Through the eyes of a Field Coronet (Epic)
In the kaki coloured tent in Umbilo he writes
his life’s story while women, children and babies are dying,
slowly but surely are obliterated, he see how his nation is suffering
while the events are notched into his mind.
Lying even heavier on him is the treason
of some other Afrikaners who for own gain
have delivered him, to imprisonment in this place of hatred
and thoughts go through him to write a book.
The Afrikaner nation sprouted
who fought decades without defeat
against the super power Spain
mixed with French Huguenots
who left their homes and belongings,
with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Associate this then with the fact
that these people fought formidable
for seven generations
against every onslaught that they got
from savages en wild animals
becoming marksmen, riding
and taming wild horses
with one bullet per day
to hunt a wild antelope,
who migrated right across the country
over hills in mass protest
and then you have
the most formidable adversary
and then let them fight
in a natural wilderness
where the hunter,
the sniper and horseman excels
and any enemy is at a lost.
Let them then also be patriotic
into their souls,
believe in and read
out of the word of God
and then there is almost nothing
that these people do fear.
The Zuid Afrikaanse republic
existed out of twenty one districts,
each with a magistrate for civil ethics,
a commandant to deter the enemy,
in control of a commando as their leader
and so structures appeared
with a commandant-general for much greater authority,
for the whole country.
A field coronet was in control of a ward
to issue commands in it
and the citizens themselves chose their men
as they thought best
and all men from sixteen to sixty had to do service,
if the need be, be prepared for war.
A field coronet was a respected man
as the magistrate, justice of the peace and prosecutor
and a military leader of a ward who could
call up citizens for duty to a commando in a laager
and he was a political representative
of the government and in a district
citizens chose own officers
as they saw it fit.
Commandos arouse when the Boers
had to defend themselves against attacks
from black tribes
and they came together in numbers
to be able to give proper resistance
and to stop pillage, murder and sorrow.
I. Battles against rebel captains Mesotie, Sebboel, Mapit and Magoeba
On the farm of Daniel Page
all the citizens of the ward come together
and Jacobus Potgieter hurried there
and they crowd around the rifles and ammunition
that the government was providing
just a little distance from the cornfields
and Jacobus was like many without a weapon,
but ready to serve his country
and from many hunting expeditions
with his brother in law, Jacobus was very capable
with a rifle.
This was however the first time
that he had been called up for war
and at dusk he was on the porch
when the field coronet arrived with a letter
addressed to the four black captains
who were rebelling
and it happened on the same night
that the field coronet still awake and active
had to depart with sixteen citizens
to Agatha near the native village
of captain Mesotie
and they were totally unaware
that they were awaited,
where they fought bravely
hurrying to the little fortress,
firing to try and win the struggle.
At Agatha they were cornered,
had to make holes
through the walls
to shoot from the building
in their fierce task
to resist the attackers.
The government after this incident sends
a big commando to help,
but the Mesotie tribe
fires at them with canons
from up high and from below
and with rifles and spears
they assaulted the Boers.
The Boers answer their attack
with their own cannons,
shooting into the bushes
where a little war erupts,
and the commando as both horsemen
and foot soldiers
rush down to the village
opening fire and the village starts to burn.
after his tribe loses the battle,
being tired from the events of the past days.
All his tribe’s rifles,
spears and many other weapons
and the village is stripped
of grain before the fire destroys it.
General PJ Joubert manages to
get captain Sebboel in control
and captain Mapit’s tribe
is caught and are crestfallen.
Magoeba flees with his tribe
into the thick bush and his village
is burnt to the ground and stripped,
but the Magoeba tribe circles out
taking half of Houtbergbos
and the town was almost lost to them.
Six forts are constructed
to try and get the Magoeba tribe under control.
The enemy however
draws the citizens manning the forts
out of the forts
while they wait in ambush
and surround them.
The government again calls up
a large commando
and even tribesmen from Swaziland come to help.
Some of the Swazi warriors
behead Magoeba and nineteen others with a sword,
praising the ancestral spirits
and the Boer citizens
win the war against the rest of the Magoeba tribe
pinning them against the hill
and taking them prisoner
and come to the aid of the Swazi’s in times of trouble.
II. The Jameson raid of 1896
Jacobus Potgieter was busy
trading yellow-wood planks
for cattle and was far from his farm,
when he heard about the nonsense
due to Jameson and his little gang
and he hurried to render his services
while they were invading the Transvaal,
but when he did reach Pretoria
the shots had already been fired
and the enemy had been imprisoned.
General Cronje had decided
to lead Jameson’s band into a trap
that was set near Krugersdorp
and at Doornkop the little battle was fought
and some of the citizens,
as agents of the government,
took good quality rifles and canon.
After this incident President Kruger
had set a ultimatum to the foreigners
and a large commando went to collect the rifles
that they had smuggled into the country.
Judge Gregorowski gave the members
of the reform committee the death penalty
but President Paul Kruger had mercy
and changed the sentence
to fifteen years imprisonment
and once again he considered the requests
for leniency, by changing the sentences to a large fine.
Even Cecil John Rhodes was involved
with the invasion
and he lost his position as prime minister
of the Cape colony
but the British government had refused
to pay a single cent
of the claim of damages,
and the problems with the foreigners
had not been solved.
III. The Magatoe war of 1897
Back in 1867 the parents of Jacobus Potgieter,
all the inhabitants of Schoemansdal,
had to flee from the forces of Magatoe
and the farmers were anxious
of the raids of pillage and plunder
of the “Babbler”
and Jacobus himself saw
the destruction of Magatoe’s tribe
and how the town and church, had to be left
to the mercy of Magatoe
and how they had to flee
further back into the republic.
The situation became more serious
and in 1897 the government
called together a commando
of four thousand citizens to stop the plunder
of Magatoe’s tribe and before the attack,
a day of prayer was held
asking God to have mercy on His nation.
The commando was still far away
into the hills, the cliffs,
when firing started from the Magatoe tribe
while their view was still obstructed
and Jacobus was in the front lines of the battle
where he and other Boers, with accurate shots
drove the enemy back
as most of them were marksmen.
Suddenly a thick cloud of fog appeared
enveloping the whole enemy village,
giving the Boers time to build entrenchments
from behind which they could harass the enemy.
When the entrenchments were ready
the thick cloud of fog over Magatoe’s village
started to dissipate and to general Joubert it seemed fit,
as he gave orders
to dropp canon shells and bullets
like rain on that village.
In a half hour’s time they stormed
into the village
while firing at will.
Most of Magatoe’s warriors
fled to safety
and some was killed,
and one rose from a hole
to try and resist,
but Magatoe’s tribe, the Matabele (Ndebele)
then fled to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
and that formidable tribe
was taught a lesson
and after thirty years stopped harassing the Boers.
IV. Preview to the war with Britain
Jacobus had just been back at home
when in 1899 he had to leave it
and had to leave his family behind,
to get involved with the war against Britain.
He had been gone
on a two month long hunting expedition,
where he was hunting from the back of his horse
and so many animals were shot
that he filled an ox wagon,
but out of duty he had to go on commando
and had to leave his wife and children behind.
Along with his friends they hunted fifty animals.
The game consisted of giraffes, cape oryxes
and eland, many was shot at a time
and he first went back
to greet his family as he had to be on commando
by the eleventh of October
and he went on horseback without fear of the British.
After five hours on horseback from Houtbosberg
they got to the laager,
greeted other men there,
but had to leave again to the Soutpansberg hills
to meet with another commando coming from Spitskop
at the Crocodile River and was told,
that the government had declared war
on Great Britain and was ordered to go to war.
That evening one citizen was of the opinion
that the war would not last long,
as they were civilised men
and every one a marksmen
and he did hear that the British
was also a civilised people
could be sorted out, in a civilised manner
and he gave big value to that quality of them.
Somebody else thought
that it would take months long
and another person that for many evenings
they would have to gather around fires
and that the government has another plan
apart from war
to resist the British.
V. The start of the war
From a hillock
two Boer commandos storm from the back
into a British camp and start the battle
and a couple of British soldiers are shot,
a lot of them are captured, but it’s almost in vain
as most of them flee and get away.
The Boers follow them
in the direction of the Tuli River and at daybreak
some of the enemy combine forces
with comrades at a ox wagon
and the Boers shoot accurately
to try and stop them
and the British break from cover
and the enemy flee
to find shelter in a house
that is empty
and try to resist from the cover of it.
The house is shot to pieces
and for the third time on one day
the British again flee from that aria
against the superior numbers of Boers
and the next day
the Boers capture nine wagons, left behind
with ammunition and food.
The next day Boer scouts
find a large abandoned British camp
with tents, horses and mules where they stop
and while Jacobus tries to rid his feet from cramps,
he notices a large cloud of dust
that is coming in their direction,
that he interprets as enemy.
There’s a field coronet
that stands his man,
to resist the enemy
while two Boer commandos flee past him.
At dusk Jacobus Potgieter finds more men
with a canon on a hillock
and with just more than twenty Boer citizens
he is worried,
but prepares for and waits the enemy.
The more the night darkens,
the nearer the cloud of dust comes
and the Boers are ready to resist the enemy,
to let no Englishman pass them
and there’s a rumbling sound
and something is wrong
as no enemy appears
and they are taken by surprise
in the moonlight
without a shot being fired,
by a huge swarm of grasshoppers
of which the whole veldt is covered
where they swarm like ants.
Jacobus was really disillusioned and angry
about the cowardliness of officers,
of which some
do not return to the commando
and to him this is nearly treason
and to him they are worse than animals.
Sometimes some of the Boers
just asked permission
not to participate in the battle
(of which the general just had to bare knowledge)
and in that way the Boer forces decreased
and the permission could not be denied
and then the men went home, went away.
Generals could only react
against men deserting without permission
and some left the others
and was sometimes nearby
sometimes seen near to battlefields,
as spectators watching
how the battle develops
and some of these later worked for the enemy.
VI. The siege of Kimberley
The Soutpansberg commando got instructions
to go to the Modder Rivier,
to stop the enemy
who were marching along the railway track.
The commando was divided in two
and Jacobus Potgieter was ordered
to ride along with field coronet Alberts by train
to Modder River near to Magersfontein
and the other field coronets and the commandant
went to Colenso to help put it to siege
and to surround that town.
At the Modder River they met general Cronje
and seven thousand other citizens
and greeted each other.
Just a little later commandant-general De la Rey
and the Transvaal citizens were added to strengthen
the citizens from the Orange Free State
and quickly they got to work.
The Boers wanted to stop the British march,
before the enemy could cross the river
and tried to beat them with trenches and ramparts
and by this method break their attack.
The river was a natural strong point
for their defence
with sheltering that the enemy
would not be able to see
and trenches were placed near to the steep banks
The train bridge was blasted away
and three places was left to cross the river
from where they would stop the enemy.
General De la Rey thought that the main column
would come along the railway
to cross the river near to the bridge
and wanted to break this superior numbered force.
Just Bosmansdift and Rosmeadsdrift
were the other places where the river would suit the British,
considering the depth of the river and exposure
to fire that the Boers could manage.
The southern banks of the river
was taken by the Soutpansberg citizens to cover it,
with the men of general Cronje
as part of his plans
that covered the aria between Bosmansdrift
and the intersection of the Modder
and Riet Rivers and the men were enthusiastic
to try and shoot accurately.
General De la Rey with about eight hundred
Transvaal citizens was waiting on the right
near toe the rail crossing.
In the long grass and sand on the left
between the Riet River
and the Modder River some more citizens
were positioned to cover Bosmansdrift
if the enemy want to cross it.
General Prinsloo with a few thousand
Orange Free State citizens were
to the west of general de La Rey’s men
lying from the bridge up to Rosmeadsdrift
between rocky ledges.
In the shelter of the riverbank
behind the men the horses were kept
with them neighing every now and then
and on the northern side
of the Riet River a few canon
was placed behind the men.
Most of the canons were set up
next to the railway track
to cover the aria in front of general de La Rey
and to hit the main oncoming column.
A prayer before the battle was:
“Dear Father, here we are together
before the big battle
coming tomorrow, to pray
to you. We are scared,
that’s why we are here,
praying like we are now doing.
Over there are the British
also Christians like us. Maybe they
are also praying
just as we are doing. For this reason
I want to ask you
please do not take the part
of either one
and if it is your will,
stay out of it,
then tomorrow you will see something! ”
It was shouted: “Here they come! ”
When the canon behind them started shooting
the citizens started firing on the oncoming enemy
and the enemy took cover in an open aria
and the whole day long
they had to stay there on the ground
as they got shots
from Boers sheltered in trenches.
Every time during that day
that the enemy tried to storm forward
the Boers were taking marksmen shots
with their Mausers
and pinned them down, hour after hour
until the dark night.
For ten hours long
the enemy was lying there and nobody
was able to move
and every one that tried to get up
was shot down with Mauser fire
coming from positions that they were not aware of.
After the first rifle fire
the British answered with canon fire
whereupon with big success
the Boers answered with their long-tom canons
and the machinegun of the enemy
was destroyed by the Boers artillery
at the beginning of the battle
and the British were halted for hours long.
A British column moved past from the left
and swept general Prinsloo’s men back.
Under orders of commandant general de La Rey,
the Lichtenburg commando went to free them.
Following this the British was shot back
from Rosmeadsdrift, but a small number
of the British got past Bosmansdrift,
from where in the heat of the battle
they were also shot back
and the battle lasted into the dark night.
After sunset general De la Rey ordered
his men to fall back to Jacobsdal
and the citizens were happy with this decision.
The Free State citizens went to
their set positions at Spytfontein
and Scholsnek about twelve miles from Kimberley
to disappear into their trenches there.
General Cronje got about 7000 citizens
back from Mafakeng
to come and help at the Modder River
and Lord Methuen waited on reinforcements
to be able to stop the Boers.
Then the Boers went to work
to dig trenches at the feet
of the Magersfontein hillocks,
to strengthen their positions
and then they took cover in the trenches.
From the Merthon train stop for about three miles east,
at the foot of the Magersfontein hillocks
the main force of about 3500 citizens was set
in trenches up unto a low hill.
Next to the trenches, well camouflaged
small forts were built
from where the Boers could fire
at any place on the battlefield.
Jacobus Potgieter was placed with 600 men
in a position right against the railway track,
where general Cronje thought
that the British would try and break through.
About 1500 citizens were placed on the right wing,
north of the Modder River station
under command of general Andries Cronje,
but the left wing with 2500 citizens, east of Magersfontein
was without trenches and without a defence line.
To mislead the enemy
a few forts were build on the hillocks
with eleven canon set on the hillocks
and the trenches was hidden
by the camouflage of branches and grass.
When the British on 10 December 1899 started firing
with canon fire from Scholsnek
and were covering the aria with bombs,
it was the first time
that Jacobus Potgieter resisted them
under direct canon fire
and brave men with rifles fired back at the British.
General Piet Cronje called the citizens together
while looking at them earnestly:
“Citizens, the enemy is ready to move against us.
We have to remember one thing.
To fall back the lives of others
are placed in the balance,
and 20 to 30 lives are lost.
When the enemy move out against us, I will
set up a flying commando en lead it to them.”
General Cronje ordered them to wait
until the enemy moves and then to storm forward
for about five hundred paces
and then to take deadly shots
and not to look if anyone is being hit,
just to be aware of the enemy
and to read their movements.
General Cronje’s words were:
“This is the place where we have to beat the enemy! ”
Just at about midnight the British
started their march to Magersfontein
with general-major AG Wauchope leading in the front.
It was very cold and pitch dark
with rain pouring down
and they reached the hillocks
while thunderbolts were dropping down,
totally unaware of the trenches
onto which they were marching.
The enemy came in on an unexpected wing
and the citizens then killed a large number
of British soldiers in the dusk
and shot after shot was taken
and in the front Wauchope received
seven shots simultaneously
and the enemy was confused
while the Boers were mowing them down.
Some turned about to run back
and were falling over the ones behind them
causing still greater chaos
and it was still dark when the canons
were already getting involved.
The Boers were surrounded while the enemy
tried to break through,
to try and win Kimberley back,
but their attacks were stopped
at a great cost to the British,
who time and again
stormed into the Boer fire.
Then the enemy turned right to try and demolish
general Cronje’s left wing, to kill the Boers there,
but were shot down by the resisting Boers.
The whole day long the bombardment
of the British canons were falling
and at about twelve o’clock
general Cronje gave orders
to Jacobus Potgieter’s commando
to move running onto the left wing.
They stormed onto the enemy
and their attack was so effective
that the enemy turned around fleeing
and the Boers took the initiative
driving a great number of the British back.
With the British defeat
Jacobus could not establish
the number of enemy dead
as some were already taken away during the battle.
When Jacobus Potgieter walked on the battlefield
three days after the battle
there were bloody British flags
and some wounded moaning men totally without hope
and by then the dead had been driven away for days
and there were still hundreds that he found there
and after five days the enemy were still digging graves
and were still busy with funeral services.
Commando after commando
went home after that battle
and left the rest of the Boers there.
Cecil John Rhodes
were at the point of handing Kimberley over,
of letting the Boers into the town,
when Methuen attacked with 40000
soldiers as a flashpoint.
With a battle lasting three days long
the British broke through at Paardeberg,
firing hour after hour at the Boers
but the Boers broke this attack.
Then the huge British force tried to break through
the forces of the Orange Free State,
but were waited upon
by the men of commandant Jacobs.
Then they send a column past the backside
and they faced general Christian de Wet
and his men shot them out off their territory.
When the Boers had halted
the whole of the British force,
the British got some more reinforcements
to try again to break through on the eastern side
in such a great force
that the Boers could not stop them.
Jacobus Potgieter was at Scholsnek
with the Soutpansberg commando
for almost three months
under unstopped canon bombardment
and after the breakthrough
general Cronje gave orders to draw back.
“Leave your trenches and fight a way through to the laager.”
The next day the Boers were gone.
During the night Jacobus Potgieter
fled with the laager
and there were a lot of wagons
that had to go back.
Over farms and in the veldt,
women and children were joining them
and Jacobus caught a wild horse
and tamed it in that night
as if it was destined for him.
The wagons kept general Cronje’s commando back
causing the British to catch up with them
and they began shelling
from one of the woman’s farm
in a huge bombardment.
At eight o’clock that night
the Boers again moved out
and the superfluous things were thrown away
as many horses and oxen had been killed
by the bombardment and the distress was huge
and then general Christian de Wet
almost fought right through the British
to come and free general Cronje’s men.
Until eight o’clock that morning
the Boers were fleeing
as the enemy was formidable
and field coronets Jacobus Potgieter
and H Schnell were ordered
to go and find some horses
but to try and avoid the enemy.
The walking Boers were tired
without a proper opportunity
to get away from the British
and the remaining oxen
were thin and tired from the pulling
at the continuous fast pace
and from a shortage of grass
and they did not know
to eat the lye-bushes.
Jacobus Potgieter caught up
with general Cronje.
General Cronje was at the front side of the laager
and strong like steel,
checking the canon and was very worried
and then the commando again
came under British canon bombardment.
In the bushes Jacobus heard horses
and were chasing them
catching them and waged his life in the dark
before Jacobus took the horses into a bush
and decided not to go back in the dark
as it was too dangerous.
The next morning Jacobus tried
to go back to the laager
and came across other citizens
that had fled from the laager
and they told him
to turn back as the commando
was surrounded and the whole time
under enemy rifle and canon fire.
Jacobus Potgieter did not listen to them
and another group of citizens
that he crossed paths with
told him the same thing
and he was annoyed:
“If we turn around and leave our brothers
in their position of distress,
it can cost their lives
and we do not deserve anything better than death.
Come on brothers, bring your rifles! ”
Then on his own Jacobus Potgieter rode
still nearer to the laager
and he was in a hurry, not saving the horses
and he met commandant P Schutte
who asked him very worried:
“Where do you think,
you are going with those horses? ”
He explained that he was taking them
through to the laager
and commandant P Schutte was totally amazed
and said to him:
“Brother, before God nothing is impossible,
but those citizens in that laager
will never again come out of it.
The enemy has more than enough to take there.
Do not take more booty to them.
If you go to that laager with these horses
they will catch you and all of these horses.
Rather turn back and go to Brandfort and wait
for my report about the outcome.”
He listened to the advice of the commandant
and later he came to know that the enemy
had put 150 canons and 75000 soldiers
with continuous bombardment
against 4000 citizens and their 6 canons.
At long last general Cronje had to surrender
against the overpowering numbers
that day and night
came nearer to them
and without mercy the citizens
that were captured were sent
to St. Helena Island for imprisonment.
Of the fourteen field coronets ten was killed
and only Jacobus Potgieter and H Schnell did escape
while shots were fired at them
and a while later the British
marched into Bloemfontein
with the Boers
not really being able to stop them.
VII. The invasion of Natal
After the defeat at Paardeberg
Jacobus Potgieter was sent home
to rest for a month
and the trip took days
but it wasn’t really dangerous
and he took the horses along
as did not want to leave them with anyone.
Jacobus returned to the war
and had to go to Burgersberg in Natal
where he was very unhappy
with the leadership
of the commanding officers
and the fact that they did not take action
as general Piet Cronje and his men
were known for careful plans
and their bravery
and Jacobus was responsible
to give supplies like food, clothes
and ammunition to his comrades.
With the outbreak of the war
the citizens of general Joubert
went to Newcastle and Dundee
to conquer the coal fields.
The 4500 citizens of general Lucas Meyer
were on their way to the Talana hillocks,
to take the enemy on,
with general Erasmus leading his 5000 citizens
to the Mpate kopjes
and general de Kock’s 750 men went
to cut the railway connection at Elandslaagte.
Without great adversary Newcastle
on 16 October fell to the Boers
and on 20 October 1899
Dundee was bombarded
from the hillocks with shots
falling into the enemy camp
where big chaos broke out
among the 3800 soldiers
where the British general Penn-Symons
got them under control
and began with a counter attack
and then the British
were held behind a wall.
To inspire his troops
Penn-Symons ran through
the opening in the wall
where he got several fatal shots.
The British infantry
then stormed the hillock
and came under fire
from the Boers at the top
and their own artillery
that killed some of them.
After the Boers were driven away
from the hillock
they pursued the fleeing Boers
but the whole British horse battalion was unaware
of the men of general Erasmus
and all of them were captured
and their horses were taken from them.
On 19 October general de Kock’s men
assaulted the British trains
where they draw the few British soldiers into a fight
and started to unload the wagons.
An angry general White
rushed his 3500 soldiers to Elandslaagte
where they started to shell the Boers
catching the Boers of balance.
At Dundee brigadier general Yule took command
and under instructions from general White
the British were fleeing back to Ladysmith.
Another 9000 Boers
under chief commandant Prinsloo
but saw the British soldiers storming
over a open piece of veldt
from where they shot them back
with rifle fire, driving them right into Ladysmith.
When general Meyer resigned
field coronet Louis Botha got his position
and it did not take long
for him to proof his bravery
and to rise as a great leader.
In the hillocks at Ladysmith White’s soldiers
were waiting on the Boers
but started their bombardment
on a hillock without any Boer on it
and then the canons of the Boers fired back,
out shooting those of the British
and while the Boers long-tom canons
general Joubert attacked the British form all sides
where in humiliation White had lost
954 soldiers as prisoners of war.
From the surrounding hillocks
Ladysmith was bombarded by canon
where 12500 soldiers
and 7800 citizens were housed
with bombs coming down on them
and they were left with food
for two months and feed for only one month.
On 9 November the Boers attacked the town
with their commandos but could not take it
and the counter attack
of George White was resisted,
but then it happened
that the liberation column
of Buller started its march
trying to penetrate the Boer commandos,
but the Boers were waiting for them
on the other side of the Tugela River
and the British army
was unable to find the drift
to try and pass through the river
and were defeated in chaos
and 143 were killed,755 wounded
and 240 were taken prisoner of war
which had an impact on the career of Buller
and he was fired as supreme commander
and become only the commander
for the invasion through Natal
with Lord Roberts replacing him.
Although Buller then had 30000 soldiers,
his soldiers were thrashed
at Spioenkop and Vaalkrans
but with his great superior number of men,
eventually Buller liberated Ladysmith and Colenso
and Jacobus Potgieter
had been two months in Natal
when Buller’s big army attacked them.
With the death of general Joubert, from illness,
general Louis Botha
was appointed in his place
who ordered the Boer forces to pull back
to the border with the Transvaal
where trenches were prepared
to try and stop the enemy.
The British numbers were far too big
and a lot of Boers were killed
and the Boers could not stop the big force,
with which the British went through them
and later the Orange Free State and Transvaal
came under annexation from Great Britain.
VIII. The changing face of the war
After the defeat on the border of the Transvaal
the Boers gathered on 17 March at Kroonstad
and all their military and political leaders were there
and general Christiaan de Wet accepted leadership,
as commandant-general of the Orange Free State
and they talked and planned together.
Commandant-general de Wet’s plan
was to keep his men highly mobile,
to take the war to the rear guard of the enemy,
to settle the fight
from their horses with their rifles.
They would find food
and ammunition on the farms
and would constantly change
their position and ride on.
It was fruitless to fight
against overpowering numbers
in the front lines,
where the British were only waiting
to decimate the Boers and conditions
were worsened for the Boers
and to hit the enemy
where they expect it the least,
could do great damage to them
and had the possibility
to win the two countries back again.
But first the citizens had to go home
to rest for a month
and general de Wet was well aware,
that he was going to loose some soldiers,
but only the brave
and the most determined
would then come back to him.
The plan was then accepted
by commandant-general De la Rey
and both presidents Kruger and Steyn
for the Boers to ride out in raids
and not to spare any rear defence.
The whole matter
was a big embarrassment to the British.
The Boer patriots
attacked with surprise and again disappeared
before a big British force could react
and de Wet did become a big head ache to them
and they could not stop, the attacks from the Boers
or their guerrilla warfare tactics.
To cut the Boers supply lines
to let his army ride through the farms,
to drive out the women and children
and to put them in concentration camps
with armed soldiers closing down on farms
burning down farms, houses and even towns,
claiming the Boers possessions or selling it
and by force removing women and children.
He also armed the black tribesmen
to attack the farms,
to expel women and children with firearms,
to kill them and to rape
at night and during the day.
Some people believe that Kitchener carefully
chose numerous places
that was hideous,
where people was held in perilous conditions
but it remains a fact
that he did not spend a lot of time
on the planning
and choosing of the camps,
without any feelings for being humane,
or the considering of sicknesses and disasters.
There were fifty concentration camps
that are now being seen as places
of human suffering and sorrow
where about 110000 women
and children were held captured
and where more than 20000 starved
from the pests prevailing
through sickness of almost any kind,
glass that was grinded into the meal,
and glass and fishing hooks
in the salt meat and so on,
as if the British did not
possess humanity at all.
Some of the camps were in marches
or at wet muddy places
at cold windy places,
constructed next to rivers
without hygienic conditions to disrupt lives
and some women had to bath
and wash in pools after rain.
Sometimes people in these camps
had to stay in the open for lengths of time
exposed to sun, rain, hail and wind,
as if it was being planned to kill them
and sometimes they had to beg for clothes.
Food rations was inadequate
and some people starved
from lack of food,
meat from sick animals
were unhygienic cut into pieces.
Only one doctor was appointed
for every camp
with numbers of more than four thousand people,
mostly without hospital facilities
with a lot of complaints
that the medicine was poisoned
and medical treatment was not given to everybody.
IX. The war in the Soutpansberg
General Beyers was sent by the government
as leader to both the Soutpansberg
and Waterberg commandos,
to try and win the war against the British
and it was clear that he knew the art
of using the environment
as camouflage while attacking the British.
When Jacobus Potgieter arrived
in the Northern Transvaal
they had to avoid Pretoria
to get to Warmbaths,
as Pretoria had fallen to the enemy
and for two months
they were harassing the British
and when Paget had withdrawn to Pienaars River,
the Waterberg district was the frontline,
but there were many traitors among the Boers
who daily went to the British,
some were tired of fighting
against the British
and others later came back
on instruction of the British,
to try and convince
some more to surrender.
Jacobus was again chosen
as field coronet of Houtbergbos
and had to go there with immediate effect,
to appose the British.
With a overwhelming big force
Paget went to Pietersburg
that fell to the British on 29 March 1901,
where the British plundered
whatever they could
and they were placing women and children
into concentration camps
and took cattle to Pretoria as a source of food.
They were burning down houses,
were even casting salt onto the fields.
The British possession of Pietersburg
drove the Boers into the mountains
with the British in control
of the whole Northern Transvaal,
with Colenbrander and Plummer
driving the war there,
trying to destroy the Boer commando
of general Beyers.
Plummer made his invasion
along the Olifant River
and in that unknown aria
befriended the blacks,
giving firearms to them
to attack the women on farms
and with all the Boer traitors
that were acting for the British,
Jacobus Potgieter resigned as field coronet.
When the British at Heanertsburg
started fighting with the Boers,
the Boers saw a cloud
of dust coming along,
that was rising from the direction of Houtbosberg
and Jacobus Potgieter and W van Heerden
went out during the night
to scout on the enemy.
Just where they had seen the cloud of dust,
they arrived during the night at a black village
and sneaked up to the wall of the village
and called a black man over
to get some information from him
while trying to avoid the enemy.
The man told them lies
that only two wagons
belonging to the Boers had passed
and about the direction that the wagons
had gone he kept on being deceitful.
From the tracks Jacobus could see
that it was six wagons of the British,
and probably on the way to their camp,
he did not give the black man
any further attention
whose village had been instructed
by the British to attack the women
and children on the farms,
to rob and pillage with firearms.
Back at the commando a spy
told them about a British unit approaching
from another direction
and they had to go out scouting
to see what the British was up to,
but could find no signs of their presence
while they were riding along the whole day long.
At the place where the commando had been
a letter had been left:
“Come in the direction of Haenertsburg.”
Jacobus and field coronet Marais then decided
to get more information
and hurried to the farm
of Jacobus that was nearby.
On the farm Jacobus’s wife Margritha
ran crying up to them and said:
“Where were you the whole day?
The whole territory
has been taken by the British.
The canons were firing the whole day long
and the blacks have stolen all the cattle.
All the people have left! They said that they
would stay at a certain mountain
and we have to meet them there.
The enemy has gone into the mountains
with thousands of blacks
going along with them.”
It was already dark
and they went to the nearest neighbour
to try and get more information.
They greeted him: “How are things here? ”
The neighbour answered:
“The enemy went into the hills
shortly after the two of you had left.
went in the direction of Wolkberg.
The long-tom canon
had fired 16 shots. The enemy
was almost at the canon
when the 17th shot was fired. The canon crew
blew the canon into pieces with dynamite.
The blacks took all the cattle and sheep
and all of the clothes and blankets
of the women and children.
Also every thing in the house,
including all the food. Chickens and pigs
have been killed. The women
were pushed about by the blacks.”
From there they went to the houses
of other citizens to find some more answers
until two o’clock at night whereupon Marais said:
“Let us go to Wolkberg.”
Jacobus answered: “The blacks
are pillaging the women and children
and who knows if the are going to kill them as well.
I will stay here to look for some more citizens,
if your want to go to Wolkberg.”
Marais went to Wolkberg where he was
captured by the enemy,
Jacobus found nobody else
while he was riding to his farm
and he had to hide his horse
to be able to escape with it.
Then he sneaked around the house
to see if his family was safe
and all of them were well
and he was aware of the Lord’s mercy.
The next morning Jacobus
found two more citizens
and heard from them
about the pillaging done by the blacks,
that had happened to other families
and the blacks did not even
leave a blanket for the children,
or anything to eat
and the people
would not be able to forget these evil events
that for Jacobus spoke
of barbarism and the frailty of man
and in his heart he wished disaster on the British.
Jacobus Potgieter, JM Dames and L Alberts together
made plans to protect their families.
They decided that each man
would stay at his own house
as long as he could
and would fire on anyone coming near
until death to rescue their families.
When the blacks came with rifles
to pillage these citizens,
the Boers opened fire on them,
to stop the attacks
where they were around the houses,
like vultures waiting for the death
of the farmers.
But with shot upon shot
they were warded off,
where these farmers were on guard
sitting and praying
for God to stop the enemy.
They saw the British Calvary riding past
and had decided to wait on the enemy,
in order for the women to ask their protection,
but after three days and nights they were far too tired.
They then did decide to surrender, as they could not anymore
carry on with the blacks that were serving the enemy
and Jacobus Potgieter and L Alberts went to the enemy,
while J Dames stayed behind to guard their families.
Jacobus had decided to trust in God,
in faith to hold on to the salvation of the Lord
and with a heavy heart he went to surrender,
to try and protect his family with this deed.
The enemy was scared when they saw Jacobus
as they were people from
the Cape colony without arms,
that was part of the British force
and acted as drivers for wagons and mules.
They were in the riverbed,
at the long-tom canon
that had been shot into pieces
and were trying to get a piece
of the canon out of the water.
They greeted the drivers
and went to meet the British
at Najensbrook, about a hour from home,
where an officer
were giving orders in Afrikaans.
Jacobus asked: “What is going on?
I expect to meet Englishmen here.
Now I meet Boers as enemies? ”
One answers him: “What do you think?
We are many more than you.
Our commando is about 1200 strong
and we are mostly Boers
who are helping the British.”
Then Jacobus asks confused: “How can it be,
that you are fighting against your own nation? ”
“We are British subjects from
the Cape colony and Natal.”
Then Jacobus asks: “Where is your general?
I want to see him.”
Then the officer gave orders to a driver:
“Take this man to the general,
the main commander of the laager.”
The laager where they were going
was far from there and Jacobus and Alberts
still were carrying their rifles
and met the officer being angry about the events
of the day before and laid their weapons down
and asked the British officer:
“Why does it look as if you
are fighting with black people against us,
how do you let black people
pillage our homes and families? ”
Then the officer bursts loose:
“Why did you not surrender
before I had to come here?
You let me come here for no reason! ”
Whereupon Jacobus said: “It isn’t fair
to fight with the blacks against the whites.
Still more so, to let them attack our women! ”
The officer answered unruly:
“I have instructed the black people
not to do such things,
but they do not want to listen.”
Whereupon Jacobus answers him:
“I do not believe it! ”
The officer then told them
to go and wait on a certain farm for a day or so.
Whereupon Jacobus was still more angry:
“No! I do not have time to sit around.
Give orders to the blacks
to stop pillaging our families.”
The officer ordered Jacobus to wait
on his commander who had to come
and Jacobus harassed that commander
with the accusation
about the blacks pillaging
women and children
at which the officer granted his request
but at that time most of the farms
had already been pillaged,
and the women and kids were endangered
and treated very badly by the blacks.
Then the officer said: “I will let you go back.
Bring your families here.”
Whereupon Jacobus shook his head and replied:
“The blacks have robbed all the oxen and wagons.
How am I to do it? ”
The colonel then gave the blacks instructions
to give the oxen and wagons back
but they did not really care about his commands,
whereupon Jacobus went back to his family
where they were safe but full of sorrow.
The blacks had only returned six oxen
and no wagons
and at the house of L Alberts
there were some more problems,
with one hundred and three people
that had fled there
without clothes, food and blankets
and they were women and children
who had been molested
and pillaged by the blacks.
Jacobus was astonished
as some of these women
had walked 24 miles
and had carried
their small children on their backs.
A woman said: “The blacks pushed me around
against the ground.”
Another one: “The blacks stabbed me with a
Assegai (spear) in the breast.”
A third one said: “They were hitting me
with rifles against the chest.”
Another lady said: “I tried to keep a blanket
for my child,
but the black man grabbed it
and knocked me from my feet
whit a rifle.”
Some of the blacks
that were loyal workers and maids
did take some things to look after,
when they saw the band of robbers arriving
and stormed with these things into the bushes
and brought the possessions back later
and this humanity goes deep
into a person’s heart,
but it was single items
that they were able to take
like a blanket or sometimes a bed.
Some of the blacks acted shamefully,
raping some of those women
and it was what was reported
to Jacobus Johannes Potgieter,
and it is reported here truthfully
and of these things
Jacobus was also a witness
and the enemy had no idea
how he felt about these things
and to protect his family
he went to hand his rifle in.
There were 103 women and children
that Jacobus Potgieter and L Alberts
had to transport with three wagons,
but a lot had to walk
and this trip was dreadful.
That first night
some of the women went to sleep
at Jacobus’s house
as he still had some food,
that he shared with them
and his wife was looking
for sheets and blankets
to try and make beds on the ground.
Some women slept inside on the floor,
but others had to sleep outside
and it was really terrible,
to see vulnerable women lying around.
Jacobus went along with the wagons
up to the main road
and took leave of his wife and companions
and rode out to meet the enemy
and the colonel leading them
where he said to the colonel:
“The women and children,
103 of them in total are waiting on you.”
From the stories that the women
and children had heard
they were really scared of the British.
Jacobus was riding with the enemy
to lead them to the women and children
and he said to the colonel:
“I will go to the families and tell them
that you are coming,
that they do not have to fear.”
The colonel and some of his captains
came along to Kuiperkuil
where some of the women
and children were crying
out of fear for the enemy,
being scared to get hurt
and stayed in a group together.
The British loaded these people
on some more wagons
and turned with them in the road
taking them to Pietersburg
where they lived
in houses for a month long
and then just before dark one late afternoon,
was taken to the concentration camp
as sentenced people.
Some of the food that they got to eat,
(this is the honest truth)
was meat from cattle and sheep
that was contaminated with diseases
and these illnesses
were carried over to these people.
Some of the sick animals
were daily slaughtered there in front of the people
and the meat given to them to eat,
while the British knew about the illnesses
that the animals did possess.
Some of the rations were flour,
coffee and sugar and were given
sparingly to the people.
Some of the cattle had fire-illness,
some with lung-disease
and they got that food to eat
as if the British
had forgotten about these illnesses.
Some of the sheep had measles,
others were infected with heart-water
and this meat was given to the people to eat
as if there was no law in the country
while the British knew about these illnesses
and without food
these people would also have perished
and in this way the British
earned more hatred and caused a lot of sorrow.
Jacobus was digging graves for the dead,
sometimes as many as seventeen per day,
where they loaded as many
as twelve bodies at a time
on a wagon to bury them.
After a time the people refused to eat the meat
as they knew that it made them ill
and were caused their deaths
and they gained the trust of the English doctor
and he did examine the meat and did confirm
that it was terribly infected,
almost like a kind of acknowledgement
whereupon the sheep
were slaughtered and buried.
They then received tinned meat
with grain and sometimes fine pieces of glass
and fishhooks in them
that also droops
the British with inhumanity.
Jacobus took the names
and length and width
of every dead body
and wrote it in his diary
and in a way half estranged,
he took the bodies
after the funeral service to the graves
and covered them with sand.
In that concentration camp Jacobus dug
maybe seventeen graves on a day
and he was mourning while he witnessed
the death of so many people,
but the mule wagon could only take
ten to twelve coffins at a time
depending on the sizes of the coffins.
The crying and sorrow of this experience
stayed with him and his youngest child
Margritha Jacoba was only five months old
when they went into the concentration camp
being aware of people dying.
In every tent where he looked into,
Jacobus saw sick people infected
that they got from the sick meat.
After only two weeks
in the concentration camp
all of his children became ill.
Many things was terribly wrong
in that concentration camp.
All the people with measles died form it,
even adults who were kept in that camp.
Jacobus felt totally defenceless,
knew that the intentions
of the British was wrong
and the only thing
that he and his wife Margritha could do
was to reconcile them with the will of God
and three times a day they were praying
putting the protection of their children
before the throne of God.
X. Jacobus Potgieter escapes
For a long period of time
Jacobus did not receive any news
from the commando,
but at the insistence of the British
a traitor’s wife was sent to the Boers,
to try and convince them to surrender
and she brought news
about the commando’s whereabouts.
started to make plans to escape,
to walk away from the British,
to join the commando once more
and to get the enemy out of his country.
