The Army of Truth
Words, the world so light esteemeth?
words in poet’s stanza set!
O how frail your power seemeth,
to be fighting
for the truth mankind is slighting.
Truth should come with thunder pealing,
To her succour sent from Heaven,
angel hosts their cohorts wheeling,
should escort her advent splendid.
Ah! Why comes she not, th’exalted,
With a helm about her brow,
fashioned of the sky star-vaulted,
swords her radiant pinions pluming?
Why are not her white tents planted,
far and wide,
gleaming on the mountain side?
why are not her warriors granted,
in their striving,
mastery over life and living?
Bastioned night is steep for storming;
rests secure on columns high;
like Egyptian serpents swarming,
round her temple,
error’s black-robed guards assemble.
Onward yet, brave words, undaunted,
Earthly triumph has to you
by the God of light been granted,
who are serving
truth, his child, with faith unswerving.
Forward, words, the truth’s selected
Soon in human hearts shall stand
your victorious tents erected;
sunlit folds above your sleeping.
Forward, then, with fearless faces,
truth’s firm line!
Yours shall be, by pledge divine,
power no earthly might displaces;
death can never
still thee, voice of truth, for ever.
Cease then, puny host, your quailing,
truth her cause
through defeat to triumph draws:
Falsehood’s desert heights assailing,
see, your powers
dissipate those phantom towers!
- quotes about victory
- quotes about Earth
- quotes about worry
- quotes about fashion
- quotes about war
- quotes about divine
- quotes about words
- quotes about drawing
- quotes about strength
Sky Star' (On A Peaceful Night)
Sky Star…., so far….., on a peaceful night….,
Blinking…, twinkling…, with a wondrous light…,
Sky Star…., so far…., sparkling so bright….,
Shimmering…, quivering…, on a peaceful night.
Celestial flame…. Glowing with delight….,
Gleaming, flashing, glimmering white….,
Radiant spirit…., such a beautiful sight…,
Sky Star…., so far….., on a peaceful night.
Here I lean over you, small son, sleeping
Warm in my arms,
And I con to my heart all your dew-fresh charms,
As you lie close, close in my hungry hold . . .
Your hair like a miser's dream of gold,
And the white rose of your face far fairer,
Finer, and rarer
Than all the flowers in the young year's keeping;
Over lips half parted your low breath creeping
Is sweeter than violets in April grasses;
Though your eyes are fast shut I can see their blue,
Splendid and soft as starshine in heaven,
With all the joyance and wisdom given
From the many souls who have stanchly striven
Through the dead years to be strong and true.
Those fine little feet in my worn hands holden . . .
Where will they tread ?
Valleys of shadow or heights dawn-red?
And those silken fingers, O, wee, white son,
What valorous deeds shall by them be done
In the future that yet so distant is seeming
To my fond dreaming?
What words all so musical and golden
With starry truth and poesy olden
Shall those lips speak in the years on-coming?
O, child of mine, with waxen brow,
Surely your words of that dim to-morrow
Rapture and power and grace must borrow
From the poignant love and holy sorrow
Of the heart that shrines and cradles you now!
Some bitter day you will love another,
To her will bear
Love-gifts and woo her . . . then must I share
You and your tenderness! Now you are mine
From your feet to your hair so golden and fine,
And your crumpled finger-tips . . . mine completely,
Wholly and sweetly;
Mine with kisses deep to smother,
No one so near to you now as your mother!
Others may hear your words of beauty,
But your precious silence is mine alone;
Here in my arms I have enrolled you,
Away from the grasping world I fold you,
Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!
Bible in Poetry: Revelation 22
The River of Life:
1 And then the angel showed to me
The river of water of life,
As clear as crystal, and which flowed,
From the throne of God and the Lamb,
2 And down the city’s middle street.
On either side of river stood,
Tree of life, with twelve crops of fruit,
And yielding fruit on every month.
The leaves of tree healed all nations.
3 No longer will there be a curse.
The throne of God and of the Lamb
In city, and servants serve Him.
4 They’ll see His face then directly;
His name will be on their foreheads.
5 There will be no more night at all.
They will not need a lamp-light’s help,
Nor light of sun, for God gives light.
And they will reign forever, ev’r.
6 The angel turned and said to me,
'These words are trustworthy and true.
The God of spirits of prophets,
Sent angel to show his servants,
The things that must take place sooner.'
Jesus Is Coming:
7 'Behold, I am then coming soon!
Blessed is he who keeps the words
Of the prophecy in this book.'
8 I, John, heard and saw all these things.
And when I’d heard and seen them all,
I fell down to worship at feet
Of angel who showed them to me.
9He said to me, 'Do not do it!
I’m a fellow servant with you
And with your brothers, the prophets,
And all who keep words of this book.
Therefore, you worship the Lord, God! '
10 He told me then, 'Don’t seal the words
Of prophecy of this book for,
The time is near as prophesied.
11 Let him who wrongs, so continue;
Let him who’s vile, then, continue;
Let him who does the right, do so;
Let him who’s holy, holy be.'
12 'Behold, I am then coming soon!
With Me is my reward for all;
And I will give to everyone,
According to what he has done.
13 I’m Alpha and the Omega,
First and Last, Beginning and End.
14 'Blessed are those who wash their robes,
That they have right to tree of life,
And go through gates of the City.
15 Outside are dogs, with magic arts,
The sexually immoral ones,
The murderers, idolaters,
And all who love, practice falsehoods.
16 'I, Jesus, have sent my angel,
To testify to all churches:
I am the Root, David’s Offspring,
The Morning Star that’s ever bright.'
17 The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come! '
Let him who hears say, 'Come! Also.”
“Whoev’r is thirsty, let him come;
Whoever wishes let him take
The free gift of Water of Life.
18 I warn all those who hear the words
Of prophecy of this great Book:
If one adds anything to them,
Then God will add to him the plagues
That are described in this God’s Book.
19 If anyone takes words away
Then, from this Book of prophecy,
God too will take away from him,
His share in tree of life as well
As, in the holy city too,
Which are described in this great Book.
20 Whoever testifies to these
Things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.'
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen
21The grace of Lord Jesus Christ be
With God's people always. Amen.
Coldly, sadly descends
The autumn-evening. The field
Strewn with its dank yellow drifts
Of wither'd leaves, and the elms,
Fade into dimness apace,
Silent;--hardly a shout
From a few boys late at their play!
The lights come out in the street,
In the school-room windows;--but cold,
Solemn, unlighted, austere,
Through the gathering darkness, arise
The chapel-walls, in whose bound
Thou, my father! art laid.
There thou dost lie, in the gloom
Of the autumn evening. But ah!
That word, gloom, to my mind
Brings thee back, in the light
Of thy radiant vigour, again;
In the gloom of November we pass'd
Days not dark at thy side;
Seasons impair'd not the ray
Of thy buoyant cheerfulness clear.
Such thou wast! and I stand
In the autumn evening, and think
Of bygone autumns with thee.
Fifteen years have gone round
Since thou arosest to tread,
In the summer-morning, the road
Of death, at a call unforeseen,
Sudden. For fifteen years,
We who till then in thy shade
Rested as under the boughs
Of a mighty oak, have endured
Sunshine and rain as we might,
Bare, unshaded, alone,
Lacking the shelter of thee.
O strong soul, by what shore
Tarriest thou now? For that force,
Surely, has not been left vain!
Somewhere, surely afar,
In the sounding labour-house vast
Of being, is practised that strength,
Zealous, beneficent, firm!
Yes, in some far-shining sphere,
Conscious or not of the past,
Still thou performest the word
Of the Spirit in whom thou dost live--
Prompt, unwearied, as here!
Still thou upraisest with zeal
The humble good from the ground,
Sternly repressest the bad!
Still, like a trumpet, dost rouse
Those who with half-open eyes
Tread the border-land dim
'Twixt vice and virtue; reviv'st,
Succourest!--this was thy work,
This was thy life upon earth.
What is the course of the life
Of mortal men on the earth?--
Most men eddy about
Here and there--eat and drink,
Chatter and love and hate,
Gather and squander, are raised
Aloft, are hurl'd in the dust,
Striving blindly, achieving
Nothing; and then they die--
Perish;--and no one asks
Who or what they have been,
More than he asks what waves,
In the moonlit solitudes mild
Of the midmost Ocean, have swell'd,
Foam'd for a moment, and gone.
And there are some, whom a thirst
Ardent, unquenchable, fires,
Not with the crowd to be spent,
Not without aim to go round
In an eddy of purposeless dust,
Effort unmeaning and vain.
Ah yes! some of us strive
Not without action to die
Fruitless, but something to snatch
From dull oblivion, nor all
Glut the devouring grave!
We, we have chosen our path--
Path to a clear-purposed goal,
Path of advance!--but it leads
A long, steep journey, through sunk
Gorges, o'er mountains in snow.
Cheerful, with friends, we set forth--
Then on the height, comes the storm.
Thunder crashes from rock
To rock, the cataracts reply,
Lightnings dazzle our eyes.
Roaring torrents have breach'd
The track, the stream-bed descends
In the place where the wayfarer once
Planted his footstep--the spray
Boils o'er its borders! aloft
The unseen snow-beds dislodge
Their hanging ruin; alas,
Havoc is made in our train!
Friends, who set forth at our side,
Falter, are lost in the storm.
We, we only are left!
With frowning foreheads, with lips
Sternly compress'd, we strain on,
On--and at nightfall at last
Come to the end of our way,
To the lonely inn 'mid the rocks;
Where the gaunt and taciturn host
Stands on the threshold, the wind
Shaking his thin white hairs--
Holds his lantern to scan
Our storm-beat figures, and asks:
Whom in our party we bring?
Whom we have left in the snow?
Sadly we answer: We bring
Only ourselves! we lost
Sight of the rest in the storm.
Hardly ourselves we fought through,
Stripp'd, without friends, as we are.
Friends, companions, and train,
The avalanche swept from our side.
But thou woulds't not alone
Be saved, my father! alone
Conquer and come to thy goal,
Leaving the rest in the wild.
We were weary, and we
Fearful, and we in our march
Fain to drop down and to die.
Still thou turnedst, and still
Beckonedst the trembler, and still
Gavest the weary thy hand.
If, in the paths of the world,
Stones might have wounded thy feet,
Toil or dejection have tried
Thy spirit, of that we saw
Nothing--to us thou wage still
Cheerful, and helpful, and firm!
Therefore to thee it was given
Many to save with thyself;
And, at the end of thy day,
O faithful shepherd! to come,
Bringing thy sheep in thy hand.
And through thee I believe
In the noble and great who are gone;
Pure souls honour'd and blest
By former ages, who else--
Such, so soulless, so poor,
Is the race of men whom I see--
Seem'd but a dream of the heart,
Seem'd but a cry of desire.
Yes! I believe that there lived
Others like thee in the past,
Not like the men of the crowd
Who all round me to-day
Bluster or cringe, and make life
Hideous, and arid, and vile;
But souls temper'd with fire,
Fervent, heroic, and good,
Helpers and friends of mankind.
Servants of God!--or sons
Shall I not call you? Because
Not as servants ye knew
Your Father's innermost mind,
His, who unwillingly sees
One of his little ones lost--
Yours is the praise, if mankind
Hath not as yet in its march
Fainted, and fallen, and died!
See! In the rocks of the world
Marches the host of mankind,
A feeble, wavering line.
Where are they tending?--A God
Marshall'd them, gave them their goal.
Ah, but the way is so long!
Years they have been in the wild!
Sore thirst plagues them, the rocks
Rising all round, overawe;
Factions divide them, their host
Threatens to break, to dissolve.
--Ah, keep, keep them combined!
Else, of the myriads who fill
That army, not one shall arrive;
Sole they shall stray; in the rocks
Stagger for ever in vain,
Die one by one in the waste.
Then, in such hour of need
Of your fainting, dispirited race,
Ye, like angels, appear,
Radiant with ardour divine!
Beacons of hope, ye appear!
Languor is not in your heart,
Weakness is not in your word,
Weariness not on your brow.
Ye alight in our van! at your voice,
Panic, despair, flee away.
Ye move through the ranks, recall
The stragglers, refresh the outworn,
Praise, re-inspire the brave!
Order, courage, return.
Eyes rekindling, and prayers,
Follow your steps as ye go.
Ye fill up the gaps in our files,
Strengthen the wavering line,
Stablish, continue our march,
On, to the bound of the waste,
On, to the City of God.
Set Your Heart On Sweet Truth
Set your heart on Sweet truth
Firm so your belief
For from meek soul rises incredible strength of huge hopes
So vast and strong
That the whole matter of universe shrinks again to a small
Fragment of its existence
From where it rose to such a supreme power
And this little speck that you hide unknowingly
Is lost somewhere in your timid heart
Where all the sweet truths and simple ways passive for the
Fear to be known
Oh the Beloveds of Master
Let Your Stature be tall
And let your eyes look up in the eyes of pride
For Your Stature has risen from Humble to Divine
For your sight Exhibits the radiance of belief
For with your small steps mobilises infinite strength
And when you believe in your being and soar
The Lord Himself Smiles Upon You...
I Stood At The Edge Of A New World With My Words
I STOOD AT THE EDGE OF A NEW WORLD WITH MY WORDS
I stood at the edge of a new world with my words
And I set out into the distance of saying
The promised land called me
And I knew I would touch it somehow
But years went by
And all the lights in the distance receded
And I remained dreaming and dreaming and dreaming
And too old just to dream.
Will I fight my way out?
Will I find my will again?
Will I be a person once more?
The new day opens
Let's see what I can do with it.
'FOLLOW THE SAME STAR'
The truth we see;
How small a part
Of that lovely light
Ever reaches our heart?
If you're looking for the light,
There is a star shining bright,
A dawn to this dark night,
A candle burning bright.
Long ago, a star
Sent forth its light from afar.
And now, no matter how far,
We will follow the same star.
Lost sailors used stars
To calculate their course
Whenever the wind and waves took
Them with their force.
Let truth transform you;
It will make your heart and mind new.
If you're not faithful, your heart's in denial;
Take it from me - it's worth your while.
So forget this world with all its cares,
For troubled dreams turn into nightmares.
You have to leave this world behind
If you want to keep what you find.
The stars haven't always been there,
But the love of our Lord is everywhere.
The devil appears as an angel of light;
He does his best work in the night.
One day you'll leave this world of ours,
Taking your place among the stars.
Shine bright with light, my star;
Show the world who you are.
'SHARE THE SAME STAR'
I'm looking at this star tonight,
But will my wish come true?
I can't help wondering,
If you can see the same star too?
Do you see what I see,
As we stand in its light?
Does darkness overwhelm you,
When you look up there tonight?
I am dreaming in the darkness,
About this star that shines above.
I hope that you'll find me,
Looking for true love.
I've wished upon this special star
For my whole life, it seems.
I close my eyes and make a wish
For all my hopes and dreams.
One day, I got my wish;
I finally met you.
You're that special someone,
Who made my dreams come true.
They say you should never tell
What you wish for, it's true,
But I want the whole world to know
That my wish was for you.
Though there are miles between us,
I know our hearts will meet.
At the point this star begins,
The two will have one beat.
Whenever we are apart,
I find that same bright star.
It makes me feel close to your heart,
No matter where you are.
'WISH ON A STAR'
As I wait here, wondering where you are,
I lie in loneliness and look up at the stars.
Soaring on through space like a shooting star,
Still searching - wondering who you are.
As far as you can see into eternity,
Each one is a wish that with you I'll be.
Stare at the sky, on a silent night;
Count the crystal sea of stars, blazing bright.
Staying by your side wherever you may go,
I have to tell you now - I just want you to know
That even as the stars keep shining in the sky,
My love for you will burn forever and never die.
There's just something beautiful about when angels pray;
A star shines brighter in the night than the light of day.
You can't lift a candle to show lost souls the way
Without feeling the warmth of that radiant ray.
'SHINE BRIGHT WITH LIGHT'
Up in heaven, the angels cry;
Another star falls from the sky.
A falling star - a fading light,
And soon it shall pass from our sight.
When the world starts falling apart,
The hope of heaven is hidden in my heart.
I'll make the world a brighter place,
Like the light of a star in space.
Someday, we'll be just like the angels are;
Like the steady light of a distant star.
Someday soon, we'll shine like them,
Radiant as the rarest, glowing gem.
Sing to the stars - sing to the sea;
Let your song echo for eternity.
Truth our hearts alone can see,
A reflection of reality.
'EACH NIGHT I PRAY'
Walking outside, I lift my eyes
To a symphony in the skies.
You are my star - you shine so bright;
When it is dark, you are my light.
Everyday, I'm so grateful
For your warm and glowing light.
Thank you for being so faithful;
You make my whole world bright.
Just like a star, you're so far away.
I think of you - each night I pray,
But I know there's no way
For you to hear the words I say.
I see you in the sky at night,
But I can't touch the star in sight.
I guess I will always be
A friend you will never see.
'WISH YOU WERE HERE'
One night I was out wandering,
Feeling lost and alone.
I looked up into the heavens,
And there a bright star shone.
I picked one to wish on
From every star above.
I closed my eyes and made a wish
To send you all my love.
So look up in the sky tonight
And find that star;
It will shine bright with light,
However near or far.
And when you see our star,
My wish will come to you;
Stars were made to wish upon;
Sometimes wishes come true.
'I SAW THE LIGHT'
I saw a bright ray today
That led me out of darkness.
A little light so far away
In an endless sea of emptiness.
It burned like a shooting star,
In the distance, so very far.
I think it’s getting clearer;
Now it's coming nearer.
A light just as bright as the sun
And almost as distant;
It wasn’t the only one;
You couldn't have missed it.
When I'm lost in the dark and I can't see,0
I just look for the light.
I have hope when it shines on me,
Everything will be bright.
'YOU ARE MY LIGHT'
I looked up at the stars last night,
Just thinking about you,
And wondering what I could do
To make our dreams come true.
Together, we’ll shine like the sun;
Two candles burn brighter than one.
We'll dance just like the stars in space,
Together forever in an endless embrace.
Wherever you go, I will follow;
And it doesn't matter how far.
Without you, my heart feels hollow;
I just want to be where you are.
You shine just like a star so bright;
I'd be lost without your light.
Hand in hand, we'll stand together;
I promise to be there forever.
'A STAR IS BORN'
Every star is destined by fate
To live and then to die.
It glows with light - it just can't wait,
Shooting across the sky.
For a moment, it is there,
Burning bright up in the air.
It falls gently onto the ground,
Without making a sound.
Like a falling star,
Glowing bright with glory,
I'm just another ending
To someone else's story.
Just a dropp of rain in the desert,
Just a grain of sand in the sea;
What have I done that won’t be forgotten?
Will anyone remember me?
'SHINE LIKE A STAR'
I look up at the sky;
It hurts so much saying goodbye.
Every time I think of you,
It makes me want to cry.
Hope is not hope if you can see;
Is there a star that shines for me?
Like a star, you showed me the way;
You led me with your light each day.
I'll say a prayer for you;
I'll make a wish and I hope it comes true.
Put your faith in what you can't see;
I wish you could be here with me.
Sometimes I wish I could be
A star to shine for all to see.
I know the light is not my own;
I could never do it alone.
'YOU ARE MY STAR'
You are my star,
So bright up above;
I can't forget it;
It's you I love.
My star will shine
So bright and true.
It's a light in the night
Made just for you.
When you are lost,
Wherever you may be,
Look for the light,
For it will set you free.
Don't hide your light,
Wherever you are;
Let it burn bright,
Just like a star.
'A SEA OF STARS'
A life is lost;
What can we say?
A bright light burns,
Then it fades away.
And at the sight,
They stop and stare
On this dark night,
But they don't care.
It came and went;
I'm not sure what it meant.
A star fell from the sky,
And I want to know why.
Just for you,
This star fell;
You have one wish,
So use it well.
Morituri Salutamus: Poem for the Fiftieth Anniversary of th
Tempora labuntur, tacitisque senescimus annis,
Et fugiunt freno non remorante dies.
Ovid, Fastorum, Lib. vi.
"O Cæsar, we who are about to die
Salute you!" was the gladiators' cry
In the arena, standing face to face
With death and with the Roman populace.
O ye familiar scenes,--ye groves of pine,
That once were mine and are no longer mine,--
Thou river, widening through the meadows green
To the vast sea, so near and yet unseen,--
Ye halls, in whose seclusion and repose
Phantoms of fame, like exhalations, rose
And vanished,--we who are about to die,
Salute you; earth and air and sea and sky,
And the Imperial Sun that scatters down
His sovereign splendors upon grove and town.
Ye do not answer us! ye do not hear!
We are forgotten; and in your austere
And calm indifference, ye little care
Whether we come or go, or whence or where.
What passing generations fill these halls,
What passing voices echo from these walls,
Ye heed not; we are only as the blast,
A moment heard, and then forever past.
Not so the teachers who in earlier days
Led our bewildered feet through learning's maze;
They answer us--alas! what have I said?
What greetings come there from the voiceless dead?
What salutation, welcome, or reply?
What pressure from the hands that lifeless lie?
They are no longer here; they all are gone
Into the land of shadows,--all save one.
Honor and reverence, and the good repute
That follows faithful service as its fruit,
Be unto him, whom living we salute.
The great Italian poet, when he made
His dreadful journey to the realms of shade,
Met there the old instructor of his youth,
And cried in tones of pity and of ruth:
"Oh, never from the memory of my heart
Your dear, paternal image shall depart,
Who while on earth, ere yet by death surprised,
Taught me how mortals are immortalized;
How grateful am I for that patient care
All my life long my language shall declare."
To-day we make the poet's words our own,
And utter them in plaintive undertone;
Nor to the living only be they said,
But to the other living called the dead,
Whose dear, paternal images appear
Not wrapped in gloom, but robed in sunshine here;
Whose simple lives, complete and without flaw,
Were part and parcel of great Nature's law;
Who said not to their Lord, as if afraid,
"Here is thy talent in a napkin laid,"
But labored in their sphere, as men who live
In the delight that work alone can give.
Peace be to them; eternal peace and rest,
And the fulfilment of the great behest:
"Ye have been faithful over a few things,
Over ten cities shall ye reign as kings."
And ye who fill the places we once filled,
And follow in the furrows that we tilled,
Young men, whose generous hearts are beating high,
We who are old, and are about to die,
Salute you; hail you; take your hands in ours,
And crown you with our welcome as with flowers!
How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams
With its illusions, aspirations, dreams!
Book of Beginnings, Story without End,
Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend!
Aladdin's Lamp, and Fortunatus' Purse,
That holds the treasures of the universe!
All possibilities are in its hands,
No danger daunts it, and no foe withstands;
In its sublime audacity of faith,
"Be thou removed!" it to the mountain saith,
And with ambitious feet, secure and proud,
Ascends the ladder leaning on the cloud!
As ancient Priam at the Scæan gate
Sat on the walls of Troy in regal state
With the old men, too old and weak to fight,
Chirping like grasshoppers in their delight
To see the embattled hosts, with spear and shield,
Of Trojans and Achaians in the field;
So from the snowy summits of our years
We see you in the plain, as each appears,
And question of you; asking, "Who is he
That towers above the others? Which may be
Atreides, Menelaus, Odysseus,
Ajax the great, or bold Idomeneus?"
Let him not boast who puts his armor on
As he who puts it off, the battle done.
Study yourselves; and most of all note well
Wherein kind Nature meant you to excel.
Not every blossom ripens into fruit;
Minerva, the inventress of the flute,
Flung it aside, when she her face surveyed
Distorted in a fountain as she played;
The unlucky Marsyas found it, and his fate
Was one to make the bravest hesitate.
Write on your doors the saying wise and old,
"Be bold! be bold!" and everywhere, "Be bold;
Be not too bold!" Yet better the excess
Than the defect; better the more than less;
Better like Hector in the field to die,
Than like a perfumed Paris turn and fly.
And now, my classmates; ye remaining few
That number not the half of those we knew,
Ye, against whose familiar names not yet
The fatal asterisk of death is set,
Ye I salute! The horologe of Time
Strikes the half-century with a solemn chime,
And summons us together once again,
The joy of meeting not unmixed with pain.
Where are the others? Voices from the deep
Caverns of darkness answer me: "They sleep!"
I name no names; instinctively I feel
Each at some well-remembered grave will kneel,
And from the inscription wipe the weeds and moss,
For every heart best knoweth its own loss.
I see their scattered gravestones gleaming white
Through the pale dusk of the impending night;
O'er all alike the impartial sunset throws
Its golden lilies mingled with the rose;
We give to each a tender thought, and pass
Out of the graveyards with their tangled grass,
Unto these scenes frequented by our feet
When we were young, and life was fresh and sweet.
What shall I say to you? What can I say
Better than silence is? When I survey
This throng of faces turned to meet my own,
Friendly and fair, and yet to me unknown,
Transformed the very landscape seems to be;
It is the same, yet not the same to me.
So many memories crowd upon my brain,
So many ghosts are in the wooded plain,
I fain would steal away, with noiseless tread,
As from a house where some one lieth dead.
I cannot go;--I pause;--I hesitate;
My feet reluctant linger at the gate;
As one who struggles in a troubled dream
To speak and cannot, to myself I seem.
Vanish the dream! Vanish the idle fears!
Vanish the rolling mists of fifty years!
Whatever time or space may intervene,
I will not be a stranger in this scene.
Here every doubt, all indecision, ends;
Hail, my companions, comrades, classmates, friends!
Ah me! the fifty years since last we met
Seem to me fifty folios bound and set
By Time, the great transcriber, on his shelves,
Wherein are written the histories of ourselves.
What tragedies, what comedies, are there;
What joy and grief, what rapture and despair!
What chronicles of triumph and defeat,
Of struggle, and temptation, and retreat!
What records of regrets, and doubts, and fears!
What pages blotted, blistered by our tears!
What lovely landscapes on the margin shine,
What sweet, angelic faces, what divine
And holy images of love and trust,
Undimmed by age, unsoiled by damp or dust!
Whose hand shall dare to open and explore
These volumes, closed and clasped forevermore?
Not mine. With reverential feet I pass;
I hear a voice that cries, "Alas! alas!
Whatever hath been written shall remain,
Nor be erased nor written o'er again;
The unwritten only still belongs to thee:
Take heed, and ponder well what that shall be."
As children frightened by a thunder-cloud
Are reassured if some one reads aloud
A tale of wonder, with enchantment fraught,
Or wild adventure, that diverts their thought,
Let me endeavor with a tale to chase
The gathering shadows of the time and place,
And banish what we all too deeply feel
Wholly to say, or wholly to conceal.
In mediæval Rome, I know not where,
There stood an image with its arm in air,
And on its lifted finger, shining clear,
A golden ring with the device, "Strike here!"
Greatly the people wondered, though none guessed
The meaning that these words but half expressed,
Until a learned clerk, who at noonday
With downcast eyes was passing on his way,
Paused, and observed the spot, and marked it well,
Whereon the shadow of the finger fell;
And, coming back at midnight, delved, and found
A secret stairway leading underground.
Down this he passed into a spacious hall,
Lit by a flaming jewel on the wall;
And opposite, in threatening attitude,
With bow and shaft a brazen statue stood.
Upon its forehead, like a coronet,
Were these mysterious words of menace set:
"That which I am, I am; my fatal aim
None can escape, not even yon luminous flame!"
Midway the hall was a fair table placed,
With cloth of gold, and golden cups enchased
With rubies, and the plates and knives were gold,
And gold the bread and viands manifold.
Around it, silent, motionless, and sad,
Were seated gallant knights in armor clad,
And ladies beautiful with plume and zone,
But they were stone, their hearts within were stone;
And the vast hall was filled in every part
With silent crowds, stony in face and heart.
Long at the scene, bewildered and amazed
The trembling clerk in speechless wonder gazed;
Then from the table, by his greed made bold,
He seized a goblet and a knife of gold,
And suddenly from their seats the guests upsprang,
The vaulted ceiling with loud clamors rang,
The archer sped his arrow, at their call,
Shattering the lambent jewel on the wall,
And all was dark around and overhead;--
Stark on the floor the luckless clerk lay dead!
The writer of this legend then records
Its ghostly application in these words:
The image is the Adversary old,
Whose beckoning finger points to realms of gold;
Our lusts and passions are the downward stair
That leads the soul from a diviner air;
The archer, Death; the flaming jewel, Life;
Terrestrial goods, the goblet and the knife;
The knights and ladies, all whose flesh and bone
By avarice have been hardened into stone;
The clerk, the scholar whom the love of pelf
Tempts from his books and from his nobler self.
The scholar and the world! The endless strife,
The discord in the harmonies of life!
The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books;
The market-place, the eager love of gain,
Whose aim is vanity, and whose end is pain!
But why, you ask me, should this tale be told
To men grown old, or who are growing old?
It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
Wrote his grand Oedipus, and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers,
When each had numbered more than fourscore years,
And Theophrastus, at fourscore and ten,
Had but begun his "Characters of Men."
Chaucer, at Woodstock with the nightingales,
At sixty wrote the Canterbury Tales;
Goethe at Weimar, toiling to the last,
Completed Faust when eighty years were past.
These are indeed exceptions; but they show
How far the gulf-stream of our youth may flow
Into the arctic regions of our lives,
Where little else than life itself survives.
As the barometer foretells the storm
While still the skies are clear, the weather warm
So something in us, as old age draws near,
Betrays the pressure of the atmosphere.
The nimble mercury, ere we are aware,
Descends the elastic ladder of the air;
The telltale blood in artery and vein
Sinks from its higher levels in the brain;
Whatever poet, orator, or sage
May say of it, old age is still old age.
It is the waning, not the crescent moon;
The dusk of evening, not the blaze of noon;
It is not strength, but weakness; not desire,
But its surcease; not the fierce heat of fire,
The burning and consuming element,
But that of ashes and of embers spent,
In which some living sparks we still discern,
Enough to warm, but not enough to burn.
What then? Shall we sit idly down and say
The night hath come; it is no longer day?
The night hath not yet come; we are not quite
Cut off from labor by the failing light;
Something remains for us to do or dare;
Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear;
Not Oedipus Coloneus, or Greek Ode,
Or tales of pilgrims that one morning rode
Out of the gateway of the Tabard Inn,
But other something, would we but begin;
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
Paradise Regained: The First Book
I, who erewhile the happy Garden sung
By one man's disobedience lost, now sing
Recovered Paradise to all mankind,
By one man's firm obedience fully tried
Through all temptation, and the Tempter foiled
In all his wiles, defeated and repulsed,
And Eden raised in the waste Wilderness.
Thou Spirit, who led'st this glorious Eremite
Into the desert, his victorious field
Against the spiritual foe, and brought'st him thence
By proof the undoubted Son of God, inspire,
As thou art wont, my prompted song, else mute,
And bear through highth or depth of Nature's bounds,
With prosperous wing full summed, to tell of deeds
Above heroic, though in secret done,
And unrecorded left through many an age:
Worthy to have not remained so long unsung.
Now had the great Proclaimer, with a voice
More awful than the sound of trumpet, cried
Repentance, and Heaven's kingdom nigh at hand
To all baptized. To his great baptism flocked
With awe the regions round, and with them came
From Nazareth the son of Joseph deemed
To the flood Jordan—came as then obscure,
Unmarked, unknown. But him the Baptist soon
Descried, divinely warned, and witness bore
As to his worthier, and would have resigned
To him his heavenly office. Nor was long
His witness unconfirmed: on him baptized
Heaven opened, and in likeness of a Dove
The Spirit descended, while the Father's voice
From Heaven pronounced him his beloved Son.
That heard the Adversary, who, roving still
About the world, at that assembly famed
Would not be last, and, with the voice divine
Nigh thunder-struck, the exalted man to whom
Such high attest was given a while surveyed
With wonder; then, with envy fraught and rage,
Flies to his place, nor rests, but in mid air
To council summons all his mighty Peers,
Within thick clouds and dark tenfold involved,
A gloomy consistory; and them amidst,
With looks aghast and sad, he thus bespake:—
"O ancient Powers of Air and this wide World
(For much more willingly I mention Air,
This our old conquest, than remember Hell,
Our hated habitation), well ye know
How many ages, as the years of men,
This Universe we have possessed, and ruled
In manner at our will the affairs of Earth,
Since Adam and his facile consort Eve
Lost Paradise, deceived by me, though since
With dread attending when that fatal wound
Shall be inflicted by the seed of Eve
Upon my head. Long the decrees of Heaven
Delay, for longest time to Him is short;
And now, too soon for us, the circling hours
This dreaded time have compassed, wherein we
Must bide the stroke of that long-threatened wound
(At least, if so we can, and by the head
Broken be not intended all our power
To be infringed, our freedom and our being
In this fair empire won of Earth and Air)—
For this ill news I bring: The Woman's Seed,
Destined to this, is late of woman born.
His birth to our just fear gave no small cause;
But his growth now to youth's full flower, displaying
All virtue, grace and wisdom to achieve
Things highest, greatest, multiplies my fear.
Before him a great Prophet, to proclaim
His coming, is sent harbinger, who all
Invites, and in the consecrated stream
Pretends to wash off sin, and fit them so
Purified to receive him pure, or rather
To do him honour as their King. All come,
And he himself among them was baptized—
Not thence to be more pure, but to receive
The testimony of Heaven, that who he is
Thenceforth the nations may not doubt. I saw
The Prophet do him reverence; on him, rising
Out of the water, Heaven above the clouds
Unfold her crystal doors; thence on his head
A perfet Dove descend (whate'er it meant);
And out of Heaven the sovraign voice I heard,
'This is my Son beloved,—in him am pleased.'
His mother, than, is mortal, but his Sire
He who obtains the monarchy of Heaven;
And what will He not do to advance his Son?
His first-begot we know, and sore have felt,
When his fierce thunder drove us to the Deep;
Who this is we must learn, for Man he seems
In all his lineaments, though in his face
The glimpses of his Father's glory shine.
Ye see our danger on the utmost edge
Of hazard, which admits no long debate,
But must with something sudden be opposed
(Not force, but well-couched fraud, well-woven snares),
Ere in the head of nations he appear,
Their king, their leader, and supreme on Earth.
I, when no other durst, sole undertook
The dismal expedition to find out
And ruin Adam, and the exploit performed
Successfully: a calmer voyage now
Will waft me; and the way found prosperous once
Induces best to hope of like success."
He ended, and his words impression left
Of much amazement to the infernal crew,
Distracted and surprised with deep dismay
At these sad tidings. But no time was then
For long indulgence to their fears or grief:
Unanimous they all commit the care
And management of this man enterprise
To him, their great Dictator, whose attempt
At first against mankind so well had thrived
In Adam's overthrow, and led their march
From Hell's deep-vaulted den to dwell in light,
Regents, and potentates, and kings, yea gods,
Of many a pleasant realm and province wide.
So to the coast of Jordan he directs
His easy steps, girded with snaky wiles,
Where he might likeliest find this new-declared,
This man of men, attested Son of God,
Temptation and all guile on him to try—
So to subvert whom he suspected raised
To end his reign on Earth so long enjoyed:
But, contrary, unweeting he fulfilled
The purposed counsel, pre-ordained and fixed,
Of the Most High, who, in full frequence bright
Of Angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake:—
"Gabriel, this day, by proof, thou shalt behold,
Thou and all Angels conversant on Earth
With Man or men's affairs, how I begin
To verify that solemn message late,
On which I sent thee to the Virgin pure
In Galilee, that she should bear a son,
Great in renown, and called the Son of God.
Then told'st her, doubting how these things could be
To her a virgin, that on her should come
The Holy Ghost, and the power of the Highest
O'ershadow her. This Man, born and now upgrown,
To shew him worthy of his birth divine
And high prediction, henceforth I expose
To Satan; let him tempt, and now assay
His utmost subtlety, because he boasts
And vaunts of his great cunning to the throng
Of his Apostasy. He might have learnt
Less overweening, since he failed in Job,
Whose constant perseverance overcame
Whate'er his cruel malice could invent.
He now shall know I can produce a man,
Of female seed, far abler to resist
All his solicitations, and at length
All his vast force, and drive him back to Hell—
Winning by conquest what the first man lost
By fallacy surprised. But first I mean
To exercise him in the Wilderness;
There he shall first lay down the rudiments
Of his great warfare, ere I send him forth
To conquer Sin and Death, the two grand foes.
By humiliation and strong sufferance
His weakness shall o'ercome Satanic strength,
And all the world, and mass of sinful flesh;
That all the Angels and aethereal Powers—
They now, and men hereafter—may discern
From what consummate virtue I have chose
This perfet man, by merit called my Son,
To earn salvation for the sons of men."
So spake the Eternal Father, and all Heaven
Admiring stood a space; then into hymns
Burst forth, and in celestial measures moved,
Circling the throne and singing, while the hand
Sung with the voice, and this the argument:—
"Victory and triumph to the Son of God,
Now entering his great duel, not of arms,
But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles!
The Father knows the Son; therefore secure
Ventures his filial virtue, though untried,
Against whate'er may tempt, whate'er seduce,
Allure, or terrify, or undermine.
Be frustrate, all ye stratagems of Hell,
And, devilish machinations, come to nought!"
So they in Heaven their odes and vigils tuned.
Meanwhile the Son of God, who yet some days
Lodged in Bethabara, where John baptized,
Musing and much revolving in his breast
How best the mighty work he might begin
Of Saviour to mankind, and which way first
Publish his godlike office now mature,
One day forth walked alone, the Spirit leading
And his deep thoughts, the better to converse
With solitude, till, far from track of men,
Thought following thought, and step by step led on,
He entered now the bordering Desert wild,
And, with dark shades and rocks environed round,
His holy meditations thus pursued:—
"O what a multitude of thoughts at once
Awakened in me swarm, while I consider
What from within I feel myself, and hear
What from without comes often to my ears,
Ill sorting with my present state compared!
When I was yet a child, no childish play
To me was pleasing; all my mind was set
Serious to learn and know, and thence to do,
What might be public good; myself I thought
Born to that end, born to promote all truth,
All righteous things. Therefore, above my years,
The Law of God I read, and found it sweet;
Made it my whole delight, and in it grew
To such perfection that, ere yet my age
Had measured twice six years, at our great Feast
I went into the Temple, there to hear
The teachers of our Law, and to propose
What might improve my knowledge or their own,
And was admired by all. Yet this not all
To which my spirit aspired. Victorious deeds
Flamed in my heart, heroic acts—one while
To rescue Israel from the Roman yoke;
Then to subdue and quell, o'er all the earth,
Brute violence and proud tyrannic power,
Till truth were freed, and equity restored:
Yet held it more humane, more heavenly, first
By winning words to conquer willing hearts,
And make persuasion do the work of fear;
At least to try, and teach the erring soul,
Not wilfully misdoing, but unware
Misled; the stubborn only to subdue.
These growing thoughts my mother soon perceiving,
By words at times cast forth, inly rejoiced,
And said to me apart, 'High are thy thoughts,
O Son! but nourish them, and let them soar
To what highth sacred virtue and true worth
Can raise them, though above example high;
By matchless deeds express thy matchless Sire.
For know, thou art no son of mortal man;
Though men esteem thee low of parentage,
Thy Father is the Eternal King who rules
All Heaven and Earth, Angels and sons of men.
A messenger from God foretold thy birth
Conceived in me a virgin; he foretold
Thou shouldst be great, and sit on David's throne,
And of thy kingdom there should be no end.
At thy nativity a glorious quire
Of Angels, in the fields of Bethlehem, sung
To shepherds, watching at their folds by night,
And told them the Messiah now was born,
Where they might see him; and to thee they came,
Directed to the manger where thou lay'st;
For in the inn was left no better room.
A Star, not seen before, in heaven appearing,
Guided the Wise Men thither from the East,
To honour thee with incense, myrrh, and gold;
By whose bright course led on they found the place,
Affirming it thy star, new-graven in heaven,
By which they knew thee King of Israel born.
Just Simeon and prophetic Anna, warned
By vision, found thee in the Temple, and spake,
Before the altar and the vested priest,
Like things of thee to all that present stood.'
This having heart, straight I again revolved
The Law and Prophets, searching what was writ
Concerning the Messiah, to our scribes
Known partly, and soon found of whom they spake
I am—this chiefly, that my way must lie
Through many a hard assay, even to the death,
Ere I the promised kingdom can attain,
Or work redemption for mankind, whose sins'
Full weight must be transferred upon my head.
Yet, neither thus disheartened or dismayed,
The time prefixed I waited; when behold
The Baptist (of whose birth I oft had heard,
Not knew by sight) now come, who was to come
Before Messiah, and his way prepare!
I, as all others, to his baptism came,
Which I believed was from above; but he
Straight knew me, and with loudest voice proclaimed
Me him (for it was shewn him so from Heaven)—
Me him whose harbinger he was; and first
Refused on me his baptism to confer,
As much his greater, and was hardly won.
But, as I rose out of the laving stream,
Heaven opened her eternal doors, from whence
The Spirit descended on me like a Dove;
And last, the sum of all, my Father's voice,
Audibly heard from Heaven, pronounced me his,
Me his beloved Son, in whom alone
He was well pleased: by which I knew the time
Now full, that I no more should live obscure,
But openly begin, as best becomes
The authority which I derived from Heaven.
And now by some strong motion I am led
Into this wilderness; to what intent
I learn not yet. Perhaps I need not know;
For what concerns my knowledge God reveals."
So spake our Morning Star, then in his rise,
And, looking round, on every side beheld
A pathless desert, dusk with horrid shades.
The way he came, not having marked return,
Was difficult, by human steps untrod;
And he still on was led, but with such thoughts
Accompanied of things past and to come
Lodged in his breast as well might recommend
Such solitude before choicest society.
Full forty days he passed—whether on hill
Sometimes, anon in shady vale, each night
Under the covert of some ancient oak
Or cedar to defend him from the dew,
Or harboured in one cave, is not revealed;
Nor tasted human food, nor hunger felt,
Till those days ended; hungered then at last
Among wild beasts. They at his sight grew mild,
Nor sleeping him nor waking harmed; his walk
The fiery serpent fled and noxious worm;
The lion and fierce tiger glared aloof.
But now an aged man in rural weeds,
Following, as seemed, the quest of some stray eye,
Or withered sticks to gather, which might serve
Against a winter's day, when winds blow keen,
To warm him wet returned from field at eve,
He saw approach; who first with curious eye
Perused him, then with words thus uttered spake:—
"Sir, what ill chance hath brought thee to this place,
So far from path or road of men, who pass
In troop or caravan? for single none
Durst ever, who returned, and dropt not here
His carcass, pined with hunger and with droughth.
I ask the rather, and the more admire,
For that to me thou seem'st the man whom late
Our new baptizing Prophet at the ford
Of Jordan honoured so, and called thee Son
Of God. I saw and heard, for we sometimes
Who dwell this wild, constrained by want, come forth
To town or village nigh (nighest is far),
Where aught we hear, and curious are to hear,
What happens new; fame also finds us out."
To whom the Son of God:—"Who brought me hither
Will bring me hence; no other guide I seek."
"By miracle he may," replied the swain;
"What other way I see not; for we here
Live on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inured
More than the camel, and to drink go far—
Men to much misery and hardship born.
But, if thou be the Son of God, command
That out of these hard stones be made thee bread;
So shalt thou save thyself, and us relieve
With food, whereof we wretched seldom taste."
He ended, and the Son of God replied:—
"Think'st thou such force in bread? Is it not written
(For I discern thee other than thou seem'st),
Man lives not by bread only, but each word
Proceeding from the mouth of God, who fed
Our fathers here with manna? In the Mount
Moses was forty days, nor eat nor drank;
And forty days Eliah without food
Wandered this barren waste; the same I now.
Why dost thou, then, suggest to me distrust
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?"
Whom thus answered the Arch-Fiend, now undisguised:—
"'Tis true, I am that Spirit unfortunate
Who, leagued with millions more in rash revolt,
Kept not my happy station, but was driven
With them from bliss to the bottomless Deep—
Yet to that hideous place not so confined
By rigour unconniving but that oft,
Leaving my dolorous prison, I enjoy
Large liberty to round this globe of Earth,
Or range in the Air; nor from the Heaven of Heavens
Hath he excluded my resort sometimes.
I came, among the Sons of God, when he
Gave up into my hands Uzzean Job,
To prove him, and illustrate his high worth;
And, when to all his Angels he proposed
To draw the proud king Ahab into fraud,
That he might fall in Ramoth, they demurring,
I undertook that office, and the tongues
Of all his flattering prophets glibbed with lies
To his destruction, as I had in charge:
For what he bids I do. Though I have lost
Much lustre of my native brightness, lost
To be beloved of God, I have not lost
To love, at least contemplate and admire,
What I see excellent in good, or fair,
Or virtuous; I should so have lost all sense.
What can be then less in me than desire
To see thee and approach thee, whom I know
Declared the Son of God, to hear attent
Thy wisdom, and behold thy godlike deeds?
Men generally think me much a foe
To all mankind. Why should I? they to me
Never did wrong or violence. By them
I lost not what I lost; rather by them
I gained what I have gained, and with them dwell
Copartner in these regions of the World,
If not disposer—lend them oft my aid,
Oft my advice by presages and signs,
And answers, oracles, portents, and dreams,
Whereby they may direct their future life.
Envy, they say, excites me, thus to gain
Companions of my misery and woe!
At first it may be; but, long since with woe
Nearer acquainted, now I feel by proof
That fellowship in pain divides not smart,
Nor lightens aught each man's peculiar load;
Small consolation, then, were Man adjoined.
This wounds me most (what can it less?) that Man,
Man fallen, shall be restored, I never more."
To whom our Saviour sternly thus replied:—
"Deservedly thou griev'st, composed of lies
From the beginning, and in lies wilt end,
Who boast'st release from Hell, and leave to come
Into the Heaven of Heavens. Thou com'st, indeed,
As a poor miserable captive thrall
Comes to the place where he before had sat
Among the prime in splendour, now deposed,
Ejected, emptied, gazed, unpitied, shunned,
A spectacle of ruin, or of scorn,
To all the host of Heaven. The happy place
Imparts to thee no happiness, no joy—
Rather inflames thy torment, representing
Lost bliss, to thee no more communicable;
So never more in Hell than when in Heaven.
But thou art serviceable to Heaven's King!
Wilt thou impute to obedience what thy fear
Extorts, or pleasure to do ill excites?
What but thy malice moved thee to misdeem
Of righteous Job, then cruelly to afflict him
With all inflictions? but his patience won.
The other service was thy chosen task,
To be a liar in four hundred mouths;
For lying is thy sustenance, thy food.
Yet thou pretend'st to truth! all oracles
By thee are given, and what confessed more true
Among the nations? That hath been thy craft,
By mixing somewhat true to vent more lies.
But what have been thy answers? what but dark,
Ambiguous, and with double sense deluding,
Which they who asked have seldom understood,
And, not well understood, as good not known?
Who ever, by consulting at thy shrine,
Returned the wiser, or the more instruct
To fly or follow what concerned him most,
And run not sooner to his fatal snare?
For God hath justly given the nations up
To thy delusions; justly, since they fell
Idolatrous. But, when his purpose is
Among them to declare his providence,
To thee not known, whence hast thou then thy truth,
But from him, or his Angels president
In every province, who, themselves disdaining
To approach thy temples, give thee in command
What, to the smallest tittle, thou shalt say
To thy adorers? Thou, with trembling fear,
Or like a fawning parasite, obey'st;
Then to thyself ascrib'st the truth foretold.
But this thy glory shall be soon retrenched;
No more shalt thou by oracling abuse
The Gentiles; henceforth oracles are ceased,
And thou no more with pomp and sacrifice
Shalt be enquired at Delphos or elsewhere—
At least in vain, for they shall find thee mute.
God hath now sent his living Oracle
Into the world to teach his final will,
And sends his Spirit of Truth henceforth to dwell
In pious hearts, an inward oracle
To all truth requisite for men to know."
So spake our Saviour; but the subtle Fiend,
Though inly stung with anger and disdain,
Dissembled, and this answer smooth returned:—
"Sharply thou hast insisted on rebuke,
And urged me hard with doings which not will,
But misery, hath wrested from me. Where
Easily canst thou find one miserable,
And not inforced oft-times to part from truth,
If it may stand him more in stead to lie,
Say and unsay, feign, flatter, or abjure?
But thou art placed above me; thou art Lord;
From thee I can, and must, submiss, endure
Cheek or reproof, and glad to scape so quit.
Hard are the ways of truth, and rough to walk,
Smooth on the tongue discoursed, pleasing to the ear,
And tunable as sylvan pipe or song;
What wonder, then, if I delight to hear
Her dictates from thy mouth? most men admire
Virtue who follow not her lore. Permit me
To hear thee when I come (since no man comes),
And talk at least, though I despair to attain.
Thy Father, who is holy, wise, and pure,
Suffers the hypocrite or atheous priest
To tread his sacred courts, and minister
About his altar, handling holy things,
Praying or vowing, and voutsafed his voice
To Balaam reprobate, a prophet yet
Inspired: disdain not such access to me."
To whom our Saviour, with unaltered brow:—
"Thy coming hither, though I know thy scope,
I bid not, or forbid. Do as thou find'st
Permission from above; thou canst not more."
He added not; and Satan, bowling low
His gray dissimulation, disappeared,
Into thin air diffused: for now began
Night with her sullen wing to double-shade
The desert; fowls in their clay nests were couched;
And now wild beasts came forth the woods to roam.
The Golden Legend: III. A Street In Strasburg
PRINCE HENRY _wandering alone, wrapped in a cloak._
_Prince Henry._ Still is the night. The sound of feet
Has died away from the empty street,
And like an artisan, bending down
His head on his anvil, the dark town
Sleeps, with a slumber deep and sweet.
Sleepless and restless, I alone,
In the dusk and damp of these wails of stone,
Wander and weep in my remorse!
_Crier of the dead (ringing a bell)._ Wake! wake!
All ye that sleep!
Pray for the Dead!
Pray for the Dead!
_Prince Henry._ Hark! with what accents loud and hoarse
This warder on the walls of death
Sends forth the challenge of his breath!
I see the dead that sleep in the grave!
They rise up and their garments wave,
Dimly and spectral, as they rise,
With the light of another world in their eyes!
_Crier of the dead._ Wake! wake!
All ye that sleep!
Pray for the Dead!
Pray for the Dead!
_Prince Henry._ Why for the dead, who are at rest?
Pray for the living, in whose breast
The struggle between right and wrong
Is raging terrible and strong,
As when good angels war with devils!
This is the Master of the Revels,
Who, at Life's flowing feast, proposes
The health of absent friends, and pledges,
Not in bright goblets crowned with roses,
And tinkling as we touch their edges,
But with his dismal, tinkling bell,
That mocks and mimics their funeral knell!
_Crier of the dead._ Wake! wake!
All ye that sleep!
Pray for the Dead!
Pray for the Dead!
_Prince Henry._ Wake not, beloved! be thy sleep
Silent as night is, and as deep!
There walks a sentinel at thy gate
Whose heart is heavy and desolate,
And the heavings of whose bosom number
The respirations of thy slumber,
As if some strange, mysterious fate
Had linked two hearts in one, and mine
Went madly wheeling about thine,
Only with wider and wilder sweep!
_Crier of the dead (at a distance)._ Wake! wake!
All ye that sleep!
Pray for the Dead!
Pray for the Dead!
_Prince Henry._ Lo! with what depth of blackness thrown
Against the clouds, far up the skies,
The walls of the cathedral rise,
Like a mysterious grove of stone,
With fitful lights and shadows bleeding,
As from behind, the moon, ascending,
Lights its dim aisles and paths unknown!
