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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The Ogre Slam-The-Door

There is a certain castle that is beautiful and fair,
And plants, and birds, and pretty things, fill every room and hall,
But alas! for the unhappy folks who make their dwelling there,
A dreadful ogre haunts the house and tries to kill them all.
Some day I fear will find them dead and stretched out in their gore
The victims of this ogre grim, this wicked Slam-the-door!


He's a very tiny ogre just about as tall as you!
He never carries hidden arms, or plays with guns and knives.
And yet he almost splits the heads of people thro' and thro.'
And I think him very dangerous to comfort and to lives.
And he often shakes the castle from the ceiling to the floor.
This awful, awful ogre known as little Slam-the-door.


He gets up bright and early, and he's, oh, so wide awake!
And wo! to all the sleepy heads and invalids who doze,
They dream the sky is caving in, or that a vast earthquake
Has suddenly convulsed the world and ended their repose,
As to and fro, and up and down, still noisier than before,
They hear the hurrying, flurrying feet of ogre Slam-the-door.


Though the Princess of the Castle has a headache, and is ill,
Though the Prince is in his study and wants quiet for an hour,
This wicked little ogre won't be quiet-or keep still
I almost think he sometimes knows he has them in his power.
Alas, alas for all the folks, their sorrows I deplore-
The folks shut in that castle with the ogre Slam-the-door.

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Madeleine Vercheres

I've told you many a tale, my child, of the
old heroic days
Of Indian wars and massacre, of villages ablaze
With savage torch, from Ville Marie to the
Mission of Trois Rivieres
But never have I told you yet, of Madeleine
Vercheres.

Summer had come with its blossoms, and gaily
the robin sang
And deep in the forest arches the axe of the
woodman rang
Again in the waving meadows, the sun-browned
farmers met
And out on the green St. Lawrence, the fisher-
man spread his net.

And so through the pleasant season, till the
days of October came
When children wrought their parents, and
even the old and lame
With tottering frames and footsteps, their
feeble labors lent
At the gathering of the harvest le bon Dieu
himself had sent.

For news there was none of battle, from the
forts on the Richelieu
To the gates of the ancient city, where the
flag of King Louis flew
All peaceful the skies hung over the seignerie
of Vercheres,
Like the calm that so often cometh, ere the
hurricanes rends the air.

And never a thought of danger had the
Seigneur sailing away,
To join the soldiers of Carignan, where down
at Quebec they lay,
But smiled on his little daughter, the maiden
Madeleine,
And a necklet of jewels promised her, when
home he should come again.

And ever the days passed swiftly, and careless
the workmen grew
For the months they seemed a hundred, since
the last war-bugle blew.
Ah! little they dreamt on their pillows, the
farmers of Vercheres,
That the wolves of the southern forest had
scented the harvest fair.

Like ravens they quickly gather, like tigers
they watch their prey
Poor people! with hearts so happy, they sang
as they toiled away.
Till the murderous eyeballs glistened, and the
tomahawk leaped out
And the banks on the green St. Lawrence
echoed the savage shout.

'Oh mother of Christ have pity,' shrieked
the women in despair
'This is no time for praying,' cried the young
Madeleine Vercheres,
'Aux armes! aux armes! les Iroquois! quick
to your arms and guns
Fight for your God and country and the lives
of the inocent ones.'

And she sped like a deer of the mountain, when
beagles press close behind
And the feet that would follow after, must be
swift as the prairie wind.
Alas! for the men and women, and litle ones
that day
For the road it was long and weary, and the
fort it was far away.

But the fawn had outstripped the hunters, and
the palisades drew near,
And soon from the inner gateway the war-
bugle rang out clear;
Gallant and clear it sounded, with never a note
of despair
'T was a soldier of France's challenge, from
the young Madeleine Vercheres.

'And this is my little garrison, my brothers
Louis and Paul?
With soldiers two- and a cripple? may the
Virgin pray for us all.
But we've powder and guns in plenty, and
we 'll fight to the latest breath
And if need be for God and country, die a
brave soldier's death.

'Load all the carabines quickly, and whenever
you sight the foe
Fire from the upper turret, and the loopholes
down below.
Keep up the fire, brave soldiers, though the
fight may be fierce and long
And they 'll think out little garrison is more
than a hundred strong.'

So spake the maiden Madeleine, and she roused
the Norman blood
That seemed for a moment sleeping, and sent
it like a flood
Though every heart around her, and they
fought the red Iroquois
As fought in the old time battles, the soldiers
of Carignan.

And they say the black clouds gathered, and a
tempest swept the sky
And the roar of the thunder mingled with the
forest tiger's cry
But still the garrison fought on, while the
lightning's jagged spear
Tore a hole in the night's dark curtain, and
showed them a foeman near.

And the sun rose up in the morning, and the
color of blood was he
Gazing down from the heavens on the little
company.
'Behold! my friend!' cried the maiden, ' 't is
a warning lest we forget
Though the night saw us do our duty, our
work is not finished yet.'

And six days followed each other, and feeble
her limbs became
Yet the maid never sought her pillow, and the
flash of the carabines' flames
Illuminated the powder-smoked face, aye, even
when hope seemed gone
And she only smiled on her comrades, and told
them to fight, fight on.

And she blew a blast on the bugle, and lo!
from the forest black
Merrily, merrily ringing, an answer came peal-
ing back
Oh! pleasant and sweet it sounded, borne on
the morning air,
For it heralded fifty soldiers, with gallant De
la Monniere.

And when he beheld the maiden, the soldier
of Carignan,
And looked on the little garrison that fought
the red Iroquois
And held their own in the battle, for six long
weary days,
He stood for a moment speechless, and mar-
velled at woman's ways.

Then he beckoned the men behind him and
steadily they advance
And with carabines uplifted, the veterans of
France
Saluted the brave young captain so timidly
standing there
And they fired a volley in honor of Madeleine
Vercheres.

And this, my dear, is the story of the maiden
Madeleine
God grant that we in Canada may never see
again
Such cruel wars and massacres, in waking or in
dream
As our fathers and mothers saw, my child, in
the days of the old regime.

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A Poet at Twenty

    Images leap with him from branch to branch. His eyes
brighten, his head cocks, he pauses under a green bough,
alert.
    And when I see him I want to hide him somewhere.
    The other wood is past the hill. But he will enter it, and find the particular maple. He will walk through the door of the maple, and his arms will pull out of their sockets, and the blood will bubble from his mouth, his ears, his penis, and his nostrils. His body will rot. His body will dry in ropey tatters. Maybe he will grow his body again, three years later. Maybe he won't.
    There is nothing to do, to keep this from happening.
    It occurs to me that the greatest gentleness would put a bullet into his bright eye. And when I look in his eye, it is not his eye that I see.

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Emptying Town

I want to erase your footprints
from my walls. Each pillow
is thick with your reasons. Omens

fill the sidewalk below my window: a woman
in a party hat, clinging
to a tin-foil balloon. Shadows

creep slowly across the tar, someone yells, "Stop!"
and I close my eyes. I can't watch

as this town slowly empties, leaving me
strung between bon-voyages, like so many clothes
on a line, the white handkerchief

stuck in my throat. You know the way Jesus

rips open his shirt
to show us his heart, all flaming and thorny,
the way he points to it. I'm afraid

the way I'll miss you will be this obvious.

I have a friend who everyone warns me
is dangerous, he hides
bloody images of Jesus
around my house, for me to find

when I come home; Jesus
behind the cupboard door, Jesus tucked

into the mirror. He wants to save me
but we disagree from what. My version of hell
is someone ripping open his shirt

and saying, Look what I did for you. . .

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

First Book

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

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

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

My father was an austere Englishman,
Who, after a dry life-time spent at home
In college-learning, law, and parish talk,
Was flooded with a passion unaware,
His whole provisioned and complacent past
Drowned out from him that moment. As he stood
In Florence, where he had come to spend a month
And note the secret of Da Vinci's drains,
He musing somewhat absently perhaps
Some English question . . whether men should pay
The unpopular but necessary tax
With left or right 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!
I, alas,
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage,
And she was there to meet me. Very kind.
Bring the clean water; give out the fresh seed.
She stood upon the steps to welcome me,
Calm, in black garb. I clung about her neck,–
Young babes, who catch at every shred of wool
To draw the new light closer, catch and cling
Less blindly. In my ears, my father's word
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in shells,
'Love, love, my child,' She, black there with my grief,
Might feel my 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!
At first,
I felt no life which was not patience,–did
The thing she bade me, without heed to a thing
Beyond it, sate in just the chair she placed,
With back against the window, to exclude
The sight of the great lime-tree on the lawn,
Which seemed to have come on purpose from the woods
To bring the house a message,–ay, and walked
Demurely in her carpeted low rooms,
As if I should not, harkening my own steps,
Misdoubt I was alive. I read her books,
Was civil to her cousin, Romney Leigh,
Gave ear to her vicar, tea to her visitors,
And heard them whisper, when I changed a cup,
(I blushed for joy at that!)–'The Italian child,
For all her blue eyes and her quiet ways,
Thrives ill in England; she is paler yet
Than when we came the last time; she will die.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I read books bad and 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!
My books!
At last, because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.
As the earth
Plunges in fury, when the internal fires
Have reached and pricked her heart, and, throwing flat
The marts and temples, the triumphal gates
And towers of observation, clears herself
To elemental freedom–thus, my soul,
At poetry's divine first finger touch,
Let go conventions and sprang up surprised,
Convicted of the great eternities
Before two worlds.
What's this, Aurora Leigh,
You write so of the poets, and not laugh?
Those virtuous liars, dreamers after dark,
Exaggerators of the sun and moon,
And soothsayers in a tea-cup?
I write so
Of the only truth-tellers, now left to God,–
The only speakers of essential truth,
Posed to relative, comparative,
And temporal truths; the only holders by
His sun-skirts, through conventional grey glooms;
The only teachers who instruct mankind,
From just a shadow on a charnel wall,
To find man's veritable stature out,
Erect, sublime,–the measure of a man,
And that's the measure of an angel, says
The apostle. Ay, and while your common men
Build pyramids, gauge railroads, reign, reap, dine,
And dust the flaunty carpets of the world
For kings to walk on, or our senators,
The poet suddenly will catch them up
With his voice like a thunder. . 'This is soul,
This is life, this word is being said in heaven,
Here's God down on us! what are you about?
How all those workers start amid their work,
Look round, look up, and feel, a moment's space,
That carpet-dusting, though a pretty trade,
Is not the imperative labour after all.

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

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

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

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

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

And so, through forced work and spontaneous work,
The inner life informed the outer life,
Reduced the irregular blood to settled rhythms,
Made cool the forehead with fresh-sprinkling dreams,
And, rounding to the spheric soul the thin
Pined body, struck a colour up the cheeks,
Though somewhat faint. I clenched my brows across
My blue eyes greatening in the looking-glass,
And said, 'We'll live, Aurora! we'll be strong.
The dogs are on 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
To listen.
Often we walked only two,
If cousin Romney pleased to walk with me.
We read, or talked, or quarrelled, as it chanced;
We were not lovers, nor even friends well-matched–
Say rather, scholars upon different tracks,
And thinkers disagreed; he, overfull
Of what is, and I, haply, overbold
For what might be.
But then the thrushes sang,
And shook my pulses and the elms' new leaves,–
And then I turned, and held my finger up,
And bade him mark that, howsoe'er the world
Went ill, as he related, certainly
The thrushes still sang in it.–At which word
His brow would soften,–and he bore with me
In melancholy patience, not unkind,
While, breaking into voluble ecstasy,
I flattered all the beauteous country round,
As poets use . . .the skies, the clouds, the fields,
The happy violets hiding from the roads
The primroses run down to, carrying gold,–
The tangled hedgerows, where the cows push out
Impatient horns and tolerant churning mouths
'Twixt dripping ash-boughs,–hedgerows all alive
With birds and gnats and large white butterflies
Which look as if the May-flower had sought life
And palpitated forth upon the wind,–
Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver mist,
Farms, granges, doubled up among the hills,
And cattle grazing in the watered vales,
And cottage-chimneys smoking from the woods,
And cottage-gardens smelling everywhere,
Confused with smell of orchards. 'See,' I said,
'And see! is God not with us on the earth?
And shall we put Him down by aught we do?
Who says there's nothing for the poor and vile
Save poverty and wickedness? behold!'
And ankle-deep in English grass I leaped,
And clapped my hands, and called all very fair.

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

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Fourth Book

THEY met still sooner. 'Twas a year from thence
When Lucy Gresham, the sick semptress girl,
Who sewed by Marian's chair so still and quick,
And leant her head upon the back to cough
More freely when, the mistress turning round,
The others took occasion to laugh out,–
Gave up a last. Among the workers, spoke
A bold girl with black eyebrows and red lips,–
'You know the news? Who's dying, do you think?
Our Lucy Gresham. I expected it
As little as Nell Hart's wedding. Blush not, Nell,
Thy curls be red enough without thy cheeks;
And, some day, there'll be found a man to dote
On red curls.–Lucy Gresham swooned last night,
Dropped sudden in the street while going home;
And now the baker says, who took her up
And laid her by her grandmother in bed,
He'll give her a week to die in. Pass the silk.
Let's hope he gave her a loaf too, within reach,
For otherwise they'll starve before they die,
That funny pair of bedfellows! Miss Bell,
I'll thank you for the scissors. The old crone
Is paralytic–that's the reason why
Our Lucy's thread went faster than her breath,
Which went too quick, we all know. Marian Erle!
Why, Marian Erle, you're not the fool to cry?
Your tears spoil Lady Waldemar's new dress,
You piece of pity!'
Marian rose up straight,
And, breaking through the talk and through the work,
Went outward, in the face of their surprise,
To Lucy's home, to nurse her back to life
Or down to death. She knew by such an act,
All place and grace were forfeit in the house,
Whose mistress would supply the missing hand
With necessary, not inhuman haste,
And take no blame. But pity, too, had dues:
She could not leave a solitary soul
To founder in the dark, while she sate still
And lavished stitches on a lady's hem
As if no other work were paramount.
'Why, God,' thought Marian, 'has a missing hand
This moment; Lucy wants a drink, perhaps.
Let others miss me! never miss me, God!'

So Marian sat by Lucy's bed, content
With duty, and was strong, for recompense,
To hold the lamp of human love arm-high
To catch the death-strained eyes and comfort them,
Until the angels, on the luminous side
Of death, had got theirs ready. And she said,
When Lucy thanked her sometimes, called her kind,
It touched her strangely. 'Marian Erle called kind!
What, Marian, beaten and sold, who could not die!
'Tis verily good fortune to be kind.
Ah, you,' she said, 'who are born to such a grace,
Be sorry for the unlicensed class, the poor,
Reduced to think the best good fortune means
That others, simply, should be kind to them.'

From sleep to sleep while Lucy slid away
So gently, like a light upon a hill,
Of which none names the moment when it goes,
Though all see when 'tis gone,–a man came in
And stood beside the bed. The old idiot wretch
Screamed feebly, like a baby overlain,
'Sir, sir, you won't mistake me for the corpse?
Don't look at me, sir! never bury me!
Although I lie here, I'm alive as you,
Except my legs and arms,–I eat and drink,
And understand,–(that you're the gentleman
Who fits the funerals up, Heaven speed you, sir,)
And certainly I should be livelier still
If Lucy here . . sir, Lucy is the corpse . .
Had worked more properly to buy me wine:
But Lucy, sir, was always slow at work,
I shan't lose much by Lucy. Marian Erle,
Speak up and show the gentleman the corpse.'

And then a voice said, 'Marian Erle.' She rose;
It was the hour for angels–there, stood hers!
She scarcely marvelled to see Romney Leigh.
As light November snows to empty nests,
As grass to graves, as moss to mildewed stones,
As July suns to ruins, through the rents,
As ministering spirits to mourners, through a loss,
As Heaven itself to men, through pangs of death,
He came uncalled wherever grief had come.
'And so,' said Marian Erle, 'we meet anew,'
And added softly, 'so, we shall not part.'
He was not angry that she had left the house
Wherein he placed her. Well–she had feared it might
Have vexed him. Also, when he found her set
On keeping, though the dead was out of sight,
That half-dead, half-live body left behind
With cankerous heart and flesh,–which took your best
And cursed you for the little good it did,
(Could any leave the bedrid wretch alone,
So joyless, she was thankless even to God,
Much less to you?) he did not say 'twas well
Yet Marian thought he did not take it ill,–
Since day by day he came, and, every day,
She felt within his utterance and his eyes
A closer, tenderer presence of the soul,
Until at last he said, 'We shall not part.'

On that same day, was Marian's work complete:
She had smoothed the empty bed, and swept the floor
Of coffin sawdust, set the chairs anew
The dead had ended gossip in, and stood
In that poor room so cold and orderly,
The door-key in her hand, prepared to go
As they had, howbeit not their way. He spoke.

'Dear Marian, of one clay God made us all,
And though men push and poke and paddle in't
(As children play at fashioning dirt-pies)
And call their fancies by the name of facts,
Assuming difference, lordship, privilege,
When all's plain dirt,–they come back to it at last;
The first grave-digger proves it with a spade,
And pats all even. Need we wait for this,
You, Marian, and I, Romney?'
She at that,
Looked blindly in his face, as when one looks
Through drying autumn-rains to find the sky.
He went on speaking.
'Marian, I being born
What men call noble, and you, issued from
The noble people,–though the tyrannous sword
Which pierced Christ's heart, has cleft the world in twain
'Twixt class and class, opposing rich to poor,–
Shall we keep parted? Not so. Let us lean
And strain together rather, each to each,
Compress the red lips of this gaping wound,
As far as two souls can,–ay, lean and league,
I, from my superabundance,–from your want,
You,–joining in a protest 'gainst the wrong
On both sides!'–
All the rest, he held her hand
In speaking, which confused the sense of much;
Her heart, against his words, beat out so thick
They might as well be written on the dust
Where some poor bird, escaping from hawk's beak,
Has dropped, and beats its shuddering wings,–the lines
Are rubbed so,–yet 'twas something like to this,
–'That they two, standing at the two extremes
Of social classes, had received one seal,
Been dedicate and drawn beyond themselves
To mercy and ministration,–he, indeed,
Through what he knew, and she, through what she felt,
He, by man's conscience, she, by woman's heart,
Relinquishing their several 'vantage posts
Of wealthy case and honourable toil,
To work with God at love. And, since God willed
That, putting out his hand to touch this ark,
He found a woman's hand there, he'd accept
The sign too, hold the tender fingers fast,
And say, 'My fellow-worker, be my wife!'

She told the tale with simple, rustic turns,–
Strong leaps of meaning in her sudden eyes
That took the gaps of any imperfect phrase
Of the unschooled speaker: I have rather writ
The thing I understood so, than the thing
I heard so. And I cannot render right
Her quick gesticulation, wild yet soft,
Self-startled from the habitual mood she used,
Half sad, half languid,–like dumb creatures (now
A rustling bird, and now a wandering deer,
Or squirrel against the oak-gloom flashing up
His sidelong burnished head, in just her way
Of savage spontaneity,) that stir
Abruptly the green silence of the woods,
And make it stranger, holier, more profound;
As Nature's general heart confessed itself
Of life, and then fell backward on repose.

I kissed the lips that ended.–'So indeed
He loves you, Marian?'
'Loves me!' She looked up
With a child's wonder when you ask him first
Who made the sun–a puzzled blush, that grew,
Then broke off in a rapid radiant smile
Of sure solution. 'Loves me! he loves all,–
And me, of course. He had not asked me else
To work with him for ever, and be his wife.'
Her words reproved me. This perhaps was love–
To have its hands too full of gifts to give,
For putting out a hand to take a gift;
To love so much, the perfect round of love
Includes, in strictly conclusion, the being loved;
As Eden-dew went up and fell again,
Enough for watering Eden. Obviously
She had not thought about his love at all:
The cataracts of her soul had poured themselves
And risen self-crowned in rainbow; would she ask
Who crowned her?–it sufficed that she was crowned.
With women of my class, 'tis otherwise:
We haggle for the small change of our gold,
And so much love, accord, for so much love,
Rialto-prices. Are we therefore wrong?
If marriage be a contract, look to it then,
Contracting parties should be equal, just;
Bit if, a simple fealty on one side,
A mere religion,–right to give, is all,
And certain brides of Europe duly ask
To mount the pile, as Indian widows do,
The spices of their tender youth heaped up,
The jewels of their gracious virtues worn,
More gems, more glory,–to consume entire
For a living husband! as the man's alive,
Not dead,–the woman's duty, by so much,
Advanced in England, beyond Hindostan.

I sate there, musing, till she touched my hand
With hers, as softly as a strange white bird
She feared to startle in touching. 'You are kind.
But are you, peradventure, vexed at heart
Because your cousin takes me for a wife?
I know I am not worthy–nay, in truth,
I'm glad on't, since, for that, he chooses me.
He likes the poor things of the world the best;
I would not therefore, if I could, be rich,
It pleasures him to stoop for buttercups;
I would not be a rose upon the wall
A queen might stop at, near the palace-door,
To say to a courtier, 'Pluck that rose for me,
'It's prettier than the rest.' O Romeny Leigh!
I'd rather far be trodden by his foot,
Than like in a great queen's bosom'
Out of breath
She paused.
'Sweet Marian, do you disavow
The roses with that face?'
She dropt her head
As if the wind had caught that flower of her,
And bent it in the garden,–then looked up
With grave assurance. 'Well, you think me bold!
But so we all are, when we're praying to God.
And if I'm bold–yet, lady, credit me,
That, since I know myself for what I am
Much fitter for his handmaid than his wife,
I'll prove the handmaid and the wife at once,
Serve tenderly, and love obediently,
And be a worthier mate, perhaps, than some
Who are wooed in silk among their learned books;
While I shall set myself to read his eyes,
Till such grow plainer to me than the French
To wisest ladies. Do you think I'll miss
A letter, in the spelling of his mind?'
No more than they do, when they sit and write
Their flying words with flickering wild-fowl tails,
Nor ever pause to ask how many t s,
Should that be a y or ithey know't so well:
I've seen them writing, when I brought a dress
And waited,–floating out their soft white hands
On shining paper. But they're hard sometimes,
For all those hands!–we've used out many nights,
And worn the yellow daylight into shreds
Which flapped and shivered down our aching eyes
Till night appeared more tolerable, just
That pretty ladies might look beautiful,
Who said at last . . 'You're lazy in that house!
'You're slow in sending home the work,–I count
'I've waited near an hour for't.' Pardon me–
I do not blame them, madam, nor misprize;
They are fair and gracious; ay, but not like you,
Since none but you has Mister Leigh's own blood
Both noble and gentle,–and without it . . well,
They are fair, I said; so fair, it scarce seems strange
That, flashing out in any looking-glass
The wonder of their glorious brows and breasts,
They are charmed so, they forget to look behind
And mark how pale we've grown, we pitiful
Remainders of the world. And so, perhaps,
If Mister Leigh had chosen a wife from these,
She might . . although he's better than her best,
And dearly she would know it . . steal a thought
Which should be all his, an eye-glance from his face,
To plunge into the mirror opposite,
In search of her own beauty's pearl: while I . .
Ah, dearest lady, serge will outweigh silk
For winter-wear, when bodies feel a-cold,
And I'll be a true wife to your cousin Leigh.'

Before I answered, he was there himself.
I think he had been standing in the room,
And listened probably to half her talk,
Arrested, turned to stone,–as white as stone.
Will tender sayings make men look so white?
He loves her then profoundly.
'You are here,
Aurora? Here I meet you!'–We clasped hands.

'Even so, dear Romney. Lady Waldemar
Has sent me in haste to find a cousin of mine
Who shall be.'

'Lady Waldemar is good.'

'Here's one, at least, who is good,' I sighed and touched
Poor Marian's happy head, as, doglike, she
Most passionately patient, waited on,
A-tremble for her turn of greeting words;
'I've sat a full hour with your Marian Erle,
And learnt the thing by heart,–and, from my heart,
Am therefore competent to give you thanks
For such a cousin.'
'You accept at last
A gift from me, Aurora, without scorn?
At last I please you?'–How his voice was changed!

'You cannot please a woman against her will,
And once you vexed me. Shall we speak of that?
We'll say, then, you were noble in it all,
And I not ignorant–let it pass. And now,
You please me, Romney, when you please yourself;
So, please you, be fanatical in love,
And I'm well pleased. Ah, cousin! at the old hall,
Among the gallery portraits of our Leighs,
We shall not find a sweeter signory
Than this pure forehead's.'
Not a word he said.
How arrogant men are!–Even philanthropists,
Who try to take a wife up in the way
They put down a subscription-cheque,–if once
She turns and says, 'I will not tax you so,
Most charitable sir,'–feel ill at ease,
As though she had wronged them somehow. I suppose
We women should remember what we are,
And not throw back an obolus inscribed
With Cæsar's image, lightly. I resumed.

'It strikes me, some of those sublime Vandykes
Were not too proud, to make good saints in heaven;
And, if so, then they're not too proud to-day
To bow down (now the ruffs are off their necks)
And own this good, true, noble Marian, . . yours,
And mine, I'll say!–For poets (bear the word)
Half-poets even, are still whole democrats,–
Oh, not that we're disloyal to the high,
But loyal to the low, and cognisant
Of the less scrutable majesties. For me,
I comprehend your choice–I justify
Your right in choosing.'
'No, no, no' he sighed,
With a sort of melancholy impatient scorn,
As some grown man, who never had a child,
Puts by some child who plays at being a man;
–'You did not, do not, cannot comprehend
My choice, my ends, my motives, nor myself:
No matter now–we'll let it pass, you say.
I thank you for your generous cousinship
Which helps this present; I accept for her
Your favourable thoughts. We're fallen on days,
We two, who are not poets, when to wed
Requires less mutual love than common love,
For two together to bear out at once
Upon the loveless many. Work in pairs,
In galley-couplings or in marriage-rings,
The difference lies in the honour, not the work,–
And such we're bound to, I and she. But love,
(You poets are benighted in this age;
The hour's too late for catching even moths,
You've gnats instead,) love!–love's fool-paradise
Is out of date, like Adam's. Set a swan
To swim the Trenton, rather than true love
To float its fabulous plumage safely down
The cataracts of this loud transition-time,–
Whose roar, for ever, henceforth, in my ears,
Must keep me deaf to music.'
There, I turned
And kissed poor Marian, out of discontent.
The man had baffled, chafed me, till I flung
For refuge to the woman,–as, sometimes,
Impatient of some crowded room's close smell,
You throw a window open, and lean out
To breathe a long breath, in the dewy night,
And cool your angry forehead. She, at least,
Was not built up, as walls are, brick by brick;
Each fancy squared, each feeling ranged by line,
The very heat of burning youth applied
To indurate forms and systems! excellent bricks,
A well-built wall,–which stops you on the road,
And, into which, you cannot see an inch
Although you beat your head against it–pshaw!

'Adieu,' I said, 'for this time, cousins both:
And, cousin Romney, pardon me the word,
Be happy!–oh, in some esoteric sense
Of course!–I mean no harm in wishing well.
Adieu, my Marian:–may she come to me,
Dear Romney, and be married from my house?
It is not part of your philosophy
To keep your bird upon the blackthorn?'
'Ay,'
He answered, 'but it is:–I take my wife
Directly from the people,–and she comes,
As Austria's daughter to imperial France,
Betwixt her eagles, blinking not her race,
From Margaret's Court at garret-height, to meet
And wed me at St. James's, nor put off
Her gown of serge for that. The things we do,
We do: we'll wear no mask, as if we blushed.'

'Dear Romney, you're the poet,' I replied,–
But felt my smile too mournful for my word,
And turned and went. Ay, masks, I thought,–beware
Of tragic masks, we tie before the glass,
Uplifted on the cothurn half a yard
Above the natural stature! we would play
Heroic parts to ourselves,–and end, perhaps,
As impotently as Athenian wives
Who shrieked in fits at the Eumenides.

His foot pursued me down the stair. 'At least,
You'll suffer me to walk with you beyond
These hideous streets, these graves, where men alive,
Packed close with earthworms, burr unconsciously
About the plague that slew them; let me go.
The very women pelt their souls in mud
At any woman who walks here alone.
How came you here alone?–you are ignorant.'

We had a strange and melancholy walk:
The night came drizzling downward in dark rain;
And, as we walked, the colour of the time,
The act, the presence, my hand upon his arm,
His voice in my ear, and mine to my own sense,
Appeared unnatural. We talked modern books,
And daily papers; Spanish marriage-schemes,
And English climate–was't so cold last year?
And will the wind change by to-morrow morn?
Can Guizot stand? is London full? is trade
Competitive? has Dickens turned his hinge
A-pinch upon the fingers of the great?
And are potatoes to grow mythical
Like moly? will the apple die out too?
Which way is the wind to-night? south-east? due east?
We talked on fast, while every common word
Seemed tangled with the thunder at one end,
And ready to pull down upon our heads
A terror out of sight. And yet to pause
Were surelier mortal: we tore greedily up
All silence, all the innocent breathing -points,
As if, like pale conspirators in haste,
We tore up papers where our signatures
Imperilled us to an ugly shame or death.

I cannot tell you why it was. 'Tis plain
We had not loved nor hated: wherefore dread
To spill gunpowder on ground safe from fire?
Perhaps we had lived too closely, to diverge
So absolutely: leave two clocks, they say,
Wound up to different hours, upon one shelf,
And slowly, through the interior wheels of each,
The blind mechanic motion sets itself
A-throb, to feel out for the mutual time.
It was not so with us, indeed. While he
Struck midnight, I kept striking six at dawn,
While he marked judgment, I, redemption-day;
And such exception to a general law,
Imperious upon inert matter even,
Might make us, each to either insecure,
A beckoning mystery, or a troubling fear.

I mind me, when we parted at the door,
How strange his good-night sounded,–like good-night
Beside a deathbed, where the morrow's sun
Is sure to come too late for more good days:–
And all that night I thought . . 'Good-night,' said he.

And so, a month passed. Let me set it down
At once,–I have been wrong, I have been wrong.
We are wrong always, when we think too much
Of what we think or are; albeit our thoughts
Be verily bitter as self-sacrifice,
We're no less selfish. If we sleep on rocks
Or roses, sleeping past the hour of noon
We're lazy. This I write against myself.
I had done a duty in the visit paid
To Marian, and was ready otherwise
To give the witness of my presence and name
Whenever she should marry.–Which, I thought
Sufficed. I even had cast into the scale
An overweight of justice toward the match;
The Lady Waldemar had missed her tool,
Had broken it in the lock as being too straight
For a crooked purpose, while poor Marian Erle
Missed nothing in my accents or my acts:
I had not been ungenerous on the whole,
Nor yet untender; so, enough. I felt
Tired, overworked: this marriage somewhat jarred;
Or, if it did not, all the bridal noise . .
The pricking of the map of life with pins,
In schemes of . . 'Here we'll go,' and 'There we'll stay,'
And 'Everywhere we'll prosper in our love,'
Was scarce my business. Let them order it;
Who else should care? I threw myself aside,
As one who had done her work and shuts her eyes
To rest the better.
I, who should have known,
Forereckoned mischief! Where we disavow
Being keeper to our brother, we're his Cain.

I might have held that poor child to my heart
A little longer! 'twould have hurt me much
To have hastened by its beats the marriage day,
And kept her safe meantime from tampering hands,
Or, peradventure, traps? What drew me back
From telling Romney plainly, the designs
Of Lady Waldemar, as spoken out
To me . . me? had I any right, ay, right,
With womanly compassion and reserve
To break the fall of woman's impudence?–
To stand by calmly, knowing what I knew,
And hear him call her good?
Distrust that word.
'There is none good save God,' said Jesus Christ.
If He once, in the first creation-week,
Called creatures good,–for ever afterward,
The Devil only has done it, and his heirs.
The knaves who win so, and the fools who lose;
The world's grown dangerous. In the middle age,
I think they called malignant fays and imps
Good people. A good neighbour, even in this
Is fatal sometimes,–cuts your morning up
To mince-meat of the very smallest talk,
Then helps to sugar her bohea at night
With her reputation. I have known good wives,
As chaste, or nearly so, as Potiphar's;
And good, good mothers, who would use a child
To better an intrigue; good friends, beside.
(Very good) who hung succinctly round your neck
And sucked your breath, as cats are fabled to do
By sleeping infants. And we all have known
Good critics, who have stamped out poet's hopes;
Good statesmen, who pulled ruin on the state;
Good patriots, who for a theory, risked a cause
Good kings, who disemboweled for a tax;
Good popes, who brought all good to jeopardy;
Good Christians, who sate still in easy chairs,
And damned the general world for standing up.–
Now, may the good God pardon all good men!

How bitterly I speak,–how certainly
The innocent white milk in us is turned,
By much persistent shining of the sun!
Shake up the sweetest in us long enough
With men, it drips to foolish curd, too sour
To feed the most untender of Christ's lambs.

I should have thought . . .a woman of the world
Like her I'm meaning,–centre to herself,
Who has wheeled on her own pivot half a life
In isolated self-love and self-will,
As a windmill seen at distance radiating
Its delicate white vans against the sky,
So soft and soundless, simply beautiful,–
Seen nearer . . what a roar and tear it makes,
How it grinds and bruises! . . if she loves at last,
Her love's a re-adjustment of self-love,
No more; a need felt of another's use
To her one advantage,–as the mill wants grain,
The fire wants fuel, the very wolf wants prey;
And none of these is more unscrupulous
Than such a charming woman when she loves.
She'll not be thwarted by an obstacle
So trifling as . . her soul is, . . much less yours!–
Is God a consideration?–she loves you,
Not God; she will not flinch for him indeed:
She did not for the Marchioness of Perth,
When wanting tickets for the birthnight ball.
She loves you, sir, with passion, to lunacy;
She loves you like her diamonds . . almost.
Well,
A month passed so, and then the notice came;
On such a day the marriage at the church.
I was not backward.
Half St. Giles in frieze
Was bidden to meet St. James in cloth of gold,
And, after contract at the altar, pass
To eat a marriage-feast on Hampstead Heath.
Of course the people came in uncompelled,
Lame, blind, and worse–sick, sorrowful, and worse,
The humours of the peccant social wound
All pressed out, poured out upon Pimlico.
Exasperating the unaccustomed air
With hideous interfusion: you'd suppose
A finished generation, dead of plague,
Swept outward from their graves into the sun,
The moil of death upon them. What a sight!
A holiday of miserable men
Is sadder than a burial-day of kings.

They clogged the streets, they oozed into the church
In a dark slow stream, like blood. To see that sight,
The noble ladies stood up in their pews,
Some pale for fear, a few as red for hate,
Some simply curious , some just insolent,
And some in wondering scorn,–'What next? what next?'
These crushed their delicate rose-lips from the smile
That misbecame them in a holy place,
With broidered hems of perfumed handkerchiefs;
Those passed the salts with confidence of eyes
And simultaneous shiver of moiré silk;
While all the aisles, alive and black with heads,
Crawled slowly toward the altar from the street,
As bruised snakes crawl and hiss out of a hole
With shuddering involutions, swaying slow
From right to left, and then from left to right,
In pants and pauses. What an ugly crest
Of faces, rose upon you everywhere,
From that crammed mass! you did not usually
See faces like them in the open day:
They hide in cellars, not to make you mad
As Romney Leigh is.–Faces?–O my God,
We call those, faces? men's and women's . . ay,
And children's;–babies, hanging like a rag
Forgotten on their mother's neck,–poor mouths.
Wiped clean of mother's milk by mother's blow
Before they are taught her cursing. Faces . . phew,
We'll call them vices festering to despairs,
Or sorrows petrifying to vices: not
A finger-touch of God left whole on them;
All ruined, lost–the countenance worn out
As the garments, the will dissolute as the acts,
The passions loose and draggling in the dirt
To trip the foot up at the first free step!–
Those, faces! 'twas as if you had stirred up hell
To heave its lowest dreg-fiends uppermost
In fiery swirls of slime,–such strangled fronts,
Such obdurate jaws were thrown up constantly,
To twit you with your race, corrupt your blood,
And grind to devilish colors all your dreams
Henceforth, . . though, haply, you should drop asleep
By clink of silver waters, in a muse
On Raffael's mild Madonna of the Bird.

I've waked and slept through many nights and days
Since then,–but still that day will catch my breath
Like a nightmare. There are fatal days, indeed,
In which the fibrous years have taken root
So deeply, that they quiver to their tops
Whene'er you stir the dust of such a day.

My cousin met me with his eyes and hand,
And then, with just a word, . . that 'Marian Erle
Was coming with her bridesmaids presently,'
Made haste to place me by the altar-stair,
Where he and other noble gentlemen
And high-born ladies, waited for the bride.

We waited. It was early: there was time
For greeting, and the morning's compliment;
And gradually a ripple of women's talk
Arose and fell, and tossed about a spray
Of English s s, soft as a silent hush,
And, notwithstanding, quite as audible
As louder phrases thrown out by the men.
–'Yes really, if we've need to wait in church,
We've need to talk there.'–'She? 'Tis Lady Ayr
In blue–not purple! that's the dowager.'
–'She looks as young.'–'She flirts as young, you mean!
Why if you had seen her upon Thursday night,
You'd call Miss Norris modest.'–' You again!
I waltzed with you three hours back. Up at six,
Up still at ten: scarce time to change one's shoes.
I feel as white and sulky as a ghost,
So pray don't speak to me, Lord Belcher.'–'No,
I'll look at you instead, and it's enough
While you have that face.' 'In church, my lord! fie, fie!'
–'Adair, you stayed for the Division?'–'Lost
By one.' 'The devil it is! I'm sorry for't.
And if I had not promised Mistress Grove' . .
–'You might have kept your word to Liverpool.'
'Constituents must remember, after all,
We're mortal.'–'We remind them of it.'–'Hark,
The bride comes! Here she comes, in a stream of milk!'
–'There? Dear, you are asleep still; don't you know
The five Miss Granvilles? always dressed in white
To show they're ready to be married.'–'Lower!
The aunt is at your elbow.'–'Lady Maud,
Did Lady Waldemar tell you she had seen
This girl of Leigh's?' 'No,–wait! 'twas Mrs. Brookes,
Who told me Lady Waldemar told her–
No, 'twasn't Mrs. Brookes.'–'She's pretty?'–'Who?
Mrs.Brookes? Lady Waldemar?'–'How hot!
Pray is't the law to-day we're not to breathe?
You're treading on my shawl–I thank you, sir.'
–'They say the bride's a mere child, who can't read,
But knows the things she shouldn't, with wide-awake
Great eyes. I'd go through fire to look at her.'
–'You do, I think.'–'and Lady Waldemar
(You see her; sitting close to Romney Leigh;
How beautiful she looks, a little flushed!)
Has taken up the girl, and organised
Leigh's folly. Should I have come here, you suppose,
Except she'd asked me?'–'She'd have served him more
By marrying him herself.'
'Ah–there she comes,
The bride, at last!'
'Indeed, no. Past eleven.
She puts off her patched petticoat to-day
And puts on May-fair manners, so begins
By setting us to wait.'–'Yes, yes, this Leigh
Was always odd; it's in the blood, I think;
His father's uncle's cousin's second son
Was, was . . you understand me–and for him,
He's stark!–has turned quite lunatic upon
This modern question of the poor–the poor:
An excellent subject when you're moderate;
You've seen Prince Albert's model lodging-house?
Does honour to his royal highness. Good:
But would he stop his carriage in Cheapside
To shake a common fellow by the fist
Whose name was . . Shakspeare? no. We draw a line,
And if we stand not by our order, we
In England, we fall headlong. Here's a sight,–
A hideous sight, a most indecent sight,–
My wife would come, sir, or I had kept her back.
By heaven, sir, when poor Damiens' trunk and limbs
Were torn by horses, women of the court
Stood by and stared, exactly as to-day
On this dismembering of society,
With pretty troubled faces.'
'Now, at last.
She comes now.'
'Where? who sees? you push me, sir,
Beyond the point of what is mannerly.
You're standing, madam, on my second flounce–
I do beseech you.'
'No–it's not the bride.
Half-past eleven. How late! the bridegroom, mark,
Gets anxious and goes out.'
'And as I said . .
These Leighs! our best blood running in the rut!
It's something awful. We had pardoned him
A simple misalliance, got up aside
For a pair of sky-blue eyes; our House of Lords
Has winked at such things, and we've all been young.
But here's an inter-marriage reasoned out,
A contract (carried boldly to the light,
To challenge observation, pioneer
Good acts by a great example) 'twixt the extremes
Of martyrised society,–on the left,
The well-born,–on the right, the merest mob.
To treat as equals!–'tis anarchical!
It means more than it says–'tis damnable!
Why, sir, we can't have even our coffee good,
Unless we strain it.'
'Here, Miss Leigh!'
'Lord Howe,
You're Romney's friend. What's all this waiting for?'

'I cannot tell. The bride has lost her head
(And way, perhaps!) to prove her sympathy
With the bridegroom.'
'What,–you also, disapprove!'

'Oh I approve of nothing in the world,'
He answered; 'not of you, still less of me,
Nor even of Romney–though he's worth us both.
We're all gone wrong. The tune in us is lost:
And whistling in back alleys to the moon,
Will never catch it.'
Let me draw Lord Howe;
A born aristocrat, bred radical,
And educated socialist, who still
Goes floating, on traditions of his kind,
Across the theoretic flood from France,–
Though, like a drenched Noah on a rotten deck,
Scarce safer for his place there. He, at least,
Will never land on Ararat, he knows,
To recommence the world on the old plan:
Indeed, he thinks, said world had better end;
He sympathises rather with the fish
Outside, than with the drowned paired beasts within
Who cannot couple again or multiply:
And that's the sort of Noah he is, Lord Howe.
He never could be anything complete,
Except a loyal, upright gentleman,
A liberal landlord, graceful diner-out,
And entertainer more than hospitable,
Whom authors dine with and forget the port.
Whatever he believes, and it is much,
But no-wise certain . . now here and now there, . .
He still has sympathies beyond his creed,
Diverting him from action. In the House,
No party counts upon him, and all praise:
All like his books too, (for he has written books)
Which, good to lie beside a bishop's chair,
So oft outreach themselves with jets of fire
At which the foremost of the progressists
May warm audacious hands in passing by.
Of stature over-tall, lounging for ease;
Light hair, that seems to carry a wind in it,
And eyes that, when they look on you, will lean
Their whole weight half in indolence, and half
In wishing you unmitigated good,
Until you know not if to flinch from him
Or thank him.–'Tis Lord Howe.
'We're all gone wrong,'
Said he, 'and Romney, that dear friend of ours,
Is no-wise right. There's one true thing on earth;
That's love! He takes it up, and dresses it,
And acts a play with it, as Hamlet did,
To show what cruel uncles we have been,
And how we should be uneasy in our minds,
While he, Prince Hamlet, weds a pretty maid
(Who keeps us too long waiting, we'll confess)
By symbol, to instruct us formally
To fill the ditches up 'twixt class and class,
And live together in phalansteries.
What then?–he's mad, our Hamlet! clap his play,
And bind him.'
'Ah, Lord Howe, this spectacle
Pulls stronger at us than the Dane's. See there!
The crammed aisles heave and strain and steam with life–
Dear Heaven, what life!'
'Why , yes,–a poet sees;
Which makes him different from a common man.
I, too, see somewhat, though I cannot sing;
I should have been a poet, only that
My mother took fright at the ugly world,
And bore me tongue-tied. If you'll grant me now
That Romney gives us a fine actor-piece
To make us merry on his marriage-morn,–
The fable's worse than Hamlet's, I'll concede
The terrible people, old and poor and blind,
Their eyes eat out with plague and poverty
From seeing beautiful and cheerful sights,
We'll liken to a brutalized King Lear,
Led out,–by no means to clear scores with wrongs–
His wrongs are so far back, . . he has forgot;
All's past like youth; but just to witness here
A simple contract,–he, upon his side,
And Regan with her sister Goneril
And all the dappled courtiers and court-fools,
On their side. Not that any of these would say
They're sorry, neither. What is done, is done.
And violence is now turned privilege,
As cream turns cheese, if buried long enough.
What could such lovely ladies have to do
With the old man there, in those ill-odorous rags,
Except to keep the wind-side of him? Lear
Is flat and quiet, as a decent grave;
He does not curse his daughters in the least.
Be these his daughters? Lear is thinking of
His porridge chiefly . . is it getting cold
At Hampstead? will the ale be served in pots?
Poor Lear, poor daughters? Bravo, Romney's play?'

A murmur and a movement drew around;
A naked whisper touched us. Something wrong!
What's wrong! That black crowd, as an overstrained
Cord, quivered in vibrations, and I saw
Was that his face I saw? . . his . . Romney Leigh's.
Which tossed a sudden horror like a sponge
Into all eyes,–while himself stood white upon
The topmost altar-stair, and tried to speak,
And failed, and lifted higher above his head
A letter, . . as a man who drowns and gasps.

'My brothers, bear with me! I am very weak.
I meant but only good. Perhaps I meant
Too proudly,–and God snatched the circumstance
And changed it therefore. There's no marriage–none
She leaves me,–she departs,–she disappears,–
I lose her. Yet I never forced her 'ay'
To have her 'no' so cast into my teeth
In manner of an accusation, thus.
My friends, you are all dismissed. Go, eat and drink
According to the programme,–and farewell!'

He ended. There was silence in the church;
We heard a baby sucking in its sleep
At the farthest end of the aisle. Then spoke a man,
'Now, look to it, coves, that all the beef and drink
Be not filched from us like the other fun;
For beer's spilt easier than a woman is!
This gentry is not honest with the poor;
They bring us up, to trick us.'–'Go it, Jim,'
A woman screamed back,–'I'm a tender soul;
I never banged a child at two years old
And drew blood from him, but I sobbed for it
Next moment,–and I've had a plague of seven.
I'm tender; I've no stomach even for beef.
Until I know about the girl that's lost,
That's killed, mayhap. I did misdoubt, at first,
The fine lord meant no good by her, or us.
He, maybe, got the upper hand of her
By holding up a wedding-ring, and then . .
A choking finger on her throat, last night,
And just a clever tale to keep us still,
As she is, poor lost innocent. 'Disappear!'
Who ever disappears except a ghost?
And who believes a story of a ghost?
I ask you,–would a girl go off, instead
Of staying to be married? a fine tale!
A wicked man, I say, a wicked man!
For my part I would rather starve on gin
Than make my dinner on his beef and beer.'–
At which a cry rose up–'We'll have our rights.
We'll have the girl, the girl! Your ladies there
Are married safely and smoothly every day,
And she shall not drop through into a trap
Because she's poor and of the people: shame!
We'll have no tricks played off by gentlefolks;
We'll see her righted.
Through the rage and roar
I heard the broken words which Romney flung
Among the turbulent masses, from the ground
He held still, with his masterful pale face–
As huntsmen throw the ration to the pack,
Who, falling on it headlong, dog on dog
In heaps of fury, rend it, swallow it up
With yelling hound jaws,–his indignant words,
His piteous words, his most pathetic words,
Whereof I caught the meaning here and there
By his gesture . . torn in morsels, yelled across,
And so devoured. From end to end, the church
Rocked round us like the sea in storm, and then
Broke up like the earth in earthquake. Men cried out
'Police!'–and women stood and shrieked for God,
Or dropt and swooned; or, like a herd of deer,
(For whom the black woods suddenly grow alive,
Unleashing their wild shadows down the wind
To hunt the creatures into corners, back
And forward) madly fled, or blindly fell,
Trod screeching underneath the feet of those
Who fled and screeched.
The last sight left to me
Was Romney's terrible calm face above
The tumult!–the last sound was 'Pull him down!
Strike–Kill him!' Stretching my unreasoning arms,
As men in dreams, who vainly interpose
'Twixt gods and their undoing, with a cry
I struggled to precipitate myself
Head-foremost to the rescue of my soul
In that white face, . . till some one caught me back,
And so the world went out,–I felt no more.

What followed, was told after by Lord Howe,
Who bore me senseless from the strangling crowd
In church and street, and then returned alone
To see the tumult quelled. The men of law
Had fallen as thunder on a roaring fire,
And made all silent,–while the people's smoke
Passed eddying slowly from the emptied aisles.

Here's Marian's letter, which a ragged child
Brought running, just as Romney at the porch
Looked out expectant of the bride. He sent
The letter to me by his friend Lord Howe
Some two hours after, folded in a sheet
On which his well-known hand had left a word.
Here's Marian's letter.
'Noble friend, dear saint
Be patient with me. Never think me vile,
Who might to-morrow morning be your wife
But that I loved you more than such a name.
Farewell, my Romney. Let me write it once,–
My Romney.
Tis so pretty a coupled word,
I have no heart to pluck it with a blot.
We say 'My God' sometimes, upon our knees,
Who is not therefore vexed: so bear with it . .
And me. I know I'm foolish, weak, and vain;
Yet most of all I'm angry with myself
For losing your last footstep on the stair,
The last time of your coming,–yesterday!
The very first time I lost step of yours,
(Its sweetness comes the next to what you speak)
But yesterday sobs took me by the throat,
And cut me off from music.
'Mister Leigh,
You'll set me down as wrong in many things.
You've praised me, sir, for truth,–and now you'll learn
I had not courage to be rightly true.
I once began to tell you how she came,
The woman . . and you stared upon the floor
In one of your fixed thoughts . . which put me out
For that day. After, some one spoke of me,
So wisely, and of you, so tenderly,
Persuading me to silence for your sake . . .
Well, well! it seems this moment I was wrong
In keeping back from telling you the truth:
There might be truth betwixt us two, at least,
If nothing else. And yet 'twas dangerous.
Suppose a real angel came from heaven
To live with men and women! he'd go mad,
If no considerate hand should tie a blind
Across his piercing eyes. 'Tis thus with you:
You see us too much in your heavenly light;
I always thought so, angel,–and indeed
There's danger that you beat yourself to death
Against the edges of this alien world,
In some divine and fluttering pity.
'Yes
It would be dreadful for a friend of yours,
To see all England thrust you out of doors
And mock you from the windows. You might say,
Or think (that's worse), 'There's some one in the house
I miss and love still.' Dreadful!
'Very kind,
I pray you mark, was Lady Waldemar.
She came to see me nine times, rather ten–
So beautiful, she hurts me like the day
Let suddenly on sick eyes.
'Most kind of all,
Your cousin!–ah, most like you! Ere you came
She kissed me mouth to mouth: I felt her soul
Dip through her serious lips in holy fire.
God help me, but it made me arrogant;
I almost told her that you would not lose
By taking me to wife: though, ever since,
I've pondered much a certain thing she asked . .
'He love's you, Marian?' . . in a sort of mild
Derisive sadness . . as a mother asks
Her babe, 'You'll touch that star, you think?'
'Farewell!
I know I never touched it.
'This is worst:
Babes grow, and lose the hope of things above;
A silver threepence sets them leaping high–
But no more stars! mark that.
'I've writ all night,
And told you nothing. God, if I could die,
And let this letter break off innocent
Just here! But no–for your sake . .
'Here's the last:
I never could be happy as your wife,
I never could be harmless as your friend,
I never will look more into your face,
Till God says, 'Look!' I charge you, seek me not,
Nor vex yourself with lamentable thoughts
That peradventure I have come to grief;
Be sure I'm well, I'm merry, I'm at ease,
But such a long way, long way, long way off,
I think you'll find me sooner in my grave;
And that's my choice, observe. For what remains,
An over-generous friend will care for me,
And keep me happy . . happier . .
'There's a blot!
This ink runs thick . . we light girls lightly weep . .
And keep me happier . . was the thing to say, . .
Than as your wife I could be!–O, my star,
My saint, my soul! for surely you're my soul,
Through whom God touched me! I am not so lost
I cannot thank you for the good you did,
The tears you stopped, which fell down bitterly,
Like these–the times you made me weep for joy
At hoping I should learn to write your notes
And save the tiring of your eyes, at night;
And most for that sweet thrice you kissed my lips
And said 'Dear Marian.'
Twould be hard to read,
This letter, for a reader half as learn'd,
But you'll be sure to master it, in spite
Of ups and downs. My hand shakes, I am blind,
I'm poor at writing, at the best,–and yet
I tried to make my g s the way you showed.
Farewell–Christ love you.–Say 'Poor Marian' now.'

Poor Marian!–wanton Marian!–was it so,
Or so? For days, her touching, foolish lines
We mused on with conjectural fantasy,
As if some riddle of a summer-cloud
On which some one tries unlike similitudes
Of now a spotted Hydra-skin cast off,
And now a screen of carven ivory
That shuts the heaven's conventual secrets up
From mortals over-bold. We sought the sense:
She loved him so perhaps, (such words mean love,)
That, worked on by some shrewd perfidious tongue,
(And then I thought of Lady Waldemar)
She left him, not to hurt him; or perhaps
She loved one in her class,–or did not love,
But mused upon her wild bad tramping life,
Until the free blood fluttered at her heart,
And black bread eaten by the road-side hedge
Seemed sweeter than being put to Romney's school
Of philanthropical self-sacrifice,
Irrevocably.–Girls are girls, beside,
Thought I, and like a wedding by one rule.
You seldom catch these birds, except with chaff:
They feel it almost an immoral thing
To go out and be married in broad day,
Unless some winning special flattery should
Excuse them to themselves for't, . . 'No one parts
Her hair with such a silver line as you,
One moonbeam from the forehead to the crown!'
Or else . . 'You bite your lip in such a way,
It spoils me for the smiling of the rest'–
And so on. Then a worthless gaud or two,
To keep for love,–a ribbon for the neck,
Or some glass pin,–they have their weight with girls.

And Romney sought her many days and weeks:
He sifted all the refuse of the town,
Explored the trains, enquired among the ships,
And felt the country through from end to end;
No Marian!–Though I hinted what I knew,–
A friend of his had reasons of her own
For throwing back the match–he would not hear:
The lady had been ailing ever since,
The shock had harmed her. Something in his tone
Repressed me; something in me shamed my doubt
To a sigh, repressed too. He went on to say
That, putting questions where his Marian lodged,
He found she had received for visitors,
Besides himself and Lady Waldemar
And, that once, me–a dubious woman dressed
Beyond us both. The rings upon her hands
Had dazed the children when she threw them pence.
'She wore her bonnet as the queen might hers,
To show the crown,' they said,–'a scarlet crown
Of roses that had never been in bud.'

When Romney told me that,–for now and then
He came to tell me how the search advanced,
His voice dropped: I bent forward for the rest:
The woman had been with her, it appeared,
At first from week to week, then day by day,
And last, 'twas sure . .
I looked upon the ground
To escape the anguish of his eyes, and asked
As low as when you speak to mourners new
Of those they cannot bear yet to call dead,
If Marian had as much as named to him
A certain Rose, an early friend of hers,
A ruined creature.'
'Never.'–Starting up
He strode from side to side about the room,
Most like some prisoned lion sprung awake,
Who has felt the desert sting him through his dreams.
'What was I to her, that she should tell me aught?
A friend! Was I a friend? I see all clear.
Such devils would pull angels out of heaven,
Provided they could reach them; 'tis their pride;
And that's the odds 'twixt soul and body-plague!
The veriest slave who drops in Cairo's street,
Cries, 'Stand off from me,' to the passengers;
While these blotched souls are eager to infect,
And blow their bad breath in a sister's face
As if they got some ease by it.'
I broke through.
'Some natures catch no plagues. I've read of babes
Found whole and sleeping by the spotted breast
Of one a full day dead. I hold it true,
As I'm a woman and know womanhood,
That Marian Erle, however lured from place,
Deceived in way, keeps pure in aim and heart,
As snow that's drifted from the garden-bank
To the open road.'
'Twas hard to hear him laugh.
'The figure's happy. Well–a dozen carts
And trampers will secure you presently
A fine white snow-drift. Leave it there, your snow!
'Twill pass for soot ere sunset. Pure in aim?
She's pure in aim, I grant you,–like myself,
Who thought to take the world upon my back
To carry it over a chasm of social ill,
And end by letting slip through impotence
A single soul, a child's weight in a soul,
Straight down the pit of hell! yes, I and she
Have reason to be proud of our pure aims.'
Then softly, as the last repenting drops
Of a thunder shower, he added, 'The poor child;
Poor Marian! 'twas a luckless day for her,
When first she chanced on my philanthropy.'

He drew a chair beside me, and sate down;
And I, instinctively, as women use
Before a sweet friend's grief,–when, in his ear,
They hum the tune of comfort, though themselves
Most ignorant of the special words of such,
And quiet so and fortify his brain
And give it time and strength for feeling out
To reach the availing sense beyond that sound,–
Went murmuring to him, what, if written here,
Would seem not much, yet fetched him better help
Than, peradventure, if it had been more.

I've known the pregnant thinkers of this time
And stood by breathless, hanging on their lips,
When some chromatic sequence of fine thought
In learned modulation phrased itself
To an unconjectured harmony of truth.
And yet I've been more moved, more raised, I say,
By a simple word . . a broken easy thing,
A three-years infant might say after you,–
A look, a sigh, a touch upon the palm,
Which meant less than 'I love you' . . than by all
The full-voiced rhetoric of those master-mouths.

'Ah, dear Aurora,' he began at last,
His pale lips fumbling for a sort of smile,
'Your printer's devils have not spoilt your heart:
That's well. And who knows but, long years ago,
When you and I talked, you were somewhat right
In being so peevish with me? You, at least,
Have ruined no one through your dreams! Instead,
You've helped the facile youth to live youth's day
With innocent distraction, still perhaps
Suggestive of things better than your rhymes.
The little shepherd-maiden, eight years old,
I've seen upon the mountains of Vaucluse,
Asleep i' the sun her head upon her knees,
The flocks all scattered,–is more laudable
Than any sheep-dog trained imperfectly,
Who bites the kids through too much zeal.'
'I look
As if I had slept, then?'
He was touched at once
By something in my face. Indeed 'twas sure
That he and I,–despite a year or two
Of younger life on my side, and on his,
The heaping of the years' work on the days,–
The three-hour speeches from the member's seat,
The hot committees, in and out the House,
The pamphlets, 'Arguments,' 'Collective Views,'
Tossed out as straw before sick houses, just
To show one's sick and so be trod to dirt,
And no more use,–through this world's underground
The burrowing, groping effort, whence the arm
And heart came bleeding,–sure, that he and I
Were, after all, unequally fatigued!
That he, in his developed manhood, stood
A little sunburnt by the glare of life;
While I . . it seemed no sun had shone on me,
So many seasons I had forgot my Springs;
My cheeks had pined and perished from their orbs.
And all the youth blood in them had grown white
As dew on autumn cyclamens: alone
My eyes and forehead answered for my face.

He said . . 'Aurora, you are changed–are ill!'

'Not so, my cousin,–only not asleep!'
I answered, smiling gently. 'Let it be.
You scarcely found the poet of Vaucluse
As drowsy as the shepherds. What is art,
But life upon the larger scale, the higher,
When, graduating up in a spiral line
Of still expanding and ascending gyres,
It pushes toward the intense significance
Of all things, hungry for the Infinite?
Art's life,–and where we live, we suffer and toil.'

He seemed to sift me with his painful eyes.
'Alas! You take it gravely; you refuse
Your dreamland, right of common, and green rest.
You break the mythic turf where danced the nymphs,
With crooked ploughs of actual life,–let in
The axes to the legendary woods,
To pay the head-tax. You are fallen indeed
On evil days, you poets, if yourselves
Can praise that art of yours no otherwise;
And, if you cannot, . .better take a trade
And be of use! 'twere cheaper for your youth.'

'Of use!' I softly echoed, 'there's the point
We sweep about for ever in an argument;
Like swallows, which the exasperate, dying year
Sets spinning in black circles, round and round,
Preparing for far flights o'er unknown seas.
And we . . where tend we?'
'Where?' he said, and sighed.
'The whole creation, from the hour we are born,
Perplexes us with questions. Not a stone
But cries behind us, every weary step,
'Where, where?' I leave stones to reply to stones.
Enough for me and for my fleshly heart
To harken the invocations of my kind,
When men catch hold upon my shuddering nerves
And shriek, 'What help? what hope? what bread i' the house,
'What fire i' the frost?' There must be some response,
Though mine fail utterly. This social Sphinx,
Who sits between the sepulchres and stews,
Makes mock and mow against the crystal heavens,
And bullies God,–exacts a word at least
From each man standing on the side of God,
However paying a sphinx-price for it.
We pay it also if we hold our peace,
In pangs and pity. Let me speak and die.
Alas! you'll say, I speak and kill, instead.'

I pressed in there; 'The best men, doing their best,
Know peradventure least of what they do:
Men usefullest i' the world, are simply used;
The nail that holds the wood, must pierce it first,
And He alone who wields the hammer, sees
The work advanced by the earliest blow. Take heart.'
'Ah, if I could have taken yours!' he said,
'But that's past now.' Then rising . . 'I will take
At least your kindness and encouragement.
I thank you. Dear, be happy. Sing your songs,
If that's your way! but sometimes slumber too,
Nor tire too much with following, out of breath,
The rhymes upon your mountains of Delight.
Reflect, if Art be, in truth, the higher life,
You need the lower life to stand upon,
In order to reach up into that higher:
And none can stand a-tiptoe in the place
He cannot stand in with two stable feet.
Remember then!–for art's sake, hold your life.'

We parted so. I held him in respect.
I comprehended what he was in heart
And sacrificial greatness. Ay, but he
Supposed me a thing too small to deign to know;
He blew me, plainly, from the crucible,
As some intruding, interrupting fly
Not worth the pains of his analysis
Absorbed on nobler subjects. Hurt a fly!
He would not for the world: he's pitiful
To flies even. 'Sing,' says he, 'and teaze me still,
If that's your way, poor insect.' That's your way!

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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The White Cliffs

I
I have loved England, dearly and deeply,
Since that first morning, shining and pure,
The white cliffs of Dover I saw rising steeply
Out of the sea that once made her secure.
I had no thought then of husband or lover,
I was a traveller, the guest of a week;
Yet when they pointed 'the white cliffs of Dover',
Startled I found there were tears on my cheek.
I have loved England, and still as a stranger,
Here is my home and I still am alone.
Now in her hour of trial and danger,
Only the English are really her own.

II
It happened the first evening I was there.
Some one was giving a ball in Belgrave Square.
At Belgrave Square, that most Victorian spot.—
Lives there a novel-reader who has not
At some time wept for those delightful girls,
Daughters of dukes, prime ministers and earls,
In bonnets, berthas, bustles, buttoned basques,
Hiding behind their pure Victorian masks
Hearts just as hot - hotter perhaps than those
Whose owners now abandon hats and hose?
Who has not wept for Lady Joan or Jill
Loving against her noble parent's will
A handsome guardsman, who to her alarm
Feels her hand kissed behind a potted palm
At Lady Ivry's ball the dreadful night
Before his regiment goes off to fight;
And see him the next morning, in the park,
Complete in busbee, marching to embark.
I had read freely, even as a child,
Not only Meredith and Oscar Wilde
But many novels of an earlier day
Ravenshoe, Can You Forgive Her?, Vivien Grey,
Ouida, The Duchess, Broughton's Red As a Rose,
Guy Livingstone, Whyte-Melville— Heaven knows
What others. Now, I thought, I was to see
Their habitat, though like the Miller of Dee,
I cared for none and no one cared for me.


III
A light blue carpet on the stair
And tall young footmen everywhere,
Tall young men with English faces
Standing rigidly in their places,
Rows and rows of them stiff and staid
In powder and breeches and bright gold braid;
And high above them on the wall
Hung other English faces-all
Part of the pattern of English life—
General Sir Charles, and his pretty wife,
Admirals, Lords-Lieutenant of Shires,
Men who were served by these footmen's sires
At their great parties-none of them knowing
How soon or late they would all be going
In plainer dress to a sterner strife-
Another pattern of English life.

I went up the stairs between them all,
Strange and frightened and shy and small,
And as I entered the ballroom door,
Saw something I had never seen before
Except in portraits— a stout old guest
With a broad blue ribbon across his breast—
That blue as deep as the southern sea,
Bluer than skies can ever be
The Countess of Salisbury—Edward the Third—
No damn merit— the Duke— I heard
My own voice saying; 'Upon my word,
The garter!' and clapped my hands like a child.

Some one beside me turned and smiled,
And looking down at me said: 'I fancy,
You're Bertie's Australian cousin Nancy.
He toId me to tell you that he'd be late
At the Foreign Office and not to wait
Supper for him, but to go with me,
And try to behave as if I were he.'
I should have told him on the spot
That I had no cousin—that I was not
Australian Nancy—that my name
Was Susan Dunne, and that I came
From a small white town on a deep-cut bay
In the smallest state in the U.S.A.
I meant to tell him, but changed my mind—
I needed a friend, and he seemed kind;
So I put my gloved hand into his glove,
And we danced together— and fell in love.

IV
Young and in love-how magical the phrase!
How magical the fact! Who has not yearned
Over young lovers when to their amaze
They fall in love and find their love returned,
And the lights brighten, and their eyes are clear
To see God's image in their common clay.
Is it the music of the spheres they hear?
Is it the prelude to that noble play,
The drama of Joined Lives? Ah, they forget
They cannot write their parts; the bell has rung,
The curtain rises and the stage is set
For tragedy-they were in love and young.

V
We went to the Tower,
We went to the Zoo,
We saw every flower
In the gardens at Kew.
We saw King Charles a-prancing
On his long-tailed horse,
And thought him more entrancing
Than better kings, of course.
At a strange early hour,
In St. James's palace yard,
We watched in a shower
The changing of the guard.
And I said, what a pity,
To have just a week to spend,
When London is a city
Whose beauties never end!

VI
When the sun shines on England, it atones
For low-hung leaden skies, and rain and dim
Moist fogs that paint the verdure on her stones
And fill her gentle rivers to the brim.
When the sun shines on England, shafts of light
Fall on far towers and hills and dark old trees,
And hedge-bound meadows of a green as bright
As bright as is the blue of tropic seas.
When the sun shines, it is as if the face
Of some proud man relaxed his haughty stare,
And smiled upon us with a sudden grace,
Flattering because its coming is so rare.

VII
The English are frosty
When you're no kith or kin
Of theirs, but how they alter
When once they take you in!
The kindest, the truest,
The best friends ever known,
It's hard to remember
How they froze you to a bone.
They showed me all London,
Johnnie and his friends;
They took me to the country
For long week-ends;
I never was so happy,
I never had such fun,
I stayed many weeks in England
Instead of just one.

VIII
John had one of those English faces
That always were and will always be
Found in the cream of English places
Till England herself sink into the sea—
A blond, bowed face with prominent eyes
A little bit bluer than English skies.
You see it in ruffs and suits of armour,
You see it in wigs of many styles,
Soldier and sailor, judge and farmer—
That face has governed the British Isles,
By the power, for good or ill bestowed,
Only on those who live by code.

Oh, that inflexible code of living,
That seems so easy and unconstrained,
The Englishman's code of taking and giving
Rights and privileges pre-ordained,
Based since English life began
On the prime importance of being a man.

IX
And what a voice he had-gentle, profound,
Clear masculine!—I melted at the sound.
Oh, English voices, are there any words
Those tones to tell, those cadences to teach!
As song of thrushes is to other birds,
So English voices are to other speech;
Those pure round 'o's '—those lovely liquid 'l's'
Ring in the ears like sound of Sabbath bells.

Yet I have loathed those voices when the sense
Of what they said seemed to me insolence,
As if the dominance of the whole nation
Lay in that clear correct enunciation.

Many years later, I remember when
One evening I overheard two men
In Claridge's— white waistcoats, coats I know
Were built in Bond Street or in Savile Row—
So calm, so confident, so finely bred—
Young gods in tails— and this is what they said:
'Not your first visit to the States?' 'Oh no,
I'd been to Canada two years ago.'
Good God, I thought, have they not heard that we
Were those queer colonists who would be free,
Who took our desperate chance, and fought and won
Under a colonist called Washington?

One does not lose one's birthright, it appears.
I had been English then for many years.

X
We went down to Cambridge,
Cambridge in the spring.
In a brick court at twilight
We heard the thrushes sing,
And we went to evening service
In the chapel of the King.
The library of Trinity,
The quadrangle of Clare,
John bought a pipe from Bacon,
And I acquired there
The Anecdotes of Painting
From a handcart in the square.

The Playing fields at sunset
Were vivid emerald green,
The elms were tall and mighty,
And many youths were seen,
Carefree young gentlemen
In the Spring of 'Fourteen.

XI
London, just before dawn-immense and dark—
Smell of wet earth and growth from the empty Park,
Pall Mall vacant-Whitehall deserted. Johnnie and I
Strolling together, averse to saying good-bye—
Strolling away from some party in silence profound,
Only far off in Mayfair, piercing, the sound
Of a footman's whistle—the rhythm of hoofs on wood,
Further and further away. . . . And now we stood
On a bridge, where a poet came to keep
Vigil while all the city lay asleep—
Westminster Bridge, and soon the sun would rise,
And I should see it with my very eyes!
Yes, now it came— a broad and awful glow
Out of the violet mists of dawn. 'Ah, no',
I said. 'Earth has not anything to show
More fair— changed though it isthan this.'
A curious background surely for a kiss—
Our first— Westminster Bridge at break of day
Settings by Wordsworth, as John used to say.

XII
Why do we fall in love? I do believe
That virtue is the magnet, the small vein
Of ore, the spark, the torch that we receive
At birth, and that we render back again.
That drop of godhood, like a precious stone,
May shine the brightest in the tiniest flake.
Lavished on saints, to sinners not unknown;
In harlot, nun, philanthropist, and rake,
It shines for those who love; none else discern
Evil from good; Men's fall did not bestow
That threatened wisdom; blindly still we yearn
After a virtue that we do not know,
Until our thirst and longing rise above
The barriers of reason—and we love.