Mostly the lower class Boers joined the British
to kill Afrikaners for 5 shilling a day,
trying to force the Boers to loose the war.
The British even tried
to convince Jacobus to join them,
but he saw it as an evil plan
and was angry about it,
as he was forced unfairly
to surrender, to protect his family
With the passing time Jacobus made friends
with other men
and they were also involved in his escape plan,
at a time where the British were on the look out
for rebellion among the prisoners
Jacobus got thirty citizens
to lead them to freedom.
After many months Jacobus
and his friends got an opportunity
to ride along with the wagons
that was going out of the camp to collect firewood,
but the evening before the escape,
many of his friends became too scared to escape
and most of them decided to stay,
but only seven men
went through with the decision to escape.
They had a careful plan
and took food for four days
and two pairs of clothes along,
that was strong enough to last a year
while they trusted in God to lead them.
Unsure Jacobus greeted his wife and children
and scared that the British could have a suspicion of trouble
they left the crying children in the tent
while he greeted them.
Jacobus was well aware
about the dangers of this concentration camp
how the food, the bad circumstances
impacted on his children,
and asked God to look after them
and to guide the way back to the commando
through the coming dangers.
The seven men were somewhat sultry
when they got onto the wagons,
but in the wood fields they were industrious,
while the other men and blacks
were turning around them.
The escaping men were:
Jacobus Johannes Potgieter,
AJ van Jaarsveld, CJ Potgieter
(the brother of Jacobus) , SJ de Beer,
JH Venter, C Harmse and W van der Gijft,
who trusted their lives into the hands of God.
At twilight that night
they told the driver of their wagon
that they were going to escape,
were going to walk back to their commando,
but did not tell their plans to him
and they had difficulty in convincing him
to take the wagon back to the British
and from the blacks of the nearest rural village
they traded a blanket for a goat
and made a big fire to fry the meat,
while the other citizens
were still standing around them
and they ate as much as they could,
before they went to hide in the bushes
and the blacks were not aggressive
as long as they were with the British,
but became very hostile
the moment that they were not with the British.
With their clothes and a blanket each,
they left that camp in the wood fields
and without talking,
sneaked in the dark past the blacks
hiding in the bushes.
While working during the day they scouted the aria,
finding a route
and slipped away without being noticed.
There was a farm near to them
where they could find hidden rifles and ammunition,
that was buried there and Jacobus during the day
had cut a piece of wood to use as a digging tool,
but they first had to pass a large black village.
They kept to the bushes, trusting in God’s help
but when after an hour they arrived on the farm,
a light was burning in the house on the farm
and they were astonished to find people there
and thought that some of the men
who decided not to come along,
had betrayed them to the British
as the owner of the farm
had been captured by the British.
Sagrys de Beer said: “Let’s leave the rifles.
We are going to get captured here.
The voices that we hear are the voices of Boers,
but far too many Boers have joined the British
to fight against us.
We cannot trust anybody, or that they
will be on our side.”
Fifteen paces from the house
they then discussed the matter,
about either getting the rifles
or leaving the weapons and moving on.
Jacobus who really want the rifles
at first did not want to listen to advice and said:
“Grys, we cannot leave the rifles here,
we have to move over the wall silently
and go and dig the rifles out.”
“You will have us caught! Listen to the voices.
They are enemy Boers! ”
“Grys, just think about the black towns
that we will have to pass.”
“Kotie let us rather walk away while it is still dark.
Let us leave the rifles. Even if we go
over the wall unnoticed,
they will hear us when we start digging
with that piece of wood in your hand.
They will shoot us. If one of us are wounded
we will be very sorry that we did not leave
the guns here.
Kotie, let’s go. My maid
has hidden two of my rifles and ammunition
I will go to my farm.
My maid is trustworthy.”
“Grys, I will do as you say. Come, let us go.”
Thick fog were rising and they were lost,
Could not find the road and wandered along
until they found the road again
and then decided to stay near to it,
but the packs that they were carrying
were becoming heavy
and they were becoming tired.
Sagrys said: “Kotie, we have to sleep here.
Old Albert and Krisjan cannot walk any further.
They are tired. You have to take care
of the weakest man among us.”
“You are right, Grys.
We will have to get away from the road
and go down the cliff, to get a sleeping place.
When the British become aware that we have escaped,
they will start following our tracks.”
“Kotie, lets turn off here to the left.
The cliff is deep. They will never find us here.
If suddenly they find us, we can run along
the cliff in to the bushes.
If we reach the bushes,
they can bring thousands of men
to try and find us, but will have no success.
I know this region very well.”
“It sounds like a great plan,
come on guys lets go down the cliff.
- quotes about United Kingdom
- quotes about independence
- quotes about numbers
- quotes about worry
- quotes about hours
- quotes about authority
- quotes about army
- quotes about walking
- quotes about tomb
To Hope is life's necessity
To dream is Freedom sought,
Each day is Opportunity
Another step to Growth.
To Love is truly caring
Affection pure and good
And Faith in God believing
His Grace is spirit food.
To try again is Courage
And to work is Dignity
Thus recorded in our page
This is our Life Story.
Tarlac City Philippines
Cynthia Buhain- Baello
- quotes about food
- quotes about freedom
- quotes about literature
- quotes about city
- quotes about Thanksgiving
- quotes about work
- quotes about dreaming
- quotes about life
- quotes about divine
Dont want to stay here
Not very nice
You boiled me over
Now youre cold as ice
>from what you gave me
To what you made me
I should be homeward bound
Why am I hangin round knowing
Youre life story began with somebody else
Find your glory out there with somebody else
Ill be where you find me
Ill be somebody else
Dog in the manger
Teller of lies
I see a stranger laughing in your eyes
Though I dont know how
Im in the way now
No matter what you do
I go on loving you knowing
Your life story began with somebody else
Find your glory out there with somebody else
Ill be where you find me
Ill be somebody else
Deeper than your valleys
Longer than your memory
I got to your storys end
Your life story began with somebody else
Find your glory out there with somebody else
Ill be where you find me
Ill be somebody else
My Life Story
Everybody has a life story; mine, was touched by God’s Glory,
As God changed my entire life, through The Lord, Jesus Christ,
With new purpose and direction, not by mine, but His selection,
As God, Himself, selected me, to become a part of His Family.
Sealing me with the Spirit of God, a new direction, I would trod,
Saving me from darkened strife, God sent His light into my life,
Light that guides me to this day, guiding me on the narrow way,
A new path far from the one, I walked before I knew God’s Son.
Change came the moment when, I in Christ, became born again,
Born of God from Heaven above, filled with new hope and love,
Hope that looks past the grave, with the power He used to save,
My wretched soul from all sin, and now God’s power lives within.
The Lord now dwells in my heart, and His Spirit will never depart,
And so in this Truth I now abide, as my Savior walks by my side,
With me even in dark times friend; leading me around each bend.
In a world where wrong is right, Jesus Christ, is my Guiding Light.
Saved out of a darkened world, The Truths of God, I now herald,
Saved from a world where sin rife, the Lord God touched my life,
Leading me now in Righteousness, not mine, but of Christ Jesus,
A Righteousness that granted me, life with Christ Jesus Eternally.
Decisions Are Best Made With Logic
are best made
decisions are made
for the common
good of all citizens
who could not
imagine a system
not doing this?
first world nations
all ice caps melting
abandon most citizens
prepare select few
to survive meltdown
no attempt is
history 101: global genocide!
death of nations sacrificed
Titanic life boats
women children left to die!
world leaders elect
primary elite policy
to save only themselves!
plus rebuild teams
decisions already made
it has already been decided!
who will rule new world
you who were
left to die we
mourn you not!
Get in line. Young Maori. Get in line.
Death Death March legally signed
before young Maori intensely pined.
Killed was ancient ancestral spirit
cleaving Celtic Isle mist lost lands.
Butchered guttered tie affixed lost
birthright mystic Celtic legendary lands.
Blood washed uprooted cast out are clans
purged from beloved Celtic ancestral lands.
Umbilical cord was cut brutally severed
with stealing steal tongue beastly fire.
For more sheep landlord pasture profit
Scottish smashed in are cottages homes.
Flocks free bleating beasts tended roam
rule ruined outcast vacated ghost villages.
Starvation claims sickening women children
destitute dying in London’s stinking slums.
Scottish men die dye red ranging regiments
across stolen globe with British firing guns.
Scottish bag-pipes screaming brave Scotsmen heard
wounds silhouette bleeding sunset blood-red suns.
In Ireland peasants dye starvation stained
with green mouths on bitter famine food.
Eating grass inland coastal eating seaweed
bounty stock free for rash starved Irish peasants.
British blight plague infests deflowered land
bloated corpses manure pastures Irish rued.
Providential not pestilent genocide inflicting Ireland;
English lords taxing life breath to death never sued.
Sweeping rubble rabble forth dark memories purge
upon ship passage exiles permanently migration move.
Homeland is lost family plot burial land
countless wakes memories survivors ban.
Get in line. Young Maori. Get in line.
Shes Actual Size
The ground opens wide
Light beams down from heaven
She stands before my eyes
Shes actual size, but she seems much bigger to me
Squares may look distant in her rear view mirror but theyre actual size
As she drives away
As they step aside
I thought I was big once
She changed my mind
Shes actual size, but she seems much bigger to me.
Ive never known anybody like her, shes actual size
All the money
Money couldnt buy
Shes got something special
That someone left behind
Shes actual size, but she seems much bigger to me
Squares may look distant in her rear view mirror but theyre actual size
Actual size to her
Hangs in portrait
On the post office wall
Shes stuck in my heart now
Where my blood belongs
Shes actual size, but she seems much bigger to me
Ive never known anybody like her, shes actual size
Actual size, believe
Heres the best guess so far about the lyrics to larger than life. please give input. I need help with all of the reggae lyrics!
Shes actual size, but she seems much bigger to me
The ground opens wide
Light beams down from heaven
She stands before my eyes
Shes actual size, but she seems much bigger to me
Squares may look distant in her rear view mirror but theyre actual size
As she drives away
As they step aside
I thought I was big once
She changed my mind
Shes actual size, but she seems much bigger to me
Ive never known anybody like her, shes actual size
You think shes big, you think shes larger than life
But if you open up your eyes youll see shes actual size
You think shes big, you think shes larger than life
But if you open up your eyes youll see shes actual
In your mind you have her on a pedestal
You admire her from afar like shes a china doll
You need to realize
Before you ? ? ? ?
So go ahead, approach the girl, it up to you ? ? ? ?
You think shes big, you think shes larger than life
But if you open up your eyes youll see shes actual size
You think shes big, you think shes larger than life
But if you open up your eyes youll see shes actual
All the money
Money couldnt buy
Shes got something special
That someone left behind
Shes actual size, but she seems much bigger to me
Ive never known anybody like her, shes actual size
Actual size, believe
Light beams down from heaven
Shes actual size, but she seems much bigger to me
It's a one of a kind tale...
An unbelievable, kind of adventure saga...
My life-story, kind of fiction, novel -
A non-fiction, sort of auto-biography!
Wrapped up, in a Flowery Hard-Cover...
A Book of Prose, sort of adventure -
It's the raw and naked truth narrative, in verse...
About a woman, on a mission-kind, of Hidden Journal -
A day-to-day, action, sort of diary -
Defined as: ' Hot to Sizzling'
Located in an Eastern State of Our Nation -
In a city, quaintly named: Quantico -
It's: 'In a high demand' catagory -
It's 'My Life'
Then and Now'
 Death And Life
DEATH AND LIFE
Poet: Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar
50 Poems & Criticism
2 Gratitude; Again
3 The Wheel of Death
4 Free from worry
6 A puzzle
7 The Truth
8 Forms of Death
11 A Pair
12 The Opposite
15 A desire
17 The Philosophy of Life
21 A Prayer
22 A Mirage
23 A Vow
24 The Call of Conquest
25 A Call
26 One Day
28 A Wish
29 As Desired
31 Healthy Vision
34 The Philosophy of Death
35 An Invitation
36 To The Fairy of Death
37 A Request
38 The Mode of Death
39 A Comparison
40 The Difference
41 The End
42 A Blow
44 A Proclamation
45 I Bow Thee
46 Good Bye
48 An Ascetic
49 The Last Will
1 The Motif of Death in the Poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar —
An Assessment /
Dr. D. C. Chambial, Maranda (H.P.)
2 'Death-Perception: Life-Perception': A Dialectical Study
Mrs. Purnima Ray, Burdwan (W.B.)
3 Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar's 'Death-Perception: Life- Perception': An analysis
Dr. (mrs.) Jaya Lakshmi Rao V., (Visakhapatnam) (A.P.)
4 'Death' in the Poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar
Dr. D. Murali Manohar, Hyderabad (A.P.)
5 Revealing Reflections On Death And Life
Dr. Atma Ram
6 Reflecions on Mahendra Bhatnagar's Philosophy of Death
Dr. A.K. Chaturvedi
Death is imminent,
Life is so desired!
There's such a semblance
Between life and death!
Beauty to life
Endless — vast!
Life - art - efficiency
Embellishment - adornment!
Death element / feeling
Minute by minute death - tension
 Gratitude; Again
Death's made life
Transformed this world,
into a pleasant heaven,
the meaning of love,
into higher beings
than immortal god!
 The Wheel of Death
The wheel of death
Lifeless - living
Gradually grinding and changing
Every moment, every minute!
This earth rocks horribly!
This wheel of death
Life and death,
Earth and sky!
 Free from Worry
when every moment is free
from the dread of death.
It is ill-ominous
to talk about
the fear of death,
for this reason.
To know the mystery
not only difficult
merges into five-elements
not to return;
to revive again,
and know the mystery.
When there's no self
death — a puzzle
A wonderful puzzle!
All efforts futile —
the meaning of death;
it's very intricate difficult
 A Puzzle
Not worth living;
In quest of new
On an unknown path;
But where? ?
A pitch dark night,
 The Truth
If there were no death,
God wouldn't have any existence,
would have never reconciled
with his fate!
God - a symbol,
God - a proof
of man's helplessness
of readiness after death.
The whole philosophy
of hell and heaven
is an imagination.
at each moment
is afraid of death, and
horripilant again and again!
He knows —
'death is imminent'!
So, his each step
is frought with suspicion.
Not only this
he is also
of the so called
he takes refuge
for eternal peace in death!
he sings the long song -
'Ram nam satya hai! '
(God's name is the only TRUTH)
O, birth and death
save for his cruel-amusing act!
[1 God, dispensing death in Indian mythology.]
 Forms of Death
Be death natural
conclusion is the same -
end of a conscious life,
to change into a senselessness
to sleep for good
palpitation of heart!
Both are the so called
writs of Providence,
the script of fate: invisible, indelible.
an act of terminating life
or destruction of the ferocious
in self or social defense,
but, a murder.
Though the end, the same
True death or untimely death.
as an adversary.
accept not defeat,
not a bit
think of God
in an answer to the question,
The mystery of death
to be unmasked... revealed
An unbreakable string
Tied to birth,
The other extreme end!
Birth - a shore
Death - an opposite bank;
Why a jubilation?
Birth - death
One / well shaped;
The other / completely invisible!
Destruction: an assault!
Birth - initiation
Death - an earthly end!
Birth: yes, a being,
Death: ah! a non-being!
Birth: a new dawn,
Death: a horrendous night!
 A Pair
Sandy desert spread
like the dying lamp-flame
at he verge of death!
growing trees -
a resting place... life giving
 The Oppsite
Life: a jubilation
Death: the last breath
A melody / a cry!
Pious action / loud lamentation!
Morning is red
Evening is red
Morning-evening are one.
Wail on birth
Wail on death
Birth-death are one.
the true wisdom,
the real knowledge,
every other consideration
is in vain.
What makes you so sad?
Why do you lose your wits?
Life - very precious; true
Death - eternal, why do you rue
[1 A detached saintly statement.]
 A Desire
May all children and young live!
Heart-rending is untimely death!
over and over again
to consider this idea true?
A blind faith
an irrational faith!
Life / blends in five-elements,
the end / of a creation,
the end / of a person,
there be an eternal fusion.
Neither there is any Hell,
nor there is any Heaven,
this manifest world is the only truth.
Death — a truth,
Life — a truth!
 The Philosophy Of Life
External motion —
Internal motion —
The transporter of life-motion
Ceaseless controller —
as long as
life is in flux
History will be created by
Nev er there be catastrophe;
Life ever be full of melody,
Every particle be in motion.
To fuse is
To lose internal motion.
Struggles and strifes
lead to life,
to be inactive,
an indication - of the approaching death,
to stop - the end of life.
Life: only a flux
is to be alive!
an established trait
of the lifeless.
Life has a thrill, a throb,
a continuous palpitation in the live hearts!
To stop —
invitation to ill-ominous death,
The only 'mool-mantra'1
to prove life!
[1 Key principle.]
Wish for life —
Eternal and strongest,
The final truth
About every life
Yes, end is certainly,
But / it is also true -
impatient passion for
Immortality and youth
Will never wane,
Man's queer valour
Longs for melody,
Not for tears!
With the eternal challenge
of death is welcome!
He will be
A mrityunjaya1; he will be!
[1 victorious over death.]
isn't a proof of
like death - an exit.
Which is natural
in adopting it
without any specificity,
to be 'a human being.'
human glory only when
there is perfect peace of mind -
when we give
a new meaning to life,
in pitch dark
to a world full of lights.
Know the mysteries of life,
Talk to the moon and stars.
be the motive of our living,
let's devour materialistic hurdles
at every step.
life may be
dedicated to death.
the least difference of opinion.
This life is successful
this life is rare.
Blessed is the Earth!
 A Prayer
not for immortality,
I long for
Perfect health, diseaselessness,
of human mind and body.
This desired boon
not from any god.
Self-achieved by self-efforts
not by any prayer.
Body free from pain
mind free from torture.
we live for
 A Mirage
Self-willed and ambitious
runs after money
at the cost of life.
at this queer, dirty intention!
If there is life / money must flow in,
If there is life / pleasure must dog in!
Shattered and disorderly life
malady-stricken / frustrated wounded life
eager to fall into
Blind, perplexed, ignorant
Construes money to be supreme
thinks pleasure all in all!
He'll spoil / the precious life,
and will lose life / the gift of God!
 A Vow
have descended in
the formidable duel of
life and death!
being soldiers of
an immortal army of life,
will not be surrounded
by the deceitful trick of
May be vanquished,
but, will never admit the supremacy
of death a bit,
won't let our right
be snatched away!
The triumphant-call will echo
till the last breath
life-strength will fight
till the last edge of hope / effort!
 The Call Of Conquest
The whole world sleeps -
in the dead of night?
It's heard -
in the house hard by
death has suddenly charged,
it's true —
someone has died.
The sharp dagger
has once again
touched the man!
with ambrosial heart-felt condolences,
may this man
live again and again!
Let life-drum sound
biers be laid!
[1 Emissary of Yam / God dispensing death in Indian
 A Call
They who sing Alakh1
who sing the sweet beloved song
of new life
Singers of Sohar2
Players of life-song
on every string of the violin of heart
Strike by stretching!
into the live sea
Stir the stupor!
[1 A word urging inspiration.
2 An auspicious song sung at the birth of a child.]
 One Day
will be victorious,
fear not the wicked,
life will be victorious!
of dead death
will surround / frighten;
have faith in
the sun's strength / firmness
every particle of it!
Let's floodlight around!
life will be triumphant!
who are the artisans of life
should talk only
the meaningfulness of life,
about the essence of life!
strike back at it,
sing the glory of life,
strike a severe blow at
 A Wish
let there be
no existence of death-serpent
in the garden of life,
let human self
not be terrorized
of death scare!
let every person
without any doubt,
let his each moment be
Let a lover of life
play with life,
and live life fully
As long as
the lamps burnt on
even in rains!
with firm faith in
With a wish to live
wait for death!
why should it take
End the illusion,
Bend the kaal-chakar1!
Associate with life!
Give up this stupor!
[1 Cycle of death / time]
 Healthy Vision
by thinking self
laugh and sing
without any concern,
eat and drink
without any worry;
When face to face
with the end
Should remain ignorant of it
we call it
I sing the songs
about the triumph of life
I sing dauntlessly
the triumph of life-bud
of the dearest thing!
again and again!
The sounds that echo
in the sky of the graveyard
of the liberated-selves of carefree birds
hoisted the red flags,
on every house, in every village,
in every town,
of life, new life!
In every locality, at every cross,
here, there -
the demon of death
won't be able to carry out
his terrorist, fatal, men-devouring
on entering into the body,
an unvanquished doota1
within the body
in invisible places!
where from he comes now!
[1 Emissary. 2 Lord of death.]
 The Philosophy of Death
When a certainty,
O, tell death -
'Come; when you please.'
At this time
Let's sing and dance!
Play on varied musical instruments!
Let's end this silence;
 An Invitation
do come one day!
And take me away
in your flying-chariot;
away... far away
That I may
unite all those
living in hell,
urge on them
for a revolt,
for a change in life!
I don't acknowledge
I'll challenge them!
Just, let me jump
into the hell-pond!
Just, let me mingle
with the huge crowd of
[1 According to Indian mythology an official in the court of Yama who keeps record of righteous and unrighteous actions of living beings.]
 To The Fairy of Death
O death, come
I am ready!
I am helpless.
You'll come —
Like a clever girl.
Your this game
Come, o death
That of the book of life
Thou art the end!
Thou art the good news
O death, come
I've bedecked myself,
 A Request
it hardly matters
if you are feminine,
I can befriend you!
Why do you feel shy?
be my comrade!
If not a cohabiter
be my neighbour!
You beautiful like the moon,
from the opposite window
and one day
all at once
make me accompany you
to the land of the dead!
taunting and teasing!
 The Mode of Death
Death might be overtaking
might be out from the body
A dreaming man
What does he know?
Ask those living
have covered the dead body
with a sheet of cloth!
 A Comparison
the difference lies only in the 'I'
(the first vowel sound)
Shiva has three eyes,
Shava is blind!
A great imbroglio!
[1Shava — a dead body.]
 The Distance
Gave a sweet pain
How strange the coincidence
That the last farewell
O, the first love!
On the disappearing path,
With a wish -
Never to be fulfilled,
Sometime with a true physical touch
Never to be distanced!
I go -
Go with memory,
Go with pain!
 The End
Where is it now?
Where is it now?
Everything stood still
The running, jumping, the liquid river water
Everything frozen —
Like blood in veins!
All bones of body
Crackle with pain,
Who'll press them
Till the dying breath?
While none is around!
Now there is no flutter
Only a stasis,
Now life -
A fatigued filament;
 A Blow
kept you alive -
your living but decayed corpse!
Carry it silently, helplessly!
burnt the wishes
in a flaming furnace,
and filled every moment of life
with unbearable pain!
Never became a loved one;
never became a murderer!
O, never snatched the right to live -
though the doubt was unmasked,
When kept alive
I'll burn in the hell-fire
bear all by
Early or late
in an eternal sleep have to fall,
dust unto dust!
Then, why to weep?
will fly away!
Why you try so hard,
sing hymns every morn and eve,
nothing is in your control
you bow in every temple,
one day from the body
will fly away,
will fly away!
It is preordained that
in the lap of death
It is preordained that
will be lost
in the pitch dark
of the death!
It is preordained that
renouncing name and fair form
will be reduced
 A Proclamation
the world -
Mahendra Bhatnagar sleeps!
Sleeps in an eternal sleep!
is to happen
Why do you weep?
that is one's own,
one has no right
over it too,
hearth - wealth
that is one's own
has no essence!
You've no claim
silent - stoic
severing all relations
new and old!
has to experience
why to fear it?
O immortal death!
You may consider me
accept you from body and mind!
on the comfortable
I lose my identity
by fusing with the particles
of this soil!
I sow a new life!
As I have accepted life
I do accept you!
I go from this world!
I go from this
lovely home, lovely world!
for good... for good!
 I Bow Thee
O the springs of the world
O, the shining moon
The twinkling bright stars
O, the high waves of the sea!
wings of illusion,
Profuse with love
The strings of
An inextricable knot
The unrealised hopes
 Good Bye!
Beaten by fate,
In the game of life,
Tortured by dears,
Hurt on heart,
With a bowed head
Go for good —
Do not light the memory-lamp!
 An Ascetic
To overcome death
one more Siddharth1 — an ascetic
has set out!
Who at each step
trampled the elusive moves of
in any vyuha2
tied his noose hard
He who sings
songs of life
at the edge of doom,
one day —
he will attain
an immortal place
by changing his shape,
by making it a stupa3
1 initial name of Buddha.2 phlanx, the war movement arrangement of an army to surround or capture the enemy. 3 a Buddhistic tope/sacred spot.
 The Last Will
Never be disinterested!
Bear a blow
Never lose temper.
Let the last act be
free from rituals
let mind be set
only on the mystery beyond death!
Life after death
when none has known
when none has seen...
All established systems:
To follow them - not desired!
O never be a blind-follower,
Let refinement of worship be
in the splendour of knowledge.
good faith and good feelings!
on the renunciation of body?
a sign of perfection,
a successful stage
Why to bewail?
The end of life —
Why to bewail?
follow in the footsteps
of the departed
to attain the meaning of life,
Take the last salute!
One who has finished one's duty/karma.
THE MOTIF OF DEATH
N THE IPOETRY OF MAHENDRA BHATNAGAR:
– Dr. D. C. Chambial
Life is poised between the two antipodal points of birth and death. Where there is birth, there is death. Where one begins the other ends. Birth is welcome and rejoiced. Death is considered terrible and is, therefore, mourned. Enmeshed in the enigma of existence man has been trying since time immemorial to dive into the mysteries of life and death. All metaphysical systems of world are the outcome of man’s endeavour to find truth in this regard. In the modern age of science man has toiled hard to lay bare the mystery of death. However, it still remains beyond the domain of science. Where the domain of science ends, the domain of metaphysics begins.What is outside the physical world is left for the philosophy to explain. Mahendra Bhatnagar has, in his book, 'Death-Perception: Life-Perception', tried to perceive the mystery of life and death. In this paper my endeavour shall be to explore Mahendra Bhatnagar’s views about death.
In order to answer the question: What is death? The poet has nothing to say different from the commonly held notion about it that death is ‘an earthly end’ and compares it to ‘a horrendous night’ (‘Life - Death’: 22) . What the poet calls ‘a horrendous night’ is the state of existence after death. However, this ‘horrendous night’ begins with death. As the one side of a coin cannot be severed from the other, similarly, birth and death are also integral and cannot be separated: ‘an unbreakable string / tied to birth’ (Ibid.) The poet declares the Vedic truth: ‘Death - a truth’ (Reality’: 32) . It is also the truth of existence. Where there is life, there is death.
Man, ever since he began to speculate and meditate about the fate of life after its termination on this terra firma, has found death an enigma to explore. It was, and still is, an enigma for him.
There is a lot about death that one wants to know: what is death? What happens to the individual on death? If body is the dwelling of soul, as the Hinduism and most of the other world religions maintain, then, what happens to the soul on and after death? What would happen if there were no death? Etc. The poet also believes in this arcane nature of death and states: ‘Death? / A question-mark! ’ (Contemplation: 10) . He, once again, repeats this mystery of death in his poem, ‘Conclusion’, with the same words and is staunch in his faith that man is ever engaged in unraveling and unmasking the secrets about death. He says though ‘death’, at present, is ‘a question-mark’, but a day will certainly come when ‘The mystery of death / to be unmasked... revealed’ (‘Conclusion’: 20)
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar, the poet, opens his discourse about death and tells the readers about its imminence. He says: ‘Death is imminent / Unavoidable’ (Gratitude’: 2) . It is very much intone with the Hindu philosophy that states: ‘Jatasya hi dhruvo mrityu...’ (the Ghagvadgita: II,27) . He further expounds that death which is the end of life on the earth ‘... is certainly / Unavoidable! ’ (Experimenting’: 38) . The fact that whosoever has life and is born on this earth is bound to decay or die. An individual’s life is limited. One cannot go beyond this limit. None can abjure the verity that one day this life on earth has to come to an end. There is no way out. The poet sings:
One day from the body
will fly away,
Will fly away!
Here the poet, with the help of the symbol of a bird, tries to explain that one day JIVA or PRANA will have to forsake this body. It cannot live in for good. This body is subject to the laws of destructibility and transience.
Death has never been a welcome. The very origin of death, according to Christianity, is cruel, for it is the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God: they disobeyed the God, ate the forbidden fruit and the God, in turn, not only expelled them out of Eden but also inflicted death on them. Death has been with man since his first disobedience and the original sin. The poet calls death a cruel wheel that spares no one:
the wheel of death
Lifeless - living
Gradually grinding and changing
Every moment, every minute!
This earth rocks horribly!
invisibly / Silently
This wheel of death.
(‘The Wheel of Death’: 6) .
This wheel always goes on like the wheel of time and one and all fall prey to it without any distinction.
The termination of life from the physical body is termed as death. Death is death whatever be its kind or form. The philosopher poet, Dr. Mahendra also declares that ‘Though the end, the same death! ’ (‘Forms of Death’: 18) . Nonetheless, he differentiates and recognizes two kinds of death: one, natural or accidental death; two, the unnatural or suicide or murder. In this regard the poet writes: ‘Death natural / or accidental /... / end of a conscious life’ (Ibid.) These both kinds of death, natural and accidental, are so called because they are the ‘writs of Providence’ (Ibid.) But, about the second kind, ‘suicide / or / murder’, the poet says that it ‘isn’t death, but, a murder.’ (ibid.) Thus, the poet acknowledges two kinds of death with clear difference.
The poet is of the view that one should not fear death. While living one should be free from its fear. Living constantly under the fear of death will make the individual a coward and one will not be able to accomplish anything in one’s life. Thus the whole objective of life and living will be defeated. One is supposed to live and, while living, do such acts that are helpful for the progress of humanity. With this motive in mind, the poet says that ‘Fearing death / will make / living futile! / weight heavy / dry onerous / pleasureless heart.’ (Free From Worry’: 8) . Under the constant fear of death, life loses its meaning. In order to make life meaningful one has to be free from the fear of death. So, the philosopher poet says:
when every moment is free
from the dread of death. (Ibid.)
The poet seems to echo what the Hindu philosophy says:
v'kksP; kuUo'kkspLRoa izKkoknkaÜp Hkk'klsA
xrklwuxrklawÜp ukuq'kkspfUr if.Mrk%AA
What should not be worried about you should not worry say the wise
Whether one lives or dies does not bother the pundit.
(the Bhagvadgita: II,11) .
The poet, in his poem ‘The Philosophy of Death’ (72) posits:
When a certainty,
O, tell death —
‘Come; when you please.’
There is no need either to nourish any doubt about death or fear it; it is imminent. In another poem, he says:
It is preordained that
in the lap of death
× × ×
in the pitch dark
of the death! (‘Preordained’: 96)
and then talks about the destruction of the body after death by consigning it to fire: ‘fair form / will be reduced / to ashes! ’ (Ibid.) The JIVA forsakes body; body becomes dead because it is senseless to all external stimuli of the physical world, and finally the body joins the five elements - fire, earth, water, air, and sky, the PANCH BHUTA — out of which it had taken shape.
All this happens, the poet argues, when body becomes unsuitable for the soul as it’s dwelling. Then the soul leaves it and looks for a new one that is befitting for it, the poet says:
Not worth living;
In quest of new.’ (‘A Puzzle’: 12)
as if the soul unfolds the secret of its leaving the body, that is death, to the poet. The poet’s philosophy seems to echo the Vedic philosophy:
oklkafl th.kkZfu; Fkk fogk; uokfu x`g~.kkfr ujkss•ijkf.kA
rFkk 'kjhjkf.k fogk; th.kkZU; kfu la; fr uokfu nsghAA
As a man discards the old and worn out clothes,
Likewise the soul discards old body and enters new one.
(the Bhagvadgita: II,22) .
In the absence of death there would have no God nor the need for any such supreme divinity. The poet continues his argument that ‘If there were no death, / God wouldn’t have any existence’ (‘The truth’: 14) . It means that in the absence of death man would have thought himself to be the Supreme Being and the God were to be something non-existent. It is the existence of death that makes human being inferior to God and man needs some super power to attribute to that power all the enigmas of physical and metaphysical existence that are beyond the human ken. In the absence of death, even ‘The whole philosophy / hell and heaven’ (Ibid.) would have become redundant. But, there is death that necessitates the existence of God, before whose will the man bows. Therefore, the man realizes the ultimate truth that ‘Ram nam satya hai / (God’s name is the only TRUTH) ’ (Ibid.) In other words, the poet contends that only God is the Reality.
It is not that death has made the existence of God feasible but it also has a purpose. The poet maintains that death is not without purpose. It also has its utilitarian value and makes life not only useful but also beautiful for existence on this earth. He posits:
Death’s made life very beautiful,
Transforms this world, in fact,
Into a pleasant heaven,
We learnt the meaning of love,
Transformed man into higher beings
Than immortal god!
(‘Gratitude; Again’: 4)
Whatever man tries to achieve in life and art is also death’s gift to him; so, the poet firmly holds:
Beauty to life
Endless - vast!
Life - art - efficiency
Embellishment - adornment!
It is a fact that death has some objective. But, the poet not only encourages the mankind to shed the fear of death but also suggests to betittle death by finding a purpose of living because:
who are the artisans of life
should talk only about life
the meaningfulness of life.
about the essence of life.
His panacea for belittling death is:
strike back at it. (Ibid.)
But, how can we strike back at death? The poet has himself answered this question successfully in the poem itself that it can be done by discovering ‘the meaningfulness of life’ and by singing ‘the glory of life’ (Ibid.) The ‘meaningfulness of life’ suggests a purposeful life so that he is remembered even after he is dead.
Death is imminent. It cannot be avoided. It is the fate of all living beings on this earth. It can only be relegated to pettiness. Then there is no need to fear death: ‘let human self / not be terrorized / of death care’ (‘A Wish’: 58) . The living ones should always be ready to welcome death. There is no alternative to it. Therefore, the poet has debunked death of all its power and fear and and welcomes death to
do come one day!
And take me away
in your flying-chariot
away... far away
(‘An Invitation’: 74) .
perhaps, like the persona in Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘The Chariot’1
To conclude our discussion, we can say that the poet comes out with some very concrete suggestions to tear off the hitherto much significance attached to death. He does not believe in any type of ritual, because these do not form part of the eternal truth; these have been devised and followed by the survivors. He exhorts the mankind: ‘Let the last act be / free from rituals’ (‘The Last Will’: 110) . What is more important. in order to find the ultimate truth, to unmask the enigma of death shrouded in the mystery, is to approach the hitherto unsolved riddle of death single-mindedly. For this he suggests: ‘let mind be set / only on the mystery deyond death! ’ (Ibid.) He also consoles those who are left behind wailing and bemoaning in these words: ‘End - / a sign of perfection, / a successful stage / why to bewail’ and should
follow in the footsteps
of the departed
to attain the meaning of life
(‘Kritkarma’: 112) .
It is ‘the meaning of life’ that has not been found yet and the quest for which is ever going on like the journey of life as propounded by Aurobindo Ghose2. Mahendra Bhatnagar, the poet and philosopher, has very deeply studied and experienced, in his imagination, the concept of death and has made some very radical observations that make him stand all alone as a sedate thinker in the contemporary poetry.
(1) In the Dickinson’s poem, Death is one of the occupants in the chariot. Death asks the poetess / persona to accompany him. The opening lines of the poem are:
Because I could not stop for death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
In Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poem, the poet / persona invites Death to take him / her with himself, because he is not afraid of death and ready to go with him.
(2) In his poem, ‘Is This the End? ’, Aurobindo Ghose says that death does not put an end to the journey or quest of life. The poet refers to soul that is immortal and continues its journey ceaselessly. It goes on even after the goal has been achieved. The last two stanzas of them poem, that have relevance to the argument in the present article, are:
The Immortal in the mortal is his name!
An artist Godhead here
Ever remoulds himself in dimmer shapes,
Unwilling the cease.
Till all is done for which the stars were made,
Till the heart discovers God
And the soul knows itself. And even then
There is no end.
— Mrs. Purnima Ray
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s ‘Death-Perception: Life-Perception’ is a collection of fifty beautiful poems translated from original Hindi into English by Dr. D.C.Chambial. The poet, and the translator are already well-known figures in the literary arena, both in India and abroad. The Appendix 1&2 published in this book help us to know their achievements in detail. In short, their bio-notes are as follows -
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar is a leading Professor of Hindi Language and Literature, guides scholars, has several published books, and received many awards. His major poetry-collections include ‘Forty Poems’ translated by Shree Amir Mohammad Khan, and Prof. L.S.Sharma, ‘After The Forty Poems’ translated by Dr. Ramsevak Singh Yadav, Prof. Vareendra Kumar Varma, and Shree Amir Mohammad Khan, ‘Exuberance and other poems’, translated by Dr. Ravinandan Sinha, and ‘Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry’ translated by Dr. H.C.Gupta.
Dr. D.C.Chambial is a Professor of English, a widely published Indo-English poet and critic, has several published books, poetry collections, and on criticism, and edits an international journal ‘Poetcrit’. At the outset the translator in his note makes clear to us the most important features of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poetry, which we have to recho in our discussion from time to time in our own way. And we will see that Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poems are deep, intense in feeling, suggestive and thought-provoking.
The title of this present collection is very important. One should notice that ‘Death-Perception’ comes first, then ‘Life Perception’. The ‘Death-theme’ is a very common and universal one, but the fact is that we sometimes are aware of it, and sometimes not. Most of us know that it is inevitable and certain, and we are eager to know more about it, and want to escape from its clutches, but we do not know how to do it. It is here the utility of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poems on this subject. He explores all the possible ways with his extraordinary creative spirit, and he succeeds to satisfy our quench for the thirst of knowledge of this kind.
Poet Mahendra points us to see the fact that we are standing on the backbone of ‘Death’, so that our desire for life is being stirred again and again:
Death is imminent,
Life is so desired!
Although we get scared by it every now and then, yet it is acceptable, and for that ‘life’ itself is grateful to ‘Death’:
Death element / feeling
Minute by minute death-tension
Because Death’s contributions to Life are unnumbered:
Death’s made life
Transformed this world,
Into a pleasant heaven,
the meaning of love...
and the most important achievement of ‘Death’ is that it
Into higher beings
than immortal god!
This poet has seen ‘Death’ in the best possible ways, yet
he admits the impossibility to define it:
All efforts futile -
the meaning of death;
it’s very intricate difficult
He does not ignore its dark sides:
The wheel of death
He defines finely in a word:
.. A wonderful puzzle!
Poet Mahendra can establish a truth that man’s all philosophy including the idea of God revolves round ‘Death’:
If there were no death,
God wouldn’t have any existence,
would have never reconciled
with his fate!
For he is always led by this fact:
... ‘Death is imminent’!
So his idea of God is nothing but:
... a proof
of man’s helplessness
of readiness after death...
Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar equates the relation between Life and death through a fine imagery:
An unbreakable string
Tied to birth..
So he rightly poses the stoic question:
why a jubilation?
He can justify what he says regarding this by a logical fallacy:
Morning is red
Evening is red
Morning - evening are one.
Wail on birth
Wail on death
Birth-death are one...
It seems that he wants to say as one cannot detach death from life, similarly life cannot be detached from death:
Over and over again
Like the ancient Greek philosophers the poet says:
... this manifest world is the only truth...
Yet he confirms:
Death - a truth
Life - a truth
The poet gives us the key-principle to overcome death:
... Every time
With the eternal challenge
of death is welcome!
He will be
A mrityunjaya; he will be!
At the same time he makes us aware of meaningfulness of life:
isn’t a proof of
and his ‘meaningfulness’ finds its expression in humanistic approach to life:
be the motive of our living,
let’s devour materialistic hurdles
on every step.
Let’s acquire / such capabilities,
life may be
dedicated to death...
So in ‘Prayer’ poet Bhatnagar does not want any ascetic attainment, but leads the mankind in time of need:
not for immortality,
I long for
Perfect health, diseaselessness,
of human mind and body...