The wind is rising; but the boughs
Rise not and fall not with the wind
That through their foliage sobs and soughs;
Only the cloudy rack behind,
Drifting onward, wild and ragged,
Gives to each spire and buttress jagged
A seeming motion undefined.
Below on the square, an armed knight,
Still as a statue and as white,
Sits on his steed, and the moonbeams quiver
Upon the points of his armor bright
As on the ripples of a river.
He lifts the visor from his cheek,
And beckons, and makes as he would speak.
_Walter the Minnesinger_ Friend! can you tell me where alight
Thuringia's horsemen for the night?
For I have lingered in the rear,
And wander vainly up and down.
_Prince Henry_ I am a stranger in the town,
As thou art, but the voice I hear
Is not a stranger to mine ear.
Thou art Walter of the Vogelweid!
_Walter_ Thou hast guessed rightly; and thy name
Is Henry of Hoheneck!
_Prince Henry_ Ay, the same.
_Walter_ (_embracing him_). Come closer, closer to my side!
What brings thee hither? What potent charm
Has drawn thee from thy German farm
Into the old Alsatian city?
_Prince Henry_. A tale of wonder and of pity!
A wretched man, almost by stealth
Dragging my body to Salern,
In the vain hope and search for health,
And destined never to return.
Already thou hast heard the rest
But what brings thee, thus armed and dight
In the equipments of a knight?
_Walter_. Dost thou not see upon my breast
The cross of the Crusaders shine?
My pathway leads to Palestine.
_Prince Henry_. Ah, would that way were also mine!
O noble poet! thou whose heart
Is like a nest of singing birds
Rocked on the topmost bough of life,
Wilt thou, too, from our sky depart,
And in the clangor of the strife
Mingle the music of thy words?
_Walter_. My hopes are high, my heart is proud,
And like a trumpet long and loud,
Thither my thoughts all clang and ring!
My life is in my hand, and lo!
I grasp and bend it as a bow,
And shoot forth from its trembling string
An arrow, that shall be, perchance,
Like the arrow of the Israelite king
Shot from the window toward the east,
That of the Lord's deliverance!
_Prince Henry_. My life, alas! is what thou seest!
O enviable fate! to be
Strong, beautiful, and armed like thee
With lyre and sword, with song and steel;
A hand to smite, a heart to feel!
Thy heart, thy hand, thy lyre, thy sword,
Thou givest all unto thy Lord,
While I, so mean and abject grown,
Am thinking of myself alone.
_Walter_. Be patient: Time will reinstate
Thy health and fortunes.
_Prince Henry_. 'T is too late!
I cannot strive against my fate!
_Walter_. Come with me; for my steed is weary;
Our journey has been long and dreary,
And, dreaming of his stall, he dints
With his impatient hoofs the flints.
_Prince Henry_ (_aside_). I am ashamed, in my disgrace,
To look into that noble face!
To-morrow, Walter, let it be.
_Walter_. To-morrow, at the dawn of day,
I shall again be on my way
Come with me to the hostelry,
For I have many things to say.
Our journey into Italy
Perchance together we may make;
Wilt thou not do it for my sake?
_Prince Henry_. A sick man's pace would but impede
Thine eager and impatient speed.
Besides, my pathway leads me round
To Hirsehau, in the forest's bound,
Where I assemble man and steed,
And all things for my journey's need.
(They go out. LUCIFER, flying over the city.)
Sleep, sleep, O city! till the light
Wakes you to sin and crime again,
Whilst on your dreams, like dismal rain,
I scatter downward through the night
My maledictions dark and deep.
I have more martyrs in your walls
Than God has; and they cannot sleep;
They are my bondsmen and my thralls;
Their wretched lives are full of pain,
Wild agonies of nerve and brain;
And every heart-beat, every breath,
Is a convulsion worse than death!
Sleep, sleep, O city! though within
The circuit of your walls there lies
No habitation free from sin,
And all its nameless miseries;
The aching heart, the aching head,
Grief for the living and the dead,
And foul corruption of the time,
Disease, distress, and want, and woe,
And crimes, and passions that may grow
Until they ripen into, crime!
SQUARE IN FRONT OF THE CATHEDRAL.
* * * * *
_Easter Sunday_. FRIAR CUTHBERT _preaching to the
crowd from a pulpit in the open air_. PRINCE
HENRY _and_ ELSIE _crossing the square_.
_Prince Henry_. This is the day, when from the dead
Our Lord arose; and everywhere,
Out of their darkness and despair,
Triumphant over fears and foes,
The hearts of his disciples rose,
When to the women, standing near,
The Angel in shining vesture said,
'The Lord is risen; he is not here!'
And, mindful that the day is come,
On all the hearths in Christendom
The fires are quenched, to be again
Rekindled from the sun, that high
Is dancing in the cloudless sky.
The churches are all decked with flowers.
The salutations among men
Are but the Angel's words divine,
'Christ is arisen!' and the bells
Catch the glad murmur, as it swells,
And chaunt together in their towers.
All hearts are glad; and free from care
The faces of the people shine.
See what a crowd is in the square,
Gaily and gallantly arrayed!
_Elsie_. Let us go back; I am afraid!
_Prince Henry_. Nay, let us mount the church-steps here,
Under the doorway's sacred shadow;
We can see all things, and be freer
From the crowd that madly heaves and presses!
_Elsie._ What a gay pageant! what bright dresses!
It looks like a flower besprinkled meadow.
What is that yonder on the square?
_Prince Henry_ A pulpit in the open air,
And a Friar, who is preaching to the crowd
With a voice so deep and clear and loud,
That, if we listen, and give heed,
His lowest words will reach the ear.
_Friar Cuthbert (gesticulating and cracking a postilion's
whip)_ What ho! good people! do you not hear?
Dashing along at the top of his speed,
Booted and spurred, on his jaded steed,
A courier comes with words of cheer.
Courier! what is the news, I pray?
'Christ is arisen!' Whence come you? 'From court.'
Then I do not believe it; you say it in sport.
(_Cracks his whip again._)
There comes another, riding this way;
We soon shall know what he has to say.
Courier! what are the tidings to-day?
'Christ is arisen!' Whence come you? 'From town.'
Then I do not believe it; away with you, clown.
(_Cracks his whip more violently._)
And here comes a third, who is spurring amain;
What news do you bring, with your loose-hanging rein,
Your spurs wet with blood, and your bridle with foam?
'Christ is arisen!' Whence come you? 'From Rome.'
Ah, now I believe. He is risen, indeed.
Ride on with the news, at the top of your speed!
(_Great applause among the crowd._)
To come back to my text! When the news was first spread
That Christ was arisen indeed from the dead,
Very great was the joy of the angels in heaven;
And as great the dispute as to who should carry
The tidings, thereof to the Virgin Mary,
Pierced to the heart with sorrows seven.
Old Father Adam was first to propose,
As being the author of all our woes;
But he was refused, for fear, said they,
He would stop to eat apples on the way!
Abel came next, but petitioned in vain,
Because he might meet with his brother Cain!
Noah, too, was refused, lest his weakness for wine
Should delay him at every tavern sign;
And John the Baptist could not get a vote,
On account of his old fashioned, camel's-hair coat;
And the Penitent Thief, who died on the cross,
Was reminded that all his bones were broken!
Till at last, when each in turn had spoken,
The company being still at a loss,
The Angel, who had rolled away the stone,
Was sent to the sepulchre, all alone,
And filled with glory that gloomy prison,
And said to the Virgin, 'The Lord is arisen!'
(_The Cathedral bells ring_.)
But hark! the bells are beginning to chime;
And I feel that I am growing hoarse.
I will put an end to my discourse,
And leave the rest for some other time.
For the bells themselves are the best of preachers;
Their brazen lips are learned teachers,
From their pulpits of stone, in the upper air,
Sounding aloft, without crack or flaw,
Shriller than trumpets under the Law,
Now a sermon and now a prayer.
The clangorous hammer is the tongue,
This way, that way, beaten and swung,
That from mouth of brass, as from Mouth of Gold,
May be taught the Testaments, New and Old.
And above it the great crossbeam of wood
Representeth the Holy Rood,
Upon which, like the bell, our hopes are hung.
And the wheel wherewith it is swayed and rung
Is the mind of man, that round and round
Sways, and maketh the tongue to sound!
And the rope, with its twisted cordage three,
Denoteth the Scriptural Trinity
Of Morals, and Symbols, and History;
And the upward and downward motions show
That we touch upon matters high and low;
And the constant change and transmutation
Of action and of contemplation,
Downward, the Scripture brought from on high,
Upward, exalted again to the sky;
Downward, the literal interpretation,
Upward, the Vision and Mystery!
And now, my hearers, to make an end,
I have only one word more to say;
In the church, in honor of Easter day,
Will be represented a Miracle Play;
And I hope you will all have the grace to attend.
Christ bring us at last So his felicity!
Pax vobiscum! et Benedicite!
IN THE CATHEDRAL.
* * * * *
_Elsie._ I am at home here in my Father's house!
These paintings of the Saints upon the walls
Have all familiar and benignant faces.
_Prince Henry._ The portraits of the family of God!
Thine own hereafter shall be placed among them.
_Elsie._ How very grand it is and wonderful!
Never have I beheld a church so splendid!
Such columns, and such arches, and such windows,
So many tombs and statues in the chapels,
And under them so many confessionals.
They must be for the rich. I should not like
To tell my sins in such a church as this.
Who built it?
_Prince Henry._ A great master of his craft,
Erwin von Steinbach; but not he alone,
For many generations labored with him.
Children that came to see these Saints in stone,
As day by day out of the blocks they rose,
Grew old and died, and still the work went on,
And on, and on, and is not yet completed.
The generation that succeeds our own
Perhaps may finish it. The architect
Built his great heart into these sculptured stones,
And with him toiled his children, and their lives
Were builded, with his own, into the walls,
As offerings unto God. You see that statue
Fixing its joyous, but deep-wrinkled eyes
Upon the Pillar of the Angels yonder.
That is the image of the master, carved
By the fair hand of his own child, Sabina.
_Elsie._ How beautiful is the column that he looks at!
_Prince Henry._ That, too, she sculptured. At the base of it
Stand the Evangelists; above their heads
Four Angels blowing upon marble trumpets,
And over them the blessed Christ, surrounded
By his attendant ministers, upholding
The instruments of his passion.
_Elsie._ O my Lord!
Would I could leave behind me upon earth
Some monument to thy glory, such as this!
_Prince Henry._ A greater monument than this thou leavest
In thine own life, all purity and love!
See, too, the Rose, above the western portal
Flamboyant with a thousand gorgeous colors,
The perfect flower of Gothic loveliness!
_Elsie._ And, in the gallery, the long line of statues,
Christ with his twelve Apostles watching us.
(A BISHOP in armor, booted and spurred, passes with
_Prince Henry._ But come away; we have not time to look.
The crowd already fills the church, and yonder
Upon a stage, a herald with a trumpet,
Clad like The Angel Gabriel, proclaims
The Mystery that will now be represented.
* * * * *
A MIRACLE PLAY.
* * * * *
_Praeco._ Come, good people, all and each,
Come and listen to our speech!
In your presence here I stand,
With a trumpet in my hand,
To announce the Easter Play,
Which we represent to-day!
First of all we shall rehearse,
In our action and our verse,
The Nativity of our Lord,
As written in the old record
Of the Protevangelion,
So that he who reads may run!
(_Blows his trumpet._)
* * * * *
_Mercy_ (_at the feet of God_). Have pity, Lord be not afraid
To save mankind, whom thou hast made,
Nor let the souls that were betrayed
_Justice._ It cannot be, it must not be!
When in the garden placed by thee,
The fruit of the forbidden tree
He ate, and he must die!
_Mercy._ Have pity, Lord! let penitence
Atone for disobedience,
Nor let the fruit of man's offence
Be endless misery!
_Justice._ What penitence proportionate
Can e'er be felt for sin so great?
Of the forbidden fruit he ate,
And damned must he be!
_God._ He shall be saved, if that within
The bounds of earth one free from sin
Be found, who for his kith and kin
Will suffer martyrdom.
_The Four Virtues._ Lord! we have searched the world around,
From centre to the utmost bound,
But no such mortal can be found;
Despairing, back we come.
_Wisdom._ No mortal, but a God made man,
Can ever carry out this plan,
Achieving what none other can,
Salvation unto all!
_God._ Go, then, O my beloved Son;
It can by thee alone be done;
By thee the victory shall be won
O'er Satan and the Fall!
(Here the ANGEL GABRIEL shall leave Paradise and
fly toward the earth; the jaws of Hell open below,
and the Devils walk about, making a great noise.)
* * * * *
II. MARY AT THE WELL.
_Mary._ Along the garden walk, and thence
Through the wicket in the garden fence,
I steal with quiet pace,
My pitcher at the well to fill,
That lies so deep and cool and still
In this sequestered place.
These sycamores keep guard around;
I see no face, I hear no sound,
Save babblings of the spring,
And my companions, who within
The threads of gold and scarlet spin,
And at their labor sing.
_The Angel Gabriel._ Hail, Virgin Mary, full of grace!
(Here MARY looketh around her, trembling, and then saith:_)
_Mary._ Who is it speaketh in this place,
With such a gentle voice?
_Gabriel._ The Lord of heaven is with thee now!
Blessed among all women thou,
Who art his holy choice!
_Mary_ (setting down the pitcher). What can this mean?
No one is near,
And yet, such sacred words I hear,
I almost fear to stay.
(Here the ANGEL, appearing to her, shall say:_)
_Gabriel._ Fear not, O Mary! but believe!
For thou, a Virgin, shalt conceive
A child this very day.
Fear not, O Mary! from the sky
The majesty of the Most High
Shall overshadow thee!
_Mary._ Behold the handmaid of the Lord!
According to thy holy word,
So be it unto me!
(Here the Devils shall again make a great noise, under the stage.)
III. THE ANGELS OF THE SEVEN PLANETS, bearing the Star of Bethlehem.
_The Angels._ The Angels of the Planets Seven
Across the shining fields of heaven
The natal star we bring!
Dropping our sevenfold virtues down,
As priceless jewels in the crown
Of Christ, our new-born King.
_Raphael._ I am the Angel of the Sun,
Whose flaming wheels began to run
When God's almighty breath
Said to the darkness and the Night,
Let there be light! and there was light!
I bring the gift of Faith.
_Gabriel._ I am the Angel of the Moon,
Darkened, to be rekindled soon
Beneath the azure cope!
Nearest to earth, it is my ray
That best illumes the midnight way.
I bring the gift of Hope!
_Anael._ The Angel of the Star of Love,
The Evening Star, that shines above
The place where lovers be,
Above all happy hearths and homes,
On roofs of thatch, or golden domes,
I give him Charity!
_Zobiachel._ The Planet Jupiter is mine!
The mightiest star of all that shine,
Except the sun alone!
He is the High Priest of the Dove,
And sends, from his great throne above,
Justice, that shall atone!
_Michael._ The Planet Mercury, whose place
Is nearest to the sun in space,
Is my allotted sphere!
And with celestial ardor swift
I bear upon my hands the gift
Of heavenly Prudence here!
_Uriel._ I am the Minister of Mars,
The strongest star among the stars!
My songs of power prelude
The march and battle of man's life,
And for the suffering and the strife,
I give him Fortitude!
_Anachiel._ The Angel of the uttermost
Of all the shining, heavenly host,
From the far-off expanse
Of the Saturnian, endless space
I bring the last, the crowning grace,
The gift of Temperance!
(A sudden light shines from the windows of the stable in the village below.)
IV. THE WISE MEN OF THE EAST.
The stable of the Inn. The VIRGIN and CHILD. Three Gypsy Kings, GASPAR, MELCHIOR, and BELSHAZZAR, shall come in.
_Gaspar._ Hail to thee, Jesus of Nazareth!
Though in a manger thou drawest thy breath,
Thou art greater than Life and Death,
Greater than Joy or Woe!
This cross upon the line of life
Portendeth struggle, toil, and strife,
And through a region with dangers rife
In darkness shall thou go!
_Melchior._ Hail to thee, King of Jerusalem
Though humbly born in Bethlehem,
A sceptre and a diadem
Await thy brow and hand!
The sceptre is a simple reed,
The crown will make thy temples bleed,
And in thy hour of greatest need,
Abashed thy subjects stand!
_Belshazzar_. Hail to thee, Christ of Christendom!
O'er all the earth thy kingdom come!
From distant Trebizond to Rome
Thy name shall men adore!
Peace and good-will among all men,
The Virgin has returned again,
Returned the old Saturnian reign
And Golden Age once more.
_The Child Christ_. Jesus, the Son of God, am I,
Born here to suffer and to die
According to the prophecy,
That other men may live!
_The Virgin_. And now these clothes, that wrapped him, take
And keep them precious, for his sake;
For benediction thus we make,
Naught else have we to give.
(She gives them swaddling-clothes and they depart.)
V. THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.
_Here shall_ JOSEPH _come in, leading an ass, on which
are seated_ MARY _and the_ CHILD.
_Mary_. Here will we rest us, under these
Underhanging branches of the trees,
Where robins chant their Litanies,
And canticles of joy.
_Joseph_. My saddle-girths have given way
With trudging through the heat to-day
To you I think it is but play
To ride and hold the boy.
_Mary_. Hark! how the robins shout and sing,
As if to hail their infant King!
I will alight at yonder spring
To wash his little coat.
_Joseph_. And I will hobble well the ass,
Lest, being loose upon the grass,
He should escape; for, by the mass.
He is nimble as a goat.
(Here MARY shall alight and go to the spring.)
_Mary_. O Joseph! I am much afraid,
For men are sleeping in the shade;
I fear that we shall be waylaid,
And robbed and beaten sore!
(Here a band of robbers shall be seen sleeping, two of whom shall rise and come forward.)
_Dumachus_. Cock's soul! deliver up your gold!
_Joseph_. I pray you, Sirs, let go your hold!
Of wealth I have no store.
_Dumachus_. Give up your money!
_Titus_. Prithee cease!
Let these good people go in peace!
_Dumachus_. First let them pay for their release,
And then go on their way.
_Titus_. These forty groats I give in fee,
If thou wilt only silent be.
_Mary_. May God be merciful to thee
Upon the Judgment Day!
_Jesus_. When thirty years shall have gone by,
I at Jerusalem shall die,
By Jewish hands exalted high
On the accursed tree.
Then on my right and my left side,
These thieves shall both be crucified
And Titus thenceforth shall abide
In paradise with me.
(Here a great rumor of trumpets and horses, like the noise of a king with his army, and the robbers shall take flight.)
VI. THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS.
_King Herod._ Potz-tausend! Himmel-sacrament!
Filled am I with great wonderment
At this unwelcome news!
Am I not Herod? Who shall dare
My crown to take, my sceptre bear,
As king among the Jews?
(Here he shall stride up and down and flourish his sword.)
What ho! I fain would drink a can
Of the strong wine of Canaan!
The wine of Helbon bring,
I purchased at the Fair of Tyre,
As red as blood, as hot as fire,
And fit for any king!
(He quaffs great goblets of wine.)
Now at the window will I stand,
While in the street the armed band
The little children slay:
The babe just born in Bethlehem
Will surely slaughtered be with them,
Nor live another day!
(Here a voice of lamentation shall be heard in the street.)
_Rachel._ O wicked king! O cruel speed!
To do this most unrighteous deed!
My children all are slain!
_Herod._ Ho seneschal! another cup!
With wine of Sorek fill it up!
I would a bumper drain!
_Rahab._ May maledictions fall and blast
Thyself and lineage, to the last
Of all thy kith and kin!
_Herod._ Another goblet! quick! and stir
Pomegranate juice and drops of myrrh
And calamus therein!
_Soldiers (in the street)_. Give up thy child into our hands!
It is King Herod who commands
That he should thus be slain!
_The Nurse Medusa._ O monstrous men! What have ye done!
It is King Herod's only son
That ye have cleft in twain!
_Herod._ Ah, luckless day! What words of fear
Are these that smite upon my ear
With such a doleful sound!
What torments rack my heart and head!
Would I were dead! would I were dead,
And buried in the ground!
(He falls down and writhes as though eaten by worms. Hell opens, and SATAN and ASTAROTH come forth, and drag him down.)
VII. JESUS AT PLAY WITH HIS SCHOOLMATES.
_Jesus._ The shower is over. Let us play,
And make some sparrows out of clay,
Down by the river's side.
_Judas._ See, how the stream has overflowed
Its banks, and o'er the meadow road
Is spreading far and wide!
(_They draw water out of the river by channels, and
form little pools_ JESUS _makes twelve sparrows of
clay, and the other boys do the same._)
_Jesus._ Look! look! how prettily I make
These little sparrows by the lake
Bend down their necks and drink!
Now will I make them sing and soar
So far, they shall return no more
Into this river's brink.
_Judas._ That canst thou not! They are but clay,
They cannot sing, nor fly away
Above the meadow lands!
_Jesus._ Fly, fly! ye sparrows! you are free!
And while you live, remember me,
Who made you with my hands.
(_Here_ JESUS _shall clap his hands, and the sparrows
shall fly away, chirruping._)
_Judas._ Thou art a sorcerer, I know;
Oft has my mother told me so,
I will not play with thee!
(_He strikes_ JESUS _on the right side._)
_Jesus._ Ah, Judas! thou has smote my side,
And when I shall be crucified,
There shall I pierced be!
(_Here_ JOSEPH _shall come in, and say:_)
_Joseph._ Ye wicked boys! why do ye play,
And break the holy Sabbath day?
What, think ye, will your mothers say
To see you in such plight!
In such a sweat and such a heat,
With all that mud-upon your feet!
There's not a beggar in the street
Makes such a sorry sight!
VIII. THE VILLAGE SCHOOL.
_The_ RABBI BEN ISRAEL, _with a long beard, sitting on
a high stool, with a rod in his hand._
_Rabbi._ I am the Rabbi Ben Israel,
Throughout this village known full well,
And, as my scholars all will tell,
Learned in things divine;
The Kabala and Talmud hoar
Than all the prophets prize I more,
For water is all Bible lore,
But Mishna is strong wine.
My fame extends from West to East,
And always, at the Purim feast,
I am as drunk as any beast
That wallows in his sty;
The wine it so elateth me,
That I no difference can see
Between 'Accursed Haman be!'
And 'Blessed be Mordecai!'
Come hither, Judas Iscariot.
Say, if thy lesson thou hast got
From the Rabbinical Book or not.
Why howl the dogs at night?
_Judas._ In the Rabbinical Book, it saith
The dogs howl, when with icy breath
Great Sammael, the Angel of Death,
Takes through the town his flight!
_Rabbi._ Well, boy! now say, if thou art wise,
When the Angel of Death, who is full of eyes,
Comes where a sick man dying lies,
What doth he to the wight?
_Judas._ He stands beside him, dark and tall,
Holding a sword, from which doth fall
Into his mouth a drop of gall,
And so he turneth white.
_Rabbi._ And now, my Judas, say to me
What the great Voices Four may be,
That quite across the world do flee,
And are not heard by men?
_Judas._ The Voice of the Sun in heaven's dome,
The Voice of the Murmuring of Rome,
The Voice of a Soul that goeth home,
And the Angel of the Rain!
_Rabbi._ Well have ye answered every one
Now little Jesus, the carpenter's son,
Let us see how thy task is done.
Canst thou thy letters say?
_Rabbi._ What next? Do not stop yet!
Go on with all the alphabet.
Come, Aleph, Beth; dost thou forget?
Cock's soul! thou'dst rather play!
_Jesus._ What Aleph means I fain would know,
Before I any farther go!
_Rabbi._ O, by Saint Peter! wouldst thou so?
Come hither, boy, to me.
And surely as the letter Jod
Once cried aloud, and spake to God,
So surely shalt thou feel this rod,
And punished shalt thou be!
(_Here_ RABBI BEN ISRAEL _shall lift up his rod to strike_
JESUS, _and his right arm shall be paralyzed._)
IX. CROWNED WITH FLOWERS.
JESUS _sitting among his playmates, crowned with
flowers as their King._
_Boys._ We spread our garments on the ground'
With fragrant flowers thy head is crowned,
While like a guard we stand around,
And hail thee as our King!
Thou art the new King of the Jews!
Nor let the passers-by refuse
To bring that homage which men use
To majesty to bring.
(_Here a traveller shall go by, and the boys shall lay hold of his garments and say:_)
_Boys._ Come hither! and all reverence pay
Unto our monarch, crowned to-day!
Then go rejoicing on your way,
In all prosperity!
_Traveller._ Hail to the King of Bethlehem,
Who weareth in his diadem
The yellow crocus for the gem
Of his authority!
(_He passes by; and others come in, bearing on a litter a sick child._)
_Boys._ Set down the litter and draw near!
The King of Bethlehem is here!
What ails the child, who seems to fear
That we shall do him harm?
_The Bearers._ He climbed up to the robin's nest,
And out there darted, from his rest,
A serpent with a crimson crest,
And stung him in the arm.
_Jesus._ Bring him to me, and let me feel
The wounded place; my touch can heal
The sting of serpents, and can steal
The poison from the bite!
(_He touches the wound, and the boy begins to cry._)
Cease to lament! I can foresee
That thou hereafter known shalt be,
Among the men who follow me,
As Simon the Canaanite!
* * * * *
In the after part of the day
Will be represented another play,
Of the Passion of our Blessed Lord,
Beginning directly after Nones!
At the close of which we shall accord,
By way of benison and reward,
The sight of a holy Martyr's bones!
Paradise Lost: Book 08
The Angel ended, and in Adam's ear
So charming left his voice, that he a while
Thought him still speaking, still stood fixed to hear;
Then, as new waked, thus gratefully replied.
What thanks sufficient, or what recompence
Equal, have I to render thee, divine
Historian, who thus largely hast allayed
The thirst I had of knowledge, and vouchsafed
This friendly condescension to relate
Things, else by me unsearchable; now heard
With wonder, but delight, and, as is due,
With glory attributed to the high
Creator! Something yet of doubt remains,
Which only thy solution can resolve.
When I behold this goodly frame, this world,
Of Heaven and Earth consisting; and compute
Their magnitudes; this Earth, a spot, a grain,
An atom, with the firmament compared
And all her numbered stars, that seem to roll
Spaces incomprehensible, (for such
Their distance argues, and their swift return
Diurnal,) merely to officiate light
Round this opacous Earth, this punctual spot,
One day and night; in all her vast survey
Useless besides; reasoning I oft admire,
How Nature wise and frugal could commit
Such disproportions, with superfluous hand
So many nobler bodies to create,
Greater so manifold, to this one use,
For aught appears, and on their orbs impose
Such restless revolution day by day
Repeated; while the sedentary Earth,
That better might with far less compass move,
Served by more noble than herself, attains
Her end without least motion, and receives,
As tribute, such a sumless journey brought
Of incorporeal speed, her warmth and light;
Speed, to describe whose swiftness number fails.
So spake our sire, and by his countenance seemed
Entering on studious thoughts abstruse; which Eve
Perceiving, where she sat retired in sight,
With lowliness majestick from her seat,
And grace that won who saw to wish her stay,
Rose, and went forth among her fruits and flowers,
To visit how they prospered, bud and bloom,
Her nursery; they at her coming sprung,
And, touched by her fair tendance, gladlier grew.
Yet went she not, as not with such discourse
Delighted, or not capable her ear
Of what was high: such pleasure she reserved,
Adam relating, she sole auditress;
Her husband the relater she preferred
Before the Angel, and of him to ask
Chose rather; he, she knew, would intermix
Grateful digressions, and solve high dispute
With conjugal caresses: from his lip
Not words alone pleased her. O! when meet now
Such pairs, in love and mutual honour joined?
With Goddess-like demeanour forth she went,
Not unattended; for on her, as Queen,
A pomp of winning Graces waited still,
And from about her shot darts of desire
Into all eyes, to wish her still in sight.
And Raphael now, to Adam's doubt proposed,
Benevolent and facile thus replied.
To ask or search, I blame thee not; for Heaven
Is as the book of God before thee set,
Wherein to read his wonderous works, and learn
His seasons, hours, or days, or months, or years:
This to attain, whether Heaven move or Earth,
Imports not, if thou reckon right; the rest
From Man or Angel the great Architect
Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge
His secrets to be scanned by them who ought
Rather admire; or, if they list to try
Conjecture, he his fabrick of the Heavens
Hath left to their disputes, perhaps to move
His laughter at their quaint opinions wide
Hereafter; when they come to model Heaven
And calculate the stars, how they will wield
The mighty frame; how build, unbuild, contrive
To save appearances; how gird the sphere
With centrick and eccentrick scribbled o'er,
Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb:
Already by thy reasoning this I guess,
Who art to lead thy offspring, and supposest
That bodies bright and greater should not serve
The less not bright, nor Heaven such journeys run,
Earth sitting still, when she alone receives
The benefit: Consider first, that great
Or bright infers not excellence: the Earth
Though, in comparison of Heaven, so small,
Nor glistering, may of solid good contain
More plenty than the sun that barren shines;
Whose virtue on itself works no effect,
But in the fruitful Earth; there first received,
His beams, unactive else, their vigour find.
Yet not to Earth are those bright luminaries
Officious; but to thee, Earth's habitant.
And for the Heaven's wide circuit, let it speak
The Maker's high magnificence, who built
So spacious, and his line stretched out so far;
That Man may know he dwells not in his own;
An edifice too large for him to fill,
Lodged in a small partition; and the rest
Ordained for uses to his Lord best known.
The swiftness of those circles attribute,
Though numberless, to his Omnipotence,
That to corporeal substances could add
Speed almost spiritual: Me thou thinkest not slow,
Who since the morning-hour set out from Heaven
Where God resides, and ere mid-day arrived
In Eden; distance inexpressible
By numbers that have name. But this I urge,
Admitting motion in the Heavens, to show
Invalid that which thee to doubt it moved;
Not that I so affirm, though so it seem
To thee who hast thy dwelling here on Earth.
God, to remove his ways from human sense,
Placed Heaven from Earth so far, that earthly sight,
If it presume, might err in things too high,
And no advantage gain. What if the sun
Be center to the world; and other stars,
By his attractive virtue and their own
Incited, dance about him various rounds?
Their wandering course now high, now low, then hid,
Progressive, retrograde, or standing still,
In six thou seest; and what if seventh to these
The planet earth, so stedfast though she seem,
Insensibly three different motions move?
Which else to several spheres thou must ascribe,
Moved contrary with thwart obliquities;
Or save the sun his labour, and that swift
Nocturnal and diurnal rhomb supposed,
Invisible else above all stars, the wheel
Of day and night; which needs not thy belief,
If earth, industrious of herself, fetch day
Travelling east, and with her part averse
From the sun's beam meet night, her other part
Still luminous by his ray. What if that light,
Sent from her through the wide transpicuous air,
To the terrestrial moon be as a star,
Enlightening her by day, as she by night
This earth? reciprocal, if land be there,
Fields and inhabitants: Her spots thou seest
As clouds, and clouds may rain, and rain produce
Fruits in her softened soil for some to eat
Allotted there; and other suns perhaps,
With their attendant moons, thou wilt descry,
Communicating male and female light;
Which two great sexes animate the world,
Stored in each orb perhaps with some that live.
For such vast room in Nature unpossessed
By living soul, desart and desolate,
Only to shine, yet scarce to contribute
Each orb a glimpse of light, conveyed so far
Down to this habitable, which returns
Light back to them, is obvious to dispute.
But whether thus these things, or whether not;
But whether the sun, predominant in Heaven,
Rise on the earth; or earth rise on the sun;
He from the east his flaming road begin;
Or she from west her silent course advance,
With inoffensive pace that spinning sleeps
On her soft axle, while she paces even,
And bears thee soft with the smooth hair along;
Sollicit not thy thoughts with matters hid;
Leave them to God above; him serve, and fear!
Of other creatures, as him pleases best,
Wherever placed, let him dispose; joy thou
In what he gives to thee, this Paradise
And thy fair Eve; Heaven is for thee too high
To know what passes there; be lowly wise:
Think only what concerns thee, and thy being;
Dream not of other worlds, what creatures there
Live, in what state, condition, or degree;
Contented that thus far hath been revealed
Not of Earth only, but of highest Heaven.
To whom thus Adam, cleared of doubt, replied.
How fully hast thou satisfied me, pure
Intelligence of Heaven, Angel serene!
And, freed from intricacies, taught to live
The easiest way; nor with perplexing thoughts
To interrupt the sweet of life, from which
God hath bid dwell far off all anxious cares,
And not molest us; unless we ourselves
Seek them with wandering thoughts, and notions vain.
But apt the mind or fancy is to rove
Unchecked, and of her roving is no end;
Till warned, or by experience taught, she learn,
That, not to know at large of things remote
From use, obscure and subtle; but, to know
That which before us lies in daily life,
Is the prime wisdom: What is more, is fume,
Or emptiness, or fond impertinence:
And renders us, in things that most concern,
Unpractised, unprepared, and still to seek.
Therefore from this high pitch let us descend
A lower flight, and speak of things at hand
Useful; whence, haply, mention may arise
Of something not unseasonable to ask,
By sufferance, and thy wonted favour, deigned.
Thee I have heard relating what was done
Ere my remembrance: now, hear me relate
My story, which perhaps thou hast not heard;
And day is not yet spent; till then thou seest
How subtly to detain thee I devise;
Inviting thee to hear while I relate;
Fond! were it not in hope of thy reply:
For, while I sit with thee, I seem in Heaven;
And sweeter thy discourse is to my ear
Than fruits of palm-tree pleasantest to thirst
And hunger both, from labour, at the hour
Of sweet repast; they satiate, and soon fill,
Though pleasant; but thy words, with grace divine
Imbued, bring to their sweetness no satiety.
To whom thus Raphael answered heavenly meek.
Nor are thy lips ungraceful, Sire of men,
Nor tongue ineloquent; for God on thee
Abundantly his gifts hath also poured
Inward and outward both, his image fair:
Speaking, or mute, all comeliness and grace
Attends thee; and each word, each motion, forms;
Nor less think we in Heaven of thee on Earth
Than of our fellow-servant, and inquire
Gladly into the ways of God with Man:
For God, we see, hath honoured thee, and set
On Man his equal love: Say therefore on;
For I that day was absent, as befel,
Bound on a voyage uncouth and obscure,
Far on excursion toward the gates of Hell;
Squared in full legion (such command we had)
To see that none thence issued forth a spy,
Or enemy, while God was in his work;
Lest he, incensed at such eruption bold,
Destruction with creation might have mixed.
Not that they durst without his leave attempt;
But us he sends upon his high behests
For state, as Sovran King; and to inure
Our prompt obedience. Fast we found, fast shut,
The dismal gates, and barricadoed strong;
But long ere our approaching heard within
Noise, other than the sound of dance or song,
Torment, and loud lament, and furious rage.
Glad we returned up to the coasts of light
Ere sabbath-evening: so we had in charge.
But thy relation now; for I attend,
Pleased with thy words no less than thou with mine.
So spake the Godlike Power, and thus our Sire.
For Man to tell how human life began
Is hard; for who himself beginning knew
Desire with thee still longer to converse
Induced me. As new waked from soundest sleep,
Soft on the flowery herb I found me laid,
In balmy sweat; which with his beams the sun
Soon dried, and on the reeking moisture fed.
Straight toward Heaven my wondering eyes I turned,
And gazed a while the ample sky; till, raised
By quick instinctive motion, up I sprung,
As thitherward endeavouring, and upright
Stood on my feet: about me round I saw
Hill, dale, and shady woods, and sunny plains,
And liquid lapse of murmuring streams; by these,
Creatures that lived and moved, and walked, or flew;
Birds on the branches warbling; all things smiled;
With fragrance and with joy my heart o'erflowed.
Myself I then perused, and limb by limb
Surveyed, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran
With supple joints, as lively vigour led:
But who I was, or where, or from what cause,
Knew not; to speak I tried, and forthwith spake;
My tongue obeyed, and readily could name
Whate'er I saw. Thou Sun, said I, fair light,
And thou enlightened Earth, so fresh and gay,
Ye Hills, and Dales, ye Rivers, Woods, and Plains,
And ye that live and move, fair Creatures, tell,
Tell, if ye saw, how I came thus, how here?--
Not of myself;--by some great Maker then,
In goodness and in power pre-eminent:
Tell me, how may I know him, how adore,
From whom I have that thus I move and live,
And feel that I am happier than I know.--
While thus I called, and strayed I knew not whither,
From where I first drew air, and first beheld
This happy light; when, answer none returned,
On a green shady bank, profuse of flowers,
Pensive I sat me down: There gentle sleep
First found me, and with soft oppression seised
My droused sense, untroubled, though I thought
I then was passing to my former state
Insensible, and forthwith to dissolve:
When suddenly stood at my head a dream,
Whose inward apparition gently moved
My fancy to believe I yet had being,
And lived: One came, methought, of shape divine,
And said, 'Thy mansion wants thee, Adam; rise,
'First Man, of men innumerable ordained
'First Father! called by thee, I come thy guide
'To the garden of bliss, thy seat prepared.'
So saying, by the hand he took me raised,
And over fields and waters, as in air
Smooth-sliding without step, last led me up
A woody mountain; whose high top was plain,
A circuit wide, enclosed, with goodliest trees
Planted, with walks, and bowers; that what I saw
Of Earth before scarce pleasant seemed. Each tree,
Loaden with fairest fruit that hung to the eye
Tempting, stirred in me sudden appetite
To pluck and eat; whereat I waked, and found
Before mine eyes all real, as the dream
Had lively shadowed: Here had new begun
My wandering, had not he, who was my guide
Up hither, from among the trees appeared,
Presence Divine. Rejoicing, but with awe,
In adoration at his feet I fell
Submiss: He reared me, and 'Whom thou soughtest I am,'
Said mildly, 'Author of all this thou seest
'Above, or round about thee, or beneath.
'This Paradise I give thee, count it thine
'To till and keep, and of the fruit to eat:
'Of every tree that in the garden grows
'Eat freely with glad heart; fear here no dearth:
'But of the tree whose operation brings
'Knowledge of good and ill, which I have set
'The pledge of thy obedience and thy faith,
'Amid the garden by the tree of life,
'Remember what I warn thee, shun to taste,
'And shun the bitter consequence: for know,
'The day thou eatest thereof, my sole command
'Transgressed, inevitably thou shalt die,
'From that day mortal; and this happy state
'Shalt lose, expelled from hence into a world
'Of woe and sorrow.' Sternly he pronounced
The rigid interdiction, which resounds
Yet dreadful in mine ear, though in my choice
Not to incur; but soon his clear aspect
Returned, and gracious purpose thus renewed.
'Not only these fair bounds, but all the Earth
'To thee and to thy race I give; as lords
'Possess it, and all things that therein live,
'Or live in sea, or air; beast, fish, and fowl.
'In sign whereof, each bird and beast behold
'After their kinds; I bring them to receive
'From thee their names, and pay thee fealty
'With low subjection; understand the same
'Of fish within their watery residence,
'Not hither summoned, since they cannot change
'Their element, to draw the thinner air.'
As thus he spake, each bird and beast behold
Approaching two and two; these cowering low
With blandishment; each bird stooped on his wing.
I named them, as they passed, and understood
Their nature, with such knowledge God endued
My sudden apprehension: But in these
I found not what methought I wanted still;
And to the heavenly Vision thus presumed.
O, by what name, for thou above all these,
Above mankind, or aught than mankind higher,
Surpassest far my naming; how may I
Adore thee, Author of this universe,
And all this good to man? for whose well being
So amply, and with hands so liberal,
Thou hast provided all things: But with me
I see not who partakes. In solitude
What happiness, who can enjoy alone,
Or, all enjoying, what contentment find?
Thus I presumptuous; and the Vision bright,
As with a smile more brightened, thus replied.
What callest thou solitude? Is not the Earth
With various living creatures, and the air
Replenished, and all these at thy command
To come and play before thee? Knowest thou not
Their language and their ways? They also know,
And reason not contemptibly: With these
Find pastime, and bear rule; thy realm is large.
So spake the Universal Lord, and seemed
So ordering: I, with leave of speech implored,
And humble deprecation, thus replied.
Let not my words offend thee, Heavenly Power;
My Maker, be propitious while I speak.
Hast thou not made me here thy substitute,
And these inferiour far beneath me set?
Among unequals what society
Can sort, what harmony, or true delight?
Which must be mutual, in proportion due
Given and received; but, in disparity
The one intense, the other still remiss,
Cannot well suit with either, but soon prove
Tedious alike: Of fellowship I speak
Such as I seek, fit to participate
All rational delight: wherein the brute
Cannot be human consort: They rejoice
Each with their kind, lion with lioness;
So fitly them in pairs thou hast combined:
Much less can bird with beast, or fish with fowl
So well converse, nor with the ox the ape;
Worse then can man with beast, and least of all.
Whereto the Almighty answered, not displeased.
A nice and subtle happiness, I see,
Thou to thyself proposest, in the choice
Of thy associates, Adam! and wilt taste
No pleasure, though in pleasure, solitary.
What thinkest thou then of me, and this my state?
Seem I to thee sufficiently possessed
Of happiness, or not? who am alone
From all eternity; for none I know
Second to me or like, equal much less.
How have I then with whom to hold converse,
Save with the creatures which I made, and those
To me inferiour, infinite descents
Beneath what other creatures are to thee?
He ceased; I lowly answered. To attain
The highth and depth of thy eternal ways
All human thoughts come short, Supreme of things!
Thou in thyself art perfect, and in thee
Is no deficience found: Not so is Man,
But in degree; the cause of his desire
By conversation with his like to help
Or solace his defects. No need that thou
Shouldst propagate, already Infinite;
And through all numbers absolute, though One:
But Man by number is to manifest
His single imperfection, and beget
Like of his like, his image multiplied,
In unity defective; which requires
Collateral love, and dearest amity.
Thou in thy secresy although alone,
Best with thyself accompanied, seekest not
Social communication; yet, so pleased,
Canst raise thy creature to what highth thou wilt
Of union or communion, deified:
I, by conversing, cannot these erect
From prone; nor in their ways complacence find.
Thus I emboldened spake, and freedom used
Permissive, and acceptance found; which gained
This answer from the gracious Voice Divine.
Thus far to try thee, Adam, I was pleased;
And find thee knowing, not of beasts alone,
Which thou hast rightly named, but of thyself;
Expressing well the spirit within thee free,
My image, not imparted to the brute;
Whose fellowship therefore unmeet for thee
Good reason was thou freely shouldst dislike;
And be so minded still: I, ere thou spakest,
Knew it not good for Man to be alone;
And no such company as then thou sawest
Intended thee; for trial only brought,
To see how thou couldest judge of fit and meet:
What next I bring shall please thee, be assured,
Thy likeness, thy fit help, thy other self,
Thy wish exactly to thy heart's desire.
He ended, or I heard no more; for now
My earthly by his heavenly overpowered,
Which it had long stood under, strained to the highth
In that celestial colloquy sublime,
As with an object that excels the sense
Dazzled and spent, sunk down; and sought repair
Of sleep, which instantly fell on me, called
By Nature as in aid, and closed mine eyes.
Mine eyes he closed, but open left the cell
Of fancy, my internal sight; by which,
Abstract as in a trance, methought I saw,
Though sleeping, where I lay, and saw the shape
Still glorious before whom awake I stood:
Who stooping opened my left side, and took
From thence a rib, with cordial spirits warm,
And life-blood streaming fresh; wide was the wound,
But suddenly with flesh filled up and healed:
The rib he formed and fashioned with his hands;
Under his forming hands a creature grew,
Man-like, but different sex; so lovely fair,
That what seemed fair in all the world, seemed now
Mean, or in her summed up, in her contained
And in her looks; which from that time infused
Sweetness into my heart, unfelt before,
And into all things from her air inspired
The spirit of love and amorous delight.
She disappeared, and left me dark; I waked
To find her, or for ever to deplore
Her loss, and other pleasures all abjure:
When out of hope, behold her, not far off,
Such as I saw her in my dream, adorned
With what all Earth or Heaven could bestow
To make her amiable: On she came,
Led by her heavenly Maker, though unseen,
And guided by his voice; nor uninformed
Of nuptial sanctity, and marriage rites:
Grace was in all her steps, Heaven in her eye,
In every gesture dignity and love.
I, overjoyed, could not forbear aloud.
This turn hath made amends; thou hast fulfilled
Thy words, Creator bounteous and benign,
Giver of all things fair! but fairest this
Of all thy gifts! nor enviest. I now see
Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, myself
Before me: Woman is her name;of Man
Extracted: for this cause he shall forego
Father and mother, and to his wife adhere;
And they shall be one flesh, one heart, one soul.
She heard me thus; and though divinely brought,
Yet innocence, and virgin modesty,
Her virtue, and the conscience of her worth,
That would be wooed, and not unsought be won,
Not obvious, not obtrusive, but, retired,
The more desirable; or, to say all,
Nature herself, though pure of sinful thought,
Wrought in her so, that, seeing me, she turned:
I followed her; she what was honour knew,
And with obsequious majesty approved
My pleaded reason. To the nuptial bower
I led her blushing like the morn: All Heaven,
And happy constellations, on that hour
Shed their selectest influence; the Earth
Gave sign of gratulation, and each hill;
Joyous the birds; fresh gales and gentle airs
Whispered it to the woods, and from their wings
Flung rose, flung odours from the spicy shrub,
Disporting, till the amorous bird of night
Sung spousal, and bid haste the evening-star
On his hill top, to light the bridal lamp.
Thus have I told thee all my state, and brought
My story to the sum of earthly bliss,
Which I enjoy; and must confess to find
In all things else delight indeed, but such
As, used or not, works in the mind no change,
Nor vehement desire; these delicacies
I mean of taste, sight, smell, herbs, fruits, and flowers,
Walks, and the melody of birds: but here
Far otherwise, transported I behold,
Transported touch; here passion first I felt,
Commotion strange! in all enjoyments else
Superiour and unmoved; here only weak
Against the charm of Beauty's powerful glance.
Or Nature failed in me, and left some part
Not proof enough such object to sustain;
Or, from my side subducting, took perhaps
More than enough; at least on her bestowed
Too much of ornament, in outward show
Elaborate, of inward less exact.
For well I understand in the prime end
Of Nature her the inferiour, in the mind
And inward faculties, which most excel;
In outward also her resembling less
His image who made both, and less expressing
The character of that dominion given
O'er other creatures: Yet when I approach
Her loveliness, so absolute she seems
And in herself complete, so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say,
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best:
All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded; Wisdom in discourse with her
Loses discountenanced, and like Folly shows;
Authority and Reason on her wait,
As one intended first, not after made
Occasionally; and, to consummate all,
Greatness of mind and Nobleness their seat
Build in her loveliest, and create an awe
About her, as a guard angelick placed.
To whom the Angel with contracted brow.
Accuse not Nature, she hath done her part;
Do thou but thine; and be not diffident
Of Wisdom; she deserts thee not, if thou
Dismiss not her, when most thou needest her nigh,
By attributing overmuch to things
Less excellent, as thou thyself perceivest.
For, what admirest thou, what transports thee so,
An outside? fair, no doubt, and worthy well
Thy cherishing, thy honouring, and thy love;
Not thy subjection: Weigh with her thyself;
Then value: Oft-times nothing profits more
Than self-esteem, grounded on just and right
Well managed; of that skill the more thou knowest,
The more she will acknowledge thee her head,
And to realities yield all her shows:
Made so adorn for thy delight the more,
So awful, that with honour thou mayest love
Thy mate, who sees when thou art seen least wise.
But if the sense of touch, whereby mankind
Is propagated, seem such dear delight
Beyond all other; think the same vouchsafed
To cattle and each beast; which would not be
To them made common and divulged, if aught
Therein enjoyed were worthy to subdue
The soul of man, or passion in him move.
What higher in her society thou findest
Attractive, human, rational, love still;
In loving thou dost well, in passion not,
Wherein true love consists not: Love refines
The thoughts, and heart enlarges; hath his seat
In reason, and is judicious; is the scale
By which to heavenly love thou mayest ascend,
Not sunk in carnal pleasure; for which cause,
Among the beasts no mate for thee was found.
To whom thus, half abashed, Adam replied.
Neither her outside formed so fair, nor aught
In procreation common to all kinds,
(Though higher of the genial bed by far,
And with mysterious reverence I deem,)
So much delights me, as those graceful acts,
Those thousand decencies, that daily flow
From all her words and actions mixed with love
And sweet compliance, which declare unfeigned
Union of mind, or in us both one soul;
Harmony to behold in wedded pair
More grateful than harmonious sound to the ear.
Yet these subject not; I to thee disclose
What inward thence I feel, not therefore foiled,
Who meet with various objects, from the sense
Variously representing; yet, still free,
Approve the best, and follow what I approve.
To love, thou blamest me not; for Love, thou sayest,
Leads up to Heaven, is both the way and guide;
Bear with me then, if lawful what I ask:
Love not the heavenly Spirits, and how their love
Express they? by looks only? or do they mix
Irradiance, virtual or immediate touch?
To whom the Angel, with a smile that glowed
Celestial rosy red, Love's proper hue,
Answered. Let it suffice thee that thou knowest
Us happy, and without love no happiness.
Whatever pure thou in the body enjoyest,
(And pure thou wert created) we enjoy
In eminence; and obstacle find none
Of membrane, joint, or limb, exclusive bars;
Easier than air with air, if Spirits embrace,
Total they mix, union of pure with pure
Desiring, nor restrained conveyance need,
As flesh to mix with flesh, or soul with soul.
But I can now no more; the parting sun
Beyond the Earth's green Cape and verdant Isles
Hesperian sets, my signal to depart.
Be strong, live happy, and love! But, first of all,
Him, whom to love is to obey, and keep
His great command; take heed lest passion sway
Thy judgement to do aught, which else free will
Would not admit: thine, and of all thy sons,
The weal or woe in thee is placed; beware!
I in thy persevering shall rejoice,
And all the Blest: Stand fast;to stand or fall
Free in thine own arbitrement it lies.
Perfect within, no outward aid require;
And all temptation to transgress repel.
So saying, he arose; whom Adam thus
Followed with benediction. Since to part,
Go, heavenly guest, ethereal Messenger,
Sent from whose sovran goodness I adore!
Gentle to me and affable hath been
Thy condescension, and shall be honoured ever
With grateful memory: Thou to mankind
Be good and friendly still, and oft return!
So parted they; the Angel up to Heaven
From the thick shade, and Adam to his bower.
The Iliad: Book 18
Thus then did they fight as it were a flaming fire. Meanwhile the
fleet runner Antilochus, who had been sent as messenger, reached
Achilles, and found him sitting by his tall ships and boding that
which was indeed too surely true. "Alas," said he to himself in the
heaviness of his heart, "why are the Achaeans again scouring the plain
and flocking towards the ships? Heaven grant the gods be not now
bringing that sorrow upon me of which my mother Thetis spoke, saying
that while I was yet alive the bravest of the Myrmidons should fall
before the Trojans, and see the light of the sun no longer. I fear the
brave son of Menoetius has fallen through his own daring and yet I
bade him return to the ships as soon as he had driven back those
that were bringing fire against them, and not join battle with
As he was thus pondering, the son of Nestor came up to him and
told his sad tale, weeping bitterly the while. "Alas," he cried,
"son of noble Peleus, I bring you bad tidings, would indeed that
they were untrue. Patroclus has fallen, and a fight is raging about
his naked body- for Hector holds his armour."
