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The Wind Blows Rustling Through The Bush

The wind blows rustling through the bush
and only it and God knows where it is going,
when it disappears and nothing move in the veldt
and when it returns some grains of dust are blown away.
An ibises raises gleaming copper into the sky
while God finds some answers for His earth,
and it chatters while big wings slam against the wind,
as it flies high over a small wooded hillock.
Guinea fowl peck along in the red grass,
after the rain some small bulbs are growing,
some lovely flowers astonish the veldt
but still this world is wounded by man.
The wind blows rustling through the bush
and when it returns some grains of dust are blown away.

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Red wine, rain and my thoughts

Red wine,
rain
and my thoughts

but there's something missing
how can I say I don't know
everywhere is desolate, and
every corner in this city
hides your image
that makes me more thoughtful.

Red wine,
rain
and my thoughts,

sometimes I can't take a breath
and I can't hold my tears,
day by day living in this city,
without you
that's just meaningless.

Red wine,
rain
and my thoughts,

you are endless hope
all I have in this life
that takes me behind of the worlds
where I've found you with all my heart

Red wine,
rain
and my thoughts,

red wine is my dream
that ornament whole my life,
rain is your voice
that's always in my ears,
and my thoughts is just you who is also me

red wine,
rain
and my thoughts

written by Turgay HINIZ, Agust 2007, Sydney.

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The Spirit Of Discovery By Sea - Book The Fourth

Stand on the gleaming Pharos, and aloud
Shout, Commerce, to the kingdoms of the earth;
Shout, for thy golden portals are set wide,
And all thy streamers o'er the surge, aloft,
In pomp triumphant wave. The weary way
That pale Nearchus passed, from creek to creek
Advancing slow, no longer bounds the track
Of the adventurous mariner, who steers
Steady, with eye intent upon the stars,
To Elam's echoing port. Meantime, more high
Aspiring, o'er the Western main her towers
Th' imperial city lifts, the central mart
Of nations, and beneath the calm clear sky,
At distance from the palmy marge, displays
Her clustering columns, whitening to the morn.
Damascus' fleece, Golconda's gems, are there.
Murmurs the haven with one ceaseless hum;
The hurrying camel's bell, the driver's song,
Along the sands resound. Tyre, art thou fall'n?
A prouder city crowns the inland sea,
Raised by his hand who smote thee; as if thus
His mighty mind were swayed to recompense
The evil of his march through cities stormed,
And regions wet with blood! and still had flowed
The tide of commerce through the destined track,
Traced by his mind sagacious, who surveyed
The world he conquered with a sage's eye,
As with a soldier's spirit; but a scene
More awful opens: ancient world, adieu!
Adieu, cloud-piercing pillars, erst its bounds;
And thou, whose aged head once seemed to prop
The heavens, huge Atlas, sinking fast, adieu!
What though the seas with wilder fury rave,
Through their deserted realm; though the dread Cape,
Sole-frowning o'er the war of waves below,
That bar the seaman's search, horrid in air
Appear with giant amplitude; his head
Shrouded in clouds, the tempest at his feet,
And standing thus terrific, seem to say,
Incensed--Approach who dare! What though the fears
Of superstition people the vexed space
With spirits unblessed, that lamentations make
To the sad surge beyond--yet Enterprise,
Not now a darkling Cyclop on the sands
Striding, but led by Science, and advanced
To a more awful height, on the wide scene
Looks down commanding.
Does a shuddering thought
Of danger start, as the tumultuous sea
Tosses below! Calm Science, with a smile,
Displays the wondrous index, that still points,
With nice vibration tremulous, to the Pole.
And such, she whispers, is the just man's hope
In this tempestuous scene of human things;
Even as the constant needle to the North
Still points; so Piety and meek-eyed Faith
Direct, though trembling oft, their constant gaze
Heavenward, as to their lasting home, nor fear
The night, fast closing on their earthly way.
And guided by this index, thou shall pass
The world of seas secure. Far from all land,
Where not a sea-bird wanders; where nor star,
Nor moon appears, nor the bright noonday sun,
Safe in the wildering storm, as when the breeze
Of summer gently blows; through day, through night,
Where sink the well-known stars, and others rise
Slow from the South, the victor bark shall ride.
Henry! thy ardent mind first pierced the gloom
Of dark disastrous ignorance, that sat
Upon the Southern wave, like the deep cloud
That lowered upon the woody skirts, and veiled
From mortal search, with umbrage ominous,
Madeira's unknown isle. But look! the morn
Is kindled on the shadowy offing; streaks
Of clear cold light on Sagres' battlements
Are cast, where Henry watches, listening still
To the unwearied surge; and turning still
His anxious eyes to the horizon's bounds.
A sail appears; it swells, it shines: more high
Seen through the dusk it looms; and now the hull
Is black upon the surge, whilst she rolls on
Aloft--the weather-beaten ship--and now
Streams by the watch-tower!
Zarco, from the deep
What tidings?
The loud storm of night prevailed,
And swept our vessel from Bojador's rocks
Far out to sea; a sylvan isle received
Our sails; so willed the ALMIGHTY--He who speaks,
And all the waves are still!
Hail, HENRY cried,
The omen: we have burst the sole barrier,
(Prosper our wishes, Father of the world!)
We speed to Asia.
Soon upon the deep
The brave ship speeds again. Bojador's rocks
Arise at distance, frowning o'er the surf,
That boils for many a league without. Its course
The ship holds on; till lo! the beauteous isle,
That shielded late the sufferers from the storm,
Springs o'er the wave again. Here they refresh
Their wasted strength, and lift their vows to Heaven,
But Heaven denies their further search; for ah!
What fearful apparition, palled in clouds,
For ever sits upon the Western wave,
Like night, and in its strange portentous gloom
Wrapping the lonely waters, seems the bounds
Of Nature? Still it sits, day after day,
The same mysterious vision. Holy saints!
Is it the dread abyss where all things cease?
Or haply hid from mortal search, thine isle,
Cipango, and that unapproached seat
Of peace, where rest the Christians whom the hate
Of Moorish pride pursued? Whate'er it be,
Zarco, thy holy courage bids thee on
To burst the gloom, though dragons guard the shore,
Or beings more than mortal pace the sands.
The favouring gales invite; the bowsprit bears
Right onward to the fearful shade; more black
The cloudy spectre towers; already fear
Shrinks at the view aghast and breathless. Hark!
'Twas more than the deep murmur of the surge
That struck the ear; whilst through the lurid gloom
Gigantic phantoms seem to lift in air
Their misty arms; yet, yet--bear boldly on--
The mist dissolves;--seen through the parting haze,
Romantic rocks, like the depictured clouds,
Shine out; beneath a blooming wilderness
Of varied wood is spread, that scents the air;
Where fruits of 'golden rind,' thick interspersed
And pendent, through the mantling umbrage gleam
Inviting. Cypress here, and stateliest pine,
Spire o'er the nether shades, as emulous
Of sole distinction where all nature smiles.
Some trees, in sunny glades alone their head
And graceful stem uplifting, mark below
The turf with shadow; whilst in rich festoons
The flowery lianes braid their boughs; meantime
Choirs of innumerous birds of liveliest song
And brightest plumage, flitting through the shades,
With nimble glance are seen; they, unalarmed,
Now near in airy circles sing, then speed
Their random flight back to their sheltering bowers,
Whose silence, broken only by their song,
From the foundation of this busy world,
Perhaps had never echoed to the voice,
Or heard the steps, of Man. What rapture fired
The strangers' bosoms, as from glade to glade
They passed, admiring all, and gazing still
With new delight! 'Tis solitude around;
Deep solitude, that on the gloom of woods
Primaeval fearful hangs: a green recess
Now opens in the wilderness; gay flowers
Of unknown name purple the yielding sward;
The ring-dove murmurs o'er their head, like one
Attesting tenderest joy; but mark the trees,
Where, slanting through the gloom, the sunshine rests!
Beneath, a moss-grown monument appears,
O'er which the green banana gently waves
Its long leaf; and an aged cypress near
Leans, as if listening to the streamlet's sound,
That gushes from the adverse bank; but pause--
Approach with reverence! Maker of the world,
There is a Christian's cross! and on the stone
A name, yet legible amid its moss,--
Anna!
In that remote, sequestered spot,
Shut as it seemed from all the world, and lost
In boundless seas, to trace a name, to mark
The emblems of their holy faith, from all
Drew tears; while every voice faintly pronounced,
Anna! But thou, loved harp! whose strings have rung
To louder tones, oh! let my hand, awhile,
The wires more softly touch, whilst I rehearse
Her name and fate, who in this desert deep,
Far from the world, from friends, and kindred, found
Her long and last abode; there where no eye
Might shed a tear on her remains; no heart
Sigh in remembrance of her fate:--
She left
The Severn's side, and fled with him she loved
O'er the wide main; for he had told her tales
Of happiness in distant lands, where care
Comes not; and pointing to the golden clouds
That shone above the waves, when evening came,
Whispered--Oh, are there not sweet scenes of peace,
Far from the murmurs of this cloudy mart,--
Where gold alone bears sway,--scenes of delight,
Where love may lay his head upon the lap
Of innocence, and smile at all the toil
Of the low-thoughted throng, that place in wealth
Their only bliss! Yes, there are scenes like these.
Leave the vain chidings of the world behind,
Country, and hollow friends, and fly with me
Where love and peace in distant vales invite.
What wouldst thou here! Oh, shall thy beauteous look
Of maiden innocence, thy smile of youth, thine eyes
Of tenderness and soft subdued desire,
Thy form, thy limbs--oh, madness!--be the prey
Of a decrepit spoiler, and for gold?--
Perish his treasure with him. Haste with me;
We shall find out some sylvan nook, and then,
If thou shouldst sometimes think upon these hills,
When they are distant far, and drop a tear,
Yes--I will kiss it from thy cheek, and clasp
Thy angel beauties closer to my breast;
And whilst the winds blow o'er us, and the sun
Sinks beautifully down, and thy soft cheek
Reclines on mine, I will infold thee thus,
And proudly cry, My friend--my love--my wife!
So tempted he, and soon her heart approved,
Nay wooed, the blissful dream; and oft at eve,
When the moon shone upon the wandering stream,
She paced the castle's battlements, that threw
Beneath their solemn shadow, and, resigned
To fancy and to tears, thought it most sweet
To wander o'er the world with him she loved.
Nor was his birth ignoble, for he shone
'Mid England's gallant youth in Edward's reign:
With countenance erect, and honest eye
Commanding (yet suffused in tenderness
At times), and smiles that like the lightning played
On his brown cheek,--so gently stern he stood,
Accomplished, generous, gentle, brave, sincere,--
Robert a Machin. But the sullen pride
Of haughty D'Arfet scorned all other claim
To his high heritage, save what the pomp
Of amplest wealth and loftier lineage gave.
Reckless of human tenderness, that seeks
One loved, one honoured object, wealth alone
He worshipped; and for this he could consign
His only child, his aged hope, to loathed
Embraces, and a life of tears! Nor here
His hard ambition ended; for he sought,
By secret whispers of conspiracies,
His sovereign to abuse, bidding him lift
His arm avenging, and upon a youth
Of promise close the dark forgotten gates
Of living sepulture, and in the gloom
Inhume the slowly-wasting victim.
So
He purposed, but in vain; the ardent youth
Rescued her--her whom more than life he loved,
Ev'n when the horrid day of sacrifice
Drew nigh. He pointed to the distant bark,
And while he kissed a stealing tear that fell
On her pale cheek, as trusting she reclined
Her head upon his breast, with ardour cried--
Be mine, be only mine! the hour invites;
Be mine, be only mine! So won, she cast
A look of last affection on the towers
Where she had passed her infant days, that now
Shone to the setting sun. I follow thee,
Her faint voice said; and lo! where in the air
A sail hangs tremulous, and soon her feet
Ascend the vessel's side: The vessel glides
Down the smooth current, as the twilight fades,
Till soon the woods of Severn, and the spot
Where D'Arfet's solitary turrets rose,
Is lost; a tear starts to her eye, she thinks
Of him whose gray head to the earth shall bend,
When he speaks nothing--but be all, like death,
Forgotten. Gently blows the placid breeze,
And oh! that now some fairy pinnace light
Might flit across the wave (by no seen power
Directed, save when Love upon the prow
Gathered or spread with tender hand the sail),
That now some fairy pinnace, o'er the surge
Silent, as in a summer's dream, might waft
The passengers upon the conscious flood
To regions bright of undisturbed joy!
But hark!
The wind is in the shrouds;--the cordage sings
With fitful violence;--the blast now swells,
Now sinks. Dread gloom invests the further wave,
Whose foaming toss alone is seen, beneath
The veering bowsprit.
Oh, retire to rest,
Maiden, whose tender heart would beat, whose cheek
Turn pale to see another thus exposed!
Hark! the deep thunder louder peals--Oh, save!--
The high mast crashes; but the faithful arm
Of love is o'er thee, and thy anxious eye,
Soon as the gray of morning peeps, shall view
Green Erin's hills aspiring!
The sad morn
Comes forth; but terror on the sunless wave
Still, like a sea-fiend, sits, and darkly smiles
Beneath the flash that through the struggling clouds
Bursts frequent, half revealing his scathed front,
Above the rocking of the waste that rolls
Boundless around.
No word through the long day
She spoke;--another slowly came;--no word
The beauteous drooping mourner spoke. The sun
Twelve times had sunk beneath the sullen surge,
And cheerless rose again:--Ah, where are now
Thy havens, France! But yet--resign not yet--
Ye lost seafarers--oh, resign not yet
All hope--the storm is passed; the drenched sail
Shines in the passing beam! Look up, and say--
Heaven, thou hast heard our prayers!
And lo! scarce seen,
A distant dusky spot appears;--they reach
An unknown shore, and green and flowery vales,
And azure hills, and silver-gushing streams,
Shine forth; a Paradise, which Heaven alone,
Who saw the silent anguish of despair,
Could raise in the waste wilderness of waves.
They gain the haven; through untrodden scenes,
Perhaps untrodden by the foot of man
Since first the earth arose, they wind. The voice
Of Nature hails them here with music, sweet,
As waving woods retired, or falling streams,
Can make; most soothing to the weary heart,
Doubly to those who, struggling with their fate,
And wearied long with watchings and with grief,
Seek but a place of safety. All things here
Whisper repose and peace; the very birds
That 'mid the golden fruitage glance their plumes,
The songsters of the lonely valley, sing--
Welcome from scenes of sorrow, live with us.
The wild wood opens, and a shady glen
Appears, embowered with mantling laurels high,
That sloping shade the flowery valley's side;
A lucid stream, with gentle murmur, strays
Beneath the umbrageous multitude of leaves,
Till gaining, with soft lapse, the nether plain,
It glances light along its yellow bed;--
The shaggy inmates of the forest lick
The feet of their new guests, and gazing stand.
A beauteous tree upshoots amid the glade
Its trembling top; and there upon the bank
They rest them, while each heart o'erflows with joy.
Now evening, breathing richer odours sweet,
Came down: a softer sound the circling seas,
The ancient woods resounded, while the dove,
Her murmurs interposing, tenderness
Awaked, yet more endearing, in the hearts
Of those who, severed wide from human kind,
Woman and man, by vows sincere betrothed,
Heard but the voice of Nature. The still moon
Arose--they saw it not--cheek was to cheek
Inclined, and unawares a stealing tear
Witnessed how blissful was that hour, that seemed
Not of the hours that time could count. A kiss
Stole on the listening silence; ne'er till now
Here heard; they trembled, ev'n as if the Power
That made the world, that planted the first pair
In Paradise, amid the garden walked:--
This since the fairest garden that the world
Has witnessed, by the fabling sons of Greece
Hesperian named, who feigned the watchful guard
Of the scaled Dragon, and the Golden Fruit.
Such was this sylvan Paradise; and here
The loveliest pair, from a hard world remote,
Upon each other's neck reclined; their breath
Alone was heard, when the dove ceased on high
Her plaint; and tenderly their faithful arms
Infolded each the other.
Thou, dim cloud,
That from the search of men these beauteous vales
Hast closed, oh, doubly veil them! But alas,
How short the dream of human transport! Here,
In vain they built the leafy bower of love,
Or culled the sweetest flowers and fairest fruit.
The hours unheeded stole! but ah, not long--
Again the hollow tempest of the night
Sounds through the leaves; the inmost woods resound;
Slow comes the dawn, but neither ship nor sail
Along the rocking of the windy waste
Is seen: the dash of the dark-heaving wave
Alone is heard. Start from your bed of bliss,
Poor victims! never more shall ye behold
Your native vales again; and thou, sweet child!
Who, listening to the voice of love, hast left
Thy friends, thy country,--oh, may the wan hue
Of pining memory, the sunk cheek, the eye
Where tenderness yet dwells, atone (if love
Atonement need, by cruelty and wrong
Beset), atone ev'n now thy rash resolves!
Ah, fruitless hope! Day after day, thy bloom
Fades, and the tender lustre of thy eye
Is dimmed: thy form, amid creation, seems
The only drooping thing.
Thy look was soft,
And yet most animated, and thy step
Light as the roe's upon the mountains. Now,
Thou sittest hopeless, pale, beneath the tree
That fanned its joyous leaves above thy head,
Where love had decked the blooming bower, and strewn
The sweets of summer: DEATH is on thy cheek,
And thy chill hand the pressure scarce returns
Of him, who, agonised and hopeless, hangs
With tears and trembling o'er thee. Spare the sight,--
She faints--she dies!--
He laid her in the earth,
Himself scarce living, and upon her tomb
Beneath the beauteous tree where they reclined,
Placed the last tribute of his earthly love.

INSCRIPTION FOR THE GRAVE OF ANNA D'ARFET.

O'er my poor ANNA'S lowly grave
No dirge shall sound, no knell shall ring;
But angels, as the high pines wave,
Their half-heard 'Miserere' sing.

No flowers of transient bloom at eve
The maidens on the turf shall strew;
Nor sigh, as the sad spot they leave,
Sweets to the sweet! a long adieu!

But in this wilderness profound,
O'er her the dove shall build her nest;
And ocean swell with softer sound
A requiem to her dreams of rest!

Ah! when shall I as quiet be,
When not a friend, or human eye,
Shall mark beneath the mossy tree
The spot where we forgotten lie!

To kiss her name on the cold stone,
Is all that now on earth I crave;
For in this world I am alone--
Oh, lay me with her in the grave!


ROBERT A MACHIN

He placed the rude inscription on her stone,
Which he with faltering hands had graved, and soon
Himself beside it sunk--yet ere he died,
Faintly he spoke: If ever ye shall hear,
Companions of my few and evil days,
Again the convent's vesper bells, oh! think
Of me; and if in after-times the search
Of men should reach this far removed spot,
Let sad remembrance raise an humble shrine,
And virgin choirs chaunt duly o'er our grave:
Peace, peace! His arm upon the mournful stone
He dropped; his eyes, ere yet in death they closed,
Turned to the name, till he could see no more
ANNA. His pale survivors, earth to earth,
Weeping consigned his poor remains, and placed
Beneath the sod where all he loved was laid.
Then shaping a rude vessel from the woods,
They sought their country o'er the waves, and left
Those scenes once more to deepest solitude.
The beauteous ponciana hung its head
O'er the gray stone; but never human eye
Had mark'd the spot, or gazed upon the grave
Of the unfortunate, but for the voice
Of ENTERPRISE, that spoke, from Sagre's towers,
Through ocean's perils, storms, and unknown wastes--
Speed we to Asia!
Here, Discovery, pause!--
Then from the tomb of him who first was cast
Upon this Heaven-appointed isle, thy gaze
Uplift, and far beyond the Cape of Storms
Pursue De Gama's tract. Mark the rich shores
Of Madagascar, till the purple East
Shines in luxuriant beauty wide disclosed.
But cease thy song, presumptuous Muse!--a bard,
In tones whose patriot sound shall never die,
Has struck his deep shell, and the glorious theme
Recorded.
Say, what lofty meed awaits
The triumph of his victor conch, that swells
Its music on the yellow Tagus' side,
As when Arion, with his glittering harp
And golden hair, scarce sullied from the main,
Bids all the high rocks listen to his voice
Again! Alas, I see an aged form,
An old man worn by penury, his hair
Blown white upon his haggard cheek, his hand
Emaciated, yet the strings with thrilling touch
Soliciting; but the vain crowds pass by:
His very countrymen, whose fame his song
Has raised to heaven, in stately apathy
Wrapped up, and nursed in pride's fastidious lap,
Regard not. As he plays, a sable man
Looks up, but fears to speak, and when the song
Has ceased, kisses his master's feeble hand.
Is that cold wasted hand, that haggard look,
Thine, Camoens? Oh, shame upon the world!
And is there none, none to sustain thee found,
But he, himself unfriended, who so far
Has followed, severed from his native isles,
To scenes of gorgeous cities, o'er the sea,
Thee and thy broken fortunes!
GOD of worlds!
Oh, whilst I hail the triumph and high boast
Of social life, let me not wrong the sense
Of kindness, planted in the human heart
By man's great Maker, therefore I record
Antonio's faithful, gentle, generous love
To his heartbroken master, that might teach,
High as it bears itself, a polished world
More charity.
DISCOVERY, turn thine eyes!
COLUMBUS' toiling ship is on the deep,
Stemming the mid Atlantic.
Waste and wild
The view! On the same sunshine o'er the waves
The murmuring mariners, with languid eye,
Ev'n till the heart is sick, gaze day by day!
At midnight in the wind sad voices sound!
When the slow morning o'er the offing dawns,
Heartless they view the same drear weltering waste
Of seas: and when the sun again goes down
Silent, hope dies within them, and they think
Of parting friendship's last despairing look!
See too, dread prodigy, the needle veers
Her trembling point--will Heaven forsake them too!
But lift thy sunk eye, and thy bloodless look,
Despondence! Milder airs at morning breathe:--
Below the slowly-parting prow the sea
Is dark with weeds; and birds of land are seen
To wing the desert tract, as hasting on
To the green valleys of their distant home.
Yet morn succeeds to morn--and nought around
Is seen, but dark weeds floating many a league,
The sun's sole orb, and the pale hollowness
Of heaven's high arch streaked with the early clouds.
Watchman, what from the giddy mast?
A shade
Appears on the horizon's hazy line.
Land! land! aloud is echoed; but the spot
Fades as the shouting crew delighted gaze--
It fades, and there is nothing--nothing now
But the blue sky, the clouds, and surging seas!
As one who, in the desert, faint with thirst,
Upon the trackless and forsaken sands
Sinks dying; him the burning haze deceives,
As mocking his last torments, while it seems,
To his distempered vision, like th' expanse
Of lucid waters cool: so falsely smiles
Th' illusive land upon the water's edge,
To the long-straining eye showing what seems
Its headlands and its distant trending shores;--
But all is false, and like the pensive dream
Of poor imagination, 'mid the waves
Of troubled life, decked with unreal hues,
And ending soon in emptiness and tears.
'Tis midnight, and the thoughtful chief, retired
From the vexed crowd, in his still cabin hears
The surge that rolls below; he lifts his eyes,
And casts a silent anxious look without.
It is a light--great God--it is a light!
It moves upon the shore!--Land--there is land!
He spoke in secret, and a tear of joy
Stole down his cheek, when on his knees he fell.
Thou, who hast been his guardian in wastes
Of the hoar deep, accept his tears, his prayers;
While thus he fondly hopes the purer light
Of thy great truths on the benighted world
Shall beam!
The lingering night is past;--the sun
Shines out, while now the red-cross streamers wave
High up the gently-surging bay. From all
Shouts, songs, and rapturous thanksgiving loud,
Burst forth: Another world, entranced they cry,
Another living world!--Awe-struck and mute
The gazing natives stand, and drop their spears,
In homage to the gods!
So from the deep
They hail emerging; sight more awful far
Than ever yet the wondering voyager
Greeted;--the prospect of a new-found world,
Now from the night of dark uncertainty
At once revealed in living light!
How beats
The heart! What thronging thoughts awake! Whence sprung
The roaming nations? From that ancient race
That peopled Asia--Noah's sons? How, then,
Passed they the long and lone expanse between
Of stormy ocean, from the elder earth
Cut off, and lost, for unknown ages, lost
In the vast deep? But whilst the awful view
Stands in thy sight revealed, Spirit, awake
To prouder energies! Even now, in thought,
I see thee opening bold Magellan's tract!
The straits are passed! Thou, as the seas expand,
Pausest a moment, when beneath thine eye
Blue, vast, and rocking, through its boundless rule,
The long Pacific stretches. Nor here cease
Thy search, but with De Quiros to the South
Still urge thy way, if yet some continent
Stretch to its dusky pole, with nations spread,
Forests, and hills, and streams.
So be thy search
With ampler views rewarded, till, at length,
Lo, the round world is compassed! Then return
Back to the bosom of the tranquil Thames,
And hail Britannia's victor ship, that now
From many a storm restored, winds its slow way
Silently up the current, and so finds,
Like to a time-worn pilgrim of the world,
Rest, in that haven where all tempests cease.

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Sonnet: God Decides Our Earthly-life

I sought a dollar, got a penny just;
I sought a penny, found dollar instead;
I sought a lover, got a load of lust;
I sought but lust yet, got a soul to wed.

The things we seek, don't happen in our time;
The things we search are found neither our way;
The things we see, we cannot always mime;
The things we want, we get some other day.

Man's labour long and plans evade fruition;
God's blessings come just like a waterfall;
The ways of God defies any diction;
He cares for all creatures mighty and small.

Our patience gives us success or defeat,
A man who's blest can walk life-time bare-feet.

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Terms of Childhood

She rose, interrupting her 3am sleep,
To place a rough stone on the pavement
In the long queue of stones, marking her mother’s place
In the morning line for government bread

She stands in pink at the school-bus stop
Faded satchel on her back, her eyes contained
By some slight terror of the daily world
Of the diesel clouds and traffic waves

Tending the family stall, she chases the flies
From small triangles of garlic flowers
On the metal-lined shelves of the mercado
As soldiers and inspectors deal their gains

On the evening southern Kalahari plain
Her brother said, “there are 17 white stones”.
He was jumping from one smooth top to another –
The stones that ford the stream at Kanye

I met him playing on the day
When 42 young and grown children were slain
By a death lottery apartheid raid, an act
That histories would rapidly disdain.

The soiled dictator rules out his contenders
On general terms of fear and pain.
Would there be a lifetime
By which this deal was altered -
And something close to childhood came?

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a Messenger from above

The rain came and came again
like only in the Cape,
in deep winter it can be.

The pain came and came again
like only in a dying thing
spreading throughout the body
and drenching all of it.

Yet it was a thing of the heart
and far apart
from illness, or accident
or broken body.

That desolate night
the sky and sea
and earth was blacked out dark
and a chill rose as if from the soul.

The metal of the revolver
gleamed ominous in the dark
and the man took a deep breath
before cocking back the hammer
and pressing the barrel
against his breast.

Somewhere against the clouded
night sky
a lonely gull stretched its wings
against the raging gale
as if a living thing
could out fly
a torment sky and sea
and could be free from it
and all catastrophes.

One lightning bolt reported sharp
and flashed bright
lighting up the night
and it fell and fell
like a messenger from above.

No bird was still in that sky
and as darkness fell
the man wondered why
and his reflections on ending
his own life
was stunted by a dying bird
that wanted to live.

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Pondering My Real Home

At home is where I long to be, up in Heaven, through eternity,
Far above the celestial dome, in Heaven, up in my real home,
In that Mansion prepared for me, right beside the Crystal Sea,
Only passing through this place, going home by God's Grace.

I'm currently here in God's design, living life in temporal time,
But, while on this present earth, I experienced a spiritual birth,
Born Again, by The Spirit of God, given direction on this sod,
His new direction and destiny, that points me well into eternity.

Given, by Christ, a new heart, on God's agenda, until I depart,
Working for God here on earth, in His service of eternal worth,
Looking ahead to Heaven friend, as this life comes to an end,
With a beginning beyond this world, in an eternity yet unfurled.

Although I long to be home, still here I remain, yet not to roam,
But to be used in my earthly life, in the service of Jesus Christ,
To be a witness and a herald, of Good News, into all the world,
Sharing God's Truth of salvation, with all men in this generation.

With my journey directed by, my Lord God, Who reigns on high,
Directing my path as He chooses, as my life for Christ He uses,
While longing for home, I impart, God's Gospel, before I depart,
To be with God forevermore, in a home upon that Eternal Shore.

(Copyright ©11/2012)

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The Sylph Of Summer

God said, Let there be light, and there was light!
At once the glorious sun, at his command,
From space illimitable, void and dark,
Sprang jubilant, and angel hierarchies,
Whose long hosannahs pealed from orb to orb,
Sang, Glory be to Thee, God of all worlds!
Then beautiful the ball of this terrene
Rolled in the beam of first-created day,
And all its elements obeyed the voice
Of Him, the great Creator; Air, and Fire,
And Earth, and Water, each its ministry
Performed, whilst Chaos from his ebon throne
Leaped up; and so magnificent, and decked,
And mantled in its ambient atmosphere,
The living world began its state!
To thee,
Spirit of Air, I lift the venturous song,
Whose viewless presence fills the living scene,
Whose element ten thousand thousand wings
Fan joyous; o'er whose fields the morning clouds
Ride high; whose rule the lightning-shafts obey,
And the deep thunder's long-careering march!
The Winds too are thy subjects; from the breeze,
That, like a child upon a holiday,
On the high mountain's van pursues the down
Of the gray thistle, ere the autumnal shower
Steals soft, and mars his pastime; to the King
Of Hurricanes, that sounds his mighty shell,
And bids Tornado sweep the Western world.
Sylph of the Summer Gale, on thee I call!
Oh, come, when now gay June is in her car,
Wafting the breath of roses as she moves;
Come to this garden bower, which I have hung
With tendrils, and the fragrant eglantine,
And mandrake, rich with many mantling stars!
'Tis pleasant, when thy breath is on the leaves
Without, to rest in this embowering shade,
And mark the green fly, circling to and fro,
O'er the still water, with his dragon wings,
Shooting from bank to bank, now in quick turns,
Then swift athwart, as is the gazer's glance,
Pursuing still his mate; they, with delight,
As if they moved in morris, to the sound
Harmonious of this ever-dripping rill,
Now in advance, now in retreat, now round,
Dart through their mazy rings, and seem to say:
The Summer and the Sun are ours!
But thou,
Sylph of the Summer Gale, delay a while
Thy airy flight, whilst here Francesca leans,
And, charmed by Ossian's harp, seems in the breeze
To hear Malvina's plaint; thou to her ear
Come unperceived, like music of the song
From Cona's vale of streams; _then_ with the bee,
That sounds his horn, busied from flower to flower,
Speed o'er the yellow meadows, breathing ripe
Their summer incense; or amid the furze,
That paints with bloom intense the upland crofts,
With momentary essence tinge thy wings;
Or in the grassy lanes, one after one,
Lift light the nodding foxglove's purple bell.
Thence, to the distant sea, and where the flag
Hangs idly down, without a wavy curl,
Thou hoverest o'er the topmast, or dost raise
The full and flowing mainsail: Steadily,
The helmsman cries, as now thy breath is heard
Among the stirring cordage o'er his head;
So, steadily, he cries, as right he steers,
Speeds our proud ship along the world of waves.
Sylph, may thy favouring breath more gently blow,
More gently round the temples and the cheek
Of him, who, leaving home and friends behind,
In silence musing o'er the ocean leans,
And watches every passing shade that marks
The southern Channel's fast-retiring line;
Then, as the ship rolls on, keeps a long look
Fixed on the lessening Lizard, the last point
Of that delightful country, where he left
All his fond hopes behind: it lessens still;
Still, still it lessens, and now disappears!
He turns, and only sees the waves that rock
Boundless. How many anxious morns shall rise,
How many moons shall light the farthest seas,
O'er what new scenes and regions shall he stray,
A weary man, still thinking of his home,
Ere he again that shore shall view, and greet
With blissful thronging hopes and starting tears,
Of heartfelt welcome, and of warmest love!
Perhaps, ah! never! So didst thou go forth,
My poor lost brother!
The airs of morning as enticing played,
And gently, round thee, and their whisperings
Might sooth (if aught could sooth) a boding heart;
For thou wert bound to visit scenes of death,
Where the sick gale (alas! unlike the breeze
That bore the gently-swelling sail along)
Was tainted with the breath of pestilence,
That smote the silent camp, and night and day
Sat mocking on the putrid carcases.
Thou too didst perish! As the south-west blows,
Thy bones, perhaps, now whiten on the coast
Of old Algarva. I, meantime, these shades
Of village solitude, hoping erewhile
To welcome thee from many a toil restored,
Still deck, and now thy empty urn alone
I meet, where, swaying in the summer gale,
The willow whispers in my evening walk.
Sylph, in thy airy robe, I see thee float,
A rainbow o'er thy head, and in thy hand
The magic instrument, that, as thy wing,
Lucid, and painted like the butterfly's,
Waves to and from, most musically rings;
Sometimes in joyance, as the flaunting leaf
Of the white poplar, sometimes sad and slow,
As bearing pensive airs from Pity's grave.
Soft child of air, thou tendest on his sway,
As gentle Ariel at the bidding hies
Of mighty Prospero; yet other winds
Throng to his wizard 'hest, inspiring some,
Some melancholy, and yet soothing much
The drooping wanderer in the fading copse;
Some terrible, with solitude and death
Attendant on their march:--the wild Simoom,
Riding on whirling spires of burning sand,
That move along the Nubian wilderness,
And bury deep the silent caravan;--
Monsoon, up-starting from his half-year sleep,
Upon the vernal shores of Hindostan,
And tempesting with sounds of torrent rain,
And hail, the darkening main;--and red Sameel,
Blasting and withering, like a rivelled leaf,
The pilgrim as he roams;--Sirocco sad,
That pants, all summer, on the cloudless shores
Of faint Parthenope;--deep in the mine
Oft lurks the lurid messenger of death,
The ghastly fiend that blows, when the pale light
Quivers, and leaves the gasping wretch to die;--
The imp, that when the hollow curfew knolls,
Wanders the misty marish, lighting it
At night with errant and fantastic flame.
Spirit of air, these are thy ministers,
That wait thy will; but thou art all in all,
And dead without thee were the flower, the leaf,
The waving forest rivelled, the great sea
Still, the lithe birds of heaven extinct, and ceased
The soul of melting music.
This fair scene
Lives in thy tender touch, for so it seems;
Whilst universal nature owns thy sway;
From the mute insect on the summer pool,
That with long cobweb legs, firm as on earth
The ostrich skims, flits idly to and fro,
Making no dimple on the watery mass;
To the huge grampus, spouting, as he rolls,
A cataract, amid the cold clear sky,
And furrowing far and wide the northern deep.
Thy presence permeates and fills the whole!
As the poor butterfly, that, painted gay,
With mealy wings, red, amber, white, or dropped
With golden stains, floats o'er the yellow corn,
Idly, as bent on pastime, while the morn
Smiles on his devious voyage; if inclosed
In the exhausted prison, whence thy breath
With suction slow is drawn, he feels the change
How dire! in palsied inanition drops!
Weak flags his weary wing, and weaker yet;
His frame with tremulous convulsion moves
A moment, and the next is still in death.
So were the great and glorious world itself;
The tenants of its continents, all ceased!
A wide, a motionless, a putrid waste,
Its seas! How droops the languid mariner,
When not a breath, along the sluggish main,
Strays on the sultry surface as it sleeps;
When far away the winds are flown, to dash
The congregated ocean on the Cape
Of Southern Africa, leaving the while
The flood's vast surface noiseless, waveless, white,
Beneath Mozambique's long-reflected woods,
A gleaming mirror, spread from east to west,
Where the still ship, as on a bed of glass,
Sits motionless. Awake, ye hurricanes!
Ye winds that harrow up the wintry waste,
Awake! for Thunder in his sounding car,
Flashing thick lightning from the rolling wheels,
And the red volley, charged with instant death,
Were music to this lingering, sickening calm,
The same eternal sunshine; still, all still,
Without a vapour, or a sound.
If thus,
Beneath the burning, breathless atmosphere,
Faint Nature sickening droop; who shall ascend
The height, where Silence, since the world began,
Has sat on Cimborazzo's highest peak,
A thousand toises o'er the cloud's career,
Soaring in finest ether? Far below,
He sees the mountains burning at his feet,
Whose smoke ne'er reached his forehead; never there,
Though the black whirlwind shake the distant shores,
The passing gale has murmured; never there
The eagle's cry has echoed; never there
The solitary condor's weary wing
Hath yet ascended!
Let the rising thought
Beyond the confines of this vapoury vault
Be lifted, to the boundless void of space,
How dread, how infinite! where other worlds,
Ten million and ten million leagues aloft,
In other precincts with their shadows roll.
There roams the sole erratic comet, borne
With lightning speed, yet twice three hundred years
Its destined course accomplishing.
Then whirled,
Far from the attractive orb of central fire,
Back through the dim and infinite abyss,
Dread flaming visitant, ere thou return'st,
Empires may rise and fail; the palaces,
That shone on earth, may vanish like the dews
Of morning, scarce illumined ere they fly.
Dread flaming visitant, who that pursues
Thy long and lonely voyage, ev'n in thought,
(Till thought itself seem in the effort lost,)
But tremblingly exclaims, There is a God:
There is a God who lights ten thousand suns,
Round which revolve worlds wheeling amid worlds.
He launched thy voyage through the vast abyss,
He hears his universe, through all its orbs,
As with one voice, proclaim,
There is a God!
Lifted above this dim diurnal sphere,
So fancy, rising with her theme, ascends,
And voyaging the illimitable void,
Where comets flame, sees other worlds and suns
Emerge, and on this earth, like a dim speck,
Looks down: nor in the wonderful and vast
Of the dread scene magnificent, she views
Alone the Almighty Ruler, but the web
That shines in summer time, and only seen
In the slant sunbeam, wakes a moral thought.
In autumn, when the thin long spider gains
The leafy bush's top, he from his seat
Shoots the soft filament, like threads of air,
Scarce seen, into the sky; and thus sustained,
Boldly ascends into the breezy void,
Dependent on the trembling line he wove,
Insidious, and intent on scenes of spoil
And death:--So mounts Ambition, and aloft
On his proud summit meditates new scenes
Of plunder and dominion, till the breeze
Of fortune change, that blows to empty air
His feeble, frail support, and once again
Leaves him a reptile, struggling in the dust!
But what the world itself, what in His view
Whose dread Omnipotence is over all!
A twinkling air-thread in the vast of space.
And what the works of that proud insect, Man!
His mausoleums, fanes, and pyramids,
Frown in the dusk of long-revolving years,
While generations, as they rise and drop,
Each following each to silence and to dust,
Point as they pass, and say, It was a God
That made them: but nor date, nor name
Oblivion shows; cloud only, rolling on,
And wrapping darker as it rolls, the works
Of man!
Now raised on Contemplation's wing,
The blue vault, fervent with unnumbered stars,
He ranges: speeds, as with an angel's flight,
From orb to orb; sees distant suns illume
The boundless space, then bends his head to earth,
So poor is all he knows!
O'er sanguine fields
Now rides he, armed and crested like the god
Of fabled battles; where he points, pale Death
Strides over weltering carcases; nor leaves,--
But still a horrid shadow, step by step,
Stalks mocking after him, till now the noise
Of rolling acclamation, and the shout
Of multitude on multitude, is past:
The scene of all his triumphs, wormy earth,
Closes upon his perishable pride;
For 'dust he is, and shall to dust return'!
But Conscience, a small voice from heaven replies,
Conscience shall meet him in another world.
Let man, then, walk meek, humble, pure, and just;
Though meek, yet dignified; though humble, raised,
The heir of life and immortality;
Conscious that in this awful world he stands,
He only of all living things, ordained
To think, and know, and feel, there is a God!
Child of the air, though most I love to hear
Thy gentle summons whisper, when the Spring,
At the first carol of the village lark,
Looks out and smiles, or June is in her car;
Not undelightful is the purer air
In winter, when the keen north-east is high,
When frost fantastic his cold garland weaves
Of brittle flowers, or soft-succeeding snows
Gather without apace, and heavy load
The berried sweetbrier, clinging to my pane.
The blackbird, then, that marks the ruddy pods
Peep through the snow, though silent is his song,
Yet, pressed by cold and hunger, ventures near.
The robin group, familiar, muster round
The garden-shed, where, at his dinner set,
The laboured hind strews here and there a crumb
From his brown bread; then heedless of the winds
That blow without, and sweep the shivered snow,
Sees from his broken tube the smoke ascend
On an inverted barrow, as in state
He sits, though poor, the monarch of the scene,
As pondering deep the garden's future state,
His kingdom; the rude instruments of death
Lie at his feet, fashioned with simple skill,
With which he hopes to snare the prowling race,
The mice, rapacious of his vernal hopes.
So seated, on the spring he ruminates,
And solemn as a sophi, moves nor hand,
Nor eye, till haply some more venturous bird,
(The crumbs exhausted that he lately strewed
Upon the groundsill,) with often dipping beak,
And sidelong look, as asking larger dole,
Comes hopping to his feet: and say, ye great,
Ye mighty monarchs of this earthly scene,
What nobler views can elevate the heart
Of a proud patriot king, than thus to chase
The bold rapacious spoilers from the field,
And with an eye of merciful regard
To look on humble worth, wet from the storm,
And chilled by indigence!
But thoughts like these
Ill suit the radiant summer's rosy prime,
And the still temper of the calm blue sky.
The sunny shower is past; at intervals
The silent glittering drops descend; and mark,
Upon the blue bank of yon western cloud,
That looms direct against the emerging orb,
How bright, how beautiful the rainbow's hues
Steal out, how stately bends the graceful arch
Above the hills, and tinging at his foot
The mead and trees! Fancy might think young Hope
Pants for the vision, and with ardent eye
Pursues the unreal shade, and spreads her hands,
Weeping to see it fade, as all her dreams
Have faded.
These, O Air! are but the toys,
That sometimes deck thy fairy element;
So oft the eye observant loves to trace
The colours, and the shadows, and the forms,
That wander o'er the veering atmosphere.
See, in the east, the rare parhelia shine
In mimic glory, and so seem to mock
(Fixed parallel to the ascending or
The majesty, the splendour, and the shape,
Of the sole luminary that informs
The world with light and heat! The halo-ring
Bends over all!
With desultory shafts,
And long and arrowy glance, the night-lights shoot
Pale coruscations o'er the northern sky;
Now lancing to the cope, in sheets of flame,
Now wavering wild, as the reflected wave,
On the arched roof of the umbrageous grot.
Hence Superstition dreams of armaments,
Of fiery conflicts, and of bleeding fields
Of slaughter; so on great Jerusalem,
Ere yet she fell, the flaming meteor glared;
A waving sword ensanguined seemed to point
To the devoted city, and a voice
Was heard, Depart, depart!
The atmosphere,
That with the ceaseless hurry of its clouds,
Encircles the round globe, resembles oft
The passing sunshine, or the glooms that stray
O'er every human spirit.
Thin light streaks
Of thought pass vapoury o'er the vacant mind,
And fade to nothing. Now fantastic gleams
Play, flashing or expiring, of gay hope,
Or deep despair; then clouds of sadness close
In one dark settled gloom, and all the man
Droops, in despondence lost.
Aerial tints
Please most the pensive poet: and the views
He forms, though evanescent, and as vain
As the air's mockery, seem to his eye
Ev'n as substantial images, and shapes,
Till in a hurrying rack they all dissolve.
So in the cloudless sky, amusive shines
The soft and mimic scenery; distant hills
That, in refracted light, hang beautiful
Beneath the golden car of eve, ere yet
The daylight lingering fades.
Hence, on the heights
Of Apennine, far stretching to the south,
The goat-herd, while the westering sun, far off,
Hangs o'er the hazy ocean's brim, beholds
In the horizon's faintly-glowing verge
A landscape, like the rainbow, rise, with rocks
That softened shine, and shores that trend away,
Beneath the winding woods of Sicily,
And Etna, smouldering in the still pale sky;
And dim Messina, with her spires, and bays
That wind among the mountains, and the tower
Of Faro, gleaming on the tranquil straits;
Unreal all, yet on the air impressed,
From light's refracted ray, the shadow seems
The certain scene: the hind astonished views,
Yet most delighted, till at once the light
Changes, and all has vanished!
But to him,
How different in still air the unreal view,
Who wanders in Arabian solitudes,
When, faint with thirst, he sees illusive streams
Shine in the arid desert!
All around,
A silent waste of dark gray sand is spread,
Like ashes; not a speck in heaven appears,
But the red sun, high in his burning noon,
Shoots down intolerable fire: no sound
Of beast, or blast, or moving insect, stirs
The horrid stillness. Oh! what hand will guide
The pilgrim, panting in the trackless dust,
To where the pure and sparkling fountain cheers
The green oasis. See, as now his lip
Hangs parched and quivering, see before him spread
The long and level lake!
He gazes; still
He gazes, till he drops upon the sands,
And to the vision stretches, as he faints,
His feeble hand.
Come, Sylph of Summer, come!
Return to these green pastures, that, remote
From fiery blasts, or deadly blistering frosts,
Beneath the temperate atmosphere rejoice!
A crown of flame, a javelin in his hand,
Like the red arrow that the lightning shoots
Through night, impetuous steeds, and burning wheels,
That, as they whirl, flash to the cope of heaven,
Proclaim the angel of the world of fire!
The ocean-king, lord of the waters, rides
High on his hissing car, whose concave skirrs
The azure deep beneath him, flashing wide,
As to the sun the dark-green wave upturns,
And foaming far behind: sea-horses breast
The bickering surge, with nostrils sounding far,
And eyes that flash above the wave, and necks,
Whose mane, like breakers whitening in the wind,
Toss through the broken foam: he kingly bears
His trident sceptre high; around him play
Nereids, and sea-maids, singing as he rides
Their choral song: huge Triton, weltering on,
With scaly train, at times his wreathed shell
Sounds, that the caverns of old ocean shake!
But milder thou, soft daughter of the air,
Sylph of the Summer, come! the silent shower
Is past, and 'mid the dripping fern, the wren
Peeps, till the sun looks through the clouds again.
Oh, come, and breathe thy gentler influence,
And send a home-felt quiet to my heart,
Soothed as I hear, by fits, thy whisper run,
Stirring the tall acacia's pendent leaves,
And through yon hazel alley rustling soft
Upon the vacant ear!
Yon eastern downs,
That weather-fence the blossoms of the vale,
Where winds from hill to hill the mighty Dike,
Of Woden named, with many an antique mound,
The warrior's grave, bids exercise awake,
And health, the breeze of morning to inhale:
Meantime, remote from storms, the myrtle blooms
Beneath my southern sash.
The hurricane
May rend the pines of snowy Labrador,
The blasting whirlwinds of the desert sweep
The Nubian wilderness--we fear them not;
Nor yet, my country, do thy breezes bear,
From citrons, or the blooming orange-grove,
As in Rousillon's jasmine-bordered vales,
Incense at eve.
But temperate airs are thine,
England; and as thy climate, so thy sons
Partake the temper of thine isle; not rude,
Nor soft, voluptuous, nor effeminate;
Sincere, indeed, and hardy, as becomes
Those who can lift their look elate, and say,
We strike for injured freedom; and yet mild,
And gentle, when the voice of charity
Pleads like a voice from heaven: and, thanks to GOD,
The chain that fettered Afric's groaning race,
The murderous chain, that, link by link, dropped blood,
Is severed; we have lost that foul reproach
To all our virtuous boast!
Humanity,
England, is thine! not _that_ false substitute,
That meretricious sadness, which, all sighs
For lark or lambkin, yet can hear unmoved
The bloodiest orgies of blood-boltered France;
Thine is consistent, manly, rational,
Nor needing the false glow of sentiment
To melt it into sympathy, but mild,
And looking with a gentle eye on all;
Thy manners open, social, yet refined,
Are tempered with reflection; gaiety,
In her long-lighted halls, may lead the dance,
Or wake the sprightly chord; yet nature, truth,
Still warm the ingenuous heart: there is a blush
With those most gay, and lovely; and a tear
With those most manly!
Temperate Liberty
Hath yet the fairest altar on thy shores;
Such, and so warm with patriot energy,
As raised its arm when a false Stuart fled;
Yet mingled with deep wisdom's cautious lore,
That when it bade a Papal tyrant pause
And tremble, held the undeviating reins
On the fierce neck of headlong Anarchy.
Thy Church, (nor here let zealot bigotry,
Vaunting, condemn all altars but its own),
Thy Church, majestic, but not sumptuous,
Sober, but not austere, with lenity
Tempering her fair pre-eminence, sustains
Her liberal charities, yet decent state.
The tempest is abroad; the fearful sounds
Of armament, and gathering tumult, fill
The ear of anxious Europe. If, O GOD!
It is thy will, that in the storm of death,
When we have lifted the brave sword in vain,
We too should sink, sustain us in that hour!
Meantime be mine, in cheerful privacy,
To wait Thy will, not sanguine, nor depressed;
In even course, nor splendid, nor obscure,
To steal through life among my villagers!
The hum of the discordant crowd, the buzz
Of faction, the poor fly that threads the air
Self-pleased, the wasp that points its tiny sting
Unfelt, pass by me like the idle wind
That I regard not; while the Summer Sylph,
That whispers through the laurels, wakes the thought
Of quietude, and home-felt happiness,
And independence, in a land I love!