XIII
And still I did not see my life was changed,
Utterly different—by this love estranged
For ever and ever from my native land;
That I was now of that unhappy band
Who lose the old, and cannot gain the new
However loving and however true
To their new duties. I could never be
An English woman, there was that in me
Puritan, stubborn that would not agree
To English standards, though I did not see
The truth, because I thought them, good or ill,
So great a peopleand I think so still.

But a day came when I was forced to face
Facts. I was taken down to see the place,
The family place in Devon— and John's mother.
'Of course, you understand,' he said, 'my brother
Will have the place.' He smiled; he was so sure
The world was better for primogeniture.
And yet he loved that place, as Englishmen
Do love their native countryside, and when
The day should be as it was sure to be
When this was home no more to him— when he
Could go there only when his brother's wife
Should ask himto a room not hishis life
Would shrink and lose its meaning. How unjust,
I thought. Why do they feel it must
Go to that idle, insolent eldest son?
Well, in the end it went to neither one.

XIV
A red brick manor-house in Devon,
In a beechwood of old grey trees,
Ivy climbing to the clustered chimneys,
Rustling in the wet south breeze.
Gardens trampled down by Cromwell's army,
Orchards of apple-trees and pears,
Casements that had looked for the Armada,
And a ghost on the stairs.

XV
Johnnie's mother, the Lady Jean,
Child of a penniless Scottish peer,
Was handsome, worn high-coloured, lean,
With eyes like Johnnie's—more blue and clear—
Like bubbles of glass in her fine tanned face.
Quiet, she was, and so at ease,
So perfectly sure of her rightful place
In the world that she felt no need to please.
I did not like her—she made me feel
Talkative, restless, unsure, as if
I were a cross between parrot and eel.
I thought her blank and cold and stiff.

XVI
And presently she said as they
Sooner or later always say:
'You're an American, Miss Dunne?
Really you do not speak like one.'
She seemed to think she'd said a thing
Both courteous and flattering.
I answered though my wrist were weak
With anger: 'Not at all, I speak—
At least I've always thought this true—
As educated people do
In any country-even mine.'
'Really?' I saw her head incline,
I saw her ready to assert
Americans are easily hurt.

XVII
Strange to look back to the days
So long ago
When a friend was almost a foe,
When you hurried to find a phrase
For your easy light dispraise
Of a spirit you did not know,
A nature you could not plumb
In the moment of meeting,
Not guessing a day would come
When your heart would ache to hear
Other men's tongues repeating
Those same light phrases that jest and jeer
At a friend now grown so dear— so dear.
Strange to remember long ago
When a friend was almost a foe.

XVIII
I saw the house with its oaken stair,
And the Tudor Rose on the newel post,
The panelled upper gallery where
They told me you heard the family ghost—
'A gentle unhappy ghost who sighs
Outside one's door on the night one dies.'
'Not,' Lady Jean explained, 'at all
Like the ghost at my father's place, St. Kitts,
That clanks and screams in the great West Hall
And frightens strangers out of their wits.'
I smiled politely, not thinking I
Would hear one midnight that long sad sigh.

I saw the gardens, after our tea
(Crumpets and marmalade, toast and cake)
And Drake's Walk, leading down to the sea;
Lady Jean was startled I'd heard of Drake,
For the English always find it a mystery
That Americans study English history.

I saw the picture of every son—
Percy, the eldest, and John; and Bill
In Chinese Customs, and the youngest one
Peter, the sailor, at Osborne still;
And the daughter, Enid, married, alas,
To a civil servant in far Madras.

A little thing happened, just before
We left— the evening papers came;
John, flicking them over to find a score,
Spoke for the first time a certain name—
The name of a town in a distant land
Etched on our hearts by a murderer's hand.

Mother and son exchanged a glance,
A curious glance of strength and dread.
I thought: what matter to them if Franz
Ferdinand dies? One of them said:
This might be serious.' 'Yes, you're right.'
The other answered, 'It really might.'

XIX
Dear John: I'm going home. I write to say
Goodbye. My boat-train leaves at break of day;
It will be gone when this is in your hands.
I've had enough of lovely foreign lands,
Sightseeing, strangers, holiday and play;
I'm going home to those who think the way
I think, and speak as I do. Will you try
To understand that this must be good-bye?
We both rooted deeply in the soil
Of our own countries. But I could not spoil
Our happy memories with the stress and strain
Of parting; if we never meet again
Be sure I shall remember till I die
Your love, your laugh, your kindness. But—goodbye.
Please do not hate me; give the devil his due,
This is an act of courage. Always, Sue.

XX
The boat-train rattling
Through the green country-side;
A girl within it battling
With her tears and pride.
The Southampton landing,
Porters, neat and quick,
And a young man standing,
Leaning on his stick.
'Oh, John, John, you shouldn't
Have come this long way. . .
'Did you really think I wouldn't
Be here to make you stay?'
I can't remember whether
There was much stress and strain,
But presently, together,
We were travelling back again.

XXI
The English love their country with a love
Steady, and simple, wordless, dignified;
I think it sets their patriotism above
All others. We Americans have pride—
We glory in our country's short romance.
We boast of it and love it. Frenchmen when
The ultimate menace comes, will die for France
Logically as they lived. But Englishmen
Will serve day after day, obey the law,
And do dull tasks that keep a nation strong.
Once I remember in London how I saw
Pale shabby people standing in a long
Line in the twilight and the misty rain
To pay their tax. I then saw England plain.

XXII
Johnnie and I were married. England then
Had been a week at war, and all the men
Wore uniform, as English people can,
Unconscious of it. Percy, the best man,
As thin as paper and as smart as paint,
Bade us good-by with admirable restraint,
Went from the church to catch his train to hell;
And died-saving his batman from a shell.

XXIII
We went down to Devon,
In a warm summer rain,
Knowing that our happiness
Might never come again;
I, not forgetting,
'Till death us do part,'
Was outrageously happy
With death in my heart.
Lovers in peacetime
With fifty years to live,
Have time to tease and quarrel
And question what to give;
But lovers in wartime
Better understand
The fullness of living,
With death close at hand.

XXIV
My father wrote me a letter—
My father, scholarly, indolent, strong,
Teaching Greek better
Than high-school students repay—
Teaching Greek in the winter, but all summer long
Sailing a yawl in Narragansett Bay;
Happier perhaps when I was away,
Free of an anxious daughter,
He could sail blue water
Day after day,
Beyond Brenton Reef Lightship, and Beavertail,
Past Cuttyhunk to catch a gale
Off the Cape, while he thought of Hellas and Troy,
Chanting with joy
Greek choruses— those lines that he said
Must be written some day on a stone at his head:
'But who can know
As the long years go
That to live is happy, has found his heaven.'
My father, so far away—
I thought of him, in Devon,
Anchoring in a blind fog in Booth Bay.

XXV
'So, Susan, my dear,' the letter began,
'You've fallen in love with an Englishman.
Well, they're a manly, attractive lot,
If you happen to like them, which I do not.
I am a Yankee through and through,
And I don't like them, or the things they do.
Whenever it's come to a knock-down fight
With us, they were wrong, and we right;
If you don't believe me, cast your mind
Back over history, what do you find?
They certainly had no justification
For that maddening plan to impose taxation
Without any form of representation.
Your man may be all that a man should be,
Only don't you bring him back to me
Saying he can't get decent tea—
He could have got his tea all right
In Boston Harbour a certain night,
When your great-great-grandmother— also a Sue—
Shook enough tea from her husband's shoe
To supply her house for a week or two.
The war of 1812 seems to me
About as just as a war could be.
How could we help but come to grips
With a nation that stopped and searched our ships,
And took off our seamen for no other reason
Except that they needed crews that season.
I can get angry still at the tale
Of their letting the Alabama sail,
And Palmerston being insolent
To Lincoln and Seward over the Trent.
All very long ago, you'll say,
But whenever I go up Boston-way,
I drive through Concord—that neck of the wood,
Where once the embattled farmers stood,
And I think of Revere, and the old South Steeple,
And I say, by heck, we're the only people
Who licked them not only once, but twice.
Never forget it-that's my advice.
They have their points—they're honest and brave,
Loyal and sure—as sure as the grave;
They make other nations seem pale and flighty,
But they do think England is god almighty,
And you must remind them now and then
That other countries breed other men.
From all of which you will think me rather
Unjust. I am. Your devoted Father.

XXVI
I read, and saw my home with sudden yearning—
The small white wooden house, the grass-green door,
My father's study with the fire burning,
And books piled on the floor.
I saw the moon-faced clock that told the hours,
The crimson Turkey carpet, worn and frayed,
The heavy dishes—gold with birds and flowers—
Fruits of the China trade.
I saw the jack o' lanterns, friendly, frightening,
Shine from our gateposts every Hallow-e'en;
I saw the oak tree, shattered once by lightning,
Twisted, stripped clean.

I saw the Dioscuri— two black kittens,
Stalking relentlessly an empty spool;
I saw a little girl in scarlet mittens
Trudging through snow to school.

XXVII
John read the letter with his lovely smile.
'Your father has a vigorous English style,
And what he says is true, upon my word;
But what's this war of which I never heard?
We didn't fight in 1812.' 'Yes, John,
That was the time when you burnt Washington.'
'We couldn't have, my dear. . .' 'I mean the city.'
'We burnt it?' 'Yes, you did.' 'What a pity!
No wonder people hate us. But, I say,
I'll make your father like me yet, some day.'

XXVIII
I settled down in Devon,
When Johnnie went to France.
Such a tame ending
To a great romance—
Two lonely women
With nothing much to do
But get to know each other;
She did and I did, too.
Mornings at the rectory
Learning how to roll
Bandages, and always
Saving light and coal.
Oh, that house was bitter
As winter closed in,
In spite of heavy stockings
And woollen next the skin.
I was cold and wretched,
And never unaware
Of John more cold and wretched
In a trench out there.

XXIX
All that long winter I wanted so much to complain,
But my mother-in-Iaw, as far as I could see,
Felt no such impulse, though she was always in pain,
An, as the winter fogs grew thick,
Took to walking with a stick,
Heavily.
Those bubble-like eyes grew black
Whenever she rose from a chair—
Rose and fell back,
Unable to bear
The sure agonizing
Torture of rising.
Her hands, those competent bony hands,
Grew gnarled and old,
But never ceased to obey the commands
Of her will— only finding new hold
Of bandage and needle and pen.
And not for the blinking
Of an eye did she ever stop thinking
Of the suffering of Englishmen
And her two sons in the trenches. Now and then
I could forget for an instant in a book or a letter,
But she never, never forgot— either one—
Percy and John—though I knew she loved one better—
Percy, the wastrel, the gambler, the eldest son.
I think I shall always remember
Until I die
Her face that day in December,
When in a hospital ward together, she and I
Were writing letters for wounded men and dying,
Writing and crying
Over their words, so silly and simple and loving,
Suddenly, looking up, I saw the old Vicar moving
Like fate down the hospital ward, until
He stood still
Beside her, where she sat at a bed.
'Dear friend, come home. I have tragic news,' he said
She looked straight at him without a spasm of fear,
Her face not stern or masked—
'Is it Percy or John?' she asked.
'Percy.' She dropped her eyes. 'I am needed here.
Surely you know
I cannot go
Until every letter is written. The dead
Must wait on the living,' she said.
'This is my work. I must stay.'
And she did— the whole long day.

XXX
Out of the dark, and dearth
Of happiness on earth,
Out of a world inured to death and pain;
On a fair spring mom
To me a son was born,
And hope was born-the future lived again.
To me a son was born,
The lonely hard forlorn
Travail was, as the Bible tells, forgot.
How old, how commonplace
To look upon the face
Of your first-born, and glory in your lot.

To look upon his face
And understand your place
Among the unknown dead in churchyards lying,
To see the reason why
You lived and why you die—
Even to find a certain grace in dying.

To know the reason why
Buds blow and blossoms die,
Why beauty fades, and genius is undone,
And how unjustified
Is any human pride
In all creation— save in this common one.

XXXI
Maternity is common, but not so
It seemed to me. Motherless, I did not know—
I was all unprepared to feel this glow,
Holy as a Madonna's, and as crude
As any animal's beatitude—
Crude as my own black cat's, who used to bring
Her newest litter to me every spring,
And say, with green eyes shining in the sun:
'Behold this miracle that I have done.'
And John came home on leave, and all was joy
And thankfulness to me, because my boy
Was not a baby only, but the heir—
Heir to the Devon acres and a name
As old as England. Somehow I became
Almost an English woman, almost at one
With all they ever did— all they had done.

XXXII
'I want him called John after you, or if not that I'd rather—'
'But the eldest son is always called Percy, dear.'
'I don't ask to call him Hiram, after my father—'
'But the eldest son is always called Percy, dear.'
'But I hate the name Percy. I like Richard or Ronald,
Or Peter like your brother, or Ian or Noel or Donald—'
'But the eldest is always called Percy, dear.'
So the Vicar christened him Percy; and Lady Jean
Gave to the child and me the empty place
In hr heart. Poor Lady, it was as if she had seen
The world destroyed— the extinction of her race,
Her country, her class, her name— and now she saw
Them live again. And I would hear her say:
'No. I admire Americans; my daughter-in-law
Was an American.' Thus she would well repay
The debt, and I was grateful— the English made
Life hard for those who did not come to her aid.

XXXIII
'They must come in in the spring.'
'Don't they care sixpence who's right?'
'What a ridiculous thing—
Saying they're too proud to fight.'
'Saying they're too proud to fight.'
'Wilson's pro-German, I'm told.'
'No, it's financial.' 'Oh, quite,
All that they care for is gold.'
'All that they care for is gold.'
'Seem to like writing a note.'
'Yes, as a penman, he's bold.'
'No. It's the Irish vote.'

'Oh, it's the Irish vote.'
'What if the Germans some night
Sink an American boat?'
'Darling, they're too proud to fight.'

XXXIV
What could I do, but ache and long
That my country, peaceful, rich, and strong,
Should come and do battle for England's sake.
What could I do, but long and ache.
And my father's letters I hid away
Lest some one should know the things he'd say.
'You ask me whether we're coming in
We are. The English are clever as sin,
Silently, subtly they inspire
Most of youth with a holy fire
To shed their blood for the British Empire
We'll come in— we'll fight and die
Humbly to help them, and by and by,
England will do us in the eye.
They'll get colonies, gold and fame,
And we'll get nothing at all but blame.
Blame for not having come before,
Blame for not having sent them more
Money and men and war supplies,
Blame if we venture to criticise.
We're so damn simple— our skins so thin
We'll get nothing whatever, but we'll come in.'

XXXV
And at last—at last—like the dawn of a calm, fair day
After a night of terror and storm, they came—
My young light-hearted countrymen, tall and gay,
Looking the world over in search of fun and fame,
Marching through London to the beat of a boastful air,
Seeing for the first time Piccadilly and Leicester Square,
All the bands playing: 'Over There, Over There,
Send the word, send the word to beware—'
And as the American flag went fluttering by
Englishmen uncovered, and I began to cry.

XXXVI
'We're here to end it, by jingo.'
'We'll lick the Heinies okay.'
'I can't get on to the lingo.'
'Dumb-they don't get what we say.'
'Call that stuff coffee? You oughter
Know better. Gee, take it away.'
'Oh, for a drink of ice water! '
'They think nut-sundae's a day.'

'Say, is this chicken feed money?'
'Say, does it rain every day?'
'Say, Lady, isn't it funny
Every one drives the wrong way?'

XXXVII
How beautiful upon the mountains,
How beautiful upon the downs,
How beautiful in the village post-office,
On the pavements of towns—
How beautiful in the huge print of newspapers,
Beautiful while telegraph wires hum,
While telephone bells wildly jingle,
The news that peace has come—
That peace has come at last—that all wars cease.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the footsteps
Of the messengers of peace!

XXXVIII
In the depth of the night betwixt midnight and morning,
In the darkness and silence forerunning the dawn,
The throb of my heart was a drum-beat of warning,
My ears were a-strain and my breath was undrawn.
In the depth of the night, when the old house was sleeping,
I lying alone in a desolate bed,
Heard soft on the staircase a slow footstep creeping—
The ear of the living—the step of the dead.
In the depth of the night betwixt midnight and morning
A step drawing near on the old oaken floor
On the stair— in the gallery— the ghost that gives warning
Of death, by that heartbreaking sigh at my door.

XXXIX
Bad news is not broken,
By kind tactful word;
The message is spoken
Ere the word can be heard.
The eye and the bearing,
The breath make it clear,
And the heart is despairing
Before the ears hear.
I do not remember
The words that they said:
'Killed—Douai—November—'
I knew John was dead.
All done and over—
That day long ago—
The while cliffs of Dover—
Little did I know.

XL
As I grow older, looking back, I see
Not those the longest planted in the heart
Are the most missed. Some unions seem to be
Too close for even death to tear apart.
Those who have lived together many years,
And deeply learnt to read each other's mind,
Vanities, tempers, virtues, hopes, and fears—
One cannot go—nor is one left behind.
Alas, with John and me this was not so;
I was defrauded even of the past.
Our days had been so pitifully few,
Fight as I would, I found the dead go fast.
I had lost all—had lost not love alone,
But the bright knowledge it had been my own.

XLI
Oh, sad people, buy not your past too dearly,
Live not in dreams of the past, for understand,
If you remember too much, too long, too clearly,
If you grasp memory with too heavy a hand,
You will destroy memory in all its glory
For the sake of the dreams of your head upon your bed.
You will be left with only the worn dead story
You told yourself of the dead.

XLII
Nanny brought up my son, as his father before him,
Austere on questions of habits, manners, and food.
Nobly yielding a mother's right to adore him,
Thinking that mothers never did sons much good.
A Scot from Lady Jean's own native passes,
With a head as smooth and round as a silver bowl,
A crooked nose, and eyes behind her glasses
Grey and bright and wise—a great soul !
Ready to lay down her life for her charge, and ready
To administer discipline without consulting me:
'Is that the way for you to answer my leddy?
I think you'll get no sweet tonight to your tea.'

Bringing him up better than I could do it,
Teaching him to be civil and manly and cool
In the face of danger. And then before I knew it
The time came for him to go off to school.

Off to school to be free of women's teaching,
Into a world of men— at seven years old;
Into a world where a mother's hands vainly reaching
Will never again caress and comfort and hold.

XLIII
My father came over now and then
To look at the boy and talk to me,
Never staying long,
For the urge was strong
To get back to his yawl and the summer sea.
He came like a nomad passing by,
Hands in his pockets, hat over one eye,
Teasing every one great and small
With a blank straight face and a Yankee drawl;
Teasing the Vicar on Apostolic Succession
And what the Thirty-Nine Articles really meant to convey,
Teasing Nanny, though he did not
Make much impression
On that imperturbable Scot.
Teasing our local grandee, a noble peer,
Who firmly believed the Ten Lost Tribes
Of Israel had settled here—
A theory my father had at his fingers' ends—
Only one person was always safe from his jibes—
My mother-in-law, for they were really friends.

XLIV
Oh, to come home to your country
After long years away,
To see the tall shining towers
Rise over the rim of the bay,
To feel the west wind steadily blowing
And the sunshine golden and hot,
To speak to each man as an equal,
Whether he is or not.

XLV
Was this America—this my home?
Prohibition and Teapot Dome—
Speakeasies, night-clubs, illicit stills,
Dark faces peering behind dark grills,
Hold-ups, kidnappings, hootch or booze—
Every one gambling—you just can't lose,
Was this my country? Even the bay
At home was altered, strange ships lay
At anchor, deserted day after day,
Old yachts in a rusty dim decay—
Like ladies going the primrose way—
At anchor, until when the moon was black,
They sailed, and often never came back.

Even my father's Puritan drawl
Told me shyly he'd sold his yawl
For a fabulous price to the constable's son—
My childhood's playmate, thought to be one
Of a criminal gang, rum-runners all,
Such clever fellows with so much money—
Even the constable found it funny,
Until one morning his son was found,
Floating dead in Long Island Sound.
Was this my country? It seemed like heaven
To get back, dull and secure, to Devon,
Loyally hiding from Lady Jean
And my English friends the horrors I'd seen.

XLVI
That year she died, my nearest, dearest friend;
Lady Jean died, heroic to the end.
The family stood about her grave, but none
Mourned her as I did. After, one by one,
They slipped away—Peter and Bill—my son
Went back to school. I hardly was aware
Of Percy's lovely widow, sitting there
In the old room, in Lady Jean's own chair.
An English beauty glacially fair
Was Percy's widow Rosamund, her hair
Was silver gilt, and smooth as silk, and fine,
Her eyes, sea-green, slanted away from mine,
From any one's, as if to meet the gaze
Of others was too intimate a phase
For one as cool and beautiful as she.

We were not friends or foes. She seemed to be
Always a little irked— fretted to find
That other women lived among mankind.
Now for the first time after years of meeting,
Never exchanging more than formal greeting,
She spoke to me— that sharp determined way
People will speak when they have things to say.

XLVII
ROSAMUND: Susan, go home with your offspring. Fly.
Live in America. SUSAN: Rosamund, why?
ROSAMUND: Why, my dear girl, haven't you seen
What English country life can mean
With too small an income to keep the place
Going? Already I think I trace
A change in you, you no longer care
So much how you look or what you wear.
That coat and skirt you have on, you know
You wouldn't have worn them ten years ago.
Those thick warm stockings— they make me sad,
Your ankles were ankles to drive men mad.
Look at your hair— you need a wave.
Get out— go home— be hard— be brave,
Or else, believe me, you'll be a slave.
There's something in you— dutiful— meek—
You'll be saving your pin-money every week
To mend the roof. Well, let it leak.
Why should you care? SUSAN: But I do care,
John loved this place and my boy's the heir.

ROSAMUND: The heir to what? To a tiresome life
Drinking tea with the vicar's wife,
Opening bazaars, and taking the chair
At meetings for causes that you don't care
Sixpence about and never will;
Breaking your heart over every bill.
I've been in the States, where everyone,
Even the poor, have a little fun.

Don't condemn your son to be
A penniless country squire. He
Would be happier driving a tram over there
Than mouldering his life away as heir.
SUSAN: Rosamund dear, this may all be true.
I'm an American through and through.
I don't see things as the English do,
But it's clearly my duty, it seems to me,
To bring up John's son, like him, to be
A country squire—poor alas,
But true to that English upper class
That does not change and does not pass.

ROSAMUND: Nonsense; it's come to an absolute stop.
Twenty years since we sat on top
Of the world, amusing ourselves and sneering
At other manners and customs, jeering
At other nations, living in clover—
Not any more. That's done and over.
No one nowadays cares a button
For the upper classes— they're dead as mutton.
Go home. SUSAN: I notice that you don't go.

ROSAMUND: My dear, that shows how little you know.
I'm escaping the fate of my peers,
Marrying one of the profiteers,
Who hasn't an 'aitch' where an 'aitch' should be,
But millions and millions to spend on me.
Not much fun— but there wasn't any
Other way out. I haven't a penny.
But with you it's different. You can go away,
And oh, what a fool you'd be to stay.

XLVIII
Rabbits in the park,
Scuttling as we pass,
Little white tails
Against the green grass.
'Next time, Mother,
I must really bring a gun,
I know you don't like shooting,
But—!' John's own son,
That blond bowed face,
Those clear steady eyes,
Hard to be certain
That the dead don't rise.
Jogging on his pony
Through the autumn day,
'Bad year for fruit, Mother,
But good salt hay.'
Bowling for the village
As his father had before;
Coming home at evening
To read the cricket score,
Back to the old house
Where all his race belong,
Tired and contented—
Rosamund was wrong.

XLIX
If some immortal strangers walked our land
And heard of death, how could they understand
That we—doomed creatures—draw our meted breath
Light-heartedly—all unconcerned with death.
So in these years between the wars did men
From happier continents look on us when
They brought us sympathy, and saw us stand
Like the proverbial ostrich-head in sand—
While youth passed resolutions not to fight,
And statesmen muttered everything was right—
Germany, a kindly, much ill-treated nation—
Russia was working out her own salvation
Within her borders. As for Spain, ah, Spain
Would buy from England when peace came again!
I listened and believed— believed through sheer
Terror. I could not look whither my fear
Pointed— that agony that I had known.
I closed my eyes, and was not alone.


Later than many, earlier than some,
I knew the die was cast— that war must come;
That war must come. Night after night I lay
Steeling a broken heart to face the day
When he, my son— would tread the very same
Path that his father trod. When the day came
I was not steeled— not ready. Foolish, wild
Words issued from my lips— 'My child, my child,
Why should you die for England too?' He smiled:
'Is she not worth it, if I must?' he said.
John would have answered yes— but John was dead.

L
Is she worth dying for? My love, my one
And only love had died, and now his son
Asks me, his alien mother, to assay
The worth of England to mankind today—
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea—
Ah, no, not that—not Shakespeare—I must be
A sterner critic. I must weigh the ill
Against the good, must strike the balance, till
I know the answer— true for me alone—
What is she worth— this country— not my own?

I thought of my father's deep traditional wrath
Against England— the redcoat bully— the ancient foe—
That second reaping of hate, that aftermath
Of a ruler's folly and ignorance long ago—
Long, long ago— yet who can honestly say
England is utterly changed— not I— not I.
Arrogance, ignorance, folly are here today,
And for these my son must die?
I thought of these years, these last dark terrible years
When the leaders of England bade the English believe
Lies at the price of peace, lies and fears,
Lies that corrupt, and fears that sap and deceive.
I though of the bars dividing man from man,
Invisible bars that the humble may not pass,
And how no pride is uglier, crueller than
The pride unchecked of class.
Oh, those invisible bars of manners and speech,
Ways that the proud man will not teach
The humble lest they too reach
Those splendid heights where a little band
Have always stood and will always stand
Ruling the fate of this small green land,
Rulers of England—for them must I
Send out my only son to die?

LI
And then, and then,
I thought of Elizabeth stepping down
Over the stones of Plymouth town
To welcome her sailors, common men,
She herself, as she used to say,
Being' mere English' as much as they
Seafaring men who sailed away
From rocky inlet and wooded bay,
Free men, undisciplined, uncontrolled,
Some of them pirates and all of them bold,
Feeling their fate was England's fate,
Coming to save it a little late,
Much too late for the easy way,
Much too late, and yet never quite
Too late to win in that last worst fight.

And I thought of Hampden and men like him,
St John and Eliot, Cromwell and Pym,
Standing firm through the dreadful years,
When the chasm was opening, widening,
Between the Commons and the King;
I thought of the Commons in tears— in tears,
When Black Rod knocked at Parliament's door,
And they saw Rebellion straight before
Weeping, and yet as hard as stone,
Knowing what the English have always known
Since then— and perhaps have known alone—
Something that none can teach or tell—
The moment when God's voice says; 'Rebel.'

Not to rise up in sudden gust
Of passion— not, though the cause be just;
Not to submit so long that hate,
Lava torrents break out and spill
Over the land in a fiery spate;
Not to submit for ever, until
The will of the country is one man's will,
And every soul in the whole land shrinks
From thinking—except as his neighbour thinks.
Men who have governed England know
That dreadful line that they may not pass
And live. Elizabeth long ago
Honoured and loved, and bold as brass,
Daring and subtle, arrogant, clever,
English, too, to her stiff backbone,
Somewhat a bully, like her own
Father— yet even Elizabeth never
Dared to oppose the sullen might
Of the English, standing upon a right.

LII
And were they not English, our forefathers, never more
English than when they shook the dust of her sod
From their feet for ever, angrily seeking a shore
Where in his own way a man might worship his God.
Never more English than when they dared to be
Rebels against her-that stern intractable sense
Of that which no man can stomach and still be free,
Writing: 'When in the course of human events. . .'
Writing it out so all the world could see
Whence come the powers of all just governments.
The tree of Liberty grew and changed and spread,
But the seed was English.
I am American bred,
I have seen much to hate here— much to forgive,
But in a world where England is finished and dead,
I do not wish to live.

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The House Of Dust: Complete

I.

The sun goes down in a cold pale flare of light.
The trees grow dark: the shadows lean to the east:
And lights wink out through the windows, one by one.
A clamor of frosty sirens mourns at the night.
Pale slate-grey clouds whirl up from the sunken sun.

And the wandering one, the inquisitive dreamer of dreams,
The eternal asker of answers, stands in the street,
And lifts his palms for the first cold ghost of rain.
The purple lights leap down the hill before him.
The gorgeous night has begun again.

'I will ask them all, I will ask them all their dreams,
I will hold my light above them and seek their faces.
I will hear them whisper, invisible in their veins . . .'
The eternal asker of answers becomes as the darkness,
Or as a wind blown over a myriad forest,
Or as the numberless voices of long-drawn rains.

We hear him and take him among us, like a wind of music,
Like the ghost of a music we have somewhere heard;
We crowd through the streets in a dazzle of pallid lamplight,
We pour in a sinister wave, ascend a stair,
With laughter and cry, and word upon murmured word;
We flow, we descend, we turn . . . and the eternal dreamer
Moves among us like light, like evening air . . .

Good-night! Good-night! Good-night! We go our ways,
The rain runs over the pavement before our feet,
The cold rain falls, the rain sings.
We walk, we run, we ride. We turn our faces
To what the eternal evening brings.

Our hands are hot and raw with the stones we have laid,
We have built a tower of stone high into the sky,
We have built a city of towers.

Our hands are light, they are singing with emptiness.
Our souls are light; they have shaken a burden of hours . . .
What did we build it for? Was it all a dream? . . .
Ghostly above us in lamplight the towers gleam . . .
And after a while they will fall to dust and rain;
Or else we will tear them down with impatient hands;
And hew rock out of the earth, and build them again.


II.

One, from his high bright window in a tower,
Leans out, as evening falls,
And sees the advancing curtain of the shower
Splashing its silver on roofs and walls:
Sees how, swift as a shadow, it crosses the city,
And murmurs beyond far walls to the sea,
Leaving a glimmer of water in the dark canyons,
And silver falling from eave and tree.

One, from his high bright window, looking down,
Peers like a dreamer over the rain-bright town,
And thinks its towers are like a dream.
The western windows flame in the sun's last flare,
Pale roofs begin to gleam.

Looking down from a window high in a wall
He sees us all;
Lifting our pallid faces towards the rain,
Searching the sky, and going our ways again,
Standing in doorways, waiting under the trees . . .
There, in the high bright window he dreams, and sees
What we are blind to,—we who mass and crowd
From wall to wall in the darkening of a cloud.

The gulls drift slowly above the city of towers,
Over the roofs to the darkening sea they fly;
Night falls swiftly on an evening of rain.
The yellow lamps wink one by one again.
The towers reach higher and blacker against the sky.


III.

One, where the pale sea foamed at the yellow sand,
With wave upon slowly shattering wave,
Turned to the city of towers as evening fell;
And slowly walked by the darkening road toward it;
And saw how the towers darkened against the sky;
And across the distance heard the toll of a bell.

Along the darkening road he hurried alone,
With his eyes cast down,
And thought how the streets were hoarse with a tide of people,
With clamor of voices, and numberless faces . . .
And it seemed to him, of a sudden, that he would drown
Here in the quiet of evening air,
These empty and voiceless places . . .
And he hurried towards the city, to enter there.

Along the darkening road, between tall trees
That made a sinister whisper, loudly he walked.
Behind him, sea-gulls dipped over long grey seas.
Before him, numberless lovers smiled and talked.
And death was observed with sudden cries,
And birth with laughter and pain.
And the trees grew taller and blacker against the skies
And night came down again.


IV.

Up high black walls, up sombre terraces,
Clinging like luminous birds to the sides of cliffs,
The yellow lights went climbing towards the sky.
From high black walls, gleaming vaguely with rain,
Each yellow light looked down like a golden eye.

They trembled from coign to coign, and tower to tower,
Along high terraces quicker than dream they flew.
And some of them steadily glowed, and some soon vanished,
And some strange shadows threw.

And behind them all the ghosts of thoughts went moving,
Restlessly moving in each lamplit room,
From chair to mirror, from mirror to fire;
From some, the light was scarcely more than a gloom:
From some, a dazzling desire.

And there was one, beneath black eaves, who thought,
Combing with lifted arms her golden hair,
Of the lover who hurried towards her through the night;
And there was one who dreamed of a sudden death
As she blew out her light.

And there was one who turned from clamoring streets,
And walked in lamplit gardens among black trees,
And looked at the windy sky,
And thought with terror how stones and roots would freeze
And birds in the dead boughs cry . . .

And she hurried back, as snow fell, mixed with rain,
To mingle among the crowds again,
To jostle beneath blue lamps along the street;
And lost herself in the warm bright coiling dream,
With a sound of murmuring voices and shuffling feet.

And one, from his high bright window looking down
On luminous chasms that cleft the basalt town,
Hearing a sea-like murmur rise,
Desired to leave his dream, descend from the tower,
And drown in waves of shouts and laughter and cries.


V.

The snow floats down upon us, mingled with rain . . .
It eddies around pale lilac lamps, and falls
Down golden-windowed walls.
We were all born of flesh, in a flare of pain,
We do not remember the red roots whence we rose,
But we know that we rose and walked, that after a while
We shall lie down again.

The snow floats down upon us, we turn, we turn,
Through gorges filled with light we sound and flow . . .
One is struck down and hurt, we crowd about him,
We bear him away, gaze after his listless body;
But whether he lives or dies we do not know.

One of us sings in the street, and we listen to him;
The words ring over us like vague bells of sorrow.
He sings of a house he lived in long ago.
It is strange; this house of dust was the house I lived in;
The house you lived in, the house that all of us know.
And coiling slowly about him, and laughing at him,
And throwing him pennies, we bear away
A mournful echo of other times and places,
And follow a dream . . . a dream that will not stay.

Down long broad flights of lamplit stairs we flow;
Noisy, in scattered waves, crowding and shouting;
In broken slow cascades.
The gardens extend before us . . . We spread out swiftly;
Trees are above us, and darkness. The canyon fades . . .

And we recall, with a gleaming stab of sadness,
Vaguely and incoherently, some dream
Of a world we came from, a world of sun-blue hills . . .
A black wood whispers around us, green eyes gleam;
Someone cries in the forest, and someone kills.

We flow to the east, to the white-lined shivering sea;
We reach to the west, where the whirling sun went down;
We close our eyes to music in bright cafees.
We diverge from clamorous streets to streets that are silent.
We loaf where the wind-spilled fountain plays.

And, growing tired, we turn aside at last,
Remember our secret selves, seek out our towers,
Lay weary hands on the banisters, and climb;
Climbing, each, to his little four-square dream
Of love or lust or beauty or death or crime.


VI.

Over the darkened city, the city of towers,
The city of a thousand gates,
Over the gleaming terraced roofs, the huddled towers,
Over a somnolent whisper of loves and hates,
The slow wind flows, drearily streams and falls,
With a mournful sound down rain-dark walls.
On one side purples the lustrous dusk of the sea,
And dreams in white at the city's feet;
On one side sleep the plains, with heaped-up hills.
Oaks and beeches whisper in rings about it.
Above the trees are towers where dread bells beat.

The fisherman draws his streaming net from the sea
And sails toward the far-off city, that seems
Like one vague tower.
The dark bow plunges to foam on blue-black waves,
And shrill rain seethes like a ghostly music about him
In a quiet shower.

Rain with a shrill sings on the lapsing waves;
Rain thrills over the roofs again;
Like a shadow of shifting silver it crosses the city;
The lamps in the streets are streamed with rain;
And sparrows complain beneath deep eaves,
And among whirled leaves
The sea-gulls, blowing from tower to lower tower,
From wall to remoter wall,
Skim with the driven rain to the rising sea-sound
And close grey wings and fall . . .

. . . Hearing great rain above me, I now remember
A girl who stood by the door and shut her eyes:
Her pale cheeks glistened with rain, she stood and shivered.
Into a forest of silver she vanished slowly . . .
Voices about me rise . . .

Voices clear and silvery, voices of raindrops,—
'We struck with silver claws, we struck her down.
We are the ghosts of the singing furies . . . '
A chorus of elfin voices blowing about me
Weaves to a babel of sound. Each cries a secret.
I run among them, reach out vain hands, and drown.

'I am the one who stood beside you and smiled,
Thinking your face so strangely young . . . '
'I am the one who loved you but did not dare.'
'I am the one you followed through crowded streets,
The one who escaped you, the one with red-gleamed hair.'

'I am the one you saw to-day, who fell
Senseless before you, hearing a certain bell:
A bell that broke great memories in my brain.'
'I am the one who passed unnoticed before you,
Invisible, in a cloud of secret pain.'

'I am the one who suddenly cried, beholding
The face of a certain man on the dazzling screen.
They wrote me that he was dead. It was long ago.
I walked in the streets for a long while, hearing nothing,
And returned to see it again. And it was so.'


Weave, weave, weave, you streaks of rain!
I am dissolved and woven again . . .
Thousands of faces rise and vanish before me.
Thousands of voices weave in the rain.

'I am the one who rode beside you, blinking
At a dazzle of golden lights.
Tempests of music swept me: I was thinking
Of the gorgeous promise of certain nights:
Of the woman who suddenly smiled at me this day,
Smiled in a certain delicious sidelong way,
And turned, as she reached the door,
To smile once more . . .
Her hands are whiter than snow on midnight water.
Her throat is golden and full of golden laughter,
Her eyes are strange as the stealth of the moon
On a night in June . . .
She runs among whistling leaves; I hurry after;
She dances in dreams over white-waved water;
Her body is white and fragrant and cool,
Magnolia petals that float on a white-starred pool . . .
I have dreamed of her, dreaming for many nights
Of a broken music and golden lights,
Of broken webs of silver, heavily falling
Between my hands and their white desire:
And dark-leaved boughs, edged with a golden radiance,
Dipping to screen a fire . . .
I dream that I walk with her beneath high trees,
But as I lean to kiss her face,
She is blown aloft on wind, I catch at leaves,
And run in a moonless place;
And I hear a crashing of terrible rocks flung down,
And shattering trees and cracking walls,
And a net of intense white flame roars over the town,
And someone cries; and darkness falls . . .
But now she has leaned and smiled at me,
My veins are afire with music,
Her eyes have kissed me, my body is turned to light;
I shall dream to her secret heart tonight . . . '

He rises and moves away, he says no word,
He folds his evening paper and turns away;
I rush through the dark with rows of lamplit faces;
Fire bells peal, and some of us turn to listen,
And some sit motionless in their accustomed places.

Cold rain lashes the car-roof, scurries in gusts,
Streams down the windows in waves and ripples of lustre;
The lamps in the streets are distorted and strange.
Someone takes his watch from his pocket and yawns.
One peers out in the night for the place to change.

Rain . . . rain . . . rain . . . we are buried in rain,
It will rain forever, the swift wheels hiss through water,
Pale sheets of water gleam in the windy street.
The pealing of bells is lost in a drive of rain-drops.
Remote and hurried the great bells beat.

'I am the one whom life so shrewdly betrayed,
Misfortune dogs me, it always hunted me down.
And to-day the woman I love lies dead.
I gave her roses, a ring with opals;
These hands have touched her head.

'I bound her to me in all soft ways,
I bound her to me in a net of days,
Yet now she has gone in silence and said no word.
How can we face these dazzling things, I ask you?
There is no use: we cry: and are not heard.

'They cover a body with roses . . . I shall not see it . . .
Must one return to the lifeless walls of a city
Whose soul is charred by fire? . . . '
His eyes are closed, his lips press tightly together.
Wheels hiss beneath us. He yields us our desire.

'No, do not stare sohe is weak with grief,
He cannot face you, he turns his eyes aside;
He is confused with pain.
I suffered this. I know. It was long ago . . .
He closes his eyes and drowns in death again.'

The wind hurls blows at the rain-starred glistening windows,
The wind shrills down from the half-seen walls.
We flow on the mournful wind in a dream of dying;
And at last a silence falls.


VII.

Midnight; bells toll, and along the cloud-high towers
The golden lights go out . . .
The yellow windows darken, the shades are drawn,
In thousands of rooms we sleep, we await the dawn,
We lie face down, we dream,
We cry aloud with terror, half rise, or seem
To stare at the ceiling or walls . . .
Midnight . . . the last of shattering bell-notes falls.
A rush of silence whirls over the cloud-high towers,
A vortex of soundless hours.

'The bells have just struck twelve: I should be sleeping.
But I cannot delay any longer to write and tell you.
The woman is dead.
She died—you know the way. Just as we planned.
Smiling, with open sunlit eyes.
Smiling upon the outstretched fatal hand . . .'

He folds his letter, steps softly down the stairs.
The doors are closed and silent. A gas-jet flares.
His shadow disturbs a shadow of balustrades.
The door swings shut behind. Night roars above him.
Into the night he fades.

Wind; wind; wind; carving the walls;
Blowing the water that gleams in the street;
Blowing the rain, the sleet.
In the dark alley, an old tree cracks and falls,
Oak-boughs moan in the haunted air;
Lamps blow down with a crash and tinkle of glass . . .
Darkness whistles . . . Wild hours pass . . .

And those whom sleep eludes lie wide-eyed, hearing
Above their heads a goblin night go by;
Children are waked, and cry,
The young girl hears the roar in her sleep, and dreams
That her lover is caught in a burning tower,
She clutches the pillow, she gasps for breath, she screams . . .
And then by degrees her breath grows quiet and slow,
She dreams of an evening, long ago:
Of colored lanterns balancing under trees,
Some of them softly catching afire;
And beneath the lanterns a motionless face she sees,
Golden with lamplight, smiling, serene . . .
The leaves are a pale and glittering green,
The sound of horns blows over the trampled grass,
Shadows of dancers pass . . .
The face smiles closer to hers, she tries to lean
Backward, away, the eyes burn close and strange,
The face is beginning to change,—
It is her lover, she no longer desires to resist,
She is held and kissed.
She closes her eyes, and melts in a seethe of flame . . .
With a smoking ghost of shame . . .

Wind, wind, wind . . . Wind in an enormous brain
Blowing dark thoughts like fallen leaves . . .
The wind shrieks, the wind grieves;
It dashes the leaves on walls, it whirls then again;
And the enormous sleeper vaguely and stupidly dreams
And desires to stir, to resist a ghost of pain.

One, whom the city imprisoned because of his cunning,
Who dreamed for years in a tower,
Seizes this hour
Of tumult and wind. He files through the rusted bar,
Leans his face to the rain, laughs up at the night,
Slides down the knotted sheet, swings over the wall,
To fall to the street with a cat-like fall,
Slinks round a quavering rim of windy light,
And at last is gone,
Leaving his empty cell for the pallor of dawn . . .

The mother whose child was buried to-day
Turns her face to the window; her face is grey;
And all her body is cold with the coldness of rain.
He would have grown as easily as a tree,
He would have spread a pleasure of shade above her,
He would have been his father again . . .
His growth was ended by a freezing invisible shadow.
She lies, and does not move, and is stabbed by the rain.

Wind, wind, wind; we toss and dream;
We dream we are clouds and stars, blown in a stream:
Windows rattle above our beds;
We reach vague-gesturing hands, we lift our heads,
Hear sounds far off,—and dream, with quivering breath,
Our curious separate ways through life and death.


VIII.

The white fog creeps from the cold sea over the city,
Over the pale grey tumbled towers,—
And settles among the roofs, the pale grey walls.
Along damp sinuous streets it crawls,
Curls like a dream among the motionless trees
And seems to freeze.

The fog slips ghostlike into a thousand rooms,
Whirls over sleeping faces,
Spins in an atomy dance round misty street lamps;
And blows in cloudy waves over open spaces . . .

And one from his high window, looking down,
Peers at the cloud-white town,
And thinks its island towers are like a dream . . .
It seems an enormous sleeper, within whose brain
Laborious shadows revolve and break and gleam.

PART II.


I.

The round red sun heaves darkly out of the sea.
The walls and towers are warmed and gleam.
Sounds go drowsily up from streets and wharves.
The city stirs like one that is half in dream.

And the mist flows up by dazzling walls and windows,
Where one by one we wake and rise.
We gaze at the pale grey lustrous sea a moment,
We rub the darkness from our eyes,

And face our thousand devious secret mornings . . .
And do not see how the pale mist, slowly ascending,
Shaped by the sun, shines like a white-robed dreamer
Compassionate over our towers bending.

There, like one who gazes into a crystal,
He broods upon our city with sombre eyes;
He sees our secret fears vaguely unfolding,
Sees cloudy symbols shape to rise.

Each gleaming point of light is like a seed
Dilating swiftly to coiling fires.
Each cloud becomes a rapidly dimming face,
Each hurrying face records its strange desires.

We descend our separate stairs toward the day,
Merge in the somnolent mass that fills the street,
Lift our eyes to the soft blue space of sky,
And walk by the well-known walls with accustomed feet.


II. THE FULFILLED DREAM

More towers must yet be built—more towers destroyed—
Great rocks hoisted in air;
And he must seek his bread in high pale sunlight
With gulls about him, and clouds just over his eyes . . .
And so he did not mention his dream of falling
But drank his coffee in silence, and heard in his ears
That horrible whistle of wind, and felt his breath
Sucked out of him, and saw the tower flash by
And the small tree swell beneath him . . .
He patted his boy on the head, and kissed his wife,
Looked quickly around the room, to remember it,—
And so went out . . . For once, he forgot his pail.

Something had changed—but it was not the street—
The street was just the same—it was himself.
Puddles flashed in the sun. In the pawn-shop door
The same old black cat winked green amber eyes;
The butcher stood by his window tying his apron;
The same men walked beside him, smoking pipes,
Reading the morning paper . . .

He would not yield, he thought, and walk more slowly,
As if he knew for certain he walked to death:
But with his usual pace,—deliberate, firm,
Looking about him calmly, watching the world,
Taking his ease . . . Yet, when he thought again
Of the same dream, now dreamed three separate times,
Always the same, and heard that whistling wind,
And saw the windows flashing upward past him,—
He slowed his pace a little, and thought with horror
How monstrously that small tree thrust to meet him! . . .
He slowed his pace a little and remembered his wife.

Was forty, then, too old for work like this?
Why should it be? He'd never been afraid—
His eye was sure, his hand was steady . . .
But dreams had meanings.
He walked more slowly, and looked along the roofs,
All built by men, and saw the pale blue sky;
And suddenly he was dizzy with looking at it,
It seemed to whirl and swim,
It seemed the color of terror, of speed, of death . . .
He lowered his eyes to the stones, he walked more slowly;
His thoughts were blown and scattered like leaves;
He thought of the pail . . . Why, then, was it forgotten?
Because he would not need it?

Then, just as he was grouping his thoughts again
About that drug-store corner, under an arc-lamp,
Where first he met the girl whom he would marry,—
That blue-eyed innocent girl, in a soft blouse,—
He waved his hand for signal, and up he went
In the dusty chute that hugged the wall;
Above the tree; from girdered floor to floor;
Above the flattening roofs, until the sea
Lay wide and waved before him . . . And then he stepped
Giddily out, from that security,
To the red rib of iron against the sky,
And walked along it, feeling it sing and tremble;
And looking down one instant, saw the tree
Just as he dreamed it was; and looked away,
And up again, feeling his blood go wild.

He gave the signal; the long girder swung
Closer to him, dropped clanging into place,
Almost pushing him off. Pneumatic hammers
Began their madhouse clatter, the white-hot rivets
Were tossed from below and deftly caught in pails;
He signalled again, and wiped his mouth, and thought
A place so high in the air should be more quiet.
The tree, far down below, teased at his eyes,
Teased at the corners of them, until he looked,
And felt his body go suddenly small and light;
Felt his brain float off like a dwindling vapor;
And heard a whistle of wind, and saw a tree
Come plunging up to him, and thought to himself,
'By God—I'm done for now, the dream was right . . .'


III. INTERLUDE

The warm sun dreams in the dust, the warm sun falls
On bright red roofs and walls;
The trees in the park exhale a ghost of rain;
We go from door to door in the streets again,
Talking, laughing, dreaming, turning our faces,
Recalling other times and places . . .
We crowd, not knowing why, around a gate,
We crowd together and wait,
A stretcher is carried out, voices are stilled,
The ambulance drives away.
We watch its roof flash by, hear someone say
'A man fell off the building and was killed—
Fell right into a barrel . . .' We turn again
Among the frightened eyes of white-faced men,
And go our separate ways, each bearing with him
A thing he tries, but vainly, to forget,—
A sickened crowd, a stretcher red and wet.

A hurdy-gurdy sings in the crowded street,
The golden notes skip over the sunlit stones,
Wings are upon our feet.
The sun seems warmer, the winding street more bright,
Sparrows come whirring down in a cloud of light.
We bear our dreams among us, bear them all,
Like hurdy-gurdy music they rise and fall,
Climb to beauty and die.
The wandering lover dreams of his lover's mouth,
And smiles at the hostile sky.
The broker smokes his pipe, and sees a fortune.
The murderer hears a cry.


IV. NIGHTMARE

'Draw three cards, and I will tell your future . . .
Draw three cards, and lay them down,
Rest your palms upon them, stare at the crystal,
And think of time . . . My father was a clown,
My mother was a gypsy out of Egypt;
And she was gotten with child in a strange way;
And I was born in a cold eclipse of the moon,
With the future in my eyes as clear as day.'

I sit before the gold-embroidered curtain
And think her face is like a wrinkled desert.
The crystal burns in lamplight beneath my eyes.
A dragon slowly coils on the scaly curtain.
Upon a scarlet cloth a white skull lies.

'Your hand is on the hand that holds three lilies.
You will live long, love many times.
I see a dark girl here who once betrayed you.
I see a shadow of secret crimes.

'There was a man who came intent to kill you,
And hid behind a door and waited for you;
There was a woman who smiled at you and lied.
There was a golden girl who loved you, begged you,
Crawled after you, and died.

'There is a ghost of murder in your blood—
Coming or past, I know not which.
And here is danger—a woman with sea-green eyes,
And white-skinned as a witch . . .'

The words hiss into me, like raindrops falling
On sleepy fire . . . She smiles a meaning smile.
Suspicion eats my brain; I ask a question;
Something is creeping at me, something vile;

And suddenly on the wall behind her head
I see a monstrous shadow strike and spread,
The lamp puffs out, a great blow crashes down.
I plunge through the curtain, run through dark to the street,
And hear swift steps retreat . . .

The shades are drawn, the door is locked behind me.
Behind the door I hear a hammer sounding.
I walk in a cloud of wonder; I am glad.
I mingle among the crowds; my heart is pounding;
You do not guess the adventure I have had! . . .

Yet you, too, all have had your dark adventures,
Your sudden adventures, or strange, or sweet . . .
My peril goes out from me, is blown among you.
We loiter, dreaming together, along the street.


V. RETROSPECT

Round white clouds roll slowly above the housetops,
Over the clear red roofs they flow and pass.
A flock of pigeons rises with blue wings flashing,
Rises with whistle of wings, hovers an instant,
And settles slowly again on the tarnished grass.

And one old man looks down from a dusty window
And sees the pigeons circling about the fountain
And desires once more to walk among those trees.
Lovers walk in the noontime by that fountain.
Pigeons dip their beaks to drink from the water.
And soon the pond must freeze.

The light wind blows to his ears a sound of laughter,
Young men shuffle their feet, loaf in the sunlight;
A girl's laugh rings like a silver bell.
But clearer than all these sounds is a sound he hears
More in his secret heart than in his ears,—
A hammer's steady crescendo, like a knell.
He hears the snarl of pineboards under the plane,
The rhythmic saw, and then the hammer again,—
Playing with delicate strokes that sombre scale . . .
And the fountain dwindles, the sunlight seems to pale.

Time is a dream, he thinks, a destroying dream;
It lays great cities in dust, it fills the seas;
It covers the face of beauty, and tumbles walls.
Where was the woman he loved? Where was his youth?
Where was the dream that burned his brain like fire?
Even a dream grows grey at last and falls.

He opened his book once more, beside the window,
And read the printed words upon that page.
The sunlight touched his hand; his eyes moved slowly,
The quiet words enchanted time and age.

'Death is never an ending, death is a change;
Death is beautiful, for death is strange;
Death is one dream out of another flowing;
Death is a chorded music, softly going
By sweet transition from key to richer key.
Death is a meeting place of sea and sea.'


VI. ADELE AND DAVIS

She turned her head on the pillow, and cried once more.
And drawing a shaken breath, and closing her eyes,
To shut out, if she could, this dingy room,
The wigs and costumes scattered around the floor,—
Yellows and greens in the dark,—she walked again
Those nightmare streets which she had walked so often . . .
Here, at a certain corner, under an arc-lamp,
Blown by a bitter wind, she stopped and looked
In through the brilliant windows of a drug-store,
And wondered if she dared to ask for poison:
But it was late, few customers were there,
The eyes of all the clerks would freeze upon her,
And she would wilt, and cry . . . Here, by the river,
She listened to the water slapping the wall,
And felt queer fascination in its blackness:
But it was cold, the little waves looked cruel,
The stars were keen, and a windy dash of spray
Struck her cheek, and withered her veins . . . And so
She dragged herself once more to home, and bed.

Paul hadn't guessed it yetthough twice, already,
She'd fainted—once, the first time, on the stage.
So she must tell him soon—or else—get out . . .
How could she say it? That was the hideous thing.
She'd rather die than say it! . . . and all the trouble,
Months when she couldn't earn a cent, and then,
If he refused to marry her . . . well, what?
She saw him laughing, making a foolish joke,
His grey eyes turning quickly; and the words
Fled from her tongue . . . She saw him sitting silent,
Brooding over his morning coffee, maybe,
And tried again . . . she bit her lips, and trembled,
And looked away, and said . . . 'Say Paul, boy,—listen—
There's something I must tell you . . . ' There she stopped,
Wondering what he'd say . . . What would he say?
'Spring it, kid! Don't look so serious!'
'But what I've got to say—IS—serious!'
Then she could see how, suddenly, he would sober,
His eyes would darken, he'd look so terrifying—
He always did—and what could she do but cry?
Perhaps, then, he would guess—perhaps he wouldn't.
And if he didn't, but asked her 'What's the matter?'—
She knew she'd never tell—just say she was sick . . .
And after that, when would she dare again?
And what would he do—even suppose she told him?

If it were Felix! If it were only Felix!—
She wouldn't mind so much. But as it was,
Bitterness choked her, she had half a mind
To pay out Felix for never having liked her,
By making people think that it was he . . .
She'd write a letter to someone, before she died,—
Just saying 'Felix did it—and wouldn't marry.'
And then she'd die . . . But that was hard on Paul . . .
Paul would never forgive her—he'd never forgive her!
Sometimes she almost thought Paul really loved her . . .
She saw him look reproachfully at her coffin.

And then she closed her eyes and walked again
Those nightmare streets that she had walked so often:
Under an arc-lamp swinging in the wind
She stood, and stared in through a drug-store window,
Watching a clerk wrap up a little pill-box.
But it was late. No customers were there,—
Pitiless eyes would freeze her secret in her!
And then—what poison would she dare to ask for?
And if they asked her why, what would she say?


VII. TWO LOVERS: OVERTONES

Two lovers, here at the corner, by the steeple,
Two lovers blow together like music blowing:
And the crowd dissolves about them like a sea.
Recurring waves of sound break vaguely about them,
They drift from wall to wall, from tree to tree.
'Well, am I late?' Upward they look and laugh,
They look at the great clock's golden hands,
They laugh and talk, not knowing what they say:
Only, their words like music seem to play;
And seeming to walk, they tread strange sarabands.

'I brought you this . . . ' the soft words float like stars
Down the smooth heaven of her memory.
She stands again by a garden wall,
The peach tree is in bloom, pink blossoms fall,
Water sings from an opened tap, the bees
Glisten and murmur among the trees.
Someone calls from the house. She does not answer.
Backward she leans her head,
And dreamily smiles at the peach-tree leaves, wherethrough
She sees an infinite May sky spread
A vault profoundly blue.
The voice from the house fades far away,
The glistening leaves more vaguely ripple and sway . .
The tap is closed, the water ceases to hiss . . .
Silence . . . blue sky . . . and then, 'I brought you this . . . '
She turns again, and smiles . . . He does not know
She smiles from long ago . . .

She turns to him and smiles . . . Sunlight above him
Roars like a vast invisible sea,
Gold is beaten before him, shrill bells of silver;
He is released of weight, his body is free,
He lifts his arms to swim,
Dark years like sinister tides coil under him . . .
The lazy sea-waves crumble along the beach
With a whirring sound like wind in bells,
He lies outstretched on the yellow wind-worn sands
Reaching his lazy hands
Among the golden grains and sea-white shells . . .

'One white rose . . . or is it pink, to-day?'
They pause and smile, not caring what they say,
If only they may talk.
The crowd flows past them like dividing waters.
Dreaming they stand, dreaming they walk.

'Pink,—to-day!'—Face turns to dream-bright face,
Green leaves rise round them, sunshine settles upon them,
Water, in drops of silver, falls from the rose.
She smiles at a face that smiles through leaves from the mirror.
She breathes the fragrance; her dark eyes close . . .

Time is dissolved, it blows like a little dust:
Time, like a flurry of rain,
Patters and passes, starring the window-pane.
Once, long ago, one night,
She saw the lightning, with long blue quiver of light,
Ripping the darkness . . . and as she turned in terror
A soft face leaned above her, leaned softly down,
Softly around her a breath of roses was blown,
She sank in waves of quiet, she seemed to float
In a sea of silence . . . and soft steps grew remote . .

'Well, let us walk in the park . . . The sun is warm,
We'll sit on a bench and talk . . .' They turn and glide,
The crowd of faces wavers and breaks and flows.
'Look how the oak-tops turn to gold in the sunlight!
Look how the tower is changed and glows!'

Two lovers move in the crowd like a link of music,
We press upon them, we hold them, and let them pass;
A chord of music strikes us and straight we tremble;
We tremble like wind-blown grass.

What was this dream we had, a dream of music,
Music that rose from the opening earth like magic
And shook its beauty upon us and died away?
The long cold streets extend once more before us.
The red sun drops, the walls grow grey.


VIII. THE BOX WITH SILVER HANDLES

Well,—it was two days after my husband died—
Two days! And the earth still raw above him.
And I was sweeping the carpet in their hall.
In number four—the room with the red wall-paper—
Some chorus girls and men were singing that song
'They'll soon be lighting candles
Round a box with silver handles'—and hearing them sing it
I started to cry. Just then he came along
And stopped on the stairs and turned and looked at me,
And took the cigar from his mouth and sort of smiled
And said, 'Say, what's the matter?' and then came down
Where I was leaning against the wall,
And touched my shoulder, and put his arm around me . . .
And I was so sad, thinking about it,—
Thinking that it was raining, and a cold night,
With Jim so unaccustomed to being dead,—
That I was happy to have him sympathize,
To feel his arm, and leaned against him and cried.
And before I knew it, he got me into a room
Where a table was set, and no one there,
And sat me down on a sofa, and held me close,
And talked to me, telling me not to cry,
That it was all right, he'd look after me,—
But not to cry, my eyes were getting red,
Which didn't make me pretty. And he was so nice,
That when he turned my face between his hands,
And looked at me, with those blue eyes of his,
And smiled, and leaned, and kissed me—
Somehow I couldn't tell him not to do it,
Somehow I didn't mind, I let him kiss me,
And closed my eyes! . . . Well, that was how it started.
For when my heart was eased with crying, and grief
Had passed and left me quiet, somehow it seemed
As if it wasn't honest to change my mind,
To send him away, or say I hadn't meant it—
And, anyway, it seemed so hard to explain!
And so we sat and talked, not talking much,
But meaning as much in silence as in words,
There in that empty room with palms about us,
That private dining-room . . . And as we sat there
I felt my future changing, day by day,
With unknown streets opening left and right,
New streets with farther lights, new taller houses,
Doors swinging into hallways filled with light,
Half-opened luminous windows, with white curtains
Streaming out in the night, and sudden music,—
And thinking of this, and through it half remembering
A quick and horrible death, my husband's eyes,
The broken-plastered walls, my boy asleep,—
It seemed as if my brain would break in two.
My voice began to tremble . . . and when I stood,
And told him I must go, and said good-night—
I couldn't see the end. How would it end?
Would he return to-morrow? Or would he not?
And did I want him toor would I rather
Look for another job?—He took my shoulders
Between his hands, and looked down into my eyes,
And smiled, and said good-night. If he had kissed me,
That would have—well, I don't know; but he didn't . .
And so I went downstairs, then, half elated,
Hoping to close the door before that party
In number four should sing that song again—
'They'll soon be lighting candles round a box with silver handles'—
And sure enough, I did. I faced the darkness.
And my eyes were filled with tears. And I was happy.


IX. INTERLUDE

The days, the nights, flow one by one above us,
The hours go silently over our lifted faces,
We are like dreamers who walk beneath a sea.
Beneath high walls we flow in the sun together.
We sleep, we wake, we laugh, we pursue, we flee.

We sit at tables and sip our morning coffee,
We read the papers for tales of lust or crime.
The door swings shut behind the latest comer.
We set our watches, regard the time.

What have we done? I close my eyes, remember
The great machine whose sinister brain before me
Smote and smote with a rhythmic beat.
My hands have torn down walls, the stone and plaster.
I dropped great beams to the dusty street.

My eyes are worn with measuring cloths of purple,
And golden cloths, and wavering cloths, and pale.
I dream of a crowd of faces, white with menace.
Hands reach up to tear me. My brain will fail.

Here, where the walls go down beneath our picks,
These walls whose windows gap against the sky,
Atom by atom of flesh and brain and marble
Will build a glittering tower before we die . . .

The young boy whistles, hurrying down the street,
The young girl hums beneath her breath.
One goes out to beauty, and does not know it.
And one goes out to death.


X. SUDDEN DEATH

'Number four—the girl who died on the table—
The girl with golden hair—'
The purpling body lies on the polished marble.
We open the throat, and lay the thyroid bare . . .

One, who held the ether-cone, remembers
Her dark blue frightened eyes.
He heard the sharp breath quiver, and saw her breast
More hurriedly fall and rise.
Her hands made futile gestures, she turned her head
Fighting for breath; her cheeks were flushed to scarlet,—
And, suddenly, she lay dead.

And all the dreams that hurried along her veins
Came to the darkness of a sudden wall.
Confusion ran among them, they whirled and clamored,
They fell, they rose, they struck, they shouted,
Till at last a pallor of silence hushed them all.

What was her name? Where had she walked that morning?
Through what dark forest came her feet?
Along what sunlit walls, what peopled street?

Backward he dreamed along a chain of days,
He saw her go her strange and secret ways,
Waking and sleeping, noon and night.
She sat by a mirror, braiding her golden hair.
She read a story by candlelight.

Her shadow ran before her along the street,
She walked with rhythmic feet,
Turned a corner, descended a stair.
She bought a paper, held it to scan the headlines,
Smiled for a moment at sea-gulls high in sunlight,
And drew deep breaths of air.

Days passed, bright clouds of days. Nights passed. And music
Murmured within the walls of lighted windows.
She lifted her face to the light and danced.
The dancers wreathed and grouped in moving patterns,
Clustered, receded, streamed, advanced.

Her dress was purple, her slippers were golden,
Her eyes were blue; and a purple orchid
Opened its golden heart on her breast . . .
She leaned to the surly languor of lazy music,
Leaned on her partner's arm to rest.
The violins were weaving a weft of silver,
The horns were weaving a lustrous brede of gold,
And time was caught in a glistening pattern,
Time, too elusive to hold . . .

Shadows of leaves fell over her face,—and sunlight:
She turned her face away.
Nearer she moved to a crouching darkness
With every step and day.

Death, who at first had thought of her only an instant,
At a great distance, across the night,
Smiled from a window upon her, and followed her slowly
From purple light to light.

Once, in her dreams, he spoke out clearly, crying,
'I am the murderer, death.
I am the lover who keeps his appointment
At the doors of breath!'

She rose and stared at her own reflection,
Half dreading there to find
The dark-eyed ghost, waiting beside her,
Or reaching from behind
To lay pale hands upon her shoulders . . .
Or was this in her mind? . . .

She combed her hair. The sunlight glimmered
Along the tossing strands.
Was there a stillness in this hair,—
A quiet in these hands?

Death was a dream. It could not change these eyes,
Blow out their light, or turn this mouth to dust.
She combed her hair and sang. She would live forever.
Leaves flew past her window along a gust . . .
And graves were dug in the earth, and coffins passed,
And music ebbed with the ebbing hours.
And dreams went along her veins, and scattering clouds
Threw streaming shadows on walls and towers.


XI.

Snow falls. The sky is grey, and sullenly glares
With purple lights in the canyoned street.
The fiery sign on the dark tower wreathes and flares . . .
The trodden grass in the park is covered with white,
The streets grow silent beneath our feet . . .
The city dreams, it forgets its past to-night.

And one, from his high bright window looking down
Over the enchanted whiteness of the town,
Seeing through whirls of white the vague grey towers,
Desires like this to forget what will not pass,
The littered papers, the dust, the tarnished grass,
Grey death, stale ugliness, and sodden hours.
Deep in his heart old bells are beaten again,
Slurred bells of grief and pain,
Dull echoes of hideous times and poisonous places.
He desires to drown in a cold white peace of snow.
He desires to forget a million faces . . .

In one room breathes a woman who dies of hunger.
The clock ticks slowly and stops. And no one winds it.
In one room fade grey violets in a vase.
Snow flakes faintly hiss and melt on the window.
In one room, minute by minute, the flutist plays
The lamplit page of music, the tireless scales.
His hands are trembling, his short breath fails.

In one room, silently, lover looks upon lover,
And thinks the air is fire.
The drunkard swears and touches the harlot's heartstrings
With the sudden hand of desire.

And one goes late in the streets, and thinks of murder;
And one lies staring, and thinks of death.
And one, who has suffered, clenches her hands despairing,
And holds her breath . . .

Who are all these, who flow in the veins of the city,
Coil and revolve and dream,
Vanish or gleam?
Some mount up to the brain and flower in fire.
Some are destroyed; some die; some slowly stream.

And the new are born who desire to destroy the old;
And fires are kindled and quenched; and dreams are broken,
And walls flung down . . .
And the slow night whirls in snow over towers of dreamers,
And whiteness hushes the town.

PART III


I

As evening falls,
And the yellow lights leap one by one
Along high walls;
And along black streets that glisten as if with rain,
The muted city seems
Like one in a restless sleep, who lies and dreams
Of vague desires, and memories, and half-forgotten pain . . .
Along dark veins, like lights the quick dreams run,
Flash, are extinguished, flash again,
To mingle and glow at last in the enormous brain
And die away . . .
As evening falls,
A dream dissolves these insubstantial walls,—
A myriad secretly gliding lights lie bare . . .
The lovers rise, the harlot combs her hair,
The dead man's face grows blue in the dizzy lamplight,
The watchman climbs the stair . . .
The bank defaulter leers at a chaos of figures,
And runs among them, and is beaten down;
The sick man coughs and hears the chisels ringing;
The tired clown
Sees the enormous crowd, a million faces,
Motionless in their places,
Ready to laugh, and seize, and crush and tear . . .
The dancer smooths her hair,
Laces her golden slippers, and runs through the door
To dance once more,
Hearing swift music like an enchantment rise,
Feeling the praise of a thousand eyes.

As darkness falls
The walls grow luminous and warm, the walls
Tremble and glow with the lives within them moving,
Moving like music, secret and rich and warm.
How shall we live tonight? Where shall we turn?
To what new light or darkness yearn?
A thousand winding stairs lead down before us;
And one by one in myriads we descend
By lamplit flowered walls, long balustrades,
Through half-lit halls which reach no end.


II. THE SCREEN MAIDEN

You read—what is it, then that you are reading?
What music moves so silently in your mind?
Your bright hand turns the page.
I watch you from my window, unsuspected:
You move in an alien land, a silent age . . .

. . . The poet—what was his name—? Tokkei—Tokkei—
The poet walked alone in a cold late rain,
And thought his grief was like the crying of sea-birds;
For his lover was dead, he never would love again.

Rain in the dreams of the mind—rain forever—
Rain in the sky of the heart—rain in the willows—
But then he saw this face, this face like flame,
This quiet lady, this portrait by Hiroshigi;
And took it home with him; and with it came

What unexpected changes, subtle as weather!
The dark room, cold as rain,
Grew faintly fragrant, stirred with a stir of April,
Warmed its corners with light again,

And smoke of incense whirled about this portrait,
And the quiet lady there,
So young, so quietly smiling, with calm hands,
Seemed ready to loose her hair,

And smile, and lean from the picture, or say one word,
The word already clear,
Which seemed to rise like light between her eyelids . .
He held his breath to hear,

And smiled for shame, and drank a cup of wine,
And held a candle, and searched her face
Through all the little shadows, to see what secret
Might give so warm a grace . . .

Was it the quiet mouth, restrained a little?
The eyes, half-turned aside?
The jade ring on her wrist, still almost swinging? . . .
The secret was denied,

He chose his favorite pen and drew these verses,
And slept; and as he slept
A dream came into his heart, his lover entered,
And chided him, and wept.

And in the morning, waking, he remembered,
And thought the dream was strange.
Why did his darkened lover rise from the garden?
He turned, and felt a change,

As if a someone hidden smiled and watched him . . .
Yet there was only sunlight there.
Until he saw those young eyes, quietly smiling,
And held his breath to stare,

And could have sworn her cheek had turned—a little . . .
Had slightly turned away . . .
Sunlight dozed on the floor . . . He sat and wondered,
Nor left his room that day.

And that day, and for many days thereafter,
He sat alone, and thought
No lady had ever lived so beautiful
As Hiroshigi wrought . . .

