To attract men, I wear a perfume called "New Car Interior".
To attract men, I wear a perfume called ""New Car Interior.""
Who’ll Wear the Beaten Colours?
Who’ll wear the beaten colours—and cheer the beaten men?
Who’ll wear the beaten colours, till our time comes again?
Where sullen crowds are densest, and fickle as the sea,
Who’ll wear the beaten colours, and wear them home with me?
We closed the bars and gambling dens and voted straight and clean,
Our women walked while motor cars were whirling round the scene,
The Potts Point Vote was one for Greed and Ease and Luxury
With all to hold, and coward gold, and beaten folk are we.
Who’ll wear the beaten colours, with hands and pockets clean?
(I wore the beaten colours since I was seventeen)
I wore them up, and wore them down, Outback and across the sea—
Who’ll wear the beaten colours, and wear them home with me?
We wore them back from Ladysmith to where the peace was signed,
And wore them through the London streets where Jingoes howled behind.
We wore them to the Queen’s Hall, while England yelled “Pro-Boers!”
And sat them over victory while London banged the doors.1
We wore them from Port Arthur round till all sunk in the sea—
(Who’ll wear the white man’s colours, and wear them home with me?)
I’ve worn them through with gentlemen, with work-slaves and alone—
Who’ll wear the beaten colours, boys, and wear them on his own?
There’s one would look with startled eyes and shrink while I caressed,
Came I not with the colours of the conquered on my breast.
And twenty thousand Bushmen would stand with hands behind
And scorn in all their faces for the coward of his kind.
Who’ll wear the beaten colours and raise the voice they drowned—
It may be when we march again, they’ll bear some other sound—
Who’ll pin the beaten colours on and drive the beaten pen—
It may be other steel and ink when we march out again.
- quotes about colors
- quotes about automobiles
- quotes about cleaning
- quotes about slavery
- quotes about victory
- quotes about home
- quotes about boys
- quotes about walking
In Windsor Terrace, number four,
I’ve taken my abode—
A little crescent from the street,
A bight from City Road;
And, hard up and in exile, I
To many fancies yield;
For it was here Micawber lived
And David Copperfield.
A bed, a table, and a chair,
A bottle and a cup.
The landlord’s waiting even now
For something to turn up.
The landlady is spiritless—
They both seem tired of life;
They cannot fight the battle like
Micawber and his wife.
But in the little open space
That lies back from the street,
The same old ancient, shabby clerk
Is sitting on a seat.
The same sad characters go by,
The ragged children play—
And things have very little changed
Since Dickens passed away.
Some seek religion in their grief,
And some for friendship yearn;
Some fly to liquor for relief,
But I to Dickens turn.
I find him ever fresh and new,
His lesson ever plain;
And every line that Dickens wrote
I’ve read and read again.
The tavern’s just across the ‘wye,’
And frowsy women there
Are gossiping and drinking gin,
And twisting up their hair.
And grubby girls go past at times,
And furtive gentry lurk—
I don’t think anyone has died
Since Dickens did his work.
There’s Jingle, Tigg, and Chevy Slyme,
And Weevle—whom you will;
And hard-up virtue proudly slinks
Into the pawnshop still.
Go east a bit from City Road,
And all the rest are there—
A friendly whistle might produce
A Chicken anywhere.
My favourite author’s heroes I
Should love, but somehow can’t.
I don’t like David Copperfield
As much as David’s Aunt,
And it may be because my mind
Has been in many fogs—
I don’t like Nicholas Nickleby
So well as Newman Noggs.
I don’t like Richard Carstone, Pip,
Or Martin Chuzzlewit,
And for the rich and fatherly
I scarcely care a bit.
The honest, sober clods are bores
Who cannot suffer much,
And with the Esther Summersons
I never was in touch.
The ‘Charleys’ and the haggard wives,
Kind hearts in poverty—
And yes! the Lizzie Hexams, too—
Are very near to me;
But men like Brothers Cheeryble,
And Madeline Bray divine,
And Nell, and Little Dorrit live
In a better world than mine.
The Nicklebys and Copperfields,
They do not stand the test;
And in my heart I don’t believe
That Dickens loved them best.
I can’t admire their ways and talk,
I do not like their looks—
Those selfish, injured sticks that stalk
Through all the Master’s books.
They’re mostly selfish in their love,
And selfish in their hate,
They marry Dora Spenlows, too,
While Agnes Wickfields wait;
And back they come to poor Tom Pinch
When hard-up for a friend;
They come to wrecks like Newman Nogga
To help them in the end.
And—well, maybe I am unjust,
And maybe I forget;
Some of us marry dolls and jilt
Our Agnes Wickfields yet.
We seek our friends when fortune frowns—
It has been ever thus—
And we neglect Joe Gargery
When fortune smiles on us.
They get some rich old grandfather
Or aunt to see them through,
And you can trace self-interest
In nearly all they do.
And scoundrels like Ralph Nickleby,
In spite of all their crimes,
And crawlers like Uriah Heep
Told bitter truths at times.
But—yes, I love the vagabonds
And failures from the ranks,
And hard old files with hidden hearts
Like Wemmick and like Pancks.
And Jaggers had his ‘poor dreams, too,’
And fond hopes like the rest—
But, somehow, somehow, all my life
I’ve loved Dick Swiveller best!
But, let us peep at Snagsby first
As softly he lays down
Beside the bed of dying Joe
And Nemo’s wretched pauper grave—
But we can let them be,
For Joe has said to Heaven: ‘They
Wos werry good to me.’
And Wemmick with his aged P——
No doubt has his reward;
And Jaggers, hardest nut of all,
Will be judged by the Lord.
And Pancks, the rent-collecting screw,
With laurels on his brow,
Is loved by all the bleeding hearts
In Bleeding Heart Yard now.
Tom Pinch is very happy now,
And Magwitch is at rest,
And Newman Noggs again might hold
His head up with the best;
Micawber, too, when all is said,
Drank bravely Sorrow’s cup—
Micawber worked to right them all,
And something did turn up.
How do ‘John Edward Nandy, Sir!’
And Plornish get along?
Why! if the old man is in voice
We’ll hear him pipe a song.
We’ll have a look at Baptiste, too,
While still the night is young—
With Mrs. Plornish to explain
In the Italian tongue.
Before we go we’ll ask about
Poor young John Chivery:
‘There never was a gentleman
In all his family.’
His hopeless love, his broken heart,
But to his rival true;
He came of Nature’s gentlemen,
But young John never knew.
We’ll pass the little midshipman
With heart that swells and fills,
Where Captain Ed’ard Cuttle waits
For Wal’r and Sol Gills.
Jack Bunsby stands by what he says
(Which isn’t very clear),
And Toots with his own hopeless love—
As true as any here.
And who that read has never felt
The sorrow that it cost
When Captain Cuttle read the news
The ‘Son and Heir’ was lost?
And who that read has not rejoiced
With him and ‘Heart’s Delight,’
And felt as Captain Cuttle felt
When Wal’r came that night?
And yonder, with a broken heart,
That people thought was stone,
Deserted in his ruined home,
Poor Dombey sits alone.
Who has not gulped a something down,
Whose eye has not grown dim
While feeling glad for Dombey’s sake
When Florence came to him?
(A stately house in Lincolnshire—
The scene is bleak and cold—
The footsteps on the terrace sound
To-night at Chesney Wold.
One who loved honour, wife, and truth,
If nothing else besides,
Along the dreary Avenue
Sir Leicester Dedlock rides.)
We’ll go round by Poll Sweedlepipe’s,
The bird and barber shop;
If Sairey Gamp is so dispoged
We’ll send her up a drop.
We’ll cross High Holborn to the Bull,
And, if he cares to come,
By streets that are not closed to him
We’ll see Dick Swiveller home.
He’s looking rather glum to-night,
The why I will not ask—
No matter how we act the goat,
We mostly wear a mask.
Some wear a mask to hide the false
(And some the good and true)—
I wouldn’t be surprised to know
Mark Tapley wore one too.
We wear a mask called cheerfulness
While feeling sad inside;
And men like Dombey, who was shy,
Oft wear a mask called pride.
A front of pure benevolence
The grinding ‘Patriarch’ bore;
And kind men often wear a mask
Like that which Jaggers wore.
But, never mind, Dick Swiveller!
We’ll see it out together
Beneath the wing of friendship, Dick,
That never moults a feather.
We’ll look upon the rosy yet
Full many a night, old friend,
And tread the mazy ere we woo
The balmy in the end.
Our palace walls are rather bare,
The floor is somewhat damp,
But, while there’s liquor, anywhere
Is good enough to camp.
What ho! mine host! bring forth thine ale
And let the board be spread!—
It is the hour when churchyards yawn
And wine goes to the head.
’Twas you who saved poor Kit, old chap,
When he was in a mess—
But, what ho! Varlet! bring us wine!
Here’s to the Marchioness!
‘We’ll make a scholar of her yet,’
She’ll be a lady fair,
‘And she shall go in silk attire
And siller have to spare.’
From sport to sport they hurry her
To banish her regrets,
And when we win a smile from her
We cannot pay our debts!
Left orphans at a tender age,
We’re happiest in the land—
We’re Glorious Apollos, Dick,
And you’re Perpetual Grand!
You’re king of all philosophers,
And let the Godly rust;
Here’s to the obscure citizen
Who sent the beer on trust?
It sure would be a cheerful world
If never man got tight;
You spent your money on your friends,
Dick Swiveller! Good night!
‘A dissolute and careless man—
An idle, drunken path;’
But see where Sidney Carton spills
His last drink on the hearth!
A ruined life! He lived for drink
And but one thing beside—
And Oh! it was a glorious death
That Sidney Carton died.
And ‘Which I meantersay is Pip’—
The voices hurry past—
‘Not to deceive you, sir’—‘Stand by!’
‘Awast, my lass, awast!’
‘Beware of widders, Samivel,’
And shun strong drink, my friend;
And, ‘not to put too fine a point
Upon it,’ I must end.
- quotes about umbrellas
- quotes about friendship
- quotes about poverty
- quotes about elders
- quotes about beer
- quotes about divine
- quotes about love
- quotes about heart
It's Writing Me
It’s writing me.
I’m not writing it.
It’s got nothing to do with obedience
and there’s no chance of betraying it
even now that I’m three thousand miles
and forty light years away
and all the fireflies and lightning bolts
in my mystic cloud of unknowing
have turned into a frenzy of fanatical killer bees.
I’m swarmed by anxieties like mental space junk
and snakey wavelengths of yesterday
still trying to shed the sky like sunburnt skin.
Like the mythic names of old lovers
tattooed on our foreheads and firearms forever
and the obsolete starmaps in braille
that we followed like the magi
across this friendless desert of stars
as the signage of something divine.
And it isn’t the ironic sublimity
of the implacable circumstances of fate
that dictate whether the gate to the garden
is shut to me or not
that I fear the most
but the caprice of cornerstones
that turn into quicksand just to preserve the past.
I’ve grown more ruthless with my memories
over the past four decades.
I splash acid in the eyes
of those who are learning to read me like a book.
Others I send into exile
for trying to desecrate the image I have of me.
They write long sad poems
on the shores of the Black Sea in winter
and they’re never coming home again.
There’s more Tristes than Amores in the depth of my pain.
The rest I keep like lighthouses and lightning rods
to remind me what it was once like
when schools of silver fish swam
like poplar leaves when the wind
turns them all in the same direction at once
through warm water on the moon
and I had an atmosphere I could rely on.
Now some days I open my third eye
to the lucidity of the morning
as if it were a security camera
that took the picture of the thief
that stole the moon from my window last night.
But here you come again this morning
despite my priestly efforts
to exorcise your ghost
like an oxymoronic fragrance
of Parisian perfume and whale vomit
or as you would say expurgated ambergris
wearing that violet orchid of a blouse
and those tight black leather pants
that used to drive me so crazy
to see what could bloom
in the shadow of an outhouse
like waterlilies in a reeking swamp.
You’re leaning over a cedar rail fence
rotten with moss and lunar lichen
up to your hourglass waist line
in the sidereal surf of New England asters
and you’re feeding three black horses
gleaming like anthracite with sweat
and one with a star
in the middle of its forehead
that made me think
of the Great Square of Pegasus at the time,
a stranger’s apples from the palm of your hand.
And the wild gypsy mane of your own black hair
in the full glare of the sunlight
that bloodies the flyaway strands
like a hairdo of oracular serpents
wounded by the Bronze Age.
I saw the innocent face of Eve
under the mask of the Medusa
and I don’t believe even now
that I try every other day not to
I could have ever loved you more
than I did in that moment.
The delusions and the deceptions
have long ago been swept off the stairs
of the whirling castle of Arianrhod
in Corona Borealis
like stars that gave up their fixed places
to blossom awhile and fall
by the janitors who came after us.
And the gnostic gospels of the autumn leaves
we used to read together
when the weather got cold
have been buried in urns
deep in desert caves
like the holy books of persecuted outcasts
that had an epiphanous way of looking at things
that are hard to explain.
Very few things are things of beauty
and even fewer joys forever
but it’s ungracious to mourn
that it happens to be the way it is
but even so even so
as Basho would say.
Attachment too is a Buddha activity
and we mourn the flowers passing away.
And the rivers and the stars carry forth into themselves
like light and water and passion.
How little of what we said and did
means much now?
Two actors that have gone on to other plays.
A carnival of hearts on a road tour
with a big finale on closing night in the grave.
I remember you with much more discretion now
than I used to.
Things grow dark and clear in the winter.
The cold night air prunes your lungs with lunar scalpels
and though there’s less heat in them
than there is in the summer when
the stars burn through the thinner veils of the willows
with greater insight
than they did when they shone above us.
It would have been facile and insincere
to have been embittered by the biased juries
that prosecute a broken heart
trying to apply the law to love.
And for the most part I didn’t let
what was tender and enduring about us then
turn into hard evidence
and throw live rabbits into a snake pit
hoping to appeal the sentence.
I’ve done my time standing up
with my mouth shut
and left the snakes and the rabbits
to fend for themselves
as you and I did
when the final judgement came down.
And the truth will out
I still remember you as a window
I once looked through
into the creative genius of God
when she comes down to earth
in all her radiance
to see what charms the sons of men
what lights them up
like new stars in the Pleiades
and blows them out like black dwarfs
that collapse under their own gravity
after the last ray of light
finishes shredding the secret documents
that would have incriminated us
for once having been in love
and escapes its abandoned embassy
in the Great Nebula of Orion.
And even as a muse
as this poem attests
you arise occasionally
into my field of vision
from era to era
like the ghost of a constellation
or a bird in transit across the moon
or the smoking root fires
of stars that haven’t quite gone out.
And I see in you now
as I did way back then
all aspects of lunar women
reflected in these briefly beautiful moments
that seem like notes of frozen music
at a nexus of the temporal and eternal
like jewels in the eye of a diamond cutter
who’s always grateful
for the long red wavelengths of inspiration
that come to him like retroactive love letters
as expansive with farewell
as the widening wakes of the past
but who knows a lot more about shining
than he did way back then
when the light was more obvious
than it is now.
I will always see the mystery of woman
like an ancient wine
brewed from a blood red eclipse of grapes
that ripened in the sun at midnight
on the dark side of the moon
and as every man is bound to drink
from the cup the moon offers him
I drink down to the very last dropp of night
in my crystal skull.
And I can still taste the delirium
of lightning and fireflies
all the stars and jewels and chandeliers
all the eerie flavours of your translucency
that once shuddered through me like spears of light.
I drink the wine
as I would have taken the apple years ago
from the open palm of your hand
like any one of those three black horses
and one with a star in the middle of its forehead
you were coaxing to approach you
over a cedar rail fence in the Garden of Eden.
And though it’s sad and beautiful and dangerous
to remember why we were exiled from the ode
I’ve come to see that broken taboos
are just the eggshells of hidden blessings
that take to their wings
like the silhouettes
of waterbirds in the moonlight.
And I’m a better poet now that I live on my own
with all these afterlives for company
who whisper in my ear
like the rustling of autumn calendars
let things go
let things go
like a windfall of storm-shaken apples.
And I have.
I’ve learned to let things go
like blossoms and leaves and starmaps
that used to glow in the dark
inside my head as I slept
dreaming up schemes for my enlightenment.
I take a deep delight
in the winds of transformation
that feather my dinosaurs into dragons.
I can still feel the rapture and the ecstasy
laced like silver threads of lightning
in the disappointment and despair
of watching the changes
without knowing where I’m going
this far from home
and all my starmaps obsolete.
But I’ve still got a great eye
for the mood swings of colour and light
and the subtle spiritual tones
in the emotional life of the night.
And the beauty I saw incarnated in you that day
like an epiphany that wouldn’t be denied a body
has only rooted more deeply
in my memory over the years
and grown like wild grape vines
with musically inclined tendrils
like the wine of an old theme song
so inevitably ripe with joy and sorrow
it refuses to be watered down
from the original miracle
no matter how many tears have been shed
since we left the wedding.
And it’s strange how memories
can arise more like revelations
and prophecies of yesterday
like time-delayed inspirations
when you’re living on your own.
In art and life and love
they’ve taught me
time and time again
how emotions frozen with pain
that calved icebergs like glaciers
into the shipping lanes
of the mindstream
can thaw ice-age mirrors into tears
when they lose a grip on themselves like snow.
That the reasons to stay
are no less relevant than the reasons
to go off into the unknown.
That it doesn’t matter
whether you wash your hands at home
of the things you’ve touched
and in turn have touched you
or take a bath in the stars
to wash off the ghosts that cling
to your skin and hair
like the dust of the road.
We’re all swimming
in the same water clock
against the flow of the stream
like spawning salmon
summoned out of the great sea
of urgent awareness
back to where we were born.
We’re called to love and death
sex and extinction
at the same time.
And one is not to be revered
any less than the other.
And so’s the winter.
But more than anything else
looking back over
the event horizons
of the people and things I’ve known
reflecting on the timing
of my content
like seasons of my own
nine times out of ten
I know when
to leave perfection
well enough alone.
Christ at Carnival
THE hand of carnival was at my door,
I listened to its knocking, and sped down:
Faith was forgotten, Duty led no more:
I heard a wonton revelry in the town;
The Carnival ran in my veins like fire!
And some unfrustrable desire
Goaded me on to catch the roses thrown
From breast to breast, and with my own
Fugitive kiss to snatch the fugitive kiss;
I broke all faith for this
One wild and worthless hour,
To dance, to run, to beckon, as a flower
Maddens the bee with half-surrendering,
Then flies back in the air with petals shut.
Fainting with laughter and pursuit
I heard shrill winds leap out and sink again,
Tracking the green bed where the Spring hath lain,
And vanished from, whose feet made audible
Music among the tall trees on the hill.
Above me leaned a nightingale
Burdened and big with song, whose throat let fall
Long notes, so poignant and so musical,
I deemed his young mate, listening,
Heard him less passionately sing
Than I a-foot at Carnival!
Above the town, swart Night came rolling in
Upon her couch of heliotrope:
A new Moon, young and thin,
Lay like a Columbine
Teasing the spent hill, her old Harlequin,
She, who of late waned on the bitter sky,
Furtive and old, a woman without hope,
Begging in long-familiar streets, where Sin
Once seeking her, now shuddered and went by.
Caught in the meshes of a merry throng,
I stumbled through the lighted Market Place;
The lanterns swung an undetermined rose
In Night's convulsive face
As we were swept along
In crazy dance and song,--
On through the mirth-mad alleys of the town,
With shrill loud laughter tumbled roughly down,
Whirled up in swift embrace.
All, all went swinging, swaying in the revel,
Laughing and reeling, kissing each and all--
A crowd that wildest jesting did dishevel--
O mad night of Carnival!
Racing along the last mean street that goes
From house to house to find the mountain track,
I loosed their hands to catch a rose
Flung from some casement; swiftly they turned back
With gusty laughter their wild mates to greet,
Swift as the footless wind along the wheat!
Fainter and fainter grew their revelling,
Deserted of a sudden, lay the street,
Silence fell on me like a famished thing,
Making my soul aware of one who stood
Beside me--one who wore a monkish hood.
I stared, as one who sees
Beneath the thin and settled sheet
Over still mysteries
Faint outline of belovèd hands and feet,
Too little loved and now too dead to care,
And suddenly becomes aware
That more than Death lies there,
That from this piteous and submissive change
Something has risen, terrible and strange.
Why fell my roses? What fear drove me, then,
To question him: "Who art thou, citizen?
Fainter and fainter grows the Carnival.
Wilt thou lock hands and turn with me again?"
He answered not, but let the hood half-fall,
Showing a thorn-plait on a forehead marred;
Trembling I cried: "Who art thou, Lord?"
"As thou sayest, I am He!
How long upn my cross am I to bleed
For thee still to deny me utterly?
Is not the hour yet come that I be freed,
How long am I to listen at thy door?"
Stricken in soul, I fell against his feet,
In rose-disorderd street,
Weeping: "I have not heard Thy foot before."
He answered: "He who hears
Loud noise of Carnival about his ears,
How shall he heed the foot with silence shod,
Or listen for the small still voice of God?
What is thy life?
Is thy sword stained in any splended strife?
Hast thou, in all thy safe, unshaken years,
Once thrown thyself upon Night's ambushed spears,
Or broken with thy tears
Thy heart against the Dawn's feet any day?
Hast thou spurned
Any earthly perishable sweet thing
To bear another's burden? Hast thou learned
At any knee but Folly's, trafficing
With every sweet delight that said thee 'yea'?
Oft hast thy goaded men to kiss thy mouth,
The flower of thy youth
Thou hast rendered up to any wind that's fleet,
But hast thou ever hastened to the Cross
To kiss My saving feet?"
"Thou knowest, Lord, thou knowest, I have not striven,
I made life easy, profitable, sweet,
I have not loved much or been much forgiven;
Of all a woman's vows the holiest--
To children that were posies at my breast--
I have forsworn, to-night, forsaking all
The ways of God to dance at Carnival.
What have I now to offer Thee Who deignest
To seek for grape on such unfruitful vine;
Who with such sinful head Thy bosom stainest!"
He said: "The last allegiance will be Mine,
Leave all and follow Me."
"Nay but my little children sleep at home
Beside their father, I would say good-bye."
He answered: "Was there any time for Me
To make My farewells in Gethsemane,
Or any lips to take last kisses from?
Knowest thou not that I can satisfy
All creatures I make Mine, shall I not be
Thy priest, blessing for thee the common bread,
Till the white flesh divine
Quicken against thy lip, and hallowèd,
The blood beat through the wine?
I would have all thou hast,
Be all thou art,
I would claim all thy present, future, past,
For My dispisèd heart;
For Me thou shalt all other creatures hate,
My seven wounds thou shalt assuage
With mouth inviolate."
"O pardoning love," I wept, "O love divine,
That such as thou shouldst ask of such!--
I am Thine, all Thine,
Casting here at Thy feet, despisèd Thou,
All other loves that used to mean so much,
All other hopes that mean so little now."
From a side-alley dumb to revelry,
Came the low sound of weeping, then my name:
A beggar came
Out of the heaving dark and spake to me:
"How knowest thou Christ?" I answered: "By the thorn";
"Nay, but the thorn tree grows in every wood
For any brow forsworn!"
The other whispered: "Thou art tempted here
For my sake," but the beggar's voice came fleet
As pain: "Three crosses did that hillside bear,
Not Christ alone hath wounded hands and feet;
Dost thou believe
That every pierced hand stretched to thee is Christ?
Shall not some thief inpenitent deceive,
At some strange shrine wilt thou be sacrificed?"
The other whispered: "Shall thy faith be led
So soon a traitor, child? For such as he
Trample me every day." The beggar said:
"Nay, wast thou spit upon in Galilee?"
Wildly I cried: "Oh, from this hallowed street
Go thy way, beggar, take thine apostate feet
From this poor temple on whose pinnacle
Christ in His Love doth not disdain to dwell,
Who doth confer
Glory on things inglorious, nor doth shun,
But bids an angel to Him minister,
Albeit a fallen one;
And if thou canst not pray,
Leave me my prayer at least and go thy way!"
Swift were Christ's feet the mountain road along;
A swift as they my soul beside them fled,
Keeping fleet measure to the strong
Unshatterable music of His words,
That in my hard heart made
Exquisite wounds that sang the while they bled,
Like little tamèd birds;
"O Holy One, I break here at Thy feet
The perfume of my soul like Magdalen's sweet
Spilled ointment; knewest Thou who gatherèd
Those holy spices? What dishevelled night,
What lust, profaning every temple-rite
To toss the gold of her sweet shameless head,
Had eased from priestly hands the spikenard
That made her soiled garments smell of God?