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Metamorphoses: Book The Eleventh

HERE, while the Thracian bard's enchanting strain
Sooths beasts, and woods, and all the listn'ing
plain,
The female Bacchanals, devoutly mad,
In shaggy skins, like savage creatures, clad,
Warbling in air perceiv'd his lovely lay,
And from a rising ground beheld him play.
When one, the wildest, with dishevel'd hair,
That loosely stream'd, and ruffled in the air;
Soon as her frantick eye the lyrist spy'd,
See, see! the hater of our sex, she cry'd.
Then at his face her missive javelin sent,
Which whiz'd along, and brusht him as it went;
But the soft wreathes of ivy twisted round,
Prevent a deep impression of the wound.
Another, for a weapon, hurls a stone,
Which, by the sound subdu'd as soon as thrown,
Falls at his feet, and with a seeming sense
Implores his pardon for its late offence.
The Death of But now their frantick rage unbounded grows,
Orpheus Turns all to madness, and no measure knows:
Yet this the charms of musick might subdue,
But that, with all its charms, is conquer'd too;
In louder strains their hideous yellings rise,
And squeaking horn-pipes eccho thro' the skies,
Which, in hoarse consort with the drum, confound
The moving lyre, and ev'ry gentle sound:
Then 'twas the deafen'd stones flew on with speed,
And saw, unsooth'd, their tuneful poet bleed.
The birds, the beasts, and all the savage crew
Which the sweet lyrist to attention drew,
Now, by the female mob's more furious rage,
Are driv'n, and forc'd to quit the shady stage.
Next their fierce hands the bard himself assail,
Nor can his song against their wrath prevail:
They flock, like birds, when in a clustring flight,
By day they chase the boding fowl of night.
So crowded amphitheatres survey
The stag, to greedy dogs a future prey.
Their steely javelins, which soft curls entwine
Of budding tendrils from the leafy vine,
For sacred rites of mild religion made,
Are flung promiscuous at the poet's head.
Those clods of earth or flints discharge, and these
Hurl prickly branches sliver'd from the trees.
And, lest their passion shou'd be unsupply'd,
The rabble crew, by chance, at distance spy'd
Where oxen, straining at the heavy yoke,
The fallow'd field with slow advances broke;
Nigh which the brawny peasants dug the soil,
Procuring food with long laborious toil.
These, when they saw the ranting throng draw near,
Quitted their tools, and fled, possest with fear.
Long spades, and rakes of mighty size were found,
Carelesly left upon the broken ground.
With these the furious lunaticks engage,
And first the lab'ring oxen feel their rage;
Then to the poet they return with speed,
Whose fate was, past prevention, now decreed:
In vain he lifts his suppliant hands, in vain
He tries, before, his never-failing strain.
And, from those sacred lips, whose thrilling sound
Fierce tygers, and insensate rocks cou'd wound,
Ah Gods! how moving was the mournful sight!
To see the fleeting soul now take its flight.
Thee the soft warblers of the feather'd kind
Bewail'd; for thee thy savage audience pin'd;
Those rocks and woods that oft thy strain had led,
Mourn for their charmer, and lament him dead;
And drooping trees their leafy glories shed.
Naids and Dryads with dishevel'd hair
Promiscuous weep, and scarfs of sable wear;
Nor cou'd the river-Gods conceal their moan,
But with new floods of tears augment their own.
His mangled limbs lay scatter'd all around,
His head, and harp a better fortune found;
In Hebrus' streams they gently roul'd along,
And sooth'd the waters with a mournful song.
Soft deadly notes the lifeless tongue inspire,
A doleful tune sounds from the floating lyre;
The hollows banks in solemn consort mourn,
And the sad strain in ecchoing groans return.
Now with the current to the sea they glide,
Born by the billows of the briny tide;
And driv'n where waves round rocky Lesbos roar,
They strand, and lodge upon Methymna's shore.
But here, when landed on the foreign soil,
A venom'd snake, the product of the isle
Attempts the head, and sacred locks embru'd
With clotted gore, and still fresh-dropping blood.
Phoebus, at last, his kind protection gives,
And from the fact the greedy monster drives:
Whose marbled jaws his impious crime atone,
Still grinning ghastly, tho' transform'd to stone.
His ghost flies downward to the Stygian shore,
And knows the places it had seen before:
Among the shadows of the pious train
He finds Eurydice, and loves again;
With pleasure views the beauteous phantom's charms,
And clasps her in his unsubstantial arms.
There side by side they unmolested walk,
Or pass their blissful hours in pleasing talk;
Aft or before the bard securely goes,
And, without danger, can review his spouse.
The Thracian Bacchus, resolving to revenge the wrong,
Women Of Orpheus murder'd, on the madding throng,
transform'd to Decreed that each accomplice dame should stand
Trees Fix'd by the roots along the conscious land.
Their wicked feet, that late so nimbly ran
To wreak their malice on the guiltless man,
Sudden with twisted ligatures were bound,
Like trees, deep planted in the turfy ground.
And, as the fowler with his subtle gins,
His feather'd captives by the feet entwines,
That flutt'ring pant, and struggle to get loose,
Yet only closer draw the fatal noose;
So these were caught; and, as they strove in vain
To quit the place, they but encreas'd their pain.
They flounce and toil, yet find themselves
controul'd;
The root, tho' pliant, toughly keeps its hold.
In vain their toes and feet they look to find,
For ev'n their shapely legs are cloath'd with rind.
One smites her thighs with a lamenting stroke,
And finds the flesh transform'd to solid oak;
Another, with surprize, and grief distrest,
Lays on above, but beats a wooden breast.
A rugged bark their softer neck invades,
Their branching arms shoot up delightful shades;
At once they seem, and are, a real grove,
With mossy trunks below, and verdant leaves above.
The Fable of Nor this suffic'd; the God's disgust remains,
Midas And he resolves to quit their hated plains;
The vineyards of Tymole ingross his care,
And, with a better choir, he fixes there;
Where the smooth streams of clear Pactolus roll'd,
Then undistinguish'd for its sands of gold.
The satyrs with the nymphs, his usual throng,
Come to salute their God, and jovial danc'd along.
Silenus only miss'd; for while he reel'd,
Feeble with age, and wine, about the field,
The hoary drunkard had forgot his way,
And to the Phrygian clowns became a prey;
Who to king Midas drag the captive God,
While on his totty pate the wreaths of ivy nod.
Midas from Orpheus had been taught his lore,
And knew the rites of Bacchus long before.
He, when he saw his venerable guest,
In honour of the God ordain'd a feast.
Ten days in course, with each continu'd night,
Were spent in genial mirth, and brisk delight:
Then on th' eleventh, when with brighter ray
Phosphor had chac'd the fading stars away,
The king thro' Lydia's fields young Bacchus sought,
And to the God his foster-father brought.
Pleas'd with the welcome sight, he bids him soon
But name his wish, and swears to grant the boon.
A glorious offer! yet but ill bestow'd
On him whose choice so little judgment show'd.
Give me, says he (nor thought he ask'd too much),
That with my body whatsoe'er I touch,
Chang'd from the nature which it held of old,
May be converted into yellow gold.
He had his wish; but yet the God repin'd,
To think the fool no better wish could find.
But the brave king departed from the place,
With smiles of gladness sparkling in his face:
Nor could contain, but, as he took his way,
Impatient longs to make the first essay.
Down from a lowly branch a twig he drew,
The twig strait glitter'd with a golden hue:
He takes a stone, the stone was turn'd to gold;
A clod he touches, and the crumbling mold
Acknowledg'd soon the great transforming pow'r,
In weight and substance like a mass of ore.
He pluck'd the corn, and strait his grasp appears
Fill'd with a bending tuft of golden ears.
An apple next he takes, and seems to hold
The bright Hesperian vegetable gold.
His hand he careless on a pillar lays.
With shining gold the fluted pillars blaze:
And while he washes, as the servants pour,
His touch converts the stream to Danae's show'r.
To see these miracles so finely wrought,
Fires with transporting joy his giddy thought.
The ready slaves prepare a sumptuous board,
Spread with rich dainties for their happy lord;
Whose pow'rful hands the bread no sooner hold,
But its whole substance is transform'd to gold:
Up to his mouth he lifts the sav'ry meat,
Which turns to gold as he attempts to eat:
His patron's noble juice of purple hue,
Touch'd by his lips, a gilded cordial grew;
Unfit for drink, and wondrous to behold,
It trickles from his jaws a fluid gold.
The rich poor fool, confounded with surprize,
Starving in all his various plenty lies:
Sick of his wish, he now detests the pow'r,
For which he ask'd so earnestly before;
Amidst his gold with pinching famine curst;
And justly tortur'd with an equal thirst.
At last his shining arms to Heav'n he rears,
And in distress, for refuge, flies to pray'rs.
O father Bacchus, I have sinn'd, he cry'd,
And foolishly thy gracious gift apply'd;
Thy pity now, repenting, I implore;
Oh! may I feel the golden plague no more.
The hungry wretch, his folly thus confest,
Touch'd the kind deity's good-natur'd breast;
The gentle God annull'd his first decree,
And from the cruel compact set him free.
But then, to cleanse him quite from further harm,
And to dilute the relicks of the charm,
He bids him seek the stream that cuts the land
Nigh where the tow'rs of Lydian Sardis stand;
Then trace the river to the fountain head,
And meet it rising from its rocky bed;
There, as the bubling tide pours forth amain,
To plunge his body in, and wash away the stain.
The king instructed to the fount retires,
But with the golden charm the stream inspires:
For while this quality the man forsakes,
An equal pow'r the limpid water takes;
Informs with veins of gold the neighb'ring land,
And glides along a bed of golden sand.
Now loathing wealth, th' occasion of his woes,
Far in the woods he sought a calm repose;
In caves and grottos, where the nymphs resort,
And keep with mountain Pan their sylvan court.
Ah! had he left his stupid soul behind!
But his condition alter'd not his mind.
For where high Tmolus rears his shady brow,
And from his cliffs surveys the seas below,
In his descent, by Sardis bounded here,
By the small confines of Hypaepa there,
Pan to the nymphs his frolick ditties play'd,
Tuning his reeds beneath the chequer'd shade.
The nymphs are pleas'd, the boasting sylvan plays,
And speaks with slight of great Apollo's lays.
Tmolus was arbiter; the boaster still
Accepts the tryal with unequal skill.
The venerable judge was seated high
On his own hill, that seem'd to touch the sky.
Above the whisp'ring trees his head he rears,
From their encumbring boughs to free his ears;
A wreath of oak alone his temples bound,
The pendant acorns loosely dangled round.
In me your judge, says he, there's no delay:
Then bids the goatherd God begin, and play.
Pan tun'd the pipe, and with his rural song
Pleas'd the low taste of all the vulgar throng;
Such songs a vulgar judgment mostly please,
Midas was there, and Midas judg'd with these.
The mountain sire with grave deportment now
To Phoebus turns his venerable brow:
And, as he turns, with him the listning wood
In the same posture of attention stood.
The God his own Parnassian laurel crown'd,
And in a wreath his golden tresses bound,
Graceful his purple mantle swept the ground.
High on the left his iv'ry lute he rais'd,
The lute, emboss'd with glitt'ring jewels, blaz'd
In his right hand he nicely held the quill,
His easy posture spoke a master's skill.
The strings he touch'd with more than human art,
Which pleas'd the judge's ear, and sooth'd his
heart;
Who soon judiciously the palm decreed,
And to the lute postpon'd the squeaking reed.
All, with applause, the rightful sentence heard,
Midas alone dissatisfy'd appear'd;
To him unjustly giv'n the judgment seems,
For Pan's barbarick notes he most esteems.
The lyrick God, who thought his untun'd ear
Deserv'd but ill a human form to wear,
Of that deprives him, and supplies the place
With some more fit, and of an ampler space:
Fix'd on his noddle an unseemly pair,
Flagging, and large, and full of whitish hair;
Without a total change from what he was,
Still in the man preserves the simple ass.
He, to conceal the scandal of the deed,
A purple turbant folds about his head;
Veils the reproach from publick view, and fears
The laughing world would spy his monstrous ears.
One trusty barber-slave, that us'd to dress
His master's hair, when lengthen'd to excess,
The mighty secret knew, but knew alone,
And, tho' impatient, durst not make it known.
Restless, at last, a private place he found,
Then dug a hole, and told it to the ground;
In a low whisper he reveal'd the case,
And cover'd in the earth, and silent left the
place.
In time, of trembling reeds a plenteous crop
From the confided furrow sprouted up;
Which, high advancing with the ripening year,
Made known the tiller, and his fruitless care:
For then the rustling blades, and whisp'ring wind,
To tell th' important secret, both combin'd.
The Building of Phoebus, with full revenge, from Tmolus flies,
Troy Darts thro' the air, and cleaves the liquid skies;
Near Hellespont he lights, and treads the plains
Where great Laomedon sole monarch reigns;
Where, built between the two projecting strands,
To Panomphaean Jove an altar stands.
Here first aspiring thoughts the king employ,
To found the lofty tow'rs of future Troy.
The work, from schemes magnificent begun,
At vast expence was slowly carry'd on:
Which Phoebus seeing, with the trident God
Who rules the swelling surges with his nod,
Assuming each a mortal shape, combine
At a set price to finish his design.
The work was built; the king their price denies,
And his injustice backs with perjuries.
This Neptune cou'd not brook, but drove the main,
A mighty deluge, o'er the Phrygian plain:
'Twas all a sea; the waters of the deep
From ev'ry vale the copious harvest sweep;
The briny billows overflow the soil,
Ravage the fields, and mock the plowman's toil.
Nor this appeas'd the God's revengeful mind,
For still a greater plague remains behind;
A huge sea-monster lodges on the sands,
And the king's daughter for his prey demands.
To him that sav'd the damsel, was decreed
A set of horses of the Sun's fine breed:
But when Alcides from the rock unty'd
The trembling fair, the ransom was deny'd.
He, in revenge, the new-built walls attack'd,
And the twice-perjur'd city bravely sack'd.
Telamon aided, and in justice shar'd
Part of the plunder as his due reward:
The princess, rescu'd late, with all her charms,
Hesione, was yielded to his arms;
For Peleus, with a Goddess-bride, was more
Proud of his spouse, than of his birth before:
Grandsons to Jove there might be more than one,
But he the Goddess had enjoy'd alone.
The Story of For Proteus thus to virgin Thetis said,
Thetis and Fair Goddess of the waves, consent to wed,
Peleus And take some spritely lover to your bed.
A son you'll have, the terror of the field,
To whom in fame, and pow'r his sire shall yield.
Jove, who ador'd the nymph with boundless love,
Did from his breast the dangerous flame remove.
He knew the Fates, nor car'd to raise up one,
Whose fame and greatness should eclipse his own,
On happy Peleus he bestow'd her charms,
And bless'd his grandson in the Goddess' arms:
A silent creek Thessalia's coast can show;
Two arms project, and shape it like a bow;
'Twould make a bay, but the transparent tide
Does scarce the yellow-gravell'd bottom hide;
For the quick eye may thro' the liquid wave
A firm unweedy level beach perceive.
A grove of fragrant myrtle near it grows,
Whose boughs, tho' thick, a beauteous grot
disclose;
The well-wrought fabrick, to discerning eyes,
Rather by art than Nature seems to rise.
A bridled dolphin oft fair Thetis bore
To this her lov'd retreat, her fav'rite shore.
Here Peleus seiz'd her, slumbring while she lay,
And urg'd his suit with all that love could say:
But when he found her obstinately coy,
Resolv'd to force her, and command the joy;
The nymph, o'erpowr'd, to art for succour flies
And various shapes the eager youth surprize:
A bird she seems, but plies her wings in vain,
His hands the fleeting substance still detain:
A branchy tree high in the air she grew;
About its bark his nimble arms he threw:
A tyger next she glares with flaming eyes;
The frighten'd lover quits his hold, and flies:
The sea-Gods he with sacred rites adores,
Then a libation on the ocean pours;
While the fat entrails crackle in the fire,
And sheets of smoak in sweet perfume aspire;
'Till Proteus rising from his oozy bed,
Thus to the poor desponding lover said:
No more in anxious thoughts your mind employ,
For yet you shall possess the dear expected joy.
You must once more th' unwary nymph surprize,
As in her cooly grot she slumbring lies;
Then bind her fast with unrelenting hands,
And strain her tender limbs with knotted bands.
Still hold her under ev'ry different shape,
'Till tir'd she tries no longer to escape.
Thus he: then sunk beneath the glassy flood,
And broken accents flutter'd, where he stood.
Bright Sol had almost now his journey done,
And down the steepy western convex run;
When the fair Nereid left the briny wave,
And, as she us'd, retreated to her cave.
He scarce had bound her fast, when she arose,
And into various shapes her body throws:
She went to move her arms, and found 'em ty'd;
Then with a sigh, Some God assists ye, cry'd,
And in her proper shape stood blushing by his side.
About her waiste his longing arms he flung,
From which embrace the great Achilles sprung.
The Peleus unmix'd felicity enjoy'd
Transformation (Blest in a valiant son, and virtuous bride),
of Daedalion 'Till Fortune did in blood his hands imbrue,
And his own brother by curst chance he slew:
Then driv'n from Thessaly, his native clime,
Trachinia first gave shelter to his crime;
Where peaceful Ceyx mildly fill'd the throne,
And like his sire, the morning planet, shone;
But now, unlike himself, bedew'd with tears,
Mourning a brother lost, his brow appears.
First to the town with travel spent, and care,
Peleus, and his small company repair:
His herds, and flocks the while at leisure feed,
On the rich pasture of a neighb'ring mead.
The prince before the royal presence brought,
Shew'd by the suppliant olive what he sought;
Then tells his name, and race, and country right,
But hides th' unhappy reason of his flight.
He begs the king some little town to give,
Where they may safe his faithful vassals live.
Ceyx reply'd: To all my bounty flows,
A hospitable realm your suit has chose.
Your glorious race, and far-resounding fame,
And grandsire Jove, peculiar favours claim.
All you can wish, I grant; entreaties spare;
My kingdom (would 'twere worth the sharing) share.
Tears stop'd his speech: astonish'd Peleus pleads
To know the cause from whence his grief proceeds.
The prince reply'd: There's none of ye but deems
This hawk was ever such as now it seems;
Know 'twas a heroe once, Daedalion nam'd,
For warlike deeds, and haughty valour fam'd;
Like me to that bright luminary born,
Who wakes Aurora, and brings on the morn.
His fierceness still remains, and love of blood,
Now dread of birds, and tyrant of the wood.
My make was softer, peace my greatest care;
But this my brother wholly bent on war;
Late nations fear'd, and routed armies fled
That force, which now the tim'rous pigeons dread.
A daughter he possess'd, divinely fair,
And scarcely yet had seen her fifteenth year;
Young Chione: a thousand rivals strove
To win the maid, and teach her how to love.
Phoebus, and Mercury by chance one day
From Delphi, and Cyllene past this way;
Together they the virgin saw: desire
At once warm'd both their breasts with am'rous
fire.
Phoebus resolv'd to wait 'till close of day;
But Mercury's hot love brook'd no delay;
With his entrancing rod the maid he charms,
And unresisted revels in her arms.
'Twas night, and Phoebus in a beldam's dress,
To the late rifled beauty got access.
Her time compleat nine circling moons had run;
To either God she bore a lovely son:
To Mercury Autolycus she brought,
Who turn'd to thefts and tricks his subtle thought;
Possess'd he was of all his father's slight,
At will made white look black, and black look
white.
Philammon born to Phoebus, like his sire,
The Muses lov'd, and finely struck the lyre,
And made his voice, and touch in harmony conspire.
In vain, fond maid, you boast this double birth,
The love of Gods, and royal father's worth,
And Jove among your ancestors rehearse!
Could blessings such as these e'er prove a curse?
To her they did, who with audacious pride,
Vain of her own, Diana's charms decry'd.
Her taunts the Goddess with resentment fill;
My face you like not, you shall try my skill.
She said; and strait her vengeful bow she strung,
And sent a shaft that pierc'd her guilty tongue:
The bleeding tongue in vain its accents tries;
In the red stream her soul reluctant flies.
With sorrow wild I ran to her relief,
And try'd to moderate my brother's grief.
He, deaf as rocks by stormy surges beat,
Loudly laments, and hears me not intreat.
When on the fun'ral pile he saw her laid,
Thrice he to rush into the flames assay'd,
Thrice with officious care by us was stay'd.
Now, mad with grief, away he fled amain,
Like a stung heifer that resents the pain,
And bellowing wildly bounds along the plain.
O'er the most rugged ways so fast he ran,
He seem'd a bird already, not a man:
He left us breathless all behind; and now
In quest of death had gain'd Parnassus' brow:
But when from thence headlong himself he threw,
He fell not, but with airy pinions flew.
Phoebus in pity chang'd him to a fowl,
Whose crooked beak and claws the birds controul,
Little of bulk, but of a warlike soul.
A hawk become, the feather'd race's foe,
He tries to case his own by other's woe.
A Wolf turn'd While they astonish'd heard the king relate
into Marble These wonders of his hapless brother's fate;
The prince's herdsman at the court arrives,
And fresh surprize to all the audience gives.
O Peleus, Peleus! dreadful news I bear,
He said; and trembled as he spoke for fear.
The worst, affrighted Peleus bid him tell,
Whilst Ceyx too grew pale with friendly zeal.
Thus he began: When Sol mid-heav'n had gain'd,
And half his way was past, and half remain'd,
I to the level shore my cattle drove,
And let them freely in the meadows rove.
Some stretch'd at length admire the watry plain,
Some crop'd the herb, some wanton swam the main.
A temple stands of antique make hard by,
Where no gilt domes, nor marble lure the eye;
Unpolish'd rafters bear its lowly height,
Hid by a grove, as ancient, from the sight.
Here Nereus, and the Nereids they adore;
I learnt it from the man who thither bore
His net, to dry it on the sunny shore.
Adjoyns a lake, inclos'd with willows round,
Where swelling waves have overflow'd the mound,
And, muddy, stagnate on the lower ground.
From thence a russling noise increasing flies,
Strikes the still shore; and frights us with
surprize,
Strait a huge wolf rush'd from the marshy wood,
His jaws besmear'd with mingled foam, and blood,
Tho' equally by hunger urg'd, and rage,
His appetite he minds not to asswage;
Nought that he meets, his rabid fury spares,
But the whole herd with mad disorder tears.
Some of our men who strove to drive him thence,
Torn by his teeth, have dy'd in their defence.
The echoing lakes, the sea, and fields, and shore,
Impurpled blush with streams of reeking gore.
Delay is loss, nor have we time for thought;
While yet some few remain alive, we ought
To seize our arms, and with confederate force
Try if we so can stop his bloody course.
But Peleus car'd not for his ruin'd herd;
His crime he call'd to mind, and thence inferr'd,
That Psamathe's revenge this havock made,
In sacrifice to murder'd Phocus' shade.
The king commands his servants to their arms;
Resolv'd to go; but the loud noise alarms
His lovely queen, who from her chamber flew,
And her half-plaited hair behind her threw:
About his neck she hung with loving fears,
And now with words, and now with pleading tears,
Intreated that he'd send his men alone,
And stay himself, to save two lives in one.
Then Peleus: Your just fears, o queen, forget;
Too much the offer leaves me in your debt.
No arms against the monster I shall bear,
But the sea nymphs appease with humble pray'r.
The citadel's high turrets pierce the sky,
Which home-bound vessels, glad, from far descry;
This they ascend, and thence with sorrow ken
The mangled heifers lye, and bleeding men;
Th' inexorable ravager they view,
With blood discolour'd, still the rest pursue:
There Peleus pray'd submissive tow'rds the sea,
And deprecates the ire of injur'd Psamathe.
But deaf to all his pray'rs the nymph remain'd,
'Till Thetis for her spouse the boon obtain'd.
Pleas'd with the luxury, the furious beast,
Unstop'd, continues still his bloody feast:
While yet upon a sturdy bull he flew,
Chang'd by the nymph, a marble block he grew.
No longer dreadful now the wolf appears,
Bury'd in stone, and vanish'd like their fears.
Yet still the Fates unhappy Peleus vex'd;
To the Magnesian shore he wanders next.
Acastus there, who rul'd the peaceful clime,
Grants his request, and expiates his crime.
The Story of These prodigies affect the pious prince,
Ceyx and But more perplex'd with those that happen'd since,
Alcyone He purposes to seek the Clarian God,
Avoiding Delphi, his more fam'd abode,
Since Phlegyan robbers made unsafe the road.
Yet could he not from her he lov'd so well,
The fatal voyage, he resolv'd, conceal;
But when she saw her lord prepar'd to part,
A deadly cold ran shiv'ring to her heart;
Her faded cheeks are chang'd to boxen hue,
And in her eyes the tears are ever new.
She thrice essay'd to speak; her accents hung,
And falt'ring dy'd unfinish'd on her tongue,
And vanish'd into sighs: with long delay
Her voice return'd, and found the wonted way.
Tell me, my lord, she said, what fault unknown
Thy once belov'd Alcyone has done?
Whither, ah, whither, is thy kindness gone!
Can Ceyx then sustain to leave his wife,
And unconcern'd forsake the sweets of life?
What can thy mind to this long journey move?
Or need'st thou absence to renew thy love?
Yet, if thou go'st by land, tho' grief possess
My soul ev'n then, my fears will be the less.
But ah! be warn'd to shun the watry way,
The face is frightful of the stormy sea:
For late I saw a-drift disjointed planks,
And empty tombs erected on the banks.
Nor let false hopes to trust betray thy mind,
Because my sire in caves constrains the wind,
Can with a breath their clam'rous rage appease,
They fear his whistle, and forsake the seas:
Not so; for once indulg'd, they sweep the main;
Deaf to the call, or hearing, hear in vain;
But bent on mischief bear the waves before,
And not content with seas, insult the shore,
When ocean, air, and Earth, at once ingage,
And rooted forests fly before their rage:
At once the clashing clouds to battel move,
And lightnings run across the fields above:
I know them well, and mark'd their rude comport,
While yet a child within my father's court:
In times of tempest they command alone,
And he but sits precarious on the throne:
The more I know, the more my fears augment;
And fears are oft prophetick of th' event.
But if not fears, or reasons will prevail,
If Fate has fix'd thee obstinate to sail,
Go not without thy wife, but let me bear
My part of danger with an equal share,
And present, what I suffer only fear:
Then o'er the bounding billows shall we fly,
Secure to live together, or to die.
These reasons mov'd her warlike husband's heart,
But still he held his purpose to depart:
For as he lov'd her equal to his life,
He would not to the seas expose his wife;
Nor could be wrought his voyage to refrain,
But sought by arguments to sooth her pain:
Nor these avail'd; at length he lights on one,
With which so difficult a cause he won:
My love, so short an absence cease to fear,
For by my father's holy flame I swear,
Before two moons their orb with light adorn,
If Heav'n allow me life, I will return.
This promise of so short a stay prevails;
He soon equips the ship, supplies the sails,
And gives the word to launch; she trembling views
This pomp of death, and parting tears renews:
Last with a kiss, she took a long farewel,
Sigh'd with a sad presage, and swooning fell:
While Ceyx seeks delays, the lusty crew,
Rais'd on their banks, their oars in order drew
To their broad breasts, the ship with fury flew.
The queen recover'd, rears her humid eyes,
And first her husband on the poop espies,
Shaking his hand at distance on the main;
She took the sign, and shook her hand again.
Still as the ground recedes, contracts her view
With sharpen'd sight, 'till she no longer knew
The much-lov'd face; that comfort lost supplies
With less, and with the galley feeds her eyes;
The galley born from view by rising gales,
She follow'd with her sight the flying sails:
When ev'n the flying sails were seen no more,
Forsaken of all sight she left the shore.
Then on her bridal bed her body throws,
And sought in sleep her wearied eyes to close:
Her husband's pillow, and the widow'd part
Which once he press'd, renew'd the former smart.
And now a breeze from shoar began to blow,
The sailors ship their oars, and cease to row;
Then hoist their yards a-trip, and all their sails
Let fall, to court the wind, and catch the gales:
By this the vessel half her course had run,
Both shoars were lost to sight, when at the close
Of day a stiffer gale at east arose:
The sea grew white, the rouling waves from far,
Like heralds, first denounce the watry war.
This seen, the master soon began to cry,
Strike, strike the top-sail; let the main-sheet
fly,
And furl your sails: the winds repel the sound,
And in the speaker's mouth the speech is drown'd.
Yet of their own accord, as danger taught
Each in his way, officiously they wrought;
Some stow their oars, or stop the leaky sides,
Another bolder, yet the yard bestrides,
And folds the sails; a fourth with labour laves
Th' intruding seas, and waves ejects on waves.
In this confusion while their work they ply,
The winds augment the winter of the sky,
And wage intestine wars; the suff'ring seas
Are toss'd, and mingled, as their tyrants please.
The master would command, but in despair
Of safety, stands amaz'd with stupid care,
Nor what to bid, or what forbid he knows,
Th' ungovern'd tempest to such fury grows:
Vain is his force, and vainer is his skill;
With such a concourse comes the flood of ill;
The cries of men are mix'd with rattling shrowds;
Seas dash on seas, and clouds encounter clouds:
At once from east to west, from pole to pole,
The forky lightnings flash, the roaring thunders
roul.
Now waves on waves ascending scale the skies,
And in the fires above the water fries:
When yellow sands are sifted from below,
The glittering billows give a golden show:
And when the fouler bottom spews the black
The Stygian dye the tainted waters take:
Then frothy white appear the flatted seas,
And change their colour, changing their disease,
Like various fits the Trachin vessel finds,
And now sublime, she rides upon the winds;
As from a lofty summit looks from high,
And from the clouds beholds the nether sky;
Now from the depth of Hell they lift their sight,
And at a distance see superior light;
The lashing billows make a loud report,
And beat her sides, as batt'ring rams a fort:
Or as a lion bounding in his way,
With force augmented, bears against his prey,
Sidelong to seize; or unapal'd with fear,
Springs on the toils, and rushes on the spear:
So seas impell'd by winds, with added pow'r
Assault the sides, and o'er the hatches tow'r.
The planks (their pitchy cov'ring wash'd away)
Now yield; and now a yawning breach display:
The roaring waters with a hostile tide
Rush through the ruins of her gaping side.
Mean-time in sheets of rain the sky descends,
And ocean swell'd with waters upwards tends;
One rising, falling one, the Heav'ns and sea
Meet at their confines, in the middle way:
The sails are drunk with show'rs, and drop with
rain,
Sweet waters mingle with the briny main.
No star appears to lend his friendly light;
Darkness, and tempest make a double night;
But flashing fires disclose the deep by turns,
And while the lightnings blaze, the water burns.
Now all the waves their scatter'd force unite,
And as a soldier foremost in the fight,
Makes way for others, and an host alone
Still presses on, and urging gains the town;
So while th' invading billows come a-breast,
The hero tenth advanc'd before the rest,
Sweeps all before him with impetuous sway,
And from the walls descends upon the prey;
Part following enter, part remain without,
With envy hear their fellows' conqu'ring shout,
And mount on others' backs, in hopes to share
The city, thus become the seat of war.
An universal cry resounds aloud,
The sailors run in heaps, a helpless crowd;
Art fails, and courage falls, no succour near;
As many waves, as many deaths appear.
One weeps, and yet despairs of late relief;
One cannot weep, his fears congeal his grief,
But stupid, with dry eyes expects his fate:
One with loud shrieks laments his lost estate,
And calls those happy whom their fun'rals wait.
This wretch with pray'rs and vows the Gods
implores,
And ev'n the skies he cannot see, adores.
That other on his friends his thoughts bestows,
His careful father, and his faithful spouse.
The covetous worldling in his anxious mind,
Thinks only on the wealth he left behind.
All Ceyx his Alcyone employs,
For her he grieves, yet in her absence joys:
His wife he wishes, and would still be near,
Not her with him, but wishes him with her:
Now with last looks he seeks his native shoar,
Which Fate has destin'd him to see no more;
He sought, but in the dark tempestuous night
He knew not whither to direct his sight.
So whirl the seas, such darkness blinds the sky,
That the black night receives a deeper dye.
The giddy ship ran round; the tempest tore
Her mast, and over-board the rudder bore.
One billow mounts, and with a scornful brow,
Proud of her conquest gain'd, insults the waves
below;
Nor lighter falls, than if some giant tore
Pindus and Athos with the freight they bore,
And toss'd on seas; press'd with the pond'rous
blow,
Down sinks the ship within th' abyss below:
Down with the vessel sink into the main
The many, never more to rise again.
Some few on scatter'd planks, with fruitless care,
Lay hold, and swim; but while they swim, despair.
Ev'n he who late a scepter did command,
Now grasps a floating fragment in his hand;
And while he struggles on the stormy main,
Invokes his father, and his wife's, in vain.
But yet his consort is his greatest care,
Alcyone he names amidst his pray'r;
Names as a charm against the waves and wind;
Most in his mouth, and ever in his mind.
Tir'd with his toil, all hopes of safety past,
From pray'rs to wishes he descends at last;
That his dead body, wafted to the sands,
Might have its burial from her friendly hands,
As oft as he can catch a gulp of air,
And peep above the seas, he names the fair;
And ev'n when plung'd beneath, on her he raves,
Murm'ring Alcyone below the waves:
At last a falling billow stops his breath,
Breaks o'er his head, and whelms him underneath.
That night, his heav'nly form obscur'd with tears,
And since he was forbid to leave the skies,
He muffled with a cloud his mournful eyes.
Mean-time Alcyone (his fate unknown)
Computes how many nights he had been gone.
Observes the waining moon with hourly view,
Numbers her age, and wishes for a new;
Against the promis'd time provides with care,
And hastens in the woof the robes he was to wear:
And for her self employs another loom,
New-dress'd to meet her lord returning home,
Flatt'ring her heart with joys, that never were to
come:
She fum'd the temples with an od'rous flame,
And oft before the sacred altars came,
To pray for him, who was an empty name.
All Pow'rs implor'd, but far above the rest
To Juno she her pious vows address'd,
Her much-lov'd lord from perils to protect,
And safe o'er seas his voyage to direct:
Then pray'd, that she might still possess his
heart,
And no pretending rival share a part;
This last petition heard of all her pray'r,
The rest, dispers'd by winds, were lost in air.
But she, the Goddess of the nuptial bed,
Tir'd with her vain devotions for the dead,
Resolv'd the tainted hand should be repell'd,
Which incense offer'd, and her altar held:
Then Iris thus bespoke: Thou faithful maid,
By whom thy queen's commands are well convey'd,
Haste to the house of sleep, and bid the God
Who rules the night by visions with a nod,
Prepare a dream, in figure, and in form
Resembling him, who perish'd in the storm;
This form before Alcyone present,
To make her certain of the sad event.
Indu'd with robes of various hue she flies,
And flying draws an arch (a segment of the skies):
Then leaves her bending bow, and from the steep
Descends, to search the silent house of sleep.
The House of Near the Cymmerians, in his dark abode,
Sleep Deep in a cavern, dwells the drowzy God;
Whose gloomy mansion nor the rising sun,
Nor setting, visits, nor the lightsome noon;
But lazy vapours round the region fly,
Perpetual twilight, and a doubtful sky:
No crowing cock does there his wings display,
Nor with his horny bill provoke the day;
Nor watchful dogs, nor the more wakeful geese,
Disturb with nightly noise the sacred peace;
Nor beast of Nature, nor the tame are nigh,
Nor trees with tempests rock'd, nor human cry;
But safe repose without an air of breath
Dwells here, and a dumb quiet next to death.
An arm of Lethe, with a gentle flow
Arising upwards from the rock below,
The palace moats, and o'er the pebbles creeps,
And with soft murmurs calls the coming sleeps.
Around its entry nodding poppies grow,
And all cool simples that sweet rest bestow;
Night from the plants their sleepy virtue drains,
And passing, sheds it on the silent plains:
No door there was th' unguarded house to keep,
On creaking hinges turn'd, to break his sleep.
But in the gloomy court was rais'd a bed,
Stuff'd with black plumes, and on an ebon-sted:
Black was the cov'ring too, where lay the God,
And slept supine, his limbs display'd abroad:
About his head fantastick visions fly,
Which various images of things supply,
And mock their forms; the leaves on trees not more,
Nor bearded ears in fields, nor sands upon the
shore.
The virgin ent'ring bright, indulg'd the day
To the brown cave, and brush'd the dreams away:
The God disturb'd with this new glare of light,
Cast sudden on his face, unseal'd his sight,
And rais'd his tardy head, which sunk again,
And sinking, on his bosom knock'd his chin;
At length shook off himself, and ask'd the dame,
(And asking yawn'd) for what intent she came.
To whom the Goddess thus: O sacred rest,
Sweet pleasing sleep, of all the Pow'rs the best!
O peace of mind, repairer of decay,
Whose balms renew the limbs to labours of the day,
Care shuns thy soft approach, and sullen flies
away!
Adorn a dream, expressing human form,
The shape of him who suffer'd in the storm,
And send it flitting to the Trachin court,
The wreck of wretched Ceyx to report:
Before his queen bid the pale spectre stand,
Who begs a vain relief at Juno's hand.
She said, and scarce awake her eyes could keep,
Unable to support the fumes of sleep;
But fled, returning by the way she went,
And swerv'd along her bow with swift ascent.
The God, uneasy 'till he slept again,
Resolv'd at once to rid himself of pain;
And, tho' against his custom, call'd aloud,
Exciting Morpheus from the sleepy crowd:
Morpheus, of all his numerous train, express'd
The shape of man, and imitated best;
The walk, the words, the gesture could supply,
The habit mimick, and the mein bely;
Plays well, but all his action is confin'd,
Extending not beyond our human kind.
Another, birds, and beasts, and dragons apes,
And dreadful images, and monster shapes:
This demon, Icelos, in Heav'n's high hall
The Gods have nam'd; but men Phobetor call.
A third is Phantasus, whose actions roul
On meaner thoughts, and things devoid of soul;
Earth, fruits, and flow'rs he represents in dreams,
And solid rocks unmov'd, and running streams.
These three to kings, and chiefs their scenes
display,
The rest before th' ignoble commons play.
Of these the chosen Morpheus is dispatch'd;
Which done, the lazy monarch, over-watch'd,
Down from his propping elbow drops his head,
Dissolv'd in sleep, and shrinks within his bed.
Darkling the demon glides, for flight prepar'd,
So soft, that scarce his fanning wings are heard.
To Trachin, swift as thought, the flitting shade,
Thro' air his momentary journey made:
Then lays aside the steerage of his wings,
Forsakes his proper form, assumes the king's;
And pale, as death, despoil'd of his array,
Into the queen's apartment takes his way,
And stands before the bed at dawn of day:
Unmov'd his eyes, and wet his beard appears;
And shedding vain, but seeming real tears;
The briny waters dropping from his hairs.
Then staring on her with a ghastly look,
And hollow voice, he thus the queen bespoke.
Know'st thou not me? Not yet, unhappy wife?
Or are my features perish'd with my life?
Look once again, and for thy husband lost,
Lo all that's left of him, thy husband's ghost!
Thy vows for my return were all in vain,
The stormy south o'ertook us in the main,
And never shalt thou see thy living lord again.
Bear witness, Heav'n, I call'd on thee in death,
And while I call'd, a billow stop'd my breath.
Think not, that flying fame reports my fate;
I present, I appear, and my own wreck relate.
Rise, wretched widow, rise; nor undeplor'd
Permit my soul to pass the Stygian ford;
But rise, prepar'd in black, to mourn thy perish'd
lord.
Thus said the player-God; and adding art
Of voice and gesture, so perform'd his part,
She thought (so like her love the shade appears)
That Ceyx spake the words, and Ceyx shed the tears;
She groan'd, her inward soul with grief opprest,
She sigh'd, she wept, and sleeping beat her breast;
Then stretch'd her arms t' embrace his body bare;
Her clasping arms inclose but empty air:
At this, not yet awake, she cry'd, O stay;
One is our fate, and common is our way!

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The Door Of Humility

ENGLAND
We lead the blind by voice and hand,
And not by light they cannot see;
We are not framed to understand
The How and Why of such as He;

But natured only to rejoice
At every sound or sign of hope,
And, guided by the still small voice,
In patience through the darkness grope;

Until our finer sense expands,
And we exchange for holier sight
The earthly help of voice and hands,
And in His light behold the Light.

I

Let there be Light! The self-same Power
That out of formless dark and void
Endued with life's mysterious dower
Planet, and star, and asteroid;

That moved upon the waters' face,
And, breathing on them His intent,
Divided, and assigned their place
To, ocean, air, and firmament;

That bade the land appear, and bring
Forth herb and leaf, both fruit and flower,
Cattle that graze, and birds that sing,
Ordained the sunshine and the shower;

That, moulding man and woman, breathed
In them an active soul at birth
In His own image, and bequeathed
To them dominion over Earth;

That, by whatever is, decreed
His Will and Word shall be obeyed,
From loftiest star to lowliest seed;-
The worm and me He also made.

And when, for nuptials of the Spring
With Summer, on the vestal thorn
The bridal veil hung flowering,
A cry was heard, and I was born.

II

To be by blood and long descent
A member of a mighty State,
Whose greatness, sea-girt, but unpent
By ocean, makes the world more great;

That, ranging limitless, hath won
A Rule more wide than that of Rome,
And, journeying onward with the sun,
In every zone hath found a home;

That, keeping old traditions fast,
Still hails the things that are to be,
And, firmly rooted in the Past,
On Law hath grafted Liberty;-

That is a birthright nobler far
Than princely claim or Right Divine
From far-off rapine, wanton war,
And I could feel this birthright mine.

And not the lowliest hand that drives
Or share or loom, if so it be
Of British strain, but thence derives
A patent of nobility.

III

The guiding of the infant years
Onward to good, away from guile,
A mother's humanising tears,
A father's philosophic smile;

Refining beauty, gentle ways,
The admonitions of the wise,
The love that watches, helps, and prays,
And pities, but doth ne'er despise;

An ancient Faith, abiding hope,
The charity that suffers long,
But flames with sacred zeal to cope
With man's injustice, nature's wrong;

Melodious leisure, learnëd shelf,
Discourse of earnest, temperate mind,
The playful wit that of itself
Flashes, but leaves no wound behind;

The knowledge gleaned from Greece and Rome,
From studious Teuton, sprightly Gaul,
The lettered page, the mellow tome,
And poets' wisdom more than all;-

These, when no lips severe upbraid,
But counsel rather than control,
In budding boyhood lend their aid
To sensibility of soul.

IV

But, more than mentor, mother, sire,
Can lend to shape the future man
With help of learning or of lyre,
Of ancient rule, or modern plan,

Is that which with our breath we bring
Into the world, we know not whence,
That needs nor care nor fostering,
Because an instinct and a sense.

And days and years are all forgot
When Nature's aspect, growth, and grace,
And veering moods, to me were not
The features of the Loved One's face.

The cloud whose shadow skims the lake,
The shimmering haze of summer noon,
The voice of April in the brake,
The silence of the mounting moon,

Swaying of bracken on the hill,
The murmur of the vagrant stream,
These motions of some unseen Will,
These babblings of some heavenly dream,

Seemed tokens of divine desire
To hold discourse with me, and so
To touch my lips with hallowed fire,
And tell me things I ought to know.

I gazed and listened, all intent,
As to the face and voice of Fate,
But what they said, or what they meant,
I could surmise not, nor translate.

They did but lure me to unrest,
Unanswered questioning, longings vain,
As when one scans some palimpsest
No erudition can explain;

But left me with a deep distaste
For common speech, that still did seem
More meaningless than mountain waste,
Less human than the far-off stream.

So that a stranger in the land
Wherein I moved, where'er I went,
I dwelt, whom none could understand,
Or exorcise my discontent.

And I to them, and they to me
Seemed from two different planets come,
And, save to flower and wild-bird's glee,
My heart was deaf, my soul was dumb.

V

But slowly dawned a happier time
When I began to apprehend,
And catch, as in some poet's rhyme,
The intimations of a friend;

When Nature spake no unknown tongue,
But language kindred to my thought,
Till everything She said, I sung,
In notes unforced, in words unsought.

And I to Her so closely drew,
The seasons round, in mind and mood,
I felt at length as if we knew
Self-same affection, self-same feud:

That both alike scorned worldly aim,
Profit, applause, parade, and pride,
Whereby the love of generous fame
And worthy deeds grows petrified.

I did as yet not understand
Nature is far more vast than I,
Deep as the ocean, wide as land,
And overarching as the sky;

And but responded to my call,
And only felt and fed my need,
Because She doth the same for all
Who to her pity turn and plead.

VI

Shall man have mind, and Nature none,
Shall I, not she, have soul and heart?
Nay, rather, if we be not one,
Each is of each the counterpart.

She too may have within her breast
A conscience, if not like to yours,
A sense of rightness ill at rest,
Long as her waywardness endures.

And hence her thunder, earthquakes, hail,
Her levin bolts, her clouds' discharge:
She sins upon a larger scale,
Because She is herself more large.

Hence, too, when She hath pierced with pain
The heart of man, and wrecked his years,
The pity of the April rain,
And late repentance of her tears.

She is no better, worse, than we;
We can but say she seems more great,
That half her will, like ours, is free,
And half of it is locked in Fate.

Nor need we fear that we should err
Beyond our scope in reasoning thus,-
That there must be a God for Her,
If that there be a God for us.

VII

The chiming of the Sabbath bell,
The silence of the Sabbath fields,
Over the hamlet cast a spell
To which the gracious spirit yields.

Sound is there none of wheel or wain,
Husht stands the anvil, husht the forge,
No shout is heard in rustic lane,
No axe resounds in timbered gorge.

No flail beats time on granary floor,
The windmill's rushing wings are stayed,
And children's glee rings out no more
From hedgerow bank or primrose glade.

The big-boned team that firm and slow
Draw yoked, are free to couch or stray;
The basking covey seem to know
None will invade their peace to-day.

And speckless swains, and maidens neat,
Through rustic porch, down cottage stair,
Demurely up the village street
Stream onward to the House of Prayer.

They kneel as they were taught to kneel
In childhood, and demand not why,
But, as they chant or answer, feel
A vague communion with the sky.