He shows us where ‘death’ takes place:
Shattered and disorderly life
Malady-stricken / Frustrated wounded life
eager to fall into
and the victory of life over death:
will be victorious,
fear not the wicked,
Like a Miltonic hero the poet discloses the way:
If death destroys us
strike back at it,
sing the glory of life,
strike a severe blow at
Here also revolution takes place, one has to utter these words:
That I may
unite all those
living in hell,
urge on them
for a revolt,
for a change in life!
It is only then we can realise what he says:
With a wish to live
wait for death!
He does not want the Epicurean way of living be termed as ‘true-living’:
Live / by thinking self
laugh and sing
without any concern,
eat and drink
without any worry;
should it / be termed / true living?
Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar sings paean of life, but there is something more special in his singing:
about the triumph of life
Like post-Tagorean Bengali surrealistic poet Jibanananda Das he admires the wealth of life:
I sing dauntlessly
the triumph of thru life-bud
of the dearest thing!
I sing again and again!
One may compare the words ‘again and again’ quoted above with Jibananada’s abar asiba phire (I will come again) . The words which poet Bhatnagar used are different, but the total effect is the same:
The sounds that echo
in the sky of graveyard
of the liberated-selves of carefree birds
of my life sentiments!
of my life - adorations!
Here he establishes one truth that poets from ages to ages sing life in there unique ways.
Perhaps for that reason poet Bhatnagar can romanticize ‘Death’:
(1) You’ll come —
Like a clever girl.
your this game
(2) You beautiful like the moon,
from the opposite window
One should notice that the poet attaches feminity to a beautiful object.
Poet Bhatnagar’s creativity finds its fullest expression when he uses the word ‘passing away’ instead of ‘death’:
Death might be overtaking
might be out from the body
A dreaming man
Yes, the dreaming people are active and creative, they dream before turning themselves into creativity, as Lord Vishnu sleeps and dreams before the creation of the Universe; they do not know the word ‘death’ while engrossing in their way of life. The last lines of this poem makes us thoughtful, leave us in a whirlpool of suggestions:
What does he know?
Ask those living
have covered the dead body
with a sheet of cloth!
It seems that poet Bhatnagar accepts indirectly the will of God behind death:
It is preordained that
in the lap of death
So he says to himself and at the same time to us to renounce all earthly attachments:
Do not light the memory-lamp!
He does not forget to remind us the most precious things of life, and he puts all this so masterly in the tongue of a dying-person:
O the springs of the world
O, the shining moon
The twinkling bright stars
O, the high waves of the sea!
In a way, he values most the Nature surrounding us, as
Mrityunjaya in Rabindranath Tagore’s short-story ‘The Hidden Treasure’ exclaimed: “I want sunlight, air, sky’’ etc. wanting to live.
For he knows that ultimate truth is, he makes a goodbye to an illusory world behind him:
wings of illusion,
Profuse with love
The strings of
An inextricable knot
The unrealised hopes
‘An Ascetic’ is an important poem, in the sense that the poet gives here a message to the strife - torn world we are living in:
He who sings
songs of life
at the edge of doom,
one day -
he will attain
an immortal place
by changing his shape,
Preserve this / heritage /
by making it a stupa.
The suggestion is if we sing songs of life, then there should be no hankering after life-killing desires and efforts; again the poet’s spirituality lies in humanity, and man’s religion in his ‘Kritakarma’. The poem ‘The Last Will’ can be seen as his consolation for us as well as a clarion call:
let mind be set
only on the mystery beyond death!
× × × ×
Let refinement of worship be
in the splendour of knowledge..
Here he gives more emphasis on ‘mind’ which controls all body-organs, and on ‘knowledge’, the purest of all things in the world, as we find in The Srimat Bhagavat Gita.
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar is, no doubt, an avant-garde Indian poet. Dr. D.C.Chambial excellent rendition extends the readership of
Dr. Bhatnagar’s philosophy and poetic ability. Dr. Chambial has done his job well, for his transcreation has retained all the literary qualities of the original poems - e.g. ‘the economy of linguistic expressions’, lucidity etc.
An Analytical Study
— Dr (Mrs) Jaya Lakshmi Rao V.
DEATH PERCEPTION - LIFE PERCEPTION is a sensitively rendered volume of 50 poems, originally written in Hindi. The poems retain their natural flavour to a great extent, thanks to the versatility of the well-known poet of national and international fame Dr D.C. Chambial. As the title indicates the mysterious entity of death and the magical polarity called life occupy the mind and art of Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar. The theme of death and life has ever been source of deep contemplation often verging on to obsession for creative writers from times immemorial. Yet it never lost its freshness and vigour due to the mystery that surrounds it, the magnetism it generates and the manifold wonder it evokes. Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poetry bears witness to all the above observations.
Dr Chambial kept the translation as close as the linguistic boundaries between the original Hindi and the foreign English languages have allowed. Praise is to him, who, despite the language constrictions was able to carry and convey the poetic preoccupations of the well¬ known Hindi Poet with life and death.
The volume begins with a difference. In the first poem ‘Gratitude’, the poet gleans a reason to be grateful to death. It certainly is a new perception. The poet says: “Death’s given / Man / Life-art¬efficiency / Such / Embellishment - adornment.” According to the poet, it is death that makes life beautiful and therefore desirable. Death’s imminence makes life all the more attractive. So, he offers “Gratitude / To death / Life’s gratitude.” The fact that death equals all is mourned in a poem entitled ‘The Wheel of Death / Time’. Death tramps the white radiance of life. Death is relentless, inexorable: “Before it! Stability has! No existence! Its motion! Always controls! Life and death! Earth and sky.”
Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poems are not for those who seek the romantic, who look for the sensational. They do not jingle either. There is evidently a deep contemplation, a firm conviction in his poems. Written in free verse, some of the lines remain clearly etched in the reader’s mind. Lines such as: “Invisibly / Silently / Continuously moves / This wheel of death / Uninterrupted... unchanged! ” make a mark because in spite of simple terminology the poet has used memorable imagery. When he captions a poem as ‘Wheel of Time’ (kaal chakra) , the poet is using a native metaphor. In the cultures of India, time is compared to a wheel, a wheel that is conceptualized with the elements of birth-growth (life) - death that repeat themselves ceaselessly. It is a cyclic process that is inevitable and unavoidable. So, says the poet why grieve over death and spoil one’s peace of mind? —“Life! only meaningful, / When every moment is free / From the dread of death.” Despite the scientific advancement, death is a ‘wonderful puzzle’ for the poet. He sees death as a conundrum in poems such as ‘Contemplation’ and ‘A Puzzle’. It is the fear of death that urges man to take “refuge! In God! For eternal peace..” Yet the poet firmly believes that man’s invincibility will make him see “The mystery of death / To be unmasked... revealed / Sure... some day” in ‘Conclusion’.
. In poems such as ‘Life-Death’ and ‘The Opposite’ the dividing line between the polarities of life and death are brought to focus. To the poet they are not separate but intrinsically interconnected. One cannot be without the other. They are the beginning and end of a unique cycle. Why then are feelings generated by then different? questions the poet. “Birth: Why a jubilation? / Death: Pain...? Why? ” the ironical fact however is, “Wail on birth! Wail on death! Birth-death are one.” (‘Equal’) According to the poet it is futile to think of Hell or Heaven. Suffice to know that “This manifest world the only truth / Death - a truth, / Life - a truth! ” The common everyday thought of life and death attains a special significance in the poems of Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar because of the complexity of human emotion and intellectual activity. Although the theme of death is glaring enough, we are especially made to take notice of it due to the rhythm the poet used. It successfully indicates the relative value of his individualized perception. For example in a poem entitled ‘The Philosophy of life’ the poet says that life is “ External motion / Physical vibration / Internal motion - / Life. Real death is to lose ‘internal’ motion, the spiritual death. Now we know where the ‘fuse’ lies. The poetic thought continues on to ‘Excelsior’. If - “Struggles and strifes / lead to life” then “to be inactive” is “an indication - of the approaching death, / to stop - the end of life.”
Here is a rediscovery of the Vedic observation that our life is a pilgrimage and that man is an eternal traveler on the move. Life is an adventure. There is no resting on the journey and there is no end to it either. In the Aitereya Brhmana there is hymn, which ends with the refrain: ‘Charaiveti, Charaiveti’ which means “Hence O traveler, march along, march along.” One finds an echo in “Excelsior.... excelsior! ”
Now that we do not have a key to the puzzle of death, why not we unravel the ‘mysteries of life’, which in turn equips us with the ability ‘to talk to the moon and to the stars’ thus achieving ‘meaningfulness’ of life. In other words, the poet exhorts us to keep in touch with the unseen presence of the cosmic power by its physical manifestation in various forms of nature. True, nature is our guide, friend, and philosopher. It gives according to the poet “Perfect peace of mind /... a new meaning to life.”
‘A Prayer’ is an insightful poem on the secret of leading a happy life. In the poet’s opinion happy life is an outcome of self achievement. He says: “We live for / 125 years” only when we have a “Body free from pain / Mind free from torture.” So that we live as much for ‘ourselves’ as of ‘others’ because according to the Indian thought the whole world is a family - Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. The foregone thought is entirely in opposition with the feeling that “Blind, perplexed, ignorant / Man... construes money to be supreme / Thinks pleasure all in all.” (‘A Mirage’) In ‘A Vow’ the poet depicts death as an adversary whom we the human race fight like soldiers because life is too precious to lose to “a deceitful trick of / Any adversary! ”
. ‘A Call’ is a unique poem in which the poet uses a number of sensory images to celebrate the carnival of life. In a Tagore-like lyricism, the poet hails the singers of Alakh and Sohar who play on ‘every string of the violin of heart’. Their songs are mainly meant for the ‘mentally vanquished’, to awaken those whose life turned into ‘stupor’. A number of poems expound the value attached to life, a rare gift. Poems such as ‘One day’, ‘Proved’, A Healthy Vision’, and ‘Compatibility’ sing of Shanti (peace) , victory, glory and pleasure of life. He envisages life wherein all will laugh and be merry. Death is compared to a terrorist in the poem ‘Dreadful’ who “remote controls” life - “By hiding / In invisible places.”
In ‘The Philosophy of Death’, ‘An Invitation’, ‘To the Fairy of Death ‘ and’ A Request’ there is a new challenge, a new welcome to a hail-fellow-well-met attitude to death. There is neither fear nor fascination towards humanity’s foe i.e. death. But one finds camaraderie, bonhomie, open, and candid. Death is treated as a friend, “a clever girl”, “a cohabiter” and “a neighbour.” Thus, we witness a metamorphosis in the poet’s notion of death as it passes from the stage of being the fearful and the awe-inspiring to that of a much¬-awaited welcome guest. Finally an agreeable compromise is reached. Peace at last! The pilgrim realizes his futile fencing with an invincible enemy. What cannot be cured must be endured. This endurance is not born of frustration but out of wise realization. that makes a world of difference.
In ‘Comparison’ the poet juxtaposes Shiva, the three-eyed Godhead with shava, the lifeless body. A single vowel shift from ‘i’ to ‘a’ brings in an irreplaceable difference in consciousness i.e. from spandana to jada. ‘ A Blow’ shows the futility of involvement because says the poet: “Early or late / all / in an eternal sleep have to fall / dust unto dust! ” thus after being enlightened that every one “One day / renouncing name and fair form / will be reduced / to ashes! ” (‘Preordained’) , the poet proclaims in ‘Proclamation’: “0 Death / I do accept you.../ I go / For good... for good / I go! ”
Now there is loveliness all around. Nothing but peace remains. Not, that which is a result of impotent stupor but the peace one arrives at after experiencing the vicissitudes of life, like the pe
The Victories Of Love. Book II
From Jane To Her Mother
Thank Heaven, the burthens on the heart
Are not half known till they depart!
Although I long'd, for many a year,
To love with love that casts out fear,
My Frederick's kindness frighten'd me,
And heaven seem'd less far off than he;
And in my fancy I would trace
A lady with an angel's face,
That made devotion simply debt,
Till sick with envy and regret,
And wicked grief that God should e'er
Make women, and not make them fair.
That he might love me more because
Another in his memory was,
And that my indigence might be
To him what Baby's was to me,
The chief of charms, who could have thought?
But God's wise way is to give nought
Till we with asking it are tired;
And when, indeed, the change desired
Comes, lest we give ourselves the praise,
It comes by Providence, not Grace;
And mostly our thanks for granted pray'rs
Are groans at unexpected cares.
First Baby went to heaven, you know,
And, five weeks after, Grace went, too.
Then he became more talkative,
And, stooping to my heart, would give
Signs of his love, which pleased me more
Than all the proofs he gave before;
And, in that time of our great grief,
We talk'd religion for relief;
For, though we very seldom name
Religion, we now think the same!
Oh, what a bar is thus removed
To loving and to being loved!
For no agreement really is
In anything when none's in this.
Why, Mother, once, if Frederick press'd
His wife against his hearty breast,
The interior difference seem'd to tear
My own, until I could not bear
The trouble. 'Twas a dreadful strife,
And show'd, indeed, that faith is life.
He never felt this. If he did,
I'm sure it could not have been hid;
For wives, I need not say to you,
Can feel just what their husbands do,
Without a word or look; but then
It is not so, you know, with men.
From that time many a Scripture text
Help'd me, which had, before, perplex'd.
Oh, what a wond'rous word seem'd this:
He is my head, as Christ is his!
None ever could have dared to see
In marriage such a dignity
For man, and for his wife, still less,
Such happy, happy lowliness,
Had God Himself not made it plain!
This revelation lays the rein—
If I may speak so—on the neck
Of a wife's love, takes thence the check
Of conscience, and forbids to doubt
Its measure is to be without
All measure, and a fond excess
Is here her rule of godliness.
I took him not for love but fright;
He did but ask a dreadful right.
In this was love, that he loved me
The first, who was mere poverty.
All that I know of love he taught;
And love is all I know of aught.
My merit is so small by his,
That my demerit is my bliss.
My life is hid with him in Christ,
Never thencefrom to be enticed;
And in his strength have I such rest
As when the baby on my breast
Finds what it knows not how to seek,
And, very happy, very weak,
Lies, only knowing all is well,
Pillow'd on kindness palpable.
From Lady Clitheroe To Mary Churchill
Dear Saint, I'm still at High-Hurst Park.
The house is fill'd with folks of mark.
Honoria suits a good estate
Much better than I hoped. How fate
Loads her with happiness and pride!
And such a loving lord, beside!
But between us, Sweet, everything
Has limits, and to build a wing
To this old house, when Courtholm stands
Empty upon his Berkshire lands,
And all that Honor might be near
Papa, was buying love too dear.
With twenty others, there are two
Guests here, whose names will startle you:
Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Graham!
I thought he stay'd away for shame.
He and his wife were ask'd, you know,
And would not come, four years ago.
You recollect Miss Smythe found out
Who she had been, and all about
Her people at the Powder-mill;
And how the fine Aunt tried to instil
Haut ton, and how, at last poor Jane
Had got so shy and gauche that, when
The Dockyard gentry came to sup,
She always had to be lock'd up;
And some one wrote to us and said
Her mother was a kitchen-maid.
Dear Mary, you'll be charm'd to know
It must be all a fib. But, oh,
She is the oddest little Pet
On which my eyes were ever set!
She's so outrée and natural
That, when she first arrived, we all
Wonder'd, as when a robin comes
In through the window to eat crumbs
At breakfast with us. She has sense,
Humility, and confidence;
And, save in dressing just a thought
Gayer in colours than she ought,
(To-day she looks a cross between
Gipsy and Fairy, red and green,)
She always happens to do well.
And yet one never quite can tell
What she might do or utter next.
Lord Clitheroe is much perplex'd.
Her husband, every now and then,
Looks nervous; all the other men
Are charm'd. Yet she has neither grace,
Nor one good feature in her face.
Her eyes, indeed, flame in her head,
Like very altar-fires to Fred,
Whose steps she follows everywhere
Like a tame duck, to the despair
Of Colonel Holmes, who does his part
To break her funny little heart.
Honor's enchanted. 'Tis her view
That people, if they're good and true,
And treated well, and let alone,
Will kindly take to what's their own,
And always be original,
Like children. Honor's just like all
The rest of us! But, thinking so,
'Tis well she miss'd Lord Clitheroe,
Who hates originality,
Though he puts up with it in me.
Poor Mrs. Graham has never been
To the Opera! You should have seen
The innocent way she told the Earl
She thought Plays sinful when a girl,
And now she never had a chance!
Frederick's complacent smile and glance
Towards her, show'd me, past a doubt,
Honoria had been quite cut out.
'Tis very strange; for Mrs. Graham,
Though Frederick's fancy none can blame,
Seems the last woman you'd have thought
Her lover would have ever sought.
She never reads, I find, nor goes
Anywhere; so that I suppose
She got at all she ever knew
By growing up, as kittens do.
Talking of kittens, by-the-bye,
You have more influence than I
With dear Honoria. Get her, Dear,
To be a little more severe
With those sweet Children. They've the run
Of all the place. When school was done,
Maud burst in, while the Earl was there,
With ‘Oh, Mama, do be a bear!’
Do you know, Dear, this odd wife of Fred
Adores his old Love in his stead!
She is so nice, yet, I should say,
Not quite the thing for every day.
Wonders are wearying! Felix goes
Next Sunday with her to the Close,
And you will judge.
All Wiltshire Belles here; Felix basks
Like Puss in fire-shine, when the room
Is thus aflame with female bloom.
But then she smiles when most would pout;
And so his lawless loves go out
With the last brocade. 'Tis not the same,
I fear, with Mrs. Frederick Graham.
Honoria should not have her here,—
And this you might just hint, my Dear,—
For Felix says he never saw
Such proof of what he holds for law,
That ‘beauty is love which can be seen.’
Whatever he by this may mean,
Were it not dreadful if he fell
In love with her on principle!
From Jane To Mrs. Graham
Mother, I told you how, at first,
I fear'd this visit to the Hurst.
Fred must, I felt, be so distress'd
By aught in me unlike the rest
Who come here. But I find the place
Delightful; there's such ease, and grace,
And kindness, and all seem to be
On such a high equality.
They have not got to think, you know,
How far to make the money go.
But Frederick says it's less the expense
Of money, than of sound good-sense,
Quickness to care what others feel,
And thoughts with nothing to conceal;
Which I'll teach Johnny. Mrs. Vaughan
Was waiting for us on the Lawn,
And kiss'd and call'd me ‘Cousin.’ Fred
Neglected his old friends, she said.
He laugh'd, and colour'd up at this.
She was, you know, a flame of his;
But I'm not jealous! Luncheon done,
I left him, who had just begun
To talk about the Russian War
With an old Lady, Lady Carr,—
A Countess, but I'm more afraid,
A great deal, of the Lady's Maid,—
And went with Mrs. Vaughan to see
The pictures, which appear'd to be
Of sorts of horses, clowns, and cows
Call'd Wouvermans and Cuyps and Dows.
And then she took me up, to show
Her bedroom, where, long years ago,
A Queen slept. 'Tis all tapestries
Of Cupids, Gods, and Goddesses,
And black, carved oak. A curtain'd door
Leads thence into her soft Boudoir,
Where even her husband may but come
By favour. He, too, has his room,
Kept sacred to his solitude.
Did I not think the plan was good?
She ask'd me; but I said how small
Our house was, and that, after all,
Though Frederick would not say his prayers
At night till I was safe upstairs,
I thought it wrong to be so shy
Of being good when I was by.
‘Oh, you should humour him!’ she said,
With her sweet voice and smile; and led
The way to where the children ate
Their dinner, and Miss Williams sate.
She's only Nursery-Governess,
Yet they consider her no less
Than Lord or Lady Carr, or me.
Just think how happy she must be!
The Ball-Room, with its painted sky
Where heavy angels seem to fly,
Is a dull place; its size and gloom
Make them prefer, for drawing-room,
The Library, all done up new
And comfortable, with a view
Of Salisbury Spire between the boughs.
When she had shown me through the house,
(I wish I could have let her know
That she herself was half the show;
She is so handsome, and so kind!)
She fetch'd the children, who had dined;
And, taking one in either hand,
Show'd me how all the grounds were plann'd.
The lovely garden gently slopes
To where a curious bridge of ropes
Crosses the Avon to the Park.
We rested by the stream, to mark
The brown backs of the hovering trout.
Frank tickled one, and took it out
From under a stone. We saw his owls,
And awkward Cochin-China fowls,
And shaggy pony in the croft;
And then he dragg'd us to a loft,
Where pigeons, as he push'd the door,
Fann'd clear a breadth of dusty floor,
And set us coughing. I confess
I trembled for my nice silk dress.
I cannot think how Mrs. Vaughan
Ventured with that which she had on,—
A mere white wrapper, with a few
Plain trimmings of a quiet blue,
But, oh, so pretty! Then the bell
For dinner rang. I look'd quite well
(‘Quite charming,’ were the words Fred said,)
With the new gown that I've had made.
I am so proud of Frederick.
He's so high-bred and lordly-like
With Mrs. Vaughan! He's not quite so
At home with me; but that, you know,
I can't expect, or wish. 'Twould hurt,
And seem to mock at my desert.
Not but that I'm a duteous wife
To Fred; but, in another life,
Where all are fair that have been true
I hope I shall be graceful too,
Like Mrs. Vaughan. And, now, good-bye!
That happy thought has made me cry,
And feel half sorry that my cough,
In this fine air, is leaving off.
From Frederick To Mrs. Graham
Honoria, trebly fair and mild
With added loves of lord and child,
Is else unalter'd. Years, which wrong
The rest, touch not her beauty, young
With youth which rather seems her clime,
Than aught that's relative to time.
How beyond hope was heard the prayer
I offer'd in my love's despair!
Could any, whilst there's any woe,
Be wholly blest, then she were so.
She is, and is aware of it,
Her husband's endless benefit;
But, though their daily ways reveal
The depth of private joy they feel,
'Tis not their bearing each to each
That does abroad their secret preach,
But such a lovely good-intent
To all within their government
And friendship as, 'tis well discern'd,
Each of the other must have learn'd;
For no mere dues of neighbourhood
Ever begot so blest a mood.
And fair, indeed, should be the few
God dowers with nothing else to do,
And liberal of their light, and free
To show themselves, that all may see!
For alms let poor men poorly give
The meat whereby men's bodies live;
But they of wealth are stewards wise
Whose graces are their charities.
The sunny charm about this home
Makes all to shine who thither come.
My own dear Jane has caught its grace,
And, honour'd, honours too the place.
Across the lawn I lately walk'd
Alone, and watch'd where mov'd and talk'd,
Gentle and goddess-like of air,
Honoria and some Stranger fair.
I chose a path unblest by these;
When one of the two Goddesses,
With my Wife's voice, but softer, said,
‘Will you not walk with us, dear Fred?’
She moves, indeed, the modest peer
Of all the proudest ladies here.
Unawed she talks with men who stand
Among the leaders of the land,
And women beautiful and wise,
With England's greatness in their eyes.
To high, traditional good-sense,
And knowledge ripe without pretence,
And human truth exactly hit
By quiet and conclusive wit,
Listens my little, homely Dove,
Mistakes the points and laughs for love;
And, after, stands and combs her hair,
And calls me much the wittiest there!
With reckless loyalty, dear Wife,
She lays herself about my life!
The joy I might have had of yore
I have not; for 'tis now no more,
With me, the lyric time of youth,
And sweet sensation of the truth.
Yet, past my hope or purpose bless'd,
In my chance choice let be confess'd
The tenderer Providence that rules
The fates of children and of fools!
I kiss'd the kind, warm neck that slept,
And from her side this morning stepp'd,
To bathe my brain from drowsy night
In the sharp air and golden light.
The dew, like frost, was on the pane.
The year begins, though fair, to wane.
There is a fragrance in its breath
Which is not of the flowers, but death;
And green above the ground appear
The lilies of another year.
I wander'd forth, and took my path
Among the bloomless aftermath;
And heard the steadfast robin sing
As if his own warm heart were Spring,
And watch'd him feed where, on the yew,
Hung honey'd drops of crimson dew;
And then return'd, by walls of peach,
And pear-trees bending to my reach,
And rose-beds with the roses gone,
To bright-laid breakfast. Mrs. Vaughan
Was there, none with her. I confess
I love her than of yore no less!
But she alone was loved of old;
Now love is twain, nay, manifold;
For, somehow, he whose daily life
Adjusts itself to one true wife,
Grows to a nuptial, near degree
With all that's fair and womanly.
Therefore, as more than friends, we met,
Without constraint, without regret;
The wedded yoke that each had donn'd
Seeming a sanction, not a bond.
From Mrs. Graham
Your love lacks joy, your letter says.
Yes; love requires the focal space
Of recollection or of hope,
Ere it can measure its own scope.
Too soon, too soon comes Death to show
We love more deeply than we know!
The rain, that fell upon the height
Too gently to be call'd delight,
Within the dark vale reappears
As a wild cataract of tears;
And love in life should strive to see
Sometimes what love in death would be!
Easier to love, we so should find,
It is than to be just and kind.
She's gone: shut close the coffin-lid:
What distance for another did
That death has done for her! The good,
Once gazed upon with heedless mood,
Now fills with tears the famish'd eye,
And turns all else to vanity.
'Tis sad to see, with death between,
The good we have pass'd and have not seen!
How strange appear the words of all!
The looks of those that live appal.
They are the ghosts, and check the breath:
There's no reality but death,
And hunger for some signal given
That we shall have our own in heaven.
But this the God of love lets be
A horrible uncertainty.
How great her smallest virtue seems,
How small her greatest fault! Ill dreams
Were those that foil'd with loftier grace
The homely kindness of her face.
'Twas here she sat and work'd, and there
She comb'd and kiss'd the children's hair;
Or, with one baby at her breast,
Another taught, or hush'd to rest.
Praise does the heart no more refuse
To the chief loveliness of use.
Her humblest good is hence most high
In the heavens of fond memory;
And Love says Amen to the word,
A prudent wife is from the Lord.
Her worst gown's kept, ('tis now the best,
As that in which she oftenest dress'd,)
For memory's sake more precious grown
Than she herself was for her own.
Poor child! foolish it seem'd to fly
To sobs instead of dignity,
When she was hurt. Now, more than all,
Heart-rending and angelical
That ignorance of what to do,
Bewilder'd still by wrong from you:
For what man ever yet had grace
Ne'er to abuse his power and place?
No magic of her voice or smile
Suddenly raised a fairy isle,
But fondness for her underwent
An unregarded increment,
Like that which lifts, through centuries,
The coral-reef within the seas,
Till, lo! the land where was the wave,
Alas! 'tis everywhere her grave.
From Jane To Mrs. Graham
Dear Mother, I can surely tell,
Now, that I never shall get well.
Besides the warning in my mind,
All suddenly are grown so kind.
Fred stopp'd the Doctor, yesterday,
Downstairs, and, when he went away,
Came smiling back, and sat with me,
Pale, and conversing cheerfully
About the Spring, and how my cough,
In finer weather, would leave off.
I saw it all, and told him plain
I felt no hope of Spring again.
Then he, after a word of jest,
Burst into tears upon my breast,
And own'd, when he could speak, he knew
There was a little danger, too.
This made me very weak and ill,
And while, last night, I lay quite still,
And, as he fancied, in the deep,
Exhausted rest of my short sleep,
I heard, or dream'd I heard him pray:
‘Oh, Father, take her not away!
‘Let not life's dear assurance lapse
‘Into death's agonised 'Perhaps,'
‘A hope without Thy promise, where
‘Less than assurance is despair!
‘Give me some sign, if go she must,
‘That death's not worse than dust to dust,
‘Not heaven, on whose oblivious shore
‘Joy I may have, but her no more!
‘The bitterest cross, it seems to me,
‘Of all is infidelity;
‘And so, if I may choose, I'll miss
‘The kind of heaven which comes to this.
‘If doom'd, indeed, this fever ceased,
‘To die out wholly, like a beast,
‘Forgetting all life's ill success
‘In dark and peaceful nothingness,
‘I could but say, Thy will be done;
‘For, dying thus, I were but one
‘Of seed innumerable which ne'er
‘In all the worlds shall bloom or bear.
‘I've put life past to so poor use
‘Well may'st Thou life to come refuse;
‘And justice, which the spirit contents,
‘Shall still in me all vain laments;
‘Nay, pleased, I will, while yet I live,
‘Think Thou my forfeit joy may'st give
‘To some fresh life, else unelect,
‘And heaven not feel my poor defect!
‘Only let not Thy method be
‘To make that life, and call it me;
‘Still less to sever mine in twain,
‘And tell each half to live again,
‘And count itself the whole! To die,
‘Is it love's disintegrity?
‘Answer me, 'No,' and I, with grace,
‘Will life's brief desolation face,
‘My ways, as native to the clime,
‘Adjusting to the wintry time,
‘Ev'n with a patient cheer thereof—’
He started up, hearing me cough.
Oh, Mother, now my last doubt's gone!
He likes me more than Mrs. Vaughan;
And death, which takes me from his side,
Shows me, in very deed, his bride!
From Jane To Frederick
I leave this, Dear, for you to read,
For strength and hope, when I am dead.
When Grace died, I was so perplex'd,
I could not find one helpful text;
And when, a little while before,
I saw her sobbing on the floor,
Because I told her that in heaven
She would be as the angels even,
And would not want her doll, 'tis true
A horrible fear within me grew,
That, since the preciousness of love
Went thus for nothing, mine might prove
To be no more, and heaven's bliss
Some dreadful good which is not this.
But being about to die makes clear
Many dark things. I have no fear,
Now, that my love, my grief, my joy
Is but a passion for a toy.
I cannot speak at all, I find,
The shining something in my mind,
That shows so much that, if I took
My thoughts all down, 'twould make a book.
God's Word, which lately seem'd above
The simpleness of human love,
To my death-sharpen'd hearing tells
Of little or of nothing else;
And many things I hoped were true,
When first they came, like songs, from you,
Now rise with witness past the reach
Of doubt, and I to you can teach,
As if with felt authority
And as things seen, what you taught me.
Yet how? I have no words but those
Which every one already knows:
As, ‘No man hath at any time
‘Seen God, but 'tis the love of Him
‘Made perfect, and He dwells in us,
‘If we each other love.’ Or thus,
‘My goodness misseth in extent
‘Of Thee, Lord! In the excellent
‘I know Thee; and the Saints on Earth
‘Make all my love and holy mirth.’
And further, ‘Inasmuch as ye
‘Did it to one of these, to Me
‘Ye did it, though ye nothing thought
‘Nor knew of Me, in that ye wrought.’
What shall I dread? Will God undo
Our bond, which is all others too?
And when I meet you will you say
To my reclaiming looks, ‘Away!
‘A dearer love my bosom warms
‘With higher rights and holier charms.
‘The children, whom thou here may'st see,
‘Neighbours that mingle thee and me,
‘And gaily on impartial lyres
‘Renounce the foolish filial fires
‘They felt, with 'Praise to God on high,
‘'Goodwill to all else equally;'
‘The trials, duties, service, tears;
‘The many fond, confiding years
‘Of nearness sweet with thee apart;
‘The joy of body, mind, and heart;
‘The love that grew a reckless growth,
‘Unmindful that the marriage-oath
‘To love in an eternal style
‘Meant—only for a little while:
‘Sever'd are now those bonds earth-wrought:
‘All love, not new, stands here for nought!’
Why, it seems almost wicked, Dear,
Even to utter such a fear!
Are we not ‘heirs,’ as man and wife,
‘Together of eternal life?’
Was Paradise e'er meant to fade,
To make which marriage first was made?
Neither beneath him nor above
Could man in Eden find his Love;
Yet with him in the garden walk'd
His God, and with Him mildly talk'd!
Shall the humble preference offend
In heaven, which God did there commend?
Are ‘honourable and undefiled’
The names of aught from heaven exiled?
And are we not forbid to grieve
As without hope? Does God deceive,
And call that hope which is despair,
Namely, the heaven we should not share?
Image and glory of the man,
As he of God, is woman. Can
This holy, sweet proportion die
Into a dull equality?
Are we not one flesh, yea, so far
More than the babe and mother are,
That sons are bid mothers to leave
And to their wives alone to cleave,
‘For they two are one flesh?’ But 'tis
In the flesh we rise. Our union is,
You know 'tis said, ‘great mystery.’
Great mockery, it appears to me;
Poor image of the spousal bond
Of Christ and Church, if loosed beyond
This life!—'Gainst which, and much more yet,
There's not a single word to set.
The speech to the scoffing Sadducee
Is not in point to you and me;
For how could Christ have taught such clods
That Cæsar's things are also God's?
The sort of Wife the Law could make
Might well be ‘hated’ for Love's sake,
And left, like money, land, or house;
For out of Christ is no true spouse.
I used to think it strange of Him
To make love's after-life so dim,
Or only clear by inference:
But God trusts much to common sense,
And only tells us what, without
His Word, we could not have found out.
On fleshly tables of the heart
He penn'd truth's feeling counterpart
In hopes that come to all: so, Dear,
Trust these, and be of happy cheer,
Nor think that he who has loved well
Is of all men most miserable.
There's much more yet I want to say,
But cannot now. You know my way
Of feeling strong from Twelve till Two
After my wine. I'll write to you
Daily some words, which you shall have
To break the silence of the grave.
From Jane To Frederick
You think, perhaps, ‘Ah, could she know
How much I loved her!’ Dear, I do!
And you may say, ‘Of this new awe
‘Of heart which makes her fancies law,
‘These watchful duties of despair,
‘She does not dream, she cannot care!’
Frederick, you see how false that is,
Or how could I have written this?
And, should it ever cross your mind
That, now and then, you were unkind,
You never, never were at all!
Remember that! It's natural
For one like Mr. Vaughan to come,
From a morning's useful pastime, home,
And greet, with such a courteous zest,
His handsome wife, still newly dress'd,
As if the Bird of Paradise
Should daily change her plumage thrice.
He's always well, she's always gay.
Of course! But he who toils all day,
And comes home hungry, tired, or cold,
And feels 'twould do him good to scold
His wife a little, let him trust
Her love, and say the things he must,
Till sooth'd in mind by meat and rest.
If, after that, she's well caress'd,
And told how good she is, to bear
His humour, fortune makes it fair.
Women like men to be like men;
That is, at least, just now and then.
Thus, I have nothing to forgive,
But those first years, (how could I live!)
When, though I really did behave
So stupidly, you never gave
One unkind word or look at all:
As if I was some animal
You pitied! Now, in later life,
You used me like a proper Wife.
You feel, Dear, in your present mood,
Your Jane, since she was kind and good,
A child of God, a living soul,
Was not so different, on the whole,
From Her who had a little more
Of God's best gifts: but, oh, be sure,
My dear, dear Love, to take no blame
Because you could not feel the same
Towards me, living, as when dead.
A hungry man must needs think bread
So sweet! and, only at their rise
And setting, blessings, to the eyes,
Like the sun's course, grow visible.
If you are sad, remember well,
Against delusions of despair,
That memory sees things as they were,
And not as they were misenjoy'd,
And would be still, if ought destroy'd
The glory of their hopelessness:
So that, in truth, you had me less
In days when necessary zeal
For my perfection made you feel
My faults the most, than now your love
Forgets but where it can approve.
You gain by loss, if that seem'd small
Possess'd, which, being gone, turns all
Surviving good to vanity.
Oh, Fred, this makes it sweet to die!
Say to yourself: ‘'Tis comfort yet
‘I made her that which I regret;
‘And parting might have come to pass
‘In a worse season; as it was,
‘Love an eternal temper took,
‘Dipp'd, glowing, in Death's icy brook!’
Or say, ‘On her poor feeble head
‘This might have fallen: 'tis mine instead!
‘And so great evil sets me free
‘Henceforward from calamity.
‘And, in her little children, too,
‘How much for her I yet can do!’
And grieve not for these orphans even;
For central to the love of Heaven
Is each child as each star to space.
This truth my dying love has grace
To trust with a so sure content,
I fear I seem indifferent.
You must not think a child's small heart
Cold, because it and grief soon part.
Fanny will keep them all away,
Lest you should hear them laugh and play,
Before the funeral's over. Then
I hope you'll be yourself again,
And glad, with all your soul, to find
How God thus to the sharpest wind
Suits the shorn lambs. Instruct them, Dear,
For my sake, in His love and fear.
And show how, till their journey's done,
Not to be weary they must run.
Strive not to dissipate your grief
By any lightness. True relief
Of sorrow is by sorrow brought.
And yet for sorrow's sake, you ought
To grieve with measure. Do not spend
So good a power to no good end!
Would you, indeed, have memory stay
In the heart, lock up and put away
Relics and likenesses and all
Musings, which waste what they recall.
True comfort, and the only thing
To soothe without diminishing
A prized regret, is to match here,
By a strict life, God's love severe.
Yet, after all, by nature's course,
Feeling must lose its edge and force.
Again you'll reach the desert tracts
Where only sin or duty acts.
But, if love always lit our path,
Where were the trial of our faith?
Oh, should the mournful honeymoon
Of death be over strangely soon,
And life-long resolutions, made
In grievous haste, as quickly fade,
Seeming the truth of grief to mock,
Think, Dearest, 'tis not by the clock
That sorrow goes! A month of tears
Is more than many, many years
Of common time. Shun, if you can,
However, any passionate plan.
Grieve with the heart; let not the head
Grieve on, when grief of heart is dead;
For all the powers of life defy
A superstitious constancy.
The only bond I hold you to
Is that which nothing can undo.
A man is not a young man twice;
And if, of his young years, he lies
A faithful score in one wife's breast,
She need not mind who has the rest.
In this do what you will, dear Love,
And feel quite sure that I approve.
And, should it chance as it may be,
Give her my wedding-ring from me;
And never dream that you can err
T'wards me by being good to her;
Nor let remorseful thoughts destroy
In you the kindly flowering joy
And pleasure of the natural life.
But don't forget your fond, dead Wife.
And, Frederick, should you ever be
Tempted to think your love of me
All fancy, since it drew its breath
So much more sweetly after death,
Remember that I never did
A single thing you once forbid;
All poor folk liked me; and, at the end,
Your Cousin call'd me ‘Dearest Friend!’
And, now, 'twill calm your grief to know,—
You, who once loved Honoria so,—
There's kindness, that's look'd kindly on,
Between her Emily and John.
Thus, in your children, you will wed!
And John seems so much comforted,
(Like Isaac when his mother died
And fair Rebekah was his bride),
By his new hope, for losing me!
So all is happiness, you see.
And that reminds me how, last night,
I dreamt of heaven, with great delight.
A strange, kind Lady watch'd my face,
Kiss'd me, and cried, ‘His hope found grace!’
She bade me then, in the crystal floor,
Look at myself, myself no more;
And bright within the mirror shone
Honoria's smile, and yet my own!
‘And, when you talk, I hear,’ she sigh'd,
‘How much he loved her! Many a bride
‘In heaven such countersemblance wears
‘Through what Love deem'd rejected prayers.’
She would have spoken still; but, lo,
One of a glorious troop, aglow
From some great work, towards her came,
And she so laugh'd, 'twas such a flame,
Aaron's twelve jewels seem'd to mix
With the lights of the Seven Candlesticks.
From Lady Clitheroe To Mrs. Graham
My dearest Aunt, the Wedding-day,
But for Jane's loss, and you away,
Was all a Bride from heaven could beg!
Skies bluer than the sparrow's egg,
And clearer than the cuckoo's call;
And such a sun! the flowers all
With double ardour seem'd to blow!
The very daisies were a show,
Expanded with uncommon pride,
Like little pictures of the Bride.
Your Great-Niece and your Grandson were
Perfection of a pretty pair.
How well Honoria's girls turn out,
Although they never go about!
Dear me, what trouble and expense
It took to teach mine confidence!
Hers greet mankind as I've heard say
That wild things do, where beasts of prey
Were never known, nor any men
Have met their fearless eyes till then.