A dark cloud of grief fell upon Achilles as he listened. He filled
both hands with dust from off the ground, and poured it over his head,
disfiguring his comely face, and letting the refuse settle over his
shirt so fair and new. He flung himself down all huge and hugely at
full length, and tore his hair with his hands. The bondswomen whom
Achilles and Patroclus had taken captive screamed aloud for grief,
beating their breasts, and with their limbs failing them for sorrow.
Antilochus bent over him the while, weeping and holding both his hands
as he lay groaning for he feared that he might plunge a knife into his
own throat. Then Achilles gave a loud cry and his mother heard him
as she was sitting in the depths of the sea by the old man her father,
whereon she screamed, and all the goddesses daughters of Nereus that
dwelt at the bottom of the sea, came gathering round her. There were
Glauce, Thalia and Cymodoce, Nesaia, Speo, thoe and dark-eyed Halie,
Cymothoe, Actaea and Limnorea, Melite, Iaera, Amphithoe and Agave,
Doto and Proto, Pherusa and Dynamene, Dexamene, Amphinome and
Callianeira, Doris, Panope, and the famous sea-nymph Galatea,
Nemertes, Apseudes and Callianassa. There were also Clymene, Ianeira
and Ianassa, Maera, Oreithuia and Amatheia of the lovely locks, with
other Nereids who dwell in the depths of the sea. The crystal cave was
filled with their multitude and they all beat their breasts while
Thetis led them in their lament.
"Listen," she cried, "sisters, daughters of Nereus, that you may
hear the burden of my sorrows. Alas, woe is me, woe in that I have
borne the most glorious of offspring. I bore him fair and strong, hero
among heroes, and he shot up as a sapling; I tended him as a plant
in a goodly garden, and sent him with his ships to Ilius to fight
the Trojans, but never shall I welcome him back to the house of
Peleus. So long as he lives to look upon the light of the sun he is in
heaviness, and though I go to him I cannot help him. Nevertheless I
will go, that I may see my dear son and learn what sorrow has befallen
him though he is still holding aloof from battle."
She left the cave as she spoke, while the others followed weeping
after, and the waves opened a path before them. When they reached
the rich plain of Troy, they came up out of the sea in a long line
on to the sands, at the place where the ships of the Myrmidons were
drawn up in close order round the tents of Achilles. His mother went
up to him as he lay groaning; she laid her hand upon his head and
spoke piteously, saying, "My son, why are you thus weeping? What
sorrow has now befallen you? Tell me; hide it not from me. Surely Jove
has granted you the prayer you made him, when you lifted up your hands
and besought him that the Achaeans might all of them be pent up at
their ships, and rue it bitterly in that you were no longer with
Achilles groaned and answered, "Mother, Olympian Jove has indeed
vouchsafed me the fulfilment of my prayer, but what boots it to me,
seeing that my dear comrade Patroclus has fallen- he whom I valued
more than all others, and loved as dearly as my own life? I have
lost him; aye, and Hector when he had killed him stripped the wondrous
armour, so glorious to behold, which the gods gave to Peleus when they
laid you in the couch of a mortal man. Would that you were still
dwelling among the immortal sea-nymphs, and that Peleus had taken to
himself some mortal bride. For now you shall have grief infinite by
reason of the death of that son whom you can never welcome home-
nay, I will not live nor go about among mankind unless Hector fall
by my spear, and thus pay me for having slain Patroclus son of
Thetis wept and answered, "Then, my son, is your end near at hand-
for your own death awaits you full soon after that of Hector."
Then said Achilles in his great grief, "I would die here and now, in
that I could not save my comrade. He has fallen far from home, and
in his hour of need my hand was not there to help him. What is there
for me? Return to my own land I shall not, and I have brought no
saving neither to Patroclus nor to my other comrades of whom so many
have been slain by mighty Hector; I stay here by my ships a bootless
burden upon the earth, I, who in fight have no peer among the
Achaeans, though in council there are better than I. Therefore, perish
strife both from among gods and men, and anger, wherein even a
righteous man will harden his heart- which rises up in the soul of a
man like smoke, and the taste thereof is sweeter than drops of
honey. Even so has Agamemnon angered me. And yet- so be it, for it
is over; I will force my soul into subjection as I needs must; I
will go; I will pursue Hector who has slain him whom I loved so
dearly, and will then abide my doom when it may please Jove and the
other gods to send it. Even Hercules, the best beloved of Jove- even
he could not escape the hand of death, but fate and Juno's fierce
anger laid him low, as I too shall lie when I am dead if a like doom
awaits me. Till then I will win fame, and will bid Trojan and
Dardanian women wring tears from their tender cheeks with both their
hands in the grievousness of their great sorrow; thus shall they
know that he who has held aloof so long will hold aloof no longer.
Hold me not back, therefore, in the love you bear me, for you shall
not move me."
Then silver-footed Thetis answered, "My son, what you have said is
true. It is well to save your comrades from destruction, but your
armour is in the hands of the Trojans; Hector bears it in triumph upon
his own shoulders. Full well I know that his vaunt shall not be
lasting, for his end is close at hand; go not, however, into the press
of battle till you see me return hither; to-morrow at break of day I
shall be here, and will bring you goodly armour from King Vulcan."
On this she left her brave son, and as she turned away she said to
the sea-nymphs her sisters, "Dive into the bosom of the sea and go
to the house of the old sea-god my father. Tell him everything; as for
me, I will go to the cunning workman Vulcan on high Olympus, and ask
him to provide my son with a suit of splendid armour."
When she had so said, they dived forthwith beneath the waves,
while silver-footed Thetis went her way that she might bring the
armour for her son.
Thus, then, did her feet bear the goddess to Olympus, and
meanwhile the Achaeans were flying with loud cries before murderous
Hector till they reached the ships and the Hellespont, and they
could not draw the body of Mars's servant Patroclus out of reach of
the weapons that were showered upon him, for Hector son of Priam
with his host and horsemen had again caught up to him like the flame
of a fiery furnace; thrice did brave Hector seize him by the feet,
striving with might and main to draw him away and calling loudly on
the Trojans, and thrice did the two Ajaxes, clothed in valour as
with a garment, beat him from off the body; but all undaunted he would
now charge into the thick of the fight, and now again he would stand
still and cry aloud, but he would give no ground. As upland
shepherds that cannot chase some famished lion from a carcase, even so
could not the two Ajaxes scare Hector son of Priam from the body of
And now he would even have dragged it off and have won
imperishable glory, had not Iris fleet as the wind, winged her way
as messenger from Olympus to the son of Peleus and bidden him arm. She
came secretly without the knowledge of Jove and of the other gods, for
Juno sent her, and when she had got close to him she said, "Up, son of
Peleus, mightiest of all mankind; rescue Patroclus about whom this
fearful fight is now raging by the ships. Men are killing one another,
the Danaans in defence of the dead body, while the Trojans are
trying to hale it away, and take it to wind Ilius: Hector is the
most furious of them all; he is for cutting the head from the body and
fixing it on the stakes of the wall. Up, then, and bide here no
longer; shrink from the thought that Patroclus may become meat for the
dogs of Troy. Shame on you, should his body suffer any kind of
And Achilles said, "Iris, which of the gods was it that sent you
Iris answered, "It was Juno the royal spouse of Jove, but the son of
Saturn does not know of my coming, nor yet does any other of the
immortals who dwell on the snowy summits of Olympus."
Then fleet Achilles answered her saying, "How can I go up into the
battle? They have my armour. My mother forbade me to arm till I should
see her come, for she promised to bring me goodly armour from
Vulcan; I know no man whose arms I can put on, save only the shield of
Ajax son of Telamon, and he surely must be fighting in the front
rank and wielding his spear about the body of dead Patroclus."
Iris said, 'We know that your armour has been taken, but go as you
are; go to the deep trench and show yourelf before the Trojans, that
they may fear you and cease fighting. Thus will the fainting sons of
the Achaeans gain some brief breathing-time, which in battle may
Iris left him when she had so spoken. But Achilles dear to Jove
arose, and Minerva flung her tasselled aegis round his strong
shoulders; she crowned his head with a halo of golden cloud from which
she kindled a glow of gleaming fire. As the smoke that goes up into
heaven from some city that is being beleaguered on an island far out
at sea- all day long do men sally from the city and fight their
hardest, and at the going down of the sun the line of beacon-fires
blazes forth, flaring high for those that dwell near them to behold,
if so be that they may come with their ships and succour them- even so
did the light flare from the head of Achilles, as he stood by the
trench, going beyond the wall- but he aid not join the Achaeans for he
heeded the charge which his mother laid upon him.
There did he stand and shout aloud. Minerva also raised her voice
from afar, and spread terror unspeakable among the Trojans. Ringing as
the note of a trumpet that sounds alarm then the foe is at the gates
of a city, even so brazen was the voice of the son of Aeacus, and when
the Trojans heard its clarion tones they were dismayed; the horses
turned back with their chariots for they boded mischief, and their
drivers were awe-struck by the steady flame which the grey-eyed
goddess had kindled above the head of the great son of Peleus.
Thrice did Achilles raise his loud cry as he stood by the trench,
and thrice were the Trojans and their brave allies thrown into
confusion; whereon twelve of their noblest champions fell beneath
the wheels of their chariots and perished by their own spears. The
Achaeans to their great joy then drew Patroclus out of reach of the
weapons, and laid him on a litter: his comrades stood mourning round
him, and among them fleet Achilles who wept bitterly as he saw his
true comrade lying dead upon his bier. He had sent him out with horses
and chariots into battle, but his return he was not to welcome.
Then Juno sent the busy sun, loth though he was, into the waters
of Oceanus; so he set, and the Achaeans had rest from the tug and
turmoil of war.
Now the Trojans when they had come out of the fight, unyoked their
horses and gathered in assembly before preparing their supper. They
kept their feet, nor would any dare to sit down, for fear had fallen
upon them all because Achilles had shown himself after having held
aloof so long from battle. Polydamas son of Panthous was first to
speak, a man of judgement, who alone among them could look both before
and after. He was comrade to Hector, and they had been born upon the
same night; with all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed
"Look to it well, my friends; I would urge you to go back now to
your city and not wait here by the ships till morning, for we are
far from our walls. So long as this man was at enmity with Agamemnon
the Achaeans were easier to deal with, and I would have gladly
camped by the ships in the hope of taking them; but now I go in
great fear of the fleet son of Peleus; he is so daring that he will
never bide here on the plain whereon the Trojans and Achaeans fight
with equal valour, but he will try to storm our city and carry off our
women. Do then as I say, and let us retreat. For this is what will
happen. The darkness of night will for a time stay the son of
Peleus, but if he find us here in the morning when he sallies forth in
full armour, we shall have knowledge of him in good earnest. Glad
indeed will he be who can escape and get back to Ilius, and many a
Trojan will become meat for dogs and vultures may I never live to hear
it. If we do as I say, little though we may like it, we shall have
strength in counsel during the night, and the great gates with the
doors that close them will protect the city. At dawn we can arm and
take our stand on the walls; he will then rue it if he sallies from
the ships to fight us. He will go back when he has given his horses
their fill of being driven all whithers under our walls, and will be
in no mind to try and force his way into the city. Neither will he
ever sack it, dogs shall devour him ere he do so."
Hector looked fiercely at him and answered, "Polydamas, your words
are not to my liking in that you bid us go back and be pent within the
city. Have you not had enough of being cooped up behind walls? In
the old-days the city of Priam was famous the whole world over for its
wealth of gold and bronze, but our treasures are wasted out of our
houses, and much goods have been sold away to Phrygia and fair Meonia,
for the hand of Jove has been laid heavily upon us. Now, therefore,
that the son of scheming Saturn has vouchsafed me to win glory here
and to hem the Achaeans in at their ships, prate no more in this
fool's wise among the people. You will have no man with you; it
shall not be; do all of you as I now say;- take your suppers in your
companies throughout the host, and keep your watches and be wakeful
every man of you. If any Trojan is uneasy about his possessions, let
him gather them and give them out among the people. Better let
these, rather than the Achaeans, have them. At daybreak we will arm
and fight about the ships; granted that Achilles has again come
forward to defend them, let it be as he will, but it shall go hard
with him. I shall not shun him, but will fight him, to fall or
conquer. The god of war deals out like measure to all, and the
slayer may yet be slain."
Thus spoke Hector; and the Trojans, fools that they were, shouted in
applause, for Pallas Minerva had robbed them of their understanding.
They gave ear to Hector with his evil counsel, but the wise words of
Polydamas no man would heed. They took their supper throughout the
host, and meanwhile through the whole night the Achaeans mourned
Patroclus, and the son of Peleus led them in their lament. He laid his
murderous hands upon the breast of his comrade, groaning again and
again as a bearded lion when a man who was chasing deer has robbed him
of his young in some dense forest; when the lion comes back he is
furious, and searches dingle and dell to track the hunter if he can
find him, for he is mad with rage- even so with many a sigh did
Achilles speak among the Myrmidons saying, "Alas! vain were the
words with which I cheered the hero Menoetius in his own house; I said
that I would bring his brave son back again to Opoeis after he had
sacked Ilius and taken his share of the spoils- but Jove does not give
all men their heart's desire. The same soil shall be reddened here
at Troy by the blood of us both, for I too shall never be welcomed
home by the old knight Peleus, nor by my mother Thetis, but even in
this place shall the earth cover me. Nevertheless, O Patroclus, now
that I am left behind you, I will not bury you, till I have brought
hither the head and armour of mighty Hector who has slain you.
Twelve noble sons of Trojans will I behead before your bier to
avenge you; till I have done so you shall lie as you are by the ships,
and fair women of Troy and Dardanus, whom we have taken with spear and
strength of arm when we sacked men's goodly cities, shall weep over
you both night and day."
Then Achilles told his men to set a large tripod upon the fire
that they might wash the clotted gore from off Patroclus. Thereon they
set a tripod full of bath water on to a clear fire: they threw
sticks on to it to make it blaze, and the water became hot as the
flame played about the belly of the tripod. When the water in the
cauldron was boiling they washed the body, anointed it with oil, and
closed its wounds with ointment that had been kept nine years. Then
they laid it on a bier and covered it with a linen cloth from head
to foot, and over this they laid a fair white robe. Thus all night
long did the Myrmidons gather round Achilles to mourn Patroclus.
Then Jove said to Juno his sister-wife, "So, Queen Juno, you have
gained your end, and have roused fleet Achilles. One would think
that the Achaeans were of your own flesh and blood."
And Juno answered, "Dread son of Saturn, why should you say this
thing? May not a man though he be only mortal and knows less than we
do, do what he can for another person? And shall not I- foremost of
all goddesses both by descent and as wife to you who reign in
heaven- devise evil for the Trojans if I am angry with them?"
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Thetis came to the house of
Vulcan, imperishable, star-bespangled, fairest of the abodes in
heaven, a house of bronze wrought by the lame god's own hands. She
found him busy with his bellows, sweating and hard at work, for he was
making twenty tripods that were to stand by the wall of his house, and
he set wheels of gold under them all that they might go of their own
selves to the assemblies of the gods, and come back again- marvels
indeed to see. They were finished all but the ears of cunning
workmanship which yet remained to be fixed to them: these he was now
fixing, and he was hammering at the rivets. While he was thus at
work silver-footed Thetis came to the house. Charis, of graceful
head-dress, wife to the far-famed lame god, came towards her as soon
as she saw her, and took her hand in her own, saying, "Why have you
come to our house, Thetis, honoured and ever welcome- for you do not
visit us often? Come inside and let me set refreshment before you."
The goddess led the way as she spoke, and bade Thetis sit on a
richly decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also
under her feet. Then she called Vulcan and said, "Vulcan, come here,
Thetis wants you"; and the far-famed lame god answered, "Then it is
indeed an august and honoured goddess who has come here; she it was
that took care of me when I was suffering from the heavy fall which
I had through my cruel mother's anger- for she would have got rid of
me because I was lame. It would have gone hardly with me had not
Eurynome, daughter of the ever-encircling waters of Oceanus, and
Thetis, taken me to their bosom. Nine years did I stay with them,
and many beautiful works in bronze, brooches, spiral armlets, cups,
and chains, did I make for them in their cave, with the roaring waters
of Oceanus foaming as they rushed ever past it; and no one knew,
neither of gods nor men, save only Thetis and Eurynome who took care
of me. If, then, Thetis has come to my house I must make her due
requital for having saved me; entertain her, therefore, with all
hospitality, while I put by my bellows and all my tools."
On this the mighty monster hobbled off from his anvil, his thin legs
plying lustily under him. He set the bellows away from the fire, and
gathered his tools into a silver chest. Then he took a sponge and
washed his face and hands, his shaggy chest and brawny neck; he donned
his shirt, grasped his strong staff, and limped towards the door.
There were golden handmaids also who worked for him, and were like
real young women, with sense and reason, voice also and strength,
and all the learning of the immortals; these busied themselves as
the king bade them, while he drew near to Thetis, seated her upon a
goodly seat, and took her hand in his own, saying, "Why have you
come to our house, Thetis honoured and ever welcome- for you do not
visit us often? Say what you want, and I will do it for you at once if
I can, and if it can be done at all."
Thetis wept and answered, "Vulcan, is there another goddess in
Olympus whom the son of Saturn has been pleased to try with so much
affliction as he has me? Me alone of the marine goddesses did he
make subject to a mortal husband, Peleus son of Aeacus, and sorely
against my will did I submit to the embraces of one who was but
mortal, and who now stays at home worn out with age. Neither is this
all. Heaven vouchsafed me a son, hero among heroes, and he shot up
as a sapling. I tended him as a plant in a goodly garden and sent
him with his ships to Ilius to fight the Trojans, but never shall I
welcome him back to the house of Peleus. So long as he lives to look
upon the light of the sun, he is in heaviness, and though I go to
him I cannot help him; King Agamemnon has made him give up the
maiden whom the sons of the Achaeans had awarded him, and he wastes
with sorrow for her sake. Then the Trojans hemmed the Achaeans in at
their ships' sterns and would not let them come forth; the elders,
therefore, of the Argives besought Achilles and offered him great
treasure, whereon he refused to bring deliverance to them himself, but
put his own armour on Patroclus and sent him into the fight with
much people after him. All day long they fought by the Scaean gates
and would have taken the city there and then, had not Apollo
vouchsafed glory to Hector and slain the valiant son of Menoetius
after he had done the Trojans much evil. Therefore I am suppliant at
your knees if haply you may be pleased to provide my son, whose end is
near at hand, with helmet and shield, with goodly greaves fitted
with ancle-clasps, and with a breastplate, for he lost his own when
his true comrade fell at the hands of the Trojans, and he now lies
stretched on earth in the bitterness of his soul."
And Vulcan answered, "Take heart, and be no more disquieted about
this matter; would that I could hide him from death's sight when his
hour is come, so surely as I can find him armour that shall amaze
the eyes of all who behold it."
When he had so said he left her and went to his bellows, turning
them towards the fire and bidding them do their office. Twenty bellows
blew upon the melting-pots, and they blew blasts of every kind, some
fierce to help him when he had need of them, and others less strong as
Vulcan willed it in the course of his work. He threw tough copper into
the fire, and tin, with silver and gold; he set his great anvil on its
block, and with one hand grasped his mighty hammer while he took the
tongs in the other.
First he shaped the shield so great and strong, adorning it all over
and binding it round with a gleaming circuit in three layers; and
the baldric was made of silver. He made the shield in five
thicknesses, and with many a wonder did his cunning hand enrich it.
He wrought the earth, the heavens, and the sea; the moon also at her
full and the untiring sun, with all the signs that glorify the face of
heaven- the Pleiads, the Hyads, huge Orion, and the Bear, which men
also call the Wain and which turns round ever in one place, facing.
Orion, and alone never dips into the stream of Oceanus.
He wrought also two cities, fair to see and busy with the hum of
men. In the one were weddings and wedding-feasts, and they were
going about the city with brides whom they were escorting by
torchlight from their chambers. Loud rose the cry of Hymen, and the
youths danced to the music of flute and lyre, while the women stood
each at her house door to see them.
Meanwhile the people were gathered in assembly, for there was a
quarrel, and two men were wrangling about the blood-money for a man
who had been killed, the one saying before the people that he had paid
damages in full, and the other that he had not been paid. Each was
trying to make his own case good, and the people took sides, each
man backing the side that he had taken; but the heralds kept them
back, and the elders sate on their seats of stone in a solemn
circle, holding the staves which the heralds had put into their hands.
Then they rose and each in his turn gave judgement, and there were two
talents laid down, to be given to him whose judgement should be deemed
About the other city there lay encamped two hosts in gleaming
armour, and they were divided whether to sack it, or to spare it and
accept the half of what it contained. But the men of the city would
not yet consent, and armed themselves for a surprise; their wives
and little children kept guard upon the walls, and with them were
the men who were past fighting through age; but the others sallied
forth with Mars and Pallas Minerva at their head- both of them wrought
in gold and clad in golden raiment, great and fair with their armour
as befitting gods, while they that followed were smaller. When they
reached the place where they would lay their ambush, it was on a
riverbed to which live stock of all kinds would come from far and near
to water; here, then, they lay concealed, clad in full armour. Some
way off them there were two scouts who were on the look-out for the
coming of sheep or cattle, which presently came, followed by two
shepherds who were playing on their pipes, and had not so much as a
thought of danger. When those who were in ambush saw this, they cut
off the flocks and herds and killed the shepherds. Meanwhile the
besiegers, when they heard much noise among the cattle as they sat
in council, sprang to their horses, and made with all speed towards
them; when they reached them they set battle in array by the banks
of the river, and the hosts aimed their bronze-shod spears at one
another. With them were Strife and Riot, and fell Fate who was
dragging three men after her, one with a fresh wound, and the other
unwounded, while the third was dead, and she was dragging him along by
his heel: and her robe was bedrabbled in men's blood. They went in and
out with one another and fought as though they were living people
haling away one another's dead.
He wrought also a fair fallow field, large and thrice ploughed
already. Many men were working at the plough within it, turning
their oxen to and fro, furrow after furrow. Each time that they turned
on reaching the headland a man would come up to them and give them a
cup of wine, and they would go back to their furrows looking forward
to the time when they should again reach the headland. The part that
they had ploughed was dark behind them, so that the field, though it
was of gold, still looked as if it were being ploughed- very curious
He wrought also a field of harvest corn, and the reapers were
reaping with sharp sickles in their hands. Swathe after swathe fell to
the ground in a straight line behind them, and the binders bound
them in bands of twisted straw. There were three binders, and behind
them there were boys who gathered the cut corn in armfuls and kept
on bringing them to be bound: among them all the owner of the land
stood by in silence and was glad. The servants were getting a meal
ready under an oak, for they had sacrificed a great ox, and were
busy cutting him up, while the women were making a porridge of much
white barley for the labourers' dinner.
He wrought also a vineyard, golden and fair to see, and the vines
were loaded with grapes. The bunches overhead were black, but the
vines were trained on poles of silver. He ran a ditch of dark metal
all round it, and fenced it with a fence of tin; there was only one
path to it, and by this the vintagers went when they would gather
the vintage. Youths and maidens all blithe and full of glee, carried
the luscious fruit in plaited baskets; and with them there went a
boy who made sweet music with his lyre, and sang the Linus-song with
his clear boyish voice.
He wrought also a herd of homed cattle. He made the cows of gold and
tin, and they lowed as they came full speed out of the yards to go and
feed among the waving reeds that grow by the banks of the river. Along
with the cattle there went four shepherds, all of them in gold, and
their nine fleet dogs went with them. Two terrible lions had
fastened on a bellowing bull that was with the foremost cows, and
bellow as he might they haled him, while the dogs and men gave
chase: the lions tore through the bull's thick hide and were gorging
on his blood and bowels, but the herdsmen were afraid to do
anything, and only hounded on their dogs; the dogs dared not fasten on
the lions but stood by barking and keeping out of harm's way.
The god wrought also a pasture in a fair mountain dell, and large
flock of sheep, with a homestead and huts, and sheltered sheepfolds.
Furthermore he wrought a green, like that which Daedalus once made
in Cnossus for lovely Ariadne. Hereon there danced youths and
maidens whom all would woo, with their hands on one another's
wrists. The maidens wore robes of light linen, and the youths well
woven shirts that were slightly oiled. The girls were crowned with
garlands, while the young men had daggers of gold that hung by
silver baldrics; sometimes they would dance deftly in a ring with
merry twinkling feet, as it were a potter sitting at his work and
making trial of his wheel to see whether it will run, and sometimes
they would go all in line with one another, and much people was
gathered joyously about the green. There was a bard also to sing to
them and play his lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in
the midst of them when the man struck up with his tune.
All round the outermost rim of the shield he set the mighty stream
of the river Oceanus.
Then when he had fashioned the shield so great and strong, he made a
breastplate also that shone brighter than fire. He made helmet,
close fitting to the brow, and richly worked, with a golden plume
overhanging it; and he made greaves also of beaten tin.
Lastly, when the famed lame god had made all the armour, he took
it and set it before the mother of Achilles; whereon she darted like a
falcon from the snowy summits of Olympus and bore away the gleaming
armour from the house of Vulcan.
The Last Tournament
Dagonet, the fool, whom Gawain in his mood
Had made mock-knight of Arthur's Table Round,
At Camelot, high above the yellowing woods,
Danced like a withered leaf before the hall.
And toward him from the hall, with harp in hand,
And from the crown thereof a carcanet
Of ruby swaying to and fro, the prize
Of Tristram in the jousts of yesterday,
Came Tristram, saying, `Why skip ye so, Sir Fool?'
For Arthur and Sir Lancelot riding once
Far down beneath a winding wall of rock
Heard a child wail. A stump of oak half-dead,
From roots like some black coil of carven snakes,
Clutched at the crag, and started through mid air
Bearing an eagle's nest: and through the tree
Rushed ever a rainy wind, and through the wind
Pierced ever a child's cry: and crag and tree
Scaling, Sir Lancelot from the perilous nest,
This ruby necklace thrice around her neck,
And all unscarred from beak or talon, brought
A maiden babe; which Arthur pitying took,
Then gave it to his Queen to rear: the Queen
But coldly acquiescing, in her white arms
Received, and after loved it tenderly,
And named it Nestling; so forgot herself
A moment, and her cares; till that young life
Being smitten in mid heaven with mortal cold
Past from her; and in time the carcanet
Vext her with plaintive memories of the child:
So she, delivering it to Arthur, said,
`Take thou the jewels of this dead innocence,
And make them, an thou wilt, a tourney-prize.'
To whom the King, `Peace to thine eagle-borne
Dead nestling, and this honour after death,
Following thy will! but, O my Queen, I muse
Why ye not wear on arm, or neck, or zone
Those diamonds that I rescued from the tarn,
And Lancelot won, methought, for thee to wear.'
`Would rather you had let them fall,' she cried,
`Plunge and be lost-ill-fated as they were,
A bitterness to me!-ye look amazed,
Not knowing they were lost as soon as given-
Slid from my hands, when I was leaning out
Above the river-that unhappy child
Past in her barge: but rosier luck will go
With these rich jewels, seeing that they came
Not from the skeleton of a brother-slayer,
But the sweet body of a maiden babe.
Perchance-who knows?-the purest of thy knights
May win them for the purest of my maids.'
She ended, and the cry of a great jousts
With trumpet-blowings ran on all the ways
From Camelot in among the faded fields
To furthest towers; and everywhere the knights
Armed for a day of glory before the King.
But on the hither side of that loud morn
Into the hall staggered, his visage ribbed
From ear to ear with dogwhip-weals, his nose
Bridge-broken, one eye out, and one hand off,
And one with shattered fingers dangling lame,
A churl, to whom indignantly the King,
`My churl, for whom Christ died, what evil beast
Hath drawn his claws athwart thy face? or fiend?
Man was it who marred heaven's image in thee thus?'
Then, sputtering through the hedge of splintered teeth,
Yet strangers to the tongue, and with blunt stump
Pitch-blackened sawing the air, said the maimed churl,
`He took them and he drave them to his tower-
Some hold he was a table-knight of thine-
A hundred goodly ones-the Red Knight, he-
Lord, I was tending swine, and the Red Knight
Brake in upon me and drave them to his tower;
And when I called upon thy name as one
That doest right by gentle and by churl,
Maimed me and mauled, and would outright have slain,
Save that he sware me to a message, saying,
'Tell thou the King and all his liars, that I
Have founded my Round Table in the North,
And whatsoever his own knights have sworn
My knights have sworn the counter to it-and say
My tower is full of harlots, like his court,
But mine are worthier, seeing they profess
To be none other than themselves-and say
My knights are all adulterers like his own,
But mine are truer, seeing they profess
To be none other; and say his hour is come,
The heathen are upon him, his long lance
Broken, and his Excalibur a straw.''
Then Arthur turned to Kay the seneschal,
`Take thou my churl, and tend him curiously
Like a king's heir, till all his hurts be whole.
The heathen-but that ever-climbing wave,
Hurled back again so often in empty foam,
Hath lain for years at rest-and renegades,
Thieves, bandits, leavings of confusion, whom
The wholesome realm is purged of otherwhere,
Friends, through your manhood and your fealty,-now
Make their last head like Satan in the North.
My younger knights, new-made, in whom your flower
Waits to be solid fruit of golden deeds,
Move with me toward their quelling, which achieved,
The loneliest ways are safe from shore to shore.
But thou, Sir Lancelot, sitting in my place
Enchaired tomorrow, arbitrate the field;
For wherefore shouldst thou care to mingle with it,
Only to yield my Queen her own again?
Speak, Lancelot, thou art silent: is it well?'
Thereto Sir Lancelot answered, `It is well:
Yet better if the King abide, and leave
The leading of his younger knights to me.
Else, for the King has willed it, it is well.'
Then Arthur rose and Lancelot followed him,
And while they stood without the doors, the King
Turned to him saying, `Is it then so well?
Or mine the blame that oft I seem as he
Of whom was written, 'A sound is in his ears'?
The foot that loiters, bidden go,-the glance
That only seems half-loyal to command,-
A manner somewhat fallen from reverence-
Or have I dreamed the bearing of our knights
Tells of a manhood ever less and lower?
Or whence the fear lest this my realm, upreared,
By noble deeds at one with noble vows,
From flat confusion and brute violences,
Reel back into the beast, and be no more?'
He spoke, and taking all his younger knights,
Down the slope city rode, and sharply turned
North by the gate. In her high bower the Queen,
Working a tapestry, lifted up her head,
Watched her lord pass, and knew not that she sighed.
Then ran across her memory the strange rhyme
Of bygone Merlin, `Where is he who knows?
From the great deep to the great deep he goes.'
But when the morning of a tournament,
By these in earnest those in mockery called
The Tournament of the Dead Innocence,
Brake with a wet wind blowing, Lancelot,
Round whose sick head all night, like birds of prey,
The words of Arthur flying shrieked, arose,
And down a streetway hung with folds of pure
White samite, and by fountains running wine,
Where children sat in white with cups of gold,
Moved to the lists, and there, with slow sad steps
Ascending, filled his double-dragoned chair.
He glanced and saw the stately galleries,
Dame, damsel, each through worship of their Queen
White-robed in honour of the stainless child,
And some with scattered jewels, like a bank
Of maiden snow mingled with sparks of fire.
He looked but once, and vailed his eyes again.
The sudden trumpet sounded as in a dream
To ears but half-awaked, then one low roll
Of Autumn thunder, and the jousts began:
And ever the wind blew, and yellowing leaf
And gloom and gleam, and shower and shorn plume
Went down it. Sighing weariedly, as one
Who sits and gazes on a faded fire,
When all the goodlier guests are past away,
Sat their great umpire, looking o'er the lists.
He saw the laws that ruled the tournament
Broken, but spake not; once, a knight cast down
Before his throne of arbitration cursed
The dead babe and the follies of the King;
And once the laces of a helmet cracked,
And showed him, like a vermin in its hole,
Modred, a narrow face: anon he heard
The voice that billowed round the barriers roar
An ocean-sounding welcome to one knight,
But newly-entered, taller than the rest,
And armoured all in forest green, whereon
There tript a hundred tiny silver deer,
And wearing but a holly-spray for crest,
With ever-scattering berries, and on shield
A spear, a harp, a bugle-Tristram-late
From overseas in Brittany returned,
And marriage with a princess of that realm,
Isolt the White-Sir Tristram of the Woods-
Whom Lancelot knew, had held sometime with pain
His own against him, and now yearned to shake
The burthen off his heart in one full shock
With Tristram even to death: his strong hands gript
And dinted the gilt dragons right and left,
Until he groaned for wrath-so many of those,
That ware their ladies' colours on the casque,
Drew from before Sir Tristram to the bounds,
And there with gibes and flickering mockeries
Stood, while he muttered, `Craven crests! O shame!
What faith have these in whom they sware to love?
The glory of our Round Table is no more.'
So Tristram won, and Lancelot gave, the gems,
Not speaking other word than `Hast thou won?
Art thou the purest, brother? See, the hand
Wherewith thou takest this, is red!' to whom
Tristram, half plagued by Lancelot's languorous mood,
Made answer, `Ay, but wherefore toss me this
Like a dry bone cast to some hungry hound?
Lest be thy fair Queen's fantasy. Strength of heart
And might of limb, but mainly use and skill,
Are winners in this pastime of our King.
My hand-belike the lance hath dript upon it-
No blood of mine, I trow; but O chief knight,
Right arm of Arthur in the battlefield,
Great brother, thou nor I have made the world;
Be happy in thy fair Queen as I in mine.'
And Tristram round the gallery made his horse
Caracole; then bowed his homage, bluntly saying,
`Fair damsels, each to him who worships each
Sole Queen of Beauty and of love, behold
This day my Queen of Beauty is not here.'
And most of these were mute, some angered, one
Murmuring, `All courtesy is dead,' and one,
`The glory of our Round Table is no more.'
Then fell thick rain, plume droopt and mantle clung,
And pettish cries awoke, and the wan day
Went glooming down in wet and weariness:
But under her black brows a swarthy one
Laughed shrilly, crying, `Praise the patient saints,
Our one white day of Innocence hath past,
Though somewhat draggled at the skirt. So be it.
The snowdrop only, flowering through the year,
Would make the world as blank as Winter-tide.
Come-let us gladden their sad eyes, our Queen's
And Lancelot's, at this night's solemnity
With all the kindlier colours of the field.'
So dame and damsel glittered at the feast
Variously gay: for he that tells the tale
Likened them, saying, as when an hour of cold
Falls on the mountain in midsummer snows,
And all the purple slopes of mountain flowers
Pass under white, till the warm hour returns
With veer of wind, and all are flowers again;
So dame and damsel cast the simple white,
And glowing in all colours, the live grass,
Rose-campion, bluebell, kingcup, poppy, glanced
About the revels, and with mirth so loud
Beyond all use, that, half-amazed, the Queen,
And wroth at Tristram and the lawless jousts,
Brake up their sports, then slowly to her bower
Parted, and in her bosom pain was lord.
And little Dagonet on the morrow morn,
High over all the yellowing Autumn-tide,
Danced like a withered leaf before the hall.
Then Tristram saying, `Why skip ye so, Sir Fool?'
Wheeled round on either heel, Dagonet replied,
`Belike for lack of wiser company;
Or being fool, and seeing too much wit
Makes the world rotten, why, belike I skip
To know myself the wisest knight of all.'
`Ay, fool,' said Tristram, `but 'tis eating dry
To dance without a catch, a roundelay
To dance to.' Then he twangled on his harp,
And while he twangled little Dagonet stood
Quiet as any water-sodden log
Stayed in the wandering warble of a brook;
But when the twangling ended, skipt again;
And being asked, `Why skipt ye not, Sir Fool?'
Made answer, `I had liefer twenty years
Skip to the broken music of my brains
Than any broken music thou canst make.'
Then Tristram, waiting for the quip to come,
`Good now, what music have I broken, fool?'
And little Dagonet, skipping, `Arthur, the King's;
For when thou playest that air with Queen Isolt,
Thou makest broken music with thy bride,
Her daintier namesake down in Brittany-
And so thou breakest Arthur's music too.'
`Save for that broken music in thy brains,
Sir Fool,' said Tristram, `I would break thy head.
Fool, I came too late, the heathen wars were o'er,
The life had flown, we sware but by the shell-
I am but a fool to reason with a fool-
Come, thou art crabbed and sour: but lean me down,
Sir Dagonet, one of thy long asses' ears,
And harken if my music be not true.
`'Free love-free field-we love but while we may:
The woods are hushed, their music is no more:
The leaf is dead, the yearning past away:
New leaf, new life-the days of frost are o'er:
New life, new love, to suit the newer day:
New loves are sweet as those that went before:
Free love-free field-we love but while we may.'
`Ye might have moved slow-measure to my tune,
Not stood stockstill. I made it in the woods,
And heard it ring as true as tested gold.'
But Dagonet with one foot poised in his hand,
`Friend, did ye mark that fountain yesterday
Made to run wine?-but this had run itself
All out like a long life to a sour end-
And them that round it sat with golden cups
To hand the wine to whosoever came-
The twelve small damosels white as Innocence,
In honour of poor Innocence the babe,
Who left the gems which Innocence the Queen
Lent to the King, and Innocence the King
Gave for a prize-and one of those white slips
Handed her cup and piped, the pretty one,
'Drink, drink, Sir Fool,' and thereupon I drank,
Spat-pish-the cup was gold, the draught was mud.'
And Tristram, `Was it muddier than thy gibes?
Is all the laughter gone dead out of thee?-
Not marking how the knighthood mock thee, fool-
'Fear God: honour the King-his one true knight-
Sole follower of the vows'-for here be they
Who knew thee swine enow before I came,
Smuttier than blasted grain: but when the King
Had made thee fool, thy vanity so shot up
It frighted all free fool from out thy heart;
Which left thee less than fool, and less than swine,
A naked aught-yet swine I hold thee still,
For I have flung thee pearls and find thee swine.'
And little Dagonet mincing with his feet,
`Knight, an ye fling those rubies round my neck
In lieu of hers, I'll hold thou hast some touch
Of music, since I care not for thy pearls.
Swine? I have wallowed, I have washed-the world
Is flesh and shadow-I have had my day.
The dirty nurse, Experience, in her kind
Hath fouled me-an I wallowed, then I washed-
I have had my day and my philosophies-
And thank the Lord I am King Arthur's fool.
Swine, say ye? swine, goats, asses, rams and geese
Trooped round a Paynim harper once, who thrummed
On such a wire as musically as thou
Some such fine song-but never a king's fool.'
And Tristram, `Then were swine, goats, asses, geese
The wiser fools, seeing thy Paynim bard
Had such a mastery of his mystery
That he could harp his wife up out of hell.'
Then Dagonet, turning on the ball of his foot,
`And whither harp'st thou thine? down! and thyself
Down! and two more: a helpful harper thou,
That harpest downward! Dost thou know the star
We call the harp of Arthur up in heaven?'
And Tristram, `Ay, Sir Fool, for when our King
Was victor wellnigh day by day, the knights,
Glorying in each new glory, set his name
High on all hills, and in the signs of heaven.'
And Dagonet answered, `Ay, and when the land
Was freed, and the Queen false, ye set yourself
To babble about him, all to show your wit-
And whether he were King by courtesy,
Or King by right-and so went harping down
The black king's highway, got so far, and grew
So witty that ye played at ducks and drakes
With Arthur's vows on the great lake of fire.
Tuwhoo! do ye see it? do ye see the star?'
`Nay, fool,' said Tristram, `not in open day.'
And Dagonet, `Nay, nor will: I see it and hear.
It makes a silent music up in heaven,
And I, and Arthur and the angels hear,
And then we skip.' `Lo, fool,' he said, `ye talk
Fool's treason: is the King thy brother fool?'
Then little Dagonet clapt his hands and shrilled,
`Ay, ay, my brother fool, the king of fools!
Conceits himself as God that he can make
Figs out of thistles, silk from bristles, milk
From burning spurge, honey from hornet-combs,
And men from beasts-Long live the king of fools!'
And down the city Dagonet danced away;
But through the slowly-mellowing avenues
And solitary passes of the wood
Rode Tristram toward Lyonnesse and the west.
Before him fled the face of Queen Isolt
With ruby-circled neck, but evermore
Past, as a rustle or twitter in the wood
Made dull his inner, keen his outer eye
For all that walked, or crept, or perched, or flew.
Anon the face, as, when a gust hath blown,
Unruffling waters re-collect the shape
Of one that in them sees himself, returned;
But at the slot or fewmets of a deer,
Or even a fallen feather, vanished again.
So on for all that day from lawn to lawn
Through many a league-long bower he rode. At length
A lodge of intertwisted beechen-boughs
Furze-crammed, and bracken-rooft, the which himself
Built for a summer day with Queen Isolt
Against a shower, dark in the golden grove
Appearing, sent his fancy back to where
She lived a moon in that low lodge with him:
Till Mark her lord had past, the Cornish King,
With six or seven, when Tristram was away,
And snatched her thence; yet dreading worse than shame
Her warrior Tristram, spake not any word,
But bode his hour, devising wretchedness.
And now that desert lodge to Tristram lookt
So sweet, that halting, in he past, and sank
Down on a drift of foliage random-blown;
But could not rest for musing how to smoothe
And sleek his marriage over to the Queen.
Perchance in lone Tintagil far from all
The tonguesters of the court she had not heard.
But then what folly had sent him overseas
After she left him lonely here? a name?
Was it the name of one in Brittany,
Isolt, the daughter of the King? `Isolt
Of the white hands' they called her: the sweet name
Allured him first, and then the maid herself,
Who served him well with those white hands of hers,
And loved him well, until himself had thought
He loved her also, wedded easily,
But left her all as easily, and returned.
The black-blue Irish hair and Irish eyes
Had drawn him home-what marvel? then he laid
His brows upon the drifted leaf and dreamed.
He seemed to pace the strand of Brittany
Between Isolt of Britain and his bride,
And showed them both the ruby-chain, and both
Began to struggle for it, till his Queen
Graspt it so hard, that all her hand was red.
Then cried the Breton, `Look, her hand is red!
These be no rubies, this is frozen blood,
And melts within her hand-her hand is hot
With ill desires, but this I gave thee, look,
Is all as cool and white as any flower.'
Followed a rush of eagle's wings, and then
A whimpering of the spirit of the child,
Because the twain had spoiled her carcanet.
He dreamed; but Arthur with a hundred spears
Rode far, till o'er the illimitable reed,
And many a glancing plash and sallowy isle,
The wide-winged sunset of the misty marsh
Glared on a huge machicolated tower
That stood with open doors, whereout was rolled
A roar of riot, as from men secure
Amid their marshes, ruffians at their ease
Among their harlot-brides, an evil song.
`Lo there,' said one of Arthur's youth, for there,
High on a grim dead tree before the tower,
A goodly brother of the Table Round
Swung by the neck: and on the boughs a shield
Showing a shower of blood in a field noir,
And therebeside a horn, inflamed the knights
At that dishonour done the gilded spur,
Till each would clash the shield, and blow the horn.
But Arthur waved them back. Alone he rode.
Then at the dry harsh roar of the great horn,
That sent the face of all the marsh aloft
An ever upward-rushing storm and cloud
Of shriek and plume, the Red Knight heard, and all,
Even to tipmost lance and topmost helm,
In blood-red armour sallying, howled to the King,
`The teeth of Hell flay bare and gnash thee flat!-
Lo! art thou not that eunuch-hearted King
Who fain had clipt free manhood from the world-
The woman-worshipper? Yea, God's curse, and I!
Slain was the brother of my paramour
By a knight of thine, and I that heard her whine
And snivel, being eunuch-hearted too,
Sware by the scorpion-worm that twists in hell,
And stings itself to everlasting death,
To hang whatever knight of thine I fought
And tumbled. Art thou King? -Look to thy life!'
He ended: Arthur knew the voice; the face
Wellnigh was helmet-hidden, and the name
Went wandering somewhere darkling in his mind.
And Arthur deigned not use of word or sword,
But let the drunkard, as he stretched from horse
To strike him, overbalancing his bulk,
Down from the causeway heavily to the swamp
Fall, as the crest of some slow-arching wave,
Heard in dead night along that table-shore,
Drops flat, and after the great waters break
Whitening for half a league, and thin themselves,
Far over sands marbled with moon and cloud,
From less and less to nothing; thus he fell
Head-heavy; then the knights, who watched him, roared
And shouted and leapt down upon the fallen;
There trampled out his face from being known,
And sank his head in mire, and slimed themselves:
Nor heard the King for their own cries, but sprang
Through open doors, and swording right and left
Men, women, on their sodden faces, hurled
The tables over and the wines, and slew
Till all the rafters rang with woman-yells,
And all the pavement streamed with massacre:
Then, echoing yell with yell, they fired the tower,
Which half that autumn night, like the live North,
Red-pulsing up through Alioth and Alcor,
Made all above it, and a hundred meres
About it, as the water Moab saw
Came round by the East, and out beyond them flushed
The long low dune, and lazy-plunging sea.
So all the ways were safe from shore to shore,
But in the heart of Arthur pain was lord.
Then, out of Tristram waking, the red dream
Fled with a shout, and that low lodge returned,
Mid-forest, and the wind among the boughs.
He whistled his good warhorse left to graze
Among the forest greens, vaulted upon him,
And rode beneath an ever-showering leaf,
Till one lone woman, weeping near a cross,
Stayed him. `Why weep ye?' `Lord,' she said, `my man
Hath left me or is dead;' whereon he thought-
`What, if she hate me now? I would not this.
What, if she love me still? I would not that.
I know not what I would'-but said to her,
`Yet weep not thou, lest, if thy mate return,
He find thy favour changed and love thee not'-
Then pressing day by day through Lyonnesse
Last in a roky hollow, belling, heard
The hounds of Mark, and felt the goodly hounds
Yelp at his heart, but turning, past and gained
Tintagil, half in sea, and high on land,
A crown of towers.
Down in a casement sat,
A low sea-sunset glorying round her hair
And glossy-throated grace, Isolt the Queen.
And when she heard the feet of Tristram grind
The spiring stone that scaled about her tower,
Flushed, started, met him at the doors, and there
Belted his body with her white embrace,
Crying aloud, `Not Mark-not Mark, my soul!
The footstep fluttered me at first: not he:
Catlike through his own castle steals my Mark,
But warrior-wise thou stridest through his halls
Who hates thee, as I him-even to the death.
My soul, I felt my hatred for my Mark
Quicken within me, and knew that thou wert nigh.'
To whom Sir Tristram smiling, `I am here.
Let be thy Mark, seeing he is not thine.'
And drawing somewhat backward she replied,
`Can he be wronged who is not even his own,
But save for dread of thee had beaten me,
Scratched, bitten, blinded, marred me somehow-Mark?
What rights are his that dare not strike for them?
Not lift a hand-not, though he found me thus!
But harken! have ye met him? hence he went
Today for three days' hunting-as he said-
And so returns belike within an hour.
Mark's way, my soul!-but eat not thou with Mark,
Because he hates thee even more than fears;
Nor drink: and when thou passest any wood
Close vizor, lest an arrow from the bush
Should leave me all alone with Mark and hell.
My God, the measure of my hate for Mark
Is as the measure of my love for thee.'
So, plucked one way by hate and one by love,
Drained of her force, again she sat, and spake
To Tristram, as he knelt before her, saying,
`O hunter, and O blower of the horn,
Harper, and thou hast been a rover too,
For, ere I mated with my shambling king,
Ye twain had fallen out about the bride
Of one-his name is out of me-the prize,
If prize she were-(what marvel-she could see)-
Thine, friend; and ever since my craven seeks
To wreck thee villainously: but, O Sir Knight,
What dame or damsel have ye kneeled to last?'
And Tristram, `Last to my Queen Paramount,
Here now to my Queen Paramount of love
And loveliness-ay, lovelier than when first
Her light feet fell on our rough Lyonnesse,
Sailing from Ireland.'
Softly laughed Isolt;
`Flatter me not, for hath not our great Queen
My dole of beauty trebled?' and he said,
`Her beauty is her beauty, and thine thine,
And thine is more to me-soft, gracious, kind-
Save when thy Mark is kindled on thy lips
Most gracious; but she, haughty, even to him,
Lancelot; for I have seen him wan enow
To make one doubt if ever the great Queen
Have yielded him her love.'
To whom Isolt,
`Ah then, false hunter and false harper, thou
Who brakest through the scruple of my bond,
Calling me thy white hind, and saying to me
That Guinevere had sinned against the highest,
And I-misyoked with such a want of man-
That I could hardly sin against the lowest.'
He answered, `O my soul, be comforted!
If this be sweet, to sin in leading-strings,
If here be comfort, and if ours be sin,
Crowned warrant had we for the crowning sin
That made us happy: but how ye greet me-fear
And fault and doubt-no word of that fond tale-
Thy deep heart-yearnings, thy sweet memories
Of Tristram in that year he was away.'
And, saddening on the sudden, spake Isolt,
`I had forgotten all in my strong joy
To see thee-yearnings?-ay! for, hour by hour,
Here in the never-ended afternoon,
O sweeter than all memories of thee,
Deeper than any yearnings after thee
Seemed those far-rolling, westward-smiling seas,
Watched from this tower. Isolt of Britain dashed
Before Isolt of Brittany on the strand,
Would that have chilled her bride-kiss? Wedded her?
Fought in her father's battles? wounded there?
The King was all fulfilled with gratefulness,
And she, my namesake of the hands, that healed
Thy hurt and heart with unguent and caress-
Well-can I wish her any huger wrong
Than having known thee? her too hast thou left
To pine and waste in those sweet memories.
O were I not my Mark's, by whom all men
Are noble, I should hate thee more than love.'
And Tristram, fondling her light hands, replied,
`Grace, Queen, for being loved: she loved me well.
Did I love her? the name at least I loved.
Isolt?-I fought his battles, for Isolt!
The night was dark; the true star set. Isolt!
The name was ruler of the dark-Isolt?
Care not for her! patient, and prayerful, meek,
Pale-blooded, she will yield herself to God.'
And Isolt answered, `Yea, and why not I?
Mine is the larger need, who am not meek,
Pale-blooded, prayerful. Let me tell thee now.
Here one black, mute midsummer night I sat,
Lonely, but musing on thee, wondering where,
Murmuring a light song I had heard thee sing,
And once or twice I spake thy name aloud.
Then flashed a levin-brand; and near me stood,
In fuming sulphur blue and green, a fiend-
Mark's way to steal behind one in the dark-
For there was Mark: 'He has wedded her,' he said,
Not said, but hissed it: then this crown of towers
So shook to such a roar of all the sky,
That here in utter dark I swooned away,
And woke again in utter dark, and cried,
'I will flee hence and give myself to God'-
And thou wert lying in thy new leman's arms.'
Then Tristram, ever dallying with her hand,
`May God be with thee, sweet, when old and gray,
And past desire!' a saying that angered her.
`'May God be with thee, sweet, when thou art old,
And sweet no more to me!' I need Him now.
For when had Lancelot uttered aught so gross
Even to the swineherd's malkin in the mast?
The greater man, the greater courtesy.
Far other was the Tristram, Arthur's knight!
But thou, through ever harrying thy wild beasts-
Save that to touch a harp, tilt with a lance
Becomes thee well-art grown wild beast thyself.
How darest thou, if lover, push me even
In fancy from thy side, and set me far
In the gray distance, half a life away,
Her to be loved no more? Unsay it, unswear!