Thou did accept that sweetness when she kneeled,--
That holy myrrh, spilled from the soul and shard!
Nor didst disdain by her to be unshod,
Nay, Thy world-wounded feet her tresses healed.
"So here I gather sweets of all my life,
Treasure for which sin waged unworthy strife,
Holding as one who guilty pleasure wins--
Yea, even all my sins, my little sins--
My loves and penitences, foes no more
At strife with Thee for me. Oh, bid me pour
My spirit's perfume! I have wept and kissed
Those feet grown weary following what men
Caught up so easily; upon this brow
Be shed the glory of Love's pardon now,
As once the tresses of a Magdalen
became an aureole at the feet of Christ!"
Only the silence shook as we went on;
Soon the last watching window-light was gone;
No least star gleamed,
And trembling-still it seemed,
As if the mountain held its breath
For fear that it should weep;
A stopped stream smelled of Death;
The moon was out, blown by God's breath asleep;
The heavens turned
Plunging and livid, choked with thunder-spume,
Black driven clouds beneath whose eyelids burned
A dreadful light, rushed forward in the gloom;
There was no wind, but something seemed to stir
In the thin grass, as if unquiet head
On sleepless pillow moved--a listener
To hideous word unsaid; until at last
The narrow track was passed.
Below us empty and wide
The world was flung; the hill-top shivered bare,
While fretful lightning dug a viscious spear
Into her sweating side
As she flinched, blind and stark . . .
A thin hail ravened against the door of dark.
Against His feet I trembled, but no word
Of peace or pity heard;
The darkness shook as a dry leaf about,
The world seemed to go out
With a great groan along the sea . . .
Silence . . . then words to me . . .
"Child, what is it thou fearest?"
I stared up: Oh, strange words did that implore! . . .
His brow was no more wounded, and no more
Were the hands, still outstretched to me, pierced.
"Lord, with this vision art thou tempting me,
To show how poor a thing my worship is?
Yet oh, be Christ, be Christ! I have for Thee
Forsaken all my loved, my lovely ones,
As a wild stream breaks from maternal hill,
Escaping the sweet fingers of the sedge
Whose stinging hair doth all his bosom fill,
Listens to some great voice far off, and runs
To find the sea, the calling, crying sea . . .
I ran to Thee!"
Then I heard human accents answering:
"I am a god, made god by all thy prayers;
Wach stone becomes a god by worshipping;
I am a man who loves thee: in thy town
Many have loved thee, I am one of these."
At those few words of horror Faith fell down,
Yet scarcely understood such blasphemies;
"What didst thou need?" I wept, still at his feet;
"Thyself, thou lovely thing!"
"Does thou yet love me as Christ loves albeit
Thou are not He--some message thou dost bring?"
"Nay, but I love thee as a night of Spring!
I saw thee dance to-night at Carnival,
I saw thee laugh, and spurn thy lovers all,
And dreamed, 'No man's desire she will heed,
Her lips are over-sworn and over-kissed,
But she will shurely list
If God but seem to speak, will list indeed.
I will not weave, as other lovers weave,
her garlands, she shall find, and grieve
For the one last thorn found tangled in my hair;
She shall forsake the world, she shall forswear,
Gather the honey of her being sweet
Into a vase of prayer
To break here at my feet.'
Since at the Carnival all men may wear
What guise they will, I chose the holiest;
Yea, when thy voice persuaded: 'Turn again'
I dreamed to woo thee, not as other men--
What faith hadst thou in any reveller?
It seemed thy soul was brimmed for God to stir.
Delight was impotent, and joy was old.
Of Christ I made a travesty of sin,
Thy loveliness to win--
To run my miser fingers through the gold,
The shuddering sweetness of thy rebel hair,
To sense the conflict of refusing lips,
The slow surrender from thy finger tips
Till thou wert all mine, utterly possessed,
Mine as the Moon
Is captive on a night's triumphant breast,
Mine as May's burning bowl is full of June!"
I shrank away, the thin words fell like blood
From my torn lips, I shuddered where I stood,
Muttering: "Christ may come in stranger's guise
To poor men's houses, may go humbly shod,
Begging for broken meats, nor shall despise
Those who give thus, knowing the cloak hides God.
But I and all my soul are sacrificed
To a thief that hath put on the garb of Christ.
Oh, at sin's feet to break my spirit's vase!
Oh, that I dreamed to lie upon His breast
While over me He brake the bread and blessed;--
To feel the mighty stars
Streaming to meet me; to have compassed all,
Reached, overtaken, passed, Eternity,
In one hour's glory, then to fall
To Hell, at least with thee!
Ah God, that Thou couldst let such horror be,
Could let that veritable image HE--
Travesty of Thy Son,
Tear my weak soul in tatters, yea, that Thou
Couldst lead Sin by Thy hand and by Thy brow
To Thy poor foolish helpless little one!"
Then horror laid her hands on me--I fled:
It seemed the world-end could not be too far
For such a fugitive,
Nor ramparts of the outer darkness give
Shelter for such a head.
The hideous night, with lips of a lazar,
With a shrill scream pursued,
Till Dawn in seamless sky a tatter rent
That oozing long lines of blood,
Smearing the grey breast of the firmarment . . .
The whole world closed upon me, o'er my face
Flinging an inescapable black hood.
As one half-drowned may feel above his head
(After all sense of dread,
And desperate fight for breath have died away),
The heavy waters part, and sound and space
And cold sky stare about him, which make melt
Green water-worlds into familiar day.
The light came groping to me, and I felt
The morning on my brow, while over me
An unaccostomed face leaned patiently,
Until it grew to be
The beggar I had scorned at Carnival.
"O Child," the voice of pity spake: "for all
Thy faith, Christ was not in those hands, that brow."
"Nay a thief took my soul, but comest thou
Beggar, to taunt me, as I taunted thee?"
"I come to none to chide or spurn:
I come to plead with thee that thou return
To thy forsaken Christ, rebellious one.
God long hath sat beside thee in the sun,
Thou knowing not." I said: "If thou be He,
Trouble me not, I have nought left to give;
I am drained utterly
Of faith and worship. Can these dead bones live?
What rose shall spread wing from this stricken tree?
All, all is waste and scattered to the wind,
All, all is dead and strangled in the dust!
And no dew lies
In the dead Morning's eyes;
The sheeted Moon, unsepulchred, is thrust
On the bare Night, another tomb to find!
Earth, heaven, have passed away."
"These are built up again." "But not for me."
He answered: "Yea,
Even for such as thou; oh, seek and find!
Go back, thou hast two children in thy house;
Breaking thy holy vows,
Didst think to find thy God in mummeries,
Finding it not with whom Christ said: 'Of these'
A child is but a shell upon Life's shore,
Fragile, rose-kissed, yet holding for thine ears
Raging of seas, and roaring of the spheres.
Thou hadst no need too heavenward to look up,
Thou discontented soul.
Behold Christ's milky mouth in the china cup,
Christ's hand that tips the blue-rimmed porrige bowl!"
"Ah, Lord, can such as I return
To the grey paths of peace--re-live, re-learn?
How can I feel my children's hands like flowers
Anout my face? Assign me grimmer hours,
Not the familiar stair, the to and fro
Of duties slow,
The little, dreadful paths of every day!"
"Am I not broken in the commonest bread,
And spilled in the unconsecrated wine?
Is not each man who loves, a priest,
Albeit men lock Me in a sunless shrine,
Spreading a special feast?
Yet am I outside in the lilac-tree,
beneath their feet, around them everywhere.
Thou canst not chain Christ to a chapel-bell.
From brothels thinkest thou I hear no prayer?
Doth not the choking gutter sing Me well?
Is not the whole sweet world my Sanctuary?
Do they despise My feet, who do but lave
The feet of strangers, in their bosoms nursed?
Am I not fed on orphan's lips, My thirst
Quenched in the beggar's platter? They who save
One shipwrecked soul, or seek some heart forgot,
Are Mine and love Me, though they know it not.
They are too noble for escape of Me:
Their lives more sing Me than a thousand psalms!
They thrust aside My Everlasting Arms,
Yet they are still beneath them--them and thee.
"What need hast thou of vows?
Go back, thou hast two children in thy house."
I went by wood and waste toward the town:
The whole world lay, a quiet emerald
Set in a golden ring
Upon God's finger, against His bosom thralled;
Elusive airs were blown
On elfin horns of Spring;
Through the thin mist pale hawthorn trees peered out
Like a dim, sick face from its frilled cap
Upon infirmary pillow, turned about--
Caught creatures in some vast, predestined trap.
But with each step I took, the morning grew
Gayer and younger, a full-throated thrush
Woke, and from hidden bush
Dimpled a note or two,
Set the wood's side a-shake, as if it knew
Answer to impudent jest; already bees
Sought the dell's bosom all a-heave with blue,
And girdeled with the goldenest primroses.
From every fold
The young lamb's cough came softly down the lane;
The cuckoo told
His first few notes--as miser tells his gold,
And counted them again.
I pased along the unchanged, quiet street,
At my own door unlatched I entered in
Upon an atmosphere that seemed too sweet
For me and all my sin.
I felt no agony of hope or loss,
Treading the old paths that beside me lay;
For me no one great lifting on the Cross,
But small, slow crucifixions every day.
I brought no prayers, I made no conscious vows,
And though it seemed God never could confer
Duty so simle, such a humble faith,
And that no further life my soul could stir,
I went back, meekly, trusting what he saith:
"Go back, thou hast two children in thy house."
Athens: An Ode
ERE from under earth again like fire the violet kindle, [Str. I.
Ere the holy buds and hoar on olive-branches bloom,
Ere the crescent of the last pale month of winter dwindle,
Shrink, and fall as falls a dead leaf on the dead month’s tomb,
Round the hills whose heights the first-born olive-blossom brightened,
Round the city brow-bound once with violets like a bride,
Up from under earth again a light that long since lightened
Breaks, whence all the world took comfort as all time takes pride.
Pride have all men in their fathers that were free before them,
In the warriors that begat us free-born pride have we:
But the fathers of their spirits, how may men adore them,
With what rapture may we praise, who bade our souls be free?
Sons of Athens born in spirit and truth are all born free men;
Most of all, we, nurtured where the north wind holds his reign:
Children all we sea-folk of the Salaminian seamen,
Sons of them that beat back Persia they that beat back Spain.
Since the songs of Greece fell silent, none like ours have risen;
Since the sails of Greece fell slack, no ships have sailed like ours;
How should we lament not, if her spirit sit in prison?
How should we rejoice not, if her wreaths renew their flowers?
All the world is sweeter, if the Athenian violet quicken:
All the world is brighter, if the Athenian sun return:
All things foul on earth wax fainter, by that sun’s light stricken:
All ill growths are withered, where those fragrant flower-lights burn.
All the wandering waves of seas with all their warring waters
Roll the record on for ever of the sea-fight there,
When the capes were battle’s lists, and all the straits were slaughter’s,
And the myriad Medes as foam-flakes on the scattering air.
Ours the lightning was that cleared the north and lit the nations,
But the light that gave the whole world light of old was she:
Ours an age or twain, but hers are endless generations:
All the world is hers at heart, and most of all are we.
Ye that bear the name about you of her glory, [Ant. I.
Men that wear the sign of Greeks upon you sealed,
Yours is yet the choice to write yourselves in story
Sons of them that fought the Marathonian field.
Slaves of no man were ye, said your warrior poet,
Neither subject unto man as underlings:
Yours is now the season here wherein to show it,
If the seed ye be of them that knew not kings.
If ye be not, swords nor words alike found brittle
From the dust of death to raise you shall prevail:
Subject swords and dead men’s words may stead you little,
If their old king-hating heart within you fail.
If your spirit of old, and not your bonds, be broken,
If the kingless heart be molten in your breasts,
By what signs and wonders, by what word or token,
Shall ye drive the vultures from your eagles’ nests?
All the gains of tyrants Freedom counts for losses;
Nought of all the work done holds she worth the work,
When the slaves whose faith is set on crowns and crosses
Drive the Cossack bear against the tiger Turk.
Neither cross nor crown nor crescent shall ye bow to,
Nought of Araby nor Jewry, priest nor king:
As your watchword was of old, so be it now too:
As from lips long stilled, from yours let healing spring.
Through the fights of old, your battle-cry was healing,
And the Saviour that ye called on was the Sun:
Dawn by dawn behold in heaven your God, revealing
Light from darkness as when Marathon was won.
Gods were yours yet strange to Turk or Galilean,
Light and Wisdom only then as gods adored:
Pallas was your shield, your comforter was Pæan,
From your bright world’s navel spake the Sun your Lord.
Though the names be lost, and changed the signs of Light and Wisdom be, [Ep. I.
By these only shall men conquer, by these only be set free:
When the whole world’s eye was Athens, these were yours, and theirs were ye.
Light was given you of your wisdom, light ye gave the world again:
As the sun whose godhead lightened on her soul was Hellas then:
Yea, the least of all her children as the chosen of other men.
Change your hearts not with your garments, nor your faith with creeds that change:
Truth was yours, the truth which time and chance transform not nor estrange:
Purer truth nor higher abides not in the reach of time’s whole range.
Gods are they in all men’s memories and for all time’s periods,
They that hurled the host back seaward which had scourged the sea with rods:
Gods for us are all your fathers, even the least of these as gods.
In the dark of days the thought of them is with us, strong to save,
They that had no lord, and made the Great King lesser than a slave;
They that rolled all Asia back on Asia, broken like a wave.
No man’s men were they, no master’s and no God’s but these their own:
Gods not loved in vain nor served amiss, nor all yet overthrown:
Love of country, Freedom, Wisdom, Light, and none save these alone.
King by king came up against them, sire and son, and turned to flee:
Host on host roared westward, mightier each than each, if more might be:
Field to field made answer, clamorous like as wave to wave at sea.
Strife to strife responded, loud as rocks to clangorous rocks respond
Where the deep rings wreck to seamen held in tempest’s thrall and bond,
Till when war’s bright work was perfect peace as radiant rose beyond:
Peace made bright with fruit of battle, stronger made for storm gone down,
With the flower of song held heavenward for the violet of her crown
Woven about the fragrant forehead of the fostress maiden’s town.
Gods arose alive on earth from under stroke of human hands:
As the hands that wrought them, these are dead, and mixed with time’s dead sands:
But the godhead of supernal song, though these now stand not, stands.
Pallas is not, Phœbus breathes no more in breathing brass or gold:
Clytæmnestra towers, Cassandra wails, for ever: Time is bold,
But nor heart nor hand hath he to unwrite the scriptures writ of old.
Dead the great chryselephantine God, as dew last evening shed:
Dust of earth or foam of ocean is the symbol of his head:
Earth and ocean shall be shadows when Prometheus shall be dead.
Fame around her warriors living rang through Greece and lightened, [Str. 2.
Moving equal with their stature, stately with their strength:
Thebes and Lacedæmon at their breathing presence brightened,
Sense or sound of them filled all the live land’s breadth and length.
All the lesser tribes put on the pure Athenian fashion,
One Hellenic heart was from the mountains to the sea:
Sparta’s bitter self grew sweet with high half-human passion,
And her dry thorns flushed aflower in strait Thermopylæ.
Fruitless yet the flowers had fallen, and all the deeds died fruitless,
Save that tongues of after men, the children of her peace,
Took the tale up of her glories, transient else and rootless,
And in ears and hearts of all men left the praise of Greece.
Fair the war-time was when still, as beacon answering beacon,
Sea to land flashed fight, and thundered note of wrath or cheer;
But the strength of noonday night hath power to waste and weaken,
Nor may light be passed from hand to hand of year to year
If the dying deed be saved not, ere it die for ever,
By the hands and lips of men more wise than years are strong;
If the soul of man take heed not that the deed die never,
Clothed about with purple and gold of story, crowned with song.
Still the burning heart of boy and man alike rejoices,
Hearing words which made it seem of old for all who sang
That their heaven of heavens waxed happier when from free men’s voices
Well-beloved Harmodius and Aristogeiton rang.
Never fell such fragrance from the flower-month’s rose-red kirtle
As from chaplets on the bright friends’ brows who slew their lord:
Greener grew the leaf and balmier blew the flower of myrtle
When its blossom sheathed the sheer tyrannicidal sword.
None so glorious garland crowned the feast Panathenæan
As this wreath too frail to fetter fast the Cyprian dove:
None so fiery song sprang sunwards annual as the pæan
Praising perfect love of friends and perfect country’s love.
Higher than highest of all those heavens wherefrom the starry [Ant. 2.
Song of Homer shone above the rolling fight,
Gleams like spring’s green bloom on boughs all gaunt and gnarry
Soft live splendour as of flowers of foam in flight,
Glows a glory of mild-winged maidens upward mounting
Sheer through air made shrill with strokes of smooth swift wings
Round the rocks beyond foot’s reach, past eyesight’s counting,
Up the cleft where iron wind of winter rings
Round a God fast clenched in iron jaws of fetters,
Him who culled for man the fruitful flower of fire,
Bared the darkling scriptures writ in dazzling letters,
Taught the truth of dreams deceiving men’s desire,
Gave their water-wandering chariot-seats of ocean
Wings, and bade the rage of war-steeds champ the rein,
Showed the symbols of the wild birds’ wheeling motion,
Waged for man’s sake war with God and all his train.
Earth, whose name was also Righteousness, a mother
Many-named and single-natured, gave him breath
Whence God’s wrath could wring but this word and none other—
He may smite me, yet he shall not do to death.
Him the tongue that sang triumphant while tormented
Sang as loud the sevenfold storm that roared erewhile
Round the towers of Thebes till wrath might rest contented:
Sang the flight from smooth soft-sanded banks of Nile,
When like mateless doves that fly from snare or tether
Came the suppliants landwards trembling as they trod,
And the prayer took wing from all their tongues together—
King of kings, most holy of holies blessed God.
But what mouth may chant again, what heart may know it,
All the rapture that all hearts of men put on
When of Salamis the time-transcending poet
Sang, whose hand had chased the Mede at Marathon?
Darker dawned the song with stormier wings above the watch-fire spread [Ep. 2.
Whence from Ida toward the hill of Hermes leapt the light that said
Troy was fallen, a torch funereal for the king’s triumphal head.
Dire indeed the birth of Leda’s womb that had God’s self to sire
Bloomed, a flower of love that stung the soul with fangs that gnaw like fire:
But the twin-born human-fathered sister-flower bore fruit more dire.
Scarce the cry that called on airy heaven and all swift winds on wing,
Wells of river-heads, and countless laugh of waves past reckoning,
Earth which brought forth all, and the orbed sun that looks on everything,
Scarce that cry fills yet men’s hearts more full of heart devouring dread
Than the murderous word said mocking, how the child whose blood he shed
Might clasp fast and kiss her father where the dead salute the dead.
But the latter note of anguish from the lips that mocked her lord,
When her son’s hand bared against the breast that suckled him his sword,
How might man endure, O Æschylus, to hear it and record?
How might man endure, being mortal yet, O thou most highest, to hear?
How record, being born of woman? Surely not thy Furies near,
Surely this beheld, this only, blasted hearts to death with fear.
Not the hissing hair, nor flakes of blood that oozed from eyes of fire,
Nor the snort of savage sleep that snuffed the hungering heart’s desire
Where the hunted prey found hardly space and harbour to respire;
She whose likeness called them—‘Sleep ye, ho? what need of you that sleep?’
(Ah, what need indeed, where she was, of all shapes that night may keep
Hidden dark as death and deeper than men’s dreams of hell are deep?)
She the murderess of her husband, she the huntress of her son,
More than ye was she, the shadow that no God withstands but one,
Wisdom equal-eyed and stronger and more splendid than the sun.
Yea, no God may stand betwixt us and the shadows of our deeds,
Nor the light of dreams that lighten darkness, nor the prayer that pleads,
But the wisdom equal-souled with heaven, the light alone that leads.
Light whose law bids home those childless children of eternal night,
Soothed and reconciled and mastered and transmuted in men’s sight
Who behold their own souls, clothed with darkness once, now clothed with light.
King of kings and father crowned of all our fathers crowned of yore,
Lord of all the lords of song, whose head all heads bow down before,
Glory be to thee from all thy sons in all tongues evermore.
Rose and vine and olive and deep ivy-bloom entwining [Str. 3.
Close the goodliest grave that e’er they closeliest might entwine
Keep the wind from wasting and the sun from too strong shining
Where the sound and light of sweetest songs still float and shine.
Here the music seems to illume the shade, the light to whisper
Song, the flowers to put not odours only forth, but words
Sweeter far than fragrance: here the wandering wreaths twine crisper
Far, and louder far exults the note of all wild birds.
Thoughts that change us, joys that crown and sorrows that enthrone us,
Passions that enrobe us with a clearer air than ours,
Move and breathe as living things beheld round white Colonus,
Audibler than melodies and visibler than flowers.
Love, in fight unconquered, Love, with spoils of great men laden,
Never sang so sweet from throat of woman or of dove:
Love, whose bed by night is in the soft cheeks of a maiden,
And his march is over seas, and low roofs lack not Love;
Nor may one of all that live, ephemeral or eternal,
Fly nor hide from Love; but whoso clasps him fast goes mad.
Never since the first-born year with flowers first-born grew vernal
Such a song made listening hearts of lovers glad or sad.
Never sounded note so radiant at the rayless portal
Opening wide on the all-concealing lowland of the dead
As the music mingling, when her doomsday marked her mortal,
From her own and old men’s voices round the bride’s way shed,
Round the grave her bride-house, hewn for endless habitation,
Where, shut out from sunshine, with no bridegroom by, she slept;
But beloved of all her dark and fateful generation,
But with all time’s tears and praise besprinkled and bewept:
Well-beloved of outcast father and self-slaughtered mother,
Born, yet unpolluted, of their blind incestuous bed;
Best-beloved of him for whose dead sake she died, her brother,
Hallowing by her own life’s gift her own born brother’s head:
Not with wine or oil nor any less libation [Ant. 3.
Hallowed, nor made sweet with humbler perfume’s breath;
Not with only these redeemed from desecration,
But with blood and spirit of life poured forth to death;
Blood unspotted, spirit unsullied, life devoted,
Sister too supreme to make the bride’s hope good,
Daughter too divine as woman to be noted,
Spouse of only death in mateless maidenhood.
Yea, in her was all the prayer fulfilled, the saying
All accomplished—Would that fate would let me wear
Hallowed innocence of words and all deeds, weighing
Well the laws thereof begot on holier air,
Far on high sublimely stablished, whereof only
Heaven is father; nor did birth of mortal mould
Bring them forth, nor shall oblivion lull to lonely
Slumber. Great in these is God, and grows not old.
Therefore even that inner darkness where she perished
Surely seems as holy and lovely, seen aright,
As desirable and as dearly to be cherished,
As the haunt closed in with laurels from the light,
Deep inwound with olive and wild vine inwoven,
Where a godhead known and unknown makes men pale,
But the darkness of the twilight noon is cloven
Still with shrill sweet moan of many a nightingale.
Closer clustering there they make sweet noise together,
Where the fearful gods look gentler than our fear,
And the grove thronged through with birds of holiest feather
Grows nor pale nor dumb with sense of dark things near.
There her father, called upon with signs of wonder,
Passed with tenderest words away by ways unknown,
Not by sea-storm stricken down, nor touched of thunder,
To the dark benign deep underworld, alone.
Third of three that ruled in Athens, kings with sceptral song for staff, [Ep. 3.
Gladdest heart that God gave ever milk and wine of thought to quaff,
Clearest eye that lightened ever to the broad lip’s lordliest laugh,
Praise be thine as theirs whose tragic brows the loftier leaf engirds
For the live and lyric lightning of thy honey-hearted words,
Soft like sunny dewy wings of clouds and bright as crying of birds;
Full of all sweet rays and notes that make of earth and air and sea
One great light and sound of laughter from one great God’s heart, to be
Sign and semblance of the gladness of man’s life where men breathe free.
With no Loxian sound obscure God uttered once, and all time heard,
All the soul of Athens, all the soul of England, in that word:
Rome arose the second child of freedom: northward rose the third.
Ere her Boreal dawn came kindling seas afoam and fields of snow,
Yet again, while Europe groaned and grovelled, shone like suns aglow
Doria splendid over Genoa, Venice bright with Dandolo.
Dead was Hellas, but Ausonia by the light of dead men’s deeds
Rose and walked awhile alive, though mocked as whom the fen-fire leads
By the creed-wrought faith of faithless souls that mock their doubts with creeds.
Dead are these, and man is risen again: and haply now the Three
Yet coequal and triune may stand in story, marked as free
By the token of the washing of the waters of the sea.