Their grave, inquiring trust to find
All creatures of their simple kind
Quite disconcerts bold coxcombry,
And makes less perfect candour shy.
Ah, Mrs. Graham! people may scoff,
But how your home-kept girls go off!
How Hymen hastens to unband
The waist that ne'er felt waltzer's hand!
At last I see my Sister's right,
And I've told Maud this very night,
(But, oh, my daughters have such wills!)
To knit, and only dance quadrilles.
You say Fred never writes to you
Frankly, as once he used to do,
About himself; and you complain
He shared with none his grief for Jane.
It all comes of the foolish fright
Men feel at the word, hypocrite.
Although, when first in love, sometimes
They rave in letters, talk, and rhymes,
When once they find, as find they must.
How hard 'tis to be hourly just
To those they love, they are dumb for shame,
Where we, you see, talk on the same.
Honoria, to whose heart alone
He seems to open all his own,
At times has tears in her kind eyes,
After their private colloquies.
He's her most favour'd guest, and moves
My spleen by his impartial loves.
His pleasure has some inner spring
Depending not on anything.
Petting our Polly, none e'er smiled
More fondly on his favourite child;
Yet, playing with his own, it is
Somehow as if it were not his.
He means to go again to sea,
Now that the wedding's over. He
Will leave to Emily and John
The little ones to practise on;
And Major-domo, Mrs. Rouse,
A deal old soul from Wilton House,
Will scold the housemaids and the cook,
Till Emily has learn'd to look
A little braver than a lamb
Surprised by dogs without its dam!
Do, dear Aunt, use your influence,
And try to teach some plain good sense
To Mary. 'Tis not yet too late
To make her change her chosen state
Of single silliness. In truth,
I fancy that, with fading youth,
Her will now wavers. Yesterday,
Though, till the Bride was gone away,
Joy shone from Mary's loving heart,
I found her afterwards apart,
Hysterically sobbing. I
Knew much too well to ask her why.
This marrying of Nieces daunts
The bravest souls of maiden Aunts.
Though Sisters' children often blend
Sweetly the bonds of child and friend,
They are but reeds to rest upon.
When Emily comes back with John,
Her right to go downstairs before
Aunt Mary will but be the more
Observed if kindly waived, and how
Shall these be as they were, when now
Niece has her John, and Aunt the sense
Of her superior innocence?
Somehow, all loves, however fond,
Prove lieges of the nuptial bond;
And she who dares at this to scoff,
Finds all the rest in time drop off;
While marriage, like a mushroom-ring,
Spreads its sure circle every Spring.
She twice refused George Vane, you know;
Yet, when he died three years ago
In the Indian war, she put on gray,
And wears no colours to this day.
And she it is who charges me,
Dear Aunt, with ‘inconsistency!’
From Frederick To Honoria
Cousin, my thoughts no longer try
To cast the fashion of the sky.
Imagination can extend
Scarcely in part to comprehend
The sweetness of our common food
Ambrosial, which ingratitude
And impious inadvertence waste,
Studious to eat but not to taste.
And who can tell what's yet in store
There, but that earthly things have more
Of all that makes their inmost bliss,
And life's an image still of this,
But haply such a glorious one
As is the rainbow of the sun?
Sweet are your words, but, after all
Their mere reversal may befall
The partners of His glories who
Daily is crucified anew:
Splendid privations, martyrdoms
To which no weak remission comes,
Perpetual passion for the good
Of them that feel no gratitude,
Far circlings, as of planets' fires,
Round never-to-be-reach'd desires,
Whatever rapturously sighs
That life is love, love sacrifice.
All I am sure of heaven is this:
Howe'er the mode, I shall not miss
One true delight which I have known.
Not on the changeful earth alone
Shall loyalty remain unmoved
T'wards everything I ever loved.
So Heaven's voice calls, like Rachel's voice
To Jacob in the field, ‘Rejoice!
‘Serve on some seven more sordid years,
‘Too short for weariness or tears;
‘Serve on; then, oh, Beloved, well-tried,
‘Take me for ever as thy Bride!’
From Mary Churchill To The Dean
Charles does me honour, but 'twere vain
To reconsider now again,
And so to doubt the clear-shown truth
I sought for, and received, when youth,
Being fair, and woo'd by one whose love
Was lovely, fail'd my mind to move.
God bids them by their own will go,
Who ask again the things they know!
I grieve for my infirmity,
And ignorance of how to be
Faithful, at once, to the heavenly life,
And the fond duties of a wife.
Narrow am I and want the art
To love two things with all my heart.
Occupied singly in His search,
Who, in the Mysteries of the Church,
Returns, and calls them Clouds of Heaven,
I tread a road, straight, hard, and even;
But fear to wander all confused,
By two-fold fealty abused.
Either should I the one forget,
Or scantly pay the other's debt.
You bid me, Father, count the cost.
I have; and all that must be lost
I feel as only woman can.
To make the heart's wealth of some man,
And through the untender world to move,
Wrapt safe in his superior love,
How sweet! How sweet the household round
Of duties, and their narrow bound,
So plain, that to transgress were hard,
Yet full of manifest reward!
The charities not marr'd, like mine,
With chance of thwarting laws divine;
The world's regards and just delight
In one that's clearly, kindly right,
How sweet! Dear Father, I endure,
Not without sharp regret, be sure,
To give up such glad certainty,
For what, perhaps, may never be.
For nothing of my state I know,
But that t'ward heaven I seem to go,
As one who fondly landward hies
Along a deck that seaward flies.
With every year, meantime, some grace
Of earthly happiness gives place
To humbling ills, the very charms
Of youth being counted, henceforth, harms:
To blush already seems absurd;
Nor know I whether I should herd
With girls or wives, or sadlier balk
Maids' merriment or matrons' talk.
But strait's the gate of life! O'er late,
Besides, 'twere now to change my fate:
For flowers and fruit of love to form,
It must be Spring as well as warm.
The world's delight my soul dejects,
Revenging all my disrespects
Of old, with incapacity
To chime with even its harmless glee,
Which sounds, from fields beyond my range,
Like fairies' music, thin and strange.
With something like remorse, I grant
The world has beauty which I want;
And if, instead of judging it,
I at its Council chance to sit,
Or at its gay and order'd Feast,
My place seems lower than the least.
The conscience of the life to be
Smites me with inefficiency,
And makes me all unfit to bless
With comfortable earthliness
The rest-desiring brain of man.
Finally, then, I fix my plan
To dwell with Him that dwells apart
In the highest heaven and lowliest heart;
Nor will I, to my utter loss,
Look to pluck roses from the Cross.
As for the good of human love,
'Twere countercheck almost enough
To think that one must die before
The other; and perhaps 'tis more
In love's last interest to do
Nought the least contrary thereto,
Than to be blest, and be unjust,
Or suffer injustice; as they must,
Without a miracle, whose pact
Compels to mutual life and act,
Whether love shines, or darkness sleeps
Cold on the spirit's changeful deeps.
Enough if, to my earthly share,
Fall gleams that keep me from despair.
Happy the things we here discern;
More happy those for which we yearn;
But measurelessly happy above
All else are those we guess not of!
From Felix To Honoria
Dearest, my Love and Wife, 'tis long
Ago I closed the unfinish'd song
Which never could be finish'd; nor
Will ever Poet utter more
Of love than I did, watching well
To lure to speech the unspeakable!
‘Why, having won her, do I woo?’
That final strain to the last height flew
Of written joy, which wants the smile
And voice that are, indeed, the while
They last, the very things you speak,
Honoria, who mak'st music weak
With ways that say, ‘Shall I not be
‘As kind to all as Heaven to me?’
And yet, ah, twenty-fold my Bride!
Rising, this twentieth festal-tide,
You still soft sleeping, on this day
Of days, some words I long to say,
Some words superfluously sweet
Of fresh assurance, thus to greet
Your waking eyes, which never grow
Weary of telling what I know
So well, yet only well enough
To wish for further news thereof.
Here, in this early autumn dawn,
By windows opening on the lawn,
Where sunshine seems asleep, though bright,
And shadows yet are sharp with night,
And, further on, the wealthy wheat
Bends in a golden drowse, how sweet
To sit and cast my careless looks
Around my walls of well-read books,
Wherein is all that stands redeem'd
From time's huge wreck, all men have dream'd
Of truth, and all by poets known
Of feeling, and in weak sort shown,
And, turning to my heart again,
To find I have what makes them vain,
The thanksgiving mind, which wisdom sums,
And you, whereby it freshly comes
As on that morning, (can there be
Twenty-two years 'twixt it and me?)
When, thrill'd with hopeful love I rose
And came in haste to Sarum Close,
Past many a homestead slumbering white
In lonely and pathetic light,
Merely to fancy which drawn blind
Of thirteen had my Love behind,
And in her sacred neighbourhood
To feel that sweet scorn of all good
But her, which let the wise forfend
When wisdom learns to comprehend!
Dearest, as each returning May
I see the season new and gay
With new joy and astonishment,
And Nature's infinite ostent
Of lovely flowers in wood and mead,
That weet not whether any heed,
So see I, daily wondering, you,
And worship with a passion new
The Heaven that visibly allows
Its grace to go about my house,
The partial Heaven, that, though I err
And mortal am, gave all to her
Who gave herself to me. Yet I
Boldly thank Heaven, (and so defy
The beggarly soul'd humbleness
Which fears God's bounty to confess,)
That I was fashion'd with a mind
Seeming for this great gift design'd,
So naturally it moved above
All sordid contraries of love,
Strengthen'd in youth with discipline
Of light, to follow the divine
Vision, (which ever to the dark
Is such a plague as was the ark
In Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron,) still
Discerning with the docile will
Which comes of full persuaded thought,
That intimacy in love is nought
Without pure reverence, whereas this,
In tearfullest banishment, is bliss.
And so, dearest Honoria, I
Have never learn'd the weary sigh
Of those that to their love-feasts went,
Fed, and forgot the Sacrament;
And not a trifle now occurs
But sweet initiation stirs
Of new-discover'd joy, and lends
To feeling change that never ends;
And duties, which the many irk,
Are made all wages and no work.
How sing of such things save to her,
Love's self, so love's interpreter?
How the supreme rewards confess
Which crown the austere voluptuousness
Of heart, that earns, in midst of wealth,
The appetite of want and health,
Relinquishes the pomp of life
And beauty to the pleasant Wife
At home, and does all joy despise
As out of place but in her eyes?
How praise the years and gravity
That make each favour seem to be
A lovelier weakness for her lord?
And, ah, how find the tender word
To tell aright of love that glows
The fairer for the fading rose?
Of frailty which can weight the arm
To lean with thrice its girlish charm?
Of grace which, like this autumn day,
Is not the sad one of decay,
Yet one whose pale brow pondereth
The far-off majesty of death?
How tell the crowd, whom passion rends,
That love grows mild as it ascends?
That joy's most high and distant mood
Is lost, not found in dancing blood;
Albeit kind acts and smiling eyes,
And all those fond realities
Which are love's words, in us mean more
Delight than twenty years before?
How, Dearest, finish, without wrong
To the speechless heart, the unfinish'd song,
Its high, eventful passages
Consisting, say, of things like these:—
One morning, contrary to law,
Which, for the most, we held in awe,
Commanding either not to intrude
On the other's place of solitude
Or solitary mind, for fear
Of coming there when God was near,
And finding so what should be known
To Him who is merciful alone,
And views the working ferment base
Of waking flesh and sleeping grace,
Not as we view, our kindness check'd
By likeness of our own defect,
I, venturing to her room, because
(Mark the excuse!) my Birthday 'twas,
Saw, here across a careless chair,
A ball-dress flung, as light as air,
And, here, beside a silken couch,
Pillows which did the pressure vouch
Of pious knees, (sweet piety!
Of goodness made and charity,
If gay looks told the heart's glad sense,
Much rather than of penitence,)
And, on the couch, an open book,
And written list—I did not look,
Yet just in her clear writing caught:—
‘Habitual faults of life and thought
‘Which most I need deliverance from.’
I turn'd aside, and saw her come
Adown the filbert-shaded way,
Beautified with her usual gay
Hypocrisy of perfectness,
Which made her heart, and mine no less,
So happy! And she cried to me,
‘You lose by breaking rules, you see!
‘Your Birthday treat is now half-gone
‘Of seeing my new ball-dress on.’
And, meeting so my lovely Wife,
A passing pang, to think that life
Was mortal, when I saw her laugh,
Shaped in my mind this epitaph:
‘Faults had she, child of Adam's stem,
‘But only Heaven knew of them.’
For many a dreadful day,
In sea-side lodgings sick she lay,
Noteless of love, nor seem'd to hear
The sea, on one side, thundering near,
Nor, on the other, the loud Ball
Held nightly in the public hall;
Nor vex'd they my short slumbers, though
I woke up if she breathed too low.
Thus, for three months, with terrors rife,
The pending of her precious life
I watch'd o'er; and the danger, at last,
The kind Physician said, was past.
Howbeit, for seven harsh weeks the East
Breathed witheringly, and Spring's growth ceased,
And so she only did not die;
Until the bright and blighting sky
Changed into cloud, and the sick flowers
Remember'd their perfumes, and showers
Of warm, small rain refreshing flew
Before the South, and the Park grew,
In three nights, thick with green. Then she
Revived, no less than flower and tree,
In the mild air, and, the fourth day,
Look'd supernaturally gay
With large, thanksgiving eyes, that shone,
The while I tied her bonnet on,
So that I led her to the glass,
And bade her see how fair she was,
And how love visibly could shine.
Profuse of hers, desiring mine,
And mindful I had loved her most
When beauty seem'd a vanish'd boast,
She laugh'd. I press'd her then to me,
Nothing but soft humility;
Nor e'er enhanced she with such charms
Her acquiescence in my arms.
And, by her sweet love-weakness made
Courageous, powerful, and glad,
In a clear illustration high
Of heavenly affection, I
Perceived that utter love is all
The same as to be rational,
And that the mind and heart of love,
Which think they cannot do enough,
Are truly the everlasting doors
Wherethrough, all unpetition'd, pours
The eternal pleasance. Wherefore we
Had innermost tranquillity,
And breathed one life with such a sense
Of friendship and of confidence,
That, recollecting the sure word:
‘If two of you are in accord,
‘On earth, as touching any boon
‘Which ye shall ask, it shall be done
‘In heaven,’ we ask'd that heaven's bliss
Might ne'er be any less than this;
And, for that hour, we seem'd to have
The secret of the joy we gave.
How sing of such things, save to her,
Love's self, so love's interpreter?
How read from such a homely page
In the ear of this unhomely age?
'Tis now as when the Prophet cried:
‘The nation hast Thou multiplied,
‘But Thou hast not increased the joy!’
And yet, ere wrath or rot destroy
Of England's state the ruin fair,
Oh, might I so its charm declare,
That, in new Lands, in far-off years,
Delighted he should cry that hears:
‘Great is the Land that somewhat best
‘Works, to the wonder of the rest!
‘We, in our day, have better done
‘This thing or that than any one;
‘And who but, still admiring, sees
‘How excellent for images
‘Was Greece, for laws how wise was Rome;
‘But read this Poet, and say if home
‘And private love did e'er so smile
‘As in that ancient English isle!’
From Lady Clitheroe To Emily Graham
My dearest Niece, I'm charm'd to hear
The scenery's fine at Windermere,
And glad a six-weeks' wife defers
In the least to wisdom not yet hers.
But, Child, I've no advice to give!
Rules only make it hard to live.
And where's the good of having been
Well taught from seven to seventeen,
If, married, you may not leave off,
And say, at last, ‘I'm good enough!’
Weeding out folly, still leave some.
It gives both lightness and aplomb.
We know, however wise by rule,
Woman is still by nature fool;
And men have sense to like her all
The more when she is natural.
'Tis true that, if we choose, we can
Mock to a miracle the man;
But iron in the fire red hot,
Though 'tis the heat, the fire 'tis not:
And who, for such a feint, would pledge
The babe's and woman's privilege,
No duties and a thousand rights?
Besides, defect love's flow incites,
As water in a well will run
Only the while 'tis drawn upon.
‘Point de culte sans mystère,’ you say,
‘And what if that should die away?’
Child, never fear that either could
Pull from Saint Cupid's face the hood.
The follies natural to each
Surpass the other's moral reach.
Just think how men, with sword and gun,
Will really fight, and never run;
And all in sport: they would have died,
For sixpence more, on the other side!
A woman's heart must ever warm
At such odd ways: and so we charm
By strangeness which, the more they mark,
The more men get into the dark.
The marvel, by familiar life,
Grows, and attaches to the wife
By whom it grows. Thus, silly Girl,
To John you'll always be the pearl
In the oyster of the universe;
And, though in time he'll treat you worse,
He'll love you more, you need not doubt,
And never, never find you out!
My Dear, I know that dreadful thought
That you've been kinder than you ought.
It almost makes you hate him! Yet
'Tis wonderful how men forget,
And how a merciful Providence
Deprives our husbands of all sense
Of kindness past, and makes them deem
We always were what now we seem.
For their own good we must, you know,
However plain the way we go,
Still make it strange with stratagem;
And instinct tells us that, to them,
'Tis always right to bate their price.
Yet I must say they're rather nice,
And, oh, so easily taken in
To cheat them almost seems a sin!
And, Dearest, 'twould be most unfair
To John your feelings to compare
With his, or any man's; for she
Who loves at all loves always; he,
Who loves far more, loves yet by fits,
And when the wayward wind remits
To blow, his feelings faint and drop
Like forge-flames when the bellows stop.
Such things don't trouble you at all
When once you know they're natural.
My love to John; and, pray, my Dear,
Don't let me see you for a year;
Unless, indeed, ere then you've learn'd
That Beauties wed are blossoms turn'd
To unripe codlings, meant to dwell
In modest shadow hidden well,
Till this green stage again permute
To glow of flowers with good of fruit.
I will not have my patience tried
By your absurd new-married pride,
That scorns the world's slow-gather'd sense,
Ties up the hands of Providence,
Rules babes, before there's hope of one,
Better than mothers e'er have done,
And, for your poor particular,
Neglects delights and graces far
Beyond your crude and thin conceit.
Age has romance almost as sweet
And much more generous than this
Of yours and John's. With all the bliss
Of the evenings when you coo'd with him,
And upset home for your sole whim,
You might have envied, were you wise,
The tears within your Mother's eyes,
Which, I dare say, you did not see.
But let that pass! Yours yet will be,
I hope, as happy, kind, and true
As lives which now seem void to you.
Have you not seen shop-painters paste
Their gold in sheets, then rub to waste
Full half, and, lo, you read the name?
Well, Time, my Dear, does much the same
With this unmeaning glare of love.
But, though you yet may much improve,
In marriage, be it still confess'd,
There's little merit at the best.
Some half-a-dozen lives, indeed,
Which else would not have had the need,
Get food and nurture, as the price
Of antedated Paradise;
But what's that to the varied want
Succour'd by Mary, your dear Aunt,
Who put the bridal crown thrice by,
For that of which virginity,
So used, has hope? She sends her love,
As usual with a proof thereof—
Papa's discourse, which you, no doubt,
Heard none of, neatly copied out
Whilst we were dancing. All are well,
Adieu, for there's the Luncheon Bell.
The Wedding Sermon
The truths of Love are like the sea
For clearness and for mystery.
Of that sweet love which, startling, wakes
Maiden and Youth, and mostly breaks
The word of promise to the ear,
But keeps it, after many a year,
To the full spirit, how shall I speak?
My memory with age is weak,
And I for hopes do oft suspect
The things I seem to recollect.
Yet who but must remember well
'Twas this made heaven intelligible
As motive, though 'twas small the power
The heart might have, for even an hour,
To hold possession of the height
Of nameless pathos and delight!
In Godhead rise, thither flow back
All loves, which, as they keep or lack,
In their return, the course assign'd,
Are virtue or sin. Love's every kind,
Lofty or low, of spirit or sense,
Desire is, or benevolence.
He who is fairer, better, higher
Than all His works, claims all desire,
And in His Poor, His Proxies, asks
Our whole benevolence: He tasks,
Howbeit, His People by their powers;
And if, my Children, you, for hours,
Daily, untortur'd in the heart,
Can worship, and time's other part
Give, without rough recoils of sense,
To the claims ingrate of indigence,
Happy are you, and fit to be
Wrought to rare heights of sanctity,
For the humble to grow humbler at.
But if the flying spirit falls flat,
After the modest spell of prayer
That saves the day from sin and care,
And the upward eye a void descries,
And praises are hypocrisies,
And, in the soul, o'erstrain'd for grace,
A godless anguish grows apace;
Or, if impartial charity
Seems, in the act, a sordid lie,
Do not infer you cannot please
God, or that He His promises
Postpones, but be content to love
No more than He accounts enough.
Account them poor enough who want
Any good thing which you can grant;
And fathom well the depths of life
In loves of Husband and of Wife,
Child, Mother, Father; simple keys
To what cold faith calls mysteries.
The love of marriage claims, above
All other kinds, the name of love,
As perfectest, though not so high
As love which Heaven with single eye
Considers. Equal and entire,
Therein benevolence, desire,
Elsewhere ill-join'd or found apart,
Become the pulses of one heart,
Which now contracts, and now dilates,
And, both to the height exalting, mates
Self-seeking to self-sacrifice.
Nay, in its subtle paradise
(When purest) this one love unites
All modes of these two opposites,
All balanced in accord so rich
Who may determine which is which?
Chiefly God's Love does in it live,
And nowhere else so sensitive;
For each is all that the other's eye,
In the vague vast of Deity,
Can comprehend and so contain
As still to touch and ne'er to strain
The fragile nerves of joy. And then
'Tis such a wise goodwill to men
And politic economy
As in a prosperous State we see,
Where every plot of common land
Is yielded to some private hand
To fence about and cultivate.
Does narrowness its praise abate?
Nay, the infinite of man is found
But in the beating of its bound,
And, if a brook its banks o'erpass,
'Tis not a sea, but a morass.
No giddiest hope, no wildest guess
Of Love's most innocent loftiness
Had dared to dream of its own worth,
Till Heaven's bold sun-gleam lit the earth.
Christ's marriage with the Church is more,
My Children, than a metaphor.
The heaven of heavens is symbol'd where
The torch of Psyche flash'd despair.
But here I speak of heights, and heights
Are hardly scaled. The best delights
Of even this homeliest passion, are
In the most perfect souls so rare,
That they who feel them are as men
Sailing the Southern ocean, when,
At midnight, they look up, and eye
The starry Cross, and a strange sky
Of brighter stars; and sad thoughts come
To each how far he is from home.
Love's inmost nuptial sweetness see
In the doctrine of virginity!
Could lovers, at their dear wish, blend,
'Twould kill the bliss which they intend;
For joy is love's obedience
Against the law of natural sense;
And those perpetual yearnings sweet
Of lives which dream that they can meet
Are given that lovers never may
Be without sacrifice to lay
On the high altar of true love,
With tears of vestal joy. To move
Frantic, like comets to our bliss,
Forgetting that we always miss,
And so to seek and fly the sun,
By turns, around which love should run,
Perverts the ineffable delight
Of service guerdon'd with full sight
And pathos of a hopeless want,
To an unreal victory's vaunt,
And plaint of an unreal defeat.
Yet no less dangerous misconceit
May also be of the virgin will,
Whose goal is nuptial blessing still,
And whose true being doth subsist,
There where the outward forms are miss'd,
In those who learn and keep the sense
Divine of ‘due benevolence,’
Seeking for aye, without alloy
Of selfish thought, another's joy,
And finding in degrees unknown
That which in act they shunn'd, their own.
For all delights of earthly love
Are shadows of the heavens, and move
As other shadows do; they flee
From him that follows them; and he
Who flies, for ever finds his feet
Embraced by their pursuings sweet.
Then, even in love humane, do I
Not counsel aspirations high,
So much as sweet and regular
Use of the good in which we are.
As when a man along the ways
Walks, and a sudden music plays,
His step unchanged, he steps in time,
So let your Grace with Nature chime.
Her primal forces burst, like straws,
The bonds of uncongenial laws.
Right life is glad as well as just,
And, rooted strong in ‘This I must,’
It bears aloft the blossom gay
And zephyr-toss'd, of ‘This I may;’
Whereby the complex heavens rejoice
In fruits of uncommanded cho
'TO-DAY thou girdest up thy loins thyself,
And goest where thou wouldest: presently
Others shall gird thee,' said the Lord, 'to go
Where thou would'st not.' He spoke to Peter thus,
To signify the death which he should die
When crucified head downwards.
If He spoke
To Peter then, He speaks to us the same;
The word suits many different martyrdoms,
And signifies a multiform of death,
Although we scarcely die apostles, we,
And have mislaid the keys of heaven and earth.
For tis not in mere death that men die most;
And, after our first girding of the loins
In youth's fine linen and fair broidery,
To run up hill and meet the rising sun,
We are apt to sit tired, patient as a fool,
While others gird us with the violent bands
Of social figments, feints, and formalisms,
Reversing our straight nature, lifting up
Our base needs, keeping down our lofty thoughts,
Head downward on the cross-sticks of the world.
Yet He can pluck us from the shameful cross.
God, set our feet low and our forehead high,
And show us how a man was made to walk!
Leave the lamp, Susan, and go up to bed.
The room does very well; I have to write
Beyond the stroke of midnight. Get away;
Your steps, for ever buzzing in the room,
Tease me like gnats. Ah, letters! throw them down
At once, as I must have them, to be sure,
Whether I bid you never bring me such
At such an hour, or bid you. No excuse.
You choose to bring them, as I choose perhaps
To throw them in the fire. Now, get to bed,
And dream, if possible, I am not cross.
Why what a pettish, petty thing I grow,–
A mere, mere woman,–a mere flaccid nerve,-
A kerchief left out all night in the rain,
Turned soft so,–overtasked and overstrained
And overlived in this close London life!
And yet I should be stronger.
Your letters, poor Aurora! for they stare
With red seals from the table, saying each,
'Here's something that you know not.' Out alas,
'Tis scarcely that the world's more good and wise
Or even straighter and more consequent
Since yesterday at this time–yet, again,
If but one angel spoke from Ararat,
I should be very sorry not to hear:
So open all the letters! let me read.
Blanche Ord, the writer in the 'Lady's Fan,'
Requests my judgment on . . that, afterwards.
Kate Ward desires the model of my cloak,
And signs, 'Elisha to you.' Pringle Sharpe
Presents his work on 'Social Conduct,' . . craves
A little money for his pressing debts . .
From me, who scarce have money for my needs,–
Art's fiery chariot which we journey in
Being apt to singe our singing-robes to holes,
Although you ask me for my cloak, Kate Ward!
Here's Rudgely knows it,–editor and scribe–
He's 'forced to marry where his heart is not,
Because the purse lacks where he lost his heart.'
Ah,–lost it because no one picked it up!
That's really loss! (and passable impudence.)
My critic Hammond flatters prettily,
And wants another volume like the last.
My critic Belfair wants another book
Entirely different, which will sell, (and live?)
A striking book, yet not a startling book,
The public blames originalities.
(You must not pump spring-water unawares
Upon a gracious public, full of nerves–)
Good things, not subtle, new yet orthodox,
As easy reading as the dog-eared page
That's fingered by said public, fifty years,
Since first taught spelling by its grandmother,
And yet a revelation in some sort:
That's hard, my critic, Belfair! So–what next?
My critic Stokes objects to abstract thoughts;
'Call a man, John, a woman, Joan,' says he,
'And do not prate so of humanities:'
Whereat I call my critic, simply Stokes.
My critic Jobson recommends more mirth,
Because a cheerful genius suits the times,
And all true poets laugh unquenchably
Like Shakspeare and the gods. That's very hard,
The gods may laugh, and Shakspeare; Dante smiled
With such a needy heart on two pale lips,
We cry, 'Weep rather, Dante.' Poems are
Men, if true poems: and who dares exclaim
At any man's door, 'Here, 'tis probable
The thunder fell last week, and killed a wife,
And scared a sickly husband–what of that?
Get up, be merry, shout, and clap your hands,
Because a cheerful genius suits the times–'?
None says so to the man,–and why indeed
Should any to the poem? A ninth seal;
The apocalypse is drawing to a close.
Ha,–this from Vincent Carrington,–'Dear friend,
I want good counsel. Will you lend me wings
To raise me to the subject, in a sketch
I'll bring to-morrow–may I? at eleven?
A poet's only born to turn to use;
So save you! for the world . . and Carrington.'
'(Writ after.) Have you heard of Romney Leigh,
Beyond what's said of him in newspapers,
His phalansteries there, his speeches here,
His pamphlets, pleas, and statements, everywhere?
He dropped me long ago; but no one drops
A golden apple–though, indeed, one day,
You hinted that, but jested. Well, at least,
You know Lord Howe, who sees him . . whom he sees,
And you see, and I hate to see,–for Howe
Stands high upon the brink of theories,
Observes the swimmers, and cries 'Very fine,'
But keeps dry linen equally,–unlike
That gallant breaster, Romney. Strange it is,
Such sudden madness, seizing a young man,
To make earth over again,–while I'm content
To make the pictures. Let me bring the sketch.
A tiptoe Danae, overbold and hot:
Both arms a-flame to meet her wishing Jove
Halfway, and burn him faster down; the face
And breasts upturned and straining, the loose locks
All glowing with the anticipated gold.
Or here's another on the self-same theme.
She lies here–flat upon her prison-floor,
The long hair swathed about her to the heel,
Like wet sea-weed. You dimly see her through
The glittering haze of that prodigious rain,
Half blotted out of nature by a love
As heavy as fate. I'll bring you either sketch.
I think, myself, the second indicates
More passion. '
Surely. Self is put away,
And calm with abdication. She is Jove,
And no more Danae–greater thus. Perhaps
The painter symbolises unawares
Two states of the recipient artist-soul;
One, forward, personal, wanting reverence,
Because aspiring only. We'll be calm,
And know that, when indeed our Joves come down.
We all turn stiller than we have ever been.
Kind Vincent Carrington. I'll let him come.
He talks of Florence,–and may say a word
Of something as it chanced seven years ago,–
A hedgehog in the path, or a lame bird,
In those green country walks, in that good time,
When certainly I was so miserable . .
I seem to have missed a blessing ever since.
The music soars within the little lark,
And the lark soars. It is not thus with men.
We do not make our places with our strains,–
Content, while they rise, to remain behind,
Alone on earth instead of so in heaven.
No matter–I bear on my broken tale.
When Romney Leigh and I had parted thus,
I took a chamber up three flights of stairs
Not far from being as steep as some larks climb,
And, in a certain house in Kensington,
Three years I lived and worked. Get leave to work
In this world,–'tis the best you get at all;
For God, in cursing, gives us better gifts
Than men in benediction. God says, 'Sweat
For foreheads;' men say 'crowns;' and so we are crowned,
Ay, gashed by some tormenting circle of steel
Which snaps with a secret spring. Get work; get work;
Be sure 'tis better than what you work to get.
So, happy and unafraid of solitude,
I worked the short days out,–and watched the sun
On lurid morns or monstrous afternoons,
Like some Druidic idol's fiery brass,
With fixed unflickering outline of dead heat,
In which the blood of wretches pent inside
Seemed oozing forth to incarnadine the air,–
Push out through fog with his dilated disk,
And startle the slant roofs and chimney-pots
With splashes of fierce colour. Or I saw
Fog only, the great tawny weltering fog,
Involve the passive city, strangle it
Alive, and draw it off into the void,
Spires, bridges, streets, and squares, as if a sponge
Had wiped out London,–or as noon and night
Had clapped together and utterly struck out
The intermediate time, undoing themselves
In the act. Your city poets see such things,
Not despicable. Mountains of the south,
When, drunk and mad with elemental wines,
They rend the seamless mist and stand up bare,
Make fewer singers, haply. No one sings,
Descending Sinai; on Parnassus mount,
You take a mule to climb, and not a muse,
Except in fable and figure: forests chant
Their anthems to themselves, and leave you dumb.
But sit in London, at the day's decline,
And view the city perish in the mist
Like Pharaoh's armaments in the deep Red Sea,–
The chariots, horsemen, footmen, all the host,
Sucked down and choked to silence–then, surprised
By a sudden sense of vision and of tune,
You feel as conquerors though you did not fight,
And you and Israel's other singing girls,
Ay, Miriam with them, sing the song you choose.
I worked with patience which means almost power
I did some excellent things indifferently,
Some bad things excellently. Both were praised,
The latter loudest. And by such a time
That I myself had set them down as sins
Scarce worth the price of sackcloth, week by week,
Arrived some letter through the sedulous post,
Like these I've read, and yet dissimilar,
With pretty maiden seals,–initials twined
Of lilies, or a heart marked Emily,
(Convicting Emily of being all heart);
Or rarer tokens from young bachelors,
Who wrote from college (with the same goosequill,
Suppose, they had been just plucked of) and a snatch
From Horace, 'Collegisse juvat,' set
Upon the first page. Many a letter signed
Or unsigned, showing the writers at eighteen
Had lived too long, though every muse should help
The daylight, holding candles,–compliments,
To smile or sigh at. Such could pass with me
No more than coins from Moscow circulate
At Paris. Would ten rubles buy a tag
Of ribbon on the boulevard, worth a sou?
I smiled that all this youth should love me,–sighed
That such a love could scarcely raise them up
To love what was more worthy than myself;
Then sighed again, again, less generously,
To think the very love they lavished so,
Proved me inferior. The strong loved me not,
And he . . my cousin Romney . . did not write.
I felt the silent finger of his scorn
Prick every bubble of my frivolous fame
As my breath blew it, and resolve it back
To the air it came from. Oh, I justified
The measure he had taken of my height:
The thing was plain–he was not wrong a line;
I played at art, made thrusts with a toy-sword,
Amused the lads and maidens.
Came a sigh
Deep, hoarse with resolution,–I would work
To better ends, or play in earnest. 'Heavens,
I think I should be almost popular
If this went on!'–I ripped my verses up,
And found no blood upon the rapier's point:
The heart in them was just an embryo's heart,
Which never yet had beat, that it should die:
Just gasps of make-believe galvanic life;
Mere tones, inorganised to any tune.
And yet I felt it in me where it burnt,
Like those hot fire-seeds of creation held
In Jove's clenched palm before the worlds were sown;
But I–I was not Juno even! my hand
Was shut in weak convulsion, woman's ill,
And when I yearned to loose a finger–lo,
The nerve revolted. 'Tis the same even now:
This hand may never, haply, open large,
Before the spark is quenched, or the palm charred,
To prove the power not else than by the pain.
It burns, it burnt–my whole life burnt with it,
And light, not sunlight and not torchlight, flashed
My steps out through the slow and difficult road.
I had grown distrustful of too forward Springs,
The season's books in drear significance
Of morals, dropping round me. Lively books?
The ash has livelier verdure than the yew;
And yet the yew's green longer, and alone
Found worthy of the holy Christmas time.
We'll plant more yews if possible, albeit
We plant the graveyards with them.
Day and night
I worked my rhythmic thought, and furrowed up
Both watch and slumber with long lines of life
Which did not suit their season. The rose fell
From either cheek, my eyes globed luminous
Through orbits of blue shadow, and my pulse
Would shudder along the purple-veined wrist
Like a shot bird. Youth's stern, set face to face
With youth's ideal: and when people came
And said, 'You work too much, you are looking ill,'
I smiled for pity of them who pitied me,
And thought I should be better soon perhaps
For those ill looks. Observe–' I,' means in youth
Just I . . the conscious and eternal soul
With all its ends,–and not the outside life,
The parcel-man, the doublet of the flesh,
The so much liver, lung, integument,
Which make the sum of 'I' hereafter, when
World-talkers talk of doing well or ill.
I prosper, if I gain a step, although
A nail then pierced my foot: although my brain
Embracing any truth, froze paralysed,
I prosper. I but change my instrument;
I break the spade off, digging deep for gold,
And catch the mattock up.
I worked on, on.
Through all the bristling fence of nights and days
Which hedges time in from the eternities,
I struggled, . . never stopped to note the stakes
Which hurt me in my course. The midnight oil
Would stink sometimes; there came some vulgar needs:
I had to live, that therefore I might work.
And, being but poor, I was constrained, for life,
To work with one hand for the booksellers,
While working with the other for myself
And art. You swim with feet as well as hands
Or make small way. I apprehended this,–
In England, no one lives by verse that lives;
And, apprehending, I resolved by prose
To make a space to sphere my living verse.
I wrote for cyclopædias, magazines,
And weekly papers, holding up my name
To keep it from the mud. I learnt the use
Of the editorial 'we' in a review,
As courtly ladies the fine trick of trains,
And swept it grandly through the open doors
As if one could not pass through doors at all
Save so encumbered. I wrote tales beside,
Carved many an article on cherry-stones
To suit light readers,–something in the lines
Revealing, it was said, the mallet-hand,
But that, I'll never vouch for. What you do
For bread, will taste of common grain, not grapes,
Although you have a vineyard in Champagne,–
Much less in Nephelococcygia,
As mine was, peradventure.
For just so many days, just breathing room
For body and verse, I stood up straight and worked
My veritable work. And as the soul
Which grows within a child, makes the child grow,–
Or as the fiery sap, the touch from God,
Careering through a tree, dilates the bark,
And roughs with scale and knob, before it strikes
The summer foliage out in a green flame–
So life, in deepening with me, deepened all
The course I took, the work I did. Indeed,
The academic law convinced of sin;
The critics cried out on the falling off
Regretting the first manner. But I felt
My heart's life throbbing in my verse to show
It lived, it also–certes incomplete,
Disordered with all Adam in the blood,
But even its very tumours, warts, and wens,
Still organised by, and implying life.
A lady called upon me on such a day.
She had the low voice of your English dames,
Unused, it seems, to need rise half a note
To catch attention,–and their quiet mood,
As if they lived too high above the earth
For that to put them out in anything:
So gentle, because verily so proud;
So wary and afeared of hurting you,
By no means that you are not really vile,
But that they would not touch you with their foot
To push you to your place; so self-possessed
Yet gracious and conciliating, it takes
An effort in their presence to speak truth:
You know the sort of woman,–brilliant stuff,
And out of nature. 'Lady Waldemar.'
She said her name quite simply, as if it meant
Not much indeed, but something,–took my hands,
And smiled, as if her smile could help my case,
And dropped her eyes on me, and let them melt.
'Is this,' she said, 'the Muse?'
'No sibyl even,'
I answered, 'since she fails to guess the cause
Which taxed you with this visit, madam.'
She said, 'I like to be sincere at once;
Perhaps, if I had found a literal Muse,
The visit might have taxed me. As it is,
You wear your blue so chiefly in your eyes,
My fair Aurora, in a frank good way,
It comforts me entirely for your fame,
As well as for the trouble of my ascent
To this Olympus. '
There, a silver laugh
Ran rippling through her quickened little breaths
The steep stair somewhat justified.
Your ladyship has left me curious why
You dared the risk of finding the said Muse?'
'Ah,–keep me, notwithstanding, to the point
Like any pedant. Is the blue in eyes
As awful as in stockings, after all,
I wonder, that you'd have my business out
Before I breathe–exact the epic plunge
In spite of gasps? Well, naturally you think
I've come here, as the lion-hunters go
To deserts, to secure you, with a trap
For exhibition in my drawing-rooms
On zoologic soirées? Not in the least.
Roar softly at me; I am frivolous,
I dare say; I have played at lions, too
Like other women of my class,–but now
I meet my lion simply as Androcles
Met his . . when at his mercy.'
So, she bent
Her head, as queens may mock,–then lifting up
Her eyelids with a real grave queenly look,
Which ruled, and would not spare, not even herself,
'I think you have a cousin:–Romney Leigh.'
'You bring a word from him? '–my eyes leapt up
To the very height of hers,– 'a word from him? '
'I bring a word about him, actually.
But first,'–she pressed me with her urgent eyes–
'You do not love him,–you?'
'You're frank at least
In putting questions, madam,' I replied.
'I love my cousin cousinly–no more.'