Or if she lived, no matter in what country,
By what far river or hill or lonely sea,
He would look in every face until he found her . . .
There was no other as fair as she.

And before her quiet face he burned soft incense,
And brought her every day
Boughs of the peach, or almond, or snow-white cherry,
And somehow, she seemed to say,

That silent lady, young, and quietly smiling,
That she was happy there;
And sometimes, seeing this, he started to tremble,
And desired to touch her hair,

To lay his palm along her hand, touch faintly
With delicate finger-tips
The ghostly smile that seemed to hover and vanish
Upon her lips . . .

Until he knew he loved this quiet lady;
And night by night a dread
Leered at his dreams, for he knew that Hiroshigi
Was many centuries dead,—

And the lady, too, was dead, and all who knew her . .
Dead, and long turned to dust . . .
The thin moon waxed and waned, and left him paler,
The peach leaves flew in a gust,

And he would surely have died; but there one day
A wise man, white with age,
Stared at the portrait, and said, 'This Hiroshigi
Knew more than archimage,—

Cunningly drew the body, and called the spirit,
Till partly it entered there . . .
Sometimes, at death, it entered the portrait wholly . .
Do all I say with care,

And she you love may come to you when you call her . . . '
So then this ghost, Tokkei,
Ran in the sun, bought wine of a hundred merchants,
And alone at the end of day

Entered the darkening room, and faced the portrait,
And saw the quiet eyes
Gleaming and young in the dusk, and held the wine-cup,
And knelt, and did not rise,

And said, aloud, 'Lo-san, will you drink this wine?'
Said it three times aloud.
And at the third the faint blue smoke of incense
Rose to the walls in a cloud,

And the lips moved faintly, and the eyes, and the calm hands stirred;
And suddenly, with a sigh,
The quiet lady came slowly down from the portrait,
And stood, while worlds went by,

And lifted her young white hands and took the wine cup;
And the poet trembled, and said,
'Lo-san, will you stay forever?'—'Yes, I will stay.'—
'But what when I am dead?'

'When you are dead your spirit will find my spirit,
And then we shall die no more.'
Music came down upon them, and spring returning,
They remembered worlds before,

And years went over the earth, and over the sea,
And lovers were born and spoke and died,
But forever in sunlight went these two immortal,
Tokkei and the quiet bride . . .


III. HAUNTED CHAMBERS

The lamplit page is turned, the dream forgotten;
The music changes tone, you wake, remember
Deep worlds you lived before,—deep worlds hereafter
Of leaf on falling leaf, music on music,
Rain and sorrow and wind and dust and laughter.

Helen was late and Miriam came too soon.
Joseph was dead, his wife and children starving.
Elaine was married and soon to have a child.
You dreamed last night of fiddler-crabs with fiddles;
They played a buzzing melody, and you smiled.

To-morrow—what? And what of yesterday?
Through soundless labyrinths of dream you pass,
Through many doors to the one door of all.
Soon as it's opened we shall hear a music:
Or see a skeleton fall . . .

We walk with you. Where is it that you lead us?
We climb the muffled stairs beneath high lanterns.
We descend again. We grope through darkened cells.
You say: this darkness, here, will slowly kill me.
It creeps and weighs upon me . . . Is full of bells.

This is the thing remembered I would forget—
No matter where I go, how soft I tread,
This windy gesture menaces me with death.
Fatigue! it says, and points its finger at me;
Touches my throat and stops my breath.

My fans—my jewels—the portrait of my husband—
The torn certificate for my daughter's grave—
These are but mortal seconds in immortal time.
They brush me, fade away: like drops of water.
They signify no crime.

Let us retrace our steps: I have deceived you:
Nothing is here I could not frankly tell you:
No hint of guilt, or faithlessness, or threat.
Dreams—they are madness. Staring eyes—illusion.
Let us return, hear music, and forget . . .


IV. ILLICIT

Of what she said to me that night—no matter.
The strange thing came next day.
My brain was full of music—something she played me—;
I couldn't remember it all, but phrases of it
Wreathed and wreathed among faint memories,
Seeking for something, trying to tell me something,
Urging to restlessness: verging on grief.
I tried to play the tune, from memory,—
But memory failed: the chords and discords climbed
And found no resolution—only hung there,
And left me morbid . . . Where, then, had I heard it? . . .
What secret dusty chamber was it hinting?
'Dust', it said, 'dust . . . and dust . . . and sunlight . .
A cold clear April evening . . . snow, bedraggled,
Rain-worn snow, dappling the hideous grass . . .
And someone walking alone; and someone saying
That all must end, for the time had come to go . . . '
These were the phrases . . . but behind, beneath them
A greater shadow moved: and in this shadow
I stood and guessed . . . Was it the blue-eyed lady?
The one who always danced in golden slippers—
And had I danced with her,—upon this music?
Or was it further back—the unplumbed twilight
Of childhood?—No—much recenter than that.

You know, without my telling you, how sometimes
A word or name eludes you, and you seek it
Through running ghosts of shadow,—leaping at it,
Lying in wait for it to spring upon it,
Spreading faint snares for it of sense or sound:
Until, of a sudden, as if in a phantom forest,
You hear it, see it flash among the branches,
And scarcely knowing how, suddenly have it—
Well, it was so I followed down this music,
Glimpsing a face in darkness, hearing a cry,
Remembering days forgotten, moods exhausted,
Corners in sunlight, puddles reflecting stars—;
Until, of a sudden, and least of all suspected,
The thing resolved itself: and I remembered
An April afternoon, eight years ago—
Or was it nine?—no matter—call it nine—
A room in which the last of sunlight faded;
A vase of violets, fragrance in white curtains;
And, she who played the same thing later, playing.

She played this tune. And in the middle of it
Abruptly broke it off, letting her hands
Fall in her lap. She sat there so a moment,
With shoulders drooped, then lifted up a rose,
One great white rose, wide opened like a lotos,
And pressed it to her cheek, and closed her eyes.

'You know—we've got to end this—Miriam loves you . . .
If she should ever know, or even guess it,—
What would she do?—Listen!—I'm not absurd . . .
I'm sure of it. If you had eyes, for women—
To understand them—which you've never had—
You'd know it too . . . ' So went this colloquy,
Half humorous, with undertones of pathos,
Half grave, half flippant . . . while her fingers, softly,
Felt for this tune, played it and let it fall,
Now note by singing note, now chord by chord,
Repeating phrases with a kind of pleasure . . .
Was it symbolic of the woman's weakness
That she could neither break it—nor conclude?
It paused . . . and wandered . . . paused again; while she,
Perplexed and tired, half told me I must go,—
Half asked me if I thought I ought to go . . .

Well, April passed with many other evenings,
Evenings like this, with later suns and warmer,
With violets always there, and fragrant curtains . . .
And she was right: and Miriam found it out . . .
And after that, when eight deep years had passed—
Or nine—we met once more,—by accident . . .
But was it just by accident, I wonder,
She played this tune?—Or what, then, was intended? . . .


V. MELODY IN A RESTAURANT

The cigarette-smoke loops and slides above us,
Dipping and swirling as the waiter passes;
You strike a match and stare upon the flame.
The tiny fire leaps in your eyes a moment,
And dwindles away as silently as it came.

This melody, you say, has certain voices—
They rise like nereids from a river, singing,
Lift white faces, and dive to darkness again.
Wherever you go you bear this river with you:
A leaf falls,—and it flows, and you have pain.

So says the tune to youbut what to me?
What to the waiter, as he pours your coffee,
The violinist who suavely draws his bow?
That man, who folds his paper, overhears it.
A thousand dreams revolve and fall and flow.

Some one there is who sees a virgin stepping
Down marble stairs to a deep tomb of roses:
At the last moment she lifts remembering eyes.
Green leaves blow down. The place is checked with shadows.
A long-drawn murmur of rain goes down the skies.
And oaks are stripped and bare, and smoke with lightning:
And clouds are blown and torn upon high forests,
And the great sea shakes its walls.
And then falls silence . . . And through long silence falls
This melody once more:
'Down endless stairs she goes, as once before.'

So says the tune to himbut what to me?
What are the worlds I see?
What shapes fantastic, terrible dreams? . . .
I go my secret way, down secret alleys;
My errand is not so simple as it seems.


VI. PORTRAIT OF ONE DEAD

This is the house. On one side there is darkness,
On one side there is light.
Into the darkness you may lift your lanterns—
O, any number—it will still be night.
And here are echoing stairs to lead you downward
To long sonorous halls.
And here is spring forever at these windows,
With roses on the walls.

This is her room. On one side there is music—
On one side not a sound.
At one step she could move from love to silence,
Feel myriad darkness coiling round.
And here are balconies from which she heard you,
Your steady footsteps on the stair.
And here the glass in which she saw your shadow
As she unbound her hair.

Here is the roomwith ghostly walls dissolving—
The twilight room in which she called you 'lover';
And the floorless room in which she called you 'friend.'
So many times, in doubt, she ran between them!—
Through windy corridors of darkening end.

Here she could stand with one dim light above her
And hear far music, like a sea in caverns,
Murmur away at hollowed walls of stone.
And here, in a roofless room where it was raining,
She bore the patient sorrow of rain alone.

Your words were walls which suddenly froze around her.
Your words were windows,—large enough for moonlight,
Too small to let her through.
Your letters—fragrant cloisters faint with music.
The music that assuaged her there was you.

How many times she heard your step ascending
Yet never saw your face!
She heard them turn again, ring slowly fainter,
Till silence swept the place.
Why had you gone? . . . The door, perhaps, mistaken . . .
You would go elsewhere. The deep walls were shaken.

A certain rose-leaf—sent without intention—
Became, with time, a

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Three Women

My love is young, so young;
Young is her cheek, and her throat,
And life is a song to be sung
With love the word for each note.

Young is her cheek and her throat;
Her eyes have the smile o' May.
And love is the word for each note
In the song of my life to-day.

Her eyes have the smile o' May;
Her heart is the heart of a dove,
And the song of my life to-day
Is love, beautiful love.


Her heart is the heart of a dove,
Ah, would it but fly to my breast
Where love, beautiful love,
Has made it a downy nest.


Ah, would she but fly to my breast,
My love who is young, so young;
I have made her a downy nest
And life is a song to be sung.


1
I.
A dull little station, a man with the eye
Of a dreamer; a bevy of girls moving by;
A swift moving train and a hot Summer sun,
The curtain goes up, and our play is begun.
The drama of passion, of sorrow, of strife,
Which always is billed for the theatre Life.
It runs on forever, from year unto year,
With scarcely a change when new actors appear.
It is old as the world is-far older in truth,
For the world is a crude little planet of youth.
And back in the eras before it was formed,
The passions of hearts through the Universe stormed.


Maurice Somerville passed the cluster of girls
Who twisted their ribbons and fluttered their curls
In vain to attract him; his mind it was plain
Was wholly intent on the incoming train.
That great one eyed monster puffed out its black breath,
Shrieked, snorted and hissed, like a thing bent on death,
Paused scarcely a moment, and then sped away,
And two actors more now enliven our play.


A graceful young woman with eyes like the morn,
With hair like the tassels which hang from the corn,
And a face that might serve as a model for Peace,
Moved lightly along, smiled and bowed to Maurice,
Then was lost in the circle of friends waiting near.
A discord of shrill nasal tones smote the ear,
As they greeted their comrade and bore her from sight.
(The ear oft is pained while the eye feels delight
In the presence of women throughout our fair land:
God gave them the graces which win and command,
But the devil, who always in mischief rejoices,
Slipped into their teachers and ruined their voices.)
There had stepped from the train just behind Mabel Lee
A man whose deportment bespoke him to be
A child of good fortune. His mien and his air
Were those of one all unaccustomed to care.
His brow was not vexed with the gold seeker's worry,
His manner was free from the national hurry.
Repose marked his movements. Yet gaze in his eye,
And you saw that this calm outer man was a lie;
And you knew that deep down in the depths of his breast
There dwelt the unmerciful imp of unrest.


He held out his hand; it was clasped with a will
In both the firm palms of Maurice Somerville.
'Well, Reese, my old Comrade;' 'Ha, Roger, my boy,'
They cried in a breath, and their eyes gemmed with joy
(Which but for their sex had been set in a tear),
As they walked arm in arm to the trap waiting near,
And drove down the shining shell roadway which wound
Through forest and meadow, in search of the Sound.


Roger:

I smell the salt water-that perfume which starts
The blood from hot brains back to world withered hearts;
You may talk of the fragrance of flower filled fields,
You may sing of the odors the Orient yields,
You may tell of the health laden scent of the pine,
But give me the subtle salt breath of the brine.
Already I feel lost emotions of youth
Steal back to my soul in their sweetness and truth;
Small wonder the years leave no marks on your face,
Time's scythe gathers rust in this idyllic place.
You must feel like a child on the Great Mother's breast,
With the Sound like a nurse watching over your rest?


Maurice:

There is beauty and truth in your quaint simile,
I love the Sound more than the broad open sea.
The ocean seems always stern, masculine, bold,
The Sound is a woman, now warm, and now cold.
It rises in fury and threatens to smite,
Then falls at your feet with a coo of delight;
Capricious, seductive, first frowning, then smiling,
And always, whatever its mood is, beguiling.
Look, now you can see it, bright beautiful blue,
And far in the distance there loom into view
The banks of Long Island, full thirty miles off;
A sign of wet weather to-morrow. Don't scoff!
We people who chum with the waves and the wind
Know more than all wise signal bureaus combined.


But come, let us talk of yourself-for of me
There is little to tell which your eyes may not see.
Since we finished at College (eight years, is it not?)
I simply have dreamed away life in this spot.
With my dogs and my horses, a book and a pen,
And a week spent in town as a change now and then.
Fatigue for the body, disease for the mind,
Are all that the city can give me, I find.
Yet once in a while there is wisdom I hold
In leaving the things that are dearer than gold,-
Loved people and places-if only to learn
The exquisite rapture it is to return.
But you, I remember, craved motion and change;
You hated the usual, worshiped the strange.
Adventure and travel I know were your theme:
Well, how did the real compare with the dream?
You have compassed the earth since we parted at Yale,
Has life grown the richer, or only grown stale?


Roger:

Stale, stale, my dear boy! that's the story in short,
I am weary of travel, adventure and sport;
At home and abroad, in all climates and lands,
I have had what life gives when a full purse commands
I have chased after Pleasure, that phantom faced elf,
And lost the best part of my youth and myself.
And now, barely thirty, I'm heart sick and blue;
Life seems like a farce scarcely worth sitting through.
I dread its long stretch of dissatisfied years;
Ah! wealth is not always the boon it appears.
And poverty lights not such ruinous fires
As gratified appetites, tastes and desires.
Fate curses, when letting us do as we please-
It stunts a man's soul to be cradled in ease.


Maurice:

You are right in a measure; the devil I hold
Is oftener found in full coffers of gold
Than in bare, empty larders. The soul, it is plain,
Needs the conflicts of earth, needs the stress and the strain
Of misfortune, to bring out its strength in this life-
The Soul's calisthenics are sorrow and strife.
But, Roger, what folly to stand in youth's prime
And talk like a man who could father old Time.
You have life all before you; the past,-let it sleep;
Its lessons alone are the things you should keep.
There is virtue sometimes in our follies and sinnings;
Right lives very often have faulty beginnings.
Results, and not causes, are what we should measure.
You have learned precious truths in your search after pleasure.
You have learned that a glow worm is never a star,
You have learned that Peace builds not her temples afar.
And now, dispossessed of the spirit to roam,
You are finely equipped to establish a home.
That's the one thing you need to lend savor to life,
A home, and the love of a sweet hearted wife,
And children to gladden the path to old age.


Roger:

Alas! from life's book I have torn out that page;
I have loved many times and in many a fashion,
Which means I know nothing at all of the passion.
I have scattered my heart, here and there, bit by bit,
'Til now there is nothing worth while left of it;
And, worse than all else, I have ceased to believe
In the virtue and truth of the daughters of Eve.
There's tragedy for you-when man's early trust
In woman, experience hurls to the dust!


Maurice:

Then you doubt your own mother?


Roger:

She passed heavenward
Before I remember; a saint, I have heard,
While she lived; there are scores of good women to-day,
Temptation has chanced not to wander their way.
The devil has more than his lordship can do,
He can't make the rounds, so some women keep true.


Maurice:

You think then each woman, if tempted, must fall?


Roger:

Yes, if tempted her way-not one way suits them all-
They have tastes in their sins as they have in their clothes,
The tempter, of course, has to first study those.
One needs to be flattered, another is bought;
One yields to caresses, by frowns one is caught.
One wants a bold master, another a slave,
With one you must jest, with another be grave.
But swear you're a sinner whom she has reformed
And the average feminine fortress is stormed.
In rescuing men from abysses of sin
She loses her head-and herself tumbles in.
The mind of a woman was shaped for a saint,
But deep in her heart lies the devil's own taint.
With plans for salvation her busy brain teems,
While her heart longs in secret to know how sin seems.
And if with this question unanswered she dies,
Temptation came not in the right sort of guise.
There's my estimate, Reese, of the beautiful sex;
I see by your face that my words wound and vex,
But remember, my boy, I'm a man of the world.


Maurice:

Thank God, in the vortex I have not been hurled.
If experience breeds such a mental disease,
I am glad I have lived with the birds and the bees,
And the winds and the waves, and let people alone.
So far in my life but good women I've known.
My mother, my sister, a few valued friends-
A teacher, a schoolmate, and there the list ends.
But to know one true woman in sunshine and gloom,
From the zenith of life to the door of the tomb,
To know her, as I knew that mother of mine,
Is to know the whole sex and to kneel at the shrine.


Roger:

Then you think saint and woman synonymous terms?


Maurice:

Oh, no! we are all, men and women, poor worms
Crawling up from the dampness and darkness of clay
To bask in the sunlight and warmth of the day.
Some climb to a leaf and reflect its bright sheen,
Some toil through the grass, and are crushed there unseen.
Some sting if you touch them, and some evolve wings;
Yet God dwells in each of the poor, groping things.
They came from the Source-to the Source they go back;
The sinners are those who have missed the true track.
We can not judge women or men as a class,
Each soul has its own distinct place in the mass.
There is no sex in sin; it were folly to swear
All women are angels, but worse to declare
All are devils as you do. You're morbid, my boy,
In what you thought gold you have found much alloy
And now you are doubting there is the true ore.
But wait till you study my sweet simple store
Of pure sterling treasures; just wait till you've been
A few restful weeks, or a season, within
The charmed circle of home life; then, Roger, you'll find
These malarial mists clearing out of your mind.
As a ship cuts the fog and is caught by the breeze,
And swept through the sunlight to fair, open seas,
So your heart will be caught and swept out to the ocean
Of youth and youth's birthright of happy emotion.
I'll wager my hat (it was new yesterday)
That you'll fall in love, too, in a serious way.
Our girls at Bay Bend are bewitching and fair,
And Cupid lurks ever in salt Summer air.


Roger:

I question your gifts as a prophet, and yet,
I confess in my travels I never have met
A woman whose face so impressed me at sight,
As one seen to-day; a mere girl, sweet and bright,
Who entered the train quite alone and sat down
Surrounded by parcels she'd purchased in town.
A trim country lass, but endowed with the beauty
Which makes a man think of his conscience and duty.
Some women, you know, move us that way-God bless them,
While others rouse only a thirst to possess them
The face of the girl made me wish to be good,
I went out and smoked to escape from the mood.
When conscience through half a man's life has been sleeping
What folly to wake it to worry and weeping!


Maurice:

The pessimist role is a modern day fad,
But, Roger, you make a poor cynic, my lad.
Your heart at the core is as sound as a nut,
Though the wheels of your mind have dropped into the rut
Of wrong thinking. You need a strong hand on the lever
Of good common sense, and an earnest endeavor
To pull yourself out of the slough of despond
Back into the highway of peace just beyond.
And now, here we are at Peace Castle in truth,
And there stands its Chatelaine, sweet Sister Ruth,
To welcome you, Roger; you'll find a new type
In this old-fashioned girl, who in years scarcely ripe,
And as childish in heart as she is in her looks,
And without worldly learning or knowledge of books,
Yet in housewifely wisdom is wise as a sage.
She is quite out of step with the girls of her age,
For she has no ambition beyond the home sphere.
Ruth, here's Roger Montrose, my comrade of dear College days.
The gray eyes of the girl of nineteen
Looked into the face oft in fancy she'd seen
When her brother had talked of his comrade at Yale.
His stature was lower, his cheek was more pale
Than her thought had portrayed him; a look in his eye
Made her sorry, she knew not for what nor knew why,
But she longed to befriend him, as one needing aid.
While he, gazing down on the face of the maid,
Spoke some light words of greeting, the while his mind ran
On her 'points' good and bad; for the average man
When he looks at a woman proceeds first to scan her
As if she were horse flesh, and in the same manner
Notes all that is pleasing, or otherwise. So
Roger gazed at Ruth Somerville.
'Mouth like a bow
And eyes full of motherhood; color too warm,
And too round in the cheek and too full in the form
For the highest ideal of beauty and art.
Domestic-that word is the cue to her part
She would warm a man's slippers, but never his veins;
She would feed well his stomach, but never his brains.
And after she looks on her first baby's face,
Her husband will hold but a second-class place
In her thoughts or emotions, unless he falls ill,
When a dozen trained nurses her place can not fill.
She is sweet of her kind; and her kind since the birth
Of this sin ridden, Circe-cursed planet, the Earth,
Has kept it, I own, with its medleys of evil
From going straight into the hands of the devil.
It is not through its heroes the world lives and thrives,
But through its sweet commonplace mothers and wives.
We love them, and leave them; deceive, and respect them,
We laud loud their virtues and straightway neglect them.
They are daisy and buttercup women of earth
Who grace common ways with their sweetness and worth.
We praise, but we pass them, to reach for some flower
That stings when we pluck it, or wilts in an hour.
'You are thornless, fair Ruth! you are useful and sweet!
But lovers shall pass you to sigh at the feet
Of the selfish and idle, for such is man's way;
Your lot is to work, and to weep, and to pray.
To give much and get little; to toil and to wait
For the meager rewards of indifferent fate.
Yet so wholesome your heart, you will never complain;
You will feast on life's sorrow and drink of its pain,
And thank God for the banquet; 'tis women like you
Who make the romancing of preachers seem true.
The earth is your debtor to such large amounts
There must be a heaven to square up accounts,
Or else the whole scheme of existence at best
Is a demon's poor effort at making a jest.'


That night as Ruth brushed out her bright hazel hair
Her thoughts were of Roger, 'His bold laughing air
Is a cloak to some sorrow concealed in his breast,
His mind is the home of some secret unrest.'
She sighed; and there woke in her bosom once more
The impulse to comfort and help him; to pour
Soothing oil from the urn of her heart on his wounds.
Where motherhood nature in woman abounds
It is thus Cupid comes; unannounced and unbidden,
In sweet pity's guise, with his arrows well hidden.
But once given welcome and housed as a guest,
He hurls the whole quiver full into her breast,
While he pulls off his mask and laughs up in her eyes
With an impish delight at her start of surprise.
So intent is this archer on bagging his game
He scruples at nothing which gives him good aim.


Ruth's heart was a virgin's, in love menaced danger
While she sat by her mirror and pitied the stranger.
But just as she blew out her candle and stood
Robed for sleep in the moonlight, a change in her mood
Quickly banished the dreamer, and brought in its stead
The practical housekeeper. Sentiment fled;
And she puzzled her brain to decide which were best,
Corn muffins or hot graham gems, for the guest!


2
II.
The short-sighted minister preached at Bay Bend
His long-winded sermon quite through to the end,
Unmindful there sat in the Somerville pew
A stranger whose pale handsome countenance drew
All eyes from his own reverend self; nor suspected
What Ruth and her brother too plainly detected
That the stranger was bored.
'Though his gaze never stirred
From the face of the preacher, his heart has not heard,'
Ruth said to herself; and her soft mother-eye
Was fixed on his face with a look like a sigh
In its tremulous depths, as they rose to depart.
Then suddenly Roger, alert, seemed to start
And his dull, listless glance changed to one of surprise
And of pleasure. Ruth saw that the goal of his eyes
Was her friend Mabel Lee in the vestibule; fair
As a saint that is pictured with sun tangled hair
And orbs like the skies in October. She smiled,
And the saint disappeared in the innocent child
With an unconscious dower of beauty and youth
She paused in the vestibule waiting for Ruth
And seemed not to notice the warm eager gaze
Of two men fixed upon her in different ways.
One, the look which souls lift to a being above,
The other a look of unreasoning love
Born of fancy and destined to grow in an hour
To a full fledged emotion of mastering power.


She spoke, and her voice disappointed the ear;
It lacked some deep chords that the heart hoped to hear.
It was sweet, but not vibrant; it came from the throat,
And one listened in vain for a full chested note.
While something at times like a petulant sound
Seemed in strange disaccord with the peace so profound
Of the eyes and the brow.
Though our sight is deceived
The ear is an organ that may be believed.
The faces of people are trained to conceal,
But their unruly voices are prone to reveal
What lies deep in their natures; a voice rarely lies,
But Mabel Lee's voice told one tale, while her eyes
Told another. Large, liquid, and peaceful as lakes
Where the azure dawn rests, ere the loud world awakes,
Were the beautiful eyes of the maiden. 'A saint,
Without mortal blemish or weak human taint,'
Said Maurice to himself. To himself Roger said:
'The touch of her soft little hands on my head
Would convert me. What peace for a world weary breast
To just sit by her side and be soothed into rest.'


Daring thoughts for a stranger. Maurice, who had known
Mabel Lee as a child, to himself would not own
Such bold longings as those were. He held her to be
Too sacred for even a thought that made free.
And the voice in his bosom was silenced and hushed
Lest the bloom from her soul by his words should be brushed.
There are men to whom love is religion; but woman
Is far better pleased with a homage more human.
Though she may not be able to love in like fashion,
She wants to be wooed with both ardor and passion.
Had Mabel Lee read Roger's thoughts of her, bold
Though they were, they had flattered and pleased her, I hold.
The stranger was duly presented.


Roger:

Miss Lee,
I am sure, has no least recollection of me,
But the pleasure is mine to have looked on her face
Once before this.


Mabel:

Indeed? May I ask where?


Roger:

The place
Was the train, and the time yesterday.


Mabel:

'Then I came
From my shopping excursion in town by the same
Fast express which brought you? Had I known that the friend
Of my friends, was so near me en route for Bay Bend,
I had waived all conventions and asked him to take
One-half of my parcels for sweet pity's sake.


Roger:

You sadden me sorely. As long as I live
I shall mourn the great pleasure chance chose not to give.


Maurice:

Take courage, mon ami. Our fair friend, Miss Lee,
Fills her time quite as full of sweet works as the bee;
Like the bee, too, she drives out the drones from her hive.
You must toil in her cause, in her favor to thrive.


Roger:

She need but command me. To wait upon beauty
And goodness combined makes a pleasure of duty.


Maurice:

Who serves Mabel Lee serves all Righteousness too.
Pray, then, that she gives you some labor to do.
The cure for the pessimist lies in good deeds.
Who toils for another forgets his own needs,
And mischief and misery never attend
On the man who is occupied fully.


Ruth:

Our friend
Has the town on her shoulders. Whatever may be
The cause that is needy, we look to Miss Lee.
Have you gold? She will make you disgorge it ere long;
Are you poor? Well, perchance you can dance-sing a song-
Make a speech-tell a story, or plan a charade.
Whatever you have, gold or wits, sir, must aid
In her numerous charities.


Mabel:

Riches and brain
Are but loans from the Master. He meant them, 'tis plain,
To be used in His service; and people are kind,
When once you can set them to thinking. I find
It is lack of perception, not lack of good heart
Which makes the world selfish in seeming. My part
Is to call the attention of Plenty to need,
And to bid Pleasure pause for a moment and heed
The woes and the burdens of Labor.


Roger:

One plea
From the rosy and eloquent lips of Miss Lee
Would make Avarice pour out his coffers of gold
At her feet, I should fancy; would soften the cold,
Selfish heart of the world to compassionate sighs,
And bring tears of pity to vain Pleasure's eyes.


As the sunset a color on lily leaves throws,
The words and the glances of Roger Montrose
O'er the listener's cheeks sent a pink tinted wave;
While Maurice seemed disturbed, and his sister grew grave.
The false chink of flattery's coin smites the ear
With an unpleasant ring when the heart is sincere.
Yet the man whose mind pockets are filled with this ore,
Though empty his brain cells, is never a bore
To the opposite sex.
While Maurice knew of old
Roger's wealth in that coin that does duty for gold
In Society dealings, it hurt him to see
The cheap metal offered to sweet Mabel Lee.


(Yet, perchance, the hurt came, not so much that 'twas offered,
As in seeing her take, with a smile, what was proffered.)
They had walked, two by two, down the elm shaded street,
Which led to a cottage, vine hidden, and sweet
With the breath of the roses that covered it, where
Mabel paused in the gateway; a picture most fair.
'I would ask you to enter,' she said, 'ere you pass,
But in just twenty minutes my Sunday-school class
Claims my time and attention; and later I meet
A Committee on Plans for the boys of the street.
We seek to devise for these pupils in crime
Right methods of thought and wise uses of time.


Roger:

I am but a vagrant, untutored and wild,
May I join your street class, and be taught like a child?


Mabel:

If you come I will carefully study your case.


Maurice:

I must go along, too, just to keep him in place.


Mabel:

Then you think him unruly?


Maurice:

Decidedly so.


Roger:

I was, but am changed since one-half hour ago.


Mabel:

The change is too sudden to be of much worth;
The deepest convictions are slowest of birth.
Conversion, I hold, to be earnest and lasting,
Begins with repentance and praying and fasting,
And (begging your pardon for such a bold speech),
You seem, sir, a stranger to all and to each
Of these ways of salvation.


Roger:

Since yesterday, miss,
When, unseen, I first saw you (believe me in this),
I have deeply repented my sins of the past.
To-night I will pray, and to-morrow will fast-
Or, make it next week, when my shore appetite
May be somewhat subdued in its ravenous might.


Maurice:

That's the way of the orthodox sinner! He waits
Until time or indulgence or misery sates
All his appetites, then his repentance begins,
When his sins cease to please, then he gives up his sins
And grows pious. Now prove you are morally brave
By actually giving up something you crave!
We have fricasseed chicken and strawberry cake
For our dinner to-day.


Roger:

For dear principle's sake
I could easily do what you ask, were it not
Most unkind to Miss Ruth, who gave labor and thought
To that menu, preparing it quite to my taste.


Ruth:

But the thought and the dinner will both go to waste,
If we linger here longer; and Mabel, I see,
Is impatient to go to her duties.


Roger:

The bee
Is reluctant to turn from the lily although
The lily may obviously wish he would go
And leave her to muse in the sunlight alone.
Yet when the rose calls him, his sorrow, I own,
Has its recompense. So from delight to delight
I fly with my wings honeyladen.
Good night.


3
III.
prologue
Oh, love is like the dawnlight
That turns the dark to day,
And love is like the deep night
With secrets hid away.


And love is like the moonlight
Where tropic Summers glow,
And love is like the twilight
When dreams begin to grow.


Oh, love is like the sunlight
That sets the world ablaze.
And love is like the moonlight
With soft, illusive rays.


And love is like the starlight
That glimmers o'er the skies.
And love is like the far light
That shines from God's great eyes.


Maurice Somerville from his turreted den
Looked out of the window and laid down his pen.
A soft salty wind from the water was blowing,
Below in the garden sat Ruth with her sewing.
And stretched on the grass at her feet Roger lay
With a book in his hand.
Through the ripe August day,
Piped the Katydids' voices, Jack Frost's tally-ho
Commanding Queen Summer to pack up and go.
Maurice leaned his head on the casement and sighed,
Strong and full in his heart surged love's turbulent tide.
And thoughts of the woman he worshiped with longing
Took shape and like angels about him came thronging.
The world was all Mabel! her exquisite face
Seemed etched on the sunlight and gave it its grace;
Her eyes made the blue of the heavens, the sun
Was her wonderful hair caught and coiled into one
Shining mass. With a reverent, worshipful awe,
It was Mabel, fair Mabel, dear Mabel he saw,
When he looked up to God.
They had been much together
Through all the bright stretches of midsummer weather,
Ruth, Roger, and Mabel and he. Scarce a day
But the four were united in work or in play.
And much of the play to a man or a maid
Not in love had seemed labor. Recital, charade,
Garden party, church festival, musical, hop,
Were all planned by Miss Lee without respite or stop.
The poor were the richer; school, hospital, church,
The heathen, the laborer left in the lurch
By misfortune, the orphan, the indigent old,
Our kind Lady Bountiful aided with gold
Which she filched from the pockets of pleasure-God's spoil,
And God's blessing will follow such lives when they toil
Through an infinite sympathy.
Fair Mabel Lee
Loved to rule and to lead. She was eager to be
In the eyes of the public. That modern day craze
Possessed her in secret, and this was its phase.
An innocent, even commendable, fad
Which filled empty larders and cheered up the sad.
She loved to do good. But, alas! in her heart,
She loved better still the authoritative part
Which she played in her town.
'Neath the saint's aureole
Lurked the feminine tyrant who longed to control,
And who never would serve; but her sway was so sweet,
That her world was contented to bow at her feet.


Who toils in the great public vineyard must needs
Let other hands keep his own garden from weeds.
So busy was Mabel with charity fairs
She gave little thought to her home or its cares.
Mrs. Lee, like the typical modern day mother,
Was maid to her daughter; the father and brother
Were slaves at her bidding; an excellent plan
To make a tyrannical wife for some man.
Yet where was the man who, beholding the grace
Of that slight girlish creature, and watching her face
With its infantile beauty and sweetness, would dare
Think aught but the rarest of virtues dwelt there?
Rare virtues she had, but in commonplace ones
Which make happy husbands and home loving sons
She was utterly lacking. Ruth Somerville saw
In sorrow and silence this blemishing flaw
In the friend whom she loved with devotion! Maurice
Saw only the angel with eyes full of peace.
The faults of plain women are easily seen.
But who cares to peer back of beauty's fair screen
For things which are ugly to look on?
The lover
Is not quite in love when his sharp eyes discover
The flaws in his jewel.


Maurice from his room
Looked dreamily down on the garden of bloom,
Where Ruth sat with Roger; he smiled as he thought
How quickly the world sated cynic was brought
Into harness by Cupid. The man mad with drink,
And the man mad with love, is quite certain to think
All other men drunkards or lovers. In truth
Maurice had expected his friend to love Ruth.
'She was young, she was fair; with her bright sunny art
She could scatter the mists from his world befogged heart.
She could give him the one heaven under God's dome,
A peaceful, well ordered, and love-guarded home.
And he? why of course he would worship her! When
Cupid finds the soft spot in the hearts of such men
They are ideal husbands.' Maurice Somerville
Felt the whole world was shaping itself to his will.
And his heart stirred with joy as, by thought necromancy,
He made the near future unfold to his fancy,
And saw Ruth the bride of his friend, and the place
She left vacant supplied with the beauty and grace
Of this woman he longed for, the love of his life,
Fair Mabel, his angel, his sweet spirit wife.
Maurice to his desk turned again and once more
Began to unburden his bosom and pour
His heart out on paper-the poet's relief,
When drunk with life's rapture or sick with its grief.


Song.
When shall I tell my lady that I love her?
Will it be while the sunshine woos the world,
Or when the mystic twilight bends above her,
Or when the day's bright banners all are furled?
Will wild winds shriek, or will the calm stars glow,
When I shall tell her that I love her so,
I love her so?


I think the sun should shine in all his glory;
Again, the twilight seems the fitting time.
Yet sweet dark night would understand the story,
So old, so new, so tender, so sublime.
Wild storms should rage to chord with my desire,
Yet faithful stars should shine and never tire,
And never tire.


Ah, if my lady will consent to listen,
All hours, will times, shall hear my story told.
In amorous dawns, on nights when pale stars glisten
In dim hushed gloamings and in noon hours bold,
While thunders crash, and while the winds breathe low,
Will I re-tell her that I love her so.
I love her so.


4
IV.
The October day had been luscious and fair
Like a woman of thirty. A chill in the air
As the sun faced the west spoke of frost lurking near
All day the Sound lay without motion, and clear
As a mirror, and blue as a blond baby's eyes.
A change in the tide brought a change to the skies.
The bay stirred and murmured and parted its lips
And breathed a long sigh for the lost lovely ships,
That had gone with the Summer.
Its calm placid breast
Was stirred into passionate pain and unrest.
Not a sail, not a sail anywhere to be seen!
The soft azure eyes of the sea turned to green.
A sudden wind rose; like a runaway horse
Unchecked and unguided it sped on its course.
The waves bared their teeth, and spat spray in the face
Of the furious gale as they fled in the chase.
The sun hurried into a cloud; and the trees
Bowed low and yet lower, as if to appease
The wrath of the storm king that threatened them Close
To the waves at their wildest stood Roger Montrose.
The day had oppressed him; and now the unrest
Of the wind beaten sea brought relief to his breast,
Or at least brought the sense of companionship. Lashed
By his higher emotions, the man's passions dashed
On the shore of his mind in a frenzy of pain,
Like the waves on the rocks, and a frenzy as vain.


Since the day he first looked on her face, Mabel Lee
Had seemed to his self sated nature to be,
On life's troubled ocean, a beacon of light,
To guide him safe out from the rocks and the night.
Her calm soothed his passion; her peace gave him poise;
She seemed like a silence in life's vulgar noise.
He bathed in the light which her purity cast,
And felt half absolved from the sins of the past.
He longed in her mantle of goodness to hide
And forget the whole world. By the incoming tide
He talked with his heart as one talks with a friend
Who is dying. 'The summer has come to an end
And I wake from my dreaming,' he mused. 'Wake to know
That my place is not here-I must go I must go.
Who dares laugh at Love shall hear Love laughing last,
As forth from his bowstring barbed arrows are cast.
I scoffed at the god with a sneer on my lip,
And he forces me now from his chalice to sip
A bitter sweet potion. Ah, lightly the part
Of a lover I've played many times, but my heart
Has been proud in its record of friendship. And now
The mad, eager lover born in me must bow
To the strong claims of friendship. I love Mabel Lee;
Dared I woo as I would, I could make her love me.
The soul of a maid who knows not passion's fire
Is moth to the flame of a man's strong desire.
With one kiss on her lips I could banish the nun
And wake in her virginal bosom the one
Mighty love of her life. If I leave her, I know
She will be my friend's wife in a season or so.
He loves her, he always has loved her; 'tis he
Who ever will do all the loving; and she
Will accept it, and still be the saint to the end,
And she never will know what she missed; but my friend
Has the right to speak first. God! how can he delay?
I marvel at men who are fashioned that way.
He has worshiped her since first she put up her tresses,
And let down the hem of her school-girlish dresses
And now she is full twenty-two; were I he
A brood of her children should climb on my knee
By this time! What a sin against love to postpone
The day that might make her forever his own.
The man who can wait has no blood in his veins.
Maurice is a dreamer, he loves with his brains
Not with soul and with senses. And yet his whole life
Will be blank if he makes not this woman his wife.
She is woof of his dreams, she is warp of his mind;
Who tears her away shall leave nothing behind.
No, no, I am going: farewell to Bay Bend
I am no woman's lover-I am one man's friend.
Still-born in the arms of the matron eyed year
Lies the beautiful dream that my life buries here.
Its tomb was its cradle; it came but to taunt me,
It died, but its phantom shall ever more haunt me.'


He turned from the waves that leaped at him in wrath
To find Mabel Lee, like a wraith, in his path.
The rose from her cheek had departed in fear;
The tip of her eyelash was gemmed with a tear.
The rude winds had disarranged mantle and dress,
And she clung with both hands to her hat in distress.
'I am frightened,' she cried, in a tremulous tone;
'I dare not proceed any farther alone.
As I came by the church yard the wind felled a tree,
And invisible hands seemed to hurl it at me;
I hurried on, shrieking; the wind, in disgust,
Tore the hat from my head, filled my eyes full of dust,
And otherwise made me the butt of its sport.
Just then I spied you, like a light in the port,
And I steered for you. Please do not laugh at my fright!
I am really quite bold in the calm and the light,
But when a storm gathers, or darkness prevails,
My courage deserts me, my bravery fails,
And I want to hide somewhere and cover my ears,
And give myself up to weak womanish tears.'


Her ripple of talk allowed Roger Montrose
A few needed moments to calm and compose
His excited emotions; to curb and control
The turbulent feelings that surged through his soul
At the sudden encounter.
'I quite understand,'
He said in a voice that was under command
Of his will, 'All your fears in a storm of this kind.
There is something uncanny and weird in the wind;
Intangible, viewless, it speeds on its course,
And forests and oceans must yield to its force.
What art has constructed with patience and toil,
The wind in one second of time can despoil.
It carries destruction and death and despair,
Yet no man can follow it into its lair
And bind it or stay it-this thing without form.
Ah! there comes the rain! we are caught in the storm.
Put my coat on your shoulders and come with me where
Yon rock makes a shelter-I often sit there
To watch the great conflicts 'twixt tempest and sea.
Let me lie at your feet! 'Tis the last time, Miss Lee,
I shall see you, perchance, in this life, who can say?
I leave on the morrow at break o' the day.'


Mabel:

Indeed? Why, how sudden! and may I inquire
The reason you leave us without one desire
To return? for your words seem a final adieu.


Roger:

I never expect to return, that is true,
Yet my wish is to stay.


Mabel:

Are you not your own master?


Roger:

Alas, yes! and therein lies the cause of disaster.
Myself bids me go, my calm, reasoning part,
The will is the man, not the poor, foolish heart,
Which is ever at war with the intellect. So
I silence its clamoring voices and go.
Were I less my own master, I then might remain.


Mabel:

Your words are but riddles, I beg you explain.


Roger:

No, no, rather bid me keep silent! To say
Why I go were as weak on my part as to stay.


Mabel:

I think you most cruel! You know, sir, my sex
Loves dearly a secret. Then why should you vex
And torment me in this way by hinting at one?


Roger:

Let us talk of the weather, I think the storm done.


Mabel:

Very well! I will go! No, you need not come too,
And I will not shake hands, I am angry with you.


Roger:

And you will not shake hands when we part for all time?


Mabel:

Then read me your riddle!


Roger:

No, that were a crime
Against honor and friendship; girl, girl, have a care-
You are goading my poor, tortured heart to despair.


His last words were lost in the loud thunder's crash;
The sea seemed ablaze with a sulphurous flash.
From the rocks just above them an evergreen tree
Was torn up by the roots and flung into the sea.
The waves with rude arms hurled it back on the shore;
The wind gained in fury. The glare and the roar
Of the lightning and tempest paled Mabel Lee's cheek.
Her pupils dilated; she sprang with a shriek
Of a terrified child lost to all save alarm,
And clasped Roger Montrose with both hands by the arm,
While her cheek pressed his shoulder. An agony, sweet
And unbearable, thrilled from his head to his feet,
His veins were like rivers, with billows of fire:
His will lost control; and long fettered desire
Slipped its leash. He caught Mabel Lee to his breast,
Drew her face up to his, on her frightened lips pressed
Wild caresses of passion that startled and shocked.
Like a madman he looked, like a madman he talked,
Waiting not for reply, with no pause but a kiss,
While his iron arms welded her bosom to his.
'Girl, girl, you demanded my secret,' he cried;
'Well, that bruise on your lips tells the story! I tried,
Good God, how I tried! to be silent and go
Without speaking one word, without letting you know
That I loved you; yet how could you look in my eyes
And not see love was there like the sun in the skies?
Ah, those hands on my arm-that dear head lightly pressed
On my shoulder! God, woman, the heart in my breast
Was dry powder, your touch was the spark; and the blame
Must be yours if both lives are scorched black with the flame.
Do you hate me, despise me, for being so weak?
No, no! let me kiss you again ere you speak!
You are mine for the moment; and mine-mine alone
Is the first taste of passion your soft mouth has known.
Whoever forestalls me in winning your hand,
Between you and him shall this mad moment stand-
You shall think of me, though you think only to hate.
There-speak to me-speak to me-tell me my fate;
On your words, Mabel Lee, hangs my whole future life.
I covet you, covet you, sweet, for my wife;
I want to stay here at your side. Since I first
Saw your face I have felt an unquenchable thirst
To be good-to look deep in your eyes and find God,
And to leave in the past the dark paths I have trod
In my search after pleasure. Ah, must I go back
Into folly again, to retread the old track
Which leads out into nothingness? Girl, answer me,
As souls answer at Judgment.'
The face of the sea
Shone with sudden pink splendor. The riotous wind
Swooned away with exhaustion. Each dark cloud seemed lined
With vermilion. The tempest was over. A word
Floated up like a feather; the silence was stirred
By the soul of a sigh. The last remnant of gray
In the skies turned to gold, as a voice whispered, 'Stay.'


5
V.
prologue
God grinds His poor people to powder
All day and all night I can hear,
Their cries growing louder and louder.
Oh, God, have You deadened Your ear?


The chimes in old Trinity steeple
Ring in the sweet season of prayer,
And still God is grinding His people,
He is grinding them down to despair.


Mind, body and muscle and marrow,
He grinds them again and again.
Can He who takes heed of the sparrow
Be blind to the tortures of men?


In a bare little room of a tenement row
Of the city, Maurice sat alone. It was so
(In this nearness to life's darkest phases of grief
And despair) that his own bitter woe found relief.
Joy needs no companion; but sorrow and pain
Long to comrade with sorrow. The flowery chain
Flung by Pleasure about her gay votaries breaks
With the least strain upon it. The chain sorrow makes
Links heart unto heart. As a bullock will fly
To far fields when an arrow has pierced him, to die,
So Maurice had flown over far oceans to find
No balm for his wounds, and no peace for his mind.
Cosmopolitan, always, is sorrow; at home
In all countries and lands, thriving well while we roam
In vain efforts to slay it. Toil only, brings peace
To the tempest tossed heart. What in travel Maurice
Failed to find-self-forgetfulness-came with his work
For the suffering poor in the slums of New York.
He had wandered in strange heathen countries-had been
Among barbarous hordes; but the greed and the sin
Of his own native land seemed the shame of the hour.
In his gold there was balm, in his pen there was power
To comfort the needy, to aid and defend
The unfortunate. Close in their midst, as a friend
And companion, for more than twelve months he had dwelt.
Like a ray of pure light in a cellar was felt
This strong, wholesome presence. His little room bare
Of all luxuries, taught the poor souls who flocked there
For his counsel and aid, how by mere cleanliness
The grim features of want lose some lines of distress.
The slips from the plants on his window ledge, given
To beauty starved souls, spoke more clearly of heaven
And God than did sermons or dry creedy tracts.
Maurice was no preacher; and yet his kind acts
Of mercy and self-immolation sufficed
To wake in dark minds a bright image of Christ-
The Christ often heard of, but doubted before.
Maurice spoke no word of religion. Of yore
His heart had accepted the creeds of his youth
Without pausing to cavil, or question their truth.
Faith seemed his inheritance. But, with the blow
Which slew love and killed friendship, faith, too, seemed to go.


It is easy to be optimistic in pleasure,
But when Pain stands us up by her portal to measure
The actual height of our trust and belief,
Ah! then is the time when our faith comes to grief.
The woes of our fellows, God sends them, 'tis plain;
But the devil himself is the cause of our pain.
We question the wisdom that rules o'er the world,
And our minds into chaos and darkness are hurled.


The average scoffer at faith goes about
Pouring into the ears of his fellows each doubt
Which assails him. One truth he fails wholly to heed;
That a doubt oft repeated may bore like a creed.
Maurice kept his thoughts to himself, but his pen
Was dipped in the gall of his heart now and then,
And his muse was the mouthpiece. The sin unforgiven
I hold by the Cherubim chanting in heaven
Is the sin of the poet who dares sing a strain
Which adds to the world's awful chorus of pain
And repinings. The souls whom the gods bless at birth
With the great gift of song, have been sent to the earth
To better and brighten it. Woe to the heart
Which lets its own sorrow embitter its art.
Unto him shall more sorrow be given; and life
After life filled with sorrow, till, spent with the strife,
He shall cease from rebellion, and bow to the rod
In submission, and own and acknowledge his God.


Maurice, with his unwilling muse in the gloom
Of a mood pessimistic, was shut in his room.
A whistle, a step on the stairway, a knock,
Then over the transom there fluttered a flock
Of white letters. The Muse, with a sigh of content,
Left the poet to read them, and hurriedly went
Back to pleasanter regions. Maurice glanced them through:
There were brief business epistles from two
Daily papers, soliciting work from his pen;
A woman begged money for Christ's sake; three men
Asked employment; a mother wrote only to say
How she blessed him and prayed God to bless him each day
For his kindness to her and to hers; and the last
Was a letter from Ruth. The pale ghost of the past
Rose out of its poor shallow grave, with the scent
And the mold of the clay clinging to it, and leant
O'er Maurice as he read, while its breath fanned his cheek.


'Forgive me,' wrote Ruth; 'for at last I must speak
Of the two whom you wish to forget. Well I know
How you suffered, still suffer, from fate's sudden blow,
Though I am a woman, and women must stay
And fight out pain's battles where men run away.
But my strength has its limit, my courage its end,
The time has now come when I, too, leave Bay Bend.
Maurice, let the bitterness housed in your heart
For the man you long loved as a comrade, depart,
And let pity replace it. Oh, weep for his sorrow-
From your fountain of grief, held in check, let me borrow;
I have so overdrawn on the bank of my tears
That my anguish is now refused payment. For years
You loved Mabel Lee. Well, to some hearts love speaks
His whole tale of passion in brief little weeks.
As Minerva, full grown, from the great brow of Jove
Sprang to life, so full blown from our breasts may spring Love.
Love hid like a bee in my heart's lily cup;
I knew not he was there till his sting woke me up.
Maurice, oh, Maurice! Can you fancy the woe
Of seeing the prize which you coveted so
Misused, or abused, by another? The wife
Of the man whom I worshiped is spoiling the life
That was wax in her hands, wax to shape as she chose.
You were blind to her faults, so was Roger Montrose.
Both saw but the saint; well, let saints keep their places,
And not crowd the women in life's hurried races.
As saint, Mabel Lee might succeed; but, oh brother,
She never was meant for a wife or a mother.
Her beautiful home has the desolate air
Of a house that is ruled by its servants. The care-
The thought of the woman (that sweet, subtle power
Pervading some rooms like the scent of a flower),
Which turns house into home-that is lacking. She goes
On her merciful rounds, does our Lady Montrose,
Looking after the souls of the heathen, and leaving
The poor hungry soul of her lord to its grieving.
He craves her companionship; wants her to be
At his side, more his own, than the public's. But she
Holds such love is but selfish; and thinks he should make
Some sacrifice gladly for charity's sake.
Her schools, and her clubs, and her fairs fill her time;
He wants her to travel; no, that were a crime
To go seeking for pleasure, and leave duty here.
God had given her work and her labor lay near.
A month of the theater season in town?
No, the stage is an evil that needs putting down
By good people. So, scheme as he will, the poor man
Has to finally yield every project and plan
To this sweet stubborn saint; for the husband, you see,
Stands last in her thoughts. He has come, after three
Patient years, to that knowledge; his wishes, his needs
Must always give way to her whims, or her creeds.
She knows not the primer of loving; her soul
Is engrossed with the poor petty wish to control,
And she chafes at restriction. Love loves to be bound,
And its sweetest of freedom in bondage is found.
She pulls at her fetters. One worshiping heart
And its faithful devotion play but a small part
In her life. She would rather be lauded and praised
By a crowd of inferior followers, raised
To the pitiful height of their leader, than be
One man's goddess. There, now, is the true Mabel Lee!
Grieve not that you lost her, but grieve for the one
Who with me stood last night by the corpse of his son,
And with me stood alone. Ah! how wisely and well
Could Mabel descant on Maternity! tell
Other women the way to train children to be
An honor and pride to their parents! Yet she,
From the first, left her child to the nurses. She found
'Twas a tax on her nerves to have baby around
When it worried and cried. The nurse knew what to do,
And a block down the street lived Mama! 'twixt the two
Little Roger would surely be cared for. She must
Keep her strength and be worthy the love and the trust
Of the poor, who were yearly increasing, and not
Bestow on her own all the care and the thought-
That were selfishness, surely.
Well, the babe grew apace,
But yesterday morning a flush on its face
And a look in its eye worried Roger. The mother
Was due at some sort of convention or other
In Boston-I think 'twas a grand federation
Of clubs formed by women to rescue the Nation
From man's awful clutches; and Mabel was made
The head delegate of the Bay Bend Brigade.
Once drop in a small, selfish nature the seed
Of ambition for place, and it grows like a weed.
The fair village angel we called Mabel Lee,
As Mrs. Montrose, has developed, you see,
To a full fledged Reformer. It quite turned her head
To be sent to the city of beans and brown bread
As a delegate! (Delegate! magical word!
The heart of the queer modern woman is stirred
Far more by its sound than by aught she may hear
In the phrases poor Cupid pours into her ear.)
Mabel chirped to the baby a dozen good-byes,
And laughed at the trouble in Roger's grave eyes,
As she leaned o'er the lace ruffled crib of her son
And talked baby-talk: 'Now be good, 'ittle one,
While Mama is away, and don't draw a long breath,
Unless 'oo would worry Papa half to death.
And don't cough, and, of all things, don't sneeze, 'ittle dear,
Or Papa will be thrown into spasms of fear.
Now, good-bye, once again, 'ittle man; mother knows
There is no other baby like Roger Montrose
In the whole world to-day.'
So she left him. That night
The nurse sent a messenger speeding in fright
For the Doctor; a second for Grandmama Lee
And Roger despatched still another for me.
All in vain! through the gray chilly paths of the dawn
The soul of the beautiful baby passed on
Into Mother-filled lands.
Ah! my God, the despair
Of seeing that agonized sufferer there;
To stand by his side, yet denied the relief
Of sharing, as wife, and as mother, his grief.
Enough! I have borne all I can bear. The role
Of friend to a lover pulls hard on the soul
Of a sensitive woman. The three words in life
Which have meaning to me are home, mother and wife-
Or, rather, wife, mother and home. Once I thought
Men cared for the women who found home the spot
Next to heaven for happiness; women who knew
No ambition beyond being loyal and true,
And who loved all the tasks of the housewife. I learn,
Instead, that from women of that kind men turn,
With a yawn, unto those who are useless; who live
For the poor hollow world and for what it can give,
And who make home the spot where, when other joys cease,
One sleeps late when one wishes.
You left me Maurice
Left the home I have kept since our dear Mother died,
With such sisterly love and such housewifely pride,
And you wandered afar, and for what cause, forsooth?
Oh! because a vain, self-loving woman, in truth,
Had been faithless. The man whom I worshiped, ignored
The love and the comfort my woman's heart stored
In its depths for his taking, and sought Mabel Lee.
Well, I'm done with the role of the housewife. I see
There is nothing in being domestic. The part
Is unpicturesque, and at war with all art.
The senile old Century leers with dim eyes
At our sex and demands that we shock or surprise
His thin blood into motion. The home's not the place
To bring a pleased smile to his wicked old face.
To the mandate I bow; since all strive for that end,
I must join the great throng! I am leaving Bay Bend
This day week. I will see you in town as I pass
To the college at C--, where I enter the class
Of medical students-I fancy you will
Like to see my name thus-Dr. Ruth Somerville.'


Maurice dropped the long, closely written epistle,
Stared hard at the wall, and gave vent to a whistle.
A Doctor! his sweet, little home-loving sister.
A Doctor! one might as well prefix a Mister
To Ruth Somerville, that most feminine name.
And then in the wake of astonishment came
Keen pity for all she had suffered. 'Poor Ruth,
She writes like an agonized woman, in truth,
And like one torn with jealousy. Ah, I can see,'
He mused, 'how the pure soul of sweet Mabel Lee
Revolts at the bondage and shrinks from the ban
That lies in the love of that sensual man.
He is of the earth, earthy. He loves but her beauty,
He cares not for conscience, or honor or duty.
Like a moth she was dazzled and lured by the flame
Of a light she thought love, till she learned its true name;
When she found it mere passion, it lost all its charms.
No wonder she flies from his fettering arms!
God pity you, Mabel! poor ill mated wife;
But my love, like a planet, shall watch o'er your life,
Though all other light from your skies disappear,
Like a sun in the darkness my love shall appear.
Unselfish and silent, it asks no return,
But while the great firmament lasts it shall burn.'


Muse, muse, awake, and sing thy loneliest strain,
Song, song, be sad with sorrow's deepest pain,
Heart, heart, bow down and never bound again,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.


Night, night, draw close thy filmy mourning veil,
Moon, moon, conceal thy beauty sweet and pale,
Wind, wind, sigh out thy most pathetic wail,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.
Time, time, speed by, thou art too slow, too slow,
Grief, grief, pass on, and take thy cup of woe,
Life, life, be kind, ah! do not wound her so,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.


Sleep, sleep, dare not to touch mine aching eyes,
Love, love, watch on, though fate thy wish denies,
Heart, heart, sigh on, since she, my Lady, sighs,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.


6
VI.
prologue
The flower breathes low to the bee,
'Behold, I am ripe with bloom.
Let Love have his way with me,
Ere I fall unwed in my tomb.'


The rooted plant sighs in distress
To the winds by the garden walk
'Oh, waft me my lover's caress,
Or I shrivel and die on my stalk.'


The whippoorwill utters her love
In a passionate 'Come, oh come,'
To the male in the depths of the grove,
But the heart of a woman is dumb.


The lioness seeks her mate,
The she-tiger calls her own-
Who made it a woman's fate
To sit in the silence alone?


Wooed, wedded and widowed ere twenty. The life
Of Zoe Travers is told in that sentence. A wife
For one year, loved and loving; so full of life's joy
That death, growing jealous, resolved to destroy
The Eden she dwelt in. Five desolate years
She walked robed in weeds, and bathed ever in tears,
Through the valley of memory. Locked in love's tomb
Lay youth in its glory and hope in its bloom.
At times she was filled with religious devotion,
Again crushed to earth with rebellious emotion
And unresigned sorrow.
Ah, wild was her grief!
And the years seemed to bring her no balm of relief.
When a heart from its sorrow time cannot estrange,
God sends it another to alter and change
The current of feeling. Zoe's mother, her one
Tie to earth, became ill. When the doctors had done
All the harm which they dared do with powder and pill,
They ordered a trial of Dame Nature's skill.
Dear Nature! what grief in her bosom must stir
When she sees us turn everywhere save unto her
For the health she holds always in keeping; and sees
Us at last, when too late, creeping back to her knees,
Begging that she at first could have given!
'Twas so
Mother Nature's heart grieved o'er the mother of Zoe,
Who came but to die on her bosom. She died
Where the mocking bird poured out its passionate tide
Of lush music; and all through the dark days of pain
That succeeded, and over and through the refrain
Of her sorrow, Zoe heard that wild song evermore.
It seemed like a blow which pushed open a door
In her heart. Something strange, sweet and terrible stirred
In her nature, aroused by the song of that bird.
It rang like a voice from the future; a call
That came not from the past; yet the past held her all.
To the past she had plighted her vows; in the past
Lay her one dream of happiness, first, only, last.
Alone in the world now, she felt the unrest
Of an unanchored boat on the wild billow's breast.
Two homes had been shattered; the West held but tombs.
She drifted again where the magnolia blooms
And the mocking bird sings. Oh! that song, that wild strain,
Whose echoes still haunted her heart and her brain!
How she listened to hear it repeated! It came
Through the dawn to her heart, and the sound was like flame.
It chased all the shadows of night from her room,
And burst the closed bud of the day into bloom.
It leaped to the heavens, it sank to the earth
It gave life new rapture and love a new birth.
It ran through her veins like a fiery stream,
And the past and its sorrow-was only a dream.


The call of a bird in the spring for its lover
Is the voice of all Nature when winter is over.
The heart of the woman re-echoed the strain,
And its meaning, at last, to her senses was plain.


