared in silence from L. House,
Leaving her lord in multitudinous
And agonised conjecture of her fate:
So the tale went. And truly less sedate
Than his wont was in intricate affairs,
Such as his Garter or his lack of heirs,
Lord L. was seen in this new tribulation.
Griselda long had been his life's equation,
The pivot of his dealings with the world,
The mainstay of his comfort, all now hurled
To unforeseen confusion by her flight:
There was need of action swift and definite.
Where was she? Who could tell him? Divers visions
Passed through his fancy--thieves, and street collisions,
And all the hundred accidents of towns,
From broken axle trees to broken crowns.
In vain he questioned; no response was made
More than the fact that, as already said,
My lady, unattended and on foot,
(A sad imprudence here Lord L. took note),
Had gone out dressed in a black morning gown
And dark tweed waterproof, 'twixt twelve and one,
Leaving no orders to her maid, or plan
About her carriage to or groom or man.
Such was in sum the downstairs' evidence.
The hall porter, a man of ponderous sense,
Averred her ladyship had eastward turned
From the front door, and some small credit earned
For the suggestion that her steps were bent
To Whitechapel on merciful intent,
A visit of compassion to the poor,
A clue which led to a commissioner
Being sent for in hot haste from Scotland Yard.
And so the news was bruited abroad.

It reached my ears among the earliest,
And from Lord L. himself, whose long suppressed
Emotion found its vent one afternoon
On me, the only listener left in town.
His thoughts now ran on ``a religious craze
Of his poor wife's,'' he said, ``in these last days
Indulged beyond all reason.'' The police
Would listen to no talk of casualties,
Still less of crime, since they had nothing found
In evidence above or under ground,
But held the case to be of simpler kind,
Home left in a disordered state of mind.
Lord L. had noticed, now they talked of it,
Temper less equable and flightier wit,
``A craving for religious services
And sacred music.'' Something was amiss,
Or why were they in London in September?
Griselda latterly, he could remember,
Had raved of a conventual retreat
In terms no Protestant would deem discreet
As the sole refuge in a world of sin
For human frailty, grief's best anodyne.
``The Times was right. Rome threatened to absorb us:
The convents must be searched by habeas corpus.''

And so I came to help him. I had guessed
From his first word the vainness of his quest,
And half was moved to serve him in a strait
Where her fair fame I loved was in debate,
Yet held my peace, nor hazarded a word
Save of surprise at the strange case I heard,
Till, fortune aiding, I should find the clue
My heart desired to do what I would do.
And not in vain. Night found me duly sped,
Lord L.'s ambassador accredited,
With fullest powers to find and fetch her home,
If need should be, from the Pope's jaws in Rome.

Gods! what a mission! First my round I went
Through half the slums of Middlesex and Kent,
Surrey and Essex--this to soothe Lord L.,
Though witless all, as my heart told too well;
The hospitals no less and casual wards,
Each house as idly as his House of Lords,
And only at the week's end dared to stop
At the one door I knew still housing hope,
Young Manton's chambers. There, with reddened cheek
I heard the answer given I came to seek.
Manton was gone, his landlady half feared
He too, in some mishap, and disappeared,--
Proof all too positive. His letters lay
A fortnight deep untouched upon the tray.
She could not forward them or risk a guess
As to his last or likeliest address.
He was in Scotland often at this season,
``But not without his guns''--a cogent reason.
And leaving, too, his valet here in town,
Perplexed of what to do or leave undone.
Abroad? Perhaps. If so, his friends might try
As a best chance the Paris Embassy.
He had been there last Spring, and might be now.

Paris! It was enough, I made my bow,
And took my leave. I seemed to touch the thread
Of the blind labyrinth 'twas mine to tread.
Where should they be, in truth, these too fond lovers,
But in the land of all such lawless rovers?
The land of Gautier, Bourget, Maupassant,
Where still ``you can'' makes answer to ``I can't.''
The fair domain where all romance begins
In a light borderland of venial sins,
But deepening onwards, till the fatal day
Vice swoops upon us, plead we as we may.
Griselda's bonnet o'er the windmills thrown,
Had surely crossed the Seine ere it came down.
And I, if I would find and win her back,
Must earliest search the boulevards for her track.
And so to Paris in my zeal I passed,
Breaking my idol, mad Iconoclast.

There is a little inn by Meudon wood
Dear to Parisians in their amorous mood,
A place of rendezvous, where bourgeois meet
Their best beloved in congregation sweet;
Clandestine, undisturbed, illicit loves,
Made half romantic by the adjoining groves,
So beautiful in Spring, with the new green
Clothing the birch stems scattered white between,
Nor yet, in Autumn, when the first frosts burn
And the wind rustles in the reddening fern,
Quite robbed of sentiment for lovers' eyes,
Who seek Earth's blessing on a bliss unwise,
And find the happy sanction for their state
In nature's face, unshocked by their debate,
As who should say ``Let preachers frown their fill,
Here one approves. 'Tis Eden with us still.''

Such fancy, may be, in her too fond heart
Had led Griselda--with her friend--apart,
Yet not apart, from the world's curious gaze,
To this secluded, ill--frequented place:
A compromise of wills and varying moods,
His for gay crowds, her own for solitudes.
Manton knew Paris well, and loved its noise,
Its mirthful parody of serious joys,
Its pomp and circumstance. His wish had been
To flaunt the boulevards with his captured queen,
And make parade of a last triumph won
In the chaste field of prudish Albion,
Outscandalising scandal. Love and he
In any sense but of male vanity,
And the delirium of adventures new
In the world's eye--the thing he next should do--
Were terms diverse and incompatible.
Griselda, to his eyes was Lady L.,
The fair, the chaste, the unapproached proud name
Men breathed in reverence, woman, all the same,
And not as such, and when the truth was said,
Worth more than others lightlier credited.
It all had been a jest from the beginning,
A tour de force, whose wit was in the winning,
A stroke of fortune and of accident,
The embrace he had told of for another meant,
While she stood grieving for a first grey hair
(A psychologic moment) on the stair,
And, kneeling down, he had adored her foot,
The one weak spot where her self--love had root,
And laughed at her, and told her she was old,
Yet growing tenderer as he grew more bold.
And so from jest to jest, and chance to chance,
To that last scene at the mad country dance
Where she had played the hoyden, he the swain,
Pretending love till love was in their brain,
And he had followed to her chamber door,
And helped her to undo the dress she wore.

Then the elopement. That had been her doing,
Which he accepted to make good his wooing,
And careless what to both the result might be,
So it but served his end of vanity.
It all had been to this vain boy a whim,
Something grotesque, a play, a pantomime,
Where nothing had been serious but her heart,
And that was soon too tearful for its part.
He wearied in a week of her mature
Old maidish venturings in ways obscure,
Her agony of conscience dimly guessed,
The silences she stifled in her breast,
Her awkwardness--it was his word--in all
That love could teach; her sighs funereal,
And more the unnatural laughter she essayed
To meet the doubtful sense of things he said.
She was at once too tender and too prim,
Too prudish and too crazed with love and him.
At a month's end his flame had leaped beyond
Already to friends frailer and less fond;
The light Parisian world of venal charms
Which welcomed him with wide and laughing arms:
There he was happier, more at home, more gay,
King of the ``High Life,'' hero of the day.

Griselda, in her sad suburban nook
Watched his departures with a mute rebuke,
Yet daring not to speak. The choice was hers
To stay at home or run the theatres
With her young lover in such company
As her soul loathed. She had tried despairingly
To be one, even as these, for his loved sake,
And would have followed spite of her heart's ache,
But that he hardly further cared to press,
After one failure stamped with ``dowdiness.''
That too had been his word, a bitter word,
Biting and true, which smote her like a sword,
Or rather a whip's sting to her proud cheek,
Leaving her humbled, agonised and weak.

Poor beautiful Griselda! What was now
The value of thy beauty, chaste as snow
In thy youth's morning, the unchallenged worth
Of thy eyes' kindness, queenliest of the earth;
The tradition of thy Fra--angelic face,
Blessed as Mary's, and as full of grace;
The fame which thou despisedst, yet which made
A glory for thee meet for thy dear head?
What, if in this last crisis of thy fate,
When all a Heaven and Hell was in debate,
And thy archangel, with the feet of clay,
Stood mocking there in doubt to go or stay,
The unstable fabric of thy woman's dower,
Thy beauty, failed and left thee in their power
Whose only law of beauty was the sting
Lent to man's lust by light bedizening?
What use was in thy beauty, if, alas!
Thou gavest them cause to mock (those tongues of brass)
At thy too crude and insular attire,
Thy naïvetés of colour, the false fire
Of thy first dallyings with the red and white,
Thy sweet pictorial robe, Pre--Raphaelite,
Quaint in its tones and outré in design,
Thy lack of unity and shape and line,
Thy English angularity--who knows,
The less than perfect fitting of thy shoes?

Griselda, in her flight, had left behind
All but the dress she stood in, too refined,
In her fair righteousness of thought and deed,
To make provision for a future need,
However dire. She was no Israelite
To go forth from her Pharaoh in the night,
With spoils of the Egyptians in her hands,
And had thrown herself on Manton and on France,
With a full courage worth a nobler cause,
Grandly oblivious of prudential laws.
Her earliest trouble, marring even the bliss
Of love's first ecstasy, had come of this,
Her want of clothes--a worse and weightier care
At the mere moment than her soul's despair
For its deep fall from virtuous estate.
How should she dress herself, she asked of Fate,
With neither maid, nor money, nor a name?
It was her first experiment in shame.
Now, after all her poor economies,
This was the ending read in his vexed eyes,
And spoken by his lips: her utmost art
Had failed to please that idle thing, his heart,
Or even to avert his petulant scorn
For one so little to love's manner born.

And thus I found them, at the angry noon
Of their ``red month,'' the next to honeymoon:
Two silent revellers at a loveless feast,
Scared by hate's morning breaking in their East--
A dawn which was of penance and despair,
With pleasure's ghost to fill the vacant chair.
I took it, and was welcomed rapturously,
As a far sail by shipwrecked souls at sea,
An opportune deliverer, timely sent
To break the autumn of their discontent,
And give a pretext to their need grown sore
Of issue from joys dead by any door.

Manton, all confidential from the first,
Told me the tale of his last sins and worst,
As meriting a sympathy not less
Than the best actions virtuous men confess.
He was overwhelmed with women and with debt--
Women who loved him, bills which must be met.
What could he do? Her ladyship was mad--
It was her fault, not his, this escapade.
He had warned her from the first, and as a friend,
That all such frolics had a serious end,
And that to leave her home was the worst way
A woman would who wanted to be gay.

``For look,'' said he, ``we men, who note these things,
And how the unthinking flutterers burn their wings,
Know that a woman, be she what she will,
The fairest, noblest, most adorable,
Dowered in her home with all seraphic charms,
Whom heaven itself might envy in your arms,
A paragon of pleasure undenied
At her own chaste respectable fireside,
Becomes, what shall I say, when she steps down
From the high world of her untouched renown?
A something differing in no serious mood
From the sad rest of the light sisterhood;
Perhaps indeed more troublesome than these,
Because she keenlier feels the agonies:
A wounded soul, who has not even the wit
To hide its hurt and make a jest of it;
A maid of Astolat, launched in her barge,
A corpse on all the world, a femme à charge.''

``'Tis not,'' he argued, ``our poor human sins
That make us what we are when shame begins,
But the world pointing at our naked state:
Then we are shocked and humbled at our fate,
Silent and shamed in all we honour most--
For what is virtue but the right to boast?
A married woman's love, three weeks from home,
Is the absurdest thing in Christendom,
Dull as a ménage in the demi--monde
And dismaller far by reason of the bond.
All this I told my lady ere we went,
But warning wasted is on sentiment.
You see the net result here in one word,
A crying woman and a lover bored.''

So far young Manton. She for whom I came,
Griselda's self, sweet soul, in her new shame
Essayed awhile to hide from me the truth
Of this last hap of her belated youth,
Her disillusion with her graceless lover.
She made sad cloaks for him which could not cover
His great unworthiness and her despair,
All with a frightened half--maternal air,
Most pitiful and touching. To my plea,
Urging her home, she answered mournfully,
That she was bound now to her way of life,
And owed herself no less than as his wife
To him she had chosen out of all mankind.
'Twas better to be foolish, even blind,
If he had faults, so she could serve him still--
And this had been her promise and her will.
She would not hear of duties owed elsewhere:
What was she to Lord L., or he to her?
I need not speak of it. And yet she clung
To my protecting presence in her wrong;
And once, when Manton's jibes made bitterer play,
Implored me with appealing eyes to stay.
And so I lingered on. Those autumn days,
Spent with Griselda in the woodland ways
Of Meudon with her lover, or alone,
When his mad fancies carried him to town,
Remain to me an unsubstantial act
Of dreaming fancy, rather than the fact
Of any waking moment in my past,
The sweetest, saddest and with her the last--
For suddenly they ended. We had been
One Sunday for a jaunt upon the Seine,
We two--in Manton's absence, now prolonged
To a third night--and in a steamboat, thronged
With idle bourgeois folk, whom the last glory,
Of a late autumn had sent forth in foray
To Passy and St. Cloud, from stage to stage
Had made with heavy souls our pilgrimage;
And homeward turning and with little zest,
The fair day done, to love's deserted nest
Had come with lagging feet and weary eyes,
Expectant still of some new dark surprise,
When the blow fell unsparing on her head,
Already by what fortunes buffeted.

How did it happen, that last tragedy?--
For tragedy it was, let none deny,
Though all ignoble. Every soul of us
Touches one moment in death's darkened house
The plane of the heroic, and compels
Men's laughter into tears--ay, Heaven's and Hell's.
How did it happen? There was that upon
Their faces at the door more than the tone
Of their replies, that warned us of the thing
We had not looked for in our questioning;
And our lips faltered, and our ears, afraid,
Shrank from more hearing. What was it they said
In their fool's jargon, that he lay upstairs?
He? Manton? The dispenser of our cares?
The mounteback young reveller? Suffering? Ill?
And she, poor soul, that suffered at his will!
A sinister case? Not dying? Pitiful God!
Truly Thou smitest blindly with Thy rod.
For Manton was not worthy to die young,
Beloved by her with blessings on her tongue.
And such a cause of death! She never heard
The whole truth told, for each one spared his word,
And he lay mute for ever. But to me
The thing was storied void of mystery,
And thus they told it. Hardly had we gone
On our sad river outing, when from town
Manton had come with a gay troop of friends,
Such as the coulisse of the opera lends,
To breakfast at the inn and spend the day
In mirthful noise, as was his vagrant way.
A drunken frolic, and most insolent
To her whose honour with his own was blent,
To end in this last tragedy. None knew
Quite how it happened, or a cause could shew
Further than this, that, rising from the table,
The last to go with steps perhaps unstable--
For they had feasted freely, and the stair
Was steep and iron--edged, and needed care;
And singing, as he went, the selfsame song,
Which I remembered, to the laughing throng,
He had slipped his length, and fallen feet--first down.
When they picked him up his power to move was gone,
Though he could speak. They laid him on a bed,
Her bed, Griselda's, and called in with speed
Such help of doctors and commissioners
As law prescribed, and medicine for their fears.
'Twas his last night. There, in Griselda's hands,
Young Jerry Manton lay with the last sands
Of his life's hour--glass trickling to its close,
Griselda watching, with what thoughts, God knows.
We did not speak. But her lips moved in prayer,
And mine too, in the way of man's despair.
I did not love him, yet a human pity
Softened my eyes. Afar, from the great city,
The sound came to us of the eternal hum,
Unceasing, changeless, pregnant with all doom
Of insolent life that rises from its streets,
The pulse of sin which ever beats and beats,
Wearying the ears of God. O Paris, Paris!
What doom is thine for every soul that tarries
Too long with thee, a stranger in thy arms.
Thy smiles are incantations, thy brave charms
Death to thy lovers. Each gay mother's son,
Smitten with love for thee, is straight undone.
And lo the chariot wheels upon thy ways!
And a new garland hung in Père la Chaise!

Poor soul! I turned and looked into the night,
Through the uncurtained windows, and there bright
Saw the mute twinkle of a thousand stars.
One night! the least in all time's calendars,
Yet fraught with what a meaning for this one!
One star, the least of all that million!
One room in that one city! Yet for him
The universe there was of space and time.
What were his thoughts? In that chaotic soul,
Home of sad jests, obscene, unbeautiful,
Mired with the earthiest of brute desires,
And lit to sentience only with lewd fires,
Was there no secret, undisturbed, fair place
Watered with love and favoured with God's grace
To which the wounded consciousness had fled
For its last refuge from a world of dread?
Was his soul touched to tenderness, to awe,
To softer recollection? All we saw
Was the maimed body gasping forth its breath,
A rigid setting of the silent teeth,
And the hands trembling. Death was with us there.
But where was he? O Heaven of pity! where?

We watched till morning by the dying man,
She weeping silently, I grieved and wan,
And still he moved not. But with the first break
Of day in the window panes we saw him make
A sign as if of speaking. Pressing near--
For his lips moved, Griselda deemed, in prayer--
We heard him make profession of his faith,
As a man of pleasure face to face with death,
A kind of gambler's Athanasian Creed,
Repeated at the hour of his last need.
``Five sovereigns,'' said he, steadying his will,
As in defiance of death's power to kill,
And with that smile of a superior mind,
Which was his strength in dealing with mankind,
The world of sporting jargon and gay livers.
``Five sovereigns is a fiver, and five fivers
A pony, and five ponies are a hundred--
No, four,'' he added, seeing he had blundered.
``Four to the hundred and five centuries
Make up the monkey.'' From his dying eyes
The smile of triumph faded. ``There, I've done it,''
He said, ``but there was no great odds upon it,
You see with a broken back.'' He spoke no more,
And in another hour had passed the door
Which shuts the living from eternity.
Where was he? God of pity, where was he?

This was the end of Lady L.'s romance.

When we had buried him (as they do in France,
In a tomb inscribed ``à perpétuité,''
Formally rented till the Judgment Day),
She put off black, and shed no further tears;
Her face for the first time showed all its years,
But not a trace beyond. Without demur
She gave adhesion to my plans for her,
And we went home to London and Lord L.,
Silent together, by the next night's mail.
She had been six weeks away. The interview
Between them was dramatic. I, who knew
Her whole mad secret, and had seen her soul
Stripped of its covering, and without control,
Bowed down by circumstance and galled with shame,
Yielding to wounds and griefs without a name,
Had feared for her a wild unhappy scene.
I held Lord L. for the least stern of men,
And yet I dared not hope even he would crave
No explanation ere he quite forgave.

I was with them when they met, unwilling third,
In their mute bandying of the unspoken word.
Lord L. essayed to speak. I saw his face
Made up for a high act of tragic grace
As he came forward. It was grave and mild,
A father's welcoming a truant child,
Forgiving, yet intent to mark the pain
With hope ``the thing should not occur again.''
His lips began to move as to some speech
Framed in this sense, as one might gently preach
A word in season to too gadding wives
Of duties owed, at least by those whose lives
Moved in high places. But it died unsaid.
There was that about Griselda that forbade
Marital questionings. Her queenly eyes
Met his with a mute answer of surprise,
Marking the unseemliness of all display
More strongly than with words, as who should say
Noblesse oblige. She took his outstretched hand,
And kissed his cheek, but would not understand
A word of his reproaches. Even I,
With my full knowledge and no more a boy,
But versed by years in the world's wickedness,
And open--eyed to her, alas! no less
Than to all womanhood, even I felt shame,
And half absolved her in my mind from blame.
And he, how could he less? He was but human,
The fortunate husband of how fair a woman!
He stammered his excuses. What she told
When I had left them (since all coin is gold
To those who would believe, and who the key
Hold of their eyes, in blind faith's alchemy)
I never learned. I did not linger on,
Seeing her peril past and the day won,
But took my leave. She led me to the door
With her old kindness of the days of yore,
And thanked me as one thanks for little things.
``You have been,'' she said, ``an angel without wings,
And I shall not forget,--nor will Lord L.;
And yet,'' she said, with an imperceptible
Change in her voice, ``there are things the world will say
Which are neither just nor kind, and, if to--day
We part awhile, remember we are friends,
If not now later. Time will make amends,
And we shall meet again.'' I pressed her hand
A moment to my lips. ``I understand,''
I said, and gazed a last time in her eyes;
``Say all you will. I am your sacrifice.''

And so, in truth, it was. Henceforth there lay
A gulf between us, widening with delay,
And which our souls were impotent to pass,
The gulf of a dead secret; and, alas!
Who knows what subtle treacheries within,
For virtue rends its witnesses of sin,
And hearts are strangely fashioned by their fears.
We met no more in friendship through the years,
Although I held her secret as my own,
And fought her battles, her best champion,
On many a stricken field in scandal's war,
Till all was well forgotten. From afar
I watched her fortunes still with tenderness,
Yet sadly, as cast out of Paradise.
For ever, spite her promise, from that day,
When I met L., he looked another way;
And she, Griselda, was reserved and chill.
I had behaved, her women friends said, ill,
And caused a needless scandal in her life,
--They told not what. Enough, that as a wife
She had been compelled to close her doors on me,
And that her lord knew all the iniquity.

And so I bore the burden of her sin.

What more shall I relate? The cynic vein
Has overwhelmed my tale, and I must stop.
Its heroine lived to justify all hope
Of her long--suffering lord, that out of pain
Blessings would grow, and his house smile again
With the fulfilled expectance of an heir.
Griselda sat no longer in despair,
Nor wasted her full life on dreams of folly;
She had little time for moods of melancholy,
Or heart to venture further in love's ways;
She was again the theme of all men's praise,
And suffered no man's passion. Once a year,
In the late autumn, when the leaves grew sere
She made retreat to a lay sisterhood,
And lived awhile there for her soul's more good,
In pious meditation, fasts and prayer.
Some say she wore concealed a shirt of hair
Under her dresses, even at court balls,
And certain 'tis that all Rome's rituals
Were followed daily at the private Mass
In her new chauntry built behind Hans Place.
Lord L. approved of all she did, even this,
Strange as it seemed to his old--fashionedness.

He, gentle soul, grown garrulous with years,
Prosed of her virtues to all listeners,
And of their son's, the child of his old age,
A prodigy of beauty and ways sage.
It was a vow, he said, once made in Rome,
Had brought them their chief treasure of their home.
A vow! The light world laughed--for miracles
Are not believed in now, except as Hell's.
And yet the ways of God are passing strange.
And this is certain (and therein the range
Of my long tale is reached, and I am free),
--There is at Ostia, close beside the sea,
A convent church, the same where years ago
Griselda kneeled in tears and made her vow;
And in that shrine, beneath the crucifix,
They show a votive offering, candlesticks
Of more than common workmanship and size,
And underneath inscribed the votary's
Name in initials, and the date, all told,
Hall--marked in England, and of massive gold.

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Worth Forest

Come, Prudence, you have done enough to--day--
The worst is over, and some hours of play
We both have earned, even more than rest, from toil;
Our minds need laughter, as a spent lamp oil,
And after their long fast a recompense.
How sweet the evening is with its fresh scents
Of briar and fern distilled by the warm wind!
How green a robe the rain has left behind!
How the birds laugh!--What say you to a walk
Over the hill, and our long promised talk
About the rights and wrongs of infancy?
Our patients are asleep, dear angels, she
Holding the boy in her ecstatic arms,
As mothers do, and free from past alarms,
The child grown calm. If we, an hour or two,
Venture to leave them, 'tis but our hope's due.
My tongue is all agog to try its speed
To a new listener, like a long--stalled steed
Loosed in a meadow, and the Forest lies
At hand, the theme of its best flatteries.
See, Prudence, here, your hat, where it was thrown
The night you found me in the house alone
With my worst fear and these two helpless things.
Please God, that worst has folded its black wings,
And we may let our thoughts on pleasure run
Some moments in the light of this good sun.
They sleep in Heaven's guard. Our watch to--night
Will be the braver for a transient sight--
The only one perhaps more fair than they--
Of Nature dressed for her June holiday.

This is the watershed between the Thames
And the South coast. On either hand the streams
Run to the great Thames valley and the sea,
The Downs, which should oppose them, servilely
Giving them passage. Who would think these Downs,
Which look like mountains when the sea--mist crowns
Their tops in autumn, were so poor a chain?
Yet they divide no pathways for the rain,
Nor store up waters, in this pluvious age,
More than the pasteboard barriers of a stage.
The crest lies here. From us the Medway flows
To drain the Weald of Kent, and hence the Ouse
Starts for the Channel at Newhaven. Both
These streams run eastward, bearing North and South.
But, to the West, the Adur and the Arun
Rising together, like twin rills of Sharon,
Go forth diversely, this through Shoreham gap,
And that by Arundel to Ocean's lap.
All are our rivers, by our Forest bred,
And one besides which with more reverend heed
We need to speak, for her desert is great
Beyond the actual wealth of her estate.
For Spenser sang of her, the River Mole,
And Milton knew her name, though he, poor soul,
Had never seen her, as I think being blind,
And so miscalled her sullen. Others find
Her special merit to consist in this:
A maiden coyness, and her shy device
Of mole--like burrowing. And in truth her way
Is hollowed out and hidden from the day,
Under deep banks and the dark overgrowth
Of knotted alder roots and stumps uncouth,
From source to mouth; and once at Mickleham,
She fairly digs her grave, in deed and name,
And disappears. There is an early trace
Of this propensity to devious ways
Shown by the little tributary brook
Which bounds our fields, for lately it forsook
Its natural course, to burrow out a road
Under an ash tree in its neighbourhood.
But whether this a special virtue is,
Or like some virtues but a special vice,
We need not argue. This at least is true,
That in the Mole are trout, and many too,
As I have often proved with rod and line
From boyhood up, blest days of pins and twine!
How many an afternoon have our hushed feet
Crept through the alders where the waters meet,
Mary's and mine, and our eyes viewed the pools
Where the trout lay, poor unsuspecting fools,
And our hands framed their doom,--while overhead
His orchestra of birds the backbird led.
In those lost days, no angler of them all
Could boast our cunning with the bait let fall,
Close to their snouts, from some deceiving coigne,
Or mark more notches when we stopped to join
Our fishes head to tail and lay them out
Upon the grass, and count our yards of trout.
'Twas best in June, with the brook growing clear
After a shower, as now. In dark weather
It was less certain angling, for the stream
Was truly ``sullen'' then, so deep and dim.
'Tis thus in mountain lakes, as some relate,
Where the fish need the sun to see the bait.
The fly takes nothing in these tangled brooks,
But grief to fishermen and loss of hooks;
And all our angling was of godless sort,
With living worm,--and yet we loved the sport.

But wait. This path will lead us to the gill,
Where you shall see the Mole in her first rill,
Ere yet she leaves the Forest, and her bed
Is still of iron--stone, which stains her red,
Yet keeps her pure and lends a pleasant taste
To her young waters as they bubble past.
You hear her lapping round the barren flanks
Of these old heaps we call the ``Cinder--banks,''
Where our forefathers forged their iron ore,
When Paul's was building. Now, the rabbits bore
In the still nights, beneath these ancient heaps,
A very honeycomb. See, where she peeps,
The infant river. You could hardly wet
Your ankles in her midmost eddy yet.
She has a pretty cunning in her look
Mixed with alarm, as in her secret nook
We find her out, half fugitive, half brave,
A look that all the Forest creatures have.
Let us away. Perhaps her guilelessness
Is troubled at a guilty human face,
(Mine, Prudence,--not your own). I know a dell
Knee deep in fern, hard by, the very cell
For an elf hermit. Here stag--mosses grow,
Thick as a coverlet, and fox--gloves blow
Purple and white, and the wild columbine,
And here in May there springs that thing divine,
The lily of the valley, only here
Found in the Forest, blossoming year on year;
A place o'ershadowed by a low--crowned oak.
The enchanted princess never had been woke
If she had gone to sleep in such a spot,
In spite of fortune. Why, a corpse forgot
Might lie, with eyes appealing to the sky,
Unburied here for half a century.
And this the woodcocks, as I take it, knew,
Who stayed to breed here all the summer through,
When other birds were gone. I flushed a pair
On the longest day last year; the nest was there;
And found some egg--shells chipped among the moss.
The sight is rarer now than once it was.