VIII

But when the impetuous mind is spurred
To range through epochs great but gone,
And, heedless of dogmatic word,
With fearless ardour presses on,

Confronting pulpit, sceptre, shrine,
With point by Logic beaten out,
And, questioning tenets deemed divine
With human challenge, human doubt,

Hoists Reason's sail, and for the haze
Of ocean quits Tradition's shore,
Awhile he comes, and kneels, and prays,
Then comes and kneels, but prays no more;

And only for the love he bears
To those who love him, and who reared
His frame to genuflexion, shares
In ritual, vain, if still revered.

His Gods are many or are none,
Saturn and Mithra, Christ and Jove,
Consorting, as the Ages run,
With Vestal choir or Pagan drove.

Abiding still by Northern shores,
He sees far off on Grecian coast
Veiled Aphrodite, but adores
Minerva and Apollo most.

Beauty of vision, voice, and mind,
Enthrall him so, that unto him
All Creeds seem true, if he but find
Siren, or saint, or seraphim.

And thus once more he dwells apart,
His inward self enswathed in mist,
Blending with poet's pious heart
The dreams of pagan Hedonist.

IX

If Beauty be the Spirit's quest,
Its adoration, creed, and shrine,
Wherein its restlessness finds rest,
And earthly type of the Divine,

Must there for such not somewhere be
A blending of all beauteous things
In some one form wherein we see
The sum of our imaginings?

The smile on mountain's musing brow,
Sunrise and sunset, moon and star,
Wavelets around the cygnet's prow,
Glamour anear and charm afar;

The silence of the silvery pool,
Autumn's reserve and Summer's fire,
Slow vanishings of Winter's rule
To free full voice of April's choir;-

The worshippers of Beauty find
In maiden form, and face, and tress;
Faint intimations of her mind
And undulating loveliness.

X

Bound, runnels, bound, bound on, and flow!
Sing, merle and mavis, pair and sing!
Gone is the Winter, fled the snow,
And all that lives is flushed with Spring.

Harry the woods, young truant folk,
For flowers to deck your cottage sills,
And, underneath my orchard oak,
Cluster, ye golden daffodils!

Unfettered by domestic vow,
Cuckoo, proclaim your vagrant loves,
And coo upon the self-same bough,
Inseparable turtle-doves.

Soar, laverock, soar on song to sky,
And with the choir of Heaven rejoice!
You cannot be more glad than I,
Who feel Her gaze, and hear Her voice:

Who see Her cheek more crimson glow,
And through Her veins love's current stream,
And feel a fear She doth but know
Is kin to joy and dawning dream.

Bound, rivulets, bound, bound on, and flow!
Sing, merle and mavis, pair and sing!
Gone from the world are want and woe,
And I myself am one with Spring.

XI

They err who say that Love is blind,
Or, if it be, 'tis but in part,
And that, if for fair face it find
No counterpart in mind and heart,

It dwells on that which it beholds,
Fair fleshly vision void of soul,
Deeming, illusioned, this enfolds,
Longing's fulfilment, end, and whole.

Were such my hapless carnal lot,
I too might evanescent bliss
Embrace, fierce-fancied, fast forgot,
Then leave for some fresh loveliness.

But April gaze, and Summer tress,
With something of Autumnal thought,
In Her seem blent to crown and bless
A bond I long in dreams have sought.

She looks as though She came to grace
The earth, from world less soiled than this,
Around her head and virgin face
Halo of heavenly holiness.

XII

He who hath roamed through various lands,
And, wheresoe'er his steps are set,
The kindred meaning understands
Of spire, and dome, and minaret;

By Roman river, Stamboul's sea,
In Peter's or Sophia's shrine,
Acknowledges with reverent knee
The presence of the One Divine;

Who, to the land he loves so well
Returning, towards the sunset hour
Wends homeward, feels yet stronger spell
In lichened roof and grey church-tower;

Round whose foundations, side by side,
Sleep hamlet wit and village sage,
While loud the blackbird cheers his bride
Deep in umbrageous Vicarage.

XIII

Was it that sense which some aver
Foreshadows Fate it doth not see,
That gave unwittingly to Her
The name, for ever dear to me,

Borne by that tearful Mother whom,
Nigh unto Ostia's shelving sand,
Augustine laid in lonely tomb,
Ere sailing for his Afric land?

But I at least should have foreseen,
When Monica to me had grown
Familiar word, that names may mean
More than by word and name is shown;

That nought can keep two lives apart
More than divorce 'twixt mind and mind,
Even though heart be one with heart;-
Alas! Alas! Yes, Love is blind.

XIV

How could I think of jarring Creeds,
And riddles that unread remain,
Or ask if Heaven's indulgence heeds
Broils born of man's polemic brain,

And pause because my venturous mind
Had roamed through tracks of polar thought,
Whence mightiest spirits turn back blind,
Since finding not the thing they sought,

When Love, with luring gifts in hand,
Beauty, refinement, smile, caress,
Heart to surmise and understand,
And crowning grace of holiness,

Stood there before me, and, with gaze
I had been purblind not to see,
Said, ``I to you will, all my days,
Give what you yearn to give to me''?

Must both then sorrow, while we live,
Because, rejoicing, I forgot
Something there was I could not give,
Because, alas! I had it not.

XV

She comes from Vicarage Garden, see!
Radiant as morning, lithe and tall,
Fresh lilies in her hand, but She
The loveliest lily of them all.

The thrushes in their fluting pause,
The bees float humming round her head,
Earth, air, and heaven shine out because
They hear her voice, and feel her tread.

Up in the fretted grey church-tower,
That rustic gaze for miles can see,
The belfry strikes the silvery hour,
Announcing her propinquity.

And I who, fearful to be late,
Passed long since through the deerpark pale,
And loitered by the churchyard gate,
Once more exclaim, ``Hail! loved one! hail!''

We pass within, and up the nave,
Husht, because Heaven seems always there,
Wend choirward, where, devoutly grave,
She kneels, to breathe a silent prayer.

She takes the flowers I too have brought,
Blending them deftly with her own,
And ranges them, as quick as thought,
Around the white-draped altar-throne.

How could she know my gaze was not
On things unseen, but fixed on Her,
That, as She prayed, I all forgot
The worship in the worshipper?-

While She beheld, as in a glass,
The Light Divine, that I but sought
Sight of her soul?-Alas! Alas!
Love is yet blinder than I thought.

XVI

Who hath not seen a little cloud
Up from the clear horizon steal,
And, mounting lurid, mutter loud
Premonitory thunder-peal?

Husht grows the grove, the summer leaf
Trembles and writhes, as if in pain,
And then the sky, o'ercharged with grief,
Bursts into drenching tears of rain.

I through the years had sought to hide
My darkening doubts from simple sight.
'Tis sacrilegious to deride
Faith of unquestioning neophyte.

And what, methought, is Doubt at best?
A sterile wind through seeded sedge
Blowing for nought, an empty nest
That lingers in a leafless hedge.

Pain, too, there is we should not share
With others lest it mar their joy;
There is a quiet bliss in prayer
None but the heartless would destroy.

But just as Love is quick divined
From heightened glow or visage pale,
The meditations of the Mind
Disclose themselves through densest veil.

And 'tis the unloving and least wise
Who through life's inmost precincts press,
And with unsympathetic eyes
Outrage our sacred loneliness.

Then, when their sacrilegious gaze
The mournful void hath half surmised,
To some more tender soul they raise
The veil of ignorance it prized.

XVII

`What though I write farewell I could
Not utter, lest your gaze should chide,
'Twill by your love be understood
My love is still, dear, at your side.

``Nor must we meet to speak goodbye,
Lest that my Will should lose its choice,
And conscience waver, for then I
Should see your face and hear your voice.

``But, when you find yourself once more,
Come back, come back and look for me,
Beside the little lowly door,
The Doorway of Humility.''

XVIII

There! Peace at last! The far-off roar
Of human passion dies away.
``Welcome to our broad shade once more,''
The waning woodlands seem to say:

The music of the vagrant wind,
That wandered aimlessly, is stilled;
The songless branches all remind
That Summer's glory is fulfilled.

The fluttering of the falling leaves
Dimples the leaden pool awhile;
So Age impassively receives
Youth's tale of troubles with a smile.

Thus, as the seasons steal away,
How much is schemed, how little done,
What splendid plans at break of day!
What void regrets at set of sun!

The world goes round, for you, for me,
For him who sleeps, for him who strives,
And the cold Fates indifferent see
Crowning or failure of our lives.

Then fall, ye leaves, fade, summer breeze!
Grow, sedges, sere on every pool!
Let each old glowing impulse freeze,
Let each old generous project cool!

It is not wisdom, wit, nor worth,
Self-sacrifice nor friendship true,
Makes venal devotees of earth
Prostrate themselves and worship you.

The consciousness of sovran powers,
The stubborn purpose, steadfast will,
Have ever, in this world of ours,
Achieved success, achieve it still.

Farewell, ye woods! No more I sit;
Great voices in the distance call.
If this be peace, enough of it!
I go. Fall, unseen foliage, fall!

XIX

Nay, but repress rebellious woe!
In grief 'tis not that febrile fool,
Passion, that can but overthrow,
But Resignation, that should rule.

In patient sadness lurks a gift
To purify the life it stings,
And, as the days move onward, lift
The lonely heart to loftier things;

Bringing within one's ripening reach
The sceptre of majestic Thought,
Wherefrom one slowly learns to teach
The Wisdom to oneself it taught.

And unto what can man aspire,
On earth, more worth the striving for,
Than to be Reason's loftier lyre,
And reconciling monitor;

To strike a more resounding string
And deeper notes of joy and pain,
Than such as but lamenting sing,
Or warble but a sensuous strain:

So, when my days are nearly sped,
And my last harvest labours done,
That I may have around my head
The halo of a setting sun.

Yet even if be heard above
Such selfish hope, presumptuous claim,
Better one hour of perfect love
Than an eternity of Fame!

XX

Where then for grief seek out the cure?
What scenes will bid my smart to cease?
High peaks should teach one to endure,
And lakes secluded bring one peace.

Farewell awhile, then, village bells,
Autumnal wood and harvest wain!
And welcome, as it sinks or swells,
The music of the mighty main,

That seems to say, now loud, now low,
Rising or falling, sweet or shrill,
``I pace, a sentry, to and fro,
To guard your Island fortress still.''

The roses falter on their stalk,
The late peach reddens on the wall,
The flowers along the garden walk
Unheeded fade, unheeded fall.

My gates unopened drip with rain,
The wolf-hound wends from floor to floor,
And, listening for my voice in vain,
Waileth along the corridor.

Within the old accustomed place
Where we so oft were wont to be,
Kneeling She prays, while down her face
The fruitless tears fall silently.


SWITZERLAND

XXI
Rain, wind, and rain. The writhing lake
Scuds to and fro to scape their stroke:
The mountains veil their heads, and make
Of cloud and mist a wintry cloak.

Through where the arching pinewoods make
Dusk cloisters down the mountain side,
The loosened avalanches take
Valeward their way, with death for guide,

And toss their shaggy manes and fling
To air their foam and tawny froth,
From ledge and precipice bound and spring,
With hungry roar and deepening wrath;

Till, hamlet homes and orchards crushed,
And, rage for further ravin stayed,
They slumber, satiated, husht,
Upon the ruins they have made.

I rise from larch-log hearth, and, lone,
Gaze on the spears of serried rain,
That faster, nigher, still are blown,
Then stream adown the window pane.

The peasant's goatskin garments drip,
As home he wends with lowered head,
Shakes off the drops from lid and lip,
Then slinks within his châlet shed.

The cattle bells sound dull and hoarse,
The boats rock idly by the shore;
Only the swollen torrents course
With faster feet and fuller roar.

Mournful, I shape a mournful song,
And ask the heavens, but ask in vain,
``How long, how long?'' Ah! not so long
As, in my heart, rain, wind, and rain.

XXII

I ask the dark, the dawn, the sun,
The domeward-pointing peaks of snow,
Lofty and low alike, but none
Will tell me what I crave to know.

My mind demands, ``Whence, Whither, Why?''
From mountain slope and green defile,
And wait the answer. The reply-
A far-off irresponsive smile.

I ask the stars, when mortals sleep,
The pensive moon, the lonely winds;
But, haply if they know, they keep
The secret of secluded minds.

Shall I in vain, then, strive to find,
Straining towards merely fancied goal?
Where in the lily lurks the mind,
Where in the rose discern the soul?

More mindless still, stream, pasture, lake,
The mountains yet more heartless seem,
And life's unceasing quest and ache
Only a dream within a dream.

We know no more, though racked with thought
Than he who, in yon châlet born,
Gives not the riddle, Life, a thought,
But lays him down and sleeps till morn.

Sometimes he kneels; I cannot kneel,
So suffer from a wider curse
Than Eden's outcasts, for I feel
An exile in the universe.

The rudeness of his birth enures
His limbs to every season's stings,
And, never probing, so endures
The sadness at the heart of things.

When lauwine growls, and thunder swells,
Their far-off clamour sounds to me
But as the noise of clanging bells
Above a silent sanctuary.

It is their silence that appals,
Their aspect motionless that awes,
When searching spirit vainly calls
On the effect to bare the Cause.

I get no answer, near or far;
The mountains, though they soar so high,
And scale the pathless ether, are
No nearer unto God than I.

There dwells nor mystery nor veil
Round the clear peaks no foot hath trod;
I, gazing on their frontage pale,
See but the waning ghost of God.

Is Faith then but a drug for sleep,
And Hope a fondly soothing friend
That bids us, when it sees us weep,
Wait for the End that hath no end?

Then do I hear voice unforgot
Wailing across the distance dim,
``Think, dear! If God existeth not,
Why are you always seeking Him?''

XXIII

Like glowing furnace of the forge,
How the winds rise and roar, as they
Up twisting valley, craggy gorge,
Seek, and still seek, to storm their way;

Then, baffled, up the open slope
With quickening pulses scale and pant,
Indomitably bent to cope
With bristling fronts of adamant.

All through the day resounds the strife,
Then doth at sunset hour subside:
So the fierce passions of our life
Slowly expire at eventide.

By Nature we are ne'er misled;
We see most truly when we dream.
A singer wise was he who said,
``Follow the gleam! Follow the gleam!''

XXIV

I dreamed, last night, again I stood,
Silent, without the village shrine,
While She in modest maidenhood
Left, fondly clasped, her hand in mine.

And, with a face as cerecloth white,
And tears like those that by the bier
Of loved one lost make dim the sight,
She poured her sorrows in mine ear.

``I love your voice, I love your gaze,
But there is something dearer still,
The faith that kneels, the hope that prays,
And bows before the Heavenly Will.

``Not where hills rise, or torrents roll,
Seek Him, nor yet alone, apart;
He dwells within the troubled soul,
His home is in the human heart.

``Withal, the peaceful mountains may
'Twixt doubt and yearning end the strife:
So ponder, though you cannot pray,
And think some meaning into life:

``Nor like to those that cross the main
To wander witless through strange land,
Hearing unmastered tongues, disdain
The speech they do not understand.

``Firm stands my faith that they who sound
The depths of doubt Faith yet will save:
They are like children playing round
A still remembered mother's grave;

``Not knowing, when they wax more old,
And somewhat can her vision share,
She will the winding-sheet unfold,
And beckon them to evening prayer.''

Then, with my hand betwixt her hands,
She laid her lips upon my brow,
And, as to one who understands,
Said, ``Take once more my vestal vow.

``No other gaze makes mine to glow,
No other footstep stirs my heart,
To me you only dearer grow,
Dearer and nearer, more apart.

``Whene'er you come with humble mind,
The little Door stands open wide,
And, bending low, you still will find
Me waiting on the other side.''

Her silence woke me. . . . To your breast
Fold me, O sleep! and seal mine ears;
That She may roam through my unrest
Till all my dreams are drenched with tears!

XXV

Why linger longer, subject, here,
Where Nature sits and reigns alone,
Inspiring love not, only fear,
Upon her autocratic throne?

Her edicts are the rigid snow,
The wayward winds, the swaying branch;
She hath no pity to bestow,
Her law the lawless avalanche.

Though soon cascades will bound and sing,
That now but drip with tears of ice,
And upland meadows touched by Spring
Blue gentian blend with edelweiss,

Hence to the Land of youthful dreams,
The Land that taught me all I know.
Farewell, lone mountain-peaks and streams;
Yet take my thanks before I go.

You gave me shelter when I fled,
But sternly bade me stem my tears,
Nor aimless roam with rustling tread
'Mong fallen leaves of fruitless years.

ITALY

XXVI

Upon the topmost wheel-track steep,
The parting of two nations' ways,
Athwart stone cross engraven deep,
The name ``Italia'' greets the gaze!

I trembled, when I saw it first,
With joy, my boyish longings fed,
The headspring of my constant thirst,
The altar of my pilgrim tread.

Now once again the magic word,
So faintly borne to Northern home,
Sounds like a silvery trumpet heard
Beneath some universal dome.

The forests soften to a smile,
A smile the very mountains wear,
Through mossy gorge and grassed defile
Torrents race glad and debonair.

From casement, balcony and door,
Hang golden gourds, droops tear-tipped vine,
And sun-bronzed faces bask before
Thin straw-swathed flasks of last year's wine.

Unyoked, the patient sleek-skinned steers
Take, like their lords, no heed of time.
Hark! now the evening star appears,
Ave Maria belfries chime.

The maidens knit, and glance, and sing,
With glowing gaze 'neath ebon tress,
And, like to copse-buds sunned by Spring,
Seem burgeoning into tenderness.

On waveless lake where willows weep,
The Borromean Islands rest
As motionless as babe asleep
Upon a slumbering Mother's breast.

O Land of sunshine, song, and Love!
Whether thy children reap or sow,
Of Love they chant on hills above,
Of Love they sing in vale below.

But what avail the love-linked hands,
And love-lit eyes, to them that roam
Passionless through impassioned lands,
Since they have left their heart at home!

XXVII

Among my dreams, now known as dreams
In this my reawakened life,
I thought that by historic streams,
Apart from stress, aloof from strife,

By rugged paths that twist and twine
Through olive slope and chesnut wood
Upward to mediaeval shrine,
Or high conventual brotherhood,

Along the mountain-curtained track
Round peaceful lake where wintry bands
Halt briefly but to bivouac
Ere blustering on to Northern lands;-

Through these, through all I first did see,
With me to share my raptures none,
That nuptialled Monica would be
My novice and companion:

That we should float from mere to mere,
And sleep within some windless cove,
With nightingales to lull the ear,
From ilex wood and orange grove;

Linger at hamlets lost to fame,
That still wise-wandering feet beguile,
To gaze on frescoed wall or frame
Lit by Luini's gracious smile.

Now, but companioned by my pain,
Among each well-remembered scene
I can but let my Fancy feign
The happiness that might have been;

Imagine that I hear her voice,
Imagine that I feel her hand,
And I, enamoured guide, rejoice
To see her swift to understand.

Alack! Imagination might
As lief with rustic Virgil roam,
Reverent, or, welcomed guest, alight
At Pliny's philosophic home;

Hear one majestically trace
Rome's world-wide sway from wattled wall,
And read upon the other's face
The omens of an Empire's fall.

XXVIII

Like moonlight seen through forest leaves,
She shines upon me from afar,
What time men reap the ripened sheaves,
And Heaven rains many a falling star.

I gaze up to her lofty height,
And feel how far we dwell apart:
O if I could, this night, this night,
Fold her full radiance to my heart!

But She in Heaven, and I on earth,
Still journey on, but each alone;
She, maiden Queen of sacred birth,
Who with no consort shares her throne.

XXIX

What if She ever thought She saw
The self within myself prefer
Communion with the silent awe
Of far-off mountains more than Her;

That Nature hath the mobile grace
To make life with our moods agree,
And so had grown the Loved One's face,
Since it nor checked nor chided me;

Or from the tasks that irk and tire
I sought for comfort from the Muse,
Because it grants the mind's desire
All that familiar things refuse.

How vain such thought! The face, the form,
Of mountain summits but express,
Clouded or clear, in sun or storm,
Feebly Her spirit's loftiness.

Did I explore from pole to pole,
In Nature's aspect I should find
But faint reflections of Her soul,
Dim adumbrations of Her mind.

O come and test with lake, with stream,
With mountain, which the stronger be,
Thou, my divinest dearest dream,
My Muse, and more than Muse, to me!

XXX

They tell me that Jehovah speaks
In silent grove, on lonely strand,
And summit of the mountain peaks;
Yet there I do not understand.

The stars, disdainful of my thought,
Majestic march toward their goal,
And to my nightly watch have brought
No explanation to my soul.

The truth I seek I cannot find,
In air or sky, on land or sea;
If the hills have their secret mind,
They will not yield it up to me:

Like one who lost mid lonely hills
Still seeks but cannot find his way,
Since guide is none save winding rills,
That seem themselves, too, gone astray.

And so from rise to set of sun,
At glimmering dawn, in twilight haze,
I but behold the face of One
Who veils her face, and weeps, and prays.

What know I that She doth not know?
What I know not, She understands:
With heavenly gifts She overflows,
While I have only empty hands.

O weary wanderer! Best forego
This questioning of wind and wave.
For you the sunshine and the snow,
The womb, the cradle, and the grave.


XXXI

How blest, when organ concords swell,
And anthems are intoned, are they
Who neither reason nor rebel,
But meekly bow their heads and pray.

And such the peasants mountain-bred,
Who hail to-day with blithe accord
Her Feast Who to the Angel said,
``Behold the Handmaid of the Lord!''

Downward they wind from pastoral height,
Or hamlet grouped round shattered towers,
To wend to shrine more richly dight,
And bring their gift of wilding flowers;

Their gifts, their griefs, their daily needs,
And lay these at Her statue's base,
Who never, deem they, intercedes
Vainly before the Throne of Grace.

Shall I, because I stand apart,
A stranger to their pious vows,
Scorn their humility of heart
That pleads before the Virgin Spouse,

Confiding that the Son will ne'er,
If in His justice wroth with them,
Refuse to harken to Her prayer
Who suckled Him in Bethlehem?

Of all the intercessors born
By man's celestial fancy, none
Hath helped the sorrowing, the forlorn,
Lowly and lone, as She hath done.

The maiden faithful to Her shrine
Bids demons of temptation flee,
And mothers fruitful as the vine
Retain their vestal purity.

Too trustful love, by lust betrayed,
And by cold worldlings unforgiven,
Unto Her having wept and prayed,
Faces its fate, consoled and shriven.

The restless, fiercely probing mind
No honey gleans, though still it stings.
What comfort doth the spirit find
In Reason's endless reasonings?

They have no solace for my grief,
Compassion none for all my pain:
They toss me like the fluttering leaf,
And leave me to the wind and rain.


XXXII

If Conscience be God's Law to Man,
Then Conscience must perforce arraign
Whatever falls beneath the ban
Of that allotted Suzerain.

And He, who bids us not to swerve,
Whither the wayward passions draw,
From its stern sanctions, must observe
The limits of the self-same Law.

Yet, if obedient Conscience scan
The sum of wrongs endured and done
Neither by act nor fault of Man,
They rouse it to rebellion.

Life seems of life by life bereft
Through some immitigable curse,
And Man sole moral being left
In a non-moral Universe.

My Conscience would my Will withstand,
Did Will project a world like this:
Better Eternal vacuum still,
Than murder, lust, and heartlessness!

If Man makes Conscience, then being good
Is only being worldly wise,
And universal brotherhood
A comfortable compromise.

O smoke of War! O blood-steeped sod!
O groans of fratricidal strife!
Who will explain the ways of God,
That I may be at peace with life!

The moral riddle 'tis that haunts,
Primeval and unending curse,
Racking the mind when pulpit vaunts
A Heaven-created Universe.

Yet whence came Life, and how begin?
Rolleth the globe by choice or chance?
Dear Lord! Why longer shut me in
This prison-house of ignorance!


FLORENCE


XXXIII

City acclaimed ere Dante's days
Fair, and baptized in field of flowers,
Once more I scan with tender gaze
Your glistening domes, your storied towers.

I feel as if long years had flown
Since first with eager heart I came,
And, girdled by your mountain zone,
Found you yet fairer than your fame.

It was the season purple-sweet
When figs are plump, and grapes are pressed,
And all your sons with following feet
Bore a dead Poet to final rest.

You seemed to fling your gates ajar,
And softly lead me by the hand,
Saying, ``Behold! henceforth you are
No stranger in the Tuscan land.''

And though no love my love can wean
From native crag and cradling sea,
Yet Florence from that hour hath been
More than a foster-nurse to me.

When mount I terraced slopes arrayed
In bridal bloom of peach and pear,
While under olive's phantom shade
Lupine and beanflower scent the air,

The wild-bees hum round golden bay,
The green frog sings on fig-tree bole,
And, see! down daisy-whitened way
Come the slow steers and swaying pole.

The fresh-pruned vine-stems, curving, bend
Over the peaceful wheaten spears,
And with the glittering sunshine blend
Their transitory April tears.

O'er wall and trellis trailed and wound,
Hang roses blushing, roses pale;
And, hark! what was that silvery sound?
The first note of the nightingale.

Curtained, I close my lids and dream
Of Beauty seen not but surmised,
And, lulled by scent and song, I seem
Immortally imparadised.

When from the deep sweet swoon I wake
And gaze past slopes of grape and grain,
Where Arno, like some lonely lake,
Silvers the far-off seaward plain,

I see celestial sunset fires
That lift us from this earthly leaven,
And darkly silent cypress spires
Pointing the way from hill to Heaven.

Then something more than mortal steals
Over the wavering twilight air,
And, messenger of nightfall, peals
From each crowned peak a call to prayer.

And now the last meek prayer is said,
And, in the hallowed hush, there is
Only a starry dome o'erhead,
Propped by columnar cypresses.


XXXIV

Re-roaming through this palaced town,
I suddenly, 'neath grim-barred pile,
Catch sight of Dante's awful frown,
Or Leonardo's mystic smile;

Then, swayed by memory's fancy, stroll
To where from May-day's flaming pyre
Savonarola's austere soul
Went up to Heaven in tongues of fire;

Or Buonarroti's plastic hand
Made marble block from Massa's steep
Dawn into Day at his command,
Then plunged it into Night and Sleep.

No later wanderings can dispel
The glamour of the bygone years;
And, through the streets I know so well,
I scarce can see my way for tears.


XXXV

A sombre shadow seems to fall
On comely altar, transept fair;
The saints are still on frescoed wall,
But who comes thither now for prayer?

Men throng from far-off stranger land,
To stare, to wonder, not to kneel,
With map and guide-book in their hand
To tell them what to think and feel.

They scan, they prate, they marvel why
The figures still expressive glow,
Oblivious they were painted by
Adoring Frà Angelico.

Did Dante from his tomb afar
Return, his wrongs redressed at last,
And see you, Florence, as you are,
Half alien to your gracious Past,

Finding no Donatello now,
No reverent Giotto 'mong the quick,
To glorify ascetic vow
Of Francis or of Dominic;

Self-exiled by yet sterner fate
Than erst, he would from wandering cease,
And, ringing at monastic gate,
Plead, ``I am one who craves for peace.''

And what he sought but ne'er could find,
Shall I, less worthy, hope to gain,
The freedom of the tranquil mind,
The lordship over loss and pain?

More than such peace I found when I
Did first, in unbound youth, repair
To Tuscan shrine, Ausonian sky.
I found it, for I brought it there.


XXXVI

Yet Art brings peace, itself is Peace,
And, as I on these frescoes gaze,
I feel all fretful tumults cease
And harvest calm of mellower days.

For Soul too hath its seasons. Time,
That leads Spring, Summer, Autumn, round,
Makes our ephemeral passions chime
With something permanent and profound.

And, as in Nature, April oft
Strives to revert to wintry hours,
But shortly upon garth and croft
Re-sheds warm smiles and moistening showers,

Or, for one day, will Autumn wear
The gayer garments of the Spring,
And then athwart the wheatfields bare
Again her graver shadows fling;

So, though the Soul hath moods that veer,
And seem to hold no Rule in awe,
Like the procession of the year,
It too obeys the sovran Law.

Nor Art itself brings settled peace,
Until the mind is schooled to know
That gusts subside and tumults cease
Only in sunset's afterglow.

Life's contradictions vanish then,
Husht thought replacing clashing talk
Among the windy ways of men.
'Tis in the twilight Angels walk.


ROME


XXXVII

The last warm gleams of sunset fade
From cypress spire and stonepine dome,
And, in the twilight's deepening shade,
Lingering, I scan the wrecks of Rome.

Husht the Madonna's Evening Bell;
The steers lie loosed from wain and plough;
The vagrant monk is in his cell,
The meek nun-novice cloistered now.

Pedant's presumptuous voice no more
Vexes the spot where Caesar trod,
And o'er the pavement's soundless floor
Come banished priest and exiled God.

The lank-ribbed she-wolf, couched among
The regal hillside's tangled scrubs,
With doting gaze and fondling tongue
Suckles the Vestal's twin-born cubs.

Yet once again Evander leads
Æneas to his wattled home,
And, throned on Tiber's fresh-cut reeds,
Talks of burnt Troy and rising Rome.

From out the tawny dusk one hears
The half-feigned scream of Sabine maids,
The rush to arms, then swift the tears
That separate the clashing blades.

The Lictors with their fasces throng
To quell the Commons' rising roar,
As Tullia's chariot flames along,
Splashed with her murdered father's gore.

Her tresses free from band or comb,
Love-dimpled Venus, lithe and tall,
And fresh as Fiumicino's foam,
Mounts her pentelic pedestal.

With languid lids, and lips apart,
And curving limbs like wave half-furled,
Unarmed she dominates the heart,
And without sceptre sways the world.

Nerved by her smile, avenging Mars
Stalks through the Forum's fallen fanes,
Or, changed of mien and healed of scars,
Threads sylvan slopes and vineyard plains.

With waves of song from wakening lyre
Apollo routs the wavering night,
While, parsley-crowned, the white-robed choir
Wind chanting up the Sacred Height,

Where Jove, with thunder-garlands wreathed,
And crisp locks frayed like fretted foam,
Sits with his lightnings half unsheathed,
And frowns against the foes of Rome.

You cannot kill the Gods. They still
Reclaim the thrones where once they reigned,
Rehaunt the grove, remount the rill,
And renovate their rites profaned.

Diana's hounds still lead the chase,
Still Neptune's Trident crests the sea,
And still man's spirit soars through space
On feathered heels of Mercury.

No flood can quench the Vestals' Fire;
The Flamen's robes are still as white
As ere the Salii's armoured choir
Were drowned by droning anchorite.

The saint may seize the siren's seat,
The shaveling frown where frisked the Faun;
Ne'er will, though all beside should fleet,
The Olympian Presence be withdrawn.

Here, even in the noontide glare,
The Gods, recumbent, take their ease;
Go look, and you will find them there,
Slumbering behind some fallen frieze.

But most, when sunset glow hath paled,
And come, as now, the twilight hour,
In vesper vagueness dimly veiled
I feel their presence and their power.

What though their temples strew the ground,
And to the ruin owls repair,
Their home, their haunt, is all around;
They drive the cloud, they ride the air.

And, when the planets wend their way
Along the never-ageing skies,
``Revere the Gods'' I hear them say;
``The Gods are old, the Gods are wise.''

Build as man may, Time gnaws and peers
Through marble fissures, granite rents;
Only Imagination rears
Imperishable monuments.

Let Gaul and Goth pollute the shrine,
Level the altar, fire the fane:
There is no razing the Divine;
The Gods return, the Gods remain.


XXXVIII

Christ is arisen. The place wherein
They laid Him shows but cerements furled,
And belfry answers belfry's din
To ring the tidings round the world.

Grave Hierarchs come, an endless band,
In jewelled mitre, cope embossed,
Who bear Rome's will to every land
In all the tongues of Pentecost.

Majestic, along marble floor,
Walk Cardinals in blood-red robe,
Martyrs for Faith and Christ no more,
Who gaze as though they ruled the globe.

With halberds bare and doublets slashed,
Emblems that war will never cease,
Come martial guardians, unabashed,
And march afront the Prince of Peace.

Then, in his gestatorial Chair
See Christ's vicegerent, bland, benign,
To crowds all prostrate as in prayer
Lean low, and make the Holy Sign.

Then trumpets shrill, and organ peals,
Throughout the mighty marble pile,
Whileas a myriad concourse kneels
In dense-packed nave and crowded aisle.

Hark to the sudden hush! Aloft
From unseen source in empty dome
Swells prayerful music silvery-soft,
Borne from far-off celestial Home.

Then, when the solemn rite is done,
The worshippers stream out to where
Dance fountains glittering in the sun,
While expectation fills the air.

Now on high balcony He stands,
And-save for the Colonna curse,-
Blesses with high-uplifted hands
The City and the Universe.

Christ is arisen! But scarce as when,
On the third day of death and gloom,
Came ever-loving Magdalen
With tears and spices to His tomb.


XXXIX

The Tiber winds its sluggish way
Through niggard tracts whence Rome's command
Once cast the shadow of her sway,
O'er Asian city, Afric sand.

Nor even yet doth She resign
Her sceptre. Still the spell is hers,
Though she may seem a rifled shrine
'Mid circumjacent sepulchres.

One after one, they came, they come,
Gaul, Goth, Savoy, to work their will;
She answers, when She most seems dumb,
``I wore the Crown, I wear it still.

``From Jove I first received the gift,
I from Jehovah wear it now,
Nor shall profane invader lift
The diadem from off my brow.

``The Past is mine, and on the Past
The Future builds; and Time will rear
The next strong structure on the last,
Where men behold but shattered tier.

``The Teuton hither hies to teach,
To prove, disprove, to delve and probe.
Fool! Pedant! Does he think to reach
The deep foundations of the globe?''

For me, I am content to tread
On Sabine dust and Gothic foe.
Leave me to deepening silent dread
Of vanished Empire's afterglow.

In this Imperial wilderness
Why rashly babble and explore?
O, let me know a little less,
So I may feel a little more!


XL

For upward of one thousand years,
Here men and women prayed to Jove,
With smiles and incense, gifts and tears,
In secret shrine, or civic grove;

And, when Jove did not seem to heed,
Sought Juno's mediatorial power,
Or begged fair Venus intercede
And melt him in his amorous hour.

Sages invoked Minerva's might;
The Poet, ere he struck the lyre,
Prayed to the God of Song and Light
To touch the strings with hallowed fire.

With flaming herbs were altars smoked
Sprinkled with blood and perfumed must,
And gods and goddesses invoked
To second love or sanction lust.

And did they hear and heed the prayer,
Or, through that long Olympian reign,
Were they divinities of air
Begot of man's fantastic brain?

In Roman halls their statues still
Serenely stand, but no one now
Ascends the Capitolian Hill,
To render thanks, or urge the vow.

Through now long centuries hath Rome
Throned other God, preached other Creed,
That here still have their central home,
And feed man's hope, content his need.

Against these, too, will Time prevail?
No! Let whatever gestates, be,
Secure will last the tender tale
From Bethlehem to Calvary.

Throughout this world of pain and loss,
Man ne'er will cease to bend his knee
To Crown of Thorns, to Spear, to Cross,
And Doorway of Humility.


XLI

If Reason be the sole safe guide
In man implanted from above,
Why crave we for one only face,
Why consecrate the name of Love?

Faces there are no whit less fair,
Yet ruddier lip, more radiant eye,
Same rippling smile, same auburn hair,
But not for us. Say, Reason, why.

Why bound our hearts when April pied
Comes singing, or when hawthorn blows?
Doth logic in the lily hide,
And where's the reason in the rose?

Why weld our keels and launch our ships,
If Reason urge some wiser part,
Kiss England's Flag with dying lips
And fold its glories to the heart?

In this gross world we touch and see,
If Reason be no trusty guide,
For world unseen why should it be
The sole explorer justified?

The homing swallow knows its nest,
Sure curves the comet to its goal,
Instinct leads Autumn to its rest,
And why not Faith the homing soul?

Is Reason so aloof, aloft,
It doth not 'gainst itself rebel,
And are not Reason's reasonings oft
By Reason proved unreasonable?

He is perplexed no more, who prays,
``Hail, Mary Mother, full of grace!''
O drag me from Doubt's endless maze,
And let me see my Loved One's face!


XLII

``Upon this rock!'' Yet even here
Where Christian God ousts Pagan wraith,
Rebellious Reason whets its spear,
And smites upon the shield of Faith.

On sacred mount, down seven-hilled slopes,
Fearless it faces foe and friend,
Saying to man's immortal hopes,
``Whatso began, perforce must end.''

Not men alone, but gods too, die;
Fanes are, like hearths, left bare and lone;
This earth will into fragments fly,
And Heaven itself be overthrown.

Why then should Man immortal be?
He is but fleeting form, to fade,
Like momentary cloud, or sea
Of waves dispersed as soon as made.

Yet if 'tis Force, not Form, survives,
Meseems therein that one may find
Some comfort for distressful lives;
For, if Force ends not, why should Mind?

Is Doubt more forceful than Belief?
The doctor's cap than friar's cowl?
O ripeness of the falling leaf!
O wisdom of the moping owl!

Man's Mind will ever stand apart
From Science, save this have for goal
The evolution of the heart,
And sure survival of the Soul.


XLIII

The Umbilicum lonely stands
Where once rose porch and vanished dome;
But he discerns who understands
That every road may lead to Rome.

Enthroned in Peter's peaceful Chair,
The spiritual Caesar sways
A wider Realm of earth and air
Than trembled at Octavian's gaze.

His universal arms embrace
The saint, the sinner, and the sage,
And proffer refuge, comfort, grace
To tribulation's pilgrimage.

Here scientific searchers find
Precursors for two thousand years,
Who in a drouthy world divined
Fresh springs for human doubts and fears.

Here fair chaste Agnes veils her face
From prowlers of the sensual den,
And pity, pardon, and embrace
Await repentant Magdalen.

Princess and peasant-mother wend
To self-same altar, self-same shrine,
And Cardinal and Patriarch bend
Where lepers kneel, and beggars whine.

And is there then, in my distress,
No road, no gate, no shrine, for me?
The answer comes, ``Yes, surely, yes!
The Doorway of Humility.''

O rival Faiths! O clamorous Creeds!
Would you but hush your strife in prayer,
And raise one Temple for our needs,
Then, then, we all might worship there.

But dogma new with dogma old
Clashes to soothe the spirit's grief,
And offer to the unconsoled
Polyglot Babel of Belief!


XLIV

The billows roll, and rise, and break,
Around me; fixedly shine the stars
In clear dome overhead, and take
Their course, unheeding earthly jars.

Yet if one's upward gaze could be
But stationed where the planets are,
The star were restless as the sea,
The sea be tranquil as the star.

Hollowed like cradle, then like grave,
Now smoothly curved, now shapeless spray,
Withal the undirected wave
Forms, and reforms, and knows its way.

Then, waters, bear me on where He,
Ere death absolved at Christian font,
Removed Rome's menaced majesty
Eastward beyond the Hellespont.

Foreseeing not what Fate concealed,
But Time's caprice would there beget,
That Cross would unto Crescent yield,
Caesar and Christ to Mahomet.

Is it then man's predestined state
To search for, ne'er to find, the Light?
Arise, my Star, illuminate
These empty spaces of the Night!


XLV

Last night I heard the cuckoo call
Among the moist green glades of home,
And in the Chase around the Hall
Saw the May hawthorn flower and foam.

Deep in the wood where primrose stars
Paled before bluebell's dazzling reign,
The nightingale's sad sobbing bars
Rebuked the merle's too joyful strain.

The kine streamed forth from stall and byre,
The foal frisked round its mother staid,
The meads, by sunshine warmed, took fire,
And lambs in pasture, bleating, played.

The uncurbed rivulets raced to where
The statelier river curled and wound,
And trout, of human step aware,
Shot through the wave without a sound.

Adown the village street, as clear
As in one's wakeful mid-day hours,
Beheld I Monica drawing near,
Her vestal lap one crib of flowers.

Lending no look to me, she passed
By the stone path, as oft before,
Between old mounds Spring newly grassed,
And entered through the Little Door.

Led by her feet, I hastened on,
But, ere my feverish steps could get
To the low porch, lo! Morning shone
On Moslem dome and minaret!


CONSTANTINOPLE

XLVI

Now Vesper brings the sunset hour,
And, where crusading Knighthood trod,
Muezzin from his minaret tower
Proclaims, ``There is no God but God!''

Male God who shares his godhead with
No Virgin Mother's sacred tear,
But finds on earth congenial kith
In wielders of the sword and spear:

Male God who on male lust bestows
The ruddy lip, the rounded limb,
And promises, at battle's close,
Houri, not saint nor seraphim.

Swift through the doubly-guarded stream,
Shoots the caïque 'neath oarsmen brisk,
While from its cushioned cradle gleam
The eyes of yashmaked odalisque.

Unchanged adown the changing years,
Here where the Judas blossoms blaze,
Against Sophia's marble piers
The scowling Muslim lean and gaze;

And still at sunset's solemn hour,
Where Christ's devout Crusader trod,
Defiant from the minaret's tower
Proclaim, ``There is no God but God!''


XLVII

Three rival Rituals. One revered
In that loved English hamlet where,
With flowers in Vicarage garden reared,
She decks the altar set for prayer:

Another, where majestic Rome,
With fearless Faith and flag unfurled
'Gainst Doubt's ephemeral wave and foam,
Demands obedience from the world.

The third, where now I stand, and where
Two hoary Continents have met,
And Islam guards from taint and tare
Monistic Creed of Mahomet.

Yet older than all three, but banned
To suffer still the exile's doom
From shrine where Turkish sentries stand,
And Christians wrangle round Christ's tomb.

Where then find Creed, divine or dead,
All may embrace, and none contemn?-
Remember Who it was that said,
``Not here, nor at Jerusalem!''


ATHENS


XLVIII

To Acrocorinth's brow I climb,
And, lulled in retrospective bliss,
Descry, as through the mists of time,
Faintly the far Acropolis.

Below me, rivers, mountains, vales,
Wide stretch of ancient Hellas lies:
Symbol of Song that never fails,
Parnassus communes with the skies.

I linger, dream-bound by the Past,
Till sundown joins time's deep abyss,
Then skirt, through shadows moonlight-cast,
Lone strand of sailless Salamis,

Until Eleusis gleams through dawn,
Where, though a suppliant soul I come,
The veil remains still unwithdrawn,
And all the Oracles are dumb.

So onward to the clear white Light,
Where, though the worshippers be gone,
Abides on unmysterious height
The calm unquestioning Parthenon.

Find I, now there I stand at last,
That naked Beauty, undraped Truth,
Can satisfy our yearnings vast,
The doubts of age, the dreams of youth;

That, while we ask, in futile strife,
From altar, tripod, fount, or well,
Form is the secret soul of life,
And Art the only Oracle;

That Hera and Athena, linked
With Aphrodite, hush distress,
And, in their several gifts distinct,
Withal are Triune Goddesses?

That mortal wiser then was He
Who gave the prize to Beauty's smile,
Divides his gifts among the Three,
And thuswise baffles Discord's guile?

But who is wise? The nobler twain,
Who the restraining girdle wear,
Contend too often all in vain
With sinuous curve and frolic hair.

Just as one sees in marble, still,
Pan o'er Apollo's shoulder lean,
Suggesting to the poet's quill
The sensual note, the hint obscene.

Doth then the pure white Light grow dim,
And must it be for ever thus?
Listen! I hear a far-off Hymn,
Veni, Creator, Spiritus!


XLIX

The harvest of Hymettus drips
As sweet as when the Attic bees
Swarmed round the honey-laden lips
Of heavenly-human Sophocles.

The olives are as green in grove
As in the days the poets bless,
When Pallas with Poseidon strove
To be the City's Patroness.

The wine-hued main, white marble frieze,
Dome of blue ether over all,
One still beholds, but nowhere sees
Panathenaic Festival.

O'erhead, no Zeus or frowns or nods,
Olympus none in air or skies;
Below, a sepulchre of Gods,
And tombs of dead Divinities.

Yet, are they dead? Still stricken blind,
Tiresiaslike, are they that see,
With bold uncompromising mind,
Wisdom in utter nudity;

Experiencing a kindred fate
With the First Parents of us all,
Jehovah thrust through Eden's Gate,
When Knowledge brought about their Fall.

Hath Aphrodite into foam,
Whence She first flowered, sunk back once more,
And doth She nowhere find a home,
Or worship, upon Christian shore?

Her shrine is in the human breast,
To find her none need soar or dive.
Goodness or Loveliness our quest,
The ever-helpful Gods survive.

Hellas retorts, when Hebrew gibes
At Gods of levity and lust,
``God of Judaea's wandering tribes
Was jealous, cruel, and unjust.''

Godhead, withal, remains the same,
And Art embalms its symbols still;
As Poets, when athirst for Fame,
Still dream of Aganippe's rill.


L

Why still pursue a bootless quest,
And wander heartsore farther East,
Because unanswered, south or west,
By Pagan seer or Christian priest?

Brahma and Buddha, what have they
To offer to my shoreless search?
``Let Contemplation be,'' they say,
``Your ritual, Nothingness your Church.

``Passion and purpose both forsake,
Echoes from non-existent wall;
We do but dream we are awake,
Ourselves the deepest dream of all.

``We dream we think, feel, touch, and see,
And what these are, still dreaming, guess,
Though there is no Reality
Behind their fleeting semblances.''

Thus the East answers my appeal,
Denies, and so illudes, my want.
Alas! Could I but cease to feel,
Brahma should be my Hierophant.

But, hampered by my Western mind,
I cannot set the Spirit free
From Matter, but Illusion find,
Of all, the most illusory.


DELPHI


LI

The morning mists that hid the bay
And curtained mountains fast asleep,
Begin to feel the touch of day,
And roll from off both wave and steep.

In floating folds they curve and rise,
Then slowly melt and merge in air,
Till high above me glow the skies,
And cloudless sunshine everywhere.

Parnassus wears nor veil nor frown,
Windless the eagle wings his way,
As I from Delphi gaze adown
On Salona and Amphissa.

It was the sovran Sun that drew
Aloft and scattered morning haze,
And now fills all the spacious blue
With its

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Senlin: His Futile Preoccupations

1

I am a house, says Senlin, locked and darkened,
Sealed from the sun with wall and door and blind.
Summon me loudly, and you'll hear slow footsteps
Ring far and faint in the galleries of my mind.
You'll hear soft steps on an old and dusty stairway;
Peer darkly through some corner of a pane,
You'll see me with a faint light coming slowly,
Pausing above some gallery of the brain . . .

I am a city . . . In the blue light of evening
Wind wanders among my streets and makes them fair;
I am a room of rock . . . a maiden dances
Lifting her hands, tossing her golden hair.
She combs her hair, the room of rock is darkened,
She extends herself in me, and I am sleep.
It is my pride that starlight is above me;
I dream amid waves of air, my walls are deep.

I am a door . . . before me roils the darkness,
Behind me ring clear waves of sound and light.
Stand in the shadowy street outside, and listen--
The crying of violins assails the night . . .
My walls are deep, but the cries of music pierce them;
They shake with the sound of drums . . . yet it is strange
That I should know so little what means this music,
Hearing it always within me change and change.

Knock on the door,--and you shall have an answer.
Open the heavy walls to set me free,
And blow a horn to call me into the sunlight,--
And startled, then, what a strange thing you will see!
Nuns, murderers, and drunkards, saints and sinners,
Lover and dancing girl and sage and clown
Will laugh upon you, and you will find me nowhere.
I am a room, a house, a street, a town.

2

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
I arise, I face the sunrise,
And do the things my fathers learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die,
And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet
Stand before a glass and tie my tie.

Vine leaves tap my window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chips in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And tie my tie once more.
While waves far off in a pale rose twilight
Crash on a white sand shore.
I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
How small and white my face!--
The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
And bathes in a flame of space.
There are houses hanging above the stars
And stars hung under a sea . . .
And a sun far off in a shell of silence
Dapples my walls for me . . .

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
Should I not pause in the light to remember God?
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair.
Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence!
I will think of you as I descend the stair.