Grief's winter was over, the snows from her heart
Were melted; hope's blossoms were ready to start.
The spring had returned with its siren delights,
And her youth and emotions asserted their rights.
Then memory struggled with passion. The dead
Seemed to rise from the grave and accuse her. She fled
From her thoughts as from lepers; returned to old ways,
And strove to keep occupied, filling her days
With devotional duties. But when the night came
She heard through her slumber that song like a flame,
And her dreams were sweet torture. She sought all too soon
To chill the warm sun of her youth's ardent noon
With the shadows of premature evening. Her mind
Lacked direction a

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The Tower Beyond Tragedy

I
You'd never have thought the Queen was Helen's sister- Troy's
burning-flower from Sparta, the beautiful sea-flower
Cut in clear stone, crowned with the fragrant golden mane, she
the ageless, the uncontaminable-
This Clytemnestra was her sister, low-statured, fierce-lipped, not
dark nor blonde, greenish-gray-eyed,
Sinewed with strength, you saw, under the purple folds of the
queen-cloak, but craftier than queenly,
Standing between the gilded wooden porch-pillars, great steps of
stone above the steep street,
Awaiting the King.
Most of his men were quartered on the town;
he, clanking bronze, with fifty
And certain captives, came to the stair. The Queen's men were
a hundred in the street and a hundred
Lining the ramp, eighty on the great flags of the porch; she
raising her white arms the spear-butts
Thundered on the stone, and the shields clashed; eight shining
clarions
Let fly from the wide window over the entrance the wildbirds of
their metal throats, air-cleaving
Over the King come home. He raised his thick burnt-colored
beard and smiled; then Clytemnestra,
Gathering the robe, setting the golden-sandaled feet carefully,
stone by stone, descended
One half the stair. But one of the captives marred the comeliness
of that embrace with a cry
Gull-shrill, blade-sharp, cutting between the purple cloak and
the bronze plates, then Clytemnestra:
Who was it? The King answered: A piece of our goods out of
the snatch of Asia, a daughter of the king,
So treat her kindly and she may come into her wits again. Eh,
you keep state here my queen.
You've not been the poorer for me.- In heart, in the widowed
chamber, dear, she pale replied, though the slaves
Toiled, the spearmen were faithful. What's her name, the slavegirl's?
AGAMEMNON Come up the stair. They tell me my kinsman's
Lodged himself on you.
CLYTEMNESTRA Your cousin Aegisthus? He was out of refuge,
flits between here and Tiryns.
Dear: the girl's name?
AGAMEMNON Cassandra. We've a hundred or so other
captives; besides two hundred
Rotted in the hulls, they tell odd stories about you and your
guest: eh? no matter: the ships
Ooze pitch and the August road smokes dirt, I smell like an
old shepherd's goatskin, you'll have bath-water?
CLYTEMNESTRA
They're making it hot. Come, my lord. My hands will pour it.
(They enter the palace.)
CASSANDRA
In the holy city,
In Troy, when the stone was standing walls and the ash
Was painted and carved wood and pictured curtains,
And those lived that are dead, they had caged a den
Of wolves out of the mountain, and I a maiden
Was led to see them: it stank and snarled,
The smell was the smell here, the eyes were the eyes
Of steep Mycenae: O God guardian of wanderers
Let me die easily.
So cried Cassandra the daughter of King Priam, treading the steps
of the palace at Mycenae.
Swaying like a drunken woman, drunk with the rolling of the
ship, and with tears, and with prophecy.
The stair may yet be seen, among the old stones that are Mycenae;
tall dark Cassandra, the prophetess,
The beautiful girl with whom a God bargained for love, high-nurtured,
captive, shamefully stained
With the ship's filth and the sea's, rolled her dark head upon her
shoulders like a drunken woman
And trod the great stones of the stair. The captives, she among
them, were ranked into a file
On the flagged porch, between the parapet and the spearmen.
The people below shouted for the King,
King Agamemnon, returned conqueror, after the ten years of
battle and death in Asia.
Then cried Cassandra:
Good spearmen you did not kill my father, not you
Violated my mother with the piercing
That makes no life in the womb, not you defiled
My tall blond brothers with the masculine lust
That strikes its loved one standing,
And leaves him what no man again nor a girl
Ever will gaze upon with the eyes of desire:
Therefore you'll tell me
Whether it's an old custom in the Greek country
The cow goring the bull, break the inner door back
And see in what red water how cloaked your King
Bathes, and my brothers are avenged a little.
One said: Captive be quiet. And she: What have I to be quiet for,
you will not believe me.
Such wings my heart spreads when the red runs out of any
Greek, I must let the bird fly. O soldiers
He that mishandled me dies! The first, one of your two brute
Aj axes, that threw me backward
On the temple flagstones, a hard bride-bed, I enduring him
heard the roofs of my city breaking,
The roar of flames and spearmen: what came to Ajax? Out of a
cloud the loud-winged falcon lightning
Came on him shipwrecked, clapped its wings about him, clung
to him, the violent flesh burned and the bones
Broke from each other in that passion; and now this one, returned
safe, the Queen is his lightning.
While she yet spoke a slave with haggard eyes darted from the
door; there were hushed cries and motions
In the inner dark of the great hall. Then the Queen Clytemnestra
issued, smiling. She drew
Her cloak up, for the brooch on the left shoulder was broken; the
fillet of her hair had come unbound;
Yet now she was queenly at length; and standing at the stair-head
spoke: Men of Mycenae, I have made
Sacrifice for the joy this day has brought to us, the King come
home, the enemy fallen, fallen,
In the ashes of Asia. I have made sacrifice. I made the prayer
with my own lips, and struck the bullock
With my own hand. The people murmured together, She's not
a priestess, the Queen is not a priestess,
What has she done there, what wild sayings
Make wing in the Queen's throat?
CLYTEMNESTRA I have something to tell you.
Too much joy is a message-bearer of misery.
A little is good; but come too much and it devours us. Therefore
we give of a great harvest
Sheaves to the smiling Gods; and therefore out of a full cup we
pour the quarter. No man
Dare take all that God sends him, whom God favors, or destruction
Rides into the house in the last basket. I have been twelve years
your shepherdess, I the Queen have ruled you
And I am accountable for you.
CASSANDRA
Why should a man kill his own mother?
The cub of the lion being grown
Will fight with the lion, but neither lion nor wolf
Nor the unclean jackal
Bares tooth against the womb that he dropped out of:
Yet I have seen
CLYTEMNESTRA
Strike that captive woman with your hand, spearman; and then
if the spirit
Of the she-wolf in her will not quiet, with the butt of the spear.
CASSANDRA -the blade in the child's hand
Enter the breast that the child sucked-that woman's-
The left breast that the robe has dropped from, for the brooch is
broken,
That very hillock of whiteness, and she crying, she kneeling
(The spearman 'who is nearest CASSANDRA covers her mouth
twith his hand.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
My sister's beauty entered Troy with too much gladness. They
forgot to make sacrifice.
Therefore destruction entered; therefore the daughters of Troy
cry out in strange dispersals, and this one
Grief has turned mad. I will not have that horror march under
the Lion-gate of Mycenae
That split the citadel of Priam. Therefore I say I have made
sacrifice; I have subtracted
A fraction from immoderate joy. For consider, my people,
How unaccountably God has favored the city and brought home
the army. King Agamemnon,
My dear, my husband, my lord and yours,
Is yet not such a man as the Gods love; but insolent, fierce, overbearing,
whose folly
Brought many times many great evils
On all the heads and fighting hopes of the Greek force. Why,
even before the fleet made sail,
While yet it gathered on Boeotian Aulis, this man offended. He
slew one of the deer
Of the sacred herd of Artemis, out of pure impudence, hunter's
pride that froths in a young boy
Laying nock to string of his first bow: this man, grown, a grave
king, leader of the Greeks.
The angry Goddess
Blew therefore from the horn of the Trojan shore storm without
end, no slackening, no turn, no slumber
Of the eagle bound to break the oars of the fleet and split the
hulls venturing: you know what answer
Calchas the priest gave: his flesh must pay whose hand did the
evil-his flesh! mine also. His? My daughter.
They knew that of my three there was one that I loved.
Blameless white maid, my Iphigenia, whose throat the knife,
Whose delicate soft throat the thing that cuts sheep open was
drawn across by a priest's hand
And the soft-colored lips drained bloodless
That had clung here-here- Oh!
(Drawing the robe from her breasts.)
These feel soft, townsmen; these are red at the tips, they have
neither blackened nor turned marble.
King Agamemnon hoped to pillow his black-haired breast upon
them, my husband, that mighty conqueror,
Come home with glory. He thought they were still a woman's,
they appear a woman's. I'll tell you something.
Since fawn slaughtered for slaughtered fawn evened the debt
these that feel soft and warm are wounding ice,
They ache with their hardness . . .
Shall I go on and count the other follies of the King? The
insolences to God and man
That brought down plague, and brought Achilles' anger against
the army? Yet God brought home a remnant
Against all hope: therefore rejoice.
But lest too much rejoicing slay us I have made sacrifice. A little
girl's brought you over the sea.
What could be great enough for safe return? A sheep's death?
A bull's? What thank-offering?
All these captives, battered from the ships, bruised with captivity,
damaged flesh and forlorn minds?
God requires wholeness in the victim. You dare not think what
he demands. I dared. I, I,
Dared.
Men of the Argolis, you that went over the sea and you that
guarded the home coasts
And high stone war-belts of the cities: remember how many
spearmen these twelve years have called me
Queen, and have loved me, and been faithful, and remain faithful.
What I bring you is accomplished.
VOICES
King Agamemnon. The King. We will hear the King.
CLYTEMNESTRA What I bring you is accomplished.
Accept it, the cities are at peace, the ways are safe between
them, the Gods favor us. Refuse it ...
You will not refuse it ...
VOICES The King. We will hear the King. Let
us see the King.
CLYTEMNESTRA
You will not refuse it; I have my faithful They would run, the
red rivers,
From the gate and by the graves through every crooked street
of the great city, they would run in the pasture
Outside the walls: and on this stair: stemmed at this entrance-
CASSANDRA
Ah, sister, do you also behold visions? I was watching red
water-
CLYTEMNESTRA
Be wise, townsmen. As for the King: slaves will bring him to you
when he has bathed; you will see him.
The slaves will carry him on a litter, he has learned Asian ways in
Asia, too great a ruler
To walk, like common spearmen.
CASSANDRA Who is that, standing behind
you, Clytemnestra? What God
Dark in the doorway?
CLYTEMNESTRA Deal you with your own demons. You
know what I have done, captive. You know
I am holding lions with my two eyes: if I turn and loose
them . . .
CASSANDRA It is . . . the King. There! There! Ah!
CLYTEMNESTRA
Or of I should make any move to increase confusion. If I should
say for example, Spearman
Kill that woman. I cannot say it this moment; so little as from
one spear wound in your body
A trickle would loose them on us.
CASSANDRA Yet he stands behind you.
A-ah! I can bear it. I have seen much lately
Worse.
A CAPTAIN (down the stair; standing forward from his men)
O Queen, there is no man in the world, but one (if that one
lives), may ask you to speak
Otherwise than you will. You have spoken in riddles to the
people . . .
CASSANDRA Not me! Why will you choose
Me! I submitted to you living, I was forced, you entered me . . .
THE CAPTAIN Also there was a slave here,
Whose eyes stood out from his chalk face, came buzzing from
the palace postern gate, whimpering
A horrible thing. I killed him. But the men have heard it.
CASSANDRA You were the king, I was your slave.
Here you see, here, I took the black-haired breast of the bull,
I endured it, I opened my thighs, I suffered
The other thing besides death that you Greeks have to give
us ...
THE CAPTAIN Though this one raves and you are silent,
Queen, terrible-eyed . . .
CASSANDRA That was the slave's part: but this
time . . . dead King . . .
I ... will . . . not submit. Ah! Ah! No!
If you will steal the body of someone living take your wife's,
take that soldier's there
THE CAPTAIN
I pray you Queen command the captive woman be quieted in a
stone chamber; she increases confusion,
The soldiers cannot know some terrible thing may not have
happened; you men and the King's grin
Like wolves over the kill, the whole city totters on a swordedge
over sudden
CASSANDRA (screaming)
Drive him off me! Pity, pity!
I have no power; I thought when he was dead another man would
use me, your Greek custom,
Not he, he, newly slain.
He is driving me out, he enters, he possesses, this is my last defilement.
Ah . . . Greeks . . .
Pity Cassandra!
With the voice the spirit seemed to fly out.
She upflung her shining
Arms with the dreadful and sweet gesture of a woman surrendering
utterly to force and love,
She in the eyes of the people, like a shameless woman, and fell
writhing, and the dead King's soul
Entered her body. In that respite the Queen:
Captain: and you,
soldiers, that shift unsoldierly
The weapons that should be upright, at attention, like stiff
grass-blades: and you, people of Mycenae:
While this one maddened, and you muttered, echoing together,
and you, soldier, with anxious questions
Increased confusion: who was it that stood firm, who was it that
stood silent, who was it that held
With her two eyes the whole city from splitting wide asunder?
Your Queen was it? I am your Queen,
And now I will answer what you asked. ... It is true. . . . He
has died. ... I am the Queen.
My little son Orestes will grow up and govern you.
While she
spoke the body of Cassandra
Arose among the shaken spears, taller than the spears, and stood
among the waving spears
Stone-quiet, like a high war-tower in a windy pinewood, but
deadly to look at, with blind and tyrannous
Eyes; and the Queen: All is accomplished; and if you are wise,
people of Mycenae: quietness is wisdom.
No tumult will call home a dead man out of judgment. The end
is the end. Ah, soldiers! Down spears!
What, now Troy's fallen you think there's not a foreigner in
the world bronze may quench thirst on? Lion-cubs,
If you will tear each other in the lair happy the wolves, happy
the hook-nose vultures.
Call the eaters of carrion? I am your Queen, I am speaking to
you, you will hear me out before you whistle
The foul beaks from the mountain nest. I tell you I will forget
mercy if one man moves now.
I rule you, I.
The Gods have satisfied themselves in this man's death; there
shall not one drop of the blood of the city
Be shed further. I say the high Gods are content; as for the
lower,
And the great ghost of the King: my slaves will bring out the
King's body decently before you
And set it here, in the eyes of the city: spices the ships bring from
the south will comfort his spirit;
Mycenae and Tiryns and the shores will mourn him aloud; sheep
will be slain for him; a hundred beeves
Spill their thick blood into the trenches; captives and slaves go
down to serve him, yes all these captives
Burn in the ten-day fire with him, unmeasured wine quench it,
urned in pure gold the gathered ashes
Rest forever in the sacred rock; honored; a conqueror. . . .
Slaves, bring the King out of the house.
Alas my husband! she cried, clutching the brown strands of her
hair in both her hands, you have left me
A woman among lions! Ah, the King's power, ah the King's
victories! Weep for me, Mycenae!
Widowed of the King!
The people stood amazed, like sheep that
snuff at their dead shepherd, some hunter's
Ill-handled arrow having struck him from the covert, all by
mischance; he is fallen on the hillside
Between the oak-shadow and the stream; the sun burns his dead
face, his staff lies by him, his dog
Licks his hand, whining. So, like sheep, the people
Regarded that dead majesty whom the slaves brought out of the
house on a gold bed, and set it
Between the pillars of the porch. His royal robe covered his
wounds, there was no stain
Nor discomposure.
Then that captain who had spoken before:
O Queen, before the mourning
The punishment: tell us who has done this. She raised her head,
and not a woman but a lioness
Blazed at him from her eyes: Dog, she answered, dog of the
army,
Who said Speak dog, and you dared speak? Justice is mine.
Then he was silent; but Cassandra's
Body standing tall among the spears, over the parapet, her body
but not her spirit
Cried with a man's voice: Shall not even the stones of the stair,
shall not the stones under the columns
Speak, and the towers of the great wall of my city come down
against the murderess? O Mycenae
I yearned to night and day under the tents by Troy, O Tiryns,
O Mycenae, the door
Of death, and the gate before the door!
CLYTEMNESTRA That woman lies, or the
spirit of a lie cries from her. Spearman,
Kill that woman!
But Cassandra's body set its back against the
parapet, its face
Terribly fronting the raised knife; and called the soldier by his
name, in the King's voice, saying
Sheathe it; and the knife lowered, and the soldier
Fell on his knees before the King in the woman's body; and the
body of Cassandra cried from the parapet:
Horrible things, horrible things this house has witnessed: but here
is the most vile, that hundreds
Of spears are idle while the murderess, Clytemnestra the murderess,
the snake that came upon me
Naked and bathing, the death that lay with me in bed, the death
that has borne children to me,
Stands there unslain.
CLYTEMNESTRA Cowards, if the bawling of that bewildered
heifer from Troy fields has frightened you
How did you bear the horns of her brothers? Bring her to me.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
Let no man doubt, men of Mycenae,
She has yet the knife hid in her clothes, the very blade that
stabbed her husband and the blood is on it.
Look, she handles it now. Look, fellows. The hand under the
robe. Slay her not easily, that she-wolf.
Do her no honor with a spear! Ah! If I could find the word, if
I could find it,
The name of her, to say husband-slayer and bed-defiler, bitch
and wolf-bitch, king's assassin
And beast, beast, beast, all in one breath, in one word: spearmen
You would heap your shields over this woman and crush her
slowly, slowly, while she choked and screamed,
No, you would peel her bare and on the pavement for a bridebed
with a spear-butt for husband
Dig the lewd womb until it burst: this for Agamemnon, this for
Aegisthus Agh, cowards of the city
Do you stand quiet?
CLYTEMNESTRA Truly, soldiers,
I think it is he verily. No one could invent the abominable voice,
the unspeakable gesture,
The actual raging insolence of the tyrant. I am the hand ridded
the Argolis of him.
I here, I killed him, I, justly.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA You have heard her, you have
heard her, she has made confession.
Now if she'll show you the knife too
CLYTEMNESTRA Here. I kept it for safety.
And, as that beast said, his blood's yet on it.
Look at it, with so little a key I unlocked the kingdom of destruction.
Stand firm, till a God
Lead home this ghost to the dark country
So many Greeks have peopled, through his crimes, his violence,
his insolence, stand firm till that moment
And through the act of this hand and of this point no man shall
suffer anything again forever
Of Agamemnon.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
I say if you let this woman live, this crime go
unpunished, what man among you
Will be safe in his bed? The woman ever envies the man, his
strength, his freedom, his loves.
Her envy is like a snake beside him, all his life through, her envy
and hatred: law tames that viper:
Law dies if the Queen die not: the viper is free then.
It will be poison in your meat or a knife to bleed you sleeping.
They fawn and slaver over us
And then we are slain.
CLYTEMNESTRA (to one of the slaves that carried the King’s
body)
Is my lord Aegisthus
Slain on the way? How long? How long?
(To the people) He
came, fat with his crimes.
Greek valor broke down Troy, your valor, soldiers, and the brain
of Odysseus, the battle-fury of Achilles,
The stubborn strength of Menelaus, the excellence of you all:
this dead man here, his pride
Ruined you a hundred times: he helped nowise, he brought bitter
destruction: but he gathered your glory
For the cloak of his shoulders. I saw him come up the stair, I saw
my child Iphigenia
Killed for his crime; I saw his harlot, the captive woman there,
crying out behind him, I saw . . .
I saw ... I saw . . . how can I speak what crowd of the dead
faces of the faithful Greeks,
Your brothers, dead of his crimes; those that perished of plague
and those that died in the lost battles
After he had soured the help of Achilles for another harlot
those dead faces of your brothers,
Some black with the death-blood, many trampled under the
hooves of horses, many spotted with pestilence,
Flew all about him, all lamenting, all crying out against him,
horrible horrible I gave them
Vengeance; and you freedom.
(To the slave) Go up and look,
for God's sake, go up to the parapets,
Look toward the mountain. Bring me word quickly, my strength
breaks,
How can I hold all the Argolis with my eyes forever? I alone?
Hell cannot hold her dead men,
Keep watch there-send me word by others-go, go!
(To the people) He
came triumphing.
Magnificent, abominable, all in bronze.
I brought him to the bath; my hands undid the armor;
My hands poured out the water;
Dead faces like flies buzzed all about us;
He stripped himself before me, loathsome, unclean, with laughter;
The labors of the Greeks had made him fat, the deaths of the
faithful had swelled his belly;
I threw a cloak over him for a net and struck, struck, struck,
Blindly, in the steam of the bath; he bellowed, netted,
And bubbled in the water;
All the stone vault asweat with steam bellowed;
And I undid the net and the beast was dead, and the broad vessel
Stank with his blood.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
The word! The word! O burning mind of Godr
If ever I gave you bulls teach me that word, the name for her,
the name for her!
A SLAVE (running from the door; to CLYTEMNESTRA)
My lord. Aegisthus has come down the mountain, Queen, he
approaches the Lion-gate.
CLYTEMNESTRA It is time. I am tired now.
Meet him and tell him to come in the postern doorway.
THE CAPTAIN (on the stair: addressing the soldiers and the people
below)
Companions: before God, hating the smell of crimes, crushes the
city into gray ashes
We must make haste. Judge now and act. For the husband-slayer
I say she must die, let her pay forfeit. And for the great ghost
of the King, let all these captives,
But chiefly the woman Cassandra, the crier in a man's voice there,
be slain upon his pyre to quiet him.
He will go down to his dark place and God will spare the city.
(To the soldiers above, on the ramp and the porch)
Comrades: Mycenae is greater
Than the Queen of Mycenae. The King is dead: let the Queen
die: let the city live. Comrades,
We suffered something in Asia, on the stranger's coast, laboring
for you. We dreamed of home there
In the bleak wind and drift of battle; we continued ten years,
laboring and dying; we accomplished
The task set us; we gathered what will make all the Greek cities
glorious, a name forever;
We shared the spoil, taking our share to enrich Mycenae. O but
our hearts burned then, O comrades
But our hearts melted when the great oars moved the ships, the
water carried us, the blue sea-waves
Slid under the black keel; I could not see them, I was blind with
tears, thinking of Mycenae.
We have come home. Behold the dear streets of our longing,
The stones that we desired, the steep ways of the city and the
sacred doorsteps
Reek and steam with pollution, the accursed vessel
Spills a red flood over the floors.
The fountain of it stands there and calls herself the Queen. No
Queen, no Queen, that husband-slayer,
A common murderess. Comrades join us
We will make clean the city and sweeten it before God. We
will mourn together at the King's burying,
And a good year will come, we will rejoice together.
CLYTEMNESTRA Dog, you dare
something. Fling no spear, soldiers,
He has a few fools back of him would attempt the stair if the
dog were slain: I will have no one
Killed out of need.
ONE OF HER MEN ON THE PORCH (flinging his spear)
Not at him: at you
Murderess!
But some God, no lover of justice, turned it; the
great bronze tip grazing her shoulder
Clanged on the stones behind: the gong of a change in the dance:
now Clytemnestra, none to help her,
One against all, swayed raging by the King's corpse, over the
golden bed: it is said that a fire
Stood visibly over her head, mixed in the hair, pale flames and
radiance.
CLYTEMNESTRA Here am I, thieves, thieves,
Drunkards, here is my breast, a deep white mark for cowards to
aim at: kings have lain on it.
No spear yet, heroes, heroes?
See, I have no blemish: the arms are white, the breasts are deep
and white, the whole body is blemishless:
You are tired of your brown wives, draw lots for me, rabble,
thieves, there is loot here, shake the dice, thieves, a game yet!
One of you will take the bronze and one the silver,
One the gold, and one me,
Me Clytemnestra a spoil worth having:
Kings have kissed me, this dead dog was a king, there is another
King at the gate: thieves, thieves, would not this shining
Breast brighten a sad thief's hut, roll in his bed's filth
Shiningly? You could teach me to draw water at the fountain,
A dirty child on the other hip: where are the dice? Let me
throw first, if I throw sixes
I choose my masters: closer you rabble, let me smell you.
Don't fear the knife, it has king's blood on it, I keep it for an
ornament,
It has shot its sting.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Fools, fools, Strike!
Are your hands dead?
CLYTEMNESTRA You Would see all of me
Before you choose whether to kill or dirtily cherish? If what
the King's used needs commending
To the eyes of thieves for thieves' use: give me room, give me
room, fellows, you'll see it is faultless.
The dress . . . there . . .
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Fools this wide whore played wife
When she was going about to murder me the King; you, will
you let her trip you
With the harlot's trick? Strike! Make an end!
CLYTEMNESTRA I have not my
sister's, Troy's flame's beauty, but I have something.
This arm, round, firm, skin without hair, polished like marble:
the supple-jointed shoulders:
Men have praised the smooth neck, too,
The strong clear throat over the deep wide breasts . . .
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA She is
buying an hour: sheep: it may be Aegisthus
Is at the Lion-gate.
CLYTEMNESTRA If he were here, Aegisthus,
I’d not be the pedlar of what trifling charms I have for an
hour of life yet. You have wolves' eyes:
Yet there is something kindly about the blue ones there yours,
young soldier, young soldier. . . . The last,
The under-garment? You won't buy me yet? This dead dog,
The King here, never saw me naked: I had the night for nurse:
turn his head sideways, the eyes
Are only half shut. If I should touch him, and the blood came,
you'd say I had killed him. Nobody, nobody,
Killed him: his pride burst.
Ah, no one has pity!
I can serve well, I have always envied your women, the public ones.
Who takes me first? Tip that burnt log onto the flagstones,
This will be in a king's bed then. Your eyes are wolves' eyes:
So many, so many, so famishing
I will undo it, handle me not yet, I can undo it ...
Or I will tear it.
And when it is off me then I will be delivered to you beasts . . .
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
Then strip her and use her to the bones, wear her through, kill
her with it.
CLYTEMNESTRA
When it is torn
You'll say I am lovely: no one has seen before . . .
It won't tear: I'll slit it with this knife
(Aegisthus, with many spearmen, issues from the great door.
CLYTEMNESTRA stabs right and left with the knife; the
men are too close to strike her with their long spears.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
It's time. Cowards, goats, goats. Here! Aegisthus!
Aegisthus
I am here. What have they done?
CLYTEMNESTRA
Nothing: clear the porch: I have done something. Drive them
on the stair!
Three of them I've scarred for life: a rough bridegroom, the
rabble, met a fierce bride.
(She catches up her robe.)
I held them with my eyes, hours, hours. I am not tired. . . .
My lord, my lover:
I have killed a twelve-point stag for a present for you: with my
own hands: look, on the golden litter.
You arrive timely.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
Tricked, stabbed, shamed, mocked at, the spoil of a lewd woman,
despised
I lie there ready for her back-stairs darling to spit on. Tricked,
stabbed, sunk in the drain
And gutter of time. I that thundered the assault, I that mustered
the Achaeans. Cast out of my kingdom,
Cast out of time, out of the light.
CLYTEMNESTRA One of the captives, dear.
It left its poor wits
Over the sea. If it annoys you I'll quiet it. But post your sentinels.
All's not safe yet, though I am burning with joy now.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA O single-eyed
glare of the sky
Flying southwest to the mountain: sun, through a slave's eyes,
My own broken, I see you this last day; my own darkened, no
dawn forever; the adulterers
Will swim in your warm gold, day after day; the eyes of the
murderess will possess you;
And I have gone away down: knowing that no God in the earth
nor sky loves justice; and having tasted
The toad that serves women for heart. From now on may all
bridegrooms
Marry them with swords. Those that have borne children
Their sons rape them with spears.
CLYTEMNESTRA More yet, more, more, more,
while my hand's in? It's not a little
You easily living lords of the sky require of who'd be like you,
who'd take time in the triumph,
Build joy solid. Do we have to do everything? I have killed
what I hated:
Kill what I love? The prophetess said it, this dead man says it:
my little son, the small soft image
That squirmed in my arms be an avenger? Love, from your loins
Seed: I begin new, I will be childless for you. The child my son,
the child my daughter!
Though I cry I feel nothing.
AEGISTHUS O strongest spirit in the world.
We have dared enough, there is an end to it.
We may pass nature a little, an arrow-flight,
But two shots over the wall you come in a cloud upon the feasting
Gods, lightning and madness.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Dear: make them safe. They may try to run away, the children.
Set spears to watch them: no harm, no harm,
But stab the nurse if they go near a door. Watch them, keep the
gates, order the sentinels,
While I make myself Queen over this people again. I can do it.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA The sun's gone; that glimmer's
The moon of the dead. The dark God calls me. Yes, God,
I'll come in a moment.
CLYTEMNESTRA (at the head of the great stairs)
Soldiers: townsmen: it seems
I am not at the end delivered to you: dogs, for the lion came:
the poor brown and spotted women
Will have to suffice you. But is it nothing to have come within
handling distance of the clear heaven
This dead man knew when he was young and God endured him?
Is it nothing to you?
It is something to me to have felt the fury
And concentration of you: I will not say I am grateful: I am
not angry: to be desired
Is wine even to a queen. You bathed me in it, from brow to foot-sole,
I had nearly enough.
But now remember that the dream is over. I am the Queen:
Mycenae is my city. If you grin at me
I have spears: also Tiryns and all the country people of the
Argolis will come against you and swallow you,
Empty out these ways and walls, stock them with better subjects.
A rock nest for new birds here, townsfolk:
You are not essential.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA. I hear him calling through the shewolf's
noise, Agamemnon, Agamemnon,
The dark God calls. Some old king in a fable is it?
CLYTEMNESTRA So choose.
What choices? To reenter my service
Unpunished, no thought of things past, free of conditions . . .
Or dine at this man's table, have new mouths made in you to
eat bronze with.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Who is Agamemnon?
CLYTEMNESTRA
You letting go of the sun: is it dark the land you are running
away to?
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA It is dark.
CLYTEMNESTRA IS it Sorrowful?
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
There is nothing but misery.
CLYTEMNESTRA Has any man ever come back thence?
Hear me, not the dark God.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA No man has ever.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Go then, go, go down. You will not choose to follow him, people
of the rock-city? No one
Will choose to follow him. I have killed: it is easy: it may be
I shall kill nearer than this yet:
But not you, townsfolk, you will give me no cause; I want
security; I want service, not blood.
I have been desired of the whole city, publicly; I want service,
not lust. You will make no sign
Of your submission; you will not give up your weapons; neither
shall your leaders be slain;
And he that flung the spear, I have forgotten his face.
AEGISTHUS (entering) Dearest,
they have gone, the nurse and the children,
No one knows where.
CLYTEMNESTRA I am taming this people: send men after
them. If any harm comes to the children
Bring me tokens. I will not be in doubt, I will not have the arch
fall on us. I dare
What no one dares. I envy a little the dirty mothers of the city.
O, O!
Nothing in me hurts. I have animal waters in my eyes, but the
spirit is not wounded. Electra and Orestes
Are not to live when they are caught. Bring me sure tokens.
CASSANDRA Who is this woman like a beacon
Lit on the stair, who are these men with dogs' heads?
I have ranged time and seen no sight like this one.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Have you returned, Cassandra? . . . The dead king has gone
down to his place, we may bury his leavings.
CASSANDRA
I have witnessed all the wars to be; I am not sorrowful
For one drop from the pail of desolation
Spilt on my father's city; they were carrying it forward
To water the world under the latter starlight.
CLYTEMNESTRA (to her slaves)
Take up the poles of the bed; reverently; careful on the stair;
give him to the people. (To the people) O soldiers
This was your leader; lay him with honor in the burial-chapel;
guard him with the spears of victory;
Mourn him until to-morrow, when the pyre shall be built.
Ah, King of men, sleep, sleep, sleep!
. . . But when shall I? ... They are after their corpse, like
dogs after the butcher's cart. Cleomenes, that captain
With the big voice: Neobulus was the boy who flung the spear
and missed. I shall not miss
When spear-flinging-time comes. . . . Captive woman, you have
seen the future, tell me my fortune.
(Aegisthus comes from the doorway.)
Aegisthus,
Have your hounds got them?
AEGISTHUS I've covered every escape with men,
they'll not slip through me. But commanded
To bring them here living.
CLYTEMNESTRA That's hard: tigresses don't do it: I
have some strength yet: don't speak of it
And I shall do it.
AEGISTHUS It is a thing not to be done: we'll guard them
closely: but mere madness
Lies over the wall of too-much.
CLYTEMNESTRA King of Mycenae, new-crowned
king, who was your mother?
AEGISTHUS Pelopia.
What mark do you aim at?
CLYTEMNESTRA And your father?
AEGISTHUS Thyestes.
CLYTEMNESTRA And her father?
AEGISTHUS The
same man, Thyestes.
CLYTEMNESTRA
See, dearest, dearest? They love what men call crime, they have
taken her crime to be the king of Mycenae.
Here is the stone garden of the plants that pass nature: there is
no too-much here: the monstrous
Old rocks want monstrous roots to serpent among them. I will
have security. I'd burn the standing world
Up to this hour and begin new. You think I am too much used
for a new brood? Ah, lover,
I have fountains in me. I had a fondness for the brown cheek
of that boy, the curl of his
lip,
The widening blue of the doomed eyes ... I will be spared
nothing. Come in, come in, they'll have news for us.
no
CASSANDRA
If anywhere in the world
Were a tower with foundations, or a treasure-chamber
With a firm vault, or a walled fortress
That stood on the years, not staggering, not moving
As the mortar were mixed with wine for water
And poppy for lime: they reel, they are all drunkards,
The piled strengths of the world: no pyramid
In bitter Egypt in the desert
But skips at moonrise; no mountain
Over the Black Sea in awful Caucasus
But whirls like a young kid, like a bud of the herd,
Under the hundredth star: I am sick after steadfastness
Watching the world cataractlike
Pour screaming onto steep ruins: for the wings of prophecy
God once my lover give me stone sandals
Planted on stone: he hates me, the God, he will never
Take home the gift of the bridleless horse
The stallion, the unbitted stallion: the bed
Naked to the sky on Mount Ida,
The soft clear grass there,
Be blackened forever, may vipers and Greeks
In that glen breed
Twisting together, where the God
Come golden from the sun
Gave me for a bride-gift prophecy and I took it for a treasure:
I a fool, I a maiden,
I would not let him touch me though love of him maddened me
Till he fed me that poison, till he planted that fire in me,
The girdle flew loose then.

The Queen considered this rock, she gazed on the great stone
blocks of Mycenae's acropolis;
Monstrous they seemed to her, solid they appeared to her, safe
rootage for monstrous deeds: Ah fierce one
Who knows who laid them for a snare? What people in the
world's dawn breathed on chill air and the vapor
Of their breath seemed stone and has stood and you dream it is
established? These also are a foam on the stream
Of the falling of the world: there is nothing to lay hold on:
No crime is a crime, the slaying of the King was a meeting of
two bubbles on the lip of the cataract,
One winked . . . and the killing of your children would be
nothing: I tell you for a marvel that the earth is a dancer,
The grave dark earth is less quiet than a fool's fingers,
That old one, spinning in the emptiness, blown by no wind in
vain circles, light-witted and a dancer.
CLYTEMNESTRA (entering)
You are prophesying: prophesy to a purpose, captive woman.
My children, the boy and the girl,
Have wandered astray, no one can find them.
CASSANDRA Shall I tell the lioness
Where meat is, or the she-wolf where the lambs wander astray?
CLYTEMNESTRA But look into the darkness
And foam of the world: the boy has great tender blue eyes,
brown hair, disdainful lips, you'll know him
By the gold stripe bordering his garments; the girl's eyes are
my color, white her clothing
CASSANDRA Millions
Of shining bubbles burst and wander
On the stream of the world falling . . .
CLYTEMNESTRA These are my children!
CASSANDRA I see
mountains, I see no faces.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Tell me and I make you free; conceal it from me and a soldier's
spear finishes the matter.
CASSANDRA
I am the spear's bride, I have been waiting, waiting for that
ecstasy
CLYTEMNESTRA (striking her) Live then. It will not be unpainful.
(CLYTEMNESTRA goes in.)
CASSANDRA
O fair roads north where the land narrows
Over the mountains between the great gulfs,
that I too with the King's children
Might wander northward hand in hand.
Mine are worse wanderings:
They will shelter on Mount Parnassus,
For me there is no mountain firm enough,
The storms of light beating on the headlands,
The storms of music undermine the mountains, they stumble
and fall inward,
Such music the stars
Make in their courses, the vast vibration
Plucks the iron heart of the earth like a harp-string.
Iron and stone core, O stubborn axle of the earth, you also
Dissolving in a little time like salt in water,
What does it matter that I have seen Macedon
Roll all the Greek cities into one billow and strand in Asia
The anthers and bracts of the flower of the world?
That I have seen Egypt and Nineveh
Crumble, and a Latian village
Plant the earth with javelins? It made laws for all men, it dissolved
like a cloud.
I have also stood watching a storm of wild swans
Rise from one river-mouth . . . O force of the earth rising,
O fallings of the earth: forever no rest, not forever
From the wave and the trough, from the stream and the slack,
from growth and decay: O vulture-
Pinioned, my spirit, one flight yet, last, longest, unguided,
Try into the gulf,
Over Greece, over Rome, you have space O my spirit for the
years

II
Are not few of captivity: how many have I stood here
Among the great stones, while the Queen's people
Go in and out of the gate, wearing light linen
For summer and the wet spoils of wild beasts
In the season of storms: and the stars have changed, I have
watched
The grievous and unprayed-to constellations
Pile steaming spring and patient autumn
Over the enduring walls: but you over the walls of the world,
Over the unquieted centuries, over the darkness-hearted
Millenniums wailing thinly to be born, O vulture-pinioned
Try into the dark,
Watch the north spawn white bodies and red-gold hair,
Race after race of beastlike warriors; and the cities
Burn, and the cities build, and new lands be uncovered
In the way of the sun to his setting ... go on farther, what
profit
In the wars and the toils? but I say
Where are prosperous people my enemies are, as you pass them
O my spirit
Curse Athens for the joy and the marble, curse Corinth
For the wine and the purple, and Syracuse
For the gold and the ships; but Rome, Rome,
With many destructions for the corn and the laws and the javelins,
the insolence, the threefold
Abominable power: pass the humble
And the lordships of darkness, but far down
Smite Spain for the blood on the sunset gold, curse France
For the fields abounding and the running rivers, the lights in the
cities, the laughter, curse England
For the meat on the tables and the terrible gray ships, for old
laws, far dominions, there remains
A mightier to be cursed and a higher for malediction
When America has eaten Europe and takes tribute of Asia, when
the ends of the world grow aware of each other
And are dogs in one kennel, they will tear
The master of the hunt with the mouths of the pack: new fallings,
new risings, O winged one
No end of the fallings and risings? An end shall be surely,
Though unnatural things are accomplished, they breathe in the
sea's depth,
They swim in the air, they bridle the cloud-leaper lightning to
carry their messages:
Though the eagles of the east and the west and the falcons of
the north were not quieted, you have seen a white cloth
Cover the lands from the north and the eyes of the lands and the
claws of the hunters,
The mouths of the hungry with snow
Were filled, and their claws
Took hold upon ice in the pasture, a morsel of ice was their
catch in the rivers,
That pure white quietness
Waits on the heads of the mountains, not sleep but death, will
the fire
Of burnt cities and ships in that year warm you my enemies?
The frost, the old frost,
Like a cat with a broken-winged bird it will play with you,
It will nip and let go; you will say it is gone, but the next
Season it increases: O clean, clean,
White and most clean, colorless quietness,
Without trace, without trail, without stain in the garment, drawn
down
From the poles to the girdle. ... I have known one Godhead
To my sore hurt: I am growing to come to another: O grave
and kindly
Last of the lords of the earth, I pray you lead my substance
Speedily into another shape, make me grass, Death, make me
stone,
Make me air to wander free between the stars and the peaks;
but cut humanity
Out of my being, that is the wound that festers in me,
Not captivity, not my enemies: you will heal the earth also,
Death, in your time; but speedily Cassandra.
You rock-fleas hopping in the clefts of Mycenae,
Suckers of blood, you carrying the scepter farther, Persian,
Emathian,
Roman and Mongol and American, and you half-gods
Indian and Syrian and the third, emperors of peace, I have seen
on what stage
You sing the little tragedy; the column of the ice that was before
on one side flanks it,
The column of the ice to come closes it up on the other: audience
nor author
I have never seen yet: I have heard the silence: it is I Cassandra,
Eight years the bitter watchdog of these doors,
Have watched a vision
And now approach to my end. Eight years I have seen the
phantoms
Walk up and down this stair; and the rocks groan in the night,
the great stones move when no man sees them.
And I have forgotten the fine ashlar masonry of the courts of my
father. I am not Cassandra
But a counter of sunrises, permitted to live because I am crying
to die; three thousand,
Pale and red, have flowed over the towers in the wall since I was
here watching; the deep east widens,
The cold wind blows, the deep earth sighs, the dim gray finger
of light crooks at the morning star.
The palace feasted late and sleeps with its locked doors; the last
drunkard from the alleys of the city
Long has reeled home. Whose foot is this then, what phantom
Toils on the stair?
A VOICE BELOW Is someone watching above? Good sentinel I
am only a girl beggar.
I would sit on the stair and hold my bowl.
CASSANDRA I here eight years have
begged for a thing and not received it.
THE VOICE
You are not a sentinel? You have been asking some great boon,
out of all reason.
CASSANDRA No: what the meanest
Beggar disdains to take.
THE GIRL BEGGAR Beggars disdain nothing: what is it that
they refuse you?
CASSANDRA What's given
Even to the sheep and to the bullock.
THE GIRL Men give them salt, grass
they find out for themselves.
CASSANDRA Men give them
The gift that you though a beggar have brought down from the
north to give my mistress.
THE GIRL You speak riddles.
I am starving, a crust is my desire.
CASSANDRA Your voice is young though
winds have hoarsened it, your body appears
Flexible under the rags: have you some hidden sickness, the
young men will not give you silver?
THE GIRL
I have a sickness: I will hide it until I am cured. You are not
a Greek woman?
CASSANDRA But you
Born in Mycenae return home. And you bring gifts from Phocis:
for my once master who's dead
Vengeance; and for my mistress peace, for my master the King
peace, and, by-shot of the doom's day,
Peace for me also. But I have prayed for it.
THE GIRL I know you, I knew
you before you spoke to me, captive woman,
And I unarmed will kill you with my hands if you babble
prophecies.
That peace you have prayed for, I will bring it to you
If you utter warnings.
CASSANDRA To-day I shall have peace, you cannot
tempt me, daughter of the Queen, Electra.
Eight years ago I watched you and your brother going north
to Phocis: the Queen saw knowledge of you
Move in my eyes: I would not tell her where you were when
she commanded me: I will not betray you
To-day either: it is not doleful to me
To see before I die generations of destruction enter the doors
of Agamemnon.
Where is your brother?
ELECTRA Prophetess: you see all: I will tell you
nothing.
CASSANDRA He has well chosen his ambush,
It is true Aegisthus passes under that house to-day, to hunt in
the mountain.
ELECTRA Now I remember
Your name. Cassandra.
CASSANDRA Hush: the gray has turned yellow, the
standing beacons
Stream up from the east; they stir there in the palace; strange,
is it not, the dawn of one's last day's
Like all the others? Your brother would be fortunate if to-day
were also
The last of his.
ELECTRA He will endure his destinies; and Cassandra hers;
and Electra mine.
He has been for years like one tortured with fire: this day will
quench it.
CASSANDRA They are opening the gates: beg now.
To your trade, beggar-woman.
THE PORTER (coming out) Eh, pillar of miseries,
You still on guard there? Like a mare in a tight stall, never lying
down. What's this then?
A second ragged one? This at least can bend in the middle and
sit on a stone.
ELECTRA Dear gentleman
I am not used to it, my father is dead and hunger forces me to
beg, a crust or a penny.
THE PORTER
This tall one's licensed in a manner. I think they'll not let two
bundles of rag
Camp on the stair: but if you'd come to the back door and please
me nicely: with a little washing
It'd do for pastime.
ELECTRA I was reared gently: I will sit here, the King
will see me,
And none mishandle me.
THE PORTER I bear no blame for you.
I have not seen you: you came after the gates were opened.
(He goes in.)
CASSANDRA
O blossom of fire, bitter to men,
Watchdog of the woeful days,
How many sleepers
Bathing in peace, dreaming themselves delight,
All over the city, all over the Argolid plain, all over the dark
earth,
(Not me, a deeper draught of peace
And darker waters alone may wash me)
Do you, terrible star, star without pity,
Wolf of the east, waken to misery.
To the wants unaccomplished, to the eating desires,
To unanswered love, to hunger, to the hard edges
And mold of reality, to the whips of their masters.
They had flown away home to the happy darkness,
They were safe until sunrise.
(King Aegisthus, with his retinue, comes from the great
door.)
AEGISTHUS
Even here, in the midst of the city, the early day
Has a clear savor. (To ELECTRA) What, are you miserable, holding
the bowl out?
We'll hear the lark to-day in the wide hills and smell the mountain.
I'd share happiness with you.
What's your best wish, girl beggar?
ELECTRA It is covered, my lord, how
should a beggar
Know what to wish for beyond a crust and a dark corner and a
little kindness?
AEGISTHUS Why do you tremble?
ELECTRA
I was reared gently; my father is dead.
AEGISTHUS Stand up: will you take
service here in the house? What country
Bred you gently and proved ungentle to you?
ELECTRA I have wandered
north from the Eurotas, my lord,
Begging at farmsteads.
AEGISTHUS The Queen's countrywoman then, she'll
use you kindly. She'll be coming
In a moment, then I'll speak for you. -Did you bid them yoke
the roans into my chariot, Menalcas,
The two from Orchomenus?
ONE OF THE RETINUE Yesterday evening, my lord,
I sent to the stable.
AEGISTHUS They cost a pretty penny, we'll see how they
carry it. She's coming: hold up your head, girl.
(CLYTEMNESTRA, with two serving-women, comes from
the door.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
Good hunt, dearest. Here's a long idle day for me to look to.
Kill early, come home early.
AEGISTHUS
There's a poor creature on the step who's been reared nicely
and slipped into misery. I said you'd feed her,
And maybe find her a service. Farewell, sweet one.
CLYTEMNESTRA Where did she come from? How long have you
been here?
AEGISTHUS She says she has begged her way up from Sparta.
The horses are stamping on the cobbles, good-by, good-by.
(He goes down the stair with his huntsmen.)
CLYTEMNESTRA Good-by, dearest. Well. Let me see your face.
ELECTRA It is filthy to look at. I am ashamed.
CLYTEMNESTRA (to one of her serving-women) Leucippe do
you think this is a gayety of my lord's, he's not used to be
so kindly to beggars?
-Let me see your face.
LEUCIPPE She is very dirty, my lady. It is possible one of the
house-boys . . .
CLYTEMNESTRA I say draw that rag back, let me see your face.
I'd have him whipped then.
ELECTRA It was only in hope that someone would put a crust
in the bowl, your majesty, for I am starving. I didn't think
your majesty would see me.
CLYTEMNESTRA Draw back the rag.
ELECTRA I am very faint and starving but I will go down; I am
ashamed.
CLYTEMNESTRA Stop her, Corinna. Fetch the porter, Leucippe.
You will not go so easily. (ELECTRA sinks down on the steps
and lies prone, her head covered.) I am aging out of queenship
indeed, when even the beggars refuse my bidding.
(LEUCIPPE comes in 'with the porter.) You have a dirty stair,
porter. How long has this been here?
THE PORTER O my lady it has crept up since I opened the doors,
it was not here when I opened the doors.
CLYTEMNESTRA Lift it up and uncover its face. What is that
cry in the city? Stop: silent: I heard a cry . . .
Prophetess, your nostrils move like a dog's, what is that shouting?
. . .
I have grown weak, I am exhausted, things frighten me ...
Tell her to be gone, Leucippe, I don't wish to see her, I don't
wish to see her.
(ELECTRA rises.)
ELECTRA Ah, Queen, I will show you my face.
CLYTEMNESTRA No ... no ... be gone.
ELECTRA (uncovering her face)
Mother: I have come home: I am humbled. This house keeps
a dark welcome
For those coming home out of far countries.
CLYTEMNESTRA I Won't look: how
could I know anyone? I am old and shaking.
He said, Over the wall beyond nature
Lightning, and the laughter of the Gods. I did not cross it,
I will not kill what I gave life to.
Whoever you are, go, go, let me grow downward to the grave
quietly now.
ELECTRA I cannot
Go: I have no other refuge. Mother! Will you not kiss me, will
you not take me into the house,
Your child once, long a wanderer? Electra my name. I have
begged my way from Phocis, my brother is dead there,
Who used to care for me.
CLYTEMNESTRA Who is dead, who?
ELECTRA My brother Orestes,
Killed in a court quarrel
CLYTEMNESTRA (weeping) Oh, you lie! The widening blue
blue eyes,
The little voice of the child . . . Liar.
ELECTRA It is true. I have wept
long, on every mountain. You, mother,
Have only begun weeping. Far off, in a far country, no fit
burial . . .
CLYTEMNESTRA And do you bringing
Bitterness ... or lies . . . look for a welcome? I have only
loved two:
The priest
killed my daughter for a lamb on a stone and now
you say the boy too . . . dead, dead?
The world's full of it, a shoreless lake of lies and floating rumors
. . . pack up your wares, peddler,
Too false for a queen. Why, no, if I believed you . . . Beast,
treacherous beast, that shouting comes nearer,
What's in the city?
ELECTRA I am a stranger, I know nothing of the city,
I know only
My mother hates me, and Orestes my brother
Died pitifully, far off.
CLYTEMNESTRA Too many things, too many things call
me, what shall I do? Electra,
Electra help me. This comes of living softly, I had a lion's
strength
Once.
ELECTRA Me for help? I am utterly helpless, I had help in my
brother and he is dead in Phocis.
Give me refuge: but each of us two must weep for herself, one
sorrow. An end of the world were on us
What would it matter to us weeping? Do you remember him,
Mother, mother?
CLYTEMNESTRA I have dared too much: never dare anything,
Electra, the ache is afterward,
At the hour it hurts nothing. Prophetess, you lied.
You said he would come with vengeance on me: but now he is
dead, this girl says: and because he was lovely, blue-eyed,
And born in a most unhappy house I will believe it. But the
world's fogged with the breath of liars,
And if she has laid a net for me . . .
I'll call up the old lioness lives yet in my body, I have dared,
I have dared, and tooth and talon
Carve a way through. Lie to me?
ELECTRA Have I endured for months,
with feet bleeding, among the mountains,
Between the great gulfs alone and starving, to bring you a lie
now? I know the worst of you, I looked for the worst,
Mother, mother, and have expected nothing but to die of this
home-coming: but Orestes
Has entered the cave before; he is gathered up in a lonely mountain
quietness, he is guarded from angers
In the tough cloud that spears fall back from.
CLYTEMNESTRA Was he still beautiful?
The brown mothers down in the city
Keep their brats about them; what it is to live high! Oh!
Tell them down there, tell them in Tiryns,
Tell them in Sparta,
That water drips through the Queen's fingers and trickles down
her wrists, for the boy, for the boy
Born of her body, whom she, fool, fool, fool,
Drove out of the world. Electra,
Make peace with me.
Oh, Oh, Oh!
I have labored violently all the days of my life for nothing--
nothing-worse than anything- this death
Was a thing I wished. See how they make fools of us.
Amusement for them, to watch us labor after the thing that will
tear us in
pieces. . . . Well, strength's good.
I am the Queen; I will gather up my fragments
And not go mad now.
ELECTRA Mother, what are the men
With spears gathering at the stair's foot? Not of Mycenae by
their armor, have you mercenaries
Wanting pay? Do they serve . . . Aegisthus?
CLYTEMNESTRA What men? I seem
not to know . . .
Who has laid a net for me, what fool
For me, me? Porter, by me.
Leucippe, my guards; into the house, rouse them. I am sorry
for him,
I am best in storm. You, Electra?
The death you'll die, my daughter. Guards, out! Was it a lie?
No matter, no matter, no matter,
Here's peace. Spears, out, out! They bungled the job making
me a woman. Here's youth come back to me,
And all the days of gladness.
LEUCIPPE (running back from the door) O, Queen, strangers ...
ORESTES (a sword in his hand, 'with spearmen following, comes
from the door) Where is that woman
The Gods utterly hate?
ELECTRA Brother: let her not speak, kill quickly.
Is the other one safe now?
ORESTES That dog
Fell under his chariot, we made sure of him between the wheels
and the hooves, squealing. Now for this one.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Wait. I was weeping, Electra will tell you, my hands are wet
still,
For your blue eyes that death had closed she said away up in
Phocis. I die now, justly or not
Is out of the story, before I die I'd tell you wait, child, wait.
Did I quiver
Or pale at the blade? I say, caught in a net, netted in by my
enemies, my husband murdered,
Myself to die, I am joyful knowing she lied, you live, the only
creature
Under all the spread and arch of daylight
That I love, lives.
ELECTRA The great fangs drawn fear craftiness now,
kill quickly.
CLYTEMNESTRA As for her, the wife of a shepherd
Suckled her, but you
These very breasts nourished: rather one of your northern
spearmen do what's needful; not you
Draw blood where you drew milk. The Gods endure much, but
beware them.
ORESTES This, a God in his temple
Openly commanded.
CLYTEMNESTRA Ah, child, child, who has mistaught you and
who has betrayed you? What voice had the God?
How was it different from a man's and did you see him? Who
sent the priest presents? They fool us,
And the Gods let them. No doubt also the envious King of
Phocis has lent you counsel as he lent you
Men: let one of them do it. Life's not jewel enough
That I should plead for it: this much I pray, for your sake, not
with your hand, not with your hand, or the memory
Will so mother you, so glue to you, so embracing you,
Not the deep sea's green day, no cleft of a rock in the bed of
the deep sea, no ocean of darkness
Outside the stars, will hide nor wash you. What is it to me that
I have rejoiced knowing you alive,
child, O precious to me, O alone loved, if now dying by my
manner of death
I make nightmare the heir, nightmare, horror, in all I have of
you;
And you haunted forever, never to sleep dreamless again, never
to see blue cloth
But the red runs over it; fugitive of dreams, madman at length,
the memory of a scream following you houndlike,
Inherit Mycenae? Child, for this has not been done before, there
is no old fable, no whisper
Out of the foundation, among the people that were before our
people, no echo has ever
Moved among these most ancient stones, the monsters here, nor
stirred under any mountain, nor fluttered
Under any sky, of a man slaying his mother. Sons have kil

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Tamar

I
A night the half-moon was like a dancing-girl,
No, like a drunkard's last half-dollar
Shoved on the polished bar of the eastern hill-range,
Young Cauldwell rode his pony along the sea-cliff;
When she stopped, spurred; when she trembled, drove
The teeth of the little jagged wheels so deep
They tasted blood; the mare with four slim hooves
On a foot of ground pivoted like a top,
Jumped from the crumble of sod, went down, caught, slipped;
Then, the quick frenzy finished, stiffening herself
Slid with her drunken rider down the ledges,
Shot from sheer rock and broke
Her life out on the rounded tidal boulders.

The night you know accepted with no show of emotion the little
accident; grave Orion
Moved northwest from the naked shore, the moon moved to
meridian, the slow pulse of the ocean
Beat, the slow tide came in across the slippery stones; it drowned
the dead mare's muzzle and sluggishly
Felt for the rider; Cauldwell’s sleepy soul came back from the
blind course curious to know
What sea-cold fingers tapped the walls of its deserted ruin.
Pain, pain and faintness, crushing
Weights, and a vain desire to vomit, and soon again
die icy fingers, they had crept over the loose hand and lay in the
hair now. He rolled sidewise
Against mountains of weight and for another half-hour lay still.
With a gush of liquid noises
The wave covered him head and all, his body
Crawled without consciousness and like a creature with no bones,
a seaworm, lifted its face
Above the sea-wrack of a stone; then a white twilight grew about
the moon, and above
The ancient water, the everlasting repetition of the dawn. You
shipwrecked horseman
So many and still so many and now for you the last. But when it
grew daylight
He grew quite conscious; broken ends of bone ground on each
other among the working fibers
While by half-inches he was drawing himself out of the seawrack
up to sandy granite,
Out of the tide's path. Where the thin ledge tailed into flat cliff
he fell asleep. . . .
Far seaward
The daylight moon hung like a slip of cloud against the horizon.
The tide was ebbing
From the dead horse and the black belt of sea-growth. Cauldwell
seemed to have felt her crying beside him,
His mother, who was dead. He thought 'If I had a month or two
of life yet
I would remember to be decent, only it's now too late, I'm finished,
mother, mother,
I'm sorry.' After that he thought only of pain and raging thirst
until the sundown
Reddened the sea, and hands were reaching for him and drawing
him up the cliff.

His sister Tamar
Nursed him in the big westward bedroom
Of the old house on Point Lobos. After fever
A wonderful day of peace and pleasant weakness
Brought home to his heart the beauty of things. 'O Tamar
I've thrown away years like rubbish. Listen, Tamar,
It would be better for me to be a cripple,
Sit on the steps and watch the forest grow up the hill
Or a new speck of moss on some old rock
That takes ten years agrowing, than waste
Shame and my spirit on Monterey rye whiskey,
And worse, and worse. I shan't be a cripple, Tamar.
We'll walk along the blessed old gray sea,
And up in the hills and watch the spring come home.'

Youth is a troublesome but a magical thing,
There is little more to say for it when you've said
Young bones knit easily; he that fell in December
Walked in the February fields. His sister Tamar
Was with him, and his mind ran on her name,
But she was saying, 'We laugh at poor Aunt Stella
With her spirit
visitors: Lee, something told her truth.
Last August, you were hunting deer, you had been gone
Ten days or twelve, we heard her scream at night,
I went to the room, she told me
She'd seen you lying all bloody on the sea-beach
By a dead deer, its blood dabbling the black weeds of the ebb.'
'I was up Tassajara way,' he answered,
'Far from the sea.' 'We were glad when you rode home
Safe, with the two bucks on the packhorse. But listen,
She said she watched the stars flying over you
In her vision, Orion she said, and made me look
Out of her window southward, where I saw
The stars they call the Scorpion, the red bead
With the curling tail. Then it will be in winter,'
She whispered to me, 'Orion is winter.'
'Tamar, Tamar,
Winter is over, visions are over and vanished,
The fields are winking full of poppies,
In a week or two I'll fill your arms with shining irises.'

The winter sun went under and all that night there came a roaring
from the south; Lee Cauldwell
Lay awake and heard the tough old house creak all her timbers;
he was miserably lonely and vacant,
He'd put away the boyish jets of wickedness, loves with dark
eyes in Monterey back-streets, liquor
And all its fellowship, what was left to live for but the farmwork,
rain would come and hinder?
He heard the cypress trees that seemed to scream in the wind,
and felt the ocean pounding granite.
His father and Tamar's, the old man David Cauldwell, lay in the
eastern chamber; when the storm
Wakened him from the heartless fugitive slumber of age he rose
and made a light, and lighted
The lamp not cold yet; night and day were nearly equal to him,
he had seen too many; he dressed
Slowly and opened his Bible. In the neighboring rooms he heard
on one side Stella Moreland,
His dead wife's sister, quieting his own sister, the idiot Jinny
Cauldwell, who laughed and chuckled
Often for half the night long, an old woman with a child's mind
and mostly sleepless; in the other
Chamber Tamar was moaning, for it seemed that nightmare
Within the house answered to storm without.
To Tamar it seemed that she was walking by the seaside
With her dear brother, who said 'Here's where I fell,
A bad girl that I knew in Monterey pushed me over the cliff,
You can see blood still on the boulders.' Where he vanished to
She could not tell, nor why she was crying 'Lee. No.
No dearest brother, dearest brother no.' But she cried vainly,
Lee was not there to help her, a wild white horse
Came out of the wave and trampled her with his hooves,
The horror that she had dreaded through her dreaming
With mystical foreknowledge. When it wakened her,
She like her father heard old Jinny chuckling
And Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
the cypresses.
'When it rains it will be quieter,' Tamar thought. She slept
again, all night not a drop fell.
Old Cauldwell from his window saw the cloudy light seep up
the sky from the overhanging
Hilltops, the dawn was dammed behind the hills but overflowed
at last and ran down on the sea.

II
Lee Cauldwell rode across the roaring southwind to the winter
pasture up in the hills.
A hundred times he wanted Tamar, to show her some new beauty
of canyon wildflowers, water
Dashing its ferns, or oaktrees thrusting elbows at the wind, blackoaks
smoldering with foliage
And the streaked beauty of white-oak trunks, and redwood
glens; he rode up higher across the rainwind
And found his father's cattle in a quiet hollow among the hills,
their horns to the wind,
Quietly grazing. He returned another way, from the headland
over Wildcat Canyon,
Saw the immense water possessing all the west and saw Point Lobos
Gemmed in it, and the barn-roofs and the house-roof
Like ships' keels in the cypress tops, and thought of Tamar.
Toward sundown he approached the house; Will Andrews
Was leaving it and young Cauldwell said, 'Listen, Bill Andrews,
We've had gay times together and ridden at night.
I've quit it, I don't want my old friends to visit my sister.
Better keep off the place.' 'I will,' said the other,
'When Tamar tells me to.' 'You think my bones
Aren't mended yet, better keep off.' Lee Cauldwell
Rode by to the stable wondering why his lips
Twitched with such bitter anger; Tamar wondered
Why he went upstairs without a word or smile
Of pleasure in her. The old man David Cauldwell,
When Lee had told him news of the herd and that Ramon
Seemed faithful, and the calves flourished, the old man answered:
'I hear that there's a dance at Motley's Landing Saturday. You'll
be riding
Down the coast, Lee. Don't kill the horse, have a good time.'
'No, I've had all I want, I'm staying
At home now, evenings.' 'Don't do it; better dance your pony
down the cliffs again than close
Young life into a little box; you've been too wild; now I'm worn
out, but I remember
Hell's in the box.' Lee answered nothing, his father's lamp of
thought was hidden awhile in words,
An old man's words, like the dry evening moths that choke a
candle. A space, and he was saying,
'Come summer we'll be mixed into the bloody squabble out there,
and you'll be going headforemost
Unless you make your life so pleasant you'd rather live it. I
mayn't be living
To see you home or hear you're killed.' Lee, smiling at him,
'A soldier's what I won't be, father.' That night
He dreamed himself a soldier, an aviator
Duelling with a German above a battle
That looked like waves, he fired his gun and mounted
In steady rhythm; he must have been winged, he suddenly
Plunged and went through the soft and deadly surface
Of the deep sea, wakening in terror.
He heard his old Aunt Jinny chuckling,
Aunt Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
the cypresses.

III
They two had unbridled the horses
And tied them with long halters near the thicket
Under Mai Paso bridge and wandered east
Into the narrow cleft, they had climbed the summit
On the right and looked across the sea.
The steep path down, 'What are we for?' said Tamar wearily,
'to want and want and not dare know it.'
'Because I dropped the faded irises,' Lee answered, 'you're unhappy.
They were all withered, Tamar.
We have grown up in the same house.' 'The withered house
Of an old man and a withered woman and an idiot woman. No
wonder if we go mad, no wonder.'
They came to the hid stream and Tamar said, 'Sweet, green and cool,
After the mad white April sun: you wouldn't mind, Lee?
Here where it makes a pool: you mustn't look; but you're my
brother. And then
I will stand guard for you.' The murmur and splash of water
made his fever fierier; something
Unfelt before kept his eyes seaward: why should he dread to see
the round arm and clear throat
Flash from the hollow stream? He trembled, thinking
'O we are beasts, a beast, what am I for?
Was the old man right, I must be drunk and a dancer and feed on
the cheap pleasures, or it's dangerous?
Lovely and thoughtless, if she knew me how she'd loathe and
avoid me. Her brother, brother. My sister.
Better the life with the bones, and all at once have broken.'
Meanwhile Tamar
Uneasily dipped her wrists, and crouching in the leaf-grown bank
Saw her breasts in the dark mirror, she trembled backward
From a long ripple and timidly wading entered
The quiet translucence to the thighs. White-shining
Slender and virgin pillar, desire in water
Unhidden and half reflected among the interbranching ripples,
Arched with alder, over-woven with willow.
Ah Tamar, stricken with strange fever and feeling
Her own desirableness, half-innocent Tamar
Thought, 'If I saw a snake in the water he would come now
And kill the snake, he is keen and fearless but he fears
Me I believe.' Was it the wild rock coast
Of her breeding, and the reckless wind
In the beaten trees and the gaunt booming crashes
Of breakers under the rocks, or rather the amplitude
And wing-subduing immense earth-ending water
That moves all the west taught her this freedom? Ah Tamar,
It was not good, not wise, not safe, not provident,
Not even, for custom creates nature, natural,
Though all other license were; and surely her face
Grew lean and whitened like a mask, the lips
Thinned their rose to a split thread, the little breasts
Erected sharp bright buds but the white belly
Shuddered, sucked in. The lips writhed and no voice
Formed, and again, and a faint cry. 'Tamar?'
He answered, and she answered, 'Nothing. A snake in the water
Frightened me.' And again she called his name.
'What is it, Tamar?' 'Nothing. It is cold in the water.
Come, Lee, I have hidden myself all but the head.
Bathe, if you mean to bathe, and keep me company.
I won't look till you're in.' He came, trembling.
He unclothed himself in a green depth and dared not
Enter the pool, but stared at the drawn scars
Of the old wound on his leg. 'Come, Lee, I'm freezing.
Come, I won't look.' He saw the clear-skinned shoulders
And the hollow of her back, he drowned his body
In the watery floor under the cave of foliage,
And heard her sobbing. When she turned, the great blue eyes
Under the auburn hair, streamed. 'Lee.
We have stopped being children; I would have drowned myself;
If you hadn't taught me swimming long ago long ago, Lee
When we were children.' 'Tamar, what is it, what is it?'
'Only that I want . . . death. You lie if you think
Another thing.' She slipped face down and lay
In the harmless water, the auburn hair trailed forward
Darkened like weeds, the double arc of the shoulders
Floated, and when he had dragged her to the bank both arms
Clung to him, the white body in a sobbing spasm
Clutched him, he could not disentangle the white desire,
So they were joined (like drowning folk brought back
By force to bitter life) painfully, without joy.
The spasm fulfilled, poor Tamar, like one drowned indeed, lay
pale and quiet
And careless of her nakedness. He, gulfs opening
Between the shapes of his thought, desired to rise and leave her
and was ashamed to.
He lay by her side, the cheek he kissed was cold like a smooth
stone, the blue eyes were half open,
The bright smooth body seemed to have suffered pain, not love.
One of her arms crushed both her breasts,
The other lay in the grass, the fingers clutching toward the
roots of die soft grass. 'Tamar,'
He whispered, then she breathed shudderingly and answered,
'We have it, we have it. Now I know.
It was my fault. I never shall be ashamed again.' He said,
'What shall I do? Go away?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, shivering.
'It hurts, there is blood here, I am too cold to bathe myself
again. O brother, brother,
Mine and twice mine. You knew already, a girl has got to learn.
I love you, I chose my teacher.
Mine, it was my doing.' She flung herself upon him, cold white
and smooth, with sobbing kisses.
'I am so cold, dearest, dearest.' The horses at the canyon mouth
tugged at their halters,
Dug pits under the restless forehooves, shivered in the hill-wind
At sundown, were not ridden till dark, it was near midnight
They came to the old house.

IV
When Jinny Cauldwell slept, the old woman with a child's mind,
then Stella Moreland
Invoked her childish-minded dead, or lying blank-eyed in the
dark egged on her dreams to vision,
Suffering for lack of audience, tasting the ecstasy of vision. This
was the vaporous portion
She endured her life in the strength of, in the sea-shaken loneliness,
little loved, nursing an idiot,
Growing bitterly old among the wind-torn Lobos cypress trunks.
(O torture of needled branches
Doubled and gnarled, never a moment of quiet, the northwind
or the southwind or the northwest.
For up and down the coast they are tall and terrible horsemen on
patrol, alternate giants
Guarding the granite and sand frontiers of the last ocean; but
here at Lobos the winds are torturers,
The old trees endure them. They blew always thwart the old
woman's dreams and sometimes by her bedside
Stood, the south in russety black, the north in white, but the
northwest wave-green, sea-brilliant,
Scaled like a fish. She had also the sun and moon and mightier
presences in her visions.) Tamar
Entered the room toward morning and stood ghost-like among
the old woman's ghosts. The rolled-up eyes,
Dull white, with little spindles of iris touching the upper lids,
played back the girl's blown candle
Sightlessly, but the spirit of sight that the eyes are tools of and
it made them, saw her. 'Ah, Helen,'
Cried out the entranced lips, 'We thought you were tired of the
wind, we thought you never came now.
My sister's husband lies in the next room, go waken him, show
him your beauty, call him with kisses.
He is old and the spittle when he dreams runs into his beard, but
he is your lover and your brother.'
'I am not Helen,' she said, 'what Helen, what Helen?' 'Who
was not the wife but the sister of her man,
Mine was his wife.' 'My mother?' 'And now he is an old hulk
battered ashore. Show him your beauty,
Strip for him, Helen, as when he made you a seaweed bed in the
cave. What if the beard is slimy
And the eyes run, men are not always young and fresh like you
dead women.' But Tamar clutching
The plump hand on the coverlet scratched it with her nails, the
old woman groaned but would not waken,
And Tamar held the candle flame against the hand, the soot
striped it, then with a scream
The old woman awoke, sat up, and fell back rigid on the bed.
Tamar found place for the candle
On a little table at the bedside, her freed hands could not awaken
a second answer
In the flesh that now for all its fatness felt like a warmed stone.
But the idiot waked and chuckled,
Waved both hands at the candle saying, 'My little star, my little
star, come little star.'
And to these three old Cauldwell sighing with sleeplessness
Entered, not noticed, and he stood in the open door. Tamar was
bending
Over the bed, loose hair like burnished metal
Concealed her face and sharply cut across one rounded shoulder
The thin night-dress had slipped from. The old man her father
Feared, for a ghost of law-contemptuous youth
Slid through the chilly vaults of the stiff arteries,
And he said, 'What is it, Tamar?' 'She was screaming in a
dream,
I came to quiet her, now she has gone stiff like iron.
Who is this woman Helen she was dreaming about?'
'Helen? Helen?' he answered slowly and Tamar
Believed she saw the beard and the hands tremble.
'It's too cold for you, Tamar, go back to bed
And I'll take care of her. A common name for women.'
Old Jinny clapped her hands, 'Little star, little star,
Twinkle all night!' and the stiff form on the bed began to speak,
In a changed voice and from another mode of being
And spirit of thought: 'I cannot think that you have forgotten.
I was walking on the far side of the moon,
Whence everything is seen but the earth, and never forgot.
This girl's desire drew me home, we also had wanted
Too near our blood,
And to tangle the interbranching net of generations
With a knot sideways. Desire's the arrow-sprayer
And shoots into the stars. Poor little Tamar
He gave you a luckless name in memory of me
And now he is old forgets mine.' 'You are that Helen,'
Said Tamar leaning over the fat shape
The quiet and fleshless voice seemed issuing from,
A sound of youth from the old puffed lips, 'What Helen? This
man's . . .
Sister, this body was saying?' 'By as much more
As you are of your brother.' 'Why,' laughed Tamar trembling,
'Hundreds of nasty children do it, and we
Nothing but children.' Then the old man: 'Lies, lies, lies.
No ghost, a lying old woman. Your Aunt Helen
Died white as snow. She died before your mother died.
Your mother and this old woman always hated her,
This liar, as they hated me. I was too hard a nature
To die of it, Lily and Stella.' 'It makes me nothing,
My darling sin a shadow and me a doll on wires,'
Thought Tamar with one half her spirit; and the other half said,
'Poor lies, words without meaning. Poor Aunt Stella,
The voices in her have no minds.' 'Poor little Tamar,'
Murmured the young voice from the swollen cavern,
'Though you are that woman's daughter, if we dead
Could be sorrowful for anyone but ourselves
I would be sorrowful for you, a trap so baited
Was laid to catch you when the world began,
Before the granite foundation. I too have tasted the sweet bait.
But you are the luckier, no one came home to me
To say there are no whips beyond death but only memory,
And that can be endured.' The room was quiet a moment,
And Tamar heard the wind moving outdoors. Then the idiot
Jinny Cauldwell
Whose mind had been from birth a crippled bird but when she
was twelve years old her mind's cage
Was covered utterly, like a bird-cage covered with its evening
cloth when lamps are lighted,
And her memory skipped the more than forty years between but
caught stray gleams of the sun of childhood,
She in her crumpled voice: 'I'd rather play with Helen, go away
Stella. Stella pinches me,
Lily laughs at me, Lily and Stella are not my sisters.' 'Jinny,
Jinny,'
Said the old man shaking like a thin brick house-wall in an earthquake,
'do you remember, Jinny?'
'Jinny don't like the old man,' she answered, 'give me the star,
give me my star,'
She whined, stretching from bed to reach the candle, 'why have
they taken my little star?
Helen would give it to Jinny.' Then Stella waking from the
trance sighed and arose to quiet her
According to her night's habit. Tamar said, 'You were screaming
in your sleep.' 'I had great visions.
And I have forgotten them. There Jinny, there, there. It'll have
the candle, will it? Pretty Jinny.
Will have candle to-morrow. Little Jinny let Aunt Stella sleep
now.' Old Cauldwell tottering
Went to his room; then Tamar said, 'You were talking about
his sister Helen, my aunt Helen,
You never told me about her.' 'She has been dead for forty
years, what should we tell you about her?
Now little Jinny, pretty sister,' And laying her hands upon the
mattress of the bed
The old woman cradled it up and down, humming a weary song.
Tamar stood vainly waiting
The sleep of the monstrous babe; at length because it would not
sleep went to her room and heard it
Gurgle and whimper an hour; and the tired litanies of the lullabies;
not quiet till daylight.

V
O swiftness of the swallow and strength
Of the stone shore, brave beauty of falcons,
Beauty of the blue heron that flies
Opposite the color of evening
From the Carmel River's reed-grown mouth
To her nest in the deep wood of the deer
Cliffs of peninsular granite engirdle,
beauty of the fountains of the sun
1 pray you enter a little chamber,
I have given you bodies, I have made you puppets,
I have made idols for God to enter
And tiny cells to hold your honey.
I have given you a dotard and an idiot,
An old woman puffed with vanity, youth but botched with incest,
O blower of music through the crooked bugles,
You that make signs of sins and choose the lame for angels,
Enter and possess. Being light you have chosen the dark lamps,
A hawk the sluggish bodies: therefore God you chose
Me; and therefore I have made you idols like these idols
To enter and possess.
Tamar, finding no hope,
Slid back on passion, she had sought counsel of the dead
And found half-scornful pity and found her sin
Fore-dated; there was honey at least in shame
And secrecy in silence, and her lover
Could meet her afield or slip to her room at night
In serviceable safety. They learned, these two,
Not to look back nor forward; and but for the hint
Of vague and possible wreck every transgression
Paints on the storm-edge of the sky, their blue
Though it dulled a shade with custom shone serene
To the fifth moon, when the moon's mark on women
Died out of Tamar. She kept secret the warning,
How could she color such love with perplexed fear?
Her soul walked back and forth like a new prisoner
Feeling the plant of unescapable fate
Root in her body. There was death; who had entered water
To compass love might enter again to escape
Love's fruit; 'But O, but O,' she thought, 'not to die now.
It is less than half a year
Since life turned sweet. If I knew one of the girls
My lover has known
She'd tell me what to do, how to be fruitless,
How to be ... happy? They do it, they do it, all sin
Grew nothing to us that day in Mai Paso water.
A love sterile and sacred as the stars.
I will tell my lover, he will make me safe,
He will find means . . .
Sterile and sacred, and more than any woman
. . . Unhappy. Miserable,' she sobbed, 'miserable,
The rough and bitter water about the cliff's foot
Better to breathe.'
When Lee was not by her side
She walke4 the cliffs to tempt them. The calm and large
Pacific surge heavy with summer rolling southeast from a far origin
Battered to foam among the stumps of granite below.
Tamar watched it swing up the little fjords and fountain
Not angrily in the blowholes; a gray vapor
Breathed up among the buttressed writhings of the cypress trunks
And branches swollen with blood-red lichen. She went home
And her night was full of foolish dreams, two layers of dream,
unrelative in emotion
Or substance to the pain of her thoughts. One, the undercurrent
layer that seemed all night continuous,
Concerned the dead (and rather a vision than a dream, for visions
gathered on that house
Like corposant fire on the hoar mastheads of a ship wandering
strange waters), brown-skinned families
Came down the river and straggled through the wood to the sea,
they kindled fires by knobs of granite
And ate the sea-food that the plow still turns up rotting shells of,
not only around Point Lobos
But north and south wherever the earth breaks off to sea-rock;
Tamar saw the huddled bodies
Squat by the fires and sleep; but when the dawn came there was
throbbing music meant for daylight
And that weak people went where it led them and were nothing;
then Spaniards, priests and horseback soldiers,
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
and hearing the universal music
Went where it led them and were nothing; and the English-speakers
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
among them Tamar saw her mother
Walking beside a nameless woman with no face nor breasts; and
the universal music
Led them away and they were nothing; but Tamar led her father
from that flood and saved him,
For someone named a church built on a rock, it was beautiful
and white, not fallen to ruin
Like the ruin by Carmel River; she led him to it and made him
enter the door, when he had entered
A new race came from the door and wandered down the river
to the sea and to Point Lobos.
This was the undertow of the dream, obscured by a brighter
surface layer but seeming senseless.
The tides of the sea were quiet and someone said 'because the
moon is lost.' Tamar looked up
And the moon dwindled, rocketing off through lonely space, and
the people in the moon would perish
Of cold or of a star's fire: then Will Andrews curiously wounded
in the face came saying
'Tamar, don't cry. What do you care? I will take care of you.'
Wakening, Tamar thought about him
And how he had stopped coming to see her. Perhaps it was
another man came through her dream,
The wound in the face disguised him, but that morning Lee
having ridden to Mill Creek
To bargain about some fields of winter pasture
Now that the advancing year withered the hill-grass,
Tamar went down and saddled her own pony,
A four-year-old, as white as foam, and cantered
Past San Jose creek-mouth and the Carrows' farm
(Where David Carrow and his fanatical blue eyes,
That afterward saw Christ on the hill, smiled at her passing)
And three miles up the Carmel Valley came
To the Andrews place where the orchards ran to the river
And all the air was rich with ripening apples.
She would not go to the house; she did not find
Whom she was seeking; at length sadly she turned
Homeward, for Lee might be home within two hours,
And on the Carmel bridge above the water
(Shrunken with summer and shot with water lichen,
The surface scaled with minute scarlet leaves,
The borders green with slimy threads) met whom she sought.
'Tamar,' he said, 'I've been to see you.' 'You hadn't
For a long time.' 'I had some trouble with Lee,
I thought you didn't want me.' While they talked
Her eyes tasted his face: was it endurable?
Though it lacked the curious gash her dream had given him. . . .
'I didn't want you, you thought?' 'Lee said so.' 'You might
have waited
Till Tamar said so.' 'Well,' he answered, 'I've been,
And neither of you was home but now I've met you.'
Well-looking enough; freckles, light hair, light eyes;
Not tall, but with a chest and hard wide shoulders,
And sitting the horse well 'O I can do it, I can do it,
Help me, God,' murmured Tamar in her mind,
'How else what else can I do?' and said, 'Luck, isn't it?
What did you want to see me about?' 'I wanted . . .
Because I ... like you, Tamar.' 'Why should I be careful,'
She thought, 'if I frighten him off what does it matter,
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Let's go down
Into the willow,' she said, 'we needn't be seen
Talking and someone tell him and make trouble
Here on the bridge.' They went to the hidden bank
Under the deep green willows, colored water
Stagnated on its moss up to the stems,
Coarse herbage hid the stirrups, Tamar slid from the saddle
As quietly as the long unwhitening wave
Moulds a sunk rock, and while he tethered the horses,
'I have been lonely,' she said. 'Not for me, Tamar.'
'You think not? Will, now that all's over
And likely we'll not see each other again
Often, nor by ourselves, why shouldn't I tell you . . .'
'What, Tamar?' 'There've been moments . . . hours then . .
When anything you might have asked me for
Would have been given, I'd have done anything
You asked me to, you never asked anything, Will.
I'm telling you this so that you may remember me
As one who had courage to speak truth, you'll meet
So many others.' 'But now' he meant to ask,
'Now it's too late, Tamar?' and hadn't courage,
And Tamar thought 'Must I go farther and say more?
Let him despise me as I despise myself.
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Now?' she said.
'Do you think I am changed? You have changed, Will,
you have grown
Older, and stronger I think, your face is firmer;
And carefuller: I have not changed, I am still reckless
To my own injury, and as trustful as a child.
Would I be with you here in the green thicket
If I weren't trustful? If you should harm me, Will,
I'd think it was no harm.' She had laid her hand
On the round sunburnt throat and felt it throbbing,
And while she spoke the thought ran through her mind,
'He is only a little boy but if he turns pale
I have won perhaps, for white's the wanting color.
If he reddens I’ve lost and it's no matter.' He did not move
And seemed not to change color and Tamar said,
'Now I must go. Lee will be home soon.
How soft the ground is in the willow shadow.
I have ended with you honestly, Will; remember me
Not afraid to speak truth and not ashamed
To have stripped my soul naked. You have seen all of me.
Good-bye.' But when she turned he caught her by the arm,
She sickened inward, thinking, 'Now it has come.
I have called and called it and I can't endure it.
Ah. A dumb beast.' But he had found words now and said,
'How would you feel, Tamar, if all of a sudden
The bird or star you'd broken your heart to have
Flew into your hands, then flew away. O Tamar, Tamar,
You can't go now, you can't.' She unresisting
Took the hot kisses on her neck and hair
And hung loose in his arms the while he carried her
To a clean bank of grass in the deep shadow.
He laid her there and kneeling by her: 'You said you trusted me.
You are wise, Tamar; I love you so much too well
I would cut my hands off not to harm you.' But she,
Driven by the inward spark of life and dreading
Its premature maturity, could not rest
On harmless love, there were no hands to help
In the innocence of love, and like a vision
Came to her the memory of that other lover
And how he had fallen a farther depth
From firmer innocence at Mai Paso, but the stagnant
Autumn water of Carmel stood too far
From the April freshet in the hills. Tamar pushed off
His kisses and stood up weeping and cried
'It's no use, why will you love me till I cry?
Lee hates you and my father is old and old, we can't
Sour the three years he has before he dies.'
'I'll wait for you,' said the boy, 'wait years, Tamar.' Then Tamar
Hiding her face against his throat
So that he felt the tears whispered, 'But I ...'
She sobbed, 'Have no patience ... I can't wait. Will . . .
When I made my soul naked for you
There was one spot ... a fault ... a shame
I was ashamed to uncover.' She pressed her mouth
Between the muscles of his breast: 'I want you and want you.
You didn't know that a clean girl could want a man.
Now you will take me and use me and throw me away
And I've . . . earned it.' 'Tamar, I swear by God
Never to let you be sorry, but protect you
With all my life.' 'This is our marriage,' Tamar answered.
'But God would have been good to me to have killed me
Before I told you.' The boy feeling her body
Vibrant and soft and sweet in its weeping surrender
Went blind and could not feel how she hated him
That moment; when he awakened she was lying
With the auburn hair muddied and the white face
Turned up to the willow leaves, her teeth were bared
And sunk in the under lip, a smear of blood
Reddening the corner of the lips. One of her arms
Crushed both her breasts, the other lay in the grass,
The fingers clutching toward the roots of the soft grass. 'O Tamar,'
Murmured the boy, 'I love you, I love you. What shall I do?
Go away?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, thinking
'That Helen of my old father's never fooled him at least,' and
said, 'There is nothing to do, nothing.
It is horribly finished. Keep it secret, keep it secret, Will. I too
was to blame a little.
But I didn't mean . . . this.' 'I know,' he said, 'it was my
fault, I would kill myself, Tamar,
To undo it but I loved you so, Tamar.' 'Loved? You have hurt
me and broken me, the house is broken
And any thief can enter it.' 'O Tamar!' 'You have broken
our crystal innocence, we can never
Look at each other freely again.' 'What can I do, Tamar?'
'Nothing. I don't know. Nothing.
Never come to the farm to see me.' 'Where can I see you,
Tamar?' 'Lee is always watching me,
And I believe he'd kill us. Listen, Will. To-morrow night I'll
put a lamp in my window,
When all the house is quiet, and if you see it you can climb up
by the cypress. I must go home,
Lee will be home. Will, though you've done to me worse than
I ever dreamed, I love you, you have my soul,
I am your tame bird now.'