Flatter me rather, seeing me so weak,
Broken with Mark and hate and solitude,
Thy marriage and mine own, that I should suck
Lies like sweet wines: lie to me: I believe.
Will ye not lie? not swear, as there ye kneel,
And solemnly as when ye sware to him,
The man of men, our King-My God, the power
Was once in vows when men believed the King!
They lied not then, who sware, and through their vows
The King prevailing made his realm:-I say,
Swear to me thou wilt love me even when old,
Gray-haired, and past desire, and in despair.'
Then Tristram, pacing moodily up and down,
`Vows! did you keep the vow you made to Mark
More than I mine? Lied, say ye? Nay, but learnt,
The vow that binds too strictly snaps itself-
My knighthood taught me this-ay, being snapt-
We run more counter to the soul thereof
Than had we never sworn. I swear no more.
I swore to the great King, and am forsworn.
For once-even to the height-I honoured him.
'Man, is he man at all?' methought, when first
I rode from our rough Lyonnesse, and beheld
That victor of the Pagan throned in hall-
His hair, a sun that rayed from off a brow
Like hillsnow high in heaven, the steel-blue eyes,
The golden beard that clothed his lips with light-
Moreover, that weird legend of his birth,
With Merlin's mystic babble about his end
Amazed me; then, his foot was on a stool
Shaped as a dragon; he seemed to me no man,
But Micha l trampling Satan; so I sware,
Being amazed: but this went by- The vows!
O ay-the wholesome madness of an hour-
They served their use, their time; for every knight
Believed himself a greater than himself,
And every follower eyed him as a God;
Till he, being lifted up beyond himself,
Did mightier deeds than elsewise he had done,
And so the realm was made; but then their vows-
First mainly through that sullying of our Queen-
Began to gall the knighthood, asking whence
Had Arthur right to bind them to himself?
Dropt down from heaven? washed up from out the deep?
They failed to trace him through the flesh and blood
Of our old kings: whence then? a doubtful lord
To bind them by inviolable vows,
Which flesh and blood perforce would violate:
For feel this arm of mine-the tide within
Red with free chase and heather-scented air,
Pulsing full man; can Arthur make me pure
As any maiden child? lock up my tongue
From uttering freely what I freely hear?
Bind me to one? The wide world laughs at it.
And worldling of the world am I, and know
The ptarmigan that whitens ere his hour
Woos his own end; we are not angels here
Nor shall be: vows-I am woodman of the woods,
And hear the garnet-headed yaffingale
Mock them: my soul, we love but while we may;
And therefore is my love so large for thee,
Seeing it is not bounded save by love.'
Here ending, he moved toward her, and she said,
`Good: an I turned away my love for thee
To some one thrice as courteous as thyself-
For courtesy wins woman all as well
As valour may, but he that closes both
Is perfect, he is Lancelot-taller indeed,
Rosier and comelier, thou-but say I loved
This knightliest of all knights, and cast thee back
Thine own small saw, 'We love but while we may,'
Well then, what answer?'
He that while she spake,
Mindful of what he brought to adorn her with,
The jewels, had let one finger lightly touch
The warm white apple of her throat, replied,
`Press this a little closer, sweet, until-
Come, I am hungered and half-angered-meat,
Wine, wine-and I will love thee to the death,
And out beyond into the dream to come.'
So then, when both were brought to full accord,
She rose, and set before him all he willed;
And after these had comforted the blood
With meats and wines, and satiated their hearts-
Now talking of their woodland paradise,
The deer, the dews, the fern, the founts, the lawns;
Now mocking at the much ungainliness,
And craven shifts, and long crane legs of Mark-
Then Tristram laughing caught the harp, and sang:
`Ay, ay, O ay-the winds that bend the brier!
A star in heaven, a star within the mere!
Ay, ay, O ay-a star was my desire,
And one was far apart, and one was near:
Ay, ay, O ay-the winds that bow the grass!
And one was water and one star was fire,
And one will ever shine and one will pass.
Ay, ay, O ay-the winds that move the mere.'
Then in the light's last glimmer Tristram showed
And swung the ruby carcanet. She cried,
`The collar of some Order, which our King
Hath newly founded, all for thee, my soul,
For thee, to yield thee grace beyond thy peers.'
`Not so, my Queen,' he said, `but the red fruit
Grown on a magic oak-tree in mid-heaven,
And won by Tristram as a tourney-prize,
And hither brought by Tristram for his last
Love-offering and peace-offering unto thee.'
He spoke, he turned, then, flinging round her neck,
Claspt it, and cried, `Thine Order, O my Queen!'
But, while he bowed to kiss the jewelled throat,
Out of the dark, just as the lips had touched,
Behind him rose a shadow and a shriek-
`Mark's way,' said Mark, and clove him through the brain.
That night came Arthur home, and while he climbed,
All in a death-dumb autumn-dripping gloom,
The stairway to the hall, and looked and saw
The great Queen's bower was dark,-about his feet
A voice clung sobbing till he questioned it,
`What art thou?' and the voice about his feet
Sent up an answer, sobbing, `I am thy fool,
And I shall never make thee smile again.'
Madhur Veena Comment: Who is she? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ....You write good!
Margaret Alice Comment: Beautiful, it stikes as heartfelt words and touches the heart, beautiful sentiments, sorry, I repeat myself, but I am delighted. Your poem is like the trinkets I collect to adorn my personal space, pure joy to read, wonderful! Only a beautiful mind can harbour such sentiments, you have a beautiful mind. I am glad you have found someone that inspires you to such heights and that you share it with us, you make the world a mroe wonderful place.
Margaret Alice Comment: Within the context set by the previous poem, “Cosmic Probe”, the description of a lover’s adoration for his beloved becomes a universal ode sung to the abstract values of love, joy and hope personified by light, colours, fragrance and beauty, qualities the poet assigns to his beloved, thus elevating her to the status of an uplifting force because she brings all these qualities to his attention. The poet recognises that these personified values brings him fulfilment and chose the image of a love relationship to illustrate how this comes about; thus a love poem becomes the vehicle to convey spiritual epiphany.
Margaret Alice Comment: Your words seem to be directed to a divine entity, you seem to be addressing your adoration to a divinity, and it is wonderful to read of such sublime sentiments kindled in a human soul. Mankind is always lifted up by their vision and awareness of divinity, thank you for such pure, clear diction and sharing your awareness of the sublime with us, you have uplifted me so much by this vision you have created!
Margaret Alice Comment: The poet’s words seem to be directed to a divine entity, express adoration to a divinity who is the personification of wonderful qualities which awakens a sense of the sublime in the human soul. An uplifting vision and awareness of uplifting qualities of innocence represented by a beautiful person.
I WENT THERE TO BID HER ADIEU
Kente Lucy Comment: wow great writing, what a way to bid farewell
Margaret Alice Comment: Sensory experience is elevated by its symbolical meaning, your description of the scene shows two souls becoming one and your awareness of the importance of tempory experience as a symbol of the eternal duration of love and companionship - were temporary experience only valid for one moment in time, it would be a sad world, but once it is seen as a symbol of eternal things, it becomes enchanting.
I’M INCOMPLETE WITHOUT YOU
Margaret Alice Comment: You elevate the humnan experience of longing for love to a striving for sublimity in uniting with a beloved person, and this poem is stirring, your style of writing is effective, everything flows together perfectly.
Margaret Alice Comment:
'To a resplendent glow of celestial flow
And two split halves unite never to part.'
Reading your fluent poems is a delight, I have to tear myself away and return to the life of a drudge, but what a treasure trove of jewels you made for the weary soul who needs to contemplate higher ideals from time to time!
IN CELESTIAL WINGS
Margaret Alice Comment: When you describe how you are strengthened by your loved one, it is clear that your inner flame is so strong that you need not fear growing old, your spirit seems to become stronger, you manage to convey this impression by your striking poetry. It is a privilege to read your work.
Obed Dela Cruz Comment: wow.... i remembered will shakespeare.... nice poem!
Margaret Alice Comment: The poet has transcended the barriers of time and space by becoming an image of his beloved and being able to find peace in the joy he confers to his beloved.
'You transcend my limits, transcend my soul, I forget my distress in your thoughts And discover my peace in your joy, For, I’m mere image of you, my beloved.'
Margaret Alice Comment: You are my peace and solace, I know, I am, yours too; A mere flash of your thoughts Enlivens my tired soul And fills me with light, peace and solace, A giant in new world, I become, I rise to divine heights in celestial wings. How I desire to reciprocate To fill you with light and inner strength raise you to divine heights; I must cross over nd hold you in arms, light up your soul, Fill you with strength from my inner core, Wipe away your tears burst out in pure joy How I yearn to instill hope and confidence in you we never part And we shall wait, till time comes right. the flame in my soul always seeks you, you transcend my limits, transcend my soul, I forget my distress in your thoughts And discover my peace in your joy, For, I’m mere image of you, my beloved.
Margaret Alice Comment: As usual, it is the symbolism of making love that is important to me, you clearly depicts the sensual delight, which is fleeting, the enduring aspect of temporary sensory experience lies in its symbolism of unity and inifnite love and read within the context of your previous poems, I think the symbolism is present in this poem also.
Margaret Alice Comment: The symbolism of making love is important, the poem depicts sensual delights, which are fleeting, the enduring aspect of temporary experience lies in its symbolical value of unity and infinite love. Read within the context of the previous poems, the symbolism can be read in this poem also.
SHE SPELLS SIMPLICITY
Sarah Loves Comment: this is awesome
Margaret Alice Comment: Once again you weave the tapestry of the symbolical meaning of her presence in your life and create the context within which sensory experience of love is elevated to the sublime. I repeat myself, I know, but I love these themes.
Margaret Alice Comment: Weaving a tapestry, using a description of lovers to symbolise the presence of love in, creating the context within which sensory experience is elevated to the sublime.
WE DISSOLVED IN THE OTHER
Margaret Alice Comment: Still within context, the poet gives description of sensory love as a symbol of souls united in one goal, eternal love. Humanity is always in danger of separating the playful aspect of lovemaking from its deeper significance. When young, love is the best game their is with no strings attached, as people grow older, they discover how lovemaking becomes a symbol for real affection as loyalty and integrity to a loved one.
Margaret Alice Comment: The scene is very evocative, it could also be the description of sensual love without any other significance than momentary joy, the way young people love, abandoning themselves to physical pleasure without emotional involvement, since young people are on a voyage of discovery and making love is one of the stations along the way. Within the context of this series of poems, I assume the poet wishes to assign an emotional significance to the love he depicts, a love relationship that is meant to last. Very well written, you have done a splendid job.
RHYTHMS OF LIFE
Guillermo Veloso Comment: What a wonderful manifesto. I have been thinking lately of life as a see-saw with our goal the fulcrum. your poem adds clarity to my journey. thank
you for sharing Praveen
I LOVE YOU FOR WHAT YOU ARE
Hasmukh Amathalal Comment: Love sprouts in heart and sits in soul,
Love bounces from the soul to light up loved things,
Love lights steady flame of heavenly bliss
And melts all pride and binds loved ones....ya love bounces from soul to light... truely said... i liked the theme....10
A WALL OF TIME
Rose-marie Mitchell Comment: Nice poem! Nice words! - 'In the womb of deep slumber'.- very poetic.
WE LIVE IN HOPES
Jay greene Comment: amazing is the only word i can think of speechless 10+++++
SHE IS THIRTY, I’M SIXTY
Sadiqullah Khan Comment: This is simple mathematics. Use your lower half (sixty divided by two is equal to thirty) or wait another thirty years for her to become sixty.
BE YOU IN WORDS
Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Good advice, worth following. Will take it to my list, for reference. Thanks for sharing Praveen.10
HIS SMILE FLOODS TREASURE
Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Lucky guy.....................
Sumita Datta Comment: But... it's a recurring strokes... It won't stop...
BYGONES ARE BYGONES
Sumita Datta Comment: Actually, bygones are bygones.. liked your piece of work...
Bonnie Shipman Comment: Praveen, this is very beautiful. The words flow smoothly and finely. In it, I see God's search for man. Even when we would hide ourselves from the living God, He finds us and calls to us. We need only to respond.
Margaret Alice Comment:
'I chose words, I created worlds
To impale you in poetry's net; '
Struck me forcibly - to catch and hold through the power of words...
Bonnie Shipman Comment: I am glad for the expression of this poem. But one question- what of the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit? It is the spirit which holds the most beauty.
I see music in his hands.
I see eloquence in her mouth.
I see dancing in his feet.
I see understanding in her eyes.
I see prayer in he knees.
I see giving in her arms.
I see compassion in his shoulders.
I see love in their eyes.
I see God in their soul.
Margaret Alice Comment: 'makes sorrow sweet and excess joy bitter
To guide the life through a healthy rich path
Of eternal peace and contentment; '
Eternal, the magic word, take sweetness from joy to sweeten sorrow...
Margaret Alice Comment: A cosmic scope, the speaker becomes a symbol of the dark earth [body] lying in wait for the power of light [spirit] to find and fill it with life and joy. The reader can find several symbols in the poem, find the image of imprisoned lover waiting to be found by the beloved who seeks him out in his despondency and brings hope and joy to his soul. the soul keeps seeking the physical body because it is home, allowing it to interact with other aspects of reality – or infinity. The lover and his beloved becomes a symbol of the unity between spirit and soul. It is a pleasure to come upon a poem that allows the reader scope to speculate in this way.
HER SWEET SOUL NEVER HURTS ANY
Margaret Alice Comment: The poet personifies the qualities of love, compassion, humility, upliftment, righteousness, as a “queen” that reigns over him and controls his actions. He uses the description of adoration for a beloved as a symbol to illustrate his relationship with these qualities that he admires so much. He assigns these admirable virtues to a powerful being who has the ability to reign over him.
Margaret Alice Comment: The unity aspired to and attained in embracing a beloved can be seen symbolise the eternity of love – memories and thoughts are important as ties that bind the poet to the beloved – within the context of this series of poems the beloved is the personification of man’s higher aspirations. When memories and thoughts are lost, love remains and love is symbolised by unity.
IN NATURE’S CELESTIAL TIE
Margaret Alice Comment: 'I live in her, and she, in me, indivisible ever, '
A beautiful depiction of love and hope.
MY SELFLESS ANGEL
Margaret Alice Comment: 'She found her joy I could not give her In my barren shadow, sadly bleak and cold.'
What a strange poem, it can be interpreted in so many ways, within the context of these series, it seems that the virtues personified by the angel would not desert the poet even when he refused to embrace them wholly - I think.
SOUL BOUND TO SOUL
Margaret Alice Comment: 'We know we are one and destined to blend.'
'But, comes our time, all is worth of it.'
Now this is positive, what a great exmaple for the discouraged and tired seeker, keep the faith and all is worth it - great words, inspiring, lovely.
Margaret Alice Comment:
'Oh, how a thing of beauty, breeds that much pain!
How gentle love throttles joy, brings misfortunes! '
I always goes with Terry Pratchett's interpretations when confronted with sad tales like these - just as Romeo and Juliet should have checked for pulse before killing themselves, these characters should have acted in a different way - seems like Pratchett and I refuse to accept sad endings as inevitable - I never shall. Quantum physics says the universe splits every time a decision is made and quite the reverse takes place somewhere else - the universe split and in a parallel universe these two lovers are living happily!
SHE IS PURE GOLD
Margaret Alice Comment: “Wisdom” calling to foolish men and women mentioned to in Proverbs, the Bible, seems to be delineated in this description. Wisdom always seemed to be an aspect of beauty, because beauty without wisdom would lack harmony, balance, truth, joy, peace – this description seems to refer to the highest ideals men aspire to. Lovely way to put it.
WHILE TIME COMES RIGHT
Margaret Alice Comment:
'Yet, a distant glimmer deep in my heart
Distinctly whispers that all is not lost,
Everything will be right while time comes right.'
That's it, hope and trust always, it gives meaning to human lives and best of all, it creates a positive ending, if you don't waver, your wishes will be fulfilled.
SHE FLOODS MY SOUL
Margaret Alice Comment: 'She is the precious jewel I sought all my life.'
This reminds the reader of the parable in the New Testament, when a man found a precious jewel in a piece of land, he buried it again and went away and sold all his possessions and bought that piece of land to keep that jewel for himself.
Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: ‘I’m “Simply Yours”’ a Romantic poem the …vibe spinning tangentially into horizon and picturesque…10
Margaret Alice Comment: You are my world, my light, You are my fulfillment, You are my reason, my meaning, You are my cause and target, Wherefore I move all through life.
Hasmukh Amathalal Comment:
You are my world, my light,
You are my fulfillment,
You are my reason, my meaning,
You are my cause and target,
Wherefore I move all through life............open and frank admission I am yours' so beautifully interwove3nwith clear heart and it has moved me with its words.. lovely sir.....10
GULF OF LIFE AND DEATH
Cyanic Orchid Comment: nice expressions........
DIVINE IS MY STATE
MaKayla Straight Comment: WOW! ! ! GOOD JOB! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
Margaret Alice Comment:
“You fill me with such wealth that I, whether high or low,
Need no worldly grace or scope unto me ever flow.”
Ooo, wish all love was like this! I am paid to read dark letters of despair and your uplifting lines is taking me on a journey far away into a new universe of light, love, music and verse. You sing beautifully.
Margaret Alice Comment: 'With an ocean of emotions churning between.'
The universal human condition, yet we all live on surface, we never probe the ice-floes beneath...
TEMPLE OF WORDS
Margaret Alice Comment:
You bring huge waves in the ocean of soul
That washes the shores of heart and mind
With melodious tunes and passions' foams;
While low tides set on the soul's trough,
All go still and disturbingly calm.
This is striking rhythm and melody, oceans of soul and passion's foams, great imagery...
THE TOUCH OF SPRING
Margaret Alice Comment: Comfort, gentle care, warmth - this is real love, wonderful.
Margar et Alice Comment: 'Make life a vaulting heaven, this world, a joy's holy shrine.'
'rousing pleasures' are fleeting, can be a trap, leaves the reveller feeling empty, but the last line is wonderful, the discovery of infinity in the here and now - that is something to dream about.
MY ELUSIVE PRETTY WIFE
Margaret Alice Comment: 'To seek, search and discover my elusive pretty wife. '
What a delightful ode to your wife! I am reading ice-cold words in official grey documents ashen with meaninglessness, therefore it is a delight to follow a series of poems in which a poet delineates love in spiritual terms and emotions are more important than rational logic.
Margaret Alice Comment: What a lovely way to end the official day, words that remind of spiritual truths and joys in feelings and uplifting ideas!
Margaret Alice Comment: it is very difficult to read grey words after these beautiful visions
Margaret Alice Comment: you know not what you are for me, how deep and wide you fill my self,
I LOVE YOU FOR WHAT YOU ARE
Margaret Alice Comment: 'Love is pure bliss, Love is pure feel'
thank you for this reminder that life is bigger than the small official space here and now...
Margaret Alice Comment:
'I love you for what you are,
Not for what you ought to be,
Nor for what you some day is;
You, as you are now, here and near, '
Unconditional love and acceptance, no ifs and buts and demands, to love because, not in spite of.
RISE AGAIN IN THE EAST
Margaret Alice Comment: “on immortal mortal face”
I love juxtapositions like this!
“unite in immortal love’s bond”
That is the only kind of love there is, immortal – I agree.
Margaret Alice Comment:
'You made this life a dulcet music,
A passionate painting, a sensuous poetry.'
You felt this, or imagined it, the ability to feel so much and dream of such visions, it has me in thrall...
Margaret Alice Comment:
You made this life a dulcet music,
A passionate painting, a sensuous poetry.
You dyed my heart in everlasting beauty,
You dyed my soul in everlasting joy;
Margaret Alice Comment: Enormous scope of your visions… bigger than anything I have ever thought about...
Margaret Alice Comment: Shades and hues of infinite joy It is a great world of divine joy Where divinity spreads in fluid opulence, Where love cries in unbound joy, sacred temple Where gods come to worship the queen Who created the world with her pristine charm And lord over it all over since then; The hymns of love and dim temple light Come across to reach only graceful souls. No dusts and smokes of forlorn years Ever ravage her pristine form, Ever disturb her unworldly love, She lives and lives forever and ever in the old world, in all new worlds too.
SHE SMILES FROM A MYSTIC LAND
Margaret Alice Comment: 'Where we dwell in immortal rest.'
Forever and immortal - concepts that give meaning to life.
IN COSMIC CYCLE
Margaret Alice Comment: 'In timeless love that blends our hearts.'
Key word: Timeless - the temporary world is but a window on the eternal timeless spirit that lives forever.
IN CELESTIAL RHYTHM
Margaret Alice Comment: 'She lives in me forever in the shine of my soul, '
'In every streak of love I find anywhere.'
Perfect, love as eternal, every instance of love is one more channel to the infinite source of love, one instance of love opened awareness to all other manifestations of love.
I HEAR ALL DAY YOUR LITTLE WHISPERS
Margaret Alice Comment: ', you are unbound joy, inner peace, sheer harmony, my beauty, my truth and essence.'
'nothing I find harder than knowing you'
So many of us share your quest for mental peace and spiritual joy!
Margaret Alice Comment: 'find her lurking in all splendid things,
In all noble deeds, trusts and all human needs, '
Once again the theme of finding the constant wonder within changing things, finding the eternal beauty within the stream of life ever-changing - holding the eternal within.
I’M JUST NOUGHT WITHOUT HER
Lady Grace Comment: so nice..this poem talks a lot...well appreciated...very nice dear....smileeee
Margaret Alice Comment: “immortal flame of my soul / timeless together / endless bliss / endless future”
This is a language that stirs the soul, uncovers temporality to show the eternal spirit burning wondrously behind short-lived manifestations, the symbols of eternal consciousness.
Margaret Alice Comment: Sarva Karana Karanam, Cause of all causes, Root of all roots, Source of all sources is she.
Yoonoos Peerbocus Comment: you control each stanza up to the theme/ nice write
ALONG THE VENNELS OF YORE
Margaret Alice Comment: 'And held me fast to her for all ages to come.'
Love enduring forever - that is the only true love, the only reality, it lives forever, it is eternity.
ACROSS THE GULF
Margaret Alice Comment: “endless dance, a world of everlasting love and trust”
“endless” and “everlasting”, words that hold more charm than any other in every universe
Margaret Alice Comment: ”Unknown hopes Deepen passions and strengthen bonds.
love does not wait for time's swing, But bides on steadfast patient growth”
Love transcends time’s pendulum and instead of withering, keeps growing, across all intervening space, across the span of time.
Margaret Alice Comment: She sprang from time's tapestry, Like full moon, And streamed soft light all over him; She blew over his heart's barrenness Like the gust of westerly wind do to clouds And poured sprightly rain of joy.A skyward climb discovers descend, ”Unknown hopes Deepen passions and strengthen bonds. love does not wait for time's swing, But bides on steadfast patient growth”
My comment: Yes, love transcends time’s pendulum and instead of withering, keeps growing, across all intervening space.
PARTINGS MEANT TO DEEPEN BOND
Margaret Alice Comment: “While soul is on focus, no labours count, No obstacles haunt, no hurdles mount.”
Having a purpose and led by an ideal, no amount of sacrifice can hold us back, obstacles shrink away under inner power.
“Inseparably we are spliced in endless heavenly field,
Partings we suffer meant perchance to deepen bond.”
When the magnificent effect of temporary pain is understood and meekly submitted to, the pain creates a space for more joy and leaves no scar – we grow stronger at the places where life has broken us, and discover that pain changes us into glowing sticks if we let it!
Margaret Alice Comment: Intense like sun and soft like pure gold,
She stirred my soul to my singular goal
FROM UNKNOWN HORIZONS
Margaret Alice Comment: Perfect description of the soul becoming one with the all, although painful swelling of passion is stilled, the joy of inner experience as oneness is richer with feeling and experience than the physical world ever offered, and giving up the movement of passion is no sacrifice, but the door to a new horizon of celestial joy never experienced before.
“And absorbs me head-on like water on sand;
All passions still, but pure streaks of joy
And I glow as light in communion with light
I see with inner eyes and feel with inner mind;
The soul that drinks the divine glow,
No more sinks back to the hell of black passions.”
Margaret Alice Comment: The reason I love this poem is because it gives hope for transcendence into joy, not away from it. “And absorbs me head-on like water on sand; All passions still, but pure streaks of joy And I glow as light in communion with light I see with inner eyes and feel with inner mind; The soul that drinks the divine glow, No more sinks back to the hell of black passions.”
BLOOMED IN ENDLESS JOY
Margaret Alice Comment: 'Hearts seared in pain for each,
Now bloomed in endless joy; '
Wonderful, the steady, loyal heart recompensed, and even the journey only, the challenge, holds joy indescribable, love is its own recompense, if it also brings the travellers to their beloveds, just so much more beautiful!
Margaret Alice Comment:
'What an immortal joy, you carried on you!
You came and you went, but the light persists all over.
the streams of immortal light, '
This is true love, when the appearance of the loved one changes the lover forever, the joy that was brought is immortal, the light persists even after the person left - the change is eternal and the lovers will be reunited after death for ever and ever. This is the only vision of love that makes life livable - and beautiful.
I KNOW HER
Margaret Alice Comment:
'For eternal commune of souls,
In ecstatic speck of continual 'now', '
Heidegger - in following Zen-Buddhism - experience wihout interpretation - phenomenology - eternal unity and ecstasy as one big eternal present tense - THIS is the perfect spiritual ideal, love becomes godly, the only kind of love to strive for, the dream and ideal...
Margaret Alice Comment: An epic tale of cosmic dimensions...
'Her easy marking him shook deep his soul;
Like life to sunshine, soul to sweet notes,
Her heart danced wild in his warm presence; '
Margaret Alice Comment:
“Trust me”, cried I, “trust the divine designs,
I swear on my lovely Goddess, destiny shall shine bright;
All fears and tears just meant to deepen our mutual bonds;
Nothing shall stop me from bonding to my pretty queen,
Margaret Alice Comment: Only shallow eyes do see me in cage.
MY MORTAL EYES
Margaret Alice Comment: How much I desire to take you in arms And hold you tight to my yearning heart! Tell me where you hide from my mortal eyes; I reach far worlds and find you there
Margaret Alice Comment:
She is my rhythm, the perfect rhyme,
The cosmic dance that bounces worth.
The world is a desert without her presence,
A void is life, devoid of essence;
The spin of time, a whine of hollowness,
Cool and dull, whimpers of shallowness.
Booklover Tv Lounger Comment: Pretty cool. Sounds epic in my opinion, like it should belong to the beggining of an awesome movie or game. Great job! Keep it up
Abhinav Baruah Comment: Thank you
Beautiful fragrance and positive vibrant.....
Abhinav Baruah Comment: 'Man loses to gain,
Falls to rise and bends to standup'
..... Beauty of living.....
Indira Renganathan Comment: The nature is a clean mirror of the soul
Where the soul itself reflects for real,
Bright like the sun, yet soft like the moon
And refreshingly pure like the morning dews.
Amazing observation and study on nature....great
SHINE LIKE THE SUN
Margaret Alice Comment: The poem reminded me of the highest challenge for people who want to shine like the sun: ….. The ideal is to realize one’s full potential without infringing on the rights and happiness of other people. ….. The one who truly shines can love and accept unconditionally without expecting anything in return, ….. – who simply adores and loves the world and its people for the pure reason of the glory of their existence.
Margaret Alice Comment: This exhortation rings beautiful ….. it should be directed to every human being everywhere, …..
“Be different, be the jewel of the crown,
Shine like the sun all over the heaven;
Stand up above the mediocre din
And show how high you are deep within; ”
Margaret Alice Comment: ….. the poet approaching the goddess and asking her to be his muse and share herself, her own inspiring mind and feelings with him, to inspire his poetry so that he can write about the sublime. …..
“Lo, poetry surfaces from discontented soul.
The outside world in the inner cauldron
Sublimates to hot soothing vapour
That lingers in soul like poetic notes;
Trivials of the world, while churned in self,
Coagulate soft and sweet precipitates
That raise this world to enlightenment”,
the poet is addressing his own soul and his own muse, …..
What can I hold to impale you in words,
You wait on the side-stage to dance to tunes
To enter centre-stage, to create new realms,
Build bridges to the mind,
….. it is beautifully written containing all the rhythms and rhymes,
“You pour live words of myriad hues
In forms and shapes and rhythms and depths” the poet is dreaming about.
WINNOCKS OF BEAUTY
Margaret Alice Comment: “as conceived by a poet in a great epic; ” what an overpowering beholder ….. to write an epic song like this, ….. celestial ideal, ….. style is a lovely, alliterative music and ….. take the reader on a heavenly journey –“where desires and peace rise hand in hand, where the heat and light of enlightenment grips the soul glows in divine passions.”
Margaret Alice Comment:
“The road is wild, but a pleasant pursuit
To walk, head held high, in proud respect,
Though hungry beasts with bloody teeth
Wait to pounce and tear her Self.
…..poem brings all the elements of self-respect together that make life worthwhile. The only beasts who can tear self-respect is the subject’s own vision and decision, nobody else’s criticism, opinions or action can ever touch self-respect – it is a citadel, a safe sanctuary, and the source of love – of self and everything else.
Margaret Alice Comment:
The Buddha found his final solace in flight and passivity, the end of all change.
“In nirvana he found the supreme tool;
He attained awareness, he sought all his life;
Gouthama, the Sakyamuni, found abstinence
The cure for all the pain and sorrow.”
”He suffered for all, sacrificed all,
To find the path of deliverance;
He sought and lit the spiritual light
That illumed and liberated self and world
And cast gentle rays on the human race.”
The Buddha gave his life to help those who need to follow the road of sorrow to its very end and attain sainthood – a wonderful thing.
Margaret Alice Comment:
”We partake in a mysterious game,
Where as mere tools, we play the game,
Though inside it, nowhere belong.”
I have great respect for all who share your sentiments and feel the alienation implied by these statements.
THOSE CAREFREE DAYS
Margaret Alice Comment:
“the world was a huge playground then,
but, trust and love filled my world;
the carefree days did light my spirit”
The poet creates a picture of a perfect childhood, an idyllic picture ….
Margaret Alice Comment: Inspiration and ideal personified as a woman, which in turn can be read as the personification of the subconscious also –
Margaret Alice Comment: Theme of inspiration personified as a woman: Together “Blue Beauty and “Poetic Inspiration” form a wonderful whole and the personification of ….. Muse, ascribing sensory experience and inner feeling to the experience, makes it exciting and provocative – thank you for wording your ideas in this way!
LIFE AND COSMOS
Margaret Alice Comment: Thank you for writing a poem about life and its meaning.
“Life is a speck of light
In the womb of infinite darkness,
Life is a chance movement
In the ocean of ceaseless stillness.
Life is a celestial pinhole,
Where matter rocks in endless cycle”
Thank you for offering an opportunity to ponder these things.
I NEVER REACH YOU
Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Indeed your poetic affect will ‘cynosure’ you … weather off … is just wreathing in … Excellent emotive poem... thro’ and thro’ vibe...oscillating…
Ms. Nivedita UK
Dilwyn Bowen Comment: Excellent piece of writing. Your pride and sadness come through with great skill. Must give this a ten and a favourite read.
Margaret Alice Comment: What a lovely way to describe finding an ideal, personifying the ideal as a woman and filling the poem with concrete images and enabling the reader to interact with the poem.
Venkatesh Ram Comment: marvellous.unguided it seems but in reality everything has a cyclic life
Milica Franchi de Luri Comment: 'Life is an ocean of infinite waves' What a lovely metaphor...
Resten Swondo Comment: That befall in grotesque forms
Beyond reason’s confines
beyond reason, there is beauty. for love knows know reason as any man with two good eyes will tell you.
Interesting lyrical power...
Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Rich in metaphor, very elaborate, and thought provoking.10 from me, Kumar.
Sadiqullah Khan Comment: How far should I sail to touch the shore of dreams?
........Nice opening sentence.
Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Long reading. The last stanza summs up.
Is It Poetry Comment: These are...
some of the wisest words
i have come to hear...
Fighting is so useless..
wise fight for family, child, country
and reward of labors...from thief...
Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Thought and knowledge. Well explained.10
Niyas Jamal Comment: jai ho! ! ! ! jai ho! ! ! ! jai ho! ! ! ! jai ho! ! ! !
SHE SPELLS SIMPLICITY
Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Wonderful portraying of femininity in various tones and tunes ….svelte supple lissome limber…
Yeah we women are like that…and look for cooperation from all….this poem aesthetically sounds like: Glory Unto Women …thanks for this tribute-type poem especially when the aura and aroma of World Woman’s Day still oscillating …spreading noetic message … enjoyed by all heart…
Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Amazing…spellbound…full of wisdom…gleaming glittering with all noble thoughts… Finish is ‘We ride the tides of ruthless time/In timeless love that blends our hearts. ‘Ruthless time can’t shackle us where Love is the propelling force… We stay anchored in the sanctuary of Love. Finest diction and plenty of food for contemplation and deeply…10+
IN CELESTIAL RHYTHM
Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Sir to me it is narrative poem rich in metaphor ambience and spilling vibes of emotions. Who she was? Indeed a poetic riddle poets’ love to keep inside …allow readers to ponder and find the answer…and your crafting is likewise… ‘Lay still and breathless, alas, in endless sleep... ‘gush of gosh… well it’s a part of poetry…thanks for sharing. Voted 10
Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Magnificent chant soliloquizing with the All Highest. The canvas is unfathomable but your vibe outstretched max to cover in allness and fullness… you’ve made a free to and fro travel with ‘You and me and I ‘
Finally consecrated yourself ‘And spur you to the probe/By the sheer strength of our bond. ‘ Excellent poetic experience for me and learning …than you very much for such a great poem… Voted 10
SHE IS PURE GOLD
Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Your poem reminds me great Swami Vivekananda’s opinion: Unless she [read women] are respected and adored no nation can progress. Here I find you’ve beautifully followed [might be unknowingly] the same thing… being a woman please don’t think it’s a gender bias I’m favoring for… it’s because of my great country India where I originated…that genotype working subconsciously… Its wonderful poem and enjoyed and cherished thro’ and thru…
Pharsalia - Book 1
The Crossing of the Rubicon
Wars worse than civil on Emathian plains,
And crime let loose we sing; how Rome's high race
Plunged in her vitals her victorious sword;
Armies akin embattled, with the force
Of all the shaken earth bent on the fray;
And burst asunder, to the common guilt,
A kingdom's compact; eagle with eagle met,
Standard to standard, spear opposed to spear.
Whence, citizens, this rage, this boundless lust
To sate barbarians with the blood of Rome?
Did not the shade of Crassus, wandering still,
Cry for his vengeance? Could ye not have spoiled,
To deck your trophies, haughty Babylon?
Why wage campaigns that send no laurels home?
What lands, what oceans might have been the prize
Of all the blood thus shed in civil strife!
Where Titan rises, where night hides the stars,
'Neath southern noons all quivering with heat,
Or where keen frost that never yields to spring
In icy fetters binds the Scythian main:
Long since barbarians by the Eastern sea
And far Araxes' stream, and those who know
(If any such there be) the birth of Nile
Had felt our yoke. Then, Rome, upon thyself
With all the world beneath thee, if thou must,
Wage this nefarious war, but not till then.
Now view the houses with half-ruined walls
Throughout Italian cities; stone from stone
Has slipped and lies at length; within the home
No guard is found, and in the ancient streets so
Scarce seen the passer by. The fields in vain,
Rugged with brambles and unploughed for years,
Ask for the hand of man; for man is not.
Nor savage Pyrrhus nor the Punic horde
E'er caused such havoc: to no foe was given
To strike thus deep; but civil strife alone
Dealt the fell wound and left the death behind.
Yet if the fates could find no other way
For Nero coming, nor the gods with ease
Gain thrones in heaven; and if the Thunderer
Prevailed not till the giant's war was done,
Complaint is silent. For this boon supreme
Welcome, ye gods, be wickedness and crime;
Thronged with our dead be dire Pharsalia's fields,
Be Punic ghosts avenged by Roman blood;
Add to these ills the toils of Mutina;
Perusia's dearth; on Munda's final field
The shock of battle joined; let Leucas' Cape
Shatter the routed navies; servile hands
Unsheath the sword on fiery Etna's slopes:
Still Rome is gainer by the civil war.
Thou, Caesar, art her prize. When thou shalt choose,
Thy watch relieved, to seek divine abodes,
All heaven rejoicing; and shalt hold a throne,
Or else elect to govern Phoebus' car
And light a subject world that shall not dread
To owe her brightness to a different Sun;
All shall concede thy right: do what thou wilt,
Select thy Godhead, and the central clime
Whence thou shalt rule the world with power divine.
And yet the Northern or the Southern Pole
We pray thee, choose not; but in rays direct
Vouchsafe thy radiance to thy city Rome.
Press thou on either side, the universe
Should lose its equipoise: take thou the midst,
And weight the scales, and let that part of heaven
Where Caesar sits, be evermore serene
And smile upon us with unclouded blue.
Then may all men lay down their arms, and peace
Through all the nations reign, and shut the gates
That close the temple of the God of War.
Be thou my help, to me e'en now divine!
Let Delphi's steep her own Apollo guard,
And Nysa keep her Bacchus, uninvoked.
Rome is my subject and my muse art thou!
First of such deeds I purpose to unfold
The causes -- task immense -- what drove to arms
A maddened nation, and from all the world
Struck peace away.
By envious fate's decrees
Abide not long the mightiest lords of earth;
Beneath too heavy a burden great the fall.
Thus Rome o'ergrew her strength. So when that hour,
The last in all the centuries, shall sound
The world's disruption, all things shall revert
To that primaeval chaos, stars on stars
Shall crash; and fiery meteors from the sky
Plunge in the ocean. Earth shall then no more
Front with her bulwark the encroaching sea:
The moon, indignant at her path oblique,
Shall drive her chariot 'gainst her brother Sun
And claim the day for hers; and discord huge
Shall rend the spheres asunder.
Great powers are dashed: such bounds the gods have placed
Upon the prosperous; nor doth Fortune lend
To any nations, so that they may strike
The sovereign power that rules the earth and sea,
The weapons of her envy. Triple reign
And baleful compact for divided power --
Ne'er without peril separate before --
Made Rome their victim. Oh! Ambition blind,
That stirred the leaders so to join their strength
In peace that ended ill, their prize the world!
For while the Sea on Earth and Earth on Air
Lean for support: while Titan runs his course,
And night with day divides an equal sphere,
No king shall brook his fellow, nor shall power
Endure a rival. Search no foreign lands:
These walls are proof that in their infant days
A hamlet, not the world, was prize enough
To cause the shedding of a brother's blood.
Concord, on discord based, brief time endured,
Unwelcome to the rivals; and alone
Crassus delayed the advent of the war.
Like to the slender neck that separates
The seas of Graecia: should it be engulfed
Then would th' Ionian and Aegean mains
Break each on other: thus when Crassus fell,
Who held apart the chiefs, in piteous death,
And stained Assyria's plains with Latian blood,
Defeat in Parthia loosed the war in Rome.
More in that victory than ye thought was won,
Ye sons of Arsaces; your conquered foes
Took at your hands the rage of civil strife.
The mighty realm that earth and sea contained,
To which all peoples bowed, split by the sword,
Could not find space for two . For Julia bore,
Cut off by fate unpitying, the bond
Of that ill-omened marriage, and the pledge
Of blood united, to the shades below.
Had'st thou but longer stayed, it had been thine
To keep the husband and the sire apart,
And, as the Sabine women did of old,
Dash down the threatening swords and join the hands.
With thee all trust was buried, and the chiefs
Could give their courage vent, and rushed to war.
Lest newer glories triumphs past obscure,
Late conquered Gaul the bays from pirates won,
This, Magnus, was thy fear; thy roll of fame,
Of glorious deeds accomplished for the state
Allows no equal; nor will Caesar's pride
A prior rival in his triumphs brook;
Which had the right 'twere impious to enquire;
Each for his cause can vouch a judge supreme;
The victor, heaven: the vanquished, Cato, thee.
Nor were they like to like: the one in years
Now verging towards decay, in times of peace
Had unlearned war; but thirsting for applause
Had given the people much, and proud of fame
His former glory cared not to renew,
But joyed in plaudits of the theatre,
His gift to Rome: his triumphs in the past,
Himself the shadow of a mighty name.
As when some oak, in fruitful field sublime,
Adorned with venerable spoils, and gifts
Of bygone leaders, by its weight to earth
With feeble roots still clings; its naked arms
And hollow trunk, though leafless, give a shade;
And though condemned beneath the tempest's shock
To speedy fall, amid the sturdier trees
In sacred grandeur rules the forest still.
No such repute had Ceesar won, nor fame;
But energy was his that could not rest --
The only shame he knew was not to win.
Keen and unvanquished, where revenge or hope
Might call, resistless would he strike the blow
With sword unpitying: every victory won
Reaped to the full; the favour of the gods
Pressed to the utmost; all that stayed his course
Aimed at the summit of power, was thrust aside:
Triumph his joy, though ruin marked his track.
As parts the clouds a bolt by winds compelled,
With crack of riven air and crash of worlds,
And veils the light of day, and on mankind,
Blasting their vision with its flames oblique,
Sheds deadly fright; then turning to its home, '
Nought but the air opposing, through its path
Spreads havoc, and collects its scattered fires.
Such were the hidden motives of the chiefs;
But in the public life the seeds of war
Their hold had taken, such as are the doom
Of potent nations: and when fortune poured
Through Roman gates the booty of a world,
The curse of luxury, chief bane of states,
Fell on her sons. Farewell the ancient ways!
Behold the pomp profuse, the houses decked
With ornament; their hunger loathed the food
Of former days; men wore attire for dames
Scarce fitly fashioned; poverty was scorned,
Fruitful of warriors; and from all the world
Came that which ruins nations; while the fields
Furrowed of yore by great Camillus' plough,
Or by the mattock which a Curius held,
Lost their once narrow bounds, and widening tracts
By hinds unknown were tilled. No nation this
To sheathe the sword, with tranquil peace content
And with her liberties; but prone to ire;
Crime holding light as though by want compelled:
And great the glory in the minds of men,
Ambition lawful even at point of sword,
To rise above their country: might their law:
Decrees are forced from Senate and from Plebs:
Consul and Tribune break the laws alike:
Bought are the fasces, and the people sell
For gain their favour: bribery's fatal curse
Corrupts the annual contests of the Field.
Then covetous usury rose, and interest
Was greedier ever as the seasons came;
Faith tottered; thousands saw their gain in war.
Caesar has crossed the Alps, his mighty soul
Great tumults pondering and the coming shock.
Now on the marge of Rubicon, he saw,
In face most sorrowful and ghostly guise,
His trembling country's image; huge it seemed
Through mists of night obscure; and hoary hair
Streamed from the lofty front with turrets crowned:
Torn were her locks and naked were her arms.
Then thus, with broken sighs the Vision spake:
"What seek ye, men of Rome? and whither hence
Bear ye my standards? If by right ye come,
My citizens, stay here; these are the bounds;
No further dare." But Caesar's hair was stiff
With horror as he gazed, and ghastly dread
Restrained his footsteps on the further bank.
Then spake he, "Thunderer, who from the rock
Tarpeian seest the wall of mighty Rome;
Gods of my race who watched o'er Troy of old;
Thou Jove of Alba's height, and Vestal fires,
And rites of Romulus erst rapt to heaven,
And God-like Rome; be friendly to my quest.
Not with offence or hostfie arms I come,
Thy Caesar, conqueror by land and sea,
Thy soldier here and wheresoe'er thou wilt:
No other's; his, his only be the guilt
Whose acts make me thy foe.' He gives the word
And bids his standards cross the swollen stream.
So in the wastes of Afric's burning clime
The lion crouches as his foes draw near,
Feeding his wrath the while, his lashing tail
Provokes his fury; stiff upon his neck
Bristles his mane: deep from his gaping jaws
Resounds a muttered growl, and should a lance
Or javelin reach him from the hunter's ring,
Scorning the puny scratch he bounds afield.
From modest fountain blood-red Rubicon
In summer's heat flows on; his pigmy tide
Creeps through the valleys and with slender marge
Divides the Italian peasant from the Gaul.
Then winter gave him strength, and fraught with rain
The third day's crescent moon; while Eastern winds
Thawed from the Alpine slopes the yielding snow.
The cavalry first form across the stream '
To break the torrent's force; the rest with ease
Beneath their shelter gain the further bank.
When Csesar crossed and trod beneath his feet
The soil of Italy's forbidden fields,
"Here," spake he, "peace, here broken laws be left;
Farewell to treaties. Fortune, lead me on;
War is our judge, and in the fates our trust."
Then in the shades of night he leads the troops
Swifter than Balearic sling or shaft
Winged by retreating Parthian, to the walls
Of threatened Rimini, while fled the stars,
Save Lucifer, before the coming sun,
Whose fires were veiled in clouds, by south wind driven,
Or else at heaven's command: and thus drew on
The first dark morning of the civil war.
Now stand the troops within the captured town,
Their standards planted; and the trumpet clang
Rings forth in harsh alarums, giving note
Of impious strife: roused from their sleep the men
Rush to the hall and snatch the ancient arms
Long hanging through the years of peace; the shield
With crumbling frame; dark with the tooth of rust
Their swords ; and javelins with blunted point.
But when the well-known signs and eagles shone,
And Caesar towering o'er the throng was seen,
They shook for terror, fear possessed their limbs,
And thoughts unuttered stirred within their souls.
"O miserable those to whom their home
Denies the peace that all men else enjoy!
Placed as we are beside the Northern bounds
And scarce a footstep from the restless Gaul,
We fall the first; would that our lot had been
Beneath the Eastern sky, or frozen North,
To lead a wandering life, rather than keep
The gates of Latium. Brennus sacked the town
And Hannibal, and all the Teuton hosts.
For when the fate of Rome is in the scale
By this path war advances." Thus they moan
Their fears but speak them not; no sound is heard
Giving their anguish utterance: as when
In depth of winter all the fields are still,
The birds are voiceless and no sound is heard
To break the silence of the central sea.
But when the day had broken through the shades
Of chilly darkness, lo! the torch of war!
For by the hand of Fate is swift dispersed
All Caesar's shame of battle, and his mind
Scarce doubted more; and Fortune toiled to make
His action just and give him cause for arms.
For while Rome doubted and the tongues of men
Spoke of the chiefs who won them rights of yore,
The hostile Senate, in contempt of right,
Drove out the Tribunes. They to Caesar's camp
With Curio hasten, who of venal tongue,
Bold, prompt, persuasive, had been wont to preach
Of Freedom to the people, and to call
Upon the chiefs to lay their weapons down .
And when he saw how deeply Caesar mused,
"While from the rostrum I had power," he said,
To call the populace to aid thy cause,
By this my voice against the Senate's will
Was thy command prolonged. But silenced now
Are laws in war: we driven from our homes;
Yet is our exile willing; for thine arms
Shall make us citizens of Rome again.
Strike; for no strength as yet the foe hath gained.
Occasion calls, delay shall mar it soon:
Like risk, like labour, thou hast known before,
But never such reward. Could Gallia hold
Thine armies ten long years ere victory came,
That little nook of earth? One paltry fight
Or twain, fought out by thy resistless hand,
And Rome for thee shall have subdued the world:
'Tis true no triumph now would bring thee home;
No captive tribes would grace thy chariot wheels
Winding in pomp around the ancient hill.
Spite gnaws the factions; for thy conquests won
Scarce shalt thou be unpunished. Yet 'tis fate
Thou should'st subdue thy kinsman: share the world
With him thou canst not; rule thou canst, alone."
As when at Elis' festival a horse
In stable pent gnaws at his prison bars
Impatient, and should clamour from without
Strike on his ear, bounds furious at restraint,
So then was Caesar, eager for the fight,
Stirred by the words of Curio. To the ranks
He bids his soldiers; with majestic mien
And hand commanding silence as they come.
"Comrades," he cried, "victorious returned,
Who by my side for ten long years have faced,
'Mid Alpine winters and on Arctic shores,
The thousand dangers of the battle-field --
Is this our country's welcome, this her prize
For death and wounds and Roman blood outpoured?
Rome arms her choicest sons; the sturdy oaks
Are felled to make a fleet; -- what could she more
If from the Alps fierce Hannibal were come
With all his Punic host? By land and sea
Caesar shall fly! Fly? Though in adverse war
Our best had fallen, and the savage Gaul
Were hard upon our track, we would not fly.
And now, when fortune smiles and kindly gods
Beckon us on to glory! -- Let him come
Fresh from his years of peace, with all his crowd
Of conscript burgesses, Marcellus' tongue
And Cato's empty name! We will not fly.
Shall Eastern hordes and greedy hirelings keep
Their loved Pompeius ever at the helm?
Shall chariots of triumph be for him
Though youth and law forbad them? Shall he seize
On Rome's chief honours ne'er to be resigned?
And what of harvests blighted through the world
And ghastly famine made to serve his ends?
Who hath forgotten how Pompeius' bands
Seized on the forum, and with glittering arms
Made outraged justice tremble, while their swords
Hemmed in the judgment-seat where Milo stood?
And now when worn and old and ripe for rest ,
Greedy of power, the impious sword again
He draws. As tigers in Hyrcanian woods
Wandering, or in the caves that saw their birth,
Once having lapped the blood of slaughtered kine,
Shall never cease from rage; e'en so this whelp
Of cruel Sulla, nursed in civil war,
Outstrips his master; and the tongue which licked
That reeking weapon ever thirsts for more.
Stain once the lips with blood, no other meal
They shall enjoy. And shall there be no end
Of these long years of power and of crime?
Nay, this one lesson, e'er it be too late,
Learn of thy gentle Sulla -- to retire!
Of old his victory o'er Cilician thieves
And Pontus' weary monarch gave him fame,
By poison scarce attained. His latest prize
Shall I be, Caesar, I, who would not quit
My conquering eagles at his proud command?
Nay, if no triumph is reserved for me,
Let these at least of long and toilsome war
'Neath other leaders the rewards enjoy.
Where shall the weary soldier find his rest?
What cottage homes their joys, what fields their fruit
Shall to our veterans yield? Will Magnus say
That pirates only till the fields alight?
Unfurl your standards; victory gilds them yet,
As through those glorious years. Deny our rights!
He that denies them makes our quarrel just.
Nay! use the strength that we have made our own.
No booty seek we, nor imperial power.
This would-be ruler of subservient Rome
We force to quit his grasp; and Heaven shall smile
On those who seek to drag the tyrant down."
Thus Caesar spake; but doubtful murmurs ran
Throughout the listening crowd, this way and that
Their wishes urging them; the thoughts of home
And household gods and kindred gave them pause:
But fear of Caesar and the pride of war
Their doubts resolved. Then Laelius, who wore
The well-earned crown for Roman life preserved,
The foremost Captain of the army, spake:
"O greatest leader of the Roman name,
If 'tis thy wish the very truth to hear
'Tis mine to speak it; we complain of this,
That gifted with such strength thou did'st refrain
From using it. Had'st thou no trust in us?
While the hot life-blood fills these glowing veins,
While these strong arms avail to hurl the lance,
Wilt thou make peace and bear the Senate's rule?
Is civil conquest then so base and vile?
Lead us through Scythian deserts, lead us where
The inhospitable Syrtes line the shore
Of Afric's burning sands, or where thou wilt:
This hand, to leave a conquered world behind,
Held firm the oar that tamed the Northern Sea
And Rhine's swift torrent foaming to the main.