Athens first of all earth’s kindred many-tongued and many-kinned
Had the sea to friend and comfort, and for kinsman had the wind:
She that bare Columbus next: then she that made her spoil of Ind.
She that hears not what man’s rage but only what the sea-wind saith:
She that turned Spain’s ships to cloud-wrack at the blasting of her breath,
By her strengths of strong-souled children and of strong winds done to death.
North and south the Great King’s galleons went in Persian wise: and here
She, with Æschylean music on her lips that laughed back fear,
In the face of Time’s grey godhead shook the splendour of her spear.
Fair as Athens then with foot upon her foeman’s front, and strong
Even as Athens for redemption of the world from sovereign wrong,
Like as Athens crowned she stood before the sun with crowning song.
All the world is theirs with whom is freedom: first of all the free,
Blest are they whom song has crowned and clothed with blessing: these as we,
These alone have part in spirit with the sun that crowns the sea,
The Iliad: Book 4
Now the gods were sitting with Jove in council upon the golden floor
while Hebe went round pouring out nectar for them to drink, and as
they pledged one another in their cups of gold they looked down upon
the town of Troy. The son of Saturn then began to tease Juno,
talking at her so as to provoke her. "Menelaus," said he, "has two
good friends among the goddesses, Juno of Argos, and Minerva of
Alalcomene, but they only sit still and look on, while Venus keeps
ever by Alexandrus' side to defend him in any danger; indeed she has
just rescued him when he made sure that it was all over with him-
for the victory really did lie with Menelaus. We must consider what we
shall do about all this; shall we set them fighting anew or make peace
between them? If you will agree to this last Menelaus can take back
Helen and the city of Priam may remain still inhabited."
Minerva and Juno muttered their discontent as they sat side by
side hatching mischief for the Trojans. Minerva scowled at her father,
for she was in a furious passion with him, and said nothing, but
Juno could not contain herself. "Dread son of Saturn," said she,
"what, pray, is the meaning of all this? Is my trouble, then, to go
for nothing, and the sweat that I have sweated, to say nothing of my
horses, while getting the people together against Priam and his
children? Do as you will, but we other gods shall not all of us
approve your counsel."
Jove was angry and answered, "My dear, what harm have Priam and
his sons done you that you are so hotly bent on sacking the city of
Ilius? Will nothing do for you but you must within their walls and eat
Priam raw, with his sons and all the other Trojans to boot? Have it
your own way then; for I would not have this matter become a bone of
contention between us. I say further, and lay my saying to your heart,
if ever I want to sack a city belonging to friends of yours, you
must not try to stop me; you will have to let me do it, for I am
giving in to you sorely against my will. Of all inhabited cities under
the sun and stars of heaven, there was none that I so much respected
as Ilius with Priam and his whole people. Equitable feasts were
never wanting about my altar, nor the savour of burning fat, which
is honour due to ourselves."
"My own three favourite cities," answered Juno, "are Argos,
Sparta, and Mycenae. Sack them whenever you may be displeased with
them. I shall not defend them and I shall not care. Even if I did, and
tried to stay you, I should take nothing by it, for you are much
stronger than I am, but I will not have my own work wasted. I too am a
god and of the same race with yourself. I am Saturn's eldest daughter,
and am honourable not on this ground only, but also because I am
your wife, and you are king over the gods. Let it be a case, then,
of give-and-take between us, and the rest of the gods will follow
our lead. Tell Minerva to go and take part in the fight at once, and
let her contrive that the Trojans shall be the first to break their
oaths and set upon the Achaeans."
The sire of gods and men heeded her words, and said to Minerva,
"Go at once into the Trojan and Achaean hosts, and contrive that the
Trojans shall be the first to break their oaths and set upon the
This was what Minerva was already eager to do, so down she darted
from the topmost summits of Olympus. She shot through the sky as
some brilliant meteor which the son of scheming Saturn has sent as a
sign to mariners or to some great army, and a fiery train of light
follows in its wake. The Trojans and Achaeans were struck with awe
as they beheld, and one would turn to his neighbour, saying, "Either
we shall again have war and din of combat, or Jove the lord of
battle will now make peace between us."
Thus did they converse. Then Minerva took the form of Laodocus,
son of Antenor, and went through the ranks of the Trojans to find
Pandarus, the redoubtable son of Lycaon. She found him standing
among the stalwart heroes who had followed him from the banks of the
Aesopus, so she went close up to him and said, "Brave son of Lycaon,
will you do as I tell you? If you dare send an arrow at Menelaus you
will win honour and thanks from all the Trojans, and especially from
prince Alexandrus- he would be the first to requite you very
handsomely if he could see Menelaus mount his funeral pyre, slain by
an arrow from your hand. Take your home aim then, and pray to Lycian
Apollo, the famous archer; vow that when you get home to your strong
city of Zelea you will offer a hecatomb of firstling lambs in his
His fool's heart was persuaded, and he took his bow from its case.
This bow was made from the horns of a wild ibex which he had killed as
it was bounding from a rock; he had stalked it, and it had fallen as
the arrow struck it to the heart. Its horns were sixteen palms long,
and a worker in horn had made them into a bow, smoothing them well
down, and giving them tips of gold. When Pandarus had strung his bow
he laid it carefully on the ground, and his brave followers held their
shields before him lest the Achaeans should set upon him before he had
shot Menelaus. Then he opened the lid of his quiver and took out a
winged arrow that had yet been shot, fraught with the pangs of
death. He laid the arrow on the string and prayed to Lycian Apollo,
the famous archer, vowing that when he got home to his strong city
of Zelea he would offer a hecatomb of firstling lambs in his honour.
He laid the notch of the arrow on the oxhide bowstring, and drew
both notch and string to his breast till the arrow-head was near the
bow; then when the bow was arched into a half-circle he let fly, and
the bow twanged, and the string sang as the arrow flew gladly on
over the heads of the throng.
But the blessed gods did not forget thee, O Menelaus, and Jove's
daughter, driver of the spoil, was the first to stand before thee
and ward off the piercing arrow. She turned it from his skin as a
mother whisks a fly from off her child when it is sleeping sweetly;
she guided it to the part where the golden buckles of the belt that
passed over his double cuirass were fastened, so the arrow struck
the belt that went tightly round him. It went right through this and
through the cuirass of cunning workmanship; it also pierced the belt
beneath it, which he wore next his skin to keep out darts or arrows;
it was this that served him in the best stead, nevertheless the
arrow went through it and grazed the top of the skin, so that blood
began flowing from the wound.
As when some woman of Meonia or Caria strains purple dye on to a
piece of ivory that is to be the cheek-piece of a horse, and is to
be laid up in a treasure house- many a knight is fain to bear it,
but the king keeps it as an ornament of which both horse and driver
may be proud- even so, O Menelaus, were your shapely thighs and your
legs down to your fair ancles stained with blood.
When King Agamemnon saw the blood flowing from the wound he was
afraid, and so was brave Menelaus himself till he saw that the barbs
of the arrow and the thread that bound the arrow-head to the shaft
were still outside the wound. Then he took heart, but Agamemnon heaved
a deep sigh as he held Menelaus's hand in his own, and his comrades
made moan in concert. "Dear brother, "he cried, "I have been the death
of you in pledging this covenant and letting you come forward as our
champion. The Trojans have trampled on their oaths and have wounded
you; nevertheless the oath, the blood of lambs, the drink-offerings
and the right hands of fellowship in which have put our trust shall
not be vain. If he that rules Olympus fulfil it not here and now,
he. will yet fulfil it hereafter, and they shall pay dearly with their
lives and with their wives and children. The day will surely come when
mighty Ilius shall be laid low, with Priam and Priam's people, when
the son of Saturn from his high throne shall overshadow them with
his awful aegis in punishment of their present treachery. This shall
surely be; but how, Menelaus, shall I mourn you, if it be your lot now
to die? I should return to Argos as a by-word, for the Achaeans will
at once go home. We shall leave Priam and the Trojans the glory of
still keeping Helen, and the earth will rot your bones as you lie here
at Troy with your purpose not fulfilled. Then shall some braggart
Trojan leap upon your tomb and say, 'Ever thus may Agamemnon wreak his
vengeance; he brought his army in vain; he is gone home to his own
land with empty ships, and has left Menelaus behind him.' Thus will
one of them say, and may the earth then swallow me."
But Menelaus reassured him and said, "Take heart, and do not alarm
the people; the arrow has not struck me in a mortal part, for my outer
belt of burnished metal first stayed it, and under this my cuirass and
the belt of mail which the bronze-smiths made me."
And Agamemnon answered, "I trust, dear Menelaus, that it may be even
so, but the surgeon shall examine your wound and lay herbs upon it
to relieve your pain."
He then said to Talthybius, "Talthybius, tell Machaon, son to the
great physician, Aesculapius, to come and see Menelaus immediately.
Some Trojan or Lycian archer has wounded him with an arrow to our
dismay, and to his own great glory."
Talthybius did as he was told, and went about the host trying to
find Machaon. Presently he found standing amid the brave warriors
who had followed him from Tricca; thereon he went up to him and
said, "Son of Aesculapius, King Agamemnon says you are to come and see
Menelaus immediately. Some Trojan or Lycian archer has wounded him
with an arrow to our dismay and to his own great glory."
Thus did he speak, and Machaon was moved to go. They passed
through the spreading host of the Achaeans and went on till they
came to the place where Menelaus had been wounded and was lying with
the chieftains gathered in a circle round him. Machaon passed into the
middle of the ring and at once drew the arrow from the belt, bending
its barbs back through the force with which he pulled it out. He undid
the burnished belt, and beneath this the cuirass and the belt of
mail which the bronze-smiths had made; then, when he had seen the
wound, he wiped away the blood and applied some soothing drugs which
Chiron had given to Aesculapius out of the good will he bore him.
While they were thus busy about Menelaus, the Trojans came forward
against them, for they had put on their armour, and now renewed the
You would not have then found Agamemnon asleep nor cowardly and
unwilling to fight, but eager rather for the fray. He left his chariot
rich with bronze and his panting steeds in charge of Eurymedon, son of
Ptolemaeus the son of Peiraeus, and bade him hold them in readiness
against the time his limbs should weary of going about and giving
orders to so many, for he went among the ranks on foot. When he saw
men hasting to the front he stood by them and cheered them on.
"Argives," said he, "slacken not one whit in your onset; father Jove
will be no helper of liars; the Trojans have been the first to break
their oaths and to attack us; therefore they shall be devoured of
vultures; we shall take their city and carry off their wives and
children in our ships."
But he angrily rebuked those whom he saw shirking and disinclined to
fight. "Argives," he cried, "cowardly miserable creatures, have you no
shame to stand here like frightened fawns who, when they can no longer
scud over the plain, huddle together, but show no fight? You are as
dazed and spiritless as deer. Would you wait till the Trojans reach
the sterns of our ships as they lie on the shore, to see, whether
the son of Saturn will hold his hand over you to protect you?"
Thus did he go about giving his orders among the ranks. Passing
through the crowd, he came presently on the Cretans, arming round
Idomeneus, who was at their head, fierce as a wild boar, while
Meriones was bringing up the battalions that were in the rear.
Agamemnon was glad when he saw him, and spoke him fairly. "Idomeneus,"
said he, "I treat you with greater distinction than I do any others of
the Achaeans, whether in war or in other things, or at table. When the
princes are mixing my choicest wines in the mixing-bowls, they have
each of them a fixed allowance, but your cup is kept always full
like my own, that you may drink whenever you are minded. Go,
therefore, into battle, and show yourself the man you have been always
proud to be."
Idomeneus answered, "I will be a trusty comrade, as I promised you
from the first I would be. Urge on the other Achaeans, that we may
join battle at once, for the Trojans have trampled upon their
covenants. Death and destruction shall be theirs, seeing they have
been the first to break their oaths and to attack us."
The son of Atreus went on, glad at heart, till he came upon the
two Ajaxes arming themselves amid a host of foot-soldiers. As when a
goat-herd from some high post watches a storm drive over the deep
before the west wind- black as pitch is the offing and a mighty
whirlwind draws towards him, so that he is afraid and drives his flock
into a cave- even thus did the ranks of stalwart youths move in a dark
mass to battle under the Ajaxes, horrid with shield and spear. Glad
was King Agamemnon when he saw them. "No need," he cried, "to give
orders to such leaders of the Argives as you are, for of your own
selves you spur your men on to fight with might and main. Would, by
father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo that all were so minded as you are,
for the city of Priam would then soon fall beneath our hands, and we
should sack it."
With this he left them and went onward to Nestor, the facile speaker
of the Pylians, who was marshalling his men and urging them on, in
company with Pelagon, Alastor, Chromius, Haemon, and Bias shepherd
of his people. He placed his knights with their chariots and horses in
the front rank, while the foot-soldiers, brave men and many, whom he
could trust, were in the rear. The cowards he drove into the middle,
that they might fight whether they would or no. He gave his orders
to the knights first, bidding them hold their horses well in hand,
so as to avoid confusion. "Let no man," he said, "relying on his
strength or horsemanship, get before the others and engage singly with
the Trojans, nor yet let him lag behind or you will weaken your
attack; but let each when he meets an enemy's chariot throw his
spear from his own; this be much the best; this is how the men of
old took towns and strongholds; in this wise were they minded."
Thus did the old man charge them, for he had been in many a fight,
and King Agamemnon was glad. "I wish," he said to him, that your limbs
were as supple and your strength as sure as your judgment is; but age,
the common enemy of mankind, has laid his hand upon you; would that it
had fallen upon some other, and that you were still young."
And Nestor, knight of Gerene, answered, "Son of Atreus, I too
would gladly be the man I was when I slew mighty Ereuthalion; but
the gods will not give us everything at one and the same time. I was
then young, and now I am old; still I can go with my knights and
give them that counsel which old men have a right to give. The
wielding of the spear I leave to those who are younger and stronger
Agamemnon went his way rejoicing, and presently found Menestheus,
son of Peteos, tarrying in his place, and with him were the
Athenians loud of tongue in battle. Near him also tarried cunning
Ulysses, with his sturdy Cephallenians round him; they had not yet
heard the battle-cry, for the ranks of Trojans and Achaeans had only
just begun to move, so they were standing still, waiting for some
other columns of the Achaeans to attack the Trojans and begin the
fighting. When he saw this Agamemnon rebuked them and said, "Son of
Peteos, and you other, steeped in cunning, heart of guile, why stand
you here cowering and waiting on others? You two should be of all
men foremost when there is hard fighting to be done, for you are
ever foremost to accept my invitation when we councillors of the
Achaeans are holding feast. You are glad enough then to take your fill
of roast meats and to drink wine as long as you please, whereas now
you would not care though you saw ten columns of Achaeans engage the
enemy in front of you."
Ulysses glared at him and answered, "Son of Atreus, what are you
talking about? How can you say that we are slack? When the Achaeans
are in full fight with the Trojans, you shall see, if you care to do
so, that the father of Telemachus will join battle with the foremost
of them. You are talking idly."
When Agamemnon saw that Ulysses was angry, he smiled pleasantly at
him and withdrew his words. "Ulysses," said he, "noble son of Laertes,
excellent in all good counsel, I have neither fault to find nor orders
to give you, for I know your heart is right, and that you and I are of
a mind. Enough; I will make you amends for what I have said, and if
any ill has now been spoken may the gods bring it to nothing."
He then left them and went on to others. Presently he saw the son of
Tydeus, noble Diomed, standing by his chariot and horses, with
Sthenelus the son of Capaneus beside him; whereon he began to
upbraid him. "Son of Tydeus," he said, "why stand you cowering here
upon the brink of battle? Tydeus did not shrink thus, but was ever
ahead of his men when leading them on against the foe- so, at least,
say they that saw him in battle, for I never set eyes upon him myself.
They say that there was no man like him. He came once to Mycenae,
not as an enemy but as a guest, in company with Polynices to recruit
his forces, for they were levying war against the strong city of
Thebes, and prayed our people for a body of picked men to help them.
The men of Mycenae were willing to let them have one, but Jove
dissuaded them by showing them unfavourable omens. Tydeus,
therefore, and Polynices went their way. When they had got as far
the deep-meadowed and rush-grown banks of the Aesopus, the Achaeans
sent Tydeus as their envoy, and he found the Cadmeans gathered in
great numbers to a banquet in the house of Eteocles. Stranger though
he was, he knew no fear on finding himself single-handed among so
many, but challenged them to contests of all kinds, and in each one of
them was at once victorious, so mightily did Minerva help him. The
Cadmeans were incensed at his success, and set a force of fifty youths
with two captains- the godlike hero Maeon, son of Haemon, and
Polyphontes, son of Autophonus- at their head, to lie in wait for
him on his return journey; but Tydeus slew every man of them, save
only Maeon, whom he let go in obedience to heaven's omens. Such was
Tydeus of Aetolia. His son can talk more glibly, but he cannot fight
as his father did."
Diomed made no answer, for he was shamed by the rebuke of Agamemnon;
but the son of Capaneus took up his words and said, "Son of Atreus,
tell no lies, for you can speak truth if you will. We boast
ourselves as even better men than our fathers; we took seven-gated
Thebes, though the wall was stronger and our men were fewer in number,
for we trusted in the omens of the gods and in the help of Jove,
whereas they perished through their own sheer folly; hold not, then,
our fathers in like honour with us."
Diomed looked sternly at him and said, "Hold your peace, my
friend, as I bid you. It is not amiss that Agamemnon should urge the
Achaeans forward, for the glory will be his if we take the city, and
his the shame if we are vanquished. Therefore let us acquit
ourselves with valour."
As he spoke he sprang from his chariot, and his armour rang so
fiercely about his body that even a brave man might well have been
scared to hear it.
As when some mighty wave that thunders on the beach when the west
wind has lashed it into fury- it has reared its head afar and now
comes crashing down on the shore; it bows its arching crest high
over the jagged rocks and spews its salt foam in all directions-
even so did the serried phalanxes of the Danaans march steadfastly
to battle. The chiefs gave orders each to his own people, but the
men said never a word; no man would think it, for huge as the host
was, it seemed as though there was not a tongue among them, so
silent were they in their obedience; and as they marched the armour
about their bodies glistened in the sun. But the clamour of the Trojan
ranks was as that of many thousand ewes that stand waiting to be
milked in the yards of some rich flockmaster, and bleat incessantly in
answer to the bleating of their lambs; for they had not one speech nor
language, but their tongues were diverse, and they came from many
different places. These were inspired of Mars, but the others by
Minerva- and with them came Panic, Rout, and Strife whose fury never
tires, sister and friend of murderous Mars, who, from being at first
but low in stature, grows till she uprears her head to heaven,
though her feet are still on earth. She it was that went about among
them and flung down discord to the waxing of sorrow with even hand
When they were got together in one place shield clashed with
shield and spear with spear in the rage of battle. The bossed
shields beat one upon another, and there was a tramp as of a great
multitude- death-cry and shout of triumph of slain and slayers, and
the earth ran red with blood. As torrents swollen with rain course
madly down their deep channels till the angry floods meet in some
gorge, and the shepherd the hillside hears their roaring from afar-
even such was the toil and uproar of the hosts as they joined in
First Antilochus slew an armed warrior of the Trojans, Echepolus,
son of Thalysius, fighting in the foremost ranks. He struck at the
projecting part of his helmet and drove the spear into his brow; the
point of bronze pierced the bone, and darkness veiled his eyes;
headlong as a tower he fell amid the press of the fight, and as he
dropped King Elephenor, son of Chalcodon and captain of the proud
Abantes began dragging him out of reach of the darts that were falling
around him, in haste to strip him of his armour. But his purpose was
not for long; Agenor saw him haling the body away, and smote him in
the side with his bronze-shod spear- for as he stooped his side was
left unprotected by his shield- and thus he perished. Then the fight
between Trojans and Achaeans grew furious over his body, and they flew
upon each other like wolves, man and man crushing one upon the other.
Forthwith Ajax, son of Telamon, slew the fair youth Simoeisius,
son of Anthemion, whom his mother bore by the banks of the Simois,
as she was coming down from Mt. Ida, where she had been with her
parents to see their flocks. Therefore he was named Simoeisius, but he
did not live to pay his parents for his rearing, for he was cut off
untimely by the spear of mighty Ajax, who struck him in the breast
by the right nipple as he was coming on among the foremost fighters;
the spear went right through his shoulder, and he fell as a poplar
that has grown straight and tall in a meadow by some mere, and its top
is thick with branches. Then the wheelwright lays his axe to its roots
that he may fashion a felloe for the wheel of some goodly chariot, and
it lies seasoning by the waterside. In such wise did Ajax fell to
earth Simoeisius, son of Anthemion. Thereon Antiphus of the gleaming
corslet, son of Priam, hurled a spear at Ajax from amid the crowd
and missed him, but he hit Leucus, the brave comrade of Ulysses, in
the groin, as he was dragging the body of Simoeisius over to the other
side; so he fell upon the body and loosed his hold upon it. Ulysses
was furious when he saw Leucus slain, and strode in full armour
through the front ranks till he was quite close; then he glared
round about him and took aim, and the Trojans fell back as he did
so. His dart was not sped in vain, for it struck Democoon, the bastard
son of Priam, who had come to him from Abydos, where he had charge
of his father's mares. Ulysses, infuriated by the death of his
comrade, hit him with his spear on one temple, and the bronze point
came through on the other side of his forehead. Thereon darkness
veiled his eyes, and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell
heavily to the ground. Hector, and they that were in front, then
gave round while the Argives raised a shout and drew off the dead,
pressing further forward as they did so. But Apollo looked down from
Pergamus and called aloud to the Trojans, for he was displeased.
"Trojans," he cried, "rush on the foe, and do not let yourselves be
thus beaten by the Argives. Their skins are not stone nor iron that
when hit them you do them no harm. Moreover, Achilles, the son of
lovely Thetis, is not fighting, but is nursing his anger at the
Thus spoke the mighty god, crying to them from the city, while
Jove's redoubtable daughter, the Trito-born, went about among the host
of the Achaeans, and urged them forward whenever she beheld them
Then fate fell upon Diores, son of Amarynceus, for he was struck
by a jagged stone near the ancle of his right leg. He that hurled it
was Peirous, son of Imbrasus, captain of the Thracians, who had come
from Aenus; the bones and both the tendons were crushed by the
pitiless stone. He fell to the ground on his back, and in his death
throes stretched out his hands towards his comrades. But Peirous,
who had wounded him, sprang on him and thrust a spear into his
belly, so that his bowels came gushing out upon the ground, and
darkness veiled his eyes. As he was leaving the body, Thoas of Aetolia
struck him in the chest near the nipple, and the point fixed itself in
his lungs. Thoas came close up to him, pulled the spear out of his
chest, and then drawing his sword, smote him in the middle of the
belly so that he died; but he did not strip him of his armour, for his
Thracian comrades, men who wear their hair in a tuft at the top of
their heads, stood round the body and kept him off with their long
spears for all his great stature and valour; so he was driven back.
Thus the two corpses lay stretched on earth near to one another, the
one captain of the Thracians and the other of the Epeans; and many
another fell round them.
And now no man would have made light of the fighting if he could
have gone about among it scatheless and unwounded, with Minerva
leading him by the hand, and protecting him from the storm of spears
and arrows. For many Trojans and Achaeans on that day lay stretched
side by side face downwards upon the earth.
EVEN thus. I pause to write it out at length,
The letter of the Lady Waldemar.–
'I prayed your cousin Leigh to take you this,
He says he'll do it. After years of love,
Or what is called so,–when a woman frets
And fools upon one string of a man's name,
And fingers it for ever till it breaks,–
He may perhaps do for her such thing,
And she accept it without detriment
Although she should not love him any more
And I, who do not love him, nor love you,
Nor you, Aurora,–choose you shall repent
Your most ungracious letter, and confess,
Constrained by his convictions, (he's convinced)
You've wronged me foully. Are you made so ill,
You woman–to impute such ill to me?
We both had mothers,–lay in their bosom once.
Why, after all, I thank you, Aurora Leigh,
For proving to myself that there are things
I would not do, . . not for my life . . nor him . .
Though something I have somewhat overdone,–
For instance, when I went to see the gods
One morning, on Olympus, with a step
That shook the thunder in a certain cloud,
Committing myself vilely. Could I think,
The Muse I pulled my heart out from my breast
To soften, had herself a sort of heart,
And loved my mortal? He, at least, loved her;
I heard him say so; 'twas my recompence,
When, watching at his bedside fourteen days,
He broke out ever like a flame at whiles
Between the heats of fever . . . 'Is it thou?
'Breathe closer, sweetest mouth!' and when at last
The fever gone, the wasted face extinct
As if it irked him much to know me there,
He said, Twas kind, 'twas good, 'twas womanly,'
(And fifty praises to excuse one love)
'But was the picture safe he had ventured for?'