VI
This was the high plateau of summer and August waning; white
vapors
Breathed up no more from the brown fields nor hung in the hills;
daily the insufferable sun
Rose, naked light, and flaming naked through the pale transparent
ways of the air drained gray
The strengths of nature; all night the eastwind streamed out of
the valley seaward, and the stars blazed.
The year went up to its annual mountain of death, gilded with
hateful sunlight, waiting rain.
Stagnant waters decayed, the trickling springs that all the misty-hooded
summer had fed
Pendulous green under the granite ocean-cliffs dried and turned
foul, the rock-flowers faded,
And Tamar felt in her blood the filth and fever of the season.
Walking beside the house-wall
Under her window, she resented sickeningly the wounds in the
cypress bark, where Andrews
Climbed to his tryst, disgust at herself choked her, and as a fire
by water
Under the fog-bank of the night lines all the sea and sky with
fire, so her self-hatred
Reflecting itself abroad burned back against her, all the world
growing hateful, both her lovers
Hateful, but the intolerably masculine sun hatefullest of all.
The heat of the season
Multiplied centipedes, the black worms that breed under loose
rock, they call them thousand-leggers,
They invaded the house, their phalloid bodies cracking underfoot
with a bad odor, and dropped
Ceiling to pillow at night, a vile plague though not poisonous.
Also the sweet and female sea
Was weak with calm, one heard too clearly a mounting cormorant's
wing-claps half a mile off shore;
The hard and dry and masculine tyrannized for a season. Rain
in October or November
Yearly avenges the balance; Tamar's spirit rebelled too soon, the
female fury abiding
In so beautiful a house of flesh. She came to her aunt the ghost-seer.
'Listen to me, Aunt Stella.
I think I am going mad, I must talk to the dead; Aunt Stella,
will you help me?' That old woman
Was happy and proud, no one for years had sought her for
her talent. 'Dear Tamar, I will help you.
We must go down into the darkness, Tamar, it is hard and painful
for me.' 'I am in the darkness
Already, a fiery darkness.' 'The good spirits will guide you,
it is easy for you; for me, death.
Death, Tamar, I have to die to reach them.' 'Death's no bad
thing,' she answered, 'each hour of the day
Has more teeth.' 'Are you so unhappy, Tamar, the good spirits
will help you and teach you.' 'Aunt Stella,
To-night, to-night?' 'I groan when I go down to death, your
father and brother will come and spoil it.'
'In the evening we will go under the rocks by the sea.' 'Well,
in the evening.' 'If they talk to us
I'll buy you black silk and white lace.'

In and out of the little fjord swam the weak waves
Moving their foam in the twilight. Tamar at one flank, old
Stella at the other, upheld poor Jinny
Among the jags of shattered granite, so they came to the shingle.
Rich, damp and dark the sea's breath
Folding them made amend for days of sun-sickness, but Jinny
among the rubble granite
(They had no choice but take her along with them, who else
would care for the idiot?) slipped, and falling
Gashed knees and forehead, and she whimpered quietly in the
darkness. 'Here,' said Tamar, 'I made you
A bed of seaweed under the nose of this old rock, let Jinny lie
beside you, Aunt Stella,
I’ll lay the rug over you both.' They lay on the odorous kelp,
Tamar squatted beside them,
The weak sea wavered in her rocks and Venus hung over the
west between the cliff-butts
Like the last angel of the world, the crystal night deepening.
The sea and the three women
Kept silence, only Tamar moved herself continually on the fret
of her taut nerves,
And the sea moved, on the obscure bed of her eternity, but
both were voiceless. Tamar
Felt her pulse bolt like a scared horse and stumble and stop,
for it seemed to her a wandering power
Essayed her body, something hard and rounded and invisible
pressed itself for entrance
Between the breasts, over the diaphragm. When she was forced
backward and lay panting, the assault
Failed, the presence withdrew, and in that clearance she heard
her old Aunt Stella monotonously muttering
Words with no meaning in them; but the tidal night under
the cliff seemed full of persons
With eyes, although there was no light but the evening planet's
and her trail in the long water.
Then came a man's voice from the woman, saying, 'Que quieres
pobrecita?' and Tamar, 'Morir,'
Trembling, and marveling that she lied for no reason, and said,
'Es porque no entiendo,
Anything but ingles.' To which he answered, 'Ah pobrecita,'
and was silent. And Tamar
Cried, 'I will talk to that Helen.' But instead another male throat
spoke out of the woman's
Unintelligible gutturals, and it ceased, and the woman changing
voice, yet not to her own:
'An Indian. He says his people feasted here and sang to their
Gods and the tall Gods came walking
Between the tide-marks on the rocks; he says to strip and dance
and he will sing, and his Gods
Come walking.' Tamar answered, crying, 'I will not, I will
not, tell him to go away and let me
Talk to that Helen.' But old Stella after a silence: 'He says No,
no, the pregnant women
Would always dance here and the shore belongs to his people's
ghosts nor will they endure another
Unless they are pleased.' And Tamar said, 'I cannot dance,
drive him away,' but while she said it
Her hands accepting alien life and a strange will undid the
fastenings of her garments.
She panted to control them, tears ran down her cheeks, the
male voice chanted
Hoarse discords from the old woman's body, Tamar drew her
beauty
Out of its husks; dwellers on eastern shores
Watch moonrises as white as hers
When the half-moon about midnight
Steps out of her husk of water to dance in heaven:
So Tamar weeping
Slipped every sheath down to her feet, the spirit of the place
Ruling her, she and the evening star sharing the darkness,
And danced on the naked shore
Where a pale couch of sand covered the rocks,
Danced with slow steps and streaming hair,
Dark and slender
Against the pallid sea-gleam, slender and maidenly
Dancing and weeping . . .
It seemed to her that all her body
Was touched and troubled with polluting presences
Invisible, and whatever had happened to her from her two lovers
She had been until that hour inviolately a virgin,
Whom now the desires of dead men and dead Gods and a dead
tribe
Used for their common prey . . . dancing and weeping,
Slender and maidenly . . . The chant was changed,
And Tamar's body responded to the change, her spirit
Wailing within her. She heard the brutal voice
And hated it, she heard old Jinny mimic it
In the cracked childish quaver, but all her body
Obeyed it, wakening into wantonness,
Kindling with lust and wilder
Coarseness of insolent gestures,
The senses cold and averse, but the frantic too-governable flesh
Inviting the assaults of whatever desired it, of dead men
Or Gods walking the tide-marks,
The beautiful girlish body as gracile as a maiden's
Gone beastlike, crouching and widening,
Agape to be entered, as the earth
Gapes with harsh heat-cracks, the inland adobe of sun-worn
valleys
At the end of summer
Opening sick mouths for its hope of the rain,
So her body gone mad
Invited the spirits of the night, her belly and her breasts
Twisting, her feet dashed with blood where the granite had
bruised them,
And she fell, and lay gasping on the sand, on the tide-line.
Darkness
Possessed the shore when the evening star was down; old Stella
Was quiet in her trance; old Jinny the idiot clucked and parroted
to herself, there was none but the idiot
Saw whether a God or a troop of Gods came swaggering along
the tide-marks unto Tamar, to use her
Shamefully and return from her, gross and replete shadows,
swaggering along the tide-marks
Against the sea-gleam. After a little the life came back to that
fallen flower; for fear or feebleness
She crept on hands and knees, returning so to the old medium
of this infamy. Only
The new tide moved in the night now; Tamar with her back
bent like a bow and the hair fallen forward
Crouched naked at old Stella's feet, and shortly heard the voice
she had cried for. 'I am your Helen.
I would have wished you choose another place to meet me and
milder ceremonies to summon me.
We dead have traded power for wisdom, yet it is hard for us
to wait on the maniac living
Patiently, the desires of you wild beasts. You have the power.'
And Tamar murmured, 'I had nothing,
Desire nor power.' And Helen, 'Humbler than you were. She
has been humbled, my little Tamar.
And not so clean as the first lover left you, Tamar. Another and
half a dozen savages,
Dead, and dressed up for Gods.' 'I have endured it,' she answered.
Then the sweet disdainful voice
In the throat of the old woman: 'As for me, I chose rather to
die.' 'How can I kill
A dead woman,' said Tamar in her heart, not moving the lips,
but the other listened to thought
And answered, 'O, we are safe, we shan't fear murder. But,
Tamar, the child will die, and all for nothing
You were submissive by the river, and lived, and endured fouling.
I have heard the wiser flights
Of better spirits, that beat up to the breasts and shoulders of our
Father above the star-fire,
Say, 'Sin never buys anything.'
Tamar, kneeling, drew the
thickness of her draggled hair
Over her face and wept till it seemed heavy with blood; and
like a snake lifting its head
Out of a fire, she lifted up her face after a little and said, 'It
will live, and my father's
Bitch be proved a liar.' And the voice answered, and the tone
of the voice smiled, 'Her words
Rhyme with her dancing. Tamar, did you know there were
many of us to watch the dance you danced there,
And the end of the dance? We on the cliff; your mother, who
used to hate me, was among us, Tamar.
But she and I loved each only one man, though it were the
same. We two shared one? You, Tamar,
Are shared by many.' And Tamar: 'This is your help, I dug
down to you secret dead people
To help me and so I am helped now. What shall I ask more?
How it feels when the last liquid morsel
Slides from the bone? Or whether you see the worm that burrows
up through the eye-socket, or thrill
To the maggot's music in the tube of a dead ear? You stinking
dead. That you have no shame
Is nothing: I have no shame: see I am naked, and if my thighs
were wet with dead beasts' drippings
I have suffered no pollution like the worms in yours; and if I
cannot touch you I tell you
There are those I can touch. I have smelled fire and tasted fire,
And all these days of horrible sunlight, fire
Hummed in my ears, I have worn fire about me like a cloak and
burning for clothing. It is God
Who is tired of the house that thousand-leggers crawl about in,
where an idiot sleeps beside a ghost-seer,
A doting old man sleeps with dead women and does not know it,
And pointed bones are at the doors
Or climb up trees to the window. I say He has gathered
Fire all about the walls and no one sees it
But I, the old roof is ripe and the rafters
Rotten for burning, and all the woods are nests of horrible things,
nothing would ever clean them
But fire, but I will go to a clean home by the good river.' 'You
danced, Tamar,' replied
The sweet disdainful voice in the mouth of the old woman, 'and
now your song is like your dance,
Modest and sweet. Only you have not said it was you,
Before you came down by the sea to dance,
That lit a candle in your closet and laid
Paper at the foot of the candle. We were watching.
And now the wick is nearly down to the heap,
It's God will have fired the house? But Tamar,
It will not burn. You will have fired it, your brother
Will quench it, I think that God would hardly touch
Anything in that house.' 'If you know everything,'
Cried Tamar, 'tell me where to go.
Now life won't do me and death is shut against me
Because I hate you. O believe me I hate you dead people
More than you dead hate me. Listen to me, Helen.
There is no voice as horrible to me as yours,
And the breasts the worms have worked in. A vicious berry
Grown up out of the graveyard for my poison.
But there is no one in the world as lonely as I,
Betrayed by life and death.' Like rain breaking a storm
Sobs broke her voice. Holding by a jag of the cliff
She drew herself full height. God who makes beauty
Disdains no creature, nor despised that wounded
Tired and betrayed body. She in the starlight
And little noises of the rising tide
Naked and not ashamed bore a third part
With the ocean and keen stars in the consistence
And dignity of the world. She was white stone,
Passion and despair and grief had stripped away
Whatever is rounded and approachable
In the body of woman, hers looked hard, long lines
Narrowing down from the shoulder-bones, no appeal,
A weapon and no sheath, fire without fuel,
Saying, 'Have you anything more inside you
Old fat and sleepy sepulcher, any more voices?
You can do better than my father's by-play
And the dirty tricks of savages, decenter people
Have died surely. T have so passed nature
That God himself, who's dead or all these devils
Would never have broken hell, might speak out of you
Last season thunder and not scare me.' Old Stella
Groaned but not spoke, old Jinny lying beside her
Wakened at the word thunder and suddenly chuckling
Began to mimic a storm, 'whoo-whoo' for wind
And 'boom-boom-boom' for thunder. Other voices
Wakened far off above the cliff, and suddenly
The farm-bell ringing fire; and on the rock-islets
Sleepy cormorants cried at it. 'Why, now He speaks
Another way than out of the fat throat,'
Cried Tamar, and prayed, 'O strong and clean and terrible
Spirit and not father punish the hateful house.
Fire eat the walls and roofs, drive the red beast
Through every wormhole of the rotting timbers
And into the woods and into the stable, show them,
These liars, that you are alive.' Across her voice
The bell sounded and old Jinny mimicking it,
And shouts above the cliff. 'Look, Jinny, look,'
Cried Tamar, 'the sky'd be red soon, come and we'll dress
And watch the bonfire.' Yet she glanced no thought
At her own mermaid nakedness but gathering
The long black serpents of beached seaweed wove
Wreaths for old Jinny and crowned and wound her. Meanwhile
The bell ceased ringing and Stella ceased her moan,
And in the sudden quietness, 'Tamar,' she said
In the known voice of Helen so many years
Dead, 'though you hate me utterly, Tamar, I
Have nothing to give back, I was quite emptied
Of hate and love and the other fires of the flesh
Before your mother gave the clay to my lover
To mould you a vessel to hold them.' Tamar, winding
Her mindless puppet in the sea-slough mesh
Said over her shoulder, hardly turning, 'Why then
Do you trouble whom you don't hate?' 'Because we hunger
And hunger for life,' she answered. 'Did I come uncalled?
You called me, you have more hot and blind, wild-blooded
And passionate life than any other creature.
How could I ever leave you while the life lasts?
God pity us both, a cataract life
Dashing itself to pieces in an instant.
You are my happiness, you are my happiness and death eats you.
I'll leave you when you are empty and cold and join us.
Then pity me, then Tamar, me flitting
The chilly and brittle pumice-tips of the moon,
While the second death
Corrodes this shell of me, till it makes my end.'
But Tamar would not listen to her, too busily
Decking old Jinny for the festival fire,
And sighing that thin and envious ghost forsook
Her instrument, and about that time harsh pain
Wrung Tamar's loins and belly, and pain and terror
Expelled her passionate fancies, she cried anxiously,
'Stella, Aunt Stella, help me, will you?' and thinking,
'She hears when Jinny whimpers,' twistingly pinched
Her puppet's arm until it screamed. Old Stella
Sat up on the seaweed bed and turned white eyes
No pupils broke the diffused star-gleam in
Upon her sixty-year-old babe, that now
Crouched whimpering, huddled under the slippery leaves
And black whips of the beach; and by it stood gleaming
Tamar, anguished, all white as the blank balls
That swept her with no sight but vision: old Stella
Did not awake yet but a voice blew through her,
Not personal like the other, and shook her body
And shook her hands: 'It was no good to do too soon, your
fire's out, you'd been patient for me
It might have saved two fires.' But Tamar: 'Stella.
I'm dying: or it is dying: wake up Aunt Stella.
O pain, pain, help me.' And the voice: 'She is mine while I
use her. Scream, no one will hear but this one
Who has no mind, who has not more help than July rain.' And
Tamar, 'What are you, what are you, mocking me?
More dirt and another dead man? O,' she moaned, pressing her
flanks with both her hands, and bending
So that her hair across her knees lay on the rock. It answered,
'Not a voice from carrion.
Breaker of trees and father of grass, shepherd of clouds and
waters, if you had waited for me
You'd be the luckier.' 'What shall I give you?' Tamar cried,
'I have given away'
Pain stopped her, and then
Blood ran, and she fell down on the round stones, and felt nor
saw nothing. A little later
Old Stella Moreland woke out of her vision, sick and shaking.

Tamar's mind and suffering
Returned to her neither on the sea-rocks of the midnight nor
in her own room; but she was lying
Where Lee her brother had lain, nine months before, after his
fall, in the big westward bedroom.
She lay on the bed, and in one corner was a cot for Stella who
nursed her, and in the other
A cot for the idiot, whom none else would care for but old
Stella. After the ache of awakening
And blank dismay of the spirit come home to a spoiled house,
she lay thinking with vacant wonder
That life is always an old story, repeating itself always like the
leaves of a tree
Or the lips of an idiot; that herself like Lee her brother
Was picked up bleeding from the sea-boulders under the sea-cliff
and carried up to be laid
In the big westward bedroom . . . was he also fouled with
ghosts before they found him, a gang
Of dead men beating him with rotten bones, mouthing his body,
piercing him? 'Stella,' she whispered,
'Have I been sick long?' 'There, sweetheart, lie still; three or
four days.' 'Has Lee been in to see me?'
'Indeed he has, hours every day.' 'He'll come, then,' and she
closed her eyes and seemed to sleep.
Someone tapped at the door after an hour and Tamar said,
'Come, Lee.' But her old father
Came in, and he said nothing, but sat down by the bed; Tamar
had closed her eyes. In a little
Lee entered, and he brought a chair across the room and sat by
the bed. 'Why don't you speak,
Lee?' And he said, 'What can I say except I love you, sister?'
'Why do you call me sister,
Not Tamar?' And he answered, 'I love you, Tamar.' Then old
Aunt Stella said, 'See, she's much better.
But you must let her rest. She'll be well in a few days; now kiss
her, Lee, and let her rest.'
Lee bent above the white pure cameo-face on the white pillow,
meaning to kiss the forehead.
But Tamar's hands caught him, her lips reached up for his: while
Jinny the idiot clapped and chuckled
And made a clucking noise of kisses; then, while Lee sought to
untwine the arms that yoked his neck,
The old man, rising: 'I opened the Book last night thinking
about the sorrows of this house,
And it said, 'If a man find her in the field and force her and lie
with her, nevertheless the damsel
Has not earned death, for she cried out and there was none to
save her.' Be glad, Tamar, my sins
Are only visited on my son, for you there is mercy.' 'David,
David,
Will you be gone and let her rest now,' cried old Stella, 'do
you mean to kill her with a bible?'
'Woman,' he answered, 'has God anything to do with you?
She will not die, the Book
Opened and said it.' Tamar, panting, leaned against the pillow
and said, 'Go, go. To-morrow
Say all you please; what does it matter?' And the old man said,
'Come, Lee, in the morning she will hear us.'
Tamar stretched out her trembling hand, Lee did not touch it,
but went out ahead of his father.
So they were heard in the hall, and then their footsteps on the
stair. Tamar lay quiet and rigid,
With open eyes and tightening fists, with anger like a coiled steel
spring in her throat but weakness
And pain for the lead weights. After an hour she said, 'What
does he mean to do? Go away?
Kill himself, Stella?' Stella answered, 'Nothing, nothing, they
talk, it's to keep David quiet.
Your father is off his head a little, you know. Now rest you,
little Tamar, smile and be sleepy,
Scold them to-morrow.' 'Shut the sun out of my eyes then,'
Tamar said, but the idiot Jinny
Made such a moaning when the windows were all curtained they
needed to let in one beam
For dust to dance in; then the idiot and the sick girl slept. About
the hour of sundown
Tamar was dreaming trivially an axman chopping down a tree
and field-mice scampering
Out of the roots when suddenly like a shift of wind the dream
Changed and grew awful, she watched dark horsemen coming
out of the south, squadrons of hurrying horsemen
Between the hills and the dark sea, helmeted like the soldiers of
the war in France,
Carrying torches. When they passed Mal Paso Creek the columns
Veered, one of the riders said, 'Here it began,' but another
answered, 'No. Before the granite
Was bedded to build the world on.' So they formed and galloped
north again, hurrying squadrons,
And Tamar thought, 'When they come to the Carmel River
then it will happen. They have passed Mal Paso.'

Meanwhile
Who has ever guessed to what odd ports, what sea buoying the
keels, a passion blows its bulkless
Navies of vision? High up in the hills
Ramon Ramirez, who was herdsman of the Cauldwell herds,
stood in his cabin doorway
Rolling a cigarette a half-hour after sundown, and he felt puffs
from the south
Come down the slope of stunted redwoods, so he thought the
year was turning at last, and shortly
There would come showers; he walked therefore a hundred
yards to westward, where a point of the hill
Stood over Wildcat Canyon and the sea was visible; he saw
Point Lobos gemmed in the darkening
Pale yellow sea; and on the point the barn-roofs and the house roof
breaking up through the blackness
Of twilight cypress tops, and over the sea a cloud forming. The
evening darkened. Southwestward
A half-mile loop of the coast-road could be seen, this side Mal
Paso. Suddenly a nebular company
Of lights rounded the hill, Ramirez thought the headlights of
a car sweeping the road,
But in a moment saw that it was horsemen, each carrying a light,
hurrying northward,
Moving in squads he judged of twenty or twenty-five, he counted
twelve or thirteen companies
When the brush broke behind him and a horseman rode the
headlong ridge like level ground,
Helmeted, carrying a torch. Followed a squad of twelve, helmeted,
cantering the headlong ridge
Like level ground. He thought in the nervous innocence of the
early war, they must be Germans.

Tamar awoke out of her dream and heard old Jinny saying,
'Dear sister Helen, kiss me
As you kiss David. I was watching under a rock, he took your
clothes off and you kissed him
So hard and hard, I love you too, Helen; you hardly ever kiss
me.' Tamar lay rigid,
Breathless to listen to her; it was well known in the house that
under the shell of imbecility
Speech and a spirit, however subdued, existed still; there were
waking flashes, and more often
She talked in sleep and proved her dreams were made out of
clear memories, childhood sights and girlhood
Fancies, before the shadow had fallen; so Tamar craving food
for passion listened to her,
And heard: 'Why are you cross, Helen? I won't peek if you'd
rather I didn't. Darling Helen,
I love him, too; I'd let him play with me the way he does with
you if he wanted to.
And Lily and Stella hate me as much as they hate you.' All
she said after was so mumbled
That Tamar could not hear it, could only hear the mumble, and
old Aunt Stella's nasal sleep
And the sea murmuring. When the mumbled voice was quiet it
seemed to Tamar
A strange thing was preparing, an inward pressure
Grew in her throat and seemed to swell her arms and hands
And join itself with a fluid power
Streaming from somewhere in the room from Jinny?
From Stella? and in a moment the heavy chair
That Lee had sat in, tipped up, rose from the floor,
And floated to the place he had brought it from
Five hours ago. The power was then relaxed,
And Tamar could breathe and speak. She awaked old Stella
And trembling told her what she had seen; who laughed
And answered vaguely so that Tamar wondered
Whether she was still asleep, and let her burrow
In her bed again and sleep. Later that night
Tamar too slept, but shudderingly, in snatches,
For fear of dreaming. A night like years. In the gray of morning
A horse screamed from the stableyard and Tamar
Heard the thud of hooves lashing out and timbers
Splintering, and two or three horses broken loose
Galloped about the grounds of the house. She heard men calling,
And downstairs Lee in a loud angry tone
Saying 'Someone's pitched the saw-buck and the woodpile
Into the horse-corral.' Then Tamar thought
'The same power moved his chair in the room, my hatred, my
hatred,
Disturbing the house because I failed to burn it.
I must be quiet and quiet and quiet and keep
The serving spirits of my hid hatred quiet
Until my rime serves too. Helen you shadow

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VI. Giuseppe Caponsacchi

Answer you, Sirs? Do I understand aright?
Have patience! In this sudden smoke from hell,—
So things disguise themselves,—I cannot see
My own hand held thus broad before my face
And know it again. Answer you? Then that means
Tell over twice what I, the first time, told
Six months ago: 't was here, I do believe,
Fronting you same three in this very room,
I stood and told you: yet now no one laughs,
Who then … nay, dear my lords, but laugh you did,
As good as laugh, what in a judge we style
Laughter—no levity, nothing indecorous, lords!
Only,—I think I apprehend the mood:
There was the blameless shrug, permissible smirk,
The pen's pretence at play with the pursed mouth,
The titter stifled in the hollow palm
Which rubbed the eyebrow and caressed the nose,
When I first told my tale: they meant, you know,
"The sly one, all this we are bound believe!
"Well, he can say no other than what he says.
"We have been young, too,—come, there's greater guilt!
"Let him but decently disembroil himself,
"Scramble from out the scrape nor move the mud,—
"We solid ones may risk a finger-stretch!
And now you sit as grave, stare as aghast
As if I were a phantom: now 't is—"Friend,
"Collect yourself!"—no laughing matter more—
"Counsel the Court in this extremity,
"Tell us again!"—tell that, for telling which,
I got the jocular piece of punishment,
Was sent to lounge a little in the place
Whence now of a sudden here you summon me
To take the intelligence from just—your lips!
You, Judge Tommati, who then tittered most,—
That she I helped eight months since to escape
Her husband, was retaken by the same,
Three days ago, if I have seized your sense,—
(I being disallowed to interfere,
Meddle or make in a matter none of mine,
For you and law were guardians quite enough
O' the innocent, without a pert priest's help)—
And that he has butchered her accordingly,
As she foretold and as myself believed,—
And, so foretelling and believing so,
We were punished, both of us, the merry way:
Therefore, tell once again the tale! For what?
Pompilia is only dying while I speak!
Why does the mirth hang fire and miss the smile?
My masters, there's an old book, you should con
For strange adventures, applicable yet,
'T is stuffed with. Do you know that there was once
This thing: a multitude of worthy folk
Took recreation, watched a certain group
Of soldiery intent upon a game,—
How first they wrangled, but soon fell to play,
Threw dice,—the best diversion in the world.
A word in your ear,—they are now casting lots,
Ay, with that gesture quaint and cry uncouth,
For the coat of One murdered an hour ago!
I am a priest,—talk of what I have learned.
Pompilia is bleeding out her life belike,
Gasping away the latest breath of all,
This minute, while I talk—not while you laugh?

Yet, being sobered now, what is it you ask
By way of explanation? There's the fact!
It seems to fill the universe with sight
And sound,—from the four corners of this earth
Tells itself over, to my sense at least.
But you may want it lower set i' the scale,—
Too vast, too close it clangs in the ear, perhaps;
You'd stand back just to comprehend it more.
Well then, let me, the hollow rock, condense
The voice o' the sea and wind, interpret you
The mystery of this murder. God above!
It is too paltry, such a transference
O' the storm's roar to the cranny of the stone!

This deed, you saw begin—why does its end
Surprise you? Why should the event enforce
The lesson, we ourselves learned, she and I,
From the first o' the fact, and taught you, all in vain?
This Guido from whose throat you took my grasp,
Was this man to be favoured, now or feared,
Let do his will, or have his will restrained,
In the relation with Pompilia? Say!
Did any other man need interpose
Oh, though first comer, though as strange at the work
As fribble must be, coxcomb, fool that's near
To knave as, say, a priest who fears the world
Was he bound brave the peril, save the doomed,
Or go on, sing his snatch and pluck his flower,
Keep the straight path and let the victim die?
I held so; you decided otherwise,
Saw no such peril, therefore no such need
To stop song, loosen flower, and leave path. Law,
Law was aware and watching, would suffice,
Wanted no priest's intrusion, palpably
Pretence, too manifest a subterfuge!
Whereupon I, priest, coxcomb, fribble and fool,
Ensconced me in my corner, thus rebuked,
A kind of culprit, over-zealous hound
Kicked for his pains to kennel; I gave place,
To you, and let the law reign paramount:
I left Pompilia to your watch and ward,
And now you point me—there and thus she lies!

Men, for the last time, what do you want with me?
Is it,—you acknowledge, as it were, a use,
A profit in employing me?—at length
I may conceivably help the august law?
I am free to break the blow, next hawk that swoops
On next dove, nor miss much of good repute?
Or what if this your summons, after all,
Be but the form of mere release, no more,
Which turns the key and lets the captive go?
I have paid enough in person at Civita,
Am free,—what more need I concern me with?
Thank you! I am rehabilitated then,
A very reputable priest. But she—
The glory of life, the beauty of the world,
The splendour of heaven, … well, Sirs, does no one move?
Do I speak ambiguously? The glory, I say,
And the beauty, I say, and splendour, still say I,
Who, priest and trained to live my whole life long
On beauty and splendour, solely at their source,
God,—have thus recognized my food in her,
You tell me, that's fast dying while we talk,
Pompilia! How does lenity to me,
Remit one death-bed pang to her? Come, smile!
The proper wink at the hot-headed youth
Who lets his soul show, through transparent words,
The mundane love that's sin and scandal too!
You are all struck acquiescent now, it seems:
It seems the oldest, gravest signor here,
Even the redoubtable Tommati, sits
Chop-fallen,—understands how law might take
Service like mine, of brain and heart and hand,
In good part. Better late than never, law
You understand of a sudden, gospel too
Has a claim here, may possibly pronounce
Consistent with my priesthood, worthy Christ,
That I endeavoured to save Pompilia?

Then,
You were wrong, you see: that's well to see, though late:
That's all we may expect of man, this side
The grave: his good is—knowing he is bad:
Thus will it be with us when the books ope
And we stand at the bar on judgment-day.
Well then, I have a mind to speak, see cause
To relume the quenched flax by this dreadful light,
Burn my soul out in showing you the truth.
I heard, last time I stood here to be judged,
What is priest's-duty,—labour to pluck tares
And weed the corn of Molinism; let me
Make you hear, this time, how, in such a case,
Man, be he in the priesthood or at plough,
Mindful of Christ or marching step by step
With … what's his style, the other potentate
Who bids have courage and keep honour safe,
Nor let minuter admonition tease?—
How he is bound, better or worse, to act.
Earth will not end through this misjudgment, no!
For you and the others like you sure to come,
Fresh work is sure to follow,—wickedness
That wants withstanding. Many a man of blood,
Many a man of guile will clamour yet,
Bid you redress his grievance,—as he clutched
The prey, forsooth a stranger stepped between,
And there's the good gripe in pure waste! My part
Is done; i' the doing it, I pass away
Out of the world. I want no more with earth.
Let me, in heaven's name, use the very snuff
O' the taper in one last spark shall show truth
For a moment, show Pompilia who was true!
Not for her sake, but yours: if she is dead,
Oh, Sirs, she can be loved by none of you
Most or least priestly! Saints, to do us good,
Must be in heaven, I seem to understand:
We never find them saints before, at least.
Be her first prayer then presently for you
She has done the good to me …

What is all this?
There, I was born, have lived, shall die, a fool!
This is a foolish outset:—might with cause
Give colour to the very lie o' the man,
The murderer,—make as if I loved his wife,
In the way he called love. He is the fool there!
Why, had there been in me the touch of taint,
I had picked up so much of knaves'-policy
As hide it, keep one hand pressed on the place
Suspected of a spot would damn us both.
Or no, not her!—not even if any of you
Dares think that I, i' the face of death, her death
That's in my eyes and ears and brain and heart,
Lie,—if he does, let him! I mean to say,
So he stop there, stay thought from smirching her
The snow-white soul that angels fear to take
Untenderly. But, all the same, I know
I too am taintless, and I bare my breast.
You can't think, men as you are, all of you,
But that, to hear thus suddenly such an end
Of such a wonderful white soul, that comes
Of a man and murderer calling the white black,
Must shake me, trouble and disadvantage. Sirs,
Only seventeen!

Why, good and wise you are!
You might at the beginning stop my mouth:
So, none would be to speak for her, that knew.
I talk impertinently, and you bear,
All the same. This it is to have to do
With honest hearts: they easily may err,
But in the main they wish well to the truth.
You are Christians; somehow, no one ever plucked
A rag, even, from the body of the Lord,
To wear and mock with, but, despite himself,
He looked the greater and was the better. Yes,
I shall go on now. Does she need or not
I keep calm? Calm I'll keep as monk that croons
Transcribing battle, earthquake, famine, plague,
From parchment to his cloister's chronicle.
Not one word more from the point now!

I begin.
Yes, I am one of your body and a priest.
Also I am a younger son o' the House
Oldest now, greatest once, in my birth-town
Arezzo, I recognize no equal there
(I want all arguments, all sorts of arms
That seem to serve,—use this for a reason, wait!)
Not therefore thrust into the Church, because
O' the piece of bread one gets there. We were first
Of Fiesole, that rings still with the fame
Of Capo-in-Sacco our progenitor:
When Florence ruined Fiesole, our folk
Migrated to the victor-city, and there
Flourished,—our palace and our tower attest,
In the Old Mercato,—this was years ago,
Four hundred, full,—no, it wants fourteen just.
Our arms are those of Fiesole itself,
The shield quartered with white and red: a branch
Are the Salviati of us, nothing more.
That were good help to the Church? But better still
Not simply for the advantage of my birth
I' the way of the world, was I proposed for priest;
But because there's an illustration, late
I' the day, that's loved and looked to as a saint
Still in Arezzo, he was bishop of,
Sixty years since: he spent to the last doit
His bishop's-revenue among the poor,
And used to tend the needy and the sick,
Barefoot, because of his humility.
He it was,—when the Granduke Ferdinand
Swore he would raze our city, plough the place
And sow it with salt, because we Aretines
Had tied a rope about the neck, to hale
The statue of his father from its base
For hate's sake,—he availed by prayers and tears
To pacify the Duke and save the town.
This was my father's father's brother. You see,
For his sake, how it was I had a right
To the self-same office, bishop in the egg,
So, grew i' the garb and prattled in the school,
Was made expect, from infancy almost,
The proper mood o' the priest; till time ran by
And brought the day when I must read the vows,
Declare the world renounced and undertake
To become priest and leave probation,—leap
Over the ledge into the other life,
Having gone trippingly hitherto up to the height
O'er the wan water. Just a vow to read!

I stopped short awe-struck. "How shall holiest flesh
"Engage to keep such vow inviolate,
"How much less mine? I know myself too weak,
"Unworthy! Choose a worthier stronger man!"
And the very Bishop smiled and stopped my mouth
In its mid-protestation. "Incapable?
"Qualmish of conscience? Thou ingenuous boy!
"Clear up the clouds and cast thy scruples far!
"I satisfy thee there's an easier sense
"Wherein to take such vow than suits the first
"Rough rigid reading. Mark what makes all smooth,
"Nay, has been even a solace to myself!
"The Jews who needs must, in their synagogue,
"Utter sometimes the holy name of God,
"A thing their superstition boggles at,
"Pronounce aloud the ineffable sacrosanct,—
"How does their shrewdness help them? In this wise;
"Another set of sounds they substitute,
"Jumble so consonants and vowels—how
"Should I know?—that there grows from out the old
"Quite a new word that means the very same—
"And o'er the hard place slide they with a smile.
"Giuseppe Maria Caponsacchi mine,
"Nobody wants you in these latter days
"To prop the Church by breaking your back-bone,—
"As the necessary way was once, we know,
"When Diocletian flourished and his like.
"That building of the buttress-work was done
"By martyrs and confessors: let it bide,
"Add not a brick, but, where you see a chink,
"Stick in a sprig of ivy or root a rose
"Shall make amends and beautify the pile!
"We profit as you were the painfullest
"O' the martyrs, and you prove yourself a match
"For the cruelest confessor ever was,
"If you march boldly up and take your stand
"Where their blood soaks, their bones yet strew the soil,
"And cry 'Take notice, I the young and free
"'And well-to-do i' the world, thus leave the world,
"'Cast in my lot thus with no gay young world
"'But the grand old Church: she tempts me of the two!'
"Renounce the world? Nay, keep and give it us!
"Let us have you, and boast of what you bring.
"We want the pick o' the earth to practise with,
"Not its offscouring, halt and deaf and blind
"In soul and body. There's a rubble-stone
"Unfit for the front o' the building, stuff to stow
"In a gap behind and keep us weather-tight;
"There's porphyry for the prominent place. Good lack!
"Saint Paul has had enough and to spare, I trow,
"Of ragged run-away Onesimus:
"He wants the right-hand with the signet-ring
"Of King Agrippa, now, to shake and use.
"I have a heavy scholar cloistered up,
"Close under lock and key, kept at his task
"Of letting Fénelon know the fool he is,
"In a book I promise Christendom next Spring.
"Why, if he covets so much meat, the clown,
"As a lark's wing next Friday, or, any day,
"Diversion beyond catching his own fleas,
"He shall be properly swinged, I promise him.
"But you, who are so quite another paste
"Of a man,—do you obey me? Cultivate
"Assiduous that superior gift you have
"Of making madrigals—(who told me? Ah!)
"Get done a Marinesque Adoniad straight
"With a pulse o' the blood a-pricking, here and there,
"That I may tell the lady 'And he's ours!'"

So I became a priest: those terms changed all,
I was good enough for that, nor cheated so;
I could live thus and still hold head erect.
Now you see why I may have been before
A fribble and coxcomb, yet, as priest, break word
Nowise, to make you disbelieve me now.
I need that you should know my truth. Well, then,
According to prescription did I live,
—Conformed myself, both read the breviary
And wrote the rhymes, was punctual to my place
I' the Pieve, and as diligent at my post
Where beauty and fashion rule. I throve apace,
Sub-deacon, Canon, the authority
For delicate play at tarocs, and arbiter
O' the magnitude of fan-mounts: all the while
Wanting no whit the advantage of a hint
Benignant to the promising pupil,—thus:
"Enough attention to the Countess now,
"The young one; 't is her mother rules the roast,
"We know where, and puts in a word: go pay
"Devoir to-morrow morning after mass!
"Break that rash promise to preach, Passion-week!
"Has it escaped you the Archbishop grunts
"And snuffles when one grieves to tell his Grace
"No soul dares treat the subject of the day
"Since his own masterly handling it (ha, ha!)
"Five years ago,—when somebody could help
"And touch up an odd phrase in time of need,
"(He, he!)—and somebody helps you, my son!
"Therefore, don't prove so indispensable
"At the Pieve, sit more loose i' the seat, nor grow
"A fixture by attendance morn and eve!
"Arezzo's just a haven midway Rome—
"Rome's the eventual harbour,—make for port,
"Crowd sail, crack cordage! And your cargo be
"A polished presence, a genteel manner, wit
"At will, and tact at every pore of you!
"I sent our lump of learning, Brother Clout,
"And Father Slouch, our piece of piety,
"To see Rome and try suit the Cardinal.
"Thither they clump-clumped, beads and book in hand,
"And ever since 't is meat for man and maid
"How both flopped down, prayed blessing on bent pate
"Bald many an inch beyond the tonsure's need,
"Never once dreaming, the two moony dolts,
"There's nothing moves his Eminence so much
"As—far from all this awe at sanctitude—
"Heads that wag, eyes that twinkle, modified mirth
"At the closet-lectures on the Latin tongue
"A lady learns so much by, we know where.
"Why, body o' Bacchus, you should crave his rule
"For pauses in the elegiac couplet, chasms
"Permissible only to Catullus! There!
"Now go to duty: brisk, break Priscian's head
"By reading the day's office—there's no help.
"You've Ovid in your poke to plaster that;
"Amen's at the end of all: then sup with me!"

Well, after three or four years of this life,
In prosecution of my calling, I
Found myself at the theatre one night
With a brother Canon, in a mood and mind
Proper enough for the place, amused or no:
When I saw enter, stand, and seat herself
A lady, young, tall, beautiful, strange and sad.
It was as when, in our cathedral once,
As I got yawningly through matin-song,
I saw facchini bear a burden up,
Base it on the high-altar, break away
A board or two, and leave the thing inside
Lofty and lone: and lo, when next I looked,
There was the Rafael! I was still one stare,
When—"Nay, I'll make her give you back your gaze"—
Said Canon Conti; and at the word he tossed
A paper-twist of comfits to her lap,
And dodged and in a trice was at my back
Nodding from over my shoulder. Then she turned,
Looked our way, smiled the beautiful sad strange smile.
"Is not she fair? 'T is my new cousin," said he:
"The fellow lurking there i' the black o' the box
"Is Guido, the old scapegrace: she's his wife,
"Married three years since: how his Countship sulks!
"He has brought little back from Rome beside,
"After the bragging, bullying. A fair face,
"Andthey do say—a pocketful of gold
"When he can worry both her parents dead.
"I don't go much there, for the chamber's cold
"And the coffee pale. I got a turn at first
"Paying my duty: I observed they crouched
"—The two old frightened family spectres—close
"In a corner, each on each like mouse on mouse
"I' the cat's cage: ever since, I stay at home.
"Hallo, there's Guido, the black, mean and small,
"Bends his brows on us—please to bend your own
"On the shapely nether limbs of Light-skirts there
"By way of a diversion! I was a fool
"To fling the sweetmeats. Prudence, for God's love!
"To-morrow I'll make my peace, e'en tell some fib,
"Try if I can't find means to take you there."

That night and next day did the gaze endure,
Burnt to my brain, as sunbeam thro' shut eyes,
And not once changed the beautiful sad strange smile.
At vespers Conti leaned beside my seat
I' the choir,—part said, part sung—"In ex-cel-sis—
"All's to no purpose; I have louted low,
"But he saw you staring—quia sub—don't incline
"To know you nearer: him we would not hold
"For Hercules,—the man would lick your shoe
"If you and certain efficacious friends
"Managed him warily,—but there's the wife:
"Spare her, because he beats her, as it is,
"She's breaking her heart quite fast enough—jam tu—
"So, be you rational and make amends
"With little Light-skirts yonder—in secula
"Secu-lo-o-o-o-rum. Ah, you rogue! Every one knows
"What great dame she makes jealous: one against one,
"Play, and win both!"

Sirs, ere the week was out,
I saw and said to myself "Light-skirts hides teeth
"Would make a dog sick,—the great dame shows spite
"Should drive a cat mad: 't is but poor work this
"Counting one's fingers till the sonnet's crowned.
"I doubt much if Marino really be
"A better bard than Dante after all.
"'T is more amusing to go pace at eve
"I' the Duomo,—watch the day's last gleam outside
"Turn, as into a skirt of God's own robe,
"Those lancet-windows' jewelled miracle,—
"Than go eat the Archbishop's ortolans,
"Digest his jokes. Luckily Lent is near:
"Who cares to look will find me in my stall
"At the Pieve, constant to this faith at least—
"Never to write a canzonet any more."

So, next week, 't was my patron spoke abrupt,
In altered guise. "Young man, can it be true
"That after all your promise of sound fruit,
"You have kept away from Countess young or old
"And gone play truant in church all day long?
"Are you turning Molinist?" I answered quick:
"Sir, what if I turned Christian? It might be.
"The fact is, I am troubled in my mind,
"Beset and pressed hard by some novel thoughts.
"This your Arezzo is a limited world;
"There's a strange Pope,—'t is said, a priest who thinks.
"Rome is the port, you say: to Rome I go.
"I will live alone, one does so in a crowd,
"And look into my heart a little." "Lent
"Ended,"—I told friends—"I shall go to Rome."

One evening I was sitting in a muse
Over the opened "Summa," darkened round
By the mid-March twilight, thinking how my life
Had shaken under me,—broke short indeed
And showed the gap 'twixt what is, what should be,—
And into what abysm the soul may slip,
Leave aspiration here, achievement there,
Lacking omnipotence to connect extremes—
Thinking moreover … oh, thinking, if you like,
How utterly dissociated was I
A priest and celibate, from the sad strange wife
Of Guido,—just as an instance to the point,
Nought more,—how I had a whole store of strengths
Eating into my heart, which craved employ,
And she, perhaps, need of a finger's help,—
And yet there was no way in the wide world
To stretch out mine and so relieve myself,—
How when the page o' the Summa preached its best,
Her smile kept glowing out of it, as to mock
The silence we could break by no one word,—
There came a tap without the chamber-door,
And a whisper; when I bade who tapped speak out.
And, in obedience to my summons, last
In glided a masked muffled mystery,
Laid lightly a letter on the opened book,
Then stood with folded arms and foot demure,
Pointing as if to mark the minutes' flight.

I took the letter, read to the effect
That she, I lately flung the comfits to,
Had a warm heart to give me in exchange,
And gave it,—loved me and confessed it thus,
And bade me render thanks by word of mouth,
Going that night to such a side o' the house
Where the small terrace overhangs a street
Blind and deserted, not the street in front:
Her husband being away, the surly patch,
At his villa of Vittiano.

"And you?"—I asked:
"What may you be?" "Count Guido's kind of maid—
"Most of us have two functions in his house.
"We all hate him, the lady suffers much,
"'T is just we show compassion, furnish help,
"Specially since her choice is fixed so well.
"What answer may I bring to cheer the sweet
"Pompilia?"

Then I took a pen and wrote
"No more of this! That you are fair, I know:
"But other thoughts now occupy my mind.
"I should not thus have played the insensible
"Once on a time. What made you,—may one ask,—
"Marry your hideous husband? 'T was a fault,
"And now you taste the fruit of it. Farewell."

"There!" smiled I as she snatched it and was gone—
"There, let the jealous miscreant,—Guido's self,
"Whose mean soul grins through this transparent trick,—
"Be baulked so far, defrauded of his aim!
"What fund of satisfaction to the knave,
"Had I kicked this his messenger down stairs,
"Trussed to the middle of her impudence,
"And set his heart at ease so! No, indeed!
"There's the reply which he shall turn and twist
"At pleasure, snuff at till his brain grow drunk,
"As the bear does when he finds a scented glove
"That puzzles him,—a hand and yet no hand,
"Of other perfume than his own foul paw!
"Last month, I had doubtless chosen to play the dupe,
"Accepted the mock-invitation, kept
"The sham appointment, cudgel beneath cloak,
"Prepared myself to pull the appointer's self
"Out of the window from his hiding-place
"Behind the gown of this part-messenger
"Part-mistress who would personate the wife.
"Such had seemed once a jest permissible:
"Now I am not i' the mood."

Back next morn brought
The messenger, a second letter in hand.
"You are cruel, Thyrsis, and Myrtilla moans
"Neglected but adores you, makes request
"For mercy: why is it you dare not come?
"Such virtue is scarce natural to your age.
"You must love someone else; I hear you do,
"The Baron's daughter or the Advocate's wife,
"Or both,—all's one, would you make me the third—
"I take the crumbs from table gratefully
"Nor grudge who feasts there. 'Faith, I blush and blaze!
"Yet if I break all bounds, there's reason sure.
"Are you determinedly bent on Rome?
"I am wretched here, a monster tortures me:
"Carry me with you! Come and say you will!
"Concert this very evening! Do not write!
"I am ever at the window of my room
"Over the terrace, at the Ave. Come!"

I questioned—lifting half the woman's mask
To let her smile loose. "So, you gave my line
"To the merry lady?" "She kissed off the wax,
"And put what paper was not kissed away,
"In her bosom to go burn: but merry, no!
"She wept all night when evening brought no friend,
"Alone, the unkind missive at her breast;
"Thus Philomel, the thorn at her breast too,
"Sings" … "Writes this second letter?" "Even so!
"Then she may peep at vespers forth?"—"What risk
"Do we run o' the husband?"—"Ah,—no risk at all!
"He is more stupid even than jealous. Ah—
"That was the reason? Why, the man's away!
"Beside, his bugbear is that friend of yours,
"Fat little Canon Conti. He fears him,
"How should he dream of you? I told you truth:
"He goes to the villa at Vittiano—'t is
"The time when Spring-sap rises in the vine—
"Spends the night there. And then his wife's a child:
"Does he think a child outwits him? A mere child:
"Yet so full grown, a dish for any duke.
"Don't quarrel longer with such cates, but come!"
I wrote "In vain do you solicit me.
"I am a priest: and you are wedded wife,
"Whatever kind of brute your husband prove.
"I have scruples, in short. Yet should you really show
"Sign at the window … but nay, best be good!
"My thoughts are elsewhere," "Take her that!"

"Again
"Let the incarnate meanness, cheat and spy,
"Mean to the marrow of him, make his heart
"His food, anticipate hell's worm once more!
"Let him watch shivering at the window—ay,
"And let this hybrid, this his light-of-love
"And lackey-of-lies,—a sage economy,—
"Paid with embracings for the rank brass coin,—
"Let her report and make him chuckle o'er
"The break-down of my resolution now,
"And lour at disappointment in good time!
"—So tantalize and so enrage by turns,
"Until the two fall each on the other like
"Two famished spiders, as the coveted fly
"That toys long, leaves their net and them at last!"
And so the missives followed thick and fast
For a month, say,—I still came at every turn
On the soft sly adder, endlong 'neath my tread.
I was met i' the street, made sign to in the church,
A slip was found i' the door-sill, scribbled word
'Twixt page and page o' the prayer-book in my place.
A crumpled thing dropped even before my feet,
Pushed through the blind, above the terrace-rail,
As I passed, by day, the very window once.
And ever from corners would be peering up
The messenger, with the self-same demand
"Obdurate still, no flesh but adamant?
"Nothing to cure the wound, assuage the throe
"O' the sweetest lamb that ever loved a bear?"
And ever my one answer in one tone—
"Go your ways, temptress! Let a priest read, pray,
"Unplagued of vain talk, visions not for him!
"In the end, you'll have your will and ruin me!"

One day, a variation: thus I read:
"You have gained little by timidity.
"My husband has found out my love at length,
"Sees cousin Conti was the stalking-horse,
"And you the game he covered, poor fat soul!
"My husband is a formidable foe,
"Will stick at nothing to destroy you. Stand
"Prepared, or better, run till you reach Rome!
"I bade you visit me, when the last place
"My tyrant would have turned suspicious at,
"Or cared to seek you in, was … why say, where?
"But now all's changed: beside, the season's past
"At the villa,—wants the master's eye no more.
"Anyhow, I beseech you, stay away
"From the window! He might well be posted there."

I wrote—"You raise my courage, or call up
"My curiosity, who am but man.
"Tell him he owns the palace, not the street
"Under—that's his and yours and mine alike.
"If it should please me pad the path this eve,
"Guido will have two troubles, first to get
"Into a rage and then get out again.
"Be cautious, though: at the Ave!"

You of the Court!
When I stood question here and reached this point
O' the narrative,—search notes and see and say
If someone did not interpose with smile
And sneer, "And prithee why so confident
"That the husband must, of all needs, not the wife,
"Fabricate thus,—what if the lady loved?
"What if she wrote the letters?"

Learned Sir,
I told you there's a picture in our church.
Well, if a low-browed verger sidled up
Bringing me, like a blotch, on his prod's point,
A transfixed scorpion, let the reptile writhe,
And then said "See a thing that Rafael made—
"This venom issued from Madonna's mouth!"
I should reply, "Rather, the soul of you
"Has issued from your body, like from like,
"By way of the ordure-corner!"

But no less,
I tired of the same long black teasing lie
Obtruded thus at every turn; the pest
Was far too near the picture, anyhow:
One does Madonna service, making clowns
Remove their dung-heap from the sacristy.
"I will to the window, as he tempts," said I:
"Yes, whom the easy love has failed allure,
"This new bait of adventure tempts,—thinks he.
"Though the imprisoned lady keeps afar,
"There will they lie in ambush, heads alert,
"Kith, kin, and Count mustered to bite my heel.
"No mother nor brother viper of the brood
"Shall scuttle off without the instructive bruise!"

So I went: crossed street and street: "The next street's turn,
"I stand beneath the terrace, see, above,
"The black of the ambush-window. Then, in place
"Of hand's throw of soft prelude over lute,
"And cough that clears way for the ditty last,"—
I began to laugh already—"he will have
"'Out of the hole you hide in, on to the front,
"'Count Guido Franceschini, show yourself!
"'Hear what a man thinks of a thing like you,
"'And after, take this foulness in your face!'"

The words lay living on my lip, I made
The one-turn more—and there at the window stood,
Framed in its black square length, with lamp in hand,
Pompilia; the same great, grave, griefful air
As stands i' the dusk, on altar that I know,
Left alone with one moonbeam in her cell,
Our Lady of all the Sorrows. Ere I knelt—
Assured myself that she was flesh and blood—
She had looked one look and vanished.

I thought—"Just so:
"It was herself, they have set her there to watch—
"Stationed to see some wedding band go by,
"On fair pretence that she must bless the bride,
"Or wait some funeral with friends wind past,
"And crave peace for the corpse that claims its due.
"She never dreams they used her for a snare,
"And now withdraw the bait has served its turn.
"Well done, the husband, who shall fare the worse!"
And on my lip again was—"Out with thee,
"Guido!" When all at once she re-appeared;
But, this time, on the terrace overhead,
So close above me, she could almost touch
My head if she bent down; and she did bend,
While I stood still as stone, all eye, all ear.

She began—"You have sent me letters, Sir:
"I have read none, I can neither read nor write;
"But she you gave them to, a woman here,
"One of the people in whose power I am,
"Partly explained their sense, I think, to me
"Obliged to listen while she inculcates
"That you, a priest, can dare love me, a wife,
"Desire to live or die as I shall bid,
"(She makes me listen if I will or no)
"Because you saw my face a single time.
"It cannot be she says the thing you mean;
"Such wickedness were deadly to us both:
"But good true love would help me now so much—
"I tell myself, you may mean good and true.
"You offer me, I seem to understand,
"Because I am in poverty and starve,
"Much money, where one piece would save my life.
"The silver cup upon the altar-cloth
"Is neither yours to give nor mine to take;
"But I might take one bit of bread therefrom,
"Since I am starving, and return the rest,
"Yet do no harm: this is my very case.
"I am in that strait, I may not dare abstain
"From so much of assistance as would bring
"The guilt of theft on neither you nor me;
"But no superfluous particle of aid.
"I think, if you will let me state my case,
"Even had you been so fancy-fevered here,
"Not your sound self, you must grow healthy now—
"Care only to bestow what I can take.
"That it is only you in the wide world,
"Knowing me nor in thought nor word nor deed,
"Who, all unprompted save by your own heart,
"Come proffering assistance now,—were strange
"But that my whole life is so strange: as strange
"It is, my husband whom I have not wronged
"Should hate and harm me. For his own soul's sake,
"Hinder the harm! But there is something more,
"And that the strangest: it has got to be
"Somehow for my sake too, and yet not mine,
"—This is a riddle—for some kind of sake
"Not any clearer to myself than you,
"And yet as certain as that I draw breath,—
"I would fain live, not die—oh no, not die!
"My case is, I was dwelling happily
"At Rome with those dear Comparini, called
"Father and mother to me; when at once
"I found I had become Count Guido's wife:
"Who then, not waiting for a moment, changed
"Into a fury of fire, if once he was
"Merely a man: his face threw fire at mine,
"He laid a hand on me that burned all peace,
"All joy, all hope, and last all fear away,
"Dipping the bough of life, so pleasant once,
"In fire which shrivelled leaf and bud alike,
"Burning not only present life but past,
"Which you might think was safe beyond his reach.
"He reached it, though, since that beloved pair,
"My father once, my mother all those years,
"That loved me so, now say I dreamed a dream
"And bid me wake, henceforth no child of theirs,
"Never in all the time their child at all.
"Do you understand? I cannot: yet so it is.
"Just so I say of you that proffer help:
"I cannot understand what prompts your soul,
"I simply needs must see that it is so,
"Only one strange and wonderful thing more.
"They came here with me, those two dear ones, kept
"All the old love up, till my husband, till
"His people here so tortured them, they fled.
"And now, is it because I grow in flesh
"And spirit one with him their torturer,
"That they, renouncing him, must cast off me?
"If I were graced by God to have a child,
"Could I one day deny God graced me so?
"Then, since my husband hates me, I shall break
"No law that reigns in this fell house of hate,
"By using—letting have effect so much
"Of hate as hides me from that whole of hate
"Would take my life which I want and must have—
"Just as I take from your excess of love
"Enough to save my life with, all I need.
"The Archbishop said to murder me were sin:
"My leaving Guido were a kind of death
"With no sin,—more death, he must answer for.
"Hear now what death to him and life to you
"I wish to pay and owe. Take me to Rome!
"You go to Rome, the servant makes me hear.
"Take me as you would take a dog, I think,
"Masterless left for strangers to maltreat:
"Take me home like that—leave me in the house
"Where the father and the mother are; and soon
"They'll come to know and call me by my name,
"Their child once more, since child I am, for all
"They now forget me, which is the worst o' the dream
"And the way to end dreams is to break them, stand,
"Walk, go: then help me to stand, walk and go!
"The Governor said the strong should help the weak:
"You know how weak the strongest women are.
"How could I find my way there by myself?
"I cannot even call out, make them hear
"Just as in dreams: I have tried and proved the fact.
"I have told this story and more to good great men,
"The Archbishop and the Governor: they smiled.
"'Stop your mouth, fair one!'—presently they frowned,
"'Get you gone, disengage you from our feet!'
"I went in my despair to an old priest,
"Only a friar, no great man like these two,
"But good, the Augustinian, people name
"Romano,—he confessed me two months since:
"He fears God, why then needs he fear the world?
"And when he questioned how it came about
"That I was found in danger of a sin—
"Despair of any help from providence,—
"'Since, though your husband outrage you,' said he,
"'That is a case too common, the wives die
"'Or live, but do not sin so deep as this'—
"Then I told—what I never will tell you
"How, worse than husband's hate, I had to bear
"The love,—soliciting to shame called love,—
"Of his brother,—the young idle priest i' the house
"With only the devil to meet there. 'This is grave—
"'Yes, we must interfere: I counsel,—write
"'To those who used to be your parents once,
"'Of dangers here, bid them convey you hence!'
"'But,' said I, 'when I neither read nor write?'
"Then he took pity and promised 'I will write.'
"If he did so,—why, they are dumb or dead:
"Either they give no credit to the tale,
"Or else, wrapped wholly up in their own joy
"Of such escape, they care not who cries, still
"I' the clutches. Anyhow, no word arrives.
"All such extravagance and dreadfulness
"Seems incident to dreaming, cured one way,—
"Wake me! The letter I received this morn,
"Said—if the woman spoke your very sense—
"'You would die for me:' I can believe it now:
"For now the dream gets to involve yourself.
"First of all, you seemed wicked and not good,
"In writing me those letters: you came in
"Like a thief upon me. I this morning said
"In my extremity, entreat the thief!
"Try if he have in him no honest touch!
"A thief might save me from a murderer.
"'T was a thief said the last kind word to Christ:
"Christ took the kindness and forgave the theft:
"And so did I prepare what I now say.
"But now, that you stand and I see your face,
"Though you have never uttered word yet,—well, I know,
"Here too has been dream-work, delusion too,
"And that at no time, you with the eyes here,
"Ever intended to do wrong by me,
"Nor wrote such letters therefore. It is false,
"And you are true, have been true, will be true.
"To Rome then,—when is it you take me there?
"Each minute lost is mortal. When?—I ask."

I answered "It shall be when it can be.
"I will go hence and do your pleasure, find
"The sure and speedy means of travel, then
"Come back and take you to your friends in Rome.
"There wants a carriage, money and the rest,—
"A day's work by to-morrow at this time.
"How shall I see you and assure escape?"

She replied, "Pass, to-morrow at this hour.
"If I am at the open window, well:
"If I am absent, drop a handkerchief
"And walk by! I shall see from where I watch,
"And know that all is done. Return next eve,
"And next, and so till we can meet and speak!"
"To-morrow at this hour I pass," said I.
She was withdrawn.

Here is another point
I bid you pause at. When I told thus far,
Someone said, subtly, "Here at least was found
"Your confidence in error,—you perceived
"The spirit of the letters, in a sort,
"Had been the lady's, if the body should be
"Supplied by Guido: say, he forged them all!
"Here was the unforged fact—she sent for you,
"Spontaneously elected you to help,
"—What men call, loved you: Guido read her mind,
"Gave it expression to assure the world
"The case was just as he foresaw: he wrote,
"She spoke."

Sirs, that first simile serves still,—
That falsehood of a scorpion hatched, I say,
Nowhere i' the world but in Madonna's mouth.
Go on! Suppose, that falsehood foiled, next eve
Pictured Madonna raised her painted hand,
Fixed the face Rafael bent above the Babe,
On my face as I flung me at her feet:
Such miracle vouchsafed and manifest,
Would that prove the first lying tale was true?
Pompilia spoke, and I at once received,
Accepted my own fact, my miracle
Self-authorized and self-explained,—she chose
To summon me and signify her choice.
Afterward,—oh! I gave a passing glance
To a certain ugly cloud-shape, goblin-shred
Of hell-smoke hurrying past the splendid moon
Out now to tolerate no darkness more,
And saw right through the thing that tried to pass
For truth and solid, not an empty lie:
"So, he not only forged the words for her
"But words for me, made letters he called mine:
"What I sent, he retained, gave these in place,
"All by the mistress-messenger! As I
"Recognized her, at potency of truth,
"So she, by the crystalline soul, knew me,
"Never mistook the signs. Enough of this
"Let the wraith go to nothingness again,
"Here is the orb, have only thought for her!"

"Thought?" nay, Sirs, what shall follow was not thought:
I have thought sometimes, and thought long and hard.
I have stood before, gone round a serious thing,
Tasked my whole mind to touch and clasp it close,
As I stretch forth my arm to touch this bar.
God and man, and what duty I owe both,—
I dare to say I have confronted these
In thought: but no such faculty helped here.
I put forth no thought,—powerless, all that night
I paced the city: it was the first Spring.
By the invasion I lay passive to,
In rushed new things, the old were rapt away;
Alike abolished—the imprisonment
Of the outside air, the inside weight o' the world
That pulled me down. Death meant, to spurn the ground.
Soar to the sky,—die well and you do that.
The very immolation made the bliss;
Death was the heart of life, and all the harm
My folly had crouched to avoid, now proved a veil
Hiding all gain my wisdom strove to grasp:
As if the intense centre of the flame
Should turn a heaven to that devoted fly
Which hitherto, sophist alike and sage,
Saint Thomas with his sober grey goose-quill,
And sinner Plato by Cephisian reed,
Would fain, pretending just the insect's good,
Whisk off, drive back, consign to shade again.
Into another state, under new rule
I knew myself was passing swift and sure;
Whereof the initiatory pang approached,
Felicitous annoy, as bitter-sweet
As when the virgin-band, the victors chaste,
Feel at the end the earthly garments drop,
And rise with something of a rosy shame
Into immortal nakedness: so I
Lay, and let come the proper throe would thrill
Into the ecstasy and outthrob pain.

I' the grey of dawn it was I found myself
Facing the pillared front o' the Pieve—mine,
My church: it seemed to say for the first time
"But am not I the Bride, the mystic love
"O' the Lamb, who took thy plighted troth, my priest,
"To fold thy warm heart on my heart of stone
"And freeze thee nor unfasten any more?
"This is a fleshly woman,—let the free
"Bestow their life-blood, thou art pulseless now!"
See! Day by day I had risen and left this church
At the signal waved me by some foolish fan,
With half a curse and half a pitying smile
For the monk I stumbled over in my haste,
Prostrate and corpse-like at the altar-foot
Intent on his corona: then the church
Was ready with her quip, if word conduced,
To quicken my pace nor stop for prating—"There!
"Be thankful you are no such ninny, go
"Rather to teach a black-eyed novice cards
"Than gabble Latin and protrude that nose
"Smoothed to a sheep's through no brains and much faith!"
That sort of incentive! Now the church changed tone—
Now, when I found out first that life and death
Are means to an end, that passion uses both,
Indisputably mistress of the man
Whose form of worship is self-sacrifice:
Now, from the stone lungs sighed the scrannel voice
"Leave that live passion, come be dead with me!"
As if, i' the fabled garden, I had gone
On great adventure, plucked in ignorance
Hedge-fruit, and feasted to satiety,
Laughing at such high fame for hips and haws,
And scorned the achievement: then come all at once
O' the prize o' the place, the thing of perfect gold,
The apple's self: and, scarce my eye on that,
Was 'ware as well o' the seven-fold dragon's watch.

Sirs, I obeyed. Obedience was too strange,—
This new thing that had been struck into me
By the look o' the lady,—to dare disobey
The first authoritative word. 'T was God's.
I had been lifted to the level of her,
Could take such sounds into my sense. I said
"We two are cognisant o' the Master now;
"She it is bids me bow the head: how true,
"I am a priest! I see the function here;
"I thought the other way self-sacrifice:
"This is the true, seals up the perfect sum.
"I pay it, sit down, silently obey."

So, I went home. Dawn broke, noon broadened, I
I sat stone-still, let time run over me.
The sun slanted into my room, had reached
The west. I opened book,—Aquinas blazed
With one black name only on the white page.
I looked up, saw the sunset: vespers rang:
"She counts the minutes till I keep my word
"And come say all is ready. I am a priest.
"Duty to God is duty to her: I think
"God, who created her, will save her too
"Some new way, by one miracle the more,
"Without me. Then, prayer may avail perhaps."
I went to my own place i' the Pieve, read
The office: I was back at home again
Sitting i' the dark. "Could she but know—but know
"That, were there good in this distinct from God's,
"Really good as it reached her, though procured
"By a sin of mine,—I should sin: God forgives.
"She knows it is no fear withholds me: fear?
"Of what? Suspense here is the terrible thing.
"If she should, as she counts the minutes, come
"On the fantastic notion that I fear
"The world now, fear the Archbishop, fear perhaps
"Count Guido, he who, having forged the lies,
"May wait the work, attend the effect,—I fear
"The sword of Guido! Let God see to that
"Hating lies, let not her believe a lie!"