To follow thee fate gives me now the power:
The will was mine before. No citizen
I count the man 'gainst whom thy trumpets sound.
By ten campaigns of victory, I swear,
By all thy world-wide triumphs, though with hand
Unwilling, should'st thou now demand the life
Of sire or brother or of faithful spouse,
Caesar, the life were thine. To spoil the gods
And sack great Juno's temple on the hill,
To plant our arms o'er Tiber's yellow stream,
To measure out the camp, against the wall
To drive the fatal ram, and raze the town,
This arm shall not refuse, though Rome the prize."
His comrades swore consent with lifted hands
And vowed to follow wheresoe'er he led.
And such a clamour rent the sky as when
Some Thracian blast on Ossa's pine-clad rocks
Falls headlong, and the loud re-echoing woods,
Or bending, or rebounding from the stroke,
In sounding chorus lift the roar on high.
When Csesar saw them welcome thus the war
And Fortune leading on, and favouring fates,
He seized the moment, called his troops from Gaul,
And breaking up his camp set on for Rome.
The tents are vacant by Lake Leman's side;
The camps upon the beetling crags of Vosges
No longer hold the warlike Lingon down,
Fierce in his painted arms; Isere is left,
Who past his shallows gliding, flows at last
Into the current of more famous Rhone,
To reach the ocean in another name.
The fair-haired people of Cevennes are free:
Soft Aude rejoicing bears no Roman keel,
Nor pleasant Var, since then Italia's bound;
The harbour sacred to Alcides' name
Where hollow crags encroach upon the sea,
Is left in freedom: there nor Zephyr gains
Nor Caurus access, but the Circian blast
Forbids the roadstead by Monaecus' hold.
And others left the doubtful shore, which sea
And land alternate claim, whene'er the tide
Pours in amain or when the wave rolls back --
Be it the wind which thus compels the deep
From furthest pole, and leaves it at the flood;
Or else the moon that makes the tide to swell,
Or else, in search of fuel for his fires,
The sun draws heavenward the ocean wave; --
Whate'er the cause that may control the main
I leave to others; let the gods for me
Lock in their breasts the secrets of the world.
Those who kept watch beside the western shore
Have moved their standards home; the happy Gaul
Rejoices in their absence; fair Garonne
Through peaceful meads glides onward to the sea.
And where the river broadens, neath the cape
Her quiet harbour sleeps. No outstretched arm
Except in mimic war now hurls the lance.
No skilful warrior of Seine directs
The scythed chariot 'gainst his country's foe.
Now rest the Belgians, and the Arvernian race
That boasts our kinship by descent from Troy;
And those brave rebels whose undaunted hands
Were dipped in Cotta's blood, and those who wear
Sarmatian garb. Batavia's warriors fierce
No longer listen for the bugle call,
Nor those who dwell where Rhone's swift eddies sweep
Saone to the ocean; nor the mountain tribes
Who dwell about its source. Thou, too, oh Treves,
Rejoicest that the war has left thy bounds.
Ligurian tribes, now shorn, in ancient days
First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks
Once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme;
And those who pacify with blood accursed
Savage Teutates, Hesus' horrid shrines,
And Taranis' altars cruel as were those
Loved by Diana, goddess of the north;
All these now rest in peace. And you, ye Bards,
Whose martial lays send down to distant times
The fame of valorous deeds in battle done,
Pour forth in safety more abundant song.
While you, ye Druids , when the war was done,
To mysteries strange and hateful rites returned:
To you alone 'tis given the gods and stars
To know or not to know; secluded groves
Your dwelling-place, and forests far remote.
If what ye sing be true, the shades of men
Seek not the dismal homes of Erebus
Or death's pale kingdoms; but the breath of life
Still rules these bodies in another age --
Life on this hand and that, and death between.
Happy the peoples 'neath the Northern Star
In this their false belief; for them no fear
Of that which frights all others: they with hands
And hearts undaunted rush upon the foe
And scorn to spare the life that shall return.
Ye too depart who kept the banks of Rhine
Safe from the foe, and leave the Teuton tribes
Free at their will to march upon the world.
Caesar, with strength increased and gathered troops
New efforts daring, spreads his bands afar
Through Italy, and fills the neighbouring towns.
Then empty rumour to well-grounded fear
Gave strength, and heralding the coming war
In hundred voices 'midst the people spread.
One cries in terror, "Swift the squadrons come
Where Nar with Tiber joins: and where, in meads
By oxen loved, Mevania spreads her walls,
Fierce Caesar hurries his barbarian horse.
Eagles and standards wave above his head,
And broad the march that sweeps across the land."
Nor is he pictured truly; greater far
More fierce and pitiless -- from conquered foes
Advancing; in his rear the peoples march.
Snatched from their homes between the Rhine and Alps,
To pillage Rome while Roman chiefs look on.
Thus each man's panic thought swells rumour's lie:
They fear the phantoms they themselves create.
Nor does the terror seize the crowd alone:
But fled the Fathers, to the Consuls first
Issuing their hated order, as for war;
And doubting of their safety, doubting too
Where lay the peril, through the choking gates,
Each where he would, rushed all the people forth.
Thou would'st believe that blazing to the torch
Were men's abodes, or nodding to their fall.
So streamed they onwards, frenzied with affright,
As though in exile only could they find
Hope for their country. So, when southern blasts
From Libyan whirlpools drive the boundless main,
And mast and sail crash down upon a ship
With ponderous weight, but still the frame is sound,
Her crew and captain leap into the sea,
Each making shipwreck for himself. 'Twas thus
They passed the city gates and fled to war.
No aged parent now could stay his son;
Nor wife her spouse, nor did they pray the gods
To grant the safety of their fatherland.
None linger on the threshold for a look
Of their loved city, though perchance the last.
Ye gods, who lavish priceless gifts on men,
Nor care to guard them, see victorious Rome
Teeming with life, chief city of the world,
With ample walls that all mankind might hold,
To coming Caesar left an easy prey.
The Roman soldier, when in foreign lands
Pressed by the enemy, in narrow trench
And hurried mound finds guard enough to make
His slumber safe; but thou, imperial Rome,
Alone on rumour of advancing foes
Art left a desert, and thy battlements
They trust not for one night. Yet for their fear
This one excuse was left; Pompeius fled.
Nor found they room for hope; for nature gave
Unerring portents of worse ills to come.
The angry gods filled earth and air and sea
With frequent prodigies; in darkest nights
Strange constellations sparkled through the gloom:
The pole was all afire, and torches flew
Across the depths of heaven; with horrid hair
A blazing comet stretched from east to west
And threatened change to kingdoms. From the blue
Pale lightning flashed, and in the murky air
The fire took divers shapes; a lance afar
Would seem to quiver or a misty torch;
A noiseless thunderbolt from cloudless sky
Rushed down, and drawing fire in northern parts
Plunged on the summit of the Alban mount.
The stars that run their courses in the night
Shone in full daylight; and the orbed moon,
Hid by the shade of earth, grew pale and wan.
The sun himself, when poised in mid career,
Shrouded his burning car in blackest gloom
And plunged the world in darkness, so that men
Despaired of day -- like as he veiled his light
From that fell banquet which Mycenae saw
The jaws of Etna were agape with flame
That rose not heavenwards, but headlong fell
In smoking stream upon the Italian flank.
Then black Charybdis, from her boundless depth,
Threw up a gory sea. In piteous tones
Howled the wild dogs; the Vestal fire was snatched
From off the altar; and the flame that crowned
The Latin festival was split in twain,
As on the Theban pyre in ancient days;
Earth tottered on its base: the mighty Alps
From off their summits shook th' eternal snow .
In huge upheaval Ocean raised his waves
O'er Calpe's rock and Atlas' hoary head.
The native gods shed tears, and holy sweat
Dropped from the idols; gifts in temples fell:
Foul birds defiled the day; beasts left the woods
And made their lair among the streets of Rome.
All this we hear; nay more: dumb oxen spake;
Monsters were brought to birth and mothers shrieked
At their own offspring; words of dire import
From Cumae's prophetess were noised abroad.
Bellona's priests with bleeding arms, and slaves
Of Cybele's worship, with ensanguined hair,
Howled chants of havoc and of woe to men.
Arms clashed; and sounding in the pathless woods
Were heard strange voices; spirits walked the earth:
And dead men's ashes muttered from the urn.
Those who live near the walls desert their homes,
For lo! with hissing serpents in her hair,
Waving in downward whirl a blazing pine,
A fiend patrols the town, like that which erst
At Thebes urged on Agave , or which hurled
Lycurgus' bolts, or that which as he came
From Hades seen, at haughty Juno's word,
Brought terror to the soul of Hercules.
Trumpets like those that summon armies forth
Were heard re-echoing in the silent night:
And from the earth arising Sulla's ghost
Sang gloomy oracles, and by Anio's wave
All fled the homesteads, frighted by the shade
Of Marius waking from his broken tomb.
In such dismay they summon, as of yore,
The Tuscan sages to the nation's aid.
Aruns, the eldest, leaving his abode
In desolate Luca, came, well versed in all
The lore of omens; knowing what may mean
The flight of hovering bird, the pulse that beats
In offered victims, and the levin bolt.
All monsters first, by most unnatural birth
Brought into being, in accursd flames
He bids consume.Then round the walls of Rome
Each trembling citizen in turn proceeds.
The priests, chief guardians of the public faith,
With holy sprinkling purge the open space
That borders on the wall; in sacred garb
Follows the lesser crowd: the Vestals come
By priestess led with laurel crown bedecked,
To whom alone is given the right to see
Minerva's effigy that came from Troy
Next come the keepers of the sacred books
And fate's predictions; who from Almo's brook
Bring back Cybebe laved; the augur too
Taught to observe sinister flight of birds;
And those who serve the banquets to the gods;
And Titian brethren; and the priest of Mars,
Proud of the buckler that adorns his neck;
By him the Flamen, on his noble head
The cap of office. While they tread the path
That winds around the walls, the aged seer
Collects the thunderbolts that fell from heaven,
And lays them deep in earth, with muttered words
Naming the spot accursed. Next a steer,
Picked for his swelling neck and beauteous form,
He leads to the altar, and with slanting knife
Spreads on his brow the meal, and pours the wine.
The victim's struggles prove the gods averse;
But when the servers press upon his horns
He bends the knee and yields him to the blow.
No crimson torrent issued at the stroke,
But from the wound a dark empoisoned stream
Ebbed slowly downward. Aruns at the sight
Aghast, upon the entrails of the beast
Essayed to read the anger of the gods.
Their very colour terrified the seer;
Spotted they were and pale, with sable streaks
Of lukewarm gore bespread; the liver damp
With foul disease, and on the hostile part
The angry veins defiant; of the lungs
The fibre hid, and through the vital parts
The membrane small; the heart had ceased to throb;
Blood oozes through the ducts; the caul is split:
And, fatal omen of impending ill,
One lobe o'ergrows the other; of the twain
The one lies flat and sick, the other beats
And keeps the pulse in rapid strokes astir.
Disaster's near approach thus learned, he cries --
"Whate'er may be the purpose of the gods,
'Tis not for me to tell; this offered beast
Not Jove possesses, but the gods below.
We dare not speak our fears, yet fear doth make
The future worse than fact. May all the gods
Prosper the tokens, and the sacrifice
Be void of truth, and Tages
Have vainly taught these mysteries." Such his words
Involved, mysterious. Figulus, to whom
For knowledge of the secret depths of space
And laws harmonious that guide the stars,
Memphis could find no peer, then spake at large:
"Either," he said, "the world and countless orbs
Throughout the ages wander at their will;
Or, if the fates control them, ruin huge
Hangs o'er this city and o'er all mankind.
Shall Earth yawn open and engulph the towns?
Shall scorching heat usurp the temperate air
And fields refuse their timely fruit? The streams
Flow mixed with poison? In what plague, ye gods,
In what destruction shall ye wreak your ire?
Whate'er the truth, the days in which we live
Shall find a doom for many. Had the star
Of baleful Saturn, frigid in the height,
Kindled his lurid fires, the sky had poured
Its torrents forth as in Deucalion's time,
And whelmed the world in waters. Or if thou,
Phoebus, beside the Nemean lion fierce
Wert driving now thy chariot, flames should seize
The universe and set the air ablaze.
These are at peace; but, Mars, why art thou bent
On kindling thus the Scorpion, his tail
Portending evil and his claws aflame?
Deep sunk is kindly Jupiter, and dull
Sweet Venus' star, and rapid Mercury
Stays on his course: Mars only holds the sky.
Why does Orion's sword too brightly shine?
Why planets leave their paths and through the void
Thus journey on obscure? 'Tis war that comes,
Fierce rabid war: the sword shall bear the rule
Confounding justice; hateful crime usurp
The name of virtue; and the havoc spread
Through many a year. But why entreat the gods?
The end Rome longs for and the final peace
Comes with a despot. Draw thou out thy chain
Of lengthening slaughter, and (for such thy fate)
Make good thy liberty through civil war."
The frightened people heard, and as they heard
His words prophetic made them fear the more.
But worse remained; for as on Pindus' slopes
Possessed with fury from the Theban god
Speeds some Bacchante, thus in Roman streets
Behold a matron run, who, in her trance,
Relieves her bosom of the god within.
"Where dost thou snatch me, Paean, to what shore
Through airy regions borne? I see the snows
Of Thracian mountains; and Philippi's plains
Lie broad beneath. But why these battle lines,
No foe to vanquish -- Rome on either hand?
Again I wander 'neath the rosy hues
That paint thine eastern skies, where regal Nile
Meets with his flowing wave the rising tide.
Known to mine eyes that mutilated trunk
That lies upon the sand! Across the seas
By changing whirlpools to the burning climes
Of Libya borne, again I see the hosts
From Thracia brought by fate's command. And now
Thou bear'st me o'er the cloud-compelling Alps
And Pyrenean summits; next to Rome.
There in mid-Senate see the closing scene
Of this foul war in foulest murder done.
Again the factions rise; through all the world
Once more I pass; but give me some new land,
Some other region, Phoebus, to behold!
Washed by the Pontic billows! for these eyes
Already once have seen Philippi's plains!"
The frenzy left her and she speechless fell.
An Essay on Criticism
INTRODUCTION. That it is as great a fault to judge ill as to write ill, and a more dangerous one to the public. That a true Taste is as rare to be found as a true Genius. That most men are born with some Taste, but spoiled by false education. The multitude of Critics, and causes of them. That we are to study our own Taste, and know the limits of it. Nature the best guide of judgment. Improved by Art and rules, which are but methodized Nature. Rules derived from the practice of the ancient poets. That therefore the ancients are necessary to be studied by a Critic, particularly Homer and Virgil. Of licenses, and the use of them by the ancients. Reverence due to the ancients, and praise of them.
'Tis hard to say if greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judging ill;
But of the two less dangerous is th'offence
To tire our patience than mislead our sense:
Some few in that, but numbers err in this;
Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss;
A fool might once himself alone expose;
Now one in verse makes many more in prose.
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
In Poets as true Genius is but rare,
True Taste as seldom is the Critic's share;
Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light,
These born to judge, as well as those to write.
Let such teach others who themselves excel,
And censure freely who have written well;
Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
But are not Critics to their judgment too?
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind:
Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light;
The lines, tho' touch'd but faintly, are drawn right:
But as the slightest sketch, if justly traced,
Is by ill col'ring but the more disgraced,
So by false learning is good sense defaced:
Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools,
And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools:
In search of wit these lose their common sense,
And then turn Critics in their own defence:
Each burns alike, who can or cannot write,
Or with a rival's or an eunuch's spite.
All fools have still an itching to deride,
And fain would be upon the laughing side.
If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spite,
There are who judge still worse than he can write.
Some have at first for Wits, then Poets pass'd;
Turn'd Critics next, and prov'd plain Fools at last.
Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
Those half-learn'd witlings, numerous in our isle,
As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile;
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's so equivocal;
To tell them would a hundred tongues required,
Or one vain Wit's, that might a hundred tire.
But you who seek to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a Critic's noble name,
Be sure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your Genius, Taste, and Learning go,
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
And mark that point where Sense and Dulness meet.
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
And wisely curb'd proud man's pretending wit.
As on the land while here the ocean gains,
In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains;
Thus in the soul while Memory prevails,
The solid power of Understanding fails;
Where beams of warm Imagination play,
The Memory's soft figures melt away.
One Science only will one genius fit;
So vast is Art, so narrow human wit:
Now only bounded to peculiar arts,
But oft in those confin'd to single parts.
Like Kings we lose the conquests gain'd before,
By vain ambition still to make them more:
Each might his sev'ral province well command,
Would all but stoop to what they understand.
First follow Nature, and your judgment frame
By her just standard, which is still the same;
Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,
One clear, unchanged, and universal light,
Life, force, and beauty must to all impart,
At once the source, and end, and test of Art.
Art from that fund each just supply provides,
Works without show, and without pomp presides.
In some fair body thus th'informing soul
With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole;
Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains,
Itself unseen, but in th' effects remains.
Some, to whom Heav'n in wit has been profuse,
Want as much more to turn it to its use;
For Wit and Judgment often are at strife
Tho' meant each other's aid, like man and wife.
'Tis more to guide than spur the Muse's steed,
Restrain his fury than provoke his speed:
The winged courser, like a gen'rous horse,
Shows most true mettel when you check his course.
Those rules of old, discover'd, not devised,
Are Nature still, but Nature methodized;
Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain'd
By the same laws which first herself ordain'd.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites
When to repress and when indulge our flights:
High on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd,
And pointed out those arduous paths they trod;
Held from afar, aloft, th'immortal prize,
And urged the rest by equal steps to rise.
Just precepts thus from great examples giv'n,
She drew from them what they derived from Heav'n.
The gen'rous Critic fann'd the poet's fire,
And taught the world with reason to admire.
Then Criticism the Muse's handmaid prov'd,
To dress her charms, and make her more belov'd:
But following Wits from that intention stray'd:
Who could not win the mistress woo'd the maid;
Against the Poets their own arms they turn'd,
Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd.
So modern 'pothecaries taught the art
By doctors' bills to play the doctor's part,
Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,
Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey;
Nor time nor moths e'er spoil'd so much as they;
Some drily plain, without invention's aid,
Write dull receipts how poems may be made;
These leave the sense their learning to display,
And those explain the meaning quite away.
You then whose judgment the right course would steer,
Know well each ancient's proper character;
His fable, subject, scope in every page;
Religion, country, genius of his age:
Without all these at once before your eyes,
Cavil you may, but never criticise.
Be Homer's works your study and delight,
Read them by day, and meditate by night;
Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring,
And trace the Muses upward to their spring.
Still with itself compared, his text peruse;
And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse.
When first young Maro in his boundless mind
A work t'outlast immortal Rome design'd,
Perhaps he seem'd above the critic's law,
And but from Nature's fountains scorn'd to draw;
But when t'examine ev'ry part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the same.
Convinced, amazed, he checks the bold design,
And rules as strict his labour'd work confine
As if the Stagyrite o'erlook'd each line.
Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem;
To copy Nature is to copy them.
Some beauties yet no precepts can declare,
For there's a happiness as well as care.
Music resembles poetry; in each
Are nameless graces which no methods teach,
And which a master-hand alone can reach.
If, where the rules not far enough extend,
(Since rules were made but to promote their end)
Some lucky license answer to the full
Th'intent proposed, that license is a rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common track.
Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
And rise to faults true Critics dare not mend;
From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of Art,
Which, without passing thro' the judgment, gains
The heart, and all its end at once attains.
In prospects thus some objects please our eyes,
Which out of Nature's common order rise,
The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice.
But tho' the ancients thus their rules invade,
(As Kings dispense with laws themselves have made)
Moderns, beware! or if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end;
Let it be seldom, and compell'd by need;
And have at least their precedent to plead;
The Critic else proceeds without remorse,
Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.
I know there are to whose presumptuous thoughts
Those freer beauties, ev'n in them, seem faults.
Some figures monstrous and misshaped appear,
Consider'd singly, or beheld too near,
Which, but proportion'd to their light or place,
Due distance reconciles to form and grace.
A prudent chief not always must display
His powers in equal ranks and fair array,
But with th'occasion and the place comply,
Conceal his force, nay, seem sometimes to fly.
Those oft are stratagems which errors seem,
Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.
Still green with bays each ancient altar stands
Above the reach of sacrilegious hands,
Secure from flames, from Envy's fiercer rage,
Destructive war, and all-involving Age.
See from each clime the learn'd their incense bring!
Hear in all tongues consenting Paeans ring!
In praise so just let ev'ry voice be join'd,
And fill the gen'ral chorus of mankind.
Hail, Bards triumphant! born in happier days,
Immortal heirs of universal praise!
Whose honours with increase of ages grow,
As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow;
Nations unborn your mighty names shall sound,
And worlds applaud that must not yet be found!
O may some spark of your celestial fire
The last, the meanest of your sons inspire,
(That on weak wings, from far, pursues your flights,
Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes)
To teach vain Wits a science little known,
T'admire superior sense, and doubt their own.
Causes hindering a true judgement. Pride. Imperfect learning. Judging by parts, and not by the whole. Critics in wit, language, and versification only. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire. Partiality--too much love to a sect--to the ancients or moderns. Prejudice or prevention. Singularity. Inconstancy. Party spirit. Envy. Against envy, and in praise of good-nature. When severity is chiefly to be used by critics.
Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
What the weak head with strongest bias rules,
Is Pride, the never failing vice of fools.
Whatever Nature has in worth denied
She gives in large recruits of needful Pride:
For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
What wants in blood and spirits swell'd with wind:
Pride, where Wit fails, steps in to our deference,
And fills up all the mighty void of Sense:
If once right Reason drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless day.
Trust not yourself; but your defects to know,
Make use of ev'ry friend--and ev'ry foe.
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind:
Bur more advanc'd, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endliess science rise!
So pleas'd at first the tow'ring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
Th'eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last:
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthen'd way;
Th'increasing prospect tires our wand'ring eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ;
Survey the whole, not seek slight faults to find
Where Nature moves, and Rapture warms the mind:
Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight,
The gen'rous pleasure to be charm'd with wit.
But in such lays as neither ebb nor flow,
Correctly cold, and regularly low,
That shunning faults one quiet tenor keep,
We cannot blame indeed--but we may sleep.
In Wit, as Nature, what affects our hearts
Is not th'exactness of peculiar parts;
'Tis not a lip or eye we beauty call,
But the joint force and full result of all.
Thus when we view some well proportion'd dome,
(The world's just wonder, and ev'n thine, O Rome!)
No single parts unequally surprise,
All comes united to th'admiring eyes;
No monstrous height, or breadth, or length, appear;
The whole at once is bold and regular.
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
Thinks what n'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be.
In every work regard the writer's end,
Since none can compass more than they intend;
And if the means be just, the conduct true,
Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due.
As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit,
T'avoid great errors must the less commit;
Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays,
For not to know some trifles is a praise.
Most critics, fond of some subservient art,
Still make the whole depend upon a part:
They talk of Principles, but Notions prize,
And all to one lov'd folly sacrifice.
Once on a time La Mancha's Knight, they say,
A certain bard encount'ring on the way,
Discours'd in terms as just, with looks as sage,
As e'er could Dennis, of the Grecian State;
Concluding all were desperate sots and fools
Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules.
Our author, happy in a judge so nice,
Produced his play, and begged the knight's advice;
Made him observe the Subject and the Plot,
The Manners, Passions, Unities; what not?
All which exact to rule were brought about,
Were but a combat in the lists left out.
``What! leave the combat out?'' exclaims the knight.
``Yes, or we must renounce the Stagyrite.''
``Not so, by Heaven!, (he answers in a rage)
Knights, squires, and steeds must enter on the stage.''
``So vast a throng the stage can n'er contain.''
``Then build a new, or act it in a plain.''
Thus critics of less judgement than caprice,
Curious, not knowing, not exact, but nice,
Form short ideas, and offend the Arts
(As most in Manners), by a love to parts.
Some to Conceit alone their taste confine,
And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at every line;
Pleas'd with a work where nothing's just or fit,
One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit.
Poets, like painters, thus unskill'd to trace
The naked nature and the living grace,
With gold and jewels cover every part,
And hide with ornaments their want of Art.
True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd;
Something whose truth convinced at sight we find,
That give us back the image of our mind.
As shades more sweetly recommend the light,
So modest plainness sets of sprightly wit:
For works may have more wit than does them good,
As bodies perish thro' excess of blood.
Others for language all their care express,
And value books, as women men, for dress:
Their praise is still--the Style is excellent;
The Sense they humbly take upon content.
Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
False eloquence, like the prismatic glass,
Its gaudy colours spreads on every place;
The face of Nature we no more survey,
All glares alike, without distinction gay;
But true expression, like th'unchanging sun,
Clears and improves whate'er it shines upon;
It gilds all objects, but it alters none.
Expression is the dress of thought, and still
Appears more decent as more suitable.
A vile Conceit in pompous words express'd
Is like a clown in regal purple dress'd:
For diff'rent styles with diff'rent subjects sort,
As sev'ral garbs with country, town, and court.
Some by old words to fame have made pretence,
Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense;
Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style,
Amaze th'unlearned, and make the learned smile;
Unlucky as Fungoso in the play,
These sparks with awkward vanity display
What the fine gentleman wore yesterday;
And but so mimic ancient wits at best,
As apes our grandsires in their doublets drest.
In words as fashions the same rule will hold,
Alike fantastic if too new or old:
Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
But most by Numbers judge a poet's song,
And smooth or rough with them is right or wrong.
In the bright Muse tho' thousand charms conspire,
Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire;
Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds; as some to church repair,
Not for the doctrine, but the music there.
These equal syllables alone require,
Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire,
While expletives their feeble aid to join,
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line:
While they ring round the same unvaried chimes,
With sure returns of still expected rhymes;
Where'er you find ``the cooling western breeze,''
In the next line, it ``whispers thro' the trees;''
If crystal streams ``with pleasing murmurs creep,''
The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with ``sleep;''
Then, at the last and only couplet, fraught
With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know
What's roundly smooth, or languishingly slow;
And praise the easy vigour of a line
Where Denham's strength and Waller's sweetness join.
True ease in writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence;
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar.
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line, too, labours, and the words move slow:
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Hear how Timotheus' varied lays surprise,
And bid alternate passions fall and rise!
While at each change the son of Libyan Jove
Now burns with glory, and then melts with love;
Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow,
Now sighs steal out, and tears begin to flow:
Persians and Greeks like turns of nature found,
And the world's Victor stood subdued by sound!
The power of music all our hearts allow,
And what Timotheus was is Dryden now.
Avoid extremes, and shun the fault of such
Who still are pleas'd too little or too much.
At ev'ry trifle scorn to take offence;
That always shows great pride or little sense:
Those heads, as stomachs, are not sure the best
Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest.
Yet let not each gay turn thy rapture move;
For fools admire, but men of sense approve:
As things seem large which we thro' mist descry,
Dulness is ever apt to magnify.
Some foreign writers, some our own despise;
The ancients only, or the moderns prize.
Thus Wit, like Faith, by each man is applied
To one small sect, and all are damn'd beside.
Meanly they seek the blessing to confine,
And force that sun but on a part to shine,
Which not alone the southern wit sublimes,
But ripens spirits in cold northern climes;
Which from the first has shone on ages past,
Enligths the present, and shall warm the last;
Tho' each may feel increases and decays,
And see now clearer and now darker days,
Regard not then if wit be old or new,
But blame the False and value still the True.
Some ne'er advance a judgment of their own,
But catch the spreading notion of the town;
They reason and conclude by precedent,
And own stale nonsense which they ne'er invent.
Some judge of authors' names, not works, and then
Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men.
Of all this servile herd, the worst is he
That in proud dulness joins with quality;
A constant critic at the great man's board,
To fetch and carry nonsense for my lord.
What woful stuff this madrigal would be
In some starv'd hackney sonneteer or me!
But let a lord once own the happy lines,
How the Wit brightens! how the Style refines!
Before his sacred name flies every fault,
And each exalted stanza teems with thought!
The vulgar thus thro' imitation err,
As oft the learn'd by being singular;
So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng
By chance go right, they purposely go wrong.
So schismatics the plain believers quit,
And are but damn'd for having too much wit.
Some praise at morning what they blame at night,
But always think the last opinion right.
A Muse by these is like a mistress used,
This hour she's idolized, the next abused;
While their weak heads, like towns unfortified,
'Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side.
Ask them the cause; they're wiser still they say;
And still to-morrow's wiser than to-day.
We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow;
Our wiser sons no doubt will think us so.
Once shool-divines this zealous isle o'erspread;
Who knew most sentences was deepest read.
Faith, Gospel, all seem'd made to be disputed,
And none has sense enough to be confuted.
Scotists and Thomists now in peace remain
Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Ducklane.
If Faith itself has diff'rent dresses worn,
What wonder modes in Wit should take their turn?
Oft, leaving what is natural and fit,
The current Folly proves the ready Wit;
And authors think their reputation safe,
Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh.
Some, valuing those of their own side or mind,
Still make themselves the measure of mankind:
Fondly we think we honour merit then,
When we but praise ourselves in other men.
Parties in wit attend on those of state,
And public faction doubles private hate.
Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rose,
In various shapes of parsons, critics, beaux:
But sense survived when merry jests were past;
For rising merit will bouy up at last.
Might he return and bless once more our eyes,
New Blackmores and new Milbournes must arise.
Nay, should great Homer lift his awful head,
Zoilus again would start up from the dead.
Envy will Merit as its shade pursue,
But like a shadow proves the substance true;
For envied Wit, like Sol eclips'd, makes known
Th'opposing body's grossness, not its own.
When first that sun too powerful beams displays,
It draws up vapours which obscure its rays;
But ev'n those clouds at last adorn its way,
Reflect new glories, and augment the day.
Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
His praise is lost who stays till all commend.
Short is the date, alas! of modern rhymes,
And 'tis but just to let them live betimes.
No longer now that Golden Age appears,
When partiarch wits survived a thousand years:
Now length of fame (our second life) is lost,
And bare threescore is all ev'n that can boast:
Our sons their fathers' failing language see,
And such as Chaucer is shall Dryden be.
So when the faithful pencil has design'd
Some bright idea of the master's mind,
Where a new world leaps out at his command,
And ready Nature waits upon his hand;
When the ripe colours soften and unite,
And sweetly melt into just shade and light;
When mellowing years their full perfection give,
And each bold figure just begins to live,
The treach'rous colours the fair art betray,
And all the bright creations fades away!
Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken things,
Atones not for that envy which it brings:
In youth alone its empty praise we boast,
But soon the sort-lived vanity is lost;
Like some fair flower the early Spring supplies,
That gaily blooms, but ev'n in blooming dies.
What is this Wit, which must our cares employ?
The owner's wife that other men enjoy;
Then most our trouble still when most admired,
And still the more we give, the more required;
Whose fame with pains we guard, but lose with ease,
Sure some to vex, but never all to please,
'Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun;
By fools 'tis hated, and by knaves undone!
If Wit so much from Ignorance undergo,
Ah, let not Learning too commence its foe!
Of old those met rewards who could excel,
And such were prais'd who but endevour'd well;
Tho' triumphs were to gen'rals only due,
Crowns were reserv'd to grace the soldiers too.
Now they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown
Employ their pains to spurn some others down;
And while self-love each jealous writer rules,
Contending wits become the sport of fools;
But still the worst with most regret commend,
For each ill author is as bad a friend.
To what base ends, and by what abject ways,
Are mortals urged thro' sacred lust of praise!
Ah, ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast,
Nor in the critic let the man be lost!
Good nature and good sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive divine.
But if in noble minds some dregs remain,
Not yet purged off, of spleen and sour disdain,
Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes,
Nor fear a dearth on these flagitious times.
No pardon vile obscenity should find,
Tho' Wit and Art conspire to move your mind;
But dulness with obscenity must prove
As shameful sure as impotence in love.
In the fat age of pleasure, wealth, and ease
Sprung the rank weed, and thrived with large increase:
When love was all in easy monarch's care,
Seldom at council, never in a war;
Jilts ruled the state, and statesmen farces writ;
Nay wits had pensions, and young lords had wit;
The Fair sat panting at a courtier's play,
And not a mask went unimprov'd away;
The modest fan was lifted up no more,
And virgins smil'd at what they blush'd before.
The following license of a foreign reign
Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain;
Then unbelieving priests reform'd the nation,
And taught more pleasant methods of salvation;
Where Heav'n's free subjects might their rights dispute,
Lest God himself should seem too absolute;
Pulpits their sacred satire learn'd to spare,
And vice admired to find a flatt'rer there!
Encouraged thus, Wit's Titans braved the skies,
And the press groan'd with licens'd blasphemies.
These monsters, Critics! with your darts engage,
Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage!
Yet shun their fault, who, scandalously nice,
Will needs mistake an author into vice:
All seems infected that th'infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the jaundic'd eye.
Rules for the conduct and manners in a Critic. Candour. Modesty. Good breeding. Sincerity and freedom of advice. When one's counsel is to be restrained. Character of an incorrigible poet. And of an impertinent critic. Character of a good critic. The history of criticism, and characters of the best critics; Aristotle. Horace. Dionysius. Petronius. Quintiallian. Longinus. Of the decay of Criticism, and its revival. Erasmus. Vida. Boileau. Lord Roscommon, etc. Conclusion.
Learn then what morals Critics ought to show,
For 'tis but half a judge's task to know.
T'is not enough Taste, Judgment, Learning join;
In all you speak let Truth and Candour shine;
That not alone what to your Sense is due
All may allow, but seek your friendship too.
Be silent always when you doubt your Sense,
And speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence.
Some positive persisting fops we know,
Who if once wrong will needs be always so;
But you with pleasure own your errors past,
And make each day a critique on the last.
'Tis not enough your counsel still be true;
Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do.
Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown proposed as things forgot.
Without good breeding truth is disapprov'd;
That only makes superior Sense belov'd.
Be niggards of advice on no pretence,
For the worst avarice is that of Sense.
With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust,
Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.
Fear not the anger of the wise to raise;
Those best can bear reproof who merit praise.
'Twere well might critics still this freedom take,
But Appius reddens at each word you speak,
And stares tremendous, with a threat'ning eye,
Like some fierce tyrant in old tapestry.
Fear most to tax an honourable fool,
Whose right it is, uncensured to be dull:
Such without Wit, are poets when they please,
As without Learning they can take degrees.
Leave dangerous truths to unsuccessful satires,
And flattery to fulsome dedicators;
Whom when the praise, the world believes no more
Than when they promise to give scribbling o'er.
'Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain,
And charitably let the dull be vain;
Your silence there is better than your spite,
For who can rail so long as they can write?
Still humming on their drowsy course they keep,
And lash'd so long, like tops, are lash'd asleep.
False steps but help them to renew the race,
As, after stumbling, jades will mend their pace.
What crowds of these, impenitently bold,
In sounds and jingling syllables grown old,
Still run on poets, in a raging vein,
Ev'n to the the dregs and squeezings of the brain,
Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense,
And rhyme with all the rage of impotence!
Such shameless bards we have; and yet 'tis true
There are as mad abandon'd critics too.
The bookful blockhead ignorantly read,
With loads of learned lumber in his head,
With his own tongue still edifies his ears,
And always list'ning to himself appears.
All books he reads, and all he reads assails,
From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales.
With him most authors steal their works, or buy;
Garth did not write his own Dispensary.
Name a new play, and he's the poet's friend;
Nay, show'd his faults--but when would poets mend?
No place so sacred from such fops is barr'd,
Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's churchyard:
Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead;
For fools rush in where angels fear t tread.
Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks,
It still looks home, and short excursions makes;
But rattling nonsense in full volleys breaks
And never shock'd, and never turn'd aside,
Bursts out, resistless, with a thund'ring tide.
But where's the man who counsel can bestow,
Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know?
Unbiass'd or by favour or by spite;
Not dully prepossess'd nor blindly right;
Tho' learn'd, well bred, and tho' well bred sincere;
Modestly bold, and humanly severe;
Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the merit of a foe;
Bless'd with a taste exact, yet unconfin'd,
A knowledge both of books and humankind;
Gen'rous converse; a soul exempt from pride;
And love to praise, with reason on his side?
Such once were critics; such the happy few
Athens and Rome in better ages knew.
The mighty Stagyrite first left the shore,
Spread all his sails, and durst the deeps explore;
He steer'd securely, and discover'd far,
Led by the light of the Maeonian star.
Poets, a race long unconfin'd and free,
Still fond and proud of savage liberty,
Receiv'd his laws, and stood convinc'd 'twas fit
Who conquer'd Nature should preside o'er Wit.
Horace still charms with graceful negligence,
And without method talks us into sense;
Will, like a friend, familiarly convey
The truest notions in the easiest way.
He who, supreme in judgment as in wit,
Might boldly censure as he boldly writ,
Yet judg'd with coolness, though he sung with fire;
His precepts teach but what his works inspire.
Our critics take a contrary extreme,
They judge with fury, but they write with phlegm;
Nor suffers Horace more in wrong translations
By Wits, than Critics in as wrong quotations.
See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine,
And call new beauties forth from ev'ry line!
Fancy and art in gay Petronius please,
The Scholar's learning with the courtier's ease.
In grave Quintilian's copious work we find
The justest rules and clearest method join'd.
Thus useful arms in magazines we place,
All ranged in order, and disposed with grace;
But less to please the eye than arm the hand,
Still fit for use, and ready at command.
Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire,
And bless their critic with a poet's fire:
An ardent judge, who, zealous in his trust,
With warmth gives sentence, yet is always just;
Whose own example strengthens all his laws,
And is himself that great sublime he draws.
Thus long succeeding critics justly reign'd,
License repress'd, and useful laws ordain'd:
Learning and Rome alike in empire grew,
And arts still follow'd where her eagles flew;
From the same foes at last both felt their doom,
And the same age saw learning fall and Rome.
With tyranny then superstition join'd,
As that the body, this enslaved the mind;
Much was believ'd, but little understood,
And to be dull was construed to be good;
A second deluge learning thus o'errun,
And the monks finish'd what the Goths begun.
At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name,
(The glory of the priesthood and the shame!)
Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barb'rous age,
And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.
But see! each Muse in Leo's golden days
Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays.
Rome's ancient genius, o'er its ruins spread,
Shakes off the dust, and rears his rev'rend head.
Then sculpture and her sister arts revive;
Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live;
With sweeter notes each rising temple rung;
A Raphael painted and a Vida sung;
Immortal Vida! on whose honour'd brow
The poet's bays and critics ivy grow:
Cremona now shall ever boast they name,
As next in place to Mantua, next in fame!
But soon by impious arms from Latium chased,
Their ancient bounds the banish'd Muses pass'd;
Thence arts o'er all the northern world advance,
But critic learning flourish'd most in France;
The rules a nation born to serve obeys,
And Boileau still in right of Horace sways.
But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despised,
And kept unconquer'd and uncivilized;
Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold,
We still defied the Romans, as of old.
Yet some there were, among the sounder few
Of those who less presumed and better knew,
Who durst assert the juster ancient cause,
And here restor'd WIt's fundamental laws.
Such was the Muse whose rules and practice tell
``Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well.''
Such was Roscommon, not more learn'd than good,
With manners gen'rous as his noble blood;
To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known,
And every author's merit but his own.
Such late was Walsh--the Muse's judge and friend,
Who justly knew to blame or to commend;
To failings mild but zealous for desert,
The clearest head, and the sincerest heart.
This humble praise, lamented Shade! receive;
This praise at least a grateful Muse may give:
The Muse whose early voice you taught to sing,
Prescribed her heights, and pruned her tender wing,
(Her guide now lost), no more attempts to rise,
But in low numbers short excursions tries;
Content if hence th'unlearn'd their wants may view,
The learn'd reflect on what before they knew;
Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame;
Still pleas'd to praise, yet not afraid to blame;
Averse alike to flatter or offend;
Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
The Siege of Corinth
In the year since Jesus died for men,
Eighteen hundred years and ten,
We were a gallant company,
Riding o'er land, and sailing o'er sea
Oh ! but we went merrily !
We forded the river, and clomb the high hill,
Never our steeds for a day stood still;
Whether we lay in the cave or the shed,
Our sleep fell soft on the hardest bed:
Whether we couch'd in our rough capote,
On the rougher plank of our gliding boat.
Or stretch'd on the beach, or our saddles spread
As a pillow beneath the resting head,
Fresh we woke upon the morrow:
All our thoughts and words had scope,
We had health, and we had hope,
Toil and travel, but no sorrow.
We were of all tongues and creeds; ---
Some were those who counted beads,
Some of mosque, and some of church;
Yet through the wide world might ye search,
Nor find a motlier crew nor blither.
But some are dead, and some are gone,
And some are scatter'd and alone,
And some are rebels on the hills
That look along Epirus' valleys,
Where freedom still at moments rallies,
And pays in blood oppression's ills;
And some are in a far countree,
And some all restlessly at home;
But never more, oh ! never, we
Shall meet to revel and to roam.
But those hardy days flew cheerily !
And when they now fall drearily,
My thoughts, like swallows, skim the main,
And bear my spirit back again
Over the earth, and through the air,
A wild bird and a wanderer.
'Tis this that ever wakes my strain,
And oft, too oft, implores again
The few who may endure my lay,
To follow me so far away.
Stranger --- wilt thou follow now,
And sit with me on Acro-Corinth's brow?
Many a vanish'd year and age,
And tempest's breath, and battle's rage,
Have swept o'er Corinth; yet she stands,
A fortress form'd to Freedom's hands.
The whirlwind's wrath, the earthquake's shock,
Have left untouch'd her hoary rock,
The keystone of a land, which still,
Though fall'n, looks proudly on that hill.
The landmark in the double tide
That purpling rolls on either side,
As if their waters chafed to meet,
Yet pause and crouch beneath her feet.
But could the blood before her shed
Since first Timoleon's brother bled,
Or baffled Persia's despot fled,
Arise from out the earth which drank
The stream of slaughter as it sank,
That sanquine ocean would o'erflow
Her isthmus idly spread below;
Or could the bones of all the slain,
Who perish'd there, be piled again,
That rival pyramid would rise
More mountain-like, through those clear skies,
Than yon tower-capp'd Acropolis,
Which seems the very clouds to kiss.
On dun Cithaeron's ridge appears
The gleam of twice ten thousand spears;
And downward to the Isthmian plain,
From shore to shore of either main,
The tent is pitch'd, the crescent shines
Along the Moslem's leaguering lines;
And the dusk Spahi's bands advance
Beneath each bearded pacha's glance;
And far and wide as eye can reach
The turban'd cohorts throng the beach;
And there the Arab's camel kneels,
And there his steed the Tartar wheels;
The turcoman hath left his herd,
The sabre round his loins to gird;
And there the volleying thunders pour,
Till waves grow smoother to the roar.
The trench is dug, the cannon's breath
Wings the far hissing globe of death;
Fast whirl the fragments from the wall
Which crumbles with the ponderous ball;
And from that wall the foe replies,
O'er dusty plain and smoky skies,
With fires that answer fast and well
The summons of the Infidel.
But near and nearest to the wall
Of those who wish and work its fall,
With deeper skill in war's black art
Than Othman's sons, and high of heart
As any chief that ever stood
Triumphant in the fields of blood;
From post to post, and deed to deed,
Fast spurring on his reeking steed,
Where sallying ranks the trench assail,
And make the foremost Moslem quail;
Or where the battery, guarded well,
Remains as yet impregnable,
Alighting cheerly to inspire
The soldier slackening in his fire;
The first and freshest of the host
Which Stamboul's sultan there can boast,
To guide the follower o'er the field,
To point the tube, the lance to wield,
Or whirl around the bickering blade; ---
Was Alp, the Adrian renegade.
From Venice --- once a race of worth
His gentle sires --- he drew his birth;
But late an exile from her shore,
Against his countrymen he bore
The arms they taught to bear; and now
The turban girt his shaven brow,
Through many a change had Corinth pass'd
With Greece to Venice' rule at last;
And here, before her walls, with those
To Greece and Venice equal foes,
He stood a foe, with all the zeal
Which young and fiery converts feel,
Within whose heated bosom throngs
The memory of a thousand wrongs.
To him had Venice ceased to be
Her ancient civic boast --- "the Free;"
And in the palace of St.Mark
Unnamed accusers in the dark
Within the "Lion's mouth" had placed
A charge against him uneffaced:
He fled i time, and saved his life,
To waste his future years in strife,
That taught his land how great her loss
In him who triumph'd o'er the Cross,
"Gainst which he rear'd the Crescent high,
And battled to avenge or die.
Coumourgi --- he whose closing scene
Adorn'd the triumph of Eugene,
When on Carlowitz' bloody plain,
The last and mightiest of the slain,
He sank, regretting not to die,
But cursed the Christian's victory ---
Coumourgi --- can his glory cease,
That latest conqueror of Greece,
Till Christian hands to Greece restore
The freedom Venice gave of yore?
A hundred years have roll'd away
Since he refix'd the Moslem's sway;
And now he led the Mussulman,
And gave the guidance of the van
To Alp, who well repaid the trust
By cities levell'd with the dust;
And proved, by many a deed of death,
How firm his heart in novel faith.
The walls grew weak; and fast and hot
Against them pour'd the ceaseless shot,
With unabating fury sent
From battery to battlement;
And thunder-like the pealing din
Rose from each heated culverin;
And here and there some crackling dome
Was fired before the exploding bomb;
And as the fabric sank beneath
The shattering shell's volcanic breath,
In red and wreathing columns flash'd
The flame, as loud the ruin crash'd,
Or into countless meteors driven,
Its earth-stars melted into heaven;
Whose clouds that day grew doubly dun,
Impervious to the hidden sun,
With volumed smoke that slowly grew
To one wide sky or sulphurous hue.
But not for vengeance, long delay'd
Alone, did Alp, the renegade,
The Moslem warriors sternly teach
His skill to pierce the promised breach:
Within these walls a maid was pent
His hope would win, without consent
Of that inexorable sire,
Whose heart refused him in its ire,
When Alp, beneath his Christian name,
Her virgin hand aspired to claim.
In happier mood, and earlier time,
While unimpeach'd for traitoress crime,
Gayest in gondola or hall
He glitter'd through the Carnival;
And tuned the softest serenade
That e'er on Adria's waters played
At midnight to Italian maid.
And many deem'd her heart was won !
For sought by numbers, given to none,
Had young Francesca's hand remain'd
Still by the church's bonds unchain'd:
And when the Adriatic bore
Lanciotto to the Paynim shore,
Her wonted smiles were seen to fail,
And pensive wax'd the maid and pale;
More constant at confessional,
More rare at masque and festival;
Or seen at such, with downcast eyes,
Which conquer'd hearts they ceased to prize:
With listless look she seems to gaze:
With humbler care her form arrays
Her voice less lively in the song;
Her step though light, less fleet among
The pairs, on whom the Morning's glance
Breaks, yet unsated with the dance.
Sent by the state to guard the land,
( Which, wrested from the Moslem's hand,
While Sobieski tamed his pride
By Buda's wall and Danube's side,
The chiefs of Venice wrung away
From Patra to Euboea's bay, )
Minotti held in Corinth's towers
The Doge's delegated powers,
While yet the pitying eye of Peace
Smiled o'er her long forgotten Greece:
And ere that faithless truce was broke
Which freed her from unchristian yoke,
With him his gentle daughter came;
Nor there, since Menelaus' dame
Forsook her lord and land, to prove
What woes await on lawless love,
Had fairer form adorn'd the shore
Than she, the matchless stranger, bore.
The wall is rent, the ruins yawn;
And with to-morrow's earliest dawn,
O'er the disjointed mass shall vault
The foremost of the fierce assault.
The bands are rank'd; the chosen van
Of Tartar and of Mussulman,
The full of hope, misnamed "forlorn,"
Who hold the thought of death in scorn,
And win their way with falchion's force,
Or pave the path with many a corse,
O'er which the following brave may rise,
Their stepping-stone --- the last who dies !
'Tis midnight: on the mountains brown
The cold, round moon shines deeply down;
Blue roll the waters, blue the sky
Spreads like an ocean hun on high,
Bespangled with those isles of light,
So wildly, spiritually bright;
Who ever gazed upon them shining
And turn'd to earth without repining,
Nor wish'd for wings to flee away,
And mix with their eternal ray?
The waves on either shore lay there
Clam, clear, and azure as the air;
And scarce their foam the pebbles shook,
But murmur'd meekly as the brook.
The winds were pillow'd on the waves;
The banners droop'd along their staves,
And, as they fell around them furling,
Above them shone the crescent curling;
And that deep silence was unbroke,
Save where the watch his signal spoke,
Save where the steed neigh'd oft and shrill,
And echo answer'd from the hill,
And the wild hum of that wild host
Rustled like leaves from coast to coast,
As rose the Muezzin's voice in air
In midnight call to wonted prayer;
It rose, that chanted mournful strain,
Like some lone spirit's o'er the plan:
'Twas musical, but sadly sweet,
Such as when winds and harp-strings meet,
And take a long unmeasured tone,
To mortal minstrelsy unknown.
It seem'd to those within the wall
A cry prophetic of their fall:
It struck even the besieger's ear
With something ominous and drear,
An undefined and sudden thrill,
Which makes the heart a moment still,
Then beat with quicker pulse, ashamed
Of that strange sense its silence framed;
Such as a sudden passing-bell
Wakes, though but for a stranger's knell.
The tent of Alp was on the shore;
The sound was hush'd, the prayer was o'er,
The watch was set, the night-round made,
All mandates issued and obey'd:
'Tis but another anxious night,
His pains the morrow may requite
With all revenge and love can pay,
In guerdon for their long delay.
Few hours remain, and he hath need
Of rest, to nerve for many a deed
Of slaughter; but within his soul
The thoughts like troubled waters roll.
He stood alone among the host;
Not his the loud fanatic boast
To plant the crescent o'er the cross,
Or risk a life with little loss,
Secure in paradise to be
By Houris loved immortally:
Nor his what burning patriots feel,
The stern exaltedness of zeal,
Profuse of blood, untired in toil,
When battling on the parent soil.
He stood alone --- a renegade
Against the country he betray'd;
He stood along amidst his band,
Without a trusted heart or hand:
And great the spoil he got and gave;
They crouch'd to him, for he had skill
To warp and wield the vulgar will:
But still his Christian origin
With them was little less than sin.
They envied even the faithless fame
He earn'd beneath a Moslem name;
Since he, their mightiest chief, had been
In youth a bitter Nazarene.
They did not know how pride can stoop,
When baffled feelings withering droop;
They did not know how hate can burn
In hearts once changed from soft to stern;
Nor all the false and fatal zeal
The convert of revenge can feel.
He ruled them --- man may rule the worst,
By ever daring to be first:
So lions o'er the jackal sway;
The jackal points, he fells the prey,
Then on the vulgar yelling press,
To gorge the relics of success.
His head grows fever'd, and his pulse
The quick successive throbs convulse:
In vain from side to side he throws
His form, in courtship of repose;
Or if he dozed, a sound, a start
Awoke him with a sunken heart.
The turban on his hot brow press'd,
The mail weigh'd lead-like on his breast,
Though oft and long beneath its weight
Upon his eyes had slumber sate,
Without or couch or canopy,
Except a rougher field and sky
Than now might yield a warrior's bed,
Than now along the heaven was spread.
He could not rest, he could not stay
Within his tent to wait for day,
But walk'd him forth along the sand,
Where thousand sleepers strew'd the strand.
What pillow'd them? and why should he
More wakeful than the humblest be,
Since more their peril, worse their toil?