There! We have gathered breath and climbed the hill,
And now can view the landscape more at will.
This is the Pilgrim road, a well--known track,
When folk did all their travelling on horseback,
Now long deserted, yet a right of way,
And marked on all our maps with due display.
Beneath this yew--tree, which perhaps has seen
Our fathers riding to St. Thomas' shrine,
(For this was once the way of pilgrimage
From the south--west for all who would engage
Their vows at Canterbury), we will sit,
As doubtless they too sat, and rest a bit.
I love this solitude of birch and fern,
These quags and mosses, and I love the stern
Black yew--trees and the hoary pastures bare,
Or tufted with long growths of withered hair
And rank marsh grass. I love the bell--heath's bloom,
And the wild wealth which passionate Earth's womb
Throws in the Forest's lap to clothe unseen
Its ancient barrenness with youth and green.
I love the Forest; 'tis but this one strip
Along the watershed that still dares keep
Its title to such name. Yet once wide grown
A mighty woodland stretched from Down to Down,
The last stronghold and desperate standing--place
Of that indigenous Britannic race
Which fell before the English. It was called
By Rome ``Anderida,'' in Saxon ``Weald.''
Time and decay, and Man's relentless mood,
Have long made havock of the lower wood
With axe and plough; and now, of all the plain,
These breadths of higher ground alone remain,
In token of its presence. Who shall tell
How long, in these lost wilds of brake and fell,
Or in the tangled groves of oak below,
Gathering his sacred leaf, the mistletoe,
Some Druid priest, forgotten and in need,
May here have kept his rite and owned his creed
After the rest? For hardly yet less rude,
Here later dwelt that patron of our wood,
The Christian Hermit Leonard, he who slew
The last authentic dragon England knew;
A man of prayer and penitential vows,
Whose tale survives in many a forest house.
For, having slain his monster, he was given
To choose whate'er he would in gift from Heaven,
And took for his sole recompense this thing:
``Snakes should not bite, nor nightingales should sing
Within the Forest precincts.'' Thus, thought he,
His orisons should unmolested be
By mundane joys and troubles. Yonder ridge,
Cutting the sky--line at the horizon's edge,
Is the Surrey Hills. Beneath the chalk pit, set
Like a white cloud upon the face of it,
Lies Dorking, famed for fowls, and, further still,
Wotton and Shere. In front you have Leith Hill,
Which looks upon St. Paul's and on the sea,
A point of note in our geography.
All this is Evelyn's land, who long ago
Left us his record of the vale below
And wrote the ``Silva'' now to hands as good
Passed, the descendant's of his name and blood,
That doughty squire's, who lately stood in fight
With the new dragons of the Primrose rite,
And broke a lance for Ireland and the cause
Of freedom, flouted by coercion laws.
Strange change! For long in history these same hills
Were held as ominous of lowland ills,
A source of robber fear, in foul repute,
And natural fortress since the days of Knute,
And earlier still when Saxon Sussex stood
A home--ruled kingdom of primaeval wood.
A camp, an eagle's nest, a foot set down
Into the Weald, and evil of renown
With the free dwellers of the plain, who saw
A menace brooding of imperial law.
Saxon or Dane or Norman, each in turn,
Set there his camp to pillage and to burn;
For history, just as now, was mainly then
A tale of wars 'twixt regiments and men.
We, forest dwellers, show with honest boast
Our Slaughter Bridge, where the Norse horde was lost,
Drowned in the red Mole waters, when the Dane
Fled from his eyrie, nor returned again.

The farthest point of all, and looking west,
Is the line of Hindhead, on whose triple crest,
With a good glass, a three--inch telescope,
You might make out the cross upon the top:
It used to be a gibbet. As a child
What tales I treasured of that headland wild,
With its three murderers, who in chains there hung,
Rocked by the winds and tempest--tossed and swung!
Three Portsmouth sailors were they who their mate
Murdered for gold and grog, which guineas get,
And in the ``Punch Bowl'' made their brute carouse,
Leaving him dead, in a lone public--house,
Where retribution seized them as was due,--
For in that age of simple faiths and true
Murder did always out,--and so apace
Brought them to justice in that self--same place;
And many years they hung. At last its sway
Humanity, that child of yesterday,
Asserted in their case, and craved their bones
For Christian sepulture and these trim stones.
I half regret the leniency thus lent:
Their gallows--tree was their best monument;
But ours is a trim age. There, farther down,
Is a tower, or ``folly,'' built of late by one
We call in these parts ``Chevalier de Malt,''
(The brewers love high places, and no fault).
Behind us the chief ridge. And, as I speak,
Out of its bowels, with an angry shriek,
And rushing down the valley at our feet,
The train has found us out in our retreat.
It came from Balcombe tunnel and is bound
To be in London ere an hour is round.
It scarcely scares our solitude away;
And yonder Royston crows, the black and grey,
Sit on unmoved upon their oak. This ridge
Is only thirty miles from London Bridge,
And, when the wind blows north, the London smoke
Comes down upon us, and the grey crows croak,
For the great city seems to reach about
With its dark arms, and grip them by the throat.
Time yet may prove them right. The wilderness
May be disforested, and Nature's face
Stamped out of beauty by the heel of Man,
Who has no room for beauty in his plan.

Such things may be, for things as strange have been.
This very place, where peace and sylvan green
And immemorial silence and the mood
Of solemn Nature, virgin and unwooed,
Seem as a heritage,--this very place
Was once the workshop of a busy race
Which dug and toiled and sweated. Here once stood,
Amid the blackened limbs of tortured wood,
And belching smoke and fury from its mouth,
A monstrous furnace, to whose jaws uncouth
A race as monstrous offered night and day
The Forest's fairest offspring for a prey.
Here stood a hamlet, black and populous,
With human sins and sorrows in each house,
A mining centre. Which of us could guess
Each yew--tree yonder marks a dwelling--place
Of living men and women?--nay, a tomb?
Of all the secrets hidden in Earth's womb,
None surely is more pitiful and strange
Than this of human death and human change
Amid the eternal greenness of the Spring.
All we may guess of what the years shall bring,
Is this: that about April every year,
White blossoms shall burst forth upon the pear
And pink upon the apple. Nothing else.
Earth has a silent mockery which repels
Our questioning. Her history is not ours,
And overlays it with a growth of flowers.

Ah, Prudence, you who wonder, being town bred,
What troubles grieve us in the lives we lead,
What cause we have for sorrow in these fields
Whose beauty girds us with its thousand shields,--
This is our tragedy. You cannot know,
In your bald cities, where no cowslips blow,
How dear life is to us. The tramp of feet
Brushes all older footsteps from the street,
And you see nothing of the graves you tread.
With us they are still present, the poor dead,
And plead with us each day of life, and cry
``Did I not love my life, I too, even I?''
You wonder!--Wonder rather we are not
All touched with madness and disease of thought,
Being so near the places where they sleep
Who sowed these fields we in their absence reap.
It were more logical. And here in truth
No few of our Weald peasants in their youth
Lose their weak wits, or in their age go mad,
Brooding on sights the world had deemed most glad.
I have seen many such. The Hammer Ponds,
So frequent in the Forest's outer bounds,
Have all their histories of despairing souls
Brought to their depths to find their true life's goals.
You see one in the hollow, where the light
Touches its blackness with a gleam of white,
Deep down, and over--browed with sombre trees
Shutting its surface primly from the breeze,
The landscape's innocent eye, set open wide
To watch the heavens,--yet with homicide
Steeped to the lids. 'Tis scarce a year ago
The latest sufferer from our rural woe
Found there his exit from a life too weak
To shield him from despairs he dared not speak.
A curious lad. I knew young Marden well,
Brought up, a farmer's son, at the plough's tail,
And used for all romance to mind the crows
At plain day--wages in his father's house.
A ``natural'' he, and weak in intellect,
His fellows said, nor lightly to be pricked
To industry at any useful trade;
His wits would go wool--gathering in the shade
At harvest time, when all had work on hand,
Nor, when you spoke, would seem to understand.
At times his choice would be for days together
To leave his work and idle in the heather,
Making his bed where shelter could be found
Under the fern--stacks or on open ground,
Or oftenest in the charcoal burners' hives,
When he could win that pity from their wives.
Poor soul! He needed pity, for his face,
Scarred by a burn, and reft of human grace,
And for his speech, which faltering in his head
Made a weak babble of the words he said.
His eyes too--what a monster's! did you ever
Watch a toad's face at evening by a river
And note the concentrated light which lies
In the twin topazes men call his eyes?
Like these were Marden's. From the square of clay
Which was his face, these windows of his day
Looked out in splendour, but with a fixed stare
Which made men start who missed the meaning there.
Yet he had thoughts. Not seldom he and I
Made in these woods discourse of forestry,
Walking together, I with dog and gun,
He as a beater, or, if game was none,
Marking the timber trees and underwoods.
He knew each teller in these solitudes,
And loved them with a quite unreasoned art,
Learned from no teacher but his own wild heart.
Of trees he quaintly talked in measured saws
Which seemed the decalogue of Nature's laws,
Its burden being as erst, ``Thou shalt not kill''
Things made by God, which shall outlive thee still.
For larch and fir, newcomers from the North,
He pleaded scantly when their doom went forth,
Knowing they needs must die, and the birch stems,
Since Spring renews them, yet with stratagems
Framed to delay the moment of their fate.
For beech he battled with more keen debate
Of hand and eye, in deprecating tone,
Holding their rights coeval with our own.
But when we came to oak, good Sussex oak,
The flame burst forth, and all his being spoke
In words that jostled in his throat with tears,
``An oak which might outlive a thousand years.''
He held this sacrilege. Perhaps some strains
Of Druid blood were mingled in his veins,
Which gave authority to guard the tree
Sacred of yore, and thus he vanquished me.

How came he to his end, poor Marden? Well,
All stories have their reason, as some tell,
In Eves that give the fruit for which men grieve,
Or, what is often worse, refuse to give.
This last was Marden's unprotected case,
Whose virtue failed him, and his ugliness,
To escape the common fate of all mankind.
He fell in love egregious and purblind,
Just like the wisest. She who caused his flame
Was not, I think, in honesty to blame
If she was less than serious at his suit.
Marden, as lover, was grotesquely mute,
And his strange eyes were not the orbs to move
A maiden's fancy to a dream of love.
In truth they were scarce human. Still 'twas hard
His passion should be met, for sole reward,
With sermon phrases and such gospel talk
As preachers license for a Sunday walk,
Mixed with her laughter. This was all she gave,
An endless course of things beyond the grave,
Till he lost reckoning and, poor witless man,
Began to reason on the cosmic plan,
Which meted this scant mercy in his case,
And placed him in such straits for happiness.
Can you not see it? All our rustics live
In their small round of thoughts as in a hive,
Each cell they build resembling each each day,
Till their wits swarm, and then they are away.
Marden went mad, misled by his queen bee,
Through a deep slough of black theology,
Which ended in destruction and this pool,
With Hell beyond him for his poor dumb soul.
He sought her final pity for love lost.
She talked of Heaven, and sent him tracts by post.
He pleaded. She reproved. She prayed. He swore.
She bade him go. He went, and came no more.
Such was the history, no whit uncommon.
I neither blame the boy nor blame the woman,
Only the hardness of a fate which laid
Its iron flail upon too weak a head.
She watched him go, half doubting what would come,
Her last tract crushed betwixt his angry thumb
And his clenched fingers, and his lips grown white,
And his eyes gleaming with their maniac light,
And so towards the hill. That afternoon,
The last of a late autumn, saw the sun
Set in unusual splendour (it is said
A disc of gold in a whole heaven of red),
The herald of a frost, the earliest
Known for a lifetime. There, for summer dressed,
The trees stood stiff and frozen in their green,
Belated revellers in some changing scene
Of sudden winter and June left behind.
In all the forest was no breath of wind
For a full fortnight, nor was a leaf shed
Long after Nature in her shroud lay dead,
A beautiful black frost which held the land
In unseen fetters, but with iron hand.
The pools were frozen over in the night,
Without a flaw or ripple; and their light
Reflected every stem of every tree
In perfect mirrors of transparency.
Boys, who a week before were in the field
With bat and ball, now ventured, iron--heeled,
On the ice skating, yet awhile in fear,
Seeing no footing on the water there.
And thus it fell about the corpse was found
(You will have guessed it) in the ice fast bound.
Two boys, the brothers of the girl he wooed,
Tired of their pastime stopped awhile and stood
Over a shallow place where rushes grow,
And peering down saw a man's face below
Watching their own (his eyes were open laid,
Fixed in that terrible stare poor Marden's had);
And thought they saw a vision. Running back,
Loud in their fear, with spectres on their track,
They spread the news through all the frightened farms,
Filling the cottagers with wild alarms,
Till some made bold with spades, and hewed away
The ice above to where the dead man lay.
There, sure enough, was Marden, his fool's mouth
Stuffed for all solace of his sad soul's drouth
With the girl's tracts. Thus primed, he had plunged in
And ended all, with a last deed of sin,
Grotesque and tragic as his life. No less
Let us persuaded be he rests in peace,
Or where were Heaven's justice? One last tale,
As we walk back,--of worthy Master Gale,
Our house's founder, who in a dark age
Won us the lands we hold in heritage,
Working his forge here in the civil wars,
And welding fortunes out of iron bars.
A story with a moral too, at least,
For money makers, of how wealth increased,
And most of all for us, to whom his toil
Has proved a mine of ease and endless spoil,
Though of a truth we are unlineal heirs,
Not true descendants of his toils and cares.
His history stands recorded in a book
Himself achieved, ere Death his anvil broke,
A volume full of wisdom and God's praise,
Trust in himself, and scorn of human ways.

He was a blacksmith, born at Sevenoke
In Kent, the toilsome son of toilsome folk,
And honourable too, as honour then
Was understood among commercial men.
He paid his way through life. He owed to none
Beyond their will to let the debt run on,
Nor trusted any farther than he need.
He held the race of man a bastard breed,
An evil generation, bred of dust,
And prone to spending, idleness and lust.
God was his friend. Of Him he counsel took,
How he should make new ventures with new luck,
Praying each night continuance of health,
Increase of wisdom and increase of wealth;
Nor ever in his yearly balance sheet
Forgot to inscribe himself in Heaven's debt.
A virtuous man, and holding with good cause
The eternal justice of the social laws
Which give to industry its well--earned meed,
And leave the weak and idle to their need.
From childhood up, he clutched the staff of life,
As if it were a cudgel for the strife,
And wielded it throughout relentlessly.
His parents, brothers, all by God's decree,
Died of the plague when he was scarce sixteen.
The date, as I have reckoned, should have been
The very year the patriots raised their backs
To the new pressure of the shipping tax.
His first fight was a battle for the pence
Left by his father, when, at dire expense
Of lawyers' fees and charges without end,
He found himself with fifty pounds to spend,
And a small stock--in--trade of iron sows,
A fireless smithy and an empty house.
With these and God's compassion, and a man
To strike and blow for him, his trade began,
Till in four years his industry had grown
To a fair substance in his native town.

When he was twenty--one, an accident
Brought him to Sussex; and, as Saul was sent
To find his father's asses and therewith
Met with a kingdom, so this honest smith,
While chasing a bad debtor through the Weald,
Lit on his fortune in this very field.
For, failing of his money, in its stead
He took his debtor's forge and smelting shed;
Sold his goodwill at Sevenoke, and set
His smithy in the Forest next to it.
This brought him trade. The civil wars began
And each man's hand was set against each man,
And sword to sword. But, while his neighbours fought,
Gale, like a Gallio, cared for these things nought,
And sold his iron with indifferent zeal
To kings and Parliaments in need of steel;
Or, if a prejudice his thought divides,
It is for Cromwell and his Ironsides.
But God's be all the glory, His alone
Who to His servant Gale such grace had shown!

Thus, in an iron age, this thrifty man
Got gold and silver, and, while others ran
Out of their fortunes, he with pockets full
Bought up their lands and held the world a fool.
'Tis now two hundred years since Father Gale
Laid down his pick and hammer. He had won,
By forty years of toil beneath the sun,
The right to work no longer, for himself
And for his heirs for ever. This is Wealth!
He was a prudent buyer, and died possessed
Of some four thousand acres of the best
Land in the parish. His first purchases
Were in Worth Forest, to his vulgar eyes
I fear mere wood for burning. Pease--pottage
And Frog's--hole farms came next; and in his age,
Wishing, as he says, to have a good estate
And house to live in, though the day was late
To think of building, and he most abhorred
To waste his substance upon brick and board,
Holding with prudent minds that such intent
Is but at best a ``sweet impoverishment''
And that the wise man doth more soundly hit
Who turns another's folly to his wit,
He purchased Caxtons, manor and domain,
To be the home of a new race of men.

His last words, as recorded by his son,
A man of taste and letters and who won
A seat in Parliament in William's reign,
Were uttered in the ancient Biblic strain
Dear to the age he lived in and to him.
They might be David's in their cadence grim.
``When I am dead and gone,'' he said, ``my son,
Trust in the Lord and in none other, none.
Be wary of thy neighbours. They are vile,
A brood of vipers, to oppose whose guile
I have been at constant charges all my life.
Take thee an honest woman for thy wife,
And get thee sons who shall inherit all
Thy God hath given thee, spite of Adam's fall.
Guard well thy rights, and cease not to pull down
All gates that block thy highway to the town,
Such as that man of Belial, Jacob Sears
Has set in Crawley Lane these thirty years.
Let no man venture to enclose the wastes.
Be on thy guard against such ribald priests
As Lee and Troughton. They are an ill brood,
A bastard generation, bone and blood.
Hold fast to thy religion. Go not thou
After lewd women and the worldly show
Of rich apparel. Keep thy substance close
In thy own chamber for the fear of loss,
And thy own counsel closer, lest men find
Their way to rob thee of thy peace of mind.
But, more than all, be quit of vain pretence,
And see thy income equal thy expense,
So shalt thou have thy God with thee alway.''

Thus runs the story. You have seen to--day
The latest shoot of his posterity,
The boy we left there sleeping. His shall be
One day the guardianship of this domain,
As other Gales have held it. It were vain
In me to speak of all the goodly fruit
Begotten on the stem of this old root,
This sour crab--apple, worthy master Gale.
This child perhaps. . . . But that will be a tale
For new historians. Listen! Did you hear
Just now, down in the valley, someone cheer
Or hail us? Stop. Ay, there there comes a man,
Running and shouting loud as a man can.
He sees us too, and slowly through the fern
Now climbs to meet us. Something we shall learn
Without a doubt. God grant it be not ill!
And yet he seems to falter and stand still.
What is your message, Penfold? Why this haste?
A little closer. Speak man! Here at last
You have found us. Come. What is it that you said!
See, we have courage. ``Sir, the child is dead!''

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Balin and Balan

Pellam the King, who held and lost with Lot
In that first war, and had his realm restored
But rendered tributary, failed of late
To send his tribute; wherefore Arthur called
His treasurer, one of many years, and spake,
'Go thou with him and him and bring it to us,
Lest we should set one truer on his throne.
Man's word is God in man.'
His Baron said
'We go but harken: there be two strange knights

Who sit near Camelot at a fountain-side,
A mile beneath the forest, challenging
And overthrowing every knight who comes.
Wilt thou I undertake them as we pass,
And send them to thee?'
Arthur laughed upon him.
'Old friend, too old to be so young, depart,
Delay not thou for aught, but let them sit,
Until they find a lustier than themselves.'

So these departed. Early, one fair dawn,
The light-winged spirit of his youth returned
On Arthur's heart; he armed himself and went,
So coming to the fountain-side beheld
Balin and Balan sitting statuelike,
Brethren, to right and left the spring, that down,
From underneath a plume of lady-fern,
Sang, and the sand danced at the bottom of it.
And on the right of Balin Balin's horse
Was fast beside an alder, on the left
Of Balan Balan's near a poplartree.
'Fair Sirs,' said Arthur, 'wherefore sit ye here?'
Balin and Balan answered 'For the sake
Of glory; we be mightier men than all
In Arthur's court; that also have we proved;
For whatsoever knight against us came
Or I or he have easily overthrown.'
'I too,' said Arthur, 'am of Arthur's hall,
But rather proven in his Paynim wars
Than famous jousts; but see, or proven or not,
Whether me likewise ye can overthrow.'
And Arthur lightly smote the brethren down,
And lightly so returned, and no man knew.

Then Balin rose, and Balan, and beside
The carolling water set themselves again,
And spake no word until the shadow turned;
When from the fringe of coppice round them burst
A spangled pursuivant, and crying 'Sirs,
Rise, follow! ye be sent for by the King,'
They followed; whom when Arthur seeing asked
'Tell me your names; why sat ye by the well?'
Balin the stillness of a minute broke
Saying 'An unmelodious name to thee,
Balin, "the Savage"--that addition thine--
My brother and my better, this man here,
Balan. I smote upon the naked skull
A thrall of thine in open hall, my hand
Was gauntleted, half slew him; for I heard
He had spoken evil of me; thy just wrath
Sent me a three-years' exile from thine eyes.
I have not lived my life delightsomely:
For I that did that violence to thy thrall,
Had often wrought some fury on myself,
Saving for Balan: those three kingless years
Have past--were wormwood-bitter to me. King,
Methought that if we sat beside the well,
And hurled to ground what knight soever spurred
Against us, thou would'st take me gladlier back,
And make, as ten-times worthier to be thine
Than twenty Balins, Balan knight. I have said.
Not so--not all. A man of thine today
Abashed us both, and brake my boast. Thy will?'
Said Arthur 'Thou hast ever spoken truth;
Thy too fierce manhood would not let thee lie.
Rise, my true knight. As children learn, be thou
Wiser for falling! walk with me, and move
To music with thine Order and the King.
Thy chair, a grief to all the brethren, stands
Vacant, but thou retake it, mine again!'

Thereafter, when Sir Balin entered hall,
The Lost one Found was greeted as in Heaven
With joy that blazed itself in woodland wealth
Of leaf, and gayest garlandage of flowers,
Along the walls and down the board; they sat,
And cup clashed cup; they drank and some one sang,
Sweet-voiced, a song of welcome, whereupon
Their common shout in chorus, mounting, made
Those banners of twelve battles overhead
Stir, as they stirred of old, when Arthur's host
Proclaimed him Victor, and the day was won.

Then Balan added to their Order lived
A wealthier life than heretofore with these
And Balin, till their embassage returned.

'Sir King' they brought report 'we hardly found,
So bushed about it is with gloom, the hall
Of him to whom ye sent us, Pellam, once
A Christless foe of thine as ever dashed
Horse against horse; but seeing that thy realm
Hath prospered in the name of Christ, the King
Took, as in rival heat, to holy things;
And finds himself descended from the Saint
Arimathan Joseph; him who first
Brought the great faith to Britain over seas;
He boasts his life as purer than thine own;
Eats scarce enow to keep his pulse abeat;
Hath pushed aside his faithful wife, nor lets
Or dame or damsel enter at his gates
Lest he should be polluted. This gray King
Showed us a shrine wherein were wonders--yea--
Rich arks with priceless bones of martyrdom,
Thorns of the crown and shivers of the cross,
And therewithal (for thus he told us) brought
By holy Joseph thither, that same spear
Wherewith the Roman pierced the side of Christ.
He much amazed us; after, when we sought
The tribute, answered "I have quite foregone
All matters of this world: Garlon, mine heir,
Of him demand it," which this Garlon gave
With much ado, railing at thine and thee.

'But when we left, in those deep woods we found
A knight of thine spear-stricken from behind,
Dead, whom we buried; more than one of us
Cried out on Garlon, but a woodman there
Reported of some demon in the woods
Was once a man, who driven by evil tongues
From all his fellows, lived alone, and came
To learn black magic, and to hate his kind
With such a hate, that when he died, his soul
Became a Fiend, which, as the man in life
Was wounded by blind tongues he saw not whence,
Strikes from behind. This woodman showed the cave
From which he sallies, and wherein he dwelt.
We saw the hoof-print of a horse, no more.'

Then Arthur, 'Let who goes before me, see
He do not fall behind me: foully slain
And villainously! who will hunt for me
This demon of the woods?' Said Balan, 'I'!
So claimed the quest and rode away, but first,
Embracing Balin, 'Good my brother, hear!
Let not thy moods prevail, when I am gone
Who used to lay them! hold them outer fiends,
Who leap at thee to tear thee; shake them aside,
Dreams ruling when wit sleeps! yea, but to dream
That any of these would wrong thee, wrongs thyself.
Witness their flowery welcome. Bound are they
To speak no evil. Truly save for fears,
My fears for thee, so rich a fellowship
Would make me wholly blest: thou one of them,
Be one indeed: consider them, and all
Their bearing in their common bond of love,
No more of hatred than in Heaven itself,
No more of jealousy than in Paradise.'

So Balan warned, and went; Balin remained:
Who--for but three brief moons had glanced away
From being knighted till he smote the thrall,
And faded from the presence into years
Of exile--now would strictlier set himself
To learn what Arthur meant by courtesy,
Manhood, and knighthood; wherefore hovered round
Lancelot, but when he marked his high sweet smile
In passing, and a transitory word
Make knight or churl or child or damsel seem
From being smiled at happier in themselves--
Sighed, as a boy lame-born beneath a height,
That glooms his valley, sighs to see the peak
Sun-flushed, or touch at night the northern star;
For one from out his village lately climed
And brought report of azure lands and fair,
Far seen to left and right; and he himself
Hath hardly scaled with help a hundred feet
Up from the base: so Balin marvelling oft
How far beyond him Lancelot seemed to move,
Groaned, and at times would mutter, 'These be gifts,
Born with the blood, not learnable, divine,
Beyond MY reach. Well had I foughten--well--
In those fierce wars, struck hard--and had I crowned
With my slain self the heaps of whom I slew--
So--better!--But this worship of the Queen,
That honour too wherein she holds him--this,
This was the sunshine that hath given the man
A growth, a name that branches o'er the rest,
And strength against all odds, and what the King
So prizes--overprizes--gentleness.
Her likewise would I worship an I might.
I never can be close with her, as he
That brought her hither. Shall I pray the King
To let me bear some token of his Queen
Whereon to gaze, remembering her--forget
My heats and violences? live afresh?
What, if the Queen disdained to grant it! nay
Being so stately-gentle, would she make
My darkness blackness? and with how sweet grace
She greeted my return! Bold will I be--
Some goodly cognizance of Guinevere,
In lieu of this rough beast upon my shield,
Langued gules, and toothed with grinning savagery.'

And Arthur, when Sir Balin sought him, said
'What wilt thou bear?' Balin was bold, and asked
To bear her own crown-royal upon shield,
Whereat she smiled and turned her to the King,
Who answered 'Thou shalt put the crown to use.
The crown is but the shadow of the King,
And this a shadow's shadow, let him have it,
So this will help him of his violences!'
'No shadow' said Sir Balin 'O my Queen,
But light to me! no shadow, O my King,
But golden earnest of a gentler life!'

So Balin bare the crown, and all the knights
Approved him, and the Queen, and all the world
Made music, and he felt his being move
In music with his Order, and the King.

The nightingale, full-toned in middle May,
Hath ever and anon a note so thin
It seems another voice in other groves;
Thus, after some quick burst of sudden wrath,
The music in him seemed to change, and grow
Faint and far-off.
And once he saw the thrall
His passion half had gauntleted to death,
That causer of his banishment and shame,
Smile at him, as he deemed, presumptuously:
His arm half rose to strike again, but fell:
The memory of that cognizance on shield
Weighted it down, but in himself he moaned:

'Too high this mount of Camelot for me:
These high-set courtesies are not for me.
Shall I not rather prove the worse for these?
Fierier and stormier from restraining, break
Into some madness even before the Queen?'

Thus, as a hearth lit in a mountain home,
And glancing on the window, when the gloom
Of twilight deepens round it, seems a flame
That rages in the woodland far below,
So when his moods were darkened, court and King
And all the kindly warmth of Arthur's hall
Shadowed an angry distance: yet he strove
To learn the graces of their Table, fought
Hard with himself, and seemed at length in peace.

Then chanced, one morning, that Sir Balin sat
Close-bowered in that garden nigh the hall.
A walk of roses ran from door to door;
A walk of lilies crost it to the bower:
And down that range of roses the great Queen
Came with slow steps, the morning on her face;
And all in shadow from the counter door
Sir Lancelot as to meet her, then at once,
As if he saw not, glanced aside, and paced
The long white walk of lilies toward the bower.
Followed the Queen; Sir Balin heard her 'Prince,
Art thou so little loyal to thy Queen,
As pass without good morrow to thy Queen?'
To whom Sir Lancelot with his eyes on earth,
'Fain would I still be loyal to the Queen.'
'Yea so' she said 'but so to pass me by--
So loyal scarce is loyal to thyself,
Whom all men rate the king of courtesy.
Let be: ye stand, fair lord, as in a dream.'

Then Lancelot with his hand among the flowers
'Yea--for a dream. Last night methought I saw
That maiden Saint who stands with lily in hand
In yonder shrine. All round her prest the dark,
And all the light upon her silver face
Flowed from the spiritual lily that she held.
Lo! these her emblems drew mine eyes--away:
For see, how perfect-pure! As light a flush
As hardly tints the blossom of the quince
Would mar their charm of stainless maidenhood.'