'I guessed as much. I'm ready to be frank
In answering also, if you'll question me,
Or even with something less. You stand outside,
You artist women, of the common sex;
You share not with us, and exceed us so
Perhaps by what you're mulcted in, your hearts
Being starved to make your heads: so run the old
Traditions of you. I can therefore speak,
Without the natural shame which creatures feel
When speaking on their level, to their like.
There's many a papist she, would rather die
Than own to her maid she put a ribbon on
To catch the indifferent eye of such a man,–
Who yet would count adulteries on her beads
At holy Mary's shrine, and never blush;
Because the saints are so far off, we lose
All modesty before them. Thus, to-day.
'Tis I, love Romney Leigh.'
'Forbear,' I cried.
'If here's no muse, still less is any saint;
Nor even a friend, that Lady Waldemar
Should make confessions' . .
'That's unkindly said.
If no friend, what forbids to make a friend
To join to our confession ere we have done?
I love your cousin. If it seems unwise
To say so, it's still foolisher (we're frank)
To feel so. My first husband left me young,
And pretty enough, so please you, and rich enough,
To keep my booth in May-fair with the rest
To happy issues. There are marquises
Would serve seven years to call me wife, I know:
And, after seven, I might consider it,
For there's some comfort in a marquisate
When all's said,–yes, but after the seven years;
I, now, love Romney. You put up your lip,
So like a Leigh! so like him!–Pardon me,
I am well aware I do not derogate
In loving Romney Leigh. The name is good,
The means are excellent; but the man, the man–
Heaven help us both,–I am near as mad as he
In loving such an one.'
She slowly wrung
Her heavy ringlets till they touched her smile,
As reasonably sorry for herself;
And thus continued,–
'Of a truth, Miss Leigh,
I have not, without a struggle, come to this.
I took a master in the German tongue,
I gamed a little, went to Paris twice;
But, after all, this love! . . . you eat of love,
And do as vile a thing as if you ate
Of garlic–which, whatever else you eat,
Tastes uniformly acrid, till your peach
Reminds you of your onion! Am I coarse?
Well, love's coarse, nature's coarse–ah there's the rub!
We fair fine ladies, who park out our lives
From common sheep-paths, cannot help the crows
From flying over,–we're as natural still
As Blowsalinda. Drape us perfectly
In Lyons' velvet,–we are not, for that,
Lay-figures, like you! we have hearts within,
Warm, live, improvident, indecent hearts,
As ready for distracted ends and acts
As any distressed sempstress of them all
That Romney groans and toils for. We catch love
And other fevers, in the vulgar way.
Love will not be outwitted by our wit,
Nor outrun by our equipages:–mine
Persisted, spite of efforts. All my cards
Turned up but Romney Leigh; my German stopped
At germane Wertherism; my Paris rounds
Returned me from the Champs Elysées just
A ghost, and sighing like Dido's. I came home
Uncured,–convicted rather to myself
Of being in love . . in love! That's coarse you'll say
I'm talking garlic.'
Coldly I replied.
'Apologise for atheism, not love!
For, me, I do believe in love, and God.
I know my cousin: Lady Waldemar
I know not: yet I say as much as this–
Whoever loves him, let her not excuse
But cleanse herself; that, loving such a man,
She may not do it with such unworthy love
He cannot stoop and take it.'
'That is said
Austerely, like a youthful prophetess,
Who knits her brows across her pretty eyes
To keep them back from following the grey flight
Of doves between the temple-columns. Dear,
Be kinder with me. Let us two be friends.
I'm a mere woman–the more weak perhaps
Through being so proud; you're better; as for him,
He's best. Indeed he builds his goodness up
So high, it topples down to the other side,
And makes a sort of badness; there's the worst
I have to say against your cousin's best!
And so be mild, Aurora, with my worst,
For his sake, if not mine.'
'I own myself
Incredulous of confidence like this
Availing him or you.'
'I, worthy of him?
In your sense I am not so–let it pass.
And yet I save him if I marry him;
Let that pass too.'
'Pass, pass, we play police
Upon my cousin's life, to indicate
What may or may not pass?' I cried. 'He knows
what's worthy of him; the choice remains with him;
And what he chooses, act or wife, I think
I shall not call unworthy, I, for one.'
'Tis somewhat rashly said,' she answered slow.
Now let's talk reason, though we talk of love.
Your cousin Romney Leigh's a monster! there,
The word's out fairly; let me prove the fact.
We'll take, say, that most perfect of antiques,
They call the Genius of the Vatican,
Which seems too beauteous to endure itself
In this mixed world, and fasten it for once
Upon the torso of the Drunken Fawn,
(Who might limp surely, if he did not dance,)
Instead of Buonarroti's mask: what then?
We show the sort of monster Romney is,
With god-like virtue and heroic aims
Subjoined to limping possibilities
Of mismade human nature. Grant the man
Twice godlike, twice heroic,–still he limps,
And here's the point we come to.'
But, Lady Waldemar, the point's the thing
We never come to.'
At need! I like you'–(there, she took my hands)
'And now my lioness, help Androcles,
For all your roaring. Help me! for myself
I would not say so–but for him. He limps
So certainly, he'll fall into the pit
A week hence,–so I lose him–so he is lost!
And when he's fairly married, he a Leigh,
To a girl of doubtful life, undoubtful birth,
Starved out in London, till her coarse-grained hands
Are whiter than her morals,–you, for one,
May call his choice most worthy.'
He, . . . Romney!'
'Ah, you're moved at last,' she said.
'These monsters, set out in the open sun,
Of course throw monstrous shadows: those who think
Awry, will scarce act straightly. Who but he?
And who but you can wonder? He has been mad,
The whole world knows, since first, a nominal man,
He soured the proctors, tried the gownsmen's wits,
With equal scorn of triangles and wine,
And took no honours, yet was honourable.
They'll tell you he lost count of Homer's ships
In Melbourne's poor-bills, Ashley's factory bills,–
Ignored the Aspasia we all dared to praise,
For other women, dear, we could not name
Because we're decent. Well, he had some right
On his side probably; men always have,
Who go absurdly wrong. The living boor
Who brews your ale, exceeds in vital worth
Dead Caesar who 'stops bungholes' in the cask;
And also, to do good is excellent,
For persons of his income, even to boors:
I sympathise with all such things. But he
Went mad upon them . . madder and more mad,
From college times to these,–as, going down hill,
The faster still, the farther! you must know
Your Leigh by heart; he has sown his black young curls
With bleaching cares of half a million men
Already. If you do not starve, or sin,
You're nothing to him. Pay the income-tax,
And break your heart upon't . . . he'll scarce be touched;
But come upon the parish, qualified
For the parish stocks, and Romney will be there
To call you brother, sister, or perhaps
A tenderer name still. Had I any chance
With Mister Leigh, who am Lady Waldemar,
And never committed felony?'
Too bitterly,' I said, 'for the literal truth.'
'The truth is bitter. Here's a man who looks
For ever on the ground! you must be low;
Or else a pictured ceiling overhead,
Good painting thrown away. For me, I've done
What women may, (we're somewhat limited,
We modest women) but I've done my best.
–How men are perjured when they swear our eyes
Have meaning in them! they're just blue or brown,–
They just can drop their lids a little. In fact,
Mine did more, for I read half Fourier through,
Proudhon, Considerant, and Louis Blanc
With various other of his socialists;
And if I had been a fathom less in love,
Had cured myself with gaping. As it was,
I quoted from them prettily enough,
Perhaps, to make them sound half rational
To a saner man than he, whene'er we talked,
(For which I dodged occasion)–learnt by heart
His speeches in the Commons and elsewhere
Upon the social question; heaped reports
Of wicked women and penitentiaries,
On all my tables, with a place for Sue;
And gave my name to swell subscription-lists
Toward keeping up the sun at nights in heaven,
And other possible ends. All things I did,
Except the impossible . . such as wearing gowns
Provided by the Ten Hours' movement! there,
I stopped–we must stop somewhere. He, meanwhile,
Unmoved as the Indian tortoise 'neath the world
Let all that noise go on upon his back;
He would not disconcert or throw me out;
'Twas well to see a woman of my class
With such a dawn of conscience. For the heart,
Made firewood for his sake, and flaming up
To his very face . . he warmed his feet at it:
But deigned to let my carriage stop him short
In park or street,–he leaning on the door
With news of the committee which sate last
On pickpockets at suck.'
'You jest–you jest.'
'As martyrs jest, dear (if you read their lives),
Upon the axe which kills them. When all's done
By me, . . for him–you'll ask him presently
The color of my hair–he cannot tell,
Or answers 'dark' at random,–while, be sure,
He's absolute on the figure, five or ten,
Of my last subscription. Is it bearable,
And I a woman?'
'Is it reparable,
Though I were a man?'
'I know not. That's to prove.
But, first, this shameful marriage?'
'Ay?' I cried.
'Then really there's a marriage.'
I held him fast upon it. 'Mister Leigh,'
Said I, 'shut up a thing, it makes more noise.
'The boiling town keeps secrets ill; I've known
'Yours since last week. Forgive my knowledge so:
'You feel I'm not the woman of the world
'The world thinks; you have borne with me before
'And used me in your noble work, our work,
'And now you shall not cast me off because
'You're at the difficult point, the join. 'Tis true
'Even if I can scarce admit the cogency
'Of such a marriage . . where you do not love
'(Except the class), yet marry and throw your name
'Down to the gutter, for a fire-escape
'To future generation! it's sublime,
'A great example,–a true Genesis
'Of the opening social era. But take heed;
'This virtuous act must have a patent weight,
'Or loses half its virtue. Make it tell,
'Interpret it, and set it in the light,
'And do not muffle it in a winter-cloak
'As a vulgar bit of shame,–as if, at best,
'A Leigh had made a misalliance and blushed
'A Howard should know it.' Then, I pressed him more–
'He would not choose,' I said, 'that even his kin, . .
'Aurora Leigh, even . . should conceive his act
'Less sacrifice, more appetite.' At which
He grew so pale, dear, . . to the lips, I knew
I had touched him. 'Do you know her,' he inquired,
'My cousin Aurora?' 'Yes,' I said, and lied
(But truly we all know you by your books),
And so I offered to come straight to you,
Explain the subject, justify the cause,
And take you with me to Saint Margaret's Court
To see this miracle, this Marian Erle,
This drover's daughter (she's not pretty, he swears),
Upon whose finger, exquisitely pricked
By a hundred needles, we're to hang the tie
'Twixt class and class in England,–thus indeed
By such a presence, yours and mine, to lift
The match up from the doubtful place. At once
He thanked me, sighing, . . murmured to himself
'She'll do it perhaps; she's noble,'–thanked me, twice,
And promised, as my guerdon, to put off
His marriage for a month.'
I answered then.
'I understand your drift imperfectly.
You wish to lead me to my cousin's betrothed,
To touch her hand if worthy, and hold her hand
If feeble, thus to justify his match.
So be it then. But how this serves your ends,
And how the strange confession of your love
Serves this, I have to learn–I cannot see.'
She knit her restless forehead. 'Then, despite,
Aurora, that most radiant morning name,
You're dull as any London afternoon.
I wanted time,–and gained it,–wanted you,
And gain you! You will come and see the girl
In whose most prodigal eyes, the lineal pearl
And pride of all your lofty race of Leighs
Is destined to solution. Authorised
By sight and knowledge, then, you'll speak your mind,
And prove to Romney, in your brilliant way,
He'll wrong the people and posterity
(Say such a thing is bad for you and me,
And you fail utterly), by concluding thus
An execrable marriage. Break it up.
Disroot it–peradventure, presently,
We'll plant a better fortune in its place.
Be good to me, Aurora, scorn me less
For saying the thing I should not. Well I know
I should not. I have kept, as others have,
The iron rule of womanly reserve
In lip and life, till now: I wept a week
Before I came here.'–Ending, she was pale;
The last words, haughtily said, were tremulous.
This palfrey pranced in harness, arched her neck,
And, only by the foam upon the bit,
You saw she champed against it.
Then I rose.
'I love love: truth's no cleaner thing than love.
I comprehend a love so fiery hot
It burns its natural veil of august shame,
And stands sublimely in the nude, as chaste
As Medicean Venus. But I know,
A love that burns through veils will burn through masks
And shrivel up treachery. What, love and lie!
Nay–go to the opera! your love's curable.'
'I love and lie!' she said–'I lie, forsooth?'
And beat her taper foot upon the floor,
And smiled against the shoe,–'You're hard, Miss Leigh,
Unversed in current phrases.–Bowling-greens
Of poets are fresher than the world's highways:
Forgive me that I rashly blew the dust
Which dims our hedges even, in your eyes,
And vexed you so much. You find, probably,
No evil in this marriage,–rather good
Of innocence, to pastoralise in song:
You'll give the bond your signature, perhaps,
Beneath the lady's work,–indifferent
That Romney chose a wife, could write her name,
In witnessing he loved her.'
'Loved!' I cried;
'Who tells you that he wants a wife to love?
He gets a horse to use, not love, I think:
There's work for wives as well,–and after, straw,
When men are liberal. For myself, you err
Supposing power in me to break this match.
I could not do it, to save Romney's life,
And would not, to save mine.'
'You take it so,'
She said, 'farewell then. Write your books in peace,
As far as may be for some secret stir
Now obvious to me,–for, most obviously,
In coming hither I mistook the way.'
Whereat she touched my hand and bent her head,
And floated from me like a silent cloud
That leaves the sense of thunder.
I drew breath,
As hard as in a sick-room. After all,
This woman breaks her social system up
For love, so counted–the love possible
To such,–and lilies are still lilies, pulled
By smutty hands, though spotted from their white;
And thus she is better, haply, of her kind,
Than Romney Leigh, who lives by diagrams,
And crosses out the spontaneities
Of all his individual, personal life
With formal universals. As if man
Were set upon a high stool at a desk,
To keep God's books for Him, in red and black,
And feel by millions! What, if even God
Were chiefly God by living out Himself
To an individualism of the Infinite,
Eterne, intense, profuse,–still throwing up
The golden spray of multitudinous worlds
In measure to the proclive weight and rush
Of his inner nature,–the spontaneous love
Still proof and outflow of spontaneous life?
Then live, Aurora!
Two hours afterward,
Within Saint Margaret's Court I stood alone,
Close-veiled. A sick child, from an ague-fit,
Whose wasted right hand gambled 'gainst his left
With an old brass button, in a blot of sun,
Jeered weakly at me as I passed across
The uneven pavement; while a woman, rouged
Upon the angular cheek-bones, kerchief torn,
Thin dangling locks, and flat lascivious mouth,
Cursed at a window, both ways, in and out,
By turns some bed-rid creature and myself,–
'Lie still there, mother! liker the dead dog
You'll be to-morrow. What, we pick our way,
Fine madam, with those damnable small feet!
We cover up our face from doing good,
As if it were our purse! What brings you here,
My lady? is't to find my gentleman
Who visits his tame pigeon in the eaves?
Our cholera catch you with its cramps and spasms,
And tumble up your good clothes, veil and all,
And turn your whiteness dead-blue.' I looked up;
I think I could have walked through hell that day,
And never flinched. 'The dear Christ comfort you,'
I said, 'you must have been most miserable
To be so cruel,'–and I emptied out
My purse upon the stones: when, as I had cast
The last charm in the cauldron, the whole court
Went boiling, bubbling up, from all its doors
And windows, with a hideous wail of laughs
And roar of oaths, and blows perhaps . . I passed
Too quickly for distinguishing . . and pushed
A little side-door hanging on a hinge,
And plunged into the dark, and groped and climbed
The long, steep, narrow stair 'twixt broken rail
And mildewed wall that let the plaster drop
To startle me in the blackness. Still, up, up!
So high lived Romney's bride. I paused at last
Before a low door in the roof, and knocked;
There came an answer like a hurried dove–
'So soon! can that be Mister Leigh? so soon?'
And, as I entered, an ineffable face
Met mine upon the threshold. 'Oh, not you,
Not you!' . . the dropping of the voice implied;
'Then, if not you, for me not any one.'
I looked her in the eyes, and held her hands,
And said 'I am his cousin,–Romney Leigh's;
And here I'm come to see my cousin too.'
She touched me with her face and with her voice,
This daughter of the people. Such soft flowers
From such rough roots? The people, under there,
Can sin so, curse so, look so, smell so . . . faugh!
Yet have such daughters!
Was Marian Erle. She was not white nor brown,
But could look either, like a mist that changed
According to being shone on more or less:
The hair, too, ran its opulence of curls
In doubt 'twixt dark and bright, nor left you clear
To name the color. Too much hair perhaps
(I'll name a fault here) for so small a head,
Which seemed to droop on that side and on this,
As a full-blown rose uneasy with its weight,
Though not a breath should trouble it. Again,
The dimple in the cheek had better gone
With redder, fuller rounds; and somewhat large
The mouth was, though the milky little teeth
Dissolved it to so infantile a smile!
For soon it smiled at me; the eyes smiled too,
But 'twas as if remembering they had wept,
And knowing they should, some day, weep again.
We talked. She told me all her story out,
Which I'll re-tell with fuller utterance,
As coloured and confirmed in aftertimes
By others, and herself too. Marian Erle
Was born upon the ledge of Malvern Hill,
To eastward, in a hut, built up at night,
To evade the landlord's eye, of mud and turf,
Still liable, if once he looked that way,
To being straight levelled, scattered by his foot,
Like any other anthill. Born, I say;
God sent her to his world, commissioned right,
Her human testimonials fully signed,
Not scant in soul–complete in lineaments;
But others had to swindle her a place
To wail in when she had come. No place for her,
By man's law! born an outlaw, was this babe;
Her first cry in our strange and strangling air,
When cast in spasms out by the shuddering womb,
Was wrong against the social code,–forced wrong.
What business had the baby to cry there?
I tell her story and grow passionate.
She, Marian, did not tell it so, but used
Meek words that made no wonder of herself
For being so sad a creature. 'Mister Leigh
Considered truly that such things should change.
They will, in heaven–but meantime, on the earth,
There's none can like a nettle as a pink,
Except himself. We're nettles, some of us,
And give offence by the act of springing up;
And, if we leave the damp side of the wall,
The hoes, of course, are on us.' So she said.
Her father earned his life by random jobs
Despised by steadier workmen–keeping swine
On commons, picking hops, or hurrying on
The harvest at wet seasons,–or, at need,
Assisting the Welsh drovers, when a drove
Of startled horses plunged into the mist
Below the mountain-road, and sowed the wind
With wandering neighings. In between the gaps
Of such irregular work, he drank and slept,
And cursed his wife because, the pence being out,
She could not buy more drink. At which she turned,
(The worm), and beat her baby in revenge
For her own broken heart. There's not a crime
But takes its proper change out still in crime
If once rung on the counter of this world:
Let sinners look to it.
Yet the outcast child,
For whom the very mother's face forewent
The mother's special patience, lived and grew;
Learnt early to cry low, and walk alone,
With that pathetic vacillating roll
Of the infant body on the uncertain feet,
(The earth being felt unstable ground so soon)
At which most women's arms unclose at once
With irrepressive instinct. Thus, at three,
This poor weaned kid would run off from the fold,
This babe would steal off from the mother's chair,
And, creeping through the golden walls of gorse,
Would find some keyhole toward the secrecy
Of Heaven's high blue, and, nestling down, peer out–
Oh, not to catch the angels at their games,
She had never heard of angels, but to gaze
She knew not why, to see she knew not what,
A-hungering outward from the barren earth
For something like a joy. She liked, she said,
To dazzle black her sight against the sky,
For then, it seemed, some grand blind Love came down,
And groped her out, and clasped her with a kiss;
She learnt God that way, and was beat for it
Whenever she went home,–yet came again,
As surely as the trapped hare, getting free,
Returns to his form. This grand blind Love, she said,
This skyey father and mother both in one,
Instructed her and civilised her more
Than even the Sunday-school did afterward,
To which a lady sent her to learn books
And sit upon a long bench in a row
With other children. Well, she laughed sometimes
To see them laugh and laugh, and moil their texts;
But ofter she was sorrowful with noise,
And wondered if their mothers beat them hard
That ever they should laugh so. There was one
She loved indeed,–Rose Bell, a seven years' child,
So pretty and clever, who read syllables
When Marian was at letters; she would laugh
At nothing–hold your finger up, she laughed,
Then shook her curls down on her eyes and mouth
To hide her make-mirth from the schoolmaster.
And Rose's pelting glee, as frank as rain
On cherry-blossoms, brightened Marian too,
To see another merry whom she loved.
She whispered once (the children side by side,
With mutual arms entwined about their necks)
'Your mother lets you laugh so?' 'Ay,' said Rose,
'She lets me. She was dug into the ground
Six years since, I being but a yearling wean.
Such mothers let us play and lose our time,
And never scold nor beat us! Don't you wish
You had one like that?' There, Marian, breaking off
Looked suddenly in my face. 'Poor Rose,' said she,
'I heard her laugh last night in Oxford Street.
I'd pour out half my blood to stop that laugh,–
Poor Rose, poor Rose!' said Marian.
It tried her, when she had learnt at Sunday-school
What God was, what he wanted from us all,
And how, in choosing sin, we vexed the Christ,
To go straight home and hear her father pull
The name down on us from the thunder-shelf,
Then drink away his soul into the dark
From seeing judgment. Father, mother, home,
Were God and heaven reversed to her: the more
She knew of Right, the more she guessed their wrong:
Her price paid down for knowledge, was to know
The vileness of her kindred: through her heart,
Her filial and tormented heart, henceforth
They struck their blows at virtue. Oh, 'tis hard
To learn you have a father up in heaven
By a gathering certain sense of being, on earth,
Still worse than orphaned: 'tis too heavy a grief,
The having to thank God for such a joy!
And so passed Marian's life from year to year.
Her parents took her with them when they tramped,
Dodged lanes and heaths, frequented towns and fairs,
And once went farther and saw Manchester,
And once the sea, that blue end of the world,
That fair scroll-finis of a wicked book,–
And twice a prison, back at intervals,
Returning to the hills. Hills draw like heaven,
And stronger sometimes, holding out their hands
To pull you from the vile flats up to them;
And though, perhaps, these strollers still strolled back,
As sheep do, simply that they knew the way,
They certainly felt bettered unawares
Emerging from the social smut of towns
To wipe their feet clean on the mountain turf.
In which long wanderings, Marian lived and learned,
Endured and learned. The people on the roads
Would stop and ask her how her eyes outgrew
Her cheeks, and if she meant to lodge the birds
In all that hair; and then they lifted her,
The miller in his cart, a mile or twain,
The butcher's boy on horseback. Often, too,
The pedlar stopped, and tapped her on the head
With absolute forefinger, brown and ringed,
And asked if peradventure she could read:
And when she answered 'ay,' would toss her down
Some stray odd volume from his heavy pack,
A Thomson's Seasons, mulcted of the Spring,
Or half a play of Shakespeare's, torn across:
(She had to guess the bottom of a page
By just the top sometimes,–as difficult,
As, sitting on the moon, to guess the earth!),
Or else a sheaf of leaves (for that small Ruth's
Small gleanings) torn out from the heart of books,
From Churchyard Elegies and Edens Lost,
From Burns, and Bunyan, Selkirk, and Tom Jones.
'Twas somewhat hard to keep the things distinct,
And oft the jangling influence jarred the child
Like looking at a sunset full of grace
Through a pothouse window while the drunken oaths
Went on behind her; but she weeded out
Her book-leaves, threw away the leaves that hurt,
(First tore them small, that none should find a word),
And made a nosegay of the sweet and good
To fold within her breast, and pore upon
At broken moments of the noontide glare,
When leave was given her to untie her cloak
And rest upon the dusty roadside bank
From the highway's dust. Or oft, the journey done,
Some city friend would lead her by the hand
To hear a lecture at an institute.
And thus she had grown, this Marian Erle of ours,
To no book-learning,–she was ignorant
Of authors,–not in earshot of the things
Out-spoken o'er the heads of common men,
By men who are uncommon,–but within
The cadenced hum of such, and capable
Of catching from the fringes of the wind
Some fragmentary phrases, here and there,
Of that fine music,–which, being carried in
To her soul, had reproduced itself afresh
In finer motions of the lips and lids.
She said, in speaking of it, 'If a flower
Were thrown you out of heaven at intervals,
You'd soon attain to a trick of looking up,–
And so with her.' She counted me her years,
Till I felt old; and then she counted me
Her sorrowful pleasures, till I felt ashamed.
She told me she was almost glad and calm
On such and such a season; sate and sewed,
With no one to break up her crystal thoughts:
While rhymes from lovely poems span around
Their ringing circles of ecstatic tune,
Beneath the moistened finger of the Hour.
Her parents called her a strange, sickly child,
Not good for much, and given to sulk and stare,
And smile into the hedges and the clouds,
And tremble if one shook her from her fit
By any blow, or word even. Out-door jobs
Went ill with her; and household quiet work
She was not born to. Had they kept the north,
They might have had their pennyworth out of her
Like other parents, in the factories;
(Your children work for you, not you for them,
Or else they better had been choked with air
The first breath drawn;) but, in this tramping life,
Was nothing to be done with such a child,
But tramp and tramp. And yet she knitted hose
Not ill, and was not dull at needlework;
And all the country people gave her pence
For darning stockings past their natural age,
And patching petticoats from old to new,
And other light work done for thrifty wives.
One day, said Marian–the sun shone that day–
Her mother had been badly beat, and felt
The bruises sore about her wretched soul
(That must have been): she came in suddenly,
And snatching, in a sort of breathless rage,
Her daughter's headgear comb, let down the hair
Upon her, like a sudden waterfall,
Then drew her drenched and passive, by the arm,
Outside the hut they lived in. When the child
Could clear her blinded face from all that stream
Of tresses . . there, a man stood, with beasts' eyes
That seemed as they would swallow her alive,
Complete in body and spirit, hair and all,–
With burning stertorous breath that hurt her cheek,
He breathed so near. The mother held her tight,
Saying hard between her teeth–'Why wench, why wench,
The squire speaks to you now–the squire's too good,
He means to set you up and comfort us.
Be mannerly at least.' The child turned round
And looked up piteous in the mother's face
(Be sure that mother's death-bed will not want
Another devil to damn, than such a look),
'Oh, mother!' then, with desperate glance to heaven,
'Good, free me from my mother,' she shrieked out,
'These mothers are too dreadful.' And, with force
As passionate as fear, she tore her hands,
Like lilies from the rocks, from hers and his,
And sprang down, bounded headlong down the steep,
Away from both–away, if possible,
As far as God,–away! They yelled at her,
As famished hounds at a hare. She heard them yell;
She felt her name hiss after her from the hills,
Like shot from guns. On, on. And now she had cast
The voices off with the uplands. On. Mad fear
Was running in her feet and killing the ground;
The white roads curled as if she burnt them up,
The green fields melted, wayside trees fell back
To make room for her. Then her head grew vexed;
Trees, fields, turned on her and ran after her;
She heard the quick pants of the hills behind,
Their keen air pricked her neck. She had lost her feet,
Could run no more, yet somehow went as fast,–
The horizon, red, 'twixt steeples in the east
So sucked her forward, forward, while her heart
Kept swelling, swelling, till it swelled so big
It seemed to fill her body; then it burst,
And overflowed the world and swamped the light,
'And now I am dead and safe,' thought Marian Erle–
She had dropped, she had fainted.
When the sense returned,
The night had passed–not life's night. She was 'ware
Of heavy tumbling motions, creaking wheels,
The driver shouting to the lazy team
That swung their rankling bells against her brain,
While, through the waggon's coverture and chinks,
The cruel yellow morning pecked at her
Alive or dead, upon the straw inside,–
At which her soul ached back into the dark
And prayed, 'no more of that.' A waggoner
Had found her in a ditch beneath the moon,
As white as moonshine, save for the oozing blood.
At first he thought her dead; but when he had wiped
The mouth and heard it sigh, he raised her up,
And laid her in his waggon in the straw,
And so conveyed her to the distant town
To which his business called himself, and left
That heap of misery at the hospital.
She stirred;–the place seemed new and strange as death.
The white strait bed, with others strait and white,
Like graves dug side by side, at measured lengths,
And quiet people walking in and out
With wonderful low voices and soft steps,
And apparitional equal care for each,
Astonished her with order, silence, law:
And when a gentle hand held out a cup,
She took it, as you do at sacrament,
Half awed, half melted,–not being used, indeed,
To so much love as makes the form of love
And courtesy of manners. Delicate drinks
And rare white bread, to which some dying eyes
Were turned in observation. O my God,
How sick we must be, ere we make men just!
I think it frets the saints in heaven to see
How many Desolate creatures on the earth
Have learnt the simple dues of fellowship
And social comfort, in a hospital,
As Marian did. She lay there, stunned, half tranced,
And wished, at intervals of growing sense,
She might be sicker yet, if sickness made
The world so marvellous kind, the air so hushed,
And all her wake-time quiet as a sleep;
For now she understood, (as such things were)
How sickness ended very oft in heaven,
Among the unspoken raptures. Yet more sick,
And surelier happy. Then she dropped her lids,
And, folding up her hands as flowers at night,
Would lose no moment of the blessed time.
She lay and seethed in fever many weeks;
But youth was strong and overcame the test;
Revolted soul and flesh were reconciled
And fetched back to the necessary day
And daylight duties. She could creep about
The long bare rooms, and stare out drearily
From any narrow window on the street,
Till some one, who had nursed her as a friend,
Said coldly to her, as an enemy,
'She had leave to go next week, being well enough,'
While only her heart ached. 'Go next week,' thought she,
'Next week! how would it be with her next week,
Let out into that terrible street alone
Among the pushing people, . . to go . . where?'
One day, the last before the dreaded last,
Among the convalescents, like herself
Prepared to go next morning, she sate dumb,
And heard half absently the women talk,
How one was famished for her baby's cheeks–
'The little wretch would know her! a year old,
And lively, like his father!' one was keen
To get to work, and fill some clamorous mouths;
And one was tender for her dear goodman
Who had missed her sorely,–and one, querulous . .
'Would pay those scandalous neighbours who had dared
To talk about her as already dead,'–
And one was proud . . 'and if her sweetheart Luke
Had left her for a ruddier face than hers,
(The gossip would be seen through at a glance)
Sweet riddance of such sweethearts–let him hang!
'Twere good to have been as sick for such an end.'
And while they talked, and Marian felt the worse
For having missed the worst of all their wrongs,
A visitor was ushered through the wards
And paused among the talkers. 'When he looked,
It was as if he spoke, and when he spoke
He sang perhaps,' said Marian; 'could she tell?
She only knew' (so much she had chronicled,
As seraphs might, the making of the sun)
'That he who came and spake was Romney Leigh,
And then, and there, she saw and heard him first.'
And when it was her turn to have the face
Upon her,–all those buzzing pallid lips
Being satisfied with comfort–when he changed
To Marian, saying, 'And you? You're going, where?'–
She, moveless as a worm beneath a stone
Which some one's stumbling foot has spurned aside,
Writhed suddenly, astonished with the light,
And breaking into sobs cried, 'Where I go?
None asked me till this moment. Can I say
Where I go? When it has not seemed worth while
To God himself, who thinks of every one,
To think of me, and fix where I shall go?'
'So young,' he gently asked her, 'you have lost
Your father and your mother?'
'Both' she said,
'Both lost! My father was burnt up with gin
Or ever I sucked milk, and so is lost.
My mother sold me to a man last month,
And so my mother's lost, 'tis manifest.
And I, who fled from her for miles and miles,
As if I had caught sight of the fires of hell
Through some wild gap, (she was my mother, sir)
It seems I shall be lost too, presently,
And so we end, all three of us.'
He said,–with such a pity in his voice,
It soothed her more than her own tears,–'poor child!
'Tis simple that betrayal by mother's love
Should bring despair of God's too. Yet be taught
He's better to us than many mothers are,
And children cannot wander beyond reach
Of the sweep of his white raiment. Touch and hold'
And if you weep still, weep where John was laid
While Jesus loved him.'
'She could say the words,'
She told me, 'exactly as he uttered them
A year back, . . since in any doubt or dark,
They came out like the stars, and shone on her
With just their comfort. Common words, perhaps;
The ministers in church might say the same;
But he, he made the church with what he spoke,–
The difference was the miracle,' said she.
Then catching up her smile to ravishment,
She added quickly, 'I repeat his words,
But not his tones: can any one repeat
The music of an organ, out of church?
And when he said 'poor child,' I shut my eyes
To feel how tenderly his voice broke through,
As the ointment-box broke on the Holy feet
To let out the rich medicative nard.'
She told me how he had raised and rescued her
With reverent pity, as, in touching grief,
He touched the wounds of Christ,–and made her feel
More self-respecting. Hope, he called, belief
In God,–work, worship . . therefore let us pray!
And thus, to snatch her soul from atheism,
And keep it stainless from her mother's face,
He sent her to a famous sempstress-house
Far off in London, there to work and hope.
With that they parted. She kept sight of Heaven,
But not of Romney. He had good to do
To others: through the days and through the nights,
She sewed and sewed and sewed. She drooped sometimes,
And wondered, while, along the tawny light,
She struck the new thread into her needle's eye,
How people without mothers on the hills,
Could choose the town to live in!–then she drew
The stitch, and mused how Romney's face would look,
And if 'twere likely he'd remember hers,
When they two had their meeting after death.
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–
'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?'
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?'
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
–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.
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,
'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.'
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.'
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!'
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,'
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.'
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.'
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?
'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.'
'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.'
'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.'
'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.'
'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.
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.'
He murmured,–'by so much less pitiable!
God's self would never have come down to die,
Could man have thanked him for it.'
'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.'
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' . .
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.
The Third Monarchy, being the Grecian, beginning under Alexander the Great in the 112. Olympiad.
Great Alexander was wise Philips son,
He to Amyntas, Kings of Macedon;
The cruel proud Olympias was his Mother,
She to Epirus warlike King was daughter.
This Prince (his father by Pausanias slain)
The twenty first of's age began to reign.
Great were the Gifts of nature which he had,
His education much to those did adde:
By art and nature both he was made fit,
To 'complish that which long before was writ.
The very day of his Nativity
To ground was burnt Dianaes Temple high:
An Omen to their near approaching woe,
Whose glory to the earth this king did throw.
His Rule to Greece he scorn'd should be confin'd,
The Universe scarce bound his proud vast mind.
This is the He-Goat which from Grecia came,
That ran in Choler on the Persian Ram,
That brake his horns, that threw him on the ground
To save him from his might no man was found:
Philip on this great Conquest had an eye,
But death did terminate those thoughts so high.
The Greeks had chose him Captain General,
Which honour to his Son did now befall.
(For as Worlds Monarch now we speak not on,
But as the King of little Macedon)
Restless both day and night his heart then was,
His high resolves which way to bring to pass;
Yet for a while in Greece is forc'd to stay,
Which makes each moment seem more then a day.
Thebes and stiff Athens both 'gainst him rebel,
Their mutinies by valour doth he quell.
This done against both right and natures Laws,
His kinsmen put to death, who gave no cause;
That no rebellion in in his absence be,
Nor making Title unto Sovereignty.
And all whom he suspects or fears will climbe,
Now taste of death least they deserv'd in time,
Nor wonder is t if he in blood begin,
For Cruelty was his parental sin,
Thus eased now of troubles and of fears,
Next spring his course to Asia he steers;
Leavs Sage Antipater, at home to sway,
And through the Hellispont his Ships made way.
Coming to Land, his dart on shore he throws,
Then with alacrity he after goes;
And with a bount'ous heart and courage brave,
His little wealth among his Souldiers gave.
And being ask'd what for himself was left,
Reply'd, enough, sith only hope he kept.
Thirty two thousand made up his Foot force,
To which were joyn'd five thousand goodly horse.
Then on he marcht, in's way he view'd old Troy,
And on Achilles tomb with wondrous joy
He offer'd, and for good success did pray
To him, his Mothers Ancestors, (men say)
When news of Alexander came to Court,
To scorn at him Darius had good sport;
Sends him a frothy and contemptuous Letter,
Stiles him disloyal servant, and no better;
Reproves him for his proud audacity
To lift his hand 'gainst such a Monarchy.
Then to's Lieftenant he in Asia sends
That he be ta'ne alive, for he intends
To whip him well with rods, and so to bring
That boy so mallipert before the King.
Ah! fond vain man, whose pen ere while
In lower terms was taught a higher stile.
To River Granick Alexander hyes
Which in Phrygia near Propontike lyes.
The Persians ready for encounter stand,
And strive to keep his men from off the land;
Those banks so steep the Greeks yet scramble up,
And beat the coward Persians from the top,
And twenty thousand of their lives bereave,
Who in their backs did all their wounds receive.
This victory did Alexander gain,
With loss of thirty four of his there slain;
Then Sardis he, and Ephesus did gain,
VVhere stood of late, Diana's wondrous Phane,
And by Parmenio (of renowned Fame,)
Miletus and Pamphilia overcame.
Hallicarnassus and Pisidia
He for his Master takes with Lycia.
Next Alexander marcht towards the black Sea,
And easily takes old Gordium in his way;
Of Ass ear'd Midas, once the Regal Seat,
VVhose touch turn'd all to gold, yea even his meat
VVhere the Prophetick knot he cuts in twain,
VVhich who so doth, must Lord of all remain.
Now news of Memnon's death (the Kings Viceroy)
To Alexanders heart's no little joy,
For in that Peer, more valour did abide,
Then in Darius multitude beside:
In's stead, was Arses plac'd, but durst not stay,
Yet set one in his room, and ran away;
His substitute as fearfull as his master,
Runs after two, and leaves all to Disaster.
Then Alexander all Cilicia takes,
No stroke for it he struck, their hearts so quakes.
To Greece he thirty thousand talents sends,
To raise more Force to further his intends:
Then o're he goes Darius now to meet,
Who came with thousand thousands at his feet.
Though some there be (perhaps) more likely write
He but four hundred thousand had to fight,
The rest Attendants, which made up no less,
Both Sexes there was almost numberless.
For this wise King had brought to see the sport,
With him the greatest Ladyes of the Court,
His mother, his beauteous Queen and daughters,
It seems to see the Macedonian slaughters.
Its much beyond my time and little art,
To shew how great Darius plaid his part;
The splendor and the pomp he marched in,
For since the world was no such Pageant seen.
Sure 'twas a goodly sight there to behold,
The Persians clad in silk, and glistering gold,
The stately horses trapt, the lances gilt,
As if addrest now all to run a tilt.
The holy fire was borne before the host,
(For Sun and Fire the Persians worship most)
The Priests in their strange habit follow after,
An object, not so much of fear as laughter.
The King sate in a chariot made of gold,
With crown and Robes most glorious to behold,
And o're his head his golden Gods on high,
Support a party coloured Canopy.
A number of spare horses next were led,
Lest he should need them in his Chariots stead;
But those that saw him in this state to lye,
Suppos'd he neither meant to fight nor flye.
He fifteen hundred had like women drest;
For thus to fright the Greeks he judg'd was best.
Their golden ornaments how to set forth,
Would ask more time then was their bodies worth
Great Sysigambis she brought up the Reer,
Then such a world of waggons did appear,
Like several houses moving upon wheels,
As if she'd drawn whole Shushan at her heels:
This brave Virago to the King was mother,
And as much good she did as any other.
Now lest this gold, and all this goodly stuff
Had not been spoyle and booty rich enough
A thousand mules and Camels ready wait
Loaden with gold, with jewels and with plate:
For sure Darius thought at the first sight,
The Greeks would all adore, but none would fight
But when both Armies met, he might behold
That valour was more worth then pearls or gold,
And that his wealth serv'd but for baits to 'lure
To make his overthrow more fierce and sure.
The Greeks came on and with a gallant grace
Let fly their arrows in the Persians face.
The cowards feeling this sharp stinging charge
Most basely ran, and left their king at large:
Who from his golden coach is glad to 'light,
And cast away his crown for swifter flight:
Of late like some immoveable he lay,
Now finds both legs and horse to run away.