And yet they fearless dreams of spoil;
While he alone, where thousands pass'd
A night of sleep, perchance their last,
In sickly virgil wander'd on,
And envied all he gazed upon.
He felt his soul become more light
Beneath the freshness of the night.
Cool was the silent sky, though calm,
And bathed his brow with airy balm:
Behind, the camp --- before him lay,
In many a winding creek and bay,
Lepanto's gulf; and, on the brow
Of Delphi's hill, unshaken snow,
High and eternal, such as shone
Through thousand summers brightly gone,
Along the gulf, the mount, the clime;
It will not melt, like man, to time:
Tyrant and slave are swept away,
Less form'd to wear before the ray;
But that white veil, the lightest, frailest,
Which on the might mount thou hailest,
While tower and tree are torn and rent,
Shines o'er its craggy battlement;
In form a peak, in height a cloud,
In texture like a hovering shroud,
Thus high by parting Freedom spread,
As from her fond abode she fled,
And linger'd on the spot, where long
Her prophet spirit, spake in song.
Oh ! still her step at moments falters
O'er wither'd fields, and ruin'd altars,
And fain would wake, in souls too broken,
By pointing to each glorious token:
But vain her voice, till better days
Dawn in those yet remember'd rays,
Which shone upon the Persian flying,
And saw the Spartan smile in dying.
Not mindless of these mighty times
Was Alp, despite his flight and crimes;
And through this night, as on he wander'd,
And o'er the past and present ponder'd,
And though upon the glorious dead
Who there in better cause had bled,
He felt how faint and feebly dim
The fame that could accrue to him.
Who cheer'd the band, and waved the sword,
A traitor in a turban'd horde;
And led them to the lawless siege,
Whose best success were sacrilege.
Not so had those his fancy number'd,
The chiefs whose dust around him slumber'd;
Their phalanx marshall'd on the plain,
Whose bulwarks were not then in vain.
They fell devoted, but undying;
The very gale their name seem'd sighing;
The waters murmur'd of their name;
The woods were peopled with their fame;
The silent pillar, lone and grey,
Claim'd kindred with their sacred clay;
Their spirits wrapp'd the dusky mountain,
Their memory sparkled o'er the fountain;
The meanest rill, the mightiest river
Roll'd mingling with their fame for ever.
Despite of every yoke she bears,
That land is glory's still and theirs!
'Tis still a watchword to the earth:
When man would do a deed of worth
He points to Greece, and turns to tread,
So sanction'd, on the tyrant's head:
He looks to her, and rushes on
Where life is lost, or freedom won.
Still by the shore Alp mutely mused,
And woo'd the freshness Night diffused.
There shrinks no ebb in that tideless sea,
Which changeless rolls eternally;
So that wildest of waves, in their angriest mood,
Scarce break on the bounds of the land for a rood;
And the powerless moon beholds them flow,
Heedless if she come or go:
Calm or high, in main or bay,
On their course she hath no sway.
The rock unworn its base doth bare,
And looks o'er the surf, but it comes not there;
And the fringe of the foam may be seen below,
On the lines that it left long ages ago:
A smooth short space of yellow sand
Between it and the greener land.
He wander'd on along the beach,
Till within the range of a carbine's reach
Of the leaguer'd wall; but they saw him not,
Or how could he 'scape from the hostile shot?
Did traitors lurk in the Christians hold?
Were their hands grown stiff, or their hearts wax'd cold?
I know not, in sooth; but from yonder wall
There flash'd no fire, and there hiss'd no ball,
Though he stood beneath the bastion's frown,
That flank'd the sea-ward gate of the town;
Though he heard the sound, and could almost tell
The sullen words of the sentinel,
As his measured step on the stone below
Clank'd, as he paced it to and fro;
And he saw the lean dogs beneath the wall
Hold o'er the dead their carnival,
Gorging and growling o'er carcass and limb;
They were too busy to bark at him !
From a Tartar's skull they had stripp'd the flesh,
As ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh;
And their white tusks crunch'd o'er the whiter skull,
As it slipp'd through their jaws, when their edge grew dull,
As they lazily mumbled the bones of the dead,
When they scarce could rise from the spot where they fed;
So well had they broken a lingering fast
With those who had fallen for that night's repast.
And Alp knew, by the turbans that roll'd on the sand,
The foremost of these were the best of his band:
Crimson and green were the shawls of their wear,
And each scalp had a single long tuft of hair,
All the rest was shaven and bare.
The scalps were in the wild dog's maw,
The hair was tangled round his jaw:
But close by the shore, on the edge of the gulf,
There sat a vulture flapping a wolf,
Who had stolen from the hills, but kept away,
Scared by the dogs, from the human prey;
But he seized on his share of a steed that lay,
Pick'd by the birds, on the sands of the bay.
Alp turn'd him from the sickening sight:
Never had shaken his nerves in fight;
But he better could brook to behold the dying,
Deep in the tide of their warm blood lying,
Scorch'd with the death-thirst, and writhing in vain,
Than the perishing dead who are past all pain.
There is something of pride in the perilous hour,
Whate'er be the shape in which death may lower;
For Fame is there to say who bleeds,
And Honour's eye on daring deeds !
But when all is past, it is humbling to tread
O'er the weltering field of the tombless dead,
And see worms of the earth, and fowls of the air,
Beasts of the forest, all gathering there;
All regarding man as their prey,
All rejoicing in his decay.
There is a temple in ruin stands,
Fashion'd by long forgotten hands;
Two or three columns, and many a stone,
Marble and granite, with grass o'ergrown !
Out upon Time ! it will leave no more
Of the things to come than the things before !
Out upon Time ! who for ever will leave
But enough of the past for the future to grieve
O'er that which hath been, and o'er that which must be:
What we have seen, our sons shall see;
Remnants of things that have pass'd away,
Fragments of stone rear'd by creatures of clay !
He sate him down at a pillar's base.
And pass'd his hand athwart his face;
Like one in dreary musing mood,
Declining was his attitude;
His head was drooping on his breast,
Fever'd, throbbing, and oppress'd;
And o'er his beating fingers went,
Hurriedly, as you may see
Your own run over the ivory key,
Ere the measured tone is taken
By the chords you would awaken.
There he sate all heavily,
As he heard the night-wind sigh.
Was it the wind through some hollow stone
Sent that soft and tender moan?
He lifted his head, and he look'd on the sea,
But it was unrippled as glass may be;
He look'd on the long grass --- it waved not a blade;
How was that gentle sound convey'd?
He look'd to the banners --- each flag lay still,
So did the leaves on Cithaeron's hill,
And he felt not a breath come over his cheek;
What did that sudden sound bespeak?
He turn'd to the left --- is he sure of sight?
There sate a lady, youthful and bright !
He started up with more of fear
That if an armed foe were near.
"God of my fathers ! what is here?
Who art thou? and wherefore sent
So near a hostile armament? "
His trembling hands refused to sign
The cross he deem'd no more divine:
He had resumed it in that hour,
But conscience wrung away the power.
He gazed, he saw: he knew the face
Of beauty, and the form of grace;
It was Francesca by his side,
The maid who might have been his bride !
The rose was yet upon her cheek,
But mellow'd with a tenderer streak:
Where was the play of her soft lips fled?
Gone was the smile that enliven'd their red.
The ocean's calm within their view,
Beside her eye had less of blue;
But like that cold wave it stood still,
And its glance though clear, was chill.
Around her form a thin robe twining,
Nought conceal'd her bosom shining;
Through the parting of her hair,
Floating darkly downward there,
Her rounded arm show'd white and bare:
And ere yet she made reply,
Once she raised her hand on high;
It was so wan, and transparent of hue,
You might have seen the moon shine through.
"I come from my rest to him I love best,
That I may be happy, and he may be bless'd,
I have pass'd the guards, the gate, the wall;
Sought thee in safety through foes and all.
'Tis said the lion will turn and flee
From a maid in the pride of her purity;
And the Power on high, that can shield the good
Thus from the tyrant of the wood,
Hath extended its mercy to guard me as well
From the hands of the leaguering infidel.
I come --- and if I come in vain,
Never, oh never, we meet again !
Thou hast done a fearful deed
In falling away from thy fathers' creed:
But dash that turban to earth, and sign
The sign of the cross, and for ever be mine;
Wring the black drop from thy heart,
And to-morrow unites us no more to part."
"And where should our bridal couch be spread?
In the midst of the dying and the dead?
For to-morrow we give to the slaughter and flame
The sons and the shrines of the Christian name.
None, save thou and thine, I've sworn,
Shall be left upon the morn:
But thee will I bear to a lovely spot,
Where our hands shall be join'd and our sorrow forgot.
There thou yet shalt be my bride,
When once again I've quell'd the pride
Of Venice; and her hated race
Have felt the arm they would debase
Scourge, with a whip of scorpions, those
Whom vice and envy made my foes."
Upon his hand she laid her own ---
Light was the touch, but it thrill'd to the bone,
And shot a chillness to his heart,
Which fix'd him beyond the power to start.
Though slight was that grasp no mortal cold,
He could not loose him from its hold;
But never did clasp of one so dear
Strike on the pulse with such feeling of fear,
As those thin fingers, long and white,
Froze through his blood by their touch that night.
The feverish glow of his brow was gone,
And his heart sank so still that it felt like stone,
As he look'd on the face, and beheld its hue,
So deeply changed from what he knew:
Fair but faint --- without the ray
Of mind, that made each feature play
Like sparkling waves on a sunny day;
And her motionless lips lay still as death,
And her words came forth without her breath,
And there rose not a heave o'er her bosom's swell,
And there seem'd not a pulse in her veins to dwell.
Though her eye shone out, yet the lids were fix'd,
And the glance that it gave was wild and unmix'd
With aught of change, as the eyes may seem
Of the restless who walk in a troubled dream;
Like the figures on arras, that gloomily glare,
Stirr'd by the breath of the wintry air,
So seen by the dying lamp's fitful light,
Lifeless, but life-like, and awful to sight;
As they seem, through the dimness, about to come down
From the shadowy wall where their images frown;
Fearfully flitting to and fro,
As the gusts on the tapestry come and go.
"If not for love of me be given
Thus much, then, for the love of heaven, ---
Again I say --- that turban tear
From off thy faithless brow, and swear
Thine injured country's sons to spare,
Or thou art lost; and never shalt see ---
Not earth --- that's past --- but heaven or me.
If this thou dost accord, albeit
A heavy doom 'tis thine to meet,
That doom shall half absolve they sin,
And mercy's gate may receive thee within:
But pause one moment more, and take
The curse of Him thou didst forsake;
And look once more to heaven, and see
Its love for ever shut from thee.
There is a light cloud by the moon ---
'Tis passing, and will pass full soon ---
If, by the time its vapoury sail
Hath ceased her shaded orb to veil,
They heart within thee is not changed,
Then God and man are both avenged;
Dark will thy doom be, darker still
Thine immortality of ill."
Alp look'd to heaven, and saw on high
The sign she spake of in the sky;
But his heart was swollen, and turn'd aside,
By deep interminable pride.
This first false passion of his breast
Roll'd like a torrent o'er the rest.
He, wrong'd by Venice, vow to save
Her sons, devoted to the grave !
No --- though that cloud were thunder's worst,
And charged to crush him --- let it burst !
He look'd upon it earnestly,
Without an accent of reply;
He watch'd it passing; it is flow:
Full on his eye the clear moon shone,
And thus he spake --- "Whate'er my fate,
I am no changeling --- 'tis too late:
The reed in storms may bow and quiver,
Then rise again; the tree must shiver.
What Venice made me, I must be,
Her foe in all, save love to thee:
But thou art safe: oh, fly with me ! "
He turn'd but she is gone !
Nothing is there but the column stone.
Hath she sunk in the earth, or melted in air?
He saw not --- he knew not --- but nothing is there.
The night is past, and shines the sun
As if that morn were a jocund one.
Lightly and brightly breaks away
The Morning from her mantle grey,
And the noon will look on a sultry day.
Hark to the trump, and the drum,
And the mournful sound of the barbarous horn,
And the flap of the banners, that flit as they're borne,
And the clash, and the shout, "They come ! they come ! "
The horsetails are pluck'd from the ground, and the sword
From it's sheath; and they form, and but wait for the word.
Tartar, and Spahi, and Turcoman,
Strike your tents, and throng to the van;
When he breaks from the town; and none escape,
Aged or young, in the Christian shape;
While your fellows on foot, in a fiery mass,
Bloodstain the breach through which they pass.
The steeds are all bridled, and snort to the rein;
Curved in each neck, and flowing each mane;
White is the foam of their champ on the bit;
The spears are uplifted; the matches are lit;
The cannon are pointed, and ready to roar,
And crush the wall they have crumbled before:
Forms in his phalanx each janizar;
Alp at their head; his right arm is bare,
So is the blade of his scimitar;
The khan and the pachas are all at their post;
The vizier himself at the head of the host.
When the culverin's signal is fired, then on;
Leave not in Corinth a living one ---
A priest at her altars, a chief in her halls,
A hearth in her mansions, a stone on her walls.
God and the prophet --- Alla Hu !
Up to the skies with that wild halloo !
"There the breach lies for passage, the ladder to scale;
And your hands on your sabres, and how should ye fail?
He who first downs with the red cross may crave
His heart's dearest wish; let him ask it, and have ! "
Thus utter'd Coumourgi, the dauntless vizier;
The reply was the brandish of sabre and spear,
And the shout of fierce thousands in joyous ire: --- Silence --- hark to the signal --- fire !
As the wolves, that headlong go
On the stately buffalo,
Though with fiery eyes, and angry roar,
And hoofs that stamp, and horns that gore,
He tramples on earth, or tosses on high
The foremost, who rush on his strength but to die:
Thus against the wall they went,
Thus the first were backward bent;
Many a bosom sheathed in brass,
Strew'd the earth like broken glass,
Shiver'd by the shot, that tore
The ground whereon they moved no more:
Even as they fell, in files they lay,
Like the mower's grass at the close of day,
When his work is done on the levell'd plain;
Such was the fall of the foremost slain.
As the spring-tides, with heavy plash,
From the cliffs invading dash
Huge fragments, sapp'd by the ceaseless flow,
Till white and thundering down they go,
Like the avalanche's snow
On the Alpine vales below;
Thus at length, outbreathed and worn,
Corinth's sons were downward borne
By the long and oft renew'd
Charge of the Moslem multitude.
In firmness they stood, and in masses they fell,
Heap'd by the host of the infidel,
Hand to hand, and foot to foot:
Nothing there, save death, was mute:
Stroke, and thrust, and flash, and cry
For quarter or for victory,
Mingle there with the volleying thunder,
Which make the distant cities wonder
How the sounding battle goes,
If with them, or for their foes;
If they must mourn, or may rejoice
In that annihilating voice,
Which pierces the deep hills through and through
With an echo dread and new:
You might have heard it, on that day,
O'er Salamis and Megara;
( We have heard the hearers say, )
Even unto Piraeus' bay.
From the point of encountering blades to the hilt,
Sabres and swords with blood were gilt;
But the rampart is won, and the spoil begun,
And all but the after carnage done.
Shriller shrieks now mingling come
From within the plunder'd dome:
Hark to the hast of flying feet,
That splash in the blood of the slippery street;
But here and there, were 'vantage ground
Against the foe may still be found,
Desperate groups, of twelve or ten,
Make a pause, and turn again ---
With banded backs against the wall,
Fiercely stand, or fighting fall.
There stood an old man --- his hairs were white,
But his veteran arm was full of might:
So gallantly bore he the brunt of the fray,
The dead before him, on that day,
In a semicircle lay;
Still he combated unwounded,
Though retreating, unsurrounded.
Many a scar of former fight
Lurk'd beneath his corslet bright;
But of every wound his body bore,
Each and all had been ta'en before:
Though aged, he was so iron of limb,
Few of our youth could cope with him,
And the foes, whom he singly kept at bay,
Outnumber'd his thin hairs of silver grey.
From right to left his sabre swept;
Many an Othman mother wept
Sons that were unborn, when dipp'd
His weapon first in Moslem gore,
Ere his years could count a score.
Of all he might have been the sire
Who fell that day beneath his ire:
For, sonless left long years ago,
His wrath made many a childless foe;
And since the day, when in the strait
His only boy had met his fate,
His parent's iron hand did doom
More than a human hecatomb.
If shades by carnage be appeased,
Patroclus' spirit less was pleased
Than his, Minotti's son, who died
Where Asia's bounds and ours divide.
Buried he lay, where thousands before
For thousands of years were inhumed on the shore;
What of them is left, to tell
Where they lie, and how they fell?
Not a stone on their turf, nor a bone in their graves;
But they live in the verse that immortally saves.
Hark to the Allah shout ! a band
Of the Mussulman bravest and best is at hand;
Their leader's nervous arm is bare,
Swifter to smite, and never to spare ---
Unclothed to the shoulder it waves them on;
Thus in the fight is he ever known:
Others a gaudier garb may show,
To tempt the spoil of the greedy foe;
Many a hand's on a richer hilt,
But none on a steel more ruddily gilt;
Many a loftier turban may wear, ---
Alp is but known by the white arm bare;
Look through the thick of the fight, 'tis there !
There is not a standard on that shore
So well advanced the ranks before;
There is not a banner in Moslem war
Will lure the Delhis half so far;
It glances like a falling star !
Where'er that mighty arm is seen,
The bravest be, or late have been;
There the craven cries for quarter
Vainly to the vengeful Tartar;
Or the hero, silent lying,
Scorns to yield a groan in dying;
Mustering his last feeble blow
'Gainst the nearest levell'd foe,
Though faint beneath the mutual wound,
Grappling on the gory ground.
Still the old man stood erect,
And Alp's career a moment check'd,
"Yield thee, Minotti, quarter take,
For thine own, thy daughter's sake."
"Never, renegado, never !
Though the life of thy gift would last for ever."
"Francesca ! --- Oh, my promised bride !
Must she too perish by thy pride? "
"She is safe."--- "Where? where? " --- "In heaven;
From whence thy traitor soul is driven ---
Far from thee, and undefiled."
Grimly then Minotti smiled,
As he saw Alp staggering bow
Before his words, as with a blow.
"Oh God ! when died she? " --- "Yester-night ---
Nor weep I for her spirit's flight:
None of my pure race shall be
Slaves to Mahomet and thee ---
Come on ! " --- That challenge is in vain ---
Alp's already with the slain !
While Minotti's words were wreaking
More revenge in bitter speaking
Than his falchion's point had found,
Had the time allow'd to wound,
From within the neighbouring porch
Of a long defended church,
Where the last and desperate few
Would the failing fight renew,
The sharp shot dash'd Alp to the ground;
Ere an eye could view the wound
That crash'd through the brain of the infidel,
Round he spun, and down he fell;
A flash like fire within his eyes
Blazed, as he bent no more to rise,
And then eternal darkness sunk
Through all the palpitating trunk;
Nought of life left, save a quivering
Where his limbs were slightly shivering:
They turn'd him on his back; his breast
And brow were stain'd with gore and dust,
And through his lips the life-blood oozed,
From its deep veins lately loosed:
But in his pulse there was no throb,
Nor on his lips one dying sob;
Sigh, nor word, nor struggling breath
Heralded his way to death;
Ere his very thought could pray,
Unanel'd he pass'd away.
Without a hope from mercy's aid, ---
To the last a Renegade.
Fearfully the yell arose
Of his followers, and his foes;
These in joy, in fury those:
Then again in conflict mixing,
Clashing swords, and spears transfixing,
Interchanged the blow and thrust,
Hurling warriors in the dust.
Street by street, and foot by foot,
Still Minotti dares dispute
The latest portion of the land
Left beneath his high command;
With him, aiding heart and hand,
The remnant of his gallant band.
Still the church is tenable,
Whence issued late the fated ball
That half avenged the city's fall
When Alp, her fierce assailant, fell:
Thither bending sternly back,
they leave before a bloody track;
And, with their faces to the foe,
Dealing wounds with every blow,
The chief, and his retreating train,
Join to those within the fane;
There they yet may breathe awhile,
Shelter'd by the massy pile.
Brief breathing-time ! the turban'd host,
With added ranks and raging boast,
Press onwards with such strength and heat,
Their numbers balk their own retreat;
For narrow the way that led to the spot
Where still the Christians yielded not;
And the foremost, if fearful, may vainly try
Through the massy column to turn and fly;
They perforce must do or die.
They die; but ere their eyes could close,
Avengers o'er their bodies rose;
Fresh and furious, fast they fill
The ranks unthinn'd though slaughter'd still;
And faint the weary Christians wax
Before the still renew'd attacks:
And now the Othmans gain the gate;
Still resists its iron weight,
And still,all deadly aim'd and hot,
From every crevice comes the shot;
From every shatter'd window pour
The volleys of the sulphurous shower:
But the portal wavering grows and weak---
The iron yields, the hinges creak ---
It bends --- it falls --- and all is o'er;
Lost Corinth may resist no more !
Darkly, sternly, and all alone,
Minotti stood o'er the altar-stone:
Madonna's face upon him shone,
Painted in heavenly hues above,
With eyes of light and looks of love;
And placed upon that holy shrine
To fix our thoughts on things divine,
When pictured there, we kneeling see
Her, and the boy-God on her knee,
Smiling sweetly on each prayer
To heaven, as if to waft it there.
Still she smiled; ;even now she smiles,
Though slaughter streams along her aisles:
Minotti lifted his aged eye,
And made the sign of a cross with a sigh,
Then seized a torch which blazed thereby;
And still he stood, while with steel and flame
Inward and onward the Mussulman came.
The vaults beneath the mosaic stone
Contain'd the dead of ages gone;
Their names were on the graven floor,
But now illegible with gore;
The carved crests, and curious hues
The varied marble's vein diffuse,
Were smear'd and slippery, --- stain'd, and strown
With broken swords, and helms o'erthrown:
There were dead above, and the dead below
Lay cold in many a coffin'd row;
You might see them piled in sable state,
By a pale light through a gloomy grate;
But War had enter'd their dark caves,
And stored along the vaulted graves
Her sulphurous treasures, thickly spread
In masses by the fleshless dead:
Here, throughout the siege had been
The Christians' chiefest magazine;
To these a late form'd train now led,
Minotti's last and stern resource
Against the foe's o'erwhelming force.
The foe came on, and few remain
To strive, and those must strive in vain:
For lack of further lives, to slake
The thirst of vengeance now awake,
With barbarous blows they gash the dead,
And lop the already lifeless head,
And fell the statues from their niche
And spoil the shrines of offerings rich,
And from each other's rude hands wrest
The silver vessels saints had bless'd.
To the high altar on they go;
Oh, but it made a glorious show !
On its table still behold
The cup of consecrated gold;
Massy and deep, a glittering prize,
Brightly it sparkles to plunders' eyes:
That morn it held the holy wine,
Converted by Christ to his blood so divine,
Which his worshippers drank at the break of day,
To shrive their souls ere they join'd in the fray.
Still a few drops within it lay:
And round the sacred table glow
Twelve lofty lamps, in splendid row,
From the purest metal cast;
A spoil --- the richest, and the last.
So near they came, the nearest stretch'd
To grasp the spoil he almost reach'd,
When Old Minotti's hand
Touch'd with the torch the train ---
'Tis fired !
Spire, vaults, the shrine, the spoil, the slain,
The turban'd victors, the Christian band,
All that of living or dead remain,
Hurl'd on high with the shiver'd fane,
In one wild roar expired !
The shatter'd town --- the walls thrown down ---
The waves a moment backward bent ---
The hills that shake, although unrent,
As if an earthquake pass'd ---
The thousand shapeless things all driven
In cloud and flame athwart the heaven,
By that tremendous blast ---
Proclaim'd the desperate conflict o'er
On that too long afflicted shore:
Up to the sky like rockets go
All that mingled there below:
Many a tall and goodly man,
Scorch'd and shrivell'd to a span,
When he fell to earth again
Like a cinder strew'd the plain;
Down the ashes shower like rain;
Some fell in the gulf, which received the sprinkles
With a thousand circling wrinkles;
Some fell on the shore, but, far away,
Scatter'd o'er the isthmus lay;
Christian or Moslem, which be they?
Let their mothers see and say !
When in cradled rest they lay,
And each nursing mother smiled
On the sweet sleep of her child,
Little deem'd she such a day
Would rend those tender limbs away.
Not the matrons that them bore
Could discern their offspring more;
That one moment left no trace
More human form or face
Save a scatter'd scalp or bone:
And down came blazing rafters, strown
Around, and many a falling stone,
Deeply dinted in the clay,
All blacken'd there and reeking lay.
All the living things that heard
That deadly earth-shock disappear'd:
The wild birds flew; the wild dogs fled,
And howling left the unburied dead;
The camels from their keepers broke;
The distant steer forsook the yoke ---
The nearer steed plunged o'er the plain,
And burst his girth, and tore his rein;
The bull-frog's note, from out the marsh,
Deep-mouth'd arose, and doubly harsh;
The wolves yell'd on the cavern'd hill
Where echo roll'd in thunder still;
The jackals' troop, in gather'd cry,
Bay'd from afar complainingly,
With a mix'd and mournful sound,
Like --- crying babe, and beaten hound:
With sudden wing, and ruffled breast,
The eagle left his rocky nest,
And mounted nearer to the sun,
The clouds beneath him seem'd so dun;
Their smoke assail'd his startled beak,
And made him higher soar and shriek---
Thus was Corinth lost and won !
Endymion: Book II
O Sovereign power of love! O grief! O balm!
All records, saving thine, come cool, and calm,
And shadowy, through the mist of passed years:
For others, good or bad, hatred and tears
Have become indolent; but touching thine,
One sigh doth echo, one poor sob doth pine,
One kiss brings honey-dew from buried days.
The woes of Troy, towers smothering o'er their blaze,
Stiff-holden shields, far-piercing spears, keen blades,
Struggling, and blood, and shrieks--all dimly fades
Into some backward corner of the brain;
Yet, in our very souls, we feel amain
The close of Troilus and Cressid sweet.
Hence, pageant history! hence, gilded cheat!
Swart planet in the universe of deeds!
Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds
Along the pebbled shore of memory!
Many old rotten-timber'd boats there be
Upon thy vaporous bosom, magnified
To goodly vessels; many a sail of pride,
And golden keel'd, is left unlaunch'd and dry.
But wherefore this? What care, though owl did fly
About the great Athenian admiral's mast?
What care, though striding Alexander past
The Indus with his Macedonian numbers?
Though old Ulysses tortured from his slumbers
The glutted Cyclops, what care?--Juliet leaning
Amid her window-flowers,--sighing,--weaning
Tenderly her fancy from its maiden snow,
Doth more avail than these: the silver flow
Of Hero's tears, the swoon of Imogen,
Fair Pastorella in the bandit's den,
Are things to brood on with more ardency
Than the death-day of empires. Fearfully
Must such conviction come upon his head,
Who, thus far, discontent, has dared to tread,
Without one muse's smile, or kind behest,
The path of love and poesy. But rest,
In chaffing restlessness, is yet more drear
Than to be crush'd, in striving to uprear
Love's standard on the battlements of song.
So once more days and nights aid me along,
Like legion'd soldiers.
What promise hast thou faithful guarded since
The day of sacrifice? Or, have new sorrows
Come with the constant dawn upon thy morrows?
Alas! 'tis his old grief. For many days,
Has he been wandering in uncertain ways:
Through wilderness, and woods of mossed oaks;
Counting his woe-worn minutes, by the strokes
Of the lone woodcutter; and listening still,
Hour after hour, to each lush-leav'd rill.
Now he is sitting by a shady spring,
And elbow-deep with feverous fingering
Stems the upbursting cold: a wild rose tree
Pavilions him in bloom, and he doth see
A bud which snares his fancy: lo! but now
He plucks it, dips its stalk in the water: how!
It swells, it buds, it flowers beneath his sight;
And, in the middle, there is softly pight
A golden butterfly; upon whose wings
There must be surely character'd strange things,
For with wide eye he wonders, and smiles oft.
Lightly this little herald flew aloft,
Follow'd by glad Endymion's clasped hands:
Onward it flies. From languor's sullen bands
His limbs are loos'd, and eager, on he hies
Dazzled to trace it in the sunny skies.
It seem'd he flew, the way so easy was;
And like a new-born spirit did he pass
Through the green evening quiet in the sun,
O'er many a heath, through many a woodland dun,
Through buried paths, where sleepy twilight dreams
The summer time away. One track unseams
A wooded cleft, and, far away, the blue
Of ocean fades upon him; then, anew,
He sinks adown a solitary glen,
Where there was never sound of mortal men,
Saving, perhaps, some snow-light cadences
Melting to silence, when upon the breeze
Some holy bark let forth an anthem sweet,
To cheer itself to Delphi. Still his feet
Went swift beneath the merry-winged guide,
Until it reached a splashing fountain's side
That, near a cavern's mouth, for ever pour'd
Unto the temperate air: then high it soar'd,
And, downward, suddenly began to dip,
As if, athirst with so much toil, 'twould sip
The crystal spout-head: so it did, with touch
Most delicate, as though afraid to smutch
Even with mealy gold the waters clear.
But, at that very touch, to disappear
So fairy-quick, was strange! Bewildered,
Endymion sought around, and shook each bed
Of covert flowers in vain; and then he flung
Himself along the grass. What gentle tongue,
What whisperer disturb'd his gloomy rest?
It was a nymph uprisen to the breast
In the fountain's pebbly margin, and she stood
'Mong lilies, like the youngest of the brood.
To him her dripping hand she softly kist,
And anxiously began to plait and twist
Her ringlets round her fingers, saying: "Youth!
Too long, alas, hast thou starv'd on the ruth,
The bitterness of love: too long indeed,
Seeing thou art so gentle. Could I weed
Thy soul of care, by heavens, I would offer
All the bright riches of my crystal coffer
To Amphitrite; all my clear-eyed fish,
Golden, or rainbow-sided, or purplish,
Vermilion-tail'd, or finn'd with silvery gauze;
Yea, or my veined pebble-floor, that draws
A virgin light to the deep; my grotto-sands
Tawny and gold, ooz'd slowly from far lands
By my diligent springs; my level lilies, shells,
My charming rod, my potent river spells;
Yes, every thing, even to the pearly cup
Meander gave me,--for I bubbled up
To fainting creatures in a desert wild.
But woe is me, I am but as a child
To gladden thee; and all I dare to say,
Is, that I pity thee; that on this day
I've been thy guide; that thou must wander far
In other regions, past the scanty bar
To mortal steps, before thou cans't be ta'en
From every wasting sigh, from every pain,
Into the gentle bosom of thy love.
Why it is thus, one knows in heaven above:
But, a poor Naiad, I guess not. Farewel!
I have a ditty for my hollow cell."
Hereat, she vanished from Endymion's gaze,
Who brooded o'er the water in amaze:
The dashing fount pour'd on, and where its pool
Lay, half asleep, in grass and rushes cool,
Quick waterflies and gnats were sporting still,
And fish were dimpling, as if good nor ill
Had fallen out that hour. The wanderer,
Holding his forehead, to keep off the burr
Of smothering fancies, patiently sat down;
And, while beneath the evening's sleepy frown
Glow-worms began to trim their starry lamps,
Thus breath'd he to himself: "Whoso encamps
To take a fancied city of delight,
O what a wretch is he! and when 'tis his,
After long toil and travelling, to miss
The kernel of his hopes, how more than vile:
Yet, for him there's refreshment even in toil;
Another city doth he set about,
Free from the smallest pebble-bead of doubt
That he will seize on trickling honey-combs:
Alas, he finds them dry; and then he foams,
And onward to another city speeds.
But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
The disappointment, the anxiety,
Imagination's struggles, far and nigh,
All human; bearing in themselves this good,
That they are sill the air, the subtle food,
To make us feel existence, and to shew
How quiet death is. Where soil is men grow,
Whether to weeds or flowers; but for me,
There is no depth to strike in: I can see
Nought earthly worth my compassing; so stand
Upon a misty, jutting head of land--
Alone? No, no; and by the Orphean lute,
When mad Eurydice is listening to 't;
I'd rather stand upon this misty peak,
With not a thing to sigh for, or to seek,
But the soft shadow of my thrice-seen love,
Than be--I care not what. O meekest dove
Of heaven! O Cynthia, ten-times bright and fair!
From thy blue throne, now filling all the air,
Glance but one little beam of temper'd light
Into my bosom, that the dreadful might
And tyranny of love be somewhat scar'd!
Yet do not so, sweet queen; one torment spar'd,
Would give a pang to jealous misery,
Worse than the torment's self: but rather tie
Large wings upon my shoulders, and point out
My love's far dwelling. Though the playful rout
Of Cupids shun thee, too divine art thou,
Too keen in beauty, for thy silver prow
Not to have dipp'd in love's most gentle stream.
O be propitious, nor severely deem
My madness impious; for, by all the stars
That tend thy bidding, I do think the bars
That kept my spirit in are burst--that I
Am sailing with thee through the dizzy sky!
How beautiful thou art! The world how deep!
How tremulous-dazzlingly the wheels sweep
Around their axle! Then these gleaming reins,
How lithe! When this thy chariot attains
Is airy goal, haply some bower veils
Those twilight eyes? Those eyes!--my spirit fails--
Dear goddess, help! or the wide-gaping air
Will gulph me--help!"--At this with madden'd stare,
And lifted hands, and trembling lips he stood;
Like old Deucalion mountain'd o'er the flood,
Or blind Orion hungry for the morn.
And, but from the deep cavern there was borne
A voice, he had been froze to senseless stone;
Nor sigh of his, nor plaint, nor passion'd moan
Had more been heard. Thus swell'd it forth: "Descend,
Young mountaineer! descend where alleys bend
Into the sparry hollows of the world!
Oft hast thou seen bolts of the thunder hurl'd
As from thy threshold, day by day hast been
A little lower than the chilly sheen
Of icy pinnacles, and dipp'dst thine arms
Into the deadening ether that still charms
Their marble being: now, as deep profound
As those are high, descend! He ne'er is crown'd
With immortality, who fears to follow
Where airy voices lead: so through the hollow,
The silent mysteries of earth, descend!"
He heard but the last words, nor could contend
One moment in reflection: for he fled
Into the fearful deep, to hide his head
From the clear moon, the trees, and coming madness.
'Twas far too strange, and wonderful for sadness;
Sharpening, by degrees, his appetite
To dive into the deepest. Dark, nor light,
The region; nor bright, nor sombre wholly,
But mingled up; a gleaming melancholy;
A dusky empire and its diadems;
One faint eternal eventide of gems.
Aye, millions sparkled on a vein of gold,
Along whose track the prince quick footsteps told,
With all its lines abrupt and angular:
Out-shooting sometimes, like a meteor-star,
Through a vast antre; then the metal woof,
Like Vulcan's rainbow, with some monstrous roof
Curves hugely: now, far in the deep abyss,
It seems an angry lightning, and doth hiss
Fancy into belief: anon it leads
Through winding passages, where sameness breeds
Vexing conceptions of some sudden change;
Whether to silver grots, or giant range
Of sapphire columns, or fantastic bridge
Athwart a flood of crystal. On a ridge
Now fareth he, that o'er the vast beneath
Towers like an ocean-cliff, and whence he seeth
A hundred waterfalls, whose voices come
But as the murmuring surge. Chilly and numb
His bosom grew, when first he, far away,
Descried an orbed diamond, set to fray
Old darkness from his throne: 'twas like the sun
Uprisen o'er chaos: and with such a stun
Came the amazement, that, absorb'd in it,
He saw not fiercer wonders--past the wit
Of any spirit to tell, but one of those
Who, when this planet's sphering time doth close,
Will be its high remembrancers: who they?
The mighty ones who have made eternal day
For Greece and England. While astonishment
With deep-drawn sighs was quieting, he went
Into a marble gallery, passing through
A mimic temple, so complete and true
In sacred custom, that he well nigh fear'd
To search it inwards, whence far off appear'd,
Through a long pillar'd vista, a fair shrine,
And, just beyond, on light tiptoe divine,
A quiver'd Dian. Stepping awfully,
The youth approach'd; oft turning his veil'd eye
Down sidelong aisles, and into niches old.
And when, more near against the marble cold
He had touch'd his forehead, he began to thread
All courts and passages, where silence dead
Rous'd by his whispering footsteps murmured faint:
And long he travers'd to and fro, to acquaint
Himself with every mystery, and awe;
Till, weary, he sat down before the maw
Of a wide outlet, fathomless and dim
To wild uncertainty and shadows grim.
There, when new wonders ceas'd to float before,
And thoughts of self came on, how crude and sore
The journey homeward to habitual self!
A mad-pursuing of the fog-born elf,
Whose flitting lantern, through rude nettle-briar,
Cheats us into a swamp, into a fire,
Into the bosom of a hated thing.
What misery most drowningly doth sing
In lone Endymion's ear, now he has caught
The goal of consciousness? Ah, 'tis the thought,
The deadly feel of solitude: for lo!
He cannot see the heavens, nor the flow
Of rivers, nor hill-flowers running wild
In pink and purple chequer, nor, up-pil'd,
The cloudy rack slow journeying in the west,
Like herded elephants; nor felt, nor prest
Cool grass, nor tasted the fresh slumberous air;
But far from such companionship to wear
An unknown time, surcharg'd with grief, away,
Was now his lot. And must he patient stay,
Tracing fantastic figures with his spear?
"No!" exclaimed he, "why should I tarry here?"
No! loudly echoed times innumerable.
At which he straightway started, and 'gan tell
His paces back into the temple's chief;
Warming and glowing strong in the belief
Of help from Dian: so that when again
He caught her airy form, thus did he plain,
Moving more near the while. "O Haunter chaste
Of river sides, and woods, and heathy waste,
Where with thy silver bow and arrows keen
Art thou now forested? O woodland Queen,
What smoothest air thy smoother forehead woos?
Where dost thou listen to the wide halloos
Of thy disparted nymphs? Through what dark tree
Glimmers thy crescent? Wheresoe'er it be,
'Tis in the breath of heaven: thou dost taste
Freedom as none can taste it, nor dost waste
Thy loveliness in dismal elements;
But, finding in our green earth sweet contents,
There livest blissfully. Ah, if to thee
It feels Elysian, how rich to me,
An exil'd mortal, sounds its pleasant name!
Within my breast there lives a choking flame--
O let me cool it among the zephyr-boughs!
A homeward fever parches up my tongue--
O let me slake it at the running springs!
Upon my ear a noisy nothing rings--
O let me once more hear the linnet's note!
Before mine eyes thick films and shadows float--
O let me 'noint them with the heaven's light!
Dost thou now lave thy feet and ankles white?
O think how sweet to me the freshening sluice!
Dost thou now please thy thirst with berry-juice?
O think how this dry palate would rejoice!
If in soft slumber thou dost hear my voice,
Oh think how I should love a bed of flowers!--
Young goddess! let me see my native bowers!
Deliver me from this rapacious deep!"
Thus ending loudly, as he would o'erleap
His destiny, alert he stood: but when
Obstinate silence came heavily again,
Feeling about for its old couch of space
And airy cradle, lowly bow'd his face
Desponding, o'er the marble floor's cold thrill.
But 'twas not long; for, sweeter than the rill
To its old channel, or a swollen tide
To margin sallows, were the leaves he spied,
And flowers, and wreaths, and ready myrtle crowns
Up heaping through the slab: refreshment drowns
Itself, and strives its own delights to hide--
Nor in one spot alone; the floral pride
In a long whispering birth enchanted grew
Before his footsteps; as when heav'd anew
Old ocean rolls a lengthened wave to the shore,
Down whose green back the short-liv'd foam, all hoar,
Bursts gradual, with a wayward indolence.
Increasing still in heart, and pleasant sense,
Upon his fairy journey on he hastes;
So anxious for the end, he scarcely wastes
One moment with his hand among the sweets:
Onward he goes--he stops--his bosom beats
As plainly in his ear, as the faint charm
Of which the throbs were born. This still alarm,
This sleepy music, forc'd him walk tiptoe:
For it came more softly than the east could blow
Arion's magic to the Atlantic isles;
Or than the west, made jealous by the smiles
Of thron'd Apollo, could breathe back the lyre
To seas Ionian and Tyrian.
O did he ever live, that lonely man,
Who lov'd--and music slew not? 'Tis the pest
Of love, that fairest joys give most unrest;
That things of delicate and tenderest worth
Are swallow'd all, and made a seared dearth,
By one consuming flame: it doth immerse
And suffocate true blessings in a curse.
Half-happy, by comparison of bliss,
Is miserable. 'Twas even so with this
Dew-dropping melody, in the Carian's ear;
First heaven, then hell, and then forgotten clear,
Vanish'd in elemental passion.
And down some swart abysm he had gone,
Had not a heavenly guide benignant led
To where thick myrtle branches, 'gainst his head
Brushing, awakened: then the sounds again
Went noiseless as a passing noontide rain
Over a bower, where little space he stood;
For as the sunset peeps into a wood
So saw he panting light, and towards it went
Through winding alleys; and lo, wonderment!
Upon soft verdure saw, one here, one there,
Cupids a slumbering on their pinions fair.
After a thousand mazes overgone,
At last, with sudden step, he came upon
A chamber, myrtle wall'd, embowered high,
Full of light, incense, tender minstrelsy,
And more of beautiful and strange beside:
For on a silken couch of rosy pride,
In midst of all, there lay a sleeping youth
Of fondest beauty; fonder, in fair sooth,
Than sighs could fathom, or contentment reach:
And coverlids gold-tinted like the peach,
Or ripe October's faded marigolds,
Fell sleek about him in a thousand folds--
Not hiding up an Apollonian curve
Of neck and shoulder, nor the tenting swerve
Of knee from knee, nor ankles pointing light;
But rather, giving them to the filled sight
Officiously. Sideway his face repos'd
On one white arm, and tenderly unclos'd,
By tenderest pressure, a faint damask mouth
To slumbery pout; just as the morning south
Disparts a dew-lipp'd rose. Above his head,
Four lily stalks did their white honours wed
To make a coronal; and round him grew
All tendrils green, of every bloom and hue,
Together intertwin'd and trammel'd fresh:
The vine of glossy sprout; the ivy mesh,
Shading its Ethiop berries; and woodbine,
Of velvet leaves and bugle-blooms divine;
Convolvulus in streaked vases flush;
The creeper, mellowing for an autumn blush;
And virgin's bower, trailing airily;
With others of the sisterhood. Hard by,
Stood serene Cupids watching silently.
One, kneeling to a lyre, touch'd the strings,
Muffling to death the pathos with his wings;
And, ever and anon, uprose to look
At the youth's slumber; while another took
A willow-bough, distilling odorous dew,
And shook it on his hair; another flew
In through the woven roof, and fluttering-wise
Rain'd violets upon his sleeping eyes.
At these enchantments, and yet many more,
The breathless Latmian wonder'd o'er and o'er;
Until, impatient in embarrassment,
He forthright pass'd, and lightly treading went
To that same feather'd lyrist, who straightway,
Smiling, thus whisper'd: "Though from upper day
Thou art a wanderer, and thy presence here
Might seem unholy, be of happy cheer!
For 'tis the nicest touch of human honour,
When some ethereal and high-favouring donor
Presents immortal bowers to mortal sense;
As now 'tis done to thee, Endymion. Hence
Was I in no wise startled. So recline
Upon these living flowers. Here is wine,
Alive with sparkles--never, I aver,
Since Ariadne was a vintager,
So cool a purple: taste these juicy pears,
Sent me by sad Vertumnus, when his fears
Were high about Pomona: here is cream,
Deepening to richness from a snowy gleam;
Sweeter than that nurse Amalthea skimm'd
For the boy Jupiter: and here, undimm'd
By any touch, a bunch of blooming plums
Ready to melt between an infant's gums:
And here is manna pick'd from Syrian trees,
In starlight, by the three Hesperides.
Feast on, and meanwhile I will let thee know
Of all these things around us." He did so,
Still brooding o'er the cadence of his lyre;
And thus: "I need not any hearing tire
By telling how the sea-born goddess pin'd
For a mortal youth, and how she strove to bind
Him all in all unto her doting self.
Who would not be so prison'd? but, fond elf,
He was content to let her amorous plea
Faint through his careless arms; content to see
An unseiz'd heaven dying at his feet;
Content, O fool! to make a cold retreat,
When on the pleasant grass such love, lovelorn,
Lay sorrowing; when every tear was born
Of diverse passion; when her lips and eyes
Were clos'd in sullen moisture, and quick sighs
Came vex'd and pettish through her nostrils small.
Hush! no exclaim--yet, justly mightst thou call
Curses upon his head.--I was half glad,
But my poor mistress went distract and mad,
When the boar tusk'd him: so away she flew
To Jove's high throne, and by her plainings drew
Immortal tear-drops down the thunderer's beard;
Whereon, it was decreed he should be rear'd
Each summer time to life. Lo! this is he,
That same Adonis, safe in the privacy
Of this still region all his winter-sleep.
Aye, sleep; for when our love-sick queen did weep
Over his waned corse, the tremulous shower
Heal'd up the wound, and, with a balmy power,
Medicined death to a lengthened drowsiness:
The which she fills with visions, and doth dress
In all this quiet luxury; and hath set
Us young immortals, without any let,
To watch his slumber through. 'Tis well nigh pass'd,
Even to a moment's filling up, and fast
She scuds with summer breezes, to pant through
The first long kiss, warm firstling, to renew
Embower'd sports in Cytherea's isle.
Look! how those winged listeners all this while
Stand anxious: see! behold!"--This clamant word
Broke through the careful silence; for they heard
A rustling noise of leaves, and out there flutter'd
Pigeons and doves: Adonis something mutter'd,
The while one hand, that erst upon his thigh
Lay dormant, mov'd convuls'd and gradually
Up to his forehead. Then there was a hum
Of sudden voices, echoing, "Come! come!
Arise! awake! Clear summer has forth walk'd
Unto the clover-sward, and she has talk'd
Full soothingly to every nested finch:
Rise, Cupids! or we'll give the blue-bell pinch
To your dimpled arms. Once more sweet life begin!"
At this, from every side they hurried in,
Rubbing their sleepy eyes with lazy wrists,
And doubling overhead their little fists
In backward yawns. But all were soon alive:
For as delicious wine doth, sparkling, dive
In nectar'd clouds and curls through water fair,
So from the arbour roof down swell'd an air
Odorous and enlivening; making all
To laugh, and play, and sing, and loudly call
For their sweet queen: when lo! the wreathed green
Disparted, and far upward could be seen
Blue heaven, and a silver car, air-borne,
Whose silent wheels, fresh wet from clouds of morn,
Spun off a drizzling dew,--which falling chill
On soft Adonis' shoulders, made him still
Nestle and turn uneasily about.
Soon were the white doves plain, with necks stretch'd out,
And silken traces lighten'd in descent;
And soon, returning from love's banishment,
Queen Venus leaning downward open arm'd:
Her shadow fell upon his breast, and charm'd
A tumult to his heart, and a new life
Into his eyes. Ah, miserable strife,
But for her comforting! unhappy sight,
But meeting her blue orbs! Who, who can write
Of these first minutes? The unchariest muse
To embracements warm as theirs makes coy excuse.
O it has ruffled every spirit there,
Saving love's self, who stands superb to share
The general gladness: awfully he stands;
A sovereign quell is in his waving hands;
No sight can bear the lightning of his bow;
His quiver is mysterious, none can know
What themselves think of it; from forth his eyes
There darts strange light of varied hues and dyes:
A scowl is sometimes on his brow, but who
Look full upon it feel anon the blue
Of his fair eyes run liquid through their souls.
Endymion feels it, and no more controls
The burning prayer within him; so, bent low,
He had begun a plaining of his woe.
But Venus, bending forward, said: "My child,
Favour this gentle youth; his days are wild
With love--he--but alas! too well I see
Thou know'st the deepness of his misery.
Ah, smile not so, my son: I tell thee true,
That when through heavy hours I used to rue
The endless sleep of this new-born Adon',
This stranger ay I pitied. For upon
A dreary morning once I fled away
Into the breezy clouds, to weep and pray
For this my love: for vexing Mars had teaz'd
Me even to tears: thence, when a little eas'd,
Down-looking, vacant, through a hazy wood,
I saw this youth as he despairing stood:
Those same dark curls blown vagrant in the wind:
Those same full fringed lids a constant blind
Over his sullen eyes: I saw him throw
Himself on wither'd leaves, even as though
Death had come sudden; for no jot he mov'd,
Yet mutter'd wildly. I could hear he lov'd
Some fair immortal, and that his embrace
Had zoned her through the night. There is no trace
Of this in heaven: I have mark'd each cheek,
And find it is the vainest thing to seek;
And that of all things 'tis kept secretest.
Endymion! one day thou wilt be blest:
So still obey the guiding hand that fends
Thee safely through these wonders for sweet ends.
'Tis a concealment needful in extreme;
And if I guess'd not so, the sunny beam
Thou shouldst mount up to with me. Now adieu!
Here must we leave thee."--At these words up flew
The impatient doves, up rose the floating car,
Up went the hum celestial. High afar
The Latmian saw them minish into nought;
And, when all were clear vanish'd, still he caught
A vivid lightning from that dreadful bow.
When all was darkened, with Etnean throe
The earth clos'd--gave a solitary moan--
And left him once again in twilight lone.
He did not rave, he did not stare aghast,
For all those visions were o'ergone, and past,
And he in loneliness: he felt assur'd
Of happy times, when all he had endur'd
Would seem a feather to the mighty prize.
So, with unusual gladness, on he hies
Through caves, and palaces of mottled ore,
Gold dome, and crystal wall, and turquois floor,
Black polish'd porticos of awful shade,
And, at the last, a diamond balustrade,
Leading afar past wild magnificence,
Spiral through ruggedest loopholes, and thence
Stretching across a void, then guiding o'er
Enormous chasms, where, all foam and roar,
Streams subterranean tease their granite beds;
Then heighten'd just above the silvery heads
Of a thousand fountains, so that he could dash
The waters with his spear; but at the splash,
Done heedlessly, those spouting columns rose
Sudden a poplar's height, and 'gan to enclose
His diamond path with fretwork, streaming round
Alive, and dazzling cool, and with a sound,
Haply, like dolphin tumults, when sweet shells
Welcome the float of Thetis. Long he dwells
On this delight; for, every minute's space,
The streams with changed magic interlace:
Sometimes like delicatest lattices,
Cover'd with crystal vines; then weeping trees,
Moving about as in a gentle wind,
Which, in a wink, to watery gauze refin'd,
Pour'd into shapes of curtain'd canopies,
Spangled, and rich with liquid broideries
Of flowers, peacocks, swans, and naiads fair.
Swifter than lightning went these wonders rare;
And then the water, into stubborn streams
Collecting, mimick'd the wrought oaken beams,
Pillars, and frieze, and high fantastic roof,
Of those dusk places in times far aloof
Cathedrals call'd. He bade a loth farewel
To these founts Protean, passing gulph, and dell,
And torrent, and ten thousand jutting shapes,
Half seen through deepest gloom, and griesly gapes,
Blackening on every side, and overhead
A vaulted dome like Heaven's, far bespread
With starlight gems: aye, all so huge and strange,
The solitary felt a hurried change
Working within him into something dreary,--
Vex'd like a morning eagle, lost, and weary,
And purblind amid foggy, midnight wolds.
But he revives at once: for who beholds
New sudden things, nor casts his mental slough?
