I Dont Write Poetry!
i dont write poetry...
i sweat poetry, i drink poetry,
i breathe poetry, i make love to poetry,
i fight poetry, i eat poetry,
i bleed poetry, i crap poetry...
too often i betray poetry,
sometimes i dropp poetry.
once i tripped over poetry,
got angry and kicked poetry.
i rocked poetry on a sleepless night,
i buried poetry on the hill...
i lived poetry, for i am poetry...
no, i dont write poetry,
but poetry writes me!
Where Your Gold is Buried
No honey on the lake of concrete:
A yard of concrete costs a buck, and you can
Cover all of the beautiful vineyard
For a penny,
And the entire hills will roll like a marble
But I still wish I was in Colorado,
Stealing a beautiful mother,
Going to get laid;
And I loved- I loved a bird.
I loved a salamander, so long I loved:
Atop the apexes of rotting houses,
Alone: Mermaids and naked creatures undressed
Screaming for the pot and without guns or
And nothing but the night is still waiting for me,
And the swings are waiting to take me nearer
The pine trees’ ankles,
While a housewife in South Africa loves me,
And I her:
And I love the gentle tears you might shed if you
Ever thought to climb high enough to get to
Where I’ve been,
Riding the narrow gauge backs of slender trains,
Because you are the only good muse I know,
And I want to make love to you inside blue tents,
While hiding a lamp close to your
Choreographed backside as it leaps like a fairytale,
Because I am mystified by every river of your being,
And I most earnestly wish to know
Where your gold is buried.
- quotes about dollars
- quotes about Africa
- quotes about beauty
- quotes about screams
- quotes about birds
- quotes about blue
- quotes about height
- quotes about peace
Poetry Writes Us!
we dont write poetry...
poetry writes us,
the very fibre of our beings,
the flesh of our actions.
falling, broken, and vulnerable,
human mistakes and failings,
colored by love's passion;
the needing, wanting, striving
to touch and be touched,
to hold and be held,
to dance free of our bonds....
brothers and sisters to the wind.
woven together by suffering,
crying out for the light,
alive, and naked....
the song, and the pulse!
Poetry At 4: 09 A.m., Numb Left Arm, And Fear
discover that poetry
are mere feelings, others
who succeed at this
craft have nothing
to tell really,
falling out of logic
and taking side
like a slide show of
with their overprotective
riding on teacups and
know that poetry is
a crutch, a dam of
emotions, to protect
the fields of corn
below the belly of
the great river
you write more with
a numb left arm now,
the fear spreading
on the chest, as the hour
gets creepy, and
threatens you with
a sad goodbye.
there is a rush here
to take the bus
you're late for almost
it is raining and you
have no umbrella,
you step inside
only to find that
the heel of your right
shoe is broken.
fear has more to offer
now, than love and lust.
and then, you keep on
writing about it,
as though, words can
- quotes about umbrellas
- quotes about rain
- quotes about myth
- quotes about volunteer
- quotes about worry
- quotes about time
- quotes about hours
- quotes about sadness
A Fable For Critics
Phoebus, sitting one day in a laurel-tree's shade,
Was reminded of Daphne, of whom it was made,
For the god being one day too warm in his wooing,
She took to the tree to escape his pursuing;
Be the cause what it might, from his offers she shrunk,
And, Ginevra-like, shut herself up in a trunk;
And, though 'twas a step into which he had driven her,
He somehow or other had never forgiven her;
Her memory he nursed as a kind of a tonic,
Something bitter to chew when he'd play the Byronic,
And I can't count the obstinate nymphs that he brought over
By a strange kind of smile he put on when he thought of her.
'My case is like Dido's,' he sometimes remarked;
'When I last saw my love, she was fairly embarked
In a laurel, as _she_ thought-but (ah, how Fate mocks!)
She has found it by this time a very bad box;
Let hunters from me take this saw when they need it,-
You're not always sure of your game when you've treed it.
Just conceive such a change taking place in one's mistress!
What romance would be left?-who can flatter or kiss trees?
And, for mercy's sake, how could one keep up a dialogue
With a dull wooden thing that will live and will die a log,-
Not to say that the thought would forever intrude
That you've less chance to win her the more she is wood?
Ah! it went to my heart, and the memory still grieves,
To see those loved graces all taking their leaves;
Those charms beyond speech, so enchanting but now,
As they left me forever, each making its bough!
If her tongue _had_ a tang sometimes more than was right,
Her new bark is worse than ten times her old bite.'
Now, Daphne-before she was happily treeified-
Over all other blossoms the lily had deified,
And when she expected the god on a visit
('Twas before he had made his intentions explicit),
Some buds she arranged with a vast deal of care,
To look as if artlessly twined in her hair,
Where they seemed, as he said, when he paid his addresses,
Like the day breaking through, the long night of her tresses;
So whenever he wished to be quite irresistible,
Like a man with eight trumps in his hand at a whist-table
(I feared me at first that the rhyme was untwistable,
Though I might have lugged in an allusion to Cristabel),-
He would take up a lily, and gloomily look in it,
As I shall at the--, when they cut up my book in it.
Well, here, after all the bad rhyme I've been spinning,
I've got back at last to my story's beginning:
Sitting there, as I say, in the shade of his mistress,
As dull as a volume of old Chester mysteries,
Or as those puzzling specimens which, in old histories,
We read of his verses-the Oracles, namely,-
(I wonder the Greeks should have swallowed them tamely,
For one might bet safely whatever he has to risk,
They were laid at his door by some ancient Miss Asterisk,
And so dull that the men who retailed them out-doors
Got the ill name of augurs, because they were bores,-)
First, he mused what the animal substance or herb is
Would induce a mustache, for you know he's _imberbis;_
Then he shuddered to think how his youthful position
Was assailed by the age of his son the physician;
At some poems he glanced, had been sent to him lately,
And the metre and sentiment puzzled him greatly;
'Mehercle! I'd make such proceeding felonious,-
Have they all of them slept in the cave of Trophonius?
Look well to your seat, 'tis like taking an airing
On a corduroy road, and that out of repairing;
It leads one, 'tis true, through the primitive forest,
Grand natural features, but then one has no rest;
You just catch a glimpse of some ravishing distance,
When a jolt puts the whole of it out of existence,-
Why not use their ears, if they happen to have any?'
-Here the laurel leaves murmured the name of poor Daphne.
'Oh, weep with me, Daphne,' he sighed, 'for you know it's
A terrible thing to be pestered with poets!
But, alas, she is dumb, and the proverb holds good,
She never will cry till she's out of the wood!
What wouldn't I give if I never had known of her?
'Twere a kind of relief had I something to groan over:
If I had but some letters of hers, now, to toss over,
I might turn for the nonce a Byronic philosopher,
And bewitch all the flats by bemoaning the loss of her.
One needs something tangible, though, to begin on,-
A loom, as it were, for the fancy to spin on;
What boots all your grist? it can never be ground
Till a breeze makes the arms of the windmill go round;
(Or, if 'tis a water-mill, alter the metaphor,
And say it won't stir, save the wheel be well wet afore,
Or lug in some stuff about water 'so dreamily,'-
It is not a metaphor, though, 'tis a simile):
A lily, perhaps, would set _my_ mill a-going,
For just at this season, I think, they are blowing.
Here, somebody, fetch one; not very far hence
They're in bloom by the score, 'tis but climbing a fence;
There's a poet hard by, who does nothing but fill his
Whole garden, from one end to t'other, with lilies;
A very good plan, were it not for satiety,
One longs for a weed here and there, for variety;
Though a weed is no more than a flower in disguise,
Which is seen through at once, if love give a man eyes.'
Now there happened to be among Phoebus's followers,
A gentleman, one of the omnivorous swallowers,
Who bolt every book that comes out of the press,
Without the least question of larger or less,
Whose stomachs are strong at the expense of their head,-
For reading new books is like eating new bread,
One can bear it at first, but by gradual steps he
Is brought to death's door of a mental dyspepsy.
On a previous stage of existence, our Hero
Had ridden outside, with the glass below zero;
He had been, 'tis a fact you may safely rely on,
Of a very old stock a most eminent scion,-
A stock all fresh quacks their fierce boluses ply on,
Who stretch the new boots Earth's unwilling to try on,
Whom humbugs of all shapes and sorts keep their eye on,
Whose hair's in the mortar of every new Zion,
Who, when whistles are dear, go directly and buy one,
Who think slavery a crime that we must not say fie on,
Who hunt, if they e'er hunt at all, with the lion
(Though they hunt lions also, whenever they spy one),
Who contrive to make every good fortune a wry one,
And at last choose the hard bed of honor to die on,
Whose pedigree, traced to earth's earliest years,
Is longer than anything else but their ears,-
In short, he was sent into life with the wrong key,
He unlocked the door, and stept forth a poor donkey.
Though kicked and abused by his bipedal betters
Yet he filled no mean place in the kingdom of letters;
Far happier than many a literary hack,
He bore only paper-mill rags on his back
(For It makes a vast difference which side the mill
One expends on the paper his labor and skill):
So, when his soul waited a new transmigration,
And Destiny balanced 'twixt this and that station,
Not having much time to expend upon bothers,
Remembering he'd had some connection with authors,
And considering his four legs had grown paralytic,-
She set him on two, and he came forth a critic.
Through his babyhood no kind of pleasure he took
In any amusement but tearing a book;
For him there was no intermediate stage
From babyhood up to straight-laced middle age;
There were years when he didn't wear coat-tails behind,
But a boy he could never be rightly defined;
like the Irish Good Folk, though in length scarce a span,
From the womb he came gravely, a little old man;
While other boys' trousers demanded the toil
Of the motherly fingers on all kinds of soil,
Red, yellow, brown, black, clayey, gravelly, loamy,
He sat in the corner and read Viri Romae.
He never was known to unbend or to revel once
In base, marbles, hockey, or kick up the devil once;
He was just one of those who excite the benevolence
Of your old prigs who sound the soul's depths with a ledger,
And are on the lookout for some young men to 'edger-
cate,' as they call it, who won't be too costly,
And who'll afterward take to the ministry mostly;
Who always wear spectacles, always look bilious,
Always keep on good terms with each _mater-familias_
Throughout the whole parish, and manage to rear
Ten boys like themselves, on four hundred a year:
Who, fulfilling in turn the same fearful conditions,
Either preach through their noses, or go upon missions.
In this way our Hero got safely to college,
Where he bolted alike both his commons and knowledge;
A reading-machine, always wound up and going,
He mastered whatever was not worth the knowing,
Appeared in a gown, with black waistcoat of satin,
To spout such a Gothic oration in Latin
That Tully could never have made out a word in it
(Though himself was the model the author preferred in it),
And grasping the parchment which gave him in fee
All the mystic and-so-forths contained in A.B.,
He was launched (life is always compared to a sea)
With just enough learning, and skill for the using it,
To prove he'd a brain, by forever confusing it.
So worthy St. Benedict, piously burning
With the holiest zeal against secular learning,
_Nesciensque scienter_, as writers express it,
_Indoctusque sapienter a Roma recessit_.
'Twould be endless to tell you the things that he knew,
Each a separate fact, undeniably true,
But with him or each other they'd nothing to do;
No power of combining, arranging, discerning,
Digested the masses he learned into learning;
There was one thing in life he had practical knowledge for
(And this, you will think, he need scarce go to college for),-
Not a deed would he do, nor a word would he utter,
Till he'd weighed its relations to plain bread and butter.
When he left Alma Mater, he practised his wits
In compiling the journals' historical bits,-
Of shops broken open, men falling in fits,
Great fortunes in England bequeathed to poor printers,
And cold spells, the coldest for many past winters,-
Then, rising by industry, knack, and address,
Got notices up for an unbiased press,
With a mind so well poised, it seemed equally made for
Applause or abuse, just which chanced to be paid for:
From this point his progress was rapid and sure,
To the post of a regular heavy reviewer.
And here I must say he wrote excellent articles
On Hebraical points, or the force of Greek particles;
They filled up the space nothing else was prepared for,
And nobody read that which nobody cared for;
If any old book reached a fiftieth edition,
He could fill forty pages with safe erudition:
He could gauge the old books by the old set of rules,
And his very old nothings pleased very old fools;
But give him a new book, fresh out of the heart,
And you put him at sea without compass or chart,-
His blunders aspired to the rank of an art;
For his lore was engraft, something foreign that grew in him,
Exhausting the sap of the native and true in him,
So that when a man came with a soul that was new in him,
Carving new forms of truth out of Nature's old granite,
New and old at their birth, like Le Verrier's planet,
Which, to get a true judgment, themselves must create
In the soul of their critic the measure and weight,
Being rather themselves a fresh standard of grace,
To compute their own judge, and assign him his place,
Our reviewer would crawl all about it and round it,
And, reporting each circumstance just as he found it,
Without the least malice,-his record would be
Profoundly aesthetic as that of a flea,
Which, supping on Wordsworth, should print for our sakes,
Recollections of nights with the Bard of the Lakes,
Or, lodged by an Arab guide, ventured to render a
Comprehensive account of the ruins at Denderah.
As I said, he was never precisely unkind.
The defect in his brain was just absence of mind;
If he boasted, 'twas simply that he was self-made,
A position which I, for one, never gainsaid,
My respect for my Maker supposing a skill
In his works which our Hero would answer but ill;
And I trust that the mould which he used may be cracked, or he,
Made bold by success, may enlarge his phylactery,
And set up a kind of a man-manufactory,-
An event which I shudder to think about, seeing
That Man is a moral, accountable being.
He meant well enough, but was still in the way,
As dunces still are, let them be where they may;
Indeed, they appear to come into existence
To impede other folks with their awkward assistance;
If you set up a dunce on the very North pole
All alone with himself, I believe, on my soul,
He'd manage to get betwixt somebody's shins,
And pitch him down bodily, all in his sins,
To the grave polar bears sitting round on the ice,
All shortening their grace, to be in for a slice;
Or, if he found nobody else there to pother,
Why, one of his legs would just trip up the other,
For there's nothing we read of in torture's inventions,
Like a well-meaning dunce, with the best of intentions.
A terrible fellow to meet in society,
Not the toast that he buttered was ever so dry at tea;
There he'd sit at the table and stir in his sugar,
Crouching close for a spring, all the while, like a cougar;
Be sure of your facts, of your measures and weights,
Of your time,-he's as fond as an Arab of dates;
You'll be telling, perhaps, in your comical way,
Of something you've seen in the course of the day;
And, just as you're tapering out the conclusion,
You venture an ill-fated classic allusion,-
The girls have all got their laughs ready, when, whack!
The cougar comes down on your thunderstruck back!
You had left out a comma,-your Greek's put in joint,
And pointed at cost of your story's whole point.
In the course of the evening, you find chance for certain
Soft speeches to Anne, in the shade of the curtain:
You tell her your heart can be likened to _one_ flower,
'And that, O most charming of women, 's the sunflower,
Which turns'-here a clear nasal voice, to your terror,
From outside the curtain, says, 'That's all an error.'
As for him, he's-no matter, he never grew tender,
Sitting after a ball, with his feet on the fender,
Shaping somebody's sweet features out of cigar smoke
(Though he'd willingly grant you that such doings are smoke):
All women he damns with _mutabile semper_,
And if ever he felt something like love's distemper,
'Twas tow'rds a young lady who spoke ancient Mexican,
And assisted her father in making a lexicon;
Though I recollect hearing him get quite ferocious
About Mary Clausum, the mistress of Grotius,
Or something of that sort,-but, no more to bore ye
With character-painting, I'll turn to my story.
Now, Apollo, who finds it convenient sometimes
To get his court clear of the makers of rhymes,
The _genus_, I think it is called, _irritabile_,
Every one of whom thinks himself treated most shabbily,
And nurses a-what is it?-_immedicabile_,
Which keeps him at boiling-point, hot for a quarrel,
As bitter as wormwood, and sourer than sorrel,
If any poor devil but look at a laurel;-
Apollo, I say, being sick of their rioting
(Though he sometimes acknowledged their verse had a quieting
Effect after dinner, and seemed to suggest a
Retreat to the shrine of a tranquil siesta),
Kept our Hero at hand, who, by means of a bray,
Which he gave to the life, drove the rabble away;
And if that wouldn't do, he was sure to succeed,
If he took his review out and offered to read;
Or, failing in plans of this milder description,
He would ask for their aid to get up a subscription,
Considering that authorship wasn't a rich craft,
To print the 'American drama of Witchcraft.'
'Stay, I'll read you a scene,'-but he hardly began,
Ere Apollo shrieked 'Help!' and the authors all ran:
And once, when these purgatives acted with less spirit,
And the desperate case asked a remedy desperate,
He drew from his pocket a foolscap epistle
As calmly as if 'twere a nine-barrelled pistol,
And threatened them all with the judgment to come,
Of 'A wandering Star's first impressions of Rome.'
'Stop! stop!' with their hands o'er their ears, screamed the Muses,
'He may go off and murder himself, if he chooses,
'Twas a means self-defence only sanctioned his trying,
'Tis mere massacre now that the enemy's flying;
If he's forced to 't again, and we happen to be there,
Give us each a large handkerchief soaked in strong ether.'
I called this a 'Fable for Critics;' you think it's
More like a display of my rhythmical trinkets;
My plot, like an icicle's slender and slippery,
Every moment more slender, and likely to slip awry,
And the reader unwilling _in loco desipere_
Is free to jump over as much of my frippery
As he fancies, and, if he's a provident skipper, he
May have like Odysseus control of the gales,
And get safe to port, ere his patience quite fails;
Moreover, although 'tis a slender return
For your toil and expense, yet my paper will burn,
And, if you have manfully struggled thus far with me,
You may e'en twist me up, and just light your cigar with me:
If too angry for that, you can tear me in pieces,
And my _membra disjecta_ consign to the breezes,
A fate like great Ratzau's, whom one of those bores,
Who beflead with bad verses poor Louis Quatorze,
Describes (the first verse somehow ends with _victoire_),
As _dispersant partout et ses membres et sa gloire;_
Or, if I were over-desirous of earning
A repute among noodles for classical learning,
I could pick you a score of allusions, i-wis,
As new as the jests of _Didaskalos tis;_
Better still, I could make out a good solid list
From authors recondite who do not exist,-
But that would be naughty: at least, I could twist
Something out of Absyrtus, or turn your inquiries
After Milton's prose metaphor, drawn from Osiris;
But, as Cicero says he won't say this or that
(A fetch, I must say, most transparent and flat),
After saying whate'er he could possibly think of,-
I simply will state that I pause on the brink of
A mire, ankle-deep, of deliberate confusion,
Made up of old jumbles of classic allusion:
So, when you were thinking yourselves to be pitied,
Just conceive how much harder your teeth you'd have gritted,
An 'twere not for the dulness I've kindly omitted.
I'd apologize here for my many digressions.
Were it not that I'm certain to trip into fresh ones
('Tis so hard to escape if you get in their mesh once):
Just reflect, if you please, how 'tis said by Horatius,
That Maeonides nods now and then, and, my gracious!
It certainly does look a little bit ominous
When he gets under way with _ton d'apameibomenos_.
(Here a something occurs which I'll just clap a rhyme to,
And say it myself, ere a Zoilus have time to,-
Any author a nap like Van Winkle's may take,
If he only contrive to keep readers awake,
But he'll very soon find himself laid on the shelf,
If _they_ fall a-nodding when he nods himself.)
Once for all, to return, and to stay, will I, nill I-
When Phoebus expressed his desire for a lily,
Our Hero, whose homoeopathic sagacity
With an ocean of zeal mixed his dropp of capacity,
Set off for the garden as fast as the wind
(Or, to take a comparison more to my mind,
As a sound politician leaves conscience behind).
And leaped the low fence, as a party hack jumps
O'er his principles, when something else turns up trumps.
He was gone a long time, and Apollo, meanwhile,
Went over some sonnets of his with a file,
For, of all compositions, he thought that the sonnet
Best repaid all the toil you expended upon it;
It should reach with one impulse the end of its course,
And for one final blow collect all of its force;
Not a verse should be salient, but each one should tend
With a wave-like up-gathering to break at the end;
So, condensing the strength here, there smoothing a wry kink,
He was killing the time, when up walked Mr. D--,
At a few steps behind him, a small man in glasses
Went dodging about, muttering, 'Murderers! asses!'
From out of his pocket a paper he'd take,
With a proud look of martyrdom tied to its stake,
And, reading a squib at himself, he'd say, 'Here I see
'Gainst American letters a bloody conspiracy,
They are all by my personal enemies written;
I must post an anonymous letter to Britain,
And show that this gall is the merest suggestion
Of spite at my zeal on the Copyright question,
For, on this side the water, 'tis prudent to pull
O'er the eyes of the public their national wool,
By accusing of slavish respect to John Bull
All American authors who have more or less
Of that anti-American humbug-success,
While in private we're always embracing the knees
Of some twopenny editor over the seas,
And licking his critical shoes, for you know 'tis
The whole aim of our lives to get one English notice;
My American puffs I would willingly burn all
(They're all from one source, monthly, weekly, diurnal)
To get but a kick from a transmarine journal!'
So, culling the gibes of each critical scorner
As if they were plums, and himself were Jack Horner,
He came cautiously on, peeping round every corner,
And into each hole where a weasel might pass in,
Expecting the knife of some critic assassin,
Who stabs to the heart with a caricature.
Not so bad as those daubs of the Sun, to be sure,
Yet done with a dagger-o'-type, whose vile portraits
Disperse all one's good and condense all one's poor traits.
Apollo looked up, hearing footsteps approaching,
And slipped out of sight the new rhymes he was broaching,-
'Good day, Mr. D--, I'm happy to meet
With a scholar so ripe, and a critic so neat,
Who through Grub Street the soul of a gentleman carries;
What news from that suburb of London and Paris
Which latterly makes such shrill claims to monopolize
The credit of being the New World's metropolis?'
'Why, nothing of consequence, save this attack
On my friend there, behind, by some pitiful hack,
Who thinks every national author a poor one,
That isn't a copy of something that's foreign,
And assaults the American Dick-'
Nay, 'tis clear
That your Damon there's fond of a flea in his ear,
And, if no one else furnished them gratis, on tick
He would buy some himself, just to hear the old click;
Why, I honestly think, if some fool in Japan
Should turn up his nose at the 'Poems on Man,'
(Which contain many verses as fine, by the bye,
As any that lately came under my eye,)
Your friend there by some inward instinct would know it,
Would get it translated, reprinted, and show it;
As a man might take off a high stock to exhibit
The autograph round his own neck of the gibbet;
Nor would let it rest so, but fire column after column,
Signed Cato, or Brutus, or something as solemn,
By way of displaying his critical crosses,
And tweaking that poor transatlantic proboscis,
His broadsides resulting (this last there's no doubt of)
In successively sinking the craft they're fired out of.
Now nobody knows when an author is hit,
If he have not a public hysterical fit;
Let him only keep close in his snug garret's dim ether,
And nobody'd think of his foes-or of him either;
If an author have any least fibre of worth in him,
Abuse would but tickle the organ of mirth in him;
All the critics on earth cannot crush with their ban
One word that's in tune with the nature of man.'
'Well, perhaps so; meanwhile I have brought you a book,
Into which if you'll just have the goodness to look,
You may feel so delighted (when once you are through it)
As to deem it not unworth your while to review it,
And I think I can promise your thoughts, if you do,
A place in the next Democratic Review.'
'The most thankless of gods you must surely have thought me,
For this is the forty-fourth copy you've brought me;
I have given them away, or at least I have tried,
But I've forty-two left, standing all side by side
(The man who accepted that one copy died),-
From one end of a shelf to the other they reach,
'With the author's respects' neatly written in each.
The publisher, sure, will proclaim a Te Deum,
When he hears of that order the British Museum
Has sent for one set of what books were first printed
In America, little or big,-for 'tis hinted
That this is the first truly tangible hope he
Has ever had raised for the sale of a copy.
I've thought very often 'twould be a good thing
In all public collections of books, if a wing
Were set off by itself, like the seas from the dry lands,
Marked _Literature suited to desolate islands_,
And filled with such books as could never be read
Save by readers of proofs, forced to do it for bread,-
Such books as one's wrecked on in small country taverns,
Such as hermits might mortify over in caverns,
Such as Satan, if printing had then been invented,
As the climax of woe, would to Job have presented.
Such as Crusoe might dip in, although there are few so
Outrageously cornered by fate as poor Crusoe;
And since the philanthropists just now are banging
And gibbeting all who're in favor of hanging
(Though Cheever has proved that the Bible and Altar
Were let down from Heaven at the end of a halter.
And that vital religion would dull and grow callous,
Unrefreshed, now and then, with a sniff of the gallows),-
And folks are beginning to think it looks odd,
To choke a poor scamp for the glory of God;
And that He who esteems the Virginia reel
A bait to draw saints from their spiritual weal,
And regards the quadrille as a far greater knavery
Than crushing his African children with slavery,-
Since all who take part in a waltz or cotillon
Are mounted for hell on the Devil's own pillion,
Who, as every true orthodox Christian well knows,
Approaches the heart through the door of the toes,-
That He, I was saying, whose judgments are stored
For such as take steps in despite of his word,
Should look with delight on the agonized prancing
Of a wretch who has not the least ground for his dancing,
While the State, standing by, sings a verse from the Psalter
About offering to God on his favorite halter,
And, when the legs droop from their twitching divergence,
Sells the clothes to a Jew, and the corpse to the surgeons;-
Now, instead of all this, I think I can direct you all
To a criminal code both humane and effectual;-
I propose to shut up every doer of wrong
With these desperate books, for such term, short or long,
As, by statute in such cases made and provided,
Shall be by your wise legislators decided:
Thus: Let murderers be shut, to grow wiser and cooler,
At hard labor for life on the works of Miss--;
Petty thieves, kept from flagranter crimes by their fears,
Shall peruse Yankee Doodle a blank term of years,-
That American Punch, like the English, no doubt,-
Just the sugar and lemons and spirit left out.
'But stay, here comes Tityrus Griswold, and leads on
The flocks whom he first plucks alive, and then feeds on,-
A loud-cackling swarm, in whose leathers warm drest,
He goes for as perfect a-swan as the rest.
'There comes Emerson first, whose rich words, every one,
Are like gold nails in temples to hang trophies on,
Whose prose is grand verse, while his verse, the Lord knows,
Is some of it pr-- No, 'tis not even prose;
I'm speaking of metres; some poems have welled
From those rare depths of soul that have ne'er been excelled;
They're not epics, but that doesn't matter a pin,
In creating, the only hard thing's to begin;
A grass-blade's no easier to make than an oak;
If you've once found the way, you've achieved the grand stroke;
In the worst of his poems are mines of rich matter,
But thrown in a heap with a crash and a clatter;
Now it is not one thing nor another alone
Makes a poem, but rather the general tone,
The something pervading, uniting the whole,
The before unconceived, unconceivable soul,
So that just in removing this trifle or that, you
Take away, as it were, a chief limb of the statue;
Roots, wood, bark, and leaves singly perfect may be,
But, clapt hodge-podge together, they don't make a tree.
'But, to come back to Emerson (whom, by the way,
I believe we left waiting),-his is, we may say,
A Greek head on right Yankee shoulders, whose range
Has Olympus for one pole, for t'other the Exchange;
He seems, to my thinking (although I'm afraid
The comparison must, long ere this, have been made),
A Plotinus-Montaigne, where the Egyptian's gold mist
And the Gascon's shrewd wit cheek-by-jowl coexist;
All admire, and yet scarcely six converts he's got
To I don't (nor they either) exactly know what;
For though he builds glorious temples, 'tis odd
He leaves never a doorway to get in a god.
'Tis refreshing to old-fashioned people like me
To meet such a primitive Pagan as he,
In whose mind all creation is duly respected
As parts of himself-just a little projected;
And who's willing to worship the stars and the sun,
A convert to-nothing but Emerson.
So perfect a balance there is in his head,
That he talks of things sometimes as if they were dead;
Life, nature, love, God, and affairs of that sort,
He looks at as merely ideas; in short,
As if they were fossils stuck round in a cabinet,
Of such vast extent that our earth's a mere dab in it;
Composed just as he is inclined to conjecture her,
Namely, one part pure earth, ninety-nine parts pure lecturer;
You are filled with delight at his clear demonstration,
Each figure, word, gesture, just fits the occasion,
With the quiet precision of science he'll sort 'em,
But you can't help suspecting the whole a _post mortem_.
'There are persons, mole-blind to the soul's make and style,
Who insist on a likeness 'twixt him and Carlyle;
To compare him with Plato would be vastly fairer,
Carlyle's the more burly, but E. is the rarer;
He sees fewer objects, but clearlier, truelier,
If C.'s as original, E.'s more peculiar;
That he's more of a man you might say of the one,
Of the other he's more of an Emerson;
C.'s the Titan, as shaggy of mind as of limb,-
E. the clear-eyed Olympian, rapid and slim;
The one's two thirds Norseman, the other half Greek,
Where the one's most abounding, the other's to seek;
C.'s generals require to be seen in the mass,-
E.'s specialties gain if enlarged by the glass;
C. gives nature and God his own fits of the blues,
And rims common-sense things with mystical hues,-
E. sits in a mystery calm and intense,
And looks coolly around him with sharp common-sense;
C. shows you how every-day matters unite
With the dim transdiurnal recesses of night,-
While E., in a plain, preternatural way,
Makes mysteries matters of mere every day;
C. draws all his characters quite _a la_ Fuseli,-
Not sketching their bundles of muscles and thews illy,
He paints with a brush so untamed and profuse,
They seem nothing but bundles of muscles and thews;
E. is rather like Flaxman, lines strait and severe,
And a colorless outline, but full, round, and clear;-
To the men he thinks worthy he frankly accords
The design of a white marble statue in words.
C. labors to get at the centre, and then
Take a reckoning from there of his actions and men;
E. calmly assumes the said centre as granted,
And, given himself, has whatever is wanted.
'He has imitators in scores, who omit
No part of the man but his wisdom and wit,-
Who go carefully o'er the sky-blue of his brain,
And when he has skimmed it once, skim it again;
If at all they resemble him, you may be sure it is
Because their shoals mirror his mists and obscurities,
As a mud-puddle seems deep as heaven for a minute,
While a cloud that floats o'er is reflected within it.
'There comes--, for instance; to see him's rare sport,
Tread in Emerson's tracks with legs painfully short;
How he jumps, how he strains, and gets red in the face.
To keep step with the mystagogue's natural pace!
He follows as close as a stick to a rocket,
His fingers exploring the prophet's each pocket.
Fie, for shame, brother bard; with good fruit of your own,
Can't you let Neighbor Emerson's orchards alone?
Besides, 'tis no use, you'll not find e'en a core,-
-- has picked up all the windfalls before.
They might strip every tree, and E. never would catch 'em,
His Hesperides have no rude dragon to watch 'em;
When they send him a dishful, and ask him to try 'em,
He never suspects how the sly rogues came by 'em;
He wonders why 'tis there are none such his trees on,
And thinks 'em the best he has tasted this season.
'Yonder, calm as a cloud, Alcott stalks in a dream,
And fancies himself in thy groves, Academe,
With the Parthenon nigh, and the olive-trees o'er him,
And never a fact to perplex him or bore him,
With a snug room at Plato's when night comes, to walk to,
And people from morning till midnight to talk to,
And from midnight till morning, nor snore in their listening;-
So he muses, his face with the joy of it glistening,
For his highest conceit of a happiest state is
Where they'd live upon acorns, and hear him talk gratis;
And indeed, I believe, no man ever talked better,-
Each sentence hangs perfectly poised to a letter;
He seems piling words, but there's royal dust hid
In the heart of each sky-piercing pyramid.
While he talks he is great, but goes out like a taper,
If you shut him up closely with pen, ink, and paper;
Yet his fingers itch for 'em from morning till night,
And he thinks he does wrong if he don't always write;
In this, as in all things, a lamb among men,
He goes to sure death when he goes to his pen.
'Close behind him is Brownson, his mouth very full
With attempting to gulp a Gregorian bull;
Who contrives, spite of that, to pour out as he goes
A stream of transparent and forcible prose;
He shifts quite about, then proceeds to expound
That 'tis merely the earth, not himself, that turns round,
And wishes it clearly impressed on your mind
That the weathercock rules and not follows the wind;
Proving first, then as deftly confuting each side,
With no doctrine pleased that's not somewhere denied,
He lays the denier away on the shelf,
And then-down beside him lies gravely himself.
He's the Salt River boatman, who always stands willing
To convey friend or foe without charging a shilling,
And so fond of the trip that, when leisure's to spare,
He'll row himself up, if he can't get a fare.