Again the morning found me. "I will work,
"Tie down my foolish thoughts. Thank God so far!
"I have saved her from a scandal, stopped the tongues
"Had broken else into a cackle and hiss
"Around the noble name. Duty is still
"Wisdom: I have been wise." So the day wore.

At evening—"But, achieving victory,
"I must not blink the priest's peculiar part,
"Nor shrink to counsel, comfort: priest and friend—
"How do we discontinue to be friends?
"I will go minister, advise her seek
"Help at the source,—above all, not despair:
"There may be other happier help at hand.
"I hope it,—wherefore then neglect to say?"

There she stood—leaned there, for the second time,
Over the terrace, looked at me, then spoke:
"Why is it you have suffered me to stay
"Breaking my heart two days more than was need?
"Why delay help, your own heart yearns to give?
"You are again here, in the self-same mind,
"I see here, steadfast in the face of you,—
"You grudge to do no one thing that I ask.
"Why then is nothing done? You know my need.
"Still, through God's pity on me, there is time
"And one day more: shall I be saved or no?"
I answered—"Lady, waste no thought, no word
"Even to forgive me! Care for what I care—
"Only! Now follow me as I were fate!
"Leave this house in the dark to-morrow night,
"Just before daybreak:—there's new moon this eve—
"It sets, and then begins the solid black.
"Descend, proceed to the Torrione, step
"Over the low dilapidated wall,
"Take San Clemente, there's no other gate
"Unguarded at the hour: some paces thence
"An inn stands; cross to it; I shall be there."

She answered, "If I can but find the way.
"But I shall find it. Go now!"

I did go,
Took rapidly the route myself prescribed,
Stopped at Torrione, climbed the ruined place,
Proved that the gate was practicable, reached
The inn, no eye, despite the dark, could miss,
Knocked there and entered, made the host secure:
"With Caponsacchi it is ask and have;
"I know my betters. Are you bound for Rome?
"I get swift horse and trusty man," said he.

Then I retraced my steps, was found once more
In my own house for the last time: there lay
The broad pale opened Summa. "Shut his book,
"There's other showing! 'T was a Thomas too
"Obtained,—more favoured than his namesake here,—
"A gift, tied faith fast, foiled the tug of doubt,—
"Our Lady's girdle; down he saw it drop
"As she ascended into heaven, they say:
"He kept that safe and bade all doubt adieu.
"I too have seen a lady and hold a grace."

I know not how the night passed: morning broke;
Presently came my servant. "Sir, this eve—
"Do you forget?" I started. "How forget?
"What is it you know?" "With due submission, Sir,
"This being last Monday in the month but one
"And a vigil, since to-morrow is Saint George,
"And feast day, and moreover day for copes,
"And Canon Conti now away a month,
"And Canon Crispi sour because, forsooth,
"You let him sulk in stall and bear the brunt
"Of the octave … Well, Sir, 't is important!"

"True!
"Hearken, I have to start for Rome this night.
"No word, lest Crispi overboil and burst!
"Provide me with a laic dress! Throw dust
"I' the Canon's eye, stop his tongue's scandal so!
"See there's a sword in case of accident."
I knew the knave, the knave knew me.

And thus
Through each familiar hindrance of the day
Did I make steadily for its hour and end,—
Felt time's old barrier-growth of right and fit
Give way through all its twines, and let me go.
Use and wont recognized the excepted man,
Let speed the special service,—and I sped
Till, at the dead between midnight and morn,
There was I at the goal, before the gate,
With a tune in the ears, low leading up to loud,
A light in the eyes, faint that would soon be flare,
Ever some spiritual witness new and new
In faster frequence, crowding solitude
To watch the way o' the warfare,—till, at last,
When the ecstatic minute must bring birth,
Began a whiteness in the distance, waxed
Whiter and whiter, near grew and more near,
Till it was she: there did Pompilia come:
The white I saw shine through her was her soul's,
Certainly, for the body was one black,
Black from head down to foot. She did not speak,
Glided into the carriage,—so a cloud
Gathers the moon up. "By San Spirito,
"To Rome, as if the road burned underneath!
"Reach Rome, then hold my head in pledge, I pay
"The run and the risk to heart's content!" Just that
I said,—then, in another tick of time,
Sprang, was beside her, she and I alone.

So it began, our flight thro' dusk to clear,
Through day and night and day again to night
Once more, and to last dreadful dawn of all.
Sirs, how should I lie quiet in my grave
Unless you suffer me wring, drop by drop,
My brain dry, make a riddance of the drench
Of minutes with a memory in each,
Recorded motion, breath or look of hers,
Which poured forth would present you one pure glass,
Mirror you plain,—as God's sea, glassed in gold,
His saints,—the perfect soul Pompilia? Men,
You must know that a man gets drunk with truth
Stagnant inside him! Oh, they've killed her, Sirs!
Can I be calm?

Calmly! Each incident
Proves, I maintain, that action of the flight
For the true thing it was. The first faint scratch
O' the stone will test its nature, teach its worth
To idiots who name Parian—coprolite.
After all, I shall give no glare—at best
Only display you certain scattered lights
Lamping the rush and roll of the abyss:
Nothing but here and there a fire-point pricks
Wavelet from wavelet: well!

For the first hour
We both were silent in the night, I know:
Sometimes I did not see nor understand.
Blackness engulphed me,—partial stupor, say—
Then I would break way, breathe through the surprise,
And be aware again, and see who sat
In the dark vest with the white face and hands.
I said to myself—"I have caught it, I conceive
"The mind o' the mystery: 't is the way they wake
"And wait, two martyrs somewhere in a tomb
"Each by each as their blessing was to die;
"Some signal they are promised and expect,—
"When to arise before the trumpet scares:
"So, through the whole course of the world they wait
"The last day, but so fearless and so safe!
"No otherwise, in safety and not fear,
"I lie, because she lies too by my side."
You know this is not love, Sirs,—it is faith,
The feeling that there's God, he reigns and rules
Out of this low world: that is all; no harm!
At times she drew a soft sigh—music seemed
Always to hover just above her lips,
Not settle,—break a silence music too.

In the determined morning, I first found
Her head erect, her face turned full to me,
Her soul intent on mine through two wide eyes.
I answered them. "You are saved hitherto.
"We have passed Perugia,—gone round by the wood,
"Not through, I seem to think,—and opposite
"I know Assisi; this is holy ground."
Then she resumed. "How long since we both left
"Arezzo?" "Years—and certain hours beside."

It was at … ah, but I forget the names!
'T is a mere post-house and a hovel or two;
I left the carriage and got bread and wine
And brought it her. "Does it detain to eat?"
"They stay perforce, change horses,—therefore eat!
"We lose no minute: we arrive, be sure!"
This was—I know not where—there's a great hill
Close over, and the stream has lost its bridge,
One fords it. She began—"I have heard say
"Of some sick body that my mother knew,
"'T was no good sign when in a limb diseased
"All the pain suddenly departs,—as if
"The guardian angel discontinued pain
"Because the hope of cure was gone at last:
"The limb will not again exert itself,
"It needs be pained no longer: so with me,
"—My soul whence all the pain is past at once:
"All pain must be to work some good in the end.
"True, this I feel now, this may be that good,
"Pain was because of,—otherwise, I fear!"

She said,—a long while later in the day,
When I had let the silence be,—abrupt—
"Have you a mother?" "She died, I was born."
"A sister then?" "No sister." "Who was it—
"What woman were you used to serve this way,
"Be kind to, till I called you and you came?"
I did not like that word. Soon afterward—
"Tell me, are men unhappy, in some kind
"Of mere unhappiness at being men,
"As women suffer, being womanish?
"Have you, now, some unhappiness, I mean,
"Born of what may be man's strength overmuch,
"To match the undue susceptibility,
"The sense at every pore when hate is close?
"It hurts us if a baby hides its face
"Or child strikes at us punily, calls names
"Or makes a mouth,—much more if stranger men
"Laugh or frown,—just as that were much to bear!
"Yet rocks split,—and the blow-ball does no more,
"Quivers to feathery nothing at a touch;
"And strength may have its drawback weakness scapes."
Once she asked "What is it that made you smile,
"At the great gate with the eagles and the snakes,
"Where the company entered, 't is a long time since?"
"—Forgive—I think you would not understand:
"Ah, but you ask me,—therefore, it was this.
"That was a certain bishop's villa-gate,
"I knew it by the eagles,—and at once
"Remembered this same bishop was just he
"People of old were wont to bid me please
"If I would catch preferment: so, I smiled
"Because an impulse came to me, a whim—
"What if I prayed the prelate leave to speak,
"Began upon him in his presence-hall
"—'What, still at work so grey and obsolete?
"'Still rocheted and mitred more or less?
"'Don't you feel all that out of fashion now?
"'I find out when the day of things is done!'"

At eve we heard the angelus: she turned—
"I told you I can neither read nor write.
"My life stopped with the play-time; I will learn,
"If I begin to live again: but you
"Who are a priest—wherefore do you not read
"The service at this hour? Read Gabriel's song,
"The lesson, and then read the little prayer
"To Raphael, proper for us travellers!"
I did not like that, neither, but I read.

When we stopped at Foligno it was dark.
The people of the post came out with lights:
The driver said, "This time to-morrow, may
"Saints only help, relays continue good,
"Nor robbers hinder, we arrive at Rome."
I urged, "Why tax your strength a second night?
"Trust me, alight here and take brief repose!
"We are out of harm's reach, past pursuit: go sleep
"If but an hour! I keep watch, guard the while
"Here in the doorway." But her whole face changed,
The misery grew again about her mouth,
The eyes burned up from faintness, like the fawn's
Tired to death in the thicket, when she feels
The probing spear o' the huntsman. "Oh, no stay!"
She cried, in the fawn's cry, "On to Rome, on, on—
"Unless 't is you who fear,—which cannot be!"

We did go on all night; but at its close
She was troubled, restless, moaned low, talked at whiles
To herself, her brow on quiver with the dream:
Once, wide awake, she menaced, at arms' length
Waved away something—"Never again with you!
"My soul is mine, my body is my soul's:
"You and I are divided ever more
"In soul and body: get you gone!" Then I
"Why, in my whole life I have never prayed!
"Oh, if the God, that only can, would help!
"Am I his priest with power to cast out fiends?
"Let God arise and all his enemies
"Be scattered!" By morn, there was peace, no sigh
Out of the deep sleep.

When she woke at last,
I answered the first look—"Scarce twelve hours more,
"Then, Rome! There probably was no pursuit,
"There cannot now be peril: bear up brave!
"Just some twelve hours to press through to the prize:
"Then, no more of the terrible journey!" "Then,
"No more o' the journey: if it might but last!
"Always, my life-long, thus to journey still!
"It is the interruption that I dread,—
"With no dread, ever to be here and thus!
"Never to see a face nor hear a voice!
"Yours is no voice; you speak when you are dumb;
"Nor face, I see it in the dark. I want
"No face nor voice that change and grow unkind."
That I liked, that was the best thing she said.

In the broad day, I dared entreat, "Descend!"
I told a woman, at the garden-gate
By the post-house, white and pleasant in the sun,
"It is my sister,—talk with her apart!
"She is married and unhappy, you perceive;
"I take her home because her head is hurt;
"Comfort her as you women understand!"
So, there I left them by the garden-wall,
Paced the road, then bade put the horses to,
Came back, and there she sat: close to her knee,
A black-eyed child still held the bowl of milk,
Wondered to see how little she could drink,
And in her arms the woman's infant lay.
She smiled at me "How much good this has done!
"This is a whole night's rest and how much more!
"I can proceed now, though I wish to stay.
"How do you call that tree with the thick top
"That holds in all its leafy green and gold
"The sun now like an immense egg of fire?"
(It was a million-leaved mimosa.) "Take
"The babe away from me and let me go!"
And in the carriage "Still a day, my friend!
"And perhaps half a night, the woman fears.
"I pray it finish since it cannot last
"There may be more misfortune at the close,
"And where will you be? God suffice me then!"
And presently—for there was a roadside-shrine—
"When I was taken first to my own church
"Lorenzo in Lucina, being a girl,
"And bid confess my faults, I interposed
"'But teach me what fault to confess and know!'
"So, the priest said—'You should bethink yourself:
"'Each human being needs must have done wrong!'
"Now, be you candid and no priest but friend—
"Were I surprised and killed here on the spot,
"A runaway from husband and his home,
"Do you account it were in sin I died?
"My husband used to seem to harm me, not …
"Not on pretence he punished sin of mine,
"Nor for sin's sake and lust of cruelty,
"But as I heard him bid a farming-man
"At the villa take a lamb once to the wood
"And there ill-treat it, meaning that the wolf
"Should hear its cries, and so come, quick be caught,
"Enticed to the trap: he practised thus with me
"That so, whatever were his gain thereby,
"Others than I might become prey and spoil.
"Had it been only between our two selves,—
"His pleasure and my pain,—why, pleasure him
"By dying, nor such need to make a coil!
"But this was worth an effort, that my pain
"Should not become a snare, prove pain threefold
"To other people—strangers—or unborn—
"How should I know? I sought release from that
"I think, or else from,—dare I say, some cause
"Such as is put into a tree, which turns
"Away from the north wind with what nest it holds,—
"The woman said that trees so turn: now, friend,
"Tell me, because I cannot trust myself!
"You are a man: what have I done amiss?"
You must conceive my answer,—I forget—
Taken up wholly with the thought, perhaps,
This time she might have said,—might, did not say—
"You are a priest." She said, "my friend."

Day wore,
We passed the places, somehow the calm went,
Again the restless eyes began to rove
In new fear of the foe mine could not see.
She wandered in her mind,—addressed me once
"Gaetano!"—that is not my name: whose name?
I grew alarmed, my head seemed turning too.
I quickened pace with promise now, now threat:
Bade drive and drive, nor any stopping more.
"Too deep i' the thick of the struggle, struggle through!
"Then drench her in repose though death's self pour
"The plenitude of quiet,—help us, God,
"Whom the winds carry!"

Suddenly I saw
The old tower, and the little white-walled clump
Of buildings and the cypress-tree or two,—
"Already Castelnuovo—Rome!" I cried,
"As good as Rome,—Rome is the next stage, think!
"This is where travellers' hearts are wont to beat.
"Say you are saved, sweet lady!" Up she woke.
The sky was fierce with colour from the sun
Setting. She screamed out "No, I must not die!
"Take me no farther, I should die: stay here!
"I have more life to save than mine!"

She swooned.
We seemed safe: what was it foreboded so?
Out of the coach into the inn I bore
The motionless and breathless pure and pale
Pompilia,—bore her through a pitying group
And laid her on a couch, still calm and cured
By deep sleep of all woes at once. The host
Was urgent "Let her stay an hour or two!
"Leave her to us, all will be right by morn!"
Oh, my foreboding! But I could not choose.

I paced the passage, kept watch all night long.
I listened,—not one movement, not one sigh.
"Fear not: she sleeps so sound!" they said: but I
Feared, all the same, kept fearing more and more,
Found myself throb with fear from head to foot,
Filled with a sense of such impending woe,
That, at first pause of night, pretence of gray,
I made my mind up it was morn.—"Reach Rome,
"Lest hell reach her! A dozen miles to make,
"Another long breath, and we emerge!" I stood
I' the court-yard, roused the sleepy grooms. "Have out
"Carriage and horse, give haste, take gold!" said I.
While they made ready in the doubtful morn,—
'T was the last minute,—needs must I ascend
And break her sleep; I turned to go.

And there
Faced me Count Guido, there posed the mean man
As master,—took the field, encamped his rights,
Challenged the world: there leered new triumph, there
Scowled the old malice in the visage bad
And black o' the scamp. Soon triumph suppled the tongue
A little, malice glued to his dry throat,
And he part howled, part hissed … oh, how he kept
Well out o' the way, at arm's length and to spare!—
"My salutation to your priestship! What?
"Matutinal, busy with book so soon
"Of an April day that's damp as tears that now
"Deluge Arezzo at its darling's flight?—
"'T is unfair, wrongs feminity at large,
"To let a single dame monopolize
"A heart the whole sex claims, should share alike:
"Therefore I overtake you, Canon! Come!
"The lady,—could you leave her side so soon?
"You have not yet experienced at her hands
"My treatment, you lay down undrugged, I see!
"Hence this alertness—hence no death-in-life
"Like what held arms fast when she stole from mine.
"To be sure, you took the solace and repose
"That first night at Foligno!—news abound
"O' the road by this time,—men regaled me much,
"As past them I came halting after you,
"Vulcan pursuing Mars, as poets sing,—
"Still at the last here pant I, but arrive,
"Vulcan—and not without my Cyclops too,
"The Commissary and the unpoisoned arm
"O' the Civil Force, should Mars turn mutineer.
"Enough of fooling: capture the culprits, friend!
"Here is the lover in the smart disguise
"With the sword,—he is a priest, so mine lies still.
"There upstairs hides my wife the runaway,
"His leman: the two plotted, poisoned first,
"Plundered me after, and eloped thus far
"Where now you find them. Do your duty quick!
"Arrest and hold him! That's done: now catch her!"
During this speech of that man,—well, I stood
Away, as he managed,—still, I stood as near
The throat of him,—with these two hands, my own,—
As now I stand near yours, Sir,—one quick spring,
One great good satisfying gripe, and lo!
There had he lain abolished with his lie,
Creation purged o' the miscreate, man redeemed,
A spittle wiped off from the face of God!
I, in some measure, seek a poor excuse
For what I left undone, in just this fact
That my first feeling at the speech I quote
Was—not of what a blasphemy was dared,
Not what a bag of venomed purulence
Was split and noisome,—but how splendidly
Mirthful, how ludicrous a lie was launched!
Would Molière's self wish more than hear such man
Call, claim such woman for his own, his wife
Even though, in due amazement at the boast,
He had stammered, she moreover was divine?
She to be his,—were hardly less absurd
Than that he took her name into his mouth,
Licked, and then let it go again, the beast,
Signed with his slaver. Oh, she poisoned him,
Plundered him, and the rest! Well, what I wished
Was, that he would but go on, say once more
So to the world, and get his meed of men,
The fist's reply to the filth. And while I mused,
The minute, oh the misery, was gone!
On either idle hand of me there stood
Really an officer, nor laughed i' the least:
Nay, rendered justice to his reason, laid
Logic to heart, as 't were submitted them
"Twice two makes four."

"And now, catch her!" he cried.
That sobered me. "Let myself lead the way—
"Ere you arrest me, who am somebody,
"Being, as you hear, a priest and privileged,—
"To the lady's chamber! I presume you—men
"Expert, instructed how to find out truth,
"Familiar with the guise of guilt. Detect
"Guilt on her face when it meets mine, then judge
"Between us and the mad dog howling there!"
Up we all went together, in they broke
O' the chamber late my chapel. There she lay,
Composed as when I laid her, that last eve,
O' the couch, still breathless, motionless, sleep's self,
Wax-white, seraphic, saturate with the sun
O' the morning that now flooded from the front
And filled the window with a light like blood.
"Behold the poisoner, the adulteress,
"—And feigning sleep too! Seize, bind!" Guido hissed.

She started up, stood erect, face to face
With the husband: back he fell, was buttressed there
By the window all a flame with morning-red,
He the black figure, the opprobrious blur
Against all peace and joy and light and life.
"Away from between me and hell!" she cried:
"Hell for me, no embracing any more!
"I am God's, I love God, God—whose knees I clasp,
"Whose utterly most just award I take,
"But bear no more love-making devils: hence!"
I may have made an effort to reach her side
From where I stood i' the door-way,—anyhow
I found the arms, I wanted, pinioned fast,
Was powerless in the clutch to left and right
O' the rabble pouring in, rascality
Enlisted, rampant on the side of hearth
Home and the husband,—pay in prospect too!
They heaped themselves upon me. "Ha!—and him
"Also you outrage? Him, too, my sole friend,
"Guardian and saviour? That I baulk you of,
"Since—see how God can help at last and worst!"
She sprang at the sword that hung beside him, seized,
Drew, brandished it, the sunrise burned for joy
O' the blade, "Die," cried she, "devil, in God's name!"
Ah, but they all closed round her, twelve to one
The unmanly men, no woman-mother made,
Spawned somehow! Dead-white and disarmed she lay
No matter for the sword, her word sufficed
To spike the coward through and through: he shook,
Could only spit between the teeth—"You see?
"You hear? Bear witness, then! Write down . . but no—
"Carry these criminals to the prison-house,
"For first thing! I begin my search meanwhile
"After the stolen effects, gold, jewels, plate,
"Money and clothes, they robbed me of and fled,
"With no few amorous pieces, verse and prose,
"I have much reason to expect to find."

When I saw that—no more than the first mad speech,
Made out the speaker mad and a laughing-stock,
So neither did this next device explode
One listener's indignation,—that a scribe
Did sit down, set himself to write indeed,
While sundry knaves began to peer and pry
In corner and hole,—that Guido, wiping brow
And getting him a countenance, was fast
Losing his fear, beginning to strut free
O' the stage of his exploit, snuff here, sniff there,—
Then I took truth in, guessed sufficiently
The service for the moment. "What I say,
"Slight at your peril! We are aliens here,
"My adversary and I, called noble both;
"I am the nobler, and a name men know.
"I could refer our cause to our own Court
"In our own country, but prefer appeal
"To the nearer jurisdiction. Being a priest,
"Though in a secular garb,—for reasons good
"I shall adduce in due time to my peers,—
"I demand that the Church I serve, decide
"Between us, right the slandered lady there.
"A Tuscan noble, I might claim the Duke:
"A priest, I rather choose the Church,—bid Rome
"Cover the wronged with her inviolate shield."

There was no refusing this: they bore me off,
They bore her off, to separate cells o' the same
Ignoble prison, and, separate, thence to Rome.
Pompilia's face, then and thus, looked on me
The last time in this life: not one sight since,
Never another sight to be! And yet
I thought I had saved her. I appealed to Rome:
It seems I simply sent her to her death.
You tell me she is dying now, or dead;
I cannot bring myself to quite believe
This is a place you torture people in:
What if this your intelligence were just
A subtlety, an honest wile to work
On a man at unawares? 'T were worthy you.
No, Sirs, I cannot have the lady dead!
That erect form, flashing brow, fulgurant eye,
That voice immortal (oh, that voice of hers!)
That vision in the blood-red day-break—that
Leap to life of the pale electric sword
Angels go armed with,—that was not the last
O' the lady! Come, I see through it, you find
Know the manoeuvre! Also herself said
I had saved her: do you dare say she spoke false?
Let me see for myself if it be so!
Though she were dying, a Priest might be of use,
The more when he's a friend too,—she called me
Far beyond "friend." Come, let me see her—indeed
It is my duty, being a priest: I hope
I stand confessed, established, proved a priest?
My punishment had motive that, a priest
I, in a laic garb, a mundane mode,
Did what were harmlessly done otherwise.
I never touched her with my finger-tip
Except to carry her to the couch, that eve,
Against my heart, beneath my head, bowed low,
As we priests carry the paten: that is why
To get leave and go see her of your grace—
I have told you this whole story over again.
Do I deserve grace? For I might lock lips,
Laugh at your jurisdiction: what have you
To do with me in the matter? I suppose
You hardly think I donned a bravo's dress
To have a hand in the new crime; on the old,
Judgment's delivered, penalty imposed,
I was chained fast at Civita hand and foot—
She had only you to trust to, you and Rome,
Rome and the Church, and no pert meddling priest
Two days ago, when Guido, with the right,
Hacked her to pieces. One might well be wroth;
I have been patient, done my best to help:
I come from Civita and punishment
As friend of the Court—and for pure friendship's sake
Have told my tale to the end,—nay, not the end—
For, wait—I'll end—not leave you that excuse!

When we were parted,—shall I go on there?
I was presently brought to Rome—yes, here I stood
Opposite yonder very crucifix—
And there sat you and you, Sirs, quite the same.
I heard charge, and bore question, and told tale
Noted down in the book there,—turn and see
If, by one jot or tittle, I vary now!
I' the colour the tale takes, there's change perhaps;
'T is natural, since the sky is different,
Eclipse in the air now; still, the outline stays.
I showed you how it came to be my part
To save the lady. Then your clerk produced
Papers, a pack of stupid and impure
Banalities called letters about love—
Love, indeed,—I could teach who styled them so,
Better, I think, though priest and loveless both!
"—How was it that a wife, young, innocent,
"And stranger to your person, wrote this page?"—
"—She wrote it when the Holy Father wrote
"The bestiality that posts thro' Rome,
"Put in his mouth by Pasquin." "Nor perhaps
"Did you return these answers, verse and prose,
"Signed, sealed and sent the lady? There's your hand!"
"—This precious piece of verse, I really judge,
"Is meant to copy my own character,
"A clumsy mimic; and this other prose,
"Not so much even; both rank forgery:
"Verse, quotha? Bembo's verse! When Saint John wrote
"The tract 'De Tribus,' I wrote this to match."
"—How came it, then, the documents were found
"At the inn on your departure?"—"I opine,
"Because there were no documents to find
"In my presence,—you must hide before you find.
"Who forged them hardly practised in my view;
"Who found them waited till I turned my back."
"—And what of the clandestine visits paid,
"Nocturnal passage in and out the house
"With its lord absent? 'T is alleged you climbed …"
"—Flew on a broomstick to the man i' the moon!
"Who witnessed or will testify this trash?"
"—The trusty servant, Margherita's self,
"Even she who brought you letters, you confess,
"And, you confess, took letters in reply:
"Forget not we have knowledge of the facts!"
"—Sirs, who have knowledge of the facts, defray
"The expenditure of wit I waste in vain,
"Trying to find out just one fact of all!
"She who brought letters from who could not write,
"And took back letters to who could not read,—
"Who was that messenger, of your charity?"
"—Well, so far favours you the circumstance
"That this same messenger … how shall we say? …
"Sub imputatione meretricis
"Laborat,—which makes accusation null:
"We waive this woman's: nought makes void the next.
"Borsi, called Venerino, he who drove,
"O' the first night when you fled away, at length
"Deposes to your kissings in the coach,
"—Frequent, frenetic …" "When deposed he so?"
"After some weeks of sharp imprisonment …"
"—Granted by friend the Governor, I engage—"
"—For his participation in your flight!
"At length his obduracy melting made
"The avowal mentioned . ." "Was dismissed forthwith
"To liberty, poor knave, for recompense.
"Sirs, give what credit to the lie you can!
"For me, no word in my defence I speak,
"And God shall argue for the lady!"

So
Did I stand question, and make answer, still
With the same result of smiling disbelief,
Polite impossibility of faith
In such affected virtue in a priest;
But a showing fair play, an indulgence, even,
To one no worse than others after all
Who had not brought disgrace to the order, played
Discreetly, ruffled gown nor ripped the cloth
In a bungling game at romps: I have told you, Sirs—
If I pretended simply to be pure
Honest and Christian in the case,—absurd!
As well go boast myself above the needs
O' the human nature, careless how meat smells,
Wine tastes,—a saint above the smack! But once
Abate my crest, own flaws i' the flesh, agree
To go with the herd, be hog no more nor less,
Why, hogs in common herd have common rights:
I must not be unduly borne upon,
Who just romanced a little, sowed wild oats,
But 'scaped without a scandal, flagrant fault.
My name helped to a mirthful circumstance:
"Joseph" would do well to amend his plea:
Undoubtedly—some toying with the wife,
But as for ruffian violence and rape,
Potiphar pressed too much on the other side!
The intrigue, the elopement, the disguise,—well charged!
The letters and verse looked hardly like the truth.
Your apprehension was—of guilt enough
To be compatible with innocence,
So, punished best a little and not too much.
Had I struck Guido Franceschini's face,
You had counselled me withdraw for my own sake,
Baulk him of bravo-hiring. Friends came round,
Congratulated, "Nobody mistakes!
"The pettiness o' the forfeiture defines
"The peccadillo: Guido gets his share:
"His wife is free of husband and hook-nose,
"The mouldy viands and the mother-in-law.
"To Civita with you and amuse the time,
"Travesty us 'De Raptu Helenoe!'
"A funny figure must the husband cut
"When the wife makes him skip,—too ticklish, eh?
"Do it in Latin, not the Vulgar, then!
"Scazons—we'll copy and send his Eminence.
"Mind—one iambus in the final foot!
"He'll rectity it, be your friend for life!"
Oh, Sirs, depend on me for much new light
Thrown on the justice and religion here
By this proceeding, much fresh food for thought!

And I was just set down to study these
In relegation, two short days ago,
Admiring how you read the rules, when, clap,
A thunder comes into my solitude—
I am caught up in a whirlwind and cast here,
Told of a sudden, in this room where so late
You dealt out law adroitly, that those scales,
I meekly bowed to, took my allotment from,
Guido has snatched at, broken in your hands,
Metes to himself the murder of his wife,
Full measure, pressed down, running over now!
Can I assist to an explanation?—Yes,
I rise in your esteem, sagacious Sirs,
Stand up a renderer of reasons, not
The officious priest would personate Saint George
For a mock Princess in undragoned days.
What, the blood startles you? What, after all
The priest who needs must carry sword on thigh
May find imperative use for it? Then, there was
A Princess, was a dragon belching flame,
And should have been a Saint George also? Then,
There might be worse schemes than to break the bonds
At Arezzo, lead her by the little hand,
Till she reached Rome, and let her try to live?
But you were law and gospel,—would one please
Stand back, allow your faculty elbow-room?
You blind guides who must needs lead eyes that see!
Fools, alike ignorant of man and God!
What was there here should have perplexed your wit
For a wink of the owl-eyes of you? How miss, then,
What's now forced on you by this flare of fact—
As if Saint Peter failed to recognize
Nero as no apostle, John or James,
Till someone burned a martyr, made a torch
O' the blood and fat to show his features by!
Could you fail read this cartulary aright
On head and front of Franceschini there,
Large-lettered like hell's masterpiece of print,—
That he, from the beginning pricked at heart
By some lust, letch of hate against his wife,
Plotted to plague her into overt sin
And shame, would slay Pompilia body and soul,
And save his mean self—miserably caught
I' the quagmire of his own tricks, cheats and lies?
That himself wrote those papers,—from himself
To himself,—which, i' the name of me and her,
His mistress-messenger gave her and me,
Touching us with such pustules of the soul
That she and I might take the taint, be shown
To the world and shuddered over, speckled so?
That the agent put her sense into my words,
Made substitution of the thing she hoped,
For the thing she had and held, its opposite,
While the husband in the background bit his lips
At each fresh failure of his precious plot?
That when at the last we did rush each on each,
By no chance but because God willed it so
The spark of truth was struck from out our souls—
Made all of me, descried in the first glance,
Seem fair and honest and permissible love
O' the good and true—as the first glance told me
There was no duty patent in the world
Like daring try be good and true myself,
Leaving the shows of things to the Lord of Show
And Prince o' the Power of the Air. Our very flight,
Even to its most ambiguous circumstance,
Irrefragably proved how futile, false …
Why, men—men and not boys—boys and not babes—
Babes and not beasts—beasts and not stocks and stones!—
Had the liar's lie been true one pin-point speck,
Were I the accepted suitor, free o' the place,
Disposer of the time, to come at a call
And go at a wink as who should say me nay,—
What need of flight, what were the gain therefrom
But just damnation, failure or success?
Damnation pure and simple to her the wife
And me the priest—who bartered private bliss
For public reprobation, the safe shade
For the sunshine which men see to pelt me by:
What other advantage,—we who led the days
And nights alone i' the house,—was flight to find?
In our whole journey did we stop an hour,
Diverge a foot from straight road till we reached
Or would have reached—but for that fate of ours—
The father and mother, in the eye of Rome,
The eye of yourselves we made aware of us
At the first fall of misfortune? And indeed
You did so far give sanction to our flight,
Confirm its purpose, as lend helping hand,
Deliver up Pompilia not to him
She fled, but those the flight was ventured for.
Why then could you, who stopped short, not go on
One poor step more, and justify the means,
Having allowed the end?—not see and say
"Here's the exceptional conduct that should claim
"To be exceptionally judged on rules
"Which, understood, make no exception here"—
Why play instead into the devil's hands
By dealing so ambiguously as gave
Guido the power to intervene like me,
Prove one exception more? I saved his wife
Against law: against law he slays her now:
Deal with him!

I have done with being judged.
I stand here guiltless in thought, word and deed,
To the point that I apprise you,—in contempt
For all misapprehending ignorance
O' the human heart, much more the mind of Christ,—
That I assuredly did bow, was blessed
By the revelation of Pompilia. There!
Such is the final fact I fling you, Sirs,
To mouth and mumble and misinterpret: there!
"The priest's in love," have it the vulgar way!
Unpriest me, rend the rags o' the vestment, do—
Degrade deep, disenfranchise all you dare—
Remove me from the midst, no longer priest
And fit companion for the like of you
Your gay Abati with the well-turned leg
And rose i' the hat-rim, Canons, cross at neck
And silk mask in the pocket of the gown,
Brisk Bishops with the world's musk still unbrushed
From the rochet; I'll no more of these good things:
There's a crack somewhere, something that's unsound
I' the rattle!

For Pompilia—be advised,
Build churches, go pray! You will find me there,
I know, if you come,—and you will come, I know.
Why, there's a Judge weeping! Did not I say
You were good and true at bottom? You see the truth—
I am glad I helped you: she helped me just so.

But for Count Guido,—you must counsel there!
I bow my head, bend to the very dust,
Break myself up in shame of faultiness.
I had him one whole moment, as I said—
As I remember, as will never out
O' the thoughts of me,—I had him in arm's reach
There,—as you stand, Sir, now you cease to sit,—
I could have killed him ere he killed his wife,
And did not: he went off alive and well
And then effected this last feat—through me!
Me—not through you—dsimiss that fear! 'T was you
Hindered me staying here to save her,—not
From leaving you and going back to him
And doing service in Arezzo. Come,
Instruct me in procedure! I conceive—
In all due self-abasement might I speak—
How you will deal with Guido: oh, not death!
Death, if it let her life be: otherwise
Not death,—your lights will teach you clearer! I
Certainly have an instinct of my own
I' the matter: bear with me and weigh its worth!
Let us go away—leave Guido all alone
Back on the world again that knows him now!
I think he will be found (indulge so far!)
Not to die so much as slide out of life,
Pushed by the general horror and common hate
Low, lower,—left o' the very ledge of things,
I seem to see him catch convulsively
One by one at all honest forms of life,
At reason, order, decency and use—
To cramp him and get foothold by at least;
And still they disengage them from his clutch.
"What, you are he, then, had Pompilia once
"And so forwent her? Take not up with us!"
And thus I see him slowly and surely edged
Off all the table-land whence life upsprings
Aspiring to be immortality,
As the snake, hatched on hill-top by mischance,
Despite his wriggling, slips, slides, slidders down
Hill-side, lies low and prostrate on the smooth
Level of the outer place, lapsed in the vale:
So I lose Guido in the loneliness,
Silence and dusk, till at the doleful end,
At the horizontal line, creation's verge,
From what just is to absolute nothingness—
Whom is it, straining onward still, he meets?
What other man deep further in the fate,
Who, turning at the prize of a footfall
To flatter him and promise fellowship,
Discovers in the act a frightful face—
Judas, made monstrous by much solitude!
The two are at one now! Let them love their love
That bites and claws like hate, or hate their hate
That mops and mows and makes as it were love!
There, let them each tear each in devil's-fun,
Or fondle this the other while malice aches—
Both teach, both learn detestability!
Kiss him the kiss, Iscariot! Pay that back,
That smatch o' the slaver blistering on your lip,
By the better trick, the insult he spared Christ—
Lure him the lure o' the letters, Aretine!
Lick him o'er slimy-smooth with jelly-filth
O' the verse-and-prose pollution in love's guise!
The cockatrice is with the basilisk!
There let them grapple, denizens o' the dark,
Foes or friends, but indissolubly bound,
In their one spot out of the ken of God
Or care of man, for ever and ever more!

Why, Sirs, what's this? Why, this is sorry and strange!
Futility, divagation: this from me
Bound to be rational, justify an act
Of sober man!—whereas, being moved so much,
I give you cause to doubt the lady's mind:
A pretty sarcasm for the world! I fear
You do her wit injustice,—all through me!
Like my fate all through,—ineffective help!
A poor rash advocate I prove myself.
You might be angry with good cause: but sure
At the advocate,—only at the undue zeal
That spoils the force of his own plea, I think?
My part was just to tell you how things stand,
State facts and not be flustered at their fume.
But then 't is a priest speaks: as for love,—no!
If you let buzz a vulgar fly like that
About your brains, as if I loved, forsooth,
Indeed, Sirs, you do wrong! We had no thought
Of such infatuation, she and I:
There are many points that prove it: do be just!
I told you,—at one little roadside-place
I spent a good half-hour, paced to and fro
The garden; just to leave her free awhile,
I plucked a handful of Spring herb and bloom:
I might have sat beside her on the bench
Where the children were: I wish the thing had been,
Indeed: the event could not be worse, you know:
One more half-hour of her saved! She's dead now, Sirs!
While I was running on at such a rate,
Friends should have plucked me by the sleeve: I went
Too much o' the trivial outside of her face
And the purity that shone there—plain to me,
Not to you, what more natural? Nor am I
Infatuated,—oh, I saw, be sure!
Her brow had not the right line, leaned too much,
Painters would say; they like the straight-up Greek:
This seemed bent somewhat with an invisible crown
Of martyr and saint, not such as art approves.
And how the dark orbs dwelt deep underneath,
Looked out of such a sad sweet heaven on me!
The lips, compressed a little, came forward too,
Careful for a whole world of sin and pain.
That was the face, her husband makes his plea,
He sought just to disfigure,—no offence
Beyond that! Sirs, let us be rational!
He needs must vindicate his honour,—ay,
Yet shirks, the coward, in a clown's disguise,
Away from the scene, endeavours to escape.
Now, had he done so, slain and left no trace
O' the slayer,—what were vindicated, pray?
You had found his wife disfigured or a corpse,
For what and by whom? It is too palpable!
Then, here's another point involving law:
I use this argument to show you meant
No calumny against us by that title
O' the sentence,—liars try to twist it so:
What penalty it bore, I had to pay
Till further proof should follow of innocence—
Probationis ob defectum,—proof?
How could you get proof without trying us?
You went through the preliminary form,
Stopped there, contrived this sentence to amuse
The adversary. If the title ran
For more than fault imputed and not proved,
That was a simple penman's error, else
A slip i' the phrase,—as when we say of you
"Charged with injustice"—which may either be
Or not be,—'t is a name that sticks meanwhile.
Another relevant matter: fool that I am!
Not what I wish true, yet a point friends urge:
It is not true,—yet, since friends think it helps,—
She only tried me when some others failed—
Began with Conti, whom I told you of,
And Guillichini, Guido's kinsfolk both,
And when abandoned by them, not before,
Turned to me. That's conclusive why she turned.
Much good they got by the happy cowardice!
Conti is dead, poisoned a month ago:
Does that much strike you as a sin? Not much,
After the present murder,—one mark more
On the Moor's skin,—what is black by blacker still?
Conti had come here and told truth. And so
With Guillichini; he's condemned of course
To the galleys, as a friend in this affair,
Tried and condemned for no one thing i' the world,
A fortnight since by who but the Governor?—
The just judge, who refused Pompilia help
At first blush, being her husband's friend, you know.
There are two tales to suit the separate courts,
Arezzo and Rome: he tells you here, we fled
Alone, unhelped,—lays stress on the main fault,
The spiritual sin, Rome looks to: but elsewhere
He likes best we should break in, steal, bear off,
Be fit to brand and pillory and flog—
That's the charge goes to the heart of the Governor:
If these unpriest me, you and I may yet
Converse, Vincenzo Marzi-Medici!
Oh, Sirs, there are worse men than you, I say!
More easily duped, I mean; this stupid lie,
Its liar never dared propound in Rome,
He gets Arezzo to receive,—nay more,
Gets Florence and the Duke to authorize!
This is their Rota's sentence, their Granduke
Signs and seals! Rome for me henceforward—Rome,
Where better men are,—most of all, that man
The Augustinian of the Hospital,
Who writes the letter,—he confessed, he says,
Many a dying person, never one
So sweet and true and pure and beautiful.
A good man! Will you make him Pope one day?
Not that he is not good too, this we have—
But old,—else he would have his word to speak,
His truth to teach the world: I thirst for truth,
But shall not drink it till I reach the source.

Sirs, I am quiet again. You see, we are
So very pitiable, she and I,
Who had conceivably been otherwise.
Forget distemperature and idle heat!
Apart from truth's sake, what's to move so much?
Pompilia will be presently with God;
I am, on earth, as good as out of it,
A relegated priest; when exile ends,
I mean to do my duty and live long.
She and I are mere strangers now: but priests
Should study passion; how else cure mankind,
Who come for help in passionate extremes?
I do but play with an imagined life
Of who, unfettered by a vow, unblessed
By the higher call,—since you will have it so,—
Leads it companioned by the woman there.
To live, and see her learn, and learn by her,
Out of the low obscure and petty world
Or only see one purpose and one will
Evolve themselves i' the world, change wrong to right:
To have to do with nothing but the true,
The good, the eternal—and these, not alone
In the main current of the general life,
But small experiences of every day,
Concerns of the particular hearth and home:
To learn not only by a comet's rush
But a rose's birth,—not by the grandeur, God—
But the comfort, Christ. All this, how far away!
Mere delectation, meet for a minute's dream!—
Just as a drudging student trims his lamp,
Opens his Plutarch, puts him in the place
Of Roman, Grecian; draws the patched gown close,
Dreams, "Thus should I fight, save or rule the world!"—
Then smilingly, contentedly, awakes
To the old solitary nothingness.
So I, from such communion, pass content …

O great, just, good God! Miserable me!

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Marjory

Spring Stornelli.

THE RIVULET.

OH clear smooth rivulet, creeping through our bridge
With backward waves that cling around the shore,
And is thy world beyond the dim blue ridge
More dear than this, or does it need thee more?
Oh lingering stream, upon thy ceaseless way
Glide to to-morrow; yet 'tis fair to-day:
Beyond the hills and haze to-morrows hide;
To-day is fair; glide lingering, ceaseless tide.

SPRING AND SUMMER.

And summer time is good; but at its heat
The fair poor blossoms wither for the fruit,
And song-birds go that made our valley sweet
With useless ecstasies, and the boughs are mute.
And I would keep the blossoms and the song,
And I would have it spring the whole year long:
And I would have my life a year-long spring
To never pass from hopes and blossoming.

THE PRIMROSE.

Dear welcome, sweet pale stars of hope and spring,
Young primroses, blithe with the April air;
My darlings, waiting for my gathering,
Sit in my bosom, nestle in my hair.
But, oh! the fairest laughs behind the brook,
I cannot have it, I can only look:
Oh happy primrose on the further beach,
One can but look on thee, one cannot reach.

LINNET AND LARK.

Oh buoyant linnet in the flakes of thorn,
Sing thy loud lay; for joy and song are one.
Oh skylark floating upwards into morn,
Pour out thy carolling music of the sun.
Sing, sing; be voices of the life-ful air,
Glad things that never knew the cage nor snare:
Be voices of the air, and fill the sky,
Glad things that have no heed of by-and-by.


Summer Stornelli.

THE BEES IN THE LIME.

AMID the thousand blossoms of the lime,
The gossip bees go humming to and fro:
And oh the busy joy of working time!
And oh the fragrance when the lime trees blow!
Take the sweet honeys deftly, happy bees,
And store them for the later days than these:
Store, happy bees, these honeys for the frost,
That sweetness of the blossom be not lost.

THE CORNFLOWER.

A field-plant in my sheltered garden bed,
And I have set it there to love it dear;
It makes blue flowers to match skies overhead,
Blue flowers for all the while the summer's here.
Sky-blooms that woke and budded with the wheat,
Ye last and make the livelong summer sweet:
Spread while the green wheat passes into gold,
Sky-blooms I planted in the garden-mould.

THE FLOWING TIDE.

The slow green wave comes curling from the bay
And leaps in spray along the sunny marge,
And steals a little more and more away,
And drowns the dulse, and lifts the stranded barge.
Leave me, strong tide, my smooth and yellow shore;
But the clear waters deepen more and more:
Leave me my pathway of the sands, strong tide;
Yet are the waves more fair than all they hide.

THE WHISPER.

Some one has said a whispered word to me;
The whisper whispers on within my ear.
Oh little word, hush, hush, and let me be;
Hush, little word, too vexing sweet to hear.
And, if it will not hush, what must I do?
The word was 'Love'; perchance the word was true:
And, if it will not hush, must I repine?
I am his love; perchance then he is mine.

THE HEART THAT LACKS ROOM.

I love him, and I love him, and I love:
Oh heart, my love goes welling o'er the brim.
He makes my light more than the sun above,
And what am I save what I am to him?
All will, all hope I have, to him belong;
Oh heart, thou art too small for love so strong:
Oh heart, grow large, grow deeper for his sake;
Oh love him better, heart, or thou wilt break!

THE LOVERS.

And we are lovers, lovers he and I:
Oh sweet dear name that angels envy us;
Lovers for now, lovers for by and by,
And God to hear us call each other thus.
Flow softly, river of our life, and fair;
We float together to the otherwhere:
Storm, river of our life, if storm must be,
We brunt thy tide together to that sea.

THE NIGHTINGALE.

From the dusk elm rings out a changing lay;
The human-hearted nightingale sings there.
Why not, like little minstrels of the day,
Sweet voice, fling only raptures on the air?
'Tis that she's kin to us and has our woe,
Something that's lost or something yet to know:
'Tis that she's kin to us and sings our bliss,
Loving, to know love is yet more than this.

THE STORM.

Storm in the dimness of the purpled sky,
And the sharp flash leaps out from cloud to cloud:
But the blue, lifted, corner spreads more high,
Brightness, and brightness, bursts the gathered shroud.
Aye, pass, black storm, thou hadst thy threatening hour;
Now.the freed beams make rainbows of the shower:
Now the freed sunbeams break into the air;
Pass, and the sky forgets thee and is fair.

BABY EYES.

Blue baby eyes, they are so sweetest sweet,
And yet they have not learned love's dear replies;
They beg not smiles, nor call for me, nor greet,
But clear, unshrinking, note me with surprise.
But, eyes that have your father's curve of lid,
You'll learn the look that he keeps somewhere hid:
You'll smile, grave baby eyes, and I shall see
The look your father keeps for only me.

THE BINDWEED.

In all fair hues from white to mingled rose,
Along the hedge the clasping bindweed flowers;
And when one chalice shuts a new one blows,
There's blooming for all minutes of the hours.
Along the hedge beside the trodden lane
Where day by day we pass and pass again:
Rosy and white along the busy mile,
A flower for every step and all the while.


Autumn Stornelli.

THE HEATHER.

THE leagues of heather lie on moor and hill,
And make soft purple dimness and red glow;
No butterfly may call the blithe wind chill
That brings the ruddy heather-bells a-blow.
The song-birds half forget the world is fair,
And pipe no lays because the heather's there:
Oh foolish birds that have no joyous lay,
With hill and moor a garden ground to-day!

LATE ROSES.

The swallows went last week, but 'twas too soon;
For, look, the sunbeams streaming on their eaves;
And, look, my rose, a very child of June,
Spreading its crimson coronet of leaves.
Was it too late, my rose, to bud and blow?
For when the summer wanes her roses go:
Bloom, rose, there are more roses yet to wake,
With hearts of sweetness for the summer's sake.

THE BRAMBLES.

So tall along the dusty highway row,
So wide on the free heath the brambles spread;
Here's the pink bud, and here the full white blow,
And here the black ripe berry, here the red.
Bud, flower, and fruit, among the mingling thorns;
And dews to feed them in the autumn morns:
Fruit, flower, and bud, together, thou rich tree!
And oh but life's a happy time for me!

WE TWO.

The road slopes on that leads us to the last,
And we two tread it softly, side by side;
'Tis a blithe count the milestones we have passed,
Step fitting step, and each of us for guide.
My love, and I thy love, our road is fair,
And fairest most because the other's there:
Our road is fair, adown the harvest hill,
But fairest that we two are we two still.

WE TWO.

We two, we two! the children's smiles are dear—
Thank God how dear the bonny children's smiles!—
But 'tis we two among our own ones here,
We two along life's way through all the whiles.
To think if we had passed each other by;
And he not he apart, and I not I!
And oh to think if we had never known;
And I not I and he not he alone!

THE APPLE ORCHARD.

The apple branches bend with ripening weight,
The apple branches rosy as with flowers;
You'd think red giant fuchsias blooming late
Within this sunny orchard ground of ours.
Give us your shade, fair fountain trees of fruits;
We rest upon the mosses at your roots:
Fair fountain trees of fruits, drop windfalls here;
Lo, ripening store for all the coming year.


Winter Stornelli.

THE SNOWS.

THE green and happy world is hidden away;
Cold, cold, the ghostly snows lie on its breast;
The white miles reach the shadows wan and grey
'Neath wan grey skies unchanged from east to west.
Sleep on beneath the snows, chilled, barren, earth;
There are no blossoms for thy winter dearth:
Break not nor melt, fall still from heaven, wan snows;
Hide the spoiled earth, and numb her to repose.

THE HOLLY.

'Tis a brave tree. While round its boughs in vain
The warring wind of January bites and girds,
It holds the clusters of its crimson grain,
A winter pasture for the shivering birds.
Oh patient holly, that the children love,
No need for thee of smooth blue skies above:
Oh green strong holly, shine amid the frost;
Thou dost not lose one leaf for sunshine lost.

THE GRAVEYARD.

They sleep here well who have forgotten to-day,
They weep not while we weep, nor wake each morn
To bitter new surprise, as mourners may
That knew not in their rest they were forlorn.
Calm graveyard, 'tis more pleasant to sit here
Than where loud life pretends its eager cheer:
Calm graveyard, where he waits and I shall be,
Thou hast the spot of earth most dear to me.

THE FROZEN RIVER.

Dead stream beneath the icy silent blocks
That motionless stand soddening into grime,
Thy fretted falls hang numb, frost pens the locks;
Dead river, when shall be thy waking time?
'Not dead;' the river spoke and answered me,
'My burdened current, hidden, finds the sea'
'Not dead, not dead;' my heart replied at length,
'The frozen river holds a hidden strength.'

THE DAUGHTER.

Go forth, my darling, in the wreath and veil;
My hand shall place them for thee; so goodbye.
Thou hast Love's rose, and tend it without fail;
It withers, dear, if lovers let it lie.
Go, my own singing bird, and be his now;
And I am more than half as glad as thou.
Ah me! the singing birds that were our own
Fly forth and mate: and 'tis long life alone.

WE TWO.

We two that could not part are parted long;
He in the far-off Heaven, and I to wait.
A fair world once, all blossom-time and song;
But to be lonely tires, and I live late.
To think we two have not a word to change:
And one without the other here is strange!
To think we two have nothing now to share:
I wondering here, and he without me there!

WE TWO.

We two, we two! we still are linked and nigh:
He could not have forgotten in any bliss;
Surely he feels my being yet; and I,
I have no thought but seems some part of his.
Oh love gone out of reach of yearning eyes,
Our hearts can meet to gather-in replies:
Oh love past touch of lip and clasp of hand,
Thou canst not be too far to understand.

THE FLOWERS TO COME.

The drift is in the hollows of the hill,
Yet primrose leaves uncurl beneath the hedge;
Frosts pierce the dawn, and the north wind blows chill,
Yet snowdrop spikelets rim the garden edge.
Dear plants that will make bud in coming spring,
Ye were not for one only blossoming:
More than one blossoming for all fair flowers;
And God keeps mine till spring is somewhere ours.

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George Chapman

Hero And Leander. The Fifth Sestiad

Now was bright Hero weary of the day,
Thought an Olympiad in Leander's stay.
Sol and the soft-foot Hours hung on his arms,
And would not let him swim, foreseeing his harms:
That day Aurora double grace obtain'd
Of her love Phoebus; she his horses reign'd,
Set on his golden knee, and, as she list,
She pull'd him back; and as she pull'd she kiss'd,
To have him turn to bed: he lov'd her more,
To see the love Leander Hero bore:
Examples profit much; ten times in one,
In persons full of note, good deeds are done.
Day was so long, men walking fell asleep;
The heavy humours that their eyes did steep
Made them fear mischiefs. The hard streets were beds
For covetous churls and for ambitious heads,
That, spite of Nature, would their business ply:
All thought they had the falling epilepsy,
Men grovell'd so upon the smother'd ground;
And pity did the heart of Heaven confound.
The Gods, the Graces, and the Muses came
Down to the Destinies, to stay the frame
Of the true lovers' deaths, and all world's tears:
But Death before had stopp'd their cruel ears.
All the celestials parted mourning then,
Pierc'd with our human miseries more than men:
Ah, nothing doth the world with mischief fill,
But want of feeling one another's ill!
With their descent the day grew something fair,
And cast a brighter robe upon the air.
Hero, to shorten time with merriment,
For young Alcmane and bright Mya sent,
Two lovers that had long crav'd marriage-dues
At Hero's hands: but she did still refuse;
For lovely Mya was her consort vow'd
In her maid state, and therefore not allow'd
To amorous nuptials: yet fair Hero now
Intended to dispense with her cold vow,
Since hers was broken, and to marry her:
The rites would pleasing matter minister
To her conceits, and shorten tedious day.
They came; sweet Music usher'd th' odorous way,
And wanton Air in twenty sweet forms danced
After her fingers; Beauty and Love advanced
Their ensigns in the downless rosy faces
Of youths and maids led after by the Graces.
For all these Hero made a friendly feast,
Welcom'd them kindly, did much love protest,
Winning their hearts with all the means she might.
That, when her fault should chance t' abide the light
Their loves might cover or extenuate it,
And high in her worst fate make pity sit.
She married them; and in the banquet came,
Borne by the virgins. Hero striv'd to frame
Her thoughts to mirth: ay me! but hard it is
To imitate a false and forced bliss;
Ill may a sad mind forge a merry face,
Nor hath constrained laughter any grace.
Then laid she wine on cares to make them sink:
Who fears the threats of Fortune, let him drink.
To these quick nuptials enter'd suddenly
Admired Teras with the ebon thigh;
A nymph that haunted the green Sestian groves,
And would consort soft virgins in their loves,
At gaysome triumphs and on solemn days,
Singing prophetic elegies and lays,
And fingering of a silver lute she tied
With black and purple scarfs by her left side.
Apollo gave it, and her skill withal,
And she was term'd his dwarf, she was so small:
Yet great in virtue, for his beams enclosed
His virtues in her; never was proposed
Riddle to her, or augury, strange or new,
But she resolv'd it; never slight tale flew
From her charm'd lips without important sense,
Shown in some grave succeeding consequence.
This little sylvan, with her songs and tales,
Gave such estate to feasts and nuptials,
That though ofttimes she forewent tragedies,
Yet for her strangeness still she pleas'd their eyes;
And for her smallness they admir'd her so,
They thought her perfect born, and could not grow.
All eyes were on her. Hero did command
An altar decked with sacred state should stand
At the feast's upper end, close by the bride,
On which the pretty nymph might sit espied.
Then all were silent; every one so hears,
As all their senses climb'd into their ears:
And first this amorous tale, that fitted well
Fair Hero and the nuptials, she did tell.


_The Tale of Teras._

Hymen, that now is god of nuptial rites,
And crowns with honour Love and his delights,
Of Athens was a youth, so sweet of face,
That many thought him of the female race;
Such quickening brightness did his clear eyes dart,
Warm went their beams to his beholder's heart,
In such pure leagues his beauties were combin'd,
That there your nuptial contracts first were signed;
For as proportion, white and crimson, meet
In beauty's mixture, all right clear and sweet,
The eye responsible, the golden hair,
And none is held, without the other, fair;
All spring together, all together fade;
Such intermix'd affections should invade
Two perfect lovers; which being yet unseen,
Their virtues and their comforts copied been
In beauty's concord, subject to the eye;
And that, in Hymen, pleased so matchlessly,
That lovers were esteemed in their full grace,
Like form and colour mixed in Hymen's face;
And such sweet concord was thought worthy then
Of torches, music, feasts, and greatest men:
So Hymen look'd that even the chastest mind
He mov'd to join in joys of sacred kind;
For only now his chin's first down consorted
His head's rich fleece in golden curls contorted;
And as he was so loved, he loved so too:
So should best beauties bound by nuptials, do.
Bright Eucharis, who was by all men said
The noblest, fairest, and the richest maid
Of all th' Athenian damsels, Hymen lov'd
With such transmission, that his heart remov'd
From his white breast to hers: but her estate,
In passing his, was so interminate
For wealth and honour, that his love durst feed
On naught but sight and hearing, nor could breed
Hope of requital, the grand prize of love;
Nor could he hear or see, but he must prove
How his rare beauty's music would agree
With maids in consort; therefore robbed he
His chin of those same few first fruits it bore,
And, clad in such attire as virgins wore,
He kept them company, and might right well,
For he did all but Eucharis excel
In all the fair of beauty! yet he wanted
Virtue to make his own desires implanted
In his dear Eucharis; for women never
Love beauty in their sex, but envy ever.
His judgment yet, that durst not suit address,
Nor, past due means, presume of due success,
Reason gat Fortune in the end to speed
To his best prayers: but strange it seemed, indeed,
That Fortune should a chaste affection bless:
Preferment seldom graceth bashfulness.
Nor grac'd it Hymen yet; but many a dart,
And many an amorous thought, enthralled his heart,
Ere he obtained her; and he sick became,
Forced to abstain her sight; and then the flame
Raged in his bosom. O, what grief did fill him!
Sight made him sick, and want of sight did kill him.
The virgins wonder'd where Diaetia stay'd,
For so did Hymen term himself, a maid.
At length with sickly looks he greeted them:
Tis strange to see 'gainst what an extreme stream
A lover strives; poor Hymen look'd so ill,
That as in merit he increased still
By suffering much, so he in grace decreas'd:
Women are most won, when men merit least:
If Merit look not well, Love bids stand by;
Love's special lesson is to please the eye.
And Hymen soon recovering all he lost,
Deceiving still these maids, but himself most,
His love and he with many virgin dames,
Noble by birth, noble by beauty's flames,
Leaving the town with songs and hallow'd lights
To do great Ceres Eleusina rites
Of zealous sacrifice, were made a prey
To barbarous rovers, that in ambush lay,
And with rude hands enforc'd their shining spoil,
Far from the darkened city, tired with toil:
And when the yellow issue of the sky
Came trooping forth, jealous of cruelty
To their bright fellows of this under-heaven,
Into a double night they saw them driven,--
A horrid cave, the thieves' black mansion;
Where, weary of the journey they had gone,
Their last night's watch, and drunk with their sweet gains,
Dull Morpheus enter'd, laden with silken chains,
Stronger than iron, and bound the swelling veins
And tired senses of these lawless swains.
But when the virgin lights thus dimly burn'd,
O, what a hell was heaven in! how they mourn'd
And wrung their hands, and wound their gentle forms
Into the shapes of sorrow! golden storms
Fell from their eyes; as when the sun appears,
And yet it rains, so show'd their eyes their tears:
And, as when funeral dames watch a dead corse,
Weeping about it, telling with remorse
What pains he felt, how long in pain he lay,
How little food he ate, what he would say;
And then mix mournful tales of other's deaths,
Smothering themselves in clouds of their own breaths;
At length, one cheering other, call for wine;
The golden bowl drinks tears out of their eyne,
As they drink wine from it; and round it goes,
Each helping other to relieve their woes;
So cast these virgins' beauties mutual rays,
One lights another, face the face displays;
Lips by reflection kissed, and hands hands shook,
Even by the whiteness each of other took.
But Hymen now used friendly Morpheus' aid,
Slew every thief, and rescued every maid:
And now did his enamour'd passion take
Heart from his hearty deed, whose worth did make
His hope of bounteous Eucharis more strong;
And now came Love with Proteus, who had long
Juggled the little god with prayers and gifts,
Ran through all shapes and varied all his shifts,
To win Love's stay with him, and make him love him.
And when he saw no strength of sleight could move him,
To make him love or stay, he nimbly turned
Into Love's self, he so extremely burned.
And thus came Love, with Proteus and his power,
T' encounter Eucharis: first, like the flower
That Juno's milk did spring, the silver lily,
He fell on Hymen's hand, who straight did spy
The bounteous godhead, and with wondrous joy
Offer'd it Eucharis. She, wonderous coy,
Drew back her hand: the subtle flower did woo it,
And, drawing it near, mixed so you could not know it:
As two clear tapers mix in one their light,
So did the lily and the hand their white.
She viewed it; and her view the form bestows
Amongst her spirits; for, as colour flows
From superficies of each thing we see,
Even so with colours forms emitted be;
And where Love's form is, Love is; Love is form:
He entered at the eye; his sacred storm
Rose from the hand, Love's sweetest instrument:
It stirred her blood's sea so, that high it went,
And beat in bashful waves 'gainst the white shore
Of her divided cheeks; it raged the more,
Because the tide went 'gainst the haughty wind
Of her estate and birth: and, as we find,
In fainting ebbs, the flowery Zephyr hurls
The green-haired Hellespont, broke in silver curls,
'Gainst Hero's tower; but in his blast's retreat,
The waves obeying him, they after beat,
Leaving the chalky shore a great way pale,
Then moist it freshly with another gale;
So ebbed and flowed the blood in Eucharis' face,
Coyness and Love strived which had greatest grace;
Virginity did fight on Coyness' side,
Fear of her parent's frowns and female pride
Loathing the lower place, more than it loves
The high contents desert and virtue moves.
With Love fought Hymen's beauty and his valure,
Which scarce could so much favour yet allure
To come to strike, but fameless idle stood:
Action is fiery valour's sovereign good.
But Love, once entered, wished no greater aid
Than he could find within; thought thought betray'd;
The bribed, but incorrupted, garrison
Sung 'Io Hymen;' there those songs begun,
And Love was grown so rich with such a gain,
And wanton with the ease of his free reign,
That he would turn into her roughest frowns
To turn them out; and thus he Hymen crowns
King of his thoughts, man's greatest empery:
This was his first brave step to deity.
Home to the mourning city they repair,
With news as wholesome as the morning air,
To the sad parents of each saved maid:
But Hymen and his Eucharis had laid
This plat to make the flame of their delight
Round as the moon at full, and full as bright.
Because the parents of chaste Eucharis
Exceeding Hymen's so, might cross their bliss;
And as the world rewards deserts, that law
Cannot assist with force; so when they saw
Their daughter safe, take vantage of their own,
Praise Hymen's valour much, nothing bestown;
Hymen must leave the virgins in a grove
Far off from Athens, and go first to prove,
If to restore them all with fame and life,
He should enjoy his dearest as his wife.
This told to all the maids, the most agree:
The riper sort, knowing what 'tis to be
The first mouth of a news so far derived,
And that to hear and bear news brave folks lived.
As being a carriage special hard to bear
Occurrents, these occurrents being so dear,
They did with grace protest, they were content
T' accost their friends with all their compliment,
For Hymen's good; but to incur their harm,
There he must pardon them. This wit went warm
To Adolesche's brain, a nymph born high,
Made all of voice and fire, that upwards fly:
Her heart and all her forces' nether train
Climb'd to her tongue, and thither fell her brain,
Since it could go no higher; and it must go;
All powers she had, even her tongue, did so:
In spirit and quickness she much joy did take,
And loved her tongue, only for quickness' sake;
And she would haste and tell. The rest all stay:
Hymen goes one, the nymph another way;
And what became of her I'll tell at last:
Yet take her visage now;--moist-lipped, long-faced,
Thin like an iron wedge, so sharp and tart,
As 'twere of purpose made to cleave Love's heart:
Well were this lovely beauty rid of her.
And Hymen did at Athens now prefer
His welcome suit, which he with joy aspired:
A hundred princely youths with him retired
To fetch the nymphs; chariots and music went;
And home they came: heaven with applauses rent.
The nuptials straight proceed, whiles all the town,
Fresh in their joys, might do them most renown.
First, gold-locked Hymen did to church repair,
Like a quick offering burned in flames of hair;
And after, with a virgin firmament
The godhead-proving bride attended went
Before them all: she looked in her command,
As if form-giving Cypria's silver hand
Gripped all their beauties, and crushed out one flame;
She blushed to see how beauty overcame
The thoughts of all men. Next, before her went
Five lovely children, decked with ornament
Of her sweet colours, bearing torches by;
For light was held a happy augury
Of generation, whose efficient right
Is nothing else but to produce to light.
The odd disparent number they did choose,
To show the union married loves should use,
Since in two equal parts it will not sever,
But the midst holds one to rejoin it ever,
As common to both parts: men therefore deem
That equal number gods do not esteem,
Being authors of sweet peace and unity,
But pleasing to th' infernal empery,
Under whose ensigns Wars and Discords fight,
Since an even number you may disunite
In two parts equal, naught in middle left
To reunite each part from other reft;
And five they hold in most especial prize,
Since 'tis the first odd number that doth rise
From the two foremost numbers' unity,
That odd and even are; which are two and three;
For one no number is; but thence doth flow
The powerful race of number. Next, did go
A noble matron, that did spinning bear
A huswife's rock and spindle, and did wear
A wether's skin, with all the snowy fleece,
To intimate that even the daintiest piece
And noblest-born dame should industrious be:
That which does good disgraceth no degree.
And now to Juno's temple they are come,
Where her grave priest stood in the marriage-room:
On his right arm did hang a scarlet veil,
And from his shoulders to the ground did trail,
On either side, ribands of white and blue:
With the red veil he hid the bashful hue
Of the chaste bride, to show the modest shame,
In coupling with a man, should grace a dame.
Then took he the disparent silks, and tied
The lovers by the waists, and side to side,
In token that thereafter they must bind
In one self-sacred knot each other's mind.
Before them on an altar he presented
Both fire and water, which was first invented,
Since to ingenerate every human creature
And every other birth produc'd by Nature,
Moisture and heat must mix; so man and wife
For human race must join in nuptial life.
Then one of Juno's birds, the painted jay,
He sacrific'd and took the gall away;
All which he did behind the altar throw,
In sign no bitterness of hate should grow,
'Twixt married loves, nor any least disdain.
Nothing they spake, for 'twas esteem'd too plain
For the most silken mildness of a maid,
To let a public audience hear it said,
She boldly took the man; and so respected
Was bashfulness in Athens, it erected
To chaste Agneia, which is Shamefacedness,
A sacred temple, holding her a goddess.
And now to feasts, masks, and triumphant shows,
The shining troops returned, even till earth-throes
Brought forth with joy the thickest part of night,
When the sweet nuptial song, that used to cite
All to their rest, was by Phemonoee sung,
First Delphian prophetess, whose graces sprung
Out of the Muses' well: she sung before
The bride into her chamber; at which door
A matron and a torch-bearer did stand:
A painted box of confits in her hand
The matron held, and so did other some
That compassed round the honour'd nuptial room.
The custom was, that every maid did wear,
During her maidenhead, a silken sphere
About her waist, above her inmost weed,
Knit with Minerva's knot, and that was freed
By the fair bridegroom on the marriage-night,
With many ceremonies of delight:
And yet eternized Hymen's tender bride,
To suffer it dissolved so, sweetly cried.
The maids that heard, so loved and did adore her,
They wished with all their hearts to suffer for her.
So had the matrons, that with confits stood
About the chamber, such affectionate blood,
And so true feeling of her harmless pains,
That every one a shower of confits rains;
For which the bride-youths scrambling on the ground,
In noise of that sweet hail her cries were drown'd.
And thus blest Hymen joyed his gracious bride,
And for his joy was after deified.
The saffron mirror by which Phoebus' love,
Green Tellus, decks her, now he held above
The cloudy mountains: and the noble maid,
Sharp-visaged Adolesche, that was stray'd
Out of her way, in hasting with her news,
Not till this hour th' Athenian turrets views;
And now brought home by guides, she heard by all,
That her long kept occurrents would be stale,
And how fair Hymen's honours did excel
For those rare news which she came short to tell.
To hear her dear tongue robbed of such a joy,
Made the well-spoken nymph take such a toy,
That down she sunk: when lightning from above
Shrunk her lean body, and, for mere free love,
Turn'd her into the pied-plum'd Psittacus,
That now the Parrot is surnam'd by us,
Who still with counterfeit confusion prates
Naught but news common to the common'st mates.--
This told, strange Teras touch'd her lute, and sung
This ditty, that the torchy evening sprung.


_Epithalamion Teratos._

Come, come, dear Night! Love's mart of kisses,
Sweet close to his ambitious line,
The fruitful summer of his blisses!
Love's glory doth in darkness shine.
O come, soft rest of cares! come, Night!
Come, naked Virtue's only tire,
The reaped harvest of the light,
Bound up in sheaves of sacred fire!
Love calls to war;
Sighs his alarms,
Lips his swords are,
The field his arms.

Come, Night, and lay thy velvet hand
On glorious Day's outfacing face;
And all thy crowned flames command,
For torches to our nuptial grace!
Love calls to war;
Sighs his alarms,
Lips his swords are,
The field his arms.

No need have we of factious Day,
To cast, in envy of thy peace,
Her balls of discord in thy way:
Here Beauty's day doth never cease;
Day is abstracted here,
And varied in a triple sphere.
Hero, Alcmane, Mya, so outshine thee,
Ere thou come here, let Thetis thrice refine thee.
Love calls to war;
Sighs his alarms,
Lips his swords are,
The field his arms.