'Sweeter to me' she said 'this garden rose
Deep-hued and many-folded! sweeter still
The wild-wood hyacinth and the bloom of May.
Prince, we have ridden before among the flowers
In those fair days--not all as cool as these,
Though season-earlier. Art thou sad? or sick?
Our noble King will send thee his own leech--
Sick? or for any matter angered at me?'

Then Lancelot lifted his large eyes; they dwelt
Deep-tranced on hers, and could not fall: her hue
Changed at his gaze: so turning side by side
They past, and Balin started from his bower.

'Queen? subject? but I see not what I see.
Damsel and lover? hear not what I hear.
My father hath begotten me in his wrath.
I suffer from the things before me, know,
Learn nothing; am not worthy to be knight;
A churl, a clown!' and in him gloom on gloom
Deepened: he sharply caught his lance and shield,
Nor stayed to crave permission of the King,
But, mad for strange adventure, dashed away.

He took the selfsame track as Balan, saw
The fountain where they sat together, sighed
'Was I not better there with him?' and rode
The skyless woods, but under open blue
Came on the hoarhead woodman at a bough
Wearily hewing. 'Churl, thine axe!' he cried,
Descended, and disjointed it at a blow:
To whom the woodman uttered wonderingly
'Lord, thou couldst lay the Devil of these woods
If arm of flesh could lay him.' Balin cried
'Him, or the viler devil who plays his part,
To lay that devil would lay the Devil in me.'
'Nay' said the churl, 'our devil is a truth,
I saw the flash of him but yestereven.
And some DO say that our Sir Garlon too
Hath learned black magic, and to ride unseen.
Look to the cave.' But Balin answered him
'Old fabler, these be fancies of the churl,
Look to thy woodcraft,' and so leaving him,
Now with slack rein and careless of himself,
Now with dug spur and raving at himself,
Now with droopt brow down the long glades he rode;
So marked not on his right a cavern-chasm
Yawn over darkness, where, nor far within,
The whole day died, but, dying, gleamed on rocks
Roof-pendent, sharp; and others from the floor,
Tusklike, arising, made that mouth of night
Whereout the Demon issued up from Hell.
He marked not this, but blind and deaf to all
Save that chained rage, which ever yelpt within,
Past eastward from the falling sun. At once
He felt the hollow-beaten mosses thud
And tremble, and then the shadow of a spear,
Shot from behind him, ran along the ground.
Sideways he started from the path, and saw,
With pointed lance as if to pierce, a shape,
A light of armour by him flash, and pass
And vanish in the woods; and followed this,
But all so blind in rage that unawares
He burst his lance against a forest bough,
Dishorsed himself, and rose again, and fled
Far, till the castle of a King, the hall
Of Pellam, lichen-bearded, grayly draped
With streaming grass, appeared, low-built but strong;
The ruinous donjon as a knoll of moss,
The battlement overtopt with ivytods,
A home of bats, in every tower an owl.
Then spake the men of Pellam crying 'Lord,
Why wear ye this crown-royal upon shield?'
Said Balin 'For the fairest and the best
Of ladies living gave me this to bear.'
So stalled his horse, and strode across the court,
But found the greetings both of knight and King
Faint in the low dark hall of banquet: leaves
Laid their green faces flat against the panes,
Sprays grated, and the cankered boughs without
Whined in the wood; for all was hushed within,
Till when at feast Sir Garlon likewise asked
'Why wear ye that crown-royal?' Balin said
'The Queen we worship, Lancelot, I, and all,
As fairest, best and purest, granted me
To bear it!' Such a sound (for Arthur's knights
Were hated strangers in the hall) as makes
The white swan-mother, sitting, when she hears
A strange knee rustle through her secret reeds,
Made Garlon, hissing; then he sourly smiled.
'Fairest I grant her: I have seen; but best,
Best, purest? THOU from Arthur's hall, and yet
So simple! hast thou eyes, or if, are these
So far besotted that they fail to see
This fair wife-worship cloaks a secret shame?
Truly, ye men of Arthur be but babes.'

A goblet on the board by Balin, bossed
With holy Joseph's legend, on his right
Stood, all of massiest bronze: one side had sea
And ship and sail and angels blowing on it:
And one was rough with wattling, and the walls
Of that low church he built at Glastonbury.
This Balin graspt, but while in act to hurl,
Through memory of that token on the shield
Relaxed his hold: 'I will be gentle' he thought
'And passing gentle' caught his hand away,
Then fiercely to Sir Garlon 'Eyes have I
That saw today the shadow of a spear,
Shot from behind me, run along the ground;
Eyes too that long have watched how Lancelot draws
From homage to the best and purest, might,
Name, manhood, and a grace, but scantly thine,
Who, sitting in thine own hall, canst endure
To mouth so huge a foulness--to thy guest,
Me, me of Arthur's Table. Felon talk!
Let be! no more!'
But not the less by night
The scorn of Garlon, poisoning all his rest,
Stung him in dreams. At length, and dim through leaves
Blinkt the white morn, sprays grated, and old boughs
Whined in the wood. He rose, descended, met
The scorner in the castle court, and fain,
For hate and loathing, would have past him by;
But when Sir Garlon uttered mocking-wise;
'What, wear ye still that same crown-scandalous?'
His countenance blackened, and his forehead veins
Bloated, and branched; and tearing out of sheath
The brand, Sir Balin with a fiery 'Ha!
So thou be shadow, here I make thee ghost,'
Hard upon helm smote him, and the blade flew
Splintering in six, and clinkt upon the stones.
Then Garlon, reeling slowly backward, fell,
And Balin by the banneret of his helm
Dragged him, and struck, but from the castle a cry
Sounded across the court, and--men-at-arms,
A score with pointed lances, making at him--
He dashed the pummel at the foremost face,
Beneath a low door dipt, and made his feet
Wings through a glimmering gallery, till he marked
The portal of King Pellam's chapel wide
And inward to the wall; he stept behind;
Thence in a moment heard them pass like wolves
Howling; but while he stared about the shrine,
In which he scarce could spy the Christ for Saints,
Beheld before a golden altar lie
The longest lance his eyes had ever seen,
Point-painted red; and seizing thereupon
Pushed through an open casement down, leaned on it,
Leapt in a semicircle, and lit on earth;
Then hand at ear, and harkening from what side
The blindfold rummage buried in the walls
Might echo, ran the counter path, and found
His charger, mounted on him and away.
An arrow whizzed to the right, one to the left,
One overhead; and Pellam's feeble cry
'Stay, stay him! he defileth heavenly things
With earthly uses'--made him quickly dive
Beneath the boughs, and race through many a mile
Of dense and open, till his goodly horse,
Arising wearily at a fallen oak,
Stumbled headlong, and cast him face to ground.

Half-wroth he had not ended, but all glad,
Knightlike, to find his charger yet unlamed,
Sir Balin drew the shield from off his neck,
Stared at the priceless cognizance, and thought
'I have shamed thee so that now thou shamest me,
Thee will I bear no more,' high on a branch
Hung it, and turned aside into the woods,
And there in gloom cast himself all along,
Moaning 'My violences, my violences!'

But now the wholesome music of the wood
Was dumbed by one from out the hall of Mark,
A damsel-errant, warbling, as she rode
The woodland alleys, Vivien, with her Squire.

'The fire of Heaven has killed the barren cold,
And kindled all the plain and all the wold.
The new leaf ever pushes off the old.
The fire of Heaven is not the flame of Hell.

'Old priest, who mumble worship in your quire--
Old monk and nun, ye scorn the world's desire,
Yet in your frosty cells ye feel the fire!
The fire of Heaven is not the flame of Hell.

'The fire of Heaven is on the dusty ways.
The wayside blossoms open to the blaze.
The whole wood-world is one full peal of praise.
The fire of Heaven is not the flame of Hell.

'The fire of Heaven is lord of all things good,
And starve not thou this fire within thy blood,
But follow Vivien through the fiery flood!
The fire of Heaven is not the flame of Hell!'

Then turning to her Squire 'This fire of Heaven,
This old sun-worship, boy, will rise again,
And beat the cross to earth, and break the King
And all his Table.'
Then they reached a glade,
Where under one long lane of cloudless air
Before another wood, the royal crown
Sparkled, and swaying upon a restless elm
Drew the vague glance of Vivien, and her Squire;
Amazed were these; 'Lo there' she cried--'a crown--
Borne by some high lord-prince of Arthur's hall,
And there a horse! the rider? where is he?
See, yonder lies one dead within the wood.
Not dead; he stirs!--but sleeping. I will speak.
Hail, royal knight, we break on thy sweet rest,
Not, doubtless, all unearned by noble deeds.
But bounden art thou, if from Arthur's hall,
To help the weak. Behold, I fly from shame,
A lustful King, who sought to win my love
Through evil ways: the knight, with whom I rode,
Hath suffered misadventure, and my squire
Hath in him small defence; but thou, Sir Prince,
Wilt surely guide me to the warrior King,
Arthur the blameless, pure as any maid,
To get me shelter for my maidenhood.
I charge thee by that crown upon thy shield,
And by the great Queen's name, arise and hence.'

And Balin rose, 'Thither no more! nor Prince
Nor knight am I, but one that hath defamed
The cognizance she gave me: here I dwell
Savage among the savage woods, here die--
Die: let the wolves' black maws ensepulchre
Their brother beast, whose anger was his lord.
O me, that such a name as Guinevere's,
Which our high Lancelot hath so lifted up,
And been thereby uplifted, should through me,
My violence, and my villainy, come to shame.'

Thereat she suddenly laughed and shrill, anon
Sighed all as suddenly. Said Balin to her
'Is this thy courtesy--to mock me, ha?
Hence, for I will not with thee.' Again she sighed
'Pardon, sweet lord! we maidens often laugh
When sick at heart, when rather we should weep.
I knew thee wronged. I brake upon thy rest,
And now full loth am I to break thy dream,
But thou art man, and canst abide a truth,
Though bitter. Hither, boy--and mark me well.
Dost thou remember at Caerleon once--
A year ago--nay, then I love thee not--
Ay, thou rememberest well--one summer dawn--
By the great tower--Caerleon upon Usk--
Nay, truly we were hidden: this fair lord,
The flower of all their vestal knighthood, knelt
In amorous homage--knelt--what else?--O ay
Knelt, and drew down from out his night-black hair
And mumbled that white hand whose ringed caress
Had wandered from her own King's golden head,
And lost itself in darkness, till she cried--
I thought the great tower would crash down on both--
"Rise, my sweet King, and kiss me on the lips,
Thou art my King." This lad, whose lightest word
Is mere white truth in simple nakedness,
Saw them embrace: he reddens, cannot speak,
So bashful, he! but all the maiden Saints,
The deathless mother-maidenhood of Heaven,
Cry out upon her. Up then, ride with me!
Talk not of shame! thou canst not, an thou would'st,
Do these more shame than these have done themselves.'

She lied with ease; but horror-stricken he,
Remembering that dark bower at Camelot,
Breathed in a dismal whisper 'It is truth.'

Sunnily she smiled 'And even in this lone wood,
Sweet lord, ye do right well to whisper this.
Fools prate, and perish traitors. Woods have tongues,
As walls have ears: but thou shalt go with me,
And we will speak at first exceeding low.
Meet is it the good King be not deceived.
See now, I set thee high on vantage ground,
From whence to watch the time, and eagle-like
Stoop at thy will on Lancelot and the Queen.'

She ceased; his evil spirit upon him leapt,
He ground his teeth together, sprang with a yell,
Tore from the branch, and cast on earth, the shield,
Drove his mailed heel athwart the royal crown,
Stampt all into defacement, hurled it from him
Among the forest weeds, and cursed the tale,
The told-of, and the teller.
That weird yell,
Unearthlier than all shriek of bird or beast,
Thrilled through the woods; and Balan lurking there
(His quest was unaccomplished) heard and thought
'The scream of that Wood-devil I came to quell!'
Then nearing 'Lo! he hath slain some brother-knight,
And tramples on the goodly shield to show
His loathing of our Order and the Queen.
My quest, meseems, is here. Or devil or man
Guard thou thine head.' Sir Balin spake not word,
But snatched a sudden buckler from the Squire,
And vaulted on his horse, and so they crashed
In onset, and King Pellam's holy spear,
Reputed to be red with sinless blood,
Redded at once with sinful, for the point
Across the maiden shield of Balan pricked
The hauberk to the flesh; and Balin's horse
Was wearied to the death, and, when they clashed,
Rolling back upon Balin, crushed the man
Inward, and either fell, and swooned away.

Then to her Squire muttered the damsel 'Fools!
This fellow hath wrought some foulness with his Queen:
Else never had he borne her crown, nor raved
And thus foamed over at a rival name:
But thou, Sir Chick, that scarce hast broken shell,
Art yet half-yolk, not even come to down--
Who never sawest Caerleon upon Usk--
And yet hast often pleaded for my love--
See what I see, be thou where I have been,
Or else Sir Chick--dismount and loose their casques
I fain would know what manner of men they be.'
And when the Squire had loosed them, 'Goodly!--look!
They might have cropt the myriad flower of May,
And butt each other here, like brainless bulls,
Dead for one heifer!
Then the gentle Squire
'I hold them happy, so they died for love:
And, Vivien, though ye beat me like your dog,
I too could die, as now I live, for thee.'

'Live on, Sir Boy,' she cried. 'I better prize
The living dog than the dead lion: away!
I cannot brook to gaze upon the dead.'
Then leapt her palfrey o'er the fallen oak,
And bounding forward 'Leave them to the wolves.'

But when their foreheads felt the cooling air,
Balin first woke, and seeing that true face,
Familiar up from cradle-time, so wan,
Crawled slowly with low moans to where he lay,
And on his dying brother cast himself
Dying; and HE lifted faint eyes; he felt
One near him; all at once they found the world,
Staring wild-wide; then with a childlike wail
And drawing down the dim disastrous brow
That o'er him hung, he kissed it, moaned and spake;

'O Balin, Balin, I that fain had died
To save thy life, have brought thee to thy death.
Why had ye not the shield I knew? and why
Trampled ye thus on that which bare the Crown?'

Then Balin told him brokenly, and in gasps,
All that had chanced, and Balan moaned again.

'Brother, I dwelt a day in Pellam's hall:
This Garlon mocked me, but I heeded not.
And one said "Eat in peace! a liar is he,
And hates thee for the tribute!" this good knight
Told me, that twice a wanton damsel came,
And sought for Garlon at the castle-gates,
Whom Pellam drove away with holy heat.
I well believe this damsel, and the one
Who stood beside thee even now, the same.
"She dwells among the woods" he said "and meets
And dallies with him in the Mouth of Hell."
Foul are their lives; foul are their lips; they lied.
Pure as our own true Mother is our Queen."

'O brother' answered Balin 'woe is me!
My madness all thy life has been thy doom,
Thy curse, and darkened all thy day; and now
The night has come. I scarce can see thee now.

Goodnight! for we shall never bid again
Goodmorrow--Dark my doom was here, and dark
It will be there. I see thee now no more.
I would not mine again should darken thine,
Goodnight, true brother.
Balan answered low
'Goodnight, true brother here! goodmorrow there!
We two were born together, and we die
Together by one doom:' and while he spoke
Closed his death-drowsing eyes, and slept the sleep
With Balin, either locked in either's arm.

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Guinevere

Queen Guinevere had fled the court, and sat
There in the holy house at Almesbury
Weeping, none with her save a little maid,
A novice: one low light betwixt them burned
Blurred by the creeping mist, for all abroad,
Beneath a moon unseen albeit at full,
The white mist, like a face-cloth to the face,
Clung to the dead earth, and the land was still.

For hither had she fled, her cause of flight
Sir Modred; he that like a subtle beast
Lay couchant with his eyes upon the throne,
Ready to spring, waiting a chance: for this
He chilled the popular praises of the King
With silent smiles of slow disparagement;
And tampered with the Lords of the White Horse,
Heathen, the brood by Hengist left; and sought
To make disruption in the Table Round
Of Arthur, and to splinter it into feuds
Serving his traitorous end; and all his aims
Were sharpened by strong hate for Lancelot.

For thus it chanced one morn when all the court,
Green-suited, but with plumes that mocked the may,
Had been, their wont, a-maying and returned,
That Modred still in green, all ear and eye,
Climbed to the high top of the garden-wall
To spy some secret scandal if he might,
And saw the Queen who sat betwixt her best
Enid, and lissome Vivien, of her court
The wiliest and the worst; and more than this
He saw not, for Sir Lancelot passing by
Spied where he couched, and as the gardener's hand
Picks from the colewort a green caterpillar,
So from the high wall and the flowering grove
Of grasses Lancelot plucked him by the heel,
And cast him as a worm upon the way;
But when he knew the Prince though marred with dust,
He, reverencing king's blood in a bad man,
Made such excuses as he might, and these
Full knightly without scorn; for in those days
No knight of Arthur's noblest dealt in scorn;
But, if a man were halt or hunched, in him
By those whom God had made full-limbed and tall,
Scorn was allowed as part of his defect,
And he was answered softly by the King
And all his Table. So Sir Lancelot holp
To raise the Prince, who rising twice or thrice
Full sharply smote his knees, and smiled, and went:
But, ever after, the small violence done
Rankled in him and ruffled all his heart,
As the sharp wind that ruffles all day long
A little bitter pool about a stone
On the bare coast.

But when Sir Lancelot told
This matter to the Queen, at first she laughed
Lightly, to think of Modred's dusty fall,
Then shuddered, as the village wife who cries
`I shudder, some one steps across my grave;'
Then laughed again, but faintlier, for indeed
She half-foresaw that he, the subtle beast,
Would track her guilt until he found, and hers
Would be for evermore a name of scorn.
Henceforward rarely could she front in hall,
Or elsewhere, Modred's narrow foxy face,
Heart-hiding smile, and gray persistent eye:
Henceforward too, the Powers that tend the soul,
To help it from the death that cannot die,
And save it even in extremes, began
To vex and plague her. Many a time for hours,
Beside the placid breathings of the King,
In the dead night, grim faces came and went
Before her, or a vague spiritual fear--
Like to some doubtful noise of creaking doors,
Heard by the watcher in a haunted house,
That keeps the rust of murder on the walls--
Held her awake: or if she slept, she dreamed
An awful dream; for then she seemed to stand
On some vast plain before a setting sun,
And from the sun there swiftly made at her
A ghastly something, and its shadow flew
Before it, till it touched her, and she turned--
When lo! her own, that broadening from her feet,
And blackening, swallowed all the land, and in it
Far cities burnt, and with a cry she woke.
And all this trouble did not pass but grew;
Till even the clear face of the guileless King,
And trustful courtesies of household life,
Became her bane; and at the last she said,
`O Lancelot, get thee hence to thine own land,
For if thou tarry we shall meet again,
And if we meet again, some evil chance
Will make the smouldering scandal break and blaze
Before the people, and our lord the King.'
And Lancelot ever promised, but remained,
And still they met and met. Again she said,
`O Lancelot, if thou love me get thee hence.'
And then they were agreed upon a night
(When the good King should not be there) to meet
And part for ever. Vivien, lurking, heard.
She told Sir Modred. Passion-pale they met
And greeted. Hands in hands, and eye to eye,
Low on the border of her couch they sat
Stammering and staring. It was their last hour,
A madness of farewells. And Modred brought
His creatures to the basement of the tower
For testimony; and crying with full voice
`Traitor, come out, ye are trapt at last,' aroused
Lancelot, who rushing outward lionlike
Leapt on him, and hurled him headlong, and he fell
Stunned, and his creatures took and bare him off,
And all was still: then she, `The end is come,
And I am shamed for ever;' and he said,
`Mine be the shame; mine was the sin: but rise,
And fly to my strong castle overseas:
There will I hide thee, till my life shall end,
There hold thee with my life against the world.'
She answered, `Lancelot, wilt thou hold me so?
Nay, friend, for we have taken our farewells.
Would God that thou couldst hide me from myself!
Mine is the shame, for I was wife, and thou
Unwedded: yet rise now, and let us fly,
For I will draw me into sanctuary,
And bide my doom.' So Lancelot got her horse,
Set her thereon, and mounted on his own,
And then they rode to the divided way,
There kissed, and parted weeping: for he past,
Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen,
Back to his land; but she to Almesbury
Fled all night long by glimmering waste and weald,
And heard the Spirits of the waste and weald
Moan as she fled, or thought she heard them moan:
And in herself she moaned `Too late, too late!'
Till in the cold wind that foreruns the morn,
A blot in heaven, the Raven, flying high,
Croaked, and she thought, `He spies a field of death;
For now the Heathen of the Northern Sea,
Lured by the crimes and frailties of the court,
Begin to slay the folk, and spoil the land.'

And when she came to Almesbury she spake
There to the nuns, and said, `Mine enemies
Pursue me, but, O peaceful Sisterhood,
Receive, and yield me sanctuary, nor ask
Her name to whom ye yield it, till her time
To tell you:' and her beauty, grace and power,
Wrought as a charm upon them, and they spared
To ask it.

So the stately Queen abode
For many a week, unknown, among the nuns;
Nor with them mixed, nor told her name, nor sought,
Wrapt in her grief, for housel or for shrift,
But communed only with the little maid,
Who pleased her with a babbling heedlessness
Which often lured her from herself; but now,
This night, a rumour wildly blown about
Came, that Sir Modred had usurped the realm,
And leagued him with the heathen, while the King
Was waging war on Lancelot: then she thought,
`With what a hate the people and the King
Must hate me,' and bowed down upon her hands
Silent, until the little maid, who brooked
No silence, brake it, uttering, `Late! so late!
What hour, I wonder, now?' and when she drew
No answer, by and by began to hum
An air the nuns had taught her; `Late, so late!'
Which when she heard, the Queen looked up, and said,
`O maiden, if indeed ye list to sing,
Sing, and unbind my heart that I may weep.'
Whereat full willingly sang the little maid.

`Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill!
Late, late, so late! but we can enter still.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

`No light had we: for that we do repent;
And learning this, the bridegroom will relent.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

`No light: so late! and dark and chill the night!
O let us in, that we may find the light!
Too late, too late: ye cannot enter now.

`Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet?
O let us in, though late, to kiss his feet!
No, no, too late! ye cannot enter now.'

So sang the novice, while full passionately,
Her head upon her hands, remembering
Her thought when first she came, wept the sad Queen.
Then said the little novice prattling to her,
`O pray you, noble lady, weep no more;
But let my words, the words of one so small,
Who knowing nothing knows but to obey,
And if I do not there is penance given--
Comfort your sorrows; for they do not flow
From evil done; right sure am I of that,
Who see your tender grace and stateliness.
But weigh your sorrows with our lord the King's,
And weighing find them less; for gone is he
To wage grim war against Sir Lancelot there,
Round that strong castle where he holds the Queen;
And Modred whom he left in charge of all,
The traitor--Ah sweet lady, the King's grief
For his own self, and his own Queen, and realm,
Must needs be thrice as great as any of ours.
For me, I thank the saints, I am not great.
For if there ever come a grief to me
I cry my cry in silence, and have done.
None knows it, and my tears have brought me good:
But even were the griefs of little ones
As great as those of great ones, yet this grief
Is added to the griefs the great must bear,
That howsoever much they may desire
Silence, they cannot weep behind a cloud:
As even here they talk at Almesbury
About the good King and his wicked Queen,
And were I such a King with such a Queen,
Well might I wish to veil her wickedness,
But were I such a King, it could not be.'

Then to her own sad heart muttered the Queen,
`Will the child kill me with her innocent talk?'
But openly she answered, `Must not I,
If this false traitor have displaced his lord,
Grieve with the common grief of all the realm?'

`Yea,' said the maid, `this is all woman's grief,
That SHE is woman, whose disloyal life
Hath wrought confusion in the Table Round
Which good King Arthur founded, years ago,
With signs and miracles and wonders, there
At Camelot, ere the coming of the Queen.'

Then thought the Queen within herself again,
`Will the child kill me with her foolish prate?'
But openly she spake and said to her,
`O little maid, shut in by nunnery walls,
What canst thou know of Kings and Tables Round,
Or what of signs and wonders, but the signs
And simple miracles of thy nunnery?'

To whom the little novice garrulously,
`Yea, but I know: the land was full of signs
And wonders ere the coming of the Queen.
So said my father, and himself was knight
Of the great Table--at the founding of it;
And rode thereto from Lyonnesse, and he said
That as he rode, an hour or maybe twain
After the sunset, down the coast, he heard
Strange music, and he paused, and turning--there,
All down the lonely coast of Lyonnesse,
Each with a beacon-star upon his head,
And with a wild sea-light about his feet,
He saw them--headland after headland flame
Far on into the rich heart of the west:
And in the light the white mermaiden swam,
And strong man-breasted things stood from the sea,
And sent a deep sea-voice through all the land,
To which the little elves of chasm and cleft
Made answer, sounding like a distant horn.
So said my father--yea, and furthermore,
Next morning, while he past the dim-lit woods,
Himself beheld three spirits mad with joy
Come dashing down on a tall wayside flower,
That shook beneath them, as the thistle shakes
When three gray linnets wrangle for the seed:
And still at evenings on before his horse
The flickering fairy-circle wheeled and broke
Flying, and linked again, and wheeled and broke
Flying, for all the land was full of life.
And when at last he came to Camelot,
A wreath of airy dancers hand-in-hand
Swung round the lighted lantern of the hall;
And in the hall itself was such a feast
As never man had dreamed; for every knight
Had whatsoever meat he longed for served
By hands unseen; and even as he said
Down in the cellars merry bloated things
Shouldered the spigot, straddling on the butts
While the wine ran: so glad were spirits and men
Before the coming of the sinful Queen.'

Then spake the Queen and somewhat bitterly,
`Were they so glad? ill prophets were they all,
Spirits and men: could none of them foresee,
Not even thy wise father with his signs
And wonders, what has fallen upon the realm?'

To whom the novice garrulously again,
`Yea, one, a bard; of whom my father said,
Full many a noble war-song had he sung,
Even in the presence of an enemy's fleet,
Between the steep cliff and the coming wave;
And many a mystic lay of life and death
Had chanted on the smoky mountain-tops,
When round him bent the spirits of the hills
With all their dewy hair blown back like flame:
So said my father--and that night the bard
Sang Arthur's glorious wars, and sang the King
As wellnigh more than man, and railed at those
Who called him the false son of Gorlos:
For there was no man knew from whence he came;
But after tempest, when the long wave broke
All down the thundering shores of Bude and Bos,
There came a day as still as heaven, and then
They found a naked child upon the sands
Of dark Tintagil by the Cornish sea;
And that was Arthur; and they fostered him
Till he by miracle was approven King:
And that his grave should be a mystery
From all men, like his birth; and could he find
A woman in her womanhood as great
As he was in his manhood, then, he sang,
The twain together well might change the world.
But even in the middle of his song
He faltered, and his hand fell from the harp,
And pale he turned, and reeled, and would have fallen,
But that they stayed him up; nor would he tell
His vision; but what doubt that he foresaw
This evil work of Lancelot and the Queen?'

Then thought the Queen, `Lo! they have set her on,
Our simple-seeming Abbess and her nuns,
To play upon me,' and bowed her head nor spake.
Whereat the novice crying, with clasped hands,
Shame on her own garrulity garrulously,
Said the good nuns would check her gadding tongue
Full often, `and, sweet lady, if I seem
To vex an ear too sad to listen to me,
Unmannerly, with prattling and the tales
Which my good father told me, check me too
Nor let me shame my father's memory, one
Of noblest manners, though himself would say
Sir Lancelot had the noblest; and he died,
Killed in a tilt, come next, five summers back,
And left me; but of others who remain,
And of the two first-famed for courtesy--
And pray you check me if I ask amiss-
But pray you, which had noblest, while you moved
Among them, Lancelot or our lord the King?'

Then the pale Queen looked up and answered her,
`Sir Lancelot, as became a noble knight,
Was gracious to all ladies, and the same
In open battle or the tilting-field
Forbore his own advantage, and the King
In open battle or the tilting-field
Forbore his own advantage, and these two
Were the most nobly-mannered men of all;
For manners are not idle, but the fruit
Of loyal nature, and of noble mind.'

`Yea,' said the maid, `be manners such fair fruit?'
Then Lancelot's needs must be a thousand-fold
Less noble, being, as all rumour runs,
The most disloyal friend in all the world.'

To which a mournful answer made the Queen:
`O closed about by narrowing nunnery-walls,
What knowest thou of the world, and all its lights
And shadows, all the wealth and all the woe?
If ever Lancelot, that most noble knight,
Were for one hour less noble than himself,
Pray for him that he scape the doom of fire,
And weep for her that drew him to his doom.'

`Yea,' said the little novice, `I pray for both;
But I should all as soon believe that his,
Sir Lancelot's, were as noble as the King's,
As I could think, sweet lady, yours would be
Such as they are, were you the sinful Queen.'