The worst of it is, that his logic's so strong,
That of two sides he commonly chooses the wrong;
If there is only one, why, he'll split it in two,
And first pummel this half, then that, black and blue.
That white's white needs no proof, but it takes a deep fellow
To prove it jet-black, and that jet-black is yellow.
He offers the true faith to drink in a sieve,-
When it reaches your lips there's naught left to believe
But a few silly-(syllo-, I mean,)-gisms that squat 'em
Like tadpoles, o'erjoyed with the mud at the bottom.
'There is Willis, all _natty_ and jaunty and gay,
Who says his best things in so foppish a way,
With conceits and pet phrases so thickly o'erlaying 'em,
That one hardly knows whether to thank him for saying 'em;
Over-ornament ruins both poem and prose,
Just conceive of a Muse with a ring in her nose!
His prose had a natural grace of its own,
And enough of it, too, if he'd let it alone;
But he twitches and jerks so, one fairly gets tired,
And is forced to forgive where one might have admired;
Yet whenever it slips away free and unlaced,
It runs like a stream with a musical waste,
And gurgles along with the liquidest sweep;-
'Tis not deep as a river, but who'd have it deep?
In a country where scarcely a village is found
That has not its author sublime and profound,
For some one to be slightly shallow's a duty,
And Willis's shallowness makes half his beauty.
His prose winds along with a blithe, gurgling error,
And reflects all of Heaven it can see in its mirror:
'Tis a narrowish strip, but it is not an artifice;
'Tis the true out-of-doors with its genuine hearty phiz;
It is Nature herself, and there's something in that,
Since most brains reflect but the crown of a hat.
Few volumes I know to read under a tree,
More truly delightful than his A l'Abri,
With the shadows of leaves flowing over your book,
Like ripple-shades netting the bed of a brook;
With June coming softly your shoulder to look over,
Breezes waiting to turn every leaf of your book over,
And Nature to criticise still as you read,-
The page that bears that is a rare one indeed.
'He's so innate a cockney, that had he been born
Where plain bare-skin's the only full-dress that is worn,
He'd have given his own such an air that you'd say
'T had been made by a tailor to lounge in Broadway.
His nature's a glass of champagne with the foam on 't,
As tender as Fletcher, as witty as Beaumont;
So his best things are done in the flush of the moment;
If he wait, all is spoiled; he may stir it and shake it,
But, the fixed air once gone, he can never re-make it.
He might be a marvel of easy delightfulness,
If he would not sometimes leave the _r_ out of sprightfulness;
And he ought to let Scripture alone-'tis self-slaughter,
For nobody likes inspiration-and-water.
He'd have been just the fellow to sup at the Mermaid,
Cracking jokes at rare Ben, with an eye to the barmaid,
His wit running up as Canary ran down,-
The topmost bright bubble on the wave of The Town.
'Here comes Parker, the Orson of parsons, a man
Whom the Church undertook to put under her ban
(The Church of Socinus, I mean),-his opinions
Being So-(ultra)-cinian, they shocked the Socinians:
They believed-faith, I'm puzzled-I think I may call
Their belief a believing in nothing at all,
Or something of that sort; I know they all went
For a general union of total dissent:
He went a step farther; without cough or hem,
He frankly avowed he believed not in them;
And, before he could be jumbled up or prevented,
From their orthodox kind of dissent he dissented.
There was heresy here, you perceive, for the right
Of privately judging means simply that light
Has been granted to _me_, for deciding on _you;_
And in happier times, before Atheism grew,
The deed contained clauses for cooking you too:
Now at Xerxes and Knut we all laugh, yet our foot
With the same wave is wet that mocked Xerxes and Knut,
And we all entertain a secure private notion,
That our _Thus far!_ will have a great weight with the ocean,
'Twas so with our liberal Christians: they bore
With sincerest conviction their chairs to the shore;
They brandished their worn theological birches,
Bade natural progress keep out of the Churches,
And expected the lines they had drawn to prevail
With the fast-rising tide to keep out of their pale;
They had formerly dammed the Pontifical See,
And the same thing, they thought, would do nicely for P.;
But he turned up his nose at their mumming and shamming,
And cared (shall I say?) not a d-- for their damming;
So they first read him out of their church, and next minute
Turned round and declared he had never been in it.
But the ban was too small or the man was too big,
For he recks not their bells, books, and candles a fig
(He scarce looks like a man who would _stay_ treated shabbily,
Sophroniscus' son's head o'er the features of Rabelais):-
He bangs and bethwacks them,-their backs he salutes
With the whole tree of knowledge torn up by the roots;
His sermons with satire are plenteously verjuiced,
And he talks in one breath of Confutzee, Cass, Zerduscht,
Jack Robinson, Peter the Hermit, Strap, Dathan,
Cush, Pitt (not the bottomless, _that_ he's no faith in),
Pan, Pillicock, Shakespeare, Paul, Toots, Monsieur Tonson,
Aldebaran, Alcander, Ben Khorat, Ben Jonson,
Thoth, Richter, Joe Smith, Father Paul, Judah Monis,
Musaeus, Muretus, _hem_,-[Greek: m] Scorpionis,
Maccabee, Maccaboy, Mac-Mac-ah! Machiavelli,
Condorcet, Count d'Orsay, Conder, Say, Ganganelli,
Orion, O'Connell, the Chevalier D'O,
(See the Memoirs of Sully,) [Greek: to pan], the great toe
Of the statue of Jupiter, now made to pass
For that of Jew Peter by good Romish brass,
(You may add for yourselves, for I find it a bore,
All the names you have ever, or not, heard before,
And when you've done that-why, invent a few more).
His hearers can't tell you on Sunday beforehand,
If in that day's discourse they'll be Bibled or Koraned,
For he's seized the idea (by his martyrdom fired)
That all men (not orthodox) _may be_ inspired;
Yet though wisdom profane with his creed he may weave in,
He makes it quite clear what he _doesn't_ believe in,
While some, who decry him, think all Kingdom Come
Is a sort of a, kind of a, species of Hum,
Of which, as it were, so to speak, not a crumb
Would be left, if we didn't keep carefully mum,
And, to make a clean breast, that 'tis perfectly plain
That _all_ kinds of wisdom are somewhat profane;
Now P.'s creed than this may be lighter or darker,
But in one thing, 'tis clear, he has faith, namely-Parker;
And this is what makes him the crowd-drawing preacher,
There's a background of god to each hard-working feature,
Every word that he speaks has been fierily furnaced
In the blast of a life that has struggled in earnest:
There he stands, looking more like a ploughman than priest,
If not dreadfully awkward, not graceful at least,
His gestures all downright and same, if you will,
As of brown-fisted Hobnail in hoeing a drill;
But his periods fall on you, stroke after stroke,
Like the blows of a lumberer felling an oak,
You forget the man wholly, you're thankful to meet
With a preacher who smacks of the field and the street,
And to hear, you're not over-particular whence,
Almost Taylor's profusion, quite Latimer's sense.
'There is Bryant, as quiet, as cool, and as dignified,
As a smooth, silent iceberg, that never is ignified,
Save when by reflection 'tis kindled o' nights
With a semblance of flame by the chill Northern Lights.
He may rank (Griswold says so) first bard of your nation
(There's no doubt that he stands in supreme iceolation),
Your topmost Parnassus he may set his heel on,
But no warm applauses come, peal following peal on,-
He's too smooth and too polished to hang any zeal on:
Unqualified merits, I'll grant, if you choose, he has 'em,
But he lacks the one merit of kindling enthusiasm;
If he stir you at all, it is just, on my soul,
Like being stirred up with the very North Pole.
'He is very nice reading in summer, but _inter
Nos_, we don't want _extra_ freezing in winter;
Take him up in the depth of July, my advice is,
When you feel an Egyptian devotion to ices.
But, deduct all you can, there's enough that's right good in him,
He has a true soul for field, river, and wood in him;
And his heart, in the midst of brick walls, or where'er it is,
Glows, softens, and thrills with the tenderest charities-
To you mortals that delve in this trade-ridden planet?
No, to old Berkshire's hills, with their limestone and granite.
If you're one who _in loco_ (add _foco_ here) _desipis_,
You will get out of his outermost heart (as I guess) a piece;
But you'd get deeper down if you came as a precipice,
And would break the last seal of its inwardest fountain,
If you only could palm yourself off for a mountain.
Mr. Quivis, or somebody quite as discerning,
Some scholar who's hourly expecting his learning,
Calls B. the American Wordsworth; but Wordsworth
May be rated at more than your whole tuneful herd's worth.
No, don't be absurd, he's an excellent Bryant;
But, my friends, you'll endanger the life of your client,
By attempting to stretch him up into a giant;
If you choose to compare him, I think there are two per-
-sons fit for a parallel-Thomson and Cowper;
I don't mean exactly,-there's something of each,
There's T.'s love of nature, C.'s penchant to preach;
Just mix up their minds so that C.'s spice of craziness
Shall balance and neutralize T.'s turn for laziness,
And it gives you a brain cool, quite frictionless, quiet,
Whose internal police nips the buds of all riot,-
A brain like a permanent strait-jacket put on
The heart that strives vainly to burst off a button,-
A brain which, without being slow or mechanic,
Does more than a larger less drilled, more volcanic;
He's a Cowper condensed, with no craziness bitten,
And the advantage that Wordsworth before him had written.
'But, my dear little bardlings, don't prick up your ears
Nor suppose I would rank you and Bryant as peers;
If I call him an iceberg, I don't mean to say
There is nothing in that which is grand in its way;
He is almost the one of your poets that knows
How much grace, strength, and dignity lie in Repose;
If he sometimes fall short, he is too wise to mar
His thought's modest fulness by going too far;
'T would be well if your authors should all make a trial
Of what virtue there is in severe self-denial,
And measure their writings by Hesiod's staff,
Which teaches that all has less value than half.
'There is Whittier, whose swelling and vehement heart
Strains the strait-breasted drab of the Quaker apart,
And reveals the live Man, still supreme and erect,
Underneath the bemummying wrappers of sect;
There was ne'er a man born who had more of the swing
Of the true lyric bard and all that kind of thing;
And his failures arise (though he seem not to know it)
From the very same cause that has made him a poet,-
A fervor of mind which knows no separation
'Twixt simple excitement and pure inspiration,
As my Pythoness erst sometimes erred from not knowing
If 'twere I or mere wind through her tripod was blowing;
Let his mind once get head in its favorite direction
And the torrent of verse bursts the dams of reflection,
While, borne with the rush of the metre along,
The poet may chance to go right or go wrong,
Content with the whirl and delirium of song;
Then his grammar's not always correct, nor his rhymes,
And he's prone to repeat his own lyrics sometimes,
Not his best, though, for those are struck off at white-heats
When the heart in his breast like a trip-hammer beats,
And can ne'er be repeated again any more
Than they could have been carefully plotted before:
Like old what's-his-name there at the battle of Hastings
(Who, however, gave more than mere rhythmical bastings),
Our Quaker leads off metaphorical fights
For reform and whatever they call human rights,
Both singing and striking in front of the war,
And hitting his foes with the mallet of Thor;
_Anne haec_, one exclaims, on beholding his knocks,
_Vestis filii tui_, O leather-clad Fox?
Can that be thy son, in the battle's mid din,
Preaching brotherly love and then driving it in
To the brain of the tough old Goliath of sin,
With the smoothest of pebbles from Castaly's spring
Impressed on his hard moral sense with a sling?
'All honor and praise to the right-hearted bard
Who was true to The Voice when such service was hard,
Who himself was so free he dared sing for the slave
When to look but a protest in silence was brave;
All honor and praise to the women and men
Who spoke out for the dumb and the down-trodden then!
It needs not to name them, already for each
I see History preparing the statue and niche;
They were harsh, but shall _you_ be so shocked at hard words
Who have beaten your pruning-hooks up into swords,
Whose rewards and hurrahs men are surer to gain
By the reaping of men and of women than grain?
Why should _you_ stand aghast at their fierce wordy war, if
You scalp one another for Bank or for Tariff?
Your calling them cut-throats and knaves all day long
Doesn't prove that the use of hard language is wrong;
While the World's heart beats quicker to think of such men
As signed Tyranny's doom with a bloody steel-pen,
While on Fourth-of-Julys beardless orators fright one
With hints at Harmodius and Aristogeiton,
You need not look shy at your sisters and brothers
Who stab with sharp words for the freedom of others;-
No, a wreath, twine a wreath for the loyal and true
Who, for sake of the many, dared stand with the few,
Not of blood-spattered laurel for enemies braved,
But of broad, peaceful oak-leaves for citizens saved!
'Here comes Dana, abstractedly loitering along,
Involved in a paulo-post-future of song,
Who'll be going to write what'll never be written
Till the Muse, ere he think of it, gives him the mitten,-
Who is so well aware of how things should be done,
That his own works displease him before they're begun,-
Who so well all that makes up good poetry knows,
That the best of his poems is written in prose;
All saddled and bridled stood Pegasus waiting,
He was booted and spurred, but he loitered debating;
In a very grave question his soul was immersed,-
Which foot in the stirrup he ought to put first:
And, while this point and that he judicially dwelt on,
He, somehow or other, had written Paul Felton,
Whose beauties or faults, whichsoever you see there,
You'll allow only genius could hit upon either.
That he once was the Idle Man none will deplore,
But I fear he will never be anything more;
The ocean of song heaves and glitters before him,
The depth and the vastness and longing sweep o'er him.
He knows every breaker and shoal on the chart,
He has the Coast Pilot and so on by heart,
Yet he spends his whole life, like the man in the fable,
In learning to swim on his library table.
'There swaggers John Neal, who has wasted in Maine
The sinews and cords of his pugilist brain,
Who might have been poet, but that, in its stead, he
Preferred to believe that he was so already;
Too hasty to wait till Art's ripe fruit should drop,
He must pelt down an unripe and colicky crop;
Who took to the law, and had this sterling plea for it,
It required him to quarrel, and paid him a fee for it;
A man who's made less than he might have, because
He always has thought himself more than he was,-
Who, with very good natural gifts as a bard,
Broke the strings of his lyre out by striking too hard,
And cracked half the notes of a truly fine voice,
Because song drew less instant attention than noise.
Ah, men do not know how much strength is in poise,
That he goes the farthest who goes far enough,
And that all beyond that is just bother and stuff.
No vain man matures, he makes too much new wood;
His blooms are too thick for the fruit to be good;
'Tis the modest man ripens, 'tis he that achieves,
Just what's needed of sunshine and shade he receives;
Grapes, to mellow, require the cool dark of their leaves;
Neal wants balance; he throws his mind always too far,
Whisking out flocks of comets, but never a star;
He has so much muscle, and loves so to show it,
That he strips himself naked to prove he's a poet,
And, to show he could leap Art's wide ditch, if he tried,
Jumps clean o'er it, and into the hedge t'other side.
He has strength, but there's nothing about him in keeping;
One gets surelier onward by walking than leaping;
He has used his own sinews himself to distress,
And had done vastly more had he done vastly less;
In letters, too soon is as bad as too late;
Could he only have waited he might have been great;
But he plumped into Helicon up to the waist,
And muddied the stream ere he took his first taste.
'There is Hawthorne, with genius so shrinking and rare
That you hardly at first see the strength that is there;
A frame so robust, with a nature so sweet,
So earnest, so graceful, so lithe and so fleet,
Is worth a descent from Olympus to meet;
'Tis as if a rough oak that for ages had stood,
With his gnarled bony branches like ribs of the wood,
Should bloom, after cycles of struggle and scathe,
With a single anemone trembly and rathe;
His strength is so tender, his wildness so meek,
That a suitable parallel sets one to seek,-
He's a John Bunyan Fouque, a Puritan Tieck;
When Nature was shaping him, clay was not granted
For making so full-sized a man as she wanted,
So, to fill out her model, a little she spared
From some finer-grained stuff for a woman prepared,
And she could not have hit a more excellent plan
For making him fully and perfectly man.
The success of her scheme gave her so much delight,
That she tried it again, shortly after, in Dwight;
Only, while she was kneading and shaping the clay,
She sang to her work in her sweet childish way,
And found, when she'd put the last touch to his soul,
That the music had somehow got mixed with the whole.
'Here's Cooper, who's written six volumes to show
He's as good as a lord: well, let's grant that he's so;
If a person prefer that description of praise,
Why, a coronet's certainly cheaper than bays;
But he need take no pains to convince us he's not
(As his enemies say) the American Scott.
Choose any twelve men, and let C. read aloud
That one of his novels of which he's most proud,
And I'd lay any bet that, without ever quitting
Their box, they'd be all, to a man, for acquitting.
He has drawn you one character, though, that is new,
One wildflower he's plucked that is wet with the dew
Of this fresh Western world, and, the thing not to mince,
He has done naught but copy it ill ever since;
His Indians, with proper respect be it said,
Are just Natty Bumppo, daubed over with red,
And his very Long Toms are the same useful Nat,
Rigged up in duck pants and a sou'wester hat
(Though once in a Coffin, a good chance was found
To have slipped the old fellow away underground).
All his other men-figures are clothes upon sticks,
The _derniere chemise_ of a man in a fix
(As a captain besieged, when his garrison's small,
Sets up caps upon poles to be seen o'er the wall):
And the women he draws from one model don't vary.
All sappy as maples and flat as a prairie.
When a character's wanted, he goes to the task
As a cooper would do in composing a cask;
He picks out the staves, of their qualities heedful,
Just hoops them together as tight as is needful,
And, if the best fortune should crown the attempt, he
Has made at the most something wooden and empty.
'Don't suppose I would underrate Cooper's abilities;
If I thought you'd do that, I should feel very ill at ease;
The men who have given to _one_ character life
And objective existence are not very rife;
You may number them all, both prose-writers and singers,
Without overrunning the bounds of your fingers,
And Natty won't go to oblivion quicker
Than Adams the parson or Primrose the vicar.
'There is one thing in Cooper I like, too, and that is
That on manners he lectures his countrymen gratis;
Not precisely so either, because, for a rarity,
He is paid for his tickets in unpopularity.
Now he may overcharge his American pictures,
But you'll grant there's a good deal of truth in his strictures;
And I honor the man who is willing to sink
Half his present repute for the freedom to think,
And, when he has thought, be his cause strong or weak,
Will risk t'other half for the freedom to speak,
Caring naught for what vengeance the mob has in store,
Let that mob be the upper ten thousand or lower.
'There are truths you Americans need to be told,
And it never'll refute them to swagger and scold;
John Bull, looking o'er the Atlantic, in choler
At your aptness for trade, says you worship the dollar;
But to scorn such eye-dollar-try's what very few do,
And John goes to that church as often as you do,
No matter what John says, don't try to outcrow him,
'Tis enough to go quietly on and outgrow him;
Like most fathers, Bull hates to see Number One
Displacing himself in the mind of his son,
And detests the same faults in himself he'd neglected
When he sees them again in his child's glass reflected;
To love one another you're too like by half;
If he is a bull, you're a pretty stout calf,
And tear your own pasture for naught but to show
What a nice pair of horns you're beginning to grow.
'There are one or two things I should just like to hint,
For you don't often get the truth told you in print;
The most of you (this is what strikes all beholders)
Have a mental and physical stoop in the shoulders;
Though you ought to be free as the winds and the waves,
You've the gait and the manners of runaway slaves;
Though you brag of your New World, you don't half believe in it;
And as much of the Old as is possible weave in it;
Your goddess of freedom, a tight, buxom girl,
With lips like a cherry and teeth like a pearl,
With eyes bold as Here's, and hair floating free,
And full of the sun as the spray of the sea,
Who can sing at a husking or romp at a shearing,
Who can trip through the forests alone without fearing,
Who can drive home the cows with a song through the grass,
Keeps glancing aside into Europe's cracked glass.
Hides her red hands in gloves, pinches up her lithe waist,
And makes herself wretched with transmarine taste;
She loses her fresh country charm when she takes
Any mirror except her own rivers and lakes.
'You steal Englishmen's books and think Englishmen's thought,
With their salt on her tail your wild eagle is caught;
Your literature suits its each whisper and motion
To what will be thought of it over the ocean;
The cast clothes of Europe your statesmanship tries
And mumbles again the old blarneys and lies;-
Forget Europe wholly, your veins throb with blood,
To which the dull current in hers is but mud:
Let her sneer, let her say your experiment fails,
In her voice there's a tremble e'en now while she rails,
And your shore will soon be in the nature of things
Covered thick with gilt drift-wood of castaway kings,
Where alone, as it were in a Longfellow's Waif,
Her fugitive pieces will find themselves safe.
O my friends, thank your god, if you have one, that he
'Twixt the Old World and you set the gulf of a sea;
Be strong-backed, brown-handed, upright as your pines,
By the scale of a hemisphere shape your designs,
Be true to yourselves and this new nineteenth age,
As a statue by Powers, or a picture by Page,
Plough, sail, forge, build, carve, paint, make all over new,
To your own New-World instincts contrive to be true,
Keep your ears open wide to the Future's first call,
Be whatever you will, but yourselves first of all,
Stand fronting the dawn on Toil's heaven-scaling peaks,
And become my new race of more practical Greeks.-
Hem! your likeness at present, I shudder to tell o't,
Is that you have your slaves, and the Greek had his helot.'
Here a gentleman present, who had in his attic
More pepper than brains, shrieked, 'The man's a fanatic,
I'm a capital tailor with warm tar and feathers,
And will make him a suit that'll serve in all weathers;
But we'll argue the point first, I'm willing to reason 't,
Palaver before condemnation's but decent:
So, through my humble person, Humanity begs
Of the friends of true freedom a loan of bad eggs.'
But Apollo let one such a look of his show forth
As when [Greek: aeie nukti eoikios], and so forth,
And the gentleman somehow slunk out of the way,
But, as he was going, gained courage to say,-
'At slavery in the abstract my whole soul rebels,
I am as strongly opposed to 't as any one else.'
'Ay, no doubt, but whenever I've happened to meet
With a wrong or a crime, it is always concrete,'
Answered Phoebus severely; then turning to us,
'The mistake of such fellows as just made the fuss
Is only in taking a great busy nation
For a part of their pitiful cotton-plantation.-
But there comes Miranda, Zeus! where shall I flee to?
She has such a penchant for bothering me too!
She always keeps asking if I don't observe a
Particular likeness 'twixt her and Minerva;
She tells me my efforts in verse are quite clever;-
She's been travelling now, and will be worse than ever;
One would think, though, a sharp-sighted noter she'd be
Of all that's worth mentioning over the sea,
For a woman must surely see well, if she try,
The whole of whose
The Beauty Is Too Much For Me
THE BEAUTY IS TOO MUCH FOR ME
The Beauty is too much for me
What am I to do with it?
The Music evokes feelings deeper than I can fathom
I want to create something of my own comparable
But the Beauty is too much
It is too great for me
The music the poetry of others moves me
As nothing I can do does
The Beauty is too much for me
All I can do is feel it.
Where Is The Poem I Have Waited For All My Life?
WHERE IS THE POEM I HAVE WAITED FOR ALL MY LIFE?
Where is the poem I have waited for all my life?
The one poem that would say to me,
“You are a true poet, at last”
Where is the poem
Which would make me be Poetry?
The years have gone
Have I labored in vain?
The darkness comes
Light will not come again.
I try and I write still
But I will never know
Poetry will live,
But I soon will go.
There Is The Mood Of A Poem For This Night
THERE IS THE MOOD OF A POEM FOR THIS NIGHT
There is the mood of a poem for this night
There is the mood of a love from long ago
That is forever lost-
There is a mood of a too rainy and too cold night
There is a mood of more inside than saying can mean-
There is a mood of many things-
And all these moods are not one mood
And yet in me now largely indescribable-
For there is a mood which takes the person away
Into a land of dreams and beyond
And another mood and another poem
Which simply stays where it is
In longing for itself-
So while I have many moods
And may write many poems of those moods
I know that there is no mood tonight
Which is the one and only one love
I would always have-
And no mood which can say again
All that a person may have when young
And never know again in old age-
There is a mood of being forever sad and forever regretful-
But considering how much Beauty life has
And how many different ways there are of finding it
I will listen to the music of the light tonight
And hear the poetry of many great souls
And in a mood of joy
Quietly go to rest
As if happiness really were the mood beyond and within everything.
I didn’t get much sleep last night
thinking about underwear
Have you ever stopped to consider
underwear in the abstract
When you really dig into it
some shocking problems are raised
Underwear is something we all have to deal with
some kind of underwear
Even Indians wear underwear
The Pope wears underwear I hope
The Governor of Louisiana wears underwear
I saw him on TV
He must have had tight underwear
He squirmed a lot
Underwear can really get you in a bind
You have seen the underwear ads for men and women
so alike but so different
Women’s underwear holds things up
Men’s underwear holds things down
Underwear is one thing
men and women do have in common
Underwear is all we have between us
You have seen the three-color pictures
with crotches encircled
to show the areas of extra strength
with three-way stretch
promising full freedom of action
Don’t be deceived
It’s all based on the two-party system
which doesn’t allow much freedom of choice
the way things are set up
America in its Underwear
struggles thru the night
Underwear controls everything in the end
Take foundation garments for instance
They are really fascist forms
of underground government
making people believe
something but the truth
telling you what you can of can’t do
Did you ever try to get around a girdle
Perhaps Non-Violent Action
is the only answer
Did Gandhi wear a girdle?
Did Lady Macbeth wear a girdle?
Was that why Macbeth murdered sleep?
And the spot she was always rubbing -
Was it really her underwear?
Modern anglosaxon ladies
must have huge guilt complexes
always washing and washing and washing
Out damned spot
Underwear with spots very suspicious
Underwear with bulges very shocking
Underwear on clothesline a great flag of freedom
Someone has escaped his Underwear
May be naked somewhere
But don’t worry
Everybody’s still hung up in it
There won’t be no real revolution
And poetry still the underwear of the soul
And underwear still covering
a multitude of faults
in the geological sense -
strange sedimentary stones, inscrutable cracks!
If I were you I’d keep aside
an oversize pair of winter underwear
Do not go naked into that good night
And in the meantime
keep calm and warm and dry
No use stirring ourselves up prematurely
Move forward with dignity
hand in vest
Don’t get emotional
And death shall have no dominion
There’s plenty of time my darling
Are we not still young and easy?
I Am Sorry, Sir!
Discerning deeply what I was wrong,
I felt guilty and sad songs.
I deserve being scolded for my mistake.
'I'm a humble student, 'it's my faith.
Though this is not the terrible trauma,
I made you angry and bitter.
But I never failed to pay respect.
Anyway I'll compensate with the tacit attempt.
By grappling ruth and racy words,
You help me be on the right tract
And kill unaccpectable and dangerous thoughts
For my future not to be locked.
Via the nib of plea-showing soul,
Nail myself the troth, 'Eager to bow.'
This poetry declares my heartfelt apology.
Please.....Please.....I am so sorry!
What doesn't enter then my slumbering mind?
October has arrived - the woods have tossed
Their final leaves from naked branches;
A breath of autumn chill - the road begins to freeze,
The stream still murmurs as it passes by the mill,
The pond, however's frozen; and my neighbor hastens
to his far-flung fields with all the members of his hunt.
The winter wheat will suffer from this wild fun,
And baying hounds awake the slumbering groves.
This is my time: I am not fond of spring;
The tiresome thaw, the stench, the mud - spring sickens me.
The blood ferments, and yearning binds the heart and mind..
With cruel winter I am better satisfied,
I love the snows; when in the moonlight
A sleigh ride swift and carefree with a friend.
Who, warm and rosy 'neath a sable mantle,
Burns, trembles as she clasps your hand.
What fun it is, with feet in sharp steel shod,
To skim the mirror of the smooth and solid streams!
And how about the shining stir of winter feasts? . .
But in the end you must admit that naught but snow
For half the year will even bore a bear
Deep in his den. We cannot ride for ages,
In sleighs with youthful nymphs
Or sulk around the stove behind storm windows.
O, summer fair! I would have loved you, too,
Except for heat and dust and gnats and flies.
You kill off all our mental power,
Torment us; and like fields, we suffer from the drought;
To take a drink, refresh ourselves somehow -
We think of nothing else, and long for lady Winter,
And, having bid farewell to her with pancakes and with wine,
We hold a wake to honor her with ice-cream and with ice.
The latter days of fall are often cursed,
But as for me, kind reader, she is precious
In all her quiet beauty, mellow glow.
Thus might a child, disfavored in its family,
Draw my regard. To tell you honestly,
Of all the times of year, I cherish her alone.
She's full of worth; and I, a humble lover,
Have found in her peculiar charms.
How can this be explained? I favor her
As you might one day find yourself attracted
To a consumptive maid. Condemned to death,
The poor child languishes without complaint or anger.
A smile plays upon her withering lips;
She cannot sense as yet the gaping maw of death;
A crimson glow still flits across her face.
Today she lives, tomorrow she is gone.
A melancholy time! So charming to the eye!
Your beauty in its parting pleases me -
I love the lavish withering of nature,
The gold and scarlet raiment of the woods,
The crisp wind rustling o'er their threshold,
The sky engulfed by tides of rippled gloom,
The sun's scarce rays, approaching frosts,
And gray-haired winter threatening from afar.
When autumn comes, I bloom anew;
The Russian frost does wonders for my health;
Anew I fall in love with life's routine:
Betimes I'm soothed by dreams, betimes by hunger caught;
The blood flows free and easy in my heart,
Abrim with passion; once again, I'm happy, young,
I'm full of life - such is my organism
(Excuse me for this awful prosaism)
My horse is brought to me; in open field,
With flying mane, he carries fast his rider,
And with his shining hooves he hammers out a song
Upon the frozen, ringing vale, and crackling ice.
But fleeting day dies out, new fire comes alive
Inside the long-forgotten stove-- it blazes bright,
Then slowly smoulders - as I read before it,
Or nourish long and heartfelt thoughts.
And I forget the world - in silence sweet,
I'm sweetly lulled by my imagination,
And poetry awakens deep inside:
My heart is churned with lyric agitation,
It trembles, moans, and strives, as if in sleep,
To pour out in the end a free statement-
And here they come - a ghostly swarm of guests,
My long-lost friends, the fruits of all my dream.
My mind is overcome by dashing thoughts,
And rhymes come running eagerly to meet them,
My hand demands a pen; the pen - a sheet of paper.
Another minute - and my verse will freely flow.
Thus slumbers an immobile ship caught in immobile waters,
But lo! - the sailors rush all of a sudden, crawl
Up top, then down - sails billow, filled with wind;
The massive structure moves, and cuts the waves.
It sails. But whither do we sail?...
I Want To Make A Contribution
I want to make a contribution.
I want to leave something on the stairs of the temple
in the dead of the night and steal away like a shadow,
hoping my small gift of a gift is well-received.
That the stars don't think they're wasting their light
to shine down upon it. Nor the wind resent the seeds it carries.
Fifty years of poetry. Painting the picture-music
the darkness pours into my heart and my heart conveys to my ears.
I can taste thousands of wildflowers like eyes in my blood.
I can taste the homelessness of the rogue stars in my tears,
and pull the wounded swords I cull like thorns of the rose
from the stone of my brain that fell in the farmer's field
like a rock through the window of the abyss
and make it clear as Merlin locked in his tower of glass,
that the stars only look fixed from a distance,
up close and intimate as atoms they're in a frenzy of creation
like a cloud of gnats in the last rapture of the sunset
radioactive with the bliss of being alive to know this.
That we're all longing for home in the lap of an expansive awareness
that threw the starmaps away the moment we were born
into the radiance of things that let go of the light
as if they knew something they just couldn't keep to themselves
without doing great injury to the flowers of life
that space was mind, and time was its emotional life
and as the dark mother said to her last incarnation
as it was stepping through the doorway into a stranger,
we're just going to wing it from here on end.
I want to be a strong storm tree twisted and bent by the wind
like the last letter of a sacred alphabet with no alpha or omega
to mark where things begin and end like death in life.
And wind up like a windfall of sweet fruit without end.
I want to make something of my falling, I want to honour
the table I eat at like iron and carbon and oxygen
by bringing something back for what I have received
without asking, or making a decision when I was not aware
of some unimaginable god that holds me personally responsible for it.
What a sleight to humans everywhere matter enjoins them
in a common labour to resonate so perfectly with the light
that lucidity isn't the exclusive property of the unknown,
and just because it's dark, the new moon of the black swan
shedding the feathers of the white, doesn't mean, it's not enlightened.
Though I come like a bird to a windowsill, though I pass
like a star from the window, though I sing of death
on the green bough, though I sing of life on the dead,
though I have been a dragon, a kitten, and a bee,
though I have floundered in sorrows like a lifeboat
way over my head, and lived through starless nights of fear
pulled down like executioners hoods over my eyes,
waiting to see what the morning brings that's vital,
I have not trafficked with my life like a pimp in a flower bed.