Vine leaves tap my window,
The snail-track shines on the stones,
Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree
Repeating two clear tones.

It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence,
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening,
I am the same, and the same name still I keep.
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, I tie my tie.

There are horses neighing on far-off hills
Tossing their long white manes,
And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
Their shoulders black with rains . . .

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And surprise my soul once more;
The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
There are suns beneath my floor . . .

. . . It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
And depart on the winds of space for I know not where,
My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket,
And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
And a god among the stars; and I will go
Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
And humming a tune I know . . .

Vine-leaves tap at the window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

3

I walk to my work, says Senlin, along a street
Superbly hung in space.
I lift these mortal stones, and with my trowel
I tap them into place.
But is god, perhaps, a giant who ties his tie
Grimacing before a colossal glass of sky?

These stones are heavy, these stones decay,
These stones are wet with rain,
I build them into a wall today,
Tomorrow they fall again.

Does god arise from a chaos of starless sleep,
Rise from the dark and stretch his arms and yawn;
And drowsily look from the window at his garden;
And rejoice at the dewdrop sparkeling on his lawn?

Does he remember, suddenly, with amazement,
The yesterday he left in sleep,--his name,--
Or the glittering street superbly hung in wind
Along which, in the dusk, he slowly came?

I devise new patterns for laying stones
And build a stronger wall.
One drop of rain astonishes me
And I let my trowel fall.

The flashing of leaves delights my eyes,
Blue air delights my face;
I will dedicate this stone to god
And tap it into its place.

4

That woman--did she try to attract my attention?
Is it true I saw her smile and nod?
She turned her head and smiled . . . was it for me?
It is better to think of work or god.
The clouds pile coldly above the houses
Slow wind revolves the leaves:
It begins to rain, and the first long drops
Are slantingly blown from eaves.

But it is true she tried to attract my attention!
She pressed a rose to her chin and smiled.
Her hand was white by the richness of her hair,
Her eyes were those of a child.
It is true she looked at me as if she liked me.
And turned away, afraid to look too long!
She watched me out of the corners of her eyes;
And, tapping time with fingers, hummed a song.

. . . Nevertheless, I will think of work,
With a trowel in my hands;
Or the vague god who blows like clouds
Above these dripping lands . . .

But . . . is it sure she tried to attract my attention?
She leaned her elbow in a peculiar way
There in the crowded room . . . she touched my hand . . .
She must have known, and yet,--she let it stay.
Music of flesh! Music of root and sod!
Leaf touching leaf in the rain!
Impalpable clouds of red ascend,
Red clouds blow over my brain.

Did she await from me some sign of acceptance?
I smoothed my hair with a faltering hand.
I started a feeble smile, but the smile was frozen:
Perhaps, I thought, I misunderstood.
Is it to be conceived that I could attract her--
This dull and futile flesh attract such fire?
I,--with a trowel's dullness in hand and brain!--
Take on some godlike aspect, rouse desire?
Incredible! . . . delicious! . . . I will wear
A brighter color of tie, arranged with care,
I will delight in god as I comb my hair.

And the conquests of my bolder past return
Like strains of music, some lost tune
Recalled from youth and a happier time.
I take my sweetheart's arm in the dusk once more;
One more we climb

Up the forbidden stairway,
Under the flickering light, along the railing:
I catch her hand in the dark, we laugh once more,
I hear the rustle of silk, and follow swiftly,
And softly at last we close the door.

Yes, it is true that woman tried to attract me:
It is true she came out of time for me,
Came from the swirling and savage forest of earth,
The cruel eternity of the sea.
She parted the leaves of waves and rose from silence
Shining with secrets she did not know.
Music of dust! Music of web and web!
And I, bewildered, let her go.

I light my pipe. The flame is yellow,
Edged underneath with blue.
These thoughts are truer of god, perhaps,
Than thoughts of god are true.

5

It is noontime, Senlin says, and a street piano
Strikes sharply against the sunshine a harsh chord,
And the universe is suddenly agitated,
And pain to my heart goes glittering like a sword.
Do I imagine it? The dust is shaken,
The sunlight quivers, the brittle oak-leaves tremble.
The world, disturbed, conceals its agitation;
And I, too, will dissemble.

Yet it is sorrow has found my heart,
Sorrow for beauty, sorrow for death;
And pain twirls slowly among the trees.

The street-piano revolves its glittering music,
The sharp notes flash and dazzle and turn,
Memory's knives are in this sunlit silence,
They ripple and lazily burn.
The star on which my shadow falls is frightened,--
It does not move; my trowel taps a stone,
The sweet note wavers amid derisive music;
And I, in horror of sunlight, stand alone.

Do not recall my weakness, savage music!
Let the knives rest!
Impersonal, harsh, the music revolves and glitters,
And the notes like poniards pierce my breast.
And I remember the shadows of webs on stones,
And the sound or rain on withered grass,
And a sorrowful face that looked without illusions
At its image in the glass.

Do not recall my childhood, pitiless music!
The green blades flicker and gleam,
The red bee bends the clover, deeply humming;
In the blue sea above me lazily stream
Cloud upon thin-brown cloud, revolving, scattering;
The mulberry tree rakes heaven and drops its fruit;
Amazing sunlight sings in the opened vault
On dust and bones, and I am mute.

It is noon; the bells let fall soft flowers of sound.
They turn on the air, they shrink in the flare of noon.
It is night; and I lie alone, and watch through the window
The terrible ice-white emptiness of the moon.
Small bells, far off, spill jewels of sound like rain,
A long wind hurries them whirled and far,
A cloud creeps over the moon, my bed is darkened,
I hold my breath and watch a star.

Do not disturb my memories, heartless music!
I stand once more by a vine-dark moonlit wall,
The sound of my footsteps dies in a void of moonlight,
And I watch white jasmine fall.
Is it my heart that falls? Does earth itself
Drift, a white petal, down the sky?
One bell-note goes to the stars in the blue-white silence,
Solitary and mournful, a somnolent cry.

6

Death himself in the rain . . . death himself . . .
Death in the savage sunlight . . . skeletal death . . .
I hear the clack of his feet,
Clearly on stones, softly in dust;
He hurries among the trees
Whirling the leaves, tossing he hands from waves.
Listen! the immortal footsteps beat.

Death himself in the grass, death himself,
Gyrating invisibly in the sun,
Scatters the grass-blades, whips the wind,
Tears at boughs with malignant laughter:
On the long echoing air I hear him run.

Death himself in the dusk, gathering lilacs,
Breaking a white-fleshed bough,
Strewing purple on a cobwebbed lawn,
Dancing, dancing,
The long red sun-rays glancing
On flailing arms, skipping with hideous knees
Cavorting grotesque ecstasies:
I do not see him, but I see the lilacs fall,
I hear the scrape of knuckles against the wall,
The leaves are tossed and tremble where he plunges among them,
And I hear the sound of his breath,
Sharp and whistling, the rythm of death.

It is evening: the lights on a long street balance and sway.
In the purple ether they swing and silently sing,
The street is a gossamer swung in space,
And death himself in the wind comes dancing along it,
And the lights, like raindrops, tremble and swing.
Hurry, spider, and spread your glistening web,
For death approaches!
Hurry, rose, and open your heart to the bee,
For death approaches!
Maiden, let down your hair for the hands of your lover,
Comb it with moonlight and wreathe it with leaves,
For death approaches!

Death, huge in the star; small in the sand-grain;
Death himself in the rain,
Drawing the rain about him like a garment of jewels:
I hear the sound of his feet
On the stairs of the wind, in the sun,
In the forests of the sea . . .
Listen! the immortal footsteps beat!

7

It is noontime, Senlin says. The sky is brilliant
Above a green and dreaming hill.
I lay my trowel down. The pool is cloudless,
The grass, the wall, the peach-tree, all are still.

It appears to me that I am one with these:
A hill, upon whose back are a wall and trees.
It is noontime: all seems still
Upon this green and flowering hill.

Yet suddenly out of nowhere in the sky,
A cloud comes whirling, and flings
A lazily coiled vortex of shade on the hill.
It crosses the hill, and a bird in the peach-tree sings.
Amazing! Is there a change?
The hill seems somehow strange.
It is noontime. And in the tree
The leaves are delicately disturbed
Where the bird descends invisibly.
It is noontime. And in the pool
The sky is blue and cool.

Yet suddenly out of nowhere,
Something flings itself at the hill,
Tears with claws at the earth,
Lunges and hisses and softly recoils,
Crashing against the green.
The peach-tree braces itself, the pool is frightened,
The grass-blades quiver, the bird is still;
The wall silently struggles against the sunlight;
A terror stiffens the hill.
The trees turn rigidly, to face
Something that circles with slow pace:
The blue pool seems to shrink
From something that slides above its brink.
What struggle is this, ferocious and still--
What war in sunlight on this hill?
What is it creeping to dart
Like a knife-blade at my heart?

It is noontime, Senlin says, and all is tranquil:
The brilliant sky burns over a greenbright earth.
The peach-tree dreams in the sun, the wall is contented.
A bird in the peach-leaves, moving from sun to shadow,
Phrases again his unremembering mirth,
His lazily beautiful, foolish, mechanical mirth.

8

The pale blue gloom of evening comes
Among the phantom forests and walls
With a mournful and rythmic sound of drums.
My heart is disturbed with a sound of myriad throbbing,
Persuasive and sinister, near and far:
In the blue evening of my heart
I hear the thrum of the evening star.

My work is uncompleted; and yet I hurry,--
Hearing the whispered pulsing of those drums,--
To enter the luminous walls and woods of night.
It is the eternal mistress of the world
Who shakes these drums for my delight.
Listen! the drums of the leaves, the drums of the dust,
The delicious quivering of this air!

I will leave my work unfinished, and I will go
With ringing and certain step through the laughter of chaos
To the one small room in the void I know.
Yesterday it was there,--
Will I find it tonight once more when I climb the stair?
The drums of the street beat swift and soft:
In the blue evening of my heart
I hear the throb of the bridal star.
It weaves deliciously in my brain
A tyrannous melody of her:
Hands in sunlight, threads of rain
Against a weeping face that fades,
Snow on a blackened window-pane;
Fire, in a dusk of hair entangled;
Flesh, more delicate than fruit;
And a voice that searches quivering nerves
For a string to mute.

My life is uncompleted: and yet I hurry
Among the tinkling forests and walls of evening
To a certain fragrant room.
Who is it that dances there, to a beating of drums,
While stars on a grey sea bud and bloom?
She stands at the top of the stair,
With the lamplight on her hair.
I will walk through the snarling of streams of space
And climb the long steps carved from wind
And rise once more towards her face.
Listen! the drums of the drowsy trees
Beating our nuptial ecstasies!

Music spins from the heart of silence
And twirls me softly upon the air:
It takes my hand and whispers to me:
It draws the web of the moonlight down.
There are hands, it says, as cool as snow,
The hands of the Venus of the sea;
There are waves of sound in a mermaid-cave;--
Come--then--come with me!
The flesh of the sea-rose new and cool,
The wavering image of her who comes
At dusk by a blue sea-pool.

Whispers upon the haunted air--
Whisper of foam-white arm and thigh;
And a shower of delicate lights blown down
Fro the laughing sky! . . .
Music spins from a far-off room.
Do you remember,--it seems to say,--
The mouth that smiled, beneath your mouth,
And kissed you . . . yesterday?
It is your own flesh waits for you.
Come! you are incomplete! . . .
The drums of the universe once more
Morosely beat.
It is the harlot of the world
Who clashes the leaves like ghostly drums
And disturbs the solitude of my heart
As evening comes!

I leave my work once more and walk
Along a street that sways in the wind.
I leave these stones, and walk once more
Along infinity's shore.
I climb the golden-laddered stair;
Among the stars in the void I climb:
I ascend the golden-laddered hair
Of the harlot-queen of time:
She laughs from a window in the sky,
Her white arms downward reach to me!
We are the universe that spins
In a dim ethereal sea.

9

It is evening, Senlin says, and in the evening
The throbbing of drums has languidly died away.
Forest and sea are still. We breathe in silence
And strive to say the things flesh cannot say.
The soulless wind falls slowly about the earth
And finds no rest.
The lover stares at the setting star,--the wakeful lover
Who finds no peace on his lover's breast.
The snare of desire that bound us in is broken;
Softly, in sorrow, we draw apart, and see,
Far off, the beauty we thought our flesh had captured,--
The star we longed to be but could not be.
Come back! We will laugh once more at the words we said!
We say them slowly again, but the words are dead.
Come back beloved! . . . The blue void falls between,
We cry to each other: alone; unknown; unseen.

We are the grains of sand that run and rustle
In the dry wind,
We are the grains of sand who thought ourselves
Immortal.
You touch my hand, time bears you away,--
An alien star for whom I have no word.
What are the meaningless things you say?
I answer you, but am not heard.

It is evening, Senlin says;
And a dream in ruin falls.
Once more we turn in pain, bewildered,
Among our finite walls:
The walls we built ourselves with patient hands;
For the god who sealed a question in our flesh.

10

It is moonlight. Alone in the silence
I ascend my stairs once more,
While waves, remote in a pale blue starlight,
Crash on a white sand shore.
It is moonlight. The garden is silent.
I stand in my room alone.
Across my wall, from the far-off moon,
A rain of fire is thrown . . .

There are houses hanging above the stars,
And stars hung under a sea:
And a wind from the long blue vault of time
Waves my curtain for me . . .

I wait in the dark once more,
Swung between space and space:
Before my mirror I lift my hands
And face my remembered face.

Is it I who stand in a question here,
Asking to know my name? . . .
It is I, yet I know not whither I go,
Nor why, nor whence I came.

It is I, who awoke at dawn
And arose and descended the stair,
Conceiving a god in the eye of the sun,--
In a woman's hands and hair.
It is I whose flesh is gray with the stones
I builded into a wall:
With a mournful melody in my brain
Of a tune I cannot recall . . .

There are roses to kiss: and mouths to kiss;
And the sharp-pained shadow of death.
I remember a rain-drop on my cheek,--
A wind like a fragrant breath . . .
And the star I laugh on tilts through heaven;
And the heavens are dark and steep . . .
I will forget these things once more
In the silence of sleep.

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The Two Dreams

I WILL that if I say a heavy thing
Your tongues forgive me; seeing ye know that spring
Has flecks and fits of pain to keep her sweet,
And walks somewhile with winter-bitten feet.
Moreover it sounds often well to let
One string, when ye play music, keep at fret
The whole song through; one petal that is dead
Confirms the roses, be they white or red;
Dead sorrow is not sorrowful to hear
As the thick noise that breaks mid weeping were;
The sick sound aching in a lifted throat
Turns to sharp silver of a perfect note;
And though the rain falls often, and with rain
Late autumn falls on the old red leaves like pain,
I deem that God is not disquieted.
Also while men are fed with wine and bread,
They shall be fed with sorrow at his hand.

There grew a rose-garden in Florence land
More fair than many; all red summers through
The leaves smelt sweet and sharp of rain, and blew
Sideways with tender wind; and therein fell
Sweet sound wherewith the green waxed audible,
As a bird’s will to sing disturbed his throat
And set the sharp wings forward like a boat
Pushed through soft water, moving his brown side
Smooth-shapen as a maid’s, and shook with pride
His deep warm bosom, till the heavy sun’s
Set face of heat stopped all the songs at once.
The ways were clean to walk and delicate;
And when the windy white of March grew late,
Before the trees took heart to face the sun
With ravelled raiment of lean winter on,
The roots were thick and hot with hollow grass.

Some roods away a lordly house there was,
Cool with broad courts and latticed passage wet
From rush-flowers and lilies ripe to set,
Sown close among the strewings of the floor;
And either wall of the slow corridor
Was dim with deep device of gracious things;
Some angel’s steady mouth and weight of wings
Shut to the side; or Peter with straight stole
And beard cut black against the aureole
That spanned his head from nape to crown; thereby
Mary’s gold hair, thick to the girdle-tie
Wherein was bound a child with tender feet;
Or the broad cross with blood nigh brown on it.

Within this house a righteous lord abode,
Ser Averardo; patient of his mood,
And just of judgment; and to child he had
A maid so sweet that her mere sight made glad
Men sorrowing, and unbound the brows of hate;
And where she came, the lips that pain made strait
Waxed warm and wide, and from untender grew
Tender as those that sleep brings patience to.
Such long locks had she, that with knee to chin
She might have wrapped and warmed her feet therein.
Right seldom fell her face on weeping wise;
Gold hair she had, and golden-coloured eyes,
Filled with clear light and fire and large repose
Like a fair hound’s; no man there is but knows
Her face was white, and thereto she was tall;
In no wise lacked there any praise at all
To her most perfect and pure maidenhood;
No sin I think there was in all her blood.

She, where a gold grate shut the roses in,
Dwelt daily through deep summer weeks, through green
Hushed hours of rain upon the leaves; and there
Love made him room and space to worship her
With tender worship of bowed knees, and wrought
Such pleasure as the pained sense palates not
For weariness, but at one taste undoes
The heart of its strong sweet, is ravenous
Of all the hidden honey; words and sense
Fail through the tune’s imperious prevalence.

In a poor house this lover kept apart,
Long communing with patience next his heart
If love of his might move that face at all,
Tuned evenwise with colours musical;
Then after length of days he said thus: “Love,
For love’s own sake and for the love thereof
Let no harsh words untune your gracious mood;
For good it were, if anything be good,
To comfort me in this pain’s plague of mine;
Seeing thus, how neither sleep nor bread nor wine
Seems pleasant to me, yea no thing that is
Seems pleasant to me; only I know this;
Love’s ways are sharp for palms of piteous feet
To travel, but the end of such is sweet:
Now do with me as seemeth you the best.”
She mused a little, as one holds his guest
By the hand musing, with her face borne down:
Then said: “Yea, though such bitter seed be sown,
Have no more care of all that you have said;
Since if there is no sleep will bind your head,
Lo, I am fain to help you certainly;
Christ knoweth, sir, if I would have you die;
There is no pleasure when a man is dead.”
Thereat he kissed her hands and yellow head
And clipped her fair long body many times;
I have no wit to shape in written rhymes
A scanted tithe of this great joy they had.

They were too near love’s secret to be glad;
As whoso deems the core will surely melt
From the warm fruit his lips caress, hath felt
Some bitter kernel where the teeth shut hard:
Or as sweet music sharpens afterward,
Being half disrelished both for sharp and sweet;
As sea-water, having killed over-heat
In a man’s body, chills it with faint ache;
So their sense, burdened only for love’s sake,
Failed for pure love; yet so time served their wit,
They saved each day some gold reserves of it,
Being wiser in love’s riddle than such be
Whom fragments feed with his chance charity.
All things felt sweet were felt sweet overmuch;
The rose-thorn’s prickle dangerous to touch,
And flecks of fire in the thin leaf-shadows;
Too keen the breathèd honey of the rose,
Its red too harsh a weight on feasted eyes;
They were so far gone in love’s histories,
Beyond all shape and colour and mere breath,
Where pleasure has for kinsfolk sleep and death,
And strength of soul and body waxen blind
For weariness, and flesh entoiled with mind,
When the keen edge of sense foretasteth sin.

Even this green place the summer caught them in
Seemed half deflowered and sick with beaten leaves
In their strayed eyes; these gold flower-fumèd eves
Burnt out to make the sun’s love-offering,
The midnoon’s prayer, the rose’s thanksgiving,
The trees’ weight burdening the strengthless air,
The shape of her stilled eyes, her coloured hair,
Her body’s balance from the moving feet—
All this, found fair, lacked yet one grain of sweet
It had some warm weeks back: so perisheth
On May’s new lip the tender April breath:
So those same walks the wind sowed lilies in
All April through, and all their latter kin
Of languid leaves whereon the autumn blows
The dead red raiment of the last year’s rose—
The last year’s laurel, and the last year’s love,
Fade, and grow things that death grows weary of.

What man will gather in red summer-time
The fruit of some obscure and hoary rhyme
Heard last midwinter, taste the heart in it,
Mould the smooth semitones afresh, refit
The fair limbs ruined, flush the dead blood through
With colour, make all broken beauties new
For love’s new lesson—shall not such find pain
When the marred music labouring in his brain
Frets him with sweet sharp fragments, and lets slip
One word that might leave satisfied his lip—
One touch that might put fire in all the chords?
This was her pain: to miss from all sweet words
Some taste of sound, diverse and delicate—
Some speech the old love found out to compensate
For seasons of shut lips and drowsiness—
Some grace, some word the old love found out to bless
Passionless months and undelighted weeks.
The flowers had lost their summer-scented cheeks,
Their lips were no more sweet than daily breath:
The year was plagued with instances of death.

So fell it, these were sitting in cool grass
With leaves about, and many a bird there was
Where the green shadow thickliest impleached
Soft fruit and writhen spray and blossom bleached
Dry in the sun or washed with rains to white:
Her girdle was pure silk, the bosom bright
With purple as purple water and gold wrought in.
One branch had touched with dusk her lips and chin,
Made violet of the throat, abashed with shade
The breast’s bright plaited work: but nothing frayed
The sun’s large kiss on the luxurious hair.
Her beauty was new colour to the air
And music to the silent many birds.
Love was an-hungred for some perfect words
To praise her with; but only her low name
“Andrevuola” came thrice, and thrice put shame
In her clear cheek, so fruitful with new red
That for pure love straightway shame’s self was dead.

Then with lids gathered as who late had wept
She began saying: “I have so little slept
My lids drowse now against the very sun;
Yea, the brain aching with a dream begun
Beats like a fitful blood; kiss but both brows,
And you shall pluck my thoughts grown dangerous
Almost away.” He said thus, kissing them:
“O sole sweet thing that God is glad to name,
My one gold gift, if dreams be sharp and sore
Shall not the waking time increase much more
With taste and sound, sweet eyesight or sweet scent?
Has any heat too hard and insolent
Burnt bare the tender married leaves, undone
The maiden grass shut under from the sun?
Where in this world is room enough for pain?”

The feverish finger of love had touched again
Her lips with happier blood; the pain lay meek
In her fair face, nor altered lip nor cheek
With pallor or with pulse; but in her mouth
Love thirsted as a man wayfaring doth,
Making it humble as weak hunger is.
She lay close to him, bade do this and this,
Say that, sing thus: then almost weeping-ripe
Crouched, then laughed low. As one that fain would wipe
The old record out of old things done and dead,
She rose, she heaved her hands up, and waxed red
For wilful heart and blameless fear of blame;
Saying “Though my wits be weak, this is no shame
For a poor maid whom love so punisheth
With heats of hesitation and stopped breath
That with my dreams I live yet heavily
For pure sad heart and faith’s humility.
Now be not wroth and I will show you this.

“Methought our lips upon their second kiss
Met in this place, and a fair day we had
And fair soft leaves that waxed and were not sad
With shaken rain or bitten through with drouth;
When I, beholding ever how your mouth
Waited for mine, the throat being fallen back,
Saw crawl thereout a live thing flaked with black
Specks of brute slime and leper-coloured scale,
A devil’s hide with foul flame-writhen grail
Fashioned where hell’s heat festers loathsomest;
And that brief speech may ease me of the rest,
Thus were you slain and eaten of the thing.
My waked eyes felt the new day shuddering
On their low lids, felt the whole east so beat,
Pant with close pulse of such a plague-struck heat,
As if the palpitating dawn drew breath
For horror, breathing between life and death,
Till the sun sprang blood-bright and violent.”

So finishing, her soft strength wholly spent,
She gazed each way, lest some brute-hoovèd thing,
The timeless travail of hell’s childbearing,
Should threat upon the sudden: whereat he,
For relish of her tasted misery
And tender little thornprick of her pain,
Laughed with mere love. What lover among men
But hath his sense fed sovereignly ’twixt whiles
With tears and covered eyelids and sick smiles
And soft disaster of a painèd face?
What pain, established in so sweet a place,
But the plucked leaf of it smells fragrantly?
What colour burning man’s wide-open eye
But may be pleasurably seen? what sense
Keeps in its hot sharp extreme violence
No savour of sweet things? The bereaved blood
And emptied flesh in their most broken mood
Fail not so wholly, famish not when thus
Past honey keeps the starved lip covetous.

Therefore this speech from a glad mouth began,
Breathed in her tender hair and temples wan
Like one prolonged kiss while the lips had breath:
“Sleep, that abides in vassalage of death
And in death’s service wears out half his age,
Hath his dreams full of deadly vassalage,
Shadow and sound of things ungracious;
Fair shallow faces, hooded bloodless brows,
And mouths past kissing; yea, myself have had
As harsh a dream as holds your eyelids sad.

This dream I tell you came three nights ago:
In full mid sleep I took a whim to know
How sweet things might be; so I turned and thought;
But save my dream all sweet availed me not.
First came a smell of pounded spice and scent
Such as God ripens in some continent
Of utmost amber in the Syrian sea;
And breaths as though some costly rose could be
Spoiled slowly, wasted by some bitter fire
To burn the sweet out leaf by leaf, and tire
The flower’s poor heart with heat and waste, to make
Strong magic for some perfumed woman’s sake.
Then a cool naked sense beneath my feet
Of bud and blossom; and sound of veins that beat
As if a lute should play of its own heart
And fearfully, not smitten of either part;
And all my blood it filled with sharp and sweet
As gold swoln grain fills out the huskèd wheat;
So I rose naked from the bed, and stood
Counting the mobile measure in my blood
Some pleasant while, and through each limb there came
Swift little pleasures pungent as a flame,
Felt in the thrilling flesh and veins as much
As the outer curls that feel the comb’s first touch
Thrill to the roots and shiver as from fire;
And blind between my dream and my desire
I seemed to stand and held my spirit still
Lest this should cease. A child whose fingers spill
Honey from cells forgotten of the bee
Is less afraid to stir the hive and see
Some wasp’s bright back inside, than I to feel
Some finger-touch disturb the flesh like steel.
I prayed thus; Let me catch a secret here
So sweet, it sharpens the sweet taste of fear
And takes the mouth with edge of wine; I would
Have here some colour and smooth shape as good
As those in heaven whom the chief garden hides
With low grape-blossom veiling their white sides
And lesser tendrils that so bind and blind
Their eyes and feet, that if one come behind
To touch their hair they see not, neither fly;
This would I see in heaven and not die.
So praying, I had nigh cried out and knelt,
So wholly my prayer filled me: till I felt
In the dumb night’s warm weight of glowing gloom
Somewhat that altered all my sleeping-room,
And made it like a green low place wherein
Maids mix to bathe: one sets her small warm chin
Against a ripple, that the angry pearl
May flow like flame about her: the next curl
Dips in some eddy coloured of the sun
To wash the dust well out; another one
Holds a straight ankle in her hand and swings
With lavish body sidelong, so that rings
Of sweet fierce water, swollen and splendid, fail
All round her fine and floated body pale,
Swayed flower-fashion, and her balanced side
Swerved edgeways lets the weight of water slide,
As taken in some underflow of sea
Swerves the banked gold of sea-flowers; but she
Pulls down some branch to keep her perfect head
Clear of the river: even from wall to bed,
I tell you, was my room transfigured so.
Sweet, green and warm it was, nor could one know
If there were walls or leaves, or if there was
No bed’s green curtain, but mere gentle grass.
There were set also hard against the feet
Gold plates with honey and green grapes to eat,
With the cool water’s noise to hear in rhymes:
And a wind warmed me full of furze and limes
And all hot sweets the heavy summer fills
To the round brim of smooth cup-shapen hills.
Next the grave walking of a woman’s feet
Made my veins hesitate, and gracious heat
Made thick the lids and leaden on mine eyes:
And I thought ever, surely it were wise
Not yet to see her: this may last (who knows?)
Five minutes; the poor rose is twice a rose
Because it turns a face to her, the wind
Sings that way; hath this woman ever sinned,
I wonder? as a boy with apple-rind,
I played with pleasures, made them to my mind,
Changed each ere tasting. When she came indeed,
First her hair touched me, then I grew to feed
On the sense of her hand; her mouth at last
Touched me between the cheek and lip and past
Over my face with kisses here and there
Sown in and out across the eyes and hair.
Still I said nothing; till she set her face
More close and harder on the kissing-place,
And her mouth caught like a snake’s mouth, and stung
So faint and tenderly, the fang scarce clung
More than a bird’s foot: yet a wound it grew,
A great one, let this red mark witness you
Under the left breast; and the stroke thereof
So clove my sense that I woke out of love
And knew not what this dream was nor had wit;
But now God knows if I have skill of it.”

Hereat she laid one palm against her lips
To stop their trembling; as when water slips
Out of a beak-mouthed vessel with faint noise
And chuckles in the narrowed throat and cloys
The carven rims with murmuring, so came
Words in her lips with no word right of them,
A beaten speech thick and disconsolate,
Till his smile ceasing waxed compassionate
Of her sore fear that grew from anything—
The sound of the strong summer thickening
In heated leaves of the smooth apple-trees:
The day’s breath felt about the ash-branches,
And noises of the noon whose weight still grew
On the hot heavy-headed flowers, and drew
Their red mouths open till the rose-heart ached;
For eastward all the crowding rose was slaked
And soothed with shade; but westward all its growth
Seemed to breathe hard with heat as a man doth
Who feels his temples newly feverous.
And even with such motion in her brows
As that man hath in whom sick days begin,
She turned her throat and spake, her voice being thin
As a sick man’s, sudden and tremulous;
“Sweet, if this end be come indeed on us,
Let us love more;” and held his mouth with hers.
As the first sound of flooded hill-waters
Is heard by people of the meadow-grass,
Or ever a wandering waif of ruin pass
With whirling stones and foam of the brown stream
Flaked with fierce yellow: so beholding him
She felt before tears came her eyelids wet,
Saw the face deadly thin where life was yet,
Heard his throat’s harsh last moan before it clomb:
And he, with close mouth passionate and dumb,
Burned at her lips: so lay they without speech,
Each grasping other, and the eyes of each
Fed in the other’s face: till suddenly
He cried out with a little broken cry
This word, “O help me, sweet, I am but dead.”
And even so saying, the colour of fair red
Was gone out of his face, and his blood’s beat
Fell, and stark death made sharp his upward feet
And pointed hands: and without moan he died.
Pain smote her sudden in the brows and side,
Strained her lips open and made burn her eyes:
For the pure sharpness of her miseries
She had no heart’s pain, but mere body’s wrack;
But at the last her beaten blood drew back
Slowly upon her face, and her stunned brows
Suddenly grown aware and piteous
Gathered themselves, her eyes shone, her hard breath
Came as though one nigh dead came back from death;
Her lips throbbed, and life trembled through her hair.

And in brief while she thought to bury there
The dead man that her love might lie with him
In a sweet bed under the rose-roots dim
And soft earth round the branchèd apple-trees,
Full of hushed heat and heavy with great ease,
And no man entering divide him thence.
Wherefore she bade one of her handmaidens
To be her help to do upon this wise.
And saying so the tears out of her eyes
Fell without noise and comforted her heart:
Yea, her great pain eased of the sorest part
Began to soften in her sense of it.
There under all the little branches sweet
The place was shapen of his burial;
They shed thereon no thing funereal,
But coloured leaves of latter rose-blossom,
Stems of soft grass, some withered red and some
Fair and fresh-blooded; and spoil splendider
Of marigold and great spent sunflower.

And afterward she came back without word
To her own house; two days went, and the third
Went, and she showed her father of this thing.
And for great grief of her soul’s travailing
He gave consent she should endure in peace
Till her life’s end; yea, till her time should cease,
She should abide in fellowship of pain.
And having lived a holy year or twain
She died of pure waste heart and weariness.
And for love’s honour in her love’s distress
This word was written over her tomb’s head;
“Here dead she lieth, for whose sake Love is dead.”

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Kensington Garden

______ Campos, ubi Troja fuit.
Virg.


Where Kensington, high o'er the neighbouring lands
Midst greens and sweets, a regal fabric, stands,
And sees each spring, luxuriant in her bowers,
A snow of blossoms, and a wild of flowers,
The dames of Britain oft in crowds repair
To gravel walks, and unpolluted air.
Here, while the town in damps and darkness lies,
They breathe in sun-shine, and see azure skies;
Each walk, with robes of various dyes bespread,
Seems from afar a moving tulip-bed,
Where rich brocades and glossy damasks glow,
And chints, the rival of the showery bow.
Here England's daughter, darling of the land,
Sometimes, surrounded with her virgin band,
Gleams through the shades. She, towering o'er the rest,
Stands fairest of the fairer kind confest,
Form'd to gain hearts, that Brunswick's cause deny'd,
And charm a people to her father's side.
Long have these groves to royal guests been known,
Nor Nassau first prefer'd them to a throne.
Ere Norman banners wav'd in British air;
Ere lordly Hubba with the golden hair
Pour'd in his Danes; ere elder Julius came;
Or Dardan Brutus gave our isle a name;
A prince of Albion's lineage grac'd the wood,
The scene of wars, and stain'd with lovers' blood.
You, who thro' gazing crowds, your captive throng,
Throw pangs and passions, as you move along,
Turn on the left, ye fair, your radiant eyes,
Where all unlevel'd the gay garden lies:
If generous anguish for another's pains
Ere heav'd your hearts, or shiver'd through your veins,
Look down attentive on the pleasing dale,
And listen to my melancholy tale.
That hollow space, were now in living rows
Line above line the yew's sad verdure grows,
Was, ere the planter's hand its beauty gave,
A common pit, a rude unfashion'd cave.
The landscape now so sweet we well may praise:
But far, far sweeter in its ancient days,
Far sweeter was it, when its peopled ground
With fairy domes and dazzling towers was crown'd.
Where in the midst those verdant pillars spring,
Rose the proud palace of the Elfin king;
For every edge of vegetable green,
In happier years a crowded street was seen;
Nor all those leaves that now the prospect grace,
Could match the numbers of its pygmy race,
What urg'd this mighty empire to its fate,
A tale of woe and wonder, I relate.
When Albion rul'd the land, whose lineage came
From Neptune mingling with a mortal dame,
Their midnight pranks the sprightly fairies play'd
On every hill, and danc'd in every shade.
But, foes to sun-shine, most they took delight
In dells and dales conceal'd from human sight:
There hew'd their houses in the arching rock;
Or scoop'd the bosom of the blasted oak;
Or heard, o'ershadow'd by some shelving hill,
The distant murmurs of the falling rill.
They, rich in pilfer'd spoils, indulg'd their mirth,
And pity'd the huge wretched sons of Earth.
Ev'n now, 'tis said, the hinds o'erhear their strain,
And strive to view their airy forms in vain:
They to their cells at man's approach repair,
Like the shy leveret, or the mother-hare,
The whilst poor mortals startle at the sound
Of unseen footsteps on the haunted ground.
Amid this garden, then with woods o'ergrown,
Stood the lov'd seat of royal Oberon.

From every region to his palace-gate
Came peers and princes of the fairy state,
Who, rank'd in council round the sacred shade,
Their monarch's will and great behests obey'd.
From Thames' fair banks, by lofty towers adorn'd,
With loads of plunder oft his chiefs return'd:
Hence in proud robes, and colours bright and gay,
Shone every knight and every lovely fay.
Whoe'er on Powell's dazzling stage display'd,
Hath fam'd king Pepin and his court survey'd,
May guess, if old by modern things we trace,
The pomp and splendour of the fairy-race.
By magic fenc'd, by spells encompass'd round,
No mortal touch'd this interdicted ground;
No mortal enter'd, those alone who came
Stol'n from the couch of some terrestrial dame:
For oft of babes they robb'd the matron's bed,
And left some sickly changeling in their stead.

It chanc'd a youth of Albion's royal blood
Was foster'd here, the wonder of the wood.

Milkah for wiles above her peers renown'd,
Deep-skill'd in charms and many a mystic sound,
As through the regal dome she sought for prey,
Observ'd the infant Albion where he lay
In mantles broider'd o'er with georgeous pride,
And stole him from the sleeping mother's side.
Who now but Milkah triumphs in her mind!
Ah, wretched nymph, to future evils blind!
The time shall come when thou shalt dearly pay
The theft, hard-hearted! of that guilty day:

Thou in thy turn shalt like the queen repine,
And all her sorrows doubled shall be thine:
He who adorns thy house, the lovely boy
Who now adorns it, shall at length destroy.

Two hundred moons in their pale course had seen
The gay-rob'd fairies glimmer on the green,
And Albion now had reach'd in youthful prime
To nineteen years, as mortals measure time.
Flush'd with resistless charms he fir'd to love
Each nymph and little Dryad of the grove;
For skilful Milkah spar'd not to employ
Her utmost art to rear the princely boy;

Each supple limb she swath'd, and tender bone,
And to the Elfin standard kept him down;
She robb'd dwarf-elders of their fragrant fruit,
And fed him early with the daisy's root,
Whence through his veins the powerful juices ran,
And form'd in beauteous miniature the man.
Yet still, two inches taller than the rest,
His lofty port his human birth confest;
A foot in height, how stately did he show!
How look superior on the crowd below!
What knight like him could toss the rushy lance!
Who move so graceful in the mazy dance!
A shape so nice, or features half so fair,
What elf could boast! or such a flow of hair!
Bright Kenna saw, a princess born to reign,
And felt the charmer burn in every vein.
She, heiress to this empire's potent lord,
Prais'd like the stars, and next the Moon ador'd.
She, whom at distance thrones and princedoms view'd,
To whom proud Oriel and Azuriel sued,
In her high palace languish'd, void of joy,
And pin'd in secret for a mortal boy.
He too was smitten, and discreetly strove
By courtly deeds to gain the virgin's love.
For her he cull'd the fairest flower that grew,
Ere morning suns had drain'd their fragrant dew;
He chas'd the hornet in his mid-day flight,
And brought her glow-worms in the noon of night;
When on ripe fruits she cast a wishing eye,
Did ever Albion think the tree too high!

He show'd her where the pregnant goldfinch hung,
And the wren-mother brooding o'er her young;
To her th' inscription on their eggs he read,
(Admire, ye clerks, the youth whom Milkah bred)
To her he show'd each herb of virtuous juice,
Their powers distinguish'd, and describ'd their use:
All vain their powers, alas! to Kenna prove,
And well sung Ovid, ``There's no herb for love.''
As when a ghost, enlarg'd from realms below,
Seeks its old friend to tell some secret woe,

The poor shade shivering stands, and must not break
His painful silence, till the mortal speak:
So far'd it with the little love-sick maid,
Forbid to utter, what her eyes betray'd.
He saw her anguish, and reveal'd his flame,
And spar'd the blushes of the tongue-ty'd dame.
The day would fail me, should I reckon o'er
The sighs they lavish'd, and the oaths they swore
In words so melting, that compar'd with those
The nicest courtship of terrestrial beaux
Would sound like compliments, from country clowns
To red cheek'd sweet-hearts in their home-spun gowns.
All in a lawn of many a various hue
A bed of flowers (a fairy forest) grew;

'Twas here one noon, the gaudiest of the May,
The still, the secret, silent, hour of day,
Beneath a lofty tulip's ample shade
Sat the young lover and th' immortal maid.
They thought all fairies slept, ah, luckless pair!
Hid, but in vain, in the Sun's noon-tide glare!

When Albion, leaning on his Kenna's breast,
Thus all the softness of his soul exprest:
``All things are hush'd. The Sun's meridian rays
Veil the horizon in one mighty blaze:
Nor moon nor star in Heaven's blue arch is seen
With kindly rays to silver o'er the green,
Grateful to fairy eyes; they secret take
Their rest, and only wretched mortals wake.
This dead of day I fly to thee alone,
A world to me, a multitude in one.

Oh, sweet as dew-drops on these flowery lawns,
When the sky opens, and the evening dawns!
Straight as the pink, that towers so high in air,
Soft as the blow-bell! as the daisy, fair!
Blest be the hour, when first I was convey'd
An infant captive to this blissful shade!
And blest the hand that did my form refine,
And shrunk my stature to a match with thine!
Glad I for thee renounce my royal birth,
And all the giant-daughters of the Earth.
Thou, if thy breast with equal ardour burn,
Renounce thy kind, and love for love return.
So from us two, combin'd by nuptial ties,
A race unknown of demi-gods shall rise.
O speak, my love! my vows with vows repay,
And sweetly swear my rising fears away.''
To whom (the shining azure of her eyes
More brighten'd) thus th' enamour'd maid replies:

``By all the stars, and first the glorious Moon,
I swear, and by the head of Oberon,

A dreadful oath! no prince of fairy line
Shall e'er in wedlock plight his vows with mine.
Where-e'er my footsteps in the dance are seen,
May toadstools rise, and mildews blast the green,
May the keen east-wind blight my favourite flowers,
And snakes and spotted adders haunt my bowers.
Confin'd whole ages in an hemlock shade
There rather pine I a neglected maid,
Or worse, exil'd from Cynthia's gentle rays,
Parch in the sun a thousand summer-days,
Than any prince, a prince of fairy line,
In sacred wedlock plight his vows with mine.''
She ended: and with lips of rosy hue
Dipp'd five times over in ambrosial dew,
Stifled his words. When, from his covert rear'd,
The frowning brow of Oberon appear'd.
A sun-flower's trunk was near, whence (killing sight!)
The monarch issued, half an ell in height:
Full on the pair a furious look he cast,
Nor spoke; but gave his bugle-horn a blast,

That through the woodland echoed far and wide,
And drew a swarm of subjects to his side.
A hundred chosen knights, in war renown'd,
Drive Albion banish'd from the sacred ground;
And twice ten myriads guard the bright abodes,
Where the proud king, amidst his demi-gods,
For Kenna's sudden bridal bids prepare,
And to Azuriel gives the weeping fair.
If fame in arms, with ancient birth combin'd,
A faultless beauty, and a spotless mind,

To love and praise can generous souls incline,
That love, Azuriel, and that praise, was thine.
Blood only less than royal fill'd thy veins,
Proud was thy roof, and large thy fair domains.
Where now the skies high Holland-House invades,
And short-liv'd Warwick sadden'd all the shades,
Thy dwelling stood: nor did in him afford
A nobler owner, or a lovelier lord.
For thee a hundred fields produc'd their store,
And by thy name ten thousand vassals swore;
So lov'd thy name, that, at their monarch's choice,
All fairy shouted with a general voice.
Oriel alone a secret rage supprest,
That from his bosom heav'd the golden vest.
Along the banks of Thame his empire ran,
Wide was his range, and populous his clan.
When cleanly servants, if we trust old tales,
Beside their wages had good fairy vails,
Whole heaps of silver tokens, nightly paid,
The careful wife, or the neat dairy-maid,

Sunk not his stores. With smiles and powerful bribes
He gain'd the leaders of his neighbour tribes,
And ere the night the face of Heaven had chang'd,
Beneath his banners half the fairies rang'd.
Meanwhile, driven back to Earth, a lonely way
The chearless Albion wander'd half the day,
A long, long journey, choak'd with brakes and thorns
Ill-measur'd by ten thousand barley-corns.
Tir'd out at length a spreading stream he spy'd
Fed by old Thame, a daughter of the tide:

'Twas then a spreading stream, though now, its fame
Obscur'd, it bears the Creek's inglorious name,
And creeps, as through contracted bounds it strays,
A leap for boys in these degenerate days.
On the clear crystal's verdant bank he stood,
And thrice look'd backward on the fatal wood,
And thrice he groan'd, and thrice he beat his breast,
And thus in tears his kindred gods addrest.

``If true, ye watery powers, my lineage came
From Neptune mingling with a mortal dame;

Down to his court, with coral garlands crown'd,
Through all your grottoes waft my plaintive sound,
And urge the god, whose trident shakes the Earth,
To grace his offspring, and assert my birth.''
He said. A gentle Naiad heard his prayer,
And, touch'd with pity for a lover's care,
Shoots to the sea, where low beneath the tides
Old Neptune in th' unfathom'd deep resides.
Rouz'd at the news, the sea's stern sultan swore
Revenge, and scarce from present arms forbore;

But first the nymph his harbinger he sends,
And to her care the favourite boy commends.
As thro' the Thames her backward course she guides,
Driv'n up his current by the refluent tides,
Along his banks the pygmy legions spread
She spies, and haughty Oriel at their head,
Soon with wrong'd Albion's name the host she fires,
And counts the ocean's god, among his sires;
``The ocean's god, by whom shall be o'erthrown,
(Styx heard his oath) the tyrant Oberon.

See here beneath a toadstool's deadly gloom
Lies Albion: him the Fates your leader doom.
Hear, and obey; 'tis Neptune's powerful call,
By him Azuriel and his king shall fall.''
She said. They bow'd: and on their shields up-bore
With shouts their new saluted emperor.
E'en Oriel smil'd: at least to smile he strove,
And hopes of vengeance triumph'd over love.

See now the mourner of the lonely shade
By gods protected, and by hosts obey'd,

A slave, a chief, by fickle Fortune's play,
In the short course of one revolving day,
What wonder if the youth, so strangely blest,
Felt his heart flutter in his little breast!
His thick embattled troops, with secret pride,
He views extended half an acre wide;
More light he treads, more tall he seems to rise,
And struts a straw-breadth nearer to the skies.
O for thy Muse, great Bard, whose lofty strains
In battle join'd the Pygmies and the Cranes;

Each gaudy knight, had I that warmth divine,
Each colour'd legion in my verse should shine.
But simple I, and innocent of art,
The tale, that sooth'd my infant years, impart,
The tale I heard whole winter-eves, untir'd,
And sing the battles, that my nurse inspir'd.
Now the shrill corn-pipes, echoing loud to arms,
To rank and file reduce the straggling swarms,
Thick rows of spears at once, with sudden glare,
A grove of needles, glitter in the air;

Loose in the winds small ribbon-streamers flow,
Dipt in all colours of the heavenly-bow,
And the gay host, that now its march pursues,
Gleams o'er the meadows in a thousand hues.
On Buda's plains thus formidably bright,
Shone Asia's sons, a pleasing dreadful sight.
In various robes their silken troops were seen,
The blue, the red, and prophet's sacred green:
When blooming Brunswick, near the Danube's flood,
First stain'd his maiden sword in Turkish blood.

Unseen and silent march the slow brigades
Through pathless wilds, and unfrequented shades.
In hope already vanquish'd by surprise,
In Albion's power the fairy empire lies;
Already has he seiz'd on Kenna's charms,
And the glad beauty trembles in his arms.
The march concludes: and now in prospect near,
But fenc'd with arms, the hostile towers appear,
For Oberon, or Druids falsely sing,
Wore his prime visier in a magic ring,

A subtle spright, that opening plots foretold
By sudden dimness on the beamy gold.
Hence, in a cresent form'd, his legions bright
With beating bosoms waited for the fight;
To charge their foes they march, a glittering band,
And in their van doth bold Azuriel stand.
What rage that hour did Albion's soul possess,
Let chiefs imagine, and let lovers guess!
Forth issuing from his ranks, that strove in vain
To check his course, athwart the dreadful plain

He strides indignant: and with haughty cries
To single fight the fairy prince defies.
Forbear! rash youth, th' unequal war to try;
Nor, sprung from mortals, with immortals vie.
No god stands ready to avert thy doom,
Nor yet thy grandsire of the waves is come.
My words are vain -- no words the wretch can move,
By Beauty dazzled, and bewitch'd by Love:
He longs, he burns, to win the glorious prize,
And sees no danger, while he sees her eyes.

Now from each host the eager warriors start.
And furious Albion flings his hasty dart,
'Twas feather'd from the bee's transparent wing,
And its shaft ended in a hornet's sting;
But, tost in rage, it flew without a wound,
High o'er the foe, and guiltless pierc'd the ground.
Not so Azuriel's: with unerring aim,
Too near the needle-pointed javelin came,
Drove through the seven-fold shield, and silken vest,
And lightly ras'd the lover's ivory breast.