So she, like many another babbler, hurt
Whom she would soothe, and harmed where she would heal;
For here a sudden flush of wrathful heat
Fired all the pale face of the Queen, who cried,
`Such as thou art be never maiden more
For ever! thou their tool, set on to plague
And play upon, and harry me, petty spy
And traitress.' When that storm of anger brake
From Guinevere, aghast the maiden rose,
White as her veil, and stood before the Queen
As tremulously as foam upon the beach
Stands in a wind, ready to break and fly,
And when the Queen had added `Get thee hence,'
Fled frighted. Then that other left alone
Sighed, and began to gather heart again,
Saying in herself, `The simple, fearful child
Meant nothing, but my own too-fearful guilt,
Simpler than any child, betrays itself.
But help me, heaven, for surely I repent.
For what is true repentance but in thought--
Not even in inmost thought to think again
The sins that made the past so pleasant to us:
And I have sworn never to see him more,
To see him more.'

And even in saying this,
Her memory from old habit of the mind
Went slipping back upon the golden days
In which she saw him first, when Lancelot came,
Reputed the best knight and goodliest man,
Ambassador, to lead her to his lord
Arthur, and led her forth, and far ahead
Of his and her retinue moving, they,
Rapt in sweet talk or lively, all on love
And sport and tilts and pleasure, (for the time
Was maytime, and as yet no sin was dreamed,)
Rode under groves that looked a paradise
Of blossom, over sheets of hyacinth
That seemed the heavens upbreaking through the earth,
And on from hill to hill, and every day
Beheld at noon in some delicious dale
The silk pavilions of King Arthur raised
For brief repast or afternoon repose
By couriers gone before; and on again,
Till yet once more ere set of sun they saw
The Dragon of the great Pendragonship,
That crowned the state pavilion of the King,
Blaze by the rushing brook or silent well.

But when the Queen immersed in such a trance,
And moving through the past unconsciously,
Came to that point where first she saw the King
Ride toward her from the city, sighed to find
Her journey done, glanced at him, thought him cold,
High, self-contained, and passionless, not like him,
`Not like my Lancelot'--while she brooded thus
And grew half-guilty in her thoughts again,
There rode an armd warrior to the doors.
A murmuring whisper through the nunnery ran,
Then on a sudden a cry, `The King.' She sat
Stiff-stricken, listening; but when armd feet
Through the long gallery from the outer doors
Rang coming, prone from off her seat she fell,
And grovelled with her face against the floor:
There with her milkwhite arms and shadowy hair
She made her face a darkness from the King:
And in the darkness heard his armd feet
Pause by her; then came silence, then a voice,
Monotonous and hollow like a Ghost's
Denouncing judgment, but though changed, the King's:

`Liest thou here so low, the child of one
I honoured, happy, dead before thy shame?
Well is it that no child is born of thee.
The children born of thee are sword and fire,
Red ruin, and the breaking up of laws,
The craft of kindred and the Godless hosts
Of heathen swarming o'er the Northern Sea;
Whom I, while yet Sir Lancelot, my right arm,
The mightiest of my knights, abode with me,
Have everywhere about this land of Christ
In twelve great battles ruining overthrown.
And knowest thou now from whence I come--from him
From waging bitter war with him: and he,
That did not shun to smite me in worse way,
Had yet that grace of courtesy in him left,
He spared to lift his hand against the King
Who made him knight: but many a knight was slain;
And many more, and all his kith and kin
Clave to him, and abode in his own land.
And many more when Modred raised revolt,
Forgetful of their troth and fealty, clave
To Modred, and a remnant stays with me.
And of this remnant will I leave a part,
True men who love me still, for whom I live,
To guard thee in the wild hour coming on,
Lest but a hair of this low head be harmed.
Fear not: thou shalt be guarded till my death.
Howbeit I know, if ancient prophecies
Have erred not, that I march to meet my doom.
Thou hast not made my life so sweet to me,
That I the King should greatly care to live;
For thou hast spoilt the purpose of my life.
Bear with me for the last time while I show,
Even for thy sake, the sin which thou hast sinned.
For when the Roman left us, and their law
Relaxed its hold upon us, and the ways
Were filled with rapine, here and there a deed
Of prowess done redressed a random wrong.
But I was first of all the kings who drew
The knighthood-errant of this realm and all
The realms together under me, their Head,
In that fair Order of my Table Round,
A glorious company, the flower of men,
To serve as model for the mighty world,
And be the fair beginning of a time.
I made them lay their hands in mine and swear
To reverence the King, as if he were
Their conscience, and their conscience as their King,
To break the heathen and uphold the Christ,
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,
To honour his own word as if his God's,
To lead sweet lives in purest chastity,
To love one maiden only, cleave to her,
And worship her by years of noble deeds,
Until they won her; for indeed I knew
Of no more subtle master under heaven
Than is the maiden passion for a maid,
Not only to keep down the base in man,
But teach high thought, and amiable words
And courtliness, and the desire of fame,
And love of truth, and all that makes a man.
And all this throve before I wedded thee,
Believing, "lo mine helpmate, one to feel
My purpose and rejoicing in my joy."
Then came thy shameful sin with Lancelot;
Then came the sin of Tristram and Isolt;
Then others, following these my mightiest knights,
And drawing foul ensample from fair names,
Sinned also, till the loathsome opposite
Of all my heart had destined did obtain,
And all through thee! so that this life of mine
I guard as God's high gift from scathe and wrong,
Not greatly care to lose; but rather think
How sad it were for Arthur, should he live,
To sit once more within his lonely hall,
And miss the wonted number of my knights,
And miss to hear high talk of noble deeds
As in the golden days before thy sin.
For which of us, who might be left, could speak
Of the pure heart, nor seem to glance at thee?
And in thy bowers of Camelot or of Usk
Thy shadow still would glide from room to room,
And I should evermore be vext with thee
In hanging robe or vacant ornament,
Or ghostly footfall echoing on the stair.
For think not, though thou wouldst not love thy lord,
Thy lord hast wholly lost his love for thee.
I am not made of so slight elements.
Yet must I leave thee, woman, to thy shame.
I hold that man the worst of public foes
Who either for his own or children's sake,
To save his blood from scandal, lets the wife
Whom he knows false, abide and rule the house:
For being through his cowardice allowed
Her station, taken everywhere for pure,
She like a new disease, unknown to men,
Creeps, no precaution used, among the crowd,
Makes wicked lightnings of her eyes, and saps
The fealty of our friends, and stirs the pulse
With devil's leaps, and poisons half the young.
Worst of the worst were that man he that reigns!
Better the King's waste hearth and aching heart
Than thou reseated in thy place of light,
The mockery of my people, and their bane.'

He paused, and in the pause she crept an inch
Nearer, and laid her hands about his feet.
Far off a solitary trumpet blew.
Then waiting by the doors the warhorse neighed
At a friend's voice, and he spake again:

`Yet think not that I come to urge thy crimes,
I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere,
I, whose vast pity almost makes me die
To see thee, laying there thy golden head,
My pride in happier summers, at my feet.
The wrath which forced my thoughts on that fierce law,
The doom of treason and the flaming death,
(When first I learnt thee hidden here) is past.
The pang--which while I weighed thy heart with one
Too wholly true to dream untruth in thee,
Made my tears burn--is also past--in part.
And all is past, the sin is sinned, and I,
Lo! I forgive thee, as Eternal God
Forgives: do thou for thine own soul the rest.
But how to take last leave of all I loved?
O golden hair, with which I used to play
Not knowing! O imperial-moulded form,
And beauty such as never woman wore,
Until it became a kingdom's curse with thee--
I cannot touch thy lips, they are not mine,
But Lancelot's: nay, they never were the King's.
I cannot take thy hand: that too is flesh,
And in the flesh thou hast sinned; and mine own flesh,
Here looking down on thine polluted, cries
"I loathe thee:" yet not less, O Guinevere,
For I was ever virgin save for thee,
My love through flesh hath wrought into my life
So far, that my doom is, I love thee still.
Let no man dream but that I love thee still.
Perchance, and so thou purify thy soul,
And so thou lean on our fair father Christ,
Hereafter in that world where all are pure
We two may meet before high God, and thou
Wilt spring to me, and claim me thine, and know
I am thine husband--not a smaller soul,
Nor Lancelot, nor another. Leave me that,
I charge thee, my last hope. Now must I hence.
Through the thick night I hear the trumpet blow:
They summon me their King to lead mine hosts
Far down to that great battle in the west,
Where I must strike against the man they call
My sister's son--no kin of mine, who leagues
With Lords of the White Horse, heathen, and knights,
Traitors--and strike him dead, and meet myself
Death, or I know not what mysterious doom.
And thou remaining here wilt learn the event;
But hither shall I never come again,
Never lie by thy side; see thee no more--
Farewell!'

And while she grovelled at his feet,
She felt the King's breath wander o'er her neck,
And in the darkness o'er her fallen head,
Perceived the waving of his hands that blest.

Then, listening till those armd steps were gone,
Rose the pale Queen, and in her anguish found
The casement: `peradventure,' so she thought,
`If I might see his face, and not be seen.'
And lo, he sat on horseback at the door!
And near him the sad nuns with each a light
Stood, and he gave them charge about the Queen,
To guard and foster her for evermore.
And while he spake to these his helm was lowered,
To which for crest the golden dragon clung
Of Britain; so she did not see the face,
Which then was as an angel's, but she saw,
Wet with the mists and smitten by the lights,
The Dragon of the great Pendragonship
Blaze, making all the night a steam of fire.
And even then he turned; and more and more
The moony vapour rolling round the King,
Who seemed the phantom of a Giant in it,
Enwound him fold by fold, and made him gray
And grayer, till himself became as mist
Before her, moving ghostlike to his doom.

Then she stretched out her arms and cried aloud
`Oh Arthur!' there her voice brake suddenly,
Then--as a stream that spouting from a cliff
Fails in mid air, but gathering at the base
Re-makes itself, and flashes down the vale--
Went on in passionate utterance:

`Gone--my lord!
Gone through my sin to slay and to be slain!
And he forgave me, and I could not speak.
Farewell? I should have answered his farewell.
His mercy choked me. Gone, my lord the King,
My own true lord! how dare I call him mine?
The shadow of another cleaves to me,
And makes me one pollution: he, the King,
Called me polluted: shall I kill myself?
What help in that? I cannot kill my sin,
If soul be soul; nor can I kill my shame;
No, nor by living can I live it down.
The days will grow to weeks, the weeks to months
The months will add themselves and make the years,
The years will roll into the centuries,
And mine will ever be a name of scorn.
I must not dwell on that defeat of fame.
Let the world be; that is but of the world.
What else? what hope? I think there was a hope,
Except he mocked me when he spake of hope;
His hope he called it; but he never mocks,
For mockery is the fume of little hearts.
And blessd be the King, who hath forgiven
My wickedness to him, and left me hope
That in mine own heart I can live down sin
And be his mate hereafter in the heavens
Before high God. Ah great and gentle lord,
Who wast, as is the conscience of a saint
Among his warring senses, to thy knights--
To whom my false voluptuous pride, that took
Full easily all impressions from below,
Would not look up, or half-despised the height
To which I would not or I could not climb--
I thought I could not breathe in that fine air
That pure severity of perfect light--
I yearned for warmth and colour which I found
In Lancelot--now I see thee what thou art,
Thou art the highest and most human too,
Not Lancelot, nor another. Is there none
Will tell the King I love him though so late?
Now--ere he goes to the great Battle? none:
Myself must tell him in that purer life,
But now it were too daring. Ah my God,
What might I not have made of thy fair world,
Had I but loved thy highest creature here?
It was my duty to have loved the highest:
It surely was my profit had I known:
It would have been my pleasure had I seen.
We needs must love the highest when we see it,
Not Lancelot, nor another.'

Here her hand
Grasped, made her vail her eyes: she looked and saw
The novice, weeping, suppliant, and said to her,
`Yea, little maid, for am I not forgiven?'
Then glancing up beheld the holy nuns
All round her, weeping; and her heart was loosed
Within her, and she wept with these and said,

`Ye know me then, that wicked one, who broke
The vast design and purpose of the King.
O shut me round with narrowing nunnery-walls,
Meek maidens, from the voices crying "shame."
I must not scorn myself: he loves me still.
Let no one dream but that he loves me still.
So let me, if you do not shudder at me,
Nor shun to call me sister, dwell with you;
Wear black and white, and be a nun like you,
Fast with your fasts, not feasting with your feasts;
Grieve with your griefs, not grieving at your joys,
But not rejoicing; mingle with your rites;
Pray and be prayed for; lie before your shrines;
Do each low office of your holy house;
Walk your dim cloister, and distribute dole
To poor sick people, richer in His eyes
Who ransomed us, and haler too than I;
And treat their loathsome hurts and heal mine own;
And so wear out in almsdeed and in prayer
The sombre close of that voluptuous day,
Which wrought the ruin of my lord the King.'

She said: they took her to themselves; and she
Still hoping, fearing `is it yet too late?'
Dwelt with them, till in time their Abbess died.
Then she, for her good deeds and her pure life,
And for the power of ministration in her,
And likewise for the high rank she had borne,
Was chosen Abbess, there, an Abbess, lived
For three brief years, and there, an Abbess, past
To where beyond these voices there is peace.

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Homer

The Iliad (bk I)

Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.

And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the son of Jove and Leto; for he was angry with the king and sent a pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because the son of Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest. Now Chryses had come to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had brought with him a great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo wreathed with a suppliant's wreath and he besought the Achaeans, but most of all the two sons of Atreus, who were their chiefs.

"Sons of Atreus," he cried, "and all other Achaeans, may the gods who dwell in Olympus grant you to sack the city of Priam, and to reach your homes in safety; but free my daughter, and accept a ransom for her, in reverence to Apollo, son of Jove."

On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. "Old man," said he, "let me not find you tarrying about our ships, nor yet coming hereafter. Your sceptre of the god and your wreath shall profit you nothing. I will not free her. She shall grow old in my house at Argos far from her own home, busying herself with her loom and visiting my couch; so go, and do not provoke me or it shall be the worse for you."

The old man feared him and obeyed. Not a word he spoke, but went by the shore of the sounding sea and prayed apart to King Apollo whom lovely Leto had borne. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla and rulest Tenedos with thy might, hear me oh thou of Sminthe. If I have ever decked your temple with garlands, or burned your thigh-bones in fat of bulls or goats, grant my prayer, and let your arrows avenge these my tears upon the Danaans."

Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He came down furious from the summits of Olympus, with his bow and his quiver upon his shoulder, and the arrows rattled on his back with the rage that trembled within him. He sat himself down away from the ships with a face as dark as night, and his silver bow rang death as he shot his arrow in the midst of them. First he smote their mules and their hounds, but presently he aimed his shafts at the people themselves, and all day long the pyres of the dead were burning.

For nine whole days he shot his arrows among the people, but upon the tenth day Achilles called them in assembly- moved thereto by Juno, who saw the Achaeans in their death-throes and had compassion upon them. Then, when they were got together, he rose and spoke among them.

"Son of Atreus," said he, "I deem that we should now turn roving home if we would escape destruction, for we are being cut down by war and pestilence at once. Let us ask some priest or prophet, or some reader of dreams (for dreams, too, are of Jove) who can tell us why Phoebus Apollo is so angry, and say whether it is for some vow that we have broken, or hecatomb that we have not offered, and whether he will accept the savour of lambs and goats without blemish, so as to take away the plague from us."

With these words he sat down, and Calchas son of Thestor, wisest of augurs, who knew things past present and to come, rose to speak. He it was who had guided the Achaeans with their fleet to Ilius, through the prophesyings with which Phoebus Apollo had inspired him. With all sincerity and goodwill he addressed them thus:-

"Achilles, loved of heaven, you bid me tell you about the anger of King Apollo, I will therefore do so; but consider first and swear that you will stand by me heartily in word and deed, for I know that I shall offend one who rules the Argives with might, to whom all the Achaeans are in subjection. A plain man cannot stand against the anger of a king, who if he swallow his displeasure now, will yet nurse revenge till he has wreaked it. Consider, therefore, whether or no you will protect me."

And Achilles answered, "Fear not, but speak as it is borne in upon you from heaven, for by Apollo, Calchas, to whom you pray, and whose oracles you reveal to us, not a Danaan at our ships shall lay his hand upon you, while I yet live to look upon the face of the earth- no, not though you name Agamemnon himself, who is by far the foremost of the Achaeans."

Thereon the seer spoke boldly. "The god," he said, "is angry neither about vow nor hecatomb, but for his priest's sake, whom Agamemnon has dishonoured, in that he would not free his daughter nor take a ransom for her; therefore has he sent these evils upon us, and will yet send others. He will not deliver the Danaans from this pestilence till Agamemnon has restored the girl without fee or ransom to her father, and has sent a holy hecatomb to Chryse. Thus we may perhaps appease him."

With these words he sat down, and Agamemnon rose in anger. His heart was black with rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he scowled on Calchas and said, "Seer of evil, you never yet prophesied smooth things concerning me, but have ever loved to foretell that which was evil. You have brought me neither comfort nor performance; and now you come seeing among Danaans, and saying that Apollo has plagued us because I would not take a ransom for this girl, the daughter of Chryses. I have set my heart on keeping her in my own house, for I love her better even than my own wife Clytemnestra, whose peer she is alike in form and feature, in understanding and accomplishments. Still I will give her up if I must, for I would have the people live, not die; but you must find me a prize instead, or I alone among the Argives shall be without one. This is not well; for you behold, all of you, that my prize is to go elsewhither."

And Achilles answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, covetous beyond all mankind, how shall the Achaeans find you another prize? We have no common store from which to take one. Those we took from the cities have been awarded; we cannot disallow the awards that have been made already. Give this girl, therefore, to the god, and if ever Jove grants us to sack the city of Troy we will requite you three and fourfold."

Then Agamemnon said, "Achilles, valiant though you be, you shall not thus outwit me. You shall not overreach and you shall not persuade me. Are you to keep your own prize, while I sit tamely under my loss and give up the girl at your bidding? Let the Achaeans find me a prize in fair exchange to my liking, or I will come and take your own, or that of Ajax or of Ulysses; and he to whomsoever I may come shall rue my coming. But of this we will take thought hereafter; for the present, let us draw a ship into the sea, and find a crew for her expressly; let us put a hecatomb on board, and let us send Chryseis also; further, let some chief man among us be in command, either Ajax, or Idomeneus, or yourself, son of Peleus, mighty warrior that you are, that we may offer sacrifice and appease the the anger of the god."

Achilles scowled at him and answered, "You are steeped in insolence and lust of gain. With what heart can any of the Achaeans do your bidding, either on foray or in open fighting? I came not warring here for any ill the Trojans had done me. I have no quarrel with them. They have not raided my cattle nor my horses, nor cut down my harvests on the rich plains of Phthia; for between me and them there is a great space, both mountain and sounding sea. We have followed you, Sir Insolence! for your pleasure, not ours- to gain satisfaction from the Trojans for your shameless self and for Menelaus. You forget this, and threaten to rob me of the prize for which I have toiled, and which the sons of the Achaeans have given me. Never when the Achaeans sack any rich city of the Trojans do I receive so good a prize as you do, though it is my hands that do the better part of the fighting. When the sharing comes, your share is far the largest, and I, forsooth, must go back to my ships, take what I can get and be thankful, when my labour of fighting is done. Now, therefore, I shall go back to Phthia; it will be much better for me to return home with my ships, for I will not stay here dishonoured to gather gold and substance for you."

And Agamemnon answered, "Fly if you will, I shall make you no prayers to stay you. I have others here who will do me honour, and above all Jove, the lord of counsel. There is no king here so hateful to me as you are, for you are ever quarrelsome and ill affected. What though you be brave? Was it not heaven that made you so? Go home, then, with your ships and comrades to lord it over the Myrmidons. I care neither for you nor for your anger; and thus will I do: since Phoebus Apollo is taking Chryseis from me, I shall send her with my ship and my followers, but I shall come to your tent and take your own prize Briseis, that you may learn how much stronger I am than you are, and that another may fear to set himself up as equal or comparable with me."

The son of Peleus was furious, and his heart within his shaggy breast was divided whether to draw his sword, push the others aside, and kill the son of Atreus, or to restrain himself and check his anger. While he was thus in two minds, and was drawing his mighty sword from its scabbard, Minerva came down from heaven (for Juno had sent her in the love she bore to them both), and seized the son of Peleus by his yellow hair, visible to him alone, for of the others no man could see her. Achilles turned in amaze, and by the fire that flashed from her eyes at once knew that she was Minerva. "Why are you here," said he, "daughter of aegis-bearing Jove? To see the pride of Agamemnon, son of Atreus? Let me tell you- and it shall surely be- he shall pay for this insolence with his life."

And Minerva said, "I come from heaven, if you will hear me, to bid you stay your anger. Juno has sent me, who cares for both of you alike. Cease, then, this brawling, and do not draw your sword; rail at him if you will, and your railing will not be vain, for I tell you- and it shall surely be- that you shall hereafter receive gifts three times as splendid by reason of this present insult. Hold, therefore, and obey."

"Goddess," answered Achilles, "however angry a man may be, he must do as you two command him. This will be best, for the gods ever hear the prayers of him who has obeyed them."

He stayed his hand on the silver hilt of his sword, and thrust it back into the scabbard as Minerva bade him. Then she went back to Olympus among the other gods, and to the house of aegis-bearing Jove.

But the son of Peleus again began railing at the son of Atreus, for he was still in a rage. "Wine-bibber," he cried, "with the face of a dog and the heart of a hind, you never dare to go out with the host in fight, nor yet with our chosen men in ambuscade. You shun this as you do death itself. You had rather go round and rob his prizes from any man who contradicts you. You devour your people, for you are king over a feeble folk; otherwise, son of Atreus, henceforward you would insult no man. Therefore I say, and swear it with a great oath- nay, by this my sceptre which shalt sprout neither leaf nor shoot, nor bud anew from the day on which it left its parent stem upon the mountains- for the axe stripped it of leaf and bark, and now the sons of the Achaeans bear it as judges and guardians of the decrees of heaven- so surely and solemnly do I swear that hereafter they shall look fondly for Achilles and shall not find him. In the day of your distress, when your men fall dying by the murderous hand of Hector, you shall not know how to help them, and shall rend your heart with rage for the hour when you offered insult to the bravest of the Achaeans."

With this the son of Peleus dashed his gold-bestudded sceptre on the ground and took his seat, while the son of Atreus was beginning fiercely from his place upon the other side. Then uprose smooth-tongued Nestor, the facile speaker of the Pylians, and the words fell from his lips sweeter than honey. Two generations of men born and bred in Pylos had passed away under his rule, and he was now reigning over the third. With all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed them thus:-

"Of a truth," he said, "a great sorrow has befallen the Achaean land. Surely Priam with his sons would rejoice, and the Trojans be glad at heart if they could hear this quarrel between you two, who are so excellent in fight and counsel. I am older than either of you; therefore be guided by me. Moreover I have been the familiar friend of men even greater than you are, and they did not disregard my counsels. Never again can I behold such men as Pirithous and Dryas shepherd of his people, or as Caeneus, Exadius, godlike Polyphemus, and Theseus son of Aegeus, peer of the immortals. These were the mightiest men ever born upon this earth: mightiest were they, and when they fought the fiercest tribes of mountain savages they utterly overthrew them. I came from distant Pylos, and went about among them, for they would have me come, and I fought as it was in me to do. Not a man now living could withstand them, but they heard my words, and were persuaded by them. So be it also with yourselves, for this is the more excellent way. Therefore, Agamemnon, though you be strong, take not this girl away, for the sons of the Achaeans have already given her to Achilles; and you, Achilles, strive not further with the king, for no man who by the grace of Jove wields a sceptre has like honour with Agamemnon. You are strong, and have a goddess for your mother; but Agamemnon is stronger than you, for he has more people under him. Son of Atreus, check your anger, I implore you; end this quarrel with Achilles, who in the day of battle is a tower of strength to the Achaeans."

And Agamemnon answered, "Sir, all that you have said is true, but this fellow must needs become our lord and master: he must be lord of all, king of all, and captain of all, and this shall hardly be. Granted that the gods have made him a great warrior, have they also given him the right to speak with railing?"

Achilles interrupted him. "I should be a mean coward," he cried, "were I to give in to you in all things. Order other people about, not me, for I shall obey no longer. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying to your heart- I shall fight neither you nor any man about this girl, for those that take were those also that gave. But of all else that is at my ship you shall carry away nothing by force. Try, that others may see; if you do, my spear shall be reddened with your blood."

When they had quarrelled thus angrily, they rose, and broke up the assembly at the ships of the Achaeans. The son of Peleus went back to his tents and ships with the son of Menoetius and his company, while Agamemnon drew a vessel into the water and chose a crew of twenty oarsmen. He escorted Chryseis on board and sent moreover a hecatomb for the god. And Ulysses went as captain.

These, then, went on board and sailed their ways over the sea. But the son of Atreus bade the people purify themselves; so they purified themselves and cast their filth into the sea. Then they offered hecatombs of bulls and goats without blemish on the sea-shore, and the smoke with the savour of their sacrifice rose curling up towards heaven.

Thus did they busy themselves throughout the host. But Agamemnon did not forget the threat that he had made Achilles, and called his trusty messengers and squires Talthybius and Eurybates. "Go," said he, "to the tent of Achilles, son of Peleus; take Briseis by the hand and bring her hither; if he will not give her I shall come with others and take her- which will press him harder."

He charged them straightly further and dismissed them, whereon they went their way sorrowfully by the seaside, till they came to the tents and ships of the Myrmidons. They found Achilles sitting by his tent and his ships, and ill-pleased he was when he beheld them. They stood fearfully and reverently before him, and never a word did they speak, but he knew them and said, "Welcome, heralds, messengers of gods and men; draw near; my quarrel is not with you but with Agamemnon who has sent you for the girl Briseis. Therefore, Patroclus, bring her and give her to them, but let them be witnesses by the blessed gods, by mortal men, and by the fierceness of Agamemnon's anger, that if ever again there be need of me to save the people from ruin, they shall seek and they shall not find. Agamemnon is mad with rage and knows not how to look before and after that the Achaeans may fight by their ships in safety."

Patroclus did as his dear comrade had bidden him. He brought Briseis from the tent and gave her over to the heralds, who took her with them to the ships of the Achaeans- and the woman was loth to go. Then Achilles went all alone by the side of the hoar sea, weeping and looking out upon the boundless waste of waters. He raised his hands in prayer to his immortal mother, "Mother," he cried, "you bore me doomed to live but for a little season; surely Jove, who thunders from Olympus, might have made that little glorious. It is not so. Agamemnon, son of Atreus, has done me dishonour, and has robbed me of my prize by force."

As he spoke he wept aloud, and his mother heard him where she was sitting in the depths of the sea hard by the old man her father. Forthwith she rose as it were a grey mist out of the waves, sat down before him as he stood weeping, caressed him with her hand, and said, "My son, why are you weeping? What is it that grieves you? Keep it not from me, but tell me, that we may know it together."

Achilles drew a deep sigh and said, "You know it; why tell you what you know well already? We went to Thebe the strong city of Eetion, sacked it, and brought hither the spoil. The sons of the Achaeans shared it duly among themselves, and chose lovely Chryseis as the meed of Agamemnon; but Chryses, priest of Apollo, came to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and brought with him a great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo, wreathed with a suppliant's wreath, and he besought the Achaeans, but most of all the two sons of Atreus who were their chiefs.

"On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. So he went back in anger, and Apollo, who loved him dearly, heard his prayer. Then the god sent a deadly dart upon the Argives, and the people died thick on one another, for the arrows went everywhither among the wide host of the Achaeans. At last a seer in the fulness of his knowledge declared to us the oracles of Apollo, and I was myself first to say that we should appease him. Whereon the son of Atreus rose in anger, and threatened that which he has since done. The Achaeans are now taking the girl in a ship to Chryse, and sending gifts of sacrifice to the god; but the heralds have just taken from my tent the daughter of Briseus, whom the Achaeans had awarded to myself.

"Help your brave son, therefore, if you are able. Go to Olympus, and if you have ever done him service in word or deed, implore the aid of Jove. Ofttimes in my father's house have I heard you glory in that you alone of the immortals saved the son of Saturn from ruin, when the others, with Juno, Neptune, and Pallas Minerva would have put him in bonds. It was you, goddess, who delivered him by calling to Olympus the hundred-handed monster whom gods call Briareus, but men Aegaeon, for he is stronger even than his father; when therefore he took his seat all-glorious beside the son of Saturn, the other gods were afraid, and did not bind him. Go, then, to him, remind him of all this, clasp his knees, and bid him give succour to the Trojans. Let the Achaeans be hemmed in at the sterns of their ships, and perish on the sea-shore, that they may reap what joy they may of their king, and that Agamemnon may rue his blindness in offering insult to the foremost of the Achaeans."