I have endured whatever excruciating transfigurations
I've ever had to go through, naked as a knife of light
unsheathed from the ore of this body that can no more
be cast off on the slag heap, than my spirit can paint in blood
a mural of all the changes we've been through like stars and mud.
I want to deepen the roots of the flowering night.
I want to beseech the poppies with my eyes
for more luminous experiences of cadmium red light
for more mystery among the stars than even they're aware of,
for more moons in the apple, more suns in the bread,
for more crazy wisdom than there is the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
I want to show the pine-cones they're pagodas as well
and point out where the mourning doves nest under their eyelids
and the shamans dwell in the upper branches of their evergreens
waiting to see if down will come cradle, baby and all,
or the next ascent is a red-tailed hawk at liberty
to fall upon whatever it likes, raising the snake of the lowest
up into the mystic delirium of the highest
to feather its scales in boas of oxymoronic light.
I want to intensify the dark until people can find
their way home by it, stars that broke into themselves
like morning glory tangled in an old bicycle wheel.
A pine-cone would do, a locket of sky, a piece of straw,
I could offer anything I wanted to, all those nests and pockets
I made in my pillow for years like a cat with a catcher's mitt
trying to find the perfect spot for its nightmare to sleep.
Or any one of a hundred cornerstones that were never built upon
or were torn down before the first brick laid.
Or I could lay my life down like a grain of wheat
among millions, at the feet of a silo so immaculately empty
it's never needed a single one of us, or all the animals
that bleated and bellowed and bled upon the earth
because we started drinking blood long before
we turned to bread like a better body to sacrifice.
Or my eyes like little thumb-drives of everything they've seen.
A gift of a gift as was given to me without a giver,
the ashes of a dead butterfly on a pyre of autumn leaves,
without ritual, celestial spin, I just want to come by myself
like a human in confusion we make the labour of our lives
as if I were stepping out of the trees like a white-tailed buck
come down to the river to drink from the moonlight
and add my reflection to the water that gave it to me,
with my head bowed toward the earth like a broken branch
heavy with the scarred fruits of life that have sweetened
like the moon over the years, poems I can recite by heart,
like the names of the stars and the flowers and the birds
and the ghosts of all those sad, passionate women who
tried so hard to be happy their tears clung like eyes
to the mystery of the windows they kept looking through
as if they were resilvering the mirrors of old telescopes
with the dew of a morning from a long time ago
witching in the dark for stars to explain their loss.
I want to bring a word that's been so deeply hidden in the open
like the flower of a rootless tree, it's got no colour of its own,
no seed, no leaf, no humming bird or bee, the tuning fork
of the nightbird, but no song, no honey, no nectar,
no likeness anywhere to compare it with, demonic or benign,
no meaning no mouth has ever wrapped itself around
like the atmosphere of a habitable planet, though the wind has tried,
a word so indelibly original it can't be washed out
like the whisper of a watercolour in the ear of a solar flare,
a word so private it gets said over the graves of the sacred syllables
that died in the mouths of men like the names of their gods,
not a prayer, not a mantra, not the shriek of a war-cry,
not a curse, not a blessing, not the answer to anything,
and I want to say the unsayable so unsayably free of veils
no junkie in the snakepit of a burning spoon, no lover
thawing virgin watersheds in the nunnery of Madame Moon
has ever stood so naked in their own eyes
even the emptiness inside felt overdressed for the occasion.
The Child Of The Islands - Winter
ERE the Night cometh! On how many graves
Rests, at this hour, their first cold winter's snow!
Wild o'er the earth the sleety tempest raves;
Silent, our Lost Ones slumber on below;
Never to share again the genial glow
Of Christmas gladness round the circled hearth;
Never returning festivals to know,
Or holidays that mark some loved one's birth,
Or children's joyous songs, and loud delighted mirth.
The frozen tombs are sheeted with one pall,--
One shroud for every churchyard, crisp and bright,--
One foldless mantle, softly covering all
With its unwrinkled width of spotless white.
There, through the grey dim day and starlit night,
It rests, on rich and poor, and young and old,--
Veiling dear eyes,--whose warm homne-cheering light
Our pining hearts can never more behold,--
With an unlifting veil,--that falleth blank and cold.
The Spring shall melt that snow,--but kindly eyes
Return not with the Sun's returning powers,--
Nor to the clay-cold cheek, that buried lies,
The living blooms that flush perennial flowers,--
Nor, with the song-birds, vocal in the bowers,
The sweet familiar tones! In silence drear
We pass our days,--and oft in midnight hours
Call madly on their names who cannot hear,--
Names graven on the tombs of the departed year!
There lies the tender Mother, in whose heart
So many claimed an interest and a share!
Humbly and piously she did her part
In every task of love and household care:
And mournfully, with sad abstracted air,
The Father-Widower, on his Christmas Eve,
Strokes down his youngest child's long silken hair,
And, as the gathering sobs his bosom heave,
Goes from that orphaned group, unseen to weep and grieve.
Feeling his loneliness the more this day
Because SHE kept it with such gentle joy,
Scarce can he brook to see his children play,
Remembering how her love it did employ
To choose each glittering gift and welcome toy:
His little timid girl, so slight of limb,--
His fearless, glorious, merry-hearted boy,--
They coax him to their sports,--nor know how dim
The Christmas taper's light must burn henceforth for him!
Ah! when these two are wrapt in peaceful sleep,
His worn eyes on the sinking embers set,
A Vigil to her Memory shall keep!
Her bridal blush when first his love she met,--
Her dying words of meek and fond regret,--
Her tearful thanks for all his kindness past,--
These shall return to him,--while linger yet
The last days of the year,--that year the last
Upon whose circling hours her sunny smile was cast!
Life's Dial now shows blank, for want of HER:
There shall be holiday and festival,
But each his mourning heart shall only stir
With repetitions of her funeral:
Quenched is the happy light that used to fall
On common things, and bid them lustre borrow:
No more the daily air grows musical,
Echoing her soft good night and glad good morrow,
Under the snow she lies,--and he must grieve down sorrow!
And learn how Death can hallow trivial things;
How the eyes fill with melancholy tears
When some chance voice a common ballad sings
The Loved sang too, in well-remembered years,--
How strangely blank the beaten track appears
Which led them to the threshold of our door,--
And how old books some pencilled word endears;
Faint tracery, where our dreaming hearts explore
Their vanished thoughts whose souls commune with us no more!
Under the snow she lies! And there lies too
The young fair blossom, neither Wife nor Bride;
Whose Child-like beauty no man yet might woo,
Dwelling in shadow by her parent's side
Like a fresh rosebud, which the green leaves hide.
Calm as the light that fades along the West,
When not a ripple stirs the azure tide,
She sank to Death: and Heaven knows which is best,
The Matron's task fulfilled, or Virgin's spotless rest.
A quiet rest it is: though o'er that form
We wept, because our human love was weak!
Our Dove's white wings are folded from the storm,--
Tears cannot stain those eyelids pure and meek,--
And pale for ever is the marble cheek
Where, in her life, the shy quick-gushing blood
Was wont with roseate eloquence to speak;
Ebbing and flowing with each varying mood
Of her young timid heart, so innocently good!
And, near her, sleeps the old grey-headed Sire,
Whose faded eyes, in dying prayer uplifted,
Taught them the TRUTH who saw him thus expire,
(Although not eloquent or greatly gifted)
Because they saw the winnowing fan that sifted
Chaff from the grain, disturbed not his high Trust:
In the dark storm, Hope's anchor never drifted,
The dread funereal sentence, 'Dust to Dust,'
No terror held for him who slumbers with the Just.
There, too, is laid the son of many vows;
The stately heir--the treasure of his home:
His early death hath saddened noble brows,
Yet to grieved hearts doth consolation come:
Where shall they find, though through the world they roam,
A star as perfect, and as radiant clear?
Like Ormonde's Ossory, in his early doom,
The throb of triumph checks the rising tear;
No living son can be their dead Son's proud compeer.
HE was not called to leave temptations hollow,
And orgies wild, and bacchanalian nights:
Where vice led on, his spirit scorned to follow:
His soul, self-exiled from all low delights,
Mastered the strength of sensual appetites:
Great plans, good thoughts, alone had power to move him,
Holy Ambition, such as Heaven requites:
His heart, (as they best know who used to love him,)
Was young, and warm, but pure, as the white snow above him.
He sleeps! And she, his young betrothèd bride,
Sleeps too,--her beauty hid in winding-sheet.
The blind tears, freely shed for both, are dried;
And round their silent graves the mourner's feet
Have ceased to echo: but their souls shall meet
In the far world, where no sad burial chime
Knells for departed life; but, endless sweet,
In purity, and love, and joy sublime,
Eternal Hope survives all past decays of Time.
And there, rests One, whom none on earth remember
Except that heart whose fond life fed its own!
The cherished babe, who, through this bleak December,
Far from the Mother's bosom, lieth lone,
Where the cold North-wind makes its wintry moan.
A flower, whose beauty cannot be renewed;
A bird, whose song beyond the cloud is gone;
A child, whose empty cradle is bedewed
By bitter-falling tears in hours of solitude!
Ah! how can Death untwist the cord of Love,
Which bid those parted lives together cling?
Prest to the bosom of that brooding Dove,
Into those infant eyes would softly spring
A sense of happiness and cherishing:
The tender lips knew no completed word,--
The small feet could not run for tottering,--
But a glad silent smile the red mouth stirred,
And murmurs of delight whene'er her name was heard!
Oh! Darling, since all life for death is moulded,
And every cradled head some tomb must fill,--
A little sooner only hast thou folded
Thy helpless hands, that struggled and are still:
A little sooner thy Creator's will
Hath called thee to the Life that shall endure;
And, in that Heaven his gathered saints shall fill,
Hath 'made thy calling and election sure.'
His work in thee being done, was thy death premature?
Baptised,--and so from sin innate reclaimed,--
Pure from impure,--Redemption's forfeit paid,--
Too young to be for wilful errors blamed,--
Thy Angel, little Child so lowly laid,
For ever looketh upward, undismayed!
No earthly trespass, clouding Heaven's clear light,
Casts the Great Glory into dreadful shade:
We weep for thee by day,--we weep by night,--
Whilst thou beholdest GOD with glad enraptured sight!
Whom call we prematurely summoned? All
In whom some gleams of quivering sense remain:
Leaves not quite rotted yellow to their fall,
Flowers not yet withered dry in every vein:
All who depart ere stress of mortal pain
Makes that which crushes pain a blessed boon:
The extremest verge of life we would attain,--
And come he morning, evening, night, or noon,
Death, which must come to all, still comes to all too soon.
For either,--being young,--a bitter strife
Divides the parent's heart 'twixt woe and wonder,
Or, being set and planted in mid-life,
So many earthward roots are torn asunder,
The stroke falls blasting like the shock of thunder!
Or, being old, and good, and fit to die,
The greater is their loss who sheltered under
That tree's wide-spreading branches! Still we sigh,
And, craving back our Dead, lament them where they lie!
Yet there, the pangs of mortal grief are o'er!
Pictures and lockets worn in Love's wild fever,
Rest on unthrobbing hearts: ears hear no more
Harsh words, which uttered once must haunt for ever,
Despite forgiving wish, and sad endeavour:--
Maniacs, whom fellow-creatures feared and bound,
Learn the dread fastening of their chain to sever;
Those bloodshot eyes, that glared so wildly round,
Sealed in eternal calm, and closed in holy ground.
Peace comes to those, who, restless and forlorn,
Wasting in doubt's cold torment, day by day,
Watched alienated eyes for fond return
Of Love's warm light for ever passed away.
Ah, fools! no second morn's renewing ray
Gilds the blank Present, like the happy Past;
Madly ye built, 'mid ruin and decay,--
Striving Hope's anchor in the sand to cast,
And, drifting with the storm, made shipwreck at the last!
There your Philosophers and Poets dwell:
Your great Inventors,--men of giant mind;
The hearts that rose with such a mighty swell,
How little earth sufficeth now to bind!
Heroes and Patriots, Rulers of their kind,
Ambitious Statesmen, flatterers of the Throne,
All, in this lowly rest, their level find:
The weakness of their mortal strength laid down
Beneath the mouldering leaves of Glory's laurelled crown.
And high above them, on the cypress bough,
The little winter robin, all day long,
Slanting his bright eye at the dazzling snow,
Sings with a loud voice and a cheerful song:
While round about, in many a clustering throng,
The tufted snowdrop lifts its gentle head,
And bird and flower, in language mute yet strong,
Reprove our wailing for the happy dead,
And, by their joy, condemn the selfish tears we shed.
For Snowdrops are the harbingers of Spring,--
A sort of link between dumb life and light,--
Freshness preserved amid all withering,--
Bloom in the midst of grey and frosty blight,--
Pale Stars that gladden Nature's dreary night!
And well the Robin may companion be,
Whose breast of glowing red, like embers bright,
Carries a kindling spark from tree to tree,
Lighting the solemn yew where darkness else would be.
The Rose is lovely fair, and rich in scent,
The Lily, stately as a cloistered nun,
The Violet, with its sweet head downward bent,
The Polyanthus, in the noon-day sun,
And Blue-bell swinging where the brooklets run:
But all these grow in summer hours of mirth;
Only the Snowdrop cometh forth alone,
Peering above the cold and niggard earth,
Then bending down to watch the soil that gave it birth.
Seeming to say,--'Behold, your DEAD lie here,
'Beneath the heavy mould whose burial sound
'Smote with such horror on your shrinking ear
'When the dark coffin sank beneath the ground:
'Yet therefrom spring these flowers that quiver round,
'Their frail bells trembling o'er the damp cold sod.
'Fear not, nor doubt--your lost ones shall be found;
'For they, like us, shall burst the valley clod,
'And, in white spotless robes, rise up to light and God!'
Oh! nothing cheerless dwelleth by the tomb,
And nothing cheerless in the wintry sky;
They are asleep whose bed is in that gloom;
They are at rest who in that prison lie,
And have no craving for their liberty!
They hear no storm; the clear frost chills them not,
When the still solemn stars shine out on high;
The dreamless slumber of the grave shall blot
All record of dull pain and suffering from their lot!
Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who, hand to hand,
Bravely, but vainly, massacre withstood,
In the dark passes of the INDIAN land,
Where thoughts of unforgotten horror brood!
Whose cry for mercy, in despairing mood,
Rose in a language foreign to their foes,
Groaning and choking in a sea of blood,
No prayer--no hymn to soothe their last repose,
No calm and friendly hands their stiffening eyes to close!
Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who trembling bore
Their shuddering limbs along; and pace by pace
Saw in that white sheet plashed with human gore
The dread familiar look of some brave face,--
Distorted,--ghastly,--with a lingering trace
Of life and sorrow in its pleading glance,--
A dying dream of parted Love's embrace,--
A hope of succour, brought by desperate chance,--
Or wild unconscious stare of Death's delirious trance.
Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who left behind
Brothers and husbands, foully, fiercely slain:
Who, led by traitors, wandered on, half blind
With bitter tears of sorrow, shed in vain,
Crossing the steep ascent, or dreary plain;
Mothers of helpless children,--delicate wives,
Who brought forth wailing infants, born in pain,
Amid a crowded wreck of human lives,
And scenes that chill the soul, though vital strength survives.
Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who never laid
Their Dead to rest with service and with psalm:
Their bones left bleaching in the alien shade
Of mountains crested with the Indian Palm.
Oh! English village graves, how sweet and calm
Shines on your native earth the setting sun!
Yet GLORY gave their wounds a healing balm--
Glory,--like that thy youthful trophies won
In thy first 'prime of life,'-- victorious Wellington!
'In thy life's prime,'--ere yet the fading grey
Had blanched the tresses of thy gallant head:
Or from thy step Time's gradual faint decay
Stole the proud bearing of a Soldier's tread!
Gone are the troops thy voice to battle led,--
Thy conquering hand shall wield the sword no more,--
The foes and comrades of thy youth are dead,--
By Elba's rock and lone St. Helen's shore
No prisoned Emperor hears the boundless ocean roar.
But, though its battle-strength be out of date,
The eager gesture of that warrior hand,--
Raised in the warmth of brief and blunt debate
In the hushed Senate of thy native land,--
Hath something in it of the old command;
The voice retains a certain power to thrill
Which cheered to Victory many a gallant band:
In thy keen sense, and proud unconquered will,
Though thy Life's Prime be past, men own their Leader still!
Plodding his way along the winter path,
Behold, a different lot hard fortune shews:
A blind old veteran in the tempest's wrath,
Around whose feet no fabled laurel grows.
Long hath he dwelt in an enforced repose;
And, when the tales of glorious deeds are heard,
His sightless countenance with pleasure glows,--
His brave old heart is for a moment stirred,--
Then, sad he shrinks away, muttering some mournful word.
For ever idle in this work-day world--
For ever lonely in the moving throng--
Like a seared leaf by eddying breezes whirled,
Hither and thither vaguely borne along:
No guide to steer his course, if right or wrong,
Save the dumb immemorial friend of man,
Who, by some instinct delicate and strong,
From those impassive glances learns to scan
Some wish to move or rest,--some vestige of a plan:
The wildbird's carol in the pleasant woods
Is all he knows of Spring! The rich perfume
Of flowers, with all their various scented buds,
Tells him to welcome Summer's heavy bloom:
And by the wearied gleaners trooping home,--
The heavy tread of many gathering feet,--
And by the laden Waggon-loads that come
Brushing the narrow hedge with burden sweet,--
He guesses Harvest in, and Autumn's store complete.
But in God's Temple the great lamp is out;
And he must worship glory in the Dark!
Till Death, in midnight mystery, hath brought
The veiled Soul's re-illuminating spark,--
The pillar of the CLOUD enfolds the ark!
And, like a man that prayeth underground
In Bethlehem's rocky shrine, he can but mark
The lingering hours by circumstance and sound,
And break with gentle hymns the solemn silence round.
Yet still Life's Better Light shines out above!
And in that village church where first he learned
To bear his cheerless doom for Heaven's dear love,
He sits, with wistful face for ever turned
To hear of those who Heavenly pity earned:
Blind Bartimeus, and him desolate
Who for Bethesda's waters vainly yearned:
And inly sighs, condemned so long to wait,
Baffled and helpless still, beyond the Temple gate!
And can the Blind man miss the Summer sun?
This wintry sheet of wide unbroken white
His sealed blank eyes undazzled rest upon;
Yet round him hangs all day a twofold night,
He felt the warmth, who never saw the light!
He loved to sit beside the cottage door
When blossoms of the gorse were golden bright,
And hear glad children's shouts come o'er the moor,
And bask away his time in happy dreams of yore.
The Sunbeam slanting down on bench or bank
Was, unto him, a sweet consoling friend;
Such as our mournful hearts incline to thank,
But that such thanks affection's depth offend.
All vanished pictures it had power to send
That greeted his keen eyesight, long ago!
Gay plumèd troops defiling without end,--
And glancing bayonets and martial show,--
And hands he used to grasp,--and looks he used to know.
Yea, sometimes, back again to earlier life,
Even to his childish days, his thoughts would steal;
And hear, in lieu of arms and clashing strife,
The low hum of his Mother's spinning wheel,--
And on his withered cheek her lips could feel
As when she kissed its boyish sunburnt bloom:
And fancy little acts of love and zeal,
By which she now would soothe his bitter doom:
But she is dead,--and he,--alone in all his gloom!
Oh! by the beauty of a Summer day,--
The glorious blue that on the fountain lies,--
The tender quivering of the fresh green spray,--
The softness of the night when stars arise;
By the clear gladness of your children's eyes,--
And the familiar sweetness of that face
Most welcome to you underneath the skies,--
Pity that fellow-creature's mournful case
Whom Darkness follows still, where'er his dwelling-place!
'PITY THE BLIND!' How oft, in dolent tone,
That cry is heard along the peopled street,
While the Brute-Guide with patient care leads on
The tardy groping of his Master's feet!
But little dream we, as those steps we meet,
We too are blind, though clear the visual ray
That gives us leave familiar looks to greet,
Smiling and pausing on our onward way:
We too are blind,--and dark the paths wherein we stray.
Yea, blind! and adder-deaf,--and idiot-dull,--
To many a sight and sound that cries aloud.
Is there no moral blindness of the Soul?
Is he less shut from light, who, through the crowd
Threads his blank way, among the poor and proud,--
The foul and fair,--all forms to him the same,--
Than they whose hearts have never yet avowed
Perception of the universal claim
Wrapped in that common phrase, a 'fellow-creature's' name.
Christmas is smiling at the Rich man's door,--
Its joyolus holiday his home endears:
Christmas is frowning on the thin-clad Poor,
With looks of cold distress and frozen tears:
How plain the duty of the time appears!
But Selfishness is Blindness of the Heart;
And, having eyes, we see not; having ears,
We hear not warnings, which should make us start,
While God's good angels watch the acting of our part.
Now, slowly trudging through the crispèd snow,
Under the wintry arch of Heaven's clear dome,
Joy's cadenced music set to tones of woe,
Beneath the windows of the rich man's home
Street-Singers, with their Christmas Carols, roam.
Ah! who shall recognise that sound again,
Nor think of him, who hallowed years to come,
When the past Christmas taught his fervent pen
A 'CAROL' of dear love and brotherhood 'twixt men!
To what good actions that small book gave birth,
God only knows, who sends the wingèd seed
To its appointed resting-place on earth!
What timely help in hours of sorest need,--
What gentle lifting of the bruisèd reed,--
What kind compassion shewn to young and old,--
Proved the true learning of its simple creed,--
We know not,--but we know good thoughts, well told,
Strike root in many a heart, and bear a hundred-fold!
Oh, lovely lesson! art thou hard to learn?
Is it indeed so difficult to share
The school-boy hoard our efforts did not earn?
Shall we still grudge life's luck, to lives of care,
And dream that what we spend on these, we spare?
ALMS being the exception, SELF the rule,
Still shall we give our guinea here and there
('Annual') to church, and hospital, and school,
And lavish hundreds more, on pleasures which befool.
Take but the aggregate of several sums
Allotted for the privilege to stay,
Watching some dancer's feet, who onward comes
Light as a bird upon a bending spray:
When,--oh! thou custom-governed Conscience,--say,
Did niggard Charity at once bestow
What careless Pleasure squanders every day?
When did the tale of real and squalid woe
Awake within thy breast such sympathetic glow?
Prosaic Questioner, thy words beguile
No listener's ear: SHE curtsies, gazing round:
Who would not spend a fortune on her smile!
How curved the stately form prepared to bound
With footfall echoing to the music's sound,
In the Cachucha's proud triumphant pace !
What soft temptation in her look is found
When the gay Tarantalla's wilder grace
Wakes all th' impassioned glow that lights her Southern face!
And now, a peasant girl, abashed she stands:
How pretty and how timid are her eyes:
How gracefully she clasps her small fair hands,
How acts her part of shy and sweet surprise:
How earnest is her love without disguise:
How piteously, when from that dream awaking,
She finds him false on whom her faith relies,
All the arch mirth those features fair forsaking,
She hides her face and sobs as though her heart were breaking!
A Sylphide now, among her bowers of roses,
Or, by lone reeds, a Lake's enamoured fairy,
Her lovely limbs to slumber she composes,
Or flies aloft, with gestures soft and airy:
Still on her guard when seeming most unwary,
Scarce seen, before the small feet twinkle past,
Haunting, and yet of love's caresses chary,
Her maddened lover follows vainly fast,--
While still the perfect step seems that she danced the last!
Poor Child of Pleasure! thou art young and fair,
And youth and beauty are enchanting things:
But hie thee home, bewitching Bayadère,
Strip off thy glittering armlets, pearls, and rings,
Thy peasant boddice, and thy Sylphide wings:
Grow old and starve: require true Christian aid:
And learn, when real distress thy bosom wrings,
For whom was all that costly outlay made:
For SELF, and not for thee, the golden ore was paid!
For the quick beating of the jaded heart,
When sated Pleasure woke beneath thy gaze,
And heaved a languid sigh, alone, apart,
Half for thy beauty, half for 'other days:'
For the trained skill thy pliant form displays,
Pleasing the eye and casting o'er the mind
A spell which, Circé-like, thy power could raise,
A drunkenness of Soul and Sense combined,
Where Fancy's filmy Veil gross Passion's form refined.
For these, while thou hadst beauty, youth, and health,
Thou supple-limbed and nimble-stepping slave
Of two cold masters, Luxury and Wealth,
The wages of thy task they duly gave,
Thy food was choice, and thy apparel brave:
Appeal not now to vanished days of joy
For arguments to succour and to save,--
Proud Self indulgence hath a newer toy,
And younger slaves have skill, and these thy Lords employ.
And thou, first flatterer of her early prime,
Ere praises grew familiar as the light,
And the young feet flew round in measured time
Amid a storm of clapping every night;
Thou, at whose glance the smile grew really bright
That decked her lips for tutored mirth before,--
Wilt THOU deny her and forget her quite?
Thy idol, for whose sake the lavish store
In prodigal caprice thy hand was wont to pour?
Yea, wherefore not? for SELF, and not for her,
Those sums were paid, her facile love to win:
Thy heart's cold ashes vainly would she stir,
The light is quenched she looked so lovely in!
Eke out the measure of thy fault, and sin
'First with her, then against her,' cast her off,
Though on thy words her faith she learned to pin:
The WORLD at her, and not at thee, shall scoff,--
Yea, lowlier than before, its servile cap shall doff.
And since these poor forsaken ones are apt
With ignorant directness to perceive
Only the fact that gentle links are snapt,
Love's perjured nonsense taught them to believe
Would last for ever: since to mourn and grieve
Over these broken vows is to grow wild:
It may be she will come, some winter eve,
And, weeping like a broken-hearted child,
Reproach thee for the days when she was thus beguiled.
Then,--in thy spacious library,--where dwell
Philosophers, Historians, and Sages,
Full of deep lore which thou hast studied well;
And classic Poets, whose melodious pages
Are shut, like birds, in lacquered trellis cages,--
Let thy more educated mind explain
By all experience of recorded ages,
How commonplace is this her frantic pain,
And how such things have been, and must be yet again!
If the ONE BOOK should strike those foreign eyes,
And thy professed Religion she would scan,--
Learning its shallow influence to despise;
Argue thy falsehood on a skilful plan,
Protestant, and protesting gentleman!
Prove all the folly, all the fault, her own;
Let her crouch humbly 'neath misfortune's ban;
She hath unlovely, undelightful grown,
That sin no words absolve: for that no tears atone!
But Prudery,--with averted angry glance,--
Bars pleading, and proclaims the sentence just;
Life's gambler having lost her desperate chance,
Now let the Scorned One grovel in the dust!
Now let the Wanton share the Beggar's crust!
Yet every wretch destroyed by Passion's lure,
Had a First Love,--Lost Hope,--and Broken Trust:
And Heaven shall judge whose thoughts and lives are pure,
Not always theirs worst sin, who worldly scorn endure.
The Worthlessness of those we might relieve
Is chill Denial's favourite pretence:
The proneness of the needy to deceive
By many a stale and counterfeit pretence,--
Their vice,--their folly,--their improvidence.
There's not a ragged beggar that we meet,
Tuning his voice to whining eloquence,
And shuffling towards us with half-naked feet
As some rich equipage comes rolling down the street,--
But we prepare that Sinner to condemn,
And speak a curse, where we were called to bless:
From a corrupted root,--a withered stem;
'Tis gross hypocrisy, and not distress,
Or want brought on by loathsome drunkenness,
Seen in the wandering of his bloodshot eye
Glazed stupid with habitual excess:
Even children raise a simulated cry,--
Worthless we deem them all,--and worthless pass them by.
Nor without reason is the spirit grieved,
And wrath aroused for Truth and Justice' sake:
The tales by which vile Cunning hath deceived,
On calculated chances planned to make
Frozen Compassion's sealed-up fountains wake;
The affectation of distorted pains;
The stealthy dram which trembling fingers take
To send the chill blood coursing through the veins
From a worn heart which scarce its vital heat retains;--
Craving of gifts to pawn, exchange, or sell;--
These are the baser errors of the Poor!
What thine are, Almsgiver, thou best canst tell,
And how thy spirit its temptations bore,
Giving thee now a right to bar the door
Against thy fellow-trespasser: his brow
Hath lost, perchance, the innocence of yore:
The wrestling sin that forced his Soul to bow,
He hath not bravely met and overborne: hast THOU?
Oh, different temptations lurk for all!
The Rich have idleness and luxury,
The Poor are tempted onward to their fall
By the oppression of their Poverty:
Hard is the struggle--deep the agony
When from the demon watch that lies in wait
The soul with shuddering terror strives to flee,
And idleness--or want--or love--or hate--
Lure us to various crimes, for one condemning fate!
Didst THOU, when sleety blasts at midnight howled,
And wretches, clad in Misery's tattered guise,
Like starving wolves, it may be, thieved and prowled;
Never lie dreaming,--shut from winter skies,--
While the warm shadow of remembered eyes,
Like a hot sun-glow, all thy frame opprest;
And love-sick and unhallowed phantasies
Born of a lawless hope, assailed thy breast,
And robbed God's solemn night, of Prayer and tranquil rest.
When the great Sunrise, shining from above
With an impelling and awakening ray,
Found thee so listless in thy sinful love,
Thy flushing cheek could only turn away
From the clear light of that distasteful day,
And, leaning on thy languid hand, invite
Darkness again, that fading dreams might stay,--
Was God's fair Noon not robbed of Duty's Right,
Even as the holy rest was cheated from his night?
Whom thou dost injure,--thou that dost not strike,--
What thou dost covet,--thou that dost not steal,--
HE knows, who made Temptations so unlike,
But SIN the same: to HIM all hearts reveal
The Proteus-like disguises which conceal
That restless Spirit which doth so beguile
And easily beset us: all we feel
Of good or bad,--He knows,--and all the vile
Degrading earthly stains which secret thought defile.
HIS eye detects the stealthy murderer's arm
Uplifted in the hour of midnight gloom:
HE sees, through blushes delicately warm,
Feigned Innocence her forfeit throne resume,
And marks the canker underneath the bloom:
But oft the sentence erring man decreed,
Finds before HIM reversal of its doom:
HE judgeth all our sorrow--all our need--
And pitying bends to hear the sorely tempted plead.
What if by HIM more sternly shall be judged
Crimes to which no necessity impelled,
Than theirs, to whom our human justice grudged
Compassion for the weeping we beheld?
What if the savage blow that madly felled
The object of fierce rage, be lighter deemed
Than cruelty where life-blood never welled,
But where the hope was quenched that faintly gleamed,
And the heart drained of tears which still unpitied streamed?
What if the village brawl, the drunken bout,
The Sabbath-breaking of the skittle-ground,
Shall all be sins foregone and blotted out,
And in their stead worse Sabbath-breaking found
In that which stands not chid for brawling sound;
The silent printed libel; which invests
A strip of paper with the power to wound,--
Where some fair name like dew on nightshade rests,
In a coarse gathered heap of foul indecent jests?
How, if the ignorant clown less vile appears,
Than educated stabbers in the dark,
Who joyed in matron grief, and girlish tears,
And lit in happy homes that quenchless spark
The bitterness of DOUBT: who bid the ark
Float over troubled waters for all time;
And those who once sang joyous as the lark
Bow down in silence; tarnished for no crime;
Stung by a trailing snake, and spotted with its slime?
Oh! learnèd, clothed, and cultivated minds,
To whom the laws their purpose have declared,
Sit ye in judgment but on labouring hinds?
Yea, for the poor your censure is not spared!
Yet shall the faults they made, the crimes they dared,
The errors which ye found so hard to pass,
Seem as the faults of children, when compared
With the corruption of a different class,
When God calls angels forth from this world's buried mass.
Weigh, weigh and balance nicely as you will
The poor man's errors with the poor man's need:
The fiat of the Just One liveth still,
And Human laws, though blindly men may read,
The law of Heaven can never supersede.
By the cold light of Wisdom's complex rules
Vainly we study hard a different creed,--
'Do AS YE WOULD BE DONE BY' mocks the schools,
And mars the shallow craft of worldly-witted fools.
A careless Giver is the poor man's curse!
Think not, by this, absolved of alms to stand;
The niggard heart of indolence does worse,
Stinting both trouble and the liberal hand.
Obey the voice of a divine command;
'Remember Mercy!' haply thou shalt save
If only one, of all that mournful band,
From gaol, or workhouse, or an early grave!
Hear, thou,--and Heaven shall hear thy voice for mercy crave.