Rouz'd at the smart, and rising to the blow,
With his keen sword he cleaves his fairy foe,
Sheer from the shoulder to the waste he cleaves,
And of one arm the tottering trunk bereaves.
His useless steel brave Albion wields no more,
But sternly smiles, and thinks the combat o'er:
So had it been, had aught of mortal strain,
Or less than fairy, felt the deadly pain.
But empyreal forms, howe'er in fight
Gash'd and dismember'd, easily unite.

As some frail cup of China's purest mold,
With azure varnish'd, and bedropt with gold,
Though broke, if cur'd by some nice virgin's hands,
In its old strength and pristine beauty stands;
The tumults of the boiling bohea braves,
And holds secure the coffee's sable waves:
So did Azuriel's arm, if Fame say true,
Rejoin the vital trunk whence first it grew;
And, whilst in wonder fix'd poor Albion stood,
Plung'd the curs'd sabre in his heart's warm blood.
The golden broidery, tender Milkah wove,
The breast, to Kenna sacred and to Love,
Lie rent and mangled: and the gaping wound
Pours out a flood of purple on the ground.
The jetty lustre sickens in his eyes:
On his cold cheeks the bloomy freshness dies;
``Oh Kenna, Kenna,'' thrice he try'd to say,
``Kenna, farewel!'' and sigh'd his soul away.
His fall the Dryads with loud shrieks deplore,
By sister Naiads echo'd from the shore,

Thence down to Neptune's secret realms convey'd,
Through grotts, and glooms, and many a coral shade.
The sea's great sire, with looks denouncing war,
The trident shakes, and mounts the pearly car:
With one stern frown the wide-spread deep deforms,
And works the madding ocean into storms.
O'er foaming mountains, and through bursting tides,
Now high, now low, the bounding chariot rides,
Till through the Thames in a loud whirlwind's roar
It shoots, and lands him on the destin'd shore.

Now fix'd on earth his towering stature stood,
Hung o'er the mountains, and o'erlook'd the wood.
To Brumpton's grove one ample stride he took,
(The valleys trembled, and the forests shook)
The next huge step reach'd the devoted shade,
Where choak'd in blood was wretched Albion laid:
Where now the vanquish'd, with the victors join'd,
Beneath the regal banners stood combin'd.
Th' embattled dwarfs with rage and scorn he past,
And on their town his eye vindictive cast.

In deep foundations his strong trident cleaves.
And high in air th' up-rooted empire heaves;
On his broad engine the vast ruin hung,
Which on the foe with force divine he flung:
Aghast the legions, in th' approaching shade,
Th' inverted spires and rocking domes survey'd,
That, downward tumbling on the host below,
Crush'd the whole nation at one dreadful blow.
Towers, arms, nymphs, warriors, are together lost,
And a whole empire falls to sooth said Albion's ghost.

Such was the period, long restrain'd by Fate,
And such the downfall of the fairy state.
This dale, a pleasing region, not unblest,
This dale possest they; and had still possest;
Had not their monarch, with a father's pride,
Rent from her lord th' inviolable bride,
Rash to dissolve the contract seal'd above,
The solemn vows and sacred bonds of love.
Now, where his elves so sprightly danc'd the round,
No violet breathes, nor daisy paints the ground,

His towers and people fill one common grave,
A shapeless ruin, and a barren cave.
Beneath huge hills of smoking piles he lay
Stunn'd and confounded a whole summer's day,
At length awak'd (for what can long restrain
Unbody'd spirits!) but awak'd in pain:
And as he saw the desolated wood,
And the dark den where once his empire stood,
Grief chill'd his heart: to his half-open'd eyes
In every oak a Neptune seem'd to rise:

He fled: and left, with all his trembling peers,
The long possession of a thousand years.
Through bush, through brake, through groves, and gloomy dales,
Through dank and dry, o'er streams and flowery vales,
Direct they fled; but often look'd behind,
And stopt and started at each rustling wind.
Wing'd with like fear, his abdicated bands
Disperse and wander into different lands.
Part hid beneath the Peak's deep caverns lie,
In silent glooms, impervious to the sky;

Part on fair Avon's margin seek repose,
Whose stream o'er Britain's midmost region flows,
Where formidable Neptune never came,
And seas and oceans are but known by fame:
Some to dark woods and secret shade retreat:
And some on mountains choose their airy seat.
There haply by the ruddy damsel seen,
Or shepherd-boy, they featly foot the green,
While from their steps a circling verdure springs;
But fly from towns, and dread the courts of kings.
Mean-while said Kenna, loth to quit the grove,
Hung o'er the body of her breathless love,
Try'd every art, (vain arts!) to change his doom,
And vow'd (vain vows!) to join him in the tomb.
What could she do? the Fates alike deny
The dead to live, or fairy forms to die.
An herb there grows (the same old Homer tells
Ulysses bore to rival Circe's spells)
Its root is ebon-black, but sends to light
A stem that bends with flowrets milky white,

Moly the plant, which gods and fairies know,
But secret kept from mortal men below.
On his pale limbs its virtuous juice she shed,
And murmur'd mystic numbers o'er the dead,
When lo! the little shape by magic power
Grew less and less, contracted to a flower;
A flower, that first in this sweet garden smil'd,
To virgins sacred, and the Snow-drop styl'd.
The new-born plant with sweet regret she view'd,
Warm'd with her sighs, and with her tears bedew'd,

Its ripen'd seeds from bank to bank convey'd,
And with her lover whiten'd half the shade.
Thus won from death each spring she sees him grow,
And glorious in the vegetable snow,
Which now increas'd through wide Britannia's plains,
Its parent's warmth and spotless name retains,
First leader of the flowery race aspires,
And foremost catches the Sun's genial fires,
'Mid frosts and snows triumphant dares appear,
Mingles the seasons, and leads on the year.

Deserted now of all the pigmy race,
Nor man nor fairy touch'd this guilty place.
In heaps on heaps, for many a rolling age,
It lay accurs'd, the mark of Neptune's rage,
Till great Nassau recloath'd the desert shade,
Thence sacred to Britannia's monarchs made.
'Twas then the green-rob'd nymph, fair Kenna came,
(Kenna that gave the neighbouring town its name)
Proud when she saw th' ennobled garden shine,
With nymphs and heroes of her lover's line,
She vow'd to grace the mansions once her own.
And picture out in plants the fairy town.
To far-fam'd Wise her flight unseen she sped,
And with gay prospects fill'd the craftsman's head,
Soft in his fancy drew a pleasing scheme,
And plann'd that landscape in a morning dream.
With the sweet view the sire of gardens fir'd,
Attempts the labour by the nymph inspir'd,
The walls and streets in rows of yew designs,
And forms the town in all its ancient lines;

The corner trees he lifts more high in air,
And girds the palace with a verdant square;
Nor knows, while round he views the rising scenes,
He builds a city as he plants his greens.

With a sad pleasure the aërial maid
This image of her ancient realms survey'd,
How chang'd, how fall'n from its primeval pride!
Yet here each moon, the hour her lover dy'd,
Each moon his solemn obsequies she pays,
And leads the dance beneath pale Cynthia's rays;

Pleas'd in these shades to head her fairy train,
And grace the groves where Albion's kinsmen reign.

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Worth Forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Herman Melville

The Scout Toward Aldie

The cavalry-camp lies on the slope
Of what was late a vernal hill,
But now like a pavement bare-
An outpost in the perilous wilds
Which ever are lone and still;
But Mosby's men are there -
Of Mosby best beware.

Great trees the troopers felled, and leaned
In antlered walls about their tents;
Strict watch they kept; 'twas Hark! and Mark!
Unarmed none cared to stir abroad
For berries beyond their forest-fence:
As glides in seas the shark,
Rides Mosby through green dark.

All spake of him, but few had seen
Except the maimed ones or the low;
Yet rumor made him every thing-
A farmer-woodman-refugee-
The man who crossed the field but now;
A spell about his life did cling -
Who to the ground shall Mosby bring?

The morning-bugles lonely play,
Lonely the evening-bugle calls -
Unanswered voices in the wild;
The settled hush of birds in nest
Becharms, and all the wood enthralls:
Memory's self is so beguiled
That Mosby seems a satyr's child.

They lived as in the Eerie Land-
The fire-flies showed with fairy gleam;
And yet from pine-tops one might ken
The Capitol dome-hazy-sublime-
A vision breaking on a dream:
So strange it was that Mosby's men
Should dare to prowl where the Dome was seen.

A scout toward Aldie broke the spell. -
The Leader lies before his tent
Gazing at heaven's all-cheering lamp
Through blandness of a morning rare;
His thoughts on bitter-sweets are bent:
His sunny bride is in the camp -
But Mosby - graves are beds of damp!

The trumpet calls; he goes within;
But none the prayer and sob may know:
Her hero he, but bridegroom too.
Ah, love in a tent is a queenly thing,
And fame, be sure, refines the vow;
But fame fond wives have lived to rue,
And Mosby's men fell deeds can do.

Tan-tara! tan-tara! tan-tara!
Mounted and armed he sits a king;
For pride she smiles if now she peep -
Elate he rides at the head of his men;
He is young, and command is a boyish thing:
They file out into the forest deep -
Do Mosby and his rangers sleep?

The sun is gold, and the world is green,
Opal the vapors of morning roll;
The champing horses lightly prance -
Full of caprice, and the riders too
Curving in many a caricole.
But marshaled soon, by fours advance -
Mosby had checked that airy dance.

By the hospital-tent the cripples stand -
Bandage, and crutch, and cane, and sling,
And palely eye the brave array;
The froth of the cup is gone for them
(Caw! caw! the crows through the blueness wing);
Yet these were late as bold, as gay;
But Mosby - a clip, and grass is hay.

How strong they feel on their horses free,
Tingles the tendoned thigh with life;
Their cavalry-jackets make boys of all -
With golden breasts like the oriole;
The chat, the jest, and laugh are rife.
But word is passed from the front - a call
For order; the wood is Mosby's hall.

To which behest one rider sly
(Spurred, but unarmed) gave little heed -
Of dexterous fun not slow or spare,
He teased his neighbors of touchy mood,
Into plungings he pricked his steed:
A black-eyed man on a coal-black mare,
Alive as Mosby in mountain air.

His limbs were long, and large and round;
He whispered, winked-did all but shout:
A healthy man for the sick to view;
The taste in his mouth was sweet at morn;
Little of care he cared about.
And yet of pains and pangs he knew -
In others, maimed by Mosby's crew.

The Hospital Steward - even he
(Sacred in person as a priest),
And on his coat-sleeve broidered nice
Wore the caduceus, black and green.
No wonder he sat so light on his beast;
This cheery man in suit of price
Not even Mosby dared to slice.

They pass the picket by the pine
And hollow log - a lonesome place;
His horse adroop, and pistol clean;
'Tis cocked - kept leveled toward the wood;
Strained vigilance ages his childish face.
Since midnight has that stripling been
Peering for Mosby through the green.

Splashing they cross the freshet-flood,
And up the muddy bank they strain;
A horse at the spectral white-ash shies -
One of the span of the ambulance,
Black as a hearse. They give the rein:
Silent speed on a scout were wise,
Could cunning baffle Mosby's spies.

Rumor had come that a band was lodged
In green retreats of hills that peer
By Aldie (famed for the swordless charge).
Much store they'd heaped of captured arms
And, per adventure, pilfered cheer;
For Mosby's lads oft hearts enlarge
In revelry by some gorge's marge.

'Don't let your sabres rattle and ring;
To his oat-bag let each man give heed -
There now, that fellow's bag's untied,
Sowing the road with the precious grain.
Your carbines swing at hand - you need!
Look to yourselves, and your nags beside,
Men who after Mosby ride.'

Picked lads and keen went sharp before -
A guard, though scarce against surprise;
And rearmost rode an answering troop,
But flankers none to right or left.
No bugle peals, no pennon flies:
Silent they sweep, and fain would swoop
On Mosby with an Indian whoop.

On, right on through the forest land,
Nor man, nor maid, nor child was seen -
Not even a dog. The air was still;
The blackened hut they turned to see,
And spied charred benches on the green;
A squirrel sprang from the rotting mill
Whence Mosby sallied late, brave blood to spill.

By worn-out fields they cantered on -
Drear fields amid the woodlands wide;
By cross-roads of some olden time,
In which grew groves; by gate-stones down -
Grassed ruins of secluded pride:
A strange lone land, long past the prime,
Fit land for Mosby or for crime.

The brook in the dell they pass. One peers
Between the leaves: 'Ay, there's the place -
There, on the oozy ledge - 'twas there
We found the body (Blake's you know);
Such whirlings, gurglings round the face -
Shot drinking! Well, in war all's fair -
So Mosby says. The bough - take care!'

Hard by, a chapel. Flower-pot mould
Danked and decayed the shaded roof;
The porch was punk; the clapboards spanned
With ruffled lichens gray or green;
Red coral-moss was not aloof;
And mid dry leaves green dead-man's-hand
Groped toward that chapel in Mosby-land.

They leave the road and take the wood,
And mark the trace of ridges there -
A wood where once had slept the farm -
A wood where once tobacco grew
Drowsily in the hazy air,
And wrought in all kind things a calm -
Such influence, Mosby! bids disarm.

To ease even yet the place did woo -
To ease which pines unstirring share,
For ease the weary horses sighed:
Halting, and slackening girths, they feed,
Their pipes they light, they loiter there;
Then up, and urging still the Guide,
On, and after Mosby ride.

This Guide in frowzy coat of brown,
And beard of ancient growth and mould,
Bestrode a bony steed and strong,
As suited well with bulk he bore -
A wheezy man with depth of hold
Who jouncing went. A staff he swung -
A wight whom Mosby's wasp had stung.

Burnt out and homeless - hunted long!
That wheeze he caught in autumn-wood
Crouching (a fat man) for his life,
And spied his lean son 'mong the crew
That probed the covert. Ah! black blood
Was his 'gainst even child and wife -
Fast friends to Mosby. Such the strife.

A lad, unhorsed by sliding girths,
Strains hard to readjust his seat
Ere the main body show the gap
'Twixt them and the rear-guard; scrub-oaks near
He sidelong eyes, while hands move fleet;
Then mounts and spurs. One drops his cap -
'Let Mosby find!' nor heeds mishap.

A gable time-stained peeps through trees:
'You mind the fight in the haunted house?
That's it; we clenched them in the room -
An ambuscade of ghosts, we thought,
But proved sly rebels on a bouse!
Luke lies in the yard.' The chimneys loom:
Some muse on Mosby - some on doom.

Less nimbly now through brakes they wind,
And ford wild creeks where men have drowned;
They skirt the pool, avoid the fen,
And so till night, when down they lie,
Their steeds still saddled, in wooded ground:
Rein in hand they slumber then,
Dreaming of Mosby's cedarn den.

But Colonel and Major friendly sat
Where boughs deformed low made a seat.
The Young Man talked (all sworded and spurred)
Of the partisan's blade he longed to win,
And frays in which he meant to beat.
The grizzled Major smoked, and heard:
'But what's that - Mosby?' 'No, a bird.'

A contrast here like sire and son,
Hope and Experience sage did meet;
The Youth was brave, the Senior too;
But through the Seven Days one had served,
And gasped with the rear-guard in retreat:
So he smoked and smoked, and the wreath he blew -
'Any sure news of Mosby's crew?'

He smoked and smoked, eyeing the while
A huge tree hydra-like in growth -
Moon-tinged-with crook'd boughs rent or lopped -
Itself a haggard forest. 'Come!'
The Colonel cried, 'to talk you're loath;
D'ye hear? I say he must be stopped,
This Mosby - caged, and hair close cropped.'

'Of course; but what's that dangling there?'
'Where?' 'From the tree - that gallows-bough;
'A bit of frayed bark, is it not?'
'Ay-or a rope; did we hang last? -
Don't like my neckerchief any how;'
He loosened it: 'O ay, we'll stop
This Mosby - but that vile jerk and drop!'

By peep of light they feed and ride,
Gaining a grove's green edge at morn,
And mark the Aldie hills upread
And five gigantic horsemen carved
Clear-cut against the sky withdrawn;
Are more behind? an open snare?
Or Mosby's men but watchmen there?

The ravaged land was miles behind,
And Loudon spread her landscape rare;
Orchards in pleasant lowlands stood,
Cows were feeding, a cock loud crew,
But not a friend at need was there;
The valley-folk were only good
To Mosby and his wandering brood.

What best to do? what mean yon men?
Colonel and Guide their minds compare;
Be sure some looked their Leader through;
Dismounted, on his sword he leaned
As one who feigns an easy air;
And yet perplexed he was they knew -
Perplexed by Mosby's mountain-crew.

The Major hemmed as he would speak,
But checked himself, and left the ring
Of cavalrymen about their Chief -
Young courtiers mute who paid their court
By looking with confidence on their king;
They knew him brave, foresaw no grief -
But Mosby - the time to think is brief.

The Surgeon (sashed in sacred green)
Was glad 'twas not for him to say
What next should be; if a trooper bleeds,
Why he will do his best,as wont,
And his partner in black will aid and pray;
But judgment bides with him who leads,
And Mosby many a problem breeds.

The Surgeon was the kindliest man
That ever a callous trace professed;
He felt for him, that Leader young,
And offered medicine from his flask:
The Colonel took it with marvelous zest.
For such fine medicine good and strong,
Oft Mosby and his foresters long.

A charm of proof. 'Ho, Major, come-
Pounce on yon men! Take half your troop,
Through the thickets wind-pray speedy be-
And gain their read. And, Captain Morn,
Picket these roads-all travelers stop;
The rest to the edge of this crest with me,
That Mosby and his scouts may see.'

Commanded and done. Ere the sun stood steep,
Back came the Blues, with a troop of Grays,
Ten riding double-luckless ten!-
Five horses gone, and looped hats lost,
And love-locks dancing in a maze-
Certes, but sophomores from the glen
Of Mosby-not his veteran men.

'Colonel,' said the Major, touching his cap,
'We've had our ride, and here they are.'
'Well done! How many found you there?'
'As many as I bring you here.'
'And no one hurt?' 'There'll be no scar -
One fool was battered.' 'Find their lair?'
'Why, Mosby's brood camp everywhere.'

He sighed, and slid down from his horse,
And limping went to a spring-head nigh.
'Why, bless me, Major, not hurt, I hope?'
'Battered my knee against a bar
When the rush was made; all right by-and-by. -
Halloa! They gave you too much rope -
Go back to Mosby, eh? elope?'

Just by the low-hanging skirt of wood
The guard, remiss, had given a chance
For a sudden sally into the cover -
But foiled the intent, nor fired a shot,
Though the issue was a deadly trance;
For, hurled 'gainst an oak that humped low over,
Mosby's man fell, pale as a lover.

They pulled some grass his head to ease
(Lined with blue shreds a ground-nest stirred).
The Surgeon came -'Here's a to-do!'
'Ah!' cried the Major, darting a glance,
'This fellow's the one that fired and spurred
Downhill, but met reserves below -
My boys, not Mosby's - so we go!'

The Surgeon - bluff, red, goodly man -
Kneeled by the hurt one; like a bee
He toiled the pale young Chaplain too -
(Who went to the wars for cure of souls,
And his own student-ailments) - he
Bent over likewise; spite the two,
Mosby's poor man more pallid grew.

Meanwhile the mounted captives near
Jested; and yet they anxious showed;
Virginians; some of family-pride,
And young, and full of fire, and fine
In open feature and cheek that glowed;
And here thralled vagabonds now they ride -
But list! one speaks for Mosby's side.

'Why, three to one - your horses strong -
Revolvers, rifles, and a surprise -
Surrender we account no shame!
We live, are gay, and life is hope;
We'll fight again when fight is wise.
There are plenty more from where we came;
But go find Mosby - start the game!'

Yet one there was who looked but glum;
In middle-age, a father he,
And this his first experience too:
'They shot at my heart when my hands were up -
This fighting's crazy work, I see!'
But no one is nigh; what next do?
The woods are mute, and Mosby is the foe.

Save what we've got,' the Major said;
'Bad plan to make a scout too long;
The tide may turn, and drag them back,
And more beside. These rides I've been,
And every time a mine was sprung.
To rescue, mind, they won't be slack -
Look out for Mosby's rifle-crack.'

'We'll welcome it! Give crack for crack!
Peril, old lad, is what I seek.'
'O then, there's plenty to be had -
By all means on, and have our fill!'
With that, grotesque, he writhed his neck,
Showing a scar by buck-shot made -
Kind Mosby's Christmas gift, he said.

'But, Colonel, my prisoners - let a guard
Make sure of them, and lead to camp.
That done, we're free for a dark-room fight
If so you say. 'The other laughed;
'Trust me, Major, nor throw a damp.
But first to try a little sleight -
Sure news of Mosby would suit me quite.'

Herewith he turned - 'Reb, have a dram?'
Holding the Surgeon's flask with a smile
To a young scapegrace from the glen.
'O yes!' he eagerly replied,
'And thank you, Colonel, but - any guile?
For if you think we'll blab - why, then
You don't know Mosby or his men.'

The Leader's genial air relaxed.
'Best give it up,' a whisperer said.
'By heaven, I'll range their rebel den!'
'They'll treat you well,' the captive cried;
'They're all like us - handsome - well bred:
In wood or town, with sword or pen,
Polite is Mosby, and his men.'

'Where were you, lads, last night? - come, tell!'
'We? - at a wedding in the Vale -
The bridegroom our comrade; by his side
Belisent, my cousin - O, so proud
Of her young love with old wounds pale -
A Virginian girl! God bless her pride -
Of a crippled Mosby-man the bride!'

'Four wall shall mend that saucy mood,
And moping prisons tame him down,'
Said Captain Cloud.' God help that day,'
Cried Captain Morn, 'and he so young.
But hark, he sings - a madcap one!'
'O we multiply merrily in the May,
The birds and Mosby's men, they say!'

While echoes ran, a wagon old,
Under stout guard of Corporal Chew
Came up; a lame horse, dingy white,
With clouted harness; ropes in hand,
Cringed the humped driver, black in hue;
By him (for Mosby's band a sight)
A sister-rebel sat, her veil held tight.

'I picked them up,' the Corporal said,
'Crunching their way over stick and root,
Through yonder wood. The man here - Cuff -
Says they are going to Leesburgtown.'
The Colonel's eye took in the group;
The veiled one's hand he spied - enough!
Not Mosby's. Spite the gown's poor stuff,

Off went his hat: 'Lady, fear not;
We soldiers do what we deplore -
I must detain you till we march,'
The stranger nodded. Nettled now,
He grew politer than before: -
'Tis Mosby's fault, this halt and search:'
The lady stiffened in her starch.

'My duty, madam, bids me now
Ask what may seem a little rude.
Pardon - that veil - withdraw it, please
(Corporal! Make every man fall back);
Pray, now I do but what I should;
Bethink you, 'tis in masks like these
That Mosby haunts the villages.'

Slowly the stranger drew her veil,
And looked the Soldier in the eye -
A glance of mingled foul and fair;
Sad patience in a proud disdain,
And more than quietude. A sigh
She heaved, and if all unaware,
And far seemed Mosby from her care.

She came from Yewton Place, her home,
So ravaged by the war's wild play -
Campings, and foragings, and fires -
That now she sought an aunt's abode.
Her kinsmen? In Lee's army, they.
The black? A servant, late her sire's.
And Mosby? Vainly he inquires.

He gazed, and sad she met his eye;
'In the wood yonder were you lost?'
No; at the forks they left the road
Because of hoof-prints (thick they were -
Thick as the words in notes thrice crossed),
And fearful, made that episode.
In fear of Mosby? None she showed.

Her poor attire again he scanned:
'Lady, once more; I grieve to jar
On all sweet usage, but must plead
To have what peeps there from your dress;
That letter - 'tis justly prize of war.'
She started - gave it - she must need.
'Tis not from Mosby? May I read?'

And straight such matter he perused
That with the Guide he went apart.
The Hospital Steward's turn began:
'Must squeeze this darkey; every tap
Of knowledge we are bound to start.'
'Garry,' she said, 'tell all you can
Of Colonel Mosby - that brave man.'

'Dun know much, sare; and missis here
Know less dan me. But dis I know -'
'Well, what?' 'I dun know what I know.'
'A knowing answer!' The hump-back coughed,
Rubbing his yellowish wool-like tow.
'Come - Mosby - tell!' 'O dun look so!
My gal nursed missis - let we go.'

'Go where?' demanded Captain Cloud;
'Back into bondage? Man, you're free!'
'Well, let we free!' The Captain's brow
Lowered; the Colonel came - had heard:
'Pooh! pooh! His simple heart I see -
A faithful servant. -Lady' (a bow),
'Mosby's abroad - with us you'll go.

'Guard! Look to your prisoners; back to camp!
The man in the grass - can he mount and away?
Why, how he groans!' 'Bad inward bruise-
Might lug him along in the ambulance.'
'Coals to Newcastle! Let him stay.
Boots and saddles! - our pains we lose,
Nor care I if Mosby hear the news!'

But word was sent to a house at hand,
And a flask was left by the hurt one's side.
They seized in that same house a man,
Neutral by day, by night a foe -
So charged his neighbor late, the Guide.
A grudge? Hate will do what it can;
Along he went for a Mosby-man.

No secrets now; the bugle calls;
The open road they take, nor shun
The hill; retrace the weary way.
But one there was who whispered low,
'This is a feint - we'll back anon;
Young Hair-Brains don't retreat, they say;
A brush with Mosby is the play!'

They rode till eve. Then on a farm
That lay along a hill-side green,
Bivouacked. Fires were made, and then
Coffee was boiled; a cow was coaxed
And killed, and savory roasts were seen;
And under the lee of a cattle-pen
The guard supped freely with Mosby's men.

The ball was bandied to and fro;
Hits were given and hits were met;
'Chickamauga, Feds - take off your hat!'
'But the Fight in the Clouds repaid you, Rebs!'
'Forgotten about Manassas yet?'
Chatting and chaffing, and tit for tat,
Mosby's clan with the troopers sat.

'Here comes the moon!' a captive cried;
'A song! What say? Archy, my lad!'
Hailing are still one of the clan
(A boyish face with girlish hair),
'Give us that thing poor Pansy made
Last year.' He brightened, and began;
And this was the song of Mosby's man:

Spring is come; she shows her pass -
Wild violets cool!
South of woods a small close grass -
A vernal wool!
Leaves are a'bud on the sassafras-
They'll soon be full;
Blessings on the friendly screen -
I'm for the South! Says the leafage green.

Robins! fly, and take your fill
Of out-of-doors -
Garden, orchard, meadow, hill,
Barns and bowers;
Take your fill, and have your will -
Virginia's yours!
But, bluebirds! Keep away, and fear
The ambuscade in bushes here.

'A green song that,' a sergeant said;
'But where's poor Pansy? Gone, I fear.'
'Ay, mustered out at Ashby's Gap.'
'I see; now for a live man's song;
Ditty for ditty - prepare to cheer.
My bluebirds, you can fling a cap!
You barehead Mosby-boys - why - clap!'

Nine Blue-coats went a-nutting
Slyly in Tennessee-
Not for chestnuts - better than that-
Hugh, you bumble-bee!
Nutting, nutting -
All through the year there's nutting!

A tree they spied so yellow,
Rustling in motion queer;
In they fired, and down they dropped -
Butternuts, my dear!
Nutting, nutting-
Who'll 'list to go a-nutting?

Ah! Why should good fellows foe men be?
And who would dream that foes they were -
Larking and singing so friendly then -
A family likeness in every face.
But Captain Cloud made sour demur:
'Guard! Keep your prisoners in the pen,
And let none talk with Mosby's men.'


That captain was a valorous one
(No irony, but honest truth),
Yet down from his brain cold drops distilled,
Making stalactites in his heart -
A conscientious soul, forsooth;
And with a formal hate was filled
Of Mosby's band; and some he'd killed.

Meantime the lady rueful sat,
Watching the flicker of a fire
Where the Colonel played the outdoor host
In brave old hall of ancient Night.
But ever the dame grew shyer and shyer,
Seeming with private grief engrossed -
Grief far from Mosby, housed or lost.

The ruddy embers showed her pale.
The Soldier did his best devoir:
'Some coffee? -no? - cracker? -one?'
Cared for her servant - sought to cheer:
'I know, I know - a cruel war!
But wait - even Mosby'll eat his bun;
The Old Hearth - back to it anon!'

But cordial words no balm could bring;
She sighed, and kept her inward chafe,
And seemed to hate the voice of glee -
Joyless and tearless. Soon he called
An escort: 'See this lady safe
In yonder house. - Madam, you're free.
And now for Mosby. - Guide! With me.'

('A night-ride, eh?') 'Tighten your girths!
But, buglers! Not a note from you.
Fling more rails on the fires - ablaze!'
('Sergeant, a feint - I told you so -
Toward Aldie again. Bivouac, adieu!')
After the cheery flames they gaze,
Then back for Mosby through the maze.

The moon looked through the trees, and tipped
The scabbards with her elfin beam;
The Leader backward cast his glance,
Proud of the cavalcade that came-
A hundred horses, bay and cream:
'Major! Look how the lads advance -
Mosby we'll have in the ambulance!'

'No doubt, no doubt: - was that a hare? -
First catch, then cook; and cook him brown.'
'Trust me to catch,' the other cried-
'The lady's letter! - A dance, man, dance
This night is given in Leesburgtown!'
'He'll be there too!' wheezed out the Guide;
'That Mosby loves a dance and ride!'

'The lady, ah! - the lady's letter -
A lady, then, is in the case,'
Muttered the Major. 'Ay, her aunt
Writes her to come by Friday eve
(To-night), for people of the place,
At Mosby's last fight jubilant,
A party give, thought able-cheer be scant.'

The Major hemmed. 'Then this night-ride
We owe to her? - One lighted house
In a town else dark .- The moths, begar!
Are not quite yet all dead!' 'How? how?'
'A mute, meek mournful little mouse! -
Mosby has wiles which subtle are -
But woman's wiles in wiles of war!'

'Tut, Major! By what craft or guile -'
'Can't tell! but he'll be found in wait.
Softly we enter, say, the town -
Good! Pickets post, and all so sure -
When - crack! The rifles from every gate,
The Gray-backs fire - dashes up and down -
Each alley unto Mosby known!'

'Now, Major, now - you take dark views
Of a moonlight night.' 'Well, well, we'll see,'
And smoked as if each whiff were gain.
The other mused; then sudden asked,
'What would you doing rand decree?'
I'd beat, if I could, Lee's armies - then
Send constables after Mosby's men.'

'Ay! ay! - you're odd.' The moon sailed up;
On through the shadowy land they went.
'Names must be made and printed be!'
Hummed the blithe Colonel. 'Doc, your flask!
Major, I drink to your good content.
My pipe is out - enough for me!
One's buttons shine - does Mosby see?

'But what comes here?' A man from the front
Reported a tree athwart the road.
'Go round it, then; no time to bide;
All right - go on! Were one to stay
For each distrust of a nervous mood,
Long miles we'd make in this our ride
Through Mosby-land. - Oh! with the Guide!'

Then sportful to the Surgeon turned:
'Green sashes hardly serve by night!'
'Nor bullets nor bottles,' the Major sighed,
'Against these moccasin-snakes-such foes
As seldom come to solid fight:
They kill and vanish; through grass they glide;
Devil take Mosby!'-his horse here shied.

'Hold! look-the tree, like a dragged balloon;
A globe of leaves-some trickery here;
My nag is right-best now be shy.'
A movement was made, a hubbub and snarl;
Little was plain-they blindly steer.
The Pleiades, as from ambush sly,
Peep out-Mosby's men in the sky!

As restive they turn, how sore they feel,
And cross, and sleepy, and full of spleen,
And curse the war. 'Fools, North and South!'
Said one right out. 'O for a bed!
O now to drop in this woodland green!'
He drops as the syllables leave his mouth-
Mosby speaks from the undergrowth-

Speaks in a volley! Out jets the flame!
Men fall from their saddles like plums from trees;
Horses take fright, reins tangle and bind;
'Steady - Dismount - form - and into the wood!'
They go, but find what scarce can please:
Their steeds have been tied in the field behind,
And Mosby's men are off like the wind.

Sound the recall! Vain to pursue -
The enemy scatters in wilds he knows,
To reunite in his own good time;
And, to follow, they need divide-
To come lone and lost on crouching foes:
Maple and hemlock, beech and lime,
Are Mosby's confederates, share the crime.

'Major,' burst in a bugler small,
'The fellow we left in Loudon grass -
Sir slyboots with the inward bruise,
His voice I heard - the very same -
Some watch word in the ambush pass;
Ay, sir, we had him in his shoes -
We caught him - Mosby - but to lose!'

'Go, go! - these saddle-dreamers! Well,
And here's another. - Cool, sir, cool!'
'Major, I saw them mount and sweep,
And one was humped, or I mistake,
And in the skurry dropped his wool.'
'A wig! go fetch it: - the lads need sleep;
They'll next see Mosby in a sheep!

'Come, come, fall back! Reform your ranks -
All's jackstraws here! Where's Captain Morn?-
We've parted like boats in a raging tide!
But stay - the Colonel - did he charge?
And comes he there? 'Tis streak of dawn;
Mosby is off, the woods are wide-
Hist! there's a groan - this crazy ride!'

As they searched for the fallen, the dawn grew chill;
They lay in the dew: 'Ah! Hurt much, Mink?
And - yes - the Colonel! 'Dead! but so calm
That death seemed nothing - even death,
The thing we deem everything heart can think;
Amid wilding roses that shed their balm,
Careless of Mosby he lay - in a charm!

The Major took him by the Hand -
Into the friendly clasp it bled
(A ball through heart and hand he rued):
'Good-bye' and gazed with humid glance;
Then in a hollow reverie said
'The weakness thing is lustihood;
But Mosby' - and he checked his mood.

'Where's the advance? - cut off, by heaven!
Come, Surgeon, how with your wounded there?'
'The ambulance will carry all.'
'Well, get them in; we go to camp.
Seven prisoners gone? For the rest have care.'
Then to himself, 'This grief is gall;
That Mosby! - I'll cast a silver ball!'

'Ho!' turning -'Captain Cloud, you mind
The place where the escort went - so shady?
Go search every closet low and high,
And barn, and bin, and hidden bower -
Every covert - find that lady!
And yet I may misjudge her - ay,
Women (like Mosby) mystify.

'We'll see. Ay, Captain, go - with speed!
Surround and search; each living thing
Secure; that done, await us where
We last turned off. Stay! fire the cage
If the birds be flown. 'By the cross-road spring
The bands rejoined; no words; the glare
Told all. Had Mosby plotted there?

The weary troop that wended now -
Hardly it seemed the same that pricked
Forth to the forest from the camp:
Foot-sore horses, jaded men;
Every backbone felt as nicked,
Each eye dim as a sick-room lamp,
All faces stamped with Mosby's stamp.

In order due the Major rode -
Chaplain and Surgeon on either hand;
A riderless horse a negro led;
In a wagon the blanketed sleeper went;
Then the ambulance with the bleeding band;
And, an emptied oat-bag on each head,
Went Mosby's men, and marked the dead.

What gloomed them? What so cast them down,
And changed the cheer that late they took,
As double-guarded now they rode
Between the files of moody men?
Some sudden consciousness they brook,
Or dread the sequel. That night's blood
Disturbed even Mosby's brotherhood.

The flagging horses stumbled at roots,
Floundered in mires, or clinked the stones;
No rider spake except aside;
But the wounded cramped in the ambulance,
It was horror to hear their groans -
Jerked along in the woodland ride,
While Mosby's clan their reverie hide.

The Hospital Steward - even he -
Who on the sleeper kept this glance,
Was changed; late bright-black beard and eye
Looked now hearse-black; his heavy heart,
Like his fagged mare, no more could dance;
His grape was now a raisin dry:
'Tis Mosby's homily - Man must die.

The amber sunset flushed the camp
As on the hill their eyes they fed;
The picket dumb looks at the wagon dart;
A handkerchief waves from the bannered tent -
As white, alas! The face of the dead:
Who shall the withering news impart?
The bullet of Mosby goes through heart to heart!

They buried him where the lone ones lie
(Lone sentries shot on midnight post) -
A green-wood grave-yard hid from ken,
Where sweet-fern flings an odor nigh -
Yet held in fear for the gleaming ghost!
Though the bride should see threescore and ten,
She will dream of Mosby and his men.

Now halt the verse, and turn aside -
The cypress falls athwart the way;
No joy remains for bard to sing;
And heaviest dole of all is this,
That other hearts shall be as gay
As hers that now no more shall spring:
To Mosby-land the dirges cling.