And then, half wandering . . 'I have loved her well,
Although she could not love me.'–'Say instead,'
I answered, 'that she loves you.'–'Twas my turn
To rave: (I would have married him so changed,
Although the world had jeered me properly
For taking up with Cupid at his worst,
The silver quiver worn off on his hair.)
'No, no,' he murmured, 'no, she loves me not;
'Aurora Leigh does better: bring her book
'And read it softly, Lady Waldemar,
'Until I thank your friendship more for that,
'Than even for harder service.' So I read
Your book, Aurora, for an hour, that day:
I kept its pauses, marked its emphasis;
My voice, empaled upon rhyme's golden hooks,
Not once would writhe, nor quiver, nor revolt;
I read on calmly,–calmly shut it up,
Observing, 'There's some merit in the book.
'And yet the merit in't is thrown away
'As chances still with women, if we write
'Or write not: we want string to tie our flowers,
'So drop them as we walk, which serves to show
'The way we went. Good morning, Mister Leigh;
'You'll find another reader the next time.
'A woman who does better than to love,
'I hate; she will do nothing very well:
'Male poets are preferable, tiring less
'And teaching more.' I triumphed o'er you both,
And left him.
' When I saw him afterward,
I had read your shameful letter, and my heart.
He came with health recovered, strong though pale
Lord Howe and he, a courteous pair of friends,
To say what men dare say to women, when
Their debtors. But I stopped them with a word;
And proved I had never trodden such a road,
To carry so much dirt upon my shoe.
Then, putting into it something of disdain,
I asked forsooth his pardon, and my own,
For having done no better than to love,
And that, not wisely,–though 'twas long ago,
And though 'twas altered perfectly since then.
I told him, as I tell you now, Miss Leigh,
And proved I took some trouble for his sake
(Because I know he did not love the girl)
To spoil my hands with working in the stream
Of that poor bubbling nature,–till she went,
Consigned to one I trusted, my own maid,
Who once had lived full five months in my house,
(Dressed hair superbly) with lavish purse
To carry to Australia where she had left
A husband, said she. If the creature lied,
The mission failed, we all do fail and lie
More or less–and I'm sorry–which is all
Expected from us when we fail the most,
And go to church to own it. What I meant,
Was just the best for him, and me, and her . .
Best even for Marian!–I am sorry for't,
And very sorry. Yet my creature said
She saw her stop to speak in Oxford Street
To one . . no matter! I had sooner cut
My hand off (though 'twere kissed the hour before,
And promised a pearl troth-ring for the next)
Than crush her silly head with so much wrong.
Poor child! I would have mended it with gold,
Until it gleamed like St. Sophia's dome
When all the faithful troop to morning prayer:
But he, he nipped the bud of such a thought
With that cold Leigh look which I fancied once,
And broke in, 'Henceforth she was called his wife.
'His wife required no succour: he was bound
'To Florence, to resume this broken bond:
'Enough so. Both were happy, he and Howe,
'To acquit me of the heaviest charge of all–'
–At which I shut my tongue against my fly
And struck him; 'Would he carry,–he was just,–
'A letter from me to Aurora Leigh,
'And ratify from his authentic mouth
'My answer to her accusation?'–'Yes,
'If such a letter were prepared in time.'
–He's just, your cousin,–ay, abhorrently.
He'd wash his hands in blood, to keep them clean.
And so, cold, courteous, a mere gentleman,
He bowed, we parted.
'Parted. Face no more,
Voice no more, love no more! wiped wholly out,
Like some ill scholar's scrawl from heart and slate,–
Ay, spit on and so wiped out utterly
By some coarse scholar! I have been too coarse,
Too human. Have we business, in our rank,
With blood i' the veins? I will have henceforth none;
Not even keep the colour at my lip.
A rose is pink and pretty without blood;
Why not a woman? When we've played in vain
The game, to adore,–we have resources still,
And can play on at leisure, being adored:
Here's Smith already swearing at my feet
That I'm the typic She. Away with Smith!–
Smith smacks of Leigh,–and henceforth, I'll admit
No socialist within three crinolines,
To live and have his being. But for you,
Though insolent your letter and absurd,
And though I hate you frankly,–take my Smith!
For when you have seen this famous marriage tied,
A most unspotted Erle to a noble Leigh,
(His love astray on one he should not love)
Howbeit–beware, you should not want his love,
You'll want some comfort. So I leave you Smith;
Take Smith!–he talks Leigh's subjects, somewhat worse;
Adopts a thought of Leigh's, and dwindles it;
Goes leagues beyond, to be no inch behind;
Will mind you of him, as a shoe-string may,
Of a man: and women, when they are made like you,
Grow tender to a shoe-string, foot-print even,
Adore averted shoulders in a glass,
And memories of what, present once, was loathed.
And yet, you loathed not Romney,–though you've played
At 'fox and goose' about him with your soul:
Pass over fox, you rub out fox,–ignore
A feeling, you eradicate it,–the act's
'I wish you joy, Miss Leigh.
You've made a happy marriage for your friend;
And all the honour, well-assorted love,
Derives from you who love him, whom he loves!
You need not wish me joy to think of it,
I have so much. Observe, Aurora Leigh,
Your droop of eyelid is the same as his,
And, but for you, I might have won his love,
And, to you, I have shown my naked heart,–
For which three things I hate, hate, hate you. Hush,
Suppose a fourth!–I cannot choose but think
That, with him, I were virtuouser than you
Without him: so I hate you from this gulph
And hollow of my soul, which opens out
To what, except for you, had been my heaven,
And is instead, a place to curse by! LOVE.'
An active kind of curse. I stood there cursed–
Confounded. I had seized and caught the sense
Of the letter with its twenty stinging snakes,
In a moment's sweep of eyesight, and I stood
Dazed.–'Ah! not married,'
'You mistake,' he said;
'I'm married. Is not Marian Erle my wife?
As God sees things, I have a wife and child;
And I, as I'm a man who honours God,
Am here to claim my child and wife.'
I felt it hard to breathe, much less to speak.
Nor word of mine was needed. Some one else
Was there for answering. 'Romney,' she began,
'My great good angel, Romney.'
Then at first,
I knew that Marian Erle was beautiful.
She stood there, still and pallid as a saint,
Dilated, like a saint in ecstasy,
As if the floating moonshine interposed
Betwixt her foot and the earth, and raised her up
To float upon it. 'I had left my child,
Who sleeps,' she said, 'and, having drawn this way,
I heard you speaking, . . friend!–Confirm me now.
You take this Marian, such as wicked men
Have made her, for your honourable wife?'
The thrilling, solemn, proud, pathetic voice.
He stretched his arms out toward the thrilling voice,
As if to draw it on to his embrace.
–'I take her as God made her, and as men
Must fail to unmake her, as my honoured wife.'
She never raised her eyes, nor took a step,
But stood there in her place, and spoke again.
–'You take this Marian's child, which is her shame
In sight of men and women, for your child,
Of whom you will not ever feel ashamed?'
The thrilling, tender, proud, pathetic voice.
He stepped on toward it, still with outstretched arms,
As if to quench upon his breast that voice.
–'May God so father me, as I do him
And so forsake me as I let him feel
He's orphaned haply. Here I take the child
To share my cup, to slumber on my knee,
To play his loudest gambol at my foot,
To hold my finger in the public ways,
Till none shall need inquire, 'Whose child is this,'
The gesture saying so tenderly, 'My own.
She stood a moment silent in her place;
Then, turning toward me, very slow and cold–
–'And you,–what say you?–will you blame me much,
If, careful for that outcast child of mine
I catch this hand that's stretched to me and him
Nor dare to leave him friendless in the world
Where men have stoned me? Have I not the right
To take so mere an aftermath from life,
Else found so wholly bare? Or is it wrong
To let your cousin, for a generous bent,
Put out his ungloved fingers among briars
To set a tumbling bird's-nest somewhat straight?
You will not tell him, though we're innocent
We are not harmless? . . and that both our harms
Will stick to his good smooth noble life like burrs,
Never to drop off though you shake the cloak?
You've been my friend: you will not now be his?
You've known him, that he's worthy of a friend;
And you're his cousin, lady, after all,
And therefore more than free to take his part,
Explaining, since the nest is surely spoilt,
And Marian what you know her,–though a wife,
The world would hardly understand her case
Of being just hurt and honest; while for him,
'Twould ever twit him with his bastard child
And married Harlot. Speak, while yet there's time:
You would not stand and let a good man's dog
Turn round and rend him, because his, and reared
Of a generous breed,–and will you let his act,
Because it's generous? Speak. I'm bound to you,
And I'll be bound by only you, in this.'
The thrilling, solemn voice, so passionless,
Sustained, yet low, without a rise or fall,
As one who had authority to speak,
And not as Marian.
I looked up to feel
If God stood near me and beheld his heaven
As blue as Aaron's priestly robe appeared
To Aaron when he took it off to die.
And then I spoke–'Accept the gift, I say,
My sister Marian, and be satisfied.
The hand that gives has still a soul behind
Which will not let it quail for having given,
Though foolish worldlings talk they know not what,
Of what they know not. Romney's strong enough
For this: do you be strong to know he's strong:
He stands on Right's side; never flinch for him,
As if he stood on the other. You'll be bound
By me? I am a woman of repute;
No fly-blow gossip ever specked my life;
My name is clean and open as this hand,
Whose glove there's not a man dares blab about
As if he had touched it freely:–here's my hand
To clasp your hand, my Marian, owned as pure!
As pure,–I'm a woman and a Leigh!–
And, as I'm both, I'll witness to the world
That Romney Leigh is honoured in his choice,
Who chooses Marian for his honoured wife.'
Her broad wild woodland eyes shot out a light;
Her smile was wonderful for rapture. 'Thanks,
My great Aurora.' Forward then she sprang,
And dropping her impassioned spaniel head
With all its brown abandonment of curls
On Romney's feet, we heard the kisses drawn
Through sobs upon the foot, upon the ground–
'O Romney! O my angel! O unchanged,
Though, since we've parted, I have passed the grave!
But Death itself could only better thee, ,
Not change thee!–Thee I do not thank at all:
I but thank God who made thee what thou art,
So wholly godlike.'
When he tried in vain
To raise her to his embrace, escaping thence
As any leaping fawn from a huntsman's grasp,
She bounded off and 'lighted beyond reach,
Before him with a staglike majesty
Of soft, serene defiance,–as she knew
He could not touch her, so was tolerant
He had cared to try. She stood there with her great
Drowned eyes, and dripping cheeks, and strange sweet smile
That lived through all, as if one held a light
Across a waste of waters,–shook her head
To keep some thoughts down deeper in her soul,–
Then, white and tranquil as a summer-cloud
Which, having rained itself to a tardy peace,
Stands still in heaven as if it ruled the day,
Spoke out again–'Although, my generous friend,
Since last we met and parted, you're unchanged,
And, having promised faith to Marian Erle,
Maintain it, as she were not changed at all;
And though that's worthy, though that's full of balm
To any conscious spirit of a girl
Who once has loved you as I loved you once,–
Yet still it will not make her . . if she's dead,
And gone away where none can give or take
In marriage,–able to revive, return
And wed you,–will, it Romney? Here's the point;
O friend, we'll see it plainer: you and I
Must never, never, never join hands so.
Nay, let me say it,–for I said it first
To God, and placed it, rounded to an oath,
Far, far above the moon there, at His feet,
As surely as I wept just now at yours,–
We never, never, never join hands so.
And now, be patient with me; do not think
I'm speaking from a false humility.
The truth is, I am grown so proud with grief,
And He has said so often through his nights
And through his mornings, 'Weep a little still,
'Thou foolish Marian, because women must,
'But do not blush at all except for sin,'–
That I, who felt myself unworthy once
Of virtuous Romney and his high-born race,
Have come to learn, . . a woman poor or rich,
Despised or honoured, is a human soul;
And what her soul is,–that, she is herself,
Although she should be spit upon of men,
As is the pavement of the churches here,
Still good enough to pray in. And, being chaste
And honest, and inclined to do the right,
And love the truth, and live my life out green
And smooth beneath his steps, I should not fear
To make him, thus, a less uneasy time
Than many a happier woman. Very proud
You see me. Pardon, that I set a trap
To hear a confirmation in your voice . .
Both yours and yours. It is so good to know
'Twas really God who said the same before:
For thus it is in heaven, that first God speaks,
And then his angels. Oh, it does me good,
It wipes me clean and sweet from devil's dirt,
That Romney Leigh should think me worthy still
Of being his true and honourable wife!
Henceforth I need not say, on leaving earth,
I had no glory in it. For the rest,
The reason's ready (master, angel, friend,
Be patient with me) wherefore you and I
Can never, never, never join hands so.
I know you'll not be angry like a man
(For you are none) when I shall tell the truth,–
Which is, I do not love you, Romney Leigh,
I do not love you. Ah well! catch my hands,
Miss Leigh, and burn into my eyes with yours,–
I swear I do not love him. Did I once?
'Tis said that women have been bruised to death,
And yet, if once they loved, that love of theirs
Could never be drained out with all their blood:
I've heard such things and pondered. Did I indeed
Love once? or did I only worship? Yes,
Perhaps, O friend, I set you up so high
Above all actual good or hope of good,
Or fear of evil, all that could be mine,
I haply set you above love itself,
And out of reach of these poor woman's arms,
Angelic Romney. What was in my thought?
To be your slave, your help, your toy, your tool.
To be your love . . I never thought of that.
To give you love . . still less. I gave you love?
I think I did not give you anything;
I was but only yours,–upon my knees,
All yours, in soul and body, in head and heart,–
A creature you had taken from the ground,
Still crumbling through your fingers to your feet
To join the dust she came from. Did I love,
Or did I worship? judge, Aurora Leigh!
But, if indeed I loved, 'twas long ago,–
So long! before the sun and moon were made,
Before the hells were open,–ah, before
I heard my child cry in the desert night,
And knew he had no father. It may be,
I'm not as strong as other women are,
Who, torn and crushed, are not undone from love.
It may be, I am colder than the dead,
Who, being dead, love always. But for me
Once killed, . . this ghost of Marian loves no more,
No more . . except the child! . . no more at all.
I told your cousin, sir, that I was dead;
And now, she thinks I'll get up from my grave,
And wear my chin-cloth for a wedding-veil,
And glide along the churchyard like a bride,
While all the dead keep whispering through the withes,
'You would be better in your place with us,
'You pitiful corruption!' At the thought,
The damps break out on me like leprosy,
Although I'm clean. Ay, clean as Marian Erle:
As Marian Leigh, I know, I were not clean:
I have not so much life that I should love,
. . Except the child. Ah God! I could not bear
To see my darling on a good man's knees,
And know by such a look, or such a sigh,
Or such a silence, that he thought sometimes,
'This child was fathered by some cursed wretch' . .
For, Romney,–angels are less tender-wise
Than God and mothers: even you would think
What we think never. He is ours, the child;
And we would sooner vex a soul in heaven
By coupling with it the dead body's thought,
It left behind it in a last month's grave,
Than, in my child, see other than . . my child.
We only, never call him fatherless
Who has God and his mother. O my babe,
My pretty, pretty blossom, an ill-wind
Once blew upon my breast! can any think
I'd have another,–one called happier,
A fathered child, with father's love and race
That's worn as bold and open as a smile,
To vex my darling when he's asked his name
And has no answer? What! a happier child
Than mine, my best,–who laughed so loud to-night
He could not sleep for pastime? Nay, I swear
By life and love, that, if I lived like some,
And loved like . . some . . ay, loved you, Romney Leigh,
As some love (eyes that have wept so much, see clear),
I've room for no more children in my arms;
My kisses are all melted on one mouth;
I would not push my darling to a stool
To dandle babies. Here's a hand, shall keep
For ever clean without a marriage-ring,
To tend my boy, until he cease to need
One steadying finger of it, and desert
(Not miss) his mother's lap, to sit with men.
And when I miss him (not he me) I'll come
And say, 'Now give me some of Romney's work,
To help your outcast orphans of the world,
And comfort grief with grief.' For you, meantime,
Most noble Romney, wed a noble wife,
And open on each other your great souls,–
I need not farther bless you. If I dared
But strain and touch her in her upper sphere,
And say, 'Come down to Romney–pay my debt!
I should be joyful with the stream of joy
Sent through me. But the moon is in my face . .
I dare not,–though I guess the name he loves;
I'm learned with my studies of old days,
Remembering how he crushed his under-lip
When some one came and spoke, or did not come.
Aurora, I could touch her with my hand,
And fly, because I dare not.'
She was gone.
He smiled so sternly that I spoke in haste.
'Forgive her–she sees clearly for herself:
Her instinct's holy.'
'I forgive?' he said,
'I only marvel how she sees so sure,
While others' . . there he paused,–then hoarse, abrupt,–
'Aurora, you forgive us, her and me?
For her, the thing she sees, poor loyal child,
If once corrected by the thing I know,
Had been unspoken; since she loves you well,
Has leave to love you:–while for me, alas,
If once or twice I let my heart escape
This night, . . remember, where hearts slip and fall
They break beside: we're parting,–parting,–ah,
You do not love, that you should surely know
What that word means. Forgive, be tolerant;
It had not been, but that I felt myself
So safe in impuissance and despair,
I could not hurt you though I tossed my arms
And sighed my soul out. The most utter wretch
Will choose his postures when he comes to die,
However in the presence of a queen:
And you'll forgive me some unseemly spasms
Which meant no more than dying. Do you think
I had ever come here in my perfect mind,
Unless I had come here, in my settled mind,
Bound Marian's, bound to keep the bond, and give
My name, my house, my hand, the things I could,
To Marian! For even I could give as much;
Even I, affronting her exalted soul
By a supposition that she wanted these,
Could act the husband's coat and hat set up
To creak i' the wind and drive the world-crows off
From pecking in her garden. Straw can fill
A hole to keep out vermin. Now, at last,
I own heaven's angels round her life suffice
To fight the rats of our society,
Without this Romney: I can see it at last;
And here is ended my pretension which
The most pretended. Over-proud of course,
Even so!–but not so stupid . . blind . . that I,
Whom thus the great Taskmaster of the world
Has set to meditate mistaken work,
My dreary face against a dim blank wall
Throughout man's natural lifetime,–could pretend
Or wish . . O love, I have loved you! O my soul,
I have lost you!–but I swear by all yourself,
And all you might have been to me these years,
If that June-morning had not failed my hope,–
I'm not so bestial, to regret that day
This night,–this night, which still to you is fair;
Nay, not so blind, Aurora. I attest
Those stars above us, which I cannot see . . . '
'You cannot.' . .
' That if Heaven itself should stoop,
Remit the lots, and give me another chance,
I'd say, 'No other!'–I'd record my blank.
Aurora never should be wife of mine.'
'Not see the stars?'
Tis worse still, not to see
To find your hand, although we're parting, dear.
A moment let me hold it, ere we part:
And understand my last words–these at last!
I would not have you thinking, when I'm gone,
That Romney dared to hanker for your love,
In thought or vision, if attainable,
(Which certainly for me it never was)
And wish to use it for a dog to-day,
To help the blind man stumbling. God forbid!
And now I know he held you in his palm,
And kept you open-eyed to all my faults,
To save you at last from such a dreary end.
Believe me, dear, that if I had known, like Him,
What loss was coming on me, I had done
As well in this as He has.–Farewell, you,
Who are still my light,–farewell! How late it is:
I know that, now: you've been too patient, sweet.
I will but blow my whistle toward the lane,
And some one comes . . the same who brought me here.
Get in–Good night.'
'A moment. Heavenly Christ!
A moment. Speak once, Romney. 'Tis not true.
I hold your hands, I look into your face–
You see me?'
'No more than the blessed stars.
Be blessed too, Aurora. Ah, my sweet,
You tremble. Tender-hearted! Do you mind
Of yore, dear, how you used to cheat old John,
And let the mice out slyly from his traps,
Until he marvelled at the soul in mice
Which took the cheese and left the snare? The same
Dear soft heart always! 'Twas for this I grieved
Howe's letter never reached you. Ah, you had heard
Of illness,–not the issue . . not the extent:
My life long sick with tossings up and down;
The sudden revulsion in the blazing house,–
The strain and struggle both of body and soul,
Which left fire running in my veins, for blood:
Scarce lacked that thunderbolt of the falling beam,
Which nicked me on the forehead as I passed
The gallery door with a burden. Say heaven's bolt,
Not William Erle's; not Marian's father's; tramp
And poacher, whom I found for what he was,
And, eager for her sake to rescue him,
Forth swept from the open highway of the world,
Road-dust and all,–till, like a woodland boar
Most naturally unwilling to be tamed,
He notched me with his tooth. But not a word
To Marian! and I do not think, besides,
He turned the tilting of the beam my way,–
And if he laughed, as many swear, poor wretch,
Nor he nor I supposed the hurt so deep.
We'll hope his next laugh may be merrier,
In a better cause.'
' Ah, my friend,
You'll learn to say it in a cheerful voice.
I, too, at first desponded. To be blind,
Turned out of nature, mulcted as a man,
Refused the daily largesse of the sun
To humble creatures! When the fever's heat
Dropped from me, as the flame did from my house,
And left me ruined like it, stripped of all
The hues and shapes of aspectable life,
A mere bare blind stone in the blaze of day,
A man, upon the outside of the earth,
As dark as ten feet under, in the grave,–
Why that seemed hard.'
'A tear! you weep,
Divine Aurora? tears upon my hand!
I've seen you weeping for a mouse, a bird,–
But, weep for me, Aurora? Yes, there's hope.
Not hope of sight,–I could be learned, dear,
And tell you in what Greek and Latin name
The visual nerve is withered to the root,
Though the outer eyes appear indifferent,
Unspotted in their crystals. But there's hope.
The spirit, from behind this dethroned sense,
Sees, waits in patience till the walls break up
From which the bas-relief and fresco have dropt.
There's hope. The man here, once so arrogant
And restless, so ambitious, for his part,
Of dealing with statistically packed
Disorders, (from a pattern on his nail,)
And packing such things quite another way,–
Is now contented. From his personal loss
He has come to hope for others when they lose,
And wear a gladder faith in what we gain . .
Through bitter experience, compensation sweet,
Like that tear, sweetest. I am quiet now,–
As tender surely for the suffering world,
But quiet,–sitting at the wall to learn,
Content, henceforth, to do the thing I can:
For, though as powerless, said I, as a stone,
A stone can still give shelter to a worm,
And it is worth while being a stone for that:
There's hope, Aurora.'
' Is there hope for me?
For me?–and is there room beneath the stone
For such a worm?–And if I came and said . .
What all this weeping scarce will let me say,
And yet what women cannot say at all,
But weeping bitterly . . (the pride keeps up,
Until the heart breaks under it) . . I love,–
I love you, Romney' . . .
'Silence!' he exclaimed,
'A woman's pity sometimes makes her mad.
A man's distraction must not cheat his soul
To take advantage of it. Yet, 'tis hard–
'But I love you, sir:
And when a woman says she loves a man,
The man must hear her, though he love her not.
Which . . hush! . . he has leave to answer in his turn;
She will not surely blame him. As for me,
You call it pity,–think I'm generous?
'Twere somewhat easier, for a woman proud,
As I am, and I'm very vilely proud,
To let it pass as such, and press on you
Love born of pity,–seeing that excellent loves
Are born so, often, nor the quicklier die,–
And this would set me higher by the head
Than now I stand. No matter: let the truth
Stand high: Aurora must be humble: no,
My love's not pity merely. Obviously
I'm not a generous woman, never was.
Or else, of old, I had not looked so near
To weights and measures, grudging you the power
To give, as first I scorned your power to judge
For me, Aurora: I would have no gifts
Forsooth, but God's,–and I would use them, too,
According to my pleasure and my choice,
As He and I were equals,–you, below,
Excluded from that level of interchange
Admitting benefaction. You were wrong
In much? you said so. I was wrong in most.
Oh, most! You only thought to rescue men
By half-means, half-way, seeing half their wants,
While thinking nothing of your personal gain.
But I who saw the human nature broad,
At both sides, comprehending, too, the soul's,
And all the high necessities of Art,
Betrayed the thing I saw, and wronged my own life
For which I pleaded. Passioned to exalt
The artist's instinct in me at the cost
Of putting down the woman's–I forgot
No perfect artist is developed here
From any imperfect woman. Flower from root,
And spiritual from natural, grade by grade
In all our life. A handful of the earth
To make God's image! the despised poor earth,
The healthy odorous earth,–I missed, with it,
The divine Breath that blows the nostrils out
To ineffable inflatus: ay, the breath
Which love is. Art is much, but love is more.