Thetis wept and answered, "My son, woe is me that I should have borne or suckled you. Would indeed that you had lived your span free from all sorrow at your ships, for it is all too brief; alas, that you should be at once short of life and long of sorrow above your peers: woe, therefore, was the hour in which I bore you; nevertheless I will go to the snowy heights of Olympus, and tell this tale to Jove, if he will hear our prayer: meanwhile stay where you are with your ships, nurse your anger against the Achaeans, and hold aloof from fight. For Jove went yesterday to Oceanus, to a feast among the Ethiopians, and the other gods went with him. He will return to Olympus twelve days hence; I will then go to his mansion paved with bronze and will beseech him; nor do I doubt that I shall be able to persuade him."

On this she left him, still furious at the loss of her that had been taken from him. Meanwhile Ulysses reached Chryse with the hecatomb. When they had come inside the harbour they furled the sails and laid them in the ship's hold; they slackened the forestays, lowered the mast into its place, and rowed the ship to the place where they would have her lie; there they cast out their mooring-stones and made fast the hawsers. They then got out upon the sea-shore and landed the hecatomb for Apollo; Chryseis also left the ship, and Ulysses led her to the altar to deliver her into the hands of her father. "Chryses," said he, "King Agamemnon has sent me to bring you back your child, and to offer sacrifice to Apollo on behalf of the Danaans, that we may propitiate the god, who has now brought sorrow upon the Argives."

So saying he gave the girl over to her father, who received her gladly, and they ranged the holy hecatomb all orderly round the altar of the god. They washed their hands and took up the barley-meal to sprinkle over the victims, while Chryses lifted up his hands and prayed aloud on their behalf. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla, and rulest Tenedos with thy might. Even as thou didst hear me aforetime when I prayed, and didst press hardly upon the Achaeans, so hear me yet again, and stay this fearful pestilence from the Danaans."

Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley-meal, they drew back the heads of the victims and killed and flayed them. They cut out the thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers of fat, set some pieces of raw meat on the top of them, and then Chryses laid them on the wood fire and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thigh-bones were burned and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up small, put the pieces upon the spits, roasted them till they were done, and drew them off: then, when they had finished their work and the feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his full share, so that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, pages filled the mixing-bowl with wine and water and handed it round, after giving every man his drink-offering.

Thus all day long the young men worshipped the god with song, hymning him and chaunting the joyous paean, and the god took pleasure in their voices; but when the sun went down, and it came on dark, they laid themselves down to sleep by the stern cables of the ship, and when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared they again set sail for the host of the Achaeans. Apollo sent them a fair wind, so they raised their mast and hoisted their white sails aloft. As the sail bellied with the wind the ship flew through the deep blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward. When they reached the wide-stretching host of the Achaeans, they drew the vessel ashore, high and dry upon the sands, set her strong props beneath her, and went their ways to their own tents and ships.

But Achilles abode at his ships and nursed his anger. He went not to the honourable assembly, and sallied not forth to fight, but gnawed at his own heart, pining for battle and the war-cry.

Now after twelve days the immortal gods came back in a body to Olympus, and Jove led the way. Thetis was not unmindful of the charge her son had laid upon her, so she rose from under the sea and went through great heaven with early morning to Olympus, where she found the mighty son of Saturn sitting all alone upon its topmost ridges. She sat herself down before him, and with her left hand seized his knees, while with her right she caught him under the chin, and besought him, saying-

"Father Jove, if I ever did you service in word or deed among the immortals, hear my prayer, and do honour to my son, whose life is to be cut short so early. King Agamemnon has dishonoured him by taking his prize and keeping her. Honour him then yourself, Olympian lord of counsel, and grant victory to the Trojans, till the Achaeans give my son his due and load him with riches in requital."

Jove sat for a while silent, and without a word, but Thetis still kept firm hold of his knees, and besought him a second time. "Incline your head," said she, "and promise me surely, or else deny me- for you have nothing to fear- that I may learn how greatly you disdain me."

At this Jove was much troubled and answered, "I shall have trouble if you set me quarrelling with Juno, for she will provoke me with her taunting speeches; even now she is always railing at me before the other gods and accusing me of giving aid to the Trojans. Go back now, lest she should find out. I will consider the matter, and will bring it about as wish. See, I incline my head that you believe me. This is the most solemn that I can give to any god. I never recall my word, or deceive, or fail to do what I say, when I have nodded my head."

As he spoke the son of Saturn bowed his dark brows, and the ambrosial locks swayed on his immortal head, till vast Olympus reeled.

When the pair had thus laid their plans, they parted- Jove to his house, while the goddess quitted the splendour of Olympus, and plunged into the depths of the sea. The gods rose from their seats, before the coming of their sire. Not one of them dared to remain sitting, but all stood up as he came among them. There, then, he took his seat. But Juno, when she saw him, knew that he and the old merman's daughter, silver-footed Thetis, had been hatching mischief, so she at once began to upbraid him. "Trickster," she cried, "which of the gods have you been taking into your counsels now? You are always settling matters in secret behind my back, and have never yet told me, if you could help it, one word of your intentions."

"Juno," replied the sire of gods and men, "you must not expect to be informed of all my counsels. You are my wife, but you would find it hard to understand them. When it is proper for you to hear, there is no one, god or man, who will be told sooner, but when I mean to keep a matter to myself, you must not pry nor ask questions."

"Dread son of Saturn," answered Juno, "what are you talking about? I? Pry and ask questions? Never. I let you have your own way in everything. Still, I have a strong misgiving that the old merman's daughter Thetis has been talking you over, for she was with you and had hold of your knees this self-same morning. I believe, therefore, that you have been promising her to give glory to Achilles, and to kill much people at the ships of the Achaeans."

"Wife," said Jove, "I can do nothing but you suspect me and find it out. You will take nothing by it, for I shall only dislike you the more, and it will go harder with you. Granted that it is as you say; I mean to have it so; sit down and hold your tongue as I bid you for if I once begin to lay my hands about you, though all heaven were on your side it would profit you nothing."

On this Juno was frightened, so she curbed her stubborn will and sat down in silence. But the heavenly beings were disquieted throughout the house of Jove, till the cunning workman Vulcan began to try and pacify his mother Juno. "It will be intolerable," said he, "if you two fall to wrangling and setting heaven in an uproar about a pack of mortals. If such ill counsels are to prevail, we shall have no pleasure at our banquet. Let me then advise my mother- and she must herself know that it will be better- to make friends with my dear father Jove, lest he again scold her and disturb our feast. If the Olympian Thunderer wants to hurl us all from our seats, he can do so, for he is far the strongest, so give him fair words, and he will then soon be in a good humour with us."

As he spoke, he took a double cup of nectar, and placed it in his mother's hand. "Cheer up, my dear mother," said he, "and make the best of it. I love you dearly, and should be very sorry to see you get a thrashing; however grieved I might be, I could not help for there is no standing against Jove. Once before when I was trying to help you, he caught me by the foot and flung me from the heavenly threshold. All day long from morn till eve, was I falling, till at sunset I came to ground in the island of Lemnos, and there I lay, with very little life left in me, till the Sintians came and tended me."

Juno smiled at this, and as she smiled she took the cup from her son's hands. Then Vulcan drew sweet nectar from the mixing-bowl, and served it round among the gods, going from left to right; and the blessed gods laughed out a loud applause as they saw him ing bustling about the heavenly mansion.

Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun they feasted, and every one had his full share, so that all were satisfied. Apollo struck his lyre, and the Muses lifted up their sweet voices, calling and answering one another. But when the sun's glorious light had faded, they went home to bed, each in his own abode, which lame Vulcan with his consummate skill had fashioned for them. So Jove, the Olympian Lord of Thunder, hied him to the bed in which he always slept; and when he had got on to it he went to sleep, with Juno of the golden throne by his side.

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John Keats

The Cap And Bells; Or, The Jealousies: A Faery Tale -- Unfinished

I.
In midmost Ind, beside Hydaspes cool,
There stood, or hover'd, tremulous in the air,
A faery city 'neath the potent rule
Of Emperor Elfinan; fam'd ev'rywhere
For love of mortal women, maidens fair,
Whose lips were solid, whose soft hands were made
Of a fit mould and beauty, ripe and rare,
To tamper his slight wooing, warm yet staid:
He lov'd girls smooth as shades, but hated a mere shade.

II.
This was a crime forbidden by the law;
And all the priesthood of his city wept,
For ruin and dismay they well foresaw,
If impious prince no bound or limit kept,
And faery Zendervester overstept;
They wept, he sin'd, and still he would sin on,
They dreamt of sin, and he sin'd while they slept;
In vain the pulpit thunder'd at the throne,
Caricature was vain, and vain the tart lampoon.

III.
Which seeing, his high court of parliament
Laid a remonstrance at his Highness' feet,
Praying his royal senses to content
Themselves with what in faery land was sweet,
Befitting best that shade with shade should meet:
Whereat, to calm their fears, he promis'd soon
From mortal tempters all to make retreat,--
Aye, even on the first of the new moon,
An immaterial wife to espouse as heaven's boon.

IV.
Meantime he sent a fluttering embassy
To Pigmio, of Imaus sovereign,
To half beg, and half demand, respectfully,
The hand of his fair daughter Bellanaine;
An audience had, and speeching done, they gain
Their point, and bring the weeping bride away;
Whom, with but one attendant, safely lain
Upon their wings, they bore in bright array,
While little harps were touch'd by many a lyric fay.

V.
As in old pictures tender cherubim
A child's soul thro' the sapphir'd canvas bear,
So, thro' a real heaven, on they swim
With the sweet princess on her plumag'd lair,
Speed giving to the winds her lustrous hair;
And so she journey'd, sleeping or awake,
Save when, for healthful exercise and air,
She chose to 'promener à l'aile,' or take
A pigeon's somerset, for sport or change's sake.

VI.
'Dear Princess, do not whisper me so loud,'
Quoth Corallina, nurse and confidant,
'Do not you see there, lurking in a cloud,
Close at your back, that sly old Crafticant?
He hears a whisper plainer than a rant:
Dry up your tears, and do not look so blue;
He's Elfinan's great state-spy militant,
His running, lying, flying foot-man too,--
Dear mistress, let him have no handle against you!

VII.
'Show him a mouse's tail, and he will guess,
With metaphysic swiftness, at the mouse;
Show him a garden, and with speed no less,
He'll surmise sagely of a dwelling house,
And plot, in the same minute, how to chouse
The owner out of it; show him a' --- 'Peace!
Peace! nor contrive thy mistress' ire to rouse!'
Return'd the Princess, 'my tongue shall not cease
Till from this hated match I get a free release.

VIII.
'Ah, beauteous mortal!' 'Hush!' quoth Coralline,
'Really you must not talk of him, indeed.'
'You hush!' reply'd the mistress, with a shinee
Of anger in her eyes, enough to breed
In stouter hearts than nurse's fear and dread:
'Twas not the glance itself made nursey flinch,
But of its threat she took the utmost heed;
Not liking in her heart an hour-long pinch,
Or a sharp needle run into her back an inch.

IX.
So she was silenc'd, and fair Bellanaine,
Writhing her little body with ennui,
Continued to lament and to complain,
That Fate, cross-purposing, should let her be
Ravish'd away far from her dear countree;
That all her feelings should be set at nought,
In trumping up this match so hastily,
With lowland blood; and lowland blood she thought
Poison, as every staunch true-born Imaian ought.

X.
Sorely she griev'd, and wetted three or four
White Provence rose-leaves with her faery tears,
But not for this cause; -- alas! she had more
Bad reasons for her sorrow, as appears
In the fam'd memoirs of a thousand years,
Written by Crafticant, and published
By Parpaglion and Co., (those sly compeers
Who rak'd up ev'ry fact against the dead,)
In Scarab Street, Panthea, at the Jubal's Head.

XI.
Where, after a long hypercritic howl
Against the vicious manners of the age,
He goes on to expose, with heart and soul,
What vice in this or that year was the rage,
Backbiting all the world in every page;
With special strictures on the horrid crime,
(Section'd and subsection'd with learning sage,)
Of faeries stooping on their wings sublime
To kiss a mortal's lips, when such were in their prime.

XII.
Turn to the copious index, you will find
Somewhere in the column, headed letter B,
The name of Bellanaine, if you're not blind;
Then pray refer to the text, and you will see
An article made up of calumny
Against this highland princess, rating her
For giving way, so over fashionably,
To this new-fangled vice, which seems a burr
Stuck in his moral throat, no coughing e'er could stir.

XIII.
There he says plainly that she lov'd a man!
That she around him flutter'd, flirted, toy'd,
Before her marriage with great Elfinan;
That after marriage too, she never joy'd
In husband's company, but still employ'd
Her wits to 'scape away to Angle-land;
Where liv'd the youth, who worried and annoy'd
Her tender heart, and its warm ardours fann'd
To such a dreadful blaze, her side would scorch her hand.

XIV.
But let us leave this idle tittle-tattle
To waiting-maids, and bed-room coteries,
Nor till fit time against her fame wage battle.
Poor Elfinan is very ill at ease,
Let us resume his subject if you please:
For it may comfort and console him much,
To rhyme and syllable his miseries;
Poor Elfinan! whose cruel fate was such,
He sat and curs'd a bride he knew he could not touch.

XV.
Soon as (according to his promises)
The bridal embassy had taken wing,
And vanish'd, bird-like, o'er the suburb trees,
The Emperor, empierc'd with the sharp sting
Of love, retired, vex'd and murmuring
Like any drone shut from the fair bee-queen,
Into his cabinet, and there did fling
His limbs upon a sofa, full of spleen,
And damn'd his House of Commons, in complete chagrin.

XVI.
'I'll trounce some of the members,' cry'd the Prince,
'I'll put a mark against some rebel names,
I'll make the Opposition-benches wince,
I'll show them very soon, to all their shames,
What 'tis to smother up a Prince's flames;
That ministers should join in it, I own,
Surprises me! -- they too at these high games!
Am I an Emperor? Do I wear a crown?
Imperial Elfinan, go hang thyself or drown!

XVII.
'I'll trounce 'em! -- there's the square-cut chancellor,
His son shall never touch that bishopric;
And for the nephew of old Palfior,
I'll show him that his speeches made me sick,
And give the colonelcy to Phalaric;
The tiptoe marquis, mortal and gallant,
Shall lodge in shabby taverns upon tick;
And for the Speaker's second cousin's aunt,
She sha'n't be maid of honour,-- by heaven that she sha'n't!

XVIII.
'I'll shirk the Duke of A.; I'll cut his brother;
I'll give no garter to his eldest son;
I won't speak to his sister or his mother!
The Viscount B. shall live at cut-and-run;
But how in the world can I contrive to stun
That fellow's voice, which plagues me worse than any,
That stubborn fool, that impudent state-dun,
Who sets down ev'ry sovereign as a zany,--
That vulgar commoner, Esquire Biancopany?

XIX.
'Monstrous affair! Pshaw! pah! what ugly minx
Will they fetch from Imaus for my bride?
Alas! my wearied heart within me sinks,
To think that I must be so near ally'd
To a cold dullard fay,--ah, woe betide!
Ah, fairest of all human loveliness!
Sweet Bertha! what crime can it be to glide
About the fragrant plaintings of thy dress,
Or kiss thine eyes, or count thy locks, tress after tress?'

XX.
So said, one minute's while his eyes remaind'
Half lidded, piteous, languid, innocent;
But, in a wink, their splendour they regain'd,
Sparkling revenge with amorous fury blent.
Love thwarted in bad temper oft has vent:
He rose, he stampt his foot, he rang the bell,
And order'd some death-warrants to be sent
For signature: -- somewhere the tempest fell,
As many a poor fellow does not live to tell.

XXI.
'At the same time, Eban,' -- (this was his page,
A fay of colour, slave from top to toe,
Sent as a present, while yet under age,
From the Viceroy of Zanguebar, -- wise, slow,
His speech, his only words were 'yes' and 'no,'
But swift of look, and foot, and wing was he,--)
'At the same time, Eban, this instant go
To Hum the soothsayer, whose name I see
Among the fresh arrivals in our empery.

XXII.
'Bring Hum to me! But stay -- here, take my ring,
The pledge of favour, that he not suspect
Any foul play, or awkward murdering,
Tho' I have bowstrung many of his sect;
Throw in a hint, that if he should neglect
One hour, the next shall see him in my grasp,
And the next after that shall see him neck'd,
Or swallow'd by my hunger-starved asp,--
And mention ('tis as well) the torture of the wasp.'

XXIII.
These orders given, the Prince, in half a pet,
Let o'er the silk his propping elbow slide,
Caught up his little legs, and, in a fret,
Fell on the sofa on his royal side.
The slave retreated backwards, humble-ey'd,
And with a slave-like silence clos'd the door,
And to old Hun thro' street and alley hied;
He 'knew the city,' as we say, of yore,
And for short cuts and turns, was nobody knew more.

XXIV.
It was the time when wholesale dealers close
Their shutters with a moody sense of wealth,
But retail dealers, diligent, let loose
The gas (objected to on score of health),
Convey'd in little solder'd pipes by stealth,
And make it flare in many a brilliant form,
That all the powers of darkness it repell'th,
Which to the oil-trade doth great scaith and harm,
And superseded quite the use of the glow-worm.

XXV.
Eban, untempted by the pastry-cooks,
(Of pastry he got store within the palace,)
With hasty steps, wrapp'd cloak, and solemn looks,
Incognito upon his errand sallies,
His smelling-bottle ready for the allies;
He pass'd the Hurdy-gurdies with disdain,
Vowing he'd have them sent on board the gallies;
Just as he made his vow; it 'gan to rain,
Therefore he call'd a coach, and bade it drive amain.

XXVI.
'I'll pull the string,' said he, and further said,
'Polluted Jarvey! Ah, thou filthy hack!
Whose springs of life are all dry'd up and dead,
Whose linsey-woolsey lining hangs all slack,
Whose rug is straw, whose wholeness is a crack;
And evermore thy steps go clatter-clitter;
Whose glass once up can never be got back,
Who prov'st, with jolting arguments and bitter,
That 'tis of modern use to travel in a litter.

XXVII.
'Thou inconvenience! thou hungry crop
For all corn! thou snail-creeper to and fro,
Who while thou goest ever seem'st to stop,
And fiddle-faddle standest while you go;
I' the morning, freighted with a weight of woe,
Unto some lazar-house thou journeyest,
And in the evening tak'st a double row
Of dowdies, for some dance or party drest,
Besides the goods meanwhile thou movest east and west.

XXVIII.
'By thy ungallant bearing and sad mien,
An inch appears the utmost thou couldst budge;
Yet at the slightest nod, or hint, or sign,
Round to the curb-stone patient dost thou trudge,
School'd in a beckon, learned in a nudge,
A dull-ey'd Argus watching for a fare;
Quiet and plodding, thou dost bear no grudge
To whisking Tilburies, or Phaetons rare,
Curricles, or Mail-coaches, swift beyond compare.'

XXIX.
Philosophizing thus, he pull'd the check,
And bade the Coachman wheel to such a street,
Who, turning much his body, more his neck,
Louted full low, and hoarsely did him greet:
'Certes, Monsieur were best take to his feet,
Seeing his servant can no further drive
For press of coaches, that to-night here meet,
Many as bees about a straw-capp'd hive,
When first for April honey into faint flowers they dive.'

XXX.
Eban then paid his fare, and tiptoe went
To Hum's hotel; and, as he on did pass
With head inclin'd, each dusky lineament
Show'd in the pearl-pav'd street, as in a glass;
His purple vest, that ever peeping was
Rich from the fluttering crimson of his cloak,
His silvery trowsers, and his silken sash
Tied in a burnish'd knot, their semblance took
Upon the mirror'd walls, wherever he might look.

XXXI.
He smil'd at self, and, smiling, show'd his teeth,
And seeing his white teeth, he smil'd the more;
Lifted his eye-brows, spurn'd the path beneath,
Show'd teeth again, and smil'd as heretofore,
Until he knock'd at the magician's door;
Where, till the porter answer'd, might be seen,
In the clear panel more he could adore,--
His turban wreath'd of gold, and white, and green,
Mustachios, ear-ring, nose-ring, and his sabre keen.

XXXII.
'Does not your master give a rout to-night?'
Quoth the dark page. 'Oh, no!' return'd the Swiss,
'Next door but one to us, upon the right,
The Magazin des Modes now open is
Against the Emperor's wedding;--and, sir, this
My master finds a monstrous horrid bore;
As he retir'd, an hour ago I wis,
With his best beard and brimstone, to explore
And cast a quiet figure in his second floor.

XXXIII.
'Gad! he's oblig'd to stick to business!
For chalk, I hear, stands at a pretty price;
And as for aqua vitae -- there's a mess!
The dentes sapientiae of mice,
Our barber tells me too, are on the rise,--
Tinder's a lighter article, -- nitre pure
Goes off like lightning, -- grains of Paradise
At an enormous figure! -- stars not sure! --
Zodiac will not move without a slight douceur!

XXXIV.
'Venus won't stir a peg without a fee,
And master is too partial, entre nous,
To' -- 'Hush -- hush!' cried Eban, 'sure that is he
Coming down stairs, -- by St. Bartholomew!
As backwards as he can, -- is't something new?
Or is't his custom, in the name of fun?'
'He always comes down backward, with one shoe'--
Return'd the porter -- 'off, and one shoe on,
Like, saving shoe for sock or stocking, my man John!'

XXXV.
It was indeed the great Magician,
Feeling, with careful toe, for every stair,
And retrograding careful as he can,
Backwards and downwards from his own two pair:
'Salpietro!' exclaim'd Hum, 'is the dog there?
He's always in my way upon the mat!'
'He's in the kitchen, or the Lord knows where,'--
Reply'd the Swiss, -- 'the nasty, yelping brat!'
'Don't beat him!' return'd Hum, and on the floor came pat.

XXXVI.
Then facing right about, he saw the Page,
And said: 'Don't tell me what you want, Eban;
The Emperor is now in a huge rage,--
'Tis nine to one he'll give you the rattan!
Let us away!' Away together ran
The plain-dress'd sage and spangled blackamoor,
Nor rested till they stood to cool, and fan,
And breathe themselves at th' Emperor's chamber door,
When Eban thought he heard a soft imperial snore.

XXXVII.
'I thought you guess'd, foretold, or prophesy'd,
That's Majesty was in a raving fit?'
'He dreams,' said Hum, 'or I have ever lied,
That he is tearing you, sir, bit by bit.'
'He's not asleep, and you have little wit,'
Reply'd the page; 'that little buzzing noise,
Whate'er your palmistry may make of it,
Comes from a play-thing of the Emperor's choice,
From a Man-Tiger-Organ, prettiest of his toys.'

XXXVIII.
Eban then usher'd in the learned Seer:
Elfinan's back was turn'd, but, ne'ertheless,
Both, prostrate on the carpet, ear by ear,
Crept silently, and waited in distress,
Knowing the Emperor's moody bitterness;
Eban especially, who on the floor 'gan
Tremble and quake to death,-- he feared less
A dose of senna-tea or nightmare Gorgon
Than the Emperor when he play'd on his Man-Tiger-Organ.

XXXIX.
They kiss'd nine times the carpet's velvet face
Of glossy silk, soft, smooth, and meadow-green,
Where the close eye in deep rich fur might trace
A silver tissue, scantly to be seen,
As daisies lurk'd in June-grass, buds in green;
Sudden the music ceased, sudden the hand
Of majesty, by dint of passion keen,
Doubled into a common fist, went grand,
And knock'd down three cut glasses, and his best ink-stand.

XL.
Then turning round, he saw those trembling two:
'Eban,' said he, 'as slaves should taste the fruits
Of diligence, I shall remember you
To-morrow, or next day, as time suits,
In a finger conversation with my mutes,--
Begone! -- for you, Chaldean! here remain!
Fear not, quake not, and as good wine recruits
A conjurer's spirits, what cup will you drain?
Sherry in silver, hock in gold, or glass'd champagne?'

XLI.
'Commander of the faithful!' answer'd Hum,
'In preference to these, I'll merely taste
A thimble-full of old Jamaica rum.'
'A simple boon!' said Elfinan; 'thou may'st
Have Nantz, with which my morning-coffee's lac'd.'
'I'll have a glass of Nantz, then,' -- said the Seer,--
'Made racy -- (sure my boldness is misplac'd!)--
With the third part -- (yet that is drinking dear!)--
Of the least drop of crème de citron, crystal clear.'

XLII.
'I pledge you, Hum! and pledge my dearest love,
My Bertha!' 'Bertha! Bertha!' cry'd the sage,
'I know a many Berthas!' 'Mine's above
All Berthas!' sighed the Emperor. 'I engage,'
Said Hum, 'in duty, and in vassalage,
To mention all the Berthas in the earth;--
There's Bertha Watson, -- and Miss Bertha Page,--
This fam'd for languid eyes, and that for mirth,--
There's Bertha Blount of York, -- and Bertha Knox of Perth.'

XLIII.
'You seem to know' -- 'I do know,' answer'd Hum,
'Your Majesty's in love with some fine girl
Named Bertha; but her surname will not come,
Without a little conjuring.' ''Tis Pearl,
'Tis Bertha Pearl! What makes my brain so whirl?
And she is softer, fairer than her name!'
'Where does she live?' ask'd Hum. 'Her fair locks curl
So brightly, they put all our fays to shame!--
Live? -- O! at Canterbury, with her old grand-dame.'

XLIV.
'Good! good!' cried Hum, 'I've known her from a child!
She is a changeling of my management;
She was born at midnight in an Indian wild;
Her mother's screams with the striped tiger's blent,
While the torch-bearing slaves a halloo sent
Into the jungles; and her palanquin,
Rested amid the desert's dreariment,
Shook with her agony, till fair were seen
The little Bertha's eyes ope on the stars serene.'

XLV.
'I can't say,' said the monarch; 'that may be
Just as it happen'd, true or else a bam!
Drink up your brandy, and sit down by me,
Feel, feel my pulse, how much in love I am;
And if your science is not all a sham.
Tell me some means to get the lady here.'
'Upon my honour!' said the son of Cham,
'She is my dainty changeling, near and dear,
Although her story sounds at first a little queer.'

XLVI.
'Convey her to me, Hum, or by my crown,
My sceptre, and my cross-surmounted globe,
I'll knock you' -- 'Does your majesty mean -- down?
No, no, you never could my feelings probe
To such a depth!' The Emperor took his robe,
And wept upon its purple palatine,
While Hum continued, shamming half a sob,--
'In Canterbury doth your lady shine?
But let me cool your brandy with a little wine.'

XLVII.
Whereat a narrow Flemish glass he took,
That since belong'd to Admiral De Witt,
Admir'd it with a connoisseuring look,
And with the ripest claret crowned it,
And, ere the lively bead could burst and flit,
He turn'd it quickly, nimbly upside down,
His mouth being held conveniently fit
To catch the treasure: 'Best in all the town!'
He said, smack'd his moist lips, and gave a pleasant frown.

XLVIII.
'Ah! good my Prince, weep not!' And then again
He filled a bumper. 'Great Sire, do not weep!
Your pulse is shocking, but I'll ease your pain.'
'Fetch me that Ottoman, and prithee keep
Your voice low,' said the Emperor; 'and steep
Some lady's-fingers nice in Candy wine;
And prithee, Hum, behind the screen do peep
For the rose-water vase, magician mine!
And sponge my forehead, -- so my love doth make me pine.

XLIX.
'Ah, cursed Bellanaine!' 'Don't think of her,'
Rejoin'd the Mago, 'but on Bertha muse;
For, by my choicest best barometer,
You shall not throttled be in marriage noose;
I've said it, Sire; you only have to choose
Bertha or Bellanaine.' So saying, he drew
From the left pocket of his threadbare hose,
A sampler hoarded slyly, good as new,
Holding it by his thumb and finger full in view.

L.
'Sire, this is Bertha Pearl's neat handy-work,
Her name, see here, Midsummer, ninety-one.'
Elfinan snatch'd it with a sudden jerk,
And wept as if he never would have done,
Honouring with royal tears the poor homespun;
Whereon were broider'd tigers with black eyes,
And long-tail'd pheasants, and a rising sun,
Plenty of posies, great stags, butterflies
Bigger than stags,-- a moon,-- with other mysteries.

LI.
The monarch handled o'er and o'er again
Those day-school hieroglyphics with a sigh;
Somewhat in sadness, but pleas'd in the main,
Till this oracular couplet met his eye
Astounded -- Cupid, I do thee defy!
It was too much. He shrunk back in his chair,
Grew pale as death, and fainted -- very nigh!
'Pho! nonsense!' exclaim'd Hum, 'now don't despair;
She does not mean it really. Cheer up, hearty -- there!