Forth from a rugged arch, in the dusk below,
Came mother Cybele! alone--alone--
In sombre chariot; dark foldings thrown
About her majesty, and front death-pale,
With turrets crown'd. Four maned lions hale
The sluggish wheels; solemn their toothed maws,
Their surly eyes brow-hidden, heavy paws
Uplifted drowsily, and nervy tails
Cowering their tawny brushes. Silent sails
This shadowy queen athwart, and faints away
In another gloomy arch.
Young traveller, in such a mournful place?
Art thou wayworn, or canst not further trace
The diamond path? And does it indeed end
Abrupt in middle air? Yet earthward bend
Thy forehead, and to Jupiter cloud-borne
Call ardently! He was indeed wayworn;
Abrupt, in middle air, his way was lost;
To cloud-borne Jove he bowed, and there crost
Towards him a large eagle, 'twixt whose wings,
Without one impious word, himself he flings,
Committed to the darkness and the gloom:
Down, down, uncertain to what pleasant doom,
Swift as a fathoming plummet down he fell
Through unknown things; till exhaled asphodel,
And rose, with spicy fannings interbreath'd,
Came swelling forth where little caves were wreath'd
So thick with leaves and mosses, that they seem'd
Large honey-combs of green, and freshly teem'd
With airs delicious. In the greenest nook
The eagle landed him, and farewel took.
It was a jasmine bower, all bestrown
With golden moss. His every sense had grown
Ethereal for pleasure; 'bove his head
Flew a delight half-graspable; his tread
Was Hesperean; to his capable ears
Silence was music from the holy spheres;
A dewy luxury was in his eyes;
The little flowers felt his pleasant sighs
And stirr'd them faintly. Verdant cave and cell
He wander'd through, oft wondering at such swell
Of sudden exaltation: but, "Alas!
Said he, "will all this gush of feeling pass
Away in solitude? And must they wane,
Like melodies upon a sandy plain,
Without an echo? Then shall I be left
So sad, so melancholy, so bereft!
Yet still I feel immortal! O my love,
My breath of life, where art thou? High above,
Dancing before the morning gates of heaven?
Or keeping watch among those starry seven,
Old Atlas' children? Art a maid of the waters,
One of shell-winding Triton's bright-hair'd daughters?
Or art, impossible! a nymph of Dian's,
Weaving a coronal of tender scions
For very idleness? Where'er thou art,
Methinks it now is at my will to start
Into thine arms; to scare Aurora's train,
And snatch thee from the morning; o'er the main
To scud like a wild bird, and take thee off
From thy sea-foamy cradle; or to doff
Thy shepherd vest, and woo thee mid fresh leaves.
No, no, too eagerly my soul deceives
Its powerless self: I know this cannot be.
O let me then by some sweet dreaming flee
To her entrancements: hither sleep awhile!
Hither most gentle sleep! and soothing foil
For some few hours the coming solitude."
Thus spake he, and that moment felt endued
With power to dream deliciously; so wound
Through a dim passage, searching till he found
The smoothest mossy bed and deepest, where
He threw himself, and just into the air
Stretching his indolent arms, he took, O bliss!
A naked waist: "Fair Cupid, whence is this?"
A well-known voice sigh'd, "Sweetest, here am I!"
At which soft ravishment, with doating cry
They trembled to each other.--Helicon!
O fountain'd hill! Old Homer's Helicon!
That thou wouldst spout a little streamlet o'er
These sorry pages; then the verse would soar
And sing above this gentle pair, like lark
Over his nested young: but all is dark
Around thine aged top, and thy clear fount
Exhales in mists to heaven. Aye, the count
Of mighty Poets is made up; the scroll
Is folded by the Muses; the bright roll
Is in Apollo's hand: our dazed eyes
Have seen a new tinge in the western skies:
The world has done its duty. Yet, oh yet,
Although the sun of poesy is set,
These lovers did embrace, and we must weep
That there is no old power left to steep
A quill immortal in their joyous tears.
Long time in silence did their anxious fears
Question that thus it was; long time they lay
Fondling and kissing every doubt away;
Long time ere soft caressing sobs began
To mellow into words, and then there ran
Two bubbling springs of talk from their sweet lips.
"O known Unknown! from whom my being sips
Such darling essence, wherefore may I not
Be ever in these arms? in this sweet spot
Pillow my chin for ever? ever press
These toying hands and kiss their smooth excess?
Why not for ever and for ever feel
That breath about my eyes? Ah, thou wilt steal
Away from me again, indeed, indeed--
Thou wilt be gone away, and wilt not heed
My lonely madness. Speak, my kindest fair!
Is--is it to be so? No! Who will dare
To pluck thee from me? And, of thine own will,
Full well I feel thou wouldst not leave me. Still
Let me entwine thee surer, surer--now
How can we part? Elysium! who art thou?
Who, that thou canst not be for ever here,
Or lift me with thee to some starry sphere?
Enchantress! tell me by this soft embrace,
By the most soft completion of thy face,
Those lips, O slippery blisses, twinkling eyes,
And by these tenderest, milky sovereignties--
These tenderest, and by the nectar-wine,
The passion"--------"O lov'd Ida the divine!
Endymion! dearest! Ah, unhappy me!
His soul will 'scape us--O felicity!
How he does love me! His poor temples beat
To the very tune of love--how sweet, sweet, sweet.
Revive, dear youth, or I shall faint and die;
Revive, or these soft hours will hurry by
In tranced dulness; speak, and let that spell
Affright this lethargy! I cannot quell
Its heavy pressure, and will press at least
My lips to thine, that they may richly feast
Until we taste the life of love again.
What! dost thou move? dost kiss? O bliss! O pain!
I love thee, youth, more than I can conceive;
And so long absence from thee doth bereave
My soul of any rest: yet must I hence:
Yet, can I not to starry eminence
Uplift thee; nor for very shame can own
Myself to thee. Ah, dearest, do not groan
Or thou wilt force me from this secrecy,
And I must blush in heaven. O that I
Had done it already; that the dreadful smiles
At my lost brightness, my impassion'd wiles,
Had waned from Olympus' solemn height,
And from all serious Gods; that our delight
Was quite forgotten, save of us alone!
And wherefore so ashamed? 'Tis but to atone
For endless pleasure, by some coward blushes:
Yet must I be a coward!--Horror rushes
Too palpable before me--the sad look
Of Jove--Minerva's start--no bosom shook
With awe of purity--no Cupid pinion
In reverence veiled--my crystaline dominion
Half lost, and all old hymns made nullity!
But what is this to love? O I could fly
With thee into the ken of heavenly powers,
So thou wouldst thus, for many sequent hours,
Press me so sweetly. Now I swear at once
That I am wise, that Pallas is a dunce--
Perhaps her love like mine is but unknown--
O I do think that I have been alone
In chastity: yes, Pallas has been sighing,
While every eve saw me my hair uptying
With fingers cool as aspen leaves. Sweet love,
I was as vague as solitary dove,
Nor knew that nests were built. Now a soft kiss--
Aye, by that kiss, I vow an endless bliss,
An immortality of passion's thine:
Ere long I will exalt thee to the shine
Of heaven ambrosial; and we will shade
Ourselves whole summers by a river glade;
And I will tell thee stories of the sky,
And breathe thee whispers of its minstrelsy.
My happy love will overwing all bounds!
O let me melt into thee; let the sounds
Of our close voices marry at their birth;
Let us entwine hoveringly--O dearth
Of human words! roughness of mortal speech!
Lispings empyrean will I sometime teach
Thine honied tongue--lute-breathings, which I gasp
To have thee understand, now while I clasp
Thee thus, and weep for fondness--I am pain'd,
Endymion: woe! woe! is grief contain'd
In the very deeps of pleasure, my sole life?"--
Hereat, with many sobs, her gentle strife
Melted into a languor. He return'd
Entranced vows and tears.
Ye who have yearn'd
With too much passion, will here stay and pity,
For the mere sake of truth; as 'tis a ditty
Not of these days, but long ago 'twas told
By a cavern wind unto a forest old;
And then the forest told it in a dream
To a sleeping lake, whose cool and level gleam
A poet caught as he was journeying
To Phoebus' shrine; and in it he did fling
His weary limbs, bathing an hour's space,
And after, straight in that inspired place
He sang the story up into the air,
Giving it universal freedom. There
Has it been ever sounding for those ears
Whose tips are glowing hot. The legend cheers
Yon centinel stars; and he who listens to it
Must surely be self-doomed or he will rue it:
For quenchless burnings come upon the heart,
Made fiercer by a fear lest any part
Should be engulphed in the eddying wind.
As much as here is penn'd doth always find
A resting place, thus much comes clear and plain;
Anon the strange voice is upon the wane--
And 'tis but echo'd from departing sound,
That the fair visitant at last unwound
Her gentle limbs, and left the youth asleep.--
Thus the tradition of the gusty deep.
Now turn we to our former chroniclers.--
Endymion awoke, that grief of hers
Sweet paining on his ear: he sickly guess'd
How lone he was once more, and sadly press'd
His empty arms together, hung his head,
And most forlorn upon that widow'd bed
Sat silently. Love's madness he had known:
Often with more than tortured lion's groan
Moanings had burst from him; but now that rage
Had pass'd away: no longer did he wage
A rough-voic'd war against the dooming stars.
No, he had felt too much for such harsh jars:
The lyre of his soul Eolian tun'd
Forgot all violence, and but commun'd
With melancholy thought: O he had swoon'd
Drunken from pleasure's nipple; and his love
Henceforth was dove-like.--Loth was he to move
From the imprinted couch, and when he did,
'Twas with slow, languid paces, and face hid
In muffling hands. So temper'd, out he stray'd
Half seeing visions that might have dismay'd
Alecto's serpents; ravishments more keen
Than Hermes' pipe, when anxious he did lean
Over eclipsing eyes: and at the last
It was a sounding grotto, vaulted, vast,
O'er studded with a thousand, thousand pearls,
And crimson mouthed shells with stubborn curls,
Of every shape and size, even to the bulk
In which whales arbour close, to brood and sulk
Against an endless storm. Moreover too,
Fish-semblances, of green and azure hue,
Ready to snort their streams. In this cool wonder
Endymion sat down, and 'gan to ponder
On all his life: his youth, up to the day
When 'mid acclaim, and feasts, and garlands gay,
He stept upon his shepherd throne: the look
Of his white palace in wild forest nook,
And all the revels he had lorded there:
Each tender maiden whom he once thought fair,
With every friend and fellow-woodlander--
Pass'd like a dream before him. Then the spur
Of the old bards to mighty deeds: his plans
To nurse the golden age 'mong shepherd clans:
That wondrous night: the great Pan-festival:
His sister's sorrow; and his wanderings all,
Until into the earth's deep maw he rush'd:
Then all its buried magic, till it flush'd
High with excessive love. "And now," thought he,
"How long must I remain in jeopardy
Of blank amazements that amaze no more?
Now I have tasted her sweet soul to the core
All other depths are shallow: essences,
Once spiritual, are like muddy lees,
Meant but to fertilize my earthly root,
And make my branches lift a golden fruit
Into the bloom of heaven: other light,
Though it be quick and sharp enough to blight
The Olympian eagle's vision, is dark,
Dark as the parentage of chaos. Hark!
My silent thoughts are echoing from these shells;
Or they are but the ghosts, the dying swells
Of noises far away?--list!"--Hereupon
He kept an anxious ear. The humming tone
Came louder, and behold, there as he lay,
On either side outgush'd, with misty spray,
A copious spring; and both together dash'd
Swift, mad, fantastic round the rocks, and lash'd
Among the conchs and shells of the lofty grot,
Leaving a trickling dew. At last they shot
Down from the ceiling's height, pouring a noise
As of some breathless racers whose hopes poize
Upon the last few steps, and with spent force
Along the ground they took a winding course.
Endymion follow'd--for it seem'd that one
Ever pursued, the other strove to shun--
Follow'd their languid mazes, till well nigh
He had left thinking of the mystery,--
And was now rapt in tender hoverings
Over the vanish'd bliss. Ah! what is it sings
His dream away? What melodies are these?
They sound as through the whispering of trees,
Not native in such barren vaults. Give ear!
"O Arethusa, peerless nymph! why fear
Such tenderness as mine? Great Dian, why,
Why didst thou hear her prayer? O that I
Were rippling round her dainty fairness now,
Circling about her waist, and striving how
To entice her to a dive! then stealing in
Between her luscious lips and eyelids thin.
O that her shining hair was in the sun,
And I distilling from it thence to run
In amorous rillets down her shrinking form!
To linger on her lily shoulders, warm
Between her kissing breasts, and every charm
Touch raptur'd!--See how painfully I flow:
Fair maid, be pitiful to my great woe.
Stay, stay thy weary course, and let me lead,
A happy wooer, to the flowery mead
Where all that beauty snar'd me."--"Cruel god,
Desist! or my offended mistress' nod
Will stagnate all thy fountains:--tease me not
With syren words--Ah, have I really got
Such power to madden thee? And is it true--
Away, away, or I shall dearly rue
My very thoughts: in mercy then away,
Kindest Alpheus for should I obey
My own dear will, 'twould be a deadly bane."--
"O, Oread-Queen! would that thou hadst a pain
Like this of mine, then would I fearless turn
And be a criminal."--"Alas, I burn,
I shudder--gentle river, get thee hence.
Alpheus! thou enchanter! every sense
Of mine was once made perfect in these woods.
Fresh breezes, bowery lawns, and innocent floods,
Ripe fruits, and lonely couch, contentment gave;
But ever since I heedlessly did lave
In thy deceitful stream, a panting glow
Grew strong within me: wherefore serve me so,
And call it love? Alas, 'twas cruelty.
Not once more did I close my happy eyes
Amid the thrush's song. Away! Avaunt!
O 'twas a cruel thing."--"Now thou dost taunt
So softly, Arethusa, that I think
If thou wast playing on my shady brink,
Thou wouldst bathe once again. Innocent maid!
Stifle thine heart no more;--nor be afraid
Of angry powers: there are deities
Will shade us with their wings. Those fitful sighs
'Tis almost death to hear: O let me pour
A dewy balm upon them!--fear no more,
Sweet Arethusa! Dian's self must feel
Sometimes these very pangs. Dear maiden, steal
Blushing into my soul, and let us fly
These dreary caverns for the open sky.
I will delight thee all my winding course,
From the green sea up to my hidden source
About Arcadian forests; and will shew
The channels where my coolest waters flow
Through mossy rocks; where, 'mid exuberant green,
I roam in pleasant darkness, more unseen
Than Saturn in his exile; where I brim
Round flowery islands, and take thence a skim
Of mealy sweets, which myriads of bees
Buzz from their honied wings: and thou shouldst please
Thyself to choose the richest, where we might
Be incense-pillow'd every summer night.
Doff all sad fears, thou white deliciousness,
And let us be thus comforted; unless
Thou couldst rejoice to see my hopeless stream
Hurry distracted from Sol's temperate beam,
And pour to death along some hungry sands."--
"What can I do, Alpheus? Dian stands
Severe before me: persecuting fate!
Unhappy Arethusa! thou wast late
A huntress free in"--At this, sudden fell
Those two sad streams adown a fearful dell.
The Latmian listen'd, but he heard no more,
Save echo, faint repeating o'er and o'er
The name of Arethusa. On the verge
Of that dark gulph he wept, and said: "I urge
Thee, gentle Goddess of my pilgrimage,
By our eternal hopes, to soothe, to assuage,
If thou art powerful, these lovers pains;
And make them happy in some happy plains.
He turn'd--there was a whelming sound--he stept,
There was a cooler light; and so he kept
Towards it by a sandy path, and lo!
More suddenly than doth a moment go,
The visions of the earth were gone and fled--
He saw the giant sea above his head.
The City of Dreadful Night
Per me si va nella citta dolente.
Poi di tanto adoprar, di tanti moti
D'ogni celeste, ogni terrena cosa,
Girando senza posa,
Per tornar sempre la donde son mosse;
Uso alcuno, alcun frutto
Indovinar non so.
Sola nel mondo eterna, a cui si volve
Ogni creata cosa,
In te, morte, si posa
Nostra ignuda natura;
Lieta no, ma sicura
Dell' antico dolor . . .
Pero ch' esser beato
Nega ai mortali e nega a' morti il fato.
Lo, thus, as prostrate, "In the dust I write
My heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears."
Yet why evoke the spectres of black night
To blot the sunshine of exultant years?
Why disinter dead faith from mouldering hidden?
Why break the seals of mute despair unbidden,
And wail life's discords into careless ears?
Because a cold rage seizes one at whiles
To show the bitter old and wrinkled truth
Stripped naked of all vesture that beguiles,
False dreams, false hopes, false masks and modes of youth;
Because it gives some sense of power and passion
In helpless innocence to try to fashion
Our woe in living words howe'er uncouth.
Surely I write not for the hopeful young,
Or those who deem their happiness of worth,
Or such as pasture and grow fat among
The shows of life and feel nor doubt nor dearth,
Or pious spirits with a God above them
To sanctify and glorify and love them,
Or sages who foresee a heaven on earth.
For none of these I write, and none of these
Could read the writing if they deigned to try;
So may they flourish in their due degrees,
On our sweet earth and in their unplaced sky.
If any cares for the weak words here written,
It must be some one desolate, Fate-smitten,
Whose faith and hopes are dead, and who would die.
Yes, here and there some weary wanderer
In that same city of tremendous night,
Will understand the speech and feel a stir
Of fellowship in all-disastrous fight;
"I suffer mute and lonely, yet another
Uplifts his voice to let me know a brother
Travels the same wild paths though out of sight."
O sad Fraternity, do I unfold
Your dolorous mysteries shrouded from of yore?
Nay, be assured; no secret can be told
To any who divined it not before:
None uninitiate by many a presage
Will comprehend the language of the message,
Although proclaimed aloud for evermore.
The City is of Night; perchance of Death
But certainly of Night; for never there
Can come the lucid morning's fragrant breath
After the dewy dawning's cold grey air:
The moon and stars may shine with scorn or pity
The sun has never visited that city,
For it dissolveth in the daylight fair.
Dissolveth like a dream of night away;
Though present in distempered gloom of thought
And deadly weariness of heart all day.
But when a dream night after night is brought
Throughout a week, and such weeks few or many
Recur each year for several years, can any
Discern that dream from real life in aught?
For life is but a dream whose shapes return,
Some frequently, some seldom, some by night
And some by day, some night and day: we learn,
The while all change and many vanish quite,
In their recurrence with recurrent changes
A certain seeming order; where this ranges
We count things real; such is memory's might.
A river girds the city west and south,
The main north channel of a broad lagoon,
Regurging with the salt tides from the mouth;
Waste marshes shine and glister to the moon
For leagues, then moorland black, then stony ridges;
Great piers and causeways, many noble bridges,
Connect the town and islet suburbs strewn.
Upon an easy slope it lies at large
And scarcely overlaps the long curved crest
Which swells out two leagues from the river marge.
A trackless wilderness rolls north and west,
Savannahs, savage woods, enormous mountains,
Bleak uplands, black ravines with torrent fountains;
And eastward rolls the shipless sea's unrest.
The city is not ruinous, although
Great ruins of an unremembered past,
With others of a few short years ago
More sad, are found within its precincts vast.
The street-lamps always burn; but scarce a casement
In house or palace front from roof to basement
Doth glow or gleam athwart the mirk air cast.
The street-lamps burn amid the baleful glooms,
Amidst the soundless solitudes immense
Of ranged mansions dark and still as tombs.
The silence which benumbs or strains the sense
Fulfils with awe the soul's despair unweeping:
Myriads of habitants are ever sleeping,
Or dead, or fled from nameless pestilence!
Yet as in some necropolis you find
Perchance one mourner to a thousand dead,
So there: worn faces that look deaf and blind
Like tragic masks of stone. With weary tread,
Each wrapt in his own doom, they wander, wander,
Or sit foredone and desolately ponder
Through sleepless hours with heavy drooping head.
Mature men chiefly, few in age or youth,
A woman rarely, now and then a child:
A child! If here the heart turns sick with ruth
To see a little one from birth defiled,
Or lame or blind, as preordained to languish
Through youthless life, think how it bleeds with anguish
To meet one erring in that homeless wild.
They often murmur to themselves, they speak
To one another seldom, for their woe
Broods maddening inwardly and scorns to wreak
Itself abroad; and if at whiles it grow
To frenzy which must rave, none heeds the clamour,
Unless there waits some victim of like glamour,
To rave in turn, who lends attentive show.
The City is of Night, but not of Sleep;
There sweet sleep is not for the weary brain;
The pitiless hours like years and ages creep,
A night seems termless hell. This dreadful strain
Of thought and consciousness which never ceases,
Or which some moments' stupor but increases,
This, worse than woe, makes wretches there insane.
They leave all hope behind who enter there:
One certitude while sane they cannot leave,
One anodyne for torture and despair;
The certitude of Death, which no reprieve
Can put off long; and which, divinely tender,
But waits the outstretched hand to promptly render
That draught whose slumber nothing can bereave
Because he seemed to walk with an intent
I followed him; who, shadowlike and frail,
Unswervingly though slowly onward went,
Regardless, wrapt in thought as in a veil:
Thus step for step with lonely sounding feet
We travelled many a long dim silent street.
At length he paused: a black mass in the gloom,
A tower that merged into the heavy sky;
Around, the huddled stones of grave and tomb:
Some old God's-acre now corruption's sty:
He murmured to himself with dull despair,
Here Faith died, poisoned by this charnel air.
Then turning to the right went on once more
And travelled weary roads without suspense;
And reached at last a low wall's open door,
Whose villa gleamed beyond the foliage dense:
He gazed, and muttered with a hard despair,
Here Love died, stabbed by its own worshipped pair.
Then turning to the right resumed his march,
And travelled street and lanes with wondrous strength,
Until on stooping through a narrow arch
We stood before a squalid house at length:
He gazed, and whispered with a cold despair,
Here Hope died, starved out in its utmost lair.
When he had spoken thus, before he stirred,
I spoke, perplexed by something in the signs
Of desolation I had seen and heard
In this drear pilgrimage to ruined shrines:
Where Faith and Love and Hope are dead indeed,
Can Life still live? By what doth it proceed?
As whom his one intense thought overpowers,
He answered coldly, Take a watch, erase
The signs and figures of the circling hours,
Detach the hands, remove the dial-face;
The works proceed until run down; although
Bereft of purpose, void of use, still go.
Then turning to the right paced on again,
And traversed squares and travelled streets whose glooms
Seemed more and more familiar to my ken;
And reached that sullen temple of the tombs;
And paused to murmur with the old despair,
Here Faith died, poisoned by this charnel air.
I ceased to follow, for the knot of doubt
Was severed sharply with a cruel knife:
He circled thus forever tracing out
The series of the fraction left of Life;
Perpetual recurrence in the scope
Of but three terms, dead Faith, dead Love, dead Hope. [ 1]
 Life divided by that persistent three = --- = .210.
Although lamps burn along the silent streets,
Even when moonlight silvers empty squares
The dark holds countless lanes and close retreats;
But when the night its sphereless mantle wears
The open spaces yawn with gloom abysmal,
The sombre mansions loom immense and dismal,
The lanes are black as subterranean lairs.
And soon the eye a strange new vision learns:
The night remains for it as dark and dense,
Yet clearly in this darkness it discerns
As in the daylight with its natural sense;
Perceives a shade in shadow not obscurely,
Pursues a stir of black in blackness surely,
Sees spectres also in the gloom intense.
The ear, too, with the silence vast and deep
Becomes familiar though unreconciled;
Hears breathings as of hidden life asleep,
And muffled throbs as of pent passions wild,
Far murmurs, speech of pity or derision;
but all more dubious than the things of vision,
So that it knows not when it is beguiled.
No time abates the first despair and awe,
But wonder ceases soon; the weirdest thing
Is felt least strange beneath the lawless law
Where Death-in-Life is the eternal king;
Crushed impotent beneath this reign of terror,
Dazed with mysteries of woe and error,
The soul is too outworn for wondering.
He stood alone within the spacious square
Declaiming from the central grassy mound,
With head uncovered and with streaming hair,
As if large multitudes were gathered round:
A stalwart shape, the gestures full of might,
The glances burning with unnatural light:--
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: All was black,
In heaven no single star, on earth no track;
A brooding hush without a stir or note,
The air so thick it clotted in my throat;
And thus for hours; then some enormous things
Swooped past with savage cries and clanking wings:
But I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Eyes of fire
Glared at me throbbing with a starved desire;
The hoarse and heavy and carnivorous breath
Was hot upon me from deep jaws of death;
Sharp claws, swift talons, fleshless fingers cold
Plucked at me from the bushes, tried to hold:
But I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Lo you, there,
That hillock burning with a brazen glare;
Those myriad dusky flames with points a-glow
Which writhed and hissed and darted to and fro;
A Sabbath of the Serpents, heaped pell-mell
For Devil's roll-call and some fete of Hell:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Meteors ran
And crossed their javelins on the black sky-span;
The zenith opened to a gulf of flame,
The dreadful thunderbolts jarred earth's fixed frame;
The ground all heaved in waves of fire that surged
And weltered round me sole there unsubmerged:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Air once more,
And I was close upon a wild sea-shore;
Enormous cliffs arose on either hand,
The deep tide thundered up a league-broad strand;
White foambelts seethed there, wan spray swept and flew;
The sky broke, moon and stars and clouds and blue:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: On the left
The sun arose and crowned a broad crag-cleft;
There stopped and burned out black, except a rim,
A bleeding eyeless socket, red and dim;
Whereon the moon fell suddenly south-west,
And stood above the right-hand cliffs at rest:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: From the right
A shape came slowly with a ruddy light;
A woman with a red lamp in her hand,
Bareheaded and barefooted on that strand;
O desolation moving with such grace!
O anguish with such beauty in thy face!
I fell as on my bier,
Hope travailed with such fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: I was twain,
Two selves distinct that cannot join again;
One stood apart and knew but could not stir,
And watched the other stark in swoon and her;
And she came on, and never turned aside,
Between such sun and moon and roaring tide:
And as she came more near
My soul grew mad with fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Hell is mild
And piteous matched with that accursed wild;
A large black sign was on her breast that bowed,
A broad black band ran down her snow-white shroud;
That lamp she held was her own burning heart,
Whose blood-drops trickled step by step apart:
The mystery was clear;
Mad rage had swallowed fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: By the sea
She knelt and bent above that senseless me;
Those lamp-drops fell upon my white brow there,
She tried to cleanse them with her tears and hair;
She murmured words of pity, love, and woe,
Shee heeded not the level rushing flow:
And mad with rage and fear,
I stood stonebound so near.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: When the tide
Swept up to her there kneeling by my side,
She clasped that corpse-like me, and they were borne
Away, and this vile me was left forlorn;
I know the whole sea cannot quench that heart,
Or cleanse that brow, or wash those two apart:
They love; their doom is drear,
Yet they nor hope nor fear;
But I, what do I here?
How he arrives there none can clearly know;
Athwart the mountains and immense wild tracts,
Or flung a waif upon that vast sea-flow,
Or down the river's boiling cataracts:
To reach it is as dying fever-stricken
To leave it, slow faint birth intense pangs quicken;
And memory swoons in both the tragic acts.
But being there one feels a citizen;
Escape seems hopeless to the heart forlorn:
Can Death-in-Life be brought to life again?
And yet release does come; there comes a morn
When he awakes from slumbering so sweetly
That all the world is changed for him completely,
And he is verily as if new-born.
He scarcely can believe the blissful change,
He weeps perchance who wept not while accurst;
Never again will he approach the range
Infected by that evil spell now burst:
Poor wretch! who once hath paced that dolent city
Shall pace it often, doomed beyond all pity,
With horror ever deepening from the first.
Though he possess sweet babes and loving wife,
A home of peace by loyal friendships cheered,
And love them more than death or happy life,
They shall avail not; he must dree his weird;
Renounce all blessings for that imprecation,
Steal forth and haunt that builded desolation,
Of woe and terrors and thick darkness reared.
I sat forlornly by the river-side,
And watched the bridge-lamps glow like golden stars
Above the blackness of the swelling tide,
Down which they struck rough gold in ruddier bars;
And heard the heave and plashing of the flow
Against the wall a dozen feet below.
Large elm-trees stood along that river-walk;
And under one, a few steps from my seat,
I heard strange voices join in stranger talk,
Although I had not heard approaching feet:
These bodiless voices in my waking dream
Flowed dark words blending with sombre stream:--
And you have after all come back; come back.
I was about to follow on your track.
And you have failed: our spark of hope is black.
That I have failed is proved by my return:
The spark is quenched, nor ever more will burn,
But listen; and the story you shall learn.
I reached the portal common spirits fear,
And read the words above it, dark yet clear,
"Leave hope behind, all ye who enter here:"
And would have passed in, gratified to gain
That positive eternity of pain
Instead of this insufferable inane.
A demon warder clutched me, Not so fast;
First leave your hopes behind!--But years have passed
Since I left all behind me, to the last:
You cannot count for hope, with all your wit,
This bleak despair that drives me to the Pit:
How could I seek to enter void of it?
He snarled, What thing is this which apes a soul,
And would find entrance to our gulf of dole
Without the payment of the settled toll?
Outside the gate he showed an open chest:
Here pay their entrance fees the souls unblest;
Cast in some hope, you enter with the rest.
This is Pandora's box; whose lid shall shut,
And Hell-gate too, when hopes have filled it; but
They are so thin that it will never glut.
I stood a few steps backwards, desolate;
And watched the spirits pass me to their fate,
And fling off hope, and enter at the gate.
When one casts off a load he springs upright,
Squares back his shoulders, breathes will all his might,
And briskly paces forward strong and light:
But these, as if they took some burden, bowed;
The whole frame sank; however strong and proud
Before, they crept in quite infirm and cowed.
And as they passed me, earnestly from each
A morsel of his hope I did beseech,
To pay my entrance; but all mocked my speech.
No one would cede a little of his store,
Though knowing that in instants three or four
He must resign the whole for evermore.
So I returned. Our destiny is fell;
For in this Limbo we must ever dwell,
Shut out alike from heaven and Earth and Hell.
The other sighed back, Yea; but if we grope
With care through all this Limbo's dreary scope,
We yet may pick up some minute lost hope;
And sharing it between us, entrance win,
In spite of fiends so jealous for gross sin:
Let us without delay our search begin.
Some say that phantoms haunt those shadowy streets,
And mingle freely there with sparse mankind;
And tell of ancient woes and black defeats,
And murmur mysteries in the grave enshrined:
But others think them visions of illusion,
Or even men gone far in self-confusion;
No man there being wholly sane in mind.
And yet a man who raves, however mad,
Who bares his heart and tells of his own fall,
Reserves some inmost secret good or bad:
The phantoms have no reticence at all:
The nudity of flesh will blush though tameless
The extreme nudity of bone grins shameless,
The unsexed skeleton mocks shroud and pall.
I have seen phantoms there that were as men
And men that were as phantoms flit and roam;
Marked shapes that were not living to my ken,
Caught breathings acrid as with Dead Sea foam:
The City rests for man so weird and awful,
That his intrusion there might seem unlawful,
And phantoms there may have their proper home.
While I still lingered on that river-walk,
And watched the tide as black as our black doom,
I heard another couple join in talk,
And saw them to the left hand in the gloom
Seated against an elm bole on the ground,
Their eyes intent upon the stream profound.
"I never knew another man on earth
But had some joy and solace in his life,
Some chance of triumph in the dreadful strife:
My doom has been unmitigated dearth."
"We gaze upon the river, and we note
The various vessels large and small that float,
Ignoring every wrecked and sunken boat."
"And yet I asked no splendid dower, no spoil
Of sway or fame or rank or even wealth;
But homely love with common food and health,
And nightly sleep to balance daily toil."
"This all-too-humble soul would arrogate
Unto itself some signalising hate
From the supreme indifference of Fate!"
"Who is most wretched in this dolorous place?
I think myself; yet I would rather be
My miserable self than He, than He
Who formed such creatures to His own disgrace.
"The vilest thing must be less vile than Thou
From whom it had its being, God and Lord!
Creator of all woe and sin! abhorred
Malignant and implacable! I vow
"That not for all Thy power furled and unfurled,
For all the temples to Thy glory built,
Would I assume the ignominious guilt
Of having made such men in such a world."
"As if a Being, God or Fiend, could reign,
At once so wicked, foolish and insane,
As to produce men when He might refrain!
"The world rolls round for ever like a mill;
It grinds out death and life and good and ill;
It has no purpose, heart or mind or will.
"While air of Space and Time's full river flow
The mill must blindly whirl unresting so:
It may be wearing out, but who can know?
"Man might know one thing were his sight less dim;
That it whirls not to suit his petty whim,
That it is quite indifferent to him.
"Nay, does it treat him harshly as he saith?
It grinds him some slow years of bitter breath,
Then grinds him back into eternal death."
It is full strange to him who hears and feels,
When wandering there in some deserted street,
The booming and the jar of ponderous wheels,
The trampling clash of heavy ironshod feet:
Who in this Venice of the Black Sea rideth?
Who in this city of the stars abideth
To buy or sell as those in daylight sweet?
The rolling thunder seems to fill the sky
As it comes on; the horses snort and strain,
The harness jingles, as it passes by;
The hugeness of an overburthened wain:
A man sits nodding on the shaft or trudges
Three parts asleep beside his fellow-drudges:
And so it rolls into the night again.
What merchandise? whence, whither, and for whom?
Perchance it is a Fate-appointed hearse,
Bearing away to some mysterious tomb
Or Limbo of the scornful universe
The joy, the peace, the life-hope, the abortions
Of all things good which should have been our portions,
But have been strangled by that City's curse.
The mansion stood apart in its own ground;
In front thereof a fragrant garden-lawn,
High trees about it, and the whole walled round:
The massy iron gates were both withdrawn;
And every window of its front shed light,
Portentous in that City of the Night.
But though thus lighted it was deadly still
As all the countless bulks of solid gloom;
Perchance a congregation to fulfil
Solemnities of silence in this doom,
Mysterious rites of dolour and despair
Permitting not a breath or chant of prayer?
Broad steps ascended to a terrace broad
Whereon lay still light from the open door;
The hall was noble, and its aspect awed,
Hung round with heavy black from dome to floor;
And ample stairways rose to left and right
Whose balustrades were also draped with night.
I paced from room to room, from hall to hall,
Nor any life throughout the maze discerned;
But each was hung with its funereal pall,
And held a shrine, around which tapers burned,
With picture or with statue or with bust,
all copied from the same fair form of dust:
A woman very young and very fair;
Beloved by bounteous life and joy and youth,
And loving these sweet lovers, so that care
And age and death seemed not for her in sooth:
Alike as stars, all beautiful and bright,
these shapes lit up that mausolean night.
At length I heard a murmur as of lips,
And reached an open oratory hung
With heaviest blackness of the whole eclipse;
Beneath the dome a fuming censer swung;
And one lay there upon a low white bed,
With tapers burning at the foot and head:
The Lady of the images, supine,
Deathstill, lifesweet, with folded palms she lay:
And kneeling there as at a sacred shrine
A young man wan and worn who seemed to pray:
A crucifix of dim and ghostly white
Surmounted the large altar left in night:--
The chambers of the mansion of my heart,
In every one whereof thine image dwells,
Are black with grief eternal for thy sake.
The inmost oratory of my soul,
Wherein thou ever dwellest quick or dead,
Is black with grief eternal for thy sake.
I kneel beside thee and I clasp the cross,
With eyes forever fixed upon that face,
So beautiful and dreadful in its calm.
I kneel here patient as thou liest there;
As patient as a statue carved in stone,
Of adoration and eternal grief.
While thou dost not awake I cannot move;
And something tells me thou wilt never wake,
And I alive feel turning into stone.
Most beautiful were Death to end my grief,
Most hateful to destroy the sight of thee,
Dear vision better than all death or life.
But I renounce all choice of life or death,
For either shall be ever at thy side,
And thus in bliss or woe be ever well.--
He murmured thus and thus in monotone,
Intent upon that uncorrupted face,
Entranced except his moving lips alone:
I glided with hushed footsteps from the place.
This was the festival that filled with light
That palace in the City of the Night.
What men are they who haunt these fatal glooms,
And fill their living mouths with dust of death,
And make their habitations in the tombs,
And breathe eternal sighs with mortal breath,
And pierce life's pleasant veil of various error
To reach that void of darkness and old terror
Wherein expire the lamps of hope and faith?
They have much wisdom yet they are not wise,
They have much goodness yet they do not well,
(The fools we know have their own paradise,
The wicked also have their proper Hell);
They have much strength but still their doom is stronger,
Much patience but their time endureth longer,
Much valour but life mocks it with some spell.
They are most rational and yet insane:
And outward madness not to be controlled;
A perfect reason in the central brain,
Which has no power, but sitteth wan and cold,
And sees the madness, and foresees as plainly
The ruin in its path, and trieth vainly
To cheat itself refusing to behold.
And some are great in rank and wealth and power,
And some renowned for genius and for worth;
And some are poor and mean, who brood and cower
And shrink from notice, and accept all dearth
Of body, heart and soul, and leave to others
All boons of life: yet these and those are brothers,
The saddest and the weariest men on earth.
Our isolated units could be brought
To act together for some common end?
For one by one, each silent with his thought,
I marked a long loose line approach and wend
Athwart the great cathedral's cloistered square,
And slowly vanish from the moonlit air.
Then I would follow in among the last:
And in the porch a shrouded figure stood,
Who challenged each one pausing ere he passed,
With deep eyes burning through a blank white hood:
Whence come you in the world of life and light
To this our City of Tremendous Night?--
From pleading in a senate of rich lords
For some scant justice to our countless hordes
Who toil half-starved with scarce a human right:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From wandering through many a solemn scene
Of opium visions, with a heart serene
And intellect miraculously bright:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From making hundreds laugh and roar with glee
By my transcendent feats of mimicry,
And humour wanton as an elvish sprite:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From prayer and fasting in a lonely cell,
Which brought an ecstasy ineffable
Of love and adoration and delight:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From ruling on a splendid kingly throne
A nation which beneath my rule has grown
Year after year in wealth and arts and might:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From preaching to an audience fired with faith
The Lamb who died to save our souls from death,
Whose blood hath washed our scarlet sins wool-white:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From drinking fiery poison in a den
Crowded with tawdry girls and squalid men,
Who hoarsely laugh and curse and brawl and fight:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From picturing with all beauty and all grace
First Eden and the parents of our race,
A luminous rapture unto all men's sight:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From writing a great work with patient plan
To justify the ways of God to man,
And show how ill must fade and perish quite:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From desperate fighting with a little band
Against the powerful tyrants of our land,
To free our brethren in their own despite:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
Thus, challenged by that warder sad and stern,
Each one responded with his countersign,
Then entered the cathedral; and in turn
I entered also, having given mine;
But lingered near until I heard no more,
And marked the closing of the massive door.
Of all things human which are strange and wild
This is perchance the wildest and most strange,
And showeth man most utterly beguiled,
To those who haunt that sunless City's range;
That he bemoans himself for aye, repeating
How Time is deadly swift, how life is fleeting,
How naught is constant on the earth but change.
The hours are heavy on him and the days;
The burden of the months he scarce can bear;
And often in his secret soul he prays
To sleep through barren periods unaware,
Arousing at some longed-for date of pleasure;
Which having passed and yielded him small treasure,
He would outsleep another term of care.
Yet in his marvellous fancy he must make
Quick wings for Time, and see it fly from us;
This Time which crawleth like a monstrous snake,
Wounded and slow and very venomous;
Which creeps blindwormlike round the earth and ocean,
Distilling poison at each painful motion,
And seems condemned to circle ever thus.
And since he cannot spend and use aright
The little time here given him in trust,
But wasteth it in weary undelight
Of foolish toil and trouble, strife and lust,
He naturally claimeth to inherit
The everlasting Future, that his merit
May have full scope; as surely is most just.
O length of the intolerable hours,
O nights that are as aeons of slow pain,
O Time, too ample for our vital powers,
O Life, whose woeful vanities remain
Immutable for all of all our legions
Through all the centuries and in all the regions,
Not of your speed and variance WE complain.
WE do not ask a longer term of strife,
Weakness and weariness and nameless woes;
We do not claim renewed and endless life
When this which is our torment here shall close,
An everlasting conscious inanition!
We yearn for speedy death in full fruition,
Dateless oblivion and divine repose.
Large glooms were gathered in the mighty fane,
With tinted moongleams slanting here and there;
And all was hush: no swelling organ-strain,
No chant, no voice or murmuring of prayer;
No priests came forth, no tinkling censers fumed,
And the high altar space was unillumed.
Around the pillars and against the walls
Leaned men and shadows; others seemed to brood
Bent or recumbent in secluded stalls.
Perchance they were not a great multitude
Save in that city of so lonely streets
Where one may count up every face he meets.
All patiently awaited the event
Without a stir or sound, as if no less
Self-occupied, doomstricken while attent.
And then we heard a voice of solemn stress
From the dark pulpit, and our gaze there met
Two eyes which burned as never eyes burned yet:
Two steadfast and intolerable eyes
Burning beneath a broad and rugged brow;
The head behind it of enormous size.
And as black fir-groves in a large wind bow,
Our rooted congregation, gloom-arrayed,
By that great sad voice deep and full were swayed:--
O melancholy Brothers, dark, dark, dark!
O battling in black floods without an ark!
O spectral wanderers of unholy Night!
My soul hath bled for you these sunless years,
With bitter blood-drops running down like tears:
Oh dark, dark, dark, withdrawn from joy and light!
My heart is sick with anguish for your bale;
Your woe hath been my anguish; yea, I quail
And perish in your perishing unblest.
And I have searched the highths and depths, the scope
Of all our universe, with desperate hope
To find some solace for your wild unrest.
And now at last authentic word I bring,
Witnessed by every dead and living thing;
Good tidings of great joy for you, for all:
There is no God; no Fiend with names divine
Made us and tortures us; if we must pine,
It is to satiate no Being's gall.
It was the dark delusion of a dream,
That living Person conscious and supreme,
Whom we must curse for cursing us with life;
Whom we must curse because the life he gave
Could not be buried in the quiet grave,
Could not be killed by poison or the knife.
This little life is all we must endure,
The grave's most holy peace is ever sure,
We fall asleep and never wake again;
Nothing is of us but the mouldering flesh,
Whose elements dissolve and merge afresh
In earth, air, water, plants, and other men.
We finish thus; and all our wretched race
Shall finish with its cycle, and give place
To other beings with their own time-doom:
Infinite aeons ere our kind began;
Infinite aeons after the last man
Has joined the mammoth in earth's tomb and womb.
We bow down to the universal laws,
Which never had for man a special clause
Of cruelty or kindness, love or hate:
If toads and vultures are obscene to sight,
If tigers burn with beauty and with might,
Is it by favour or by wrath of Fate?
All substance lives and struggles evermore
Through countless shapes continually at war,
By countless interactions interknit:
If one is born a certain day on earth,
All times and forces tended to that birth,
Not all the world could change or hinder it.
I find no hint throughout the Universe
Of good or ill, of blessing or of curse;
I find alone Necessity Supreme;
With infinite Mystery, abysmal, dark,
Unlighted ever by the faintest spark
For us the flitting shadows of a dream.
O Brothers of sad lives! they are so brief;
A few short years must bring us all relief:
Can we not bear these years of laboring breath?
But if you would not this poor life fulfil,
Lo, you are free to end it when you will,
Without the fear of waking after death.--
The organ-like vibrations of his voice
Thrilled through the vaulted aisles and died away;
The yearning of the tones which bade rejoice
Was sad and tender as a requiem lay:
Our shadowy congregation rested still
As brooding on that "End it when you will."
Wherever men are gathered, all the air
Is charged with human feeling, human thought;
Each shout and cry and laugh, each curse and prayer,
Are into its vibrations surely wrought;
Unspoken passion, wordless meditation,
Are breathed into it with our respiration
It is with our life fraught and overfraught.
So that no man there breathes earth's simple breath,
As if alone on mountains or wide seas;
But nourishes warm life or hastens death
With joys and sorrows, health and foul disease,
Wisdom and folly, good and evil labours,
Incessant of his multitudinous neighbors;
He in his turn affecting all of these.
That City's atmosphere is dark and dense,
Although not many exiles wander there,
With many a potent evil influence,
Each adding poison to the poisoned air;
Infections of unutterable sadness,
Infections of incalculable madness,
Infections of incurable despair.
Our shadowy congregation rested still,
As musing on that message we had heard
And brooding on that "End it when you will;"
Perchance awaiting yet some other word;
When keen as lightning through a muffled sky
Sprang forth a shrill and lamentable cry:--
The man speaks sooth, alas! the man speaks sooth:
We have no personal life beyond the grave;
There is no God; Fate knows nor wrath nor ruth:
Can I find here the comfort which I crave?
In all eternity I had one chance,
One few years' term of gracious human life:
The splendours of the intellect's advance,
The sweetness of the home with babes and wife;
The social pleasures with their genial wit:
The fascination of the worlds of art,
The glories of the worlds of nature, lit
By large imagination's glowing heart;
The rapture of mere being, full of health;
The careless childhood and the ardent youth,
The strenuous manhood winning various wealth,
The reverend age serene with life's long truth:
All the sublime prerogatives of Man;
The storied memories of the times of old,
The patient tracking of the world's great plan
Through sequences and changes myriadfold.
This chance was never offered me before;
For me this infinite Past is blank and dumb:
This chance recurreth never, nevermore;
Blank, blank for me the infinite To-come.
And this sole chance was frustrate from my birth,
A mockery, a delusion; and my breath
Of noble human life upon this earth
So racks me that I sigh for senseless death.
My wine of life is poison mixed with gall,
My noonday passes in a nightmare dream,
I worse than lose the years which are my all:
What can console me for the loss supreme?
Speak not of comfort where no comfort is,
Speak not at all: can words make foul things fair?
Our life's a cheat, our death a black abyss:
Hush and be mute envisaging despair.--
This vehement voice came from the northern aisle
Rapid and shrill to its abrupt harsh close;
And none gave answer for a certain while,
For words must shrink from these most wordless woes;
At last the pulpit speaker simply said,
With humid eyes and thoughtful drooping head:--
My Brother, my poor Brothers, it is thus;
This life itself holds nothing good for us,
But ends soon and nevermore can be;
And we knew nothing of it ere our birth,
And shall know nothing when consigned to earth:
I ponder these thoughts and they comfort me.
How the moon triumphs through the endless nights!
How the stars throb and glitter as they wheel
Their thick processions of supernal lights
Around the blue vault obdurate as steel!
And men regard with passionate awe and yearning
The mighty marching and the golden burning,
And think the heavens respond to what they feel.
Boats gliding like dark shadows of a dream
Are glorified from vision as they pass
The quivering moonbridge on the deep black stream;
Cold windows kindle their dead glooms of glass
To restless crystals; cornice dome and column
Emerge from chaos in the splendour solemn;
Like faery lakes gleam lawns of dewy grass.
With such a living light these dead eyes shine,
These eyes of sightless heaven, that as we gaze
We read a pity, tremulous, divine,
Or cold majestic scorn in their pure rays:
Fond man! they are not haughty, are not tender;
There is no heart or mind in all their splendour,
They thread mere puppets all their marvellous maze.
If we could near them with the flight unflown,
We should but find them worlds as sad as this,
Or suns all self-consuming like our own
Enringed by planet worlds as much amiss:
They wax and wane through fusion and confusion;
The spheres eternal are a grand illusion,
The empyrean is a void abyss.
I wandered in a suburb of the north,
And reached a spot whence three close lanes led down,
Beneath thick trees and hedgerows winding forth
Like deep brook channels, deep and dark and lown:
The air above was wan with misty light,
The dull grey south showed one vague blur of white.
I took the left-hand path and slowly trod
Its earthen footpath, brushing as I went
The humid leafage; and my feet were shod
With heavy languor, and my frame downbent,
With infinite sleepless weariness outworn,
So many nights I thus had paced forlorn.
After a hundred steps I grew aware
Of something crawling in the lane below;
It seemed a wounded creature prostrate there
That sobbed with pangs in making progress slow,
The hind limbs stretched to push, the fore limbs then
To drag; for it would die in its own den.
But coming level with it I discerned
That it had been a man; for at my tread
It stopped in its sore travail and half-turned,
Leaning upon its right, and raised its head,
And with the left hand twitched back as in ire
Long grey unreverend locks befouled with mire.
A haggard filthy face with bloodshot eyes,
An infamy for manhood to behold.
He gasped all trembling, What, you want my prize?
You leave, to rob me, wine and lust and gold
And all that men go mad upon, since you
Have traced my sacred secret of the clue?
You think that I am weak and must submit
Yet I but scratch you with this poisoned blade,
And you are dead as if I clove with it
That false fierce greedy heart. Betrayed! betrayed!
I fling this phial if you seek to pass,
And you are forthwith shrivelled up like grass.
And then with sudden change, Take thought! take thought!
Have pity on me! it is mine alone.
If you could find, it would avail you naught;
Seek elsewhere on the pathway of your own:
For who of mortal or immortal race
The lifetrack of another can retrace?
Did you but know my agony and toil!
Two lanes diverge up yonder from this lane;
My thin blood marks the long length of their soil;
Such clue I left, who sought my clue in vain:
My hands and knees are worn both flesh and bone;
I cannot move but with continual moan.
But I am in the very way at last
To find the long-lost broken golden thread
Which unites my present with my past,
If you but go your own way. And I said,
I will retire as soon as you have told
Whereunto leadeth this lost thread of gold.
And so you know it not! he hissed with scorn;
I feared you, imbecile! It leads me back
From this accursed night without a morn,
And through the deserts which have else no track,
And through vast wastes of horror-haunted time,
To Eden innocence in Eden's clime:
And I become a nursling soft and pure,
An infant cradled on its mother's knee,
Without a past, love-cherished and secure;
Which if it saw this loathsome present Me,
Would plunge its face into the pillowing breast,
And scream abhorrence hard to lull to rest.
He turned to grope; and I retiring brushed
Thin shreds of gossamer from off my face,
And mused, His life would grow, the germ uncrushed;
He should to antenatal night retrace,
And hide his elements in that large womb
Beyond the reach of man-evolving Doom.
And even thus, what weary way were planned,
To seek oblivion through the far-off gate
Of birth, when that of death is close at hand!
For this is law, if law there be in Fate:
What never has been, yet may have its when;
The thing which has been, never is again.
The mighty river flowing dark and deep,
With ebb and flood from the remote sea-tides
Vague-sounding through the City's sleepless sleep,
Is named the River of the Suicides;
For night by night some lorn wretch overweary,
And shuddering from the future yet more dreary,
Within its cold secure oblivion hides.
One plunges from a bridge's parapet,
As if by some blind and sudden frenzy hurled;
Another wades in slow with purpose set
Until the waters are above him furled;
Another in a boat with dreamlike motion
Glides drifting down into the desert ocean,
To starve or sink from out the desert world.
They perish from their suffering surely thus,
For none beholding them attempts to save,
The while thinks how soon, solicitous,
He may seek refuge in the self-same wave;
Some hour when tired of ever-vain endurance
Impatience will forerun the sweet assurance
Of perfect peace eventual in the grave.
When this poor tragic-farce has palled us long,
Why actors and spectators do we stay?--
To fill our so-short roles out right or wrong;
To see what shifts are yet in the dull play
For our illusion; to refrain from grieving
Dear foolish friends by our untimely leaving:
But those asleep at home, how blest are they!
Yet it is but for one night after all:
What matters one brief night of dreary pain?