Two hundred thousand men that day were slain,
And forty thousand prisoners also tane,
Besides the Queens and Ladies of the court,
If Curtius be true in his report.
The Regal Ornaments were lost, the treasure
Divided at the Macedonians pleasure;
Yet all this grief, this loss, this overthrow,
Was but beginning of his future woe.
The royal Captives brought to Alexander
T'ward them demean'd himself like a Commander
For though their beauties were unparaled,
Conquer'd himself now he had conquered,
Preserv'd their honour, us'd them bounteously,
Commands no man should doe them injury:
And this to Alexander is more fame
Then that the Persian King he overcame.
Two hundred eighty Greeks he lost in fight,
By too much heat, not wounds (as authors write)
No sooner had this Victor won the field,
But all Phenicia to his pleasure yield,
Of which the Goverment he doth commit
Unto Parmenio of all most fit.
Darius now less lofty then before,
To Alexander writes he would restore
Those mournfull Ladies from Captivity,
For whom he offers him a ransome high:
But down his haughty stomach could not bring,
To give this Conquerour the Stile of King.
This Letter Alexander doth disdain,
And in short terms sends this reply again,
A King he was, and that not only so,
But of Darius King, as he should know.
Next Alexander unto Tyre doth goe,
His valour and his victoryes they know:
To gain his love the Tyrians intend,
Therefore a crown and great Provision send,
Their present he receives with thankfullness,
Desires to offer unto Hercules,
Protector of their town, by whom defended,
And from whom he lineally descended.
But they accept not this in any wise,
Lest he intend more fraud then sacrifice,
Sent word that Hercules his temple stood
In the old town, (which then lay like a wood)
With this reply he was so deep enrag'd,
To win the town, his honour he ingag'd:
And now as Babels King did once before,
He leaves not till he made the sea firm shore,
But far less time and cost he did expend,
The former Ruines forwarded his end:
Moreover had a Navy at command,
The other by his men fetcht all by land.
In seven months time he took that wealthy town,
Whose glory now a second time's brought down.
Two thousand of the chief he crucifi'd,
Eight thousand by the sword then also di'd,
And thirteen thousand Gally slaves he made,
And thus the Tyrians for mistrust were paid.
The rule of this he to Philotas gave
Who was the son of that Parmenio brave.
Cilicia to Socrates doth give,
For now's the time Captains like Kings may live.
Zidon he on Ephestion bestowes;
(For that which freely comes, as freely goes)
He scorns to have one worse then had the other,
So gives his little Lordship to another.
Ephestion having chief command of th'Fleet,
At Gaza now must Alexander meet.
Darius finding troubles still increase,
By his Ambassadors now sues for peace,
And layes before great Alexanders eyes
The dangers difficultyes like to rise,
First at Euphrates what he's like to 'bide,
And then at Tygris and Araxis side,
These he may scape, and if he so desire,
A league of friendship make firm and entire.
His eldest daughter he in mariage profers,
And a most princely dowry with her offers.
All those rich Kingdomes large that do abide
Betwixt the Hellespont and Halys side.
But he with scorn his courtesie rejects,
And the distressed King no whit respects,
Tells him, these proffers great, in truth were none
For all he offers now was but his own.
But quoth Parmenio that brave Commander,
Was I as great, as is great Alexander,
Darius offers I would not reject,
But th'kingdomes and the Lady soon accept.
To which proud Alexander made reply,
And so if I Parmenio was, would I.
He now to Gaza goes, and there doth meet,
His Favorite Ephestion with his Fleet,
Where valiant Betis stoutly keeps the town,
(A loyal Subject to Darius Crown)
For more repulse the Grecians here abide
Then in the Persian Monarchy beside;
And by these walls so many men were slain,
That Greece was forc'd to yield supply again.
But yet this well defended Town was taken,
For 'twas decree'd, that Empire should be shaken;
Thus Betis ta'en had holes bor'd through his feet,
And by command was drawn through every street
To imitate Achilles in his shame,
Who did the like to Hector (of more fame)
What hast thou lost thy magnimity,
Can Alexander deal thus cruelly?
Sith valour with Heroicks is renown'd,
Though in an Enemy it should be found;
If of thy future fame thou hadst regard,
Why didst not heap up honours and reward?
From Gaza to Jerusalem he goes,
But in no hostile way, (as I suppose)
Him in his Priestly Robes high Jaddus meets,
Whom with great reverence Alexander greets;
The Priest shews him good Daniel's Prophesy,
How he should overthrow this Monarchy,
By which he was so much encouraged,
No future dangers he did ever dread.
From thence to fruitful Egypt marcht with speed,
Where happily in's wars he did succeed;
To see how fast he gain'd was no small wonder,
For in few dayes he brought that Kingdome under.
Then to the Phane of Jupiter he went,
To be install'd a God, was his intent.
The Pagan Priest through hire, or else mistake,
The Son of Jupiter did streight him make:
He Diobolical must needs remain,
That his humanity will not retain.
Thence back to Egypt goes, and in few dayes;
Fair Alexandria from the ground doth raise;
Then setling all things in less Asia;
In Syria, Egypt, and Phenicia,
Unto Euphrates marcht and overgoes,
For no man's there his Army to oppose;
Had Betis now been there but with his band,
Great Alexander had been kept from Land.
But as the King, so is the multitude,
And now of valour both are destitute.
Yet he (poor prince) another Host doth muster,
Of Persians, Scythians, Indians in a cluster;
Men but in shape and name, of valour none
Most fit, to blunt the Swords of Macedon.
Two hundred fifty thousand by account,
Of Horse and Foot his Army did amount;
For in his multitudes his trust still lay,
But on their fortitude he had small stay;
Yet had some hope that on the spacious plain,
His numbers might the victory obtain.
About this time Darius beautious Queen,
Who had sore travail and much sorrow seen,
Now bids the world adue, with pain being spent,
Whose death her Lord full sadly did lament.
Great Alexander mourns as well as he,
The more because not set at liberty;
When this sad news (at first Darius hears,
Some injury was offered he fears:
But when inform'd how royally the King,
Had used her, and hers, in every thing,
He prays the immortal Gods they would reward
Great Alexander for this good regard;
And if they down his Monarchy will throw,
Let them on him this dignity bestow.
And now for peace he sues as once before,
And offers all he did and Kingdomes more;
His eldest daughter for his princely bride,
(Nor was such match in all the world beside)
And all those Countryes which (betwixt) did lye
Phanisian Sea, and great Euphrates high:
With fertile Egypt and rich Syria,
And all those Kingdomes in less Asia.
With thirty thousand Talents to be paid,
For the Queen Mother, and the royal maid;
And till all this be well perform'd, and sure,
Ochus his Son for Hostage should endure.
To this stout Alexander gives no ear,
No though Parmenio plead, yet will not hear;
Which had he done. (perhaps) his fame he'd kept,
Nor Infamy had wak'd, when he had slept,
For his unlimited prosperity
Him boundless made in vice and Cruelty.
Thus to Darius he writes back again,
The Firmament, two Suns cannot contain.
Two Monarchyes on Earth cannot abide,
Nor yet two Monarchs in one world reside;
The afflicted King finding him set to jar,
Prepares against to morrow, for the war,
Parmenio, Alexander, wisht that night,
To force his Camp, so vanquish them by flight.
For tumult in the night doth cause most dread,
And weakness of a Foe is covered,
But he disdain'd to steal a victory:
The Sun should witness of his valour be,
And careless in his bed, next morne he lyes,
By Captains twice is call'd before hee'l rise,
The Armyes joyn'd a while, the Persians fight,
And spilt the Greeks some bloud before their flight
But long they stood not e're they're forc'd to run,
So made an end, As soon as well begun.
Forty five thousand Alexander had,
But is not known what slaughter here was made,
Some write th'other had a million, some more,
But Quintus Curtius as before.
At Arbela this victory was gain'd,
Together with the Town also obtain'd;
Darius stript of all to Media came,
Accompan'ed with sorrow, fear, and shame,
At Arbela left his Ornaments and Treasure,
Which Alexander deals as suits his pleasure.
This conqueror to Babylon then goes,
Is entertain'd with joy and pompous showes,
With showrs of flours the streets along are strown,
And incense burnt the silver Altars on.
The glory of the Castle he admires,
The strong Foundation and the lofty Spires,
In this, a world of gold and Treasure lay,
Which in few hours was carried all away.
With greedy eyes he views this City round,
Whose fame throughout the world was so renownd
And to possess he counts no little bliss
The towres and bowres of proud Semiramis,
Though worne by time, and rac'd by foes full sore,
Yet old foundations shew'd and somewhat more.
With all the pleasures that on earth are found,
This city did abundantly abound,
Where four and thirty dayes he now did stay,
And gave himself to banqueting and play:
He and his souldiers wax effeminate,
And former discipline begin to hate.
Whilst revelling at Babylon he lyes,
Antipater from Greece sends fresh supplyes.
He then to Shushan goes with his new bands,
But needs no force, tis rendred to his hands.
He likewise here a world of treasure found;
For 'twas the seat of Persian Kings renownd.
Here stood the royal Houses of delight,
Where Kings have shown their glory wealth and might
The sumptuous palace of Queen Esther here,
And of good Mordicai, her kinsman dear,
Those purple hangings, mixt with green and white
Those beds of gold, and couches of delight.
And furniture the richest in all lands,
Now fall into the Macedonians hands.
From Shushan to Persipolis he goes,
Which news doth still augment Darius woes.
In his approach the governour sends word,
For his receipt with joy they all accord,
With open gates the wealthy town did stand,
And all in it was at his high command.
Of all the Cities that on earth was found,
None like to this in riches did abound:
Though Babylon was rich and Shushan too
Yet to compare with this they might not doe:
Here lay the bulk of all those precious things
That did pertain unto the Persian Kings:
For when the souldiers rifled had their pleasure,
And taken money plate and golden treasure,
Statues some gold, and silver numberless,
Yet after all, as storyes do express
The share of Alexander did amount
To an hundred thousand talents by account.
Here of his own he sets a Garison,
(As first at Shushan and at Babylon)
On their old Governours titles he laid,
But on their faithfulness he never staid,
Their place gave to his Captains (as was just)
For such revolters false, what King can trust?
The riches and the pleasures of this town
Now makes this King his virtues all to drown,
That wallowing in all licentiousness,
In pride and cruelty to high excess.
Being inflam'd with wine upon a season,
Filled with madness, and quite void of reason,
He at a bold proud strumpets leud desire,
Commands to set this goodly town on fire.
Parmenio wise intreats him to desist
And layes before his eyes if he persist
His fames dishonour, loss unto his state,
And just procuring of the Persians hate:
But deaf to reason, bent to have his will,
Those stately streets with raging flame did fill.
Then to Darius he directs his way,
Who was retir'd as far as Media,
And there with sorrows, fears & cares surrounded
Had now his army fourth and last compounded.
Which forty thousand made, but his intent
Was these in Bactria soon to augment:
But hearing Alexander was so near,
Thought now this once to try his fortunes here,
And rather chose an honourable death,
Then still with infamy to draw his breath:
But Bessus false, who was his chief Commander
Perswades him not to fight with Alexander.
With sage advice he sets before his eyes
The little hope of profit like to rise:
If when he'd multitudes the day he lost,
Then with so few, how likely to be crost.
This counsel for his safety he pretended,
But to deliver him to's foe intended.
Next day this treason to Darius known
Transported sore with grief and passion,
Grinding his teeth, and plucking off his hair,
Sate overwhelm'd with sorrow and dispair:
Then bids his servant Artabasus true,
Look to himself, and leave him to that crew,
Who was of hopes and comforts quite bereft,
And by his guard and Servitors all left.
Straight Bessus comes, & with his trait'rous hands
Layes hold on's Lord, and binding him with bands
Throws him into a Cart, covered with hides,
Who wanting means t'resist these wrongs abides,
Then draws the cart along with chains of gold,
In more despight the thraled prince to hold,
And thus t'ward Alexander on he goes,
Great recompence for this, he did propose:
But some detesting this his wicked fact,
To Alexander flyes and tells this act,
Who doubling of his march, posts on amain,
Darius from that traitors hands to gain.
Bessus gets knowledg his disloyalty
Had Alexanders wrath incensed high,
Whose army now was almost within sight,
His hopes being dasht prepares himself for flight:
Unto Darius first he brings a horse,
And bids him save himself by speedy course:
The wofull King his courtesie refuses,
Whom thus the execrable wretch abuses,
By throwing darts gave him his mortal wound,
Then slew his Servants that were faithfull found,
Yea wounds the beasts that drew him unto death,
And leaves him thus to gasp out his last breath.
Bessus his partner in this tragedy,
Was the false Governour of Media.
This done, they with their host soon speed away,
To hide themselves remote in Bactria.
Darius bath'd in blood, sends out his groans,
Invokes the heav'ns and earth to hear his moans:
His lost felicity did grieve him sore,
But this unheard of treachery much more:
But above all, that neither Ear nor Eye
Should hear nor see his dying misery;
As thus he lay, Polistrates a Greek,
Wearied with his long march, did water seek,
So chanc'd these bloudy Horses to espy,
Whose wounds had made their skins of purple dye
To them repairs then looking in the Cart,
Finds poor Darius pierced to the heart,
Who not a little chear'd to have some eye,
The witness of this horrid Tragedy;
Prays him to Alexander to commend
The just revenge of this his woful end:
And not to pardon such disloyalty,
Of Treason, Murther, and base Cruelty.
If not, because Darius thus did pray,
Yet that succeeding Kings in safety may
Their lives enjoy, their Crowns and dignity,
And not by Traitors hands untimely dye.
He also sends his humble thankfulness,
For all the Kingly grace he did express;
To's Mother, Children dear, and wife now gone.
Which made their long restraint seem to be none:
Praying the immortal Gods, that Sea and Land
Might be subjected to his royal hand,
And that his Rule as far extended be,
As men the rising, setting Sun shall see,
This said, the Greek for water doth intreat,
To quench his thirst, and to allay his heat:
Of all good things (quoth he) once in my power,
I've nothing left, at this my dying hour;
Thy service and compassion to reward,
But Alexander will, for this regard.
This said, his fainting breath did fleet away,
And though a Monarch late, now lyes like clay;
And thus must every Son of Adam lye,
Though Gods on Earth like Sons of men they dye.
Now to the East, great Alexander goes,
To see if any dare his might oppose,
For scarce the world or any bounds thereon,
Could bound his boundless fond Ambition;
Such as submits again he doth restore
Their riches, and their honours he makes more,
On Artabaces more then all bestow'd,
For his fidelity to's Master show'd.
Thalestris Queen of th'Amazons now brought
Her Train to Alexander, (as 'tis thought.)
Though most of reading best and soundest mind,
Such Country there, nor yet such people find.
Then tell her errand, we had better spare
To th'ignorant, her title will declare:
As Alexander in his greatness grows,
So dayly of his virtues doth he lose.
He baseness counts, his former Clemency,
And not beseeming such a dignity;
His past sobriety doth also bate,
As most incompatible to his State;
His temperance is but a sordid thing,
No wayes becoming such a mighty King;
His greatness now he takes to represent
His fancy'd Gods above the Firmament.
And such as shew'd but reverence before,
Now are commanded strictly to adore;
With Persian Robes himself doth dignifie,
Charging the same on his nobility,
His manners habit, gestures, all did fashion
After that conquer'd and luxurious Nation.
His Captains that were virtuously inclin'd,
Griev'd at this change of manners and of mind.
The ruder sort did openly deride,
His feigned Diety and foolish pride;
The certainty of both comes to his Ears,
But yet no notice takes of what he hears:
With those of worth he still desires esteem,
So heaps up gifts his credit to redeem
And for the rest new wars and travails finds,
That other matters might take up their minds,
And hearing Bessus, makes himself a King,
Intends that Traitor to his end to bring.
Now that his Host from luggage might be free,
And with his burthen no man burthened be;
Commands forthwith each man his fardle bring,
Into the market place before the King;
VVhich done, sets fire upon those goodly spoyles,
The recompence of travails wars and toyles.
And thus unwisely in a mading fume,
The wealth of many Kingdomes did consume,
But marvell 'tis that without mutiny,
The Souldiers should let pass this injury;
Nor wonder less to Readers may it bring,
Here to observe the rashness of the King.
Now with his Army doth he post away
False Bessus to find out in Bactria:
But much distrest for water in their march,
The drought and heat their bodies sore did parch.
At length they came to th'river Oxus brink,
Where so immoderately these thirsty drink,
Which more mortality to them did bring,
Then all their warrs against the Persian King.
Here Alexander's almost at a stand,
To pass the River to the other land.
For boats here's none, nor near it any wood,
To make them Rafts to waft them o're the flood:
But he that was resolved in his mind,
Would without means some transportation find.
Then from the Carriages the hides he takes,
And stuffing them with straw, he bundles makes.
On these together ti'd, in six dayes space,
They all pass over to the other place.
Had Bessus had but valour to his will,
With little pain there might have kept them still:
But Coward durst not fight, nor could he fly,
Hated of all for's former treachery,
Is by his own now bound in iron chains,
A Coller of the same, his neck contains.
And in this sort they rather drag then bring
This Malefactor vile before the King,
Who to Darius brother gives the wretch,
With racks and tortures every limb to stretch.
Here was of Greeks a town in Bactria,
Whom Xerxes from their Country led away,
These not a little joy'd, this day to see,
Wherein their own had got the sov'raignty
And now reviv'd, with hopes held up their head
From bondage long to be Enfranchised.
But Alexander puts them to the sword
Without least cause from them in deed or word;
Nor Sex, nor age, nor one, nor other spar'd,
But in his cruelty alike they shar'd:
Nor reason could he give for this great wrong,
But that they had forgot their mother tongue.
While thus some time he spent in Bactria,
And in his camp strong and securely lay,
Down from the mountains twenty thousand came
And there most fiercely set upon the same:
Repelling these, two marks of honour got
Imprinted in his leg, by arrows shot.
The Bactrians against him now rebel;
But he their stubborness in time doth quell.
From hence he to Jaxartis River goes,
Where Scythians rude his army doth oppose,
And with their outcryes in an hideous sort
Beset his camp, or military court,
Of darts and arrows, made so little spare,
They flew so thick, they seem'd to dark the air:
But soon his souldiers forc'd them to a flight,
Their nakedness could not endure their might.
Upon this rivers bank in seventeen dayes
A goodly City doth compleatly raise,
Which Alexandria he doth likewise name,
And sixty furlongs could but round the same.
A third Supply Antipater now sent,
Which did his former forces much augment;
And being one hundred twenty thousand strong;
He enters then the Indian Kings among:
Those that submit, he gives them rule again,
Such as do not, both them and theirs are slain.
His warrs with sundry nations I'le omit,
And also of the Mallians what is writ.
His Fights, his dangers, and the hurts he had,
How to submit their necks at last they're glad.
To Nisa goes by Bacchus built long since,
Whose feasts are celebrated by this prince;
Nor had that drunken god one who would take
His Liquors more devoutly for his sake.
When thus ten days his brain with wine he'd soakt,
And with delicious meats his palate choakt:
To th'River Indus next his course he bends,
Boats to prepare, Ephestion first he sends,
Who coming thither long before his Lord,
Had to his mind made all things to accord,
The vessels ready were at his command,
And Omphis King of that part of the land,
Through his perswasion Alexander meets,
And as his Sov'raign Lord him humbly greets
Fifty six Elephants he brings to's hand,
And tenders him the strength of all his land;
Presents himself first with a golden crown,
Then eighty talents to his captains down:
But Alexander made him to behold
He glory sought, no silver nor no gold;
His presents all with thanks he did restore,
And of his own a thousand talents more.
Thus all the Indian Kings to him submit,
But Porus stout, who will not yeild as yet:
To him doth Alexander thus declare,
His pleasure is that forthwith he repair
Unto his Kingdomes borders, and as due,
His homage to himself as Soveraign doe:
But kingly Porus this brave answer sent,
That to attend him there was his intent,
And come as well provided as he could,
But for the rest, his sword advise him should.
Great Alexander vext at this reply,
Did more his valour then his crown envy,
Is now resolv'd to pass Hydaspes flood,
And there by force his soveraignty make good.
Stout Porus on the banks doth ready stand
To give him welcome when he comes to land.
A potent army with him like a King,
And ninety Elephants for warr did bring:
Had Alexander such resistance seen
On Tygris side, here now he had not been.
Within this spacious River deep and wide
Did here and there Isles full of trees abide.
His army Alexander doth divide
With Ptolemy sends part to th'other side;
Porus encounters them and thinks all's there,
When covertly the rest get o're else where,
And whilst the first he valiantly assail'd,
The last set on his back, and so prevail'd.
Yet work enough here Alexander found,
For to the last stout Porus kept his ground:
Nor was't dishonour at the length to yield,
When Alexander strives to win the field.
The kingly Captive 'fore the Victor's brought,
In looks or gesture not abased ought,
But him a Prince of an undaunted mind
Did Alexander by his answers find:
His fortitude his royal foe commends,
Restores him and his bounds farther extends.
Now eastward Alexander would goe still,
But so to doe his souldiers had no will,
Long with excessive travails wearied,
Could by no means be farther drawn or led,
Yet that his fame might to posterity
Be had in everlasting memory,
Doth for his Camp a greater circuit take,
And for his souldiers larger Cabbins make.
His mangers he erected up so high
As never horse his Provender could eye.
Huge bridles made, which here and there he left,
Which might be found, and for great wonders kept
Twelve altars then for monuments he rears,
Whereon his acts and travels long appears.
But doubting wearing time might these decay,
And so his memory would fade away,
He on the fair Hydaspes pleasant side,
Two Cities built, his name might there abide,
First Nicea, the next Bucephalon,
Where he entomb'd his stately Stalion.
His fourth and last supply was hither sent,
Then down Hydaspes with his Fleet he went;
Some time he after spent upon that shore,
Whether Ambassadors, ninety or more,
Came with submission from the Indian Kings,
Bringing their presents rare, and precious things,
These all he feasts in state on beds of gold,
His Furniture most sumptuous to behold;
His meat & drink, attendants, every thing,
To th'utmost shew'd the glory of a King.
With rich rewards he sent them home again,
Acknowledged their Masters sovereign;
Then sailing South, and coming to that shore,
Those obscure Nations yielded as before:
A City here he built, call'd by his Name,
Which could not sound too oft with too much fame
Then sailing by the mouth of Indus floud,
His Gallyes stuck upon the flats and mud;
Which the stout Macedonians amazed sore,
Depriv'd at once the use of Sail and Oar:
Observing well the nature of the Tide,
In those their fears they did not long abide.
Passing fair Indus mouth his course he steer'd
To th'coast which by Euphrates mouth appear'd;
Whose inlets near unto, he winter spent,
Unto his starved Souldiers small content,
By hunger and by cold so many slain,
That of them all the fourth did scarce remain.
Thus winter, Souldiers, and provisions spent,
From hence he then unto Gedrosia went.
And thence he marcht into Carmania,
And so at length drew near to Persia,
Now through these goodly Countryes as he past,
Much time in feasts and ryoting did waste;
Then visits Cyrus Sepulchre in's way,
Who now obscure at Passagardis lay:
Upon his Monument his Robe he spread,
And set his Crown on his supposed head.
From hence to Babylon, some time there spent,
He at the last to royal Shushan went;
A wedding Feast to's Nobles then he makes,
And Statyra, Darius daughter takes,
Her Sister gives to his Ephestian dear,
That by this match he might be yet more near;
He fourscore Persian Ladies also gave,
At this same time unto his Captains brave:
Six thousand guests unto this Feast invites,
Whose Sences all were glutted with delights.
It far exceeds my mean abilities
To shadow forth these short felicities,
Spectators here could scarce relate the story,
They were so rapt with this external glory:
If an Ideal Paradise a man would frame,
He might this Feast imagine by the same;
To every guess a cup of gold he sends,
So after many dayes the Banquet ends.
Now Alexanders conquests all are done,
And his long Travails past and overgone;
His virtues dead, buried, and quite forgot,
But vice remains to his Eternal blot.
'Mongst those that of his cruelty did tast,
Philotus was not least, nor yet the last,
Accus'd because he did not certifie
The King of treason and conspiracy:
Upon suspition being apprehended,
Nothing was prov'd wherein he had offended
But silence, which was of such consequence,
He was judg'd guilty of the same offence,
But for his fathers great deserts the King
His royal pardon gave for this foul thing.
Yet is Phylotas unto judgment brought,
Must suffer, not for what is prov'd, but thought.
His master is accuser, judge and King,
Who to the height doth aggravate each thing,
Inveighs against his father now absent,
And's brethren who for him their lives had spent.
But Philotas his unpardonable crime,
No merit could obliterate, or time:
He did the Oracle of Jove deride,
By which his Majesty was diefi'd.
Philotas thus o'recharg'd with wrong and grief
Sunk in despair without hope of Relief,
Fain would have spoke and made his own defence,
The King would give no ear, but went from thence
To his malicious Foes delivers him,
To wreak their spight and hate on every limb.
Philotas after him sends out this cry,
O Alexander, thy free clemency
My foes exceeds in malice, and their hate
Thy kingly word can easily terminate.
Such torments great as wit could worst invent,
Or flesh and life could bear, till both were spent
Were now inflicted on Parmenio's son
He might accuse himself, as they had done,
At last he did, so they were justifi'd,
And told the world, that for his guilt he di'd.
But how these Captains should, or yet their master
Look on Parmenio, after this disaster
They knew not, wherefore best now to be done,
Was to dispatch the father as the son.
This sound advice at heart pleas'd Alexander,
Who was so much ingag'd to this Commander,
As he would ne're confess, nor yet reward,
Nor could his Captains bear so great regard:
Wherefore at once, all these to satisfie,
It was decreed Parmenio should dye:
Polidamus, who seem'd Parmenio's friend
To do this deed they into Media send:
He walking in his garden to and fro,
Fearing no harm, because he none did doe,
Most wickedly was slain without least crime,
(The most renowned captain of his time)
This is Parmenio who so much had done
For Philip dead, and his surviving son,
Who from a petty King of Macedon
By him was set upon the Persian throne,
This that Parmenio who still overcame,
Yet gave his Master the immortal fame,
Who for his prudence, valour, care and trust
Had this reward, most cruel and unjust.
The next, who in untimely death had part,
Was one of more esteem, but less desert;
Clitus belov'd next to Ephestian,
And in his cups his chief companion;
When both were drunk, Clitus was wont to jeer,
Alexander to rage, to kill, and swear;
Nothing more pleasing to mad Clitus tongue,
Then's Masters Godhead to defie and wrong;
Nothing toucht Alexander to the quick,
Like this against his Diety to kick:
Both at a Feast when they had tippled well,
Upon this dangerous Theam fond Clitus fell;
From jest to earnest, and at last so bold,
That of Parmenio's death him plainly told.
Which Alexanders wrath incens'd so high,
Nought but his life for this could satisfie;
From one stood by he snatcht a partizan,
And in a rage him through the body ran,
Next day he tore his face for what he'd done,
And would have slain himself for Clitus gone:
This pot Companion he did more bemoan,
Then all the wrongs to brave Parmenio done.
The next of worth that suffered after these,
Was learned, virtuous, wise Calisthenes,
VVho lov'd his Master more then did the rest,
As did appear, in flattering him the least;
In his esteem a God he could not be,
Nor would adore him for a Diety:
For this alone and for no other cause,
Against his Sovereign, or against his Laws,
He on the Rack his Limbs in pieces rent,
Thus was he tortur'd till his life was spent.
Of this unkingly act doth Seneca
This censure pass, and not unwisely say,
Of Alexander this th'eternal crime,
VVhich shall not be obliterate by time.
VVhich virtues fame can ne're redeem by far,
Nor all felicity of his in war.
VVhen e're 'tis said he thousand thousands slew,
Yea, and Calisthenes to death he drew.
The mighty Persian King he overcame,
Yea, and he kill'd Calistthenes of fame.
All Countryes, Kingdomes, Provinces, he wan
From Hellispont, to th'farthest Ocean.
All this he did, who knows' not to be true?
But yet withal, Catisthenes he slew.
From Macedon, his Empire did extend
Unto the utmost bounds o' th'orient:
All this he did, yea, and much more, 'tis true,
But yet withal, Catisthenes he slew.
Now Alexander goes to Media,
Finds there the want of wise Parmenio;
Here his chief favourite Ephestian dies,
He celebrates his mournful obsequies:
Hangs his Physitian, the Reason why
He suffered, his friend Ephestian dye.
This act (me-thinks) his Godhead should a shame,
To punish where himself deserved blame;
Or of necessity he must imply,
The other was the greatest Diety.
The Mules and Horses are for sorrow shorne,
The battlements from off the walls are torne.
Of stately Ecbatane who now must shew,
A rueful face in this so general woe;
Twelve thousand Talents also did intend,
Upon a sumptuous monument to spend:
What e're he did, or thought not so content,
His messenger to Jupiter he sent,
That by his leave his friend Ephestion,
Among the Demy Gods they might inthrone.
From Media to Babylon he went,
To meet him there t'Antipater he'd sent,
That he might act also upon the Stage,
And in a Tragedy there end his age.
The Queen Olimpias bears him deadly hate,
Not suffering her to meddle with the State,
And by her Letters did her Son incite,
This great indignity he should requite;
His doing so, no whit displeas'd the King,
Though to his Mother he disprov'd the thing.
But now Antipater had liv'd so long,
He might well dye though he had done no wrong;
His service great is suddenly forgot,
Or if remembred, yet regarded not:
The King doth intimate 'twas his intent,
His honours and his riches to augment;
Of larger Provinces the rule to give,
And for his Counsel near the King to live.
So to be caught, Antipater's too wise,
Parmenio's death's too fresh before his eyes;
He was too subtil for his crafty foe.
Nor by his baits could be insnared so:
But his excuse with humble thanks he sends,
His Age and journy long he then pretends;
And pardon craves for his unwilling stay,
He shews his grief, he's forc'd to disobey.
Before his Answer came to Babylon,
The thread of Alexanders life was spun;
Poyson had put an end to's dayes ('twas thought)
By Philip and Cassander to him brought,
Sons to Antipater, and bearers of his Cup,
Lest of such like their Father chance to sup;
By others thought, and that more generally,
That through excessive drinking he did dye:
The thirty third of's Age do all agree,
This Conquerour did yield to destiny.
When this sad news came to Darius Mother,
She laid it more to heart, then any other,
Nor meat, nor drink, nor comfort would she take,
But pin'd in grief till life did her forsake;
All friends she shuns, yea, banished the light,
Till death inwrapt her in perpetual night.
This Monarchs fame must last whilst world doth stand,
And Conquests be talkt of whilest there is land;
His Princely qualities had he retain'd,
Unparalled for ever had remain'd.
But with the world his virtues overcame,
And so with black beclouded, all his fame;
Wise Aristotle Tutor to his youth.
Had so instructed him in moral Truth:
The principles of what he then had learn'd
Might to the last (when sober) be discern'd.
Learning and learned men he much regarded,
And curious Artist evermore rewarded:
The Illiads of Homer he still kept.
And under's pillow laid them when he slept.
Achilles happiness he did envy,
'Cause Homer kept his acts to memory.
Profusely bountifull without desert,
For such as pleas'd him had both wealth and heart
Cruel by nature and by custome too,
As oft his acts throughout his reign doth shew:
Ambitious so, that nought could satisfie,
Vain, thirsting after immortality,
Still fearing that his name might hap to dye,
And fame not last unto eternity.
This Conqueror did oft lament (tis said)
There were no more worlds to be conquered.
This folly great Augustus did deride,
For had he had but wisdome to his pride,
He would had found enough there to be done,
To govern that he had already won.
His thoughts are perisht, he aspires no more,
Nor can he kill or save as heretofore.
A God alive, him all must Idolize,
Now like a mortal helpless man he lyes.
Of all those Kingdomes large which he had got,
To his Posterity remain'd no jot;
For by that hand which still revengeth bloud,
None of his kindred, nor his race long stood:
But as he took delight much bloud to spill,
So the same cup to his, did others fill.
Four of his Captains now do all divide,
As Daniel before had prophysi'd.
The Leopard down, the four wings 'gan to rise,
The great horn broke, the less did tyranize.
What troubles and contentions did ensue
We may hereafter shew in season due.
Great Alexander dead, his Armyes left,
Like to that Giant of his Eye bereft;
When of his monstrous bulk it was the guide,
His matchless force no creature could abide.
But by Ulisses having lost his sight,
All men began streight to contemn his might;
For aiming still amiss, his dreadful blows
Did harm himself, but never reacht his Foes.
Now Court and Camp all in confusion be,
A King they'l have, but who, none can agree;
Each Captain wisht this prize to bear away,
But none so hardy found as so durst say:
Great Alexander did leave Issue none,
Except by Artabasus daughter one;
And Roxane fair whom late he married,
Was near her time to be delivered.
By natures right these had enough to claim,
But meaness of their mothers bar'd the same,
Alledg'd by those who by their subtile Plea
Had hope themselves to bear the Crown away.
A Sister Alexander had, but she
Claim'd not, perhaps, her Sex might hindrance be.
After much tumult they at last proclaim'd
His base born brother Aridæus nam'd,
That so under his feeble wit and reign,
Their ends they might the better still attain.
This choice Perdiccas vehemently disclaim'd,
And Babe unborn of Roxane he proclaim'd;
Some wished him to take the style of King,
Because his Master gave to him his Ring,
And had to him still since Ephestion di'd
More then to th'rest his favour testifi'd.
But he refus'd, with feigned modesty,
Hoping to be elect more generally.
He hold on this occasion should have laid,
For second offer there was never made.
'Mongst these contentions, tumults, jealousies,
Seven dayes the corps of their great master lies
Untoucht, uncovered slighted and neglected,
So much these princes their own ends respected:
A Contemplation to astonish Kings,
That he who late possest all earthly things,
And yet not so content unless that he
Might be esteemed for a Diety;
Now lay a Spectacle to testifie,
The wretchedness of mans mortality.
After some time, when stirs began to calm,
His body did the Egyptians embalme;
His countenance so lively did appear,
That for a while they durst not come so near:
No sign of poyson in his intrails sound,
But all his bowels coloured, well and sound.
Perdiccas seeing Arideus must be King,
Under his name began to rule each thing.
His chief Opponent who Control'd his sway,
Was Meleager whom he would take away,
And by a wile he got him in his power,
So took his life unworthily that hour.
Using the name, and the command of th'King
To authorize his acts in every thing.
The princes seeing Perdiccas power and pride,
For their security did now provide.
Antigonus for his share Asia takes,
And Ptolemy next sure of Egypt makes:
Seleucus afterward held Babylon,
Antipater had long rul'd Macedon.
These now to govern for the king pretends,
But nothing less each one himself intends.
Perdiccas took no province like the rest,
But held command of th'Army (which was best)
And had a higher project in his head,
His Masters sister secretly to wed:
So to the Lady, covertly he sent,
(That none might know, to frustrate his intent)
But Cleopatra this Suitor did deny,
For Leonatus more lovely in her eye,
To whom she sent a message of her mind,
That if he came good welcome he should find.
In these tumultuous dayes the thralled Greeks,
Their Ancient Liberty afresh now seeks.
And gladly would the yoke shake off, laid on
Sometimes by Philip and his conquering son.
The Athenians force Antipater to fly
To Lamia where he shut up doth lye.
To brave Craterus then he sends with speed
For succours to relieve him in his need.
The like of Leonatus he requires,
(Which at this time well suited his desires)
For to Antipater he now might goe,
His Lady take in th'way, and no man know.
Antiphilus the Athenian General
With speed his Army doth together call;
And Leonatus seeks to stop, that so
He joyne not with Antipater their foe.
The Athenian Army was the greater far,
(Which did his Match with Cleopatra mar)
For fighting still, while there did hope remain
The valiant Chief amidst his foes was slain.
'Mongst all the princes of great Alexander
For personage, none like to this Commander.
Now to Antipater Craterus goes,
Blockt up in Lamia still by his foes,
Long marches through Cilicia he makes,
And the remains of Leonatus takes:
With them and his he into Grecia went,
Antipater releas'd from prisonment:
After which time the Greeks did never more
Act any thing of worth, as heretofore:
But under servitude their necks remain'd,
Nor former liberty or glory gain'd.
Now di'd about the end of th'Lamian war
Demosthenes, that sweet-tongue'd Orator,
Who fear'd Antipater would take his life
For animating the Athenian strife:
To end his dayes by poison rather chose
Then fall into the hands of mortal foes.
Craterus and Antipater now joyne,
In love and in affinity combine,
Craterus doth his daughter Phila wed
Their friendship might the more be strengthened.
Whilst they in Macedon do thus agree,
In Asia they all asunder be.
Perdiccas griev'd to see the princes bold
So many Kingdomes in their power to hold,
Yet to regain them, how he did not know,
His souldiers 'gainst those captains would not goe
To suffer them go on as they begun,
Was to give way himself might be undone.
With Antipater to joyne he sometimes thought,
That by his help, the rest might low be brought,
But this again dislikes; he would remain,
If not in stile, in deed a soveraign;
(For all the princes of great Alexander
Acknowledged for Chief that old Commander)
Desires the King to goe to Macedon,
Which once was of his Ancestors the throne,
And by his presence there to nullifie
The acts of his Vice-Roy now grown so high.
Antigonus of treason first attaints,
And summons him to answer his complaints.
This he avoids, and ships himself and son,
goes to Antipater and tells what's done.
He and Craterus, both with him do joyne,
And 'gainst Perdiccas all their strength combine.
Brave Ptolemy, to make a fourth then sent
To save himself from danger imminent.
In midst of these garboyles, with wondrous state
His masters funeral doth celebrate:
In Alexandria his tomb he plac'd,
Which eating time hath scarcely yet defac'd.
Two years and more, since natures debt he paid,
And yet till now at quiet was not laid.
Great love did Ptolemy by this act gain,
And made the souldiers on his side remain.
Perdiccas hears his foes are all combin'd,
'Gainst which to goe, is not resolv'd in mind.
But first 'gainst Ptolemy he judg'd was best,
Neer'st unto him, and farthest from the rest,
Leaves Eumenes the Asian Coast to free
From the invasions of the other three,
And with his army unto Egypt goes
Brave Ptolemy to th'utmost to oppose.
Perdiccas surly cariage, and his pride
Did alinate the souldiers from his side.
But Ptolemy by affability
His sweet demeanour and his courtesie,
Did make his own, firm to his cause remain,
And from the other side did dayly gain.
Perdiccas in his pride did ill intreat
Python of haughty mind, and courage great.
Who could not brook so great indignity,
But of his wrongs his friends doth certifie;
The souldiers 'gainst Perdiccas they incense,
Who vow to make this captain recompence,
And in a rage they rush into his tent,
Knock out his brains: to Ptolemy then went
And offer him his honours, and his place,
With stile of the Protector, him to grace.
Next day into the camp came Ptolemy,
And is receiv'd of all most joyfully.
Their proffers he refus'd with modesty,
Yields them to Python for his courtesie.
With what he held he was now more content,
Then by more trouble to grow eminent.
Now comes there news of a great victory
That Eumenes got of the other three.
Had it but in Perdiccas life ariv'd,
With greater joy it would have been receiv'd.
Thus Ptolemy rich Egypt did retain,
And Python turn'd to Asia again.
Whilst Perdiccas encamp'd in Affrica,
Antigonus did enter Asia,
And fain would Eumenes draw to their side,
But he alone most faithfull did abide:
The other all had Kingdomes in their eye,
But he was true to's masters family,
Nor could Craterus, whom he much did love.
From his fidelity once make him move:
Two Battles fought, and had of both the best,
And brave Craterus slew among the rest:
For this sad strife he poures out his complaints,
And his beloved foe full sore laments.
I should but snip a story into bits
And his great Acts and glory much eclipse,
To shew the dangers Eumenes befel,
His stratagems wherein he did excel:
His Policies, how he did extricate
Himself from out of Lab'rinths intricate:
He that at large would satisfie his mind,
In Plutarchs Lives his history may find.