LII.
'And listen to my words. You say you won't,
On any terms, marry Miss Bellanaine;
It goes against your conscience -- good! Well, don't.
You say you love a mortal. I would fain
Persuade your honour's highness to refrain
From peccadilloes. But, Sire, as I say,
What good would that do? And, to be more plain,
You would do me a mischief some odd day,
Cut off my ears and limbs, or head too, by my fay!

LIII.
'Besides, manners forbid that I should pass any
Vile strictures on the conduct of a prince
Who should indulge his genius, if he has any,
Not, like a subject, foolish matters mince.
Now I think on't, perhaps I could convince
Your Majesty there is no crime at all
In loving pretty little Bertha, since
She's very delicate,-- not over tall, --
A fairy's hand, and in the waist why -- very small.'

LIV.
'Ring the repeater, gentle Hum!' ''Tis five,'
Said the gentle Hum; 'the nights draw in apace;
The little birds I hear are all alive;
I see the dawning touch'd upon your face;
Shall I put out the candles, please your Grace?'
'Do put them out, and, without more ado,
Tell me how I may that sweet girl embrace,--
How you can bring her to me.' 'That's for you,
Great Emperor! to adventure, like a lover true.'

LV.
'I fetch her!' -- 'Yes, an't like your Majesty;
And as she would be frighten'd wide awake
To travel such a distance through the sky,
Use of some soft manoeuvre you must make,
For your convenience, and her dear nerves' sake;
Nice way would be to bring her in a swoon,
Anon, I'll tell what course were best to take;
You must away this morning.' 'Hum! so soon?'
'Sire, you must be in Kent by twelve o'clock at noon.'

LVI.
At this great Caesar started on his feet,
Lifted his wings, and stood attentive-wise.
'Those wings to Canterbury you must beat,
If you hold Bertha as a worthy prize.
Look in the Almanack -- Moore never lies --
April the twenty- fourth, -- this coming day,
Now breathing its new bloom upon the skies,
Will end in St. Mark's Eve; -- you must away,
For on that eve alone can you the maid convey.'

LVII.
Then the magician solemnly 'gan to frown,
So that his frost-white eyebrows, beetling low,
Shaded his deep green eyes, and wrinkles brown
Plaited upon his furnace-scorched brow:
Forth from his hood that hung his neck below,
He lifted a bright casket of pure gold,
Touch'd a spring-lock, and there in wool or snow,
Charm'd into ever freezing, lay an old
And legend-leaved book, mysterious to behold.

LVIII.
'Take this same book,-- it will not bite you, Sire;
There, put it underneath your royal arm;
Though it's a pretty weight it will not tire,
But rather on your journey keep you warm:
This is the magic, this the potent charm,
That shall drive Bertha to a fainting fit!
When the time comes, don't feel the least alarm,
But lift her from the ground, and swiftly flit
Back to your palace. * * * * * * * * * *

LIX.
'What shall I do with that same book?' 'Why merely
Lay it on Bertha's table, close beside
Her work-box, and 'twill help your purpose dearly;
I say no more.' 'Or good or ill betide,
Through the wide air to Kent this morn I glide!'
Exclaim'd the Emperor. 'When I return,
Ask what you will, -- I'll give you my new bride!
And take some more wine, Hum; -- O Heavens! I burn
To be upon the wing! Now, now, that minx I spurn!'

LX.
'Leave her to me,' rejoin'd the magian:
'But how shall I account, illustrious fay!
For thine imperial absence? Pho! I can
Say you are very sick, and bar the way
To your so loving courtiers for one day;
If either of their two archbishops' graces
Should talk of extreme unction, I shall say
You do not like cold pig with Latin phrases,
Which never should be used but in alarming cases.'

LXI.
'Open the window, Hum; I'm ready now!'
Zooks!' exclaim'd Hum, as up the sash he drew.
'Behold, your Majesty, upon the brow
Of yonder hill, what crowds of people!' 'Whew!
The monster's always after something new,'
Return'd his Highness, 'they are piping hot
To see my pigsney Bellanaine. Hum! do
Tighten my belt a little, -- so, so, -- not
Too tight, -- the book! -- my wand! -- so, nothing is forgot.'

LXII.
'Wounds! how they shout!' said Hum, 'and there, -- see, see!
Th' ambassador's return'd from Pigmio!
The morning's very fine, -- uncommonly!
See, past the skirts of yon white cloud they go,
Tinging it with soft crimsons! Now below
The sable-pointed heads of firs and pines
They dip, move on, and with them moves a glow
Along the forest side! Now amber lines
Reach the hill top, and now throughout the valley shines.'

LXIII.
'Why, Hum, you're getting quite poetical!
Those 'nows' you managed in a special style.'
'If ever you have leisure, Sire, you shall
See scraps of mine will make it worth your while,
Tid-bits for Phoebus! -- yes, you well may smile.
Hark! hark! the bells!' 'A little further yet,
Good Hum, and let me view this mighty coil.'
Then the great Emperor full graceful set
His elbow for a prop, and snuff'd his mignonnette.

LXIV.
The morn is full of holiday; loud bells
With rival clamours ring from every spire;
Cunningly-station'd music dies and swells
In echoing places; when the winds respire,
Light flags stream out like gauzy tongues of fire;
A metropolitan murmur, lifeful, warm,
Comes from the northern suburbs; rich attire
Freckles with red and gold the moving swarm;
While here and there clear trumpets blow a keen alarm.

LXV.
And now the fairy escort was seen clear,
Like the old pageant of Aurora's train,
Above a pearl-built minister, hovering near;
First wily Crafticant, the chamberlain,
Balanc'd upon his grey-grown pinions twain,
His slender wand officially reveal'd;
Then black gnomes scattering sixpences like rain;
Then pages three and three; and next, slave-held,
The Imaian 'scutcheon bright, -- one mouse in argent field.

LXVI.
Gentlemen pensioners next; and after them,
A troop of winged Janizaries flew;
Then slaves, as presents bearing many a gem;
Then twelve physicians fluttering two and two;
And next a chaplain in a cassock new;
Then Lords in waiting; then (what head not reels
For pleasure?) -- the fair Princess in full view,
Borne upon wings, -- and very pleas'd she feels
To have such splendour dance attendance at her heels.

LXVII.
For there was more magnificence behind:
She wav'd her handkerchief. 'Ah, very grand!'
Cry'd Elfinan, and clos'd the window-blind;
'And, Hum, we must not shilly-shally stand,--
Adieu! adieu! I'm off for Angle-land!
I say, old Hocus, have you such a thing
About you, -- feel your pockets, I command,--
I want, this instant, an invisible ring,--
Thank you, old mummy! -- now securely I take wing.'

LXVIII.
Then Elfinan swift vaulted from the floor,
And lighted graceful on the window-sill;
Under one arm the magic book he bore,
The other he could wave about at will;
Pale was his face, he still look'd very ill;
He bow'd at Bellanaine, and said -- 'Poor Bell!
Farewell! farewell! and if for ever! still
For ever fare thee well!' -- and then he fell
A laughing! -- snapp'd his fingers! -- shame it is to tell!

LXIX.
'By'r Lady! he is gone!' cries Hum, 'and I --
(I own it) -- have made too free with his wine;
Old Crafticant will smoke me. By-the-bye!
This room is full of jewels as a mine,--
Dear valuable creatures, how ye shine!
Sometime to-day I must contrive a minute,
If Mercury propitiously incline,
To examine his scutoire, and see what's in i,
For of superfluous diamonds I as well may thin it.

LXX.
'The Emperor's horrid bad; yes, that's my cue!'
Some histories say that this was Hum's last speech;
That, being fuddled, he went reeling through
The corridor, and scarce upright could reach
The stair-head; that being glutted as a leech,
And us'd, as we ourselves have just now said,
To manage stairs reversely, like a peach
Too ripe, he fell, being puzzled in his head
With liquor and the staircase: verdict -- found stone dead.

LXXI.
This as a falsehood Crafticanto treats;
And as his style is of strange elegance,
Gentle and tender, full of soft conceits,
(Much like our Boswell's,) we will take a glance
At his sweet prose, and, if we can, make dance
His woven periods into careless rhyme;
O, little faery Pegasus! rear -- prance --
Trot round the quarto -- ordinary time!
March, little Pegasus, with pawing hoof sublime!

LXXII.
Well, let us see, -- tenth book and chapter nine,--
Thus Crafticant pursues his diary:--
''Twas twelve o'clock at night, the weather fine,
Latitude thirty-six; our scouts descry
A flight of starlings making rapidly
Towards Thibet. Mem.: -- birds fly in the night;
From twelve to half-past -- wings not fit to fly
For a thick fog -- the Princess sulky quite;
Call'd for an extra shawl, and gave her nurse a bite.

LXXIII.
'Five minutes before one -- brought down a moth
With my new double-barrel -- stew'd the thighs
And made a very tolerable broth --
Princess turn'd dainty, to our great surprise,
Alter'd her mind, and thought it very nice;
Seeing her pleasant, try'd her with a pun,
She frown'd; a monstrous owl across us flies
About this time, -- a sad old figure of fun;
Bad omen -- this new match can't be a happy one.

LXXIV.
'From two to half-past, dusky way we made,
Above the plains of Gobi, -- desert, bleak;
Beheld afar off, in the hooded shade
Of darkness, a great mountain (strange to speak),
Spitting, from forth its sulphur-baken peak,
A fan-shap'd burst of blood-red, arrowy fire,
Turban'd with smoke, which still away did reek,
Solid and black from that eternal pyre,
Upon the laden winds that scantly could respire.

LXXV.
'Just upon three o'clock a falling star
Created an alarm among our troop,
Kill'd a man-cook, a page, and broke a jar,
A tureen, and three dishes, at one swoop,
Then passing by the princess, singed her hoop:
Could not conceive what Coralline was at,
She clapp'd her hands three times and cry'd out 'Whoop!'
Some strange Imaian custom. A large bat
Came sudden 'fore my face, and brush'd against my hat.

LXXVI.
'Five minutes thirteen seconds after three,
Far in the west a mighty fire broke out,
Conjectur'd, on the instant, it might be,
The city of Balk -- 'twas Balk beyond all doubt:
A griffin, wheeling here and there about,
Kept reconnoitring us -- doubled our guard --
Lighted our torches, and kept up a shout,
Till he sheer'd off -- the Princess very scar'd --
And many on their marrow-bones for death prepar'd.

LXXVII.
'At half-past three arose the cheerful moon--
Bivouack'd for four minutes on a cloud --
Where from the earth we heard a lively tune
Of tambourines and pipes, serene and loud,
While on a flowery lawn a brilliant crowd
Cinque-parted danc'd, some half asleep reposed
Beneath the green-fan'd cedars, some did shroud
In silken tents, and 'mid light fragrance dozed,
Or on the opera turf their soothed eyelids closed.

LXXVIII.
'Dropp'd my gold watch, and kill'd a kettledrum--
It went for apoplexy -- foolish folks! --
Left it to pay the piper -- a good sum --
(I've got a conscience, maugre people's jokes,)
To scrape a little favour; 'gan to coax
Her Highness' pug-dog -- got a sharp rebuff --
She wish'd a game at whist -- made three revokes --
Turn'd from myself, her partner, in a huff;
His majesty will know her temper time enough.

LXXIX.
'She cry'd for chess -- I play'd a game with her --
Castled her king with such a vixen look,
It bodes ill to his Majesty -- (refer
To the second chapter of my fortieth book,
And see what hoity-toity airs she took).
At half-past four the morn essay'd to beam --
Saluted, as we pass'd, an early rook --
The Princess fell asleep, and, in her dream,
Talk'd of one Master Hubert, deep in her esteem.

LXXX.
'About this time, -- making delightful way,--
Shed a quill-feather from my larboard wing --
Wish'd, trusted, hop'd 'twas no sign of decay --
Thank heaven, I'm hearty yet! -- 'twas no such thing:--
At five the golden light began to spring,
With fiery shudder through the bloomed east;
At six we heard Panthea's churches ring --
The city wall his unhiv'd swarms had cast,
To watch our grand approach, and hail us as we pass'd.

LXXXI.
'As flowers turn their faces to the sun,
So on our flight with hungry eyes they gaze,
And, as we shap'd our course, this, that way run,
With mad-cap pleasure, or hand-clasp'd amaze;
Sweet in the air a mild-ton'd music plays,
And progresses through its own labyrinth;
Buds gather'd from the green spring's middle-days,
They scatter'd, -- daisy, primrose, hyacinth,--
Or round white columns wreath'd from capital to plinth.

LXXXII.
'Onward we floated o'er the panting streets,
That seem'd throughout with upheld faces paved;
Look where we will, our bird's-eye vision meets
Legions of holiday; bright standards waved,
And fluttering ensigns emulously craved
Our minute's glance; a busy thunderous roar,
From square to square, among the buildings raved,
As when the sea, at flow, gluts up once more
The craggy hollowness of a wild reefed shore.

LXXXIII.
'And 'Bellanaine for ever!' shouted they,
While that fair Princess, from her winged chair,
Bow'd low with high demeanour, and, to pay
Their new-blown loyalty with guerdon fair,
Still emptied at meet distance, here and there,
A plenty horn of jewels. And here I
(Who wish to give the devil her due) declare
Against that ugly piece of calumny,
Which calls them Highland pebble-stones not worth a fly.

LXXXIV.
'Still 'Bellanaine!' they shouted, while we glide
'Slant to a light Ionic portico,
The city's delicacy, and the pride
Of our Imperial Basilic; a row
Of lords and ladies, on each hand, make show
Submissive of knee-bent obeisance,
All down the steps; and, as we enter'd, lo!
The strangest sight -- the most unlook'd for chance --
All things turn'd topsy-turvy in a devil's dance.

LXXXV.
''Stead of his anxious Majesty and court
At the open doors, with wide saluting eyes,
Congèes and scrape-graces of every sort,
And all the smooth routine of gallantries,
Was seen, to our immoderate surprise,
A motley crowd thick gather'd in the hall,
Lords, scullions, deputy-scullions, with wild cries
Stunning the vestibule from wall to wall,
Where the Chief Justice on his knees and hands doth crawl.

LXXXVI.
'Counts of the palace, and the state purveyor
Of moth's-down, to make soft the royal beds,
The Common Council and my fool Lord Mayor
Marching a-row, each other slipshod treads;
Powder'd bag-wigs and ruffy-tuffy heads
Of cinder wenches meet and soil each other;
Toe crush'd with heel ill-natur'd fighting breeds,
Frill-rumpling elbows brew up many a bother,
And fists in the short ribs keep up the yell and pother.

LXXXVII.
'A Poet, mounted on the Court-Clown's back,
Rode to the Princess swift with spurring heels,
And close into her face, with rhyming clack,
Began a Prothalamion; -- she reels,
She falls, she faints! while laughter peels
Over her woman's weakness. 'Where!' cry'd I,
'Where is his Majesty?' No person feels
Inclin'd to answer; wherefore instantly
I plung'd into the crowd to find him or die.

LXXXVIII.
'Jostling my way I gain'd the stairs, and ran
To the first landing, where, incredible!
I met, far gone in liquor, that old man,
That vile impostor Hum. ----'
So far so well,--
For we have prov'd the Mago never fell
Down stairs on Crafticanto's evidence;
And therefore duly shall proceed to tell,
Plain in our own original mood and tense,
The sequel of this day, though labour 'tis immense!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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XII. The Book and the Ring

Here were the end, had anything an end:
Thus, lit and launched, up and up roared and soared
A rocket, till the key o' the vault was reached,
And wide heaven held, a breathless minute-space,
In brilliant usurpature: thus caught spark,
Rushed to the height, and hung at full of fame
Over men's upturned faces, ghastly thence,
Our glaring Guido: now decline must be.
In its explosion, you have seen his act,
By my powermay-be, judged it by your own,—
Or composite as good orbs prove, or crammed
With worse ingredients than the Wormwood Star.
The act, over and ended, falls and fades:
What was once seen, grows what is now described,
Then talked of, told about, a tinge the less
In every fresh transmission; till it melts,
Trickles in silent orange or wan grey
Across our memory, dies and leaves all dark,
And presently we find the stars again.
Follow the main streaks, meditate the mode
Of brightness, how it hastes to blend with black!

After that February Twenty-Two,
Since our salvation, Sixteen-Ninety-Eight,
Of all reports that were, or may have been,
Concerning those the day killed or let live,
Four I count only. Take the first that comes.
A letter from a stranger, man of rank,
Venetian visitor at Rome,—who knows,
On what pretence of busy idleness?
Thus he begins on evening of that day.

"Here are we at our end of Carnival;
"Prodigious gaiety and monstrous mirth,
"And constant shift of entertaining show:
"With influx, from each quarter of the globe,
"Of strangers nowise wishful to be last
"I' the struggle for a good place presently
"When that befalls fate cannot long defer.
"The old Pope totters on the verge o' the grave:
"You see, Malpichi understood far more
"Than Tozzi how to treat the ailments: age,
"No question, renders these inveterate.
"Cardinal Spada, actual Minister,
"Is possible Pope; I wager on his head,
"Since those four entertainments of his niece
"Which set all Rome a-stare: Pope probably—
"Though Colloredo has his backers too,
"And San Cesario makes one doubt at times:
"Altieri will be Chamberlain at most.

"A week ago the sun was warm like May,
"And the old man took daily exercise
"Along the river-side; he loves to see
"That Custom-house he built upon the bank,
"For, Naples born, his tastes are maritime:
"But yesterday he had to keep in-doors
"Because of the outrageous rain that fell.
"On such days the good soul has fainting-fits,
"Or lies in stupor, scarcely makes believe
"Of minding business, fumbles at his beads.
"They say, the trust that keeps his heart alive
"Is that, by lasting till December next,
"He may hold Jubilee a second time,
"And, twice in one reign, ope the Holy Doors.
"By the way, somebody responsible
"Assures me that the King of France has writ
"Fresh orders: Fénelon will be condemned:
"The Cardinal makes a wry face enough,
"Having a love for the delinquent: still,
"He's the ambassador, must press the point.
"Have you a wager too, dependent here?

"Now, from such matters to divert awhile,
"Hear of to-day's event which crowns the week,
"Casts all the other wagers into shade.
"Tell Dandolo I owe him fifty drops
"Of heart's blood in the shape of gold zecchines!
"The Pope has done his worst: I have to pay
"For the execution of the Count, by Jove!
"Two days since, I reported him as safe,
"Re-echoing the conviction of all Rome:
"Who could suspect its one deaf ear—the Pope's?
"But prejudices grow insuperable,
"And that old enmity to Austria, that
"Passion for France and France's pageant-king
"(Of which, why pause to multiply the proofs
"Now scandalously rife in Europe's mouth?)
"These fairly got the better in our man
"Of justice, prudence, and esprit de corps,
"And he persisted in the butchery.
"Also, 't is said that in his latest walk
"To that Dogana-by-the-Bank he built,
"The crowd,—he suffers question, unrebuked,—
"Asked, 'Whether murder was a privilege
"'Only reserved for nobles like the Count?'
"And he was ever mindful of the mob.
"Martinez, the Cæsarian Minister,
"—Who used his best endeavours to spare blood,
"And strongly pleaded for the life 'of one,'
"Urged he, 'I may have dined at table with!'—
"He will not soon forget the Pope's rebuff,
"—Feels the slight sensibly, I promise you!
"And but for the dissuasion of two eyes
"That make with him foul weather or fine day,
"He had abstained, nor graced the spectacle:
"As it was, barely would he condescend
"Look forth from the palchetto where he sat
"Under the Pincian: we shall hear of this.
"The substituting, too, the People's Square
"For the out-o'-the-way old quarter by the Bridge,
"Was meant as a conciliatory sop
"To the mob; it gave one holiday the more.
"But the French Embassy might unfurl flag,—
"Still the good luck of France to fling a foe!
"Cardinal Bouillon triumphs properly.
"Palchetti were erected in the Place,
"And houses, at the edge of the Three Streets,
"Let their front windows at six dollars each:
"Anguisciola, that patron of the arts,
"Hired one; our Envoy Contarini too.
"Now for the thing; no sooner the decree
"Gone forth,—'t is four-and-twenty hours ago,—
"Than Acciaiuoli and Panciatichi,
"Old friends, indeed compatriots of the man,
"Being pitched on as the couple properest
"To intimate the sentence yesternight,
"Were closeted ere cock-crow with the Count.
"They both report their efforts to dispose
"The unhappy nobleman for ending well,
"Despite the natural sense of injury,
"Were crowned at last with a complete success.
"And when the Company of Death arrived
"At twenty-hours,—the way they reckon here,—
"We say, at sunset, after dinner-time,—
"The Count was led down, hoisted up on car,
"Last of the five, as heinousest, you know:
"Yet they allowed one whole car to each man.
"His intrepidity, nay, nonchalance,
"As up he stood and down he sat himself,
"Struck admiration into those who saw.
"Then the procession started, took the way
"From the New Prisons by the Pilgrim's Street,
"The street of the Governo, Pasquin's Street,
"(Where was stuck up, mid other epigrams,
"A quatrain … but of all that, presently!)
"The Place Navona, the Pantheon's Place,
"Place of the Column, last the Corso's length,
"And so debouched thence at Mannaia's foot
"I' the Place o' the People. As is evident,
"(Despite the malice,—plainly meant, I fear,
"By this abrupt change of locality,—
"The Square's no such bad place to head and hang)
"We had the titillation as we sat
"Assembled, (quality in conclave, ha?)
"Of, minute after minute, some report
"How the slow show was winding on its way
"Now did a car run over, kill a man,
"Just opposite a pork-shop numbered Twelve:
"And bitter were the outcries of the mob
"Against the Pope: for, but that he forbids
"The Lottery, why, Twelve were Tern Quatern!
"Now did a beggar by Saint Agnes, lame
"From his youth up, recover use of leg,
"Through prayer of Guido as he glanced that way:
"So that the crowd near crammed his hat with coin.
"Thus was kept up excitement to the last,
"—Not an abrupt out-bolting, as of yore,
"From Castle, over Bridge and on to block,
"And so all ended ere you well could wink!

"To mount the scaffold-steps, Guido was last
"Here also, as atrociousest in crime.
"We hardly noticed how the peasants died,
"They dangled somehow soon to right and left,
"And we remained all ears and eyes, could give
"Ourselves to Guido undividedly,
"As he harangued the multitude beneath.
"He begged forgiveness on the part of God,
"And fair construction of his act from men,
"Whose suffrage he entreated for his soul,
"Suggesting that we should forthwith repeat
"A Pater and an Ave, with the hymn
"Salve Regina Coeli, for his sake.
"Which said, he turned to the confessor, crossed
"And reconciled himself, with decency,
"Oft glancing at Saint Mary's opposite,
"Where they possess, and showed in shrine to-day,
"The blessed Umbilicus of our Lord,
"(A relic 't is believed no other church
"In Rome can boast of)—then rose up, as brisk
"Knelt down again, bent head, adapted neck,
"And, with the name of Jesus on his lips,
"Received the fatal blow.

"The headsman showed
"The head to the populace. Must I avouch
"We strangers own to disappointment here?
"Report pronounced him fully six feet high,
"Youngish, considering his fifty years,
"And, if not handsome, dignified at least.
"Indeed, it was no face to please a wife!
"His friends say, this was caused by the costume:
"He wore the dress he did the murder in,
"That is, a just-a-corps of russet serge,
"Black camisole, coarse cloak of baracan
"(So they style here the garb of goat's-hair cloth)
"White hat and cotton cap beneath, poor Count
"Preservative against the evening dews
"During the journey from Arezzo. Well,
"So died the man, and so his end was peace;
"Whence many a moral were to meditate.
"Spada,—you may bet Dandolo,—is Pope!
"Now for the quatrain!"

No, friend, this will do!
You've sputtered into sparks. What streak comes next?
A letter: Don Giacinto Arcangeli,
Doctor and Proctor, him I made you mark
Buckle to business in his study late,
The virtuous sire, the valiant for the truth,
Acquaints his correspondent,—Florentine,
By name Cencini, advocate as well,
Socius and brother-in-the-devil to match,—
A friend of Franceschini, anyhow,
And knit up with the bowels of the case,—
Acquaints him, (in this paper that I touch)
How their joint effort to obtain reprieve
For Guido had so nearly nicked the nine
And ninety and one over,—folk would say
At Tarocs,—or succeeded,—in our phrase.
To this Cencini's care I owe the Book,
The yellow thing I take and toss once more,—
How will it be, my four-years'-intimate,
When thou and I part company anon?—
'T was he, the "whole position of the case,"
Pleading and summary, were put before;
Discreetly in my Book he bound them all,
Adding some three epistles to the point.
Here is the first of these, part fresh as penned,
The sand, that dried the ink, not rubbed away,
Though penned the day whereof it tells the deed:
Part—extant just as plainly, you know where,
Whence came the other stuff, went, you know how,
To make the Ring that's all but round and done.

"Late they arrived, too late, egregious Sir,
"Those same justificative points you urge
"Might benefit His Blessed Memory
"Count Guido Franceschini now with God:
"Since the Court,—to state things succinctly,—styled
"The Congregation of the Governor,
"Having resolved on Tuesday last our cause
"I' the guilty sense, with death for punishment,
"Spite of all pleas by me deducible
"In favour of said Blessed Memory,—
"I, with expenditure of pains enough,
"Obtained a respite, leave to claim and prove
"Exemption from the law's award,—alleged
"The power and privilege o' the Clericate:
"To which effect a courier was despatched.
"But ere an answer from Arezzo came,
"The Holiness of our Lord the Pope (prepare!)
"Judging it inexpedient to postpone
"The execution of such sentence passed,
"Saw fit, by his particular cheirograph,
"To derogate, dispense with privilege,
"And wink at any hurt accruing thence
"To Mother Church through damage of her son:
"Also, to overpass and set aside
"That other plea on score of tender age,
"Put forth by me to do Pasquini good,
"One of the four in trouble with our friend.
"So that all five, to-day, have suffered death
"With no distinction save in dying,—he,
"Decollate by mere due of privilege,
"The rest hanged decently and in order. Thus
"Came the Count to his end of gallant man,
"Defunct in faith and exemplarity:
"Nor shall the shield of his great House lose shine
"Thereby, nor its blue banner blush to red.
"This, too, should yield sustainment to our hearts
"He had commiseration and respect
"In his decease from universal Rome,
"Quantum est hominum venustiorum,
"The nice and cultivated everywhere:
"Though, in respect of me his advocate,
"Needs must I groan o'er my debility,
"Attribute the untoward event o' the strife
"To nothing but my own crass ignorance
"Which failed to set the valid reasons forth,
"Find fit excuse: such is the fate of war!
"May God compensate us the direful blow
"By future blessings on his family,
"Whereof I lowly beg the next commands;
"—Whereto, as humbly, I confirm myself…"

And so forth,—follow name and place and date.
On next leaf

"Hactenus senioribus!
"There, old fox, show the clients t' other side
"And keep this corner sacred, I beseech!
"You and your pleas and proofs were what folk call
"Pisan assistance, aid that comes too late,
"Saves a man dead as nail in post of door.
"Had I but time and space for narrative!
"What was the good of twenty Clericates
"When Somebody's thick headpiece once was bent
"On seeing Guido's drop into the bag?
"How these old men like giving youth a push!
"So much the better: next push goes to him,
"And a new Pope begins the century.
"Much good I get by my superb defence!
"But argument is solid and subsists,
"While obstinacy and ineptitude
"Accompany the owner to his tomb—
"What do I care how soon? Beside, folk see!
"Rome will have relished heartily the show,
"Yet understood the motives, never fear,
"Which caused the indecent change o' the People's Place
"To the People's Playground,—stigmatize the spite
"Which in a trice precipitated things!
"As oft the moribund will give a kick
"To show they are not absolutely dead,
"So feebleness i' the socket shoots its last,
"A spirt of violence for energy!
"But thou, Cencini, brother of my breast,
"O fox whose home is 'mid the tender grape,
"Whose couch in Tuscany by Themis' throne,
"Subject to no suchbest I shut my mouth
"Or only open it again to say,
"This pother and confusion fairly laid,
"My hands are empty and my satchel lank.
"Now then for both the Matrimonial Cause
"And the Case of Gomez! Serve them hot and hot!