The evening star I see:
Rise, youths! the evening star
Helps Love to summon war;
Both now embracing be.
Rise, youths! Love's rite claims more than banquets; rise!
Now the bright marigolds, that deck the skies,
Phoebus' celestial flowers, that, contrary
To his flowers here, ope when he shuts his eye,
And shuts when he doth open, crown your sports:
Now Love in Night, and Night in Love exhorts
Courtship and dances: all your parts employ,
And suit Night's rich expansure with your joy.
Love paints his longings in sweet virgins' eyes:
Rise, youths! Love's rite claims more than banquets; rise!

Rise, virgins! let fair nuptial loves enfold
Your fruitless breasts: the maidenheads ye hold
Are not your own alone, but parted are;
Part in disposing them your parents share,
And that a third part is; so must ye save
Your loves a third, and you your thirds must have.
Love paints his longings in sweet virgins' eyes:
Rise, youths! Love's rite claims more than banquets; rise!

Herewith the amorous spirit, that was so kind
To Teras' hair, and comb'd it down with wind,
Still as it, comet-like, brake from her brain,
Would needs have Teras gone, and did refrain
To blow it down: which, staring up, dismay'd
The timorous feast; and she no longer stay'd;
But, bowing to the bridegroom and the bride,
Did, like a shooting exhalation, glide
Out of their sights: the turning of her back
Made them all shriek, it look'd so ghastly black.
O hapless Hero! that most hapless cloud
Thy soon-succeeding tragedy foreshow'd.
Thus all the nuptial crew to joys depart;
But much-wronged Hero stood Hell's blackest dart:
Whose wound because I grieve so to display,
I use digressions thus t' increase the day.

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Justin

DEDICATION

O POOR, sad hearts that struggle on and wait,
Like shipwrecked sailors on a spar at sea,
Through deepening glooms, if haply, soon or late,
Some day-dawn glimmer of what is to be,
Not knowing Christ, nor gladdened by His Love
5
And Life indwelling—to you I dedicate
These humble musings, praying that from above,
On you, being faithful found, the light may shine
Of Life incarnate and of Love divine.
Take, then, these thoughts, in loving memory
10
Of those dead hearts that brought it first to me.

DOWN by the sea, in infinite solitude
And wrapt in darkness, save when gleams of light
Broke from the moon aslant the hurrying clouds
That fled the wind, lay Justin, worn with grief,
And heart-sick with vain searching after God.

15
He heeded not the cold white foam that crept
In silence round his feet, nor the tall sedge
That sighed like lonely forest round his head;
His heart was weary of this weight of being,
Weary of all the mystery of life,
20
Weary of all the littleness of men,
And the dark riddle that he could not solve—
Why men should be, why pain and sin and death,
And where were hid the lineaments of God.
No voice was near. Behind, a lofty cape,
25
Whose iron face was scarred by many a storm,
Loomed threatening in the dark, and cleft the main,
And laid its giant hand upon the deep.
One grizzled oak tree crowned it, and the surf
Broke ever at its base, with ceaseless voice
30
Powerless to mar its silent majesty.
Sweet was the loneliness to Justin, sweet
Perturbèd nature, as in harmony
With the dark thoughts that beat upon his soul.
Nor speechless long he lay. The tide of grief,
35
O'erflowing the narrow limits of the mind,
Broke from him, and in burning word he cried:
"O God, if God there be in this foul chase!
O Fate, if Fate it be that drives us thus!
O Chance, if it be Thou that mouldeth all!
40
Stern Power, whate'er Thy name, that sit'st sublime
Above creation, throned creation's Lord,
With feet upon the spheres, whose flaming arms
Scatter new worlds form age to age, to roll
Thro' the dim cycles of all time, to bloom
45
Into warm life—what iron law impels,
Or wanton cruelty in the eternal deep
Of mind supreme, Thee to send sin and death
To prey thus on the creatures of Thine hands,
Until the while skulls crumble back to earth
50
From whence they sprung? O Chance! O Fate! O God!
My soul is broken with the clang of worlds;
The universe is discord all to me,
I see dark planets roll o'er human graves;
I feel them quivering with the cries of souls.
55
I know no more. O Power, whose face is veiled
From man in Thine own greatness,—Thou, whom I
Thro' weary years have sought, but sought in vain,
In every shadow upon every hill,
In the sweet features of a child, or on
60
The illimitable sea, in heat, in cold,
And in the rain that clothes the earth with buds,
And in the breath of things invisible,
Till, worn and helpless, now I long for death,—
Let me before I die hear some still voice
65
(If such indeed there be), some undertone
That, flowing from eternity thro' all
The jarring voices that now rend the soul,
Shall blend them into one long harmony:
So let me hearing die, and dying rest."
70

He ceased, and, sweet as after day of storm
Flows the still sea at even—the winds and waves
Asleep in purple mists—a silence crept
Over the worlds and flooded Justin's soul;
And in the silence Justin heard a voice,
75
And the warm throbbing of a human heart.
And thro' the darkness moved the form of Christ,
White-robed, with crown of thorns and those sad eyes
That saw His Mother weep beside the cross.
Then form innumerable throats uprose
80
One glorious music, one great hymn of praise
From all creation, th' universal sounds
Of tireless nature,—thunders of the sea
On clouded crags where arctic winds at night
Tear at its foaming lips, a land of ice
85
And spectral suns; the deep-toned mountains, too,
All shadow-clad in forests, send their voice
From caverns subterranean, where the newts
And blind-worms fear no day; the lion's roar
On viewless waste; the thundering cataract,
90
And huge leviathan. Nor only these,
But from the laughing groves and vine-clad hills
And valleys come sweet sounds—the notes of birds,
The hum of insects, when the meridian sun
Drives the glad reapers to their noonday meal,
95
By leaf-arched brook; and lowings from the fold,
In cooler evening, when the maidens ply
Their daily task; the children's innocent mirth,
And angels' songs, cloud-wafted from the deep
Of heaven's blue; and, fainter still, the sounds
100
Of far-off worlds and the orbed universe.
But that which ran thro' all, and linked them all
In one long harmony—that undertone
Which made them music—was the voice of Christ
And the soft beating of His human heart.
105
A calm light stole on Justin, and a peace,
Unknown before, unutterable, deep
Within the spirit's depths—a new-born sense
As if his heart had eyes, and every eye
Saw God thro' all in His own loveliness.
110
The vision passed, and slowly Justin rose,
Unwilling quickly to disturb the peace
Which his strange dream had poured into his soul,
And the last accents of the voice that yet
Throbbed in his heart and kindled all his love.
115
There was a stillness and a hush o'er nature,
The sweet expectancy of early dawn
That waits its king; the wind had fall'n, the sea
And shore spoke but in whispers; only birds
Felt not the universal awe, but from their nests,
120
Dew-sprinkled, woke with songs the sleeping woods,
Through which, a faded beauty, peered the moon.
Then, turning, Justin suddenly beheld
A man of years, with long dark robes and hair
Whiter than sea-foam in the moonlight seen,
125
Strewn on black rocks, who, seeing Justin rise,
Moved nearer to him, saying, "O my son!
For son thou art in this new faith whereto
I call thee, seeing thou wilt be born again
By water and the washing of thy soul
130
Form its vain creeds, me hath the Father sent
(In His great mercy loving thee and all)
To be a witness to thee of thy dream,
To solve the mysteries thou couldst not solve
By thine own searching, and to lead thee now
135
To that dear Voice thou heard'st, and lay thine head
Upon the Heart that filled thy soul with peace."
So by the sea, among the frowning rocks,
They sat in converse, while the aged priest
Led Justin's spirit onward thro' the gloom
140
Of vain philosophies, as one who guides
An alpine traveller up some dizzy height,
Where opening views expand at every step
Thro' lessening mist, till Justin gazed at last
Upon a manger rude, and, sleeping, lain therein,
145
He saw the features of the Son of God.
"My Father," then cried Justin, "now my heart
Reads the bright message of my dream. I see
How vain and futile all philosophies,
But this the last which burns into my soul
150
With fire of love so wondrous; yet I see
How even they, with weak and tremulous hand,
Point toward the Christ and lead men up to Him.
I now descry His footsteps in dead years,
He guiding me unconscious, knowing Him not.
155
When first my limbs, full-grown in sinewy youth,
Felt the strong life within, my spirit glad
Moved like broad day enshrined in cloudless skies;
No care I knew, no sorrow grieved my heart,
But all was joy—a throbbing, flowing joy.
160
I wandered thro' the forests and the wilds,
On mountain height, above the birth of storms;
I heard unmoved the thunder at my feet,
And tottering crags that filled abysmal depths
With shattered pinnacles, and voices dread
165
That made earth tremble to its central fire;
I heard the lion's roar, but felt no fear:
The many-fingered forests clapped their hands,
They breathed my life, the lions were free as I,—
I felt all nature and myself were one;
170
Birds, beasts, and insects, breathing flowers and trees,
And charmèd life linked us in brotherhood.
I watched the rising sun from day to day
Surprise the world with glories ever new.
No clouds obscured; the rosy hands of dawn
175
But lifted us to realms of joyousness
And deepening light. No thought of setting day
Saddened my heart, and in the silent eve
I saw the new sun, like a golden seed,
Hid in the crimson bosom of the old,
180
Full of fresh life and hope and songs of birds,
To wake the morn. The fish and I were friends;
Their silvery shinings could no swifter pierce
The lucid depths and shallows than could I;
They were my brothers, too, for thy had life,
185
And life meant joy, and joy was brotherhood.
My comrades laughed, and called me, ‘ocean's king,'
‘Neptune, the ocean's king.' ‘Not so,' said I;
‘Call me not king, but rather friend of all!'
Thus passed the years, till one day in a wood,
190
As I lay dreaming by a moss-edged pool,
Whose twinkling eyes were laughing at the trees
That laughed in golden glories overhead,
While burnished beetles, green and amber-hued,
Skimmed o'er its waves, I heard a strange wild note,
195
Above the notes of birds, so beautiful,
It thrilled my soul, and made my pulses glow
With warmer life. The leaves were pushed aside,
And, stepping thro' the shadows, came a youth,
God-like in motion, tall and supple-limbed,
200
Drenched with the dappled sunlight, and begirt
With skin of leopard clasped about the waist
With silver. Pendant from his neck there hung
A shell, such as Apollo found at dawn,
Sea-voiced and singing to the plaintive wind,
205
Careless who heard. This, when he held and struck
With skilful hand, gave forth divinest sounds,
Softer than the low humming of the bees,
And sweeter than the trill of nightingale;
Or, stern and powerful, as his mood would change,
210
Like the loud voice that fills the midnight trees
And runs before the chariot of the storm,
Startling all nature, crying, ‘Lo! he comes,
The Storm-God comes!' or, shrill as winter winds
That wail at evening round the woodman's hut,
215
When close-drawn lattice and the blazing hearth
And meal well earned make glad the hearts within
Of children and of sire. ‘O youth!' I cried,
Gaining my speech at last, ‘fain would I know
The art that can so charm the sense,—not birds
220
Or aught on earth so beautiful. Could I
But follow thee in all thy wanderings,
But hear thee play and drink my spirit's fill
Of those wild melodies, how would not joy
Grow more intense! After such wakening life
225
Were poor indeed, the common lot of beasts
And flowers; but man I see is higher,
(Tho' till this hour content). These strains have roused
Immortal sense within of something great;
Unutterable longings chafe the soul,
230
Dreams of the gods, and voices of dead years.
The liquid strains so thrilled me with their power
That, with expanded consciousness, I saw
The birth of empires, heard the rolling spheres,
Masts snapped at sea, and, in strange concourse blent,
235
The din of cities, cries of wasted hearts,
Marshalling of steeds, ravings of fevered men;
While, over all the moaning of a sea,
And faint, a voice growing stronger, ‘Is this all?'
If Music has such power, She, and not life,
240
Must be man's good. Oh, let me follow Thee,
Her worshipper, for She can satisfy.'
Then, with a smile like sunlight on his face,
He sang this song in answer, carelessly—
‘O Soul, glad Soul, what wert thou without song?
245
Morns never smiling, wilds without a tree,
A waste of voiceless twilight wide and long,
Dark rivers dying in eternal sea,
O Soul, sad Soul, that wert thou without song.
‘O Soul, sad Soul, the rivers have to die,
250
Morn grows to eve, trees wither by the way,
Clouds hide the sun and tears fall from the sky;
But Music lives though earth should melt away.
Oh! joy, glad Soul, she will not let thee die.'
"He scarce had ceased when such a pain convulsed
255
His features as the agony that comes
At death, and with one ringing cry he shook
An adder from his foot, then wildly fled,
With face distorted, blanched with deadly fear,
Eyes glaring madly, thro' the tangled glade,
260
Like some chased stag that hears the hounds behind,
Nor recks what lies before. I followed fast,
But swift as wind he fled. A river deep
And rapid flowed hard by, whose rocky sides,
Upheaved by some convulsion, frowning stood
265
To guard its narrow channel. There a cliff
Stretched half across the stream, and at its foot
The hurrying waters curled in many a fold
Of creamy white. Him, on the rocks I found
There lying, prostrate, racked with anguish sore,
270
And cold with coming death; his foaming lips
Were bloodless, and his limbs, all stained and torn,
Writhed helplessly. I brought green moss and placed
For pillow 'neath his head; I laved his brow
And face and clotted hair; but all in vain
275
I strove, for ever a wild look would come
In his dark eyes, and shade of ghastly fear.
Colder he grew, and silent, till at length
I thought him dead, and wondered, pitying him,
And his fair form so helpless on the sand,
280
As some white statue fallen from its niche,
Broken irreparably. A sudden thought
Flashed on my mind. The shell—the shell was there,
Still round his neck. If I could strike some sounds
Of that new power that had so swayed my soul,
285
What might not chance! For music should indeed,
If god of men, be master over death,
And light up fire within the chilling breast.
I seized the shell and struck it: one low sound
Broke from it, dying among the cliffs and roar
290
Of current, soft as a child's moan in dreams.
But, ere I touched again, with a wild laugh
That made the forests ring and scared the owls
From their day-sleep, and drove them hooting out
In blinding sunlight, suddenly he sprang,
295
Clutched with mad hands the shell, and, crushing it,
Flung the white fragments in the waves below.
He saw them sink, then crying aloud, ‘'Tis vain!
'Tis vain; the shadow comes!' he fell back dead.
O death-cry in the roaring of the waves,
300
O death-cry in the stillness of the rocks,
O death-cry in the laughing of the trees!
The shadow passing by had fallen on me,
Never to rise. So thought I then. I broke
Into loud weeping thus that life should end,
305
In pain and loathsomeness, the fairest flower
Of nature dying unfruitful. Stygian dark
And horrors of the shades passed over me,
Cries of the Furies and the torrents roar
Rang in my ears, and voices out of hell
310
Re-echoed, ‘Vain! 'tis vain; the shadow comes!'
I hid the dead with moss, then turned and fled,
I cared not whither, so that I might fly
From the dark thoughts that drove me night and day,
And sights of death that haunted me. All changed
315
The glorious world! and rapine, lust, and death
Glared in each face, and blasted all but wilds
Where man was not. Then, Father, came the thought
That in that higher nature might be peace
Which music roused, but could not satisfy;
320
So sought I wisdom and the secret, dread,
Of life and death, nor knew I where to find.
I journeyed to the blazing East, and there,
In blinding simooms and a sun that scorched
League upon league of sand, I stood before
325
The stony monster that primeval hands,
Fraught with mad longings, shaped with giant tools
From mountain-side. O passionless cold lips!
O smile of scorn! O glance of burning hate!
I placed my lips against its stony mouth,
330
On fire to hear, tho' hearing were to die,
The secret of the Sphinx. I heard the birth
And death of empires, heard the rolling spheres,
Masts snapped at sea, and, in strange concourse blent,
The din of cities, cries of wasted hearts,
335
Marshalling of steeds, ravings of fevered men,
While over all the moaning of a sea,
And faint a voice, growing stronger, ‘This is all.'
And this was all; and so I journeyed home,
Heart-sick, and with dark thoughts that gnawed my soul
340
As fire eats out a tree, when thunder-clouds
Darken the woods, and lightning blasts the stems,
With fruit half-ripe. The unexpressed desire
For something further than the furthest star,
For something deeper than the lowest deep,
345
For something behind all, thro' all, in all,
Drove me to fathom all philosophy.
Thus long time sought I God, not knowing, in fire,
In cold, in light, and, mole-like, closed my eyes,
And groped thro' nature, while the truth I sought
350
Was at my door, His hand upon my latch,
And I too blind to see, for the dark shade
Of things material hung upon my sight.
Oh, Father, I was fearful lest the truth
Should grind my soul to powder if I found.
355
For what was I but man? and God, the God
Of this great universe, what should He care
For one worn heart among a myriad stars?
If I should find—what should I find, indeed,
But some great power my senses could not grasp,
360
A part of some vast whole I could not see,
And I no more to Him than breathing clay?
What link between the Maker and the made?
For men can draw no nourishment from stones
And things in nature save thro' beasts and flowers,
365
Which link the two; and so, methought, if God
Should be the God I deem Him, how can He,
The hidden Force that blindly moves the world,
Soothe the fierce hunger in the soul of man
That craves for love? What sympathy between
370
The finite and the infinite? Life itself
Grew hard to breathe beneath eternal clouds;
No sun, no goal, to cheer it. But I see
In this dear Christ the answer of my soul;
The pledge of God's great love; the link that binds
375
The Godhead and the manhood into one;
The undertone that makes one harmony
Of our existence, giving life and peace
And love for men where once a fruitless search
Thro' the blind forces of the universe
380
In weary years shut out the light of day,
And dried the fount of love within the soul."
He ceased, and answered lovingly the Sage:
"Son, I perceive that now thy soul hath found
The peace it sought, and in the rifted Side
385
A hiding-place and shelter form the blast.
Now I perceive the Spirit, as at first,
Moves on the troubled waters of thy mind,
And from dark chaos bringeth light and peace.
And now in this still hour, when every day
390
On the dim altar lies the Son of God,
That offering of which the prophet spake,*
And feeds His children with their daily bread,
Let us speak on of those high themes that lift
The soul from out the trammels of this life
395
Up to the throne of God; and so, perchance,
As on that country road at eventide,
The risen One shall come with gentle voice
And set our hearts on fire."†
Thus they conversed,
400
Unconscious of aught else in trance divine.
And, as a mist rising from vale and hill
Discloses fields, and further off the dawn
On the broad sea, until there rolls unveiled
The long full glory of the landscape, thus,
405
As Justin sat, clearer his vision grew
Of this new faith, until he saw the Christ
Come towards him thro' the mists of dying creeds
That once had shrouded Him. And thus they spake;
And Justin learned how suffering here and sin
410
Resisted were but powers to try the soul,
And forge it out more strong for this hard life,
More bright for that hereafter, and that Christ,
Informing all the soul with His great love,
Can purge the thoughts and bend the stubborn will.
415
For other creeds but touch the edge of being,
But this new life breathes life into our life;
For Christ hath trod our path before, and conquered all,
In the cold desert and upon the cross,
With bleeding hands and feet.
420
Then, kneeling down
Upon the cold, hard rocks, with lifted face
Turned to the glimmering east, he cried, "O God!
Lord of innumerable worlds which move,
Zone upon zone, thro' that thick night which hangs
425
About Thy feet for ever—Thou, whose voice
From the dead earth can frame the souls of men,
The lips that murmur praises, and the eyes
That kindle into love—O Thou, from whom
In the blind past flowed forth the light and power
430
That make creation circle round Thy throne
Thro' all the ages—Thou, to whom alone
Time's self is dead, and death is but new life
That flows unseen thro' this great universe,
Reframing all and springing in new forms
435
More worthy Thee—O Thou, in whom unite
The past, the present, and the future—Thou,
The centre of all time, the great I AM,
Heart of eternity, —in Thee I find,
O God, my God, the resting-place I sought,
440
In Thee I find the answer of my quest,
In Thee the satisfaction of my soul.
I thank Thee Thou hast led me like a child
To these sweet streams for which my soul hath longed
Thro' the dim past. And now I see anew
445
How all creation, like some pyramid,
Built on a waste of ages as the sands
Of a great desert, doth on every side,
Step upon step, lead upward to Thy throne.
Inscrutable Thy ways, O God, and yet
450
Thro' the thick clouds that hide Thy face there comes
A beam of light, the offspring of Thy love;
For in my dreams I heard a human voice,
And the warm beating of a human heart
Throbbing thro' nature; and I saw far off
455
In the dim void the suffering face of Christ.
O Christ in God! O God in Christ! O God!
Pledge of the Father's love, O Fount of light!
Thine was the voice that stilled my fearful heart,
Thine was the heart that filled my soul with peace.
460
O Christ, the centre of humanity!
O God, the heart of this great universe!
O Christ in God! Thou linkest all to Thee
By Thy torn side and bleeding hands and feet.
How can we fear, tho' long and loud the storm,
465
If thro' the darkness comes a human voice?
How can we tremble, when our head is laid
Upon that breast where beasts a human heart?
O Man in God, that bringest God to men!
O God in Man, that liftest man to God!
470
Effulgence of the essence which, divine,
Without Thee incommunicable were;
Strong Light to light all mysteries, and Thou,
The perfect rest I sought through weary years
On trackless wastes! Behold, in faith and love,
475
O God, my God, I come, I come to Thee."
He ceased, and, slowly rising from his knees,
He saw the priest afar with tearful eyes,
And arms outstretched in thankfulness, and said,
"I would be born again in this new faith,
480
My Father, by the washing of my soul
Form its dark stains, for I am but a babe,
And would learn life anew." So, silent, moved
They to the shore, absorbed in thoughts too deep
For earthly speech, and silence fell awhile
485
Upon the earth in reverence to its God,
And sky and ocean seemed to wait in awe.
There, by the long white ripples on the shore,
The priest stooped down in that still hour, and took
A handful form the waves, the eternal sea,
490
That, like the love of God, flows over all,
Or height or depth, and levels all, and thus
Baptized he Justin in the Triune Name,
And on his forehead made the holy sign;
And, as the water fell on him, the sun
495
Rose in full glory, and the sky grew bright,
And angels sang far off, for day had dawned
Upon the ocean and in Justin's soul.
Then spake the priest, "My son, in this calm sea
I read thy life, all stillness now and peace,
500
In the sweet morning 'neath the new-born day.
But see, the wind now breaks it into waves,
Which, rising form their sleep, each tipped with light,
Make that long golden pathway to the sun.
So shall it be with thee. Thy soul now yearns
505
To rest for ever at the feet of Christ;
But suffering, pain, and toil shall sweep across
Its stillness, and the strife of noisy tongues,
And persecution, cold, and nakedness
Shall break its surface; but each pain shall be
510
Bright with the love of Christ, and all thy life
Shall be a path to lead men up to Him."
So the priest parted, blessing him, and Justin
Rose from his knees and moved among all men,
And reasoned with them of the love of God
515
And his dear Christ, and led men up to Him
From false philosophies, until at last
His life set in the crimson of his blood,
And rose in splendour near the throne of God.

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The Parish Register - Part II: Marriages

DISPOSED to wed, e'en while you hasten, stay;
There's great advantage in a small delay:
Thus Ovid sang, and much the wise approve
This prudent maxim of the priest of Love;
If poor, delay for future want prepares,
And eases humble life of half its cares;
If rich, delay shall brace the thoughtful mind,
T'endure the ills that e'en the happiest find:
Delay shall knowledge yield on either part,
And show the value of the vanquish'd heart;
The humours, passions, merits, failings prove,
And gently raise the veil that's worn by Love;
Love, that impatient guide!--too proud to think
Of vulgar wants, of clothing, meat, and drink,
Urges our amorous swains their joys to seize,
And then, at rags and hunger frighten'd, flees:
Yet not too long in cold debate remain;
Till age refrain not--but if old, refrain.
By no such rule would Gaffer Kirk be tried;
First in the year he led a blooming bride,
And stood a wither'd elder at her side.
Oh! Nathan! Nathan! at thy years trepann'd,
To take a wanton harlot by the hand!
Thou, who wert used so tartly to express
Thy sense of matrimonial happiness,
Till every youth, whose banns at church were read,
Strove not to meet, or meeting, hung his head;
And every lass forebore at thee to look,
A sly old fish, too cunning for the hook;
And now at sixty, that pert dame to see,
Of all thy savings mistress, and of thee;
Now will the lads, rememb'ring insults past,
Cry, 'What, the wise one in the trap at last!'
Fie! Nathan! fie! to let an artful jade
The close recesses of thine heart invade;
What grievous pangs! what suffering she'll impart!
And fill with anguish that rebellious heart;
For thou wilt strive incessantly, in vain,
By threatening speech thy freedom to regain:
But she for conquest married, nor will prove
A dupe to thee, thine anger or thy love;
Clamorous her tongue will be: --of either sex,
She'll gather friends around thee and perplex
Thy doubtful soul;--thy money she will waste
In the vain ramblings of a vulgar taste;
And will be happy to exert her power,
In every eye, in thine, at every hour.
Then wilt thou bluster--'No! I will not rest,
And see consumed each shilling of my chest:'
Thou wilt be valiant--'When thy cousins call,
I will abuse and shut my door on all:'
Thou wilt be cruel!--'What the law allows,
That be thy portion, my ungrateful spouse!
Nor other shillings shalt thou then receive;
And when I die--What! may I this believe?
Are these true tender tears? and does my Kitty

grieve?
Ah! crafty vixen, thine old man has fears;
But weep no more! I'm melted by thy tears;
Spare but my money; thou shalt rule ME still,
And see thy cousins: --there! I burn the will.'
Thus, with example sad, our year began,
A wanton vixen and a weary man;
But had this tale in other guise been told,
Young let the lover be, the lady old,
And that disparity of years shall prove
No bane of peace, although some bar to love:
'Tis not the worst, our nuptial ties among,
That joins the ancient bride and bridegroom young;

-
Young wives, like changing winds, their power

display
By shifting points and varying day by day;
Now zephyrs mild, now whirlwinds in their force,
They sometimes speed, but often thwart our course;
And much experienced should that pilot be,
Who sails with them on life's tempestuous sea.
But like a trade-wind is the ancient dame,
Mild to your wish and every day the same;
Steady as time, no sudden squalls you fear,
But set full sail and with assurance steer;
Till every danger in your way be past,
And then she gently, mildly breathes her last;
Rich you arrive, in port awhile remain,
And for a second venture sail again.
For this, blithe Donald southward made his way,
And left the lasses on the banks of Tay;
Him to a neighbouring garden fortune sent,
Whom we beheld, aspiringly content:
Patient and mild he sought the dame to please,
Who ruled the kitchen and who bore the keys.
Fair Lucy first, the laundry's grace and pride,
With smiles and gracious looks, her fortune tried;
But all in vain she praised his 'pawky eyne,'
Where never fondness was for Lucy seen:
Him the mild Susan, boast of dairies, loved,
And found him civil, cautious, and unmoved:
From many a fragrant simple, Catherine's skill
Drew oil and essence from the boiling still;
But not her warmth, nor all her winning ways,
From his cool phlegm could Donald's spirit raise:
Of beauty heedless, with the merry mute,
To Mistress Dobson he preferr'd his suit;
There proved his service, there address'd his vows,
And saw her mistress,--friend,--protectress,--

spouse;
A butler now, he thanks his powerful bride,
And, like her keys, keeps constant at her side.
Next at our altar stood a luckless pair,
Brought by strong passions and a warrant there;
By long rent cloak, hung loosely, strove the bride,
From every eye, what all perceived, to hide,
While the boy-bridegroom, shuffling in his pace,
Now hid awhile and then exposed his face;
As shame alternately with anger strove,
The brain confused with muddy ale, to move
In haste and stammering he perform'd his part,
And look'd the rage that rankled in his heart;
(So will each lover inly curse his fate,
Too soon made happy and made wise too late
I saw his features take a savage gloom,
And deeply threaten for the days to come.
Low spake the lass, and lisp'd and minced the

while,
Look'd on the lad, and faintly tried to smile;
With soften'd speech and humbled tone she strove
To stir the embers of departed love:
While he, a tyrant, frowning walk'd before,
Felt the poor purse, and sought the public door,
She sadly following, in submission went,
And saw the final shilling foully spent;
Then to her father's hut the pair withdrew,
And bade to love and comfort long adieu!
Ah! fly temptation, youth, refrain! refrain!
I preach for ever; but I preach in vain!
Two summers since, I saw at Lammas Fair
The sweetest flower that ever blossom'd there,
When Phoebe Dawson gaily cross'd the Green,
In haste to see, and happy to be seen:
Her air, her manners, all who saw admired;
Courteous though coy, and gentle though retired;
The joy of youth and health her eyes display'd,
And ease of heart her every look convey'd;
A native skill her simple robes express'd,
As with untutor'd elegance she dress'd;
The lads around admired so fair a sight,
And Phoebe felt, and felt she gave, delight.
Admirers soon of every age she gain'd,
Her beauty won them and her worth retain'd;
Envy itself could no contempt display,
They wish'd her well, whom yet they wish'd away.
Correct in thought, she judged a servant's place
Preserved a rustic beauty from disgrace;
But yet on Sunday-eve, in freedom's hour,
With secret joy she felt that beauty's power,
When some proud bliss upon the heart would steal,
That, poor or rich, a beauty still must feel.
At length the youth ordain'd to move her breast,
Before the swains with bolder spirit press'd;
With looks less timid made his passion known,
And pleased by manners most unlike her own;
Loud though in love, and confident though young;
Fierce in his air, and voluble of tongue;
By trade a tailor, though, in scorn of trade,
He served the 'Squire, and brush'd the coat he

made.
Yet now, would Phoebe her consent afford,
Her slave alone, again he'd mount the board;
With her should years of growing love be spent,
And growing wealth;--she sigh'd and look'd consent.
Now, through the lane, up hill, and 'cross the

green:
(Seen by but few, and blushing to be seen -
Dejected, thoughtful, anxious, and afraid,)
Led by the lover, walk'd the silent maid;
Slow through the meadows roved they, many a mile,
Toy'd by each bank, and trifled at each stile;
Where, as he painted every blissful view,
And highly colour'd what he strongly drew,
The pensive damsel, prone to tender fears,
Dimm'd the false prospect with prophetic tears.-
Thus pass'd th' allotted hours, till lingering

late,
The lover loiter'd at the master's gate;
There he pronounced adieu! and yet would stay,
Till chidden--soothed--entreated--forced away;
He would of coldness, though indulged, complain,
And oft retire, and oft return again;
When, if his teasing vex'd her gentle mind,
The grief assumed compell'd her to be kind!
For he would proof of plighted kindness crave,
That she resented first, and then forgave;
And to his grief and penance yielded more
Than his presumption had required before.
Ah! fly temptation, youth; refrain! refrain!
Each yielding maid and each presuming swain!
Lo! now with red rent cloak and bonnet black,
And torn green gown loose hanging at her back,
One who an infant in her arms sustains,
And seems in patience striving with her pains;
Pinch'd are her looks, as one who pines for bread,
Whose cares are growing--and whose hopes are fled;
Pale her parch'd lips, her heavy eyes sunk low,
And tears unnoticed from their channels flow;
Serene her manner, till some sudden pain
Frets the meek soul, and then she's calm again; -
Her broken pitcher to the pool she takes,
And every step with cautious terror makes;
For not alone that infant in her arms,
But nearer cause, her anxious soul alarms.
With water burthen'd, then she picks her way,
Slowly and cautious, in the clinging clay;
Till, in mid-green, she trusts a place unsound,
And deeply plunges in th' adhesive ground;
Thence, but with pain, her slender foot she takes,
While hope the mind as strength the frame forsakes;
For when so full the cup of sorrow grows,
Add but a drop, it instantly o'erflows.
And now her path, but not her peace, she gains,
Safe from her task, but shivering with her pains;
Her home she reaches, open leaves the door,
And placing first her infant on the floor,
She bares her bosom to the wind, and sits,
And sobbing struggles with the rising fits:
In vain they come, she feels the inflating grief,
That shuts the swelling bosom from relief;
That speaks in feeble cries a soul distress'd,
Or the sad laugh that cannot be repress'd.
The neighbour-matron leaves her wheel and flies
With all the aid her poverty supplies;
Unfee'd, the calls of Nature she obeys,
Not led by profit, not allur'd by praise,
And waiting long, till these contentions cease,
She speaks of comfort, and departs in peace.
Friend of distress! the mourner feels thy aid;
She cannot pay thee, but thou wilt be paid.
But who this child of weakness, want, and care?
'Tis Phoebe Dawson, pride of Lammas Fair;
Who took her lover for his sparkling eyes,
Expressions warm, and love-inspiring lies:
Compassion first assail'd her gentle heart,
For all his suffering, all his bosom's smart:
'And then his prayers! they would a savage move,
And win the coldest of the sex to love:' -
But ah! too soon his looks success declared,
Too late her loss the marriage-rite repair'd;
The faithless flatterer then his vows forgot,
A captious tyrant or a noisy sot:
If present, railing, till he saw her pain'd;
If absent, spending what their labours gain'd;
Till that fair form in want and sickness pined,
And hope and comfort fled that gentle mind.
Then fly temptation, youth; resist, refrain!
Nor let me preach for ever and in vain!
Next came a well-dress'd pair, who left their

coach,
And made, in long procession, slow approach;
For this gay bride had many a female friend,
And youths were there, this favour'd youth

t'attend:
Silent, nor wanting due respect, the crowd
Stood humbly round, and gratulation bow'd;
But not that silent crowd, in wonder fix'd,
Not numerous friends, who praise and envy mix'd,
Nor nymphs attending near to swell the pride
Of one more fair, the ever-smiling bride;
Nor that gay bride, adorn'd with every grace,
Nor love nor joy triumphant in her face,
Could from the youth's sad signs of sorrow chase:
Why didst thou grieve? wealth, pleasure, freedom

thine;
Vex'd it thy soul, that freedom to resign?
Spake Scandal truth? 'Thou didst not then intend
So soon to bring thy wooing to an end?'
Or, was it, as our prating rustics say,
To end as soon, but in a different way?
'Tis told thy Phillis is a skilful dame,
Who play'd uninjured with the dangerous flame;
That, while, like Lovelace, thou thy coat

display'd,
And hid the snare for her affection laid,
Thee, with her net, she found the means to catch,
And at the amorous see-saw won the match:
Yet others tell, the Captain fix'd thy doubt;
He'd call thee brother, or he'd call thee out: -
But rest the motive--all retreat too late,
Joy like thy bride's should on thy brow have sate;
The deed had then appear'd thine own intent,
A glorious day, by gracious fortune sent,
In each revolving year to be in triumph spent.
Then in few weeks that cloudy brow had been
Without a wonder or a whisper seen;
And none had been so weak as to inquire,
'Why pouts my Lady?' or 'Why frowns the Squire?'
How fair these names, how much unlike they look
To all the blurr'd subscriptions in my book:
The bridegroom's letters stand in row above,
Tapering yet stout, like pine-trees in his grove;
While free and fine the bride's appear below,
As light and slender as her jasmines grow.
Mark now in what confusion stoop or stand
The crooked scrawls of many a clownish hand;
Now out, now in, they droop, they fall, they rise,
Like raw recruits drawn forth for exercise;
Ere yet reform'd and modelled by the drill,
The free-born legs stand striding as they will.
Much have I tried to guide the fist along,
But still the blunderers placed their blottings

wrong:
Behold these marks uncouth! how strange that men
Who guide the plough should fail to guide the pen:
For half a mile the furrows even lie;
For half an inch the letters stand awry; -
Our peasants, strong and sturdy in the field,
Cannot these arms of idle students wield:
Like them, in feudal days, their valiant lords
Resign'd the pen and grasp'd their conqu'ring

swords;
They to robed clerks and poor dependent men
Left the light duties of the peaceful pen;
Nor to their ladies wrote, but sought to prove,
By deeds of death, their hearts were fill'd with

love.
But yet, small arts have charms for female eyes;
Our rustic nymphs the beau and scholar prize;
Unletter'd swains and ploughmen coarse they slight,
For those who dress, and amorous scrolls indite.
For Lucy Collins happier days had been,
Had Footman Daniel scorn'd his native green,
Or when he came an idle coxcomb down,
Had he his love reserved for lass in town;
To Stephen Hill she then had pledged her truth, -
A sturdy, sober, kind, unpolish'd youth:
But from the day, that fatal day she spied
The pride of Daniel, Daniel was her pride.
In all concerns was Stephen just and true;
But coarse his doublet was and patch'd in view,
And felt his stockings were, and blacker than his

shoe;
While Daniel's linen all was fine and fair, -
His master wore it, and he deign'd to wear:
(To wear his livery, some respect might prove;
To wear his linen, must be sign of love
Blue was his coat, unsoil'd by spot or stain;
His hose were silk, his shoes of Spanish grain;
A silver knot his breadth of shoulder bore;
A diamond buckle blazed his breast before -
Diamond he swore it was! and show'd it as he swore;
Rings on his fingers shone; his milk-white hand
Could pick-tooth case and box for snuff command:
And thus, with clouded cane, a fop complete,
He stalk'd, the jest and glory of the street,
Join'd with these powers, he could so sweetly sing,
Talk with such toss, and saunter with such swing;
Laugh with such glee, and trifle with such art,
That Lucy's promise fail'd to shield her heart.
Stephen, meantime, to ease his amorous cares,
Fix'd his full mind upon his farm's affairs;
Two pigs, a cow, and wethers half a score,
Increased his stock, and still he look'd for more.
He, for his acres few, so duly paid,
That yet more acres to his lot were laid:
Till our chaste nymphs no longer felt disdain,
And prudent matrons praised the frugal swain;
Who thriving well, through many a fruitful year,
Now clothed himself anew, and acted overseer.
Just then poor Lucy, from her friend in town
Fled in pure fear, and came a beggar down;
Trembling, at Stephen's door she knocked for bread,

-
Was chidden first, next pitied, and then fed;
Then sat at Stephen's board, then shared in

Stephen's bed:
All hope of marriage lost in her disgrace,
He mourns a flame revived, and she a love of lace.
Now to be wed a well-match'd couple came;
Twice had old Lodge been tied, and twice the dame;
Tottering they came and toying, (odious scene!)
And fond and simple, as they'd always been.
Children from wedlock we by laws restrain;
Why not prevent them when they're such again?
Why not forbid the doting souls to prove
Th' indecent fondling of preposterous love?
In spite of prudence, uncontroll'd by shame,
The amorous senior woos the toothless dame,
Relating idly, at the closing eve,
The youthful follies he disdains to leave;
Till youthful follies wake a transient fire,
When arm in arm they totter and retire.
So a fond pair of solemn birds, all day
Blink in their seat and doze the hours away;
Then by the moon awaken'd, forth they move,
And fright the songsters with their cheerless love;
So two sear trees, dry, stunted, and unsound,
Each other catch, when dropping to the ground:
Entwine their withered arms 'gainst wind and

weather,
And shake their leafless heads and drop together:
So two cold limbs, touch'd by Galvani's wire,
Move with new life, and feel awaken'd fire;
Quivering awhile, their flaccid forms remain,
Then turn to cold torpidity again.
'But ever frowns your Hymen? man and maid,
Are all repenting, suffering, or betray'd?'
Forbid it, Love! we have our couples here
Who hail the day in each revolving year:
These are with us, as in the world around;
They are not frequent, but they may be found.
Our farmers too, what though they fail to prove,
In Hymen's bonds, the tenderest slaves of love,
(Nor, like those pairs whom sentiment unites,
Feel they the fervour of the mind's delights
Yet coarsely kind and comfortably gay,
They heap the board and hail the happy day:
And though the bride, now freed from school,

admits,
Of pride implanted there, some transient fits;
Yet soon she casts her girlish flights aside,
And in substantial blessings rest her pride.
No more she moves in measured steps; no more
Runs, with bewilder'd ear, her music o'er;
No more recites her French the hinds among,
But chides her maidens in her mother-tongue;
Her tambour-frame she leaves and diet spare,
Plain work and plenty with her house to share;
Till, all her varnish lost in few short years,
In all her worth the farmer's wife appears.
Yet not the ancient kind; nor she who gave
Her soul to gain--a mistress and a slave:
Who, not to sleep allow'd the needful time;
To whom repose was loss, and sport a crime;
Who, in her meanest room (and all were mean),
A noisy drudge, from morn till night was seen; -
But she, the daughter, boasts a decent room,
Adorned with carpet, formed in Wilton's loom;
Fair prints along the paper'd wall are spread;
There, Werter sees the sportive children fed,
And Charlotte, here, bewails her lover dead.
'Tis here, assembled, while in space apart
Their husbands, drinking, warm the opening heart,
Our neighbouring dames, on festal days, unite,
With tongues more fluent and with hearts as light;
Theirs is that art, which English wives alone
Profess--a boast and privilege their own;
An art it is where each at once attends
To all, and claims attention from her friends,
When they engage the tongue, the eye, the ear,
Reply when listening, and when speaking hear:
The ready converse knows no dull delays,
'But double are the pains, and double be the

praise.'
Yet not to those alone who bear command
Heaven gives a heart to hail the marriage band;
Among their servants, we the pairs can show,
Who much to love and more to prudence owe:
Reuben and Rachel, though as fond as doves,
Were yet discreet and cautious in their loves;
Nor would attend to Cupid's wild commands,
Till cool reflection bade them join their hands:
When both were poor, they thought it argued ill
Of hasty love to make them poorer still;
Year after year, with savings long laid by,
They bought the future dwelling's full supply;
Her frugal fancy cull'd the smaller ware,
The weightier purchase ask'd her Reuben's care;
Together then their last year's gain they threw,
And lo! an auction'd bed, with curtains neat and

new.
Thus both, as prudence counsell'd, wisely

stay'd,
And cheerful then the calls of Love obeyed:
What if, when Rachel gave her hand, 'twas one
Embrown'd by Winter's ice and Summer's sun ?
What if, in Reuben's hair the female eye
Usurping grey among the black could spy?
What if, in both, life's bloomy flush was lost,
And their full autumn felt the mellowing frost?
Yet time, who blow'd the rose of youth away,
Had left the vigorous stem without decay;
Like those tall elms in Farmer Frankford's ground,
They'll grow no more,--but all their growth is

sound;
By time confirm'd and rooted in the land,
The storms they've stood, still promise they shall

stand.
These are the happier pairs, their life has

rest,
Their hopes are strong, their humble portion blest.
While those more rash to hasty marriage led,
Lament th' impatience which now stints their bread:
When such their union, years their cares increase,
Their love grows colder, and their pleasures cease;
In health just fed, in sickness just relieved;
By hardships harass'd and by children grieved;
In petty quarrels and in peevish strife
The once fond couple waste the spring of life;
But when to age mature those children grown,
Find hopes and homes and hardships of their own,
The harass'd couple feel their lingering woes
Receding slowly till they find repose.
Complaints and murmurs then are laid aside,
(By reason these subdued, and those by pride
And, taught by care, the patient man and wife
Agree to share the bitter-sweet of life;
(Life that has sorrow much and sorrow's cure,
Where they who most enjoy shall much endure
Their rest, their labours, duties, sufferings,

prayers,
Compose the soul, and fit it for its cares;
Their graves before them and their griefs behind,
Have each a med'cine for the rustic mind;
Nor has he care to whom his wealth shall go,
Or who shall labour with his spade and hoe;
But as he lends the strength that yet remains,
And some dead neighbour on his bier sustains,
(One with whom oft he whirl'd the bounding flail,
Toss'd the broad coit, or took the inspiring ale,)
'For me,' (he meditates,) 'shall soon be done
This friendly duty, when my race be run;
'Twas first in trouble as in error pass'd,
Dark clouds and stormy cares whole years o'ercast,
But calm my setting day, and sunshine smiles at

last:
My vices punish'd and my follies spent,
Not loth to die, but yet to-live content,
I rest:'--then casting on the grave his eye,
His friend compels a tear, and his own griefs a

sigh.
Last on my list appears a match of love,
And one of virtue;--happy may it prove! -
Sir Edward Archer is an amorous knight,
And maidens chaste and lovely shun his sight;
His bailiff's daughter suited much his taste,
For Fanny Price was lovely and was chaste;
To her the Knight with gentle looks drew near,
And timid voice assumed to banish fear: -
'Hope of my life, dear sovereign of my breast,
Which, since I knew thee, knows not joy nor rest;
Know, thou art all that my delighted eyes,
My fondest thoughts, my proudest wishes prize;
And is that bosom--(what on earth so fair!)
To cradle some coarse peasant's sprawling heir,
To be that pillow which some surly swain
May treat with scorn and agonise with pain?
Art thou, sweet maid, a ploughman's wants to share,
To dread his insult, to support his care;
To hear his follies, his contempt to prove,
And (oh! the torment!) to endure his love;
Till want and deep regret those charms destroy,
That time would spare, if time were pass'd in joy?
With him, in varied pains, from morn till night,
Your hours shall pass; yourself a ruffian's right;
Your softest bed shall be the knotted wool;
Your purest drink the waters of the pool;
Your sweetest food will but your life sustain,
And your best pleasure be a rest from pain;
While, through each year, as health and strength

abate,
You'll weep your woes and wonder at your fate;
And cry, 'Behold,' as life's last cares come on,
'My burthens growing when my strength is gone.'
'Now turn with me, and all the young desire,
That taste can form, that fancy can require;
All that excites enjoyment, or procures
Wealth, health, respect, delight, and love, are

yours:
Sparkling, in cups of gold, your wines shall flow,
Grace that fair hand, in that dear bosom glow;
Fruits of each clime, and flowers, through all the

year
Shall on your walls and in your walks appear:
Where all beholding, shall your praise repeat,
No fruit so tempting and no flower so sweet:
The softest carpets in your rooms shall lie,
Pictures of happiest love shall meet your eye,
And tallest mirrors, reaching to the floor,
Shall show you all the object I adore;
Who, by the hands of wealth and fashion dress'd,
By slaves attended and by friends caress'd,
Shall move, a wonder, through the public ways,
And hear the whispers of adoring praise.
Your female friends, though gayest of the gay,
Shall see you happy, and shall, sighing, say,
While smother'd envy rises in the breast, -
'Oh! that we lived so beauteous and so blest!'
'Come, then, my mistress, and my wife; for she
Who trusts my honour is the wife for me;
Your slave, your husband, and your friend employ
In search of pleasures we may both enjoy.'
To this the Damsel, meekly firm, replied:
'My mother loved, was married, toil'd, and died;
With joys she'd griefs, had troubles in her course,
But not one grief was pointed by remorse:
My mind is fix'd, to Heaven I resign,
And be her love, her life, her comforts mine.'
Tyrants have wept; and those with hearts of

steel,
Unused the anguish of the heart to heal,
Have yet the transient power of virtue known,
And felt th' imparted joy promote their own.
Our Knight relenting, now befriends a youth,
Who to the yielding maid had vow'd his truth;
And finds in that fair deed a sacred joy,
That will not perish, and that cannot cloy; -
A living joy, that shall its spirits keep,
When every beauty fades, and all the passions

sleep.

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Griselda: A Society Novel In Verse - Chapter V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so I bore the burden of her sin.

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

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

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Upon Appleton House, to My Lord Fairfax

Within this sober Frame expect
Work of no Forrain Architect;
That unto Caves the Quarries drew,
And Forrests did to Pastures hew;
Who of his great Design in pain
Did for a Model vault his Brain,
Whose Columnes should so high be rais'd
To arch the Brows that on them gaz'd.

Why should of all things Man unrul'd
Such unproportion'd dwellings build?
The Beasts are by their Denns exprest:
And Birds contrive an equal Nest;
The low roof'd Tortoises do dwell
In cases fit of Tortoise-shell:
No Creature loves an empty space;
Their Bodies measure out their Place.

But He, superfluously spread,
Demands more room alive then dead.
And in his hollow Palace goes
Where Winds as he themselves may lose.
What need of all this Marble Crust
T'impark the wanton Mose of Dust,
That thinks by Breadth the World t'unite
Though the first Builders fail'd in Height?

But all things are composed here
Like Nature, orderly and near:
In which we the Dimensions find
Of that more sober Age and Mind,
When larger sized Men did stoop
To enter at a narrow loop;
As practising, in doors so strait,
To strain themselves through Heavens Gate.

And surely when the after Age
Shall hither come in Pilgrimage,
These sacred Places to adore,
By Vere and Fairfax trod before,
Men will dispute how their Extent
Within such dwarfish Confines went:
And some will smile at this, as well
As Romulus his Bee-like Cell.

Humility alone designs
Those short but admirable Lines,
By which, ungirt and unconstrain'd,
Things greater are in less contain'd.
Let others vainly strive t'immure
The Circle in the Quadrature!
These holy Mathematics can
In ev'ry Figure equal Man.

Yet thus the laden House does sweat,
And scarce indures the Master great:
But where he comes the swelling Hall
Stirs, and the Square grows Spherical;
More by his Magnitude distrest,
Then he is by its straitness prest:
And too officiously it slights
That in it self which him delights.

So Honour better Lowness bears,
Then That unwonted Greatness wears
Height with a certain Grace does bend,
But low Things clownishly ascend.
And yet what needs there here Excuse,
Where ev'ry Thing does answer Use?
Where neatness nothing can condemn,
Nor Pride invent what to contemn?

A Stately Frontispice Of Poor
Adorns without the open Door:
Nor less the Rooms within commends
Daily new Furniture Of Friends.
The House was built upon the Place
Only as for a Mark Of Grace;
And for an Inn to entertain
Its Lord a while, but not remain.

Him Bishops-Hill, or Denton may,
Or Bilbrough, better hold then they:
But Nature here hath been so free
As if she said leave this to me.
Art would more neatly have defac'd
What she had laid so sweetly wast;
In fragrant Gardens, shaddy Woods,
Deep Meadows, and transparent Floods.

While with slow Eyes we these survey,
And on each pleasant footstep stay,
We opportunly may relate
The progress of this Houses Fate.
A Nunnery first gave it birth.
For Virgin Buildings oft brought forth.
And all that Neighbour-Ruine shows
The Quarries whence this dwelling rose.

Near to this gloomy Cloysters Gates
There dwelt the blooming Virgin Thwates,
Fair beyond Measure, and an Heir
Which might Deformity make fair.
And oft She spent the Summer Suns
Discoursing with the Suttle Nuns.
Whence in these Words one to her weav'd,
(As 'twere by Chance) Thoughts long conceiv'd.

"Within this holy leisure we
"Live innocently as you see.
"these Walls restrain the World without,
"But hedge our Liberty about.
"These Bars inclose the wider Den
"Of those wild Creatures, called Men.
"The Cloyster outward shuts its Gates,
"And, from us, locks on them the Grates.

"Here we, in shining Armour white,
"Like Virgin Amazons do fight.
"And our chast Lamps we hourly trim,
"Lest the great Bridegroom find them dim.
"Our Orient Breaths perfumed are
"With insense of incessant Pray'r.
"And Holy-water of our Tears
"Most strangly our complexion clears.

"Not Tears of Grief; but such as those
"With which calm Pleasure overflows;
"Or Pity, when we look on you
"That live without this happy Vow.
"How should we grieve that must be seen
"Each one a Spouse, and each a Queen;
"And can in Heaven hence behold
"Our brighter Robes and Crowns of Gold?

"When we have prayed all our Beads,
"Some One the holy Legend reads;
"While all the rest with Needles paint
"The Face and Graces of the Saint.
"But what the Linnen can't receive
"They in their Lives do interweave
"This work the Saints best represents;
"That serves for Altar's Ornaments.

"But much it to our work would add
"If here your hand, your Face we had:
"By it we would our Lady touch;
"Yet thus She you resembles much.
"Some of your Features, as we sow'd,
"Through ev'ry Shrine should be bestow'd.
"And in one Beauty we would take
"Enough a thousand Saints to make.

"And (for I dare not quench the Fire
"That me does for your good inspire)
"'Twere Sacriledge a Mant t'admit
"To holy things, for Heaven fit.
"I see the Angels in a Crown
"On you the Lillies show'ring down:
"And round about you Glory breaks,
"That something more then humane speaks.

"All Beauty, when at such a height,
"Is so already consecrate.
"Fairfax I know; and long ere this
"Have mark'd the Youth, and what he is.
"But can he such a Rival seem
"For whom you Heav'n should disesteem?
"Ah, no! and 'twould more Honour prove
"He your Devoto were, then Love.

Here live beloved, and obey'd:
Each one your Sister, each your Maid.
"And, if our Rule seem strictly pend,
"The Rule it self to you shall bend.
"Our Abbess too, now far in Age,
"Doth your succession near presage.
"How soft the yoke on us would lye,
"Might such fair Hands as yours it tye!

"Your voice, the sweetest of the Quire,
"Shall draw Heav'n nearer, raise us higher.
"And your Example, if our Head,
"Will soon us to perfection lead.
"Those Virtues to us all so dear,
"Will straight grow Sanctity when here:
"And that, once sprung, increase so fast
"Till Miracles it work at last.

"Nor is our Order yet so nice,
"Delight to banish as a Vice.
"Here Pleasure Piety doth meet;
"One perfecting the other Sweet.
"So through the mortal fruit we boyl
"The Sugars uncorrupting Oyl:
"And that which perisht while we pull,
"Is thus preserved clear and full.

"For such indeed are all our Arts;
"Still handling Natures finest Parts.
"Flow'rs dress the Altars; for the Clothes,
"The Sea-born Amber we compose;
"Balms for the griv'd we draw; and pasts
"We mold, as Baits for curious tasts.
"What need is here of Man? unless
"These as sweet Sins we should confess.

"Each Night among us to your side
"Appoint a fresh and Virgin Bride;
"Whom if Our Lord at midnight find,
"Yet Neither should be left behind.
"Where you may lye as chast in Bed,
"As Pearls together billeted.
"All Night embracing Arm in Arm,
"Like Chrystal pure with Cotton warm.

"But what is this to all the store
"Of Joys you see, and may make more!
"Try but a while, if you be wise:
"The Tryal neither Costs, nor Tyes.
Now Fairfax seek her promis'd faith:
Religion that dispensed hath;
Which She hence forward does begin;
The Nuns smooth Tongue has suckt her in.

Oft, though he knew it was in vain,
Yet would he valiantly complain.
"Is this that Sanctity so great,
"An Art by which you finly'r cheat
"Hypocrite Witches, hence Avant,
"Who though in prison yet inchant!
"Death only can such Theeves make fast,
"As rob though in the Dungeon cast.

"Were there but, when this House was made,
"One Stone that a just Hand had laid,
"It must have fall'n upon her Head
"Who first Thee from thy Faith misled.
"And yet, how well soever ment,
"With them 'twould soon grow fraudulent
"For like themselves they alter all,
"And vice infects the very Wall.

"But sure those Buildings last not long,
"Founded by Folly, kept by Wrong.
"I know what Fruit their Gardens yield,
"When they it think by Night conceal'd.
"Fly from their Vices. 'Tis thy state,
"Not Thee, that they would consecrate.
"Fly from their Ruine. How I fear
"Though guiltless lest thou perish there.

What should he do? He would respect
Religion, but not Right neglect:
For first Religion taught him Right,
And dazled not but clear'd his sight.
Sometimes resolv'd his Sword he draws,
But reverenceth then the Laws:
"For Justice still that Courage led;
First from a Judge, then Souldier bred.

Small Honour would be in the Storm.
The Court him grants the lawful Form;
Which licens'd either Peace or Force,
To hinder the unjust Divorce.
Yet still the Nuns his Right debar'd,
Standing upon their holy Guard.
Ill-counsell'd Women, do you know
Whom you resist, or what you do?

Is not this he whose Offspring fierce
Shall fight through all the Universe;
And with successive Valour try
France, Poland, either Germany;
Till one, as long since prophecy'd,
His Horse through conquer'd Britain ride?
Yet, against Fate, his Spouse they kept;
And the great Race would intercept.

Some to the Breach against their Foes
Their Wooden Saints in vain oppose
Another bolder stands at push
With their old Holy-Water Brush.
While the disjointed Abbess threads
The gingling Chain-shot of her Beads.
But their lowd'st Cannon were their Lungs;
And sharpest Weapons were their Tongues.

But, waving these aside like Flyes,
Young Fairfax through the Wall does rise.
Then th' unfrequented Vault appear'd,
And superstitions vainly fear'd.
The Relicks False were set to view;
Only the Jewels there were true.
But truly bright and holy Thwaites
That weeping at the Altar waites.

But the glad Youth away her bears,
And to the Nuns bequeaths her Tears:
Who guiltily their Prize bemoan,
Like Gipsies that a Child hath stoln.
Thenceforth (as when th' Inchantment ends
The Castle vanishes or rends)
The wasting Cloister with the rest
Was in one instant dispossest.

At the demolishing, this Seat
To Fairfax fell as by Escheat.
And what both Nuns and Founders will'd
'Tis likely better thus fulfill'd,
For if the Virgin prov'd not theirs,
The Cloyster yet remained hers.
Though many a Nun there made her vow,
'Twas no Religious-House till now.

From that blest Bed the Heroe came,
Whom France and Poland yet does fame:
Who, when retired here to Peace,
His warlike Studies could not cease;
But laid these Gardens out in sport
In the just Figure of a Fort;
And with five Bastions it did fence,
As aiming one for ev'ry Sense.

When in the East the Morning Ray
Hangs out the Colours of the Day,
The Bee through these known Allies hums,
Beating the Dian with its Drumms.
Then Flow'rs their drowsie Eylids raise,
Their Silken Ensigns each displayes,
And dries its Pan yet dank with Dew,
And fills its Flask with Odours new.

These, as their Governour goes by,
In fragrant Vollyes they let fly;
And to salute their Governess
Again as great a charge they press:
None for the Virgin Nymph; for She
Seems with the Flow'rs a Flow'r to be.
And think so still! though not compare
With Breath so sweet, or Cheek so faire.

Well shot ye Fireman! Oh how sweet,
And round your equal Fires do meet;
Whose shrill report no Ear can tell,
But Ecchoes to the Eye and smell.
See how the Flow'rs, as at Parade,
Under their Colours stand displaid:
Each Regiment in order grows,
That of the Tulip Pinke and Rose.

But when the vigilant Patroul
Of Stars walks round about the Pole,
Their Leaves, that to the stalks are curl'd,
Seem to their Staves the Ensigns furl'd.
Then in some Flow'rs beloved Hut
Each Bee as Sentinel is shut;
And sleeps so too: but, if once stir'd,
She runs you through, or askes The Word.

Oh Thou, that dear and happy Isle
The Garden of the World ere while,
Thou Paradise of four Seas,
Which Heaven planted us to please,
But, to exclude the World, did guard
With watry if not flaming Sword;
What luckless Apple did we tast,
To make us Mortal, and The Wast.

Unhappy! shall we never more
That sweet Milltia restore,
When Gardens only had their Towrs,
And all the Garrisons were Flow'rs,
When Roses only Arms might bear,
And Men did rosie Garlands wear?
Tulips, in several Colours barr'd,
Were then the Switzers of our Guard.

The Gardiner had the Souldiers place,
And his more gentle Forts did trace.
The Nursery of all things green
Was then the only Magazeen.
The Winter Quarters were the Stoves,
Where he the tender Plants removes.
But War all this doth overgrow:
We Ord'nance Plant and Powder sow.

And yet their walks one on the Sod
Who, had it pleased him and God,
Might once have made our Gardens spring
Fresh as his own and flourishing.
But he preferr'd to the Cinque Ports
These five imaginary Forts:
And, in those half-dry Trenches, spann'd
Pow'r which the Ocean might command.

For he did, with his utmost Skill,
Ambition weed, but Conscience till.
Conscience, that Heaven-nursed Plant,
Which most our Earthly Gardens want.
A prickling leaf it bears, and such
As that which shrinks at ev'ry touch;
But Flow'rs eternal, and divine,
That in the Crowns of Saints do shine.

The sight does from these Bastions ply,
Th' invisible Artilery;
And at proud Cawood Castle seems
To point the Battery of its Beams.
As if it quarrell'd in the Seat
Th' Ambition of its Prelate great.
But ore the Meads below it plays,
Or innocently seems to gaze.

And now to the Abbyss I pass
Of that unfathomable Grass,
Where Men like Grashoppers appear,
But Grashoppers are Gyants there:
They, in there squeking Laugh, contemn
Us as we walk more low then them:
And, from the Precipices tall
Of the green spir's, to us do call.

To see Men through this Meadow Dive,
We wonder how they rise alive.
As, under Water, none does know
Whether he fall through it or go.
But, as the Marriners that sound,
And show upon their Lead the Ground,
They bring up Flow'rs so to be seen,
And prove they've at the Bottom been.

No Scene that turns with Engines strange
Does oftner then these Meadows change,
For when the Sun the Grass hath vext,
The tawny Mowers enter next;
Who seem like Israaliies to be,
Walking on foot through a green Sea.
To them the Grassy Deeps divide,
And crowd a Lane to either Side.

With whistling Sithe, and Elbow strong,
These Massacre the Grass along:
While one, unknowing, carves the Rail,
Whose yet unfeather'd Quils her fail.
The Edge all bloody from its Breast
He draws, and does his stroke detest;
Fearing the Flesh untimely mow'd
To him a Fate as black forebode.

But bloody Thestylis, that waites
To bring the mowing Camp their Cates,
Greedy as Kites has trust it up,
And forthwith means on it to sup:
When on another quick She lights,
And cryes, he call'd us Israelites;
But now, to make his saying true,
Rails rain for Quails, for Manna Dew.

Unhappy Birds! what does it boot
To build below the Grasses Root;
When Lowness is unsafe as Hight,
And Chance o'retakes what scapeth spight?
And now your Orphan Parents Call
Sounds your untimely Funeral.
Death-Trumpets creak in such a Note,
And 'tis the Sourdine in their Throat.

Or sooner hatch or higher build:
The Mower now commands the Field;
In whose new Traverse seemeth wrought
A Camp of Battail newly fought:
Where, as the Meads with Hay, the Plain
Lyes quilted ore with Bodies slain:
The Women that with forks it filing,
Do represent the Pillaging.

And now the careless Victors play,
Dancing the Triumphs of the Hay;
Where every Mowers wholesome Heat
Smells like an Alexanders Sweat.
Their Females fragrant as the Mead
Which they in Fairy Circles tread:
When at their Dances End they kiss,
Their new-made Hay not sweeter is.

When after this 'tis pil'd in Cocks,
Like a calm Sea it shews the Rocks:
We wondring in the River near
How Boats among them safely steer.
Or, like the Desert Memphis Sand,
Short Pyramids of Hay do stand.
And such the Roman Camps do rise
In Hills for Soldiers Obsequies.

This Scene again withdrawing brings
A new and empty Face of things;
A levell'd space, as smooth and plain,
As Clothes for Lilly strecht to stain.
The World when first created sure
Was such a Table rase and pure.
Or rather such is the Toril
Ere the Bulls enter at Madril.

For to this naked equal Flat,
Which Levellers take Pattern at,
The Villagers in common chase
Their Cattle, which it closer rase;
And what below the Sith increast
Is pincht yet nearer by the Breast.
Such, in the painted World, appear'd
Davenant with th'Universal Heard.

They seem within the polisht Grass
A landskip drawen in Looking-Glass.
And shrunk in the huge Pasture show
As spots, so shap'd, on Faces do.
Such Fleas, ere they approach the Eye,
In Multiplyiug Glasses lye.
They feed so wide, so slowly move,
As Constellatious do above.

Then, to conclude these pleasant Acts,
Denton sets ope its Cataracts;
And makes the Meadow truly be
(What it but seem'd before) a Sea.
For, jealous of its Lords long stay,
It try's t'invite him thus away.
The River in it self is drown'd,
And Isl's th' astonish Cattle round.

Let others tell the Paradox,
How Eels now bellow in the Ox;
How Horses at their Tails do kick,
Turn'd as they hang to Leeches quick;
How Boats can over Bridges sail;
And Fishes do the Stables scale.
How Salmons trespassing are found;
And Pikes are taken in the Pound.

But I, retiring from the Flood,
Take Sanctuary in the Wood;
And, while it lasts, my self imbark
In this yet green, yet growing Ark;
Where the first Carpenter might best
Fit Timber for his Keel have Prest.
And where all Creatures might have shares,
Although in Armies, not in Paires.

The double Wood of ancient Stocks
Link'd in so thick, an Union locks,
It like two Pedigrees appears,
On one hand Fairfax, th' other Veres:
Of whom though many fell in War,
Yet more to Heaven shooting are:
And, as they Natures Cradle deckt,
Will in green Age her Hearse expect.

When first the Eye this Forrest sees
It seems indeed as Wood not Trees:
As if their Neighbourhood so old
To one great Trunk them all did mold.
There the huge Bulk takes place, as ment
To thrust up a Fifth Element;
And stretches still so closely wedg'd
As if the Night within were hedg'd.

Dark all without it knits; within
It opens passable and thin;
And in as loose an order grows,
As the Corinthean Porticoes.
The Arching Boughs unite between
The Columnes of the Temple green;
And underneath the winged Quires
Echo about their tuned Fires.

The Nightingale does here make choice
To sing the Tryals of her Voice.
Low Shrubs she sits in, and adorns
With Musick high the squatted Thorns.
But highest Oakes stoop down to hear,
And listning Elders prick the Ear.
The Thorn, lest it should hurt her, draws
Within the Skin its shrunken claws.

But I have for my Musick found
A Sadder, yet more pleasing Sound:
The Stock-doves whose fair necks are grac'd
With Nuptial Rings their Ensigns chast;
Yet always, for some Cause unknown,
Sad pair unto the Elms they moan.
O why should such a Couple mourn,
That in so equal Flames do burn!

Then as I carless on the Bed
Of gelid Straw-berryes do tread,
And through the Hazles thick espy
The hatching Thrastles shining Eye,
The Heron from the Ashes top,
The eldest of its young lets drop,
As if it Stork-like did pretend
That Tribute to its Lord to send.

But most the Hewel's wonders are,
Who here has the Holt-felsters care.
He walks still upright from the Root,
Meas'ring the Timber with his Foot;
And all the way, to keep it clean,
Doth from the Bark the Wood-moths glean.
He, with his Beak, examines well
Which fit to stand and which to fell.

The good he numbers up, and hacks;
As if he mark'd them with the Ax.
But where he, tinkling with his Beak,
Does find the hollow Oak to speak,
That for his building he designs,
And through the tainted Side he mines.
Who could have thought the tallest Oak
Should fall by such a feeble Strok'!

Nor would it, had the Tree not fed
A Traitor-worm, within it bred.
(As first our Flesh corrupt within
Tempts impotent and bashful Sin.
And yet that Worm triumphs not long,
But serves to feed the Hewels young.
While the Oake seems to fall content,
Viewing the Treason's Punishment.

Thus I, easie Philosopher,
Among the Birds and Trees confer:
And little now to make me, wants
Or of the Fowles, or of the Plants.
Give me but Wings as they, and I
Streight floting on the Air shall fly:
Or turn me but, and you shall see
I was but an inverted Tree.

Already I begin to call
In their most-learned Original:
And where I Language want,my Signs
The Bird upon the Bough divines;
And more attentive there doth sit
Then if She were with Lime-twigs knit.
No Leaf does tremble in the Wind
Which I returning cannot find.

Out of these scatter'd Sibyls Leaves
Strange Prophecies my Phancy weaves:
And in one History consumes,
Like Mexique Paintings, all the Plumes.
What Rome, Greece, Palestine, ere said
I in this light Mosaick read.
Thrice happy he who, not mistook,
Hath read in Natures mystick Book.

And see how Chance's better Wit
Could with a Mask my studies hit!
The Oak-Leaves me embroyder all,
Between which Caterpillars crawl:
And Ivy, with familiar trails,
Me licks, and clasps, and curles, and hales.
Under this antick Cope I move
Like some great Prelate of the Grove,

Then, languishing with ease, I toss
On Pallets swoln of Velvet Moss;
While the Wind, cooling through the Boughs,
Flatters with Air my panting Brows.
Thanks for my Rest ye Mossy Banks,
And unto you cool Zephyr's Thanks,
Who, as my Hair, my Thoughts too shed,
And winnow from the Chaff my Head.

How safe, methinks, and strong, behind
These Trees have I incamp'd my Mind;
Where Beauty, aiming at the Heart,
Bends in some Tree its useless Dart;
And where the World no certain Shot
Can make, or me it toucheth not.
But I on it securely play,
And gaul its Horsemen all the Day.

Bind me ye Woodbines in your 'twines,
Curle me about ye gadding Vines,
And Oh so close your Circles lace,
That I may never leave this Place:
But, lest your Fetters prove too weak,
Ere I your Silken Bondage break,
Do you, O Brambles, chain me too,
And courteous Briars nail me though.

Here in the Morning tye my Chain,
Where the two Woods have made a Lane;
While, like a Guard on either side,
The Trees before their Lord divide;
This, like a long and equal Thread,
Betwixt two Labyrinths does lead.
But, where the Floods did lately drown,
There at the Ev'ning stake me down.

For now the Waves are fal'n and dry'd,
And now the Meadows fresher dy'd;
Whose Grass, with moister colour dasht,
Seems as green Silks but newly washt.
No Serpent new nor Crocodile
Remains behind our little Nile;
Unless it self you will mistake,
Among these Meads the only Snake.

See in what wanton harmless folds
It ev'ry where the Meadow holds;
And its yet muddy back doth lick,
Till as a Chrystal Mirrour slick;
Where all things gaze themselves, and doubt
If they be in it or without.
And for his shade which therein shines,
Narcissus like, the Sun too pines.