For all that should be said, let this suffice,
He was both valiant, faithfull, patient, wise.
Python now chose Protector of the state,
His rule Queen Euridice begins to hate,
Sees Arrideus must not King it long,
If once young Alexander grow more strong,
But that her husband serve for supplement,
To warm his seat, was never her intent.
She knew her birth-right gave her Macedon,
Grand-child to him who once sat on that throne
Who was Perdiccas, Philips eldest brother,
She daughter to his son, who had no other.
Pythons commands, as oft she countermands;
What he appoints, she purposely withstands.
He wearied out at last would needs be gone,
Resign'd his place, and so let all alone:
In's room the souldiers chose Antipater,
Who vext the Queen more then the other far.
From Macedon to Asia he came,
That he might settle matters in the same.
He plac'd, displac'd, control'd rul'd as he list,
And this no man durst question or resist;
For all the nobles of King Alexander
Their bonnets vail'd to him as chief Commander.
When to his pleasure all things they had done,
The King and Queen he takes to Macedon,
Two sons of Alexander, and the rest,
All to be order'd there as he thought best.
The Army to Antigonus doth leave,
And Government of Asia to him gave.
And thus Antipater the ground-work layes,
On which Antigonus his height doth raise,
Who in few years, the rest so overtops,
For universal Monarchy he hopes.
With Eumenes he diverse Battels fought,
And by his slights to circumvent him sought:
But vain it was to use his policy,
'Gainst him that all deceits could scan and try.
In this Epitome too long to tell
How finely Eumenes did here excell,
And by the self same Traps the other laid,
He to his cost was righteously repaid.
But while these Chieftains doe in Asia fight,
To Greece and Macedon lets turn our sight.
When great Antipater the world must leave,
His place to Polisperchon did bequeath,
Fearing his son Cassander was unstaid,
Too rash to bear that charge, if on him laid.
Antigonus hearing of his decease
On most part of Assyria doth seize.
And Ptolemy next to incroach begins,
All Syria and Phenicia he wins,
Then Polisperchon 'gins to act in's place,
Recalls Olimpias the Court to grace.
Antipater had banish'd her from thence
Into Epire for her great turbulence;
This new Protector's of another mind,
Thinks by her Majesty much help to find.
Cassander like his Father could not see,
This Polisperchons great ability,
Slights his Commands, his actions he disclaims,
And to be chief himself now bends his aims;
Such as his Father had advanc'd to place,
Or by his favours any way had grac'd
Are now at the devotion of the Son,
Prest to accomplish what he would have done;
Besides he was the young Queens favourite,
On whom (t'was thought) she set her chief delight:
Unto these helps at home he seeks out more,
Goes to Antigonus and doth implore,
By all the Bonds 'twixt him and's Father past,
And for that great gift which he gave him last.
By these and all to grant him some supply,
To take down Polisperchon grown so high;
For this Antigonus did need no spurs,
Hoping to gain yet more by these new stirs,
Streight furnish'd him with a sufficient aid,
And so he quick returns thus well appaid,
With Ships at Sea, an Army for the Land,
His proud opponent hopes soon to withstand.
But in his absence Polisperchon takes
Such friends away as for his Interest makes
By death, by prison, or by banishment,
That no supply by these here might be lent,
Cassander with his Host to Grecia goes,
Whom Polisperchon labours to oppose;
But beaten was at Sea, and foil'd at Land,
Cassanders forces had the upper hand,
Athens with many Towns in Greece beside,
Firm (for his Fathers sake) to him abide.
Whil'st hot in wars these two in Greece remain,
Antigonus doth all in Asia gain;
Still labours Eumenes, would with him side,
But all in vain, he faithful did abide:
Nor Mother could, nor Sons of Alexander,
Put trust in any but in this Commander.
The great ones now began to shew their mind,
And act as opportunity they find.
Aridæus the scorn'd and simple King,
More then he bidden was could act no thing.
Polisperchon for office hoping long,
Thinks to inthrone the Prince when riper grown;
Euridice this injury disdains,
And to Cassandar of this wrong complains.
Hateful the name and house of Alexander,
Was to this proud vindicative Cassander;
He still kept lockt within his memory,
His Fathers danger, with his Family;
Nor thought he that indignity was small,
When Alexander knockt his head to th'wall.
These with his love unto the amorous Queen,
Did make him vow her servant to be seen.
Olimpias, Aridæus deadly hates,
As all her Husbands, Children by his mates,
She gave him poyson formerly ('tis thought)
Which damage both to mind and body brought;
She now with Polisperchon doth combine,
To make the King by force his Seat resigne:
And her young grand-child in his State inthrone,
That under him, she might rule, all alone.
For aid she goes t'Epire among her friends,
The better to accomplish these her ends;
Euridice hearing what she intends,
In haste unto her friend Cassander sends,
To leave his siege at Tegea, and with speed,
To save the King and her in this their need:
Then by intreaties, promises and Coyne,
Some forces did procure with her to joyn.
Olimpias soon enters Macedon,
The Queen to meet her bravely marches on,
But when her Souldiers saw their ancient Queen,
Calling to mind what sometime she had been;
The wife and Mother of their famous Kings,
Nor darts, nor arrows, now none shoots or flings.
The King and Queen seeing their destiny,
To save their lives t'Amphipolis do fly;
But the old Queen pursues them with her hate,
And needs will have their lives as well as State:
The King by extream torments had his end,
And to the Queen these presents she did send;
A Halter, cup of poyson, and a Sword,
Bids chuse her death, such kindness she'l afford.
The Queen with many a curse, and bitter check,
At length yields to the Halter her fair neck;
Praying that fatal day might quickly haste,
On which Olimpias of the like might taste.
This done the cruel Queen rests not content,
'Gainst all that lov'd Cassander she was bent;
His Brethren, Kinsfolk and his chiefest friends,
That fell within her reach came to their ends:
Dig'd up his brother dead, 'gainst natures right,
And threw his bones about to shew her spight:
The Courtiers wondring at her furious mind,
Wisht in Epire she had been still confin'd.
In Peloponesus then Cassander lay,
Where hearing of this news he speeds away,
With rage, and with revenge he's hurried on,
To find this cruel Queen in Macedon;
But being stopt, at streight Thermopoly,
Sea passage gets, and lands in Thessaly:
His Army he divides, sends post away,
Polisperchon to hold a while in play;
And with the rest Olimpias pursues,
For all her cruelty, to give her dues.
She with the chief o' th'Court to Pydna flyes,
Well fortifi'd, (and on the Sea it lyes)
There by Cassander she's blockt up so long,
Untill the Famine grows exceeding strong,
Her Couzen of Epire did what he might,
To raise the Siege, and put her Foes to flight.
Cassander is resolved there to remain,
So succours and endeavours proves but vain;
Fain would this wretched Queen capitulate,
Her foe would give no Ear, (such is his hate)
The Souldiers pinched with this scarcity,
By stealth unto Cassander dayly fly;
Olimpias means to hold out to the last,
Expecting nothing but of death to tast:
But his occasions calling him away,
Gives promise for her life, so wins the day.
No sooner had he got her in his hand,
But made in judgement her accusers stand;
And plead the blood of friends and kindreds spilt,
Desiring justice might be done for guilt;
And so was he acquitted of his word,
For justice sake she being
What, you, Sir, come too? (Just the man I'd meet.)
Be ruled by me and have a care o' the crowd:
This way, while fresh folk go and get their gaze:
I'll tell you like a book and save your shins.
Fie, what a roaring day we've had! Whose fault?
Lorenzo in Lucina,—here's a church
To hold a crowd at need, accommodate
All comers from the Corso! If this crush
Make not its priests ashamed of what they show
For temple-room, don't prick them to draw purse
And down with bricks and mortar, eke us out
The beggarly transept with its bit of apse
Into a decent space for Christian ease,
Why, to-day's lucky pearl is cast to swine.
Listen and estimate the luck they've had!
(The right man, and I hold him.)
Sir, do you see,
They laid both bodies in the church, this morn
The first thing, on the chancel two steps up,
Behind the little marble balustrade;
Disposed them, Pietro the old murdered fool
To the right of the altar, and his wretched wife
On the other side. In trying to count stabs,
People supposed Violante showed the most,
Till somebody explained us that mistake;
His wounds had been dealt out indifferent where,
But she took all her stabbings in the face,
Since punished thus solely for honour's sake,
Honoris causâ, that's the proper term.
A delicacy there is, our gallants hold,
When you avenge your honour and only then,
That you disfigure the subject, fray the face,
Not just take life and end, in clownish guise.
It was Violante gave the first offence,
Got therefore the conspicuous punishment:
While Pietro, who helped merely, his mere death
Answered the purpose, so his face went free.
We fancied even, free as you please, that face
Showed itself still intolerably wronged;
Was wrinkled over with resentment yet,
Nor calm at all, as murdered faces use,
Once the worst ended: an indignant air
O' the head there was—'t is said the body turned
Round and away, rolled from Violante's side
Where they had laid it loving-husband-like.
If so, if corpses can be sensitive,
Why did not he roll right down altar-step,
Roll on through nave, roll fairly out of church,
Deprive Lorenzo of the spectacle,
Pay back thus the succession of affronts
Whereto this church had served as theatre?
For see: at that same altar where he lies,
To that same inch of step, was brought the babe
For blessing after baptism, and there styled
Pompilia, and a string of names beside,
By his bad wife, some seventeen years ago,
Who purchased her simply to palm on him,
Flatter his dotage and defraud the heirs.
Wait awhile! Also to this very step
Did this Violante, twelve years afterward,
Bring, the mock-mother, that child-cheat full-grown,
Pompilia, in pursuance of her plot,
And there brave God and man a second time
By linking a new victim to the lie.
There, having made a match unknown to him,
She, still unknown to Pietro, tied the knot
Which nothing cuts except this kind of knife;
Yes, made her daughter, as the girl was held,
Marry a man, and honest man beside,
And man of birth to boot,—clandestinely
Because of this, because of that, because
O' the devil's will to work his worst for once,—
Confident she could top her part at need
And, when her husband must be told in turn,
Ply the wife's trade, play off the sex's trick
And, alternating worry with quiet qualms,
Bravado with submissiveness, prettily fool
Her Pietro into patience: so it proved.
Ay, 't is four years since man and wife they grew,
This Guido Franceschini and this same
Pompilia, foolishly thought, falsely declared
A Comparini and the couple's child:
Just at this altar where, beneath the piece
Of Master Guido Reni, Christ on cross,
Second to nought observable in Rome,
That couple lie now, murdered yestereve.
Even the blind can see a providence here.
From dawn till now that it is growing dusk,
A multitude has flocked and filled the church,
Coming and going, coming back again,
Till to count crazed one. Rome was at the show.
People climbed up the columns, fought for spikes
O' the chapel-rail to perch themselves upon,
Jumped over and so broke the wooden work
Painted like porphyry to deceive the eye;
Serve the priests right! The organ-loft was crammed,
Women were fainting, no few fights ensued,
In short, it was a show repaid your pains:
For, though their room was scant undoubtedly,
Yet they did manage matters, to be just,
A little at this Lorenzo. Body o' me!
I saw a body exposed once … never mind!
Enough that here the bodies had their due.
No stinginess in wax, a row all round,
And one big taper at each head and foot.
So, people pushed their way, and took their turn,
Saw, threw their eyes up, crossed themselves, gave place
To pressure from behind, since all the world
Knew the old pair, could talk the tragedy
Over from first to last: Pompilia too,
Those who had known her—what 't was worth to them!
Guido's acquaintance was in less request;
The Count had lounged somewhat too long in Rome,
Made himself cheap; with him were hand and glove
Barbers and blear-eyed, as the ancient sings.
Also he is alive and like to be:
Had he considerately died,—aha!
I jostled Luca Cini on his staff,
Mute in the midst, the whole man one amaze,
Staring amain and crossing brow and breast.
"How now?" asked I. "'T is seventy years," quoth he,
"Since I first saw, holding my father's hand,
"Bodies set forth: a many have I seen,
"Yet all was poor to this I live and see.
"Here the world's wickedness seals up the sum:
"What with Molinos' doctrine and this deed,
"Antichrist surely comes and doomsday's near.
"May I depart in peace, I have seen my see."
"Depart then," I advised, "nor block the road
"For youngsters still behindhand with such sights!"
"Why no," rejoins the venerable sire,
"I know it's horrid, hideous past belief,
"Burdensome far beyond what eye can bear;
"But they do promise, when Pompilia dies
"I' the course o' the day,—and she can't outlive night,—
"They'll bring her body also to expose
"Beside the parents, one, two, three a-breast;
"That were indeed a sight, which might I see,
"I trust I should not last to see the like!"
Whereat I bade the senior spare his shanks,
Since doctors give her till to-night to live,
And tell us how the butchery happened. "Ah,
"But you can't know!" sighs he, "I'll not despair:
"Beside I'm useful at explaining things—
"As, how the dagger laid there at the feet,
"Caused the peculiar cuts; I mind its make,
"Triangular i' the blade, a Genoese,
"Armed with those little hook-teeth on the edge
"To open in the flesh nor shut again:
"I like to teach a novice: I shall stay!"
And stay he did, and stay be sure he will.
A personage came by the private door
At noon to have his look: I name no names:
Well then, His Eminence the Cardinal,
Whose servitor in honourable sort
Guido was once, the same who made the match,
(Will you have the truth?) whereof we see effect.
No sooner whisper ran he was arrived
Than up pops Curate Carlo, a brisk lad,
Who never lets a good occasion slip,
And volunteers improving the event.
We looked he'd give the history's self some help,
Treat us to how the wife's confession went
(This morning she confessed her crime, we know)
And, may-be, throw in something of the Priest—
If he's not ordered back, punished anew,
The gallant, Caponsacchi, Lucifer
I' the garden where Pompilia, Eve-like, lured
Her Adam Guido to his fault and fall.
Think you we got a sprig of speech akin
To this from Carlo, with the Cardinal there?
Too wary he was, too widely awake, I trow.
He did the murder in a dozen words;
Then said that all such outrages crop forth
I' the course of nature when Molinos' tares
Are sown for wheat, flourish and choke the Church:
So slid on to the abominable sect
And the philosophic sin—we've heard all that,
And the Cardinal too, (who book-made on the same)
But, for the murder, left it where he found.
Oh but he's quick, the Curate, minds his game!
And, after all, we have the main o' the fact:
Case could not well be simpler,—mapped, as it were,
We follow the murder's maze from source to sea,
By the red line, past mistake: one sees indeed
Not only how all was and must have been,
But cannot other than be to the end of time.
Turn out here by the Ruspoli! Do you hold
Guido was so prodigiously to blame?
A certain cousin of yours has told you so?
Exactly! Here's a friend shall set you right,
Let him but have the handsel of your ear.
These wretched Comparini were once gay
And galliard, of the modest middle class:
Born in this quarter seventy years ago
And married young, they lived the accustomed life,
Citizens as they were of good repute:
And, childless, naturally took their ease
With only their two selves to care about
And use the wealth for: wealthy is the word,
Since Pietro was possessed of house and land—
And specially one house, when good days smiled,
In Via Vittoria, the aspectable street
Where he lived mainly; but another house
Of less pretension did he buy betimes,
The villa, meant for jaunts and jollity,
I' the Pauline district, to be private there—
Just what puts murder in an enemy's head.
Moreover,—here's the worm i' the core, the germ
O' the rottenness and ruin which arrived,—
He owned some usufruct, had moneys' use
Lifelong, but to determine with his life
In heirs' default: so, Pietro craved an heir,
(The story always old and always new)
Shut his fool's-eyes fast on the visible good
And wealth for certain, opened them owl-wide
On fortune's sole piece of forgetfulness,
The child that should have been and would not be.
Hence, seventeen years ago, conceive his glee
When first Violante, 'twixt a smile and blush,
With touch of agitation proper too,
Announced that, spite of her unpromising age,
The miracle would in time be manifest,
An heir's birth was to happen: and it did.
Somehow or other,—how, all in good time!
By a trick, a sleight of hand you are to hear,—
A child was born, Pompilia, for his joy,
Plaything at once and prop, a fairy-gift,
A saints' grace or, say, grant of the good God,—
A fiddle-pin's end! What imbeciles are we!
Look now: if some one could have prophesied,
"For love of you, for liking to your wife,
"I undertake to crush a snake I spy
"Settling itself i' the soft of both your breasts.
"Give me yon babe to strangle painlessly!
"She'll soar to the safe: you'll have your crying out,
"Then sleep, then wake, then sleep, then end your days
"In peace and plenty, mixed with mild regret,
"Thirty years hence when Christmas takes old folk"—
How had old Pietro sprung up, crossed himself,
And kicked the conjuror! Whereas you and I,
Being wise with after-wit, had clapped our hands;
Nay, added, in the old fool's interest,
"Strangle the black-eyed babe, so far so good,
"But on condition you relieve the man
"O' the wife and throttle him Violante too—
"She is the mischief!"
We had hit the mark.
She, whose trick brought the babe into the world,
She it was, when the babe was grown a girl,
Judged a new trick should reinforce the old,
Send vigour to the lie now somewhat spent
By twelve years' service; lest Eve's rule decline
Over this Adam of hers, whose cabbage-plot
Throve dubiously since turned fools' paradise,
Spite of a nightingale on every stump.
Pietro's estate was dwindling day by day,
While he, rapt far above such mundane care,
Crawled all-fours with his baby pick-a-back,
Sat at serene cats'-cradle with his child,
Or took the measured tallness, top to toe,
Of what was grown a great girl twelve years old:
Till sudden at the door a tap discreet,
A visitor's premonitory cough,
And poverty had reached him in her rounds.
This came when he was past the working-time,
Had learned to dandle and forgot to dig,
And who must but Violante cast about,
Contrive and task that head of hers again?
She who had caught one fish, could make that catch
A bigger still, in angler's policy:
So, with an angler's mercy for the bait,
Her minnow was set wriggling on its barb
And tossed to mid-stream; which means, this grown girl
With the great eyes and bounty of black hair
And first crisp youth that tempts a jaded taste,
Was whisked i' the way of a certain man, who snapped.
Count Guido Franceschini the Aretine
Was head of an old noble house enough,
Not over-rich, you can't have everything,
But such a man as riches rub against,
Readily stick to,—one with a right to them
Born in the blood: 't was in his very brow
Always to knit itself against the world,
Beforehand so, when that world stinted due
Service and suit: the world ducks and defers.
As such folks do, he had come up to Rome
To better his fortune, and, since many years,
Was friend and follower of a cardinal;
Waiting the rather thus on providence
That a shrewd younger poorer brother yet,
The Abate Paolo, a regular priest,
Had long since tried his powers and found he swam
With the deftest on the Galilean pool:
But then he was a web-foot, free o' the wave,
And no ambiguous dab-chick hatched to strut,
Humbled by any fond attempt to swim
When fiercer fowl usurped his dunghill top—
A whole priest, Paolo, no mere piece of one
Like Guido tacked thus to the Church's tail!
Guido moreover, as the head o' the house,
Claiming the main prize, not the lesser luck,
The centre lily, no mere chickweed fringe.
He waited and learned waiting, thirty years;
Got promise, missed performance—what would you have?
No petty post rewards a nobleman
For spending youth in splendid lackey-work,
And there's concurrence for each rarer prize;
When that falls, rougher hand and readier foot
Push aside Guido spite of his black looks.
The end was, Guido, when the warning showed,
The first white hair i' the glass, gave up the game,
Determined on returning to his town,
Making the best of bad incurable,
Patching the old palace up and lingering there
The customary life out with his kin,
Where honour helps to spice the scanty bread.
Just as he trimmed his lamp and girt his loins
To go his journey and be wise at home,
In the right mood of disappointed worth,
Who but Violante sudden spied her prey
(Where was I with that angler-simile?)
And threw her bait, Pompilia, where he sulked—
A gleam i' the gloom!
What if he gained thus much,
Wrung out this sweet drop from the bitter Past,
Bore off this rose-bud from the prickly brake
To justify such torn clothes and scratched hands,
And, after all, brought something back from Rome?
Would not a wife serve at Arezzo well
To light the dark house, lend a look of youth
To the mother's face grown meagre, left alone
And famished with the emptiness of hope,
Old Donna Beatrice? Wife you want
Would you play family-representative,
Carry you elder-brotherly, high and right
O'er what may prove the natural petulance
Of the third brother, younger, greedier still,
Girolamo, also a fledgeling priest,
Beginning life in turn with callow beak
Agape for luck, no luck had stopped and stilled.
Such were the pinks and greys about the bait
Persuaded Guido gulp down hook and all.
What constituted him so choice a catch,
You question? Past his prime and poor beside!
Ask that of any she who knows the trade.
Why first, here was a nobleman with friends,
A palace one might run to and be safe
When presently the threatened fate should fall,
A big-browed master to block door-way up,
Parley with people bent on pushing by
And praying the mild Pietro quick clear scores:
Is birth a privilege and power or no?
Also,—but judge of the result desired,
By the price paid and manner of the sale.
The Count was made woo, win and wed at once:
Asked, and was haled for answer, lest the heat
Should cool, to San Lorenzo, one blind eve,
And had Pompilia put into his arms
O' the sly there, by a hasty candle-blink,
With sanction of some priest-confederate
Properly paid to make short work and sure.
So did old Pietro's daughter change her style
For Guido Franceschini's lady-wife
Ere Guido knew it well; and why this haste
And scramble and indecent secrecy?
"Lest Pietro, all the while in ignorance,
"Should get to learn, gainsay and break the match:
"His peevishness had promptly put aside
"Such honour and refused the proffered boon,
"Pleased to become authoritative once.
"She remedied the wilful man's mistake—"
Did our discreet Violante. Rather say,
Thus did she, lest the object of her game,
Guido the gulled one, give him but a chance,
A moment's respite, time for thinking twice,
Might count the cost before he sold himself,
And try the clink of coin they paid him with.
But coin paid, bargain struck and business done,
Once the clandestine marriage over thus,
All parties made perforce the best o' the fact;
Pietro could play vast indignation off,
Be ignorant and astounded, dupe, poor soul,
Please you, of daughter, wife and son-in-law,
While Guido found himself in flagrant fault,
Must e'en do suit and service, soothe, subdue
A father not unreasonably chafed,
Bring him to terms by paying son's devoir.
The end, this:
Guido's broad back was saddled to bear all—
Pietro, Violante, and Pompilia too,—
Three lots cast confidently in one lap,
Three dead-weights with one arm to lift the three
Out of their limbo up to life again.
The Roman household was to strike fresh root
In a new soil, graced with a novel name,
Gilt with an alien glory, Aretine
Henceforth and never Roman any more,
By treaty and engagement; thus it ran:
Pompilia's dowry for Pompilia's self
As a thing of course,—she paid her own expense;
No loss nor gain there: but the couple, you see,
They, for their part, turned over first of all
Their fortune in its rags and rottenness
To Guido, fusion and confusion, he
And his with them and theirs,—whatever rag
With coin residuary fell on floor
When Brother Paolo's energetic shake
Should do the relics justice: since 't was thought,
Once vulnerable Pietro out of reach,
That, left at Rome as representative,
The Abate, backed by a potent patron here,
And otherwise with purple flushing him,
Might play a good game with the creditor,
Make up a moiety which, great or small,
Should go to the common stock—if anything,
Guido's, so far repayment of the cost
About to be,—and if, as looked more like,
Nothing,—why, all the nobler cost were his
Who guaranteed, for better or for worse,
To Pietro and Violante, house and home,
Kith and kin, with the pick of company
And life o' the fat o' the land while life should last.
How say you to the bargain at first blush?
Why did a middle-aged not-silly man
Show himself thus besotted all at once?
Quoth Solomon, one black eye does it all.
They went to Arezzo,—Pietro and his spouse,
With just the dusk o' the day of life to spend,
Eager to use the twilight, taste a treat,
Enjoy for once with neither stay nor stint
The luxury of lord-and-lady-ship,
And realize the stuff and nonsense long
A-simmer in their noddles; vent the fume
Born there and bred, the citizen's conceit
How fares nobility while crossing earth,
What rampart or invisible body-guard
Keeps off the taint of common life from such.
They had not fed for nothing on the tales
Of grandees who give banquets worthy Jove,
Spending gold as if Plutus paid a whim,
Served with obeisances as when … what God?
I'm at the end of my tether; 't is enough
You understand what they came primed to see:
While Guido who should minister the sight,
Stay all this qualmish greediness of soul
With apples and with flagons—for his part,
Was set on life diverse as pole from pole:
Lust of the flesh, lust of the eye,—what else
Was he just now awake from, sick and sage,
After the very debauch they would begin?—
Suppose such stuff and nonsense really were.
That bubble, they were bent on blowing big,
He had blown already till he burst his cheeks,
And hence found soapsuds bitter to the tongue.
He hoped now to walk softly all his days
In soberness of spirit, if haply so,
Pinching and paring he might furnish forth
A frugal board, bare sustenance, no more,
Till times, that could not well grow worse, should mend.
Thus minded then, two parties mean to meet
And make each other happy. The first week,
And fancy strikes fact and explodes in full.
"This," shrieked the Comparini, "this the Count,
"The palace, the signorial privilege,
"The pomp and pageantry were promised us?
"For this have we exchanged our liberty,
"Our competence, our darling of a child?
"To house as spectres in a sepulchre
"Under this black stone-heap, the street's disgrace,
"Grimmest as that is of the gruesome town,
"And here pick garbage on a pewter plate
"Or cough at verjuice dripped from earthenware?
"Oh Via Vittoria, oh the other place
"I' the Pauline, did we give you up for this?
"Where's the foregone housekeeping good and gay,
"The neighbourliness, the companionship,
"The treat and feast when holidays came round,
"The daily feast that seemed no treat at all,
"Called common by the uncommon fools we were!
"Even the sun that used to shine at Rome,
"Where is it? Robbed and starved and frozen too,
"We will have justice, justice if there be!"
Did not they shout, did not the town resound!
Guido's old lady-mother Beatrice,
Who since her husband, Count Tommaso's death,
Had held sole sway i' the house,—the doited crone
Slow to acknowledge, curtsey and abdicate,—
Was recognized of true novercal type,
Dragon and devil. His brother Girolamo
Came next in order: priest was he? The worse!
No way of winning him to leave his mumps
And help the laugh against old ancestry
And formal habits long since out of date,
Letting his youth be patterned on the mode
Approved of where Violante laid down law.
Or did he brighten up by way of change,
Dispose himself for affability?
The malapert, too complaisant by half
To the alarmed young novice of a bride!
Let him go buzz, betake himself elsewhere
Nor singe his fly-wings in the candle-flame!
Four months' probation of this purgatory,
Dog-snap and cat-claw, curse and counterblast,
The devil's self were sick of his own din;
And Pietro, after trumpeting huge wrongs
At church and market-place, pillar and post,
Square's corner, street's end, now the palace-step
And now the wine-house bench—while, on her side,
Violante up and down was voluble
In whatsoever pair of ears would perk
From goody, gossip, cater-cousin and sib,
Curious to peep at the inside of things
And catch in the act pretentious poverty
At its wits' end to keep appearance up,
Make both ends meet,—nothing the vulgar loves
Like what this couple pitched them right and left.
Then, their worst done that way, both struck tent, marched:
—Renounced their share o' the bargain, flung what dues
Guido was bound to pay, in Guido's face,
Left their hearts'-darling, treasure of the twain
And so forth, the poor inexperienced bride,
To her own devices, bade Arezzo rot,
Cursed life signorial, and sought Rome once more.
I see the comment ready on your lip,
"The better fortune, Guido's—free at least
"By this defection of the foolish pair,
"He could begin make profit in some sort
"Of the young bride and the new quietness,
"Lead his own life now, henceforth breathe unplagued."
Could he? You know the sex like Guido's self.
Learn the Violante-nature!
Once in Rome,
By way of helping Guido lead such life,
Her first act to inaugurate return
Was, she got pricked in conscience: Jubilee
Gave her the hint. Our Pope, as kind as just,
Attained his eighty years, announced a boon
Should make us bless the fact, held Jubilee—
Short shrift, prompt pardon for the light offence
And no rough dealing with the regular crime
So this occasion were not suffered slip—
Otherwise, sins commuted as before,
Without the least abatement in the price.
Now, who had thought it? All this while, it seems,
Our sage Violante had a sin of a sort
She must compound for now or not at all.
Now be the ready riddance! She confessed
Pompilia was a fable not a fact:
She never bore a child in her whole life.
Had this child been a changeling, that were grace
In some degree, exchange is hardly theft,
You take your stand on truth ere leap your lie:
Here was all lie, no touch of truth at all,
All the lie hers—not even Pietro guessed
He was as childless still as twelve years since.
The babe had been a find i' the filth-heap, Sir,
Catch from the kennel! There was found at Rome,
Down in the deepest of our social dregs,
A woman who professed the wanton's trade
Under the requisite thin coverture,
Communis meretrix and washer-wife:
The creature thus conditioned found by chance
Motherhood like a jewel in the muck,
And straightway either trafficked with her prize
Or listened to the tempter and let be,—
Made pact abolishing her place and part
In womankind, beast-fellowship indeed.
She sold this babe eight months before its birth
To our Violante, Pietro's honest spouse,
Well-famed and widely-instanced as that crown
To the husband, virtue in a woman's shape.
She it was, bought, paid for, passed off the thing
As very flesh and blood and child of her
Despite the flagrant fifty years,—and why?
Partly to please old Pietro, fill his cup
With wine at the late hour when lees are left,
And send him from life's feast rejoicingly,—
Partly to cheat the rightful heirs, agape,
Each uncle's cousin's brother's son of him,
For that same principal of the usufruct
It vext him he must die and leave behind.
Such was the sin had come to be confessed.
Which of the tales, the first or last, was true?
Did she so sin once, or, confessing now,
Sin for the first time? Either way you will.
One sees a reason for the cheat: one sees
A reason for a cheat in owning cheat
Where no cheat had been. What of the revenge?
What prompted the contrition all at once,
Made the avowal easy, the shame slight?
Why, prove they but Pompilia not their child,
No child, no dowry! this, supposed their child,
Had claimed what this, shown alien to their blood,
Claimed nowise: Guido's claim was through his wife,
Null then and void with hers. The biter bit,
Do you see! For such repayment of the past,
One might conceive the penitential pair
Ready to bring their case before the courts,
Publish their infamy to all the world
And, arm in arm, go chuckling thence content.
Is this your view? 'T was Guido's anyhow
And colourable: he came forward then,
Protested in his very bride's behalf
Against this lie and all it led to, least
Of all the loss o' the dowry; no! From her
And him alike he would expunge the blot,
Erase the brand of such a bestial birth,
Participate in no hideous heritage
Gathered from the gutter to be garnered up
And glorified in a palace. Peter and Paul!
But that who likes may look upon the pair
Exposed in yonder church, and show his skill
By saying which is eye and which is mouth
Thro' those stabs thick and threefold,—but for that—
A strong word on the liars and their lie
Might crave expression and obtain it, Sir!
—Though prematurely, since there's more to come,
More that will shake your confidence in things
Your cousin tells you,—may I be so bold?
This makes the first act of the farce,—anon
The sombre element comes stealing in
Till all is black or blood-red in the piece.
Guido, thus made a laughing-stock abroad,
A proverb for the market-place at home,
Left alone with Pompilia now, this graft
So reputable on his ancient stock,
This plague-seed set to fester his sound flesh,
What does the Count? Revenge him on his wife?
Unfasten at all risks to rid himself
The noisome lazar-badge, fall foul of fate,
And, careless whether the poor rag was ware
O' the part it played, or helped unwittingly,
Bid it go burn and leave his frayed flesh free?
Plainly, did Guido open both doors wide,
Spurn thence the cur-cast creature and clear scores
As man might, tempted in extreme like this?
No, birth and breeding, and compassion too
Saved her such scandal. She was young, he thought,
Not privy to the treason, punished most
I' the proclamation of it; why make her
A party to the crime she suffered by?
Then the black eyes were now her very own,
Not any more Violante's: let her live,
Lose in a new air, under a new sun,
The taint of the imputed parentage
Truly or falsely, take no more the touch
Of Pietro and his partner anyhow!
All might go well yet.
So she thought, herself,
It seems, since what was her first act and deed
When news came how these kindly ones at Rome
Had stripped her naked to amuse the world
With spots here, spots there and spots everywhere?
—For I should tell you that they noised abroad
Not merely the main scandal of her birth,
But slanders written, printed, published wide,
Pamphlets which set forth all the pleasantry
Of how the promised glory was a dream,
The power a bubble, and the wealth—why, dust.
There was a picture, painted to the life,
Of those rare doings, that superlative
Initiation in magnificence
Conferred on a poor Roman family
By favour of Arezzo and her first
And famousest, the Franceschini there.
You had the Countship holding head aloft
Bravely although bespattered, shifts and straits
In keeping out o' the way o' the wheels o' the world,
The comic of those home-contrivances
When the old lady-mother's with was taxed
To find six clamorous mouths in food more real
Than fruit plucked off the cobwebbed family-tree,
Or acorns shed from its gilt mouldered frame—
Cold glories served up with stale fame for sauce.
What, I ask,—when the drunkenness of hate
Hiccuped return for hospitality,
Befouled the table they had feasted on,
Or say,—God knows I'll not prejudge the case,—
Grievances thus distorted, magnified,
Coloured by quarrel into calumny,—
What side did our Pompilia first espouse?
Her first deliberate measure was—she wrote,
Pricked by some loyal impulse, straight to Rome
And her husband's brother the Abate there,
Who, having managed to effect the match,
Might take men's censure for its ill success.
She made a clean breast also in her turn,
And qualified the couple properly,
Since whose departure, hell, she said, was heaven,
And the house, late distracted by their peals,
Quiet as Carmel where the lilies live.
Herself had oftentimes complained: but why?
All her complaints had been their prompting, tales
Trumped up, devices to this very end.
Their game had been to thwart her husband's love
And cross his will, malign his words and ways,
To reach this issue, furnish this pretence
For impudent withdrawal from their bond,—
Theft, indeed murder, since they meant no less
Whose last injunction to her simple self
Had been—what parents'-precept do you think?
That she should follow after with all speed,
Fly from her husband's house clandestinely,
Join them at Rome again, but first of all
Pick up a fresh companion in her flight,
So putting youth and beauty to fit use,—
Some gay dare-devil cloak-and-rapier spark
Capable of adventure,—helped by whom
She, some fine eve when lutes were in the air,
Having put poison in the posset-cup,
Laid hands on money, jewels and the like,
And, to conceal the thing with more effect,
By way of parting benediction too,
Fired the house,—one would finish famously
I' the tumult, slip out, scurry off and away
And turn up merrily at home once more.
Fact this, and not a dream o' the devil, Sir!
And more than this, a fact none dare dispute,
Word for word, such a letter did she write,
And such the Abate read, nor simply read
But gave all Rome to ruminate upon,
In answer to such charges as, I say,
The couple sought to be beforehand with.
The cause thus carried to the courts at Rome,
Guido away, the Abate had no choice
But stand forth, take his absent brother's part,
Defend the honour of himself beside.
He made what head he might against the pair,
Maintained Pompilia's birth legitimate
And all her rights intact—hers, Guido's now:
And so far by his policy turned their flank,
(The enemy being beforehand in the place)
That,—though the courts allowed the cheat for fact,
Suffered Violante to parade her shame,
Publish her infamy to heart's content,
And let the tale o' the feigned birth pass for proved,—
Yet they stopped there, refused to intervene
And dispossess the innocents, befooled
By gifts o' the guilty, at guilt's new caprice.
They would not take away the dowry now
Wrongfully given at first, nor bar at all
Succession to the aforesaid usufruct,
Established on a fraud, nor play the game
Of Pietro's child and now not Pietro's child
As it might suit the gamester's purpose. Thus
Was justice ever ridiculed in Rome:
Such be the double verdicts favoured here
Which send away both parties to a suit
Nor puffed up nor cast down,—for each a crumb
Of right, for neither of them the whole loaf.
Whence, on the Comparini's part, appeal—
Counter-appeal on Guido's,—that's the game:
And so the matter stands, even to this hour,
Bandied as balls are in a tennis-court,
And so might stand, unless some heart broke first,
Leave it thus, and now revert
To the old Arezzo whence we moved to Rome.
We've had enough o' the parents, false or true,
Now for a touch o' the daughter's quality.
The start's fair henceforth, every obstacle
Out of the young wife's footpath, she's alone,
Left to walk warily now: how does she walk?
Why, once a dwelling's threshold marked and crossed
In rubric by the enemy on his rounds
As eligible, as fit place of prey,
Baffle him henceforth, keep him out who can!
Stop up the door at the first hint of hoof,
Presently at the window taps a horn,
And Satan's by your fireside, never fear!
Pompilia, left alone now, found herself;
Found herself young too, sprightly, fair enough,
Matched with a husband old beyond his age
(Though that was something like four times her own)
Because of cares past, present and to come:
Found too the house dull and its inmates dead,
So, looked outside for light and life.
Did in a trice turn up with life and light,—
The man with the aureole, sympathy made flesh,
The all-consoling Caponsacchi, Sir!
A priest—what else should the consoler be?
With goodly shoulderblade and proper leg,
A portly make and a symmetric shape,
And curls that clustered to the tonsure quite.
This was a bishop in the bud, and now
A canon full-blown so far: priest, and priest
Nowise exorbitantly overworked,
The courtly Christian, not so much Saint Paul
As a saint of Cæsar's household: there posed he
Sending his god-glance after his shot shaft,
Apollos turned Apollo, while the snake
Pompilia writhed transfixed through all her spires.
He, not a visitor at Guido's house,
Scarce an acquaintance, but in prime request
With the magnates of Arezzo, was seen here,
Heard there, felt everywhere in Guido's path
If Guido's wife's path be her husband's too.
Now he threw comfits at the theatre
Into her lap,—what harm in Carnival?
Now he pressed close till his foot touched her gown,
His hand brushed hers,—how help on promenade?
And, ever on weighty business, found his steps
Incline to a certain haunt of doubtful fame
Which fronted Guido's palace by mere chance;
While—how do accidents sometimes combine!—
Pompilia chose to cloister up her charms
Just in a chamber that o'erlooked the street,
Sat there to pray, or peep thence at mankind.
This passage of arms and wits amused the town.
At last the husband lifted eyebrow,—bent
On day-book and the study how to wring
Half the due vintage from the worn-out vines
At the villa, tease a quarter the old rent
From the farmstead, tenants swore would tumble soon,—
Pricked up his ear a-singing day and night
With "ruin, ruin;"—and so surprised at last—
Why, what else but a titter? Up he jumps.
Back to mind come those scratchings at the grange,
Prints of the paw about the outhouse; rife
In his head at once again are word and wink,
Mum here and budget there, the smell o' the fox,
The must o' the gallant. "Friends, there's falseness here!"
The proper help of friends in such a strait
Is waggery, the world over. Laugh him free
O' the regular jealous-fit that's incident
To all old husbands that wed brisk young wives,
And he'll go duly docile all his days.
"Somebody courts your wife, Count? Where and when?
"How and why? Mere horn-madness: have a care!
"Your lady loves her own room, sticks to it,
"Locks herself in for hours, you say yourself.
"And—what, it's Caponsacchi means you harm?
"The Canon? We caress him, he's the world's,
"A man of such acceptance—never dream,
"Though he were fifty times the fox you fear,
"He'd risk his brush for your particular chick,
"When the wide town's his hen-roost! Fie o' the fool!"
So they dispensed their comfort of a kind.
Guido at last cried "Something is in the air,
"Under the earth, some plot against my peace.
"The trouble of eclipse hangs overheard;
"How it should come of that officious orb
"Your Canon in my system, you must say:
"I say—that from the pressure of this spring
"Began the chime and interchange of bells,
"Ever one whisper, and one whisper more,
"And just one whisper for the silvery last,
"Till all at once a-row the bronze-throats burst
"Into a larum both significant
"And sinister: stop it I must and will.