"Reliqua differamus in crastinum!
"The impatient estafette cracks whip outside:
"Still, though the earth should swallow him who swears
"And me who make the mischief, in must slip—
"My boy, your godson, fat-chaps Hyacinth,
"Enjoyed the sight while Papa plodded here.
"I promised him, the rogue, a month ago,
"The day his birthday was, of all the days,
"That if I failed to save Count Guido's head,
"Cinuccio should at least go see it chopped
"From trunk—'So, latinize your thanks! quoth I.
"'That I prefer, hoc malim,' raps me out
"The rogue: you notice the subjunctive? Ah!
"Accordingly he sat there, bold in box,
"Proud as the Pope behind the peacock-fans:
"Whereon a certain lady-patroness
"For whom I manage things (my boy in front,
"Her Marquis sat the third in evidence;
"Boys have no eyes nor ears save for the show)
"'This time, Cintino,' was her sportive word,
"When whiz and thump went axe and mowed lay man,
"And folk could fall to the suspended chat,
"'This time, you see, Bottini rules the roast,
"'Nor can Papa with all his eloquence
"'Be reckoned on to help as heretofore!'
"Whereat Cinone pouts; then, sparkishly—
"'Papa knew better than aggrieve his Pope,
"'And baulk him of his grudge against our Count,
"'Else he'd have argued-off Bottini's' . . what?
"'His nose,'—the rogue! well parried of the boy!
"He's long since out of Cæsar (eight years old)
"And as for tripping in Eutropius … well,
"Reason the more that we strain every nerve
"To do him justice, mould a model-mouth,
"A Bartolus-cum-Baldo for next age:
"For that I purse the pieces, work the brain,
"And want both Gomez and the marriage-case,
"Success with which shall plaster aught of pate
"That's broken in me by Bottini's flail,
"And bruise his own, belike, that wags and brags.
"Adverti supplico humiliter
"Quod don't the fungus see, the fop divine
"That one hand drives two horses, left and right?
"With this rein did I rescue from the ditch
"The fortune of our Franceschini, keep
"Unsplashed the credit of a noble House,
"And set the fashionable cause at Rome
"A-prancing till bystanders shouted ware!'
"The other rein's judicious management
"Suffered old Somebody to keep the pace,
"Hobblingly play the roadster: who but he
"Had his opinion, was not led by the nose
"In leash of quibbles strung to look like law!
"You'll soon see,—when I go to pay devoir
"And compliment him on confuting me,—
"If, by a back-swing of the pendulum,
"Grace be not, thick and threefold, consequent.
"'I must decide as I see proper, Don!
"'I'm Pope, I have my inward lights for guide.
"'Had learning been the matter in dispute,
"'Could eloquence avail to gainsay fact,
"'Yours were the victory, be comforted!'
"Cinuzzo will be gainer by it all.
"Quick then with Gomez, hot and hot next case!"

Follows, a letter, takes the other side.
Tall blue-eyed Fisc whose head is capped with cloud,
Doctor Bottini,—to no matter who,
Writes on the Monday two days afterward.
Now shall the honest championship of right,
Crowned with success, enjoy at last, unblamed,
Moderate triumph! Now shall eloquence
Poured forth in fancied floods for virtue's sake,
(The print is sorrowfully dyked and dammed,
But shows where fain the unbridled force would flow,
Finding a channel)—now shall this refresh
The thirsty donor with a drop or two!
Here has been truth at issue with a lie:
Let who gained truth the day have handsome pride
In his own prowess! Eh! What ails the man?

"Well, it is over, ends as I foresaw:
"Easily proved, Pompilia's innocence!
"Catch them entrusting Guido's guilt to me
"Who had, as usual, the plain truth to plead.
"I always knew the clearness of the stream
"Would show the fish so thoroughly, child might prong
"The clumsy monster: with no mud to splash,
"Small credit to lynx-eye and lightning-spear!
"This Guido,—(much sport he contrived to make,
"Who at first twist, preamble of the cord,
"Turned white, told all, like the poltroon he was!)—
"Finished, as you expect, a penitent,
"Fully confessed his crime, and made amends,
"And, edifying Rome last Saturday,
"Died like a saint, poor devil! That's the man
"The gods still give to my antagonist:
"Imagine how Arcangeli claps wing
"And crows! 'Such formidable facts to face,
"'So naked to attack, my client here,
"'And yet I kept a month the Fisc at bay,
"'And in the end had foiled him of the prize
"'By this arch-stroke, this plea of privilege,
"'But that the Pope must gratify his whim,
"'Put in his word, poor old man,—let it pass!'
"—Such is the cue to which all Rome responds.
"What with the plain truth given me to uphold,
"And, should I let truth slip, the Pope at hand
"To pick up, steady her on legs again,
"My office turns a pleasantry indeed!
"Not that the burly boaster did one jot
"O' the little was to doyoung Spreti's work!
"But for him,—mannikin and dandiprat,
"Mere candle-end and inch of cleverness
"Stuck on Arcangeli's save-all,—but for him
"The spruce young Spreti, what is bad were worse!

"I looked that Rome should have the natural gird
"At advocate with case that proves itself;
"I knew Arcangeli would grin and brag:
"But what say you to one impertinence
"Might move a stone? That monk, you are to know,
"That barefoot Augustinian whose report
"O' the dying woman's words did detriment
"To my best points it took the freshness from,
"—That meddler preached to purpose yesterday
"At San Lorenzo as a winding-up
"O' the show which proved a treasure to the church.
"Out comes his sermon smoking from the press:
"Its text—'Let God be true, and every man
"'A liar'—and its application, this
"The longest-winded of the paragraphs,
"I straight unstitch, tear out and treat you with:
"'T is piping hot and posts through Rome to-day.
"Remember it, as I engage to do!

"But if you rather be disposed to see
"In the result of the long trial here,—
"This dealing doom to guilt and doling praise
"To innocency,—any proof that truth
"May look for vindication from the world,
"Much will you have misread the signs, I say.
"God, who seems acquiescent in the main
"With those who add 'So will he ever sleep'—
"Flutters their foolishness from time to time,
"Puts forth His right-hand recognizably;
"Even as, to fools who deem He needs must right
"Wrong on the instant, as if earth were heaven,
"He wakes remonstrance—'Passive, Lord, how long?'
"Because Pompilia's purity prevails,
"Conclude you, all truth triumphs in the end?
"So might those old inhabitants of the ark,
"Witnessing haply their dove's safe return,
"Pronounce there was no danger, all the while
"O' the deluge, to the creature's counterparts,
"Aught that beat wing i' the world, was white or soft,—
"And that the lark, the thrush, the culver too,
"Might equally have traversed air, found earth,
"And brought back olive-branch in unharmed bill.
"Methinks I hear the Patriarch's warning voice
"'Though this one breast, by miracle, return,
"'No wave rolls by, in all the waste, but bears
"'Within it some dead dove-like thing as dear,
"'Beauty made blank and harmlessness destroyed!'
"How many chaste and noble sister-fames
"Wanted the extricating hand, so lie
"Strangled, for one Pompilia proud above
"The welter, plucked from the world's calumny,
"Stupidity, simplicity,—who cares?
"Romans! An elder race possessed your land
"Long ago, and a false faith lingered still,
"As shades do though the morning-star be out.
"Doubtless some pagan of the twilight-day
"Has often pointed to a cavern-mouth
"Obnoxious to beholders, hard by Rome,
"And said,—nor he a bad man, no, nor fool,
"Only a man born blind like all his mates,—
"'Here skulk in safety, lurk, defying law,
"'The devotees to execrable creed,
"'Adoring—with what culture … Jove, avert
"'Thy vengeance from us worshippers of thee!…
"'What rites obscene—their idol-god, an Ass!'
"So went the word forth, so acceptance found,
"So century re-echoed century,
"Cursed the accursed,—and so, from sire to son,
"You Romans cried 'The offscourings of our race
"'Corrupt within the depths there: fitly fiends
"'Perform a temple-service o'er the dead:
"'Child, gather garment round thee, pass nor pry!'
"Thus groaned your generations: till the time
"Grew ripe, and lightning had revealed, belike,—
"Thro' crevice peeped into by curious fear,—
"Some object even fear could recognize
"I' the place of spectres; on the illumined wall,
"To-wit, some nook, tradition talks about,
"Narrow and short, a corpse's length, no more:
"And by it, in the due receptacle,
"The little rude brown lamp of earthenware,
"The cruse, was meant for flowers but now held blood,
"The rough-scratched palm-branch, and the legend left
"Pro Christo. Then the mystery lay clear:
"The abhorred one was a martyr all the time,
"Heaven's saint whereof earth was not worthy. What?
"Do you continue in the old belief?
"Where blackness bides unbroke, must devils brood?
"Is it so certain not another cell
"O' the myriad that make up the catacomb
"Contains some saint a second flash would show?
"Will you ascend into the light of day
"And, having recognized a martyr's shrine,
"Go join the votaries that gape around
"Each vulgar god that awes the market-place?
"Are these the objects of your praising? See!
"In the outstretched right hand of Apollo, there,
"Lies screened a scorpion: housed amid the folds
"Of Juno's mantle lurks a centipede!
"Each statue of a god were fitlier styled
"Demon and devil. Glorify no brass
"That shines like burnished gold in noonday glare,
"For fools! Be otherwise instructed, you!
"And preferably ponder, ere ye judge,
"Each incident of this strange human play
"Privily acted on a theatre
"That seemed secure from every gaze but God's,—
"Till, of a sudden, earthquake laid wall low
"And let the world perceive wild work inside
"And how, in petrifaction of surprise,
"The actors stood,—raised arm and planted foot,—
"Mouth as it made, eye as it evidenced,
"Despairing shriek, triumphant hate,—transfixed,
"Both he who takes and she who yields the life.

"As ye become spectators of this scene,
"Watch obscuration of a pearl-pure fame
"By vapoury films, enwoven circumstance,
"—A soul made weak by its pathetic want
"Of just the first apprenticeship to sin
"Which thenceforth makes the sinning soul secure
"From all foes save itself, souls' truliest foe,—
"Since egg turned snake needs fear no serpentry,—
"As ye behold this web of circumstance
"Deepen the more for every thrill and throe,
"Convulsive effort to disperse the films
"And disenmesh the fame o' the martyr,—mark
"How all those means, the unfriended one pursues,
"To keep the treasure trusted to her breast,
"Each struggle in the flight from death to life,
"How all, by procuration of the powers
"Of darkness, are transformed,—no single ray,
"Shot forth to show and save the inmost star,
"But, passed as through hell's prism, proceeding black
"To the world that hates white: as ye watch, I say,
"Till dusk and such defacement grow eclipse
"By,—marvellous perversity of man!—
"The inadequacy and inaptitude
"Of that self-same machine, that very law
"Man vaunts, devised to dissipate the gloom,
"Rescue the drowning orb from calumny,
"—Hear law, appointed to defend the just,
"Submit, for best defence, that wickedness
"Was bred of flesh and innate with the bone
"Borne by Pompilia's spirit for a space,
"And no mere chance fault, passionate and brief:
"Finally, when ye find,—after this touch
"Of man's protection which intends to mar
"The last pin-point of light and damn the disc,—
"One wave of the hand of God amid the worlds
"Bid vapour vanish, darkness flee away,
"And let the vexed star culminate in peace
"Approachable no more by earthly mist—
"What I call God's hand,—you, perhaps,—mere chance
"Of the true instinct of an old good man
"Who happens to hate darkness and love light,—
"In whom too was the eye that saw, not dim,
"The natural force to do the thing he saw,
"Nowise abated,—both by miracle,—
"All this well pondered,—I demand assent
"To the enunciation of my text
"In face of one proof more that 'God is true
"'And every man a liar'—that who trusts
"To human testimony for a fact
"Gets this sole fact—himself is proved a fool;
"Man's speech being false, if but by consequence
"That only strength is true: while man is weak,
"And, since truth seems reserved for heaven not earth,
"Plagued here by earth's prerogative of lies,
"Should learn to love and long for what, one day,
"Approved by life's probation, he may speak.

"For me, the weary and worn, who haply prompt
"To mirth or pity, as I move the mood,—
"A friar who glides unnoticed to the grave,
"With these bare feet, coarse robe and rope-girt waist,—
"I have long since renounced your world, ye know:
"Yet what forbids I weigh the prize forgone,
"The worldly worth? I dare, as I were dead,
"Disinterestedly judge this and that
"Good ye account good: but God tries the heart.
"Still, if you question me of my content
"At having put each human pleasure by,
"I answer, at the urgency of truth:
"As this world seems, I dare not say I know
"—Apart from Christ's assurance which decides—
"Whether I have not failed to taste much joy.
"For many a doubt will fain perturb my choice—
"Many a dream of life spent otherwise—
"How human love, in varied shapes, might work
"As glory, or as rapture, or as grace:
"How conversancy with the books that teach,
"The arts that help,—how, to grow good and great,
"Rather than simply good, and bring thereby
"Goodness to breathe and live, nor, born i' the brain,
"Die there,—how these and many another gift
"Of life are precious though abjured by me.
"But, for one prize, best meed of mightiest man,
"Arch-object of ambition,—earthly praise,
"Repute o' the world, the flourish of loud trump,
"The softer social fluting,—Oh, for these,
"—No, my friends! Fame,—that bubble which, world-wide
"Each blows and bids his neighbour lend a breath,
"That so he haply may behold thereon
"One more enlarged distorted false fool's-face,
"Until some glassy nothing grown as big
"Send by a touch the imperishable to suds,—
"No, in renouncing fame, my loss was light,
"Choosing obscurity, my chance was well!"

Didst ever touch such ampollosity
As the monk's own bubble, let alone its spite?
What's his speech for, but just the fame he flouts?
How he dares reprehend both high and low,
Nor stoops to turn the sentence "God is true
"And every man a liar—save the Pope
"Happily reigning—my respects to him!"
And so round off the period. Molinism
Simple and pure! To what pitch get we next?
I find that, for first pleasant consequence,
Gomez, who had intended to appeal
From the absurd decision of the Court,
Declines, though plain enough his privilege,
To call on help from lawyers any more
Resolves earth's liars may possess the world,
Till God have had sufficiency of both:
So may I whistle for my job and fee!

But, for this virulent and rabid monk,—
If law be an inadequate machine,
And advocacy, froth and impotence,
We shall soon see, my blatant brother! That's
Exactly what I hope to show your sort!
For, by a veritable piece of luck,
The providence, you monks round period with,
All may be gloriously retrieved. Perpend!
That Monastery of the Convertites
Whereto the Court consigned Pompilia first,
—Observe, if convertite, why, sinner then,
Or what's the pertinency of award?—
And whither she was late returned to die,
Still in their jurisdiction, mark again!—
That thrifty Sisterhood, for perquisite,
Claims every piece whereof may die possessed
Each sinner in the circuit of its walls.
Now, this Pompilia seeing that, by death
O' the couple, all their wealth devolved on her,
Straight utilized the respite ere decease,
By regular conveyance of the goods
She thought her own, to will and to devise,—
Gave all to friends, Tighetti and the like,
In trust for him she held her son and heir,
Gaetano,—trust which ends with infancy:
So willing and devising, since assured
The justice of the Court would presently
Confirm her in her rights and exculpate,
Re-integrate and rehabilitate—
Place her as, through my pleading, now she stands.
But here's the capital mistake: the Court
Found Guido guilty,—but pronounced no word
About the innocency of his wife:
I grounded charge on broader base, I hope!
No matter whether wife be true or false,
The husband must not push aside the law,
And punish of a sudden: that's the point:
Gather from out my speech the contrary!
It follows that Pompilia, unrelieved
By formal sentence from imputed fault,
Remains unfit to have and to dispose
Of property which law provides shall lapse.
Wherefore the Monastery claims its due:
And whose, pray, whose the office, but the Fisc's?
Who but I institute procedure next
Against the person of dishonest life,
Pompilia whom last week I sainted so?
I it is teach the monk what scripture means,
And that the tongue should prove a two-edged sword,
No axe sharp one side, blunt the other way,
Like what amused the town at Guido's cost!
Astræa redux! I've a second chance
Before the self-same Court o' the Governor
Who soon shall see volte-face and chop, change sides.
Accordingly, I charge you on your life,
Send me with all despatch the judgment late

O' the Florence Rota Court, confirmative
O' the prior judgment at Arezzo, clenched
Again by the Granducal signature,
Wherein Pompilia is convicted, doomed,
And only destined to escape through flight
The proper punishment. Send me the piece,—
I'll work it! And this foul-mouthed friar shall find
His Noah's-dove that brought the olive back
Turn into quite the other sooty scout,
The raven, Noah first put forth the ark,
Which never came back but ate carcasses!
No adequate machinery in law?
No power of life and death i' the learned tongue?
Methinks I am already at my speech,
Startle the world with "Thou, Pompilia, thus?
"How is the fine gold of the Temple dim!"
And so forth. But the courier bids me close,
And clip away one joke that runs through Rome,
Side by side with the sermon which I send.
How like the heartlessness of the old hunks
Arcangeli! His Count is hardly cold,
The client whom his blunders sacrificed,
When somebody must needs describe the scene—
How the procession ended at the church
That boasts the famous relic: quoth our brute,
"Why, that's just Martial's phrase for 'make an end'—
"Ad umbilicum sic perventum est!"
The callous dog,—let who will cut off head,
He cuts a joke and cares no more than so!
I think my speech shall modify his mirth.
"How is the fine gold dim!"—but send the piece!

Alack, Bottini, what is my next word
But death to all that hope? The Instrument
Is plain before me, print that ends my Book
With the definitive verdict of the Court,
Dated September, six months afterward,
(Such trouble and so long the old Pope gave!)
"In restitution of the perfect fame
"Of dead Pompilia, quondam Guido's wife,
"And warrant to her representative
"Domenico Tighetti, barred hereby,
"While doing duty in his guardianship,
"From all molesting, all disquietude,
"Each perturbation and vexation brought
"Or threatened to be brought against the heir
"By the Most Venerable Convent called
"Saint Mary Magdalen o' the Convertites
'I' the Corso."

Justice done a second time!
Well judged, Marc Antony, Locum-tenens
O' the Governor, a Venturini too!
For which I save thy name,—last of the list!

Next year but one, completing his nine years
Of rule in Rome, died Innocent my Pope
By some account, on his accession-day.
If he thought doubt would do the next age good,
'T is pity he died unapprised what birth
His reign may boast of, be remembered by
Terrible Pope, too, of a kind,—Voltaire.

And so an end of all i' the story. Strain
Never so much my eyes, I miss the mark
If lived or died that Gaetano, child
Of Guido and Pompilia: only find,
Immediately upon his father's death,
A record, in the annals of the town—
That Porzia, sister of our Guido, moved
The Priors of Arezzo and their head
Its Gonfalonier to give loyally
A public attestation of the right
O' the Franceschini to all reverence—
Apparently because of the incident
O' the murder,—there's no mention made o' the crime,
But what else could have caused such urgency
To cure the mob, just then, of greediness
For scandal, love of lying vanity,
And appetite to swallow crude reports
That bring annoyance to their betters?—bane
Which, here, was promptly met by antidote.
I like and shall translate the eloquence
Of nearly the worst Latin ever writ:
"Since antique time whereof the memory
"Holds the beginning, to this present hour,
"The Franceschini ever shone, and shine
"Still i' the primary rank, supreme amid
"The lustres of Arezzo, proud to own
"In this great family, the flag-bearer,
"Guide of her steps and guardian against foe,—
"As in the first beginning, so to-day!"
There, would you disbelieve the annalist,
Go rather by the babble of a bard?
I thought, Arezzo, thou hadst fitter souls,
Petrarch,—nay, Buonarroti at a pinch,
To do thee credit as vexillifer!
Was it mere mirth the Patavinian meant,
Making thee out, in his veracious page,
Founded by Janus of the Double Face?

Well, proving of such perfect parentage,
Our Gaetano, born of love and hate,
Did the babe live or die? I fain would find!
What were his ancies if he grew a man?
Was he proud,—a true scion of the stock
Which bore the blazon, shall make bright my page—
Shield, Azure, on a Triple Mountain, Or,
A Palm-tree, Proper, whereunto is tied
A Greyhound, Rampant, striving in the slips?
Or did he love his mother, the base-born,
And fight i' the ranks, unnoticed by the world?

Such, then, the final state o' the story. So
Did the Star Wormwood in a blazing fall
Frighten awhile the waters and lie lost.
So did this old woe fade from memory:
Till after, in the fulness of the days,
I needs must find an ember yet unquenched,
And, breathing, blow the spark to flame. It lives,
If precious be the soul of man to man.

So, British Public, who may like me yet,
(Marry and amen!) learn one lesson hence
Of many which whatever lives should teach:
This lesson, that our human speech is naught,
Our human testimony false, our fame
And human estimation words and wind.
Why take the artistic way to prove so much?
Because, it is the glory and good of Art,
That Art remains the one way possible
Of speaking truth, to mouths like mine at least.
How look a brother in the face and say
"Thy right is wrong, eyes hast thou yet art blind,
"Thine ears are stuffed and stopped, despite their length:
"And, oh, the foolishness thou countest faith!"
Say this as silverly as tongue can troll—
The anger of the man may be endured,
The shrug, the disappointed eyes of him
Are not so bad to bearbut here's the plague
That all this trouble comes of telling truth,
Which truth, by when it reaches him, looks false,
Seems to be just the thing it would supplant,
Nor recognizable by whom it left:
While falsehood would have done the work of truth.
But Art,—wherein man nowise speaks to men,
Only to mankind,—Art may tell a truth
Obliquely, do the thing shall breed the thought,
Nor wrong the thought, missing the mediate word.
So may you paint your picture, twice show truth,
Beyond mere imagery on the wall,—
So, note by note, bring music from your mind,
Deeper than ever e'en Beethoven dived,—
So write a book shall mean beyond the facts,
Suffice the eye and save the soul beside.
And save the soul! If this intent save mine,—
If the rough ore be rounded to a ring,
Render all duty which good ring should do,
And, failing grace, succeed in guardianship,—
Might mine but lie outside thine, Lyric Love,
Thy rare gold ring of verse (the poet praised)
Linking our England to his Italy!