When after it the weary eyelids fall
Upon the weary eyes and wasted brain;
And all sad scenes and thoughts and feelings vanish
In that sweet sleep no power can ever banish,
That one best sleep which never wakes again.
I sat me weary on a pillar's base,
And leaned against the shaft; for broad moonlight
O'erflowed the peacefulness of cloistered space,
A shore of shadow slanting from the right:
The great cathedral's western front stood there,
A wave-worn rock in that calm sea of air.
Before it, opposite my place of rest,
Two figures faced each other, large, austere;
A couchant sphinx in shadow to the breast,
An angel standing in the moonlight clear;
So mighty by magnificence of form,
They were not dwarfed beneath that mass enorm.
Upon the cross-hilt of the naked sword
The angel's hands, as prompt to smite, were held;
His vigilant intense regard was poured
Upon the creature placidly unquelled,
Whose front was set at level gaze which took
No heed of aught, a solemn trance-like look.
And as I pondered these opposed shapes
My eyelids sank in stupor, that dull swoon
Which drugs and with a leaden mantle drapes
The outworn to worse weariness. But soon
A sharp and clashing noise the stillness broke,
And from the evil lethargy I woke.
The angel's wings had fallen, stone on stone,
And lay there shattered; hence the sudden sound:
A warrior leaning on his sword alone
Now watched the sphinx with that regard profound;
The sphinx unchanged looked forthright, as aware
Of nothing in the vast abyss of air.
Again I sank in that repose unsweet,
Again a clashing noise my slumber rent;
The warrior's sword lay broken at his feet:
An unarmed man with raised hands impotent
Now stood before the sphinx, which ever kept
Such mien as if open eyes it slept.
My eyelids sank in spite of wonder grown;
A louder crash upstartled me in dread:
The man had fallen forward, stone on stone,
And lay there shattered, with his trunkless head
Between the monster's large quiescent paws,
Beneath its grand front changeless as life's laws.
The moon had circled westward full and bright,
And made the temple-front a mystic dream,
And bathed the whole enclosure with its light,
The sworded angel's wrecks, the sphinx supreme:
I pondered long that cold majestic face
Whose vision seemed of infinite void space.
Anear the centre of that northern crest
Stands out a level upland bleak and bare,
From which the city east and south and west
Sinks gently in long waves; and throned there
An Image sits, stupendous, superhuman,
The bronze colossus of a winged Woman,
Upon a graded granite base foursquare.
Low-seated she leans forward massively,
With cheek on clenched left hand, the forearm's might
Erect, its elbow on her rounded knee;
Across a clasped book in her lap the right
Upholds a pair of compasses; she gazes
With full set eyes, but wandering in thick mazes
Of sombre thought beholds no outward sight.
Words cannot picture her; but all men know
That solemn sketch the pure sad artist wrought
Three centuries and threescore years ago,
With phantasies of his peculiar thought:
The instruments of carpentry and science
Scattered about her feet, in strange alliance
With the keen wolf-hound sleeping undistraught;
Scales, hour-glass, bell, and magic-square above;
The grave and solid infant perched beside,
With open winglets that might bear a dove,
Intent upon its tablets, heavy-eyed;
Her folded wings as of a mighty eagle,
But all too impotent to lift the regal
Robustness of her earth-born strength and pride;
And with those wings, and that light wreath which seems
To mock her grand head and the knotted frown
Of forehead charged with baleful thoughts and dreams,
The household bunch of keys, the housewife's gown
Voluminous, indented, and yet rigid
As if a shell of burnished metal frigid,
The feet thick-shod to tread all weakness down;
The comet hanging o'er the waste dark seas,
The massy rainbow curved in front of it
Beyond the village with the masts and trees;
The snaky imp, dog-headed, from the Pit,
Bearing upon its batlike leathern pinions
Her name unfolded in the sun's dominions,
The "MELENCOLIA" that transcends all wit.
Thus has the artist copied her, and thus
Surrounded to expound her form sublime,
Her fate heroic and calamitous;
Fronting the dreadful mysteries of Time,
Unvanquished in defeat and desolation,
Undaunted in the hopeless conflagration
Of the day setting on her baffled prime.
Baffled and beaten back she works on still,
Weary and sick of soul she works the more,
Sustained by her indomitable will:
The hands shall fashion and the brain shall pore,
And all her sorrow shall be turned to labour,
Till Death the friend-foe piercing with his sabre
That mighty heart of hearts ends bitter war.
But as if blacker night could dawn on night,
With tenfold gloom on moonless night unstarred,
A sense more tragic than defeat and blight,
More desperate than strife with hope debarred,
More fatal than the adamantine Never
Encompassing her passionate endeavour,
Dawns glooming in her tenebrous regard:
To sense that every struggle brings defeat
Because Fate holds no prize to crown success;
That all the oracles are dumb or cheat
Because they have no secret to express;
That none can pierce the vast black veil uncertain
Because there is no light beyond the curtain;
That all is vanity and nothingness.
Titanic from her high throne in the north,
That City's sombre Patroness and Queen,
In bronze sublimity she gazes forth
Over her Capital of teen and threne,
Over the river with its isles and bridges,
The marsh and moorland, to the stern rock-ridges,
Confronting them with a coeval mien.
The moving moon and stars from east to west
Circle before her in the sea of air;
Shadows and gleams glide round her solemn rest.
Her subjects often gaze up to her there:
The strong to drink new strength of iron endurance,
The weak new terrors; all, renewed assurance
And confirmation of the old despair.
My thought, on views of admiration hung,
Intently ravish'd and depriv'd of tongue,
Now darts a while on earth, a while in air,
Here mov'd with praise and mov'd with glory there;
The joys entrancing and the mute surprize
Half fix the blood, and dim the moist'ning eyes;
Pleasure and praise on one another break,
And Exclamation longs at heart to speak;
When thus my Genius, on the work design'd
Awaiting closely, guides the wand'ring mind.
If while thy thanks wou'd in thy lays be wrought,
A bright astonishment involve the thought,
If yet thy temper wou'd attempt to sing,
Another's quill shall imp thy feebler wing;
Behold the name of royal David near,
Behold his musick and his measures here,
Whose harp Devotion in a rapture strung,
And left no state of pious souls unsung.
Him to the wond'ring world but newly shewn,
Celestial poetry pronounc'd her own;
A thousand hopes, on clouds adorn'd with rays,
Bent down their little beauteous forms to gaze;
Fair-blooming Innocence with tender years,
And native Sweetness for the ravish'd ears,
Prepar'd to smile within his early song,
And brought their rivers, groves, and plains along;
Majestick Honour at the palace bred,
Enrob'd in white, embroider'd o'er with red,
Reach'd forth the scepter of her royal state,
His forehead touch'd, and bid his lays be great;
Undaunted Courage deck'd with manly charms,
With waving-azure plumes, and gilded arms,
Displaid the glories, and the toils of fight,
Demanded fame, and call'd him forth to write.
To perfect these the sacred spirit came,
By mild infusion of celestial flame,
And mov'd with dove-like candour in his breast,
And breath'd his graces over all the rest.
Ah! where the daring flights of men aspire
To match his numbers with an equal fire;
In vain they strive to make proud Babel rise,
And with an earth-born labour touch the skies.
While I the glitt'ring page resolve to view,
That will the subject of my lines renew;
The Laurel wreath, my fames imagin'd shade,
Around my beating temples fears to fade;
My fainting fancy trembles on the brink,
And David's God must help or else I sink.
As rolling rivers in their channels flow,
Swift from aloft, but on the level slow;
Or rage in rocks, or glide along the plains,
So, just so copious, move the Psalmist's strains;
So sweetly vary'd with proportion'd heat,
So gently clear or so sublimely great,
While nature's seen in all her forms to shine,
And mix with beauties drawn from truth divine;
Sweet beauties (sweet affections endless rill,)
That in the soul like honey drops distil.
Hail holy spirit, hail supremely kind,
Whose inspirations thus enlarg'd the mind;
Who taught him what the gentle shepherd sings,
What rich expressions suit the port of kings;
What daring words describe the soldiers heat,
And what the prophet's extasies relate;
Nor let his worst condition be forgot,
In all this splendour of exulted thought.
On one thy diff'rent sorts of graces fall,
Still made for each, of equall force in all,
And while from heav'nly courts he feels a flame,
He sings the place from whence the blessing came;
And makes his inspirations sweetly prove
The tuneful subject of the mind they move.
Immortal spirit, light of life instil'd,
Who thus the bosom of a mortal fill'd,
Tho' weak my voice and tho' my light be dim,
Yet fain I'd praise thy wond'rous gifts in him;
Then since thine aid's attracted by desire,
And they that speak thee right must feel thy fire;
Vouchsafe a portion of thy grace divine,
And raise my voice and in my numbers shine;
I sing of David, David sings of thee,
Assist the Psalmist, and his work in me.
But now my verse, arising on the wing,
What part of all thy subject wilt thou sing?
How fire thy first attempt, in what resort
Of Palestina's plains, or Salem's court?
Where, as his hands the solemn measure play'd,
Curs'd fiends with torment and confusion fled;
Where, at the rosy spring of chearful light
(If pious fame record tradition right)
A soft Efflation of celestial fire
Came like a rushing breeze and shook the Lyre;
Still sweetly giving ev'ry trembling string
So much of sound as made him wake to sing.
Within my view the country first appears,
The country first enjoy'd his youthful years;
Then frame thy shady Landscapes in my strain,
Some conscious mountain or accustom'd plain;
Where by the waters, on the grass reclin'd,
With notes he rais'd, with notes he calm'd his mind;
For through the paths of rural life I'll stray,
And in his pleasures paint a shepherds day.
With grateful sentiments, with active will,
With voice exerted, and enliv'ning skill,
His free return of thanks he duely paid,
And each new day new beams of bounty shed.
Awake my tuneful harp, awake he crys,
Awake my lute, the sun begins to rise;
My God, I'm ready now! then takes a flight,
To purest Piety's exalted height;
From thence his soul, with heav'n itself in view,
On humble prayers and humble praises flew.
The praise as pleasing and as sweet the prayer,
As incense curling up thro' morning air.
When t'wards the field with early steps he trod,
And gaz'd around and own'd the works of God,
Perhaps in sweet melodious words of praise
He drew the prospect which adorn'd his ways;
The soil but newly visited with rain,
The river of the Lord with springing grain
Inlarge, encrease the soft'ned furrow blest,
The year with goodness crown'd, with beauty drest,
And still to pow'r divine ascribe it all,
From whose high paths the drops of fatness fall;
Then in the song the smiling sights rejoyce,
And all the mute creation finds a voice;
With thick returns delightful Ecchos fill
The pastur'd green, or soft ascending hill,
Rais'd by the bleatings of unnumb'red sheep,
To boast their glories in the crowds they keep;
And corn that's waving in the western gale,
With joyful sound proclaims the cover'd vale.
When e'er his flocks the lovely shepherd drove
To neighb'ring waters, to the neighb'ring grove;
To Jordan's flood refresh'd by cooling wind,
Or Cedron's brook to mossy banks confin'd,
In easy notes and guise of lowly swain,
'Twas thus he charm'd and taught the listning train.
The Lord's my Shepherd bountiful and good,
I cannot want since he provides me food;
Me for his sheep along the verdant meads,
Me all too mean his tender mercy leads;
To taste the springs of life and taste repose
Wherever living pasture sweetly grows.
And as I cannot want I need not fear,
For still the presence of my shepherd's near;
Through darksome vales where beasts of prey resort,
Where death appears with all his dreadful court,
His rod and hook direct me when I stray,
He calls to Fold, and they direct my way.
Perhaps when seated on the river's brink,
He saw the tender sheep at noon-day drink,
He sung the land where milk and honey glide
And fat'ning plenty rolls upon the tide.
Or fix'd within the freshness of a shade,
Whose boughs diffuse their leaves around his head,
He borrow'd notions from the kind retreat,
Then sung the righteous in their happy state,
And how by providential care, success
Shall all their actions in due season bless.
So firm they stand, so beautiful they look,
As planted trees aside the purling brook:
Not faded by the rays that parch the plain,
Nor careful for the want of dropping rain:
The leaves sprout forth, the rising branches shoot,
And summer crowns them with the ripen'd fruit.
But if the flow'ry field with vari'd hue
And native sweetness entertain'd his view;
The flow'ry field with all the glorious throng
Of lively colours, rose to paint his song;
Its pride and fall within the numbers ran
And spake the life of transitory man.
As grass arises by degrees unseen
To deck the breast of earth with lovely green,
'Till Nature's order brings the with'ring days,
And all the summer's beauteous pomp decays;
So by degrees unseen doth man arise,
So blooms by course and so by course he dies.
Or as her head the gawdy flowret heaves,
Spreads to the sun and boasts her silken leaves;
'Till accidental winds their glory shed,
And then they fall before the time to fade;
So man appears, so falls in all his prime,
'Ere age approaches on the steps of time.
But thee, my God! thee still the same we find,
Thy glory lasting, and thy mercy kind;
That still the just and all his race may know
No cause to mourn their swift account below.
When from beneath he saw the wand'ring sheep
That graz'd the level range along the steep,
Then rose, the wanton straglers home to call,
Before the pearly dews at ev'ning fall;
Perhaps new thoughts the rising ground supply,
And that employs his mind, which fills his eye.
From pointed hills, he crys, my wishes tend,
To that great hill from whence supports descend:
The Lord's that hill, that place of sure defence,
My wants obtain their certain help from thence.
And as large hills projected shadows throw,
To ward the sun from off the vales below,
Or for their safety stop the blasts above,
That with raw vapours loaded, nightly rove;
So shall protection o'er his servants spread,
And I repose beneath the sacred shade,
Unhurt by rage, that like a summer's day,
Destroys and scorches with impetuous ray;
By wasting sorrows undepriv'd of rest
That fall like damps by moon-shine, on the breast.
Here from the mind the prospects seem to wear,
And leave the couch'd design appearing bare;
And now no more the Shepherd sings his Hill,
But sings the sovereign Lord's protection still.
For as he sees the night prepar'd to come
On wings of ev'ning, he prepares for home,
And in the song thus adds a blessing more,
To what the thought within the figure bore:
Eternal goodness manifestly still
Preserves my soul from each approach of ill:
Ends all my days, as all my days begin,
And keeps my goings and my comings in.
Here think the sinking sun descends apace,
And from thy first attempt, my fancy, cease;
Here bid the ruddy shepherd quit the plain,
And to the fold return his flocks again.
Go, least the lyon or the shagged bear,
Thy tender lambs with savage hunger tear;
Tho' neither bear nor lyon match thy might,
When in their rage they stood reveal'd to sight;
Go, least thy wanton sheep returning home,
Shou'd as they pass thro' doubtful darkness roam.
Go ruddy youth, to Beth'lem turn thy way,
On Beth'lem's road conclude the parting day.
Methinks he goes as twilight leads the night,
And sees the Crescent rise with silver light;
His words consider all the sparkling show,
With which the stars in golden order glow.
And what is man, he crys, that thus thy kind,
Thy wond'rous love, has lodg'd him in thy mind?
For him they glitter; him the beasts of prey,
That scare my sheep, and these my sheep, obey.
O Lord, our Lord, with how deserv'd a fame,
Do's earth record the glories of thy name.
Then as he thus devoutly walks along,
And finds the road as finish'd with the song;
He sings with lifted hands and lifted eyes,
Be this, my God, an ev'ning sacrifice.
But now, the lowly dales, the trembling groves,
O'er which the whisper'd breeze serenely roves,
Leave all the course of working fancy clear,
Or only grace another subject here;
For in my purpose new designs arise,
Whose brightning images engage mine eyes.
Then here my verse thy louder accents raise,
Thy theme thro' lofty paths of glory trace,
Call forth his honours in imperial throngs
And strive to touch his more exalted songs.
While yet in humble vales his harp he strung,
While yet he follow'd after Ewes with young;
Eternal wisdom chose him for his own,
And from the flock advanc'd him to the throne;
That there his upright heart and prudent hand,
With more distinguish'd skill and high command,
Might act the shepherd in a noble sphere,
And take his nation into regal care.
He cou'd of mercy then and justice sing,
Those radiant virtues that adorn a king,
That make his reign blaze forth with bright renown,
Beyond those Gems whose splendour decks a crown:
That fixing peace, by temper'd love and fear,
Make plains abound, and barren mountains bear.
To thee to whom these attributes belong,
To thee my God, he cry'd, I send my song,
To thee from whom my regal glory came,
I sing the forms in which my court I frame;
Assist the models of imperfect skill,
O come with sacred aid, and fix my will.
A wise behaviour in my private ways,
And all my soul dispos'd to publick peace,
Shall daily strive to let my subjects see
A perfect pattern how to live in me.
Still will I think as still my glories rise,
To set no wicked thing before mine eyes.
Nor will I choose the favourites of state
Among those men that have incur'd thine hate,
Whose vice but makes 'em scandalously great;
'Tis time, that all whose froward rage of heart
Wou'd vex my realm, shall from my realm depart;
'Tis time that all whose private sland'ring lye
Leads judgment falsly, shall by judgment dye;
And time the Great who loose the reins to pride,
Shall with neglect and scorn be laid aside.
But o'er the tracts that my commands obey,
I'll send my light with sharp disarming ray,
Thro' dark retreats where humble minds abide,
Thro' shades of peace where modest tempers hide;
To find the good that may support my state,
And having found them, then to make them great.
My voice shall raise them from the lonely cell,
With me to govern and with me to dwell.
My voice shall flatt'ry and deceit disgrace,
And in their room exulted virtue place;
That with an early care and stedfast hand,
The wicked perish from the faithful land.
When on the throne he sat in calm repose,
And with a royal hope his Offspring rose,
His prayers, anticipating time, reveal
Their deep concernment for the publick weal;
Upon a good forecasted thought they run,
For common blessings in the king begun:
For righteousness and judgment strictly fair,
Which from the king descends upon his heir.
So when his life and all his labour cease,
The reign succeeding brings succeeding peace;
So still the poor shall find impartial laws,
And Orphans still a guardian of their cause:
And stern oppression have its galling yoke,
And rabid teeth of prey to pieces broke.
Then wond'ring at the glories of his way,
His friends shall love, his daunted foes obey;
For peaceful Commerce neighb'ring kings apply
And with great presents court the grand ally.
For him rich gums shall sweet Arabia bear,
For him rich Sheba, mines of gold prepare,
Him Tharsis, him the foreign isles shall greet,
And ev'ry nation bend beneath his feet.
And thus his honours far extended grow,
The type of great Messiah's reign below.
But worldly realms that in his accents shine,
Are left beneath the full advanc'd design,
When thoughts of empire in the mind encrease
O'er all the limits that determine place,
If thus the monarch's rising fancy move
To search for more unbounded realms above,
In which celestial courts the king maintains
And o'er the vast extent of nature reigns;
He then describes in elevated words,
His Israel's shepherd, as the Lord of Lords:
How bright between the Cherubims he sits,
What dazling lustre all his throne emits,
How righteousness with judgment join'd, support
The regal seat, and dignify the court.
How fairest honour and majestick state
The presence grace, and strength and beauty wait;
What glitt'ring ministers around him stand,
To fly like winds or flames at his command.
How sure the beams on which his palace rise
Are set in waters rais'd above the skies,
How wide the skies like outspread curtains fly
To vail majestick light from humane eye,
Or form'd the wide expanded vaults above,
Where storms are bounded tho' they seem to rove,
Where fire and hail and vapour so fulfil
The wise intentions of their makers will,
How well 'tis seen the great eternal mind
Rides on the clouds and walks upon the wind.
O wond'rous Lord! how bright thy glories shine,
The heav'ns declare, for what they boast is thine:
And yon blew tract, enrich'd with orbs of light,
In all its handy work displays thy might!
Again the monarch touch'd another strain,
Another province claim'd his verse again,
Where goodness infinite has fix'd a Sway,
Whose outstretch'd limits are the bounds of day.
Beneath this empire of extended air,
Yet still in reach of Providences care,
God plac'd the rounded earth with stedfast hand
And bid the basis ever firmly stand;
He bid the mountains from confusion's heaps
Exalt their summits, and assume their shapes.
He bid the waters like a garment spread,
To form large seas, and as he spake, they fled;
His voice, his thunder made the waves obey,
And forward hasten, 'till they form'd the sea;
Then least with lawless rage the surges roar,
He mark'd their bounds, and girt them in with shoar;
He fill'd the land with brooks that trembling steal
Through winding hills along the flow'ry vale,
To which the beasts that graze the vale, retreat
For cool refreshings in the summers heat;
While perch'd in leaves upon the tender sprays
The birds around their singing voices raise.
He makes the vapours which he taught to fly,
Forsake the chambers of the clouds on high,
And golden harvest rich with ears of grain,
And Spiry blades of grass adorn the plain,
And grapes luxuriant chear the soul with wine,
And ointment shed, to make the visage shine.
Through trunks of trees, fermenting sap proceeds,
To feed, and tinge the living boughs it feeds:
So shoots the firr, where airy storks abide,
So cedar, Lebanon's aspiring pride,
Whose birds by God's appointment in their nest,
With green surrounded, lye secure of rest.
Where small encrease the barren mountains give,
There kine adapted to the feeding live,
There flocks of goats in healthy pastures browse,
And in their rocky entrails rabbits house.
Where forrests thick with shrub entangled stand,
Untrod the roads and desolate the land;
There close in coverts hide the beasts of prey
'Till heavy darkness creeps upon the day,
Then roar with hunger's voice, and range abroad
And in their method seek their meat from God;
And when the dawning edge of eastern air
Begins to purple, to their dens repair.
Man next succeeding, from the sweet repose
Of downy beds, to work appointed goes;
When first the morning sees the rising sun,
He sees their labours both at once begun,
And night returning with its starry train,
Perceives their labours done at once again.
O manifold in works supremely wise,
How well thy gracious store the world supplies!
How all thy creatures on thy goodness call,
And that bestows a due support for all!
When from an open hand thy favours flow,
Rich bounty stoops to visit us below;
When from thy hand no more thy favours stream,
Back to the dust we turn from whence we came;
And when thy spirit gives the vital heat,
A sure succession keeps the kinds compleat;
The propagated seeds their forms retain,
And all the face of earth's renew'd again.
Thus, as you've seen th' effect reveal the cause,
Is nature's ruler known in nature's laws;
Thus still his pow'r is o'er the world display'd
And still rejoices in the world he made.
The Lord he reigns, the king of kings is king,
Let nations praise, and praises learn to sing.
My verses here may change their stile again,
And trace the Psalmist in another strain;
Where all his soul the soldiers spirit warms,
And to the musick fits the sound of arms,
Where brave disorder does in numbers dwell,
And artful number speaks disorder well.
Arise my genius and attempt the praise
Of dreaded pow'r and perilous essays,
And where his accents are too nobly great,
Like distant ecchos give the faint repeat.
For who like him with enterprizing pen,
Can paint the Lord of Hosts in wrath with men,
Or with just images of tuneful lay
Set all his terrors in their fierce array?
He comes! The tumult of discording spheres,
The quiv'ring shocks of earth, confess their fears;
Thick smoaks precede, and blasts of angry breath
That kindle dread devouring flames of death.
He comes! the firmament with dismal night
Bows down, and seems to fall upon the light,
The darkling mists inwrap his head around,
The waters deluge and the tempests sound,
While on the cherub's purple wings he flys,
And plants his black pavilion in the skies.
He comes! the clouds remove, the rattling hail
Descending, bounds and scatters o'er the vale;
His voice is heard, his thunder speaks his ire,
His light'ning blasts with blue sulphurious fire,
His brandish'd bolts with swift commission go
To punish man's rebellious acts below.
His stern rebukes lay deepest ocean bare,
And solid earth by wide eruption tear;
Then glares the naked gulph with dismal ray,
And then the dark foundations see the day.
O God! let mercy this thy war asswage,
Alas! no mortal can sustain thy rage.
While I but strive the dire effects to tell,
And on another's words attentive dwell,
Confusing passions in my bosom roll,
And all in tumult work the troubled soul:
Remorse with pity, fear with sorrow blend,
And I but strive in vain; my verse, descend,
To less aspiring paths direct thy flight,
Tho' still the less may more than match thy might,
While I to second agents tune the strings,
And Israel's warrior, Israel's battles sings;
Great warrior he, and great to sing of war,
Whose lines (if ever lines prevail'd so far)
Might pitch the tents, compose the ranks anew,
To combat sound, and bring the toil to view.
O nation most securely rais'd in name,
Whose fair records he wrote for endless fame;
O nation oft victorious o'er thy foes,
At once thy conquests and thy thanks he shews;
For thus he sung the realms that must be thine
And made thee thus confess an aid divine.
When mercy look'd, the waves perceiv'd its sway,
And Israel pass'd the deep divided sea.
When mercy spake it, haughty Pharoah's host
And haughty Pharoah by the waves were tost.
When mercy led us through the desart sand,
We reach'd the borders of the promis'd land:
Then all the kings their gather'd armies brought,
And all those kings by mercy's help we fought:
There with their monarch Amor's people bleed,
For God was gracious, and the tribes succeed.
There monst'rous Ogg was fell'd on Basan's plain,
For God was gracious to the tribes again.
At length their yoke the realms of Canaan feel,
And Israel sings that God is gracious still.
Nor has the warlike prince alone enroll'd
The wond'rous feats their fathers did of old;
His own emblazon'd acts adorn his lays,
These too may challenge just returns of praise.
My God! he crys, my surest rock of might,
My trust in dangers and my shield in fight,
Thy matchless bounties I with gladness own,
Nor find assistance but from thee alone;
Thy strength is armour, and my path success,
No pow'r like thee can thus securely bless;
When troops united wou'd arrest my course,
I break their files, and through their order force;
When in their towns they keep, my seige I form,
And leap the battlements, and lead the storm;
And when in camps abroad intrench'd they lye,
As swift as hinds in chace I bound on high;
My strenuous arms thou teachest how to kill,
And snap in sunder temper'd bows of steel;
My moving footsteps are enlarg'd by thee,
And kept from snares of planned ambush free;
And when my foes forsake the field of fight,
Then flush'd with conquest I pursue their flight;
In vain their fears that almost reach despair,
The trembling wretches from mine anger bear;
As swift as fear brisk warmth of conquest goes,
And at my feet dejects the wounded foes;
For help they call, but find their helper's gone,
For God's against them, and I drive them on:
As whirling dust in airy tumult fly
Before the tempest that involves the sky;
And in my rage's unavoided sway,
I tread their necks like abject heaps of clay.
The warriour thus in song his deeds express'd,
Nor vainly boasted what he but confess'd,
While warlike actions were proclaim'd abroad,
That all their praises, shou'd refer to God.
And here to make this bright design arise
In fairer splendor to the nation's eyes,
From private valour he converts his lays,
For yet the publick claim'd attempts of praise,
And publick conquests where they jointly fought,
Thus stand recorded by reflecting thought;
God sent his Samuel from his holy seat
To bear the promise of my future state,
And I rejoicing see the tribes fulfil
The promis'd purpose of almighty will;
Subjected Sichem, sweet Samaria's plain,
And Succoth's valleys have confess'd my reign;
Remoter Gilead's hilly tracts obey,
Manasseh's parted sands accept my sway;
Strong Ephraim's sons, and Ephraim's ports are mine,
And mine the throne of princely Judah's line;
Then since my people with my standard go,
To bring the strength of adverse empire low:
Let Moab's soil, to vile subjection brought,
With groans declare how well our ranks have fought;
Let vanquish'd Edom bow its humbled head,
And tell how pompous on its pride I tread;
And now Philistia with thy conqu'ring host,
Dismaid and broke, of conquer'd Israel boast;
But if a Seir or Rabbah yet remain
On Johemaan's Hill, or Ammon's plain,
Lead forth our armies Lord, regard our prayer,
Lead Lord of battles and we'll conquer there.
As this the warrior spake, his heart arose,
And thus with grateful turn perform'd the close;
Though men to men their best assistance lend,
Yet men alone will but in vain befriend,
Through God we work exploits of high renown,
'Tis God that treads our great opposers down.
Hear now the praise of well disputed fields,
The best return victorious honour yields;
'Tis common good restor'd, when lovely peace
Is join'd with righteousness in strict embrace;
Hear all ye victors what your sword secures,
Hear all you nations for the cause is yours;
And when the joyful trumpets loudly sound,
When groaning captives in their ranks are bound;
When pillars lift the bloody plumes in air,
And broken shafts and batter'd armour bear,
When painted arches acts of war relate,
When slow procession's pomps augment the state,
When fame relates their worth among the throng,
Thus take from David their triumphant song;
Oh clap your hands together, Oh rejoice
In God with melody's exalted voice,
Your sacred Psalm within his dwelling raise,
And for a pure oblation offer praise,
For the rich goodness plentifully shews,
He prospers our design upon our foes.
Then hither all ye nations hither run,
Behold the wonders which the Lord has done,
Behold with what a mind, the heap of slain,
He spreads the sanguine surface of the plain,
He makes the wars that mad confusion hurl'd,
Be spent in victories, and leave the world.
He breaks the bended bows, the spears of Ire,
And burns the shatter'd chariots in the Fire,
And bids the realms be still, the tumult cease,
And know the Lord of war, for Lord of peace;
Now may the tender youth in goodness rise,
Beneath the guidance of their parents eyes,
As tall young poplars when the rangers nigh,
To watch their risings least they shoot awry.
Now may the beauteous Daughters bred with care,
In modest rules and pious acts of fear,
Like polish'd corners of the Temple be,
So bright, so spotless, and so fit for thee.
Now may the various seasons bless the soil,
And plenteous Garners pay the Ploughman's toil;
Now sheep and kine upon the flow'ry meads,
Encrease in thousands and ten thousand heads,
And now no more the sound of grief complains,
For those that fall in fight, or live in chains;
Here when the blessings are proclaim'd aloud,
Join all the voices of the thankful crowd,
Let all that feel them thus confess their part,
Thus own their worth with one united heart;
Happy the realm which God vouchsafes to bless
With all the glories of a bright success!
And happy thrice the realm if thus he please,
To crown those glories with the sweets of ease.
From warfare finish'd, on a chain of thought
To bright attempts of future rapture wrought;
Yet stronger, yet thy pinnions stronger raise,
Oh fancy, reigning in the pow'r of lays.
For Sion's Hill thine airy courses hold,
'Twas there thy David Prophecy'd of old,
And there devout in contemplation sit,
In holy vision and extatick fit.
Methinks I seem to feel the charm begin,
Now sweet contentment tunes my soul within,
Now wond'rous soft arising musick plays,
And now full sounds upon the sense encrease;
Tis David's Lyre, his artful fingers move,
To court the spirit from the realms above,
And pleas'd to come where holiness attends,
The courted spirit from above descends.
Hence on the Lyre and voice new graces rest,
And bright Prophetick forms enlarge the breast;
Hence firm decrees his mystick Hymns relate,
Affix'd in Heav'ns adamantine gate,
The glories of the most important age,
And Christ's blest empire seen by sure presage.
When in a distant view with inward eyes,
He sees the Son descending from the skies,
To take the form of Man for Mankind's sake,
Tis thus he makes the great Messiah speak:
It is not, Father, blood of bullocks slain
Can cleanse the World from universal stain,
Such Off'rings are not here requir'd by thee,
But point at mine, and leave the work for me;
To perfect which, as Servants ears they drill,
In sign of op'ning to their Masters will,
Thy will wou'd open mine, and have me bear,
My sign of Ministry, the body there.
Prophetick volumes of our state assign
The worlds redemption as an act of mine,
And lo, with chearful and obedient heart,
I come, my father, to perform my part.
So spake the Son, and left his throne above,
When wings to bear him were prepar'd by love,
When with their Monarch on the great descent,
Sweet humbleness and gentle patience went,
Fair sisters both, both bless'd in his esteem,
And both appointed here to wait on him.
But now before the Prophet's ravish'd eyes,
Succeeding Prospects of his Life arise,
And here he teaches all the world to sing,
Those strains in which the nation own'd him King.
When boughs as at an holy feast they bear,
To shew the Godhead manifested there;
And garments as a mark of glory strow'd,
Declar'd a Prince proclaim'd upon the road;
This day the Lord hath made we will employ
In songs, he crys, and consecrate to joy.
Hosannah, Lord, Hosannah, shed thy peace,
Hosannah, long expecting nations grace,
Oh, bless'd in honour's height triumphant, thou
That wast to come, Oh bless thy people now.
Twere easy dwelling here with fix'd delight,
And much the sweet engagement of the sight;
But fleeting visions each on other throng,
And change the musick and demand the song.
Ah! musick chang'd by sadly moving show,
Ah! song demanded in excess of woe!
For what was all the gracious Saviour's stay,
Whilst here he trod in Life's encumber'd way,
But troubled patience, persecuted breath,
Neglected sorrows, and afflicting death?
Approach ye sinners, think the garden shews
His bloody sweat of full arising throes,
Approach his grief, and hear him thus complain
Through David's person, and in David's strain.
Oh save me God, thy floods about me roll,
Thy wrath divine hath overflow'd my soul,
I come at length where rising waters drown,
And sink in deep affliction deeply down.
Deceitful snares to bring me to the dead,
Lye ready plac'd in ev'ry path I tread;
And Hell itself, with all that Hell contains,
Of fiends accurs'd, and dreadful change of pains;
To daunt firm will, and cross the good design'd,
With strong temptations fasten on the mind;
Such grief such sorrows in amazing view,
Distracted fears and heaviness pursue.
Ye sages deeply read in human frame,
The passions causes, and their wild extream,
Where mov'd an object more oppos'd to bliss,
What other agony cou'd equal his?
The musick still proceeds with mournful airs,
And speaks the dangers, as it speaks the fears.
Oh sacred Presence from the son withdrawn,
Oh God my father wither art thou gone?
Oh must my soul bewail tormenting pain,
And all my words of anguish fall in vain?
The trouble's near in which my life will end,
But none is near that will assistance lend;
Like Basan's bulls my foes against me throng
So proud, inhuman, numberless, and strong.
Like desart lyons on their prey they go,
So much their fierce desire of blood they shew:
As ploughers wound the ground, they tore my back
And long deep furrows manifest the track.
They pierc'd my tender hands, my tender feet,
And caus'd sharp pangs, where nerves in numbers meet;
Rich streams of life forsake my rended veins
And fall like water spill'd upon the plains;
My bones that us'd in hollow seats to close,
Disjoint with anguish of convulsive throes;
My mourning heart is melted in my frame
As wax dissolving runs before a flame,
My strength dries up, my flesh the moisture leaves,
And on my tongue my clammy palate cleaves.
Alass! I thirst, alass! for drink I call,
For drink they give me vinegar and gall.
To sportful game the savage soldiers go
And for my vesture on my vesture throw;
While all deride who see me thus forlorn
And shoot their lips and shake their heads in scorn.
And with despiteful jest, behold, they cry,
The great peculiar darling of the sky,
He trusted God wou'd save his soul from woe,
Now God may have him if he loves him so.
But to the dust of death by quick decay
I come, O Father, be not long away.
And was it thus the prince of life was slain?
And was it thus he dy'd for worthless men?
Yes blessed Jesus! thus in ev'ry line
These suff'rings which the Prophet spake were thine.
Come christian to the corps, in spirit come,
And with true signs of grief surround the tomb.
Upon the threshold stone let sin be slain,
Such sacrifice will best avenge his pain.
Bring thither then repentance, sighs and tears,
Bring mortify'd desires, bring holy fears;
And earnest pray'r express'd from thoughts that roll
Through broken mind, and groanings of the soul;
These scatter on his hearse, and so prepare
Those obsequies the Jews deny'd him there,
While in your hearts the flames of love may burn,
To dress the vault, like lamps in sacred urn.
There oft my soul in such a grateful way,
Thine humblest homage with the godly pay.
But David strikes the sounding chords anew,
And to thy first design recalls thy view;
From life to death, from death to life he flies
And still pursues his object in his eyes.
And here recounts in more enliven'd song
The sacred Presence, not absented long.
The flesh not suffer'd in the grave to dwell,
The soul not suffer'd to remain in hell;
But as the conqueror fatigu'd in war,
With hot pursuit of enemies afar,
Reclines to drink the torrent gliding by,
Then lifts his looks to repossess the sky,
So bow'd the Son in life's uneasy road,
With anxious toil, and thorny danger strew'd;
So bow'd the son, but not to find relief,
But taste the deep imbitter'd floods of grief;
So when he tasted these he rais'd his head,
And left the sabled mansions of the dead,
Ere mould'ring time consum'd the bones away,
Or slow corruption's worms had work'd decay;
Here faith's foundations, all the soul employ
With springing graces, springing beams of joy,
Then paus'd the voice where nature's seen to pause,
And for a time suspend her ancient laws.
From hence arising as the glories rise,
That must advance above the lofty skies,
He runs with sprightly fingers o'er the Lyre,
And fills new songs with new celestial fire:
In which he shews by fair description's ray,
The Christ's Ascention, to the realms of day;
When Justice, pleas'd with life already paid,
Unbends her brows, and sheaths her angry blade;
And meditates rewards, and will restore
What mercy woo'd him to forsake before,
When on a cloud with gilded edge of light,
He rose above the reach of human sight,
And met the pomp that hung aloft in air
To make his honours more exceeding fair.
See, cries the prophet, how the chariots wait
To bear him upwards in triumphant state,
By twenty thousands in unnumber'd throng,
And Angels draw the glitt'ring ranks along.
The Lord amongst them sits in glory dress'd,
Nor more the Presence Sinai mount confest.
And now the chariots have begun to fly,
The triumph moves, the Lord ascends on high,
And Sin and Satan, us'd to captive men,
Are dragg'd for captives in his ample train;
While as he goes seraphick circles sing
The wond'rous conquest of their wond'rous king,
With shouts of joy their heav'nly voices raise,
And with shrill trumpets manifest his praise.
From such a point of such exceeding height
A while my verses stoop their airy flight,
And seem for rest on Olivet to breath,
And charge the two that stand in white beneath,
That as they move and join the moving rear,
Within their honour'd hands aloft they bear
The crown of thorns, the cross on which he dy'd,
The nails that pierc'd his limbs, the spear his side;
Then where kind mercy lays the thunder by,
Where Peace has hung great Michael's arms on high,
Let these adorn his magazine above,
And hang the trophies of victorious love,
Least man by superstitious mind entic'd,
Shou'd idolize whatever touch'd the Christ.
But still the Prophet in the spirit soars
To new Jerusalem's imperial doors;
There sees and hears the bless'd angelick throng,
There feels their musick, and records their song:
Or with the vision warm'd, attempts to write
For those inhabitants of native light,
And teaches harmony's distinguish'd parts,
In sweet respondence of united hearts;
For thus without might warbling angels sing,
Their course containing on the flutter'd wing;
Eternal gates! your stately portals rear,
Eternal gates! your ways of joy prepare,
The king of glory for admittance stays,
He comes, he'll enter, O prepare your ways;
Then bright arch-angels that attend the wall,
Might thus upon the beauteous order call;
Ye fellow ministers that now proclaim
Your king of glory, tell his awful name.
At which the beauteous order will accord,
And sound of solemn notes pronounce the Lord,
The Lord endew'd with strength, renown'd for might,
With spoils returning from the finish'd fight.
Again with Lays they charm the sacred gates,
And graces double while the song repeats,
Again within the sacred guardians sing,
And ask the name of their victorious king,
And then again the Lord's the name rebounds
From tongue to tongue, catch'd up in frequent rounds.
New thrones and pow'rs appear, to lift the gate,
And David still pursues their enter'd state;
Oh prophet! father! whither woudst thou fly?
Oh mystick Israel's chariot for the sky,
Thou sacred spirit! what a wond'rous height,
By thee supported, soars his airy flight!
For glimpse of Majesty divine is brought,
Among the shifted prospects of the thought;
Dread sacred sight! I dare not gaze for fear,
But sit beneath the singers feet and hear,
And hold each sound that interrupts the mind,
Thus in a calm by pow'r of verse confin'd.
Ye dreadful ministers of God, displeas'd,
Loud blasting tempests, be no longer rais'd!
Ye deep mouth'd thunders leave your direful groan,
Nor roll in hollow clouds around the throne,
The still small voice more justly will express
How great Jehovah did the Lord address,
And you bright feather'd choirs of endless peace,
A while from tuneful Hallelujahs cease,
A while stand fix'd with deep attentive care,
You'll have the time to sing for ever there.
The royal prophet will the silence break,
And in his words almighty goodness speak.
He spake (and smil'd to see the business done,)
Thou art my first, my great begotten son;
Here on the right of Majesty sit down,
Enjoy thy conquest and receive thy crown,
While I thy worship and renown compleat,
And make thy foes the foot-stool of thy feet,
For I'll pronounce the long resolv'd decree,
My sacred Sion be reserv'd for thee.
From thence thy peaceful rod of pow'r extend,
From thence thy messenger of mercy send,
And teach thy vanquish'd enemies to bow,
And rule where Hell has fix'd an empire now.
Then ready nations to their rightful king,
The free-will off'rings of their hearts shall bring,
In holy beauties for acceptance dress'd,
And ready nations be with pardon bless'd;
Mean while thy dawn of truth begins the day,
Enlightened subjects shall encrease thy sway,
With such a splendid and unnumber'd train,
As dews in morning fill the grassy plain.
This by myself I swore; the great intent
Has past my sanction and I can't repent;
Thou art a king and priest of peace below,
Like Salem's monarch and for ever so.
Ask what thou wilt, 'tis thine; the gentiles claim,
For thy possession take the world's extream,
The kings shall rage, the parties strive in vain,
By persecuting rage to break thy reign;
Thou art my Christ and they that still can be
Rebellious subjects, be destroy'd by thee.
Bring like the Potter to severe decay,
Thy worthless creatures, found in humble clay.
Then hear ye monarchs, and ye judges hear,
Rejoice with trembling, serve the Lord with fear,
In his commands with signs of homage move,
And kiss the gracious offers of his love;
Ye surely perish if his anger flame,
And only they be bless'd that bless his name.
Thus does the Christ in David's anthems shine,
With full magnificence of art divine,
Then on his subjects gifts of grace bestow,
And spread his Image on their hearts below,
As when our earthly kings receive the globe,
The sacred unction and the purple robe,
And mount the throne with golden glory crown'd,
They scatter medals of themselves around;
There heav'nly singers clap their vary'd wings,
And lead the choir of all created things,
Relate his glory's everlasting prime,
His fame continu'd with the length of time,
While e're the Sun shall dart a gilded beam,
Or changing Moons diffuse the silver'd gleam,
Where e're the waves of rolling ocean sent,
Encompass land with arms of wide extent.
Hail, full of mercy, ready nations cry!
Hail, for ever, ever bless'd on high!
Hail, Oh for ever on thy beauteous throne!
Thou Lord that workest wond'rous things alone,
Still let thy glory to the world appear,
And all the riches of thy goodness hear.
But thou fair Church in whom he fixes love,
Thou queen accepted of the prince above;
Behold him fairer than the sons of men,
Embrace his offer'd heart, and share his reign;
In Moses's laws they bred thy tender years,
But now to new commands incline thine ears,
Forget thy people, bear no more in mind
Thy Father's houshold, for thy spouse is kind.
Within thy soul let vain affections dye,
Him only worship, and with him comply.
So shall thy spouse's heart with thine agree,
So shall his fervour still encrease for thee.
Come while he calls, supremely favour'd queen,
In heav'nly glories dress thy soul within;
With pious actions to the throne be brought,
In close connection of the virtues wrought,
Let these around thee for a garment shine,
And be the work to make them pleasing, thine:
Come, lovely queen, advance with stately port,
Thy good companions shall compleat thy court,
With joyful souls their joyful entrance sing,
And fill the palace of your gracious king.
What tho' thy Moses and the prophets cease,
What tho' the Priesthood leaves the settled race,
The Father's place their offspring well supplies,
When at thy spouse's Ministry they rise,
When thy bless'd houshold on his orders go,
And rule for him where'er he reigns below.
Come, Queen exalted, come, my lasting song
To future ages shall thy fame prolong.
The joyful nations shall thy praise proclaim,
And for their safety crowd beneath thy name.
Oh bounteous Saviour! still thy mercy kind,
Still what thy David sung, thy servants find,
Still why thy David sung thy servants see,
From thee sent down, and sent again to thee.
They see the words of thanks and love divine,
In strains mysterious intermingl'd shine,
As sweet and rich unite in costly waves,
When purling gold the purpled webb receives,
And still the Church he shadow'd hears the lays,
In daily service as an aid to praise.
At these her temper good devotion warms,
And mounts aloft with more engaging charms.
Then as she strives to reach the lofty sky,
Bids gratitude assist her will to fly;
In these our gratitude becomes on fire,
Then feels its flames improv'd by strong desire,
Then feels desire in eager wishes move,
And wish determine in the point of love.
Such hymns to regulate and such to raise,
Approach, ye sounding instruments of praise.
Tis fit you tune for him whose holy love,
In wish aspiring to the choir above,
And fond to practice e're his time to go,
Devoutly call'd you to the choir below;
There where he plac'd you, with your solemn sound,
For Gods high glory fill the sacred ground,
And there and ev'ry where his wond'rous name,
Within his firmament of pow'r proclaim.
Soft pleasing lutes with easy sweetness move,
To touch the sentiments of Heav'nly love,
Assist the Lyre and voice to tell the charms
That gently stole him from the Father's arms;
Gay trembling Timbrels us'd with airs of mirth,
Assist the loud Hosannah rais'd on earth,
When on an Ass he meekly rides along,
And multitudes are heard within the song.
Full-tenor'd Psalt'ry, join the doleful part,
In which his agony possest his heart;
And seem to feel thyself, and seem to shew,
Arising heaviness and signs of woe.
Sonorous organ at his passion moan,
And utter forth thy sympathizing groan,
In big slow murmurs anxious sorrow speak,
While melancholy winds thine entrails shake,
As when he suffer'd, with complaining sound,
The storms in vaulted caverns shook the ground;
Swift chearful cymbals give an airy strain,
When having bravely broke the doubled chain,
Of Death and Hell, he left the conquer'd grave,
And rose to visit those he dy'd to save.
And as he mounts in song and Angels sing
With grand procession their returning king,
Triumphant trumpets raise their notes on high,
And make them seem to mount, and seem to fly.
Then all at once conspire to praise the Lord,
In musick's full consent, and just accord:
Ye sons of art, in such melodious way
Conclude the service which you join to pay,
While nations sing Amen, and yet again,
Hold forth the note and sing aloud Amen.
Here has my fancy gone where David leads,
Now softly pacing o'er the grassy meads,
Now nobly mounting where the monarchs rear
The gilded spires of palaces in air,
Now shooting thence upon the level flight,
To dreadful dangers and the toils of fight,
Anon with utmost stretch ascending far,
Beyond the region of the farthest star;
As sharpest sighted eagles tow'ring fly,
To weather their broad sails in open sky,
At length on wings half clos'd slide gently down,
And one attempt shall all my labours crown.
In other's verse the rest be better shewn,
But this is more, or should be more, thine own.
If then the spirit that supports my lines,
Have prov'd unequal to my large designs,
Let others rise from earthly passion's dream,
By me provok'd to vindicate the theme.
Let others round the world in rapture rove,
Or with strong feathers fan the breeze above,
Or walk the dusky shades of death, and dive
Down Hell's abyss, and mount again alive.
But Oh my God! may these unartful rhimes,
In sober words of woe bemoan my crimes.
Tis fit the sorrows I for ever vent,
For what I never can enough repent;
Tis fit, and David shews the moving way,
And with his pray'r instructs my soul to pray.
Then since thy guilt is more than match'd by me,
And since my troubles shou'd with thine agree,
O Muse to glories in affliction born!
May thine humility my soul adorn.
For humblest prayers are most affecting strains,
As Mines lye rich in lowly planted veins;
Such aid I want to render mercy kind,
And such an aid as here I want I find:
Thy weeping accents in my numbers run,
Ah thought! ah voice of inward dole begun!
My God, whose anger is appeas'd by tears,
Bow gently down thy mercy's gracious ears;
With many tongues my sins for justice call,
But mercy's ears are manifold for all.
Those sweet celestial windows open wide,
And in full streams let soft compassion glide,
There wash my soul and cleanse it yet again,
O th'roughly cleanse it from the guilty stain,
For I my life with inward anguish see,
And all its wretchedness confess to thee.
The large Inditement stands before my view,
Drawn forth by conscience, most amazing true,
And fill'd with secrets hid from human eye,
When foolish man, thy God stood witness by.
Then Oh, thou majesty divinely great,
Accept the sad confessions I repeat,
Which clear thy justice to the world below,
Shou'd dismal sentence doom my soul to woe.
When in the silent womb my shape was made,
And from the womb to lightsome life convey'd,
Curs'd sin began to take unhappy root,
And thro' my veins its early fibres shoot;
And then what goodness did'st thou shew, to kill
The rising weeds, and principles of ill;
When to my breast in fair celestial flame,
Eternal truth and lovely wisdom came,
Bright gift by simple nature never got,
But here reveal'd to change the antient blot.
This wond'rous help which mercy pleas'd to grant,
Continue still, for still thine aid I want,
And as the men whom leprosies invade,
Or they that touch the carcase of the dead,
With Hysop sprinkled and by water clean'd,
Their former pureness in the law regain'd;
So purge my soul diseas'd alas! within,
And much polluted with dead works of sin.
For such bless'd favours at thine hand I sue,
Be grace thine Hysop and thy water too.
Then shall my whiteness for perfection vie
With blanching snows that newly leave the sky.
Thus through my mind thy voice of gladness send,
Thus speak the joyful word, I will be clean'd;
That all my strength consum'd with mournful pain,
May by thy saving health rejoice again:
And now no more my foul offences see,
Oh turn from these, but turn thee not from me,
Or least they make me too deform'd a sight,
Oh, blot them with oblivion's endless night.
Then further pureness to thy servant grant,
Another heart, or change in this, I want.
Create another, or the change create,
For now my vile corruption is so great,
It seems a new creation to restore
Its fall'n estate to what it was before.
Renew my spirit, raging in my breast,
And all its passions in their course arrest,
Or turn their motions, widely gone astray,
And fix their footsteps in thy righteous way.
When this is granted, when again I'm whole,
Oh ne'er withdraw thy presence from my soul:
There let it shine, so let me be restor'd
To present joy which conscious hopes afford.
There let it sweetly shine, and o'er my breast
Diffuse the dawning of eternal rest;
Then shall the wicked this compassion see,
And learn thy worship and thy works from me.
For I to such occasions of thy praise
Will tune my lyre, and consecrate my lays.
Unseal my lips, where guilt and shame have hung
To stop the passage of my grateful tongue,
And let my prayer and song ascend, my prayer
Here join'd with saints, my song with angels there;
Yet neither prayer I'd give, nor songs alone,
If other off'rings were as much thy own:
But thine's the contrite spirit, thine's an heart
Oppress'd with sorrow, broke with inward smart;
That at thy footstool in confession shews
How well its faults, how well the judge it knows;
That sin with sober resolution flies,
This gift thy mercy never will despise.
Then in my soul a mystick altar rear,
And such a sacrifice I'll offer there;
There shall it stand in vows of virtue bound,
There falling tears shall wash it all around;
And sharp remorse, yet sharper edg'd by woe,
Deserv'd and fear'd, inflict the bleeding blow;
There shall my thoughts to holy breathings fly
Instead of incense to perfume the sky,
And thence my willing heart aspires above,
A victim panting in the flames of love.