O Art, my Art, thou'rt much, but Love is more!
Art symbolises heaven, but Love is God
And makes heaven. I, Aurora, fell from mine:
I would not be a woman like the rest,
A simple woman who believes in love,
And owns the right of love because she loves,
And, hearing she's beloved, is satisfied
With what contents God: I must analyse,
Confront, and question; just as if a fly
Refused to warm itself in any sun
Till such was in leone: I must fret
Forsooth, because the month was only May;
Be faithless of the kind of proffered love,
And captious, lest it miss my dignity,
And scornful, that my lover sought a wife
To use . . to use! O Romney, O my love,
I am changed since then, changed wholly,–for indeed,
If now you'd stoop so low to take my love,
And use it roughly, without stint or spare,
As men use common things with more behind,
(And, in this, ever would be more behind)
To any mean and ordinary end,–
The joy would set me like a star, in heaven,
So high up, I should shine because of height
And not of virtue. Yet in one respect,
Just one, beloved, I am in no wise changed:
I love you, loved you . . loved you first and last,
And love you on for ever. Now I know
I loved you always, Romney. She who died
Knew that, and said so; Lady Waldemar
Knows that; . . and Marian: I had known the same
Except that I was prouder than I knew,
And not so honest. Ay, and as I live,
I should have died so, crushing in my hand
This rose of love, the wasp inside and all,–
Ignoring ever to my soul and you
Both rose and pain,–except for this great loss,
This great despair,–to stand before your face
And know I cannot win a look of yours.
You think, perhaps, I am not changed from pride,
And that I chiefly bear to say such words
Because you cannot shame me with your eyes?
O calm, grand eyes, extinguished in a storm,
Blown out like lights o'er melancholy seas,
Though shrieked for by the shipwrecked,–O my Dark,
My Cloud,–to go before me every day
While I go ever toward the wilderness,–
I would that you could see me bare to the soul!–
If this be pity, 'tis so for myself,
And not for Romney; he can stand alone;
A man like him is never overcome:
No woman like me, counts him pitiable
While saints applaud him. He mistook the world:
But I mistook my own heart,–and that slip
Was fatal. Romney,–will you leave me here?
So wrong, so proud, so weak, so unconsoled,
So mere a woman!–and I love you so,–
I love you, Romney.'
Could I see his face,
I wept so? Did I drop against his breast,
Or did his arms constrain me? Were my cheeks
Hot, overflooded, with my tears, or his?
And which of our two large explosive hearts
So shook me? That, I know not. There were words
That broke in utterance . . melted, in the fire;
Embrace, that was convulsion, . . then a kiss . .
As long and silent as the ecstatic night,–
And deep, deep, shuddering breaths, which meant beyond
Whatever could be told by word or kiss.
But what he said . . I have written day by day,
With somewhat even writing. Did I think
That such a passionate rain would intercept
And dash this last page? What he said, indeed,
I fain would write it down here like the rest
To keep it in my eyes, as in my ears,
The heart's sweet scripture, to be read at night
When weary, or at morning when afraid,
And lean my heaviest oath on when I swear
That when all's done, all tried, all counted here,
All great arts, and all good philosophies,–
This love just puts its hand out in a dream
And straight outreaches all things.
What he said,
I fain would write. But if an angel spoke
In thunder, should we, haply, know much more
Than that it thundered? If a cloud came down
And wrapt us wholly, could we draw its shape,
As if on the outside, and not overcome?
And so he spake. His breath against my face
Confused his words, yet made them more intense,–
As when the sudden finger of the wind
Will wipe a row of single city-lamps
To a pure white line of flame, more luminous
Because of obliteration; more intense
The intimate presence carrying in itself
Complete communication, as with souls
Who, having put the body off, perceive
Through simply being. Thus, 'twas granted me
To know he loved me to the depth and height
Of such large natures, ever competent
With grand horizons by the land or sea,
To love's grand sunrise. Small spheres hold small fires:
But he loved largely, as a man can love
Who, baffled in his love, dares live his life,
Accept the ends which God loves, for his own,
And life a constant aspect.
From the day
I had brought to England my poor searching face,
(An orphan even of my father's grave)
He had loved me, watched me, watched his soul in mine,
Which in me grew and heightened into love.
For he, a boy still, had been told the tale
Of how a fairy bride from Italy,
With smells of oleanders in her hair,
Was coming through the vines to touch his hand;
Whereat the blood of boyhood on the palm
Made sudden heats. And when at last I came,
And lived before him, lived, and rarely smiled,
He smiled and loved me for the thing I was,
As every child will love the year's first flower,
(Not certainly the fairest of the year,
But, in which, the complete year seems to blow)
The poor sad snowdrop,–growing between drifts,
Mysterious medium 'twixt the plant and frost,
So faint with winter while so quick with spring,
So doubtful if to thaw itself away
With that snow near it. Not that Romney Leigh
Had loved me coldly. If I thought so once,
It was as if I had held my hand in fire
And shook for cold. But now I understood
For ever, that the very fire and heat
Of troubling passion in him, burned him clear,
And shaped to dubious order, word and act.
That, just because he loved me over all,
All wealth, all lands, all social privilege,
To which chance made him unexpected heir,–
And, just because on all these lesser gifts,
Constrained by conscience and the sense of wrong
He had stamped with steady hand God's arrow-mark
Of dedication to the human need,
He thought it should be so too, with his love;
He, passionately loving, would bring down
His love, his life, his best, (because the best,)
His bride of dreams, who walked so still and high
Through flowery poems as through meadow-grass
The dust of golden lilies on her feet,
That she should walk beside him on the rooks
In all that clang and hewing out of men,
And help the work of help which was his life,
And prove he kept back nothing,–not his soul.
And when I failed him,–for I failed him, I–
And when it seemed he had missed my love,–he thought,
'Aurora makes room for a working-noon;'
And so, self-girded with torn strips of hope,
Took up his life, as if it were for death,
(Just capable of one heroic aim,)
And threw it in the thickest of the world,–
At which men laughed as if he had drowned a dog:
Nor wonder,–since Aurora failed him first!
The morning and the evening made his day.
But oh, the night! oh, bitter-sweet! oh, sweet!
O dark, O moon and stars, O ecstasy
Of darkness! O great mystery of love,–
In which absorbed, loss, anguish, treason's self
Enlarges rapture,–as a pebble dropt
In some full wine-cup, over-brims the wine!
While we two sate together, leaned that night
So close, my very garments crept and thrilled
With strange electric life; and both my cheeks
Grew red, then pale, with touches from my hair
In which his breath was; while the golden moon
Was hung before our faces as the badge
Of some sublime inherited despair,
Since ever to be seen by only one,–
A voice said, low and rapid as a sigh,
Yet breaking, I felt conscious, from a smile,–
'Thank God, who made me blind, to make me see!
Shine on, Aurora, dearest light of souls,
Which rul'st for evermore both day and night!
I am happy.'
I clung closer to his breast,
As sword that, after battle, flings to sheathe;
And, in that hurtle of united souls,
The mystic motions which in common moods
Are shut beyond our sense, broke in on us,
And, as we sate, we felt the old earth spin,
And all the starry turbulence of worlds
Swing round us in their audient circles, till
If that same golden moon were overhead
Or if beneath our feet, we did not know.
And then calm, equal, smooth with weights of joy,
His voice rose, as some chief musician's song
Amid the old Jewish temple's Selah-pause,
And bade me mark how we two met at last
Upon this moon-bathed promontory of earth,
To give up much on each side, then, take all.
'Beloved,' it sang, ' we must be here to work;
And men who work, can only work for men,
And, not to work in vain, must comprehend
Humanity, and, so work humanly,
And raise men's bodies still by raising souls,
As God did, first.'
'But stand upon the earth,'
I said, 'to raise them,–(this is human too;
There's nothing high which has not first been low;
My humbleness, said One, has made me great!)
As God did, last.'
'And work all silently,
And simply,' he returned, 'as God does all;
Distort our nature never, for our work,
Nor count our right hands stronger for being hoofs.
The man most man, with tenderest human hands,
Works best for men,–as God in Nazareth.'
He paused upon the word, and then resumed;
'Fewer programmes; we who have no prescience.
Fewer systems; we who are held and do not hold.
Less mapping out of masses, to be saved,
By nations or by sexes. Fourier's void,
And Comte is dwarfed,–and Cabet, puerile.
Subsists no law of life outside of life;
No perfect manners, without Christian souls:
The Christ himself had been no Lawgiver,
Unless He had given the life, too, with the law.'
I echoed thoughtfully–'The man, most man,
Works best for men: and, if most man indeed,
He gets his manhood plainest from his soul:
While, obviously, this stringent soul itself
Obeys our old rules of development;
The Spirit ever witnessing in ours,
And Love, the soul of soul, within the soul,
Evolving it sublimely. First, God's love.'
'And next,' he smiled, 'the love of wedded souls,
Which still presents that mystery's counterpart.
Sweet shadow-rose, upon the water of life,
Of such a mystic substance, Sharon gave
A name to! human, vital, fructuous rose,
Whose calyx holds the multitude of leaves.–
Loves filial, loves fraternal, neighbour-loves,
And civic, . . all fair petals, all good scents,
All reddened, sweetened from one central Heart!'
'Alas,' I cried, 'it was not long ago,
You swore this very social rose smelt ill.'
'Alas,' he answered, 'is it a rose at all?
The filial's thankless, the fraternal's hard,
The rest is lost. I do but stand and think,
Across dim waters of a troubled life
The Flower of Heaven so vainly overhangs,–
What perfect counterpart would be in sight,
If tanks were clearer. Let us clean the tubes,
And wait for rains. O poet, O my love,
Since I was too ambitious in my deed,
And thought to distance all men in success,
Till God came on me, marked the place, and said
'III-doer, henceforth keep within this line,
'Attempting less than others,'–and I stand
And work among Christ's little ones, content,–
Come thou, my compensation, my dear sight,
My morning-star, my morning! rise and shine,
And touch my hills with radiance not their own
Shine out for two, Aurora, and fulfil
My falling-short that must be! work for two,
As I, though thus restrained, for two, shall love!
Gaze on, with inscient vision toward the sun,
And, from his visceral heat, pluck out the roots
Of light beyond him. Art's a service,–mark:
A silver key is given to thy clasp,
And thou shalt stand unwearied, night and day,
And fix it in the hard, slow-turning wards,
And open, so, that intermediate door
Betwixt the different planes of sensuous form
And form insensuous, that inferior men
May learn to feel on still through thee to those,
And bless thy ministration. The world waits
For help. Beloved, let us love so well,
Our work shall still be better for our love,
And still our love be sweeter for our work,
And both, commended, for the sake of each,
By all true workers and true lovers, born.
Now press the clarion on thy woman's lip
(Love's holy kiss shall still keep consecrate)
And breathe the fine keen breath along the brass,
And blow all class-walls level as Jericho's
Past Jordan; crying from the top of souls,
To souls, that they assemble on earth's flats
To get them to some purer eminence
Than any hitherto beheld for clouds!
What height we know not,–but the way we know,
And how by mounting aye, we must attain,
And so climb on. It is the hour for souls;
That bodies, leavened by the will and love,
Be lightened to redemption. The world's old;
But the old world waits the hour to be renewed:
Toward which, new hearts in individual growth
Must quicken, and increase to multitude
In new dynasties of the race of men,–
Developed whence, shall grow spontaneously
New churches, new economies, new laws
Admitting freedom, new societies
Excluding falsehood. HE shall make all new.'
My Romney!–Lifting up my hand in his,
As wheeled by Seeing spirits toward the east,
He turned instinctively,–where, faint and fair,
Along the tingling desert of the sky,
Beyond the circle of the conscious hills,
Were laid in jasper-stone as clear as glass
The first foundations of that new, near Day
Which should be builded out of heaven, to God
He stood a moment with erected brows,
In silence, as a creature might, who gazed:
Stood calm, and fed his blind, majestic eyes
Upon the thought of perfect noon. And when
I saw his soul saw,–'Jasper first,' I said,
'And second, sapphire; third, chalcedony;
The rest in order, . . last, an amethyst.'
OF writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others' uses, will write now for mine,–
Will write my story for my better self,
As when you paint your portrait for a friend,
Who keeps it in a drawer and looks at it
Long after he has ceased to love you, just
To hold together what he was and is.
I, writing thus, am still what men call young;
I have not so far left the coasts of life
To travel inland, that I cannot hear
That murmur of the outer Infinite
Which unweaned babies smile at in their sleep
When wondered at for smiling; not so far,
But still I catch my mother at her post
Beside the nursery-door, with finger up,
'Hush, hush–here's too much noise!' while her sweet eyes
Leap forward, taking part against her word
In the child's riot. Still I sit and feel
My father's slow hand, when she had left us both,
Stroke out my childish curls across his knee;
And hear Assunta's daily jest (she knew
He liked it better than a better jest)
Inquire how many golden scudi went
To make such ringlets. O my father's hand,
Stroke the poor hair down, stroke it heavily,–
Draw, press the child's head closer to thy knee!
I'm still too young, too young to sit alone.
I write. My mother was a Florentine,
Whose rare blue eyes were shut from seeing me
When scarcely I was four years old; my life,
A poor spark snatched up from a failing lamp
Which went out therefore. She was weak and frail;
She could not bear the joy of giving life–
The mother's rapture slew her. If her kiss
Had left a longer weight upon my lips,
It might have steadied the uneasy breath,
And reconciled and fraternised my soul
With the new order. As it was, indeed,
I felt a mother-want about the world,
And still went seeking, like a bleating lamb
Left out at night, in shutting up the fold,–
As restless as a nest-deserted bird
Grown chill through something being away, though what
It knows not. I, Aurora Leigh, was born
To make my father sadder, and myself
Not overjoyous, truly. Women know
The way to rear up children, (to be just,)
They know a simple, merry, tender knack
Of tying sashes, fitting baby-shoes,
And stringing pretty words that make no sense,
And kissing full sense into empty words;
Which things are corals to cut life upon,
Although such trifles: children learn by such,
Love's holy earnest in a pretty play,
And get not over-early solemnised,–
But seeing, as in a rose-bush, Love's Divine,
Which burns and hurts not,–not a single bloom,–
Become aware and unafraid of Love.
Such good do mothers. Fathers love as well
–Mine did, I know,–but still with heavier brains,
And wills more consciously responsible,
And not as wisely, since less foolishly;
So mothers have God's licence to be missed.
My father was an austere Englishman,
Who, after a dry life-time spent at home
In college-learning, law, and parish talk,
Was flooded with a passion unaware,
His whole provisioned and complacent past
Drowned out from him that moment. As he stood
In Florence, where he had come to spend a month
And note the secret of Da Vinci's drains,
He musing somewhat absently perhaps
Some English question . . whether men should pay
The unpopular but necessary tax
With left or right hand–in the alien sun
In that great square of the Santissima,
There drifted past him (scarcely marked enough
To move his comfortable island-scorn,)
A train of priestly banners, cross and psalm,–
The white-veiled rose-crowned maidens holding up
Tall tapers, weighty for such wrists, aslant
To the blue luminous tremor of the air,
And letting drop the white wax as they went
To eat the bishop's wafer at the church;
From which long trail of chanting priests and girls,
A face flashed like a cymbal on his face,
And shook with silent clangour brain and heart,
Transfiguring him to music. Thus, even thus,
He too received his sacramental gift
With eucharistic meanings; for he loved.
And thus beloved, she died. I've heard it said
That but to see him in the first surprise
Of widower and father, nursing me,
Unmothered little child of four years old,
His large man's hands afraid to touch my curls,
As if the gold would tarnish,–his grave lips
Contriving such a miserable smile,
As if he knew needs must, or I should die,
And yet 'twas hard,–would almost make the stones
Cry out for pity. There's a verse he set
In Santa Croce to her memory,
'Weep for an infant too young to weep much
When death removed this mother'–stops the mirth
To-day, on women's faces when they walk
With rosy children hanging on their gowns,
Under the cloister, to escape the sun
That scorches in the piazza. After which,
He left our Florence, and made haste to hide
Himself, his prattling child, and silent grief,
Among the mountains above Pelago;
Because unmothered babes, he thought, had need
Of mother nature more than others use,
And Pan's white goats, with udders warm and full
Of mystic contemplations, come to feed
Poor milkless lips of orphans like his own–
Such scholar-scraps he talked, I've heard from friends,
For even prosaic men, who wear grief long,
Will get to wear it as a hat aside
With a flower stuck in't. Father, then, and child,
We lived among the mountains many years,
God's silence on the outside of the house,
And we, who did not speak too loud, within;
And old Assunta to make up the fire,
Crossing herself whene'er a sudden flame
Which lightened from the firewood, made alive
That picture of my mother on the wall.
The painter drew it after she was dead;
And when the face was finished, throat and hands,
Her cameriera carried him, in hate
Of the English-fashioned shroud, the last brocade
She dressed in at the Pitti. 'He should paint
No sadder thing than that,' she swore, 'to wrong
Her poor signora.' Therefore, very strange
The effect was. I, a little child, would crouch
For hours upon the floor, with knees drawn up
And gaze across them, half in terror, half
In adoration, at the picture there,–
That swan-like supernatural white life,
Just sailing upward from the red stiff silk
Which seemed to have no part in it, nor power
To keep it from quite breaking out of bounds:
For hours I sate and stared. Asssunta's awe
And my poor father's melancholy eyes
Still pointed that way. That way, went my thoughts
When wandering beyond sight. And as I grew
In years, I mixed, confused, unconsciously,
Whatever I last read or heard or dreamed,
Abhorrent, admirable, beautiful,
Pathetical, or ghastly, or grotesque,
With still that face . . . which did not therefore change,
But kept the mystic level of all forms
And fears and admirations; was by turn
Ghost, fiend, and angel, fairy, witch, and sprite,–
A dauntless Muse who eyes a dreadful Fate,
A loving Psyche who loses sight of Love,
A still Medusa, with mild milky brows
All curdled and all clothed upon with snakes
Whose slime falls fast as sweat will; or, anon,
Our Lady of the Passion, stabbed with swords
Where the Babe sucked; or, Lamia in her first
Moonlighted pallor, ere she shrunk and blinked,
And, shuddering, wriggled down to the unclean;
Or, my own mother, leaving her last smile
In her last kiss, upon the baby-mouth
My father pushed down on the bed for that,–
Or, my dead mother, without smile or kiss,
Buried at Florence. All which images,
Concentred on the picture, glassed themselves
Before my meditative childhood, . . as
The incoherencies of change and death
Are represented fully, mixed and merged,
In the smooth fair mystery of perpetual Life.
And while I stared away my childish wits
Upon my mother's picture, (ah, poor child!)
My father, who through love had suddenly
Thrown off the old conventions, broken loose
From chin-bands of the soul, like Lazarus,
Yet had no time to learn to talk and walk
Or grow anew familiar with the sun,–
Who had reached to freedom, not to action, lived,
But lived as one entranced, with thoughts, not aims,–
Whom love had unmade from a common man
But not completed to an uncommon man,–
My father taught me what he had learnt the best
Before he died and left me,–grief and love.
And, seeing we had books among the hills,
Strong words of counselling souls, confederate
With vocal pines and waters,–out of books
He taught me all the ignorance of men,
And how God laughs in heaven when any man
Says, 'Here I'm learned; this, I understand;
In that, I am never caught at fault or doubt.'
He sent the schools to school, demonstrating
A fool will pass for such through one mistake,
While a philosopher will pass for such,
Through said mistakes being ventured in the gross
And heaped up to a system.
I am like,
They tell me, my dear father. Broader brows
Howbeit, upon a slenderer undergrowth
Of delicate features,–paler, near as grave;
But then my mother's smile breaks up the whole,
And makes it better sometimes than itself.
So, nine full years, our days were hid with God
Among his mountains. I was just thirteen,
Still growing like the plants from unseen roots
In tongue-tied Springs,–and suddenly awoke
To full life and its needs and agonies,
With an intense, strong, struggling heart beside
A stone-dead father. Life, struck sharp on death,
Makes awful lightning. His last word was, 'Love–'
'Love, my child, love, love!'–(then he had done with grief)
'Love, my child.' Ere I answered he was gone,
And none was left to love in all the world.
There, ended childhood: what succeeded next
I recollect as, after fevers, men
Thread back the passage of delirium,
Missing the turn still, baffled by the door;
Smooth endless days, notched here and there with knives;
A weary, wormy darkness, spurred i' the flank
With flame, that it should eat and end itself
Like some tormented scorpion. Then, at last,
I do remember clearly, how there came
A stranger with authority, not right,
(I thought not) who commanded, caught me up
From old Assunta's neck; how, with a shriek,
She let me go,–while I, with ears too full
Of my father's silence, to shriek back a word,
In all a child's astonishment at grief
Stared at the wharfage where she stood and moaned,
My poor Assunta, where she stood and moaned!
The white walls, the blue hills, my Italy,
Drawn backward from the shuddering steamer-deck,
Like one in anger drawing back her skirts
Which suppliants catch at. Then the bitter sea
Inexorably pushed between us both,
And sweeping up the ship with my despair
Threw us out as a pasture to the stars.
Ten nights and days we voyaged on the deep;
Ten nights and days, without the common face
Of any day or night; the moon and sun
Cut off from the green reconciling earth,
To starve into a blind ferocity
And glare unnatural; the very sky
(Dropping its bell-net down upon the sea
As if no human heart should 'scape alive,)
Bedraggled with the desolating salt,
Until it seemed no more than holy heaven
To which my father went. All new, and strange–
The universe turned stranger, for a child.
Then, land!–then, England! oh, the frosty cliffs
Looked cold upon me. Could I find a home
Among those mean red houses through the fog?
And when I heard my father's language first
From alien lips which had no kiss for mine,
I wept aloud, then laughed, then wept, then wept,–
And some one near me said the child was mad
Through much sea-sickness. The train swept us on.
Was this my father's England? the great isle?
The ground seemed cut up from the fellowship
Or verdure, field from field, as man from man;
The skies themselves looked low and positive,
As almost you could touch them with a hand,
And dared to do it, they were so far off
From God's celestial crystals; all things, blurred
And dull and vague. Did Shakspeare and his mates
Absorb the light here?–not a hill or stone
With heart to strike a radiant colour up
Or active outline on the indifferent air!
I think I see my father's sister stand
Upon the hall-step of her country-house
To give me welcome. She stood straight and calm,
Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight
As if for taming accidental thoughts
From possible pulses; brown hair pricked with grey
By frigid use of life, (she was not old,
Although my father's elder by a year)
A nose drawn sharply, yet in delicate lines;
A close mild mouth, a little soured about
The ends, through speaking unrequited loves,
Or peradventure niggardly half-truths;
Eyes of no colour,–once they might have smiled,
But never, never have forgot themselves
In smiling; cheeks in which was yet a rose
Of perished summers, like a rose in a book,
Kept more for ruth than pleasure,–if past bloom,
Past fading also.
She had lived we'll say,
A harmless life, she called a virtuous life,
A quiet life, which was not life at all,
(But that, she had not lived enough to know)
Between the vicar and the county squires,
The lord-lieutenant looking down sometimes
From the empyreal, to assure their souls
Against chance vulgarisms, and, in the abyss,
The apothecary looked on once a year,
To prove their soundness of humility.
The poor-club exercised her Christian gifts
Of knitting stockings, stitching petticoats,
Because we are of one flesh after all
And need one flannel, (with a proper sense
Of difference in the quality)–and still
The book-club guarded from your modern trick
Of shaking dangerous questions from the crease,
Preserved her intellectual. She had lived
A sort of cage-bird life, born in a cage,
Accounting that to leap from perch to perch
Was act and joy enough for any bird.
Dear heaven, how silly are the things that live
In thickets and eat berries!
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage,
And she was there to meet me. Very kind.
Bring the clean water; give out the fresh seed.
She stood upon the steps to welcome me,
Calm, in black garb. I clung about her neck,–
Young babes, who catch at every shred of wool
To draw the new light closer, catch and cling
Less blindly. In my ears, my father's word
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in shells,
'Love, love, my child,' She, black there with my grief,
Might feel my love–she was his sister once–
I clung to her. A moment, she seemed moved.
Kissed me with cold lips, suffered me to cling,
And drew me feebly through the hall, into
The room she sate in.
There, with some strange spasm
Of pain and passion, she wrung loose my hands
Imperiously, and held me at arm's length,
And with two grey-steel naked-bladed eyes
Searched through my face,–ay, stabbed it through and through,
Through brows and cheeks and chin, as if to find
A wicked murderer in my innocent face,
If not here, there perhaps. Then, drawing breath,
She struggled for her ordinary calm,
And missed it rather,–told me not to shrink,
As if she had told me not to lie or swear,–
'She loved my father, and would love me too
As long as I deserved it.' Very kind.