"Let Caponsacchi take his hand away
"From the wire!—disport himself in other paths
"Than lead precisely to my palace-gate,—
"Look where he likes except one window's way
"Where, cheek on hand, and elbow set on sill,
"Happens to lean and say her litanies
"Every day and all day long, just my wife—
"Or wife and Caponsacchi may fare the worse!"
Admire the man's simplicity, "I'll do this,
"I'll not have that, I'll punish and prevent!"—
'T is easy saying. But to a fray, you see,
Two parties go. The badger shows his teeth:
The fox nor lies down sheep-like nor dares fight.
Oh, the wife knew the appropriate warfare well,
The way to put suspicion to the blush!
At first hint of remonstrance, up and out
I' the face of the world, you found her: she could speak,
State her case,—Franceschini was a name,
Guido had his full share of foes and friends—
Why should not she call these to arbitrate?
She bade the Governor do governance,
Cried out on the Archbishop,—why, there now,
Take him for sample! Three successive times,
Had he to reconduct her by main-force
From where she took her station opposite
His shut door,—on the public steps thereto,
Wringing her hands, when he came out to see,
And shrieking all her wrongs forth at his foot,—
Back to the husband and the house she fled:
Judge if that husband warmed him in the face
Of friends or frowned on foes as heretofore!
Judge if he missed the natural grin of folk,
Or lacked the customary compliment
Of cap and bells, the luckless husband's fit!
So it went on and on till—who was right?
One merry April morning, Guido woke
After the cuckoo, so late, near noonday,
With an inordinate yawning of the jaws,
Ears plugged, eyes gummed together, palate, tongue
And teeth one mud-paste made of poppy-milk;
And found his wife flown, his scritoire the worse
For a rummage,—jewelry that was, was not,
Some money there had made itself wings too,—
The door lay wide and yet the servants slept
Sound as the dead, or dosed which does as well.
In short, Pompilia, she who, candid soul,
Had not so much as spoken all her life
To the Canon, nay, so much as peeped at him
Between her fingers while she prayed in church,—
This lamb-like innocent of fifteen years
(Such she was grown to by this time of day)
Had simply put an opiate in the drink
Of the whole household overnight, and then
Got up and gone about her work secure,
Laid hand on this waif and the other stray,
Spoiled the Philistine and marched out of doors
In company of the Canon who, Lord's love,
What with his daily duty at the church,
Nightly devoir where ladies congregate,
Had something else to mind, assure yourself,
Beside Pompilia, paragon though she be,
Or notice if her nose were sharp or blunt!
Well, anyhow, albeit impossible,
Both of them were together jollily
Jaunting it Rome-ward, half-way there by this,
While Guido was left go and get undrugged,
Gather his wits up, groaningly give thanks
When neighbours crowded round him to condole.
"Ah," quoth a gossip, "well I mind me now,
"The Count did always say he thought he felt
"He feared as if this very chance might fall!
"And when a man of fifty finds his corns
"Ache and his joints throb, and foresees a storm,
"Though neighbours laugh and say the sky is clear,
"Let us henceforth believe him weatherwise!"
Then was the story told, I'll cut you short:
All neighbours knew: no mystery in the world.
The lovers left at nightfall—over night
Had Caponsacchi come to carry off
Pompilia,—not alone, a friend of his,
One Guillichini, the more conversant
With Guido's housekeeping that he was just
A cousin of Guido's and might play a prank—
(Have not you too a cousin that's a wag?)
—Lord and a Canon also,—what would you have?
Such are the red-clothed milk-swollen poppy-heads
That stand and stiffen 'mid the wheat o' the Church!—
This worthy came to aid, abet his best.
And so the house was ransacked, booty bagged,
The lady led downstairs and out of doors
Guided and guarded till, the city passed,
A carriage lay convenient at the gate.
Good-bye to the friendly Canon; the loving one
Could peradventure do the rest himself.
In jumps Pompilia, after her the priest,
"Whip, driver! Money makes the mare to go,
"And we've a bagful. Take the Roman road!"
So said the neighbours. This was eight hours since.
Guido heard all, swore the befitting oaths,
Shook off the relics of his poison-drench,
Got horse, was fairly started in pursuit
With never a friend to follow, found the track
Fast enough, 't was the straight Perugia way,
Trod soon upon their very heels, too late
By a minute only at Camoscia, reached
Chiusi, Foligno, ever the fugitives
Just ahead, just out as he galloped in,
Getting the good news ever fresh and fresh,
Till, lo, at the last stage of all, last post
Before Rome,—as we say, in sight of Rome
And safety (there's impunity at Rome
For priests, you know) at—what's the little place?—
What some call Castelnuovo, some just call
The Osteria, because o' the post-house inn,
There, at the journey's all but end, it seems,
Triumph deceived them and undid them both,
Secure they might foretaste felicity
Nor fear surprisal: so, they were surprised.
There did they halt at early evening, there
Did Guido overtake them: 't was day-break;
He came in time enough, not time too much,
Since in the courtyard stood the Canon's self
Urging the drowsy stable-grooms to haste
Harness the horses, have the journey end,
The trifling four-hours'-running, so reach Rome.
And the other runaway, the wife? Upstairs,
Still on the couch where she had spent the night,
One couch in one room, and one room for both.
So gained they six hours, so were lost thereby.
Sir, what's the sequel? Lover and beloved
Fall on their knees? No impudence serves here?
They beat their breasts and beg for easy death,
Confess this, that and the other?—anyhow
Confess there wanted not some likelihood
To the supposition so preposterous,
That, O Pompilia, thy sequestered eyes
Had noticed, straying o'er the prayerbook's edge,
More of the Canon than that black his coat,
Buckled his shoes were, broad his hat of brim:
And that, O Canon, thy religious care
Had breathed too soft a benedicite
To banish trouble from a lady's breast
So lonely and so lovely, nor so lean!
This you expect? Indeed, then, much you err.
Not to such ordinary end as this
Had Caponsacchi flung the cassock far,
Doffed the priest, donned the perfect cavalier.
The die was cast: over shoes over boots:
And just as she, I presently shall show,
Pompilia, soon looked Helen to the life,
Recumbent upstairs in her pink and white,
So, in the inn-yard, bold as 't were Troy-town,
There strutted Paris in correct costume,
Cloak, cap and feather, no appointment missed,
Even to a wicked-looking sword at side,
He seemed to find and feel familiar at.
Nor wanted words as ready and as big
As the part he played, the bold abashless one.
"I interposed to save your wife from death,
"Yourself from shame, the true and only shame:
"Ask your own conscience else!—or, failing that,
"What I have done I answer, anywhere,
"Here, if you will; you see I have a sword:
"Or, since I have a tonsure as you taunt,
"At Rome, by all means,—priests to try a priest.
"Only, speak where your wife's voice can reply!"
And then he fingered at the sword again.
So, Guido called, in aid and witness both,
The Public Force. The Commissary came,
Officers also; they secured the priest;
Then, for his more confusion, mounted up
With him, a guard on either side, the stair
To the bed-room where still slept or feigned a sleep
His paramour and Guido's wife: in burst
The company and bade her wake and rise.
Her defence? This. She woke, saw, sprang upright
I' the midst and stood as terrible as truth,
Sprang to her husband's side, caught at the sword
That hung there useless,—since they held each hand
O' the lover, had disarmed him properly,—
And in a moment out flew the bright thing
Full in the face of Guido: but for help
O' the guards who held her back and pinioned her
With pains enough, she had finished you my tale
With a flourish of red all round it, pinked her man
Prettily; but she fought them one to six.
They stopped that,—but her tongue continued free:
She spat forth such invective at her spouse,
O'erfrothed him with such foam of murderer,
Thief, pandar—that the popular tide soon turned,
The favour of the very sbirri, straight
Ebbed from the husband, set toward his wife,
People cried "Hands off, pay a priest respect!"
And "persecuting fiend" and "martyred saint"
Began to lead a measure from lip to lip.
But facts are facts and flinch not; stubborn things,
And the question "Prithee, friend, how comes my purse
"I' the poke of you?"—admits of no reply.
Here was a priest found out in masquerade,
A wife caught playing truant if no more;
While the Count, mortified in mien enough,
And, nose to face, an added palm in length,
Was plain writ "husband" every piece of him:
Capture once made, release could hardly be.
Beside, the prisoners both made appeal,
"Take us to Rome!"
Taken to Rome they were;
The husband trooping after, piteously,
Tail between legs, no talk of triumph now—
No honour set firm on its feet once more
On two dead bodies of the guilty,—nay,
No dubious salve to honour's broken pate
From chance that, after all, the hurt might seem
A skin-deep matter, scratch that leaves no scar:
For Guido's first search,—ferreting, poor soul,
Here, there and everywhere in the vile place
Abandoned to him when their backs were turned,
Found,—furnishing a last and best regale,—
All the love-letters bandied 'twixt the pair
Since the first timid trembling into life
O' the love-star till its stand at fiery full.
Mad prose, mad verse, fears, hopes, triumph, despair,
Avowal, disclaimer, plans, dates, names,—was nought
Wanting to prove, if proof consoles at all,
That this had been but the fifth act o' the piece
Whereof the due proemium, months ago
These playwrights had put forth, and ever since
Matured the middle, added 'neath his nose.
He might go cross himself: the case was clear.
Therefore to Rome with the clear case; there plead
Each party its best, and leave law do each right,
Let law shine forth and show, as God in heaven,
Vice prostrate, virtue pedestalled at last,
The triumph of truth! What else shall glad our gaze
When once authority has knit the brow
And set the brain behind it to decide
Between the wolf and sheep turned litigants?
"This is indeed a business!" law shook head:
"A husband charges hard things on a wife,
"The wife as hard o' the husband: whose fault here?
"A wife that flies her husband's house, does wrong:
"The male friend's interference looks amiss,
"Lends a suspicion: but suppose the wife,
"On the other hand, be jeopardized at home—
"Nay, that she simply hold, ill-groundedly,
"An apprehension she is jeopardized,—
"And further, if the friend partake the fear,
"And, in a commendable charity
"Which trusteth all, trust her that she mistrusts,—
"What do they but obey law—natural law?
"Pretence may this be and a cloak for sin,
"And circumstances that concur i' the close
"Hint as much, loudly—yet scarce loud enough
"To drown the answer 'strange may yet be true:'
"Innocence often looks like guiltiness.
"The accused declare that in thought, word and deed,
"Innocent were they both from first to last
"As male-babe haply laid by female-babe
"At church on edge of the baptismal font
"Together for a minute, perfect-pure.
"Difficult to believe, yet possible,
"As witness Joseph, the friend's patron-saint.
"The night at the inn—there charity nigh chokes
"Ere swallow what they both asseverate;
"Though down the gullet faith may feel it go,
"When mindful of what flight fatigued the flesh
"Out of its faculty and fleshliness,
"Subdued it to the soul, as saints assure:
"So long a flight necessitates a fall
"On the first bed, though in a lion's den,
"And the first pillow, though the lion's back:
"Difficult to believe, yet possible.
"Last come the letters' bundled beastliness—
"Authority repugns give glance to—nay,
"Turns head, and almost lets her whip-lash fall;
"Yet here a voice cries 'Respite!' from the clouds—
"the accused, both in a tale, protest, disclaim,
"Abominate the horror: 'Not my hand'
"Asserts the friend—'Nor mine' chimes in the wife,
"'Seeing I have no hand, nor write at all.'
"Illiterate—for she goes on to ask,
"What if the friend did pen now verse now prose,
"Commend it to her notice now and then?
"'T was pearls to swine: she read no more than wrote,
"And kept no more than read, for as they fell
"She ever brushed the burr-like things away,
"Or, better, burned them, quenched the fire in smoke.
"As for this fardel, filth and foolishness,
"She sees it now the first time: burn it too!
"While for his part the friend vows ignorance
"Alike of what bears his name and bears here:
"'T is forgery, a felon's masterpiece,
"And, as 't is said the fox still finds the stench,
"Home-manufacture and the husband's work.
"Though he confesses, the ingenuous friend,
"That certain missives, letters of a sort,
"Flighty and feeble, which assigned themselves
"To the wife, no less have fallen, far too oft,
"In his path: wherefrom he understood just this—
"That were they verily the lady's own.
"Why, she who penned them, since he never saw
"Save for one minute the mere face of her,
"Since never had there been the interchange
"Of word with word between them all their life,
"Why, she must be the fondest of the frail,
"And fit, she for the 'apage' he flung,
"Her letters for the flame they went to feed!
"But, now he sees her face and hears her speech,
"Much he repents him if, in fancy-freak
"For a moment the minutest measurable,
"He coupled her with the first flimsy word
"O' the self-spun fabric some mean spider-soul
"Furnished forth: stop his films and stamp on him!
"Never was such a tangled knottiness,
"But thus authority cuts the Gordian through,
"And mark how her decision suits the need!
"Here's troublesomeness, scandal on both sides,
"Plenty of fault to find, no absolute crime:
"Let each side own its fault and make amends!
"What does a priest in cavalier's attire
"Consorting publicly with vagrant wives
"In quarters close as the confessional,
"Though innocent of harm? 'T is harm enough:
"Let him pay it,—say, be relegate a good
"Three years, to spend in some place not too far
"Nor yet too near, midway 'twixt near and far,
"Rome and Arezzo,—Civita we choose,
"Where he may lounge away time, live at large,
"Find out the proper function of a priest,
"Nowise an exile,—that were punishment,—
"But one our love thus keeps out of harm's way
"Not more from the husband's anger than, mayhap
"His own … say, indiscretion, waywardness,
"And wanderings when Easter eves grow warm.
"For the wife,—well, our best step to take with her,
"On her own showing, were to shift her root
"From the old cold shade and unhappy soil
"Into a generous ground that fronts the south
"Where, since her callow soul, a-shiver late,
"Craved simply warmth and called mere passers-by
"To the rescue, she should have her fill of shine.
"Do house and husband hinder and not help?
"Why then, forget both and stay here at peace,
"Come into our community, enroll
"Herself along with those good Convertites,
"Those sinners saved, those Magdalens re-made,
"Accept their ministration, well bestow
"Her body and patiently possess her soul,
"Until we see what better can be done.
"Last for the husband: if his tale prove true,
"Well is he rid of two domestic plagues—
"Both wife that ailed, do whatsoever he would,
"And friend of hers that undertook the cure.
"See, what a double load we lift from breast!
"Off he may go, return, resume old life,
"Laugh at the priest here and Pompilia there
"In limbo each and punished for their pains,
"And grateful tell the inquiring neighbourhood—
"In Rome, no wrong but has its remedy."
The case was closed. Now, am I fair or no
In what I utter? Do I state the facts,
Having forechosen a side? I promised you!
The Canon Caponsacchi, then, was sent
To change his garb, re-trim his tonsure, tie
The clerkly silk round, every plait correct,
Make the impressive entry on his place
Of relegation, thrill his Civita,
As Ovid, a like sufferer in the cause,
Planted a primrose-patch by Pontus: where,—
What with much culture of the sonnet-stave
And converse with the aborigines,
Soft savagery of eyes unused to roll
And hearts that all awry went pit-a-pat
And wanted setting right in charity,—
What were a couple of years to while away?
Pompilia, as enjoined, betook herself
To the aforesaid Convertites, soft sisterhood
In Via Lungara, where the light ones live,
Spin, pray, then sing like linnets o'er the flax.
"Anywhere, anyhow, out of my husband's house
"Is heaven," cried she,—was therefore suited so.
But for Count Guido Franceschini, he-
The injured man thus righted—found no heaven
I' the house when he returned there, I engage,
Was welcomed by the city turned upside down
In a chorus of inquiry. "What, back—you?
"And no wife? Left her with the Penitents?
"Ah, being young and pretty, 't were a shame
"To have her whipped in public: leave the job
"To the priests who understand! Such priests as yours—
"(Pontifex Maximus whipped Vestals once)
"Our madcap Caponsacchi: think of him!
"So, he fired up, showed fight and skill of fence?
"Ay, you drew also, but you did not fight!
"The wiser, 't is a word and a blow with him,
"True Caponsacchi, of old Head-i'-the-Sack
"That fought at Fiesole ere Florence was:
"He had done enough, to firk you were too much.
"And did the little lady menace you,
"Make at your breast with your own harmless sword?
"The spitfire! Well, thank God you're safe and sound,
"Have kept the sixth commandment whether or no
"The lady broke the seventh: I only wish
"I were as saint-like, could contain me so.
"I, the poor sinner, fear I should have left
"Sir Priest no nose-tip to turn up at me!"
You, Sir, who listen but interpose no word,
Ask yourself, had you borne a baiting thus?
Was it enough to make a wise man mad?
Oh, but I'll have your verdict at the end!
Well, not enough, it seems: such mere hurt falls,
Frets awhile, aches long, then grows less and less,
And so gets done with. Such was not the scheme
O' the pleasant Comparini: on Guido's wound
Ever in due succession, drop by drop,
Came slow distilment from the alembic here
Set on to simmer by Canidian hate,
Corrosives keeping the man's misery raw.
First fire-drop,—when he thought to make the best
O' the bad, to wring from out the sentence passed,
Poor, pitiful, absurd although it were,
Yet what might eke him out result enough
And make it worth while to have had the right
And not the wrong i' the matter judged at Rome.
Inadequate her punishment, no less
Punished in some slight sort his wife had been;
Then, punished for adultery, what else?
On such admitted crime he thought to seize,
And institute procedure in the courts
Which cut corruption of this kind from man,
Cast loose a wife proved loose and castaway:
He claimed in due form a divorce at least.
This claim was met now by a counterclaim:
Pompilia sought divorce from bed and board
Of Guido, whose outrageous cruelty,
Whose mother's malice and whose brother's hate
Were just the white o' the charge, such dreadful depths
Blackened its centre,—hints of worse than hate,
Love from that brother, by that Guido's guile,
That mother's prompting. Such reply was made,
So was the engine loaded, wound up, sprung
On Guido, who received bolt full in breast;
But no less bore up, giddily perhaps.
He had the Abate Paolo still in Rome,
Brother and friend and fighter on his side:
They rallied in a measure, met the foe
Manlike, joined battle in the public courts,
As if to shame supine law from her sloth:
And waiting her award, let beat the while
Arezzo's banter, Rome's buffoonery,
On this ear and on that ear, deaf alike,
Safe from worse outrage. Let a scorpion nip,
And never mind till he contorts his tail!
But there was sting i' the creature; thus it struck.
Guido had thought in his simplicity—
That lying declaration of remorse,
That story of the child which was no child
And motherhood no motherhood at all,
—That even this sin might have its sort of good
Inasmuch as no question more could be,—
Call it false, call the story true,—no claim
Of further parentage pretended now:
The parents had abjured all right, at least,
I' the woman owned his wife: to plead right still
Were to declare the abjuration false:
He was relieved from any fear henceforth
Their hands might touch, their breath defile again
Pompilia with his name upon her yet.
Well, no: the next news was, Pompilia's health
Demanded change after full three long weeks
Spent in devotion with the Sisterhood,—
Which rendered sojourn,—so the court opined,—
Too irksome, since the convent's walls were high
And windows narrow, now was air enough
Nor light enough, but all looked prison-like,
The last thing which had come in the court's head.
Propose a new expedient therefore,—this!
She had demanded—had obtained indeed,
By intervention of her pitying friends
Or perhaps lovers—(beauty in distress,
Beauty whose tale is the town-talk beside,
Never lacks friendship's arm about her neck)—
Obtained remission of the penalty,
Permitted transfer to some private place
Where better air, more light, new food might soothe—
Incarcerated (call it, all the same)
At some sure friend's house she must keep inside,
Be found in at requirement fast enough,—
Domus pro carcere, in Roman style.
You keep the house i' the main, as most men do
And all good women: but free otherwise,
Should friends arrive, to lodge them and what not?
And such a domum, such a dwelling-place,
Having all Rome to choose from, where chose she?
What house obtained Pompilia's preference?
Why, just the Comparini's—just, do you mark,
Theirs who renounced all part and lot in her
So long as Guido could be robbed thereby,
And only fell back on relationship
And found their daughter safe and sound again
When that might surelier stab him: yes, the pair
Who, as I told you, first had baited hook
With this poor gilded fly Pompilia-thing,
Then caught the fish, pulled Guido to the shore
And gutted him,—not found a further use
For the bait, would trail the gauze wings yet again
I' the way of what new swimmer passed their stand.
They took Pompilia to their hiding-place—
Not in the heart of Rome as formerly,
Under observance, subject to control—
But out o' the way,—or in the way, who knows?
That blind mute villa lurking by the gate
At Via Paulina, not so hard to miss
By the honest eye, easy enough to find
In twilight by marauders: where perchance
Some muffled Caponsacchi might repair,
Employ odd moments when he too tried change,
Found that a friend's abode was pleasanter
Than relegation, penance and the rest.
Come, here's the last drop does its worst to wound
Here's Guido poisoned to the bone, you say
Your boasted still's full strain and strength: not so!
One master-squeeze from screw shall bring to birth
The hoard i' the heart o' the toad, hell's quintessence.
He learned the true convenience of the change,
And why a convent lacks the cheerful hearts
And helpful hands which female straits require,
When, in the blind mute villa by the gate,
Pompilia—what? sang, danced, saw company?
—Gave birth, Sir, to a child, his son and heir,
Or Guido's heir and Caponsacchi's son.
I want your word now: what do you say to this?
What would say little Arezzo and great Rome,
And what did God say and the devil say
One at each ear o' the man, the husband, now
The father? Why, the overburdened mind
Broke down, what was a brain became a blaze.
In fury of the moment—(that first news
Fell on the Count among his vines, it seems,
Doing his farm-work,)—why, he summoned steward,
Called in the first four hard hands and stout hearts
From field and furrow, poured forth his appeal,
Not to Rome's law and gospel any more,
But this clown with a mother or a wife,
That clodpole with a sister or a son:
And, whereas law and gospel held their peace,
What wonder if the sticks and stones cried out?
All five soon somehow found themselves at Rome,
At the villa door: there was the warmth and light—
The sense of life so just an inch inside—
Some angel must have whispered "One more chance!"
Knocked at the door,—"Who is it knocks?" cried one.
"I will make," surely Guido's angel urged,
"One final essay, last experiment,
"Speak the word, name the name from out all names
"Which, if,—as doubtless strong illusions are,
"And strange disguisings whereby truth seems false,
"And, since I am but man, I dare not do
"God's work until assured I see with God,—
"If I should bring my lips to breathe that name
"And they be innocent,—nay, by one mere touch
"Of innocence redeemed from utter guilt,-
"That name will bar the door and bid fate pass.
"I will not say 'It is a messenger,
"'A neighbour, even a belated man,
"'Much less your husband's friend, your husband's self:'
"At such appeal the door is bound to ope.
"But I will say"—here's rhetoric and to spare!
Why, Sir, the stumbling-block is cursed and kicked,
Block though it be; the name that brought offence
Will bring offence: the burnt child dreads the fire
Although that fire feed on some taper-wick
Which never left the altar nor singed a fly:
And had a harmless man tripped you by chance,
How would you wait him, stand or step aside,
When next you heard he rolled your way? Enough.
"Giuseppe Caponsacchi!" Guido cried;
And open flew the door: enough again.
Vengeance, you know, burst, like a mountain-wave
That holds a monster in it, over the house,
And wiped its filthy four walls free at last
With a wash of hell-fire,—father, mother, wife,
Killed them all, bathed his name clean in their blood,
And, reeking so, was caught, his friends and he,
Haled hither and imprisoned yesternight
O' the day all this was.
Now, Sir, tale is told,
Of how the old couple come to lie in state
Though hacked to pieces,—never, the expert say,
So thorough a study of stabbing—while the wife
(Viper-like, very difficult to slay)
Writhes still through every ring of her, poor wretch,
At the Hospital hard by—survives, we'll hope,
To somewhat purify her putrid soul
By full confession, make so much amends
While time lasts; since at day's end die she must.
For Caponsacchi,—why, they'll have him here,
As hero of the adventure, who so fit
To figure in the coming Carnival?
'T will make the fortune of whate'er saloon
Hears him recount, with helpful cheek, and eye
Hotly indignant now, now dewy-dimmed,
The incidents of flight, pursuit, surprise,
Capture, with hints of kisses all between—
While Guido, wholly unromantic spouse,
No longer fit to laugh at since the blood
Gave the broad farce an all too brutal air,
Why, he and those four luckless friends of his
May tumble in the straw this bitter day—
Laid by the heels i' the New Prison, I hear,
To bide their trial, since trial, and for the life,
Follows if but for form's sake: yes, indeed!
But with a certain issue: no dispute,
"Try him," bids law: formalities oblige:
But as to the issue,—look me in the face!—
If the law thinks to find them guilty, Sir,
Master or men—touch one hair of the five,
Then I say in the name of all that's left
Of honour in Rome, civility i' the world
Whereof Rome boasts herself the central source,—
There's an end to all hope of justice more.
Astræa's gone indeed, let hope go too!
Who is it dares impugn the natural law,
Deny God's word "the faithless wife shall die"?
What, are we blind? How can we fail to learn
This crowd of miseries make the man a mark,
Accumulate on one devoted head
For our example?—yours and mine who read
Its lesson thus—"Henceforward let none dare
"Stand, like a natural in the public way,
"Letting the very urchins twitch his beard
"And tweak his nose, to earn a nickname so,
"Be styled male-Grissel or else modern Job!"
Had Guido, in the twinkling of an eye,
Summed up the reckoning, promptly paid himself,
That morning when he came up with the pair
At the wayside inn,—exacted his just debt
By aid of what first mattock, pitchfork, axe
Came to hand in the helpful stable-yard,
And with that axe, if providence so pleased,
Cloven each head, by some Rolando-stroke,
In one clean cut from crown to clavicle,
—Slain the priest-gallant, the wife-paramour,
Sticking, for all defence, in each skull's cleft
The rhyme and reason of the stroke thus dealt,
To-wit, those letters and last evidence
Of shame, each package in its proper place,—
Bidding, who pitied, undistend the skulls,—
I say, the world had praised the man. But no!
That were too plain, too straight; too simply just!
He hesitates, calls law forsooth to help.
And law, distasteful to who calls in law
When honour is beforehand and would serve,
What wonder if law hesitate in turn,
Plead her disuse to calls o' the kind, reply
(Smiling a little) "'T is yourself assess
"The worth of what's lost, sum of damage done.
"What you touched with so light a finger-tip,
"You whose concern it was to grasp the thing,
"Why must law gird herself and grapple with?
"Law, alien to the actor whose warm blood
"Asks heat from law whose veins run lukewarm milk,—
"What you dealt lightly with, shall law make out
Sir, what's the good of law
In a case o'the kind? None, as she all but says.
Call in law when a neighbour breaks your fence,
Cribs from your field, tampers with rent or lease,
Touches the purse or pocket,—but wooes your wife?
No: take the old way trod when men were men!
Guido preferred the new path,—for his pains,
Stuck in a quagmire, floundered worse and worse
Until he managed somehow scramble back
Into the safe sure rutted road once more,
Revenged his own wrong like a gentleman.
Once back 'mid the familiar prints, no doubt
He made too rash amends for his first fault,
Vaulted too loftily over what barred him late,
And lit i' the mire again,—the common chance,
The natural over-energy: the deed
Maladroit yields three deaths instead of one,
And one life left: for where's the Canon's corpse?
All which is the worse for Guido, but, be frank—
The better for you and me and all the world,
Husbands of wives, especially in Rome.
The thing is put right, in the old place,—ay,
The rod hangs on its nail behind the door,
Fresh from the brine: a matter I commend
To the notice, during Carnival that's near,
Of a certain what's-his-name and jackanapes
Somewhat too civil of eves with lute and song
About a house here, where I keep a wife.
(You, being his cousin, may go tell him so.)
The Book Of Love
In the book of love come of age
When you lose your love, you turn the page
Hey-ho the book of love,
Life is written in your own blood
Say forever and it all sounds fine
When youre holding hands,
With the hands of time
Hey-ho the book of love
Laugh at the dead but tomorrow you cry
My broken hearts from a to z
Dos and donts on bended knees
Change of lovers endlessly
And this book of love is writing me
Chapter 2 you walk away
But in chapter 3 a man made me stay
Hey-ho the book of love
Why dontcha look up
All the games you played
Theyll be sweet love in a darkness
But the book of love
Is a story of your loneliness
Finger tipped it on a holy night
And a page is ripped for a name of life
Check the back cause the datell be due
When theyll throw the book of love at you
They are broken hearts from a to z
Dos and donts on bended knees
Disappointed right to be
Celebrate a celebrity
Ah stupid cupid set me free
Took a look and whatll I see
This book of love is writing me
This book of love is writing me
This book of love is writing me
This book of love is writing me
Not ready for the rapture my friend; you aren't ready for the end,
An ending that shall overtake, this entire world, make no mistake,
An ending that'll shock the world, as God's Judgment is unfurled,
On a world that has gone awry, from The One Who reigns on high.
The Lord's Judgment is guaranteed, only the rapture will proceed,
His coming Judgment of every nation, a time of great Tribulation,
Against God the nations rage, so, on the world He turns the page,
The final pages out of prophecy, regarding all the nations destiny.
Those who've not feared the Lord, though by grace have endured,
Will see The Lord's uplifted hand, throughout each and every land,
From God's Heavenly Habitation, He will surely strike every nation,
All that were opposed to God, will be Judged by Christ's Iron Rod.
For those in Christ, a different story, as believers shall be in Glory,
For those, Christ has prepared, a place above, and will be spared,
All His Wrath and the desolation, for in the Lord we have salvation,
His Redeemed are on another path, that we shall not see His wrath.
In light of The Word, one can't afford, to not be found in The Lord,
For when the rapture does take place, that will be the end of grace,
It won't be a pretty place or time, for those on the earth left behind,
So dear friend believe in Christ, and you will be in the Book of Life.
Every Walk Of Life
From every walk of life
One a child just wanting to play games
And making funny faces to make everyone laugh
One a young adult maybe of 20
Showing her beauty to the world
With every stride of her black high heals
One a gentlemen writing of his charismatic ways
Passing the miracle of poetry on to
Anyone his words color the taste of
a magician which he surly is
The other a bit more aged and
Seasoned within life’s steak
Trying to teach the children even at
The bottom of her pool of life
That without an education you are nothing
Will be noting and can be nothing
Not only in her eyes but nor in any one else’s
Each telling a story within their unique way
Maybe in the innocent smile he brings to your face
The drawings of chalk that will just be erased in the rain
Maybe in the way she walks along the path of ambition
The gliding motion that clicks with every impulse
To have all the world desires her to have
But knows she has only what she has
Her black high heals
Or maybe in the writing of an unselfish poet
That writes for his many readers not for himself
And the filtering needs of his overflowing mind
And maybe even someone that shows us in a very different way
Within the lines on her face
The stories we long to hear that she tells
Each giving something to the world
One his future so brightly lit
With fresh colors of innocents
But only a dimmed light shows the path he will take
One with her black high heals to guide her
Gives only the flicker of an eyelash to the world
With an empty mind and careless soul she tells no story of wisdom
Another his words of wisdom and self assurance
Float onto the golden paper to welcome his wand of mystery
He shows you are more then what everyone sees in you
You are his reader and without you he would just be a man
With every walk of life there is
A beginning and an end
A start and a finish
A story to tell and one to listen to
Something to give and something to take
The proof is within the wrinkles of an old woman’s face
Because every walk of life has
A start to start and a finish to finish
0190 A novel fairy story for a poetic multi-faith Giftmas
‘Cinderella’ (I’m using this pseudonym
to protect her identity, now she’s
ex-hot, ex-famous) , while sweeping, dusting,
fire-lighting, all that deprived childhood stuff -
felt that she had more to offer;
had not realised her full potential; so
in a cheap exercise book, wrote her
fictionalised life-story, suitably worked up,
in her spare moments; even, when short of incident,
setting up some neat situation with
her ugly sisters etc.
thanks to her friend Buttons who
was computer-literate, hence
his name, ha, she
self-published and, with a wand-wave from
her Fairy Godmother
by ‘sheer chance’ when her sisters had a famous critic
and, unusually, discoverer of talent, to dine,
hit the headlines – Booker Prize
in an off-year, interviews, weary book tours of the US,
life-style articles, all that,
- a gift to journalists, rags to riches story –
was courted through many photo-opportunities
by ex-hot celebs in search of boosting their
waning reflected glory… in short,
Hit It Big.
‘We always knew
her talent’ wrote her botoxed sisters…
until one day, her Fairy Godmother
winging past late as usual and slightly
tetchy with it, reckoned that
Our Heroine had had her fifteen minutes
and wondered what to do to slap her down; until
she remembered that she’d fixed that too –
Famous First Book Novelists
have to spend the following year
while the rest of us are having fun out there,
seeing their name fade from the headlines
and the gossip columns and
the stories planted by their PR
and cutting down on the parties
and those they do go to, they
are only half-there as they watch
for 'material', as a break from
sitting at their desk while confidence
dwindles into self-doubt
and the critics sharpen up their talons, as Last Year's Winners
scrape out that Second Novel..
and the Fairy Godmother (who
doubles as the Wicked Witch, it’s
a divine joke) chuckled in a somewhat
double-edged way, whilst checking
the time and remembering that for fairies,
arriving late increases the dramatic tension.
there’s a moral here for poets too but
to point it out would be
Two Sides To Every Story
There are two sides to every story
Not just the side of them or theirs,
So never judge or hold a grudge
And when you listen, please listen with care.
Listen to one side and then always the other
Not just one side and then walk away
If you pick that route, sad you'll turn out
And never will you ever feel or be the same.
You will hate yourself as truth be told
If you listen to only one side of the story
You'll live in disgrace, when you see your face
And never will you fill satisfaction or joy.
As time will come, and of course time will tell
Someday the truth it will all come out
And when it you do hear, will you shed a tear
As you found out you took the wrong route.
There is two sides to every story
Not just the side that you want to hear
And not from their soul, that you do not know
And not from someone who will cry you a tear.
When you listen, please listen well
No matter if they be friend or foe
Look into their eyes, then you might realize
And then the truth might just be known.
To condemn someone is such a terrible act
Which you must live with the rest of your life
You will live in shame, for someone you falsely blamed
And always you will question yourself why.
A pretty face or a sad sad story
Guilt either begins or ends with that line
As a pretty face, it can mask lies or hate
Then the truth through deception is left behind.
There are two sides to every story
I must preach that statement once again
Listen to both sides, then the judgment you can decide
And happy you will be in the end
As you cannot judge a book by it's cover
No matter what you might hear or what might be said
As so many will lie, so that to get pity on their side
While untruth and deception they will had led.
A saddened face is just a saddened story
There is more to the truth to one persons story
Don't falsely judge, if so even GOD will hold a grudge
Then far away you will be from his glory.
When you listen to a story listen with your soul
Never be afraid to ask a question or even ask why
And always seek the truth, as you would seek out good fruit
And remember to every story there is always another side.
Randy L. McClave
Narratives we tell to show
who we believe we are deceive
the listeners who are forced to go
with that one version they receive,
because we’ve may others we
can tell to different people to
impress them with our pedigree
and perspicacious points of view.
Do we from truth take long excursions
by changing tales about ourselves,
to find as many different versions
as books in volumes on our shelves?
No, there’s some truth in each refrain,
for every life is like a ballad
with different verses that explain
its variations, each as valid
as the next one, contradictions
all harmonized with disappearance
of prejudice about the fictions
that help to give the facts coherence.
Inspired by Benedict Carey, who writes about narratives we tell of our lives (“This Is Your Life (and How You Tell It, ” NYT, May 22,2007) :
For more than a century, researchers have been trying to work out the raw ingredients that account for personality, the sweetness and neuroses that make Anna Anna, the sluggishness and sensitivity that make Andrew Andrew. They have largely ignored the first-person explanation — the life story that people themselves tell about who they are, and why. Stories are stories, after all. The attractive stranger at the airport bar hears one version, the parole officer another, and the P.T.A. board gets something entirely different. Moreover, the tone, the lessons, even the facts in a life story can all shift in the changing light of a person’s mood, its major notes turning minor, its depths appearing shallow. Yet in the past decade or so a handful of psychologists have argued that the quicksilver elements of personal narrative belong in any three-dimensional picture of personality. And a burst of new findings are now helping them make the case. Generous, civic-minded adults from diverse backgrounds tell life stories with very similar and telling features, studies find; so likewise do people who have overcome mental distress through psychotherapy. Every American may be working on a screenplay, but we are also continually updating a treatment of our own life — and the way in which we visualize each scene not only shapes how we think about ourselves, but how we behave, new studies find. By better understanding how life stories are built, this work suggests, people may be able to alter their own narrative, in small ways and perhaps large ones. “When we first started studying life stories, people thought it was just idle curiosity — stories, isn’t that cool? ” said Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and author of the 2006 book, “The Redemptive Self.” “Well, we find that these narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future.” Researchers have found that the human brain has a natural affinity for narrative construction. People tend to remember facts more accurately if they encounter them in a story rather than in a list, studies find; and they rate legal arguments as more convincing when built into narrative tales rather than on legal precedent.
United States Of America
THE earths come together
And accede to bow our heads with deference
To the light of the world,
For in the beginning the light said a word,
And the utterance was in the hearts of every American
And it was with the people,
So there was peace and water in the world.
It is the land of America,
Where winter comes every year
Chilling the blood of her populace,
So it is the terra firma of humble America
On which the sun shines day and night,
People working every second bit of their lives
For there is not a night on the land
That would set off these people remember their beds;
And down the curve of years, down
Its battered chronicles of tearful history-
The gaining of sovereignty from the British;
The misapprehension between Negroes and the white man,
The detachment all through the First World War
And change of stance to take part in the Second World War,
The death of grand president j. f Kennedy,
The assassination of a black man’s dream, Luther-
Yes the dark path of her history
Her people have tired and moiled
To put together a once traumatized nation,
The nation that has suffered deeply
The copious accomplishment of the powerful states
Is the route of stability in the world
Of darkness and of day-God
So it is known, created night and darkness-
In dimensions of politics, economy and development;
Oh America is like a lamb
That once rested in the arms of Moses
Oh America is like john the Baptist,
Preparing the pathway for a great affluence
To come to the wretched humankind;
The opulence would be bounteneous
As the oceans and all waters
Even her creator could not draw to a close.
When the world has fallen into
The chasm of darkness
She stands up on the moon
Lighting the earth with a powerful flare,
The people get irradiant with expectation
That as long as there is a super power
Their life shall never get down to graves.
The first knowledge was not developed
In America, though it might be so
Which nation has forever been
So technologically sophisticated? None
Like the son of man who lived
On the graven and scrawny earth
For over three eventful decades
Who was sacrificed in the broad daylight
So humanity may live evermore,
So that emancipation might save,
America is the sacrificial lamb,
Sacrificed every day so that
Enemies of social equality and tranquility
Might not hit upon a place in the universe;
Oh is there one who
Is as kind as the soaring states?
In the moments of hitch and crisis,
Through immense suffering appalling
An American will shed a tear
Down the right eye but
The left shall keep on vigil to find a solution:
After all JOB suffered to the tip of demise
But one day when hope he had all given up
He got well and lived well eternally after
In the kingdom of his creator,
When an American feels broken down
He will read the book of Ruth:
‘And Naom cried but he could not give up on life’.
Oh America is fine-looking
Like the sunup rose bright
The creator must have lived on the land
Ere He quite to the mansions of heaven;
Oh America must be revered
For when you see her defense forces
You see security and protection on the face.
The brilliant land of America
Has seen the most great writers
Like Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman,
Maya Angelou - who should be a poet laureate;
The entire world let tag on the way,
The savior and the star of the world,
For today never shall it be like tomorrow-
Tomorrow may be a ferocious war
But in wings of the America,
In the shadow of the shepherd
We shall come back victors
To have defeated the adversary hardheartedly,
Oh God bless America.