Yea, hear the voice that for compassion calls:
Prove him unworthy ere he be denied:
Lest, through thy coldness, dismal workhouse walls
Blankly enclose him round on every side,
And from his eyes God's outward glory hide.
There, like a creature pent in wooden shed,
He in a bitter darkness shall abide,
Duly though sparely clothed, and scantly fed,
But pining for the paths his feet were wont to tread.
There shall his soul, of Nature's sweetness reft,
Robbed of the light that came in angel-gleams
And on the mind such blessed influence left,--
Be filled with dark defying prison-dreams.
Cruel the world's enforced relieving seems,
Preserving life, but not what made life fair;
Stagnant and shut from all life's running streams,
His heart sinks down from feverish restless care,
Into the weary blank of brutalised Despair!
Where is the gorse-flower on the golden moor?
Where the red poppy laughing in the corn?
Where the tall lily at the cottage door,--
The briar-rose dancing in the breezy morn,--
The yellow buttercups of sunshine born,--
The daisies spangling all the village green,--
The showering blossoms of the scented thorn,--
The cowslips that enwreathed the May-day Queen?
What hath he done, that these shall never more be seen?
Oh, flowers! oh, dumb companions on lone hills,--
In meadow walks, and lovely loitering lanes,--
Whose memory brings fresh air and bubbling rills
Amid Life's suffocating fever-pains;
For Rich and Poor your equal joy remains!
Decrepid age and childhood's careless mirth
Alike shall own the power your spell retains:
Midst all the fading changes of the earth
Your smiles, at least, live on,--immortal in their birth.
Who, when some inward anger fiercely burned,--
Hath trod the fresh green carpet where ye lie,
Your soft peace-making faces upward turned,
With a dumb worship to the solemn sky,--
Nor felt his wrath in shame and sorrow die?
Old voices calling to his haunted heart
From grassy meadows known in infancy,
Playfields whose memory bids a teardrop start,
Scenes from a former life whose sunshine dwells apart.
When there had been no quarrels--and no deaths--
No vacant places in our early home:
When blossoms, with their various scented breaths,
Were all the pure hearts knew of beauty's bloom,
Where earthlier passion yet had found no room:
When, from low copse, or sunny upland lawn,
We shouted loud for joy, that steps might come
Bounding and springing, agile as the fawn,--
And 'Sleep came with the dew,' and gladness with the dawn.
Oh! Flowers, oh! gentle never-failing friends,
Which from the world's beginning still have smiled
To cheer Life's pilgrim as he onward wends,--
Seems not your soothing influence, meek and mild,
Like comfort spoken by a little child,
Who, in some desperate sorrow, though he knows
Nothing of all Life's grieving, dark and wild,
An innocent compassion fondly shews,
And fain would win us back from fever to repose?
For morbid folly let my song be chid,--
Incur the cynic's proudly withering sneer,--
But these are feelings (unexprest) which bid
The poor man hold his cottage freedom dear;
The matin lark hath thrilled his gladdened ear,
With its exulting and triumphant song;
The nightingale's sweet notes he loved to hear,
In the dim twilight, when the labouring throng
All weary from their work, in silence trudged along.
The glowing Claudes,--the Poussins,--which your eyes
Behold and value,--treasure as you may,--
His pictures were the sights you do not prize--
The leaf turned yellow by the autumn ray,
The woodbine wreath that swung across his way,
The sudden openings in the hazel-wood:--
He knew no history of Rome's decay,
But, where grey tombstones in the churchyard stood,
He spelt out all the Past on which his mind could brood.
Some humble love-scene of his village lot,
Or some obscure Tradition, could invest
Field, copse, and stile,--or lone and shadowy spot,--
With all the Poetry his heart confest:
The old companions that he loved the best
Met not in crowds at Fashion's busy call:
But loud their merriment, and gay the jest,
At statute fair and homely festival:
And now, life's path is dark, for he hath lost them all!
Therefore deal gently with his destiny,
Which, rightly looked on, differs from your own,
Less in the points of feeling, than degree:
Contrast the great and generous pity shewn,--
The bounteous alms some inquest-hour makes known,--
Bestowed by those whose means of self-support
Are so precarious,--with the pittance thrown
From niggard hands, which only spend for sport,
Scattering vain largesse down in Pleasure's idle court.
Contrast the rich man, with his ready wealth
Feeing a skilled Physician's hand to ease
The pang that robs him of that blessing Health,
With the poor man's lone hour of fell disease;
The wretched ague-fits that burn and freeze,
He understands not; but his aching head
Is conscious that the wasting arm he sees
Grown daily thinner, earns his children's bread,
And that they pine and starve around his helpless bed.
Contrast that terror of the chastening rod
Which those to whom so much was giv'n, must feel,
With the one anxious hope of meeting God!
Of finding all the bliss, the glory real,--
The Mercy that their sorrows past shall heal,--
The Eternal rest,--the happy equal share,--
All that was promised by the Preacher's zeal,
When weekly pausing in a life of care,
Poor voices joined the rich in thanksgiving and prayer.
The stamp of imperfection rests on all
Our human intellects have power to plan;
'Tis Heaven's own mark, fire-branded at the fall,
When we sank lower than we first began,
And the Bad Angel stained the heart of man:
The Good our nature struggles to achieve
Becomes, not what we would, but what we can:--
Ah! shall we therefore idly, vainly grieve,
Or coldly turn away, reluctant to relieve?
Even now a Radiant Angel goeth forth,
A spirit that hath healing on his wings,--
And flieth East and West and North and South
To do the bidding of the King of Kings:
Stirring men's hearts to compass better things,
And teaching BROTHERHOOD as that sweet source
Which holdeth in itself all blessed springs;
And shewing how to guide its silver course,
When it shall flood the world with deep exulting force.
And some shall be too indolent to teach,--
And some too proud of other men to learn,--
And some shall clothe their thoughts in mystic speech,
So that we scarce their meaning may discern;
But all shall feel their hearts within them burn,
(Even those by whom the Holy is denied)
And in their worldly path shall pause and turn,
Because a Presence walketh by their side,
Not of their earthlier mould, but pure and glorified:
And some shall blindly overshoot the mark,
Which others, feeble-handed, fail to hit,
And some, like that lone Dove who left the ark,
With restless and o'erwearied wing to flit
Over a world by lurid storm-gleams lit,--
Shall seek firm landing for a deed of worth,
And see the water-floods still cover it:--
For 'there are many languages on Earth,
But only one in Heaven,' where all good plans have birth.
Faint not, oh Spirit, in dejected mood
Thinking how much is planned, how little done:
Revolt not, Heart, though still misunderstood,
For Gratitude, of all things 'neath the sun,
Is easiest lost,--and insecurest, won:
Doubt not, clear mind, that workest out the Right
For the right's sake: the thin thread must be spun,
And Patience weave it, ere that sign of might,
Truth's Banner, wave aloft, full flashing to the light.
Saw ye the blacksmith with a struggling frown
Hammer the sparkle-drifting iron straight,--
Saw ye the comely anchor, holding down
The storm-tried vessel with its shapely weight?
Saw ye the bent tools, old and out of date,
The crucibles, and fragments of pale ore,--
Saw ye the lovely coronet of state
Which in the festal hour a monarch wore,
The sceptre and the orb which in her hand she bore?
Saw ye the trudging labourer with his spade
Plant the small seedling in the rugged ground,--
Saw ye the forest-trees within whose shade
The wildest blasts of winter wander round,
While the strong branches toss and mock the sound?
Saw ye the honey which the bee had hived,
By starving men in desert wandering found;
And how the soul gained hope, the worn limbs thrived,
Upon the gathered store by insect skill contrived?
Lo! out of Chaos was the world first called,
And Order out of blank Disorder came.
The feebly-toiling heart that shrinks appalled,
In Dangers weak, in Difficulties tame,
Hath lost the spark of that creative flame
Dimly permitted still on earth to burn,
Working out slowly Order's perfect frame:
Distributed to those whose souls can learn,
As labourers under God, His task-work to discern.
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! Thou art one by birth
In whom the weak ones see a human guide:
A Lily in the garden of their earth,
That toilest not, but yet art well supplied
With costly luxuries and robes of pride.
Thy word shall lead full many a wavering soul,
Behoves thee therefore hold thyself allied
With the Mind-Workers, that thy good control
May serve HIS world whose light shines out from pole to pole.
So, when Life's Winter closes on thy toil,
And the great pause of Death's chill silence comes,--
When seeds of good lie buried in the soil,
And labourers rest within their narrow homes,--
When dormant Consciousness no longer roams
In awe-struck fancy towards that distant land
Where no snow falleth, and no ocean foams,
But waits the trumpet in the Angel's hand,--
THOU may'st be one of those who join Heaven's shining band.
The Story Of A Search For A Poem
A man went in search of a Poem
He searched everywhere he walked
He searched inside himself
He searched inside the poems of others
He searched and searched -
And what came to him were fragments of many poems
And he thought perhaps that they themselves were the poem
But they refused to be satisfied with themselves-
So he searched for a way to put them together-
But in searching came upon more fragments
With each new fragment totally re-ordering those that had gone before-
So he thought ‘I went looking for one poem but found many
Perhaps there are only many poems’
And he began to write them down
And felt at times that he had found many poems
But always too he knew he had not found the one-
So he searched and searched again
And could not find the Poem-
He is still searching
And does not know where the poem is
Sometimes he thinks it is hidden in the many already written
But he does not have the eye to discern it the heart to feel it-
He now is surrounded by poems-
They are everywhere-
But he still cannot find the One Poem which is the Poem for him
The Poem which is his Poem and his Poem alone-
He says he is still searching and will search to the end of his days
But he is old now and soon may be too weak to search
And so the Poem he seeks the one he has longed for all his life
May never be found
Though he goes on searching still.
For A Thirteenth Birthday
You have read War and Peace.
Now here is Sister Carrie,
not up to Tolstoy; still
it will second the real world:
predictable planes and levels,
pavement that holds you,
stairs that lift you,
ice that trips you,
nights that begin after sunset,
four lunar phases,
a finite house.
I give you Dreiser
although (or because)
I am no longer sure.
Lately I have been walking into glass doors.
Through the car windows, curbs disappear.
On the highway, wrong turnoffs become irresistible,
someone else is controlling the wheel.
Sleepless nights pile up like a police record;
all my friends are getting divorced.
Language, my old comrade, deserts me;
words are misused or forgotten,
consonants fight each other
between my upper and lower teeth.
I write "fiend" for "friend"
and "word" for "world",
remember comes out with an "m" missing.
I used to be able to find my way in the dark,
sure of the furniture,
but the town I lived in for years
has pulled up its streets in my absence,
disguised its buildings behind my back.
My neighbor at dinner glances
at his cuffs, his palms;
he has memorized certain phrases,
but does not speak my language.
Suddenly I am aware
no one at the table does.
And so I give you Dreiser,
his measure of certainty:
a table that's oak all the way through,
real and fragrant flowers,
skirts from sheep and silkworms,
no unknown fibers;
a language as plain as money,
a workable means of exchange;
a world whose very meanness is solid,
mud into mortar, and you are sure
of what will injure you.
I give you names like nails,
walls that withstand your pounding,
doors that are hard to open,
but once they are open, admit you
into rooms that breathe pure sun.
I give you trees that lose their leaves,
as you knew they would,
and then come green again.
I give you
fruit preceded by flowers,
Venus supreme in the sky,
the miracle of always
landing on your feet,
even though the earth
rotates on its axis.
Start out with that, at least.
New power, new power, give it 2 me
Oh, it need some bottom in here... lay it on me
(hey now, hey now)
Everybody on the block say it is the best
The most vital is what they say, more or less
It put my name upon my thigh
It makes me dance, it makes me cry
And when I touch it race cars burn rubber in my pants
This feelings so good in every single way
I want it morning, noon and night of every day
And if by chance I can not have it - I cant say
But with it I know heavens just a kiss away
Dig me now
Anyone thats ever touched it,
They dont want anything else (no they dont)
And I got 2 tell the world,
I just cant keep it to myself
All in life becomes easier,
No question is unresolved
And Im not afraid
Come on and touch it, I know u will love it
With it I know that heavens a butterfly kiss away
Rain is wet, sugar is sweet
Clap your hands, stomp your feet
Everybody, everybody knows (lovesexy)
When love calls, u got 2 go
Tonight we make love with only words
Girls first, girls first
Ok so like first Ill start by telling u how
Intelligent a curve your behind has
And then I can tell u that I can just smell u
And race cars burn rubber in my pants
But I really dig trippin on the thought of
Being caught by someone with your beauty, style and grace
Baby I dont care I would rip out my hair
4 just 2 nights with your face
I dont want to make love 2 u
I just want 2 look at u
I just want 2 listen 2 u
Oh, pretty little whip, u got me drippin
Drippin all over the floor, the floor
If I come back as a woman, I want a body like yours
A body like yours
I think... I think u would
I think u wanna play house
Yeah, I think u wanna play house
U dont mind
I think u... uh...
I think u want me to (beep) inside of u
U want (lovesexy) me to s...suck around your living room
Yeah, u...u want me to walk right down your halls
U want me to swivel in your love seat
Dont u baby?
U want me to write my name on your walls
U want me to write my name
We make love with only words
Ill make love to u, tomorrow
You Are The One I Been Looking For
Out of every guy is you
You answered all my questions that I couldn't do myself
You are angel come to save me from this broken road and
Lead me into right direction
You are the one I been looking for
You make me understand life
I feel so alive and free
I couldn't feel like this if it wasn't for you
I'm changing all the time because of you
I care about your opinion and what you think about me
You know I like you
I shouldn't have write on there
If I'm not going do anything about it
I never meant to hurt, make you jealous, and I was never mad at you
I was dumb for what I done to you and make you think different of me
You are different out of every guy in good way
I enjoy your laugh, jokes, smile, and goofy sides of you and who you are
You are the most wonderful person I ever meet
On negative side if worst that I have to deal with your friends think they know who I am
You want to found out about me and what your friends think about me
You want to test me, practice me in certain areas, and subjects
I get why, but I didn't realized at time
This was way different than I expect out of you
I am blushing and smiling around you
It's been long time
Everything is because of you
I can enjoy life, see how much I miss out, and have fun again for first time
I want to take risks, do things I never do before
No more sad songs or past
It's you I see now
You are the one I been looking for
I feel so bless to found you
Thank you for everything
You are always one person there to make me feel better when I'm in bad mood and
I start laughing and smile all because of you
When we smile at each other
I get all this sparks back and is was good moment
I just no way to approach you and this time is different
You have a face of famous person even if you are not one
I will not cry anymore if this doesn't work out
I know to let it go and learn from this
This is life and life is not fair
I get it and know better
I should realized what did I got myself in first place
If like this with you, how you feel about this situation, and
I put myself though something that end like this
There is nothing left to say
You are the one I been looking for
Today, recovering from influenza,
I begin, having nothing worse to do,
This autobiography that ends a
Half of my life I'm glad I'm through.
O Love, what a bloody hullaballoo
I look back at, shaken and sober,
When that intemperate life I view
From this temperate October.
To nineteen hundred and forty-seven
I pay the deepest of respects,
For during this year I was given
Some insight into the other sex.
I was a victim, till forty-six,
Of the rosy bed with bitches in it;
But now, in spite of all pretexts,
I never sleep a single minute.
O fellow sailor on the tossing sea,
O fleeting virgin in the night,
O privates, general in lechery,
Shun, shun the bedroom like a blight:
Evade, O amorous acolyte,
That pillow where your heart can bury -
For if the thing was stood upright
It would become a cemetery.
I start with this apostrophe
To all apostles of true love:
With your devotion visit me,
Give me the glory of the dove
That dies of dereliction. Give
True love to me, true love to me,
And in two shakes I will prove
It's false to you and false to me.
Bright spawner, on your sandbank dwell
Coldblooded as a plumber's pipe -
The procreatory ocean swell
Warming, till they're over ripe,
The cockles of your cold heart, will
Teach us true love can instil
Temperature into any type.
Does not the oyster in its bed
Open a yearning yoni when
The full moon passes overhead
Feeling for pearls? O nothing, then,
Too low a form of life is, when
Love, abandoning the cloister,
Can animate the bedded oyster,
The spawning tiddler, and men.
Thus all of us, the pig and prince,
The prince and the psychiatrist,
Owe everything to true love, since
How the devil could we exist
If our parents had never kissed?
All biographies, therefore,
- No matter what else they evince -
Open, like prisons, with adore.
Remember, when you love another,
Who demonstrably is a bitch,
Even Venus had a mother
Whose love, like a silent aitch,
Incepted your erotic itch.
Love, Love has the longest history,
For we can tell an ape his father
Begot him on a mystery.
I, born in Essex thirty-four
Essentially sexual years ago,
Stepped down, looked around, and saw
I had been cast a little low
In the social register
For the friends whom I now know.
Is a constable a mister?
Bob's your uncle, even so.
Better men than I have wondered
Why one's father could not see
That at one's birth he had blundered.
His ill-chosen paternity
Embarrasses the fraternity
Of one's friends who, living Huysmans,
Understandably have wondered
At fatherhood permitted policemen.
So I, the son of an administer
Of the facts of civil laws
Delight in uncivil and even sinister
Violations. Thus my cause
Is simply, friend, to hell with yours.
In misdemeanours I was nourished -
Learnt, like altruists in Westminster,
By what duplicities one flourished.
At five, but feeling rather young,
With a blue eye beauty over six,
Hand in hand and tongue to tongue
I took a sin upon my sex.
Sin? It was pleasure. So I told her.
And ever since, persisting in
Concupiscences no bolder
My pleasure's been to undress sin.
What's the point of a confession
If you have nothing to confess?
I follow the perjuring profession
- O poet, lying to impress! -
But the beautiful lie in a beautiful dress
Is the least heinous of my transgressions:
When a new one's added, 'O who was it? '
Sigh the skeletons in my closet.
Ladybird, ladybird, come home, come home:
Muse and mistress wherever you are.
The evening is here and in the gloom
Each bisexual worm burns like a star
And the love of man is crepuscular.
In the day the world. But, at night, we
Lonely on egoes dark and far
Apart as worlds, between sea and sea,
Yearn on each other as the stars hold
One another in fields together.
O rose of all the world, enfold
Each weeping worm against the cold
Of the bitter ego's weather;
To warm our isothermal pride
Cause sometimes, Love, another
To keep us by an unselfish side.
The act of human procreation
- The rutting tongue, the grunt and shudder,
The sweat, the reek of defecation,
The cradle hanging by the bladder,
The scramble up the hairy ladder,
And from the thumping bed of Time
Immortality, a white slime,
Sucking at its mother's udder -
The act of human procreation
- The sore dug plugging, the lugged out bub,
The small man priming a lactation,
The grunt, the drooping teat, the rub
Of gum and dug, the slobbing kiss:
Behold the mater amabilis,
Sow with a saviour, messiah and cow,
Virgin and piglet, son and sow:
The act of human procreation,
- O crown and flower, O culmination
Of perfect love throughout creation -
What can I compare it to?
O eternal butterflies in the belly,
O trembling of the heavenly jelly,
O miracle of birth! Really
We are excreted, like shit.
The Church, mediatrix between heaven
And human fallibility
Reminds us that the age of seven
Inaugurates the Reason we
Spend our prolonged seniority
Transgressing. Of that time I wish
I could recount a better story
Than finding a shilling and a fish.
But memory flirts with seven veils
Peekabooing the accidental
And what the devil it all entails
Only Sigmund Freud suspects.
I think my shilling and my fish
Symbolised a hidden wish
To sublimate these two affects:
Money is nice and so is sex.
The Angel of Reason, descending
On my seven year old head
Inscribed this sentence by my bed:
The pleasure of money is unending
But sex satisfied is sex dead.
I tested to see if sex died
But, all my effort notwithstanding,
Have never found it satisfied.
Abacus of Reason, you have been
The instrument of my abuse,
The North Star I have never seen,
The trick for which I have no use:
The Reason, gadget of schoolmasters,
Pimp of the spirit, the smart alec,
Proud engineer of disasters,
I see phallic: you, cephalic.
Happy those early days when I
Attended an elementary school
Where seven hundred infant lives
Flittered like gadflies on the stool
(We discovered that contraceptives
Blown up like balloons, could fly):
We memorised the Golden Rule:
Lie, lie, lie, lie.
For God's sake, Barker. This is enough
Whimsicalities and such stuff.
Where's the ineffable mystery,
The affiancing to affinities
Of the young poet? The history
Of an evolving mind's love
For the miseries and the humanities?
The sulking and son loving Muse
Grabbed me when I was nine. She saw
It was a question of self abuse
Or verses. I tossed off reams before
I cared to recognize their purpose.
While other urchins were blowing up toads
With pipes of straw stuck in the arse,
So was I, but I also wrote odes.
There was a priest, a priest, a priest,
A Reverend of the Oratory
Who taught me history. At least
He taught me the best part of his story.
Fat Father William, have you ceased
To lead boys up the narrow path
Through the doors of the Turkish Bath?
I hope you're warm in Purgatory.
And in the yard of the tenement
- The Samuel Lewis Trust - I played
While my father, for the rent
(Ten bob a wekk and seldom paid) ,
Trudged London for a job. I went
Skedaddling up the scanty years,
My learning, like the rent, in arrears,
But sometimes making the grade.
Oh boring kids! In spite of Freud
I find my childhood recollections
Much duller now than when I enjoyed
It. The whistling affections,
All fitting wrong, toy railway sections
Running in circles. Cruel as cats
Even the lower beasts avoid
These inhumanitarian brats.
Since the Age of Reason's seven
And most of one's friends over eight,
Therefore they're reasonable? Even
Sensible Stearns or simpleton Stephen
Wouldn't claim that. I contemplate
A world which, at crucial instants,
Surrenders to adulterant infants
The adult onus to think straight.
At the bottom of this murky well
My childhood, like a climbing root,
Nursed in dirt the simple cell
That pays itself this sour tribute.
Track any poet to a beginning
And in a dark room you will find
A little boy intent on sinning
With an etymological lover.
I peopled my youth with the pulchritude
Of heterae noun-anatomised;
The literature that I prized
Was anything to do with the nude
Spirit of creative art
Who whispered to me: 'Don't be queasy.
Simply write about a tart
And there she is. The rest's easy.'
And thus, incepted in congenial
Feebleness of moral power
I became a poet. Venial
As a human misdemeanour,
Still, it gave me, prisoner
In my lack of character,
Pig to the Circean Muse's honour.
Her honour? Why, it's lying on her.
Dowered, invested and endowed
With every frailty is the poet -
Yielding to wickedness because
How the hell else can he know it?
The tempted poet must be allowed
All ethical latitude. His small flaws
Bring home to him, in sweet breaches,
The moral self indulgence teaches.
Where was I? Running, so to speak,
To the adolescent seed? I
Found my will power rather weak
And my appetite rather greedy
About the year of the General Strike,
So I struck, as it were, myself:
Refused to do anything whatsover, like
Exercise books on a shelf.
Do Youth and Innocence prevail
Over that cloudcuckoo clime
Where the seasons never fail
And the clocks forget the time?
Where the peaks of the sublime
Crown every thought; where every vale
Has its phantasy and phantasm
And every midnight its orgasm?
I mooned into my fourteenth year
Through a world pronouncing harsh
Judgments I could not quite hear
About my verse, my young moustasche
And my bad habits. In Battersea Park
I almost heard strangers gossip
About my poems, almost remark
The bush of knowledge on my lip.
Golden Calf, Golden Calf, where are you now
Who lowed so mournfully in the dense
Arcana of my adolescence?
No later anguish of bull or cow
Could ever be compared with half
The misery of the amorous calf
Moonstruck in moonshine. How could I know
You can't couple Love with any sense?
Poignant as a swallowed knife,
Abstracted as a mannequin,
Remote as music, touchy as skin,
Into an apocalypse,
Young Love, taking Grief to wife,
And tasting the bitterness of her lips
Forgets it comes from swabbing gin.
The veils descend. The unknown figure
Is sheeted in the indecencies
Of shame and boils. The nose gets bigger,
The private parts, haired like a trigger,
Cock at a dream. The infant cries
Abandoned in its discarded larva,
Out of which steps, with bloodshot eyes,
The man, the man, crying Ave, Ave!
That Frenchman really had the trick
Of figure skating in this stanza
But I, thank God, cannot read Gallic
And so escape his influenza.
Above my head his rhetoric
Asks emulation. I do not answer.
It is as though I had not heard
Because I cannot speak a word.
But I invoke him, dirty dog,
As one barker to another:
Lift over me your clever leg,
Teach me, you snail-swallowing frog
To make out of a spot of bother
Verses that shall catalogue
Every exaggerated human claim,
Every exaggerated human aim.
I entreat you, frank villain,
Get up out of your bed of dirt
And guide my hand. You are still an
At telling Truth she's telling lies.
Get up liar; get up, cheat,
Look the bitch square in the eyes
And you'll see what I entreat.
We share, frog, much the same well.
I sense your larger spectre down
Here among the social swill
Moving at ease beside my own
And the muckrakers I have known.
No, not the magnitude I claim
That makes your shade loom like a tall
Memorial but the type's the same.
You murdered with a knife, but I
Like someone out of Oscar Wilde
Commemorate with a child
The smiling victims as they die
Slewing in kisses and the lie
Of generation. But we both killed.
I rob the grave you glorify,
You glorify where I defiled.
O most adult adulterer
Preside, now, coldly over
My writing hand, as to it crowd
The images of those unreal years
That, like a curtain, seem to stir
Guiltily over what they cover -
Those unreal years, dreamshot and proud,
When the vision first appears.
The unveiled vision of all things
Walking towards us as we stand
And giving us, in either hand,
The knowledge that the world brings
To those her most beloved, those
Who, when she strikes with her wings,
Stand rooted, turned into a rose
By terrestrial understandings.
Come, sulking woman, bare as water,
Dazzle me now as you dazzled me
When, blinded by your nudity,
I saw the sex of the intellect,
The idea of the beautiful.
The beautiful to which I, later,
Gave only mistrust and neglect,
The idea no dishonour can annul.
Vanquished aviatrix, descend
Again, long vanished vision whom
I have not known so long, assume
Your former bright prerogative,
Illuminate, guide and attend
Me now. O living vision, give
The grave, the verity; and send
The spell that makes the poem live.
I sent a letter to my love
In an envelope of stone,
And in between the letters ran
A crying torrent that began
To grow till it was bigger than
Nyanza or the heart of man.
I sent a letter to my love
In an envelope of stone.
I sent a present to my love
In a black bordered box,
A clock that beats a time of tears
As the stricken midnight nears
And my love weeps as she hears
The armageddon of the years.
I sent my love the present
In a black bordered box.
I sent a liar to my love
With his hands full of roses
But she shook her yellow and curled
Curled and yellow hair and cried
The rose is dead of all the world
Since my only love has lied.
I sent a liar to my love
With roses in his hands.
I sent a daughter to my love
In a painted cradle.
She took her up at her left breast
And rocked her to a mothered rest
Singing a song that what is best
Loves and loves and forgets the rest.
I sent a daughter to my love
In a painted cradle.
I sent a letter to my love
On a sheet of stone.
She looked down and as she read
She shook her yellow hair and said
Now he sleeps alone instead
Of many a lie in many a bed.
I sent a letter to my love
On a sheet of stone.
O long-haired virgin by my tree
Among whose forks hung enraged
A sexual passion not assuaged
By you, its victim - knee to knee,
Locked sweating in the muscled dark
Lovers, as new as we were, spill
The child on grass in Richmond Park.
Crying the calf runs wild among
Hills of the heart are memories:
Long long the white kiss of the young
Rides the lip and only dies
When the whole man stalks among
The crosses where remorse lies -
Then, then the vultures on the tongue
Rule empires of white memories.
Legendary water, where, within
Gazing, my own face I perceive,
How can my self-disgust believe
This was my angel at seventeeen?
Stars, stars and the world, seen
Untouched by crystal. Retrieve
The morning star what culprit can
Who knows his blood spins in between?
Move backward, loving rover, over
All those unfeathered instances
I tar with kiss of pitch, the dirty
Lip-service that a jaded thirty
Renders its early innocences.
Pointer of recollection, show
The deaths in feather that now cover
The tarry spot I died below.
What sickening snot-engendered bastard
Likes making an idiot of himself?
I wish to heaven I had mastered
The art of living like a dastard
While still admiring oneself.
About my doings, past and recent,
I hear Disgust - my better half -
'His only decency's indecent.'
Star-fingered shepherdess of Sleep
Come, pacify regret, remorse;
And let the suffering black sheep
Weep on the bed it made. Let pause
The orphic criminal to perceive
That in the venue of his days
All the crimes look back and grieve
Over lies no grief allays.
Sleep at my side again, my bride,
As on our marriage bed you turned
Into a flowering bush that burned
All the proud flesh away. Beside
Me now, you, shade of my departed
Broken, abandoned bride, lie still,
And I shall hold you close until
Even our ghosts are broken hearted.
So trusting, innocent, and unknowing
What the hazards of the world
Storm and strike a marriage with,
We did not hear the grinders blowing
But sailed our kisses round the world
Ignorant of monsters and the vaster
Cemetery of innocence. This wreath
Dreams over our common disaster.
But bright that nuptials to me now
As when, the smiling foetus carried
Rose-decked today instead of tomorrow,
Like country cousins we were married
By the pretty bullying embryo
And you, my friend: I will not borrow
Again the serge suit that I carried
Through honey of moon to sup of sorrow.
Loving the hand, gentle the reproving;
Loving the heart, deeper the understanding;
Deeper the understanding, larger the confiding
For the hurt heart's hiding.
Forgiving the hand, love without an ending
Walks back on water; giving and taking
Both sides become by simple comprehending:
Deeper the love, greater the heart at breaking.
O Bishop Andrewes, Bishop Berkeley,
John Peale Bishop and Bishop's Park,
I look through my ego darkly
But all that I perceive is dark:
My parochial testaments
And with your vestal vested vestments
Tenderly invest my state.
Let grace, like lace, descend upon me
And dignify my wingless shoulder:
Let Grace, like space, lie heavy on me
And make me seem a little older,
A little nobler; let Grace sidle
Into my shameful bed, and, curling
About me in a psychic bridal,
Prove that even Grace is a darling.
The moon is graceful in the sky,
The bird is graceful in the air,
The girl is graceful too, so why
The devil should I ever care
Capitulating to despair?
Since Grace is clearly everywhere
And I am either here or there
I'm pretty sure I've got my share.
Grace whom no man ever held,
Whose breast no human hand has pressed,
Grace no lover has undressed
Because she's naked as a beast -
Grace will either gild or geld.
Sweet Grace abounding into bed
Jumps to it hot as a springald -
After a brief prayer is said.
Come to me, Grace, and I will take
You close into my wicked hands,
And when you come, make no mistake,
I'll disgrace you at both ends.
We'll grace all long throughout the night
And as the morning star looks in
And blanches at the state we're in -
We'll grace again to be polite.
For Marriage is a state of grace.
So many mutual sacrifices
Infallibly induce a peace
Past understanding or high prices.
So many forgivenesses for so many
Double crossings or double dealings -
I know that the married cannot have any
But the most unselfish feelings.
But the wise Church, contemplating
The unnatural demands
That marriage and the art of mating
Make on egoists, commands
We recognise as sacramental
A union otherwise destined
To break in every anarchic wind
Broken by the temperamental.
Off the Tarpeian, for high treason,
Tied in a bag with a snake and a cock,
The traitor trod the Roman rock.
But in the bag, for a better reason,
The married lovers, cock and snake,
Lie on a Mount of Venus. Traitor
Each to each, fake kissing fake,
So punished by a betrayed creator.
'The willing union of two lives.'
This is, the Lords of Justice tell us,
The purpose of the connubial knot.
But I can think of only one
Function that at best contrives
To join the jealous with the jealous,
And what this function joins is not
Lives, but the erogenous zone.
I see the young bride move among
The nine-month trophies of her pride,
And though she is not really young
And only virtually a bride,
She knows her beauties now belong
With every other treasure of her
Past and future, to her lover:
But her babies work out wrong.
I see the bridegroom in his splendour
Rolling like an unbridalled stallion,
Handsome, powerful and tender,
And passionate as an Italian -
And nothing I could say would lend a
Shock of more surprise and pride
Than if I said that this rapscallion
Was necking with his legal bride.
I knew a beautiful courtesan
Who, after service, would unbosom
He prettier memories, like blossom,
At the feet of the weary man:
'I'm such a sensitive protoplasm,'
She whispered, when I was not there,
'That I experience an orgasm
If I t o u c h a millionaire.'