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Georgic 4

Of air-born honey, gift of heaven, I now
Take up the tale. Upon this theme no less
Look thou, Maecenas, with indulgent eye.
A marvellous display of puny powers,
High-hearted chiefs, a nation's history,
Its traits, its bent, its battles and its clans,
All, each, shall pass before you, while I sing.
Slight though the poet's theme, not slight the praise,
So frown not heaven, and Phoebus hear his call.
First find your bees a settled sure abode,
Where neither winds can enter (winds blow back
The foragers with food returning home)
Nor sheep and butting kids tread down the flowers,
Nor heifer wandering wide upon the plain
Dash off the dew, and bruise the springing blades.
Let the gay lizard too keep far aloof
His scale-clad body from their honied stalls,
And the bee-eater, and what birds beside,
And Procne smirched with blood upon the breast
From her own murderous hands. For these roam wide
Wasting all substance, or the bees themselves
Strike flying, and in their beaks bear home, to glut
Those savage nestlings with the dainty prey.
But let clear springs and moss-green pools be near,
And through the grass a streamlet hurrying run,
Some palm-tree o'er the porch extend its shade,
Or huge-grown oleaster, that in Spring,
Their own sweet Spring-tide, when the new-made chiefs
Lead forth the young swarms, and, escaped their comb,
The colony comes forth to sport and play,
The neighbouring bank may lure them from the heat,
Or bough befriend with hospitable shade.
O'er the mid-waters, whether swift or still,
Cast willow-branches and big stones enow,
Bridge after bridge, where they may footing find
And spread their wide wings to the summer sun,
If haply Eurus, swooping as they pause,
Have dashed with spray or plunged them in the deep.
And let green cassias and far-scented thymes,
And savory with its heavy-laden breath
Bloom round about, and violet-beds hard by
Sip sweetness from the fertilizing springs.
For the hive's self, or stitched of hollow bark,
Or from tough osier woven, let the doors
Be strait of entrance; for stiff winter's cold
Congeals the honey, and heat resolves and thaws,
To bees alike disastrous; not for naught
So haste they to cement the tiny pores
That pierce their walls, and fill the crevices
With pollen from the flowers, and glean and keep
To this same end the glue, that binds more fast
Than bird-lime or the pitch from Ida's pines.
Oft too in burrowed holes, if fame be true,
They make their cosy subterranean home,
And deeply lodged in hollow rocks are found,
Or in the cavern of an age-hewn tree.
Thou not the less smear round their crannied cribs
With warm smooth mud-coat, and strew leaves above;
But near their home let neither yew-tree grow,
Nor reddening crabs be roasted, and mistrust
Deep marish-ground and mire with noisome smell,
Or where the hollow rocks sonorous ring,
And the word spoken buffets and rebounds.
What more? When now the golden sun has put
Winter to headlong flight beneath the world,
And oped the doors of heaven with summer ray,
Forthwith they roam the glades and forests o'er,
Rifle the painted flowers, or sip the streams,
Light-hovering on the surface. Hence it is
With some sweet rapture, that we know not of,
Their little ones they foster, hence with skill
Work out new wax or clinging honey mould.
So when the cage-escaped hosts you see
Float heavenward through the hot clear air, until
You marvel at yon dusky cloud that spreads
And lengthens on the wind, then mark them well;
For then 'tis ever the fresh springs they seek
And bowery shelter: hither must you bring
The savoury sweets I bid, and sprinkle them,
Bruised balsam and the wax-flower's lowly weed,
And wake and shake the tinkling cymbals heard
By the great Mother: on the anointed spots
Themselves will settle, and in wonted wise
Seek of themselves the cradle's inmost depth.
But if to battle they have hied them forth-
For oft 'twixt king and king with uproar dire
Fierce feud arises, and at once from far
You may discern what passion sways the mob,
And how their hearts are throbbing for the strife;
Hark! the hoarse brazen note that warriors know
Chides on the loiterers, and the ear may catch
A sound that mocks the war-trump's broken blasts;
Then in hot haste they muster, then flash wings,
Sharpen their pointed beaks and knit their thews,
And round the king, even to his royal tent,
Throng rallying, and with shouts defy the foe.
So, when a dry Spring and clear space is given,
Forth from the gates they burst, they clash on high;
A din arises; they are heaped and rolled
Into one mighty mass, and headlong fall,
Not denselier hail through heaven, nor pelting so
Rains from the shaken oak its acorn-shower.
Conspicuous by their wings the chiefs themselves
Press through the heart of battle, and display
A giant's spirit in each pigmy frame,
Steadfast no inch to yield till these or those
The victor's ponderous arm has turned to flight.
Such fiery passions and such fierce assaults
A little sprinkled dust controls and quells.
And now, both leaders from the field recalled,
Who hath the worser seeming, do to death,
Lest royal waste wax burdensome, but let
His better lord it on the empty throne.
One with gold-burnished flakes will shine like fire,
For twofold are their kinds, the nobler he,
Of peerless front and lit with flashing scales;
That other, from neglect and squalor foul,
Drags slow a cumbrous belly. As with kings,
So too with people, diverse is their mould,
Some rough and loathly, as when the wayfarer
Scapes from a whirl of dust, and scorched with heat
Spits forth the dry grit from his parched mouth:
The others shine forth and flash with lightning-gleam,
Their backs all blazoned with bright drops of gold
Symmetric: this the likelier breed; from these,
When heaven brings round the season, thou shalt strain
Sweet honey, nor yet so sweet as passing clear,
And mellowing on the tongue the wine-god's fire.
But when the swarms fly aimlessly abroad,
Disport themselves in heaven and spurn their cells,
Leaving the hive unwarmed, from such vain play
Must you refrain their volatile desires,
Nor hard the task: tear off the monarchs' wings;
While these prove loiterers, none beside will dare
Mount heaven, or pluck the standards from the camp.
Let gardens with the breath of saffron flowers
Allure them, and the lord of Hellespont,
Priapus, wielder of the willow-scythe,
Safe in his keeping hold from birds and thieves.
And let the man to whom such cares are dear
Himself bring thyme and pine-trees from the heights,
And strew them in broad belts about their home;
No hand but his the blistering task should ply,
Plant the young slips, or shed the genial showers.
And I myself, were I not even now
Furling my sails, and, nigh the journey's end,
Eager to turn my vessel's prow to shore,
Perchance would sing what careful husbandry
Makes the trim garden smile; of Paestum too,
Whose roses bloom and fade and bloom again;
How endives glory in the streams they drink,
And green banks in their parsley, and how the gourd
Twists through the grass and rounds him to paunch;
Nor of Narcissus had my lips been dumb,
That loiterer of the flowers, nor supple-stemmed
Acanthus, with the praise of ivies pale,
And myrtles clinging to the shores they love.
For 'neath the shade of tall Oebalia's towers,
Where dark Galaesus laves the yellowing fields,
An old man once I mind me to have seen-
From Corycus he came- to whom had fallen
Some few poor acres of neglected land,
And they nor fruitful' neath the plodding steer,
Meet for the grazing herd, nor good for vines.
Yet he, the while his meagre garden-herbs
Among the thorns he planted, and all round
White lilies, vervains, and lean poppy set,
In pride of spirit matched the wealth of kings,
And home returning not till night was late,
With unbought plenty heaped his board on high.
He was the first to cull the rose in spring,
He the ripe fruits in autumn; and ere yet
Winter had ceased in sullen ire to rive
The rocks with frost, and with her icy bit
Curb in the running waters, there was he
Plucking the rathe faint hyacinth, while he chid
Summer's slow footsteps and the lagging West.
Therefore he too with earliest brooding bees
And their full swarms o'erflowed, and first was he
To press the bubbling honey from the comb;
Lime-trees were his, and many a branching pine;
And all the fruits wherewith in early bloom
The orchard-tree had clothed her, in full tale
Hung there, by mellowing autumn perfected.
He too transplanted tall-grown elms a-row,
Time-toughened pear, thorns bursting with the plum
And plane now yielding serviceable shade
For dry lips to drink under: but these things,
Shut off by rigorous limits, I pass by,
And leave for others to sing after me.
Come, then, I will unfold the natural powers
Great Jove himself upon the bees bestowed,
The boon for which, led by the shrill sweet strains
Of the Curetes and their clashing brass,
They fed the King of heaven in Dicte's cave.
Alone of all things they receive and hold
Community of offspring, and they house
Together in one city, and beneath
The shelter of majestic laws they live;
And they alone fixed home and country know,
And in the summer, warned of coming cold,
Make proof of toil, and for the general store
Hoard up their gathered harvesting. For some
Watch o'er the victualling of the hive, and these
By settled order ply their tasks afield;
And some within the confines of their home
Plant firm the comb's first layer, Narcissus' tear,
And sticky gum oozed from the bark of trees,
Then set the clinging wax to hang therefrom.
Others the while lead forth the full-grown young,
Their country's hope, and others press and pack
The thrice repured honey, and stretch their cells
To bursting with the clear-strained nectar sweet.
Some, too, the wardship of the gates befalls,
Who watch in turn for showers and cloudy skies,
Or ease returning labourers of their load,
Or form a band and from their precincts drive
The drones, a lazy herd. How glows the work!
How sweet the honey smells of perfumed thyme
Like the Cyclopes, when in haste they forge
From the slow-yielding ore the thunderbolts,
Some from the bull's-hide bellows in and out
Let the blasts drive, some dip i' the water-trough
The sputtering metal: with the anvil's weight
Groans Etna: they alternately in time
With giant strength uplift their sinewy arms,
Or twist the iron with the forceps' grip-
Not otherwise, to measure small with great,
The love of getting planted in their breasts
Goads on the bees, that haunt old Cecrops' heights,
Each in his sphere to labour. The old have charge
To keep the town, and build the walled combs,
And mould the cunning chambers; but the youth,
Their tired legs packed with thyme, come labouring home
Belated, for afar they range to feed
On arbutes and the grey-green willow-leaves,
And cassia and the crocus blushing red,
Glue-yielding limes, and hyacinths dusky-eyed.
One hour for rest have all, and one for toil:
With dawn they hurry from the gates- no room
For loiterers there: and once again, when even
Now bids them quit their pasturing on the plain,
Then homeward make they, then refresh their strength:
A hum arises: hark! they buzz and buzz
About the doors and threshold; till at length
Safe laid to rest they hush them for the night,
And welcome slumber laps their weary limbs.
But from the homestead not too far they fare,
When showers hang like to fall, nor, east winds nigh,
Confide in heaven, but 'neath the city walls
Safe-circling fetch them water, or essay
Brief out-goings, and oft weigh-up tiny stones,
As light craft ballast in the tossing tide,
Wherewith they poise them through the cloudy vast.
This law of life, too, by the bees obeyed,
Will move thy wonder, that nor sex with sex
Yoke they in marriage, nor yield their limbs to love,
Nor know the pangs of labour, but alone
From leaves and honied herbs, the mothers, each,
Gather their offspring in their mouths, alone
Supply new kings and pigmy commonwealth,
And their old court and waxen realm repair.
Oft, too, while wandering, against jagged stones
Their wings they fray, and 'neath the burden yield
Their liberal lives: so deep their love of flowers,
So glorious deem they honey's proud acquist.
Therefore, though each a life of narrow span,
Ne'er stretched to summers more than seven, befalls,
Yet deathless doth the race endure, and still
Perennial stands the fortune of their line,
From grandsire unto grandsire backward told.
Moreover, not Aegyptus, nor the realm
Of boundless Lydia, no, nor Parthia's hordes,
Nor Median Hydaspes, to their king
Do such obeisance: lives the king unscathed,
One will inspires the million: is he dead,
Snapt is the bond of fealty; they themselves
Ravage their toil-wrought honey, and rend amain
Their own comb's waxen trellis. He is the lord
Of all their labour; him with awful eye
They reverence, and with murmuring throngs surround,
In crowds attend, oft shoulder him on high,
Or with their bodies shield him in the fight,
And seek through showering wounds a glorious death.
Led by these tokens, and with such traits to guide,
Some say that unto bees a share is given
Of the Divine Intelligence, and to drink
Pure draughts of ether; for God permeates all-
Earth, and wide ocean, and the vault of heaven-
From whom flocks, herds, men, beasts of every kind,
Draw each at birth the fine essential flame;
Yea, and that all things hence to Him return,
Brought back by dissolution, nor can death
Find place: but, each into his starry rank,
Alive they soar, and mount the heights of heaven.
If now their narrow home thou wouldst unseal,
And broach the treasures of the honey-house,
With draught of water first toment thy lips,
And spread before thee fumes of trailing smoke.
Twice is the teeming produce gathered in,
Twofold their time of harvest year by year,
Once when Taygete the Pleiad uplifts
Her comely forehead for the earth to see,
With foot of scorn spurning the ocean-streams,
Once when in gloom she flies the watery Fish,
And dips from heaven into the wintry wave.
Unbounded then their wrath; if hurt, they breathe
Venom into their bite, cleave to the veins
And let the sting lie buried, and leave their lives
Behind them in the wound. But if you dread
Too rigorous a winter, and would fain
Temper the coming time, and their bruised hearts
And broken estate to pity move thy soul,
Yet who would fear to fumigate with thyme,
Or cut the empty wax away? for oft
Into their comb the newt has gnawed unseen,
And the light-loathing beetles crammed their bed,
And he that sits at others' board to feast,
The do-naught drone; or 'gainst the unequal foe
Swoops the fierce hornet, or the moth's fell tribe;
Or spider, victim of Minerva's spite,
Athwart the doorway hangs her swaying net.
The more impoverished they, the keenlier all
To mend the fallen fortunes of their race
Will nerve them, fill the cells up, tier on tier,
And weave their granaries from the rifled flowers.
Now, seeing that life doth even to bee-folk bring
Our human chances, if in dire disease
Their bodies' strength should languish- which anon
By no uncertain tokens may be told-
Forthwith the sick change hue; grim leanness mars
Their visage; then from out the cells they bear
Forms reft of light, and lead the mournful pomp;
Or foot to foot about the porch they hang,
Or within closed doors loiter, listless all
From famine, and benumbed with shrivelling cold.
Then is a deep note heard, a long-drawn hum,
As when the chill South through the forests sighs,
As when the troubled ocean hoarsely booms
With back-swung billow, as ravening tide of fire
Surges, shut fast within the furnace-walls.
Then do I bid burn scented galbanum,
And, honey-streams through reeden troughs instilled,
Challenge and cheer their flagging appetite
To taste the well-known food; and it shall boot
To mix therewith the savour bruised from gall,
And rose-leaves dried, or must to thickness boiled
By a fierce fire, or juice of raisin-grapes
From Psithian vine, and with its bitter smell
Centaury, and the famed Cecropian thyme.
There is a meadow-flower by country folk
Hight star-wort; 'tis a plant not far to seek;
For from one sod an ample growth it rears,
Itself all golden, but girt with plenteous leaves,
Where glory of purple shines through violet gloom.
With chaplets woven hereof full oft are decked
Heaven's altars: harsh its taste upon the tongue;
Shepherds in vales smooth-shorn of nibbling flocks
By Mella's winding waters gather it.
The roots of this, well seethed in fragrant wine,
Set in brimmed baskets at their doors for food.
But if one's whole stock fail him at a stroke,
Nor hath he whence to breed the race anew,
'Tis time the wondrous secret to disclose
Taught by the swain of Arcady, even how
The blood of slaughtered bullocks oft has borne
Bees from corruption. I will trace me back
To its prime source the story's tangled thread,
And thence unravel. For where thy happy folk,
Canopus, city of Pellaean fame,
Dwell by the Nile's lagoon-like overflow,
And high o'er furrows they have called their own
Skim in their painted wherries; where, hard by,
The quivered Persian presses, and that flood
Which from the swart-skinned Aethiop bears him down,
Swift-parted into sevenfold branching mouths
With black mud fattens and makes Aegypt green,
That whole domain its welfare's hope secure
Rests on this art alone. And first is chosen
A strait recess, cramped closer to this end,
Which next with narrow roof of tiles atop
'Twixt prisoning walls they pinch, and add hereto
From the four winds four slanting window-slits.
Then seek they from the herd a steer, whose horns
With two years' growth are curling, and stop fast,
Plunge madly as he may, the panting mouth
And nostrils twain, and done with blows to death,
Batter his flesh to pulp i' the hide yet whole,
And shut the doors, and leave him there to lie.
But 'neath his ribs they scatter broken boughs,
With thyme and fresh-pulled cassias: this is done
When first the west winds bid the waters flow,
Ere flush the meadows with new tints, and ere
The twittering swallow buildeth from the beams.
Meanwhile the juice within his softened bones
Heats and ferments, and things of wondrous birth,
Footless at first, anon with feet and wings,
Swarm there and buzz, a marvel to behold;
And more and more the fleeting breeze they take,
Till, like a shower that pours from summer-clouds,
Forth burst they, or like shafts from quivering string
When Parthia's flying hosts provoke the fray.
Say what was he, what God, that fashioned forth
This art for us, O Muses? of man's skill
Whence came the new adventure? From thy vale,
Peneian Tempe, turning, bee-bereft,
So runs the tale, by famine and disease,
Mournful the shepherd Aristaeus stood
Fast by the haunted river-head, and thus
With many a plaint to her that bare him cried:
'Mother, Cyrene, mother, who hast thy home
Beneath this whirling flood, if he thou sayest,
Apollo, lord of Thymbra, be my sire,
Sprung from the Gods' high line, why barest thou me
With fortune's ban for birthright? Where is now
Thy love to me-ward banished from thy breast?
O! wherefore didst thou bid me hope for heaven?
Lo! even the crown of this poor mortal life,
Which all my skilful care by field and fold,
No art neglected, scarce had fashioned forth,
Even this falls from me, yet thou call'st me son.
Nay, then, arise! With thine own hands pluck up
My fruit-plantations: on the homestead fling
Pitiless fire; make havoc of my crops;
Burn the young plants, and wield the stubborn axe
Against my vines, if there hath taken the
Such loathing of my greatness.' But that cry,
Even from her chamber in the river-deeps,
His mother heard: around her spun the nymphs
Milesian wool stained through with hyaline dye,
Drymo, Xantho, Ligea, Phyllodoce,
Their glossy locks o'er snowy shoulders shed,
Cydippe and Lycorias yellow-haired,
A maiden one, one newly learned even then
To bear Lucina's birth-pang. Clio, too,
And Beroe, sisters, ocean-children both,
Both zoned with gold and girt with dappled fell,
Ephyre and Opis, and from Asian meads
Deiopea, and, bow at length laid by,
Fleet-footed Arethusa. But in their midst
Fair Clymene was telling o'er the tale
Of Vulcan's idle vigilance and the stealth
Of Mars' sweet rapine, and from Chaos old
Counted the jostling love-joys of the Gods.
Charmed by whose lay, the while their woolly tasks
With spindles down they drew, yet once again
Smote on his mother's ears the mournful plaint
Of Aristaeus; on their glassy thrones
Amazement held them all; but Arethuse
Before the rest put forth her auburn head,
Peering above the wave-top, and from far
Exclaimed, 'Cyrene, sister, not for naught
Scared by a groan so deep, behold! 'tis he,
Even Aristaeus, thy heart's fondest care,
Here by the brink of the Peneian sire
Stands woebegone and weeping, and by name
Cries out upon thee for thy cruelty.'
To whom, strange terror knocking at her heart,
'Bring, bring him to our sight,' the mother cried;
'His feet may tread the threshold even of Gods.'
So saying, she bids the flood yawn wide and yield
A pathway for his footsteps; but the wave
Arched mountain-wise closed round him, and within
Its mighty bosom welcomed, and let speed
To the deep river-bed. And now, with eyes
Of wonder gazing on his mother's hall
And watery kingdom and cave-prisoned pools
And echoing groves, he went, and, stunned by that
Stupendous whirl of waters, separate saw
All streams beneath the mighty earth that glide,
Phasis and Lycus, and that fountain-head
Whence first the deep Enipeus leaps to light,
Whence father Tiber, and whence Anio's flood,
And Hypanis that roars amid his rocks,
And Mysian Caicus, and, bull-browed
'Twixt either gilded horn, Eridanus,
Than whom none other through the laughing plains
More furious pours into the purple sea.
Soon as the chamber's hanging roof of stone
Was gained, and now Cyrene from her son
Had heard his idle weeping, in due course
Clear water for his hands the sisters bring,
With napkins of shorn pile, while others heap
The board with dainties, and set on afresh
The brimming goblets; with Panchaian fires
Upleap the altars; then the mother spake,
'Take beakers of Maconian wine,' she said,
'Pour we to Ocean.' Ocean, sire of all,
She worships, and the sister-nymphs who guard
The hundred forests and the hundred streams;
Thrice Vesta's fire with nectar clear she dashed,
Thrice to the roof-top shot the flame and shone:
Armed with which omen she essayed to speak:
'In Neptune's gulf Carpathian dwells a seer,
Caerulean Proteus, he who metes the main
With fish-drawn chariot of two-footed steeds;
Now visits he his native home once more,
Pallene and the Emathian ports; to him
We nymphs do reverence, ay, and Nereus old;
For all things knows the seer, both those which are
And have been, or which time hath yet to bring;
So willed it Neptune, whose portentous flocks,
And loathly sea-calves 'neath the surge he feeds.
Him first, my son, behoves thee seize and bind
That he may all the cause of sickness show,
And grant a prosperous end. For save by force
No rede will he vouchsafe, nor shalt thou bend
His soul by praying; whom once made captive, ply
With rigorous force and fetters; against these
His wiles will break and spend themselves in vain.
I, when the sun has lit his noontide fires,
When the blades thirst, and cattle love the shade,
Myself will guide thee to the old man's haunt,
Whither he hies him weary from the waves,
That thou mayst safelier steal upon his sleep.
But when thou hast gripped him fast with hand and gyve,
Then divers forms and bestial semblances
Shall mock thy grasp; for sudden he will change
To bristly boar, fell tigress, dragon scaled,
And tawny-tufted lioness, or send forth
A crackling sound of fire, and so shake of
The fetters, or in showery drops anon
Dissolve and vanish. But the more he shifts
His endless transformations, thou, my son,
More straitlier clench the clinging bands, until
His body's shape return to that thou sawest,
When with closed eyelids first he sank to sleep.'
So saying, an odour of ambrosial dew
She sheds around, and all his frame therewith
Steeps throughly; forth from his trim-combed locks
Breathed effluence sweet, and a lithe vigour leapt
Into his limbs. There is a cavern vast
Scooped in the mountain-side, where wave on wave
By the wind's stress is driven, and breaks far up
Its inmost creeks- safe anchorage from of old
For tempest-taken mariners: therewithin,
Behind a rock's huge barrier, Proteus hides.
Here in close covert out of the sun's eye
The youth she places, and herself the while
Swathed in a shadowy mist stands far aloof.
And now the ravening dog-star that burns up
The thirsty Indians blazed in heaven; his course
The fiery sun had half devoured: the blades
Were parched, and the void streams with droughty jaws
Baked to their mud-beds by the scorching ray,
When Proteus seeking his accustomed cave
Strode from the billows: round him frolicking
The watery folk that people the waste sea
Sprinkled the bitter brine-dew far and wide.
Along the shore in scattered groups to feed
The sea-calves stretch them: while the seer himself,
Like herdsman on the hills when evening bids
The steers from pasture to their stall repair,
And the lambs' bleating whets the listening wolves,
Sits midmost on the rock and tells his tale.
But Aristaeus, the foe within his clutch,
Scarce suffering him compose his aged limbs,
With a great cry leapt on him, and ere he rose
Forestalled him with the fetters; he nathless,
All unforgetful of his ancient craft,
Transforms himself to every wondrous thing,
Fire and a fearful beast, and flowing stream.
But when no trickery found a path for flight,
Baffled at length, to his own shape returned,
With human lips he spake, 'Who bade thee, then,
So reckless in youth's hardihood, affront
Our portals? or what wouldst thou hence?'- But he,
'Proteus, thou knowest, of thine own heart thou knowest;
For thee there is no cheating, but cease thou
To practise upon me: at heaven's behest
I for my fainting fortunes hither come
An oracle to ask thee.' There he ceased.
Whereat the seer, by stubborn force constrained,
Shot forth the grey light of his gleaming eyes
Upon him, and with fiercely gnashing teeth
Unlocks his lips to spell the fates of heaven:
'Doubt not 'tis wrath divine that plagues thee thus,
Nor light the debt thou payest; 'tis Orpheus' self,
Orpheus unhappy by no fault of his,
So fates prevent not, fans thy penal fires,
Yet madly raging for his ravished bride.
She in her haste to shun thy hot pursuit
Along the stream, saw not the coming death,
Where at her feet kept ward upon the bank
In the tall grass a monstrous water-snake.
But with their cries the Dryad-band her peers
Filled up the mountains to their proudest peaks:
Wailed for her fate the heights of Rhodope,
And tall Pangaea, and, beloved of Mars,
The land that bowed to Rhesus, Thrace no less
With Hebrus' stream; and Orithyia wept,
Daughter of Acte old. But Orpheus' self,
Soothing his love-pain with the hollow shell,
Thee his sweet wife on the lone shore alone,
Thee when day dawned and when it died he sang.
Nay to the jaws of Taenarus too he came,
Of Dis the infernal palace, and the grove
Grim with a horror of great darkness- came,
Entered, and faced the Manes and the King
Of terrors, the stone heart no prayer can tame.
Then from the deepest deeps of Erebus,
Wrung by his minstrelsy, the hollow shades
Came trooping, ghostly semblances of forms
Lost to the light, as birds by myriads hie
To greenwood boughs for cover, when twilight-hour
Or storms of winter chase them from the hills;
Matrons and men, and great heroic frames
Done with life's service, boys, unwedded girls,
Youths placed on pyre before their fathers' eyes.
Round them, with black slime choked and hideous weed,
Cocytus winds; there lies the unlovely swamp
Of dull dead water, and, to pen them fast,
Styx with her ninefold barrier poured between.
Nay, even the deep Tartarean Halls of death
Stood lost in wonderment, and the Eumenides,
Their brows with livid locks of serpents twined;
Even Cerberus held his triple jaws agape,
And, the wind hushed, Ixion's wheel stood still.
And now with homeward footstep he had passed
All perils scathless, and, at length restored,
Eurydice to realms of upper air
Had well-nigh won, behind him following-
So Proserpine had ruled it- when his heart
A sudden mad desire surprised and seized-
Meet fault to be forgiven, might Hell forgive.
For at the very threshold of the day,
Heedless, alas! and vanquished of resolve,
He stopped, turned, looked upon Eurydice
His own once more. But even with the look,
Poured out was all his labour, broken the bond
Of that fell tyrant, and a crash was heard
Three times like thunder in the meres of hell.
'Orpheus! what ruin hath thy frenzy wrought
On me, alas! and thee? Lo! once again
The unpitying fates recall me, and dark sleep
Closes my swimming eyes. And now farewell:
Girt with enormous night I am borne away,
Outstretching toward thee, thine, alas! no more,
These helpless hands.' She spake, and suddenly,
Like smoke dissolving into empty air,
Passed and was sundered from his sight; nor him
Clutching vain shadows, yearning sore to speak,
Thenceforth beheld she, nor no second time
Hell's boatman brooks he pass the watery bar.
What should he do? fly whither, twice bereaved?
Move with what tears the Manes, with what voice
The Powers of darkness? She indeed even now
Death-cold was floating on the Stygian barge!
For seven whole months unceasingly, men say,
Beneath a skyey crag, by thy lone wave,
Strymon, he wept, and in the caverns chill
Unrolled his story, melting tigers' hearts,
And leading with his lay the oaks along.
As in the poplar-shade a nightingale
Mourns her lost young, which some relentless swain,
Spying, from the nest has torn unfledged, but she
Wails the long night, and perched upon a spray
With sad insistence pipes her dolorous strain,
Till all the region with her wrongs o'erflows.
No love, no new desire, constrained his soul:
By snow-bound Tanais and the icy north,
Far steppes to frost Rhipaean forever wed,
Alone he wandered, lost Eurydice
Lamenting, and the gifts of Dis ungiven.
Scorned by which tribute the Ciconian dames,
Amid their awful Bacchanalian rites
And midnight revellings, tore him limb from limb,
And strewed his fragments over the wide fields.
Then too, even then, what time the Hebrus stream,
Oeagrian Hebrus, down mid-current rolled,
Rent from the marble neck, his drifting head,
The death-chilled tongue found yet a voice to cry
'Eurydice! ah! poor Eurydice!'
With parting breath he called her, and the banks
From the broad stream caught up 'Eurydice!''
So Proteus ending plunged into the deep,
And, where he plunged, beneath the eddying whirl
Churned into foam the water, and was gone;
But not Cyrene, who unquestioned thus
Bespake the trembling listener: 'Nay, my son,
From that sad bosom thou mayst banish care:
Hence came that plague of sickness, hence the nymphs,
With whom in the tall woods the dance she wove,
Wrought on thy bees, alas! this deadly bane.
Bend thou before the Dell-nymphs, gracious powers:
Bring gifts, and sue for pardon: they will grant
Peace to thine asking, and an end of wrath.
But how to approach them will I first unfold-
Four chosen bulls of peerless form and bulk,
That browse to-day the green Lycaean heights,
Pick from thy herds, as many kine to match,
Whose necks the yoke pressed never: then for these
Build up four altars by the lofty fanes,
And from their throats let gush the victims' blood,
And in the greenwood leave their bodies lone.
Then, when the ninth dawn hath displayed its beams,
To Orpheus shalt thou send his funeral dues,
Poppies of Lethe, and let slay a sheep
Coal-black, then seek the grove again, and soon
For pardon found adore Eurydice
With a slain calf for victim.'
No delay:
The self-same hour he hies him forth to do
His mother's bidding: to the shrine he came,
The appointed altars reared, and thither led
Four chosen bulls of peerless form and bulk,
With kine to match, that never yoke had known;
Then, when the ninth dawn had led in the day,
To Orpheus sent his funeral dues, and sought
The grove once more. But sudden, strange to tell
A portent they espy: through the oxen's flesh,
Waxed soft in dissolution, hark! there hum
Bees from the belly; the rent ribs overboil
In endless clouds they spread them, till at last
On yon tree-top together fused they cling,
And drop their cluster from the bending boughs.
So sang I of the tilth of furrowed fields,
Of flocks and trees, while Caesar's majesty
Launched forth the levin-bolts of war by deep
Euphrates, and bare rule o'er willing folk
Though vanquished, and essayed the heights of heaven.
I Virgil then, of sweet Parthenope
The nursling, wooed the flowery walks of peace
Inglorious, who erst trilled for shepherd-wights
The wanton ditty, and sang in saucy youth
Thee, Tityrus, 'neath the spreading beech tree's shade.

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William Cowper

Retirement

Hackney'd in business, wearied at that oar,
Which thousands, once fast chain'd to, quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low,
All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego;
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester'd spot,
Or recollected only to gild o'er
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And, having lived a trifler, die a man.
Thus conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebell'd against, not yet suppress'd,
And calls a creature form'd for God alone,
For Heaven's high purposes, and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are cluster'd close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and woe,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker’s power and love.
'Tis well, if look’d for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
And grace his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls, that have long despised their heavenly birth,
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For threescore years employ’d with ceaseless care,
In catching smoke, and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Inveterate habits choke the unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tenderest part,
And, draining its nutritious power to feed
Their noxious growth, starve every better seed.
Happy, if full of days—but happier far,
If, ere we yet discern life’s evening star,
Sick of the service of a world that feeds
Its patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds,
We can escape from custom’s idiot sway,
To serve the sovereign we were born to obey.
Then sweet to muse upon his skill display’d
(Infinite skill) in all that he has made!
To trace in nature’s most minute design
The signature and stamp of power divine,
Contrivance intricate, express’d with ease,
Where unassisted sight no beauty sees,
The shapely limb and lubricated joint,
Within the small dimensions of a point,
Muscle and nerve miraculously spun,
His mighty work, who speaks and it is done,
The invisible in things scarce seen reveal’d,
To whom an atom is an ample field:
To wonder at a thousand insect forms,
These hatch’d, and those resuscitated worms.
New life ordain’d, and brighter scenes to share,
Once prone on earth, now buoyant upon air,
Whose shape would make them, had they bulk and size,
More hideous foes than fancy can devise;
With helmet-heads and dragon-scales adorn’d,
The mighty myriads, now securely scorn’d,
Would mock the majesty of man’s high birth,
Despise his bulwarks, and unpeople earth:
Then with a glance of fancy to survey,
Far as the faculty can stretch away,
Ten thousand rivers pour’d at his command,
From urns that never fail, through every land;
These like a deluge with impetuous force,
Those winding modestly a silent course;
The cloud-surmounting Alps, the fruitful vales;
Seas, on which every nation spreads her sails;
The sun, a world whence other worlds drink light,
The crescent moon, the diadem of night:
Stars countless, each in his appointed place,
Fast anchor’d in the deep abyss of space—
At such a sight to catch the poet’s flame,
And with a rapture like his own exclaim
These are thy glorious works, thou Source of Good,
How dimly seen, how faintly understood!
Thine, and upheld by thy paternal care,
This universal frame, thus wondrous fair;
Thy power divine, and bounty beyond thought,
Adored and praised in all that thou has wrought.
Absorb’d in that immensity I see,
I shrink abased, and yet aspire to thee;
Instruct me, guide me to that heavenly day
Thy words more clearly than thy works display,
That, while thy truths my grosser thoughts refine,
I may resemble thee, and call thee mine.
O blest proficiency! surpassing all
That men erroneously their glory call,
The recompence that arts or arms can yield,
The bar, the senate, or the tented field.
Compared with this sublimest life below,
Ye kings and rulers, what have courts to shew?
Thus studied, used, and consecrated thus,
On earth what is, seems form’d indeed for us;
Not as the plaything of a froward child,
Fretful unless diverted and beguiled,
Much less to feed and fan the fatal fires
Of pride, ambition, or impure desires;
But as a scale, by which the soul ascends
From mighty means to more important ends,
Securely, though by steps but rarely trod,
Mounts from inferior beings up to God,
And sees, by no fallacious light or dim,
Earth made for man, and man himself for him.
Not that I mean to approve, or would enforce,
A superstitious and monastic course:
Truth is not local, God alike pervades
And fills the world of traffic and the shades,
And may be fear’d amidst the busiest scenes,
Or scorn’d where business never intervenes.
But, ‘tis not easy, with a mind like ours,
Conscious of weakness in its noblest powers,
And in a world where, other ills apart,
The roving eye misleads the careless heart,
To limit thought, by nature prone to stray
Wherever freakish fancy points the way;
To bid the pleadings of self-love be still,
Resign our own and seek our Maker’s will;
To spread the page of Scripture, and compare
Our conduct with the laws engraven there;
To measure all that passes in the breast,
Faithfully, fairly, by that sacred test;
To dive into the secret deeps within,
To spare no passion and no favourite sin,
And search the themes, important above all,
Ourselves, and our recovery from our fall.
But leisure, silence, and a mind released
From anxious thoughts how wealth may be increased,
How to secure, in some propitious hour
The point of interest or the post of power,
A soul serene, and equally retired
From objects too much dreaded or desired,
Safe from the clamours of perverse dispute,
At least are friendly to the great pursuit.
Opening the map of God’s extensive plan,
We find a little isle, this life of man;
Eternity’s unknown expanse appears
Circling around and limiting his years.
The busy race examine and explore
Each creek and cavern of the dangerous shore,
With care collect what in their eyes excels,
Some shining pebbles, and some weeds and shells;
Thus laden, dream that they are rich and great,
And happiest he that groans beneath his weight.
The waves o’ertake them in their serious play,
And every hour sweeps multitudes away;
They shriek and sink, survivors start and weep,
Pursue their sport, and follow to the deep.
A few forsake the throng; with lifted eyes
Ask wealth of Heaven, and gain a real prize,
Truth, wisdom, grace, and peace like that above,
Seal’d with his signet whom they serve and love;
Scorn’d by the rest, with patient hope they wait
A kind release from their imperfect state,
And unregretted are soon snatch’d away
From scenes of sorrow into glorious day.
Nor these alone prefer a life recluse,
Who seek retirement for its proper use;
The love of change, that lives in every breast,
Genius, and temper, and desire of rest,
Discordant motives in one centre meet,
And each inclines its votary to retreat.
Some minds by nature are averse to noise,
And hate the tumult half the world enjoys,
The lure of avarice, or the pompous prize
That courts display before ambitious eyes;
The fruits that hang on pleasure’s flowery stem,
Whate’er enchants them, are no snares to them.
To them the deep recess of dusky groves,
Or forest, where the deer securely roves,
The fall of waters, and the song of birds,
And hills that echo to the distant herds,
Are luxuries excelling all the glare
The world can boast, and her chief favourites share.
With eager step, and carelessly array’d,
For such a cause the poet seeks the shade,
From all he sees he catches new delight,
Pleased Fancy claps her pinions at the sight,
The rising or the setting orb of day,
The clouds that flit, or slowly float away,
Nature in all the various shapes she wears,
Frowning in storms, or breathing gentle airs,
The snowy robe her wintry state assumes,
Her summer heats, her fruits, and her perfumes,
All, all alike transport the glowing bard,
Success in rhyme his glory and reward.
O Nature! whose Elysian scenes disclose
His bright perfections at whose word they rose,
Next to that power who form’d thee, and sustains,
Be thou the great inspirer of my strains.
Still, as I touch the lyre, do thou expand
Thy genuine charms, and guide an artless hand,
That I may catch a fire but rarely known,
Give useful light, though I should miss renown.
And, poring on thy page, whose every line
Bears proof of an intelligence divine,
May feel a heart enrich’d by what it pays,
That builds its glory on its Maker’s praise.
Woe to the man whose wit disclaims its use,
Glittering in vain, or only to seduce,
Who studies nature with a wanton eye,
Admires the work, but slips the lesson by;
His hours of leisure and recess employs
In drawing pictures of forbidden joys,
Retires to blazon his own worthless name,
Or shoot the careless with a surer aim.
The lover too shuns business and alarms,
Tender idolater of absent charms.
Saints offer nothing in their warmest prayers
That he devotes not with a zeal like theirs;
‘Tis consecration of his heart, soul, time,
And every thought that wanders is a crime.
In sighs he worships his supremely fair,
And weeps a sad libation in despair;
Adores a creature, and, devout in vain,
Wins in return an answer of disdain.
As woodbine weds the plant within her reach,
Rough elm, or smooth-grain’d ash, or glossy beech
In spiral rings ascends the trunk, and lays
Her golden tassels on the leafy sprays,
But does a mischief while she lends a grace,
Straitening its growth by such a strict embrace;
So love, that clings around the noblest minds,
Forbids the advancement of the soul he binds;
The suitor’s air, indeed, he soon improves,
And forms it to the taste of her he loves,
Teaches his eyes a language, and no less
Refines his speech, and fashions his address;
But farewell promises of happier fruits,
Manly designs, and learning’s grave pursuits;
Girt with a chain he cannot wish to break,
His only bliss is sorrow for her sake;
Who will may pant for glory and excel,
Her smile his aim, all higher aims farewell!
Thyrsis, Alexis, or whatever name
May least offend against so pure a flame,
Though sage advice of friends the most sincere
Sounds harshly in so delicate an ear,
And lovers, of all creatures, tame or wild,
Can least brook management, however mild,
Yet let a poet (poetry disarms
The fiercest animals with magic charms)
Risk an intrusion on thy pensive mood,
And woo and win thee to thy proper good.
Pastoral images and still retreats,
Umbrageous walks and solitary seats,
Sweet birds in concert with harmonious streams,
Soft airs, nocturnal vigils, and day-dreams,
Are all enchantments in a case like thine,
Conspire against thy peace with one design,
Soothe thee to make thee but a surer prey,
And feed the fire that wastes thy powers away.
Up—God has form’d thee with a wiser view,
Not to be led in chains, but to subdue;
Calls thee to cope with enemies, and first
Points out a conflict with thyself, the worst.
Woman, indeed, a gift he would bestow
When he design’d a Paradise below,
The richest earthly boon his hands afford,
Deserves to be beloved, but not adored.
Post away swiftly to more active scenes,
Collect the scatter’d truth that study gleans,
Mix with the world, but with its wiser part,
No longer give an image all thine heart;
Its empire is not hers, nor is it thine,
‘Tis God’s just claim, prerogative divine.
Virtuous and faithful Heberden, whose skill
Attempts no task it cannot well fulfil,
Gives melancholy up to nature’s care,
And sends the patient into purer air.
Look where he comes—in this embower’d alcove
Stand close conceal’d, and see a statue move:
Lips busy, and eyes fix’d, foot falling slow,
Arms hanging idly down, hands clasp’d below,
Interpret to the marking eye distress,
Such as its symptoms can alone express.
That tongue is silent now; that silent tongue
Could argue once, could jest, or join the song,
Could give advice, could censure or commend,
Or charm the sorrows of a drooping friend.
Renounced alike its office and its sport,
Its brisker and its graver strains fall short;
Both fail beneath a fever’s secret sway,
And like a summer-brook are past away.
This is a sight for pity to peruse,
Till she resembles faintly what she views,
Till sympathy contract a kindred pain,
Pierced with the woes that she laments in vain.
This, of all maladies that man infest,
Claims most compassion, and receives the least;
Job felt it, when he groan’d beneath the rod
And the barb’d arrows of a frowning God;
And such emollients as his friends could spare,
Friends such as his for modern Jobs prepare.
Blest, rather curst, with hearts that never feel,
Kept snug in caskets of close-hammer’d steel,
With mouths made only to grin wide and eat,
And minds that deem derided pain a treat,
With limbs of British oak, and nerves of wire,
And wit that puppet prompters might inspire,
Their sovereign nostrum is a clumsy joke
On pangs enforced with God’s severest stroke.
But, with a soul that ever felt the sting
Of sorrow, sorrow is a sacred thing:
Not to molest, or irritate, or raise
A laugh at his expense, is slender praise;
He that has not usurp’d the name of man
Does all, and deems too little all, he can,
To assuage the throbbings of the fester’d part,
And staunch the bleedings of a broken heart.
‘Tis not, as heads that never ache suppose,
Forgery of fancy, and a dream of woes;
Man is a harp, whose chords elude the sight,
Each yielding harmony disposed aright;
The screws reversed (a task which, if he please,
God in a moment executes with ease),
Ten thousand thousand strings at once go loose,
Lost, till he tune them, all their power and use.
Then neither heathy wilds, nor scenes as fair
As ever recompensed the peasant’s care,
Nor soft declivities with tufted hills,
Nor view of waters turning busy mills,
Parks in which art preceptress nature weds,
Nor gardens interspersed with flowery beds,
Nor gales, that catch the scent of blooming groves,
And waft it to the mourner as he roves,
Can call up life into his faded eye,
That passes all he sees unheeded by;
No wounds like those a wounded spirit feels,
No cure for such, till God who makes them heals.
And thou, sad sufferer under nameless ill
That yields not to the touch of human skill,
Improve the kind occasion, understand
A Father’s frown, and kiss his chastening hand.
To thee the day-spring, and the blaze of noon,
The purple evening and resplendent moon,
The stars that, sprinkled o’er the vault of night,
Seem drops descending in a shower of light,
Shine not, or undesired and hated shine,
Seen through the medium of a cloud like thine:
Yet seek him, in his favour life is found,
All bliss beside—a shadow or a sound:
Then heaven, eclipsed so long, and this dull earth,
Shall seem to start into a second birth;
Nature, assuming a more lovely face,
Borrowing a beauty from the works of grace,
Shall be despised and overlook’d no more,
Shall fill thee with delights unfelt before,
Impart to things inanimate a voice,
And bid her mountains and her hills rejoice;
The sound shall run along the winding vales,
And thou enjoy an Eden ere it fails.
Ye groves (the statesman at his desk exclaims,
Sick of a thousand disappointed aims),
My patrimonial treasure and my pride,
Beneath your shades your grey possessor hide,
Receive me, languishing for that repose
The servant of the public never knows.
Ye saw me once (ah, those regretted days,
When boyish innocence was all my praise!)
Hour after hour delightfully allot
To studies then familiar, since forgot,
And cultivate a taste for ancient song,
Catching its ardour as I mused along;
Nor seldom, as propitious Heaven might send,
What once I valued and could boast, a friend,
Were witnesses how cordially I press’d
His undissembling virtue to my breast;
Receive me now, not uncorrupt as then,
Nor guiltless of corrupting other men,
But versed in arts that, while they seem to stay
A falling empire, hasten its decay.
To the fair haven of my native home,
The wreck of what I was, fatigued, I come;
For once I can approve the patriot’s voice,
And make the course he recommends my choice:
We meet at last in one sincere desire,
His wish and mine both prompt me to retire.
‘Tis done—he steps into the welcome chaise,
Lolls at his ease behind four handsome bays,
That whirl away from business and debate
The disencumber’d Atlas of the state.
Ask not the boy, who, when the breeze of morn
First shakes the glittering drops from every thorn,
Unfolds his flock, then under bank or bush
Sits linking cherry-stones, or platting rush,
How fair is Freedom?—he was always free:
To carve his rustic name upon a tree,
To snare the mole, or with ill-fashion’d hook
To draw the incautious minnow from the brook,
Are life’s prime pleasures in his simple view,
His flock the chief concern he ever knew;
She shines but little in his heedless eyes,
The good we never miss we rarely prize:
But ask the noble drudge in state affairs,
Escaped from office and its constant cares,
What charms he sees in Freedom’s smile express’d,
In freedom lost so long, now repossess’d;
The tongue whose strains were cogent as commands,
Revered at home, and felt in foreign lands,
Shall own itself a stammerer in that cause,
Or plead its silence as its best applause.
He knows indeed that, whether dress’d or rude,
Wild without art, or artfully subdued,
Nature in every form inspires delight,
But never mark’d her with so just a sight.
Her hedge-row shrubs, a variegated store,
With woodbine and wild roses mantled o’er,
Green balks and furrow’d lands, the stream that spreads
Its cooling vapour o’er the dewy meads,
Downs, that almost escape the inquiring eye,
That melt and fade into the distant sky,
Beauties he lately slighted as he pass’d,
Seem all created since he travell’d last.
Master of all the enjoyments he design’d,
No rough annoyance rankling in his mind,
What early philosophic hours he keeps,
How regular his meals, how sound he sleeps!
Not sounder he that on the mainmast head,
While morning kindles with a windy red,
Begins a long look-out for distant land,
Nor quits till evening watch his giddy stand,
Then, swift descending with a seaman’s haste,
Slips to his hammock, and forgets the blast.
He chooses company, but not the squire’s,
Whose wit is rudeness, whose good-breeding tires,
Nor yet the parson’s, who would gladly come,
Obsequious when abroad, though proud at home;
Nor can he much affect the neighbouring peer,
Whose toe of emulation treads too near;
But wisely seeks a more convenient friend,
With whom, dismissing forms, he may unbend.
A man, whom marks of condescending grace
Teach, while they flatter him, his proper place;
Who comes when call’d, and at a word withdraws,
Speaks with reserve, and listens with applause;
Some plain mechanic, who, without pretence
To birth or wit, nor gives nor takes offence;
On whom he rest well pleased his weary powers,
And talks and laughs away his vacant hours.
The tide of life, swift always in its course,
May run in cities with a brisker force,
But nowhere with a current so serene,
Or half so clear, as in the rural scene.
Yet how fallacious is all earthly bliss,
What obvious truths the wisest heads may miss!
Some pleasures live a month, and some a year,
But short the date of all we gather here;
No happiness is felt, except the true,
That does not charm thee more for being new.
This observation, as it chanced, not made,
Or, if the thought occurr’d, not duly weigh’d,
He sighs—for after all by slow degrees
The spot he loved has lost the power to please;
To cross his ambling pony day by day
Seems at the best but dreaming life away;
The prospect, such as might enchant despair,
He views it not, or sees no beauty there;
With aching heart, and discontented looks,
Returns at noon to billiards or to books,
But feels, while grasping at his faded joys,
A secret thirst of his renounced employs.
He chides the tardiness of every post,
Pants to be told of battles won or lost,
Blames his own indolence, observes, though late,
‘Tis criminal to leave a sinking state,
Flies to the levee, and, received with grace,
Kneels, kisses hands, and shines again in place.
Suburban villas, highway-side retreats,
That dread the encroachment of our growing streets,
Tight boxes neatly sash’d, and in a blaze
With all a July sun’s collected rays,
Delight the citizen, who, gasping there,
Breathes clouds of dust, and calls it country air.
O sweet retirement! who would balk the thought
That could afford retirement or could not?
‘Tis such an easy walk, so smooth and straight,
The second milestone fronts the garden gate;
A step if fair, and, if a shower approach,
They find safe shelter in the next stage-coach.
There, prison’d in a parlour snug and small,
Like bottled wasps upon a southern wall,
The man of business and his friends compress’d,
Forget their labours, and yet find no rest;
But still ‘tis rural—trees are to be seen
From every window, and the fields are green;
Ducks paddle in the pond before the door,
And what could a remoter scene shew more?
A sense of elegance we rarely find
The portion of a mean or vulgar mind,
And ignorance of better things makes man,
Who cannot much, rejoice in what he can;
And he, that deems his leisure well bestow’d,
In contemplation of a turnpike-road,
Is occupied as well, employs his hours
As wisely, and as much improves his powers,
As he that slumbers in pavilions graced
With all the charms of an accomplish’d taste.
Yet hence, alas! insolvencies; and hence
The unpitied victim of ill-judged expense,
From all his wearisome engagements freed,
Shakes hands with business, and retires indeed.
Your prudent grandmammas, ye modern belles,
Content with Bristol, Bath, and Tunbridge Wells,
When health required it, would consent to roam,
Else more attach’d to pleasures found at home;
But now alike, gay widow, virgin, wife,
Ingenious to diversify dull life,
In coaches, chaises, caravans, and hoys,
Fly to the coast for daily, nightly joys,
And all, impatient of dry land, agree
With one consent to rush into the sea.
Ocean exhibits, fathomless and broad,
Much of the power and majesty of God.
He swathes about the swelling of the deep,
That shines and rests, as infants smile and sleep;
Vast as it is, it answers as it flows
The breathings of the lightest air that blows;
Curling and whitening over all the waste,
The rising waves obey the increasing blast,
Abrupt and horrid as the tempest roars,
Thunder and flash upon the steadfast shores,
Till he that rides the whirlwind checks the rein,
Then all the world of waters sleeps again.
Nereids or Dryads, as the fashion leads,
Now in the floods, now panting in the meads,
Votaries of pleasure still, where’er she dwells,
Near barren rocks, in palaces, or cells,
Oh, grant a poet leave to recommend
(A poet fond of nature, and your friend)
Her slighted works to your admiring view;
Her works must needs excel, who fashion’d you.
Would ye, when rambling in your morning ride,
With some unmeaning coxcomb at your side,
Condemn the prattler for his idle pains,
To waste unheard the music of his strains,
And, deaf to all the impertinence of tongue,
That, while it courts, affronts and does you wrong,
Mark well the finish’d plan without a fault,
The seas globose and huge, the o’er-arching vault,
Earth’s millions daily fed, a world employ’d
In gathering plenty yet to be enjoy’d,
Till gratitude grew vocal in the praise
Of God, beneficent in all his ways;
Graced with such wisdom, how would beauty shine!
Ye want but that to seem indeed divine.
Anticipated rents and bills unpaid,
Force many a shining youth into the shade,
Not to redeem his time, but his estate,
And play the fool, but at a cheaper rate.
There, hid in loathed obscurity, removed
From pleasures left, but never more beloved,
He just endures, and with a sickly spleen
Sighs o’er the beauties of the charming scene.
Nature indeed looks prettily in rhyme;
Streams tinkle sweetly in poetic chime:
The warblings of the blackbird, clear and strong,
Are musical enough in Thomson’s song;
And Cobham’s groves, and Windsor’s green retreats,
When Pope describes them, have a thousand sweets;
He likes the country, but in truth must own,
Most likes it when he studies it in town.
Poor Jack—no matter who—for when I blame,
I pity, and must therefore sink the name,
Lived in his saddle, loved the chase, the course,
And always, ere he mounted, kiss’d his horse.
The estate, his sires had own’d in ancient years,
Was quickly distanced, match’d against a peer’s.
Jack vanish’d, was regretted, and forgot;
‘Tis wild good-nature’s never failing lot.
At length, when all had long supposed him dead,
By cold submersion, razor, rope, or lead,
My lord, alighting at his usual place,
The Crown, took notice of an ostler’s face.
Jack knew his friend, but hoped in that disguise
He might escape the most observing eyes,
And whistling, as if unconcern’d and gay,
Curried his nag and look’d another way;
Convinced at last, upon a nearer view,
‘Twas he, the same, the very Jack he knew,
O’erwhelm’d at once with wonder, grief, and joy,
He press’d him much to quit his base employ;
His countenance, his purse, his heart, his hand,
Influence and power, were all at his command:
Peers are not always generous as well-bred,
But Granby was, meant truly what he said.
Jack bow’d, and was obliged—confess’d ‘twas strange,
That so retired he should not wish a change,
But knew no medium between guzzling beer,
And his old stint—three thousand pounds a year.
Thus some retire to nourish hopeless woe;
Some seeking happiness not found below;
Some to comply with humour, and a mind
To social scenes by nature disinclined;
Some sway’d by fashion, some by deep disgust;
Some self-impoverish’d, and because they must;
But few, that court Retirement, are aware
Of half the toils they must encounter there.
Lucrative offices are seldom lost
For want of powers proportion’d to the post:
Give e’en a dunce the employment he desires,
And he soon finds the talents it requires;
A business with an income at its heels
Furnishes always oil for its own wheels.
But in his arduous enterprise to close
His active years with indolent repose,
He finds the labours of that state exceed
His utmost faculties, severe indeed.
‘Tis easy to resign a toilsome place,
But not to manage leisure with a grace;
Absence of occupation is not rest,
A mind quite vacant is a mind distress’d,
The veteran steed, excused his task at length,
In kind compassion of his failing strength,
And turn’d into the park or mead to graze,
Exempt from future service all his days,
There feels a pleasure perfect in its kind,
Ranges at liberty, and snuffs the wind:
But when his lord would quit the busy road,
To taste a joy like that he has bestow’d,
He proves, less happy than his favour’d brute,
A life of ease a difficult pursuit.
Thought, to the man that never thinks, may seem
As natural as when asleep to dream:
But reveries (for human minds will act),
Specious in show, impossible in fact,
Those flimsy webs, that break as soon as wrought,
Attain not to the dignity of thought:
Nor yet the swarms that occupy the brain,
Where dreams of dress, intrigue, and pleasure reign;
Nor such as useless conversation breeds,
Or lust engenders, and indulgence feeds.
Whence, and what are we? to what end ordain’d?
What means the drama by the world sustain’d?
Business or vain amusement, care or mirth,
Divide the frail inhabitants of earth.
Is duty a mere sport, or an employ?
Life an entrusted talent, or a toy?
Is there, as reason, conscience, Scripture say,
Cause to provide for a great future day,
When, earth’s assign’d duration at an end,
Man shall be summon’d, and the dead attend?
The trumpet—will it sound? the curtain rise?
And shew the august tribunal of the skies,
Where no prevarication shall avail,
Where eloquence and artifice shall fail,
The pride of arrogant distinctions fall,
And conscience and our conduct judge us all?
Pardon me, ye that give the midnight oil
To learned cares or philosophic toil;
Though I revere your honourable names,
Your useful labours, and important aims,
And hold the world indebted to your aid,
Enrich’d with the discoveries ye have made;
Yet let me stand excused, if I esteem
A mind employ’d on so sublime a theme,
Pushing her bold inquiry to the date
And outline of the present transient state,
And, after poising her adventurous wings,
Settling at last upon eternal things,
Far more intelligent, and better taught
The strenuous use of profitable thought,
Than ye, when happiest, and enlighten’d most,
And highest in renown, can justly boast.
A mind unnerved, or indisposed to bear
The weight of subjects worthiest of her care,
Whatever hopes a change of scene inspires,
Must change her nature, or in vain retires.
An idler is a watch that wants both hands;
As useless if it goes as when it stands.
Books, therefore, not the scandal of the shelves,
In which lewd sensualists print out themselves;
Nor those, in which the stage gives vice a blow,
With what success let modern manners shew;
Nor his who, for the bane of thousands born,
Built God a church, and laugh’d his Word to scorn,
Skilful alike to seem devout and just,
And stab religion with a sly side-thrust;
Nor those of learn’d philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah’s ark;
But such as learning, without false pretence,
The friend of truth, the associate of sound sense,
And such as, in the zeal of good design,
Strong judgment labouring in the Scripture mine,
All such as manly and great souls produce,
Worthy to live, and of eternal use:
Behold in these what leisure hours demand,
Amusement and true knowledge hand in hand.
Luxury gives the mind a childish cast,
And, while she polishes, perverts the taste;
Habits of close attention, thinking heads,
Become more rare as dissipation spreads,
Till authors hear at length one general cry,
Tickle and entertain us, or we die.
The loud demand, from year to year the same,
Beggars invention, and makes fancy lame;
Till farce itself, most mournfully jejune,
Calls for the kind assistance of a tune;
And novels (witness every month’s review)
Belie their name, and offer nothing new.
The mind, relaxing into needful sport,
Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
Whose wit well managed, and whose classic style,
Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
Friends (for I cannot stint, as some have done,
Too rigid in my view, that name to one;
Though one, I grant it, in the generous breast
Will stand advanced a step above the rest;
Flowers by that name promiscuously we call,
But one, the rose, the regent of them all)—
Friends, not adopted with a schoolboy’s haste,
But chosen with a nice discerning taste,
Well born, well disciplined, who, placed apart
From vulgar minds, have honour much at heart,
And, though the world may think the ingredients odd,
The love of virtue, and the fear of God!
Such friends prevent what else would soon succeed,
A temper rustic as the life we lead,
And keep the polish of the manners clean,
As theirs who bustle in the busiest scene;
For solitude, however some may rave,
Seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave,
A sepulchre, in which the living lie,
Where all good qualities grow sick and die.
I praise the Frenchman, his remark was shrewd,
How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude!
But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper—Solitude is sweet.
Yet neither these delights, nor aught beside,
That appetite can ask, or wealth provide,
Can save us always from a tedious day,
Or shine the dulness of still life away;
Divine communion, carefully enjoy’d,
Or sought with energy, must fill the void.
Oh, sacred art! to which alone life owes
Its happiest seasons, and a peaceful close,
Scorn’d in a world, indebted to that scorn
For evils daily felt and hardly borne,
Not knowing thee, we reap, with bleeding hands,
Flowers of rank odour upon thorny lands,
And, while experience cautions us in vain,
Grasp seeming happiness, and find it pain.
Despondence, self-deserted in her grief,
Lost by abandoning her own relief,
Murmuring and ungrateful discontent,
That scorns afflictions mercifully meant,
Those humours, tart as wines upon the fret,
Which idleness and weariness beget;
These, and a thousand plagues that haunt the breast,
Fond of the phantom of an earthly rest,
Divine communion chases, as the day
Drives to their dens the obedient beasts of prey.
See Judah’s promised king, bereft of all,
Driven out an exile from the face of Saul,
To distant caves the lonely wanderer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant’s frown denies.
Hear the sweet accents of his tuneful voice,
Hear him o’erwhelm’d with sorrow, yet rejoice;
No womanish or wailing grief has part,
No, not a moment, in his royal heart;
‘Tis manly music, such as martyrs make,
Suffering with gladness for a Saviour’s sake.
His soul exults, hope animates his lays,
The sense of mercy kindles into praise,
And wilds, familiar with a lion’s roar,
Ring with ecstatic sounds unheard before;
‘Tis love like his that can alone defeat
The foes of man, or make a desert sweet.
Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumber’d pleasures harmlessly pursued;
To study culture, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar yet fruitful lands
The grain, or herb, or plant that each demands;
To cherish virtue in an humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create;
To mark the matchless workings of the power
That shuts within its seed the future flower,
Bids these in elegance of form excel,
In colour these, and those delight the smell,
Sends Nature forth the daughter of the skies,
To dance on earth, and charm all human eyes;
To teach the canvas innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet—
These, these are arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of time.
Me poetry (or, rather, notes that aim
Feebly and vainly at poetic fame)
Employs, shut out from more important views,
Fast by the banks of the slow-winding Ouse;
Content if, thus sequester’d, I may raise
A monitor’s, though not a poet’s, praise,
And, while I teach an art too little known,
To close life wisely, may not waste my own.