I understood her meaning afterward;
She thought to find my mother in my face,
And questioned it for that. For she, my aunt,
Had loved my father truly, as she could,
And hated, with the gall of gentle souls,
My Tuscan mother, who had fooled away
A wise man from wise courses, a good man
From obvious duties, and, depriving her,
His sister, of the household precedence,
Had wronged his tenants, robbed his native land,
And made him mad, alike by life and death,
In love and sorrow. She had pored for years
What sort of woman could be suitable
To her sort of hate, to entertain it with;
And so, her very curiosity
Became hate too, and all the idealism
She ever used in life, was used for hate,
Till hate, so nourished, did exceed at last
The love from which it grew, in strength and heat,
And wrinkled her smooth conscience with a sense
Of disputable virtue (say not, sin)
When Christian doctrine was enforced at church.
And thus my father's sister was to me
My mother's hater. From that day, she did
Her duty to me, (I appreciate it
In her own word as spoken to herself)
Her duty, in large measure, well-pressed out,
But measured always. She was generous, bland,
More courteous than was tender, gave me still
The first place,–as if fearful that God's saints
Would look down suddenly and say, 'Herein
You missed a point, I think, through lack of love.'
Alas, a mother never is afraid
Of speaking angrily to any child,
Since love, she knows, is justified of love.
And I, I was a good child on the whole,
A meek and manageable child. Why not?
I did not live, to have the faults of life:
There seemed more true life in my father's grave
Than in all England. Since that threw me off
Who fain would cleave, (his latest will, they say,
Consigned me to his land) I only thought
Of lying quiet there where I was thrown
Like sea-weed on the rocks, and suffer her
To prick me to a pattern with her pin,
Fibre from fibre, delicate leaf from leaf,
And dry out from my drowned anatomy
The last sea-salt left in me.
So it was.
I broke the copious curls upon my head
In braids, because she liked smooth ordered hair.
I left off saying my sweet Tuscan words
Which still at any stirring of the heart
Came up to float across the English phrase,
As lilies, (Bene . . or che ch'è ) because
She liked my father's child to speak his tongue.
I learnt the collects and the catechism,
The creeds, from Athanasius back to Nice,
The Articles . . the Tracts against the times,
(By no means Buonaventure's 'Prick of Love,')
And various popular synopses of
Inhuman doctrines never taught by John,
Because she liked instructed piety.
I learnt my complement of classic French
(Kept pure of Balzac and neologism,)
And German also, since she liked a range
Of liberal education,–tongues, not books.
I learnt a little algebra, a little
Of the mathematics,–brushed with extreme flounce
The circle of the sciences, because
She misliked women who are frivolous.
I learnt the royal genealogies
Of Oviedo, the internal laws
Of the Burmese Empire, . . by how many feet
Mount Chimborazo outsoars Himmeleh,
What navigable river joins itself
To Lara, and what census of the year five
Was taken at Klagenfurt,–because she liked
A general insight into useful facts.
I learnt much music,–such as would have been
As quite impossible in Johnson's day
As still it might be wished–fine sleights of hand
And unimagined fingering, shuffling off
The hearer's soul through hurricanes of notes
To a noisy Tophet; and I drew . . costumes
From French engravings, nereids neatly draped,
With smirks of simmering godship,–I washed in
From nature, landscapes, (rather say, washed out.)
I danced the polka and Cellarius,
Spun glass, stuffed birds, and modelled flowers in wax,
Because she liked accomplishments in girls.
I read a score of books on womanhood
To prove, if women do not think at all,
They may teach thinking, (to a maiden aunt
Or else the author)–books demonstrating
Their right of comprehending husband's talk
When not too deep, and even of answering
With pretty 'may it please you,' or 'so it is,'–
Their rapid insight and fine aptitude,
Particular worth and general missionariness,
As long as they keep quiet by the fire
And never say 'no' when the world says 'ay,'
For that is fatal,–their angelic reach
Of virtue, chiefly used to sit and darn,
And fatten household sinners–their, in brief,
Potential faculty in everything
Of abdicating power in it: she owned
She liked a woman to be womanly,
And English women, she thanked God and sighed,
(Some people always sigh in thanking God)
Were models to the universe. And last
I learnt cross-stitch, because she did not like
To see me wear the night with empty hands,
A-doing nothing. So, my shepherdess
Was something after all, (the pastoral saints
Be praised for't) leaning lovelorn with pink eyes
To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks;
Her head uncrushed by that round weight of hat
So strangely similar to the tortoise-shell
Which slew the tragic poet.
By the way,
The works of women are symbolical.
We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight,
Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir,
To put on when you're weary–or a stool
To tumble over and vex you . . 'curse that stool!'
Or else at best, a cushion where you lean
And sleep, and dream of something we are not,
But would be for your sake. Alas, alas!
This hurts most, this . . that, after all, we are paid
The worth of our work, perhaps.
In looking down
Those years of education, (to return)
I wondered if Brinvilliers suffered more
In the water torture, . . flood succeeding flood
To drench the incapable throat and split the veins . .
Than I did. Certain of your feebler souls
Go out in such a process; many pine
To a sick, inodorous light; my own endured:
I had relations in the Unseen, and drew
The elemental nutriment and heat
From nature, as earth feels the sun at nights,
Or as a babe sucks surely in the dark,
I kept the life, thrust on me, on the outside
Of the inner life, with all its ample room
For heart and lungs, for will and intellect,
Inviolable by conventions. God,
I thank thee for that grace of thine!
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.
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.
A sweet familiar nature, stealing in
As a dog might, or child, to touch your hand
Or pluck your gown, and humbly mind you so
Of presence and affection, excellent
For inner uses, from the things without.
I could not be unthankful, I who was
Entreated thus and holpen. In the room
I speak of, ere the house was well awake,
And also after it was well asleep,
I sat alone, and drew the blessing in
Of all that nature. With a gradual step,
A stir among the leaves, a breath, a ray,
It came in softly, while the angels made
A place for it beside me. The moon came,
And swept my chamber clean of foolish thoughts
The sun came, saying, 'Shall I lift this light
Against the lime-tree, and you will not look?
I make the birds sing–listen! . . but, for you.
God never hears your voice, excepting when
You lie upon the bed at nights and weep.'
Then, something moved me. Then, I wakened up
More slowly than I verily write now,
But wholly, at last, I wakened, opened wide
The window and my soul, and let the airs .
And out-door sights sweep gradual gospels in,
Regenerating what I was. O Life,
How oft we throw it off and think,–'Enough,
Enough of life in so much!–here's a cause
For rupture; herein we must break with Life,
Or be ourselves unworthy; here we are wronged,
Maimed, spoiled for aspiration; farewell Life!'
–And so, as froward babes, we hide our eyes
And think all ended.–Then, Life calls to us,
In some transformed, apocryphal, new voice,
Above us, or below us, or around . .
Perhaps we name it Nature's voice, or Love's,
Tricking ourselves, because we are more ashamed
So own our compensations than our griefs:
Still, Life's voice!–still, we make our peace with Life.
And I, so young then, was not sullen. Soon
I used to get up early, just to sit
And watch the morning quicken in the grey,
And hear the silence open like a flower,
Leaf after leaf,–and stroke with listless hand
The woodbine through the window, till at last
I came to do it with a sort of love,
At foolish unaware: whereat I smiled,–
A melancholy smile, to catch myself
Smiling for joy.
Capacity for joy
Admits temptation. It seemed, next, worth while
To dodge the sharp sword set against my life;
To slip down stairs through all the sleepy house,
As mute as any dream there, and escape
As a soul from the body, out of doors,–
Glide through the shrubberies, drop into the lane,
And wander on the hills an hour or two,
Then back again before the house should stir.
Or else I sat on in my chamber green,
And lived my life, and thought my thoughts, and prayed
My prayers without the vicar; read my books,
Without considering whether they were fit
To do me good. Mark, there. We get no good
By being ungenerous, even to a book,
And calculating profits . . so much help
By so much rending. It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,
Impassioned for its beauty and salt of truth–
'Tis then we get the right good from a book.
I read much. What my father taught before
From many a volume, Love re-emphasised
Upon the self-same pages: Theophrast
Grew tender with the memory of his eyes,
And Ælian made mine wet. The trick of Greek
And Latin, he had taught me, as he would
Have taught me wrestling or the game of fives
If such he had known.–most like a shipwrecked man
Who heaps his single platter with goats' cheese
And scarlet berries; or like any man
Who loves but one, and so gives all at once,
Because he has it, rather than because
He counts it worthy. Thus, my father gave;
And thus, as did the women formerly
By young Achilles, when they pinned the veil
Across the boy's audacious front, and swept
With tuneful laughs the silver-fretted rocks,
He wrapt his little daughter in his large
Man's doublet, careless did it fit or no.
But, after I had read for memory,
I read for hope. The path my father's foot
Had trod me out, which suddenly broke off,
(What time he dropped the wallet of the flesh
And passed) alone I carried on, and set
My child-heart 'gainst the thorny underwood,
To reach the grassy shelter of the trees.
Ah, babe i' the wood, without a brother-babe!
My own self-pity, like the red-breast bird,
Flies back to cover all that past with leaves.
Sublimest danger, over which none weeps,
When any young wayfaring soul goes forth
Alone, unconscious of the perilous road,
The day-sun dazzling in his limpid eyes,
To thrust his own way, he an alien, through
The world of books! Ah, you!–you think it fine,
You clap hands–'A fair day!'–you cheer him on,
As if the worst, could happen, were to rest
Too long beside a fountain. Yet, behold,
Behold!–the world of books is still the world;
And worldlings in it are less merciful
And more puissant. For the wicked there
Are winged like angels. Every knife that strikes,
Is edged from elemental fire to assail
A spiritual life. The beautiful seems right
By force of beauty, and the feeble wrong
Because of weakness. Power is justified,
Though armed against St. Michael. Many a crown
Covers bald foreheads. In the book-world, true,
There's no lack, neither, of God's saints and kings,
That shake the ashes of the grave aside
From their calm locks, and undiscomfited
Look stedfast truths against Time's changing mask.
True, many a prophet teaches in the roads;
True, many a seer pulls down the flaming heavens
Upon his own head in strong martyrdom,
In order to light men a moment's space.
But stay!–who judges?–who distinguishes
'Twixt Saul and Nahash justly, at first sight,
And leaves king Saul precisely at the sin,
To serve king David? who discerns at once
The sound of the trumpets, when the trumpets blow
For Alaric as well as Charlemagne?
Who judges prophets, and can tell true seers
From conjurors? The child, there? Would you leave
That child to wander in a battle-field
And push his innocent smile against the guns?
Or even in the catacombs, . . his torch
Grown ragged in the fluttering air, and all
The dark a-mutter round him? not a child!
I read books bad and good–some bad and good
At once: good aims not always make good books;
Well-tempered spades turn up ill-smelling soils
In digging vineyards, even: books, that prove
God's being so definitely, that man's doubt
Grows self-defined the other side the line,
Made Atheist by suggestion; moral books,
Exasperating to license; genial books,
Discounting from the human dignity;
And merry books, which set you weeping when
The sun shines,–ay, and melancholy books,
Which make you laugh that any one should weep
In this disjointed life, for one wrong more.
The world of books is still the world, I write,
And both worlds have God's providence, thank God,
To keep and hearten: with some struggle, indeed,
Among the breakers, some hard swimming through
The deeps–I lost breath in my soul sometimes
And cried 'God save me if there's any God.'
But even so, God save me; and, being dashed
From error on to error, every turn
Still brought me nearer to the central truth.
I thought so. All this anguish in the thick
Of men's opinions . . press and counterpress
Now up, now down, now underfoot, and now
Emergent . . all the best of it perhaps,
But throws you back upon a noble trust
And use of your own instinct,–merely proves
Pure reason stronger than bare inference
At strongest. Try it,–fix against heaven's wall
Your scaling ladders of high logic–mount
Step by step!–Sight goes faster; that still ray
Which strikes out from you, how, you cannot tell,
And why, you know not–(did you eliminate,
That such as you, indeed, should analyse?)
Goes straight and fast as light, and high as God.
The cygnet finds the water: but the man
Is born in ignorance of his element,
And feels out blind at first, disorganised
By sin i' the blood,–his spirit-insight dulled
And crossed by his sensations. Presently
We feel it quicken in the dark sometimes;
Then mark, be reverent, be obedient,–
For those dumb motions of imperfect life
Are oracles of vital Deity
Attesting the Hereafter. Let who says
'The soul's a clean white paper,' rather say,
A palimpsest, a prophets holograph
Defiled, erased and covered by a monk's,–
The apocalypse, by a Longus! poring on
Which obscene text, we may discern perhaps
Some fair, fine trace of what was written once,
Some upstroke of an alpha and omega
Expressing the old scripture.
Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret-room
Piled high with cases in my father's name;
Piled high, packed large,–where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
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
Am I such indeed? The name
Is royal, and to sign it like a queen,
Is what I dare not,–though some royal blood
Would seem to tingle in me now and then,
With sense of power and ache,–with imposthumes
And manias usual to the race. Howbeit
I dare not: 'tis too easy to go mad,
And ape a Bourbon in a crown of straws;
The thing's too common.
Many fervent souls
Strike rhyme on rhyme, who would strike steel on steel
If steel had offered, in a restless heat
Of doing something. Many tender souls
Have strung their losses on a rhyming thread.
As children, cowslips:–the more pains they take,
The work more withers. Young men, ay, and maids,
Too often sow their wild oats in tame verse.
Before they sit down under their own vine
And live for use. Alas, near all the birds
Will sing at dawn,–and yet we do not take
The chaffering swallow for the holy lark.
In those days, though, I never analysed
Myself even. All analysis comes late.
You catch a sight of Nature, earliest,
In full front sun-face, and your eyelids wink
And drop before the wonder of 't; you miss
The form, through seeing the light. I lived, those days,
And wrote because I lived–unlicensed else:
My heart beat in my brain. Life's violent flood
Abolished bounds,–and, which my neighbour's field,
Which mine, what mattered? It is so in youth.
We play at leap-frog over the god Term;
The love within us and the love without
Are mixed, confounded; if we are loved or love,
We scarce distinguish. So, with other power.
Being acted on and acting seem the same:
In that first onrush of life's chariot-wheels,
We know not if the forests move or we.
And so, like most young poets, in a flush
Of individual life, I poured myself
Along the veins of others, and achieved
Mere lifeless imitations of life verse,
And made the living answer for the dead,
Profaning nature. 'Touch not, do not taste,
Nor handle,'–we're too legal, who write young:
We beat the phorminx till we hurt our thumbs,
As if still ignorant of counterpoint;
We call the Muse . . 'O Muse, benignant Muse!'–
As if we had seen her purple-braided head .
With the eyes in it start between the boughs
As often as a stag's. What make-believe,
With so much earnest! what effete results,
From virile efforts! what cold wire-drawn odes
From such white heats!–bucolics, where the cows
Would scare the writer if they splashed the mud
In lashing off the flies,–didactics, driven
Against the heels of what the master said;
And counterfeiting epics, shrill with trumps
A babe might blow between two straining cheeks
Of bubbled rose, to make his mother laugh;
And elegiac griefs, and songs of love,
Like cast-off nosegays picked up on the road,
The worse for being warm: all these things, writ
On happy mornings, with a morning heart,
That leaps for love, is active for resolve,
Weak for art only. Oft, the ancient forms
Will thrill, indeed, in carrying the young blood.
The wine-skins, now and then, a little warped,
Will crack even, as the new wine gurgles in.
Spare the old bottles!–spill not the new wine.
By Keats's soul, the man who never stepped
In gradual progress like another man,
But, turning grandly on his central self,
Ensphered himself in twenty perfect years
And died, not young,–(the life of a long life,
Distilled to a mere drop, falling like a tear
Upon the world's cold cheek to make it burn
For ever;) by that strong excepted soul,
I count it strange, and hard to understand,
That nearly all young poets should write old;
That Pope was sexagenarian at sixteen,
And beardless Byron academical,
And so with others. It may be, perhaps,
Such have not settled long and deep enough
In trance, to attain to clairvoyance,–and still
The memory mixes with the vision, spoils,
And works it turbid.
Or perhaps, again,
In order to discover the Muse-Sphinx,
The melancholy desert must sweep round,
Behind you, as before.–
For me, I wrote
False poems, like the rest, and thought them true.
Because myself was true in writing them.
I, peradventure, have writ true ones since
With less complacence.
But I could not hide
My quickening inner life from those at watch.
They saw a light at a window now and then,
They had not set there. Who had set it there?
My father's sister started when she caught
My soul agaze in my eyes. She could not say
I had no business with a sort of soul,
But plainly she objected,–and demurred,
That souls were dangerous things to carry straight
Through all the spilt saltpetre of the world.
She said sometimes, 'Aurora, have you done
Your task this morning?–have you read that book?
And are you ready for the crochet here?'–
As if she said, 'I know there's something wrong,
I know I have not ground you down enough
To flatten and bake you to a wholesome crust
For household uses and proprieties,
Before the rain has got into my barn
And set the grains a-sprouting. What, you're green
With out-door impudence? you almost grow?'
To which I answered, 'Would she hear my task,
And verify my abstract of the book?
And should I sit down to the crochet work?
Was such her pleasure?' . . Then I sate and teased
The patient needle til it split the thread,
Which oozed off from it in meandering lace
From hour to hour. I was not, therefore, sad;
My soul was singing at a work apart
Behind the wall of sense, as safe from harm
As sings the lark when sucked up out of sight,
In vortices of glory and blue air.
And so, through forced work and spontaneous work,
The inner life informed the outer life,
Reduced the irregular blood to settled rhythms,
Made cool the forehead with fresh-sprinkling dreams,
And, rounding to the spheric soul the thin
Pined body, struck a colour up the cheeks,
Though somewhat faint. I clenched my brows across
My blue eyes greatening in the looking-glass,
And said, 'We'll live, Aurora! we'll be strong.
The dogs are on us–but we will not die.'
Whoever lives true life, will love true love.
I learnt to love that England. Very oft,
Before the day was born, or otherwise
Through secret windings of the afternoons,
I threw my hunters off and plunged myself
Among the deep hills, as a hunted stag
Will take the waters, shivering with the fear
And passion of the course. And when, at last
Escaped,–so many a green slope built on slope
Betwixt me and the enemy's house behind,
I dared to rest, or wander,–like a rest
Made sweeter for the step upon the grass,–
And view the ground's most gentle dimplement,
(As if God's finger touched but did not press
In making England!) such an up and down
Of verdure,–nothing too much up or down,
A ripple of land; such little hills, the sky
Can stoop to tenderly and the wheatfields climb;
Such nooks of valleys, lined with orchises,
Fed full of noises by invisible streams;
And open pastures, where you scarcely tell
White daisies from white dew,–at intervals
The mythic oaks and elm-trees standing out
Self-poised upon their prodigy of shade,–
I thought my father's land was worthy too
Of being my Shakspeare's.
Very oft alone,
Unlicensed; not unfrequently with leave
To walk the third with Romney and his friend
The rising painter, Vincent Carrington,
Whom men judge hardly, as bee-bonneted,
Because he holds that, paint a body well,
You paint a soul by implication, like
The grand first Master. Pleasant walks! for if
He said . . 'When I was last in Italy' . .
It sounded as an instrument that's played
Too far off for the tune–and yet it's fine
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.
The Ghost - Book IV
Coxcombs, who vainly make pretence
To something of exalted sense
'Bove other men, and, gravely wise,
Affect those pleasures to despise,
Which, merely to the eye confined,
Bring no improvement to the mind,
Rail at all pomp; they would not go
For millions to a puppet-show,
Nor can forgive the mighty crime
Of countenancing pantomime;
No, not at Covent Garden, where,
Without a head for play or player,
Or, could a head be found most fit,
Without one player to second it,
They must, obeying Folly's call,
Thrive by mere show, or not at all
With these grave fops, who, (bless their brains!)
Most cruel to themselves, take pains
For wretchedness, and would be thought
Much wiser than a wise man ought,
For his own happiness, to be;
Who what they hear, and what they see,
And what they smell, and taste, and feel,
Distrust, till Reason sets her seal,
And, by long trains of consequences
Insured, gives sanction to the senses;
Who would not (Heaven forbid it!) waste
One hour in what the world calls Taste,
Nor fondly deign to laugh or cry,
Unless they know some reason why;
With these grave fops, whose system seems
To give up certainty for dreams,
The eye of man is understood
As for no other purpose good
Than as a door, through which, of course,
Their passage crowding, objects force,
A downright usher, to admit
New-comers to the court of Wit:
(Good Gravity! forbear thy spleen;
When I say Wit, I Wisdom mean)
Where (such the practice of the court,
Which legal precedents support)
Not one idea is allow'd
To pass unquestion'd in the crowd,
But ere it can obtain the grace
Of holding in the brain a place,
Before the chief in congregation
Must stand a strict examination.
Not such as those, who physic twirl,
Full fraught with death, from every curl;
Who prove, with all becoming state,
Their voice to be the voice of Fate;
Prepared with essence, drop, and pill,
To be another Ward or Hill,
Before they can obtain their ends,
To sign death-warrants for their friends,
And talents vast as theirs employ,
_Secundum artem_ to destroy,
Must pass (or laws their rage restrain)
Before the chiefs of Warwick Lane:
Thrice happy Lane! where, uncontroll'd,
In power and lethargy grown old,
Most fit to take, in this bless'd land,
The reins--which fell from Wyndham's hand,
Her lawful throne great Dulness rears,
Still more herself, as more in years;
Where she, (and who shall dare deny
Her right, when Reeves and Chauncy's by?)
Calling to mind, in ancient time,
One Garth, who err'd in wit and rhyme,
Ordains, from henceforth, to admit
None of the rebel sons of Wit,
And makes it her peculiar care
That Schomberg never shall be there.
Not such as those, whom Polly trains
To letters, though unbless'd with brains,
Who, destitute of power and will
To learn, are kept to learning still;
Whose heads, when other methods fail,
Receive instruction from the tail,
Because their sires,--a common case
Which brings the children to disgrace,--
Imagine it a certain rule
They never could beget a fool,
Must pass, or must compound for, ere
The chaplain, full of beef and prayer,
Will give his reverend permit,
Announcing them for orders fit;
So that the prelate (what's a name?
All prelates now are much the same)
May, with a conscience safe and quiet,
With holy hands lay on that fiat
Which doth all faculties dispense,
All sanctity, all faith, all sense;
Makes Madan quite a saint appear,
And makes an oracle of Cheere.
Not such as in that solemn seat,
Where the Nine Ladies hold retreat,--
The Ladies Nine, who, as we're told,
Scorning those haunts they loved of old,
The banks of Isis now prefer,
Nor will one hour from Oxford stir,--
Are held for form, which Balaam's ass
As well as Balaam's self might pass,
And with his master take degrees,
Could he contrive to pay the fees.
Men of sound parts, who, deeply read,
O'erload the storehouse of the head
With furniture they ne'er can use,
Cannot forgive our rambling Muse
This wild excursion; cannot see
Why Physic and Divinity,
To the surprise of all beholders,
Are lugg'd in by the head and shoulders;
Or how, in any point of view,
Oxford hath any thing to do.
But men of nice and subtle learning,
Remarkable for quick discerning,
Through spectacles of critic mould,
Without instruction, will behold
That we a method here have got
To show what is, by what is not;
And that our drift (parenthesis
For once apart) is briefly this:
Within the brain's most secret cells
A certain Lord Chief-Justice dwells,
Of sovereign power, whom, one and all,
With common voice, we Reason call;
Though, for the purposes of satire,
A name, in truth, is no great matter;
Jefferies or Mansfield, which you will--
It means a Lord Chief-Justice still.
Here, so our great projectors say,
The Senses all must homage pay;
Hither they all must tribute bring,
And prostrate fall before their king;
Whatever unto them is brought,
Is carried on the wings of Thought
Before his throne, where, in full state,
He on their merits holds debate,
Examines, cross-examines, weighs
Their right to censure or to praise:
Nor doth his equal voice depend
On narrow views of foe and friend,
Nor can, or flattery, or force
Divert him from his steady course;
The channel of Inquiry's clear,
No sham examination's here.
He, upright justicer, no doubt,
_Ad libitum_ puts in and out,
Adjusts and settles in a trice
What virtue is, and what is vice;
What is perfection, what defect;
What we must choose, and what reject;
He takes upon him to explain
What pleasure is, and what is pain;
Whilst we, obedient to the whim,
And resting all our faith on him,
True members of the Stoic Weal,
Must learn to think, and cease to feel.