Lying with, about, upon,
Everything and everyone,
Every happy little wife
Miscegenates once in alife,
And every pardonable groom
Needs, sometimes, a change of womb,
Because, although damnation may be,
Society needs every baby.
It takes a sacrament to keep
Any man and woman together:
Birds of a forgivable feather
Always flock and buck together:
And in our forgivable sleep
What birdwatcher will know whether
God Almighty sees we keep
Religiously to one another?
I have often wondered what method
Governed the heavenly mind when
It made as audience to God
The sycophant, the seaman sod,
The solipsist - in short, men.
Even the circus stepping mare
Lifts her nose into the air
In the presence of this paragon.
For half a dozen simple years
We lived happily, so to speak,
On twenty-seven shillings a week;
And, when worried and in tears,
My mercenary wife complained
That we could not afford our marriage,
'It's twice as much,' I explained,
'As MacNeice pays for his garage.'
I entertained the Marxian whore -
I am concerned with economics,
And naturally felt that more
Thought should be given to our stomachs.
But when I let my fancy dwell
On anything below the heart,
I found my thoughts, and hands as well,
Resting upon some private part.
I sat one morning on the can
That served us for a lavatory
Composing some laudatory
Verses on the state of man:
My wife called from the kitchen dresser:
'There's someone here from Japan.
He wants you out there. As Professor.
Oh, yes. The War just began.'
So Providence engineered her
And the crown of the objector
Was snatched from me. In wars
The conscientious protester
Preserves, as worlds sink to force,
The dignified particular.
Particularly one, of course.
'The hackneyed rollcall of chronology' -
Thus autobiography to de Quincey.
And I can understand it, since he
Lived like a footnote to philology.
But the archangelic enumeration
Of unpredictable hejiras -
These, with a little exaggeration,
I can adduce for my admirerers.
And so, when I saw you, nightmare island,
Fade into the autumnal night,
I felt the tears rise up for my land,
But somehow these tears were not quite
As sick as when my belly laughed
Remembering England had given me
The unconditional liberty
To do a job for which I starved.
Almighty God, by whose ill will
I was created with a conscience;
By whose merciful malevolence
I shall be sustained until
My afflictions fulfil
His victories; by whose dispensation
Whatever I have had of sense
Has obfuscated my salvation -
Good God, grant that, in reviewing
My past life, I may remember
Everything I did worth doing
Seemed rather wicked in pursuing:
Grant, Good God, I shall have remitted
Those earthly pleasures beyond number
I necessarily omitted,
Exhausted by the ones committed.
Good God, let me recollect
Your many mercies, tall and short,
The blousy blondes, the often necked,
And those whom I should not have thought
Given wisely to me; nor let forget
My grateful memory the odd
Consolers, too frequently brunette,
Who charged me for your mercies, God.
Good God, let me so recall
My grave omissions and commissions
That I may repent them all,
- The places, faces and positions;
Together with the few additions
A feeble future may instal.
Good God, only mathematicians
Consider Love an ordinal.
Good God, so wisely you provided
The loving heart I suffer with,
That I am constantly divided
By a deep love for all beneath
Me. Every man knows well
He rides his own whores down to hell,
But, good God, every knackered horse
Was, originally, yours.
Good God, receive my thanksgiving
For all the wonders I have seen
(And all the blunders in between)
In my thirty odd years of living.
I have seen the morning rise
And I have seen the evening set -
Anything different would surprise
Me even more profoundly yet.
Good God, receive my gratitude
For favours undeserved: accept
This truly heartfelt platitude:
You gave me too much latitude
And so I hanged myself. I kept
Your mercy, Good God, in a box
But out at midnight Justice crept
And axed me with a paradox.
O loving kindness of the knife
That cuts the proud flesh from the rotten
Ego and cuts the rotten life
Out of the rotten bone! No, not an
Ounce of sparrow is forgotten
As that butchering surgeon cuts
And rummages among my guts
To succour what was misbegotten.
I confess, my God, this lonely
Derelict of a night, when I
And not the conscious I only
Feel all the responsibility -
(But the simple and final fact
That we are better than we act,
For this fortunate windfall
We are not responsible at all) -
I confess, my God, that in
The hotbed of the monkey sin
I saw you through a guilt of hair
Standing lonely as a mourner
Silent in the bedroom corner
Knowing you need not be there:
I saw the genetic man had torn
A face away from your despair.
I confess, my God, my Good,
I have not wholly understood
The nature of our holiness:
The striking snake errs even less
Not questioning; the physicist
Not asking why all things exist
Serves better than those who advance a
Question to which life's the answer.
But, O my God, the human purpose
If at all I can perceive
A purpose in the life I live,
Is to hide in the glass horse
Of our doubt until the pity
Of heaven opens up a city
Of absolute belief to us,
Because our silence is hideous
And our doubt more miserable
Than certainty of the worst would be.
Like infinity pitiable
Ghosts who do not even know
They waver between reality
And unreality, we go
About our lives and cannot see
Even why we suffer so.
I know only that the heart
Doubting every real thing else
Does not doubt the voice that tells
Us that we suffer. The hard part
At the dead centre of the soul
Is an age of frozen grief
No vernal equinox of relief
Can mitigate, and no love console.
Then, O my God, by the hand
This star-wandering grief takes
The world that does not understand
Its own miseries and mistakes
And leads it home. Not yet, but later
To lean an expiated head
On the shoulder of a creator
Who knows where all troubles lead.
I looked into my heart to write.
In that red sepulchre of lies
I saw that all man cherishes
Goes proud, rots and perishes
Till through that red room pitiless night
Trails only knife-tongued memories
To whose rags cling, shrieking, bright
Unborn and aborted glories.
And vinegar the mirages
That, moaning they were possible
Charge me with the unholy No.
The unaccomplished issue rages
Round the ringed heart like a bull
Bellowing for birth. But even so
Remorselessly the clock builds ages
Over its lifeless embryo.
Ruined empire of dissipated time,
Perverted aim, abused desire,
The monstrous amoeba cannot aspire
But sinks down into the cold slime
Of Eden as Ego. It is enough
To sink back in the primal mud
Of the first person. For what could
Equal the paradise of Self Love?
The necessary angel is
The lie. Behind, us, all tongue splayed,
The lie triumphant and tremendous
Shields us from what we are afraid
Of seeing when we turn - the Abyss
Giving back a face of small
Twisted fear - and this is all,
To conquer the lie, that we possess.
Come, corybantic self-delusion,
And whisper such deceptions to
Me now that I will not care who
Or what you are, save palliation
Of the question marked heart. Let rest
The harp and horror horned head upon
That green regenerative breast
By whose great law we still live on.
Now from my window looking down
I see the lives of those for whom
My love has still a little room
Go suffering by. I see my own
Stopped, like a stair carpet, at this story
Not worth the telling. O memory
Let the gilded images of joys known
Return, and be consolatory!
Bitter and broken as the morning
Valentine climbs the glaciered sky
With a spike in his foot. The lover's warning
Blazes a sunrise on our misery:
Look down, look down, and see our grey
And loveless rendezvous, Valentine:
Fold, then, in grief and cast away
The love that is not yours or mine.
Of this day of the innocent
And happy lovers, let me praise
The grotesque bestiary of those
Who love too much. Monsters invent
Monster, like babies gypsies raise
In odd bottles for freak shows -
Those love too deeply for the skin.
Whose bottle are you monster in?
The grotesque bestiary where
Coiled the pythoness of sighs,
To keep a beast within her there
Crushes him in her clutch of vice
Till, misshapen to her passion, dead,
The lion of the heart survives
By suffering kisses into knives
And a spiked pit into a bed.
Stand in your sad and golden haired
Accusation about me now,
My sweet seven misled into life.
Oh had the hot headed seaman spared
Those breast-baring ova on their bough,
There'd been no aviary of my grief,
No sweet seven standing up in sorrow
Uttering songs of joy declared
Of joy declared, as bird extol
The principle of natural pleasure
Not knowing why. Declare to all
Who disbelieve it, that delight
Naturally inhabits the soul.
I look down at you to assure
My sense of wrong: but you declare
Whatever multiplies is right.
I looked into my heart to write.
But when I saw that cesspit twisted
With the disgusting laws that live
In royal domination under
The surface of our love, that writhe
Among our prizes, they attested
The putrefaction of our love
Spoils the spawner of its grandeur.
Today, the twenty-sixth of February,
I, halfway to the minute through
The only life I want to know,
Intend to end this rather dreary
Joke of an autobiography.
Thirty-five years is quite enough
Of one's own company. I grow
A bit sick of the terrestial stuff.
And the celestial nonsense. Swill
Guzzle and copulate and guzzle
And copulate and swill until
You break up like a jigsaw puzzle
Shattered with smiles. The idiotic
Beatitude of the sow in summer
Conceals a gibbering neurotic
Sowing hot oats to get warmer.
Look on your handwork, Adam, now
As I on mine, and do not weep.
The detritus is us. But how
Could you and I ever hope to keep
That glittering sibyl bright who first
Confided in us, perfect, once,
The difference between the best and the worst?
That vision is our innocence.
But we shall step into our grave
Not utterly divested of
The innocence our nativity
Embodies a god in. O bear,
Inheritors, all that you have,
The sense of good, with much care
Through the dirty street of life
And the gutter of our indignity.
I sense the trembling in my hand
Of that which will not ever lower
Its bright and pineal eye and wing
To any irony, nor surrender
The dominion of my understanding
To that Apollyonic power
Which, like the midnight whispering
Sun, surrounds us with dark splendour.
Enisled and visionary, mad
Alive, in the catacomb of the heart,
O lonely diviner, lovely diviner, impart
The knowledge of the good and the bad
To us in our need. Emblazon
Our instincts upon your illumination
So that the rot's revealed, and the reason
Shown crucified upon our desolation.
You, all whom I coldly took
And hid my head and horns among,
Shall go caterwauling down with me
Like a frenzy of chained doves. For, look!
We wailing ride down eternity
Tongue-tied together. We belong
To those with whom we shook the suck
And dared an antichrist to be.
Get rags, get rags, all angels, all
Laws, all principles, all deities,
Get rags, come down and suffocate
The orphan in its flaming cradle,
Snuff the game and the candle, for our state
- Insufferable among mysteries -
Makes the worms weep. Abate, abate
Your justice. Execute us with mercies!
The Castle Of Indolence
The castle hight of Indolence,
And its false luxury;
Where for a little time, alas!
We lived right jollily.
O mortal man, who livest here by toil,
Do not complain of this thy hard estate;
That like an emmet thou must ever moil,
Is a sad sentence of an ancient date:
And, certes, there is for it reason great;
For, though sometimes it makes thee weep and wail,
And curse thy star, and early drudge and late;
Withouten that would come a heavier bale,
Loose life, unruly passions, and diseases pale.
In lowly dale, fast by a river's side,
With woody hill o'er hill encompass'd round,
A most enchanting wizard did abide,
Than whom a fiend more fell is no where found.
It was, I ween, a lovely spot of ground;
And there a season atween June and May,
Half prankt with spring, with summer half imbrown'd,
A listless climate made, where, sooth to say,
No living wight could work, ne cared even for play.
Was nought around but images of rest:
Sleep-soothing groves, and quiet lawns between;
And flowery beds that slumbrous influence kest,
From poppies breathed; and beds of pleasant green,
Where never yet was creeping creature seen.
Meantime, unnumber'd glittering streamlets play'd,
And hurled every where their waters sheen;
That, as they bicker'd through the sunny glade,
Though restless still themselves, a lulling murmur made.
Join'd to the prattle of the purling rills
Were heard the lowing herds along the vale,
And flocks loud bleating from the distant hills,
And vacant shepherds piping in the dale:
And, now and then, sweet Philomel would wail,
Or stock-doves plain amid the forest deep,
That drowsy rustled to the sighing gale;
And still a coil the grasshopper did keep;
Yet all these sounds yblent inclined all to sleep.
Full in the passage of the vale, above,
A sable, silent, solemn forest stood;
Where nought but shadowy forms was seen to move,
As Idless fancied in her dreaming mood:
And up the hills, on either side, a wood
Of blackening pines, aye waving to and fro,
Sent forth a sleepy horror through the blood;
And where this valley winded out, below,
The murmuring main was heard, and scarcely heard, to flow.
A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
For ever flushing round a summer-sky:
There eke the soft delights, that witchingly
Instil a wanton sweetness through the breast,
And the calm pleasures always hover'd nigh;
But whate'er smack'd of noyance, or unrest,
Was far, far off expell'd from this delicious nest.
The landscape such, inspiring perfect ease,
Where Indolence (for so the wizard hight)
Close-hid his castle mid embowering trees,
That half shut out the beams of Phœbus bright,
And made a kind of checker'd day and night;
Meanwhile, unceasing at the massy gate,
Beneath a spacious palm, the wicked wight
Was placed; and to his lute, of cruel fate
And labour harsh, complain'd, lamenting man's estate.
Thither continual pilgrims crowded still,
From all the roads of earth that pass there by:
For, as they chaunced to breathe on neighbouring hill,
The freshness of this valley smote their eye,
And drew them ever and anon more nigh;
Till clustering round the enchanter false they hung,
Ymolten with his syren melody;
While o'er the enfeebling lute his hand he flung,
And to the trembling chords these tempting verses sung;
‘Behold! ye pilgrims of this earth, behold!
See all, but man, with unearn'd pleasure gay:
See her bright robes the butterfly unfold,
Broke from her wintry tomb in prime of May!
What youthful bride can equal her array?
Who can with her for easy pleasure vie?
From mead to mead with gentle wing to stray,
From flower to flower on balmy gales to fly,
Is all she has to do beneath the radiant sky.
‘Behold the merry minstrels of the morn,
The swarming songsters of the careless grove,
Ten thousand throats! that, from the flowering thorn,
Hymn their good God, and carol sweet of love,
Such grateful kindly raptures them emove:
They neither plough, nor sow; ne, fit for flail,
E'er to the barn the nodden sheaves they drove;
Yet theirs each harvest dancing in the gale,
Whatever crowns the hill, or smiles along the vale.
‘Outcast of nature, man! the wretched thrall
Of bitter dropping sweat, of sweltry pain,
Of cares that eat away the heart with gall,
And of the vices, an inhuman train,
That all proceed from savage thirst of gain:
For when hard-hearted interest first began
To poison earth, Astræa left the plain;
Guile, violence, and murder seized on man,
And, for soft milky streams, with blood the rivers ran.
‘Come, ye, who still the cumbrous load of life
Push hard up hill; but as the furthest steep
You trust to gain, and put an end to strife,
Down thunders back the stone with mighty sweep,
And hurls your labours to the valley deep,
For ever vain: come, and withouten fee,
I in oblivion will your sorrows steep,
Your cares, your toils; will steep you in a sea
Of full delight: O come, ye weary wights, to me!
‘With me, you need not rise at early dawn,
To pass the joyless day in various stounds;
Or, louting low, on upstart fortune fawn,
And sell fair honour for some paltry pounds;
Or through the city take your dirty rounds,
To cheat, and dun, and lie, and visit pay,
Now flattering base, now giving secret wounds;
Or prowl in courts of law for human prey,
In venal senate thieve, or rob on broad highway.
‘No cocks, with me, to rustic labour call,
From village on to village sounding clear;
To tardy swain no shrill-voiced matrons squall;
No dogs, no babes, no wives, to stun your ear;
No hammers thump; no horrid blacksmith sear,
Ne noisy tradesman your sweet slumbers start,
With sounds that are a misery to hear:
But all is calm, as would delight the heart
Of Sybarite of old, all nature, and all art.
‘Here nought but candour reigns, indulgent ease,
Good-natured lounging, sauntering up and down.
They who are pleased themselves must always please;
On others' ways they never squint a frown,
Nor heed what haps in hamlet or in town:
Thus, from the source of tender Indolence,
With milky blood the heart is overflown,
Is sooth'd and sweeten'd by the social sense;
For interest, envy, pride, and strife are banish'd hence.
‘What, what is virtue, but repose of mind,
A pure ethereal calm, that knows no storm;
Above the reach of wild ambition's wind,
Above those passions that this world deform,
And torture man, a proud malignant worm?
But here, instead, soft gales of passion play,
And gently stir the heart, thereby to form
A quicker sense of joy; as breezes stray
Across the enliven'd skies, and make them still more gay.
‘The best of men have ever loved repose:
They hate to mingle in the filthy fray;
Where the soul sours, and gradual rancour grows,
Imbitter'd more from peevish day to day.
E'en those whom fame has lent her fairest ray,
The most renown'd of worthy wights of yore,
From a base world at last have stolen away:
So Scipio, to the soft Cumæan shore
Retiring, tasted joy he never knew before.
‘But if a little exercise you choose,
Some zest for ease, 'tis not forbidden here:
Amid the groves you may indulge the Muse,
Or tend the blooms, and deck the vernal year;
Or softly stealing, with your watery gear,
Along the brooks, the crimson-spotted fry
You may delude: the whilst, amused, you hear
Now the hoarse stream, and now the zephyr's sigh,
Attuned to the birds, and woodland melody.
‘O grievous folly! to heap up estate,
Losing the days you see beneath the sun;
When, sudden, comes blind unrelenting fate,
And gives the untasted portion you have won
With ruthless toil, and many a wretch undone,
To those who mock you, gone to Pluto's reign,
There with sad ghosts to pine, and shadows dun:
But sure it is of vanities most vain,
To toil for what you here untoiling may obtain.’
He ceased. But still their trembling ears retain'd
The deep vibrations of his witching song;
That, by a kind of magic power, constrain'd
To enter in, pell-mell, the listening throng.
Heaps pour'd on heaps, and yet they slipt along,
In silent ease; as when beneath the beam
Of summer-moons, the distant woods among,
Or by some flood all silver'd with the gleam,
The soft-embodied fays through airy portal stream:
By the smooth demon so it order'd was,
And here his baneful bounty first began:
Though some there were who would not further pass,
And his alluring baits suspected han.
The wise distrust the too fair-spoken man.
Yet through the gate they cast a wishful eye:
Not to move on, perdie, is all they can:
For do their very best they cannot fly,
But often each way look, and often sorely sigh.
When this the watchful wicked wizard saw,
With sudden spring he leap'd upon them straight;
And soon as touch'd by his unhallow'd paw,
They found themselves within the cursed gate;
Full hard to be repass'd, like that of fate.
Not stronger were of old the giant crew,
Who sought to pull high Jove from regal state;
Though feeble wretch he seem'd, of sallow hue:
Certes, who bides his grasp, will that encounter rue.
For whomsoe'er the villain takes in hand,
Their joints unknit, their sinews melt apace;
As lithe they grow as any willow-wand,
And of their vanish'd force remains no trace:
So when a maiden fair, of modest grace,
In all her buxom blooming May of charms,
Is seized in some losel's hot embrace,
She waxeth very weakly as she warms,
Then sighing yields her up to love's delicious harms.
Waked by the crowd, slow from his bench arose
A comely, full-spread porter, swoln with sleep:
His calm, broad, thoughtless aspect breathed repose;
And in sweet torpor he was plunged deep,
Ne could himself from ceaseless yawning keep;
While o'er his eyes the drowsy liquor ran,
Through which his half-waked soul would faintly peep:
Then taking his black staff, he call'd his man,
And roused himself as much as rouse himself he can.
The lad leap'd lightly at his master's call:
He was, to weet, a little roguish page,
Save sleep and play who minded nought at all,
Like most the untaught striplings of his age.
This boy he kept each band to disengage,
Garters and buckles, task for him unfit,
But ill becoming his grave personage,
And which his portly paunch would not permit;
So this same limber page to all performed it.
Meantime, the master-porter wide display'd
Great store of caps, of slippers, and of gowns;
Wherewith he those who enter'd in array'd
Loose, as the breeze that plays along the downs,
And waves the summer-woods when evening frowns:
O fair undress, best dress! it checks no vein,
But every flowing limb in pleasure drowns,
And heightens ease with grace. This done, right fain,
Sir porter sat him down, and turn'd to sleep again.
Thus easy robed, they to the fountain sped
That in the middle of the court up-threw
A stream, high spouting from its liquid bed,
And falling back again in drizzly dew;
There each deep draughts, as deep he thirsted, drew;
It was a fountain of nepenthe rare;
Whence, as Dan Homer sings, huge pleasance grew,
And sweet oblivion of vile earthly care;
Fair gladsome waking thoughts, and joyous dreams more fair.
This right perform'd, all inly pleased and still,
Withouten tromp, was proclamation made:
‘Ye sons of Indolence, do what you will;
And wander where you list, through hall or glade;
Be no man's pleasure for another staid;
Let each as likes him best his hours employ,
And cursed be he who minds his neighbour's trade!
Here dwells kind ease and unreproving joy:
He little merits bliss who others can annoy.’
Straight of these endless numbers, swarming round,
As thick as idle motes in sunny ray,
Not one eftsoons in view was to be found,
But every man stroll'd off his own glad way,
Wide o'er this ample court's blank area,
With all the lodges that thereto pertain'd,
No living creature could be seen to stray;
While solitude, and perfect silence reign'd;
So that to think you dreamt you almost was constrain'd.
As when a shepherd of the Hebrid-Isles,
Placed far amid the melancholy main,
(Whether it be lone fancy him beguiles;
Or that aërial beings sometimes deign
To stand, embodied, to our senses plain)
Sees on the naked hill, or valley low,
The whilst in ocean Phœbus dips his wain,
A vast assembly moving to and fro:
Then all at once in air dissolves the wondrous show.
Ye gods of quiet, and of sleep profound!
Whose soft dominion o'er this castle sways,
And all the widely silent places round,
Forgive me, if my trembling pen displays
What never yet was sung in mortal lays.
But how shall I attempt such arduous string?
I who have spent my nights, and nightly days,
In this soul-deadening place loose-loitering:
Ah! how shall I for this uprear my moulted wing?
Come on, my muse, nor stoop to low despair,
Thou imp of Jove, touch'd by celestial fire!
Thou yet shalt sing of war, and actions fair,
Which the bold sons of Britain will inspire;
Of ancient bards thou yet shalt sweep the lyre;
Thou yet shalt tread in tragic pall the stage,
Paint love's enchanting woes, the hero's ire,
The sage's calm, the patriot's noble rage,
Dashing corruption down through every worthless age.
The doors, that knew no shrill alarming bell,
Ne cursed knocker plied by villain's hand,
Self-open'd into halls, where, who can tell
What elegance and grandeur wide expand;
The pride of Turkey and of Persia land?
Soft quilts on quilts, on carpets carpets spread,
And couches stretch'd around in seemly band;
And endless pillows rise to prop the head;
So that each spacious room was one full-swelling bed;
And every where huge cover'd tables stood,
With wines high-flavour'd and rich viands crown'd;
Whatever sprightly juice or tasteful food
On the green bosom of this earth are found,
And all old ocean 'genders in his round:
Some hand unseen these silently display'd,
Even undemanded by a sign or sound;
You need but wish, and, instantly obey'd,
Fair ranged the dishes rose, and thick the glasses play'd.
Here freedom reign'd, without the least alloy;
Nor gossip's tale, nor ancient maiden's gall,
Nor saintly spleen durst murmur at our joy,
And with envenom'd tongue our pleasures pall.
For why? there was but one great rule for all;
To wit, that each should work his own desire,
And eat, drink, study, sleep, as it may fall,
Or melt the time in love, or wake the lyre,
And carol what, unbid, the muses might inspire.
The rooms with costly tapestry were hung,
Where was inwoven many a gentle tale;
Such as of old the rural poets sung,
Or of Arcadian or Sicilian vale:
Reclining lovers, in the lonely dale,
Pour'd forth at large the sweetly tortured heart;
Or, sighing tender passion, swell'd the gale,
And taught charm'd echo to resound their smart;
While flocks, woods, streams around, repose and peace impart.
Those pleased the most, where, by a cunning hand,
Depainted was the patriarchal age;
What time Dan Abraham left the Chaldee land,
And pastured on from verdant stage to stage,
Where fields and fountains fresh could best engage.
Toil was not then: of nothing took they heed,
But with wild beasts the silvan war to wage,
And o'er vast plains their herds and flocks to feed:
Bless'd sons of nature they! true golden age indeed!
Sometimes the pencil, in cool airy halls,
Bade the gay bloom of vernal landscapes rise,
Or Autumn's varied shades imbrown the walls:
Now the black tempest strikes the astonish'd eyes;
Now down the steep the flashing torrent flies;
The trembling sun now plays o'er ocean blue,
And now rude mountains frown amid the skies;
Whate'er Lorraine light-touch'd with softening hue,
Or savage Rosa dash'd, or learned Poussin drew.
Each sound too here to languishment inclined,
Lull'd the weak bosom, and induced ease:
Aërial music in the warbling wind,
At distance rising oft, by small degrees,
Nearer and nearer came, till o'er the trees
It hung, and breathed such soul-dissolving airs,
As did, alas! with soft perdition please:
Entangled deep in its enchanting snares,
The listening heart forgot all duties and all cares.
A certain music, never known before,
Here lull'd the pensive, melancholy mind;
Full easily obtain'd. Behoves no more,
But sidelong, to the gently waving wind,
To lay the well tuned instrument reclined;
From which, with airy flying fingers light,
Beyond each mortal touch the most refined,
The god of winds drew sounds of deep delight:
Whence, with just cause, the harp of Æolus it hight.
Ah me! what hand can touch the string so fine?
Who up the lofty diapasan roll
Such sweet, such sad, such solemn airs divine,
Then let them down again into the soul:
Now rising love they fann'd; now pleasing dole
They breathed, in tender musings, thro' the heart;
And now a graver sacred strain they stole,
As when seraphic hands a hymn impart:
Wild warbling nature all, above the reach of art!
Such the gay splendour, the luxurious state,
Of Caliphs old, who on the Tygris' shore,
In mighty Bagdat, populous and great,
Held their bright court, where was of ladies store;
And verse, love, music, still the garland wore:
When sleep was coy, the bard, in waiting there,
Cheer'd the lone midnight with the muse's lore;
Composing music bade his dreams be fair,
And music lent new gladness to the morning air.
Near the pavilions where we slept, still ran
Soft tinkling streams, and dashing waters fell,
And sobbing breezes sigh'd, and oft began
(So work'd the wizard) wintry storms to swell,
As heaven and earth they would together mell:
At doors and windows, threatening, seem'd to call
The demons of the tempest, growling fell,
Yet the least entrance found they none at all;
Whence sweeter grew our sleep, secure in massy hall.
And hither Morpheus sent his kindest dreams,
Raising a world of gayer tinct and grace;
O'er which were shadowy cast elysian gleams,
That play'd, in waving lights, from place to place,
And shed a roseate smile on nature's face.
Not Titian's pencil e'er could so array,
So fleece with clouds the pure ethereal space;
Ne could it e'er such melting forms display,
As loose on flowery beds all languishingly lay.
No, fair illusions! artful phantoms, no!
My Muse will not attempt your fairy land:
She has no colours that like you can glow:
To catch your vivid scenes too gross her hand.
But sure it is, was ne'er a subtler band
Than these same guileful angel-seeming sprights,
Who thus in dreams voluptuous, soft, and bland,
Pour'd all the Arabian heaven upon our nights,
And bless'd them oft besides with more refined delights.
They were, in sooth, a most enchanting train,
Even feigning virtue; skilful to unite
With evil good, and strew with pleasure pain.
But for those fiends, whom blood and broils delight;
Who hurl the wretch, as if to hell outright,
Down down black gulfs, where sullen waters sleep,
Or hold him clambering all the fearful night
On beetling cliffs, or pent in ruins deep;
They, till due time should serve, were bid far hence to keep.
Ye guardian spirits, to whom man is dear,
From these foul demons shield the midnight gloom:
Angels of fancy and of love, be near,
And o'er the blank of sleep diffuse a bloom:
Evoke the sacred shades of Greece and Rome,
And let them virtue with a look impart:
But chief, a while, O! lend us from the tomb
Those long lost friends for whom in love we smart,
And fill with pious awe and joy-mix'd woe the heart.
Or are you sportive—Bid the morn of youth
Rise to new light, and beam afresh the days
Of innocence, simplicity, and truth;
To cares estranged, and manhood's thorny ways.
What transport, to retrace our boyish plays,
Our easy bliss, when each thing joy supplied;
The woods, the mountains, and the warbling maze
Of the wild brooks!—but, fondly wandering wide,
My Muse, resume the task that yet doth thee abide.
One great amusement of our household was,
In a huge crystal magic globe to spy,
Still as you turn'd it, all things that do pass
Upon this ant-hill earth; where constantly
Of idly busy men the restless fry
Run bustling to and fro with foolish haste,
In search of pleasures vain that from them fly,
Or which, obtain'd, the caitiffs dare not taste:—
When nothing is enjoy'd, can there be greater waste?
‘Of vanity the mirror,’ this was call'd:
Here, you a muckworm of the town might see,
At his dull desk, amid his ledgers stall'd,
Eat up with carking care and penury;
Most like to carcase parch'd on gallow-tree.
‘A penny saved is a penny got:’
Firm to this scoundrel maxim keepeth he,
Ne of its rigour will he bate a jot,
Till it has quench'd his fire, and banished his pot.
Straight from the filth of this low grub, behold!
Comes fluttering forth a gaudy spendthrift heir,
All glossy gay, enamel'd all with gold,
The silly tenant of the summer air,
In folly lost, of nothing takes he care;
Pimps, lawyers, stewards, harlots, flatterers vile,
And thieving tradesmen him among them share:
His father's ghost from limbo lake, the while,
Sees this, which more damnation doth upon him pile.
This globe pourtray'd the race of learned men,
Still at their books, and turning o'er the page,
Backwards and forwards: oft they snatch the pen,
As if inspired, and in a Thespian rage;
Then write, and blot, as would your ruth engage:
Why, authors, all this scrawl and scribbling sore?
To lose the present, gain the future age,
Praised to be when you can hear no more,
And much enrich'd with fame, when useless worldly store.
Then would a splendid city rise to view,
With carts, and cars, and coaches roaring all:
Wide-pour'd abroad behold the giddy crew:
See how they dash along from wall to wall!
At every door, hark how they thundering call!
Good lord! what can this giddy rout excite?
Why, on each other with fell tooth to fall;
A neighbour's fortune, fame, or peace, to blight,
And make new tiresome parties for the coming night.
The puzzling sons of party next appear'd,
In dark cabals and nightly juntos met;
And now they whisper'd close, now shrugging rear'd
The important shoulder; then, as if to get
New light, their twinkling eyes were inward set.
No sooner Lucifer recalls affairs,
Than forth they various rush in mighty fret;
When lo! push'd up to power, and crown'd their cares,
In comes another set, and kicketh them down stairs.
But what most show'd the vanity of life
Was to behold the nations all on fire,
In cruel broils engaged, and deadly strife:
Most christian kings, inflamed by black desire,
With honourable ruffians in their hire,
Cause war to rage, and blood around to pour;
Of this sad work when each begins to tire,
Then sit them down just where they were before,
Till for new scenes of woe peace shall their force restore.
To number up the thousands dwelling here,
A useless were, and eke an endless task;
From kings, and those who at the helm appear,
To gipsies brown in summer-glades who bask.
Yea many a man, perdie, I could unmask,
Whose desk and table make a solemn show,
With tape-tied trash, and suits of fools that ask
For place or pension laid in decent row;
But these I passen by, with nameless numbers moe.
Of all the gentle tenants of the place,
There was a man of special grave remark;
A certain tender gloom o'erspread his face,
Pensive, not sad; in thought involved, not dark;
As soot this man could sing as morning lark,
And teach the noblest morals of the heart:
But these his talents were yburied stark;
Of the fine stores he nothing would impart,
Which or boon nature gave, or nature-painting art.
To noontide shades incontinent he ran,
Where purls the brook with sleep-inviting sound;
Or when Dan Sol to slope his wheels began,
Amid the broom he bask'd him on the ground,
Where the wild thyme and camomile are found:
There would he linger, till the latest ray
Of light sat trembling on the welkin's bound;
Then homeward through the twilight shadows stray,
Sauntering and slow. So had he passed many a day.
Yet not in thoughtless slumber were they past:
For oft the heavenly fire, that lay conceal'd
Beneath the sleeping embers, mounted fast,
And all its native light anew reveal'd:
Oft as he traversed the cerulean field,
And mark'd the clouds that drove before the wind,
Ten thousand glorious systems would he build,
Ten thousand great ideas fill'd his mind;
But with the clouds they fled, and left no trace behind.