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John Milton

Paradise Lost: Book 06

All night the dreadless Angel, unpursued,
Through Heaven's wide champain held his way; till Morn,
Waked by the circling Hours, with rosy hand
Unbarred the gates of light. There is a cave
Within the mount of God, fast by his throne,
Where light and darkness in perpetual round
Lodge and dislodge by turns, which makes through Heaven
Grateful vicissitude, like day and night;
Light issues forth, and at the other door
Obsequious darkness enters, till her hour
To veil the Heaven, though darkness there might well
Seem twilight here: And now went forth the Morn
Such as in highest Heaven arrayed in gold
Empyreal; from before her vanished Night,
Shot through with orient beams; when all the plain
Covered with thick embattled squadrons bright,
Chariots, and flaming arms, and fiery steeds,
Reflecting blaze on blaze, first met his view:
War he perceived, war in procinct; and found
Already known what he for news had thought
To have reported: Gladly then he mixed
Among those friendly Powers, who him received
With joy and acclamations loud, that one,
That of so many myriads fallen, yet one
Returned not lost. On to the sacred hill
They led him high applauded, and present
Before the seat supreme; from whence a voice,
From midst a golden cloud, thus mild was heard.
Servant of God. Well done; well hast thou fought
The better fight, who single hast maintained
Against revolted multitudes the cause
Of truth, in word mightier than they in arms;
And for the testimony of truth hast borne
Universal reproach, far worse to bear
Than violence; for this was all thy care
To stand approved in sight of God, though worlds
Judged thee perverse: The easier conquest now
Remains thee, aided by this host of friends,
Back on thy foes more glorious to return,
Than scorned thou didst depart; and to subdue
By force, who reason for their law refuse,
Right reason for their law, and for their King
Messiah, who by right of merit reigns.
Go, Michael, of celestial armies prince,
And thou, in military prowess next,
Gabriel, lead forth to battle these my sons
Invincible; lead forth my armed Saints,
By thousands and by millions, ranged for fight,
Equal in number to that Godless crew
Rebellious: Them with fire and hostile arms
Fearless assault; and, to the brow of Heaven
Pursuing, drive them out from God and bliss,
Into their place of punishment, the gulf
Of Tartarus, which ready opens wide
His fiery Chaos to receive their fall.
So spake the Sovran Voice, and clouds began
To darken all the hill, and smoke to roll
In dusky wreaths, reluctant flames, the sign
Of wrath awaked; nor with less dread the loud
Ethereal trumpet from on high 'gan blow:
At which command the Powers militant,
That stood for Heaven, in mighty quadrate joined
Of union irresistible, moved on
In silence their bright legions, to the sound
Of instrumental harmony, that breathed
Heroick ardour to adventurous deeds
Under their God-like leaders, in the cause
Of God and his Messiah. On they move
Indissolubly firm; nor obvious hill,
Nor straitening vale, nor wood, nor stream, divides
Their perfect ranks; for high above the ground
Their march was, and the passive air upbore
Their nimble tread; as when the total kind
Of birds, in orderly array on wing,
Came summoned over Eden to receive
Their names of thee; so over many a tract
Of Heaven they marched, and many a province wide,
Tenfold the length of this terrene: At last,
Far in the horizon to the north appeared
From skirt to skirt a fiery region, stretched
In battailous aspect, and nearer view
Bristled with upright beams innumerable
Of rigid spears, and helmets thronged, and shields
Various, with boastful argument portrayed,
The banded Powers of Satan hasting on
With furious expedition; for they weened
That self-same day, by fight or by surprise,
To win the mount of God, and on his throne
To set the Envier of his state, the proud
Aspirer; but their thoughts proved fond and vain
In the mid way: Though strange to us it seemed
At first, that Angel should with Angel war,
And in fierce hosting meet, who wont to meet
So oft in festivals of joy and love
Unanimous, as sons of one great Sire,
Hymning the Eternal Father: But the shout
Of battle now began, and rushing sound
Of onset ended soon each milder thought.
High in the midst, exalted as a God,
The Apostate in his sun-bright chariot sat,
Idol of majesty divine, enclosed
With flaming Cherubim, and golden shields;
Then lighted from his gorgeous throne, for now
"twixt host and host but narrow space was left,
A dreadful interval, and front to front
Presented stood in terrible array
Of hideous length: Before the cloudy van,
On the rough edge of battle ere it joined,
Satan, with vast and haughty strides advanced,
Came towering, armed in adamant and gold;
Abdiel that sight endured not, where he stood
Among the mightiest, bent on highest deeds,
And thus his own undaunted heart explores.
O Heaven! that such resemblance of the Highest
Should yet remain, where faith and realty
Remain not: Wherefore should not strength and might
There fail where virtue fails, or weakest prove
Where boldest, though to fight unconquerable?
His puissance, trusting in the Almighty's aid,
I mean to try, whose reason I have tried
Unsound and false; nor is it aught but just,
That he, who in debate of truth hath won,
Should win in arms, in both disputes alike
Victor; though brutish that contest and foul,
When reason hath to deal with force, yet so
Most reason is that reason overcome.
So pondering, and from his armed peers
Forth stepping opposite, half-way he met
His daring foe, at this prevention more
Incensed, and thus securely him defied.
Proud, art thou met? thy hope was to have reached
The highth of thy aspiring unopposed,
The throne of God unguarded, and his side
Abandoned, at the terrour of thy power
Or potent tongue: Fool!not to think how vain
Against the Omnipotent to rise in arms;
Who out of smallest things could, without end,
Have raised incessant armies to defeat
Thy folly; or with solitary hand
Reaching beyond all limit, at one blow,
Unaided, could have finished thee, and whelmed
Thy legions under darkness: But thou seest
All are not of thy train; there be, who faith
Prefer, and piety to God, though then
To thee not visible, when I alone
Seemed in thy world erroneous to dissent
From all: My sect thou seest;now learn too late
How few sometimes may know, when thousands err.
Whom the grand foe, with scornful eye askance,
Thus answered. Ill for thee, but in wished hour
Of my revenge, first sought for, thou returnest
From flight, seditious Angel! to receive
Thy merited reward, the first assay
Of this right hand provoked, since first that tongue,
Inspired with contradiction, durst oppose
A third part of the Gods, in synod met
Their deities to assert; who, while they feel
Vigour divine within them, can allow
Omnipotence to none. But well thou comest
Before thy fellows, ambitious to win
From me some plume, that thy success may show
Destruction to the rest: This pause between,
(Unanswered lest thou boast) to let thee know,
At first I thought that Liberty and Heaven
To heavenly souls had been all one; but now
I see that most through sloth had rather serve,
Ministring Spirits, trained up in feast and song!
Such hast thou armed, the minstrelsy of Heaven,
Servility with freedom to contend,
As both their deeds compared this day shall prove.
To whom in brief thus Abdiel stern replied.
Apostate! still thou errest, nor end wilt find
Of erring, from the path of truth remote:
Unjustly thou depravest it with the name
Of servitude, to serve whom God ordains,
Or Nature: God and Nature bid the same,
When he who rules is worthiest, and excels
Them whom he governs. This is servitude,
To serve the unwise, or him who hath rebelled
Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee,
Thyself not free, but to thyself enthralled;
Yet lewdly darest our ministring upbraid.
Reign thou in Hell, thy kingdom; let me serve
In Heaven God ever blest, and his divine
Behests obey, worthiest to be obeyed;
Yet chains in Hell, not realms, expect: Mean while
From me returned, as erst thou saidst, from flight,
This greeting on thy impious crest receive.
So saying, a noble stroke he lifted high,
Which hung not, but so swift with tempest fell
On the proud crest of Satan, that no sight,
Nor motion of swift thought, less could his shield,
Such ruin intercept: Ten paces huge
He back recoiled; the tenth on bended knee
His massy spear upstaid; as if on earth
Winds under ground, or waters forcing way,
Sidelong had pushed a mountain from his seat,
Half sunk with all his pines. Amazement seised
The rebel Thrones, but greater rage, to see
Thus foiled their mightiest; ours joy filled, and shout,
Presage of victory, and fierce desire
Of battle: Whereat Michael bid sound
The Arch-Angel trumpet; through the vast of Heaven
It sounded, and the faithful armies rung
Hosanna to the Highest: Nor stood at gaze
The adverse legions, nor less hideous joined
The horrid shock. Now storming fury rose,
And clamour such as heard in Heaven till now
Was never; arms on armour clashing brayed
Horrible discord, and the madding wheels
Of brazen chariots raged; dire was the noise
Of conflict; over head the dismal hiss
Of fiery darts in flaming vollies flew,
And flying vaulted either host with fire.
So under fiery cope together rushed
Both battles main, with ruinous assault
And inextinguishable rage. All Heaven
Resounded; and had Earth been then, all Earth
Had to her center shook. What wonder? when
Millions of fierce encountering Angels fought
On either side, the least of whom could wield
These elements, and arm him with the force
Of all their regions: How much more of power
Army against army numberless to raise
Dreadful combustion warring, and disturb,
Though not destroy, their happy native seat;
Had not the Eternal King Omnipotent,
From his strong hold of Heaven, high over-ruled
And limited their might; though numbered such
As each divided legion might have seemed
A numerous host; in strength each armed hand
A legion; led in fight, yet leader seemed
Each warriour single as in chief, expert
When to advance, or stand, or turn the sway
Of battle, open when, and when to close
The ridges of grim war: No thought of flight,
None of retreat, no unbecoming deed
That argued fear; each on himself relied,
As only in his arm the moment lay
Of victory: Deeds of eternal fame
Were done, but infinite; for wide was spread
That war and various; sometimes on firm ground
A standing fight, then, soaring on main wing,
Tormented all the air; all air seemed then
Conflicting fire. Long time in even scale
The battle hung; till Satan, who that day
Prodigious power had shown, and met in arms
No equal, ranging through the dire attack
Of fighting Seraphim confused, at length
Saw where the sword of Michael smote, and felled
Squadrons at once; with huge two-handed sway
Brandished aloft, the horrid edge came down
Wide-wasting; such destruction to withstand
He hasted, and opposed the rocky orb
Of tenfold adamant, his ample shield,
A vast circumference. At his approach
The great Arch-Angel from his warlike toil
Surceased, and glad, as hoping here to end
Intestine war in Heaven, the arch-foe subdued
Or captive dragged in chains, with hostile frown
And visage all inflamed first thus began.
Author of evil, unknown till thy revolt,
Unnamed in Heaven, now plenteous as thou seest
These acts of hateful strife, hateful to all,
Though heaviest by just measure on thyself,
And thy adherents: How hast thou disturbed
Heaven's blessed peace, and into nature brought
Misery, uncreated till the crime
Of thy rebellion! how hast thou instilled
Thy malice into thousands, once upright
And faithful, now proved false! But think not here
To trouble holy rest; Heaven casts thee out
From all her confines. Heaven, the seat of bliss,
Brooks not the works of violence and war.
Hence then, and evil go with thee along,
Thy offspring, to the place of evil, Hell;
Thou and thy wicked crew! there mingle broils,
Ere this avenging sword begin thy doom,
Or some more sudden vengeance, winged from God,
Precipitate thee with augmented pain.
So spake the Prince of Angels; to whom thus
The Adversary. Nor think thou with wind
Of aery threats to awe whom yet with deeds
Thou canst not. Hast thou turned the least of these
To flight, or if to fall, but that they rise
Unvanquished, easier to transact with me
That thou shouldst hope, imperious, and with threats
To chase me hence? err not, that so shall end
The strife which thou callest evil, but we style
The strife of glory; which we mean to win,
Or turn this Heaven itself into the Hell
Thou fablest; here however to dwell free,
If not to reign: Mean while thy utmost force,
And join him named Almighty to thy aid,
I fly not, but have sought thee far and nigh.
They ended parle, and both addressed for fight
Unspeakable; for who, though with the tongue
Of Angels, can relate, or to what things
Liken on earth conspicuous, that may lift
Human imagination to such highth
Of Godlike power? for likest Gods they seemed,
Stood they or moved, in stature, motion, arms,
Fit to decide the empire of great Heaven.
Now waved their fiery swords, and in the air
Made horrid circles; two broad suns their shields
Blazed opposite, while Expectation stood
In horrour: From each hand with speed retired,
Where erst was thickest fight, the angelick throng,
And left large field, unsafe within the wind
Of such commotion; such as, to set forth
Great things by small, if, nature's concord broke,
Among the constellations war were sprung,
Two planets, rushing from aspect malign
Of fiercest opposition, in mid sky
Should combat, and their jarring spheres confound.
Together both with next to almighty arm
Up-lifted imminent, one stroke they aimed
That might determine, and not need repeat,
As not of power at once; nor odds appeared
In might or swift prevention: But the sword
Of Michael from the armoury of God
Was given him tempered so, that neither keen
Nor solid might resist that edge: it met
The sword of Satan, with steep force to smite
Descending, and in half cut sheer; nor staid,
But with swift wheel reverse, deep entering, shared
All his right side: Then Satan first knew pain,
And writhed him to and fro convolved; so sore
The griding sword with discontinuous wound
Passed through him: But the ethereal substance closed,
Not long divisible; and from the gash
A stream of necturous humour issuing flowed
Sanguine, such as celestial Spirits may bleed,
And all his armour stained, ere while so bright.
Forthwith on all sides to his aid was run
By Angels many and strong, who interposed
Defence, while others bore him on their shields
Back to his chariot, where it stood retired
From off the files of war: There they him laid
Gnashing for anguish, and despite, and shame,
To find himself not matchless, and his pride
Humbled by such rebuke, so far beneath
His confidence to equal God in power.
Yet soon he healed; for Spirits that live throughout
Vital in every part, not as frail man
In entrails, heart of head, liver or reins,
Cannot but by annihilating die;
Nor in their liquid texture mortal wound
Receive, no more than can the fluid air:
All heart they live, all head, all eye, all ear,
All intellect, all sense; and, as they please,
They limb themselves, and colour, shape, or size
Assume, as?kikes them best, condense or rare.
Mean while in other parts like deeds deserved
Memorial, where the might of Gabriel fought,
And with fierce ensigns pierced the deep array
Of Moloch, furious king; who him defied,
And at his chariot-wheels to drag him bound
Threatened, nor from the Holy One of Heaven
Refrained his tongue blasphemous; but anon
Down cloven to the waist, with shattered arms
And uncouth pain fled bellowing. On each wing
Uriel, and Raphael, his vaunting foe,
Though huge, and in a rock of diamond armed,
Vanquished Adramelech, and Asmadai,
Two potent Thrones, that to be less than Gods
Disdained, but meaner thoughts learned in their flight,
Mangled with ghastly wounds through plate and mail.
Nor stood unmindful Abdiel to annoy
The atheist crew, but with redoubled blow
Ariel, and Arioch, and the violence
Of Ramiel scorched and blasted, overthrew.
I might relate of thousands, and their names
Eternize here on earth; but those elect
Angels, contented with their fame in Heaven,
Seek not the praise of men: The other sort,
In might though wonderous and in acts of war,
Nor of renown less eager, yet by doom
Cancelled from Heaven and sacred memory,
Nameless in dark oblivion let them dwell.
For strength from truth divided, and from just,
Illaudable, nought merits but dispraise
And ignominy; yet to glory aspires
Vain-glorious, and through infamy seeks fame:
Therefore eternal silence be their doom.
And now, their mightiest quelled, the battle swerved,
With many an inroad gored; deformed rout
Entered, and foul disorder; all the ground
With shivered armour strown, and on a heap
Chariot and charioteer lay overturned,
And fiery-foaming steeds; what stood, recoiled
O'er-wearied, through the faint Satanick host
Defensive scarce, or with pale fear surprised,
Then first with fear surprised, and sense of pain,
Fled ignominious, to such evil brought
By sin of disobedience; till that hour
Not liable to fear, or flight, or pain.
Far otherwise the inviolable Saints,
In cubick phalanx firm, advanced entire,
Invulnerable, impenetrably armed;
Such high advantages their innocence
Gave them above their foes; not to have sinned,
Not to have disobeyed; in fight they stood
Unwearied, unobnoxious to be pained
By wound, though from their place by violence moved,
Now Night her course began, and, over Heaven
Inducing darkness, grateful truce imposed,
And silence on the odious din of war:
Under her cloudy covert both retired,
Victor and vanquished: On the foughten field
Michael and his Angels prevalent
Encamping, placed in guard their watches round,
Cherubick waving fires: On the other part,
Satan with his rebellious disappeared,
Far in the dark dislodged; and, void of rest,
His potentates to council called by night;
And in the midst thus undismayed began.
O now in danger tried, now known in arms
Not to be overpowered, Companions dear,
Found worthy not of liberty alone,
Too mean pretence! but what we more affect,
Honour, dominion, glory, and renown;
Who have sustained one day in doubtful fight,
(And if one day, why not eternal days?)
What Heaven's Lord had powerfullest to send
Against us from about his throne, and judged
Sufficient to subdue us to his will,
But proves not so: Then fallible, it seems,
Of future we may deem him, though till now
Omniscient thought. True is, less firmly armed,
Some disadvantage we endured and pain,
Till now not known, but, known, as soon contemned;
Since now we find this our empyreal form
Incapable of mortal injury,
Imperishable, and, though pierced with wound,
Soon closing, and by native vigour healed.
Of evil then so small as easy think
The remedy; perhaps more valid arms,
Weapons more violent, when next we meet,
May serve to better us, and worse our foes,
Or equal what between us made the odds,
In nature none: If other hidden cause
Left them superiour, while we can preserve
Unhurt our minds, and understanding sound,
Due search and consultation will disclose.
He sat; and in the assembly next upstood
Nisroch, of Principalities the prime;
As one he stood escaped from cruel fight,
Sore toiled, his riven arms to havock hewn,
And cloudy in aspect thus answering spake.
Deliverer from new Lords, leader to free
Enjoyment of our right as Gods; yet hard
For Gods, and too unequal work we find,
Against unequal arms to fight in pain,
Against unpained, impassive; from which evil
Ruin must needs ensue; for what avails
Valour or strength, though matchless, quelled with pain
Which all subdues, and makes remiss the hands
Of mightiest? Sense of pleasure we may well
Spare out of life perhaps, and not repine,
But live content, which is the calmest life:
But pain is perfect misery, the worst
Of evils, and, excessive, overturns
All patience. He, who therefore can invent
With what more forcible we may offend
Our yet unwounded enemies, or arm
Ourselves with like defence, to me deserves
No less than for deliverance what we owe.
Whereto with look composed Satan replied.
Not uninvented that, which thou aright
Believest so main to our success, I bring.
Which of us who beholds the bright surface
Of this ethereous mould whereon we stand,
This continent of spacious Heaven, adorned
With plant, fruit, flower ambrosial, gems, and gold;
Whose eye so superficially surveys
These things, as not to mind from whence they grow
Deep under ground, materials dark and crude,
Of spiritous and fiery spume, till touched
With Heaven's ray, and tempered, they shoot forth
So beauteous, opening to the ambient light?
These in their dark nativity the deep
Shall yield us, pregnant with infernal flame;
Which, into hollow engines, long and round,
Thick rammed, at the other bore with touch of fire
Dilated and infuriate, shall send forth
From far, with thundering noise, among our foes
Such implements of mischief, as shall dash
To pieces, and o'erwhelm whatever stands
Adverse, that they shall fear we have disarmed
The Thunderer of his only dreaded bolt.
Nor long shall be our labour; yet ere dawn,
Effect shall end our wish. Mean while revive;
Abandon fear; to strength and counsel joined
Think nothing hard, much less to be despaired.
He ended, and his words their drooping cheer
Enlightened, and their languished hope revived.
The invention all admired, and each, how he
To be the inventer missed; so easy it seemed
Once found, which yet unfound most would have thought
Impossible: Yet, haply, of thy race
In future days, if malice should abound,
Some one intent on mischief, or inspired
With devilish machination, might devise
Like instrument to plague the sons of men
For sin, on war and mutual slaughter bent.
Forthwith from council to the work they flew;
None arguing stood; innumerable hands
Were ready; in a moment up they turned
Wide the celestial soil, and saw beneath
The originals of nature in their crude
Conception; sulphurous and nitrous foam
They found, they mingled, and, with subtle art,
Concocted and adusted they reduced
To blackest grain, and into store conveyed:
Part hidden veins digged up (nor hath this earth
Entrails unlike) of mineral and stone,
Whereof to found their engines and their balls
Of missive ruin; part incentive reed
Provide, pernicious with one touch to fire.
So all ere day-spring, under conscious night,
Secret they finished, and in order set,
With silent circumspection, unespied.
Now when fair morn orient in Heaven appeared,
Up rose the victor-Angels, and to arms
The matin trumpet sung: In arms they stood
Of golden panoply, refulgent host,
Soon banded; others from the dawning hills
Look round, and scouts each coast light-armed scour,
Each quarter to descry the distant foe,
Where lodged, or whither fled, or if for fight,
In motion or in halt: Him soon they met
Under spread ensigns moving nigh, in slow
But firm battalion; back with speediest sail
Zophiel, of Cherubim the swiftest wing,
Came flying, and in mid air aloud thus cried.
Arm, Warriours, arm for fight; the foe at hand,
Whom fled we thought, will save us long pursuit
This day; fear not his flight;so thick a cloud
He comes, and settled in his face I see
Sad resolution, and secure: Let each
His adamantine coat gird well, and each
Fit well his helm, gripe fast his orbed shield,
Borne even or high; for this day will pour down,
If I conjecture aught, no drizzling shower,
But rattling storm of arrows barbed with fire.
So warned he them, aware themselves, and soon
In order, quit of all impediment;
Instant without disturb they took alarm,
And onward moved embattled: When behold!
Not distant far with heavy pace the foe
Approaching gross and huge, in hollow cube
Training his devilish enginery, impaled
On every side with shadowing squadrons deep,
To hide the fraud. At interview both stood
A while; but suddenly at head appeared
Satan, and thus was heard commanding loud.
Vanguard, to right and left the front unfold;
That all may see who hate us, how we seek
Peace and composure, and with open breast
Stand ready to receive them, if they like
Our overture; and turn not back perverse:
But that I doubt; however witness, Heaven!
Heaven, witness thou anon! while we discharge
Freely our part: ye, who appointed stand
Do as you have in charge, and briefly touch
What we propound, and loud that all may hear!
So scoffing in ambiguous words, he scarce
Had ended; when to right and left the front
Divided, and to either flank retired:
Which to our eyes discovered, new and strange,
A triple mounted row of pillars laid
On wheels (for like to pillars most they seemed,
Or hollowed bodies made of oak or fir,
With branches lopt, in wood or mountain felled,)
Brass, iron, stony mould, had not their mouths
With hideous orifice gaped on us wide,
Portending hollow truce: At each behind
A Seraph stood, and in his hand a reed
Stood waving tipt with fire; while we, suspense,
Collected stood within our thoughts amused,
Not long; for sudden all at once their reeds
Put forth, and to a narrow vent applied
With nicest touch. Immediate in a flame,
But soon obscured with smoke, all Heaven appeared,
From those deep-throated engines belched, whose roar
Embowelled with outrageous noise the air,
And all her entrails tore, disgorging foul
Their devilish glut, chained thunderbolts and hail
Of iron globes; which, on the victor host
Levelled, with such impetuous fury smote,
That, whom they hit, none on their feet might stand,
Though standing else as rocks, but down they fell
By thousands, Angel on Arch-Angel rolled;
The sooner for their arms; unarmed, they might
Have easily, as Spirits, evaded swift
By quick contraction or remove; but now
Foul dissipation followed, and forced rout;
Nor served it to relax their serried files.
What should they do? if on they rushed, repulse
Repeated, and indecent overthrow
Doubled, would render them yet more despised,
And to their foes a laughter; for in view
Stood ranked of Seraphim another row,
In posture to displode their second tire
Of thunder: Back defeated to return
They worse abhorred. Satan beheld their plight,
And to his mates thus in derision called.
O Friends! why come not on these victors proud
Ere while they fierce were coming; and when we,
To entertain them fair with open front
And breast, (what could we more?) propounded terms
Of composition, straight they changed their minds,
Flew off, and into strange vagaries fell,
As they would dance; yet for a dance they seemed
Somewhat extravagant and wild; perhaps
For joy of offered peace: But I suppose,
If our proposals once again were heard,
We should compel them to a quick result.
To whom thus Belial, in like gamesome mood.
Leader! the terms we sent were terms of weight,
Of hard contents, and full of force urged home;
Such as we might perceive amused them all,
And stumbled many: Who receives them right,
Had need from head to foot well understand;
Not understood, this gift they have besides,
They show us when our foes walk not upright.
So they among themselves in pleasant vein
Stood scoffing, hightened in their thoughts beyond
All doubt of victory: Eternal Might
To match with their inventions they presumed
So easy, and of his thunder made a scorn,
And all his host derided, while they stood
A while in trouble: But they stood not long;
Rage prompted them at length, and found them arms
Against such hellish mischief fit to oppose.
Forthwith (behold the excellence, the power,
Which God hath in his mighty Angels placed!)
Their arms away they threw, and to the hills
(For Earth hath this variety from Heaven
Of pleasure situate in hill and dale,)
Light as the lightning glimpse they ran, they flew;
From their foundations loosening to and fro,
They plucked the seated hills, with all their load,
Rocks, waters, woods, and by the shaggy tops
Up-lifting bore them in their hands: Amaze,
Be sure, and terrour, seized the rebel host,
When coming towards them so dread they saw
The bottom of the mountains upward turned;
Till on those cursed engines' triple-row
They saw them whelmed, and all their confidence
Under the weight of mountains buried deep;
Themselves invaded next, and on their heads
Main promontories flung, which in the air
Came shadowing, and oppressed whole legions armed;
Their armour helped their harm, crushed in and bruised
Into their substance pent, which wrought them pain
Implacable, and many a dolorous groan;
Long struggling underneath, ere they could wind
Out of such prison, though Spirits of purest light,
Purest at first, now gross by sinning grown.
The rest, in imitation, to like arms
Betook them, and the neighbouring hills uptore:
So hills amid the air encountered hills,
Hurled to and fro with jaculation dire;
That under ground they fought in dismal shade;
Infernal noise! war seemed a civil game
To this uproar; horrid confusion heaped
Upon confusion rose: And now all Heaven
Had gone to wrack, with ruin overspread;
Had not the Almighty Father, where he sits
Shrined in his sanctuary of Heaven secure,
Consulting on the sum of things, foreseen
This tumult, and permitted all, advised:
That his great purpose he might so fulfil,
To honour his anointed Son avenged
Upon his enemies, and to declare
All power on him transferred: Whence to his Son,
The Assessour of his throne, he thus began.
Effulgence of my glory, Son beloved,
Son, in whose face invisible is beheld
Visibly, what by Deity I am;
And in whose hand what by decree I do,
Second Omnipotence! two days are past,
Two days, as we compute the days of Heaven,
Since Michael and his Powers went forth to tame
These disobedient: Sore hath been their fight,
As likeliest was, when two such foes met armed;
For to themselves I left them; and thou knowest,
Equal in their creation they were formed,
Save what sin hath impaired; which yet hath wrought
Insensibly, for I suspend their doom;
Whence in perpetual fight they needs must last
Endless, and no solution will be found:
War wearied hath performed what war can do,
And to disordered rage let loose the reins
With mountains, as with weapons, armed; which makes
Wild work in Heaven, and dangerous to the main.
Two days are therefore past, the third is thine;
For thee I have ordained it; and thus far
Have suffered, that the glory may be thine
Of ending this great war, since none but Thou
Can end it. Into thee such virtue and grace
Immense I have transfused, that all may know
In Heaven and Hell thy power above compare;
And, this perverse commotion governed thus,
To manifest thee worthiest to be Heir
Of all things; to be Heir, and to be King
By sacred unction, thy deserved right.
Go then, Thou Mightiest, in thy Father's might;
Ascend my chariot, guide the rapid wheels
That shake Heaven's basis, bring forth all my war,
My bow and thunder, my almighty arms
Gird on, and sword upon thy puissant thigh;
Pursue these sons of darkness, drive them out
From all Heaven's bounds into the utter deep:
There let them learn, as likes them, to despise
God, and Messiah his anointed King.
He said, and on his Son with rays direct
Shone full; he all his Father full expressed
Ineffably into his face received;
And thus the Filial Godhead answering spake.
O Father, O Supreme of heavenly Thrones,
First, Highest, Holiest, Best; thou always seek'st
To glorify thy Son, I always thee,
As is most just: This I my glory account,
My exaltation, and my whole delight,
That thou, in me well pleased, declarest thy will
Fulfilled, which to fulfil is all my bliss.
Scepter and power, thy giving, I assume,
And gladlier shall resign, when in the end
Thou shalt be all in all, and I in thee
For ever; and in me all whom thou lovest:
But whom thou hatest, I hate, and can put on
Thy terrours, as I put thy mildness on,
Image of thee in all things; and shall soon,
Armed with thy might, rid Heaven of these rebelled;
To their prepared ill mansion driven down,
To chains of darkness, and the undying worm;
That from thy just obedience could revolt,
Whom to obey is happiness entire.
Then shall thy Saints unmixed, and from the impure
Far separate, circling thy holy mount,
Unfeigned Halleluiahs to thee sing,
Hymns of high praise, and I among them Chief.
So said, he, o'er his scepter bowing, rose
From the right hand of Glory where he sat;
And the third sacred morn began to shine,
Dawning through Heaven. Forth rushed with whirlwind sound
The chariot of Paternal Deity,
Flashing thick flames, wheel within wheel undrawn,
Itself instinct with Spirit, but convoyed
By four Cherubick shapes; four faces each
Had wonderous; as with stars, their bodies all
And wings were set with eyes; with eyes the wheels
Of beryl, and careering fires between;
Over their heads a crystal firmament,
Whereon a sapphire throne, inlaid with pure
Amber, and colours of the showery arch.
He, in celestial panoply all armed
Of radiant Urim, work divinely wrought,
Ascended; at his right hand Victory
Sat eagle-winged; beside him hung his bow
And quiver with three-bolted thunder stored;
And from about him fierce effusion rolled
Of smoke, and bickering flame, and sparkles dire:
Attended with ten thousand thousand Saints,
He onward came; far off his coming shone;
And twenty thousand (I their number heard)
Chariots of God, half on each hand, were seen;
He on the wings of Cherub rode sublime
On the crystalline sky, in sapphire throned,
Illustrious far and wide; but by his own
First seen: Them unexpected joy surprised,
When the great ensign of Messiah blazed
Aloft by Angels borne, his sign in Heaven;
Under whose conduct Michael soon reduced
His army, circumfused on either wing,
Under their Head imbodied all in one.
Before him Power Divine his way prepared;
At his command the uprooted hills retired
Each to his place; they heard his voice, and went
Obsequious; Heaven his wonted face renewed,
And with fresh flowerets hill and valley smiled.
This saw his hapless foes, but stood obdured,
And to rebellious fight rallied their Powers,
Insensate, hope conceiving from despair.
In heavenly Spirits could such perverseness dwell?
But to convince the proud what signs avail,
Or wonders move the obdurate to relent?
They, hardened more by what might most reclaim,
Grieving to see his glory, at the sight
Took envy; and, aspiring to his highth,
Stood re-embattled fierce, by force or fraud
Weening to prosper, and at length prevail
Against God and Messiah, or to fall
In universal ruin last; and now
To final battle drew, disdaining flight,
Or faint retreat; when the great Son of God
To all his host on either hand thus spake.
Stand still in bright array, ye Saints; here stand,
Ye Angels armed; this day from battle rest:
Faithful hath been your warfare, and of God
Accepted, fearless in his righteous cause;
And as ye have received, so have ye done,
Invincibly: But of this cursed crew
The punishment to other hand belongs;
Vengeance is his, or whose he sole appoints:
Number to this day's work is not ordained,
Nor multitude; stand only, and behold
God's indignation on these godless poured
By me; not you, but me, they have despised,
Yet envied; against me is all their rage,
Because the Father, to whom in Heaven s'preme
Kingdom, and power, and glory appertains,
Hath honoured me, according to his will.
Therefore to me their doom he hath assigned;
That they may have their wish, to try with me
In battle which the stronger proves; they all,
Or I alone against them; since by strength
They measure all, of other excellence
Not emulous, nor care who them excels;
Nor other strife with them do I vouchsafe.
So spake the Son, and into terrour changed
His countenance too severe to be beheld,
And full of wrath bent on his enemies.
At once the Four spread out their starry wings
With dreadful shade contiguous, and the orbs
Of his fierce chariot rolled, as with the sound
Of torrent floods, or of a numerous host.
He on his impious foes right onward drove,
Gloomy as night; under his burning wheels
The stedfast empyrean shook throughout,
All but the throne itself of God. Full soon
Among them he arrived; in his right hand
Grasping ten thousand thunders, which he sent
Before him, such as in their souls infixed
Plagues: They, astonished, all resistance lost,
All courage; down their idle weapons dropt:
O'er shields, and helms, and helmed heads he rode
Of Thrones and mighty Seraphim prostrate,
That wished the mountains now might be again
Thrown on them, as a shelter from his ire.
Nor less on either side tempestuous fell
His arrows, from the fourfold-visaged Four
Distinct with eyes, and from the living wheels
Distinct alike with multitude of eyes;
One Spirit in them ruled; and every eye
Glared lightning, and shot forth pernicious fire
Among the accursed, that withered all their strength,
And of their wonted vigour left them drained,
Exhausted, spiritless, afflicted, fallen.
Yet half his strength he put not forth, but checked
His thunder in mid volley; for he meant
Not to destroy, but root them out of Heaven:
The overthrown he raised, and as a herd
Of goats or timorous flock together thronged
Drove them before him thunder-struck, pursued
With terrours, and with furies, to the bounds
And crystal wall of Heaven; which, opening wide,
Rolled inward, and a spacious gap disclosed
Into the wasteful deep: The monstrous sight
Struck them with horrour backward, but far worse
Urged them behind: Headlong themselves they threw
Down from the verge of Heaven; eternal wrath
Burnt after them to the bottomless pit.
Hell heard the unsufferable noise, Hell saw
Heaven ruining from Heaven, and would have fled
Affrighted; but strict Fate had cast too deep
Her dark foundations, and too fast had bound.
Nine days they fell: Confounded Chaos roared,
And felt tenfold confusion in their fall
Through his wild anarchy, so huge a rout
Incumbered him with ruin: Hell at last
Yawning received them whole, and on them closed;
Hell, their fit habitation, fraught with fire
Unquenchable, the house of woe and pain.
Disburdened Heaven rejoiced, and soon repaired
Her mural breach, returning whence it rolled.
Sole victor, from the expulsion of his foes,
Messiah his triumphal chariot turned:
To meet him all his Saints, who silent stood
Eye-witnesses of his almighty acts,
With jubilee advanced; and, as they went,
Shaded with branching palm, each Order bright,
Sung triumph, and him sung victorious King,
Son, Heir, and Lord, to him dominion given,
Worthiest to reign: He, celebrated, rode
Triumphant through mid Heaven, into the courts
And temple of his Mighty Father throned
On high; who into glory him received,
Where now he sits at the right hand of bliss.
Thus, measuring things in Heaven by things on Earth,
At thy request, and that thou mayest beware
By what is past, to thee I have revealed
What might have else to human race been hid;
The discord which befel, and war in Heaven
Among the angelick Powers, and the deep fall
Of those too high aspiring, who rebelled
With Satan; he who envies now thy state,
Who now is plotting how he may seduce
Thee also from obedience, that, with him
Bereaved of happiness, thou mayest partake
His punishment, eternal misery;
Which would be all his solace and revenge,
As a despite done against the Most High,
Thee once to gain companion of his woe.
But listen not to his temptations, warn
Thy weaker; let it profit thee to have heard,
By terrible example, the reward
Of disobedience; firm they might have stood,
Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress.

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