This glorious system, form'd for man
To practise when and how he can,
If the five Senses, in alliance,
To Reason hurl a proud defiance,
And, though oft conquer'd, yet unbroke,
Endeavour to throw off that yoke,
Which they a greater slavery hold
Than Jewish bondage was of old;
Or if they, something touch'd with shame,
Allow him to retain the name
Of Royalty, and, as in sport,
To hold a mimic formal court;
Permitted--no uncommon thing--
To be a kind of puppet king,
And suffer'd, by the way of toy,
To hold a globe, but not employ;
Our system-mongers, struck with fear,
Prognosticate destruction near;
All things to anarchy must run;
The little world of man's undone.
Nay, should the Eye, that nicest sense,
Neglect to send intelligence
Unto the Brain, distinct and clear,
Of all that passes in her sphere;
Should she, presumptuous, joy receive
Without the Understanding's leave,
They deem it rank and daring treason
Against the monarchy of Reason,
Not thinking, though they're wondrous wise,
That few have reason, most have eyes;
So that the pleasures of the mind
To a small circle are confined,
Whilst those which to the senses fall
Become the property of all.
Besides, (and this is sure a case
Not much at present out of place)
Where Nature reason doth deny,
No art can that defect supply;
But if (for it is our intent
Fairly to state the argument)
A man should want an eye or two,
The remedy is sure, though new:
The cure's at hand--no need of fear--
For proof--behold the Chevalier!--
As well prepared, beyond all doubt,
To put eyes in, as put them out.
But, argument apart, which tends
To embitter foes and separate friends,
(Nor, turn'd apostate from the Nine,
Would I, though bred up a divine,
And foe, of course, to Reason's Weal,
Widen that breach I cannot heal)
By his own sense and feelings taught,
In speech as liberal as in thought,
Let every man enjoy his whim;
What's he to me, or I to him?
Might I, though never robed in ermine,
A matter of this weight determine,
No penalties should settled be
To force men to hypocrisy,
To make them ape an awkward zeal,
And, feeling not, pretend to feel.
I would not have, might sentence rest
Finally fix'd within my breast,
E'en Annet censured and confined,
Because we're of a different mind.
Nature, who, in her act most free,
Herself delights in liberty,
Profuse in love, and without bound,
Pours joy on every creature round;
Whom yet, was every bounty shed
In double portions on our head,
We could not truly bounteous call,
If Freedom did not crown them all.
By Providence forbid to stray,
Brutes never can mistake their way;
Determined still, they plod along
By instinct, neither right nor wrong;
But man, had he the heart to use
His freedom, hath a right to choose;
Whether he acts, or well, or ill,
Depends entirely on his will.
To her last work, her favourite Man,
Is given, on Nature's better plan,
A privilege in power to err.
Nor let this phrase resentment stir
Amongst the grave ones, since indeed
The little merit man can plead
In doing well, dependeth still
Upon his power of doing ill.
Opinions should be free as air;
No man, whate'er his rank, whate'er
His qualities, a claim can found
That my opinion must be bound,
And square with his; such slavish chains
From foes the liberal soul disdains;
Nor can, though true to friendship, bend
To wear them even from a friend.
Let those, who rigid judgment own,
Submissive bow at Judgment's throne,
And if they of no value hold
Pleasure, till pleasure is grown cold,
Pall'd and insipid, forced to wait
For Judgment's regular debate
To give it warrant, let them find
Dull subjects suited to their mind.
Theirs be slow wisdom; be my plan,
To live as merry as I can,
Regardless, as the fashions go,
Whether there's reason for't or no:
Be my employment here on earth
To give a liberal scope to mirth,
Life's barren vale with flowers to adorn,
And pluck a rose from every thorn.
But if, by Error led astray,
I chance to wander from my way,
Let no blind guide observe, in spite,
I'm wrong, who cannot set me right.
That doctor could I ne'er endure
Who found disease, and not a cure;
Nor can I hold that man a friend
Whose zeal a helping hand shall lend
To open happy Folly's eyes,
And, making wretched, make me wise:
For next (a truth which can't admit
Reproof from Wisdom or from Wit)
To being happy here below,
Is to believe that we are so.
Some few in knowledge find relief;
I place my comfort in belief.
Some for reality may call;
Fancy to me is all in all.
Imagination, through the trick
Of doctors, often makes us sick;
And why, let any sophist tell,
May it not likewise make us well?
This I am sure, whate'er our view,
Whatever shadows we pursue,
For our pursuits, be what they will,
Are little more than shadows still;
Too swift they fly, too swift and strong,
For man to catch or hold them long;
But joys which in the fancy live,
Each moment to each man may give:
True to himself, and true to ease,
He softens Fate's severe decrees,
And (can a mortal wish for more?)
Creates, and makes himself new o'er,
Mocks boasted vain reality,
And is, whate'er he wants to be.
Hail, Fancy!--to thy power I owe
Deliverance from the gripe of Woe;
To thee I owe a mighty debt,
Which Gratitude shall ne'er forget,
Whilst Memory can her force employ,
A large increase of every joy.
When at my doors, too strongly barr'd,
Authority had placed a guard,
A knavish guard, ordain'd by law
To keep poor Honesty in awe;
Authority, severe and stern,
To intercept my wish'd return;
When foes grew proud, and friends grew cool,
And laughter seized each sober fool;
When Candour started in amaze,
And, meaning censure, hinted praise;
When Prudence, lifting up her eyes
And hands, thank'd Heaven that she was wise;
When all around me, with an air
Of hopeless sorrow, look'd despair;
When they, or said, or seem'd to say,
There is but one, one only way
Better, and be advised by us,
Not be at all, than to be thus;
When Virtue shunn'd the shock, and Pride,
Disabled, lay by Virtue's side,
Too weak my ruffled soul to cheer,
Which could not hope, yet would not fear;
Health in her motion, the wild grace
Of pleasure speaking in her face,
Dull regularity thrown by,
And comfort beaming from her eye,
Fancy, in richest robes array'd,
Came smiling forth, and brought me aid;
Came smiling o'er that dreadful time,
And, more to bless me, came in rhyme.
Nor is her power to me confined;
It spreads, it comprehends mankind.
When (to the spirit-stirring sound
Of trumpets breathing courage round,
And fifes well-mingled, to restrain
And bring that courage down again;
Or to the melancholy knell
Of the dull, deep, and doleful bell,
Such as of late the good Saint Bride
Muffled, to mortify the pride
Of those who, England quite forgot,
Paid their vile homage to the Scot;
Where Asgill held the foremost place,
Whilst my lord figured at a race)
Processions ('tis not worth debate
Whether they are of stage or state)
Move on, so very, very slow,
Tis doubtful if they move, or no;
When the performers all the while
Mechanically frown or smile,
Or, with a dull and stupid stare,
A vacancy of sense declare,
Or, with down-bending eye, seem wrought
Into a labyrinth of thought,
Where Reason wanders still in doubt,
And, once got in, cannot get out;
What cause sufficient can we find,
To satisfy a thinking mind,
Why, duped by such vain farces, man
Descends to act on such a plan?
Why they, who hold themselves divine,
Can in such wretched follies join,
Strutting like peacocks, or like crows,
Themselves and Nature to expose?
What cause, but that (you'll understand
We have our remedy at hand,
That if perchance we start a doubt,
Ere it is fix'd, we wipe it out;
As surgeons, when they lop a limb,
Whether for profit, fame, or whim,
Or mere experiment to try,
Must always have a styptic by)
Fancy steps in, and stamps that real,
Which, _ipso facto_, is ideal.
Can none remember?--yes, I know,
All must remember that rare show
When to the country Sense went down,
And fools came flocking up to town;
When knights (a work which all admit
To be for knighthood much unfit)
Built booths for hire; when parsons play'd,
In robes canonical array'd,
And, fiddling, join'd the Smithfield dance,
The price of tickets to advance:
Or, unto tapsters turn'd, dealt out,
Running from booth to booth about,
To every scoundrel, by retail,
True pennyworths of beef and ale,
Then first prepared, by bringing beer in,
For present grand electioneering;
When heralds, running all about
To bring in Order, turn'd it out;
When, by the prudent Marshal's care,
Lest the rude populace should stare,
And with unhallow'd eyes profane
Gay puppets of Patrician strain,
The whole procession, as in spite,
Unheard, unseen, stole off by night;
When our loved monarch, nothing both,
Solemnly took that sacred oath,
Whence mutual firm agreements spring
Betwixt the subject and the king,
By which, in usual manner crown'd,
His head, his heart, his hands, he bound,
Against himself, should passion stir
The least propensity to err,
Against all slaves, who might prepare,
Or open force, or hidden snare,
That glorious Charter to maintain,
By which we serve, and he must reign;
Then Fancy, with unbounded sway,
Revell'd sole mistress of the day,
And wrought such wonders, as might make
Egyptian sorcerers forsake
Their baffled mockeries, and own
The palm of magic hers alone.
A knight, (who, in the silken lap
Of lazy Peace, had lived on pap;
Who never yet had dared to roam
'Bove ten or twenty miles from home,
Nor even that, unless a guide
Was placed to amble by his side,
And troops of slaves were spread around
To keep his Honour safe and sound;
Who could not suffer, for his life,
A point to sword, or edge to knife;
And always fainted at the sight
Of blood, though 'twas not shed in fight;
Who disinherited one son
For firing off an alder gun,
And whipt another, six years old,
Because the boy, presumptuous, bold
To madness, likely to become
A very Swiss, had beat a drum,
Though it appear'd an instrument
Most peaceable and innocent,
Having, from first, been in the hands
And service of the City bands)
Graced with those ensigns, which were meant
To further Honour's dread intent,
The minds of warriors to inflame,
And spur them on to deeds of fame;
With little sword, large spurs, high feather,
Fearless of every thing but weather,
(And all must own, who pay regard
To charity, it had been hard
That in his very first campaign
His honours should be soil'd with rain)
A hero all at once became,
And (seeing others much the same
In point of valour as himself,
Who leave their courage on a shelf
From year to year, till some such rout
In proper season calls it out)
Strutted, look'd big, and swagger'd more
Than ever hero did before;
Look'd up, look'd down, look'd all around,
Like Mavors, grimly smiled and frown'd;
Seem'd Heaven, and Earth, and Hell to call
To fight, that he might rout them all,
And personated Valour's style
So long, spectators to beguile,
That, passing strange, and wondrous true,
Himself at last believed it too;
Nor for a time could he discern,
Till Truth and Darkness took their turn,
So well did Fancy play her part,
That coward still was at the heart.
Whiffle (who knows not Whiffle's name,
By the impartial voice of Fame
Recorded first through all this land
In Vanity's illustrious band?)
Who, by all-bounteous Nature meant
For offices of hardiment,
A modern Hercules at least,
To rid the world of each wild beast,
Of each wild beast which came in view,
Whether on four legs or on two,
Degenerate, delights to prove
His force on the parade of Love,
Disclaims the joys which camps afford,
And for the distaff quits the sword;
Who fond of women would appear
To public eye and public ear,
But, when in private, lets them know
How little they can trust to show;
Who sports a woman, as of course,
Just as a jockey shows a horse,
And then returns her to the stable,
Or vainly plants her at his table,
Where he would rather Venus find
(So pall'd, and so depraved his mind)
Than, by some great occasion led,
To seize her panting in her bed,
Burning with more than mortal fires,
And melting in her own desires;
Who, ripe in years, is yet a child,
Through fashion, not through feeling, wild;
Whate'er in others, who proceed
As Sense and Nature have decreed,
From real passion flows, in him
Is mere effect of mode and whim;
Who laughs, a very common way,
Because he nothing has to say,
As your choice spirits oaths dispense
To fill up vacancies of sense;
Who, having some small sense, defies it,
Or, using, always misapplies it;
Who now and then brings something forth
Which seems indeed of sterling worth;
Something, by sudden start and fit,
Which at a distance looks like wit,
But, on examination near,
To his confusion will appear,
By Truth's fair glass, to be at best
A threadbare jester's threadbare jest;
Who frisks and dances through the street,
Sings without voice, rides without seat,
Plays o'er his tricks, like Aesop's ass,
A gratis fool to all who pass;
Who riots, though he loves not waste,
Whores without lust, drinks without taste,
Acts without sense, talks without thought,
Does every thing but what he ought;
Who, led by forms, without the power
Of vice, is vicious; who one hour,
Proud without pride, the next will be
Humble without humility:
Whose vanity we all discern,
The spring on which his actions turn;
Whose aim in erring, is to err,
So that he may be singular,
And all his utmost wishes mean
Is, though he's laugh'd at, to be seen:
Such, (for when Flattery's soothing strain
Had robb'd the Muse of her disdain,
And found a method to persuade
Her art to soften every shade,
Justice, enraged, the pencil snatch'd
From her degenerate hand, and scratch'd
Out every trace; then, quick as thought,
From life this striking likeness caught)
In mind, in manners, and in mien,
Such Whiffle came, and such was seen
In the world's eye; but (strange to tell!)
Misled by Fancy's magic spell,
Deceived, not dreaming of deceit,
Cheated, but happy in the cheat,
Was more than human in his own.
Oh, bow, bow all at Fancy's throne,
Whose power could make so vile an elf
With patience bear that thing, himself.
But, mistress of each art to please,
Creative Fancy, what are these,
These pageants of a trifler's pen,
To what thy power effected then?
Familiar with the human mind,
And swift and subtle as the wind,
Which we all feel, yet no one knows,
Or whence it comes, or where it goes,
Fancy at once in every part
Possess'd the eye, the head, the heart,
And in a thousand forms array'd,
A thousand various gambols play'd.
Here, in a face which well might ask
The privilege to wear a mask
In spite of law, and Justice teach
For public good to excuse the breach,
Within the furrow of a wrinkle
'Twixt eyes, which could not shine but twinkle,
Like sentinels i' th' starry way,
Who wait for the return of day,
Almost burnt out, and seem to keep
Their watch, like soldiers, in their sleep;
Or like those lamps, which, by the power
Of law, must burn from hour to hour,
(Else they, without redemption, fall
Under the terrors of that Hall,
Which, once notorious for a hop,
Is now become a justice shop)
Which are so managed, to go out
Just when the time comes round about,
Which yet, through emulation, strive
To keep their dying light alive,
And (not uncommon, as we find,
Amongst the children of mankind)
As they grow weaker, would seem stronger,
And burn a little, little longer:
Fancy, betwixt such eyes enshrined,
No brush to daub, no mill to grind,
Thrice waved her wand around, whose force
Changed in an instant Nature's course,
And, hardly credible in rhyme,
Not only stopp'd, but call'd back Time;
The face of every wrinkle clear'd,
Smooth as the floating stream appear'd,
Down the neck ringlets spread their flame,
The neck admiring whence they came;
On the arch'd brow the Graces play'd;
On the full bosom Cupid laid;
Suns, from their proper orbits sent,
Became for eyes a supplement;
Teeth, white as ever teeth were seen,
Deliver'd from the hand of Green,
Started, in regular array,
Like train-bands on a grand field day,
Into the gums, which would have fled,
But, wondering, turn'd from white to red;
Quite alter'd was the whole machine,
And Lady ---- ---- was fifteen.
Here she made lordly temples rise
Before the pious Dashwood's eyes,
Temples which, built aloft in air,
May serve for show, if not for prayer;
In solemn form herself, before,
Array'd like Faith, the Bible bore.
There over Melcombe's feather'd head--
Who, quite a man of gingerbread,
Savour'd in talk, in dress, and phiz,
More of another world than this,
To a dwarf Muse a giant page,
The last grave fop of the last age--
In a superb and feather'd hearse,
Bescutcheon'd and betagg'd with verse,
Which, to beholders from afar,
Appear'd like a triumphal car,
She rode, in a cast rainbow clad;
There, throwing off the hallow'd plaid,
Naked, as when (in those drear cells
Where, self-bless'd, self-cursed, Madness dwells)
Pleasure, on whom, in Laughter's shape,
Frenzy had perfected a rape,
First brought her forth, before her time,
Wild witness of her shame and crime,
Driving before an idol band
Of drivelling Stuarts, hand in hand;
Some who, to curse mankind, had wore
A crown they ne'er must think of more;
Others, whose baby brows were graced
With paper crowns, and toys of paste,
She jigg'd, and, playing on the flute,
Spread raptures o'er the soul of Bute.
Big with vast hopes, some mighty plan,
Which wrought the busy soul of man
To her full bent; the Civil Law,
Fit code to keep a world in awe,
Bound o'er his brows, fair to behold,
As Jewish frontlets were of old;
The famous Charter of our land
Defaced, and mangled in his hand;
As one whom deepest thoughts employ,
But deepest thoughts of truest joy,
Serious and slow he strode, he stalk'd;
Before him troops of heroes walk'd,
Whom best he loved, of heroes crown'd,
By Tories guarded all around;
Dull solemn pleasure in his face,
He saw the honours of his race,
He saw their lineal glories rise,
And touch'd, or seem'd to touch, the skies:
Not the most distant mark of fear,
No sign of axe or scaffold near,
Not one cursed thought to cross his will
Of such a place as Tower Hill.
Curse on this Muse, a flippant jade,
A shrew, like every other maid
Who turns the corner of nineteen,
Devour'd with peevishness and spleen;
Her tongue (for as, when bound for life,
The husband suffers for the wife,
So if in any works of rhyme
Perchance there blunders out a crime,
Poor culprit bards must always rue it,
Although 'tis plain the Muses do it)
Sooner or later cannot fail
To send me headlong to a jail.
Whate'er my theme, (our themes we choose,
In modern days, without a Muse;
Just as a father will provide
To join a bridegroom and a bride,
As if, though they must be the players,
The game was wholly his, not theirs)
Whate'er my theme, the Muse, who still
Owns no direction but her will,
Plies off, and ere I could expect,
By ways oblique and indirect,
At once quite over head and ears
In fatal politics appears.
Time was, and, if I aught discern
Of fate, that time shall soon return,
When, decent and demure at least,
As grave and dull as any priest,
I could see Vice in robes array'd,
Could see the game of Folly play'd
Successfully in Fortune's school,
Without exclaiming rogue or fool.
Time was, when, nothing both or proud,
I lackey'd with the fawning crowd,
Scoundrels in office, and would bow
To cyphers great in place; but now
Upright I stand, as if wise Fate,
To compliment a shatter'd state,
Had me, like Atlas, hither sent
To shoulder up the firmament,
And if I stoop'd, with general crack,
The heavens would tumble from my back.
Time was, when rank and situation
Secured the great ones of the nation
From all control; satire and law
Kept only little knaves in awe;
But now, Decorum lost, I stand
Bemused, a pencil in my hand,
And, dead to every sense of shame,
Careless of safety and of fame,
The names of scoundrels minute down,
And libel more than half the town.
How can a statesman be secure
In all his villanies, if poor
And dirty authors thus shall dare
To lay his rotten bosom bare?
Muses should pass away their time
In dressing out the poet's rhyme
With bills, and ribands, and array
Each line in harmless taste, though gay;
When the hot burning fit is on,
They should regale their restless son
With something to allay his rage,
Some cool Castalian beverage,
Or some such draught (though they, 'tis plain,
Taking the Muse's name in vain,
Know nothing of their real court,
And only fable from report)
As makes a Whitehead's Ode go down,
Or slakes the Feverette of Brown:
But who would in his senses think,
Of Muses giving gall to drink,
Or that their folly should afford
To raving poets gun or sword?
Poets were ne'er designed by Fate
To meddle with affairs of state,
Nor should (if we may speak our thought
Truly as men of honour ought)
Sound policy their rage admit,
To launch the thunderbolts of Wit
About those heads, which, when they're shot,
Can't tell if 'twas by Wit or not.
These things well known, what devil, in spite,
Can have seduced me thus to write
Out of that road, which must have led
To riches, without heart or head,
Into that road, which, had I more
Than ever poet had before
Of wit and virtue, in disgrace
Would keep me still, and out of place;
Which, if some judge (you'll understand
One famous, famous through the land
For making law) should stand my friend,
At last may in a pillory end;
And all this, I myself admit,
Without one cause to lead to it?
For instance, now--this book--the Ghost--
Methinks I hear some critic Post
Remark most gravely--'The first word
Which we about the Ghost have heard.'
Peace, my good sir!--not quite so fast--
What is the first, may be the last,
Which is a point, all must agree,
Cannot depend on you or me.
Fanny, no ghost of common mould,
Is not by forms to be controll'd;
To keep her state, and show her skill,
She never comes but when she will.
I wrote and wrote, (perhaps you doubt,
And shrewdly, what I wrote about;
Believe me, much to my disgrace,
I, too, am in the self-same case
But still I wrote, till Fanny came
Impatient, nor could any shame
On me with equal justice fall
If she had never come at all.
An underling, I could not stir
Without the cue thrown out by her,
Nor from the subject aid receive
Until she came and gave me leave.
So that, (ye sons of Erudition
Mark, this is but a supposition,
Nor would I to so wise a nation
Suggest it as a revelation)
If henceforth, dully turning o'er
Page after page, ye read no more
Of Fanny, who, in sea or air,
May be departed God knows where,
Rail at jilt Fortune; but agree
No censure can be laid on me;
For sure (the cause let Mansfield try)
Fanny is in the fault, not I.
But, to return--and this I hold
A secret worth its weight in gold
To those who write, as I write now,
Not to mind where they go, or how,
Through ditch, through bog, o'er hedge and stile,
Make it but worth the reader's while,
And keep a passage fair and plain
Always to bring him back again.
Through dirt, who scruples to approach,
At Pleasure's call, to take a coach?
But we should think the man a clown,
Who in the dirt should set us down.
But to return--if Wit, who ne'er
The shackles of restraint could bear,
In wayward humour should refuse
Her timely succour to the Muse,
And, to no rules and orders tied,
Roughly deny to be her guide,
She must renounce Decorum's plan,
And get back when, and how she can;
As parsons, who, without pretext,
As soon as mention'd, quit their text,
And, to promote sleep's genial power,
Grope in the dark for half an hour,
Give no more reason (for we know
Reason is vulgar, mean, and low)
Why they come back (should it befall
That ever they come back at all)
Into the road, to end their rout,
Than they can give why they went out.
But to return--this book--the Ghost--
A mere amusement at the most;
A trifle, fit to wear away
The horrors of a rainy day;
A slight shot-silk, for summer wear,
Just as our modern statesmen are,
If rigid honesty permit
That I for once purloin the wit
Of him, who, were we all to steal,
Is much too rich the theft to feel:
Yet in this book, where Base should join
With Mirth to sugar every line;
Where it should all be mere chit-chat,
Lively, good-humour'd, and all that;
Where honest Satire, in disgrace,
Should not so much as show her face,
The shrew, o'erleaping all due bounds,
Breaks into Laughter's sacred grounds,
And, in contempt, plays o'er her tricks
In science, trade, and politics.
By why should the distemper'd scold
Attempt to blacken men enroll'd
In Power's dread book, whose mighty skill
Can twist an empire to their will;
Whose voice is fate, and on their tongue
Law, liberty, and life are hung;
Whom, on inquiry, Truth shall find
With Stuarts link'd, time out of mind,
Superior to their country's laws,
Defenders of a tyrant's cause;
Men, who the same damn'd maxims hold
Darkly, which they avow'd of old;
Who, though by different means, pursue
The end which they had first in view,
And, force found vain, now play their part
With much less honour, much more art?
Why, at the corners of the streets,
To every patriot drudge she meets,
Known or unknown, with furious cry
Should she wild clamours vent? or why,
The minds of groundlings to inflame,
A Dashwood, Bute, and Wyndham name?
Why, having not, to our surprise,
The fear of death before her eyes,
Bearing, and that but now and then,
No other weapon but her pen,
Should she an argument afford
For blood to men who wear a sword?
Men, who can nicely trim and pare
A point of honour to a hair--
(Honour!--a word of nice import,
A pretty trinket in a court,
Which my lord, quite in rapture, feels
Dangling and rattling with his seals--
Honour!--a word which all the Nine
Would be much puzzled to define--
Honour!--a word which torture mocks,
And might confound a thousand Lockes--
Which--for I leave to wiser heads,
Who fields of death prefer to beds
Of down, to find out, if they can,
What honour is, on their wild plan--
Is not, to take it in their way,
And this we sure may dare to say
Without incurring an offence,
Courage, law, honesty, or sense):
Men, who, all spirit, life, and soul
Neat butchers of a button-hole,
Having more skill, believe it true
That they must have more courage too:
Men who, without a place or name,
Their fortunes speechless as their fame,
Would by the sword new fortunes carve,
And rather die in fight than starve
At coronations, a vast field,
Which food of every kind might yield;
Of good sound food, at once most fit
For purposes of health and wit,
Could not ambitious Satire rest,
Content with what she might digest?