With him was sometimes join'd, in silent walk,
(Profoundly silent, for they never spoke)
One shyer still, who quite detested talk:
Oft, stung by spleen, at once away he broke,
To groves of pine, and broad o'ershadowing oak;
There, inly thrill'd, he wander'd all alone,
And on himself his pensive fury wroke,
Ne ever utter'd word, save when first shone
The glittering star of eve—‘Thank heaven! the day is done.’
Here lurk'd a wretch, who had not crept abroad
For forty years, ne face of mortal seen;
In chamber brooding like a loathly toad:
And sure his linen was not very clean.
Through secret loop holes, that had practised been
Near to his bed, his dinner vile he took;
Unkempt, and rough, of squalid face and mien,
Our Castle's shame! whence, from his filthy nook,
We drove the villain out for fitter lair to look.
One day there chanced into these halls to rove
A joyous youth, who took you at first sight;
Him the wild wave of pleasure hither drove,
Before the sprightly tempest tossing light:
Certes, he was a most engaging wight,
Of social glee, and wit humane though keen,
Turning the night to day and day to night:
For him the merry bells had rung, I ween,
If in this nook of quiet bells had ever been.
But not e'en pleasure to excess is good:
What most elates, then sinks the soul as low:
When springtide joy pours in with copious flood,
The higher still the exulting billows flow,
The further back again they flagging go,
And leave us groveling on the dreary shore:
Taught by this son of joy, we found it so;
Who, whilst he staid, he kept in gay uproar
Our madden'd castle all, the abode of sleep no more.
As when in prime of June a burnish'd fly,
Sprung from the meads, o'er which he sweeps along,
Cheer'd by the breathing bloom and vital sky,
Tunes up amid these airy halls his song,
Soothing at first the gay reposing throng:
And oft he sips their bowl; or nearly drown'd,
He, thence recovering, drives their beds among,
And scares their tender sleep, with trump profound;
Then out again he flies, to wing his mazy round.
Another guest there was, of sense refined,
Who felt each worth, for every worth he had;
Serene yet warm, humane yet firm his mind,
As little touch'd as any man's with bad:
Him through their inmost walks the Muses lad,
To him the sacred love of nature lent,
And sometimes would he make our valley glad;
Whenas we found he would not here be pent,
To him the better sort this friendly message sent:
‘Come, dwell with us! true son of virtue, come!
But if, alas! we cannot thee persuade
To lie content beneath our peaceful dome,
Ne ever more to quit our quiet glade;
Yet when at last thy toils but ill apaid
Shall dead thy fire, and damp its heavenly spark,
Thou wilt be glad to seek the rural shade,
There to indulge the muse, and nature mark:
We then a lodge for thee will rear in Hagley Park.’
Here whilom ligg'd the Esopus of the age;
But call'd by fame, in soul ypricked deep,
A noble pride restored him to the stage,
And roused him like a giant from his sleep.
Even from his slumbers we advantage reap:
With double force the enliven'd scene he wakes,
Yet quits not nature's bounds. He knows to keep
Each due decorum: now the heart he shakes,
And now with well urged sense the enlighten'd judgment takes.
A bard here dwelt, more fat than bard beseems;
Who, void of envy, guile, and lust of gain,
On virtue still, and nature's pleasing themes,
Pour'd forth his unpremeditated strain:
The world forsaking with a calm disdain,
Here laugh'd he careless in his easy seat;
Here quaff'd, encircled with the joyous train,
Oft moralizing sage: his ditty sweet
He loathed much to write, ne cared to repeat.
Full oft by holy feet our ground was trod,
Of clerks good plenty here you mote espy.
A little, round, fat, oily man of God,
Was one I chiefly mark'd among the fry:
He had a roguish twinkle in his eye,
And shone all glittering with ungodly dew,
If a tight damsel chanced to trippen by;
Which when observed, he shrunk into his mew,
And straight would recollect his piety anew.
Nor be forgot a tribe, who minded nought
(Old inmates of the place) but state-affairs:
They look'd, perdie, as if they deeply thought;
And on their brow sat every nation's cares;
The world by them is parcel'd out in shares,
When in the Hall of Smoke they congress hold,
And the sage berry, sun-burnt Mocha bears,
Has clear'd their inward eye: then, smoke-enroll'd,
Their oracles break forth mysterious as of old.
Here languid Beauty kept her pale-faced court:
Bevies of dainty dames, of high degree,
From every quarter hither made resort;
Where, from gross mortal care and business free,
They lay, pour'd out in ease and luxury.
Or should they a vain shew of work assume,
Alas! and well-a-day! what can it be?
To knot, to twist, to range the vernal bloom;
But far is cast the distaff, spinning-wheel, and loom.
Their only labour was to kill the time;
(And labour dire it is, and weary woe)
They sit, they loll, turn o'er some idle rhyme;
Then, rising sudden, to the glass they go,
Or saunter forth, with tottering step and slow:
This soon too rude an exercise they find;
Straight on the couch their limbs again they throw,
Where hours on hours they sighing lie reclined,
And court the vapoury god, soft breathing in the wind.
Now must I mark the villany we found,
But ah! too late, as shall eftsoons be shown.
A place here was, deep, dreary, under ground;
Where still our inmates, when unpleasing grown,
Diseased, and loathsome, privily were thrown:
Far from the light of heaven, they languish'd there,
Unpitied uttering many a bitter groan;
For of these wretches taken was no care:
Fierce fiends, and hags of hell, their only nurses were.
Alas! the change! from scenes of joy and rest,
To this dark den, where sickness toss'd alway.
Here Lethargy, with deadly sleep oppress'd,
Stretch'd on his back, a mighty lubbard, lay,
Heaving his sides, and snored night and day;
To stir him from his traunce it was not eath,
And his half-open'd eyne he shut straightway;
He led, I wot, the softest way to death,
And taught withouten pain and strife to yield the breath.
Of limbs enormous, but withal unsound,
Soft-swoln and pale, here lay the Hydropsy:
Unwieldy man; with belly monstrous round,
For ever fed with watery supply;
For still he drank, and yet he still was dry.
And moping here did Hypochondria sit,
Mother of spleen, in robes of various dye,
Who vexed was full oft with ugly fit;
And some her frantic deem'd, and some her deem'd a wit.
A lady proud she was, of ancient blood,
Yet oft her fear her pride made crouchen low:
She felt, or fancied in her fluttering mood,
All the diseases which the spittles know,
And sought all physic which the shops bestow,
And still new leaches and new drugs would try,
Her humour ever wavering to and fro:
For sometimes she would laugh, and sometimes cry,
Then sudden waxed wroth, and all she knew not why.
Fast by her side a listless maiden pined,
With aching head, and squeamish heart-burnings;
Pale, bloated, cold, she seem'd to hate mankind,
Yet loved in secret all forbidden things.
And here the Tertian shakes his chilling wings;
The sleepless Gout here counts the crowing cocks,
A wolf now gnaws him, now a serpent stings;
Whilst Apoplexy cramm'd Intemperance knocks
Down to the ground at once, as butcher felleth ox.
The knight of arts and industry,
And his achievements fair;
That, by this Castle's overthrow,
Secured, and crowned were.
Escaped the castle of the sire of sin,
Ah! where shall I so sweet a dwelling find?
For all around, without, and all within,
Nothing save what delightful was and kind,
Of goodness savouring and a tender mind,
E'er rose to view. But now another strain,
Of doleful note, alas! remains behind:
I now must sing of pleasure turn'd to pain,
And of the false enchanter Indolence complain.
Is there no patron to protect the Muse,
And fence for her Parnassus' barren soil?
To every labour its reward accrues,
And they are sure of bread who swink and moil;
But a fell tribe the Aonian hive despoil,
As ruthless wasps oft rob the painful bee:
Thus while the laws not guard that noblest toil,
Ne for the Muses other meed decree,
They praised are alone, and starve right merrily.
I care not, Fortune, what you me deny:
You cannot rob me of free Nature's grace;
You cannot shut the windows of the sky,
Through which Aurora shows her brightening face;
You cannot bar my constant feet to trace
The woods and lawns, by living stream, at eve:
Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace,
And I their toys to the great children leave:
Of fancy, reason, virtue, nought can me bereave.
Come then, my Muse, and raise a bolder song;
Come, lig no more upon the bed of sloth,
Dragging the lazy languid line along,
Fond to begin, but still to finish loath,
Thy half-writ scrolls all eaten by the moth:
Arise, and sing that generous imp of fame,
Who with the sons of softness nobly wroth,
To sweep away this human lumber came,
Or in a chosen few to rouse the slumbering flame.
In Fairy Land there lived a knight of old,
Of feature stern, Selvaggio well yclep'd,
A rough unpolish'd man, robust and bold,
But wondrous poor: he neither sow'd nor reap'd,
Ne stores in summer for cold winter heap'd;
In hunting all his days away he wore;
Now scorch'd by June, now in November steep'd,
Now pinch'd by biting January sore,
He still in woods pursued the libbard and the boar.
As he one morning, long before the dawn,
Prick'd through the forest to dislodge his prey,
Deep in the winding bosom of a lawn,
With wood wild fringed, he mark'd a taper's ray,
That from the beating rain, and wintry fray,
Did to a lonely cot his steps decoy;
There, up to earn the needments of the day,
He found dame Poverty, nor fair nor coy:
Her he compress'd, and fill'd her with a lusty boy.
Amid the greenwood shade this boy was bred,
And grew at last a knight of muchel fame,
Of active mind and vigorous lustyhed,
The Knight of Arts and Industry by name:
Earth was his bed, the boughs his roof did frame;
He knew no beverage but the flowing stream;
His tasteful well earn'd food the sylvan game,
Or the brown fruit with which the woodlands teem:
The same to him glad summer, or the winter breme.
So pass'd his youthly morning, void of care,
Wild as the colts that through the commons run:
For him no tender parents troubled were,
He of the forest seem'd to be the son,
And, certes, had been utterly undone;
But that Minerva pity of him took,
With all the gods that love the rural wonne,
That teach to tame the soil and rule the crook;
Ne did the sacred Nine disdain a gentle look.
Of fertile genius him they nurtured well,
In every science, and in every art,
By which mankind the thoughtless brutes excel,
That can or use, or joy, or grace impart,
Disclosing all the powers of head and heart:
Ne were the goodly exercises spared,
That brace the nerves, or make the limbs alert,
And mix elastic force with firmness hard:
Was never knight on ground mote be with him compared.
Sometimes, with early morn, he mounted gay
The hunter steed, exulting o'er the dale,
And drew the roseate breath of orient day;
Sometimes, retiring to the secret vale,
Yclad in steel, and bright with burnish'd mail,
He strain'd the bow, or toss'd the sounding spear,
Or darting on the goal, outstripp'd the gale,
Or wheel'd the chariot in its mid career,
Or strenuous wrestled hard with many a tough compeer.
At other times he pried through nature's store,
Whate'er she in the ethereal round contains,
Whate'er she hides beneath her verdant floor,
The vegetable and the mineral reigns;
Or else he scann'd the globe, those small domains,
Where restless mortals such a turmoil keep,
Its seas, its floods, its mountains, and its plains;
But more he search'd the mind, and roused from sleep
Those moral seeds whence we heroic actions reap.
Nor would he scorn to stoop from high pursuits
Of heavenly truth, and practise what she taught:
Vain is the tree of knowledge without fruits!
Sometimes in hand the spade or plough he caught,
Forth calling all with which boon earth is fraught;
Sometimes he plied the strong mechanic tool,
Or rear'd the fabric from the finest draught;
And oft he put himself to Neptune's school,
Fighting with winds and waves on the vex'd ocean pool.
To solace then these rougher toils, he tried
To touch the kindling canvass into life;
With nature his creating pencil vied,
With nature joyous at the mimic strife:
Or, to such shapes as graced Pygmalion's wife
He hew'd the marble; or, with varied fire,
He roused the trumpet, and the martial fife,
Or bad the lute sweet tenderness inspire,
Or verses framed that well might wake Apollo's lyre.
Accomplish'd thus, he from the woods issued,
Full of great aims, and bent on bold emprise;
The work, which long he in his breast had brew'd,
Now to perform he ardent did devise;
To wit, a barbarous world to civilize.
Earth was till then a boundless forest wild;
Nought to be seen but savage wood, and skies;
No cities nourish'd arts, no culture smiled,
No government, no laws, no gentle manners mild.
A rugged wight, the worst of brutes, was man;
On his own wretched kind he, ruthless, prey'd:
The strongest still the weakest overran;
In every country mighty robbers sway'd,
And guile and ruffian force were all their trade.
Life was a scene of rapine, want, and woe;
Which this brave knight, in noble anger, made
To swear he would the rascal rout o'erthrow,
For, by the powers divine, it should no more be so!
It would exceed the purport of my song
To say how this best sun, from orient climes,
Came beaming life and beauty all along,
Before him chasing indolence and crimes.
Still as he pass'd, the nations he sublimes,
And calls forth arts and virtues with his ray:
Then Egypt, Greece, and Rome their golden times,
Successive, had; but now in ruins grey
They lie, to slavish sloth and tyranny a prey.
To crown his toils, Sir Industry then spread
The swelling sail, and made for Britain's coast.
A silvan life till then the natives led,
In the brown shades and green-wood forest lost,
All careless rambling where it liked them most:
Their wealth the wild deer bouncing through the glade;
They lodged at large, and lived at nature's cost;
Save spear and bow, withouten other aid;
Yet not the Roman steel their naked breast dismay'd.
He liked the soil, he liked the clement skies,
He liked the verdant hills and flowery plains:
‘Be this my great, my chosen isle, (he cries)
This, whilst my labours Liberty sustains,
This queen of ocean all assault disdains.’
Nor liked he less the genius of the land,
To freedom apt and persevering pains,
Mild to obey, and generous to command,
Temper'd by forming Heaven with kindest firmest hand.
Here, by degrees, his master-work arose,
Whatever arts and industry can frame:
Whatever finish'd agriculture knows,
Fair queen of arts! from heaven itself who came,
When Eden flourish'd in unspotted fame;
And still with her sweet innocence we find,
And tender peace, and joys without a name,
That, while they ravish, tranquillize the mind:
Nature and art at once, delight and use combined.
Then towns he quicken'd by mechanic arts,
And bade the fervent city glow with toil;
Bade social commerce raise renowned marts,
Join land to land, and marry soil to soil;
Unite the poles, and without bloody spoil
Bring home of either Ind the gorgeous stores;
Or, should despotic rage the world embroil,
Bade tyrants tremble on remotest shores,
While o'er the encircling deep Britannia's thunder roars.
The drooping muses then he westward call'd,
From the famed city by Propontic sea,
What time the Turk the enfeebled Grecian thrall'd;
Thence from their cloister'd walks he set them free,
And brought them to another Castalie,
Where Isis many a famous nursling breeds;
Or where old Cam soft-paces o'er the lea
In pensive mood, and tunes his doric reeds,
The whilst his flocks at large the lonely shepherd feeds.
Yet the fine arts were what he finished least.
For why? They are the quintessence of all,
The growth of labouring time, and slow increased;
Unless, as seldom chances, it should fall
That mighty patrons the coy sisters call
Up to the sunshine of uncumber'd ease,
Where no rude care the mounting thought may thrall,
And where they nothing have to do but please:
Ah! gracious God! thou know'st they ask no other fees.
But now, alas! we live too late in time:
Our patrons now e'en grudge that little claim,
Except to such as sleek the soothing rhyme;
And yet, forsooth, they wear Mæcenas' name,
Poor sons of puft-up vanity, not fame.
Unbroken spirits, cheer! still, still remains
The eternal patron, Liberty; whose flame,
While she protects, inspires the noblest strains:
The best and sweetest far, are toil-created gains.
When as the knight had framed, in Britain-land,
A matchless form of glorious government,
In which the sovereign laws alone command,
Laws stablish'd by the public free consent,
Whose majesty is to the sceptre lent;
When this great plan, with each dependent art,
Was settled firm, and to his heart's content,
Then sought he from the toilsome scene to part,
And let life's vacant eve breathe quiet through the heart.
For this he chose a farm in Deva's vale,
Where his long alleys peep'd upon the main:
In this calm seat he drew the healthful gale,
Here mix'd the chief, the patriot, and the swain.
The happy monarch of his silvan train,
Here, sided by the guardians of the fold,
He walk'd his rounds, and cheer'd his blest domain:
His days, the days of unstain'd nature, roll'd
Replete with peace and joy, like patriarchs of old.
Witness, ye lowing herds, who gave him milk;
Witness, ye flocks, whose woolly vestments far
Exceed soft India's cotton, or her silk;
Witness, with Autumn charged the nodding car,
That homeward came beneath sweet evening's star,
Or of September-moons the radiance mild.
O hide thy head, abominable war!
Of crimes and ruffian idleness the child!
From Heaven this life ysprung, from hell thy glories viled!
Nor from his deep retirement banish'd was
The amusing care of rural industry.
Still, as with grateful change the seasons pass,
New scenes arise, new landscapes strike the eye,
And all the enlivened country beautify:
Gay plains extend where marshes slept before;
O'er recent meads the exulting streamlets fly;
Dark frowning heaths grow bright with Ceres' store,
And woods imbrown the steep, or wave along the shore.
As nearer to his farm you made approach,
He polish'd Nature with a finer hand:
Yet on her beauties durst not art encroach;
'Tis Art's alone these beauties to expand.
In graceful dance immingled, o'er the land,
Pan, Pales, Flora, and Pomona play'd:
Here, too, brisk gales the rude wild common fann'd,
A happy place; where free, and unafraid,
Amid the flowering brakes each coyer creature stray'd.
But in prime vigour what can last for aye?
That soul-enfeebling wizard Indolence,
I whilom sung, wrought in his works decay:
Spread far and wide was his cursed influence;
Of public virtue much he dull'd the sense,
E'en much of private; eat our spirit out,
And fed our rank luxurious vices: whence
The land was overlaid with many a lout;
Not, as old fame reports, wise, generous, bold, and stout.
A rage of pleasure madden'd every breast,
Down to the lowest lees the ferment ran:
To his licentious wish each must be bless'd,
With joy be fever'd; snatch it as he can.
Thus Vice the standard rear'd; her arrier-ban
Corruption call'd, and loud she gave the word,
‘Mind, mind yourselves! why should the vulgar man,
The lacquey be more virtuous than his lord?
Enjoy this span of life! 'tis all the gods afford.’
The tidings reach'd to where, in quiet hall,
The good old knight enjoy'd well earn'd repose:
‘Come, come, Sir Knight! thy children on thee call;
Come, save us yet, ere ruin round us close!
The demon Indolence thy toils o'erthrows.’
On this the noble colour stain'd his cheeks,
Indignant, glowing through the whitening snows
Of venerable eld; his eye full speaks
His ardent soul, and from his couch at once he breaks.
‘I will, (he cried) so help me, God! destroy
That villain Archimage.’—His page then straight
He to him call'd; a fiery-footed boy,
Benempt Dispatch:—‘My steed be at the gate;
My bard attend; quick, bring the net of fate.’
This net was twisted by the sisters three;
Which, when once cast o'er harden'd wretch, too late
Repentance comes: replevy cannot be
From the strong iron grasp of vengeful destiny.
He came, the bard, a little druid wight,
Of wither'd aspect; but his eye was keen,
With sweetness mix'd. In russet brown bedight,
As is his sister of the copses green,
He crept along, unpromising of mien.
Gross he who judges so. His soul was fair,
Bright as the children of yon azure sheen!
True comeliness, which nothing can impair,
Dwells in the mind: all else is vanity and glare.
‘Come (quoth the knight), a voice has reach'd mine ear:
The demon Indolence threats overflow
To all that to mankind is good and dear:
Come, Philomelus; let us instant go,
O'erturn his bowers, and lay his castle low.
Those men, those wretched men! who will be slaves,
Must drink a bitter wrathful cup of woe:
But some there be, thy song, as from their graves,
Shall raise.’ Thrice happy he! who without rigour saves.
Issuing forth, the knight bestrode his steed,
Of ardent bay, and on whose front a star
Shone blazing bright: sprung from the generous breed,
That whirl of active day the rapid car,
He pranced along, disdaining gate or bar.
Meantime, the bard on milk-white palfrey rode;
An honest sober beast, that did not mar
His meditations, but full softly trode:
And much they moralized as thus yfere they yode.
They talk'd of virtue, and of human bliss.
What else so fit for man to settle well?
And still their long researches met in this,
This Truth of Truths, which nothing can refel:
‘From virtue's fount the purest joys outwell,
Sweet rills of thought that cheer the conscious soul;
While vice pours forth the troubled streams of hell,
The which, howe'er disguised, at last with dole
Will through the tortured breast their fiery torrent roll.’
At length it dawn'd, that fatal valley gay,
O'er which high wood-crown'd hills their summits rear:
On the cool height awhile our palmers stay,
And spite even of themselves their senses cheer;
Then to the vizard's wonne their steps they steer.
Like a green isle, it broad beneath them spread,
With gardens round, and wandering currents clear,
And tufted groves to shade the meadow-bed,
Sweet airs and song; and without hurry all seem'd glad.
‘As God shall judge me, knight! we must forgive
(The half-enraptured Philomelus cried)
The frail good man deluded here to live,
And in these groves his musing fancy hide.
Ah! nought is pure. It cannot be denied,
That virtue still some tincture has of vice,
And vice of virtue. What should then betide,
But that our charity be not too nice?
Come, let us those we can, to real bliss entice.’
‘Ay, sicker, (quoth the knight) all flesh is frail,
To pleasant sin and joyous dalliance bent;
But let not brutish vice of this avail,
And think to 'scape deserved punishment.
Justice were cruel weakly to relent;
From Mercy's self she got her sacred glaive:
Grace be to those who can, and will, repent;
But penance long, and dreary, to the slave,
Who must in floods of fire his gross foul spirit lave.’
Thus, holding high discourse, they came to where
The cursed carle was at his wonted trade;
Still tempting heedless men into his snare,
In witching wise, as I before have said.
But when he saw, in goodly geer array'd,
The grave majestic knight approaching nigh,
And by his side the bard so sage and staid,
His countenance fell; yet oft his anxious eye
Mark'd them, like wily fox who roosted cock doth spy.
Nathless, with feign'd respect, he bade give back
The rabble rout, and welcomed them full kind;
Struck with the noble twain, they were not slack
His orders to obey, and fall behind.
Then he resumed his song; and unconfined,
Pour'd all his music, ran through all his strings:
With magic dust their eyne he tries to blind,
And virtue's tender airs o'er weakness flings.
What pity base his song who so divinely sings!
Elate in thought, he counted them his own,
They listen'd so intent with fix'd delight:
But they instead, as if transmew'd to stone,
Marvel'd he could with such sweet art unite
The lights and shades of manners, wrong and right.
Meantime, the silly crowd the charm devour,
Wide pressing to the gate. Swift, on the knight
He darted fierce, to drag him to his bower,
Who backening shunn'd his touch, for well he knew its power.
As in throng'd amphitheatre, of old,
The wary Retiarius trapp'd his foe;
E'en so the knight, returning on him bold,
At once involved him in the Net of Woe,
Whereof I mention made not long ago.
Inraged at first, he scorn'd so weak a jail,
And leap'd, and flew, and flounced to and fro;
But when he found that nothing could avail,
He sat him felly down, and gnaw'd his bitter nail.
Alarm'd, the inferior demons of the place
Raised rueful shrieks and hideous yells around;
Black stormy clouds deform'd the welkin's face,
And from beneath was heard a wailing sound,
As of infernal sprights in cavern bound;
A solemn sadness every creature strook,
And lightnings flash'd, and horror rock'd the ground:
Huge crowds on crowds outpour'd, with blemish'd look,
As if on Time's last verge this frame of things had shook.
Soon as the short-lived tempest was yspent,
Steam'd from the jaws of vex'd Avernus' hole,
And hush'd the hubbub of the rabblement,
Sir Industry the first calm moment stole:
‘There must, (he cried) amid so vast a shoal,
Be some who are not tainted at the heart,
Not poison'd quite by this same villain's bowl:
Come then, my bard, thy heavenly fire impart;
Touch soul with soul, till forth the latent spirit start.’
The bard obey'd; and taking from his side,
Where it in seemly sort depending hung,
His British harp, its speaking strings he tried,
The which with skilful touch he deftly strung,
Till tinkling in clear symphony they rung.
Then, as he felt the Muses come along,
Light o'er the chords his raptured hand he flung,
And play'd a prelude to his rising song:
The whilst, like midnight mute, ten thousands round him throng.
Thus, ardent, burst his strain.—‘Ye hapless race,
Dire labouring here to smother reason's ray,
That lights our Maker's image in our face,
And gives us wide o'er earth unquestion'd sway;
What is the adored Supreme Perfection, say?—
What, but eternal never resting soul,
Almighty Power, and all-directing day;
By whom each atom stirs, the planets roll;
Who fills, surrounds, informs, and agitates the whole.
‘Come, to the beaming God your hearts unfold!
Draw from its fountain life! 'Tis thence, alone,
We can excel. Up from unfeeling mould,
To seraphs burning round the Almighty's throne,
Life rising still on life, in higher tone,
Perfection forms, and with perfection bliss.
In universal nature this clear shown,
Not needeth proof: to prove it were, I wis,
To prove the beauteous world excels the brute abyss.
‘Is not the field, with lively culture green,
A sight more joyous than the dead morass?
Do not the skies, with active ether clean,
And fann'd by sprightly zephyrs, far surpass
The foul November fogs, and slumbrous mass
With which sad Nature veils her drooping face?
Does not the mountain stream, as clear as glass,
Gay-dancing on, the putrid pool disgrace?
The same in all holds true, but chief in human race.
‘It was not by vile loitering in ease,
That Greece obtain'd the brighter palm of art;
That soft yet ardent Athens learn'd to please,
To keen the wit, and to sublime the heart,
In all supreme! complete in every part!
It was not thence majestic Rome arose,
And o'er the nations shook her conquering dart:
For sluggard's brow the laurel never grows;
Renown is not the child of indolent Repose.
‘Had unambitious mortals minded nought,
But in loose joy their time to wear away;
Had they alone the lap of dalliance sought,
Pleased on her pillow their dull heads to lay,
Rude nature's state had been our state to-day;
No cities e'er their towery fronts had raised,
No arts had made us opulent and gay;
With brother-brutes the human race had grazed;
None e'er had soar'd to fame, none honour'd been, none praised.
‘Great Homer's song had never fired the breast
To thirst of glory, and heroic deeds;
Sweet Maro's muse, sunk in inglorious rest,
Had silent slept amid the Mincian reeds:
The wits of modern time had told their beads,
And monkish legends been their only strains;
Our Milton's Eden had lain wrapt in weeds,
Our Shakespeare stroll'd and laugh'd with Warwick swains,
Ne had my master Spenser charm'd his Mulla's plains.
‘Dumb too had been the sage historic muse,
And perish'd all the sons of ancient fame;
Those starry lights of virtue, that diffuse
Through the dark depth of time their vivid flame,
Had all been lost with such as have no name.
Who then had scorn'd his ease for others' good?
Who then had toil'd rapacious men to tame?
Who in the public breach devoted stood,
And for his country's cause been prodigal of blood?
‘But should to fame your hearts unfeeling be,
If right I read, you pleasure all require:
Then hear how best may be obtain'd this fee,
How best enjoy'd this nature's wide desire.
Toil and be glad! let industry inspire
Into your quicken'd limbs her buoyant breath!
Who does not act is dead; absorpt entire
In miry sloth, no pride, no joy he hath:
O leaden-hearted men, to be in love with death!
‘Ah! what avail the largest gifts of Heaven,
When drooping health and spirits go amiss?
How tasteless then whatever can be given?
Health is the vital principle of bliss,
And exercise of health. In proof of this,
Behold the wretch, who slugs his life away,
Soon swallow'd in disease's sad abyss;
While he whom toil has braced, or manly play,
Has light as air each limb, each thought as clear as day.
‘O who can speak the vigorous joys of health!
Unclogg'd the body, unobscured the mind:
The morning rises gay, with pleasing stealth,
The temperate evening falls serene and kind.
In health the wiser brutes true gladness find:
See! how the younglings frisk along the meads,
As May comes on, and wakes the balmy wind;
Rampant with life, their joy all joy exceeds:
Yet what but high-strung health this dancing pleasaunce breeds?
‘But here, instead, is foster'd every ill,
Which or distemper'd minds or bodies know.
Come then, my kindred spirits! do not spill
Your talents here: this place is but a show,
Whose charms delude you to the den of woe.
Come, follow me, I will direct you right,
Where pleasure's roses, void of serpents, grow,
Sincere as sweet; come, follow this good knight,
And you will bless the day that brought him to your sight.
‘Some he will lead to courts, and some to camps;
To senates some, and public sage debates,
Where, by the solemn gleam of midnight lamps,
The world is poised, and managed mighty states;
To high discovery some, that new creates
The face of earth; some to the thriving mart;
Some to the rural reign, and softer fates;
To the sweet muses some, who raise the heart:
All glory shall be yours, all nature, and all art!
‘There are, I see, who listen to my lay,
Who wretched sigh for virtue, but despair:
“All may be done, (methinks I hear them say)
E'en death despised by generous actions fair;
All, but for those who to these bowers repair,
Their every power dissolved in luxury,
To quit of torpid sluggishness the lair,
And from the powerful arms of sloth get free:
'Tis rising from the dead—Alas!—it cannot be!”
‘Would you then learn to dissipate the band
Of the huge threatening difficulties dire,
That in the weak man's way like lions stand,
His soul appal, and damp his rising fire?
Resolve, resolve, and to be men aspire.
Exert that noblest privilege, alone,
Here to mankind indulged; control desire:
Let godlike reason, from her sovereign throne,
Speak the commanding word “I will!” and it is done.
‘Heavens! can you then thus waste, in shameful wise,
Your few important days of trial here?
Heirs of eternity! yborn to rise
Through endless states of being, still more near
To bliss approaching, and perfection clear;
Can you renounce a fortune so sublime,
Such glorious hopes, your backward steps to steer,
And roll, with vilest brutes, through mud and slime?
No! no!—Your heaven-touch'd hearts disdain the sordid crime!’
‘Enough! enough!’ they cried—straight, from the crowd,
The better sort on wings of transport fly:
As when amid the lifeless summits proud
Of Alpine cliffs where to the gelid sky
Snows piled on snows in wintry torpor lie,
The rays divine of vernal Phœbus play;
The awaken'd heaps, in streamlets from on high,
Roused into action, lively leap away,
Glad warbling through the vales, in their new being gay,
Not less the life, the vivid joy serene,
That lighted up these new created men,
Than that which wings the exulting spirit clean,
When, just deliver'd from this fleshly den,
It soaring seeks its native skies agen:
How light its essence! how unclogg'd its powers,
Beyond the blazon of my mortal pen!
E'en so we glad forsook these sinful bowers,
E'en such enraptured life, such energy was ours.
But far the greater part, with rage inflamed,
Dire-mutter'd curses, and blasphemed high Jove:
‘Ye sons of hate! (they bitterly exclaim'd)
What brought you to this seat of peace and love?
While with kind nature, here amid the grove,
We pass'd the harmless sabbath of our time,
What to disturb it could, fell men, emove
Your barbarous hearts? Is happiness a crime?
Then do the fiends of hell rule in yon Heaven sublime.’
‘Ye impious wretches, (quoth the knight in wrath)
Your happiness behold!’—Then straight a wand
He waved, an anti-magic power that hath,
Truth from illusive falsehood to command.
Sudden the landscape sinks on every hand;
The pure quick streams are marshy puddles found;
On baleful heaths the groves all blacken
III. The Other Half-Rome
Another day that finds her living yet,
Little Pompilia, with the patient brow
And lamentable smile on those poor lips,
And, under the white hospital-array,
A flower-like body, to frighten at a bruise
You'd think, yet now, stabbed through and through again,
Alive i' the ruins. 'T is a miracle.
It seems that, when her husband struck her first,
She prayed Madonna just that she might live
So long as to confess and be absolved;
And whether it was that, all her sad life long
Never before successful in a prayer,
This prayer rose with authority too dread,—
Or whether, because earth was hell to her,
By compensation, when the blackness broke
She got one glimpse of quiet and the cool blue,
To show her for a moment such things were,—
Or else,—as the Augustinian Brother thinks,
The friar who took confession from her lip,—
When a probationary soul that moved
From nobleness to nobleness, as she,
Over the rough way of the world, succumbs,
Bloodies its last thorn with unflinching foot,
The angels love to do their work betimes,
Staunch some wounds here nor leave so much for God.
Who knows? However it be, confessed, absolved,
She lies, with overplus of life beside
To speak and right herself from first to last,
Right the friend also, lamb-pure, lion-brave,
Care for the boy's concerns, to save the son
From the sire, her two-weeks' infant orphaned thus,
And—with best smile of all reserved for him—
Pardon that sire and husband from the heart.