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The Four Seasons : Winter

See, Winter comes, to rule the varied year,
Sullen and sad, with all his rising train;
Vapours, and clouds, and storms. Be these my theme,
These! that exalt the soul to solemn thought,
And heavenly musing. Welcome, kindred glooms,
Congenial horrors, hail! with frequent foot,
Pleased have I, in my cheerful morn of life,
When nursed by careless Solitude I lived,
And sung of Nature with unceasing joy,
Pleased have I wander'd through your rough domain;
Trod the pure virgin-snows, myself as pure;
Heard the winds roar, and the big torrent burst;
Or seen the deep-fermenting tempest brew'd,
In the grim evening sky. Thus pass'd the time,
Till through the lucid chambers of the south
Look'd out the joyous Spring, look'd out, and smiled.
To thee, the patron of her first essay,
The Muse, O Wilmington! renews her song.
Since has she rounded the revolving year:
Skimm'd the gay Spring; on eagle-pinions borne,
Attempted through the Summer-blaze to rise;
Then swept o'er Autumn with the shadowy gale;
And now among the wintry clouds again,
Roll'd in the doubling storm, she tries to soar;
To swell her note with all the rushing winds;
To suit her sounding cadence to the floods;
As is her theme, her numbers wildly great:
Thrice happy could she fill thy judging ear
With bold description, and with manly thought.
Nor art thou skill'd in awful schemes alone,
And how to make a mighty people thrive;
But equal goodness, sound integrity,
A firm, unshaken, uncorrupted soul,
Amid a sliding age, and burning strong,
Not vainly blazing for thy country's weal,
A steady spirit regularly free;
These, each exalting each, the statesman light
Into the patriot; these, the public hope
And eye to thee converting, bid the Muse
Record what envy dares not flattery call.
Now when the cheerless empire of the sky
To Capricorn the Centaur Archer yields,
And fierce Aquarius stains the inverted year;
Hung o'er the farthest verge of Heaven, the sun
Scarce spreads through ether the dejected day.
Faint are his gleams, and ineffectual shoot
His struggling rays, in horizontal lines,
Through the thick air; as clothed in cloudy storm,
Weak, wan, and broad, he skirts the southern sky;
And, soon-descending, to the long dark night,
Wide-shading all, the prostrate world resigns.
Nor is the night unwish'd; while vital heat,
Light, life, and joy, the dubious day forsake.
Meantime, in sable cincture, shadows vast,
Deep-tinged and damp, and congregated clouds,
And all the vapoury turbulence of Heaven,
Involve the face of things. Thus Winter falls,
A heavy gloom oppressive o'er the world,
Through Nature shedding influence malign,
And rouses up the seeds of dark disease,
The soul of man dies in him, loathing life,
And black with more than melancholy views.
The cattle droop; and o'er the furrow'd land,
Fresh from the plough, the dun discolour'd flocks,
Untended spreading, crop the wholesome root.
Along the woods, along the moorish fens,
Sighs the sad Genius of the coming storm;
And up among the loose disjointed cliffs,
And fractured mountains wild, the brawling brook
And cave, presageful, send a hollow moan,
Resounding long in listening Fancy's ear.
Then comes the father of the tempest forth,
Wrapt in black glooms. First joyless rains obscure.
Drive through the mingling skies with vapour foul;
Dash on the mountain's brow, and shake the woods,
That grumbling wave below. The unsightly plain
Lies a brown deluge; as the low-bent clouds
Pour flood on flood, yet unexhausted still
Combine, and deepening into night, shut up
The day's fair face. The wanderers of Heaven,
Each to his home, retire; save those that love
To take their pastime in the troubled air,
Or skimming flutter round the dimply pool.
The cattle from the untasted fields return,
And ask, with meaning low, their wonted stalls,
Or ruminate in the contiguous shade.
Thither the household feathery people crowd,
The crested cock, with all his female train,
Pensive, and dripping; while the cottage-hind
Hangs oe'r the enlivening blaze, and taleful there
Recounts his simple frolic: much he talks,
And much he laughs, nor recks the storm that blows
Without, and rattles on his humble roof.
Wide o'er the brim, with many a torrent swell'd,
And the mix'd ruin of its banks o'erspread,
At last the roused-up river pours along:
Resistless, roaring, dreadful, down it comes,
From the rude mountain, and the mossy wild,
Tumbling through rocks abrupt, and sounding far;
Then o'er the sanded valley floating spreads,
Calm, sluggish, silent; till again, constrain'd
Between two meeting hills, it bursts away,
Where rocks and woods o'erhang the turbid stream;
There gathering triple force, rapid, and deep,
It boils, and wheels, and foams, and thunders through.
Nature! great parent! whose unceasing hand
Rolls round the seasons of the changeful year,
How mighty, how majestic, are thy works!
With what a pleasing dread they swell the soul!
That sees astonish'd! and astonish'd sings!
Ye too, ye winds! that now begin to blow
With boisterous sweep, I raise my voice to you.
Where are your stores, ye powerful beings! say,
Where your aërial magazines reserved,
To swell the brooding terrors of the storm?
In what far distant region of the sky,
Hush'd in deep silence, sleep ye when 'tis calm?
When from the pallid sky the sun descends,
With many a spot, that o'er his glaring orb
Uncertain wanders, stain'd; red fiery streaks
Begin to flush around. The reeling clouds
Stagger with dizzy poise, as doubting yet
Which master to obey: while rising slow,
Blank, in the leaden-colour'd east, the moon
Wears a wan circle round her blunted horns.
Seen through the turbid fluctuating air,
The stars obtuse emit a shiver'd ray;
Or frequent seem to shoot athwart the gloom,
And long behind them trail the whitening blaze.
Snatch'd in short eddies, plays the wither'd leaf;
And on the flood the dancing feather floats.
With broaden'd nostrils to the sky upturn'd,
The conscious heifer snuffs the stormy gale.
E'en as the matron, at her nightly task,
With pensive labour draws the flaxen thread,
The wasted taper and the crackling flame
Foretell the blast. But chief the plumy race,
The tenants of the sky, its changes speak.
Retiring from the downs, where all day long
They pick'd their scanty fare, a blackening train,
Of clamorous rooks thick urge their weary flight
And seek the closing shelter of the grove;
Assiduous, in his bower, the wailing owl
Plies his sad song. The cormorant on high
Wheels from the deep, and screams along the land.
Loud shrieks the soaring hern; and with wild wing
The circling seafowl cleave the flaky clouds.
Ocean, unequal press'd, with broken tide
And blind commotion heaves; while from the shore,
Eat into caverns by the restless wave,
And forest-rustling mountain, comes a voice,
That solemn sounding bids the world prepare.
Then issues forth the storm with sudden burst,
And hurls the whole precipitated air
Down in a torrent. On the passive main
Descends the ethereal force, and with strong gust
Turns from its bottom the discolour'd deep.
Through the black night that sits immense around,
Lash'd into foam, the fierce conflicting brine
Seems o'er a thousand raging waves to burn:
Meantime the mountain-billows, to the clouds
In dreadful tumult swell'd, surge above surge,
Burst into chaos with tremendous roar,
And anchor'd navies from their stations drive,
Wild as the winds across the howling waste
Of mighty waters: now the inflated wave
Straining they scale, and now impetuous shoot
Into the secret chambers of the deep,
The wintry Baltic thundering o'er their head.
Emerging thence again, before the breath
Of full exerted Heaven they wing their course,
And dart on distant coasts; if some sharp rock,
Or shoal insidious break not their career,
And in loose fragments fling them floating round.
Nor less at hand the loosen'd tempest reigns.
The mountain thunders; and its sturdy sons
Stoop to the bottom of the rocks they shade.
Lone on the midnight steep, and all aghast,
The dark wayfaring stranger breathless toils,
And, often falling, climbs against the blast.
Low waves the rooted forest, vex'd, and sheds
What of its tarnish'd honours yet remain;
Dash'd down, and scatter'd, by the tearing wind's
Assiduous fury, its gigantic limbs.
Thus struggling through the dissipated grove,
The whirling tempest raves along the plain;
And on the cottage thatch'd, or lordly roof,
Keen-fastening, shakes them to the solid base.
Sleep frighted flies; and round the rocking dome,
For entrance eager, howls the savage blast.
Then too, they say, through all the burden'd air,
Long groans are heard, shrill sounds, and distant sighs,
That, utter'd by the Demon of the night,
Warn the devoted wretch of woe and death.
Huge uproar lords it wide. The clouds commix'd
With stars swift gliding sweep along the sky.
All Nature reels. Till Nature's King, who oft
Amid tempestuous darkness dwells alone,
And on the wings of the careering wind
Walks dreadfully serene, commands a calm;
Then straight, air, sea, and earth are hush'd at once.
As yet 'tis midnight deep. The weary clouds,
Slow meeting, mingle into solid gloom.
Now, while the drowsy world lies lost in sleep,
Let me associate with the serious Night,
And Contemplation her sedate compeer;
Let me shake off the intrusive cares of day,
And lay the meddling senses all aside.
Where now, ye lying vanities of life!
Ye ever tempting ever cheating train!
Where are you now? and what is your amount?
Vexation, disappointment, and remorse:
Sad, sickening thought! and yet deluded man,
A scene of crude disjointed visions past,
And broken slumbers, rises still resolved,
With new-flush'd hopes, to run the giddy round.
Father of light and life! thou Good Supreme!
O teach me what is good! teach me Thyself!
Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,
From every low pursuit! and feed my soul
With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure;
Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss!
The keener tempests rise: and fuming dun
From all the livid east, or piercing north,
Thick clouds ascend; in whose capacious womb
A vapoury deluge lies, to snow congeal'd.
Heavy they roll their fleecy world along;
And the sky saddens with the gather'd storm
Through the hush'd air the whitening shower descends,
At first thin wavering; till at last the flakes
Fall broad, and wide, and fast, dimming the day,
With a continual flow. The cherish'd fields
Put on their winter-robe of purest white.
'Tis brightness all; save where the new snow melts
Along the mazy current. Low the woods
Bow their hoar head; and ere the languid sun
Faint from the west emits his evening ray,
Earth's universal face, deep hid, and chill,
Is one wild dazzling waste, that buries wide
The works of man. Drooping, the labourer-ox
Stands cover'd o'er with snow, and then demands
The fruit of all his toil. The fowls of Heaven,
Tamed by the cruel season, crowd around
The winnowing store, and claim the little boon
Which Providence assigns them. One alone,
The redbreast, sacred to the household gods,
Wisely regardful of the embroiling sky,
In joyless fields and thorny thickets, leaves
His shivering mates, and pays to trusted man
His annual visit. Half afraid, he first
Against the window beats; then, brisk, alights
On the warm hearth; then, hopping o'er the floor,
Eyes all the smiling family askance,
And pecks, and starts, and wonders where he is;
Till more familiar grown, the table-crumbs
Attract his slender feet. The foodless wilds
Pour forth their brown inhabitants. The hare,
Though timorous of heart, and hard beset
By death in various forms, dark snares and dogs,
And more unpitying men, the garden seeks,
Urged on by fearless want. The bleating kind
Eye the bleak Heaven, and next the glistening earth,
With looks of dumb despair; then, sad dispersed,
Dig for the wither'd herb through heaps of snow.
Now, shepherds, to your helpless charge be kind,
Baffle the raging year, and fill their pens
With food at will; lodge them below the storm,
And watch them strict: for from the bellowing east,
In this dire season, oft the whirlwind's wing
Sweeps up the burden of whole wintry plains
At one wide waft, and o'er the hapless flocks,
Hid in the hollow of two neighbouring hills,
The billowy tempest whelms; till, upward urged,
The valley to a shining mountain swells,
Tipp'd with a wreath high-curling in the sky.
As thus the snows arise; and foul, and fierce,
All Winter drives along the darken'd air:
In his own loose revolving fields, the swain
Disaster'd stands; sees other hills ascend,
Of unknown joyless brow; and other scenes,
Of horrid prospect, shag the trackless plain:
Nor finds the river, nor the forest, hid
Beneath the formless wild; but wanders on
From hill to dale, still more and more astray;
Impatient flouncing through the drifted heaps,
Stung with the thoughts of home; the thoughts of home
Rush on his nerves, and call their vigour forth
In many a vain attempt. How sinks his soul!
What black despair, what horror fills his heart!
When for the dusky spot, which fancy feign'd
His tufted cottage rising through the snow,
He meets the roughness of the middle waste,
Far from the track and bless'd abode of man;
While round him night resistless closes fast,
And every tempest, howling o'er his head,
Renders the savage wilderness more wild.
Then throng the busy shapes into his mind,
Of cover'd pits, unfathomably deep,
A dire descent! beyond the power of frost;
Of faithless bogs; of precipices huge,
Smooth'd up with snow; and, what is land, unknown,
What water, of the still unfrozen spring,
In the loose marsh or solitary lake,
Where the fresh mountain from the bottom boils.
These check his fearful steps; and down he sinks,
Beneath the shelter of the shapeless drift,
Thinking o'er all the bitterness of death;
Mix'd with the tender anguish nature shoots
Through the wrung bosom of the dying man,
His wife, his children, and his friends unseen.
In vain for him the officious wife prepares
The fire fair-blazing, and the vestment warm;
In vain his little children, peeping out
Into the mingling storm, demand their sire,
With tears of artless innocence. Alas!
Nor wife, nor children more shall he behold,
Nor friends, nor sacred home. On every nerve
The deadly Winter seizes; shuts up sense;
And, o'er his inmost vitals creeping cold,
Lays him along the snows, a stiffen'd corse,
Stretch'd out, and bleaching in the northern blast.
Ah! little think the gay licentious proud,
Whom pleasure, power, and affluence surround;
They who their thoughtless hours in giddy mirth,
And wanton, often cruel, riot waste;
Ah! little think they, while they dance along,
How many feel, this very moment, death,
And all the sad variety of pain.
How many sink in the devouring flood,
Or more devouring flame. How many bleed,
By shameful variance betwixt man and man.
How many pine in want, and dungeon glooms;
Shut from the common air, and common use
Of their own limbs. How many drink the cup
Of baleful grief, or eat the bitter bread
Of misery. Sore pierced by wintry winds,
How many shrink into the sordid hut
Of cheerless poverty. How many shake
With all the fiercer tortures of the mind,
Unbounded passion, madness, guilt, remorse;
Whence tumbled headlong from the height of life,
They furnish matter for the tragic Muse.
E'en in the vale, where Wisdom loves to dwell,
With friendship, peace, and contemplation join'd,
How many, rack'd with honest passions, droop
In deep retired distress. How many stand
Around the deathbed of their dearest friends,
And point the parting anguish. Thought fond Man
Of these, and all the thousand nameless ills,
That one incessant struggle render life,
One scene of toil, of suffering, and of fate,
Vice in his high career would stand appall'd,
And heedless rambling Impulse learn to think;
The conscious heart of Charity would warm,
And her wide wish Benevolence dilate;
The social tear would rise, the social sigh;
And into clear perfection, gradual bliss,
Refining still, the social passions work.
And here can I forget the generous band,
Who, touch'd with human woe, redressive search'd
Into the horrors of the gloomy jail?
Unpitied, and unheard, where misery moans;
Where sickness pines; where thirst and hunger burn,
And poor misfortune feels the lash of vice.
While in the land of Liberty, the land
Whose every street and public meeting glow
With open freedom, little tyrants raged;
Snatch'd the lean morsel from the starving mouth;
Tore from cold wintry limbs the tatter'd weed;
E'en robb'd them of the last of comforts, sleep;
The free-born Briton to the dungeon chain'd,
Or, as the lust of cruelty prevail'd,
At pleasure mark'd him with inglorious stripes;
And crush'd out lives, by secret barbarous ways,
That for their country would have toil'd or bled.
O great design! if executed well,
With patient care, and wisdom-temper'd zeal.
Ye sons of Mercy! yet resume the search;
Drag forth the legal monsters into light,
Wrench from their hands oppression's iron rod,
And bid the cruel feel the pains they give.
Much still untouch'd remains; in this rank age,
Much is the patriot's weeding hand required.
The toils of law (what dark insidious men
Have cumbrous added to perplex the truth,
And lengthen simple justice into trade)
How glorious were the day! that saw these broke,
And every man within the reach of right.
By wintry famine roused, from all the tract
Of horrid mountains which the shining Alps,
And wavy Appenine, and Pyrenees,
Branch out stupendous into distant lands;
Cruel as death, and hungry as the grave!
Burning for blood! bony, and gaunt, and grim!
Assembling wolves in raging troops descend;
And, pouring o'er the country, bear along,
Keen as the north-wind sweeps the glossy snow.
All is their prize. They fasten on the steed,
Press him to earth, and pierce his mighty heart.
Nor can the bull his awful front defend,
Or shake the murdering savages away.
Rapacious, at the mother's throat they fly,
And tear the screaming infant from her breast.
The godlike face of man avails him nought.
E'en beauty, force divine! at whose bright glance
The generous lion stands in soften'd gaze,
Here bleeds, a hapless undistinguish'd prey.
But if, apprized of the severe attack,
The country be shut up, lured by the scent,
On churchyards drear (inhuman to relate!)
The disappointed prowlers fall, and dig
The shrouded body from the grave; o'er which,
Mix'd with foul shades, and frighted ghosts, they howl.
Among those hilly regions, where embraced
In peaceful vales the happy Grisons dwell;
Oft, rushing sudden from the loaded cliffs,
Mountains of snow their gathering terrors roll.
From steep to steep, loud-thundering down they come,
A wintry waste in dire commotion all;
And herds, and flocks, and travellers, and swains,
And sometimes whole brigades of marching troops,
Or hamlets sleeping in the dead of night,
Are deep beneath the smothering ruin whelm'd.
Now, all amid the rigours of the year,
In the wild depth of Winter, while without
The ceaseless winds blow ice, be my retreat,
Between the groaning forest and the shore
Beat by the boundless multitude of waves,
A rural, shelter'd, solitary, scene;
Where ruddy fire and beaming tapers join,
To cheer the gloom. There studious let me sit,
And hold high converse with the mighty Dead;
Sages of ancient time, as gods revered,
As gods beneficent, who bless'd mankind
With arts, with arms, and humanized a world.
Roused at the inspiring thought, I throw aside
The long-lived volume; and, deep-musing, hail
The sacred shades, that slowly rising pass
Before my wondering eyes. First Socrates,
Who, firmly good in a corrupted state,
Against the rage of tyrants single stood,
Invincible! calm Reason's holy law,
That Voice of God within the attentive mind,
Obeying, fearless, or in life, or death:
Great moral teacher! Wisest of mankind!
Solon the next, who built his common-weal
On equity's wide base; by tender laws
A lively people curbing, yet undamp'd;
Preserving still that quick peculiar fire,
Whence in the laurel'd field of finer arts
And of bold freedom, they unequal'd shone,
The pride of smiling Greece, and human-kind.
Lycurgus then, who bow'd beneath the force
Of strictest discipline, severely wise,
All human passions. Following him, I see,
As at Thermopylæ he glorious fell,
The firm devoted chief, who proved by deeds
The hardest lesson which the other taught.
Then Aristides lifts his honest front;
Spotless of heart, to whom the unflattering voice
Of freedom gave the noblest name of Just;
In pure majestic poverty revered;
Who, e'en his glory to his country's weal
Submitting, swell'd a haughty Rival's fame.
Rear'd by his care, of softer ray appears
Cimon sweet-soul'd; whose genius, rising strong,
Shook off the load of young debauch; abroad
The scourge of Persian pride, at home the friend
Of every worth and every splendid art;
Modest, and simple, in the pomp of wealth.
Then the last worthies of declining Greece,
Late call'd to glory, in unequal times,
Pensive appear. The fair Corinthian boast,
Timoleon, happy temper! mild, and firm,
Who wept the brother while the tyrant bled.
And, equal to the best, the Theban Pair,
Whose virtues, in heroic concord join'd,
Their country raised to freedom, empire, fame.
He too, with whom Athenian honour sunk,
And left a mass of sordid lees behind,
Phocion the Good; in public life severe,
To virtue still inexorably firm;
But when, beneath his low illustrious roof,
Sweet peace and happy wisdom smooth'd his brow,
Not friendship softer was, nor love more kind.
And he, the last of old Lycurgus' sons,
The generous victim to that vain attempt,
To save a rotten state, Agis, who saw
E'en Sparta's self to servile avarice sunk,
The two Achaian heroes close the train:
Aratus, who awhile relumed the soul
Of fondly lingering liberty in Greece;
And he her darling as her latest hope,
The gallant Philopœmen; who to arms
Turn'd the luxurious pomp he could not cure;
Or toiling in his farm, a simple swain;
Or, bold and skilful, thundering in the field.
Of rougher front, a mighty people come!
A race of heroes! in those virtuous times
Which knew no stain, save that with partial flame
Their dearest country they too fondly loved:
Her better Founder first, the light of Rome,
Numa, who soften'd her rapacious sons:
Servius the king, who laid the solid base
On which o'er earth the vast republic spread.
Then the great consuls venerable rise.
The public Father who the private quell'd,
As on the dread tribunal sternly sad.
He, whom his thankless country could not lose,
Camillus, only vengeful to her foes.
Fabricius, scorner of all-conquering gold;
And Cincinnatus, awful from the plough.
Thy willing victim, Carthage, bursting loose
From all that pleading Nature could oppose,
From a whole city's tears, by rigid faith
Imperious call'd, and honour's dire command.
Scipio, the gentle chief, humanely brave,
Who soon the race of spotless glory ran,
And, warm in youth, to the poetic shade
With Friendship and Philosophy retired.
Tully, whose powerful eloquence a while
Restrain'd the rapid fate of rushing Rome.
Unconquer'd Cato, virtuous in extreme:
And thou, unhappy Brutus, kind of heart,
Whose steady arm, by awful virtue urged,
Lifted the Roman steel against thy friend.
Thousands besides the tribute of a verse
Demand; but who can count the stars of Heaven?
Who sing their influence on this lower world?
Behold, who yonder comes! in sober state,
Fair, mild, and strong, as is a vernal sun:
'Tis Phœbus' self, or else the Mantuan Swain!
Great Homer too appears, of daring wing,
Parent of song! and equal by his side,
The British Muse: join'd hand in hand they walk,
Darkling, full up the middle steep to fame,
Nor absent are those shades, whose skilful touch
Pathetic drew the impassion'd heart, and charm'd
Transported Athens with the moral scene;
Nor those who, tuneful, waked the enchanting lyre.
First of your kind! society divine!
Still visit thus my nights, for you reserved,
And mount my soaring soul to thoughts like yours.
Silence, thou lonely power! the door be thine;
See on the hallow'd hour that none intrude,
Save a few chosen friends, who sometimes deign
To bless my humble roof, with sense refined,
Learning digested well, exalted faith,
Unstudied wit, and humour ever gay.
Or from the Muses' hill will Pope descend,
To raise the sacred hour, to bid it smile,
And with the social spirit warm the heart?
For though not sweeter his own Homer sings,
Yet is his life the more endearing song.
Where art thou, Hammond? thou, the darling pride,
The friend and lover of the tuneful throng!
Ah why, dear youth, in all the blooming prime
Of vernal genius, where disclosing fast
Each active worth, each manly virtue lay,
Why wert thou ravish'd from our hope so soon?
What now avails that noble thirst of fame,
Which stung thy fervent breast? that treasured store
Of knowledge early gain'd? that eager zeal
To serve thy country, glowing in the band
Of youthful patriots, who sustain her name;
What now, alas! that life-diffusing charm
Of sprightly wit? that rapture for the Muse,
That heart of friendship, and that soul of joy,
Which bade with softest light thy virtues smile?
Ah! only show'd, to check our fond pursuits,
And teach our humbled hopes that life is vain!
Thus in some deep retirement would I pass
The winter-glooms, with friends of pliant soul,
Or blithe, or solemn, as the theme inspired:
With them would search, if Nature's boundless frame
Was call'd, late-rising from the void of night,
Or sprung eternal from the Eternal Mind;
Its life, its laws, its progress, and its end.
Hence larger prospects of the beauteous whole
Would, gradual, open on our opening minds;
And each diffusive harmony unite
In full perfection, to the astonish'd eye.
Then would we try to scan the moral world,
Which, though to us it seems embroil'd, moves on
In higher order; fitted and impell'd
By Wisdom's finest hand, and issuing all
In general good. The sage historic Muse
Should next conduct us through the deeps of time:
Show us how empire grew, declined, and fell,
In scatter'd states; what makes the nations smile,
Improves their soil, and gives them double suns;
And why they pine beneath the brightest skies,
In Nature's richest lap. As thus we talk'd,
Our hearts would burn within us, would inhale
That portion of divinity, that ray
Of purest Heaven, which lights the public soul
Of patriots and of heroes. But if doom'd,
In powerless humble fortune, to repress
These ardent risings of the kindling soul;
Then, even superior to ambition, we
Would learn the private virtues; how to glide
Through shades and plains, along the smoothest stream
Of rural life: or snatch'd away by hope,
Through the dim spaces of futurity,
With earnest eye anticipate those scenes
Of happiness and wonder; where the mind,
In endless growth and infinite ascent,
Rises from state to state, and world to world.
But when with these the serious thought is foil'd,
We, shifting for relief, would play the shapes
Of frolic fancy; and incessant form
Those rapid pictures, that assembled train
Of fleet ideas, never join'd before,
Whence lively Wit excites to gay surprise;
Or folly-painting Humour, grave himself,
Calls Laughter forth, deep-shaking every nerve.
Meantime the village rouses up the fire;
While well attested, and as well believed,
Heard solemn, goes the goblin story round;
Till superstitious horror creeps o'er all.
Or, frequent in the sounding hall, they wake
The rural gambol. Rustic mirth goes round;
The simple joke that takes the shepherd's heart,
Easily pleased; the long loud laugh, sincere;
The kiss, snatch'd hasty from the side-long maid,
On purpose guardless, or pretending sleep:
The leap, the slap, the haul; and, shook to notes
Of native music, the respondent dance.
Thus jocund fleets with them the winter-night.
The city swarms intense. The public haunt,
Full of each theme and warm with mix'd discourse,
Hums indistinct. The sons of riot flow
Down the loose stream of false enchanted joy,
To swift destruction. On the rankled soul
The gaming fury falls; and in one gulf
Of total ruin, honour, virtue, peace,
Friends, families, and fortune, headlong sink.
Upsprings the dance along the lighted dome,
Mix'd and evolved, a thousand sprightly ways.
The glittering court effuses every pomp;
The circle deepens: beam'd from gaudy robes,
Tapers, and sparkling gems, and radiant eyes,
A soft effulgence o'er the palace waves:
While, a gay insect in his summer-shine,
The fop, light fluttering, spreads his mealy wings.
Dread o'er the scene, the ghost of Hamlet stalks;
Othello rages; poor Monimia mourns;
And Belvidera pours her soul in love.
Terror alarms the breast; the comely tear
Steals o'er the cheek: or else the Comic Muse
Holds to the world a picture of itself,
And raises sly the fair impartial laugh.
Sometimes she lifts her strain, and paints the scenes
Of beauteous life; whate'er can deck mankind,
Or charm the heart, in generous Bevil show'd.
O Thou, whose wisdom, solid yet refined,
Whose patriot-virtues, and consummate skill
To touch the finer springs that move the world,
Join'd to whate'er the Graces can bestow,
And all Apollo's animating fire,
Give thee, with pleasing dignity, to shine
At once the guardian, ornament, and joy,
Of polish'd life; permit the rural Muse,
O Chesterfield, to grace with thee her song!
Ere to the shades again she humbly flies,
Indulge her fond ambition, in thy train,
(For every Muse has in thy train a place)
To mark thy various full-accomplish'd mind:
To mark that spirit, which, with British scorn,
Rejects the allurements of corrupted power;
That elegant politeness, which excels,
E'en in the judgment of presumptuous France,
The boasted manners of her shining court;
That with the vivid energy of sense,
The truth of Nature, which with Attic point
And kind well temper'd satire, smoothly keen,
Steals through the soul, and without pain corrects.
Or rising thence with yet a brighter flame,
O let me hail thee on some glorious day,
When to the listening senate, ardent, crowd
Britannia's sons to hear her pleaded cause.
Then dress'd by thee, more amiably fair,
Truth the soft robe of mild persuasion wears:
Thou to assenting reason givest again
Her own enlighten'd thoughts; call'd from the heart,
The obedient passions on thy voice attend;
And e'en reluctant party feels a while
Thy gracious power: as through the varied maze
Of eloquence, now smooth, now quick, now strong,
Profound and clear, you roll the copious flood.
To thy loved haunt return, my happy Muse:
For now, behold, the joyous winter days,
Frosty, succeed; and through the blue serene,
For sight too fine, the ethereal nitre flies;
Killing infectious damps, and the spent air
Storing afresh with elemental life.
Close crowds the shining atmosphere; and binds
Our strengthen'd bodies in its cold embrace,
Constringent; feeds, and animates our blood;
Refines our spirits, through the new-strung nerves,
In swifter sallies darting to the brain;
Where sits the soul, intense, collected, cool,
Bright as the skies, and as the season keen.
All Nature feels the renovating force
Of Winter, only to the thoughtless eye
In ruin seen. The frost-concocted glebe
Draws in abundant vegetable soul,
And gathers vigour for the coming year,
A stronger glow sits on the lively cheek
Of ruddy fire: and luculent along
The purer rivers flow; their sullen deeps,
Transparent, open to the shepherd's gaze,
And murmur hoarser at the fixing frost.
What art thou, frost? and whence are thy keen stores
Derived, thou secret all-invading power,
Whom e'en the illusive fluid cannot fly?
Is not thy potent energy, unseen,
Myriads of little salts, or hook'd, or shaped
Like double wedges, and diffused immense
Through water, earth, and ether? hence at eve,
Steam'd eager from the red horizon round,
With the fierce rage of Winter deep suffused,
An icy gale, oft shifting, o'er the pool
Breathes a blue film, and in its mid career
Arrests the bickering stream. The loosen'd ice,
Let down the flood, and half dissolved by day,
Rustles no more; but to the sedgy bank
Fast grows, or gathers round the pointed stone,
A crystal pavement, by the breath of Heaven
Cemented firm; till, seized from shore to shore,
The whole imprison'd river growls below.
Loud rings the frozen earth, and hard reflects
A double noise; while, at his evening watch,
The village dog deters the nightly thief;
The heifer lows; the distant water-fall
Swells in the breeze; and, with the hasty tread
Of traveller, the hollow-sounding plain
Shakes from afar. The full ethereal round,
Infinite worlds disclosing to the view,
Shines out intensely keen; and, all one cope
Of starry glitter, glows from pole to pole.
From pole to pole the rigid influence falls,
Through the still night, incessant, heavy, strong,
And seizes Nature fast. It freezes on;
Till Morn, late-rising o'er the drooping world,
Lifts her pale eye unjoyous. Then appears
The various labour of the silent night:
Prone from the dripping eave, and dumb cascade,
Whose idle torrents only seem to roar,
The pendent icicle; the frost-work fair,
Where transient hues, and fancied figures rise;
Wide-spouted o'er the hill, the frozen brook,
A livid tract, cold-gleaming on the morn;
The forest bent beneath the plumy wave;
And by the frost refined the whiter snow,
Incrusted hard, and sounding to the tread
Of early shepherd, as he pensive seeks
His pining flock, or from the mountain top,
Pleased with the slippery surface, swift descends.
On blithsome frolics bent, the youthful swains,
While every work of man is laid at rest,
Fond o'er the river crowd, in various sport
And revelry dissolved; where mixing glad,
Happiest of all the train! the raptured boy
Lashes the whirling top. Or, where the Rhine
Branch'd out in many a long canal extends,
From every province swarming, void of care,
Batavia rushes forth; and as they sweep,
On sounding skates, a thousand different ways,
In circling poise, swift as the winds, along,
The then gay land is madden'd all to joy.
Nor less the northern courts, wide o'er the snow,
Pour a new pomp. Eager, on rapid sleds,
Their vigorous youth in bold contention wheel
The long-resounding course. Meantime to raise
The manly strife, with highly blooming charms,
Flush'd by the season, Scandinavia's dames,
Or Russia's buxom daughters, glow around.
Pure, quick, and sportful is the wholesome day;
But soon elapsed. The horizontal sun,
Broad o'er the south, hangs at his utmost noon:
And, ineffectual, strikes the gelid cliff:
His azure gloss the mountain still maintains,
Nor feels the feeble touch. Perhaps the vale
Relents awhile to the reflected ray:
Or from the forest falls the cluster'd snow,
Myriads of gems, that in the waving gleam
Gay-twinkle as they scatter. Thick around
Thunders the sport of those, who with the gun,
And dog impatient bounding at the shot,
Worse than the Season, desolate the fields;
And, adding to the ruins of the year,
Distress the footed or the feather'd game.
But what is this? our infant Winter sinks,
Divested of his grandeur, should our eye
Astonish'd shoot into the frigid zone;
Where, for relentless months, continual Night
Holds o'er the glittering waste her starry reign.
There, through the prison of unbounded wilds,
Barr'd by the hand of Nature from escape,
Wide roams the Russian exile. Nought around
Strikes his sad eye, but deserts lost in snow;
And heavy-loaded groves; and solid floods,
That stretch athwart the solitary waste,
Their icy horrors to the frozen main;
And cheerless towns far distant, never bless'd,
Save when its annual course the caravan
Bends to the golden coast of rich Cathay,
With news of human-kind. Yet there life glows;
Yet cherish'd there, beneath the shining waste,
The furry nations harbour: tipp'd with jet,
Fair ermines, spotless as the snows they press;
Sables, of glossy black; and dark-embrown'd,
Or beauteous freak'd with many a mingled hue,
Thousands besides, the costly pride of courts.
There, warm together press'd, the trooping deer
Sleep on the new-fallen snows; and, scarce his head
Raised o'er the heapy wreath, the branching elk
Lies slumbering sullen in the white abyss.
The ruthless hunter wants nor dogs nor toils,
Nor with the dread of sounding bows he drives
The fearful flying race; with ponderous clubs,
As weak against the mountain-heaps they push
Their beating breast in vain, and piteous bray,
He lays them quivering on the ensanguined snows,
And with loud shouts rejoicing bears them home.
There through the piny forest half-absorp'd,
Rough tenant of these shades, the shapeless bear,
With dangling ice all horrid, stalks forlorn;
Slow-paced, and sourer as the storms increase,
He makes his bed beneath the inclement drift,
And, with stern patience, scorning weak complaint,
Hardens his heart against assailing want.
Wide o'er the spacious regions of the north,
That see Boötes urge his tardy wain,
A boisterous race, by frosty Caurus pierced,
Who little pleasure know and fear no pain,
Prolific swarm. They once relumed the flame
Of lost mankind in polish'd slavery sunk;
Drove martial horde on horde, with dreadful sweep
Resistless rushing o'er the enfeebled south,
And gave the vanquish'd world another form.
Not such the sons of Lapland: wisely they
Despise the insensate barbarous trade of war;
They ask no more than simple Nature gives,
They love their mountains, and enjoy their storms.
No false desires, no pride-created wants,
Disturb the peaceful current of their time;
And through the restless ever tortured maze
Of pleasure, or ambition, bid it rage.
Their reindeer form their riches. These their tents,
Their robes, their beds, and all their homely wealth
Supply, their wholesome fare and cheerful cups.
Obsequious at their call, the docile tribe
Yield to the sled their necks, and whirl them swift
O'er hill and dale, heap'd into one expanse
Of marbled snow, as far as eye can sweep
With a blue crust of ice unbounded glazed.
By dancing meteors then, that ceaseless shake
A waving blaze refracted o'er the heavens,
And vivid moons, and stars that keener play
With doubled lustre from the glossy waste,
E'en in the depth of polar night, they find
A wondrous day: enough to light the chase,
Or guide their daring steps to Finland fairs.
Wish'd Spring returns; and from the hazy south,
While dim Aurora slowly moves before,
The welcome sun, just verging up at first,
By small degrees extends the swelling curve!
Till seen at last for gay rejoicing months,
Still round and round, his spiral course he winds,
And as he nearly dips his flaming orb,
Wheels up again, and reascends the sky.
In that glad season from the lakes and floods,
Where pure Niemi's fairy mountains rise,
And fringed with roses Tenglio rolls his stream,
They draw the copious fry. With these, at eve,
They cheerful loaded to their tents repair;
Where, all day long in useful cares employ'd,
880 Their kind unblemish'd wives the fire prepare.
Thrice happy race! by poverty secured
From legal plunder and rapacious power:
In whom fell interest never yet has sown
The seeds of vice: whose spotless swains ne'er knew
Injurious deed, nor, blasted by the breath
Of faithless love, their blooming daughters woe.
Still pressing on, beyond Tornea's lake,
And Hecla flaming through a waste of snow,
And farthest Greenland, to the pole itself,
Where, failing gradual, life at length goes out,
The Muse expands her solitary flight;
And, hovering o'er the wild stupendous scene,
Beholds new seas beneath another sky.
Throned in his palace of cerulean ice,
Here Winter holds his unrejoicing court;
And through his airy hall the loud misrule
Of driving tempest is for ever heard:
Here the grim tyrant meditates his wrath;
Here arms his winds with all subduing frost;
Moulds his fierce hail, and treasures up his snows,
With which he now oppresses half the globe.
Thence winding eastward to the Tartar's coast,
She sweeps the howling margin of the main;
Where undissolving, from the first of time,
Snows swell on snows amazing to the sky;
And icy mountains high on mountains piled,
Seem to the shivering sailor from afar,
Shapeless and white, an atmosphere of clouds.
Projected huge, and horrid o'er the surge,
Alps frown on Alps; or rushing hideous down,
As if old Chaos was again return'd,
Wide-rend the deep, and shake the solid pole.
Ocean itself no longer can resist
The binding fury: but, in all its rage
Of tempest taken by the boundless frost,
Is many a fathom to the bottom chain'd,
And bid to roar no more: a bleak expanse,
Shagg'd o'er with wavy rocks, cheerless, and void
Of every life, that from the dreary months
Flies conscious southward. Miserable they!
Who, here entangled in the gathering ice,
Take their last look of the descending sun;
While, full of death, and fierce with tenfold frost,
The long long night, incumbent o'er their heads,
Falls horrible. Such was the Briton's fate,
As with first prow, (what have not Britons dared!)
He for the passage sought, attempted since
So much in vain, and seeming to be shut
By jealous Nature with eternal bars.
In these fell regions, in Arzina caught,
And to the stony deep his idle ship
Immediate seal'd, he with his hapless crew
Each full exerted at his several task,
Froze into statues; to the cordage glued
The sailor, and the pilot to the helm.
Hard by these shores, where scarce his freezing stream
Rolls the wild Oby, live the last of men;
And half enliven'd by the distant sun,
That rears and ripens man, as well as plants,
Here human nature wears its rudest form.
Deep from the piercing season sunk in caves,
Here by dull fires, and with unjoyous cheer,
They waste the tedious gloom. Immersed in furs,
Doze the gross race. Nor sprightly jest nor song,
Nor tenderness they know; nor aught of life,
Beyond the kindred bears that stalk without,
Till morn at length, her roses drooping all,
Sheds a long twilight brightening o'er their fields,
And calls the quiver'd savage to the chase.
What cannot active government perform,
New-moulding man? Wide-stretching from these shores,
A people savage from remotest time,
A huge neglected empire, one vast mind,
By Heaven inspired, from gothic darkness call'd.
Immortal Peter! first of monarchs! he
His stubborn country tamed, her rocks, her fens,
Her floods, her seas, her ill-submitting sons;
And while the fierce barbarian he subdued,
To more exalted soul he raised the man.
Ye shades of ancient heroes, ye who toil'd
Through long successive ages to build up
A labouring plan of state, behold at once
The wonder done! behold the matchless prince!
Who left his native throne, where reign'd till then
A mighty shadow of unreal power;
Who greatly spurn'd the slothful pomp of courts;
And roaming every land, in every port
His sceptre laid aside, with glorious hand
Unwearied plying the mechanic tool,
Gather'd the seeds of trade, of useful arts,
Of civil wisdom, and of martial skill.
Charged with the stores of Europe home he goes!
Then cities rise amid the illumined waste;
O'er joyless deserts smiles the rural reign;
Far distant flood to flood is social join'd;
The astonish'd Euxine hears the Baltic roar;
Proud navies ride on seas that never foam'd
With daring keel before; and armies stretch
Each way their dazzling files, repressing here
The frantic Alexander of the north,
And awing there stern Othman's shrinking sons.
Sloth flies the land, and Ignorance, and Vice,
Of old dishonour proud: it glows around,
Taught by the Royal Hand that roused the whole,
One scene of arts, of arms, of rising trade:
For what his wisdom plann'd, and power enforced,
More potent still, his great example show'd.
Muttering, the winds at eve, with blunted point,
Blow hollow blustering from the south. Subdued,
The frost resolves into a trickling thaw.
Spotted the mountains shine; loose sleet descends,
And floods the country round. The rivers swell,
Of bonds impatient. Sudden from the hills,
O'er rocks and woods, in broad brown cataracts,
A thousand snow-fed torrents shoot at once;
And, where they rush, the wide resounding plain
Is left one slimy waste. Those sullen seas,
That wash'd the ungenial pole, will rest no more
Beneath the shackles of the mighty north;
But, rousing all their waves, resistless heave.
And hark! the lengthening roar continuous runs
Athwart the rifted deep: at once it bursts,
And piles a thousand mountains to the clouds.
Ill fares the bark with trembling wretches charged,
That, toss'd amid the floating fragments, moors
Beneath the shelter of an icy isle,
While night o'erwhelms the sea, and horror looks
More horrible. Can human force endure
The assembled mischiefs that besiege them round?
Heart-gnawing hunger, fainting weariness,
The roar of winds and waves, the crush of ice,
Now ceasing, now renew'd with louder rage,
And in dire echoes bellowing round the main.
More to embroil the deep, leviathan
And his unwieldy train, in dreadful sport,
Tempest the loosen'd brine, while through the gloom,
Far from the bleak inhospitable shore,
Loading the winds, is heard the hungry howl
Of famish'd monsters, there awaiting wrecks.
Yet Providence, that ever waking eye,
Looks down with pity on the feeble toil
Of mortals lost to hope, and lights them safe,
Through all this dreary labyrinth of fate.
'Tis done! dread Winter spreads his latest glooms,
And reigns tremendous o'er the conquer'd Year.
How dead the vegetable kingdom lies!
How dumb the tuneful! horror wide extends
His desolate domain. Behold, fond man!
See here thy pictured life; pass some few years,
Thy flowering Spring, thy Summer's ardent strength,
Thy sober Autumn fading into age,
And pale concluding Winter comes at last,
And shuts the scene. Ah! whither now are fled
Those dreams of greatness? those unsolid hopes
Of happiness? those longings after fame?
Those restless cares? those busy bustling days?
Those gay-spent, festive nights? those veering thoughts,
Lost between good and ill, that shared thy life?
All now are vanish'd! Virtue sole survives,
Immortal never failing friend of man,
His guide to happiness on high. And see!
'Tis come, the glorious morn! the second birth
Of heaven and earth! awakening Nature hears
The new creating word, and starts to life,
In every heighten'd form, from pain and death
For ever free. The great eternal scheme,
Involving all, and in a perfect whole
Uniting, as the prospect wider spreads,
To reason's eye refined clear up apace.
Ye vainly wise! ye blind presumptuous! now,
Confounded in the dust, adore that Power
And Wisdom oft arraign'd: see now the cause,
Why unassuming worth in secret lived,
And died, neglected: why the good man's share
In life was gall and bitterness of soul:
Why the lone widow and her orphans pined
In starving solitude; while luxury,
In palaces, lay straining her low thought,
To form unreal wants: why heaven-born truth,
And moderation fair, wore the red marks
Of superstition's scourge: why licensed pain,
That cruel spoiler, that embosom'd foe,
Embitter'd all our bliss. Ye good distress'd!
Ye noble few! who here unbending stand
Beneath life's pressure, yet bear up a while,
And what your bounded view, which only saw
A little part, deem'd evil is no more:
The storms of Wintry Time will quickly pass,
And one unbounded Spring encircle all.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Eighth Book

ONE eve it happened when I sate alone,
Alone upon the terrace of my tower,
A book upon my knees, to counterfeit
The reading that I never read at all,
While Marian, in the garden down below,
Knelt by the fountain (I could just hear thrill
The drowsy silence of the exhausted day)
And peeled a new fig from that purple heap
In the grass beside her,–turning out the red
To feed her eager child, who sucked at it
With vehement lips across a gap of air
As he stood opposite, face and curls a-flame
With that last sun-ray, crying, 'give me, give,'
And stamping with imperious baby-feet,
(We're all born princes)–something startled me,–
The laugh of sad and innocent souls, that breaks
Abruptly, as if frightened at itself;
'Twas Marian laughed. I saw her glance above
In sudden shame that I should hear her laugh,
And straightway dropped my eyes upon my book,
And knew, the first time, 'twas Boccaccio's tales,
The Falcon's,–of the lover who for love
Destroyed the best that loved him. Some of us
Do it still, and then we sit and laugh no more.
Laugh you, sweet Marian! you've the right to laugh,
Since God himself is for you, and a child!
For me there's somewhat less,–and so, I sigh.

The heavens were making room to hold the night,
The sevenfold heavens unfolding all their gates
To let the stars out slowly (prophesied
In close-approaching advent, not discerned),
While still the cue-owls from the cypresses
Of the Poggio called and counted every pulse
Of the skyey palpitation. Gradually
The purple and transparent shadows slow
Had filled up the whole valley to the brim,
And flooded all the city, which you saw
As some drowned city in some enchanted sea,
Cut off from nature,–drawing you who gaze,
With passionate desire, to leap and plunge,
And find a sea-king with a voice of waves,
And treacherous soft eyes, and slippery locks
You cannot kiss but you shall bring away
Their salt upon your lips. The duomo-bell
Strikes ten, as if it struck ten fathoms down,
So deep; and fifty churches answer it
The same, with fifty various instances.
Some gaslights tremble along squares and streets
The Pitti's palace-front is drawn in fire:
And, past the quays, Maria Novella's Place,
In which the mystic obelisks stand up
Triangular, pyramidal, each based
On a single trine of brazen tortoises,
To guard that fair church, Buonarroti's Bride,
That stares out from her large blind dial-eyes,
Her quadrant and armillary dials, black
With rhythms of many suns and moons, in vain
Enquiry for so rich a soul as his,–
Methinks I have plunged, I see it all so clear . . .
And, oh my heart . . .the sea-king!

In my ears
The sound of waters. There he stood, my king!