Could she not feast on things of course,
A champion, or a champion's horse?
A champion's horse--no, better say,
Though better figured on that day,
A horse, which might appear to us,
Who deal in rhyme, a Pegasus;
A rider, who, when once got on,
Might pass for a Bellerophon,
Dropt on a sudden from the skies,
To catch and fix our wondering eyes,
To witch, with wand instead of whip,
The world with noble horsemanship,
To twist and twine, both horse and man,
On such a well-concerted plan,
That, Centaur-like, when all was done,
We scarce could think they were not one?
Could she not to our itching ears
Bring the new names of new-coin'd peers,
Who walk'd, nobility forgot,
With shoulders fitter for a knot
Than robes of honour; for whose sake
Heralds in form were forced to make,
To make, because they could not find,
Great predecessors to their mind?
Could she not (though 'tis doubtful since
Whether he plumber is, or prince)
Tell of a simple knight's advance
To be a doughty peer of France?
Tell how he did a dukedom gain,
And Robinson was Aquitain?
Tell how her city chiefs, disgraced,
Were at an empty table placed,--
A gross neglect, which, whilst they live,
They can't forget, and won't forgive;
A gross neglect of all those rights
Which march with city appetites,
Of all those canons, which we find
By Gluttony, time out of mind,
Established, which they ever hold
Dearer than any thing but gold?
Thanks to my stars--I now see shore--
Of courtiers, and of courts no more--
Thus stumbling on my city friends,
Blind Chance my guide, my purpose bends
In line direct, and shall pursue
The point which I had first in view,
Nor more shall with the reader sport
Till I have seen him safe in port.
Hush'd be each fear--no more I bear
Through the wide regions of the air
The reader terrified, no more
Wild ocean's horrid paths explore.
Be the plain track from henceforth mine--
Cross roads to Allen I resign;
Allen, the honor of this nation;
Allen, himself a corporation;
Allen, of late notorious grown
For writings, none, or all, his own;
Allen, the first of letter'd men,
Since the good Bishop holds his pen,
And at his elbow takes his stand,
To mend his head, and guide his hand.
But hold--once more, Digression hence--
Let us return to Common Sense;
The car of Phoebus I discharge,
My carriage now a Lord Mayor's barge.
Suppose we now--we may suppose
In verse, what would be sin in prose--
The sky with darkness overspread,
And every star retired to bed;
The gewgaw robes of Pomp and Pride
In some dark corner thrown aside;
Great lords and ladies giving way
To what they seem to scorn by day,
The real feelings of the heart,
And Nature taking place of Art;
Desire triumphant through the night,
And Beauty panting with delight;
Chastity, woman's fairest crown,
Till the return of morn laid down.
Then to be worn again as bright
As if not sullied in the night;
Dull Ceremony, business o'er,
Dreaming in form at Cottrell's door;
Precaution trudging all about
To see the candles safely out,
Bearing a mighty master-key,
Habited like Economy,
Stamping each lock with triple seals;
Mean Avarice creeping at her heels.
Suppose we too, like sheep in pen,
The Mayor and Court of Aldermen
Within their barge, which through the deep,
The rowers more than half asleep,
Moved slow, as overcharged with state;
Thames groan'd beneath the mighty weight,
And felt that bauble heavier far
Than a whole fleet of men of war.
Sleep o'er each well-known faithful head
With liberal hand his poppies shed;
Each head, by Dulness render'd fit
Sleep and his empire to admit.
Through the whole passage not a word,
Not one faint, weak half-sound was heard;
Sleep had prevail'd to overwhelm
The steersman nodding o'er the helm;
The rowers, without force or skill,
Left the dull barge to drive at will;
The sluggish oars suspended hung,
And even Beardmore held his tongue.
Commerce, regardful of a freight
On which depended half her state,
Stepp'd to the helm; with ready hand
She safely clear'd that bank of sand,
Where, stranded, our west-country fleet
Delay and danger often meet,
Till Neptune, anxious for the trade,
Comes in full tides, and brings them aid.
Next (for the Muses can survey
Objects by night as well as day;
Nothing prevents their taking aim,
Darkness and light to them the same)
They pass'd that building which of old
Queen-mothers was design'd to hold;
At present a mere lodging-pen,
A palace turn'd into a den;
To barracks turn'd, and soldiers tread
Where dowagers have laid their head.
Why should we mention Surrey Street,
Where every week grave judges meet
All fitted out with hum and ha,
In proper form to drawl out law,
To see all causes duly tried
'Twixt knaves who drive, and fools who ride?
Why at the Temple should we stay?
What of the Temple dare we say?
A dangerous ground we tread on there,
And words perhaps may actions bear;
Where, as the brethren of the seas
For fares, the lawyers ply for fees.
What of that Bridge, most wisely made
To serve the purposes of trade,
In the great mart of all this nation,
By stopping up the navigation,
And to that sand bank adding weight,
Which is already much too great?
What of that Bridge, which, void of sense
But well supplied with impudence,
Englishmen, knowing not the Guild,
Thought they might have a claim to build,
Till Paterson, as white as milk,
As smooth as oil, as soft as silk,
In solemn manner had decreed
That on the other side the Tweed
Art, born and bred, and fully grown,
Was with one Mylne, a man unknown,
But grace, preferment, and renown
Deserving, just arrived in town:
One Mylne, an artist perfect quite
Both in his own and country's right,
As fit to make a bridge as he,
With glorious Patavinity,
To build inscriptions worthy found
To lie for ever under ground.
Much more worth observation too,
Was this a season to pursue
The theme, our Muse might tell in rhyme:
The will she hath, but not the time;
For, swift as shaft from Indian bow,
(And when a goddess comes, we know,
Surpassing Nature acts prevail.
And boats want neither oar nor sail)
The vessel pass'd, and reach'd the shore
So quick, that Thought was scarce before.
Suppose we now our City court
Safely delivered at the port.
And, of their state regardless quite,
Landed, like smuggled goods, by night,
The solemn magistrate laid down,
The dignity of robe and gown,
With every other ensign gone,
Suppose the woollen nightcap on;
The flesh-brush used, with decent state,
To make the spirits circulate,
(A form which, to the senses true,
The lickerish chaplain uses too,
Though, something to improve the plan,
He takes the maid instead of man)
Swathed, and with flannel cover'd o'er,
To show the vigour of threescore,
The vigour of threescore and ten,
Above the proof of younger men,
Suppose, the mighty Dulman led
Betwixt two slaves, and put to bed;
Suppose, the moment he lies down,
No miracle in this great town,
The drone as fast asleep as he
Must in the course of nature be,
Who, truth for our foundation take,
When up, is never half awake.
There let him sleep, whilst we survey
The preparations for the day;
That day on which was to be shown
Court pride by City pride outdone.
The jealous mother sends away,
As only fit for childish play,
That daughter who, to gall her pride,
Shoots up too forward by her side.
The wretch, of God and man accursed,
Of all Hell's instruments the worst,
Draws forth his pawns, and for the day
Struts in some spendthrift's vain array;
Around his awkward doxy shine
The treasures of Golconda's mine;
Each neighbour, with a jealous glare,
Beholds her folly publish'd there.
Garments well saved, (an anecdote
Which we can prove, or would not quote)
Garments well saved, which first were made
When tailors, to promote their trade,
Against the Picts in arms arose,
And drove them out, or made them clothes;
Garments immortal, without end,
Like names and titles, which descend
Successively from sire to son;
Garments, unless some work is done
Of note, not suffer'd to appear
'Bove once at most in every year,
Were now, in solemn form, laid bare,
To take the benefit of air,
And, ere they came to be employ'd
On this solemnity, to void
That scent which Russia's leather gave,
From vile and impious moth to save.
Each head was busy, and each heart
In preparation bore a part;
Running together all about
The servants put each other out,
Till the grave master had decreed,
The more haste ever the worse speed.
Miss, with her little eyes half-closed,
Over a smuggled toilette dosed;
The waiting-maid, whom story notes
A very Scrub in petticoats,
Hired for one work, but doing all,
In slumbers lean'd against the wall.
Milliners, summon'd from afar,
Arrived in shoals at Temple Bar,
Strictly commanded to import
Cart loads of foppery from Court;
With labour'd visible design,
Art strove to be superbly fine;
Nature, more pleasing, though more wild,
Taught otherwise her darling child,
And cried, with spirited disdain,
Be Hunter elegant and plain!
Lo! from the chambers of the East,
A welcome prelude to the feast,
In saffron-colour'd robe array'd,
High in a car, by Vulcan made,
Who work'd for Jove himself, each steed,
High-mettled, of celestial breed,
Pawing and pacing all the way,
Aurora brought the wish'd-for day,
And held her empire, till out-run
By that brave jolly groom, the Sun.
The trumpet--hark! it speaks--it swells
The loud full harmony; it tells
The time at hand when Dulman, led
By Form, his citizens must head,
And march those troops, which at his call
Were now assembled, to Guildhall,
On matters of importance great,
To court and city, church and state.
From end to end the sound makes way,
All hear the signal and obey;
But Dulman, who, his charge forgot,
By Morpheus fetter'd, heard it not;
Nor could, so sound he slept and fast,
Hear any trumpet, but the last.
Crape, ever true and trusty known,
Stole from the maid's bed to his own,
Then in the spirituals of pride,
Planted himself at Dulman's side.
Thrice did the ever-faithful slave,
With voice which might have reach'd the grave,
And broke Death's adamantine chain,
On Dulman call, but call'd in vain.
Thrice with an arm, which might have made
The Theban boxer curse his trade,
The drone he shook, who rear'd the head,
And thrice fell backward on his bed.
What could be done? Where force hath fail'd,
Policy often hath prevail'd;
And what--an inference most plain--
Had been, Crape thought might be again.
Under his pillow (still in mind
The proverb kept, 'fast bind, fast find')
Each blessed night the keys were laid,
Which Crape to draw away assay'd.
What not the power of voice or arm
Could do, this did, and broke the charm;
Quick started he with stupid stare,
For all his little soul was there.
Behold him, taken up, rubb'd down,
In elbow-chair, and morning-gown;
Behold him, in his latter bloom,
Stripp'd, wash'd, and sprinkled with perfume;
Behold him bending with the weight
Of robes, and trumpery of state;
Behold him (for the maxim's true,
Whate'er we by another do,
We do ourselves; and chaplain paid,
Like slaves in every other trade,
Had mutter'd over God knows what,
Something which he by heart had got)
Having, as usual, said his prayers,
Go titter, totter to the stairs:
Behold him for descent prepare,
With one foot trembling in the air;
He starts, he pauses on the brink,
And, hard to credit, seems to think;
Through his whole train (the chaplain gave
The proper cue to every slave)
At once, as with infection caught,
Each started, paused, and aim'd at thought;
He turns, and they turn; big with care,
He waddles to his elbow-chair,
Squats down, and, silent for a season,
At last with Crape begins to reason:
But first of all he made a sign,
That every soul, but the divine,
Should quit the room; in him, he knows,
He may all confidence repose.
'Crape--though I'm yet not quite awake--
Before this awful step I take,
On which my future all depends,
I ought to know my foes and friends.
My foes and friends--observe me still--
I mean not those who well or ill
Perhaps may wish me, but those who
Have't in their power to do it too.
Now if, attentive to the state,
In too much hurry to be great,
Or through much zeal,--a motive, Crape,
Deserving praise,--into a scrape
I, like a fool, am got, no doubt
I, like a wise man, should get out:
Note that remark without replies;
I say that to get out is wise,
Or, by the very self-same rule,
That to get in was like a fool.
The marrow of this argument
Must wholly rest on the event,
And therefore, which is really hard,
Against events too I must guard.
Should things continue as they stand,
And Bute prevail through all the land
Without a rival, by his aid
My fortunes in a trice are made;
Nay, honours on my zeal may smile,
And stamp me Earl of some great Isle:
But if, a matter of much doubt,
The present minister goes out,
Fain would I know on what pretext
I can stand fairly with the next?
For as my aim, at every hour,
Is to be well with those in power,
And my material point of view,
Whoever's in, to be in too,
I should not, like a blockhead, choose
To gain these, so as those to lose:
'Tis good in every case, you know,
To have two strings unto our bow.'
As one in wonder lost, Crape view'd
His lord, who thus his speech pursued:
'This, my good Crape, is my grand point;
And as the times are out of joint,
The greater caution is required
To bring about the point desired.
What I would wish to bring about
Cannot admit a moment's doubt;
The matter in dispute, you know,
Is what we call the _Quomodo_.
That be thy task.'--The reverend slave,
Becoming in a moment grave,
Fix'd to the ground and rooted stood,
Just like a man cut out out of wood,
Such as we see (without the least
Reflection glancing on the priest)
One or more, planted up and down,
Almost in every church in town;
He stood some minutes, then, like one
Who wish'd the matter might be done,
But could not do it, shook his head,
And thus the man of sorrow said:
'Hard is this task, too hard I swear,
By much too hard for me to bear;
Beyond expression hard my part,
Could mighty Dulman see my heart,
When he, alas! makes known a will
Which Crape's not able to fulfil.
Was ever my obedience barr'd
By any trifling nice regard
To sense and honour? Could I reach
Thy meaning without help of speech,
At the first motion of thy eye
Did not thy faithful creature fly?
Have I not said, not what I ought,
But what my earthly master taught?
Did I e'er weigh, through duty strong,
In thy great biddings, right and wrong?
Did ever Interest, to whom thou
Canst not with more devotion bow,
Warp my sound faith, or will of mine
In contradiction run to thine?
Have I not, at thy table placed,
When business call'd aloud for haste,
Torn myself thence, yet never heard
To utter one complaining word,
And had, till thy great work was done,
All appetites, as having none?
Hard is it, this great plan pursued
Of voluntary servitude;
Pursued without or shame, or fear,
Through the great circle of the year,
Now to receive, in this grand hour,
Commands which lie beyond my power,
Commands which baffle all my skill,
And leave me nothing but my will:
Be that accepted; let my lord
Indulgence to his slave afford:
This task, for my poor strength unfit,
Will yield to none but Dulman's wit.'
With such gross incense gratified,
And turning up the lip of pride,
'Poor Crape'--and shook his empty head--
'Poor puzzled Crape!' wise Dulman said,
'Of judgment weak, of sense confined,
For things of lower note design'd;
For things within the vulgar reach,
To run of errands, and to preach;
Well hast thou judged, that heads like mine
Cannot want help from heads like thine;
Well hast thou judged thyself unmeet
Of such high argument to treat;
Twas but to try thee that I spoke,
And all I said was but a joke.
Nor think a joke, Crape, a disgrace,
Or to my person, or my place;
The wisest of the sons of men
Have deign'd to use them now and then.
The only caution, do you see,
Demanded by our dignity,
From common use and men exempt,
Is that they may not breed contempt.
Great use they have, when in the hands
Of one like me, who understands,
Who understands the time and place,
The person, manner, and the grace,
Which fools neglect; so that we find,
If all the requisites are join'd,
From whence a perfect joke must spring,
A joke's a very serious thing.
But to our business--my design,
Which gave so rough a shock to thine,
To my capacity is made
As ready as a fraud in trade;
Which, like broad-cloth, I can, with ease,
Cut out in any shape I please.
Some, in my circumstance, some few,
Aye, and those men of genius too,
Good men, who, without love or hate,
Whether they early rise or late,
With names uncrack'd, and credit sound,
Rise worth a hundred thousand pound,
By threadbare ways and means would try
To bear their point--so will not I.
New methods shall my wisdom find
To suit these matters to my mind;
So that the infidels at court,
Who make our city wits their sport,
Shall hail the honours of my reign,
And own that Dulman bears a brain.
Some, in my place, to gain their ends,
Would give relations up, and friends;
Would lend a wife, who, they might swear
Safely, was none the worse for wear;
Would see a daughter, yet a maid,
Into a statesman's arms betray'd;
Nay, should the girl prove coy, nor know
What daughters to a father owe,
Sooner than schemes so nobly plann'd
Should fail, themselves would lend a hand;
Would vote on one side, whilst a brother,
Properly taught, would vote on t'other;
Would every petty band forget;
To public eye be with one set,
In private with a second herd,
And be by proxy with a third;
Would, (like a queen, of whom I read,
The other day--her name is fled--
In a book,--where, together bound,
'Whittington and his Cat' I found--
A tale most true, and free from art,
Which all Lord Mayors should have by heart;
A queen oh!--might those days begin
Afresh, when queens would learn to spin--
Who wrought, and wrought, but for some plot,
The cause of which I've now forgot,
During the absence of the sun
Undid what she by day had done)
Whilst they a double visage wear,
What's sworn by day, by night unswear.
Such be their arts, and such, perchance,
May happily their ends advance;
Prom a new system mine shall spring,
A _locum tenens_ is the thing.
That's your true plan. To obligate
The present ministers of state,
My shadow shall our court approach,
And bear my power, and have my coach;
My fine state-coach, superb to view,
A fine state-coach, and paid for too.
To curry favour, and the grace
Obtain of those who're out of place;
In the mean time I--that's to say,
I proper, I myself--here stay.
But hold--perhaps unto the nation,
Who hate the Scot's administration,
To lend my coach may seem to be
Declaring for the ministry,
For where the city-coach is, there
Is the true essence of the Mayor:
Therefore (for wise men are intent
Evils at distance to prevent,
Whilst fools the evils first endure,
And then are plagued to seek a cure)
No coach--a horse--and free from fear,
To make our Deputy appear,
Fast on his back shall he be tied,
With two grooms marching by his side;
Then for a horse--through all the land,
To head our solemn city-band,
Can any one so fit be found
As he who in Artillery-ground,
Without a rider, (noble sight!)
Led on our bravest troops to fight?
But first, Crape, for my honour's sake--
A tender point--inquiry make
About that horse, if the dispute
Is ended, or is still in suit:
For whilst a cause, (observe this plan
Of justice) whether horse or man
The parties be, remains in doubt,
Till 'tis determined out and out,
That power must tyranny appear
Which should, prejudging, interfere,
And weak, faint judges overawe,
To bias the free course of law.
You have my will--now quickly run,
And take care that my will be done.
In public, Crape, you must appear,
Whilst I in privacy sit here;
Here shall great Dulman sit alone,
Making this elbow-chair my throne,
And you, performing what I bid,
Do all, as if I nothing did.'
Crape heard, and speeded on his way;
With him to hear was to obey;
Not without trouble, be assured,
A proper proxy was procured
To serve such infamous intent,
And such a lord to represent;
Nor could one have been found at all
On t'other side of London Wall.
The trumpet sounds--solemn and slow
Behold the grand procession go,
All moving on, cat after kind,
As if for motion ne'er design'd.
Constables, whom the laws admit
To keep the peace by breaking it;
Beadles, who hold the second place
By virtue of a silver mace,
Which every Saturday is drawn,
For use of Sunday, out of pawn;
Treasurers, who with empty key
Secure an empty treasury;
Churchwardens, who their course pursue
In the same state, as to their pew
Churchwardens of St Margaret's go,
Since Peirson taught them pride and show,
Who in short transient pomp appear,
Like almanacs changed every year;
Behind whom, with unbroken locks,
Charity carries the poor's box,
Not knowing that with private keys
They ope and shut it when they please:
Overseers, who by frauds ensure
The heavy curses of the poor;
Unclean came flocking, bulls and bears,
Like beasts into the ark, by pairs.
Portentous, flaming in the van,
Stalk'd the professor, Sheridan,
A man of wire, a mere pantine,
A downright animal machine;
He knows alone, in proper mode,
How to take vengeance on an ode,
And how to butcher Ammon's son
And poor Jack Dryden both in one:
On all occasions next the chair
He stands, for service of the Mayor,
And to instruct him how to use
His A's and B's, and P's and Q's:
O'er letters, into tatters worn,
O'er syllables, defaced and torn,
O'er words disjointed, and o'er sense,
Left destitute of all defence,
He strides, and all the way he goes
Wades, deep in blood, o'er Criss-cross-rows:
Before him every consonant
In agonies is seen to pant;
Behind, in forms not to be known,
The ghosts of tortured vowels groan.
Next Hart and Duke, well worthy grace
And city favour, came in place;
No children can their toils engage,
Their toils are turn'd to reverend age;
When a court dame, to grace his brows
Resolved, is wed to city-spouse,
Their aid with madam's aid must join,
The awkward dotard to refine,
And teach, whence truest glory flows,
Grave sixty to turn out his toes.
Each bore in hand a kit; and each
To show how fit he was to teach
A cit, an alderman, a mayor,
Led in a string a dancing bear.
Since the revival of Fingal,
Custom, and custom's all in all,
Commands that we should have regard,
On all high seasons, to the bard.
Great acts like these, by vulgar tongue
Profaned, should not be said, but sung.
This place to fill, renown'd in fame,
The high and mighty Lockman came,
And, ne'er forgot in Dulman's reign,
With proper order to maintain
The uniformity of pride,
Brought Brother Whitehead by his side.
On horse, who proudly paw'd the ground,
And cast his fiery eyeballs round,
Snorting, and champing the rude bit,
As if, for warlike purpose fit,
His high and generous blood disdain'd,
To be for sports and pastimes rein'd,
Great Dymock, in his glorious station,
Paraded at the coronation.
Not so our city Dymock came,
Heavy, dispirited, and tame;
No mark of sense, his eyes half-closed,
He on a mighty dray-horse dozed:
Fate never could a horse provide
So fit for such a man to ride,
Nor find a man with strictest care,
So fit for such a horse to bear.
Hung round with instruments of death,
The sight of him would stop the breath
Of braggart Cowardice, and make
The very court Drawcansir quake;
With dirks, which, in the hands of Spite,
Do their damn'd business in the night,
From Scotland sent, but here display'd
Only to fill up the parade;
With swords, unflesh'd, of maiden hue,
Which rage or valour never drew;
With blunderbusses, taught to ride
Like pocket-pistols, by his side,
In girdle stuck, he seem'd to be
A little moving armoury.
One thing much wanting to complete
The sight, and make a perfect treat,
Was, that the horse, (a courtesy
In horses found of high degree)
Instead of going forward on,
All the way backward should have gone.
Horses, unless they breeding lack,
Some scruple make to turn their back,
Though riders, which plain truth declares,
No scruple make of turning theirs.
Far, far apart from all the rest,
Fit only for a standing jest,
The independent, (can you get
A better suited epithet?)
The independent Amyand came,
All burning with the sacred flame
Of Liberty, which well he knows
On the great stock of Slavery grows;
Like sparrow, who, deprived of mate,
Snatch'd by the cruel hand of Fate,
From spray to spray no more will hop,
But sits alone on the house-top;
Or like himself, when all alone
At Croydon he was heard to groan,
Lifting both hands in the defence
Of interest, and common sense;
Both hands, for as no other man
Adopted and pursued his plan,
The left hand had been lonesome quite,
If he had not held up the right;
Apart he came, and fix'd his eyes
With rapture on a distant prize,
On which, in letters worthy note,
There 'twenty thousand pounds' was wrote.
False trap, for credit sapp'd is found
By getting twenty thousand pound:
Nay, look not thus on me, and stare,
Doubting the certainty--to swear
In such a case I should be loth--
But Perry Cust may take his oath.
In plain and decent garb array'd,
With the prim Quaker, Fraud, came Trade;
They are not all men who wear trousers.
Men who wear turtlenecks look like turtles.
Flowers attract bees by petals
Women attract men by figures.
The union is one time affair.
Revisit made is not a thrill.
Stumps and lumps
Testosterone is why men ogle women.
Take it away and men are stumps.
Oestragene is why women attract men.
Take it away and women are lumps.
AN angel, robed in spotless white,
Bent down and kissed the sleeping Night.
Night woke to blush; the sprite was gone.
Men saw the blush and called it Dawn.
Women attract men; wives are helpless.
Men disturb women; husbands panic.
Men and women must exercise restraints,
Failing which families will crumble down.
The next day, I got a phone call from him and he told me to come and read for a movie called New Jack City. So I went over there and they told me I was gonna wear dreads and play a cop.
Behind those mountains is a land
That is owned by geniune men
They wear a stone around their neck
Which they borrowed from a river
That supplies them with food and nutritious minerals
And if you follow the river to the north
You find their place
Where they hide their children and women
The women who wash during the day
Are so beautiful you fall on your knees
I love my
No want petrole...
No want Bio- gas...
Two member only
Travel my car...
My car move and move...
Run and run...
with my leg speed...
I was play my car...
Each every day...
Another's called my car name
I was lovengely calling car...
Cycle is my car...
What is your car...!