A miracle, so tell your Molinists!
There she lies in the long white lazar-house.
Rome has besieged, these two days, never doubt,
Saint Anna's where she waits her death, to hear
Though but the chink o' the bell, turn o' the hinge
When the reluctant wicket opes at last,
Lets in, on now this and now that pretence,
Too many by half,—complain the men of art,—
For a patient in such plight. The lawyers first
Paid the due visit—justice must be done;
They took her witness, why the murder was.
Then the priests followed properly,—a soul
To shrive; 't was Brother Celestine's own right,
The same who noises thus her gifts abroad.
But many more, who found they were old friends,
Pushed in to have their stare and take their talk
And go forth boasting of it and to boast.
Old Monna Baldi chatters like a jay,
Swears—but that, prematurely trundled out
Just as she felt the benefit begin,
The miracle was snapped up by somebody,—
Her palsied limb 'gan prick and promise life
At touch o' the bedclothes merely,—how much more
Had she but brushed the body as she tried!
Cavalier Carlo—well, there's some excuse
For him—Maratta who paints Virgins so—
He too must fee the porter and slip by
With pencil cut and paper squared, and straight
There was he figuring away at face:
"A lovelier face is not in Rome," cried he,
"Shaped like a peacock's egg, the pure as pearl,
"That hatches you anon a snow-white chick."
Then, oh that pair of eyes, that pendent hair,
Black this and black the other! Mighty fine—
But nobody cared ask to paint the same,
Nor grew a poet over hair and eyes
Four little years ago when, ask and have,
The woman who wakes all this rapture leaned
Flower-like from out her window long enough,
As much uncomplimented as uncropped
By comers and goers in Via Vittoria: eh?
'T is just a flower's fate: past parterre we trip,
Till peradventure someone plucks our sleeve—
"Yon blossom at the briar's end, that's the rose
"Two jealous people fought for yesterday
"And killed each other: see, there's undisturbed
"A pretty pool at the root, of rival red!"
Then cry we "Ah, the perfect paragon!"
Then crave we "Just one keepsake-leaf for us!"
Truth lies between: there's anyhow a child
Of seventeen years, whether a flower or weed,
Ruined: who did it shall account to Christ—
Having no pity on the harmless life
And gentle face and girlish form he found,
And thus flings back. Go practise if you please
With men and women: leave a child alone
For Christ's particular love's sake!—so I say.
Somebody, at the bedside, said much more,
Took on him to explain the secret cause
O' the crime: quoth he, "Such crimes are very rife,
"Explode nor make us wonder now-a-days,
"Seeing that Antichrist disseminates
"That doctrine of the Philosophic Sin:
"Molinos' sect will soon make earth too hot!"
"Nay," groaned the Augustinian, "what's there new?
"Crime will not fail to flare up from men's hearts
"While hearts are men's and so born criminal;
"Which one fact, always old yet ever new,
"Accounts for so much crime that, for my part,
"Molinos may go whistle to the wind
"That waits outside a certain church, you know!"
Though really it does seem as if she here,
Pompilia, living so and dying thus,
Has had undue experience how much crime
A heart can hatch. Why was she made to learn
—Not you, not I, not even Molinos' self—
What Guido Franceschini's heart could hold?
Thus saintship is effected probably;
No sparing saints the process!—which the more
Tends to the reconciling us, no saints,
To sinnership, immunity and all.
For see now: Pietro and Violante's life
Till seventeen years ago, all Rome might note
And quote for happy—see the signs distinct
Of happiness as we yon Triton's trump.
What could they be but happy?—balanced so,
Nor low i' the social scale nor yet too high,
Nor poor nor richer than comports with ease,
Nor bright and envied, nor obscure and scorned,
Nor so young that their pleasures fell too thick,
Nor old past catching pleasure when it fell,
Nothing above, below the just degree,
All at the mean where joy's components mix.
So again, in the couple's very souls
You saw the adequate half with half to match,
Each having and each lacking somewhat, both
Making a whole that had all and lacked nought.
The round and sound, in whose composure just
The acquiescent and recipient side
Was Pietro's, and the stirring striving one
Violante's: both in union gave the due
Quietude, enterprise, craving and content,
Which go to bodily health and peace of mind.
But, as 't is said a body, rightly mixed,
Each element in equipoise, would last
Too long and live for ever,—accordingly
Holds a germ—sand-grain weight too much i' the scale—
Ordained to get predominance one day
And so bring all to ruin and release,—
Not otherwise a fatal germ lurked here:
"With mortals much must go, but something stays;
"Nothing will stay of our so happy selves."
Out of the very ripeness of life's core
A worm was bred—"Our life shall leave no fruit."
Enough of bliss, they thought, could bliss bear seed,
Yield its like, propagate a bliss in turn
And keep the kind up; not supplant themselves
But put in evidence, record they were,
Show them, when done with, i' the shape of a child.
"'T is in a child, man and wife grow complete,
"One flesh: God says so: let him do his work!"
Now, one reminder of this gnawing want,
One special prick o' the maggot at the core,
Always befell when, as the day came round,
A certain yearly sum,—our Pietro being,
As the long name runs, an usufructuary,—
Dropped in the common bag as interest
Of money, his till death, not afterward,
Failing an heir: an heir would take and take,
A child of theirs be wealthy in their place
To nobody's hurt—the stranger else seized all.
Prosperity rolled river-like and stopped,
Making their mill go; but when wheel wore out,
The wave would find a space and sweep on free
And, half-a-mile off, grind some neighbour's corn.
Adam-like, Pietro sighed and said no more:
Eve saw the apple was fair and good to taste,
So, plucked it, having asked the snake advice.
She told her husband God was merciful,
And his and her prayer granted at the last:
Let the old mill-stone moulder,—wheel unworn,
Quartz from the quarry, shot into the stream
Adroitly, as before should go bring grist—
Their house continued to them by an heir,
Their vacant heart replenished with a child.
We have her own confession at full length
Made in the first remorse: 't was Jubilee
Pealed in the ear o' the conscience and it woke.
She found she had offended God no doubt,
So much was plain from what had happened since,
Misfortune on misfortune; but she harmed
No one i' the world, so far as she could see.
The act had gladdened Pietro to the height,
Her spouse whom God himself must gladden so
Or not at all: thus much seems probable
From the implicit faith, or rather say
Stupid credulity of the foolish man
Who swallowed such a tale nor strained a whit
Even at his wife's far-over-fifty years
Matching his sixty-and-under. Him she blessed;
And as for doing any detriment
To the veritable heir,—why, tell her first
Who was he? Which of all the hands held up
I' the crowd, one day would gather round their gate,
Did she so wrong by intercepting thus
The ducat, spendthrift fortune thought to fling
For a scramble just to make the mob break shins?
She kept it, saved them kicks and cuffs thereby.
While at the least one good work had she wrought,
Good, clearly and incontestably! Her cheat—
What was it to its subject, the child's self,
But charity and religion? See the girl!
A body most like—a soul too probably—
Doomed to death, such a double death as waits
The illicit offspring of a common trull,
Sure to resent and forthwith rid herself
Of a mere interruption to sin's trade,
In the efficacious way old Tiber knows.
Was not so much proved by the ready sale
O' the child, glad transfer of this irksome chance?
Well then, she had caught up this castaway:
This fragile egg, some careless wild bird dropped,
She had picked from where it waited the foot-fall,
And put in her own breast till forth broke finch
Able to sing God praise on mornings now.
What so excessive harm was done?—she asked.
To which demand the dreadful answer comes—
For that same deed, now at Lorenzo's church,
Both agents, conscious and inconscious, lie;
While she, the deed was done to benefit,
Lies also, the most lamentable of things,
Yonder where curious people count her breaths,
Calculate how long yet the little life
Unspilt may serve their turn nor spoil the show,
Give them their story, then the church its group.
Well, having gained Pompilia, the girl grew
I' the midst of Pietro here, Violante there,
Each, like a semicircle with stretched arms,
Joining the other round her preciousness—
Two walls that go about a garden-plot
Where a chance sliver, branchlet slipt from bole
Of some tongue-leaved eye-figured Eden tree,
Filched by two exiles and borne far away.
Patiently glorifies their solitude,—
Year by year mounting, grade by grade surmount
The builded brick-work, yet is compassed still,
Still hidden happily and shielded safe,—
Else why should miracle have graced the ground?
But on the twelfth sun that brought April there
What meant that laugh? The coping-stone was reached;
Nay, above towered a light tuft of bloom
To be toyed with by butterfly or bee,
Done good to or else harm to from outside:
Pompilia's root, stalk and a branch or two
Home enclosed still, the rest would be the world's.
All which was taught our couple though obtuse,
Since walls have ears, when one day brought a priest,
Smooth-mannered soft-speeched sleek-cheeked visitor,
The notable Abate Paolo—known
As younger brother of a Tuscan house
Whereof the actual representative,
Count Guido, had employed his youth and age
In culture of Rome's most productive plant—
A cardinal: but years pass and change comes,
In token of which, here was our Paolo brought
To broach a weighty business. Might he speak?
Yes—to Violante somehow caught alone
While Pietro took his after-dinner doze,
And the young maiden, busily as befits,
Minded her broider-frame three chambers off.
So—giving now his great flap-hat a gloss
With flat o' the hand between-whiles, soothing now
The silk from out its creases o'er the calf,
Setting the stocking clerical again,
But never disengaging, once engaged,
The thin clear grey hold of his eyes on her—
He dissertated on that Tuscan house,
Those Franceschini,—very old they were—
Not rich however—oh, not rich, at least,
As people look to be who, low i' the scale
One way, have reason, rising all they can
By favour of the money-bag! 't is fair—
Do all gifts go together? But don't suppose
That being not so rich means all so poor!
Say rather, well enough—i' the way, indeed,
Ha, ha, to fortune better than the best:
Since if his brother's patron-friend kept faith,
Put into promised play the Cardinalate,
Their house might wear the red cloth that keeps warm,
Would but the Count have patience—there's the point!
For he was slipping into years apace,
And years make men restless—they needs must spy
Some certainty, some sort of end assured,
Some sparkle, tho' from topmost beacon-tip,
That warrants life a harbour through the haze.
In short, call him fantastic as you choose,
Guido was home-sick, yearned for the old sights
And usual faces,—fain would settle himself
And have the patron's bounty when it fell
Irrigate far rather than deluge near,
Go fertilize Arezzo, not flood Rome.
Sooth to say, 't was the wiser wish: the Count
Proved wanting in ambition,—let us avouch,
Since truth is best,—in callousness of heart,
And winced at pin-pricks whereby honours hang
A ribbon o'er each puncture: his—no soul
Ecclesiastic (here the hat was brushed)
Humble but self-sustaining, calm and cold,
Having, as one who puts his hand to the plough,
Renounced the over-vivid family-feel—
Poor brother Guido! All too plain, he pined
Amid Rome's pomp and glare for dinginess
And that dilapidated palace-shell
Vast as a quarry and, very like, as bare—
Since to this comes old grandeur now-a-days—
Or that absurd wild villa in the waste
O' the hill side, breezy though, for who likes air,
Vittiano, nor unpleasant with its vines,
Outside the city and the summer heats.
And now his harping on this one tense chord
The villa and the palace, palace this
And villa the other, all day and all night
Creaked like the implacable cicala's cry
And made one's ear drum ache: nought else would serve
But that, to light his mother's visage up
With second youth, hope, gaiety again,
He must find straightway, woo and haply win
And bear away triumphant back, some wife.
Well now, the man was rational in his way:
He, the Abate,—ought he to interpose?
Unless by straining still his tutelage
(Priesthood leaps over elder-brothership)
Across this difficulty: then let go,
Leave the poor fellow in peace! Would that be wrong?
There was no making Guido great, it seems,
Spite of himself: then happy be his dole!
Indeed, the Abate's little interest
Was somewhat nearly touched i' the case, they saw:
Since if his simple kinsman so were bent,
Began his rounds in Rome to catch a wife,
Full soon would such unworldliness surprise
The rare bird, sprinkle salt on phoenix' tail,
And so secure the nest a sparrow-hawk.
No lack of mothers here in Rome,—no dread
Of daughters lured as larks by looking-glass!
The first name-pecking credit-scratching fowl
Would drop her unfledged cuckoo in our nest
To gather greyness there, give voice at length
And shame the brood … but it was long ago
When crusades were, and we sent eagles forth!
No, that at least the Abate could forestall.
He read the thought within his brother's word,
Knew what he purposed better than himself.
We want no name and fame—having our own:
No worldly aggrandizement—such we fly:
But if some wonder of a woman's-heart
Were yet untainted on this grimy earth,
Tender and true—tradition tells of such—
Prepared to pant in time and tune with ours—
If some good girl (a girl, since she must take
The new bent, live new life, adopt new modes)
Not wealthy (Guido for his rank was poor)
But with whatever dowry came to hand,—
There were the lady-love predestinate!
And somehow the Abate's guardian eye—
Scintillant, rutilant, fraternal fire,—
Roving round every way had seized the prize
—The instinct of us, we, the spiritualty!
Come, cards on table; was it true or false
That here—here in this very tenement—
Yea, Via Vittoria did a marvel hide,
Lily of a maiden, white with intact leaf
Guessed thro' the sheath that saved it from the sun?
A daughter with the mother's hands still clasped
Over her head for fillet virginal,
A wife worth Guido's house and hand and heart?
He came to see; had spoken, he could no less—
(A final cherish of the stockinged calf)
If harm were,—well, the matter was off his mind.
Then with the great air did he kiss, devout,
Violante's hand, and rise up his whole height
(A certain purple gleam about the black)
And go forth grandly,—as if the Pope came next.
And so Violante rubbed her eyes awhile,
Got up too, walked to wake her Pietro soon
And pour into his ear the mighty news
How somebody had somehow somewhere seen
Their tree-top-tuft of bloom above the wall,
And came now to apprize them the tree's self
Was no such crab-sort as should go feed swine,
But veritable gold, the Hesperian ball
Ordained for Hercules to haste and pluck,
And bear and give the Gods to banquet with—
Hercules standing ready at the door.
Whereon did Pietro rub his eyes in turn,
Look very wise, a little woeful too,
Then, periwig on head, and cane in hand,
Sally forth dignifiedly into the Square
Of Spain across Babbuino the six steps,
Toward the Boat-fountain where our idlers lounge,—
Ask, for form's sake, who Hercules might be,
And have congratulation from the world.
Heartily laughed the world in his fool's-face
And told him Hercules was just the heir
To the stubble once a corn-field, and brick-heap
Where used to be a dwelling-place now burned.
Guido and Franceschini; a Count,—ay:
But a cross i' the poke to bless the Countship? No!
All gone except sloth, pride, rapacity,
Humours of the imposthume incident
To rich blood that runs thin,—nursed to a head
By the rankly-salted soil—a cardinal's court
Where, parasite and picker-up of crumbs,
He had hung on long, and now, let go, said some,
Shaken off, said others,—but in any case
Tired of the trade and something worse for wear,
Was wanting to change town for country quick,
Go home again: let Pietro help him home!
The brother, Abate Paolo, shrewder mouse,
Had pricked for comfortable quarters, inched
Into the core of Rome, and fattened so;
But Guido, over-burly for rat's hole
Suited to clerical slimness, starved outside,
Must shift for himself: and so the shift was this!
What, was the snug retreat of Pietro tracked,
The little provision for his old age snuffed?
"Oh, make your girl a lady, an you list,
"But have more mercy on our wit than vaunt
"Your bargain as we burgesses who brag!
"Why, Goodman Dullard, if a friend must speak,
"Would the Count, think you, stoop to you and yours
"Were there the value of one penny-piece
"To rattle 'twixt his palms—or likelier laugh,
"Bid your Pompilia help you black his shoe?"
Home again, shaking oft the puzzled pate,
Went Pietro to announce a change indeed,
Yet point Violante where some solace lay
Of a rueful sort,—the taper, quenched so soon,
Had ended merely in a snuff, not stink—
Congratulate there was one hope the less
Not misery the more: and so an end.
The marriage thus impossible, the rest
Followed: our spokesman, Paolo, heard his fate,
Resignedly Count Guido bore the blow:
Violante wiped away the transient tear,
Renounced the playing Danae to gold dreams,
Praised much her Pietro's prompt sagaciousness,
Found neighbours' envy natural, lightly laughed
At gossips' malice, fairly wrapped herself
In her integrity three folds about,
And, letting pass a little day or two,
Threw, even over that integrity,
Another wrappage, namely one thick veil
That hid her, matron-wise, from head to foot,
And, by the hand holding a girl veiled too,
Stood, one dim end of a December day,
In Saint Lorenzo on the altar-step—
Just where she lies now and that girl will lie—
Only with fifty candles' company
Now, in the place of the poor winking one
Which saw,—doors shut and sacristan made sure,—
A priest—perhaps Abate Paolo—wed
Guido clandestinely, irrevocably
To his Pompilia aged thirteen years
And five months,—witness the church register,—
Pompilia, (thus become Count Guido's wife
Clandestinely, irrevocably his,)
Who all the while had borne, from first to last,
As brisk a part i' the bargain, as yon lamb,
Brought forth from basket and set out for sale,
Bears while they chaffer, wary market-man
And voluble housewife, o'er it,—each in turn
Patting the curly calm inconscious head,
With the shambles ready round the corner there,
When the talk's talked out and a bargain struck.
Transfer complete, why, Pietro was apprised.
Violante sobbed the sobs and prayed the prayers
And said the serpent tempted so she fell,
Till Pietro had to clear his brow apace
And make the best of matters: wrath at first,—
How else? pacification presently,
Why not?—could flesh withstand the impurpled one,
The very Cardinal, Paolo's patron-friend?
Who, justifiably surnamed "a hinge,"
Knew where the mollifying oil should drop
To cure the creak o' the valve,—considerate
For frailty, patient in a naughty world.
He even volunteered to supervise
The rough draught of those marriage-articles
Signed in a hurry by Pietro, since revoked:
Trust's politic, suspicion does the harm,
There is but one way to brow-beat this world,
Dumb-founder doubt, and repay scorn in kind,—
To go on trusting, namely, till faith move
And faith here made the mountains move.
Why, friends whose zeal cried "Caution ere too late!"—
Bade "Pause ere jump, with both feet joined, on slough!"—
Counselled "If rashness then, now temperance!"—
Heard for their pains that Pietro had closed eyes,
Jumped and was in the middle of the mire,
Money and all, just what should sink a man.
By the mere marriage, Guido gained forthwith
Dowry, his wife's right; no rescinding there:
But Pietro, why must he needs ratify
One gift Violante gave, pay down one doit
Promised in first fool's-flurry? Grasp the bag
Lest the son's service flag,—is reason and rhyme,
Above all when the son's a son-in-law.
Words to the wind! The parents cast their lot
Into the lap o' the daughter: and the son
Now with a right to lie there, took what fell,
Pietro's whole having and holding, house and field,
Goods, chattels and effects, his worldly worth
Present and in perspective, all renounced
In favour of Guido. As for the usufruct—
The interest now, the principal anon,
Would Guido please to wait, at Pietro's death:
Till when, he must support the couple's charge,
Bear with them, housemates, pensionaries, pawned
To an alien for fulfilment of their pact.
Guido should at discretion deal them orts,
Bread-bounty in Arezzo the strange place,—
They who had lived deliciously and rolled
Rome's choicest comfit 'neath the tongue before.
Into this quag, "jump" bade the Cardinal!
And neck-deep in a minute there flounced they.
But they touched bottom at Arezzo: there—
Four months' experience of how craft and greed
Quickened by penury and pretentious hate
Of plain truth, brutify and bestialize,—
Four months' taste of apportioned insolence,
Cruelty graduated, dose by dose
Of ruffianism dealt out at bed and board,
And lo, the work was done, success clapped hands.
The starved, stripped, beaten brace of stupid dupes
Broke at last in their desperation loose,
Fled away for their lives, and lucky so;
Found their account in casting coat afar
And bearing off a shred of skin at least:
Left Guido lord o' the prey, as the lion is,
And, careless what came after, carried their wrongs
To Rome,—I nothing doubt, with such remorse
As folly feels, since pain can make it wise,
But crime, past wisdom, which is innocence,
Needs not be plagued with till a later day.
Pietro went back to beg from door to door,
In hope that memory not quite extinct
Of cheery days and festive nights would move
Friends and acquaintance—after the natural laugh,
And tributary "Just as we foretold—"
To show some bowels, give the dregs o' the cup,
Scraps of the trencher, to their host that was,
Or let him share the mat with the mastiff, he
Who lived large and kept open house so long.
Not so Violante: ever a-head i' the march,
Quick at the bye-road and the cut-across,
She went first to the best adviser, God—
Whose finger unmistakably was felt
In all this retribution of the past.
Here was the prize of sin, luck of a lie!
But here too was what Holy Year would help,
Bound to rid sinners of sin vulgar, sin
Abnormal, sin prodigious, up to sin
Impossible and supposed for Jubilee' sake:
To lift the leadenest of lies, let soar
The soul unhampered by a feather-weight.
"I will" said she "go burn out this bad hole
"That breeds the scorpion, baulk the plague at least
"Of hope to further plague by progeny:
"I will confess my fault, be punished, yes,
"But pardoned too: Saint Peter pays for all."
So, with the crowd she mixed, made for the dome,
Through the great door new-broken for the nonce
Marched, muffled more than ever matron-wise,
Up the left nave to the formidable throne,
Fell into file with this the poisoner
And that the parricide, and reached in turn
The poor repugnant Penitentiary
Set at this gully-hole o' the world's discharge
To help the frightfullest of filth have vent,
And then knelt down and whispered in his ear
How she had bought Pompilia, palmed the babe
On Pietro, passed the girl off as their child
To Guido, and defrauded of his due
This one and that one,—more than she could name,
Until her solid piece of wickedness
Happened to split and spread woe far and wide:
Contritely now she brought the case for cure.
Replied the throne—"Ere God forgive the guilt,
"Make man some restitution! Do your part!
"The owners of your husband's heritage,
"Barred thence by this pretended birth and heir,—
"Tell them, the bar came so, is broken so,
"Theirs be the due reversion as before!
"Your husband who, no partner in the guilt,
"Suffers the penalty, led blindfold thus
"By love of what he thought his flesh and blood
"To alienate his all in her behalf,—
"Tell him too such contract is null and void!
"Last, he who personates your son-in-law,
"Who with sealed eyes and stopped ears, tame and mute,
"Took at your hand that bastard of a whore
"You called your daughter and he calls his wife,—
"Tell him, and bear the anger which is just!
"Then, penance so performed, may pardon be!"
Who could gainsay this just and right award?
Nobody in the world: but, out o' the world,
Who knows?—might timid intervention be
From any makeshift of an angel-guide,
Substitute for celestial guardianship,
Pretending to take care of the girl's self:
"Woman, confessing crime is healthy work,
"And telling truth relieves a liar like you,
"But how of my quite unconsidered charge?
"No thought if, while this good befalls yourself,
"Aught in the way of harm may find out her?"
No least thought, I assure you: truth being truth,
Tell it and shame the devil!
Said and done:
Home went Violante, disbosomed all:
And Pietro who, six months before, had borne
Word after word of such a piece of news
Like so much cold steel inched through his breastblade,
Now at its entry gave a leap for joy
As who—what did I say of one in a quag?—
Should catch a hand from heaven and spring thereby
Out of the mud, on ten toes stand once more.
"What? All that used to be, may be again?
"My money mine again, my house, my land,
"My chairs and tables, all mine evermore?
"What, the girl's dowry never was the girl's,
"And, unpaid yet, is never now to pay?
"Then the girl's self, my pale Pompilia child
"That used to be my own with her great eyes—
"He who drove us forth, why should he keep her
"When proved as very a pauper as himself?
"Will she come back, with nothing changed at all,
"And laugh 'But how you dreamed uneasily!
"'I saw the great drops stand here on your brow—
"'Did I do wrong to wake you with a kiss?'
"No, indeed, darling! No, for wide awake
"I see another outburst of surprise:
"The lout-lord, bully-beggar, braggart-sneak,
"Who not content with cutting purse, crops ear—
"Assuredly it shall be salve to mine
"When this great news red-letters him, the rogue!
"Ay, let him taste the teeth o' the trap, this fox,
"Give us our lamb back, golden fleece and all,
"Let her creep in and warm our breasts again!
"Why care for the past? We three are our old selves,
"And know now what the outside world is worth."
And so, he carried case before the courts;
And there Violante, blushing to the bone,
Made public declaration of her fault,
Renounced her motherhood, and prayed the law
To interpose, frustrate of its effect
Her folly, and redress the injury done.
Whereof was the disastrous consequence,
That though indisputably clear the case
(For thirteen years are not so large a lapse,
And still six witnesses survived in Rome
To prove the truth o' the tale)—yet, patent wrong
Seemed Guido's; the first cheat had chanced on him:
Here was the pity that, deciding right,
Those who began the wrong would gain the prize.
Guido pronounced the story one long lie
Lied to do robbery and take revenge:
Or say it were no lie at all but truth,
Then, it both robbed the right heirs and shamed him
Without revenge to humanize the deed:
What had he done when first they shamed him thus?
But that were too fantastic: losels they,
And leasing this world's-wonder of a lie,
They lied to blot him though it brand themselves.
So answered Guido through the Abate's mouth.
Wherefore the court, its customary way,
Inclined to the middle course the sage affect.
They held the child to be a changeling,—good:
But, lest the husband got no good thereby,
They willed the dowry, though not hers at all,
Should yet be his, if not by right then grace—
Part-payment for the plain injustice done.
As for that other contract, Pietro's work,
Renunciation of his own estate,
That must be cancelled—give him back his gifts,
He was no party to the cheat at least!
So ran the judgment:—whence a prompt appeal
On both sides, seeing right is absolute.
Cried Pietro "Is the child no child of mine?
"Why give her a child's dowry?"—"Have I right
"To the dowry, why not to the rest as well?"
Cried Guido, or cried Paolo in his name:
Till law said "Reinvestigate the case!"
And so the matter pends, to this same day.
Hence new disaster—here no outlet seemed;
Whatever the fortune of the battle-field,
No path whereby the fatal man might march
Victorious, wreath on head and spoils in hand,
And back turned full upon the baffled foe,—
Nor cranny whence, desperate and disgraced,
Stripped to the skin, he might be fain to crawl
Worm-like, and so away with his defeat
To other fortune and a novel prey.
No, he was pinned to the place there, left alone
With his immense hate and, the solitary
Subject to satisfy that hate, his wife.
"Cast her off? Turn her naked out of doors?
"Easily said! But still the action pends,
"Still dowry, principal and interest,
"Pietro's possessions, all I bargained for,—
"Any good day, be but my friends alert,
"May give them me if she continue mine.
"Yet, keep her? Keep the puppet of my foes—
"Her voice that lisps me back their curse—her eye
"They lend their leer of triumph to—her lip
"I touch and taste their very filth upon?"
In short, he also took the middle course
Rome taught him—did at last excogitate
How he might keep the good and leave the bad
Twined in revenge, yet extricable,—nay
Make the very hate's eruption, very rush
Of the unpent sluice of cruelty relieve
His heart first, then go fertilize his field.
What if the girl-wife, tortured with due care,
Should take, as though spontaneously, the road
It were impolitic to thrust her on?
If, goaded, she broke out in full revolt,
Followed her parents i' the face o' the world,
Branded as runaway not castaway,
Self-sentenced and self-punished in the act?
So should the loathed form and detested face
Launch themselves into hell and there be lost
While he looked o'er the brink with folded arms;
So should the heaped-up shames go shuddering back
O' the head o' the heapers, Pietro and his wife,
And bury in the breakage three at once:
While Guido, left free, no one right renounced,
Gain present, gain prospective, all the gain,
None of the wife except her rights absorbed,
Should ask law what it was law paused about—
If law were dubious still whose word to take,
The husband's—dignified and derelict,
Or the wife's—the … what I tell you. It should be.
Guido's first step was to take pen, indite
A letter to the Abate,—not his own,
His wife's,—she should re-write, sign, seal and send.
She liberally told the household-news,
Rejoiced her vile progenitors were gone,
Revealed their malice—how they even laid
A last injunction on her, when they fled,
That she should forthwith find a paramour,
Complot with him to gather spoil enough,
Then burn the house down,—taking previous care
To poison all its inmates overnight,—
And so companioned, so provisioned too,
Follow to Rome and there join fortunes gay.
This letter, traced in pencil-characters,
Guido as easily got re-traced in ink
By his wife's pen, guided from end to end,
As if it had been just so much Chinese.
For why? That wife could broider, sing perhaps,
Pray certainly, but no more read than write
This letter "which yet write she must," he said,
"Being half courtesy and compliment,
"Half sisterliness: take the thing on trust!"
She had as readily re-traced the words
Of her own death-warrant,—in some sort 't was so.
This letter the Abate in due course
Communicated to such curious souls
In Rome as needs must pry into the cause
Of quarrel, why the Comparini fled
The Franceschini, whence the grievance grew,
What the hubbub meant: "Nay,—see the wife's own word,
"Authentic answer! Tell detractors too
"There's a plan formed, a programme figured here
"—Pray God no after-practice put to proof,
"This letter cast no light upon, one day!"
So much for what should work in Rome: back now
To Arezzo, follow up the project there,
Forward the next step with as bold a foot,
And plague Pompilia to the height, you see!
Accordingly did Guido set himself
To worry up and down, across, around,
The woman, hemmed in by her household-bars,—
Chase her about the coop of daily life,
Having first stopped each outlet thence save one
Which, like bird with a ferret in her haunt,
She needs must seize as sole way of escape
Though there was tied and twittering a decoy
To seem as if it tempted,—just the plume
O' the popinjay, not a real respite there
From tooth and claw of something in the dark,—
The tenebrific passage of the tale:
How hold a light, display the cavern's gorge?
How, in this phase of the affair, show truth?
Here is the dying wife who smiles and says
"So it was,—so it was not,—how it was,
"I never knew nor ever care to know—"
Till they all weep, physician, man of law,
Even that poor old bit of battered brass
Beaten out of all shape by the world's sins,
Common utensil of the lazar-house—
Confessor Celestino groans "'T is truth,
"All truth and only truth: there's something here,
"Some presence in the room beside us all,
"Something that every lie expires before:
"No question she was pure from first to last."
So far is well and helps us to believe:
But beyond, she the helpless, simple-sweet
Or silly-sooth, unskilled to break one blow
At her good fame by putting finger forth,—
How can she render service to the truth?
The bird says "So I fluttered where a springe
"Caught me: the springe did not contrive itself,
"That I know: who contrived it, God forgive!"
But we, who hear no voice and have dry eyes,
Must ask,—we cannot else, absolving her,—
How of the part played by that same decoy
I' the catching, caging? Was himself caught first?
We deal here with no innocent at least,
No witless victim,—he's a man of the age
And priest beside,—persuade the mocking world
Mere charity boiled over in this sort!
He whose own safety too,—(the Pope's apprised—
Good-natured with the secular offence,
The Pope looks grave on priesthood in a scrape)
Our priest's own safety therefore, may-be life,
Hangs on the issue! You will find it hard.
Guido is here to meet you with fixed foot,
Stiff like a statue—"Leave what went before!
"My wife fled i' the company of a priest,
"Spent two days and two nights alone with him:
"Leave what came after!" He stands hard to throw
Moreover priests are merely flesh and blood;
When we get weakness, and no guilt beside,
'Tis no such great ill-fortune: finding grey,
We gladly call that white which might be black,
Too used to the double-dye. So, if the priest
Moved by Pompilia's youth and beauty, gave
Way to the natural weakness… . Anyhow
Here be facts, charactery; what they spell
Determine, and thence pick what sense you may!
There was a certain young bold handsome priest
Popular in the city, far and wide
Famed, since Arezzo's but a little place,
As the best of good companions, gay and grave
At the decent minute; settled in his stall,
Or sidling, lute on lap, by lady's couch,
Ever the courtly Canon; see in him
A proper star to climb and culminate,
Have its due handbreadth of the heaven at Rome,
Though meanwhile pausing on Arezzo's edge,
As modest candle does 'mid mountain fog,
To rub off redness and rusticity
Ere it sweep chastened, gain the silver-sphere!
Whether through Guido's absence or what else,
This Caponsacchi, favourite of the town,
Was yet no friend of his nor free o' the house,
Though both moved in the regular magnates' march:
Each must observe the other's tread and halt
At church, saloon, theatre, house of play.
Who could help noticing the husband's slouch,
The black of his brow—or miss the news that buzzed
Of how the little solitary wife
Wept and looked out of window all day long?