I felt him, rather than beheld him. Up
I rose, as if he were my king indeed,
And then sate down, in trouble at myself,
And struggling for my woman's empery.
'Tis pitiful; but women are so made:
We'll die for you, perhaps,–'tis probable:
But we'll not spare you an inch of our full height:
We'll have our whole just stature,–five feet four,
Though laid out in our coffins: pitiful!
–'You, Romney!––Lady Waldemar is here?'

He answered in a voice which was not his,
'I have her letter; you shall read it soon:
But first, I must be heard a little, I,
Who have waited long and travelled far for that,
Although you thought to have shut a tedious book
And farewell. Ah, you dog-eared such a page,
And here you find me.'
Did he touch my hand,
Or but my sleeve? I trembled, hand and foot,–
He must have touched me.–'Will you sit?' I asked,
And motioned to a chair; but down he sate,
A little slowly, as a man in doubt,
Upon the couch beside me,–couch and chair
Being wheeled upon the terrace.
'You are come,
My cousin Romney?–this is wonderful.
But all is wonder on such summer-nights;
And nothing should surprise us any more,
Who see that miracle of stars. Behold.'

I signed above, where all the stars were out,
As if an urgent heat had started there
A secret writing from a sombre page,
A blank last moment, crowded suddenly
With hurrying splendours.
'Then you do not know–
He murmured.
'Yes, I know,' I said, 'I know.
I had the news from Vincent Carrington.
And yet I did not think you'd leave the work
In England, for so much even,–though, of course,
You'll make a work-day of your holiday,
And turn it to our Tuscan people's use,–
Who much need helping since the Austrian boar
(So bold to cross the Alp by Lombardy
And dash his brute front unabashed against
The steep snow-bosses of that shield of God,
Who soon shall rise in wrath and shake it clear
Came hither also,–raking up our vines
And olive-gardens with his tyrannous tusks,
And rolling on our maize with all his swine.'

'You had the news from Vincent Carrington,'
He echoed,–picking up the phrase beyond,
As if he knew the rest was merely talk
To fill a gap and keep out a strong wind,–
'You had, then, Vincent's personal news?'
'His own,
I answered, 'All that ruined world of yours
Seems crumbling into marriage. Carrington
Has chosen wisely.'
'Do you take it so?'
He cried, 'and is it possible at last' . .
He paused there,–and then, inward to himself,
'Too much at last, too late!–yet certainly' . .
(And there his voice swayed as an Alpine plank
That feels a passionate torrent underneath)
'The knowledge, if I had known it, first or last,
Had never changed the actual case for me.
And best, for her, at this time.'
Nay, I thought,
He loves Kate Ward, it seems, now, like a man,
Because he has married Lady Waldemar.
Ah, Vincent's letter said how Leigh was moved
To hear that Vincent was betrothed to Kate.
With what cracked pitchers go we to deep wells
In this world! Then I spoke,–'I did not think,
My cousin, you had ever known Kate Ward.'

'In fact I never knew her. 'Tis enough
That Vincent did, before he chose his wife
For other reasons than those topaz eyes
I've heard of. Not to undervalue them,
For all that. One takes up the world with eyes.'

–Including Romney Leigh, I thought again,
Albeit he knows them only by repute.
How vile must all men be, since he's a man.

His deep pathetic voice, as if he guessed
I did not surely love him, took the word;
'You never got a letter from Lord Howe
A month back, dear Aurora?'
'None,' I said.
'I felt it was so,' he replied: 'Yet, strange!
Sir Blaise Delorme has passed through Florence?'
'Ay,
By chance I saw him in Our Lady's church,
(I saw him, mark you, but he saw not me)
Clean-washed in holy-water from the count
Of things terrestrial,–letters and the rest;
He had crossed us out together with his sins.
Ay, strange; but only strange that good Lord Howe
Preferred him to the post because of pauls.
For me I'm sworn never to trust a man
At least with letters.'

'There were facts to tell,–
To smooth with eye and accent. Howe supposed . .
Well, well, no matter! there was dubious need;
You heard the news from Vincent Carrington.
And yet perhaps you had been startled less
To see me, dear Aurora, if you had read
That letter.'
–Now he sets me down as vexed.
I think I've draped myself in woman's pride
To a perfect purpose. Oh, I'm vexed, it seems!
My friend Lord Howe deputes his friend Sir Blaise
To break as softly as a sparrow's egg
That lets a bird out tenderly, the news
Of Romney's marriage to a certain saint;
To smooth with eye and accent,–indicate
His possible presence. Excellently well
You've played your part, my Lady Waldemar,–
As I've played mine.
'Dear Romney,' I began,
'You did not use, of old, to be so like
A Greek king coming from a taken Troy,
'Twas needful that precursors spread your path
With three-piled carpets, to receive your foot
And dull the sound of't. For myself, be sure
Although it frankly ground the gravel here
I still could bear it. Yet I'm sorry, too,
To lose this famous letter, which Sir Blaise
Has twisted to a lighter absently
To fire some holy taper with: Lord Howe
Writes letters good for all things but to lose;
And many a flower of London gossipry
Has dropt wherever such a stem broke off,–
Of course I know that, lonely among my vines,
Where nothing's talked of, save the blight again,
And no more Chianti! Still the letter's use
As preparation . . . . . Did I start indeed?
Last night I started at a cochchafer,
And shook a half-hour after. Have you learnt
No more of women, 'spite of privilege,
Than still to take account too seriously
Of such weak flutterings? Why, we like it, sir,–
We get our powers and our effects that way.
The trees stand stiff and still at time of frost,
If no wind tears them; but, let summer come,
When trees are happy,–and a breath avails
To set them trembling through a million leaves
In luxury of emotion. Something less
It takes to move a woman: let her start
And shake at pleasure,–nor conclude at yours,
The winter's bitter,–but the summer's green.'

He answered, 'Be the summer ever green
With you, Aurora!–though you sweep your sex
With somewhat bitter gusts from where you live
Above them,–whirling downward from your heights
Your very own pine-cones, in a grand disdain
Of the lowland burrs with which you scatter them.
So high and cold to others and yourself,
A little less to Romney, were unjust,
And thus, I would not have you. Let it pass:
I feel content, so. You can bear indeed
My sudden step beside you: but for me,
'Twould move me sore to hear your softened voice,–
Aurora's voice,–if softened unaware
In pity of what I am.'
Ah friend, I thought,
As husband of the Lady Waldemar
You're granted very sorely pitiable!
And yet Aurora Leigh must guard her voice
From softening in the pity of your case,
As if from lie or licence. Certainly
We'll soak up all the slush and soil of life
With softened voices, ere we come to you.

At which I interrupted my own thought
And spoke out calmly. 'Let us ponder, friend,
Whate'er our state, we must have made it first;
And though the thing displease us, ay, perhaps
Displease us warrantably, never doubt
That other states, thought possible once, and then
Rejected by the instinct of our lives,–
If then adopted, had displeased us more
Than this, in which the choice, the will, the love,
Has stamped the honour of a patent act
From henceforth. What we choose, may not be good;
But, that we choose it, proves it good for us
Potentially, fantastically, now
Or last year, rather than a thing we saw,
And saw no need for choosing. Moths will burn
Their wings,–which proves that light is good for moths,
Or else they had flown not, where they agonise.'

'Ay, light is good,' he echoed, and there paused.
And then abruptly, . . 'Marian. Marian's well?'

I bowed my head but found no word. 'Twas hard
To speak of her to Lady Waldemar's
New husband. How much did he know, at last?
How much? how little?––He would take no sign,
But straight repeated,–'Marian. Is she well?'

'She's well,' I answered.

She was there in sight
An hour back, but the night had drawn her home;
Where still I heard her in an upper room,
Her low voice singing to the child in bed,
Who restless with the summer-heat and play
And slumber snatched at noon, was long sometimes
At falling off, and took a score of songs
And mother-hushes, ere she saw him sound.

'She's well,' I answered.

'Here?' he asked.
'Yes, here.'

He stopped and sighed. 'That shall be presently,
But now this must be. I have words to say,
And would be alone to say them, I with you,
And no third troubling.'

'Speak then,' I returned,
'She will not vex you.'

At which, suddenly
He turned his face upon me with its smile,
As if to crush me. 'I have read your book,
Aurora.'
'You have read it,' I replied,
'And I have writ it,–we have done with it.
And now the rest?'
'The rest is like the first,'
He answered,–'for the book is in my heart,
Lives in me, wakes in me, and dreams in me:
My daily bread tastes of it,–and my wine
Which has no smack of it, I pour it out;
It seems unnatural drinking.'
Bitterly
I took the word up; 'Never waste your wine.
The book lived in me ere it lived in you;
I know it closer than another does,
And that it's foolish, feeble, and afraid,
And all unworthy so much compliment.
Beseech you, keep your wine,–and, when you drink,
Still wish some happier fortune to your friend,
Than even to have written a far better book.'

He answered gently, 'That is consequent:
The poet looks beyond the book he has made,
Or else he had not made it. If a man
Could make a man, he'd henceforth be a god
In feeling what a little thing is man:
It is not my case. And this special book,
I did not make it, to make light of it:
It stands above my knowledge, draws me up;
'Tis high to me. It may be that the book
Is not so high, but I so low, instead;
Still high to me. I mean no compliment:
I will not say there are not, young or old,
Male writers, ay, or female,–let it pass,
Who'll write us richer and completer books.
A man may love a woman perfectly,
And yet by no means ignorantly maintain
A thousand women have not larger eyes:
Enough that she alone has looked at him
With eyes that, large or small, have won his soul.
And so, this book, Aurora,–so, your book.'

'Alas,' I answered, 'is it so, indeed?'
And then was silent.

'Is it so, indeed,'
He echoed, 'that alas is all your word?'

I said,–'I'm thinking of a far-off June,
When you and I, upon my birthday once,
Discoursed of life and art, with both untried.
I'm thinking, Romney, how 'twas morning then,
And now 'tis night.'

'And now,' he said, tis night.'

'I'm thinking,' I resumed, tis somewhat sad
That if I had known, that morning in the dew,
My cousin Romney would have said such words
On such a night, at close of many years,
In speaking of a future book of mine,
It would have pleased me better as a hope,
Than as an actual grace it can at all.
That's sad, I'm thinking.'
'Ay,' he said, tis night.'

'And there,' I added lightly, 'are the stars!
And here, we'll talk of stars, and not of books.'

'You have the stars,' he murmured,–'it is well.
Be like them! shine, Aurora, on my dark,
Though high and cold and only like star,
And for this short night only,–you, who keep
The same Aurora of the bright June-day
That withered up the flowers before my face,
And turned my from the garden evermore
Because I was not worthy. Oh, deserved,
Deserved! That I, who verily had not learnt
God's lesson half, attaining as a dunce
To obliterate good words with fractious thumbs
And cheat myself of the context,–I should push
Aside, with male ferocious impudence,
The world's Aurora who had conned her part
On the other side the leaf! ignore her so,
Because she was a woman and a queen,
And had no beard to bristle through her song,–
My teacher, who has taught me with a book,
My Miriam, whose sweet mouth, when nearly drowned
I still heard singing on the shore! Deserved,
That here I should look up unto the stars
And miss the glory' . .
'Can I understand?'
I broke in. 'You speak wildly, Romney Leigh,
Or I hear wildly. In that morning-time
We recollect, the roses were too red,
The trees too green, reproach too natural
If one should see not what the other saw:
And now, it's night, remember; we have shades
In place of colours; we are now grown cold,
And old, my cousin Romney. Pardon me,–
I'm very happy that you like my book,
And very sorry that I quoted back
A ten years' birthday; 'twas so mad a thing
In any woman, I scarce marvel much
You took it for a venturous piece of spite,
Provoking such excuses, as indeed
I cannot call you slack in.'
'Understand,'
He answered sadly, 'something, if but so.
This night is softer than an English day,
And men may well come hither when they're sick,
To draw in easier breath from larger air.
'Tis thus with me; I've come to you,–to you,
My Italy of women, just to breathe
My soul out once before you, ere I go,
As humble as God makes me at the last,
(I thank Him) quite out of the way of men,
And yours, Aurora,–like a punished child,
His cheeks all blurred with tears and naughtiness,
To silence in a corner. I am come
To speak, beloved' . .
'Wisely, cousin Leigh,
And worthily of us both!'
'Yes, worthily;
For this time I must speak out and confess
That I, so truculent in assumption once,
So absolute in dogma, proud in aim,
And fierce in expectation,–I, who felt
The whole world tugging at my skirts for help,
As if no other man than I, could pull,
Nor woman, but I led her by the hand,
Nor cloth hold, but I had it in my coat,–
Do know myself to-night for what I was
On that June-day, Aurora. Poor bright day,
Which meant the best . . a woman and a rose, . .
And which I smote upon the cheek with words,
Until it turned and rent me! Young you were,
That birthday, poet, but you talked the right:
While I, . . I built up follies like a wall
To intercept the sunshine and your face.
Your face! that's worse.'
'Speak wisely, cousin Leigh.'

'Yes, wisely, dear Aurora, though too late:
But then, not wisely. I was heavy then,
And stupid, and distracted with the cries
Of tortured prisoners in the polished brass
Of that Phalarian bull, society,–
Which seems to bellow bravely like ten bulls,
But, if you listen, moans and cries instead
Despairingly, like victims tossed and gored
And trampled by their hoofs. I heard the cries
Too close: I could not hear the angels lift
A fold of rustling air, nor what they said
To help my pity. I beheld the world
As one great famishing carnivorous mouth,–
A huge, deserted, callow, black, bird Thing,
With piteous open beak that hurt my heart,
Till down upon the filthy ground I dropped,
And tore the violets up to get the worms.
Worms, worms, was all my cry: an open mouth,
A gross want, bread to fill it to the lips,
No more! That poor men narrowed their demands
To such an end, was virtue, I supposed,
Adjudicating that to see it so
Was reason. Oh, I did not push the case
Up higher, and ponder how it answers, when
The rich take up the same cry for themselves,
Professing equally,–'an open mouth
A gross want, food to fill us, and no more!'
Why that's so far from virtue, only vice
Finds reason for it! That makes libertines:
That slurs our cruel streets from end to end
With eighty thousand women in one smile,
Who only smile at night beneath the gas:
The body's satisfaction and no more,
Being used for argument against the soul's,
Her too! the want, here too, implying the right.
–How dark I stood that morning in the sun,
My best Aurora, though I saw your eyes,–
When first you told me . . oh, I recollect
The words . . and how you lifted your white hand,
And how your white dress and your burnished curls
Went greatening round you in the still blue air,
As if an inspiration from within
Had blown them all out when you spoke the same,
Even these,–'You will not compass your poor ends
'Of barley-feeding and material ease,
'Without the poet's individualism
'To work your universal. It takes a soul,
'To move a body,–it takes a high-souled man,
'To move the masses . . even to a cleaner stye:
'It takes the ideal, to blow an inch inside
'The dust of the actual: and your Fouriers failed
'Because not poets enough to understand
'That life develops from within.' I say
Your words,–I could say other words of yours
For none of all your words has been more lost
Than sweet verbena, which, being brushed against,
Will hold you three hours after by the smell,
In spite of long walks on the windy hills.
But these words dealt in sharper perfume,–these
Were ever on me, stinging through my dreams,
And saying themselves for ever o'er my acts
Like some unhappy verdict. That I failed,
Is certain. Stye or no stye, to contrive
The swine's propulsion toward the precipice,
Proved easy and plain. I subtly organised
And ordered, built the cards up higher and higher,
Till, some one breathing, all fell flat again!
In setting right society's wide wrong,
Mere life's so fatal! So I failed indeed
Once, twice, and oftener,–hearing through the rents
Of obstinate purpose, still those words of yours,
'You will not compass your poor ends, not you! '
But harder than you said them; every time
Still farther from your voice, until they came
To overcrow me with triumphant scorn
Which vexed me to resistance. Set down this
For condemnation,–I was guilty here:
I stood upon my deed and fought my doubt,
As men will,–for I doubted,–till at last
My deed gave way beneath me suddenly,
And left me what I am. The curtain dropped,
My part quite ended, all the footlights quenched.
My own soul hissing at me through the dark,
I, ready for confession,–I was wrong,
I've sorely failed; I've slipped the ends of life,
I yield; you have conquered.'
'Stay,' I answered him;
'I've something for your hearing, also. I
Have failed too.'
'You!' he said, 'you're very great:
The sadness of your greatness fits you well:
As if the plume upon a hero's casque
Should nod a shadow upon his victor face.'

I took him up austerely,–'You have read
My book but not my heart; for recollect,
'Tis writ in Sanscrit, which you bungle at.
I've surely failed, I know; if failure means
To look back sadly on work gladly done,–
To wander on my mountains of Delight,
So called, (I can remember a friend's words
As well as you, sir,) weary and in want
Of even a sheep-path, thinking bitterly . .
Well, well! no matter. I but say so much,
To keep you, Romney Leigh, from saying more,
And let you feel I am not so high indeed,
That I can bear to have you at my foot,–
Or safe, that I can help you. That June-day,
Too deeply sunk in craterous sunsets now
For you or me to dig it up alive;
To pluck it out all bleeding with spent flame
At the roots, before those moralising stars
We have got instead,–that poor lost day, you said
Some words as truthful as the thing of mine
You care to keep in memory: and I hold
If I, that day, and, being the girl I was,
Had shown a gentler spirit, less arrogance,
It had not hurt me. Ah, you'll not mistake
The point here. I but only think, you see,
More justly, that's more humbly, of myself,
Than when I tried a crown on and supposed . . .
Nay, laugh, sir,–I'll laugh with you!–pray you, laugh.
I've had so many birthdays since that day,
I've learnt to prize mirth's opportunities,
Which come too seldom. Was it you who said
I was not changed? the same Aurora? Ah,
We could laugh there, too! Why, Ulysses' dog
Knew him, and wagged his tail and died: but if
I had owned a dog, I too, before my Troy,
And if you brought him here, . . I warrant you
He'd look into my face, bark lustily,
And live on stoutly, as the creatures will
Whose spirits are not troubled by long loves.
A dog would never know me, I'm so changed;
Much less a friend . . except that you're misled
By the colour of the hair, the trick of the voice,
Like that of Aurora Leigh's.'
'Sweet trick of voice
I would be a dog for this, to know it at last,
And die upon the falls of it. O love,
O best Aurora! are you then so sad,
You scarcely had been sadder as my wife?'

'Your wife, sir! I must certainly be changed,
If I, Aurora, can have said a thing
So light, it catches at the knightly spurs
Of a noble gentleman like Romney Leigh,
And trips him from his honourable sense
Of what befits' . .
'You wholly misconceive,'
He answered.
I returned,–'I'm glad of it:
But keep from misconception, too, yourself:
I am not humbled to so low a point,
Nor so far saddened. If I am sad at all,
Ten layers of birthdays on a woman's head,
Are apt to fossilise her girlish mirth,
Though ne'er so merry: I'm perforce more wise,
And that, in truth, means sadder. For the rest,
Look here, sir: I was right upon the whole,
That birthday morning. 'Tis impossible
To get at men excepting through their souls,
However open their carnivorous jaws;
And poets get directlier at the soul,
Than any of you oeconomists:–for which,
You must not overlook the poet's work
When scheming for the world's necessities.
The soul's the way. Not even Christ himself
Can save man else than as He hold man's soul;
And therefore did He come into our flesh,
As some wise hunter creeping on his knees
With a torch, into the blackness of some cave,
To face and quell the beast there,–take the soul,
And so possess the whole man, body and soul.
I said, so far, right, yes; not farther, though:
We both were wrong that June-day,–both as wrong
As an east wind had been. I who talked of art,
And you who grieved for all men's griefs . . . what then?
We surely made too small a part for God
In these things. What we are, imports us more
Than what we eat; and life you've granted me,
Develops from within. But innermost
Of the inmost, most interior of the interne,
God claims his own, Divine humanity
Renewing nature,–or the piercingest verse,
Prest in by subtlest poet, still must keep
As much upon the outside of a man,
As the very bowl, in which he dips his beard.
And then, . . the rest. I cannot surely speak.
Perhaps I doubt more than you doubted then,
If I, the poet's veritable charge,
Have borne upon my forehead. If I have,
It might feel somewhat liker to a crown,
The foolish green one even.–Ah, I think,
And chiefly when the sun shines, that I've failed.
But what then, Romney? Though we fail indeed,
You . . I . . a score of such weak workers, . . He
Fails never. If He cannot work by us,
He will work over us. Does he want a man,
Much less a woman, think you? Every time
The star winks there, so many souls are born,
Who shall work too. Let our own be calm:
We should be ashamed to sit beneath those stars,
Impatient that we're nothing.'
'Could we sit
Just so for ever, sweetest friend,' he said,
'My failure would seem better than success.
And yet, indeed, your book has dealt with me
More gently, cousin, than you ever will!
The book brought down entire the bright June-day,
And set me wandering in the garden-walks,
And let me watch the garland in a place,
You blushed so . . nay, forgive me; do not stir:
I only thank the book for what it taught,
And what, permitted. Poet, doubt yourself;
But never doubt that you're a poet to me
From henceforth. Ah, you've written poems, sweet,
Which moved me in secret as the sap is moved
In still March branches, signless as a stone:
But this last book o'ercame me like soft rain
Which falls at midnight, when the tightened bark
Breaks out into unhesitating buds,
And sudden protestations of the spring.
In all your other books I saw but you:
A man may see the moon so, in a pond,
And not the nearer therefore to the moon,
Nor use the sight . . except to drown himself
And so I forced my heart back from the sigh
For what had I, I thought, to do with her,–
Aurora . . Romney? But, in this last book,
You showed me something separate from yourself,
Beyond you; and I bore to take it in,
And let it draw me. You have shown me truths,
O June-day friend, that help me now at night,
When June is over! truths not yours, indeed,
But set within my reach by means of you:
Presented by your voice and verse the way
To take them clearest. Verily I was wrong;
And verily, many thinkers of this age,
Ay, many Christian teachers, half in heaven,
Are wrong in just my sense, who understood
Our natural world too insularly, as if
No spiritual counterpart completed it
Consummating its meaning, rounding all
To justice and perfection, line by line,
Form by form, nothing single, nor alone,–
The great below clenched by the great above;
Shade here authenticating substance there;
The body proving spirit, as the effect
The cause: we, meantime, being too grossly apt
To hold the natural, as dogs a bone,
(Though reason and nature beat us in the face),
So obstinately, that we'll break our teeth
Or ever we let go. For everywhere
We're too materialistic,–eating clay,
(Like men of the west) instead of Adam's corn
And Noah's wine; clay by handfuls, clay by lumps,
Until we're filled up to the throat with clay,
And grow the grimy colour of the ground
On which we are feeding. Ay, materialist
The age's name is. God himself, with some,
Is apprehended as the bare result
Of what his hand materially has made,
Expressed in such an algebraic sign,
Called God;–that is, to put it otherwise,
They add up nature to a naught of God
And cross the quotient. There are many, even,
Whose names are written in the Christian church
To no dishonour,–diet still on mud,
And splash the altars with it. You might think
The clay, Christ laid upon their eyelids when,
Still blind, he called them to the use of sight,
Remained there to retard its exercise
With clogging incrustations. Close to heaven,
They see, for mysteries, through the open doors,
Vague puffs of smoke from pots of earthenware;
And fain would enter, when their time shall come,
With quite a different body than St. Paul
Has promised,–husk and chaff, the whole barley-corn,
Or where's the resurrection?'
'Thus it is,'
I sighed. And he resumed with mournful face.
'Beginning so, and filling up with clay
The wards of this great key, the natural world,
And fumbling vainly therefore at the lock
Of the spiritual,–we feel ourselves shut in
With all the wild-beast roar of struggling life,
The terrors and compunctions of our souls,
As saints with lions,–we who are not saints,
And have no heavenly lordship in our stare
To awe them backward! Ay, we are forced so pent
To judge the whole too partially, . . confound
Conclusions. Is there any common phrase
Significant, when the adverb's heard alone,
The verb being absent, and the pronoun out?
But we distracted in the roar of life,
Still insolently at God's adverb snatch,
And bruit against Him that his thought is void,
His meaning hopeless;–cry, that everywhere
The government is slipping from his hand,
Unless some other Christ . . say Romney Leigh . .
Come up, and toil and moil, and change the world,
For which the First has proved inadequate,
However we talk bigly of His work
And piously of His person. We blaspheme
At last, to finish that doxology,
Despairing on the earth for which He died.'

'So now,' I asked, 'you have more hope of men?'

'I hope,' he answered: 'I am come to think
That God will have his work done, as you said,
And that we need not be disturbed too much
For Romney Leigh or others having failed
With this or that quack nostrum,–recipes
For keeping summits by annulling depths,
For learning wrestling with long lounging sleeves,
And perfect heroism without a scratch.
We fail,–what then? Aurora, if I smiled
To see you, in your lovely morning-pride,
Try on the poet's wreath which suits the noon,–
(Sweet cousin, walls must get the weather-stain
Before they grow the ivy!) certainly
I stood myself there worthier of contempt,
Self-rated, in disastrous arrogance,
As competent to sorrow for mankind
And even their odds. A man may well despair,
Who counts himself so needful to success.
I failed. I throw the remedy back on God,
And sit down here beside you, in good hope.'
'And yet, take heed,' I answered, 'lest we lean
Too dangerously on the other side,
And so fail twice. Be sure, no earnest work
Of any honest creature, howbeit weak,
Imperfect, ill-adapted, fails so much,
It is not gathered as a grain of sand
To enlarge the sum of human action used
For carrying out God's end. No creature works
So ill, observe, that therefore he's cashiered.
The honest earnest man must stand and work:
The woman also; otherwise she drops
At once below the dignity of man,
Accepting serfdom. Free men freely work:
Whoever fears God, fears to sit at ease.'

He cried, 'True. After Adam, work was curse;
The natural creature labours, sweats and frets.
But, after Christ, work turns to privilege;
And henceforth one with our humanity,
The Six-day Worker, working still in us,
Has called us freely to work on with Him
In high companionship. So happiest!
I count that Heaven itself is only work
To a surer issue. Let us work, indeed,–
But, no more, work as Adam . . nor as Leigh
Erewhile, as if the only man on earth,
Responsible for all the thistles blown
And tigers couchant,–struggling in amaze
Against disease and winter,–snarling on
For ever, that the world's not paradise.
Oh cousin, let us be content, in work,
To do the thing we can, and not presume
To fret because it's little. 'Twill employ
Seven men, they say, to make a perfect pin!
Who makes the head, content to miss the point,–
Who makes the point, agreed to leave the join:
And if a man should cry, 'I want a pin,
'And I must make it straightway, head and point,'–
His wisdom is not worth the pin he wants.
Seven men to a pin,–and not a man too much!
Seven generations, haply, to this world,
To right it visibly, a finger's breadth,
And mend its rents a little. Oh, to storm
And say,–'This world here is intolerable;
'I will not eat this corn, nor drink this wine,
'Nor love this woman, flinging her my soul
'Without a bond for't, as a lover should,
'Nor use the generous leave of happiness
'As not too good for using generously'–
(Since virtue kindles at the touch of joy,
Like a man's cheek laid on a woman's hand;
And God, who knows it, looks for quick returns
From joys)!–to stand and claim to have a life
Beyond the bounds of the individual man,
And raise all personal cloisters of the soul
To build up public stores and magazines,
As if God's creatures otherwise were lost,
The builder surely saved by any means!
To think,–I have a pattern on my nail,
And I will carve the world new after it,
And solve so, these hard social questions,–nay,
Impossible social questions,–since their roots
Strike deep in Evil's own existence here,
Which God permits because the question's hard
To abolish evil nor attaint free-will.
Ay, hard to God, but not to Romney Leigh!
For Romney has a pattern on his nail,
(Whatever may be lacking on the Mount)
And not being overnice to separate
What's element from what's convention, hastes
By line on line, to draw you out a world,
Without your help indeed, unless you take
His yoke upon you and will learn of him,–
So much he has to teach! so good a world!
The same, the whole creation's groaning for!
No rich nor poor, no gain nor loss nor stint,
No potage in it able to exclude
A brother's birthright, and no right of birth,
The potage,–both secured to every man;
And perfect virtue dealt out like the rest,
Gratuitously, with the soup at six,
To whoso does not seek it.'
'Softly, sir,'
I interrupted,–'I had a cousin once
I held in reverence. If he strained too wide,
It was not to take honour, but give help;
The gesture was heroic. If his hand
Accomplished nothing . . (well, it is not proved)
That empty hand thrown impotently out
Were sooner caught, I think, by One in heaven,
Than many a hand that reaped a harvest in
And keeps the scythe's glow on it. Pray you, then,
For my sake merely, use less bitterness
In speaking of my cousin.'
'Ah,' he said,
'Aurora! when the prophet beats the ass,
The angel intercedes.' He shook his head–
'And yet to mean so well, and fail so foul,
Expresses ne'er another beast than man;
The antithesis is human. Harken, dear;
There's too much abstract willing, purposing,
In this poor world. We talk by aggregates,
And think by systems; and, being used to face
Our evils in statistics, are inclined
To cap them with unreal remedies
Drawn out in haste on the other side the slate.'

'That's true,' I answered, fain to throw up thought
And make a game of't; 'Oh, we generalise
Enough to please you. If we pray at all,
We pray no longer for our daily bread,
But next centenary's harvests. If we give,
Our cup of water is not tendered till
We lay down pipes and found a Company
With Branches. Ass or angel, 'tis the same:
A woman cannot do the thing she ought,
Which means whatever perfect thing she can,
In life, in art, in science, but she fears
To let the perfect action take her part
And rest there: she must prove what she can do
Before she does it,–prate of woman's rights,
Of woman's mission, woman's function, till
The men (who are prating, too, on their side) cry,
'A woman's function plainly is . . to talk.
Poor souls, they are very reasonably vexed!
They cannot hear each other speak.'
'And you,
An artist, judge so?'
'I, an artist,–yes,
Because, precisely, I'm an artist, sir,
And woman,–if another sate in sight,
I'd whisper,–soft, my sister! not a word!
By speaking we prove only we can speak:
Which he, the man here, never doubted. What
He doubts, is whether we can do the thing
With decent grace, we've not yet done at all:
Now, do it; bring your statue,–you have room!
He'll see it even by the starlight here;
And if 'tis e'er so little like the god
Who looks out from the marble silently
Along the track of his own shining dart
Through the dusk of ages,–there's no need to speak;
The universe shall henceforth speak for you,
And witness, 'She who did this thing, was born
To do it,–claims her license in her work.'
And so with more works. Whoso cures the plague,
Though twice a woman, shall be called a leech:
Who rights a land's finances, is excused
For touching coppers, though her hands be white,–
But we, we talk!'
'It is the age's mood,'
He said; 'we boast, and do not. We put up
Hostelry signs where'er we lodge a day,–
Some red colossal cow, with mighty paps
A Cyclops' fingers could not strain to milk;
Then bring out presently our saucer-full
of curds. We want more quiet in our works,
More knowledge of the bounds in which we work;
More knowledge that each individual man
Remains an Adam to the general race,
Constrained to see, like Adam, that he keep
His personal state's condition honestly,
Or vain all thoughts of his to help the world,
Which still must be developed from its one,
If bettered in its many. We, indeed,
Who think to lay it out new like a park,
We take a work on us which is not man's;
For God alone sits far enough above,
To speculate so largely. None of us
(Not Romney Leigh) is mad enough to say,
We'll have a grove of oaks upon that slope
And sink the need of acorns. Government,
If veritable and lawful, is not given
By imposition of the foreign hand,–
Nor chosen from a pretty pattern-book
Of some domestic idealogue, who sits
And coldly chooses empire, where as well
He might republic. Genuine government
Is but the expression of a nation, good
Or less good,–even as all society,
Howe'er unequal, monstrous, crazed and cursed,
Is but the expression of men's single lives,
The loud sum of the silent units. What,
We'd change the aggregate and yet retain
Each separate figure? Whom do we cheat by that?
Now, not even Romney.'
'Cousin, you are sad.
Did all your social labour at Leigh Hall
And elsewhere, come to nought then?'
'It was nought,'
He answered mildly. 'There is room indeed,
For statues still, in this large world of God's,
But not for vacuums,–so I am not sad:
Not sadder than is good for what I am.
My vain phalanstery dissolved itself;
My men and women of disordered lives,
I brought in orderly to dine and sleep,
Broke up those waxen masks I made them wear,
With fierce contortions of the natural face;
And cursed me for my tyrannous constraint
In forcing crooked creatures to live straight;
And set the country hounds upon my back
To bite and tear me for my wicked deed
Of trying to do good without the church
Or even the squires, Aurora. Do you mind
Your ancient neighbours? The great book-club teems
With 'sketches,' 'summaries,' and 'last tracts' but twelve,
On socialistic troublers of close bonds
Betwixt the generous rich and grateful poor.
The vicar preached from 'Revelations,' (till
The doctor woke) and found me with 'the frogs'
On three successive Sundays; ay, and stopped
To weep a little (for he's getting old)
That such perdition should o'ertake a man
Of such fair acres,–in the parish, too!
He printed his discourses 'by request;'
And if your book shall sell as his did, then
Your verses are less good than I suppose.
The women of the neighbourhood subscribed,
And sent me a copy bound in scarlet silk,
Tooled edges, blazoned with the arms of Leigh:
I own that touched me.'
'What, the pretty ones?
Poor Romney!'
'Otherwise the effect was small.
I had my windows broken once or twice
By liberal peasants, naturally incensed
At such a vexer of Arcadian peace,
Who would not let men call their wives their own
To kick like Britons,–and made obstacles
When things went smoothly as a baby drugged,
Toward freedom and starvation; bringing down
The wicked London tavern-thieves and drabs,
To affront the blessed hillside drabs and thieves
With mended morals, quotha,–fine new lives!–
My windows paid for't. I was shot at, once,
By an active poacher who had hit a hare
From the other barrel, tired of springeing game
So long upon my acres, undisturbed,
And restless for the country's virtue, (yet
He missed me)–ay, and pelted very oft
In riding through the village. 'There he goes,
'Who'd drive away our Christian gentlefolks,
'To catch us undefended in the trap
'He baits with poisonous cheese, and locks us up
'In that pernicious prison of Leigh Hall
'With all his murderers! Give another name,
'And say Leigh Hell, and burn it up with fire.'
And so they did at last, Aurora.'
'Did?'
'You never heard it, cousin? Vincent's news
Came stinted, then.'
'They did? they burnt Leigh Hall?'

'You're sorry, dear Aurora? Yes indeed,
They did it perfectly: a thorough work,
And not a failure, this time. Let us grant
'Tis somewhat easier, though, to burn a house
Than build a system:–yet that's easy, too,
In a dream. Books, pictures,–ay, the pictures what,
You think your dear Vandykes would give them pause?
Our proud ancestral Leighs with those peaked beards,
Or bosoms white as foam thrown up on rocks
From the old-spent wave. Such calm defiant looks
They flared up with! now, nevermore they'll twit
The bones in the family-vault with ugly death.
Not one was rescued, save the Lady Maud,
Who threw you down, that morning you were born,
The undeniable lineal mouth and chin,
To wear for ever for her gracious sake;
For which good deed I saved her: the rest went:
And you, your sorry, cousin. Well, for me,
With all my phalansterians safely out,
(Poor hearts, they helped the burners, it was said,
And certainly a few clapped hands and yelled)
The ruin did not hurt me as it might,–
As when for instance I was hurt one day,
A certain letter being destroyed. In fact,
To see the great house flare so . . oaken floors,
Our fathers made so fine with rushes once,
Before our mothers furbished them with trains,–
Carved wainscots, panelled walls, the favourite slide
For draining off a martyr, (or a rogue)
The echoing galleries, half a half-mile long,
And all the various stairs that took you up
And took you down, and took you round about
Upon their slippery darkness, recollect,
All helping to keep up one blazing jest;
The flames through all the casements pushing forth,
Like red-hot devils crinkled into snakes,
All signifying,–'Look you, Romney Leigh,
'We save the people from your saving, here,
'Yet so as by fire! we make a pretty show
'Besides,–and that's the best you've ever done.'–
–To see this, almost moved myself to clap!
The 'vale et plaude' came, too, with effect,
When, in the roof fell, and the fire, that paused,
Stunned momently beneath the stroke of slates
And tumbling rafters, rose at once and roared,
And wrapping the whole house, (which disappeared
In a mounting whirlwind of dilated flame,)
Blew upward, straight, its drift of fiery chaff
In the face of heaven, . . which blenched and ran up higher.'

'Poor Romney!'
'Sometimes when I dream,' he said,
'I hear the silence after; 'twas so still.
For all those wild beasts, yelling, cursing round,
Were suddenly silent, while you counted five!
So silent, that you heard a young bird fall
From the top-nest in the neighbouring rookery
Through edging over-rashly toward the light.
The old rooks had already fled too far,
To hear the screech they fled with, though you saw
Some flying on still, like scatterings of dead leaves
In autumn-gusts, seen dark against the sky:
All flying,–ousted, like the house of Leigh.'

'Dear Romney!'
'Evidently 'twould have been
A fine sight for a poet, sweet, like you,
To make the verse blaze after. I myself,
Even I, felt something in the grand old trees,
Which stood that moment like brute Druid gods,
Amazed upon the rim of ruin, where,
As into a blackened socket, the great fire
Had dropped,–still throwing up splinters now and then,
To show them grey with all their centuries,
Left there to witness that on such a day
The house went out.'
'Ah!'
'While you counted five
I seemed to feel a little like a Leigh,–
But then it passed, Aurora. A child cried;
And I had enough to think of what to do
With all those houseless wretches in the dark,
And ponder where they'd dance the next time, they
Who had burnt the viol.'
'Did you think of that?
Who burns his viol will not dance, I know,
To cymbals, Romney.'
'O my sweet sad voice,'
He cried,–'O voice that speaks and overcomes!
The sun is silent, but Aurora speaks.'

'Alas,' I said; 'I speak I know not what:
I'm back in childhood, thinking as a child,
A foolish fancy–will it make you smile?
I shall not from the window of my room
Catch sight of those old chimneys any more.'

'No more,' he answered. 'If you pushed one day
Through all the green hills to our father's house,
You'd come upon a great charred circle where
The patient earth was singed an acre round;
With one stone-stair, symbolic of my life,
Ascending, winding, leading up to nought!
'Tis worth a poet's seeing. Will you go?'

I made no answer. Had I any right
To weep with this man, that I dared to speak!
A woman stood between his soul and mine,
And waved us off from touching evermore
With those unclean white hands of hers. Enough.
We had burnt our viols and were silent.
So,
The silence lengthened till it pressed. I spoke,
To breathe: 'I think you were ill afterward.'

'More ill,' he answered, 'had been scarcely ill.
I hoped this feeble fumbling at life's knot
Might end concisely,–but I failed to die,
As formerly I failed to live,–and thus
Grew willing, having tried all other ways,
To try just God's. Humility's so good,
When pride's impossible. Mark us, how we make
Our virtues, cousin, from our worn-out sins,
Which smack of them from henceforth. Is it right,
For instance, to wed here, while you love there?
And yet because a man sins once, the sin
Cleaves to him, in necessity to sin;
That if he sin not so, to damn himself,
He sins so, to damn others with himself:
And thus, to wed here, loving there, becomes
A duty. Virtue buds a dubious leaf
Round mortal brows; your ivy's better, dear.
–Yet she, 'tis certain, is my very wife;
The very lamb left mangled by the wolves
Through my own bad shepherding: and could I choose
But take her on my shoulder past this stretch
Of rough, uneasy wilderness, poor lamb,
Poor child, poor child?–Aurora, my beloved,
I will not vex you any more to-night;
But, having spoken what I came to say,
The rest shall please you. What she can, in me,–
Protection, tender liking, freedom, ease,
She shall have surely, liberally, for her
And hers, Aurora. Small amends they'll make
For hideous evils (which she had not known
Except by me) and for this imminent loss,
This forfeit presence of a gracious friend,
Which also she must forfeit for my sake,
Since, . . . drop your hand in mine a moment, sweet,
We're parting!–Ah, my snowdrop, what a touch,
As if the wind had swept it off! you grudge
Your gelid sweetness on my palm but so,
A moment? angry, that I could not bear
You . . speaking, breathing, living, side by side
With some one called my wife . . and live, myself?
Nay, be not cruel–you must understand!
Your lightest footfall on a floor of mine
Would shake the house, my lintel being uncrossed
'Gainst angels: henceforth it is night with me,
And so, henceforth, I put the shutters up;
Auroras must not come to spoil my dark.'

He smiled so feebly, with an empty hand
Stretched sideway from me,–as indeed he looked
To any one but me to give him help,–
And, while the moon came suddenly out full,
The double rose of our Italian moons,
Sufficient, plainly, for the heaven and earth,
(The stars, struck dumb and washed away in dews
Of golden glory, and the mountains steeped
In divine languor) he, the man, appeared
So pale and patient, like the marble man
A sculptor puts his personal sadness in
To join his grandeur of ideal thought,–
As if his mallet struck me from my height
Of passionate indignation, I who had risen
Pale,–doubting, paused, . . . . Was Romney mad indeed?
Had all this wrong of heart made sick the brain?

Then quiet, with a sort of tremulous pride,
'Go, cousin,' I said coldly. 'A farewell
Was sooner spoken 'twixt a pair of friends
In those old days, than seems to suit you now:
And if, since then, I've writ a book or two,
I'm somewhat dull still in the manly art
Of phrase and metaphrase. Why, any man
Can carve a score of white Loves out of snow,
As Buonarroti down in Florence there,
And set them on the wall in some safe shade,
As safe, sir, as your marriage! very good;
Though if a woman took one from the ledge
To put it on the table by her flowers,
And let it mind her of a certain friend,
'Twould drop at once, (so better,) would not bear
Her nail-mark even, where she took it up
A little tenderly; so best, I say:
For me, I would not touch so light a thing,
And risk to spoil it half an hour before
The sun shall shine to melt it; leave it there.
I'm plain at speech, direct in purpose: when
I speak, you'll take the meaning as it is,
And not allow for puckerings in the silks
By clever stitches. I'm a woman, sir,
And use the woman's figures naturally,
As you, the male license. So, I wish you well.
I'm simply sorry for the griefs you've had–
And not for your sake only, but mankind's.
This race is never grateful: from the first,
One fills their cup at supper with pure wine,
Which back they give at cross-time on a sponge,
In bitter vinegar.'
'If gratefuller,'
He murmured,–'by so much less pitiable!
God's self would never have come down to die,
Could man have thanked him for it.'
'Happily
'Tis patent that, whatever,' I resumed,
'You suffered from this thanklessness of men,
You sink no more than Moses' bulrush-boat,
When once relieved of Moses; for you're light,
You're light, my cousin! which is well for you,
And manly. For myself,–now mark me, sir,
They burnt Leigh Hall; but if, consummated
To devils, heightened beyond Lucifers,
They had burnt instead a star or two, of those
We saw above there just a moment back,
Before the moon abolished them,–destroyed
And riddled them in ashes through a sieve
On the head of the foundering universe,–what then?
If you and I remained still you and I,
It would not shift our places as mere friends,
Nor render decent you should toss a phrase
Beyond the point of actual feeling!–nay
You shall not interrupt me: as you said,
We're parting. Certainly, not once or twice,
To-night you've mocked me somewhat, or yourself,
And I, at least, have not deserved it so
That I should meet it unsurprised. But now,
Enough: we're parting . . parting. Cousin Leigh,
I wish you well through all the acts of life
And life's relation, wedlock, not the least;
And it shall 'please me,' in your words, to know
You yield your wife, protection, freedom, ease,
And very tender liking. May you live
So happy with her, Romney, that your friends
May praise her for it. Meantime, some of us
Are wholly dull in keeping ignorant
Of what she has suffered by you, and what debt
Of sorrow your rich love sits down to pay:
But if 'tis sweet for love to pay its debt,
'Tis sweeter still for love to give its gift;
and you, be liberal in the sweeter way,–
You can, I think. At least, as touches me,
You owe her, cousin Romney, no amends;
She is not used to hold my gown so fast,
You need entreat her now to let it go:
The lady never was a friend of mine,
Nor capable,–I thought you knew as much,–
Of losing for your sake so poor a prize
As such a worthless friendship. Be content,
Good cousin, therefore, both for her and you!
I'll never spoil your dark, nor dull your noon,
Nor vex you when you're merry, nor when you rest:
You shall not need to put a shutter up
To keep out this Aurora. Ah, your north
Can make Auroras which vex nobody,
Scarce known from evenings! also, let me say,
My larks fly higher than some windows. Right;
You've read your Leighs. Indeed 'twould shake a house,
If such as I came in with outstretched hand,
Still warm and thrilling from the clasp of one . .
Of one we know, . . to acknowledge, palm to palm,
As mistress there . . the Lady Waldemar.'
'Now God be with us' . . with a sudden clash
Of voice he interrupted–'what name's that?
You spoke a name, Aurora.'
'Pardon me;
I would that, Romney, I could name your wife
Nor wound you, yet be worthy.'
'Are we mad?'
He echoed–'wife! mine! Lady Waldemar!
I think you said my wife.' He sprang to his feet,
And threw his noble head back toward the moon
As one who swims against a stormy sea,
And laughed with such a helpless, hopeless scorn,
I stood and trembled.
'May God judge me so,'
He said at last,–'I came convicted here,
And humbled sorely if not enough. I came,
Because this woman from her crystal soul
Had shown me something which a man calls light:
Because too, formerly, I sinned by her
As, then and ever since, I have, by God,
Through arrogance of nature,–though I loved . .
Whom best, I need not say, . . since that is writ
Too plainly in the book of my misdeeds;
And thus I came here to abase myself,
And fasten, kneeling, on her regent brows
A garland which I startled thence one day
Of her beautiful June-youth. But here again
I'm baffled!–fail in my abasement as
My aggrandisement: there's no room left for me,
At any woman's foot, who misconceives
My nature, purpose, possible actions. What!
Are you the Aurora who made large my dreams
To frame your greatness? you conceive so small?
You stand so less than woman, through being more,
And lose your natural instinct, like a beast,
Through intellectual culture? since indeed
I do not think that any common she
Would dare adopt such fancy-forgeries
For the legible life-signature of such
As I, with all my blots: with all my blots!
At last then, peerless cousin, we are peers–
At last we're even. Ah, you've left your height:
And here upon my level we take hands,
And here I reach you to forgive you, sweet,
And that's a fall, Aurora. Long ago
You seldom understood me,–but, before,
I could not blame you. Then you only seemed
So high above, you could not see below;
But now I breathe,–but now I pardon!–nay,
We're parting. Dearest, men have burnt my house,
Maligned my motives,–but not one, I swear,
Has wronged my soul as this Aurora has,
Who called the Lady Waldemar my wife.'

'Not married to her! yet you said' . .
'Again?
Nay, read the lines' (he held a letter out)
'She sent you through me.'
By the moonlight there,
I tore the meaning out with passionate haste
Much rather than I read it. Thus it ran.

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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The House Of Dust: Complete

I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


II.

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

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

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

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


III.

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

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

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


IV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


V.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VI.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VII.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIII.

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

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

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

PART II.


I.

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

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

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

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

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

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


II. THE FULFILLED DREAM

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

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

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

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

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

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


III. INTERLUDE

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

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


IV. NIGHTMARE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


V. RETROSPECT

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

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

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

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

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

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


VI. ADELE AND DAVIS

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

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

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

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


VII. TWO LOVERS: OVERTONES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIII. THE BOX WITH SILVER HANDLES

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


IX. INTERLUDE

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

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

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

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

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

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


X. SUDDEN DEATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


XI.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PART III


I

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

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


II. THE SCREEN MAIDEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


III. HAUNTED CHAMBERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


IV. ILLICIT

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

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

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

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

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


V. MELODY IN A RESTAURANT

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

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

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

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

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


VI. PORTRAIT OF ONE DEAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Tower Beyond Tragedy

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

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

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

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