Oh what a Pleasure 'tis to hedge
My Temples here with heavy sedge;
Abandoning my lazy Side,
Stretcht as a Bank unto the Tide;
Or to suspend my sliding Foot
On the Osiers undermined Root,
And in its Branches tough to hang,
While at my Lines the Fishes twang!

But now away my Hooks, my Quills,
And Angles, idle Utensils.
The Young Maria walks to night:
Hide trifling Youth thy Pleasures slight.
'Twere shame that such judicious Eyes
Should with such Toyes a Man surprize;
She that already is the Law
Of all her Sex, her Ages Aw.

See how loose Nature, in respect
To her, it self doth recollect;
And every thing so whisht and fine,
Starts forth with to its Bonne Mine.
The Sun himself, of Her aware,
Seems to descend with greater Care,
And lest She see him go to Bed,
In blushing Clouds conceales his Head.

So when the Shadows laid asleep
From underneath these Banks do creep,
And on the River as it flows
With Eben Shuts begin to close;
The modest Halcyon comes in sight,
Flying betwixt the Day and Night;
And such an horror calm and dumb,
Admiring Nature does benum.

The viscous Air, wheres'ere She fly,
Follows and sucks her Azure dy;
The gellying Stream compacts below,
If it might fix her shadow so;
The Stupid Fishes hang, as plain
As Flies in Chrystal overt'ane,
And Men the silent Scene assist,
Charm'd with the saphir-winged Mist.

Maria such, and so doth hush
The World, and through the Ev'ning rush.
No new-born Comet such a Train
Draws through the Skie, nor Star new-slain.
For streight those giddy Rockets fail,
Which from the putrid Earth exhale,
But by her Flames, in Heaven try'd,
Nature is wholly Vitrifi'd.

'Tis She that to these Gardens gave
That wondrous Beauty which they have;
She streightness on the Woods bestows;
To Her the Meadow sweetness owes;
Nothing could make the River be
So Chrystal-pure but only She;
She yet more Pure, Sweet, Streight, and Fair,
Then Gardens, Woods, Meads, Rivers are.

Therefore what first She on them spent,
They gratefully again present.
The Meadow Carpets where to tread;
The Garden Flow'rs to Crown Her Head;
And for a Glass the limpid Brook,
Where She may all her Beautyes look;
But, since She would not have them seen,
The Wood about her draws a Skreen.

For She, to higher Beauties rais'd,
Disdains to be for lesser prais'd.
She counts her Beauty to converse
In all the Languages as hers;
Not yet in those her self imployes
But for the Wisdome, not the Noyse;
Nor yet that Wisdome would affect,
But as 'tis Heavens Dialect.

Blest Nymph! that couldst so soon prevent
Those Trains by Youth against thee meant;
Tears (watry Shot that pierce the Mind;)
And Sighs (Loves Cannon charg'd with Wind;)
True Praise (That breaks through all defence;)
And feign'd complying Innocence;
But knowing where this Ambush lay,
She scap'd the safe, but roughest Way.

This 'tis to have been from the first
In a Domestick Heaven nurst,
Under the Discipline severe
Of Fairfax, and the starry Vere;
Where not one object can come nigh
But pure, and spotless as the Eye;
And Goodness doth it self intail
On Females, if there want a Male.

Go now fond Sex that on your Face
Do all your useless Study place,
Nor once at Vice your Brows dare knit
Lest the smooth Forehead wrinkled sit
Yet your own Face shall at you grin,
Thorough the Black-bag of your Skin;
When knowledge only could have fill'd
And Virtue all those Furows till'd.

Hence She with Graces more divine
Supplies beyond her Sex the Line;
And, like a sprig of Misleto,
On the Fairfacian Oak does grow;
Whence, for some universal good,
The Priest shall cut the sacred Bud;
While her glad Parents most rejoice,
And make their Destiny their Choice.

Mean time ye Fields, Springs, Bushes, Flow'rs,
Where yet She leads her studious Hours,
(Till Fate her worthily translates,
And find a Fairfax for our Thwaites)
Employ the means you have by Her,
And in your kind your selves preferr;
That, as all Virgins She preceds,
So you all Woods, Streams, Gardens, Meads.

For you Thessalian Tempe's Seat
Shall now be scorn'd as obsolete;
Aranjeuz, as less, disdain'd;
The Bel-Retiro as constrain'd;
But name not the Idalian Grove,
For 'twas the Seat of wanton Love;
Much less the Dead's Elysian Fields,
Yet nor to them your Beauty yields.

'Tis not, what once it was, the World;
But a rude heap together hurl'd;
All negligently overthrown,
Gulfes, Deserts, Precipices, Stone.
Your lesser World contains the same.
But in more decent Order tame;
You Heaven's Center, Nature's Lap.
And Paradice's only Map.

But now the Salmon-Fishers moist
Their Leathern Boats begin to hoist;
And, like Antipodes in Shoes,
Have shod their Heads in their Canoos.
How Tortoise like, but not so slow,
These rational Amphibii go?
Let's in: for the dark Hemisphere
Does now like one of them appear.

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The Undying One - Canto II

'YEARS pass'd away in grief--and I,
For her dear sake whose heart could feel no more,
The sweetness and the witchery of love,
Which round my spirit such deep charm had wove:
And the dim twilight, and the noonday sky,
The fountain's music, the rich brilliancy
Of Nature in her summer--all became
To me a joyless world--an empty name--
And the heart's beating, and the flush'd fond thought
Of human sympathy, no longer brought
The glow of joy to this o'er-wearied breast,
Where hope like some tired pilgrim sank to rest.
The forms of beauty which my pathway cross'd
Seem'd but dim visions of my loved and lost,

Floating before me to arouse in vain
Deep yearnings, for what might not come again,
Tears without aim or end, and lonely sighs,
To which earth's echoes only gave replies.
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
And I departed--once again to be
Roaming the desert earth and trackless sea:
Amongst men; but not with them: still alone
Mid crowds, unnamed--unnoticed--and unknown.
I wander'd on--and the loud shout went forth
Of Liberty, from all the peopled world,
Like a dark watch-word breathing south and north
Where'er the green turf grew, or billow curl'd;
And when I heard it, something human stirr'd
Within my miserable breast, and lo!
With the wild struggling of a captive bird;
My strong soul burst its heavy chain of woe.
I rose and battled with the great and brave,
Dared the dark fight upon the stormy wave.--
From the swarth climes, where sunshine loves to rest,
To the green islands of the chilly west,
Where'er a voice was raised in Freedom's name,
There sure and swift my eager footstep came.
And bright dreams fired my soul--How sweet will be
To me the hour of burning victory!

When the oppressor ceaseth to oppress,
And this sad name the tortured nations bless:
When tyranny beneath my sword shall bend,
And the freed earth shall turn and own me for her friend!
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
Where Rome's proud eagle, which is now a name,
Spread forth its wings of glory to the sky;
And young warm hearts, that dreamt of deathless fame,
Woke from that dream to gaze around and die:
Where the pale crescent gleam'd athwart the cloud
Of men array'd to perish in their pride;
And the harsh note of war rang wild and loud
To urge the course of that impetuous tide:
Where Spain's dark banner o'er the castle walls
Heavily floats upon the mournful breeze--
And firmly sad the measured footstep falls
Of him who dreams of home in scenes like these:
Where steep'd in bitter tears and guiltless blood,
The lily flag of France droops sadly down:
Where England's lion o'er the heaving flood
Boastfully flutters in its proud renown:
Ev'n where her sister island dimly rears
(Though all the freshness from its hue be gone)
Her verdant standard from a land of tears,
While there are winds in heaven to waft it on:--

'Neath these, and many more than these, my arm
Hath wielded desperately the avenging steel--
And half exulting in the awful charm
Which hung upon my life--forgot to feel!

'I fought and conquer'd--and when all was done
How fared misfortune's persecuted son?
The dim days pass'd away and left me lone;
The tyrant and the slave alike were gone.
The indignant eyes that flash'd their wrath afar--
The swords that glitter'd through the cloudy war--
The swelling courage of the manly breast--
The iron hand whose strength the weak oppress'd--
The shouting voices in the deadly fray--
The jest and song that made ev'n camps seem gay--
The sounds--the forms--the feelings which had made
Those scenes in which my feet so long had stray'd--
Where and what are they now? a bitter dream
Lit by a meteor-like delusive gleam.
Freedom! thou art indeed a dream! a bright
And beautiful--a vision of pure light,
Pour'd on our earth-clad spirits from above--
Where all are equals, and where all is love:
But yet no less a dream. Where is the land
Which for the ploughshare hath exchanged the brand,

And been at peace for ever? Is there not
A war with all things in our changeful lot?
A war with Heaven, a war with our own souls,
Where stormily the sea of passion rolls--
Wrecking each better feeling, which doth strain
For liberty--and wrings our hearts to pain?
The war of fallen spirits with their sin,
The terrible war which rageth deep within--
Lo! there the cause of all the strife below
Which makes God's world a wilderness of woe.
Ye dream, and dream, and dream from day to day,
And bleed, and fight, and struggle, and decay;
And with high-sounding mockeries beguile
Natures that sink, and sicken all the while.
Whither are the old kings and conquerors gone?
Where are the empires lost--the empires won?
Look--from the classic lands whose fallen pride
Is fain to summon strangers to their side--
Where with weak wail they call themselves oppress'd,
Who, if unchain'd, would still be slaves at best--
To far across the dim and lonely sea
Where the thrice-conquer'd styles herself 'the free:'
How many generations now are past
Since the first war-cry rose, and when will be the last?
Yet is there freedom in a distant clime,
Where freedom dwelleth to the end of time;

And peace, and joy, and ignorance of fear,
And happiness--but oh! not here! not here!
Not in this world of darkness and of graves,
Where the strong govern, and the weak are slaves.
Thou, whose full heart would dream of liberty,
Go out beneath the solitary sky
In its blue depth of midnight--stand and gaze
While the stars pour on thee their gentle rays;
And image, if thou canst, unto thy soul
A little part of the most wondrous whole
Of all that lies beyond--there no dark strife
Destroys the creatures of the God of Life;
There no ambition to be made more great
Turns the pure love of brothers into hate.
Each hath his place assign'd him like the stars
Up in the silent sky, where nothing wars.

''Twas on a battle plain,--here in thine own
Sweet land of sunshine, that I paused to mark
The heaps of slaughter'd heroes now o'erthrown,
Whose helpless corpses lay all stripp'd and stark.
'Twas in the time when Moorish blood first mix'd
With haughty Spain's; and on her spotless name
The dint and brand of slavery affix'd;
And blood was spilt to reap eternal shame.

The useless struggle ended on that day,
And round about Grenada's walls there lay
Many and many a brave young bosom, gored
By the rude spear or deeply thrusting sword.
And silence was upon that fatal field
Save when, to nature's anguish forced to yield,
Some fallen soldier heaved a broken sigh
For his far home, and turn'd him round to die:
Or when the wailing voice of woman told
That her long weary search was not in vain,
And she had found the bosom, stiff and cold,
Where her soft clustering curls had often lain.
'Twas one of these that burst upon my ear
While watching on that field: the wind-harp's tone
Was not more mournful, nor more sweetly clear,
Than was the sound of that sad woman's moan.
Through the dim moonlight I beheld a form--
Her dark brow clouded with grief's passionate storm,
And on her breast an infant calmly slept
Which she would pause to gaze on; and again,
With bitterness renew'd, she loudly wept,
And call'd on its dead father--but in vain!

'My early and my only love, why silent dost thou lie,
When heavy grief is in my heart, and tear-drops in mine eye;

I call thee, but thou answerest not, all lonely though I be:
Wilt thou not burst the bonds of sleep, and rise to comfort me?

' Oh! wake thee--wake thee from thy rest upon the tented field:
This faithful breast shall be at once thy pillow and thy shield;
If thou hast doubted of its truth and constancy before,
Oh! wake thee now, and it will strive to love thee even more.

'If ever we have parted, and I wept thee not as now,
If ever I have seen thee come, and worn a cloudy brow,
If ever harsh and careless words have caused thee pain and woe,
Then sleep, in silence sleep, and I--will bow my head and go.

' But if, through all the vanish'd years whose shadowy joys are gone,
Through all the changing scenes of life, I thought of thee alone;
If I have mourn'd for thee when far, and worshipp'd thee when near,
Then wake thee up, my early love, this weary heart to cheer!

'Awake! thy baby-boy is here, upon whose soft cheek lie
No tears of grief, save those which fall from his sad mother's eye;
How, lingering, didst thou gaze on him when we were forced to part--
Rise up, for he is here again, and press him to thy heart!

' In vain, in vain--I dream of thee and joyous life in vain;
Thou never more shalt rise in strength from off the bloody plain;
Thou never more shalt clasp thy boy, nor hold me to thy breast:
Thou hast left us lonely on the earth, and thou art gone to rest.

'Awake thee, my forsaken boy!--awake, my babe, and weep;
Art thou less wretched that thy brow no trace of woe can keep?
Oh! would through life that thou mightst taste no cup but that of joy,
And I, as now, might weep for both--my boy!--my orphan boy!'

'She paused and raised her dark wild eyes, where bright
In the blue heavens broke the dawning light--

But what to her was day or sunshine now,
All vainly beaming on that pallid brow?
She only felt that never more with him,
In the deep cloudless noon, or moonlight dim,
Her weary feet might wander--that his voice
Should never bid her beating heart rejoice--
That where there had been sunniness and bliss,
Silence and shadows and deep loneliness
Must be her portion--that all days to come
Would rise upon a widow'd heart and home.--
She only felt, while weeping on that spot,
That bright and waking world contain'd him not!
She rose as if to go--yet once again
Turn'd back in tears to gaze upon the slain;
And raised her voice of wail, whose tone might ne'er
Awake an echo in that slumbering ear:--

'We shall meet no more on the sunny hill,
Where the lonely wild flower springs and dies;
We shall meet no more by the murmuring rill,
Where the blue cool waters idly rise.
The sunshine and flowers all bright remain
In their lonely beauty, as of yore;
But to me 'twill never be bright again--
We shall meet no more! we shall meet no more!

'We shall meet no more in the lighted halls,
Amid happy faces and gay young hearts ;
I may listen in vain as each footstep falls,
I may watch in vain as each form departs!
There are laughing voices, but thy young tone
Its cheerful greeting hath ceased to pour;
Thy form from the dancing train is gone--
We shall meet no more! we shall meet no more!'

'Such was the scene where first I saw and loved
Xarifa.--She was beautiful, but not
By that alone my wither'd heart was moved;
But that long days, unwept though unforgot,
Arose before me, freshly to oppress,
And wring my secret soul to bitterness.
Her sorrow was as mine, and every word
She utter'd in her agony did seem
As if a spirit voice I dimly heard
Speaking of Edith in a weary dream.
And so it was--our tearful hearts did cling
And twine together ev'n in sorrowing;
And we became as one--her orphan boy.
Lisp'd the word 'Father' as his dark eyes gazed,
With their expressive glance of timid joy,
Into my face, half pleased and half amazed.

And we did dwell together, calmly fond
With our own love, and not a wish beyond.

'Well, we were happy; and I vainly thought
That happiness so calm might last--but no!
Suns rose, and set, and rose; years came and pass'd,
And brought with them my lot--the lot of woe.
And the boy grew in beauty and in strength,
Rousing my soul to love him more and more--
Till I gazed on that graceful form at length
With a proud worship--and while musing o'er
The happy future, half forgot that fate
Had doom'd me ever to be desolate--
That all I loved had but a life as frail
As the young flower that wooes the summer gale;
And that the hour must come, when they would flee
To that far land of peace where was no place for me!
And ev'n before that hour, upon my home
Dark shadows fell from weary day to day;
And where there had been sunniness, was gloom--
And that boy's mother changed and pined away.
In her unquiet eye from year to year
Rose the expression of a restless fear,
And lines, which time had yet forborne to trace,
Were writ by care upon her fading face.

There would she sit, and steal a fearful glance,
Or fix those Moorish eyes as in a trance
Upon my form; and love dwelt still within
That pure fond heart which suffer'd for no sin.
And she would strive my sorrow to beguile,
And start, and wipe away her tears, and smile,
If, gazing in her waking dream, she caught
My eye, and read therein the master thought.
But never through those years did word or sign
Ask for the secret which was wholly mine.
She faded silently as doth the rose,
Which but in death reveals the secret smart,
And faintly smiling, to the last bestows
A balmy perfume from its withering heart.
How often, when I gazed on her, there came
The earnest wish that trembled through my frame,
To rise--to clasp her to my'swelling breast,
To faulter forth my tale, and be at rest!
When others, whom the laws of Heaven had tied,
Wander'd through this world's sunshine side by side;
Each beaming face bright as their brows above,
With perfect confidence and mutual love--
When I have seen some young heart's feeling rise
And glisten forth from glad and loving eyes;
Or heard the murmur'd words fond lips have spoken
Of faith unchanged and firm, and vows unbroken--

How I have strain'd my clasp'd and quivering hands,
And stretch'd them to the heavens as if in prayer;
Yearning to bow to Nature's strong commands,
And cloud another's life with my despair!
But when I thought of Edith--of that hour
When suddenly, and like a storm-scathed flower
She sank and perish'd, whose dear brightness seem'd
More beautiful than aught my heart had dream'd--
I shrank within myself, and silently
Met the sad glances of her anxious eye.

'Oh Sympathy!--how little do they know,
Who to a fellow heart confide their woe,
Who raise their tearful gaze to see again
Reflected back those drops of summer rain--
How weighs the lid which dares not show its tear,
But weeps in silence, agony, and fear;
And, dying for a glance, must yet disown
The sacred balm of hearts, and writhe alone!
To stifle grief till none but God can see,
Longing the while to say, 'Come, weep with me:
Weep! for the flowers have faded from my path,
The rays of light have left my darken'd sky:
Weep! for thy tear is all the wanderer hath,
Whose lone despair would bid him groan--and die:'

Thus--thus to shrink from every outstretch'd hand,
To strive in secret, and alone to stand;
Or, when obliged to mingle with the crowd,
Curb the pain'd lip which quiveringly obeys--
Gapes wide with sudden laughter, vainly loud,
Or writhes a faint slow smile to meet their gaze--
This--this is hell! The soul which dares not show
The barbed sorrow which is rankling there,
Gives way at length beneath its weight of woe,
Withers unseen, and darkens to despair!

'One eve at spring-tide's close we took our way,
When eve's last beams in soften'd glory fell,
Lighting her faded form with sadden'd ray,
And the sweet spot where we so loved to dwell.
Faintly and droopingly she sat her down
By the blue waters of the Guadalquivir;
With darkness on her brow, but yet no frown,
Like the deep shadow on that silent river.
She sat her down, I say, with face upturn'd
To the dim sky, which daylight was forsaking,
And in her eyes a light unearthly burn'd--
The light which spirits give whose chains are breaking!
And, as she gazed, her low and tremulous voice
In murmuring sweetness did address the earth,

With mournful rapture, which makes none rejoice;
And gladness, which to sorrow doth give birth.

'The spring! I love the spring! for it hath flowers,
And gaily plumaged birds, and sapphire skies,
And sleeping sunshine, and soft cooling showers,
And shadowy woods where weary daylight dies.
And it hath dancing waters, where the sun,
With an enamour'd look at the light waves,
Doth lull himself to rest when day is done,
And sinks away behind their rocky caves.

'I love the spring, for it hath many things
In earth and air that mind reel of old days;
Voices and laughter and light murmurings
Borne on the breeze that through the foliage plays;
And sounds that are not words, of human joy
From the deep bosom of the shelter'd wood;
Woods dimm'd by distance, where, half pleased, half coy,
The maiden chides her broken solitude.

'The spring of youth!--how like to nature's spring,
When its light pleasures all have pass'd away,
Are the dim memories which that word can bring,
Wringing the heart that feels its own decay!

The half forgotten charm of many a scene
Coming confusedly athwart the brain;
The wandering where our former steps have been
With forms that may not wander there again;--

'Murmurings and voices where some single tone
Thrills for a moment, and forgets to sound;
Yearnings for all that now is past and gone,
And vain tears sinking in the mossy ground:--
Oh! this is all, and more than all, which stays
To mock us with the sunshine of past years;
And those spring shadows on our autumn days
Cast their dim gloom, and turn our smiles to tears!

'She paused--and on the river bent her glance,
As if she loved to see the waters dance,
And dash their silver sparkles on the shore
In mockery of Ocean's giant roar.
And a half smile lit up that pallid brow,
As, casting flowers upon the silent stream,
She watch'd the frail sweet blossoms glide and go
Like human pleasures in a blissful dream.
And then, with playful force she gently flung
Small shining pebbles from the river's brink,
And o'er the eddying waters sadly hung,
Pleased, and yet sorrowful, to see them sink.

'And thus,' she said, 'doth human love forget
Its idols--some sweet blessings float away,
Follow'd by one long look of vain regret,
As they are slowly hastening to decay;
And some, with sullen plunge, do mock our sight,
And suddenly go down into the tomb,
Startling the beating heart, whose fond delight
Chills into tears at that unlook'd-for doom.
And there remains no trace of them, save such
As the soft ripple leaves upon the wave;
Or a forgotten flower, whose dewy touch
Reminds us some are withering in the grave!
When all is over, and she is but dust
Whose heart so long hath held thy form enshrined;
When I go hence, as soon I feel I must,
Oh! let my memory, Isbal, haunt thy mind.
Not for myself--oh! not for me be given
Vain thoughts of vain regret; though that were sweet;
But for the sake of that all-blissful Heaven,
Where, if thou willest it, we yet may meet.
When in thy daily musing thou dost bring
Those scenes to mind, in which I had a share;
When in thy nightly watch thy heart doth wring
With thought of me--oh! murmur forth a prayer!
A prayer for me--for thee--for all who live
Together, yet asunder in one home--

Who their soul's gloomy secret dare not give,
Lest it should blacken all their years to come.
Yes, Isbal, yes; to thee I owe the shade
That prematurely darkens on my brow;
And never had my lips a murmur made--
But--but that--see! the vision haunts me now!'
She pointed on the river's surface, where
Our forms were pictured seated side by side;
I gazed on them, and her's was very fair;
And mine--was as thou seest it now, my bride.
But her's, though fair, was fading--wan and pale
The brow whose marble met the parting day.
Time o'er her form had thrown his misty veil,
And all her ebon curls were streak'd with grey:
But mine was youthful--yes! such youth as glows
In the young tree by lightning scathed and blasted--
That, joyless, waves its black and leafless boughs,
On which spring showers and summer warmth are wasted.
The lines upon my brow were those of age;
The hollow cheek might speak of time or woe;
But all the rest was as in life's first stage--
The tangled curls without one touch of snow.
Oh! wherefore do I thus describe old times?
Am I not here--the same accursed thing,
Stamp'd with the brand of darkness for my crimes--
Never to die--but ever withering?

'Yes-yes--it is of her that I would tell.
She turn'd, as from my lips a murmur fell,
Half curse, half groan--and with a gentle look
Of angel love and pity thus she spoke:--

'Isbal, forgive me, if a bitter thought
This first, last time hath to thy heart been brought
By her who loved thee, ev'n in doubt and dread,
Better than ought, save him--the early dead!
Forgive me! for I would not pass from earth
With one dark thought, which may have had its birth
Unknown to thee; nor leave thee till I've said--
(Chide not these tears, which weakness makes me shed)--
Till I have said--and truth is on my tongue--
How fervently my heart to thine hath clung:
How I have shrunk, yet sought thy dear caress;
How I have feared--but never loved thee less:
How I have smiled for thee,--with thee, unbid,
While quivering tears rose 'neath the swelling lid--
And still kept silence when I would have spoken
For fear that seal'd-up fountain should be broken.
How I have--Isbal--Isbal--when I'm gone,
And thou hast nothing left to smile upon;
Remember--'tis a weak, a foolish prayer--
But do remember how I tried to bear

That worst of human pangs, a breaking heart,
And never let thee know how deep the smart!
Remember, that I never sought to know
The secret source of thy mysterious woe;
Nor ask'd why 'midst all changing things--unmoved
Thou--thou--(I tremble--heed it not, beloved!)--
Unmoved thou hast remained--Oh, Isbal, pray;
For dark the fear that clouds my parting day.
And though the word be vain--the time be pass'd,
Remember--I have loved thee to the last!'
She ceased, and strove my hand in hers to keep:
She wept not then--she was too weak to weep--
But with a faint fond gaze, half awe, half love,
Like an embodied prayer,--she look'd above.
And I--I would have told her then--that tale
The dream of which had turn'd her soft cheek pale,
And sent her to her grave--but she refused.
'Isbal, thy confidence is not abused:
If thou art sinful, let me know it not;
If thou hast sorrow'd, let it be forgot:
The past is nothing now, and I would die
Without one thought which may not soar on high.'

And she did droop and die, and pass away,
Leaving her memory, and that youthful son

Who sorrow'd for a while and then was gay,
And spoke in smiles of that lamented one.
Happy! for him the present bore no sting,
The past no agonies:--the future rose,
Bright as the colours of an angel's wing
Too far from earth to darken with its woes.
And he was form'd to love the haunts of men,
And to be fervently beloved again;
Firm, but yet gentle--fearless, but not bold--
Gay with the young, and tender to the old;
Scorning the heart where dark distrust was shown,
Because no treachery ever stain'd his own;
Ardent in love, but yet no-ways inclined
To sue wherever beauty sate enshrined:--
Such was my orphan care, and I became
Proud of Abdallah's father's blessed name.
Glad were the youths in whom fond friends could spy
Abdallah's graceful mien and daring eye:
Fondly the aged hail'd their favourite boy
With faultering words of mingled praise and joy:
Nor less the fair and fairy ones adored
The eloquent of tongue, and swift of sword.
And, from the many beautiful, he chose
One that might share in peace his evening's close;
There might be others fairer--but she was
So young--so meek--so feminine--applause,

And pride, and admiration, and the wild
Half worship which we pay earth's erring child--
All the tumultuous brain and bosom's stir
Sank into tenderness a sight of her.
You could not gaze on her, nor wish to shield
That shrinking form and gentle head from harm.
No borrow'd art could light or lustre yield,
But every bright addition spoil'd a charm.

'Their bridal day--their bridal day--it is
A day to be remember'd, deep within
The gloomy caves where dwells the foe of bliss,
And sends his fiends to tempt man on to sin.
The hall was bright with many-colour'd lamps;
The air was peopled with soft happy sounds;
And, careless of the dewy midnight damps,
Young feet were twinkling in the moonlit grounds:
The purple wine was mantling in the cup,
And flashing its rich hue upon their brows,
Who bent with eager lips to quaff it up,
And add their laughter to the loud carouse:
The merry jest--the superstitious tale--
The random question, and the tart reply,
Rang on in murmurings confused--till pale
The moonlight waned, and left the dawning sky.

The light dance ceased--by lips as sweet as thine
The word of fond farewell was slowly said;
Many departed--many sank supine,
With folded arms beneath each heavy head.
But still, with every lingering tardy guest
The brimming wine-cup circled as before:
And still went round the oft-repeated jest,
Which with impatient glance the bridegroom bore.
There was a traveller, who chanced to be
Invited with this joyous company;
And he was telling of the wondrous sights--
The popular sports--the strange and wild delights
Which in far countries he had heard and seen;
And once in Italy, where he had been,
How in great ruin'd Rome he heard a strange
Wild horrible tale of one who, for a crime
Too deadly to relate, might never change,
But live undying to the end of time:
One who had wander'd sadly up and down
Through every sunny land and peopled town,
With Cain's dark sign deep branded on his brow--
A haggard thing of guilt, and want, and woe!--
Breathings that seem'd like sobs, so loud they came
And chokingly from out my trembling frame,
Fill'd up the awful pause which came at length,
As if to give his words more horrid strength.

And every eye turn'd wonderingly and wild
Upon my face, while shudderingly I smiled,
And said, 'It is a fearful tale indeed;
But one that scare needs daunt ye, since ye are
From the dark fiend whom Heaven such fate decreed,
And Rome's imperial ruins, distant far.'
More had I said, nor heeded their reply,
But that Abdallah met my glance, and rose;--
And on his face I fix'd my wandering eye,
Which glared, and glared, and glared, and would not close.
And o'er his eager brow there shot a gleam,
As if but now remembering some dark dream.
And his lips parted--but he did not speak;
And his hand rose, but languidly and weak
Sank down again; while still we gazing stood
Into each other's eyes, as if for food.
I tried to laugh, but hollow in my throat
The gurgling murmur died; and once again
That young arm rose, and on the table smote,
And the slow words came audibly and plain:
While on all sides they fled and left us there,
Guilt, fear, and anguish, battling with despair.
'Arise, accursed! and go forth in peace!
No hand shall harm thee, and no tongue insult;

But 'neath this roof thy unblest voice must cease;
And thy dark sin must meet its dark result.'
I trembled, but obey'd not; from his face
My eyes withdrew, and sank upon the ground
While standing rooted, helpless, in my place,
I utter'd some half inarticulate sound--
Terms that I scarce remember--all, save one,
Utter'd with agony--it was, 'My son.'
And well I can recall the look, ev'n now,
Of scorn angelic on his lip and brow;
The cold defiance of his alter'd eye;
The tone that bade me wander forth and die:
Like the bright cherub to his home in hell
Dooming the first who sinn'd--the first who fell.

'Thy son! I thank kind heaven, whate'er my lot,
That word is false; my father thou art not!
My father!--back unto thy place of crime,
Dark fiend, who slew my mother ere her time!
Darest thou remind me by the awful sound,
How a mock link to thee that angel bound?
Well can I now explain her gentle look
Of mingled terror, anguish, and rebuke,
As 'neath thy blasting look, from day to day,
Sick of the joyless world, she pined away.

Breathe not the words, she loved thee: true, she loved:
In that her virtue, not thine own, is proved.
She loved, because the purity within
Her gentle heart was ignorance of sin.
Praise be to Heaven, she died! I little thought
Such words should to my secret soul be taught;
But I would howl them to the assembled world:
Praise be to Heaven, she died! nor saw thee hurl'd
From out the haunts of men with fear and hate,
Like a wan leper from the city's gate!
Praise be to Heaven, she died! nor saw thee stand
With shrinking quivering form, and nerveless hand--
The cowardice of guilt within thy heart,
And shaking thee--all devil as thou art!
Go!--The poor leper, scarr'd, and pale, and wan,
And driven groaning from his fellow man;
Trailing his loathsome languid limbs afar,
And gazing back where all his loved ones are--
The loved, who love him not: oh! he is free
From ill or sadness, when compared with thee.
Though all forsake him as he helpless lies,
And, straining his dim eyes, doth wonder where
Are those who should watch o'er him as he dies,
Cool his hot mouth, and soften his despair:
Though in the dust with agony he rolls--
His is the body's plague, and thine, and thine--the soul's!'

'Bitter the truth, and bitterly I spoke,
When from my lip the first deep murmur broke;
And then to that young heart I made appeal--
That heart which seem'd for all but me to feel:
Till like a torrent my pent words found way,
And thus I raved:--

''Happy the cottager! for he hath sons
And blue-eyed daughters made for love and mirth;
And many a child whose chasing footstep runs
Around the precincts of his humble hearth.
Borne on the breeze their light-toned laughter comes,
Making glad music in the parents' ear;
And their bright faces light their humble homes,
Brows all unshaded yet by guilt or fear!
And if at length one rosy head bows low,
And prayers are vain from death's dark power to save,
The lessen'd circle meet in mingled woe
To weep together o'er that gentle grave:
And, gazing through their misty tears, they see
(Like the blue opening through the stormy cloud)
Faces where grief was never meant to be,
And eyes whose joy doth mock the sable shroud.
The one link sever'd from that broken chain
Is lost, and they must cling to what is left;

Back to their many loves they turn again,
And half forget of what they were bereft.
But I--I had but thee! I had but thee!
And thou wert precious to my weary heart:
For thee I bow'd the head and bent the knee--
For thee I toil'd till the strong vein would start.
And thou didst pay me then with many a smile,
And broken words by joy-touch'd lips breathed forth;
And many a little playful infant wile--
Dear to my soul--to others little worth.
The lip that now hath quiver'd forth its curse,
The shuddering hand that bade my form obey--
The trembling limbs that shrink as if from worse
Than death could threaten to his human prey--
All--all have clung to me, with each fond sign:
The tottering feeble step hath sought my aid:
And oft have gently nestled, close to mine,
The clustering curls of that indignant head!
I am but human, though the tale be true
Which curses me with life, while life may last;
And the long future which doth mock my view,
But makes me cling more closely to the past.
Leave me not!--leave me not!--whate'er I be,
Thou surely shouldst not judge me, nor forsake;
If not by ties of nature bound to thee,
Sure there are other ties man may not break.

Leave me not!--leave me not! I am not changed,
Though thou but now hast heard my tale of sin:
I still can love thee, boy, as when we ranged,
Hand link'd in hand, those pleasant bowers within:
I know that other men will gaze and scoff
As the lone desolate one doth journey on;
I know that human things will cast me off--
But thou!--forsake me not--my son!--my son!'

'He shook--the deep sob labour'd in his breast--
Then sprang to me with a convulsive cry;
And, as my head sank on that place of rest,
Mingled with mine hot tears of agony.
And she, his fairy bride--she did not shrink,
But clung to me, as if she wish'd to prove,
When sorrow's cup is brimming to the brink,
How weak is woman's fear to woman's love!
Oh! nought of self is in their gentle hearts.
The things we tempt--and trample when they fall,
Danger and death--the dread that sin imparts,
Sadden, but shake not--they will love through all.
And we return'd, we three, unto our home--
The home that had been ours in peace so long,
And sunshine seem'd upon our hearts to come,
As that young bride pour'd forth her evening song.

'The morning dawn'd, and glad I wander'd out
Where the young flowers hung clustering about:
And a rich wreath I wove for her who slept,
Where nature's pearly drops still freshly wept.
That dark blue morning brighten'd into day--
But none came forth--oh! where, my heart, were they?
I sought them in the little shady grove,
Where their young lips first learn'd to breathe of love;
I sought them by the fountain's playful stream,
Where they were wont of happiness to dream;
I call'd them out to breathe the open day--
But none came forth--oh! where, my heart, were they?
That heart beat thick--I enter'd where the couch
Bedeck'd with flowers had woo'd their fond approach;
I gazed around--no sign of life was there;
My voice unanswer'd died upon the air;
The yet unfaded flowers were blooming gay--
But none came forth--oh! where, my heart, were they?
Where were they?--ay, where were they? once again
I sought them, though I felt the search was vain--
Through every well-known path and sunny spot
I sought those truants--but I found them not;
And when at length the weary day was done,
I sat me down, and knew I was alone.
Oh! had a sob, a sound, but broke my sleep--
Had I but been allow'd to rise and weep--

Convulsively to strain them, ere they went,
To my chill'd breast; to give my anguish vent;
Methought I could have borne it; but to rise
And glad me in the fresh and waking skies--
To greet the sun with joyfulness,--to wait,
Expecting them, and yet be desolate;
To twine those flowers, and see them fade away,
Frail as the hopes that sicken'd with the day;
To groan and listen, and to groan again,
While Echo only answer'd to my pain;
To start from feverish dreams, and breathe unheard
Loud words of welcome to that vision'd pair;
To listen in my sleep some singing bird,
And wake and find it was not Zara there;
To stretch my eager arms those forms to bind,
And with redoubled bitterness to find
The shadowy vision gone I loved to trace,
And darkness where had beam'd each youthful face:--
This was my lot--and this I learnt to bear,
And cursed the human links which bound me still to care.

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Byron

Beppo, A Venetian Story

I.
'Tis known, at least it should be, that throughout
All countries of the Catholic persuasion,
Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about,
The People take their fill of recreation,
And buy repentance, ere they grow devout,
However high their rank, or low their station,
With fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masking,
And other things which may be had for asking.

II.
The moment Night with dusky mantle covers
The skies (and the more duskily the better),
The Time--less liked by husbands than by lovers--
Begins, and Prudery flings aside her fetter,
And Gaiety on restless tiptoe hovers,
Giggling with all the Gallants who beset her;
And there are Songs and quavers, roaring, humming,
Guitars, and every other sort of strumming.

III.
And there are dresses, splendid but fantastical,
Masks of all times and nations, Turks and Jews,
And Harlequins and Clowns, with feats gymnastical,
Greeks, Romans, Yankee-doodles, and Hindoos;
All kinds of dress, except the ecclesiastical,
All people, as their fancies hit, may choose,
But no one in these parts may quiz the Clergy,--
Therefore take heed, ye Freethinkers! I charge ye.

IV.
You'd better walk about begirt with briars,
Instead of Coat and smallclothes, than put on
A single stitch reflecting upon Friars,
Although you swore it only was in fun;
They'd haul you o'er the coals, and stir the fires
Of Phlegethon with every mother's son,
Nor say one Mass to cool the Caldron's bubble
That boil'd your bones--unless you paid them double.

V.
But saving this, you may put on whate'er
You like by way of doublet, cape, or cloak,
Such as in Monmouth Street, or in Rag Fair,
Would rig you out in Seriousness or Joke;
And even in Italy such places are
With prettier name in softer accents spoke,
For, bating Covent Garden, I can hit on
No place that's called 'Piazza' in Great Britain.

VI.
This feast is named the Carnival, which being
Interpreted implies 'Farewell to Flesh':
So call'd, because the name and thing agreeing,
Through Lent they live on fish, both salt and fresh.
But why they usher Lent with so much glee in
Is more than I can tell, although I guess
'Tis as we take a glass with friends at parting
In the Stage-Coach or Packet, just at starting.

VII.
And thus they bid farewell to Carnal dishes,
And solid meats, and highly spiced ragouts,
To live for forty days on ill-dress’d fishes,
Because they have no sauces to their stews--
A thing which causes many 'poohs' and 'pishes,'
And several oaths (which would not suit the Muse)
From travellers accustom'd from a boy
To eat their Salmon, at the least, with Soy;

VIII.
And therefore humbly I would recommend
'The Curious in Fish-Sauce,' before they cross
The Sea, to bid their Cook, or wife, or friend,
Walk or ride to the Strand, and buy in gross
(Or if set out beforehand these may send
By any means least liable to loss)
Ketchup, Soy, Chili-Vinegar, and Harvey,
Or, by the Lord! a Lent will well nigh starve ye.

IX.
That is to say, if your Religion's Roman,
And you at Rome would do as Romans do,
According to the proverb,--although No man
If foreign is obliged to fast, and you--
If Protestant, or sickly--or a woman--
Would rather dine in sin on a ragout--
Dine and be d____d! I don't mean to be coarse,
But that's the penalty, to say no worse.

X.
Of all the places where the Carnival
Was most facetious in the days of yore,
For dance, and song, and serenade, and ball,
And Masque, and Mime, and Mystery, and more
Than I have time to tell now, or at all,
Venice the bell from every city bore,
And at the moment when I fix my story,
That Sea-born City was in all her Glory.

XI.
They've pretty faces yet, those same Venetians,
Black eyes, arch'd brows, and sweet expressions still,
Such as of old were copied from the Grecians,
In ancient Arts by Moderns mimick'd ill;
And like so many Venuses of Titian's
(The best's at Florence--see it, if ye will),
They look when leaning over the Balcony;
Or stepp'd from out a picture by Giorgione,--

XII.
Whose tints are Truth and Beauty at their best;
And when you to Manfrini's palace go,
That Picture (howsoever fine the rest)
Is loveliest to my mind of all the show;
It may perhaps be also to your Zest,
And that's the cause I rhyme upon it so:
'Tis but a portrait of his Son and Wife
And Self; but such a Woman! Love in life!

XIII.
Love in full life and length, not Love ideal,
No, nor ideal Beauty, that fine name,
But something better still, so very real,
That the sweet Model must have been the same;
A thing that you would purchase, beg, or steal,
Were't not impossible, besides a shame;
The face recalls some face, as 'twere with pain,
You once have seen, but ne'er will see again.

XIV.
One of those forms which flit by us, when we
Are young, and fix our eyes on every face;
And, oh! the Loveliness at times we see
In momentary gliding, the soft grace,
The Youth, the Bloom, the Beauty which agree
In many a nameless being we retrace,
Whose course and home we knew not, nor shall know,
Like the lost Pleiad seen no more below.

XV.
I said that like a picture by Giorgione
Venetian women were, and so they are,
Particularly seen from a balcony
(For Beauty's sometimes best set off afar)
And there, just like a heroine of Goldoni,
They peep from out the blind, or o'er the bar;
And truth to say they're mostly very pretty,
And rather like to show it, more's the Pity!

XVI.
For glances beget ogles, ogles sighs,
Sighs wishes, wishes words, and words a letter,
Which flies on wings of light-heel'd Mercuries,
Who do such things because they know no better;
And then, God knows! what Mischief may arise,
When Love links two young people in one fetter:
Vile assignations, and adulterous beds,
Elopements, broken vows, and hearts, and heads.

XVII.
Shakespeare described the Sex in Desdemona
As very fair, but yet suspect in fame,
And to this day from Venice to Verona
Such matters may be probably the same,
Except that since those times was never known a
Husband whom mere Suspicion could inflame
To suffocate a wife no more than twenty,
Because she had a 'Cavalier Servente.'

XVIII.
Their jealousy (if they are ever jealous)
Is of a fair complexion altogether,
Not like that sooty devil of Othello's,
Which smothers women in a bed of feather,
But worthier of these much more jolly fellows,
When weary of the matrimonial tether
His head for such a wife no mortal bothers,
But takes at once another, or another's.

XIX.
Didst ever see a Gondola? For fear
You should not, I'll describe it you exactly:
'Tis a long cover'd boat that's common here,
Carved at the prow, built lightly, but compactly,
Row'd by two rowers, each call'd 'Gondolier,'
It glides along the water looking blackly,
Just like a Coffin clapt in a Canoe,
Where none can make out what you say or do.

XX.
And up and down the long Canals they go,
And under the Rialto shoot along
By night and day, all paces, swift or slow,
And round the theatres, a sable throng,
They wait in their dusk livery of woe,--
But not to them do woeful things belong,
For sometimes they contain a deal of fun,
Like Mourning Coaches when the funeral’s done.

XXI.
But to my story.--'Twas some years ago,
It may be thirty, forty, more or less,
The Carnival was at its height, and so
Were all kinds of Buffoonery and dress;
A Certain Lady went to see the show,
Her real name I know not, nor can guess,
And so we'll call her Laura, if you please,
Because it slips into my verse with ease.

XXII.
She was not old, nor young, nor at the years
Which certain people call a 'certain Age,'
Which yet the most uncertain age appears,
Because I never heard, nor could engage
A person yet by prayers, or bribes, or tears,
To name, define by speech, or write on page,
The period meant precisely by that word,--
Which surely is exceedingly absurd.

XXIII.
Laura was blooming still, had made the best
Of Time, and Time return'd the compliment,
And treated her genteelly, so that, 'drest,
She look'd extremely well where'er she went;
A pretty woman is a welcome guest,
And Laura's brow a frown had rarely bent;
Indeed, she shone all Smiles, and seem'd to flatter
Mankind with her black eyes for looking at her.

XXIV.
She was a married woman; 'tis convenient,
Because in Christian countries 'tis a rule
To view their little slips with eyes more lenient;
Whereas if single ladies play the fool
(Unless within the period intervenient
A well-timed wedding makes the scandal cool),
I don't know how they ever can get over it,
Except they manage never to discover it.

XXV.
Her husband sail'd upon the Adriatic,
And made some voyages, too, in other seas,
And when he lay in Quarantine for Pratique
(A forty days' precaution 'gainst disease),
His wife would mount, at times, her highest attic,
For thence she could discern the ship with ease;
He was a Merchant trading to Aleppo,
His name Giuseppe--call'd more briefly, Beppo.

XXVI.
He was a man as dusky as a Spaniard,
Sunburnt with travel, yet a portly figure;
Though colour'd, as it were, within a tan-yard,
He was a person both of sense and vigour--
A better Seaman never yet did man yard;
And She, although her manners show'd no rigour,
Was deem'd a woman of the strictest principle,
So much as to be thought almost invincible.

XXVII.
But several years elapsed since they had met;
Some people thought the ship was lost, and some
That he had somehow blunder'd into debt,
And did not like the thought of steering home;
And there were several offer'd any bet,
Or that he would, or that he would not come,
For Most Men (till by losing render'd sager)
Will back their own opinions with a wager.

XXVIII.
'Tis said that their last parting was pathetic,
As partings often are, or ought to be,
And their presentiment was quite prophetic,
That they should never more each other see,
(A sort of morbid feeling, half poetic,
Which I have known occur in two or three)
When kneeling on the shore upon her sad knee
He left this Adriatic Ariadne.

XXIX.
And Laura waited long, and wept a little,
And thought of wearing weeds, as well she might;
She almost lost all appetite for victual,
And could not sleep with ease along at night;
She deem'd the window-frames and shutters brittle
Against a daring House-breaker or Sprite,
And so She thought it prudent to connect her.
With a Vice-husband, chiefly to protect her.

XXX.
She chose, (and what is there they will not choose,
If only you will but oppose their choice?)
Till Beppo should return from his long cruise,
And bid once more her faithful heart rejoice,
A Man some women like, and yet abuse--
A Coxcomb was he by the public voice;
A Count of wealth, they said, as well as quality,
And (in his pleasures) of great liberality.

XXXI.
And then he was A Count, and then he knew
Music, and dancing, fiddling, French and Tuscan;
The last not easy, be it known to you.
For few Italians speak the right Etruscan.
He was a Critic upon Operas, too,
And knew all niceties of the sock and buskin;
And no Venetian audience could endure a
Song, scene, or air, when he cried 'Seccatura!'

XXXII.
His 'Bravo' was decisive—for that sound
Hush'd 'Academie' sigh'd in silent awe;
The fiddlers trembled as he look'd around,
For fear of some false note's detected flaw;
The 'Prima Donna's' tuneful heart would bound,
Dreading the deep damnation of his 'Bah!'
Soprano, Basso, even the Contra-Alto,
Wish'd him five fathom under the Rialto.

XXXIII.
He patronised the Improvisatori,
Nay, could himself extemporise some stanzas;
Wrote rhymes, sang songs, could also tell a story,
Sold pictures, and was skilful in the dance as
Italians can be--though in this their glory
Must surely yield the palm to that which France has;
In short, he was a perfect Cavaliero,
And to his very Valet seem'd a Hero.

XXXIV.
Then he was faithful too, as well as amorous;
So that no sort of female could complain--
Although they're now and then a little clamourous,
He never put the pretty souls in pain;
His heart was one of those which most enamour us,
Wax to receive, and Marble to retain:
He was a lover of the good old School,
Who still become more constant as they cool.

XXXV.
No wonder such accomplishments should turn
A female head, however sage and steady--
With scarce a hope that Beppo could return,
In law he was almost as good as dead, he
Nor sent, nor wrote, nor show'd the least concern,
And she had waited several years already;
And really if a Man won't let us know
That he's alive, he's dead, or should be so.

XXXVI.
Besides, within the Alps, to every woman,
(Although, God knows! it is a grievous sin)
'Tis, I may say, permitted to have two men;
I can't tell who first brought the custom in,
But 'Cavalier Serventes' are quite common,
And no one notices nor cares a pin;
And we may call this (not to say the worst)
A Second Marriage which corrupts the First.

XXXVII.
The word was formerly a 'Cicisbeo,'
But that is now grown vulgar and indecent;
The Spaniards call the person a 'Cortejo,'
For the same Mode subsists in Spain, though recent;
In short, it reaches from the Po to Teio,
And may perhaps at last be o'er the Sea sent;
But Heaven preserve Old England from such courses!
Or what becomes of damage and divorces?

XXXVIII.
However, I still think, with all due deference
To the fair single part of the Creation,
That married ladies should preserve the preference
In tête-à-tête or general conversation--
And this I say without peculiar reference
To England, France, or any other nation--
Because they know the world, and are at ease,
And being natural, naturally please.

XXXIX.
'Tis true, your budding Miss is very charming,
But shy and awkward at first coming out,
So much alarm'd, that she is quite alarming,
All Giggle, Blush--half Pertness, and half-Pout--
And glancing at Mamma, for fear there's harm in
What you, she, it, or they, may be about;
The nursery still lisps out in all they utter--
Besides, they always smell of Bread and Butter.

XL.
But 'Cavalier Servente' is the phrase
Used in politest circles to express
This supernumary slave, who stays
Close to the lady as a part of dress--
Her word the only law which he obeys.
His is no Sinecure, as you may guess;
Coach, Servants, Gondola, he goes to call,
And carries fan and tippet, gloves and shawl.

XLI.
With all its sinful doings, I must say,
That Italy's a pleasant place to me,
Who love to see the Sun shine every day,
And vines (not nail’d to walls) from tree to tree
Festoon'd, much like the back Scene of a play,
Or Melodrame, which people flock to see
When the first act is ended by a dance
In Vineyards copied from the South of France.

XLII.
I like on Autumn evenings to ride out,
Without being forced to bid my Groom be sure
My Cloak is round his middle strapp'd about,
Because the skies are not the most secure;
I know too that, if stopp'd upon my route
Where the green alleys windingly allure,
Reeling with grapes red waggons choke the way--
In England 'twould be dung, dust, or a dray.

XLIII.
I also like to dine on Becaficas,
To see the Sun set, sure he'll rise tomorrow,
Not through a misty morning twinkling weak as
A drunken man's dead eye in maudlin sorrow,
But with all Heaven t' himself; the Day will break as
Beauteous as cloudless, nor be forced to borrow
That sort of farthing candlelight which glimmers
Where reeking London's smoky Caldron simmers.

XLIV.
I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,
Which melts like kisses from a female mouth,
And sounds as if it should be writ on satin,
With syllables which breathe of the sweet South,
And gentle liquids gliding all so pat in
That not a single accent seems uncouth--
Like our harsh Northern whistling, grunting guttural,
Which we're obliged to hiss, and spit, and sputter all.

XLV.
I like the women too (Forgive my folly!)
From the rich peasant cheek of ruddy bronze,
And large black eyes that flash on you a volley
Of rays that say a thousand things at once,
To the high Dama's brow, more melancholy,
But clear, and with a wild and liquid Glance,
Heart on her lips, and Soul within her eyes,
Soft as her clime, and Sunny as her skies.

XLVI.
Eve of the land which still is Paradise!
Italian Beauty! didst thou not inspire
Raphael, who died in thy embrace, and vies
With all we know of Heaven, or can desire
In what he hath bequeath'd us?--in what guise,
Though flashing from the fervour of the Lyre,
Would Words describe thy past and present Glow,
While yet Canova can create below?

XLVII.
'England! with all thy faults I love thee still!'
I said at Calais, and have not forgot it;
I like to speak and lucubrate my fill;
I like the Government (but that is not it);
I like the freedom of the press and quill;
I like the Hapeas Corpus (when we've got it);
I like a parliamentary debate,
Particularly when 'tis not too late;

XLVIII.
I like the taxes, when they're not too many;
I like a sea-coal fire, when not too dear;
I like a beef-steak, too, as well as any;
Have no objection to a pot of beer;
I like the weather--when it is not rainy--
That is, I like two months of every Year;
And so God save the Regent, Church, and King!
Which means that I like all and every thing.

XLIX.
Our standing Army, and disbanded Seamen,
Poor's rate, Reform, my own, the nation's debt,
Our little Riots just to show we're free men,
Our trifling Bankruptcies in the Gazette,
Our cloudy Climate, and our chilly Women;
All these I can forgive, and those forget,
And greatly venerate our recent glories,
And wish they were not owing to the Tories.

L.
But to my tale of Laura--for I find
Digression is a sin, that by degrees
Becomes exceeding tedious to my mind,
And, therefore, may the reader too displease--
The gentle reader--who may wax unkind,
And caring little for the Author’s ease,
Insist on knowing what he means, a hard
And hapless situation for a Bard.

LI.
Oh that I had the art of easy writing
What should be easy reading! could I scale
Parnassus, where the Muses sit inditing
Those pretty poems never known to fail!
How quickly would I print (the world delighting)
A Grecian, Syrian, or Assyrian tale;
And sell you, mix'd with Western sentimentalism,
Some samples of the finest Orientalism.

LII.
But I am but a nameless sort of person
(A broken Dandy lately on my travels)
And take for Rhyme, to hook my rambling Verse on,
The first that Walker's Lexicon unravels,
And when I can't find that, I put a worse on,
Not caring as I ought for Critics' cavils;
I've half a mind to tumble down to prose,
But Verse is more in fashion--so here goes!

LIII.
The Count and Laura made their new arrangement,
Which lasted, as Arrangements sometimes do,
For half a dozen years without estrangement;
They had their little differences, too;
Those jealous whiffs, which never any change meant;
In such affairs there probably are few
Who have not had this pouting sort of squabble,
From Sinners of high station to the Rabble.

LIV.
But, on the whole, they were a happy pair,
As happy as unlawful love could make them;
The Gentleman was fond, the Lady fair,
Their chains so slight 'twas not worth while to break them;
The World beheld them with indulgent air;
The Pious only wish'd 'the Devil take them!'
He took them not; he very often waits,
And leaves old Sinners to be young ones’ baits.

LV.
But they were young; Oh! what without our youth
Would Love be! What would youth be without love!
Youth lends it joy, and sweetness, vigour, truth,
Heart, soul, and all that seems as from above;
But, languishing with years, it grows uncouth--
One of few things Experience don't improve,
Which is perhaps the reason why old fellows
Are always so preposterously jealous.

LVI.
It was the Carnival, as I have said
Some six and thirty stanzas back, and so
Laura the usual preparations made,
Which you do when your mind's made up to go
To-night to Mrs. Boehm's Masquerade,
Spectator, or Partaker in the show;
The only difference known between the cases
Is here, we have six weeks of 'varnish'd faces.'

LVII.
Laura, when dress'd, was (as I sang before)
A pretty woman as was ever seen,
Fresh as the Angel o'er a new Inn door,
Or frontispiece of a new Magazine,
With all the Fashions which the last month wore,
Colour'd, and silver paper leaved between
That and the title-page, for fear the Press
Should soil with parts of speech the parts of dress.

LVIII.
They went to the Ridotto;--'tis a hall
Where people dance, and sup, and dance again--
Its proper name perhaps were a masqued Ball,
But thats of no importance to my strain;
'Tis (on a smaller scale) like our Vauxhall,
Excepting that it can't be spoilt by Rain;
The company is 'mix'd' (the phrase I quote is
As much as saying they're below your Notice).

LIX.
For a 'mix'd company' implies that, save
Yourself and friends and half a hundred more
Whom you may bow to without looking grave,
The rest are but a vulgar set--the Bore
Of public places, where they basely brave
The fashionable stare of twenty score
Of well-bred persons call'd 'The World'--but I,
Although I know them, really don't know why.

LX.
This is the case in England, at least was
During the dynasty of Dandies, now
Perchance succeeded by some other class
Of imitated Imitators :-- how
Irreparably soon decline, alas!
The Demagogues of fashion; all below
Is frail; how easily the World is lost
By Love, or War, and now and then by Frost!

LXI.
Crush'd was Napoleon by the northern Thor,
Who knock’d his army down with icy hammer,
Stopp'd by the Elements, like a Whaler, or
A blundering Novice in his new French grammar;
Good cause had he to doubt the chance of War,
And as for Fortune--but I dare not d___n her,
Because, were I to ponder to Infinity,
The more I should believe in her Divinity.

LXII.
She rules the present, past, and all to be yet;
She gives us luck in lotteries, love, and marriage;
I cannot say that she’s done much for me yet,
Not that I mean her bounties to disparage--
We've not yet closed accounts--and we shall see yet
How much she'll make amends for past miscarriage.
Meantime the Goddess I'll no more importune,
Unless to thank her when she's made my fortune.

LXIII.
To turn--and to return, the Devil take it!
This Story slips for ever through my fingers,
Because, just as the Stanza likes to make it,
It needs must be, and so it rather lingers:
This form of verse began, I can't well break it,
But must keep time and tune like public Singers;
But if I once get through my present measure,
I'll take another when I'm at leisure.

LXIV.
They went to the Ridotto ('tis a place
To which I mean to go myself to-morrow,
Just to divert my thoughts a little space,
Because I’m rather hippish, and may borrow
Some spirits, guessing at what kind of face
May lurk beneath each mask; and as my sorrow
Slackens its pace sometimes, I'll make or find
Something shall leave it half an hour behind).

LXV.
Now Laura moves along the joyous crowd--
Smiles in her eyes, and simpers on her lips--
To some she whispers, others speaks aloud;
To some she curtsies, and to some she dips,
Complains of warmth and, this complaint avow'd,
Her lover brings the Lemonade she sips;
She then surveys, condemns, but pities still
Her dearest friends for being dress'd so ill.

LXVI.
One has false curls, another too much paint,
A third--where did She buy that frightful turban?
A fourth's so pale she fears she's going to faint,
A fifth's look's vulgar, dowdyish, and suburban,
A sixth's white silk has got a yellow taint,
A seventh's thin Muslin surely will be her bane,
And lo! an eighth appears--'I'll see no more!'
For fear, like Banquo's kings, they reach a score.

LXVII.
Meantime, while she was thus at others gazing,
Others were leveling their looks at her;
She heard the Men's half-whisper'd mode of praising,
And, till ’twas done, determined not to stir;
The women only thought it quite amazing
That, at her time of Life, so many were
Admirers still--but Men are so debased,
Those brazen creatures always suit their taste.

LXVIII.
For my part now, I ne'er could understand
Why naughty Women--but I wont discuss
A thing which is a Scandal to the land;
I only don't see why it should be thus;
And if I were but in a gown and band--
Just to entitle me to make a fuss--
I'd preach on this till Wilberforce and Romilly
Should quote in their next speeches from my homily.

LXIX.
While Laura thus was seen, and seeing, smiling,
Talking, she knew not why, and cared not what,
So that her female friends, with envy broiling,
Beheld her airs and triumph, and all that,
And well-dress'd males still kept before her filing,
And passing bow'd and mingled with her chat;
More than the rest, one person seem'd to stare
With pertinacity that's rather rare.

LXX.
He was a Turk, the colour of mahogany;
And Laura saw him, and at first was glad,
Because the Turks so much admire Phylogyny,
Although their usage of their wives is sad;
'Tis said they use no better than a dog any
Poor woman, whom they purchase like a pad;
They have a number, though they ne'er exhibit 'em,
Four Wives by law, and Concubines 'ad libitum.'

LXXI.
They lock them up, and veil and guard them daily;
They scarcely can behold their male relations,
So that their moments do not pass so gaily
As is supposed the case with Northern nations;
Confinement, too, must make them look quite palely;
And as the Turks abhor long conversations,
Their days are either pass'd in doing nothing,
Or bathing, nursing, making love, and clothing.

LXXII.
They cannot read--and so don't lisp in Criticism;
Nor write--and so they don't affect the Muse;
Were never caught in epigram or witticism,
Have no romances, sermons, plays, reviews--
In harams Learning soon would make a pretty schism!
But luckily these beauties are no 'Blues;'
No bustling Botherbys have they to show 'em
'That charming passage in the last new poem!'

LXXIII.
No solemn Antique gentleman of rhyme,
Who, having angled all his life for Fame
And getting but a nibble at a time,
Still fussily keeps fishing on, the same
Small 'Triton of the Minnows,' the sublime
Of mediocrity, the furious tame,
The echo’s Echo, usher of the School
Of female Wits, boy bards--in short, a fool!

LXXIV.
A stalking Oracle of awful phrase,
The approving 'Good!' (By no means GOOD in law)
Humming like flies around the newest blaze,
The bluest of Bluebottles you e'er saw,
Teasing with blame, excruciating with praise,
Gorging the little fame he gets all raw,
Translating tongues he knows not even by letter,
And sweating plays so middling, bad were better.

LXXV.
One hates an Author that's all Author, fellows
In foolscap uniforms turn'd up with ink,
So very anxious, clever, fine, and jealous,
One don't know what to say to them, or think,
Unless to puff them with a pair of Bellows;
Of Coxcombry's worst Coxcombs e'en the pink
Are preferable to these shreds of paper,
These unquench'd snufflings of the midnight taper.

LXXVI.
Of these same we see several, and of others,
Men of the World, who know the world like men,
Scott, Rogers, Moore, and all the better brothers
Who think of something else besides the pen;
But for the Children of the 'Mighty Mother's'--
The would-be Wits, and can’t-be Gentlemen--
I leave them to their daily 'Tea is ready,'
Smug Coterie, and Literary Lady.

LXXVII.
The poor dear Mussulwomen whom I mention
Have none of these instructive, pleasant people,
And One would seem to them a new Invention,
Unknown as bells within a Turkish steeple;
I think 'twould almost be worth while to pension
(Though best-sown projects very often reap ill)
A Missionary Author, just to preach
Our Christian usage of the parts of Speech.

LXXVIII.
No Chemistry for them unfolds her gases,
No Metaphysics are let loose in lectures,
No Circulating Library amasses
Religious novels, moral tales, and strictures
Upon the living manners, as they pass us;
No Exhibition glares with annual pictures;
They stare not on the Stars from out their Attics,
Nor deal (thank God for that!) in Mathematics.

LXXIX.
Why I thank God for that is no great matter;
I have my reasons, you no doubt suppose,
And as perhaps they would not highly flatter,
I'll keep them for my life (to come) in prose;
I fear I have a little turn for Satire,
And yet, methinks, the older that one grows
Inclines us more to laugh than scold, though Laughter
Leaves us no doubly serious shortly after.

LXXX.
Oh, mirth and innocence! Oh, milk and water!
Ye happy mixtures of more happy days!
In these sad centuries of sin and slaughter,
Abominable Man no more allays
His thirst with such pure beverage. No matter,
I love you both, and both shall have my praise;
Oh, for old Saturn's reign of sugar-candy!
Meantime I drink to your return in Brandy.

LXXXI.
Our Laura's Turk still kept his eyes upon her,
Less in the Mussulman than Christian way,
Which seems to say, 'Madam, I do you honour,
And while I please to stare, you'll please to stay!'
Could staring win a woman, this had won her,
But Laura could not thus be led astray;
She had stood fire too long and well, is boggle
Even at this Stranger's most outlandish Ogle.

LXXXII.
The Morning now was on the point of breaking,
A turn of time at which I would advise
Ladies who have been dancing, or partaking
In any other kind of Exercise,
To make their preparations for forsaking
The Ball-room ere the Sun begins to rise,
Because when once the lamps and candles fail,
His Blushes make them look a little pale.

LXXXIII.
I've seen some balls and revels in my time,
And stay'd them over for some silly reason;
And then I look'd (I hope it was no crime)
To see what lady best stood out the Season;
And though I've seen some thousands in their prime,
Lovely and pleasing, and who still may please on,
I never saw but One (the stars withdrawn)
Whose bloom could, after dancing, dare the dawn.

LXXXIV.
The name of this Aurora I'll not mention,
Although I might, for She was nought to me
More than that patent work of God's invention,
A charming woman, whom we like to see;
But writing names would merit reprehension,
Yet if you like to find out this fair She,
At the next London or Parisian ball
You still may mark her cheek, out-blooming all.

LXXXV.
Laura, who knew it would not do at all
To meet the daylight after seven hours' sitting
Among three thousand people at a ball,
To make her curtsy thought it right and fitting;
The Count was at her elbow with her shawl,
And they the room were on the point of quitting,
When lo! those cursed gondoliers had got
Just in the very place where they should not.

LXXXVI.
In this they're like our Coachmen, and the cause
Is much the same--the Crowd, and pulling, hauling--
With blasphemies enough to break their jaws--
They make a never-intermitted bawling.
At home, our Bow Street Gem'men keep the laws,
And here a Sentry stands within your calling;
But for all that, there is a deal of swearing,
And nauseous words past mentioning or bearing.

LXXXVII.
The Count and Laura found their boat at last,
And homeward floated o'er the silent tied,
Discussing all the dances gone and past;
The Dancers and their dresses, too, beside.
Some little Scandals eke; but all aghast
(As to their palace-stairs the rowers glide)
Sate Laura by the side of her Adorer,
When lo! the Mussulman was there before her!

LXXXVIII.
'Sir!' said the Count, with brow exceeding grave,
'Your unexpected presence here will make
It necessary for myself to crave
Its import--but perhaps 'tis a mistake.
I hope it is so, and at once to waive
All compliment--I hope so for your sake;
You understand my meaning, or you shall.'
'Sir' (quoth the Turk), ''tis no mistake at all:

LXXXIX.
'That Lady is my Wife!' Much wonder paints
The Lady's changing cheek, as well it might,
But where an Englishwoman sometimes faints,
Italian females don't do so outright;
They only call a little on their Saints,
And then come to themselves, almost or quite,
Which saves much hartshorn, salts, and sprinkling faces,
And cutting stays, as usual in such cases.

XC.
She said—what could she say? why, not a word:
But the Count courteously invited in
The Stranger, much appeased by what he heard;
'Such things perhaps we'd best discuss within,'
Said he, 'don't let us make ourselves absurd
In public, by a Scene, nor raise a din,
For then the chief and only satisfaction
Will be much quizzing on the whole transaction.'

XCI.
They enter'd, and for coffee call'd; it came,
A beverage for Turks and Christians both,
Although the way they make it's not the same.
Now Laura, much recover'd, or less loth
To speak, cries 'Beppo! what's your Pagan name?
Bless me! your beard is of amazing growth!
And how came you to keep away so long?
Are you not sensible 'twas very wrong?

XCII.
'And are you really, truly, now a Turk?
With any other women did you wive?
Is't true they use their fingers for a fork?
Well, that's the prettiest Shawl--as I'm alive!
You'll give it me? They say you eat no pork.
And how so many years did you contrive
To--Bless me! did I ever? No, I never
Saw a man grown so yellow! How’s your liver?

XCIII.
'Beppo! that beard of yours becomes you not;
It shall be shaved before you're a day older;
Why do you wear it? Oh! I had forgot--
Pray don't you think the weather here is colder?
How do I look? You shan't stir from this spot
In that queer dress, for fear that some beholder
Should find you out, and make the story known.
How short your hair is! Lord! how grey it’s grown!'

XCIV.
What answer Beppo made to these demands
Is more than I know. He was cast away
About where Troy stood once, and Nothing stands;
Became a Slave of course, and for his pay
Had bread and bastinadoes, till some bands
Of pirates landing in a neighbouring bay,
He join'd the rogues and prosper’d, and became
A Renegado of indifferent fame.

XCV.
But he grew rich, and with his riches grew so
Keen the desire to see his home again,
He thought himself in duty bound to do so,
And not be always thieving on the Main;
Lonely he felt at times as Robin Crusoe,
And so he hired a vessel come from Spain,
Bound for Corfu: she was a fine polacca,
Mann'd with twelve hands, and laden with tobacco.

XCVI.
Himself, and much (Heaven knows how gotten!) Cash,
He then embark'd, with risk of life and limb,
And got clear off, although the attempt was rash.
He said that Providence protected him;
For my part, I say nothing--lest we clash
In our opinions--well, the Ship was trim,
Set sail, and kept her reckoning fairly on,
Except three days of calm when off Cape Bonn.

XCVII.
They reach'd the Island, he transferr'd his lading
And self and live stock to another bottom,
And pass'd for a true Turkey-Merchant, trading
With goods of various names--but I've forgot 'em.
However, he got off by this evading,
Or else the people would perhaps have shot him;
And thus at Venice landed to reclaim
His wife, religion, house, and Christian name.

XCVIII.
His Wife received, the Patriarch re-baptised him
(He made the Church a present, by the way);
He then threw off the Garments which disguised him
And borrow'd the Count's small clothes for a day:
His friends the more for his long absence prized him,
Finding he'd wherewithal to make them gay,
With dinners--where he oft became the laugh of them;
For stories--but I don’t believe the half of them.

XCIX.
Whate'er his Youth had suffer'd, his old Age
With wealth and talking made him some amends;
Though Laura sometimes put him in a rage,
I've heard the Count and He were always friends.
My pen is at the bottom of a page,
Which being finish'd, here the story ends;
'Tis to be wish'd it had been sooner done,
But Stories somehow lengthen when begun.

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Byron

Beppo

I.
'Tis known, at least it should be, that throughout
All countries of the Catholic persuasion,
Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about,
The people take their fill of recreation,
And buy repentance, ere they grow devout,
However high their rank, or low their station,
With fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masking,
And other things which may be had for asking.

II.
The moment night with dusky mantle covers
The skies (and the more duskily the better),
The time less liked by husbands than by lovers
Begins, and prudery flings aside her fetter;
And gaiety on restless tiptoe hovers,
Giggling with all the gallants who beset her;
And there are songs and quavers, roaring, humming,
Guitars, and every other sort of strumming.

III.
And there are dresses splendid, but fantastical,
Masks of all times and nations, Turks and Jews,
And harlequins and clowns, with feats gymnastical,
Greeks, Romans, Yankee-doodles, and Hindoos;
All kinds of dress, except the ecclesiastical,
All people, as their fancies hit, may choose,
But no one in these parts may quiz the clergy, —
Therefore take heed, ye Freethinkers! I charge ye.

IV.
You'd better walk about begirt with briars,
Instead of coat and smallclothes, than put on
A single stitch reflecting upon friars,
Although you swore it only was in fun;
They'd haul you o'er the coals, and stir the fires
Of Phlegethon with every mother's son,
Nor say one mass to cool the caldron's bubble
That boil'd your bones, unless you paid them double.

V.
But saving this, you may put on whate'er
You like by way of doublet, cape, or cloak.
Such as in Monmouth-street, or in Rag Fair,
Would rig you out in seriousness or joke;
And even in Italy such places are,
With prettier name in softer accents spoke,
For, bating Covent Garden, I can hit on
No place that's called "Piazza" in<