What need of minute search into such springs
As start men, set o' the move?—machinery
Old as earth, obvious as the noonday sun.
Why, take men as they come,—an instance now,—
Of all those who have simply gone to see
Pompilia on her deathbed since four days,
Half at the least are, call it how you please,
In love with her—I don't except the priests
Nor even the old confessor whose eyes run
Over at what he styles his sister's voice
Who died so early and weaned him from the world.
Well, had they viewed her ere the paleness pushed
The last o' the red o' the rose away, while yet
Some hand, adventurous 'twixt the wind and her,
Might let shy life run back and raise the flower
Rich with reward up to the guardian's face,—
Would they have kept that hand employed all day
At fumbling on with prayer-book pages? No!
Men are men: why then need I say one word
More than that our mere man the Canon here
Saw, pitied, loved Pompilia?
This is why;
This startling why: that Caponsacchi's self—
Whom foes and friends alike avouch, for good
Or ill, a man of truth whate'er betide,
Intrepid altogether, reckless too
How his own fame and fortune, tossed to the winds,
Suffer by any turn the adventure take,
Nay, more—not thrusting, like a badge to hide,
'Twixt shirt and skin a joy which shown is shame—
But flirting flag-like i' the face o' the world
This tell-tale kerchief, this conspicuous love
For the lady,—oh, called innocent love, I know!
Only, such scarlet fiery innocence
As most folk would try muffle up in shade,—
—'T is strange then that this else abashless mouth
Should yet maintain, for truth's sake which is God's,
That it was not he made the first advance,
That, even ere word had passed between the two,
Pompilia penned him letters, passionate prayers,
If not love, then so simulating love
That he, no novice to the taste of thyme,
Turned from such over-luscious honey-clot
At end o' the flower, and would not lend his lip
Till … but the tale here frankly outsoars faith:
There must be falsehood somewhere. For her part,
Pompilia quietly constantly avers
She never penned a letter in her life
Nor to the Canon nor any other man,
Being incompetent to write and read:
Nor had she ever uttered word to him, nor he
To her till that same evening when they met,
She on her window-terrace, he beneath
I' the public street, as was their fateful chance,
And she adjured him in the name of God
To find out, bring to pass where, when and how
Escape with him to Rome might be contrived.
Means were found, plan laid, time fixed, she avers,
And heart assured to heart in loyalty,
All at an impulse! All extemporized
As in romance-books! Is that credible?
Well, yes: as she avers this with calm mouth
Dying, I do think "Credible!" you'd cry—
Did not the priest's voice come to break the spell.
They questioned him apart, as the custom is,
When first the matter made a noise at Rome,
And he, calm, constant then as she is now,
For truth's sake did assert and re-assert
Those letters called him to her and he came,
—Which damns the story credible otherwise.
Why should this man,—mad to devote himself,
Careless what comes of his own fame, the first,—
Be studious thus to publish and declare
Just what the lightest nature loves to hide,
So screening lady from the byword's laugh
"First spoke the lady, last the cavalier!"
—I say,—why should the man tell truth just now
When graceful lying meets such ready shrift?
Or is there a first moment for a priest
As for a woman, when invaded shame
Must have its first and last excuse to show?
Do both contrive love's entry in the mind
Shall look, i' the manner of it, a surprise,—
That after, once the flag o' the fort hauled down,
Effrontery may sink drawbridge, open gate,
Welcome and entertain the conqueror?
Or what do you say to a touch of the devil's worst?
Can it be that the husband, he who wrote
The letter to his brother I told you of,
I' the name of her it meant to criminate,—
What if he wrote those letters to the priest?
Further the priest says, when it first befell,
This folly o' the letters, that he checked the flow,
Put them back lightly each with its reply.
Here again vexes new discrepancy:
There never reached her eye a word from him:
He did write but she could not read—could just
Burn the offence to wifehood, womanhood,
So did burn: never bade him come to her,
Yet when it proved he must come, let him come,
And when he did come though uncalled,—why, spoke
Prompt by an inspiration: thus it chanced.
Will you go somewhat back to understand?
When first, pursuant to his plan, there sprang,
Like an uncaged beast, Guido's cruelty
On soul and body of his wife, she cried
To those whom law appoints resource for such,
The secular guardian,—that's the Governor,
And the Archbishop,—that's the spiritual guide,
And prayed them take the claws from out her flesh.
Now, this is ever the ill consequence
Of being noble, poor and difficult,
Ungainly, yet too great to disregard,—
This—that born peers and friends hereditary,—
Though disinclined to help from their own store
The opprobrious wight, put penny in his poke
From private purse or leave the door ajar
When he goes wistful by at dinner-time,—
Yet, if his needs conduct him where they sit
Smugly in office, judge this, bishop that,
Dispensers of the shine and shade o' the place—
And if, friend's door shut and friend's purse undrawn,
Still potentates may find the office-seat
Do as good service at no cost—give help
By-the-bye, pay up traditional dues at once
Just through a feather-weight too much i' the scale,
Or finger-tip forgot at the balance-tongue,—
Why, only churls refuse, or Molinists.
Thus when, in the first roughness of surprise
At Guido's wolf-face whence the sheepskin fell,
The frightened couple, all bewilderment,
Rushed to the Governor,—who else rights wrong?
Told him their tale of wrong and craved redress—
Why, then the Governor woke up to the fact
That Guido was a friend of old, poor Count!—
So, promptly paid his tribute, promised the pair,
Wholesome chastisement should soon cure their qualms
Next time they came, wept, prated and told lies:
So stopped all prating, sent them dumb to Rome.
Well, now it was Pompilia's turn to try:
The troubles pressing on her, as I said,
Three times she rushed, maddened by misery,
To the other mighty man, sobbed out her prayer
At footstool of the Archbishop—fast the friend
Of her husband also! Oh, good friends of yore!
So, the Archbishop, not to be outdone
By the Governor, break custom more than he,
Thrice bade the foolish woman stop her tongue,
Unloosed her hands from harassing his gout,
Coached her and carried her to the Count again,
—His old friend should be master in his house,
Rule his wife and correct her faults at need!
Well, driven from post to pillar in this wise,
She, as a last resource, betook herself
To one, should be no family-friend at least,
A simple friar o' the city; confessed to him,
Then told how fierce temptation of release
By self-dealt death was busy with her soul,
And urged that he put this in words, write plain
For one who could not write, set down her prayer
That Pietro and Violante, parent-like
If somehow not her parents, should for love
Come save her, pluck from out the flame the brand
Themselves had thoughtlessly thrust in so deep
To send gay-coloured sparkles up and cheer
Their seat at the chimney-corner. The good friar
Promised as much at the moment; but, alack,
Night brings discretion: he was no one's friend,
Yet presently found he could not turn about
Nor take a step i' the case and fail to tread
On someone's toe who either was a friend,
Or a friend's friend, or friend's friend thrice-removed,
And woe to friar by whom offences come!
So, the course being plain,—with a general sigh
At matrimony the profound mistake,—
He threw reluctantly the business up,
Having his other penitents to mind.
If then, all outlets thus secured save one,
At last she took to the open, stood and stared
With her wan face to see where God might wait—
And there found Caponsacchi wait as well
For the precious something at perdition's edge,
He only was predestinate to save,—
And if they recognized in a critical flash
From the zenith, each the other, her need of him,
His need of … say, a woman to perish for,
The regular way o' the world, yet break no vow,
Do no harm save to himself,—if this were thus?
How do you say? It were improbable;
So is the legend of my patron-saint.
Anyhow, whether, as Guido states the case,
Pompilia,—like a starving wretch i' the street
Who stops and rifles the first passenger
In the great right of an excessive wrong,—
Did somehow call this stranger and he came,—
Or whether the strange sudden interview
Blazed as when star and star must needs go close
Till each hurts each and there is loss in heaven—
Whatever way in this strange world it was,—
Pompilia and Caponsacchi met, in fine,
She at her window, he i' the street beneath,
And understood each other at first look.
All was determined and performed at once.
And on a certain April evening, late
I' the month, this girl of sixteen, bride and wife
Three years and over,—she who hitherto
Had never taken twenty steps in Rome
Beyond the church, pinned to her mother's gown,
Nor, in Arezzo, knew her way through street
Except what led to the Archbishop's door,—
Such an one rose up in the dark, laid hand
On what came first, clothes and a trinket or two,
Belongings of her own in the old day,—
Stole from the side o' the sleeping spouse—who knows?
Sleeping perhaps, silent for certain,—slid
Ghost-like from great dark room to great dark room
In through the tapestries and out again
And onward, unembarrassed as a fate,
Descended staircase, gained last door of all,
Sent it wide open at first push of palm,
And there stood, first time, last and only time,
At liberty, alone in the open street,—
Unquestioned, unmolested found herself
At the city gate, by Caponsacchi's side,
Hope there, joy there, life and all good again,
The carriage there, the convoy there, light there
Broadening ever into blaze at Rome
And breaking small what long miles lay between;
Up she sprang, in he followed, they were safe.
The husband quotes this for incredible,
All of the story from first word to last:
Sees the priest's hand throughout upholding hers,
Traces his foot to the alcove, that night,
Whither and whence blindfold he knew the way,
Proficient in all craft and stealthiness;
And cites for proof a servant, eye that watched
And ear that opened to purse secrets up,
A woman-spy,—suborned to give and take
Letters and tokens, do the work of shame
The more adroitly that herself, who helped
Communion thus between a tainted pair,
Had long since been a leper thick in spot,
A common trull o' the town: she witnessed all,
Helped many meetings, partings, took her wage
And then told Guido the whole matter. Lies!
The woman's life confutes her word,—her word
Confutes itself: "Thus, thus and thus I lied."
"And thus, no question, still you lie," we say.
"Ay but at last, e'en have it how you will,
"Whatever the means, whatever the way, explodes
"The consummation"—the accusers shriek:
"Here is the wife avowedly found in flight,
"And the companion of her flight, a priest;
"She flies her husband, he the church his spouse:
"What is this?"
Wife and priest alike reply
"This is the simple thing it claims to be,
"A course we took for life and honour's sake,
"Very strange, very justifiable."
She says, "God put it in my head to fly,
"As when the martin migrates: autumn claps
"Her hands, cries 'Winter's coming, will be here,
"'Off with you ere the white teeth overtake!
"'Flee!' So I fled: this friend was the warm day,
"The south wind and whatever favours flight;
"I took the favour, had the help, how else?
"And so we did fly rapidly all night,
"All day, all night—a longer night—again,
"And then another day, longest of days,
"And all the while, whether we fled or stopped,
"I scarce know how or why, one thought filled both,
"'Fly and arrive!' So long as I found strength
"I talked with my companion, told him much,
"Knowing that he knew more, knew me, knew God
"And God's disposal of me,—but the sense
"O' the blessed flight absorbed me in the main,
"And speech became mere talking through a sleep,
"Till at the end of that last longest night
"In a red daybreak, when we reached an inn
"And my companion whispered 'Next stage—Rome!'
"Sudden the weak flesh fell like piled-up cards,
"All the frail fabric at a finger's touch,
"And prostrate the poor soul too, and I said
"'But though Count Guido were a furlong off,
"'Just on me, I must stop and rest awhile!'
"Then something like a huge white wave o' the sea
"Broke o'er my brain and buried me in sleep
"Blessedly, till it ebbed and left me loose,
"And where was I found but on a strange bed
"In a strange room like hell, roaring with noise,
"Ruddy with flame, and filled with men, in front
"Who but the man you call my husband? ay—
"Count Guido once more between heaven and me,
"For there my heaven stood, my salvation, yes—
"That Caponsacchi all my heaven of help,
"Helpless himself, held prisoner in the hands
"Of men who looked up in my husband's face
"To take the fate thence he should signify,
"Just as the way was at Arezzo. Then,
"Not for my sake but his who had helped me—
"I sprang up, reached him with one bound, and seized
"The sword o' the felon, trembling at his side,
"Fit creature of a coward, unsheathed the thing
"And would have pinned him through the poison-bag
"To the wall and left him there to palpitate,
"As you serve scorpions, but men interposed—
"Disarmed me, gave his life to him again
"That he might take mine and the other lives,
"And he has done so. I submit myself!"
The priest says—oh, and in the main result
The facts asseverate, he truly says.
As to the very act and deed of him,
However you mistrust the mind o' the man—
The flight was just for flight's sake, no pretext
For aught except to set Pompilia free.
He says "I cite the husband's self's worst charge
"In proof of my best word for both of us.
"Be it conceded that so many times
"We took our pleasure in his palace: then,
"What need to fly at all?—or flying no less,
"What need to outrage the lips sick and white
"Of a woman, and bring ruin down beside,
"By halting when Rome lay one stage beyond?"
So does he vindicate Pompilia's fame,
Confirm her story in all points but one—
This; that, so fleeing and so breathing forth
Her last strength in the prayer to halt awhile,
She makes confusion of the reddening white
Which was the sunset when her strength gave way,
And the next sunrise and its whitening red
Which she revived in when her husband came:
She mixes both times, morn and eve, in one,
Having lived through a blank of night 'twixt each
Though dead-asleep, unaware as a corpse,
She on the bed above; her friend below
Watched in the doorway of the inn the while,
Stood i' the red o' the morn, that she mistakes,
In act to rouse and quicken the tardy crew
And hurry out the horses, have the stage
Over, the last league, reach Rome and be safe:
When up came Guido.
Guido's tale begins—
How he and his whole household, drunk to death
By some enchanted potion, poppied drugs
Plied by the wife, lay powerless in gross sleep
And left the spoilers unimpeded way,
Could not shake off their poison and pursue,
Till noontide, then made shift to get on horse
And did pursue: which means he took his time,
Pressed on no more than lingered after, step
By step, just making sure o' the fugitives,
Till at the nick of time, he saw his chance,
Seized it, came up with and surprised the pair.
How he must needs have gnawn lip and gnashed teeth,
Taking successively at tower and town,
Village and roadside, still the same report
"Yes, such a pair arrived an hour ago,
"Sat in the carriage just where now you stand,
"While we got horses ready,—turned deaf ear
"To all entreaty they would even alight;
"Counted the minutes and resumed their course."
Would they indeed escape, arrive at Rome,
Leave no least loop-hole to let murder through,
But foil him of his captured infamy,
Prize of guilt proved and perfect? So it seemed.
Till, oh the happy chance, at last stage, Rome
But two short hours off, Castelnuovo reached,
The guardian angel gave reluctant place,
Satan stepped forward with alacrity,
Pompilia's flesh and blood succumbed, perforce
A halt was, and her husband had his will.
Perdue he couched, counted out hour by hour
Till he should spy in the east a signal-streak—
Night had been, morrow was, triumph would be.
Do you see the plan deliciously complete?
The rush upon the unsuspecting sleep,
The easy execution, the outcry
Over the deed "Take notice all the world!
"These two dead bodies, locked still in embrace,—
"The man is Caponsacchi and a priest,
"The woman is my wife: they fled me late,
"Thus have I found and you behold them thus,
"And may judge me: do you approve or no?"
Success did seem not so improbable,
But that already Satan's laugh was heard,
His black back turned on Guido—left i' the lurch
Or rather, baulked of suit and service now,
Left to improve on both by one deed more,
Burn up the better at no distant day,
Body and soul one holocaust to hell.
Anyhow, of this natural consequence
Did just the last link of the long chain snap:
For an eruption was o' the priest, alive
And alert, calm, resolute and formidable,
Not the least look of fear in that broad brow—
One not to be disposed of by surprise,
And armed moreover—who had guessed as much?
Yes, there stood he in secular costume
Complete from head to heel, with sword at side,
He seemed to know the trick of perfectly.
There was no prompt suppression of the man
As he said calmly "I have saved your wife
"From death; there was no other way but this;
"Of what do I defraud you except death?
"Charge any wrong beyond, I answer it."
Guido, the valorous, had met his match,
Was forced to demand help instead of fight,
Bid the authorities o' the place lend aid
And make the best of a broken matter so.
They soon obeyed the summons—I suppose,
Apprised and ready, or not far to seek—
Laid hands on Caponsacchi, found in fault,
A priest yet flagrantly accoutred thus,—
Then, to make good Count Guido's further charge,
Proceeded, prisoner made lead the way,
In a crowd, upstairs to the chamber-door
Where wax-white, dead asleep, deep beyond dream,
As the priest laid her, lay Pompilia yet.
And as he mounted step and step with the crowd
How I see Guido taking heart again!
He knew his wife so well and the way of her—
How at the outbreak she would shroud her shame
In hell's heart, would it mercifully yawn—
How, failing that, her forehead to his foot,
She would crouch silent till the great doom fell,
Leave him triumphant with the crowd to see
Guilt motionless or writhing like a worm!
No! Second misadventure, this worm turned,
I told you: would have slain him on the spot
With his own weapon, but they seized her hands:
Leaving her tongue free, as it tolled the knell
Of Guido's hope so lively late. The past
Took quite another shape now. She who shrieked
"At least and for ever I am mine and God's,
"Thanks to his liberating angel Death—
"Never again degraded to be yours
"The ignoble noble, the unmanly man,
"The beast below the beast in brutishness!"—
This was the froward child, "the restif lamb
"Used to be cherished in his breast," he groaned—
"Eat from his hand and drink from out his cup,
"The while his fingers pushed their loving way
"Through curl on curl of that soft coat—alas,
"And she all silverly baaed gratitude
"While meditating mischief!"—and so forth.
He must invent another story now!
The ins and outs o' the rooms were searched: he found
Or showed for found the abominable prize—
Love-letters from his wife who cannot write,
Love-letters in reply o' the priest—thank God!—
Who can write and confront his character
With this, and prove the false thing forged throughout:
Spitting whereat, he needs must spatter whom
But Guido's self?—that forged and falsified
One letter called Pompilia's, past dispute:
Then why not these to make sure still more sure?
So was the case concluded then and there:
Guido preferred his charges in due form,
Called on the law to adjudicate, consigned
The accused ones to the Prefect of the place,
(Oh mouse-birth of that mountain-like revenge!)
And so to his own place betook himself
After the spring that failed,—the wildcat's way.
The captured parties were conveyed to Rome;
Investigation followed here i' the court—
Soon to review the fruit of its own work,
From then to now being eight months and no more.
Guido kept out of sight and safe at home:
The Abate, brother Paolo, helped most
At words when deeds were out of question, pushed
Nearest the purple, best played deputy,
So, pleaded, Guido's representative
At the court shall soon try Guido's self,—what's more,
The court that also took—I told you, Sir—
That statement of the couple, how a cheat
Had been i' the birth of the babe, no child of theirs.
That was the prelude; this, the play's first act:
Whereof we wait what comes, crown, close of all.
Well, the result was something of a shade
On the parties thus accused,—how otherwise?
Shade, but with shine as unmistakable.
Each had a prompt defence: Pompilia first—
"Earth was made hell to me who did no harm:
"I only could emerge one way from hell
"By catching at the one hand held me, so
"I caught at it and thereby stepped to heaven:
"If that be wrong, do with me what you will!"
Then Caponsacchi with a grave grand sweep
O' the arm as though his soul warned baseness off—
"If as a man, then much more as a priest
"I hold me bound to help weak innocence:
"If so my worldly reputation burst,
"Being the bubble it is, why, burst it may:
"Blame I can bear though not blameworthiness.
"But use your sense first, see if the miscreant proved,
"The man who tortured thus the woman, thus
"Have not both laid the trap and fixed the lure
"Over the pit should bury body and soul!
"His facts are lies: his letters are the fact—
"An infiltration flavoured with himself!
"As for the fancies—whether … what is it you say?
"The lady loves me, whether I love her
"In the forbidden sense of your surmise,—
"If, with the midday blaze of truth above,
"The unlidded eye of God awake, aware,
"You needs must pry about and trace the birth
"Of each stray beam of light may traverse night,
"To the night's sun that's Lucifer himself,
"Do so, at other time, in other place,
"Not now nor here! Enough that first to last
"I never touched her lip nor she my hand
"Nor either of us thought a thought, much less
"Spoke a word which the Virgin might not hear.
"Be such your question, thus I answer it."
Then the court had to make its mind up, spoke.
"It is a thorny question, yea, a tale
"Hard to believe, but not impossible:
"Who can be absolute for either side?
"A middle course is happily open yet.
"Here has a blot surprised the social blank,—
"Whether through favour, feebleness or fault,
"No matter, leprosy has touched our robe
"And we unclean must needs be purified.
"Here is a wife makes holiday from home,
"A priest caught playing truant to his church,
"In masquerade moreover: both allege
"Enough excuse to stop our lifted scourge
"Which else would heavily fall. On the other hand,
"Here is a husband, ay and man of mark,
"Who comes complaining here, demands redress
"As if he were the pattern of desert—
"The while those plaguy allegations frown,
"Forbid we grant him the redress he seeks.
"To all men be our moderation known!
"Rewarding none while compensating each,
"Hurting all round though harming nobody,
"Husband, wife, priest, scot-free not one shall 'scape,
"Yet priest, wife, husband, boast the unbroken head
"From application of our excellent oil:
"So that, whatever be the fact, in fine,
"We make no miss of justice in a sort.
"First, let the husband stomach as he may,
"His wife shall neither be returned him, no—
"Nor branded, whipped and caged, but just consigned
"To a convent and the quietude she craves;
"So is he rid of his domestic plague:
"What better thing can happen to a man?
"Next, let the priest retire—unshent, unshamed,
"Unpunished as for perpetrating crime,
"But relegated (not imprisoned, Sirs!)
"Sent for three years to clarify his youth
"At Civita, a rest by the way to Rome:
"There let his life skim off its last of lees
"Nor keep this dubious colour. Judged the cause:
"All parties may retire, content, we hope."
That's Rome's way, the traditional road of law;
Whither it leads is what remains to tell.
The priest went to his relegation-place,
The wife to her convent, brother Paolo
To the arms of brother Guido with the news
And this beside—his charge was countercharged;
The Comparini, his old brace of hates,
Were breathed and vigilant and venomous now—
Had shot a second bolt where the first stuck,
And followed up the pending dowry-suit
By a procedure should release the wife
From so much of the marriage-bond as barred
Escape when Guido turned the screw too much
On his wife's flesh and blood, as husband may.
No more defence, she turned and made attack,
Claimed now divorce from bed and board, in short:
Pleaded such subtle strokes of cruelty,
Such slow sure siege laid to her body and soul,
As, proved,—and proofs seemed coming thick and fast,—
Would gain both freedom and the dowry back
Even should the first suit leave them in his grasp:
So urged the Comparini for the wife.
Guido had gained not one of the good things
He grasped at by his creditable plan
O' the flight and following and the rest: the suit
That smouldered late was fanned to fury new,
This adjunct came to help with fiercer fire,
While he had got himself a quite new plague—
Found the world's face an universal grin
At this last best of the Hundred Merry Tales
Of how a young and spritely clerk devised
To carry off a spouse that moped too much,
And cured her of the vapours in a trice:
And how the husband, playing Vulcan's part,
Told by the Sun, started in hot pursuit
To catch the lovers, and came halting up,
Cast his net and then called the Gods to see
The convicts in their rosy impudence—
Whereat said Mercury "Would that I were Mars!"
Oh it was rare, and naughty all the same!
Brief, the wife's courage and cunning,—the priest's show
Of chivalry and adroitness,—last not least,
The husband—how he ne'er showed teeth at all,
Whose bark had promised biting; but just sneaked
Back to his kennel, tail 'twixt legs, as 't were,—
All this was hard to gulp down and digest.
So pays the devil his liegeman, brass for gold.
But this was at Arezzo: here in Rome
Brave Paolo bore up against it all—
Battled it out, nor wanting to himself
Nor Guido nor the House whose weight he bore
Pillar-like, by no force of arm but brain.
He knew his Rome, what wheels to set to work;
Plied influential folk, pressed to the ear
Of the efficacious purple, pushed his way
To the old Pope's self,—past decency indeed,—
Praying him take the matter in his hands
Out of the regular court's incompetence.
But times are changed and nephews out of date
And favouritism unfashionable: the Pope
Said "Render Cæsar what is Cæsar's due!"
As for the Comparini's counter-plea,
He met that by a counter-plea again,
Made Guido claim divorce—with help so far
By the trial's issue: for, why punishment
However slight unless for guiltiness
However slender?—and a molehill serves
Much as a mountain of offence this way.
So was he gathering strength on every side
And growing more and more to menace—when
All of a terrible moment came the blow
That beat down Paolo's fence, ended the play
O' the foil and brought mannaia on the stage.
Five months had passed now since Pompilia's flight,
Months spent in peace among the Convert nuns.
This,—being, as it seemed, for Guido's sake
Solely, what pride might call imprisonment
And quote as something gained, to friends at home,—
This naturally was at Guido's charge:
Grudge it he might, but penitential fare,
Prayers, preachings, who but he defrayed the cost?
So, Paolo dropped, as proxy, doit by doit
Like heart's blood, till—what's here? What notice comes?
The convent's self makes application bland
That, since Pompilia's health is fast o' the wane,
She may have leave to go combine her cure
Of soul with cure of body, mend her mind
Together with her thin arms and sunk eyes
That want fresh air outside the convent-wall,
Say in a friendly house,—and which so fit
As a certain villa in the Pauline way,
That happens to hold Pietro and his wife,
The natural guardians? "Oh, and shift the care
"You shift the cost, too; Pietro pays in turn,
"And lightens Guido of a load! And then,
"Villa or convent, two names for one thing,
"Always the sojourn means imprisonment,
"Domus pro carcere—nowise we relax,
"Nothing abate: how answers Paolo?"
What would you answer? All so smooth and fair,
Even Paul's astuteness sniffed no harm i' the world.
He authorized the transfer, saw it made
And, two months after, reaped the fruit of the same,
Having to sit down, rack his brain and find
What phrase should serve him best to notify
Our Guido that by happy providence
A son and heir, a babe was born to him
I' the villa,—go tell sympathizing friends!
Yes, such had been Pompilia's privilege:
She, when she fled, was one month gone with child,
Known to herself or unknown, either way
Availing to explain (say men of art)
The strange and passionate precipitance
Of maiden startled into motherhood
Which changes body and soul by nature's law.
So when the she-dove breeds, strange yearnings come
For the unknown shelter by undreamed-of shores,
And there is born a blood-pulse in her heart
To fight if needs be, though with flap of wing,
For the wool-flock or the fur-tuft, though a hawk
Contest the prize,—wherefore, she knows not yet.
Anyhow, thus to Guido came the news.
"I shall have quitted Rome ere you arrive
"To take the one step left,"—wrote Paolo.
Then did the winch o' the winepress of all hate,
Vanity, disappointment, grudge and greed,
Take the last turn that screws out pure revenge
With a bright bubble at the brim beside—
By an heir's birth he was assured at once
O' the main prize, all the money in dispute:
Pompilia's dowry might revert to her
Or stay with him as law's caprice should point,—
But now—now—what was Pietro's shall be hers,
What was hers shall remain her own,—if hers,
Why then,—oh, not her husband's but—her heir's!
That heir being his too, all grew his at last
By this road or by that road, since they join.
Before, why, push he Pietro out o' the world,—
The current of the money stopped, you see,
Pompilia being proved no Pietro's child:
Or let it be Pompilia's life he quenched,
Again the current of the money stopped,—
Guido debarred his rights as husband soon,
So the new process threatened;—now, the chance,
Now, the resplendent minute! Clear the earth,
Cleanse the house, let the three but disappear
A child remains, depositary of all,
That Guido may enjoy his own again,
Repair all losses by a master-stroke,
Wipe out the past, all done all left undone,
Swell the good present to best evermore,
Die into new life, which let blood baptize!
So, i' the blue of a sudden sulphur-blaze,
Both why there was one step to take at Rome,
And why he should not meet with Paolo there,
He saw—the ins and outs to the heart of hell—
And took the straight line thither swift and sure.
He rushed to Vittiano, found four sons o' the soil,
Brutes of his breeding, with one spark i' the clod
That served for a soul, the looking up to him
Or aught called Franceschini as life, death,
Heaven, hell,—lord paramount, assembled these,
Harangued, equipped, instructed, pressed each clod
With his will's imprint; then took horse, plied spur,
And so arrived, all five of them, at Rome
On Christmas-Eve, and forthwith found themselves
Installed i' the vacancy and solitude
Left them by Paolo, the considerate man
Who, good as his word, had disappeared at once
As if to leave the stage free. A whole week
Did Guido spend in study of his part,
Then played it fearless of a failure. One,
Struck the year's clock whereof the hours are days,
And off was rung o' the little wheels the chime
"Good will on earth and peace to man:" but, two,
Proceeded the same bell and, evening come,
The dreadful five felt finger-wise their way
Across the town by blind cuts and black turns
To the little lone suburban villa; knocked—
"Who may be outside?" called a well-known voice.
"A friend of Caponsacchi's bringing friends
That's a test, the excusers say:
Ay, and a test conclusive, I return.
What? Had that name brought touch of guilt or taste
Of fear with it, aught to dash the present joy
With memory of the sorrow just at end,—
She, happy in her parents' arms at length
With the new blessing of the two weeks' babe,—
How had that name's announcement moved the wife?
Or, as the other slanders circulate,
Were Caponsacchi no rare visitant
On nights and days whither safe harbour lured,
What bait had been i' the name to ope the door?
The promise of a letter? Stealthy guests
Have secret watchwords, private entrances:
The man's own self might have been found inside
And all the scheme made frustrate by a word.
No: but since Guido knew, none knew so well,
The man had never since returned to Rome
Nor seen the wife's face more than villa's front,
So, could not be at hand to warn or save,-
For that, he took this sure way to the end.
"Come in," bade poor Violante cheerfully,
Drawing the door-bolt: that death was the first,
Stabbed through and through. Pietro, close on her heels,
Set up a cry—"Let me confess myself!
"Grant but confession!" Cold steel was the grant.
Then came Pompilia's turn.
Then they escaped.
The noise o' the slaughter roused the neighbourhood.
They had forgotten just the one thing more
Which saves i' the circumstance, the ticket to-wit
Which puts post-horses at a traveller's use:
So, all on foot, desperate through the dark
Reeled they like drunkards along open road,
Accomplished a prodigious twenty miles
Homeward, and gained Baccano very near,
Stumbled at last, deaf, dumb, blind through the feat,
Into a grange and, one dead heap, slept there
Till the pursuers hard upon their trace
Reached them and took them, red from head to heel,
And brought them to the prison where they lie.
The couple were laid i' the church two days ago,
And the wife lives yet by miracle.
All is told.
You hardly need ask what Count Guido says,
Since something he must say. "I own the deed—"
(He cannot choose,—but—) "I declare the same
"Just and inevitable,—since no way else
"Was left me, but by this of taking life,
"To save my honour which is more than life.
"I exercised a husband's rights." To which
The answer is as prompt—"There was no fault
"In any one o' the three to punish thus:
"Neither i' the wife, who kept all faith to you,
"Nor in the parents, whom yourself first duped,
"Robbed and maltreated, then turned out of doors.
"You wronged and they endured wrong; yours the fault.
"Next, had endurance overpassed the mark
"And turned resentment needing remedy,—
"Nay, put the absurd impossible case, for once—
"You were all blameless of the blame alleged
"And they blameworthy where you fix all blame,
"Still, why this violation of the law?
"Yourself elected law should take its course,
"Avenge wrong, or show vengeance not your right;
"Why, only when the balance in law's hand
"Trembles against you and inclines the way
"O' the other party, do you make protest,
"Renounce arbitrament, flying out of court,
"And crying 'Honour's hurt the sword must cure'?
"Aha, and so i' the middle of each suit
"Trying i' the courts,—and you had three in play
"With an appeal to the Pope's self beside,—
"What, you may chop and change and right your wrongs
"Leaving the law to lag as she thinks fit?"
That were too temptingly commodious, Count!
One would have still a remedy in reserve
Should reach the safest oldest sinner, you see!
One's honour forsooth? Does that take hurt alone
From the extreme outrage? I who have no wife,
Being yet sensitive in my degree
As Guido,—must discover hurt elsewhere
Which, half compounded-for in days gone by,
May profitably break out now afresh,
Need cure from my own expeditious hands.
The lie that was, as it were, imputed me
When you objected to my contract's clause,—
The theft as good as, one may say, alleged,
When you, co-heir in a will, excepted, Sir,
To my administration of effects,
—Aha, do you think law disposed of these?
My honour's touched and shall deal death around!
Count, that were too commodious, I repeat!
If any law be imperative on us all,
Of all are you the enemy: out with you
From the common light and air and life of man!
The Women That I Wait For
The women that I wait for
Isan't that terrible